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Sihon, king of the Amorites, in the sequel of this chapter, in very nearly similar circumstances. But the latter monarch was not protected by any affinity to the seed of Israel. Of the stations mentioned in this chapter and in ch. xxxiii. 43, which are Zalmonah, Punon, Oboth, and Ije-Abarim on the border of Moab, we know nothing precisely, and therefore the map-makers conveniently place them at about equal distances from one another. Of Punon, however, it may be observed, that its name is nearly identical with that of Phanon or Phynon, an ancient town to which Eusebius assigns a position answering, as nearly as may be, to that of the modern Tafyle (N. lat. 30° 48′, E. long. 35° 53′,) which name, Burckhardt says, has some resemblance to the other. The resemblance is certainly very faint. This town of Tafyle, which is surrounded by fruit trees, contains about six hundred houses, and is situated in a very pleasant and fertile neighbourhood, which might well induce the Israelites to select it for a resting place. The inhabitants are chiefly employed in cultivation, the produce of which they dispose of advantageously to the great pilgrim caravan. were Punon, probably its ancient inhabitants did the same to the Israelites.
12. "Valley of Zared."-See the note on Deut. ii. 13.
13. "Arnon.”—This river, which is frequently mentioned in Scripture, is undoubtedly that which is at present known under the name of Modjeb, and which now divides the province of Belka from that of Kerek, as it formerly divided the kingdoms of the Moabites and Canaanites. The principal source of this stream is at a short distance north-east from Katrane, a station of the Syrian Hadj, or pilgrim caravan. Katrane is in N. lat. 31° 8', and E. long. 36° 20′; from this place the direction of about half its course is N.N.W., after which it inclines W. by N. to the Dead Sea, into which it empties itself a few miles below the N. E. extremity of that great lake, after a course of about fifty miles. The river flows through a rocky bed, and is almost or quite dried in summer, like most of the other small rivers of this region; but even then its bed bears evident marks of its copiousness and impetuosity during the rainy season, the shattered fragments of large pieces of rock, detached from the banks nearest the river, and carried away by the torrent, being deposited at a considerable height above the summer channel of the stream. Burckhardt, whose observations were made about twenty miles from the estuary of the river, and certainly at no great distance from the point where the Hebrew host first saw it, with the intense delight which their long sojourn in the thirsty desert must have inspired, says: "The view which the Modjeb (here) presents is very striking: from the bottom, where the river runs through a narrow stripe of verdant level about forty yards across, the steep and barren banks arise to a great height, covered with immense blocks of stone which have rolled down from the upper strata, so that, when viewed from above, the valley looks like a deep chasm, formed by some tremendous convulsion of the earth, into which there seems no possibility of descending to the bottom; the distance from the edge of one precipice to that of the opposite one is about two miles in a straight line." (Travels in Syria,' p. 372). He adds, that he was thirty-five minutes in descending to the valley of the river, and that in all his travels he never felt such suffocating heat as he experienced there, from the concentrated rays of the sun, and their reflection from the rocks. This vas in July. The common road crosses the valley at this place, where there are the remains of a bridge, of which one arch only now remains. Burckhardt calls it modern, but Dr. Macmichael says it is ancient Roman; and he is probably right, as a Roman causeway, about fifteen feet broad, and which was well paved, though at present in a bad state, begins here, and runs all the way up the mountain, and from thence as far as Rabbah. The bridge is not now of any use. It took Burckhardt an hour and three quarters in ascending, from the bridge, the opposite or southern declivity of the mountains cut by the valley of the Arnon.
14. "The book of the wars of the LORD."-What book this was has been largely debated by Biblical critics, whose opinions are thus summed up by the Rev. T. H. Horne. "Aben-Ezra, Hottinger, and others, are of opinion that it refers to this book of the Pentateuch, because in it are related various battles of the Israelites with the Amalekites. Hezelius, and after him Michaelis, think it was an Amoritish writing, containing triumphal songs in honour of the victories obtained by Sihon, king of the Amorites, from which Moses cited the words that immediately follow. Fonseca and others refer it to the book of Judges. Le Clerc understands it of the wars of the Israelites who fought under the direction of Jehovah, and instead of book, he translates it, with most of the Jewish doctors, narration: and proposes to render the verse thus:- Wherefore, in the narration of the wars of the Lord, there is (or shall be) mention of what he did in the Red Sea, and in the brooks of Arnon.' Lastly, Dr. Lightfoot considers this book to have been some book of remembrances and directions written by Moses for Joshua's private instruction, for the prosecution of the wars after his decease. (See Exod. xvii. 14-16.)" Mr. Horne thinks that this opinion is the most simple, and is, in all probability, the true one. We must confess however that, as the quotation in this chapter is poetical, and as it does not seem likely that Moses would have written in poetry private military instructions, we incline to the opinion that the book consisted of poetical compositions celebrating particular events, and from which so much is here introduced as seemed proper for the occasion.
15. "The stream of the brooks."-This "stream of the brooks," near which Ar, the capital of Moab (see note to Deut. ii. 9), was built, is probably that now called Beni-Hamad, which, after a course of about eighteen miles, nearly due west, falls into the Dead Sea about twenty-five miles south of the æstuary of the Arnon, or in N. lat. 31° 217. The country for many miles south and north of this part consists of fine elevated plains, richly cultivated in many parts, and almost everywhere susceptible of cultivation. On entering this country the Israelites may fairly be considered to have quitted permanently the desert region to which they had so long been accustomed." The ruins of numerous towns continue to indicate that it was at a former period no less populous than fertile.
20. "Pisgah."-See the note on Deut. xxxii. 49.
26. "Heshbon."-This name is still preserved in the site of a ruined town, built upon a hill, about sixteen miles north of the Arnon (N. lat. 31° 53', E. long. 36° 10′). The town must have been large, and among its ruins are found the remains of some edifices built with small stones: a few broken columns are still standing; and there are a number of deep wells cut in the rocks, and also a large reservoir of water for the summer supply of the inhabitants. This place is often mentioned in Scripture, and is celebrated in the Canticles (vii. 4) for its "fish-pools." Dr. Macmichael and his party went to look for these pools; they found only one, which is described as extremely insignificant. This was perhaps what Burckhardt mentions as a reservoir. The Doctor saw many bones and human sculls in the cisterns among the ruins, which he describes as of small extent.
30. "Dibon."-This name is still preserved in a ruined town called Diban, about three miles north of the Arnon, near the road mentioned, under verse 13, as that taken by Burckhardt and other travellers. This, with other towns of this district, was originally assigned to the tribe of Gad (ch. xxxii. 3, 33, 34), but we afterwards find it in the possession of Reuben (Josh. xiii. 17).
"Medeba."-This name is preserved in that of "Madeba," applied to a large ruined town about six miles south-east from Hesbon. In Isaiah xv. 2, its name is connected with that of Mount Nebo:-" Moab shall howl over Nebo and
over Medeba." By which we are probably to understand that this was, in the time of the prophet, the principal town of this rich district. "Madeba" was built upon a round hill, and is now most completely ruined. There are many remains of the walls of private houses, constructed with blocks of silex ; but not a single edifice is standing. On the west side of the town may be seen the remains of a temple, built with large stones, and apparently of great antiquity. A part of its eastern wall remains; and at the entrance to one of the courts stand two Doric columns, which have the peculiarity of being thicker in the centre than at either extremity: a circumstance which Burckhardt, to whom Scripture geography owes the discovery of this site, never elsewhere observed in Syria. There is no spring or river near this town; but the large tank or reservoir of hewn stone still remains, which appears to have secured the inhabitants a supply of water. 33. "Bashan.... Edrei."-See the note to Josh. xii. 4.
pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho.
2 ¶ And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.
3 And Moab was sore afraid of the
AND the children of Israel set forward, and people, because they were many: and Moab
was distressed because of the children of 'Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from Israel. coming unto me:
17 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.
4 And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that
5 '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 they abide over against me:
6 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 cursed.
18 And Balaam 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 more.
8 Heb. I shall prevail in fighting against him.
Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes
36 And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went it to meet him unto a city of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, which is in the utmost coast.
37 And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send unto the to call thee? wherefore camest thou not un me? am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour?
38 And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to say any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.
39 And Balaam went with Balak, and they came unto Kirjath-huzoth.
40 And Balak offered oxen and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes that were with him.
41 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people.
9 Or, bowed himself. 10 Heb. to be an adversary unto thee. 12 Or, a city of streets.
Verse 5. "The river of the land of the children of his people."-What river? This precise explanation rather confuses than elucidates the indication. We have therefore little hesitation in accepting the reading given in a considerable number of ancient Hebrew manuscripts and versions, which, instead of y (beni-ammo), “children of his people," read 10 (beni-ammon), “ children of Ammon." The river of the children of Ammon was the Euphrates; and Pethor was a town on that river-as we learn from chap. xxiii. 7, and Deut. xxiii. 4, that Balaam came from AramNaharaim, or Mesopotamia.
Verse 6. "Curse me this people."-It has been an opinion very extensively prevalent in different countries and different ages of the world, and which still exists, that there were individuals who had power, through the performance of certain rites, or by an exertion of an occult influence with the hidden powers, to devote others to inevitable destruction. It was even thought among most ancient nations, and even at present in the barbarous and semi-barbarous nations of Asia and Africa, that there were such persons whose power brought a curse upon entire armies. This was done sometimes by words of imprecation, and sometimes was preceded by or connected with certain solemn rites and sacrifices, as in this instance of Balaam. Several examples of such curses or banns occur in classical history, both on individuals and collective bodies, and in the Scripture history itself instances of something very similar are found. The recent case, in which Hormah was devoted to entire destruction, is in principle not wholly unlike this and several parallel examples. Thus also Goliah cursed David by his gods, devoting him to utter destruction. In similar cases we frequently read of the Romans devoting a person to the infernal deities. This people had proper officers, whose business it was to perform the ceremonies which were connected with such an act, when a public measure. Some of these ceremonies are noticed by Plutarch, who, in his life of Crassus, relates that the tribune Atticus made a fire at the gate out of which the general was to march against the Parthians, into which he threw certain ingredients to make a fume, and offered sacrifice to the most angry gods, with horrid imprecations. These imprecations, he adds, according to ancient traditions, had such an extraordinary power, that no man who was loaded with them could avoid being undone. At the present day the Indian nations, not to mention other instances, have always their magicians with them in their wars, to use incantation against the adverse party. In the late war with the British the Burmese generals had several magicians with them, who found plenty of employment in cursing our troops; and when their zealous exertions in this duty were discovered to have been without success, a number of witches were sent for with the same purpose. Mr. Roberts, who mentions this fact, adds, that the expedient is also sometimes resorted to, of introducing a potent charm among the opposing troops, to secure their destruction.
22. "God's anger was kindled because he went."-Not simply because he went, for he had been told to go; but because "the wages of unrighteousness" made him but too willing to go. He had been directed to go if the princes of Moab came to call him; but it appears that he did not wait for their calling, but arose in the morning and went with them. Besides, the Arabic verson of the Pentateuch reads, "because he went with a covetous disposition;" and this reading is probable, as it coincides with the motive of conduct which the apostle (2 Pet. ii. 15) assigns to Balaam.
28. "The Lord opened the mouth of the ass."-No better observations on this subject can be offered than are contained in the following extract from Bishop Newton's excellent Dissertations on the Prophecies:-"The speaking ass, from that time to this, hath been the standing jest of every infidel brother. Maimonides and others have conceived that the matter was transacted in a vision: but it appears rather more probable, from the whole tenour of the narration, that this was no visionary but a real transaction. The words of St. Peter show that it is to be understood, as he himself
understood it, literally. (2 Pet. ii. 14-16.) The ass was enabled to utter such and such sounds, probably as parrots do, without understanding them: and say what you will of the construction of the ass's mouth, of the formation of the tongue and jaws being unfit for speaking, yet an adequate cause is assigned for this wonderful effect, for it is said expressly, that The Lord opened the mouth of the ass:' and no one who believes in a God can doubt of his power of doing this, and much more. The miracle was by no means needless or superfluous; it was very proper to convince Balaam that the mouth and tongue were under God's direction, and that the same Divine power which caused the dumb ass to speak, contrary to its nature, could make him, in like manner, utter blessings contrary to his inclination.”
pray thee, with me unto another place, from 1, 13, 28 Balak's sacrifice. 7, 18 Balaam's parable. whence thou mayest see them: thou shalt see but the utmost part of them, and shalt not see them all: and curse me them from thence. 14
AND Balaan said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven oxen and seven rams.
2 And Balak did as Balaam had spoken; and Balak and Balaam offered on every altar a bullock and a ram.
And he brought him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar.
15 And he said unto Balak, Stand here by thy burnt offering, while I meet the LORD yonder.
16 And the LORD met Balaam, and 'put a word in his mouth, and said, Go again unto Balak, and unto Balak, and say thus.
17 And when he came to him, behold, he stood by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. And Balak said unto him, What hath the LORD spoken?
18 And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor:
19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
20 Behold, I have received commandment to bless and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.
21 He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.
22 God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.
23 Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!
24 Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.
25 And Balak said unto Balaam, Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all. 26 But Balaam answered and said unto
5 Chap. 24. 8. 6 Or, in.
1 Or, he went solitary. 2 Heb. my soul, or, my life. 8 Or, the hill. * Chap. 22. 35.