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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Hosea 5

 

 

Verse 1

Rebuke of Israel’s apostasy, Hosea 5:1-7.

Hosea 5:1 opens with a summons.

Priests — Already condemned in chapter 4.

House of Israel — The people.

House of the king — The king and his courtiers. Toward [“unto”] — Not all three classes, but only the leaders, as 1b indicates.

Judgment — Not judicial powers, but the sentence of judgment about to be uttered. So, margin, “against you is the judgment.”

Because — The reason for the judgment. They have caused the people to stumble. The latter are compared to unsuspecting birds, which fly to the places where they may expect to find shelter; instead they are cruelly trapped.

Mizpah — Probably Mizpah in Gilead (Judges 10:17; Judges 11:11), the same as Ramoth-gilead (Joshua 20:8; 2 Kings 9:1, etc.) now es-Salt.

Tabor — The well-known mountain of that name, east of Nazareth, in Galilee. Some have thought that these localities represent the territory east and west of the Jordan respectively, the combination of the two indicating that the wrongdoing of the leaders covered the whole land. It is more likely, however, that the two places are mentioned because there the immoral practices connected with the cult were most dangerously seductive.


Verses 2-5

2. And the revolters are profound to make slaughter — R.V., “And the revolters are gone deep in making slaughter.” For the last three words margin suggests “in corruption,” which is to be preferred, since the context says nothing about murder, nor is there a reference to the slaughter of sacrifice. The thought would be that the apostate leaders have gone to all possible depths of corruption. The ancient versions found the passage obscure. Modern commentators are generally agreed on an emendation, very slight in the original, “And the pit of Shittim they have made deep.”

At Shittim the Israelites gave themselves to the abominations of Baal-peor (Numbers 25:1 ff.). It is thought that Shittim, like Mizpah and Tabor, was a sacred place where the people were led astray. If this emendation is adopted pit is parallel with snare and net, and the clause contains an additional accusation against the nobles for causing the unsuspecting people to stumble.

Though I have been a rebuker of them all — Better R.V., “but I am a rebuker”; Hebrews rebuke, Tempter and tempted alike will be visited by Jehovah in judgment. Cheyne, by transposing two letters, makes the clause a continuation of the description of the people’s sin: “and there is no correction for any of them,” that is, improvement has become impossible (Hosea 5:4).

Hosea 5:3-4 indicate the cause of Jehovah’s anger. Their conduct is well known to him. I — Emphatic in Hebrew.

Ephraim — Poetic synonym of Israel. What Jehovah knows is stated in 3b.

Now — The force of this word is uncertain. Keil thinks it is used to designate the whoredom of Israel as in fact lying before him. It is not impossible, however, that two similar sounding words have been interchanged, now for thou, Hebrews ‘attah for ‘attah, and we should read, “for thou, O Ephraim.”

They will not frame their doings — R.V., “Their doings will not suffer them,” is certainly to be preferred. Wrongdoing has become their second nature; they find it impossible to return to Jehovah (Hosea 7:2; Jeremiah 13:23).

Spirit of whoredoms — See on Hosea 4:12.

In the midst of them — In their innermost being.

Have not known — R.V., “they know not” (see on Hosea 2:20; compare Hosea 4:6).

Hosea 5:5 announces judgment.

Pride of Israel doth testify — Repeated in Hosea 7:10; is capable of two interpretations: (1) If pride is used in an evil sense of the haughty and arrogant attitude of the Israelites, the meaning is expressed most satisfactorily by Marti: “The strongest testimony against the Israelites, and the most convincing proof of their incapacity for improvement is offered by their arrogance, in which they regard their conduct, their cult and service of Jehovah, as acceptable to him, and therefore do not think in the least of a return.” (2) The other interpretation is suggested by the marginal rendering for pride, “excellency”; this many commentators understand to be a title of Jehovah; he is the “excellency of Jacob” (Amos 8:7; compare 1 Samuel 15:19). According to this interpretation testify is used not in the simple sense of bear witness, Jehovah is both witness and judge; here the emphasis would be upon the pronouncing of the sentence, the sentence being contained in the next clause. The rendering “the pride of Israel shall be humbled,” though supported by some of the ancient versions, is unsuitable with “to his face.” On the whole, the first interpretation is to be preferred. Nothing but judgment is possible.

Fall — Better, R.V., “shall stumble.” A common figure of calamity (Hosea 4:5; Hosea 14:1; Isaiah 8:15, etc.).

In their iniquity — Better, by, or through. Iniquity is the cause. Judah also shall fall [“stumble”] — In Hosea 1:7; Hosea 4:15, Judah is represented as being better than Israel; here, as in Hosea 5:10; Hosea 5:12-14, etc., it is considered equally guilty. The difference has sometimes been explained as due to the fact that the utterance in this verse and others like it are of a later period than those in Hosea 1:7, and Hosea 4:15, when Hosea had become more familiar with conditions in Judah. So far as Hosea 1:7, is concerned, this is undoubtedly true; of Hosea 4:15, this cannot be said with equal certainty. Conditions began to grow bad in Judah as early as in Israel. Whether Hosea ever considered Judah better than Israel is at least doubtful (see on Hosea 1:7). All references to Judah are considered secondary by some commentators, but in some cases, at least, on insufficient grounds. In certain passages, it is true, they might easily be omitted without affecting the thought, sometimes the parallelism and even the thought would be improved if the reference were omitted, or changed to Israel (for example, in this verse); in other instances, however, the omission would seriously affect the text and require alterations which cannot readily be justified (Hosea 5:12-14). In the absence of decisive data the passages are treated as original unless statements to the contrary are made.


Verse 6

6. It is impossible to appease the divine wrath and to avert the threatened judgment by the means with which Israel is accustomed to seek the favor of Jehovah. Go…

seek Jehovah Hosea 6:1-3, indicates that they sought Jehovah only to find relief from calamity; repentance was lacking completely (see on Amos 5:4).

Flocks… herds — Multitudes of sacrificial animals. These are of value only when offered in the right spirit and backed by a life acceptable to Jehovah (Introduction, p. 32; compare Amos 5:21 ff.; Isaiah 1:11 ff.).

He hath withdrawn himself — He has cut the ties which bound him to the people; he can no longer be reached by them (Hosea 5:15; compare Isaiah 8:17). Why? Hosea 5:7 supplies the answer.

Dealt treacherously — Better, They have been faithless. The verb is used of the infidelity of a wife to her husband (Jeremiah 3:20). The next figure expresses a similar thought. They have begotten [“borne”] strange children — Children not the offspring of a legitimate union. “Israel ought to have begotten children of God in the maintenance of the covenant with the Lord; but in its apostasy from God it had begotten an adulterous generation” — a generation which from its infancy was led astray by the example of the parents. The second clause marks an advance. Not only have they themselves become faithless; in addition they have brought into the world a generation which is estranged from Jehovah.

Now shall a month devour them with their portions — R.V., “now shall the new moon devour them with their fields.” Marti alters the text so as to read, “Now shall a destroyer devour them; and wasted shall become their fields.” Less radical emendations have been proposed, but, since all are based upon conjecture, if we accept any we may as well accept the one giving the best sense. But what does the present Hebrew text mean? Are emendations absolutely necessary? If we follow A.V. in reading month the meaning might be either that within a month’s time the destroyer will be upon them (Clarke), or that a brief month will be sufficient to completely destroy them and their possessions. A still different meaning is suggested by G.A. Smith; he translates, “Now may a month devour them with their portions,” which he interprets, “Any month may bring the swift invader.” These interpretations would make the transition from 7 to 8 quite natural. The destroyer will soon be here; therefore (8) give the signal, prepare for battle. The Revisers, however, preferred the translation “new moon,” one of the most ancient festivals among the Hebrews, on which it was customary to offer sacrifice (Hosea 2:11; 1 Samuel 20:6; 1 Samuel 20:29; Isaiah 1:13). Even with this translation Cheyne finds in the passage a thought similar to that expressed by G.A. Smith: “Instead of watching gladly for the new moon… they should have a ‘fearful looking for of judgment,’ increasing as each new moon arose. If not this, then perhaps the next would bring a slaughtering, plundering horde of invaders.” A vivid imagination is needed to see this meaning in the words. A more natural interpretation would be to regard new moon as synonymous with festival or, better, as representing the entire superficial sacrificial system and worship. “Your hypocritical worship, so far from bringing you salvation, will rather prove your ruin” (Keil). If the portions or fields of the individuals are destroyed it will amount to the devastation of the whole land. The differences among commentators show the obscurity of the passage. The interpretation of G.A. Smith, on the one hand, and that of Keil, on the other, reproduce most faithfully the present Hebrew text; of these that of G.A. Smith connects more naturally with Hosea 5:8.


Verse 8

8. The danger signal is to be given. Cornet (or, horn)… trumpet — The two words are synonymous here; ordinarily they designate two different instruments. The former is the curved horn of a cow or ram which seems to have been used in early Israel chiefly, if not exclusively, for secular purposes: to give signals in war, to warn of approaching danger, to announce important public events, etc. When its sound was heard everyone was expected to drop work and take his place in the ranks. In later times it appears to have been used also for sacred purposes. The trumpet is long and straight, made of metal; it is rarely mentioned as being used for secular purposes, and seems to have been primarily a sacred instrument; it is pictured on Jewish coins, and representations of it were placed on the Arch of Titus. (Compare article “Trumpet” in Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible, and the richly illustrated article “Music” in the Encyclopaedia Biblica.)

Gibeah… Ramah… Beth-aven — On the last see Hosea 4:15. As a religious center, to which people crowded in great numbers, Beth-el would be a most appropriate place in which to sound the warning. The two other places, as their names indicate — Gibeah, hill; Ramah, height — were situated on elevations, and for this reason were well adapted for giving signals. The former is Gibeah of Benjamin or of Saul (1 Samuel 13:2; 1 Samuel 11:4), now Tel-el-Ful; the latter, a little to the north, was the home of Samuel (1 Samuel 15:34), now er-Ram. His summons to sound the alarm would seem to indicate that the prophet expected a foreign invasion, but the literal interpretation must not be pressed.

After thee, O Benjamin — As in Judges 5:14, where LXX. reads a different text, G.A. Smith suggests that this may have been an ancient battle cry of Benjamin, and he renders 8b, “Raise the slogan, Beth-aven: ‘After thee, Benjamin!’” R.V., by rendering “behind thee,” seems to imply another conception, that of a call of warning to Benjamin: “The enemy is already behind thee.” LXX. reads, “Let Benjamin tremble,” which gives excellent sense and is probably original.


Verses 8-15

The time of mercy is past, Hosea 5:8-15.

The hopelessness of the situation is manifest: Jehovah can show mercy no longer, judgment is inevitable; it is about to break upon the sinful nations. The prophet, summons them to prepare for it, and declares that Assyria and Egypt can offer no effective help; there can be no salvation until the people with heartfelt repentance return to Jehovah.


Verses 9-12

9. The alarm may indeed be given, for Ephraim is doomed.

Day of rebuke — Of judgment.

Tribes of Israel — The northern tribes only.

Among — Perhaps better, concerning, or with regard to.

That which shall surely be — Literally, that which is true. There is no escape.

Hosea 5:10 is preferably connected with Hosea 5:11, the former describing conditions in Judah, the latter those in Israel. In Hosea 5:10 the prophet turns to the third class named in Hosea 5:1, the “house of the king,” here called princes.

Judah — Following the theory that Hosea nowhere refers to the southern kingdom, some commentators read Israel instead. Like them that remove the bound [“landmark”] — The landmarks were under divine protection (Deuteronomy 19:14); a curse is pronounced upon him who removes them (Deuteronomy 27:17, frequently in the Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions). This crime the prophet regards as the limit of transgression, from which the political leaders of Judah do not shrink (Isaiah 5:8 ff.; Micah 2:2). Such conduct cannot remain unpunished. Jehovah’s wrath will be poured out like water — In abundance and power like a rushing torrent. Ephraim is equally guilty. Oppressed… broken [“crushed”] — The two expressions — passive participles — occur together in Deuteronomy 28:33. LXX. reads the active participles.

Ephraim is the one that oppresses and crushes in judgment; and many commentators follow the LXX.; but to change the forms is arbitrary, and passive participles are not used in Hebrew in an active sense, a usage found frequently in Arabic. The common rendering is perfectly suitable.

In Hosea 5:10 the sin of Judah is condemned and judgment is announced; in Hosea 5:11 the order is reversed, first the announcement of judgment, then a statement of the cause. The participles stand in place of the prophetic perfect.

In judgment — Or, by judgment, the one to be sent by Jehovah. Why?

Because he willingly walked after the commandment — R.V. “he was content to walk after man’s command.” As the italics in R.V. indicate, the original reads simply, “he was content to walk after a command.”

Command — in Hebrew a rare word, occurring again only in Isaiah 28:10; Isaiah 28:13 — is interpreted to mean a human statute as opposed to the divine command; here the institution introduced in Israel at the command of Jeroboam I, the worship of the calves at Beth-el and Dan, which was largely responsible for present religious conditions. One would expect a less ambiguous phrase, if this were the thought. LXX. and Peshitto have a different word though similar in sound, vanity, for commandment; the former would be a designation of the Baalim (compare Jeremiah 18:15); Isaiah frequently calls idols “nothings.” He was content might be translated “it pleased him,” or “he desired.” These versions may have preserved the original: “he desired to walk after vanity.” The result of such conduct is the gradual dissolution of the nation, caused by influences from within, which, according to Hosea 5:12, are set in motion by Jehovah himself (compare Isaiah 3:1 ff.).

Therefore will I be — Better, but as for me, I was, that is, in the past.

Moth… rottenness — The second, better, worm eating, the process by which the worm destroys wood and flesh. Both symbolize forces that destroy slowly but surely (Job 13:28). The dissolution of Israel was caused as much by anarchy and corruption within as by invasion from without.


Verses 13-15

13. The eyes of the two kingdoms could not remain closed forever to this condition of affairs, but they failed to seek help where alone it could be found. “It is the old but ever-repeated attempt to remove evil within by the use of external means instead of putting within the decaying frame new and sound powers; to rely upon the external cult and upon politics rather than upon religion and ethics” (Marti).

Sickness… wound — Figures, not of corruption but of disaster resulting from corruption (Isaiah 1:5).

The Assyrian [“Assyria”] — The great world empire having its seat between the Euphrates and the Tigris. Only a few years previous to this prophecy, in 745, it had entered upon the most flourishing period of its history, when Tiglath-pileser III came upon the throne.

And sent — Who? As the text stands there can be but one answer, Ephraim. Comparing 13a with 13b, some supply Judah. To do this makes the line too long; therefore they omit the verb, so that the clauses read, “Then went Ephraim to Assyria, and Judah to King Jareb.” The character of Hebrew parallelism favors the insertion of the subject, but there are difficulties in the way of making it Judah (see next comment).

King Jareb — The last word is apparently a form of the verb strive, contend; margin, R.V., “a king that should contend”; Hosea 10:6, makes it clear that it is an epithet of the king of Assyria. As such it has been variously rendered by translators, “combatant,” “combative,” “striver,” “pick-quarrel,” “fighting cock,” etc. Any one of these would make a suitable nickname for several Assyrian kings. Who is in the mind of Hosea? That the prophet is referring to an actual historical event cannot be doubted; that he is thinking of a recent event is quite likely. 2 Kings 15:19-20, mentions Menahem as sending a present to Pul of Assyria in order to win his support. This was in the period of anarchy following the death of Jeroboam II. The prophecy of Hosea comes from that period; it is therefore very probable that the reference is to this appeal. Pul is universally identified with Tiglath-pileser III, a fighter through and through. Judah was not involved in the event recorded in 2 Kings 15:19-20; so far as we know, no appeal was sent from Judah to Assyria until the time of Ahaz (2 Kings 16:7-8), about four years after Menahem’s appeal, and subsequent to the date of Hosea’s prophecy (see Introduction, p. 17). For this reason it is not likely that Judah should be supplied as the subject; it is better to leave the text as it is; if it is thought necessary to mention the subject, why not Israel? (Compare Hosea 5:3; Hosea 5:5; Hosea 5:9, etc.) The interpretation of Jareb suggested above is based upon the supposition that the present Hebrew text is correct. Other interpretations need but to be mentioned. Hommel, also following the present Hebrew text, translates “king of Aribi,” a district in northern Arabia; Winckler, with a slight change, “king of Yathrib-Medina,” that is, North Arabia; in view of Hosea 10:6, these interpretations are improbable. Maintaining that the reference is to the king of Assyria, some have suggested a slight alteration so as to read “the great king,” identical with the Assyrian sharru rabu found frequently in the inscriptions (compare Isaiah 36:4, where a different word is used). LXX. presupposes a still different reading, which may be intended for “the high king.” He is unable to render effective assistance since one mightier than he has caused the disease.

In Hosea 5:14 the fierceness of the judgment and the impotence of all human helpers are pictured once more. Jehovah likens himself to a lion who seizes his prey, tears it, carries it off, and no one has the power to prevent it (Hosea 13:7; Isaiah 5:29; Isaiah 31:4).

I — Emphatic, to call attention to the fact that Jehovah himself is the lion.

Lion… young lion — The Hebrew has several words for lion which, though originally having distinct meanings, are used interchangeably. The root meaning of the two words used here is uncertain; it is thought that the first calls attention to the lion’s roar, the second to his mane. Lions are found no longer in Palestine.

Hosea 5:15 is the continuation of 14; by some it is thought to be a later expansion of that verse, but this supposition is not necessary; it may well come from Hosea. As a lion withdraws into his den, so Jehovah, having executed judgment, will retire; this will make it impossible for the torn prey to find a deliverer or healer. Only when he is sought earnestly will he come forth from his hiding place.

My place — The heavenly dwelling place of Jehovah (Micah 1:3).

Acknowledge their offense — R.V., “have borne their guilt,” that is, have suffered the punishment for their guilt, LXX., “they become startled.” The ordinary rendering is to be preferred, though it might be intensified by translating, “become conscious of their guilt.”

Seek my face — To plead for his return and favor. Jehovah knows that they will soon do it.

In their affliction — Affliction will be a sign of the divine displeasure and a proof of the people’s inability to help themselves; therefore they will turn to Jehovah (Amos 8:12).

Seek me early — The R.V. translation “earnestly” rests upon a misinterpretation of Hosea 6:1-3, which is taken wrongly as an expression of genuine repentance. The verb is derived from a noun, dawn, morning, and means to seek early, or soon; it is used here in a temporal sense. G.A. Smith reproduces the thought correctly, “they will soon enough seek me.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hosea 5:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/hosea-5.html. 1874-1909.

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Sunday, January 19th, 2020
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