Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
num 22:1The plains of Moab - Which still retained their ancient title, though they had been taken away from the Moabites by Sihon, and from him by the Israelites. By Jericho - That is, over against Jericho.
num 22:3Sore afraid - As it was foretold both in general of all nations, Deu 2:25, and particularly concerning Moab, Exo 15:15.
num 22:4The elders - Called the kings of Midian, Num 31:8, and princes of Midian, Jos 13:21, who though divided into their kingdoms yet were now united upon the approach of the Israelites their common enemy, and being, as it seems, a potent and crafty people, and neighbours to the Moabites, these seek confederacy with them. We read of Midianites near mount Sinai, Exod. 2, and 3, which seem to have been a colony of this people, that went out to seek new quarters, as the manner of those times was, but the body of that people were seated in those parts. Lick up - That is, consume and utterly destroy, in which sense the fire is said to lick up the water and sacrifices, Kg1 18:38. All that are round about us - All our people, who live in the country adjoining to each city, where the princes reside.
num 22:5Balaam - Who is called a prophet, Pe2 2:16, because God was pleased to inspire and direct him to speak the following prophecies. Indeed many of the Jewish writers say, that Balaam had been a great prophet, who for the accomplishment of his predictions, and the answers of his prayers, had been looked upon justly as a man of great interest with God. However it is certain, that afterwards for his covetousness, God departed from him. Beor - Or, Bosor, Pe2 2:15, for he had two names, as many others had. Pethor - A city in Mesopotamia. By the river - By Euphrates, which is called the river, by way of eminency, and here the river of Balaam's land or country, to wit, of Mesopotamia.
num 22:6Curse them for my sake and benefit; use thy utmost power, which thou hast with thy Gods, to blast and ruin them. We may smite them - Thou by thy imprecations, and I by my sword.
num 22:8This night - The night was the time when God used to reveal his mind by dreams. The Lord - Heb. Jehovah, the true God, whom he here mentions, either for his own greater reputation, as if he consulted not with inferior spirits, but with the supreme God; or rather because this was Israel's God, and the only possible way of ruining them was by engaging their God against them: as the Romans and other Heathens, when they went to besiege any city, used enchantments to call forth that God under whose peculiar protection they were. Of Moab - And of Midian too.
num 22:9What men are these - He asks this that Balaam by repeating the thing in God's presence might be convinced and ashamed of his sin and folly, in offering his service in such a business: and for a foundation to the following answer.
num 22:20If the men come - On this condition he was to go.
num 22:22Because he went - Because he went of his own accord, with the princes of Moab, and did not wait till they came to call him, which was the sign and condition of God's permission, but rather himself rose and called them. The apostle describes Balaam's sin here to be, that he ran greedily into an error for reward, Jde 1:11. For an adversary - To oppose, if not to kill him. His servants with him - The rest of the company being probably gone before them. For in those ancient times there was more of simplicity, and less of ceremony, and therefore it is not strange that Balaam came at some distance, after the rest, and attended only by his own servants.
num 22:28Opened the mouth - Conferred upon her the power of speech and reasoning for that time.
num 22:29Balaam said - Balaam was not much terrified with the ass's speaking, because perhaps he was accustomed to converse with evil spirits, who appeared to him and discoursed with him in the shape of such creatures. Perhaps he was so blinded by passion, that he did not consider the strangeness of the thing.
num 22:31On his face - In token of reverence and submission.
num 22:32Thy way is perverse - Springing from covetousness.
num 22:33I had slain thee - I had slain thee alone, and not her, therefore her turning aside and falling down was wholly for thy benefit, not for her own, and thy anger against her was unjust and unreasonable.
num 22:35Go with the men - I allow thee to go, upon the following terms.
num 22:36In the utmost coast - Not far from the camp of the Israelites, whom he desired him to curse.
num 22:40The princes - Whom the king had left to attend him.
num 22:41The high places of Baal - Consecrated to the worship of Baal, that is, of Baal Peor, who was their Baal or God. The utmost part - That is, all that people, even to the utmost and remotest of them, as appears by comparing this with, Num 23:13. He hoped that the sight of such a numerous host ready to break in upon his country would stir up his passion.