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the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 6

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-11


Hosea 6:1-3

These three verses have, by the division into chapters, been violently and improperly torn from the preceding chapter, to which they naturally belong. Their connection with the foregoing sentiments is indicated by the ancient versions—Chaldee and Septuagint, the LXX; for example, inserting λέγοντες, as if the reading had been לֵאסֹר: This

(1) represents the Israelites exhorting one another in that good time which the prophet encourages them to expect. But

(2) it may be regarded as the prophet's own exhortation to the exiles; their affliction urging them to seek the Lord, and their encouragement consisting in the knowledge of his ability and willingness to heal the wounds which his own hand had inflicted.

Hosea 6:1

He hath torn, and he will heal us. The presence of the pronoun imparts emphasis to the statement, so that it is rather, he it is that hath torn; and the preterit of this verse, compared with the future in verse 14 of the foregoing chapter, implies that the destruction there predicted has become an accomplished fact. He hath smitten, and he will bind us up. The language is figurative, and borrowed from medical science. Jehovah, not Jareb nor any sovereign of Assyria, is the physician. Long before he had assured his people Israel of this, saying, "I am the Lord that healeth thee" (Exodus 15:26); and again, "I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal" (Deuteronomy 32:39). Aben Ezra, commenting on yachbeshena, alludes to the ancient mode of surgical practice, probably as indicated m Isaiah 1:6 : A wound needs to be pressed out and bound up, and afterwards softened with oil."

Hosea 6:2

After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. The expression of time here employed denotes a comparatively short period, and implies that Israel's revival would be speedily as well as certainly accomplished. Paucity is signified by the binary number in Old Testament language, just as we speak of two, or a couple, in the sense of fewness. In 1 Kings 17:12 we find "two" used in this way: "Behold, I am gathering two sticks;" so in Isaiah 7:21, "A man shall nourish a young cow and two sheep;" in Isaiah 17:6 a small number is spoken of as "two or three;" while a short period is similarly described in Luke 13:32, "Behold, I east out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected." The important idea of this verse connects itself with the terms corresponding to revival, resurrection, and restoration to the Divine favor and protection. The drooping, declining, dying state of Israel would be revived; their deathlike condition would undergo a resurrection process; their disfavor would give way to Divine complacency; and all this, though not immediately, yet in a comparatively short time. This appears to us the import of the prophecy. Similar figurative language, and with like significancy, is employed by Ezekiel (37) in his vision of the valley and the resurrection of its dry bones; as also by Isaiah (26), where the same or a similar thought is presented in briefer, but still more beautiful, language: "Thy

in the second clause. The second clause is a more emphatic and energetic reaffirmation of the first, urging to active anti zealous effort and steady perseverance in obtaining the knowledge of God—a knowledge theoretic, but especially practical. Aben Ezra understands the exhortation of intellectual knowledge: "To know Jehovah is the secret of all wisdom, and for this alone was man created. But he cannot know God till he has learnt many doctrines of wisdom, which are, as it were, a ladder ha order to mount up to this highest step of knowledge." Kimchi, on the other hand, though quoting Aben Ezra's comment with approval, inclines to the practical side of knowledge: "Let us follow on to know Jehovah, exercising justice and righteousness." His going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth. Here, again, the translation of the Authorized Version is susceptible of improvement: his going forth is fixed as the morning dawn; and he shall come to us as the plentiful rain, as the latter rain which watereth (or, watering) the earth. Here we have two beautiful figures—the morning dawn and the fertilizing rain. The going forth of Jehovah is represented as the sun rising upon the earth, or rather as the dawn which heralds the day. The advent of salvation to his people is identified with, or symbolized by, his appearance. But the dawn of day only brings the commencement of salvation; its complement is found in the fruits and blessings of salvation. The root of motsav is zatsa, which is applied to the sunrise in Genesis 19:23, as also in Psalms 19:7. Parallel passages are found in Isaiah 58:8, "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning (dawn), and thy health shall spring forth speedily;" and Isaiah 9:2, "The Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee." Further, the word nakon, meaning "prepared," "fixed firm," is applied to the clear bright light of morning, as in Proverbs 4:18, "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect (nekon) day." The plentiful rain is that which falls after the sowing of the seed in October (the beginning of the Hebrew year) and in the following months; while the malqosh is the late or spring rain, which, tailing in March and till the middle of April, precedes and promotes the harvest. The LXX. translates the

(1) concluding clause by ὑετὸς πρώιμος and ὄψιμος erroneously, for zoreh is not a noun with b, being understood before "earth;" neither is it

(2) the future Hiph; which would necessitate the ellipse being supplied by asher; it is the Qal participle in the sense of" watering." Geshem is "a violent or plentiful rain," stronger than the usual word for" rain," matar; while malqosh is "the late rain" which ceases a short time before harvest. The explanation of the "dawn" by Aben Ezra is erroneous: "The intelligent man at the beginning knows God—blessed be he!—by his works, like the dawn of day in its going forth; but moment after moment the light increases, until the full truth becomes visible." Kimchi more correctly explains the figure as follows: "If we shall do this, viz. follow on to know the Lord, then he will be to us as the morning dawn, of which the going forth is fixed [purposed by God and certain] as though he said, He will cause his light and his goodness to shine over us." His comment on the second similitude is equally appropriate: "He will come to us as the plentiful rain, as the plentiful rain which revives the dead plants; so man sunk in sorrow is like one dead; but when deliverance comes to him it is with him as if he revived out of his dead state." Thus he shall be to his people as "morning to the weary watcher," and as "plentiful rain to the parched ground."

Hosea 6:4

For your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away. A new section here commences. God, having tried various expedients and many ways to restore Israel to faithfulness, finds all those methods unavailing; and now he asks what further means of reclamation he can resort to; what further punishment he is to inflict. Thus in Isaiah 1:5, "Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more!" or what additional privileges can be vouchsafed? Thus in Isaiah 5:4, "What could have been done more to my vineyard, than I have not done in it?" The reason is then assigned for such questioning; it was the brief duration of Israel's piety. It was evanescent as the early cloud which floats across a summer's sky and which the sun soon scatters for ever, or which promises a refreshing shower, but which is exhaled by the sun's heat; it was transient as the dew which lies in pearly drops of beauty upon the grass, but which the foot of the passing traveler brushes away in a moment. The prophet had, in the opening verses, referred to real repentance; but now, turning to Israel, he reminds them of their repentance by way of con-trust, showing them that it was neither of the consistency nor permanent character required. Proofs of their deficiency lay on the pages of their national history. Hezekiah had done "that which was right in the sight of the Lord;" but his son and successor, Manasseh, "wrought much wickedness in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to auger." Josiah, again, was eminent for piety, so that "like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might;" but his successors degenerated, for it is added, "neither after him arose there any like him." The connection and meaning are well given by Kimchi: "How shall I heal you, and how shall I bind you up, as your repentance is by no means perfect? For if the kings of Israel did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, so have they soon turned to do evil, like Jehu. And likewise the kings of Judah, who in the days of Josiah did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, turned again to do evil in the days of his son and son's son." Thus he reproves them for the superficial and fleeting character of their goodness. The participles mashkim and holek are either co-ordinated asyndetously, thus: "coming in the morning, going away;" or the latter is subordinated to the former: "in the morning passing away." Kimchi takes the former word as a noun after the form of makbir, equivalent to "abundance" (Job 36:31); the right rendering is, "as the dew early going away." A somewhat different rendering is proposed by Wunsche, viz. "Your goodness goeth away like a morning cloud, and like the dew in the morning;" "goodness" being the subject, "goeth away" the predicate, "like morning cloud and dew" nearer definitions.

Hosea 6:5, Hosea 6:6

The consequence of Israel's unsteadiness and inconstancy is here stated. Because of the fluctuating and formal nature of their religiousness, God cut them down (instead of rearing them up) through his prophets by fierce denunciations, and slew them (instead of reviving them) by the Divine word. The judgment of Jehovah went forth as the lightning-fish, or was as clear and conspicuous for justice as the light of day. Neither could outward services expiate their sins, when the proper feelings and meet fruits were absent. I have hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth. The language is figurative—the first clause seems borrowed from hewing hard wood and shaping it so as to assume the required form; so God dealt with Israel to bring them into shape morally symmetrical, and make them correspond to the character of a holy people. The slaying is metaphorical, and consisted in the denunciation of death and destruction to the impenitent; in this way he killed, but did not make alive. A different rendering of the clause is given by the LXX. and also by Aben Ezra; the former has, "Therefore have I mown down your prophets; I have slain them with the word of my mouth;" the latter has, "The sense is that he slew some of the prophets who misled the people so that they did not turn (repent)." But be does not imply his hewing in among the prophets; it is instrumental. And thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth. The judgments here spoken of are the Divine judgments denounced against, or inflicted on, the people. Another reading has the pronominal suffix of the first person: "My judgment goeth forth as the light;" to which the Septuagint corresponds: κρίμα μου, equivalent to "my judgment." I desired mercy (or, mercy I delight in) … and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. The former is the right state of the life, the latter the correct condition of the heart; the former manifests itself in practice, the latter embraces the proper feelings and affections; the former is seen in works of charity and benevolence, the latter consists in right motives and the right relation of the soul to God. The Hebrew form of speech here used denotes inferior importance, not the negation of importance. A similar sentiment occurs in 1 Samuel 15:22, "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." Parallel statements are found in Isaiah 1:11-17; Psalms 40:7-9 and Psalms 40:1 :8; also in Micah 6:8. Our Lord cites the first clause of Micah 6:6 twice—once against Pharisaic ceremonialism (Matthew 9:13), and again against rigorous sabbatarianism (Matthew 12:7); while there is an allusion to it in Mark 12:33, where love to God and to one's neighbor is declared to be better, or "more than, whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." Sacrifices in themselves, and when offered at the proper time and place, and as the expressions of penitent hearts and pure hands, were acceptable, and could not be otherwise, for God himself had appointed them. But soulless sacrifices offered by men steeped in sin were an abomination to the Lord; it was of such he said, "I cannot away with" them. It is to such that the prophet refers here, as is plain from the following verse.

Hosea 6:7

But they like men (margin, like Adam) have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me. This verse is variously rendered.

(1) They like men (that is, men in general, or the rest of mankind, to whom they are in no way superior) have transgressed the covenant.

(2) They are like men who transgress a covenant; according to this rendering the word אדם is otiose, or adds nothing, nor is indeed required.

(3) They like Adam have transgressed the covenant; this rendering, supported by the Vulgate, Cyril, Luther, Rosenmüller, and Wunsche, is decidedly preferable, and yields a suitable sense. God in his great goodness had planted Adam in Paradise; but Adam violated the commandment which prohibited his eating of the tree of knowledge, and thereby transgressed the covenant of his God. Loss of fellowship with God and expulsion from Eden were the penal consequences that immediately followed. Israel, like Adam, had been settled by God in Palestine, the glory of all lands; but, ungrateful for God's great bounty and gracious gift, they broke the covenant of their God, the condition of which, as in the case of the Adamic covenant, was obedience. Thus the comparison projects the shadow of a coming event when Israel would Jose the land of promise. There is still the word "there" to be accounted for. It cannot well be rendered "therein," nor taken as a particle of time equivalent to "the," with Cyril and others. It is local, and points to the place where their breach of covenant and faithlessness had occurred. Yet this local sense is not necessarily so limited as to be referred, with some, to Bethel, as the scene of their apostasy and idolatry. "There, to Israel," says Pusey, "was not only Bethel, or Dan, or Gilgal, or Mizpah, or Gilead, or any or all of the places which God had hallowed by his mercies and they had defiled. It was every high hill, each idol-chapel, each field-altar, which they had multiplied to their idols. To the sinners of Israel it was every spot of the Lord's land which they had defiled by their sin." The word thus acquires a very suggestive significance, reminding Israel of God's goodness on the one hand, and of their own sinfulness and ingratitude on the other.

Hosea 6:8, Hosea 6:9

In these two verses the prophet adduces proof of that faithlessness with which he had just charged Israel. Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood. The latter clause is more literally rendered, foot-printed or foot-tracked from blood. Two things require consideration here—the place and its pollution. Gilead is sometimes a mountain range, and sometimes the mountainous region east of the Jordan; it has Bashan on the north, the Arabian plateau on the east, and Moab on the south. It stretches from the south end of the Sea of Galilee to the north end of the Dead Sea—some sixty miles in length by twenty in breadth. The part of Gilead between the Hieromax and the Jabbok is now called Jebel Ajlun; while the section south of the Jabbok forms the province of Belka. In the New Testament it is spoken of under the name of Pertea, or beyond Jordan. Sometimes the whole trans-Jordanic territory belonging to Israel is called Gilead. In the passage before us it is the name of a city, though some take it to mean the whole land of Gilead. The men of Gilead and the Gileadites in general seem to have been fierce, wild mountaineers; and yet they are represented as still worse in this Scripture. They are nut only barbarous and wicked, but murderous and infamous for homicidal atrocities. As evidence in some sort of the justness of this dark picture, the murder of Pekahiah by Pekah with "fifty men of the Gileadites." as recorded in 2 Kings 15:25, may be specified. The word עְקַוּבָּה is taken

(1) by some as the feminine of the adjective עָקוב, crafty, cunning, wily; thus Rashi explains it: "Gilead is full of people who lie in wait for murder;" and Kimchi likewise has, "Gilead is a city of evil-doers, who are crafty to murder men." But

(2) it is rather the Qal Pual participle feminine from עָקַב, to seize the heel of any one, hold, tread in the footsteps, follow, go after; which is the right meaning, viz. "tracked," as given above. We retain the Authorized Version of the first clause of 2 Kings 15:9, slightly modified, viz.

(1) As troops of robbers wait for a man, so is the company of priests; חַכֵּי equivalent to חַכֵּה, wait, being an anomalous form of the infinitive Piel for חַכּוֹה; thus Kimchi says, "The yod stands in the place of he, and the form is the infinitive." Both Aben Ezra and Kimchi translate the first clause as above; the former beg, "The sense is, As robber-troops wait for a man who is to pass along the way, that they may plunder him, so is (or so does) the company of the priests;" the latter explains, "As troops of robbers wait for a man passing along the way to plunder him, so is the company of priests, he means to say, as the priests of the high places who combine to plunder those who pass along the way. There is

(2) another translation, which, connecting ish taken collectively with gedhudhim, and making it the subjective genitive of the infinitive ,כ is, "Like the lurking of the men of the gang, s is the company of the priests." This first clause is

(3) quite misread and not rendered by the LXX.: Καὶ ἡ ἰσχύς σου ἀνδρὸς πειρατοῦ ἔκρυψαν ἱερεῖς ὁδόν, "And thy strength is that of a robber: the priests have hid the way." Instead of כְּחַכֵּי they read כְּחַךָ, and for חבד they read חבו or חבאו. In the second clause we prefer decidedly the translation which is intimated in the margin of the Authorized Version; thus: Along the way they murder even go Shechem. The word derekh is an adverbial accusative of place; and Sichem, the present Nablus, was situated on Mount Ephraim between Ebal and Gerizim. It was a Levitical city and a city of refuge; it thus lay on the west as Gilead on the east of Jordan, and both cities, thus perhaps nearly parallel in place on opposite sides of the river, were equal in crime and infamy. The prophet does not tell us who the wayfarers were, or whither they were bound; he only intimates that they fell victims to certain miscreant priests located in these quarters. As this city lay on the main route from the north to Jerusalem, pilgrims to the annual feasts passed along this way. The priests of the calf-win, ship, being in general persons taken from the dregs of the people, waylaid those pilgrims, whether for plunder, or through hostility to the purer worship still maintained in the holy city, or from sheer cruelty.

