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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
Hosea 10

 

 

Verses 1-15

Chapter 10

An Empty Vine

We have already been reminded of Israel’s early freshness when God found them like grapes in the wilderness. In those happy days of their first deliverance they bore a little fruit for the Lord (oh. 9:10). Now we have to notice His solemn judgment of them as an utterly failed testimony: “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself” (ver. 1). The lesson of the vine is an important one, which we shall do well to trace out through both Testaments. In Psalm 80, beginning at ver. 8, we have a most significant statement. “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: Thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river.” This was Israel according to the mind of God, as His testimony in the earth. Such they would ever have remained, had there been lowliness of mind and subjection of heart, leading to confidence in and dependence upon Him continually. But the very opposite of this was developed, as we well know, and Scripture makes abundantly clear. Therefore “the boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it” (ver. 1 of the same psalm). God came looking for fruit in accordance with Isaiah 5. Gazing down upon His vine, seeking grapes, He found only wild grapes. It was, as described by Hosea, “an empty vine;” there was no fruit for the Lord. All was for self.

Therefore the vine of the earth was set aside eventually, its enclosing wall broken down, and it will be fully judged in the awful vintage yet to come (Revelation 14:18-20). Meantime upon the rejection of the empty vine, God brings in a vine that will bear-one that He will ever find fruit upon. So the Lord Jesus, the Man of God’s purpose, tells His disciples in John 15 of “the True Vine,” even Himself. He takes the place of Israel to maintain a testimony for God in the earth. In matchless grace He associates His redeemed with Himself in this: “I am the Vine, ye are the branches.” Empty branches, with no vital link, may be intruded among the branches as belonging to the vine; but as there is no living connection with the vine there will be no fruit. Such are false professors who are cut off, and cast forth as branches, withered, and whose end is to be burned. The fruit-bearing branches are purged that they may bear more fruit. Yea, God the Father is glorified when they bear much fruit!

It will be seen from this that the vine refers to the earth. It is God’s testimony in the world; once committed to Israel, now maintained by Christ through His beloved people in this scene. The empty vine has been set aside in judgment. The True Vine has taken its place, and shall never be set aside, for it is Christ Himself and His people in Him. Therefore, however individuals fail, we find Him introducing Himself to Laodicea as “The faithful and true Witness” (Revelation 3:14).

This tenth chapter before us but concludes the proof that Israel had indeed fallen into the sad condition described in the first verse. All hope of recovery was gone for the present. They must pass through affliction and tribulation, and consequent repentance, ere they could again be taken up; and when they are, it will be as branches in the living Vine, linked up with their once-rejected Messiah as God’s testimony in the Millennium; no longer as under the old covenant, on the ground of their responsibility (in which position they failed from the first), but under the new covenant of God’s pure grace toward them, unmerited and sovereign.

The opening words of the second verse give the root-trouble in a very brief sentence, “Their heart is divided.” This was the cause of all subsequent sorrow and failure. They did not cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart. They were double-minded, and therefore unstable in all their ways. A single heart for God’s glory is the prime necessity for a holy life. This they had neglected. Therefore they had to eat of the fruit of their own devices.

To walk with God with a divided heart is utterly impossible. He is not asking for the first place in the heart, either-as people often put it. He is far too exclusive for that. His word is, “My son, give Me thy heart” - the whole heart, with no reservation whatever. Only when this is done will the walk and ways be in accordance with His mind. Here Israel failed, as their idolatrous altars testified; and when God chastened them for their sin, instead of owning His righteousness in thus dealing with them, they sought to make a covenant with the nations, that they might escape the merited discipline. Having no prince to save them, they made desperate efforts to secure an arm of flesh elsewhere on which to lean; but that God would not permit (vers. 3, 4).

The inhabitants of Samaria, who, for so long, had “feared the Lord and served their own gods” (2 Kings 17:33), must now be made to tremble “because of the calves of Beth-aven,” upon them they had relied: for at last, after so long a trial, God had written “Ichabod” over the whole northern kingdom. The glory had departed (ver. 5). Therefore they were to be carried as a gift to the king of Assyria, that Ephraim might receive shame and Israel be ashamed of his own counsel. Thus Samaria’s king would prove as powerless as the foam upon the water, which seems for a moment substantial and real; but, in the next, has vanished away (vers. 6, 7).

The eighth verse manifestly looks on to a far more solemn fulfilment than its secondary application to the Assyrian victory of old. The expressions used connect it with the awful overthrow of all established order in the last days, as described under the sixth seal of Rev. 6. Then “they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.” This will be the time when they shall receive of the Lord’s hand double for all their sins, and shall realize, in bitterness of soul, their folly in departing from the living God.

Again He reminds them, as in the previous chapter (ver. 9), that they had sinned from the days of Gibeah. The iniquity then perpetrated had never been thoroughly judged, but rather, as leaven, had wrought throughout all the years since, permeating the mass. Therefore He must chastise them, because of His yearning desire for their blessing. He loved them, and, because of this, He had to discipline them for their sins.

The expression, “When they shall bind themselves in two furrows,” is variously rendered, and seems ambiguous. The R. V. gives, “When they are bound to their two transgressions.” Might “their two transgressions” be the “two evils” of Jeremiah 2:13? They had forsaken Him who is the Fountain of living waters, and had hewed out broken cisterns for themselves. The prophet Isaiah similarly charges them with two transgressions-the rejection of God’s Anointed, and the setting up of idolatry.

The happy result of the disciplinary ways of the Lord is beautifully portrayed in vers. 11, 12, which here come in parenthetically, ere the subject of their sin and its punishment is continued in the closing verses. Both Judah and Ephraim, as tractable oxen, shall submit to the yoke, and delight to tread out the corn in the days when their lesson shall have been learned in the presence of God. But this will only be when they sow in righteousness and godliness. Then they shall reap in mercy. The fallow ground must be broken up by the power of the Word ministered in the energy of the Holy Ghost. Thus will there be response when the set time has arrived to seek the Lord that He may come and rain righteousness upon them. For us, all this has its present application, if we have hearts to bow to it.

But though, for Israel and Judah, such blessing is in store, the last three verses describe their unhappy state till they are made willing in the day of His power.

Plowing wickedness, they but go on reaping iniquity and eating the fruit of lies; because their trust is not in Him, but in their own way and the multitude of their mighty men. Consequently breaking up and spoiling, in place of repairing the breach and restoration, must be their portion. See Isaiah 58:12. Bethel, which had become the centre of their idolatry, would prove their undoing; speaking as it did of their grievous apostasy. Judah, we know, was preserved for a time, and a light maintained for David’s sake, till Messiah should appear; but the king of Israel was utterly cut off and the throne over-turned, never to be re-established till He shall come whose right it is to reign. Then the breach between Israel and Judah shall be healed, as predicted by all the prophets, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. No longer will “an empty vine” be descriptive of the earthly people; but as a vine flourishing they shall take root downward and send forth fruit-laden branches above, to the praise of the glory of Jehovah’s grace.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Hosea 10:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/hosea-10.html. 1914.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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