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HOSEA CHAPTER 10
Israel is reproved and threatened for their impiety and idolatry, and exhorted to repentance.
Israel and Ephraim are terms our prophet doth ordinarily use, and they signify the same people, the ten tribes revolted from the house of David, and from the true worship of God.
Is an empty vine; a vine wasted and spoiled, that hath lost its strength to bring forth any fruit, or that is robbed and pilled of the fruit it doth bring forth; this partly for want of the Divine protection and benediction, which they were wont to have, and partly from an inherent barrenness and weakness in this vine.
He bringeth forth fruit unto himself; whatever fruit was brought forth by its remaining strength was not brought forth to God, for his service and honour; but for themselves, for their own use, for service of a state interest, to make presents, and to pay tribute; or, which is yet worse, to maintain the worship of idols.
According to the multitude of his fruit: when the land yielded more plentiful increase, this plenty was impiously employed on multiplied idols, or on multiplied altars, built to the same idols.
He hath increased the altars of their idols, either by adding to the number of altars, or else adding to the numbers of sacrifices offered to the idols on their altars.
According to the goodness of his land: idolaters sottishly imagined that the goodness of their land was a blessing on them from their idols; thus sacrilegiously they robbed God, and on this mistake they proceed to further impiety.
He hath made goodly images; more stately, more curiously wrought, more richly adorned, and it is most likely more for number too, accounting it a great devotion to have many and rich statues of their idols.
Their heart is divided from God and his worship, or between God and Baal, such as Zephaniah 1:5 speaks of, or else divided one from another by parties, and factions, and civil wars, which tended to their ruin.
Now shall they be found faulty; as this was their sin, so the effects hereof should manifestly prove them faulty.
He, either God, or the king of Assyria stirred up by God to invade and destroy Ephraim,
shall break down their altars; utterly pull down those altars which they had multiplied to their idols: the Assyrians shall, as other conquering heathen idolaters, rage against the gods of the people they conquer, as well as against the people; such was the pride and atheism of these men.
He shall spoil their images; waste or destroy them; how goodly soever they had seemed to be, yet they should be broken to pieces; and where made of rich materials, as silver and gold, or if adorned with it, the enemy should the sooner spoil them; and then it will appear how sottish this people were to trust in them, or ascribe any praise to them, when Baal cannot defend his own images or people.
For; surely. Now; ere long.
They shall say; see, and feel, and be convinced too of this truth. We have no king; either no king at all, as in an interregnum, or no such king as we expected and hoped: our dependence was much upon the wise, valiant, and successful conduct of our king; but he is either less wise and valiant, or less successful in his enterprises.
Because we feared not the Lord; worshipped not, kept not his law, depended not on God, therefore we have no king, or one next to none, not able to help us.
What then should a king do to us? and now if we had our king, were he as powerful, wise, and successful as Jeroboam the Second, yet it would be too late, the Assyrian power hath so far prevailed, and God is so far departed from us: kings are not able to save without the God of kings.
They, the nobles and great men in Israel, the heads of the parties, or the counsellors of the kingdom,
have spoken words; have in long and repeated consultations and debates contrived and laid forth the designs most like to help us; but all in vain, all is but words; or thus they have deceived one another, and ruined all; and this latter seems exactly to suit with what follows.
Swearing falsely, by perjury deceiving those they treated with, in making a covenant; either among themselves, accepting a usurper, promising and swearing fealty to him; or with their allies, as with the Assyrian king, whose covenant they perjuriously broke, and, contrary to oath, sent to and confederated with Sun, or So, king of Egypt.
Judgment, i.e. Divine revenges, do so abound every where; or else unequal and sinful projects, counsels, and resolutions of their rulers are, instead of just, wholesome, and saving, turned into bitter, poisonous, and pernicious as hemlock.
As hemlock in the furrows of the field; a proverbial speech, expressing the greatness of this pernicious evil. So this will be explained by Amos 6:12, oppression, injustice, and all sins spread (as hemlock quickly overruns a field) over all the kingdom.
The citizens who dwelt yet safe in Samaria, but knew that the Assyrian invaded the kingdom, beat Israel’s army, and took his city; these idolatrous citizens were in bodily fear for their gods, lest the Assyrians should rudely spoil their godships.
Because of the calves of Beth-aven: some give the reason of their fear, because they had sinned by these calves, and provoked God, therefore should this fear seize them; but it is more likely this doth speak the object of the Samaritans’ fears, their cow-calves (as by way of contempt in the Hebrew) were the goodly deities they were afraid for; yet they trusted in these for aid against enemies, and now fear they have not power enough to defend themselves: what brutes are idolaters! Of this
Beth-aven, principal seat of the calf god, see Hosea 4:15.
The people thereof; they who dwelt at Beth-aven, who had gain and profit by the idol, to which many resorted; or else they that were addicted to this idol, worshipped it, and trusted in it.
Shall mourn over it; howl and cry over the endangered god: so let all their sorrows be multiplied that hasten after any strange god.
The priests thereof, that were to attend and offer sacrifices to these calves; the priests were like to lose their livings with their idol.
That rejoiced on it: these priests formerly were fed, clothed, enriched, and got into credit by these their idols, this made them right glad.
The glory thereof, all its credit and veneration, is departed from it; is vanished: it was once taken for a god, but now the case is altered, it is turned into a captive, and with loss of liberty hath lost its deity also; the Assyrians have either broken it, or carried it in derision into Assyria.
It; the golden calf made by Jeroboam the First, 1 Kings 12:28.
Shall be carried; though it hath feet, it cannot go, it must be borne; as Isaiah derides the idols of Babylon, Isaiah 46:2,Isaiah 46:7; Jeremiah 10:5; and it is carried in triumph. For a present; according to the custom of conquering generals, the rich and rare things of the conquered people were reserved for gifts to their kings; and here is a rarity indeed, a captive god, and it is rich, for it is made of gold.
King Jareb: see Hosea 5:13.
Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed: the great confusion of this people is here foretold, and the certainty of it by the ingemination of the phrase: the Assyrians shall upbraid them with their brutish folly, to think that a god which could not keep itself from becoming a prey to insolent soldiers; and when thus taunted, Israel shall have nothing to answer, but must be silent with shame.
Of his own counsel; which is expressly mentioned 1 Kings 12:28; it was against the counsel of God; and as they began, so they persisted in it by the same counsel.
As for Samaria, after three years’ siege she shall be cut off. Her king is cut off; for all the rest of the kingdom was lost, and now he is pent up there also; he that was once the confidence of the ten tribes, and king of a mighty people, is now spoiled of all but one only city, where he is rather a prisoner than a king, kept close till made a captive.
Is cut off; shortly will be cut off; it is not unlikely this prophecy should be delivered when Samaria was besieged.
As the foam upon the water; as a contemptible, weak, and light thing: it is a proverb, and foretells how contemptibly the Assyrians should use them.
The high places; the temples and altars of Baal and other idols.
Aven, for Beth-aven, say most interpreters: what if. Aven, vanity, folly, be here put for all idol worship and rites, which was notoriously
the sin of Israel?
Shall be destroyed; utterly overthrown; and lie so long waste and desolate, that thorns and thistles shall spring up out of the places where their altars once stood within their stately temples. When this shall be brought to pass, the idolatrous Israelites shall be in such perplexity, that they shall wish the mountains and hills might fall on them, and bury them alive, that they might escape the troubles that they did foresee were coming upon them; or it may be an upbraiding them for praying to lifeless stocks or statues, and telling them in their distress, and when their gods are gone, and cannot help, they should cry to deaf mountains to cover them.
O Israel, thou hast sinned; you of the ten tribes with such consent have sinned, that you seem to do it as one man.
From the days of Gibeah; ever since the days, so we; but, as Rivet observes, it will bear a comparative thus, thou hast sinned above, or more than. The ten tribes were greater sinners than those Gibeonites; so the prophet compareth the sins of the present age and that past. See Judges 19:0, where the story is set down at large. See also Hosea 5:8, the place described.
There they stood; in that day and war some stood, who were a seed for raising up the tribe; so I refer this passage to the six hundred men who fled to the rock Rimmon.
The battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them; that fatal battle did not reach them; but now Israel shall be more severely punished; for who escape the sword shall be carried captives, and they shall be no more a people or kingdom: or else thus; Israel hath sinned more than the Gibeonites, I will therefore punish them more than the Gibeonites; they stood once or twice, but Israel now shall be ever beaten and put to flight; in that war Israel had heart to rally, and after two defeats were victors in the third encounter, but it shall not be so now, a war shall overtake them now, not such to Israel as was that against the Gibeonites, for in that they had at last the better, but in this they shall be totally ruined.
Our version leaves this verse somewhat obscure, but our reading in the margin doth much clear the words, and maketh them much more easily intelligible.
It is in my desire that I should chastise them; I am resolved to punish them as I see good; they have deserved the utmost that I shall lay upon them, and therefore I will punish as I see meet.
The people shall be gathered; the forces of the Assyrian empire shall be gathered in arms against them, I will bring Shalmaneser upon this sinful, idolatrous nation.
Against them; Israel, or Ephraim.
When they shall bind themselves in their two furrows; when I shall bind them, or when they shall be bound, for their two transgressions; so the marginal reading: and then it is plain, if once it appear what were their two transgressions; either corporal and spiritual adultery; and what if it were their revolt from David’s house, their ancient rebellion and idolatry? or revolt from God: these were the two main spring-heads of their other particular sins, and for these they shall be bound as prisoners and captives, and carried away into Assyria.
As an heifer; a young and wanton heifer, unaccustomed to the yoke, not used to hard labour.
Taught; used to, and so skilled in or acquainted with.
Loveth to tread out the corn: what we do by thrashing, the Jews did by these heifers or oxen, tread out the corn, and in doing this the law provided that the ox should not be muzzled, but should eat what it would: so it was with Ephraim, he loved that work that was so pleasant, which so well fed him. And God doth let Ephraim know that he had been very much indulged herein: God had given them all abundance and prosperity, and with little labour or care; and he expected thankfulness for it; but no such thing was done by Ephraim, he grew more insolent, untractable, and perfidious. When I found it so,
I passed over upon her fair neck, laid some lighter yoke upon her, brought some gentler afflictions upon that people, to tame them, and make them serviceable; but this hath not prevailed.
I will make Ephraim to ride; I will now deal more rigorously, I will try another course, and as horses are brought to work by one that can bring them to bear and carry the rider, so I will deal with Ephraim; I will ride on Ephraim, and tame him, i.e. by the Assyrians, who should subdue and enslave them.
Judah shall plough; Judah, though less sinful, hath been used to harder labour, and more rugged treatment, hath ploughed when Ephraim hath reaped, yet I have spared Ephraim more.
Jacob shall break his clods; the same in other proverbial speech repeated; their work is at present harder, but there is a harvest follows; though Judah plough, and Jacob break his clods, labour hard, and for their sins suffer, yet they sow in tears when harassed by Ephraim or going into Babylon, and shall reap in joy at the return. But Ephraim, who abused all my bounty and kindness, who worked only for his own profit, shall be more severely punished, and when he goeth forth shall return no more.
Sow to yourselves in righteousness: the prophet continueth his care of their welfare, by exhorting them yet at last to repent, which, as learned interpreters observe, the prophet doth here in the same elliptic speech which is used before these imperatives, and is to be made up thus, The Lord hath said by his prophets, Sow, &c.; this same duty hath been pressed on them formerly, and is again commended to them; sow in righteousness, in universal righteousness, towards God in piety, towards man in equity, and herein see that ye sow plentifully, that is, exercise yourselves in these works.
Reap in mercy: this is referred both to the Divine mercy, and so amounteth to a promise, and to the mercy we should show to man, and so is direction for another part of duty; both may well have place here.
Break up your fallow ground; your hearts, O ye Ephraimites, have been and still are, as ground overrun with weeds, which need be ploughed and broken up, that good seed may be sowed in them, that you may bring forth fruit in holy life, from a holy heart, and obtain mercy of God.
It is time to seek the Lord; it is full time, if you consider it aright; or, it is yet time, you may seek and find he is not quite gone, still he calls you, therefore hearken, and follow seasonable advice, seek ye the Lord whilst he may be found.
Till he come; seek with patience and faith until he doth, as certainly he will, come; for this passage is a virtual or implicit promise that God will come to them if they seek him, i.e. he will bless, favour, and love them; in these he will appear to them, which is his coming to them.
Rain righteousness; plentifully pour out the fruits of his own goodness and mercy which he hath promised, and, having promised, it is a righteous thing they should be given according to promise; thus the mercies of God to us are his righteousness to us.
Upon you, who repent and obey his counsel by his prophets.
You, O Israelites, subjects of the kingdom of the ten tribes,
have ploughed wickedness; instead of repentance, and a life of righteousness, you have lived in wickedness, and propagated it, you have increased all manner of impieties; thus you have abused and perverted the fruits of God’s goodness.
Ye have reaped iniquity; the wickedness you have sown hath sprung up and ripened into iniquity; or, you have met with a recompence worthy of this your labour, God hath punished you for your wickedness; the first seems most agreeable to the text.
Ye have eaten the fruit of lies; fed yourselves with vain hopes, maintained yourselves upon a carnal, sinful confidence, forsaking the fountain of living waters; and these lies the prophet doth in the following words reduce to two heads.
Thou didst trust in thy way; dependence on idols, worshipping them, and seeking to them; their way was their idolatry committed with the calves.
In the multitude of thy mighty men; the next lie on which they lived was the wisdom and valour of their great men, their king, nobles, captains, and counsellors; in confidence of sufficient help by them, they held on in a way of sin and wickedness.
Therefore, since such are their sins, and such will be their disappointments, since their refuges will be so vain, cud their enemies so many and strong,
shall a tumult arise; a discontent, murmur, and outcry, as of men affrighted, not knowing what course to take when the alarm is given, and certain news cometh, that Shalmaneser comes with his army against the kingdom of Israel.
Among thy people; the Israelites, among all sorts of people, among all the tribes of the kingdom.
All thy fortresses shall be spoiled; every one of thy strong holds, those impregnable fortifications on which thou hast laid out all that art and diligence could, to make them able to break the power of the enemy that dares besiege them, these, every one of them, (as the Hebrew construction bears it,) shall be wasted.
Shalman; it is most probably spoken of Shalmaneser, though abbreviated, which is usual in all writings of history; so Alexander or Pompey, without the addition of Great, and so here Shalman without eser, or surnamed prince.
Betharbel, possibly Arbel here may be the name of a man whose house and family Shalman destroyed, and so this passage might be read, the house of Arbel; but the more likely reading is as we read it, so it is the name of some country or city, or both. We meet with a city of this name, famous for the overthrow which Alexander gave to Darius, and probable it is that this might be that Arbel or Beth-arbel here spoken of, rebuilt and grown great again since the sack of it by Shallman, which was at least four hundred years before the overthrow of Darius. It was a city of Assyria, and gave name, Arbelis, to a country or region, part of Assyria, and lay somewhat below Arpad.
In the day of battle: of this war we no where else read; it is likely it was not long before the war with Samaria and the ten tribes, that the memory of that severity was fresh, and the particulars then well known.
The mother was dashed in pieces upon her children; all were put to the sword, and the city utterly destroyed.
So; mercilessly and universally min.
Beth-el; one place put for every one, and the place put for the idolatry committed there.
Do; procure, bring your idolatry and sins, do all this evil against you.
Unto you, O Samaritans, and the rest of the ten tribes.
Because of your great wickedness: this idolatry, and the concomitant sins, are here summed up in their total sum,
great wickedness, exceeding great.
In a morning; suddenly, or so soon as it is day; possibly the Assyrians might assault the city towards morning, and master it.
Shall the king of Israel, Hoshea,
utterly be cut off; his power broken, for his life was spared, and he made a prisoner, 2 Kings 17:4.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Hosea 10". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26