Numbers.

Division 3. (Num. 16:36 — 24.)

The resources of a priesthood marked out by resurrection.

The third division of the book opens suddenly at this point. The central truth is reached in this central portion, that man being what he is — what his history shows him to be — and in the people of God also humanity still being utterly untrustworthy, priesthood is his one resource, the priesthood of one marked out by resurrection- power and who can sustain the burden of the people, as even a Moses has confessed himself unable.

The spiritual meaning, here as in so much else, alone puts meaning into the history, while the type nevertheless on its side furnishes the means of the orderly display and enumeration of the truth in such a manner as to show the wonderful value of these typical representations. Such value they must have, or they have no sufficient reason for existence at all and that they do exist, after all that these books have shown us, may be taken as so fully proved, that there can be no need for any further proof upon the subject.

Not meaning to anticipate what can be only fitly brought before us in the study of the succeeding sections, it will yet be well to introduce the subject by a brief statement of the doctrine of priesthood as we find it here emphasized and expanded for us. In itself, priesthood is not a new truth in this book, of course. We have had it in Exodus, still more in Leviticus, and in necessary connection with the whole doctrine of atonement nor need we expect this to be repeated here: it is the foundation, however, and shown to be the foundation, of what is now before us. For a priesthood marked out by resurrection is of course the priesthood of One who has passed through death and come up out of it. Resurrection is the acceptance openly of the work done in death. Hence we find here priesthood in a new phase of it, and indeed, in general, in a new and significant person, Eleazar, who is already the one designated by name in the ordinance of the red heifer (Num. 19), and to whom shortly afterward (Num. 20) Aaron gives place. His connection with resurrection we have already noticed, in whom as the third son, after Nadab and Abihu have been cut off, the priesthood as it were revives. Even while Aaron is still before us in this very chapter we shall find a significant difference in his acts, which serves to connect him with the Eleazar ministry.

It is the priesthood in resurrection, then, that we find characteristically in Numbers. If it be said that we have had this already in the work of the day of atonement, when Aaron enters the sanctuary, it is true in a sense, no doubt but his action there is distinct, it is the application of the blood to the mercy-seat. The consequent priesthood in heaven, with all that flows from this, is not there shown us. The distinct power and value of this, so far as we may be given to utter it, will be seen as we go on.

There are three subdivisions here. The first of these, to the end of the nineteenth chapter, gives us the provision of grace in this priesthood, and its application to the need of the way. The second (Num. 20, 21) shows us the progress which under it the people are now able to make. In it they are brought, in fact, really to their journey's end not, of course, into Canaan itself, but just opposite it, and already in possession of the lauds of the kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og. The third subdivision, the prophecy of Balaam, starting from the present grace in which the people stand, looks boldly on into the future, to see the end of all enemies, and the rule of Him who is the Star out of Jacob, under whom their complete blessing shall be accomplished.

1. First, then, we have the sufficiency of the provision of grace. And here there are six sections, closely connected together, and as plainly separate from what follows, of which they furnish, however, the reason and justification.

(1) First, this one priesthood is to be fenced off from all intrusion. Judgment has already manifested this in the destruction of the men that offered incense. But of this the memorial is to be preserved: Eleazar (notice how at once we come to Eleazar) is told to take up the censers out of the burning, and of them are to be made plates for the covering of the altar, to be a warning against any intrusion of one not of the seed of Aaron into the priestly place.

(2) Next, we have the priesthood of Aaron confirmed practically in another outbreak of murmuring on the part of the congregation, who gather against Moses and against Aaron, with the charge that they had killed the people of Jehovah. The glory of the Lord appears, and pestilence breaks out among the people, which is stayed by Aaron's putting on incense and making atonement in this way for them. He stands between the dead and the living, and the plague is stayed. At first sight, the action is a strange one atonement, according to Leviticus, is by blood: here there is none, — no sacrifice of any kind, and yet atonement is made. Nor can the omission here be put along with such an offering as that of the fine flour, allowed for a sin-offering in the case of extreme poverty on the part of the offerer: here you would expect rather a bullock, — certainly not incense.

If we look more deeply, however, the strangeness of the action disappears, and we perceive how in a way beyond his own knowledge Moses was guided of God at this time. For the priesthood to which we have come, as we find in the next section, is marked by resurrection. Death, therefore, has been gone through and this implies atonement in that sense to have been made; and once made, it cannot be, and never needs to be, repeated. Interpreted according to Christian truth, we should say that Christ is in heaven: He has finished completely the work for sin, although He has not finished the work of intercession for His people. That intercession is just what is typified by the offering of incense; and thus all here is perfectly in place.

If it is asked, Why, then, is it called "making atonement"? this, from this stand-point, can be without much difficulty explained. We have seen that, according to the Old Testament, atonement could be over and over again made, and with the same blood. On the day of atonement it is put upon the mercy-seat and upon the altar alike, and in each case atonement is said to be made with it. This, to us so strange a thing, becomes simpler when we consider that the word "to make atonement" is the intensified form of the verb "to cover;" so that it would naturally take in the thought of the effect (as we should say) of atonement, as well as that of the making it. Thus the intercession of the risen Priest also, as effectually covering the sin of His redeemed, might in this sense be said to make atonement for it. Its power to do this does not set aside, but affirms, the value of His precious death.

To some, and those the most instructed in Christian truth, there may be here, however, a difficulty of another kind. They will think that this does not distinguish between priesthood and advocacy. Christ is, according to the New Testament, a Priest with God on account of His people's weakness, — an Advocate with the Father because of His people's sins (comp. Heb. 4:16 with 1 John 2:2.)

But I apprehend that this is a distinction which in the Old Testament we should not expect to find, inasmuch as there is in the Old Testament no revelation of the Father. In such things, the shadows of the law are "not the very image." The fundamental truth of Christ's intercession on the ground of His death is yet sufficiently preserved.

(3) Thus, then, the priesthood of Aaron is confirmed in the deliverance of the people from the effect of their sin. The third section now shows us the distinctive mark of this efficacious priesthood. Jehovah bids them bring near to Him, in the tent of witness, twelve rods, each rod with the name upon it of a representative man in their several tribes, and the rod of him whom He chose should blossom; Aaron's name standing for the tribe of Levi. "And it came to pass that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron, for the house of Levi, was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds."

The type of resurrection cannot be mistaken; but the almond gives more than this. We have already seen its significance in connection with the lamp-stand of the tabernacle. As the first tree that wakes up in the spring, its name in Hebrew signifies "the wakeful." It is the herald and pledge of the burst of life which follows. Christ risen is thus the "first-fruits of them that sleep:" rising alone, He yet cannot remain alone; and the risen Priest thus associates with Himself the great multitude of His own. Thus the virtue of the incense is explained by the fruitful rod: "it is Christ that died, — yea, rather, who is risen again, who also is at the right hand of God, who even maketh intercession for us." (Rom. 8:34.)

(4) Here there is One who is competent to carry His people through. Now, therefore, we see the "iniquity of the sanctuary" made to rest upon Him, "that there be no wrath upon the children of Israel." In the work of intercession, Aaron's house may share with Aaron, — the under-priests with the high-priest, only remembering well that it is the high-priest's rod that budded, and that ultimately all rests upon him. Thus He who died for us carries us on to full, final salvation, "in the power of an endless life." "He ever liveth to make intercession for us." With the value of a work done which is of infinite efficacy, we have also a hand of power which sustains us, — all put into His hand who is "Son over the house of God,"* every way divinely competent, at once "Jesus Christ the righteous, and the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 2:1, 2.)

{* Heb. 3:6; in the Greek, "His," — i.e., God's "house;" not "his own."}

Thus we have not simply the value of a work done which abides for us, nor even a living Person in whom we are accepted, although both these things are true; we have also One who, with abiding love in His heart toward us, measures out to us with holy and heavenly wisdom the riches that are in His gift.

(5) We have next the priest's recompense. Nor need we think this a thing unworthy of Christ Himself. True, "love seeketh not her own:" it is the spirit of self-sacrifice, not of self-interest, and we need not to be reminded that this was indeed, — this is, — the spirit of Christ. Yet, none the less, love has its joys and thus its rewards, such as are fully worthy of it. "Who for the joy that was set before Him," says the apostle, "endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb. 12:2.)

We shall, in general, easily gather the meaning of what is here; in which we find also once more the priestly house sharing with the head of it. First, their dues of the offerings of the people: what belonged to God Himself, but instead of going up to Him on the altar, became the portion of those who attended upon His altar. Here is seen Christ's joy in what is the expression of His people's faith, — in a faith which receives and embraces His blessed work, and assimilates the soul to that which it embraces.

Then, the first-fruits, the sign of ready harvest and the recognition of its Giver, — the blessing, and what alone preserves it as a blessing. With this, every devoted thing, and the firstling among beasts. In the land itself the priests were to have no inheritance. Their inheritance was God only; and so we may hear Christ's voice in the Psalms: "Jehovah is the measure of my portion," — so it should be read, — "and of my cup; Thou maintainest my lot: the lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; yea, my inheritance is fair to me." (Ps. 16:5, 6.)

Lastly, the Levite tithe: for the ministry pays its tribute to worship, and that of its best. In all this, that Christ should covet and should receive His part, is sweet to think.

(6) The provision of the water of purification from defilement with the dead closes this part; — again a pregnant instance of the spiritual meaning governing the arrangement of the whole book. Lange follows Keil in connecting the institution with the mortality which ensued upon the revolt of Korah. The latter says, "Now, so long as the mortality within the congregation did not exceed the natural limits, the traditional modes of purification would be quite sufficient. But when it prevailed to a hitherto unheard-of extent, in consequence of the sentence pronounced by God, the defilements would necessarily be so crowded together that the whole congregation would be in danger of being infected with the defilement of death, and of forfeiting its vocation to be the holy nation of Jehovah, unless God provided it the means of cleansing itself from this defilement, without losing the fellowship of His covenant of grace. The law which follows furnished the means." So Keil; but if truly such a mere temporary expedient, the ordinance of the red heifer only shows the more how "all these things happened unto them for types, and are written for our admonition." Defilement with death is evidently a special feature of this wilderness-book, and we have thus met with it in the law of the Nazarite, and in the provision of a second passover. Death is, in fact, what characterizes the world as a wilderness, not a permanent abode, nor able to sustain life; and it defiles because it is the penalty of sin. In all over which death rules, therefore, it is the lesson here, there is defilement for the living — typically, for those that have what is really life before God; and this is what decline, in whatever form or degree, in the child of God bears witness of, that he has slipped away from the joy of his own heavenly portion, and that, as the apostle puts it (Phil. 3:19), he "minds" — he affects — "earthly things." It is this, and the remedy for it, that this ordinance of the red heifer sets before us: thus not a mere incidental matter, but the very thing which is in question all the wilderness-history through. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this," says another inspired writer: "to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep one's self unspotted from the world." (James 1:27.)

The "red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish," of course, is Christ: there could be no other answering to this, nor capable of putting away defilement from the soul. The female animal is taken, no doubt, as the type of passivity, will-lessness; in this, as the red color shows, "obedient unto death." In this, too, the patient servant of God, as the heifer intimates, yet, as without spot or blemish, so without yoke, — for a yoke implies always something of discipline and enforced subjection, impossible in Him. How beautifully all this speaks of One the opposite of those for whom He is offered, and whose obedience unto death is not only as sacrifice to put away our sins, but as example also, to endear obedience to our hearts!

The sin-offering character is plain: the heifer is brought forth without the camp and slain in the presence of Eleazar, its blood sprinkled toward the tent of meeting — presented in this way to God. The whole body, even with the rest of the blood, is burned; and into the midst of the burning are cast cedar-wood, hyssop, and scarlet, things the significance of which we have seen in connection with the cleansing of the leper in Leviticus. There, the glory of the world is viewed as stained with the blood of Christ; here, it disappears, for faith, in the judgment of the cross: the world is crucified unto us, and we unto the world. (Gal. 6.)

A man that is clean now gathers the ashes of the heifer, and they are laid up in a clean place outside the camp, to be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel, for a water of purification.

Here is the essential difference between this and all other offerings: it is an offering once offered which (ideally, at least,) never needs to be renewed. In all other cases, if any man sinned, fresh blood had to be shed, a fresh sacrifice to be made; but in this, the virtue remained of what had already been offered: the ashes were the memorial of an already accepted work. How suited is this to the place in which we find this ordinance, where we have before us the resources of a resurrection-priesthood, such as we have seen Eleazar directly typifies, although care is taken also to identify it with that of Aaron. Eleazar accordingly appears throughout; not, surely, (as Keil and others conclude,) because the high-priest had to keep apart from the defilement of death; here as elsewhere it is the spiritual meaning which necessarily governs all. The reason can only be found in the character of the priesthood itself, which is here emphasized.

Death itself, in the wisdom of God, becomes the remedy for death, and deliverance from the power of it. In the death of Christ, the believer passes out of the region of death — out of the world, — is dead to it, and no more of it. But here, the power of resurrection must be known, in order that we may be practically cleansed from its pollution: for the cleansing from defilement here, running — literally, living — water was to be put into a vessel with the ashes, and a clean person was to sprinkle it upon the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day. The third day is emphasized as the resurrection-day: "if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean." The Spirit of God is, of course, as always, typified by the "living water: He it is who, bringing the soul into the apprehension of association with Christ in resurrection, makes the death of the cross effectual in purifying us from the world. Still the man is not really clean until the evening of the seventh day, — that is, ready for the eighth. The eighth is the beginning of a new week, the entrance into new creation, the sphere into which resurrection brings us: old things are passed away, and the new eternal things have become our portion.

Vividly the defiling power of the world is set before us: "This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent: all who come into the tent, and all that are in the tent, are unclean seven days; and every open vessel, that hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean; and whoever toucheth one that is slain with the sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, is unclean seven days." Whatever the unclean man toucheth also is unclean. And so dangerous is the occupation with evil, even when in a right way and of necessity we have to do with it, that he who sprinkled the water of purification must wash his clothes; and he that touched the water was unclean until the even. All this should not need interpretation: it does imply a jealousy over ourselves to be needful, such as we are often little up to. And when, as now in the newspapers of the day, all that the world is full of is spread day by day before men, how great must be the effect of this for those that have not, as Job had, made a covenant with their eyes!

Here ends, then, the provision of grace, — six sections, not seven, ending with victory over that in us which tends to lead the child of God away from God, but not yet the Sabbath-rest that awaits us. We are only on a journey yet: now, however, to make progress in it, — speedy, as we shall see, and sure, although failure also there still may be. Scripture must be (as to its histories) a terribly disappointing book for a perfectionist. Thank God, it is full of a better glory, which he that has eyes for it may everywhere see.

2. From the first arrival in Kadesh until the period we now reach, almost the whole of the forty years have passed, which were entailed upon the people by their refusal at that time to enter into Canaan. The almost entire silence as to this time in the history is significant. It is the time of the dying out of the generation under sentence, and in it also (though not as involved in the same sentence) Miriam and Aaron pass away. But they pass to make room for those who now in the power of God are to take possession of the land of promise. In these two chapters, with a sudden energy, all enemies overcome, they press forward to its very borders, the land of Sihon and Og coming also into their hands. Thus we have seven sections, completing the journey.

(1) "I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants," says God by Micah to the people; "and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam." But now death begins to deal with this trio of leaders. Miriam first departs; and shortly after, Moses and Aaron receive their sentence. The people are still in the wilderness, and murmuring as of old: there would seem no advance, no difference, yet now it is that the sufficiency and perpetuity of the provision become apparent for them. The rod of priesthood which is before God He bids Moses take, and speaking to the rock, it will give forth its water. There is no need now of smiting: that has been done long since, and the efficacy of it abides. How this connects with the lesson of the incense, and the one offering of the red heifer, unrepeated, is seen easily. The sufficiency of priesthood results from the abiding efficacy of accomplished atonement, and he who dishonors this cannot bring the people into the land. As at the former Meribah, toward the people, spite their murmuring, all is grace, — a grace which Moses' ill-advised words and action seriously misrepresent. God's resentment of the interference shows how grace is yet supreme, and how jealously He upholds its supremacy. Moses even must be set aside if he is not loyal to it.*

{*The resemblance of the scene at Kadesh to that in Rephidim is surely intended to be noticed, and brings the more into notice the points of contrast. May not the substantial typical identity account for the apostle's words, They drank of that spiritual rock that followed them; and that rock was Christ"? while the difference between the first smiting and the after-speaking is thus brought out. For the believer, the abiding Spirit is thus witness that atonement is made once for all. That the rod used was here Aaron's rod of priesthood, not Moses', with which he had done signs in Egypt, the connection seems to show, as well as the fact that it was taken from before the Lord.}

Thus Jehovah was sanctified in the people when they strove with Him. Nothing is more holy than that grace which alone produces and secures holiness. "Sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not under the law, but under grace." The Spirit of God here typified in the water is the Spirit of holiness, and it springs for us from that work of Christ which bears most complete witness to the holiness of God: "But Thou art holy," is the utterance of the patient Sufferer, and the explanation of that forsaking of the Righteous One which in the ways of God had not its equal in mystery. But the Holy One must dwell among the praises of Israel. (Ps. 22.)

(2) Under grace like this, the people may go on their way. But as soon as they start, they find opposition also which they cannot directly overcome. Right in their path, as it would seem, lies the territory of Edom, and Moses sends messengers from Kadesh, claiming brotherly relation, and seeking a path by the king's highway through their land. They are ready to bind themselves by compact to do nothing but pass through. They will turn neither to the right nor to the left. If they drink of the water of their wells, they will pay for it. To all this they obtain for answer but a flat and surly refusal; and when it is thought they will press their suit in person, Edom comes out against them with a high hand.

"Edom" is only "Adam" slightly changed. The meaning is the same; the vowels change very easily in Hebrew. The flesh assumes many a disguise, — soon detected, however, by the infallible touch-stone, Christ. Edom is now a nation, under government, civilized, and what not; but it has no good will to the people of God. This long, narrow, mountainous strip of land looks like nothing so much as a barricade thrown up by giant hands to keep the pilgrim-people out of Canaan. It may indeed be asked, Why could not they have gone up by the way of the spies, — through the south, and by Hebron? and some have answered that by the flank march they followed, they cut the Canaanites in two at Jericho. Perhaps; but from our point of view, the scriptural canon is "Now all these things happened unto them for types;" and that the river Jordan, — the river of death, — though dried up for the people of God, is God's way for us into heaven. It is through the death of Christ, and as dead and risen with Him, that we find our place in the heavenlies. This it will be the fitting place, however, to take up elsewhere, if the Lord permit, when we come to their actual entrance in the book of Joshua.

In the way that they go now, Edom is evidently the great barrier. Less than twenty miles across it is more than six times the distance to go round. And not only so, there were in this way a king's highway and wells of water; how pleasant an alternative to the pathless desert-route! But Edom is there in force, and he will not permit it. Nor can you change this enmity into friendship; and so exactly with the flesh: "the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be:" "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary, the one to the other." (Rom. 8:7; Gal. 5:17.) Thus the barrier is there; and that, though many refuse to believe in any irredeemable old nature such as this within the Christian, and claim kinship, and would fain make a brother out of Edom. It cannot be.

What, then, is the remedy? To force a passage through? For the conquerors of Canaan, that ought to be no supremely difficult task. Nay, with God with them, it is certain that every enemy must give place. So, too, with the Spirit of God dwelling in the Christian: who could deny the omnipotence of that Spirit against which the flesh lusts?

But the apostle's exhortation is different. It is not to war against the flesh, but "walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh." Israel here were to walk where the cloud led; but the cloud never led them through Edom. Had this been His way, could He have allowed the enemy to have barred it? Of course not; and so exactly with the Spirit's leading now. It is a lesson we have had in other ways before, nowhere clearer and more distinct than here, where the path of progress is seen to be (all the more through Israel's vain overtures), not through Edom's territory, but around it. Reckoning one's self dead to sin is neither ignoring it nor fighting it: it is turning away. Conflict is not to be maintained with Edom: that with Amalek we have already discussed in its own place. (Ex. 17.)

(3) And now Aaron passes away, and gives place to Eleazar: priesthood is seen henceforth wholly in its resurrection-form. We might have expected this, according to the type, before; but examination will show, as elsewhere, that all is perfectly in place. At the very beginning of the division, as we have seen, Eleazar takes a foremost place; yet it is Aaron who puts on incense and stops the plague. It is He who as Priest offered up Himself whose intercession avails with God. The continuity of the priesthood is thus maintained: otherwise there might seem to be a breach; Aaron is the head of priesthood, in fact, on this account, and it is his rod, therefore, that blossoms. Eleazar derives all from Aaron, — only continues Aaron's work in a new form, and Aaron may without loss of dignity give way to him. Eleazar, therefore, now is seen again at the preparation of the ashes of the heifer of purification. At the failure at Meribah Aaron again appears, but here only to share in his brother's sin and be set aside, — a failure which is only personal to himself, officially there is none; but it would not have done for Eleazar to have been cut off from Canaan. In the overtures to Edom, there is no place for either; and now, at Mount Hor, Aaron yields, as we see, his priesthood to Eleazar.

