Bible Commentaries
Hosea 11

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. Bengel translates, 'From the time that he (Israel) was in Egypt, I called him my son,' which the parallelism ("When Israel was a child, then I loved him") proves. So Hosea 12:9 ("I, that am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt" i:e., from the time that thou wast in Egypt), and Hosea 13:4, use "from ... Egypt," for "from the time that thou didst sojourn in Egypt." Exodus 4:22 ("Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my first-born") also shows that Israel was called by God "My son," from the time of his Egyptian sojourn, (Isaiah 43:1, "Thus saith the Lord that created thee ... O Israel ... I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine;" Jeremiah 31:20, "Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child?") God is always said to have led or brought forth, not to have "called," Israel from Egypt. Matthew 2:15, therefore, in quoting this prophecy, typically and primarily referring to Israel, antitypically and fully to Messiah, applies it to Jesus' sojourn IN Egypt, not His return from it. Even from his infancy, partly spent in Egypt, God called Him His son. God included Messiah, and Israel for Messiah's sake, in one common love, and therefore in one common prophecy. Messiah's people and Himself are one, as the Head and the body. Isaiah 49:3 calls Him "Israel." The same general reason, danger of extinction, caused the infant Jesus, and Israel in its national infancy (cf. Genesis 42:1-38; Genesis 43:1-34; Genesis 45:18; Genesis 46:3-4; Ezekiel 16:4-6), to sojourn in Egypt. Jacob's son Joseph provided the patriarch and his family with food in Egypt, amidst the general famine, that they should "live and not die." So He and His spiritual Israel are already called 'God's sons,' while yet in the Egypt of the world.

Verse 2

As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.

As they called them - "they", namely, monitors sent by me. "Called," in Hosea 11:1, suggests the idea of the many subsequent calls by the prophets, besides the earlier one by God, through Moses, and originally in the person of Abraham.

Went from them - the Israelites turned away in contempt (Jeremiah 2:27) the monitors sent by me. "They have turned their back unto me, and not their face."

They sacrificed unto Baalim - images of Baal, set up in various places.

Verse 3

I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.

I taught Ephraim also to go - literally, to use his feet: 'I set Ephraim on his feet.' Compare a similar image, Deuteronomy 1:31; Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 8:5; Deuteronomy 8:15; Deuteronomy 32:10-11; Nehemiah 9:21; Isaiah 63:9; Amos 2:10. God bore them as a parent does an infant unable to supply itself, so that it has no anxiety about food, raiment, and its going forth. So Acts 13:18, margin [etrofoforeesen], 'He bore fed them, as a nurse beareth or feedeth her child.' So the Septuagint, Deuteronomy 1:31. Which passage of Acts probably refers to this passage of Hosea.

Taking them by their arms - or else, 'taking them in his arms'. Compare Isaiah 63:9, as above; and especially Numbers 11:12, "Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child." He took them by the arms, to guide them, that they might not stray, and to hold them up, that they might not stumble.

But they knew not that I healed them - i:e., that my design was to restore them spiritually and temporally (Exodus 15:26).

Verse 4

I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.

I drew them with cords of a man - parallel to "bands of love;" not such cords as oxen are led by, but humane methods, such as men employ when inducing others, as, for instance, a father drawing his child by leading-strings, teaching him to go (Hosea 11:1)

I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them - as the humane farmer occasionally loosens the straps under the jaws, by which the yoke is bound on the neck of oxen, and lays food before them to eat. An appropriate image of God's deliverance of Israel from the Egyptian yoke, and of His feeding them in the wilderness. This view seems better than Pusey's 'I was to them (in their sight, I was regarded by them) as they that lift up the yoke on their jaws - i:e., that raise the yoke (not being already upon them) to place it over their jaws. And I (God adds) was (all the while) placing meat before them.' While God was taking all manner of care of them, and providing for them all things richly to enjoy, He was regarded by them as One who, instead of laying food before them, was lifting the yoke over their jaws.

Verse 5

He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return.

