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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 11

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

Verses 1-12


Hosea 11:0

God cannot utterly destroy Israel, whom He has always loved, though they have so basely requited Him, but will again show Mercy unto them

Hosea 11:1-11

1 When Israel was a youth, then I loved Him,

And out of Egypt I called my son.

2 They [the Prophets] called them; so (often) they turned away from them;

They sacrificed to the Baals,
They burnt incense to the idol-gods.

3 And I led Ephraim along,1

He took them2 upon his arm;—

Yet they knew not that I healed them.

4 With the bands of a man I drew them,

With cords of love;
And I was towards them,
As those that would raise the yoke-strap over their jaws,
And I reached out to them to eat.3

5 They will not return to the land of Egypt,

But Assyria,4 it is their king,

For they refused to return.

6 And the sword goes its rounds in their cities,

And destroys their bars [defenses],
And devours them for their devices.

7 And my people incline to fall away from me;5

They [the Prophets] call them (to look) upwards,
All together they refuse to raise themselves.

8 How should I give thee up, Ephraim?

How should I surrender thee, Israel?
How should I make thee like Admah,
Set thee like Zeboim?
My heart is turned within me;
My repentings are kindled together.

9 I will not execute the fierceness of my anger,

I will not again destroy Ephraim:
For I am God and not man;
In the midst of thee is a Holy One,
And I will not come in wrath.

10 They will follow the Lord:

Like a lion He will roar;
Yea He will roar, and children from the sea will come trembling [hasten];

11 Will hasten like a bird from Egypt,

And like a dove from Assyria:
Then will I make them dwell in their houses, saith Jehovah.


Hosea 11:1. Jehovah calls to mind the love which He had displayed to Israel ages before. But it was rewarded with unfaithfulness, and they must be the more severely punished. See Exodus 4:22 f. Israel was Jehovah’s first-born son, because they were chosen as the people of his inheritance. Hence the love of God, which redeemed them from Egypt, in order to give to their fathers the Land of Promise. On the citation of this passage in Matthew 2:15 f., see the Doctrinal Section.

2. They called, namely, the prophets. As the prophets called, so (כֵּן) they refused to listen—turned away from their (the prophets’) faces. בְּעָלִים, see Hosea 2:15. [Henderson: “The use of the verb: to call, in the preceding verse, suggested the idea of the subsequent messages which had been delivered to the Israelites by the prophets, to which Hosea now appeals, in order to contrast with the means which had been employed for their reformation, the obstinate character of their rebellion.”—M.]

Hosea 11:3. A further description of the love of God displayed towards Israel, chiefly in the march through the wilderness. He took them upon his arms. The sudden transition to the third person is to be explained from the fact that it is the prophet that is speaking in the name of Jehovah, and that this can therefore easily pass over into a discourse by Jehovah. Comp. Deuteronomy 1:31; Exodus 15:26, for the same thoughts.

Hosea 11:4. With bands of a man = such as those with which men, especially children, would be led, opposed to ropes, with which beasts are tied,=cords of love in the next hemistich. “This image leads on to the similar one of the yoke laid upon cattle to yoke them in for work.” In this image gentle treatment is implied; for comparison is made with one who takes the yoke, or rather the strap with which it is secured, and which passes through the month, and draws it back over the jaws so that the animal may eat conveniently. Jehovah in his conduct towards Israel is like such a gentle master. Literally: I was to them as those who raise the yoke over their jaws. But the opinion of Keil is far-fetched, who thinks that there is a definite allusion to the commands laid upon the people, which God had made light for them, partly by many displays of his mercy, and partly by the means of grace in their religion. The tert. comp. is simply the gentleness, the kind consideration shown to them in his dealings towards them. [Though, of course, this general reference includes, with other manifestations of kindness, the special application made by Keil. For the construction and rendering of the last clause, see the Grammatical Note.—M.]

Hosea 11:5. They shall not return to the land of Egypt. An apparent contradiction of Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:3. But, as may be seen there, Egypt is in those passages only a type of the land of bondage. But here Egypt is employed in the literal sense, just as in Hosea 11:1, to which our verse alludes. “The people of Jehovah shall not return to the land from which He called them, in order that it may not seem as though the design of the exodus and the march through the desert were frustrated through their impenitence. But they shall enter into another bondage.” To return, namely, to Jehovah.

Hosea 11:6. וְחָלָה, from חוּל, to describe a circle, to move in a circle, as it were, to make the rounds; spoken of a sword=to rage. Their bars, the bars of the strong cities=their gates. These will be destroyed, and the cities be captured, and laid waste. [Others, as Gesenius and Cowles, take the word in a metaphorical sense, which is frequent: rulers, defenders. But the former is preferable, as being more directly connected with the strong cities. E. V. adopts the first derived sense of the word: branches. Calvin, following the same view, interpreted branches as=villages, the branches of the cities. In this he is followed by Fausset.—M.]

Hosea 11:7 returns again to the sin of the people. תָּלָא is here used intransitively: hang over, to incline. ׃ אֶל־עַל above (comp. Hosea 7:16). They (the prophets) call them. יְרמֵם, here probably intransitive (the strengthened Kal)=raise themselves, strive to rise. [The passage may be thus paraphrased: “My people are bent on turning away from me. Though the prophets call upon them to look above (to the Most High), yet with one accord they refuse to raise themselves up.”—M.]

Hosea 11:8. Still Jehovah cannot utterly blot out his people. The love with which He has loved them still endures and breaks forth strongly. How could I give thee up, etc. This is still at first a continuation of the threatening. Chastisement even to utter destruction, is justified=how I should, how just it would be to give thee up! But with this expression thus justifying the punishment, the threatening is exhausted and satisfied. It is just the contemplation of the great measure of the suffering which would really be deserved which leads to the feeling that such punishment, however justifiable, cannot be executed, and that it shall be restrained=I should do this, but how terrible it would be! no, it cannot be. Thus the threatening having reached its climax, brings itself to its end. Others translate: how should I?=how should it be possible, that, etc.?=I cannot do so. But then there is no transition from Hosea 11:7 to Hosea 11:8. [This, the most common view, is certainly correct. There is no need of any intermediate words between the threatening and the relenting. The true theory with regard to the relation between God and the people is this, that God must be considered as all the time melting with love towards the people whom He must reject. Hence the frequent and seemingly unprepared words of promise in the book, suddenly appearing after long denunciations. No transition is needed. It is supplied by that constant yearning love of which wrath and mercy are the negative and the positive poles. The other view has to encounter the very difficulty which it seeks to obviate. For the transition would only be more abrupt from the justification of extreme punishment to its abandonment; and the difficulty is greater, because such transition would occur in the middle of a verse, and not with the beginning of a new one.—M.] Like Admah,—like Zeboim: comp. Deuteronomy 29:22, where these two cities are expressly mentioned, as having been destroyed together with Sodom and Gomorrah, which in Genesis 19:24 stand alone. My heart is changed within me—so that wrath has disappeared. [For a like use of the preposition עַל, comp. Jeremiah 8:18; Psalms 42:6, 12; Psalms 43:5.—M.]

Hosea 11:9. I will not return to destroy Ephraim. “After my heart has been once changed with the resolve not to punish, I will not change it again.” This is supported by the consideration that God is God and not a changeable man. עיר ׃ בְּעִיר is here probably=glow, heat of wrath. [E. V. has: into the city, which would have been בָּעִיר, and which gives no pertinent sense. This rendering is now almost universally abandoned, but it is, strange to say, approved by Pusey and Fausset, the latter of whom speaks of the other translation as held “needlessly.”—M.]

Hosea 11:10. The consequence of the Lord’s compassion; He will call, and the people, following Him, will return home from banishment. They shall go after the Lord. This probably involves both the changed, converted heart, and the walking in God’s ways thence resulting. Will roar like a lion. The point of comparison is not the terrifying influence of the sound, but its extent. It reaches far and near. Thus must the cry be when it calls the people to their restoration. Or is it implied that these displays of mercy towards Israel are coupled with judgments upon the heathen? Hosea does not allude to this elsewhere. Trembling will be a consequence of this call, but it implies chiefly haste united with anxiety not to neglect the summons, and therefore the eagerness of obedience. Hence also the comparison with birds.

Hosea 11:11. From the sea = from the west, as well as from Egypt and Assyria. The notion is: from all quarters of the earth (comp. Isaiah 11:11).


1. Israel became “God’s son,” by virtue of their being chosen as God’s peculiar people, according to Exodus 4:22 f. The bestowal of this privilege, confirmed by the deliverance from Egypt, and sealed by the ratification at Sinai, forms the first step in God’s redemptive work, which is completed by the incarnation of his Son for the redemption of the world. The whole development and leading of Israel as God’s people terminate upon Christ not as though Israel were begotten as the Son of God, but in such a way as that the relation which the Lord of Heaven and earth established and preserved between Himself and this people prepared and foreshadowed the union of God and Man, and laid the way for the Incarnation of his Son by training this people as a vessel of the Divine mercy. All the important events in Israel’s history bore upon this, and thereby became types and actual prophecies of the life of Him, in whom the reconciliation of God and man should be effected, and the union of God with the human race unfold itself as a Personal Unity. In this sense is the second half of Hosea 11:1 quoted in Matthew 2:15, as a prophecy of Christ (Keil). But here we must stop. The further remark of Keil, in justification of the reference of this passage to Christ, goes too far and is not direct, when he says that it was made “because the residence in Egypt and the leading out from it had the same significance in the unfolding of Christ’s life, as they had for the people of Israel. As Israel in Egypt, free from contact with the Canaanites, grew into a nation, so was the child Jesus concealed in Egypt from the enmity of Herod.”

2. There is here presented to Israel in an affecting manner the love with which God had assumed the care of them in their beginnings, “when they were still young,” and made them what they were. And such love is represented as being so tender, all-considerate, helpful, and advancing, that it finds its image only in the love of a father or mother to a child. Jehovah called Israel his son in their early days, when He brought them out of Egypt. Exodus 4:22 f. He had always acted towards them as became that relation, and displayed to them the love of a father toward his child, even his youngest child. As Jehovah’s love and faithfulness to Israel in the years of their manhood finds its fitting symbol only in the love and faithfulness of a husband, so his love and care of Israel in their childhood is compared with the solicitous, tender love of a father. So much the more inexcusable then is the conduct of Israel towards God, the opposition which they displayed towards Him from the beginning. This base ingratitude characterized them continually, and does also in the present. Their present conduct is only the direct continuation of the former. Observe the description of such conduct of Israel toward their God in Hosea 11:2 : idolatry before the very eyes of the God who had displayed such love to them; Hosea 11:7 : failure to recognize God’s purposes of salvation; see also Hosea 11:7; Hosea 11:9. A special proof of Jehovah’s love was the sending of the prophets; they call the people upwards=that they should return to God, but they will not raise themselves; they remain below, averse from God.

3. No wonder, therefore, if a people, who reward so basely and mistake the love of God, are visited by Him with the severest judgments (comp. Hosea 11:6; Hosea 11:8). But retributive and punitive justice finds in our Prophet, as we may satisfy ourselves in every chapter, where accusation and threatening are pealed forth incessantly, such appalling expression, that we can no longer decline the question: “Are not these things spoken revengefully? is it not a spirit of vindictiveness that has inspired such words?” It cannot be claimed that human revenge bears any part here, for it is not the offering of personal injuries of which the prophet announces the punishment, but he is indignant in God’s behalf, over Israel’s sins against God, and announces their punishment. In this, moreover, it is to be borne in mind that the prophet was never a mere passive organ (as the mechanical inspiration theory would have it) of the prophetic utterances, that his own faculties certainly were not at the time overborne, but were elevated, and that these announcements of judgment in the midst of a ruined generation are to be regarded as energic expressions of the life of faith, faith in the Holy One of Israel. On the other hand, the subjectivity of the prophet is not to be unduly emphasized, as though his purely human feelings and emotions were really the source of these threatenings. We must hold to the truth that the prophets were heralds of that which was revealed to them by the Spirit of God (comp. Hosea 6:5), and that their separate efficiency was exerted only by completely entering by faith into this divine revelation, in their affirmation of it through faith. But the question then assumes this form: Though the Prophet himself does not merit the reproach of a selfish spirit, should not this reproach so much the rather fall upon God Himself, whose (conscious) organ the prophet was? But it is evident that the retribution announced is to be sent in a spirit of strict justice; it is to be a punishment of sin justly deserved. The punishment is closely related to the sins rebuked, and in close connection with them; it is punishment and not vengeance, which usually exceeds the measure of desert. But certainly we are not merely to trace back these threatenings to a dead law of just recompense; the punishment is not merely in accordance with the moral order of the world, according to which sin is followed by its own punishment. It is a personal action, as certainly as the infliction and the threatenings proceed from a personal God. And thus the course of action is not and cannot be unaccompanied by personal “πάθος” or feeling. But this feeling is the emotion of love, love grieved, vilely disowned and rejected. It is true that it must be angry, that it cannot be content without being reciprocated, but must be most intimately stirred up, and the greater, the more deeply seated it is, the more it seeks the good of its object, the more conscious it is that it has neglected nothing, and has been to blame in nothing. For this very reason the punishment assumes the appearance of revenge, and even wears its garments, while in truth it is only sin that is meeting with its deserved punishment according to an inner necessity, and not as the consequence of arbitrary passion. And as this love of God is unselfish and pure and seeks only the good of its object, so this “revenge” of God bears, so to speak, its corrective, that is, its aim in itself. The threatening has, then, a fearfully wide range, and is uttered with a violence which has something painful in it, since the Holy God, free, on his part, from all blame and neglect, appears against the sinner, upon whom alone the responsibility lies. But He does not simply display his anger; He does not cease to love. His wrath does not find its satisfaction in itself by the punishment or destruction of the unfaithful loved one. Actual destruction, which vengeance would demand, is never undertaken. In the background of the threatenings stands the full and flowing stream of love in assurances of mercy and compassion, which, though made in expectation that the people will return, are yet made before such return takes place, and for the purpose of promoting that end. How little the Law, though proceeding from God’s well-intentioned love towards Israel, realized its aim, is manifest; Israel had completely broken the covenant founded upon it, and instead of showing themselves to be worthy of the promises attached to it, only rendered themselves amenable to the curse, which they must bear unto the uttermost. Thus love appears in the form of free grace, compassionating the unworthy and coming forth to meet them, so leading to the stand-point of the New Covenant. Hence all these promises, rising up behind the severe threatenings of judgment, are rightly to be regarded as Messianic, even though they are not outwardly marked as such. That an actual annihilation of Israel is not intended, but that the prediction of punishment—thus revealing its origin in pure love which thinks of its object alone, and thus being distinguished from all self-avenging—halts before the last step is reached, has notably been clearly expressed already by the Prophet in his reference to the “remnant” that is still left. It finds in our chapter also its clear expression in Hosea 11:8. Jehovah could and should give up Israel like Admah and Zeboim (not merely destroy the kingdom, deliver it over to Assyria), but He will not do so; and just when the threatening reaches its height, the assurance of fullest mercy breaks forth, and is expressed beautifully in Hosea 11:8-11. If God’s love in the beginning of his interest in Israel was something great and exalted (Hosea 11:1-4), it is something greater now, as being in the form of compassion (Hosea 11:9-10), in which He refuses to give up his people, all unworthy as they had become of the love He had shown them (comp. Hosea 11:11). A return to Jehovah is then announced as the fruit of this compassion, and the removal of the state of subjection to punishment by a restoration to the inheritance they had trifled away is promised as its manifestation. No further description of the future deliverance is as yet given.

4. As to the fulfillment of this promise, see the remarks on chs. 1 and 2 It may suffice to repeat here that we are not to hold to any fulfillment which would contradict the actual course of God’s revelation. Hence we must not think of a future return of the external Israel into their own land from Assyria, if it were only from the consideration that Assyria exists no longer, and Israel is no longer in bondage to such a nation, and we cannot take the one (Israel, the Holy Land, the return) as literal, and the other (Assyria, captivity) as figurative. We must rather say, from the stand-point of the fulfillment of the Old “Testament, i.e., from the stand-point of the New Testament, and in accordance cordance with the actual course of events: the compassionate mercy of God towards his faithless people, which the Prophet sees win the victory over wrath, has been revealed in Christ—but still as being far greater than he sees it; what is clear to him is only the σκιὰ of that which in Christ has actually occurred, and what is still going on, in the forgiveness of sin and deliverance from its through free grace. The Prophet hopes for this in behalf of his people Israel, but only because they are God’s people. But it will be true of all who shall become God’s people too, even though they be not of Israel; they will experience this compassionate favor of God, which is essentially identical with the love, in which God has chosen to Himself a people (from the nations), and completes it so that it realizes its purpose in spite of the breach of the covenant on the part of men, manifested in opposition to the Law and apostasy from God. The voice of mercy, which shall resound so powerfully, and towards which those hasten who stand under God’s judgment, has reached far and wide the Gospel, and will again be sounded forth, when Christ shall gather his own from all ends of the earth, and portion out to them the everlasting inheritance which they had forfeited by sin.


Hosea 11:1. Thou also hast experienced such love of God from thy childhood’s years, in temporal and yet more in spiritual things. This love of God is an incontestable truth. It is as important as it is necessary to be reminded of it continually.

Rieger: God delights to trace back in his Word and in man’s conscience everything to its first beginning.

[Fausset: God, by sending the Spirit of his Son into the hearts of his people (Galatians 4:6) as the spirit of adoption, calls them his, while they are still in the Egypt of this world. Indeed He separates them to Himself from the womb, and calls them by his grace, as He did Paul (Galatians 1:15.—M.]

Hosea 11:2. Rieger: God is ever calling men back to their first love: but one goes to his farm, another to his merchandise, and most to their worldly idols.

Hosea 11:3. God’s condescension to all our needs. He knows our weakness and treats us accordingly. We must be led along and taken by the arm; else we do not advance, but stumble and fall every moment.

Hosea 11:4. Starke: God throws over us the cords of love even to day, when He calls us through the preaching of his Word, gives us his sacraments, promises and supplies us with every good thing, and visits us with precious afflictions: so we would pray that God would draw us further still after Himself.

Rieger: God directs us according to our weakness and the riches of his love. And when He must press us with a yoke, He gives us something with it that helps us to bear it, and leaves us at least food and clothing. And He would warn us against falling back in our pride upon our own help, and neglecting to wait for his counsel. But as Israel was always inclined to turn again to Egypt, and would seek help there against God’s judgments, so does self-sufficient man always act, resorting to everything rather than submit to the counsel of God.

[Fausset: The Son of God becomes man, in order to draw men as such by the cords of sympathy, as partaking of a common nature with us. His bands of love sit so lightly on those who wear them that they are no hindrance to us in enjoying all that is really good for us, and which God has so richly laid before us.—M.]

Hosea 11:7. We are called upwards continually: and yet we will not go! All calling upward is then in vain! Our flesh draws us downwards like weight of lead, and neutralizes the drawings of the Spirit upwards.

Hosea 11:8-9. Starke: God is disposed, when angry, quite differently from men. Men are intent upon vengeance, but God upon reconciliation.

Rieger: The thought that we have to do with God and not with man, makes it often difficult to our terrified conscience, to seek and believe in the forgiveness of sins. But this is merely a motive to the divine magnanimity to bestow richer favors upon us.

[Matthew Henry: Those who submit to the influence may take the comfort of God’s holiness.]


Hosea 11:3; Hosea 11:3.—תִּרְגַּלְתּי, from תִּרִגּיל= הִרְגּיל, Hiphil from רָגִל: to make to walk, to lead, construed with ל, [Comp. Jeremiah 12:5; Jeremiah 22:15, and see Ewald, § 122 a, Green, § 94 a. The corresponding Syriac (shargel) means: to mislead.—M.]

Hosea 11:3; Hosea 11:3.—קָחָם Instead of לְקָחָם.

Hosea 11:4; Hosea 11:4.—וְאַט, usually regarded as first fut. Hiphil, from נטה, instead of וָאַט=and I inclined myself. Others take it to be an adverb: softly, gently. אֵלָיו would then be best connected with it: and gently towards them, I gave them food. אוֹכיל for אַאֲכִיל.

Hosea 11:5; Hosea 11:5.—וְאַשּׁור is adversative. הוּא emphasizes Assyria in contrast to Egypt.

Hosea 11:7; Hosea 11:7.—מְשׁוּבָתי The suffix is here used in a subjective sense=apostasy from me.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Hosea 11". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/hosea-11.html. 1857-84.
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