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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 13

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

Verse 1

When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.

This chapter and Hosea 14:1-9 probably belong to the troubled times that followed Pekah's murder by Hoshea (cf. Hosea 13:11; 2 Kings 15:30). The subject is the idolatry of Ephraim, notwithstanding God's past benefits, destined to be his ruin. When Ephraim spake trembling - rather, 'When Ephraim (the tribe most powerful among the twelve in Israel's early history) spake (authoritatively) there was trembling (cf. Joshua 4:14; Daniel 5:19); all reverentially feared him' (Jerome). (Compare Job 29:8-9; Job 29:21.) Ephraim, all along in history, was characterized by pride (Hosea 5:5, "The pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity"). At no time could it be well said, "Ephraim spake trembling."

But when he offended in Baal - i:e., in respect to Baal, by worshipping him (1 Kings 16:31) under Ahab: a more heinous offence than even the calves. Ahab having married Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, the king of the Zidonians, "as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he went and served Baal (the Zidonian idol), and worshipped him." Therefore, it is at this climax of guilt that Ephraim "died." Sin has, in the sight of God, within itself the gem of death, though that death may not visibly take effect until long after. Compare Romans 7:9, "Sin revived, and I died." So Adam in the day of his sin was to die, though the sentence was not visibly executed until long after (Genesis 2:17, "In the day that thou eatest thereof (of the tree of knowledge of good and evil), thou shalt surely die;" Genesis 5:5, "All the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died"). Israel is similarly represented as politically dead, in Ezekiel 37:1-28.

Verse 2

And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.

And now they ... have made them ... idols according to their own understanding - i:e., their arbitrary devising. Compare "will worship" (Colossians 2:23). Men are not to be "wise above that which is written," or to follow their own understanding, but God's command, in worship.

They say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves - an act of adoration to the golden calves (Psalms 106:20, "They changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass;" cf. 1 Kings 19:18; Job 31:27). On the contrary, God commands, "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little" (Psalms 2:12). Jeroboam, a refugee in Egypt (1 Kings 11:40; 1 Kings 12:2), had there seen nature worshipped under the form of a calf. Thus two living bulls, Apis and Mnevis, were worshipped as symbols of Osiris and the sun at Memphis and Heliopolis (Diodorus Siculus, 1: 21; Strabo, 17: 22, 27). As, therefore, Aaron had already, in compliance with the people's wish, made two calves of gold, saying, "These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt" (Exodus 32:4), so Jeroboam, in order to prevent the people's heart turning again to the King of Judah, by their going up to worship in the temple at Jerusalem, set up golden calves, representatives of Yahweh, and like the ox-formed cherubim on the mercy-seat, one in Dan, the other in Bethel, using the very words of Aaron, whose memory the people so revered, "Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt" (1 Kings 12:28).

The temple at Bethel was the king's chapel, the temple of the state (Amos 7:13). God had forbidden men so to worship Him; nor was it He who was so worshipped at Bethel and Dan, though Jeroboam probably meant it. People, when they alter God's truth, alter more than they think for. Such is the lot of all heresy. The calf was the symbol, not of the personal God, but of ever-renewed life-His continued vivifying of all that lives, and renewing of what decays. So what was worshipped was not God, but much what men now call 'Nature.' The calf was a symbol of nature-such as men say, Nature does this or that, nature makes man so and so; as if 'nature' were a sort of semi-deity, or creation were its own creator. 'As men now profess to own God, and do own Him in the abstract, but talk of nature until they forget Him, or because they forget Him, so Jeroboam, a shrewd, practical, irreligious man, stepped into a worship of nature, while he thought, doubtless, he was doing honour, to the Creator, and professing a belief in Him' (Pusey).

Verse 3

Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.

Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew. - (Hosea 6:4 "Your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away"). As their "goodness" soon vanished like the morning cloud and dew, so they shall perish like them. Just retribution in kind.

As the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor - the threshingfloor, generally an open area on a height, exposed to the winds.

And as the smoke out of the chimney - generally in the East an orifice in the wall, at once admitting the light and giving egress to the smoke.

