Numbers 24:1-2 and 15-25
“24:2 And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him.
24:16 “The oracle of him who hears the words of God, And knows the knowledge of the Most High, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered.
24:17 “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth.
24:18 “Edom shall be a possession, Seir, its enemies, also will be a possession, While Israel performs valiantly.
24:19 “One from Jacob shall have dominion, And will destroy the remnant from the city.”
24:20 And he looked at Amalek and took up his discourse and said, “Amalek was the first of the nations, But his end shall be destruction.”
24:21 And he looked at the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said, “Your dwelling place is enduring, And your nest is set in the cliff.
24:22 “Nevertheless Kain will be consumed; How long will Asshur keep you captive?”
24:23 Then he took up his discourse and said, “Alas, who can live except God has ordained it?
24:24 “But ships shall come from the coast of Kittim, And they shall afflict Asshur and will afflict Eber; So they also will come to destruction.”
24:25 Then Balaam arose and departed and returned to his place, and Balak also went his way.”
quote per NASB 1995
I was just reading in the book of Numbers, chapter 24 about the heathen seer/prophet/wizard, Balaam, whom Balak, king of Moab, hired to curse Israel just prior to Joshua entering the Promised Land to conquer the nations dwelling there. And the commentary I’m using to accompany my reading, Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1, The Pentateuch 1, has a marvelous treatise on the fourth and final prophesy Balaam gives. I’ve attached a copy of the commentary in full below for your pleasure, and so you don’t have to scour the web to find it. It’s a marvelous read. Note: If the Hebrew letters don’t display correctly below in this blog you can download the font “SBL Hebrew” (labeled True Type Font file, v1.56a Build 016, updated 12/15/2010 which is the first one listed), from https://www.sbl-site.org/educational/biblicalfonts_sblhebrew.aspx. Also, the Greek font is here: https://www.sbl-site.org/educational/biblicalfonts.aspx if you need it.
The pagan prophet Balaam was from Assyria, and was supposedly of first class quality when it came to his “seer-ship.” He didn’t work cheaply but must have furnished very good results in his “occultist arts.” And he apparently did have his standards, when God initially told him not to accept the contract from the king of Moab, he acquiesced without a murmer. At least the first and second and third time the Moabite envoys negotiated with him. But finally on their fourth meeting God “relented” on the condition he would speak only what God told him. And just in case on the trip to Moab he had any second thoughts about not making this a lucrative venture by saying whatever he wanted God had Balaam’s donkey talk to him 2. But I’ll let you read all about it below. It is amazing who God can use to accomplish His mission, even a heathen prophet who “believed” in all the gods of the surrounding nations. Keil has some great insights concerning this episode.
However I’m most interested in Balaak’s fourth prophesy which, under compulsion, the vision he described to king Balak about Moab’s future, including a star that would come from Jacob. The message was a foretelling of the future, not only of his own (Balak’s) nation, but of the unavoidable outcome of any nation that sought Israel’s demise, including the destruction of the prophet’s own people! What caught my eye was the insight of a particular aspect of the seer’s vision [which, by the way, was obtained through the direct input of God Himself, (see verse 2.), and that is the reference to a star. Is it the Star of Bethlehem? Here’s the passage followed by the commentary. Read for yourself:
v17 “I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near;
A star shall come forth from Jacob,
A scepter shall rise from Israel,
And shall crush through the forehead of Moab,
And tear down all the sons of Sheth.
v18 “And Edom shall be a possession,
Seir, its enemies, also will be a possession,
While Israel performs valiantly.
v19 “And one from Jacob shall have dominion,
And will make the survivor perish from the city.” quote per LBS
And it’s not intuitively clear but a possible reference to this star is to the one the wise-men saw and followed to the crib of the baby Jesus. So it is amazing that couched inside a series of prophesies that king Balak was hoping would be curses used protect his kingdom from being overrun by Israel would actually be a forth-telling of the overcoming of God’s people and His plan to crush all pagan nations and bless His chosen people, Israel, and the Church, fourteen hundred years before it would occur.
