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Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 3

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verse 1

Hosea 3:1

According to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel.

Love in chastisement

The substance of this chapter is, that it was God’s purpose to keep in firm hope the minds of the faithful during the Exile, lest being overwhelmed with despair they should wholly faint. The prophet had before spoken of God’s reconciliation with His people; and He magnificently extolled that favour when He said, “Ye shall be as in the valley of Achor, I will restore to you the abundance of all blessings; in a word, ye shall be in all respects happy.” But, in the meantime, the daily misery of the people continued. God had indeed determined to remove them into Babylon. They might therefore have despaired under that calamity, as though every hope of deliverance were wholly taken from them. Hence the prophet now shows that God would so restore the people to favour, as not immediately to blot out every remembrance of His wrath, but that His purpose was to continue for a time some measure of His severity. We hence see that this prediction occupies a middle place between the denunciation the prophet previously pronounced and the promise of pardon. It was a dreadful thing that God should divorce His people, and cast away the Israelites as spurious children; but a consolation was afterwards added. But lest the Israelites should think that God would immediately, as on the first day, be so propitious to them as to visit them with no chastisement, it was the prophet’s design expressly to correct the mistake, as though he had said, “God will indeed receive you again, but in the meantime a chastisement is prepared for you, which by its intenseness would break down your spirits, were it not that this comfort will case you, and that is, that God, though He punishes you for your sins, yet continues to provide for your salvation, and to be, as it were, your husband.” When God humbles us by adversities, when He shows to us some tokens of severity and wrath, we cannot but instantly fail, were not this thought to occur to us, that God loves us, even when He is severe towards us, and that though He seems to east us away, we are not yet altogether aliens, for He retains some affection, even in the midst of His wrath; so that He is to us as a husband, though He admits us not immediately into conjugal honour, nor restores us to our former rank. So we see how the doctrine is to be applied to ourselves. (John Calvin.)

God’s forgiving love

I once visited the ruins of a noble city on a desert oasis. Mighty columns of roofless temples stood in file. Gateways of carved stone led to a paradise of bats and owls. All was ruin. But past the dismantled city, brooks, which had once flowed through gorgeous flower gardens, still swept on in undying music and freshness. The waters were just as sweet as when queens quaffed them two thousand years ago. And so God’s forgiving love flows in ever-renewed form through the wreck of the past. (T. G. Selby.)

The love of God

The dark sad story which Hosea pathetically shadows forth in his first three chapters taught him the chief lesson of his life. For he accepted God’s dealings with him, and found that though the chastening was grievous, it brought forth the peaceable fruit of righteousness in his soul. By virtue of his holy sub missiveness he became one of the greatest of the prophets, and in the fall, the punishment, and the amendment of an adulterous wife, he saw a symbol of God’s ways with sinful men. For the lesson which he learnt was this. If the love of man can be so deep, how unfathomable, how eternal must be the love of God! First of all the prophets he rises to the sublime height of calling the affection with which Jehovah regards His people “love.” In Amos God is beneficent, and knows Israel; in Joel God is glorious and merciful; but Hosea introduces a new theological idea into Hebrew prophecy when he ventures to name the love of God. Hence, Prof. Davidson, referring to Duhm, says: “Amos is the prophet of morality, of human right, of the ethical order in human life; but Hosea is a prophet of religion.” And to what unknown depths cannot God’s love pierce! Agonising experience had taught him that human love, so poor, so frail, so mixed with selfishness--human love, whose wings are torn and soiled so easily, and which droops before wrong like a flower at the breath of a sirocco,--even human love, though disgraced by faithlessness, though dragged through the mire of shame, can still survive. Must not this then be so with the unchangeable love of God? If Hosea could still love the guilty and thankless woman, would not God still love the guilty and thankless nation, and by analogy the guilty and thankless soul? That is why, again and again, the voice of menace breaks into sobs, and the funeral anthem is drowned, as it were, in angel melodies. He saw the decadence and doom of Ephraim; he saw king after king perish by war and murder; he heard the thundering march of the Assyrian shake the ground from far; he knew that the fate of Samaria should be the fate of Beth-arbel; and yet, in spite of all, in his last chapter his style ceases to be obscure, rugged, enigmatical, oppressed with heavy thoughts; and to this doomed people he still can say, as the message of Jehovah, “I will love them freely, for Mine anger is turned away.” It is so intolerable to the prophet to regard God’s alienation from His people as final, that from the first he intimates the belief that they would repent and be forgiven, and become numberless as the sands of the sea, and that Judah--of whom at first he thought more favourably than at a later time--shall be joined with them under a single king. (Dean Farrar, D. D.)

Who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine.

Idolatry and self-indulgence

The connection here pointed out between the idolatry of heart that seeks after other gods, and the self-indulgence in life that seeks after flagons--large quantities--of wine, is so truly universal, through all the ages it has been in evidence, and even now it constantly reappears, so that it may be regarded as necessary and essential. All nature religions, all pagan religions, all heathen religions are sensuous and sensual. All philosophical religions are, though in more subtle forms, sensuous, as may be illustrated in the personal history of Comte the positivist. It would be possible very widely to illustrate this fact. But when it is established, and the strongly marked contrast of the Jehovah and the Christian religions is pointed out, it remains to be considered why this connection between two apparently unrelated things should have become established. Two reasons may be suggested.

All other religions save the Jehovah religion are human inventions. They therefore tend to foster the pride of man, to strengthen his self-will, and encourage him in doing what he likes. Jehovah religion, being authoritative revelation, brings man’s will into subjection and obedience.

All other religions are, in one form or another, nature religions. And the root idea of nature religions is the glorifying of sexual relations. The worship is virtual sensual indulgence, and thus all forms of sensual indulgence are encouraged. The Jehovah religion alone requires righteousness and purity. (Robert Tuck, B. A.)

Verse 2

Hosea 3:2

And for an homer of barley.

Barley a mean food

Why an “homer of barley”? Because it was a mean food, and in those times rather the food of beasts than of men. God promised to feed His people with the finest of the wheat. Feeding with barley signifies the mean condition in which the Ten Tribes, and afterwards the Jews, should be, till Christ came to marry them to Himself.

1. They should be in a contemptible condition, they should be valued at but half the price of a slave.

2. They should be fed but meanly and basely, even as slaves, or rather as beasts; this homer and a half of barley should be for their sustenance. This not only referred to the time of their captivity before Christ, but to all their captivity ever since, and that which they shall endure until their calling.


1. A people who have been high in outward glory, when they depart from God, make themselves vile and contemptible. God casts contempt on the wicked who corrupt His worship.

2. Though a people be under contempt, yet God’s heart may be towards them to do them good in the latter end. The love of God’s election is still on this people; God remembers them, and yet intends good to them. If there be any of you whom God has so depressed as to render you contemptible, humble yourselves before God, but do not despair. Who knows but this was the only way that God had to bow your hearts? God puts His own people under contempt, and yet it is all from love to them, and with an intent to do them good at the last.

3. After many promises of God’s mercy and of a glorious condition, which He intends for His people, He may yet hold a very hard hand over them for a great while. God takes supreme care that His people shall not grow wanton with His mercy.

4. Those who will delight their flesh to the full in a sensual use of the creature, it is just with God that they should be cut short, and made to live meanly and basely, made to feed on coarse fare.

5. If God will not utterly destroy a people, as He might, but reserve mercy for them at last, yet they have cause to bless God, though their subsistence for the present be most mean. It was wont to be a phrase, brown bread and the Gospel are good fare.

6. It is the way of God to humble those to whom He intends good, to prepare them for mercy by cutting them short of outward comforts. (Jeremiah Burroughs.)

God’s dominion over Israel

The prophet’s purchasing the adulteress for so much money is not to be strained to signify the Lord’s redeeming of His Church, for the price is given to herself for maintenance and to purchase her goodwill, though she be His own, in order to a second marriage but it teacheth that as a slave bought with money is at the buyer’s disposal, so however Israel followed many idols, yet the Lord would prove that He alone had dominion over her, to set her in what condition He pleased. The price given for her, being but half a servant’s worth, and half the estimation of a woman, may teach how little worth they are who despise the Lord and corrupt His worship. The small price, with the barley joined to it, being little and unfit food, may teach that sensuality provokes God to send pinching poverty, and that we must be stripped of all things before we become sensible, and are weaned from our idols. (George Hutcheson.)

Verse 4

Hosea 3:4

For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king.

Present condition of the Jews

Into the state here described the Ten Tribes were brought upon their captivity, and (those only excepted who joined the Two Tribes, or have been converted to the Gospel) they have ever since remained in it. Into that same condition the two tribes were brought, after that, by “killing the Son,” they had “filled up the measure of their father’s” sins, and the second temple, which His presence had hallowed, was destroyed by the Romans. In that condition they have ever since remained; free from idolatry, and in a state of waiting for God, yet looking in vain for a Messias, since they had not and would not receive Him who came unto them. Praying to God, yet without sacrifice for sin. Not owned by God, yet kept distinct and apart by His providence for a future yet to be revealed. “No one of their own nation has been able to gather them together, or to become their king.” Julian the apostate attempted in vain to rebuild their temple. God interposed by miracles to hinder the effort which challenged His omnipotence. David’s temporal kingdom has perished, and his line is lost, because Shiloh, the Peacemaker, is come. The typical priesthood ceased, in presence of the true “Priest after the order of Melchizedek.” The line Of Aaron is forgotten, unknown, and cannot be recovered. Sacrifice, the centre of their religion, has ceased and become unlawful. Still their characteristic has been to wait. Their prayer as to the Christ has been, “May He soon be revealed.” Eighteen centuries have flowed by. Their eyes have failed with looking for God’s promise, whence it is not to be found. Nothing has changed this character in the mass of the people. Oppressed, released, favoured, despised, or aggrandised; in East or West; hating Christians, loving to blaspheme Christ, forced (as they would remain Jews) to explain away the prophecies which speak of Him, deprived of the sacrifices which, to their forefathers, spoke of Him and His atonement;--still, as a mass, they blindly wait for Him, the true knowledge of whom, His offices, His priesthood, and His kingdom, they have laid aside. And God has been towards them. He has preserved them from mingling with idolaters or Mahommedans. Oppression has not extinguished them, favour has not bribed them. He has kept them from abandoning their mangled worship, or the Scripture which they understand not, and whose true meaning they believe not; they have fed on the raisin-husks of a barren ritual and unspiritual legalism, since the Holy Spirit they have grieved away. Yet they exist still, a monument to Us, of God’s abiding wrath on sin, as Lot’s wife was to them, encrusted, stiff, lifeless, only that we know “the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

Verse 5

Hosea 3:5

And shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.

Goodness producing fear

There are three points here peculiarly worthy of our notice. The designation which is given to the Gospel dispensation--the “goodness of the Lord.” The first stage of its development--“in the latter days.” The peculiar effect which this development was to produce on the feelings and passions of men--“They shall fear the Lord.” The Gospel dispensation is in itself the essence, the consummation, the perfection of excellence. It deserves that appellation because it is the supreme gift, the supreme evidence, and the supreme instrument of Divine love. Goodness generally excites admiration and gratitude and obedience, but here it is said that the exhibition of goodness produces fear. In the first establishment of the Christian dispensation there was everything calculated to produce fear. The astonishing fall of the Jews. A most splendid exhibition of Divine power. Expectation that the end of the world was at hand. The general principle which we consider is--that the goodness of God in the Gospel is calculated to produce fear. Why?

Because this goodness throws fresh light on the terrors of sin. Fear, philosophically defined, is this, a painful sensation produced by the apprehension of imminent danger, and that danger may be the loss of present enjoyment, the fear of future disappointment, or the infliction of positive injury. But this is not the fear of our text. There is in it a holy, reverential, and even pleasing awe, produced in the mind by the sight of those visions which the goodness of God in the Gospels unfolds to the mind. When Divine light pierces the darkness of the soul, the mind sees its guilt, feels its pollution, apprehends its terrific and awful doom. I much question whether any man has ever been converted without, first of all, feeling the sensation of fear. It is impossible for any man to be impressed with the depravity of his own mind unless he is impressed with the excellence of the Gospel.

By the exhibition of the goodness of the Gospel we see the terrors of sin in the world. Who is the man that detects, mourns over, and attempts by God’s help to remove the sin that is in the world? Surely it is the man who has received this light. Let us be alive to the real state of things in the world.

The goodness of god in the gospel produces fear because it is an extraordinary act of Jehovah, and arises from absolute sovereignty. If our salvation were in our own hands why should we fear? If we had a power superior to any power hostile to our salvation, why should we fear? Or if our salvation depended upon the absolute justice of God--if God could not have been just without saving us, why should we fear? But the fact is that God saves us purely and exclusively because He wishes to do it. The very perfections of the Deity qualify Him to act as a sovereign. He acts from His own spontaneousness. God might not have exercised any sovereignty in the way of mercy. The sovereignty of God does real and positive good. But while it does this good, it leaves the sinner just where he was. There is a real exercise of the sovereignty in the salvation of man. Let us fear, then, because our responsibility is awfully augmented. Our gratitude to God ought to correspond to the character of the blessings which we have received. And our exertions for the good of others ought to correspond to the value of the blessings that we enjoy. (Caleb Morris.)

True and worthy fear

It is not a servile fear, not even, as elsewhere, a fear which makes them shrink back from His awful majesty. It is a fear most opposed to this; a fear whereby “they shall flee to Him for help, from all that is to be feared”; a reverent holy awe, which should even impel them to Him; a fear of losing Him, which should make them hasten to Him. “They shall fear, and wonder exceedingly, astonied, at the greatness of God’s dealing, or of their now joy.” Yet they should “hasten tremblingly,” as bearing in memory their past unfaithfulness and ill deserts, and fearing to approach but for the greater fear of turning away. Nor do they hasten with this reverent awe and awful joy to God only, but to His goodness also. His goodness draws them, and to it they betake themselves, away from all cause of fear, their sins, themselves, the evil One. Yet even His goodness is a source of awe. How much it contains! All whereby God is good in Himself, all whereby He is good to us. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

Fear to the Lord

I shall speak of the fear of God here only as it concerns this place. It is introduced here to show that when this glorious Church shall be formed, when God shall call home His own people the Jews, and bring in the fulness of the Gentiles, then shall the fear of God mightily prevail upon the hearts of the people; and the greater God’s goodness shall be, the more shall the fear of God be on their hearts. It is remarkable that almost all the prophecies which speak of the glorious condition of the Church ever make mention of the fear of God that should rest then on the hearts of the people. One would rather think that there should be a reference to the joy they would have. But why fear the Lord in these times?

1. Because of the glory of Christ their King. They shall behold their King in glory that shall cause fear.

2. Because of the great works of God that shall then take place.

3. Because the holiness and purity of the worship of God and of His ordinances shall cause fear.

4. Because the holiness of the saints, appearing brightly in their very faces and conversations, shall Strike great fear. Surely when the saints shall be exalted in their holiness, when every one of them shall have their souls filled with God, it will cause abundance of fear in the hearts of all those who shall even converse with them. But the wicked shall fear too, as well as the saints. “Men’s hearts shall fail them for fear,” shall be verified in these days, as it was in the destruction of Jerusalem. The saints shall fear the Lord and His goodness. The goodness of God which in that day they shall fear, shall be this--

(1) That ever He should regard such a wretched people as this, and pardon all their sins.

(2) Because God shall then make the difference between him that feareth God, and him that feareth Him not. Then shall God take away all the reproach of His saints. (Jeremiah Burroughs.)

Israel’s conversion

1. Albeit that Israel as a nation hath been, and yet is, rejected and lost, yet they will certainly return to God. This we should long and pray for.

2. As true repentance and conversion will appear in men’s being sensible of their great distance from God, and in their seeking to make up this distance, so all this is a sweet and blessed fruit of affliction.

3. The covenant standeth still to be forthcoming for apostates, when they repent and turn to God, renouncing false ways and worship.

4. There is no right seeking of God, nor finding Him, or the comforts of the Covenant, but through Christ, whom converted Israel shall acknowledge and embrace.

5. The conversion will appear in its constancy and perseverance, and particularly in the converts entertaining a holy fear and awe of God.

6. As God is always good to His own people, whatever they may think to the contrary, so much of His goodness will be manifested in the time of that life from the dead, when all Israel shall be saved.

7. The goodness of God will not make a true convert presumptuous, but will be unto him matter of reverence and holy fear and trembling.

8. Albeit Israel be long in gathering and converting, yet we are firmly to believe that, before time end, it will certainly come to pass; for all this shall be in the latter days. (George Hutcheson.)

Fearing the Lord’s goodness

“Not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.”

There is much that men do not know.

One thing that men do not know is the goodness of God. Goodness is a comprehensive term. God saw creation, and pronounced it “good.” Goodness includes beneficence, forbearance, patience. It may be likened to a rich flowing river, or to the sun shedding light and warmth all around. But goodness is not the thing that most strikes men in God. But it should be. It may be seen everywhere.

1. Trace it in Scripture story. Life of Jacob. Tale of the wanderings. Time of captivity. Life of Jesus.

2. See it in gracious providences. Winter snows. Summer storms. Autumn harvests.

3. See it in individual experiences. If we read the story of our lives aright, we shall be able to trace everywhere upon us the “good hand of our God for good.” But is this man’s chief thought of God? Is it not rather the Gospel which has to be declared? Is not this the surprising, melting, persuading Gospel, whose chief rays fall from Christ crucified?

If men did but know the goodness of God they would feel the holy fear and hear the call to repentance. Men either find a sort of excuse in persisting that God is a God of wrath and judgment, or they presume on His goodness, and say that He will take no notice of sin. Spite of this, the mightiest of all moral forces is goodness. It is mother’s power. It is Christ’s power. It melts, draws, wins. But it is goodness not in the abstract. It is goodness brought home to us. “Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Goodness says, “Repent.” Is that hard? Nay, it is but the first step on the way to trust, love, and life eternal. God’s new goodness seems to freshen the sense of His lifelong goodness, and of His saving goodness, until the cords of God seem to be all about us, and it becomes evident that He is graciously leading us to Himself. (Robert Tuck, B. A.)


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Hosea 3". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/hosea-3.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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