Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
num 23:1Build seven altars - To the true God, otherwise he would not have mentioned it to God, as an argument why he should grant his requests, as he doth, Num 23:4. And though Balak was averse from God and his worship, yet he would be easily overruled by Balaam, who doubtless told him that it was in vain to make an address to any other than the God of Israel, who alone was able either to bless or curse them as he pleased. Seven - This being the solemn and usual number in sacrifices.
num 23:3Stand by thy burnt - offering - As in God's presence, as one that offers thyself as well as thy sacrifices to obtain his favour. I will go - To some solitary and convenient place, where I may prevail with God to appear to me. Sheweth me - Reveals to me, either by word or sign. An high place - Or, into the plain, as that word properly signifies.
num 23:7His parable - That is, his oracular and prophetical speech; which he calls a parable, because of the weightiness of the matter, and the liveliness of the expressions which is usual in parables. Jacob - The posterity of Jacob.
num 23:9The rocks - Upon which I now stand. I see him - I see the people, according to thy desire, Num 22:41, but cannot improve that sight to the end for which thou didst design it, to curse them. The people shall dwell alone - This people are of a distinct kind from others, God's peculiar people, separated from all other nations, as in religion and laws, so also in divine protection; and therefore enchantments cannot have that power against them which they have against other persons and people.
num 23:10The dust - The numberless people of Jacob or Israel, who according to God's promise, are now become as the dust of the earth. Of the righteous - Of this righteous and holy people. The sense is, they are not only happy above other nations in this life, and therefore in vain should I curse them, but they have this peculiar privilege, that they are happy after death: their happiness begins where the happiness of other people ends; and therefore I heartily wish that my soul may have its portion with theirs when I die. Was not God now again striving with him, not only for the sake of Israel, but of his own soul?
num 23:12Must I not - Ought I not? Is it not my duty? Canst thou blame me for it?
num 23:13Thou shalt not see them all - Perhaps he thought the sight of all them might discourage him, or as it did before, raise his fancy to an admiration of the multitude and felicity of the people.
num 23:15While I meet the Lord - To consult him, and to receive an answer from him.
num 23:18Rise up - This word implies the diligent attention required; rouse up thyself and carefully mind what I say.
num 23:19That he should lie - Break his promises made to his people for their preservation and benediction. Repent - Change his counsels or purposes; unless he see iniquity in Jacob.
num 23:21Iniquity - Not such as in the Canaanites: Such as he will punish with a curse, with utter destruction. The Lord is with him - He hath a favour for this people, and will defend and save them. The shout of a king - That is, such joyful and triumphant shouts as those wherewith a people congratulate the approach and presence of their King: when he appears among them upon some solemn occasion, or when he returns from battle with victory. This expression implies God's being their King and ruler, and their abundant security and confidence in him.
num 23:22Out of Egypt - Namely, by a strong hand, and in spite of all their enemies, and therefore it is in vain to seek or hope to overcome them. He - Israel, whom God brought out of Egypt, such change of numbers being very common in the Hebrew language. The sense is, Israel is not now what he was in Egypt, a poor, weak, dispirited, unarmed people, but high and strong and invincible. An unicorn - The word may mean either a rhinoceros, or a strong and fierce kind of wild goat. But such a creature as an unicorn, as commonly painted, has no existence in nature.
num 23:23Against Jacob - Nor against any that truly believe in Christ. What hath God wrought - How wonderful and glorious are those works which God is now about to do for Israel! These things will be a matter of discourse and admiration to all ages.
num 23:24As a great Lion - As a lion rouseth up himself to fight, or to go out to the prey, so shall Israel stir up themselves to warlike attempts against their enemies. He shall not lie down - Not rest or cease from fighting and pursuing.
num 23:28Peor - An high place called Beth - peor, Deu 3:29. That is, the house or temple of Peor, because there they worshipped Baal - peor.