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In Hosea 12:1-6 God continues his complaint against Ephraim, charging them specially with the pursuit of vain and futile courses to their great detriment. Instead of repairing to the true and everlasting source of safety and salvation, they had recourse to foreign alliances to support and strengthen their decaying state and sinking interests. And yet the only staying power was Jehovah. The controversy now embraces Judah also; and thus Jacob—both Israel and Judah—is threatened with such punishment as their doings deserved. The mention of their great ancestor Jacob naturally suggests a contrast; while his conduct is proposed to them for an example. They are accordingly invited to follow in his footsteps, imitate the piety and wisdom of his course, and so entertain good hope of similar success from the unchanging and unchangeable God of their pious ancestor.
Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind. "Wind" is employed figuratively to denote what is empty and vain, of no real worth or practical benefit.
1. To feed on wind is to take pleasure in or draw sustenance from what can really afford neither; while following after the east wind is
(1) to pursue vain hopes and ideals which are unattainable. According to this view, the prominent idea of the east wind is its fleetness, which passed into a proverb; thus Horace says, "Agents nimbos Oeior Euro." To outrun the swift and stormy east wind would represent an undertaking at once impracticable and hopeless. But
(2) it is rather the blasting influence of the east wind that is referred to, so that it is a figurative representation, not so much of what is vain and hopeless, as of what is pernicious and destructive. Thus their course was not only idle, but injurious; not only delusive, but destructive; not only fruitless, but fatal. Their career, which is thus represented, included their idolatry and foreign alliances Kimchi explains this clause as follows: "In his service of the calves he is like him who opens his mouth to the wind and feeds on it, though he cannot support life thereby." And followeth after the east wind; ' he repeats the sense in different words, and mentions the east wind because it is the strongest and most injurious of winds to the sons of men. So with them: it is not enough that the idolatry of the calves does not profit them, but it actually injures them."
2. The Septuagint rendering is Ὁ δὲ Ἐφραὶμ πονηρὸν πνεῦμα ἐδίωξε καυδώνα, equivalent to "But Ephraim is an evil spirit; he has chased the east wind." He daily (rather, all the day) increaseth lies and desolation. Some understood these words
(1) as descriptive of Ephraim's attitude towards Jehovah; and thus what is figuratively set forth in the first clause is here represented literally. Thus Kimchi says, "He does not turn back from his wickedness, but all the days he multiplies lying which is the worship of the calves, and so increases the desolation and destruction that shall come as a punishment for their service. And with all this he does not perceive nor return from the worship of the calves to the worship of the blessed God." But
(2) we prefer understanding the second clause of Ephraim's conduct towards his neighbor or fellow-man. Titus, Hitzig, who shows that שֹׁד cannot refer to their conduct towards Jehovah, nor could their lies and desolation continue the whole day if referred to his service. חָמָס וָשׁד, "violence and robbery," or "spoil," are also jointed in a similar manner in Amos 3:10 and Jeremiah 6:7, to characterize men's conduct towards their neighbors. In the passage before us, if we refer the words, "lies and desolation," as we think they ought to be referred, to Ephraim's conduct towards men, the ריב and שד may be distinguished thus: the former designates low lying and fraudulent dealing; while the latter expresses that brutal violence by which dishonest men unscrupulously take possession of their neighbors' property. And they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt. This fondness for foreign alliances is specified as a positive proof of their apostasy from, and want of confidence in, Jehovah. This is well explained by Kimchi in the following comment: "But what doeth Ephraim? When oppression of the enemy comes upon him, they make a covenant with Assyria for their assistance, and likewise with Egypt—one time with this, another time with that." The expression כרת ברית, "to cut a covenant," has its parallel in the Greek ὀρκία τεμνεῖν and Latin foedus fetire, as also in the Arabic, doubtless from the circumstance of slaying the victims in its ratification. The conduct here censured is Ephraim's faithlessness to the then static covenant rather than their treacherous maneuvering in "playing off" Egypt against Assyria, and Assyria against Egypt alternately. The land of Israel abounded in oil-olive and honey, as we read in Deuteronomy 8:8 and elsewhere. The object of sending it to Egypt was as a present to the Egyptians to secure their interest and help against Assyria. It is thus properly explained both by Rash! and Kimchi. The former says, "And their oil they bring to Egypt to give it to them as a present that they may help them;" the latter likewise, "They bring their oil to the Egyptians for a present, for oil came to Egypt and to other lands out of the land of Israel. The land of Israel was rich in olive oil."
The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah; and will punish (margin, visit upon) Jacob according to his ways. God here presents himself at once as plaintiff and judge, widening the range of his pleadings. The controversy with Israel takes a wider sweep, and comprehends Judah culpable, though apparently in a less degree. But though Judah comes in for a share of punishment, that punishment shall be proportionate to their delinquencies—those like Judah that sinned less shall suffer less; while the more heinous transgressors, such as Israel had proved to be, would come in for severer punishment. To Jacob, here embracing the ten tribes of Israel and the two of Judah, the chastisement would be meted out in exact accordance with his ways. The apparent contradiction between Hosea 12:12 of last chapter, where, as most translate it, Judah is represented as ruling with God and being faithful with the saints, and the present inclusion of Judah in controversy with Jehovah, occasioned
(1) a rendering and explanation of this verse which Aben Ezra declares to be both ungrammatical and unscriptural. "He" says Aben Ezra." who explains that Judah is faithful and he shall be reproving, and asserts that Scripture makes no mention of Jehovah having a controversy against Judah, but [employs] עם the sense being that Jehovah and Judah have a strife against Ephraim, errs from the way of Scripture and grammar, for the prophet has written above (verse 13), 'Judah saw his wound;' 'I will make Ephraim to ride; Judah shall plough;' and in reference to both of them he says,' Ye shall eat the fruit of lies.' He also forgets 'The herdmen of Gerar did strive with (עם) Isaac's herdmen;' 'And the people strove with Moses;' and many other places [i.e. where עם is found with the sense of 'contending']. Therefore he joins Ephraim with Judah, and says, 'The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways, because this name (i.e. Jacob) comprehends them both (Ephraim and Judah)."
(2) The meaning is given concisely and correctly by Rashi thus: "He (Jehovah) announces to them the words of his controversy which their brethren of the house of Israel had caused him; and they should not wonder if he would punish (literally, 'visit on') Jacob according to his ways." The change in the ease of Judah, Kimchi accounts for by reference to their subsequent apostasy, especially that of their kings, as follows: "Although he said, 'And Judah yet reigneth with God,' he meant, although be holds fast by the service of God in the house of the sanctuary; so afterwards they practiced evil deeds as their kings were evil; therefore he said,' Jehovah has a controversy and correction with Judah and Jacob to visit upon them according to their doings, as their kings were evil, for they did not remember my mercy with them and with their father Jacob, because the whole was for sake of his posterity; and I showed him a sign which should be to his seed after him, if they gave their heart to me … . And the sign which I showed them is only done for sake of his seed. But they have not acknowledged this, for if they had acknowledged this, they would have cleaved to me and my service, and I would have ratified to them the blessing of Jacob their father.'" The infinitive with le is not infrequently employed in the sense of our future, thus, לפקד, it is to be visited, equivalent to "he shall or must visit upon it' This idiom is common in Syriac, but always with atid. According to his doings will he recompense him. The milder expression is applied to Judah—he has a controversy with him, but will punish Jacob, restricted by some to Ephraim or the ten tribes. Better understand Jacob of both Judah and Israel, who are both to be recompensed, each according to his works.
He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power (margin, was a prince, or, behaved himself princely) with God. In this verse and the following the prophet looks away back into the far-distant past; and this retrospect, which is suggested by the names Jacob and Israel, reminds him of two well-known events in the life of the patriarch-The meaning and intention of this reminiscence are differently interpreted. The two leading views are the following:
(1) Some are of opinion that the prophet means to give an example by way of warning, and to mention a trait of Jacob's overreaching cunning, and likewise of his violence, and thereby show that Jacob had incurred guilt in a manner resembling that of the then present generation; that is to say, his conduct had been like to theirs in deceit, lying, and violence. But
(2) according to others, and we agree with them, the object of the prophet in these verses is to admonish them to imitate the conduct of their progenitor, and to remind them of the distinction which he had obtained thereby, as an encourage-merit to them to go and do likewise.
(3) Another interpretation, somewhat similar to (2), is that of those who admit that Jacob's laying hold of his brother's heel in the womb is proposed to his posterity by the prophet for the purpose of emulation and encouragement, at the same time to exhibit God's electing grace from eternity. Thus Jerome: "While he was yet in the womb of Rebekah, he laid hold of his brother's heel, not by his own strength, it is true, who was incapable of perception, but by the mercy of God, who knows and loves those whom he has predestinated." So also Rashi: "All this I have done to him; he took his brother by the heel for a sign that he would prevail over him." Calvin explains more fully thus: "Their ingratitude is showed in this, that they did not acknowledge that they had been anticipated, in the person of their father Jacob, by the gratuitous mercy of God. The first history is indeed referred to for this end, that the posterity of Jacob might understand that they had been elected by God before they were born. For Jacob did not, by choice or design, lay hold of the heel of his brother in his mother's womb; but it was an extraordinary thing. It was, then, God who guided the hand of the infant and by this sign testified his adoption to be gratuitous. In short, by saying that Jacob held the foot of his brother in his mother's womb, the same thing is intended as if God had reminded the Israelites that they did not excel other people by their own virtue or that of their parents, but that God of his own good pleasure had chosen them." Aben Ezra and Kimchi explain the seizing of Esau's heel by Jacob as owing to the impartation of Divine power, but as a sign of victory over his enemies. We must reject
(1) for the following reasons:
(a) The reference is not to Genesis 27:1-46; where Jacob's overreaching Esau is recorded, but to Genesis 25:26, where it is written, "After that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel;"
(b) the patriarchs are always exhibited as patterns of piety—besides, Hosea never employs the name Israel in any but an honorable sense. We must elect between (2) and (3); and we incline to (2), as the gist of the passage is to exhibit Jacob's earnestness in seeking the Divine blessing as an example to his posterity. Already in his mother's womb, before he saw the light of the world even in his condition of unconsciousness, he had laid hold of the heel of his elder brother Esau, in order to anticipate him as the firstborn, and thereby appropriate the Divine promises. The second clause describes how with zeal, by labor and effort, he had struggled for the position of pre-eminence, sorely struggling for the Divine blessing. In the maturity of his manhood he wrestled with God, or rather with the angel of the covenant, and prevailed so that his name was changed to Israel. This picture the prophet presents to Jacob's posterity for their imitation, with implied promise of like happy result. Though Aben Ezra and Kimchi, in their exposition of the verse, rather explain in their own way the significance of the original event as recorded in Genesis than the application which the prophet here makes of it, yet it may not be out of place to subjoin their comments, which are as follows: Aben Ezra, "With respect to him who explains 'in the womb' in the sense that Jehovah then decreed the matter of the birthright and blessing, I know not how the meaning of 'in the womb' bears on that, as the Scripture says, 'Before I formed thee in the womb I knew thee.' According to my opinion it should be taken according to its literal sense, that ' he took his brother by the heel in the womb; ' and this is made clear by' and his hand took hold on Esau's heel.' Now the purport is, 'Why do the sons of Jacob not remember that I chose their father, and effected preeminence for him over all that are born? For when he was in the womb I gave him strength to lay hold of the heel, and this was as the working of a miracle, for the fetus has, in the womb and at the time of the opening of the matrix, no strength to lay hold of anything until it comes forth from the womb into the air of the world. And lo! when he was in the womb I gave him strength; and afterwards he wrestled with the angel, and he (the angel) did not prevail over him, although one angel slew the whole host of Assyria, and from his sight the children of men flee in terror as David who was frightened; how much was it to wrestle with him.' The meaning is that all the children of the world should know that his (Jacob's) seed shall endure for ever, and in the end conquer his enemies. But Ephraim thinks that Ephraim himself has found the power." The comment of Kimchi on the first part of the verse is much the same with that of Aben Ezra just cited; while on the concluding clause he remarks, "And yet another sign I have shown him to be a sign to his children after him, for I gave him strength to wrestle with the angel and to be a prince in relation to him as if he was in the same rank with him. And this sign I showed him that his sons would be the portion of Jehovah alone, that star and angel should not prevail over them all the time they would do my pleasure, and by the signs of the heavens they should not be terrified, for they have no strength (physical) nor power (moral) over them, because the providence of God most blessed cleaves to them during all the period they would do my will, nor shall they succumb to any accident of time."
Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him. As Jacob's position at birth symbolized the pre-eminence which God's electing love had in store for him, and as in his manhood's prime he put forth such earnestness and energy to obtain the blessing, so Israel, by the example of their forefather, are encouraged to like strenuous exertion with like certainty of success. The example is more fully described and dwelt on in this verse for the purpose of more powerfully stimulating the Israelites of the prophet's day to imitate it. From this verse we learn the following facts:
(1) the nature of the conflict as of a spiritual kind;
(2) the visible embodiment of the invisible deity, so that the angel is not an entire identification with God in the preceding verse, bat the organ of Divine manifestation; and
(3) the weapons used, or the means employed, namely, weeping and supplication, in a word, the instrumentality of prayer; and
(4) the true way of prevailing with God, which is real humility and sin-core supplication, not stiff, necked and defiant resistance to the Divine will and word, like that of Israel at the period in question.
This verse "is," according to Aben Ezra, "an explanation how he put forth prowess with God." Kimchi regards it as "the repetition of the same thought for the put. pose of intensifying, for it was a great wonder for a man to wrestle with an angel." כָבָה
(1) commences a new clause; while
(2) the punctuation of it as a participle, בֹבֶח, and the connection of it with "prevailed," leaves the following clause isolated without any improvement of the sense. The rendering in this latter case would be "prevailed weeping," a somewhat awkward expression. But
(3) there is an exposition adopted by the Hebrew expositors and advocated by Hitzig, which appears to us to do violence to the true signification of the passage. Thus Rashi: "And the angel besought him, ' Let me now go. The end of the Holy and Blessed One is that he may reveal himself to thee in Bethel, and there shalt thou find him.'" Similarly Aben Ezra: "He (the angel) almost wept and supplicated him to let him go. And the signification of עי הש,Genesis 32:26, is: 'before the light strengthened, that Jacob might not be alarmed.'" Also Kimchi: "This is not mentioned in the Thorah; and the explanation is as if the angel wept and supplicated Jacob to let him go, as he said, 'Let me go, for' the day breaketh.'" Such exposition introduces into the text an intolerable anthropopathism. Jerome long before had given the correct explanation thus: "He wept and asked him, when he said, 'I will not let thee go, unless thou shalt have blessed me!' For the wrestling was that which he engaged in with the angel, holding him by prayers that he might bless him, not by the strength of work. If any one weeps and exercises penitence, and supplicates the Lord, he shall find him in the grief of his heart, and when he has invoked him, he shall hear him answering." He found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us. The prophet here records the result of Jacob's faithful wrestling. Them in Bethel, the very place where years after idolatry and immorality found a home, God had manifested himself to the patriarch.
The fruit of Jacob's victory was that
(1) he found God at Bethel; not that
(2) God found him, as some explain it.
