And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho.
on this side
And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.
And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel.
And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.
He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me:
son of Bosor
Dr. Kennicott justly remarks, that "the description now given of Balaam's residence, instead of being particular, agrees with any place, in any country where there is a river; for he lived by 'Pethor, which is by the river of the land of his people.' But was Pethor, then, near the Nile in Egypt? Or in Canaan, near Jordan? Or in Mesopotamia, near the Euphrates, and belonging to the Ammonites? This last was in fact the case; and therefore, it is well that twelve Hebrew MSS. (with two of De Rossi's) confirm the Samaritan text here, in reading instead of ‚mmo, 'his people,' Ammon, with the Syriac and Vulgate versions." Houbigant justly contends for this reading; and necessity urges the propriety of adopting it: and it thus agrees with De 23:4. Ptolemy calls Pethor, Pachura, and Eusebius, Pathura; who places it in upper Mesopotamia. Calmet is of opinion, that it was situated towards Thapsacus, beyond the Euphrates.
Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.
And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak.
rewards of divination
And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the LORD shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam.
And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee?
Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which covereth the face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them, and drive them out.
able to overcome them
Heb. prevail in fighting against them.
And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.
Balaam, Thou shalt
thou shalt not curse
And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you.
for the Lord
And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak, and said, Balaam refuseth to come with us.
And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they.
And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me:
Let nothing, etc
Heb. Be not thou letted from, etc.
For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people.
I will promote
and I will do
An erroneous opinion prevailed, both in those days and in after ages, that some men had the power, by the help of their gods, to devote, not only particular persons, but cities and whole armies, to destruction. This they are said to have done sometimes by words of imprecation; of which there was a set form among some people, which ∆schines calls [diorizomenen aran ] "the determinate curse." Macrobius has a whole chapter on this subject. He gives us two of the ancient forms used in reference to the destruction of Carthage; the first, which was only pronounced by the dictator, or general, was to call over the protecting deities to their side, and the other to devote the city to destruction, which they were supposed to have abandoned. The Romans held, that no city would be taken till its tutelary god had forsaken it; or if it could be taken, it would be unlawful, as it would be sacrilege to lead the gods into captivity. Virgil intimates, that Troy was destroyed because Excessere omnes adytis, arisque relictis dii, quibus imperium hoc steterat, "All the gods, by whose assistance the empire had hitherto been preserved, forsook their altars and temples." See more on this subject in Dr. A. Clarke, Bp. Patrick, and Burder's Oriental Customs, No. 734.
And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more.
Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more.
And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.
If the men
And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.
And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.
and the angel
And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.
the ass saw
the ass turned
And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall: and he smote her again.
And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.
where was no way
And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.
and Balaam's anger
And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?
the Lord opened
And where is the wonder of all this? If the ass had opened her own mouth, and reproved the rash prophet, we might well be astonished; but when God opens the mouth, an ass can speak as well as a man. It is to no purpose to speak of the construction of the ass's mouth, of the formation of the tongue and jaws being unfit for speaking; for an adequate cause is assigned for this wonderful effect, "The Lord opened the mouth of the ass"; and no one who believes in a God, can doubt of his power to do this and much more.
What have I
And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.
for now would
And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.
the ass said
upon which thou hast ridden
Heb. who hast ridden upon me. ever since I was thine. or, ever since thou wast, unto, etc.
Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.
fell flat on his face
or, bowed himself.
And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me:
Heb. be an adversary unto thee.
And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive.
And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again.
I Have sinned
if it displease thee
Heb. be evil in thine eyes.
I will get
And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.
I shall speak
And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him unto a city of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, which is in the utmost coast.
And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send unto thee to call thee? wherefore camest thou not unto me? am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour?
I am not able
And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to say any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.
And Balaam went with Balak, and they came unto Kirjathhuzoth.
or, a city of streets. Probably Rabbath-Moab, now called Rabba, the capital of the Moabites; and being the royal city, distinguished by its streets.
And Balak offered oxen and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes that were with him.
And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people.
Bamoth baal, "the high places of Baal," probably the same as Bamoth mentioned in ch. 21.19, 20; evidently not far from Baal-meon, in the mountains of Abarim: for the Israelites were now encamped in the plains of Moab, which these mountains overlook. Baal, which signifies a lord or governor, was a name common to many idols; and probably here was the same as Chemosh, the god of Moab.