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making such reflections as naturally grow out of it.
"I will bring you word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me.” He knew, then, something of the true God. He expressed, in the presence of these heathen strangers, a reverence for his authority, and a purpose to abide by his decision in this important matter. It does not follow from this, however, that they were acquainted with the character of Je. hovah, or that Balaam explained it to them at the time. His own knowledge of it was traditional, and mingled with many superstitious notions and practices; while the messengers probably supposed, from what he said, that he merely wished to consult his God, the one whom his nation professed to worship, or whom he himself had selected to assist him in his divinations.
"I will bring you word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me.” This mode of address evidently implies that he was going to obtain the answer of one who he intended to have them understand had before made communications to him. Nor must we consider this improbable, although, as will be seen in the sequel, Balaam was a covetoys and very wicked man. The Scriptures tell us of those, even the "heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel,” who "judge for reward ;" and "the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money : yet will they lean upon the Lord, and
Is not the Lord anong
as.” Judas was one of the apostles, a miserly and anprincipled miscreant; and our Saviour speaks of those who prophesied in his name, and in his name cast out devils and in his name did many wonderful works, of whom he will say in the day of judgment, "I never knew you : depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”—These remarks seemed to be necessary, to enable us the better to appreciate the character of this singular individual as we proceed in the narrative.
His intended application for divine direction was anticipated. During the silence of the night, Jehovah in some way manifested his presence, and inquired of Balaam who his guests were. He immediately answered, and stated the object of their errand. The mandate of Jehovah was clear and explicit. “Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt
. " not curse the people; for they are blessed.”
It may well be supposed, that the messengers of Balak were anxious to receive a speedy reply to their request. Early the next morning they were in attendance on Balaam. How great was their surprise and disappointment, to hear him utter this péremptory denial :
land, for the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go
you." Yet he did not communicate to them the whole of the divine injunction. He kept back the most important part of it, Thou shalt not curse the people ; for they are blessed.
What was his motive in doing this ? Did he desire to lead the king of Moab to suppose that Balaam's personal wishes to gratify him were restrained only by not succeeding to obtain the permission of the Lord ? Did he intend to excite the hope, that possibly at some other time, not far distant, this permission might be obtained, and thus to leave the way open for further negociation on the part of this powerful and wealthy monarch?
It would seem that some such impressions were actually produced on the mind of Balak. The reply, in his estimation, did not shut up the matter to a final and irrevocable issue, which it might have done, if Balaam had so desired. For, on hearing the word which the messengers brought back,that Balaam refused to come with them,—the king of Moab lost no time in despatching others again on the same errand; more in number; distinguish ed men; princes; and of higher rank than the first.
Account of Balaam.
The new messengers arrived at Pethor, and presented themselves before Balaam. Their numbers and rank must have flattered his vanity. The splendid proposals which they were authorized to make, were well adapted to accomplish their object, if it could be effected by the gratification of an excessive covetousness and ambition.
« Thus saith Balak," was the message, "the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: for I will promote thee unto very great honor, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me : come therefore, I pray thee,
I curse me this people.”'
Balaam replied, “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.” Was this reply made conscientiously, fearlessly, conclusively ? It ought so to have been. " The word of the Lord” had been given, and was unconditionally binding; Thou shalt not curse the people; for they are blessed : and Balaam needed no other direction, had he been an upright man, and disposed to obey implicitly the divine command.
But he faltered in his purpose, even if it were at first on the side of obedience. His covetousness and ambition gained the ascendancy. The dazzling offers of wealth and distinction beguiled him. He feared, indeed, the indignation of Jehovah too much to rush madly forward in express violation of his injunction ; but he thought it possible,-he conjectured-he hoped-that this injunction might be either repealed or modified. At any rate, if he could only obtain permission to return with the messengers, some other way might be opened, than the exact utterance of the curse required of him, for the advancement of his worldly interests. "I pray you," said he, most courteously addressing those who were sent to him, "tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the Lord will say unto me more.” More! a single word, that unlocks the secrets of his soul; as if all that was necessary for his guidance had not been already told him !
God knew what was in the breast of Balaam; and left him to act in accordance with his inclina. tions. He is given up to his own heart's lust, that he may walk in his own counsels. Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone. What he would ask for is allowed ; to see what use he will make of the permission, and to draw out a fuller developement of his character, and prepare the way for the divine justice to overtake him. In his wakeful moments, unexpectedly, and to his great surprise, the voice of Jehovah addresses him. "If the men come to call thee, rise
with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.” Go, if thou art so rashly bent upon it; but beware lest thou deviate in the least degree, from the directions that I shall give thee.
Balaam was too much overjoyed to hesitate. Im