The historical basis of the prophet's statement is not Genesis 28:11, which narrates the appearance of God to the patriarch as he fled into Mesopotamia, but Genesis 35:9, when the new name of Israel, "prince with God," was confirmed to him, and the promise of all the families of the earth being blessed through his seed renewed. Of the two visions at Bethel the second is the one here referred to, as it comes after that at Penuel, the scene of the patriarch's wrestling with the angel; while the accompanying circumstances keep us to the right understanding of the expression, "He found him in Bethel," which we are considering. Jacob on that memorable occasion prepared himself and household for seeking God by putting away the strange gods that were among them, by ceremonial purifications, and putting on change of garments. Thus, seeking with holy purpose and prepared heart, he found the Lord at Bethel, and enjoyed heavenly fellowship with him there. Aben Ezra favors (2) making Jehovah, not Jacob, the subject; thus: "As he was returning to his father, the angel found him there; and because the angel appeared to him twice in Bethel, behold the place is the gate of heaven; therefore I and Amos have prophesied about Jeroboam at Bethel, which is the place of his kingdom." Kimchi approves of the exposition of the angel finding Jacob, but mentions a modification of that of Jacob finding the angel; thus: "The angel found him in Bethel and also blessed him there; and the word ימי, equivalent to 'found him,' is the future instead of the past. But my lord my father, of blessed memory, explains it according to its literal import, that the angel said to him (when wrestling with him) that he would find him in Bethel The blessed God announced to him the good tidings that he would there manifest himself to him and call his name Israel." The last clause of this verse states the additional fact that God spoke
(1) through the patriarch to his posterity. "Let it be observed," says Lackemacher, as quoted by Keil, "that God is said to have talked at Bethel, not with Jacob only, but with all his posterity. That is to say, the things which are here said to have been done by Jacob, and to have happened to him, had not regard to himself only, but to all the race that sprang from him, and were signs of the good fortune which they either would or certainly might enjoy." Though the suffix of ימי, in the Massoretic text is well attested, yet, instead of
(a) the third person, Ewald reads it
(b) as the first plural, and consequently so renders the word that the clause implies, not a narrative of the past, but a prophecy of the future; thus:
(2) "He will find at Bethel, and there he will speak with us." The. Septuagint, again, with other Greek versions, as also the Syriac and Arabic, read in the last part of the clause עִמּו, equivalent "to him," instead of עִמָּנוּ, equivalent to "us," which identifies the patriarch with his posterity. The translation by which a relative is understood before immanu, equivalent to "Them he spoke to Jacob the things that are with us," or "happened us," or "pertained to us," is neither necessary nor in accordance with good taste. Kimchi understands the verb in the present tense that is, God speaks
(a) with us—Hosea and the other prophets, to reprove the idolatry rampant in Bethel;
(b) rather with the prophet and the people descended from the patriarch. On the words, "there he spake with us," Kimchi comments as follows: "These are the words of the prophet. He says, ' There in Bethel he (Jehovah) speaks with me and with Amos to reprove Israel for the worship of the calf in Bethel,' as Amos (Amos 5:4) says, 'Seek ye me, and ye shall live: but seek not Bethel.' But my lord my father, of blessed memory, explained 'And there he will speak with us' as the words of the angel. He (the angel) says to him (Jacob), 'The blessed God will find us in Bethel, and there he will speak
(c) with us, with me and with thee, in order to confirm to thee my blessing, and to call thy name Israel, saying, For as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.'" But others, as Saadia Gaon, explain the word, not in the sense of "with us," but
(d) "on account of us," or "about us."
Even the Lord God of hosts; the Lord is his memorial. Here we have at once a confirmation and a pledge of previous promises. Jacob had wronged Esau, and thereby incurred his displeasure; he had offended God by the injury inflicted on his brother. He is consequently in a position of peril with respect to both God and man; he repented of his sin, and with many and hitter tears supplicated safety—salvation in the highest sense. Jacob, or Israel, in Hosea's time were involved in greater guilt and exposed to greater danger; the same unfailing remedy is recommended to them, and the same way of safety is laid open before them; let them only repent, turn to the Lord, and with tears of genuine sorrow seek his face and favor free; and the prospect would soon brighten before them. The Name of God was a sufficient guarantee: he is Jehovah the Everlasting, and therefore Unchanging One—the same to Jacob's posterity as he had been to the patriarch himself, equally ready to accept their repentance and equally willing to bless them with safety and salvation. He is God of hosts, and thus the Almighty One, governing all creatures, guiding all events, commanding all powers both heavenly and earthly, and ruling the whole history of humanity. His name is a remembrancer of all this, and thus his people were assured that he neither lacks the will nor the power to bless them with all needful blessings, and do them greatest good. The name of an individual is that whereby he is known; on mention of his name the memory of him is recalled. The mention of the Divine Name not only reminds us of his being and Godhead, but recalls to our memory his attributes. Rashi has the following brief comment on this verse: "As I have been from the beginning, so am I now; and if ye had walked with me in uprightness as Jacob our father, I would have dealt with you as dealt with him." Thus to Abram in a land of strangers, imperiled and defenseless, God revealed himself as God Almighty; to Moses, after centuries of unfulfilled promise, he made himself known as the Unchanging One, still challenging the confidence of his people; to Hosea he brings to mind his unchanging counsel in regard to all the events of time and his unlimited control over all the realms of space and their inhabitants, and so the suitability of his attributes to the multiplied necessities and varying circumstances of his people.
Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually. God's character in itself, and his conduct towards the great forefather of the Hebrew race, call at once for confidence and contrition. The evidence of their repentance is twofold: one aspect is manward, consisting of mercy and judgment; the other is Godward, being a constant waiting upon God. The literal rendering brings out the meaning more clearly; it is, "And thou, in [or, 'by'] thy God thou shalt return." If we render the preposition by "in," we may understand it to imply entire dependence on God, or close and cordial fellowship with God; if we take it to mean "by," it signifies the power or help of God; while the return is moral and spiritual, with perhaps material and literal restoration implied A parallel for be in the signification of "by" occurs in the first chapter of this book at the seventh verse: "I will save them by (be) the Lord their God;" also in Deuteronomy 33:29, "O people saved by (be) the Lord." We prefer the former sense as more simple and suitable; it is concisely and correctly explained by Keil as follows: "'שׁוב with בְ is a pregnant expression, as in Isaiah 10:22, 'So turn as to enter into vital fellowship with God; ' that is, to be truly converted … . The next two clauses are to be taken as explanatory of תשוב. The conversion is to show itself i, the perception of love and right towards their brethren, and in constant trust in God." The difference between שׁוּב בְּ and שוּב אֶל is that the latter signifies "to return to," and the former "to return into," and thus expresses inward union with him. The general sense of the clause is thus expressed by Aben Ezra: "If thou wouldst return to God, he would be thy help to bring thee back to him;" and by Kimchi as follows: "But thou who art the seed of Jacob, if thou art willing, canst return unto thy God, i.e. thou canst rest in him, as 'In returning and rest shall ye be saved' (Isaiah 30:15)." The second point of the verse has an instructive parallel in Micah 6:8, "What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" In regard to the waiting upon God, of which the last clause speaks, Aben Ezra has the pithy remark, "Depend not upon thy riches nor thy strength, for the strength thou hadst from him, also the riches." Kimchi comments on the same more fully, as follows: "On this condition thou canst rest and not be afraid of the enemy, if thou wilt observe to do mercy and judgment: for his conditions are as he said, 'I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.' And although he does not mention righteousness here, yet he has said in another place, 'Keep ye judgment, and to justice [literally, 'righteousness'].' And he says here, 'And wait upon thy God continually;' now it is righteousness and equity that thou waitest on thy God continually. And even when thou shalt have great possession and riches and wealth, thou shalt say to thyself, ' It is all from him; thou shall remember him continually and wait on him, as he says in the Law (Deuteronomy 8:18), ' Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God, for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth; not like Ephraim, who says, 'I am become rich, I have found me out substance.'" The Septuagint has ἔγγιζε, equivalent to "draw near to," having probably read קְרֹב instead of קַוֵּה.
Contain a fresh description of Israel's apostasy. To this the prophet is led by the preceding train of thought. When he called to mind the earnestness of the patriarch to obtain the blessing, the sincerity of his repentance, and the evidences of conversion, consisting in mercy and judgment and constant waiting on God, he looks around on Israel, and finding those virtues conspicuous by their absence; he repeats the story of their degeneracy.
He is a merchant (margin, Canaan), the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress. This verse is more exactly rendered, Canaan is he, in his hand are the balances of deceit: he loveth to oppress. How the sons have degenerated from the sire! No longer do we see Jacob wrestling in prayer with the angel of the covenant, and knighted in the field with the name of Israel, or "prince with God;" but a fraudulent merchant Kenaan, seeking to aggrandize himself by cheating and oppression. His conduct is the opposite of what God requires; instead of the mercy and judgment and trust in God enjoined in the preceding verse, we have the Canaanitish (Phoenician) trader, with his false scales in his hand and the love of oppression in his heart. The word Kenaan sometimes denotes Canaan, the son of Ham, and ancestor of the Canaanitish nation; sometimes the land of Canaan, or lowlands (from כָּנַע, bow the knee, γονυ γνυ γνυπετεῖν, genu, knee; then "to be low" or "depressed") as opposed to אֲרָם, or" highlands" (from רוּם, to be high); sometimes Phoenicia, the northern part of Canaan; also, from the Canaanites or Phoenicians having been famous as merchants, a man of Canaan, or any merchant, so Job 40:1-24 :30 and Proverbs 31:24, just as Kasdi Chaldaean is applied to an astrologer. At the time of Hosea, the Phoenicians were the great merchants who had the commerce of the world in their hand. Canaan is thus a figurative designation of Ephraim in their degenerate condition as indicated by the false balances and love of oppression. The verse is well explained by Theodoret: "And thou, Ephraim, imitating
(1) the wickedness of Canaan, hast an unjust balance of mind: thou despisest justice, thou greedily desirest unjust power, thou art high-minded in rich, S, and dost arrogate to thyself very much in prescribing and determining the conditions thereof." Rashi more briefly remarks, "Ye depend upon your wealth because ye are merchants and defraud; and of your riches ye say, 'Yet I have become rich, and shall not serve the Holy One;'" while Kimchi marks the contrast between Israel as he ought to be and Israel as he actually is, thus: "But thou art not so (i.e. practicing love and righteousness), but thou art like the Canaanite, i.e. as
(2) the merchant, in whose hand is the deceitful balance." The character of the Phoenician trader is thus given in the 'Odyssey'—"A false Phoenician of insidious mind, Vers'd in vile arts, and foe to humankind." But, in addition to secret fraud, open violence is here charged against Israel.
And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance. Ephraim in this verse boasts of his riches, though procured by fraud and violence, while he maintains at the same time that he has not sinned thereby so as to expose himself to punishment or deserve severe reprehension. The particle—אַךְ—has two principal meanings:
(a) "surely" and
(b) "only." In the former sense the clause
(1) may allude to the injunction contained in Hosea 12:6 to wait on God, and may signify, "No doubt I have become rich, yet not through Divine help, but by my own exertions;" in the latter sense it may signify,
(2) "I have only become rich; I have done nothing else; I have done nothing amiss" Aben Ezra regards אַךְ as introducing the apodosis, and explains it nearly in the sense of (1), thus: "The sense of אךְ is, 'God has not given me the wealth, but I by myself [i.e. my own unaided efforts] have become rich, for I am not as the Canaanite,' that is, the merchant, as 'There shall be no more the Canaanite' (Zechariah 14:21) ;" he then proceeds to show the connection, "And the meaning [according to the context] is, 'Why does he say, Keep mercy and judgment, and be not an oppressor like the Canaanite [nor am I]? yet all is my own honest earning; none of the sons of men shall find that I have sinned.'" The interpretation of Kimchi is similar, but somewhat simpler, thus: "The words, 'I am become rich,' are the opposite of 'Wait on thy God continually.' But he (Ephraim) does not wait on God the blessed, and he does not acknowledge that he gave him strength to acquire wealth, but says, 'My own power and the strength of my hands have made for me this wealth,' and he forgetteth God the blessed, who gave him power to work, as it is written in the Law (Deuteronomy 8:14), 'And thou forget the Lord thy God.' This is what he (the prophet) means by 'I have become rich;' he means to say, 'I have become rich from myself,'" i.e. by my own labor. The word אוֹן denotes both physical or bodily strength, and also, like חַיִל, riches, Latin opes, probably as procured thereby. The flourishing state of the kingdom during the reigns of Joash and Jeroboam II. may have induced their overweening self-confidence and their amazing forgetfulness of God, and at the same time this surprising ignorance of their real condition.
(2) The Septuagint rendering is εὕρηκα ἀναψυχὴν ἐμαυτῷ, "I have found refreshment for myself," and Jerome, "Inveni mihi idolum," as if אָוֶש had been read instead of אוֹן. In all my labors they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin; margin, all my labors suffice me not: he shall bare punishment of iniquity in whom is sin. Here two modes of construction are possible and each has had its advocates; thus, יְנִיעַי may be
(a) the subject of the verb, as in the LXX; which is, "None of his labors shall be found available for him on account of the sins he has committed." This is the rendering followed and interpreted by Cyril and Theodoret.
(b) The words in question, instead of being taken as the subject to the verb, may be employed absolutely or with the ellipsis of a preposition, as in the Authorized Version; thus: "As to my labors, or the fruits of my labors," for יני, is used in both senses.
The meaning of the passage then is
(1) that, besides the sins of fraud and oppression, Ephraim did not shrink through shame to vindicate his conduct and to maintain that. in all the riches he had acquired with such labor, no one could show that those riches had been unjustly acquired by him, or that there was sin contracted in their acquisition. Thus Kimchi: "He (the prophet) mentions another vice, saying that he (Ephraim) oppresses, and asserts that, in all he has labored for and gathered together, they shall not be able to find
(a) any riches of iniquity and sin. אי תי is the same as iniquity and sin, and thus (Ecclesiastes 5:18) 'it is good and comely' (asher here also for vav). Or the explanation of it is:
(b) They shall not find with me iniquity. nor any matter in which there is sin pertaining to me. And חי is less than עי iniquity, for sin comes sometimes by reason of error. Or the explanation of 'iniquity which were sin' is:
(c) Iniquity in which there was sin to me; as if he said, with regard to which I had sinned; for if riches came into my hand through iniquity and robbery, it was not with my knowledge; he means: so that I sinned in relation to it, and took it by iniquity with my knowledge; and in this way (Leviticus 22:16) 'they lade themselves with the iniquity of trespass; עי being in construct state, that is to say, iniquity with regard to which they trespassed." לִי signifies "belonging to me;" while חטא is read, not as a noun, but as a verb in the Septuagint, ἃς ἅμαρτεν.
(2) The Chaldee, which is explained by Rashi, gives an explanation identical, though only partially so, with the marginal rendering of the Authorized Version, namely, "It were good for thee if thou consideredst with thyself: all my riches do not suffice me, in order to expiate the iniquity which I have committed." This, and the marginal reading—both where they coincide and where they diverge—we must unhesitatingly reject as far-fetched, artificial, and having no real basis in the text. To their other sins Israel added this protestation of innocence, which was the solemn protestation of a falsehood. The clause
(3) may admit another sense; thus: If in ray gains by labor iniquity should be found, that indeed would be sin; but such is not the case. Thus, like the Pharisees of a later age, did they justify themselves before men; but God knew their hollow-hearted hypocrisy.
And I that am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast. This verse consists of two parts which in the original are coordinated; but in the Authorized Version the one is subordinated to the other by supplying an awkward and unnecessary ellipsis. It is better, therefore, to translate thus: And I am the Lord thy God, from the land of Egypt: I will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast. Some understand this verse as a threatening; not a few as a promise; while others combine both.
(1) Theodoret, who may be taken as representing the first class of interpreters, comments thus: "That thou mayest understand this and learn wisdom by thy calamity, I will bring thee back again to that point that thou must again dwell in tents and wander as an exile in a foreign land."
(2) Kimchi may represent those who understand it as a promise, or rather a promise with an implied threatening, and thus combine both. His exposition is as follows: "Even so am I ready to bring you forth out of the captivity where ye shall be, as I did when I brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, and sustained you in the wilderness and made you dwell in tents; so am I ready yet again, when I shall have brought you forth out of the lands of the Gentiles, to cause you to dwell in tents in the wilderness by the way, and to show you wonders until ye shall return to your land in peace."
(3) Wunsche rejects both the preceding, and refers the statement to the other, present time, taking עוֹד, not in the sense of "yet again," but in the equally allowable meaning of "further," or "still further;" thus his rendering of the verse is, "And yet I am thy God from Egypt, still I let thee dwell in tents, as in the days of the solemn feast." Thus we have a remembrance of God's goodness to Israel all along from the Exodus to the time then present, including the celebration of their feasts, especially that of Taber-uncles, the most joyful of them all. This is favored by the interpretation of Aben Ezra, which is the following: "The sense is, 'Shouldst thou not remember that I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt in great riches for which thou didst not labor, and nourished thee in the wilderness when thou wast in tents?' In like manner he shall be able to do unto thee as in the days of the solemn feast of thy coming out of Egypt." We prefer, notwithstanding, the exposition number (2), which includes, or rather implies, a threatening of being driven out of their good laud into a wilderness state, because of their forgetfulness of, and ingratitude to, God, as also because of their proud self-confidence; while, with this implied threat of punishment, God holds out to them the promise and prospect of like guiding care and sheltering guardianship, as in that early period of their history, the remembrance of which was still kept up by the mo'ed, or Feast of Tabernacles, during the seven days of which the people dwelt in booths, in commemoration of their having dwelt in booths in the wilderness after they had been delivered out of the land of Egypt. Thus, as Hengstenberg has well observed, "the preterit is changed into a future through the ingratitude of the nation."
Hosea 12:10 and Hosea 12:11 prove God's continual care for the spiritual welfare and best interests of Israel all along, and, at the same time, the inexcusableness of Israel in forgetting God and in arrogating to themselves the power of controlling their own destinies in the matter of wealth and prosperity; while multiplied prophecies and visions testified to both, viz. to God's care and Israel's recklessness of warnings. Moreover, their persistence in sin prepared them for and precipitated the punishment.
I have also spoken to the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets. The vav before the verb in the beginning of the verse is copulative, and the verb is in the preterit as the accent is on the penult; if the vav were conversive of the preterit into the future, the verb would have the accent on the ultimate. The preterit denotes what has been taking place up to the present. עִל is explained
(1) by Knobel to denote that the Divine revelation or inspiration descended on the prophets from heaven; but
(2) Kimchi explains it as equivalent to אִם, with; thus: "'Upon (עִל) the prophets ' is the same as ' with (אִם) the prophets,' as (in Exodus 35:32), 'And they came both men and women [literally, 'men, עַל with, or rather in addition to, women']. He (Jehovah) says, 'What could I do to you and I did not do it, so that ye should not forget me? And what did I do with your fathers? I spoke constantly with the prophets to admonish you from me, and I multiplied visions to you many days.'" The Authorized Version
(3) employs "by" as the equivalent of עַל here. The pronoun veanoki is emphatic, viz. "I even I," as though he said, "I and not another;" while the preterit proves Jehovah to have continued his visions to the very moment at which the prophet speaks. To the word אַדַמֶּה,
(a) use similitudes, some supply a verbal noun of corporate sense, דְמוּתות or דִמְיוּנִים. This, however, is unnecessary, as a verb often includes its cognate noun, of which we have several similar ellipses, e.g. Genesis 6:4, "They bare children [יְלָדִים understood] to them;" also Jeremiah 1:9, "They shall set themselves in array [הֲערָכָה understood] against her." The LXX.
(b) has ὡμοιώθην, "I was represented; "and Jerome renders it assimilatus sum. The three modes of Divine communication here referred to are prediction, vision, and similitude. The word for vision, חָזוֹן, is used here as a collective; it differs from the dream in being higher degree of Divine revelation, also the senses of the receiver are awake and active, while in the dream they are inoperative and passive. Of the similitude, again, we have examples in Isaiah's parable of a vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-30), and in Ezekiel's similitude of a wretched infant, to represent the natural state of Jerusalem. Aben Ezra remarks, I have established emblems and comparisons that ye might understand me;" and Kimchi, "I have given emblems and parables by means of the prophets, as Isaiah says, 'My well-beloved hath a vineyard;' and Ezekiel, 'Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan.' And the explanation of ביד is that by their hand he sends them emblems and similitudes as (Le Ezekiel 10:11) 'which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses'" Thus God, as Rosenmüller observes, "left no means of admonishing them untried."
Is there iniquity in Gilead? surely they are vanity. In reference to hypotheticals, Driver remarks, "With an imperfect in protasis. The apodosis may then begin
(a) hath vav con. and the perfect;
(b) with the infinitive (without vav);
(c) with perfect alone (expressing the certainty and suddenness with which the result immediately accomplishes the occurrence of the promise. Hosea 12:12 (היו in apodesis, 'of the certain future')." The first part of this clause has been variously rendered.
Some take אִם
(a) affirmatively, in the sense of certainly, assuredly; others translate it
(b) interrogatively, as in the Authorized Version, though even thus it would be more accurately rendered: Is Gilead iniquity of Pusey, following the common version, explains it as follows: 'The prophet asks the question in order to answer it more peremptorily. He raises the doubt in order to crush it the more impressively.' Is there iniquity in Gilead? 'Alas I there was nothing else. Surely they are vanity; or, strictly, they have become merely vanity." There does not appear, however, sufficient reason for departing from the ordinary meaning of the word,
(c) namely, if thus, If Gilead i, iniquity (worthlessness), surely they have become vanity. The clause thus rendered may denote one of two things—either—
(α) moral worthlessness followed by physical nothingness, that is, moral decay followed by physical—sin succeeded by suffering; or
(β) progress in moral corruption. To the former exposition corresponds the comment of Kimchi, as follows: "'If Gilead began to work vanity (nothingness),' for they began to do wickedness first, and they have been first carried into captivity. אךְ שׁ can connect itself with what precedes, so that its meaning is about Gilead which he has mentioned, and the sense would be repeated in different words. Or its sense shall be in connection with Gilgal. And although zakeph is on the word היו, all the accents of the inter. prefers do not follow after the accents of the points." Similarly Rashi: "If disaster and oppression come upon them (the Gileadites) they have caused it to themselves, for certainly they are worthlessness, and sacrifies bullocks to idols in Gilgal. The verb הָיוּ is a prophetic perfect implying the certainty of the prediction, as though already an accomplished fact." The exposition of Aben Ezra favors (β); thus: "If the Gileadites, before I sent prophets to them, were worthlessness, surely they have become vanity, that is, instead of being morally better, they have become worse." To this exposition we find a parallel in Jeremiah 2:5, "They have walked after vanity, and are become vain." They sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal. שְׁוָרים for שׁוֹמרים, like חֲוָחִים from חוֹחַ. The inhabitanta of Gilgal on the west were no better than the Gileadites on the east of Jordan; the whole kingdom, in fact, was overrun with idolatry. The sin of the people of Gilgal did not consist in the animals offered, but in the unlawfulness of the place of sacrifice. The punishment of both Gilgal and Gilead is denounced in the following part of the verse. Yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields. Gilead signified" heap of witnesses," and Gilgal "heaping heap. The latter was mentioned in Hosea 4:15 and Hosea 9:15 as a notable center of idol-worship ("all their wickedness is in Gilgal") and retained, as we learn from the present passage, its notoriety for unlawful sacrifices, sacrifices customarily and continually offered (viz. iterative sense of Piel); the former was signalized in Hosea 6:8 as "a city of them that work iniquity," and "polluted with blood." The altars in both places are to be turned into stone-heaps; this is expressed by a play on words so frequent in Hebrew; at Gilead as well as Gilgal they are to become gallim, or heaps of stones, such as husbandmen gather off ploughed and leave in useless heaps for the greater convenience of removal, חֶלֶם (related to toll, a hill, that which is thrown up) is a furrow as formed by casting up or tearing into. The ruinous heaps of the altars implied, not only their destruction, but the desolation of the country. The altars would become dilapidated heaps, and the country depopulated. The Hebrew interpreters, however, connect with the heap-like altars the idea of number and conspicuousness: this they make prominent as indicating the gross idolatry of the people. Thus Rabbi: "Their altars are numerous as heaps in the furrows of the field. תי שי is the furrow of the plougher, called telem;" Aben Ezra: "כני is by way of figure, because they were numerous and conspicuous." Pococke combines with the idea of number that of ruinous heaps—"rude heaps of stones, in his sight; and such they should become, no one stone being left in order upon another." Kimchi's comment on the verse is the following: "The children of Gilgal were neighbors to the land of Gilead, only the Jordan was between them; they learnt also their ways (doings), and began to serve idols like them, and to practice iniquity and vanity, and sacrificed oxen to strange gods in the place where they had raised an altar to Jehovah the blessed, and where they had set up the tabernacle at the first after they had passed over Jordan: there also they sacrificed oxen to their idols. Not enough that they made an altar in Gilgal to idols, but they also built outside the city altars many and conspicuous, like heaps of stones on the furrows of the field."
Hosea 12:12, Hosea 12:13
And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep. And by a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved. The connection of this verse with what precedes has been variously explained. The flight of Israel and his servitude are intended, according to Umbreit, "to bring out the double servitude of Israel—the first, the one which the people had to endure in their forefather; the second, the one which they had to endure themselves in Egypt." Cyril and Theodoret understand them to give prominence to Jacob's zeal for the blessing of the birthright, and his obedience to the command of God and his parents. Pusey says, "Jacob chose poverty and servitude rather than marry an idolatress of Canaan. He knew not whence, except from God's bounty and providence, he should have bread to eat or raiment to put on; with his staff alone he passed over Jordan. His voluntary poverty, bearing even unjust losses, and repaying the things which he never took, reproved their dishonest traffic; his trustfulness in God, their mistrust; his devotedness to God, their alienation from him and their devotion to idols." There may be an element of truth in each of these explanations, and an approximation to the true sense; but none of them tallies exactly with the context. There is a contrast between the flight of the lonely tribe-father across the Syrian desert, and the guidance of his posterity by a prophet of the Lord through the wilderness; Jacob's servitude in Padan-aram with Israel's redemption from the bondage of Egypt; the guarding of sheep by the patriarch with the Shepherd of Israel's guardian-care of them by his prophet when he led them to Canaan. Thus the distress and affliction of Jacob are contrasted with the exaltation of his posterity. The great object of this contrast is to impress the people with the goodness of God to them in lifting them up out of the lowest condition, and to inspire them with gratitude to God for such unmerited elevation and with thankful yet humble acknowledgment of his mercy. Calvin's explanation is at once correct and clear; it is the following: "Their father Jacob, who was he? what was his condition? He was a fugitive from his country. Even if he had always lived at home, his father was only a stranger in the land. But he was compelled to fit into Syria. And how splendidly did he live there? He was with his uncle, no doubt, but he was treated quite as meanly as any common slave: he served for a wife. And how did he serve? He was the man that tended the cattle." This, it may be observed, was the lowest and the meanest, the hardest and worst kind of servitude. In like manner Ewald directs attention to the wonderful care of Divine providence manifested to Jacob in his straits, in his flight to Syria, in his sojourn there as a shepherd, and also to Israel his posterity delivered out of Egypt by the hand of Moses an, I sustained in the wilderness so that one scarcely knows what to think of Israel who, without encountering such perils and distresses, and out of sheer delight in iniquity, so shamefully forsook their benefactor. Such is the substance of Ewald's view, which presents one aspect of the ease, though he does not bring out so fully the fact of Israel's elevation and the humble thankfulness that should be exhibited therefore. The exposition of the Hebrew commentators agrees in the main with what we have given. Rashi says, "Jacob fled to the field of Aram, etc; as a man who says, 'Let us return to the former narrative which we spoke of above;' and he wrestles with the angel; and this further have I done unto him; as he was obliged to fly to the field of Aram ye know how I guarded him, and for a wife he kept sheep." "Ye ought to consider," says Aben Ezra, "that your father when he fled to Syria was poor, and so he says, 'And he will give me bread to eat' (Genesis 28:20). And he served for a wife,' and this is, 'Have I not served thee for Rachel?' 'And for a wife he kept sheep ;' and ' f made him rich.'" The exposition of Kimchi is much fuller, and is as follows: "And they do not remember the goodness which I exercised with their father, when he fled from his brother Esau. Yea, when he was there it was necessary for him to serve Laban for a wife, that he should give him his daughter, and the service consisted in keeping his sheep, and so for the other daughter which he gave him he kept his sheep in like manner. And I am he that was with him and blessed him, so that he returned thence with fiches and substance. And further, I showed favor to his sons who descended into Egypt and were in bondage there; and I sent to them a prophet who brought them up out of Egypt with much substance, and he was Moses. The forty years they were in the wilderness they were guarded by means of a prophet whom I gave them, and they wanted nothing. But all these benefits they forget, and provoke me to anger by abominations and no-gods."
Ephraim provoked him to auger most bitterly: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him. Instead of humble thankfulness and due devotedness, Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly. Therefore his blood-guiltiness and consequent punishment are left upon him; his sin and its consequences are not taken away. The dishonor done to God by Ephraim's idolatry and sins shall bring back a sure recompense and severe retribution.
Reproof, retrospect, and exhortation.
Ephraim is reproved for the pursuit of empty and vain courses, and courses detrimental to their best and real interests. Judah is included in the threatening which follows. They are exhorted to follow the example of the patriarch which is proposed for their imitation, with implied promise of similar success. The unchangeableness of God, who not only accepted Jacob, but blessed and prospered him, is held out to the descendants of Jacob as a guarantee of like blessings in case of their turning to God and bringing forth fruits meet for repentance.
I. THE NATURAL AVERSENESS OF THE HEART TO GOD. This feature of the natural heart is patent in the case of Ephraim. The people of the northern kingdom spared neither pains nor expense to obtain human help rather than seek help from God.
1. We notice the expensive nature of their proceeding. They made a covenant with the Assyrians, and that was an expensive compact; for Menahem King of Israel had to pay Pul the Assyrian monarch a thousand talents of silver for the desired help, and Hoshea became tributary to Shalmaneser, and gave him costly presents; while the national exchequer was drained in another direction, valuable exports of oil being sent into Egypt.
2. The energetic pursuit of their purpose. They are represented as "following after," and "daily increasing." They imposed more toil on themselves to get away from God than they would have required to turn to God. They had "no less pains by going out of God's way than if they had kept in it; but God's way, as it is undoubtedly the surest, so in many respects it is even the easiest, course."
3. The empty consequences of this course. Their hopes were doomed to bitterest disappointment, and their human helps proved hurtful in the extreme. The presents which they had lavished on the Egyptians had no other effect than to compromise them with the Assyrians; while the issue was the imprisonment of this prince and the captivity of the people. So is it still; men's carnal confidences deceive them, like wind which may fill but cannot feed them; and not only deceive, but draw down on them greater calamities than those they hoped to escape from. Thus they prove not only profitless as the wind but pernicious as the east wind. The outcome of all is not only lying vanities but desolation.
II. THE APOSTASY OF GOD'S OWN PEOPLE, HOWEVER PARTIAL AND TEMPORARY, IS JUSTLY PUNISHABLE. God does not connive at sin in his saints that serve him, any more than in sinners that have never sought him; neither do men's ordinary good deeds atone for their occasional misdeeds. Sin in the people of God is sure to bring chastisement in some form. At first sight it might seem strange, or even contradictory, that the Lord should have a controversy with Judah, of whom it had been asserted a few verses before that "Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints." But a ready and right solution of the apparent difficulty is found in those striking statements of the Apocalypse, in which God, after bestowing deserved commendation on certain Churches for this or that course of conduct, immediately adds, "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee." Their goodness, of whatever kind it was, did not cause their ill deserts to be overlooked. "Some there are," says an old writer," who, if there be any evil in men, can see no good in them; this is wicked, But there are others that, if there be any good in them, can see no evil; this is too much indulgence. They err in both extremes."
III. THE IMPARTIALITY OF THE DIVINE DEALINGS.
1. It is not a little strange how men sometimes try to screen themselves by the sins of others, or to palliate their wrongdoing by the yet greater wrong-doing of others. It might have been so with Ephraim; they might have pleaded the sins of Judah in extenuation of their own, or even charged the Most High with uneven dealing with them in punishing their sin, when Judah's sins were condoned. They might have said, "We are not so very much worse than Judah; there are sins in Judah as well as in Israel; why, then, should Judah escape?" So with many still; they are ready to say, "We are not worse than others; we have our faults, so have our neighbors; if we deserve punishment, so do others as well." God shows us that his ways are equal, that he will not punish Ephraim and allow Judah to escape, but that he will render to every man as his works shall be.
2. But their plea might be easily turned against them to their great discomfiture. If Judah is admittedly superior to Israel, and retains the true worship of Jehovah though with certain drawbacks, and if Israel has renounced that worship, and is in other matters in a worse ease, might it not be asked in words similar to a New Testament Scripture, If even with Judah God has a controversy, how can Israel expect to escape? "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?"
3. Though every sin deserves the severest judgment, being an infinite offence against the infinitely Holy One, yet he proportions his chastisements to the degree and aggravation of each offence, and the obstinacy of the offender.
IV. THREE HISTORICAL SKETCHES OUT OF THE LIFE OF JACOB AND THEIR LESSONS, These histories record the three great struggles of the patriarch's life.
1. His birth, when he takes his brother by the heel, gives evidence of a Divine instinct or a divinely directed inclination to struggle for the birthright and its blessings.
(1) The first lesson taught us in the Scripture record of Jacob's birth (Genesis 25:22, Genesis 25:26) is the electing love of God, or that gracious favor which God is pleased to extend to men, and that without respect to their works of merit or deserts of any kind. Not only are the People of God chosen by him from eternity, as we read," He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world," and consequently before they have done either good or evil, but sometimes they are made partakers of his sanctifying grace from the womb; thus we read of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5), "Before I sowed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou earnest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee;" so also of John the Baptist (Luke 1:44), "Lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy."
(2) Jacob's struggle to anticipate Esau in being the firstborn, and so to secure the birthright and its blessing, presaged the high spiritual position to which in the purpose of God he was to attain. Even the unsuccess of the effort does not lead Jacob to relax his efforts or relinquish his object, till grace compensated his natural disadvantage and crowned his persistent struggling with success.
(3) The posterity of the patriarch are here taught not to fall back on, and boast of, the dignity and privileges of their ancestor, but to bestir themselves as he had done to secure spiritual blessings.
(4) When God bestows grace in any it furnishes abundant cause of thanksgiving, but especially is this the case when that grace is granted in early life, so as to prevent those youthful follies and lusts that war against the soul, and which, in the case of those afterwards converted, often make them to posses the iniquities of their youth and embitter all their after-years.
