ENEMY OPPOSITION CANNOT UNDERMINE GOD’S PROMISED BLESSING ON HIS CHOSEN, CONQUERING, COVENANT PEOPLE
Balak enlists the prophetic word of the famous seer Balaam to curse God’s people and undermine God’s kingdom agenda. But the covenant-keeping God is immutable and committed to His promises to bless Israel. All of the promises made in Genesis to the patriarchs will be fulfilled in perfect detail. As the nation prepares to enter the promised land, they can be assured of God’s future blessing and His ultimate destruction of their enemies. The fundamental prophetic principle will be proven throughout history – God will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel.
Constable: In summary, the first three oracles were a reconfirmation of the Abrahamic promises to Israel and a testimony to their partial fulfillment thus far in Israel’s history.
Oracle1: seed promise (Numbers 23:10)
Oracle2: land promise (Numbers 23:24)
Oracle3: blessing promise (Numbers 24:9)
In each case the allusion to the promise concludes these oracles. The writer showed that God’s promise to bless those nations that blessed Abraham‘s descendants and curse those who cursed them was reliable. The key to the future prosperity of Israel’s neighbor nations was their treatment of God’s chosen people.
The fourth through seventh oracles differ from the others in that they looked farther down the corridors of time. They prophesied the success of Israel in the years ahead culminating in Israel’s ultimate glory under her great Messiah’s reign.
Iain Duguid: In dramatic contrast to the expensive, uncertain, and ultimately impotent search for blessing and curse through spiritual counterfeits and the idols of our hearts, there is the free, certain, and effective way to blessing through Israel’s God. Israel did not have to pay Balaam or offer special sacrifices to receive a word of blessing from the Lord through him. On the contrary, the Lord had already freely committed himself in advance to bless Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:2, 3). The Lord had already told the Aaronic priests to pronounce his blessing regularly on the people, without any fee changing hands (Numbers 6:24–27). Balaam’s words of blessing were simply a reflection of the Lord’s settled attitude toward his people.
I. (:1-12) BALAAM’S FIRST ORACLE – ISRAEL AS A CHOSEN PEOPLE BLESSED BY A SOVEREIGN KING
A. (:1-4) Preparation for the Oracle
1. (:1-2) Preparation Involving Sacrifices
a. (:1) Preparation for Sacrifices
“Then Balaam said to Balak, ‘Build seven altars for me here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me here.’”
Peter Wallace: Balaam is a celebrity convert! We should listen to this Balaam guy! Now, in Pergamum, the guy’s name was plainly not Balaam. Maybe his name was Nicolaus (the Nicolaitans). Or maybe his name was Simon Magus! But Jesus’ point is that you shouldn’t pay attention to someone just because they have a fancy conversion story. They may be able to produce a big splashy show – all in the name of Jesus (just like Balaam was able to make quite a showing in the name of Yahweh) – but this is why Paul came to Corinth in weakness – not with a big show of worldly wisdom. The message of the gospel will invariably be centered on the cross. And the messenger will probably not be splashy. But the result of the message of the cross will be lives that are conformed to the cross! . . .
Balaam claims to have access to the divine council. But Balaam is still operating as a pagan seer – he still thinks that he can manipulate the deities. Only when he is riding his donkey does he come to see otherwise! . . . Ancient Jewish and Christian commentators were quick to point out that the most powerful Gentile prophet appears in parallel with the most powerful Hebrew prophet. Balaam and Moses need to be seen side-by-side. The pagan way of manipulating the gods by incantations needs to be shown for what it is – feeble and foolish. The wisdom of this age – and the rulers of this age – are displayed in all their folly.
b. (:2) Offering of Sacrifices
“And Balak did just as Balaam had spoken, and Balak and Balaam offered up a bull and a ram on each altar.”
Gordon Wenham: In Israel seven was also a sacred number. Sevenfold sprinkling was required in rites of purification (Lev. 8:11; 14:7, 16; 16:14, 19, etc.). Creation took seven days (Gen. 1:1–2:3). The seventh month of the year was full of religious festivals (Num. 29). The seventh year and the fiftieth year (7×7+1) were also of special significance (Lev. 25). Seven or fourteen lambs were offered at the major festivals (Num. 28:19, 27; 29:4, 13, 17ff.). The choice of bulls and rams also enhanced the prestige of Balaam’s offerings, for they were the most valued sacrificial beasts of ancient Israel (Lev. 4:1–21; 5:14–6:7). They were offered as burnt offerings, a sacrifice in which the entire animal was burnt on the altar (Lev. 1). Unlike the other sacrifices, neither offerer nor priest had any share in eating a burnt offering: it was all given to God. By selecting fourteen of the most valuable animals and offering them in this way, Balaam and Balak were evidently doing their utmost to secure a favourable response from God.
3–6. The religious atmosphere is further heightened by Balaam. He tells Balak: Stand beside your burnt offering. The verb used here (hityaṣṣeb) echoes 22:22 and suggests a patient waiting for God, possibly in prayer (cf. Exod. 14:13; 1 Sam. 12:7, 16). Balaam himself goes to a bare height, (12) where he evidently hoped to meet with God. Some commentators surmise that such places were considered especially favourable for divination. Balaam’s hopes were realized, God met Balaam. Once again the narrator underlines the inspiration of the oracle he is about to deliver, the Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth (23:5; cf. 22:20, 28, 35, 38).
2. (:3-4) Preparation Involving Soliciting God’s Revelation
a. (:3) Seeking a Meeting with God
“Then Balaam said to Balak, ‘Stand beside your burnt offering, and I will go; perhaps the LORD will come to meet me, and whatever He shows me I will tell you.’ So he went to a bare hill.”
b. (:4) Significance of the Sacrifices
“Now God met Balaam, and he said to Him, ‘I have set up the seven altars, and I have offered up a bull and a ram on each altar.’”
B. (:5-10) Delivery of the Oracle – the Seed Promise
1. (:5-6) Prophetic Charge
“Then the LORD put a word in Balaam’s mouth and said,
‘Return to Balak, and you shall speak thus.’
So he returned to him, and behold, he was standing beside his burnt offering, he and all the leaders of Moab.”
2. (:7-10) Prophetic Content
“And he took up his discourse and said,”
David Thompson: Then God led Balaam to talk to them and he gave them six opening messages:
1) Balak brought me from Aram from the east to curse Jacob and denounce Israel. 23:7
2) I cannot curse what God does not curse. 23:8a
3) I cannot denounce what God does not denounce. 23:8b
4) God has shown me that His people are separate from all other nations. 23:9
5) God has given this nation His multiplication blessing. 23:10a
6) When I die, I would like to have their upright status. 23:10b
a. (:7) Mission of Balaam to Curse Israel
“From Aram Balak has brought me, Moab’s king from the mountains of the East,
‘Come curse Jacob for me, And come, denounce Israel!’”
b. (:8) Restriction on Balaam Against Cursing Israel
“How shall I curse, whom God has not cursed?
And how can I denounce, whom the LORD has not denounced?”
c. (:9-10) Perspective of Balaam Regarding God’s Blessing on Israel
“As I see him from the top of the rocks, And I look at him from the hills; Behold, a people who dwells apart, And shall not be reckoned among the nations. 10 Who can count the dust of Jacob, Or number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the upright, And let my end be like his!”
– Uniqueness of the Elect Nation
– Innumerable posterity
– Enviable status
Timothy Ashley: Israel’s aloneness consists in its special relationship with Yahweh. Balaam asserts that this nation is alone and is aware of this aloneness.
Wiersbe: Israel’s great temptation was in wanting to be like the other nations, and this is what led to their downfall and captivity. Instead of rejoicing in their uniqueness as the people of the true and living God they imitated their neighbors in their worship and conduct, and God had to discipline them. Instead of letting God rule as their King, they asked for a king “like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:5), and this brought the nation into all kinds of trouble.
