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Contain a warning against security arising from temporary prosperity.
Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people. The occasion on which the prophet penned this section was so no idolatrous merry-making in connection with harvest, and not any change of political situation.
(1) The literal rendering of the first clause is, rejoice not unto exultation, or exceedingly, as the same expression is translated in Job 3:22; it is thus climactic.
(2) The old versions take el-gil as imperative, and read אַל; μηδὲ εὐφραίνον, equivalent to "nor make merry;" and the Vulgate has noli exultare; but al is constructed with the future, not with the imperative. Again, some read be instead of ke, and so render, "among the peoples," the words being addressed, not to Israel in exile, but still resident in their own land.
For thou hast gone a-whoring from thy God, thou hast loved a reward upon every corn-floor.
(1) According to this, which is the common rendering. the clause with ki assigns a reason for their foregoing such joy. But
(2) Ewald and others translate by "that or for that thou hast committed whoredom," understanding this clause to express the object of their joy. We prefer the former, for their faithlessness and foul idolatry were sufficient reasons to prevent Israel indulging in the joy of harvest. The blessings of the harvest were regarded by them as rewards for the worship of their idol-gods, in other words, as gifts from Baalim and Ashtaroth or other idols, and thus as ethnan, a harlot's hire; not as tokens and pledges of the favor of Jehovah.
The floor and the wine-press shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her. Thus Israel was not to enjoy the blessings of the harvest; the corn and oil and new wine, or corn and wine, would not prove as abundant as they expected or plenty would be succeeded by scarcity; or, rather, the people would be prevented enjoying the abundant produce of their land in consequence of being carried away captive to Assyria, as seems implied in the following verse. The floor and press—whether wine-press, or rather oil-press, as the mention of new wine follows—are put for their contents by a common figure of speech. The expression, "fail in her," is literally, "lie to her," and has many parallels; as, "The labor of the olive shall fail [margin, 'lie']," and Horace's "fundus mendax," equivalent to "a farm that belies his hopes."
They shall not dwell in the Lord's land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria. The Lord's land was Canaan, which Jehovah chose to dwell there by visible symbol of the Shechinah-glory, and which he gave to Israel as his people. Israel expected to have it for a permanent place of abode, but that hope was frustrated by their sin. The remaining clauses of the verse may be understood either
(1) that Ephraim would return to Egypt to obtain auxiliaries, but to no purpose,—for they would be carried away captive and be compelled to eat unclean things in the land of Assyria; or
(2) the prophet threatens that some of them would go as exiles into Egypt, and others of them into Assyria This latter explanation is much to be preferred; while with regard to Egypt the threats, ring thus understood would re-echo an crier prophecy in Deuteronomy 28:68, "The Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you." In Assyria also they would be obliged to cat things ceremonially unclean, as it would be impossible to conform to the requirements of the Law, according to which the eating of certain animals was prohibited. There is yet
(3) another interpretation, which takes Assyria to be the place of exile, while Egypt figuratively represents the condition of that exile, namely, a state of hard bondage and sore oppression, such as Israel endured in Egypt in the days of yore.
Hosea 9:4, Hosea 9:5
They shall not offer wine offerings to the Lord, neither shall they be pleasing unto him: their sacrifices shall be unto them the broad of mourners; all that eat thereof shall be polluted. Having predicted their inability to observe the ritual distinctions between clean and unclean, which the Law prescribed, whether from the tyranny of their oppressors or from scarcity, or from the absence of sanctification by the presentation of the firstfruits, the prophet proceeds to predict their cessation altogether. Such is the prophet's picture of their miserable position in Assyria. It is aptly remarked by Grotius that "they failed to pour out libations to the Lord when they could; now the time shall come when they may wish to make such libations, but cannot." According to the Massoretic punctuation and the common rendering,
(1) which is that of the Authorized Version, the people themselves are the subject of the second verb. They were neither able to offer drink offerings, a part for the whole of the meat offerings and unbloody oblations; nor, if they did, could they hope for acceptance for them away from the sanctuary and its central altar.
(2) Hitzig supplies niskeyhens, their drink offerings, from the foregoing clause, as subject to the verb of the following one, and the verb is explained by some in the sense of "mire." If
(3) we neglect the segholta, and make zibh-chehem the subject, the meaning is clearer, and the contrast between the unbloody and bloody offerings more obvious; thus: "They will not pour out libations of wine to Jehovah, nor will their sacrifices [equivalent to 'bloody oblations'] please him," that is to say, not such as were actually offered, but such as they might feel dis. posed to offer. The same noun may be repeated in next clause; thus, their sacrifices, or rather slaughtered meats, are unto him as bread of mourners, or, what is better, their food (supplied from ke lechem) shall be unto them like bread of mourners. Mourners' bread is that eaten at a funeral feast, or meal by persons mourning for the dead, and which was legally unclean, since a corpse defiled the house in which it was and all who entered it for seven days, as we read in Numbers 19:14, "This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days." Of course, all who partook of the food would be polluted; so with that of Israel in exile, being unsanctified by the offering of firstfruits. For their bread for their soul shall not come into the house of the Lord. "Their bread for their soul," that is, for appeasing their appetite, whatsoever their soul lusted after, or bread for the preservation of their life, would not come into the house of the Lord to be sanctified by representative offerings. What will ye do in the solemn day, and in the day of the feast of the Lord? On such occasions they would feel the misery of their position most keenly. Away in a far foreign land, without temple and without ritual, they would bewail the loss of their annual celebrations, their national festivals and religious solemnities—those holiday-times of general joy and spiritual gladness. The distinction between moed and chag is variously given.
(1) By Grotius and Rosenmüller mood is referred to one of the three annual feasts—Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles; and chug to any of the other feasts, including the new moon.
(2) Others restrict chag to the Feast of Tabernacles, or harvest festival, the most joyous of them all. Keil makes the words synonymous, except that in chag festival joy is made prominent.
For, lo, they are gone because of destruction: Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them. Their future exile was seen in prophetic vision; and in consequence and because of its certainty he speaks of it as having already taken place. The destruction is the desolation and wasting of their native land, because of which, or away from which and leaving it behind, they are gone. The land of their banishment was the land of their bondage. There, far from the land of their birth, they were doomed to die and to be gathered together for a common burial. Memphis was the ancient capital of Lower Egypt; its situation was on the western bank of the Nile, and south of Old Cairo. There its ruins are still seen, with extensive burial-grounds, while amid those ruins is the village of Mitrahenni. Kimchi identifies Moph with Noph. The pleasant places for their silver, nettles shall possess them: thorns shall be in their tabernacles. The literal rendering of the first clause is,
(1) their cherished delight of silver. By this some understand
(a) silver idols;
(b) others, valuables in silver;
(c) the Jewish commentators, the houses of the precious treasures of their silver—so Rashi; "Their precious buildings where their silver treasures were"—so Kimchi;
(d) Jerome understands their mansions and all the ornaments of their mansions purchased by silver; Keil also has, "houses ornamented and filled with the precious metals." This explanation is pretty generally accepted, and appears to us to deserve the preference. Their former homes, so pleasant and so richly decorated, were so utterly desolate and deserted that thorns and thistles overspread them. But
(2) the sentence is differently translated and explained by Rosenmüller and some others; thus: "Moph (Memphis) will bury them out of desire for their silver." This violent divulsion destroys the parallelism of the second hemistich, besides ignoring the athnach. The LXX; again
(3) puzzled by the word maehmad, mistook it for a proper name: "Therefore, behold, they go forth from the trouble of Egypt, and Hemphis shall receive them, and Machmas (Μάχμας) shall bury them." Giving a decided preference to (1) (d), we have a thrilling picture of distress. First comes the destruction of their native city; having looked their last look on the ruins where once stood their home, they have set forth—a miserable band of pilgrims—to the land of the stranger, and that stranger their conqueror and oppressor; they have reached the place of exile, there to find, not a home, but a grave, and not a single grave for each, according to the Jews' mode of sepulture to the present day, but a common place of burial into which they are huddled together, Egypt gathering them and Memphis burying them; while in the land that gave them birth, their once happy homesteads, richly decorated and expensively adorned, are left utterly desolate—a heritage for thorns and thistles.
These verses describe the season and source of punishment. The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come. Commentators have appropriately compared the Vergilian "Venit summa dies, et irreluctabile tempus," equivalent to" The final day and inevitable hour is come." Israel shall know (it): the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad. Here the prophet and the man of the spirit (margin) are
(1) the false prophets which pretended to inspiration, and flattered the people with false hopes and vain promises of safety and prosperity; and thus helped to confirm them in their sinful courses. The object of Israel's knowledge, though not introduced by ki, is the folly of such false prophets, and the madness of such pretenders to prophetic inspiration. That ish ruach may be used of a false prophet as well as of a true one is proved from ish holekh ruach, a man walking in the spirit, applied by Micah 2:11 to one of these pretenders: "If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people." Israel is doomed to know by bitter experience the folly and madness of those prophets who deceived and duped the people by lies soon detected, and their own folly and madness in giving ear to the delusive prospects they held forth. This explanation agrees with Kimchi's comment: "Then shall they confess, and say to the prophets of lies, who had led them astray, and had said to them, Peace (in time of greatest peril)—then shall they say unto them, A fool the prophet, a madman the man of spirit." The predicate precedes the subject for emphasis, and the article prefixed to the subject exhausts the class of those false prophets.
(2) Aben Ezra, Ewald, and many others understand the prophet and spiritual man to mean true prophets, which the people called fools and madmen, and treated is such, contemning and persecuting them. Thus Aben Ezra: "The days of recompense are come to you from God, who will recompense you who said to the prophet of God, He is a fool, and to the man in whom the spirit of God was, He is mad." The word meshuggah is properly the participle Paul used as a substantive, and kindred in meaning to μάντις of the Greek, from μαίνομαι, to be frenzied.
In confirmation of
(1) setup. Ezekiel 13:10 and Jeremiah 28:15; and in favor of
(2) 2 Kings 9:11.
(3) The Septuagint has καὶ κακωθήσεται, equivalent to "And shall be afflicted," taking, according to Jerome, yod for vav, and daleth for resh; while Jerome himself translates scitote, as if reading דְעוּ. For the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred. The source of all was sin. The visitation threatened, which was retributive—a recompense—was for the greatness of their iniquity. The last clause is thus dependent on and closely connected with the first, עַל ruling the construction first as a preposition, then as a conjunction: "And because the enmity is great." Ewald says, "If the first member states a reason (e.g. by using the preposition על, on account of, because of, and the following infinitive), the meaning requires that, whenever a finite verb follows, the conjunction 'because' shall be employed in forming the continuation." The hatred was
(a) that of Israel against their fellow-men, and their God or his prophetic messengers; though others
(b) understand it of the hatred of God against transgressors who had provoked his just indignation. The first exposition (a) suits the context, and is supported by the following verse. The watchman of Ephraim was with my God. This rendering is manifestly inaccurate, as the first noun is in the absolute, not in the construct state; the right rendering, therefore, is either, "A watchman is Ephraim with my God;" or, "The watchman, O Ephraim, is with my God."
(1) If we adopt Aben Ezra's explanation of the prophet and spiritual man as true prophets whom the people jeeringly and scornfully called fools, fanatics, and madmen, the meaning of this clause of the next verse presents little difficulty. The prophet makes common cause with these divided prophets: his God was their God, and, however men treated them, they were under Divine protection. The sense of the im, with, in this case is well given by Pusey as follows: "The true prophet was at all times with God. He was with God, as holden by God, watching or looking out and on into the future by the help of God. He was with God, as walking with God in a constant sense of his presence, and in continual communion with him. He was with God, as associated by God with himself in teaching, warning, correcting, exhorting his people, as the apostle says, We then are workers together with him. In the next clause the false prophet is described by way of contrast as a snare.
(2) The word צוֹפֶה is properly a participle, and Ephraim is thus exhibited by the prophet as on the outlook,
(a) not for counsel and help beside or apart from God, as Gesenius understands it; but
(b) as on the outlook for revelations and prophecies along with my God; i.e. Ephraim, not satisfied with the genuine prophets, had prophets of his own, which spake to the people according to their wish. This exposition is in the main supported by Rashi and Kimchi: the former says, "They appoint for themselves prophets of their own;" and Kimchi more fully thus, "Ephraim has appointed for himself a watchman (or seer) at the side of his God; and he is the false prophet who speaks his prophecy in the name of his God." (But) the prophet is a snare of a fowler in (over) all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God. Whether we adopt (1) or (2) as the explanation of the first clause, we may understand the prophet of this clause as
(1) the false prophet who—by way of contrast if we accept (1), or by way of continuation if we prefer (2)—is like the snare of a bird-catcher over all the people's path, to entangle, entrap, and draw them into destruction
(a) He is, moreover, inspired with hostility—a man of rancorous spirit against God and his true prophets. "This prophet of lies," says Aben Ezra, "is a snare of the bird-catcher." Similarly Kimchi says in his exposition, "This prophet is for Ephraim on all his ways as the snare of the bird-catcher that catcheth the fowls; so they catch Ephraim in the words of their prophets."
