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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 10–14
Verses 10–14

We have here the conclusion of this vain attempt to curse Israel, and the total abandonment of it. 1. Balak made the worst of it. He broke out into a rage against Balaam (Num. 24:10), expressed both in words and gesture the highest degree of vexation at the disappointment; he smote his hands together, for indignation, to see all his measures thus broken, and his project baffled. He charged Balaam with putting upon him the basest affront and cheat imaginable: “I called thee to curse my enemies, and thou hast shown thyself in league with them, and in their interests, for thou hast blessed them these three times, though, by appointing the altars to be built and sacrifices to be offered, thou madest be believe thou wouldest certainly curse them.” Hereupon he forbade him his presence, expelled him his country, upbraided him with the preferments he had designed to bestow upon him, but now would not (Num. 24:11): “The Lord hath kept thee back from honour. See what thou gettest by pleasing the Lord, instead of pleasing me; thou has hindered thy preferment by it.” Thus those who are any way losers by their duty are commonly upbraided with it, as fools, for preferring it before their interest in the world. Whereas, if Balaam had been voluntary and sincere in his adherence to the word of the Lord, though he lost the honour Balak designed him by it, God would have made that loss up to him abundantly to his advantage. 2. Balaam made the best if it. (1.) He endeavours to excuse the disappointment. And a very good excuse he has for it, that God restrained him from saying what he would have said, and constrained him to say what he would not; and that this was what Balak ought not to be displeased at, not only because he could not help it, but because he had told Balak before what he must depend upon, Num. 24:12; 13. Balak could not say that he had cheated him, since he had given him fair notice of the check he found himself under. (2.) He endeavours to atone for it, Num. 24:14. Though he cannot do what Balak would have him do, yet, [1.] He will gratify his curiosity with some predictions concerning the nations about him. It is natural to us to be pleased with prophecy, and with this he hopes to pacify the angry prince. [2.] He will satisfy him with an assurance that, whatever this formidable people should do to his people, it should not be till the latter days; so that he, for his part, needed not to fear any mischief or molestation from them; the vision was for a great while to come, but in his days there should be peace. [3.] He will put him into a method of doing Israel a mischief without the ceremonies of enchantment and execration. This seems to be implied in that word: I will advertise thee; for it properly signifies, I will counsel thee. What the counsel was is not set down here, because it was given privately, but we are told afterwards what it was, Num. 31:16. He counselled him to entice the Israelites to idolatry, Rev. 2:14. Since he could not have leave from God to curse them, he puts him in a way of getting help from the devil to tempt them. Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo—If I cannot move heaven, I will solicit hell.