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God heard their prayers. In this disposition of mind let us seek mercy ; it is a proper frame in which to receive it from the Lord. The design of his mercies, is to bring us to obedience ; and they should be improved to this purpose. If we be willing and obedient, we shall enjoy such and such blessings. The Lord is with us while we are with him ; he is ready to favour us, while we are ready and disposed to serve him, and to use our mercies for his honour.
2. Aš Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, 80 also was the Son of man lifted us ; that whoso believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. No one can doubt the propriety of this reflection, for it is Christ's own, in John iii. 14. The Jewish doctors were puzzled about this story, and how to account for this appointment ; but the New Testament clears it up ; it is a type of Christ.
We are wounded by sin and Satan, by the fiery darts of the old serpent ; and God himself hath contrived and appointed a remedy, even Christ. He was lifted up on the cro88, that we may look to him and be saved. Are we sensible of the wounds of sin, and our danger from them ? let us solemnly apply to Christ, who was lifted up to draw all men unto hiṁ. If the wounded Israelites did not look upon the brazen serpent, they died; so shall we, except we look to Christ : there is no other way to obtain healing and salvation. Let us therefore look to him, though with weak faith, and a trembling eye, and we shall find him able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him.
3. Let the hand of God be acknowledged in all our deliverances, and all our supplies. Let us review the series of mercies we have experienced, in every stage of our journey through life ; what deliverances from enemies we have had ; how he hath opened his bountiful hand, and satisfied our desires ; how much better he hath been to us than our fears; and how often he hath given us favours before we asked them. Let us keep up a memorial of the divine goodness, and labour to impress our hearts with it ; let us set up our Ebenezers, and give God glory for our national, as well as personal deliverances ; and that, not only when fresh and lately done, but let us always keep the remembrance of them, and adore that mercy to which they are owing, as in Psalm cxxxvi. 17-22. To him which smote great kings ; and slew famous kings. Sihon king of the Amorites; and Og the king of Bashan : and gave their land for an heritage, even heritage unto Israel his servant ; for his mcrcy endureth for ever. VOL. II.
in Exodus xv. 15. Moses foretold that, “trembling should take hold of the mighty men of Moab, when they heard of Israel's victories and success : this chapter shows how the prophecy was fulfilled ; which introduces the history of Balak and Balaam.
ND the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in
the plains of Moab, on this side Jordan [by] Jericho ; this was their last encampment, where they continued till Moses
died, and Joshua led them over Jordan. 2 And Balak the son of Zippor, the king of Moab, who had
been driven out of his country by Sihon, whom Israel had con3 quered, 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 ; probably not knowing that Moses had a command to
spare Moab, and taking it for granted that Israel would ruin be them like the other nations ; And, with a view to communicate
this fear to the Midianites, Moab said unto the elders of Midian, (not those who lived near mount Sinai, where Jethro was; but a colony near Moab, who were descended from Abraham by Keturah, but, having forgotten the God of their fathers, joined with Moab against their brethren ;) Now shall this company lick up all [that are] round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field ; they will easily and entirely root us out,
as they have done other nations. And Balak the son of Zip5 por (was) king of the Moabites at that time. He sent mes
sengers 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 :t 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 7 cursed. And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian de
* A city of Mesopotamia, the country from whence Abraham came.
+ It is probable that Balaam was at first a prophet of the true God, and had extraordinary converse with him, and communications from him; but abusing this to covetous purposes, God gave him up to strong delusions, to use charms and enchantments. Thus he still kept up a form of conversing with God, who, in this instance manifested himself to hiin, and overruled his evil inclinations. He was a man of no honesty, and by, profession 2 diviner; and pretending to have great interest with heaven, Balak thought his blessing or curse would be effectual.
The ancients before they entered on war, used in a solemn manner to curse their enemies. Among the Romans there was an officer whose business it was to do this, and their forms of execration are still on record. Plin. Hist, L. xxviii. c. 2. Macrob. Saturs.
L. iii. c. 9.
parted with the rewards of ditination in their hand ; and they
came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak. & 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 ; he was allured by 9 the reward, and pretended to consult God in the matter. And
God came unto Balaam, (perhaps in a dream, as he did to
Abimelech, Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and others,) and said, 10 What men [are] these with thee? And Balaam said unto
God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, hath sent unto 11 me, [saying,] 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 12 drive them out. And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not
go with them ; thou shalt not curse the people, for they [are] blessed. This might have been enough to have convinced hion
of the folly and wickedness of entertaining any thought of this 13 business. And Balaam, under the impression of this dream or
vision, 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 ; delivering only part of the message, and saying nothing about Israel being blessed, which might have prevented their sending again : he secretly intimated that he
would be glad to go, but his God would not give him leave at 14 present. And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went 15 unto Balak, and said, Balaam refuseth to come with us. And
Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable 16 than they And they came to Balaam and said to him,
Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray 17 thee, hinder thee from coming unto me : 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 ; sending him a more urgent message, greater men, more
money, and larger promises, he imagined might prevail upon 18 hiin. And Balaam, making an excellent reply, if he had but
kept to it, answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I can
not go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or 19
more, that is, any thing at all. Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more ; hereby plainly discovering that he longed for the money and rewards ; he therefore detained the mes.
sengers, hoping that God would at length give him leave to go. 20 And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him,
If the men come to call thee, rise up, [and] go with them, follow thy own evil inclinations ; I will leave thee to tky own folly, and thy punishment; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do, and I will make thee bless those 21 whom thou desirest to curse. And Balaam rose up in the morn
ing, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. 22 And God's anger was kindled because he went with the wick
ed intention of getting money for cursing Israel ; the princes of Moab probably went before, and he followed ; and God took the following astonishing method to let him know his displeasure : 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 23 servants (were) with him. 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. 24 But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, 25 a wall [being] on this side, and a wall on that side. And
when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself
unto the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall : 26 and he smote her again. And the angel of the LORD went
further, and stood in a narrow place, where (was) no way to 27 turn either to the right hand or to the left. 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 28 staff. And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, bestowed
upon her the power of speech and reason for that time, and she
said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou 29 hast smitten me these three times ? And Balaam, mad with
anger, and without considering this extraordinary circumstance, said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would
there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.* 80 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, 31 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 hę bowed down his head, and fell flat on his 32 face. And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore
hast thou smitten thinę ass these three times? behold, I went out to •withstand thee, because (thy] way
is perverse before 33 mne ; And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three
times : unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had 34 slain thee, and saved her alive, And Balaam said unto the
angel of the LORD, I have sịnned ; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against mę: now, therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again ; an impertinent, trifling suppo, sition, which betrayed his unwillingness to return, though God
Balaam's was the language of passion; therefore the apostle Peter says, the dumb assy speaking with man's voice, forbad the madness of the prophet, 2 Peter ii. 16,
35 had manifested his dislike of it again and again. And the angel
of the Lord said unto Balaam, Go with the men, since thy heart is set upon it : but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of
Balak.* 36 And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he showed
him all possible respect, and went out to meet him unto a city
of Moab, which [is] in the border of Arnon, which [is] in the 37 utmost coast. And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not ear
nestly send unto thee to call thee? wherefore camest thou
not unto me? Am I not able indeed to promote thee to hon38 our ? 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 ; I 39 cannot do otherwise than God would have me. And Balaam
went with Balak, and they came unto Kirjathhuzoth, a city of
streets, or, a large city, perhaps the capital of the country. 40 And Balak offered oxen and sheep, not as sacrifices, but to make
a feast ; and sent to Balaam, and to the princes that (were] 41 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, and that the sight of so numerous an army, ready to enter his country, might engage him to curse them.
1. E may learn from hence, what a dangerous thing the
love of money is. Balaam could not but know what God had done for Israel, that they were his favourite people ; yet he was willing to do them misclfief. The reason is given, 2 Peter ii. 15. He loved the wages of unrighteousness. Another apostle says, He ran wickedly into error, for the reward, that is, earnestly desired to act contrary to God's will. The love of money is the root of all evil. This could seduce a prophet from the ways of God; lead hiin to provoke Jehovah, and make him desirous to curse Israel. May we, therefore, guard against it ; and not love the world, nor the things of the world ; but reject its offers with an holy disdain, especially when tendered as the price of our integrity and the favour of God. Let us not parley with temptation, as Balaain did, but say, Get thee behind me, Satan. God grant we may not be of the number of those who prefer gain to godliness, or who bless the covetous whom the Lord abhorreth,
* Some of the Jewish writers suppose all this happened in a vision ; but the words of scripture are very express. God could easily work such a miracle ; and the apostle Peter expressly asserts it, 2 Peter ii. 15, 16.