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Ephraim's glory, by reason of idolatry, vanisheth. God's anger for their unkindness. A promise of God's mercy. A judgment for rebellion.
Before Christ 725.
Hosea 13:1. When Ephraim spake, trembling— When Ephraim promulged his edicts, or first became a kingdom. Houbigant. It may be otherwise understood, that when he behaved himself with dutiful submission and obedience to God, his kingdom was powerful; but when he gave himself up to idolatry, his strength immediately declined. The word Baal is here used in its general sense, for false gods.
Hosea 13:2. Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves— Or it should rather be rendered, Let the sacrificers of men kiss the calves. It appears from this passage, that superstition and idolatry had made such a progress among the ten tribes, that human sacrifices were made an essential rite in the worship of the calves. And this was the finishing stroke, the last stage of their impiety; that they said Let the sacrificers of men kiss the calves: let them consider themselves as the most acceptable worshippers, who approach the image with human blood. Kiss the calves; that is to say, worship the calves. Among the ancient idolaters, to kiss the idol was an act of the most solemn adoration. Thus we read in Holy Writ of all the knees which have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. Tully mentions a brazen statue of Hercules at Agrigentum, in which the workmanship of the mouth was sensibly worn by the frequent kisses of the worshippers. And in allusion to this rite, the holy Psalmist, calling upon the apostate faction to avert the wrath of the incarnate God by full acknowledgment of his divinity, bids them kiss the Son; that is to say, worship him.
It may seem extraordinary, that we find it no where mentioned in the sacred history by whom the practice was introduced of sacrificing men to the calves, the pretended emblems of the true God. But this would appear an objection of no great weight to the interpretation I have given of the prophet's words, which is the only one, I think, that they will naturally bear; if the prevalence of the practice were of necessity implied in the words of the prophet so interpreted. But it is possible, that the calves themselves were never so worshipped; but that the zeal for idolatry was so great with some of the latter kings, that they made it a condition upon which alone they would tolerate the worship of Jehovah in the calves, that the worshipper should join in the offering of human sacrifices to Moloch, or some other idol. For if any of the kings of Israel issued an edict of toleration, under such a condition; he said, in effect, "Let the sacrificers of men kiss the calves." It is true, no such measure is mentioned in the sacred history. But the silence of the history is certainly no confutation of any thing, to which the prophets clearly allude as a fact. For the history of the kingdom of Israel, under the different usurpers, after the fall of Zedekiah, the son of the second Jeroboam, is so concise and general, that we know little of the detail of it, but what is to be gathered from allusions. We have the names of the kings in succession, the length of their reigns, and their principal exploits. But we know nothing of the particulars, but what we gather from the prophets, or from the more circumstantial history of the collateral reigns in the kingdom of Judah; insomuch that human victims may have been offered to the calves, or the wor-shippers of the calves may have been compelled to dip their hands in the blood of Moloch's victims; though no evidence of either practice remains, but this allusion of the prophet Hosea; which leaves some degree of doubt between the two. Sacrifices to the calves themselves seem to me the more probable object of the allusion.
When it is recollected, that Solomon himself built a temple to Moloch, and that Ahab introduced the worship of the Tyrian Baal in the kingdom of Samaria, and that both these idols were appeased with infant blood; there is too much reason to believe, that the practice must have begun early in both kingdoms; although it probably was late before it came to a height in either. And yet the first mention of it, in the history of the kingdom of Samaria, is when the sacred writer closes that history, with an enumeration of the crimes which provoked the judgment of God, and brought on its ruin, 2 Kings 17:17. Nevertheless, it is certain, that this abominable custom was of older date, and perhaps of not much older date, in the kingdom of Samaria, than in that of Judah. For, in the kingdom of Judah, Ahaz is the first king, of whom we read that he adopted the practice. And it is mentioned, as one of the things in which he followed the example of the kings of Israel;—Ahaz—did not that which was right in the sight of Jehovah, like David his father. But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, insomuch that he passed his son through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, &c. See 2 Kings 16:2-3.
Upon the whole, it may be concluded with certainty, from this text of Hosea, that, in the latter period of the monarchy of the ten tribes, the practice of human sacrifices came to such a height, and was so much countenanced by the kings and rulers, that it was either enjoined as an essential in the worship even of the calves; or required of their worshippers, with regard to other idols, as the only condition upon which even that shadow of the true worship would be tolerated. The time when this took place cannot be determined with certainty; I think it must have been as early as the reign of Menahem; for, from the expressions in 2Ki 16:3 we may gather, that Ahaz had the example of more kings of Israel than one or two, for the detestable rites which he introduced among his own subjects.
Hosea 13:4. Yet I am, &c.— For I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt: And thou shalt see that there is no other God but me, nor any Saviour beside me. Houbigant.
Hosea 13:5. I did know thee, &c.— I fed thee, &c. Houbigant after the LXX.
Hosea 13:6. According to their pasture, so were they filled— But they were filled in their pastures. Houbigant.
Hosea 13:7. As a leopard, &c.— As a leopard in the way to the Assyrians. Houbigant.
Hosea 13:9-10. O Israel, &c.— O Israel, I will destroy thee, and who shall bring thee help?
Hosea 13:10. Where now is thy king, that he may save thee in all thy cities? And thy judges, &c. Houbigant.
Hosea 13:11. I gave thee a king— I will give thee a king in mine anger, and will take him away, &c. We retain the future, because this may be considered as an answer to the demand just made, Give me a king, &c.
Hosea 13:12. The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up, &c.— The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up in a bundle: His sin is kept as a deposit. Houbigant. It is laid by as a treasure; it is not forgotten; the time for punishing Ephraim is not come, though it is not far off. Manet alta mente repostum.
Hosea 13:13. The sorrow, &c.— The sorrrows of a travailing woman shall come on his account: But he is a foolish infant; nor will he place himself where is the breaking forth of children. Houbigant.
Hosea 13:14. I will ransom them, &c.— Shall I deliver them from the jaws of the grave? Shall I redeem them from death? O death! where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy destructive power? Houbigant. If the ideas here used primarily refer to the restoration of the Jews; they have also, no doubt, an immediate reference to that great subject to which St. Paul applies them; 1 Corinthians 15:54-55.
Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes— The frequent and sudden transitions from threatening to promise, from indignation to pathetic persuasion, and the contrary, produce much obscurity in the latter part of this prophet; which however disappears, when breaks are made in the proper places. In the 13th verse, the peril of Ephraim's situation, arising from his own hardened thoughtlessness, is described in the most striking images. In the 14th, God the Saviour comforts him with the promise of the final deliverance of the Jewish nation. In these words, which may be rendered, No repentance is discoverable to my eye, the Saviour complains, that these terrors and these hopes are all ineffectual: that he perceives no signs of repentance wrought by them. The Hebrew sounds literally, "Repentance is hidden from mine eyes." The total defect of the thing is most strongly expressed in the assertion, that nothing of it is to be discerned by the all-searching eye of the divine Saviour. This complaint of universal impenitence, with the reason assigned, introduces new threatening, with which the chapter ends. The reason assigned for the impenitence is, that Ephraim is run wild among savage beasts, broken loose from the restraints of God's holy law, given up to his depraved appetites, and turned mere heathen.
Hosea 13:15. Though he be fruitful among his brethren— Though he had been fruitful; יפריא iaprii: in which word there is an allusion to the name Ephraim; אפרי apri, which comes from פרה parah; and therefore the similitude is continued throughout the verse.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The sin which above all others filled up the measure of Israel's crimes was their idolatry, and this is here especially reproved.
1. It had been the bane of their prosperity, and the cause of all their miseries. When Ephraim spake, trembling, with deep veneration towards the divine Majesty, and with filial fear before him; he exalted himself in Israel, grew distinguished and great among the tribes; or when he spake there was trembling, all heard him with respect and honour; but when he offended in Baal, he died, they went apace to ruin, and at last perished as a nation for their idolatry. Note; As godliness is the honour and stability of a nation, so sin is the shame, and, sooner of later, will be the ruin of any people.
2. They had multiplied their abominations. And now they sin more and more; having once offended in Baal, they grew worse and worse; and have made molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen; miserable gods! which silver could make, and craftsmen deify. They say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves, in token of religious adoration, when they brought their offerings; or, Let the sacrificers of men kiss the calves, those who offered human sacrifices to these hated idols.
3. God's wrath is denounced upon them for their idolatries. Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, which vanishes before the sun; and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, light, worthless, and weak; and as the smoke out of the chimney, which is scattered as it rises. So easily, speedily, and universally, would their ruin come upon them by the army of the Assyrians.
2nd, We may observe,
1. The obligations that God had laid upon them. Yet, notwithstanding their provocations, I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt; from the day that he took them thence, he declared his regard to them; and to this day was ready to own the relation, on their penitent return to him. And thou shalt know no God but me: they ought to have known no other, and would find by experience none but he able to save them; for there is no saviour besides me: on whatever else they placed their confidence, they would be assuredly disappointed. I did know thee in the wilderness, when reduced to the greatest distress, in the land of great drought, where every necessary of life was wanting; yet he liberally provided for them, brought water from the rock, rained manna from heaven, and fed them by daily miracles.
2. Their ingratitude to God for these mercies. According to their pasture, so were they filled: they rioted in luxury when he brought them into Canaan: they were filled with plenty there provided for them, and their heart was exalted; their sensuality made them proud and secure: therefore have they forgotten me. Note; Worldly prosperity is very apt to seduce the heart from God; and such is the vileness of sinners, that the mercies which should excite their love, and quicken their thankfulness, too often make them forget the giver in the gift, and abuse in pride and luxury the blessings which he bestows.
3. The wrath denounced against them for their base-ness. Therefore I will be unto them as a lion, &c. By all these beasts of prey the Lord designs to shew the severity of his vengeance, and the terrible ravages which should be made among them: with the lion's strength, the lynx or leopard's eye, and the fury of a bear bereaved of her whelps, shall the Assyrians, the beasts that he sends among them, mark them out for the slaughter, rush on them unable to resist, and tear them in pieces without remorse or pity. So fearful a thing is it to fall into the hands of the living God, if his wrath be kindled, yea, but a little. Sinner, how can thine heart endure, when God shall thus deal with thee?
3rdly, The prophet pathetically laments the miseries of his people; O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself: their sins were the cause of all the threatened judgments, and they had only themselves to blame for their sufferings. And this is most applicable to every fallen creature, who by his sins has most justly provoked God's wrath and indignation against him, and must perish eternally, if through the rich grace of God he do not penitently return to the only true refuge of Israel. But in me is thine help: desperate as their case appeared, God was still able and willing to save them when they truly turned to him. The most guilty need not despair of pardon, nor the most helpless of deliverance, if they desire to return; since God has laid help on one mighty to save. Though in and of ourselves not a ray of hope appear, yet they who look to him shall hear his atoning Blood speak peace to their consciences, and find his almighty grace effectual to subdue their corruptions.
1. The first step that led to their destruction was, calling off the divine government and asking a mortal king instead of the immortal God. And where is thy king now, that he may save thee in all thy cities? Unable to protect them, he is a captive himself: so foolish as well as sinful an exchange had they made, when God had said, I will be thy king, whom they rejected. And where are thy judges, of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes? They are now no longer able to support the sinking state. I gave thee a king in mine anger; for God sometimes is pleased to gratify the desires of the wicked, and make the thing which they ask their heaviest curse and plague; and I took him away in my wrath, either Saul, or, as the words may be rendered, I will take him away, that is Hoshea, the last king of Israel, with whom the whole nation was destroyed, or carried into captivity. Thus God in wrath takes away what he gave in anger, and leaves us to mourn in bitterness our perverseness and folly.
2. Their other sins were many, and ready to be produced against them. The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up, his sin is hid. The sinner himself is little apprized of the black catalogue of sins ready to be produced against him; but they are all upon record, treasured up against the day of wrath. The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him, distress and anguish the most agonizing and painful. He is an unwise son, who will neither learn of God's word nor be taught by his judgments; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children. He considers not how to extricate himself from his troubles, or by repentance to prevent them, struggling no more than a still-born child. Or the words may be rendered, For he will not stay the time for the breaking forth of children: they would not wait for the Messiah, who should bring many sons unto glory; but turned from him to serve idols; and thus were cut off in their sins, because they rebelled against their God.
3. Their judgment is threatened. Though he be fruitful among his brethren, as the name Ephraim signifies, increased in numbers, abounding in wealth and honour, an east wind shall come, the army of the Assyrians marching rapidly and irresistibly; the wind of the Lord, as being sent and commissioned by him, shall come up from the wilderness, hot and scorching, as it sometimes blew in the sandy deserts; and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up, their country laid utterly desolate; and he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant places; the Assyrian monarch shall seize all their richest and most valuable possessions: Samaria shall become desolate, her palaces laid in the dust, her houses without inhabitants; for she hath rebelled against her God by her idolatries and other sins. They shall fall by the sword of the enemy, their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with-child shall be ripped up: such inhuman massacres should the Assyrians commit, in revenge of their perfidy, and the long siege that they sustained. While we read with horror, let it be remembered, such is man! and nothing but the restraints of grace prevent the world from being an Aceldama, a field of blood.
4. One gracious promise serves to brighten up this dark scene. Though they had rejected God's government and worship, yet still, says he, I will be their king, to rescue and save from the hand of their enemies all who return to him: I will ransom them from the power of the grave; not merely from their state of captivity, in which they seemed as buried; but these promises look forward to the great salvation of Jesus, who is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him: I will redeem them from death, raising all the faithful from the death of sin to a life of righteousness, in virtue of the price that he has paid on the cross; and at the last day he will come to raise the bodies of his saints from their graves, fashioned like to his glorious body: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction. Death is already a vanquished foe to the faithful through the resurrection of Jesus, and shortly it will be intirely swallowed up in victory, when its very being shall be destroyed, and the grave no more devour, because there shall be no more death. Well may the apostle triumph in the prospect, and every faithful soul exult in this glorious hope! Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes: the promise may be considered as given to the faithful; the victory is sure to them: therefore we may confidently trust, and not be afraid.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Hosea 13". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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