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This short chapter contains two sections, of which the first, comprising Hosea 3:1-3, is a symbolic representation; and the second, consisting of Hosea 3:4 and Hosea 3:5, gives the explanation. The prophet bestows his affections on a worthless wife, who, notwithstanding his tender love to her, proves utterly unfaithful and lives in adultery. He does not cast her off, but, in order to reclaim her and bring her to repentance, he places her in a position of restraint, where she is obliged to renounce all intercourse with her paramours. Thus it was with Israel. They had had multiplied experience of God's loving-kindness and tender mercies, but in spite of all his benefits, great and manifold, they were alike ungrateful and unfaithful. The remainder of the chapter foretells the long and sorrowful abandonment of Israel, as though forgotten by God and forsaken by man; and closes with an outlook into the far-off future, when Israel's correction would issue in their conversion, so that they would return to the Lord their God and David their king in the latter days.
The general meaning of this verse is well given in the Chaldee Targum: "Go, utter a prophecy against the house of Israel, who are like a woman very dear to her husband, and who, though she is unfaithful to him, is nevertheless so greatly loved by him that he is unwilling to put her away. Such is the love of the Lord towards Israel; but they turn aside to the idols of the nations." The word עוֹר is in contrast with 'techillath, as the second part of Jehovah's continued discourse. It is erroneously and, contrary to the accents, constructed with "said" by Kimchi and others (Ewald considers it admissible, Umbreit preferable). Kimchi's comment on this verse is: "After the prophet finished his words of consolation, he returns to words of censure, turning to the men of his own time. And it is the custom of the prophets to intermingle reproofs with consolations in their discourses. But he says yet (again), because he had already commanded him to marry a wife of whoredoms, and now he speaks to him another parable." This time he does not employ the ordinary and usual word "take," but "love." plainly implying that he had already married her, so that her unfaithfulness took place in wedlock; or rather indicating the object of the union. Beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress. Her friend or companion is
(1) her lawful husband, but contemporaneously and continuously with her husband's love to her are her adulteries with others, as is implied by the participles.
(2) רֵע, being indefinite as not having article or suffix, is understood by some to be an acquaintance or lover, and preferred, as a milder term, to מְאַהֵב. The contrast was realized in Jehovah's love for Israel, notwithstanding their spiritual adultery in worshipping other gods. According to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel who look (turn) to other gods. Two expressions in this clause recall, if they do not actually reflect, the words of two older Scriptures; thus in Deuteronomy 7:8 we read, "Because the Lord loved you;" and in Deuteronomy 31:18, "They are turned unto ether gods."
(3) The LXX. has γυναῖκα ἀγαπῶσαν πονηρά, having probably read אֹהֶבֶת רַע. And love flagons of wine (margin, grapes). The term ashishe, according to Rashi and Aben Ezra, means "bowls," that is, "bowls of wine" (literally, "of grapes"). They probably connected the word with the root shesh, six, a sextorius, and hence any other wine-vessel. The Septuagint, however, renders the word πέμματα μετὰ σταφίδος, "cakes with dried grapes." This meaning is to be preferred, whether we derive the word from אִשַׁשׁ, to press together, or from אֵשׁ, fire; according to the former and correct derivation, the sense being cakes of grapes pressed together; according to the latter, cakes baked with fire. Gesenius differentiates the word from צִמּוּק, dried grapes, but not pressed together into a cake, and from דְּבֵלַה, figs pressed together into a cake. These raisin-cakes were regarded as luxuries and used as delicacies; hence a fondness for such indicated a proneness to sensual indulgence, and figuratively the sensuous service belonging to idol-worship.
So I bought (acquired) her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley and an half-homer (margin, lethech) of barley. In narrating the prophet's compliance with the Divine command, the word אֶכְּרֶהָ is connected by Aben Ezra with וֶכַר in the sense of making acquaintance with; but it is more correctly referred by Kimchi to כָרָה with daghesh euphonic in the caph as in יִקְּרֵךְ shall meet thee. "The daghesh of the caph is for euphony as in miqdush, and the root is כרה" (Kimchi). The meaning is then simply and naturally traced as follows: to dig, obtain by digging, acquire. The price paid for the acquisition in this case was either the purchase money paid to the parents of the bride, as to Laban in the case of Rachel and Leah by Jacob, or the marriage present paid (mohar) to the bride herself. Another view represents the prophet paying the price to the woman's husband to whom she had been unfaithful, and who in consequence resigned her for so small a sum. It remains for us to attend to the amount thus paid. Fifteen pieces of silver or shekels would be about one pound fifteen shillings, or one pound seventeen and six-pence; while the price of the barley would he somewhere about the same. There were fifty or sixty shekels in a maneh, Greek mina, and Latin ulna; while the maneh was one-sixtieth of a talent (kikteer); and thus three thousand or three thousand six hundred shekels in a talent. The homer, the largest of the Hebrew dry measures, contained one cor or ten ephahs (= ten baths of liquids = ten Attic μέδιμνοι), and the half-homer or lethec (haemi-coros in LXX) was half a cop or five ephahs. These fifteen ephahs, at a shekel each—for under extraordinary circumstances (2 Kings 7:1) we read of" two measures of barley for a shekel"—would be equivalent to one pound fifteen or seventeen shillings and sixpence. Both together—the silver and the barley—would amount to thirty shekels, or three pounds and ten or fifteen shillings. Why this exact amount? and why such particularity in the reckoning? By turning to Exodus 21:32 we learn that thirty shekels were the estimated value of a manservant or maidservant; for it is there stated that "if the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant, he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver." The price paid by the prophet partly in money and partly in kind was exactly the price of an ordinary maidservant. The barley (שְׂעֹרִים, plural, equivalent to "grains of barley") may hint the woman's unchastity, as it was the offering for a woman suspected of adultery (Numbers 5:1-31) The low estate of the person purchased is a legitimate inference kern all this. The wife, for whom such a paltry sum should be paid, and paid in such a way, or to whom such a petty gift would be offered, must be supposed to be in a condition of deep depression or in circumstances of great distress. Thus the sum paid by the prophet for his partner symbolizes the servile state of Israel when Jehovah chose them for his peculiar people.
Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shall not be for another man. The prophet imposes certain restrictions of a very stringent character on his wife; he places her in a state of isolation; her past excesses and his purpose of effecting her reformation necessitate such measures, however strict and severe or even harsh they may appear. She is not to be admitted into full fellowship with her husband, nor is she to be allowed the possibility of intercourse with others. From friend, that is, husband and lovers, she is shut out; all sexual connection, whether illicit or legitimate, is peremptorily cut off. The clause, "thou shalt abide [or, 'sit still'] for me," denotes an attitude of waiting, not necessarily in sorrow, like the captive maiden who before marriage with her captor bewailed her parents for the period of a month, but in patient expectation of her husband's fortune and favor, though in seclusion from him, as also exclusion of all others. During this long period of "many days" she is not only debarred the society of her lawful partner, but forbidden either to play the harlot with several or to attach herself to a single paramour. Jerome directs attention to the fact that the word "another" has no place in the original text; otherwise it would imply that she was prohibited from intercourse with any other than her husband, while the real meaning makes the prohibition absolute and inclusive even of conjugal connection with her husband. So will I also be for thee. The Hebrew expositors, Aben Ezra and Kimchi, repeat the negative flora the preceding clause and translate, "Nor shall I even come to you," that is, for marital society. This is not necessary to bring out the true sense, which is that, as she was to be restrained from intercourse with any and every other man, so he himself also would abstain from intercourse with her. "And also I will be for [unto] thee [i.e. thy husband] to preserve conjugal fidelity to thee, but hold aloof from thee during thy detention." Thus separated from both lovers and husband, Israel would for many a long day suspend her worship of idols, and be at the same time shut out from her covenant relation to Jehovah. Kimchi's comment mounts to pretty much the same, as does also that of Aben Ezra. The explanation of the former is, "I said to her, After thou hast committed adultery against me, thy punishment shall be that thou shalt abide in widowhood of life many days; and the meaning of 'for me' is, thou shalt be called by my name and not by another man's; thou shalt say, I am the wife of such a one, and thou shelf not play the harlot with others, and also thou shalt not be the wife of any other man than myself." Aben Ezra makes mention of another interpretation of the verse, to the effect, "If ye shall return to me, I also will return to you." With this the Chaldee Targum is in accord, which represents God as commanding the prophet to say, "O congregation of Israel, your sins have been the cause of your exile for many days; ye shall devote yourselves to my service, and not go astray nor worship idols, and I also will have compassion upon you." Maurer considers the expression היאל־אי equivalent to היעִם אי, viz. remhabere cum muliere; but to this linguistic usage is opposed. Umbreit renders the phrase, "and I will only be for thee;" this, however, partakes more of the nature of a promise than of a punishment, and is not quite, therefore, in accord with the context. Ewald: "And yet I am kind to thee [i.e. love thee];" this is a rather trivial, as also ill-supported idea. Calvin's exposition is pretty much the same as we have given, and is the following: "I also shall be for thee; that is, I pledge my faith to thee, or I subscribe myself as thy husband: but another time must be looked for; I yet defer my favor, and suspend it until thou givest proof of true repentance. I also shall be for thee; that is, thou shalt not be a widow in vain; if thou complainest that wrong is done to thee, because I forbid thee to marry any one else, I also bind myself in turn to thee."
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and teraphim. For a long series of years they were thus doomed to be without civil polity, or ecclesiastical privilege, or prophetic intimations. More particularly they were to remain without royal rule, or princely power, or priestly function, or prophetic instruction. As the prophet's wife was neither to be, strictly speaking, her husband's nor yet belong to another man; so Israel, as represented by her, was destined to be deprived of independent self-government and princely sovereignty; of Divine service, whether allowed as by sacrifice—the central part of Hebrew worship—or disallowed as by statue; of oracular responses, whether lawful as by the ephod or unlawful as by teraphim. There was thus an entire breaking up of Church and state as they had long existed; of all civil and ecclesiastical relations and privileges as they had been long enjoyed. Without a king of their own nationality to sit upon the throne, or a prince of their own race as heir apparent to the kingdom, or princes as the great officers of state; without offering by sacrifice to Jehovah, or statue by way of memorial to Baal; without means of ascertaining the will of Heaven in relation to the future by the Urim and Thummim of the high-priestly ephod, only the more than questionable means of soothsaying by the teraphim;—the children of Israel were to be left. And what attaches special importance to this remarkable passage is the undeniable tact that these predictions were uttered, not only before the dissolution of the monarchy and the cessation of sacrifices, but at a time when no human sagacity could foresee and no human power foretell the future abstention of the Hebrew race from idol-worship so long practiced, and from heathenish divination resorted to from such an early period of their history. Rashi, in his comment, has the following: "I said to her, Many days shalt thou abide for me; thou shalt not go a-whoring after other gods; for if thou shalt play the harlot, thy sons shall remain many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice in the sanctuary in Judah, and without a statue of Baal in Samaria of the kings of Israel, and without an ephod with Urim and Thummim which declared to them secrets, and without teraphim; they are images that are made with the observation of one hour composed for the purpose, and which speak of themselves and declare secrets; and so Jonathan has translated, "Neither will there be an ephod nor one to give a response.'" Similarly Aben Ezra: "Without king, nor is there any objection from the Chasmoneans, for they were not of the children of Judah … without sacrifice to Jehovah nor statue to Baal, without ephod to Jehovah and without teraphim to the worshippers of idols, which Laban called his gods." It is a matter of much consequence that some of the ablest of the Jewish expositors realize these predictions as applicable to their own case and the existing circumstances of their nation. Thus Kimchi, in commenting on this verse, says, "These are the days of the exile in which we are this day, and we have neither king nor prince of Israel, for we are in the power of the Gentiles, and in the power of their kings and princes … no sacrifice to God and no statue for worshippers of idols … and no ephod which shall declare future things by Urim and Thummim, and no teraphim for idolaters which declare the future according to the notion of those who believe in them; and thus we are this day in this exile, all the children of Israel;" he then cites the Targum of Jonathan in confirmation of his sentiments. For the ephod, comp. Exodus 28:6-14, from which we learn that it was "a short cloak, covering shoulders and breast, wrought with colors and gold, formed of two halves connected by two shoulder-pieces, on each of which was an onyx engraved with six names of tribes, and held together round the waist by a girdle of the same material;" it was part of the high priest's attire. The teraphim—from the Arabic tarifa, to live comfortably, and turfator, a comfortable life, were the household gods and domestic oracles, like the Roman penates, and deriving the name from being thought the givers and guardians of a comfortable life, חֶרֶף. They were images in human form and stature, either graven of wood or stone (pesel), or molten out of precious metal (massekhah). The first mention of them is in Genesis 31:19, and the name occurs fifteen times in the Old Testament. They appear to have been of Syrian or Chaldean origin. Aben Ezra says of them, "What appears to me most probable is that they had a human form and were made for the purpose of receiving supernal power, nor can I explain it further." The two principal species of offerings were the זבח, or bloody sacrifice, and the מנחה, or unbloody oblation. The former comprehended those entirely burnt on the altar, עֹלָח rad. עלה, to ascend, from going up entirely in the altar-smoke; and חלב, or those of which only the fat was burnt. According to the object of the offerer, they were chattah, sin offering, pointing to expiation or pardon for something done demanding punishment; or asham, trespass offering, implying satisfaction and acceptance, or something undone demanding amends; and shelamim, peace offerings.
Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord theft God, and David their king. The note of time in the beginning of Hosea 3:5 is explained by Rashi to signify "after the days of the Captivity;" and by Kimchi as follows: "This will take place at the end of the days, near the time of salvation, when the children of Israel shall return in repentance." Though not comprehended in the symbolic representation that precedes, this statement is necessary to complete it. The future of Israel is the burden of this promise; the blessedness of that future is its brightness. It comprises three items—the reversal of their previous career, their loving return to the Lord their God, and their cordial reception of David their king. Contemporaneous with their sorrow for the sins of the past was their serious seeking of the Lord their God and submission to David their king. Their revolt from the Davidic dynasty in the days of Rehoboam was immediately followed by the idolatry of the calves which Jeroboam set up at Dan and Bethel. The reversal of this course is symptomatic of their complete recovery. The patriarch David was long dead and buried, and his sepulcher was in Palestine at the time when the prophet wrote; one, therefore, in the Davidic line, a descendant from, and dynastic representative of, the patriarch must be meant. That this was Messiah there can be no reasonable doubt; parallel passages in the other prophets prove this; for example: "I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them" (Ezekiel 34:23, Ezekiel 34:25; comp. also Ezekiel 37:24). Again in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 30:9) we read to the same purpose, "They shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them." We can by no means concur with those who refer this promise to Zerubbabel as a later occupant of the Davidic throne; and just as little with those who, like Wunsche, hold that the prophet has no particular period and no particular person in view, but presents the prospect of a happy and blissful future when Israel would return to the pure worship of Jehovah and enjoy his gracious protection, and when the national prosperity would equal or even far surpass that under the glorious reign of David himself. The best Jewish authorities are quoted in favor of the same; thus Rabbi Tanchum says, "He (the prophet) understands the son of David, occupying his place, from his lineage, walking in his way, by whom his name shall endure and his kingdom be preserved.'' The Chaldee Targum translates in the same sense: "They shall seek the worship of Jehovah their God, and obey Messiah, the Son of David, their king." So Aben Ezra says that "David their king is this Messiah, Like 'My servant David shall be their prince forever' (Ezekiel 37:25)." The well-known idiom of one idea expressed by two verbs, so that the rendering of the clause would be "They shall again seek the Lord their God, and David their king," if applied here, as undoubtedly it might, would weaken the sense, and so be unsuitable to the context. And shall fear (literally, come with trembling to) the Lord and his goodness in the latter days. The comment of Kimchi on the first part of this clause is as follows: "They shall tremble and be afraid of him when they return to him, and shall with repentance wait for the goodness of redemption on which they have trusted." A somewhat different meaning is assigned to the words by Aben Ezra: "They shall return in haste, when the end (i.e. the time of redemption) comes to their own land with hasty course suddenly." His goodness is taken by some in a concrete sense, as signifying the blessings which he bestows and the good gifts which he imparts; and by others in the abstract, as the Divine goodness or majesty, to which Israel resorts for the pardon of sin and the gracious acceptance of their petitions and answer of their prayers.
God's mercifulness and Israel's sinfulness are brought into contrast.
Some are disposed to regard the woman mentioned in this chapter as identical with Gomer, whom the prophet had previously made his wife; and that she had in the mean time forsaken her husband the prophet, and had formed an adulterous connection with another man: while others regard the command of God to the prophet and his conduct in compliance therewith in the light of a new transaction with a different individual. In either case the whole is not an actual occurrence, but only a symbolical representation.
I. THE LESSONS OF THIS CHAPTER ARE MIDWAY BETWEEN THE PUNISHMENT THREATENED AND THE PROMISE VOUCHSAFED. Calvin has plainly pointed out the position of this chapter in the series of God's dealings with Israel. "It was God's purpose," he says, "to keep in firm hope the minds of the faithful during the exile, lest, being overwhelmed with despair, they should wholly faint. This prediction occupies a middle place between the denunciation of the prophet previously pronounced, and the promise of pardon. It was a dreadful thing that God should divorce his people and cast away the Israelites as spurious children; yet a consolation was afterwards added. But lest the Israelites should think that God would immediately, as on the first day, be so propitious to them as to visit them with no chastisement, it was the prophet's design expressly to correct this mistake; as though he said, 'God will indeed receive you again, but in the mean time a chastisement is prepared for you, which by its intenseness would break down your spirits, were it not that this comfort will ease you, and that is that God, although he punishes you for your sins, yet continues to provide for your salvation, and to be as it were your Husband.'"
II. GOD'S LOVE TO ISRAEL UNMERITED AS WELL AS UNREQUITED. The prophet's treatment of the woman whom he was to take or had taken to be his wife evinced extreme forbearance and exceeding tenderness. He loved her before her fall,—this was natural enough; he loved her during and notwithstanding her fall,—this was not to be expected; he continued to love her after her fall,—this is contrary to all the ordinary feelings and instincts of humanity. This continued affection was designed, as it was calculated, to win her back from the error and evil of her ways. But where is the man who under ordinary circumstances would act so? Where is the husband that would treat a worthless wife with such mildness and compassion? But what man cannot find in his heart to do, what man cannot bring himself to do, God does in his treatment of Israel and in his dealings with sinners in general; "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Notwithstanding all God's love to his people Israel, from the very commencement of their national existence they showed a special proneness to apostasy, readily and recklessly turning aside to idolatrous worship; yet God's love continued through it all, and outlived it all. It was love to the unlovable and unloving, to the undeserving and ungrateful; the current of his love runs on like the river broad and deep, which never ceases in its course till its waters form part of" the shining levels of the sea."
III. THE ACCOMPANIMENTS OF IDOLATRY HAVE A SEDUCTIVE TENDENCY. Idolatry was usually associated with voluptuousness and sensuality; and indulgences of this sort tended, no doubt, to attract many votaries, and served as inducements to idol-worship. Whether we" take flagons of wine" to be the right rendering of the original, as the Authorized Version does, or rather "raisin-cakes," the nature of the attraction will be much the same—fondness for self-indulgence. The Levitical priests were forbidden the use of wine when they ministered before the Lord; the Nazarites were total abstainers all the time of their vow; but the worshippers of idols—priests and people alike—am represented as drinking bowls or flagons of wine. Raisin-cakes, sweet and luscious, formed parts of idolatrous repasts, and served as appetizing morsels in idol-feasts and for idol-worshippers. How like the seductive pleasures of sin in general! But they neither last long nor satisfy while they do last. The meat offerings of Mosaic ritual were of a severer sort, and less calculated to gratify the taste and please the palate.
IV. THE MERCIFUL PROVISION MADE FOR ISRAEL IN THE SEASON OF HER SEPARATION. If the prophet had already espoused the woman whom he is directed to love, the pieces of silver and measures of barley could neither be dowry, nor purchase, nor present in any proper sense. How, then, are we to understand the matter? Probably we may regard the expenditure here indicated as a suitable allowance for her support—a sufficient maintenance for her during the period of her separation from her husband. She may now be conceived as living apart from her husband—shut out a mensa eta thoro, as it is said, and so deprived of her proper means of subsistence. During this sad state of things, which her own guilt has brought about, she is still the prophet's wife, and neither forgotten nor forsaken by him. True, in one way she is unpitied and undeserving of pity, because of her vileness, yet in another she is not entirely bereft of her husband's affection; in spite of her grievous departure from the path of rectitude and virtue, his love follows her, still striving for her reformation and yearning for her restoration. Meantime he provides her with nearly fifty bushels of barley for food, and with nearly two pounds sterling in cash for raiment and other necessaries of life. The money and grain together would afford a sufficient, though not very sumptuous, support. Thus God's treatment of his Israel is symbolized. Though they were separated by sin from his immediate presence, and though they had forfeited his favors and proved themselves unworthy of his love, yet he has not entirely and finally cast them off. His eye still rests upon them; his mercy provides for them in their state of isolation; they are deprived indeed of the honor and dignity they once enjoyed and might still have retained, and they possess no longer the means of living in luxury and splendor as aforetime, yet they are allowed the necessary means of subsistence and an humble maintenance, with the prospect and for the purpose of their ultimate restoration to full favor, and unstinted possession of all the benefits and blessings still in store for them.
V. ISRAEL'S SOLITARY AND SEQUESTERED STATE. She is doomed to sit in solitary widowhood. Restrained from all licentious intercourse on the one hand, she is not restored to conjugal rights on the other. She was not to be a harlot, neither was she to be a husband's. That husband, however, still regards himself bound to her, and while she abides for him he promises her a like return: "So will I likewise be to thee-ward." He would stilt have regard to her and respect for her; feelings of kindness would animate him towards her; his guardian care and watchful providence would still be exercised on her behalf and for her benefit. The meaning and application of Hosea 3:3 is well given in the following comment: "He, his affections, interest, thoughts, would be directed towards her. The word "towards" expresses regard, yet distance also. Just so would God, in those times, withhold all special tokens of his favor, covenant, providence; yet would he secretly uphold and maintain them as a people, and withhold them from failing wholly from him into the gulf of irreligion and infidelity." Sin is the cloud that darkens our sky and shuts out the bright light of our heavenly Father's countenance; yet behind the dark cloud of afflictive providences he hides a shining face.
VI. THE CONDITIONS OF THE COVENANT WHICH GOD MAKES WITH HIS PEOPLE.
1. We see here the Divine considerateness. God might have made out a bill of divorce, and dismissed them at once and forever. He does not deal with us with the rigor of law or in the strictness of justice, but according to the multitude of his tender mercies and loving-kindnesses.
2. The condition he proposes to us is that we be to him a people, and he will be to us a God. When punished for sin it is wise and well to justify God's ways with us; we must wait with patience, and that perhaps for many days, until God again lift on us the light of his countenance. But besides all this, we must not turn again to folly, as Israel was strictly enjoined to eschew harlotry in the future; in other words, to shun every form of idolatry in all time to come. So, in dependence on Divine grace, we must resolve to follow the Lord fully, not wandering in the wilderness, not worshipping the idols of our own pride, or passion, or sensuality, or sin of any sort, and never more to go a-whoring from our God.
3. Another condition of the covenant between the sovereign and his once rebel but now repentant subjects is implied in this passage, and well stated in the following words: "If they will be for God to serve him, he will be for them to save them. Let them renounce and abjure all rivals with God for the throne in the heart and devote themselves entirely to him, and him only, and he will be to them a God all-sufficient. If we be faithful and constant to God in a way of duty, and will never leave nor forsake him, he will be so to us in a way of mercy, and will never leave nor forsake us."
Hosea 3:4, Hosea 3:5
The applicability of these verses.
There is an important question in connection with these verses which presses for solution, and that is—Are the children of Israel the descendants of the ten tribes exclusively? Or has the expression, as used by the prophet, that wider and larger signification in which we popularly employ it, namely, as including all the descendants of Jacob or Israel, in other words, all the Jewish or Hebrew race? These questions involve a prior consideration. The ten tribes were carried away into captivity and left in the lands of Assyria, B.C. 722 according to the common chronology; the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin were carried into captivity in Babylon about one hundred and thirty years subsequently. After a lapse of seventy years' captivity the latter were permitted to return to their own land, and large numbers availed themselves of that permission. But what became of the ten tribes of Israel? They are still spoken of by some as the lost tribes; some, again, identify them with the Afghans; others with the American Indians. Such theories are easily enough formed, but can scarcely be said to be founded on facts. It is admitted that the fifty thousand who returned belonged mainly to the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, while many of those two tribes remained behind in Babylon, and comparatively few of the members of other tribes joined their brethren in the return to Palestine. Where, then, are we to look for the main body of the ten tribes? We will try to answer this interesting and important question as best we can, and with a view to its bearing on the subject before us. After the restoration of the temple and city of Jerusalem, we find that there was an immense increase of the inhabitants of Palestine in the time and under the rule of the Maccabees. May we not regard it as more than probable that lingerers out of all the tribes were attracted to their native land after the restoration of its capital, and the revival of the country's prosperity? But large bodies still remained behind in the lands of their dispersion; there would be a natural tendency on the part of the remnants of the two tribes and the ten to gravitate towards each other. Thus they may be supposed to have amalgamated. Hence James addresses his Epistle to "the twelve tribes which are of the dispersion," that is, "scattered abroad," according to the Authorized Version; and Paul says, "Unto which promise our twelve tribes instantly serving God day and night, hope to come." We may cite, as confirmatory, the opinion of the late Dr. M'Caul. He says, "I feel strongly inclined to the opinion that the ten tribes are now found mingled with the other two. I do not mean that the ten tribes returned from Babylon, for in Ezra and Nehemiah we are told particularly who did return, but that the main body of the Jews, who remained in Babylon, who were dispersed in Egypt and other countries, and who never returned, naturally mingled with their brethren of the other tribes, and that this intermixture increased after the destruction of the second temple." Their return to the house of David, intimated in verse 5, presupposes some such reunion with their brethren as that of which we speak. We are, therefore, inclined to believe that the Judahites as well as the Israelites are comprehended in this plural patronymic of "the children of Israel."
I. THE CORRESPONDENCE OF THE CONDITION OF THE JEWS WITH THAT HERE SPECIFIED. The state of the Jewish people at the present day, as well as during centuries past, corresponds most exactly with that here described by Hosea. And where, it may be asked, is it possible to find any other nation whose condition—political and religious—is the same or even similar? Their condition is precisely what is here described with respect to Church and state, or public worship and civil government. No doubt in their dispersion they are subject to the king or rulers of the countries where they dwell; they have kings over them, but not of their own nation; they have laws by which they are governed, but those laws are not their own, nor the laws which God had given them. They have no king nor rulers to defend them from aggression without, nor king and high officers of state as the legislative and executive powers within. Kings of countries where they have sojourned have been mean enough and wicked enough to rob and plunder and oppress them cruelly.
II. THE CONFUSION OF THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES. "Here," says an old commentator, "is much privation—six 'withouts:'
(1) 'without a king;'
(2) 'without a prince;'
(3) 'without a sacrifice;'
(4) 'without an image;'
(5) 'without an ephod;'
(6) 'without teraphim;'
but the last verse makes up for all: 'They shall return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king.' These 'withouts' show the wonderfully confused estate that Israel was to be in for many days, many years, both in regard of their civil and of their Church estate." They had corrupted their way, setting up idols in Dan the place of judgment, and in Bethel the house of God; and that corruption now ends in confusion of both their civil and Church estate. They had combined the ordinances of God with their own devices, that is, the sacrifice and ephod with the image and the teraphim; now they are deprived of both.
HOMILIES BY C. JERDAN
Hosea detains Gomer in seclusion.
This chapter, like Hosea 1:1-11; is written in prose; all the other twelve being rhythmical. It deals, as Hosea 1:1-11. does, with the personal life of Hosea, giving one further glimpse of the bitter domestic sorrow by which God made him a prophet. The same wonderful providence which had led him to marry Gomer at the first now impelled him to rescue her from the wretchedness into which she had fallen. And his own quenchless love for his erring wife became a parable to him of Jehovah's infinite compassion towards Israel.
I. HOSEA'S NEW RELATION TO GOMER. (Verses 1-3) For we take the "woman" here to be Gomer, and "her friend" to be the prophet, her husband. After she had borne him three children (Hosea 1:3-9), she fell into adultery and forsook him. It would seem, too, that she by-and-by became the slave of her paramour. But Hosea, as he sat in his blighted home, thought of poor Gomer with compassionate tenderness. She was still "beloved of her friend." He felt that he must seek her out, and say to her (as King Arthur said to Guinevere), "I loathe thee, yet I love thee." He resolved to buy her back. Her ransom cost him in money only one-half of the ordinary price of a female slave; the rest of the payment being made in barley—the usual coarse food of the class to which she now belonged. The inexpensiveness of the ransom shows to what a depth of degradation Gomer had fallen. This was so great, indeed, that the prophet could not at once restore her to her place at his table, or to the other rights of a dutiful wife. He will bring her home at first only as his ward. He will protect her from her sins. He will test her penitence by a lengthened probation, looking forward, however, to the time when the "receiving" of her again shall be as "life from the dead" to his long-widowed heart. It is pleasant to think of Gomer as not only rescued from her sinful courses, and by-and-by restored to her earthly husband, but as eventually also won back to the love of Jehovah. It is delightful to cherish the hope that the three children too became God's; their original names being purged of their vile associations, and becoming suggestive of spiritual blessing (Jezreel, Ruhamah, Ammi), so that
"When soon or late they reached that coast,
O'er life's rough ocean driven,
They would rejoice—no wanderer lost—
A family in heaven!"
II. THE SYMBOLIC MEANING OF THIS NEW RELATION. (Verses 1, 4, 5) Generally, it is a sign of Jehovah's love towards Israel, notwithstanding her idolatry and sensuality (verse 1). It reflects the debasement, to which sin leads, the discipline which God metes out to the penitent, and the irrevocable covenant of love which he makes with those who return to him. Hosea's family history stands out as a picture and a prediction. In particular, his new relation to Gomer foreshadowed:
1. Israel's long seclusion. (Verse 4) Although the primary reference of the passage is to the ten tribes, the prophecy really embraces the whole Hebrew nation. God has not utterly rejected Israel; she is still "a people near unto him;" but he does not meantime dwell with her as of old. The specific features of her seclusion are noted in the six "withouts" of the verse, and these arrange themselves naturally into three pairs. The whole representation strikingly describes what has been the actual condition of the Jewish nation during the last eighteen hundred years.
(1) Without civil polity. It had been a passion with Israel to have a king. But within three generations after the Lord gave Hosea this oracle, the tea northern tribes were "without a king, and without a prince." And when at last "Shiloh" came, "the scepter" finally "departed from Judah" also. That was a memorable day on which the spiritual leaders of the nation professed so emphatically their willing subjection to the world-power: "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15); but during all the subsequent centuries Jerusalem has "sat solitary," and "is become as a widow."
(2) Without temple service. The temple was the center of the Hebrew religious system. When it was destroyed the Mosaic ritual collapsed. Such worship as the Jews now offer is conducted "with maimed rites." How sad that they should be "without a sacrifice"! Sacrifice was the very soul of the Hebrew worship. Every sinner needs a sacrifice of atonement before he can stand in God's gracious presence; but the poor Jew, who still clings to the old covenant, has none. It follows that he is also "without an ephod." The ephod was part of the dress of the high priest. In the breast of it were the Urim and Thummim, by which Jehovah gave responses. But now, alas! to the Jew "the oracles are dumb." He has no altar, no priest, no access!
(3) Without gross idolatry. In Hosea's time the nation was attempting to combine the worship of Jehovah and of the Baalim; but the Lord tells him that for "many days" the people shall be without any god, true or false. They shall be "without an image," i.e. any public monument of idolatry such as the two golden calves were. And "without teraphim," i.e. those portable household gods which were sometimes kept as tutelary deities, and worshipped as the givers of earthly prosperity. It is a fact that ever since the Assyrian exile the Hebrew nation have not been able to endure any gross idolatry. They doubtless break the first commandment after the more refined fashion of civilized peoples; many Jews, e.g; are money-lovers, and "covetousness is idolatry." But they have been at least free from the guilt of setting up "an image" or of worshipping "teraphim." Israel was to "abide many days" in this long seclusion; and it has already lasted for two millenniums. During all that period the Jewish nation has been the miracle of history. Its situation since Christ came is one of the most convincing of the external evidences of Christianity. And that situation shall continue until Messiah, the Prince of the house of David, shall assemble all the children of Jacob under his spiritual scepter.
2. Israel's final restoration. (Verse 5) This is to take place "afterward"—"in the latter days," i.e. in gospel times, and as one of "the last things" of the Christian dispensation. Both Jewish and Christian commentators understand by "the latter days" the Messianic economy, which was to be ushered in by the advent of the Messiah himself. The restoration shall be characterized by:
(1) Religious earnestness. They shall "seek Jehovah their God," and make the most assiduous efforts to find him. The Jews as a nation are not yet doing this. It is true, doubtless, that there are many devout families among them—many who cherish the deep piety which Sir Walter Scott has expressed so beautifully in his "Hymn of the Hebrew Maid," in ' Ivanhoe.' But among the cultured Jews much skepticism prevails. Many are pantheists, like the eminent Jew Spinoza. And among the mercantile Jews there is often an excessive devotion to wealth, together with indifference to all religion. "In the latter days," however, the Hebrew nation shall diligently "seek Jehovah their God."
(2) Loyalty to King Jesus. They shall resume also the allegiance to the royal line of David which the ten tribes renounced when they apostatized from Jehovah under Jeroboam I. The Jewish rabbis themselves acknowledge that "David" in this verse means the Messiah. But Christendom is persuaded that he began to reign eighteen hundred years ago, and that he is reigning still. Jesus of Nazareth is "the Root and the Branch of David." His birth Gabriel announced beforehand to his mother (Luke 1:32, Luke 1:33); and Israel, at the time of her restoration, shall accept that angelic oracle and rejoice in it.
(3) Holy reverence for her Divine Husband. Israel "shall fear Jehovah and his goodness." She shall have such a grateful remembrance of his loving-kindness in forgiving her adultery as shall constrain her to the most vigilant obedience. "In the latter days" her heart shall say "Amen" to the devout sentiment of the ancient psalm, "There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared" (Psalms 130:4). She shall find that to know the Lord (Hosea 2:20) and to partake of "his goodness" are blessings inseparable from each other.
CONCLUSION. The threatened isolation of Israel has been abundantly fulfilled; and shall not also the promised restoration? If verse 4 has already become matter of history, and so very marvelously, may we not expect that verse 5 shall also, in the Lord's time? We are sure that it shall. Jehovah's promise must be fulfilled. "Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!"—C.J.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
The love of the Lord toward the children of Israel.
This exquisitely beautiful phrase comes in the midst of a passage of the most painful and distressing character. As a fend husband may tenderly love his wife, even though she abandon herself to a course of infidelity and profligacy, so the God of Israel is represented as cherishing towards his people, even in their defection and apostasy, the sincerest compassion, the most invincible affection.
I. HOW THE LOVE OF THE LORD TO ISRAEL WAS FIRST DISPLAYED.
1. In their selection from amongst the nations of the earth as the object of his special favor and calling.
2. In the communication to them of peculiar advantages and privileges. They were the depositaries of his truth, the conservators of his worship.
II. How THE LOVE OF THE LORD TO ISRAEL WAS TRIED AND TESTED.
1. By their forgetfulness of him.
2. By their neglect of his ordinances.
3. By their rejection of his messengers and prophets.
4. By their addictedness to idolatry.
5. By their violation of his commandments.
6. By their blasphemy of his Name.
III. HOW THE LOVE OF GOD ENDURED AND TRIUMPHED IN THE TEST TO WHICH IT WAS SUBJECTED.
1. Israel was spared, although deserving abandonment to destruction.
2. Promises of grace were addressed, when threats of desertion were to be expected.
3. Opportunity of repentance and reconciliation was afforded, and Israel was entreated not to abuse it.—T.
The kingless state and priestless Church.
The singular symbolism of this book is intended vividly to depict the misery of Israel, by which she was to be driven in penitence and contrition to seek again the Divine favor she had forfeited. The woman whom the prophet purchased and married was to be deprived at once of her husband and of her lovers, and in this forlorn and anomalous state was to be an emblem of Israel, cut off at the same time from Jehovah, her true Husband, to whom she had been unfaithful, and from the spiritual paramours after whom she had gone, but in whom no kelp and no joy were now to be found.
I. THE PRIVATION OF KING AND PRINCE WAS PUNISHMENT FOR NATIONAL INFIDELITY. Jehovah was himself the King of the Israelites; their kingdom was a theocracy. He had sent Moses the lawgiver; he had raised up judges; he had heard their prayer and given them a king. In revolting from the house of David, the ten tribes had dishonored God. Whether we are to look for the fulfillment of this threat in the collapse and captivity of the northern kingdom, or in the present dispersion of Israel, is immaterial. The lesson is plain. The nation which misuses national privileges and neglects national opportunities shall lose them both, and without a head, a corporate life, a settled abiding-place, shall learn the truth of the saying, "The Lord reigneth. He taketh down one, and setteth up another."
II. THE PRIVATION OF RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGES WAS PUNISHMENT FOR IRRELIGION AND SPIRITUAL REBELLION. The Hebrews were highly favored in their possession, not only of the Law, but of a priesthood, a dispensation of sacrifices and festivals and various means of communion with Heaven. As preparatory to a more spiritual economy, these arrangements were invaluable. But the enjoyment of them was justly made dependent upon their proper estimation and employment. The northern tribes, by their secession, forfeited some of these advantages, and they largely corrupted to their own injury such as remained. The time came when, in Oriental captivity, they mourned the loss of advantages they had too often despised and misused. And now, as they are scattered among the nations, they possess neither the sacrifices of the heathen nor the sacrifice of the Messiah, and are either condemned to a barren and unhappy seclusion or to a yet sadder alliance with the deists of the lands in which they dwell. A lesson to all who neglect the precious opportunities with which they are favored by Providence. "Walk in the light whilst ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you."—T.
Returning to God.
This is another instance of the remarkable conjunction of threat and promise. It seems as if the prophet no sooner uttered a word of denunciation, a prediction of wrath, than he followed it up with a prospect of reconciliation and an assurance of blessing.
I. THE OCCASION OF THIS RETURN. There is no note of exact time; but the reference is to "the latter days," to a period described as "afterward." Comparing this language with the context, we infer that this return to God should follow upon departure from God, and upon a bitter experience of the evil consequences of such forsaking. How often, as in the case of Israel, is it necessary that the sinner should learn that "the way of transgressors is hard"! Surely chastening, which is designed to produce a juster estimate of sin and a sincere desire for deliverance, is not to be resented, but rather received with humility, that it may lead to contrition, repentance, and amendment.
II. THE PURPOSE OF THIS RETURN. Observe:
1. To whom should Israel return. To "the Lord their God," whom they had forsaken in order to worship the vain gods of the heathen, but who, nevertheless, had a claim upon them that none other had, and who never ceased to be their God. In this Israel represents mankind; whoever returns to the Lord, returns to his own, proper, rightful God. To "David their king," from whose dynasty they had revolted in the pride, self-sufficiency, and rebelliousness of their heart. David was representative of the theocracy, for he was "the Lord's anointed," and he was an emblem of him who was David's Son and David's Lord. So that whoever returns to the Lord by the gospel of Jesus Christ, returns unto David, whose "sure mercies" are ratified in the Divine Savior.
2. In what spirit Israel should return. They should "seek" the Lord, and should "fear" or approach with reverential devoutness the Lord and his goodness. The spirit thus described is a spirit of true earnestness, a spirit of lowly repentance, and a spirit of trembling confidence in that "goodness" upon which alone a contrite sinner can rely, and upon which he can never rely in vain.—T.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
Love to the adulteress.
It has been shown in Hosea 2:1-23. that the punishment of Israel is designed to work for the nation's moral recovery. A new symbol is accordingly employed to set forth this aspect of the truth; as formerly the punitive aspects of God's dealing with the nation had been exhibited in the symbols of Hosea 1:1-11. The symbol is again drawn from the prophet's relations to his wife.
I. THE PROPHET'S CONTINUED LOVE FOR HIS UNFAITHFUL WIFE. (Hosea 1:1) Gomer, adhering to her adulterous courses, had apparently left her husband, and had sunk to a condition of great wretchedness. The prophet, however, had not lost his love for her. She was still a woman "beloved of her friend," i.e. her husband. His love was the more remarkable that it is rarely a husband retains his love for an adulterous wife. Hosea, it may be inferred, felt that there was something uncommon in his relations with this woman. He did not, therefore, renounce her when she abandoned him. He still cherished towards her a husband's affection; retained his love for her, though unworthy; followed her in her devious ways with a pure, steadfast, unalterable, and wholly disinterested regard. In this his love became a fit image of Jehovah's love "toward the children of Israel." It was the image of it then, while the kingdom of Israel stood, and the people were zealous in their pursuit of" other gods;" and it would be still more the image of it when the threatenings of the previous chapter had taken effect, and the people were eating the bitter fruits of their sins. Is it not also the image of God's love to the sinful world as a whole? We had departed from him, and had bestowed our affections adulterously on the creature; but he did not on this account cease to love us, he saw us lost, sinful, and degraded; but he still looked on us with pity, and sought opportunity for our recovery. He so loved us that he gave his Son as the price of our salvation. This love of God to sinners finds no explanation in the nature of its objects. It is love to the unworthy, to the wicked, to the ungrateful; a love, therefore, entirely pure, self-caused, unbought, and disinterested. How warmly should our love go back to him who has thus loved us!
II. THE PROPHET'S TREATMENT OF HIS WIFE. (Verses 2-4) Consider here:
1. The condition in which he found her. It was a very deplorable one. She had sunk so low that it became necessary to "buy" her. The price paid—fifteen pieces of silver and a homer and a half of barley—seems the equivalent of the price of a slave. If so, it is an additional token of her deeply humbled state. Either
(1) she had sunk to the condition of a slave, and required to be redeemed out of it; or
(2) "it was perhaps an allowance, whereby he brought her back from her evil freedom, not to live as his wife, but to be honestly maintained, until it should be fit completely to restore her" (Pusey). Barley was the coarsest food, so that, if maintenance was the object, her condition was still a hard and unenviable one. In this see a picture of the state to which sin reduces those who follow after it. It is a picture true to the life as respects the state to which sin reduced Israel But it is surely not less true in the representation it gives of the results of a life of sin generally. The sinner, in beginning his career, promises himself liberty and happiness. He cheats himself with the belief that he is taking the true way to obtain these objects of universal desire. How soon he finds out his mistake! He obtains neither of the things he wishes. The pleasure he found in his vices soon dies out. His means are squandered. Friends desert him. His character, reputation, influence, are gone. He finds himself the victim of evil habits, perhaps of disease. He has lost his own self-respect. He feels that he has forfeited the respect of others. What remains for him but poverty and disgrace; or perhaps a life of crime? The whole history is depicted in the memorable parable of the prodigal—the beginning, waste of substance in riotous living; the end, snatching a morsel at the swine-trough (Luke 15:11-32). "The way of transgressors is hard" (Proverbs 13:15). The prophet's wife should be a warning to every female tempted to go astray.
2. The restraint under which he placed her. He did not admit her at once to full conjugal rights. He put her under trial. He bound her, in the mean time, to refrain from further immoral conduct. She was not to play the harlot. He, on his part, would abide in separation from her. This was to continue "many days." It would take a long time to wean her from her immoral ways, and thoroughly to test her disposition. The intention was that she might be trained to be again a faithful wife to him. Analogous to this would be God's method of dealing with Israel. "For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king," etc. In the light of the subsequent history this prophecy is very striking. There is involved in it:
(1) Long exile. The people were to abide "many days" without king or prince (civil government), without sacrifice or pillar (religious worship), without ephod or teraphim (means of inquiring into the future). This implies expulsion from their own land. The objects of Jehovah and idol worship are mixed up in this description to indicate the then mixed state of the nation's religion, and to show that in exile "the Lord would take away both the Jehovah-worship and also the worship of the idols, along with independent civil government" (Keil).
(2) Continued preservation. The nation, it is further implied, though east off, was not to be destroyed. It would still be the object of a Divine care. It would preserve its identity and distinctness through the" many days." "God would, in those times, withhold all special tokens of his favor, covenant, providence; yet would he secretly uphold and maintain them as a people, and withhold them from falling wholly from him into the gulf of irreligion and infidelity" (Pusey).
(3) Ultimate recovery. God's end in his treatment of the nation was its salvation. Its banishment was not to be perpetual. A day of recovery was set for it (verse 5). It will be admitted that the prophecy has had, in its first two parts, a singular fulfillment. The tribes—remnants both of the ten and of the two—are at this hour precisely in the condition of the prophet's wife. They are in a manner "waiting on God, as the wife waited for her husband, kept apart under his care, yet not acknowledged by him;" not following after idolatries, yet cut off through unbelief in Christ from full covenant privilege. They have been in this condition "many days," "praying to God, yet without sacrifice for sin; not owned by God, yet kept distinct and apart by his providence for a future yet to be revealed" (Pusey).
The object of the present exile is
(1) to wean Israel entirely from idols,—this end may be said to be effectually accomplished;
(2) to train her to value lost privileges;
(3) to educate her to constancy;
(4) to create a longing for reconciliation and restoration. These ends attained, restoration will follow. In a similar way God often deals with sinners for their good, cutting them off from the objects of their sinful desire, trying them by experiences of privation, leaving them without the comforts of his presence and the privileges of his worship, so teaching them the vanity of past pursuits, inciting them to seek him, and preparing them to receive his mercy when it is at length proposed to them.
III. THE RESULT OF GOD'S TREATMENT OF ISRAEL. (Verse 5) "Afterwards shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king," etc.; that is, Israel, when recovered to God, would return to its allegiance to the Davidic house, and specially to him whom prophecy pointed to as the Messiah. It is to be noticed:
1. Return to God is the designed end of moral discipline.
2. Return to God is connected with submission to his Son.
3. The result of return to God is experience of his goodness." "They shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days."
4. God is to be served by those who return to him in holy "fear." This fear is awakened by the experience of his "goodness," as well as by the remembrance of his chastisements. It is a holy, filial fear, born of reverence and love, and dreading to displease One so good. It has nothing in common with the slavish fear which combines love of sin with dread of the Punisher of it.—J.O.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hosea 3". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent