And when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments…
With great admiration he beginneth to declare the future prosperity of that people, and doth it by six similitudes.
1. As the valleys are they stretched forth, or as the rivers say some, which coming from one head spread themselves into great broad waters, so this people having sprung from Jacob, one patriarch, hath spread into this multitude, and yet further shall spread into many more.
2. "As gardens by the river's side." Such gardens are watered so by the rivers as if the heat be never so great, yet they are not burned up. So shall this people in all adversities and dangers be preserved by the power and blessing of God till the coming of the Messiah, and overcome by no assaults of Satan and his instruments.
3. "As the trees of lign aloes which the Lord hath planted."
4. "As the cedar trees beside the waters," which, growing to a great height, notably show how this people with their offspring should wonderfully grow with their virtue and famous acts, getting a great name in the world.
5. "The water droppeth out of his bucket"; that is, as such water floweth abroad, so shall this people abound with the water of heavenly doctrine and wisdom, and from them be spread to other nations plentifully, according to that "Out of Sion shall a law go, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."
6. "His seed shall be in many waters." As seed that is cast into a field well watered soon springeth and beareth fruit, so this people. These are the prophetical resemblances of this people Israel, which do still declare unto us the flourishing and happy state of God's Church, whatsoever worldly men conceive and think. The Church is the tabernacle of God, wherein He dwelleth, and familiarly with His chosen as with His domestics and household servants converseth, providing things necessary both for this life and that to come. The Church is that little river which spreadeth itself far and wide throughout the world. The Church is that well-watered garden, set with sweet trees casting forth the fragrant smell of life, of the knowledge of God and of virtue, whereof Solomon in his Canticles: "My sister, my spouse, is a garden enclosed, as a spring shut up, and a fountain sealed up." The Church is that shadow that yieldeth comfortable cooling, in the sense and feeling of God's wrath to sin. It is that cedar planted by the water-side, and growing so high, whereof the prophet in the Psalm: "The righteous shall flourish like a palm-tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Such as be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in their age; they shall be fat and flourishing," &c. The Church is that bucket, containing doctrine of life, and dropping it out to the comfort of souls. Finally, that seed shall live again in the life to come, and for ever spring and flourish.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness.