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Balak, Told not I thee, saying, All that the the top of Peor, that looketh toward JeshiLORD speaketh, that I must do?

27 And Balak said unto Balaam, Come, 29 And Balaam said unto Balak, Build I pray thee, I will bring thee unto another me here seven altars, and prepare me here place; peradventure it will please God that seven bullocks and seven rams. thou mayest curse me them from thence. 30 And Balak did as Balaam had said, and

28 And Balak brought Balaam unto offered a bullock and a ram on every altar.

Verse 1. Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven oxen and seven rams."—Without entering into the large question respecting the true character of the remarkable man who gives these directions, we must admit that, with reference to the mystical number seven, they savour strongly of the tricks of magic and incantation. Israel had but one altar for sacrifice, nor could more than one have been necessary for any real purpose which Balaam could have had in view, except that of mystifying the king. It is indeed possible that he sacrificed to a different deity on each altar; but this the bearing of the context seems rather to forbid. It is certain, however, that Balaam was not the only ancient personage who, in religious services, manifested much regard for the number seven, with which some superstitions or other continue to be connected in most countries, our own not excepted; for, as observed by Sir Thomas Brown, who has largely investigated the subject in his learned dissertation on the Great Climacterical Year,—“Number, though wonderful in itself, and sufficiently magnifiable from its demonstrable affections, hath yet received adjections from the multiplying conceits of men, and stands laden with additions which its equity will not admit.” Of these additions, the number seven, and, after it, the numbers nine and three, have received the largest measure. Many instances of superstitions connected with these numbers, and of odd numbers in general, might be adduced from the writings of classical antiquity. The following from Virgil (Ecl. viii. 73), with respect to the number three, is as remarkable, of its kind, as that concerning seven in the text:

“ Around his waxen image first I wind

Three woollen fillets of three colours joined ;
Thrice bind about his thrice devoted head,
Which round the sacred altar thrice is led.

Unequal numbers please the gods, &c.—DRYDEN. We learn from the ‘Oriental Illustrations,' that the number seven is generally attended to by the Hindoos in their offerings. The poorer sort will offer seven areka nuts, or limes, or plantains, or betel leaves, or seven measures of rice; and, if they cannot go so high, will at least take care to present an odd number. The same excellent work gives the most striking illustrative analogy to the present procedure of Balaam which has ever fallen under our notice. It is there stated, that when a king goes forth to battle, he makes a sacrifice to the goddess of the royal family (Veerma-kali) to ascertain the result of the approaching conflict, and to enable him to curse his enemies. For this purpose, seven altars are placed in front of the temple, near to which are seven vessels filled with water, upon each of which are mangoe leaves, and a cocoa-nut with its tuft on. Near to each altar is a hole containing fire. The victims, which may be seven, or fourteen, or twenty-one, and consist of buffaloes, rams, or cocks, are then brought forward, and a strong man strikes off the head of each victim at one blow, after which the carcase is thrown into the burning pit, with prayers and incantations. The priest then proceeds to the temple, and offers incense, and after some time returns, with frantic gestures, declaring what will be the result of the battle. Should this response be favourable to the inquiring prince, the priest takes a portion of the ashes from each hole, and, throwing them in the direction of the enemy, pronounces upon them the most terrible imprecations.

10. “Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel ?Who can count the dust-like seed of Jacob ?is Boothroyd's reading. The frequent comparison of a great multitude to the dust, or to the sand, is quite in conformity with modern Oriental usage. The people of the East generally, whether in towns or camps, have the most confused and indeterminate ideas of numbers, as we have already had one or two occasions to notice. Thus, a Bedouin Arab, when questioned concerning the number of people in a town he has visited, or even concerning the numbers of his own tribe, or of the cattle belonging to it, will generally look bewildered, and ask in return, “Who can count the sands of the desert ?" and sometimes he will otherwise express the same idea (or rather, want of idea) by grasping a handful of dust or sand, and throwing it into the air, to describe the incalculable numbers concerning which he is questioned.