2. The wrestling with the angel and prevailing formed the next great epoch in Jacob's life. This which is recorded in Genesis 32:1-32; was a season of great terror and distress, as well as of no little danger from his brother Esau. But he did not give way before the dangers that threatened him, nor succumb under the difficulties of his position; he bravely faced the discouragements that surrounded him—not, however, in his own strength. By the strength which God gave he had power with God; in the vigor of his strength he wrestled with the Angel of the covenant and prevailed. He saw the providence of God in all that betided him, and wrestled for the Divine favor and succor, The wrestling symbolized the intense earnestness and energy which he put forth; the object for which he strove so earnestly and energetically was the blessing of his God; the means employed were prayers and tears and fervent supplications; the persistence with which he prayed and pied is expressed in the words, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." Thus as a prince he had power with God and with men, and prevailed.
(2) What evidence we have here of the riches of Divine grace! The omnipotent One gives us the power in virtue of which we prevail with him, even with himself! The method by which men prevail with God is the ordinances of prayer and supplication which he has himself appointed; while the spirit suitable to such employments is a broken and a contrite heart, for such the Lord will not despise. Jacob was truly magnanimous, and yet tender-hearted and contrite, and his weeping was the outpouring of his tenderness of heart and contrition of spirit.
(3) The choicest blessings of providence and grace are often bestowed upon men after seasons of affliction and distress; and bestowed after intense wrestlings, earnest prayers, and solemn supplications. Here was a lesson for the People of the prophet's day to encourage them against the dangers and difficulties that were fast crowding upon them, and. to instruct them. by the example of their honored progenitor to put their confidence m God, and not in miserable, disappointing human confederacies. Thus by the power of Omnipotence itself they might retrieve their sinking fortunes, surmount all difficulties, and triumph over all enemies. Here, too, is a lesson worth learning by us all. Power belongeth unto God; that power we may partake of; prayer brings that power near and allies it to our side, and in virtue of that power we shall prevail over all enemies whether temporal or spiritual.
3. The third era in Jacob's history was marked by his finding God at Bethel.
(1) Twice God had been pleased to manifest himself to Jacob at Bethel, first when he left his father's house and set out for Padan-aram, as recorded in Genesis 28:1-22; when he saw that wondrous vision of the ladder connecting heaven and earth, the creature and the Creator, while angels as heavenly messengers ascended and descended upon it. The other occasion was when he was m great trouble and terror in consequence of the slaughter of the Shechemites To this, which is narrated in Genesis 35:1-29; the prophet specially refers in the passage before us. The occasion was a memorable one, and in one respect a melancholy one, in Jacob's history. He had forgotten the vows, or at least failed to pay them; he bad neglected duty of a solemn and binding character. And now he is m danger and distress, yet finds God, and in him succor and support. God had been with the fugitive who returned a prince and a patriarch; he had prospered him and brought him back in safety and in peace, causing him to find grace in the sight of his brother Esau, father of the dukes of Self. Arrived at Succoth, Jacob had built him a house, made booths for his cattle, and there his grazing flocks and herds, his peaceful dwelling, his large and powerful family, all attested the faithfulness of the covenant God But for long there is no word of Bethel, and apparently no remembrance of the vow he had made to repair thither on his return, make that place a house of God, and allot the tenth of his substance to its maintenance. He left Succoth, passed the Jordan, and removed to Shalem; he lingered there, and time passed on, some seven or eight years elapsed, and still Bethel is unvisited and the vow unfulfilled. At length deep family affliction, sad family dishonor, and dark family guilt united to afflict, perhaps punish, the patriarch; and it became necessary for God himself to remind Jacob of Bethel, and the wondrous vision he had seen there, and the solemn vow he had made there, all of which seemed to have faded from his memory, and might perchance have been entirely forgotten, had not God said to Jacob, "Arise, go up to Bethel." In his distress he sought the Lord, and the call of God reminded him of his duty Under such circumstances he found him at Bethel, "which may be understood both of God who prevented Jacob by a vision the first time, and with a call the second time, and of Jacob who found God there when he sought unto him."
(2) Thus, after s period of forgetfulness or neglect, soon as Jacob was stirred up to seek the Lord, he found him Here was encouragement for his erring posterity to seek that God who never said to the seed of Jacob any more than to Jacob himself, "Seek ye my face in vain."
(3) It is well worthy of note that the means whereby God is pleased to have intercourse with his people is his Word, as we may rightly infer from the expression, "there he spake with us." And it is further noticeable, that God's revelations of himself of old remain the heritage of the Church in all after ages. The words there he spake with us show that the communication was not merely personal to Jacob, but for his posterity. God spake with them as though present, and what he said concerned them though they were yet in the loins of their progenitor. So with the Church and people of God still; what was written aforetime was written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
Even the Lord God of hosts; the Lord is his memorial.
The God who appeared to Jacob, who conversed with him in reference to his posterity as well as himself, and whom Jacob found at Bethel, was the God of Jacob's succeeding race; the God against whom they had trespassed, but to whom they are now urged to turn.
(1) That God is Jehovah, the self-existing One whose title is "I am that I am," which is a sort of paraphrase of the name Jehovah. He is the first of all beings, the greatest of all beings, supreme over all beings, whose being is without limit of time-everlasting, and without bound of space; infinite, having all being in himself, and giving to all creatures life and breath and all things. He is Jehovah, the ever living and never-changing God, the same in kindness, the same in covenant relation to his people, and the same in accessibility. What he did to Jacob he was ready to do for the posterity of the patriarch, yea, he is willing to do to all people that call upon him in truth, seeking his face and favor free.
(2) He is, moreover, God of hosts; the armies of heaven are at his command, the inhabitants of the earth are subject to his will, the powers of nature and all the forces of the universe are under his control. This expression is employed in allusion to those hosts of God that met him after he had wrestled with God, after his name had been changed, and of whom we read, "The angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host," and in relation to whom he called the place Mahanaim, the two camps or hosts of God.
(3) Jehovah is his memorial. Men short-lived and mortal raise monuments to keep up their remembrance; but the name Jehovah is the Divine memorial, the name by which he wishes to be remembered through all generations, as he says elsewhere, "This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial to all generations." This term may have reference to the memorial stone which Jacob had set up for a pillar, to keep up the remembrance of the gracious vision that had been vouchsafed to him, and as a memorial of his vow.
(4) The case of Jacob proves the need we have of a memorial to help our memories; for oh, how deceitful our hearts are; how treacherous our memories in the things of God! We need helps, and means, and memorials, and remembrancers. Pictures are not needed for this purpose, images are not needed. God's name, as indicating his nature, is sufficient memorial of him; his Word and his works are to keep men in remembrance of him. The name Jehovah is God's memorial; every time we read, or hear, or speak that name, we are reminded of the glory and greatness of him who is the first and best of beings, as also of his goodness and grace. We are reminded by that name of the unchangeableness of his nature and his never-ceasing mercy to man—the same to the posterity of Jacob as to the patriarch himself, the same to us as to our forefathers, the God of our fathers being still the God of their succeeding race. "There is no shortening of his power and no darkening of his glory, but with whatsoever power God has wrought, in whatsoever glory he has appeared, in former times, he may manifest the same for us now."
V. THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF THE PRECEDING STATEMENTS. The application which the prophet makes of the subject is introduced with a "therefore." This "therefore" gathers up the several foregoing thoughts into one urgent appeal.
1. Motives to repentance. By the fact of Jacob's wrestling with God and the success of this spiritual struggle, by the memorial of the name Jehovah as an index of the unchanging mercifulness of his nature, and by the implied spiritual declension of his descendants, the people of both the northern and southern kingdoms in general and each individual in particular are earnestly admonished to turn to God, their fathers' God, their own God, as it is stated, "Therefore turn thou to thy God."
2. Fruits meet for repentance. The amendment answerable to repentance comprises the duties of the so-called second table of the Law. Justice and mercy may be regarded as a summary.
(1) The golden rule of all justice is that royal law of Christ, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the Law and the prophets." It would be out of place to enter into the details of justice; this one principle includes all, it is plain to all, it is applicable to all; it comprehends princes and people, masters and servants, brothers and sisters; it extends to all stations and relations, it is unvarying in its application to all persons in all matters and at all times; it embraces not only all the business transactions of buyers and sellers, but all situations and stations in which we can stand towards oar brother man, whether as inferiors or superiors or equals; it is a rule easily understood, easily put in practice, and commends itself to every man's conscience. Thus reading the Scripture text before us in the light of our Lord's teaching, we have a rule of justice easily accommodated to all cases, and of ready adaptation to all the vast variety of circumstances that bring us into relation with our fellow-creatures. In this duty of keeping judgment or justice, which is the same word (mishpat) in the original, you have only to make the case of your fellow-man your own, to conceive circumstances changed with him and yourself in his position; and then whatever you could reasonably expect of him, supposing yourself to be in his circumstances, that do to the utmost of your ability to every child of man. This principle not only includes that more obvious duty of acting justly in all the transactions of life which the apostle enjoins, saying, "Let no man go beyond or defraud his brother," but also prohibits those acts of injustice that might not chance to fall within the bounds of human law or of civil enactments, by awarding to every one his due—honor to whom honor is due, fear to whom fear, tribute to whom tribute, instruction to the ignorant, relief to the oppressed, bowels of compassion to the poor, and, in the words of Solomon, by withholding not good (of whatever kind) from them to whom it is due.
(2) Strict justice is much, very much more than, alas! is often dispensed; yet it is not enough. There must be mercy too, and mercy tempering justice. When we have done full justice to a fellow-being we have not done all that God requires of us towards our fellow-creature; he has other claims upon us, and God has given him those claims. Reversing the order of the words according to the parallel passage in Micah, "Do justly and love mercy," we may say, "Just first and kind next" is the requirement of this Scripture; "Just first and then generous " is a common saying. We might exact strict justice for ourselves, standing upon our bond like him of old and demanding our pound of flesh, we might exact what is justly our due, but what benevolence would not and mercy could not claim, and so verify the old Latin proverb about the "height of justice being the height of injury;" but the requirement of mercy prohibits and prevents that. Then, O man, love mercy—it is the characteristic of your heavenly Father, who is the Father and Fountain of mercies; love mercy, that generous, large-hearted benevolence which does good according to its power to all men under all circumstances, "especially to them who are of the household of faith;" love mercy, that heaven-born principle which, if even an enemy hunger, feeds him, if he thirst gives him drink, if he be naked clothes him. "And," to borrow the well-known words, "as in the course of justice none of us should see salvation, we do therefore pray for mercy, and that same prayer cloth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy."
(3) Further, we are not only to do justly and to love mercy, but to delight therein. Thus we shall not only do some acts of justice and perform some acts of mercy, but keep them both; mercy first, as having the pre-eminence and being the consummation of justice—the one the fruit, and the other the root. In this way we are required to keep mercy and justice, that is, to observe uniformly and practice habitually mercy and justice. For a pattern of mercy, read the parable of the good Samaritan; for the opposite, the story of Hazael, and the parable of the man who owed ten thousand talents.
VI. TRUE REPENTANCE INCLUDES, AS ITS NATURAL EFFECT AND TRUE EVIDENCE, THE PERFORMANCE OF OUR DUTY TO GOD AS WELL AS TO MAN. The former duty is here expressed in the words "wait on thy God continually" The connection of the words is very suggestive. Repentance is put to a practical test and its sincerity proved; the proof consists of a right discharge of the duties we owe both to man and God. The duties to man are put first, because we not infrequently find persons showing a zeal for the outward ordinances of religious worship and yet neglectful of mercy and judgment to their fellow-creatures; and, on the other hand, such duties are never discharged aright where God is not truly worshipped; they may be determined by fits and starts, but Dot steadily and continuously as the keeping of them requires, unless there is genuine godliness. Thus morality has its root in religion, and religion without morality is only a name without reality. In order, therefore, to keep, in the sense of regularly observing mercy and justice, there must be continual waiting upon God.
VII. THE NATURE OF WAITING ON GOD. Waiting on God implies want and weakness and danger on our part, as also that God is the Source of fullness, of strength, and of sufficiency. It also implies service. "As the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress, so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God." Waiting on God denotes waiting on him in expectation, trusting in him for help, looking to him for deliverance.
1. The whole of religion is at times summed up in the expression, "waiting on God;" in this sense the psalmist uses the words three times in a single psalm. After confessing his own faith in God, he prayed for all that possessed like precious faith, saying, "Let none that wait on thee be ashamed." Again, addressing God his Savior and supplicating Divine guidance and Divine instruction, he says, "On thee do I wait all the day." And a third time, referring to the might and multitude of his enemies and supplicating deliverance, he pleads his own relationship to God, using the same words, "for I wait on thee," and adding, "Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles." Similarly in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, in reference to the spread of the true religion, not only over the broad continents and countries of earth, but throughout those multitudinous and distant islands that rise in beauty and rest in sunshine amid the wild waves of ocean that roll and rage around them, we read, "He shall set judgment in the earth," and "The isles shall wait for his law."
2. Reasons for and motives to waiting on God. There is good reason for waiting on God. God is the God of providence, and therefore all wait upon him. "The eyes of all wait upon thee, and thou givest them their meat in due season; thou openest thy hand, and satisfiest the wants of every living thing." He is the Author of every good gift and of every perfect boon, ruling the changing year, making everything beautiful in its season, causing the sun to rise and the shower to fall, and by that gentle shower and genial sunshine preserving to our use the kindly fruits of the earth; all his people acknowledge his goodness and wait upon his bounty. "Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles," asks Jeremiah, "that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? Art thou not he, O Lord our God? therefore we will wait upon thee, for thou hast made all these things." He is the God of grace and salvation especially, and therefore we wait upon him; thus Israel says, "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord;" and in like manner the good old Simeon, who is called a just and devout man, is represented as" waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him." He is the God of mercy, in him compassions flow; and therefore it is our privilege as well as our duty to wait upon him, and say in the language of ancient piety, "And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee; deliver me from all my transgressions, make me not the reproach of the foolish."
3. Manner of waiting on God and exhortation to the duty. Wait on the Lord in faith, for without faith it is impossible to please him, and whatever is not of faith is sin. Wait on the Lord in prayer; "In all things by prayer and supplication … let your requests be made known unto God," for he heareth prayer, and unto him shall all flesh come. Wait on the Lord in patience, and let patience have its perfect work; "for patience worketh experience and, experience hope." Wait on the Lord with resignation; say in your heart as you pray with your lips, "Thy will, O God, be done; It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good." Wait on him in the ordinances which he has appointed, reverencing his sanctuary, keeping holy his day of rest, observing those seasons of communion, which are green spots in the desert, where the good Shepherd feeds his flock, making them to lie down in green pastures, leading them by still waters, and causing them to rest at noon. Wait on him by fulfilling the vows of God, which are upon you, paying those vows in spite of the world, and in sight of God's people all. Wait on the Lord in your family, and wherever you have a house let God have an altar; and let the incense of prayer and praise regularly ascend from that altar to the God and Father of all the families of the earth. Wait on him in closet prayer, entering thy chamber, shutting to the door, praying to your Father who heareth in secret, and who will reward you openly. Wait on the Lord, not occasionally merely, but continually; not in certain spasmodic efforts, but habitually; not after long intervals, but at all times. Wait on the Lord, and you will thereby renew your strength. There were giants in the earth in days of old. A terrible struggle once took place, as we read in classic story, between two lusty giants. Prodigious they were in strength, fearful in prowess; they struggled hard and wrestled long, but one of them, every time he touched the earth, renewed thereby his strength and prevailed over his antagonist. We need not stop to inquire whether the story be a fiction or a fact; it matters not, as it serves equally well the purposes of illustration. Scripture records a fact which that fiction illustrates. The giant renewed, his strength every time he touched the earth; the believer renews his strength, not by touching earth or groveling among the things thereof, but by laying hold of the throne of grace in heaven and waiting on the Lord.
Extent of Israel's apostasy.
I. Here we are shown now FOR ISRAEL HAD APOSTATIZED, how unlike they were to the patriarch of whom they boasted, and how far they fell short of admonitions that had been addressed to) them.
1. They were like the Canaanite whom they despised than the patriarch from whom they were descended. They had become liker fraudulent merchants than God-fearing members of the Church of God. To fraud they added oppression where they had the power.
2. The love of money was the root of this evil trait of Jewish character—a trait that shows itself too frequently at the present day, and which is not confined to the Jew, but comprehends the Gentile also. Men hasten to be rich, and cannot long be innocent.
3. There is no greater aggravation of sin than the love of it. The people of Israel at the period specified were not only addicted to the sin of covetousness or greediness of gain, but were actually enamored of their sin. One of the worst features of wicked men, which the apostle has so vividly photographed in that black catalogue of sin, is that, "knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."
4. Men addicted to covetousness and whose hearts are set on getting gain make light of the doctrines of religion. Thus in the days of our Lord "the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him." Sacred truths and Divine mysteries were despised, while the ways and means of amassing wealth were their delight. So here the connection of Hosea 12:7 may be the prophet's complaint of his countrymen's neglect of his exhortations, owing to their covetousness. "The scope of the prophet and the connection here is—We may exhort, but so long as their hearts are covetous, and set upon their way of getting gain, they will never regard what we say; they will not turn to God, they will not hear of it, but will rather turn a deaf ear to all entreaties."
II. EXCUSES FOR SIN. Here we see how wicked men excuse themselves and palliate their sins.
1. Success furnishes them with a plausible plea for self-vindication. The prosperity of fools, we are told, destroys them; while the worldly prosperity of the wicked is frequently fatal to their spiritual welfare. "Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way," says the psalmist, afterwards adding, "for evil-doers shall be cut off." It has been well and truly said that "prosperity in sinful ways is an old snare, hindering men from heeding challenges or God's anger because of them."
2. The boastful spirit of the wicked; they glory in their gains as self-procured; they attribute all to their own skill, or strength, or ingenuity, or industry, or ability, and refuse to acknowledge God. Nor is it, indeed, possible they should, for how could they bless God for what they have acquired by sin or gained by fraudulent dealing?
3. False refuges to which wicked men resort: they divest themselves of all dread of Divine displeasure or of danger on the ground of prosperity; they force themselves to believe that if their conduct were either displeasing to God or fraught with danger to themselves, they would not be so prosperous in getting gain or have such success in sin. Another false refuge is to seek relief for a guilty conscience from the outward comforts procurable by ill-gotten gain.
4. Other false shifts or hypocritical evasions are, as is here intimated, resorted to by sinners. Sometimes they gloss over their sins with fair names; thus their dishonesties, whether by fraud or force, take the name of the fruits of their labors, the earnings of their industry, or the profits of their calling. Sometimes they depend on secrecy and defy detection, and, while they feel themselves free from discovery, they fancy themselves safe in their sin, as though the eye of God did not penetrate such thin disguises, or as if God had not said, "Be sure your sin will find you out." Sometimes they hypocritically profess abhorrence of sins they habitually practice; or, if they acknowledge sin at all, they salve their wounds of conscience by the consideration that their sins are very venial offences, and such as are incidental to their situation, or common to their calling, or peculiar to their trade. Thus they minimize their culpability and impose on their own souls,
III. EFFECTS OF SIN. God's goodness, which is designed to lead men to repent of sin, aggravates the sin of the impenitent.
1. God's claims on Israel's gratitude had been, indeed, mighty and manifold, as well as from ancient times. The glorious deliverances he had wrought for them, the low estate from which he had lifted them, the great exaltation to which he had raised them, the good land into which he had brought them, the rich grace he had bestowed on them, and the religious privileges he had conferred on them,—all these blessings, having been abused, increased the sin of their ingratitude and intensified their guilt.
2. God cannot hold the sinner guiltless. Sin, wherever it is found or by whomsoever it is committed, cannot pass unpunished. The offences of God's own dear children bring down chastisement upon them; he will not spare their faults. A father does not love his son less because he corrects him; he pities while he punishes; his bowels of compassion move while his hand holds the rod. So Israel, having been unmindful of God's mercy, must be exiled from their goodly pleasant land, and go into a bondage bad as, or worse than, that in Egypt of yore.
3. Yet God for all that does not renounce his interest in his people; he will give them occasion again to remember his goodness and to celebrate his redeeming love. Their preservation and restoration should again afford abundant matter for gladness and thanksgiving, when they would join trembling with their mirth, and celebrate the solemn Feast of Tabernacles, with joy drawing water out of the wells of salvation. Whether the reference be to a literal joyful restoration of Israel to their own land, or a glad time of revival and refreshing to all the trim Israel of God, whether Gentile or Jew in gospel times, the encouragement is gracious and the prospect glorious. Nor is it less so from the contrast between the chastisement so deserved and the consolation promised.
IV. EXCELLENCE OF DIVINE TEACHING AND INEXCUSABLENESS OF THOSE PRIVILEGED THEREWITH.
1. To his people in the past God spake at sundry times and in divers manners, or in divers portions, as they needed or could bear it, and in divers ways, by prophecy, by visions, by similitudes, and by the ministry of the Word. The means of grace were thus abundant and multiplied.
2. However different the modes of ministration were, the speaker was still one and the same. It is God who thus speaks to us by his messengers. If we reject the message and the messenger that brings it, we reject the Author; if we receive the message from the lips of the messenger, we receive him who gave the commission. What a grave responsibility! What need to take heed how we hear as well as what we hear! And bow incumbent on ministers also to take good heed, not only to the matter, but to the manner in which they convey the message they have received, remembering that they stand between the living and the dead, like Aaron when he took his censer and ran into the midst of the congregation till the plague was stayed.
3. The inexcusableness of those who, like Israel, enjoy so many privileges. The plainness, the variety, and the frequency of the Divine teaching impose a weighty responsibility, for unto whomsoever much is given, of them much shall be required; it is even a human principle practiced among men, that to whomsoever men have committed much, of him they ask the more. How God has left us all without excuse, seeing that in these days of light and liberty God has given us such a clear revelation of his will, so many ministries to explain and enforce it, so much freedom to exercise our judgment upon it, and derive light and leading from it, while we sit, like Israel of old, under our vine and fig tree in peace and safety, none daring to make us afraid!
Reproofs and remembrancers.
Reproofs for sin, and remembrancers of mercy.
I. REBUKES FOR SIN.
1. The richest temporal blessings are blighted by sin. Gilead was a fruitful and pleasant region, as may be inferred from references to it in Scripture, as when God says, "Thou art Gilead unto me, and the head of Lebanon: yet surely I will make thee a wilderness," and when its productions are spoken of, and its pasturages celebrated. It is still a beautiful district, with its hills and dales, wooded slopes, luxuriant pastures, lovely flowers, and refreshing streamlets. In addition to the natural advantages of the country, there was the city of Gilead, where the ministers of religion on the other side of Jordan dwelt. But sin sadly marred this fair and fertile land; so with many a region "where every prospect pleases, and only man is vile." The inhabitants are branded as transgressors of both tables of the Divine Law; iniquity character-fled their conduct towards man, and idolatry their worship of God; while the priests, instead of hindering, only helped the people in their sinful service. However incredible it might appear, nevertheless it was a fact; nor were they improving at the time to which the prophet refers—nay, they seem to have been going from bad to worse.
2. The vanity of will-worship. Will-worship may show much zeal, as appears to have been the case with the Gileadites; yet, without a Divine warrant, it is vanity all the same. They contravened the institution of the Most High, which had appointed one temple, one altar, and one priesthood. Severely, too, had they suffered for their sins. Inhabiting a border-land, they were exposed to the inroads arid attacks of enemies, and much needed the Divine protection; but by their sins had forfeited that protection. Consequently they "were threshed," as a contemporary prophet tells us, "with threshing instruments of iron," and, being among the first that fell under the power of Assyria, they were carried away captive from their goodly, pleasant land.
3. Superstition no substitute for spiritual service. Nearness to God in outward relation or profession may coexist with absence of right religious principle; and where such is the case, outward observances neither secure from sin nor shield from its punishment. Thus the people el Gilgal, though west of the Jordan and belonging to Judah, were nearer the temple, and so nearer in outward relation to its worship, yet were quite as bad as the trans-Jordanic Gileadites. They had the externals of religion, and were no doubt zealous about them; they presented rich sacrifices and possessed numerous altars; but the altars they had set up were either to strange gods in opposition to the true God, or to the true God in opposition to his own appointment. "Whosoever they be, this side or the other, who profess to come nearest, if they mingle their own inventions in worship, God will be more sorely displeased with them: the more piety and holiness, the more we profess to come close to the Word of God, and yet withal mingle our own inventions, the more is God displeased; Gilgal offends more than Gilead."
II. REMEMBRANCERS OF MERCY. They magnified their ancestor Jacob, but misread his history; they gloried in his greatness, but forsook the God who made him great. It is a common thing for people to boast of their family and forefathers, however much they may have degenerated from those forefathers; and not infrequently, the more they have degenerated the louder is their boasting.
1. God reminds them of the humble origin and lowly condition of the patriarch, of whom they boasted so much as their progenitor. The facts of which he thus reminds them conveyed instruction to them, and teach valuable practical lessons still.
(1) The flight of the patriarch; his exile in Padan-aram; his poverty and servitude; having no dowry to give, his service was substituted instead; his hard shepherd-life;—all these were calculated to teach humility, and to put an end to the vanity of their boasting.
(2) Though Jacob had been obliged in early life to turn his back on his father's house, he never turned his back upon his father's God, or the worship of that God. Here was another lesson, at least by implication, for his descendants to learn. In circumstances unspeakably more favorable they had turned aside from both, and wasted their energies in sinful courses and selfish idolatry, either vainly worshipping God, or transferring the worship due to him to those vanities that were no gods. Thus the lesson of their sad apostasy was next to be unlearned.
(3) The secret of Jacob's success was the blessing of God whom he sought and served. God prospered him and multiplied his seed until they became a great people. Here was cause for gratitude, not for vain-glorying. Another lessen which Israel behooved to learn; and not Israel only, but all who at any time or in any land experience the loving-kindness of the Lord. If we are put in possession of great privileges, if we attain to a position of usefulness and influence, and if we are honored in God's service, let us not forget the lowliness of our original on the one hand, nor fail to magnify the grace of God in our exaltation on the other; in that grace alone may we glory.
2. He reminds them of that great event of their history, that ever-memorable deliverance out of Egypt.
(1) From this he will have his people learn that when they are brought low by afflictive providences, and suffer severely under the rod of correction, God may be thus preparing them for rich blessings to themselves, and training them for future usefulness in his service. This should promote patient submission, and prevent all unseemly murmuring and sinful complaining.
(2) The way and means of their deliverance were fraught with other profitable instructions. The blessing of deliverance was great, not only for present relief, but subsequent preservation. The Author of it was Jehovah, to whom all the praise and glory wore due sad ever to be ascribed; the agent, a prophet whom God honored in accomplishing his high purpose for the benefit of his people.
III. RETRIBUTION THREATENED. Punishment is slow, but sure.
1. Notwithstanding all the warnings and instructions and remembrancers, Ephraim persisted in sin, and that of the most provoking kind. Instead of good grapes being produced in the highly favored vineyard of the Lord, Ephraim's grapes were grapes of gall and clusters of bitterness. God here speaks after the manner of men who are provoked by the gross misconduct and affronts from their fellow-men, especially from those whom they have served and benefited. In like manner, despite is said to be done to the Spirit of grace, and the Son of God put to an open shame. How dreadful this misconduct of man, a worm of the dust in relation to God, that infinite Spirit!
2. Ruin irremediable cannot fail to be the result. The ruin, too, is self-procured. So with sinners still: they have themselves, not God, to blame; God will not hold them guiltless, yet the fault lies at their own door; their blood is on their own head; their life is forfeited, but it is their own doing; they are moral suicides.
3. Ephraim by iniquity and idolatry had brought dishonor on the Name and people of God. Sinners cause God's Name to be blasphemed; they bring reproach on our holy religion. This reproach must be rolled away; but it shall at the same time be rolled over or back on those who have occasioned it. Those that bring contempt on religion shall have the finger of scorn and contempt pointed at themselves in the end; those that despise God shall be lightly esteemed; and those who bring reproach upon his cause shall have that reproach returned unto themselves even in this world, while in the eternal world they shall awake up to shame and everlasting contempt.
1. Prosperity confirms sinners in their evil ways, and so their hearts are hardened and their consciences become seared.
2. "It is folly to call the riches of this world substance, for they are things that are not.
3. It is folly to attribute our riches to our own industry or ingenuity, as if we made ourselves rich, and as if it were the might and power of our own hand that gets us wealth.
4. It is folly to think our riches are our own, for ourselves, and that we may do what we like with our own. We are only stewards, and shall one day be called to give an account of our stewardship.
5. It is folly to boast of our riches as if they were a permanent possession, or as if they were evidence of peculiar merit in the possessor.
6. "It is folly to think that growing rich in a sinful way either doth make us innocent, or will make us safe, or may make us easy in that way; for the prosperity of fools deceives and destroys them."
HOMILIES BY C. JERDAN
Jacob an example to his descendants.
In this passage the prophet exposes the degeneracy of the Hebrew nation by contrasting their ungodly ways with those of their ancestor Jacob, and strives to win them back to the service of God by reminding them of the mercy and grace of which that patriarch had been the recipient.
I. THE DEGENERATE JACOB. (Hosea 11:12, and Hosea 11:1, Hosea 11:2) The entire Israelitish people had proved unfaithful to Jehovah. It was especially so with:
1. Ephraim. The career of the ten tribes had been one of faithlessness and falsehood. The whole life of the northern kingdom was a lie. Its people had renounced the Divine authority. They had lied to God by revolting from the dynasty of David; by rejecting the priesthood of the sons of Aaron; by worshipping the golden calves of Jeroboam; by abjuring Jehovah to do homage to Baal and Ashtaroth; by loosening the bonds of morality in their social life (Hosea 4:1-3); and by seeking help in times of national distress, at one period from Assyria and at another from Egypt (Hosea 12:1). And yet all the while they claimed to be still the Lord's people, and boasted that Jacob had been their father. Ephraim's apostasy, Hosea says, brought the people no satisfaction; it was like "feeding on wind." Their career of national hypocrisy involved them in "desolation;" it proved as disastrous as for a caravan of travelers to "follow after" the simoom, which bears on its wings the hot poison of death. The degeneracy of the nation had also at last begun to affect:
2. Judah. Although the guilt of the southern kingdom was by no means so great as that of Ephraim, yet Judah was now following in some measure the bad example of its northern neighbor. King Ahaz had given himself up to gross idolatry and iniquity; his reign at Jerusalem was a time of sad moral deterioration and spiritual darkness (2 Kings 16:1-20). So "the Lord had also a controversy with Judah" (verse 2); for Judah was "unbridled against God, and against the faithful Holy One" (Hosea 11:12, Keil's translation). "Jacob," i.e. Ephraim, is already ripe for punishment; but Judah has now gone so far astray as to require solemn reproof and warning.
II. THE TYPICAL JACOB. (Verses 3-5) The Jews gloried in being "the children of Israel," and here the prophet shows them how unlike they were to their father. The national career of Ephraim had been one of constant degeneracy: from the time of Jeroboam, "who made Israel to sin," the people had gone from bad to worse with ever-accelerating speed. Their ancestor Jacob, on the other hand, had trod the path which is "as the dawning light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18). Born with a selfish and unlovely nature, and prone to acts of deceit and meanness, he became a child of God, and had his heart molded by Divine grace, until he showed himself not only a really religious man, but a great saint. How different it would have been now with Ephraim had he lived conformably to his claim of being "the seed of Jacob"! The prophet recalls various acts of the Divine favor to the patriarch.
1. Before his birth. His taking his twin-brother's heel by the hand did not foreshadow merely his future overreaching of Esau; rather it was a prognostic of his precedence over him in the Divine purpose of grace, and of the eagerness with which Jacob would labor to obtain the covenant-blessing.
2. At Peniel. There what at first seemed a man wrestled with him; and perhaps Jacob mistook him for a robber of the road, until at length the Stranger with a touch dislocated his hip-joint, thus effectually disabling him. Then Jacob perceived that his antagonist was an "Angel"—the Angel of the covenant himself; so he gave up his useless wrestling, and began to pray. "He wept, and made supplication unto him" (verse 4); and the Divine blessing, which he could never have obtained by wrestling or supplanting, curse to him in answer to his prayer. At Peniel Jacob "was knighted on the field," and there he received his new and heavenly name. He who from the womb had been known as the supplanter, the wrestler, the tripper-up, now became Israel—"a prince with God" (Genesis 32:24-29). Ever afterwards Jacob's weapons were not carnal. He learned at Peniel to "prevail" by the power of faith and prayer, and of a holy life.
3. At Bethel. Hoses elsewhere calls the Bethel of his time by the contemptuous nickname of Beth-avert (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8; Hosea 10:5); for, alas! "the house of God" had become "the house of vanity"—an abode of naughty idols. At Bethel, where Jehovah "found" Jacob, he himself was lost by Jacob's degenerate children. At Bethel, where Jacob saw in vision the stairway reaching to heaven, Satan had established a stairway leading to destruction. But now the prophet recalls the early national associations, so pure and hallowed, which were connected with Bethel God "found Jacob in Bethel, and there he spake with us." In revealing himself to Jacob he had in view also Jacob's posterity. The patriarch received a Divine visitation at Bethel upon two occasions. The first, when on his way to Padan-aram (Genesis 28:11-22); and the second, twenty-five years afterwards, some time after his return to Canaan. Probably Hoses refers here chiefly to the latter; for then Jacob performed the vow which he had made on occasion of his first visit, and then God confirmed his new covenant name of Israel, and repeated the promise of his blessing (Genesis 35:9-15). God did all this at Bethel to Jacob and to "us" as "Jehovah, God of hosts" (verse 5): as "God of hosts," omnipotent in heaven and earth; and as "Jehovah," the unchanging, covenant-keeping God, who desires his people ever to remember him by this profoundly significant Name (Exodus 3:15).
III. HOW DEGENERATE JACOB MAY BECOME REGENERATE. (Verse 6) These words are an urgent exhortation to Ephraim to return to God, from whom he had "deeply revolted." The word "therefore" indicates that the call is grounded upon the representation just given both of the Divine character and of the Divine goodness to his ancestor Jacob. "Turn thou to thy God," i.e. thy covenant God, who still offers himself to thee, and is still ready to keep his ancient covenant, if thou approach him in penitence and faith. Why should Ephraim go down to destruction when he may have the "God of hosts" for his helper, and when he can plead the promise of the eternal "I Am"? In the second part of the verse the prophet looks at conversion on its practical side. The reality of Ephraim's return to God would show itself in the discharge of moral duty. "Mercy and judgment" are the sum of the duties which we owe to our neighbor, and the performance of these is the most convincing outward evidence of piety (Psalms 15:1-5). Again, to "wait on God continually" excludes idolatry and image-worship, and all other sins against the first table of the Law. Jacob had learned at Peniel to renounce the carnal device of supplanting, and when he came the second time to Bethel he put away Rachel's teraphim and other household gods. Now, Ephraim must begin to-day to act so if he would become, before it is too late, a worthy descendant of his ancestor. True turning to God involves obedience to both tables of the moral Law.
1. The sinfulness of insincerity in worship (Hosea 11:12).
2. The mischievousness of a life of sin (Hosea 12:1).
3. The duty of following the faith of our godly ancestors (verses 3, 4).
4. Places which have been the scenes of special mercy should be dear to God's people (verse 4).
5. The power that there is in penitent believing prayer (verses 3, 4).
6. "The Name of the Lord is a strong tower;" it brings to the godly man strength and hope and joy (verse 5).
7. The practical nature of true piety (verse 6).—C.J.
Three painful contrasts.
In this strophe the threatening of punishment is again repeated (Hosea 12:14). Ephraim's blood-guiltiness is to be left upon him; i.e. his sin is not to be pardoned. The "reproach" or dishonor which he has done to God by his idolatry, and iniquity God will repay him. But the denunciation is mixed with mercy. "I will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles" (Hosea 12:9) seems to include, not only a threatening of banishment from "the Lord's land," but a new redemption from the coming Egypt-like bondage, which shall bring with it rest and freedom and prosperity. Beyond his captivity, Ephraim shall keep the joyous Feast of Tabernacles again, as a memorial of Messianic mercies in connection with his restoration. As Ewald, however, remarks, the main feature of these verses consists in "three compressed comparisons."
I. "ISRAEL" HAS BECOME "CANAAN." (Hosea 12:7, Hosea 12:8) The "prince with God" has degenerated into a cheating huckster; the descendants of the godly Jacob have become like paltry Phoenician peddlers. Instead of "keeping mercy and judgment" (Hosea 12:6) in their commercial dealings, they love to practice deception and oppression. Ephraim, accordingly, does not deserve to be called by the honorable name of "Israel;" he exhibits rather the innate characteristics of the Canaanite tribes, and may well be spoken of as "Canaan." But, worse even than that, the people are spiritually self-complacent, all the while that they deal so dishonestly. They deceive themselves with the notion that their habits of social injustice involve no sin against God. They ignore the teaching of their law about "just balances, and just weights" (Leviticus 19:36; Deal 25:13-16). Enough for them if they become rich through their ill-gotten gains. They even argue that their continued success in acquiring riches by means of "the balances of deceit" is an evidence that the Lord cannot be angry with them (Hosea 12:8).
1. It is a spurious piety which does not take to do with "weights and measures."
2. The dangers of covetousness, a besetting sin of many Church members.
3. Long-continued temporal prosperity is not necessarily a token of God's favor.
4. Ungodly men pervert the Divine goodness and forbearance into an encouragement to persist in their sinful courses.
II. EPHRAIM HAS FORSAKEN THE PROPHETS FOR HEATHEN ALTARS. (Hosea 12:10, Hosea 12:11) Jehovah, who had been his God "from the land of Egypt," had shown his love for the nation in raising up a succession of men as their teachers, upon whom he caused his Spirit to rest. The prophets instructed the people in spiritual truth and moral duty. They rebuked idolatry. They denounced all injustice and oppression. They warned of coming judgments. They testified beforehand of the coming of the Messiah, and of the ultimate salvation of the world through him. The larger number of the great prophets were sent to the kingdom of Judah, and yet some of the most distinguished of them labored in the northern kingdom, as e.g. Elijah, Elisha, Amos, and Hosea himself. The Lord gave his Word to the prophets in a variety of ways. Sometimes by an audible voice, as to Samuel; more frequently, by writing the message in burning thoughts upon the prophet's soul; and often, as Hosea here reminds the people, by "multiplying visions." The "vision" was a frequent vehicle of Divine revelation during the whole course of the national life of Israel. Jehovah multiplied visions to Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Daniel, etc. And the prophets, in delivering the Lord's message, were directed to employ material signs as a means of adding emphasis to spiritual truth. The Lord, who knows our frame, and who has made the earth "but the shadow of heaven" (Milton), took care to "give similitudes by the prophets." Tile Hebrew seers used the metaphor, the allegory, the parable, the dramatic action. They found spiritual analogies everywhere in nature, and in the circumstances of human life. And all this was a manifestation of God's solicitude for his people's good. He sent the "prophets," and gave the "visions," and suggested the "similitudes" in tender love for his erring children. Yet all was in vain. The people continued to live as if God had given them no revelation. Their idolatry extended all over the region beyond Jordan, here represented by "Gilead;" and all over the west of Jordan, represented by "Gilgal." They turned a deaf ear to the warning voices of the prophets. Ephraim forsook the one altar which God recognized as his, and increased the number of idol shrines until they covered the land, like the heaps of stones cleared by the farmer out of a ploughed field. The idolatry and wickedness of Israel were committed against the clearest light of prophecy, and against the yearning love of Jehovah, which had led him "daily to rise up early" and send the prophets.
1. The privilege of being within reach of an earnest gospel ministry.
2. The advantage of the judicious use of illustrations in religious teaching.
3. How sad it is when localities which were once the scene of special manifestations of God become polluted with scandalous wickedness!
4. How aggravated the guilt of those who" sin willfully after they have received the knowledge of the truth" (Hebrews 10:26)!
III. EPHRAIM HAS FAILED TO LEARN THE LESSONS OF HIS OWN EARLY HISTORY. (Verses 12-14) Had he reflected aright upon the course of Divine providence towards himself, his thoughts about God would have been thoughts especially of humility and gratitude.
1. Humility. (Verse 12) When the Jew offered his basket of" firstfruits" annually to the Lord, he was to say, "A Syrian ready to perish was my father" (Deuteronomy 26:5). Jacob, the stem-father of the tribes, went to Mesopotamia as a fugitive, and remained there for twenty years as a servant. He had no dowry to offer for Rachel; he could only serve for her as a shepherd. Israel, accordingly, had not much to boast of as regards his national origin; the beginnings of the nation could scarcely have been more humble. And yet how different was Jacob's life, spiritually, from that of his children to whom Hosea spoke this prophecy!
2. Gratitude. (Verse I3) The reference now is to Moses. If Jacob's condition of servitude in Padan-aram taught a lesson of humility, the thought of the slavery of his immediate posterity in Egypt was fitted to inspire sentiments of gratitude. What a great emancipation was that of the Exodus! And the agent by whom that deliverance had been accomplished was a prophet, and one who, like Jacob, had been a shepherd. Degenerate Israel despised the teacher whom God sent, forgetting while he did so that the emancipation from the bondage of Egypt had taken place under the leadership of one single prophet. The Prophet Moses had conducted the tribes through the Red Sea; and had acted as their guardian, and their mediator with God, during all the forty years which they spent in the Arabian desert Under him the people had passed from a state of servitude into a position of sonship. Yet, alas! the nation cherished now neither humility nor gratitude. The Lord had preserved, enriched, and blessed them; but in return they only "provoked him to auger" by their grievous sins, until it became impossible that they could escape the punishment of their impiety.
1. The profitableness of the study of Scripture biography and history.
2. God's people must expect to be subjected to discipline as a condition of their spiritual advancement.
3. The Lord uses apparently humble instruments to accomplish great results.
4. The duty of cherishing gratitude for past mercies in our national history.—C.J.
Hosea 12:3 (last clause)
Prevailing with God.
It is no small thing to have a godly parentage. To be born to the heritage of a good name and of religious influences brings heavy responsibility and noble privilege. The man who turns t rein the path in which his godly ancestors walked commits a greater sin, in the judgment of God, than the godless who have never known the advantages of a religious home. Among the nations, "Israel" had this peculiar responsibility. The name of the people was a reminder of the prayer in which their great ancestor obtained self-conquest, knowledge of God, and grace to keep justice and do mercy. Hence they are reminded by Hosea of what their father was, that they might know what was still possible to themselves. The prophet refers here to Jacob's agonizing prayer at Jabbok, and speaks of a "strength" which was in him, which consisted not in holiness or merit, but (as the next verse suggests) in "supplication and tears." God could not overthrow his faith and constancy. He could not, because he would not. The touch which shriveled Jacob's thigh showed what he could do. The delay and struggle were only imposed on the suppliant (as by Jesus on the woman of Syro-phoenicia) in order to prepare him to receive a loftier blessing than he began at first to seek. The incident is related in a highly poetic form, and to Jacob the conflict was so terrible that it seemed an actual struggle with a living man. The voice and the presence were not material, but they were nonetheless real. We do not attempt to distinguish between the subjective and objective in this great conflict, yet we believe that Hosea's words respecting it are true, "There God spake with us," and that we are called upon to incline our hearts to the inference in the sixth verse, "Therefore turn thou to thy God," etc.
I. THE PREPARATION FOR WRESTLING WITH GOD, as exemplified in the experience of Jacob. Most men are so surrounded by what is material that they want the help of circumstances to enforce upon their thoughts the deeper necessities of their nature and the nearness of their God. Refer to Jacob's circumstances, and show how they constituted such a crisis in his life. Examine his mental condition, and see in it:
1. Remembrance of sin. Twenty years had gone by since that crime was committed which deceived his father, destroyed the peace of the home, and made Jacob an exile. Yet changes of scene, cares of business, the vexations caused by an exacting employer, etc; had not prevented the rising again of that dreadful memory. Bury sin as you may beneath cares and pleasures, it will reappear before you. Men have left the scene of guilt, formed new associations, hushed conscience to silence successfully for years, and then a chance word, or an unexpected event, has raised the specter of the past sin. Such a one, like Jacob, would give anything to begin life again; but all in vain. We walk on through life like one upon a path in the cliffs which crumbles away behind him, so that he cannot go back to gather the flowers he neglected, or to take the turn that would have given pleasure instead of peril. What else can we do, when the remembrance of sin is overwhelming, but "weep and make supplication unto God"?
2. Realization of peril. Jacob cared not so much for himself; but he could not bear to think that these innocent, dear ones around him might suffer death or captivity because of his wrongdoing. When he committed the sin he had neither wife nor child, and little thought how far-reaching and disastrous its results would be. So the sins of youth full often are the seed whence springs a harvest of sorrow to others as well as to ourselves. Darwin would teach as plainly as David that the sins of the father are visited upon the children; as Jacob's children were in peril because of a sin their father committed before they were born. No wonder Jacob turned to God with tears and supplications, and "there God spake with us," saying, "Turn thou to thy God."
3. Consciousness of solitude. Jacob was left alone. Most of the crises of life must be faced in solitude. Hence our Lord said, "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet," etc He himself went up into a mountain alone, and when every man departed to his own house, he went to the Mount of Olives. Moses was alone on Sinai, John in Patmos, etc. It is well for us sometimes to shut the world out, to think over the past and to prepare for the future by waiting upon God. "Therefore turn thou to thy God," etc.
II. THE MEANING OF WRESTLING WITH GOD. In his spiritual struggle Jacob had:
1. An apprehension of a personal God. The expressions "man" and "angel" are used to show that God was as real to him as a man would have been; that Jacob found him to be One with whom he could plead, who could speak, who noticed his tears, and was able to bless him there. Those who know something of the intensity of prayer are not satisfied with vague ideas of God. To them he is not an abstract notion of the mind, projected upon nothingness; nor is he the sum of natural forces. He is the living and true God, who has a personal interest in them, and listens to the cry of their hearts, nothing less than that satisfies the soul. Idolatry is but a blind attempt to create some objective personality, nothing less than which men can worship. But what we want is given to us in Christ, who was "the image of the invisible God." Men may be satisfied with less than him in their lower life, but when the want of the soul is really pressing, when the hunger of the heart is fairly roused, prayer becomes an agony, in which they can say, "My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God!"
2. Consciousness of spiritual struggle. "Struggle" does not correctly describe all fellowship with God, as we may see from Jacob's own experience. When he first left home he saw the heavenly ladder at Bethel, and had a sweet assurance of God's love and protection; but now twenty years have elapsed he goes through this scene of darkness and struggle and weeping. This is not what many would have expected. They demand that religious experience should always begin with agony over sin. But it does not. Children may know nothing of the agony of soul, yet they may know the reality of prayer. By the foolish expectations of some Christians, they are tempted to persuade themselves that they have known what they never did know, or else to regard the devotion of their childhood as sentimental and unreal. Why should they not heed the angels of Bethel first, and have the agony of Jabbok twenty years after, as Jacob did? But, sooner or later, most devout men know something of struggle, when the darker problems of life and its more terrible issues face them; yet, although in their later years they have to fight with doubts which did not trouble them once, they have no reason on that account to suspect the reality of their earlier religious life. It was not Bethel's pleasant dream, but Jabbok's dreadful struggle, that transformed Jacob into a prince.
3. Victory through the Divine goodness. Observe the change in the attitude of Jacob. At first the angels "met him" as if coming out of Seir, to remind and rebuke him of sin. He began with struggle, hut ended in supplication. The end of all wrestling with God is not to conquer him, but to conquer self; e.g. one assailed by intellectual doubts finds rest, not in the solution of the difficulty, but in trust in him whose "greatness is unsearchable;" another troubled by the conviction of sin wins peace by confessing sin, not by disproving the charges of conscience. The consciousness and acknowledgment of weakness is our power, "weeping" is our eloquence; and they who come with the supplication, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me," by their strength have power with God.
III. THE ISSUES OF WRESTLING WITH GOD. See what Jacob won.
1. Knowledge of God. He knew him as "the Lord of hosts," with power to rule Esau and others, and as "Jehovah," who would fulfill his covenant promise. He was nearer to God now than ever. Before this he had been at Beth-el, "the house of God ;" but now he was at Peniel he saw "the face of God."
2. Change in character. No longer Jacob (supplanter), but Israel (prince). Before this he sought Divine ends by human means, but never after. In the presence of things eternal, things temporal faded away; and in the light of God's countenance he became sincere and transparent. "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image," etc.
3. Delight in prayer. When an old man he blessed his sons, having faith to foresee their future, and power in prayer to win their blessings. The priesthood of Christians on earth has yet to be realized in the fullness of its power. If only the Church had the spirit of supplication which Jacob had when he cried, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me," there would come a wave of spiritual influence over the world which would cover the bare rocks of skepticism, and sing a paean of victory over the dreary wastes of sin. "By his strength" may the Church have "power with God"!—A.R.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
Feeding on wind.
The conduct of Ephraim is in many respects very instructive to all readers of Scripture. There is nothing in that conduct upon which Hosea lays greater stress than the extreme folly, unreasonableness, fatuity of sin. This is a forcible image which the prophet here employs to describe the vanity of a course of life distinguished by forgetfulness of God and rebellion against God, by a constantly recurring though constantly disappointing endeavor to find satisfaction in the pursuits and pleasures of sin. "Ephraim feedeth on wind, and chaseth the east wind."
I. A VAIN AND FALSE STANDARD AND AIM. Compare the wind with wholesome food, and you feel at once the absurdity of regarding the one as though it were equivalent to the other. The objects upon which the ungodly and the worldly set their heart are as unsubstantial as the" viewless air." Such persons call evil good, and commit the sin of forsaking the fountain of living waters, and hewing out to themselves broken cisterns which can hold no water.
II. A FOOLISH PURSUIT. As are a man's conceptions of excellence, such we may expect will be his life. It is natural that we should seek that which we deem good. Seekers of satisfaction in the pleasures of sin, if they could but understand their real life, would see themselves to be chasing the east wind. All earthly aims, when substituted for God's glory—the one true end of our existence—are unworthy of our nature, and undeserving of our devotion.
III. AN UNSATISFYING REWARD. To swallow the wind is a poor substitute for eating suitable and sustaining food. And sooner or later every person who has given himself to the quest of worldly and selfish aims must discover their utter vanity, their inability to afford a true and lasting satisfaction. When the illusions of earth and time have vanished, and men stand face to face with eternal realities, how empty and unworthy will appear what has so often inflamed their desire and excited their strenuous effort! Anticipating so clear a judgment, let the hearers of God's Word be wise in time.—T.
Power with God.
The prophet here introduced a reference to Jacob, one of the ancestors of the chosen people, in order to encourage his descendants to apply for mercy to the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. The Eternal and Unchangeable remained the same; and what God had done for the ancient saints he was willing to do for their posterity. The expression used with regard to Jacob deserves attention: "In his strength he put forth power [or, 'prowess'] with God."
I. WHENCE POWER WITH GOD PROCEEDS.
1. From a sense of need and dependence on the part of the suppliant. He who needs much and sorely will plead powerfully.
2. From a conviction of Divine bounty and kindness. He who approaches an unwilling or niggardly person, with the view of asking from him a boon, loses half his energy by the consciousness of the illiberal character to which he appeals. But he who comes to God comes to a King of boundless resources, a Father of infinite compassion; and the knowledge of this should prompt to regent entreaty.
II. HOW POWER WITH GOD MANIFESTS ITSELF. At Peniel and at Bethel Jacob proved himself a true suppliant; witness his "wrestling" at the one place and his "vow" at the other. We have no power to command God, but we have power to entreat him. We may feel our feebleness, but if our prayer be sincere, ardent, and persevering, it will have power with the Eternal.
"Yield to me, Lord, for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair."
III. WHAT IT IS WINCH POWER WITH GOD SECURES.
1. Personal forgiveness and acceptance. Above all things the suppliant sinner craves for this. To be in the light of the Divine favor is, of all things, the most urgently desirable.
2. The supply of every real need.
3. The relative blessings sought in intercessory prayer.
APPLICATION. Let not the thought of God's greatness cripple the energies or daunt the heart of the lowly applicant for mercy. Great as he is, he delights to be conquered by the urgent entreaties of his children.
"And when my all of strength shall fail,
I shall with the God-Man prevail."
Turn thou to thy God.
If there is one message more frequently repeated than another in the Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testaments, it is this message requiring repentance. There has been no generation of men, nay, there has been no individual man, to whom it might not justly be said, Repent!
I. HUMAN CHARACTER AND LIFE ARE SUCH AS TO RENDER NECESSARY THIS TURNING TO GOD. One who is on the right road already has no need to turn; but he who is traveling in the wrong direction must first of all reverse his steps, his course. As sin and error have been universal, no limit can be placed to the appropriateness of the summons of the text.
II. MAN MAY FIND IN HIMSELF MANY AND SUFFICIENT REASONS FOR REPENTANCE. His interests demand, his conscience enjoins, his best feelings urge, that he should turn unto God. His present happiness and his future prospects are imperiled by his remaining estranged from his God.
III. IN GOD HIMSELF, AND IN HIS REVELATION, ARE MANY GROUNDS FOR REPENTANCE.
1. First of all there is the fact that he is our God. "Turn thou to thy God." How just and proper, then, that, instead of looking away from him, men should look towards him!
2. It must be considered that all our happiness is bound up with his favor and fellowship. To turn to him is to turn to the light of the sun, to the source of life.
3. The Divine directions and promises furnish the most persuasive motive add the most authoritative justification for turning unto God.—T.
Wait on thy God.
It is very instructive that the prophet in this passage admonished, not only to repentance, reformation, and righteousness, but also to "waiting on God." Many of the effects of repentance, and especially the moral, subjective effects, might be felt immediately, but there were other consequences which might probably be delayed. Hence the admonition of the text.
I. IT IS HONORING TO GOD THAT HIS PEOPLE SHOULD WAIT UPON HIM. It is not for man to dictate to his Maker, to seek to prescribe when, how, and where God should intervene upon behalf of a suppliant. His wisdom is not to be questioned; his goodness is not to be impugned.
II. IT IS PROFITABLE TO GOD'S PEOPLE TO WAIT UPON HIM. Thus faith and patience are cultivated—virtues which are most serviceable to Christians, and which are a true ornament to the godly character.
III. IT IS WELL TO WAIT UPON GOD CONTINUALLY. Remissness in so doing is to be condemned; weariness in waiting is dangerous. Just at the moment when the Helper draws nigh the needy soul may be in slumber or may be otherwise engaged. Waiting means watching.
IV. GOD'S PEOPLE CANNOT WAIT FOR HIM IN VAIN. They may wait long, but their waiting shall be rewarded. Then shall they sing aloud for joy, "This is our God; we have waited for him." Wait for the harvest, and you shall reap. Wait for the morning, and the sun shall rise upon your expectant soul.—T.
Happiness in reserve.
The mixture of promise with threat is one of the remarkable and instructive characteristics of these prophecies. In the midst of wrath God remembers mercy. The bright lining of the cloud cheers the beholder when he is downcast and troubled. Hoses is commissioned to assure Israel that upon their repentance they shall rejoice before God in the glad Feast of Tabernacles, which they shall celebrate to his glory.
I. TRUE HAPPINESS CONSISTS IN THE REMEMBRANCE AND CELEBRATION OF GOD'S MERCIES. The feast of Tabernacles observed by the Jews was a festival in which the nation commemorated the goodness of Jehovah, both in supplying their wants by means of the harvest, and in delivering them as a nation from the power of Egypt. Now we as Christians have even greater mercies to acknowledge; God has given us the Bread of life, and he has rescued us from the power of sin and Satan. It behooves us, therefore, to cherish gratitude to God the Savior for all the great works he has wrought for us, and for all the loving-kindness with which he has treated us.
II. THE PROSPECT OF SUCH HAPPINESS IS FITTED TO CHEER THE HEART IN TIMES OF SORROW AND TROUBLE. If this be the wilderness through which we pass, we are journeying to the land of possession and repose. If this be the darksome night whose shadows gather round us, we hope soon to see the streaks of the coming day. Let the discouraged and harassed Christian learn to say with the psalmist, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him."
III. THE FAITHFUL PROMISES OF THE ETERNAL ASSURE A HAPPY FUTURE TO THOSE WHO TRUST AND LOVE HIM. The religion of Christ places the golden age in the future. The Christian has always something blessed and glorious to which to look forward. His dwelling-place is above. And he has ever before him the happy and inspiring prospect of sharing in "the marriage supper of the Lamb."—T.
Visions and similitudes.
In two ways Jehovah showed himself to be in an especial manner favorable towards the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The first was by his providential care of the nation throughout its history. And the second was that mentioned in this verse: God sent continually to his chosen people prophets, whose communications were the means of instructing, warning, and guiding them. Observe the twofold description of the Divine revelation vouchsafed.
1. The name given to the class of inspired teachers and guides of the nation is significant, and is harmonious with this passage. They were seers.
2. By an illumined faculty these Hebrew prophets saw Divine realities. Intuition, insight, inspiration,—such are the terms by which spiritual vision is designated. "The vision and the faculty Divine" has been attributed to genius; but the order of men in question were distinguished by their perception of spiritual truth.
3. These visions of Divine realities the prophets, by language or otherwise, conveyed to the people.
II. SIMILITUDES. There is a natural and ordained correspondence between things natural and things spiritual, which accounts for the prevalence and the efficiency of pictorial, metaphorical, and allegorical methods of instruction and admonition.
1. Sometimes the prophets were directed to make use of parabolic action. We have several instances of this kind recorded in the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, etc.
2. Similitude often took the form of parabolic language: e.g. Isaiah's comparison of Israel to an unfruitful vine; Ezekiel's comparison of the return from captivity to the revival of the dry bones, etc.
3. In both these prophetic methods there is a sacred purpose. Condescension to the ignorance and unspirituality of many of the people was one reason.
4. Our Lord Jesus himself "used similitudes," and sanctioned this interesting and impressive method in his parables and allegories.
APPLICATION. When God has deigned to communicate with us by visions and similitudes, how great is the responsibility of listening to the inspired prophetic Word!—T.
The ministry of prophets.
The reference of this verse is obviously to Moses, who was indeed a great national leader and legislator, but who, it must not be forgotten, was the first and the greatest of the prophets. The remarkable fact here alluded to is, that God made choice and use of a prophet, not simply to teach, but to effect a great deliverance on behalf of the chosen nation.
I. THE SELECTION OF S PROPHET AS THE INSTRUMENT FOR A GREAT WORK WAS HONORING TO GOD HIMSELF. If a warrior, a hero, had been employed for this purpose, the minds of the people might naturally have attributed their deliverance to his warlike prowess, his strategic genius. But when Moses, the meekest of men, the wisest of human teachers, was appointed, it was clear to all that, though the hand was that of Moses, the power was that of God.
II. THE GREAT WORK WHICH WAS DONE BY THE AGENCY OF THE PROPHET AUTHENTICATED AND ENFORCED HIS RELIGIOUS TEACHING. It could not be otherwise than that the children of Israel should regard with reverence and confidence a man who had led them out from the bondage of Egypt, notwithstanding the opposition of the mighty monarch whom he had defied. His revelations of the Divine character, his declarations of the Divine will, came home to the people with tenfold power because he had been the means of making the presence of God known and felt among them in a way which the whole nation could appreciate. The same principle explains why it was ordained that signs and wonders should so usually accompany the ministry of inspired men.
III. THE COMBINED MANIFESTATION OF DIVINE WISDOM AND DIVINE POWER RENDERS UNBELIEF AND IRRELIGION THE MORE CULPABLE. It was a reproach to Israel that, after experiencing manifestations of the Divine presence so unquestionable, they should have cherished an evil heart of unbelief. Considering that the Christian dispensation has been marked by an even more striking display of divinity than the Mosaic, it may well be asked, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"—T.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
"Ephraim feedeth on wind." Delitzsch renders this clause, "Ephraim grazeth wind." The idea is that it sought for support and satisfaction in those things that were utterly unsubstantial and worthless—"wind.:
I. SENSUAL INDULGENCES are worthless soul-food. Men seek happiness in the gratification of their senses, in the free indulgence of their appetites: but all this is nothing but "wind;" it leaves the soul more hungry than ever. Souls die with hunger in the pampered body of the gourmand and voluptuary. "Man cannot live by bread alone," etc.
II. WORLDLY DISTINCTIONS are worthless soul-food. Thousands seek food for their souls in worldly titles, honor, and fame. But these are "wind." The souls of our grandees are perishing with hunger. Walk Rotten Row in the height of the season, and in the countenances of hundreds of those rolling in the stream of dazzling chariots you see moral hunger depicted. What are they doing? They are grazing wind.
III. RELIGIOUS FORMALITIES are worthless soul-food. Millions go through religious formalities in search of spirit-food. They crowd temples, synagogues, cathedrals, churches, chapels, rigorously attend to the mere ceremonies of religion, and return from their devotions with hungry and unfed souls. At the altars they have been grazing wind. "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness."—D.T.
Genuine human goodness.
"Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually." Delitzsch renders the verse thus: "And thou to thy God shall return, keep love, and right, and hope continually in thy God." The new translation gives no new idea. The few words may be regarded as representing genuine human goodness. Looking at it in this respect it includes three things.
I. SPIRITUAL CONVERSION. "Turn thou to thy God." An expression implying that their moral mind was in a different direction, away from God. It was so with Ephraim; it was after idols. It is so with all unregenerate souls; they are alienated from God. Terrible fact this. God's intelligent creatures turned from him and against him. Turning to him includes at least two things.
1. Accepting him as the supreme Monarch to obey. It means the making of his will the law of all their laws, the test of all their conduct, the guide of all their activities.
2. Accepting him as the supreme Object to love. Man is so formed that he must have some one to love supremely. His crime, degradation, and curses are, that the objects which he has chosen on which to center his paramount love are imperfect creatures and vanities. He is the only Object worthy of the soul's supreme love, and this he demands. He who renders him this will have his heart enlarged, and run with joyous alacrity in all the ways of his commandments. Here, then, is the first step in genuine human goodness—conversion. "Repent, and be converted." This is the grand call of the gospel. God calls men everywhere to repent—that is, to change their hearts, turn from themselves to him their Creator.
II. SOCIAL MORALITY. "Keep mercy and judgment." Notice the latter first.
1. "Judgment," that is, justice. Justice means rendering to every man his due; it is compendiously expressed in the words of Christ, "Whatsoever ye would have men do unto you, do ye even so to them." It goes dead against all frauds, dishonesties, and cruelties.
2. "Mercy." Mercy is a modification of love; it is love in compassion, patience, forbearance, etc. Paul makes a distinction between a good man and a just man. There are men conventionally just, who are not good, nor generous, nor merciful. They would pay every man his due, but, like Shylock, they will extort the last grain. It is not, therefore, enough for a man to "keep judgment"—do justice—to his fellowman; he must have mercy too. "Love is the fulfilling of the Law."
III. LIFE-WORSHIP. "Wait continually on thy God." God must be the All in all; tile grand Figure in all the sceneries, and the ruling chord in all the melodies of life. Man is made to worship; but worship is not a ceremony, not a passing sentiment, not an occasional service; it is a life revealing itself everywhere—in marts of business, hails of study, fields of recreation, as well as in conventional temples. It is not a something that appears on this mountain or on that mountain, on this day or that day, in this act or that, hut something that is every where and when. The grand pulse of being.
"True religion, sprung from God alone,
Is like her Fountain, full of charity:
Embracing all things with a tender love.
Full of good will and meek expectancy:
Full of true justice and sure verity,
In heart and voice: free, large, even infinite,
Not wedged in straight particularity,
But grasping all in her vast, active spirit.
Bright lamp of God, that men would joy in thy pure light!"
Fortunes badly used, badly made, and badly ended.
"He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress. And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all my labors they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin. And I that am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast." Here we have—
I. FORTUNES BADLY USED. "And Ephraim said, I am become rich, I have found me out substance." Here is a fortune held and no doubt employed in the spirit of haughty egotism. It is all I. "I have become rich, I have found me out substance."
1. Here there is no recognition of human co-operation. No man comes in possession of wealth without the efforts of some men either living or dead. Wealth, whoever holds it, is the result—in most, perhaps in all cases—of the efforts of a large number of human workers. But the possessor oftentimes takes no note of this. He thinks only of himself. He does not think of the toil, the sweat, the exhaustion of those who have helped to put it into his hand.
2. Here there is no recognition of Divine agency. All fortunes roam of God—out of his materials, out of his seasons, out of the activity of his creatures. But there is no recognition of him here. "I have become rich, I have found me out substance." How many fortunes are thus held and employed in England this day—held and employed in a haughty egotism!
II. FORTUNES BADLY MADE.
1. Here is fraud. "He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand." The hand of fraud has ever been, and still is, alas! the most active of all agencies in the erection of fortunes. There is deceit everywhere. In all fabrics, groceries, trade commodities. Deceit in making, deceit both in the buying and the selling. Were all the fortunes in England that have been built up by deceit to be destroyed this day, the whole human world would be startled with the terrible crash. The event would be as the hurling of the Himalaya into the sea, causing the billows to roar on every shore.
2. Here is oppression. "He loveth to oppress." Indeed, fraud is oppression in some form or other. What unrighteous exactions there are in the building of many fortunes! Go to the pits of mine-owners, to the factories of manufacturers, to the warehouses of merchants, to the vessels of ship-owners, and everywhere you will meet men and women groaning under the oppression of those for whom they are building up fortunes.
3. Here is cunning. "In all my labors they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin." Ephraim—this typical fortune-maker—took such care to conceal all that was unfair and nefarious in his operations that he was certain no wrong could be found in his doings. Wrong there was, he knew, but he was careful that none should discover it. By plausible and well-guarded statements, by legal formulae, by "board" resolutions, he tools that he can say, "In all my labors they shall find none iniquity in me." Who has not seen many men of this type?—many who have made a fortune by a swindle, but have so guarded the transaction that they have clapped their hands and said, "None will ever find it oat."
III. FORTUNES BADLY ENDED. "And I that am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast." The meaning of this is—Rich as thou art, I will strip thee of thy wealth, drive thee from thy home, send thee back again to the wilderness a vagrant, to howl for bread and water. Ay, ay, to all such fortune-holders and fortune-makers retribution must come sooner or later. "I tell thee," says Thomas Carlyle, "there is nothing else but justice: one strong thing I find here below—the just thing, the true thing. My friend, if thou hadst all the artillery of Woolwich marching at thy back in support of an unjust thing, and infinite bonfires visibly waiting ahead of thee to blaze centuries to come for thy victory on behalf of it, I would advise thee to call 'Halt!' to fling down thy baton, and say, 'In God's Name, no!' What will the success amount to? If the thing be unjust, thou hast not succeeded, though bonfires blazed from north to south. and bells rang, and editors wrote leading articles, and the just thing be trampled out of sight to all mortal eyes, an abolished and an annihilated thing."—D.T.
God's method in teaching the great teachers of the world.
"I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets." God is the great Teacher of mankind. "Who teaches like him?" He teaches the best lessons, in the best way and for the best purpose; he teaches man through the works of nature, and through the best of men. God has always employed prophets in his great school for humanity. Into every age he has sent men above the average of the race—men gifted with high intellect, lofty genius, and special inspiration. They are evermore his prophets, and these he himself teaches; they are in his "normal school." He teaches them that they may teach others. The text indicates his method of teaching them.
I. BY VISIONS. He gives to those men inner revelations, unfolds to them spiritual realities, opens their spiritual eyes, and bids them look. What wonderful visions Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Paul, and the Apostle John had! They saw wonderful things; but what they saw was not with the outward eye, but with the eye of the soul. These visions serve to show three things.
1. The distinguishing glory of the human mind. What is that? It is a power to see the sensuously invisible, the universe that lies beyond the ken of mortal sight. What a universe came to the eye of the sightless bard of England! In some this visual organ is keener and more active than in others. He who has it in the highest extent is the poet, the prophet, emphatically the seer.
2. The accessibility of the human mind to God. Man can only address the mind through the senses; the Almighty can do it when all the senses are closed up, in the "visions of the night." He can take into it at his pleasure a whole universe, and bid it gaze on its objects and listen to its sounds.
3. The reality of spiritual things. The bodily eye does not see realities, but nacre forms and shadows. The soul alone can see the real, hence God brings the real into it. By visions I think the Almighty has ever taught the great thinkers of mankind, not only in ancient but in modern times. All the true discoveries of men of science, all the creations of sacred bards, all the flashes of the true evangel, are but visions from God. "In visions of the night."
II. BY SIMILITUDE. "And used similitudes." By this is meant, he showed them the invisible by the visible, the spiritual by the sensuous. He gave them parables. "Without a parable spake he not unto them." Hence the prophets spoke in parables; and the great Prophet of the world, who was like unto Moses. There are good reasons for this mode of teaching spiritual truth. Two may be mentioned.
1. It makes the spiritual more attractive. All men, whether they will or not, from their very bodily constitutions are vitally interested in material objects. They live in them and by them; and without direct impressions from God, we can scarcely conceive of spiritual truth being made clear to them but by their means.
2. It makes the material appear more Divine. Flowers, trees, streams, and stars, when they have become emblems to the soul of spiritual truth, become invested with a mystic charm. The picture that has hung in your room for years, and on which your eyes have rested a thousand times, becomes invested with a strange fascination after you have made the acquaintance and come to love the person whom it represents. Thank God for his parabolic method of teaching.—D.T.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
Hosea 11:12-12:1, Hosea 12:2
God faithful, his people unfaithful.
Probability seems against the rendering, "Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the All-Holy;" for, though a relative truth might be claimed for the first statement, the other references to Judah are in a very different strain (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:5, Hosea 5:10, Hosea 5:14; Hosea 6:4, Hosea 6:11; Hosea 8:14; Hosea 10:11), and in any case the second clause would be untrue to fact. "Faithful with God" is too glaringly at variance with what Isaiah says of the state of Judah at this time: "Their land is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands" (Hosea 2:8). The other rendering, "Judah vacillates [roves about] with God, and with the faithful Holy One," better meets the conditions of the context. Ephraim's condition, however, was much worse than Judah's.
I. EPHRAIM'S DECEIT. Deceit had become as second nature to Ephraim.
1. He nourished himself upon it. "Ephraim feedeth on wind," i.e. on lies. Lies were his pabulum. He believed the false prophets who preached "peace" to him. He built himself up in his own counsels. He greedily listened to the voice of seducers.
2. He practiced it. Deceit had become part of his being. It corrupted his whole existence. Religion, politics, trade—all was penetrated by the spirit of lies. All partook of the character of unreality. There was:
(1) Deceit in religion. "Ephraim compasseth himself about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit." This was towards God (Hosea 11:12). With plenty of the outward show of religion—altars, sacrifices, feasts, etc.—there was no heart-reality. All was hypocrisy, pretence, lip-worship. God was owned in name, but denied in fact. His worship was associated with that of idols, and conducted in a way which was a scandal to morality.
(2) Deceit in politics. "He daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt" (verse 1; cf. Hosea 10:4). This duplicity in national transactions brought forth its natural fruit in desolation. Treachery is a dangerous game to play in political engagements.
(3) Deceit in commerce. This also is charged against Ephraim in the chapter (see below, verse 7).
3. He pursued it. "Feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind." Pursuing their ungodly aims, the people were as those chasing the scorching blast of the desert. Their hopes deceived them, and they were destroyed (cf. Hosea 13:15).
II. JUDAH'S INCONSTANCY. (Hosea 11:12) Judah vacillated with God. Ephraim sought to practice deceit on the Faithful One. Judah trifled with the Holy One. Religious inconstancy shows itself:
1. In the maintenance of a right theory of religion with numerous infidelities in practice. Judah maintained, in form and theory, the right order in religion. They had the temple, the Levitical priesthood, the Davidic line of kings, etc. They set up no calves, as Jeroboam had dune. Yet, with this show of orthodoxy, they tolerated many things that were not right, and idolatry was winked at when it ought to have been suppressed.
2. In the alternation of great fervors in religion with times of backsliding and coolness. Under good kings, Judah had frequently reformations of religion. At these times there seemed no bounds to the piety and fervor of the people. But the enthusiasm did not last. There was reaction and greater coldness than before.
3. In divided service. Judah had of late begun to swerve from the service of the one God. They imported idols. More and more the people were being drawn to idol-service. Their hearts vacillated between Jehovah and the false gods. Inconstancy as often takes this form as any other. The heart is ostensibly God's, but is really divided between God and the world.
III. JEHOVAH'S FAITHFULNESS. God is "the faithful Holy One" (Hosea 11:12). In virtue of his faithfulness and holiness, God:
1. Resented Ephraim's deceit. He would punish Jacob (verse 2).
2. Was displeased at Judah's inconstancy. He had "a controversy with Judah" (verse 2).
3. Nevertheless would not utterly destroy them. This point is implied in what follows.
4. In punishment would be strictly just. "According to their ways."—J.O.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
Power with God.
The people are incited to repentance by the example of their progenitor Jacob. His wrestling for the blessing sets their unfaithfulness in darker contrast.
I. GOD'S ELECTION DOES NOT SUPERSEDE MAN'S EFFORT. Before Jacob was born God had said, "The elder shall serve the younger" (Genesis 25:23). Yet the blessing had to be striven for, and won from God by wrestling and supplication.
1. Jacob had from the first an impulse to realize his destiny. (Hosea 12:3) Even as an unconscious babe he gave token of this. He struggled in the womb (Genesis 25:22). His hand took hold of the heel of his elder brother Esau as he was born (Genesis 25:22). As he grew older we see the same impulse manifesting itself, not always in right ways. The catching of his brother's heel was a type of the attempts he afterwards made to take the blessing from Esau by force and guile. He got Esau to sell the birthright for a mess of pottage (Genesis 25:29-34). He obtained the blessing from his father by fraud (Genesis 27:1-46). The acts were indefensible, but they testify at least to his appreciation of the blessing, and to his desire to obtain it.
2. His efforts were purified as years advanced. (Hosea 12:4) The blessing was at length won, but by far other means than Jacob had at first employed. It was won from God by earnest, agonizing supplication. The narrative is given in Genesis 32:24-32. There Jacob, as a prince, had power with God, and prevailed (Genesis 32:28).
II. GOD PUTS HIMSELF IN MAN'S POWER, THAT MAN MAY OBTAIN BLESSING FROM HIM.
1. He draws near to man. God drew near to Jacob at Peniel. He seemed to be a" man," but Jacob recognized in his mysterious Visitant an angel—that Angel of the covenant in whom God's Name was. He accordingly laid hold of him, wrestled with and entreated him, and would not let him go till he had blessed him. So there are awful moments in our experience when, "left alone," the infinite Presence draws near to us, overshadows us, touches us, invites us to wrestle with it for the supreme good of existence.
2. He gives man power. If Jacob wrestled prevailingly with God, it was because God gave him power to do so. It is in God's own strength that we wrestle with God. God puts himself in our power, not crushing us by his majesty, but meeting us as on a human footing, and permitting us to prevail over him.
3. He invites man's requests. Jacob "wept, and made supplication." Prayer is a real wrestling. God wills man thus to wrestle with him. He gives us the promise of blessing if we ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7, Matthew 7:8). Jacob's prayer was
Jesus prayed "with strong crying and tears," and "was heard in that he feared" (Hebrews 5:7)
III. IN TYPICAL CASTS LIKE JACOB'S, GOD PLEDGES HIS GRACE TO THE GENERATIONS THAT COME AFTER. Jacob was:
1. Israel's patriarch head. "He found him in Bethel; there he spake with us" (Genesis 32:4). The promises given at Bethel had reference to the descendants (Genesis 35:9-12). The blessing was to be theirs also, if they chose to claim it as Jacob had done.
2. An example. He who spake with Jacob was "the Lord God of hosts: the Lord is his Name" (Genesis 32:5). The unchangeability of God is our guarantee that, if we act as Jacob did, we shall meet with like reward.
3. The consequent duty. "Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually." There is here indicated the need:
(1) Of earnest desire. "Turn thou to God." Israel must turn from other aims, and set their heart upon the blessing as Jacob set his.
(2) Of obedience. "Keep, mercy and judgment." For it is only in the way of obedience that God will meet us.
(3) Of perseverance in seeking. "Wait thou," etc. It was thus that Jacob waited; wrestling even till daybreak.—J.O.
Balances of deceit.
In the manner of his acquisition of wealth, Ephraim conjoined deceit and oppression. He was dishonest in trade. He oppressed the poor. He was a better imitator of Jacob in his act of laying hold of his brother's heel than in his earnestness in wrestling with the angel. He inherited the evil, not the good, traits in the character of his progenitor He was a "Jacob," not an "Israel." Yet he plumed himself on his success.
I. EPHRAIM'S SAY IN THE MATTER. (Hosea 12:8)
1. He was puffed up with the thought of being rich. "Ephraim said, I am rich, I have found me out substance." This was the main thing—he was rich. It did not matter how the riches had been got, when they were there. The existence of the riches covered a multitude of sins. This is too much the way in which wealth is looked at in the world. The possessor of it can count on being honored, courted, applauded for success, with few questions asked as to the means by which his wealth has been acquired. The love of the honor and position which wealth gives lead men to seek after it by fair means and foul. "Balances of deceit" are not unknown among ourselves. "Tricks innumerable," says Mr. Spencer, "lies acted or uttered, elaborately devised frauds, are prevalent—many of them established as ' customs of the trade; ' nay, not only established, but defended." Yet this is thought of little moment, if only men can say in the end, "I am rich."
2. He took the glory of his riches to himself. "I have found me out substance." It was himself that did it. To him the credit and glory of it belonged. He said in his heart, "My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth," forgetting that it is God alone that had given him power to get wealth (Deuteronomy 8:17, Deuteronomy 8:18).
3. He justified himself in his ways. "In all my labors they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin." As Spencer says above of rogueries in trade, "not only established, but defended." The dishonest trader is yet to be found who is not disposed to justify himself. He gets to look on his dishonesties as trifles—bagatelles. He defies proof of them. He justifies himself by the practice of others. That cannot be wrong which everybody does. If, like Ephraim, he is assiduous in the practice of the outward duties of religion (Hosea 12:11), he may regard this as amply outweighing the deceits and oppressions of his business life.
II. GOD'S SAY IN THE MATTER. (Hosea 12:8, Hosea 12:9) God:
1. Exposes the sin and folly of Ephraim's boasting, "And I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt." If Ephraim was rich, it was God who made him rich. If he had substance, it was God who gave him substance, not Ephraim who had found it out for himself: Ephraim's boasting was, therefore, entirely out of place. It was as foolish as it was wicked and ungrateful.
2. Shows the inexcusableness of Ephraim's conduct. "I have also spoken by the prophets," etc. Ephraim had been well taught and warned. Moses, in the plains of Moab, had already foreshown the dangers to which Israel would be exposed when they came into possession of the goodliness of Canaan, and had forewarned them against pride and undue self-elation (Deuteronomy 8:7-18). Other prophets had been sent as occasion required. God had "multiplied visions" to the people, and had "used similitudes" to make matters plainer, and to draw attention. In spite of all, Ephraim continued sinning. If such were his privileges, what are ours, to whom God, "who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past to the fathers by the prophets hath in these last days spoken by his Son (Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 1:2)?
3. Declares Ephraim's punishment. "I will make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast?' Ephraim, having forfeited his blessings by his sin, would be turned back again into the wilderness, there to renew the experience of the old wanderings, of which the Feast of Tabernacles was a memorial (Leviticus 23:42, Leviticus 23:43). The words are a threatening, yet imply mercy. The wilderness wanderings were a punishment, but also a discipline. During these wanderings, Israel enjoyed God's protection and sheltering care. The end of the wandering was Canaan. So Israel's present banishment is with a view to ultimate recovery.
III. THE DELUSION PRICKED. (Hosea 12:11) Ephraim, like the Laodicean Church, said, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing," and knew not that he was "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Revelation 3:17). He had failed to take God's counsel (by the prophets), to buy of him "gold tried in the fire" that he might be rich, and "white raiment" that he might be clothed, and to anoint his eyes with eye-salve that he might see (Revelation 3:18). He still pursued vanity and deceit, and multiplied transgressions. This state of delusion in which he lived was now to be rudely broken in upon. Gilead, for its iniquity, would become (or, perhaps, had already become) vanity, nothingness. Gilgal, where bulls were offered in such numbers in sacrifice, would witness (or had already witnessed) its altars made as heaps of stones in the furrows of the field.—J.O.
Preserved by a prophet.
Comparison with Deuteronomy 26:5-10 shows that the point in this passage is the contrast between Israel's original low estate in Syria and Egypt—the nation in the former case being represented in its ancestor—and the state of honor to which God raised it, when he brought it out of Egypt by Moses, and settled it in Canaan. The intention is to show the full enormity of Ephraim's ingratitude.
I. ISRAEL IS SYRIA. (Deuteronomy 26:12) This is viewed as the beginning of Israel's servitude. There was little in Jacob's condition in Padan-Aram to indicate the honor that was afterwards to be put on his descendants. His state was one of:
1. Peril. "Jacob fled into the country of Syria." Or, as in Deuteronomy, "A Syrian ready to perish was my father".
2. Servitude. He was a serving-man with Laban. He bound himself for terms of years, and wrought for wages.
3. Poverty. When he wished a wife, the only thing he could do was to serve for her. We do well to remember the forlorn, helpless, wretched, and bound state in which we were when grace found us.
II. ISRAEL BROUGHT OUT OF EGYPT. (Verse 13) Egypt was a continuation of the state in which Israel found himself at Padan-Aram (cf. Deuteronomy 26:5). From this state God delivered him by a prophet.
1. It was God who delivered and preserved him. Moses, though a prophet, was but God's agent. God is the only Savior.
2. A prophet was the instrument of deliverance. This put honor on the prophetic order. It may be cited as a reproof to Ephraim for slighting the prophets now sent to him (verse 10). The Mediator of our salvation is Christ, the "Prophet like unto Moses ' (Acts 3:22).
3. He was effectually delivered. The Lord:
(1) "Brought him forth"—gave him liberty, national existence, laws, privileges, a rich inheritance.
(2) Preserved him. Guarded and kept him in the desert, and safely planted him in Canaan.
III. ISRAEL'S RECOMPENSE OF GOD'S KINDNESS. (Verse 14)
1. Ephraim, instead of showing gratitude, provoked God to most bitter anger by his transgressions. He had persisted in this wrongdoing, notwithstanding warning and entreaty.
2. He had brought reproach on God. "His reproach," i.e. the reproach he brought on God by his wanton behavior (cf. Deuteronomy 32:5, Deuteronomy 32:6).
3. He would accordingly be punished. God would leave him to expiate his blood-guiltiness by suffering.—J.O.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hosea 12". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent