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‘How[a] beautiful are your tents, O Jacob,
and your dwelling places, O Israel!
They are like[b] valleys[c] stretched forth,
like gardens by the river’s side,
like aloes[d] that the Lord has planted,
and like cedar trees beside the waters.
He will pour the water out of his buckets,[e]
and their descendants will be like abundant[f] water;[g]
their king will be greater than Agag,[h]
and their kingdom will be exalted.

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  1. Numbers 24:5 tn Here מָה (mah) has an exclamatory sense: “How!” (see Gen 28:17).
  2. Numbers 24:6 tn Heb “as valleys they spread forth.”
  3. Numbers 24:6 tn Or “rows of palms.”
  4. Numbers 24:6 sn The language seems to be more poetic than precise. N. H. Snaith notes that cedars do not grow beside water; he also connects “aloes” to the eaglewood that is more exotic, and capable of giving off an aroma (Leviticus and Numbers [NCB], 298).
  5. Numbers 24:7 tc For this colon the LXX has “a man shall come out of his seed.” Cf. the Syriac Peshitta and Targum.
  6. Numbers 24:7 tn Heb “many.”
  7. Numbers 24:7 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.
  8. Numbers 24:7 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.

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