Verse 4

Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me.

Yet I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt - (Hosea 12:9; Isaiah 43:11, "I, even I, am the Lord; and besides me there is no saviour").

No saviour (temporal as well as spiritual)

Besides me - (Isaiah 45:21, "There is no God else besides me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none besides me").

Verse 5

I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.

I did know thee in the wilderness - i:e., did acknowledge thee as mine, and so took care of thee (Psalms 144:3; Amos 3:2). As I knew thee as mine, so thou shouldest know no God but me" (Hosea 13:4).

In the land of great drought - (Deuteronomy 8:15).

Verse 6

According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.

According to their pasture, so were they filled. Image from cattle waxing wanton in abundant pasture (cf. Hosea 2:5; Hosea 2:8; Deuteronomy 32:13-15). In proportion as I fed them to the full, they were so satiated that 'their heart was exalted;' a sad contrast to the time when, by God's blessing, Ephraim truly "exalted himself in Israel" (Hosea 13:1).

Therefore have they forgotten me - the very reason why men should remember God, namely, prosperity, which comes from Him, is the cause often of their forgetting Him. God had warned them of this danger (Deuteronomy 6:11-12).

Verse 7

Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them:

Therefore I will be unto them as a lion - (Hosea 5:14; Lamentations 3:10, "He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places").

As a leopard by the way. The Hebrew [ kªnaameer (H5246)] comes from a root [miyr] to variegate, referring to its being spotted (cf. Jeremiah 13:23, "Can the leopard change his spots?" Leopards lurk in thickets, and thence spring on their victims.

Will I observe them - i:e., lie in wait for them. Several manuscripts, the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic read, by a slight change of the Hebrew vowel-pointing, 'by the way of Assyria' [`ashuwr, for 'aashuwr], a region abounding in leopards and lions. The English version is better.

Verse 8

I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them.

I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps - (2 Samuel 17:8). 'Writers on the natures of beasts say that none is more savage than a she-bear when bereaved of her whelps' (Jerome).

And will rend the caul of their heart - the membrane enclosing it-the pericardium.

And there will I devour them - "there," "by the way;" "there," where they sinned, shall they be punished (Hosea 13:7).

The wild beast shall tear them. It is remarkable that here there are specified the very four beasts which Daniel (Hosea 7:1-16) mentions long subsequently, following in Hosea's steps, as the symbols of the four world-powers whereby the people of God were and are to be chastised. The lion, the bear, the leopard, and the wild beast, whose name is not given, but which is described as "dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly, and diverse from all the beasts that were before it" (Daniel 7:7).

Verse 9

O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.

O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me. Thou and ME stand in contrast.

Hast destroyed thyself - Literally, thy destruction is of thyself (Proverbs 6:32, "He that doeth it (adultery) destroyeth his own soul;" Proverbs 8:36).

In me is Thine help - literally, in thine help - (cf. Deuteronomy 33:26). Hadst thou rested thy hope in me, I would have been always ready at hand for thy help (Grotius).

Verse 10

I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?

I will be thy king: where - rather, as margin and the Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, 'where now is thy king?' (Maurer.) The English version is, however, favoured by the antithesis between Israel's self-chosen and perishing kings, and God, Israel's abiding king (cf. Hosea 3:4-5). [But 'ªhiy (H165) is 'where,' not 'I will be.' And 'eepow' (H645), which the English version renders "where," never occurs thus by itself, but always subjoined to '-y-h, or '-h-y.] Translate, 'where now is thy king, that he may save thee?'

Where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king? - Where now is the king whom ye substituted in my stead? Neither Saul, whom the whole nation begged for, not contented with Me, their true King (1 Samuel 8:5; 1 Samuel 8:7; 1 Samuel 8:19-20; 1 Samuel 10:19), nor Jeroboam, whom subsequently the ten tribes chose instead of the line of David my anointed, can save thee now. They had expected from their kings what is the prerogative of God alone-namely, the power of saving them.

Thy judges - including all civil authorities under the king (cf. Amos 2:3).

Verse 11

I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.

I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath - true both of Saul (1 Samuel 15:22-23; 1 Samuel 16:1) and of Jeroboam's line (1 Kings 15:25-27; 2 Kings 15:30). Pekah was taken away through Hoshea, as himself took away Pekahiah, and as Hoshea was soon to be taken away by the Assyrian king.

Verse 12

The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid.

The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid - treasures, meant to be kept, are bound up and hidden; i:e., do not flatter yourselves, because of the delay, that I have forgotten your sin. Nay (Hosea 9:9), Ephraim's iniquity is kept as it were safely sealed up, until the due time comes for bringing it forth for punishment (Deuteronomy 32:34; Job 14:17; Job 21:19, "God layeth up his iniquity for his children; he rewardeth him; and he shall know it;" cf. Romans 2:5). Opposed to "blotting out the handwriting against" the sinner (Colossians 2:14).

Verse 13

The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children.

The sorrows of a travailing woman - calamities sudden and agonizing (Jeremiah 30:6).

He is an unwise son - in not foreseeing the impending judgment and averting it by penitence (Proverbs 22:3).

For he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children. When Israel might deliver himself from calamity by the pangs of penitence, he ought not to bring ruin on himself by so long deferring a new birth unto repentance, llke a child whose mother has not strength to bring it forth, and which therefore remains so long in the passage from the womb as to run the risk of death (2 Kings 19:3; Isaiah 37:3. God in the case of His people suffers no abortion; He gives strength to bring forth, spiritually raising them by the Holy Spirit from the dark deadness of sin, and at last literally from the womb of the grave, 13:14; Isaiah 66:9).

Verse 14

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction - "from the power" - literally, from the hand, i:e., from the grasp of the grave. Applying primarily to God's restoration of Israel from Assyria partially, and in times yet future, fully, from all the lands of their present long-continued dispersion and political death (cf. Hosea 6:2, "After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight;" Isaiah 25:8; Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37:12, "O my people (Israel primarily), I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel"). God's power and grace are magnified in quickening what to the eye of flesh seems dead and hopeless (Romans 4:17; Romans 4:19, "God quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not, as though they were,") as in the case of Sarah's womb and Abraham's body, seemingly dead, and incapable of being parents. [ 'epdeem (H6299)] "I will ransom" means, I will redeem to myself, setting free by paying a price. So the Lord Jesus, as our nearest kinsman, became our Goel or Redeemer, ransoming us at the price of His precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Since Israel's history, past and future, has a representative character in relation to the Church, this verse is expressed in language referring ultimately to Messiah's (who is the ideal Israel) grand victory over the grave and death, the first-fruits in His own resurrection, the full harvest to come at the general resurrection, first of His own people, then of the rest of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:23); hence, the similarity between this verse and Paul's language as to the latter (1 Corinthians 15:55). That similarity becomes more obvious by translating 'where,' instead of "I will be," as the Septuagint, which Paul plainly quotes from; and as the same Hebrew word ['ªhiy], which is translated, I will be, ought to be translated in Hosea 13:10, 'O death, where are thy plagues?' (paraphr ased by the Septuagint, 'thy victory'). 'O grave, where is thy destruction?' (rendered by the Septuagint, 'thy sting'). Our English version takes the Hebrew from the verb to be [ haayaah (H1961)]: it is better made equivalent to the ordinary Hebrew for 'where' [ ª'hiy (H165)]. The question is that of one triumphing over a foe, once a cruel tyrant, but now robbed of all [ ª'hiy (H165)]. The question is that of one triumphing over a foe, once a cruel tyrant, but now robbed of all power to hurt.

Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes - i:e., I will not change my purpose of fulfilling my promise by delivering Israel, on the condition of their return to me (cf. Hosea 14:2-8; Numbers 23:19; Romans 11:29).

Verse 15

Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels.

Though he be fruitful - referring to the meaning of "Ephraim," from a Hebrew root 'to be fruitful' (Genesis 41:52). It was long the most numerous and flourishing of the tribes (Genesis 48:19, "His (Manasseh's) younger brother (Ephraim) shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations").

An east wind shall come, the wind of the Lord i:e., sent by the Lord (cf. Isaiah 40:7), who has His instrument of punishment always ready. The Assyrian, Shalmaneser, etc., is meant (Jeremiah 4:11; Jeremiah 18:17; Ezekiel 19:12).

Shall come up from the wilderness - i:e., the desert part of Syria (1 Kings 19:15), the route from Assyria into Israel.

His spring shall become dry. Ephraim's resources shall be exhausted.

He shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels - the Assyrian invader shall do so. Shalmaneser began the siege of Samaria in 723 BC Its close was in 721 BC, the first year of Sargon, who seems to have usurped the throne of Assyria while Shalmaneser was at the siege of Samaria. Hence, while 2 Kings 17:6 states, "the king of Assyria took Samaria," 2 Kings 18:10 says, "at the end of three years they took it." In Sargon's magnificent palace at Khorsabad inscriptions mention the number-27,280-of Israelites carried captive, by the founder of the palace, from Samaria and other places of Israel (George Vance Smith).

Verse 16

Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.

Samaria shall become desolate. This verse and Hosea 13:15 foretell the calamities about to befall Israel before her restoration (Hosea 13:14), owing to her impenitence. For she hath rebelled against her God - the greatest aggravation of her rebellion, that it was against her God (Hosea 13:4).

Their infants shall be dashed in pieces ... - (2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 15:16; Amos 1:13).


(1) Sin was the cause of the awful change about to pass on Ephraim, as contrasted with the exalted station which he once held. "The wages of sin is death." Yea, sin has in itself from the first the seed of death, though that seed may not be developed and manifested in its terrible effects until a subsequent time. Thus, from the moment that Ephraim "offended in respect to Baal" "he died" before God. Sin separates from God, the true life of the soul. Let all professors of religion ever remember this, that sin, habitual or unatoned for, and spiritual life, cannot co-exist in the same individual; for, saith the apostle (Romans 8:6), "To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."

(2) Sin is essentially cumulative in its nature; one sin entailing another, and that other the third. From rebellion the ten tribes passed on to the adoration of the true God under the form of a calf, and from that lesser form of idolatry to open adoration of false gods-Baal, Ashtaroth, and other pagan abominations. What ingenuity do men display in perverting religion "according to their own understanding"! (Hosea 13:2) They tax their invention, and, though loving money, lavish "silver" to realize their own apostate conceptions. Oh that even as much expenditure of mind and money were devoted to the propagation of truth as there is to that of error! The weight of influence, and even the strong hand of persecuting power, have been again and again exercised in behalf of false systems, virtually insisting, "Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves" (Hosea 13:2). Christian statesmen ought not, then, be ashamed to use all lawful influences in behalf of what they profess to believe is truth, and not to let it appear that Christianity is the only system which is not worthwhile being zealous about.

(3) Ephraim's "goodness" had been as "a morning cloud, and as the early dew that goeth away" (Hosea 6:4). In just retribution, then, Ephraim's prosperity, bright for a season as a gilded morning-cloud or as the glistening dew-drop, should in like manner "pass away." Nay, worse, "as the chaff driven with the whirlwind," and "the smoke out of the chimney," so the worthless people themselves, and their pride and smoke-like inflation, should be swept away. Yet God was the same God as of old, who led them out of Egypt. He had the same power and will to save them then as ever; and none else could be their "Saviour" (Hosea 13:4). Let this truth be engraven on our hearts, that "there is salvation in none other (than the Lord Jesus): for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). He is still the same God who "knew," acknowledged, and treated Israel as His people "in the wilderness, in the land of great drought" (Hosea 13:5). We are sojourning in a moral wilderness, wherein He alone can satisfy the hunger and thirst of our immortal souls. As He "knows them that are his" (2 Timothy 2:19), so their part is to "know no god" and "no saviour besides" him (Hosea 13:4).

(4) The "pasture" (Hosea 13:6) which the worldly seek is carnal gratification. If they seek Christ, it is not because of His doctrine and miracles, but "because they eat of the loaves, and are filled" (John 6:26-27). They "labour for the meat which perisheth, not for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life." So the carnal among the Israelites sought only to be filled with pasture for their appetites; and the Lord, in judicial wrath, "gave them their request, but sent leanness into their souls" (Psalms 106:15). Their satiety produced "exaltation of heart," and this in turn produced "forgetfulness" of God, which is the root of all evil. Let us make it our chief desire that our Good Shepherd may "make us to lie down in the green pastures" of His Word (Psalms 23:2), and as to earthly things fulfill our desires only so far as is really for our good. (5) How sad the change, when He who had been Israel's Creator and Preserver became her Destroyer! With the fierceness of the lion, the sudden swiftness of the leopard, the determination of the bear robbed of her cubs, the judgments of God would overwhelm them (Hosea 13:7-8). "Their heart" (Hosea 13:8), heretofore closed against God, would be "rent" open. How awful in the last day it will be when the sinner's heart shall be laid bare, with all its impure, uncharitable, malicious, and unholy thoughts, before the Righteous Judge! Two great truths shall then be manifested to the sinner himself-first, that his damnation was solely due to himself; secondly, that "in God" would have been saving "help" for him, if only he had accepted that help (Hosea 13:9). The elect also shall than see that their salvation was due, not to any foreseen merit in them, but solely to the sovereign grace of God. Let every sinner take home to himself, for both warning and encouragement, God's words, "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help."

(6) God often punishes men by giving them their wish. Israel had wished to have a king, like the nations around; as though a king could save them in battle, and as though God could not! Again, they had wished to have Jeroboam, instead of the king of David's line whom God had appointed. They got their wish, but not with it the good that they expected. "Where is now thy king? cried the prophet, when their king proved not only unable to help them, but even unable to save himself from captivity (Hosea 13:10). As "God gave them a king in his anger, so he took him away in his wrath" (Hosea 13:11). The demons were heard when they asked to enter into the swine. The apostle's prayer, that the messenger of Satan should depart from him, was not so granted, as he had prayed. Let us jealously watch over our desires, lest they harmonize not with the will of God, and so God should be tempted to "give us up" to our own affections (Romans 1:26).

(7) No greater evil can befall men than that God should treasure up their iniquity, about in due time to bring it forth for condign punishment. Sin is "bound up" (Hosea 13:12) as Ephraim's was, when it is not loosed or remitted. Self-justification and pride cover up transgression, so as to be hidden for a time; and the sinner flatters himself, like Agag, that "the bitterness of death is past" because execution is deferred. But the very way which the sinner takes to escape punishment is the very way whereby he brings it on himself. When he covers his sin, God also covers or binds it up. But God does so in order that in His own time He may bring forth to light the accumulated mass of sin heretofore hidden, and may inflict commensurate condemnation. If we would, instead of covering our sins, lay them all bare before God, He would cover them with the blood of the atonement, and then we should know the blessedness of the man "whose sin is covered" (Psalms 32:1).

(8) Sorrows poignant and sudden as those of a woman in travail are coming upon the impenitent (Hosea 13:13). How fatally "unwise" are all who, though judgment is impending, "stay long," deferring a new birth unto righteousness, whereby they might avert the coming evil! Those who halt between two opinions, reaching the verge of new life, and yet never being born again of the Spirit, shall perish eternally. But in the case of the true "children" of God, God gives them spiritual power to live in His sight now; they are "translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom, of his dear Son" (Colossians 1:13); He hath "ransomed them" already, in title, "from the grasp of the grave" (Hosea 13:14); and hereafter He will, in actual fact, "redeem them from death." When Christ "gave his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28), He by death gave death its death-blow. He will hereafter be the actual destruction of the grave, when "death and hell (the world of separate spirits) shall be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death." These are God's irrevocable purposes (Hosea 13:14; Revelation 20:14).

(9) Then shall all "fruitfulness" derived from earthly fountains of prosperity be "dried up." All that dazzled the eyes in worldly pomp, glory, wealth, luxury, and beauty, for which men cast away the favour of God, shall leave no memorial behind, except the condemning reflection to the lost, "What is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hosea 13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/hosea-13.html. 1871-8.
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