Numbers Twenty Three

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Numbers 23:1 And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven oxen and seven rams.

Numbers 23:2 And Balak did as Balaam had spoken; and Balak and Balaam offered on every altar a bullock and a ram.

Numbers 23:3 And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand by thy burnt offering, and I will go: peradventure the LORD will come to meet me: and whatsoever he showeth me I will tell thee. And he went to an high place.

Numbers 23:4 And God met Balaam: and he said unto him, I have prepared seven altars, and I have offered upon every altar a bullock and a ram.

Numbers 23:5 And the LORD put a word in Balaam's mouth, and said, Return unto Balak, and thus thou shalt speak.

Numbers 23:6 And he returned unto him, and, lo, he stood by his burnt sacrifice, he, and all the princes of Moab.

Numbers 23:7 And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel.

his parable. This message is the first of four “parables” placed in Balaam's mouth by God (see also Numbers 23:18; 24:3, 15), each of which is a Messianic prophecy concerning Israel and the coming Savior.

Numbers 23:8 How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied?

Numbers 23:9 For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.

people shall dwell alone. Balaam, though not an Israelite, perhaps once had been a true prophet, receiving the word of God to convey to the people of Moab and Midian (distant cousins of the Israelites). God evidently had also wanted these groups to know Him. However, the Moabites and Midianites would not accept Israel as God's special people.

Balaam also prostituted his prophetic gift on behalf of the king of Moab and his monetary reward. Nevertheless, his prophecy—even uttered against his will—was divinely inspired. Even before Israel entered the promised land, Balaam could foresee the distant future, when Israel would be scattered among the nations—yet would not be assimilated by those nations. As a unique phenomenon in history, the people of Israel would spend almost two thousand years without a land of their own, yet would still “dwell alone and not be counted among the nations.”

Numbers 23:10 Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!

Numbers 23:11 And Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether.

Numbers 23:12 And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the LORD hath put in my mouth?

Numbers 23:13 And Balak said unto him, Come, I pray thee, with me unto another place, from whence thou mayest see them: thou shalt see but the utmost part of them, and shalt not see them all: and curse me them from thence.

Numbers 23:14 And he brought him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar.

Numbers 23:15 And he said unto Balak, Stand here by thy burnt offering, while I meet the LORD yonder.

Numbers 23:16 And the LORD met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, Go again unto Balak, and say thus.

Numbers 23:17 And when he came to him, behold, he stood by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. And Balak said unto him, What hath the LORD spoken?

Numbers 23:18 And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor:

Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

he should repent. Some take this assertion as contradictory to such passages as Genesis 6:6: “It repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth.” It is not really God who “repents”—that is, “changes His mind”—but man. When men change, God must revise His attitude and behavior toward them, precisely because He is Himself unchangeable. He must continue unchanged in His own righteous character and standards, and thus may appear outwardly to “repent” in order not to repent inwardly.

Numbers 23:20 Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.

Numbers 23:21 He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.

not beheld iniquity. God had repeatedly punished the Israelites for their sins, yet, by the great principle of justification by grace through faith, these could all be forgiven and forgotten (Psalm 103:3; Jeremiah 31:34).

shout of a king. It would be many years before Israel would have an earthly king. Balaam's prophetic description could only apply to a coming King who would bring final victory to the people of God (Zechariah 9:9; 14:9, 16; 1 Timothy 6:14, 15).

Numbers 23:22 God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.

Numbers 23:23 Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!

no enchantment against Jacob. Balaam's occultic powers were of no avail against the omnipotence of God. Likewise, Christians today need have no fear of the occult or its practitioners, as long as they are walking in God's will.

What hath God wrought. This exclamation was appropriated by the great Christian scientist/artist/inventor, Samuel F. B. Morse, as the first message to be sent over his telegraph, which revolutionized the field of communications.

Numbers 23:24 Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.

great lion. Balaam is compelled here to refer to Jacob's ancient prophecy of the coming “Lion of the tribe of Juda” (Genesis 49:9, 10; Revelation 5:5), none other than Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. See also Numbers 24:9.

Numbers 23:25 And Balak said unto Balaam, Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all.

Numbers 23:26 But Balaam answered and said unto Balak, Told not I thee, saying, All that the LORD speaketh, that I must do?

Numbers 23:27 And Balak said unto Balaam, Come, I pray thee, I will bring thee unto another place; peradventure it will please God that thou mayest curse me them from thence.

Numbers 23:28 And Balak brought Balaam unto the top of Peor, that looketh toward Jeshimon.

Numbers 23:29 And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven bullocks and seven rams.

Numbers 23:30 And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar.