And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.…
In Balaam we have one of the most mysterious, in some respects one of the most puzzling, contradictory, and tragical of the characters of Holy Writ; withal one of the most instructive and interesting. He is complex; multiform in his mental and spiritual conformation, many-sided in his mental and spiritual manifestations. One man appears at one time; another and vastly different at another. You despair of catching and fixing the permanent man.
I. Let me first ask attention to SOME PRELIMINARY POINTS WHICH MAY BE NOTED.
1. The materials on which our knowledge of him is based are chiefly contained in four passages of Scripture (Numbers 22.-24.; Micah 6:5-8; 2 Peter 2:12-16; Numbers 31:1.).
2. I would next note the generosity, the magnanimity, of all these Scripture notices. The whole story is told with a fineness of touch, a magnanimous silence, or the merest hint concerning his grosser sin, a generous concealment of all aggravating circumstances. It is in the Bible, and, so far as Church histories are concerned, probably in the Bible alone, that we find not only justice, but generosity, towards defeated rivals, generous tributes to what is good, generous veilings of what is bad.
3. I would also call attention to the fact that there is free and full acknowledgment made of the reality and the sublimity of his inspiration. It is never denied: it is unequivocally owned. And this though Balaam was a heathen, one outside the visible Church; nay, not only outside of it, but arrayed against it.
4. Mark, too, the various opinions concerning this strange man held in different ages and by different authorities in the Church. The historian of the Jews, Josephus, styles him, in strongest language, "the first (best) of the prophets of the time" — ungrudgingly regarding him as a true prophet of the true God, but with a disposition ill adapted to meet temptation. Coming down to Christian writers, we find and speaking of him as a magician and soothsayer, a prophet, indeed, but inspired of the devil; but we find and , with greater and more Scriptural liberality, more favourably interpreting his position and the source of his endowments.
II. Let us now proceed to THE ANALYSIS OF THE LIFE AND ITS STORY. Balaam would have protested against being called an enemy of God; would have insisted on being regarded as a friend. To every accuser he could have replied that he was obedient all through to God's voice, that he did not go till God gave permission, and that he was careful to yield to the prophetic power that spoke through him; yet all through he was a force against God, an opponent of the purposes of grace, and on the side that could not be either for the glory of heaven or the gain of earth. And so there are men who would feel outraged if called thieves who will, all the same, sell an article for what it is not; who would deem you mad were you to accuse them of murder, yet will help a brother on to the death of his soul; who name the name of Christ, yet are forces for the meatiness and avarice, the uncharity and unchastity, which the law cannot reach, but which are as far from the mind of Christ as is the theft or the murder which the law can.
(G. M. Grant, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.