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of his residence, they made known to him the message of the king; and spread before him the splendid gifts which they had brought, as "the rewards of divination;" no unwelcome sight in the eyes of Balaam, who greedily coveted such accessions to the wealth that he longed to amass.

But he was not prepared to give them an immediate answer. "Lodge here this night," said he, "and I will bring you word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me." What a strange reply to their request! Have they mistaken the character of the individual whose aid they are seeking? Is this the one who deals in divinations and enchantments? Is he, after all, a prophet of Jehovah; and the oracles which he delivers, the communications of the true God?

Various answers have been given to these inquiries; but an extended investigation of the subject would carry the author quite beyond his prescribed limits. Perhaps the sacred record has left a degree of obscurity hanging over the character of this singular personage which the most learned and ingenious critics may not be able to peneWe have but one portion of his history, and that exceedingly short. What had been the course of his life, and for what other purposes God may have made use of him, before he received the message from Balak, we are entirely ignorant. Let us follow closely the Scripture narrative,



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 Jehovah, 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 covetous and The Scriptures tell us of those, very wicked man. 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 say Is not the Lord among

us." 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 ap preciate 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 peremptory denial: " Get you into your land, for the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with 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
ted 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, 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 dispos ed 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

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