Saturday, June 3rd, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hosea 13". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ hosea-13.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hosea 13". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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The first eight verses of this chapter form the premises from which the prophet, in the ninth verse, draws the conclusion that the conduct of Israel had been suicidal; that they had brought on themselves the calamities which they had experienced, and ultimately the ruin in which those calamities eventuated. The various particulars of their sin are enumerated, with the provocation caused or the punishment incurred by each. Thus the idolatry of Baal stripped them of the authority they once possessed, and issued in the dissolution of their state. After they had been to some small extent reclaimed from this national sin, and had somewhat retrieved their position, their perseverance in the calf-worship and the progress of their idolatrous practices provoked Jehovah so grievously as to threaten their sudden and entire destruction. Then their gross ingratitude to God for his great goodness and long-continued mercies, followed by pride and haughtiness and forgetfulness of the Most High, brought down on their guilty heads fearful vengeance. All these circumstances justify the conclusion to which he comes, that while God had been their Helper and Deliverer all along, they were chargeable with their own destruction.
When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel. This rendering of the Authorized Version
(1) is supported by the Syriac, which is: "When Ephraim spake trembling, then he was, and was great in Israel." Rashi has a similar rendering of the word retheth, which is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, and causes the diversity of translation in this clause; but his exposition of the whole sentence is vague and unsatisfactory. Referring it to Jeroboam of the tribe of Ephraim, he explains as follows: "When Jeroboam, zealous for God, spoke against Solomon hard words, and with terror, Solomon was a great king." Pococke's exposition is in harmony with the Authorized Version, and is the following: "When Ephraim spake with fear and trembling (like his forefather Jacob, in his humble supplication to God), he exalted himself in Israel." But
(2) the rendering adopted by most moderns, is decidedly preferable, as agreeing better with the context, and much more in bar-runny with tribal characteristics of Ephraim, as intimated in this very book, and exhibited elsewhere. The translation we thus prefer is: "When Ephraim spake, there was trembling; he, even he, exalted himself in Israel." Such was the fear inspired, and the deference paid to the authority of that powerful tribe. The word reheth, though not found elsewhere, has a cognate root in Aramaic, with the meaning here assigned to it; for רתת is to fear, shudder, tremble; there is also, in Jeremiah 49:24, the word רֶטֶט, equivalent to "fear," similar in both sense and sound. The Chaldee supports this rendering; its paraphrase is: "When one of the house of Ephraim spake, trembling seized the peoples." Also Aben Ezra and Kimchi. The former's brief comment is: "Before his speaking the peoples were afraid; and the word ־תת has no analogue except in the Aramaic." Kimchi's explanation is, "From the beginning, before Ephraim sinned, the fear of him was great over the peoples who surrounded him; for when he spake, fear and trembling were wont to seize him who heard him; and he was great and strong among the tribes of Israel, as it was said of him, ' And his seed shall be a multitude of nations.'"
(3) The LXX. renders reheth by δικαιώματα, thus:" According to the word of Ephraim, be adopted ordinances for himself in Israel," that is, when Ephraim spoke, the rest of the Israelites assented to his ordinances and rights, reverencing his authority, so that the general sense differs little from the Chaldee.
(4) Rosenmüller constructs and explains differently; his exposition runs somehow thus: "When Ephraim spake, instituting that horrible worship of the calves, he himself bore the sin of that horrible dictum, i.e. was guilty of, and bore its punishment." This explanation of נשא is farfetched and unnatural. We have no hesitation in preferring "lifted up," i.e. his head, or exalted himself, for, though it is usually the Hithp. that is employed in this sense, examples also occur in which Qal is so used, for example Psalms 89:10 and Nahum 1:5. Kimchi supplies rosho. We adhere, therefore, to the rendering and exposition of (2). But when he offended in Baal, he died. This was not merely the calf-worship which, for political reasons, Jeroboam instituted and his successors retained, but the worship of Baal for which, no doubt, the calf-worship had prepared the way, and which had been introduced by Ahab at the instigation of his Sidonian queen. And though the people were partially and temporarily reformed through the efforts of Elijah the prophet and by the royal authority of Jehu, son of Nimshi, the evil was not eradicated, but frequently broke out again. The exaltation of Ephraim was not so much his distinction among his brethren as the governmental predominance at which that tribe ever aimed. That elevation, however, was soon followed by religious declension, culminating in the idolatry of Baal, which soon sealed the doom of the northern kingdom, thenceforth given up to destruction. The sentence of death was pronounced, and the actual dying commenced with the introduction of idolatrous worship. Thus, correctly, Kimchi: "He lifted up his head in Israel. And after he offended in Baal he died, as if he said, he was beaten before his enemies, as if he were dead, the power of his hand had departed."
And now they sin more and more (margin, add to sin), and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen. This part of the verse declares their persistent adherence to idolatry. The note of time, "and now," marks the transition from the past period, when Baal-worship had been introduced by Ahab and subsequently overturned by Jehu, to the prophet's own day. Not content with the calves of Jeroboam and the worship of Baal, they added new superstitions and new hideous objects of worship. מַסֵּכָה, a molten image, like the molten calf of Aaron, is singular, but used collectively, so as to correspond with עֲעַבִּים, idols, which is plural. The reference here is,
(1) not to the calves or to Baal, but to various other idols which they had adopted, as at Gilgal and Beersheba (Amos 8:14). Or,
(2) not content with the calves, they introduced gods of their own as their penates. The material out of which these molten images were manufactured was silver. Kimchi, however, gives a curious explanation in proof that the material was gold: "The calves," he says, "were not silver, but he means to say that, of the silver which they each one gave to procure gold to make the calves, they made for themselves idols according to their understanding; and these were the calves."
The manner in which they made these idols was
(1) in their understanding, that is, in their understanding, such as it was, so stupidly employed in such sensuous work, or their proficiency in the art of graving. Kimchi explains it somewhat differently: "The explanation of בתבונם is, 'As if they had carefully reflected on the matter what form they should give it, and then had agreed to make a calf, as they did in the wilderness.'" The reading of the word בתי is disputed, but without sufficient ground. No doubt the Septuagint, which is followed by the Chaldee, Arabic, and Jerome, probably read כִּתְבוּנַת, rad בנה, to build, like תַּבְנִית, figure, or כִּתְמוּנַת; for they translate
(2) according to the likeness or fashion of idols; while some manuscripts of Kennicott and De Rossi present
(3) the reading כִּבְבוּנַם, according to their understanding, their own peculiar notions or fancy, and not as Moses, who made everything after the pattern showed him in the mount. The full form would be בִּתְבוּנֶתָם, but the feminine form is shortened before the suffix, like מִדָּה for מִדָתָה (Job 11:9); and פִנָהּ for פִּנָתָתּ (Proverbs 7:8); צוּרָם for צוּרָתָם (Psalms 49:15). Some suppose it from a masculine form, תְּבוּן, of the same meaning. The defect of this man-made god is expressed by its being all of it the work of the craftsmen, without any element of sense, spirit, or divinity in it. On which Kimchi has well observed: "The whole calf is the work of the hands of the craftsman; there is nothing spiritual in it; as he says, 'There is no breath at all in the midst of it' (Habakkuk 2:19)." They say of them, Let the men that sacrifice (margin, the sacrificers of men) kiss the calves.
The best explanation of this difficult clause is, in our opinion,
(1) that of Keil. His translation, though slightly different from that of the Authorized Version, has the same general import; thus: "Of them (the ‛atsabbim, idols) they say, viz. 'the sacrificers from among men' equivalent to 'the men who sacrifice,' Let them worship calves. By the apposition zobheche 'adam, and the fact that the object ‛agalim is placed first, so that it stands in immediate contrast to 'adam, the absurdity of men kissing calves, i.e. worshipping them with kisses (see at 1 Kings 19:18), is painted, as it were, before the eyes." As parallel to zobheche 'adam, comp. evyone 'adam (Isaiah 29:19). Several eminent modern commentators give the same or a similar explanation, with the exception that, instead of translating לָהֶם, "of them," i.e. the idols, as Keil does. They translate it "to them," i.e. the idol-worshippers. Kimchi in the main favors this explanation; he says, "On their account (i.e. on account of the calves) the priests of the calf say to the people who come to offer sacrifice: by the זי אי he means: whoever of the children of men that wish to offer, 'Let them kiss the calves on their mouth; for their worship shall not be perfect until they shall kiss them,' for so was their custom." But
(2) many of the older interpreters among the Hebrews, as also Jerome, Cyril, and Theodoret among Christians, refer the expression to human sacrifices, thus: "Sacrificing men, they kiss, that is, adore, calves." The explanation according to this view, as given by Schmid, is to the following purport: "To these who now worship many idols, and among them Moloch, to whom they even sacrifice men, those the fathers of such as only worshipped the calves or Baal, would say, if they were alive, 'Let those who sacrifice men give over such cruel sacrifice, and rather kiss calves as we did.'" Rashi's comment is: "The idol priests say to Israel, 'He that sacrifices his son to idols is worthy to kiss the calf, for he has presented to him a pleasant gift.' So have our rabbins in (the tract) Sanhedrin explained, and it suits the text of Scripture bettor than the translation of Jonathan;" while that of Aben Ezra is as follows: "To them say the sons of men, in order to mock them [kiss the calves], because they kiss Baalim which are the images of calves, as 'And every month that has not kissed trim' (1 Kings 19:17), while they shed innocent blood, and this is, ' And his blood shall he leave upon him' (Hos 12:1-14 :15). And lo! he has reversed the manner of' every man, for man kisses man who is his fellow, and slays calves for his food." The method of kissing the hand in worship is attested by the derivation of the word adore, from ad and os; while in Job 31:27 we read of homage thus rendered: "Or my mouth hath kissed my hand: this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge." The Septuagint, (3, as if reading זִבְהוּ for zobheche, and ישקטין, instead of ישקון, translate by, "They say, 'Sacrifice (θύσατε) men, for the calves have come to an end' [or, 'failed,' ἐκλελοίπασι]." "Thus," says Jerome, in explanation, "is shown the greed of demons, who are nourished on the blood of victims, that, when victims raft, they desire men to be sacrificed to them."
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 cut of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney. The illative particle with which the verse begins has reference to the sins of Israel, so great and multiplied that punishment could not be long delayed. Their irrational and God-dishonoring conduct was bringing on them sure and swift destruction. The prophet employs four figures to exhibit their political extinction. Two of these, the morning cloud and early dew, or rather the dew early passing away, have already been employed by him to characterize the transient nature of Israel's goodness; here they denote the evanescent nature of their national existence. The other two are the chaff and the smoke; the former whirled away by the storm-wind from the threshing-floor, the latter dissipated and speedily vanishing as soon as it escapes from the chimney or lattice. Such shall be the utter extermination of Israel. The senselessness of their idolatry had been treated with derision in the preceding verse; the punishment of their sin is sternly denounced in this. Kimchi comments concisely and correctly thus: "Therefore they shall go to destruction, and shall be as the morning cloud, or as the dew speedily disappearing in the morning, width vanishes when the heat of the sun has touched it; so they shall go away speedily. So also shall they be as chaff—it is the fine particles of straw, which the wind whirls away from the threshing-floor; thus shall they be whirled away from their land. Or as a pillar of smoke which goes forth out of the lattice, which shall speedily disperse and cease." Instead of אֲרֻבָּה lattice, from ארב, to knit or twist, the Septuagint, according to Jerome, read אַרְבֶּה locusts, as may be inferred from their rendering ἀτμὶς ἀπὸ ἀκρίδων in the Complete-Man edition of the LXX; erroneously written in some copies δακρύων, that is, vapor from locusts or from tears.
Hosea 13:4, Hosea 13:5
These verses make it evident that the punishment inflicted on Israel could not reasonably be accounted too severe; such had been the goodness of Jehovah and the gross ingratitude of Israel.
Yet I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt. The prophet here commences a recital of God's favors to Israel from ancient times, all which they forgot, ungratefully and impiously turning aside from the worship of Jehovah. Jehovah had been Israel's God long before, but never before had the evidence of his power and love to his people been so signal and conspicuous as at the period of the Exodus and onward. And thou shalt know no god but me. The use of תֵדָע in the imperfect is to connect the future with the past. It may be rendered either
(1) "Thou knowest," viz. a God of such wonderful attestation thou knowest or findest not beside me—the opposite of the statement, "Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them" (Deuteronomy 13:3); or
(2) "Thou shouldest not know or recognize any god beside me." So Kimchi: "Thou shouldest not know other gods, nor serve them beside me, for ye see there is no helper Beside me." Likewise Rashi: "Thou shouldest not rebel against me." Also Aben Ezra: "How hast thou turned to kiss the calf, which does not save nor satisfy, and hast left him who has been thy God from ancient days, who has helped thee and knows all thy necessities." The word זוּלָחִי (from זוּל, which, as the cognate Arabic signifies, "to go forth or away") is synonymous with בִּלְתִּי.
I did know thee in the wilderness. The pronoun at the beginning of the verse is emphatic: As for me; or, I it was that knew thee. The meaning of the sentiment is: I acknowledged thee with kindness, with paternal care and kind providence watching over thee. "Thou shouldest gratefully acknowledge me," is the comment of Kimchi, "because I knew thee in the wilderness, and cared for thy necessity in the wilderness, in which there were no means of livelihood." In the land of great drought. The root of the word תַּלְאוּבֹת is לאב, unused in Hebrew, but signifying, in Arabic, "to burn, dry, be dry," akin to לָחַב. Aben Ezra correctly explains it to be "a dry and thirsty laud, and so in the Arabic language; and (that it is so called) on account of all hardships being in it, is the allegorical explanation and not the literal sense." Instead of a lengthened enumeration of all God's loving-kindnesses to Israel at the Exodus and during the desert wanderings, the prophet sums up all in the expressive, "the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt;" and "I it was that did know thee in the wilderness." It is as though he had said, "I pitied thee in the bondage and among the brick-kilns of Egypt; I brought thee forth with a strong hand and outstretched arm; I led thee through the wilderness; I relieved thee in thy straits; I gave thee bread from heaven to satisfy thy hunger, and water from the rock to quench thy thirst; I defended thee from enemies; nor did I relax my care till I gave thee the goodly laud of promise."
According to their pasture so were they filled. The literal rendering is, according to their pasturing so were they filled. The reference is rather to the care in pasturing than to the pasture-ground. By God's care to the sheep of his pasture they waxed full. They were filled, and their heart was exalted. Two consequences followed from God's great goodness to Israel—the immediate consequence was pride of heart; the more remote was forgetfulness of God. Perhaps these results should rather be regarded as concurrent, being in point of time simultaneous or nearly so. Therefore have they forgotten me. This forgetfulness of God is identified with the abandonment of his worship in the Chaldee Version, which is, "They have abandoned my service." The metaphor contained in this verse is taken from a domestic animal, which, in a too luxuriant pasture, becomes headstrong and unmanageable. Thus Rash: "As soon as they came into the land of their pasture, they were filled." The last clause of the verse notices the misuse which Israel made of the riches and blessing of Jehovah, by forgetting their gracious Benefactor; this the prophet attributes to the abuse of the blessings so richly bestowed upon them. Aben Ezra identifies the blessings here mentioned with those vouchsafed to them on their entrance into Canaan; thus: "The prophet enumerates the benefits which Jehovah bestowed on their fathers when they came out of the wilderness into the land of Canaan." Kimchi quotes, as a parallel to this passage, Deuteronomy 8:1-20; of which it is undoubtedly a reminiscence; he says, "When they entered into the place of their pasture, and it was the land of Canaan, they had all good, and were filled; and their heart was exalted, and they forgot me, as it is said in the Thorah that they were ready to do so. He said, 'Lest when thou hast eaten and art full … then thine heart be lifted up, and then forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt … who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness … who fed thee in the wilderness.'"
Hosea 13:7, Hosea 13:8
These verses teach that the result of their sins is inevitable destruction, and that Jehovah, merciful and gracious though he is, has now divested himself of all compassion on them. The appropriateness of the terrible figures here employed arises from the fact that Israel had been compared in the previous verse to a flock fed and filled in a luxuriant pasture; the punishment of that flock is now fitly compared to "the tearing in pieces and devouring of that fattened flock by wild beasts." The beasts in question are a lion, a leopard, a bear, a lioness, and fierce wild beasts in general.
Therefore I will be unto them as a lion. The verb, וָאֱהִי is the future changed into the preterit or past tense by vav consecutive, and marks the consequence of forgetting God. So Aben Ezra: "The preterit in reference to the evils which Jehovah brought upon them." While the past thus implies that the punishment has commenced, the futures which follow denote its continuance. Rosenmüller regards the preterit hero as prophetic and continuative, and paraphrases the meaning by, "I have at length become and have been, and shall continue to be to them." He considers the reference of the preterit to be to past disasters, especially the various defeats sustained by Israel at the hand of the Syrians (2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 10:32) and the Assyrians (2 Kings 15:29). He also very aptly compares Isaiah 63:7-10 in relation to the subject in hand. The Prophet Isaiah, after relating the loving-kindnesses of the Lord and his praises and his great goodness to the house of Israel on the one hand, and their rebellion and vexing his Holy Spirit on the other hand, adds, "Therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them." As a leopard by the way will I observe them. The lion and the leopard are frequently conjoined, as animals of like natural ferocity, by the ancients both in sacred and secular writings. The outlook on the way is for the purpose of springing upon the passers-by. The word אשׁוּר is properly
(1) the future of שוּר, to look around, and thence, to lie in wait; but
(2) some, taking the initial aleph as radical and the word as participle of אָשַׁר, translate it by "trodden way," that is, away trodden and frequented by men and animals. The LXX. and Vulgate again, also Jerome, Hitzig, and Ewald,
(3) translate it by" on the way of the Assyrians," either referring to the time when they would be led captive by the Assyrians or when they persisted in going thither to sue for aid. But the name of Assyria is always written אָשוּר, as Rashi rightly observes: "In every place where אשׁי occurs in Scripture (i.e. as a proper name) it has daghesh (i.e. in the shin); yet here it has raphe, [to show] that it is not the name of a place, but a verb: 'I observe and keep watch,' as 'I shall observe him, but not nigh' (Numbers 24:17)." Kimchi explains the verse as follows: "Because they have forgotten me, I also have rejected them, and have left them in the hand of the peoples; and have become to them like a lion or leopard, which observes the way, and is prepared to tear whatever passes by it on the way. Just so have I been to them, for I have caused their enemies to rule over them, and they have not had power to deliver themselves from their hand until they returned to me, and I took pity upon them."
