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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 5

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor.

Judah too being guilty shall be punished; nor shall Assyria, whose aid they both sought, save them: judgments shall at last lead them to repentance.

O house of the king - according to some, Pekah; the contemporary of Ahaz king of Judah, under whom first idolatry was carried so far in Judah as to call for the judgment of the joint Syrian and Israelite invasion, as also that of Assyria. Pusey, taking, the chapters as chronologically arranged, makes "the king" to be Zachariah, the last of Jehu's line, who reigned only for six months, and was rained to the throne after the eleven years' interregnum of anarchy which succeeded the death of Jeroboam II., and which is the period alluded to in Hosea 4:1. Compare 2 Kings 15:8, margin.

For judgment is toward you - i:e., threatens you from God: you, who have hitherto been the judges, are to be brought to "judgment" - literally, 'the judgment.'

Ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor - as hunters spread their net and snares on the hills Mizpah and Tabor, so ye have snared the people into idolatry, and made them your prey by injustice. As Mizpah and Tabor mean a watch tower and a lofty place (a fit scene for hunters), playing on the words, the prophet implies, in the lofty place in which. I have set you, whereas ye ought to have been the watchers of the people, guarding them from evil, ye have been as hunters entrapping them into it (Jerome). These two places are specified, Mizpah in the east and Tabor in the west, to include the high places throughout the whole kingdom, in which Israel's rulers set up idolatrous altars. Jewish tradition states that liers in wait were set in these two places to intercept and murder those Israelites who would go up to Jerusalem to worship: Hosea 5:2 favours this.

Verse 2

And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all.

And the revolters - apostates.

Are profound - deeply-rooted (Calvin), and sunk to the lowest depths; excessive in their idolatry (Hosea 9:9; Isaiah 31:6). (Henderson.) From the antithesis (Hosea 5:3), "not hid from me." I prefer explaining, profoundly cunning in their idolatry. Jeroboam thought it a profound piece of policy to set up golden calves to represent God in Dan and Bethel, in order to prevent Israel's heart from turning again to David's line by going up to Jerusalem to worship. So Israel's subsequent. idolatry was grounded by their leaders on various pleas of state expediency (cf. Isaiah 29:15).

To make slaughter. He does not say 'to sacrifice,' for their so-called sacrifices were butcheries rather than sacrifices: there was nothing sacred about them, being to idols instead of the holy God.

Though I have been a rebuker of them all - literally, a rebuke: God's prominent attribute in relation to them had been rebuke. Maurer translates, 'and (in spite of their hope of safety through their slaughter of victims to idols) I will be a chastisement to them all.' The English version is good sense: They have deeply revolted, notwithstanding all my prophetic warnings.

Verse 3

I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me: for now, O Ephraim, thou committest whoredom, and Israel is defiled.

I know Ephraim - the tribe so called, as distinguished from "Israel" here the other nine tribes. It was always foremost of the tribes of the north kingdom. For 400 years in early history it, with Manasseh and Benjamin, its two dependent tribes, held the preeminence in the whole nation. Ephraim is here addressed as foremost in idolatry.

And Israel is not hid from me - notwithstanding their supposed profound cunning (Hosea 5:2; Revelation 2:2; Revelation 2:9; Revelation 2:13; Revelation 2:19, "I know thy works").

For now, O Ephraim, thou committest whoredom - "now," "though I have been a rebuker of all them" (Hosea 5:2) who commit such spiritual whoredoms, thou art now continuing in them. Now, when thou thinkest thy doings are profoundly hidden (Hosea 5:2), I know them all and thyself.

Verse 4

They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the LORD.

They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God - "They," turning from a direct address to Ephraim, he uses the third person plural, to characterize the people in general. The Hebrew is against the margin. 'Their doings wilt not suffer them,' the omission of 'them' in the Hebrew after the verb being unusual. The sense is, they are incurable, for they will not permit [ yitªnuw (H5414) - literally, give] their doings to be framed so as to turn unto God. Implying that they resist the Spirit of God, not suffering Him to renew them; and give themselves up to "the spirit of whoredoms" (in antithesis to 'the Spirit of God' implied in "suffer" or "permit)" (Hosea 4:12; Isaiah 63:10; Ezekiel 16:43; Acts 7:51, "Ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye").

For the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them - in their very center, in their inmost souls.

Verse 5

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

The pride of Israel - wherewith they reject the warnings of God's prophets (Hosea 5:2), and prefer their idols to God (Hosea 7:10; Jeremiah 13:17).

Doth testify to his face - openly to his face he shall be convicted of the pride which is so palpable in him. Before God there is no need of any other witness against the sinner than his own conscience silently speaking in his countenance. Or, 'in his face,' as Isaiah 3:9, "The show of their countenance doth witness against them,"

Therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity. They were too proud to give the political supremacy to Judah. In order to avoid this, and be independent of Jerusalem and its temple, they maintained the rival calf-worship, in open sin against God. Then fornications followed (Hosea 5:5): for pride and carnal sins are closely akin. Ephraim, as the royal tribe, is distinguished from the whole of Israel, of which it was a part.

Judah also shall fall with them. This prophecy is later than Hosea 4:15, when Judah had not gone so far in idolatry; now her imitation of Israel's bad example provokes the threat of her being doomed to share in Israel's punishment.

Verse 6

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

They shall go with their flocks and with their herds - to propitiate Yahweh (Isaiah 1:11-15).

To seek the Lord; but they shall not find him - because it is slavish fear leads them to seek Him; and because it then shall be too late (Proverbs 1:28; John 7:34).

Verse 7

They have dealt treacherously against the LORD: for they have begotten strange children: now shall a month devour them with their portions.

They have dealt treacherously against the Lord - as to the marriage-covenant between God and Israel (Jeremiah 3:20).

For they have begotten strange children - alluding to "children of whoredoms" (Hosea 1:2; Hosea 2:4). "Strange," or foreign, implies that their idolatry was imported from abroad (Henderson). Or rather, 'regarded by God as strangers, not His,' as being reared in idolatry. The case is desperate, when not only the existing, but also the rising generation is reared in apostasy.

Now shall a month devour them - a very brief respite of time shall elapse, and then punishment shall overtake them (Zechariah 11:8, "Three shepherds also I cut off in one month"). The allusion seems to be to money loans, which were by the month, not as with us by the year. You cannot put it off: the time of your destruction is immediately and suddenly coming on you; just as the debtor must meet the creditor's demand at the expiration of the month. The prediction is of the invasion of Tiglath-pileser, who carried. away Reuben, Gad, Naphtali, and the half tribe of Manasseh.

With their portions - i:e., possessions. Their resources and garrisons will not avail to save them. Henderson explains, from Isaiah 57:6, "portions" as their idols: the context favours this, "the Lord," the true "portion of his people," being in antithesis to "their portions," the idols (Jeremiah 10:16, "The portion of Jacob is not like them: for he is the former of all things The Lord of hosts is his name").

Verse 8

Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah: cry aloud at Bethaven, after thee, O Benjamin.

Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah. The arrival of the enemy is announced in the form of an injunction to blow an alarm.

Cornet ... trumpet - the "cornet" was made of the curved horn of animals, and was used by shepherds. The trumpet was of brass or silver, straight, and used in wars and on solemn occasions. The Hebrew is hatzotzerah, the sound imitating the trumpet note (Hosea 8:1; Numbers 10:2; Jeremiah 4:5; Joel 2:1).

Gibeah ... Ramah - both in Benjamin (Isaiah 10:29).

Cry aloud at Beth-aven - in Benjamin; not as in Hosea 4:15, Beth-el, but a town east of it, and beside Ai (Joshua 7:2). "Cry aloud" - namely to raise the alarm.

After thee, O Benjamin. The enemy is just behind thee, pursuing thee. How sad that the people of God, to whom God had promised. "I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee" (Exodus 23:27), should now, on account of sin, be forced to turn their backs on their enemies! "Benjamin" is put for the whole south kingdom of Judah (cf. Hosea 5:5) being the first part of it which would meet the foe advancing from the north. "After thee, O Benjamin," implies the position of Beth-aven, behind Benjamin, at the borders of Ephraim. When the foe is at Beth-aven, he is at Benjamin's rear, close upon thee, O Benjamin (Judges 5:14).

Verses 9-10

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

Ephraim ... Judah. - Israel is referred to in Hosea 5:9, Judah in Hosea 5:10.

Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke - the day when I shall chastise him.

Among the tribes of Israel have I made known - proving that the scene of Hosea's labours were among the ten tribes.

Among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be - literally, 'that which is established,' or 'well grounded' [ ne'ªmaanaah (H539)] in the purpose of God, namely, the coming judgment here foretold. It is no longer a conditional decree, leaving a hope of pardon on repentance: it is absolute, because Ephraim is hopelessly impenitent. The princes of Judah were like them that remove the bound - one's "neighbour's land-mark" (Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:17, "Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's land-mark;" Job 24:2; Proverbs 5:22-23; Proverbs 23:10). Proverbial for the rash setting aside of the ancestral laws of religion, by which men are kept to their duty, and the consequent curse incurred. Ahaz and his courtiers ("the princes of Judah") setting aside the ancient ordinances of God, removed the borders of the bases and the layer and the sea, and introduced an idolatrous altar, made by Urijah the priest after a pattern from Damascus (2 Kings 16:10-18); also he burnt his children in the valley of Hinnom, after the abominations of the pagan (2 Chronicles 28:3).

Verse 11

Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.

Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment - namely, 'crushed' in the "judgment" of God on him (Hosea 5:1).

Because he willingly walked after the commandment - he willfully followed Jeroboam's commandment to worship the calves. (Thus Jehu walked after "the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin," 2 Kings 10:28-33. "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold thy gods, O lsrael, which brought you out of the land of Egypt; and Jeroboam ordained a feast unto ... Israel.") Compare Micah 6:16, "The statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels" - namely, idolatrous statutes. "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Jerome reads 'filthiness' [tsow, for tsaaw (H6673)]. The Septuagint gives the sense, not the literal translation, after vanities.'

Verse 12

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

Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth - consuming a garment (Job 13:28; Psalms 39:11; Isaiah 50:9).

And to the house of Judah as rottenness. Ephraim, or the ten tribes, are as a garment eaten by the moth; Judah as the body itself consumed by rottenness (Proverbs 5:12-14, "She that maketh ashamed is (to her husband) as rottenness in his bones"). Perhaps alluding to the superiority of the latter in having the house of David and the temple, the religious center of the nation (Grotius). As in Hosea 5:13-14, the violence of the calamity is prefigured by the "wound" which "a lion" inflicts: so here its long protracted duration, and the certainty and completeness of the destruction from small unforeseen beginnings, by the images of a slowly but surely consuming moth and rottenness. At first the evil was less violent, and God's judgments of a gentler kind; but afterward the evil became more desperate, and God's judgments were more severe in consequence. If they had at first been warned by the gentler and slower visitations, they would have escaped those more violent.

Verse 13

When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.

When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound - literally, bandage: hence, a bandage wound (Isaiah 1:6, "From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores;" Jeremiah 30:12). As the "sickness" refers to the gradual inward decay, so the "wound" refers to the judicial stroke from without, inflicted by God through the hands of enemies. "Saw" - felt its weakened state politically, and the dangers that threatened it. It aggravates their perversity that, though sensible of their unsound and calamitous state, they did not inquire into the cause, or seek a right remedy.

Then went Ephraim to the Assyrian - first, Menahem (2 Kings 15:19) applied to Pul, giving "a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand;" again Hoshea to Shalmaneser (2 Kings 17:3).

And sent to king Jareb. Understand Judah as the nominative to "sent," Thus, as "Ephraim saw his sickness" (the first clause) answers in the parallelism to "Ephraim went to the Assyrian" (the third clause), so "Judah saw his wound" (the second clause) answers to (Judah) "sent to king Jareb" (the fourth clause). Jareb ought rather to be translated, 'their defender,' literally; avenger (Jerome). The Assyrian "king," ever ready, for his own aggrandizement, to mix himself up with the affairs of neighbouring states, professed to undertake Israel's and Judah's cause: in Judges 6:32, Jerub, in Jerubbaal, is so used-namely, 'plead one's cause.' Judah, under Ahaz, applied to Tiglath-pileser for aid against Syria and Israel (2 Kings 16:7-8; 2 Chronicles 28:16-21): the Assyrian "distressed him, but strengthened him not," fulfilling the prophecy here, "He could not heal you, nor cure you of your wound." Thinking to get the Assyrian as an helper against God's judgments for sin, Israel found the expected helper to be God's 'avenger,' leading him into captivity as a deserter from God.

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 take away, and none shall rescue him.

For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion - the black lion [ shachal (H7826)] and the young lion [ kªpiyr (H3715)] are emblems of strength and ferocity (Psalms 91:13). He who had seemed in his judgments but as a tiny "moth" fretting a garment was now about to become as a fierce roaring lion (so the Hebrew is literally), tearing to nieces in a moment. As the roaring lion awaits Ephraim, the older offender, so the young lion awaits Judah, whose apostasy was more recent.

I, even I, will tear - emphatic: when I, even I, the irresistible God, tear in pieces, no Assyrian power can rescue (Psalms 50:22, "Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver").

And go away - as a lion stalks leisurely back with his prey to his lair.

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 early.

I will go and return to my place - i:e., withdraw my favour. The image to which God compares himself (Hosea 5:14) is that of a lion going and returning to his covert, after having taken his prey.

Till they acknowledge their offence. The Hebrew includes the idea, also, 'until they suffer the penalty of their guilt.' Probably 'accepting the punishment of their guilt,' "whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty," is included in the idea (cf. Zechariah 11:5), as the English version translates. (Compare Leviticus 26:40-41; Jeremiah 29:12-13; Ezekiel 6:9; Ezekiel 20:43 "Ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed;" Ezekiel 36:31.)

And seek my face - i:e., seek my favour, (Proverbs 29:26, margin)

In their affliction they will seek me early - i:e., diligently; rising up before dawn to seek me (Psalms 119:147: cf. Psalms 78:34).


(1) They who set snares to entrap others to their destruction shall be caught themselves in the judgment of God. They who, as ministers of God and in high places, ought to have been watchers of the people, guarding them from evil, had become hunters of their souls to their ruin (Hosea 5:1). "Profound" and deeply laid as were their schemes of revolt from their allegiance to Yahweh (Hosea 5:1), they were "not hid from" God's all-seeing eye (Hosea 5:3). Man's master-strokes of state policy, as they think them, prove in the end to be but laborious and ingenious foolishness, fatal to the originators and to all connected with them. State expediency was Jeroboam's plea for the worship of the calves, as it has been the plea in all ages for compromises of the truth. But as the division of the nation was of God's appointment, had he with simple faith, done what God had ordained, and continued to worship in the temple of Jerusalem God would have assuredly blessed him and Israel in the end; whereas, by a tortuous and God-dishonouring policy of man's devising, he brought ultimately on his line and upon his kingdom destruction, from the Lord. Let the worldly wise remember God's words, "I know Ephraim" (Hosea 5:3); and so learn, as under God's all-seeing eye at all times, to follow the true wisdom, the beginning of which is the fear of the Lord.

(2) It is the ruin of transgressors that, like Israel, "they will not frame their doings to turn unto their God" (Hosea 5:4). The reason is, because there is in their inmost souls a spirit of apostasy, emanating from the father of evil, to whom they yield themselves up, and resist the Spirit of God who waits to be gracious if they would, but suffer Him. "They know not the Lord;" for if they knew what a loving God He is, they would not so perversely and suicidally turn from Him. But "pride" is their bane (Hosea 5:5). They are too proud to own themselves wrong, and to humble themselves before Him as sinners, and to become meek, gentle, and loving toward their fellow-men. Their pride is betrayed in their haughty bearing and self-satisfied expression of countenance; and as "pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall," their fall is nigh at hand; and with them shall fall all who take part with them, as Judah ultimately did with Israel.

(3) Sinners think to compound for past disobedience with sacrifice. But there is a time when it is too late to seek the Lord, even though one offer to Him costly gifts. That awful stage was already reached by Israel. The same stage shall be at last reached by all who long harden themselves against the grace of God. Slavish fear, when the judgment from God is in the act of descending, will constrain even the most reprobate to seek God: but then the Lord's words will be proved terribly true, "Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me; and where I am, there ye cannot come" (John 7:34). Even the godliness of a Josiah, though it saved his own soul, could not turn away "the fierceness of God's great wrath against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal" (2 Kings 23:25-27). Let us be wise in time and "seek the Lord while He is to be found."

(4) The respite afforded to transgressors is short (Hosea 5:7). The unfaithfulness and treachery toward God of the Israelite fathers was transmitted to the children. The case is peculiarly desperate when the children, who ought to be the hope of the next age, are reared in the apostasy of the parents, the men of the present generation. Nothing then remains but immediate judgments, cutting off the apostate race. "Their portions" (Hosea 5:7) shall perish with them; whereas the Lord is the everlasting portion of His people.

(5) The prophecies of Scripture are "that which shall surely be" (Hosea 5:9), because they are "grounded" on the truth, the justice, and the holiness of God. They who "remove the boundary" which the law of God hath set (Hosea 5:10), in order that they may, in self-willed presumption, "walk after the commandment" of men, shall, like Ephraim, who preferred Jeroboam's will to God's will, suffer God's just "wrath poured out" like an overwhelming flood. As Israel's sin was their following man's ungodly will, so should their punishment be their being led away against their will, at the will of the men who should be their conquerors.

(6) The judgments of God at first are, like the transgressor's own beginnings of apostasy, slow, silent, and imperceptible, as the "moth" that eateth a garment, or the "rottenness" that gradually and without observation sows the seeds of consumption in the body (Hosea 5:12). When the man is fancying himself safe and sound, a moral decay has set in at the heart safe and with it come the first small unobserved beginnings of God's judgments. If the sinner would take heed to these lesser judgments in time, he would escape those greater and final ones, which "tear" to destruction like a "lion" rushing upon his victim (Hosea 5:14). But the sinner, instead of searching into the deeply-seated spiritual cause of his malady, and of God's consequent judgments, and so finding the true remedy (Hosea 5:13), flees to human physicians of no value, who only aggravate the disease. So Ephraim, when he saw his sickness, went to the Assyrian; and Judah, when he saw his wound, sent to King Jareb. These human objects of trust proved to the impenitent unbelievers who had recourse to them, not "defenders," as they had hoped, but God's "avengers" on their impenitence and unbelief. So will it ever be with all who, instead of penitently bowing under God's judgments for sin, "make flesh their arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord" (Jeremiah 17:5).

(7) God withdraws His presence and His grace until men "acknowledge their offence, and seek His face." The first step in repentance is to acknowledge our offence, and to accept as justly due whatever punishment for iniquity God has seen fit to lay upon us. The next step is to "seek the face of God" (Hosea 5:15). Without the latter, despair, not repentance, would be the result, as in the case of Judah's remorse. Without the former step, to seek God's face would be presumption. Affliction, unless it be sanctified, only hardens; but when the grace of God teaches the lesson designed by it, the afflicted penitent seeks the Lord early, and with all diligence, as Daniel and the godly Jews did in Babylon, (Daniel 9:1-27.) Then there is a dawn of hope when the sinner complains more of his sins than of his sufferings. May God thus teach us all by His Spirit to seek Him early, that so we may find Him!

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hosea 5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/hosea-5.html. 1871-8.
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