New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary


Num 23:1 Balaam said to Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven bulls and seven rams.

Num 23:2 Balak did as Balaam had spoken; and Balak and Balaam offered on every altar a bull and a ram.
Num 23:3 Balaam said to Balak, Stand by your burnt offering, and I will go. Perhaps Yahweh will come to meet me; and whatever He shows me I will tell you. He went to a bare height.
Num 23:4 God met Balaam,and he said to Him, I have prepared the seven altars, and I have offered up a bull and a ram on every altar.
Num 23:5 Yahweh put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.
Num 23:6 He returned to him, and behold, he was standing by his burnt offering, he, and all the princes of Moab.
Num 23:7 He took up his parable, and said, From Aram has Balak brought me, the king of Moab from the mountains of the East. Come, curse Jacob for me, come, defy Israel.
Num 23:8 How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? How shall I defy whom Yahweh has not defied?
Num 23:9 For from the top of the rocks I see him, from the hills I see him; behold, it is a people that dwells alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.
Num 23:10 Who can count the dust of Jacob, or number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous! Let my last end be like his!
Num 23:11 Balak said to Balaam, What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have blessed them altogether.
Num 23:12 He answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which Yahweh puts in my mouth?-
Clearly Balaam didn’t want to say the words he did. The process of Divine inspiration means that men spoke God’s word even against their will; they were moved, carried along, by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:15,16). The Bible is therefore not the words of men but those of God, and the fact some of those who gave the original words did so against their own will – and Balaam would be a classic example- is proof that it is indeed the word of God and not of men.

Num 23:13 Balak said to him, Please come with me to another place, where you may see them. You shall see but the utmost part of them, and shall not see them all; and curse me them from there.
Num 23:14 He took him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered up a bull and a ram on every altar.
Num 23:15 He said to Balak, Stand here by your burnt offering, while I meet over there.
Num 23:16 Yahweh met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, Return to Balak, and say this.
Num 23:17 He came to him, and behold, he was standing by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. Balak said to him, What has Yahweh spoken?
Num 23:18 He took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear! Listen to Me, you son of Zippor.
Num 23:19 God is not a man, that He should lie, nor the son of man, that He should change His mind-
God does change His mind about some things due to His great sensitivity to His people; but He will not change His basic love for them (Mal. 3:6). He will not arbitrarily decide now to curse His beloved people.

Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?-
God had promised to give His people the promised land, as He has promised to give us the Kingdom, and there is no way He will renege on that promise.

Num 23:20 Behold, I have received a command to bless. He has blessed, and I can’t reverse it.
Num 23:21 He has not seen iniquity in Jacob, neither has He seen perverseness in Israel. Yahweh his God is with him, the shout of a king is among them-
Imputed righteousness is they key to our salvation by grace. When Balaam tried to curse Israel, it was impossible because God saw them as righteous, even though they were not: " He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness (Jacob-ness) in Israel" (Num. 23:21). God overlooked Jacob’s natural characteristics. It is no accident that God repeatedly described His people at this time with the title of 'Jacob' (Num. 23:7,10,21,23; 24:5,17,19).

There was indeed much iniquity in Jacob- notice how Jacob’s old name is used rather than the new name, Israel. They took with them the gods of Egypt (Ez. 20:7,8), and the tabernacle of another god as well as that of Yahweh (Acts 7:43). But God did not ‘see’ that sin; this is an Old Testament presentiment of the ‘imputed righteousness’ of which Paul speaks in the New Testament. God doesn’t count sin, doesn’t ‘see’ it, in His people; for this really is what love is about, seeing someone in a positive light and not imputing their weakness to them.


Num 23:22 God brings them out of Egypt, he has as it were the strength of the wild ox.
Num 23:23 Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob; neither is there any divination possible against Israel. Now it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What has God done!
Num 23:24 Behold, the people rises up as a lioness, as a lion he lifts himself up. He shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain.
Num 23:25 Balak said to Balaam, Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all.
Num 23:26 But Balaam answered Balak, Didn’t I tell you, saying, ‘All that Yahweh speaks, that I must do?’-
Again there is a resentment in Balaam, repeating God’s word to others but not personally identifying with it, bemoaning the limitations of it.

Num 23:27 Balak said to Balaam, Come now, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will please God that you may curse me them from there.
Num 23:28 Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, that looks down on the desert.
Num 23:29 Balaam said to Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven bulls and seven rams.
Num 23:30 Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered up a bull and a ram on every altar.