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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 5

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-3


Hosea 5:1. Hear] A fresh beginning of reproof, connected with chapter 4, addressed to the priests, the royal family, and the whole kingdom. Judg.] Lit. the judgment announced in preceding chapter. You] Priests and court. Snare] A net laid to entice the people, like birds in a trap. Miz. and Tab.] Noted places, and peculiarly adapted for bird-catching.

Hosea 5:2. Profound] Lit. they have made slaughter deep, i.e. they have sunk deeply into it. Their sacrifices were slaughter, butcheri’s, and not offerings to God (cf. Isaiah 31:6). Some, that the allusion is to deep pits covered over for beasts to fall in. Others give the sense of stretching out (Psalms 101:3). They have deepened to stretch out excesses, i.e. they have gone to great lengths, are deeply sunken in excesses. The ringleaders laid deep designs to ensnare in idolatry, Rebuker] Lit. a rebuke or correction. God’s attributes and conduct had taken the form of rebuke only towards them.

Hosea 5:3. Know] their plans, deceit, and profound cunning (Revelation 2:29). All things are naked and opened to God. Now] Even at the present time, when they forget me. Their wickedness is done in public and is undeniable.



In this chapter God proceeds in the same method and carries on the same controversy as before. The kingdoms are first cited and then accused. All ranks are guilty of idolatry and pollutions, of obstinacy and impenitency in guilt. It is not an ordinary challenge, as of one displeased only, but the judicial procedure and sentence of the Supreme Judge. “Hear ye this.” The words set forth national sins, the Divine detection, and open rebuke of them.

I. The national sins. All ranks are accused: the priests, the rulers, and the people. Though some were enticed by others, that does not render them without excuse. The prophet rebukes all, without respect of persons, and shows how justly God was angry with their sins.

1. The priests were guilty. They used their sacred office and their high position to ensnare the people.

(1.) They corrupted the law of God. They were the depositaries of this sacred trust; were appointed to expound and keep unsullied the truth of God. They had to teach the statutes which the Lord had spoken unto them by Moses (Leviticus 10:11). The people inquired from them, and they gave judgment (Deuteronomy 17:9; Deuteronomy 17:11). They were the messengers of the Lord of hosts, and should have preserved knowledge (Malachi 2:7). But instead of feeding the people they starved them, lead them into error and sin. There was neither freshness nor power in their ministry. The science of salvation, the word and the work of God, were not the study of their life. When ministers study and prepare to consume it upon pride and self-confidence; when they seek to please the fancy rather than gain the souls of men; when they grow cold and careless of their own, then they get dull and pitiless concerning the souls of others. Unto them are committed the oracles of God. These oracles they must consult and declare to the people. Their word and doctrine, their life and example, like the breastplate of Aaron, must be a bright reflection of them. The truth of God must not be mixed with human tradition, nor displaced by commandments of men. To teach the law to others and profane it ourselves is mockery.

“I venerate the man whose heart is warm,
Whose hands are pure, whose doctrine and whose life
Coincident, exhibit lucid proof
That he is honest in the sacred cause.”

(2.) They corrupted the worship of God. The spirituality of God is a practical truth demanding corresponding spirituality in worship. God has absolute and sole right to prescribe how he will be worshipped. But the history of mankind abundantly proves a disposition in human beings to devise and act for themselves in this respect. In the patriarchal and prophetic periods the worship of God was mixed with idolatry. Heroes and beasts have been deified. The heavens and the earth, the ocean and the air, have been peopled with gods. Even now men are dissatisfied with the simplicity and forgetful of the authority of Divine institutes. Worship is thought to consist in words, forms, and gestures. The body assumes the posture and the lips utter the language of devotion, but often there is neither prayer nor praise. It is sad when the priests of God are guilty of innovation, and teach that “fear towards him was taught by the precepts of men” (Isaiah 29:13). The apostles were exceedingly jealous of any defect, redundancy, or admixture in the worship of God. But Jewish priests debased the institutions and corrupted the law of God. They had embraced and strengthened the idolatry by which they were surrounded, and by apostasy had seduced the people. Their teaching was a snare and their lives a curse.

(3.) They despised the reproof of God. “Though I have been a rebuker of them all.” God by his prophet and by his providence had sought to correct them in vain. Rebuke after rebuke had been given, forbidding idolatry and urging amendment, but Israel was immersed in sin; kings and priests revolted more and more. God warns his Church and his servants, and gives smaller corrections to reclaim them; but if these are despised, the sin becomes more aggravated and the punishment more severe. Apostates and revolters are often given up to gross superstitions, cruel rites, and deeper courses. They may have ability to adorn and defend their crafty designs, but they will be caught by their own deceits. The rebuke of the formalist is solemn; but to immoral teachers, who make grace a cover for sin, and soundness of creed for rottenness of life, God speaks in thunder. Scribes and Pharisees were openly reproved for rejecting the law and misleading the people. “Unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee.”

2. The rulers were guilty. “Give ye ear, O house of the king.” The priest had to teach and the king enforce the law; but king and priest were alike guilty for corrupting it. Both had been crafty and cruel in carrying out their designs, by patronizing idolatry and leading the nation from Jehovah. Monarchs fulfil a high vocation as representatives of God and his law. They should care for the purity of religion and the administration of justice. If they neglect and violate the law, pervert justice, and encourage vice, they are recreant to God, from whom they receive authority and to whom they are responsible. They are not to assume undue authority, but to establish and preserve good and just laws; to govern in wisdom, equity, and love; to punish evil-doers and encourage them that do well. Asa removed wickedness from the throne, and Amaziah punished it with death. Nehemiah was a great reformer, and Alfred the Great a witness for truth in an age of darkness. But the court of Israel was as corrupt as the priesthood. Instead of being benefactors, they were contaminators to their race. Priests in their saintly robes and kings in their royal garbs have oft been foes in human forms; solemn warnings to the ungodly and profane. They are the greatest sinners, in seducing others, and must suffer the severest punishment.

(1.) They enticed to idolatry;
(2.) They enticed to destruction. “Judgment is toward you.”
3. The People were guilty. Though ensnared by their teachers and princes, they were to blame and had no excuse for their sin. We are to think and act for ourselves. Neither the enticement of the priest nor the terror of the king can force us to do wrong; neither the laws nor the lives of superiors can make us bow down to sin. Like the three Hebrew youths, we should not regard the fashions of the court nor the dictum of the priest. We must not partake of other men’s sins lest we share other men’s sufferings. Ephraim was duped willingly and therefore inexcusably. “He willingly walked after the commandment” and was “oppressed and broken in judgment” (Hosea 5:11).

(1.) The people followed bad examples;
(2.) Voluntarily corrupted themselves by idolatry. National sins are the sum of individual contributions. God here arraigns and condemns all classes in the threefold summons. The privileges of the priest, the dignity of the prince, and the number of the people, cannot excuse and do not exempt them from Divine judgments. “Daniel Webster,” says Dr Thomas, “was once asked, ‘What is the most important thought you ever entertained?’ He replied after a moment’s reflection, ‘The most important thought I ever had was my individual responsibility to God.’ ” “Every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.”

II. The Divine detection. “I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me.” God intimately knows and observes the conduct of men. His knowledge is without defect and his judgment without error. Nothing can be hid or concealed from him. Men may deceive themselves, think God does not notice them, and vail their ways from others, but the omniscient eye of God penetrates the covering and brings all things to light. By his word and providence he discovers sin, puts it before us in true colours, and warns us to flee from it. All excuses and plausible pretexts are torn away, and the sinner is exposed in nakedness and danger. “All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”

1. Sin is detected notwithstanding human ingenuity to cover it. Men excuse and plead infirmity and mistake.

(1.) Sin is often covered by ignorance. Ignorance itself is a sin when it can be removed. Ignorance in daily calling is “not bliss,” for lessened power involves lessened earnings and fewer comforts and conveniences of life. Men always pay for ignorance. They cannot justify themselves when they sin against light and truth. Ministers will not be able to plead at last, “We knew it not.” They should watch for souls as those that must give account.

(2.) Sin is often covered by cunning craft. Jewish leaders were crafty in their designs and deep in their schemes. They pretended friendship and goodwill, but they were snares and nets to the people (Ecclesiastes 7:26). Their rulers with great subtlety laid hold of Israel’s love for idols and reverence for their ancestors, and sought to replace the presence of God by the symbols of nature. Around the worship of Baal were gathered the rites of Moses. The services were decked out and adorned with feasts and fasts, instrumental music and songs; upheld by tithes, by civil authority, by prophet, priest, and king. Leaders sought to please that they might ruin; to flatter that they might devour; but “God taketh the wise in their own craftiness.”

2. Sin is detected notwithstanding State policy to uphold it. In Israel selfish interests were put before eternal; policy before principle; and the welfare of the State must be upheld though the people be ruined. In these modern days expediency is often put before morality, State revenues before virtue, and immorality sanctioned by legislators and teachers. We shall do well to heed what a writer says concerning England. “We may succeed for a time by fraud, by surprise, by violence, but we can succeed permanently only by means directly opposite. It is not alone the courage, the intelligence, the activity of the merchant and manufacturer which maintain the superiority of their productions and the character of their country; it is far more their wisdom, their economy, and above all their probity. If ever in the British Islands the useful citizen should lose these virtues, we may be sure that, for England, as for every other country, the vessels of a degenerate commerce, repulsed from every shore, would speedily disappear from those seas whose surface they now cover with the treasures of the universe, bartered for the treasures of the industry of the three kingdoms.” Religion raises, strengthens, and dignifies a nation. Its industry and civilization depend upon true character and not false policy. Even in war Napoleon said the moral was ten to one to the physical. State policy is often State folly and God-dishonouring policy. “It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness, for the throne is established by righteousness.”

III. The solemn call. “Hear ye this.”

1. A universal call. A call to all classes in Israel to hear and consider their ways.

2. An urgent call. “For judgment is toward you.” The judges are summoned before the Judge of judges and the King of kings. This is a matter that must be attended to. All ranks are guilty when God has a controversy with a nation.

3. A present call. Hear and repent now; delays are dangerous. “Now is the accepted time.” Indifference, moral insensibility, are seen on every hand. Ignorance, carelessness, and opposition to the gospel abound. The authority of the caller, and the interests at stake, urge attention to the message: “Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men.”


Kings and priests snares to the people, by erroneous doctrine, fraudulent counsels, evil example, and subtle edicts, and by employing exalted position to lead astray.

Men-trappers—their motive, efforts, pretences, and punishment. Why not attack openly? Why plot and scheme? Because subtlety is the nature of sin and the serpent, and most likely to succeed. “Great ill is an achievement of great powers. Plain sense but rarely leads us far astray.”

Silly people—led astray; like beasts and birds, always exposed and easily overcome by “the snare of the fowler.” We are foolish and weak, and apt to be lured to destruction by cunning foes. Hence the need of (a) watchfulness, (b) prayer, and (c) dependence upon God.

Cunning policy.

1. Most impudent.
2. Most guilty.
3. Most degrading.
4. Most ruinous.

Hear ye this. Preachers should rebuke the sins of rulers as well as those of subjects, so that they bear not the guilt of the souls that are lost, whose blood God will require at their hands [Lange].


Hosea 5:1-3. Inferiors are very apt to be formed up according to the mould and manners of those above them. The example of kings and princes are seldom unconformed to by their subjects. There is a great power in example; what is done persuades, as well as what is spoken. And the errors of those that rule, become rules of error; men sin with a kind of authority, through the sins of those who are in authority. Jeroboam made Israel to sin, not only by commanding them to worship the calves at Dan and Bethel, but by commending that idolatrous worship to them in his own practice and example [Caryl].

The common people are like tempered wax, easily receiving impressions from the seals of great men’s vices; they care not to sin by prescription, and damn themselves with authority [Harding].

Verse 4


Hosea 5:4. Will not frame] Heb. give their doings. Margin, will not suffer them. They are slaves, not free to turn from evil habits. Their works stand in the way, prevent them from returning. Habit is a second nature domineering over men’s thoughts and ways. In them] The knowledge of God was wanting, the evil spirit had taken possession of their very centre, had its seat within them, and held resistless sway over them.

Hosea 5:5 Pride] The haughtiness of Isa. shall be a witness before God of their folly. Others refer it to Jehovah, the glory of Is., who will witness by judgments and the destruction of their false glory (ch. Hosea 7:10; Amos 8:7). Jud.] shall fall, because participating in Israel’s guilt.



The prophet makes a fourth charge of obstinacy through affected ignorance of God and long custom in sin. God had been “their God” by covenant and tender care, but they despised and abused his mercy, and “would not,” could not turn unto him. They were so habituated to evil practices that they were not only indisposed but ill-affected towards God. They lost all power to return, and were perfect slaves to evil habits. They were possessed by the spirit of whoredom, an evil spirit which impelled and carried them on to sin.

I. The spring of evil habits. “The spirit of whoredom is in the midst of them.” In their centre and seat a mighty power held resistless and triumphant sway. Sinful habits spring from sinful nature.

1. They spring from ignorance of God. “They have not known the Lord.” They might have known him, for they had the law and the prophets of God. They were wilfully, shamefully ignorant. Some have not knowledge of God—I speak this to your shame. Sin at first was the cause of ignorance, but now ignorance is the cause of sin. Swearing, lying, and murder abounded in the land “because there was no knowledge of God.” All sins are seminally lodged in this one. It leads to error (Matthew 22:29), persecution (John 16:2-3), and to rejection of Christ. Aristotle says ignorance is the mother of all misrule in the world. As certain epidemics are generated and become active during night, in places not visited by the beams of the sun, so mental and moral ignorance spread pernicious influence and scatter seeds of death. That ignorance which keeps men slaves to evil makes them hate the freedom of truth. Sinners dread, decline to know God, lest they be disturbed in their sinful ways. They are ignorant of his beauty and excellency, goodness and love; they despise his mercy and forbearance; providential warnings and judgments fail to convince them of sin and bring them to repentance. Knowledge is the life of the soul—the life of intelligence to know God; the life of power to love him.

