Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
num 24:1At other times - In former times. Toward the wilderness - Where Israel lay encamped, expecting what God of his own accord would suggest to him concerning this matter.
num 24:2Came upon him - Inspired him to speak the following words.
num 24:3Whose eyes are open - Heb. Who had his eyes shut, but now open. The eyes of his mind, which God had opened in a peculiar and prophetical manner, whence prophets are called Seers, Sa1 9:9. It implies that before he was blind and stupid, having eyes, but not seeing nor understanding.
num 24:4The vision - So called properly, because he was awake when this was revealed to him: A trance - Or, extasy, fainting and falling upon the ground, as the prophets used to do.
num 24:6As the valleys - Which often from a small beginning are spread forth far and wide. As gardens - Pleasant and fruitful and secured by a fence. As lign - aloes - An Arabian and Indian tree of a sweet smell, yielding shade and shelter both to man and beast; such is Israel, not only safe themselves, but yielding shelter to all that join themselves to them. Which the Lord hath planted - Nature, not art.
num 24:7He shall pour the water - That is. God will abundantly water the valleys, gardens, and trees, which represent the Israelites; he will wonderfully bless his people, not only with outward blessings, of which a chief one in those parts was plenty of water, but also with higher gifts and graces, with his word and spirit, which are often signified by water, and at last with eternal life, the contemplation whereof made Balaam desire to die the death of the righteous. His seed shall be in many waters - This also may be literally understood of their seed, which shall be sown in waterish ground, and therefore bring forth a better increase. His King - That is, the King of Israel, or their chief governor. Than Agag - Than the King of the Amalekites, which King and people were famous and potent in that age, as may be guessed by their bold attempt upon so numerous a people as Israel. And it is probable, that Agag was the common name of the Amalekitish Kings, as Abimelech was of the Philistines, and Pharaoh of the Egyptians, and Caesar of the Romans.
num 24:9He lay down - Having conquered his enemies the Canaanites, and their land, he shall quietly rest and settle himself there.
num 24:11The Lord - Whose commands thou hast preferred before my desires and interest; and therefore seek thy recompence from him, and not from me.
num 24:17I shall see him - Or, I have seen, or do see the star, and sceptre as it here follows, that is, a great and eminent prince, which was to come out of Israel's loins, the Messiah, as both Jewish and Christian interpreters expound it, who most eminently and fully performed what is here said, in destroying the enemies of Israel or of God's church, here described under the names of the nearest and fiercest enemies of Israel: And to him alone agrees the foregoing verb properly, I shall see him, in my own person, as every eye shall see him, when he comes to judgment. Not now - Not yet, but after many ages. A star - A title often given to, princes and eminent persons, and particularly to the Messiah, Rev 2:28, Rev 22:16. A sceptre - That is, a sceptre - bearer, a king or ruler, even that sceptre mentioned Gen 49:10. The corners - The borders, which are often used in scripture for the whole country to which they belong. Of Sheth - This seems to be the name of some then eminent, though now unknown place or prince in Moab; there being innumerable instances of such places or persons sometime famous, but now utterly lost as to all monuments and remembrances of them.
num 24:18A possession - Which was also foretold, Gen 25:23, and in part fulfilled, Sa2 8:14; Ch1 18:13, but more fully by Christ, Amo 9:12; Oba 1:18, who shall subdue and possess all his enemies; here signified by the name of Edom, as Jacob or Israel, his brother, signifies all his church and people. Seir - A part and, mountain of Edom.
num 24:19Out of Jacob - Out of Jacob's loins. He that shall have dominion - David, and especially Christ. Of the city - Or from or out of this city, that is, the cities, the singular number for the plural. He shall not subdue those Moabites and Edomites which meet him in the field, but he shall pursue them even to their strongest holds and cities.
num 24:20He looked on Amalek - From the top of Pisgah, which was exceeding high, and gave him the prospect of part of all these kingdoms. The first - Heb. the firstfruits; so called either, because they were the first of all the neighbouring nations which were embodied together in one government: or, because he was the first who fought against Israel and was vanquished by them. That victory was an earnest and first - fruit of the large harvest of victories which the Israelites should in due time get over all their enemies. He shall perish for ever - He began with God and with Israel, but God will end with him, and the firm purpose of God is, that he shall be utterly destroyed; so that Saul lost his kingdom for not executing this decree, and God's command pursuant thereunto.
num 24:21The Kenites - The posterity or kindred of Jethro; not that part of them which dwelt among the Israelites, to whom the following words do not agree, but those of them who were mingled with the Amalekites and Midianites. Thy nest - Thy dwelling - place, so called, either because it was in an high place, as nests commonly are: or in allusion to their name, for ken in Hebrew signifies a nest.
num 24:22The Kenite - Heb. Kain, that is, the Kenite, so called, either by a transposition of letters, which is very usual in the Hebrew tongue; or from the name of some eminent place where they lived, or person from whom they were descended, though now the memory of them be utterly lost, as it hath fared with innumerable other places and persons, famous in their generations, mentioned in ancient Heathen writers. Shall be wasted - Shall be by degrees diminished by the incursions of divers enemies, till at last the Assyrian comes to compleat the work and carries them into captivity. For the Kenites who lived partly among the ten tribes, and partly with the two tribes, were carried captive with them, part by Salmaneser, the King of Assyria, and part by Nebuchadnezzar, who also is called an Assyrian, Ezr 6:22; Isa 52:4.
num 24:23Who shall live - How calamitous and miserable will the state of the world be, when the Assyrian, and after him the Chaldean, shall over - turn all these parts of the world? Who will be able to keep his heart from fainting under such grievous pressures? Nay, how few will escape the destroying sword?
num 24:24Chittim - A place or people so called from Chittim the son of Javan, Gen 10:4, whose posterity were very numerous, and were first seated in the lesser Asia, and from thence sent forth colonies into the islands of the Aegean sea, and into Cyprus, afterwards into Macedonia and other parts of Greece, and then into Italy. Whence it comes to pass that by this name is understood sometimes Macedonia, as 1Mac. i. 1, and 1Mac. viii. 5, sometimes Italy, as Dan 11:29-30, and sometimes both, as in this place: for he speaks here of the scourge that God hath appointed for the Assyrian after he had done God's work in punishing of his people and the bordering nations. Now although the Assyrian and Chaldean empire was subdued by the Medes and Persians, yet the chief afflictions of that people came from two hands, both beyond the sea and brought to them by ships; first from the Grecians under Alexander and his successors, by whom that people were grievously oppressed and wasted; then from the Romans, who subdued all the Grecian empire, one great part whereof were the Assyrians largely so called. Eber - The posterity of Eber, the Hebrews, who were the chief and flower of Eber's children. He also - Not the Hebrews: they shall have a better end; all Israel shall be saved; but the afflicter or scourge of Ashur and Eber, namely, the Grecian and Roman empire. Thus Balaam, instead of cursing the church, curses Amalek, the first, and Rome, the last enemy of it!
num 24:25To his place - To Mesopotamia; tho' afterwards he returned to the Midianites, and gave them that devilish counsel which was put in practice, Num 25:16-18.