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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Hosea 11

Introduction

HOSEA CHAPTER 11.

Israel’s ingratitude to God for his benefits, Hosea 11:1-4. God’s judgment upon them, Hosea 11:5-7. His mercy toward them, Hosea 11:8-11. Ephraim’s falsehood, and Judah’s fidelity, Hosea 11:12.

Verse 1

When Israel was a child; in the infancy of Israel, which is here dated equal with his being in Egypt.

Then I loved him; manifested that tender and paternal affection which I did bear to him, increasing him in numbers, wealth, and honour.

Called my son; adopted him to be my son, and as my son provided for him, and brought him out of servitude; I so loved him as to give Egypt for his ransom, Isaiah 43:3.

Out of Egypt; where they had sojourned two hundred and fifteen years, and in them suffered many outrages from the Egyptians, who were their enemies, and aimed at extirpating Israel. Now, amidst such enemies, God owned them to be his sons, his eldest son, and redeemed him out of bondage, a fruit of wonderful love never to be forgotten. This in the letter and history is exceeding plain, but there is difficulty in the application of this unto Christ, and his call out of Egypt, of which many interpreters treat at large, which may not now be so much as summarily touched. It is too little to say that the evangelist doth allude to this place, Matthew 2:15, and I think it is too much to say this place is cited by Matthew, as in the history of the thing, referring only to Christ being called out of Egypt; but if you will make Israel the first adopted son, type of Christ, the first-born, and the history of Israel’s coming out to be a type of Christ’s future coming out, you then give to both their proper share in these words, and the letter and history is verified in both, and the principal import of the words will refer to Christ, as principally intended in them, yet not excluding the type.

Verse 2

As they; Moses and Aaron, and other prophets, and holy, zealous judges and priests, as Samuel, &c.

Called; advised, persuaded, entreated, and urged by exhortations.

Them; the whole house of Israel, and among these the ten tribes, or Ephraim.

So they Israelites, called and entreated, especially they of that age when the division was made, and ever since.

Went from; frowardly and most disingenuously apostatized more and more, as the prophet, Isaiah 1:5. Horrible ingratitude so to requite God!

From them; from the prophets’ counsel and commands, delivered as they came from God.

They sacrificed unto Baalim; in the desert they began this apostacy, joined themselves to Baal-peor, Numbers 25:3, and worshipped the calf, Exodus 32:4-6, and held on with obstinacy in it.

Graven images; images of their gods, before which they performed another part of religious worship, burning incense before them.

Verse 3

I taught Ephraim also to go; as a mother or nurse doth help the child, and with tenderest care doth guide and form its steps, and by long-continued patience waits on it; such like was the tenderness of God toward Israel in his childhood.

Taking them by their arms; supporting and bearing them up, as nurses bear up the child in their hands, taking them up by the arms, giving strength for motion, till the child should grow to strength.

But they knew not that I healed them; unthankful, sottish, and heedless ones, neither would see nor acknowledge me in it, but within few months’ time ascribe their deliverance to a golden calf, Exodus 32:4; thus foolishly they requite the love of their God.

Verse 4

I drew them; I found them backward and unapt to lead, I therefore in my pity laid my hand on them, and, as a father or friend, drew them gently to me.

With cords of a man, i.e. with such obliging kindness as best fits and most prevails with a man, with reason.

With bands of love; those arguments of love, which might, as strong bands, hold them fast to my law and worship for their good. I used all manner of kindnesses towards them to fix them in good.

I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws; as a careful husbandman doth in due season take the yoke from his labouring oxen, and takes off the muzzle with which they were kept from eating when at work, gives them time of rest and feeding: so did God with Israel.

I laid meat unto them; brought them provision in their wants, as the careful husbandman brings fodder and provender for his wearied labouring oxen, by which plain simile God doth inform Israel in Hosea’s time what ancient, tender, constant, and vigilant love he had showed to Israel, to their predecessors, and to them also, and hereby discovers their unheard-of ingratitude and wickedness, which began in their fathers, and hath continued with increase to the days of their final ruin.

Verse 5

He; Ephraim thus provided for by me, thus indulged, or else Ephraim punished.

Shall not return into the land of Egypt; either needed not have courted Egypt’s friendship, or desired that assistance; I would have kept them safe enough, and sufficiently provided for them; so if you refer this to Ephraim not threatened or punished: but if Ephraim be here threatened, then you have it foretold, that though Ephraim flatters himself with false hopes of a refuge in Egypt, it should not be.

But the Assyrian shall be his king; conquering and captivating them, should make himself their king, and rule them with rigour and cruelty. Because they refused to return; the reason of all is, their obstinacy in idolatry, and their impenitence, refusing to return to God; which two latter passages are also explicable as the former, thus, if they would have returned unto me, Assyria should not have been their king.

Verse 6

The sword; either intestine or foreign wars, or both. Shall abide; shall be long, not be as a sudden incursion which doth much mischief to surprised and unfortified places, but it shall be a lasting war; three years Samaria was besieged, so the sword did abide.

On his cities; all the cities of Ephraim, the enemy should have courage and leisure to attend the siege of every one of them.

Shall consume; shall prevail to take, sack, burn, and ruin the branches.

His branches; lesser towns and villages.

Devour them; swallow them up with speed and ease, without remedy. Because of their own counsels; which they first took, 1 Kings 12:28, and ever since irreclaimably have followed, in opposition to all the good counsels the prophets gave them from time to time, to all which they have turned a deaf ear; they have sued for Egypt and Asshur’s favour, and slighted mine.

Verse 7

My people; yet God owneth them for his, he had not cast them quite off; or since they call themselves his, he is willing to encourage them by owning all in them that looks toward him.

Are bent to backsliding from me; or continue in suspense, doubtful and unresolved what to do, or rather inclined most to an aversion from me: though the Lord’s prophets have persuaded them earnestly to return by repentance, yet they continue unresolved what is best to be done, whether to adhere to their idol gods, to make sure of Egyptian aids, or-to turn to God, and east off the other; this they most dislike, and continue as it were tacked and fastened to their rebellion, as the French version.

Though they, the prophets, called them to the Most High; invited, exhorted, and encouraged them with many fair promises to give glory to God by returning.

None at all; not one of many, scarce any one in those great numbers in Israel, would hearken and obey. Would exalt him; God in his holiness, justice, goodness, and truth, all which a repenting people do magnify, but these will not. They retain their idols, depend on Egypt, and put all on that cast, and will neither believe nor try God’s goodness.

Verse 8

After such unparalleled abuse of infinite mercy and patience, what could be expected, but unrelenting wrath and fiercest indignation? but here is a wonder above all the rest; bowels troubled, and struggling with anger, and contesting on behalf of most inexcusable sinners. O Ephraim, thou hast deserved to be destroyed for ever, thy sins call for this, and my justice threatens it, I may do it; but my mercy interposeth, and I would rather spare in mercy than destroy injustice, there is still a debate between these two: How shall I give up to justice? saith mercy; and, How shall I not give up (saith justice) into the hands of enemies? Justice must be executed, that I must do, saith God; and mercy shall be magnified, that I will do; but how shall this be done? If I deliver thee, O Israel, to thine enemies, they will utterly destroy, and where then is mercy? If I deliver thee not, thy sins will not be chastised, and where then is justice? If I punish thee, as I punished Admah and Zeboim, with fire from heaven, I do what is just, but then I show no mercy; for these are two of the four cities which suffer the vengeance of eternal fire, of which Genesis 19:24.

Mine heart is turned within me: after the manner of man God speaks; we know what it is to have a heart turned from wrath into kindness and compassions, so God speaks of himself here, and Isaiah 63:15; Jeremiah 31:20.

My repentings are kindled together; still, like a compassionate man, he could wish his threats in again, his bowels are now as in a flame for them.

Verse 9

Here mercy rejoiceth against judgment, and God declareth his purpose to spare, he promiseth that he will not execute according to utmost severity. This promise he confirmeth by doubling it, though in somewhat different words: I will not do as men, who having beat down au enemy, and wounded him, do return again to see whether he breathe, and to make an end of him; or conquerors, that plunder the conquered city, carry away the wealth of it, and after some time return to burn it; God will not do so.

I am God, and not man; his compassions are infinite, his goodness unchangeable; he remembers all his promises to every one, and now seeth who among Israel believe, and hope for his grace and mercy; these he must spare, as he is just Judge of the whole earth, and for their sakes he will spare many others.

The Holy One in the midst of thee; a holy God, and in covenant, though not with all, yet with many among you, and those that are in covenant with God are holy ones too: I will not make them as Admah or Zeboim, for the case is different, in the cities of the plain there were no righteous ones, but here are some, though not many: and so Rivet renders the words, there is a holy one in the midst of thee, where the singular is used for plural, as in that passage,

there is none righteous. I will not enter into the city; I will not come amongst you, as I came into Sodom, &c. Here is comfort for God’s remnant.

Verse 10

They, whom infinite mercy spareth, the choice remnant,

shall walk after the Lord; shall hear and obey, worship and depend on the Lord, on the Messiah, of whom these and the words of the next verse do certainly speak. They refer also to the return out of captivity, in both history and type, of our deliverance out of spiritual and eternal captivity.

He shall roar like a lion; Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, shall send out his gospel: this is meant by the lion’s roaring, Joe 3:16, of whom it is observed, that he doth by roaring gather his whelps and others of his kind to the prey: by the mighty voice of the Lord in the gospel, the elect shall be gathered to partake of eternal life.

Then the children shall tremble; the Spirit by its power awakening them to the sight of sin, shall make them fear and tremble,

from the west, to the ends of the earth. This is the mystical sense; yet the literal, I think, refers to the return of the Jews out of captivity, when many out of Assyria and Egypt returned, and some report one hundred thousand from Ethiopia Cusses, and the parts toward Arabia; and possibly this hath particular respect to Darius’s decree, on the behalf of those that followed Haggai and Zechariah’s counsel, finished the temple, restored the worship of God, reformed strange and unlawful marriages, paid their tithes, &c.; in these they followed the Lord; and Darius made a decree for them, terrible to the children of the west, as the roaring of a lion: Let this work go forward, Ezra 6:7, &c.; who dares to hinder, let timber be taken out of his house, and a gallows made thereof, and such be hanged thereon, Hosea 11:11,Hosea 11:12. All this filled the inhabitants of those parts with great fear, when God thus gathered his dispersed ones: but what I conjecture at I do submit to better judgments.

Verse 11

The summary of the first part of this verse seems to be, that some should hasten, yet with solicitude, out of Egypt, whither they fled for shelter, like as a bird that hath been cast out of her nest hasteth to it; others like doves shall hasten out of Assyria unto Judea, but with fear and solicitude, which cannot but attend them in a land, though their own, yet now desolate and horrid under one hundred and eighty years’ devastation since Shalmaneser transported them, i.e. one hundred and ten years before and seventy years concurrent with the Jews’ captivity in Babylon.

I will place them in their houses; they will find none, but I will place them in houses, and they shall be theirs too. It is a very seasonable and comfortable promise, and suited to the state and wants of those returning exiles, and in the letter of it refers to them; and they as types of what is more mysteriously and more darkly contained in them, viz. the gathering of believers from all quarters to Christ with the alacrity and speed which birds make in flying to their nests, and God’s providing mansions of rest for them: well resembled here in these similes.

Verse 12

This verse might better begin the next chapter, and by most interpreters I have seen, it is the first verse of the next chapter; but since we find it here we will here consider it.

Ephraim; many or the most of Ephraim.

Compasseth me about with lies; play the hypocrites with me still; yet give me good words, call themselves my people, and say I am their God, and that they worship me and seek me; but they flatter me with their mouths, and lie unto me with their tongues, as Psalms 78:36. So God upbraids them with this their sin.

And the house of Israel with deceit; the same thing in an ingeminated phrase, to affect and ascertain the more.

Judah; the people of the two tribes, under the government of the house of David.

Ruleth with God; while idolaters are vassals and slaves to the devil and to their own superstitious fears, the true worshippers of God, like princes, rule with God. Or rather, keeping to the house of David, retained the government in state affairs, which was

Theopolitia, a government set up of God: when Ephraim made kings and princes, but God did not know it, i.e. did not advise nor approve it.

And is faithful with the saints; retains also purity, at least truth, of worship, and in the holy things of God keepeth to his word, and comparatively is faithful: whereas Ephraim is hypocritical and false, Judah adheres to God’s holy prophets, priests, and other saints of God.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Hosea 11". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/hosea-11.html. 1685.