If you have any interest I think you’ll find this comment by CF Keil (pronounced Kyle) a very interesting read.
Who says the Old Testament is boring???
Balaam’s fourth and last prophecy is distinguished from the previous ones by the fact that, according to the announcement in v. 14, it is occupied exclusively with the future, and foretells the victorious supremacy of Israel over all its foes, and the destruction of all the powers of the world. This prophecy is divided into four different prophecies by the fourfold repetition of the words, “he took up his parable” (vv. 15, 20, 21, and 23). The first of these refers to the two nations that were related to Israel, viz., Edom and Moab (vv. 17-19); the second to Amalek, the arch-enemy of Israel (v. 20); the third to the Kenites, who were allied to Israel (vv. 21 and 22); and the fourth proclaims the overthrow of the great powers of the world (vv. 23 and 24). — The introduction in vv. 15 and 16 is the same as that of the previous prophecy in vv. 3 and 4, except that the words, “he which knew the knowledge of the Most High,” are added to the expression, “he that heard the words of God,” to show that Balaam possessed the knowledge of the Most High, i.e., that the word of God about to be announced had already been communicated to him, and was not made known to him now for the first time; though without implying that he had received the divine revelation about to be uttered at the same time as those which he had uttered before.
The prophecy itself commences with a picture from the “end of the days,” which rises up before the mental eye of the seer.
“I see Him, yet not now; I behold Him, but not nigh. A star appears out of Jacob, and a sceptre rises out of Israel, and dashes Moab in pieces on both sides, and destroys all the sons of confusion.”
The suffixes to אֶרְאֶנּוּ and אֲשׁוּרֶנּוּ refer to the star which is mentioned afterwards, and which Balaam sees in spirit, but “not now,” i.e., not as having already appeared, and “not nigh,” i.e., not to appear immediately, but to come forth out of Israel in the far distant future. “A star is so natural an image and symbol of imperial greatness and splendour, that it has been employed in this sense in almost every nation. And the fact that this figure and symbol are so natural, may serve to explain the belief of the ancient world, that the birth and accession of great kings was announced by the appearance of stars” (Hengstenberg, who cites Justini hist. xxxvii. 2; Plinii h. n. ii. 23; Sueton. Jul. Caes. c. 78; and Dio Cass. xlv. p. 273). If, however, there could be any doubt that the rising star represented the appearance of a glorious ruler or king, it would be entirely removed by the parallel, “a sceptre arises out of Israel.” The sceptre, which was introduced as a symbol of dominion even in Jacob’s blessing (Gen. 49:10), is employed here as the figurative representation and symbol of the future ruler in Israel. This ruler would destroy all the enemies of Israel. Moab and (v. 18) Edom are the first of these that are mentioned, viz., the two nations that were related to Israel by descent, but had risen up in hostility against it at that time. Moab stands in the foremost rank, not merely because Balaam was about to announce to the king of Moab what Israel would do to his people in the future, but also because the hostility of the heathen to the people of God had appeared most strongly in Balak’s desire to curse the Israelites. פַּאֲתי מוֹאָב , “the two corners or sides of Moab,” equivalent to Moab on both sides, from one end to the other. For קַרְקַר , the inf. Pilp. of קוּר or קִיר , the meaning to destroy is fully established by the parallel מָחַץ , and by Isa. 22: 5, whatever may be thought of its etymology and primary meaning. And neither the Samaritan text nor the passage in Jeremiah (Jer. 48:45), which is based upon this prophecy, at all warrants an alteration of the reading קַרְקַר into קָדְקֹד (the crown of the head), since Jeremiah almost invariably uses earlier writings in this free manner, viz., by altering the expressions employed, and substituting in the place of unusual words wither more common ones, or such as are similar in sound (cf. Küper, Jerem. libror, ss. interpres atque vindex, pp. xii.ff. and p. 43). —כָּל־בְּני־שׁת does not mean “all the sons of Seth,” i.e., all mankind, as the human race is never called by the name of Seth; and the idea that the ruler to arise out of Israel would destroy all men, would be altogether unsuitable. It signifies rather “all the sons of confusion,” by which, according to the analogy of Jacob and Israel (v. 17), Edom and Seir (v. 18), the Moabites are to be understood as being men of wild, warlike confusion. שׁת is a contraction ofשׁאת (Lam. 3:47), and derived from שׁאָה ; and in Jer. 48:45 it is correctly rendered בּנְּי שׁאוֹן .
In the announcement of destruction which is to fall upon the enemies of Israel through the star and sceptre out of the midst of it, Moab is followed by “its southern neighbour Edom.”
“And Edom becomes a possession, and Seir becomes a possession, its enemies; but Israel acquires power.” Whose possession Edom and Seir are to become, is not expressly stated; but it is evident from the context, and from אֹיְבָיו (its enemies), which is not a genitive dependent upon Seir, but is in apposition to Edom and Seir, just as צָרָיו in v. 8 is in apposition to גּויִם . Edom and Seir were his, i.e., Israel’s enemies; therefore they were to be taken by the ruler who was to arise out of Israel. Edom is the name of the people, Seir of the country, just as in Gen. 32: 4; so that Seir is not to be understood as relating to the prae-Edomitish population of the land, which had been subjugated by the descendants of Esau, and had lost all its independence a long time before. In Moses’ days the Israelites were not allowed to fight with the Edomites, even when they refused to allow them to pass peaceably through their territory (see Num. 20:21), but were commanded to leave them in their possessions as a brother nation (Deut. 2: 4, 5). In the future, however, their relation to one another was to be a very different one; because the hostility of Edom, already in existence, grew more and more into obstinate and daring enmity, which broke up all the ties of affection that Israel was to regard as holy, and thus brought about the destruction of the Edomites. — The fulfilment of this prophecy commenced with the subjugation of the Edomites by David (2Sa. 8:14; 1Ki. 11:15, 16; 1Ch. 18:12, 13), but it will not be completed till “the end of the days,” when all the enemies of God and His Church will be made the footstool of Christ (Psa. 110: 1ff.). That David did not complete the subjugation of Edom is evident, on the one hand, from the fact that the Edomites revolted again under Solomon, though without success (1Ki. 11:14ff.); that they shook off the yoke imposed upon them under Joram (2Ki. 8:20); and notwithstanding their defeat by Amaziah (2Ki. 14: 7; 2Ch. 25:11) and Uzziah (2Ki. 14:22; 2Ch. 26: 2), invaded Judah a second time under Ahaz (2Ch. 28:17), and afterwards availed themselves of every opportunity to manifest their hostility to the kingdom of Judah and the Jews generally, — as for example at the conquest of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans (Eze. 35:15; 36: 5; Oba. 1:10 and 13), and in the wars between the Maccabees and the Syrians (1 Macc. 5: 3, 65; 2 Macc. 10:15; 12:38ff.), — until they were eventually conquered by John Hyrcanus in the year B.C. 129, and compelled to submit to circumcision, and incorporated in the Jewish state (Josephus, Ant. xiii. 9, 1, xv. 7, 9; Wars of the Jews, iv. 5, 5). But notwithstanding this, they got the government over the Jews into their own hands through Antipater and Herod (Josephus, Ant. xiv. 8, 5), and only disappeared from the stage of history with the destruction of the Jewish state by the Romans. On the other hand, the declarations of the prophets (Am. 9:12; Oba. 1:17ff.), which foretell, with an unmistakeable allusion to this prophecy, the possession of the remnant of Edom by the kingdom of Israel, and the announcements in Isa. 34 and 63: 1-6, Jer. 49: 7ff., Eze. 25:12ff. and 35, comp. with Psa. 137: 7 and Lam. 4:21, 22, prove still more clearly that Edom, as the leading foe of the kingdom of God, will only be utterly destroyed when the victory of the latter over the hostile power of the world has been fully and finally secured. — Whilst Edom falls, Israel will acquire power. עשׂה חַיִל , to acquire ability or power (Deut. 8:17, 18; Rut. 4:11), not merely to show itself brave or strong. It is rendered correctly by Onkelos, “prosperabitur in opibus;” and Jonathan, “praevalebunt in opibus et possidebunt eos.”
“And a ruler shall come out of Jacob, and destroy what is left out of cities.” The subject toירְדְּ is indefinite, and to be supplied from the verb itself. We have to think of the ruler foretold as star and sceptre. The abbreviated form וירְדְּ is not used for the future ירְדֶּה, but is jussive in its force. One out of Jacob shall rule. מעִיר is employed in a collected and general sense, as in Psa. 72:16. Out of every city in which there is a remnant of Edom, it shall be destroyed. שׂרִיד is equivalent to שׁארִית אֱדוֹם (Am. 9:12). The explanation, “destroy the remnant out of the city, namely, out of the holy city of Jerusalem” (Ewald and Baur), is forced, and cannot be sustained from the parallelism.
The second saying in this prophecy relates to the Amalekites. Balaam sees them, not with the eyes of his body, but in a state of ecstasy, like the star out of Jacob. “Beginning of the heathen is Amalek, and its end is destruction.” Amalek is called the beginning of the nations, not “as belonging to the most distinguished and foremost of the nations in age, power, and celebrity” (Knobel), — for in all these respects this Bedouin tribe, which descended from a grandson of Esau, was surpassed by many other nations, — but as the first heathen nation which opened the conflict of the heathen nations against Israel as the people of God (see at Ex. 17: 8ff.). As its beginning had been enmity against Israel, its end would be “even to the perishing” (עדי אֹבד), i.e., reaching the position of one who was perishing, falling into destruction, which commenced under Saul and was completed under Hezekiah (see p. 208).
Num. 24:21, 22.
The third saying relates to the Kenites, whose origin is involved in obscurity (see at Gen. 15:19), as there are no other Kenites mentioned in the whole of the Old Testament, with the exception of Gen. 15:19, than the Kenites who went to Canaan with Hobab the brother-in- law of Moses (Num. 10:29ff.: see Jud. 1:16; 4:11; 1Sa. 15: 6; 27:10; 30:29); so that there are not sufficient grounds for the distinction between Canaanitish and Midianitish Kenites, as Michaelis, Hengstenberg, and others suppose. The hypothesis that Balaam is speaking of Canaanitish Kenites, or of the Kenites as representatives of the Canaanites, is as unfounded as the hypothesis that by the Kenites we are to understand the Midianites, or that the Kenites mentioned here and in Gen. 15:19 are a branch of the supposed aboriginal Amalekites (Ewald). The saying concerning the Kenites runs thus: “Durable is thy dwelling-place, and thy nest laid upon the rock; for should Kain be destroyed until Asshur shall carry thee captive?” This saying “applies to friends and not to foes of Israel” (v. Hofmann), so that it is perfectly applicable to the Kenites, who were friendly with Israel. The antithetical association of the Amalekites and Kenites answers perfectly to the attitude assumed at Horeb towards Israel, on the one hand by the Amalekites, and on the other hand by the Kenites, in the person of Jethro the leader of their tribe (see Ex. 17: 8ff., 18, and p. 375). The dwelling- place of the Kenites was of lasting duration, because its nest was laid upon a rock (שׂים is a passive participle, as in 2Sa. 13:32, and Oba. 1: 4). This description of the dwelling-place of the Kenites cannot be taken literally, because it cannot be shown that either the Kenites or the Midianites dwelt in inaccessible mountains, as the Edomites are said to have done in Oba. 1: 3, 4; Jer. 49:16. The words are to be interpreted figuratively, and in all probability the figure is taken from the rocky mountains of Horeb, in the neighbourhood of which the Kenites led a nomade life before their association with Israel (see at Ex. 3: 1). As v. Hofmann correctly observes: “Kain, which had left its inaccessible mountain home in Horeb, enclosed as it was by the desert, to join a people who were only wandering in search of a home, by that very act really placed its rest upon a still safer rock.” This is sustained in v. 22 by the statement that Kain would not be given up to destruction till Asshur carried it away into captivity. כִּי אִם does not mean “nevertheless.” It