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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 10

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verses 1-4

1, 2. Empty vine Or, emptying vine, that is, the vine that “pours forth its internal strength in abundance of growth and fruit”; therefore R.V., correctly, “luxuriant” (compare Hosea 9:10).

He bringeth forth fruit unto himself Instead of bringing forth fruit for his owner, Jehovah; R.V. makes it a relative clause and renders, “that putteth forth his fruit”; the vine is also fruitful.

Fruit Prosperity, wealth, and power. Probably a reference to the successes achieved under Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:23 ff.). The greater the prosperity the more he (Israel) hath increased the [“multiplied his”] altars If interpreted in the light of other expressions of Hosea, the prophet seems to condemn here not the multiplication of altars as such; he condemns them rather on account of the corruption of the worship centering there (Hosea 2:5 ff; Hosea 8:4; Hosea 8:11). The more their prosperity increased the more forgetful of Jehovah and the more devoted to the Baals they became.

Goodness Better, margin R.V., “prosperity.” The increase of prosperity made it possible to beautify the ceremonial.

Images [“pillars”] Compare Hosea 3:4; see on Micah 5:13.

Their heart is divided Between the Baals and Jehovah. If this meaning of the verb, favored by the ancient versions, is accepted, the margin presents a more literal translation, “He hath divided their heart.” The meaning smooth, or, slippery, suggested in R.V. margin, is more probable, however; their heart was slippery, that is, fickle and insincere, in its devotion to Jehovah. But the time of reckoning has come.

Found faulty R.V., “guilty”; better still, “they shall be dealt with as guilty,” or “they shall atone for their guilt.” The first blow will reveal the inefficiency of their worship and Jehovah’s displeasure with the same.

He Jehovah; the pronoun is emphatic in Hebrew.

Break down [“smite”] their altars Literally, break the neck, a very forceful expression; the breaking of the neck means utter destruction.

Recent commentators call attention to the fact that Hosea 10:5 is a more natural continuation of Hosea 10:2 than Hosea 10:3-4; this and other minor reasons are urged against the originality of the two verses, but the arguments can hardly be regarded as conclusive. Hosea 10:3 may be understood as a confession wrung from the Israelites by the terrors of the calamity announced in 2b.

We have no king No rightful king; no king worthy of the name.

Feared Fear of Jehovah is the common Old Testament expression for piety; it means such reverence for Jehovah as will prompt obedience to his will; this was lacking when they set up their kings (Hosea 8:4).

What then should a king do to us R.V., literally and more satisfactorily, “and the king (the one we do have) what can he do for us?” in the hour of distress and calamity (compare Hosea 10:7; Hosea 10:15; Hosea 13:10). He is absolutely powerless.

Hosea 10:1 calls attention to religious apostasy; Hosea 10:4 describes some phases of the moral degeneracy.

Have spoken Or, R.V., “speak.”

Words Mere words, which come only from the lips (Isaiah 36:5; Isaiah 58:13), which R.V. interprets to mean “vain words”; but the prophet means more than that actual falsehoods (Isaiah 29:21).

Swearing falsely in making a covenant The two expressions should be kept apart, as margin R.V. suggests: “they swear falsely (see on Hosea 4:2), they make covenants.” Not covenants made in ordinary life, but the covenants with Assyria and Egypt; these are displeasing to Jehovah (Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:11; Hosea 12:1).

Judgment Best understood of the punitive judgment of Jehovah. With 4b begins the announcement of the divine judgment. If this is the correct interpretation, the tenses must be understood as prophetic perfects, to be translated, with margin of R.V., “shall spring up.”

As hemlock From this passage and from Deuteronomy 29:18, where the word is translated “gall,” it appears that the Hebrew rosh refers to some poisonous plant, though it may be difficult to say which one; it is certainly not equivalent to the simple weed. Since the Hebrew word means also head it is thought by many to be a name for the poppy, of which several specimens are found in Palestine. Whatever it may be, it is always used in the Old Testament as a symbol of bitterness (Lamentations 3:19; Amos 6:12, etc.); so that the thought is that the judgment shall be as bitter as the hemlock (?) which grows in the furrows of the field.

Verses 1-8


Using the figure of a luxuriant vine, the prophet describes Israel’s external prosperity; it increased steadily, but instead of bringing forth good grapes it brought forth bitter grapes (Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalms 80:8 ff.). The greater the prosperity the more flagrant the moral and religious corruption (Hosea 10:1-2). Therefore altars, idols, and pillars shall be broken down, the calves of Samaria shall be carried into Assyria, priests and people shall be in terror and shall mourn (Hosea 10:2-6); even the king shall be cut off (Hosea 10:7). The high places shall be destroyed, thorns and thistles shall grow over them, and in terror the people shall cry for the mountains and hills to fall upon them (Hosea 10:8).

Verse 5

5. The judgment will produce consternation. Will the “calves” be able to help? No! Instead, the people will have the greatest concern for them. This is certainly an ironical situation.

Calves LXX. and Peshitto have the singular, calf, which is favored by his, that is, the calf’s, people and priest. If the plural is correct it would indicate that more than one calf (1 Kings 12:29) was worshiped there.

Beth-aven Beth-el (Hosea 4:15).

Mourn Because of the impending doom.

Priests Hebrews Chemarim. Not the common Old Testament term for priests. In Syriac and Aramaic it is the ordinary term for priests; in the Old Testament it seems to be confined to the priests ministering at the high places and in connection with the calf worship, which Hosea considers a counterfeit Jehovah worship; it is therefore a term of contempt (Zephaniah 1:4; 2 Kings 23:5). The English translation carries “shall mourn” over to the next clause as the predicate of the subject priests; but the Hebrew, contrary to the English translation, seems to connect “rejoiced” with priests, so as to read, “and the priests thereof shall rejoice for it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it.” The thought of rejoicing is out of place here; we expect a verb similar to mourn. Some commentators, though admitting that elsewhere the verb is used to express joyful emotions, think that here it is used in the sense of running about distracted with grief. The change of one consonant produces a verb to writhe, to tremble, and a verb of such or similar meaning is expected here.

For the glory Defines more clearly for it; the glory of the calf consists of its prestige, its influence, and not only of the “costly apparatus of its worship.” Its prestige vanishes when it proves itself unable to assist its worshipers, or even to protect itself.

Verses 6-8

6. The calf itself will be carried to Assyria for a present Not a present to secure help (Hosea 7:11; Hosea 12:1), though LXX. reads, “they shall carry it”; but after the conquest it is to be carried off as a part of the booty, which will be an additional proof of its helplessness.

King Jareb See on Hosea 5:13.

Shall receive shame,… shall be ashamed Not so much, they will have a sense of remorse and shame, but, they will be put to shame or confusion (Isaiah 1:29).

Of Or, through.

His own counsel Counsel is the ability to find ways and means and to adapt them to proper ends (compare Isaiah 11:2). The establishment of the calf worship was thought to be a master stroke (1 Kings 12:26 ff.); it is that very policy that will prove Israel’s undoing.

Hosea 10:7 should be translated, “Samaria is destroyed, her king is like foam upon the water.” The tenses are prophetic perfects, equivalent to shall be, for the destruction is still future (Hosea 10:6; Hosea 10:8). The judgment will reach its climax in the fall of Samaria. It did so when about fifteen years later the city was taken by Sargon of Assyria, in 722-721.

Her king The ruling monarch, not the idol god (Amos 5:26).

As the foam So Targum, Vulgate, and a few modern commentators. The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain: Probably, like a chip, which is tossed about and, irresistibly carried hither and thither by the stream, finally vanishes forever.

Hosea 10:8 in a sense continues Hosea 10:6; the calf is to be carried away and the very place where it has stood is to be smitten by Jehovah. To prevent the apparent interruption of the thought and to preserve the climax Harper places 8a immediately after Hosea 10:6.

