He took up his parable - His prophetic declaration couched in highly poetic terms, and in regular metre, as the preceding were.
The man whose eyes are open - I believe the original שתם shethum, should be translated shut, not open; for in the next verse, where the opening of his eyes is mentioned, a widely different word is used, גלה galah, which signifies to open or reveal. At first the eyes of Balaam were shut, and so closely too that he could not see the angel who withstood him, till God opened his eyes; nor could he see the gracious intentions of God towards Israel, till the eyes of his understanding were opened by the powers of the Divine Spirit. This therefore he mentions, we may suppose, with humility and gratitude, and to the credit of the prophecy which he is now about to deliver, that the Moabites may receive it as the word of God, which must be fulfilled in due season. His words, in their meaning, are similar to those of the blind man in the Gospel: "Once I was blind, but now I see."
Whose eyes are open - i. e., opened in inward vision, to discern things that were hidden from ordinary beholders.
Neither wicked men nor devils can hinder the work of God, or shut out His presence from His people, if they will, with subdued, contrite hearts, confess and put away their sins, and in faith claim His promises. Every temptation, every opposing influence, whether open or secret, may be successfully resisted, “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6. GC 529.1
“The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers.... And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” 1 Peter 3:12, 13. When Balaam, allured by the promise of rich rewards, practiced enchantments against Israel, and by sacrifices to the Lord sought to invoke a curse upon His people, the Spirit of God forbade the evil which he longed to pronounce, and Balaam was forced to exclaim: “How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied?” “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” When sacrifice had again been offered, the ungodly prophet declared: “Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and He hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it. He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a King is among them.” “Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!” Yet a third time altars were erected, and again Balaam essayed to secure a curse. But from the unwilling lips of the prophet, the Spirit of God declared the prosperity of His chosen, and rebuked the folly and malice of their foes: “Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee.” Numbers 23:8, 10, 20, 21, 23; 24:9. GC 529.2
The people of Israel were at this time loyal to God; and so long as they continued in obedience to His law, no power in earth or hell could prevail against them. But the curse which Balaam had not been permitted to pronounce against God's people, he finally succeeded in bringing upon them by seducing them into sin. When they transgressed God's commandments, then they separated themselves from Him, and they were left to feel the power of the destroyer. GC 529.3Read in context »
Again, “in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left,” the angel appeared, as before, in a threatening attitude; and the poor beast, trembling with terror, made a full stop, and fell to the earth under its rider. Balaam's rage was unbounded, and with his staff he smote the animal more cruelly than before. God now opened its mouth, and by “the dumb ass speaking with man's voice,” he “forbade the madness of the prophet.” 2 Peter 2:16. “What have I done unto thee,” it said, “that thou hast smitten me these three times?” PP 442.1
Furious at being thus hindered in his journey, Balaam answered the beast as he would have addressed an intelligent being—“Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.” Here was a professed magician, on his way to pronounce a curse upon a whole people with the intent to paralyze their strength, while he had not power even to slay the animal upon which he rode! PP 442.2
The eyes of Balaam were now opened, and he beheld the angel of God standing with drawn sword ready to slay him. In terror “he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.” The angel said to him, “Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? Behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: 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.” PP 442.3
Balaam owed the preservation of his life to the poor animal that he had treated so cruelly. The man who claimed to be a prophet of the Lord, who declared that his eyes were open, and he saw the “vision of the Almighty,” was so blinded by covetousness and ambition that he could not discern the angel of God visible to his beast. “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.” 2 Corinthians 4:4. How many are thus blinded! They rush on in forbidden paths, transgressing the divine law, and cannot discern that God and His angels are against them. Like Balaam they are angry at those who would prevent their ruin. PP 442.4
Balaam had given evidence of the spirit that controlled him, by his treatment of his beast. “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” Proverbs 12:10. Few realize as they should the sinfulness of abusing animals or leaving them to suffer from neglect. He who created man made the lower animals also, and “His tender mercies are over all His works.” Psalm 145:9. The animals were created to serve man, but he has no right to cause them pain by harsh treatment or cruel exaction. PP 442.5Read in context »