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purpose by prevailing on the Moabites to tempt the Israelites to idolatry, through the allurements of beautiful and corrupt women; and, when this injury was punished by the other uncorrupt part of their countrymen, Balaam fell in the same battle with the victims of his covetousness, his craftiness, and his mortified pride. It is conceivable, then, that Balaam might, at the moment, have an inward dread of the possibility that he should not die the death of the righteous; yet the wish to die as do the righteous could not be suppressed. He perhaps formed some imperfect resolution not to provoke the punishment which awaited him, if he persevered in his criminal purpose. He saw at the instant the danger of iniquity, and he desired to escape it. He saw the advantages of virtue, and poured forth a prayer to obtain them; but his heart was unsound; his avarice was unconquerable; he relapsed into guilt; he persisted in it; and he justly perished by the death, not of the righteous, but of the wicked.
I will now set before you the opinion of another celebrated prelate. "The words of the text," says Bishop Sherlock, "in their first and most natural sense, lead us to compare the wicked and the righteous, not only in their latest hours, but in the whole course and circumstances of their life. They arise from the contemplation of the happiness and prosperity of the people of Israel, and their future greatness and security in the land of promise, compared with the misery of the idolatrous nations, given up to sin and superstition, and therefore
devoted to ruin. They, says the prophesyer, shall dwell alone, that is, apart from idolaters; and shall not be reckoned among the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his. And in the next chapter when he looked on Amalek he took up his parable and said, Amalek was the first of the nations, but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever. These two places help to expound each other; for as the prophecy relating to Amalek was completed in the temporal destruction of that people, so by parity of reason, the prophecy concerning Israel imported the temporal happiness of that nation. It was denounced against Amalek that he should perish for ever, and leave no posterity behind him; but to Israel a long continuance of great increase is promised-who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel?" Sherlock, you see, has endeavoured as I did, to elucidate the text by other passages relating to the history of Balaam, and the instance which he adduces, supports the principle upon which my own reasoning rested.
I shall now advert to the second clause of the text upon which there is some diversity of opinion,— and let my last end be like his.. The words which in our version are "last end," have by the authors of the Septuagint been translated posterity. This translation has been adopted by several learned men, and I readily grant that it carries with it no impropriety. Under the Mosaic economy long life and
health were among the blessings promised to the obedient Israelites, and in conformity to their expectation of long life and health, Balaam when speaking of them expresses his wish for both these rewards of righteousness; but you will remember that in the Mosaic law, not only the sins of the father were visited upon the children, but the virtues of the father were recompensed in the prosperity of the children, and therefore Balaam might reasonably express his hope, that to his children, as well as to himself, the same blessing might be vouchsafed.
Asherut is the original word, and according to a a learned lexicographer, it means any thing that comes after according to the context, as latter end,* reward, posterity, future event, or condition. But for reasons of verbal criticism I prefer the version latter end, which you read in your Bibles. In several parts of scripture the same noun feminine occurs with the sense of latter end; but when posterity is definitely and clearly implied, we have from the same root asher, which denotes after, another derivative. It is a masculine plural, and is accompanied by a pronominal suffix equivalent to theirs, or yours, or thine, in our own language. The circumstances then of a plural number, and of a masculine gender, and of a suffix, sufficiently point out
* It means latter end, Deut. viii. 16. Ecclesiasticus, ix. 9. Psalm. ii. 2.
+ When spoken of Amalek it means posterity, 1 Kings, xiv. 10.; xvi. 8.; Isaiahı, ii. 2.
the sense of posterity, and distinguish the word from another derivative which is of the singular number, which is of the feminine gender, which has no suffix, and which occurring in the text ought I think to be understood there as it is in other places, as implying latter end. I am aware of an objection, which may with little difficulty be removed. It may be that for a man to have his last end like the righteous, is virtually only a repetition of the former thought, that he may die the death of the righteous. But such repetitions are to be found in the best writers of the Greek, the Latin, and our own tongue. They are very frequent in Hebrew. They are technically marked by the name of parallelisms, and the principle has been judiciously and repeatedly illustrated in Bishop Lowth's notes on Isaiah, Dr. Blayney's on Jeremiah, and Archbishop Newcome's on the minor prophets. Their cause is to be found in the well known operations of the human mind; for when it is powerfully affected by hope, fear, joy, sorrow, desire, or aversion, we are naturally led to dilate and to diversify what passes within us by a vivid and close view of the objects exciting these several emotions.
I stated to you that Michaelis, a learned orientalist, contends that Balaam when he wishes to die the death of the righteous looked onward to a future state. I have given you largely my own reasons for holding a different opinion. I have appealed to the authority of several celebrated prelates; and for the farther support of the interpretation I would adopt, I will now inform you that the words
have thus been translated by the learned Dr. Geddes, -may I, or as it is in the Hebrew, may my soul die the death of the righteous, and like them be my latter end. In opposition to Michaelis, the very judicious Rosenmüller thus explains the words of Balaam. The Israelites will enjoy such great happiness as I wish to enjoy at my death; may it be my fortune so to live and die as will the Israelites. This is a perspicuous and I think a correct exposition; though I prefer the interpretation which represents the Israelites as signified by the word righteous, and the reward of that righteousness as consisting in long life, and in exemption from a premature and violent death; and though I agree with our version in using the phrase latter end rather than posterity, still, my brethren, I entreat you to remark, that in the other senses, as well as that to which I accede, we find encouragements to obedience, and grounds for a fervent prayer to heaven. The Jews and Balaam looked for worldly prosperity and a tranquil death; and why may not we pray for the same as a temporal recompence for our endeavours to obtain the favour of the Almighty? As Christians we have higher expectations than the Jews or Balaam in a life to come, and therefore supplicate the deity to make us happy in that life. When the present and the future recompence of obedience are thus set before us, we have the very strongest motives for the very strongest exertions, that under the guidance of heaven we may lead the blameless life of the righteous, die the tranquil death of the righteous, and after death ob