Numbers 24:6
As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the LORD hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters.
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(6) As gardens by the river’s side.—It is probable that the allusion may be to the Euphrates, although the definite article is not prefixed to the word nahar (river) in the Hebrew. (Comp. Isaiah 7:20.)

As cedar trees beside the waters.-The difference between cedars which grow beside running water which their roots can reach, and the ordinary type of cedars which throw out their strength in lateral branches is illustrated in Ezekiel 31:3-4, where the proud Assyrian is compared to a cedar having “his top among the thick boughs” (or, the clouds), which “the waters made great.” (Comp. Psalm 1:3; Psalm 92:12.)

24:1-9 Now Balaam spake not his own sense, but the language of the Spirit that came upon him. Many have their eyes open who have not their hearts open; are enlightened, but not sanctified. That knowledge which puffs men up with pride, will but serve to light them to hell, whither many go with their eyes open. The blessing is nearly the same as those given before. He admires in Israel, their beauty. The righteous, doubtless, is more excellent than his neighbour. Their fruitfulness and increase. Their honour and advancement. Their power and victory. He looks back upon what had been done for them. Their power and victory. He looks back upon what had been done for them. Their courage and security. The righteous are bold as a lion, not when assaulting others, but when at rest, because God maketh them to dwell in safety. Their influence upon their neighbours. God takes what is done to them, whether good or evil, as done to himself.As gardens by the river's side - Balaam's language reflects the famous artificial gardens along the banks of his own river, the Euphrates.

As the trees of lign aloes which the Lord hath planted - The latter words contain an apparent reference to Paradise (compare Genesis 2:8). The aloe, imported from China and the far distant east, furnished to the ancients one of the most fragrant and precious of spices; compare Psalm 45:8; Proverbs 7:17,

As cedar trees beside the waters - i. e., as the noblest of trees branching forth in the fairest of situations: an image of majestic beauty, as that of the last verse was of rare fecundity.

6. As the valleys—Hebrew, "brooks," the watercourses of the mountains.

lign aloes—an aromatic shrub on the banks of his native Euphrates, the conical form of which suggested an apt resemblance to a tent. The redundant imagery of these verses depicts the humble origin, rapid progress, and prosperity of Israel.

Valleys ofttimes from a small beginning are spread forth fir and wide. Others, as the brooks, or rivers, as the word signifies, which stretch out and disperse their waters into several channels, and sometimes farther. Are they spread forth, i.e. the Israelites last mentioned. As gardens by the river’s side; pleasant and fruitful, and secured by a fence.

Trees of lign-aloes; an Arabian and Indian tree, of a sweet smell, yielding good shade and shelter both to man and beast; such is Israel, famous among the nations, and not only save themselves, but yielding shelter to all that join themselves to them.

Which the Lord hath planted; which are the best of the kind; such as not man, but God, might seem to have planted, as the best of all sorts are ascribed to God, as the trees, hills, cities, of God, &c. Compare Psalm 104:16.

As cedar trees, which are famous for growth, and height, and strength, and durableness, whence Solomon’s temple was built of this wood, 1 Kings 6:9,10.

Beside the waters, where trees thrive best.

As the valleys are they spread forth,.... Long and broad, lying between several mountains, and reaching from hill to hill; so the armies of Israel lay encamped in the plains and villages of Moab, making a very considerable length and breadth; the camp of Israel is said to be twelve miles long, and twelve miles broad; so the Targum on Numbers 2:3 and this may denote the lowness of the saints and people of God in their own eyes, and their largeness in themselves; and especially when the place of their tents shall be enlarged, and the curtains of their habitations be stretched forth in the latter day; and also their fruitfulness, meads, and valleys abounding with herbs and flowers, as the churches of God do with the fruits of the Spirit, grace, and righteousness, and with plants of the Lord's right hand planting. Some render it as brooks and torrents of water, so the Targum of Jonathan; which diffuse and spread themselves, and on the banks of which stand beautiful trees in goodly order:

as gardens by the river's side: laid out in a delightful manner, full of flowers, plants, and trees, and well watered; like to these, in several spots, were the people of Israel formed into several camps; and to these may the churches of God be compared, who are distinguished and enclosed by sovereign grace, full of trees of righteousness of the Lord's planting, watered by the river of divine love, and from Christ the fountain of gardens; see Sol 4:12,