signifies “unless” after a negative clause, whether the negation be expressed directly by לא , or indirectly by a question; and “only”, where it is not preceded by either a direct or an indirect negation, as in Gen. 40:14; Job. 42: 8. The latter meaning, however, is not applicable here, because it is unsuitable to the עד־מָה (until) which follows. Consequently אִם can only be understood in the sense of “is it that,” as in 1Ki. 1:27, Isa. 29:16, Job. 31:16, etc., and as introducing an indirect query in a negative sense: “For is it (the case) that Kain shall fall into destruction until…?” — equivalent to “Kain shall not be exterminated until Asshur shall carry him away into captivity;” Kain will only be overthrown by the Assyrian imperial power. Kain, the tribe-father, is used poetically for the Kenite, the tribe of which he was the founder. בָּער , to exterminate, the sense in which it frequently occurs, as in Deut. 13: 6; 17: 7, etc. (cf. 2Sa. 4:11; 1Ki. 22:47). — For the fulfilment of this prophecy we are not to look merely to the fact that one branch of the Kenites, which separated itself, according to Jud. 4:11, from its comrades in the south of Judah, and settled in Naphtali near Kadesh, was probably carried away into captivity by Tiglath-Pileser along with the population of Galilee (2Ki. 15:29); but the name Asshur, as the name of the first great kingdom of the world, which rose up from the east against the theocracy, is employed, as we may clearly see from v. 24, to designate all the powers of the world which took their rise in Asshur, and proceeded forth from it (see also Ezr. 6:22, where the Persian king is still called king of Asshur or Assyria). Balaam did not foretell that this worldly power would oppress Israel also, and lead it into captivity, because the oppression of the Israelites was simply a transitory judgment, which served to refine the nation of God and not to destroy it, and which was even appointed according to the counsel of God to open and prepare the way for the conquest of the kingdoms of the world by the kingdom of God. To the Kenites only did the captivity become a judgment of destruction; because, although on terms of friendship with the people of Israel, and outwardly associated with them, yet, as is clearly shown by 1Sa. 15: 6, they never entered inwardly into fellowship with Israel and Jehovah’s covenant of grace, but sought to maintain their own independence side by side with Israel, and thus forfeited the blessing of God which rested upon Israel.
Num. 24:23, 24.
The fourth saying applies to Asshur, and is introduced by an exclamation of woe: “Woe! who will live, when God sets this! and ships (come) from the side of Chittim, and press Asshur, and press Eber, and he also perishes.” The words “Woe, who will live,” point to the fearfulness of the following judgment, which went deep to the heart of the seer, because it would fall upon the sons of his own people (see at Num. 22: 5). The meaning is, “Who will preserve his life in the universal catastrophe that is coming?” (Hengstenberg). מִשֻּׂמוֹ , either “since the setting of it,” equivalent to “from the time when God sets (determines) this” (ὅταν θῇ ταῦτα ὁ θεός, quando faciet ista Deus; LXX, Vulg.), or “on account of the setting of it,” i.e., because God determines this. שׂוּם, to set, applied to that which God establishes, ordains, or brings to pass, as in Isa. 44: 7; Hab. 1:12. The suffix in שׂוּמוֹ is not to be referred to Asshur, as Knobel supposes, because the prophecy relates not to Asshur “as the mighty power by which everything was crushed and overthrown,” but to a power that would come from the far west and crush Asshur itself. The suffix refers rather to the substance of the prophecy that follows, and is to be understood in a neuter sense. אל is “God,” and not an abbreviation of אלֶּה , which is always written with the article in the Pentateuch (הָאל, Gen. 19: 8, 25; 26: 3, 4; Lev. 18:27; Deut. 4:42; 7:22; 19:11), and only occurs once without the article, viz., in 1Ch. 20: 8. צִים , from צִי (Isa. 33:21), signifies ships, like צִיִּים in the passage in Dan. 11:30, which is founded upon the prophecy before us. מִיַּד , from the side, as in Ex. 2: 5, Deut. 2:37, etc. כִּתִּים is Cyprus with the capital Citium (see at Gen. 10: 4), which is mentioned as intervening between Greece and Phoenicia, and the principal station for the maritime commerce of Phoenicia, so that all the fleets passing from the west to the east necessarily took Cyprus in their way (Isa. 23: 1). The nations that would come across the sea from the side of Cyprus to humble Asshur, are not mentioned by name, because this lay beyond the range of Balaam’s vision. He simply gives utterance to the thought, “A power comes from Chittim over the sea, to which Asshur and Eber, the eastern and the western Shem, will both succumb” (v. Hofmann). Eber neither refers to the Israelites merely as Hebrews (LXX, Vulg.), nor to the races beyond the Euphrates, as Onkelos and others suppose, but, like “all the sons of Eber” in Gen. 10:21, to the posterity of Abraham who descended from Eber through Peleg, and also to the descendants of Eber through Joktan: so that Asshur, as the representative of the Shemites who dwelt in the far east, included Elam within itself; whilst Eber, on the other hand, represented the western Shemites, the peoples that sprang from Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram (Gen. 10:21). “And he also shall perish for ever:” these words cannot relate to Asshur and Eber, for their fate is already announced in the word ענּוּ (afflict, press), but only to the new western power that was to come over the sea, and to which the others were to succumb. “Whatever powers might rise up in the world of peoples, the heathen prophet of Jehovah sees them all fall, one through another, and one after another; for at last he loses in the distance the power to discern whence it is that the last which he sees rise up is to receive its fatal blow” (v. Hofmann, p. 520). The overthrow of this last power of the world, concerning which the prophet Daniel was the fist to receive and proclaim new revelations, belongs to “the end of the days,” in which the star out of Jacob is to rise upon Israel as a “bright morning star” (Rev. 22:16).
Now if according to this the fact is firmly established, that in this last prophecy of Balaam, “the judgment of history even upon the imperial powers of the West, and the final victory of the King of the kingdom of God were proclaimed, though in fading outlines, more than a thousand years before the events themselves,” as Tholuck has expressed it in his Propheten und ihre Weissagung; the announcement of the star out of Jacob, and the sceptre out of Israel, i.e., of the King and Ruler of the kingdom of God, who was to dash Moab to pieces and take possession of Edom, cannot have received its complete fulfilment in the victories of David over these enemies of Israel; but will only be fully accomplished in the future overthrow of all the enemies of the kingdom of God. By the “end of days,” both here and everywhere else, we are to understand the Messianic era, and that not merely at its commencement, but in its entire development, until the final completion of the kingdom of God at the return of our Lord to judgment. In the “star out of Jacob,” Balaam beholds not David as the one king of Israel, but the Messiah, in whom the royalty of Israel promised to the patriarchs (Gen. 17: 6, 16; 35:11) attains its fullest realization. The star and sceptre are symbols not of “Israel’s royalty personified” (Hengstenberg), but of the real King in a concrete form, as He was to arise out of Israel at a future day. It is true that Israel received the promised King in David, who conquered and subjugated the Moabites, Edomites, and other neighbouring nations that were hostile to Israel. But in the person of David and his rule the kingly government of Israel was only realized in its first and imperfect beginnings. Its completion was not attained till the coming of the second David (Hos. 3: 5; Jer. 30: 9; Eze. 34:24; 37:24, 25), the Messiah Himself, who breaks in pieces all the enemies of Israel, and founds an everlasting kingdom, to which all the kingdoms and powers of this world are to be brought into subjection (2Sa. 7:12-16; Psa. 2, 72, and 110).
If, however, the star out of Jacob first rose upon the world in Christ, the star which showed the wise men from the east the way to the new-born “King of the Jews,” and went before them, till it stood above the manger at Bethlehem (Mat. 2: 1-11), is intimately related to our prophecy. Only we must not understand the allusion as being so direct, that Balaam beheld the very star which appeared to the wise men, and made known to them the birth of the Saviour of the world. The star of the wise men was rather an embodiment of the star seen by Balaam, which announced to them the fulfilment of Balaam’s prophecy, — a visible sign by which God revealed to them the fact, that the appearance of the star which Balaam beheld in the far distant future had been realized at Bethlehem in the birth of Christ, the King of the Jews. — The “wise men from the east,” who had been made acquainted with the revelations of God to Israel by the Jews of the diaspora, might feel themselves specially attracted in their search for the salvation of the world by the predictions of Balaam, from the fact that this seer belonged to their own country, and came “out of the mountains of the east” (Num. 23: 7); so that they made his sayings the centre of their expectations of salvation, and were also conducted through them to the Saviour of all nations by means of supernatural illumination. “God unfolded to their minds, which were already filled with a longing for the ‘star out of Jacob’ foretold by Balaam, the meaning of the star which proclaimed the fulfilment of Balaam’s prophecy; He revealed to them, that is to say, the fact that it announced the birth of the ‘King of the Jews.’ And just as Balaam had joyously exclaimed, ‘I see Him,’ and ‘I behold Him,’ they also could say, ‘We have seen His star’” (Hengstenberg).
If, in conclusion, we compare Balaam’s prophecy of the star that would come out of Jacob, and the sceptre that would rise out of Israel, with the prediction of the patriarch Jacob, of the sceptre that should not depart from Judah, till the Shiloh came whom the nations would obey (Gen. 49:10), it is easy to observe that Balaam not only foretold more clearly the attitude of Israel to the nations of the world, and the victory of the kingdom of God over every hostile kingdom of the world; but that he also proclaimed the Bringer of Peace expected by Jacob at the end of the days to be a mighty ruler, whose sceptre would break in pieces and destroy all the enemies of the nation of God. The tribes of Israel stood before the mental eye of the patriarch in their full development into the nation in which all the families of the earth were to be blessed. From this point of view, the salvation that was to blossom in the future for the children of Israel culminated in the peaceful kingdom of the Shiloh, in whom the dominion of the victorious lion out of Judah was to attain its fullest perfection. But the eye of Balaam, the seer, which had been opened by the Spirit of God, beheld the nation of Israel encamped, according to its tribes, in the face of its foes, the nations of this world. They were endeavouring to destroy Israel; but according to the counsel of the Almighty God and Lord of the whole world, in their warfare against the nation that was blessed of Jehovah, they were to succumb one after the other, and be destroyed by the king that was to arise out of Israel. This determinate counsel of the living God was to be proclaimed by Balaam, the heathen seer out of Mesopotamia the centre of the national development of the ancient world: and, first of all, to the existing representatives of the nations of the world that were hostile to Israel, that they might see what would at all times tend to their peace — might see, that is to say, that in their hostility to Israel they were rebelling against the Almighty God of heaven and earth, and that they would assuredly perish in the conflict, since life and salvation were only to be found with the people of Israel, whom God had blessed. And even though Balaam had to make known the purpose of the Lord concerning His people primarily, and in fact solely, to the Moabites and their neighbours, who were like-minded with them, his announcement was also intended for Israel itself, and was to be a pledge to the congregation of Israel for all time of the certain fulfilment of the promises of God; and so to fill them with strength and courage, that in all their conflicts with the powers of this world, they should rely upon the Lord their God with the firmest confidence of faith, should strive with unswerving fidelity after the end of their divine calling, and should build up the kingdom of God on earth, which is to outlast all the kingdoms of the world. — In what manner the Israelites became acquainted with the prophecies of Balaam, so that Moses could incorporate them into the Thorah, we are nowhere told, but we can infer it with
tolerable certainty from the subsequent fate of Balaam himself.
1 this passage is in the Keil and Delitsch Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1, The Pentateuch, the Book of Numbers, page 191ff. This passage can be located on p. 1220 in the pdf file that can be downloaded here. There is no copyright as the work is in the public domain.
2 Regarding the fact that Balaam’s donkey rebuking the prophet consider Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees when they complained that His followers were praising His entry into Jerusalem (Luke:19:38-40)