The Fourth Book of Moses, Called Numbers

Chapter 22

Balak's first message for Balaam is refused, 1-14. His second message obtains him, 15-21. An angel would have slain him, if he had not been saved by his donkey, 22-35. Balak entertains him, 36-41.

1 And the children of Israel moved forward and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side of the Jordan by Jericho.

2 And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 And Moab was greatly afraid of the people because they were many. And Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. 4 And Moab said to the elders of Midian, "Now this company shall lick up all that is around us as the ox licks up the grass of the field." And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time. 5 He sent messengers therefore to Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, "Behold, a people has come out from Egypt. Behold, they cover the face of the earth and abide over against me. 6 Come now therefore, I pray you, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. It may be that I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed and he whom you curse is cursed."

7 And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand, and they came to Balaam and spoke to him the words of Balak. 8 And he said to them, "Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again as the LORD shall speak to me." And the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. 9 And God came to Balaam and said, "What men are these with you?" 10 And Balaam said to God, "Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, 11 'Behold, there is a people who came out of Egypt, which covers the face of the earth. Come now, curse them for me. It may be that I shall be able to overcome them and drive them out.'" 12 And God said to Balaam, "You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed." 13 And Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, "Depart into your land, for the LORD refuses to give me leave to go with you." 14 And the princes of Moab rose up and they went to Balak and said, "Balaam refuses to come with us."

15 And Balak sent yet again more princes, and more honorable than these. 16 And they came to Balaam and said to him, "Thus says Balak the son of Zippor: 'Let nothing, I pray you, hinder you from coming to me. 17 For I will promote you to very great honor and I will do whatever you say to me. Come therefore, I pray you, curse this people for me.'" 18 And Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, "If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. 19 Now therefore you also, I pray you, stay here this night so that I may know what more the LORD will say to me." 20 And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, "If the men come to call you, rise and go with them, but only the word which I shall say to you, you shall perform."

21 And Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab.

22 And God's anger was kindled because he went. And the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 And the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way and his sword drawn in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. And Balaam smote the donkey to turn her into the way. 24 But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side and a wall on that side. 25 And when the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself against the wall and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall. And he smote her again. 26 And the angel of the LORD went further and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. 27 And when the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam. And Balaam's anger was kindled and he smote the donkey with a staff. 28 And the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you that you have smitten me these three times?" 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have mocked me. I wished there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you." 30 And the donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey upon which you have ridden ever since I was yours to this day? Was I ever accustomed to do so to you?" And he said, "No."

31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way and his sword drawn in his hand. And he bowed down his head and fell flat on his face. 32 And the angel of the LORD said to him, "Why have you smitten your donkey these three times? Behold, I went out to withstand you because your way is perverse before me. 33 And the donkey saw me and turned from me these three times. If she had not turned from me, surely now I would have also slain you and saved her alive." 34 And Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, "I have sinned. For I did not know that you stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases you, I will return again." 35 And the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, "Go with the men. But only the word that I speak to you, you shall speak." So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

36 And when Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, which is in the utmost limit. 37 And Balak said to Balaam, "Did I not earnestly send to you to call you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able indeed to promote you to honor?" 38 And Balaam said to Balak, "Behold, I have come to you. Have I now any power at all to say anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I shall speak." 39 And Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kirjath-huzoth. 40 And Balak offered oxen and sheep and sent to Balaam and to the princes who were with him.

41 And it came to pass on the next day, that Balak took Balaam and conducted him to the high places of Baal so that from there he might see the utmost part of the people.


Matthew Henry Commentary - Numbers, Chapter 22[➚]


[v.7] - "rewards of divination" - From the Pulpit Commentary: "Here the soothsayer's wages, which St. Peter aptly calls the wages of unrighteousness (2nd Peter 2:15). The ease with which, among ignorant and superstitious people, a prophet might become a hired soothsayer is apparent even from the case of Samuel (1st Samuel 9:6-8). That it should be thought proper to resort to the man of God for information about some lost property, and much more that it should be thought necessary to pay him a fee for the exercise of his supernatural powers, shows, not indeed that Samuel was a soothsayer, for he was a man of rare integrity and independence, but, that Samuel was but little distinguished from a soothsayer in the popular estimation. If Samuel had learned to care more for money than for righteousness, he might very easily have become just what Balaam became."