He shall not return into ... Egypt - namely, to seek help against Assyria (cf. Hosea 7:11), as Israel lately had done (2 Kings 17:4), seeking the help of King So, after having revolted from the Assyrian, to whom they had been tributary from the times of Menahem (2 Kings 15:19). He shall be no longer able to go to Egypt, for he shall be a captive in Assyria. In a figurative sense, "he shall return to Egypt" (Hosea 9:3) - i:e., to Egypt-like bondage; also many Jewish fugitives were literally to return to Egypt when the Holy Land was to be in Assyrian and Chaldean hands. "He shall not return into ... Egypt" shows this prophecy was uttered after the league made with Egypt (2 hands. "He shall not return into ... Egypt" shows this prophecy was uttered after the league made with Egypt (2 Kings 17:4).

But the Assyrian shall be his king - instead of having kings of their own, and Egypt as their auxiliary.

Because they refused to return - just retribution. They would not return (spiritually) to God, therefore they shall not return (corporally) to Egypt, the object of their desire.

Verse 6

And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches, and devour them, because of their own counsels.

And the sword shall abide on his cities - (cf. "The sword shall never depart from thy house," 2 Samuel 12:10) or, 'fall upon' (Calvin); [chaalaah, from chuwl (H2342)] 'whirl down upon' (Pusey): as in Jeremiah 23:19.

And shall consume his branches - i:e., his villages, which are the branches or dependencies of the cities (Calvin). Grotius translates [ badaayw (H905)], 'his bars' (so Lamentations 2:9) - i:e., the warriors, who were the bulwarks of the state. Compare Hosea 4:18, "rulers," margin, 'shields' (Psalms 47:9).

Because of their own counsels - in worshipping idols and relying on Egypt (cf. Hosea 10:6).

Verse 7

And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him.

And my people are bent to backsliding - not only do they backslide, and that too from ME, their 'chief good,' but they are bent upon it [from taalaa' (H8511), to hang], literally, 'are hung to it.'

Though they called them to the Most High, none at all would exalt him - though they (the prophets) called them (the Israelites) to the Most High (from their idols), "none would exalt (i:e., extol or honour) him." To exalt God, they must cease to be 'bent on backsliding,' and must lift themselves upwards, instead of bending and grovelling downward.

Verse 8

How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.

How shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? - among the cities, including Sodom and Gomorrah, irretrievably overthrown (Deuteronomy 29:23).

Mine heart is turned within me - with the deepest compassion, so as not to execute my threat (Lamentations 1:20: cf. Genesis 43:30). So the phrase is used of a new turn given to the feeling (Psalms 105:25, "He turned their heart to hate his people"). The Hebrew is 'Mine heart is turned upon [ `aalay (H5921)] me'-namely, as a burden lying heavy upon me, in thinking of the punishment that thou deservest.

My repentings - or 'strong compassions.' The Hebrew is an intensive [ nichuwmaay (H5150)]. God speaks according to human modes of thought. Numbers 23:19, "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent" (change His mind and character). God's seeming change is in accordance with His secret everlasting purpose of love to His people, to magnify His grace after their desperate rebellion.

Are kindled together - (cf. 1 Kings 3:26, "The woman whose the living child was ... her bowels yearned upon her son" (Hebrew, were hot); also Luke 24:32).

Verse 9

I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.

I will not return to destroy Ephraim - i:e., I will no more, as in past times, destroy Ephraim. The destruction primarily meant is probably that by Tiglath-pileser, who, as the Jewish king Ahaz's ally against Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria, deprived Israel of Gilead, Galilee, and Naphtali (2 Kings 15:29). The ulterior reference is to the long dispersion hereafter, to be ended by God's covenant-mercy restoring His people, thenceforth to be 'destroyed no more,' not for their merits, but of His grace.

For I am God, and not man - not dealing as man would, with implacable wrath under awful provocation (Isaiah 55:7-9: Malachi 3:6, "I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed"). I do not, like man, change when once I have made a covenant of everlasting love, as with Israel (Numbers 23:19). We measure God by the human standard, and hence, are slow to credit fully His promises: these, however, belong to the faithful remnant, not to the obstinately impenitent.

The Holy One in the midst of thee - as peculiarly thy God (Exodus 19:5-6).

And I will not enter into the city - as an enemy: as I entered Admah, Zeboim, and Sodom, utterly destroying them; whereas I will not utterly destroy thee. Somewhat similarly Jerome: 'I am not one such as human dwellers in a city, who take cruel vengeance; I save those whom I correct.' Thus "not man," and "in the midst of thee," are parallel to "into the city." Though I am in the midst of thee, it is not as man entering a rebellious city to destroy utterly. Maurer needlessly translates [ bª`iyr (H5892)], 'I will not come in wrath.'

Verse 10

They shall walk after the LORD: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west.

He shall roar like a lion - by awful judgments on their foes (Isaiah 31:4; Jeremiah 25:26-30; Joel 3:16), calling His dispersed "children from the various lands of their dispersion.

When he shall roar, then the children shall tremble - shall flock in eager agitation of haste.

From the west - (Zechariah 8:7, "I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country"). literally, from the sea. Probably the Mediterranean, including its "isles of the sea" and maritime coast. Thus as Hosea 11:11 specifies regions of Africa and Asia-namely, "Egypt" and "Assyria," so here Europe is intended (Isaiah 11:11-16 is parallel, referring to the very same regions, "In that day the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people ... from Assyria, and from Egypt ... and from the islands of the sea." On "children," see Hosea 1:10, "The number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be ... numbered").

Verse 11

They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith the LORD.

They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt - "tremble," flutter in haste.

And as a dove - no longer a "silly dove" (Hosea 7:11), but as "doves flying to their windows" (Isaiah 60:8).

And I will place them in their houses - (Ezekiel 28:26, "And they shall dwell safely therein (in their own land), and shall build houses"), literally, upon their houses, for the Orientals live almost as much upon their flat-roofed houses as in them.

Verse 12

Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.

Ephraim compasseth me about with lies ... but Judah ... is faithful with the saints. Maurer joins this verse with Hosea 12:1-14. But as this verse praises Judah, whereas Hosea 12:2 censures him, it must belong rather to Hosea 11:1-12, and a new prophecy begins at Hosea 12:1-14. To avoid this, Maurer translates this verse as a censure, 'Judah wanders with God' - i:e., though having the true God, he wanders after false gods.

But Judah yet ruleth with God. To serve God is to reign. Ephraim wished to rule without God (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:8); nay, even, in order to rule, cast off God's worship (Rivetus). In Judah was the legitimate succession of kings and priests.

And is faithful with the saints - the holy priests and Levites (Rivetus). With the fathers and prophets who handed down the pure worship of God. Israel's apostasy is the more culpable as he had before him the good example of Judah, which he set at naught. The parallelism ("with GOD") favours margin, 'and is faithful with THE MOST HOLY ONE.' The same plural is used of God elsewhere (Joshua 24:19; Proverbs 30:3). [ Qªdowshiym (H6918)] Its plural form, as indeed of the ordinary Hebrew name for God, 'Elohiym (H430), can only be accounted for by its being taken as implying the mystery of the Trinity.


(1) When Israel was weak, wayward, and ignorant as a child, then God loved him, and exhibited His love in choosing him out of all nations to be His special people and heritage. God publicly owned Israel, who was then but a bond-servant in Egypt, as His own son-yes, even His first-born; and as such God claimed him from his Egyptian oppressor. Egypt itself was caused by God to afford for a time shelter and sustenance to Israel, as it did subsequently to Israel's great antitype, Messiah. Heroin Israel is a type also of the Church and the true believer. God, by sending the Spirit of His Son into the hearts of His people (Galatians 4:6) as the spirit of adoption, calls them His while they are still in the Egypt of this world. Indeed, He separates them to Himself from the womb, and calls them by His grace, as He did Paul (Galatians 1:15).

(2) How sad a contrast to God's love is presented by Israel's perversity! Besides His first call to him in Egypt, God addressed many subsequent calls by Moses, Joshua, the judges, and the prophets (Hosea 11:2). But the more He called, the more the Israelites turned away from Him and His ministers. So also when the Son of God Himself subsequently addressed the heavenly call to them, they went away from even Him, one to his farm, another to his merchandise; while the rest, with the exception of but the few who believed, shed the blood of their Saviour who would have been their king, but that they declared, "We will not have this man to reign over us."

(3) Whereas Ephraim thus rebelled, God, on the other hand, had shown the tenderness of one who combined in Himself the character of Father and nurse to Ephraim, teaching him gently, in the weakness of national infancy, how to wall step by step; then, when Ephraim was wearied, God "took them by their arms," or as it may be translated, 'God took them up in His arms,' just as a loving father does his child when tired with its first efforts to walk (Numbers 11:12; Isaiah 63:9). He gave them the law, the ordinances of worship, and the priesthood, all to teach them the way that they should go. Then by day He guided them with the pillar of cloud, the symbol of His presence among them, and by night with the pillar of fire. But, oh, how sad to think that, such wondrous love should not be appreciated! "They knew not," saith God, in sorrowful expostulation, "that I healed them" (Hosea 11:3). The spiritual Israel of God are similarly supported and guided. The Saviour, as their great High Priest, bears their names on his breast, for their acceptance before God. By His Spirit in them, and by His providence for them, He teaches them the way that they should go. Let us never, then, forget for a moment Him who hath so graciously healed our soul-disease.

(4) God adds, "I drew him with cords of a man, with bands of love." God draws, not drives or drags. Jesus was "lifted on the cross" for the very purpose of "drawing all men unto Him" (John 12:32) His love is the magnet that draws His people to Him. At the same time, "no man can come unto Jesus except the Father draw him" by the Holy Spirit (John 6:44). Our part, therefore, is individually to pray, "Draw me, we will run after thee" (Song of Solomon 1:4). God draws with the cords of a man, not with the ropes needed for dragging a beast, The Son of God became man, in order to draw men, as such, by the cords of sympathy, as partaking of a common nature with us. His "bands of love" sit so lightly on those of us who wear them, that they are no hinderance to us in enjoying all that is really good for us, and which God has so richly "laid" before us (Hosea 11:4).

(5) Israel would not have God for his king, therefore, in just retribution, "the Assyrian should be his king" (Hosea 11:5). Israel's own politic counsels (as he thought them) proved the source of his ruin (Hosea 11:6). Hoshea the king, by conspiring with the Egyptian So, thought to secure his kingdom; but this proved to be the very occasion of its overthrow, by his thereby bringing down upon himself and his people the destroying hosts of Assyria. So short-sighted is human sagacity apart from piety toward God. Surely "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong" (Job 5:13).

(6) Yet such is the tender compassion of God toward the people of His covenant, that though they were "bent to backsliding," and 'clung to it' with desperate tenacity (Hosea 11:7), God still cries, "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?" (Hosea 11:8.) It is true, Israel deserved to be treated as Admah and the other four guilty cities of the plain. But "God is not man," that He should change from the everlasting covenant made with Israel's forefathers, Abraham Isaac, and Jacob (Hosea 11:9).

Therefore, though His justice requires that the guilty ones in Israel should suffer, since He is "the Holy One in the midst" of the elect nation; yet His covenanted "mercy rejoices over judgment" as regards the nation. Accordingly, having once punished Ephraim, He will, when He shall have restored the people, "destroy" them no more. The time will come when His heart of infinite love shall turn to His long cast off people, and His "repentings" of the past evil inflicted on them shall be "kindled together" (Hosea 11:8). Then "shall they walk after the Lord" (Hosea 11:9), instead of backsliding from Him. His "children" shall flock to Him "as the doves to their windows," from the various regions of their dispersion, (Hosea 11:10); and they shall occupy permanent "houses" in their own lands (Hosea 11:11). So also the children of the spiritual Israel, "the remnant according to the election of grace," both of the circumcision and the uncircumcision. through the electing love of God, which triumphs over all their demerits and backslidings, shall at last "come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." Christ Himself will place them in the "many mansions" of His "Father's house" (John 14:2). Just as when Israel walked "with deceit" (Hosea 11:12), yet Judah was "faithful with the saints," and with the Most Holy One; so God unto the end of the world shall never be without witnesses faithful to Him, and therefore "ruling with God" in spirit here, and about to reign with Christ in transfigured bodies hereafter. Let us see that our aim is not to reign without Christ now, but to rule already, through His Spirit in us, over the world, the flesh, and Satan; so hereafter shall we reign with Him in glory, when He who is our Life shall be manifested (Colossians 3:1-4).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hosea 11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.