Numbers 22:20
And God came to Balaam at night, and said to him, If the men come to call you, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say to you, that shall you do.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) If the men come to call thee.—The words may be rendered Since (or, forasmuch as) the men have come to call thee. The messengers had already come for that purpose, as it is stated in Numbers 22:16, where the same verb is used. The phrase which is here rendered to “call” occurs also in Numbers 22:5.

Rise up, and go with them.—There is no real inconsistency with Numbers 22:12. The absolute and immutable prohibition had reference to the cursing. The going with the messengers, which was forbidden in mercy at first, was enjoined in judgment at last. God often punishes disobedience to His declared will by permitting the transgressors to “eat the fruit of their own way, and to be filled with their own devices” (Proverbs 1:31). He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul” (Psalm 106:15). Comp. Psalm 81:12; Isaiah 66:4; Jeremiah 2:19.

Numbers 22:20-21. If the men come to call thee, rise up and go with them — He had no leave to go at all unless the messengers came again in the morning to him. And, perhaps, if he had not gone to them, after having promised them an answer, they might have thought their master’s great offers neglected, and have gone away without him. But his head and heart were too full of expectations from the journey, to run the hazard of not being further invited into it. And so he rose early in the morning, and saddled his ass — Or commanded it to be saddled, for he had servants to wait upon him; and went to them, directly contrary to God’s express order, and was opposed by the angel for the breach of his duty.22:15-21 A second embassy was sent to Balaam. It were well for us, if we were as earnest and constant in prosecuting a good work, notwithstanding disappointments. Balak laid a bait, not only for Balaam's covetousness, but for his pride and ambition. How earnestly should we beg of God daily to mortify such desires in us! Thus sinners stick at no pains, spare no cost, and care not how low they stoop, to gratify their luxury, or their malice. Shall we then be unwilling to do what is right? God forbid! Balaam's convictions charged him to keep to the command of God; nor could any man have spoken better. But many call God theirs, who are not his, not truly because not only his. There is no judging men by their words; God knows the heart. Balaam's corruptions at the same time inclined him to go contrary to the command. He seemed to refuse the temptation; but he expressed no abhorrence of it. He had a strong desire to accept the offer, and hoped that God might give him leave to go. He had already been told what the will of God was. It is a certain evidence of the ruling of corruption in the heart, to beg leave to sin. God gave Balaam up to his own heart's lusts. As God sometimes denies the prayers of his people in love, so sometimes he grants the desires of the wicked in wrath.Ye also - i. e., as the other envoys before you. Had Balaam possessed a sincere spirit of obedience, he would have found in the first instructions Numbers 22:12 a final decision upon the matter. His hypocritical importunity with God when the fresh messengers came from Balak demonstrates his aversion to God's declared will. 19, 20. tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the Lord will say unto me more—The divine will, as formerly declared, not being according to his desires, he hoped by a second request to bend it, as he had already bent his own conscience, to his ruling passions of pride and covetousness. The permission granted to Balaam is in accordance with the ordinary procedure of Providence. God often gives up men to follow the impulse of their own lusts; but there is no approval in thus leaving them to act at the prompting of their own wicked hearts (Jos 13:27). Go with them, since this is thy great desire and purpose; as far as thou canst, take thy course; I will, according to thy wish, withdraw my restraint, and leave thee to thyself and thy own choice. Compare Psalm 81:11,12.

That shalt thou do: these words signify not so much his duty as the event and his disappointment, Thou shalt not do what thou desirest, to wit, curse my people, and so enrich and advance thyself; but I will so overrule thy mind, and bridle thy tongue, that thou shalt speak nothing but what is contrary to thy desire and interest; and therefore though I permit thee to go, thou shalt lose thy design in it. And the Lord came unto Balaam at night,.... As before, Numbers 22:9 it may be in a dream; the Targum of Jonathan is as there,"a word came from the Lord:"

and said unto him, if the men come and call thee, rise up, and go with them; this was said, as some think, not seriously, but sarcastically, or rather in an angry manner, bidding him go, if he would; so giving him up to his own heart's lusts, or, at most; only permitting him to go with them, but not to curse Israel; and this permission to go seems to be on this condition, if the princes first called him, and were urgent on him to go with them: this was a trial of Balaam, whether he would be eager and forward to go, or patiently wait until he should be called; or the words may be rendered, "seeing", or because (g):

they are come to call thee: but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shall thou do; whether he would or not, he should be forced to do it, as Jarchi; and therefore go not with any intention to curse Israel, which shall never be done; wherefore to go would be vain and fruitless, since he would never be able to answer the design of Balak: but still Balaam hoped, it not being so fully and clearly expressed as before, that he should not curse Israel; that God would say something else unto him, though he had no reason at all for it, but all the reverse; so blinded was he with a greedy desire of riches and honour.

(g) "quandoquidem", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; so Noldius, p. 88. & Ainsworth.

And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. If the men be come to call thee] i.e. since the men have come this long distance to summon thee. The A.V. ‘if the men come to call thee’ has sometimes given rise to the erroneous idea that God gave Balaam permission to go only if the messengers came to him in the morning and again asked him to accompany them, and that Balaam, in his eager desire to go, did not wait for this.God then expressly forbade him to go with the messengers to curse the Israelites, as the people was blessed; and Balaam was compelled to send back the messengers without attaining their object, because Jehovah had refused him permission to go with them. קבה־לּי, Numbers 22:11, imper. of נקב equals קבב (see at Leviticus 24:11).
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