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1Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” 2Balak did as Balaam had said; and Balak and Balaam offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 3Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here beside your burnt offerings while I go aside. Perhaps the L ord will come to meet me. Whatever he shows me I will tell you.” And he went to a bare height.

4 Then God met Balaam; and Balaam said to him, “I have arranged the seven altars, and have offered a bull and a ram on each altar.” 5The L ord put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and this is what you must say.” 6So he returned to Balak, who was standing beside his burnt offerings with all the officials of Moab. 7Then Balaam uttered his oracle, saying:

“Balak has brought me from Aram,

the king of Moab from the eastern mountains:

‘Come, curse Jacob for me;

Come, denounce Israel!’


How can I curse whom God has not cursed?

How can I denounce those whom the L ord has not denounced?


For from the top of the crags I see him,

from the hills I behold him.

Here is a people living alone,

and not reckoning itself among the nations!


Who can count the dust of Jacob,

or number the dust-cloud of Israel?

Let me die the death of the upright,

and let my end be like his!”

11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but now you have done nothing but bless them.” 12He answered, “Must I not take care to say what the L ord puts into my mouth?”

Balaam’s Second Oracle

13 So Balak said to him, “Come with me to another place from which you may see them; you shall see only part of them, and shall not see them all; then curse them for me from there.” 14So he took him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah. He built seven altars, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 15Balaam said to Balak, “Stand here beside your burnt offerings, while I meet the L ord over there.” 16The L ord met Balaam, put a word into his mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and this is what you shall say.” 17When he came to him, he was standing beside his burnt offerings with the officials of Moab. Balak said to him, “What has the L ord said?” 18Then Balaam uttered his oracle, saying:

“Rise, Balak, and hear;

listen to me, O son of Zippor:


God is not a human being, that he should lie,

or a mortal, that he should change his mind.

Has he promised, and will he not do it?

Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?


See, I received a command to bless;

he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.


He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob;

nor has he seen trouble in Israel.

The L ord their God is with them,

acclaimed as a king among them.


God, who brings them out of Egypt,

is like the horns of a wild ox for them.


Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob,

no divination against Israel;

now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,

‘See what God has done!’


Look, a people rising up like a lioness,

and rousing itself like a lion!

It does not lie down until it has eaten the prey

and drunk the blood of the slain.”

25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Do not curse them at all, and do not bless them at all.” 26But Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell you, ‘Whatever the L ord says, that is what I must do’?”

27 So Balak said to Balaam, “Come now, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will please God that you may curse them for me from there.” 28So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, which overlooks the wasteland. 29Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” 30So Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

18. And he took up his parable and said. We have already explained the meaning of this expression, namely, to make use of glowing and elevated language, in order the more to awaken the attention of the hearer. The same also is the object of the preface, “Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor;” for such repetitions are mostly emphatic, and indicate something uncommon.

When he declares that “God cannot lie, because he is not like men,” it is a severe kind of censure, as much as to say, “Would you make God a liar?“ for it became requisite that the frantic eagerness of Balak should be repressed, and prevented from proceeding any further. Hence, however, a lesson of supreme utility may be extracted, namely, that men are altogether wrong when they form their estimate of God from their own disposition and habits. Still, almost all men labor under this mistake. For how comes it that we are so prone to waver, except because we weigh God’s promises in our own scale? In order, therefore, that we may learn to lift up our minds above the world, whenever the faithfulness and certainty of God’s word are in question, it is well for us to reflect how great the distance is between ourselves and God. Men are wont to lie, because they are fickle and changeable in their plans, or because sometimes they are unable to aceomplish what they have promised; but change of purpose arises either from levity or bad faith, or because we repent of what we have spoken foolishly and inconsiderately. But to God nothing of this sort occurs; for He is neither deceived, nor does He deceitfully promise anything, nor, as James says, is there with Him any “shadow of turning.” (James 1:7.) We now understand to what this dissimilitude between God and men refers, namely, that we should not travesty God according to our own notions, but, in our consideration of His nature, should remember that he is liable to no changes, since He is far above all heavens. As to the meaning of the repentance of God, of which mention is often made, let my readers seek it elsewhere in its proper place. We must, however, at the same time, observe the application of the lesson; for the words “God is true,” would have no efficacy in themselves, unless they are applied to their appropriate use, i.e., that we should with unhesitating faith acquiesce in His promises, and seriously tremble at His threats. For with the same object it is said that the word of God is pure and perfect, and is compared with gold refined seven times in the fire; and this also is the tendency of the conclusion, which is presently added: “Shall He not fulfill what He has spoken?” Balak desired to have the people cursed, whom God had adopted: Balaam declares that this is impossible, because God is unchangeable in that which he has decreed. In a word, he teaches us the same truth as Paul does, that the election of his people is “without repentance,” because it is founded on the gratuitous liberality of God. (Romans 11:29.) If, then, this saying was extorted from the hireling false prophet, how inexcusable will be our stupidity, if our minds vary and waver in embracing God’s word, as if He Himself were variable.

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