(2) Some understand "prophet" in the middle clause of the verse as the true prophet, and the snare as the hostility and traps which the people prepared for the messengers of God; so Rashi: "For the true prophets they lay snares to catch them." According to this exposition we must render, "As for the prophet, the snare of the bird-catcher is over all his ways."
(b) In the last clause, "house of his God," may mean the temple of the true God, or the idol-temple; thus Aben Ezra: "Enmity is in the house of his god;" while Kimchi thinks either sense admissible: "We may understand ביה אי of the house of the calves, which were his god, and the false prophet acted there as prophet, and caused enmity between himself and God; or we may explain it of the house of the true God, that is, the house of the sanctuary." Thus the hostility may refer to the prophet himself, of which he is the subject as (a) or the object according to Kimchi just cited, or the detestable idol-worship, or perhaps the Divine displeasure against the false prophet and the people led astray by him. They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah. The historical event here alluded to was the abominable and infamous treatment of the Levite's concubine by the men of Gibeah. This was the foulest blot on Israel's history during all the rule of the judges. For the loathsome particulars, Judges 19:1-30. may be consulted. The construction is peculiar. The two verbs הי שׁי are coordinated appositionally; "The leading verb, which in meaning is the leading one, is subordinated more palpably by being placed alongside of the preceding verb without a joining and" (Ewald). The former verb is often constructed with an infinitive, and sometimes with a noun. Some trace the reference, as already stated, (1) to the enormity of the men of Gibeah in relation to the Levite's concubine; others to the election of Saul, who was of Gibeah, to be king. Rashi mentions both: "Some say it was Gibeah of Benjamin in the matter of the concubine; but others say it was Gibeah of Saul, when they demanded for themselves a king and rebelled against the words of the prophet." Therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins. The sin of Gibeah was fearfully avenged; its punishment re-suited in almost the total extinction of a tribe in Israel—that of Benjamin. And as Israel had paralleled that of the men of Gibeah, he gives them to understand first implicitly that like punishment would overtake them, then he explicitly denounces visitation for their iniquity and retribution for their sin. The clause thus closes, as it commenced, with the sad note of coming calamity.
I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the first-ripe in the fig tree at her first time. Grapes and first figs are among the choicest and most refreshing fruits; but to find such delicious fruits in a dry, barren wilderness is specially grateful and delightful. There are three possible constructions of bammidhbor:
(1) with "found,"
(2) with "grapes," and
(3) with both.
According to the first, which, on the whole, seems preferable, the meaning is, "I found Israel of old as a man finds grapes in a desert;" and the sense is God's good will towards and delight in Israel. Grapes found by a weary, exhausted traveler in a wilderness are a real boon, refreshing and strengthening him for continuing his journey and reaching his destination. Rashi gives the sense clearly and concisely thus: "As gropes which are precious and delicious in a desert, even so have I loved Israel." Aben Ezra, in his exposition, refers to Deuteronomy 32:10, "He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye;" and then adds, "As grapes in a wilderness where no one dwells; every one that finds them rejoices in them, and so in the first-ripe figs." The comment of Kimchi is fuller and more satisfactory: "As a man, when he finds grapes in the wilderness which is dry and fruitless, rejoices over them; and as he rejoices when he finds a first-fruit in the fig tree in its beginning; even so have I found Israel in the wilderness, and fed them and nourished them: they lacked nothing, equally as if they had been in an inhabited land; but they have not recognized my goodness." As the fig harvest is rather late in Palestine—about the middle of August—early figs have special worth, and are regarded as a delicacy. The comparison then is, according to Rashi, with the "early fig on the fig tree, which is ripe; like the fig on the fig tree in its beginning, i.e. in the beginning of the ripening of the figs;" then he subjoins, "Even so did your fathers appear in my eyes, that I loved them." But they went to Baal-peor, and separated themselves unto that shame. Israel did not continue long in a condition so pleasing to God, but fell away from him, forgot his benefits, and turned aside to the abominable idols of the surrounding Gentiles. As Aben Ezra somewhat pathetically expresses it, "Yet my joy was only small and of short duration, for they did homage to Baal-peor, and separated themselves from me." Long, therefore, before the sin of Gibeah they transgressed in Baal-poor; in the early period of their history they apostatized and proved unfaithful to Jehovah. To this hideous god, corresponding to Priapus of the Greeks, the maidens of Moab sacrificed their virginity. The Israelites were designed to be Nazarites, that is, separated to Jehovah and consecrated to his service, but they separated themselves unto that shame, either the idol or his worship. And their abominations were according as they loved. If men are slaves to appetite, they make a god of their belly; if to lust, Baal-peor is their god; and men become like what they worship, and abominable as the idols they serve, as the psalmist says, "They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them." They "became abominations like their lover" (ohabh, paramour; namely, Baal-peor), that is, as abominable and loathsome in the sight of God as the idols which they adulterously worshipped.
Having referred to the most flagrant instances of Israel's transgressions in the past—Gibeah in the time of the judges, Baal-peor at a still earlier period even in the days of Moses, and having merely indicated the parallel between their present sin and previous enormities, the prophet proceeds to denounce the punishments deserved and ready to descend upon them. As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird, from the birth, and from the womb, and from the conception. The greatest glory, perhaps, of Ephraim was their fruitfulness—"double fruitfulness" being the very meaning of the name and the multiplication of their numbers; now that glory of populousness was to vanish speedily and entirely, like birds winging their way swiftly and out of sight. After the figure comes the fact, and it is expressed in anti-climactic form—no child-bearing, no pregnancy, no conception. The course of barrenness takes the place of the blessing of fruitfulness. Though they bring up their children, yet will I believe them, that there shall not be a man left. Even if their sons should grow up to manhood and attain maturity, yet they would be cut off by the sword and swept away by death, so that their progeny would perish. This accords with the threatened punishment of unfaithfulness recorded in Deuteronomy 32:25, "The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of grey hairs." The negative sense of rain, equivalent to "so that not," is common before verbs, also before nouns the min being put for the fuller מֵהְיוֹת. Yea, woe also to them when I depart from them! This accounts for the coming calamity; it is the departure of Jehovah from Israel, and the withdrawal of his favor. The word שׂוּר
(1) stands for סוּר, sin and samech being interchanged; or
(2) it may be for שׁוּר, sin put for shin by a clerical error.
The meaning is a little different: "when I look away from them." Rashi mentions the fact that this word belongs to those words written with sin but read with samech. His comment on the verse is correct: "For what benefit have they when they bring up their children? Because, if they do bring them up, then I bereave them so that they do not become men;" similarly Kimchi: "If there be some among them who escape these mishaps and reach the birth, and they (the parents) bring them up yet shall they die in youth, and never reach the season when they shall be called men."
(3) The misreading of בְּשָׂרִי instead of בְּשׂוּרִי by the LXX. led to the strange misrendering, "Wherefore also there is a woe to them (though) my flesh is of them (διότι καὶ οὐαὶ αὐτοῖς ἐστι σάρξ μον ἐξ αὐτῶν,) of which Cyril connects the first member with the preceding words, and, detaching the remainder, interpreted, "Let my flesh be far for exemption from the punishment threatened. Ephraim, as I saw Tyrus, is planted in a pleasant place: but Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer. The first member of this verse has called forth great diversity of translation and interpretation. It were tedious, and not conducive to the right understanding of the verse, to enumerate the various expositions given of it.
A very few of the most important may be briefly noticed.
(1) The LXX; reading &לָצוּד בְנֵירֶם, rendered, "Ephraim, even as I saw, gave her children for a prey (εἰς θήραν)"
(2) Ewald, conjecturing צוּרָה, renders," Ephraim is, as I judge, according to the form, a planting in a meadow." Rejecting both these, we come
(3) to that of Gesenius: "Ephraim, like Tyre (as if it were Tyre), is planted in a beautiful meadow;" De Wette's is," Ephraim, when (or if) I look as far as Tyre, is planted on a pleasant meadow;" Keil has, "Ephraim, as I selected it for a Tyre planted in the valley; so shall Ephraim lead out its sons to the murderer." All these renderings are faulty in one respect or other; some of them miss the sense altogether, and others of them obscure it.
(4) The rendering that appears to us simplest, most in harmony with the Hebrew, and most suitable to the context, is that of Wunshe, but with a modification that of a secure dwelling-place instead of meadow: "Ephraim, as I look towards Tyre, is planted on a meadow [rather, 'sure resting-place'], and Ephraim must lead out its sons to the murderer." The meaning, then, is that Ephraim is a lovely land in whatever direction one looks towards it, like the famous Tyre; it was beautiful and blooming, populous as well as pleasant; or rather, strong in its natural fortifications, like the famous capital of Phoenicia; yet the wrath of Heaven hung over it—it would become waste and emptied of its male population, Ephraim being obliged to send forth the bravest of her sons to repel the hostile invader, and to perish in the tumult of the battle. By combining a part of Rashi's exposition with part of Kimchi's, we reach the correct sense. Rashi has, "Ephraim as I look towards Tyre, which in its prosperity is crowned above all cities, so I look upon Ephraim planted on a meadow;" so far the explanation is correct, not so what follow: "And Ephraim—how does he reward me? He is busied in bringing forth his sons to the murderer in order to sacrifice them to idols;" in place of this latter part we substitute the following of Kimchi: "The enemies shall come upon them, and they shall march out from their cities to meet them in battle, and the enemies shall slay them." The infinitive with le, לְהוצִיא, implies the necessity imposed on Ephraim to do so. Ephraim is to had out, or must lead out, his sons to the murderer. Rosenmüller, in his commentary, has the following remark on this idiom at the fifteenth verse of the forty-ninth psalm: "Tempus infinitivum positum esse fututri sire aoristi, vice, pro eo quod plenum esset עתיד לי = paratus est," etc. He adds that the Syriac prefixes arid, equivalent to paratus est to the infinitive with lomad, and so makes a paraphrase of the future; while the Hebrews omit arid. Driver says of this usage of the so-called "periphrastic future," "Hero the infinitive with ,ל expressing as usual a direction, tendency, or aim, forms the sole predicate: the subject, as a rule, stands first, so as to engage the mind, the purpose which is postulated for it follows; and thus the idea arises of an inevitable sequence or obligation , though net one of a formal or pronounced character, which is expressed in Hebrew by other means (i.e. by the addition of על, or of ,ל as עָלַי, equivalent to 'incumbent upon me'); Hosea 9:13, 'And Ephraim is for bringing forth his sons to the slayer;' or, as this is the entire scope and object in regard to which Ephraim is here considered—is to or must bring forth." Give them, O Lord: what writ thou give? give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. The prophet seems at a loss to know what he should ask for his countrymen. Though it was not total excision, but rather diminution of numbers, that was threatened in accordance with the statement, "If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this Law … ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude;" yet at every stage their offspring was to be cut off, or, if spared to arrive at manhood, it was only to fall by the hand of the murderer. No wonder, then, the prophet is perplexed in regard to the petition that would be most expedient for them. He hardly knew what was best to ask on their behalf.
(1) The thought at length flashed upon him that utter childishness was preferable to bringing up children to be slain with the sword or trained in idolatry; hence tie prayed for what he regarded as the less calamity—"a miscarrying womb and dry breasts." Or
(2) the prophet is agitated between compassion for his countrymen and indignation at their sin. Justly indignant at the heinousness of their iniquity, he is about to appeal to Heaven for vengeance on the transgressors, but in pity for the erring people he cheeks the half-uttered imprecation, or softens it into the milder request for their extinction by childlessness.
After the interruption by the excited question of the prophet in Hosea 9:14, the terrible storm of denunciation sweeps on to the end of the chapter. All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them; or, there I conceived hatred against them, the verb being used in an inchoative sense. Gilgal had been the scene of many mercies; there the rite of circumcision, the seal of the Abrahamic covenant, after its omission dining the sojourn in the wilderness, was renewed; there the Passover, also intermitted from its second observance at Sinai, was kept; there the twelve memorial stones had been set up; there the Captain of the host of the Lord had appeared to Joshua, reassuring him of Divine protection; there the tabernacle had stood before its removal to Shiloh; yet that very place—a place of such blessing and solemn covenanting-had become the scene of idolatry and iniquity. The wickedness of Israel had been concentrated there as in a focus; there Israel's rejection of the theocracy in its spiritual form had taken place; there that first-plague's pot of ruin had been contracted; there the calf-worship had been developed; there the form of civil government had been shaped according to their own erring fancy, and their mode of religious worship had been corrupted. Thus Gilgal had become the center of all their sin; but the scene of mercy became the source of wrath, for there God's fatherly love was turned by Israel's wickedness into hatred. For the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of my house, I will love them no more. They were driven out like Hagar out of the house of the patriarch, that Ishmael might not inherit with Isaac; like an unfaithful wife divorced and driven out of the house of the husband whom she has dishonored; or like an undutiful and disobedient son whom his father has disinherited. Further, God disowns the rebellious son, and acknowledges the paternal relationship no longer. The princes of Israel had become rebellions and stubborn: by an impressive Hebrew paronomasia, their sarim, rulers, had become sorerim, revolters. Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit. Ephraim is a pleasant plant, but a worm has smitten the root and it has withered; Ephraim is a goodly tree, hut the lightning of heaven has scorched and dried it up; there may be leafage for a time, but no fruitage ever. Yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay the beloved fruit of their womb. The desires—margin, dear delights, or, darlings—perish, and so the figure is now dropped, and the fact is seen in all its severe and stern reality, while the dread denunciation of verses 11 and 12 is repeated and emphasized. My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto him; and they shall be wanderers among the nations. The prophet submits his will to the Divine will, and acquiesces in the disposals of his providence, and in his own proper person predicts Israel's coming doom. He fills up the outline of the dark picture by stating the cause of their rejection. He specifies at the same time the character of rejection, namely, dispersion among the nations, like birds driven from their nest, for so the term nodedim denotes.
