Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Numbers 24:25

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

And Balaam - returned to his place - Intended to have gone to Mesopotamia, his native country, (see Deuteronomy 23:4;), but seems to have settled among the Midianites, where he was slain by the Israelites; see Numbers 31:8.

Though the notes in the preceding chapters have been extended to a considerable length, yet a few additional remarks may be necessary: the reader's attention is earnestly requested to the following propositions: -

  1. It appears sufficiently evident from the preceding account that Balaam knew and worshipped the true God.
  • That he had been a true prophet, and appears to have been in the habit of receiving oracles from God.
  • That he practiced some illicit branches of knowledge, or was reputed by the Moabites as a sorcerer, probably because of the high reputation he had for wisdom; and we know that even in our own country, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, persons who excelled their contemporaries in wisdom were reputed as magicians.
  • That though he was a believer in the true God, yet he was covetous; he loved the wages of unrighteousness.
  • That it does not appear that in the case before us he wished to curse Israel when he found they were the servants of the true God.
  • That it is possible he did not know this at first. Balak told him that there was a numerous people come out of Egypt; and as marauders, wandering hordes, freebooters, etc., were frequent in those days, he might take them at first for such spoilers, and the more readily go at Balak's request to consult God concerning them.
  • That so conscientiously did he act in the whole business, that as soon as he found it displeased God he cheerfully offered to return; and did not advance till he had not only the permission, but the authority of God to proceed.
  • That when he came in view of the Israelitish camp he did not attempt to make use of any means of sorcery, evocation of spirits, necromantic spells, etc., to accomplish the wish of Balak.
  • That he did seek to find out the will of the true God, by using those means which God himself had prescribed, viz., supplication and prayer, and the sacrifice of the clean beasts.
  • That though he knew it would greatly displease Balak, yet he most faithfully and firmly told him all that God said on every occasion.
  • That notwithstanding his allowed covetous disposition, yet he refused all promised honors and proffered rewards, even of the most extensive kind, to induce him to act in any respect contrary to the declared will of God.
  • That God on this occasion communicated to him some of the most extraordinary prophetic influences ever conferred on man.
  • That his prophecies are, upon the whole, clear and pointed, and have been fulfilled in the most remarkable manner, and furnish a very strong argument in proof of Divine revelation.
  • That notwithstanding the wicked counsel given to the Midianites, the effects of which are mentioned in the following chapter, on which account he probably lost his life, ( Numbers 31:8;), the badness of this man's character has been very far overrated; and that it does not appear that he was either a hypocrite, false prophet, or a sorcerer in the common acceptation of the term, and that he risked even life itself in following and fulfilling the will of the Lord!
  • That though it is expressly asserted, Numbers 31:16, and Revelation 2:14, that Israel's committing whoredom with the daughters of Moab was brought about by the evil counsel given by Balaam to cast this stumbling-block in their way, yet it does not appear from the text that he had those most criminal intentions which are generally attributed to him; for as we have already seen so much good in this man's character, and that this, and his love of money (and who thinks this a sin?) are almost the only blots in it, it must certainly be consistent with candour and charity to suggest a method of removing at least some part of this blame.
  • I would therefore simply say that the counsel given by Balaam to Balak might have been "to form alliances with this people, especially through the medium of matrimonial connections; and seeing they could not conquer them, to endeavor to make them their friends." Now, though this might not be designed by Balaam to bring them into a snare, yet it was a bad doctrine, as it led to the corruption of the holy seed, and to an unequal yoking with unbelievers; which, though even in a matrimonial way, is as contrary to sound policy as to the word of God. See the notes on Numbers 25:3; and Numbers 25:6; (note).
  • That it was the Moabitish women, not Balaam, that called the people to the sacrifice of their gods; and it argued great degeneracy and iniquity in the hearts of the people on so slight an invitation to join so suddenly so impure a worship, and so speedily to cast off the whole form of godliness, with every portion of the fear of the Almighty; therefore the high blame rests ultimately with themselves.
  • Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    Returned to his own place - i. e., among the Midianites to plot by new means against the people of God, and to perish in his sin Numbers 31:8, Numbers 31:16; Revelation 2:14.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    Under the powerful influence of the Spirit of prophecy, Balaam foretold the future prosperity and extensive dominion of Israel. Balaam boasts that his eyes are open. The prophets were in old times called seers. He had heard the words of God, which many do who neither heed them, nor hear God in them. He knew the knowledge of the Most High. A man may be full of the knowledge of God, yet utterly destitute of the grace of God. He calls God the Most High and the Almighty. No man could seem to express a greater respect to God; yet he had no true fear of him, love to him, nor faith in him; so far a man may go toward heaven, and yet come short of it at last. Here is Balaam's prophecy concerning Him who should be the crown and glory of his people Israel; who is David in the type; but our Lord Jesus, the promised Messiah, is chiefly pointed at, and of him it is an illustrious prophecy. Balaam, a wicked man, shall see Christ, but shall not see him nigh; not see him as Job, who saw him as his Redeemer, and saw him for himself. When he comes in the clouds, every eye shall see him; but many will see him, as the rich man in hell saw Abraham, afar off. He shall come out of Jacob, and Israel, as a Star and a Sceptre; the former denoting his glory and lustre; the latter his power and authority. Christ shall be King, not only of Jacob and Israel, but of all the world; so that all shall be either governed by his golden sceptre, or dashed in pieces by his iron rod. Balaam prophesied concerning the Amalekites and Kenites, part of whose country he had now in view. Even a nest in a rock will not be a lasting security. Here is a prophecy that looks as far forward as to the Greeks and Romans. He acknowledges all the revolutions of states and kingdoms to be the Lord's doing. These events will make such desolations, that scarcely any will escape. They that live then, will be as brands plucked out of the fire. May God fit us for the worst of times! Thus Balaam, instead of cursing the church, curses Amalek the first, and Rome the last enemy of the church. Not Rome pagan only, but Rome papal also; antichrist and all the antichristian powers. Let us ask ourselves, Do we in knowledge, experience, or profession, excel Balaam? No readiness of speech, even in preaching or prayer, no gifts of knowledge or prophecy, are in themselves different from, or superior to the boasted gifts of him who loved the wages of unrighteousness, and died the enemy of God. Simple dependence on the Redeemer's atoning blood and sanctifying grace, cheerful submission to the Divine will, constant endeavours to glorify God and benefit his people, these are less splendid, but far more excellent gifts, and always accompany salvation. No boasting hypocrite ever possessed these; yet the feeblest believer has something of them, and is daily praying for more of them.
    Cross References
    The Conquest of Canaan