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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Hosea 5

 

 

Verse 1

Under the figure of God's bringing a lawsuit against Israel and prosecuting his charges against them, this chapter is a continuation of the same theme; and the terminology of a court of law is present again and again. There is the pronouncement of "judgment" (Hosea 5:1), and the "pride of Israel" is said to "testify" against them (Hosea 5:5).

In Hosea 5:1-7, the whole people, along with their priests and their rulers are indicted and charged with idolatry (whoredom), ignorance of God, pride, arrogance, and treachery against God, and with rearing a whole generation of wicked and godless offspring.

Hosea 5:8-15 relate the severe terms of the "sentence" imposed upon them by the true God. There shall be war and strife (Hosea 5:8); Ephraim shall be made a desolation (Hosea 5:9); God's wrath shall be poured out upon them (Hosea 5:10); Ephraim (Israel) shall be crushed in judgment because he followed men and not God (Hosea 5:12); Ephraim will seek human remedies for his ills, but will be frustrated, because it is actually God who is his enemy; God will be like a lion in seizing Israel as a prey; and then God will withdraw himself from Israel until they seek him earnestly (Hosea 5:13-15).

Hosea 5:1

"Hear this, O ye priests, and hearken, O house of Israel and give ear, O house of the king; for unto you pertaineth the judgment; for ye have been a snare at Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor."

The specific mention of the priests and the house of the king should not be construed as limitive, but as inclusive; for it is the whole nation, including the priests and the rulers, who are arraigned and judged in this chapter. The snare at Mizpah and the net upon Tabor were indeed the devices of the priests and the secular government; but the whole people were guilty, "the house of Israel."

"O ye priests ..." All efforts to classify these evil religious leaders as being, in any sense, priests of God, are frustrated in the fact of their being: (1) illegitimate, not belonging to the tribe of Levi, from which alone it was lawful for God's priests to be ordained; (2) imported from Sidon by Jezebel, enemies of God by definition, and devoted utterly to the old Bull-god of the Sidonians and Canaanites; and (3) constantly engaged in the promulgation of the licentious rites deeply rooted in their inherent paganism.

"The snare ... and the net ..." Not much is known of Mizpah and Tabor, except that both were wooded mountain tops, and therefore, in all probability prominent sites where the vulgar fertility rites of paganism were enthusiastically practiced. Barnes was of the opinion that the prophet selected these two places for specific mention because "they were probably centers of corruption, or special scenes of wickedness."[1] Indeed, the text affirms this, since it is unbelievable that Hosea was merely speaking of catching birds and small game in the type of traps mentioned here. No, it was the people who were being entrapped and snared; and the old sexual orgies of paganism were traps and snares enough to accomplish this!

If the New English Bible is followed in Hosea 5:2, then there are three place-names in this opening statement. Myers identified them thus:

Tabor is, of course, Mount Tabor, at the northern end of the plain of Esdraelon (Judges 4:6), Mizpah was probably the one in Gilead (Judges 10:17); Shittim was the site of the Israelite camp before crossing the Jordan, about a dozen miles northeast of Jericho (Joshua 2:1).[2]

"O house of Israel ..." Although the primary application of this is to the Northern kingdom, or Ephraim; in this chapter, it is all of Israel, including Judah. "Judah too, being guilty, shall be punished; nor shall Assyria, whose aid they both sought, save them."[3]

"O house of the king ..." It is not possible to identify exactly which king of Israel is meant by this; but, as Keil said, it was, "Probably Zechariah or Menahem; possibly both, since Hosea prophesied in the reigns of both."[4]


Verse 2

"And the revolters are gone deep in making slaughter; but I am a rebuker of them all."

Some scholars have exclaimed that this rendition of the Hebrew text (the Masoretic text) makes no sense at all, and many have pointed out that the text which has come down to us is significantly flawed. It is this fact which underlies the radically different renditions with which scholars have attempted to translate such a passage as this. There are, for example, the following:

"The rebels! They have shown base ingratitude, but I will punish them all." - New English Bible.

"You have turned aside victims into the depth; and I am the teacher of them all." - Catholic Bible.

"And they have made deep the pit of Shittim: but I will chastise all of them." - Revised Standard Version.

"And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all." - King James Version.SIZE>

The translators are not to blame for the uncertainty, which is due to the flawed text of this part of God's word which has been handed down through history; and, as Pfeiffer noted, "The translation of these words has troubled Biblical scholars since ancient times."[5] There simply has to be a certain amount of guessing and speculation in putting together any kind of an intelligent rendition here. It should be noted, however, that while this surely applies in a very limited way to passages here and there, the great message that thunders from the pages of this great prophecy is un- mistakably clear, there being no uncertainty whatever concerning it.

Again, regarding Hosea 5:2, the rendition suggested by W. R. Harper and others at the turn of this century, was finally adopted as the best and incorporated into the Revised Standard Version (RSV), as given above. This rendition appears to be quite logical and has the advantage of carrying forward the metaphor of hunting devices such as the snare and the net mentioned in Hosea 5:1. If the RSV is followed here, we have a third kind of device, for taking large game, the "pit". "This is the triple figure, borrowed from the hunter, employed to designate the entanglements into which Israel has fallen."[6]

The RSV also fits in another way. The mention of Shittim as the place of the "deep pit" seems to follow logically the reference to Mizpah and Tabor where the snare and the net were placed.

Shittim is the place where Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor (Numbers 25:1ff). The probability is that Hosea singled out sites at which leaders had led Israel into the worship of false gods, probably Baal.[7]

None of the renditions cited above is actually contradictory to this understanding of the passage.


Verse 3

"I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me; for now, O Ephraim, thou hast played the harlot, Israel is defiled."

Nothing can be hidden from the Lord. It is not Hosea who is the speaker here, but God. Everything is exposed and laid open before the eternal God. A statement like this implies that Ephraim might indeed have thought that his follies were concealed. The pagan priests had veneered their godless licentiousness with some of the forms and occasions which originally had been connected with God's true religion; but underneath that superficially acceptable exterior, the religion of the Northern kingdom was raw, shameless paganism, pandering to the basest lusts of the body. All of this is stated in the words "played the harlot ... defiled." They even swore "As Jehovah liveth," (Hosea 4:15) and mentioned the God of all creation along with the bull-gods of Canaan; but a few concessions of that kind were powerless to alter the essential reprobacy of the whole system. As Meyers said:

"The mere fact that a religious service is called by the name of the Lord does not make it so. Only when it is the expression of His will and purpose and reflects His character can it be said to be from Him. That is just what Israel's religion did not do; it reflected the character of Baal."[8]

Note that in this passage, as frequently in Hosea (some 37 times) Ephraim is the name used for Israel. Ephraim was almost as large as Judah, the largest of the twelve tribes; and it was always jealous and envious of Judah. The tribe of Ephraim led the defection of the ten tribes to form the Northern kingdom; and it also enthusiastically supported the calf-worship instituted by Jeroboam I at Dan and at Bethel. All of the children of Israel eventually were corrupted through Ephraim's leadership; and it was thus fitting that his name should finally become that of the whole northern Israel. Given summed it up this way:

This powerful tribe, ever envious of Judah, was the ringleader in the calf-worship of Jeroboam, and other idolatries; and through Ephraim's evil influence, the other tribes, and so all Israel were defiled.[9]


Verse 4

"Their doings will not suffer them to return unto their God; for the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they know not Jehovah."

Polkinghorne is correct in his discernment that this passage relates to "the mortal sin of Mark 3:29,1 John 5:16, etc. Hence they find that God has withdrawn himself so as not to receive their sacrifices (Hosea 5:15)."[10] The word Paul used to describe such a condition is "hardening"; and that is exactly what had happened to the northern Israel and would in time happen to the southern Israel also. Speaking of Israel as it existed at this juncture, Smith wrote that, "According to Hosea, return for Israel is now no longer a human possibility."[11] He also elaborated the basic reasons why this was true: (1) sin robs a man of his faculty for God and of the strength of will to obey God; (2) the whole fabric of the nation's social, economic, political, and religious life was interwoven with the lustful indulgences of paganism; and (3) there was no longer any true knowledge of God among the people. Without that knowledge, it was impossible to achieve either any communion with God or any kind of human conduct consistent with the terms of their ancient covenant with Jehovah.


Verse 5

"And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face; therefore Israel and Ephraim shall stumble in their iniquity; Judah also shall stumble with them."

"The pride of Israel ..." Homer Hailey cited two permissible interpretations of the meaning of this "pride." In one sense, God Himself is the "pride of Israel" (Amos 8:7); and if this is the meaning, it says that "God Himself shall testify against Israel." The other view understands "the pride" as the arrogance of the nation itself which rises up before God as a witness against them.[12] We prefer the latter view; for the inordinate pride of Ephraim was continually visible throughout the Old Testament. They jealously opposed Gideon, were insolent to Jephthah, made an Ephraimite concubine's son king over Israel, presumptuously called their bastard nation "Israel," the true name of the nation they had rebelled against, upheld for seven years the house of Saul against David, even though they knew it was against God's will, joined Absalom in the rebellion against David, and in the final rebellion they supported Jeroboam of Ephraim against Rehoboam of the house of David. They were also conspicuous in their setting up of the bull-gods at Dan and Bethel in opposition to the worship of the true God in Jerusalem.

"Therefore Israel and Ephraim shall stumble ..." Such haughty pride and arrogance may be tolerated by the God of heaven for a season; but at last, eternal justice demands that it shall be punished.

"Judah also shall stumble with them ..." As Harper noted, "These words are suspected as a gloss by some without sufficient reason."[13] The whole house of Israel, including Judah, is never very far from the minds of any of God's prophets; and it was most appropriate that the ultimate apostasy of Judah should have been mentioned here as a warning that a similar fate awaited them. As a matter of history, the Southern Israel continued only about a century before the same apostasy and carrying away into captivity befell them also, with this difference, that a remnant of Judah returned.

The type of pride and arrogance exhibited particularly by Ephraim has by no means perished from the earth. Butler cited some examples of it in these words:

"The Russian communist Zinonieff boasted: "We shall grapple with the Lord God; and, in due time, we shall vanquish him from the highest heaven; and where he seeks refuge, we shall subdue him forever." What arrogance, what insolence! American theologians, however, have gone him one better! They have declared that God is dead and held `requiem chorales' in honor of his death!"[14]

If any person wishes to know what the end result of such pride and arrogance will be, let him consult the pages of Hosea's prophecy, or any one of a hundred other declarations of the Word of God. For the northern Israel, it meant a crushing judgment that removed them for all times from the stage of world history. May the arrogance and conceit of men be tempered and subdued by such knowledge.


Verse 6

"They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek Jehovah; but they shall not find him: he hath withdrawn himself from them."

"When the God of heaven withdraws from his people and is no longer accessible to their prayers, the situation is indeed serious. It is usually assumed that he can be appealed to at all times and in all places (as in Isaiah 65:24).[15]

The condition in view here, however, is that of God's hardening of persistent and determined sinners; and for all such persons, it is already too late! Through fear and apprehension they may indeed seek to make the same old sacrifices and utter the same payers; but the time for that ultimately expires. It was, when Hosea wrote, already such a time for Israel. Ward was correct in his bold affirmation that this passage is "against the notion that all religious paths lead to God, and the idea that wholeheartedness is the chief criterion of valid worship."[16] A religion that God approves must be consciously synchronized with God's revealed will. He continued, "These people were sincere enough, and wholehearted in their religious quest. Yet God had abandoned them."[17] See under Hosea 5:11, below, for further discussion of the reason for this.

Some commentators who like to hail Hosea as "the prophet of love," are quick to hold out hope here for the doomed people; but we should not fail to recognize that no recovery of the northern Israel was prophesied, none was expected, and none ever came.

The collapse of Israel meant the end of their institutions, the actual end of their cultural world. It was the close of an era. Great numbers of Israelites would perish; property losses would be enormous; all the major cities of the land would be obliterated; and thousands would be deported.[18]

The northern Israel sank into the same oblivion that swallowed Nineveh and Tyre, Sodom and Gomorrah, Sidon and Babylon. There is a hidden boundary between God's mercy and God's wrath; and any nation that presumes to ignore this is doomed.


Verse 7

"They have dealt treacherously against Jehovah; for they have borne strange children: now shall the new moon devour them with their fields."

The ultimate treachery against God is exhibited here in the charge that Israel had "borne strange children," that is, a generation of offspring who were totally unaware of God, had no knowledge whatever of him, and who were automatically swallowed up by the licentious culture where they lived. Israel had been commanded to rear their children in the fear and honor of the true God, but in this they had defaulted completely; and there was, therefore, no justification whatever for the continuation of them any further upon the face of the earth. Israel had, at this juncture, fallen into exactly the same status as that of the kingdoms of Canaan whom God dispossessed in order to give the land to Israel.

"The new moon devour them ..." Biblical scholars are uncertain as to whether this means "in the time of the new moon," meaning in a very short period of time their judgment will fall, or if it means the licentious worship associated with their "feasts of the new moon" would be the cancer that would devour them. The translators of the KJV rendered the passage, "Now shall a month devour them with their portions," stressing the time element and indicating that the hour of judgment was already upon them. Of course, it is true and applicable no matter which view is taken. The New English Bible renders it, "Now an invader shall devour their fields," but this is exactly the same meaning stated literally instead of metaphorically.

Regardless of the minor uncertainties in the meaning (of the text in this place) there is no question about its major thesis. Israel's leaders (and the whole people) are no longer the servants of God.[19]

The priests, the king's house, the people, the total population are at this point in time thoroughly devoted to the service of alien gods of their own choice; and the nation is enslaved in wickedness. God is announcing through Hosea the impending judgment and punishment of such high treason against himself.

Keil and many others have pointed out that the background of this whole prophecy is the covenant relationship that existed between God and Israel. The "strange children," or "bastards" as in New English Bible, are one with the "children of whoredom" mentioned earlier in the prophecy, which Gomer bore to Hosea, violating a marriage contract. That contract, in the larger theater of God's relationship with Israel, was the covenant outlined in the Pentateuch, the Decalogue, etc. Israel had violated their covenant with God in their failure to rear believing children in the fear and knowledge of the true God. Instead, they were being reared as children of the old Canaanite bull-god, answering to the "spiritual adultery" which is the principal theme of Hosea's prophecy.

We cannot pass this by without pointing out that many so-called Christian parents today are guilty of the same faithlessness in this matter of teaching their children to know God, that marked the ultimate and final apostasy of northern Israel. It would appear to be a rare home indeed where the knowledge and service of God are effectively taught and demonstrated.


Verse 8

"Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah; sound an alarm at Bethaven; behind thee, O Benjamin."

This blowing of horns was an idiomatic expression that meant, arouse and warn the whole country against terrible and impending danger. In this case it was war.

"The cornet ... the trumpet ..." This symbol for general alarm had originated during the wilderness wanderings of the chosen people during which time the sounding of the shopar, or ram's horn, signaled the break of camp, or any other important public event. In time, it became universally accepted among the Hebrews as the idiom for any type of general, emergency alert. Jesus Christ even applied it to the general assembly of all mankind for the Great Assize at the last day, an event which he said would be ushered in by "the sound of the trumpet." (Matthew 24:31). Paul used the same metaphor (1 Corinthians 15:52).

The cornet and the trumpet appear here in parallel; Hosea did not mean to stress any difference in the instruments. The two were probably slight variants of the same instrument. The Mishna states that the shopar was sometimes straight and sometimes curved, and usually a simple ram's horn.[20]

The particular war prophesied by this passage was the prelude to the destruction of all northern Israel and took place in 734 B.C. McKeating gives this summary of it:

Israel and Syria, who were old enemies decided to make common cause against Assyria. They tried to force Judah to join; and, when Judah under king Ahaz resisted, they attacked Judah and besieged Jerusalem. Judah in desperation appealed to the Assyrians, who were only too ready to intervene. In the end, Syria, Israel, and Judah were all losers. (2 Kings 16:5-9; Isaiah 7).[21]
"Behind thee, O Benjamin ..." This indicated that Israel had already been conquered, according to Hailey and others,[22] but it appears more likely, in the light of the facts, that Israel itself in league with Syria was at this point the enemy. Note that the popular pagan shrine Beth-el (meaning place of God) is denied such a sacred title by Hosea and instead is called Beth-aven (place of vanity, or place of evil).

"Gibeah...Ramah ..." These may have been places where pagan shrines were situated; but this does not appear to be the reason for their mention here. Harper stated that, "They represent all hill-towns from which alarm could easily be sounded."[23]


Verse 9

"Ephraim shall become a desolation in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be."

"Ephraim shall become a desolation ..." The disappearance from history of this once proud and mighty people eloquently underscores the sad truth of this prophecy. Ephraim simply refused to heed any warning or to make amends for their depravity in any way whatever; nor could they ever say that God had not warned them, a thing that Hosea stressed in the last clause of this verse. Moreover, it was not the word of Hosea alone that thundered the warnings. Moses had declared it (Deuteronomy 31:16-30), and the warning was crystal clear in the writings of Joel, Amos, and Jonah, as well as in many others.

"Day of rebuke ..." Rebuke in Hebrew thought is a judicial decision. God would render a verdict of "guilty" against idolatrous Israel, and the armies of Assyria would be his instruments for punishing his faithless people.[24]

As Mays pointed out, the prophetic words here not only came true; it was this word from God that made it come true. "The prophetic word has the power to fulfill itself!"[25]


Verse 10

"The princes of Judah are like them that remove the landmark: I will pour out my wrath upon them like water."

It is not necessary to suppose that when Judah counter-attacked against the invasion of the Syrian, Israeli allies, that Judah greedily seized upon the opportunity to change boundaries and landmarks, although, of course, they might very well have done this. In their ancient culture, the lowest class of crime was that of tampering with landmarks. It was equivalent to the type of idiom current in early Southwest America to the effect that any despised character could be described as capable of "stealing a nickel off a dead man's eyes." Much more is meant by this than stealthily changing a landmark. As Keil commented:

"The princes of Judah have become boundary removers, not by hostile invasions of Israel, but by removing the boundaries of right which had been determined by God, by participating in the guilt of Ephraim, by idolatry, by removing the boundary between Jehovah and Baal, that is to say, between the one true God and idols! `If one who removes his neighbor's boundary is cursed (Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17), how much more he who removes the border of his God (Hengstenberg)." Upon such men the wrath of God would fall in its fullest measure."[26]

Ward and other scholars have questioned the appearance of Judah in this passage; and some are ready to rush in with suggestions of glosses or interpolations; but such views are founded upon a simple misunderstanding of what situation is prophesied. As noted above by McKeating, this was the period of 734 B.C.; and it was most appropriate that Judah be mentioned here, because it was Judah which had foolishly enlisted the intervention of Assyria, through which power all Israel was punished.

Another enlightening comment on how the princes of Judah removed sacred boundaries was written by Jamieson:

"Ahaz and his courtiers (the prince of Judah) set aside the ancient ordinances of God, removed the borders of the bases, and the laver, and the sea, and introduced an idolatrous altar from Damascus (2 Kings 16:10-18); he also burnt his children in the valley of Hinnon, after the abominations of the heathen (2 Chronicles 28:3)."[27]

"I will pour out my wrath upon them like water ..." Hardly any destructive or frightening force in nature was omitted from the list of metaphors, or similes, describing the wrath of God. In this short chapter, invaders, water, moths, rottenness, sickness, wounds, and ferocious wild beasts (lions) are among the figures employed.


Verse 11

"Ephraim is oppressed, he is crushed in judgment; because he was content to walk after man's command."

As a glance at the American Standard Version text shows, there is no Hebrew word for "man's" in the last phrase of this verse; but the translators are undoubtedly correct in this rendition, because, as Keil observed:

"The word for `command' or `statute' here (see Jeremiah 2:5, and 2 Kings 18:15) is [~tsaw] and it means a human statute as an antithesis to the word or commandment of God. It is thus used both here and in Isaiah 28:10,13."[28]

In the light of these, there is no way to translate the passage without supplying the word that truly reveals the meaning.

Hailey and others have seen here a specific reference to the acceptance of Jeroboam's commandments for the people to worship the golden calves; and, while true enough, this by no means exhausts the ramifications of Ephraim's sin in walking after "man's command" instead of walking after "the commandment of the Lord."

We cannot leave this without stressing that our present world is filled with people who are doing exactly the same thing that Ephraim did, walking after men's commandments. They do so in the so-called "forms" of baptism they preach and practice, in the "non-observance" of the Lord's Supper on the Lord's Day, in the names, doctrines, and theologies of their churches, in their immoralities, drunkenness, adulteries, violence, and countless other ways. As the Lord himself declared, "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9).

Summing it all up, Ephraim's disaster was that he heeded the statutes of men, instead of walking in the way that God had commanded.


Verse 12

"Therefore am I unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness."

"Moth ... rottenness ..." "It is probable that Hosea's figure of speech is far more communicative and repulsive"[29] than it appears in this translation. Smith favored the New English Bible in this passage, which has, "I am a festering sore to Ephraim, and a canker to the house of Judah." Beginning here, and to the end of the chapter, it is starkly clear that not Syria, or Assyria, or any other worldly power is the real enemy of Ephraim; it is God Himself! The Lord is the one who is disgusted and outraged with Ephraim and all Israel's treason and apostasy from the truth; and God here made it clear that he will bring about the punishment.


Verse 13

"When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to Assyria, and sent to king Jareb: but he is not able to heal you, neither will he cure your wound."

The great sin of God's people was that, even after the most serious ills and destructive conditions developed among them, threatening to overwhelm and destroy them, they did not, even in that state of danger and emergency turn to their God, but instead, decided that they could overcome their troubles through their own arrangements and devices, such as making alliances with other nations, including Syria and Assyria. Here, in this ancient example of it, is demonstrated the perpetual, recurring conceit of evil men. No matter what conditions may be encroaching against their nations, no matter what debaucheries, violence, drunkenness and immoralities rot their society, wreck their economy, and disrupt their existence, they never think of returning to God; but instead, conceitedly suppose that they are fully able to get out of their predicament through the exercise of their own ingenuity or by imposing their own ridiculous remedies. Our own beloved America this very day is suffering from the same sores and rottenness that finally got the attention of ancient Ephraim; and there are not any of our sorrows that would not be healed by a wholesale return to the God of our fathers, and a reawakening of the moral and religious life of the nation as taught by our Christian ancestors. But what is done about it? Nothing! except political changes, passing new laws and regulations, and the imposition of more and more ridiculous nostrums by human governments. In the example provided by this verse, they resorted to war in the hope of solving their problems. Where is there a better illustration of the perennial blindness of the wretched race of men?

"Sent to Assyria ..." See comment under Hosea 5:8, above, for McKeating's comment on the historical instance of this.

"And sent to king Jareb ..." There is no knowledge whatever of who this "king Jareb" might have been; and this is exactly the kind of problem that delights Biblical commentators. There are about as many guesses as their are scholars. Harper compiled a list of opinions, giving the following explanations:[30]

The name of a place in Assyria ...

A symbolical name for Assyria ...

The name of a king of Egypt ...

A form of the old name Aribi, a place in Arabia ...

A contemptuous title "king combatant" ...

An appellative meaning, "great king" ...

An appellative meaning, "one who pleads" ...

The original name of Sargon, king of Assyria, which was dropped when he ascended the throne ...

The text is corrupt ...

It means "king of tribute ..."

The king who should be healing (by changing the text) ...SIZE>

We cannot imagine any profit that might come, either from choosing one of the above, or from offering another guess of our own.

Before leaving this, we should not overlook the point, that it was not only useless, but wrong, for God's people to seek relief from any other source except their God. In that light, it could not possibly make any difference who "king Jareb" was. In fact, Dummelow thought that "king Jareb" was an expression Hosea coined to show the absurdity of their going to such a source.[31]


Verse 14

"For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah; I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and there shall be none to deliver."

The figure in this verse is that of a lion attacking, killing, and carrying off the prey, with no power able to interfere. Note especially the repetition, "I, even I," indicating that, "Yahweh is the agent of the coming destruction."[32] The real enemy of the chosen people is their God, whom they have dishonored, and whose covenant with them they have wantonly broken.


Verse 15

"I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me earnestly."

"I will return to my place ..." This actually continues the metaphor of the lion returning to his den with the prey, after he has made the kill; and it is used here to indicate that God will leave Israel, that is, hide his face from them, instead of protecting and blessing them as previously. It is wrong to interpret this verse as if it taught that God was, in any sense, restricted to some particular location. The continuation of the metaphor in this verse (from Hosea 5:14) also nullifies the findings of those scholars who would like to disconnect it from Hosea 5, and put it in Hosea 6. It is exactly where it belongs. McKeating objected, saying, "Hosea 15 does not follow naturally on Hosea 5:14, but makes a good introduction to the little psalm in Hosea 6:1-3."[33] Harper also failed to see the lion returning to his den here, stating that, "This is not the figure of the lion returning to his den";[34] significantly, however, he supported the assertion with no proof.

The failure to see the metaphor of the lion going back to his den in this passage leads to all kinds of erroneous and bizarre notions about alleged beliefs of the Hebrew prophets who are accused of believing that God actually had some place, or location, where he could "hide" from men, and that men could actually "search" for him in some literal sense. No! God's going away, and "returning" to "his place" must be explained metaphorically; and that metaphor begins in Hosea 5:14 and is continued here in the sense of the lion going back to his lair.

"In their affliction, they will seek me earnestly ..." This prophecy was surely fulfilled upon the ultimate return of some of the captives following the end of the southern Israel's captivity; but, as regards the northern Israel, there is no promise here that their entreaties would be heard. As a matter of fact, they were not heard; and the whole people disappeared forever. Significantly, the promise that God would hear those earnest entreaties is conspicuously absent from this verse.

"I will return ... till ..." The dual use of the term "till" in the Bible should be carefully observed. It is used in two senses: (1) to indicate duration without regard to any sense of termination, as when Jacob said, "Thy servants have been keepers of cattle till this day," meaning not at all that the Jews were that day going out of the cattle business; and (2) in the sense of duration with an implied termination of it, as when Matthew wrote concerning Joseph and Mary that, "He knew her not till she brought forth a son, and called his name Jesus" (Matthew 1:25). The passage before us, like the one in Romans 11:25, is enigmatical, in the sense that men cannot tell which usage of the word "till" appears in either passage.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Hosea 5:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/hosea-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
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