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Monday, July 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 6

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3229. B.C. 775.

In this chapter we have,

(1,) An exhortation of the prophet; or the resolution of some real penitents to return to God, and the considerations wherewith they encourage themselves in their return, Hosea 6:1-3 .

(2,) The instability of many of the people, both of Israel and Judah, in their professions and promises of repentance, and the severe course which God, therefore, took with them, Hosea 6:4 , Hosea 6:5 .

(3,) The covenant God made with them, and his expectations from them, Hosea 6:6 : and their violation of that covenant, and frustrating of those expectations, Hosea 6:7-11 .

Verse 1

Hosea 6:1. Come, let us return, &c. Bishop Horsley considers the prophet as speaking here in his own person, to the end of the 3d verse, and taking occasion, from the intimation of pardon to the penitent, given in the conclusion of the preceding chapter, to address his countrymen in words of mild, pathetic persuasion, and to exhort them to return to the worship and service of God. But many other commentators rather think these are to be considered as the words of the repenting and returning Jews and Israelites in their exile, who, it is said, in the last clause of the foregoing chapter, would in their affliction seek God, which they are here represented as encouraging one another to do, saying, Come, &c. Not only the LXX., but, according to Houbigant, the Arabic, Syriac, and Chaldee, supply the word saying, before this verse. Whether they did this as interpreters, which, says Archbishop Newcome, is my opinion, or whether they read in their copy of the Hebrew text, לאמר , ( saying,) is uncertain. Let us return unto the Lord, &c. He it is who hath brought us into this estate under which we groan; and he is able, if he think fit, to deliver us from it in a short time: nothing is difficult to him. Full of mercy as he is, he will not permit us to continue long in captivity and oppression, wherein we are buried like the dead in the tomb. He hath torn, and he will heal us, &c. The same God that punisheth us can only remove his judgments, and show us mercy. The expression, He hath torn, relates to what was said Hosea 5:14.

Verse 2

Hosea 6:2 . After two days he will revive us A deliverance from miseries or calamities, from which men had despaired of a recovery, is often represented as restoring them to life after death: see Psalms 30:3; Psalms 71:20; Psalms 86:13; particularly the restoration of the Jewish nation is often described, as if it were a resurrection from the dead: see note on Ezekiel 37:11. Two, or three, in Scripture, denote a small number. Two are put for a few, 1 Kings 17:12. One and two for a few, Isaiah 7:21; Jeremiah 3:14. Two or three for a few, Isaiah 17:6. Accordingly, here the expression signifies a short space of time. Compare Luke 13:32-33. The primary and obvious sense, therefore, of this verse, taking it in reference to the others, is, that they expected God would, in a short time after they should repent and turn to him, free them from their captivity, which might be looked upon as a state of death; and would return again to them, and exhibit the signs of his presence among them, his chosen people: so that, being converted and restored, they should live in his sight, and should attain to that true knowledge of God which they had not possessed before. Added to this, Bishop Horsley thinks these days denote three distinct periods of the Jewish people. His view of the subject he explains as follows: “The first day is the captivity of the ten tribes by the Assyrians, and of the other two under the Babylonians, considered as one judgment upon the nation; beginning with the captivity of the ten, and completed in that of the two. The second day is the whole period of the present condition of the Jews, beginning with the dispersion of the nation by the Romans. The third day is the period yet to come, beginning with their restoration, to the second advent. R. Tanchum, as he is quoted by Dr. Pocock, was not far, I think, from the true meaning of the place. ‘The prophet,’ he says, ‘points out two things and these are, the first captivity, and a second. After which shall follow a third, [time,] redemption: after which shall be no depression or servitude.’ And this I take to be the sense of the prophecy, in immediate application to the Jews. Nevertheless, whoever is well acquainted with the allegorical style of prophecy, when he recollects that our Lord’s sufferings and death” were endured for our sakes, “and that he, rising on the third day, raised us to the hope of life and immortality, will easily perceive no very obscure, though but an oblique, allusion to our Lord’s resurrection on the third day; since every believer may speak of our Lord’s death and resurrection, as a common death and resurrection of all mankind.”

Verse 3

Hosea 6:3 . Then shall we know, if we follow on, &c. Hebrew, ונדעה נדדפה לדעת , And we shall know, we shall follow on to know the Lord. Then, when we have returned unto the Lord, Hosea 6:1, in sincerity and truth; when he hath torn and healed us, hath smitten and bound us up, hath convinced us of and humbled us for our sins, and converted us to himself, and created us anew; when he hath revived us, raised us up, and made us live; then shall we experimentally know the Lord, as merciful to our unrighteousness, Jeremiah 31:34; we shall taste and see that he is good; we shall not only be raised out of deep afflictions, wherein we lay as in a state of death, but we shall live in his sight, a life of union and communion with him, a life of faith, love, and obedience; we shall know Him whom to know is life eternal. And we shall prosecute that knowledge; we shall follow on to know him, not content with any measures of the knowledge of him already attained. We shall proceed therein, and make progress, as the morning light doth to the perfect day. For, his going forth to visit, deliver, and comfort his people, to manifest himself to them, to refresh and save them; or, his going forth before his people, in his gracious, faithful, holy, just, and wise providence, for their benefit and comfort, is prepared as the morning As sure, beautiful, grateful, reviving, and clear, with a continually increasing light, which proclaims his own approach and progress. And he shall come unto us as the rain unto the earth Which refreshes it, renders it fruitful, beautifies it, and gives it a new and smiling face. As the latter and former rain Or, as the words should rather be rendered, the harvest rain, and the rain of seed-time: see notes on Deuteronomy 11:14, and Proverbs 16:15. For, as Bishop Horsley justly observes, the Hebrew words here used have nothing of latter or former implied in their meaning. And these expressions convey a notion just the reverse of the truth to the English reader. For what our translation here terms the latter rain, מלקושׁ , is literally, as the bishop terms it, the crop rain, which fell just before the season of the harvest, to plump the grain before it was severed: that is, it fell in what we term the spring, and consider as the former part of the year; for the harvest in Judea began about the middle of our March, according to the old style. The other, יורה , which we term the former rain, and which is literally the springing rain, or the rain which makes to spring, fell upon the seed newly sown, and caused the green blade to shoot up out of the ground: that is, it fell about the end, or middle, of our October, which we consider as the latter end of the year. These rains, of seed-time and harvest, are the υετος πρωιμος και οψιμος , the early and latter rain, of St. James 5:7. But the apostle’s epithets have reference to the order of the husbandman’s expectations, not to the civil division of the year.

Verse 4

Hosea 6:4. O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? Or rather, what shall I do for thee? Here the Lord takes up the discourse again in his own person, and gives an answer to the prayer, or promises, of Judah and Israel: as if he had said, How can I give either of you, O Israel and Judah, any tokens of my favour, since there is no sincerity or stability to be found in you? Such is the essential beneficence of God, that he delights to bestow favours on all his creatures; and here, and elsewhere in the Scriptures, represents himself as it were concerned, whenever their conduct is such that it becomes inconsistent with his attributes, as the all-righteous governor of the universe, to bestow his blessings upon them. Thus we find Christ lamenting over Jerusalem, Matthew 23:37; and Isa 59:1-2 representing men’s iniquities as the sole cause of God’s hiding his face from them, and not hearing their prayers: see also Deuteronomy 5:29. Your goodness is as a morning cloud, &c. Your goodness is of a short continuance, and gives way to every temptation, like as the cloud of the morning, and the dew, are dispersed at the first approach of the sun.

Verse 5

Hosea 6:5. Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets Severely reproved and threatened them; or cut them off, as the word, חצבתי , may be properly rendered: that is, I have denounced against them great destruction. The prophets, and God by the prophets, are said to do those things which they foretel, or denounce: see notes on Jeremiah 1:10; Jeremiah 5:14. I have slain them by the words of my mouth that is, I have declared, or denounced, the slaughter of them. God’s word is described as sharper than a two-edged sword, because his judgments, denounced by his messengers, are like the sentence of a judge, which shall certainly be followed with execution. And thy judgments are as the light when it goeth forth These may be considered as the words of the prophet addressing God, and signifying that his judgments against the people were, though gradually, yet as certainly approaching as the morning light; and that the justice of them would appear as clear as the light of the rising sun. Or they may be considered as addressed to Israel, and then the meaning of them must be, The punishment which shall come upon thee, O Israel, will clearly appear to be perfectly just; nor shall any thing happen to thee, but what thou hast been fully and repeatedly warned of. Bishop Horsley, however, connecting these words with the following, gives them a different sense. Taking the word משׁפשׂיךְ , here rendered thy judgments, to signify thy precepts, he renders the clause, And the precepts given thee (namely, given to the people) were as the onward-going light, &c., “that is, as light, of which it is the nature and property to go forth, to propagate itself infinitely, and in all directions; a most expressive image of the clearness of the practical lessons of the prophets.” The word, adds he, in his Critical Notes, “signifies a fixed principle, or rule, in any thing, to which principle and rule can be applied. Here I take it for the practical rules of a moral and godly life, as delivered by the prophets; and so Calvin expounds it: ‘ Judicia tua, hoc est, ratio piè vivendi,’ Thy judgments, that is, the method of living piously. Significat hic Deus se regulam piè et sancte vivendi monstrâsse Israelitis, God here signifies that he had shown to the Israelites the rule of a pious and holy life.”

Verse 6

Hosea 6:6. For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice That is, rather than sacrifice, this being spoken comparatively. I am better pleased with true goodness than with the most exact observance of the external duties of religion: see Micah 6:6-8. The Jews use to express comparison by negatives, or rejecting the thing less worthy: so we are to understand that expression of the Prophet Joel 2:13, Rend your heart, and not your garments; and those words of Christ, John 6:27, Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth to everlasting life: that is, for this rather than the former. By mercy is here meant, not only all that is due from man to man, considered as fellow-creatures, and members of civil society; but also those acts of benevolence, which, though not claimable on principles of justice, yet must be performed by us, as we have opportunity, if we would be the children of our Father who is in heaven: see Matthew 5:45. Indeed, the word חסד , here used, and rendered mercy, includes piety toward God, as well as benevolence to man; or the performance of all the duties of the moral law. “I can find no single word,” says Bishop Horsley, “to answer to it, but charity; for charity, in the evangelical sense, is the love of man, founded upon the love of God, and arising out of it.” And the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings Namely, that knowledge of God, which is his super natural gift, through the influence of his enlightening Spirit, Ephesians 1:17; and which is always productive of a filial confidence in him, love to him, and obedience to his commandments; (see Psa 9:10 ; 1 John 2:3-4; 1 John 4:7-8;) and which is always attended with a true, sincere, internal, spiritual worship of him, and reverence for him. This is infinitely more pleasing to God, and more essential to true religion, than any ceremonial observances whatever; yea, than all sacrifices and burnt-offerings.

Verse 7

Hosea 6:7. But they like men have transgressed the covenant That is, as all corrupt men are prone to do; and as other men, who are not under such strong obligations to keep covenant with me, use to do. In the Hebrew it is, like Adam: and it would have been better, it seems, to have rendered it so; the sense appearing to be, that their transgression of the covenant God had made with them, or of the commandments which he had given them, was very similar to the transgression of Adam in paradise. “As Adam transgressed a plain command, so the Israelites transgressed the plainest and the easiest precepts. As Adam’s crime was not to be excused by any necessity or want, so the Israelites, secure under the protection of Jehovah, had they continued faithful to him, had no excuse in seeking other aids. Adam revolted from God to Satan; so the Israelites forsook God to worship devils. Adam broke that one command, on which the justification of himself and his posterity depended; so the Israelites broke the one precept of charity,” on their observing which depended their continuance in the divine favour, and their right to the blessings of the Mosaic covenant: see Horsley. There have they dealt treacherously against me There, even in that very delightful and plentiful land, which I gave them to encourage them to obedience, a land like unto Eden itself, they have transgressed my law, as Adam did in paradise, and have behaved themselves falsely and ungratefully toward me; and that even with all the advantages of the prophetic teaching, and in spite of all admonition and all warning.

Verses 8-9

Hosea 6:8-9. Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, &c. Archbishop Newcome translates these two verses very literally thus: Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity: she is marked with footsteps of blood. And as bands wait for a man, a company of priests murder in the way to Shechem. “If Gilead be put here for Ramoth-gilead, (and I know not,” says Bishop Horsley, “what other city can be meant,) it was a city of refuge, Deuteronomy 4:43; and such also was Shechem, or Sichem, Joshua 20:7; both, therefore, inhabited by priests and Levites. By describing the first of these two cities as polluted with blood, and the high-road to the other as beset with knots of priests, like robbers, intent on blood, and murdering on the whole length of the way, up to the very walls of the town, the prophet means to represent the priests as seducers of the people to that idolatry which proved the ruin of the nation. Insomuch that, like a man who should be murdered in a place of religious retreat, or upon his way to it, the people, under the influence of such guides, met their destruction in the quarter where, by God’s appointment, they were to seek their safety.” The word שׁכמה , rendered by consent, in Hosea 6:9, signifies toward Shechem. For they commit lewdness Hebrew, זמה עשׁו , they work enormity, or that which is wicked and abominable.

Verses 10-11

Hosea 6:10-11. I have seen a horrible thing Such an apostacy from God as cannot be mentioned without horror. There is the whoredom of Ephraim Or rather, there, namely, in the house of Israel, BY the whoredom of Ephraim, that is, by the idolatry of Jeroboam, who was of that tribe, and first began the worship of the golden calves; Israel is defiled The whole ten tribes are corrupted: for they soon all followed the example of Jeroboam in this idolatrous worship. Also, O Judah, he That is, Ephraim; hath set a harvest for thee For Ephraim, or Israel, had corrupted Judah by leading them into idolatry, and into the vices connected therewith, in consequence of which they were made ripe for destruction: for that the harvest is often a type of judgment is evident, among many other passages that might be adduced, from those quoted in the margin. When I returned the captivity of my people Or rather, the Hebrew being in the future tense, when I shall turn, &c., (so the Vulgate,) or, more literally, and as the Seventy render it, in my turning the captivity of my people. According to this interpretation, the phrase of turning the captivity of God’s people is not to be taken in the sense in which the same phrase is generally understood in the Scriptures, namely, for bringing them out of captivity; punishment, and not a blessing, being supposed to be predicted: but the sense of the expression will be, When I shall return to make captives of my people; or, as Archbishop Newcome proposes rendering it, When I lead away the captivity of my people; that is, after I have again caused the Israelites to be carried into captivity. Tiglath-pileser first carried a part of them into captivity; then Shalmaneser carried away the remainder; and after this came Sennacherib, who wasted Judea, and laid siege to Jerusalem. Some eminent commentators, however, are of opinion, that not a judgment, but a blessing, is predicted to be conferred on Judah in this passage. They therefore translate the verse thus: But for thee, O Judah, a harvest is prepared; then when I shall bring back the captivity of my people: see Houbigant and Horsley. Mr. S. Clark’s note on the verse takes in both interpretations, thus: “And as Israel has been drawn to idolatry by Jeroboam, (Hosea 6:10,) so hast thou, Judah, too: and therefore God has prepared a harvest of sorrow and sufferings for thee too, by sending thee into captivity; which yet afterward shall be turned into a harvest of joy, when thou shalt be returned out of captivity again.”

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Hosea 6". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/hosea-6.html. 1857.
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