Sin is the cause of sorrow and the source of sadness
The merrymaking of wicked people is often both hollow and heartless; it is always without true ground or real cause; while the laughter of fools is like the crackling of thorns under a pot. The people of Israel were jubilant at the time referred to. The reason of their jubilation does not distinctly appear. It may have arisen from some losses having been retrieved, or some advantages gained, or some successes achieved, or some useful alliances secured, or the ordinary joy of harvest. Whatever it was, there was no good cause for it nor continuance of it. "Joy is forbidden fruit to wicked people." Among the losses which sin entails are, as we learn from the verses before us, the following:—
I. THE LOSS OF JOY.
1. Religion makes men joyful as well as cheerful. "Rejoice in the Lord always," is the exhortation of an apostle, and an exhortation which he repeats. The joy of the Lord is our strength. How different with the wicked! They deprive themselves of all real joy. They may be outwardly prosperous and rejoice in that prosperity; but the wrath of God abideth on them, and a worm is at the root of their joy.
2. The professing people of God sometimes envy the seeming prosperity of the wicked; seeing the outward success of sinners, they are tempted to imitate their works and ways. They forget that in doing so their sin is more heinous than that of other people; it is aggravated by their engagement to be the Lord's, by the vows of God which are upon them, and by the various means and motives which they enjoy for pursuing the right course. Their sin is thus greater than that of other people; they are therefore forbidden to rejoice with the ordinary joy of other people. It. was thus with Israel, when, forgetful or unmindful of their covenant relation, they went a-whoring from their God, and committed spiritual adultery by following idols.
3. Some men make a profession of religion for sake of worldly gain; they calculate the benefits, pecuniary, professional, political, or social, which they expect from religion; they estimate religion by the outward advantages which they think to derive from it; or, what is much the same, they profess that religion or attach themselves to that denomination from which they hope for the greatest gain. Thus Israel attributed to her spiritual harlotry any temporary prosperity she enjoyed; it was her idols she thanked for any season of plenty that she was favored with; she loved a reward on every corn-floor. Thus her religion was mercenary, her idolatry shameful, her prosperous state of short continuance, and her joy ill founded as evanescent.
II. THE LOSS OF THE MEANS OF SUBSISTENCE NOT INFREQUENTLY FOLLOWS FROM A COURSE OF SIN. A career of sin has often reduced a man to a morsel of bread, or left him without bread altogether. When men are bent on the obtainment of worldly blessings, and make them their chief end, they are often denied the blessings which they covet: frequently they are disappointed of them; more frequently are they disappointed in them; even when they secure them they fail to find the satisfaction which they seek. "The floor and the wine-press shall not feed them," says the prophet; "much less feast them," quaintly but truly observes an old commentator, adding, "It shall either be blasted by the hand of God or plundered by the hand of man; the new wine with which they used to make merry shall fail in her We forfeit the good things of the world if we love them as the best things."
III. THE LOSS OF HOUSE AND HOME HAS OFTEN RESULTED FROM SINFUL INDULGENCE. A time of famine necessarily becomes a time of extensive emigration. But, apart from seasons of scarcity, who. men are forced, in order to procure the means of a decent livelihood, to seek a home and a country in some distant land, it is no rare occurrence for men to find themselves expatriated through their own vices. When they beggar themselves by vicious indulgence, their last resort is a foreign land. In the case of Israel the hardship was peculiarly distressful. The land of promise was, in a special sense, "the Lord's land;" it was a good land, a gladsome land. How glowing as well as eloquent the eulogy bestowed upon it by the sacred writer when Israel was about to enter it! "The Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; a Land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack anything in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass." Besides these blessings of a temporal kind, possessed by that land into which the Lord had led Israel, it was the Lord's land because of the spiritual privileges enjoyed there. It was distinguished by his special favor and gracious presence; it was the home of his priests and prophets; it was the seat of his holy oracle, and in all respects a delightsome land. But Israel had forfeited their title to it. It had been leased to them by the Lord, but by their idolatries and many sins they had broken every clause in that lease; and now they must turn their back on tiffs land which the Lord had given them. They had loved idols, and now to the land of idols they must go. Into bondage in Egypt or into captivity in Assyria they are driven; the Lord's land "shall not only cease to feed them, but cease to lodge them, and to be a habitation for them; it shall spew them out, as it had done the Canaanites before them." Their performance of outward ceremonies had not sprung from a principle of love to the Divine Law; now they are no longer in a position, even if they are disposed, to obey that Law. They had abused the abundance of good things which God had given them; now for very want they must eat unclean things as repugnant to their feelings as opposed to their ritual. They had shown an infatuated fondness for idols in their own land, the Lord's land; now they must eat the unclean things offered to idols in a foreign land. Great had been their sinfulness, great in degree and similar in kind is their punishment.
IV. Loss OF SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGES IS ANOTHER AND A WORSE CONSEQUENCE OF THEIR SINS. One of the greatest privations is the loss of the public ordinances of religion. Though the enjoyment of them when possessed may be little valued, the withdrawal of them is severely felt. There is no famine more distressing than that of hearing the Word of the Lord. Unfaithfulness to the light men have has often caused the candlestick to be removed out of its place. So with Israel at the period to which the prophet refers. They were deprived of libation as well as oblation, and of every offering whatever. Without the material, they were also without the means of offering any acceptable sacrifice. In a heathen land they were necessarily without sanctuary and altar and priest. How sad their condition! And sadder still when they felt it to be the legitimate consequence of their sin, national, social, and individual!
V. LOSS OF RELIGIOUS SOLEMNITIES IS AN AGGRAVATION OF THEIR LOSS OF RELIGIOUS ORDINANCES. The solemn day, or day of the feast of the Lord, as often as it came round, was a high day as well as a holy day; a day of joy and gladness, of thanksgiving and praise. Besides the weekly sabbath solemnity and the monthly solemnity of the new moons, there were the three great annual festivals of the Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Of the benefit and blessing of these solemnities, with all their instruction, edification, comfort, and encouragement, they are now deprived. No wonder the prophet asks in a tone of pity, not unmingled with pathos, "What will ye do then?" To this inquiry a practical commentator makes the following not inappropriate reply: "You will then spend those days in sorrow and lamentation, which, if it had not been your fault, you might have been spending in joy and praise. You will then be made to know the worth of mercies by the want of them, and to prize spiritual bread by being made to feel a famine of it." To this he adds the pithy remark, "When we enjoy the means of grace, we ought to consider what we shall do if ever we should know the want of them; if either they should be taken from us, or we disabled to attend upon them."
VI. LOSS OF ALL THINGS ONCE HELD DEAR CONCLUDES THIS SAD SUMMARY OF THE EVIL EFFECTS OF SIN. Never was there a darker outlook, never was there a gloomier prospect! What havoc sin works! What distress it occasions! In a single verse are crowded together the destruction of their country by one heathen power, that of Assyria; their dispersion in the country of another, namely, Egypt; their death in that foreign land, and their deprivation of decent sepulture; the desolation of the dwellings they had left behind—a desolation so great that nettles had sprung up in their treasuries and thorns in their tabernacles; nor was respite, or relief, or restoration to be expected. They had deluded themselves with false hopes and had resorted to carnal devices, distrustful of God, as men often do, and with like result. Instead of returning to that God against whom they had rebelled, and who might have opened to them a door of hope, they departed more and more from him, placing their dependence on the sinful, unavailing shifts of their own devising.
There is no joy, any more than peace, to the sinner.
However men put away from them the evil day, they can neither stave it off altogether nor delay its coming.
I. THE CERTAINTY OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENTS OVERTAKING SINNERS. In the previous verse the prophetic past is used, to intimate that, though the event predicted had not yet taken place, yet was it as sure of accomplishment as if it had already occurred. Here the words "are come" are repeated to apprise sinners of its certainty; thus we read in the same tense, and with like repetition, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen." So also in Ezekiel 7:6, "An end is come, the end is come … behold, it is come;" while in the verse preceding, and in the one succeeding, the same expression is repeated to impress men with the fact of the threatened judgments being both sure and near, and thus prevent self-deception.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENTS.
1. They are days of Divine visitation. Men's sins shall be searched out and brought to light; they shall be scrutinized by the omniscient and heart-searching God.
2. They are days of recompense, when not only shall an exact account be taken, but a just recompense of reward dealt out to each according as his work shall be. The recompense shall correspond to the visitation; the stricter the former, the juster and more exact the latter.
3. They are days near at hand, so near as well as certain that they are spoken of as already come.
III. THE CONDUCT OF THE PROPHET. If, as some suppose, the prophet here mentioned is
(1) the false prophet, he deluded the people with false hopes, and God gave the people over to strong delusion that they might believe a lie They awake not out of their day-dream until roused by the visitation and recompense of the Almighty. God, by afflictive dispensations, has to stir men up when milder means have failed. But
(2) the prophet mentioned may be a true prophet, and it may only be in the estimation of the people that he is fool and madman. In this case, those that thus treated him with contempt and ridicule shall be awakened by the visitations of the Almighty to a sense of their sin and shame. Then
(3) shall they know, as stated in the first clause, not only the nearness and certainty of the Divine visitation and recompense, but shall also know that a prophet had been among them, that he had discernment of the times, and had faithfully conveyed to them the message of God. They
(4) shall know too, to their cost and by bitter experience, many things about God, about his ambassadors, and about their own heartless misconduct. They shall know, says an old divine, these things:
"1. What a great God they had to deal with.
2. How vile a thing sin is.
3. The vanity of all their shirtings.
4. The dreadfulness of Divine wrath.
5. The faithfulness of God's prophets.
6. The wisdom of those who dared not do as they did.
7. The folly and vanity of all the false prophets that did before seduce them."
IV. THE CAUSE OF ALL THEIR ERRORS WAS THE MULTITUDE OF THEIR SINS. Faults in their life, as is not unusual with wicked men, bred errors in the brain. Their iniquity had been great and aggravated, and, in addition to their multiplied iniquity, they were just objects of hatred and subjects of the same—at once "hateful and hating." Besides their vile heart and wicked life, they hated God, his ambassadors, his ways, and. all godliness. Could they fail to be children of wrath while their carnal mind was thus enmity to God? It was reasonable that God should abandon such persons to prophets of lies, to deceive and undo their souls; or, on the other hand, it was in keeping with the malignity of their hearts and the malice of their nature to calumniate the prophets of the Lord and vilify them as fools and madmen; while the fact of accounting them so, aggravated their sins, hastened the fast-coming visitation, and intensified the recompense of reward.
Hosea 9:10, Hosea 9:11
God's goodness met with ingratitude by a sinful people.
Instead of repenting of their sins, they persevered in their rebellion against God. As if God overlooked or connived at their enormities, they added their deep corruption in the matter of Gibeah, in the days of the judges, to the iniquity of Baal-peor at a still earlier period; while the sins of Gibeah and Baal-peor were equaled by those of the prophet's own day.
I. THE DELIGHT WHICH GOD TOOK IN THEIR FATHERS. Their sainted sires had been the favorites of Heaven; the fathers and founders of their race had sought God's "face and favor free;" and, walking in his ways, enjoyed his benediction.
1. God's pleasure in the piety of his people is truly astonishing, though that piety is entirely traceable to his own gracious dealings with them. When a weary wanderer in a wilderness comes upon grapes rich and ripe, or figs the first and finest of the season, how he is refreshed by fruits so rare and luscious! Such is the strong and suggestive figure by which God expresses his delight in his servants of old; nor does he take less delight in them in the present than in the ancient days. Men like Abraham the faithful, or Isaac the meditative, or Jacob the prayerful, or Joseph the pure, or Moses the meek, enjoy the sunshine of God's favor still.
2. Where much is given much is required. If God thus delights in his people, surely his people should delight in God. If God views with such complacency the fruit of his own Spirit's operations in the hearts of his people, and the effects of his own grace seen reflected in their lives, surely it is our bounden duty as well as high privilege to reciprocate in some measure the Divine goodness, delighting in the Divine ordinances, living in the Divine service, and promoting the Divine glory.
