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Numbers Chapter 24
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Balak and Balaam
24:1 When Balaam realized that God desired to bless Israel, he did not seek out the occult forces as he had done before. Instead, he set his gaze toward the desert.
24:2 When Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel dwelling at peace by tribes, God's spirit was on him.
24:3 He proclaimed his oracle and said, 'This is the word of Beor's son Balaam, the word of the man with the enlightened eye.
24:4 It is the word of one who hears God's sayings, who sees a vision of the Almighty, falling [into a meditative trance] with mystical insight.
24:5 'How good are your tents, Jacob, your tabernacles, Israel.
24:6 [They] stretch out like streams, like gardens by the river; they are like the aloes God has planted, like cedars by the water.
24:7 His dipper shall overflow, and his crops shall have abundant water.

'When their kingdom is established, their king shall be greater than Agag.

24:8 Since God brought them out of Egypt, they are like His highest expression of strength. [God] shall devour His enemy nations, grinding their bones and piercing them with His arrows.
24:9 [Israel] crouches, lies like a lion, like an awesome lion, who will dare rouse him? Those who bless you are blessed, and those who curse you are cursed.'
24:10 Furious at Balaam, Balak struck his hand together. 'I brought you to curse my enemies,' said Balak to Balaam, 'but you blessed them these three times!
24:11 Now go home as fast as you can! I promised to honor you, but God won't let you get any honor!'
24:12 Balaam said to Balak, 'My exact words to the messengers you sent me were,
24:13 'Even if Balak gives me his whole palace full of gold and silver, I cannot do anything good or bad on my own that would violate God's word.' Isn't that true? I must proclaim whatever God declares.
24:14 Now I am returning to my people, but first I will advise you about what this nation will do to your people in the final days.'
24:15 He then proclaimed his oracle and said, 'This is the word of Beor's son Balaam, the word of the man with the enlightened eye.
24:16 It is the word of the one who hears God's sayings and knows the Highest One's will; who sees a vision of the Almighty while fallen [in a meditative trance] with mystical insight.
24:17 'I see it, but not now; I perceive it, but not in the near future. A star shall go forth from Jacob, and a staff shall arise in Israel, crushing all of Moab's princes, and dominating all of Seth's descendants.
24:18 Edom shall be demolished, and his enemy Seir destroyed, but Israel shall be triumphant.
24:19 Out of Jacob shall come an absolute ruler who will obliterate the city's last survivors.'
24:20 When [Balaam] saw Amalek, he proclaimed his oracle and said, 'First among nations is Amalek, but in the end he will be destroyed forever.'
24:21 When he saw the Kenites, he proclaimed his oracle and said, 'You live in a fortress, and have placed your nest in a cliff.
24:22 But when the time comes to destroy the Kenites, how long will Assyria hold back from you?'
24:23 He then declared his oracle and said, 'Alas! Who can survive God's devastation?
24:24 Warships shall come from the ports of the Kittim, and they will lay waste Assyria and Eber. But in the end they too shall be destroyed forever.'
24:25 With that, Balaam set out and returned home. Balak also went on his way.



Commentary:

desert
  Some say the Western Plains of Moab (Chizzkuni). It is also possible that he stood contemplating the Syrian Desert, which would have been visible toward the east.

enlightened
  (Ramban; Midrash Aggadah). Shethum in Hebrew. Or, 'future seeing eye' (Lekach Tov), 'seeing eye' (Targum; Saadia); 'open eye' (Rashbam; Radak, Sherashim; Rashi); 'true-sighted eye' (Septuagint); 'sleepless' (Ibn Janach), 'evil eye' (Zohar 1:68b); 'dislocated' (Rashi); 'blinded' (Sanhedrin 105a; Niddah 31a).

Almighty
  Shaddai in Hebrew. See Genesis 17:1; Exodus 6:3.

falling into a meditative trance
  (Targum; Rashi; Ibn Ezra); involving meditation (Ralbag; cf. Abarbanel). Some say that this involved sexual practices (Sanhedrin 105a; see note on Numbers 22:21). Some sources maintain that Balaam would actually fall to the ground during prophecy (Lekach Tov; Josephus, Antiquities 4:6:5); cf. 1 Samuel 19:24, Ezekiel 1:28, Daniel 8:18. Some say that he fell because he was uncircumcised (Midrash Aggadah; cf. Genesis 17:3). Or, 'the one who sees a vision of God in a trance and has open eyes' (Septuagint).

mystical insight
  Literally, 'uncovered eyes.'

They stretch out...
  Or, 'like shady groves' (Septuagint).

aloes
  (Targum; Rashi; Rashbam; Ibn Ezra). Ahalim in Hebrew; see Psalms 45:9, Proverbs 7:17, Song of Songs 4:14. See note on Exodus 30:23, s.v. 'fragrant cinnamon.' Or, 'tents' (Rashi; Saadia; Ralbag; Septuagint).

dipper
  (cf. Rashi, Ibn Ezra). Dal in Hebrew. Or, 'branches' (Chizzkuni), 'poor' (Nedarim 81a), or, 'power' (Baaley Tosafoth; see next note).

and his crops...
  (cf. Ibn Ezra). Or, 'his power will overflow, and his offspring against the mighty waters' (Baaley Tosafoth). This is thus rendered, 'A king shall come forth from his children, and he shall rule many nations' (Targum; Septuagint). The agreement here between the Targum and the Septuagint is highly significant.

Agag
  A generic name for the kings of Amalek (Rashbam); see notes on Genesis 12:15, 20:2. See 1 Samuel 15:8; Esther 3:1. The Septuagint identifies Agag with Gog; cf. Ezekiel 38:2.

God brought...
  See Numbers 23:22.

God
  (Ralbag). Or, 'they shall' (Targum).

grinding...
  (Rashi). Or, 'draining their marrow.' (Septuagint).

piercing them...
  (Saadia, Radak, Sherashim; Septuagint). Or, 'dipping his arrows [in their blood]' (Rashi), or, 'Taking away their portion' (Targum).

Israel...lies...
  See Genesis 49:9.

Those who bless...
  See Genesis 12:3.

Now go home...
  (Bachya; Radak, Sherashim). Literally, 'flee.'

star
  A person who rises high above the others (cf. Ramban). This is a messianic prophecy, (see Yad, Melachim 11:1).

princes
  (Targum; Septuagint). Or, 'corners' (Saadia; Radak, Sherashim).

dominating
  (Targum). Karkar in Hebrew. Or, 'devastating' (Rashi; Radak, Sherashim; Septuagint).

Seth's
  The ancestor of Noah, and hence, the father of all mankind (Rashi; cf. Targum). Or, 'the sons of incest,' denoting Ammon and Moab (Chizzkuni; see Genesis 19:37,38).

demolished
  (Saadia; Ibn Ezra). Or, 'occupied' (Septuagint).

and his enemy...
  Or, 'he shall be destroyed by his enemy Seir' (cf. Ramban).

absolute ruler
  (Rashi; Radak, Sherashim), Yerd in Hebrew. Or, 'come down' (Targum), or, 'one who rises up' (Septuagint).

the city's last survivors
  (Ramban). Or 'those who escape the city' (Septuagint).

saw
  Literally, because Amalek's territories are visible from the Moabite heights (Ramban). Or, 'saw in prophecy' (Rashi; Ibn Ezra).

Amalek
  See Genesis 36:12, Exodus 17:8, Deuteronomy 25:19.

Kenites
  See Genesis 15:19. This was a tribe that lived near Amalek, perhaps on the western bank of the Dead Sea (Rashi; cf. 1 Samuel 15:6). Some identify them with Ammon (Chizzkuni). Others say that they were the people of Jethro's family (Targum Yonathan; Ibn Ezra; cf. Sanhedrin 106a). See Joshua 15:22, 1 Chronicles 2:55.

You live in a fortress
  (Bachya). Or, 'Live in a fortress' as advice (Ramban; Midrash Aggadah).

nest
  Kin in Hebrew, a play on Kenite (Bachya).

the Kenites
  Literally, Kain, the same as Cain. Here it is a place name (cf. Chizzkuni).

Assyria
  See Genesis 2:14, 10:11. Assyria eventually dominated the entire middle east, and exiled many of its inhabitants, as described in 2 Kings 16 ff.

hold back from you
  (Chizzkuni). Or, 'How long will Assyria hold you in captivity!' (Rashi).

Warships...
  See Daniel 11:30. Also see Isaiah 33:30, Ezekiel 30:9. Tzim in Hebrew. Or, 'one shall come forth' (Septuagint).

ports
  (Saadia). Yad in Hebrew.

Kittim
  See Genesis 10:4. Also see Isaiah 23:1,12, Jeremiah 2:10, Ezekiel 27:6. These are identified with the Romans (Targum), the Greeks (Ibn Ezra), or the Cypriots (Saadia).

Eber
  A grandson of Shem (Genesis 10:21,24), and hence, the Semitic nations (Targum Yonathan). However, Eber also denotes the Hebrews, and hence, the Israelites (Ramban). Others have, 'all who live on the other side [of the Euphrates]' (Targum).

Balaam set out
  See Numbers 31:8.





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