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Numbers 24:7-9

Context

24:7 He will pour the water out of his buckets, 1 

and their descendants will be like abundant 2  water; 3 

their king will be greater than Agag, 4 

and their kingdom will be exalted.

24:8 God brought them out of Egypt.

They have, as it were, the strength of a young bull;

they will devour hostile people 5 

and will break their bones

and will pierce them through with arrows.

24:9 They crouch and lie down like a lion,

and as a lioness, 6  who can stir him?

Blessed is the one who blesses you,

and cursed is the one who curses you!’”

Numbers 24:17

Context

24:17 ‘I see him, but not now;

I behold him, but not close at hand. 7 

A star 8  will march forth 9  out of Jacob,

and a scepter 10  will rise out of Israel.

He will crush the skulls 11  of Moab,

and the heads 12  of all the sons of Sheth. 13 

1 tc For this colon the LXX has “a man shall come out of his seed.” Cf. the Syriac Peshitta and Targum.

2 tn Heb “many.”

3 sn These two lines are difficult, but the general sense is that of irrigation buckets and a well-watered land. The point is that Israel will be prosperous and fruitful.

4 sn Many commentators see this as a reference to Agag of 1 Sam 15:32-33, the Amalekite king slain by Samuel, for that is the one we know. But that is by no means clear, for this text does not identify this Agag. If it is that king, then this poem, or this line in this poem, would have to be later, unless one were to try to argue for a specific prophecy. Whoever this Agag is, he is a symbol of power.

5 tn Heb “they will devour nations,” their adversaries.

6 tn On the usage of this word see HALOT 517 s.v. לָבִיא.

7 tn Heb “near.”

8 sn This is a figure for a king (see also Isa 14:12) not only in the Bible but in the ancient Near Eastern literature as a whole. The immediate reference of the prophecy seems to be to David, but the eschatological theme goes beyond him. There is to be a connection made between this passage and the sighting of a star in its ascendancy by the magi, who then traveled to Bethlehem to see the one born King of the Jews (Matt 2:2). The expression “son of a star” (Aram Bar Kochba) became a title for a later claimant to kingship, but he was doomed by the Romans in a.d. 135.

9 tn The verb is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive; it is equal to the imperfect expressing the future. The verb דָּרַךְ (darakh), related to the noun “way, road,” seems to mean something like tread on, walk, march.”

10 sn The “scepter” is metonymical for a king who will rise to power. NEB strangely rendered this as “comet” to make a parallel with “star.”

11 tn The word is literally “corners,” but may refer to the corners of the head, and so “skull.”

12 tc The MT reads “shatter, devastate.” Smr reads קֹדְקֹד (qodqod, “head; crown; pate”). Smr follows Jer 48:45 which appears to reflect Num 24:17.

13 sn The prophecy begins to be fulfilled when David defeated Moab and Edom and established an empire including them. But the Messianic promise extends far beyond that to the end of the age and the inclusion of these defeated people in the program of the coming King.



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