We have not to interpret his failure; alas! we are at no loss to understand this: but why is it at Hor that he departs? should there not be meaning in this? The canon which is alone worthy of Scripture is that there is meaning EVERYWHERE; and in this case it is striking enough that the names Aaron" (which is really "Aharon" and "Hor" are from the same root. Thus "Hor" is oftenest interpreted as signifying "mountain," while "Aaron" is said to signify "mountainous." If these be the meanings indeed, I am able to discern no spiritual meaning in them; but there is an alternative: indeed, the fundamental meaning of the root from which they are derived is that of "swelling," and so "conception." "Aaron" has been suggested even to mean "progenitor," — more literally, "pregnant," and "Hor" would be the same thing. Can it be that Aaron passing away at Hor does but come to the significance of his name?

For if Aaron's replacement by Eleazar be indeed but the manifestation of his own fruitfulness, — if the heavenly priesthood be but the fruit of the blessed work of the priesthood of the cross, then the names are indeed full of meaning, and fruitful Aaron becomes fruitful indeed in his successor: the priesthood shows its power in this transition from an earthly to a heavenly sphere.

It will be asked, perhaps, But was it not Aaron (not Eleazar) who went into the holiest on the day of atonement? Most certainly; for it is the power of the work on earth that has opened heaven, and sprinkled the mercy-seat. But Aaron, nevertheless, does not give us there the true heavenly Priest. He but does his work and comes out. Of course, the vail is never rent throughout Judaism: yet in another way Eleazar does typify the heavenly priesthood of the One risen out of death.

All, then, is significant; everywhere there is entire accuracy and perfect beauty, which will assuredly only come out the more, the more closely and believingly we examine it.

(4) The first victory of the new generation, a presage of many soon to follow, now takes place. The king of Arad, dwelling in the south of Canaan, himself a Canaanite, hears that they are coming into the land by the way of the spies; and he fights with them, taking a few prisoners. Israel then vow a vow unto Jehovah, that, if He will deliver them into their hands, they will destroy their cities. Accordingly they prevail against them, and put their cities under the ban.

The generation before had been beaten on this very battle-ground, and by this very people, as it would seem: at all events, Canaanites, — those with whom were to be the final battles for the land, in which Arad itself was. Hence Israel's victory now was not only the sign of recovery from their former state, but a pledge of the conquest of the land also. These Canaanites stand for those "spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12, R.V.) who now seek to keep us from the possession in faith of what is ours in heaven; and who, as the "world-rulers of this darkness," use the world and the things of it to deprive the soul of heavenly light. The book of Joshua introduces us fully to this conflict, which, according to God, is a conflict without compromise. Israel devote their cities to the ban, and God is with them and delivers up the Canaanites. Thus the first part of this septenary series concludes in victory.

(5) But as yet there is no rest, and victory itself does not seem to accomplish much. They have had to turn from the near road through Edom, and exchange its prospect of ease and speedy progress for the waterless desert with its iron walls. Again murmuring breaks out in the host, and they speak against God and against Moses, and complain of the divinely given manna as "light bread." Thereupon "Jehovah sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died."

From the serpent's bite, indeed, man has got the poison which is in him and consuming him; and the judgment here, as all divine judgments, is a revelation of the evil upon which it comes. Not circumstances beget this murmuring, be the circumstances what they may: the seriousness of the evil is that it is from within, not from without, and that it is of the serpent — satanic. For Satan is the adversary and accuser, and we have learned from him to believe, not in God's love, but in His enmity to us. Hence the mystery of His ways — our opportunity to trust Him — becomes effectual argument for unbelief. The sands of the desert nourish serpents, if not much beside.

But now we have a word little heard in Israel, the word of confession: "We have sinned against Jehovah and against thee." How good when we can weigh ourselves thus in the sanctuary-balances, and bring to God our bekah of "half-weight" (Ex. 30:13.) Now, then, God declares the remedy: "Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall be that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live." Here our Lord's words in the gospel leave us in no doubt whatever of the interpretation: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so also must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This Lange strangely calls "the profoundest, but also most obscure application of the passage." There is, in fact, no other application worth mentioning than this, which illuminates the whole subject. How good it is that we should have an authoritative exposition of that the obscurity of which arises from this strange juxtaposition of Christ and the serpent. But the cross is indeed the obscurity which enlightens every thing, — the contradiction by which all things else are reconciled.

We may, nay, we should ask, How does Christ lifted up upon the cross compare with this serpent lifted up? If we take the clue that we have already got, and follow it whither it may lead us, we shall find assuredly how self-consistent is the truth, and how confidently we may entrust ourselves everywhere to these clues which are everywhere held out to us.

Lange indeed speaks of it as a "dead, mechanical principle of hermeneutics, according to which the same image (e.g., the leaven) must always represent the same thing." This too must be understood aright, or one could not defend it. If Christ be compared to a lion, and Satan to a lion, it is plain that the same symbol may have in this way a good or evil application. That attribute of the lion, who "goeth about, seeking whom he may devour," could only be applied on the one side, and not on the other. But no one would be likely to mistake in this. On the other hand, when Lange takes the serpents here as indicating, "not the sins of Israel, but the counteracting agency of the sins — the punishment," he confounds the fact with the figure, and loses altogether the serpent out of the picture. Not being consistent in this either, it is true that he also introduces it again.

But we must adhere to this consistently throughout, that the serpent represents him who is the "old serpent, the devil, or Satan," God making the chastening judgment to reveal the evil which has necessitated it, as already said. The brazen serpent is, then, first of all, to quote Keil's words, "intended as a figurative representation of the poisonous serpents, rendered harmless by the mercy of God. For God did not cause a real serpent to be taken, but the image of a serpent, in which the fiery serpent was stiffened, as it were, into dead brass, as a sign that the deadly poison of the fiery serpent was overcome in this brazen serpent."

Disease and death were abroad among the people through the bite of the fiery serpent, corruption ending in eternal death is for men at large the result of the fall, — of Satan's venom infused into the race. Now the Son of Man is lifted up from the earth — separated from men in death, a passive Sufferer; on the other hand, the Son of God, the Only-Begotten, the Father's love-gift, — that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Death, as man's portion judicially from God, is met, for believers, by His sacrificial death.

Corruption of nature is met by that gift of everlasting life, a true life in the Son of God, which results, for man, in a new, divine nature, and the beginning of which is in a new birth. The remedy for the serpent-venom in our veins is this cross of Christ, in which He, lifted up, draws men to Him. Who can murmur at his circumstances with the patient form of the Son of Man before his eyes? who doubt his God who has given Christ for him? Thus the life which has come to us out of death is sustained and invigorated, the serpent paralyzed, and man is preserved to walk with God in peace. This is the way to "compass the land of Edom," — the divine method of the circumvention of the flesh.

(6) And now we come to the account of the journeying, certain stages only being marked out, and the list, with few exceptions, different from that in Num. 33, which has a different purpose. Here, the encampments give us, no doubt, stages of true progress, although (to our shame it must be said) we can tell little about them. They are, however, nine in number (3 x 3), the number of divine manifestation intensified. Gloriously they will speak for God one day, as the history of our lives will. Meanwhile we have been busier fixing their places on the map (and failing) than in seeking in them any spiritual significance. As to all but two, we have little beside the names, which I give with their meanings, though even as to these there will be differences of judgment: —
1. Oboth: either "hollows" or "[water-] skins."
2. Ije-Abarim: "heaps of the passages."
3. Zared: "willow."
4. Arnon: "continual stream" (?) Lit., "the stream that propagates itself."
5. Beer: "the well."
6. Mattanah: "gift."
7. Nahaliel: "the inheritance of God (El)."
8. Ramoth: "heights."
9. Pisgah: "survey."

The end, at least, is clear: — thank God, the end is clear! — they reach the spot where the land, their own land, stretches before them; and they are able to look back, too, over the desert passed.

For the rest, only the fourth and fifth stages are at all dwelt upon. The fourth is marked as the boundary of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites, the latter territory now to become their own. Here we have a fragment of song, little understood, and therefore giving much scope for criticism. From its being a quotation from the "book of Jehovah's wars," it would certainly seem a battle-song, especially coming in this place where in fact they had to do battle. Mere geography would be tame enough. Yet the common version is generally given up, with its reference (otherwise suitable enough) to the Red-Sea passage, and "Vaheb" is taken to be a proper name, though elsewhere unknown as such, and yielding no plain meaning. The Septuagint give "Zoob," from which some critics, comparing it with Deut. 1:1, infer that we should read "Zaheb," the "Di" of "Dizahab" being separable from the rest; and this may be the truth of the matter, the only difference being between v and z. In this case, it means "gold," and the full name "lord" — or perhaps "plenty — of gold."

The voice of song breaks out again at Beer: Israel's heart is filling up now, and new mercies awake it. They are now traveling in a land of frequent streams, and there is no more complaint of lack of water. They know God better also, and if there be apparent need, they have learned how near the water lies to them, and can be trusted more to their own labor to secure it for them. After all, the labor is but holiday-work; a ruler's staff can dig deep enough for the purpose. Here they celebrate the way the princes dug: happy employment when rule is thus loving service, and the outflow of the Spirit is the issue of endeared ministry! Blessed are they that give and they that receive!

(7) In the last section, we go back, as is plain: the people have hardly, if at all, crossed the border of Moab before war breaks out. It is Jehovah's war, as we have seen; and now already Israel begin to take possession, before they have crossed Jordan. This is, again, a difficult section to read aright, and our difficulties display our little skill in these divine enigmas. Few even realize them to be that, and see little more in them than pictures of rude times and scraps of ancient history. The German commentators in general one might suppose to belong to some society of antiquarians. and the "higher criticism" among ourselves does but poorly, if not slavishly, follow these. Our very grammars and dictionaries, with which of necessity we have to work, are mostly compiled by rationalists and unbelievers; and those that are not such can yet scarcely escape from the pervading influence. What other book than the glorious Word of God could come through the ordeal of being left thus in the hands of half friends or undisguised enemies, and after all manifest the living power that it does today?

Right across their way now, and meaning to bar the way to Canaan, lie two Amorite kings — of the nations that they are to meet afterward in the land itself, — Sihon, king of the Amorites, who dwells at Heshbon, and Og, himself of the race of the giants, king of Bashan. Can we point out, even approximately, the spiritual powers that are indicated here?

Their lands do not lie in Canaan proper, which is all across the river, the type of the heavenly inheritance, the other side of death. When the two and a half tribes, therefore, at a later time, propose not to go over Jordan, but to take their inheritance in the fertile plains of the eastern side, Moses opposes it as rebellion against God. He afterward indeed withdraws his opposition; but the fact remains that these tribes settle down in what is typically the wrong side of death — not heaven, bet earth.

Yet their possessions have been acquired by conquest, and according to God. "Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before thee," is Jehovah's word to Moses: "begin to possess, that thou mayest inherit his land." (Deut. 2:31.) Of their right to possess, then, there can be no question.

How, then, possess it? The final division, as it will be in the fast coming day, may surely enlighten us here. In Ezek. 48, we have the partition of the land among the tribes from east to west: each, therefore, pointing across the Jordan, the seat of the tribe being thus in the land, with a dependency, as it would seem, on the other side of the river. How perfectly is the earthly the type of the heavenly in this! In heaven our portion is; and yet, in the coming day, to reign with Christ over the earth makes our allotments stretch in the self-same manner across the river.

But we belong to heaven: to settle down short of that is to do as the two and a half tribes did; and so has Christendom done: it has reigned on earth before it could reign with Christ, and has become earthly. Yet, as with Reuben and his brother-tribes, it reigns over what it has conquered: its conquests alone make possible its reign. Nay, it reigns, in a certain sense, by its own right; just as, by a perfectly natural evolution, the little seed becomes a tree, in our Lord's parable. None the less is the tree the type of Babylon the Great (Dan. 4); and just as naturally the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches of it. (Matt. 13:4, 19, 32.)

In one application, therefore, the kingdoms of Sihon and Og represent the world that Christianity has conquered; and these two kings would represent the powers of the world in resistance to it. Thus far it is easy to go; but it does not help us much with the individual application except we can go further. Can we more nearly approach the ideas represented in Sihon and Og?

Alas! in man as gone astray from God, it is the whole man that resists the truth of God. The lusts of his flesh lead him away on the one hand, the darkened mind rejects the light on the other. The wisdom of the world is foolishness with God, while to it the heavenly wisdom of the cross is equally foolishness. And these two things — the wisdom of the world and the lusts of the flesh — are what, in the first epistle to the Corinthians, the apostle takes up as enemies to the Church of God, thus in conflict with the powers of evil. And this is truly man in his whole being, apart from conscience, which indeed will speak for God, where not stupefied — "commending ourselves," says the apostle again, "to every man's conscience in the sight of God." (2 Cor. 4:2.)

Mind, then, and heart, — spirit and soul, — in both these man is opposed to God. In both Satan rules, a double kingdom of the Amorites, may we not say? For these Canaanitish nations most surely represent, as the book of Joshua shows in detail, the "spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places," with which we are in present conflict. Here it would seem as if we might have a clue which it would be well to follow.

"Amorites" nearly all the learned now follow the lead of Simonis in supposing to mean "mountaineers;" and this, says Grove, "is quite in accordance with the notices in the text, which, except in a few instances, speak of the Amorites as dwelling in the elevated portions of the country. In this respect they are contrasted with the Canaanites, who were the dwellers in the lowlands; and the two thus formed the main broad divisions of the Holy Land." Spite of the consensus of commentators, this does not, however, seem so sure. "Canaanite" can hardly be "lowlander" as distinct from "Amorite," "highlander," when Canaan is the father of all, and "Canaanite" is too firmly identified with the thought of "trader" to allow the separation. Keil disputes both derivations, saying that "the derivation [of 'Amorite'] from amir, 'summit,' is not established." Indeed, no such word is in the Bible, according to which the Amorites would rather be "talkers," a meaning to which the terrible words of the epistle of James are not needed to give a bad sense. "Our tongues are our own," is the very language of rebellion; who is lord over us?"

If there be the difference between these two — Sihon and Og — that has been suggested, then it is hardly possible to doubt what is represented by Og, whose name, though taken generally to be "long-necked,"* (no doubt, because of its suitability to a giant,) can only rightly mean, as it would appear, "a cake baked in the ashes." He is king of Bashan, or the Bashan, "the fertile," and his strong city is Edrei, "plenty of pasture;" while he dwells in Ashtaroth, a city named after the Phoenician Venus, who was worshiped with shameful rites. When to this is added that the only relic of him is a monstrous bed, all is said of him perhaps that can be, and enough, it may be, to identify him with the spirit of luxury and effeminacy, the second enemy of the church at Corinth. That this Og is a giant, alas! we too well know: many a strong man has been cast down by him.

{*In this way, akin to Anak, but which requires to be from Oneq transformed to Oneg, and then contracted into Og.}

What, then, is Sihon? and can he correspond in any wise to the evil of the spirit, the wisdom of the world? There is not much agreement as to his name, though what seems to be most legitimately from the Hebrew root is "sweeping off," perhaps, "refuse," "off-scouring," as the wisdom of the world is which would thus count God's wisdom. Or, it may be, actively "sweeping away," as pride of intellect would the things of God. He is constantly spoken of as king of Heshbon where he dwelt, a word which in our common version is only given as "account," "device," or "reason." It certainly gives the thought of mental work. He comes out to meet Israel at Jahatz, which from the Arabic is given by Gesenius as "a place trodden down," probably a "threshing-floor." While according to the song of victory, the pursuit ends at Medeba, "quiet waters."

Thus the meaning of the names (and we have little else to interpret by) would seem to justify the application we have suggested. Both of these kings — Sihon and Og — occupy a land which by the gift of God Israel may seize and hold, — nay, should do so. Reason is not to be given up because Satan is using it against the truth of God; and natural blessings are not to be refused because men make of them carnality and disorder. Whatever God has given may be taken from His hand without suspicion, if it be indeed from His hand. Here there is room for question, — yea, need of most jealous care. That which is not from His hand, whatever it be, is stolen goods, not honestly our own, and blessed it cannot be.

3. And now, the people being thus just at their journey's end, we find the glory that is their rearward (Isa. 58:8) manifesting itself for them, the last challenge of the enemy thrown back, — yea, the unwilling mouth of a foe made to pronounce their blessing. The voice of prophecy awakes, and in a strange and startling manner, to make the triumph more complete, a divine oracle breaks forth out of the bosom of heathenism, announcing the fullness of the grace with which God has visited His people. That it is after the wilderness-journey has been completed, — after their sad history has testified to the uttermost against them, — when judgment upon judgment from God has made known His displeasure at their sins, — this makes only the wonder of the grace the more, and the perfectness of the salvation. After all this, seen in the vision of God, there is no stain upon them, no accusation can prevail against them. Only thus the more "shall it be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!" Blessed be this God of Jacob, who is our God! and this salvation in all its fullness is our own.

(1) The subdivision has two sections, in the first of which we have a study, so to speak, of the prophet himself; in order that we may the more realize the greatness of the prophecy. We see the man, and the influences by which he is moved; and they are all of the earth, if not rather satanic; but over all this is a mightier power, the power of God Himself, in whose hands he may struggle, but unavailingly, whose will, spite of himself, he must accomplish. All the infatuation is seen with which man labors to achieve his own everlasting ruin; the outbreak of conscience, and the strange softening of a heart that nevertheless persistently hardens itself against God: a mysterious, terrible struggle, in which the soul, without Satan being permitted to break in, decides for itself its destiny. Yet we see also how completely God is sovereign in a world of deadliest opposition to Him. The play of adverse forces are but as the balance-wheels of a perfect mechanism which submits itself entirely to the control of a master, so that he can look on and predict with unerring precision all that shall be.

Balak, king of the Moabites, it is who, alarmed at the victories of the Israelites, sends for Balaam to curse the people. "Balak" seems to mean "waster," a name in designed contrast, as it would appear, with his genealogy, being but ben-Zippor, "son of a sparrow." What grandiloquent titles do men assume to cover their real insignificance! and how much more do they glory in power for destruction, — in being a Caesar or a Napoleon, — than in the angels' message of peace and good will! Balaam the son of Beor answers to this Balak as in all respects a fit associate. He is a "devourer of the people," son of the "consumer," sought for his skill in cursing, and ready for a bribe to destroy a nation out of hand. No doubt he professes fealty to Jehovah, but without real knowledge of Him, as his acts plainly show. In his efforts to destroy the people of God, it cannot be even pleaded that he hates them: he would only destroy them in cool blood for gain.

Balak's first embassy is, however, unsuccessful: Jehovah refuses, as he tells the messengers, to give him leave to go. He makes no secret of it that his own will is good enough, while he conceals the fact that God has shown him that the people are blessed. Balak has reason to suppose that with more pressure he will come; for it was notorious that the gods of the heathen could be made compliant. He sends more and more honorable representatives: Balaam must let nothing hinder him from coming; for indeed he will promote him to very great honor. Balaam protests that he is strictly bound by Jehovah's will; yet desires his own, and God leaves him to it, only making him understand that after all he must speak His word alone: and Balaam goes.

Upon the road occurs that which has provoked the wonder of unbelief at all times. God's anger is kindled because he goes, and the angel of Jehovah takes his stand in the way as an adversary against him. There is no great need for wonder here. While on the one hand there were purposes to be served by Balaam's presence with the king of Moab, that did not in the least affect the state of soul which provoked the anger of God. Balaam needs a warning, and God deals with him much as He had dealt with Moses forty years before, only that now, instead of Zipporah and the stone of circumcision, He uses the ass, less insensate than himself, to save and rebuke him.

Of course, there is a miracle here, as there is not in the other case: for that it would be presumption to apologize. The strangeness of it was the more calculated to work upon a heart hardened to ordinary appeals, to humble him by making him realize how far he had sunk below the brute, whose actions were such things as his divinations assumed power to interpret; while the mercy of God, thus breaking through the natural boundary-lines to convict and save him, should have broken down with them every barrier of sin and unbelief. The extraordinary means used here are witness to the state of soul to which they were appropriate, and on the other hand to the infinite pity of God which could not use even one like this as a mere machine to accomplish His purposes without laboring after his soul. An ass's voice may indeed thus be made, not merely human, but divine.

(2) The prophecy of Balaam divides, as is evident, into four parts, the last part dividing again into four. Keil has rightly pointed out that the three points of view from which the blessings are pronounced are nearer and nearer to the camp, and in more and more complete view of it. In the first place, Balak takes him to the heights of Baal, that he may see from thence the utmost part, or "end" of the people. This does not mean, as some would make it, the whole of the people to their utmost end: it is not the fair sense of the words, and takes away, as we may easily see, from the spiritual significance which everywhere in Scripture governs all. Balak's first effort is to diminish them in Balaam's eyes, — he would not have him see too much. And this gives emphasis to what Balaam says, "Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel?" The end camp was just the fourth part, and instead of the partial nature of the view being allowed to diminish the greatness of the people, it just moves him to say, "If only the end is so much, what must be the whole?"

