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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Hosea 10

 

 

Verse 1

Hosea 10:1. Israel is an empty vine — The Hebrew, גפן בוקק, may either signify, an empty, or emptying vine. If we take it in the former sense, the meaning is, Israel is a vine which has no fruit on it; that is, that they brought forth no fruit to God, had no true worshippers of him among them, none that truly served and glorified him; for it is said in the following words that he brought forth fruit unto himself. If the expression be understood in the other sense, and be rendered an emptying vine, the sense of the clause is, Israel is a vine which casteth its grapes, that is, does not bring them forth to perfection. And by the next words, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself, may be understood, not only that they used the blessings which God had given them according to their pleasure, and to the gratification of their lusts, but that their apparent good works proceeded from selfish motives, and not from a regard to the glory and will of God. The LXX. give the expression yet another sense, αμπελος ευκληματουσα, a vine well furnished with branches: with which accords the Vulgate, vitis frondosa. Thus interpreted, the words may be considered as indicative of their national prosperity, increasing population, and military strength. According to the multitude of his fruit — By the fruit here spoken of we are not to understand good works, but their abundant crops, numerous flocks and herds, and public opulence; he hath increased the altars — When their land yielded a most plentiful harvest, and their flocks, and herds, and wealth increased, this plenty was employed on multiplying their idols. Their idolatrous altars were as numerous as their national prosperity was great, and were increased in proportion thereto. And according to the goodness, &c., they have made goodly images — Imagining that the goodness of their land was a blessing from their idols. Bishop Horsley reads here, Like the beauty of his land he made the beauty of his images, interpreting the meaning to be, “That the exquisite workmanship of his images was as remarkable as the natural beauty of his country.”


Verse 2-3

Hosea 10:2-3. Their heart is divided — Between God and their idols, or between God and the world. Now shall they be found faulty — As this was their sin, so it is here threatened, that the effects thereof should prove, and be an open manifestation of their guilt. The Hebrew עתה יאשׁמו, may be rendered, now shall they be punished, or, treated as guilty. So the Vulgate, nunc interibunt, now, that is, forthwith, shall they perish. He shall break down their altars, &c. — That is, God shall cause their idolatrous altars to be broken down, namely, by the Assyrians. For now they shall say — They shall see and feel, and be compelled to own; We have no king — Absolutely none, or no such king as we need and expected. This is thought by some commentators to relate to the time of anarchy, or the interregnum which continued for eight or nine years between the murder of Pekah and the settlement of Hoshea on the throne; because we feared not the Lord — They shall be sensible that their forsaking the Lord for idols, and their casting off his fear, is the true cause of all their calamities; and particularly of their being deprived of the blessing of a wise, just, and good civil government. What then — Or rather, But what should a king do for us? A king could not save us without the help of God. The verse, however, seems rather to refer to the time of their captivity, and the sense probably is, “After Israel shall be carried captive into the country of their enemies, and shall have no king over their nation, they shall then acknowledge that this misfortune has happened to them through their own fault, and because they have not feared the Lord. And they shall acknowledge that it would profit them nothing to have kings, without having also the protection of God.” — Calmet.


Verse 4

Hosea 10:4. They have spoken words — Mere empty words; swearing falsely in making a covenant — This may be spoken either of their breaking their solemn covenant with God, (see Hosea 5:7,) or of their treachery toward their kings, against whom they had formed several conspiracies: see 2 Kings 15:10; 2 Kings 15:14; 2 Kings 15:25; 2 Kings 15:30. Thus judgment — Divine vengeance; springeth up as hemlock, &c. — Destructive calamities, inflicted by the righteous judgment of God, will necessarily abound, as hemlock does in the furrows of a field. Bishop Horsley renders the verse, Negotiate, (or, talk words,) swear false oaths, ratify a treaty; nevertheless judgment shall sprout up, like hemlock over the ridges of the field. Which version he paraphrases thus: “Negotiate alliances with one power after another; make a treaty with the Assyrians; bind yourselves to it with an oath; break your oath, and make a new alliance with the Egyptian. In spite of all measures of crooked policy, all acquisitions of foreign aid and support, judgment is springing up.”


Verse 5

Hosea 10:5. The inhabitants of Samaria — That is, the kingdom of Israel; shall fear — “Be in a consternation.” — Horsley. Because of the calves of Beth-aven — The Jewish writers have a tradition, that the golden calf at Dan was taken away by Tiglath-pileser, when he subdued Galilee, 2 Kings 15:29; and the other at Beth-el, (here called Beth-aven: see note on chap. Hosea 4:15,) by order of Shalmaneser, of which probably this is a prophecy. For the people thereof shall mourn over it — Hebrew, אבל עליו, shall grieve for him; and the priests thereof that rejoiced in it — Being fed, clothed, and enriched by it, shall now sorrow over it; for the glory thereof The riches of its temple; because it is departed — The Assyrians either broke it, or carried it away into Assyria. Both priests and people shall mourn and be distressed when they see it disgraced.


Verses 6-8

Hosea 10:6-8. It — The golden calf; shall be carried into Assyria — It was the custom of the eastern people, and also of the Romans, to carry away the gods of the conquered countries. For a present to King Jareb — See note on Hosea 5:13. The king of Assyria is meant, whose dependant and tributary the king of Israel now was. Ephraim shall receive shame — They shall be ashamed to find that the idol in which they trusted could not defend them or itself from being disgraced and taken away. Bishop Horsley’s version here is, Ephraim shall be overtaken in sound sleep, namely, in a dream of security, when nothing will be less in his thoughts than danger; and Israel shall be disgraced by his own politics; that is, the politics of the treaties of alliance, mentioned Hosea 10:4. An impolitic alliance with the king of Egypt was the immediate occasion of Shalmaneser’s rupture with Hoshea, which ended in the captivity of the ten tribes. As for Samaria, her king is cut off — Or, more literally, according to the Hebrew, Samaria is cut off, (or destroyed,) with her king; or, by a small alteration of the pointing, Her king is as the foam upon the water — Namely, as a bubble, which no sooner swells than it bursts: as if he had said, Many of her kings have rapidly passed away by assassination: and Hoshea shall soon be cut off by the king of Assyria. The high places also — The temples and altars dedicated to idolatrous worship, and usually placed on hills and mountains; of Aven — Or, Beth-aven; the sin of Israel — That is, the temples and altars, in and by which Israel has so greatly sinned, shall be destroyed, shall be entirely demolished; so that the thorn and the thistle shall come upon their altars — That is, their altar shall become such heaps of ruins, and the places around them be made so desolate, that thorns and thistles shall overrun and cover them. And they shall say to the mountains, Cover us — These words express the confusion and despair to which the Israelites should be reduced by the destruction of their country. Our Lord has made use of the same words, to denote the extremity of the Jews in the last siege of Jerusalem; and St. John, in the Revelation, to set forth the terror of the wicked in the day of judgment. They express also the great consternation of the wicked when any of God’s singular judgments overtake them, whose guilt prompts them to endeavour to hide themselves, and they even run into the darkest caves and holes of rocks to secure themselves.


Verse 9

Hosea 10:9. O Israel, thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah — This is not the first of thy sinning, O Israel, for long ago there was the greatest corruption of manners, and the most flagrant wickedness in Gibeah; and thou hast continued to be wicked ever since that time: see Judges 19. Some render the words, Thou hast sinned more than in the days of Gibeah. Thou hast been guilty of more atrocious crimes than that committed in that place. There — That is, upon that occasion, namely, the quarrel with the tribe of Benjamin, on account of the outrage of the men of Gibeah. They stood — Israel stood there in array, prepared for the attack. This relates to the war which the rest of the Israelites made against the Benjamites, because they would not deliver up the men of Gibeah, who had so shamefully and cruelly abused the Levite’s concubine: see Judges 20. The battle in Gibeah, &c., did not overtake them — By them here is meant not the children of iniquity, but the Israelites who warred against the Benjamites, because they would not deliver up these sinners; and the sense of the expression, the battle did not overtake them, is, that they were not overcome in this their attempt to inflict a just punishment on the perpetrators of a flagrant iniquity; for, though they were overcome in two battles, yet at last they gained an entire victory, and cut off all the Benjamites but six hundred: see notes on Judges 20.


Verse 10

Hosea 10:10. It is my desire that I should chastise them — Then I protected and gave them success, but now it is my desire that they should suffer due punishment; and I will bring punishment upon them. And the people shall be gathered against them — Either the Assyrians, whose alliance they formerly sought after; or those people whose idolatry they had complied with. When they shall bind themselves in their two furrows — The LXX. give a much plainer and easier sense of the words, who follow the marginal reading of the Hebrew, and render it, When I shall chastise them for their two iniquities; namely, the calves of Dan and Beth-el. Bishop Horsley, however, understands the passage in a sense somewhat similar to that given in our translation. His version of it is, When they are tethered down to their two furrows, which he explains as follows: “When they are tied to their two faults; that is, when they are reduced to a situation of such difficulty and danger, as to have no hope of deliverance by any measures of human policy, in which alone they place their confidence, but by choosing one or other of two alliances, the Egyptian or the Assyrian; in the forming of either of which they are criminal, having been repeatedly warned against all foreign alliances.”


Verse 11

Hosea 10:11. Ephraim is a heifer that is taught — Or, that is teachable; and loveth to tread out the corn — In opposition to ploughing; that is, loves the booty not gained by its own labour; or to tread out, and freely eat of the corn which is not its own. The mouth of the ox which trod out the corn was not muzzled. But I passed over — Or caused a yoke to pass over; her fair neck — Laid a light yoke upon her. Ephraim being here compared to a heifer, every thing that is said about him is therefore expressed in the same way as if a heifer were really spoken of. The meaning, laying aside the figurative expression, is, that God imposed a law upon Ephraim, or the Israelites, to direct and govern them. Will make Ephraim to ride — It seems this should rather be rendered, I will ride upon Ephraim, that is, I will be his ruler or director: those who had the management of oxen or heifers in those countries, used often to ride upon them. Thus Bishop Horsley: “This and the following clause give the image of a husbandman mounting his bullock to direct it over the corn.” Judah shall plough, and Jacob shall break his clods — By Jacob here is meant Israel, or the ten tribes, as separated from the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin; and the clause seems to signify that the kingdom of Judah should be superior to that of Israel. Or, the general sense of the verse may be, that the descendants of Jacob should be employed in servile offices by their enemies. Bishop Horsley interprets this difficult passage differently, thus: “The first three clauses of this verse express what had been done for the instruction of Ephraim by the Mosaic institution. The last two predict the final conversion of the Ephraimites, with the rest of the people, and their restoration to a condition of national splendour and prosperity. As if he had said, Notwithstanding the judgments that are to fall upon Ephraim, he was long under the training of my holy law; and the effect of that early discipline shall not be ultimately lost. I will, in the end, bring Ephraim to obedience. Judah shall be diligent in the works I prepare for him; and the whole race of Jacob shall take part in the same labours of the spiritual field, with profit and advantage to themselves.”


Verse 12

Hosea 10:12. Sow to yourselves in righteousness. — Exercise yourselves in the works of righteousness and holiness, in the performance of all duties due both to God and man. Reap in mercy — And then God, of his grace and mercy, will, in due time, bestow an abundant reward upon you. Break up your fallow ground — Your hearts are as ground overrun with weeds, which have need to be ploughed and broken up by conviction, humiliation, and godly sorrow for sin, that good seed may be sown in them. For it is time — High time, if you mean to do it at all, and a fit season for it, 2 Corinthians 6:2, now that troubles are near; to seek the Lord — To seek reconciliation and peace with him, to seek his favour, and a conformity to his will. Seek him, with earnest desire and persevering diligence, in the use of all the means which he hath appointed. Till he come and rain righteousness upon you — That is, pour down his grace and blessings upon you, according to what he has promised.


Verses 13-15

Hosea 10:13-15. Ye have ploughed wickedness — Instead of working righteousness, (Hosea 10:12,) you have taken a great deal of pains in the service of sin, to compass your wicked designs. Ye have reaped iniquity — Ye have, in return, received the fruit of iniquity, namely, punishment, or calamity. Ye have eaten the fruit of lies — Fed yourselves with vain hopes, which have deceived and will deceive you. Or, you have trusted to that which has been only specious, not really satisfying or profitable. Because thou didst trust in thy way — Thy own carnal projects and sinful contrivances, particularly the idolatry at Dan and Beth-el. In the multitude of thy mighty men — The next lie, or false ground of their confidence, was the wisdom and valour of their great men. Therefore shall a tumult arise A terrible outcry, as of men affrighted at the news of the enemies’ approach. And all thy fortresses shall be spoiled, &c. — This seems to be a prophecy of the taking of Samaria by Shalmaneser, which put a final period to the kingdom of Israel, 2 Kings 17:6. It held out a siege of three years, which probably provoked Shalmaneser to treat it with the severity which he used, when he made himself master of it. The only difficulty in this verse is, what place or person is alluded to by the words, as Shalman spoiled Beth-arbel in the day of battle. It is supposed that by Shalman is meant Shalmaneser; and that Beth-arbel was a place in Armenia which he took and spoiled, putting the inhabitants to the sword without any distinction either of age or sex. But it cannot be said with certainty, that this supposition is founded on fact. Some other conquest, by some other person, might possibly be meant. But it is not material to know this. It was some place which had been treated with great severity by the conqueror, and such treatment the prophet denounces Samaria should meet with. It is worthy of remark, however, that the Vulgate, St. Jerome, and the LXX. (see the Alexandrine MS.) suppose that the history alluded to is Gideon’s destruction of Zalmunna. So shall Beth-el do unto you — “This is the fruit of your worshipping the golden calves at Beth-el and Dan. As it happened to the city above mentioned, so shall it happen to you, because of your iniquities.” In a morning — That is, suddenly, quickly, and unexpectedly; or after a night of adversity, when they thought the morning of prosperity was come; shall the king of Israel be cut off — And the whole state and government of Israel be put an end to along with him. This seems to be spoken of Hoshea, the last king of Israel, who, in the sixth year of his reign, was shut up in prison by the king of Assyria, who, in three years more, made himself master of the whole kingdom of Israel, and carried the inhabitants of it into captivity. The Vulgate, (which, with the LXX. and the Syriac, carries this clause to the next chapter,) instead of בשׁחר, in the morning, seems to have read כשׁחר, as the morning, rendering the clause, sicut mane transit, pertransit rex Israel: “As the morning passes away, so passes away the king of Israel.” This reading Bishop Horsley adopts, and translates to nearly the same sense, thus: As the morning is brought to nothing, to nothing shall the king of Israel be brought: observing, “The sudden and total destruction of the monarchy of the ten tribes is compared to the sudden and total extinction of the beauties of the dawn in the sky, by the instantaneous diffusion of the solar light: by which the ruddy streaks in the east, the glow of orange-coloured light upon the horizon, are at once obliterated, absorbed, and lost in the colourless light of day. The change is sudden even in these climates; it must be more sudden in the tropical; and in all it is one of the most complete that nature presents.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Hosea 10:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/hosea-10.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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