2. They spring from an evil heart towards God. The heart of the Jews was alienated and perverse. Love which appealed to their affections could not reclaim them. The heart is the source, the mainspring of human conduct, and when that is defiled the character and the life will be defiled. “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” His thoughts and feelings identify him with his moral self, and discriminates him from others. They place him in a distinct relation to God, and morally fix him in “his own place.” This “hidden man of the heart” subordinates the outer man and the outer world to itself. Habits result from acts repeated; and from habit results character and its consolidation. Like the gradual growth of an everlasting mountain, character is always acquiring a bolder outline and firmer base. It is the slow and conscious product of man’s voluntary nature.

Each man makes his own stature, builds himself;
Virtue alone outbuilds the pyramids:
Her monuments shall last, when Egypt’s fall.

II. The result of evil habits. “They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God.” If their habits of sin had not got the mastery over them they rendered them indisposed to return. But the margin gives another sense. Their doings would not suffer them, and they could not turn inwardly, while they did not turn outwardly.

1. Habits influence the will. “They will not.” The more they sinned the more disposed they were to sin, and the less power they had to do right. This is just the result of habit. By repetition of evil, moral power is diminished. The will becomes impotent and the conscience seared. But moral power is required to resist evil passions which prompt to repetitions of acts, hence the less the power to resist the easier the repetition of an act. Thus evil begets a tendency to evil; goes on repeating and enlarging itself; binding the will, alienating the heart, and driving men from God. “It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” “Ye will not come unto me.”

2. Habits enslave the life. There was not simply the tendency, but the tyranny of sin. We may calculate the immediate effects of an act, but if the act lead to the habit the ultimate results must not be overlooked. Drunkenness and sensuality have sprung from repeated acts. Perverted judgment at the beginning of life may disqualify a man for believing the gospel at the close. Men may not mean to plunge deeply into vice, but when the steps are taken and repeated they are fastened with their own chain. Habit is stronger than reason and stronger than taste. When a man gives himself up to its power he loses freedom and self-control, and it governs him “with authority.” Wicked men allow free will to be inactive; give bridle to desire and passion; acquire habits of vice; and at last are bound by chains of iron. Augustine thus speaks of the force of habit in his Confessions: “My will the enemy held, and thence had made a chain for me, and bound me. For of a froward will was a lust made; and a lust served became custom; and custom not resisted became necessity. By which links, as it were, joined together (whence I called it a chain) a hard bondage held me enthralled.” Most people think lightly of sins, believe they can give them up easily, but Saul found his evil passions his torment and captivity. He had convictions of duty, but his very efforts to extricate himself from evil increased his guilt and misery, and he rushed from habitual crime to endless misery (1 Chronicles 10:13-14). “A rooted habit becomes a governing principle. Every lust we entertain deals with us as Delilah did with Samson: not only robs us of our strength, but leaves us fast bound,” says Tillotson. “His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself; and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.”


The longer the continuance in sin, the more difficult is the return. He who commits sin is the servant of sin. At first he will not return, at last he cannot. The heart is hardened. The spirit of whoredom: not single sins that are committed, but an evil spirit rising up and taking possession of the soul. The more men sin against God, the more they lose the knowledge of him, and the more difficult it is for them to return; and so the chastisement of God must be more severe to bring them back to him [Lange].

The slavery of sin. Men in bondage to conscious guilt and innumerable habits. They are often the dupes of ignorance, prejudice, and passion.

1. There is the slave of ignorance.

2. There is the slave of superstition.

3. There is the slave of bigotry.

4. There is the slave of passion.

5. There is the slave of sensual appetites.

6. The slave of evil habits.

“He is the freeman, whom the truth makes free, And all are slaves beside.”

Frame their doings, i.e. take necessary steps to conversion.

1. By consideration.
2. By amendment of life. “They might have sought and yet not made speed, because of their unsoundness and formality in their way, but they were either so ignorant, or malicious and impious, as they did not so much as endeavour to bend their course that way” [Hutcheson].

Men “know not the Lord,” or else they would not persistently and suicidally turn from him. They may have intellectual but not practical knowledge. A man really knows no more than he puts into practice. Eli’s two sons “knew not God,” because they loved and obeyed him not. Ignorance of God, affected or acquired, is “the mother” of mischief and misery, not “of devotion.”


Hosea 5:4. Nothing but the hand of God can hold man from ruining himself. The heart of man is so set upon sin, that he would rather lose his soul than his lusts. ’Tis as easy to stay the motion of the sun, or to turn back the course of nature, as to stay or turn back the natural motion or course of the heart in sinning. An almighty power must do the latter as well as the former [Caryl].

Other tyrants can but tyrannize over our bodies, but sin is a tyrant over body and soul. It is the worst and greatest tyrant in the world. It hath a kind of jurisdiction in most men’s hearts: it sets up the law of pride, the law of passion, the law of oppression, the law of formality, the law of carnal reason, the law of unbelief, and strictly commands subjection to them. Other tyrants have been brought down and brought under by human power, but this cannot, except by Divine [Brooks].

Verses 5-7


Hosea 5:5 Pride] The haughtiness of Isa. shall be a witness before God of their folly. Others refer it to Jehovah, the glory of Is., who will witness by judgments and the destruction of their false glory (ch. Hosea 7:10; Amos 8:7). Jud.] shall fall, because participating in Israel’s guilt.

Hosea 5:6. Flocks] to propitiate God. Sacrifices of no avail. He has withdrawn from them and will not hear prayer.

Hosea 5:7. Gives the reason. Treacher.] Acted faithlessly in the marriage contract (Jeremiah 3:20). Strange children] Aliens, that have not sprung from conjugal union (ch. Hosea 1:2; cf. Deuteronomy 25:5). Month] A very brief time; judgment is sudden and near. Others, the new moon, the festal season for sacrifices, will devour them. “Your sacrificial feasts shall not bring deliverance, but ruin” [Keil].



The power and pride of Israel were great. They boasted of their kings, their privileges, and even of their sins. This pride testified against them in the sight of God. Pride never conceals itself, but rises in rebellion and pleads for punishment. Or if God himself be their boast and pride, he would witness against them for their presumptuous sins and self-reliance. “They know not Jehovah; they do not concern themselves about him; therefore he himself will bear witness by judgments, by the destruction of their false glory (cf. ch. Hosea 2:10-14), against the face of Israel, i.e. bear witness to their face.” God witnesses against man’s sin in the following ways:

I. God testifies against sin by the ministry of the word. God has three grand witnesses in the world; the Holy Scripture, Christian Church, and the Christian Ministry. All testify to his existence, love, and truth. But the ministry is a special agency, a Divine appointment to bring sinners to Christ; a monument of truth, and the means to spread it. The true cause of man’s wretchedness and the only cure must be kept in view. Ministers must proclaim the guilt and the consequent danger of men, their inability to renew and save themselves—must ever testify to the justice of God in punishing the impenitent, and the love of God in Christ. Boldness in the commission must be met by boldness in the reproof of sin. Sinners are careless, and must be roused by Divine threatenings. Ministers must reprove and rebuke, curse and condemn all sin; save themselves and those that hear them. Their testimony against iniquity must be constant and clear. “Do you not know that my life has been licentious, and that I have violated the commandments of God?” said a dying nobleman to his clergyman, for whom he sent. “You have neglected to warn and instruct me, and now my soul will be lost!” “The Lord testified against Israel and against Judah by all the prophets and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes.”

II. God testifies against sin by the witness of conscience. Fallen as human nature is, God has not left himself without a witness in its centre and seat. Conscience, the vicegerent of God enthroned within, pronounces sentence, and acquits or condemns. A guilty conscience needs no accuser. It is the harbinger of wrath, and makes “the wicked flee when no man pursueth.” “Conscience doth make cowards of us all.” The victim of remorse withers beneath an influence unseen, and shrinks from an anticipation of judgment to come. Adam tried to hide himself from God. Cain was terrified at his own guilt. Infidels have often felt that “the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them.” “There is no man that is knowingly wicked,” says Tillotson, “but is guilty to himself; and there is no man that carries guilt about him, but he receives a sting into his soul.” Conscience allows no excuse, no compromise. There is nothing but right or wrong in its court. Moral government is administered by moral sanctions, and the wisdom of God is seen in fixing a tribunal in the bosom of every human being. “He that will not hearken to the warnings of conscience must feel the woundings of conscience.”

III. God testifies against sin by the judgments of providence. “Therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity.” Pride always comes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Sin ever brings ruin upon churches and nations. Men combine and exalt themselves in wickedness, but in the providence of God they fall, and great is their fall. The destruction of the cities of the plain by fire and of the world by flood are solemn lessons in history.

1. Judgments come suddenly. The festal season on which they prided themselves and offered sacrifices to God would bring no joy nor deliverance. Judgment would be sudden and surprising. Rapidly and unexpectedly the end would come. Invasion would sweep away their garrisons and resources. The month, the moon waxing till full and waning away, would measure the time. Men may indulge in luxury, intemperance, and vice; but the day of retribution will carry them away. Cruel devices will be detected, and wicked men “fall” helpless and undone. Easy transitions from one thing to another cause no terror; but in everything sudden and unexpected attention is roused and nature startled. God warns, “but evil men” are wilfully ignorant, and “understand not judgment.” “Desolation shall come upon thee suddenly which thou shalt not know.”

2. Judgments come impartially. There is no respect of persons with God’s providence. Special promises and special privileges may be given to some; but they do not escape the general calamity. Judah and Ephraim were alike guilty and alike punished. National judgments are universal, spare neither saints nor sinners, young nor old, rich nor poor. They fall on all ranks impartially. The priest cannot protect the prince; nor the prince the priest. Those who entice will not be able to deliver the enticed; nor the enticed excuse for being misled. When God pleads, “it shall be as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.”

3. Judgments come unavoidably. They cannot be warded off by any device or desire of man. The sentence is uttered and must be fulfilled. God cannot change nor be defeated in his purpose. He withdrew from Israel and would not aid them.

(1.) Late repentance cannot ward off judgment. The people had been careless and indifferent in their prosperity. Now when judgments are threatened they are alarmed, and vow to God in sacrifice. Many repent of sin, but their sorrow is that of Judas, not of Peter. They are sorry for the consequences of sins, but not for the sins themselves; confess their wrong, but do not wish to forsake it. They vow and resolve, pay homage to God, and wish to escape, but they cannot. Nothing could rouse them when punishment was only predicted, but when it comes, then they bestir themselves and cry for mercy. They are “lashed from sins to sighs; and by degrees from sighs to vows; from vows to bended knees.” Life is often spent in sin, and then offered to God in its dregs and decrepitude. “True repentance is never too late, but late repentance is seldom true.” “Ah! Mr Hervey,” said a dying man, “the day in which I ought to have worked is over, and now I see a horrible night approaching, bringing with it the blackness of darkness for ever. Woe is me! When God called I refused. Now I am in sore anguish, and yet this is but the beginning of sorrows. I shall be destroyed with everlasting destruction.”

(2.) Outward reformation cannot ward off judgments. Many are penitent, give up some sins, but not all. They make great sacrifices, and put forth desperate efforts to amend their lives. Whatever will shelter them from present calamity they earnestly seek. “They go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the Lord,” but do not devote themselves to him. Good works cannot compensate for evil works. Tears may be abundant and sorrow deep, but no art can evade and no power resist the punishment. Superstition and Infidelity have devised means to allay the anguish of a wounded spirit; but their rites and sophistries, salvos and palliatives, have been in vain. The bitterness of the spendthrift cannot recover his lost property; nor the sorrow of the sensualist restore the bloom of his cheek. The sinner cannot repair the injury done to himself and others, nor reinstate himself in holiness before God. Justice is immutable, and punishment is certain to follow the violation of moral as of physical law. It is sad to think that many “fall” without deliverance, and seek when it is too late. Sin brings judgments which cannot be averted by formal worship and outward reformation. “I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.” “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?” &c.


Hosea 5:5. The Pride of Israel.

1. Pride their greatest sin.
2. Pride their continual sin.
3. Pride their destructive sin.

Hosea 5:6. They shall not find him. God is not found—

1. When not sought earnestly;
2. When not sought with a pure motive;
3. When sought in slavish fear;
4. When sought too late. When the judgments of God are drawing near fear impels the most reluctant and the most reprobate to seek God; but the words of Christ prove true—“Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me; and where I am, thither ye cannot come.” “God waits long for sinners: He threatens long before he strikes: He strikes and pierces in lesser degrees and with increasing severity, before the final blow comes. In this life he places man in a new state of trial even after his first judgments have fallen upon the sinner. But the general rule of his dealings is this; that when the time of each judgment is actually come, then as to that judgment it is too late to pray. It is not too late for other mercy or for final forgiveness, so long as man’s state of probation lasts; but it is too late as to this one. And thus each judgment in time is a picture of the eternal judgment, when the day of mercy is past for ever to those who have finally in this life hardened themselves against it” [Pusey].

Hosea 5:7. Treacherously. Men cloak their sins and act deceitfully in God’s service—

1. When they vow and do not perform;
2. When they pray and do not labour;
3. When the outward performance does not agree with the inward condition. In the sanctuary they are often one thing, in daily life another. “Measure not men by Sundays,” says Fuller, “without regarding what they do all the week after.”
1. He that serves God with the body, without the soul, serves God deceitfully.
2. He that serves God with the soul, without the body, when both can be conjoined, doth the work of the Lord deceitfully.
3. They are deceitful in the Lord’s work that reserve one faculty for sin, or one sin for themselves, or one action to please their appetite and many for religion.
4. And they who think God sufficiently served with abstaining from evil, and converse not in the acquisition and pursuit of holy charity and religion [Jer. Taylor].

The unfaithfulness and treachery of Israel were transmitted to their children, who were regarded by God as the offspring of idolatry. When children, the hope of the future, are reared in apostasy there is little prospect of national amendment. Godless children are punished like Godless parents, the rising generation suffer with the present, may be cut off, and both may perish with their portions and possessions.


Hosea 5:5-7. Our consciences (which are God’s) keep a record, write our lives and count our steps. Many cannot read the book of conscience, and so know little that is in it. But a time will come (if conscience be not purged by the blood of Christ) when they shall perfectly read all their sins in this book within; and if conscience, which is God’s deputy, testifieth against sin and marketh it, how much more God, who is the Judge of conscience. God needs not judge upon information, but upon observation. He will reprove every man whom he doth not pardon, and is able to set before us in order whatsoever any of us have done [Caryl].

Though repentance be never too late, yet late repentance is seldom true [Brooks]. Mercy, in this the day of her reign, sovereignly seizes judgment before its time, and works that mighty lever to move mankind. The terrors of the Lord are not permitted to sleep unnoticed and unknown, till the day when they shall overwhelm and overflow all his enemies; they are summoned forth in the interval, and numbered among the all things that work together for good. Though kept like a reserve in the rear, their grim hosts are exposed to view, in order that they may co-operate with kindlier agencies in persuading men to yield, and fight against God no more [Arnot].

Verses 8-11


Hosea 5:8. The evil denounced is vividly described as actually come.

Hosea 5:9. Shall surely be] Lit. established or well grounded in God’s purpose. On lofty summits the invasion of the enemy is announced, Jud. is menaced, and Isa. is occupied, destruction is sure and permanent. The kingdom shall be overcome and for ever laid waste.

Hosea 5:10. Bound] Removers of land-marks were to be cursed (Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:17). Princes of Jud. had removed the boundaries of truth between Jehovah and Baal, the worship of God and idolatry. “If he who removes his neighbour’s boundary is cursed, how much more he who removes the border of his God” [Hengsten.]. God’s anger would fall upon them like water in full stream (Psalms 69:25; Jeremiah 10:25).

Hosea 5:11. Oppressed] with heavy calamity. Broken] Crushed in contest with God. Command.] The statutes of Jeroboam and Omri (1 Kings 12:28; Micah 6:16).



The prophet is now commanded to warn the people—to sound the horn, and stand upon the most prominent places on the borders of Benjamin. The judgment is certain; the enemy is near, and the nation must be roused from its slumbers. With intense feeling and earnestness the alarm is given. Hence the title of our subject borrowed from Angell James.

I. The nature of an earnest ministry. Life is earnest and happy only in the degree in which it is consecrated to action. Action and enjoyment are contingent upon each other. When we are unfit for work we are incapable of pleasure and success. Hence the advice, “Be in earnest.” Earnestness in the Christian ministry is not mere activity, noise, and bustle. It is the pursuit of a certain object, and the determination to accomplish it; an endeavour to realize our aspirations. “This one thing I do.”

1. It is specific in design. One thing filled and fired the mind of Hosea. He saw the danger, and longed to deliver his people from it. Amid many inferior designs, the preacher has one chiefly in view. His mind is not intently employed nor his heart deeply engaged on a multiplicity of objects. He has not energy and time thus to divide. He has selected his object, made up his mind, and cannot be driven from it. His sermons are preached and his efforts directed to the conversion of sinners. When a few friends stood round the bed of Dr Beecher, one put the question, “Dr B., you know a great many things, tell us which is the greatest of all things.” In a moment he brightened up and replied, “It is not theology, it is not controversy, but it is to save souls.” No earnest minister will be satisfied without this. Applause, honour, and position sink into insignificance. He cries out, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you.”

2. It is enthusiastic in feeling. “O Benjamin,” cried the prophet. The heart yearns “when thought” is “enkindled to a high degree.” The abstractions of the intellect kindle the affections of the heart. Where there is no feeling, there can be no fervour of spirit. “We want men with burning hearts,” said a heathen to a missionary. Ministers are the best orators when they feel. The spring of power is within, and the life that quickens dwells in the soul. Feeble preachers result from feeble Christians. There is often cold orthodoxy without fire. The soul is not poured into duty, and all is routine and form. “The wildest enthusiasm is more rational than indifference,” says Paley. It is said of Baxter when he preached, “you might find his very spirit drenched therein.” Noise and display may attract attention, just as Eastern mourners wailing for the dead stir the sympathies of the multitude. But the man whose soul is profoundly moved is “pressed in spirit” and often of “silent tears.” He speaks in words that burn and thoughts that breathe. “O that I was all heart and soul and spirit,” said Rowland Hill, “to tell the glorious gospel of Christ to perishing multitudes.”

3. It is conducted under Divine guidance. We all feel the need of direction in the choice of a sphere and the discharge of duty. But in the ordinary and the special work, in the cottage and in the pulpit, the minister must seek Divine aid. In the study of the word and the discovery of truth: in matter, manner, and results, our sufficiency must come from God. God directed the prophet to speak. The Spirit guided the apostles to persons and places, and in public and private efforts “the hand of the Lord was with them.” We must not only recognize, but honour the Holy Spirit by seeking his direction and speaking under his inspiration. If Pericles never ascended the rostrum without imploring a blessing from the gods, does he not condemn many Christian ministers? “I forgot explicitly and expressly, when I began, to crave help from God, and the chariot-wheels drove accordingly. Lord, forgive my omissions, and keep me in the way of duty,” wrote Philip Henry. In a large town or a country village, in the beginning and at the end of our ministry, we must “stand and wait,” eager for work—

“Ready to run at his command;
At his command stand still.”

4. It is characterized by constant activity. Work is the law of our being, the living principle that carries men and nations onward. Nothing but constant toil maintains their authority and extends their dominion. “We must work (Laboremus),” said the Emperor Severus on his death-bed at York, where he had been carried on a litter from the foot of the Grampians. A fervent spirit will prompt to active life. Hearty relish for our work, and a sense of its importance, will inspire with ardour. The nation requires a living ministry, earnest men, men that will pray and labour, watch and weep for souls. “Oh that I were a flame of fire in my Master’s cause,” cried Brainerd.

“Wake, ere the earthly charm unnerve thee quite,
And be thy thoughts to work Divine addrest:
Do something, do it soon—with all thy might!
An angel’s wing would droop if long at rest,
And God himself inactive were no longer blest.”

III. The necessity of an earnest ministry. Ephraim was not merely to be chastised, wasted by famine, but destroyed; to become a desolation, an entire waste. When Judah had removed the bounds, broken through all restraints human and Divine, then destruction like a flood would overwhelm the land. Yet they were careless and insensible to danger. Men now are asleep in sin, heedless of Divine warning. Ministers must “cry aloud and spare not.” “I love those that thunder out the word,” said Whitfield. “The Christian world is in a deep sleep. Nothing but a loud voice can awaken them out of it.”

1. Earnestness is demanded by the spiritual condition of men. “Ephraim shall be desolate;” “I will pour out my wrath upon them like water.” God rebuked, judgments were threatened, but they were impenitent and presumptuous.

(1) The danger is real. It is not imaginative, not an alarm to frighten. Sin and punishment, heaven and hell, are awful realities. The truth must be told. Without Christ the sinner cannot escape—will be lost, eternally lost.

(2) The danger is near: Not like an enemy afar off, but on the borders, in the land, spreading desolation on every hand. Sin enters the heart, exposes to present danger and eternal death.

(3) The danger is overwhelming. “Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment,” crushed by his own folly and oppressed by captivity. Danger within and without, nothing but danger! Who can withstand when God pours out his wrath like a deep and irresistible flood? (a) It was severe—“a flood.” (b) It was fixed—“which shall surely be.” (c) It was perpetual—the desolation was for ever, the grandeur of the nation was never restored. “Flee from the wrath to come.”

2. Earnestness is demanded by the activity of the age. The features of the age are peculiar and not a little hostile to the gospel, notwithstanding great revivals. Earnestness marks every department of life. Restlessness and energy are found in trade and commerce, science and literature. Rationalism, Ritualism, and Scepticism are seen in battle arrayed. We must meet this activity, which is the boast, before it becomes the bane, of the age; direct it to its proper ends; and turn its turbid currents into streams of life. What but an earnest ministry can intone society, rouse and help God’s people to bear up against Mammon and the selfish spirit of the day? Energy in politics, education, and philanthropy necessitate deeper feeling in the preacher. Tame and spiritless sermons, common-place performances on Sunday, will not break the spell of six days’ excitement and influence. We require a Whitfield and a Wesley, sons of thunder, the spirit of Luther, to rebuke this material and utilitarian age. “Nothing is more indecent,” says Baxter, “than a dead preacher speaking to dead sinners the living truth of the living God.” The earnestness of this holy man was exemplified in his own lines—

“I’ll preach as though I ne’er should preach again;
And as a dying man to dying men!”


Hosea 5:9. I. Days of rebuke.

1. Days of solemn warning;
2. Days of grievous affliction;
3. Days of actual calamities, to individuals and families, churches and nations. II. Days of rebuke unheeded. Followed by—

1. Severer threatening—
2. Awful destruction. The scattered sons of Israel were made preachers to the nations around, Divine warnings to all people. Or, I. The cause of rebuke—“iniquity” (Hosea 5:5). God pronounced sentence upon the nation; individuals contribute to national guilt, and must feel their responsibility. God is angry with sin, and seeks to purge his people from it, to take away the evils, not the comforts of life; the dross, not the gold. II. The design of rebuke. Trials are not penal afflictions to God’s people, but fatherly corrections, friendly rebukes. III. The effect of rebuke—“desolate in the day of rebuke.” Ephraim was not restored. The wicked are consumed, utterly destroyed, when rebuked in wrath and hot displeasure. The believer is chastened, but not destroyed; treated not as an enemy, but as an erring child. “God may rebuke when he is angry, and yet restrain in his anger; but to rebuke in his anger, is to let loose the reins to his anger, and to make it outrun his mercy. Then what a miserable case to be in! to have his anger assault me and not his mercy relieve me.”

Hosea 5:10. Bounds. The land-mark was a memorial of antiquity and the rights of man (Proverbs 22:28). Its removal was forbidden as selfish and unjust invasion of property (Deuteronomy 19:4); irreverence for well-established principles; love for rash innovation; branded with a curse (Deuteronomy 27:17); and regarded as the cause of national provocation. The heathen admitted the sanctity of land-marks, and honoured them as gods, without which every field would be subject to contention. God himself has set bounds in the physical and moral world; locating each nation; restraining each part; and governing the whole. Hence removal of bounds is—

1. Encroachment upon Divine authority;
2. Destruction of moral distinctions;

3. Exposure to moral guilt. Some remove, bounds and set up others. Israel removed the law of God and set up their own will (Hosea 5:11). Rome takes away Scripture and sets up tradition. Philosophy rejects the gospel and substitutes science. The application must not be absolute and universal. We are not to be too conservative in politics and religion, nor yet too rash with innovations; but seek the mean between blind reverence for antiquity and love of novelties.

Hosea 5:11. Notice—I. The object of pursuit—“the commandment.” An object sinful, ensnaring, and dangerous. II. The method of pursuit—“willingly.” A method easy to comply with, fashionable, and upheld by State authority. III. The results of pursuit—“oppressed” from without, “broken in judgment.” from within, (a) A natural result; (b) A just result. “Ephraim preferred man’s commands and laws to God’s; they obeyed man and set God at nought, therefore they should suffer at man’s hands, who, while he equally neglected God’s will, enforced his own. For this sin God judged them justly, even through the unjust judgment of man. God mostly punishes, thro’ their own choice, those who choose against his. The Jews said, We have no king but Cæsar, and Cæsar destroyed them [Pusey].

The commandment of men, though enforced by authority, terror, and danger, is no excuse for sin. Sin does not cease to be voluntary, inexcusable, and aggravating on that account. Oppressors corrupt the worship of God, flatter and carry away the people, till their own ends be accomplished, but they will crush them in the long run. Jeroboam carried on the rent under pretence of ridding the people of great oppressions, and invented a way of religion pretending the people’s ease, yet by him and his successors “Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment;” not only in the righteous judgment of God, but in the administration of justice they were crushed by corrupt rulers, who were great bribers (ch. Hosea 4:18) [Hutcheson].


Hosea 5:8-11. Brainerd had such intense compassion for souls, and was so earnest for their salvation, that he said, “I cared not where or how I lived, or what hardships I went through, so that I could but gain souls to Christ. While I was asleep I dreamed of these things, and when I awoke the first thing I thought of was this great work. All my desire was for the conversion of the heathen, and all my hope was in God.” It is amazing what difference heat makes on both mental and material objects. The only difference between ice and steam is, that the one has less and the other more heat. Now earnestness converts ordinary qualities into powerful and elastic forces. It enhances everything it touches, turns bricks to marble, and copper into gold. It changes liking into love, joy into ecstasy, and expectation into hope. It stamps on every virtue its currency, whether in heaven or in earth. Love, pity, kindness are all cold and worthless unless they bear the impress of a fervent spirit [Dulce Domum].

Hosea 5:11-14. Vice is sometimes punished instantly and sometimes gradually. This seems to be the method of Divine procedure. We have slow and rapid consumption in the bodies of men. We have the gradual decay and the sudden overthrow of empires, the seed-time of evil and the harvest of judgment. The changes of circumstances are so various and frequent, so great and sudden, that the same person, the same people, afford an example of the greatest prosperity and the greatest misery. Henry the Fourth of France was despatched by a sacrilegious hand in his carriage, in the midst of popular applause and the triumphs of peace. Like Herod, the grandson of Herod the Great, he found but one step between adoration and oblivion. The ruin which God inflicts upon the impenitent and presumptuous sinners is often beyond precedent most sudden and most fearful. What folly, then, to trust in man, when God can easily destroy him!

Verse 12


Hosea 5:12. Moth and rottenness] Destructive powers, one injuring cloths, the other wood and flesh; slowly but surely do they work (Job 13:28). The sinner has foes within and without; conscience gnaws like a worm, and Divine judgment falls like a plague.



The ten tribes are compared to a garment eaten by the moth, and Judah is consumed by rottenness. The moth is injurious to clothing. The worm penetrates both wood and flesh. Both prefigure the inward and outward corruption of Israel; destruction slowly and surely progressing (Job 13:28).

I. Destruction small in its beginning. The moth is a small and mischievous creature. Touch it, and you kill it; permit it to live, and it makes havoc in the dwelling. Sins of youth may be despised and indulged, but they harden the heart and prepare for greater sins. Nations are not destroyed at once; families and churches are not always suddenly overcome. Some moral disease, like the moth, quietly gnaws away their beauty and vitality. Pride, intemperance, and vice prey upon their reputation and royalty. They are crushed with the moth.

II. Destruction slow in its progress. Little by little the hardest wood is pierced. Silently and slowly do rottenness and decay work their end. Yonder river rolling to the sea, rises from some small spot, and widens as it flows to join the mighty deep. The inhabitants of primeval forests are often startled by the fall of some giant tree. For centuries it was strong and grand in its foliage, but fell a victim to rottenness and decay. Insects came and gradually bored its sides and peeled its bark; the wind and air got access to its centre and heart. Now it lies a helpless trunk, to blend in common dust—“the place thereof knows it no more.” Family honour, mercantile prosperity, and national enterprises, may be upheld and flourish for a season. But secret sins and religious declensions, luxury and effeminacy, are, like the moth, slowly working out destruction. Rottenness entered the nations of antiquity, and their grandeur decayed like a flower. Superstition and priestly ambition, a sectarian and worldly spirit, will destroy spiritual life in our modern churches; lukewarmness and pride will hasten their ruin, and make them “desolate in the day of rebuke.”

III. Destruction sure in its end. Wherever the moth dwells destruction is costly and sure. The house of the moth is not a mansion of iron, a lasting habitation which never falls to ruin. The most precious stores are devoured. Rich perfumes and purple apparel are consumed and frittered away. “The moth,” says Dr Thomas, “is often so small and secret in its workings that medical science can seldom find it out, and when it finds it out, though it may check it for a time, it cannot destroy it: the moth defies all medicine.” So the judgments of God upon sin may be small in beginning, but increase in severity, and at length bring death and destruction. At first God tries gentle measures, mild chastisements, then loss and decay in bodily health, family prestige, and national glory; finally, after respite and space for repentance, calamities wear out and destroy the impenitent. “For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool.”


Hosea 5:11-14. Vice is sometimes punished instantly and sometimes gradually. This seems to be the method of Divine procedure. We have slow and rapid consumption in the bodies of men. We have the gradual decay and the sudden overthrow of empires, the seed-time of evil and the harvest of judgment. The changes of circumstances are so various and frequent, so great and sudden, that the same person, the same people, afford an example of the greatest prosperity and the greatest misery. Henry the Fourth of France was despatched by a sacrilegious hand in his carriage, in the midst of popular applause and the triumphs of peace. Like Herod, the grandson of Herod the Great, he found but one step between adoration and oblivion. The ruin which God inflicts upon the impenitent and presumptuous sinners is often beyond precedent most sudden and most fearful. What folly, then, to trust in man, when God can easily destroy him!

Verses 13-15


Hosea 5:13. Sick.] Not civil war between the two kingdoms, for both were wounded. Apostasy with its train of moral corruptions was the disease of the body politic (Isaiah 1:6). Eph.] with whom the prophecy has chiefly to do, sought help and found none from Assyria.

Hosea 5:14. Lion] A fierce, roaring lion. Young lion] An emblem of strength and ferocity. They can no more defend themselves from God’s judgments than from fierce lions which attack. Tear] to pieces. Go away] leisurely back into its cave with its prey.

Hosea 5:15. Acknowledge] i.e. feel the guilt and punishment of sin; repent and return to God. The Heb. includes the idea of suffering. Afflict.] awakens the need of mercy, and urges to God. Seek] most earnestly and urgently (cf. Hosea 2:9; Deuteronomy 4:29-30).



At length Ephraim saw the sickness within and felt the wounds inflicted from without. But instead of returning to God, they sought help from Assyria, “sent to King Jared,” but were grievously disappointed. Idolatry and corruption, apostasy from God, could not be cured with earthly bandages. The whole head was sick, and the heart faint. The wounds and bruises and putrefying sores could not be closed, bound up, nor mollified with worldly alliance. God had stricken them, and he only could cure them, but they refused to return (cf. Isaiah 1:6; Jeremiah 5:3). In the moral condition of Israel we have a picture of humanity.

I. Men are morally sick. The heart is depraved, “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Sin impairs the energy of the mind, and robs the soul of enjoyment and bliss. The political head and the moral heart of nations are sick and wounded. The politics, the philosophy, and the religion of the world require moral purity and spiritual health. Ceaseless activity without and unspirituality within crave for satisfaction and God. The life-blood is impure, the very heart is diseased, and the evils of the day are the expressions, the signs of its moral maladies. Everywhere we have sighs of the heart, efforts of the mind, and strivings for forms of liberty, states of life, and conditions of happiness which are considered the true harmony of moral being, the panacea for moral ills.

1. This sickness must be seen. Ephraim did not at first discern his condition. Men are often insensible to disease, take little warning of Divine judgments, until they are roused by some sudden stroke. Men may fancy themselves healthy because insensible; but apathy may suppress the natural feeling and cravings of the heart. A sound body suffers pain, if injured; but a frame benumbed by sickness or death has lost all feeling. “Health has no feeling of sickness,” says Augustine, “but yet it feels pain when it is wounded. But stupidity feels no pain; it has lost the feeling of pain; and the more insensible, so much the worse.”

2. This sickness must be seen in its true light. According to our view of afflictions so we think and act. They are designed to teach reflection and humility; to strengthen penitence, faith, and patience; to promote the health and sanctification of the soul. But if we see the distress and not the causes of it; if we feel no guilt, no need of a physician; then our temper is soured, our lot embittered, we forsake the true remedy, and pine away and die.

II. Men morally sick often seek wrong remedies. “Then sent Ephraim to the Assyrian.” This only invited the enemy into their kingdom and increased their distress. After they had paid money and spent all they had they were no better, but worse. Mark 5:26.

1. Individuals often fly to wrong sources. Music and merry company, novels and scenes of amusement, are tried in vain, and found to be miserable comforters with all their attractions. Impressions remain, the conscience is still wounded and disappointment is the result.

2. Nations suffering heavy calamities trust to impotent remedies. Commercial prosperity, military prowess, political liberty, and intellectual culture, may uphold the outward show, but can never cure the inward disorders of a kingdom. In national judgments, amid general dissolution of manners, reliance on arts and arms, wealth and allies, will not save us. The experience of Ephraim will be the result of all application to an arm of flesh. “Yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.”

III. When men in moral sickness apply to wrong means for relief they will be disappointed. Human aid will be useless when God is slighted; the philosopher and the legislator, the warrior and the poet, will not avail. “Thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous.” Scripture is emphatic on this point. “Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand and pierce it” (Isaiah 36:6; Ezekiel 29:6-7). “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?” (Isaiah 2:22.) “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” “Put not your confidence in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.” History gives warning sufficient. Nations that have relied upon human genius, arms and confederacies, have failed in efforts to remedy their evils. Unholy alliance with Egypt and Assyria could not preserve Israel from their doom. Policy without principle, alliance without God, shall be broken. Moral maladies can only be cured by moral means. There is but one physician, all others are physicians of no value. “I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.”


God, who had been as a “moth” gradually eating away and destroying the nation, would now change his procedure, and attack as a fierce lion, tear to pieces, and none could rescue. If nations take no heed to small judgments they cannot escape great ones. The lion, an image of strength, seizes its prey, and carries it away in safety (Isaiah 5:29). As the lion withdraws into its cave, so God withdraws his help, and retires from Israel until they repent and seek his face.

I. God’s judgments are often severe. “I, even I will tear.” Here are no soft metaphors. The destruction is most painful and severe. Like a lion or an eagle God tears to pieces; tears the garment, tears body and soul. Punishment sometimes falls upon men like wild beasts upon their victims, to crush and destroy. The lion is cruel and ferocious; rends its prey (Deuteronomy 33:20; Psalms 7:2); and carries it in triumph to its den (Nahum 2:12). This is not an overdrawn picture of danger and the anger of God against presumptuous sins. “Consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.”

II. God’s judgments are often irresistble. “None shall rescue him.” The shepherd can neither defend nor interfere. In a trial of strength God is omnipotent and cannot be overcome. Assyria was no protection to Israel. In national calamity none can plead. At the day of wrath no hope, no refuge can be found without God.

III. God’s judgments are often irrevocable. “I will go and return to my place.” None can ward off Divine judgments; none can bring back when God retires from men. When God deserts a society or a people, the mightiest and most learned are no defence. Noble institutions, religious ordinances, and great men, wealthy citizens and abundant revenues, are not the chief strength, the real power of a nation. God can consume these like a flower, and no fasting nor penitence can purchase favours once withdrawn. Riches melt, power decays, and happiness turns to misery before the wrath of God. Nothing can revive a nation when God destroys it; nothing can change his purpose when carried out in his providence. To be forsaken of God at any time is awful woe; but in trouble to have his countenance turned from us and against us, to have frowns instead of smiles, must be hell, and not heaven. “When distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me.”


Hosea 5:13. Man cannot have two objects of trust—God and himself, or fellow-man. Half of salvation cannot be ascribed to one and half to the other. To put confidence in man, and expect him to do what God alone can do, is idolatry or departure from God, cleaving to the cistern and forsaking the fountain, leaning upon a broken reed which will fail and pierce the hand. The power, the kindness, and the faithfulness of man are helpless. God alone should be our hope and trust (Jeremiah 17:7).

Hosea 5:14. When we strengthen ourselves in sin by outward helps against the providence and corrections of God, we challenge him to a trial of strength, turn the “moth” into a “lion,” and bring greater judgments upon ourselves. God can tear a nation to pieces by sword, famine, and civil discord. “What is stronger than a lion?” “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Hosea 5:15. God’s retirement from men. I. The cause. Offended at sin, driven away by men forgetting and forsaking him. Sin separates between God and man, and hides his face from us. II. The design. “Till they acknowledge their offence,” &c.

1. To lead to repentance, sorrow, confession and forsaking of sin.
2. To bring back to God. “In their affliction they will seek me early.” The desertion is not always final nor total. God withdraws his aid in duty and his comforts in life not to cast off entirely, but to beget penitence and hope, to induce return and amendment of life. “We smart under dreadful desertions. Some of us have had to cry with the Master on the cross, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ We know why he has forsaken us: it is because we have forsaken him, and therefore he has hidden the light of his countenance from us until we could scarcely believe ourselves to be his children at all. We have turned to prayer, and found words and even desires fail us when on our knees. We have searched the Scriptures with no consolatory result: every text of Scripture has looked black upon us; every promise blockaded its ports against us. We have tried to raise a single thought heavenward, but have been so distracted under a sense of the Lord’s wrath, which lay heavy upon us, that we could not even aspire for a moment; we could only say, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Why art thou disquieted within me?’ Such suffering of soul will often be to the erring Christian the very best thing that could befall him. He has walked contrary to his God, and if his God did not walk contrary to him he would be at peace in his sin; and remember, no condition can be more dangerous, not to say damnable, than for a man who is no longer agreed with his God to believe that all is well, and go on softly and delicately in the way which tends to destruction” [Spurgeon].

True repentance, in its first step, leads to conviction of sin, confession of guilt, and acceptance of punishment as due to our sin. Then to seek the face of God. “Without the latter, despair, not repentance, would be the result, as in the case of Judah’s remorse. Without the former step, to seek God’s face would be presumption.” Unsanctified affliction only hardens, but blessed, will lead the chastened penitent earnestly and diligently to seek and serve God.

True seekers after God.

1. They seek him, sensible of their distance and their guilt.
2. They seek him when they do not enjoy him. 3 They seek him (a). early, i.e. diligently. Former negligence is followed by double diligence; (b) earnestly intent on finding God; (c) perseveringly, though he has withdrawn from them. They seek until they find him. “All these duties required in right seeking of God ought to be especially set about in sad times. Times wherein affliction press men hard on all hands ought to be times of seeking God indeed, and ought to put an edge on diligence and duties, otherwise it may draw to a sad account” [Hutcheson].


Hosea 5:11-14. Vice is sometimes punished instantly and sometimes gradually. This seems to be the method of Divine procedure. We have slow and rapid consumption in the bodies of men. We have the gradual decay and the sudden overthrow of empires, the seed-time of evil and the harvest of judgment. The changes of circumstances are so various and frequent, so great and sudden, that the same person, the same people, afford an example of the greatest prosperity and the greatest misery. Henry the Fourth of France was despatched by a sacrilegious hand in his carriage, in the midst of popular applause and the triumphs of peace. Like Herod, the grandson of Herod the Great, he found but one step between adoration and oblivion. The ruin which God inflicts upon the impenitent and presumptuous sinners is often beyond precedent most sudden and most fearful. What folly, then, to trust in man, when God can easily destroy him!

Hosea 5:15. To afflictions, instrumentally, many have to date the awakening and conversion of their souls. “Happy is that condition which forces us to trust in God only, and to be in the hand of his providence. Afflictions dispose us to pray; and we are sure to want nothing if we find God in prayer” [Bishop Wilson].

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Hosea 5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/hosea-5.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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