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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Hosea 3



By the expiation of an adulterer, is shewed the desolation of Israel before their restoration.

Before Christ 786.

Verse 1

Hosea 3:1. Beloved of her friend, &c.— Given to wickedness, and an adulterer. A different woman is here meant from that which he had before espoused. The first denoted the infidelity of the kingdom of Israel, and God's divorce of them. He abandoned them to the enemy, and permitted them to be carried into captivity. This marks out the state of this spouse, divorced, but not continuing in the practice of idolatry. This was the disposition of the Jews during the Babylonish captivity; snatched, as it were, by force, from the objects of their impure love, they continued in their exile, almost equally separated from their God and their idols: but with this difference, that their God did in some sense retain towards them as a nation sentiments of affection, expecting on their part true repentance. It has generally been thought, that the ancient idolaters used to offer flaggons of wine to the gods, and that the prophet alludes to this at the end of the verse. The words seem in general to express their leaving the service of God, and making themselves like idolatrous people, in following after bodily delights and pleasures; as drunkenness, gluttony, and the like, which the service of those idols did not only permit, but require. See Calmet, and Pococke.

Verse 3

Hosea 3:3. Thou shalt abide, &c.— By these conditions which the prophet makes with the woman whom he was to take, that she should humble herself, and not run about after others, as formerly, but remain sequestered and solitary, and that for many days, &c. must be meant, with respect to Israel, that God, though he separate himself for a long time from them, and humble them by reducing them to a low condition, and restraining them from their idolatry and former luxury; yet will not so utterly reject them, but that he will in due time, upon their repentance, again receive them. So will I also be for thee: that is, though he thus require her to sit solitary and sequestered, yet his care shall not be withdrawn from her. He will all the while bear a kindness and respect to her, that he may at length, upon her true contrition, enlarge her. See Pocoke.

Verse 4

Hosea 3:4. Without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim. After much consideration of the passage, and of much that has been written upon it by expositors, I rest in the opinion strenuously maintained by the learned Pococke, in which he agrees with many that went before him, and has the concurrence of many that came after, Luther, Calvin, Vatablus, Drusius, Livelye, Houbigant, and Archbishop Newcome, with many others of inferior note; I rest, I say, after much consideration, in the opinion, that image, (or rather statue,) ephod, and teraphim, are mentioned as principal implements of idolatrous rites. And the sum of this fourth verse is this; that for many ages the Jews would not be their own masters; would be deprived of the exercise of their own religion, in its most essential parts; not embracing the Christian, they would have no share in the true service, and yet would be restrained from idolatry, to which their forefathers had been so prone. But as the prophesy contained in this verse, is peculiarly descriptive of the state of the Jewish nation since their dispersion by the Romans, and as interpreters differ much in their explanations of the latter part of Hosea 3:4. I shall not perhaps do justice to my critical readers, if I withhold from them a full disquisition of the passage.

An ephod seems to have been a garment, like a cloak without sleeves, covering the body as low as the pit of the stomach before, and as low as the shoulder-blades behind. It seems to have taken its name from the straitness of its collar, and the manner in which it was fastened about the person. The ephod of the high-priest was of costly materials, and the richest embroidery; and it made a very principal part of his robes of office. But something of a similar shape, and of the same name, but made of plain linen, was worn by the inferior priests, see 1Sa 22:18 and occasionally at least by other persons, 1 Samuel 2:18. But it appears also, that idolaters, at least the idolatrous Israelites, sometimes dressed up the images of the deities they worshipped, in a gorgeous ephod resembling that of the high-priest, and made perhaps in imitation of it. And this was so principal, and so sacred a part of the idol's robes, that the word was sometimes used as a name for the idol itself. Thus certainly we must understand Gideon's ephod; when it is said, "that he set it up, יצג iatseg, in his own city, in Ophrah, and that all Israel went a-whoring after it; which thing became a snare unto Gideon and his house," Judges 8:27. This ephod was made, according to the sacred historian, of the spoils of the slaughtered Midianites, the purple robes of their kings, the gold of their ear-rings, and other ornaments. Insomuch that, in the costliness of the materials, it much resembled the sacred ephod of the high-priest. But when it is said, that it "was set up in Ophrah, and that all Israel went a-whoring after it," the robe is certainly put for an image, which was adorned with it, and drew so much admiration, that it became an object of idolatrous adoration. The ephod, therefore, appears to have been a principal ornament both of the true and of the false worship; and when the word is used, in the figurative language of prophesy, as it is in this passage, to express in general the external grandeur of public institutions; it is in itself of ambiguous import, and its connexions in the context must determine, whether it refers to the approved forms of a pure service, or to idolatry. That it refers to the latter in the text, is evident from the connection with statues or images mentioned next before, and teraphim next after the ephod; for both these will be found to be produced here, as principal articles of the furniture of idolatry.

We find the teraphim among some of the worshippers of Jehovah in the patriarchal ages, and among heathen idolaters afterwards; for Laban, who was a worshipper of Jehovah, had his teraphim, (Genesis 31:19.) and Nebuchadnezzar had his, Ezekiel 21:21. They seem to have been images, made in some general resemblance of the person of a man, 1Sa 19:13; 1 Samuel 19:16. The teraphim of the heathen idolaters were probably imitations of those of the worshippers of Jehovah mentioned above; for the ancient idolatry was in every thing a mimickry and mis-application of the patriarchal symbols. The teraphim of idolaters were magical images, used for the purposes of divination, as appears in particular from Ezekiel in the place quoted. But the patriarchal teraphim were probably emblematical figures, like the cherubim; like those I mean of the simpler sort, which were seen in the ornaments of the more open parts of the tabernacle, and of the temple. The teraphim I take to have been figures of the like mystic import; but of materials less costly, of coarser work, and certainly upon a smaller scale. But it is certain that the use of them was absolutely forbidden to God's people; and, long before the time of the prophet Hosea, they were considered as a part of the worst rubbish of idolatry, which it became the duty of the pious to destroy. When the prophet Samuel would represent to Saul the enormity of his crime, in not having executed the command of God, he could find nothing worse with which he could compare it, than the sin of witchcraft and teraphim, 1 Samuel 15:23. The teraphim are numbered among the abominations in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, which Josiah put away, 2 Kings 23:24. From all this I cannot but conclude, that the teraphim, in the text of Hosea, are to be understood of nothing but implements of idolatrous rites, images consecrated to the purposes of magic and divination.

I come now to the image or statue, the first word of the three, which will require no long discussion. This, like the teraphim, had been in use among many of the worshippers of Jehovah in early ages; but was absolutely prohibited by Moses. A statue, מצבה matsebah, signifies any thing, more especially of stone, erected or set up as a monument or memorial; but particularly as a religious monument. The heathen idolaters, instead of simple pillars, set up images carved in the human, or other form, to represent the object of their worship. This abuse was certainly ancient, and gave occasion to the strict prohibition of the Mosaic law, "Ye shall make you no idols, nor graven image; neither rear you up מצבה matsebah, a standing image [statue, or pillar,]" Leviticus 26:1. "After this prohibition," says Dr. Pococke, "we cannot look on any such used in religious worship, but as a part, and so a sign, of the falseness of that worship. And so here therefore [in this text of Hosea] to say, the children of Israel shall be without such, is as much as to say, that they shall not have free exercise of their former ways of idolatry."

If I may offer a conjecture concerning the difference between these idolatrous statues and the teraphim, I would say, that the statues were of large dimensions, set up in public, as objects of popular adoration: the teraphim were of a smaller size, and for different purposes, kept in the most sacred recesses of temples, or consecrated chapels, for magical rites, and rarely, if ever, exposed to public view.
Thus, since it appears, that both the statue and the teraphim of Hosea were implements of idolatry, no doubt can remain, that the ephod, which is mentioned between the two, is to be understood of the idolatrous ephod, not of that which belonged to the holy vestments of the high-priest. As it is put between the statue and the teraphim, it may seem, that it may be connected with either: con-necked with the statue, it will denote the robe with which the idol was clothed: connected with the teraphim, the ephod of the priest of the teraphim. And in this connection (to which indeed the structure of the sentence in the original seems to point in preference) I would choose to take it. For thus we shall have the idolatry described, by the three principal features in its external appearance; the statue, the public object of popular adoration; the teraphim, the images of the more secret rites of incantation; and the sorcerer, or hierophant, conducting the ceremonies, and propounding to the consulters of the oracle the answers that he pretended to receive, represented by the ephod, the most remarkable of his robes of office. See Bishop Horsley.
Let us now just notice how exactly this prophesy of Hosea has been accomplished ever since the dispersion of the Jews by the Romans. They have had no king or prince of their own, nor any sacrifice: and yet they have kept themselves free from all idolatrous rites. But alas! they have rejected their own Messiah—they are without Christ!

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The prophet still speaks of himself under the character of a man who hath betrothed a woman and loved her, though an adulteress, and her affections placed upon another; and this in order to reproach the baseness and ingratitude of the people of Israel, who had thus treacherously departed from God.

1. The prophet represents their baseness and ingratitude, and God's amazing forbearance towards them, notwithstanding they had played the harlot and gone after idols, looking to them for help and comfort, delighting in drunkenness and intemperance; and the better pleased with their abominable deities because their feasts were thus celebrated. Note; A drunkard will ever pay his adorations where there are flagons of wine. Such infamous conduct might well provoke God's abhorrence; yet, astonishing to tell! he was still willing to tender his grace, and to receive the returning penitent, though an adulteress. Note; The soul which is brought to a real sight of its own vileness, stands amazed at God's grace, that he should ever respect a wretch, where there was nothing to engage his love, but every thing to excite his loathing.

2. He describes the gracious method that God took to bring them home to himself. By the price that the prophet pays for this adulteress, is represented the vileness and worthlessness of that sinful people. It was but half as much as was paid for a slave, Exo 21:32 and the barley may typify the wretched state to which, during their captivity, the Israelites should be reduced. So I bought her, &c. and I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days, as a widow in solitude, and lamenting their pass ill conduct: and thou shalt not be for another man, not commit adultery any more; so will I be also for thee; after proper trial and correction and genuine repentance, God will again own the relation of a husband. Note; (1.) Though God has designs of grace towards a penitent sinner, he is sometimes pleased to leave him for a while under deep convictions and sad apprehensions of his state, the more to endear the mercy when he receives him into the bosom of his love. (2.) From the moment the grace of God is revealed to the sinner, he separates himself from his iniquities. (3.) God waits to be gracious: when we desire to return and be for him alone, he is ready to receive us, and engages to be ours.

2nd, This parable is particularly applied to the people of Israel.
1. They shall be left desolate as a widow. They shall abide many days without a king and without a prince, &c. which has been the case with the ten tribes since their captivity by Salmaneser, and is at present the state of the whole Jewish nation, and has been above seventeen hundred years. They are without any form of civil government; have no sacrifice; and are without an image, &c. being entirely cured, of idolatry. See the Annotations.

2. They shall at last, when penitently returning to the true Messiah, be received again as a wife. Afterward, when the days of their separation are ended, shall the children of Israel return from their long apostacy, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, the rejected Messiah, whom they will then receive for their Lord and King, earnestly soliciting to be admitted into his church; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days, with filial fear of offending any more a God so gracious. Which prophesy, whatever reference it may have to those Jews who were converted by the first preaching of the Gospel, looks undoubtedly to some glorious future day for its full accomplishment. Note; (1.) They who would return to God and find mercy, must diligently seek him through the Son of his love. (2.) If Christ be our king, we must prove our loyalty by our fidelity. (3.) A sense of God's goodness, and of the baseness of ingratitude, more powerfully restrains a pious soul from offending than any servile fears of wrath.

Verses 4-5

Hosea 3:4-5. For the children of Israel shall abide, &c.— This threatening was fulfilled upon the ten tribes, when they were carried captive by Salmaneser; but was fulfilled in a remarkable manner upon the whole nation at the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus; for from that time they have had neither republic nor civil government of their own, but live every where like so many exiles. They have had neither priests nor sacrifices, their temple being destroyed, where only they were permitted to offer sacrifices. It is added in the next verse, that, touched with a true remorse for their former errors, especially that of rejecting the Messiah, and desirous of being instructed in the knowledge of truth, Israel should return, and seek the Lord, and David their king; that is to say, the Messiah, by the confession of the Chaldee itself. And indeed there can be no doubt that Jesus Christ is the grand literal object of this prophesy; and that it also refers to the final restoration of the Jews. See Jeremiah 23:5.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Hosea 3". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.