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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Hosea 14

Verse 1

1. Return Israel was an apostate; had gone after the Baals. To enjoy again the divine favor the people must return to their own God, Jehovah, in obedience and love (compare Hosea 6:1; Joel 2:12; Amos 4:6 ff.). Out of the Old Testament idea of a return to Jehovah grew the New Testament idea of conversion.

Jehovah thy God In view of their constant tendency to run after other gods (Hosea 2:5; Hosea 4:12, etc.) they needed to be reminded again and again that Jehovah was their only legitimate God.

Hast fallen Or, stumbled; they were over-taken by calamity (Hosea 4:5; Hosea 5:5) as a result of their sin.

Verses 1-9

ISRAEL’S REPENTANCE JEHOVAH’S PARDON, 1-9.

Aside from the question of authorship (see Introduction, p. 35ff.) chapter 14 presents several exegetical difficulties, especially in its latter part. Hosea 14:9 stands by itself as an epilogue to the whole book. The author of this verse, who seems to look back over the fulfillment of Hosea’s oracles, expresses the thought that whosoever desires to become wise and prudent should become acquainted with the Book of Hosea. From it he may learn that Jehovah’s ways are right, and that the destinies of men are determined by their attitude toward the divine will. There is some uncertainty concerning the interpretation of Hosea 14:8, but the general thought of Hosea 14:1-28.14.8 is clear. The prophet exhorts Israel to return to Jehovah in humility and sorrow (Hosea 14:1-28.14.2 a). He puts upon the lips of the Israelites words expressive of the deepest remorse, and of an earnest determination to remain forever loyal to Jehovah (Hosea 14:2-28.14.3). To this penitent prayer Jehovah responds that he will graciously pardon, and shower upon the God-fearing people blessings hitherto unknown (Hosea 14:4-28.14.8).

Verse 2

2. The Israelites were all familiar with the command, “None shall appear before me empty” (Exodus 23:15; Exodus 34:20), and they brought to Jehovah manifold gifts and offerings (Hosea 5:6; Amos 5:21 ff.; Isaiah 1:11 ff.), but for these Jehovah did not care. This Hosea had already made plain (see on Hosea 6:6); now he proceeds to give instruction concerning the things which will be acceptable to Jehovah.

Words Not meaningless phrases, but words expressing sincere repentance, such as he puts into their mouths in Hosea 14:2-28.14.3.

Take away It is natural that the prayer should begin with a petition for forgiveness (compare Micah 7:18-33.7.19; Psalms 51:9). Hebrew, “Do thou completely take away,” so that it shall be remembered no more.

Receive us graciously R.V., “accept that which is good.” Literally, take good; which may mean either, “Take and use that which is good,” that is, thy mercy, “and receive us again into thy favor” (so A.V.), or “Do thou take (accept) from us the only good we can offer, namely, words of supplication and repentance” (so R.V.). The expression is peculiar. If the text is correct, the second is a more natural interpretation of the Hebrew, though the first would seem to give a more acceptable sense.

So will we render the calves of our lips R.V., “So will we render as bullocks the offering of our lips.” The translation of A.V. disregards Hebrew grammar. R.V., as the italics indicate, attempts to remove the difficulty by giving a paraphrase rather than a translation. The thought implied in the latter is that the Hebrews, having learned their bitter lesson, will offer no longer bullocks of the herd, which are not acceptable (Hosea 6:6), but will substitute, as sacrificial animals, words of penitence and prayer (Psalm 2:16, 17; Psalms 69:30-19.69.31). The expression itself is so peculiar, however, that many doubt the correctness of the text. LXX. reads, “We will render the fruit of our lips,” and this is generally accepted as the original (compare Isaiah 57:19). The “fruit of the lips” are the confessions, petitions, and promises of loyalty contained in Hosea 14:3. The whole prayer in Hosea 14:2 b may be rendered, “If thou wilt completely take away iniquity, and if thou wilt receive the (only) good (we can offer), then we will render the fruit of our lips.” Following these words Harper reads the last, clause of Hosea 14:3, “For in thee the fatherless findeth mercy,” as supplying the ground for the confidence underlying the promise in the last clause of Hosea 14:2. This transposition is proposed not so much because it improves the thought as because the strophic arrangement demands it.

Verse 3

3. Israel promises also to abstain from the very sins condemned so strongly and persistently by Hosea: (1) Trust in Assyria (Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:11; Hosea 8:9; Hosea 12:1); (2) reliance upon horses Human defenses (Hosea 1:7; Hosea 10:13). There may be implied a promise to cease trusting in Egypt, since Egypt furnished horses to Israel (1 Kings 10:28; Ezekiel 17:15; compare Isaiah 30:16; Isaiah 31:1).

The work of our hands Idols (Hosea 8:4). These they will no longer regard as gods (compare Hosea 13:2). Cheyne sees in the expression “the work of our hands” “an early anticipation of the splendid morsels of irony in which a later prophet lashes idolatry” (Isaiah 42:17; Isaiah 44:9 ff.).

In thee the fatherless findeth mercy Is to be connected with all the clauses, but especially with the last one.

Neither foreign alliances, nor human defenses, nor man-made idols can help. Jehovah alone is always willing and able to show mercy and loving-kindness.

Verses 4-8

4-8. The sentiments expressed in Hosea 14:1-28.14.3, are essentially different from those expressed in Hosea 6:1-28.6.3. The latter were superficial; to them Jehovah could give no favorable response; the prayer in Hosea 14:2-28.14.3, gives evidence of Israel’s sincerity; to it he responds with the promise of gracious redemption. The response is not addressed directly to Israel, but to the prophet; the former is referred to in the third person.

Heal The people’s condition is likened to a disease which requires the presence of a physician (Hosea 6:1).

Backsliding In Hosea 6:1, the people express the hope that Jehovah will heal, not their sin, but the damage caused by sin. Some commentators see in Hosea 14:4 a, a reference to this expectation that Jehovah will restore their prosperity. That Jehovah will heal all “the damage which their backsliding has brought upon them” is undoubtedly true (5-7), but Jehovah will do something more; he will remove the cause of the calamity the spirit of apostasy which is responsible for the present hopeless condition (Hosea 11:7; compare Jeremiah 31:31-24.31.33).

Freely Spontaneously. They need not purchase his love as they purchased the favor of Assyria and Egypt.

Mine anger is turned away The change of attitude on the part of Israel has made it possible for Jehovah to manifest himself again in love and mercy (Hosea 12:14). 4b belongs really to Hosea 14:5, and not to 4a. The two clauses in 4a form a complete parallelism, similarly 4b and 5a form a parallelism. Because Jehovah’s anger is turned away he will be as dew unto Israel. The disease healed, the ruins of the past removed, a life of prosperity and peace may begin; to it Jehovah will give his blessing.

Dew “The dews of Syrian nights are excessive; on many mornings it looks as if there had been a heavy rain.” This dew is of great importance in Palestine, since it is the only slackening of the drought which the country feels from May till October. In view of this fact it is only natural that dew should become a symbol of that which is refreshing, quickening, and invigorating (Psalms 133:3). Jehovah will put new energy and life into Israel (compare Micah 5:7). The figure of dew is used in Hosea 6:4, with an entirely different meaning.

The following verses (5-7) describe under various figures the splendor of the temporal and spiritual prosperity of the regenerated people.

Grow as the lily R.V., “blossom.” The figure suggests beauty (Song of Solomon 2:1-22.2.2; Matthew 6:28-40.6.29) and stateliness; perhaps also rapidity of multiplication. Pliny states that the lily is unsurpassed in its fecundity, one single root often producing fifty bulbs.

Cast forth That they may strike far and deep.

His roots as Lebanon Mountains are represented as having roots (Job 28:9); therefore the comparison may be with Lebanon itself, or the prophet may think of the cedars of Lebanon. In either case it is a figure of stability.

His branches Better, his saplings (compare Isaiah 53:2, “tender plant”); the shoots that spring up from the roots around the parent stem.

Shall spread Israel is not to be a single tree, but a whole garden.

As the olive tree The olive tree ranks high for its beauty. It is an evergreen, and its leaves have a beautiful appearance; the “arrangement of colors makes an olive tree at a little distance appear as if covered with a filmy veil of silver gauze, which gives a soft dreamy sheen to the landscape (Jeremiah 11:16).” The additional thought of serviceableness may be implied (see on Joel 1:10).

His smell as Lebanon Lebanon is rendered fragrant by its cedars and aromatic shrubs (Song of Solomon 4:11). A figure of the delight with which God and man will look upon Israel.

The interpretation of Hosea 14:7 is uncertain. Most modern commentators consider the text corrupt and attempt emendations. The English translations do not reproduce the Hebrew correctly. If the translation is changed, fairly good sense may be had from the present text; render: “They that dwell under his shadow shall again bring to life corn; they shall blossom as the vine.” The mixed figures in the two clauses namely, the representation of one and the same person, on the one hand, as cultivating corn, on the other hand, as flourishing like a vine are thought by some to constitute a serious objection to the correctness of the Hebrew text, but this is not conclusive; even Isaiah is at times inconsistent in his use of figures (Isaiah 5:24).

His shadow The shadow of Israel.

They that dwell The individual Israelites. The nation is pictured as a tree under whose shadow its members dwell. In a similar manner the mother, Israel, is distinguished from the children, the individual Israelites (Hosea 2:2).

Revive Better, bring to life a picture of abundant fertility and prosperity (Hosea 10:1; Psalms 128:3).

The scent thereof Of the vine, Israel. Literally, his memorial, or, renown.

The wine of Lebanon Even Pliny speaks of the excellence of this wine; and more recent travelers praise it very highly (Ezekiel 27:18). G.A. Smith and others do not consider Hosea 14:7 a continuation of Jehovah’s promises in Hosea 14:5-28.14.6, but an utterance of the prophet. The former reads, following in part the LXX., “They (Israel) shall return and dwell in his (Jehovah’s) shadow; they shall live well watered as a garden; till they flourish like a vine, and be fragrant like the wine of Lebanon.”

Verse 8

8. Ephraim shall say, What have I to do So Targum and Peshitto. R.V. margin reproduces the Hebrew more accurately, “O Ephraim, what have I to do.” The question is spoken by Jehovah, not by Ephraim (Israel). Jehovah knows that he can supply every need of his people; why, he inquires, should idols be joined with him in worship? The rest of the verse presents a justification of Jehovah’s claim to their whole-hearted service, he will supply all their needs. LXX. represents a slightly different text: “Ephraim, what hath he to do?” The answer implied is that he has nothing more to do with idols; he has entirely discarded them (Hosea 14:3). In view of Israel’s conversion Jehovah will supply all their needs. LXX. may have preserved the original text.

I have heard R.V., “answered” The pronoun is emphatic, I on my part, or It is I who. The tense is a prophetic perfect, though the perfect; may be used to indicate that in the divine mind the change of attitude has already been determined upon. Jehovah will respond to Israel in the same spirit in which Israel approaches him (Hosea 2:15; Hosea 2:21; Hosea 2:23; compare Isaiah 65:24).

Observed R.V., “will regard,” that is, with loving care and tenderness (Isaiah 8:17; Deuteronomy 31:7).

I am like a green fir tree The precise kind of tree in the mind of the prophet may be uncertain, but there can be no doubt that he is thinking of the splendid forests of Mount Lebanon. The pronoun is again emphatic. Who is the speaker? The preceding clauses are evidently placed in the mouth of Jehovah; so is the last clause of Hosea 14:8. It seems natural, therefore, to ascribe these words also to him. Under the figure of an evergreen tree he seeks to teach the people that his interest in their welfare is unchangeable; that the protection and shelter he offers them will continue forever. Against this interpretation it is urged that Jehovah is nowhere else likened to a tree, and that such comparison is alien to the spirit of prophecy (Hosea 4:13; compare Isaiah 1:29). Consequently the words are placed in the mouth of Israel as a “naive self-congratulation on the part of Israel.” The last clause is interpreted as a reply by Jehovah, warning them not to boast in their prosperity, but to remember that Jehovah is the giver of every good and perfect gift. In favor of this view is the comparison of Israel with the forests of Lebanon (Hosea 14:5). The abrupt change in speakers, without indication of such a change, cannot be urged against this interpretation, for similar changes are found in other parts of the Old Testament (compare Psalms 132:0). Some have gone so far as to make Jehovah speak twice and Israel twice, assigning lines 1 and 3 to Israel, lines 2 and 4 to Jehovah. But if line 3 is spoken by Israel, of itself, and line 4 by Jehovah, of Israel, it is strange that the nation should be likened to two different kinds of trees in two successive clauses to a fir tree and to a fruit tree. For this reason it may be better to assign the whole of Hosea 14:8 to Jehovah, and regard it as a continuation of the divine promises to Israel.

From me is thy fruit found All the fruitfulness and prosperity of Israel comes from Jehovah. There may be in the original a play upon the name Ephraim, as in Hosea 13:15.

With Hosea 14:8 closes the direct prophetic message. Hosea 14:9 is the epilogue, summoning the people to lay to heart the lessons of the Book of Hosea. This epilogue is similar in import to the words of Jesus, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15; Matthew 13:9, etc.). Because of its similarity in tone and language with the Wisdom Literature, the fact that the appeal seems to presuppose the fulfillment of Hosea’s oracles, and the lack of similarity with Hosea’s style, scholars are agreed almost universally in declaring the verse a later addition by some prophetic spirit who lived at a time and in surroundings which called for a message similar to that of Hosea. Whether Hosea is the author or not the meaning remains the same, but neither A.V. nor R.V. makes this meaning very clear. Both translations emphasize the difficulties presented by the divine providence as set forth by Hosea; few, if any, can comprehend them. Nevertheless, the author insists, they are straight, leading the faithful to life, the transgressor to destruction. While this interpretation brings out an important truth, it does not seem to touch the real thought of Hosea 14:9. This thought becomes plain if 9a is rendered as follows: “Whosoever is wise, let him understand these things; (whosoever is) prudent, let him know them.”

Wise A very common word in the Wisdom Literature; a wise person is one who knows and does what is right and proper or is anxious to do the same; such a one is exhorted to understand and lay to heart.

These things The warnings, exhortations, promises, etc., contained in the Book of Hosea. The advice is enforced by a parallel appeal. Why?

For the ways of Jehovah are right There is no injustice in the acts of his providence (Psalms 19:9; Deuteronomy 32:4).

Just He who is obedient to the divine will.

Transgressors The opposite of just; the man who is not obedient. The word just occurs nowhere else in Hosea.

Shall walk in them In the divine ways. To walk in God’s ways is ordinarily to “conduct one’s self in accordance with the divine will.” If this is the meaning here the statement of the author becomes equivalent to “the obedient to the divine will are obedient.” This is meaningless.

To walk is in this verse equivalent to “to walk without encountering any obstacles.” He who learns the divine will as taught in the Book of Hosea, and is obedient to the same, shall live continually a happy and prosperous life; but the man who does not profit by these lessons, the transgressor who is disobedient to the divine will, shall meet his fate.

Shall fall therein Shall come to utter ruin. Whatever the outcome, the ways of Divine Providence are right. To one they mean life, to another death. Which it will be is determined by the individual’s attitude toward the will of God (1 Corinthians 1:18; compare Proverbs 11:5).

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hosea 14". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/hosea-14.html. 1874-1909.