Numbers 23:24
(24) As a great lion.--Better, as a lioness. (Comp. Genesis 49:9.) Balaam transfers to the whole nation that which Jacob had prophesied of Judah.

Verse 24. - As a great lion. לָבִיא, generally translated "old lion," as in Genesis 49:9. By some it is rendered lioness (cf. Job 4:11; Nahum 2:12). As a young lion. אַרִי, the ordinary term for a lion without further distinction. It is altogether fantastic to suppose that Balaam had just seen a lieu coming up from the ghor of Jordan, and that this "omen" inspired his "mashal." The rising of a lion from its covert was one of the most common of the more striking phenomena of nature in those regions, and the imagery it afforded was in constant use; but in truth it is evident that these similes are borrowed from Jacob's dying prophecy concerning Judah (Genesis 49:9), in which the word "prey" (Hebrew, טֶרֶפ, a torn thing) is also found. Balaam was acquainted with that prophecy, as he was with the promises made to Abraham (cf. verse 10 with Genesis 13:16; Genesis 28:14).

23:11-30 Balak was angry with Balaam. Thus a confession of God's overruling power is extorted from a wicked prophet, to the confusion of a wicked prince. A second time the curse is turned into a blessing; and this blessing is both larger and stronger than the former. Men change their minds, and break their words; but God never changes his mind, and therefore never recalls his promise. And when in Scripture he is said to repent, it does not mean any change of his mind; but only a change of his way. There was sin in Jacob, and God saw it; but there was not such as might provoke him to give them up to ruin. If the Lord sees that we trust in his mercy, and accept of his salvation; that we indulge no secret lust, and continue not in rebellion, but endeavour to serve and glorify him; we may be sure that he looks upon us as accepted in Christ, that our sins are all pardoned. Oh the wonders of providence and grace, the wonders of redeeming love, of pardoning mercy, of the new-creating Spirit! Balak had no hope of ruining Israel, and Balaam showed that he had more reason to fear being ruined by them. Since Balaam cannot say what he would have him, Balak wished him to say nothing. But though there are many devices in man's heart, God's counsels shall stand. Yet they resolve to make another attempt, though they had no promise on which to build their hopes. Let us, who have a promise that the vision at the end shall speak and not lie, continue earnest in prayer, Lu 18:1.Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion,.... Or rather, "as the lioness" (n), which, as Aelianus says (o), is the strongest and most warlike beast, the most fierce and furious, as is believed both by Greeks and Barbarians; and he mentions the heroism of Perdiccas the Macedonian, and Semiramis the Assyrian, in engaging with and killing, not the lion or leopard, but lioness:

and shall lift up himself as a young lion; both phrases denoting the courage and strength of the people of Israel, in attacking their enemies and engaging them:

he shall not lie down; being once roused up and engaged in war:

until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain; as the lion does when it has seized on a creature, tears it to pieces, eats its flesh and drinks its blood: this may refer to the slaughter of the Midianites that would be quickly made, and among the slain of whom Balaam himself was, Numbers 31:7, and to the slaughter and conquest of the Canaanites under Joshua, and taking their spoils.

(n) "ut leaena", V. L. Tigurine version. (o) Var. Hist. l. 12. c. 39. Vid. Herodot. Thalia, sive, l. 3. c. 108.

Numbers 23:23
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