- Balak's fear of Israel, verse 1-4.
- His message to Balaam, who refuses to come, verse 5-14.
- On the second message he goes, verse 15-21.
- He is rebuked by an angel, verse 22-35.
- His interview with Balak, verse 36-41.
The plains of Moab - Which still retained their ancient title, though they had been taken away from the Moabites by Sihon, and from him by the Israelites. By Jericho - That is, over against Jericho.
Sore afraid - As it was foretold both in general of all nations, Deuteronomy 2:25, and particularly concerning Moab, Exodus 15:15.
The elders - Called the kings of Midian, Numbers 31:8, and princes of Midian, Joshua 13:21, who though divided into their kingdoms yet were now united upon the approach of the Israelites their common enemy, and being, as it seems, a potent and crafty people, and neighbours to the Moabites, these seek confederacy with them. We read of Midianites near mount Sinai, Exod. 2, and 3, which seem to have been a colony of this people, that went out to seek new quarters, as the manner of those times was, but the body of that people were seated in those parts. Lick up - That is, consume and utterly destroy, in which sense the fire is said to lick up the water and sacrifices, 1 Kings 18:38. All that are round about us - All our people, who live in the country adjoining to each city, where the princes reside.
Balaam - Who is called a prophet, 2 Peter 2:16, because God was pleased to inspire and direct him to speak the following prophecies. Indeed many of the Jewish writers say, that Balaam had been a great prophet, who for the accomplishment of his predictions, and the answers of his prayers, had been looked upon justly as a man of great interest with God. However it is certain, that afterwards for his covetousness, God departed from him. Beor - Or, Bosor, 2 Peter 2:15, for he had two names, as many others had. Pethor - A city in Mesopotamia. By the river - By Euphrates, which is called the river, by way of eminency, and here the river of Balaam's land or country, to wit, of Mesopotamia.
Curse them for my sake and benefit; use thy utmost power, which thou hast with thy Gods, to blast and ruin them. We may smite them - Thou by thy imprecations, and I by my sword.
This night - The night was the time when God used to reveal his mind by dreams. The Lord - Heb. Jehovah, the true God, whom he here mentions, either for his own greater reputation, as if he consulted not with inferior spirits, but with the supreme God; or rather because this was Israel's God, and the only possible way of ruining them was by engaging their God against them: as the Romans and other Heathens, when they went to besiege any city, used enchantments to call forth that God under whose peculiar protection they were. Of Moab - And of Midian too.
What men are these - He asks this that Balaam by repeating the thing in God's presence might be convinced and ashamed of his sin and folly, in offering his service in such a business: and for a foundation to the following answer.
If the men come - On this condition he was to go.
Because he went - Because he went of his own accord, with the princes of Moab, and did not wait till they came to call him, which was the sign and condition of God's permission, but rather himself rose and called them. The apostle describes Balaam's sin here to be, that he ran greedily into an error for reward, Jude 1:11. For an adversary - To oppose, if not to kill him. His servants with him - The rest of the company being probably gone before them. For in those ancient times there was more of simplicity, and less of ceremony, and therefore it is not strange that Balaam came at some distance, after the rest, and attended only by his own servants.
Opened the mouth - Conferred upon her the power of speech and reasoning for that time.
Balaam said - Balaam was not much terrified with the ass's speaking, because perhaps he was accustomed to converse with evil spirits, who appeared to him and discoursed with him in the shape of such creatures. Perhaps he was so blinded by passion, that he did not consider the strangeness of the thing.
On his face - In token of reverence and submission.
Thy way is perverse - Springing from covetousness.
I had slain thee - I had slain thee alone, and not her, therefore her turning aside and falling down was wholly for thy benefit, not for her own, and thy anger against her was unjust and unreasonable.
Go with the men - I allow thee to go, upon the following terms.
In the utmost coast - Not far from the camp of the Israelites, whom he desired him to curse.
The princes - Whom the king had left to attend him.
The high places of Baal - Consecrated to the worship of Baal, that is, of Baal Peor, who was their Baal or God. The utmost part - That is, all that people, even to the utmost and remotest of them, as appears by comparing this with, Numbers 23:13. He hoped that the sight of such a numerous host ready to break in upon his country would stir up his passion.