as the trees of lign aloes, which the Lord hath planted: which are not planted and raised by the art and industry of man, but grow up without culture, as the mere produce of nature, under a divine providence; these are called lign wood or tree aloes, to distinguish them from another sort of aloes, which are no other than plants; but these are what the Indians call Calambra or Calembac, and, physicians Xyloaloes and Agallochium, and are of a very aromatic and fragrant scent. This tree is said to be about eight or ten feet high; at the head of it is a large bunch of leaves, which are thick and indented, broad at bottom, but growing narrower towards the point, and about four feet in length; the blossom of it is red, intermixed with yellow, and double like a pink; from this blossom comes fruit, round like a large pea, white and red; the juice of these leaves is drawn out by cutting them with a knife, and received into bottles; the smell of the wood is exquisite (w). P. Martyr (x) speaks of a trunk of lign aloes, which being cut, a sweet savour proceeds from it. It may be observed what Isidore (y) remarks, that it grows in Arabia, as well as in India, and so might be well known to Balaam. And to these the Israel of God may be compared for their fragrancy, being clothed with the righteousness of Christ, all whose garments smell of or like these aloes, Psalm 45:8 and having the graces of the Spirit of God in them, the smell of which is preferable to all spices, and they themselves are signified by the same, Sol 4:10,

and as cedar trees beside the waters; which are tall and high, large and spreading, durable lasting, to which the righteous are compared; see Gill on Psalm 92:12.

(w) See Calmet's Dictionary, and the Supplement to Chamber's Dictionary, in the word "Aloes". (x) Decad. 1. l. 2.((y) Origin. l. 17. c. 8.

As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the LORD hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters.
6. As valleys are they spread forth] As wadies that stretch themselves out; beautifully watered glens stretching away into the distance. Like the three following, it is a simile of luxuriant prosperity.

As lign-aloes &c.] Heb. ’ahâlîm. But this word elsewhere denotes a fragrant perfume brought from the far east (Psalm 45:8, Proverbs 7:17); the tree or plant which yielded it was not indigenous in Palestine or the neighbourhood. See next note.

As cedar trees beside the waters] But cedars do not grow beside water; see art. ‘Cedars’ in Hastings’ DB. i. On the other hand cedars (not aloes) are spoken of as planted by Jehovah (Psalm 104:16). It is therefore possible that the words ‘which Jehovah hath planted’ and ‘beside the waters’ have been accidentally transposed. If so, Dillmann’s conjecture ’êlîm ‘palms’ for ’ahâlîm would be very suitable, since palms grow beside water (cf. Exodus 15:27).

Verse 6. - As the valleys, or, "as the torrents" (נְחָלִים), which pour down in parallel courses from the upper slopes. As gardens by the river's side. The river (נָהָר), as in Numbers 22:5) means the Euphrates. Balaam combines the pleasant imagery of his own cultivated land with that of the wilder scene amidst which he now stood. As the trees of lign aloes. אָהָלִים. Aloe trees, such as grew in the further east, where Balaam had perhaps seen them. Which the Lord hath planted, or, "the Lord's planting," a poetical way of describing their beauty and rarity (cf. Psalm 1:3; Psalm 104:16). Numbers 24:6"How beautiful are thy tents, O Jacob! thy dwellings, O Israel! Like valleys are they spread out, like gardens by the stream, like aloes which Jehovah has planted, like cedars by the waters. Water will flow out of his buckets, and his seed is by many waters. And loftier than Agag be his king, and his kingdom will be exalted." What Balaam had seen before his ecstasy with his bodily eyes, formed the substratum for his inward vision, in which the dwellings of Israel came before his mental eye adorned with the richest blessing from the Lord. The description starts, it is true, from the time then present, but it embraces the whole future of Israel. In the blessed land of Canaan the dwellings of Israel will spread out like valleys. נחלים does not mean brooks here, but valleys watered by brooks. נטּה, to extend oneself, to stretch or spread out far and wide. Yea, "like gardens by the stream," which are still more lovely than the grassy and flowery valleys with brooks. This thought is carried out still further in the two following figures. אהלים are aloe-trees, which grow in the East Indies, in Siam, in Cochin China, and upon the Moluccas, and from which the aloe-wood was obtained, that was so highly valued in the preparation of incense, on account of its fragrance. As the aloes were valued for their fragrant smell, so the cedars were valued on account of their lofty and luxuriant growth, and the durability of their wood. The predicate, "which Jehovah hath planted," corresponds, so far as the actual meaning is concerned, to מים עלי, "by water;" for this was "an expression used to designate trees that, on account of their peculiar excellence, were superior to ordinary trees" (Calvin; cf. Psalm 104:16).
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