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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Numb. 22–24]

AS the Israelites were nearing the Promised Land, they came to the confines of Moab. Balak, the king of that country, being in very great fear, sent the elders and the nobles of his kingdom with rich presents to Balaam, that he might come and curse his enemies. This Balaam believed in the true God; but, at the same time, he practised soothsaying and divination.

When the messengers had arrived with their presents, Balaam said: “Tarry here this night, and I will answer whatsoever the Lord shall say to me.” And God told him: “Thou shalt not go, neither shalt thou curse the people.” So the princes returned to the king. But Balak sent a greater number of nobles and richer presents than the first time. Balaam told the messengers again to stay for one night. In that night God came to Balaam and said: “Arise and go; yet so, that thou do what I shall command thee.”

Then Balaam arose and went to the land of Moab. The king took him to three different mountains, whence he could behold the Israelites in the valley, and ordered him to curse them. But Balaam, being each time prevented by God from cursing, blessed them, saying: “How beautiful are thy tabernacles, O Jacob, and thy tents, o Israel! He that blesseth thee shall also himself be blessed, and he that curseth thee shall be reckoned accursed.”

Then Balak grew angry, and exclaimed: “I had intended to honour thee, but the Lord hath deprived thee of the honour; for I called thee to curse my enemies, and thou, on the contrary, hast blessed them three times.” So he ordered him to return to his country. Thereupon the eyes of Balaam were opened and he saw a vision, and his lips were opened, and he prophesied: “I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not near. A star shall rise out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel, and shall strike the chiefs of Moab and shall smite the children of Seth.” And having prophesied also of the fate of the nations he returned to his country.

God’s Omnipotence is shown by His forcing Balaam to bless the Israelites against his will.

God’s Omniscience is shown by His revealing to Balaam what would happen in the far future.

The sixth promise of the Messias. The prophecy of Balaam points to the Divine Redeemer, and reveals, firstly, that He would not come for a long time; secondly, that He would be one of the children of Israel; thirdly, that He would come, like a star, from above, shedding light around Him; fourthly, that He would be a king; and fifthly, that He would overcome the enemies of His kingdom. Let us see how this prophecy has been fulfilled. Firstly, the Redeemer did not come till 1450 years after Balaam spoke; secondly, He was, as Man, descended from Jacob, and was born in Judea; thirdly, He came down from Heaven to be the Light of the world; fourthly, He has founded the Church, the kingdom of God, which, fifthly, overcomes all His enemies, and will last till the end of time. The brazen serpent foreshadowed our Lord’s humiliation; the prophecy of Balaam foreshadowed His majesty.

Faith in God’s word. Balaam said to Balak that he could not alter the word of the Lord; and this rule applies to every word of God revealed to us. Nobody can or dare alter God’s word, either by adding to it or by taking away from it. We must believe and accept revelation just as it is.

Superstition. Balak did not believe in the true God, but he cherished the foolish, superstitious idea that Balaam’s curse could injure the people of God.

The star out of Jacob and the three kings from the East. Balaam’s home was in the east, that is, east of the Promised Land. There, the prophecy of Balaam was well known, and during the hundreds of years which elapsed before our Lord’s Incarnation, the tradition of this prophecy was preserved, and there existed a living expectation of the rising of a wonderful star, and at the same time of a sceptre, i. e. a king who should spring up out of Israel. Therefore, the three kings from the east, as soon as they had seen the wonderful star, went straight to Judea, to look for Him, the new-born king, whose birth was heralded by the star.

APPLICATION. Do not curse! Say to yourselves: “There is a God, who cannot be mocked.”








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