C. (:11-12) Response to the Oracle
1. (:11) Response of Balak
“Then Balak said to Balaam, ‘What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have actually blessed them!’”
Gordon Wenham: Balaam’s affirmation of Israel’s unique place in God’s providence was not what Balak wanted. In comparison with the subsequent oracles, this first one is quite obscure in detailing the way in which God is helping Israel; but it revealed clearly enough that the Lord was backing Israel, not Moab. This enraged Balak.
Timothy Ashley: M. Moore has seen in the clash between Balak and Balaam here a fundamental difference in role expectation. Balaam sees his own role primarily as a reciter of divine oracles. Balak, on the other hand, sees the role of Balaam as a sorcerer who will simply incant a spell to curse the Israelites. The tension is not resolved, here or later, and the whole enterprise comes to nothing but a negative outcome for Balak and Balaam.
Dennis Cole: Balak’s furious response came as expected, since he as the king of Moab had spent so much time and money personally working toward the desired end of condemning Israel to destruction. He took Balaam’s actions and words as a personal and professional affront, yet his words express the reality of the situation. God will accomplish the reversal of fortunes for any who would try to destroy his people.
2. (:12) Response of Balaam
“And he answered and said, ‘Must I not be careful to speak what the LORD puts in my mouth?’”
II. (:13-26) BALAAM’S SECOND ORACLE – ISRAEL AS A CONQUERING PEOPLE BLESSED BY A VICTORIOUS KING
A. (:13-15) Preparation for the Oracle
1. (:13) Preparation Redirected to a Second Location
“Then Balak said to him, ‘Please come with me to another place from where you may see them, although you will only see the extreme end of them, and will not see all of them; and curse them for me from there.’”
Constable: Balak became disappointed and angry because he expected that Balaam would control the gods. Balaam acknowledged that the God of Israel controlled him. Balak concluded that the site was not conducive to his purpose, so he took Balaam to another place hoping that the spirits might be more favorable there.
2. (:14) Preparation Involving Sacrifices
“So he took him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.”
Wiersbe: The fact that Balaam participated in these pagan occult rituals shows the wickedness of his heart. He spoke the Word of God and longed for a righteous death, yet he thought nothing of using enchantments and consorting with Satan (Num. 24:1). He was a double-minded man whose chief desire was to make as much money as possible by marketing his skills.
3. (:15) Preparation Involving Soliciting God’s Revelation
“And he said to Balak, ‘Stand here beside your burnt offering, while I myself meet the Lord yonder.’”
Gordon Wenham: Undeterred by the initial setback, Balak insists on trying again. Perhaps another set of sacrifices at another site will produce different results (13–14; cf. 22:41–23:3). He chooses the field of Zophim (literally ‘watchmen’) on the top of Pisgah. The name suggests it was a watchpost for observing troop movements in the Jordan valley. At least Balaam could see some of the Israelites from there. On another peak of the Pisgah range, Mount Nebo, Moses had a vision of the whole land of Canaan that Israel was to occupy (Deut. 34). The whole rigmarole of sacrifice and sign-seeking is repeated and once again the Lord met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth.
B. (:16-24) Delivery of the Oracle – the Land Promise
1. (:16-17) Prophetic Charge
“Then the LORD met Balaam and put a word in his mouth and said, ‘Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.’
And he came to him, and behold, he was standing beside his burnt offering, and the leaders of Moab with him. And Balak said to him, ‘What has the LORD spoken?’”
2. (:18-24) Prophetic Content
“Then he took up his discourse and said,”
David Thompson: 13 Messages:
Message #1 – Balak, you need to listen to the Word of God. 23:18
Message #2 – God is not a Person who will lie. 23:19a
Message #3 – God is not a Person who will repent of what He says He will do. 23:19b
Message #4 – When God says He will do something, He will do it. 23:19c
Message #5 – When God speaks something, He will make it good. 23:19d
Message #6 – When God gives a command to bless something, no man can revoke it. 23:20
Message #7 – God does not look on Israel in a way to bring trouble or misfortune. 23:21a
Message #8 – God is with Israel and He is their King Warrior. 23:21b
Message #9 – God brings His people out of bondage. 23:22a
Message #10 – God is for Israel and He protects Israel like the horns of a wild ox. 23:22b
Message #11 – God will not permit anything Satanic or demonic to destroy Israel. 23:23a
Message #12 – God will fulfill everything He has promised to Israel at the proper time. 23:23b
Message #13 – God will one day reverse things for Israel and she will be a lion who will destroy her enemies. 23:24
a. (:18-19) Argument Based on the Immutability of God
1) (:18) Character of Balak
“Arise, O Balak, and hear;
Give ear to me, O son of Zippor!”
2) (:19) Character of God
“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent;
Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”
Timothy Ashley: Of the many predications that could have been chosen here, that he should fail points to a very basic distinction between the Creator and a creature. Although the translation lie is common, the context shows that the primary thought is not that God does not utter untruths, but that his purposes are utterly true and reliable, and that his nature does not disappoint or fail, as is the case with human creatures.
R. K. Harrison: Balaam began by informing Balak that Israel’s God is a morally consistent Being whose nature it is to fulfill His promises. Because Balaam had been instructed to bless Israel, he had no choice but to obey, if only because it was impossible for him to reverse God’s decisions.
MacArthur: A divine intention is not an unchangeable divine decree. Decrees or sworn declarations (cf. Ge 22:16–18; Ps 110:4) or categorical statements of not changing or relenting (cf. Jer 4:28; Eze 24:14; Zec 8:14, 15) are unconditional and bind the speaker to the stated course of action regardless of the circumstances or reactions of the listeners. Intentions retain a conditional element and do not necessarily bind the speaker to a stated course of action (cf. Jer 15:6; 18:8–10; 26:3, 13, 19; Joel 2:13; Jon 3:9, 10; 4:2).
b. (:20-21a) Argument Based on Irrevocable Nature of God’s Blessing
1) (:20) Nobody Can Alter God’s Commitment to Bless
“Behold, I have received a command to bless;
When He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it.”
2) (:21a) God’s Vision for the Future of Israel is Not Calamity
“He has not observed misfortune in Jacob;
Nor has He seen trouble in Israel;”
Constable: This oracle, as the first, began with a criticism of Balak’s theological assumption that people can manipulate God. In this oracle Balaam saw Israel blessed and God as King walking among His people (Numbers 23:21). The Exodus was the supreme example of God’s care for Israel (Numbers 23:22). Israel’s future would be bright just as her past had been (Numbers 23:23-24). Balaam also alluded to Israel’s possession of the land as God had promised Abraham (Numbers 23:26).
c. (:21a-24) Argument Based on Immanent Powerful Presence of God Guaranteeing Victory to Israel
1) (:21a) Powerful Presence of God with Israel
“The LORD his God is with him,
And the shout of a king is among them.”
Gordon Wenham: Here Balaam goes much further than in his first vision. Israel is not merely blessed, but enjoys the very presence of God walking among them. The Lord is Israel’s king and they acclaim his presence in their worship: the shout of a king is among them. Shout (tĕrûʿâ) often denotes the sound of a trumpet blown in war or at religious festivals (e.g. Lev. 23:24; Num. 10:5–6; 1 Sam. 4:6), and the word here may allude to such occasions. The notion of the Lord as king is fundamental in the Pentateuch. It is as Israel’s sovereign that the Lord made a covenant with her and gave her the law. But he was no distant emperor: he lived and reigned among them. The tabernacle was set up to be a portable palace, with the ark as God’s throne. The camp in the wilderness was organized on the model of the Egyptian army with the companies encamped in square formation around the royal tent at the centre.
Eugene Merrill: The shout of the King must be understood as a militaristic threat, implying that the Lord is a Warrior who leads His hosts to victory (cf. Josh. 6:5, 20; Ps. 47:5; Jer. 4:19; 49:2). Such power renders sorcery and divination harmless. All that remains is for the nations to look on Israel and marvel at God’s protecting grace (Num. 23:23).
2) (:22) Powerful Providence of God Delivering Israel
“God brings them out of Egypt,
He is for them like the horns of the wild ox.”
Dennis Cole: What set Israel apart was not their population, their power, or their perseverance in the wilderness over the past forty years; what set Israel apart was their God. The statement that Yahweh God is with his people means that no form of opposition can overcome them. He was their invincible King and Warrior, who demonstrated his royal nature by delivering his people from bondage to one of the most powerful nations in the ancient Near East.
3) (:23a) Impotent Opposition to Israel
“For there is no omen against Jacob,
Nor is there any divination against Israel;”
R. K. Harrison: The message of the seer appears to be that no kind of magic has any place, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, in the life of the Israelite people. All other nations had recourse to spells, incantations, and other forms of the magical arts. In the light of his own experiences as a qosem, Balaam could make this assertion with confidence. He knew that, for the Israelites, the living God of Sinai was the nation’s strength and that therefore sorcery and incantation were unnecessary. A renowned ancient Near Eastern prognosticator thus proclaimed in public his conviction that any form of divination is superfluous where God is in control.
4) (:23b) Powerful Testimony to God’s Deeds for Israel
“At the proper time it shall be said to Jacob And to Israel, what God has done.”
Wiersbe: It was God who gave Israel their victories, beginning with their exodus from Egypt. The nation was like an ox in its strength and like a lioness and a lion in its determination to catch its prey and kill it. Therefore, no sorcery could succeed against God’s people because God was at work in them and through them, “Oh, what God has done!” (23:23, NKJV).
5) (:24) Powerful Conquering of Enemies by Israel
“Behold, a people rises like a lioness, And as a lion it lifts itself; It shall not lie down until it devours the prey, And drinks the blood of the slain.”
C. (:25-26) Response to the Oracle
1. (:25) Response of Balak
“Then Balak said to Balaam,
‘Do not curse them at all nor bless them at all!’”
2. (:26) Response of Balaam
“But Balaam answered and said to Balak,
‘Did I not tell you, ‘Whatever the LORD speaks, that I must do ‘?’”
III. (23:27 – 24:14) BALAAM’S THIRD ORACLE – ISRAEL AS A COVENANT PEOPLE BLESSED BY AN EXALTED KING
A. (23:27-30) Preparation for the Oracle
1. (:27-28) Preparation Redirected to a Third Location
“Then Balak said to Balaam, ‘Please come, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will be agreeable with God that you curse them for me from there.’
So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor which overlooks the wasteland.”
2. (:29-30) Preparation Involving Sacrifices
“And Balaam said to Balak, ‘Build seven altars for me here
and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me here.’
And Balak did just as Balaam had said,
and offered up a bull and a ram on each altar.”
B. (24:1-24) Delivery of the Oracle – the Blessing Promise
1. (:1-4) Prophetic Charge – Vision from the Spirit of God
“When Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times to seek omens but he set his face toward the wilderness. 2 And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him. 3 And he took up his discourse and said, ‘The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, And the oracle of the man whose eye is opened; 4 The oracle of him who hears the words of God, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered,’”
Dennis Cole: The narrative now takes an unusual turn, for Balaam does not depart from Balak and the altars to a place of solitude. He does not perform any divination rituals to prepare for the encounter with the divine, nor does he receive the revelation in the same manner of Yahweh putting the words into his mouth. In this case the Spirit of God came upon the prophet, and he may have entered into an ecstatic trance in the manner of Saul (1 Sam 10:6) or Micaiah (1 Kgs 22:10–23). The process transpired as Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw (wayyiśśāʾ bilʿām ʾet-ʿênāyw wayyarʾ, i.e., fully focused his attention). The preterite form of the verb rāʾâ (“he saw”) here and elsewhere is used to denote an individual seeing or observing perceptively. In this case Balaam is endowed with divine insight as he observed the Israelites below him in the wilderness of Moab.
Gordon Wenham: Whereas the first two oracles are theological statements about God’s relationship to Israel and what he has done for them already, the subsequent oracles include visionary predictions of Israel’s future settlement in Canaan, the rise of the monarchy and victories over specific foes.
2. (:5-9a) Prophetic Content
a. (:5-6) Blessing of Luxurious Prosperity and Security
“How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel! 6 Like valleys that stretch out, Like gardens beside the river,
Like aloes planted by the LORD, Like cedars beside the waters.”
b. (:7a) Blessing of Innumerable Prosperity
“Water shall flow from his buckets,
And his seed shall be by many waters,”
c. (:7b) Blessing of Exalted King and Kingdom
“And his king shall be higher than Agag,
And his kingdom shall be exalted.”
Ronald Allen: The oracles are building in intensity and in their depth of meaning. . . Balaam speaks here in general but luxuriant terms of the blessings that will fall on the people of Israel as they will settle in their new land. The people will have a sense of Eden in the lushness of their blessing from the Lord.
Constable: In an ironic reversal of the evil intended by Pharaoh’s order to cast the seed of Abraham into the river, Balaam’s third oracle uses the well-watered gardens that spread out along the banks of a river to speak of the abundance of Israel’s “seed.” A literal reading of Balaam’s remark in Numbers 24:7 is “Their seed is in the abundant waters” … Thus what was once the intended means for the destruction of the promised seed, that Isaiah, the “abundant waters,” has now become the poetic image of God’s faithfulness to his promise.” [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p407.]
Gordon Wenham: Here the image is of a man with two pails hanging from his shoulders and overflowing with water. Again water is being used as symbolic of great fruitfulness. Though the reference could again be to the fertility of the land, resulting from the abundance of rain, it more probably refers to a growing population as the result of sexual intercourse (cf. Prov. 5:15–19). Though Israel may already be too many to count, Balaam declares they will multiply yet further (cf. Gen. 17:5–6).
Vision #1 – The place where Israel dwells will be a wonderful blessed place. 24:6-7a
Vision #2 – The place where Israel dwells will have the great King who will reign. 24:7b
Vision #3 – Israel will dominate and destroy all enemies because God is on her side. 24:8-9a
Vision #4 – Everyone who blesses Israel will be blessed. 24:9b
Vision #5 – Everyone who curses Israel will be cursed. 24:9c
d. (:8-9a) Blessing of Delivering and Devouring Strength
“God brings him out of Egypt, He is for him like the horns of the wild ox. He shall devour the nations who are his adversaries, And shall crush their bones in pieces, And shatter them with his arrows. 9 He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him?”
3. (:9b) Prophetic Principle Dictating the Fate of the Nations
“Blessed is everyone who blesses you,
And cursed is everyone who curses you.”
C. (24:10-14) Response to the Oracle
1. (:10-11) Response of Balak
a. (:10a) Anger
“Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam,
and he struck his hands together;”
b. (:10b) Rebuke
“and Balak said to Balaam,
‘I called you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have persisted in blessing them these three times!’”
c. (:11a) Threat
“Therefore, flee to your place now.”
d. (:11b) Relegation
“I said I would honor you greatly,
but behold, the LORD has held you back from honor.”
2. (:12-14) Response of Balaam
a. (:12-13) Insistence on Fidelity to Divine Revelation
“And Balaam said to Balak, ‘Did I not tell your messengers whom you had sent to me, saying, 13 ‘Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything contrary to the command of the LORD, either good or bad, of my own accord. What the LORD speaks, that I will speak ‘?”
b. (:14) Introduction to Final Discourses
“And now behold, I am going to my people; come, and I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the days to come.”
Constable: Before Balaam departed he gave Balak four more revelations from God. They dealt with the future of Israel, Moab, and Israel’s other neighbors. They were entirely futuristic in their prophecies. Each one began with the phrase “took up his discourse and said.” In all, Balaam made seven discourses that Moses recorded in the text.
The fourth oracle dealt with Israel, Moab, and Edom. Balaam seemed to sense that what he predicted would take place in the distant future: “I see him, but not now, …” (Numbers 24:17). Saul and David partially fulfilled these prophecies. However Jewish and Christian interpreters have seen them as looking beyond the early monarchy to Messiah at His first and second advents.
MacArthur: “in the days to come” – Lit. “at the end of days.” This term is rightfully used in the OT for the distant future. Balaam’s fourth oracle takes the truth communicated in the third and applies it to Moab.
IV. (24:15-19) BALAAM’S FOURTH ORACLE – MESSIANIC DOMINION
A. (:15-16) Prophetic Charge
“And he took up his discourse and said, ‘The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, And the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, 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.’”
B. (:17-19) Prophetic Content
1. (:17) Coming Deliverer
“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, And a scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth.”
2. (:18-19) Coming Dominion
“And Edom shall be a possession, Seir, its enemies, also shall be a possession, While Israel performs valiantly. 19 One from Jacob shall have dominion, And shall destroy the remnant from the city.”
Wiersbe: The vision is brief and to the point; it focuses on the coming Messiah of Israel and His conquests “in the latter days” (Num. 24:14). The images of the star and scepter speak of Messiah’s kingship and reign (Gen. 49:10; Rev. 22:16), and “out of Jacob shall he come who shall have dominion” certainly refers to Messiah (Num. 24:19; Ps. 72:8; Zech. 9:10; Rev. 1:6). While a part of this vision may have been fulfilled in a lesser way in the conquests of David, Jesus the Son of David will fulfill them completely when He returns to conquer His enemies and establish His kingdom on the earth (Rev. 19:11 – 20:6).
David Thompson: vv. 15-22
Observation #1 – The prophetic plan is focused on a real man. 24:17a
There will be some real person identified as “him,” a male who will fulfill this.
Observation #2 – The prophetic plan concerning that man is not now. 24:17b
The plan concerning this special man was not in the immediate present time. In other words, the Person I am talking about is not presently here.
Observation #3 – The prophetic plan concerning that man is not near. 24:17c
The fulfillment of this prophetic plan would be in the future, but not the immediate future.
Observation #4 – The prophetic plan will focus on One Person who will come from Jacob’s line. 24:17d
There will be a heavenly star from Jacob’s line who will be here as a man. He will come from heaven but will be a real man in Jacob’s line.
Observation #5 – The prophetic plan will focus on a scepter-ruler who will come from Israel. 24:17e
A heavenly man king ruler will come from Israel and will dominate the world. We know who this is because God the Father said that this is a reference to Jesus Christ His Son (Hebrews 1:8).
Observation #6 – The scepter ruler will crush all of Israel’s enemies. 24:17f
This not only includes Moab, who is representative of all enemies who curse Israel, but also He will tear down the sons of Seth. We take this to refer to all humanity who hates Israel. Seth was a son of Noah through whom Jesus Christ actually was born (Luke 3:38). What I understand this to mean is that the scepter-ruler will destroy any nation or individual who rejects Him and hates Israel. One could be Gentile or Jewish. All enemies will be crushed one day.
Observation #7 – The scepter-ruler will take possession of enemy territory. 24:18a People and places who were Israel’s enemies will become Israel’s possessions.
Observation #8 – Israel will perform valiantly. 24:18b
David wrote a Psalm that described the fact that God had been angry with His people but then delivered them. He wrote: “Through God we shall do valiantly, and it is He who will tread down our adversaries” (Psalm 60:12).
Observation #9 – One from Jacob’s line will have total dominion over everything. 24:19a
Isaiah predicted one would come who would have all the government of God on His shoulders, who would be the mighty God (Isaiah 9:6). Balaam is seeing the same Person.
Observation #10 – One from Jacob’s line will destroy the enemy remnant from the city. 24:19b
We believe this is a reference to what Jesus Christ will do in Jerusalem. The remnant of unbelievers and enemies of God and Israel will be destroyed.