Or it is even possible that the wayfarers referred to may have been persons going from Samaria, the northern capital, to the idolatrous worship at Bethel. In either case, on the way to their destination or on the return journey they were set upon and robbed, or, in the event of resistance, they were murdered. For they commit lewdness; rather, yea, they have committed enormity. The zimmah, or infamy, here mentioned is referred

(1) by some to unnatural wickedness (comp. Leviticus 18:17; Leviticus 19:29); it is rather

(2) a designation of wickedness and abominations in general; thus Kimchi explains it of "evil and abominable work of every kind." He further remarks: "The prophet says, Net this alone have they done; but all their works are zimmah. And perhaps zimmah may be explained of thought, as if he said, As they have thought in their heart so they have acted."

On this verse generally it may be briefly remarked

(1) that "by consent" of the Authorized Version would require אחד to be joined with "shoulder;"

(2) the connection of the first and second clauses in the Authorized Version is much the same with that of Ewald: "And as troops lie in wait the company of priests murder along the way to Sichem."

(3) His explanation is that the priests murdered those that fled by the way before they reached the refuge, perhaps at the command of some leading persons ill disposed towards them.

Hosea 6:10

I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled. The house of Israel comprises

(1) the ten tribes of the northern kingdom, according to some; it seems more correct

(2) to understand it of the whole nation, including both the northern and southern kingdoms, in which case the remainder of the verse relates to the northern kingdom of the ten tribes, and the succeeding verse to the southern kingdom of the two tribes. Further, Israel is not synonymous with the parallel Ephraim, as Keil thinks; the latter is the principal tribe which led the way in Israel's apostasy. The "horrible thing" comprehends every sort of crime and abomination; while the" whoredom," literal or spiritual, is specified as an example thereof. (For the explanation of "there," see on Hosea 6:7)

Hosea 6:11

Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee. The subject of shath is the indeterminate third person, like the French on, and our "they" or "one." The third person singular masculine, the third person plural, the second person singular masculine, and the passive voice are all used in this way. So here it is: "One hath appointed (set) a harvest for thee," or "a harvest is appointed for thee." The harvest is either recompense or retribution, and thus it is either good or evil, for as a man sows he maps. The context shows that the reaping here is punishment. Judah had sinned like Israel; and, in the case of both, a seed-time of sin produced a harvest of suffering and sorrow. When I returned (better, return, or, restore) the captivity of my people. The restoration here mentioned is thought

(1) by some to be the bringing back of the captives; but

(2) Keil and others, with good reason, understand it to be turning of the captivity, and that figuratively, that is to say, the restoration of his people's well-being. The shebhuth is the misery of the Hebrew people; the shubh shebhuth, recovery end restoration of them to their true destroy, But this necessitates a previous purification by punishment: with this Judah, as well as Israel, shall be visited. It is as though God said, "Let not Judah claim superiority over Israel, nor expect to escape Divine judgment more than Israel. Each reaps what he sows. When Israel has received the deserved chastisement, Judah's turn shall then come also." The "turning of captivity" is a formula denoting the restoration of the lost fortune or well-being of a people or person; thus Job 42:10, "And the Lord turned the captivity of Job."


Hosea 6:1-3

Exhortation and encouragement to repentance.

Whether the opening words of this chapter be those which the penitents address mutually to each other, or whether they be the exhortation of the prophet encouraging the people to return to God, the sentiment they contain is equally important, and the duty enjoined is equally imperative.

I. THE URGENCY OF THIS APPEAL IS STRIKING. From whichever of the sources indicated this appeal proceeds, its urgency is unmistakable, as implied in the cohortative form of the verb "return," as also in the hortatory "come" at the commencement. In God's dealings with mankind we find now reproofs for sin and threatenings of wrath, again invitations to repentance and promises of mercy. We are warned to flee from the wrath to come on the one hand, and urged to return unto the Lord on the other. It is our duty to exhort one another with earnestness, and even affectionate importunity, to return to him from whom we have wandered, to seek him whom we have slighted, and, like the prodigal in the parable, to arise and go to our Father with confession of our many wanderings of heart and life from the living God.

II. THE SOURCE WHENCE HEALING COMES. They had tried Assyria, but to no purpose; they had sent to King Jareb, but in vain. A greater power than that of Assyria, great though that was, was needed; a mightier monarch than Jareb, champion sovereign though he was, was required to heal the disease and bind up the wounds of Israel at this time, or indeed at any time. None but the hand that tore could heal; none other than he who smote could bind up. Nay, he wounds in order that he may heal; he sends afflictive providences that we may apply to him for the restoration of prosperity; he produces conviction of sin before that, and in order that he may impart to us everlasting consolations. His method is to convince us in order that he may comfort us, to show us our sin that he may lead us to the Savior, to show us our ruin and then apply the remedy. He shows us our danger and then urges us to the discharge of our duty; he shows us our fat, and how we are to rise again; in short, he urges us to repentance, showing us what to do and what to say, and encouraging us withal by God's readiness to receive penitents.

III. LIFE FROM THE DEAD IN GOD'S GOOD TIME. The guilt of sin may for a time overwhelm us, terrors of conscience alarm us, afflictions of various kinds crush us to the earth; there may be fightings without and fears within. In our distressed and downcast state we may look upon ourselves, and be looked upon by others, as dying—almost dead.

1. In this deathlike condition the sorrows of death may compass us and the pains of hell get hold on us, we may find trouble and sorrow; we may be like those that go down into the pit. All this may continue for a time, and the time may appear long; yet we may not despair nor despond. Rather let us imitate the example of the psalmist, who in his distress called upon the Lord and cried unto his God. For did he cry in vain. God heard his voice out of his temple, and his cry came before him even into his ears. In like circumstances of disaster on another occasion he called upon the name of the Lord and said, "O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul;" and as usual a reply and relief came. "I was brought low, and he helped me;" "He delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling." Thus God deals with his people still. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." For two days—a relatively brief period—the sleep or sorrow of death may be upon us, but he will then restore us to life, revive and quicken us; and on the third day, when we have been thus restored to animation and vigor, he will raise us up.

2. The words of Hosea 6:2 are, no doubt, applicable to the death and resurrection of our Lord, and they have been so understood by many Christians both in earlier and later times. "The resurrection of Christ," says Pusey, "and our resurrection in him and in his resurrection, could not be more plainly foretold.... It was not the prophet's object here, nor was it so direct a comfort to Israel, to speak of Christ's resurrection in itself. He took a nearer way to their hearts. He told them, 'All we who turn to the Lord, putting our whole trust in him, and committing ourselves wholly to him, to be healed of our wounds and to have our griefs bound up, shall receive life from him, shall be raised up by him.' They could not understand then how he would do this. The 'after two days' and 'on the third day' remained a mystery to be explained by the event. But the promise itself was not the less distinct, nor the less full of hope, nor did it less fulfill all cravings for life eternal and the sight of God, because they did not understand—how shall these things be?"

3. The sequel of revival and resurrection is life in God's sight, or, "before his face," according to the literal rendering. The face of man is the index of the mind and heart; of the operations and various workings of the former, and of the feelings and emotions of the latter. We turn away the face in sorrow or in mirth; we look the object of our love or satisfaction full in the face. God had withdrawn himself and turned away his face until they acknowledged their offence and sought his face. But life is not only restored; it is life in God's sight, that is, before his face. This is real life—life in God's favor, with the light of his countenance lifted up upon us; with his eye on us to guide and to direct us as well as to guard and protect us. We live in his sight when, whatever we do, we do it as unto the Lord. Every duty is discharged as in his immediate presence and under his all-seeing eye. Our thoughts, our purposes, our plans, our feelings, the inmost actings of our spirit, are all ordered with the abiding impression that they are in God's sight, open and naked before the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

IV. THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD AND GROWTH THEREIN. What is the great end of man's being? What is the thing that chiefly concerns him? To such questions various answers will be returned according to the tastes, or habits, or capacity of the individual. Some will answer and say that life itself, its preservation and well-being, is the great concern of man; or that health—health of mind with health of body, a sound mind in a sound body—is chiefly to be attended to. Others, again, will reply that the advancement of one's family or the increase of one's fortune is the main thing to be sought and attained. Whatever truth may be in any of these, it is not the right answer. There is something higher and holier, nobler and better, than any of the things specified. The glory of the Creator and the good of the creature must be placed above everything else. But to glorify the Creator, and thereby and therewith to attain to the good of the creature, we must know God.

1. Wherein does the knowledge of God consist? What do we mean by the knowledge of God? It is to know God as he has made himself known, in the two great volumes which he has spread out before us. The one is the volume of his works, open to the eyes of all men; but that volume only takes us a short way; we get the knowledge of his Godhead, or existence as God, and of his power; we learn that there is an eternal Power that called created things into being, and that that Power is neither blind physical force nor the pantheistic spirit of the universe, but a Divine Person; for" the invisible things of him since the creation are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." The other volume is his Word, in which he has fully revealed his will. From this volume we know his various attributes and infinite perfections—his holiness in hating sin, his justice in punishing it, his wisdom in devising the plat, of salvation, his love in sending his Son to work it out, his mercy in shedding down his Spirit to apply it. But, over and above all this, the knowledge of God must be personal, experimental, and practical. We need to know God as our God through Jesus Christ our Lord; we need to know by happy experience his love to our souls; we need to know the duty which we are bound to render to him in gratitude far his amazing loving-kindness, and in love to him who first loved us.

2. How is this knowledge attained? There must be diligent, prayerful study of the Divine Word under the teaching of the Divine Spirit. The physician never dreams of gaining a knowledge of his profession, and of qualifying himself for the performance of its responsible duties, without years of preparatory study in order to grasp its principles and master its details; nor can he afford to abandon that study even after he has entered on the practice of his professional labors—earnest thought and unwearying diligence are still required. The merchant who would succeed in mercantile life must devote much attention to the principles of commerce and the various departments of trade; days of rail and nights of close application to business are indispensable. The agriculturist, if he would attain to eminence or even respectability in his calling, cannot expect to do so without suitable training and diligent attention in order to acquaint himself with the proper methods of tillage. Shall men willingly devote their noblest energies and highest powers and best days to the occupations of time, and yet afford only some brief intervals of leisure, or some spare hours, and very slight attention to attain the knowledge of that God who is above them, and to prepare for that eternity that is before them?

3. By what means do we gain increase of this knowledge? What promotes ore' growth at once in grace and the knowledge of God? The answer is before us. We are to follow on, hunt after, strive zealously to know the Lord. There must be continued diligence, constant perseverance; there must be devout and daily reading of God's Word—some time every day less or more should be given to the study of Holy Scripture; there must be fervent prayer for the teaching of the Holy Spirit: for "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; they are foolishness unto him, because they are spiritually discerned." Have we already acquired some knowledge of God, not merely out of the volume of creation, or by the light of our own intellect, or from the teachings of others, but from this Word of God, which is brimful of the knowledge of God; and do we know God to be a just God and yet a Savior—our God and Father through Jesus Christ our Lord? Then we must beware of becoming cold, or languid, or lifeless. We must avoid everything and anything that would turn us aside, or tempt us to prefer our secular business to salvation, or to set the trifles of time in the place of the realities of eternity. But should coldness creep over us, or should a spirit of slumber overtake us as the virgins in the parable, or should our little progress in the Divine life and Divine things discourage us, let us repair at once to the mercy-seat for Divine help and grace; and the Spirit of truth will guide us into all truth. Let us ever bear in mind that we must persevere to the end in order to be saved, that we must be faithful unto death if we would obtain the crown of life, and that if, after having put our hand to the plough, we turn back, the Lord will have no pleasure in us. Follow on, then, as the runner in the race to win the prize, as the warrior in the conflict to gain the victory, as the mariner steers his homeward-veering bark to reach his native shore.

V. THE BLESSEDNESS PROMISED TO THOSE WHO PERSEVERE IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. The promised blessing is here presented under two beautiful figures—the returning light of morning, and the refreshing rain.

1. There is freshness in the morning air, there is beauty in the morning light, there is loveliness in natural scenery when the light of morning shines on it. One of the oldest Greek poets often speaks of morning, and usually with some epithet of praise or admiration, such as "saffron-robed Aurora," or "Aurora, daughter of the dawn." "The morning." We associate morning with the idea of refreshment and relief. If you have been laid on a bed of sickness, or tossing on a bed of pain, or watching by the bedside of one dear to you as your own life, how welcome is the light of morning! After tossings to and fro till the dawning of the day, the morning brings some measure of relief or relaxation. Many a one in the circumstances supposed is crying out, "Would God it were morning!" or sighing out, "Oh for the light of morning, to shorten the weariness of the night, or bring some alleviation!" There, again, is the mariner toiling through the dreary hours of a stormy winter night, while neither moon nor stars appear; how he wishes and longs for the light of morning! Or a traveler has been overtaken by the darkness of the night, and has lost his way in some pathless wilderness, or among the glades of a mountain forest; how he waits and watches for the first gleam of morning light to extricate him from his perplexity and peril! In all these cases the morning is looked forward to for relief; nor is it ever looked for in vain, for morning is sure to come. It may seem slow in coming, and long before it comes; or the weary watcher may be many a time on the point of giving up in despair. But the return of morning, after a night however long, or dark, or painful, or perilous, is certain to take place; its return is prepared; it is a fixed ordinance of nature. So, to every persevering seeker after the knowledge of God, the Lord's going forth is fixed and cannot fail; it is sure as the morning sunrise. To every afflicted, anguished spirit, to every weary waiting soul, the morning dawn shall come surely as the day succeeds the night and the light alternates with darkness, for God has established this order of things. The Dayspring from on high, with the light of saving knowledge and spiritual healthfulness, shall visit all who patiently wait and perseveringly pursue the knowledge of God. There is a joyousness of spirit, a buoyancy of feeling, peculiar to the morning, and not experienced to the same extent, or perhaps at all, during the remainder of the day. Delightful as is the figure, the fact represented by it is even more so. What joyfulness comes with morning to the bewildered wayfarer, or tempest-tossed sailor, or sorely afflicted sufferer! Then hope rakes the place of despair, and joy succeeds to sorrow. To the soul that waits upon the Lord, his coming is as sure as the return of the morning light; and brings with it peace and joy in believing, favor and forgiveness. To him who has waited long, and watched with patience till hope deferred had begun to make the heart sick, the Lord's going forth is certain as the morning dawn; and simultaneously therewith the light of his countenance is lifted on the soul, and cheerfulness is imparted to the spirit. It is a blessed assurance that none ever waited upon the Lord in vain; no one ever trusted him and was disappointed. Wait, then, for his going forth. It may tarry, but wait for it; for at last it will come and will not tarry; for the time is fixed, and the Sun of righteousness shall arise on every patient soul with healing under his wings. Fortified by this assurance, the psalmist says, in language we would do well to adopt and act on, "I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his Word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning."

2. That the Authorized Version is inaccurate, is obvious from its making the latter rain precede the former. The reverse is the natural order and the order here observed, geshem standing for the one or rather for "plentiful rain" in general, malqosh for the other or "latter rain," and retch not a noun at all. This beautiful figure is specially suitable to the Orient, and finds its most striking application in Eastern lands; it is also more or less appropriate in all lands. Not only so, it forms a fitting counterpart to the figure which precedes, and with which it is so intimately connected—the one exhibiting the fact, the other the fruit, of salvation; the one the beginning of salvation, the other its benefits; the one its commencement, the other its consummation. In the land of Israel, as well as other countries of the East, soon after seed-time, when the seed has been sown in the furrows, comes the early rain to make the seed germinate and the tender blade spring up; but there is also the latter rain in the weeks preceding harvest, to fill the ear and mature the growing grain. With a rich Eastern soil below and a warm Eastern sun above, the beneficial effects of the former and latter rain are obvious. In connection with the combined action of sun and soil and shower, there are first the blade, then the ear, and eventually the ripe corn in the ear. Thus in spiritual husbandry, the seed of Divine and saving knowledge has been no sooner cast into the furrows than the rain-shower of Divine grace waters it, so that it germinates and grows—blade and ear and ripened grain as in the natural world; nor are showers of grace withheld before and up till the reaping-time, so that even in old age there is abundant fruitfulness. "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing [margin, 'green'];" and when the time of the end comes and the harvest day arrives, they resemble a shock of corn in its season, rich with golden grain, ripe and ready to be gathered into the heavenly garner. Thus shall it fare with the soul that follows on to know and love the Lord. Sure as the dawn brings on the day; sure as the sun goeth forth out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run his race; sure as the alternation of day and night; sure as the succession of the seasons; sure as the rain comes down from heaven, and returns not thither again till it has moistened and fructified the earth;—God shall bless that soul with light and life and love. Therefore let us know, let us follow on to know the Lord; for "it is good that a man quietly wait and patiently wait for the salvation of God."

Hosea 6:4-9

Israel's inconstant.

The Lord had just comforted the truly godly portion of the people; he now turns aside and expostulates with the ungodly. Judah as well as Ephraim—the two tribes and the ten—fell far short, unspeakably short, of the picture of penitence, with the annexed promises, which he had just placed before them. Their state had become so desperate that destruction had become their desert, not because of his severity, but their own sin, themselves being judges.


1. God here speaks as if all remedies had proved futile, and as if he were at a loss to know how to deal towards them or what to do with them. Various means had been tried, diverse methods resorted to: he had sent them precious promises of mercy and alarming threatenings of wrath; means and expedients had been exhausted; but they had gone from bad to worse. And now, as though resourceless, the Almighty puts the question as if to their own conscience, "O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee?"

2. Or perhaps we may rather understand such questions as a lamentation over their case, so deplorable had it become. Thus our Lord wept over Jerusalem and the desperate state of its doomed inhabitants. Nor was it a few tears he dropped (ἐδάκρυσε), as at the grave of Lazarus; his eyes brimmed over with tears (ἔκλαυσε), while his lips uttered the touchingly pathetic words, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace{ but now they are hid from thine eyes."

3. The picture of their inconstancy is sadly appropriate. The morning cloud is an attractive object as it floats sublimely overhead on a summer's morning; but it is as evanescent as conspicuous, suddenly fading away into the "azure deep of air." Still more lovely is the dew which lies copiously on the herbage in the early morning, glistening on every blade of grass and flower petal, and beautifying with its pearly drops the lawns and pasture-grounds. Soon, however, the footstep of man or beast brushes it aside, and it disappears; or it is exhaled, and vanishes by the heat of the advancing day. Thus it was with the goodness of the Hebrew people, both north and south, at the time referred to. Several cases of reformation had taken place in Judah; revivals of religion had occurred, as in the days of Hezekiah, and subsequently in the time of Josiah; and even in Israel we read of the humiliation of Ahab and the zeal of Jehu; but these were to a large extent transient and temporary. So, too, it often happens in times of awakening, sorrow for sin may becloud the brow of the penitent and tears of contrition bedew his eyes; but ere long the excitement dies away, and that sorrow and those tears have passed away, and all serious impressions and gracious influences have vanished with them.

II. CONSEQUENCES OF THE INCONSTANCY COMPLAINED OF. These consequences are enumerated with some detail in Hosea 6:5-7, though the fifth verse is differently understood by some, as though it contained two different kinds of messages sent by God to Israel—messages of coming wrath to arouse and awaken them, thus hewing them by the prophets and slaying them by the words of his mouth; and messages of mercy, bright as the light and beautiful as the sunbeams, to encourage them, thus causing his judgments to go forth as the light. But this latter sense does not suit the context.

1. First of the consequences is denunciation of wrath, when God denounced their destruction with severity by his messengers the prophets, and the words of his mouth which constituted the message which they delivered; while the justice of the judgments thus visited on them was positively demonstrated and plainly proved, so that it was seen to be and must have appeared even to the guilty sufferers clear as the light.

2. The second consequence is degeneracy in religion. It had degenerated into mere formalism. In place of mercy came sacrifices, and for the knowledge of God burnt offerings were substituted. Outward observances took the place of inward devotion. Instead of piety towards God and charity to man, a tedious round of services was performed. Ritualism was substituted for religion; ceremonialism for clean hands and a pure heart. Obedience to the commandments of God, whether prescriptive or prohibitory, was neglected; morality was dissociated from religion; mere rites supplanted moral or religious duties.

3. But a third consequence was declension of spiritual life in general; this was additional evidence of the religious degeneracy just referred to. Covenant-breaking and treacherous dealing are specified. Like the most reckless of men, they were truce-breakers, bound by no compact, and regardless of the truth of promises. Besides being thus practically dishonest, they were altogether unreliable and faithless. Their sin in this respect, though declared to be against God, involved a fortiori similar conduct in relation to their fellow-men.

III. CONFIRMATIONS OF ISRAEL'S GUILT. Two places are specified as instances, and their inhabitants singled out as specimens of the wickedness of the times—Gilead on the east and Shechem on the west of Jordan. If Gilead be a city—Ramoth-gilead, perhaps—a city of refuge and a Levitical city, the sin of its inhabitants was something shocking. When men, who by profession should be an example and pattern to others, descend to practices directly opposed to that profession, and degrade themselves by criminal actions of the worst and basest kind, religion is evil spoken of, a stumbling-block is cast in the way of the weak, the Master himself is stabbed in the house of his professed friends. The people of this highly favored place had set themselves to work iniquity, and that of no ordinary kind; the blood of murdered innocence clave to their hands. Shechem was even worse in this respect. In this other city of refuge the privilege of asylum was profaned. Either guilty persons were admitted and protected for a bribe, when they should have been delivered up to death; or, in addition to thus screening the guilty, those who had committed homicide unwittingly, but who were too poor to offer bribes, were ruthlessly given up to the blood-avenger; or, worst of all and vilest of all, the priests who had got settled in the place formed themselves into robber-gangs or common banditti to rob, and in case of resistance murder, the travelers who were so luckless as to journey that way, or from a bloodthirsty spirit of revenge they waylaid and assassinated the objects of their displeasure. In one way or other blood was defiling the land and crying to Heaven for vengeance. Long before a bloody deed had been done in this very place, when Simeon and Levi in cruel wrathfulness put the defenseless Shechemites to the sword; history in a still worse form now repeated itself.

IV. COMMUNITY IN CRIME. The proverbial expression of" Like priest, like people," was fully verified in the case before us. When priests perpetrated such atrocities, what could be expected from the populace? When religious teachers distinguished themselves as ringleaders in wickedness, what could be hoped for among the less privileged of the population? There was, in fact, a community in crime. In the house of Israel, or main body of the people in the northern kingdom, there was wickedness so horrible as to make one shudder or the hair stand on end. However men might attempt concealment, God's eye detected and discovered their horrid iniquity, while his justice denounced vengeance against it. Ephraim is again foremost and first in the present iniquity, as previously in the idolatrous calf-worship and original revolt. Their whoredom, whether literal or figurative, exercised a contaminating effect on the rest of the ten tribes. How baneful the effects of evil influence! How great the responsibility connected with the exercise of influence! Judah also, from whom better was to be expected, with the ancient sanctuary among them and a purer ritual, had been seduced to sin; the example and influence of their brethren in the north had, no doubt, helped their depravation, evil communications corrupting good manners. Be this as it may, they had sown the wind and must in consequence reap the whirlwind. As they had sown and what they had sown, they must by-and-by reap. The general judgment is likened to harvest; so also are special judgments. (For the time specified, see Exposition) The Judahites who had been made captives by Israel had been set at liberty through the interposition of the prophet Oded (2 Chronicles 28:8-15). God had spared them then, but set them a harvest at another time; as it has been remarked, "Preservations from present judgments, if a good use be not made of them, are but reservations for greater judgments."


Hosea 6:1-3

Repentance and saving knowledge.

We view these verses as closely connected with the last verse of the preceding chapter. There the Lord has said that Ephraim and Judah, when they shall have been well punished for their apostasy, will at length return to him. Here, accordingly, he anticipates what they shall say to one another when they do so. "In their affliction they will seek me early, saying, Come, and let us return unto the Lord." This prediction, doubtless, has already once and again been partially fulfilled; but its complete accomplishment belongs to "the last things."

I. AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO GODLY REPENTANCE. (Hosea 6:1, Hosea 6:2) The opening clause of Hosea 6:1 consists of an earnest self-exhortation, and this is succeeded in the remainder of the two verses by arguments in support of it. The nerve-thought of these is, that restoration to the Divine favor wilt succeed repentance. The expatriated Hebrews, in their miserable exile and God-forsakenness, shall have a profound conviction of their guilt wrought within their hearts; and they shall return to their long-slighted Lord in the confident hope of a favorable reception. Their restoration, they are persuaded, will be:

1. Certain. The words of verses 1, 2 evince strong faith. There is in them the pulse-beat of a firm confidence. He who tore will also heal. lie who inflicted the agony will bestow the joy. True penitence is always accompanied with some measure of faith. It cherishes the hope of mercy. It lays hold of the truth contained in that magnificent proverb, "God never strikes with both hands." It accepts the testimony of the Eternal, that he "dwells with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit."

2. Speedy. The definite limits of time here mentioned (verse 2) are intended to assure us that the restoration of Israel shall come not only certainly, but quickly. Jehovah is slow to chide, but he is swift to bless. It may seem to us a long time since Israel's rejection; it is now nearly two thousand years since the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. But "one day is with the Lord," etc. (2 Peter 3:8). Many commentators have judged that Christ's resurrection "in the third day" is indicated here. And no doubt an analogy is traceable between the events of Israel's history and events in the life of the Messiah (cf. Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:15). But it is one thing to apply the prophet's words to the great fact of Christ's resurrection, and another thing to conclude that that event is even so much as indirectly foretold by this language.

3. Complete. "We shall live before his face" (verse 2). The face is an index of character. It reveals the mind and heart. A man naturally turns his face towards the person whom he loves, and turns it away from one whom he dislikes. God had "withdrawn himself from" Israel (Hosea 5:6, Hosea 5:15); but now again, in the day of their revival, he shall "cause his face to shine upon them." The contrite ones live in the open smile of the Divine favor, and enjoy the perpetual sunshine of the Divine presence.

II. AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO SAVING KNOWLEDGE. (Verse 3) The first part of this verse should be translated, "Then let us know, follow on to know, Jehovah." This is a further self-exhortation, parallel to that in verse 1. Jehovah had become unknown in Israel (Hosea 4:1). But the resolve to "return" to him involves the resolution to "know" him, and to grow in that knowledge continually. Such knowledge has a very practical aim. It is a life, not a mere science; an experience, not a speculation. It leads a man to own God and to serve him. It will fill the mind with brightness, and the life with fruitfulness. We sometimes call theology "the queen of the sciences;" but this heart-knowledge of God is more—it is "life eternal" (John 17:3). Two attractive emblems are presented in the latter part of the verse for our encouragement in the pursuit of saving knowledge. With the ancient Jewish rabbins, we are to be in these an anticipation of the Redeemer of men. Jehovah comes in the Person of his Son, Jesus Christ, as "the morning;" and he comes in the Spirit of his Son, as "the rain."

1. "The morning." The Lord Jesus is the Aurora, or Dayspring from on high;—the Sun of righteousness, who has arisen with healing in his wings, He will be welcomed yet as such by the entire Hebrew nation. His coming has flooded the world with the light of life. "His going forth," like the morning, brings brightness and joy to the believer. "O happy day, that fixed my choice," etc. It brings also freshness; for the knowledge of Jesus is to the Christian always new, and full of infinite variety. The morning is irresistible in its coming; and the "going forth" of Christ "is prepared as the morning," i.e. decreed in the purposes of Jehovah's love. The morning comes increasingly; and thus also the believer who follows on to know the Lord shall "go from strength to strength," from the dawning light "unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18).

2. "The rain." In Palestine, the two rainy seasons here referred to were most necessary and precious. The "former rain," which fell in October, preceded the seedtime, and prepared the earth for cultivation. The "latter rain," which felt in April, filled the ears before harvest, and perfected the fruit. Now, God shall come to Israel in the last days—as he comes to his people in every age—by his Holy Spirit, "as the rain." The rain is refreshing; and so the knowledge which the Spirit imparts comforts the hearts of young converts, and matures the character of experienced Christians. The rainfall is variable; and the coming of the Spirit varies in like manner, according to God's will and our faith. The rain is trouble-giving—it comes amid shadow and gloom, sometimes with thunder and tempest; and so the Spirit often visits the soul by means of deep and painful heart-searchings on account of sin. The rain is fertilizing—its absence would cause dearth and barrenness; so the knowledge of God will make those hearts fruitful which beforetime yielded only thorns and briers (Hebrews 6:7, Hebrews 6:8).

CONCLUSION. Although we in this age do not live in the last days of Israel's restoration, the sweet voice of this mutual appeal is for us. We need to stir up our own hearts to exercise the grace of repentance, and to pursue the study of saving knowledge. Some of us perhaps have gone astray into very miry paths, and have been sorely chastised for our sin. Oh for grace to respond to this twofold appeal, that we may know the Lord our Savior as the bright Morning and the genial Rain, and that we may "live in his sight"!—C.J.

Hosea 6:4, Hosea 6:5

Fugitive piety.

A thoughtful reader cannot fail to observe the contrast here suggested between the constancy of Jehovah's grace (Hosea 6:3) and the inconstancy of Israel's piety (Hosea 6:4). If Israel would (rely "return," and "follow on to know the Lord" now, all would yet be well. But, alas! the twelve tribes are as fickle as he is faithful.

I. GOD'S COMPLAINT REGARDING THE JEWISH PEOPLE. (Hosea 6:4) In Eastern lands the sky is often heavily hung with clouds at early dawn; lint, so soon as the sun rises, he begins to suck them up—their many-colored glory quickly fades, and in an hour is time they are gone. In the morning, also, the dewdrops adorn the herbage like myriads of sparkling diamonds; but the first acts of radiation after sunrise dissipate all the jewelry, and soon leaf and blade languish in the heat. Those two figures the Lord uses in this touching expostulation. Israel's piety, when the people did show any, was similarly fascinating, promising, and evanescent. It could no more be reckoned up,0n than "a morning cloud." It was short-lived as "the early dew." There are many examples in Scripture of such fugitive piety.

(1) In the national history of Israel. At Sinai the people promised obedience, and then made the golden calf. The age of the Judges was a time of alternate sinning and repenting, and repenting and sinning. Each of the reformations under John, Elijah, and Hezekiah turned out to be "as a morning cloud."

(2) In the lives of individuals. It is enough to mention such cases as King Saul, the young ruler who came to Jesus, Felix, Demas, the Galatian professors (Galatians 5:7). We meet with morning-cloud religion constantly still. It is frequently found:

1. In the time of childhood. "The dew of youth' is always beautiful; and sometimes the grace of the Holy Spirit is in it, and it fertilizes. The morning cloud of childhood's faith is often a "vision splendid," for

"Trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our Home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!"


But the piety of childhood does not always bear the test. It sometimes turns out to be merely emotional, and nothing more. In the hour of temptation "it goeth away."

2. In the season of affliction. Many a man, in the day upon which some storm of sickness or bereavement has strewn his life with wreckage, resolves that when the clouds are removed he will cultivate the friendship of God, and trust in his providence, and keep his Law. But, after prosperity has returned, he does not "pay that which he has vowed."

3. As the result of common grace. Common grace is that influence of the Holy Spirit which is more or less granted to all men. In connection with his operations men who are unregenerate have their seasons of deep conviction, and of anxious thought regarding spiritual things. Sometimes riley "receive the Word with joy" (Matthew 13:20), and are "made partakers of the Holy Ghost" (Hebrews 6:4), and begin to lead an externally religious life. But, if experiences of this kind are not accompanied by a real change of heart, they pass away like "a morning cloud." Such fugitive piety is fatally defective. It is:

(1) Unreal. For, a characteristic mark of true religion is steadfastness. "The path of the just" is not "as a morning cloud," but "as the morning" itself, "that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18).

(2) Unhappy. Those who do not "follow on to know the Lord," but allow themselves to be hindered by the discouragements and sufferings which belong to the Christian life, come to identify religion only with these. "Pliable" associates piety with the "Slough of Despond," "Formalist and Hypocrisy" with "the Hill Difficulty," ''Timorous and Mistrust" with "the lions." It is only pilgrims like "Christian," who endure to the end, that shall taste the joys of" the House Beautiful," and "the Delectable Mountains," and "the land of Beulah."

(3) Unhopeful. Those who "receive the Word into stony places," or "among the thorns," become a very hopeless class. The habit of taking sudden fits of goodness, each of which is followed by a relapse into sin, is very hardening to the heart.

II. GOD'S METHOD WITH THE PEOPLE. (Verse 5) The Lord speaks as if he has been at his wit's end to know what measures to adopt in order to win the nation back to godliness. His words are, "What shall I do unto thee? What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it?" (Isaiah 5:4). His wisdom can devise no new expedient. His policy hitherto has been one of mingled goodness and severity, and all that he can do is to continue that policy still. So:

1. He sends his prophets to "hew." The figure here is taken from the art of the statuary. Human souls are like blocks of marble, and God is the great Sculptor. He sent the Hebrew prophets to cut and carve Israel into the Divine image; for, while the nation's piety was thin as vapor, its heart was hard as adamant. This metaphor has a lesson in it regarding the Christian ministry. A large part of the preacher's work is to prick slumbering consciences, and to hammer stony hearts. It is true, of course, that the New Testament message is emphatically "the gospel;" yet the background of the "good news" is necessarily the bad news of guilt and sin and wrath. Christian sermons addressed to the natural man cannot avoid being denunciatory. Our pulpit teaching, both in matter and manner, should reflect as clearly as possible the teaching of the New Testament. In delivering the message of condemnation especially, the speaker should take care to be not only faithful but tender.

2. He uses his Law to "slay." "The words of God's mouth" are fitted to produce the recognition of sin in its true nature and consequences. The ministry of the Law convicts and condemns. God's word "slays" when it convinces of guilt and pollution, and produces thereby self-condemnation and remorse. A man must be thus slain in relation to sin before his heart, can be prepared for the reception of the gospel. "Is not my Word like as a fire? saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 23:29). "The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword," etc. (Hebrews 4:12).

3. He comes in a morning of judgment. "Thy judgments" we take to mean the judgments inflicted on thee, i.e. on the Jewish people. God will prepare for them such a morning as they do not desire to see at all. lie will come "as the light" to manifest their sins, and to punish them. The judgments shall be palpable to every eye, and shall be manifestly just. Jehovah shall be "clear when he judges."

CONCLUSION. These two verses remind us

(1) that God's compassions fail net, but

(2) that persistent sinfulness on man's part will shut him out from the enjoyment of the Divine mercy.—C.J.

Hosea 6:6-11

Religion and irreligion.

In the verse immediately preceding, God has spoken of sending his prophets to "hew," and his words to "slay," and of visiting the nation with a sunrise of judgment. And now, in the remainder of the chapter, he proceeds to justify these threatenings by setting forth the reason why he felt compelled to deal with the Hebrews in this fashion.

I. THE NATURE OF TRUE RELIGION. (Hosea 6:6, Hosea 6:7) It is described here in a twofold manner.

1. Faithfulness to the covenant of grace. (Hosea 6:7) The covenant office has been made by God with his elect people, the Lord Jesus Christ being Mediator in their behalf. It rests upon the covenant of redemption which was formed from eternity between the Father and the Son. The promise of the covenant of grace is spiritual and eternal life; and faith in Christ is the condition of it. This covenant has been the same under all dispensations; but, as made with the Hebrews in the time of Moses, it is presented in three aspects:

(1) national and political;

(2) legal, as seen in the moral and ceremonial laws;

(3) evangelical, for all the Mosaic institutions pointed to Christ.

Under every economy, also, religion has consisted in acceptance of this covenant and fidelity to its obligations. In every age faith in God has been the bond of living fellowship with him.

2. The offering of the worship of a holy life. (Hosea 6:6) Religion must have a form in order to its manifestation. Piety has an outward side as well as an inward. Where there is wine, there must also be bottles in which to hold it (Matthew 9:17). Among the Jews this outward expression of piety was to take the form of "sacrifice" and "burnt offerings." But religion itself is a spirit. It consists in "mercy" towards man, and in the experimental "knowledge of God." Jehovah says here that holiness in the life is the test of sincerity in the observance of ritual. He does not reject sacrifices in themselves; indeed, he had himself instituted them. But he will not accept heartless oblations. He thinks of sacrifice without mercy as being like a body from which the spirit has fled. All the prophets of the Old Testament asserted the superiority of ethical over ceremonial laws. And the Lord Jesus Christ on two different occasions quoted the words before us, "Mercy, and not sacrifice" (Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7), in support of the position that the righteousness of forms is not the righteousness of faith, and that it is the discharge of moral duties rather than the observance of positive institutions that makes the true life of religion. Such also is the doctrine of the apostles; e.g. James says in his Epistle that the ritual of Christianity consists in a life of personal purity and active benevolence (James 1:27).

II. THE IRRELIGION OF ISRAEL. (Verses 7-11) The entire Hebrew nation, and both of the kingdoms into which it was divided, had failed to maintain any appreciable measure of religious life.

(1) They had been faithless to the covenant. (Verse 7) In this respect they were "like Adam" (margin), i.e. they had "sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression." They had violated the covenant alike under all its aspects—national, legal, and evangelical.

(2) Their worship was an insincere formalism. (Verse 6) "There" (verse 7), even at Bethel, whither they went "with their flocks and with their herds to seek Jehovah" (Hosea 5:6), they in so doing "dealt treacherously against him." For they brought "sacrifice," but showed not "mercy;" they presented "burnt offerings," but had lost "the knowledge of God." Hosea, in the remainder of the chapter, adduces one or two illustrations of the deep and universal apostasy.

1. Sacred places had become polluted. (Verse 8) "Gilead" perhaps means Ramoth-gilead, a famous city in Gad, and the center of the mountainous region called Gilead. Moses appointed it for one of the cities of refuge. The place seems to have had now a bad eminence in crime. Many homicides were there, not of the class alone for which the cities of refuge were intended, but also many culpable homicides and murderers. Gilead was "tracked with blood."

2. A sacred office had become infamous. (Verse 9) The priests of the northern kingdom belonged to "the lowest of the people," and they were now giving themselves over to perpetrate the grossest wickedness. They "did evil with both hands earnestly." One "enormity" which the sacerdotal guild committed was actually that of lying in wait for the pilgrims from the north who were "in the way to Shechem" (margin), perhaps en route for Bethel—to demand, like robbers, their money or their life!

3. The sacred nation itself had become abominable. (Verses 10, 11)

(1) Israel's apostasy was "a horrible thing;" a godly mind could only contemplate it with a shudder. The sin of the ten tribes was "whoredom," both spiritual and literal. But is not that of our own Christian land the same? There is doubtless a large portion of the British people who love and follow purity, and thus far as a nation we are morally better than Ephraim; but those who study our national life upon its seamy side "sigh and cry for all the abominations that are done in the midst thereof."

(2) Judah also has sown the bad seed of sin, and therefore cannot escape reaping "a harvest" of wrath. Already, in fact, the southern kingdom is almost ripe for destruction. It is to be carried into "captivity." Only as the result of such a process of judgment shall Jehovah purge out the wickedness of his people, and restore them again to his favor. In the closing words of the chapter the dark clouds break a little, and there appears just for a moment a glimpse of blue sky. The Jewish nation, says Jehovah, is still "my people," and one day "I will return their captivity." This anticipation shall be fully realized only when at last Israel shall be converted as a nation to the faith of Jesus Christ.


1. The right relation of the form and the spirit in religion (verse 6).

2. The appalling wickedness and shamefulness of sin (verses 7, 10, 11).

3. When man prostitutes the best institutions from their proper uses, they often become the worst things (verses 8, 9).—C.J.


Hosea 6:1

On returning to the Lord.

The graciousness of God is seen in nothing more conspicuously than in his willingness to receive those who come to him under the influence of sorrow. In all ages he has condescended to use afflictions to bring men and nations to an acknowledgment of their need of him. This was always a feature of his dealings with Israel. The growing tyranny of the taskmasters in Egypt aroused the cry of the Israelites for Divine interposition, without which they never could have become a separated and theocratic nation. In the wilderness, the scarcity of water, the defeat at Ai, etc; brought these who had forgotten God to a confession of sin. So was it in the subsequent history of that people, who constituted an abiding exemplification of God's method of dealing with other nations. From the lives of individuals also, illustrations of the same principle may be drawn. Hagar found that God was more to her when she and her child were dying in the wilderness than he bad ever been in Abraham's tent. Jacob was smitten with sorrow, homesick, fearful, destitute, when he saw the ladder the top of which reached to heaven. In the New Testament we find crowds around the Savior, and of whom did they consist? Chiefly of those whose sadness made them yearn for him. Blind men groped their way, lepers ventured near, the palsied besought their friends to lay them at his feet, the bereaved sent to tell him of their grief, and the broken-hearted sinner washed his feet with her tears. During his ministry it was as if our text had. sounded over the world, "Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, anti he will bind us up." Three considerations should lead to obedience to this exhortation.

I. THE WICKEDNESS OF SOUL-WANDERING. The exhortation to "return" implies previous estrangement.

1. To whom were these words spoken? Not to the heathen, but to those who considered themselves the people of God. They knew and could recite the requirements of the Law; they took part in religious observances; they boasted of a pious ancestry. Now, therefore, the words may fairly be applied to those wire belong to a Christian nation, who are familiar with Divine truth, but who know that they have not personally returned unto the Lord.

2. How does this wandering reveal itself? There is an estrangement from God which is easily recognized. One wanders from holiness into corrupt imaginations, evil associations, gross habits, till all manly virtue or womanly grace is gone, and parents' tears or kindly worth avail nothing. Another wanders from truth and righteousness, turning his back on these, because they seem opposed to present interests, and so he gets entangled in crooked policy and tortuous expedients. Another wanders from love, till there is discord in the home, suspicion and enmity in the heart. All would admit that as God is holy and true and loving, those who turn from these virtues show that they are turning from him, and in the woes that follow such sins a voice is heard, saying, "Come, and let us return," etc.

3. Is there no soul-wandering which does not outwardly reveal itself'? We are more concerned about some who are guilty of sin, but not of crime; who are irreligious, but not immoral. Their condition is more perilous, because less likely to cause them alarm; yet what more lamentable in God's sight than a prayerless, godless man? Illustrate it by the relation between father and child in a human home. Imagine your son being to you what the godless man is to God. You watched over his infancy, sacrificed yourself for his comfort, etc. You expect to reap the fruit of all this in his love, to be glad in his success, to live over again in him. But he becomes a man, and has no thought or care for you. Cheerful in the society of others, he never gives his father a look or a smile. Is there no wrong in that, even though he may fulfill his duties to his neighbors and his country? But by-and-by he breaks down in his schemes; his brilliant course is run, his friends forsake him; then, poor and broken, he comes back to you, and in your pardon and kindness he feels and knows what you are, and how true all along your love has been. On his past negligence all the world would cry "Shame!" Yet what has he done that the moral, respected, yet godless man is not doing every day of his life? To such the message is sent, "Come, and let us return unto the Lord."

II. THE PURPOSE OF SOUL-CHASTENING. God is spoken of here as the Wounder of men. This would be a strange declaration if all life was limited to this world by the abyss of the grave. Then it would seem as if we were created for suffering, and that the assurance, "God is love," was a mockery. But we are destined to dwell near God eternally, to do in his presence a service for which we are here being prepared; and anything which reminds us of that and fits us! or it is to be received thankfully. A schoolboy does not see the good of his lessons. Some will be of' no practical value, but they serve the purpose of mental discipline; and he is wise who learns them all, for he is not fit to discriminate for himself. "We know not what we shall be, "but we do know that" all things work together for good." If we see an artist beginning his work on the canvas, we can make nothing of' the first streaks of color; but a glance at the fair scene before him helps us to know what he is aiming at. So are we to look off from our troubles to our Lord, who "learned obedience by the things that he suffered," and there find God's ideal for us. The cross of Calvary is the interpretation of the mystery of suffering. If we were told that griefs and joys were distributed promiscuously, that we must merely brace ourselves to bear" the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," we should gain no moral good from obedience. If we believed that sorrow was to avenge sin, that it was the beginning of punishment from a vindictive God, we should have no hope. But we are assured that the griefs and losses of life come to us from him who "so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son" to redeem it from sin; and so we believe that their design is in harmony with that great purpose. This which is true of the Christian life in its course is true of Christian life in its commencement. The misery of shame, the agony of penitence, constitute the broken heart and contrite spirit which is the pledge of God's love, the creation of God's Spirit. "He hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us tip."

III. THE PROMISE OF SOUL-HEALING. (Text) When Telephus was defending his country against the Greeks, he was wounded by the spear of Achilles. The Delphic oracle declared that the hurt could only be cured by a touch of the weapon which caused it. The oracle was obeyed. Telephus humbled himself to his foe, and by the spear's touch he was healed. To those stricken-hearted by the thought of sin, this text comes with a message more worthy of trust than any from Delphi; declaring that the wound was made, not in wrath, but in love; urging return, not to a foe, but to a Friend—even to "Jehovah Rophi," the Lord that heateth. Let us turn to no one else, lest we perish. If a surgeon were obliged to operate, his patient might flinch, and bid him hold his hand; but true wisdom teaches him to trust, for he says to himself," He has wounded, and he alone can heal." The troubled Christian comes to God in prayer, and has the deep, sweet assurance that his Father is doing all things well, and straightway the bitterness goes out of his grief. The sorrowing sinner goes to Jesus' feet, and there is made glad by the declaration, "Thy sins are forgiven thee." Adduce other examples.

CONCLUSION. In conclusion, let us lay stress on the exhortation, "Return unto the Lord." This must be a personal and deliberate resolve on the part of cash. Trouble has no magical effect. It only gives opportunity and inclination for thought and prayer. It does not of necessity turn us to God. The sun melts the wax, but it hardens the clay. The rain blesses some things, but destroys others. A child may be chastised, and yet be made stubborn, not penitent, by the discipline. So with God-sent griefs, inward or outward. You may forget them in gaiety, in work, in companionship, and never turn to God at all. You may be influenced lot' a time, but, like Ephraim, your goodness may vanish like the morning dew or the passing cloud. Think, therefore, of your present and pressing responsibility, lest your sorrow lead to the despair of Judas, and not to the penitence of Peter. Your outward sorrows, your inward griefs, are from him who loves you. "Come," then, "and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up."—A.R.

Hosea 6:2, Hosea 6:3 (first clause)

The promised Dayspring.

It is a happy thing that God's love always comes forth to meet man's longings. In the preceding verse Hosea had been urging the people to return to the Lord, but the exhortation would have been useless had he not been able to add the promise in the text. If the soul of man had to struggle unaided to the throne of God and to win a revelation for itself, the task would have been hopeless. But it is not so. We are not like the idolaters who, on Mount Carmel, cut themselves with knives and lancets, and cried again and again, "O Baal, hear us!" while from the brazen sky there came "no voice, nor any that answered; "but we speak to the Father who sees in secret, till the sweet sense of his pardoning love sinks deep into our hearts. The penitent is not like the heathen on pilgrimage to the sacred shrine, who sometimes measures the whole length of his journey by prostrations of his own body on the hot, dusty road, and only arrives at last before an idol too deaf to hear, too dumb to speak; but he resembles, as Christ tells us, the prodigal who starts on his way home, weary, ragged, and heart-sick, whose father sees him when a great way off, and has compassion on him, and runs to meet him, and falls on his neck and kisses him. Such is the thought stirred in our minds by the promise of the text following on the exhortation in the verse preceding it. Here we have a threefold assurance.

I. THE PROMISE OF NEW LIFE. (Verse 2) (For the different interpretations given to these words, see Exposition) The obscurity is caused by the seeming definiteness of the words. Too much stress, however, must not be laid on the actual numbers, any more than in the following passages: Job 5:19; Proverbs 6:16; Amos 1:3. The main idea is that in a very short time, and that already determined in the counsel of God, there should come certain revival; and that this should be when to onlookers all seemed most hopeless, as to Mary and Martha when Lazarus had been in the grave "four days" already (John 11:6, John 11:17, John 11:39). No doubt all spiritual quickening finds its center in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and so far the text has reference to that; but mainly to the revival of the spiritually dead, that they may live in God's sight, and walk all day in the light of his countenance. Point out the analogy, so often alluded to in the New Testament, between rising from the corruption of death, and the uplifting of the soul by God's Spirit above the degradation of sin, the darkness of despair, the hopelessness of doubt, etc. Indicate the first signs of such revival, that they may be gratefully welcomed. Insist on such verses as "If ye then be risen with Christ," etc. (Colossians 3:1; Colossians 2:12, Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 3:1). Show the fulfillment of the text in Christ's assurance: "I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25, John 11:26).

II. THE HOPE OF THE HIGHEST KNOWLEDGE. "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord." Much and varied knowledge is eagerly sought for in our day. It is a new national ambition to be an "educated" people. With all its advantages, this is not without its perils. The strain of competitive examinations may divert from the culture of character. Knowledge of God's works may supersede knowledge of God. The skilful use of material and mechanical resources may lead to forgetfulness of spiritual forces—righteousness, truth, prayer, etc. It is the highest knowledge of which we are capable promised here.

1. This does not come instantaneously, as in the flash of light to Saul of Tarsus; but gradually, as in the three years of his waiting in Arabia. The knowledge that God is in Christ may be given suddenly; but after that revelation we are to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

2. In following on to know the Lord, the whole man must be absorbed in the pursuit. We learn a problem of Euclid by mere intellectual effort. We know the sweetness of human love by loving a child or friend. We have the enjoyment of appetite by ministering to it; and so forth. But as God is the Sum of all good, all our capacities, the perception of truth, the love of his Law, the submission of our will, the obedience of our life, must be absorbed in knowing him. The light which shows us Christ leads us to love him, and loving brings us more light. Knowing God's will prompts us to do it, so as to embody knowledge in action; and this, again, helps to deeper knowledge. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine." In obedience, as well as in prayer and thought, we "follow on to know the Lord;" and though as yet we only know in part, that which is perfect shall come, and "then shall we know."

III. THE CERTAINTY OF DIVINE INTERPOSITION. "His going forth is prepared as the morning" (literally, "is fixed as the morning dawn"). To those seeking and needing the Lord, he will reveal himself as certainly as the sun rises. Nothing that men can do is able to impede the breaking of the day. Imagine wicked men engaged in some conspiracy or burglary, hoping the darkness may last till their enterprise is complete. A streak el light comes over the eastern hills, the darkness fades, men will soon be stirring; yet how powerless the wrong-doers are to hinder the change. So resistlessly did the Lord appear for Israel in Egypt, for the Jews in exile, and for the soul oppressed by the powers of darkness. Show the application of this to the coming of God in Christ Jesus. The world was in gross darkness. Corruptions prevailed which are described by profane historians, and alluded to by Paul in his Epistle to Rome. When things were at their worst, the angels' song, which told of peace and good will, was heard by the shepherds, and soon the anthem rang over all the world. The great light which illumined the fields at Bethlehem was but the type of that light which now "lighteneth every man that cometh into the world." Christ's going forth from the Father was "prepared as the morning." Show from the present condition of the world the need for some Divine interposition. Allude, for example, to the wars that prevail; to the standing armies, which are crushing Christendom by taxation, and weakening it by the withdrawal from productive labor of its manly strength; to the conflicts between capital and labor; to the unrest in the minds of those who are asking, "Is life worth living?" etc. Show how all these call for the fulfillment of the text. Because it will be fulfilled we may be hopeful of the future, and believe that the power of God will lie yet so manifest that it shall be as the dawn of a new day to a dark and saddened world. Already to the Church the summons is sent: "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee."—A.R.

Hosea 6:3 (last clause)

Heavenly blessings for weary souls.

This clause, read in the light of the context, evidently refers to the outpouring of Divine influence—in other words, to the gift of the Holy Spirit. As the earth waits for the rain, so the Church waits for the Spirit. The appropriateness of the figure will be seen in a fair consideration of the coming and the effects of the descending rains.


1. Rain is given in the sovereign bounty of God. Few things are less subject to the control of man, who at most can foretell its fall. Human merit, human skill, and human power have nothing to do in ruling it. If God pleased he could, by a comparatively slight change in physical laws, so alter the condition of the world that the clouds would no longer float in the sky, and the verdure no longer beautify the earth. Our home might be transformed into a world like the moon, with its awful crevasses and stupendous mountains ungladdened either by rain or dew. But in the tender mercy of God rain still falls, and under its influence ferns uncurl in the woods, and the cups of forgotten flowers run over with blessing. It is God who "so clothes the grass of the field." He only can transform the moral wilderness into a paradise, arid he does "give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him."

2. Rain falls generously. Suppose you were at variance with your neighbor, and shut yourself off from him by a lorry wall, so that you could not see his garden nor he yours. When a shower fell from heaven it would disregard that distinction, and bless alike the seeds you both had sown; nor would it matter whether his was the splendid park, or only the tiny garden where a few flowers made the soil look beautiful. So generously does the Spirit come down on all assemblies of Christian worshippers; whether they meet in the home or in the church; amidst the uncouth expressions of prayer and song, or the splendors of an ornate ritual. In them all God sees tender flowers of joy and peace whose fragrance is sweet to him, and he comes down on them as the rain.

3. Rain falls seasonably. "As the latter and former rain upon the earth." In Palestine, where the steep hillsides were cultivated in terraces, the soil would suffer readily from drought. "The former," or autumn rain, fell in September, blessing the seed-time, and making the earth soft with showers. "The latter rain," falling in March and April, filled out the ears of corn before the harvest. So that to a Jew there was special significance in the promise, "I will cause the rain to come down in his season." If either of the rains were withheld the harvest would fail. The spiritual life of man is ever needing the nourishment of Divine influence. Christ is "the Author and the Finisher" of our faith. He is the Alpha and the Omega of Christian life. The old Christian cannot rest in past experience, nor the working Christian in service; but each must ever be looking out of and above himself. Nor can we trust to organizations and ritual for revival. It is wise to dig canals, and build tanks, and provide means for directing the rills to the gardens which need them; but of what avail are these, if the rain does not come? We may use our watering-pot during a drought; but how small the patch affected, how poor and unsatisfactory our work, compared with that day when God visits the earth and waters it!

"Diffuse, O God, those copious showers,

That earth its fruit may yield;

And change this barren wilderness

To Carmel's flowery field."


1. The revival of drooping life. Describe a corn-field in spring-time after a time of drought. Contrast its condition after a week's rain. Apply these pictures to the moral condition of the Christian Church. Take as a typical instance the condition of the disciples before and after the day of Pentecost. It was the descent of the Holy Spirit which gave them new tongues, and emboldened them to face and to rebuke a hostile world, till those who had crucified the Lord were pricked in their hearts, and cried, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"

2. The attractiveness of fragrant life. Nothing is more beautiful in appearance, more pleasant in fragrance, than the garden just blessed by a shower. The rain has brought nourishment to all the life that is in it; but each plant has transformed the nourishment into its own kind of beauty, so that it is white in the lily, green in the grass, fragrance in the violet, strength in the oak. A Pentecostal blessing would not make all Christians alike, but would increase the beauty and the strength of each. Indicate the different expressions of revived life—in the increase of integrity, self-sacrifice, gentleness, devoutness, joy, etc. The Church should be attractive to the world, and so full of life as to possess heating power. She should be like the Lord, around whom the sin-sick and sad gathered, and virtue went out of him even to the skirts of his garments, and "as many as touched were made perfectly whole."

3. The blessedness of a useful life. The Church, represented by the growing grass, exists as grass does for the world's sake. The grass is not merely the pleasant background on which Nature may weave her gorgeous colors; but it is also the fundamental life by means of which other things and beings live. Directly by his use of corn, indirectly through eating the flesh of animals fed on grass, man is absolutely dependent upon grass as it is on the rain. So through the Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the world lives; and in this is found her highest honor, because in it she is like unto her Lord, who "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."


1. To those outside the Church. "Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you" (Hosea 10:12).

2. To those within the Church. Be like Elijah after his conflict on Carmel. Let the yearning cry arise to heaven, and let your hopes go up often to catch the first sign of the coming blessing; arid we shall "hear the sound of abundance of rain," whereby God will refresh his inheritance when it is weary.—A.R.

Hosea 6:4

God's grief over evanescent goodness.

There are times in a man's life when he begins to fear that he is too impotent or too sinful for the notice of God. In the activity of the day he may be free from such a thought; but in the solemn night, when he looks up to the vast canopy above him and thinks how those same stars have been brooding over the earth amidst all its changes, there comes to him the thought of David, "When I consider thy heavens," etc. Still more is he oppressed by the sense of the moral distance between himself and God which has been created by sin. If only infinite knowledge can reach him in his insignificance, only infinite mercy can reach him in his degradation l Of both these attributes we have an explicit assurance in the text.

"Thou art as much his care, as if beside
Nor man nor angel were in all the world."

God would save the world even at the cost of his Son; nor will he give up the sinner till the last hope of saving him is gone, destroyed by the sinner's own hand. Our text is the sob of a Father's heart after all means of reclaiming the prodigal had failed.


1. This has been revealed to the world. Even under the old dispensation it was expressly declared, if Moses would know the name or character of God, the Lord passed by before him, declaring himself to be "merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth" (Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7). Daniel (Daniel 9:9) was bold in his prayer, because he could say, "To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him" (see also Micah 7:18; Ezekiel 18:32, etc). In the fullness of time God sent his Son, that men might know his love, that it might be "commended" to them; yet even the Son of God was cast out and crucified. Illustrate by the parable of the wicked husbandmen. The question in our text was answered in the cross. Beyond that, as the means of pardon and the center of attraction, God can do no more. If there be any question unsolved respecting the absolute, infinite, and perfect God, we find its only answer for us in Christ—the Embodiment of love, the Fount of mercy, to all who come to him. Give examples of those who came during Christ's ministry. "No man knoweth the Father, but the Son; and he to whom the Son shall reveal him." Compare the text with the words of Christ on Olivet (Matthew 23:37).

2. This has been proved in human experience. It is one thing to feel compassion, another thing to show it. Much sentimentalism is in the world (stirred by fiction) which finds no outlet in benevolence. But the thought and act of God are one. He is recalling here what he had done for Israel, as well as what he had felt towards Israel, when he asked, "What shall I do unto thee?" Deliverance from Egypt, help in the wilderness, settlement in Canaan, might have been cords to bind them to Jehovah; but "they soon forgot his works." Wealth, success, victory, were ascribed to political skill or warlike prowess, and not to him who "gave power to get wealth." Examples can be given in modern history of nations losing sobriety, self-restraint, modesty, thrift, equity, etc; by the very blessings which were designed to keep them near God. Thus is it with individuals. Their lives are unwearied by pain and their minds untainted by disease; they have had no heritage of evil habit, or of gross shame from their parents; in their homes they are encircled by love and baptized by prayer. Whence and why all this? Is it that strength may be wasted in pleasure, that thought may feed itself on the husks of Positivism, that success may generate self-confidence, that men may be enchained more lastingly to earth? "Knowest thou not," says St. Paul, "that the goodness of God leadeth to repentance?" "We beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice." (Text) Besides all this, sorrow and disappointment have spoken unmistakably. The scheme has broken down and left you penniless; illness has swept you from daily work, leaving you like driftwood on the shore; death has crossed the threshold, and said, "Eternity is near!" What more can God do to arouse to repentance? Words of man, inspired as messages from God, have borne witness. Few in this Christian land can say, "I was never warned against sin, and never knew that' God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.'" Remembering all the pleading and warning sent through the Church and the Wind and the home to conscience, may not the text be uttered by Jehovah over many?

II. THAT THE MEANS EMPLOYED TO BRING MEN TO REPENTANCE SOMETIMES FAIR TO DO MORE THAN AROUSE TRANSIENT FEELING. "Your goodness is as the morning cloud," etc. Nothing is more mysterious than the struggle of God's Spirit with man's soul. God created free men and accepted all the responsibilities of doing so, foreseeing the possibilities of their development. Laying aside his power to rule by decree, and watch the work of automatons, he endued man with liberty, so that it could be said to the impenitent, "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." If we perish, it is in defiance of him. It was by fighting against God that the good feeling aroused in Israel was dissipated like the morning cloud.

1. Examples of this transient goodness abound. Hosea saw hearers moved to tears, knew their resolves to have done with the idols and return to Jehovah; yet all this came to nothing. In our day, some visited in illness vow that they will live a different life; yet with returning health comes returning indifference. Others, in the hour of temptation, are delivered by the uprising of tender memories; but these are not abiding. In brief, no one has been condemned who could not recall good resolves. The past is strewn with their fragments.

2. The illustration of transient goodness in the text is suggestive. Few things are more beautiful than the cloud tinged with the rosy light of dawn. In an Eastern land it would be full of promise too. It might prove like that over which Elijah rejoiced, only as a man's hand in itself, but the precursor of hosts of rain-laden clouds which would deluge the world with blessing. But imperceptibly it vanishes; and once gone, no power on earth can recall it. The "early dew" is exquisite in beauty, scattered like flashing jewels over things unsightly and base, as well as tipping each blade of grass and filling the cups of the flowers. But when the sun has risen the dew is gone, and soon the herbage is parched. How fitting are these illustrations of tears, feelings, resolves, which cause hope to the onlooker, though they leave the life unchanged! In the irreligious home, amid the evil companionship, under the influence of the skeptical writer, through the business of life, etc; these, like the morning cloud and early dew, pass away.

3. The peril of such transient goodness may be shown by:

(1) Its gradual and unnoticed departure. It is difficult to fix the moment when the dew disappeared, and equally hard to judge of the time when religious impressions really fade. Probably Judas had no expectation of earning the execration of men and the curse of God. His heart must often have been touched by the words and love of Christ, yet, resisting these, at last he imbrued his hands in the Savior's blood.

(2) The woefulness of having such feeling gone forever. No road is worse than that which has been often thawed and often frozen; no curse worse than to have conscience seared, and capacity for feeling gone. Still to the undecided does our merciful Father say, "O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee?"—A.R.


Hosea 6:1

The Divine Healer.

In this book of prophecy we find, side by side, the sternest reproaches and denunciations of the idolatrous and apostate, and the mist tender and gracious assurances of compassion for the penitent.

I. CHASTISEMENT HAS BEEN INFLICTED FOR SIN. The language used is very vigorous, almost rough. God is represented as having torn his people as a lion tears his prey, as having smitten his people as a master smites his slave. At the same time there is no resistance, no resentment; but submission and an implicit acknowledgment of the justice of the infliction.


1. There is a mutual admonition: "Come." What is not easy to do alone, men will sometimes do with the countenance of their fellows.

2. The act is one appropriate in itself. If it is wrong to turn away from the Lord, it is right to return unto him—to seek him while he may be found.

3. To return to God evinces the sinner's faith; it proves that the admonitions have not been received in vain, but are bringing forth their fruit.


1. This God alone can do; the wounds which he has inflicted none but he can cure.

2. This God is willing to do. His chastisement is not wanton; it affords him no pleasure; the end of it is answered when the chastised are brought in lowly penitence to supplicate a restoration of favor, a renewal of blessing.—T.

Hosea 6:2

Spiritual revival.

The bold and daring figure of this passage is suited to the circumstances which call forth the exclamation and the assurance of repenting Israel, as it is in harmony with the vigorous style of the prophet.

I. SPIRITUAL INSENSIBILITY AND APOSTASY ARE SPIRITUAL DEATH. There is a moral death, and it is into this that ungodly individuals and nations plunge, as into a black sea of unfathomable depth. It is trifling with sinners to tell them that they are not quite all that they might be. The Hebrew prophets spoke plainly and faithfully, and addressed them as "the dead."

II. FROM THIS DEATH THE LORD OF LIFE ALONE CAN QUICKEN AND DELIVER. The prophet does not profess to raise the dead, nor does he send them to any human helper or physician. He alone, who first breathed the breath of life into the soul, can rekindle the expiring flame. By his death and resurrection the Divine Savior interposed upon the behalf of a dead humanity. In him was life; and he himself has foretold that all wire are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and come forth, i.e. to a new, a spiritual, an eternal life.

III. THIS WORK OF QUICKENING SHALL NOT ONLY BE COMMENCED; IT SHALL BE PERFECTED. Revival shall be followed by raising up, and that by life unto God. Christ came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly. In his miracles of raising the dead, we notice the successive stages by which the reality of the work was evidenced. And corresponding with these stages are the advances in spiritual vitality and all its proofs and signs made by those in whom there dwells that Spirit who is "the Lord and Giver of life."

IV. DIFFIDENCE EXPECTS DELAY IN THIS PROCESS OF QUICKENING, WHICH THE LIVING LORD DISPENSES WITH. How natural is the shamefaced, modest hope? "Not perhaps yet, but soon, it may be after a delay of two days; then on the third day the Lord will revive us." But the word goes forth, "Breathe upon these slain, that they may live! ' and lo? the breath comes from the four winds without delay, and the dead bones live, and the Lord of life is glorified.—T.

Hosea 6:3

The quest of Divine knowledge.

In the Old Testament prominence is given to the intellectual as well as to the practical side of religion. To the Hebrew, religion was no mere matter of routine and ceremony; it consisted in an acquaintance with the character and will of the Supreme, and in a practical obedience. In this the authority of Old Testament Scripture is very apparent. True religion as distinguished from human superstition is based upon an appeal to the intelligence.

I. THE AIM. This is, "to know the Lord." Such knowledge was opposed to the idolatry into which Israel had been tempted; it involved recovery to the worship and service of Jehovah. Revelation has made an extended knowledge of God possible to man. And in his Son Jesus Christ, our heavenly Father has made himself more fully known than even by the Law and the prophets. We may know God by the way of discovery, by the way of experimental acquaintance, and still more fully by the way of voluntary conformity.

II. THE MEANS. This is by "following on," an expression which implies that it is not by a single effort, but by sustained endeavor, that we are to come to the knowledge of our God and Savior. This quest of Divine knowledge must be undertaken and carried on urgently and strenuously, in the right direction, under Divine guidance, perseveringly and persistently, and without discouragement.

III. THE PROMISE. "Then shall we know." Or, if this be not an exact translation, it may be said to represent the spirit and tenor of the passage. "Let us know," i.e. we may if we will, and if we will aright. In the quest of other kinds of knowledge we may be disappointed. It may be too high for us; our powers may be too feeble. In the pursuit of some knowledge success may be a curse. But this is a sure, a precious, a gracious promise. For "this is life eternal, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent."—T.

Hosea 6:3

Morning and showers.

A beautiful description of the privileges and joys appointed for such as follow on to know the Lord. His gracious visitation is compared to the brightness of the daybreak, to the falling of the refreshing and fertilizing showers. The language is doubly applicable to those who receive the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I. A SUGGESTION OF HUMAN NEED. It is implied that our state in sin and ignorance is a state of darkness and of drought.

1. Absence of Divine knowledge and favor are as darkness covering the soul with gloom, and society with moral night.

2. The same privation is as drought to the thirsty land. Where no water is, there is barrenness and death. An emblem of those who are without God.


1. Christ is the Light of the world, the Morning at whose presence darkness flees away. He brings daylight and healing on his wings. Where he comes, he scatters the night of error, ignorance, and sin; he sheds the light of truth and purity.

2. The Holy Spirit is as the rain which falls upon and fertilizes the soil—as "the latter and former rain." The Spirit of God was given in Pentecostal showers, and his influences are diffused throughout the Church. These influences are like the rain—heavenly in origin, silent in operation, free and full in measure, yet individual in appropriation.

III. AN ANTICIPATION OF SPIRITUAL RESULTS. As the sunlight and the showers co-operate to evoke and sustain and perfect life, and to produce fruitfulness and abundance, so is it with the provision made under the gospel. Where Christ is preached, and where his Spirit works, there life abounds and spiritual fertility is apparent.


1. Acknowledge the Source of true blessing.

2. Come under the range of spiritual influence.

3. Seek the diffusion throughout humanity of these priceless blessings.—T.

Hosea 6:3

The rain.

The climate of Palestine differs from our own. There are "early" rains at sowing-time. Rain continues from autumn until spring. That which swells the corn and prepares for harvest is the "latter" rain. Deficiency of rain is fatal to the hopes of the husbandman; regular and abundant rains ensure his crops. Accordingly these rains serve as figures of the spiritual influences of God in producing and perfecting spiritual life and fruitfulness. The appropriateness is evident of the application of this figurative language to the spiritual economy beneath which we are privileged to live. The Holy Spirit's influences resemble the latter and the former rain, inasmuch as they are—









1. Recognize an historical fact in the Divine outpouring.

2. Believe a faithful promise of mercy and blessing.

3. Act upon an encouragement to earnest prayer.—T.

Hosea 6:4

Transitory goodness.

The climate of Palestine is dry, and accordingly dew is especially precious. Hence it is a natural figure of welcome blessings. "I will be dew unto Israel; As the dew on Hermon." Rain, too, is now and again infrequent, and is therefore longed for and prized. "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass." Both dew and rain are necessary for vegetation and life, and are appropriate emblems of highest good. And as a light dew is too soon scorched up, and as a passing rain-cloud disappoints the expectations of the husbandman, these serve to set forth such good signs and omens as are not fulfilled and realized. So they were used by Hoses with reference to Israel; and such a purpose they may subserve in fixing attention upon superficial and transitory goodness wherever it is found.

I. A CERTAIN KIND OF GOODNESS IS ADMITTED. The case is that of an irreligious man who by some means is led to give attention to spiritual teaching, and to take interest and even pleasure in it. One hitherto impenitent now sheds tears of sorrow because of his sin. One formerly unrighteous now makes efforts after justice and holiness, and the reformation of his conduct is obvious and undeniable. Among the young we often meet with cases corresponding with the figurative language of the text. Deep impressions seem to be made, if we may judge by the outward and unmistakable appearances.

II. VARIOUS CAUSES ACCOUNT FOR THIS KIND OF GOODNESS. Events which have happened in the order of God's providence, some striking calamity or bereavement, some faithful admonition of parent or teacher, some impressive sermon, or some startling word from Holy Writ, the example of decided piety presented by some one near and deal—any of these may well account for the kind of goodness described in the figurative language of the text.

III. THIS KIND OF GOODNESS IS OFTEN TRANSITORY. As the dew of the morning dries up in the blazing heat of the sun; as the gathering cloud disperses and vanishes away; as the blossom of spring is blasted and issues in no fruit; as the splendid sunrise is followed by an unsettled, dreary, or stormy day;—so the promise put forth by the young, the ardent, the impressible, is often doomed to issue in disappointment. This may be owing to natural levity and fickleness, to the influence of worldly society, to violent temptations, or to the mere lapse of time. But one thing is indisputable, and that is the contrast between the promise and the fulfillment.

IV. THE KIND OF GOODNESS IS VERY MISCHIEVOUS. And this in many ways. Spiritual dryness and barrenness return, and are worse than before. A reproach accrues to the religion of Christ, and a discouragement falls upon the ministers of Christ. Such cases act as a dissuasive from a religious profession, and they are destructive of the spiritual prospects of the unhappy persons who experience the transitory change.

V. THE FEELINGS WITH WHICH GOD CONTEMPLATES THIS KIND OF GOODNESS. He is here represented as asking, "What shall I, what can I, do?" Such an inquiry is a revelation of deep interest, of willingness to use every method to create a more permanent impression, of grief that all which has hitherto been done has, alas! been done in vain. What a revelation of the Divine heart!

VI. THE FEELINGS WITH WHICH THOSE TO WHOM THIS DESCRIPTION APPLIES SHOULD REGARD THEMSELVES. Such should ask, "How is our superficial character, our inconsistent conduct, regarded by God?" Taking a profoundly serious view of their conduct and state, they should repent, and humbly seek the influences of the Holy Spirit, that their hearts may be as good soil, bearing much fruit.—T.

Hosea 6:6

Mercy better than sacrifice.

This is one of those sublime declarations of Scripture which taken together are a proof of its inspiration; one of those

"Jewels five words long,
That on the stretch'd forefinger of all time
Sparkle for ever."

I. THIS PRINCIPLE IS CONTRARY TO THE CUSTOMARY BELIEFS REGARDING RELIGION. There is a tendency in human nature to degrade religion into a matter of ceremony. Religions which in their beginnings enunciate great spiritual truths often sink into schemes of ritual, transactions between devotee and priest, a routine of sacrifices and formal observances. Even the best religions—those which originate in the Divine wisdom—are not superior to the debasing influence of this tendency.

II. THIS PRINCIPLE IS SANCTIONED BY THE WHOLE TEACHING AND TENOR OF SCRIPTURE. It was grandly expressed by Samuel the seer, whose spiritual intuitions were never more strikingly evident than in its enunciation in the memorable words, "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." It was repeated by the great Teacher himself, "Go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." And when the scribe summed up morality and religion in the memorable saying, "To love God... and his neighbor … is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices," this judgment was stamped at once with the approval and commendation of the Lord.

III. THIS PRINCIPLE IS IN HARMONY WITH AN ELEVATED AND JUST VIEW OF THE CHARACTER OF GOD. The deities imagined by the heathen were in many cases of such a character that they may have been well supposed to take pleasure rather in offerings than in virtue, in justice, and benevolence. But the God who is himself all holy, and who is the Searcher of hearts, must needs detest the hypocrisy that is scrupulous in all outward observances, but neglects the weightier matters of the Law.

IV. THE PRINCIPLE IS ONE THE PRACTICAL ADOPTION' OF WHICH MUST PROMOTE THE TRUE WELFARE OF MAN. It is well known that the ceremonial system of religion which is consistent with a low standard of morality, debases society; whilst, on the other hand, they who cultivate an intelligent religion, based on "the knowledge of God," and a practical religion displayed in the exercise of mercy, are the very salt of society. The practice of thoughtful inquiry and of virtuous living gives a depth to piety, and renders a profession of religion, which otherwise would become a laughing-stock, honorable and estimable in the view of men.—T.

Hosea 6:6

Knowledge and mercy.

This verse may be regarded as embodying true religion. This consists in—

I. KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. There is a presumption here:

1. That man has a nature capable of knowing God.

2. That God has so revealed himself as that he may be known.

3. That God desires that men should know him.

II. MERCY TO MAN. This is the human side of religion. The laws of civil society enjoin justice, without which communities could not hold together.

1. The exercise of mercy towards man springs from a sense of mercy received from God.

2. It is prompted by the example of Christ's merciful life.

3. It is performed with willing cheerfulness.—T.


Hosea 6:1

Man's highest social action.

"Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up." These words are to be regarded as an address by the prophet, in the Name of the Lord, to those who had been smitten or sent into exile. They mean: let us go no more to the Assyrians nor to any other incapable deliverer, but "let us return unto the Lord;" put away all confidence in an arm of flesh, renounce all idolatries. Take the words as indicating man's highest social action. Man, as a member of society, has much to do with his fellow-men; he should contribute to the advancement of general knowledge, to the progress of political purity and freedom, and to the augmentation of the general health and comfort of the kingdom. But there is a higher work than this for him in society; it is that of stimulating the community to which he belongs to "return unto the Lord," to bring them into fellowship with the infinite Father. "Come, and let us return unto the Lord." Taking the words in this application, what do they imply?

I. THAT SOCIETY IS AWAY FROM GOD. Not locally, of course—for the great Spirit is with all and in all—but morally. Society is away from him in its thoughts: it practically ignores his existence and his claims. Away from him in its sympathies: its heart is on those things that are repugnant to his holy nature. Away from him in its pursuits: its pursuits are those of selfish and carnal gratifications and aggrandizements. Far gone, in truth, is society from its true Center—God. It is like the prodigal, in a "far country."

II. THAT ESTRANGEMENT FROM GOD IS THE SOURCE OF ALL ITS TRIALS. Because the prodigal left his father's home he got reduced to the utmost infamy and wretchedness. Moral separation from God is ruin. Cut the branch from the root and it withers; the river from its source, and its dries up; the planet from the sun, and it rushes into ruin. Society has left God—its Root, Source, Center—hence the terrible evil with which he by his government "hath torn" it. Nothing will remove the evils under which society is groaning but a return unto God. Legislation, commerce, science, literature, art, none of these will help it much so long as it continues away from him.

III. THAT RETURN TO HIM IS A POSSIBLE WORK. Were it not so there would be no meaning in the language, "Come, and let us return unto the Lord." With some estranged spirits in the universe a return may be impossible forever; not so with human spirits on this earth. There is a way, a true and living way, by which all may return—return by repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. "God is in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself."

CONCLUSION. Who are the greatest social benefactors? Those who are the most successful in exciting and stimulating their fellow-men to come back to God, to return home to the great Father of love who awaits their return. He says, "Come now, and let us reason together," etc. To bring society hack to God is pre-eminently the work of the gospel minister; to this he consecrates his power, his time, his all.—D.T.

Hosea 6:3

Man God-ward, and God man-ward.

"Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth." "Let us therefore know—hunt after the knowledge of Jehovah; his rising is fixed like the morning dawn, that he may come to us like rain, and moisten the earth like the latter rain" (Keil and Delitzsch). There are two pursuits in this passage—man pursuing God, "following on to know him," and God as a consequence pursuing men. "He shall come unto us as the rain." Observe—

I. MAN IN A GOD-WARD DIRECTION. "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord." The particle if is not in the original, although it is certain that a knowledge of Jehovah depends on searching after it. Two things are here implied.

1. That a knowledge of God is the essence of spiritual goodness. This is clear from reason, and is everywhere taught in the Bible. By a knowledge of him, however, we do not mean a scientific acquaintance with his attributes, relations, and works; but a sympathetic experience—an experience of those sentiments of justice, truthfulness, love, and mercy, which are the inspiration, the moral life of God himself. Philosophically, we can only know a man as we sympathize with the leading principles of the man's heart; and it is only thus we can know God.

2. That a knowledge of God can only be attained by earnest searching. We shall know if we "follow on," if we "hunt after." Intellectually, whatever may be the amount of earnest searching, we shall never know him. "Who by searching can find out God?" But with the heart we may know him whom to know is "life eternal" Every day by study we may get new ideas of him, every day we may translate those ideas into emotions, and every day we may cherish those emotions into dominant forces of the soul. All this requires the most resolute and persistent effort.

II. GOD IN A MAN-WARD DIRECTION. The man who goes forth in search of a heart-acquaintance with Jehovah will meet with him in the way. "His [that is, Jehovah's] going forth is prepared as the morning." God comes forth to all men, but he comes forth in a special way to all those who are pressing after an acquaintance with himself.

1. He comes to them full of promise. "As the morning." What a delightful season is the morning: it rings the knell of the


Hosea 6:4

A threefold theme.

"O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away."

"What shall I do to thee, O Ephraim!
What shall I do to thee, O Judah!
For your goodness is like the morning cloud,
And like the dew which early departeth"


Here we have a threefold theme of thought.

I. DIVINE SOLICITUDE. Here the Infinite condescends to speak after the manner of men, that men may appreciate him. The language seems to imply:

1. I have done much for thee. It has the sound of another utterance, "What more could I have done to my vineyard that has not been done in it?" (Isaiah 5:4). God has done much for Ephraim and Judah. He had given them emancipators, lawgivers, priests, prophets; granted to them for ages many signal and merciful manifestations of himself.

2. I am ready to do more. My heart overflows with compassion. Your rebellions and your iniquities have not exhausted my love. I am still ready to show you mercy.

3. I am fettered in my actions. I know not what to do; I am nonplussed. The Infinite has limits of action; Almightiness has restrictions. All things are not possible with God. It is not possible for him to tell a lie, it is not possible for him to be immoral, it is not possible for him to make moral intelligences virtuous and happy contrary to their will. Christ said to the men of Jerusalem, "I would, but ye would not." "What shall I do?" What wonderful language this for the Infinite to employ! His incapacity at this point is his glory. It is his glory that he will not outrage moral minds.

II. HUMAN PERVERSITY. The right answer to this appeal, "What shall I do unto thee?" would have been, "Whatever thou willest, Lord;" "Not our will, but thine, be done." We cordially submit to thine authority, we loyally acquiesce in thy arrangements, we lovingly yield to thy operations. This is the language of heaven, hence God knows no restrictions in his operations there; all go with him, and he pours forth his love freely and without restraint. On earth it is not so. Men set their wills in hostility to his. Their language is, "We will not have thee to reign over us." They are rebels, and will not lay down their arms of hostility and become loyal subjects, hence they must be crushed; they are diseased, and will not accept the means he has prescribed for their restoration; they are captives, and will not leave their ceils though he has thrown their doers wide open; they are paupers dying of starvation, but will not take from him the Bread of life which he offers to them without money and without price. Hence he says, "What shall I do unto thee?" I can reverse the laws of nature, I can break up old universes and create new ones; but I cannot make beings whom! have endowed with the power of freedom virtuous and happy contrary to their own will. "Why will ye die?"

III. EVANESCENT GOODNESS. "Your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away." Whether the goodness here refers exclusively to human kindness or includes some amount of pious sentiment, it matters not; it was so evanescent that it was of no worth. It was like the cloud, empty, fickle, disappointing. When it appeared first, men thought it had in it the refreshing element, and they expected a shower to come down on the parched earth; but a gust of wind came and swept it out of sight. Like the "early dew," it sparkles as diamonds on the greensward for a short hour, but is soon exhaled by the summer beams. Evanescent goodness is worthless. Most men have some amount of goodness in them, which continues for a time and then passes away. Goodness is of no worth to any being until it becomes supreme and permanent.

CONCLUSION. Thank God for endowing thee with freedom; it is a fearful power. It gives to men a widely different destiny even here.

"From the same cradle's side,
From the same mother's knee,
One to long darkness and the frozen tide,
One to the peaceful seal"

But a destiny in eternity infinitely more dissimilar. It leads some to God's heights of blessedness, others to the deepest depths of perdition.—D.T.

Hosea 6:6

Righteousness and ritualism.

"For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." We shall take "mercy" and "knowledge of God" here as including spiritual excellence, and "sacrifice" and "burnt offerings" as representing religious ritualism; and the idea is that Jehovah desires from man one rather than the other. The same idea is given in the following passages: "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to cloy is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Samuel 15:22; Matthew 12:7); "What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8); "Go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Matthew 9:13); "To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice" (Proverbs 21:3); "To love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mar 12:1-44 :83), Why is moral righteousness preferable to religious ritualism?

I. BECAUSE RITUALISM AT ITS BEST, APART FROM RIGHTEOUSNESS, IS WORTHLESS. We are not of those who thunder unqualified denunciations at all rites and ceremonies in connection with religion. Principles to show themselves must always have forms, and we would have the forms ever the most graceful and appropriate. Science is the ritual of the philosophic, art is the ritual of the aesthetic, tuneful verse is the ritual of poetry. Nature is the ritual of God; through its countless forms of life and beauty his invisible things reveal themselves. But ritualism, in connection with the religion of man, must be the effect, the expression, and the medium of inner righteousness. Without "mercy" and the "knowledge of God" in the soul all ritual observances are as worthless and as revolting as the motions of a galvanized corpse. "Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear" (Isaiah 1:13-15).

II. BECAUSE RIGHTEOUSNESS, APART FROM THE BEST RITUALISM, IS ABSOLUTELY VALUABLE. Spiritual excellence, whether it shows itself or not, is essentially good; it is God-like, Like electricity in the material system, it is the subtle element which binds the moral universe into unity and tunes it into music. Ritualism, at its best, has only a circumstantial, local, and temporary worth; but the value of spiritual excellence is absolute, universal, and eternal.

CONCLUSION. Beware of mere formality in religious worship.

"A man may cry 'Church! Church!' at every word,

With no more piety than other people.

A day's not reckoned a religious bird

Because it keeps a-cawing from a steeple.

The temple is a good, a holy place,

But quacking only gives it an ill savor:

While saintly mountebanks the porch disgrace,

And bring religion itself into disfavor."
(Thomas Hood)


Hosea 6:8

Divine institutions corrupted.

"Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood." It is supposed that Gilead here means Ramoth-gilead, the metropolis of the mountainous region beyond Jordan and south of the fiver Jabbok, known by the name of Gilead (Joshua 21:28; 1 Kings 6:18). It was here that Jacob and Laban entered into a sacred covenant with each other. It was once a very sacred place; it was one of the celebrated cities of refuge (Deu 20:1-20 :23; Jos 23:1-16 :28). The place, which was once a city of refuge, an institution of the God of heaven, had now been desecrated by wicked men, and become the scene of iniquity" and "blood." Observe two things—

I. That Divine institutions, specially designed for man's good, ARE OFTEN CORRUPTED BY HIM. Gilead, as a city of refuge, was of Divine ordinance, designed for special good. It was set apart for protecting men from the injustice of being put to death as murderers where the motive to murder did not exist, and thus preventing the shedding of innocent blood. But this very place for justice had now become the scene to "work iniquity," the place of mercy the scene that was now "polluted with blood." Thus men may—nay, they have done and still do—corrupt God's special ordinances for good. We say special ordinances, for all God's ordinances are for good. Whilst all places on earth are for the good of man, Gilead had a specific appointment.

1. The Bible is a special ordinance of God for good. Men have corrupted that, they do so sometimes by denying its truth altogether, but oftener by perverting its doctrines.

2. The gospel ministry is a special ordinance of God for good. From the beginning almost God set apart men for the special work of indoctrinating their fellow-men with the principles of everlasting rectitude and the doctrines of redemptive mercy—prophets, apostles, evangelists, pastors, etc. But men have sadly corrupted this Divine institution; few things on earth have been more corrupted by man than the ministry.

II. That Divine institutions specially designed for man's good, when corrupted, BECOME THE WORST OF ALL EVILS. Holy Gilead, once the scene of Divine mercy, was now filled with "iniquity" and "blood."

1. A corrupted Bible is the worst of all books. It does more mischief than any infidel productions. Political tyrannies, slaveries, wars, persecutions, have all been sanctioned and encouraged by a corrupted Bible. Alas l the millions of Christendom hate the Bible—not the Bible that God gave, but man's corrupted version of that Bible.

2. A corrupted pulpit is the worst of all ministries. Popes, archbishops, bishops, and the clergy in every grade in all Churches, have been found amongst the most intolerant despots and the most bloody persecutors of all times. They consecrate the banners of the warriors, they advocate the cause of slavery, they have ever been the prime obstructors to the promotion of liberty and the advancement of the universal rights of man. An old expositor has said, "The clergy, when wicked, are the worst of all men; none so cruel and bloody." It is time for the people to be taught that a pulpit is not necessarily a Christian or a useful thing. It may be—alas! it sometimes is—the corruptest and the most pernicious thing in the neighborhood in which it has a place. A man is not a saint because he calls himself a Christian; a building is not the "house of God" because it is called a church, a chapel, or a tabernacle; a forum is not sacred to the utterance of gospel truth because it is called a pulpit. Things called "sermons" may sometimes have more wickedness in them than infidel tracts; places called the "houses of God" may sometimes serve more effectually the cause of the devil than the theatres of pleasure-seekers or lecture-halls of skeptics. Mere names must not rule our judgment. It is the policy of the devil in these days to baptize his instruments with Christian titles. He is never more powerful than when he occupies the sacred desk, writes religious books, and quotes the Word of God. There are wolves in sheep's clothing, and false prophets now as ever.—D.T.

Hosea 6:11

Naturalness of retribution.

"Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee." Dr. Henderson ends the chapter with this clause and begins the next chapter with the latter clause of this verse. Some regard the harvest here as used in a good sense, as pointing to the ingathering of the people of God. But such a view is scarcely admissible. It evidently refers to punishment, and some suppose to that terrible punishment that fell on Judah as recorded in 2 Chronicles 26:6-9. Divine punishment for sin is elsewhere spoken of as a harvest: "Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great." "Another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe." The imagery suggests—

I. That retribution is natural in its season. There are the "appointed weeks, of harvest." These weeks come round with an undeviating regularity, and they come because the immutable One has decreed their advent. "Seed-time and harvest shall not fail." Punishment comes to the sinner naturally, so far as the proper time is concerned. In this life the sinner has many harvests. Every transgression is a seed, and the seed sometimes grows rapidly and ripens fast. In truth, to some extent man reaps today morally what he sowed yesterday; not the whole crop, it is true, for every sin is awfully prolific, but some portion. The law of memory, habit, causation, render this constant reaping inevitable. No man can do a wrong thing anywhere or anywhen, without its bringing to him sooner or later a harvest, even in this life. But in the after-world there is a full and complete harvest. All the sins committed are there ripened into crops of corresponding miseries. Yonder is the harvest; there is the reaping—reaping—reaping, and little else than reaping forever. The wicked there reap "the fruit of their own doings."

II. That retribution is natural in its RESULTS. In harvest, the man reaps the kind of seed he has sown, whatever it may be, barley or wheat. Also as a rule the amount. if he has sown sparingly, he reaps sparingly; if with abundance, he will reap abundantly. He gets what he wrought for. It is just so in the retributive ministry of God. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." The cheat shall be cheated, the oppressor shall be oppressed, the malicious shall be hated. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." The sinner in every pang of suffering will recognize the fruit of some sinful act of his. He will feel evermore that his misery has grown out of such a sin, and this out of that, and so on. Hence he will never be able to blame either God or his creation for his wretched destiny; he reaps "the fruit of his own doings."

III. That retribution is natural in its APPROACH. As soon as the seed is sown and germination begins, it proceeds slowly and silently from day to day, week to week, and month to month, towards maturition, its harvest state. It is just so with sin; it proceeds naturally to work out its results. "Lust, when it is conceived, bringeth forth sin; sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Punishment for sin does not require the positive and direct interposition of eternal justice; it comes—comes as the harvest comes—comes by the established laws of the moral universe. In truth, sin is more certain to ripen than the seed of the husbandman. Ungenial soil, foul weather, nipping frosts, scorching rays, destructive insects, may destroy the seed in the ground, so that it may never spring even to blade. But sin, unless uprooted by God's redemptive hand, cannot be destroyed, must grow, and ripen into a harvest of misery. "Be sure your sins will find you out."

Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience he stands waiting, with exactness grinds he all."



Hosea 6:1-3

Returning to God.

Affliction is represented as having at length accomplished its work. In the far country the prodigal bethinks himself of his father's house. He comes to himself. He says, "I will arise," etc. (Luke 15:18). Thus shall Israel at last take with them words, and turn to the Lord (Hosea 14:2). The words stand as a form for Israel to take up whenever their hearts shall turn to the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:16).

I. RETURN TO GOD RESOLVED UPON. (Hosea 6:1) The people incite one another to return to God, as formerly they had encouraged one another in wickedness. They strengthen each other's good resolves. This is as it should be. Their language is that of true wisdom. It shows:

1. That they rightly understand the Source of their affliction. "Let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn," etc. They see God's hand in what has befallen them. They recognize him as their Chastener. They own the justice of what he has done. They acknowledge their sufferings to be a just punishment for their sins. The penitent justifies God and condemns himself (Psalms 51:4).

2. That they recognize God's beneficent hand in their affliction. "He hath torn, and he will heal us," etc. They no longer upbraid God because he has dealt thus hardly with them. They feel that they deserved it all and more. They perceive, too, what his end has been in the tribulation through which he has caused them to pass, viz. to subdue their rebelliousness, and bring them to repentance, that he might heal them. God's rod has always kindness hidden behind it. The true penitent owns this.

3. That they have confidence in God's power and willingness to restore them. They argue from his power to smite what his power must be to heal. His power to destroy is the measure of his power to save. Nor do they doubt—perceiving as they do his hand in afflicting them—that if they return they will be graciously received (Hosea 14:2, Hosea 14:4). The sinner may always have this confidence towards God. He has no pleasure in afflicting, He desires only to lead to repentance. When the sinner returns, he may rely on a warm welcome. The wounds made by his Law or his judgments God will heal; his smiting will prove to have been in love.

II. ISRAEL'S HOPE IS RETURN TO GOD. (Hosea 6:2) Returning to God, the people are confident that God will "revive' them, will "raise them up." The terms include both national restoration and spiritual quickening.

1. Revival implies a previous state of death. So Israel, in her banishment, was as it were dead to God. The nation is still sunk in the moral death of unbelief. Its recovery will be as "life from the dead" (Romans 11:15). The soul, in its natural condition, is "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1).

2. Revival is an act of Divine power. An act even of omnipotence (Ephesians 1:19). Only Omnipotence can "open the graves" of scattered and rejected Israel (Ezekiel 37:11-14). Omnipotence is required for all resurrection (Matthew 22:29)—the resurrection of Christ (Ephesians 1:20), the resurrection of the dead soul (John 5:25), the resurrection of the body (John 5:28, John 5:29; 1 Corinthians 15:35-58). Only almighty power can revive the Church when life is gone, or is going, out of it.

3. Revival follows speedily on penitent return. "After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up." The words indicate a short period. Israel would not be kept waiting at the door of mercy. God hastens to meet the returning sinner with his mercies. David was forgiven the instant he confessed (Psalms 32:5). The prodigal was without delay reinstated in his place as son (Luke 15:22-24).

4. Revival is through Christ. His resurrection is the pattern and ground of every other (Ephesians 1:19, Ephesians 1:20). Israel's history in a manner recapitulated itself in him. His rejection and death was for her sins, and the sins of the whole world. In his cross the judgment of God on sin culminated. His resurrection, in like manner, conditions all revival. It is therefore to say the least, significant that words should be used here so exactly descriptive of the period during which Christ remained under the power of death. There is probably a glance Christ-wards in the passage.

5. The end of revival is that we may live unto God. "And we shall live in his sight." See this thought developed in Romans 6:10,Romans 6:11; 2 Corinthians 5:15. The new life, having God as its Source, has God also as its End.

III. THE ASPECTS OF GOD'S GRACE TO ISRAEL. (2 Corinthians 5:3) What God wills to be to his people, he cannot discover to them all at once. There is greater fullness in him than they can at once apprehend. His coming is like the dawn—progressive, brightening by degrees till it culminates at noon; and like the rain, falling in repeated and seasonable showers. Would Israel, therefore, know all that God is, she must "follow on"—must persevere in her new way. God would open himself up to her in new manifestations of grace, suited to each step in her advance. "Dawn" and "rain" are influences.

(1) Heavenly;

(2) gentle;

(3) beneficent; yet

(4) distinct in their effects.

1. The dawn is primarily enlightening; the rain fructifying.

2. The dawn gladdens; the rain refreshes.

3. The peculiar effects of the dawn are those of contrast; the rain gives heightened beauty to effects already existing.—J.O.

Hosea 6:4

The day-dawn and the rain.

The Jewish doctors found in these words a prophecy of Christ. We Christians cannot do less. It is Christ whom our faith must grasp under these two figures—the day-dawn and the rain. There is a twofold coming of the Son of God—the first in his own Person to establish and confirm the gospel; the second in his Holy Spirit to apply it to the heart. The one of these may be very fitly compared to the morning, the other to the rain.


1. They have the same manifest origin. They come from heaven. They are not of man's making and ordering, but of God's. It is not less so with the gospel and Spirit of Christ. Man neither invented nor discovered them. They carry their evidence with them, like Heaven's sun and Heaven's rain.

2. They have the same mode of operation on the part of God. The mode of operation is soft and silent. What so gentle as the day-dawn? What more soft than the spring's falling rain? And like to these in their operations are the gospel and the Spirit of Christ. When the Savior came into the world it was silently and alone. His kingdom came not with observation. The Spirit's great work is not in the earthquake, or the mighty rushing wind, but in the still small voice.

3. They have the same mode of approach to us—in perfect fullness and freeness. They are, like God's great gifts, without money and without price, and they come with an overflowing plenty. In this they are fit and blessed emblems of the way in which Christ approaches us, both with his gospel and his Spirit.

4. They have the same object and end. It is the transformation of death into life, and the raising of that which lives into higher and fairer form. The gospel and Spirit of Christ have the same aim—life and revival. Christ is no less earnest for our eternal life in the one than in the other.


1. Christ's approach to men has a general and yet a special aspect. The sun comes every morning with a broad, unbroken look, shining for all and singling out none. But the rain, as it descends, breaks into drops, and hangs with its globules on every blade. Them is a wonderful individualizing power in the rain. There is a similar twofold aspect in the coming of Christ. The gospel enters the world with the broad universal look of daylight, it singles out none, that it may exclude none. But Christ comes after another manner in the Spirit. Here no man can tell how God is dealing with another. He approaches the door of the single heart and speaks to itself.

2. Christ's coming is constant, yet variable. He visits men in his gospel, steady and unchanging as the sun. But with the Holy Spirit it is otherwise. For the rain man knows no fixed rule. It may come soon or late, in scanty showers or plentiful floods. The gift of God's Spirit is no doubt regulated also by laws, but these laws are hidden from us in their final ground. The emblems show us in God's working the two great features of law and freedom.

3. Christ's coming may be with gladness, and yet also with trouble. What more joyful than the returning sun? But God comes also in the cloud, and there is a shade over the face of nature—sometimes in the thunder-cloud, dark and threatening. There is gladness in the gospel, there is trouble in the conviction by the Spirit. But Christ comes in both.

4. Christ's coming in his gospel and his coming in the Spirit tend to a final and perfect union. They are indispensable to each other. The gospel without the Spirit would be the sun shining on a rainless waste. The Spirit without the gospel would be the rain falling in a starless night. Christians need both. Some have a very distinct perception of the gospel in its freeness and fullness, but they lack the life of the Spirit They need the rain Some experience the workings of the Spirit in conviction, etc; but they have only a small portion of the sunlight and the joy. Our souls can only live and grow when the sun and the showers intermingle. (Adapted from Dr. John Ker)—J.O.

Hosea 6:4-6

Evanishing goodness.

So froward, heedless, fickle, and incorrigible had Ephraim proved, that God did not know what more he could do with him. The same was true of Judah. The tender mode of speech, "O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee?" shows how loath God is to pass from mercy to judgment. His heart yearns for the conversion of the objects of his solicitude.

I. PIETY VALUELESS, IF EVANESCENT. (Hosea 6:4) Ephraim arid Judah had fits of piety—of goodness; but they did not last. They are compared here to the "morning cloud"—the vapor which the heat of the sun sucks up as the day advances; and to the "early dew," thick and fresh at dawn, but soon carried off by evaporation. Such an instance of momentary goodness we have in Ephraim in the reign of Pekah, when, rebuked by Oded the prophet, "certain of the heads of the children of Ephraim" compelled the return of the captives from Judah (2 Chronicles 28:12, 2 Chronicles 28:15); and there would probably be instances of the same kind under the preaching of Hosea himself. Note:

1. The defect of this kind of piety. It lacked root. It had no depth of earth. It promised well, but brought forth no practical fruit of righteousness. The nature was superficially moved, but there was neither genuine conviction of sin nor true turning of the heart to God.

2. The manifestation of this defect. The impressions did not endure. They hardly "dured" even "for a while," but as soon as "the sun" was "risen with a burning heat" (James 1:2), they" were scorched" and "withered away" (Matthew 13:1-58). The test of real piety is its endunngness. No piety is worth having which will not endure the heat of the daytime—the test applied to it by the everyday work, trials, engrossmerits, and temptations of life. Yet many have known no other piety than that which consists in passing convictions, in weak desires, in good resolutions that come to nothing, in vague and easily frustrated efforts after amendment.

II. JUDGMENT INEVITABLE, IF REPENTANCE IS NOT SINCERE. (Verse 5) "Therefore." God says; that is,

(1) because of the failure of milder measures to bring Ephraim to repentance;

(2) because of this evanishing goodness, which showed the necessity for something that would reach the depths of the nature;

(3) because of the sin that waited for punishment, and now must be punished, seeing that the people so utterly refused to turn from it;—"therefore" he is compelled by his prophets to denounce judgments against them. The words of the prophets are said to do that which the judgments themselves will accomplish—"hew," "slay"—to indicate the certainty of the result. The thing is as good as done when God says it. Certainty of fulfillment is a characteristic of God's Word. His judgments would be "as the light that goeth forth,"

1. Majestic.

2. Obeying a law (sunrise).

3. Sudden: the lightning (Matthew 24:27).

4. Revealing: God's judgments reveal the sin against which they are directed (Hosea 7:1).

If the reading in the Authorized Version, "thy judgments," be retained, it is still God's judgments that are referred to. They belonged to Ephraim as failing upon him.

III. SACRIFICE USELESS, IF WITHOUT LOVE. (Verse 6) "Mercy," or love to man, is the obverse of "knowledge of God," and the proof of its existence. The Law is summed up in love. It is love God looks for as the reality of religion.

1. Love to man shows itself indeed deeds. It is not a thing of "word" or of "tongue," but of" deed" and of "truth ' (1 John 3:18). It proves its reality by the acts in which it embodies itself (1 John 3:17). This love is the substance of piety. It is the true ritual. "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless," etc. (James 1:27). It is this class of deeds Christ looks to (Matthew 10:42; Matthew 25:35, Matthew 25:36). No one ever laid such great stress on kind deeds, or so entirely embodied the law of love m his own life, as Christ did.

2. The absence of love shows itself in wicked deeds—in injustice, robbery, violence, etc. These are the crimes here charged against Ephraim (verses 8-10).

3. Without love no outward settee is of any use. No sacrifices, alms-giving, prayers, new moons, or fasts (Isaiah 1:13-15; Isaiah 58:3-8; Matthew 9:13). In vain do we keep sabbaths, practice austerities, uphold orthodoxy, wait on religious ordinances, and engage in outward works of piety, if this, the one thing needful, is wanting (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).—J.O.


Hosea 6:7-11

The broken covenant.

Israel had broken covenant with God. In the rupture of this bond was ruptured also the bond which bound society together. Fearful wickedness was the result.


1. The primal sin. "They, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant." Our first parents were placed under arrangements involving in them the essentials of a covenant. Through breach of this covenant came "death into our world, and all our woe."

2. Israel's sin. God made a covenant with Israel at Sinai. It was a covenant of Law, yet it had mercy in the heart of it. It required obedience, but it embraced provision for the removal of guilt. It asked from Israel only the pure will and the steadfast heart. It conveyed to them the highest privileges, and conferred on them the greatest blessings. Yet they shamefully broke it. They trampled their compact underfoot. They traversed in every direction the Law which God had given them.

3. Our own sin. God has a covenant made with us in the very constitution of our nature. There is that within us which binds us to God and to the practice of goodness. We find ourselves within the bond of this covenant. Its obligations be upon us. Yet we have broken it. We have gone astray. Sin is the breach of this covenant. In committing sin, we know that we, violating law, are guilty of unfaithfulness to God, and are doing violence to our own nature.

II. THE BOND BROKEN WITH MAN. (Hosea 6:8, Hosea 6:9) The result of breach of covenant with God is seen in the open throwing off of all regard from ordinary moral obligations. The principle of love being dethroned—and love soon dies out in the soul that has cast out love to God—self-will, egoism, greed, evil principles of various kinds, usurp its place, and rule the conduct. These verses, accordingly, hold up a picture of utter lawlessness and disorder. Violence filled the cities; the very priests took part in highway robberies and murders. Society without God is like an arch from which the keystone is removed. It falls in ruins. It is like a system of planets without a central sun—unable to maintain its independence. It becomes a scene of confusion, a chaos.

III. INIQUITY MOST SHAMEFUL AMONG THOSE WHO HAVE KNOWN GOD. (Hosea 6:10) This was the aggravation of Israel's sin. They had known God, yet were now in this deplorable and desperate condition. Their knowledge of God made their sin "an horrible thing"—"an abomination." Specially hateful to God were the impurities of their worship. He would punish them with special severity on account of their special relation to him (cf. Amos 3:2). Judgment shall begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17).

IV. A SIDE-WORD TO JUDAH. (Hosea 6:11) In the judgments that were about to fall—having, however, for their object, not Israel's destruction, but her salvation; the turning of her captivity—Judah might be sure that she would not escape. God had set a harvest for her also. What applies to one sinner applies mutatis mutandis to another.—J.O.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hosea 6". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/hosea-6.html. 1897.
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