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The concluding thought of the last chapter is the commencing one of this; while the sad subject of Israel's guilt being resumed continues in the first section (Hosea 10:1-8) of the chapter, and that of their punishment in the second section (Hosea 10:9-15), with a solemn caution to make a better use of the future than they had clone of the past.
Israel is an empty vine. The comparison of Israel to a vine is frequent; but the epithet boqeq is variously rendered;
(1) as "empty." Thus Aben Ezra explains it as "empty in which there is no strength to bring forth fruit, nor fruit;" and thus also Kimchi explains it: "An empty vine in which there is not any life-sap;" and in the same sense בי ומי, "empty and sick," Nahum 2:11. This, too, is the meaning of the Authorized Version, but is irreconcilable with the statement in the following clause, "he bringeth forth fruit." The Chaldee had preceded in giving the word the sense of "plundered," "empty," "waste." But
(2) some take boqeq transitively, and attach to it the signification of "emptying out its fruit." In this way Rashi explains it: "The Israelites resemble a vine which casts all its good fruit;" and similarly the marginal rendering of the Authorized Version has, "a vine emptying the fruit which it giveth." There is
(3) a signification derivable from the primary meaning of boqeq more suitable than either of the preceding. From the primary sense of "pouring," "pouring itself out," or" poured out," and so overflowing, comes that of "luxuriant." Accordingly Gesenius translates, "a wide-spreading vine." This agrees with the Septuagint εὐκληματοῦσα, "a vine with goodly branches," to which the Vulgate frondosa, "leafy," nearly corresponds. In like manner De Wette renders it wuchernder, "growing prosperously." It was thus a vine of vigorous growth, and extending its branches far and wide; a parallel expression is found in the גי סֹרַחַת of Ezekiel 17:6, "a spreading vine." He (rather, it) bringeth forth fruit unto him self (itself). The word יְשַׁוֶּהliterally signifies "reset to" or "on," and is rightly rendered by Gesenius "to set" or "yield fruit." It is variously interpreted by the Hebrew commentators, but more or less erroneously by them all. Rashi takes it in the sense of "to profit;" Aben Ezra, "to bear" or "make equal;" and Kimchi informs us that the older interpreters understood in the sense of "lying," as if שוא, the whole phrase meaning, "the fruit will lie to him," that is, deceive or fail him (like Hosea 9:2). Kimchi himself takes the verb in the right sense, but, misled by his erroneous explanation of boqeq, empty or plundered, takes the clause interrogatively: "How shall he set on himself [equivalent to 'yield' any fruit], since he is as a plundered vine; for the enemies have plundered him and set him as an empty vessel? how should he still thrive and become numerous in children and treasures?" It makes little difference whether we take the second part of the first clause relatively or independently, as the sense amounts to the same. The meaning of the two difficult and disputed words then we take to be respectively "luxuriant" and "yield;" and the sense of the whole is either
(1) a comparison of the former state of Israel to a vine luxuriant and likely, as far as appearance went, to set forth fruit; but the luxuriance degenerated into leafage, and the likelihood of fruitage failed; or
(2) Israel is compared to a vine luxuriant in growth and abundant in fruit—but only for itself. The former explanation accords with that of Jerome when he says, "Unpruned vines luxuriate in the juice and leaves which they ought to transmute into wine. They disperse in the idle ambitious show of leaves and branches." The more abundantly a fruit tree gives out its strength in leaves and branches, the less abundant and the worse the quality of the fruit. Thus it was with the fig tree, with its abundant leaves and no fruit, which our Lord cursed. But with the same or a similar rendering there is the alternative sense of prosperous growth and plenteous fruit, but that fruit wasted on self or sin; and thus the meaning in either case is much the same. The Septuagint favors this by ὁ καρπὸς εὐθηνῶν αὐτῆς, equivalent to "its fruit exuberant." Cyril favors this latter also in saying, "When Israel still wisely led a life in accordance with the Divine Law, it was as a beautiful vine adorned with branches, which even the neighboring nations admired." This was exactly the state of Israel in the days of Joash and Jeroboam II.; but their prosperity was prostituted to purposes of idolatry. Jerome also, in any other part of his exposition, approaches this sense. Taking ישוּה, in the sense of "to equal," he says, "The fecundity of the grapes equaled the fecundity of the branches: but they who had previously been so fruitful before they offended God, afterwards turned the abundance of fruits into multiplied occasions of offence; and the greater the population they possessed, the more altars they built, and exceeded the abundant produce of the land by the multitude of their idols." Or the verb may mean, "it made fruit equal to itself;" nearly so the Vulgate. The fruit is agreeable to it. According to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars. In this second or middle clause of the verse the figure passes into the fact represented by it. It is no longer the vine, but Israel. The altars kept pace with the increase of population and abundant produce; the multiplication of altars for idolatrous sacrifice and service was proportionate to their prosperity. The le here and in next clause marks the circumlocutory genitive, and the ke is quantitative. According to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images (margin, statues, or, standing images). The matstsevoth here mentioned are στήλης in the LXX; that is, statues or pillars, and those pillars were erected to Baal or some other idol, as we read in 1 Kings 14:23. The plural of the verb in this last clause arises from Israel being a noun of multitude. Rashi gives the following brief exposition: "Just in proportion as I caused their prosperity to overflow to them, they multiplied calves for the altars;" but Kimchi explains both clauses more fully and accurately thus: "As I increased their prosperous state in treasures and children, they multiplied altars to Baal; as I did good to their land in corn and wine and oil, they waxed strong in setting up pillars for other gods;" the verb חטי has the same sense here as ההטי in Jonah 4:9.
Their heart is divided. Here their wickedness is traced to its fountainhead; its source was in the corrupt state of the heart. Their heart was
(1) divided, and so they halted between two opinions—between the worship of Jehovah and idolatry. Chalaq is taken in this signification by the Chaldee, Syriac, Septuagint, and Jerome, as also by the Hebrew commentators. The LXX. have
(a) ἐμέρισεν in the singular, which affords some support to Hitzig's rendering, "He (God)divided their heart,"—but this is unsuitable and unscriptural; another
(b) reading of the same version is ἐμέρισαν, "They have divided their hearts," which is somewhat better, yet incorrect.
(c) The Authorized Version is also questionable, as the verb is not used intransitively in Qal.
(2) Kimchi, indeed, understands chalaq as equivalent to niehloq in the Niphal, and interprets, "From the fear of God and from his Law their heart is divided," i.e. separated; similarly Rashi: "Their heart is divided from me;" Aben Ezra somewhat peculiarly, though to the same purport: "They (their heart) has not one part (but several),"or is divided. But, notwithstanding this consensus in favor of the meaning of "divide," the rendering preferred, and justly so, by modern expositors in general, is "smooth." This is, indeed, the primary sense, that of "divide" being secondary, as division was made by lot or a smooth stone, cheleq, used for the purpose.
(3) "Their heart is smooth," that is, bland, deceitful, hypocritical; though it must be admitted that the word is mostly applied to the tongue, lip, throat, mouth, speech, and not to the heart. Their heart was hypocritical and faithless. Now shall they be found faulty; rather, they shall be dealt with as such, or punished; better still, perhaps, is the rendering, now shall they atone. The "now" defines sharply the turning-point between God's love and God's wrath. The state of things hitherto existing cannot continue; it must soon come to an end. Ere long they are doomed to discover their guilt in its punishment; they shall find out their sin by suffering; suddenly and to their cost they shall have a fearful awaking to a sense of their iniquity by the inflictions of Divine wrath upon their guilty heads. He shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images. The verb עדףis peculiar; being a denominative from ערֶף, the neck, it signifies "to break the neck of," like the Greek τραχηλίζειν, decollate, then figuratively "tear down," "break in pieces." This bold expression of breaking the neck of the altars may allude to their destruction by breaking off the horns of the altars, or rather to their beheading, cutting off the heads of victims at those altars. The Hebrew expositors make the heart of the people, not God, the immediate object of the verb. "Their heart," says one of them, "shall tear down their altars and lay waste their pillars, because it is divided from me. It will tear down their altars which they are said also to have multiplied, and lay waste their pillars which they made so goodly." The means of sinning shall be taken from them and destroyed—their altars broken down and their images spoiled. As the heads of victims had been cut off at these altars erected for idolatrous worship; so the heads of their altars would be broken off.
For now they shall say, We have no king, because we feared not the Lord. In the day of their destruction Israel would be brought to see and even feel that the king appointed through their own self-will and fancied plenitude of power was unable to protect or help them, and that because they had rejected Jehovah and cast aside his fear. The point of time denoted by "now" is either when they see destruction before their eyes, or when Israel is already in captivity. Rashi explains it in the former sense: "When destruction shall come upon them, they shall say, 'We have no king,' that is, our king on whom we set our hopes when we said, 'Our king shall go out before us and light our battles,' affords us no help whatever." Kimchi explains similarly, but fixes the "now" in the time of the Captivity: "Now, when they shall be carried out of their land, they shall recognize and say, 'We have no king;' the explanation is, as it' we had no king among us, for there is no strength in him to deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, as we thought when we asked for a king who should march at our head and fight our battles. God—blessed be he!—was our King, and we needed no king, and he it was that delivered us out of the hand of our enemies when we did his will." Aben Ezra and others understand it as the expression of a wild licorice on the part of Israel, recklessly giving vent to an anarchical and atheistic spirit: "As soon as their heart was divided they had no wish to have a king over them, and had no fear of Jehovah; therefore they had no fear, and every one did what was right in his own eyes." This exposition neglects the note of time, as also the causal particle that follows. They bethought themselves that, as they had not feared Jehovah, but neglected his Law, the king which they had demanded could do them no good. "What," they asked, "can the king do for us? He has no power to deliver us, since God is angry with us, for we have sinned against him?" Such is the confession of Israel in captivity. Pusey remarks in reference to this: "In sin, all Israel had asked for a king, when the Lord was their King; in sin, Ephraim had made Jeroboam king; in sin, their subsequent kings were made, without the counsel and advice of God; and now, as the close of all, they reflect how fruitless it all was."
God, by the prophet, had charged Israel with fruitlessness, or with bringing forth fruit to themselves; with perverting the bounties of his providence in promoting idolatry; with their division of heart, or deceitfulness of heart. He had also threatened to punish them for their sin, and to deprive them of the means of sinning by destroying the instruments thereof, and to prevent their obtaining any help from their king, proving to them the folly of depending on him. He now proceeds, in this and following verses (Hosea 10:4-8), to point out their moral corruption, the usual consequence or concomitant of irreligion and of false religion, instancing their deceptive dealing in the common affairs of life and their perjury in public compacts or covenants, as also their general unrighteousness. He threatens to destroy their idols to the distress of their worshippers and ministering priests as well as of their chief city. He threatens further to cause their calf-idols to be carried into captivity, pouring shame and contempt on their enterprises; to cut off their king; to leave the places of their idol-worship desolate, filling the people with distress and despair because of all their sins. They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant. In this fourth verse the prophet deplores the absence of truth, faithfulness, and loyalty to duty. This expression, "they have spoken words," is generally understood to signify
(a) "empty words," "false words," only words and no more, like the Latin verba alicui dare. Thus their vain, deceitful, lying words in private transactions and common affairs of everyday life would correspond to their perjury in public treaties and covenants. Their words were deceitful and their oaths falsehood. In their ordinary business transactions they used words, empty words, words without truth, corresponding thereto; in international concerns they had pursued the same course of falsifying and covenant-breaking. After entering into an engagement with the Assyrian king Shalmaneser, they made a covenant with So King of Egypt, as we read in 2 Kings 17:4, "And the King of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea: for he had sent messengers to So King of Egypt, and brought no present to the King of Assyria, as he had done year by year." In this latter case they acted as covenant-breakers, and at the same time contravened the Divine command, which forbade them entering into covenants with foreigners. The first clause, however, is understood by some
(b) in the sense of "deliberating.' Thus Kimchi understands it, erroneously referring it to Jeroboam and his countrymen; thus: "Jeroboam and his companions took counsel what they should do in order to strengthen the government in his hand, and they deliberated (or held consultation) that the people should not go up to Jerusalem to the house of the sanctuary; and for this purpose they bound themselves by oath and made a covenant. But their oath was a vain one, because their oath was intended to frustrate the words of the Law and the command of God, and to make images for their worship." The words אָלוֹת שָוְא have been explained by some
(1) as "oaths of vanity," that is, oaths by vanity or an idol, as an oath of Jehovah is an oath by Jehovah, אָלוֹת being taken for a noun in the plural;
(2) as predicate, while the following words supply the subject; thus: "their covenant contracts are oaths of vanity." This mistake of taking אָלוֹת for a noun arose from the anomalous form of the word, which is really a verb. The form is explained by Aben Ezra, who calls it an irregular formation, as if it were compounded of the infinitive construct as indicated by the ending ־וֹת, and the infinitive absolute as indicated by the qamets in the first syllable; it is in reality the infinitive absolute, and the irregularity is owing to the assonance with karoth thence resulting. As to the construction, it is that of the infinitive standing in place of the finite verb, of which Gesenius says, "This is frequent... in the expression of several successive acts or states, where only the first of the verbs employed takes the required form in respect to tense and person, the others being simply put in the infinitive with the same tense and person implied." The meaning of the clause is obviously that there was no longer any respect for the sanctity of an oath; while the treaties refer to those made with the Assyrian king, with the object of securing and upholding the government.
Thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field. The judgment here spoken of is understood
(1) by the Hebrew interpreters, following the Chaldee Version, as the judgment of God and consequent punishment of Israel because of sin; thus Kinchi: "Therefore there springs up against them the judgment of chastisements and punishments like hemlock, which is a bitter herb that springs up on the furrows of the field." Some, again,
(2) explain it of the decree of the kings of Israel in reference to the worship of idols, which, like a bitter herb, was to issue in national ruin. We much prefer
(3) the more obvious sense of the clause which refers it to the perversion of judgment and justice. Thus Amos addresses them as those who "turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth," and calls on them to "establish judgment in the gate;" and Habakkuk writes, "Wrong [wrested] judgment proceedeth." It is implied in the mention of furrows that there has been careful preparation for the intended crop. The seed they sow is injustice; and the plant that springs up from it is a poison-plant—hemlock, bitter and noxious, and is everywhere rampant. Another
(4) explanation understands "judgment" in the sense of crime which calls on judgment for punishment. The field is that of the Israelitish nation; in all the furrows of that wide field judgment, that is, crime, springs up as luxuriantly and abundantly as hemlock. The multiplication of crime in Israel, like a luxurious noxious growth in some large field, is the idea thus conveyed. This explanation has the appearance at least of being somewhat strained and forced, though it yields a good sense.
The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear Because of the calves of Beth-aven. Samaria was the capital of Israel, the northern kingdom. Bethel means "house of God," once a place of sacred memory from its association with the history of the patriarch Jacob; afterward one of the two centers of idolatrous worship, and here called Beth-aven, "house of vanity," because of the idolatry. The word for "calves" is in the feminine, in order to express contempt for those idols which Jeroboam set up. With this have been compared the following expressions in Greek and Latin: Ἀχαΐ́ιδες οὐκ ἔτ Ἀχαιοὶ, and O vere Phrygiae, nec enim Phryges! The Hebrews ignored the existence of female divinities, as of their, ten names of the Deity all are masculine. The feminine may also imply their weakness; so far from helping their worshippers, their worshippers were in trepidation for them, or rather it, lest it should be carried away captive. Further, this same word is in the plural, to cast ridicule on it, as if mimicking the plural of majesty, or rather, perhaps, to include that of Dan, or to intimate that the calf of Bethel, the more celebrated place, was that after which the calf of Dan and probably those of other places were fashioned, especially so as it is afterwards referred to in the singular. Besides, a few—a very few—manuscripts, it is true, read the singular, as also the LXX; which has μόσχος, and the Syriac; while Bathe, relying on these authorities, maintains the reading to have been לְעֶגְלַת in the singular. Others suppose an enallage of both gender and number; or an indefinite generality is expressed by the plural, while for abstracts the feminine is used. The coming punishment is casting its shadow before, so that the inhabitants, perceiving symptoms of its approach, tremble for their god of gold, now, like themselves, in greatest jeopardy. For the people thereof shall mourn over it. The people of Israel are now called the people of the calf, as once they had been the people of Jehovah, and as Moab was called the people of Chemosh. They had chosen the calf for their god. Of their own free-will they had done so, though at first enjoined and prompted to adopt this course by the mandate of their king; they had even rejoiced and gloried in it. Now they mourn for their idol, which can neither help itself nor them. And the priests thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it. According to this rendering, the relative must be understood before "rejoiced," which, though quite possible and not ungrammatical, is, however, unnecessary. The Hebrew commentators all understand the word in the sense of "joy" or "jubilation;" thus Rashi says," Why is it that its people mourn over, it and its priests, who always rejoiced over it, now mourn over its glory that is gone away?" The word גִיל, however, is primarily "to twist or whirl one's self," and is thence applied to any violent emotion, generally of joy, also of anxiety and fear, as here, so that the simpler and more correct rendering is, the priests thereof shall tremble for it, for its glory, because it is departed from it. The priests here mentioned have a peculiar name, kemarim, from kamar, to be black, from the black garments in which they ministered, and are thus distinguished as ministers of a foreign cult; for kohen is the usual word for a Hebrew priest, and his robe of office is said to have been white. The glory of the calf-god was not the temple treasure at Bethel, nor its glory as the state God set up there, but the honor and the Divine halo with which its worship there was surrounded. Thus Kimchi: "When its glory is departed from it; and this means the honor of its worship. When the calf is broken before their eyes its glory shall depart from it." The perfects of "mourn" and "departed" are prophetic, denoting the certainty of the events, though yet future; while galah and yagilu form the favorite assonance. But a question still remains—Why is Samaria and not Beth-avert said to mourn? To this the explanation of Kimchi is a satisfactory reply: "The inhabitants of Samaria tremble. And the prophet makes mention of Samaria, though there were no calves there, because it was the metropolis of the kingdom, where the kings of Israel resided, and it was these kings who strengthened the people in the worship of the calves. And he says," When Bethel is laid waste, and the calves cannot deliver it, the inhabitants of Samaria tremble for themselves, which place (Samaria) the King of Assyria laid siege to for three years."
It shall he also carried unto Assyria for a present to King Jareb. Here we have an explanation and confirmation of what has just been said in the preceding verse. The calf, the glorious and magnificent national god, as Israel considered it, is brought to Assyria, and there offered as a present to the Assyrian king. The word gam is emphatic; that is, "it also," "itself also," or "it also with men and other spoils"—the golden idol of Beth-aven. Kimchi's explanation of gam is as follows: "Genesis, extension or generalization of the term, refers to the glory he bad mentioned. He says, 'Lo, in its place the glory shall depart from it as soon as they shall break it. Also, the stump of the calf, namely, the gold thereon, after its form is broken, they shall take away as a present to King Jareb.'" The sign of the accusative with suffix אוֹחו, which here stands before a passive verb, may be taken either
(1) absolutely, "as to it also," "it shall be brought ;" or
(2) as an instance of anacoluthon; or
(3), according to Gesenius, the passive may be regarded as an impersonal active, and thus it may take the object of the action in the accusative. The word yubhal is from yabhal, primarily used of flowing in a strong and violent stream, and so the root of מַבּוֹל, the flood; then it signifies "to go," "to be brought or carried." The minchah here spoken of cannot well mean tribute, but is rather a gift of homage to the Assyrian conqueror, whom the prophet m vision sees already wasting the land of Israel and carrying away all its treasures and precious things.
Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel. The feminine form, בָשְׁנָה—of which נּשֶׁן, the masculine, by analogy, is not in use—is wrongly explained by the Hebrew expositors as having a pleonastic nun. The construction usually preferred is
(1) that given above.
(2) Others render it, "Shame shall seize Ephraim;" but tiffs constructs a feminine noun with a masculine verb, contrary to grammar.
(3) Hitzig translates," He (the Assyrian king) shall take away or carry off the shame of Ephraim; that is, the calf-idol." He remarks that the construct feminine does not always in the speech of North Israel end in ־ת, and cites several passages in proof.
The counsel of which Israel would be ashamed is understood
(1) of the consultation held before making a covenant or treaty with the King of Assyria;
(2) it is generally and more correctly understood of Jeroboam taking counsel with his tribesmen of Ephraim about setting up the calf idols. Jareb is a proper name, or rather an appellation. The King of Assyria, or the great king, was looked up to by the smaller Asiatic states for protection, and consequently styled their Jareb, avenger or defender, just as σώτηρ, savior, was a title applied to or assumed by certain kings for a similar reason, as Ptolemy Soter and others. The object of Israel's idolatry is carried off as a present to propitiate or appease the wrath of the Assyrian patron and protector—probably Shalmaneser in the present instance—or taken as a trophy to grace the triumph of the conqueror. So far from defending the calf-people, as Israel had become, their calf-god could not defend itself; instead of preserving its worshippers from deportation, it was doomed itself to deportation. Ephraim, the premier tribe. received shame, and Israel, the remaining tribes that had followed its lead and adopted its evil counsel, shared the shame; all of them together were thoroughly put to shame because of their mistaken and wicked policy. The counsel of Jeroboam—for to it, in our opinion, is the reference—appeared an able stroke of policy; but this policy, by which he hoped to detach Israel from Judah, was not only frustrated, but proved positively ruinous, so far were the means from effecting the end, or the end from justifying the wisdom of the means.
As for Samaria, her king is out off as the foam upon the water (face of the waters). Instead of the throne of Samaria being established, or the kingdom consolidated by the idolatrous measures which Jeroboam had adopted for the purpose, the king himself was cut off as foam upon the surface of the waters, or as a chip carried off by the current, and the kingdom ingloriously ruined. Though the sense is sufficiently plain, the sentence has been variously constructed. Thus
(1) one of the Hebrew commentators renders it, "In the city of Samaria her king has been made like foam on the surface of the water" (be being understood and נדמה taken in the sense of "being like").
(2) Rashi, understanding the verb to signify being "reduced to silence," explains, "The King of Samaria is brought to silence."
(3) The correct signification of the verb, however, is "cut off" or "annihilated," while the construction may be
(a) an asyndeton; thus: "Samaria (and) her king;" or
(b) Samaria taken as nominative absolute,—thus in the Authorized Version, "(As for) Samaria, her king is cut off;" or
(c) supplying נדמה to the second noun, with Aben Ezra, "Samaria is cut off, her king is cut off." Some
(d) consider it simpler to translate as follows: "Samaria is cut off; her king is like [literally, 'as'] a chip on the surface of the waters." In this way the Massoretic punctuation is neglected. Shomron is feminine, as the names of cities and countries usually are, and therefore the suffix to "king" is feminine, while the masculine form, נִדְמֶה, is justified by its position at the head of the sentence; for, according to Gesenius, the predicate at the beginning of a clause or sentence "often takes its simplest and readiest form, viz. the masculine singular, even when the subject," not yet expressed, but coming after, "is feminine or plural." קצף is explained either as "foam" or "splinter." The latter is, perhaps, preferable, as the verbal root cognate with the Arabic katsapha signifies "to break," "break off," "crack;" then "to be angry" (its most common meaning) from the sudden breaking out or breaking loose of passion, with which may be compared the Greek ὀήγνυμι. The word קצפה in Joel 1:7, from the same root, is literally a" breaking or breaking off," "barking," The word דמה, again, has two principal meanings—one "to be like," the other "to be silent" (connected, according to Gesenius, with a different root, damam, dum, like the English "dumb"); or the meanings are traceable to one root, in the sense of "making flat," "plane," "smooth;" then "silent," and so "reduced to silence," "destroyed."
The high places also of Avon, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. By Aven is generally understood Beth-aven, that is, Bethel; but some take the word as an appellative, and thus bamoth-aven would signify the "high places of iniquity." These unlawful places of sacrifice and unholy places of iniquity are further characterized by the appositional "the sin of Israel." By constructing and frequenting such places Israel had primarily and grievously sinned. By sacrificing to and worshipping even Jehovah on these high places instead of in Jerusalem, the only legal place for Divine service under the Law, their national sin in the matter of worship began; subsequently, however, things became worse, and these high places became scenes of most abominable idolatries and shamelessly sinful practices. Those places—one and all—are in the words before us doomed to destruction. The thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars. The destruction is thus vividly described as total and complete; those bad eminences were devoted to entire wasteness and desolation. "It is a sign of extreme solitude," says Jerome, "so that no traces even of wall or buildings remained to be seen;" similarly Rashi says, "Thorns and thistles shall grow up upon their altars, because the worshippers thereof have departed and no one longer remains to attend to them" so Kimchi: "On the altars of Israel which they (the enemies) shall lay waste shall thorns spring up." And they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us. The sight of such fearful ruin and desolation overwhelms the wretched inhabitants of the land with distress and dismay; in sheer despair and even desperation they invoke a sure and sudden death as much preferable to their remaining longer spectators of such heart-rending scenes. Their exclamation appears to be proverbial, and to have had its origin in the custom of the Israelites fleeing, in seasons of great calamities, to the mountains and clefts of the rocks to hide themselves; thus in Judges 4:2 we read that "because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and eaves, and strongholds." The object of their exclamation is to be buried under the hills or mountains rather than endure such calamities longer; or rather than the enemies should see them in their shame. Aben Ezra makes "altars" the subject of "shall say," as if it were the wish of the altars to be covered that they may never more be seen. Theodoret considers the sense of the passage to be that the multitude of calamities in the war occasioned by hostile invasion would be so great that there would be no one who would not prefer being overwhelmed in an earthquake or by the sudden fall of the mountains, rather than endure the calamities inflicted by the enemies. Similarly, but more concisely, Jerome says, "They are more willing to die than see the evils that bring death."
O Israel, thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah. Two explanations given of this clause—namely, that which understands, min comparatively, that is, "more than"—their sins were greater than those of the Benjamites in the days of Gibeah; and that which refers the sin here spoken of to the appointment of Saul, who was of Gibeah of Benjamin, to be king—must be unhesitatingly rejected. Tile sin of the men of Gibeah was the shameful outrage committed on the Levite's concubine by the men of Gibeah, which with its consequences is recorded in Judges 19:1-30. and 20. That sin became proverbial, overtopping, as it did, all ordinary iniquities by its shameless atrocity and heinousness. By along-continued course of sin, even from ancient days, Ephraim has been preparing for a fearful doom. There they stood: the battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them. This portion of the verse is not a little perplexing, and in consequence has called forth considerable diversity of exposition. There is
(1) that which is implied in the Authorized Version, viz. "there they stood," smitten twice but not destroyed, chastened but not killed, the battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them then so as utterly to destroy them, but it shall overtake them now. Or if the verb "overtake," which is future, be strictly rendered, the meaning is—Not a battle like that in Gibeah against the children of iniquity shall overtake them, but one much more sanguinary and terrible, resulting, not in the reduction of a single tribe to six hundred men, but in the extirpation of ten tribes.
(2) That of Keil and others, though not the same, is similar. It is: "There, in Gibea, did they remain, persevering in the sin of Gibeah, and yet the war in Gibeah against the sinners has not overtaken them." This makes the meaning of the prophet to be that since the days of Gibeah the Israelites persevered in the same or like sin as the Gibeahites; and, though the Gibeahites were so severely punished, actually destroyed, because of their sin, the ten tribes of Israel, persisting in the same or similar sin, have not yet been resisted with any such exterminating war. Jehovah announces his intention now to visit them with punishment and severest chastisement for all. The meaning which Keil aims at may be better brought out by rendering the latter clause interrogatively; thus: "There they stood—persisting in the criminality of Gibeah—shall there not overtake them, living as they do in Gibeah, the war which exterminated the children of crime?" It is admitted that עמר may have been the meaning of "persevering;" but a better sense
(3) is gained by Wunsche referring the subject of עמדו to the Benjamites; the suffix of תשינם to the בני עולה, or "children of iniquity," that is, their guilty tribesmen in Gibeah; taking the intermediate clause parenthetically; and עמד with על to "stand in defense of;" thus: "Since the days of Gibeah hast thou sinned, O Israel: there they (the Benjamites) stood in defense of the children of iniquity, that the war might not reach them in Gibeah." This gives a satisfactory sense, and intimates that, by a long-continued course of iniquity and crime, the Ephraimites were preparing themselves for a fearful fate. Already from days long gone by grievous guilt cleaved to them; thus in the days of Gibeah they (the Benjamites) stood by their iniquitous brethren that the battle in Gibeah might not reach them. As this was before the disruption, the Benjamites were part and parcel of Israel here represented by them.
(4) Rosenmüller's explanation is the following: "They (the Benjamites) survived (עָמַד, opposed to אָבַד, as in Psalms 102:27) being severely punished, though they did not entirely perish, six hundred being left to revive the tribe." But a still severer punishment awaits the Israelites (the person being changed from the second to the third, and the prophet addressing himself to hearer or reader): not the war waged in Gibeah (or on account of the crime committed there) against the children of iniquity shall overtake them, but a far more deadly and destructive war. The word עלוה is by metathesis for עולה as זְעַוָה for זְוָעָה, commotion; כֶשָׂב for כֶבֶשׂ; and שַׂלְמָה, for שִׂמְלָה.
It is in my desire that I should chastise them; and the people shall be gathered against them. This is better translated thus: When I desire it, then (vav of the apodosis) shall I chastise them; and the peoples shall be gathered against them. This expresses God's determination to punish sin and vindicate his justice as the infinitely Holy One. It means, not only that his desire to punish them does exist, but that, this desire being taken for granted, there shall be no let nor hindrance; nothing can stay his hand. Then the mode and means of chastisement are indicated—peoples, foreign invaders, shall be gathered against them. The verb אָסֹר is future Qal of יסר irregularly, as if coming from נסד, the daghesh in samech compensating for the absorbed yod. When they shall bind themselves in their two furrows; margin, When I shall bind them for their two transgressions, or, in their two habitations.
(1) Gesenius, Ewald, and others, abiding by the Kethir or textual reading of the original, translate, "Jehovah will chastise them before with their eyes," that is, not in secret, but openly before the world. They thus refer the word to עַיִן, eye, but עְינָוֹת is "fountains," not "eyes."
(2) The Hebrew commentators, Aben Ezra and Kimchi, explain the word in the sense of "two furrows" as in Authorized Version; and refer them to Judah and Ephraim. Thus Kimchi says, "The prophet compares Judah and Ephraim to two plowing oxen. I thought they would plough well, but they have ploughed ill, since they have bound themselves together one with the other and have allied themselves the one with the other to do evil in the eyes of Jehovah." Similarly Rosenmüller: "To be bound to two furrows is said of oxen plowing when they are bound together in a common yoke, so that in two adjacent furrows they walk together and with equal pace."
(3) The Septuagint rendering, based on the Qeri and followed by the Syriac and Arabic, gives a better and clearer sense than the preceding. It is, Ἐν ταῖς δυσὶν ἀδικίαις αὐτῶν, and is followed by Jerome in Super duas iniquitates suas, as also by the most judicious expositors of ancient and modern times. Yet there is great variety as to what those iniquities are. Some, like Jerome, refer to the double idolatry—that of Micah and that of Jeroboam; others, like Dathe, to the two golden calves set up at Dan and Bethel; Cyril and Theodoret to the apostasy of Israel from Jehovah, and devotion to idols; De Wette and Keil to the double unfaithfulness of Israel to Jehovah and the royal house of David. The exact rendering would, according to any of these views, be, "When I bind them to their two transgressions," or, "When I allow the foreigners to bind them on account of their two transgressions;" that is to connect or yoke them to their two transgressions by the punishment, so that they, like beasts of burden, must drag them after them, whatever be the view we take of the nature of those transgressions.
And Ephraim is as an heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the corn. Ephraim is compared to a heifer trained. The work she was taught to do was treading cut the corn; by training and habit it had became a second nature, so that she took delight in it. The connecting vowel occurs seldom, and usually with an antique coloring in prose, according to Ewald; it is poetical besides, and used in the concourse of words somewhat closely connected, but not in the strict construct state. Thus is אֹהַבֵתִּי accounted for. This work was probably easier, at all events pleasanter, than plowing or harrowing. In treading out corn oxen were not yoked together, but worked singly, treading it with their feet, or drawing a threshing-sledge, or iron-armed cylinder, over it; they were unmuzzled also, so that they were free to snatch an occasional mouthful of the grain, and frequently fattened by such indulgence. Such had been the position of Ephraim in easy employment, comfortable circumstances like the heifer threshing and allowed to eat at pleasure, pleasantly situated prosperous, self-indulgent, and luxurious. The victories of Ephraim—threshing and treading down may perhaps be also hinted at. But I passed over upon her fair neck (margin, the beauty of her neck): I will make Ephraim to ride; Judak shall plough, and Jacob shall break his clods. Times have changed, as is here indicated a yoke, that of Assyria, is placed on the fair neck, a rider is set on the sleek back. Mere onerous and less pleasant labor is now imposed. Judah too is to share the toil, being put to the heavier work of plowing while Jacob—the ten tribes, or the twelve including both Judah and Israel—shall cross plough; and thus both alike shall be henceforth employed in the heaviest labors of the field and the severest toils of agriculture. Once victorious, Ephraim is now to be subdued; once free and intractable, it must now receive the yoke and engage in laborious service. The expression עבר, followed by על, is generally used in a bad sense; "to pass over," says Jerome, "especially when it is said of God, always signifies inflictions and troubles." The fatness of the neck is the ox's ornament or beauty. That is now to be assaulted or invaded gently it may be, and softly, as men are wont to approach a young untamed animal in order to put the yoke upon it. This passing over, however tender, fixes the yoke on Ephraim's neck all the same. A more difficult word is אדכיב, which Ewald
(1) renders, "I will set a rider" on Ephraim, of course to subdue and tame;
(2) Jerome has, "I will mount or ride," thus representing Jehovah himself as the mediate rider on Ephraim. The first sense has a parallel in Psalms 56:12, "Thou hast made men to ride over our head," and thus ruling them at pleasure. Unwilling to bear the easy yoke of their Divine Ruler, they shall be subjected to the tyrant mastery of man. But
(3) Keil says the word here is "not" to mount or ride, 'but' to drive or use for drawing and driving,' i.e. to harness," as to the plough and harrow. This meaning is best reached by understanding the words thus: "I will make the yoke to ride on Ephraim's neck;" as הרכב is used in 2 Kings 13:16, for "put thine hand upon the bow," margin, "make thine hand to ride upon the bow." The remaining clauses of the verse is a further development of this expression, but extending to Judah; and thus including both Judah and Ephraim, or Jacob—both kingdoms. The Septuagint version of the last clause is peculiar; it is Παρασιωπήσομαι Ἰούδαν ἐνισχύσει αὐτῷ Ἰακώβ. That is, as explained by Jerome, "I shall leave Judah for the present and say nothing about him; but whoever, whether of Ephraim or Judah, shall observe my precepts, he shall acquire strength for himself and be called Jacob."
Hosea 10:12, Hosea 10:13
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy. These two verses contain a call to repentance and reformation of life, in figurative language borrowed from the same department of human industry, לצדי is "for righteousness;" that is, sow such seed as that righteousness may spring from it. לפי הי is "according to," or "in proportion to, mercy." When two imperatives are joined, is here, the latter indicates a promise, and may be expressed by a future, as, "Do this and live," i.e. "ye shall live" (Genesis 42:18). Kimchi explains it correctly, thus: "Sow to yourselves, etc; that is, do good in mine eyes, and the recompense from me shall be far greater than your good deeds, just as if one sows a measure (seah), and hopes to reap therefore two measures (seahs) or still more. Therefore, he uses in sowing righteousness, and in connection with reaping grace, in order to intimate that grace surpasses righteousness. Or that God rewards men's actions, not according to merit, but according to grace. As men sew, they reap; accordingly Israel is directed to sow ac-eroding to righteousness—to act righteously in their dealings with their fellow-men; and their reaping or reward would be, not in proportion to what they had sown, not merely commensurate with their righteous actions or dealings, not proportionate to what justice would give; but in proportion to mercy—Divine mercy, and so far above their highest deserts. They are promised a reward far above their poor doings, and irrespective of their sad failings—a reward, not of debt, not of merit, but of grace. The seed-time of righteousness would be followed by a reaping-time proportionate to the boundless measure of the Divine mercy. Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. Here they are urged to turn over a new leaf, as we say; to begin a new life; to root out the weeds of sin; to eradicate those evil passions that checked and stifled any noble feelings, as the husbandman runs his plough through the fallow field, and breaks it up, clearing out the weeds and roots, that the ground may be pure and clean for the sowing of the seed in spring. The LXX; reading נוּרו, instead of נֵיר נירוּ for נִיר, and דָּעַח for וְעֵח translates accordingly by φωτίσατε ἑαυτοῖς φῶς γνώσεως. They are further reminded that it is high time to begin this process, laying aside their stiff-necked, perverse ways; expelling from their heart the noxious growth that had overspread it; and by every way and means working earnestly and zealously for a renewal of life and return to the long-neglected work and worship of Jehovah. Neither were they to relax their efforts till the blessed end was attained, עד, with imperfect, marking the goal to be reached; nor would their efforts be in vain. The Lord would rain—bestow abundantly upon them, or touch (another and more frequent meaning of the word), their righteousness. Thus the ground that had long lain fallow must be broken up; its waste, wild state must cease and give place to cultivation; the ploughshare must be driven through it; its wild growths and weeds must be cut down and uprooted. A process of renewal must succeed; the vices of their natural state, the idolatrous and wicked practices that had sprung up, must be abandoned. Renewal and radical reform are imperatively demanded. Matters had remained too long in a miserable and unsatisfactory condition. A long night of sinful slumber had overcome them; it was high time to awake out of that sleep. Too long had they shamefully forgotten and forsaken God; it was more than time to wait upon him. Nor would such waiting, if persevered in, end in disappointment; notwithstanding their great and manifold provocations, he would come and rain righteousness in welcome, refreshing, and plenteous showers upon returning penitents; and with righteousness would be conjoined its reward of blessing and salvation, both temporal and spiritual.
Ye have ploughed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies. Hitherto their course had been the very opposite of that which they are now exhorted to enter on. Hitherto their work had been wickedness, and their wages, as might be expected, the fruit of iniquity. What they had wrought for they reaped. Their plowing had been sin, their sowing wickedness, and their harvest sorrow. Wickedness against God and man was what they both ploughed and sowed; oppression at the hand of their enemies was the harvest or reward of iniquity which they reaped. Their lies, including their idolatry in reference to God, disloyalty to their king, their false words and false works with one another, bore fruit, bitter fruit, sour fruit, and they were obliged to eat that fruit till their teeth were set on edge. Thus Kimchi explains it: "After the plowing follows the sowing, and both of them are a figurative representation of work, as we have explained it. The prophet says, 'Ye have done the opposite of that which I commanded you, when I said, Sow to yourselves in righteousness.'" The harvest is the reward of the work done; the genitive is expressive of contents—that in which the fruit consists; the fruit of lies against God is the fruit which disappoints those who wait for it Ki directs attention to the ground of Israel's gradual declension and final destruction; the two fundamental errors, or rather evils, that led on to Israel's ruin, were apostasy from Jehovah and sinful self-confidence. Sunk in idolatry, they no longer looked to Jehovah as the Source of their power and strength; while they pursued their own ways, confident of the excellence of their own sagacity and foresight. Because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men. They had placed their confidence in the wisdom of their own ways—their prudent plans and wise counsels; in the heroism of their soldiers and the excellence of their preparations of war. By these means they fancied themselves independent of the Almighty, and sufficiently defended against their enemies. "Thou hast trusted," says Kimchi, in his exposition, "to thine own way which thou goest; and that is the way of iniquity and of confidence in evil; and in like manner thou hast trusted in the multitude of thy men of war which thou hast had among thine own people, or among the Egyptians, from whom they sought help, and thou hast made flesh thine arm, and not trusted in me; therefore thou hast stumbled."
Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled. This was the fruit of their doings, the result of their sins. The tumult of war is already heard, and the work of destruction has begun. The word shaon, tumult, is from שָׁאָה, as applied to the loud rushing of waters, then the tumult of advancing warriors. The preposition be is rendered
(1) as above by the Authorized Version, Umbreit, and others; and, joined with "peoples" (which is plural), signifies that the confused noise of war would be heard among their own peoples, or the multitude of the mighty ones in whom they had had such confidence; or the plural may refer to the tribes of Israel, each of which was an עם, though Keil would confine this meaning to Pentateuchal times. Host of the versions read the singular, like our own Authorized Version, yet it must still be referred to the people of Israel. But
(2) the preposition is translated "against" by many modern interpreters, and thus the confused noise of the advance of the enemy against Israel is denoted. The attack of the invaders is directed against the fortresses, or fenced cities, so called from a verb denoting "to cut off" (בצד), as if all approach to them were cut off, and assault impossible. Nevertheless they were to go down, all of them, before the enemy—laid waste and spoiled; while inhuman cruelty would characterize the conquerors. As an illustration of or specimen resembling that cruelty, an obscure piece of history is quoted. As Shalman spoiled Beth-arbel in the day of battle: the mother was dashed in pieces upon her children. In the great variety of opinion with respect to the event referred to, and the consequent diversity of exposition, we shall not venture to do more than select that which on the whole, notwithstanding a certain chronological difficulty that lies against it, appears the most probable. Accordingly, Beth-arbel may have been Arbela, mentioned in 1 Macc. 9:2 and more than once by Josephus, in Upper Galilee, in the tribe of Naphtali, between Sephoris and Tiberias, now Irbid; and Shalman may be an abbreviation for Shalmaneser; while the circumstance here mentioned may have been an incident of the campaign of which we read in 2 Kings 17:3, 2 Kings 17:5. "Against him came up Shalmaneser King of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant … . Then the King of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years." The manifestation of the cruelty was when the mother, with true motherly affection, bent over her children to defend them, and she and they perished in a common ruin, or when the children were dashed to the ground before their mother's eyes, and she, done to death, hurled upon them.
So shall Bethel do unto you because of your great wickedness (margin, the evil of your evil): in a morning shall the King of Israel utterly be cut off. Their coming sufferings were all traceable to their sin. Bethel, the principal place of calf-worship, was the cause of their coming calamities, not the place itself, but the wickedness of which it was the scene. The real cause was the great and crowning wickedness practiced there. Bethel, once the house of God, would in consequence become another Beth-arbel, the house of the ambush of God. In the morning, when perhaps a season of prosperity seemed beginning to dawn, or at an early dale and in a speedy manner, quickly as the morning dawn gives place before the rising sun, the king, Hoshea, or perhaps no particular king, but merely the representative of the royal office, would be cut off-entirely cut off. Thus their main refuge would come to an ignominious end, bringing along with it the frustration of all their hopes and the conclusion of their mistaken and misplaced confidences.
Sin and its retribution.
I. PERVERTED USE OF PROSPERITY. Israel is a vine not empty, nor emptied, nor plundered, according to Calvin, say, by the tribute paid to Pul; for, if empty, how then could he bring forth fruit, except, indeed, at some subsequent season? He is compared, rather, to a wide-spreading vine, pouring out its strength in luxuriant leafage and show of fruit; or even suitable fruit. But the fruit thus yielded was not fruit to God, as it should have been, but fruit to itself and for itself. The figure of a flourishing vine, condensed by the prophet here, is fully expanded and developed by the psalmist in the eightieth psalm: "Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river." Such had Israel been aforetime. Their fruit trees produced abundantly; their land was very fertile: the fruit of man and beast and tree multiplied, and their land increased in fertility: but these blessings of Providence were abused. Instead of leading them to repentance, these good gifts of God's providence were sadly misused and shockingly perverted; instead of being employed in the service and to the glory of the Giver, they were used for idolatrous purposes, and thus they ministered to sin. Altars were reared to idols and statues set up; they multiplied their altars and made goodly images.
II. PUNISHMENT IS SURE TO FOLLOW SUCH PERVERSION. God had blessed them with prosperity and plenty, but they made a poor return; nay, they returned evil for his goodness. They might well be compared to an emptying vine, casting its fruit before it was ripe, according to one explanation of the word, for they emptied themselves of the riches he conferred on them by sending presents to foreign princes, or purchasing their alliance, or paying tribute to their conquerors; or they wasted their wealth on their idols and in idolatrous practices, or on self and sin in some form. Or, if they brought forth fruit unto maturity, that fruit did not redound to the Divine glory; the fruit borne by them was not the fruit of righteousness; the seemingly good works done by them were not to the praise and glory of God. What they did they did for their own profit or pleasure, or to gain the praise of men. The blessings bestowed on them were not used to promote the Divine glory, or to help the Divine service, or to advance the cause of true religion in any way, but were lavished on their own lusts, or selfish gratifications, or abominable idolatries, multiplying altars to their idols, offering sacrifices more numerous and expensive, making pillars or statues of costlier metal and with richer ornaments.
1. The root of the evil was within. The seat of all their sin was within, and out of the heart it proceeded; their heart was divided, or hypocritical, and therefore not right with God. Persons guilty of such sin and folly and gross ingratitude God could not hold guiltless. They were dealt with as guilty and punished, or were left desolate—their land wasted, and themselves led into captivity.
2. Accumulated wrath issues in aggravated punishment. The means God graciously gave them for charitable and noble purposes of benevolence, or for high and holy service, they threw away recklessly on vile and worthless objects; as the means increased, the wickedness increased. God tried them with prosperity; he proved them, but they did not stand the test; every day they persisted in their mad career of sin. They were treasuring up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath.
3. God corrects in measure that men may repent of sin and turn to God. If the day of visitation is improved, it is well; if, when God withdraws his hand and grants a respite, or suspends the stroke, his gracious design is duly responded to, the chastisement is sanctified, and the person so treated has good cause to say, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted." If otherwise, if individuals are found faulty, if their sin has found them out, then the means of sinning are suddenly and unexpectedly snatched from them, and themselves swept awfully as with the besom of destruction.
4. Whoever be the instrument or whatever the memos, the Author of the infliction is God. The subject here is not specified; as far as the grammar goes, it might be the Assyrian or other enemy that broke down their altars and spoiled their images, but sense and Scripture lead the thoughts up to God. Though indefinite, the emphatic use of the pronoun fixes the sense.
III. PROSPECT OF A GLOOMY FUTURE IS THE NATURAL SEQUEL OF A SINFUL PRESENT. Thus it is with those who, having perverted the gifts of God's goodness, do not profit by punishment mildly administered. Israel, who had rejected their heavenly King, were Soon to find themselves deprived of their earthly king, and reduced to a state of anarchy. They would soon be forced to say," We have no king, no protector." This is assigned as the cause of the preceding statement about the wreck of their altars and the ruin of their statues or pillars. This catastrophe is looked upon as brought about in consequence of their having no kingly protection or defense. Their rejection of Jehovah in the double capacity of God and King, by their turning to idolatry and refusing the theocracy, led eventually to ecclesiastical disaster, and civil or secular distress. Forsaking God as King, they have now no king—no upholder of either Church or state; consequently their altars, as they conceived, were broken down and their images spoiled. Thus they bemoan their present anomalous and perilous position. But they bethink themselves that even if they had a king he could do them no good, seeing that Divine power was opposed to them, and Divine wrath incurred by them. What, then, under such untoward circumstances, could a king do for them? Here is the exact converse of the believer's confidence: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Jerome's exposition brings out the sense well, as follows: "After God shall have shattered the images of Israel, and utterly destroyed their altars and statues, and the final captivity shall have come, they shall say, "We have no king." And lest they should think that the sentence would be deferred for a long time, he added, They shall say now: when they are being laid waste, when they shall perceive that Hoshea, their last king, has been removed from them, a king is taken away from us, because we did not fear God, our true King, for what could a human king avail us?'"
Israel's sin, sorrow, shame, and suffering.
These verses exhibit them with marvelous conciseness and great impressiveness.
I. ISRAEL'S SIN OF UNFAITHFULNESS. Israel's unfaithfulness at the period of which the prophet speaks was of the most reckless kind. It took the form
(1) of idolatry with respect to God,
(2) of disloyalty to their sovereign, and
(3) of falsehood in their dealings with their fellow-men in general.
By their idolatry they renounced the covenant of their God, which had the seal of circumcision; their promises of reformation, when they made such, were falsified; the vows wrung from them in distress or otherwise they failed to pay. The most sacred bonds did not bind them; subjects violated their oath of allegiance, and sovereigns their coronation oath; alike in treaties with foreign powers as in contracts with their fellow-men, they made no conscience of keeping faith. Add to all this the perversion of justice and the misuse of judgment, and the picture is complete; perfidy, perjury, and the perversion of judgment being in the foreground, and untruthfulness the dark background of all. Such was the growth, prolific and pestiferous as hemlock, which at this period overspread the land of Israel as if in furrows specially prepared for it.
II. ISRAEL'S SORROW IN CONSEQUENCE OF SIN. Men may be sure that their sin shall find them out, by detection, or punishment, or both; while sorrow follows in the wake of sin. The inhabitants of the northern capital, like the people of Bethel or Beth-area, being calf-worshippers, and therefore, called the people of the calf, would naturally be overwhelmed with consternation and alarm, when the news of an invading host approaching the provincial town, which was the chief seat of the calf-worship, reached them; still more so when that hostile host had actually entered it and carried off their idol. Their fear before the event would be succeeded by sorrow after it. Not only would the Samaritans sympathize with their coreligionists of Bethel in their calamity and loss, but tremble because of their own proximity to peril, not knowing how soon the tide of conquest should sweep over themselves. Both peoples, Samaritans and Beth-avenites, united in a common cause, and, involved in a common calamity or soon to be so, would mourn for the loss of their idol. This Scripture may well impress its lesson, and a most salutary one, on all idolaters, whether those who bow down to those idol vanities of wood, or stone, or metal, made by their own hands, or those spiritual idolaters whose hearts are swayed by some lust or passion, or any other object than God. Any earthly object that engrosses our affections, or usurps that place in our heart which belongs to God alone, is our god for the time being—our idol, and that which commands our homage or adoration. And surely, as we set up any such object of spiritual idolatry in our heart and elevate it to the throne of our affections, we shall come to grief; we shall be disappointed in it while we possess it, or disappointed of it when we lose it. Bitterly shall we be made to feel and to mourn its loss; nor is this to be wondered at or complained of, for God is a jealous God, and will not give his glory to another. Matthew Henry has well observed that "whatever men make a god of, they will mourn for the loss of; and inordinate sorrow for the loss of any worldly good is a sign we made an idol of it." The idol-priests who derived their emolument and livelihood from idolatry were plunged in still greater mourning than the people for whom they ministered. The wages of sin do not last long, and do not satisfy the short time they do last. Thus it was with the priests when the source of their gain and the object of their glow departed.
III. ISRAEL'S SHAME WAS ANOTHER CONCOMITANT, OR RATHER CONSEQUENCE, OF ISRAEL'S SIN. The shame was twofold; shame to see their idol thrown down and defaced, and yet more to see it, or at least the gold that adorned it, carried away in triumph as a present or peace offering to King Jareb. There was yet deeper cause of shame. It was not only that they gloried in their god of gold, and confided in it for protection, but that their policy was completely frustrated. The political sagacity on which, no doubt, they piqued themselves, as certain to keep Israel separate from Judah by detaching the former from the latter in worshipping at the national sanctuary in Jerusalem, resulted in Israel's ruin. No wonder that Ephraim, the tribe with which this separation originated, received shame; while the remaining tribes of Israel, that with such facile compliance acquiesced in their counsel and followed their example, were put to shame. Thus the wise are often caught in their own craftiness.
"The sinners' hands do make the snares
Wherewith themselves are caught."
IV. SUFFERING IS ANOTHER RESULT OF SIN. Creature-confidences fail to succor; without Divine help and blessing, sovereign and subject are alike powerless and resource-less. The king, on the appointment of whom the people had so set their heart at first, and on whose power all along they continued to place such confidence, was too weak to help; and in utter impotence was himself cut off—cut off ignominiously as foam on the face of the water, or chip carried headlong by the current. The scenes of their sin were so desolated, and left without a single worshipper, that thorns and thistles came up upon those altars where multitudes once had worshipped. So true it is that "if the grace of God prevail not to destroy the love of sin in us, it is just that the providence of God should destroy the food and fuel of sin about us." Sinners in general suffer sooner or later shame and contempt, disgrace and disappointment, poignant sorrow and mental anguish. To such an extent was this the case with the hapless idolaters, that their distress was so intolerable that, feeling life not worth living, they preferred death to life. Times there are so sad, and suffering, both bodily and mental, so acute, that death is more than welcome. To be swallowed in the yawning earth, or covered by the falling hill, or whelmed in the surging sea, was welcome to such sufferers. So with impenitent sinners in the day of judgment (Revelation 6:16). So with the Jews in their distressful circumstances at the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans (Luke 23:30). This cry for death passed into a proverb; it was the offspring of despair.
V. SUMMARY OF THIS SECTION. Such a summary is contained in verses 7 and 8. Israel's two chief sources of confidence were their king and their idolatry—one civil or secular, the other ecclesiastical or sacred, both to the rejection and neglect of the true Source of hope and help. Neither of these is any longer available or any longer reliable. The king or head of their civil polity is cut off like foam on the surface of a stream—a moment there, then gone forever. The high places of Avon, that is, Beth-aven, "house of vanity," the name given in contemptuous reproof of idolatry to Beth-el, once the "house of God"—these high places consecrated to idolatry, at once the occasions of sin to Israel, and places polluted by that people's sin, are doomed to destruction, total destruction. The altars erected thereon are destined to be heaps of ruins, so forsaken and desolate, that where the whole burnt offering went up in smoke (עֹלָה, whole burnt offering, from עלה, to go up), the thorn and the thistle now go up (יעלו), and bear undisputed sway. The sin-laden people who had forsaken their own mercies and pursued their idolatrous practices on those hills and at those altars, are in the end so overwhelmed with calamity and so thoroughly miserable, that, as we have seen, they prefer death to life, reckoning a life so wretched not worth living. Hence arose their cry of desperation—a cry that may have had its origin in the local situation of the people who uttered it. Situated on a hill as Samaria was, and surrounded by an amphitheatre of hills still higher, the intervening valley and narrow outlets being occupied by the enemy, those hills to which they once looked for safety, instead of helping, now hemmed them in, and the only help they could now afford was to fall on their devoted heads, to screen them from wrath and deliver them from misery.
A checkered picture.
These verses exhibit the continuance in sin and its consequences, chastisement and its lessons, change of circumstances and its bitter experiences, the call to repentance and the blessed promises to the penitent.
I. CONTINUANCE IN SIN. Israel had corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah (Hosea 9:9), and, as we are told in Hosea 10:9, had sinned from the days of Gibeah.
1. Grievous as their sin had been at first, it was greatly aggravated by being long continued. Age after age sin had run its course; one generation after another had helped to fill up the cup of iniquity until it had become brimful. A heathen complains of successive generations thus corrupting themselves, each outstripping that which preceded in iniquity: "What is there wasting time does not impair? The age of our parents, worse than our grandsires, has borne us yet more wicked, who in our turn are destined to beget a progeny more sinful still."
2. This continuance in sin shall be attended by dreadful consequences some day. This is a legitimate inference, whatever view we take of this difficult ninth verse. Whether the meaning be that the Israelites stood their ground, and did not perish though twice defeated by the men of Benjamin, and that with a loss of forty thousand slain; and that, though spared, their destruction as dreadful as deserved shall overtake them now, and that without any possibility of escape, and when it does come it shall be found all the more dreadful from having been delayed in its course; or whether the sense is that Israel, as if forsaken of God and alienated from his favor (possibly implied by the change from the second to the third person), have stood, that is, persisted in their sin as there and then so ever since; shall not the battle overtake such incorrigible offenders; persevering so long in sin like the men of Gibeah, can they expect to escape the war that of old did all but exterminate the transgressors? Or whether the sense be that the Benjamites, then an integral part of Israel, stood by the Gibeahites, defending, and so virtually abetting them in their iniquity, that the battle in Gibeah might not overtake those vile delinquents, and that Israel, resembling the Benjamites in spirit, have sinned ever since, aiding, abetting, and taking part in similar or greater atrocities and abominations. They are then left to infer that a day of reckoning still more terrible was to be expected by them.
II. CHASTISEMENT AND ITS LESSONS. In the case of Israel, they were not left merely to infer the approach of chastisement, they were positively assured of it.
1. Men are forewarned that they may be forearmed. God had exercised much long-suffering and forbearance, but his goodness failed to lead them to repentance. They had abused his patience, and now his purpose is to chastise; but even in chastising them he is exercising mercy in order to prevent final and inevitable ruin. He had rejoiced over them to do them good; he now takes pleasure in correcting them—it is his desire. The nature of the chastisement with which Israel is to be visited closely resembles that which had been inflicted on the Benjamites.
2. The reference to that transaction may have suggested to the prophet his description of the coming chastisement. The tribes of Israel banded themselves against Benjamin in the battle of Gibeah; so the peoples, the Assyrians and their allies, would be gathered against Israel. Kimchi has well expressed the cause of the chastisement by representing God as saying, "According to my good will and pleasure will I chastise them; because they do not receive chastisement from me by my prophets who rebuke them in my Name, I will chastise them by the hands of the peoples which shall be gathered against them."
3. When men refuse to be God's freemen, and prefer continuing to be servants of sin, they are preparing themselves to be the bondmen of their enemies. The allusion in the last clause of Hosea 10:10 is obscure, and yet the general sense is tolerably plain. Much depends on the one word variously rendered "eyes," "furrows," "habitations," or "sins." The figure may be taken from two oxen abreast in a yoke, plowing together side by side in two adjacent furrows; and it may indicate the combination of the Israelites to ward off the threatened danger, but to no purpose, since Jehovah had decreed their chastisement, and, in case it failed, their destruction; or the two divisions of Israel and Judah, and their respective places of habitation; or the two places of idolatrous worship, Dan and Bethel; or their two cohabitations with God and idols; or their two transgressions, which appears the preferable sense. Whichever of these we adopt, the idea of binding, that is, of thraldom or captivity, remains the same.
4. There are two kinds of service and two claimants for the soul of man: there is the service of sin, and the wages of that service is death; there is the service of God, and the fruit of that service is unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. Satan claims us, but he is a usurper; besides, he is the worst of all masters—keeping his servants in bondage, working them to death, and at last paying them with damnation. God claims us. His claim is just; he is the rightful Proprietor; he made us, and not we ourselves. His claim is, in fact, threefold—creation, preservation, and redemption. We cannot serve two masters; we cannot obey both; and we may not attempt the unholy compromise made by the peoples brought from the regions of Assyria and planted in the lands of the dispossessed Israelites, who worshipped the Lord and served their own gods. To be the slaves of Satan or the freemen of Jehovah, that is the question; the bondage of sin or the freedom of righteousness is the alternative. There must be decision in the matter. Let our determination be like Joshua's, that whatever others do, we will serve the Lord.
III. CHANGE OF CIRCUMSTANCES AND BITTER EXPERIENCES. When Israel had, by idolatry and other sins, bound themselves for slavery, like oxen laboring in the yoke up and down the furrows of the field, the change came. Ephraim had been treated gently and trained indulgently; their yoke had been an easy one, and their burden a light one; but they did not value their privileges, nor know the day of their merciful visitation. They had been in easy circumstances; the lines had fallen to them in pleasant places; they had long enjoyed privileges and advantages of no ordinary kind. But times are now changed, and that change, the bitter fruit of their own doings, was sad as it was sudden. A yoke is now put on the neck, a rider on the back, and drudgery becomes the lot of the once fair and delicate heifer. Subjection and slavery to foreigners, with hardships great and many, and such as they had never experienced before, now awaited Ephraim; while Judah too would come in for share of the punishment, as they had had part in the sin; and thus at last Jacob, that is, both kingdoms, the northern and the southern, having thrown off the yoke of Jehovah, fall each in turn under the galling yoke of Assyrian and Chaldean conqueror. Let men beware of exchanging the pleasant service of the Savior for the painful drudgery of Satan!
IV. THE CALL TO REPENTANCE AND ITS BLESSED PROSPECTS. The severity of the foregoing threatenings is alleviated by the present call to reformation and repentance, with the accompanying promises.
1. A seed-time of righteousness must precede a reaping-time of mercy. The figures are still borrowed from husbandry; and thus every action is represented as seed sown, and every good work is seed sown in righteousness. The rule of righteousness is the Law of God, and the directions of that rule include our duty both to God and man. To sow in righteousness, therefore, is to discharge the duties of righteousness, comprehending piety towards God, justice and charity towards man, together with propriety of personal conduct.
2. The seed sown shall come up one day. If we sow tares, they will come up; if we sow wheat, it will come up. The seed of righteousness is called by the psalmist precious seed. It is not in the power of man to cause a single seed to germinate and spring up; but God in his justice will bring up the bad seed for punishment, and in his mercy the good seed for reward.
3. There is a correspondence between the seed-time and the harvest. If men sow to the flesh, they shall reap corruption; if to the Spirit, they shall reap life everlasting. As we sow we reap, and what we sow we reap. Our reaping shall be according to the measure of God's mercy. Not a reward of merit, but of mercy; not a recompense of desert, but of grace. Men often sow in tears, but if the seed be that of righteousness, and the sowing after the right method and with the right motive, they shall reap in joy. "Blessed," says the saintly Burroughs, "are those who have sown much for God in their lifetime! Oh, the glorious harvest that these shall have! The very angels shall help them to take in their harvest at the great day; and they need not take thought for barns—the very heavens shall be their barns. And oh, the joy that there shall be in that harvest! The angels will help to sing the harvest-song that they shall sing who have been sowers in righteousness."
4. Reformation is the effect and evidence-of repentance. If reformation be genuine, repentance must go before; a change of life that is real and permanent must be preceded by a change of heart. Thus, in order to sow in righteousness, the fallow ground must be broken up. If the seed is to take root in the soil, grow up and yield an abundant increase at the time of harvest, the soil must be carefully prepared. The plowing, though mentioned after the sowing, must precede it, otherwise the seed of truth will be lost or choked by the weeds of sin. Dropping the figure, or realizing the fact set forth by it, we must break up the fallow ground of the heart. The weeds and thorns and thistles that overspread it in its natural state must be rooted out; the evil passions, corrupt affections, and hateful lusts must be eradicated; the heart itself must be broken and contrite on account of sin; the spirit must be subdued by a sense of sin; shame and sorrow must penetrate the soul because of sin; like land long untilled, and so hard and difficult to plough, the hard heart must be broken with contrition and softened, and the stubborn will subdued. Thus, too, the field that had lain fallow after a first plowing must be broken up anew and made to shine (as the original word, from נוּר, according to Gesenius and Ewald, signifies), and prepared for future and abundant fruitfulness.
5. The exhortation is enforced by two arguments—the past loss of time, and prospective spiritual prosperity.
(1) Much time had been misspent; the duty of seeking God had been sadly and sinfully neglected. The language of the prophet here is expanded and enforced by the apostle, when he says, "The time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries." We are now called to redeem the time. It is our duty at all times to seek the Lord, but especially so after such tong delay on our part, and such forbearance and long-suffering on God's part. And yet there is time. It is of his mercy that we are still allowed opportunity to repent and return to him. Even now is the accepted time; but soon it may be too late. Let us, then, seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is neat', before he withdraws himself, and swears in his wrath that we shall not enter into his rest.
(2) Another source of encouragement is here presented. If we seek him he shall be found of us, according to the promise, "Seek, and ye shall find." Thus encouraged, let us seek him presently, patiently, and perseveringly until he comes, as he will be sure to do, and rain righteousness upon us. In the fullness of time the Savior came, who is "the Lord our Righteousness;" he came as "a Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of his people Israel." He will come to the individual soul, Gentile or Jew, that seeks him, and when he comes he will rain righteousness upon us.
6. Righteousness, like the rain, descends from above; for "every good gift and every perfect gift cometh down from above, even from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." He will bestow it in great abundance, for he will rain it upon us; sending down, not merely a few drops, but a plentiful rain and copious showers. The righteousness so abundantly vouchsafed includes his righteous fulfillment of his promises; the righteousness, moreover, that is witnessed both by the Law and the prophets—righteousness reckoned to us for justification, and righteousness wrought in us for sanctification. The effect of this righteousness is blessed and beneficent. As the natural seeds sown in the soil of the earth which has been ploughed and prepared for them require, besides, the rain of heaven to make them bud and bring forth the blade, the ear, and the full corn in the ear; so the spiritual seeds that men sow in righteousness require the rain of righteousness and the rich blessing of heaven to fructify and refresh.
The prolific fruits of evil.
The Israelites are not only charged with neglect of duty, but with sins of commission. The concluding verses of the chapter point out this contrariety of their conduct to the foregoing exhortation, and its consequences; trace the source of their sinful courses to their carnal confidences; and foretell the coming calamities caused thereby.
I. THE CONDUCT OF THE PEOPLE HAD BEEN DIRECTLY CONTRARY TO THE ADMONITION JUST GIVEN.
1. They had been not only neglectful of duty, indifferent and careless about spiritual concerns, and self-satisfied with their sinful course, but had taken much pains in pursuing a course the opposite of what duty demanded. They had not only lived in sin, enjoying its so-called pleasures, but had labored in the practice of it, serving Satan and doing his drudgery. Thus they ploughed wickedness. Not content with the spontaneous growth thereof, which is sufficiently abundant in every natural heart, they actually cultivated it, sparing no pains and grudging no diligence in its culture. Thus they ploughed and sowed laboriously; but it was tares, not wheat or good grain they spent their labor on.
2. As they ploughed and sowed, so they reaped; the crop in harvest-time corresponded with the seed which they had sown, and for which they had made such careful preparation. The harvest was abundant, the increase thirty, or sixty, or a hundredfold. The quantity was large, but the quality was bad. "In all labor there is profit," said a minister to a man at work. "There is one exception," was the reply; "for years I labored in the service of Satan, and of that labor I can truly say, 'What fruit had ye in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.'"
3. The fruit of lies, like lies themselves, is deceptive; such fruit resembles the fabled apples on the shore of the Dead Sea—attractive in appearance, but ashes in the mouth. The pleasures of the wicked don't satisfy; their gains don't profit in the end; all sinful works are unfruitful works. Thus it was with Israel's hypocrisy, idolatry, and other abominations.
II. THEIR CARNAL CONFIDENCES WERE THE SOURCE 0r ISRAEL'S SINS. They are also a common source of sin still. The people of Israel trusted in their ways of political wisdom, and the power and prowess of their mighty men. Their statecraft, their calf-worship, their military preparations, were their confidences. The fountainhead of their offending, the source whence such bitter waters flowed, and flowed so copiously, was the confidence they reposed in refuges of lies—their way inclusive of their wicked calf-worship, their tortuous worldly policy, and their forbidden foreign alliances with the heathen. Such was their internal safeguard, while the multitude of their mighty men was their external defense. All these confidences failed them. Every promise that sin makes to the sinner is a lie; the fruit of sin, like sin itself, is fallacious and deceptive.
III. CALAMITIES CROWDED ON THEM AS THE CONSEQUENCES, AND IN PUNISHMENT, OF SIN.
1. Their cities were sacked, their fortresses dismantled, their citizens and countrymen butchered, and unheard-of cruelties perpetrated.
2. Here we see how the worldly wise are taken in their own craftiness, and how sin finds the sinner out. The consequence of all was not a time of peace, but the tumult of war extending to the whole people in their tribal divisions, and probably to their neighbors, with whom they were in alliance; while the issue of the war was defeat and disaster—their defenses were destroyed, their strongholds rifled, the triumph of the enemy complete, and their cruelty unchecked.
3. See the bitter fruit of sin.
HOMILIES BY C. JERDAN
The calves and the kings.
The "burden" is still the same—Israel's guilt and punishment. But in the verses before us these are dealt with mainly in their external and national aspects. The most prominent thought of the passage centers in the calves and the kings.
I. THE NATIONAL SIN. Although the prophet handles his theme in this strophe for the most part on its external side, yet in one or two expressions he refers to the root of the evil in the hearts of the people. "We feared not the Lord" (Hosea 10:3); i.e. the men of Israel had forsaken the service of Jehovah, and rejected him as their Portion. "Their heart is divided" (Hosea 10:2), or "smooth," i.e. insincere. They did not devote themselves to the love and worship of God, and yet they could not make up their minds to part altogether either with him or with their idols. Such was the root of the national sinfulness. But Hosea here calls attention rather to:
1. Its forms in the national life. These were principally two.
(1) Trust in idols. Israel had allowed his sense of the solitariness of the Godhead to be broken down, and had "increased" the number of altars to heathen divinities. So far from realizing that all the "springs" of the nation were in Jehovah alone, the people gave "his praise to graven images;" and the glory which was his due, to the personified powers of physical nature.
(2) Trust in kings. The Hebrews had been guilty of high treason against Jehovah when, in the days of Samuel, they insisted upon having an earthly king set over them. And this sin became even more aggravated, on the part of the ten tribes, when they revolted from the theocratic monarchy which God had established at Jerusalem, and gave their allegiance to the usurpers who exercised the functions of royalty at Samaria.
2. Its manifestations in the national character. The people's sin incorporated itself with them, and they lapsed further and further into moral degradation. There was:
(1) Self-indulgence. (Verse 1) Israel bad been a thriving and luxuriant "vine;" but his fruitfulness took a wrong direction: "he brought forth fruit unto himself," and was "empty" towards God. The people regarded themselves as at once the source and the end of their own prosperity; so, they abused it by spending it upon their lusts.
(2) Ingratitude. (Verse 1) Increase of wealth, instead of attracting them to God's temple to express thankfulness to him as the great Giver, led them instead to multiply their altars and idolatrous superstitions.
(3) Deceit and perjury. (Verse 4) Their "words" were insincere and untruthful; the "covenants" which they made (e.g. with Assyria) were deceitful. Nothing that the nation said could be depended on; the life of the community was a lie.
(4) Perversion of justice. (Verse 4) A wicked king and a corrupt court poisoned the administration of law among the people. The judges took bribes, and their unrighteous decisions were as "hemlock" overgrowing fields which ought to have been waving with a healthful harvest of righteousness.
II. THE NATIONAL PUNISHMENT. Israel is about to lose all the false defenses in which he gloried, and his heart shall have fear and shame for its melancholy heritage. The punishment is in these verses contemplated from a twofold point of view, viz.:
1. Its forms in the national life.
(1) As regards the idols. There would presently be "fear" for them (verse 5). The very calves which bad been an object of trust and stay would become a source of anxious solicitude. Instead of feeling safe under the protection of their golden gods, the people would tremble for the safety of the gods themselves. "In the fear of the Lord. is strong confidence;" but the men of Israel "feared not the Lord" (verse 3), and their punishment was to "fear because of the calves." More than this, they would suffer the loss of them (verses 2, 5, 6, 8). The images which Jeroboam had set up would be carried into captivity as a tribute "to King Jareb," the avenging Assyrian. In that way the calf-worship of the northern kingdom would come to an end. Bethel and Dan, Samaria and Gilgal, the centers of Israel's idolatry, would be destroyed. The shrines of Baal and Ashtaroth would be broken down, and thorns and thistles would grow luxuriantly upon the idol-altars.
(2) As regards the kings. Already the monarchy was helpless (verse 3). Although it may be that Hoshea (who proved to be the last king in Ephraim) was still upon the throne, the people were saying, "We have no king;" "What would a king do for us?" They see now, when it is too late, that it is vain to expect deliverance from monarchs who themselves do not fear God, and who have assumed their royalty in opposition to his will. Soon, too, the monarchy shall be finally destroyed (verse 7). The king shall be "cut off as the foam upon the water," or as a chip which is carried down the stream and lost. Presently the long siege of Samaria shall begin; and in three years thereafter the standards of Shalmaneser shall wave over the ruined strongholds of that wicked city. But, again, the prophet refers to the national punishment in:
2. Its moral results upon the people. It would produce:
(1) Mourning. (Verse 5) The people would lament because of the helplessness of the golden idols, in which they had gloried, and in which their false priests bad rejoiced. They would sadly grieve because of the ignominious deportation of the calves to Assyria.
(2) Shame (verse 6), because of "their own counsel;" the reference being to the untheocratic policy of the ten tribes in separating themselves ecclesiastically and politically from Judah and Jerusalem. The worldly-wise statecraft of Jeroboam, which for a time seemed to be so successful, involved Israel in an inheritance of shame.
(3) Despair. (Verse 8) The calamities that were impending would be so dreadful, that thousands of the people would choose death rather than life. To die outright they would hail as a welcome relief from their burden of wretchedness and shame. They would desire that the hills upon which their idol-altars had stood might not merely hide them, but overwhelm and destroy them.
1. The spiritual dangers which accompany material prosperity. "Jeshu-run waxed fat, and kicked" (Deuteronomy 32:15). It is difficult to carry the full cup steadily (verse 1).
2. The necessity, in order to a man's spiritual well-being, that he "keep his heart with all diligence" (verse 2).
3. The sadness which comes from learning the truth too late, and the horrors of a too-late repentance (verse 3).
4. The diffusive and self-disseminating power of evil (verse 4).
5. The mourning of the wicked is for their losses rather than for their sins (verses 5, 6).
6. The one true security and strength of a nation consists in the fear of God (verses 3, 7).
7. The judgment denounced here upon the ten tribes, like that of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, is a type of the final general judgment (verse 8; Luke 23:30; Revelation 6:16).—C.J.
National prosperity and calamity.
In this passage, for the second time (vide Hosea 9:10), the prophet starts with a brief reminiscence of former days, and then proceeds to deliver an urgent exhortation to present duty; but all serves merely as a basis for more denunciation and announcement of retribution.
I. THE IDEAL LIFE OF A NATION. (Hosea 10:12) Although this verse is in the first instance a summons to Israel to repent and reform, we may view it as indicating also what the life of every commonwealth ought to be.
1. Its activities. Foremost amongst these is:
(1) The pursuit of godliness. The ideal nation "seeks the Lord," and recognizes that always "it is time" to do so. It acknowledges Jehovah as its supreme King. It aims at making all the legislation upon its statute-book in harmony with the laws of the Bible. The Lord of hosts regards such a country as "a delightsome land" (Malachi 3:12). "Happy is that people, whose God is the Lord" (Psalms 144:15).
(2) The cultivation of morality. "Sow to yourselves in righteousness." Plowing and sowing and reaping in this passage denote the moral conduct of the community. And the one great principle which should determine the activities of a nation should be that of "righteousness." Its supreme aim should be, not the accumulation of wealth, nor the acquisition of power and prestige, but the establishment of righteousness; it should strive after what is true and just and equitable in everything.
(3) The accomplishment of needful reforms. "Break up your fallow ground." The model nation looks out for new soil as well as for right seed, and for that Divine influence which is necessary to the harvest. As soon as it discovers any neglected portion of its own life, it will endeavor to subject that to spiritual husbandry, and bring it into cultivation. It will be continually anxious to reform, wherever it finds at any time that reform is necessary. But the life of the model nation has also:
2. Its rewards.
(1) The Lord wilt "come" to the community that seek him. He will dwell among them, and be "unto them a wall of fire round about." He will "come" in Christ, the King of nations; and by the Holy Spirit, who is the principle of the life of every godly commonwealth.
(2) The holy nation shall reap a harvest of mercy. They shall gather mercy as the fruit of the good seed of righteousness which they have sown. The best of men, when they have done their best, are "unprofitable servants;" so that the rewards which shall accrue from their works of faith and love must be all of grace. But the harvest shall be a glorious one; for it shall be proportionate, not only to our humble sowing, but to God's infinite mercy.
(3) They shall receive a rain of righteousness. Wherever the Lord Jesus comes as King, he brings with him this blessing (Psalms 72:1-7). Wherever the Holy Spirit dwells, he "creates a clean heart," and "renews a right spirit" (Psalms 51:10-12). The people that sow righteousness sow "to themselves;" for "to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward" (Proverbs 11:18). In proportion to their willingness to "do God's will," shall they "know of the doctrine," and reap its blessed fruits in their hearts and lives. The angle of reflection shall be equal to the angle of incidence; that is, their obedience shall be the measure of their assurance and of their reward.
II. THE ACTUAL LIFE OF ISRAEL This was quite the reverse of the ideal above described. Its wrongness had begun very early, for the nation had "sinned from the days of Gibeah" (Judges 19:1-30; Judges 20:1-48); and, alas! it persisted in the sin of Gibeah still. The corruption of the community was deeply rooted in ancestral habit. In describing the actual life of Israel, Hosed refers to:
1. Its basis. (Hosea 10:13) The foundation of the whole lay in sinful self-confidence. Israel "trusted in his way," i.e. in his own political devices and idolatrous worship. He relied also upon "the multitude of his mighty men," as if Providence were on the side of the strong battalions.
2. Its pursuits. Ephraim led a self-indulgent life. In the days of Jeroboam II; when be was victorious and prosperous, he was "as a heifer that loveth to tread out the corn" (Hosea 10:11). The nation was self-reliant, and it grew rich; so it became pampered and selfish. Really, however, the people all the while were following a career of laborious sin. "They ploughed wickedness, and reaped iniquity" (Hosea 10:13). Like self-made slaves, they "bound themselves in their two transgressions" (Hosea 10:10)—their double sin of apostasy from Jehovah and revolt from the dynasty of David.
3. Its results. As sin is the evil of evils, the consequence of the people's long course of iniquity could not but be ruinous. Disaster fell upon them as the outcome of natural law, and also because at last it was God's "desire to chastise them" (Hosea 10:10). Hitherto the ten tribes, although they had lived in the commission of the sin of Gibeah, had not been destroyed in war, like the Gibeahites; now at last, however, the Divine vengeance is to descend upon them. There is to be:
(1) Invasion. (Hosea 10:10) The Assyrians, with their allies, "shall be gathered against them."
(2) Bondage. (Hosea 10:11) A heavy yoke shall be put upon the "fair neck" of the heifer Ephraim; and in her state of subjugation she shall have to perform hard labor. Judah also shall undergo a similar punishment. This threatening was fulfilled in the two captivities, the Assyrian and the Babylonish.
(3) Disappointment. (Hosea 10:13) Israel's reward for his wickedness was that he had "eaten the fruit of lies." The idolatry which he practiced was a lie; and this, instead of promoting the prosperity of the nation, as for a time it seemed to be doing, led to its utter humiliation and decay,
(4) National ruin. (Hosea 10:14, Hosea 10:15) The "tumult" of war is soon to arise. Shalmaneser shall overthrow the strongholds of Ephraim, as he had lately "spoiled Beth-arbel." The land shall be devastated, and its inhabitants cruelly murdered. And, in consequence, the kingdom of Israel shall be destroyed forever.
1. God's long forbearance with a wicked nation before he proceeds to visit it according to its works (Hosea 10:9).
2. The determination to which at length he must inevitably come, to vindicate his justice (Hosea 10:10).
3. The folly of those who expect to enjoy the comforts of religion while neglecting to discharge its duties (Hosea 10:11).
4. The history of the kingdom of the ten tribes an illustration of the truth that "pride goeth before destruction" (Hosea 10:11).
5. The deceitfulness of sin, as being "the fruit of lies" (Hosea 10:13).
6. This passage should lead us to cherish gratitude to Almighty God for his goodness to our nation, and should suggest to Great Britain to take warning from the doom of Ephraim.—C.J.
HOMILIES BY A. ROWLAND
Hosea 10:2 (first clause)
The divided heart.
The preceding verse describes the sin of the people; this points us to its source. Like a vine, luxuriant in branch yet yielding no sound fruit, Israel deserved the curse which, during the ministry of our Lord, fell on the barren fig tree. The first verse may be compared advantageously with the description given of Israel in Psalms 80:8-15. The third clause in that verse does not continue to develop the figure, but makes a declaration which was literally true, viz. that in proportion as the fields were fruitful Israel multiplied idolatrous altars; and as the land was made good, so the images they worshipped were adorned with beauty. In other words, God's gifts were abused, and were dedicated, not to him, but to false gods. The fear of Moses was justified. Now they enjoyed the goodly land they were forgetting the Lord their God. Point out the enervating effect of prosperity in such men as Hezekiah, and in the decline and fall of great nations. The cause of Israel's sin was to be found in the fact that they were not whole-hearted in the worship of God; but while they kept up still the outward forms of the old religion, with "divided hearts" they mingled with it, or supported beside it, idolatrous practices. The question of Elijah, "How long halt ye between two opinions?" needed repetition in those days, and in these Our Lord has distinctly declared that the frequent and sinful attempt of men to serve God and mammon is vain.
Subject—The divided heart.
I. ITS CONDITION first demands consideration. Whether in the physical or in the moral life of man, if we are in doubt about the state of our heart, we cannot be too careful in diagnosis. Diseases assail it which are so occult that they may not reveal themselves till they become fatal in result. Other diseases may have outward signs which any onlooker can recognize. Some heart-diseases are as insidious as they are perilous, betraying themselves neither by rash nor by pain. As the heart is the center of our physical life, so here and elsewhere in Scripture it is alluded to as the center of moral life; and in that aspect of it the words are true, "The heart is deceitful above all things." (Some such idea underlies the Hebrew word which Keil translates "smooth," or "flattering.") None but God and a man's own consciousness can declare whether this be true of any one, "his heart is divided." This is so, however, with any whose attitude towards God and his truth is as follows:
(1) If their minds are convinced;
(2) if their fears are aroused;
(3) if their consciences are disturbed;
while yet they yield no genuine homage to him whose existence and claims they dare not deny.
II. ITS EVIDENCES may be discovered in such characteristics as these:
1. Formality in worship. "This people draweth nigh to me with their mouth," etc. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." The scribes and Pharisees were examples of this, exposed and rebuked by our Lord.
2. Inconsistency in conduct. This may be glaringly conspicuous, or it may be that the unholiness or unrighteousness is too secretly practiced to be discovered by the world, or too subtle to be described and condemned by the Church, or ten generally practiced to be reprobated by society. Give examples of each in professional, or commercial, or social life.
3. Fickleness in effort. It is a sure sign of reality when we are "steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord;" when the world frowns as well as when it smiles; when the service is uncongenial as well as when it is delightful. He who readily takes up Christian work and then suddenly abandons it, may fairly ask himself whether his heart is not divided. The great Sower still sees the shallow soil of a sentimental character, where there is no depth and therefore no stability.
III. ITS CAUSES.
1. The love of sin. We must lay aside "the sin that doth so easily beset us" if we would run the race and win the crown. He who will not give sin up for Christ's sake has the" divided heart."
2. The fear of man. The lad at school, or the man in business, is often disloyal to conviction, and refuses to lay to heart the declaration of Christ, "He that is not with me is against me."
3. The habit of procrastination. The child says, "I will wait till I am old enough to take my own place in life;" the busy man or woman waits the leisure of old age; the vigorous delay till illness gives time for thought; and so life speeds away, and the words of Christ are unheeded, "My son, give me thine heart."
IV. ITS EFFECTS.
1. Present unhappiness. The undecided man knows too much to find rest in the world, but he loves too little to find rest in Christ. The consciousness of being wrong, the thought of a solemn duty left undone, the fear of discovery by Christian friends, the dread of death and its issue, with more or less frequency and intensity, bring him misery.
2. Disastrous influence. If he professes to be a Christian, he dishonors his Lord by his conduct in the world far more titan one who avows himself to be an unbeliever. His Christian name injures the world, while his worldly character injures the Church. Examples: Judas, Demas, Ananias.
3. Certain retribution. "Some will awake … to everlasting contempt." "Let both grow together to the harvest," etc.
CONCLUSION. Encouragement to offer to our God the broken heart of true penitence, which he will not despise.—A.R.
Figures drawn from the work of husbandry are frequently found in the sacred Scriptures. No others could have been so wisely employed. As Divine truths were intended for all nations, it was well that illustrations of them should be found in all lauds. The breaking up of the ground, the sowing of seed, the reaping of the harvest, are phenomena well known in every country, and the process has been essentially the same in every age. Whether the harvest grows in the small allotment of the Eastern laborer, who irrigates it with toil and care, or whether it is seen on vast prairie-lands, rippling under the breeze like a sea of gold, the laws of its growth, the mode of its production, are not different; and so wherever he may be the religious teacher may find the old illustrations of spiritual truths. How much poorer would the world have been had Divine lessons been represented by the variable fashions or changeful machinery of man's invention, which only the archaeologist would understand, instead of being written as they are in the harvest-fields where any wayfarer may read them! Still are the different conditions of "hearers of the Word" represented truly by the different soils which the sower sees in any land. Another and profounder reason for the Divine choice of such illustrations lies in the truth that both nature and grace are of God. The two spheres of being proceed from the same Source, the material being the image of the spiritual. There is a true sowing and reaping in the inward as well as in the outward world; so that in these inspired words we get, not only illustrations, but analogies. Hence the wisdom of the metaphor which is found in Hosea 10:11-13. The twelfth verse shows Israel what it should be, while our text depicts what Israel actually was, and affords us an example of moral abasement which we shall do well to consider.
I. MORAL ABASEMENT IS SHOWN IN PREFERRING THE LOWER TO THE HIGHER LIFE. "Ephraim is as a heifer;" whereas, in the next verse, Ephraim is exhorted to be as a husbandman. The former is what the people had become, the latter is what God meant them to be. It is the constant tendency of man thus to sink below a possible ideal. Men of the highest intellectual culture will deprive themselves in their religious life of the liberty and dignity of the sons of God. Many hearers avowedly wait for some overpowering manifestation of God's presence before they believe in him. They would have upon them some influence so mighty as to be resistless. The evil and adulterous generation is still seeking a sign; and gathers around the Christ, asking, "What sign showest thou? what dost thou work?" Now, the tendency of all this is to ask God that we may be dealt with as animals, not as men—as those who are without the spiritual capacities which belong to beings made in the image of God. We would be as the heifer, wanting the yoke and the goad; not as the husbandman, who, obedient to the inner thought that is given to him, intelligently, and freely breaks up the fallow ground, sows the seed, and seeks upon it the blessing of God. But listen to the exhortation of the psalmist: "Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle [not, 'lest they come near,' but] because they will not come near to thee" to do thee service; but rather be as a child, so looking for the Father's glance, so ready to obey his faintest sign, that he can say, "I will guide thee with mine eye" (Psalms 32:8, Psalms 32:9). Ephraim was called to be as the husbandman (Hosea 10:12), but was content to be as the heifer.
II. MORAL ABASEMENT IS SHOWN IN RENDERING A PERFUNCTORY AND IRRELIGIOUS SERVICE. "Ephraim is as a heifer that is taught." She is accustomed to do a certain kind of work, and does it day after day from the memory of the past; as a perfunctory performance, without the inspiration of the thought that it will please her master. Such obedience abounds amongst men. Right acts are done by multitudes, as they were by scribes and Pharisees, without there being in them the moral worth God looks for. For example, it is right for a man to be diligent in business, to do his work with all his might. The idle and thriftless sink ever lower in character and circumstances. But it would not be difficult to find one who is regular and punctual, failing in no engagement, prompt in all his dealings, setting before others a commendable example of hard work thoroughly done, who never has a thought of his Lord's approval, sees nothing of the eternal issues which may flow from the present life, but is "as a heifer accustomed to the yoke." Such perfunctoriness may creep into religious service; into the prayers which are said by rote, into the gifts which are given from custom, into the work and organization which is the outcome of habit, etc.
III. MORAL ABASEMENT IS SHOWN IS OBEYING PROFITABLE COMMANDS FOR THE SAKE OF THEIR PROFIT. "Ephraim is as a heifer that … loveth to tread out the corn." The allusion is to the Eastern custom of driving oxen over the reaped corn, that by their feet or by the implement they dragged behind them the grain might be separated from the straw. In the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 25:4) the command was given, "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn." The ox was to share in the bountiful gifts God had bestowed on man in the harvest, and might eat what he pleased. Hence, when it is said "Ephraim is as a heifer that.; loveth to tread out the corn," yet refuses to plough till the yoke is forced on its fair neck, the meaning is that Israel obeyed the command of God when they could get any immediate good as the result of obedience, but refused to obey when obedience, like plowing, brought no instant fruit. Well may Trapp remark, "It is an ill sign when men must pick and choose their work; this they will do for God, but not that... Judas will bear the cross, so he may have the bag." It was because our Lord discerned this spirit in his hearers at Capernaum that he rebuked them, saying, "Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you" (John 6:26, John 6:27; see also Matthew 6:33). The true test of character is to be found, not in the morality that wins applause and popularity, but in the righteousness which is followed through evil as well as good report. To all those who are toiling for the sake of what they can get of earthly good, Christ says, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, and ye shall find rest to your souls." if the Spirit of Christ be ours, then we shall find "A life of self-renouncing love is a life of liberty."—A.R.
The union of precept and promise in Scripture runs parallel with the union of work and blessing in life. The same mind and will is the source of both. Our text reminds us of the co-operation of the human and Divine as essential to the harvest of good. A true reformation is only accomplished by God indirectly, through the agency of man. Thus the coming of Christ Jesus was prepared for by the ministry of John, which roused men to thoughts of sin and of righteousness. In the graphic imagery of Isaiah, "crooked things were made straight, and rough places plain, and then the glory of the Lord was revealed." So in the establishment of the Christian Church: God wrought through the energies of men. The Holy Spirit was not poured down directly from heaven upon the nations, but upon a few men whose hearts were prepared, and through their ministry the conscience of the world was stirred. No farmer waits inactively in the spring-time, when the earth is made soft with showers, expecting a harvest to come, while his plough rusts in the shed and his seed rots in the granary; and no true Christian is satisfied to pray for the fulfillment of the promises while he does nothing of the work that lies to his hand. The message comes home to him, "Sow to yourselves," etc. Human responsibility and Divine recompense are the two factors in spiritual husbandry which demand consideration.
I. HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY lies in the direction of these activities.
1. Sowing the seed. "Sow to yourselves in righteousness." Show how deficient Israel was in righteousness, both in national affairs and in social and civil life, during Hosea's ministry.
(1) National righteousness is demanded. Honesty in diplomacy, equitable dealing with weaker peoples, fairness in commercial enterprise, choice of the right, and not of the profitable, etc.
(2) Church righteousness, which will not allow us to neglect the poor, or to be careless of the interests of Divine truth, or to restrain prayer heft,re God.
(3) Individual righteousness, which may be shown by every Christian in all the varied relations of life. Sowing to ourselves in righteousness is not always easy, and is not often immediately recompensed; but "in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
2. Preparing the sod. "Break up your fallow ground." The work referred to is monotonous, hard, continuous. The ploughman does not see around him the glow of the golden harvest; he does not hear the merriment of those who are binding the sheaves; he has not the stimulus of the happy speed which the hope of finishing gives the reaper. Yet his work is as necessary. The reference is not to the cleaning from weeds of land already sown, but to the breaking up of virgin soil, i.e. of the parts of a field which were neglected before.
(1) Make application to the development of Christian character. There is generally a want of completeness about this. Sins of pleasure and indolence are gone; but if sins of pride, ambition, censoriousness, remain, these also must be turned up by the plough of resolution. We must not be content with saying, "This part of my character is fertile," while that part lies fallow. So with Christian graces. We may have courage without tenderness, patience without enterprise, and thus have fallow ground yet to be broken up.
(2) Make application to the advance of Christ's kingdom. Parts of the world sown with the good seed are fairly productive, other parts are moral wastes. This calls for missionary enterprise. Congregations comfortably worship, yet amongst the godless and ignorant "fallow ground" still lies around them. The world will become a paradise only when each does his own work in his own sphere. In the Western States, laud is not brought under cultivation by the expenditure of a millionaire; but each settler has his own allotment, effects his own clearing, builds his own log hut, adds field to field till his farm touches the next, and by this process the wilderness begins to rejoice and blossom like the rose.
3. Seeking the Lord. Hosea would have the people eagerly expecting Messiah, and ready to welcome him. Some of John's disciples were thus" seeking the Lord," and it was on these Christ rained righteousness, in the truths he taught and the Spirit he gave. Readiness for the second advent becomes the Christian still; and the Church is sighing for it. Meantime the Lord comes in holy thought, in right resolve, in chastened feeling. He comes down on weary hearts like "rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth."
II. Divine RECOMPENSE.
1. It is generous. "Reap [not 'in,' but] according to mercy;" not in proportion to desert, or to justice, but to the boundless mercy of the Lord. Of all reaping that is true. When we sow our seed we give it over to the care of God. It would be something to receive it back again uninjured; but it is multiplied, "according to the mercy" of God, and harvest-fields come from a few bushels of seed. God gives "good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over." If we are thus requited in the natural, we shall be in the moral husbandry. Grace used brings more grace. The five talents employed become the ten talents. If we give, the habit of giving becomes a luxury. If we pray, prayer becomes easier, more refreshing, more essential. If ours are the tears of penitence, the light of God's love shines through them and creates the rainbow of peace. If, like the prodigal, we sow in righteous acknowledgment of sin, we reap peace and joy "according to God's mercy."
2. It is from above. "Until he come and rain righteousness upon you." When rain falls from heaven it blesses your garden, or your carefully tended plant, but it does not content itself with that. Fields you never saw are greener, limpid streams in distant counties are fuller, leaves and ferns and. unnoticed flowers are touched and blessed. All Churches need this outpouring from above. To do the right, to break up the fallow ground which has been unblessed before by enterprise, will all be useless unless he rains righteousness upon us. And for this great blessing a mural world, a weakened Church, a conscious yearning, say, "It is time to seek the Lord."
CONCLUSION. Beware lest, in the sight of the Searcher of hearts, your condition should be described by the words which follow our text. "Ye have ploughed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity." "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."—A.R.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
A divided heart.
The history of the people of Israel furnishes many an illustration of the state of mind vividly depicted in these words. For instance, in the time of Elijah, the heart of Israel was divided between Jehovah and Baal. Hosed had to complain of the same distraction of mind as characteristic of the generation to which he ministered. And what congregation is there addressed by a Christian preacher which does not contain many "a divided heart"?
I. THE CAUSES OF A DIVIDED HEART.
1. Others beside the Lord lay claim to the heart. In the case of Israel, there were idols who were reputed by neighboring nations to be powerful and helpful. In the case of those professing Christianity, there are many rivals, in the person of earthly and human claimants, and in the shape of various preoccupations, pleasures, and pursuits.
2. There is native weakness and vacillation. Many natures are by constitution unstable; and many have encouraged weakness by yielding to temptation.
II. THE SYMPTOMS OF A DIVIDED HEART. The case is not that of one who has actually renounced and abjured the worship and service of the Lord. But in hesitating between the two different and inconsistent allegiances, the divided heart is faithful to neither. We meet with instances of such indecision in domestic and social life, There may be a vigorous intellect where there is a vacillating heart, affections easily won and easily lost, prone to transference hither and thither. And in religion we find persons who strive to serve God and mammon at the same time; or who seem to be earnest in the service of God, and shortly after equally devoted to the incompatible service of God's enemy.
III. THE MISCHIEFS OF A DIVIDED HEART.
1. It is ruinous to the individual nature. No man can live an inconsistent life, such as a divided heart involves, without moral deterioration. He loses self-respect and moral dignity.
2. It is injurious to society. Men respect decision, but they are repelled by its opposite, and they despise a professor of religion whose spirit and demeanor are inconsistent with his profession.
3. It is hateful to God, who says, "Give me thy heart," and who will accept no compromise or composition.
IV. THE CURE FOR A DIVIDED HEART. The only cure is a radical and severe one. The heart must be withdrawn from God's rivals, and yielded, without reserve and without delay, to him who has a right to it, and who claims it as his own.
"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love!
Here's my heart, Lord; take and seal it—
Seal it from thy courts above."
Foam upon the water.
A graphic and picturesque image is this, aptly setting forth the emptiness and transitoriness of that monarchy which was established at Samaria, in defiance of God's will; and which was continued by vacillating or by wholly idolatrous kings, with no regard to God's honor, to God's ordinances, to God's prophets and messengers.
I. THE PRINCIPLE FIGURATIVELY ENUNCIATED. All persons and systems and principles which are opposed to God are doomed to perish. As the foam raised upon the surface of the torrent as it plunges over the rooks vanishes even whilst it is borne down by the swiftness of the current, so all persons, things, and institutions which God condemns as inimical to himself, as hostile to his authority and reign, are destined to disappear and sink into the dark depths of oblivion. As our Lord Jesus declared, making use of a different figure, "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up."
II. ACTUAL EXEMPLIFICATIONS OF THIS PRINCIPLE.
1. The instance of the passage from which the text is taken. The godless and often idolatrous kingdom, established in Samaria as its capital, comes to naught.
2. National examples abound. Peoples who have been unfaithful to their trust, or negligent of their privileges, or wavering in their policy, have come to naught.
"And, like a snow-flake on the river,
One moment seen, then gone forever."
3. How many cases of individuals known to us exemplify the principle thus figuratively set forth! Brilliant gifts, fine opportunities, glowing hopes, and, at the same time, want of true principle, of thorough consecration to God,—who has not seen the combination? And who that has watched and followed such cases has not had occasion to remark that the laws of God cannot be violated with impunity, that the Lord reigneth, and that all which is not based upon a right relation with the supreme Lord and Savior must surely come to naught, and be no more seen?—T.
The picture of the text is awful in the extreme. The condition of those to whom destruction and annihilation would be a relief is appalling to contemplate. What fearful vengeance must be overtaking those, what indescribable forebodings must have taken possession of their nature, who cry, "Mountains, cover us I Rocks, fall upon us!" It is the language of despair!
I. THE CAUSES OF DESPAIR. Much must have transpired before such a state of mind could exist. There must have been
(1) sin committed,
(2) mercy rejected,
(3) authority defied,
(4) forbearance abused, before the soul of man could have abandoned itself to hopelessness like this.
II. THE HORROR OF DESPAIR. This is not unnatural. It arises from reflection upon the rebellion and inexcusable willfulness of the past; from the declaration of conscience to the effect that God has observed that rebellion, that sinfulness, with indignation, and from the anticipation of impending judgment. Only such thoughts and feelings could account for the unparalleled horror declaring itself in such invocations and imprecations as these.
III. THE CRY OF DESPAIR. The dreadful language proceeding from the lips of the hopeless is an appeal to nature to save the sinner from nature's Lord. It is an appeal unreasonable and absurd, but not unnatural, as uttered by a bewildered, terrified, and unfriended soul. Can anything give a more awful and impressive representation of the wretchedness into which he is surely led who perseveres in sin, and hardens himself against both the Law and the Gospel?
IV. THE PREVENTION OF DESPAIR. It may be well to see whither a certain course leads us, if the result be to save us from the issue, by saving us from what involves it. It is to be remembered with gratitude that hearers of the gospel of Christ have not reached the stage now described. They may be prisoners, but they are "prisoners of hope." The word of the Lord does indeed come as a word of warning, but it comes also as a word of promise. Neglected, it will be a sentence of condemnation; accepted, it will be an assurance of pardon and a pledge of life eternal.—T.
Prepare for the time of Divine favor.
This is one of many passages in which the inspired writers make use of imagery derived from the processes of nature and the practices of husbandry, with the view of explaining and enforcing spiritual truth and personal duty.
I. HUMAN PREPARATION FOR DIVINE BLESSING. Man must do his part, and is admonished by authority to do so. The readiness which is here required, as a condition of heavenly blessing and spiritual prosperity, is twofold.
1. In the heart and life. By "breaking up the fallow ground" may be understood repentance, by which the heart long hard and stony becomes soft and pliable to what is good, and receptive of heavenly seed. By "sowing to one's self in righteousness" may be understood reformation of principles and of practice. It is not enough to forsake the evil; it is necessary to seek, to cleave to, that which is good. All this, it is presumed, will be done by the aid of Divine grace, and under the influence of Christian motives.
2. By prayer. "It is time to seek the Lord." Human means are good; it is by express instruction from on high that they are employed; but alone they are insufficient. The spiritual life has its devotional as well as its practical side. We have to look earthwards, that we may till the soil and sow the seed; but we have also to look heavenwards, that we may obtain the needed blessing.
II. DIVINE BLESSING IN RESPONSE TO HUMAN PREPARATION.
1. God shall "rain righteousness," by which we may understand he will bestow those favors which his own Word has pledged him to confer. By rain we understand also the abundance of those blessings; which are bestowed, not in drops, but in showers—copious showers from the opened windows of heaven.
2. God's people shall "reap mercy." This is the harvest for which all human cultivation and all Divine effluences are designed to concur. Mercy for time and mercy for eternity, from a merciful God, for a mercy-needing humanity. "The Lord grant that we may all obtain mercy of the Lord in that day!"—T.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
The abuse of worldly prosperity.
"Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself." Were this version correct we should have two ideas suggested.
1. A fruitlessness that makes life worthless. This empty vine produced fruit, but the fruit was worthless. A fruitless vine is among the most worthless of all plants. It is unbeautiful. Its aspect is dry, stringy, deadly. It is true its foliage is luxuriant, but that is short-lived and disappointing; and it is as inutile as it is unbeautiful. What piece of furniture or art can you make out of the vine tree? It is only fit for the fire.
2. A fruitfulness that makes life wicked. "Bringeth forth fruit unto himself." Whatever is produced is laid out on self—aggrandizement and indulgence. But our version is undoubtedly faulty. "Israel is a luxuriant vine, he putteth forth his fruit (Henderson); "Israel is a running vine, it setteth fruit for itself" (Keil); "Israel is a luxurious vine, whose fruit is very abundant" (Elzas). Israel is often represented as a vine.
"Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt,
Thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it,
Thou prepardst room before it,
Arid didst cause it to take deep root;
And it filled the land,
The hills were covered with the shadow of it,
And the boughs thereof were like goodly cedars."
Our subject is the abuse of worldly prosperity. Some men are very prosperous; they are like the luxuriant vine. Every branch of their life clusters with fruit. Some nations are very prosperous. England was never more prosperous than now; the son of prosperity shines on our island home. Great Britain is just now a luxuriant vine, and its clustering branches enrich distant nations. When is prosperity abused?
I. WHEN IT IS USED WITH AN EXCLUSIVE REGARD TO OUR OWN SELFISH ENDS. When men employ it:
1. For self-indulgence. How much wealth is lavished on the pampering of appetites, and the gratification of the sensuous, the carnal, and the gross?
2. For self-aggrandizement. How much wealth is expended in order to make a grand appearance, to move through life in pageantry and pomp, and thus to gratify mere vanity and pride! All selfish use of property is an abuse of it. What we have obtained is only common property, which, because it has come into our possession, we have a right to distribute for the common weal. The right which property gives us is not the right to lay it out purely for our own selfish ends, but the right to lay it out for the benefit of our fellow-men.
II. WHEN IT IS USED WITHOUT A SUPREME REGARD TO THE CLAIMS OF GOD. Whatever we have we hold as stewards, and unless we employ our property according to the directions of the great Proprietor we abuse the trust. How does God require us to employ our property?
1. For the amelioration of human woes.
2. For the dispersion of human ignorance.
3. For the elevation of the human soul. To raise it to the knowledge, the image, the fellowship, and the enjoyment of God.
CONCLUSION. How are we as a nation using our enormous prosperity? Let the increase of grand mansions, palaces of amusement, temples of intemperance, worthless and putrescent literary productions, be compared with the increase of our churches, our schools, and our books of real, intellectual, and moral merit; and the humiliating answer will come.—D.T.
Social sins and their result.
"They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant: thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field."
I. SOCIAL SINS. There are three sins referred to in this verse.
1. Vain speech. "They have spoken words." This means, according to Henderson, Elzas, and others, "They utter empty speeches." Not only are words of falsehood, blasphemy, and unchastity sinful, but empty words. For every "idle word" we shall have to give an account. How much idle language is there current in society! The chat of gossip, the formalities of etiquette, the vapid compliments of society, as well as those airy words of wit and humor which sometimes delude, sometimes pain, and sometimes please.
2. False swearing. False speech is bad enough, for it misrepresents facts, and often does serious mischief; but when backed by an oath its heinousness is intensified and blackened. How much false swearing there is in society! Not merely in judicial courts, but in homes, in shops, in fields, in general society.
3. Unrighteous treaties. "Making a covenant." The word "bad" is implied here, for there is no harm in making covenants. Making a bad covenant. The primal reference, perhaps, is to certain treaties Israel had formed with foreign nations. How much wicked contracting there is going on in society every day in commerce, in politics, as well as in private life. Untruthful as well as unrighteous bargains are being struck every hour in all circles. In truth, the sins here charged to Israel are not uncommon in England this day—empty speech, false swearing, and making unrighteous treaties.
II. RESULTS OF SOCIAL SINS. "Thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field." It matters not to the sense of the passage whether you read "poppy" for "hemlock," or "ridges" for "furrows;" the idea is the same—viz. that out of the social sins certain results appear. How do they come?
1. They come as a growth. They "spring up" or blossom. Sins bring with them their own punishment—no positive infliction is required; every sin is a seed from which a pestiferous plant must spring.
2. They come as a poison. "Hemlock;" some read "poppy," and some "darnel," but all agree in the poisonousness of its production. In any case it is a "hemlock," a small decoction of which destroyed a Socrates. "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."
3. They come in abundance. "That springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field." Very prolific is sin. See its plants growing in the ridges and furrows of life; in sick-chambers, in hospitals, in workhouses, in prisons, in battlefields also! How thickly the hemlock grows!—D.T.
The Divine voice to a worthless people.
"Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you." "Sow to yourselves for righteousness, reap according to love, plough for yourselves virgin soil; for it is time to seek Jehovah, till he come and rain righteousness upon you" (Delitzsch). Sowing and reaping are figures here used to denote the spiritual and moral conduct of the people. Indeed, all human life consists of sowing and reaping. We reap today what we sowed yesterday, and we sow today what we shall reap to-morrow, and so on through all future. Every intelligent act embodies a moral principle, contains a seed that must germinate and grow. We have here several things worthy of study.
I. A WRETCHED MORAL STATE. "Fallow ground," uncultivated earth. A state of:
1. Unloveliness. It is either an expanse of grey earth, or of weeds, thistles, and thorns.
2. Unfruitfulness. Unless the earth is cultivated, there is no fruit, and the land is worthless.
3. Wastefulness. On the fallow ground fall the rain, the dew, the sunshine, and the frost; but all in vain. How much Divine grace is wasted on unregenerate men! Sermons, books, Bibles, providences, means of grace all wasted.
II. AN URGENT MORAL DUTY.
1. Moral plowing. "Break up your fallow ground." Drive the ploughshare through it. How can you break up the soil of the heart? Not by mere volition, but by thinking on the subjects suited to excite. Think especially on two things.
(1) What God has been to us.
(2) What we have been to him.
2. Moral sowing. "Sow in righteousness." Go in for righteousness. Work to put yourself and fellow-men right with themselves, God, and others; implant everywhere righteous ideas and actions.
3. Moral reaping. "Reap in mercy." Accept what comes to you in sentiments of love and mercy.
III. A SOLEMN MORAL SUGGESTION. "It is time."
1. No time to lose.
2. Much has been lost.
3. It is only now the work can be effectively done.
IV. A GLORIOUS MORAL PROSPECT. He will "rain righteousness," or, as some render it, "teach you righteousness." Pursue this work of moral agriculture properly, and God himself will come and teach you righteousness.—D.T.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The empty vine.
"Empty;" literally, "poured forth; "i.e. poured forth in leaves and branches, with the effect that there is comparatively little fruit. When there was fruit, Israel gave not God the glory. The more they increased, the more they transgressed. The result was degeneracy. They spurned God's control, and life, in consequence, ran to waste. Undisciplined luxuriance becomes degenerate luxuriance. Fruit fails.
I. FRUIT, BUT NOT UNTO GOD. (Hosea 10:1) Such fruit as Israel brought forth was "unto himself." We have here recognized:
1. A native capacity of fruitfulness. God had given to the nation a thriving vigorous life, capable of striking out in many noble directions, and of achieving distinction in many kinds of enterprise. This was its natural endowment. It enabled it at times, with God's assistance, to rise to a high degree of prosperity. So God bestows on men the gifts of body and mind, the natural genius, the powers to think and act, which form the basis of their manifold endeavors.
2. A perversion of this capacity. This power of fruitful endeavor in Israel was not directed to God's glory as its end. The life of the nation was solely "from itself to itself." Its bent was towards self-gratification, self-glory, self-enrichment; not towards the realization of a Divine ideal. They set up kings, but not by God (Hosea 8:4). The calf was "from Israel also" (Hosea 10:5). This is the root-sin of mankind. They have turned aside from their being's end and aim. There is endeavor, but it is for self. God's glory is unthought of, unsought.
3. Consequent failure. From this perversion of existence in Israel arose
(1) rejection of Divine control, figured in the vine's lawless, untutored luxuriance; and
(2) ultimate degeneracy. The sinful life, however vigorous, powerful, and thriving-looking at first, has this as its penalty, that it is unable permanently to maintain its vitality. Even when, to outward appearance, it seems flourishing, it is found, on closer examination, to be without substance, without healthy fruitfulness. "It is smitten, its root is dried up, it hears no fruit" (cf. Hosea 9:16). Only of the righteous can it be said, "He bringeth forth fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither" (Psalms 1:3). "They shall bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing" (Psalms 92:14).
II. GLORY, BUT NOT TO THE CREATOR. (Hosea 10:1) The more God gave to Israel, the more they sinned against him. Their altars were multiplied as their fruit increased. The better God made their land, the goodlier became their images.
1. They withheld from God the glory due to him. They denied him in his gifts. They did not own him as the, Author of their prosperity. They felt no thankfulness. They did not glorify him in the use they made of what he gave. How common is this sin!
2. They gave his glory to another. Altars and pillars were multiplied to the idols. Baal was praised and served for the prosperity which came from Jehovah. God was dishonored to his face. In the Lord's own land his glory was given to "graven in, ages." The glory which ought to be given to God is often retained for sell or distributed out to the powers which we secretly idolize. Hero and nature worship, Bacchus-worship, idolatry of wealth, glorification of military might, etc.
3. They made his goodness the occasion of greater sin. The bent being evil, sin only assumes the greater proportions the larger the powers put at its disposal. With plenty in the land the people had more to sin with. They had more time and means, and they lavished more freely on their idols. They built more altars, and made their pillars higher and goodlier. Man's sin thus keeps pace with God's goodness. The wealthy, talented, powerful, robust, exalted, are able to sin in a way and to an extent not possible to others. The facilities for sin are greater. More extravagance, pride, worldly display, dissipation, self-confidence, etc.
III. WORSHIP, BUT WITH A DIVIDED HEART. (Hosea 10:2) Israel's heart was "smooth" or "divided." It was deceitful towards God. His worship was ostensibly maintained, but the worship of the Baals was kept up alongside of it, and was the real worship of the people. Nay, while in name honoring Jehovah, the people had "changed the truth of God into a lie" (Romans 1:25), by setting up the images of the calves. Their whole worship was thus an abomination to the Lord, and he would avenge his insulted honor by a judgment which would lay their altars in the dust.
1. In worship, it is the heart God looks to. He is not deceived by the outward appearance, or by flattering words. He desires truth in the inward parts (Psalms 51:6). The utmost lavishing on externals will not condone for the want of the right spirit.
2. The heart is insincere towards God when it is divided between God and other objects. God is not honored as God when the whole heart is not given up to him. He ought, as God, to receive all. He will not share his glory with another. A really divided state of the affections cannot last (Matthew 6:24). The division of the heart between God and the world ends by the world getting all.
3. God will punish the divided heart by taking its idols from it. He may do so in this world. He will certainly do so at last.
IV. A KING, YET NO KING. (Hosea 10:3) When the judgment fell on Israel, the people would not be slow to realize the cause of their misfortunes. "We have no king, because we feared not the Lord."
1. They had a king, but not a king from God. Since the extinction of the house of Jehu, no king had reigned in Israel with even a semblance of Divine right. The throne had been held by a succession of usurpers. Hoshea gained it by slaying Pekah, as Pekah had raised himself to power by killing the son of Menahem (2 Kings 15:25-30). The people could not feel to an anarchical usurper as towards a true king. Their feeling was that the days of legitimate kings were over. They had, at least, no king through whom they could expect God to send them deliverance. These frequent and violent usurpations were a proof that God had departed from them.
2. Their state was such that a king could no longer do them any good. He who ought to have been their King, Jehovah himself, had cast them off. They had provoked him till there was no remedy. They felt this now in the bitterness of their despair. "What should a king do for us?"—J.O.
The end of calf-worship.
The people were preparing the way for their own punishment by their false dealing with Assyria. Vengeance would overtake them. The calf in which they trusted would be carried away captive. The kingdom would be overthrown. Their altars would grow up with thorns and thistles. They would be glad of death to relieve them of their misery. "Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel."
I. A SOWING OF JUDGMENT. (Hosea 10:4) Israel's overthrow was connected with:
1. Falsity to international engagements. "Swearing falsely in making a covenant." The allusion is probably to Hoshea's false dealing with Shalmaneser (2 Kings 17:3, 2 Kings 17:4; of. Hosea 12:1), which was the immediate occasion of the overthrow of Samaria. In international diplomacy there is too much of this "speaking words" and "swearing falsely." Engagements are entered into which neither side intends to keep longer than it suits. The result is breach of faith, and sometimes war.
2. Perversion of right at home. This, if we follow the analogy of Amos 5:7, Amos 6:12, is what is meant by judgment or justice" springing up as hemlock in the furrows of the field." Mal-administered justice is the most deadly and poisonous of all things. Another and, taken by itself, more natural interpretation of the words is, that judgment would spring up for woe to Israel in the track on the falsehoods of which the nation had been guilty. The sinner's own hands make the furrows in which retribution springs up like deadly hemlock. His treacheries and duplicities recoil upon himself. Speaking false words is the sowing of dragon's teeth.
II. THE CAPTIVE CALF. (Amos 6:5, Amos 6:6)
1. Ephraim's idol in danger. "The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Beth-avert." What a picture of the folly of idolatry! The people tremble for the safety of the idol-god to whom they yet look to protect them. Have we not here an indication of the lurking consciousness there is in the idolater's mind that after all his god is no god? Trembling for themselves, the inhabitants of Samaria are yet more afraid lest anything should happen to their deity. We read of idolaters beating their gods when they do not please them. Was Samaria's conduct more rational in trembling for its god? Their trembling is a proof that they worshipped the calves, not because in their inmost hearts they thought an idol could help them, or was a right thing to have, but simply because, in defiance of God's commandment ("his own counsel," per. 6), it pleased them better to have an idol.
2. Ephraim mourning for his idol. "The people thereof shall mourn over it," etc. Mark in this:
(1) How God separates himself from the image by which the people represented him (the calf), and also separates himself from the people. The place of the calf-worship is no longer Beth-el ("house of God"), but Beth-aven ("house of vanity"). The people are not his people, but the people of the call—its votaries, not his; he disowns them.
(2) How, when they see their calf ignominiously shorn of its glory, they mourn for it, both priests and people. The sinner's idols will be taken from him, and their vanity exposed. This fills him with mourning. It is, however, his idols, not his sins, that he mourns for.
3. Ephraim ashamed of his idol. "It shall be also carried unto Assyria for a present to King Jareb: Ephraim shall receive shame," etc. What a burst bubble the worship of the calf now appeared! Unable to save itself, not to speak of others, it is now ignominiously carried off as a present to a heathen king. Yet Ephraim in his heart, no doubt, grieved for his calf, and would gladly, had he been permitted, have returned to its service. The sinner's idols shall yet cover him with shame. "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death" (Romans 6:21).
III. FINAL OVERTHROW. (Verses 7, 8)
1. A destroyed kingdom. "Samaria is destroyed; her king is like a chip on the face of the water." Light, helpless, borne away by the impetuous current, submerged, and seen no more. Such would be Samaria's king (of. per. 3)—the same flood which swept him away destroying also the kingdom.
2. Desolate altars. "The high places also of Avert, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come upon their altars." The judgment would strike very specially the place of sin. The utter end of the false system of worship is figured in the thorn and thistle covered altars. Broken and disused, they are to stand as monuments of wrath.
3. Prayer for annihilation. "They shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us." This would be preferable to the awful misery of falling into the hands of the Assyrian foe (verse 14; Hosea 13:16). The scene of judgment, with a like dreadful prayer, would be repeated at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans (Luke 23:30). Yet these are but feeble prefigurations of the woe and consternation that shall prevail on the day of the "wrath of the Lamb" (Revelation 6:16). Men shall pray for annihilation; but, it is noteworthy, this is a prayer which is not granted.—J.O.
Past and present.
We have here,
I. A PAST OF SIN—A PRESENT OF RETRIBUTION. (Hosea 10:9, Hosea 10:10) Israel's sin was:
1. Of old date. "Thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah" (cf. on Hosea 9:9). The sin of Gibeah was an early and outstanding instance of wickedness. It may have taken place not long after "the days of the elders which over-lived Joshua" (Joshus Joshua 24:31), and so have been the first public mark of the new departure in transgression.
2. Steadily persisted in. "There they stood." From that day on, a strain of deep corruption had run through the history of Israel
3. As yet unavenged. "The battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them." Fierce as was the slaughter on both sides in that day of Gibeah, it had not sufficed to eradicate this evil strain. A seed by corruption survived which steadily propagated itself, and had now increased till it included the whole nation. The punishment of this sin was yet to come.
4. To be avenged now. "It is in my desire that I should chastise [or, 'band'] them; and the people shall be gathered against them, in the binding them for their two transgressions." The double sin for which Israel was to be punished was their departure from God, with its attendant idolatry and resultant moral corruption; and their attitude of antagonism to the house of David, to which they ought to have been willing to return at the earliest possible moment. This long-accumulating national sin God was now determined to punish, and was gathering the peoples to execute his decree, as before the tribes had assembled to avenge the sin of Gibeah. There is an entail of sin which the descendants of the wicked can only cut off by repentance (Matthew 23:35, Matthew 23:36).
II. A PAST OF EASE AND PLENTY—A PRESENT OF HARD SERVICE. (Verse 11)
1. Past comfort. The people of Israel had a fat portion, and had grown accustomed to the life of ease and luxury. Like the trained heifer, which treads out the corn as a matter of habit, and feeds at its ease as it does so, they loved their prosperity, and took it as a thing of course. It is easy to settle in prosperity. We take our good things as though they came to us by right. We form habits in accordance with them. We survey the situation with lazy complacency, and conclude that this happy fortune must be what we were born to.
2. A present yoke. "I (have) passed over her fair neck.' Already God had taught Israel the vanity of her complacency by subjecting her to the tribute of the kings of Assyria. This, however, had failed to lead to repentance; so worse was now in store.
3. Approaching hard service. "I will yoke Ephraim; Judah shall plough; Jacob shall break his clods." The image is taken from severe field labor, as contrasted with the easy work of the threshing heifer. Sin ends in bondage; in hard service; in the yoke and goad. The way of the transgressor is hard (Proverbs 13:15). There may be ease and luxury at first, but the end is that he "labors and is heavy laden" (Matthew 11:28).—J.O.
Israel's duty is here contrasted with their practice.
I. THE KIND OF HUSBANDRY ISRAEL OUGHT TO HAVE FOLLOWED. (Hosea 10:12)
1. Preparation of the soil. Israel is first bid to sow; then going a step further back, the people are commanded, "Break up your fallow ground." If fruits of righteousness are to be produced, it needs, not simply a weeding and recultivation of the old soil—the natural, unrenewed heart—but the preparation of a soil entirely new. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). Ezekiel, accordingly, promises that God will take away the hard and stony heart from Israel, and will give them a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). The first need of our souls is renewal. Yet we have the duty laid on us of seeking this renewal, and of co-operating (by prayer, use of means of grace, faith, repentance) in bringing it about. "Make you a new heart, and a new spirit" (Ezekiel 18:31).
2. Sowing in the soil. The sowing is to be "in righteousness," i.e. in the practice of truth, kindness, justice, mercy, godliness, and everything else which the Law of God requires. Each must sow for himself. The sowing cannot be done by proxy. Sowing in righteousness is "for ourselves" in the sense also that our own highest well-being is involved in it (Psalms 19:11). Righteousness in the long run profits the doer himself more than it profits any other. It is his "life" (Deuteronomy 32:47).
3. Waiting on God. "For it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you." As in the outer world rain is indispensable to growth, so is the blessing of God, given in rains of his Spirit, essential to growth in grace. In raining the Spirit upon us, God rains righteousness. Cause is put for effect. It is the Spirit's influences which cause righteousness to spring up. This waiting on God must accompany the whole process. It implies an earnest direction of the heart, supplication, and patient looking for the blessing. It is always "time" for the sinner to seek the Lord. He cannot do it too soon.
4. The gracious reaping. "Reap in mercy." Not according to desert, but according to God's infinite grace and love. The reaping is
(1) a reaping of righteousness (Romans 6:19, Romans 6:22);
(2) of other spiritual and temporal blessings (Matthew 6:33; Ephesians 1:3);
(3) of eternal life (Romans 6:12).
II. THE KIND OF HUSBANDRY ISRAEL DID FOLLOW. (Verse 13)
1. Instead of "sowing in righteousness," Israel ploughed wickedness. They took pains to do evil, bestowed labor upon it, prepared the soil in which it might grow, and seemed to delight in multiplying transgressions. If God's people were as diligent in cultivating goodness as sinners are in cultivating sin, the Church would soon be in a healthier condition.
2. Instead of "reaping in mercy," they reaped iniquity. Sin brought forth sin. They served 'iniquity unto iniquity'" (Romans 6:19). As weeds multiply quicker than good gram, so sin, in the same space of time, yields a far greater harvest (of its own kind) than righteousness.
3. Instead of spiritual and temporal blessings, Israel reaped disappointment and ruin.
(1) They reaped lies (disappointment). "Ye have eaten the fruit of lies." Their hopes, built chiefly on the multitude of their fighting men (verse 15), deceived them. They proved utterly vain. They had sown lies in "speaking words" and "swearing falsely in making a covenant" (verse 4); they now reaped the fruit of this, in seeing their hosts utterly routed, their fortresses captured, and their women and children dashed to pieces (verse 14)—judgment springing up in the furrows they had themselves made (verse 4).
(2) They reaped ruin. When war arose, the sword of the Assyrian swept all before it. Israel could read in recent atrocities of Shalman the doom which awaited themselves (verse 14). King and kingdom would be cut off (verse 15)—"in a morning," i.e. early. This was the result of their sowing. This was what Bethel, with its "evil of evil," had done for them. Oh that the sinner would take warning!—J.O.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hosea 10". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter