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The ingratitude of Israel unto God for his benefits: their judgment. God's mercy towards them.
Before Christ 740.
Hosea 11:1. When Israel was a child, &c.— Israel is my son: I have loved him as a son, and delivered him from Egypt. "I have regarded him as my child; I have taken the same care of him as a father does of a son." The prophet seems to allude to the words of Moses, Exodus 4:22-23. St. Matthew has quoted this passage of Hosea, and applied it to the return of our Saviour from Egypt. He says, that then these words of the prophet were fulfilled; I have called my son out of Egypt. The departure of the Jews from that country was only a figure of that of the Saviour; and the name of the first-born, which the Scripture on that occasion gives to Israel, was literally and exactly verified only in the person of Jesus Christ. Eusebius, however, and several other ancient writers, are of opinion, that St. Matthew did not take this passage from Hosea, but from the words of Balaam, Numbers 24:8. But we shall say more concerning this matter on Matthew 2:15.
Hosea 11:2. As they called them— As I called them, so they went from me. Houbigant.
Graven images— We read frequently, in our English bibles, of graven images, and of molten images: and the words are become so familiar, as names of idolatrous images, that although they are not well chosen to express the Hebrew names, it seems not advisable to change them for others which might more exactly correspond with the original.
The graven image was not a thing wrought in metal by the tool of the workman whom we should now call an engraver; nor was the molten image an image made of metal, or any other substance melted, and shaped in a mould. In fact, the graven image and the molten image are the same thing, under different names. The images of the ancient idolaters were first cut out of wood, by the carpenter, as is very evident from the prophet Isaiah. This figure of wood was overlaid with plates either of gold or silver, or, sometimes perhaps, of an inferior metal. And in this finished state it was called a graven image (that is to say, a carved image), in reference to the inner solid figure of wood, and a molten (that is to say, an overlaid, or covered) image, in reference to the outer metalline case or covering. And sometimes both epithets are applied to it at once. I will cut off the graven and molten image; Nahum 1:14. Again, What profiteth the graven and molten image? Habakkuk 2:18. The English word molten conveys a notion of melting, or fusion. But this is not the case with the Hebrew word פסל pesel, for which it is given. The Hebrew word signifies generally to overspread, or cover all over, in whatever manner, according to the different subject, the overspreading or covering be effected; whether by pouring forth a substance in fusion, or by spreading a cloth over or before, or by hammering on metalline plates. It is on account of this metalline case, that we find a founder employed to make a graven image, Jdg 17:3 and that we read in Isaiah of a workman that melteth a graven image; Isaiah 40:19.: and in another place we find the question, who hath molten a graven image? Isaiah 44:10. In these two passages the words should be overlayeth, and overlaid.
Hosea 11:3. Healed them— Preserved them.
Hosea 11:4. I drew them with cords of a man— "I employed, to gain their affection, all the motives which could influence a heart not insensible to love. They cannot complain that I treated them as animals, or as slaves; that I commanded them with rigour, or constrained them by force. I treated them as reasonable men, and as a father treats his children." Houbigant concludes the verse with the words, Yoke on their jaws; and begins the fifth thus; I drew him gently unto me: he shall not, &c.
Hosea 11:7. My people, &c.— My people delay returning to me: though they have been called upwards, yet none at all would raise himself up.
Hosea 11:8. How shall I give thee up? &c.— The mercy of the Almighty is here pathetically represented as contending with his justice; to shew that he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. Admah and Zeboim were two cities involved in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. We may read, How shall I deliver thee up, Israel? and instead of repentings—relentings.
Hosea 11:9. And I will not enter into the city— And I will not come as an enemy. Houbigant renders it, Nor am I come speedily to depart from thee: and he supposes that the contrast in this and the former clause is between an inhabitant and a passing traveller. Bishop Lowth renders it, after St. Jerome, Though I inhabit not cities: "I am not one of those who dwell in cities, who live according to human laws; who reckon cruelty to be justice." Castalio follows St. Jerome. This sentence is parallel and, synonymous to I am not a man. The future אבוא abo, has a frequentative power: see Psalms 3:8. I am not used to enter, or dwell; I am no inhabitant of a city. There is a very elegant contrast in each member of the sentence: I am God, and not man; there is an increase of the sense in the following sentence, and the contrast is varied: "I am thy God, dwelling with thee; but in a peculiar and extraordinary manner, no way similar to that of mankind." Nothing can be more plain and elegant.
Hosea 11:10. They shall walk, &c.— It shall come to pass, that they shall follow the Lord, when he shall roar like a lion; for he shall roar, and the fishes of the sea shall tremble. Houbigant. See Ezekiel 38:20. By the fishes of the sea, are supposed to be meant the people of Egypt and Babylon. But the following seems a better and more consistent translation:—They shall walk after the Lord, who shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall come fluttering from the west. Hosea 11:11. They shall come fluttering as a bird, &c.
The children— It is remarkable, that the expression is neither their children, nor my children, but simply the children. The first would limit the discourse to the natural Israel exclusively; the second would be nearly of the same effect, as it would express such as were already children at the time of the roaring. But the term the children, put nakedly, without either of these epithets, expresses those who were neither of the natural Israel, nor children, that is, worshippers, of the true God, at the time of the roaring, but were roused by that sound, and then became children, that is to say, the adopted children, by natural extraction Gentiles. This and the next verse contain indeed a wonderful prophecy of the promulgation and progress of the Gospel, and the restoration of the race of Israel. The first clause of this 10th verse states generally, that they will return to the Lord. In what follows, the circumstances and progress of the business are described. First, Jehovah will roar—the roaring is unquestionably the sound of the Gospel. Jehovah himself shall roar—the sound shall begin to be uttered by the voice of the incarnate God himself. The first effect shall be, children shall come fluttering from the west; a new race of children—converts of the Gentiles; chiefly from the western quarters of the world, or what the Scriptures call the west; for no part, I think, of Asia Minor, Syria, or Palestine, is reckoned a part of the east in the language of the Old Testament. Afterwards the natural Israel shall hurry from all the regions of their dispersion, and be settled in their own dwellings.
It is to be observed, that the roaring is mentioned twice. It will be most consistent with the style of the prophets, to take this as two roarings; and to refer the hurrying of the children from the west to the first; the hurrying from Egypt and Assyria to the second. The times of the two roarings are the first and second advent. The first brought children from the west; the renewed preaching of the Gospel, at the second, will bring home the Jews. And perhaps this second sounding of the Gospel may be more remarkable even than the first, the roaring of Jehovah in person.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, God puts the people of Israel in mind,
1. Of the grace and mercy that he had shewn them. When Israel was a child, then I loved him, in their weak and helpless state, when first God took them for a people; and called my son out of Egypt, from that house of their prison: and prophetically this declares what should be the case with Christ, God's incarnate Son, to whom, Mat 2:15 the words are expressly applied, and in and through whom every faithful soul has obtained a deliverance from the bondage of guilt and corruption, infinitely more intolerable than that of Egypt. I taught Ephraim also to go, with all the tenderness and care of the fondest mother; taking them by their arms; giving them his holy law to direct them, and by a pillar and cloud guiding their marches in the trackless wilderness. And thus God still upholds his believing people, teaching them by his word and spirit; carrying them through their trials and temptations, and strengthening their souls for his work and service. I healed them of their diseases and plagues; as he doth the souls of genuine penitents, when wounded by sin, or when they have suffered by spiritual decays. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love; by every endearing motive, and the powerfully constraining influence of his love shed abroad in their hearts, by which God still draws every penitent sinner to come unto him. I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws; as the husbandman unmuzzles the ox, or looses the yoke from its neck, so had God delivered them from the servitude of Egypt, as he doth his believing people from the bondage of corruption: and I laid meat unto them; the manna and quails wherewith he fed them in the wilderness, the emblems of the better spiritual bread which cometh down from heaven, with which God strengthens and comforts his faithful people in their way through this desart world to the land of eternal rest.
2. Of the base ingratitude with which they had requited him. As they, the prophets of the Lord, called them to their duty, and to return from their sinful backslidings; so they went from them: the more importunately they were solicited, the more obstinate and refractory they grew. They sacrificed unto Baalim, and burnt incense to graven images, the abominable thing against which they were so particularly warned. All God's kindness was thrown away upon them: they knew not that I healed them, but ascribe to their idols all their mercies; and my people are bent to backsliding from me; both under a constant propensity to depart from him, and wilfully set upon their abominations, though nationally his people, which relation aggravated their guilt exceedingly. They refused to return; whether courted or threatened, they persisted in evil: though they called them to the Most High, to leave their idols, and return to the worship of the true God, none at all would exalt him, give him the glory due unto his name; or lift up their prayers to him for mercy, or their hearts from earthly vanities to high and heavenly things. Note; Much pains are often spent to little purpose by God's faithful ministers; yet, though sinners will not hear, God is thereby glorified in leaving them without excuse.
3. Heavy wrath is denounced against them. He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, whose yoke would be so much heavier, that they would wish rather for the task-masters of Egypt again: or so straitly should they be besieged, or so far carried away captives, that they should not be able to send ambassadors to Egypt for assistance. And the sword shall abide on his cities; the destruction shall be long continued, as well as universal; and shall consume his branches, and devour them; the villages and country around, or the inhabitants thereof; because of their own counsels, which were their ruin. Note; Sinners have none to blame but themselves: they choose those ways which necessarily lead to their own perdition.
2nd, We have,
1. The reluctance that a gracious God expresses in giving up the once chosen people of Israel to ruin. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? &c. Justice might well plead for their total excision, and that, like the cities which were consumed with fire, Deuteronomy 29:23. Israel deserved to be given up to the same terrible vengeance; but mercy pleads for some mitigation or respite, if not for pardon; and God, as a father, with bowels of tenderest compassion, appears most backward to ruin even this rebellious son; and mercy prevails; mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. And most astonishing do these compassions of our God appear! Oh, that the ungrateful sinner would for a moment pause, and think of them! Surely they must soften his obdurate heart.
2. God's determination to shew them some mercy. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, in blotting out their name from under heaven; I will not return to destroy Ephraim; though I visit them in wrath, I will not enter into the city; though Jerusalem, Samaria, and the other cities, lie waste for a time, their desolations shall not be perpetual, as those of Admah and Zeboim: for I am God, and not man, (human compassions, indeed, would long ago have failed;) the holy One in the midst of thee. Christ is his faithful people's protector: for his sake, who stands in the midst of them to plead for them, they are spared; and, though they deserve punishment, through him they obtain mercy. They shall walk after the Lord, the Messiah their Saviour, their leader and commander, the Captain of their Salvation, receiving an application of the great and precious promises of his Gospel, and yielding to be saved by grace. He shall roar like a lion; his word shall be heard far and near: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west; the returning penitents, whose hearts shall be deeply affected with the preaching of the Gospel: and this respects the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, the Gospel having chiefly spread that way hitherto. They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria, flying swiftly, as the timorous dove when pursued by a bird of prey, to the covert of redeeming grace: and I will place them in their houses, saith the Lord; in the church of God below; and all those who persevere to the end in faith and love, in the eternal mansions of glory above. Note; (1.) When we are most discouraged with the sense of our own deserts, we should still remember with whom we have to do: he is God, and not man; and as his majesty is, so is his mercy. (2.) The trembling of the sinner is usually the first symptom of his return to God. (3.) When Christ is our captain, and we walk after him, we cannot fail of victory over every foe.
3. A heavy complaint still lies against Ephraim: he compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit. This seems to be a new discourse, and most properly should begin the next chapter. Their services were hypocritical, and their profession deceitful, and therefore an abhorrence in the sight of the heart-searching God.
4. Judah is highly commended: Judah yet ruleth with God. The two tribes submitted in some measure to that Theocracy which God had established among them, and their kings ruled according to God's law, and received their directions from him in their emergencies; which was their truest honour and highest dignity: and he is faithful with the saints, cleaving to the worship of the sanctuary and treading in the steps of their pious progenitors; and, while they do so, they may assuredly expect that God will be faithful to his promises, and preserve them to his everlasting kingdom. Note; (1.) They who perseveringly make God their king shall be exalted to reign with him. (2.) The faithful will be rewarded with mansions in glory, when the hypocrite and unbeliever shall receive their portion in everlasting burnings.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Hosea 11". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26