In the next place, Balak takes him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, — plainly the place for a good view; but here occurs a mistake in the common version, which has caused the blunder as to the extent of what was seen at first. Balak is here made to say, "Come, I pray thee, with me unto another place, from whence thou mayest see them: thou shalt see but the utmost part of them, and shalt not see them all." Now here Balak plainly at least makes the "utmost part" or "end" to be not the whole. But this is just what Balaam had seen before. A very simple alteration sets all right. Future and present are the same tense in Hebrew; and we have but, with Keil, to read the present instead of the future: "thou seest but the utmost part of them," instead of "thou shalt see." From the place where he had been standing, he had seen but the utmost part of them; now Balak is going to show him all. He thinks he made a mistake before, and that was the reason perhaps he had not succeeded; for divination depended upon what was before the eyes. What force, then, does this give to the announcement when Balaam is looking over the whole camp, from one end to the other, "God hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob"! How it would spoil this to suppose that Balaam had here only got a partial view! Balak might have said, "Balaam, you may see no spot there, but there are plenty elsewhere." Now it is impossible to say, so. Look where you will: those whom God has justified cannot be condemned.

But now he comes nearer still, and from the top of Peor, Balaam sees the people abiding in their tents according to their tribes; and the nearer he gets, the more profound is the impression made on him: now he says, "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob!" The nearer vision you have of the people of God, the more fully you will realize the wonder of their blessing.

But we must take up the prophecy in order.

From the heights of Baal, little can yet be seen: it is a place entirely given to the worship of Satan under this name, with which the history of Israel afterward makes us terribly familiar. They worshiped demons upon such far-off heights, for they knew nothing of him who delights to dwell with his redeemed people. "Thou shalt call Me Ishi," my husband, Jehovah says by Hosea, "and thou shalt no more call Me Baali," my Lord; "for I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name." (Hosea 2:16, 17.) How fain would God have us know that He has a heart!

Yet even from the stand-point of the enemy it is to be seen that the people of God are different from other people, and the curse that he would have hurled dies unuttered on Balaam's lips. Jacob, the supplanter, cannot be cursed; and Israel, God's prince, cannot be defied. El, the Mighty One, has not cursed! Jehovah — truth-keeping covenant-God — has not defied! And as he bows before God, right in the stronghold of the enemy, the top of the rocks give him unobstructed view. He sees with the vision of God, not from the low level, where the view is partial and obstructed by the things of earth, and he sees that the people dwell alone, — separate from others, because God has marked them off they are not reckoned among the nations. This, of course, is said of Israel, and true of them; but how much more deeply significant of that Church of the living God whose type Israel is, and to which we belong! "Ye are not of the world," says the Lord Himself to us, "but I have chosen you out of the world." And to the Father He says of us, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." This not being reckoned among the nations is of course from God's side, His grace and His gift. The people might not be true to their calling; nor were they: the Church of God has not been true to hers. This does not lessen the value of a truth which comes foremost here in the vision of the people of God. "They dwell alone," says God. The many, alas! now seem anxious to deny this. In denying it, they leave out God, for God dwells with His people; but with the world He cannot dwell. "Can two walk together except they are agreed?" — a question asked by God Himself, and which He supposes can be answered only in one way.

Yet God is true, and He counts not His people with the world. Blessed be God, the cross of Christ is that by which we are separated from it irrevocably. There is a "great gulf fixed," though with a bridge over it yet, and a door that opens freely, yet only one way. The men of the world are not shut out from the city of refuge, — yea, God beseeches still to flee for refuge to the hope that the gospel gives.

Now comes the increase: "Who can count the dust of Jacob?" Jacob, of course, is himself here compared to "dust." It is a figure of humiliation; but then he needs humiliation just as surely as he is Jacob. He finds it, too, because he needs it, — because God is faithful; but he increases in this way amazingly. Even in this way also he is separated from the world, enduring chastening because he is a son; and thus, in result, "Israel" comes forth with increase. And the picture of men to whom all things contrary work for good, moves even the heart of Balaam: "Let me die the death of the upright, and let my last end be like his." But, as Matthew Henry says, many would be saints in heaven who have no desire to be saints on earth.

The place of the second prophecy is the field of Zophim on the top of Pisgah. "Zophim" means "watchers," for whom Pisgah, with its width of view, was just the right place. Balak knew all about this place, of course; and many a keen and jealous eye, no doubt had watched the camp from thence. All the more, as we have seen, it suits the purpose of God to bring out His thoughts as to His people. And now Balaam comes back from his eager hunt after auguries, to proclaim the irreversibleness of His decrees: "God is not man, that He should lie; nor son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not perform? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it stand? Behold," says the abashed and confounded man, "I have received commandment to bless; yea, He hath blessed, and I cannot reverse it." And then comes the astonishing declaration as to the people whose history the Spirit of God has been tracing out in the way we have already seen: "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a King is among them."

Of course, this is the blessed truth of justification. He does not say, There hath been no iniquity; God could not say that: He says He hath not beheld it. Every Christian heart knows why: it is because He has seen the precious blood which has been shed for sin. Could He speak of it as there, when the blood of Christ has blotted it out from before Him? Justification is of the ungodly; owns, therefore, that we have been ungodly. "Christ died for the ungodly:" that which declares the guilt removes it.

But the words "iniquity" and "perverseness" of the common version are susceptible of a rendering closer to the original, and which gives a fuller significance to what is said. It may seem, indeed, otherwise, and that to substitute "vanity" for "iniquity" takes from the blessedness of what is here. Vanity, in our apprehension of it, is not at all the same as sin; and yet in Scripture it is often put for it. The "workers of iniquity" — a common expression in the Psalms — is literally, "workers of vanity." "Worthlessness," perhaps, comes nearer the double sense of the original, and here the fullest sense is true that we can give to it: sin, and that which sin has wrought, redemption has to say to; and in God's sight, His people have not spot or wrinkle. "Thou art all fair, my love," says the Bridegroom of the Song; there is no spot in thee." And so it must be if Christ is the righteousness of His people, — if we are perfect in the comeliness that He has put upon us.

Then the other word, "perverseness," is rather "labor," or "travail." It is the word which, as we have seen, gives us the first part of the name "Amalek" — amal. It is not work: man in Eden was to work; but toil, the drudgery of work, most of all that which the heart away from God incites to. "All things are full of labor," says the preacher: "man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing." "All the labor of man is for the mouth, but the soul is not filled." And from this the grace of God in Christ would draw us off: "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."

Thus, then, the vision of God sees His people endowed with the portion He has given them; but there is more than this, they have Himself: "Jehovah his God is with him, and the shout of a King is among them." This is the filling up of the cup, and makes simple what has gone before.

A cypher in itself is worthless, and six cyphers are no more than one; but put but a unit before them, — now they are a million. So whatever Israel by himself may be, Israel with Jehovah with him is indeed a host. And "the shout of a King," in this case what a security that in joyful obedience to this easy yoke rest will be their portion! Redemption is the foundation of all: "God brought them forth out of Egypt." We know from Moses' plea more than once what that implies. He who thus interfered for them cannot without loss to His name now leave them. Thus strength is secured. Nor can there be augury against Jacob, nor divination against Israel: in the due time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, — for you must know the material if you would fully appreciate the workmanship, — What hath God wrought! A wholly different thing from "What hath Israel wrought!" Yet Israel will themselves now do much, therefore; if her enemies rouse the lion, let them now beware!

The third prophecy (and that which follows also,) is from the top of Peor that looketh toward the waste, and it is toward the wilderness that Balaam sets his face in uttering it. He is now at last persuaded, as his words have shown, that no enchantment will avail against Israel, and he goes no more, as he had hitherto done, to seek them. It is Jehovah's will to bless, and he yields himself now for the first time, without resistance, to that will. Then the Spirit of God comes upon him, not simply the word of God is communicated to him as before, but he is laid hold of, forcibly however, as one not in real sympathy, so that he falls, his eyes however, once shut, being now really opened; and himself taken possession of, and transformed, for the time, into another man. In this condition he is made to proclaim as a divine oracle the victory over him that God has gained, type of all other victories. The names, if translated, make this very striking: —
"The oracle of the people-devourer, the consumer's son!
Even the oracle of the man whose eyes had been shut!
His oracle who heard the sayings of God (El, the mighty), —
Who saw the vision of the Almighty!
Falling, but his eyes opened [now]!"

How useless to strive blindly against the Almighty! and yet this is what the world is doing to-day, as it ever did. Thus we need not wonder that the prophecy goes on to the world's collapse.

But, first, we have quite another thing — the portion of Israel, even in the world itself, — the wilderness: there the people of God are, camping in divine order according to their tribes. Their dwellings are not palaces, but only tents, — yea, Jacob's tents; and a prince of God dwells there. How goodly are thy tents! spread out in lowliness indeed, as the valleys are; but which all the streams of the hills water: for that is the law of nature, it is the ordinance of God, that that which is lowly should be thus ministered to. The next figure brings out this thought more fully: they are "as gardens by the river's side," — yea, gardens planted by Jehovah Himself, with lign aloes, rare and fragrant exotics, or with cedars, elsewhere given us as the stateliest things in nature, and with unfading leaf.

Such is the wealth that the water nourishes: and this water, type of the living Spirit, sweetest dowry of heaven for the land that is married — Beulah land! plenteous it is indeed in the portion of the saints: "Water shall flow out of his buckets; and his seed shall be among many waters." Then the figure suddenly changes, although the spiritual connection is maintained: "and his King shall be higher than Agag; and his kingdom shall be exalted."

In this picture of fullest blessing, supremacy over Amalek could not but be noted. We have seen what Amalek stands for (Ex. 17), and how in the previous prophecy the restlessness of the flesh is met and conquered by the rest-giving yoke of the meek King of Israel. Now, as the direct consequence, Amalek's king is brought down, the meaning of whose name as given by Simonis, "very high," seems most in agreement with the sense. Israel's King is higher than the highest. And is not self-exaltation that which gives the rein to the lusts of the flesh?

In the desert aspect, indeed, Amalek is not destroyed; for that, we must wait for the final prophecy; yet in the wilderness already Christ is the remedy for the power of sin: over him who is subject to Christ it has lost dominion. But it is not Israel that is exalted here, but Israel's King; and this is the style of Scripture: "Not I, but Christ that dwelleth in me."

Yet "Israel" is a name of power; but for this to be realized, we must come back again to the foundation. Here, therefore, comes back the refrain of redemption and its results. "God brought him forth out of Egypt: he hath as it were the strength of an aurochs:* he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows."

{* Tristram says, "The great-horned auerochs probably became extinct only in the middle ages. After careful examination of the subject there cannot now remain a doubt on the identity of the reem, or unicorn, with the historic urns, or auerochs, now indeed the "ox of yore.'" He quotes Caesar's words in his Gallic war (4:29): "These uri are scarcely less than elephants in size; but in their nature, color, and form, are bulls. Great is their strength and their speed: they spare neither man nor beast when once they have caught sight of them."}

Balaam closes with two quotations from older prophecies which reaffirm the unchangeable word of God. The first is from Jacob's prophecy of Judah, here applied to the whole nation. The second is from God's promise to Abraham, which is thus fulfilled to his posterity. Both declare from an enemy's mouth how surely, how fully, every utterance of God shall come to pass.

But Balak hardens himself against the judgment of God, which has thus denounced the ruin of those that oppose themselves to His people. He thus accepts the curse, and has to hear it, and of the prostration of the world-power at the feet of Israel's King in the coming day. The unwilling seer, prefacing his utterance with the solemn asseveration once more of his competency to give forth a divine oracle, adds to it now his "knowledge of the Most High" — God' s well-known millennial title. Him who represents and makes good this title, he announces in those words which have been echoed ever since by expectant faith, —
"I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not nigh:
There hath come a Star out of Jacob,
And a Sceptre hath risen out of Israel,
And hath smitten through the sides of Moab,
And dashed against each other all the sons of tumult."

Lange indeed protests, "It is not in this way that the ideal Messiah would be announced"! Is it not Messiah who has the rod of iron in the second psalm? But so is Scripture misinterpreted by our prejudices and misconceptions. On the other hand, it may be safely asserted that the Word of God is as full of a conquering as of a suffering Messiah, and most distinctly declares the judgment of the world at His hands. God "hath given Him authority to execute judgment also because He is the Son of man." The world itself groans for Him who will destroy the sons of tumult, who according to the parallelism of the passage are represented here by Moab, Israel's enemy at this time. Isa. 25:10, in like manner, associates the treading down of Moab with the coming of the Lord. Edom too, that refused Israel even a passage through their land, shall become the possession of their hated enemies; and out of every city in which the children of Esau dwell they shall be destroyed to the last remnant.

Not only so: Amalek shall be destroyed, the Kenite wasted and carried captive by Assyria, Assyria itself smitten by a power from the west, which shall smite Eber — the Hebrew — also, but then at last fall prostrate under the universal Conqueror. That this represents what will take place in the "end of days," Balaam distinctly says; it is at the coming of the Lord that the world is thus judged, and Israel vanquishes all her enemies. The names of ancient peoples that have disappeared being found in the prophecy, need not be a difficulty, as, when the world is preparing for judgment, the nations that were connected with Israel reappear. Moab has been referred to, and is found again with Edom in Isa. 11:14, and Edom separately in Isa. 63:1; the Assyrian in Isa. 10:12, and in millennial blessing in Isa. 19:23-25. Amalek and the Kenite we have not elsewhere. But the revival of the Roman empire to meet its doom from the coming Lord is clearly predicted in Rev. 17, of which the restored kingdom of Italy is a forewarning. Greece too has taken her place once more among the kingdoms of the world, and every thing points to Israel's speedy revival as a nation. Here is not the place for long prophetic detail; but the student of Scripture will find even in these few hints enough to put him upon a track in following which he may satisfy himself of the truth of what has been stated.

Here, then, is the complete accomplishment of blessing for the people of God. The resurrection-priesthood is seen in the fulfillment of its wondrous work; and with this the third division of the book fittingly closes. In its spiritual application to ourselves, this fourth prophecy cannot be, as far as I am aware, interpreted as to details: we have too little knowledge as yet of what these various powers represent. But the final extinction of Amalek and of Edom, with the overthrow of all enemies, is associated, for the Church with the coming of the Lord, who is Israel's King also; and here, fittingly, the teaching of type and parable ends in and coalesces with the plain speech of prophecy: visions end when the full Vision comes, and twilight passes into the full glory of the day.