Commentary on Numbers 22:36-40

Notes (NET Translation)

36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at a city of Moab which was on the border of the Arnon at the boundary of his territory.

The “border” of the Arnon is the eastern end of the Arnon River.

Balak’s personal involvement in the greeting ceremony was a means of paying high honor to the visiting prophetic dignitary. He could have simply sent his servants to the territorial border to formally greet the party and then have them escorted into the king’s presence in the capital city’s royal residence. Instead Balak accompanied Balaam along the stages of the journey to the point where Balaam would begin performing his prophetic divination service.1

37 Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send again and again to you to summon you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?”

Balak incorrectly thinks it is a matter of honor that delayed Balaam.

38 Balaam said to Balak, “Look, I have come to you. Now, am I able to speak just anything? I must speak only the word that God puts in my mouth.”

Perhaps after meeting the angel of the Lord (22:22-35), Balaam fully grasps that he can only speak the words given to him by God.

39 So Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth.

40 And Balak sacrificed bulls and sheep, and sent some to Balaam, and to the princes who were with him.

The meat from a sacrifice was usually eaten by the worshiper and his guests. Perhaps it was a display of hospitality. Or, perhaps, the sacrificial ritual implies Balaam is entering into a state of sanctification for his encounter with the divine.


Ashley, Timothy R. The Book of Numbers. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993.

Brown, Raymond E., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990.

Cole, R. Dennis. Numbers. Kindle Edition. The New American Commentary. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

Friedman, Richard Elliott. Commentary on the Torah. First Edition. San Francisco, Calif.: HarperOne, 2001.

Levine, Baruch A. Numbers 21-36. The Anchor Yale Bible. New York: Yale University Press, 2000.

Mays, James L., ed. The HarperCollins Bible Commentary. Revised Edition. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000.

Milgrom, Jacob. Numbers. The JPS Torah Commentary. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

Wenham, Gordon J. Numbers. Kindle Edition. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. IVP Academic, 2015.

  1. Cole 2000, Kindle Locations 11196-11199 

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