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and to change the purpose which he had solemnly declared to be inflexible! Oh! the polluting and blinding power of sin! To what depths of ignorance, and debasement of moral feeling, will it not sink its victims !
Yes; the third time the seven altars were reared, and smoked with the unhallowed sacrifices. What did Balaam now do? He would not have proceeded thus far, had he not cherished some faint hopes of yet gratifying the wishes of Balak. But an impression on his mind, probably an immediate one from Jehovah, caused him to feel deeply that his expectations were utterly hopeless. He forbore any longer "to seek for enchantments," by withdrawing from the presence of the king and the princes. He looked towards the tents of Israel; and, under a divine inspiration, once more uttered the words that were put into his lips.
Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said:" (whose eyes, once shut, are now open to behold wondrous things :) "He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open : 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 has as it were the strength of an 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."
Balaam ended. The fierce anger of the king of Moab was kindled against him; and smiting his hands together in a paroxysm of rage, he gave vent to his indignation. "I called thee to curse mine enemies, and behold thou hast altogether blessed them these three times. Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honor; but lo, the Lord hath kept thee back from honor."
Balaam, in reply, reminded Balak that he had, at the first, told the messengers, that even if a house full of silver and gold were offered him, he could not go beyond the commandment of the Lord to
* In the East, they irrigate their lands by water drawn up from the wells in buckets, and poured into channels which communicate with the soil, so as to make it productive. To have rice yield an abundant crop, the seed must be sown in land not only well watered, but flooded. Then it will multiply itself beyond calculation. Such would be the increase of the Israelites, in succeeding generations.
do either good or bad of his own mind, but that what the Lord should say, that he would speak. And why, then, should Balak find fault with one who, from the very beginning of their negociations, had felt himself bound by the imperious mandate of Jehovah, and who had strove to the last to see if there were any possible way to change it, but had been utterly defeated in his endeavors? He added, that in obedience to the king's command he should return to his own country; but before he went, he would inform Balak what these newly arrived strangers should hereafter do to his people. *Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the
*This prophecy of Balaam has received various interpretations. While attempting to furnish a brief explanation of it, the author would recommend to his readers, to give it a further investigation, with such aid as may be within their reach. The Star and the Sceptre, emblems of royalty, probably refer both to David and to Christ. Balaam would see the latter glorious personage, at some very distant period; for, "he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him."
"He shall smite the corners of Moab,"-the sides, or quarters, the whole country; which David did, "casting them down to the ground." (2 Sam. 8:2.) It refers, also, to the final triumphs of David's Son and Lord over his enemies; Moab being often used as a term to denote idolaters and enemies of God-" and destroy all the children of Sheth." If, as some of the most learned men suppose, Sheth was the name of some city, or prince, of Moab, then the destruction was accomplished by David, and prefigured the
man whose eyes are open hath said: he hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the Most High, which saw the vision cf
destruction of his enemies by Christ. If Sheth, or Seth, means the son of Adam, and the ancestor of Noah, and thus the progenitor of the whole post-diluvian world; the children of Seth include all mankind. But Christ will not destroy all mankind. How is this to be understood? The word in the original, here rendered "destroy," occurs in Isaiah, 22: 5, and is there used to denote the breaking down of a wall,-the unwalling of a city,-the laying it open to the entrance and entire rule of the conqueror. So Christ shall both break down the partition-wall between Jew and Gentile, and remove all obstacles to his universal dominion, and finally possess it over all the children of
"Edom shall be a possession," &c.—and so it became to David and Israel under him and his descendants; (2 Sam. 8 14. Ps. 60: 8-12. Is. 34: 5; 63: 1,) typical of the triumphs of Christ, who shall destroy all "that will not have him to reign over them." "He that shall have dominion," emphatically describes Him who is "King of kings, and Lord of lords;" who shall "come out of Jacob." According to the previous prophecy, Gen. 49: 10. "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come: and unto him shall the gathering of the people be."
Balaam then refers to the surrounding nations. Amalek "shall perish for ever;" which was fully accomplished in the days of king Hezekiah.—The Kenites, (probably a tribe of Midianites,) who like the eagle had made their habitations in the rocks, shall be gradually wasted, and finally carried to Babylon by the Assyrians. See 1 Chron. 2:55.
the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city."
"Who shall live when God doeth this ?" It is meant, either that none then living would see these events; or that the times would be so distressing, that scarcely any would be able to escape.
"Ships shall come from the coast of Chittim," &c. "Some think by Chittim the Romans, others the Macedonians under Alexander the Great, are meant. It is certain that the Romans conquered the Assyrians, including all the people of Syria, Mesopotamia, &c. but Calmet strongly contends that by Chillim, Macedonia is meant; and that the prophecy refers to the conquests of Alexander. Chittim was one of the sons of Javan, the son of Japhet, the son of Noah; and his posterity, according to Josephus, settled in Cilicia, Macedonia, Cyprus, and Italy also; and therefore the prophecy may imply both the troubles that befel the Assyrians and Jews by the Greeks and Seleucidæ, in the troublous days of Antiochus. By Eber is probably intended, not the Hebrews, but the people on the other side of the Euphrates, the word in the original signifying to pass over, to go beyond. All this people were discomfited, and their empire destroyed by Alexander the Great." Clarke.