New Defender's Study Bible Notes
22:4 elders of Midian. The Midianites (descendants of Abraham through Keturah) and the Moabites (descendants of Abraham’s nephew, Lot) were both related to the Israelites, but apparently felt more at ease trusting a Mesopotamian prophet (presumably a descendant of Ham) than their own kinsmen. One can find here an analogy with the attitude of many professing Christians who are more comfortable in the world than with God’s people.
22:5 Pethor. Pethor was in Mesopotamia (Deuteronomy 23:4), a long way from the land of Moab. This indicates that Balaam was known far and wide as a great prophet. However, he had begun to use methods of divination (Numbers 22:7) and enchantments (Numbers 24:1), which were prohibited by God (Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10), and thus had become a false prophet, deriving his occultic powers from evil spirits, rather than the Holy Spirit, much like modern “channelers,” “psychics,” and so-called “prophets.”
22:6 curse me this people. It is remarkable that a text of curses actually written by “Balaam son of Beor” has been found in Jordan, about twenty-five miles north of the area where Balaam was brought to curse Israel. It was preserved written in ink on fragments of plaster from a building wall, probably destroyed in the earthquake at the time of Uzziah (Amos 1:1). The text has the title Warnings from the Book of Balaam, a Seer of the Gods, and is written in Aramaic.
22:6 too mighty for me. The king of Moab had previously lost some of his kingdom to Sihon and the Amorites, yet the Amorites had been decimated by the Israelites (Numbers 21:24-26), and so had their sister kingdom of Bashan. No wonder Balak was fearful, deciding he would need supernatural help to survive.
22:20 God came unto Balaam. Balaam had evidently been a real prophet of the true God at one time. As is the case with many modern preachers and evangelists, however, his cupidity led him into false religion and practice. The historical reality of Balaam is attested by three writers in the New Testament (II Peter 2:15-16; Jude 11; Revelation 2:14).
22:28 opened the mouth. The New Testament: “the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet” (II Peter 2:16) confirms that this was an actual miracle of God. It was not just that the ass was able physiologically to open his mouth, but that the omnipotent Lord miraculously enabled him to speak. In addition to the immediate reason–that of rebuking the prophet–this miracle perhaps is intended to give us an insight into God’s care and concern for “dumb” animals. They also are “living souls” and have “the breath of life” (Genesis 1:21; 7:22).
22:29 Balaam said. Balaam’s apparent lack of surprise at the ability of a dumb ass to speak in human words was probably due both to his direct encounter with God the previous night (Numbers 22:20) and also his unthinking rage, accompanied by physical pain, caused by the stubbornness of the animal.
22:31 angel of the LORD. It is probable that “the angel of Jehovah,” here as elsewhere in many Old Testament passages, was actually the Lord Jesus Christ, in a pre-incarnate theophany.