And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said to Balaam…
He sees now clearly that there is no chance of prevailing over Israel by means of a curse, and that any further appeal to the prophet would only bring words more galling to his pride and more menacing to his position, if indeed such words could be found. Considerations of policy and prudence need no longer restrain him in speaking out all his mind to the prophet.
I. BALAK'S TREATMENT OF HIS UNSUCCESSFUL ACCOMPLICE.
1. An outbreak of selfish wrath. Balaam indeed did not deserve much sympathy, seeing how he had played into Balak's hands from the very beginning. But if he had deserved sympathy ever so much, he would not have met with it. Balak has eyes, heart, and recollection for nothing but his own disappointment. He has no real sympathetic regard for Balaam, no consideration for one who is far from home, and whose professional reputation all around will be sadly damaged by this failure on a critical occasion. Wicked men in the hour of disaster show small consideration for their accomplices. Those in whose hearts the temptation of some great reward for evil-doing is beginning to prevail should consider that if they fail they will meet with scant mercy or excuse. When the Balaks of the world get a Balaam into their bands, they look on him just as a tool. If the tool does its work as they want it, well and good; keep it carefully for further use; but if it turns out a failure, fling it without more ado on the dunghill. Balak acts here towards Balaam just as he might be expected to act.
2. He lays the whole blame on Balaam. He does not consider that the evil purposes of his own heart must needs be frustrated. Three prophecies, full of solemn and weighty matter, uttered in his hearing, have not made him in the slightest degree conscious of the folly and iniquity of his project. He sees indeed that the project must fail, but is blind as a bat to the real reason of the failure. All that he has heard concerning Jehovah, his character, his past dealings with Israel, and his purposes for them, has not impressed him one whit, save with the fact that somehow, he cannot get his own way. His curse project has ended in a huge, humiliating, exasperating failure, and Balaam must bear the blame of it. Wicked men cannot be got to give Heaven credit for all its timely and irresistible interferences with their darling schemes. The fault in Balak's angry eye rested with Balaam, and with him alone. "The Lord hath kept thee back from honour." A true word indeed, but not applicable in the way in which Balak intended it. The Lord had kept Balaam back from honour, but not from the paltry honour which Balak would have conferred on him. The lesson for us is, that whenever any selfish plan of ours fails, we should not, like this blind, besotted king, go laying blame elsewhere, as if it would exonerate ourselves. Balaam of course was to blame, grievously to blame, a great deal more than Balak, seeing he sinned against greater light. But we must not let the grievous and conspicuous faults of others cast our own into the shade. We are at the best very poor judges of the transgressions of our fellow-men. When we fail in anything, it is far the wisest, kindest, and most profitable course to give diligent heed to such causes of failure as are in our own heart. Whatever disappointments may come to us in life, we shall never fail in anything of real importance if only we keep our own hearts right with God.
II. BALAK'S VAIN ATTEMPT TO GET PROMPT RIDDANCE OF THE PROPHET. He thinks it is enough to say, "Stop." But as he was not able to make Balaam speak what he wanted and when he wanted, so neither is he able to make Balaam cease when the Lord's message is on his lips. God opened Balaam's mouth, and it is not for Balak to close it. Before Balak is left, his impotence shall be manifested in the completest possible way. He had been the thoughtless and unwitting means of turning on the stream of glorious prophecy, and now he finds he cannot stop that stream at will. Jehovah did not seek this occasion, but when it is furnished he deems it well to avail himself of it to the full. And now Balak finds that, whether he will or not, he must listen to the doom of his own people, expressly and clearly announced. Learn that when you begin the headstrong course of making everything on earth - and perhaps, after Balak's fashion, in heaven as well - subservient to self, you cannot stop whenever the consequences begin to get troublesome. Balak said, "Let my will be done, not because it is right, but because it is mine," and he was not contented with a refusal, once or even twice. He must have it a third time, and then he finds that the choice is no longer under his control. Let us choose wisely while we are able to choose. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times.
WEB: Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, "I called you to curse my enemies, and, behold, you have altogether blessed them these three times.