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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 6

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch

Verses 1-3

To this threat the prophet appends in the concluding strophe, both the command to return to the Lord, and the promise that the Lord will raise His smitten nation up again, and quicken them anew with His grace. The separation of these three verses from the preceding one, by the division of the chapters, is at variance with the close connection in the actual contents, which is so perfectly obvious in the allusion made in the words of Hosea 6:1, “Come, and let us return,” to those of Hosea 5:15, “I will go, and return,” and in טרף וירפּאנוּ (Hosea 6:1) to the similar words in Hosea 5:13 and Hosea 5:14. Hosea 6:1. “Come, and let us return to Jehovah: for He has torn in pieces, and will heal us; He has smitten, and will bind us up. Hosea 6:2. He will quicken us after two days; on the third He will raise us up, that we may live before Him.” The majority of commentators, following the example of the Chald. and Septuagint, in which לאמר , λέγοντες , is interpolated before לכוּ , have taken the first three verses as an appeal to return to the Lord, addressed by the Israelites in exile to one another. But it would be more simple, and more in harmony with the general style of Hosea, which is characterized by rapid transitions, to take the words as a call addressed by the prophet in the name of the exile. The promise in v. 3 especially is far more suitable to a summons of this kind, than to an appeal addressed by the people to one another. As the endurance of punishment impels to seek the Lord (Hosea 5:15), so the motive to return to the Lord is founded upon the knowledge of the fact that the Lord can, and will, heal the wounds which He inflicts. The preterite târaph , as compared with the future 'etrōph in Hosea 5:14, presupposes that the punishment has already begun. The following יך is also a preterite with the Vav consec. omitted. The Assyrian cannot heal (Hosea 5:13); but the Lord, who manifested Himself as Israel's physician in the time of Moses (Exodus 15:26), and promised His people healing in the future also (Deuteronomy 32:39), surely can. The allusion in the word ירפּאנוּ to this passage of Deuteronomy, is placed beyond all doubt by Hosea 6:2. The words, “He revives after two days,” etc., are merely a special application of the general declaration, “I kill, and make alive” (Deuteronomy 32:39), to the particular case in hand. What the Lord there promises to all His people, He will also fulfil upon the ten tribes of Israel. By the definition “after two days,” and “on the third day,” the speedy and certain revival of Israel is set before them. Two and three days are very short periods of time; and the linking together of two numbers following one upon the other, expresses the certainty of what is to take place within this space of time, just as in the so-called numerical sayings in Amos 1:3; Job 5:19; Proverbs 6:16; Proverbs 30:15, Proverbs 30:18, in which the last and greater number expresses the highest or utmost that is generally met with. הקים , to raise the dead (Job 14:12; Psalms 88:11; Isaiah 26:14, Isaiah 26:19). “That we may live before Him:” i.e., under His sheltering protection and grace (cf. Genesis 17:18). The earlier Jewish and Christian expositors have taken the numbers, “after two days, and on the third day,” chronologically. The Rabbins consequently suppose the prophecy to refer either to the three captivities, the Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Roman, which has not ended yet; or to the three periods of the temple of Solomon, of that of Zerubbabel, and of the one to be erected by the Messiah. Many of the fathers, on the other hand, and many of the early Lutheran commentators, have found in them a prediction of the death of Christ and His resurrection on the third day. Compare, for example, Calovii Bibl. illustr. ad h. l., where this allusion is defended by a long series of undeniably weak arguments, and where a fierce attack is made, not only upon Calvin, who understood these words as “referring to the liberation of Israel from captivity, and the restoration of the church after two days, i.e., in a very short time;” but also upon Grotius, who found, in addition to the immediate historical allusion to the Israelites, whom God would soon liberate from their death-like misery after their conversion, a foretype, in consequence of a special divine indication, of the time “within which Christ would recover His life, and the church its hope.” But any direct allusion in the hope here uttered to the death and resurrection of Christ, is proved to be untenable by the simple words and their context. The words primarily hold out nothing more than the quickening of Israel out of its death-like state of rejection from the face of God, and that in a very short period after its conversion to the Lord. This restoration to life cannot indeed be understood as referring to the return of the exiles to their earthly fatherland; or, at all events, it cannot be restricted to this. It does not occur till after the conversion of Israel to the Lord its God, on the ground of faith in the redemption effected through the atoning death of Christ, and His resurrection from the grave; so that the words of the prophet may be applied to this great fact in the history of salvation, but without its being either directly or indirectly predicted. Even the resurrection of the dead is not predicted, but simply the spiritual and moral restoration of Israel to life, which no doubt has for its necessary complement the reawakening of the physically dead. And, in this sense, our passage may be reckoned among the prophetic utterances which contain the germ of the hope of a life after death, as in Isaiah 26:19-21, and in the vision of Ezekiel in Ezekiel 37:1-14.

That it did not refer to this in its primary sense, and so far as its historical fulfilment was concerned, is evident from the following verse. Hosea 6:3. “Let us therefore know, hunt after the knowledge of Jehovah. His rising is fixed like the morning dawn, that He may come to us like the rain, and moisten the earth like the latter rain.” ונדעה נר corresponds to לכוּ ונשׁוּבה in Hosea 6:1. The object to נדעה is also את־יהוה , and נדעה is merely strengthened by the addition of נרדּפה לדּעת . The knowledge of Jehovah, which they would hunt after, i.e., strive zealously to obtain, is a practical knowledge, consisting in the fulfilment of the divine commandments, and in growth in the love of God with all the heart. This knowledge produces fruit. The Lord will rise upon Israel like the morning dawn, and come down upon it like fertilizing rain. מוצאו , His (i.e., Jehovah's) rising, is to be explained from the figure of the dawn (for יצא applied to the rising of the sun, see Genesis 19:23 and Psalms 19:7). The dawn is mentioned instead of the sun, as the herald of the dawning day of salvation (compare Isaiah 58:8 and Isaiah 60:2). This salvation which dawns when the Lord appears, is represented in the last clause as a shower of rain that fertilizes the land. יורה is hardly a kal participle, but rather the imperfect hiphil in the sense of sprinkling. In Deuteronomy 11:14 (cf. Deuteronomy 28:12 and Leviticus 26:4-5), the rain, or the early and latter rain, is mentioned among the blessings which the Lord will bestow upon His people, when they serve Him with all the heart and soul. This promise the Lord will so fulfil in the case of His newly quickened nation, that He Himself will refresh it like a fertilizing rain. This will take place through the Messiah, as Psalms 72:6 and 2 Samuel 23:4 clearly show.

Verse 4

The prophet's address commences afresh, as in Hosea 2:4, without any introduction, with the denunciation of the incurability of the Israelites. Hosea 6:4-11 form the first strophe. Hosea 6:4. “What shall I do to thee, Ephraim? what shall I do to thee, Judah? for your love is like the morning cloud, and like the dew which quickly passes away.” That this verse is not to be taken in connection with the preceding one, as it has been by Luther (“how shall I do such good to thee?”) and by many of the earlier expositors, is evident from the substance of the verse itself. For ‛âsâh , in the sense of doing good, is neither possible in itself, nor reconcilable with the explanatory clause which follows. The chesed , which is like the morning cloud, cannot be the grace of God; for a morning cloud that quickly vanishes away, is, according to Hosea 13:3, a figurative representation of that which is evanescent and perishable. The verse does not contain an answer from Jehovah, “who neither receives nor repels the penitent, because though they love God it is only with fickleness,” as Hitzig supposes; but rather the thought, that God has already tried all kinds of punishment to bring the people back to fidelity to Himself, but all in vain (cf. Isaiah 1:5-6), because the piety of Israel is as evanescent and transient as a morning cloud, which is dispersed by the rising sun. Judging from the chesed in Hosea 6:6, chasdekhem is to be understood as referring to good-will towards other men flowing out of love to God (see at Hosea 4:1).

Verse 5

“Therefore have I hewn by the prophets, slain them by the words of my mouth: and my judgment goeth forth as light.” ‛Al - kēn , therefore, because your love vanishes again and again, God must perpetually punish. חצב ב does not mean to strike in among the prophets (Hitzig, after the lxx, Syr., and others); but ב is instrumental, as in Isaiah 10:15, and châtsabh signifies to hew, not merely to hew off, but to hew out or carve. The n e bhı̄'ı̄m cannot be false prophets, on account of the parallel “by the words of my mouth,” but must be the true prophets. Through them God had hewed or carved the nation, or, as Jerome and Luther render it, dolavi , i.e., worked it like a piece of hard wood, in other words, had tried to improve it, and shape it into a holy nation, answering to its true calling. “Slain by the words of my mouth,” which the prophets had spoken; i.e., not merely caused death and destruction to be proclaimed to them, but suspended judgment and death over them - as, for example, by Elijah - since there dwells in the word of God the power to kill and to make alive (compare Isaiah 11:4; Isaiah 49:2). The last clause, according to the Masoretic pointing and division of the words, does not yield any appropriate meaning. משׁפּטיך could only be the judgments inflicted upon the nation; but neither the singular suffix ך for כם (Isaiah 10:4), nor אור יצא , with the singular verb under the כ simil. omitted before אור , suits this explanation. For אור יצא cannot mean “to go forth to the light;” nor can אור stand for לאור . We must therefore regard the reading expressed by the ancient versions,

(Note: The Vulgate in some of the ancient mss has also judicium meum, instead of the judicia tua of the Sixtina. See Kennicott, Diss. gener. ed. Bruns. p. 55ff.)

viz., משׁפּטי כאור ציצא , “my judgment goeth forth like light,” as the original one. My penal judgment went forth like the light (the sun); i.e., the judgment inflicted upon the sinners was so obvious, so conspicuous (clear as the sun), that every one ought to have observed it and laid it to heart (cf. Zephaniah 3:5). The Masoretic division of the words probably arose simply from an unsuitable reminiscence of Psalms 37:6.

Verses 6-7

The reason why God was obliged to punish in this manner is given in the following verses. Hosea 6:6. “For I take pleasure in love, and not in sacrifices; and in the knowledge of God more than in burnt-offerings. Hosea 6:7. But they have transgressed the covenant like Adam: there have they acted treacherously towards me.” Chesed is love to one's neighbour, manifesting itself in righteousness, love which has its roots in the knowledge of God, and therefore is connected with “the knowledge of God” here as in Hosea 4:1. For the thought itself, compare the remarks on the similar declaration made by the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 15:22; and for parallels as to the fact, see Isaiah 1:11-17; Micah 6:8; Psalms 40:7-9, and Psalms 50:8., in all which passages it is not sacrifices in themselves, but simply the heartless sacrifices with which the wicked fancied they could cover their sins, that are here rejected as displeasing to God, and as abominations in His eyes. This is apparent also from the antithesis in Hosea 6:7, viz., the reproof of their transgression of the covenant. המּה (they) are Israel and Judah, not the priests, whose sins are first referred to in Hosea 6:9. כּאדם , not “after the manner of men,” or “like ordinary men,” - for this explanation would only be admissible if המּה referred to the priests or prophets, or if a contrast were drawn between the rulers and others, as in Psalms 82:7 - but “like Adam,” who transgressed the commandment of God, that he should not eat of the tree of knowledge. This command was actually a covenant, which God made with him, since the object of its was the preservation of Adam in vital fellowship with the Lord, as was the case with the covenant that God made with Israel (see Job 31:33, and Delitzsch's Commentary). The local expression “there,” points to the place where the faithless apostasy had occurred, as in Psalms 14:5. This is not more precisely defined, but refers no doubt to Bethel as the scene of the idolatrous worship. There is no foundation for the temporal rendering “then.”

Verses 8-9

The prophet cites a few examples in proof of this faithlessness in the two following verses. Hosea 6:8. “Gilead is a city of evil-doers, trodden with blood. Hosea 6:9. And like the lurking of the men of the gangs is the covenant of the priests; along the way they murder even to Sichem: yea, they have committed infamy.” Gilead is not a city, for no such city is mentioned in the Old Testament, and its existence cannot be proved from Judges 12:7 and Judges 10:17, any more than from Genesis 31:48-49,

(Note: The statement of the Onomast. ( s.v. Γαλαάδ ), that there is also a city called Galaad, situated in the mountain which Galaad the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, took for the Amorite, and that of Jerome, “from which mountain the city built in it derived its name, viz., that which was taken,” etc., furnish no proof of the existence of a city called Gilead in the time of the Israelites; since Eusebius and Jerome have merely inferred the existence of such a city from statements in the Old Testament, more especially from the passage quoted by them just before, viz., Jeremiah 22:6, Galaad tu mihi initium Libani , taken in connection with Numbers 32:39 -43, as the words “which Gilead took” clearly prove. And with regard to the ruined cities Jelaad and Jelaud, which are situated, according to Burckhardt (pp. 599, 600), upon the mountain called Jebel Jelaad or Jelaud, it is not known that they date from antiquity at all. Burckhardt gives no description of them, and does not even appear to have visited the ruins.)

but it is the name of a district, as it is everywhere else; and here in all probability it stands, as it very frequently does, for the whole of the land of Israel to the east of the Jordan. Hosea calls Gilead a city of evil-doers, as being a rendezvous for wicked men, to express the thought that the whole land was as full of evil-doers as a city is of men. עקבּה : a denom. of עקב , a footstep, signifying marked with traces, full of traces of blood, which are certainly not to be understood as referring to idolatrous sacrifices, as Schmieder imagines, but which point to murder and bloodshed. It is quite as arbitrary, however, on the part of Hitzig to connect it with the murder of Zechariah, or a massacre associated with it, as it is on the part of Jerome and others to refer it to the deeds of blood by which Jehu secured the throne. The bloody deeds of Jehu took place in Jezreel and Samaria (2 Kings 9-10), and it was only by a false interpretation of the epithet applied to Shallum, viz., Ben - yâbhēsh , as signifying citizens of Jabesh, that Hitzig was able to trace a connection between it and Gilead.

Verses 9-10

In these crimes the priests take the lead. Like highway robbers, they form themselves into gangs for the purpose of robbing travellers and putting them to death. חכּי , so written instead of חכּה (Ewald, §16, b), is an irregularly formed infinitive for חכּות (Ewald, §238, e). 'Ish g e dūdı̄m , a man of fighting-bands, i.e., in actual fact a highway robber, who lies in wait for travellers.

(Note: The first hemistich has been entirely misunderstood by the lxx, who have confounded כּחכּי with כּחך , and rendered the clause καὶ ἡ Ἰσχύς ἀνδρὸς πειρατοῦ· ἔκρυψαν ( חבו or חבאו instead of חבר ) ἱερεῖς ὁδόν . Jerome has also rendered כחכי strangely, et quasi fauces ( כּחכּי ) virorum latronum particeps sacerdotum . Luther, on the other hand, has caught the sense quite correctly on the whole, and simply rendered it rather freely: “And the priests with their mobs are like footpads, who lie in wait for people.”)

The company ( chebher , gang) of the priests resembled such a man. They murder on the way ( derekh , an adverbial accusative) to Sichem. Sichem, a place on Mount Ephraim, between Ebal and Gerizim, the present Nablus (see at Joshua 17:7), was set apart as a city of refuge and a Levitical city (Joshua 20:7; Joshua 21:21); from which the more recent commentators have inferred that priests from Sichem, using the privileges of their city to cover crimes of their own, committed acts of murder, either upon fugitives who were hurrying thither, and whom they put to death at the command of the leading men who were ill-disposed towards them (Ewald), or upon other travellers, either from avarice or simple cruelty. But, apart from the fact that the Levitical cities are here confounded with the priests' cities (for Sichem was only a Levitical city, and not a priests' city at all), this conclusion is founded upon the erroneous assumption, that the priests who were taken by Jeroboam from the people generally, had special places of abode assigned them, such as the law had assigned for the Levitical priests. The way to Sichem is mentioned as a place of murders and bloody deeds, because the road from Samaria the capital, and in fact from the northern part of the kingdom generally, to Bethel the principal place of worship belonging to the kingdom of the ten tribes, lay through this city. Pilgrims to the feasts for the most part took this road; and the priests, who were taken from the dregs of the people, appear to have lain in wait for them, either to rob, or, in case of resistance, to murder. The following כּי carries it still higher, and adds another crime to the murderous deeds. Zimmâh most probably refers to an unnatural crime, as in Leviticus 18:17; Leviticus 19:29.

Thus does Israel heap up abomination upon abomination. Hosea 6:10. “In the house of Israel I saw a horrible thing: there Ephraim practises whoredom: Israel has defiled itself.” The house of Israel is the kingdom of the ten tribes. שׁערוּריה , a horrible thing, signifies abominations and crimes of every kind. In the second hemistich, z e nūth , i.e., spiritual and literal whoredom, is singled out as the principal sin. Ephraim is not the name of a tribe here, as Simson supposes, but is synonymous with the parallel Israel.

Verse 11

In conclusion, Judah is mentioned again, that it may not regard itself as better or less culpable. Hosea 6:11. “Also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed for thee, when I turn the imprisonment of my people.” Judah stands at the head as an absolute noun, and is then defined by the following לך . The subject to shâth cannot be either Israel or Jehovah. The first, which Hitzig adopts, “Israel has prepared a harvest for thee,” does not supply a thought at all in harmony with the connection; and the second is precluded by the fact that Jehovah Himself is the speaker. Shâth is used here in a passive sense, as in Job 38:11 (cf. Ges. §137, 3*). קציר , harvest, is a figurative term for the judgment, as in Joel 3:13, Jeremiah 51:33. As Judah has sinned as well as Israel, it cannot escape the punishment (cf. Hosea 5:5, Hosea 5:14). שׁוּב שׁבוּת never means to bring back the captives; but in every passage in which it occurs it simply means to turn the captivity, and that in the figurative sense of restitutio in integrum (see at Deuteronomy 30:3). ‛Ammı̄ , my people, i.e., the people of Jehovah, is not Israel of the ten tribes, but the covenant nation as a whole. Consequently sh e bhūth ‛ammı̄ is the misery into which Israel (of the twelve tribes) had been brought, through its falling away from God, not the Assyrian or Babylonian exile, but the misery brought about by the sins of the people. God could only avert this by means of judgments, through which the ungodly were destroyed and the penitent converted. Consequently the following is the thought which we obtain from the verse: “When God shall come to punish, that He may root out ungodliness, and bring back His people to their true destination, Judah will also be visited with the judgment.” We must not only reject the explanation adopted by Rosenmüller, Maurer, and Umbreit, “when Israel shall have received its chastisement, and be once more received and restored by the gracious God, the richly merited punishment shall come upon Judah also,” but that of Schmieder as well, who understands by the “harvest” a harvest of joy. They are both founded upon the false interpretation of shūbh sh e bhūth , as signifying the bringing back of the captives; and in the first there is the arbitrary limitation of ‛ammı̄ to the ten tribes. Our verse says nothing as to the question when and how God will turn the captivity of the people and punish Judah; this must be determined from other passages, which announce the driving into exile of both Israel and Judah, and the eventual restoration of those who are converted to the Lord their God. The complete turning of the captivity of the covenant nation will not take place till Israel as a nation shall be converted to Christ its Saviour.

Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Hosea 6". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/hosea-6.html. 1854-1889.
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