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Friday, June 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 6

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

Verse 1

Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.

At Hosea 6:4 a new discourse, complaining of them, begins; because Hosea 6:1-3 evidently belongs to Hos. 6:15 of Hosea 5:1-15, and forms the happy termination of Israel's punishment: primarily, the return from Babylon; ultimately, the return from their present long dispersion. The eighth verse perhaps refers to the murder of Pekahiah, the son of Menahem, by Pekah, the son of Remaliah, who conspired against him, being a captain of his. The discourse cannot be later than Pekah's reign, because it was under it that Gilead was carried into captivity (2 Kings 15:29).

Come, and let us return - in order that God, who has 'returned to His place' may return to us (Hosea 5:15).

He hath torn, and he will heal us - (Deuteronomy 32:39; Jeremiah 30:17). They ascribe their punishment, not to fortune, or man, but to God, and acknowledge that none (not the Assyrian, as they once vainly thought, Hosea 5:13) but God can heal their wound. They are at the same time persuaded of the mercy of God, which persuasion is the starting-point of true repentance, and without which men would not seek, but hate and flee from God. Though our wound be severe, it is not past hope of recovery; there is room for grace, and a hope of pardon. He hath smitten us, but not so badly that He cannot heal us (Psalms 130:4).

Verse 2

After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.

After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.

Primarily, in type, Israel's national revival, in a short period (" two or three" being used to denote a few days, Isaiah 17:6; Luke 13:32-33, "I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk today, and tomorrow, and the day following"); antitypically the language is so framed as to refer in its full accuracy only to Messiah, the ideal Israel (Isaiah 49:3; the "Son called out of Egypt," as "Israel" was: cf. Matthew 2:15, with Hosea 11:1), raised on the third day (John 2:19, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up;" 1 Corinthians 15:4, "He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures; cf. Isaiah 53:10). Compare the similar use of Israel's political resurrection as the type of the general resurrection, of which "Christ's resurrection is the first-fruits" (Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37:1-14; 1 Corinthians 15:22-23; Daniel 12:2).

We shall live in his sight - enjoy his favour and the light of his countenance shining on us as of old; in contrast to Hosea 5:6; Hosea 5:15, "He hath withdrawn himself from them."

Verse 3

Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.

Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord - "then," i:e., the result of his recovered favour (Hosea 6:2) will be onward growth in saving knowledge of God, as the result of perseverance in following after him (Psalms 63:8, "My soul followeth hard after thee;" Isaiah 54:13, "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord"). "Then" implies the consequence of the revival in Hosea 6:2. The "if" is not so much conditional, as expressive of the means which Gods grace will sanctify to the fill enlightenment of Israel in the knowledge of Him. As a lack of "knowledge of God" had been the source of all evils (Hosea 4:1; Hosea 4:6, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;" Hosea 6:4), so the knowledge of Him will bring with it all blessings; yea, it is "life" (John 17:3). This knowledge is practice, not mere theory (Jeremiah 22:15-16). Theology is life, not science; realities, not words. This onward progress is illustrated by the light of "morning" increasing more and more "unto the, perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18). Probably the "if" inserted by the English version ought to be omitted, as not being in the Hebrew: translate, 'Then shall we know ... shall follow on to know the Lord.' We shall not only know Him, but we shall go on continually knowing more and more of Him.

His going forth is prepared - is sure literally, fixed ordered in His everlasting purposes of love to His covenant-people. (Compare "prepared of God," margin, Genesis 41:32, "The thing is established (prepared) of God;" Revelation 12:6). Yahweh shall surely come to the relief of His people after their dark night of calamity.

As the morning - (2 Samuel 23:4, "He shall be as the light of the morning when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain").

And he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain - (Job 29:23; Joel 2:23). First, "the rain" [ geshem (H1653)] generally is mentioned; then the two rains (Deuteronomy 11:14) promised by God ("I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain"), which caused the fertility of Palestine, and the absence of which was accounted the greatest calamity: "the latter rain," which falls in the latter half of February, and during March and April, just before the harvest, whence it takes its name, from a root meaning 'to gather' [malqowsh]; and "the former rain" - literally, the darting rain [yuwreh], from the middle of October to the middle of December. As the rain fertilizes the otherwise barren land, so God's favour will restore Israel, long nationally Lifeless.

Verse 4

O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.

O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? - to bring thee back to piety. What more could be done that I have not done, both in mercies and chastenings? (Isaiah 5:4.) At this verse a new discourse begins, resuming the threats (Hosea 5:14). See opening remarks on this chapter.

For your goodness - godliness.

Is as a morning cloud - soon dispersed by the sun (Hosea 13:3, "Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away:" a just retribution in kind). There is a tacit contrast here to the promise of God's grace to Israel hereafter, in Hosea 6:3, His going forth is "as the morning," shining more and more unto the perfect day; your goodness is "as a morning cloud," soon vanishing. His coming to His people is "as the (fertilizing) latter and former rains;" your coming to Him "as the early dew goeth away."

Verse 5

Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth.

Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets - i:e., I announced by the prophets that they should be hewn asunder, like trees of the forest. God identifies His act with that of His prophets; the word being His instrument for executing His will (Jeremiah 1:10; Ezekiel 43:3).

By the words of my mouth - (Isaiah 11:4; Jeremiah 23:29; Hebrews 4:12).

And thy judgments - the judgments which I will inflict on thee, Ephraim and Judah (Hosea 6:4). So "thy judgments," - i:e., those inflicted on thee (Zephaniah 3:15).

Are as the light that goeth forth - like the light, palpable to the eyes of all, as coming from God, the punisher of sin. Henderson translates, 'lightning' (cf. margin, Job 37:3; Job 37:15).

Verse 6

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

For I desired mercy - put for piety in general, of which mercy or charity is a branch. The connection of the "For" is (Hosea 5:6), God had said, "They shall go with their flocks and herds to seek the Lord, but they shall not find Him;" for He adds here, "I desired mercy, and not sacrifice." Do not excuse yourselves by thinking of the sacrifices you have offered to me: these were not what I required, so much as mercy and general goodness and piety on your parts: but these are the very duties which you failed to fulfill in obedience to me, and without which, your sacrifices are vain. And not sacrifice - i:e., 'rather than sacrifice.' So not is merely comparative (Exodus 16:8; Joel 2:13; John 6:27; 1 Timothy 2:14, "Adam was deceived, but the woman"). Since God Himself instituted sacrifices, it cannot mean that He desired them not absolutely, but that, even in the Old Testament, He valued moral obedience, inasmuch as being the only end for which positive ordinances, such as sacrifices, were instituted-as of more importance than a mere external ritual obedience (1 Samuel 15:22; Psalms 50:8-9; Psalms 51:16-17; Isaiah 1:11-12; Micah 6:6-8, "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord ... shall I come before him with burnt offerings ... shall I give my first-born for my transgression ... what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7).

And the knowledge of God - experimental and practical, not merely theoretical (Hosea 6:3; Jeremiah 22:16; 1 John 2:3-4). "Mercy" refers to the second table of the law, our duty to our fellow-man; "the knowledge of God" to the first table, our duty to God, including inward spiritual worship. The second table is put first, not as superior in dignity, for it is secondary, but in the order of our understanding.

Verse 7

But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.

But they, like men, have transgressed the covenant - the common sort of men (Psalms 82:7, "Ye shall die like men"). The margin has it, 'like Adam' (Job 31:33). However, the expression "covenant" is not found elsewhere applied to Adam's relation to God; though the thing seems implied (Romans 5:12-19, "As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners,"). "As in Adam all die" (1 Corinthians 15:22). Israel "transgressed the covenant" of God as lightly as men break everyday compacts with their fellow-men.

There have they dealt treacherously against me - "there," in the north kingdom, Israel.

Verse 8

Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood.

Gilead is a city - probably Ramoth-gilead, metropolis of the hilly region beyond Jordan, south of the Jabbok, known as "Gilead" (1 Kings 4:13: cf. "Mount Gilead," Genesis 31:21-25).

Of them that work iniquity - (Hosea 12:11 "Is there iniquity in Gilead?")

And is polluted with blood - `marked with blood-traces' (Maurer). Referring to Gilead's complicity in the regicidal conspiracy of Pekah against Pekahiah (2 Kings 15:25). See the note at Hosea 6:1. Many homicides were there, for there were beyond Jordan more cities of refuge in proportion to the extent of territory, than on this side of Jordan (Numbers 35:14; Deuteronomy 4:41-43; Joshua 20:8). Ramoth-gilead was one city of refuge in the tribe of Gad, beyond Jordan; Bezer was another in Reuben; and Golan another in Manasseh.

Verse 9

And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit lewdness.

And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests - the association or guild of priests.

Murder in the way by consent - literally, with one shoulder, (cf. Zephaniah 3:9, "with one consent" - shoulder, margin.) The image is from oxen putting their shoulders together to pull the same yoke (Rivetus). Maurer translates, 'in the way toward Shechem.' Shechem was a city of refuge between Ebal and Gerizim, on mount Ephraim (Joshua 20:7; Joshua 21:21), long the civil capital of Ephraim, as Shiloh was the religious capital; now called Naploos; for a time the residence of Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:25), who rebuilt it, after its destruction by Abimelech, son of Jerubbaal, or Gideon (Judges 9:45). The priests there became so corrupted that they waylaid and murdered persons fleeing to the asylum for refuge (Henderson). The sanctity of the place enhanced the guilt of the priests, who abused their priestly privileges, and the right of asylum, to perpetrate murders themselves, or to screen those committed by others (Maurer).

For they commit lewdness, [ zimaah (H2154)] - deliberate crime, presumptuous wickedness [from zaamam (H2161), to form a deliberate purpose].

Verse 10

I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled.

I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel - (Jeremiah 5:30; Jeremiah 18:13; Jeremiah 23:14).

There is the whoredom of Ephraim - "whoredom," idolatry.

Verse 11

Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of my people. Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of my people.

Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee - "an harvest," namely, of judgments, as in Jeremiah 51:33; Joel 3:13; Revelation 14:15. Called a "harvest," because it is the fruit of the seed which, Judah herself hath sown (Hosea 8:7; Hosea 10:13, "Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity;" Job 4:8; Proverbs 22:8). Judah, under Ahaz, lost 120,000 "slain in one day (by Israel, under Pekah), because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers."

When I returned the captivity of my people - when I, by Oded my prophet, caused 200,000 women, sons, and daughters of Judah to be restored from captivity by Israel (2 Chronicles 28:6-15). This prophecy was delivered under Pekah (Ludovicus de Dieu). Maurer explains, When Israel shall have been exiled for its sins, and has been subsequently restored by me, thou, Judah, also shalt be exiled for thine. But the objection is, Judah's punishment was not at the time when God restored Israel. Grotius translates, 'When I shall have returned to make captive (i:e., when I shall have again made captive) my people.'

The first captivity of Israel under Tiglath-pileser was followed by a second under Shalmaneser. Then came the siege of Jerusalem, and the capture of the fenced cities of Judah, by Sennacherib, the forerunner of other attacks, ending in Judah's captivity. But the Hebrew is elsewhere used of restoration, not renewed punishment (Deuteronomy 30:3; Psalms 14:7, "When the Lord bringeth back the captivity of His people, Jacob shall rejoice"). I therefore prefer either Ludovicus de Dieu's view or, with Pusey 'Judah also shall be punished; but the Lord hath set an harvest of good for thee, O Judah, at last, when I return,' that is, turn again the captivity of my people after the seventy years' coming exile in Babylon. "Then they which sow in tears shall reap in joy" (Psalms 126:1; Psalms 126:5). This latter view accords with the beginning of the chapter, "He hath torn, and He will heal us," primarily fulfilled in the return from Babylon.


(1) If sinners would have God return to them, they must return to the Lord. When we are truly penitent we ascribe our punishment, not to chance, but to God's gracious appointment. And as God has wounded, so must we look to Him alone, and not to man, to heal the wound. The firm persuasion of His mercy prompts the penitent to seek Him: for without this persuasion we should flee from Him, not to Him. Moreover, true penitents do not wish to return to the Lord singly or alone; but encourage one another, no longer as heretofore in sin, but now in a general movement toward their gracious Father.

(2) The resurrection of Christ on the third day, according to the Scriptures, is the foundation of all hope to the Church of all ages. Israel's hope of national resurrection is inseparably linked with the resurrection of Christ, the antitypical Israel. It is "together with His dead body" that both the literal and spiritual Israel shall arise. Already in spirit, if we be believers, God hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-6). As believers were crucified in the person of Christ, so are they risen with Christ (Colossians 3:1). As yet the promise has not been fulfilled to the literal Israel of the ten tribes, who have never yet been restored at all; nor to Judah, except in a very partial degree, at the restoration from Babylon. The whole of the elect nation therefore wait still for the full accomplishment of God's gracious promise of resurrection as a state. Much more do we, the spiritual Israel of God, "groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23). It is true, already in spirit believers walk in the light of God's countenance, referring all their ways to Him, and enjoying the sense of His favour. But not until the resurrection shall we fully "live in His sight" (Hosea 6:2), "beholding the King in His beauty" (Isaiah 33:17), "seeing Him as He is" (1 John 3:2), "face to face," and "knowing" Him "even as also we are known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).

(3) The first-fruit of the recovered favour of God will be progressive advancement in the knowledge of God. But we must "follow on," and "follow hard after (Psalms 63:9) God," "forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before," in order that we "may apprehend that for which we are also apprehended of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12-13). We know in order to follow, and we must follow in order to know. Light illumines the path of love; and love prompts us to press onward in the path of light, that knowing more, we may love and obey the more. True and saving knowledge of God is heat as well as light, the warmth of spiritual life, not the unfructifying moonlight of mere dog-mas. Yet there must be knowledge and doctrine; else there could be no love, and no true obedience; for the root of faith would be wanting. Throughout eternity the ever-fresh and enlarged views of the infinite God given us, as "we follow on to know the Lord," shall constitute the ever-increasing bliss of the redeemed in heaven.

(4) As the penitent in affliction seek the Lord early and in the morning (Hosea 5:15), so are His goings forth to them "as the morning, prepared" and sure in His eternal purposes of grace (Hosea 6:3). While His people are "waiting for Him more than they that watch for the morning" (Psalms 130:6), He shall come to them as the morning ("Day-spring from on high," Luke 1:78), all-radiant with joy and blessedness. As the early and the latter rains were needed in the thirsty soil and terraces of Palestine, respectively to form and to mature the grain, at the seed-time and at the harvest, so Christ; is the Beginner and Finisher of our faith, coming down to the soul spiritually athirst, "as rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth" (Psalms 72:6).

(5). How sad a contrast is presented by the transition from Israel as she ought to be, and as she shall by God's marvelous grace yet be, to Israel as she then was, and, alas, still is! God appeals to herself to say, what more can God do for her conversion, than what He has done? The all-perfect and all-knowing God asks sinners to prescribe to Him what other means they would have Him to adopt, since they will not be drawn by those all-wise and all-gracious means which He has already used. Sometimes, indeed, Ephraim and Judah seemed to be disposed to repent under chastisements: but their godliness soon disappeared as the morning cloud, which promised to give the fertilizing rain for a time, but was quickly dried up by the sun's heat: or, as the sparkling dew, presenting the appearance of moisture at early dawn, but speedily disappearing, and leaving the ground dry and parched as ever: whereas, on the contrary, Christ's "going forth" to His people is "as the morning" "shining more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18), and "as the latter and former rain unto the earth" (Hosea 6:3). Therefore, the judgments of God upon Ephraim and Judah shall correspond to their sins. "The words of God's mouth," whereby they might have been saved, shall be the very "two-edged sword" whereby they shall be "hewn" asunder (Hosea 6:5). The coming of Christ to all unbelievers, which might have been, but for their sinful folly, as the light of morning (Hosea 6:3), shall be as the destroying "lightning" flash. For "he that receiveth not Christ's words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that Christ hath spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48).

(6) Sinners plead as a ground of pardon in the judgment their formal prayers and services, just as the Israelites pleaded their "sacrifices" (Hosea 5:6); but God will not have sacrifices where "mercy" and love are wanting. God requires outward confession of His name and religious services, but He requires mercy and beneficence more: for it is for the sake of these that those are enjoined. While He ordains that we "forsake not the assembling of ourselves together" (Hebrews 10:25), He tells us that the most essential religious service [ threeskeia (G2356)] is, "to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep one's self unspotted from the world" (James 1:27). "The knowledge of God" must go hand in hand with "mercy:" Faith toward God must accompany love to man: for 'vain were it to boast that we have the other members, if faith, the head, were cut off' (Jerome). The covenant of God with men will not avail for salvation those who "have transgressed" it (Hosea 6:7). As Adam was cast out of paradise, so shall all transgressors be deprived of the privileges of the covenant, and of the goodly inheritance which the faithful are heirs to according to the covenant.

(7) Ramoth-gilead and Shechem (Hosea 6:8-9), the cities of refuge, the former beyond, the latter on this side of Jordan, were made the scenes of blood-shedding by the very priests whose duty was there to save life. They intercepted and slew at Shechem the pilgrims who rested there on their way to Jerusalem to the temple worship. It is peculiarly hateful God, and marks presumptuous, deliberate, and wanton wickedness, when the very places which God hath sanctified, are desecrated to the perpetration of heinous sin and crime. And all this was done "in the house of Israel" (Hosea 6:10), among God's own elect people. This made the thing peculiarly "horrible," and was the seed of a "harvest" of awful punishment to both Ephraim and Judah (Hosea 6:11). And yet from that harvest of wrath there is yet to be a "return," through the grace of God. "Oh that the time were come!" "Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!" For "when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of His people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad" (Psalms 14:7).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hosea 6". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/hosea-6.html. 1871-8.
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