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Go yet, love a woman, beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress - This woman is the same Gomer, whom the prophet had before been bidden to take, and whom, (it appears from this verse) had forsaken him, and was living in adultery with another man. The “friend” is the husband himself, the prophet. The word “friend” expresses, that the husband of Gomer treated her, not harshly, but mildly and tenderly so that her faithlessness was the more aggravated sin. “Friend or neighbor” too is the word chosen by our Lord to express His own love, the love of the good Samaritan, who, not being akin, became “neighbor to Him who fell among thieves,” and had mercy upon him. Gomer is called “a woman,” in order to describe the state of separation, in which she was living. Yet God bids the prophet to “love her,” i. e., show active love to her, not, as before, to “take” her, for she was already and still his with, although unfaithful. He is now bidden to buy her back, with the price and allowance of food, as of a worthless slave, and so to keep her apart, on coarse food, abstaining from her former sins, but without the privileges of marriage, yet with the hope of being, in the end, restored to be altogether his wife. This prophecy is a sequel to the former, and so relates to Israel, after the coming of Christ, in which the former prophecy ends.
According to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel - The prophet is directed to frame his life, so as to depict at once the ingratitude of Israel or the sinful soul, and the abiding, persevering, love of God. The woman, whom God commands him to love, he had loved before her fall; he was now to love her after her fall, and amid her fall, in order to rescue her from abiding in it. His love was to outlive her’s, that he might win her at last to him. Such, God says, “is the love of the Lord for Israel.” He loved her, before she fell, for the woman was “beloved of her friend, and yet an adulteress.” He loved her after she fell, and while persevering in her adultery. For God explains His command to the prophet still to love her, by the words, “according to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel, while they look to other gods, literally, and they are looking.” The words express a contemporary circumstance. God was loving them and looking upon them; and they, all the while, were looking to other gods.
Love flagons of wine - Literally, “of grapes,” or perhaps, more probably, “cakes of grapes,” i. e., dried raisins. Cakes were used in idolatry Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 44:19. The “wine” would betoken the excess common in idolatry, and the bereavement of understanding: the cakes denote the sweetness and lusciousness, yet still the dryness, of any gratification out of God, which is preferred to Him. Israel despised and rejected the true Vine, Jesus Christ, the source of all the works of grace and righteousness, and “loved the dried cakes,” the observances of the law, which, apart from Him, were dry and worthless.
So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver - The fifteen shekels were half the price of a common slave Exodus 21:32, and so may denote her worthlessness. The homer and half-homer of barley, or forty-five bushels, are nearly the allowance of food for a slave among the Romans, four bushels a month. Barley was the offering of one accused of adultery, and, being the food of animals, betokens that she was “like horse and mule which have no understanding.” The Jews gave dowries for their wives; but she was the prophet’s wife already. It was then perhaps an allowance, whereby he bought her back from her evil freedom, not to live as his wife, but to be honestly maintained, until it should be fit, completely to restore her.
Thou shalt abide for me many days - Literally, “thou shalt sit,” solitary and as a widow Deuteronomy 21:13, quiet and sequestered; not going after others, as heretofore, but waiting for him; Exodus 24:14; Jeremiah 3:2); and “that,” for an undefined, but long season, until he should come and take her to himself.
And thou shalt not be for another man - Literally, “and thou shalt not be to a man,” i. e., not even to thine own man or husband. She was to remain without following sin, yet without restoration to conjugal rights. Her husband would be her guardian; but as yet, no more. So will “I also be for thee or toward thee.” He does not say “to thee,” so as to belong to her, but “toward thee;” i. e., he would have regard, respect to her; he would watch over her, be kindly disposed toward her; he, his affections, interests, thoughts, would be directed “toward” her. The word toward expresses regard, yet distance also. Just so would God, in those times, withhold all special tokens of His favor, covenant, providence; yet would he secretly uphold and maintain them as a people, and withhold them from falling wholly from Him into the gulf of irreligion and infidelity.
For the children of Israel shall abide many days - The condition described is one in which there should be no civil polity, none of the special temple-service, nor yet the idolatry, which they had hitherto combined with it or substituted for it. “King and prince” include both higher and lower governors. Judah had “kings” before the captivity, and a sort of “prince” in her governors after it. Judah remained still a polity, although without the glory of her kings, until she rejected Christ. Israel ceased to have any civil government at all. “Sacrifice” was the center of worship before Christ. It was that part of their service, which, above all, foreshadowed His love, His atonement and sacrifice, and the reconciliation of God by His blood, whose merits it pleaded. “Images,” were, “contrariwise,” the center of idolatry, the visible form of the beings, whom they worshipped instead of God. The “ephod” was the holy garment which the high priest wore, with the names of the twelve tribes and the Urim and Thummim, over his heart, and by which he inquired of God. The “Teraphim” were idolatrous means of divination.
So then, “for many days,” a long, long period, “the children of Israel” should “abide,” in a manner waiting for God, as the wife waited for her husband, kept apart under His care, yet not acknowledged by Him; not following after idolatries, yet cut off from the sacrificial worship which He had appointed for forgiveness of sins, through faith in the Sacrifice yet to be offered, cut off also from the appointed means of consulting Him and knowing His will. Into this state the ten tribes were brought upon their captivity, and (those only excepted who joined the two tribes or have been converted to the Gospel,) they have ever since remained in it.’ Into that same condition the two tribes were brought, after that, by “killing the Son, they had filled up the measure of their father’s” sins; and the second temple, which His presence had hallowed, was destroyed by the Romans, in that condition they have ever since remained; free from idolatry, and in a state of waiting for God, yet looking in vain for a Messiah, since they had not and would not receive Him who came unto them; praying to God; yet without sacrifice for sin; not owned by God, yet kept distinct and apart by His providence, for a future yet to be revealed. “No one of their own nation has been able to gather them together or to become their king.”
Julian the Apostate attempted in vain to rebuild their temple, God interposing by miracles to hinder the effort which challenged His Omnipotence. David’s temporal kingdom has perished and his line is lost, because Shiloh, the peace-maker, is come. The typical priesthood ceased, in presence of the true “priest after the order of Melchisedek.” The line of Aaron is forgotten, unknown, and cannot be recovered. So hopelessly are their genealogies confused, that they themselves conceive it to be one of the offices of their Messiah to disentangle them. Sacrifice, the center of their religion, has ceased and become unlawful. Still their characteristic has been to wait. Their prayer as to the Christ has been, “may He soon be revealed.” Eighteen centuries have flowed by. “Their eyes have failed with looking” for God’s promise, from where it is not to be found. Nothing has changed this character, in the mass of the people.
Oppressed, released, favored; despised, or aggrandised; in East or West; hating Christians, loving to blaspheme Christ, forced (as they would remain Jews,) to explain away the prophecies which speak of Him, deprived of the sacrifices which, to their forefathers, spoke of Him and His atonement; still, as a mass, they blindly wait for Him, the true knowledge of whom, His offices, His priesthood, and His kingdom, they have laid aside. Anti God has been “toward them.” He has preserved them from mingling with idolaters or Muslims. Oppression has not extinguished them, favor has not bribed them. He has kept them from abandoning their mangled worship, or the Scriptures which they understand not, and whose true meaning they believe not; they have fed on the raisinhusks of a barren ritual and unspiritual legalism since the Holy Spirit they have grieved away. Yet they exist still, a monument to “us,” of God’s abiding wrath on sin, as Lot’s wife was to them, encrusted, stiff, lifeless, only that we know that “the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.”
True it is, that idolatry was not the immediate cause of the final punishment of the two, as it was of the ten tribes. But the words of the prophecy go beyond the first and immediate occasion of it. The sin, which God condemned by Hosea, was alienation from Himself. He loved them, and “They turned to other gods.” The outward idolatry was but a fruit and a symbol of the inward. The temptation to idolatry was not simply, nor chiefly, to have a visible symbol to worship, but the hope to obtain from the beings so symbolized, or from their worship, what God refused or forbade. It was a rejection of God, choosing His rival. “The adulteress soul is whoever, forsaking the Creator, loveth the creature.” The rejection of our Lord was moreover the crowning act of apostasy, which set the seal on all former rejection of God. And when the sinful soul or nation is punished at last, God punishes not only the last act, which draws down the stroke, but all the former accumulated sins, which culminated in it. So then they who “despised the Bridegroom, who came from heaven to seek the love of His own in faith, and, forsaking Him, gave themselves over to the Scribes and Pharisees who slew Him, that the inheritance, i. e., God’s people, “might be” theirs,” having the same principle of sin as the ten tribes, were included in their sentence.
Afterward shall the children of Israel return - Elsewhere it is said more fully, “return to the Lord.” It expresses more than “turning” or even conversion to God. It is not conversion only, but reversion too, a turning “back from” the unbelief and sins, for which they had left God, and a return to Him whom they had forsaken.
And shall seek the Lord - This word, “seek,” expresses in Hebrew, from its intensive form, a diligent search; as used with regard to God, it signifies a religious search. It is not such seeking as our Lord speaks of, “Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled” John 6:26, or, “many shall seek to enter in and shall not be able” Luke 13:24, but that earnest seeking, to which He has promised, “Seek and ye shall find.” Before, she had diligently sought her false gods. Now, in the end she shall as diligently seek God and His grace, as she had heretofore sought her idols and her sins.
And David their King - David himself, after the flesh, this could not be. For he had long since been gathered to his fathers; nor was he to return to this earth. “David” then must be “the Son of David,” the same, of whom God says, “I will set up One Shepherd over them, and He shall feed them, even My servant David, and He shall be their Shepherd, and I the Lord will be their God, and My servant David a Prince among them” Ezekiel 34:23-24. The same was to be a “witness, leader, commander to the people Isaiah 55:4; He who was to be “raised up to David Jeremiah 23:5-6, a righteous Branch,” and who was to “be called the Lord our Righteousness; David’s Lord” Psalms 110:1, as well as “David’s Son.” Whence the older Jews, of every school, Talmudic, mystical, Biblical, grammatical, explained this prophecy, of Christ. Thus their received paraphrase is: “Afterward the children of Israel shall repent, or turn by repentance, and shall seek the service of the Lord their God, and shall obey Messiah the Son of David, their King” .
And shall fear the Lord - Literally, “shall fear toward the Lord and toward His goodness.” It is not then a servile fear, not even, as elsewhere, a fear, which makes them shrink back from His awful Majesty. It is a fear, the most opposed to this; a fear, whereby “they shall flee to Him for help, from all that is to be feared;” a reverent holy awe, which should even impel them to Him; a fear of losing Him, which should make them hasten to Him. : “They shall fear, and wonder exceedingly, astonied at the greatness of God’s dealing, or of their own joy.” Yet they should “hasten tremblingly,” as bearing in memory their past unfathfulness and ill deserts, and fearing to approach, but for the greater fear on turning away. Nor do they hasten with this reverent awe and awful joy to God only, but “to His Goodness also.” His Goodness draws them, and to it they betake themselves, away from all cause of fear, their sins, themselves, the Evil one. Yet even His Goodness is a source of awe. “His Goodness!” How much it contains. All whereby God is good in Himself, all whereby he is good to us. That whereby he is essentially good, or rather Goodness; that whereby He is good to us, as His creatures, its yet more as His sinfill, ungrateful, redeemed creatures, re-born to bear the Image of His Son. So then His Goodness overflows into beneficence, and condescension, and graciousness and mercy and forgiving love, and joy in imparting Himself, and complacence in the creatures which he has formed, and re-formed, redeemed and sanctified for His glory. Well may His creatures “tremble toward” it, with admiring wonder that all this can be made their’s!
This was to take place “in the latter days.” These words, which are adopted in the New Testament, where Apostles say, “in the last days, in these last days” Acts 2:17; Hebrews 1:2, mean this, the last dispensation of God, in contrast with all which went before, the times of the Gospel . The prophecy has all along been fulfilled during this period to those, whether of the ten or of the two tribes, who have been converted to Christ, since God ended their temple-worship. It is fulfilled in every soul from among them, who now is “converted and lives.” There will be a more full fulfillment, of which Paul speaks, when the eyes of all Israel shall be opened to the deceivableness of the last antichrist; and Enoch and Elias, the two witnesses Revelation 11:3, shall have come to prepare our Lord’s second Coming, and shall have keen slain, and, by God’s converting grace, “all Israel shall be saved” Romans 11:26.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Hosea 3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent