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THE EXPERIENCE OF BALAAM AS SYMBOLIC OF THE ORIGINS OF PROPHECY



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Sermon preached in King s College Chapel University of Aberdeen October 20 1912 The Expositor 8th Series V 1913 1 11 THE EXPERIENCE OF BALAAM AS SYMBOLIC OF THE ORIGINS OF PROPHECY George Adam Smith THE story of Balaam has engaged the genius and been illuminated by the expository powers of some of the greatest preachers of Christianity conspicuous among whom as we all know are Bishop Butler with his sermon on the Character of Balaam and John Henry Newman in his discourse on Obedience without Love Both of these classics display a rich sagacity and a solemn power of searching the heart But they take different views of the character of this extraordinary heathen and of his conduct upon first coming under the influence of the true God Such differences between high authorities equally honest in seeking the meaning of Scripture are to be explained by the discovery made since their time of the complex structure of the story woven as it is from two differing and even contradictory traditions We now also enjoy a fuller knowledge of the historical situation and the religious atmosphere in which Balaam is represented as acting We are more able to place him on his proper stage in the history of religion slowly making its long way up to Christ and therefore more able to read the lessons which his story is fitted to afford us for our own faith and conduct 1 A sermon preached in King s College Chapel University of Aberdeen October 20 1912 from these texts And when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel he went not as at other times to seek for omens but he set his face towards the wilderness Num xxiii 23 Henceforth I call you not slaves for the slave knoweth not what his lord doeth but I have called you friends for all things that I have heard from my Father 1 have made known to you John s Gospel xiv 15 The Expositor VOL V JANUARY 1913 1 2 THE EXPERIENCE OF BALAAM You remember the outlines of the story Alarmed by Israel s defeat of Sihon the king of the Amorites Balak



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