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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. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so also was the Son of man lifted up; 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 far 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 cross, 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 him. 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 ih 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. Si/ton king of the Amorites; and Og the king of Bas/ian: and gave their land for an heritage, even an heritage unto Israel Ms servant ; for his mercy enditreth for ever.
Vol. II. M
In Exodus xv. 15. Moses foretold that, 1 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.
1 A ND the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in Jlx. 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 con
3 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
4 them like the other nations j 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, ivhere Jethr'o was1, 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 Zip
5 por [was] king of the Moabites at that time. He sent messengers 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
i they abide over against me :| 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.
T 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 him, and overruled his evil Inclinations. He was a man of no honesty, and by profession a diviner; and pretending to have great interest with heaven, Balak thought his blessing or curse would be effectual.
t 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 art stUJ on record. Plin, Hist, L, xxviil. c. 2. Macrib. Saturn. L. iii, c. s.
parted with the rewards of dfvinatron in their hand ; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak.
9 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, JVebuchadnezzarx 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 untp 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 him 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 Bajaam 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 him. 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 cannot 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 messengers, 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 thy own folly, and thy punishment; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do, end I will make thee bless those
21 whom thou desirest to curse. And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.
22 And God's anger was kindled because he went with the wicke/i 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.*
90 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 he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his
32 face. And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times ? behold, I went out to -withstand thee, because [thy] way is perverse before
33 me ; And the ass saw me, and turned frorn 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 sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now, therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again: an impertinent, trifling suppo-. sition, which betrayed Ids unwillingness to return, though God
* Balaam's was the language oT passion; therefore the apostle Peter says, the dumb ass, speaking niith man's voice, forbad the madness of the prophet, 3 Peter U. it.
35 had manifested his dislike of it again and again. And the angel of the Lord said unto Balaam, Go with the men, sine e 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.*
Sfi 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 earnestly send unto thee to call thee? wherefore eamest thou not unto me? Am I not able indeed to promote thee to hon
38 our? And Balaam said unto Balak, ho, I am come unto thee : have I now any power at all to say any thing? the vord that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak; I
39 cannot do otherwise than God would lurve 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.
J. "\1\7"I£ may learn from hence, what a dangerous thing the V V 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 miscHief. 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 Balaam did, but say, Get thee behind me, Satan. God grant we may not be of the number of those who prefer gain to godliness, er 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 Pcter expressly asserts it, 2 Peter ii. i5, i6.