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Hosea 10:1. Israel is an empty vine— Houbigant, after most of the ancients, reads, Israel was a fertile vine, which abounded in fruit; but, fruitful as it was, it abused the blessings of God to the purposes of sin and idolatry.
Hosea 10:2. Now shall they be found faulty— Now shall they undergo their punishment.
Hosea 10:3. For now, &c.— Surely presently shall they say, We have no king, because we feared not the JEHOVAH; and a king, what could he do for us? "After Israel shall be brought into captivity, and shall have no king over their nation, they shall then acknowledge that this misfortune has happened to them through their own fault, and because they have not feared the Lord. They shall acknowledge, that it would profit them nothing to have kings, without having also the protection of God." See Calmet.
Hosea 10:4. Thus judgment springeth, &c.— "Injustice, being publicly countenanced, encourages the same practices in the dealings of private men." Thus injustice increaseth everywhere, as bitter and poisonous weeds spring up in a field where there is no care taken to destroy them. The word ראשׁ rosh, is in some places translated gall, and in others hemlock; a very bitter and poisonous plant, common in Palestine.
Hosea 10:5-6. Shall fear because, &c.— Have feared, because of the famous calf, &c. For the people mourn over it: its priests are distressed, because its glory is departed from it. Houbigant; who, for king Jareb, reads, the king the avenger, as in chap. Hos 5:13 and instead of Ephraim shall receive shame,—Ephraim shall be taken in a snare.
Hosea 10:8. The high places— The altars, &c. The latter part of the verse is expressive of the confusion and despair to which the Israelites should be reduced by the destruction of their country. Our Saviour has made use of the same words to denote the extremity of the Jews in their last siege; and St. John in the Revelation, to set forth the terror of the wicked in the day of judgment.
Hosea 10:9. O Israel, thou hast sinned— Even from the days of Gibeah, the sin of Israel flourisheth; from which if they had then abstained, they would not have provoked war in Gibeah, because of wicked men. Houbigant. The meaning, according to this translation, seems to be, that the Israelites, when they revenged the wickedness of Gibeah, would not have been twice overcome by the Benjamites, before they conquered, if they had not erected so many altars and statues. See Judges 19:22; Jdg 19:30 and Houbigant. God gave the Israelites success in that righteous war. It may, however, seem strange, that it should be said that the "war overtook them not," as if they had not suffered by it; when they were unsuccessful in the first two assaults, and were repulsed by the Benjaminites with a slaughter amounting, in the two days, to 40,000 men. Judges 20:21; Judges 20:25. But, besides that the confederated tribes were ultimately successful, this loss, in proportion to their whole embattled force, which consisted of 400,000 men (Hosea 10:2.), was nothing in comparison with that of the tribe of Benjamin, which was all but cut off. For of their force, which was 26,700, no more than 1600 survived the business of the third day, in which the town of Gibeah was taken and destroyed. And of this remnant all seem to have been cut off afterwards, except the 600 men that fortified themselves upon the rock Rimmon; so that of the whole tribe not one forty-fourth part was left.
Hosea 10:10. It is in my desire, &c.— Houbigant renders it, I will come and chastise them: the nations shall assemble against them, when I shall chastise them for their two transgressions; meaning the two calves of Dan and Beth-el.
In their two furrows— Those who adopt these words in their literal sense seem to agree, that the image which the clause presents is that of a pair of heifers yoked to the plough; which I take to be erroneous. For the furrows are two: when they shall bind themselves, or shall be bound to or upon their two furrows. But a plough, though dragged by a pair of heifers, makes but one furrow at a time; and this is the one furrow of both heifers. If furrows be the true sense of the word עונות onoth, I am inclined to think the being bound, or confined, to their two furrows may be a proverbial expression, not much unlike the more homely proverb of our own language, of "an ass between two bundles of hay;" describing the situation of a person fluctuating in his choice between two things, of which he must choose one. In like manner, the situation of extreme difficulty to which the Israelites were reduced under their latter kings, without any human means of relief, but in the choice of one of the two alliances, between which they were ever fluctuating, that of Assyria and that of Egypt, may be represented under the image of an animal tethered by a short rope, in such a manner that its utmost liberty of feeding is but the breadth of a single ridge between two furrows, one on the one side, one on the other. The only objection of which I am aware, to this interpretation of the image, is, that pasture-grounds are not usually laid down in ridge and furrow, and animals are not usually tethered to feed in corn-land.
But if the original word be taken to signify iniquities, or faults, the passage may be brought to the same general meaning, dismissing the image of a tethered animal, and rendering—when they are tied to their two faults, or, with the Syriac,—their two follies. The two alliances already mentioned might be called the two faults of the people, as both were repeatedly reprobated by the prophets, and yet the people were always courting the one or the other of them. Or they might be called their two follies: for they never formed the one or the other, but they experienced the folly of the measure. Their ally, whichever of the two they chose, always proved a treacherous friend; and yet the name of an alliance with one always drew down the resentment and vengeance of the rival power. They were tied to these two faults, or two follies, when, by God's just desertion of them, they were cut off from all prospect of any better aid, than one or the other of these alliances might offer to their hopes, and felt themselves obliged to make a choice.
Hosea 10:11. And Ephraim, &c.— Houbigant renders the verse thus, Ephraim is a heifer, accustomed to tread out the corn, which she loves; but I will submit her neck to the yoke: I will tame Ephraim. Judah shall plough for himself; Jacob for himself shall break up the ground; as much as to say, "Ephraim loves treading out the corn, as opposed to ploughing;" that is to say, loves the booty not gained by his own labour; or to tread out, and freely eat of the corn, which is not its own; because the mouth of the ox which treadeth out the corn was not bound up. Israel very frequently made great depredations upon Judah: and as this heifer loved to tread out the corn, and not to plough, it is therefore added, that he should be made to plough;—put under the yoke; namely, that of the Assyrians. What is added, Judah and Jacob shall plough for themselves, means that Judah shall not now plough for Israel, but for himself; as Israel shall no more make depredations upon him.
Hosea 10:12. Sow to yourselves in righteousness— "Employ yourselves in works of justice and charity; and then, through the mercy of JEHOVAH, you may still hope to reap the fruits of your repentance and reformation." Instead of Reap in mercy, Houbigant reads, Reap in benevolence; leaving handfuls for the poor and the widow, as your law commands." And instead of, For it is time to seek the Lord, he reads, And seek you the Lord again and again: seek him with earnest and anxious desire. Some suppose that this alludes to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the true teacher of righteousness, and the alone source of our justification and of our graces. See Isaiah 45:8.
Hosea 10:13. Because thou did trust, &c.— Houbigant begins the 14th verse with this clause: Because thou didst trust, &c. Therefore, &c. And after Grotius, he reads, As Shalman was spoiled by the hand of Jerub-baal [or Gideon] in the day of battle; the mother shall be dashed in pieces with her children. The prophet seems to allude to the war of Gideon against Salmana, general of the Midianites, from whom the city here spoken of was called Shalman. But others suppose that the allusion is to the destruction of Beth-arbel, a city of Armenia, by Salmaneser, here called Shalman.
Hosea 10:15. So shall Beth-el do unto you— "This is the fruit of your worshipping the golden calves at Beth-el. As it has happened to the city above mentioned, so shall it happen to you, because of your iniquities." Houbigant reads the verse, after the LXX, So shall it be done unto you, O house of Israel, for the wickedness of your counsels; and with the Vulgate he ends the chapter here: but ours seems the more proper division.
In a morning, &c.— As the morning is brought to nothing, to nothing shall the king of Israel be brought. The sudden and total destruction of the monarchy of the ten tribes is compared to the sudden and total extinction of the beauties of the dawn in the sky, by the instantaneous diffusion of the solar light; by which the ruddy streaks in the East, the glow of orange-coloured light upon the horizon, are at once obliterated, absorbed, and lost in the colourless light of day. The change is sudden even in these climates; it is much more sudden in the tropical; and in all it is one of the most complete that Nature presents.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Still the sins of the people, and the judgments of God, are the burden of the prophesy.
1. Their sins are charged upon them.
[1.] They are destitute of all goodness. Israel is an empty vine, of no profit to the owner: he bringeth forth fruit unto himself; he thinks not of advancing God's glory, but his own; and his earthly good things are not spent in God's service, but consumed on his lusts, or in the worship of idols; and he is therefore an empty vine, being thus impoverished and exhausted.*
* The reader will be pleased to recollect, that in my Reflections I almost always consider the text according to our public English Version.
[2.] They are devoted to idolatry. According to the multitude of his fruit, as his riches increased, he hath increased the altars, &c. thus turning God's gifts against him, and abusing his blessings to the vilest purposes. Note; We too often see an increase of wealth abused to the increase of wickedness, instead of being employed as a more enlarged opportunity put into men's hands of serving God's cause, and doing good in their generation.
[3.] Their heart is divided; among themselves factions rage, and sects dispute about the preference of idols; or rather, their heart is divided between God and the calves. Now shall they be found faulty, this halting between both being highly criminal, for a divided heart God abhors; or they shall be desolated with his judgments.
[4.] They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant; perjured and profane, making no conscience of oaths or leagues; and, on the very seat of judgment, injustice and oppression sat enthroned. Thus judgment, which should have been administered with impartiality as a medicine, through false witnesses, and a corrupt magistracy, springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field; baleful and poisonous, perverted to the greater loss or ruin of the injured: and God will visit for these things, and avenge the quarrel of those who are oppressed with wrong.
2. Their punishments are denounced.
[1.] They shall say, We have no king; as bad as none, when justice was so ill administered; or they were really without a king, through the frequent assassinations of their monarchs; or having none able to protect them from their enemies; or, as at the last, when they and their king together were led captives into Assyria: because we feared not the Lord, which was the source of all their miseries; what then should a king do to us? If they had one, he could afford them no protection from the judgments of the eternal King whom they had provoked. As for Samaria, the metropolis of Israel, her king is cut off as the foam upon the water. In prophetic language, what shall be is spoken of as already done; Hoshea, the last king, being doomed to fall, weak as the froth which flies on the surface, and easily broken, as the bubbles, before the Assyrian army.
[2.] Their idols shall be destroyed, and be as little able to help them as their king. He shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images; the Assyrian monarch shall do it, the rod of God's indignation. The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Beth-aven; for them, lest they should be seized by the enemy; or for themselves, as if, now that they were taken, the land would be left defenceless; for the people thereof shall mourn over it; of Beth-aven, or the worshippers of the calves in general shall lament their loss, and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it; who shall grieve, as particularly interested for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it, and no more surrounded with crowds of worshippers; or the glory of Beth-aven is now departed, their calf being gone. It shall also be carried unto Assyria for a present to king Jareb, as a trophy of victory over Samaria and her gods. Ephraim shall receive shame, when they see their idols demolished, and their folly in trusting them manifested: and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel, in paying divine worship to such vanities. The high places also of Aven, of iniquity, the scenes where their idolatries were committed, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed; the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars, being left in ruins, and unfrequented; and in their bitter distress they, the people who were wont to worship there, shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us; as if seeking even under them a covert from their miseries, and desiring to be hidden from the wrath of God. Note; (1.) When we make any creature our idol, God justly breaks it down, and leaves us to mourn our folly. (2.) When the day of vengeance comes, in vain does the sinner cry to rocks and mountains to hide him from the wrath of the Lamb.
2nd, The prophet,
1. Reminds them of their wickedness, committed in a constant series from the days of their predecessors. From the days of Gibeah, when the Levite's concubine was so atrociously abused, thou hast sinned; continued in the practice of such abominations; or, more than the day of Gibeah, exceeding them in iniquity: there they stood, with daring effrontery, on their defence. The battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them: in the first two engagements they were victorious, and at last six hundred men made their escape (see another interpretation in the Critical Notes): but as the sin of Israel now exceeded theirs, the battle should overtake them; notwithstanding their present prosperity in iniquity.
2. God will visit them. It is in my desire that I should chastise them; on this he determined; and the people shall be gathered against them, as Israel was of old against Benjamin; when they shall bind themselves in their two furrows, fortified with a double entrenchment: or, they shall bind them; their enemies shall yoke them as oxen, to plough their ground: or, when I shall bind them for their two transgressions; their forsaking God for idols, and their corporal and spiritual adultery. And Ephraim is as an heifer that is taught to plough, and bear the yoke, to submit to God's commands; but with reluctance yielded her neck; and loveth rather to tread out the corn, where the can eat to the full, than labour in the furrows of obedience: but I passed over upon her fair neck; put a yoke upon it. I will make Ephraim to ride, or cause to ride on Ephraim; the Assyrians shall have dominion over them. Judah shall plough, and Jacob shall break his clods; being brought into bondage by their conquerors. Some give a very different sense of the words, as speaking the kind care of God in teaching his penitent returning people, and the gentle methods that he took to engage their obedience; as one strokes the heifer's neck to encourage her, and bring her to the yoke. He laid then his institutions upon them, and set them to their work, that they might bring forth fruit abundantly to his glory and their own comfort. And to this sense the following words seem applicable; which contain,
3. An exhortation to righteousness, prayer, and repentance. Sow to yourselves in righteousness; walk in all holy conversation and godliness, in the practice of every good word and work, which will bring their own reward: reap in mercy; spiritual and also everlasting life being to the faithful the reward, not of debt, but of grace; break up your fallow ground; for such is the heart of man; being naturally hard, unprofitable for any good fruit, overrun with the briers and thorns of corrupt affections, and needs to be broken up by an humbling conviction of our sinfulness, guilt, and misery, that the seed of divine grace may spread and grow, and bring forth abundantly: for it is time to seek the Lord, whose blessing alone can prosper the seed sown, till he come and rain righteousness upon you; give us that Spirit of righteousness, without whom we have no power to produce it. Ye have ploughed wickedness; toiled hard in the service of sin; and an Egyptian task-master had they found it. Ye have reaped iniquity; a plenteous harvest of evil, both of guilt and punishment: ye have eaten the fruit of lies; disappointed in their expectations, and finding nothing of that sweetness and satisfaction which they promised themselves; because thou didst trust in thy way, on idol confidences, or heathen alliances; and in the multitude of thy mighty men; their own armies and garrisons, which were poor defences against the wrath of God, which they had provoked; and thus will all the confidence and comforts of the sinner assuredly disappoint his hopes.
4. An utter destruction awaits them. Therefore, because of their sins and vain confidences, shall a tumult arise among thy people, from insurrections at home, and the invasion of the Assyrian army: and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled, so that they should find no place of refuge; as Shalman (the same probably as Salmaneser) spoiled Beth-arbel in the day of battle; a well-known transaction in that day, where the place was sacked, the people most inhumanly massacred; the mother was dashed in pieces upon her children; and such would be their case; so shall Beth-el do unto you, because of your great wickedness; particularly their idolatry committed at Beth-el, which would bring down the like fearful vengeance upon them. Or, so will he do unto you, O Bethel; commit the same ravages in this chief seat of idolatry. In a morning shall the king of Israel be utterly cut off; certainly and speedily as the morning returns; or, when they think the day of prosperity and liberty is dawning upon them, then shall their king Hoshea be cut off, and all the nation perish with him. Note; Whatever miseries we feel or fear, whether national or personal, respecting our bodies or our souls, they all spring from the same cause; sin, sin is the deadly root of bitterness.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Hosea 10". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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