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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Hosea 6

HOSEA CHAPTER 6

An exhortation to repentance, Hosea 6:1-3. A complaint against Israel and Judah for persisting still in their wickedness, Hosea 6:4-11.

Verse 1

The former chapter ended with a declaration of God’s resolution to bring his own chosen ones, true Israelites, by deep distresses to repentance, and to seek him whom they had forsaken; this chapter begins with a declaration of the success of this project. The prophet therefore brings them in exhorting and calling upon one another, and encouraging each other; the phrase you have Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:2, &c.

Let us return unto the Lord; let us be wiser at last, idols have not profited us, they have been our sin, and our fall; we forsook the fountain of living water when we did forsake the Lord. Let us now, with repenting hearts, leave idols, and return to the Lord; let us cast them off, and betake ourselves to the worship, obedience, love, and fear of the Lord, the only true and eternal God.

For he hath torn; we now see his hand in all we suffer, and as it is his we own it very just: we, like froward rebels, sought our help from his enemies, and he, as he threatened, hath met us, like a lion, and hath torn us: his voice in the judgment, like the roaring of a lion, hath awakened us; and our bleeding wounds have told us, that God hath done all this against us, and all this because we were departed from him.

And he will heal us; for, beside his mercy inclining him, we know it was his design by this course to recover us to himself; and we are assured he hath withdrawn his hand. left us in perplexities, but till we would seek, till we would be willing to be healed: he will be our Physician, and by his lenitives will ease and cure us, now his severer course hath abated our phrensy. The Assyrian king could not, but Israel’s God and King can and will heal.

He hath smitten; the same thing in a different simile, God hath wounded.

And he will bind us up, as a skillful and tender chirurgeon binds up with plasters, and swathes to heal.

Verse 2

In this verse it is most certain we are to regard both the literal and historical sense, and distinguish it from the mystical and accommodated sense; in this latter, these words foretell the death, and resurrection, and future glory of Christ and Christians, as 1 Corinthians 15:4, and so are generally interpreted and applied by expositors. As to the letter, his history, it is in brief thus:

After two days; after some short time of sufferings for our sins, or rather when our sufferings have brought us to repentance and return to God, our God will soon after show us his grace and favour, and revive our dead state. It is not needful we inquire how long time this two days intends, it is a certain time for an uncertain, two days for a short time. God doth not delay long when we return to him, Jeremiah 31:18,Jeremiah 31:19, with Jeremiah 31:20; and Hosea 14:3, with Hosea 14:4.

He will revive us: though we were as dead men, buried in our miseries, and neither deserved from God, nor could hope from any other hand, a resurrection, and recovery to a better state; yet our merciful God will quicken us again. Ezra 9:8,Ezra 9:9, expresseth their return out of captivity in those words that might well paraphrase our prophet.

In the third day he will raise us up: mercy recovers by degrees, and therefore a third day is added, in which this people shall be raised up, increased, established, and confirmed. Possibly the prophet may allude to the third day, which is said to be a critical day to the wounded, who conceive hopes when better on that day; or possibly it may refer to the third decree by Darius made to Nehemiah for building Jerusalem, and the two days may refer to the times of Cyrus reviving the Jews, first, by his decree of liberty, and command to build the temple. The second day or time that of Darius Hystaspes to Zerubbabel and Joshua, for building the temple, in which work his bounty revived the hopes of the Jews; however poor and unable, yet the temple should be built, and the worship of God restored. This was a great reviving, but their settlement was upon the third decree, which was given out by Darius Longimanus to Nehemiah, Nehemiah 2:1.

We shall live; flourish in peace, wealth, and joy; in pure worship of God, in righteousness among ourselves, in safety from enemies.

In his sight; the eye of our God being upon us for good, and we filled with the fruits of his favour, inheriting his promises here till we fully possess them in the light of glory.

Verse 3

Then; after that God hath revived and raised his repenting and inquiring captives, brought them to his temple and city, restored his worship and his law amongst them (all which are figures of more glorious things to be expected by the church of Christ after his resurrection).

Shall we know; be better instructed in the law of our God, know what worship he requires, and is best pleased with. This knowledge of God shall be to us a spring of all holy, righteous, sober, and temperate conversation. Such knowledge, if we observe the Scriptures, was promised to the Jews after their return out of captivity, and their seeking the Lord, Jeremiah 24:5-7; Jeremiah 31:34; Ezekiel 11:17-20; Ezekiel 36:23; Habakkuk 2:14; Zephaniah 3:9, &c.

Follow on to know; it shall be an increasing knowledge, which by a diligent attendance to the word and works of God these shall attain, and improve by doing the will of God, and by worshipping him; they shall know experimentally and practically how holy, how good, how faithful God is, John 8:31,John 8:32. Before this they knew not God, and sinned, provoked God, and undid themselves; but now they shall know, obey, and please their God and Saviour.

His going forth before his people who know him, and endeavour to increase that knowledge; his gracious, faithful, holy, just, and wise providences, and manifestations of himself in the conduct of them for his people’s good and comfort.

Is prepared as the morning; as sure, seasonable, beautiful, grateful, and as clear as the morning; which dispels the darkness, and proclaims its own approach.

As the latter and former rain unto the earth; which reviveth, maketh it fruitful, beautifieth it, and gives a new face to all. So God will abundantly bless his repenting Israel, his returning people. This blessing he promised over and over to the Jews after the captivity, Ezekiel 34:25; Hosea 2:18,Hosea 2:19; Hosea 14:5,Hosea 14:6; Malachi 3:10.

Verse 4

The Lord now enters a debate with both Israel (here called

Ephraim) and the two tribes, with all that were his, people anciently; much after the manner of men, who having to do with froward and ungovernable children, or servants, whom they pity, and would not cast off, after much kindness and patience showed to them, and abused by them, at last seem at a stand what more to do, or appeal to by-standers whether more might be done, or demand of the untractable ones what they can desire more to be done. So Isaiah 5:3-6; Micah 6:3,Micah 6:5. What is it I may do becoming my holy, just, and wise procedures, with my reasonable creatures? What should I do more to save you from ruin, and salve my own honour, truth, add justice? Would you of the ten tribes, and you of the two tribes, have me cease to be God, and resign to your idols? or repeal my own laws, and subscribe to your idols’ rites? Or would you have Satan the wicked one, who hath seduced your kings, prophets, priests, and people, whom you worship in your idols, would you that he should still retain your love and service, and I maintain you in it? I would do, as appears by what I have done, any thing that may be done to reduce, reclaim, and reform you, who are as impudent adulteresses, that will not be sincere and faithful to their reconciled husband.

Your goodness, or your kindness, your love to me, my law, worship, and honour, your promises of love and loyalty,

is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew; vanisheth without effect, it is deceitful; you are hypocrites, nothing but short and empty signs of goodness, piety, and amendment. Their hypocrisy and unconstancy, elegantly expressed in this double allusion, renders them uncapable of further gentleness.

Verse 5

Therefore; because I would do for you whatever might be done, because I would cure you of your obstinacy and hypocrisy, and make you upright and constant. I have hewed them; I have severely, continually, and unweariedly by the prophets reproved, warned, and threatened. Your hearts have been like knotty trees, or hardest stones: I have made my prophets like labourers, and, my words like axes or hammers to cut off the knots, and to hew off the roughness which make unfit for use; but all to no purpose, the desired effect hath not been attained.

By the prophets; some that were before Hosea. Jeroboam the First was by a prophet reproved and threatened for this idolatry, in which Israel persisted, and to which Judah did too often fall; and through the space of two hundred years, from Jeroboam the First to Hosea’s time, many other prophets were sent, whose names, and some memoirs of them, we have, as Ahijah, Jehu, Hanani, Elijah, and Elisha. These and such like were the prophets that did hew crooked and knotty Israel.

I have slain them: some say the false prophets are the persons meant here, whom God did slay for their sin, seducing Israel to, and confirming them in, idolatry; indeed Elijah’s sincere zeal did cut off so many, 1 Kings 18:22,1 Kings 18:40, and Jehu’s counterfeit zeal cut off so many, 2 Kings 10:21,2 Kings 10:25, that it could never be forgotten among that people. So the thing is true, many false prophets were slain for this sin; yet the persons in our text were not these false prophets, but they were the people of Israel and Judah, the idolatrous, refractory hypocrites among them, whom God threatened with death, and that by the sword of enemies.

By the words of my mouth; as he did by his word foretell, so he did effect too in due time.

Thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth, i.e. the punishments threatened, the miseries foretold, which fell upon this people, did so fully answer the prediction, that every one might see them clear as the light, and as constantly executed as the morning. So Zephaniah 3:5.

Verse 6

I so hewed and slew them, because they did not what I most of all required, approved, and could accept of; they were full of sacrifices, and spared them not, but either to idols, or else in formality and pride. These sacrificers were either abominable idolaters, as were they of Ephraim, or proud hypocrites, as were too many of Judah.

I desired mercy; compassion and charity towards men, this one principal duty of the second table put for all works of godly humanity, pleaseth me, in this I delight. I had found little of this among you, nor could I persuade you to it; though this was it that I required, Micah 6:8.

And not sacrifice; rather than, or more than, sacrifice, for it is not an absolute, but a comparative negative. Mercy to man who needed it, without a sacrifice to me who need it not, was more pleasing than a sacrifice (though required) with cruelty to man, which I forbade.

The knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings: hearty, affectionate knowledge of God, which fills the mind with reverence of his majesty, fear of his goodness, love of his holiness, trust in his promise, and submission to his will; knowledge of God’s law, the rule of our obedience, of his favour, the reward of our obedience, and knowledge of his omniscience, discerning and judging it, with those excellent effects, proper fruits hereof; are more than all sacrifice, as though they were burnt-sacrifices, which of all other were entirely given to God. But truth is, who knows God aright, and doth keep his heart for God, gives God more than he that brings whole burnt-offerings; for these are but ceremonies and signs, empty and insipid to God, without the heart. In short, these people acted all so contrary to this temper of their God, gave him so much of that he valued not, and so little of that he did most value, that he could not be too severe against them, nor is it any wonder he was so displeased with their sacrifices.

Verse 7

I told them by my prophets what I required of them by covenant, but I could not obtain it, they regarded not what I said.

Like men; or, like Adam: some take it for a proper name, and so refer it unto the first man, and his breaking covenant; and, for aught I see, it may well enough refer to him, who forgot or slighted the threat, who judged of what he did by what it appeared, as a small matter; and so these forget and slight my threats, and judge of the place where, and the persons by whom, and the times when, sacrifices are to be offered as no material circumstances, and therefore do choose what places they please, and appoint what priest liketh them best to offer; or else transgress the covenant, as if it were the covenant of a man like themselves.

The covenant; the law of their God, which directed and encouraged their obedience, and which threatened their disobedience, and cursed it.

There; in that very place, the good land, which by covenant I gave them, they have broken my covenant; or in the things in which they thought they kept covenant, in their sacrifices, and observing of feasts, in these things they transgress the covenant.

Dealt treacherously against me; very frowardly, and with wilful resolutions perverted my law; their transgressing was a designed perfidiousness. I told them, Obedience, not sacrifice; they reply, Sacrifice, and stop there; they give no obedience, though they offer many sacrifices.

Verse 8

Gilead; one of the six cities of refuge, situate in the country of that name, on a high hill, whence it is called Ramoth-gilead: now as a city of refuge it was a city pertaining to the priests and Levites, as all the cities of refuge did, in what tribe soever they were, Numbers 35:6.

Is a city of them that work iniquity; a sacerdotal city, where priests did, and religion, i.e. knowledge of God and mercy to man, should, dwell; but Gilead is a city full of most notorious transgressors, the inhabitants, though Levites and priests, are a generation of men that work all manner of wickedness.

And is polluted with blood; murders committed there have polluted it, or murderers protected there against the law of God, who provided these cities a relief for such as unawares, without malice, by chance slew his neighbour, not for wilful murderers; yet these for money or interest got in and were secured there; and probably many were kept out or delivered up to the avenger of blood contrary to the law: thus Gilead by name, and all the rest of the cities of refuge intended too, were polluted with blood.

Verse 9

What is here charged upon these priests, they turned highway-men and murderers, some understand of their killing and spoiling those that were going up to Jerusalem to worship God there; but more likely it is, that in this Gilead were many murderers, who durst not go out, nor could get their livelihood within the city, but, reduced to straits, took this wicked course for a livelihood, robbed and murdered on the highway, and then divided the prey with the priests, whose consent to the thing made them deeply guilty. And thus in this manner they act most lewd things; or these things are done and encouraged by the priests, because they make it their business, it is their trade now to contrive and act wickedness, highest wickednesses. Or, if you rather like it in the brief, the priests by companies lay wait, and rob, and murder, like as do the troops which rob towards Shethem.

Verse 10

I have seen: it may be understood of the prophet speaking what he had seen; or of God, who seeth now, and hath seen,

an horrible thing, a very horrible thing, as some observe from the word, in the house of Israel, the ten tribes.

The whoredom, idolatry,

of Ephraim; which was brought in by an Ephraimite, by Jeroboam the First, two hundred years ago, and it is there still.

Israel is defiled; it hath overspread all Israel, none free, but all defiled greatly with it.

Verse 11

This verse is confessedly very dark to interpreters, who agree not whether Judah be vocative or nominative; or who it is that setteth, whether Ephraim, Judah, or God; or what captivity is here meant, whether one past or to come: the conciseness of our prophet makes him very obscure.

Also, O Judah; or also Judah, i.e. as Israel is polluted, and must expect to be chastised; or, O Judah, thou art like polluted Israel in sin, and mightest be every way like in punishment.

He hath set an harvest for thee; but thy God hath appointed a harvest for thee, thou shalt not as Israel be utterly cut off, a seed of thee shall be sowed, and thou shalt reap the harvest with joy.

When I returned; when I shall return, rather, so it looks to what is to come; or else, forasmuch as I will turn

the captivity of my people, the house of Judah.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Hosea 6". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/hosea-6.html. 1685.