Observation #11 – In the future, the entire enemy world will be destroyed. 24:20-22
V. (24:20-24) BALAAM’S FINAL 3 ORACLES – DESTRUCTION OF NEIGHBORING NATIONS
A. (:20) Oracle Regarding Amalek
“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.’”
Gordon Wenham: Yet rather unexpectedly Balaam does not end here. He adds three short, cryptic oracles dealing with the fate of other nations. It is difficult to know why they are included, except that they bring up the total of oracles to the mystic number seven and, like the oracles of doom against foreign nations in the later prophets, they serve as a back-handed encouragement to Israel. If Israel’s enemies are destroyed, her future will be secure.
B. (:21-22) Oracle Regarding Kenites
“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.
22 Nevertheless Kain shall be consumed;
How long shall Asshur keep you captive?’”
Wiersbe: The Kenites were a nomadic people who lived among the Midianites. They lived in the mountainous regions, but their “nest” wouldn’t protect them from the invading Assyrians (Asshur) who would take them captive. The fate of the nations is in God’s hands (Acts 17:24-28), and no nation or individual could survive apart from His mercy (Num. 24:23).
C. (:23-24) Oracle Regarding Asshur and Eber
“And he took up his discourse and said,
‘Alas, who can live except God has ordained it?
24 But ships shall come from the coast of Kittim,
And they shall afflict Asshur and shall afflict Eber;
So they also shall come to destruction.’”
Ronald Allen: Balaam now presents his las oracle, one that is more difficult than any of the others to interpret. This may be fitting. The relative obscurity of the words compel attention; clarity may come as the time of the oracle is realized. . . The difficulties that we face in precision in our interpretation of this verse does not obscure the general direction: one nation will rise and supplant another, only to face its own doom. In contrast there is the implied ongoing blessing on the people of Israel and their sure promise of a future deliverer who will have the final victory (vv. 17-19).
Eugene Merrill: Many scholars think that Kittim refers not only to Cyprus specifically but also to all western Mediterranean maritime powers generally, particularly Rome (Jer. 2:10; Ezek. 27:6; Dan. 11:30). This remarkable prophecy found fulfillment in the overthrow of Asshur, which represented Mesopotamia and Persia, and Eber, which was the original name for the Hebrews, or Israelites. Later Rome did indeed incorporate the vestiges of the Assyrian Empire as well as Israel within its universal domination.
Peter Wallace: Stubbs summarizes these oracles: “Israel is blessed by God first in its election and fruitfulness. God also blesses through his presence, which cleanses, gives insight, and strengthens. This blessing leads to a life of harmony and prosperity in the promised land. Finally, God’s blessing will include sending the Messiah, who will eventually bring victory over all the enemies of God’s people. Understood in this way, the blessings of Balaam provide an overview of all salvation history.”
Iain Duguid: The greatest declaration of Israel’s future blessing, though, was left for the distant future. In Balaam’s final oracle he announced that a star would come out of Jacob and a scepter out of Israel, a great king who would definitively crush all of her enemies (24:17–19). In that day, pride of place would not be sufficient to keep Israel’s adversaries safe: the Amalekites, who were “first among the nations,” would come to ruin (24:20). A secure location would be no defense either: the Kenites would be flushed out of their rocky lair (24:21). Even those whom God used to destroy those nations would themselves ultimately go down in defeat at the hands of others—the Assyrians who would overcome and enslave the Kenites would themselves be subdued in due time by a warlike power from across the sea (24:24). Meanwhile, those who brought low the Assyrians would themselves come to ruin in the end (24:24). Who can endure this great day of the Lord’s wrath (24:23)?
This final oracle thus spans the entire sweep of human history. Nation after nation will rise to world domination and then fall to defeat. But when the messianic King arrives on the scene, no people other than Israel, the nation set apart, will survive the final day of destruction. At the end of all things, when all of human history has played out its course of changing fortunes, the Lord’s people will be the only ones left standing.
(24:25) EPILOGUE – PARTING OF BALAAM AND BALAK
“Then Balaam arose and departed and returned to his place,
and Balak also went his way.”