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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Hosea 14

 

 

Verse 1

O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.

O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity - (Hosea 5:5; Hosea 13:9, "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help"). The Hebrew for "return" [ shuwbaah (Hebrew #7725)] is intensive [as the Hebrew letter he (h) in the imperative implies], implying God's strong desire for Israel's return. Return at once and completely. "Unto" [ `ad (Hebrew #5704)] is literally, even up to the Lord; not merely toward the Lord. 'Great is repentance which maketh men to reach quite up to the throne of glory' (The Jewish book, Yomac, 8:, in Pococke).


Verse 2

Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.

Take with you words - instead of sacrifices-namely, the words of penitence here put in your mouths by God. "Words" in Hebrew [ d


Verse 3

Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.

Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say anymore to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods. Three besetting sins of Israel are here renounced: trust in Assyria, application to Egypt for its cavalry (forbidden, Deuteronomy 17:16. Compare Hosea 7:11, "They call to Egypt, they go to Assyria;" Hosea 11:5; Hosea 12:1; 2 Kings 17:4; Psalms 33:17, "An horse is a vain thing for safety." Compare Psalms 33:17; Proverbs 21:31; Isaiah 30:2; Isaiah 30:16; Isaiah 31:1), and idolatry.

For in thee the fatherless findeth mercy - descriptive of the destitute state of Israel when severed from God, their true Father. We shall henceforth trust in none but Thee, the only Father of the fatherless and Helper of the destitute (Psalms 10:14; Psalms 68:5). Our nation has experienced thee such in our helpless state in Egypt, and now, in a like state again, our only hope is in Thy goodness.


Verse 4

I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.

I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely - God's gracious reply to their self-condemning prayer.

Backsliding - apostasy; not merely occasional backslidings. God can heal the most desperate sinfulness (Calvin).

Freely - with a gratuitous, unmerited, and abundant love (Ezekiel 16:60-63). So as to the spiritual Israel (John 15:16; Romans 3:24, "Being justified freely (literally, gratuitously) by His grace;" Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10). The Hebrew is, literally, moved by myself, of my own accord [ n


Verse 5

I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.

I will be as the dew unto Israel - "the dew," which falls copiously in the East, supplying the place of the more frequent rains in other regions. God will not be "as the early dew that goeth away," but constant (Hosea 6:3-4; Job 29:19; Proverbs 19:12).

He shall grow as the lily. No plant is more productive than the lily, one root often producing 50 bulbs (Pliny, 'Natural History,' 21: 5). The common lily is white, consisting of six leaves, opening like bells. The royal lily grows to the height of three or four feet; Matthew 6:29 alludes to the beauty of its flowers.

And cast forth his roots as Lebanon - i:e., as the trees of Lebanon (especially the cedars), which cast down their roots as deeply as is their height upwards; so that they are immovable (Jerome). (Isaiah 10:34.) Spiritual growth consists most in the growth of the root, which is out of sight.


Verse 6

His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.

His branches shall spread - shoots, or suckers.

And his beauty shall be as the olive - which never loses its verdure. One plant is not enough to express the varied graces of God's elect people. The lily depicts its lovely growth; but as it wants duration and firmness, the deeply-rooted cedars of Lebanon are added; these, however, are fruitless, therefore the fruitful, peace-bearing, fragrant, evergreen olive is added.

And his smell as Lebanon - which exhaled from it the fragrance of odoriferous trees and flowers. 'As you enter the valley (between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon) straightway the scent meets you' (Theophrastus' 'History of Plants,' 10: 7, in Pusey). So Israel's name shall be in good savour with all (Genesis 27:27, Isaac "smelled the smell of his (Jacob's) raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed" (Song of Solomon 4:11).


Verse 7

They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.

They that dwell under his shadow shall return - They that used to dwell under Israel's shadow (but who shall have been forced to leave it) shall return - i:e., be restored to their original dwelling under it. Contrast Ezekiel 35:9, "I will make thee perpetual desolations, and thy cities shall not return." Others take "His shadow" to mean Yahweh's (cf. Psalms 17:8; Psalms 91:1; Isaiah 4:6, "There shall be (namely, for the restored Jews on Mount Zion) a tabernacle, for a shadow in the day time from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and rain"); which (Hosea 14:1-2) "return unto the Lord," etc., favours. But the "his" in Hosea 14:6 refers to Israel, and therefore must refer to the same here. They shall revive as the corn - as the grain long buried in the earth springs up with an abundant produce, so shall they revive from their calamities with a great increase of offspring (cf. John 12:24).

The scent thereof - i:e., Israel's fame. Compare Hosea 14:6, "His smell as Lebanon;" Song of Solomon 1:3, "Thy name is as ointment poured forth." The Septuagint favour margin, 'memorial.'

Shall be as the wine of Lebanon - which was most celebrated for its aroma, flavour, and medicinal restorative properties.


Verse 8

Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.

Ephraim shall say, What have I to do anymore with idols? - being brought to penitence by God's goodness, and confessing and abhorring his past madness.

I have heard him, and observed him - I Yahweh have answered and regarded him with favour: the opposite of God's former denunciation, "I will hide my face from them" (Deuteronomy 31:17). It is the experience of God's favour, in contrast to God's wrath heretofore, that leads Ephraim to abhor his past idolatry. Yahweh heard and answered; whereas the idols, as Ephraim now sees, could not hear, much less answer.

I am like a green fir - or cypress: ever green, winter and summer alike: the leaves not falling off in winter.

From me is thy fruit found - "from me," as the root. Thou needest go no further than me for the supply of all thy wants: not merely the protection implied by the shadow of the cypress, but that which the cypress has not-namely, fruit; all spiritual and temporal blessings. It may be also implied that whatever spiritual graces Ephraim seeks for or may have, are not of themselves, but of God (Psalms 1:3; John 15:4-5; John 15:8; James 1:17). God's promises to us are more our security for mortifying sin than our promises to God (Isaiah 27:9).


Verse 9

Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them:

Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them - "prudent," literally, gifted with understanding [ naabown (Hebrew #995), the passive of yaabeen, 'that he may understand'-which verb went before]. As "wise" refers to spiritual insight into divine truths, so "prudent" refers to practical wisdom. EPILOGUE, summing up the whole previous teaching. Here alone Hosea uses the term "righteous," or "just," so rare were such characters in his day. There is enough of saving truth clear in God's word to guide those humbly seeking salvation, and enough of difficulties to confound those who curiously seek them out, rather than practically seek salvation.

But the transgressors shall fall therein. Sinners stumble, and are offended at difficulties opposed to their prejudices and lusts, or above their self-wise understanding (cf. Proverbs 10:29; Micah 2:7; Matthew 11:19, "Wisdom is justified of her children;" Luke 2:34; John 7:17, "If any man will (wishes, or is willing to) do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God;" 1 Peter 2:7-8, "Unto you therefore which believe He is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient"). Translate, for "shall fall therein," shall stumble thereon. Transgressors stumble at the ways of God, not in them. Contrast Psalms 119:165, "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them." To him who sincerely seeks the agenda God will make plain the credenda. Christ is the foundation stone to some; a stone of stumbling and rock of offence to others. The same sun softens wax and hardens clay. But their fall is the most fatal who fall in the ways of God, split on the Rock of ages, and suck poison out of the Balm of Gilead.

Remarks:

(1) God herein at once invites Israel to repentance, and gives a promise of the spiritual power whereby His people, in God's good time, shall accept His gracious invitation. Every word of the invitation is full of mercy, and speaks as much to us as to the literal Israel. We have all gone astray from the ways of God. He, in condescending love, urges us to return, as though in doing so we should be conferring some great favour on Him. He assures us that He is the God of His people, and invites us not merely to return toward, but never to rest until we have reached even UP To Himself-to be satisfied with nothing short of Himself.

(2) In order truly to be raised up to Him, we must be taught by God the depth into which we have "fallen by our iniquity." Israel, in the day of her coming repentance, shall ascribe her fall as a nation, not to misfortune or fate, the power of the enemy, or her own weakness, but to its true cause, her own iniquity, which provoked the wrath of God. True confession is the first step in conversion. Instead of laying the blame on others, or palliating sin, the true penitent accuses himself, and justifies God even in His afflictive dealings toward him.

(3) Wherewith, then, shall the returning sinner come before God? God does not ask for costly offerings; He simply tells the penitent, when turning to the Lord, "Take with you words" (Hosea 14:2). What so cheap as words? And yet words such as God requires are not natural to fallen man. The Spirit of God alone can teach such words. God Himself here supplies a form; but the form must be used in concert with a heart full of humility, penitence, and sincere confession of sin, in order to be acceptable before Him. "Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously," shall be the cry of Israel returning to her Lord. As they have "fallen by their iniquity," so, in order that they may rise again, the Lord must take away all iniquity. They shall no longer, as in times past, try to make a compromise between the service of God and the service of their lusts; but shall earnestly seek to be delivered, not only from the penalty, but from the power of all sin. "Let not any iniquity have dominion over me" (Psalms 119:133) is the cry of every true penitent. Unable to effect this for ourselves, we must look wholly and heartily to God to effect it for us.

(4) In Gospel times we have no longer burdensome literal sacrifices to offer, but we have an offering continually to "render," which is more acceptable to Him (Psalms 69:30-31), the thanksgivings of unfeigned "lips," sanctified through the offering of Christ once for all. God, after having of His justifying grace "taken away all iniquity" from His people, and imputed to them, for their justification, the righteousness of Christ, "accepts" the "good" which they present before Him, because it is He who hath wrought all that is good in them (Isaiah 26:12).

(5) Another mark of true repentance is utter renunciation henceforth of all creature dependencies, on which we are naturally so prone to rely, and which were Israel's snare in times past: "Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses." Horses among the Jews in ancient times were used almost solely for war. To obtain them they had to apply to Egypt, and lest their doing so should entangle them in Egyptian idolatries, and cause them to rely on material sources, rather than on the arm of Yahweh, they were forbidden to "multiply horses" (Deuteronomy 17:16). They had disobeyed God in this respect, and had both multiplied horses and "said to the work of their own hands, Ye are our gods" (Hosea 14:3): but now they wish solely to lean upon God. Feeling that without Him they were as fatherless orphans, a prey to every injury, they appeal to Him "in whom the fatherless find mercy." Whenever we come to God in this spirit we shall not come in vain. God replies most graciously, "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely" (Hosea 14:4.) Believers complain often of their tendency, like Israel of old, to backslide. Let them, therefore, take home the comfort of this promise, For God's "anger is turned away from" all who believe; they are "justified freely through his grace" (Romans 3:24): and so they have every warrant to look confidently in prayer for the gift of the Spirit, to heal all their spiritual maladies, that so "where sin" hath "abounded, grace" may "much more abound" (Romans 5:20).

(6) To Israel primarily, but not exclusively, belong these promises. "His fountain" has been long "dried up," so that he has ceased to be spiritually "faithful" (Hosea 13:15). At the coming restoration God "will be as the dew unto Israel," not passing away as their fleeting goodness in times past (Hosea 6:4), but renewed day by day according to their need. Thus, Israel's fruitfulness shall be renewed with a perfection never before attained. One image is not enough to express the manifold graces of God's people as they shall be. The beauty of the lily's colour needs to be combined with the deep-rooted growth of the cedar; the fragrance of the aromatic shrubs of Lebanon with the everlasting verdure and fruitfulness of the olive. All that is beautiful, solid, attractive, and enduring, shall be found in harmonious unison in "the trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified" (Isaiah 61:3). Herein the world of grace shall realize glorious and lovely combinations never seen in the world of nature. The Lord's people are "rooted in Him" (Colossians 2:7) "like a green olive tree in the house of God" (Psalms 52:8): their prayers are as "odours" (Revelation 5:8), and their deeds of love as an "odour of a sweet smell" before God (Philippians 4:18).

(7) Israel in future time shall be the mother Church of Christendom; and under his shadow (Hosea 14:7) there shall be a general revival of spiritual religion throughout the world. The Jewish seed-corn, long buried in the earth, shall spring up again and bear fruit an hundred-fold (cf. Hosea 6:2). Israel, which once "bare fruit only unto himself" (Hosea 10:1), shall then bring forth fruit unto God. Ephraim shall renounce his idols, saying, "What have I to do anymore with idols?" This is the best test whether we belong to the spiritual Israel, Are we determined to part with every darling lust that would come between us and God? Then God accepts us as He will accept Ephraim: "I have heard, and regard him with favour," saith the prayer-hearing God (Hosea 14:8). Ephraim glories in the comeliness which her Lord has put upon her, "I am like a green fir tree:" and at the same time is ever reminded by God that she owes all to Him, "From me is thy fruit found."

(8) The concluding lesson is all-important to be remembered by those who desire to be spiritually "wise, so as to understand these" spiritual truths, practically "prudent," so as to "know" and apply them in daily life (Hosea 14:9). Such a one must begin with the axiomatic principle, "The ways of the Lord are right," not because we see the reason of them all, but simply because they are the Lord's ways. The end of moral science, says Aristotle ('Ethics,'

i. 3), is not knowledge, but practice. Let us "walk in them," so shall we find them altogether right, pleasant, and intelligible. Justified by the righteousness of Christ, which those wondrous ways of the Lord have thrown open to us, we shall be "just," and shall also justify the ways of our loving God. But "transgressors," with all their worldly wisdom, shall ever "stumble thereon." For "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him" (1 Corinthians 2:14).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hosea 14:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/hosea-14.html. 1871-8.

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