3. God is particularly delighted with the firstfruits, and not only so, but with the first of the firstfruits. Here is special encouragement to the young to devote themselves early to God, and early to delight themselves in him. They are invited to give their young hearts to God when the dew of their youth is heavy upon them—when their perception is keen, their conscience tender, their affections warm, and their memory retentive.
II. THEIR DEGENERACY. Their fathers had been to God as grapes in a desert land, and as the first ripe in the fig tree at her first time; but the degenerate descendants of such godly ancestry had become like fruit bitter and sour. They resembled fruitless fig trees, or the wild vine with its small harsh berries; and that, notwithstanding all Jehovah's care and culture, they had long ceased to walk in the ways or follow the steps of their godly forefathers. The holiness of those forefathers, refreshing as grapes of best quality and figs of the first growth to the heart of God, was no longer to be found; their fruit was sour, their ways corrupt. The God of their fathers had ceased to be their God. "Oh! it is a comfortable thing," says an old divine, "when a child is able to say, as Exodus 15:2, 'My God,' and "My father's God." "God was my father's God, and delighted in my father; and, blessed be his Name, he is my God, and I hope he has some delight in me."
III. THEIR DEPRAVITY. They for their part (the use of the pronoun adds emphasis) went to Baal-peor.
1. Here they are either contrasted with their godly forefathers, or the contrast is rather between God's care and goodness on the one hand, and their ingratitude and baseness on the other. The complaint of God resemble, that of a fond and indulgent husband who has lavished his love on a worthless wife, and who, to his unspeakable mortification, discovers that he has been cherishing an adulteress. Instead of reciprocating his affection, She plays the wanton; instead of a suitable return for his many acts of kindness, tenderness, and care, she dishonors him by turning aside to some base adulterer. So with Israel when they turned from the living God to dumb idols; so with any people who, instead of seating their affections on God, transfer them to any earthly, sensual, or sinful object.
2. We see in the conduct of Israel a notable example of the perverted use of the Divine mercies. God had segregated Israel from the nations around them, and separated them to himself to be a peculiar people. The Nazarite who by his vow was separated and specially consecrated to Jehovah, was symbolical of the whole nation in its separation and consecration to God. But, regardless of God's mercy and reckless of their own privileges, they separated themselves to the service of a shameful idol. When they went to Baal-peor, whether the idol itself or rather the place of the idol (the same as Beth-peer), they engaged with full consecration, rather desecration, of all their powers in the infamous worship of Baal, here called Bosheth, their shame.
3. Their abominations were according as they loved; that is,
(1) they became as abominable as that which they loved; or
(2) their abominable idols were multiplied according to their heart's desire; or
(3) their abominations were according as they loved. They were guided in the choice el them, not, of course, by the Word of God nor by the Law of God, but by their own inclination. In matters connected with religion and religious worship men should beware of being influenced by their personal likings, or private inclinations, or aesthetic tastes, but make sure of a warrant from the Word of God. Another evil is to be avoided in this matter, that of allowing our judgment to be overmastered by our affections, and thus of being unduly influenced in our religious views by those whom we love, whether husband, or wife, or kindred, or friends, or family. If the other sense be preferred, according to which people become as abominable as the objects which they love, it is an illustration of the well-known principle that men come to resemble those whom they love. A child imitates and so gets assimilated to the parent whom he loves; looking up to and admiring that parent, he comes in time to resemble him in habits of thought and modes of acting.
4. Here, in passing, we observe one of the many references and allusions of the prophet to the earlier books of Scripture. Through the evil counsel of Balsam a stumbling-block was placed in the way of the people of Israel, when they were enticed to impurity and so to idolatry by the daughters of Moab, and when, in consequence of their sin in the matter of Baal-peor, so many thousands perished in the plague.
IV. THEIR DESTRUCTION. Ephraim's glory consisted of many elements—prosperity, pomp, and power, but most especially their population and numerous progeny as contributing to that population. In this particularly did Ephraim glory; but the day of their glory comes to a speedy and disastrous end.
1. The departure of their glory is compared to the flight of a bird, and thus that departure is represented as sudden, like the flight of a bird when it is startled from its nest in the greenwood, or when some one throws open the door of the cage in the dwelling where it has been imprisoned; as swift, like the flight of the eagle toward heaven; as irretrievable, like the bird of powerful pinion, which distances pursuit and escapes beyond the possibility of being ever caught or found again.
2. Disaster awaits them at every stage—conception, gestation, and parturition. The curse of God pursues them from first to last, hindering the conception, or causing abortion, or preventing the birth.
APPLICATION. Learn hence:
1. The folly of glorying in any earthly prosperity or worldly advantage. "Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven."
2. The prosperity of the wicked lasts not long. Ephraim, comprehending the ten tribes, had enjoyed great prosperity, and had surpassed Judah in numbers. This was particularly the case in the reign of Jeroboam II; to which this Scripture may probably refer. They had enjoyed prosperity so long, they thought it would last always; yet it passed away as in a moment.
3. Let us seek the glory that is real and abiding. "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he under-standeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord."
4. What reason we have to bless God for his preserving care. "He preserved us in the very conception, preserved us in our mother's womb, and then in the birth; and then in the cradle, in our childhood, in our youth, in our middle age, and in our old age; for we lie at his mercy at every point of time."
"Thy providence my life sustained,
And all my wants redressed,
When in the silent womb I lay,
And hung upon the breast."
The wicked shall not go unpunished.
If they escape one calamity, they are sure to be overtaken and overwhelmed by another.
I. CALAMITY OF TWOFOLD KIND THREATENED. There is:
1. Bereavement, and that of a most painful nature. To be childless altogether, or to lose children in infancy, is sorrowful enough; but to be bereft of children when they have grown up to manhood or womanhood is an unspeakably greater sorrow. After labor, and trouble, and care, and thought have been expended in their upbringing; after all difficulties have been surmounted; and when sons have become like plants grown up in their youth, and daughters like corner-stones polished after the similitude of a palace; when the conduct of both is characterized by dutifulness, love, and obedience; and when parents naturally expect much help and comfort from them, and have their affections twined round them—at such a time, to be deprived of them either by a sudden stroke, or by slow disease, is a condition more than ordinarily sorrowful. It is only the grace of God in large measure that can sustain and support parents so afflicted; while the exercise of grace on their part has no doubt compensatory blessings. The bereavement of Israel was to be complete-without a man left. If left, they might be left without the intellect of a man, or the physical strength of a man; they might be imbeciles or invalids, and thus in a worse condition than if not left at all.
2. But a still worse woe impends, namely, that of Divine desertion. This is God's withdrawal from a people or a person. When he thus withdraws, he withdraws his goodness and mercy, common graces, gifts, and comforts. When this withdrawal takes place we are utterly helpless; as the king of Israel said to the poor woman who cried for help, "If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee?" or as the apparition of Samuel to Saul, "Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee?" We may pass through fiery trials, or be plunged in the deep waters of affliction; but if we enjoy the Divine presence we need not be afraid. As long as the Lord of hosts is with us, and the God of Jacob is our Refuge, we need not fear the raging of the great sea-billows, or the upheaval of the mountains, or even the shock of the earthquake. The sorest of all troubles is to be forsaken by God. Oh, how sad the lot of a man who, forsaken by God, is left in the power of his enemies! "I am sore distressed," said the unhappy monarch; "for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me."
II. A COMPARISON INSTITUTED. Ephraim is compared to Tyre in prosperity, in position, in population, and in military prowess; and yet God was preparing to take his departure from them.
1. His presence maintains health, strength, and various other comforts; or if, in his wise providence, he sees fit to withdraw any of these, he sanctifies that withdrawal. But when God himself withdraws, then his mercies prepare for flight too; nor is any blessing left behind. Not only so; even when men are at the height of prosperity, as they think, God may be on the point of departing from them, as from Israel in the days of Jeroboam II; if we are right in referring this comparison of the prophet to that period.
2. How we should prize God's presence and pray for its continuance, saying, "Leave us not," and avoid whatever would force or hasten his departure! But how may we be sure that he has not already forsaken us? The answer may be learned from the words of the psalmist: "I will keep thy statutes: oh, forsake me not utterly." As long as we are resolved to keep his statutes, we may have little fellowship with, but cannot be forsaken by, God.
3. How dreadful the doom of those from whom God has actually and already departed! It is like the withdrawal of the sun from the firmament. "Take a delightful summer's day, and how beautiful it is! Now compare that with a winter's dark, dismal night. What makes the difference between these two? The presence of the sun in the one, and its absence from the other. This is but the presence or the departing of one of God's creatures. Oh l if that makes such a difference in the world, what must the presence or departing of the infinite God do to the soul?" In the case of Ephraim, their children are brought forth to the murderers—not only murdered, but that murder perpetrated before the eyes of their parents. This seems the severest stroke of all. Even a heathen poet has most pathetically portrayed the extreme sadness of this condition in the death of Polites, a son of Priam, who addresses his murderer Pyrrhus in the well-known words: "May the gods, if there be any kind power in heaven to watch such deeds, yield you your due reward, who have defiled the father's eyes by the sight of his son's murder."
III. COMMISERATION EXPRESSED. The prophet prays for his people, but seems straitened in his petitions, or rather he is at a loss to know what was most expedient for them and conducive to the Divine glory. He does not pray for peace, nor for deliverance, nor for prosperity. He dared not venture. He knew too well the sins of his countrymen, their abuse of the Divine mercies, their contempt of warning, their hardness of heart, their searedness of conscience, and their gross misuse of all means used for their recovery. No wonder he pauses and hesitates. He cannot pray for a numerous progeny to be vouchsafed to his people, or for children at all Better they should never come into the world at all than to be made the prey of the spoiler; better not to be born than to become victims of the murderer; better perish before birth or from the birth than live a life of sin and misery, and die a death of violence and hopelessness! At length, in view of the sinfulness of the people, the misery of times not far distant, and the fast-approaching calamities, he prays either that children might not be born at all, or that they might not be sustained so as long to survive their birth.
IV. CRIMINALITY EXPOSED. We are here reminded of the plan of Israel's criminal conduct, of the punishment of it, and of the princes who were ringleaders in it.
1. The place of their chief and greatest crimes was Gilgal. What a contrast[ The place that testified to God's greatest mercies also witnessed Israel's greatest wickedness. In Gilgal the memorial stones were set up after the passage of the Jordan; in Gilgal the first Passover was celebrated after the Exodus; in Gilgal the rite of circumcision was renewed and the reproach of Egypt rolled away; in Gilgal Israel first ate the fruits of the promised land. Yet all their wickedness, their chief wickedness, was wrought there. There they threw off the government of God by judges, and would have Saul to be their king; there, in their superstition, they worshipped God instead of at Jerusalem, and thus trampled underfoot the Divine appointment. The more God signalizes a person or place by his mercies, the more severe his judgments on the wickedness of such. Every time God's eye rested on Gilgal, a feeling of hatred was roused against the works and workers of iniquity there.
2. The punishment of their wickedness was expulsion. "Some sins," as has been said, "provoke God to anger, and some to grief, but some to hatred." 'There I hated them.' It is dreadful when our sins provoke hatred. This is the great difference between the sins of the saints and others. The sins of the saints may anger God, may grieve God, but the sins of others provoke God to hatred." That hatred manifests itself in their expulsion. They are driven out of God's house, and so nationally unchurched—as a disobedient and unruly child is driven out of his father's house, or as a rebellious and unruly servant is turned out of the house of his master; while son and servant receive no more tokens of favor or good will.
3. Their princes, one and all, set the bad example of rebellion and revolt. As "like priest, like people," so like prince, like people. Persons in high places have it in their power to do much good or work much evil by their influence and example; for such they are responsible, and shall one day be called to account. Of every talent given us, whether health, or wealth, or influence, or opportunities of doing or getting good, we must all one day give an exact account.
V. CONSUMPTION COMPLETED. A tree may lose its leaves, but a following spring will restore them; it may lose some of its branches in the process of pruning, but this will not prevent it growing again. Yea, "there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant." So long as the root retains life, there is hope of the tree; but once the root is dried up and dead, ruin is inevitable. Thus Ephraim was smitten; thus many are smitten in just judgment from the Almighty. When the root is thus dried up, there can be no hope of fruit. If men will bear fruit to the world, or sin, or self, and not unto God, it is only just they should be left fruitless. If men will not bring up their children for God, training them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, is it strange they should be left childless?
VI. CASTAWAYS AMONG THE NATIONS. This is the condition in which Israel remains till the present day. They cast away the truth of God, and now they are cast away. They rejected the Son; for he came to his own realms, and his subjects received him not; now they are outcast. Note the cause: "Because they did not hearken unto him." This was regarded by Luther as a notable statement, and worthy to be written on all our walls. Bow often we find men hearkening to the counsels of the wicked, or to the suggestions of worldly policy, or to the temptations of the evil one, or to their own lusts and passions, but not to God! Let men beware of refusing to give audience to God. Let them beware of acting as if they did not hear with the ear, nor understand with the heart. Every Jew one meets is a warning of the danger of not hearkening to God. While every Jew is a living monument to the truth of Scripture, he is at the same time a proof of the calamity incurred by not hearkening to God. It is here predicted that they should be wanderers among the nations. The fulfillment of the prediction may be expressed in the sadly truthful words of the Hebrew melody—
"Tribes of the wandering foot and weary breast,
How shall ye flee away and be at rest!
The wild dove hath her nest, the fox his cave,
Mankind their country; Israel but the grave!"
HOMILIES BY C. JERDAN
The Assyrian captivity.
Israel had courted the favor of Assyria; but the result would be her absorption and destruction as a nation. In this and the succeeding chapter, notwithstanding acknowledged difficulties of interpretation, the distresses of the Exile are depicted with telling effect.
I. THE PROPHET'S INTERDICT AGAINST ISRAEL. (Hosea 9:1) Hosea, as it were, appears suddenly among the people when they are preparing to hold some joyous festival, and sternly forbids it in Jehovah's Name. He is constrained by the burden of the Lord to act the unwelcome raft of "the skeleton of the feast." He tells Israel that, in view of the dread realities of her position as a nation, this was no time for gladness. To ignore the facts would not obliterate them. To rejoice exultingly just now, merely because she had obtained a plentiful harvest, or secured some temporary relief from her political troubles, was to act with the folly of the ostrich, which thrusts her head into the sand, anal thinks that all is well because she does not see her pursuers. If it is "better" for an men "to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting," it would be especially advantageous at present for the Israelitish people to do so. For the condition of the nation was extremely insecure. The prosperity in which they were rejoicing was hollow, and it would be evanescent.
II. THE GROUND OF THE INTERDICT. This is unfolded in the body of the passage. It is twofold.
1. Israel's extreme sinfulness. (Verses 1, 7, 9) "Other people," i.e. heathen nations, might more readily be excused for holding festivals of rapturous joy; for, not having the knowledge of God, they could not perceive how far they had transgressed his Law. But Israel had sinned against abundant light, and in spite of continual warning. How sad that the chosen nation should look upon her harvests as the gift of heathen gods—as Baal's reward for her devoted service of him! Not only so, but Israel's wickedness was great all round. The people heartily hated both the Lord and his servants the true prophets. The whole country was now as notorious for its monstrous corruption, as Gibeah of Benjamin had been, since the time when the tragic atrocity of the Levite and his concubine had been perpetrated there (Judges 19:16, et seq). The error of the men of Benjamin in shielding the villains who wrought that foul deed had involved the town of Gibeah in destruction, and the tribe itself almost in extirpation. And so also was it to be now with the ten tribes.
2. Israel's impending misery. The commonwealth was on the verge of destruction, and soon the people's place in the land would know them no more. Surely it were madness to rejoice now, when they are on the very eve of being carried away into captivity. The prophet proclaims most plainly the fiat of expulsion (verse 3). The nation that is now "Lo-ammi," "Not my people," cannot be allowed any longer to remain in "the Lord's land." "Ephraim shall return to" the new "Egypt" of Assyria, and shall there undergo a second Egypt-like oppression. The Exile shall involve the withdrawal of all the blessings and privileges in which the people gloried; as, e.g.:
(1) Loss of harvests. (Verse 2) Palestine was a land of inexhaustible plenty, and there Israel "did eat bread without scarceness;" but, in her effacement from the land, she shall of course lose her harvests. She shall have no happy harvest-homes in Assyria.
(2) Loss of national distinctions. (Verses 3, 4) To "eat unclean things in Assyria" would prove a severe trial and a sore punishment. For the Jews, although they imitated the heathen in some things—as, e.g; in desiring a king like the nations, and in falling into Gentile idolatries—plumed themselves all the while upon the fact that the Gentiles and they did not stand religiously upon the same level; and they clung to the Mosaic distinctions of meats because it was a badge of their peculiar privileges as the chosen nation.
(3) Loss of spiritual privileges. (Verses 4, 5) In their exile the Hebrews would miss the opportunities of sacrifice to Jehovah which they had neglected while they "dwelt in the Lord's land." Jerusalem was the one place of sacrifice; and for the captives there would be no gracious presence of God in heathendom. No temple there, no ritual, no great annual feasts, no exuberant festal joy! The feast of tabernacles, as the grand harvest-home festival, used to be kept by the tribes with lively demonstrations of national gladness; but, alas! the "Greater Hailel" would never be sung amid the miseries of Assyria.
(4) Loss of inheritance in Canaan. (Verse 6) That land had been given to the Hebrews, and was continued in their possession, upon condition of obedience to the Divine Law. The occupancy of" the Lord's land" was a symbol of the enjoyment of the Lord's favor. Now, however, seeing that the people have forfeited the blessing of Jehovah, they must be expelled for ever from that goodly heritage. The ten tribes shall not return to Palestine. The people shall find their graves in the Egypt-like exile of Assyria. Thistles and nettles shall spring up in luxuriance among the ruins of their once beautiful houses. The traveler finds these nettles still, growing rankly to a height of six feet—a sign of the curse that yet rests upon the land.
(5) Loss of the hopes held out by the false prophets. (Verses 7, 8) At present there were false teachers among the people who kept saying, "Peace, peace," merely to flatter them, and to make matters pleasant for the time. But every prediction of prosperity would be falsified. The people would soon discover that these so-called prophets had been either "fools" or "snares," that is, either simpletons or sharpers. The expectations of well-being which these persons encouraged them to cherish would be miserably disappointed. It would presently be found that Hosea had been the real patriot, and the truest friend of his nation, although he did not prophesy good concerning it, but the worst of evils. The northern kingdom is to be wasted with misery; no wonder, then, that the prophet calls out, "Rejoice not, O Israel."
III. SOME LESSONS OF THE INTERDICT FOR OURSELVES.
1. The ungodly man has no rational ground for gladness or rejoicing (verse 1).
2. Our harvest-joy should be a joy "before God" (verses 1, 2).
3. In emigrating to a strange laud there is often danger to one's spiritual nature, arising from the loss of religious privileges (verses 3, 4).
4. It is supreme folly to banish all thought of" the solemn days "of life by giving one's self up to habits of frivolity and worldly pleasure (verse 5).
5. We must "beware of false prophets," and "try the spirits, whether they are of God" (verses 7, 8).
6. "The Lord's land" is only for the Lord's people: for such alone the Lord Jesus prepares a place in the heavenly Canaan (verses 1-9).—C.J.
Hosea 9:7, Hosea 9:8
The true and the false prophet.
Accepting the Authorized Version here as substantially correct, we interpret these verses as referring to both classes. Hosea 9:7 makes mention, in a parenthesis, of the false prophet. The first clause of Hosea 9:8 refers to the true prophet; and the remainder of the verse contrasts the character of the false prophet with his. The theme thus suggested is an instructive and profitable one.
I. THE TRUE AND THE FALSE PROPHET ARE OFTEN CONTEMPORARIES. One of Satan's favorite methods for the support of his kingdom seems in all ages to have been to caricature the works of the Almighty, and to induce men to accept the counterfeit and reject the real. Whenever, accordingly, the Lord raised up a true prophet, Satan at the same time sent forth false prophets. Thus Moses, at the beginning of his career, had to contend with" the magicians of Egypt;" and, towards the close of it, against the influence of Balaam, who, although constrained to utter true predictions, was all the while the Anti-Moses. In like manner, Elijah confronted at Carmel four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal; and Micaiah at Samaria other four hundred (1 Kings 22:6-28). Elisha also lived contemporaneously with false prophets (2 Kings 3:11-13; 2 Kings 10:19). Hosea, as he himself testifies both here and elsewhere (Hosea 4:5), was impeded and thwarted in his life-work by many impostors. And at last, when God incarnated himself in Jesus Christ as the supreme Prophet of the Church, the devil took care to send into the world "false Christs and false prophets." After nearly nineteen centuries of the gospel, Mohammedanism yet lives as the religion of "the false prophet," and in our day there are still pretenders to the dignity of" the Mahdi," or Moslem Messiah. In "the last time" there have already been "many antichrists;" and, before the Christian dispensation of truth shall close, the Antichrist par excellence must yet be revealed (1 John 2:18).
II. THE WORK OF THE TRUE PROPHET. (Verse 8) It is that of a spiritual "watchman," stationed on the watch-tower of faith and prayer. He stands there, concentrating his gaze upon the unseen, that he may obtain Divine revelations of mercy or judgment, and report such to the people (Ezekiel 3:17; Ezekiel 33:7; Habakkuk 2:1). God sent many such watchmen to the chosen nation. He sent some even to the ten tribes—the two writing prophets Hosed and Amos; such great prophets of action as Elijah and Elisha; besides also Ahijah, Micaiah, Jonah, etc. These "watchmen of Ephraim' were "with God," in the sense of being:
1. Serif by God. His Spirit called them to their office, put his words into their mouth, and even caused them sometimes to feel as if their own consciousness were absorbed into that of God.
2. Helped by God. He infused into their hearts the courage and strength which they needed boldly to speak his Word to a "gainsaying people," who hated them for their faithfulness.
3. Responsible to God. For the prophets would have to give account to him of the manner in which they had announced the revelations vouchsafed to them for the nation's guidance. Moses had been "with God," for "the Lord knew him face to face" (Deuteronomy 34:10). Elijah had been "with God," for he spoke of him as Jehovah, "before whom I stand" (1 Kings 17:1). Elisha was called "a holy man of God" (2 Kings 4:9). Hosea's name means salvation; and the name reflected the substance of his ultimate message, that of the redeeming love of Jehovah. And similarly still, under the gospel dispensation, the minister of Jesus Christ is to stand among men as a witness for "the things which are not seen," a watchman whose eye searches the invisible, and who points with his finger towards eternity and God. Every preacher should deliver his message as David Hume, the infidel, remarked that John Brown of Haddington did: "That old man preaches as if Christ were at his elbow."
III. THE CHARACTER OF THE FALSE PROPHET. The northern kingdom abounded in such persons in the time of Hosea. They professed to be prophets, i.e. for-speakers; but they did not really speak for God. They called themselves "spiritual men"—men of the spirit; but the spirit which possessed them was an evil and a lying spirit. Their pretended prophecies were soothing and flattering, all the while that the land reeked with idolatry and unmentionable vices. The false prophets "prophesied out of their own hearts," and "saw nothing" of the vision of the Lord (Ezekiel 13:2, Ezekiel 13:3). At the very hour when the sword was about to come upon the land, and the throne was tottering to its fall, they derided the earnest warnings of the true prophets, and hoodwinked the people into the persuasion that all would yet be well. Thus the fake prophet, so far from being in any good sense a "watchman." was to the people; "snare of a fowler in all their ways;" and, with many a specious and plausible pretext, he allured the poor silly people to their ruin. When, at length, that ruin rushed upon them, it was demonstrated that the prophet who had misled them with the expectation of prosperity was a "fool" and "mad." Amid the horrors of their captivity in Assyria they would have leisure to reflect upon the folly of the impostors whom they had allowed to delude them. In these latter times, also, there are false prophets enough who are as "a snare of a fowler," and whom ever and again events prove to be "fools" and "mad." What mischief, e.g; was wrought in Europe by the infidel writings of Voltaire and Rousseau! What a snare, to a certain class of minds, has Comte been! How many unwary souls have been beguiled by Strauss and Renan! How sadly is the welfare of the Lord's flock put in jeopardy by the revival of sacerdotalism in Churches professedly Protestant! Who can estimate the harm that is done to the cause of God by the baleful influence of ungodly and unfaithful ministers? Such, wherever found, are "a snare" to the people. Their example tends to drive souls away from God, and to drag them down to perdition.
IV. HOW THE TRUE PROPHET IS TO BE DISTINGUISHED FROM THE FALSE.
1. The false prophet, when the times are evil, "speaks smooth things." He justifies the people's misdeeds, and fails to rebuke prevailing sins. He is a blind watchman; a dumb dog that cannot bark—loving to slumber; and a greedy dog, which can never have enough. So he flatters the people, promises them peace, and tries to make matters pleasant all round. The true prophet, on the other hand, without thinking of his safety or of his means of subsistence, always "prophesies right things;" and in an evil time "cries aloud, spares not, lifts up his voice like a trumpet, and shows the people their transgressions.
2. The false prophet comes "before, Christ" (John 10:8); i.e. he aims at intercepting men's view of him as the one Mediator, and does his work in opposition to the will and cause of Christ. The true prophet, on the other hand, never forgets that it is Christ who has sent him, and that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
3. The false prophet attracts ungodly men to his teaching, and attaches them as his followers; "but the sheep will not hear him." His impostures are detected by those who enjoy the teaching of the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:1-6). The true prophet, on the other hand, gathers around him those who are spiritually minded, and suffers persecution from the ungodly (e.g. Amos 7:10, Amos 7:11).
4. The false prophet shall be finally branded as an impostor when "the days of recompense" shall have come (verse 7). Thus the field of Ramoth-gilead decided whether Micaiah or the four hundred prophets of Ahab had prophesied truly. And on the day of judgment the Lord Jesus shall say to many who have professed to prophesy in his Name, "I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:22, Matthew 7:23). The true prophet, on the other hand, "shah rest, and stand in his lot at the end of the days" (Daniel 12:13).
"Ere long thy feet shall stand
Within the city of the Blessed One;
Thy perils past, thy heritage secure,
Thy tears all wiped away thy joy for ever sure."
Bereavement, barrenness, and banishment.
Here the prophet (Hosea 9:10) finds a background for his picture of the final distress and captivity of Ephraim, by contrasting therewith the fair promise of prosperity and usefulness which the Hebrew nation had shown during its infancy. The body of the strophe—uttered by Hosea with intense emotion—is full of lamentations and mourning and woe (verses 11-16). And the closing words (verse 17) summarize in one brief and pregnant sentence the burden of the entire paragraph.
I. A BRIGHT BEGINNING. (Verses 10, 13) Jehovah "found Israel:" the people depended upon him for their preservation as a community. The emancipated slaves of Egypt would have been poor and helpless indeed but for his supporting care. But he set his love upon them, and planted and trained the Hebrew commonwealth as the Oriental husbandman does his vines and fig trees. At Mount Sinai Jehovah made a gracious covenant with Israel, set up his tabernacle with a view to dwell among the people, and arranged the tribes in order as his sacramental host. When they struck their tents at Sinai, and journeyed towards Paran (Numbers 10:11, Numbers 10:12), the Lord looked upon them with complacency out of the cloudy pillar; and he marched on before the host, to lead Ephraim into a land beautiful for situation as that of the famous type, and where they might become as rich and prosperous as the Tyrians. The people had solemnly chosen Jehovah for their God, and "no strange god" was among them. So the Lord delighted in them, as the weary traveler in the desert rejoices in the clusters of the vine, or in the firstfruits of the fig tree.
II. AN EARLY FALL (Verse 10) Although God "had planted Israel a noble vine, wholly a right seed," very soon, alas! they "were turned irate the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto him." They had left Egypt, but Egypt had not left them. During the forty years which they spent in the wilderness, they frequently rebelled against the Lord. But the prophet mentions here only one of their provocations, the idolatry of Baal-peor or Chemosh (Numbers 25:1-18), an idol whose rites of worship involved the practice of the grossest sensuality. The Hebrews, in fact, had in those early days indulged in precisely the same abominations with which Hosea was now so familiar in this last time of the northern kingdom. The unchaste worship of Baal and Astarte, even before the tribes entered Canaan, had brought a sad blight upon the fair early promise which for a little while the chosen people had given. "They separated themselves"—like an evil class of Nazarites—to the service of the filthiest of the gods of heathendom. "And their abominations were according as they loved;" i.e. they became more and more assimilated in their own character to the objects of their worship.
III. AN INFAMOUS CAREER. (Verses 15, 17) That early idolatry of Baal-peor repeated itself again and again, especially within the northern kingdom, after its revolt from the dynasty of David. There was:
1. The desecration of sacred places. "All their wickedness was in Gilgal;" it seemed concentrated as in a focus in that very locality which had been the first to be called "holy' within the Holy Land (Joshua 5:15), and which had been the scene of special mercies when the tribes began to take possession. It was a sore aggravation of Israel's sin that the people should pervert Beth-el into Beth-even, and destroy the hallowed associations of such a place as Gilgal.
2. The ungodliness of the kings. "All their princes are revolters," i.e. apostates, men who with unanimous infatuation had departed from God and righteousness. All, without exception, were wicked men; therefore in the annals of the Books of Kings the same melancholy refrain constantly recurs: "He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord: he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin."
3. The wickedness of the people. "They did not hearken unto God" (verse 17). Israel "went after her lovers" the Baalim, prostituted herself to them, and forgot Jehovah her rightful Husband. He had long pleaded with her to return to him, but in vain. He had told her of his shame and anger because of her unworthiness, he had reproached her for perverting his gifts to the basest uses, he had threatened her with severe chastisements and even with final rejection; but she was "joined to idols," and "did not hearken unto him."
IV. A TERRIBLE PUNISHMENT. With the denunciation of this penalty the whole passage is saturated. "Ephraim is smitten" (verse 16). There is to be:
1. Bereavement. (Verses 12, 13, 16) The once mighty and powerful nation is to have its ranks sadly thinned by sudden and violent deaths. "Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer." The ten tribes are to have their numbers so greatly lessened as to be brought to the verge of extermination. "There shall not be a man left." This would prove a heavy humiliation to a people who expected that the blessing which Moses pronounced upon them would always be contained: "They are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh" (Deuteronomy 33:17).
2. Barrenness. (Verses 11,14, 16) The name Ephraim means double fruitfulness, and the northern kingdom gloried in its numerous progeny; but, now that the curse of God is upon the nation, "their glory shall fly away like a bird," and they shall have few births, as well as many deaths. The very "root" of the once powerful and fruitful Ephraim has been smitten with an incurable hurt; and the fruit of Israel's womb shall perish at the birth. For the nation has been guilty of both spiritual and literal harlotry; and of such sins barrenness is the appropriate penalty.
3. Banishment. (Verses 12, 15, 17) This is the acme of Ephraim's doom. "Woe also to them when I depart from them!" They are banished:
(1) From the favor of God: "I will love them no more;" "There I hated them."
(2) From the "house" of God, i.e. from his family—from the blessings of his covenant.
(3) From "the Lord's land" (verse 3); for they are to become lost and hopeless "wanderers among the nations." This doom has been very fully suffered by Israel in the past, and the nation is lying under it still. The condition of the Jews during the past eighteen centuries has been a striking verification of Old Testament prophecy, as well as a convincing argument for the truth of Christianity.
1. The attractiveness of early piety, and the advantages which flow from it (verse 10).
2. The duty of gratitude for being "planted in a pleasant place," temporally and spiritually (verse 13).
3. The danger of backsliding, which besets every Christian, and our need of humility, watchfulness, and prayer (verse 10).
4. The leavening influence of sin upon the whole heart and life of the sinner (verse 10).
5. The awfulness of the condition of every God-forsaken soul (verses 15, 17).—C.J.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
The Lord's land.
Canaan was a land very dear to the Hebrew heart. Few things could cause the children of Israel deeper grief than the prospect of exile and banishment. When absent from their native and sacred soil, their thoughts were with the fair hills and fertile valleys of Palestine, its fenced cities, and above all its metropolis, the center of religious worship and sacrifice. Accordingly the heart of Christendom has ever regarded "the holy land" as the symbol of spiritual privilege and enjoyment and fellowship. Christians dwell in "the Lord's land."
I. IT IS THE LAND OF PROMISE, as assured to them by a gracious and "covenant-keeping" God, even as Canaan was promised to the descendants of the patriarchs.
II. IT IS A LAND OF SPIRITUAL PLENTY. Canaan was represented as a "land flowing with milk and honey," and in this is a figure of the sufficient provision which God has made in the gospel for the spiritual needs of his obedient, loyal people.
III. IT IS A LAND OF DIVINE FAVOR. Palestine was denominated a good land, upon which the eyes of the Lord rested "from the beginning of the year until the end of the year." Upon the citizens of the heavenly Canaan God ever lifts the light of his countenance.
IV. IT IS A LAND OF REST, Even as Israel rested in the promised inheritance after the wanderings of the wilderness, so Christians find that where God dwells, and where he appoints their habitation, there is rest spiritual and eternal.—T.
What will ye do?
The prophet takes such measures as seem likely to be effective, in order to rouse Israel to a sense of the guilt and folly of forsaking Jehovah. He pictures them as exiles in an Eastern land, far from their beloved country, far from the sacred metropolis, and the temple with its priesthood and its sacrifices. He supposes the days of holy festivity to have come round, with which the chosen people associated national memories of Divine deliverance, or happy acknowledgments of Divine bounty. On the recurrence of such seasons of holy mirth and obedient observance and welcome fellowship, the caprices might well be supposed bitterly to rue their rebellion and apostasy, which had revolved them in calamities so dire and privations so seductions of the enemy. The time of trial will come, and then what will ye do?
I. WHAT WILL YE DO WHEN EARTHLY PLAN AND PLEASURES FAIL? In the hot pursuit of worldly ends in life, in the absorbing enjoyment of the delights this world can yield, men forget their Maker and his claims, their Savior and his love. But when the time comes—as come it soon may—when favorite projects dissolve as dreams, and when no more pleasure is to be found where it has long been sought and often experienced, what will ye do?
II. WHAT WILL YE DO WHEN ABANDONED BY EARTHLY FRIENDS? The countenance of companions in health and high spirits is cheering, their hilarity is contagious, their presence is fitted to banish gloomy apprehensions. But such friendships are often superficial; times of adversity put them to a test too severe. Those who are willing to partake of hospitality and to heighten conviviality are seldom the friends "born for adversity;" they often vanish when sympathy is most needed, when solitude is most dreaded.
III. WHAT WILL YE DO WHEN RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES ARE FOUND TO BE EMPTY FORMS? It is sometimes supposed that any time will do for religion, that religious aid and consolation are always at the service, at the beck and call, of every one of us. But it is not so. If we neglect and abuse our privileges, they will forsake us. The man who has long disused his Bible, and given up prayer, and forsaken public worship, may, in the time. of anxiety and trouble, have recourse to what has been long neglected. But he may find that these ordinances and privileges are to him nothing but a form. They have not changed, but he has grown unspiritual, hardened, and morally incapable of using privileges within his reach. What then will he do?
IV. WHAT WILL YE DO IN THE PROSPECT OF DEATH AND JUDGMENT? In youth and in good spirits, men sometimes hear of these dread realities—for such they are to the impenitent and unpardoned—without at all realizing them, or believing that they have anything to do with themselves. But in sickness and in old age, eternity often draws near to the imagination and to the heart. Memory brings up evil deeds and words and thoughts. The foreboding soul feels, and feels justly, that the account must soon be given, that the judgment-seat must soon be faced. And yet there is no preparation, no defense, no plea. What a position! and what a prospect! Faithfulness and kindness induce the preacher of the Word to remind the careless hearer of the coming days, and the revelation they will bring; to urge upon him now, whilst it is of some use to consider the solemn question—What will ye then do?—T.
The sin of desiring God's prophets.
Every preacher of righteousness has to endure now and again the misunderstanding or the misrepresentation of some of those whom he addresses in the Name of the Lord. It is not to be desired that all men should speak well of him. The servant is not above his Master, and no calumny was too base, no blasphemy too enormous, for the enemies of Jesus to assail him with.
I. THE PREACHES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS OFTEN MEETS WITH SLIGHT AND WITH CONTEMPT FROM MEN.
1. The charges brought: "The prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad." Hosea and other prophets, from Noah down to the last of the order, had to contend with such foolish and wicked calumnies. As a shield for their own folly, sinners profess to find folly in those who rebuke them.
2. The motives which prompt to such charges. Sometimes it is done by the mistake of the unspiritual, who, to their shame, know no better, because of their insensibility to Divine realities, because of the low level upon which they live. Sometimes by the malice and calumnious willfulness of opponents of truth and goodness, who hate nothing so much as to be rebuked for their evil deeds.
3. The conduct which calls forth such charges. Usually the real ground of hostility to prophets and to faithful preachers has been the interference which has aimed rebukes at prevalent sins. Thus the real fools and madmen are not the ministers of God's word, but those who despise it and blaspheme.
II. THE PREACHER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL NEVERTHELESS BE VINDICATED BY GOD. Whilst unbelieving and impenitent sinners make a mock at sin, and jeer at those who condemn sin, God, the righteous Judge, observes the treatment with which his servants meet.
1. God approves and advances his faithful messengers, None can serve him faithfully and be neglected or passed over. The good and faithful servant, who has been deemed a madman by those themselves infatuated and mentally intoxicated, shall be commended and exalted in due time.
2. God will himself punish the mockers in the days of visitation and. recompense. "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."—T.
Among the many similitudes employed to set forth the character and office of the prophet, the spiritual teacher and counselor of men, none is more striking than this. It is a figure employed also by Ezekiel and Habakkuk, and may be presumed accordingly to have commended itself to the judgment of the people generally, or at least of those who reverenced the Lord's messengers. Every preacher and teacher may be regarded as a watchman stationed on the wails, bound to give the people warning of approaching danger, and so to secure their safety.
I. BY WHOM APPOINTED. The watchman is placed at his post by authority. "I have set thee a watchman," is the utterance of the Lord himself. The minister of Christ prefaces his counsels and admonitions, as did the olden prophets theirs, with the assertion "Thus saith the Lord."
II. OVER WHOM STATIONED. The Hebrew prophet testified to the Hebrew people. There is no limit to the commission of the Christian preacher, who is bound to witness to Jew and Gentile, to young and old, etc.
III. WITH WHAT FUNCTION CHARGED. St. Paul describes this when he writes of spiritual pastors and overseers, "They watch for your souls, as those who shall give account." Warning of the temptations which assail, counsels regarding the way of escape and the promises of deliverance,—these form a large part of the duties of the spiritual watchman's sacred office.
IV. WITH WHAT RESPONSIBILITY ATTACHED. The watchman who fulfils his trust is permitted to cast the responsibility upon those to whom he ministers. It is for them to take warning. If they do so, they will escape; if not, their blood will be upon their own head.
V. OF WHAT TREATMENT DESERVING. For his work's sake, for his message's sake, for his Master's sake, he merits a respectful hearing and a grateful regard. No superstitious reverence attaches to his person, but his office is a sacred office, and the herald is honored when he faithfully carries his message to sinful men.
VI. THE PERSONAL PROBATION INVOLVED. Let it not be forgotten by him who is stationed upon the walls as a watchman entrusted with stuffs, that he also, as well as those to whom he ministers, is upon his trial. By faithfulness he may deliver his soul, whilst he secures the safety of the people and the approval of the Lord. By unfaithfulness he may not only be the means of ruining others; he may incur the displeasure of God, and may bring down upon himself the sentence due to disobedience or remissness.
1. The watchman is admonished to watch.
2. Those who hear his warning are entreated to give heed to what they hear, and thus escape the danger:, of this probationary life, and avail themselves of the opportunities of salvation.—T.
Wanderers among the nations.
Whether or not there was present to the mind of the prophet the actual fate which has overtaken his countrymen, it seems plain that the Spirit within him uttered in these words a doom of which long centuries have beheld the awful fulfillment. We see here—
I. NATIONAL CONTINUITY. The Hebrews were, and are, treated as one people. God visited, and still visits, the sins of the fathers upon the children. The Israelites who apostatized were one generation; the Israelites who suffered the ills and privations of captivity were another generation. Generation after generation of Israel's sons have been "scattered," "wanderers among the nations"—a fate incurred by the obstinate unbelief of their forefathers, who rejected and crucified the Son of God. This is no doubt a very mysterious arrangement of Providence; but we must acknowledge it as an indisputable fact.
II. DIVINE RIGHTEOUSNESS. God is a Ruler, a moral Governor, who never abdicates his regal and judicial functions. The prophets were inspired to insist upon this great fact with emphasis and with repetition. A covenant God, a God delighting in mercy, yet threatens his chosen people thus: "I will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto me: and they shall be wanderers among the nations." People, hearing from preachers of the gospel much about the pity and the love of God, sometimes scarcely believe in the equity and the moral sway and reign of him who is supremely just. Nevertheless, he will vindicate his government, he will assert his authority, and under his rule the wicked "shall not go unpunished."
III. DIVINE TRUTHFULNESS AND FORESIGHT. The language of the text has been so exactly verified that it might have been written after the event. Inspiration) only could have written it before. Human sagacity might have predicted the captivity; only Divine foreknowledge could have predicted the dispersion. Thus in the process of time God's Word becomes its own warrant.
IV. PURPOSE AND PREPARATION FOR NATIONAL RESTORATION' AND RETURN. Why are the Jews kept separate from the peoples in whose lands they dwell? Surely "he who scattereth will gather them"! It is the expectation of some that the Jews shall be restored to the land of promise; it is the belief of all that the ingathering of the Jews into the Christian fold shall one day be brought about, and that their union with Gentiles, in subjection to the one Divine Lord and Savior, shall be as "life from the dead."—T.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
The solemn days of life.
"What will ye do in the solemn day?" "What will ye do in the day of assembly?—when ye shall he despoiled of everything by the Assyrians; for the Israelites who remained in the land after its subjection to the Assyrians did worship the true God, and offer unto him the sacrifices appointed by the Law, though in an imperfect manner; and it was a great mortification to them to be deprived of their religious festivals in the land of strangers" (Elzas). The "solemn day" here evidently refers to one of the great Jewish feasts, either the Feast of the Passover, the Pentecost, or of the Tabernacles; and the literal meaning seems to be—What will yon children of Abraham do when you are deprived by tyrannic strangers of the privilege of attending those solemn assemblies? Though the word "assembly" would be a better rendering than "solemn," yet inasmuch as these festive assemblies were very solemn, and the privation of them of all things the most solemn, we shall accept the word for purposes of practical application. There are solemn days awaiting all of us, and the appeal in the text is evermore befitting and urgent.
I. THE DAY OF PERSONAL AFFLICTION is a "solemn day." The day comes either by disease, accident, or infirmities of age, when, withdrawn from scenes of business, pleasure, or profession, we shall be confined to some lonely room, and languish on the couch of suffering and exhaustion. Such a day must come to all, and such a day will be "solemn"—a day with but little light in the firmament of earthly life, a day of darkness, and perhaps of tempests. "What will ye do in the solemn day?" What can you do? You will not be able to extricate yourself kern the sad condition. No man can raise himself out of that physical suffering and weakness that are destined to come on his frame. What will ye do so as to be sustained in soul? Skeptical reasonings will be of no service, the recollections of past life will be of no service. "What will ye do in that solemn day?"
II. THE DAY OF SOCIAL BEREAVEMENT is a "solemn day." Much of the charm of life is in our social loves, the love of partners, parents, children, friends. The time must come when ruthless death will tear them from the heart. This will be a solemn day. What a dark day with the soul is that when we return from the grave where we have left for ever some dear object of the heart, and when we enter the home where the loved one was the center and charm of the circle! Truly, a sunless, saddening day is this. And yet such a day must come to all. "What will ye do in this solemn day?" What will yon do for consolation? What word of comfort has science to offer, has the world to present? What will you do?
III. THE DAY OF DEATH is a "solemn day." This awaits every man. "What man is he that liveth and shall not see death?" "There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war." What a "solemn day" is this! All earthly connections dissolving, the world receding, eternity parting its awful folds. What will ye do in this day, when heart and flesh shall fail? What will sustain your spirit then? Will you count your wealth? Will you gather about your dying bed your worldly companions? Will you seek to bury the remembrance of your past life? Something must be done—this you will feel; but what?
IV. THE DAY OF JUDGMENT is a "solemn day." "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ." What a day will that be! A "great and notable" day. "Howl ye, for the day of the Lord is at hand." What will ye do? Will ye call "to the mountains and rocks to fall on you, and hide you from the eyes of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb"?
CONCLUSION. "What will ye do in the solemn day?" "Do!" Why, do what you should do every day of your life—exercise a practical and unbounded faith in the love of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
"'Tis not the Stoic's lessons, got by rote,
The pomp of words and pedant dissertations,
That can sustain thee in that hour of terror:
Books have taught cowards to talk nobly of it,
But when the trial comes they stand aghast.
Hast thou considered what may happen after it?
How thy account may stand, and what the answer?"
Charge against religious ministers.
"The prophet is a fool, and the spiritual man is mad." What the prophet means here seems to be this—that when the predicted retribution had come Israel would learn that the prosperity which some of the prophets had predicted (Ezekiel 13:10) proved them infatuated fools. Although some render the expression, "the spiritual man is mad," a mad man the man of spirit, the man of the spirit is frantic, the idea seems to be the same as that conveyed in our version, viz. that the man pretending to have spiritual inspiration and prophesying was mad. We may take the words as a charge against religious ministers, and make two observations.
I. IT IS A CHARGE THAT IS SOMETIMES TOO TRUE. There have been religious ministers in all ages, and there are still in connection even with Christianity, who are foolish and "mad."
1. There are men of weak minds. There are men in the ministry utterly incapable, not only of taking a harmonious view of truth, but even of forming a clear and complete conception of any great principle. We say not a word in disparagement of men of small cerebral power and feeble understanding. Heaven made them what they are; but they were never intended for the ministry. In the ministry they do enormous mischief. Their silly sentimentalities, their crude notions, their inane conceptions, bring the pulpit into contempt. They are "fools."
2. There are men of irrational theologies. There are men who, though not always naturally weak-minded, nevertheless propound theological dogmas which are utterly incongruous with human reason, and therefore unbiblical and un-Divine. The doctrines that multitudes of men are predestined to eternal misery, that Christ's death procured the love of God, that all that men require to make them good and happy for ever is to believe in something that took place eighteen hundred years ago,—such dogmas as these are often propounded in pulpits, and they are utterly foolish; they strike against the common sense of humanity, and have no foundation in the teaching of him who is the "Wisdom of God." The prophet that talks such things is a "fool," and the spiritual man is "mad."
3. There are men of silly rituals. The crossings, the kneelings, the bowings, the robings, the upholstering, the grimacings, which constitute much of the ministry of a large number of what are called Protestant ministers, justify the people in calling them fools and madmen. The outside world is constantly pointing to the pulpit, and saying, "The prophet is a fool, and the spiritual man is mad." Alas! that there should be any cause for ill.
II. IT IS A CHARGE THAT IS OFTEN A SCOFFING CALUMNY. The unregenerate world have from the beginning identified preaching with folly and fanaticism. The general impression today in England is that preachers are intellectually a feeble folk, effeminate, lackadaisical, unfit for the business of the world. Now, an ideal preacher of Christianity, instead of being a "fool" or "mad," is the wisest and most philosophic man of his age, and that for three reasons.
1. He aims at the highest end. What is that? To make himself and his fellow-men what they ought to be in relation to themselves, in relation to society, in relation to the universe, and in relation to God. Men are wrong in all these respects, and their wrongness is the cause of all the crimes and miseries of the world.
2. He works in the right direction. Where does he begin this work of moral reformation? At the heart. "Out of the heart are the issues of life." All human institutions, conduct, actions, flow from the likings and dislikings of the human heart, He deals therefore as a philosopher with the fontal sympathies and antipathies of the soul. To clear the stream he goes to the fountain, to strengthen the tree he goes to the roots, to improve the productions of the world he works upon the soil.
3. He employs the best means. What are the best means to touch the heart effectively, to give its sympathies a new and right direction? Legislation, art, poetry, rhetoric? No; LOVE. What love? Human, angelic? No; too weak. Divine love. Divine love, not merely in nature, nor in propositions, but in example, the example of God himself. This is moral omnipotence, this is the Cross, this is the power of God unto salvation. Let no man say that the ideal minister is a fool; the man who says it is a fool
"I saw one man, armed simply with God's Word,
Enter the souls of many fellow-men,
And pierce them sharply as a two-edged sword,
While conscience echoed back his words again,
Till, even as showers of fertilizing rain
Sink through the bosom of the valley clod,
So their hearts opened to the wholesome pain,
And hundreds knelt upon the flowery sod—
One good man's earnest prayer the link 'twixt them and God."
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The Lord's land for the Lord's people.
This chapter may fall in the interval between the Assyrian invasions of B.C. 743-738, and the invasions ending in the overthrow of Pekah, B.C. 734-730 (cf. 2 Kings 15:29, 2Ki 15:30; 2 Chronicles 28:16-21, and Assyrian monuments). The interval seems to have been one of revived prosperity (2 Chronicles 28:6-15).
I. ABUSED GOODNESS. (Hosea 9:1, Hosea 9:2)
1. A glimpse of prosperity. Israel had been rejoiced with a bounteous harvest. Land and people had previously suffered sore from the Assyrian. For a moment judgment pauses. It would be interesting if we could connect this gleam of prosperity with the momentary gleam of better feeling in the nation, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 28:1-27. God tries all methods with the sinner. He varies judgment with mercy. He pauses, as it were, to give space for repentance. He tries, having humbled by application, again to melt by goodness (Romans 2:4).
2. Goodness abused. Israel knew not the meaning of this grace. The momentary softening led to no good results. The people, reassured by the heaped-up corn-floor and the full wine-press, fell into the old error of attributing their prosperity to the idols (Hosea 2:5), and renewed their assiduity in their service. Our joy in the use of God's good gifts becomes sinful when,
(1) excluding God, we boastfully attribute them to our own labor, or to "nature' (Deuteronomy 8:17);
(2) our joy in them is purely natural, without recognition of, or gratitude towards, the great Giver;
(3) we abuse them by gluttony or drunkenness. In any case, with doom hanging over his head, the sinner's joy is a species of madness.
3. The disappointed expectation. "The floor and the wine-press shall not feed them," etc. One swallow does not make a summer, and the sinner errs if he supposes that one returning glimpse of prosperity means the reversal or collapse of God's threatenings. God punishes the abuse of his gifts:
(1) By their removal. "When they thought themselves most secure, when the corn was stored on the floor, and the grapes were in the presses, then God would deprive them of them" (Pusey).
(2) By denying his blessing with them. "I will curse your blessings" (Malachi 2:2).
(3) By their failure to satisfy. The good which the sinner seeks in a godless enjoyment of natural things, he is doomed not to find. They "lie" unto him. They constantly cheat his hopes.
II. DECREED EXPULSION. (2 Chronicles 28:3) The glimpse of prosperity did not mean much. The sinner, notwithstanding passing appearances to the contrary, abides under wrath (John 3:36). The decree of judgment stands unrepealed. "They shall not dwell in the Lord's land," etc.
1. The Lord's land only for the holy. Canaan was chosen by God as the seat of his majesty, the place of his abode. His presence sanctified it. Israel possessed it as his people. They held it on condition of obedience. Their first work in it was to purge it of the impurities which had formerly desecrated it (Deuteronomy 7:1-6). Now that Israel themselves had become unholy, they must, in turn, be expelled from the land. God could not allow them to remain in it. The "holy land" is for a holy people. So it is said of heaven that into it "shall in no wise enter anything that defileth" (Revelation 21:27).
2. The Lord resuming his own from the wicked. The land was the Lord's, and, when Israel proved incorrigible, the Lord took his own from them, They had not owned him in the possession of what he gave, and he now resumed his gift. The sinner, who depends on God for "life, and breath, and all things," would fain keep the gifts, while declining all recognition of the Giver. This God refuses to permit. The day is coming when he will strip the sinner of all he has. The Lord has given, and the Lord will take away.
3. Egypt-bondage. "Ephraim shall return to Egypt." The people were to sink back into the state of oppression, misery, and mixture with the heathen in which they were when God took pity on them in Egypt. The Exodus gave them a national existence, a calling, and a land. They were now to become a "no people" to God, and be sent back, as it were, to Egypt again. Rejection by God means the loss of distinctive being, of life-aim, of sphere, of liberty, and subjection to the hard tyranny of sin, Satan, and the world.
III. UNCLEANNESS IN ASSYRIA. (2 Chronicles 28:3-5) "They shall eat unclean things in Assyria," etc. Israel's condition in exile would be marked by:
1. Privation of privilege. They would be cut off from the sanctuary ("house of the Lord"), and prevented from observing their feasts, and bringing their usual offerings (cf. Hosea 3:4). Their worship, as it stood, was not acceptable to God. They, however, attached importance to their sanctuaries, altars, wine offerings, sacrifices, etc. And it would be part of their punishment that they would be deprived of them.
2. Legal uncleanness. The prophet speaks here also from the standpoint of the people. Their outward life, even in Canaan, had no right sanctification in it. Now, however, their food, sacrifices, etc; would become even formally unclean. Uncleanness would arise
(1) from inability in a heathen country properly to observe the laws of food;
(2) from the fact that the heathen country was itself polluted, and communicated its uncleanness to food and offerings (cf. Amos 7:17);
(3) from the food not being properly sanctified by the presentation of the firstfruits (2 Chronicles 28:4). Israel, in short, would lose even their outward distinctness as a sacred people, and would sink to the level of the profaneness of the nations around, lit seems better, in 2 Chronicles 28:4, to read, "their sacrifices shall not be pleasing to him; (their bread shall be) as bread of mourners unto them." Separation from God renders existence as a whole unclean. The principle is, first, the consecration of the person, then the consecration of the life. If we are not consecrated to God, nothing we think, say, or do can be spiritually acceptable Prayers, good works, eating and drinking, all remain unclean. We eat unclean things in Assyria—in the spiritual Egypt. The taint of death pollutes body, soul, and spirit.
3. An end of joy. (2 Chronicles 28:5; cf. Hosea 2:11)
IV. DESOLATE HABITATIONS. (2 Chronicles 28:6)
1. Exile as burial. "Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis [a noted place of burial] shall bury them." The allusion is still to Assyria figured as a second Egypt. The tribes would be lost in it as in a grave. Hence recovery is described as resurrection (Hosea 6:2). Sin is death. Those shah-cloned to sin are as the dead in graves.
2. Deserted dwellings. "Their pleasant places for their silver [or, 'valuables of silver'], nettles shall possess them: thorns shall be in their habitation." The present state of the Holy Land is the best commentary on this prediction. Sin leaves behind it rank desolation. Look at man's own soul! What desolation there! Nettles, thorns, a temple in ruins.—J.O.
Hosea 9:7, Hosea 9:8
Prophet and prophet.
We are disposed to prefer the view which takes Hosea 9:7 to refer to the true prophet, Hosea himself; and verse 8 to the prophets Ephraim had set up for himself alongside of the true.—"Ephraim is a watcher with along with, but independently of my God"—prophets who were as "the snare of a fowler" to the people.
I. THE TRUE PROPHET. (Verse 7)
1. What he saw. "The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come." The true prophet saw, and did not hesitate to declare in the ears of all, the fall extent of the ruin which was soon to overwhelm the nation. He did not, like the false prophets, say, "Peace, peace," when there was no peace (Jeremiah 8:11). He told the awful truth. The event verified his words. God's messengers are faithful.
2. What he felt. "The prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad." The words may express at once:
(1) The judgment passed on the prophet by his contemporaries. They thought him "beside himself" (cf. Acts 26:24; 2 Corinthians 5:13). They set down his excited utterances as ravings.
(2) The sympathetic anguish which actually made the prophet feel as one beside himself. "Hosea was a stranger among his own people, oppressed by continual contact with their sin, lacerated at heart by the bitterness of their enmity, till his reason seemed ready to give way under the trial."
3. His moral mission. "For the multitude of thine iniquities, and the great hatred." His eye pierced to the moral cause of the judgments that were impending. He read their origin in the people's sin, and in their hatred of what was good. A. true prophet is known by the intensity of his grasp upon moral truth.
II. THE FALSE PROPHET. (Verse 8) The prophets in whom Ephraim trusted were:
1. Self-constituted. "The watchman of Ephraim was with my God," or, "Ephraim is a watchman," etc. Ephraim was not content with the prophets God gave him. He must have prophets alter his own heart. He must be a "watchman" on his own account. The false prophet thus ran without being sent (Jeremiah 23:21). He was not, like the true prophet, a "man of the spirit." If any spirit was in him, it was a lying spirit.
2. Ensnarers of the people. "The prophet is the snare of a fowler in all his ways." They snared the people to their ruin
(1) by their teaching, promising peace and prosperity when there was none;
(2) by their example, encouraging the people in their idolatries and follies;
(3) by making light of the moral element in conduct. They "strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life" (Ezekiel 13:22). They flattered the people's wishes; felt none of that agonizing sympathy with them which made Hosea seem as one mad; kept away from all denunciation of their sins. They were hirelings, whose own the sheep were not, and who cared not for the sheep (John 10:12, John 10:13). They were a snare "in all their ways"—out and out in everything they did.
3. Themselves as bad as the rest. "Hatred in the house of his God." Professing to speak in God's Name, the prophet was full of malignant hatred of God, and of those who spoke in God's Name (cf. Amos 7:10-13).—J.O.
Hosea 9:9, Hosea 9:10
Gibeah and Baal-peor.
From this point the mind of the prophet reverts largely to the past. He sees mirrored in it both God's love and the people's sins. Allusion is made Lore to God's early love for Israel, and to the sins of Gibeah and Baal-peor.
I. THE EVIL OF SIN IS SEEN BY COMPARISON WITH FORMER SINS, THE HEINOUSNESS OF WHICH ALL ADMIT. Two such outstanding sins of the past were those of Gibeah, and, at a still earlier period, of Baal-peor. The former (cf. Judges 19:1-30; Judges 20:1-48) was a sin revealing depths of corruption in Israel such as had not previously been heard of (Judges 19:30). It shocked the national conscience. It led to fierce vengeance being taken on the transgressors, and on the Benjamites who sided with them. The latter was a sin of wider scope, and scarcely less heinous in its character (Numbers 25:1-18). It combined idolatry with whoredom in a peculiarly daring and offensive manner. It led to the destruction of twenty-four thousand in the camp of Israel by a plague, and to the after extermination of the Midianites. These were the "deep corruptions" which were now reproducing themselves in Israel. The people might refuse to give the right name to the iniquity as practiced by themselves, but they could scarcely fail to reprobate it when presented in these earlier instances. It was a peculiarity of these sins that they had been judged by Israel itself. It was the tribes that pronounced sentence on the evildoers at Gibeah; and Phinehas had executed judgment on Zimri, as afterwards the men of war did on the Midianites. This, accordingly, was a case to which Paul's principle applied, that ability to judge of an offence in another renders one inexcusable if he does the same thing (Romans 2:1). We are often, however, willing to condemn in others sins which we inconsistently tolerate in ourselves.
II. THE EVIL OF SIN ONLY BECOMES FULLY APPARENT AGAINST THE BACKGROUND OF DIVINE LOVE. This is brought out in Hosea 9:10 in the case of Baal-peor. The enormity of that sin was only fully seen when set against the manifestations of Divine love which had preceded. "I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the first ripe in the fig tree at her first time." There is indicated here:
1. God's choice of Israel. He "found" them "in the wilderness; ' he "saw" them there, and chose them.
2. God's delight in Israel. The nation was pleasant to him as grapes in the desert, or as the first-ripe fig. His choice and his affection were both manifested in many wonderful ways. It was this love shown to Israel which made such acts as the making of the golden calf, and, again, the shameful apostasy of Baal-peor, so inexcusably wicked. To see sin in its full enormity we must count up the mercies of God against which we are offending—must reflect, above all, on God's love to us as displayed in Christ.
III. THE PRINCIPLE OF CONTINUITY IN SIN. Israel's apostasy, Hoses seeks to show, was no new thing. It began at a very early period (cf. Hosea 10:9). The strain of it bad continued in the blood of the people ever since. It was proved to be a constitutional disorder which no mild treatment would eradicate. We gain insight into the virulence of depravity by studying its hereditary manifestation.—J.O.
"Woe also to them when I depart kern them" (Hosea 9:12). It is this thought of woe as the result of God departing from Ephraim—"hating them," "loving them no more" (Hosea 9:15)—which is the key-note of the passage. The prophet compares the ideal which God set up for Ephraim—fruitfulness, Tyre-like pleasantness of situation, settled habitation in Canaan—with the miserable end now awaiting the people. His mind dwells with a sort of fixity of horror on the bringing forth of the children to slaughter with the sword (Hosea 9:12, Hosea 9:13, Hosea 9:16). Woe would descend on Ephraim to the reversal of the Divine ideal.
I. IN RESPECT OF FRUITFULNESS. (Hosea 9:11, Hosea 9:12) Fruitfulness and strength of numbers was an especial part of the promise to Ephraim (Genesis 49:22, Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 33:17), even as a numerous posterity was the promise to Israel generally. This "glory" would now be taken from the people that boasted of it. Licentiousness had already, in part, undermined the nation's strength (Hosea 4:10). The sword would now finish what their own misconduct had begun. As in a previous figure (Hosea 8:7), and in Hosea 9:16, the curse is represented as working to the frustration of the people's wishes at every stage in the advance of their hopes. First, there is no conception; then, in the cases where there is conception, there is "a miscarrying womb" (Hosea 9:14); then, at the stage of birth, there is failure to bring forth; even if the child is born, it is doomed to be killed by the sword. Nothing goes right; everything goes wrong; there is but woe, failure, frustration, disappointment, when God departs from us. The numbers of a nation are in God's hand. He can bless or he can blast. His judgment works both through natural laws and events of providence.
II. IN RESPECT OF PLEASANTNESS. (Hosea 9:13, Hosea 9:14, Hosea 9:16) God designed for Ephraim a situation pleasant as that of Tyre; he had in reserve for him all "precious things" "blessings of the heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under" (Genesis 49:25, Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 33:13-15). Thus gloriously planted, Ephraim was to be the cynosure of the tribes, a paragon of sweetness and beauty. How ghastly the contrast—"But Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer" (Hosea 9:13)!
1. A worm at the root. "Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit," etc. (Hosea 9:16). This is the fate of all glory without God. Its root is not drawn from the sources of perennial life in the eternal One. It has in it the principle of decay. It is a glory of the world, fading, perishing. Sic transeat. The Christian's inheritance is incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth not away (1 Peter 1:4).
2. Ruthless butchery. (Hosea 9:13, Hosea 9:16) The pleasantness of Ephraim would be smutched with the blood of his own children—the "beloved" ones, the "darlings" of the womb. The very thought of the carnage that is to come almost makes the prophet's brain reel. He has threatened Ephraim with barrenness, but now that he has to frame a prayer for his people, he can think of no kinder one than that they may have "a miscarrying womb and dry breasts" (cf. Luke 23:29). One woe swallows up another, and makes it all but seem a blessing in comparison. Terrible, truly, when God departs!
III. IN RESPECT OF SETTLEMENT. (Hosea 9:15, Hosea 9:17) Ephraim would be driven from God's house, i.e. rejected from being his people, or spiritual house, and would be sent abroad as "wanderers among the nations." This, again, was in contradistinction to the original design of a permanent settlement as the Lord's people in the Lord's land.
1. The often-reiterated cause of the banishment is here again specified. The people were driven out
(1) for their wickedness, which had assumed peculiarly aggravated and concentrated forms ("in Gilgal"); and
(2) for their obduracy: "They did not hearken unto him," i.e. God. Even their wickedness would not have ruined them, had they repented of it when God reproved and pleaded with them. Now the day for repentance was past. "I will love them no more."
2. The doom is further individualized. "Wanderers among the nations." Such are the Jews at this day. Prophecy never spoke a truer word.—J.O.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hosea 9". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter