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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Hosea 10

Verses 1-15

C. Devastation of the Seats of Worship. Destruction of the Kingdom

Hosea 10:1-15

1 Israel is a thriving vine1

Which sends forth its fruit;
As its fruit abounded,
It multiplied altars;
According to the prosperity of the land,
The better they made their images.

2 Their heart is smooth: now will they make expiation:

He will cut down their altars, he will destroy their images

3 For now they will say:

We have no king,
Because we did not fear God,
And the king—what will he do for us.

4 They speak words,

Swearing2 falsely and contracting alliances:

And justice grows like the poison-plant
In the furrows of the field.

5 For the calves3 of Samaria,

The inhabitants of Samaria will tremble,
For its people mourn for it,
And its idol-priests will tremble for it,
For its glory, that it has departed from it

6 Itself4 will be carried to Assyria,

As a present to the warlike king:
Shame will take hold upon Ephraim,
And Israel will be ashamed of its counsel.

7 Samaria5 is destroyed,

Its king is like a chip on the surface of the water.

8 The high places of Aven are devastated,

The sin of Israel,
Thorns and thistles will grow upon its altars,
Then they will say to the mountains: Cover us!
And to the hills: Fall upon us!

9 Since the days of Gibeah, thou hast sinned, Israel!

There they stood:
The war against the sons of iniquity6 did not reach them in Gibeah,

10 As I please, I will fetter them,7

And the nations will gather themselves against them,
When I bind them for their two offenses.

11 For Ephraim is a well-trained heifer,

Which loves8 to thresh:

But I will pass over her fair neck:
I will yoke Ephraim,
Judah shall plough,
Jacob [Ephraim] shall harrow.

12 Sow for yourselves according to righteousness,

And reap for yourselves in the (like) measure of mercy!
Break for yourselves (new) soil!
For it is time to seek Jehovah,
Until he come and rain righteousness upon you.

13 (Yet) ye have ploughed wickedness,

Ye have reaped iniquity,
Ye have eaten the fruit of lying:
Because thou didst trust in thy way,
In the multitude of thy heroes.

14 And the noise of war9 has risen among your tribes,10

And all thy fortresses are destroyed,
As Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel in the day of battle,
The mother is dashed upon her children.

15 Thus has Bethel11 done to you,

For the evil of your evil [your great evil],
In the early morning [soon] the king of Israel shall be utterly destroyed.


Hosea 10:1. Comp. Psalms 80:9-12. There is also an allusion to Hosea 9:10, and yet the image is quite differently applied. Israel is represented here not so much as being pleasant in itself and of worth in the sight of Jehovah (and is therefore not compared to fruit), but from the stand-point of its fruitfulness, which, however, was of the wrong kind. Hence even its fruitfulness will be taken away from it (Hosea 9:16). בֹּוקֵק, according to Fürst blooming (LXX, Syr., Aquila), and thereafter according to Keil climbing, thriving, after the primary idea of בקק: to pour out, to run itself out, here=climb upwards. [Fürst compares the Arab. bakka: to bloom. If this sense is the correct one, this is the only case of the occurrence of this verb.—M.] The meaning empty, is unsuitable. שִׁוָּה: to place, set=prepares, furnishes fruit for itself.

Hosea 10:2. Their heart is smooth. The expression is elsewhere employed of the tongue, lips, words=deceitful, false, not sincere (devoted to God). The explanation divided, is false, for the Kal means: to divide, transitive. יַעֲרֹף is properly: to cut off the head by striking the neck, [Henderson: “It is properly a sacrificial term. It is here, with much force, used metonymically, in application to the destruction of the altars on which the animals themselves were offered.” For the force of יֶאְשָֹׁמוּ see on Hosea 10:15.—M.]

Hosea 10:3. They will then see that they have no king any longer, because they forsake Jehovah, i.e., none appointed by God, and none, therefore, who can help them. עָשָׂה to do=to profit.

Hosea 10:4 explains especially the smoothness of the heart of Hosea 10:2. They speak words, mere words, without sincerity. The following infinitives avouch the statement. The covenants are such as truth; they were concluded (with foreign nations) only for the sake of an expected advantage, not from real friendship. רֹאשׁ, poison, here=poison-plant. מִשְׁפָּט Most take this=judgment. A force far-reaching and seizing upon everything is supposed to be described. But the judgment cannot be compared to a vile plant outgrowing everything else. Hence we must remain by tile meaning: justice. The thought is manifest: If justice prevailed, the land would be like a well-appointed field, but it is now like one that is neglected, and in which therefore poison plants spring up. because justice was prostrated. By a somewhat bold figure justice, when falsely administered, when perverted and abused, is compared to a poisonous plant. It has been changed into it, as it were. Comp. Amos 6:12. [Henderson adheres to the former explanation; Pusey approves the latter. It is also preferred by Cowles, who illustrates it from Amos 5:7; Amos 6:12, and supposes that Hosea adapted the image from its use by his predecessor.—M.]

Hosea 10:5. The punishment can therefore not linger. Already the inhabitants of Samaria tremble for the golden calves. Keil: The plural עֶגְלוֹת stands here as indefinite and general, without our being obliged to infer that several golden calves had been set up in Bethel.” A sing. at all events immediately follows. Wünsche: “The Prophet is thinking of all the calves in the northern kingdom which were imitations of tile chief golden idol erected at Bethel. By these imitations all Israel had, in a certain manner, become a Beth Aven.” Beth-Aven. See Hosea 4:15. Its people,—its priests. The suffixes refer to the idol-god. What a strong accusation! The people are named the people of the calf-god. יָגִילוּ usually=to rejoice, but here (employed for the sake of the assurance with גָלָה) = חִיל to writhe in anguish, to mourn, parallel to אָבַל On its account, also refers to the calf, and is more nearly explained by the words, for its glory, i. e., the glory and the divine nimbus which were associated with the calf-worship. This glory will depart from the calf, where it cannot give protection from the enemy, and will itself be carried away.

Hosea 10:6. Itself also, namely, the golden calf. [See Gram, note]. Its counsel, namely, that which it-self gave to itself, namely, to apply to Assyria: [On the phrase: warlike king, see Hosea 5:13.—M.]

Hosea 10:7-8. The kingdom of Samaria falls along with its gods. [See Gram. note.] The image of a chip on the surface of the water denotes the untraceable disappearance, and probably also the violent destruction=as a chip upon the water is driven on by the stream and so disappears. אָוֶן בָּמוֹת are literally: the heights of evil. But Aven, in allusion to Beth-Aven=Bethel; for its high places were heights of evil, since the image-worship which rose in Bethel=Beth-Aven, was practiced there. The sin of Israel is in apposition to the high-places, etc. Those high places were the sin of Israel. because it was by means of them that Israel sinned. Then they say to the mountains, etc. This expresses the hopelessness of despair. They would rather he buried by the mountains, than undergo the afflictions of such a time. Applied in Luke 23:30 and Revelation 6:16.

Hosea 10:9. From the days of Gibeah. These days, referred to already in Hosea 4:9 (see that passage), are regarded as the beginning of Israel’s sinning. Others take the words comparatively: more than in the days of Gibeah. [So Cowles: This opinion is not common.—M.] The following words are difficult. Ewald: There they (the Israelites) stood. Should not war against the sons of impiety reach them in Gibeah? Keil: There, that is, in the same sin, they stood, i.e., remained; the war against the sons of iniquity did not reach them in Gibeah, that is, the war once waged by the other tribes of Israel against the tribe of Benjamin, on account of the infamous deed of the men of Gibeah, did not reach the Ten Tribes, i.e., they were destroyed by no such war like others of the Israelites, though they did not less deserve such a fate, therefore God will punish them now. But the translation is forced. Wünsche perhaps explains better, though much might be said against his translation also: They stood there—that war might not reach them in Gibeah—beside the sons of iniquity. The passage accordingly says in what the sin of Israel in the days of Gibeah had consisted, namely in this, that they, the Benjamites, had stood by the Levites in Gibeah=the sons of iniquity against the rest of the Israelites. Esther 9:16; Esther 8:11 are cited in proof that עָמַד with עַל has the sense of standing by [assisting]. [The translation assigned above to Keil, which is also that of E. V., is approved by Cowles. Instead of being “forced” it is evidently the most simple and natural. Henderson translates: shall not the war against the unjust overtake them in Gibeah? See Textual note.—M.]

Hosea 10:10. בְּאָוָּתִי: in my desire=when or as I will. [Keil: “An anthropomorphic description of the severity of the chastisement.”] To take part in the infliction of chastisement, nations will be gathered against Israel. The reference is to the war against the sons of iniquity (Hosea 10:9). [This reference is not clear unless the construction of Ewald and Henderson given above be adopted.—M.] The last hemistich is difficult. The Kethibh is עֵינוֹתָם. According to Fürst from עַיִן in the sense of nothingness= אֵין, therefore in the concrete: idol-image. Keri עֹונוֹתָם=sins. According to the first explanation, idol-images=calves. The latter is probably correct as referred by Keil to the double sin of apostasy from Jehovah and from the royal house of David. The whole clause would therefore be: When I bind them to their two transgressions (namely, by punishing them) so that they must drag them, so to speak, as an oppressive burden. The sense may, however, be simply: on account of their two transgressions. The image of the heifer in the next verse is anticipated here. [The explanation last given is now usually followed and is the most probable. Raschi and Ewald translate: before their two eyes, i.e., openly. The rendering: furrows, in E. V. follows the Targum and the majority of the Rabbins.—M.]

Hosea 10:11. מְלֻמָּדָה, taught, trained for work. Which loves to thresh: According to many expositors this refers to the circumstance that threshing is the lighter work, in which, besides, the heifer may eat at her pleasure, and hence is an image of the pleasant and prosperous condition of Israel. According to others the tert. comp. is the treading, and hence the victorious power and dominion of Israel, as under Jeroboam II would be represented with the accessory notion of a violent treatment of those who had been subdued. But now the situation of Israel would be different. [This is the more common and certainly the preferable explanation. So Henderson, Cowles, and other English Expositors.—M.] I will pass over her fair neck—in a hostile sense=I will place a yoke upon her. טוּב: beauty, alluding to her fatness. אַרְכִּיב: I will cause to be driven=I will yoke, namely, for ploughing and harrowing. The compulsory endurance of severe toil appears here in complete contrast to the preceding situation. Judah shall share the same fate. This is mentioned only incidentally and in comparison with Ephraim; but the similar lot of the former is constantly alluded to. Jacob, here mentioned along with Judah, probably=Ephraim. לוֹ shall harrow for himself, forcibly expressing strongly that this toil is not spared him. [So also Keil; but this explanation seems unnatural. Others, as Fausset, translate: break the clods before him; but the preposition must be unduly forced to make it convey such a sense. The best way is to regard it as a pleonasm. Comp. Genesis 12:1; Job 15:28; Sol. Song of Solomon 2:17, and many other passages.—M.]

Hosea 10:12-13. The image of ploughing and harrowing leads to that of sowing and reaping. But the discourse turns from the threatening, which holds out the prospect of punishment, to an exhortation to return (in order to escape punishment), which is then (Hosea 10:13) supported by an allusion to the present conduct of the people (under the same figure). According to righteousness. The divine righteousness, by its being sown, i.e., by its operation, should be their determining principle, be their norm and standard. חֶסֶד is then to be understood of the mercy of God. The harvest will, if they sow thus, be determined by the mercy of God (not merely by desert), shall be bountiful and of good quality; this mercy itself shall be the harvest. Keil understands צְדָקָה to mean justice towards their fellow-men, חֶסֶד of (condescending) love (towards the despised), and explains the clause thus: sow righteousness as the seed; the fruit will be love. But קָצַר has too clearly the signification “the divine reward of Israel’s religious and moral sowing” (Wünsehe). נִירוּ וג׳, to plough new soil. The words go back now beyond the sowing. Israel does not merely need to scatter the true seed; it needs a new soil and must therefore begin anew. The explanation of צֶדֶק is again difficult. It could be taken in the sense of salvation, blessing, so that the bestowal of salvation and blessings would be the consequence of seeking the Lord. In not a few passages this signification is most appropriate, and the usual meaning will not suit here. We expect the mention not of a moral quality, but of its consequences. Keil explains: “God rains righteousness not merely in giving the power to gain it as He gives rain for the growth of the seed (comp. Isaiah 44:3), but also because He himself must create it and inform the soul with it by his Spirit” (Psalms 51:12). This in itself is quite true, but is it proper to speak of raining or pouring out righteousness? This differs altogether from the expression: to pour out the Spirit. [This figurative expression would be quite characteristic of the style of Hosea. It would be only another instance of the boldness and freedom of his imagery. The figure is double, including also a metonymy, in which righteousness, the effect of the outpouring of the Spirit, is put for the cause itself. Many, following the Syr., Targ., and Vulg., take יוֹרֶה=He will teach.—M.]

Hosea 10:13, as it now stands, says that iniquity has been ploughed; iniquity is the soil which they cultivated, and the seed and the harvest corresponded to it. From wickedness there resulted wickedness. One step further still than the harvest is taken in the following words: Ye have eaten the fruit of lying = the fruit which deceives. The result of this conduct is nothing, no profit but disaster and ruin. The cause is still more specially indicated; in other words, the false conduct of Israel is characterized: since thou didst trust, etc., namely, instead of in Jehovah.

Hosea 10:14. Among thy peoples. People either=military host, or as in the Pentateuch=tribe. As Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel. This fact is not known from history, and the explanation is therefore uncertain. According to the usual opinion Shalman is a contraction for Shalmaneser, the name of the Assyrian king who destroyed the kingdom of the Ten Tribes.12 (2 Kings 17:6). Fürst understands an older Assyrian king before Pul, since the name Shalmaneser never appears shortened to Shalman, and the Assyrians never engaged in a destructive battle with Israel, and Shalmaneser destroyed Samaria forty years later (after Hosea). Beth-arbel, according to him, is Beth-arbel near Gargamela, made famous later by the victory of Alexander the Great. Keil supposes that the Prophet, since the conquest of such a distant city would scarcely have been known to the Israelites, could not have held up the destruction of this city before them as an example, and would therefore understand the Arbela in Upper Galilee, between Saphoris and Tiberias, mentioned in 1Ma 9:2, and later by Josephus.

Hosea 10:15. The subject of עָשָׂה is either Shalman (if=Shalmaneser) or Jehovah, of whom the Assyrian king is the instrument, or (as the Targum and also Keil) Bethel, because that city prepared the way for the ruin which befell Israel. Evil of your evil = the most extreme evil (comp. Ewald, § 313 c.). בַּשַּׁחַר: in the early morning, probably=early, not: at the time when prosperity shall seem to be dawning or near (Keil). There is not the remotest hint of this in the context. The king of Israel, naturally collective=the kingdom of Israel.


1. “In the midst of the calf-worship established by Jeroboam, the Israelites still would keep before them the God of Israel; but this resulted in a divided heart, a halting between two opinions (Hosea 10:2). And when their prosperity became undermined by God’s judgments, the smiting of a guilty conscience told them of their sin; but that was not a repentance unto life. The improvement of circumstances which the Israelites sought in the schism of Jeroboam cost them dear. For, since he led them away from the fear of God, the help which was to have been expected from his government was already undermined. The sinner awakened by chastisement discovers this deception of sin much more readily than he discovers his obligation to return to God with a contrite heart” (Rieger).

2. One chief element in God’s judgment upon Israel was the destruction of the seats of worship (comp. Hosea 8:0.), and here, more particularly, the carrying away of the idol-gods by the enemy (Hosea 10:5-6). Both the nothingness of idolatry and the great guilt of Israel are here unmistakably exhibited. With this are connected the destruction of the kingdom (Hosea 10:7; Hosea 10:15) and the conquest of the country. Freedom is lost; instead of it comes slavery (Hosea 10:11). The anguish of the judgment is most forcibly depicted (Hosea 10:8) in expressions which, in Luke 23:30, are employed to set forth the distress occasioned by the destruction of Jerusalem, but, in Revelation 6:16, to describe the terror of “the great day of the Lord.” Thus the description of the judgment announced by Hosea is of such a character as to be a type of the final judgment, even though Hosea himself does not designate it “the day of the Lord.” The distress of a late repentance is expressed in Hosea 10:3. It is a part of the judgment, since it consists in vain self-reproaches, all too late. In our chapter again the necessary connection between the judgment and sin is emphasized by the image of the sowing and the reaping: from an evil sowing nothing can come but an evil harvest. The expected reward must only be a manifest deception: “the fruit of lying.”


Hosea 10:1. This was the result of God’s mercy. God makes the vine and also gives the growth and the precious fruit. And as long as God’s favor lasts, so long are men like such a plant. A beautiful image of a life blessed by God, and as true of nations as of individuals. But it is a deplorable thing that man usually cannot bear his prosperity, and that, instead of being led by God’s goodness to repentance and nearer to God, he rather forgets Him (see at Hosea 2:9). The fruits are not given back to God. Thus is God often defrauded of the fruits which men owe to Him; and “idols,” the world, and the flesh, enjoy what are his.

[Matthew Henry: What we do not rightly employ we may justly expect to be emptied of It is a great affront to God and a great abuse of his goodness, when, the more mercies we receive from Him, the more sins we commit against Him.—M.]

Hosea 10:2. The state of the heart is the source of the evil. As long as this does not belong to Him, so long will men rob Him of his own. God will have the heart as his alone, and suffers none to share that possession.

Hosea 10:5-6. [Pusey: Without the grace of God men mourn, not their sins, but their idols.

Fausset: Separated from God all human power is weakness, and all apparent stability fluctuating and perishing as the foam. The fear of God is the only true basis of solidity and permanence.—M.]

Hosea 10:8. A fearful expression of the despair with which impiety shall at last end: a type of the anguish of the lost at the last judgment.

[Fausset: Surely it is infinitely better to pray to Jesus now to “cover” our transgressions with the blood of his atonement, than through neglect of this to have to cry to the mountains at last, “Fall on us and cover us.” Our prayer to Jesus, if offered in faith now, shall surely be heard; but prayer to the mountains then shall be in vain.—M.]

Hosea 10:11. Berlenburger Bible: The pride which exalts itself and does not fear before Him who is the God of the whole earth, must be abased. O, that Ephraim would submit himself and his neck to the yoke of the gentle and humble Lamb!

Hosea 10:12. Berlenburger Bible: When a man redeems uncultivated soil he restores it to the one to whom it rightly belongs. For he is the only one who can redeem it. We have received from God his soil, and as we have no strength to make it profitable, it remains unfilled. But as soon as God sees that we would break up this uncultivated ground, and we, feeling our inability, seek help in Him, He ploughs it Himself with the ploughshare of the cross. Then He sows righteousness in it, and makes it fruitful in itself, that it may bear much fruit in Christ.

[Matthew Henry: Let them break up the fallow ground; let them cleanse their hearts from all corrupt affections and lusts which are as weeds and thorns, and let them be humbled for their sins, and be of a broken and contrite spirit in the sense of them; let them be full of sorrow and shame at the remembrance of them, and prepare to receive the divine precepts, as the ground that is ploughed is to receive the seed that it may take root. See Jeremiah 4:3.

Fausset: Grace used well is rewarded gratuitously with more grace.—M.]

Hosea 10:13. The fruit of sin is ever the “fruit of lies.” For sin always deceives those who serve it. Going in our own ways and trusting to human power is shown especially to be deceptive.

[Fausset: Only when we mistrust ourselves, and trust in the Lord and his righteousness alone, are we safe, justified, and blessed.—M.]


[1][Hosea 10:1.—גֶפֶן is always fem. except here and in 2 Kings 4:39. It is masc. here as relating to Israel. לֹו is not strictly pleonastic here, it haying the force of the poss. pronoun.: its fruit.—M.]

Hosea 10:4; Hosea 10:4.—אָלֹות, though an inf. absol. is here conformed to כָּרֹת instead of אָלֹה.

Hosea 10:5; Hosea 10:5.—Wünsche: “עֶגְלוֹת. The fem. is surprising, since the calves which were worshipped, really three-year-old steers, appear elsewhere always masc. It cannot be deemed far-fetched to suggest that the fem, is employed somewhat contemptuously and sarcastically.”

Hosea 10:6; Hosea 10:6.—אוֹתוֹ with the passive. According to Ewald, § 299 d, the active sense pervades the passive throughout in such a case as this; thus יוּבָל here=one leads it. Fürst is of a different opinion. According to him the primary notion of אות is being, essence, and it therefore serves to emphasize the subject. [The former is the prevailing and preferable view. Comp. Green, Gr., § 271, 4 a. The opinion of Fürst seems to have been based upon his theory that there is an affinity between &אוֹת אֵת) and יֵשׂ, and some other words of similar radicals and significations.—M.]

Hosea 10:7; Hosea 10:7.—מַלְכָּהּ, with a fem. suffix, because שׁמְִרוֹן, as being a city, is fem. On the other hand נִדְמֶה has a masc. form because it stands at the beginning of the sentence. The construction here, according to the Masoretic punctation is either an asyndeton: Samaria and her king, or the latter is explanatory of the former: Samaria, namely, her king (=the whole kingdom). Wünsche adopts the probably preferable view that מלכה begins a new sentence.

Hosea 10:9; Hosea 10:9.—עַלְוָה transposed from עַוְלָה. One edition (the Brisian) and many MSS. have the common form. This would be the only case of the occurrence of the transposition.—M.]

Hosea 10:10; Hosea 10:10.—&ואֶסְּרֵם ו marks the apodosis. The verb is from אָסַר [with daghesh compensative. M.].

[8][Hosea 10:11.—אֹהַבְתִּי. The י is paragogic with the fem part. אֹהֶבֶת.—M.]

[9][Hosea 10:14.—וְקָאם. The א is either epenthetic, or it is merely a mater lectionis, which is most probable; see Green, Gr., §11,1—M.]

[10][Hosea 10:14.—A number of MSS. and early editions read בְּעַמְּךָ instead of בְּעַמֶּיךָ. The ancient Versions are claimed as having followed this reading also; but it is more probable that they rendered the plural as sing., the noun being a collective one.—M.]

Hosea 10:15; Hosea 10:15.—Some suppose the בְּ to have been omitted before בֵּית־אֶל and the latter to be local

[12][The Assyrian monuments show that it was Sargon, the son of Shalmaneser, who destroyed Samaria. The passage cited above simply speaks of “the king of Assyria.”—M.]

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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Hosea 10". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.