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!
All Commentaries on Numbers 23:10 Go To Numbers 23
George Leo Haydock
Dust. God had promised to multiply the seed of Abraham as the dust of the earth, Genesis xiii. 16. Balaam had just beheld several thousands of them, and in rapture, exclaims, according to the Hebrew, "Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? "Their camp was divided into four great battalions, surrounding the ark and the Levites. Who can tell the number of one of these divisions, much less of all the multitudes there assembled, and what millions may, in a short time, proceed from them? You have reason, therefore, O Balac, to tremble, if they continue faithful to their God. But strive to make friends with them.
Let Hebrew may also admit of the version of the Septuagint, "May my soul die among the souls of the just, and may my offspring be like this. "We behold in this sentence, the sentiments of all worldly and interested people, who wish to obtain a reward without submitting to the necessary labour. Impotent desires! selfish views! (Haydock)
"All "says St. Bernard, (in Cant. serm. 21,) "wish to enjoy the felicity which Jesus Christ has promised. But how few are willing to imitate Him who invites us to do it. "(Calmet)
Thus, infidels desire sometimes to die like Catholics, though they will not live in that religion. (Worthington)
Even those who are in the Church, frequently give in to this delusion, making fine prayers, and, in the time of temptation, forgetting all their sighs and tears, to whom God will say, as St. Gregory justly observes on those words of Job, xli. 3, I will not spare him nor his mighty words, and framed to make supplication. For, like Balaam, when the fit of devotion is over, such people are ready to give the most pernicious advice against the lives of those, whom they pretend they would be desirous to resemble in death. "That prayer is vain, which is not followed by continual perseverance in charity. "(St. Gregory, Mor. xxxiii. 27.) The false prophet says not a word about living like the just; he only wishes, that after his soul has enjoyed all the pleasures of this world, it may depart to joys eternal, while his posterity is left behind in the midst of temporal prosperity.
Soul die, or be separated from its body. Even Balaam establishes the immortality of the soul. (Haydock)