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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Hosea 6

CHAP. VI.

An exhortation to repentance. A complaint of their untowardness and iniquity.

Before Christ 780.

Verse 1

Hosea 6:1. Come, and let us return, &c.— Almost all the ancients connect this with the preceding chapter, by the words, And they shall say,—Come, &c.

Verse 2

Hosea 6:2. After two days, &c.— In the style of Scripture, captivity, oppression, servitude, are frequently represented under the name of death; and a deliverance from these evils is called a resurrection,—a return to light,—to life,—new life, &c. We have examples of this in Ezekiel, Daniel, and many other parts of Scripture. The captives in Assyria and Babylon, burdened with the weight of their evils, encourage each other, and say, "Come, let us return to the Lord: he it is who hath brought us into this estate under which we groan: he is able, if he think fit, to deliver us from it in two or three days: nothing is difficult to him. Full of mercy as he is, he will not permit us to continue long in captivity and oppression, wherein we are buried like the dead in the tomb." The number of two or three days denotes the readiness and facility wherewith they flattered themselves that the Lord would save them. It is easy to remark, that these words of the prophet have a farther and more noble respect than to the return of the people from captivity; and they have been generally understood, as referring to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ; most of the ancient interpreters supposing that St. Paul alludes to them, 1 Corinthians 15:4. See Calmet, and Pococke.

Live in his sight Live in his presence. Jehovah, who had departed, will return, and again exhibit the signs of his presence among his people. So the converted and restored Jews will live in his presence. The two days and the third day, observes Bishop Horsley, seem to denote three distinct periods of the Jewish people. The first day is the captivity of the ten tribes by the Assyrians, and of the two under the Babylonians, considered as one judgment upon the nation; beginning with the captivity of the ten, and completed in that of the two. The second day is the whole period of the present condition of the Jews, beginning with the dispersion of the nation by the Romans. The third day is the period yet to come, beginning with their restoration at the second advent. R. Tanchum, as he is quoted by Dr. Pococke, was not far, I think, from the true meaning of the place. "The prophet," he says, "points out two times—and those are the first captivity, and a second. After which shall follow a third [time]; redemption: after which shall be no depression or servitude." And this I take to be the sense of the prophesy in immediate application to the Jews. Nevertheless, whoever is well acquainted with the allegorical style of prophesy, when he recollects, that our Lord's sufferings were instead of the sufferings and death of sinners; that true believers are baptized into his death; and by baptism into his death are buried with him; and that he, rising on the third day, raised us to the hope of life and immortality; will easily perceive no very obscure, though but an oblique, allusion to our Lord's resurrection on the third day: since every believer may speak of our Lord's death and resurrection, as a common death and resurrection of all the faithful saints of God.

Verse 3

Hosea 6:3. Then shall we know, if, &c.— Let us meet together, therefore, and studiously inquire after the knowledge of the Lord. Houbigant. The captives of Babylon promise themselves that the Lord will come to them, and appear like the brightness of the morning, in the midst of the dark night of their exile; or as the refreshing rain upon the parched earth. So the Lord Jesus Christ, in his resurrection, appeared as the morning, or rather as the rising sun, to illuminate the world.

Verse 4

Hosea 6:4. O Ephraim! what shall I do, &c.— This is the answer of the Lord to the prayer or promises of Judah and Israel.

Your goodness חסד chesed. The various senses of this word are well enumerated by Vitringa upon Isaiah 40:6. But the general radical meaning of the word is by none so well developed, as by Mr. Parkhurst. Exuberance is included in the notion of it, in all its applications. The exuberant kindness of God to man; overflowing piety of man towards God; exuberant kindness of man to man; exuberant pruriency of inordinate lust; exuberance of wrath, and of reproachful language, in its good sense, the word "mercy" is inadequate, in the application of it either to God, or man. As from God to man, exuberant or abundant kindness is in general the best English word. As between man and man, "exceeding kindness." In many passages in which it is rendered "mercy," it properly signifies "philanthropy," displaying itself in a general mildness and gentleness of manners. This is clearly the sense in Pro 11:17 and, I think, in many other passages, in which it is not applied to any individual act. As from man to God, "piety," swelling in the heart, and displaying itself in acts of devotion. In this place, I think, it signifies that sudden flow of piety, which occasionally comes upon men of very loose lives, if they are not wholly lost to all sense of religion; particularly under afflictions, which produce a momentary penitence.

Munster pertinently remarks, that the Jewish nation had its transient fits of reformation, cutting down the groves, killing the priests of Baal; but they soon returned to their abominations. Houbigant renders this latter clause of the verse, That mercy may be present to you like a morning cloud, and as the dew which is poured forth early.

Verse 5

Hosea 6:5. Therefore have I hewed them Or, Therefore have I cut them down. Houbigant reads, Certainly I have done what it pleased me to your prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth; and light shall arise from my judgments upon thee: "That light which you hoped for, of the approaching morning, or of recovered liberty." See Houbigant.

Verse 6

Hosea 6:6. I desired mercy, and not sacrifice Or, Rather than sacrifice. See Matthew 9:13. I think the word חסד chesed, which we translate mercy, is used here in a comprehensive sense; signifying both piety towards God, and philanthropy, I can find no single word to answer to it, but charity. For charity, in the evangelical sense, is the love of man founded upon the love of God, and arising out of it.

Verse 7

Hosea 6:7. Like men It should be rendered, Like Adam. As Adam transgressed a plain command; so the Israelites transgressed the plainest and the easiest precepts. As Adam's crime was not to be excused by any necessity or want; so the Israelites, secure under the protection of Jehovah, had they continued faithful to him, had no excuse in seeking other aids. Adam revolted from God to Satan; so the Israelites forsook God to worship devils. Adam broke that one command, on which the justification of himself and his posterity depended; so the Israelites broke the one precept of love. See Bishop Horsley.

There And in that; namely, in transgressing the covenant.

Verse 8

Hosea 6:8. And is polluted with blood "It is now no longer what it ought to be, a city of refuge, but the city of bloodshed and slaughter."

Verse 9

Hosea 6:9. So the company of priests murder, &c.— So the company of priests meet together, and murder the traveller at Shechem; that they may execute their wickedness. The prophet seems to mean that wickedness by which those men of the kingdom of Israel who worshipped the true God were prohibited from going to Jerusalem; and who, if they attempted to do so secretly, and were found out, were put to death. See Houbigant.

Verse 11

Hosea 6:11. Also, O Judah But for thee, O Judah, a harvest is prepared, then when I shall bring back the captivity of my people. Houbigant. See ch. Hosea 2:15; Hosea 2:21. Harvest-work is cut out for Judah at the season of bringing back the captivity. The tribe of Judah is in some extraordinary way to be an instrument of the general restoration of the Jewish people. Observe, that the vintage is always an image of the season of judgment; but the harvest, of the ingathering of the objects of God's final mercy. I am not aware, that a single unexceptionable instance is to be found, in which the harvest is a type of judgment. In Revelation 14:15-16. "the sickle is thrust into the ripe harvest, and the earth is reaped;" that is, the faithful are gathered from the four winds of heaven. The wheat of God is gathered into his barn, (Matthew 13:30.) After this reaping of the earth, the sickle is applied to the clusters of the vine; and they are cast into the great wine-press of the wrath of God. Revelation 14:18-20. This is judgment. In Joe 3:13 the ripe harvest is the harvest of the vine, that is, the grapes for gathering, as appears by the context. In Jer 51:33 the act of threshing the corn upon the floor, not the harvest, is the image of judgment. It is true, the burning of the tares in our Saviour's parable, Matthew 13:0 is a work of judgment, and of the time of harvest, previous to the binding of the sheaves. But it is an accidental adjunct of the business, not the harvest itself. I believe the harvest is never primarily, and in itself, an image of vengeance.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Their prayers promised a speedy return to God, in the close of the last chapter; and therefore the prophet, with the faithful souls among them, is represented as exciting and encouraging them to put in execution the gracious purposes that they had formed; for good desires should never be suffered to cool.

1. The matter of their exhortation is, Come, and let us return unto the Lord, from whom we have so greatly departed, renouncing now all other confidences and idol-worship, and depending on him alone for help.

2. The motives on which they press such a return, are many and powerful.
[1.] They are assured of his help and healing, if they will return. They had felt by dire experience his power to destroy, and the same hand was as able to save them, and would assuredly be stretched out on their repentance to raise them from their depressed and wretched state. After two days will he revive us, in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight; though we lie, as to all national honours and advantages, like dead corpses in our graves during the captivity, he will not suffer us utterly to perish as a nation, but after a short time he will restore us again to our own land, and give to our penitent souls a sense of his favour, and the light of his countenance. And this may refer to their restoration from the Babylonish captivity, or look forward to their recovery from their present dispersion. These words also may well relate to Christ rising on the third day from the dead; in whom also his faithful people rise by virtue of their union with him. Note; (1.) If we are torn and smitten, whatever be the instrument, God's appointing, permitting, or suffering hand is to be acknowledged. (2.) Whatever the hurt of the sinner may be, however deep the wounds of his conscience, they are not past the divine Physician's cure. (3.) Nothing is so encouraging a ground to return to God, as a believing view of the riches of his grace in Christ Jesus.

[2.] They shall then have their knowledge of God increased: Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord; we shall in this way know his power, grace, and love; and, encouraged by what we have attained, shall be reaching after greater measures of divine knowledge. Note; (1.) The most desirable of all attainments is the knowledge of God. (2.) They who have any true knowledge of God, desire by prayer, the word, and ordinances, to increase it yet more abundantly, and to attain that heavenly state where they shall know even as they are known.

[3.] They shall then enjoy the richest consolations: His going forth is prepared as the morning; though God had left them to a dark night of affliction, yet, like the returning sun he was ready to arise upon them with healing in his wings; and sure as the return of the morning, and cheering as the light of day, would be the return of his favour and grace to them, whenever they truly sought him: and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth; in the abundance of his blessings, as these seasonable showers caused the barns to be filled with corn, and their vats to overflow with wine and oil. And these promises, whatever particular respect they had to the recovery of the Jews from Babylon, look forward to the days of the Messiah, the glorious Sun of Righteousness, whose blessed Gospel, like the dew of heaven, should drop upon the souls of sinners, and fill the face of the world with fruit: but especially they look forward to the final restoration of the Jewish nation.

2nd, There appeared promising hopes that a reconciliation would be effected: but we have,
1. Their hypocrisy, and the concern that God expressed thereat: O Ephraim, &c. O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? what could be done that he had not done to reclaim them; and, though it had been hitherto ineffectual, he speaks with reluctance, as yet unwilling to give them up, though they had so justly deserved it; for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away, so shortlived was the reformation under Jehu, and in the days of Hezekiah and Josiah. Note; (1.) God's compassion to sinners is amazing, and his patience and dealings with them must leave them without excuse. (2.) Many begin well, and for a while make a fair religious profession, whose goodness has no more abidance than the morning cloud, and vanishes as the early, dew before the sun of persecution or the blasts of temptation.

2. God had severely rebuked them for their unfaithfulness. Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets, sharply reproving their hypocrisy, and cutting them to the heart with denunciation of wrath: I have slain them by the words of my mouth, devoting them to death, and then it is as sure if they do not repent, as if every word was a drawn sword; and by judgments are as the light that goeth forth; God's warnings were clear and plain, and the afflictions that they suffered evidently came from his appointing or permissive hand; so that then impenitence was inexcusable, and all that came upon them must needs appear altogether righteous and just. Note; (1.) The hearts of sinners are so hard and knotty, that God's ministers must use the sharp two-edged sword, and hew them by the terrors of the Lord, and with the remonstrances of their baseness and ingratitude. (2.) The threatenings which God pronounces against the ungodly, if they do not repent, are sure to be executed; they are already as dead men.

3. He tells them what he required of them. For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings; for these had in themselves no intrinsic value; their only use was, to point out the necessity of an Atonement, and to lead them to a Saviour; and when they rested in the form of godliness, while they neglected the power of it, the most expensive sacrifices were of no avail. The thing that God required was their heart, not their beasts; that they should know, acknowledge, worship and serve him as their Lord and God, and exercise mercy, חסד chesed, which may be rendered goodness, comprehending the whole scope of practical godliness, and proceeding from the divine principle of the love of God and man in the heart; and this must ever be remembered, since without it all professions of religion are but an empty name.

4. They shamefully transgressed the covenant like Adam the first sinner, or like men, the wicked ones in the old world, or the multitude of the ungodly who still abound; there have they dealt treacherously against me; even in the very sacrifices that they offered, and their other religious acts, they played the hypocrite; their hearts were wrong, and their very services therefore an abomination. And this was evident from their practice; Gilead is the city of them that work iniquity, the whole country was given up to it, or that particular city Ramoth-Gilead, inhabited by priests and Levites, whose wickedness was more criminal, and the influence of their bad examples more extensively fatal; for none do such irreparable hurt to men's souls, or wound the cause of God so deeply, as profligate worldly idolatrous ministers; and is polluted with blood, for ungodly ministers are the bitterest persecutors. Probably, this being a city of refuge, a bribe would protect wilful murderers, and for filthy lucre the innocent were delivered into the hands of the avenger of blood. Nor is it a wonder to see them sell men's bodies, when we daily see the more criminal sale of God's souls. And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent; the general body of them was corrupt, and they connived at and upheld each other in their wicked ways, and were ever ready to assist each other to persecute or oppress those against whom they bore enmity: or they murder in the way to Shechem, lying in wait for those pious Israelites who turned their backs on the calves, and were going up to Jerusalem to worship. They commit lewdness, or enormity, the most infamous crimes, with deep contrivance, as the word signifies; I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel; there is the whoredom of Ephraim, corporal and spiritual; Israel is defiled, the whole nation addicted to idolatry and lasciviousness. Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee, the time is fixed; and thou art ripe for ruin: or the words should be rather taken in another sense, and then the prophesy closes with a promise of mercy; But, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee, God hath joy in store for thee, when I returned, or return, the captivity of my people from Babylon; which would occasion great gladness through all the tribes; or, rather, it refers to their return to their own land from their present and last dispersion, which will prove the joy of the whole world. Note; (1.) Sin is a horrible thing; it should shock us wherever we see it committed. (2.) God's grace triumphs over our provocations, if we repent and return; and, though we deserve punishment, his thoughts toward us in such case will be thoughts of peace and not of evil.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Hosea 6". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/hosea-6.html. 1801-1803.