High places See on Hosea 4:13.

Aven Beth-aven (Hosea 10:5).

Sin They were the embodiment of Israel’s sin (compare Hosea 4:12 ff.). The sanctuary, the altar, everything will vanish so completely that thorns and thistles will be allowed to grow undisturbed upon the ancient site (Hosea 9:6). When the king has been swept away, the capital destroyed, the idols carried away, the sanctuary leveled to the ground, when all this has come to pass the people that are left behind will in their despair cry out for swift death and destruction; they will call for the mountains to cover them that they may be compelled no longer to endure the terrible judgments of Jehovah (compare Luke 23:30; Revelation 6:16).

Verses 9-15


With Hosea 10:9 the prophet begins a new presentation of Israel’s guilt. In the very beginning a great crime darkened their history (Hosea 10:9); from that time on they have resisted every effort to lead them into a higher and purer life; hence death and destruction await them (Hosea 10:9-11). The announcement of judgment is interrupted by an exhortation to repentance (Hosea 10:12), which immediately changes again into a threat (Hosea 10:13-15). Hosea 10:9.

From the days of Gibeah The reference is to the outrage in Gibeah described in Judges 19-21 (compare Hosea 9:9). Beth-baal-peor (Hosea 9:10) marked the beginning of religious corruption; Gibeah was the scene of the first outbreak of deep moral corruption. Since then conditions had not changed materially. This interpretation is preferable to that implied in the marginal reading, “thou hast sinned more than in the days of Gibeah.” The latter part of Hosea 10:9 is open to various interpretations. For the second clause, there they stood, the margin offers a more satisfactory translation “there have they continued.” For this meaning of the verb compare Jeremiah 32:14; Isaiah 47:12.

There In Gibeah, or, rather, in the criminal conduct of Gibeah.

The battle In which judgment was executed upon the guilty tribe (Judges 20:1 ff.). If 9b is rendered a declaratory sentence the verb must be reproduced by a past tense, “did not overtake them.” If so, the thought is that, while the criminals of Gibeah received their reward, just punishment has not yet been visited upon Israel. But, Hosea 10:10 continues, the judgment cannot be withheld forever. 9b may be translated also as a question: “Shall not the battle… overtake them?” that is, can these people, persisting in vice, believe that they will escape retribution? Hosea 10:10 supplies the answer:

It is in my desire Better, R.V., “When it is my desire.” Jehovah does not overlook the crimes; when the proper moment arrives he will execute judgment.

The verses following show that the time of vengeance has arrived. The punishment will take the form of hostile invasions by Assyria (Hosea 10:6), by Egypt (Hosea 9:6).

When they shall bind themselves in their two furrows In the rendering of the last word the translators have followed the Targum. The Hebrew is uncertain; LXX. and Vulgate translate “iniquities”; so R.V., “when they are bound to their two transgressions.” The two transgressions are not the two calves at Beth-el and Dan, but the twofold sin indicated in Hosea 8:4: the setting up of kings contrary to the divine will, and the religious apostasy expressing itself in reliance upon foreign nations and in the worship of the Baals. When they are bound is of uncertain meaning. Some interpret it as a causal clause because they are bound, inseparably devoted, to their transgressions; others, as a temporal clause when they are bound, or, when I bind them, in punishment for their transgressions. LXX. and Peshitto render “chastise,” which favors the second interpretation; and this is to be preferred unless the text is changed. By the alteration of one consonant the whole clause may be made to read, “In order to bind (chastise) them for their two transgressions.”

Hosea 10:11 contains a new figurative description of the punishment to be meted out. Now Ephraim is in peace and prosperity, but soon suffering and distress will overtake him.

Taught Broken in to work.

Loveth to tread out the corn A pleasant and easy task, especially since the animals were allowed to eat freely of the grain (Deuteronomy 25:4). Some consider taught inappropriate here, because, they say, the breaking in to do heavy work is a part of the punishment; for this reason they either omit it, and read, “And Ephraim is a heifer that loveth to tread out the grain” but he will not be permitted to do this delightful work much longer or they add not; “a heifer that is not taught.” All he has done thus far is to tread out the grain, but in the future he will be subjected to severer treatment.

But I passed over upon her fair neck It is a disputed question whether this clause continues the description of the kind treatment I have spared the beauty of her neck that is, thus far the heifer has not been compelled to do any hard work; the rest of the verse would call attention to the change of treatment about to take place; or whether with it begins the threat: I placed the yoke upon her fair neck. If this interpretation, which seems preferable because it restores the parallelism, is accepted, the tense is to be understood as a prophetic perfect. The Hebrew permits either interpretation.

Make Ephraim to ride R.V., “set a rider on Ephraim.” An even more probable rendering is, “I will make Ephraim to draw,” that is, the plow or the cart. North and south alike will share in the punishment. Instead of treading out the grain they will be compelled to do the hard work of plowing and harrowing. Since nowhere in this connection is there any reference to Judah, it is probable that in the last part of Hosea 10:11 Israel should be read instead of Judah.

Verse 12

12. Momentarily the tone of the prophet changes to one of exhortation. If Israel would only turn and seek Jehovah the judgment might yet be averted. For such turning the prophet pleads. But he seems to recognize the uselessness of the appeal, for in Hosea 10:13 ff. he reiterates the threats of 9-11. The figures are borrowed again from agricultural pursuits.

Sow… in righteousness Let your conduct be governed by righteousness, by such attitude toward God and man as is proper in view of the covenant relation between Jehovah and Israel. Reap in mercy [“according to kindness”] Let the effects of your life be such as are in accord with loving-kindness (see on Hosea 2:19). LXX., “reap the fruit of kindness.”

Break up your fallow ground The transformation is to be thorough. “Husbandmen in the East are indolent and sometimes sow among thorns (Jeremiah 4:3; Matthew 13:7). The Israelites are warned against committing this fault in their spiritual husbandry.” The three clauses “sow… reap… break up” should be interpreted as containing three distinct exhortations.

It is time The door of mercy is still open, the judgment may yet be averted.

Seek Jehovah See on Amos 5:4.

Till he come and rain righteousness upon you This translation is to be preferred over the one suggested in the margin, “teach you righteousness” (see on Joel 2:23). Till he come is to be understood as a final clause, “in order that he may come.” Rain is a picture of abundance, and the entire clause may be paraphrased, “in order that Jehovah may manifest his righteousness toward you in abundant measure.” Jehovah’s righteousness, like Israel’s righteousness, is the attitude which is proper in view of the covenant relation between Israel and Jehovah. As such it may manifest itself either in judgment or in mercy. If Israel will follow the prophetic exhortation it will manifest itself in the merciful withholding of judgment. LXX. reads, “in order that (until) the fruit of righteousness (prosperity) may come to you.” Fruit of lies in Hosea 10:13 is in favor of the LXX. reading.

Hosea 10:13 a contrasts their past conduct and experiences with the conduct demanded in Hosea 10:12.

Plowed wickedness Plowed is equivalent to sowed (Hosea 10:12); they formed wicked plans (Job 4:8).

Reaped iniquity The fruits of their lives have been iniquity, not loving-kindness.

Fruit of lies Or, of faithlessness, that is, to Jehovah (Hosea 11:12). They were compelled to endure disaster and calamity. The tenses in this verse are not prophetic perfects; they describe past experiences.

With Hosea 10:13 b begins the reiteration of the threat, Hosea 10:13 b being the protasis, Hosea 10:14 the apodosis. The transition from one clause to the other is somewhat abrupt, but the reference in Hosea 10:13 a to the policy of “lies” prepares the way for Hosea 10:13 b, which makes it plain wherein consisted the faithlessness: instead of relying upon Jehovah they put their trust in human defenses (Isaiah 7:9).

In thy way Thy policy. LXX. (except B) and Vulgate read, “thy chariots” (compare Hosea 14:3; Isaiah 2:7), which is favored by the context.

Mighty men The army.

Therefore Because of the lack of confidence in Jehovah (Isaiah 7:9).

Tumult Of war (Isaiah 17:12; Amos 2:2).

Among Better, R.V. margin, “against.”

Thy people Hebrew, “thy peoples”; the tribes of which the nation is composed (Deuteronomy 33:3). The emendation “against thy cities” is not needed. The destruction to be wrought is compared with that of Beth-arbel by Shalman Both of these proper names have been and are still subjects of much discussion. Shalman has been identified with (1) Shalmaneser III of Assyria, who “made an expedition to the Lebanon in 775 and to Damascus in 773-772” (Harper) (for similar abbreviations compare Jeremiah 22:24; Jeremiah 22:28; Jeremiah 24:1, with 2 Kings 24:6); (2) Shalmaneser IV of Assyria (727-722 B.C.), who undertook an expedition against Israel in 725; (3) Sala-manu, a king of Moab, a contemporary of Hosea, who paid tribute to Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria; (4) Shalmah, a north Arabian tribe, which invaded the Negeb; (5) the Zalmunna of Judges 8:6. Arbela has been identified with (1) Arbela, near Pella, east of the Jordan; (2) Arbela on the Tigris, near Nineveh; (3) Arbela in the territory of Naphtali, in Upper Galilee ( 1Ma 9:2 ). The words which in Hebrew stand together have also been taken as the name of a city Shalman-beth-arbela. (For similar formations see 2 Samuel 20:14-15; Numbers 33:46.) Thus far no entirely satisfactory solution of the question has been found. From the reference it would seem that the event in question was well known and therefore probably one of recent date and of considerable importance; but our present historical knowledge does not enable us to connect any of the persons named with the destruction of any of the localities suggested. The campaign of 775 is said to have been against the “country of Erini,” the country of the cedar trees; that of 773-772 was undertaken probably by the successor of Shalmaneser III, Ashur-dan III. If it is Shalmaneser IV the passage must be a later addition, since Hosea’s activity ended before this king ascended the throne. The ancient versions offer no solution; they also seem to have been in the dark.

The mother was dashed in pieces A circumstantial clause to be connected with the preceding, “when the mother was dashed in pieces” (Hosea 13:16; compare 2 Kings 8:12; Amos 1:13; Psalms 137:8-9).

In Hosea 10:15 Jehovah addresses the Israelites directly, announcing that a similar fate is awaiting them on account of their great wickedness. The construction of the first sentence is uncertain. So shall Beth-el do Beth-el as the center of idolatrous worship is to bring about the downfall of Israel. This translation is a little awkward. Others have interpreted Bethel as an accusative of place, “at Beth-el,” while they have supplied the subject of the verb, either Jehovah or Shalman, “So shall he do at Beth-el.” But if Beth-el is not the subject it is better taken as a vocative: “So shall he do unto thee, O Beth-el.” Beth-el, the religious center, stands for the whole country or nation, just as sometimes the capital, Samaria, is used in the place of Israel. LXX. presents a more satisfactory reading, “Thus I will do unto you, O house of Israel.”

Your great wickedness Literally, the wickedness of your wickedness (compare Song of Songs the song par excellence: holy of holies the most holy)

In a morning R.V., “at daybreak.” The meaning is uncertain. Some see in the phrase the thought that at daybreak it will be discovered that during the night the king has been slain; others, that he will be cut off in the early morning hours the king’s death is the first event of the day (Psalms 90:14); still others, “as suddenly as comes the dawn after a night of slumber.” Keil understands it as the dawn of prosperity; just as prosperity begins to dawn the king will perish. The expression remains peculiar. A change of one consonant would give “in the storm,” that is, of battle.

King of Israel Not one particular king, but the institution of the monarchy.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hosea 10". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/hosea-10.html. 1874-1909.
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