21. He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither... perverseness in Israel.—This is not true, literally taken. How often had God seen and been most provoked at the iniquity and perverseness of Israel! The text has been variously read. The Samaritan and Syriac understand the perception as that of Balaam himself, not expressing the perception of God; and read, “I do not behold," instead of, " he hath not beheld;" and, besides the high authority, this reading certainly accords best with the narrative, and with the order of the context. Then the words rendered

iniquity” and “ perverseness,” may and, we think, ought to be differently rendered. The first word (718, aven) means, in its primary signification, nothingness and vanity, particularly as applied to idolatry; wickedness in general, is another signification; and evil, affliction, sorrow, the third. Our translation prefers the second sense, and Boothroyd selects the third ; but we certainly incline to the primary sense of idolatry; and then it will mean that Balaam saw in Israel none of those idolatrous vanities in which other nations were immersed, and that he attributed their safety to that cause. That this was his real opinion, we see from the advice he gave the Midianites, that to seduce the Israelites into idolatry was the way to effect their ruin. The other word (boy, amal), rendered “ perverseness,” has the general sense of labour or distress, and so we would understand it; and then the whole sentence would mean, that Balaam saw no idolatry in Israel, and to this attributed the highly prosperous condition in which he saw them. The second clause is a deduction from the first. Dr. Boothroyd thus renders the sentence:

“I behold no trouble in Jacob,

Nor do I see distress in Israel ;" and here we see, that by choosing the subordinate sense of the word 118, in the first clause, he makes the second merely a repetition of the preceding.

27. “And Balak said unto Balaam.”—We should be inclined to place somewhere about this place a conversation between Balak and Balaam which is omitted here, but has been preserved by the prophet Micah, chap. vi. 5—8; in which the sixth and seventh verses are to be read as questions put by the King of Moab, and the eighth as the response of Balaam. From this, and indeed from all the history, we may infer that his religion was that of the patriarchs, and that he saw and despised the vanity of the idolatrous systems around him. We see, however, that his conduct was not in conformity with the comparative purity of his belief.

28. “Jeshimon.”—We know nothing further of this place than that it was in the plains of Moab, and that it afterwards belonged to the tribe of Reuben. It is probably the same as the city called Bethsimuth by Eusebius, and described by him as lying on the east of the Jordan, about ten miles from Jericho towards the south. This is the more probable, as this Jeshimon is called Beth-jeshimoth in chap. xxxiii. 49, and from comparing that passage with this, it would seem that the camp of Israel was pitched there at the time when Balaam beheld it from Mount Peor.

CHAPTER XXIV.

1 Balaam, leaving divinations, prophesieth the happiness of Israel. 10 Balak in anger dismisseth him. 15 He prophesieth of the Star of Jacob, and the destruction of some nations.

AND when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he went not, as at 'other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness.

2 And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him.

3 And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said:

4 He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open:

5 How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel!

6 As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the LORD hath planted, and

as cedar trees beside the waters.

7 He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.

8 God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows.

9 He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee.

10 And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these

three times.

1 Chap. 23, 3, 15. $ Chap. 23. 22.

2 Heb. to the meeting of enchantments.

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11 Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honour; but, lo, the LORD hath kept thee back from honour.

12 And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers which thou sentest unto me, saying,

13 If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the LORD, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the LORD saith, that will I speak ?

14 And now, behold, I go unto my people: come therefore, and I will advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days.

15 And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said :

16 He hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open:

17 I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall 'smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.

18 And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly.

19 Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.

20 And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever.

21 And he looked on the Kenites, and took up his parable, and said, Strong is thy dwellingplace, and thou puttest thy nest in

a rock.

Chap. 23. 7, 18. 4 Heb. who had his eyes shut, but now open.
the first of the nations that warred against Israel, Exod. 17.

• Gen. 49, 9. 7 Or, smile through the princes of Moab.

9 Or, shall be even to destruction.

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Verse 5. "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob!" &c.-See the notes on Gen. xxv. 27, and Num. ii. 3; the former referring to the tents of the Arabians, which probably bore a general resemblance to those of the Hebrews; and the latter to the beautiful arrangement of the camp, which seems more particularly to have excited the strong and finelyexpressed admiration of Balaam on this occasion. The prefixed woodcut will serve as a general illustration of the subject, affording a view of a Bedouin encampment, and exhibiting the form of its tents.

6. "Lign aloes."-This was some kind of tree remarkable for the beauty of its foliage and the fragrance of its wood. But such terrible "defeatures" have been committed in those once flourishing regions, that it would be difficult to say precisely what tree it was. It belonged perhaps to the cone-bearing family, inasmuch as the word denotes also a tent, which, from the manner of "pitching" it, resembles in measure a fir or pine-tree. This was perhaps the same as the Agallochum of Dioscorides, which he tells us was burnt for sake of the odorous fumes that it produced.

7. "Higher than Agag."-The comparison strongly implies the national importance of the Amalekites at this period. It is thought that Agag was a name common to all the kings of the Amalekites. Another king of this name occurs in the history of Saul (1 Sam. xv. 9, 33); and in Esther iii. 1, the term "Agagite" is used as equivalent to "Amalekite." Concerning the Amalekites, see the note on Deut. xxv. 9.

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17. "I shall see him, but not now," &c.-Dr. Boothroyd renders this clause,

"I see it, though it will not be now:

I behold it, though the event is not near."

21. "Kenites."-See the note on Judges i. 16.

"Thou puttest thy nest in a rock."-The Hebrew word from which Kenite is formed signifies a nest, and is no doubt an allusion to the eagle, which delights to form its nest among the inaccessible rocks and mountains. The metaphor signifies security; which security, in the intended sense, the Kenites derived from having followed and dwelt among the Israelites-expressed by the fine figure of building their nest in a rock.

22. "Asshur," that is, Assyria.-See the note on 2 Kings xv. 29.

24. "Chittim."-Writers on the geography of the Bible entertain remarkably different ideas as to the country or

countries intended by this denomination. The most probable opinion seems to us to be that which considers that the Hebrews used it to express, in a general sense, all the coasts and islands of the Mediterranean Sea, so far as known to them. The meaning of this remarkable prophecy seems very clear, and was accomplished in all its details. It appears to mean generally, that Moab, Edom, and Amalek should be smitten by the Israelites; who should, in their turn, be overcome and taken captive (with the Kenites) by the Assyrians; who should themselves, ultimately, be "afflicted" by the Greeks and Romans; and that, in the fulness of time, they also should utterly perish.

"Eber."-The Hebrews are doubtless principally intended; but perhaps including also the kindred nations equally descended from Abraham.

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through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.

9 And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.

10 ¶ And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

11 Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.

12 Wherefore say, 'Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:

13 And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.

14 Now the name of the Israelite that was slain, even that was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a 'chief house among the Simeonites.

15 And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian.

16 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

17 Vex the Midianites, and smite them: 18 For they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, their sister, which was slain in the day of the plague for Peor's sake.

Psal. 106, 30. 1 Mac. 2. 54.
7 Heb. house of a futher.

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Verse 1. "Shittim."-The observation on Jeshimon (chap. xxiii. 28) applies equally to this place. We know nothing about it. It is probably the same place which is called Abel-Shittim in chap. xxxiii. 49. It was sixty stadia distant from the Jordan, according to Josephus. It was from this place that Joshua sent the spies to Jericho (Josh. ii. 1), and from which the host departed to encamp close to the river, previous to the passage over Jordan (Josh.iii. 1).

3. "Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor."— Boothroyd follows Michaelis in rendering this, "wore the badges of Baal-peor;" that is, by binding themselves with fillets in his honour, and thus openly avowing their idolatry. This seems very probably the true sense of the original word Y, tzamad, as used in this place. The Israelites would thus seem to have manifested every form of devotion to the idol of Moab; they worshipped him; they ate of his sacrifices; they wore his festival badges; and they defiled themselves by participating in the lustful abominations with which his worship was celebrated. Those who have given their attention to the elucidation of the idolatries mentioned in Scripture are not agreed about Baal-peor. We may observe that the same god was often worshipped by the same people, but almost always under different names, and with different ceremonies; and as the worship

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of the Baal so frequently mentioned in Scripture was most extensively diffused, it is not improbable that this was the same idol, distinguished as the national deity of the Moabites by the affix " Peor," derived probably from Mount Peor, within their territory (chap. xxiii. 28), being the chief seat of his worship. We all know how common a custom it was to call the same deity by different surnames according to the different places where he was worshipped. The Olympian and Dodonæan Jupiter form an instance of this. As, however, Baal (ford) is rather the titular distinction of a chief deity (the sun generally) rather than a proper name, it may be doubted whether precisely the same deity is always intended by this term, particularly when a distinctive surname is given. Jerome, Origen, and many other high authorities, are of opinion that Baal-peor was the same, or nearly the same, as the Priapus of the Romans, and was worshipped with similar obscene rites. Such rites were not indeed by any means peculiar to any one deity, but were more or less common to many, whence the Scripture, with just severity, frequently calls the deities of the surrounding nations, not "gods," or even "idols," but "abominations,"-" the abomination of Moab," "the abomination of the Ammonites," "the abomination of the Zidonians," &c. This view as to Baal-peor seems rather to be sanctioned by the striking passage in Hosea (ix. 10), which we thus read in Boothroyd's version:

"They went to Baal-peor, and separated themselves to shame;
And became abominable as the object of their love.”

Whichever view we take, there is little question that the worship of this idol was celebrated by the most immodest actions, and that the unholy connections of the Israelites with the daughters of Moab and Midian were as much crimes of idolatry as of lust. We learn from chap. xxxi. 16, that in this melancholy affair, the Israelites were designedly seduced by the people of the land, by the advice of Balaam, who having, much against his inclination, been obliged to bless those whom he desired to curse, and being probably aware of the consequences which attended their worship of the golden calf, suggested the attempt to seduce them from their allegiance to Jehovah as the most likely way to bring down ruin upon them.

It is believed by many commentators, that Chemosh, "the abomination of Moab," from whom the Moabites are called, in chap. xxi. 29, "the people of Chemosh," and to whom Solomon erected an altar on the Mount of Olives (1 Kings xi. 7), was the same as Baal-peor. This opinion was entertained by Milton, who thus alludes to the present transaction, and defines the limits to which the worship of this idol extended:

"Chemos, th' obscene dread of Moab's sons,
From Aroer to Nebo, and the wild

Of southmost Abarim; in Hesebon
And Horonaim, Sihon's realm, beyond

The flow'ry vale of Sibma, clad with vines;
And Eleale, to the Asphaltic pool:

Peor his other name, when he enticed
Israel in Sittim, on their march from Nile,
To do him wanton rites, which cost them woe."

4. "Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up."-The heads of the people were the princes of tribes: if these were the same as those addressed in the following verse, they were assembled not to be themselves hanged up, but to slay those who had been joined to Baal-peor. This is the understanding of Jarchi and other Rabbins; and is sanctioned by the Samaritan, which retains a clause that appears to have dropped from the Hebrew text, and is introduced by Boothroyd, whose translation thus reads this part of the verse :-"Take all the heads of the people, and let them slay those men who have worn the badges of Baal-peor, and hang them up before Jehovah until sun-setting." The following verse would then mean that every chief was in his own division to execute the Divine judgment upon the idolaters. Some commentators however are of opinion that the passage is to be understood as it appears in our version, and that the directions in the following verse were addressed to the judges appointed under the advice of Jethro. By hanging up we are to understand the ignominious gibbeting of the body, after the criminal had been stoned or slain with the sword-hanging alive not being a Hebrew punishment.

PARADISE LOST, B. i. 406.

9. "Twenty and four thousand.”—St. Paul says twenty-three thousand. The account of Moses includes, most probably, the total number, as well those that were put to death and hanged up, as those that died of the plague; while the Apostle limits his notice to those only who died of the plague. The persons hanged up probably did not exceed the one thousand, which is the amount of the difference between the numbers.

CHAPTER XXVI.

1 The sum of all Israel is taken in the plains of Moab. 52 The law of dividing among them the inheritance of the land. 57 The families and number of the Levites. 63 None were left of

them which were numbered at Sinai, but Caleb and Joshua.

AND it came to pass after the plague, that the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, saying,

2 Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, 'from twenty years old and upward, throughout their fathers' house, all that are able to go to war in Israel.

1 Chap. 1. 3. 2 Chap. 1. 1.

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6 Of Hezron, the family of the Hezronites: of Carmi, the family of the Carmites.

3 Gen. 46. 8. Exod, 6, 14. 1 Chron. 5. 1.

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