Out of Jacob shall come, etc. - This is supposed to refer to Christ, because of what is said Genesis 49:10.
It is exceedingly difficult to fix the true sense of this prophecy in all its particulars. Probably the star, Numbers 24:17, is only an emblem of kingly power. Among the Egyptians a star is said to have been the symbol of the Divine Being. The scepter refers to the kingly power in exercise. The corners or outskirts may mean the petty Moabitish governments, as the Chaldee has understood the term. If karkar, which we translate utterly destroy, be not the name of a place here, as it is in Judges 8:10, (which is not very likely), it may be taken in one of those senses assigned to it, (see on Numbers 24:17; (note)), and signify the blending together the children of Sheth, that is, all the inhabitants of the earth; for so the children of Sheth must necessarily be understood, unless we consider it here as meaning some king of the Moabites, according to Grotius, or a city on the borders of Moab, according to Rabbi Nathan. As neither Israel nor the Messiah ever destroyed all the children of men, we must (in order to leave the children of Sheth what they are generally understood to be, all the inhabitants of the world) understand the whole as a prophecy of the final universal sway of the scepter of Christ, when the middle wall of partition shall be broken down, and the Jews and Gentiles become one united, blended fold, under one shepherd and bishop of their souls.
I cannot think that the meteoric star which guided the wise men of the east to Bethlehem can be intended here; nor do I think that Peter refers to this prophecy when he calls Christ the day star, 2 Peter 1:19; nor that Revelation 2:28, where Christ is called the morning star, nor Revelation 22:16, where he is called the bright and morning star, refers at all to this prophecy of Balaam. Nor do I think that the false Christ who rose in the time of Adrian, and who called himself Barcochab, which literally signifies the son of a star, did refer to this prophecy. If he had, he must have defeated his own intention, because the Son of the star is not The Star that should arise, but at the utmost a descendant; and then, to vindicate his right to the Jewish throne, he must show that the person who was called the star, and of whom he pretended to be the son or descendant, had actually reigned before him. As the sun, moon, stars, planets, light, splendours, effulgence, day, etc., were always considered among the Asiatics as emblems of royalty, government, etc., therefore many, both men and women, had these names given to them as titles, surnames, etc. So the queen of Alexander the Great, called Roxana by the Greeks, was a Persian princess, and in her native tongue her name was Roushen, splendor. Hadassah, who became queen to Ahasuerus, in place of the repudiated Vashti, and is called Esther by Europeans in general, was called in the language of Persia Sitareh ; from whence by corruption came both Esther, the Persian queen, and our word star. And to waive all farther examples, a Mohammedan prince, at first named Eesouf or Joseph, was called Roushen Akhter when he was raised to the throne, which signifies a splendid or luminous star. This prince, by a joyful reverse of fortune, was brought from a gloomy prison and exalted to the throne of Hindostan; on which account the following couplet was made, in which there is a paronomasia or play on the name Roushen Akhter; and the last line alludes to the history of the patriarch Joseph, who was brought out of prison and exalted to the highest honors in Egypt.
Roushen Akhter bood, aknoon mah shud̀
Yousef az zendan ber amd shah shud .
"He was a bright star, but is now become a moon.
Joseph is brought out of prison, and is become a glorious king."
Destroy him that remaineth of the city - i. e., shall destroy those of every city that had previously escaped. The phrase tersely describes a conqueror who first defeats his enemies in battle, and then hunts out the fugitives until he has cut off all of every place (compare 1 Kings 11:16).
It is apparent that Edom and Moab are named by Balaam, as they are also by the prophets (compare e. g., Isaiah 11:14), as representatives of the pagan nations Numbers 24:8 who were hostile to the theocracy. As Jacob therefore figures as a constant type of the kingdom of Messiah in the prophets, so do Edom and Joab of the enemies of that kingdom; and in the threatened ruin of Edom and Moab is indicated the eventual destruction of all that resist the kingdom of God in its power.
The “Star” and “Sceptre” of the prophecy, like the “Sceptre” and “Lawgiver” of Genesis 49:10, point also naturally to a line of princes rather than to an individual; or rather are emblems of the kingdom of Israel generally. Thus, the victories of David and his successors, generation after generation, over Edom and Moab, are unquestionably recurring and progressive accomplishments of what Balaam foretold; but in addition the prophecy reaches forward to some further and culminating accomplishment; and that too in “the latter days” Numbers 24:14, the ordinary prophetic designation for the time of the Messiah (compare the marginal references).
To a Christian the connection between the Star and Seeptre of Balaam and the Star of the king of the Jews, which the wise men saw Matthew 2:2, is self-evident.
The melody of praise is the atmosphere of heaven; and when heaven comes in touch with the earth, there is music and song—“thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.” Isaiah 51:3. Ed 161.4
Above the new-created earth, as it lay, fair and unblemished, under the smile of God, “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” Job 38:7. So human hearts, in sympathy with heaven, have responded to God's goodness in notes of praise. Many of the events of human history have been linked with song. Ed 161.5Read in context »
Awed by these revelations, Balaam exclaimed, “Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel.” The great magician had tried his power of enchantment, in accordance with the desire of the Moabites; but concerning this very occasion it should be said of Israel, “What hath God wrought!” While they were under the divine protection, no people or nation, though aided by all the power of Satan, should be able to prevail against them. All the world should wonder at the marvelous work of God in behalf of His people—that a man determined to pursue a sinful course should be so controlled by divine power as to utter, instead of imprecations, the richest and most precious promises, in the language of sublime and impassioned poetry. And the favor of God at this time manifested toward Israel was to be an assurance of His protecting care for His obedient, faithful children in all ages. When Satan should inspire evil men to misrepresent, harass, and destroy God's people, this very occurrence would be brought to their remembrance, and would strengthen their courage and their faith in God. PP 449.1
The king of Moab, disheartened and distressed, exclaimed, “Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all.” Yet a faint hope still lingered in his heart, and he determined to make another trial. He now conducted Balaam to Mount Peor, where was a temple devoted to the licentious worship of Baal, their god. Here the same number of altars were erected as before, and the same number of sacrifices were offered; but Balaam went not alone, as at other times, to learn God's will. He made no pretense of sorcery, but standing beside the altars, he looked abroad upon the tents of Israel. Again the Spirit of God rested upon him, and the divine message came from his lips: PP 449.2Read in context »
Balak still flattered himself with the vain hope that God was subject to variation, like man. Balaam informs him that God will never be induced to break his word, or alter his purpose concerning Israel, and that it is in vain for him to hope to obtain a curse for his people, or to expect him to reverse the blessing he has promised to them. And no enchantment or curse uttered by a diviner could have the least influence upon that nation that has the protection of Omnipotence. 4aSG 47.1
Balaam had wished to appear to be favorable to Balak, and had permitted him to be deceived, and think that he used superstitious ceremonies and enchantments when he besought the Lord. But as he followed out the command given him of God, he grew bolder in proportion as he obeyed the divine impulse, and he laid aside his pretended conjuration, and, looking toward the encampment of the Israelites, he beholds them all encamped in perfect order, under their respective standards, at a distance from the tabernacle. Balaam was permitted to behold the glorious manifestation of God's presence, overshadowing, protecting and guiding the tabernacle. He was filled with admiration at the sublime scene. He opened his parable with all the dignity of a true prophet of God. His prophetic words are these: “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the Lord hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters. He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. God brought him forth out of Egypt. He hath as it were the strength of a unicorn. He shall eat up the nations, his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows. He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion Who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee. And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together. And Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times.” 4aSG 47.2Read in context »