I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart. The noun דֹב is epicene, that is, the one form serves for both genders, as here the masculine includes the feminine, and is used as such. Of all animals, Jerome says, the she-bear is the fiercest, either when robbed of her whelps or in want of food. Seghor being that which encloses the heart, is either the pericardium, the immediate and proper enclosure of the heart, or the breast itself. The reference is to a beast of prey which seizes its victim by the breast and tears it open, so that the heart is exposed. The verb פגש is akin to פגע, the meaning of the root-syllable פג, to meet, strike, being the same in both. Such is the continuation of the picture of the threatened punishment. The picture of the severity of the Divine judgment here presented is very terrible. Kimchi remarks on this picture: "A bear robbed, whose young ones they have slain, which is bereft and bitter in spirit, if it find man or beast rends it speedily." Some understand the verse figuratively, as though it meant "'I will rend their obstinate heart,' the enclosure of the heart being equivalent to a shut or obstinate heart, as, in Hosea 13:5 of this same chapter, 'a land of drought' is pretty much the same as 'a dry or parched land.' Thus the Chaldee translates, 'I have broken the wickedness of their heart.'" And there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them. Sham there refers
(1) to ‛al-derekh of the preceding verse; or,
(2) as Kimchi explains it, as referring to their cities: "There in their cities shall I destroy them by pestilence and by the sword of the enemy, like the lion that teareth without pity;" or,
(3) more simply still, "there on the spot." The שֵחִת, equivalent to אתָּה, is the wild beast as opposed to בִי, domestic animals. While some were to be destroyed by famine and pestilence, others would perish by the wild beast of the field. "Also," says Kimchi, "shall the wild beast of the field rend them outside (i.e. outside their cities), as, ' I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number.'"
O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help. The literal rendering of this verse is,
(1) It hath destroyed thee, O Israel, that thou hast been against me, against thy Help. The ellipsis is accounted for by the strong emotion of the speaker, שֵחִת is
(a) the Piel third person, and has the suffix of the second person, from which the pronoun אתָּה may be supplied as subject of the concluding clause. The preposition be has here the meaning of "against," as in Genesis 16:12 and 2 Samuel 24:17, while בִי is in apposition to it. The Hebrew commentators take שי as a verbal form; thus Rashi: "Thou hast destroyed thyself, O Israel;" and Kimchi:
(2) "The calf has destroyed thee which he had mentioned above; he says, 'This has destroyed thee; for unless this had been so, thy help had been in me.'"
(b) The Septuagint and Jerome take שחחךְ as a noun, the former translating by τῆ διαφθορᾶ: "Who will aid thee in thy destructions" the latter by "Thy destruction, O Israel; but in me is thy help," the noun being of the form קֵטֵּר דִבֵּר. The explanation of Rashi, who understands
(c) the verb as second person preterit Piel with suffix, is: "'Because thou hast acted unfaithfully against me, thou hast rebelled against thy help.' The Scripture uses brevity, but he who understands the language of Scripture will recall to mind that כי בי is 'because against me is the rebellion with which thou hast rebelled. And if thou shouldst say, What does it concern thee? Against thy help hast thou rebelled when thou didst rebel against me.'" Kimchi remarks in the two beths servile that one of them would suffice, and that the sense might have been expressed by כי בי עזרךְ or כי אני בעזרךְ. All the disaster and destruction previously mentioned are charged on Israel's misconduct; they had brought all upon themselves by their rebellion against Jehovah who would otherwise have been their Shield and Deliverer. The sense is well expressed by Calvin thus: "How comes it, and what is the reason, that I do not now help thee according to my usual manner? Thou hast indeed found me hitherto to be thy Deliverer … . How comes it now that I have cast thee away, that thou criest in vain, and that no one brings thee any help? How comes it that thou art thus forsaken, and receivest no relief whatever from my hand, as thou hast been wont to do? And doubtless I should never be wanting to thee, if thou wouldest allow me; but thou closest the door against me, and by thy wickedness spurnest my favor, so that it cannot come to thee. It then follows, that thou art now destroyed through thine own fault:
(3) Something then hath destroyed thee." It will be observed that the rebellion against Jehovah here complained of is not that of all Israel, when they are said to have rejected Jehovah by asking a king of Samuel; but the defection of the ten tribes that cast off their allegiance to the house of David and made Jeroboam their king.
The concluding verse is at once a conclusion and commencement—an inference from what preceded, and the beginning of a second line of proof showing that, while their ruin was by themselves, their restoration would be by God. When the kings and princes whom they had sinfully sought, and who had been given to them in anger would fail, God himself would be their King, as is stated in Hosea 13:10 and Hosea 13:11. Further, when in consequence of their iniquities treasured up, their sorrows and sufferings would be extreme, as stated in Hosea 13:12 and Hosea 13:13, yet they would be raised up as out of their graves, as promised in Hosea 13:14.
Hosea 13:10, Hosea 13:11
Israel had shown contempt for Jehovah by putting confidence in kings of their own choice, yet these kings could not afford them help, whence the questions of Hosea 13:10. The usual rendering is at fault. I will be thy King. This should rather be, Where now is thy king? though ehi may be either verb or adverb. Where is any other that may says thee in all thy cities? Better take both clauses together and in connection, thus: Where, now, is thy king, that he may save thee in all thy cities?
(1) The word ehi we take, with Ewald, to be a dialectic variation for אֵיַּה, or shortened form אֵי, and this is strengthened by אֵפוֹא, equivalent to the Greek ποτε or Latin tandem, for sake of emphasis. The purpose for which the Israelites had asked a king was that he might "judge them and go out before them to fight their battles" (1 Samuel 8:20). The question, then, does not indicate the want of a king, or the prevalence of a state of anarchy, but that a crisis had come when such a king as they had requested should exhibit his prowess and display his power. It is as though the prophet asked, or rather God by his servant," Where is now the king that can defend the besieged cities, or deliver the attacked fortresses; and defeat the Assyrian foeman who is now threatening both? Or where are the judges (shophetim), or the princes (sarim), who constitute his cabinet or royal counselors sharing in the counsels of state, and administering the affairs of the kingdom under him?" The answer implied is that those visible helps, on which Israel had so confidently calculated, turned out valueless; the kingly constitution on which they had set their heart proved a failure, as far as help and deliverance were concerned.
(2) Kimchi and others take אהי as first person future of the verb היה; thus: "I shall be established for ever, but where is thy king? Whereas thou didst reject my kingdom, and demanded a king who should save you; and it should be he that would save you in all your cities against which the enemies came."
I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath. The imperfects אחי and אקי here are correctly explained by Keil as denoting "an action that is repeated again and again, for which we should use the present; and refer to all the kings that the kingdom of the ten tribes had received and was receiving still, and to their removal." Hitzig calls it here the historical present. Jerome, Aben Ezra, and Kimchi refer the first clause to Saul as given in anger; and the second to Zedekiah as taken away in wrath.
The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid. This verse is in tended to remove all doubt about the punishment of sin, whatever interval may have elapsed. The day of reckoning would certainly come, for the sin of Ephraim was neither forgotten nor blotted out. As a miser puts his money in a bag and seals it to prevent it being lost, so the Almighty had, as it were, hoarded Ephraim's sin, putting it in a bag and tying it. A parallel expression occurs in Job 14:17," My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and thou sewest up mine iniquity." Usually when men put money into a bag, purse, or treasure-house, they count it; so the sins of Ephraim were reckoned, laid up in the treasury of wrath, till the amount should be full and the day of reckoning arrive. The sinner himself is represented as treasuring up unto himself wrath against the day of wrath. Aben Ezra only remarks on the place where it is treasured: "It is bound up in my heart; I shall not forget it as they have forgotten me, as is written above" (verse 6, "They have forgotten me").
The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him. The threatened punishment that is to overtake them is compared to the throes of a parturient woman, on account of their severity, as 1 Thessalonians 5:3. Their sinfulness, which stands in the way of their success, shall be succeeded by severe sufferings and many sorrows. But eventually these worldly sorrows shall, under Divine grace, issue in the godly sorrows of repentance: then, and not till then, shall a new and happier period of existence be ushered in. The sorrow of travail shall give place to the joy of birth Delay of confession and repentance defers that joy, prolongs the sufferings, and puts the life of both parent and child in peril, so far as their personality is identical. He is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children. Here the unwisdom of Israel is accounted for: it is folly, sheer folly that postpones repentance, and delays efforts and aspirations after new spiritual life, The literal rendering of the last clause is—
(1) For it is time, he should not tarry at the place of the breaking forth of children; or rather,
(2) When it is time, he does not place himself at (literally, stand) or come forward to the opening of the womb; and some translate עֵתִ
(3) "at the time," but that would rather require לְעֵת; it might, indeed, be duration of time, and Aben Ezra so renders it: "Therefore at the time he will not stand in the breaking forth of children." Also Wunsche: "He is an unwise son, for at the time he stands not in the breaking forth of children." It might be expressed, as in the Authorized Version, with a slight modification; thus: For otherwise he would not stand long time in the place of the breaking forth of children. The figure is now shifted from the mother to the child; such abrupt and sudden transitions are not infrequent in Scripture, especially in the Pauline Epistles (setup. e.g. 2 Corinthians 3:13-16). The danger is represented as extreme, as may be inferred from the similar expression, "The children are come to the birth, and there is no strength to bring forth." A perilous period in Israel's history is indicated, and to escape the danger he must make no tarrying, but advance at once into the new life of faith and repentance. Kimchi has the following comment: "Because he has compared his pains to the pain of a woman in travail, he says, 'The children are not wise,' as if he said, 'The coming generations, who have seen their fathers in affliction because of their iniquities, are not wise, and do not consider that distress has overtaken their fathers because of their iniquity; and turn not from the evil deeds of their fathers, but have done wickedness like them.'" He adds: "There are children lively by nature in their coming forth out of the womb; so also would these, if they were wise, not stay a single hour in distress, but immediately On returning to the Lord be delivered out of their distress." The LXX. omit the negative and render מי by ἐν συντριβῇ: "This wise son of thine [employed ironically] shall not stand [or, 'endure'] in the destruction of his children or people."
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. God here promises them deliverance from utter ruin; the grave shall be thus deprived of his victim, and the victim rescued out of the tyrant grasp of death. פָדָה is to redeem by payment of a price; גאל by right of kinship; while שְׁאוֹל, the under world, is derived
(1) by some from שָאַל, to ask or demand, and is favored by such statements as the following: "There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: the grave," and so on; "Who enlargeth his desire as well, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied." Others
(2) derive it from שאל, equivalent to שעל (by a softening of the ayin into aleph), to be hollow; but this signification of the word is not satisfactorily established. A third
(3) derivation is שׁוּל, to hang down loose or slack, then to be deep, or low, and so the noun comes to signify sinking, depth, abyss.
O Death, I will be thy plagues; O Grave, I will be thy destruction. Thus אֶהִי is
(a) incorrectly taken by some for the first person future of היה; it is
(b) more properly taken in the sense of "where," as in Hosea 13:10 of the present chapter. בְבָרֶיךָ is plural, referred by some to דָבָר, hence δικηῆ, LXX.; it is, however, the plural of
(c) דֶבֶר, pestilence, and קָטָבְךָ, pestilence, destruction, from קְטֹב, to cut off, akin to חטב. Hitzig says that קְבֹל קְטֹב, and קְטֹן are originally infinitives, and the last two designate instruments or members, and thus give a sort of support to the traditional κέντρον of the LXX.
Now, this verse has been understood by some in the sense
(1) of consolation; and by others
(2) in that of combination.
In the latter sense it is understood by the Hebrew commentators, and by not a few Christian interpreters. Thus Rashi: "I am he who redeemed them from the hand of Sheol, and delivered them from death; but now I will set myself to speak against thee words of death." Aben Ezra: "I redeemed thy fathers; now I shall be thy deadly pestilence; I will also be thy destruction." Kimehi is more diffuse, as usual; he explains thus: "I would have redeemed them from the power of Sheol, if they had been wise. But now that he is not wise, but a feel, and denies my goodness, it is not enough that I shall not redeem thee from death, but I shall bring upon thee death by pestilence, and by the sword, and by famine, and by evil beast." The condition supplied by Kimchi is entirely arbitrary and without anything in the context to suggest it. Calvin in like manner interjects a condition; thus: "I will redeem them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death; that is, except they resist, I will become willingly their Redeemer. Some have, therefore, rendered the passage in the subjunctive mood, 'From the hand of the grave I would redeem them, from death I would deliver them … . I will then redeem them, as far as this depends on me;' for a condition is to be introduced, as though God came forth and declared that he was present to fulfill the office of a Redeemer. What, then, does stand in the way? Even the hardness of the people. He afterwards adds, 'I will be thy perdition, O Death; I will be thy excision, O Grave.' By these words the prophet more distinctly sets forth the power of God, and magnificently extols it, lest men should think that there is no way open to him to save, when no hope according to the judgment of the flesh appears. Hence the prophet says, 'Though men are now dead, there is yet nothing to prevent God to quicken them. How so? For he is the ruin of death, and the excision of the grave;' that is, 'Though death should swallow up all men, though the grave should consume them, yet God is superior to both death and the grave, for he can slay death, for he can abolish the grave.' He afterwards proceeds to "answer to that which is said of Paul quoting this passage. The solution is not difficult. The apostles do not avowedly at all times adduce passages which in their whole context apply to the subject they handle; but sometimes they allude to a word only, sometimes they apply a passage to a subject in the way of resemblance, and sometimes they bring forward passages as testimonies. When the apostles use the testimonies of Scripture, then the genuine and real truth must be sought out; but when they glance only at one word, there is no occasion to make any anxious inquiry; and when they quote any passage of Scripture in the way of resemblance, it is a too scrupulous anxiety to seek out how all the parts agree. But it is quite evident that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:1-58; has not quoted the testimony of the prophet for the purpose of confirming the doctrine el which he speaks. What then? As the resurrection of the flesh was a truth very difficult to be believed, nay, wholly contrary to the judgment of nature, Paul says that it is no matter of wonder...because it is the peculiar prerogative of God to be the perdition of death and the destruction of the grave.... He is endued with that incomprehensible power by which he can raise us from a state of putrefaction; nay, since he created the world from nothing, he will also raise us up from the grave, for he is the death of death, the grave of the grave, the ruin of ruin, and the destruction of destruction; and the simple object of Paul is to extol by these striking words that incredible power of God, which is beyond the reach of human understanding." Others viewing the subject in the same light, read the clauses interrogatively, and the imperfects in a subjunctive sense; thus—
"From the power of Sheol should I ransom them?
From death deliver them?'
The answer being, "Certainly not."
"Where are thy pestilences. O Death?
Where is thy destruction, O Sheol?
Let those pestilences and that destruction
be produced for Ephraim's ruin."
Repentance (relenting) shall be hid from mine eyes. This Rashi explains: "I will feel no regret over this calamity." But we greatly prefer the sense of consolation assigned by many Christian interpreters to the passage. No doubt the verse before and that following this fourteenth verse are a threat which probably induced so many, as we have seen, to include this verse in the menace. But the abruptness of the prophet's style sufficiently accounts for a bright Messianic promise to relieve the gloom of the dark predictions among which it is interjected. Redemption from the power of Sheol signifies, not merely deliverance from danger and deliverance from death, but deliverance from the under world by rescuing the living from the region of the dead, or rescuing from the realm of death those already subject to his grim dominion; while the destruction of death is celebrated in words of triumph, as Theodoret says, "He gives command to sing a paean over [literally, 'against'] death." To the Israelites the promise signified the power of the Lord to redeem from death and restore them from destruction to newness of life, just as the dead dry bones of Israel in the valley of Ezekiel's vision are restored to life. The use which Paul makes of this verse when he couples it with the words of Isaiah, "Death is swallowed up in victory," in 1 Corinthians 15:55, is to confirm the full and final annihilation of death at the resurrection. This fuller and deeper meaning, dimly unfolded to Old Testament saints, was clearly brought to light in New Testament Scripture. The absence of repentance denotes the irrevocable accomplishment of the Divine purpose of salvation. Pussy has pertinently remarked upon this verse: "God by his prophets mingles promises of mercy in the midst of his threats of punishment. His mercy overflows the bounds of the occasion upon which he makes it known. He had sentenced Ephraim to temporal destruction. This was unchangeable. He points to that which turns all temporal loss into gain, that eternal redemption. The words are the fullest which could have been chosen. The word rendered 'ransom' signifies rescued them by the payment of a price; the word rendered 'redeem' relates to one who, as the nearest of kin, had the right to acquire anything as his own by paying that price. Both words, in their exactest sense, describe what Jesus did, buying us with a price … and becoming our near kinsman by his incarnation … . The words refuse to be tied down to a temporal deliverance. A little longer continuance in Canaan is not a redemption from the power of the grave; nor was Ephraim so delivered."
Though he be fruitful among his brethren. It should rather be, for he bear fruit among brethren. כִּי, in this verse, is neither a particle of time, "when," nor a conditional particle, "if," but "for," adducing "a reason to prove that the promised grace of redemption would certainly stand firm." Ki is distinguished from אִם by being "only used in cases where a circumstance is assumed to be real For one that is merely supposed to be pebble, אִם is required," as may be inferred from the interchange of the two words in Numbers 5:19 and Numbers 5:20. The name Ephraim, signifying "double-fruitfulness," shall be verified, confirming the promised redemption from death, and, by the pledge of blessing, which the name implies affording a guarantee that the coming storm would not quite overwhelm them. The play on the name Ephraim fixes the meaning of יַפְרִיא, the aleph taking the place of he. The Septuagint διαστελεῖ, equivalent to "shall cause a division," and Jerome's divider, suppose יַפְרִיד or יַפְלִיא. But though fruitful among the other tribes, yet the abuse of that fruitfulness invited the instrument of destruction. There is an allusion to the patriarchal blessing, "Joseph is a fruitful bough by a well;" the source of his fruitfulness was that well or fountain; while the drying up of it would be the certain cause of barrenness. An east wind shall come, the wind of the Lord shall come up from the wilderness. Thus, while Ephraim presents the pleasing picture of a fair and fruitful tree, the element of destruction is already on the way. A wind, the east wind, with its rude vehemence, blighting heat, and desolating effect, was coming. It was a wind, not coming by chance, but commissioned by Jehovah as a minister of vengeance to execute his wrath. It was, moreover, a wind issuing forth from its home in the desert, and fraught with fiery heat from the scorching sands of the Arabian desert. And his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up. This flourishing tree, planted by the living spring, to which it owed its vigor and verdure, was doomed soon to wither in consequence of the drying up of the waters, that nourished it, by the east wind. He shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels. Here the figure merges in the fact. The Assyrian conqueror was the blustering east wind, that swept like a whirlwind with his armies from the east. He not only ravaged the country, but rifled the treasures of the capital The keli chemdah included all the valuables and treasures of Samaria referred to in the following verse. Kimchi explains the verse as follows: "For Ephraim was fruitful among brethren as long as he did not make calves. He became increasingly great and fruitful among his brethren, as Jacob said of him.... And now that he has sinned, an east wind of the Lord shall come; and it is the King of Assyria that is meant. And he compares him to the east wind, because it is a wind from the east, for the land of Assyria lies to the east of the land of Israel; and further he says, 'east wind,' because it is a violent wind. And he says, 'wind of Jehovah,' to magnify the wind and emphasize it; and he says also, 'spirit of Jehovah,' because Jehovah the blessed stirred up his spirit (i.e. spirit of the King of Assyria) to come against Israel, 'goeth up from the wilderness;' wind is always in the wilderness. Or the explanation is, because the wilderness is between the land of Israel and the land of Assyria; and before this wind, which is the King of Assyria, is dried up the fountain of Ephraim, which was at first like a tree flourishing by the waters." And now before this wind shall its spring become dry and its fountain dried up. The verb יֵבוֹשׁ, as from בּוֹשׁ, is an irregular formation for הוֹבִישׁ, as on the contrary we find the Hiph. הוֹבִישׁ, as if from יָבֵשׁ.
Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God. Others translate shall atone, i.e. bear guilt or punishment. In the latter sense it is from אָשֵם, to atone or suffer the punishment of contracted guilt; in the former sense it is from שָׁמְם, and it is translated accordingly by ἀφανισθηδεταῖ in the LXX; and pereat by Jerome; so also Aben Ezra: "It shall be laid waste;" Kimchi: "The aleph has seh'wa alone, and the signification 'desolation,' and so the dwellers therein shall be made desolate." He thus intimates that aleph, having sch'wa alone without seghol, does not belong to the root, which is not אשם (for its future would be תֶּאֱשׁם), but שָׁמַם. Rashi, however, understands it in the sense of "atone," or "find out her guiltiness;" he says, "From now will her guilt manifest itself." The reason of Samaria being thus mentioned is not only that it was the capital of the northern kingdom, but, as Kimchi says, "it confirmed Israel in the worship of the calves; for if the kings had been good, they would have brought back Israel to what was good." The ki assigns the reason of Samaria's desolation or guilt; it was rebellion against Jehovah, for Samaria was the seat and center of idolatry, and hence it spread throughout the land. They shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up. The destruction thus described was to be complete. The present population would perish by the sword; the future progeny would be extinguished and all posterity cut off. Not only the children already born, but those unborn, were devoted to destruction; and all this in the most savage and barbarous manner. The word עוֹלֵל presents childhood on the side of playfulness or petulance. The pronominal suffix attached to הרי refers to the city; and the feminine noun itself, forming subject to verbs in the masculine, arises from the fact that the feminine of the imperfect plural becomes rarer; or because the feminine plural only gradually distinguishes itself by a peculiar form from the masculine. The cruelties here specified may have been occasioned by those of the same kind with which Menahem King of Samaria smote Tiphsah. On that occasion "all the women therein that were with child he ripped up" (compare, for the cruel practice, 'Iliad,' 6.58; ,2 Kings 8:12 and 2 Kings 15:16).
Justification of the ways of God to man.
Israel had been the cause of their own calamities—another proof that sin is the procuring cause of all human suffering and sorrow. God's character is seen to be everlastingly the same—long-suffering and merciful, ever gracious to penitents, abounding in goodness and truth to all, but by no means clearing the guilty.
I. THE SECRET OF SUCCESS. Most men are fond of power, all men value prosperity; yet few men know the right road, and fewer still pursue it. Righteousness is the right road to success of any kind, and the sure way of elevation; it exalts either nation or individual who practices it.
1. As long as Ephraim worshipped the true God and abstained from idolatry, which subsequently became their besetting sin, they had power and pre-eminence. When they spake, their word was with power and not infrequently inspired terror; it was sure to come with authority and to command respect among the other tribes of Israel. Ephraim had long been the premier tribe, enjoying the credit of great names, Joshua and Samuel; and of great deeds, the defeat of Midian and the death of the two Midianite princes, Oreb and Zeeb; also of great privileges, the national sanctuary having been for three centuries and a half at Shiloh, within the confines of that tribe. Nor were they slow to assert themselves and advance their claims.
2. But the tide turned. They offended in Baal; then came national degradation and political death—they fell by their own hand as moral suicides. Sin brought Ephraim down from his high and exalted position, and laid his honor in the dust. He became like a dead man, despoiled of his authority, deprived of many of his subjects, and on the verge of ruin; his activities and vigor gone and his dignity departed, himself already dead though not yet buried. "When Ephraim forsook God and took to worship images, the state received its death-wound, and was never good for anything after. Note: deserting God is the death of any person or persons."
II. SIN IS A DOWNWARD SLOPE. The sin of idolatry was gradually developed in Israel. It began with the modification of the national worship by Jeroboam, when he changed the place and plan of that worship. When he had audaciously transferred the place of worship from Jerusalem to Dan on the Syrian frontier, and to Bethel on the border of the kingdom of Judah, in order to keep the people away from Jerusalem, the true place of worship and seat of the Davidic dynasty, he proceeded further to introduce the worship of the calves—a relapse, at least as to form, into the idolatry of Egypt. His design was not, indeed, the introduction of a new and rival deity, but the modeling of Jehovah's worship under an external and symbolic form. The sin did not stop here; it progressed until, in the days of Ahab, the Phoenician deity Baal became an object of worship. It was bad enough to make a graven image or material representation of the true God and bow down to it, thus violating the second commandment and neglecting the solemn instruction that the worship of God must be spiritual, not material; but it was still worse to introduce other gods, as the Phoenician Baal, in direct violation of the first commandment of the Law, which requires the exclusive worship of Jehovah. Thus the sin of idolatry progressed in Israel. Nor is this all; along with the worship of Baal the idolatry of the calves, as we learn from this Scripture, still survived two hundred years after its introduction by Jeroboam. Thus they "grew worse and worse; coveted more idols, doted more upon those they had, and grew more ridiculous in the worship of them." Superstition is an expensive thing. Israel used much of the means God had them in making molten images. It is a whimsical thing; men follow their own fancies in carrying it out. It is an unspeakably stupid thing; that image which is man's work, man's wisdom, the product of man's willfulness, becomes the object of man's worship. It is, moreover, a debasing thing; the fervor of their worship is stimulated by an authoritative, perhaps a royal, edict, enjoining reverence and homage to the senseless image of a calf But whether the command proceeds from priests, or people, or prince, the kissing of the calves was in token of "the adoration of them, affection of them, and allegiance to them as theirs." It has been justly remarked by Pusey that "sin draws on sin. This seems to be a third stage in sin. First, under Jeroboam, was the worship of the calves. Then, under Ahab, the worship of Baal. Thirdly, the multiplying of other idols (2 Kings 17:9, 2 Kings 17:10), penetrating and pervading the private life, even of their less wealthy people."
III. THE SHORT-LIVED STATE OF SINNERS. They have often the show of prosperity, but their prosperous state is short-lived. "I have seen," says the psalmist, "the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree" (or a green tree growing in its native soil). "Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found." This truth is illustrated by four very striking similitudes. The morning cloud glowing in the early sunshine, assuming phantastic forms and displaying varying hues of beauty, often presents itself as a forerunner of the rain-shower to moisten the dry parched ground; but ere long it vanishes, and the cloudy morning ushers in a clear and rainless day. The early dew, with its pearly drops so bright and beautiful on the grass of a summer morning, which appears as if to promise sufficient moisture to the earth even in the absence of the long looked-for rain, is soon brushed aside by a passing foot, or coal rates before the day has far advanced. Both similitudes had already been employed by the prophet to exhibit the fleeting and transitory nature of Israel's religious profession and the consequent disappointment to the Divine expectations, so they are used here in turn to represent the transient character of sinners' prosperity and their disappointment from worldly things. The two other similitudes, though less pleasing, are equally powerful as representations of what is evanescent: the worthless chaff, which is whirled away in winnowing; and the offensive smoke, which, as has been pithily said, swelleth, welleth, and vanisheth—both soon dissipated and disappearing. "While these four emblems in common," says Pusey, "picture what is fleeting, two, the early dew and the morning cloud, are emblems of what is in itself good, but passing; the two others, the chaff and the smoke, are emblems of what is worthless. 'The dew and the cloud were temporary mercies on the part of God which should cease from them; good in themselves, but, to their evil, soon to pass away.'... Such dew were the many prophets vouchsafed to Israel; such was Hosea himself, most brilliant, but soon to pass away. The chaff was the people itself, to be carried out of the lord's land; the smoke, "its pride and its errors, whose disappearance was to leave the air pure for the household of God."
IV. SIN IS BASE INGRATITUDE TO GOD.
1. God assures Israel that, however far they had degenerated and fallen, however much they had changed, the change had been entirely on their side, not on his; as though he had said, "And I, even I," fur the pronoun is emphatic, "am still Jehovah, the same unchanging and unchangeable Being, the same in mightiness to succor, the same in willingness to help is also thy God, the same in covenant relation, the same in faithfulness to every promise, and the same in ability to fulfill the word he has pledged."
2. He pleads their past experience and the many proofs he had given them of his goodness; he appeals to them in regard to his treatment of the fathers and founders of their race, going back to the period of the Exodus, and thus gently hinting the covenant entered into at Sinai and reminding them of its conditions. In view of God's faithfulness and their own faithlessness, of God's goodness and their ingratitude, of his enduring mercies which they and their progenitors had experienced for centuries, and of the fitful and infrequent conformity of their conduct therewith, they must surely have hung their head in shame and cried out in the language of another prophet, "O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day."
3. The law of reciprocity demands a return on the part of the people of God. He had made himself known to them by his Word and by his works, by his providences and by his prophets; he had made himself known to them as their fathers' God, as their own God in a special relationship, acknowledging them as his peculiar people, he naturally claimed, not only their knowledge, but acknowledgment of himself. It was their bounden duty, in turn, to acquaint themselves with him, to know him to be their God and no other, to acknowledge him in his ineffable perfections, in his glorious attributes, and in the ordinances of his worship, and also to own allegiance to him alone. And if all this was a duty incumbent on Israel, surely it is a duty equally incumbent, yea, much more so, upon ourselves; while neglect of such duty on our part brands us with an ingratitude deeper, blacker, and baser than that of Ephraim when the prophet wrote.
4. He backs all with the assurance of his saving power, and assigns as a special reason for knowing and acknowledging God that there is no Savior besides him. Of this he had given abundant proof by the deliverances he had wrought and the provision he had made for them, as for their fathers before them, under the most trying circumstances, when they were in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. The very idea of God implies saving power on his part, and happiness in time and eternity for all who are his true Israel; and "as where we have protection we owe allegiance, so where we have salvation and hope for it we owe adoration." Now, a friend in need is a friend indeed. Such a Friend was God to Israel, an all-sufficient Friend; and just such a Friend is God to his people still.
V. SIN, BY REASON OF CERTAIN AGGRAVATIONS, BECOMES MORE HEINOUS IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. This is the case specially when the good gifts of his providence are used to the dishonor of God and the neglect of his service. It was thus with Israel, when pride of heart and forgetfulness of God were the return they made him for all his goodness to themselves and their fathers during all the years that had been from their entrance into the land of promise. The Lord himself had been their Shepherd; he had tended them with greatest care, leading them in green pastures and by still waters. But "Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked." How often is this conduct of Israel repeated! Prosperity pampers pride, and pride makes men forget God, as if it were men's necessities that kept them mindful of God. "It is sad that those favors which ought to make us mindful of God, and studious what we shall render to him, should make is unmindful of him, and regardless what we do against him. We ought to know that we live upon God, when we live upon common providence, though we do not, as Israel in the wilderness, live upon miracles."
VI. SIN'S SAD SEQUEL. The sins of the people grew worse and became more aggravated; the Divine judgments are in proportion. In an early verse (third) of the chapter they are threatened with the evanescence of their prosperous condition, but something much worse and more alarming is predicted (verses 7, 8) as ready to follow. Not only was all good to be taken from them, but all evil was to come upon them. The Lord's flock is to lose the Shepherd's care; thus deserted, they will soon fall victims to savage beasts—nay, their former Shepherd not only abandons them to beasts of prey, but does himself assume the character and put forth the fierceness of such beasts. The ferocity of the lion, the fleetness of the leopard, and the fury of the robbed or ravenous she-bear, now represent the means which he employs against them. And as if it were not enough to specify the lion, the leopard, the bear, and the lion a second time, he adds "the wild beast," that is, wild beasts in general. It appears as if the dreadfulness of all wild beasts combined was required to exhibit the power of God's wrath and the fury of his anger. If the sinner escaped from the lion, a leopard overtakes him; or if he escapes the vigilance of the leopard's keen vision, a bear meets him; in a word, the fierceness of all wild beasts together is not equal to that of God's wrath. "All the dreadfulness of ell creatures in the world combined meets in the wrath of God." A sorrowful contrast is here presented. God had once watched over them for good; now, leopard-like, he watches their wanderings, and with lynx-eyed vigilance waits as if to take advantage of them. On the other hand, their heart had been puffed up with pride, as well as hard and closed against the gentlest admonitions and most faithful instructions; now their heart shall be torn open with leonine force and violence. Sinners may shut the remonstrances and warnings of the Divine Word out of their hearts and remain obdurate, but afflictive providences or untoward events of some kind, may at God's pleasure tear away the obstruction, and tear open the hardest heart. Whether the opinion of those who think there is a reference here to the four ancient monarchies is founded in fact, or is only the mere offspring of fancy, we care not to examine. That there is a resemblance between the terrible threats of this passage and the terrible treatment which the people of God experienced at the hands of those monarchies, there can be little doubt. Of the four monarchies represented by beasts in the seventh chapter of Daniel, the Babylonish was the lion, the Persian a bear, the Grecian a leopard, the fleetness of which suitably set forth the rapidity of Alexander's exploits, all of which he performed in the space of twelve years, while he himself at his death had only reached the age of thirty-three years. The Roman empire is not likened to any one beast in particular, but is described as dreadful and terrible and strong exceedingly, with great iron teeth, devouring and breaking in pieces and stamping the residue with the feet, its ten horns standing for the ten kingdoms into which it was subsequently parceled.
Man's marvelous perversity and God's restorative mercy.
I. RUIN BY SIN, RECOVERY BY GRACE. When Israel had destroyed himself, and when there was neither help not' hope for him in himself or in aught that man could do, help was to be found in God and in God alone. Throughout the whole course of human history wrath and ruin are the deservings of man, goodness and mercy the dispensation of God. In the worst of times and in the darkest day help is to be bad in God In the midst of merited wrath he remembers mercy. God volunteers his help to his erring children even when their sins have been blackest and their need greatest. When there is no human help at hand or anywhere available, God graciously proffers aid. There was now no king to save them in all their cities; God interposes and says, "I myself will be your King." When there was no judge to deliver them, such as those that had been raised up for them on great emergencies in ancient times—no Gideon, no Jephtha, no Samson—God himself stepped forth for their protection and stretched out his helping hand.
II. RELIANCE ON HUMAN HELP IS OFTEN AS FRUSTRATING AS FOOLISH.
1. Israel had expected much, but got little, from a king and princes. Thus we read in 1 Samuel 8:5, "Make us a king to judge us like all the nations." Princes, though not expressed, are clearly implied in that passage, for wherever there is a king, there mast of necessity be a court and nobles, or officers of high rank, to attend him. The people gained their object, bat find their trust misplaced; in the day of their calamity and their oppression, those fro? whom they confidently expected such great things, are powerless as themselves and m just as great need of help. Thus history confirms the lesson, "Trust not in princes nor man's son."
2. The folly of obstinately neglecting or rejecting warning well meant and faithfully given. Forewarned is forearmed; this should be the ease, but the maxim is often disregarded. Samuel had faithfully warned Israel of the inconveniences to which they would expose themselves by imitating the surrounding nations when they sought a king. He told them truly, for God had instructed him, of the oppressions they might expect, the exactions they would be subject to, and the arbitrariness of rule to which they would have to submit; but, though they could not gainsay aught of his warning, they obstinately persisted in their determination, saying, "Nay, but we will have a king." To their folly they added sin, as is usually the case, for in rejecting Samuel's counsel they rejected the prophet's Master, as it is written, "They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me."
3. How little men know what is really good for them! Frequently we set our heart on things most prejudicial to our best interests. Like children crying for hurtful objects which a wise parent withholds in tenderest affection, and which if granted would be sure to inflict injury or even prove fatal, we clamor for things that would prove not only unsuitable but most harmful; and, childlike, we complain if our requests are not granted. We pray, and in our ignorance we know not what to pray for as we ought. What need we have of grace, that the right desires may be put into our hearts and right words in our lips; that, coming before God with acceptance, we may obtain those things that are most conducive to the Divine glory and expedient for ourselves!
III. REQUESTS GRANTED IN WRATH. God, in his providence ever wise and holy, may, as it were, stand aside from men for a season, and allow them to have their way. After rejecting the salutary warning of his Word they may succeed in their wicked enterprises, and seem even to be seconded in them.
1. No ground for caviling at God's providence. Without any imputation on the Divine holiness, men may be permitted to have their way and to get their will, yet in much wrath. "God," says Calvin, "so executes his judgments, that whatever evil there is it ought to be ascribed to men; whatsoever good to himself.... God by his secret counsel had directed the whole business, and yet he had no participation in the sin of the people Let us learn wisely to admire the secret judgments of God, who thus makes use of wicked men, and directs for the best end what is done by men wickedly and foolishly."
2. There appears to be an answer to a latent objection. The people might say to the prophet, "Why blame us when God permitted us to have a king, appointing Samuel to anoint Saul, and allowing Jeroboam to reign over ten tribes?" To this God, by his servant, replies, "I gave you a king when your hearts were so set on one; but I gave him to you in anger and as a punishment of sin—Saul to punish your sin in rejecting Samuel; and Jeroboam to punish the idolatries in the reign of Solomon, as also your rebellion and apostasy."
3. God's gifts are sometimes tokens of his wrath. "God," says Augustine," many times in giving is angry, and in denying is merciful." We have positive proofs of this in Scripture. Besides the passage before us, there is a notable instance on record in Numbers 11:1-35.; there God gave the people what they greatly longed for, but in wrath. They had "wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it ,was well with us in Egypt." They got the flesh they so vehemently craved; their desires were gratified; why? Just, we are told, because they despised the Lord who was among them. Thus God gave them flesh to eat, but it was in anger. The psalmist (Psalms 78:1-72), commenting on the fact, explains it so, "While the meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them."
4. The end was as bad as the beginning. A king was given them in anger, and a king was taken away in wrath. The proverb says, "Well begun is half done;" but we may add, "A bad beginning has most frequently an ill end." "Nothing successful," says Calvin, "could then proceed from so inauspicious a beginning. For it is only then an auspicious token when we obey God, when his Spirit presides over our counsels, when we ask at his mouth, and when we begin with prayer to him. But when we despise the Word of God, and give loose reins to our own humor, and fix on whatever pleases us, it cannot be but that an unhappy and disastrous issue will follow."
5. Criteria of God's gifts. We may point out a few tokens by which men may judge whether God's gifts are granted in love or in wrath. There are
(1) desires which have more respect to the gift than to the giver. Of such it has been well said, "Those desires that are not out of love are not satisfied from love." If our regards are fixed on the creature and have no respect to the Creator, God may grant such desires, but not in love. "Whatsoever a gracious heart would have from God, yet this is the main thing in its desires—Oh, let me have God in them!"
(2) Great vehemence and want of moderation in our desires betoken that the gratification of those desires proceeds rather from wrath than love. In such cases God, we may conceive, says, "If you must have them, if you will have them, take them; but take the consequences along with them." Hence the necessity of moderating our desires in regard to all worldly things.
(3) God sometimes grants man's desires, but withholds the blessing, so that it soon becomes abundantly manifest that the gift has come in anger, not in love. The desire has been granted, but there is neither comfort with it nor satisfaction in it. Thus we read," They shall eat, but they shall not be satisfied." Or a worldly benefit is bestowed, yet not only is spiritual enjoyment withheld, but spiritual declension follows; as the psalmist (Psalms 106:1-48) says, "He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul."
(4) When benefits are bestowed, but grace for the right use of them not given, we have good reason to conclude that it is in anger, not in love. God may grant us prosperity in our business or improvement in our lot of life; but if we have not sufficient grace to make a sanctified use of such prosperity or improvement, the benefit is not a sign of love, but of anger. It has been well said that "it is not in love for God to give any success, except he give a measure of grace proportioned to the success."
(5) If our desires are attained and our ends accomplished by unlawful means, we have a priori evidence that our success has been owing to anger, and not to love. Many other signs might be added, but they must be left to suggest themselves, as there is little doubt they will to a reflecting mind.
IV. RECKONING FOR SIN IS SURE TO COME ONE DAY. Men's iniquity, like that of Ephraim, is bound up as treasure in a bag; it is sealed and kept safe, in order to be brought forth in due time. Sin, in like manner, is hid, not, however, from God, but with God, till the day of reckoning arrives. Just as gifts are bestowed, as we have seen, sometimes in anger and not in love, so sin is often hid in judgment, not in mercy, that is, not for protection but desolation.
1. God's patience towards, is no acquaintance of, the sinner. His forbearance with the antediluvians lasted several centuries, till all flesh had corrupted its way, and the earth was filled with violence; but his Spirit would no longer strive, and the Flood came, sweeping all except eight souls away. He bore with Sodom till the cry of their wickedness went up to heaven, and Divine vengeance descended on its inhabitants. He bore with the Amorites till the cup of their iniquity brimmed over and brought complete destruction. Every sin, however secretly committed or subtlety contrived, however long overlooked or left unpunished, shall come forth, on the day of reckoning, for just retribution. "Be sure your sin will find you out."
"Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience he stands waiting, with exactness grinds he all."
2. Security in sin is no safeguard for the sinner. One of the most destructive devices of the evil one is to tempt men to sin by suggesting the thought that what they do is no sin at all, or if it be a sin, that it is a little one, or too trivial to be punishable; or that the sin they commit is not known and shall never be known, or if it should, that it is too long forgotten or unnoticed to be ever punished. Equally devilish is the contrary device, by which, after he has succeeded in tempting men to sin, he drives them to despair by the thought that their sin is too great to be forgiven.
3. The less the apprehension, the nearer the punishment. As in the natural world, so in the moral—a dead calm is sometimes the precursor of a storm. So in the days before the Flood, men were "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage," buying and selling, building and pulling down, planting and sowing, busying themselves in the various engagements of daily life, and all the while felt perfectly secure till the very day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the Flood came and took them all away. Agag thought the bitterness of death was past, just before Samuel hewed him in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal. The inhabitants of Laish dwelt securely till of a sudden they became a prey to their enemies. The Amalekites, after taking Ziklag, were feasting and making merry and fearing no danger, when David came upon them and smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day. So in other cases recorded in Old Testament history. So in New Testament times, as the apostle warns that "the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."
V. RESEMBLANCE OF SINNERS SUDDEN AND BITTER SORROW TO TRAVAIL-PAINS. When God unlocks his treasury of wrath, and brings forth to light the sins now shut up and sealed and safely kept, men's security and God's forbearance shall in that day issue in sudden and sore sorrows. These sorrows are like the sorrows of a parturient woman, sharp as they are sudden. Many passages of Scripture might be quoted to prove travail-pains to be emblematical of acute anguish and extreme distress. They are at the same time inescapable.
VI. REPENTANCE IS CLOSELY CONNECTED WITH RENEWAL OF LIFE. As the travail-pains of the mother are usually associated with birth, and so a new life and therefore joy; so the godly sorrows of repentance are inseparably conjoined with conversion to God, newness of life, and consequent spiritual joy. The unwisdom of Ephraim is evidenced by his staying so long in the birth; in other words, by his delaying repentance. Ephraim persists in his sins, obstinately persists in them, and makes no effort to get out of them by repentance; he endeavors not, by aid of proffered grace, to extricate himself by repentance from his sin and misery and danger. How many there are, like Ephraim, who are content to lie long under convictions, but never think of agonizing to attain to thorough conversion! How many unwise sons there are! How many there are with strong convictions of sin, their conscience aroused, their understandings more or less enlightened, and affections much moved, and yet they stay there! They are brought to the birth, but they stop short—stay where they are, and refuse to come forth. They are not far from the kingdom of heaven, but unhappily they delay to enter into it, and that delay may prove fatal. They come to the place of breaking forth of children, but they stay long, alas! too long, in that perilous position. They are almost persuaded to become Christians, but not altogether; and so they are only almost, but not altogether saved. How sad the case of those who come within a mile of home, yet never reach it! or who come within view of port, yet sink to rise no more before they reach the harbor! How lamentable the fate of those Israelites who had reached Kadesh-barnea, within eleven days' journey or less of the land of promise, but who never set foot in that goodly land, their carcasses having fallen in the wilderness!
The humiliations wrought by the sins of Israel.
The prophet representation implies that they were dead—nationally, politically, and spiritually dead. They were like dead men; and not only so, they were like men dead and gone and buried out of sight—so dreary and desperate was their condition.
I. THE DESPERATE STATE OF SINNERS. They are spiritually dead—dead through trespasses and sins. Even the people of God may by reason of their sins bring upon themselves such calamities, and may sink so low, as to be like men without life and lying in the grave. It was so with Israel at the period in question. They had come under the dominion of death, and had become subject to the power of the under world. Their condition is similarly described by Ezekiel in his thirty-seventh chapter: "These bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts."
II. THE DELIVERANCE PROMISED. The deplorable state of a sinful people dead and buried under calamities is no proof helplessness when God undertakes their deliverance and presents no impossibility to the power of his omnipotence.
1. Israel in captivity were politically dead, the place of banishment was their grave. This is the condition of persons in exile, for in a civil sense they are spoken of as dead. Deliverance from captivity is here promised to that people primarily and partially from the country of Assyria, but fully and finally from the lands of their long dispersion and political death.
2. But Israel in all their remarkable history were a representative people; and so their restoration from a state so hopeless and helpless that to the eye of sense it seemed death, may typify the renewal of life in souls spiritually dead by the regenerating power of God, and further the resurrection of bodies long dead and moldered in the grave. The Septuagint expresses the sense of the original with perfect plainness by substituting "victory" for "plagues," and "sting" for "destruction." Paul, in his quotation of the passage, employs the Septuagint; and whether he employs the words allusively, or by way of accommodation, the better to express his sense of the mighty power of God, or as an exact citation, he celebrates the greatest of all deliverances, which shall be consummated in that day when the destroyer of the nations shall be himself destroyed, and when the universal conqueror shall himself be conquered, his sting being wrested from him and his power to hurt annihilated.
3. The deliverance thus effected by him who has the right to redeem, as having become our Kinsman, and who, having paid the ransom, possesses the privilege to redeem, both by price and by power, is extolled not only as a victory, but a triumph; while language of exultation is addressed to the ghastly tyrant now fallen and for ever prostrate.
4. When we revert to the immediate application of the words, we find the substance of the promise to Israel to be that, notwithstanding Ephraim's unwisdom in rebelling against and delaying to return to God, and notwithstanding his long impenitence and false security, God's faithfulness shall stand fast, and the truth pledged to his people shall not be disannulled What comfort for all humble penitents! However hopeless and helpless our condition, and however desperate our state, we have no reason to despair. However gracious the promises of God, and however mighty the power required for their accomplishment, we may rest assured that not one jot or tittle shall fail through fickleness or fall to the ground through lack of power, for he has solemnly said, "Repentance is hid from mine eyes." He will not repent of mercy to his friends, nor relent in his wrath to their enemies.
III. THE DIGNITY AND DOWNFALL OF EPHRAIM. Promise and threatening frequently present themselves side by side in the Word of revelation, and sometimes alternate. The fulfillment of the one is a guarantee for the fulfillment of the other; the accomplishment of the one warrants us to expect the accomplishment of the other.
1. Ephraim's fruitfulness had been the subject of promise, and the very name involved a prophecy. That promise had been realized in Ephraim's great superiority over the other tribes in numbers, in power, and in wealth. The fruitfulness of the earth and the fruitfulness of the womb had been his; he had been blessed with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. Like his father Joseph, he had been a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall.
2. But as the promise had been so exactly fulfilled, so must the threatening. And notwithstanding the prosperity of this highly favored people, the day of adversity was at hand. The destructive elements that were commissioned to bring about the downfall of Ephraim are figuratively described; but the figures employed set forth very graphically the violence of the enemy who was approaching, the Power by whom he was sent, the quarter from which he came, the ruin he would accomplish, and the robbery he would effect. The figures are so obvious and applicable that they only need to be indicated. The east wind is the fierce Assyrian conqueror. He comes not by chance, but is commissioned of the Lord; he comes from an eastern land, but more particularly with the vehemence and violence of a wind from the wilderness, such as that great wind from the wilderness that demolished the dwelling where Job's children were feasting; he would dry up and destroy all that lay in his way. The spring would become dry, and thus the streams soon cease to flow; the fountain would be dried up, and so the waters must fail. But to ruin he would add robbery, plundering the treasures of precious metals, costly garments, precious fruits—everything that the covetous, or avaricious, or voluptuous, or lascivious could desire.
IV. THE DESOLATION OF THE CAPITAL. Not only would the country be ravaged and laid waste, but the capital would be desolated. The citizens would be ruthlessly slain; the present population would be swept away, and the hope of posterity cut off.
1. Consider the cause of all these calamities. Why did all this desolation come upon Ephraim and their beautiful city of Samaria? The answer is plain as it is positive, and is given by the prophet in the closing verse: "Because she hath rebelled against her God." The connection may be traced as follows: "Though Ephraim be high and mightily exalted above his brethren, yet, since he has not exalted my Name who exalted him, nor made my benefits and my mercies motives to duty and obedience, but has fought against me with my own favors, and abused my blessings to my dishonor, therefore I will bring the Assyrian upon him, who, like an east wind, shall blast him, utterly dash all his hopes, spoil his treasures, and carry him into captivity."
2. The fate of Samaria, as recorded here and in Micah 1:6, has been fully realized. Near the middle of Palestine, and deriving its name from Shomer. the owner of the site on which the city was built, and not from Omri, the king who built it, B.C. 925, it continued to be the capital of the ten tribes for two centuries till their carrying away by Shalmaneser, B.C. 720, during all which period it was the scat of idolatry. The site of this celebrated capital was one of rare attractiveness; it combined strength, beauty, and fertility. It is "delightful,' says Thomson, "by universal consent. It is a very large, isolated hill, rising by successive terraces at least six hundred feet above the valleys that surround it. In shape it is oval, and the smaller and lower end unites it to the neighboring mountain on the east." Rebuilt by Herod, it received from him its later name of Sebastia, now Sebusteyeh, in honor of Augustus. "During the twenty-five centuries which have passed since the Captivity, its fortunes have been very various; often destroyed, again rebuilt, growing smaller by degrees, though not beautifully less, until it finally subsided into the insignificant village which now clings to the name and the site." Its site and sin are similarly described by Stanley: "On that beautiful eminence, looking far over the plain of Sharon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, and over its own fertile vale to the east, the kings of Israel reigned in a luxury which, for the very reason of its being like that of more Eastern sovereigns, was sure not to be permanent in a race destined for higher purposes."
3. The ruinous nature of sin. Of the ancient capital of Ephraim, long "the nursery of idolatry and rebellion against God," not even a wreck remains, nor a ruin to remind one of its ancient glory. See what ruin sin has wrought! "All the evil in the world may be seen in sin. Sin dries up all our springs, stops our fountains, spoils our treasures, and robs us of all our pleasant things—our pleasant land, our pleasant food, our pleasant raiment, our pleasant houses, pleasant children … and therefore, when anything goes amiss with us, we should search for the sin that has done us mischief; find out the Achan that has caused the trouble; find out the Jonah that has raised the storm; do justice on the one, and drown the other, and we shall have peace."
HOMILIES BY C. JERDAN
Ephraim, living and dead.
This passage portrays anew the dreadful prevalence of apostasy and idolatry throughout the nation. "The same strings, though generally unpleasing ones, are harped upon in this chapter that were in those before" (Matthew Henry). Much of the imagery continues to be anthropopathic; the prophet exhibits an apparent tumult of contending passions in the Divine mind towards unfilial and rebellious Ephraim.
I. EPHRAIM WAS ONCE ALIVE. He had been so, both spiritually and temporally. The time was when the tribe of Ephraim, and the other nine tribes over which it cast its shadow, contained many God-fearing families. Joshua, the illustrious hero who led the Hebrews into Palestine, was of this tribe; and to him, doubtless, it owed not a little of its subsequent eminence. The "life" which once dwelt in Ephraim was reflected in:
1. God's mercies towards him. (Verses 4, 5) The Almighty set his love upon Israel; and "in his favor is life" (Psalms 30:5). God had manifested himself to his people in the Exodus from Egypt. He "did know Ephraim in the wilderness;" he visited him there in pity and love—revealing his will at Sinai, feeding the people with manna, bringing them water out of the rock, leading them by the cloudy pillar, and delivering them from their enemies. He "led Joseph like a flock," and at last "made him to lie clown in the green pastures" of Canaan—a land which was "the glory of all lands." The Lord had set up his tabernacle in Ephraim; for Shiloh was a city of that canton, and the sacred tent remained at Shiloh for upwards of three centuries.
2. His own influence. (Verse 1) "When Ephraim spake, there was trembling; he was exalted in Israel." In the early days of the nation Ephraim had been the most powerful of the twelve tribes. Long before the lamentable disruption of the Hebrew state, it had exercised a sort of control over the others. It had a high reputation, and commanded unfeigned respect. At length Ephraim became itself a kingdom, and as such seemed for a time strong and prosperous, and was regarded by Judah as a formidable rival.
II. EPHRAIM IS NOW DEAD SPIRITUALLY. Spiritual life consists in union with Jehovah, and is maintained by communion with him. But sin separates from God, and gradually kills the life of the soul. Now, Ephraim in his prosperity had apostatized from God. The Divine complaint is, "They have forgotten me" (verse 6). Although the people owed everything to God, they allowed the very abundance of his gifts to become the means of withdrawing their hearts from him. In the time of Hoses the nation was really "dead in trespasses and sins." Again, in this passage, the prophet laments the manifestations of this state of death.
1. The Baal-worship. (Verse 1) "When he offended in Baal, he died." The introduction of the Phoenician idolatry involved Israel in spiritual ruin. The rites of that idolatry were in the highest degree obscene and cruel; and by the Law of Moses every breach of the first commandment was to entail terrible penalties. Yet, notwithstanding all, Israel went aside to serve Baal and Ashtaroth, and thereby became morally degraded and spiritually destroyed.
2. The image-worship. (Verse 2) Although Jeroboam's sin (1 Kings 12:28) was manifestly distinct kern that of Ahab (1Ki 16:1-34 :81-88), and in itself by no means so heinous, it had yet been the beginning of the evil disease which, under Ahab and Jezebel, culminated in the spiritual death of the nation. Image-worship is idolatry; and the "kissing" of the two golden calves had led to the multiplication of idolatrous images all over the land. The people in their blindness were addicted in their private life to all manner of "will-worship." How melancholy that Ephraim should forsake Jehovah to bow down to manufactured gods—"all of them the work of artificers"!
3. The self-worship. (Verse 6) Ephraim abused his prosperity to such an extent that his heart became at once steeped in materialism and elated with pride. He minded earthly things. His "pasture" became everything to him; he was greedy, and could never have enough. "Jeshurum waxed fat, and kicked" (Deuteronomy 32:15). Selfishness and insolence and tyranny were born of Ephraim's abundance; he became puffed up with self-sufficiency, forgot Jehovah his God, and "died."
III. EPHRAIM WILL SOON BE DEAD OUTWARDLY. As the dissolution of the body follows death, so the temporal ruin of a state is the natural result of its moral decay. In cherishing his pride and pursuing his idolatries, Israel was busily digging his own grave. As his wealth and power increased, he steadily deteriorated in moral fiber, and thus gradually lost his prestige and reputation. So:
1. His destruction shall be swift. (Verse 3) This part of the prophecy probably belongs to the time of Hoshea, the last of the kings of Israel, who was "cut off as the foam upon the water," and in whoso day the unhappy Ephraimites were carried away into Assyria. The captivity, therefore, was now at hand. The suddenness of the impending transplantation is indicated by four similitudes—"the morning cloud," "the early dew," "the chaff," and "the smokey." Such is the result of the prosperity of nations which continue to be incurably wicked; the time comes at last when the whole fabric of the commonwealth suddenly falls to pieces
2. It shall be dreadful. (Verses 7, 8) Here also there are four comparisons—a "lion," "a leopard," "a bear," and "the wild beast." These shall come down upon the flock in their fat "pasture," and devour them. It is remarkable that the same fern beasts reappear in Daniel's vision of the four world-empires (Daniel 7:1-28), and that they are combined into one bestial form in "the wild beast" of the Apocalypse (Revelation 13:1-3). Alas! Jehovah, who has been the Shepherd of Israel, is now compelled to become Israel's Devourer! He will send the Assyrian—strong as a lion, fierce as a leopard, and savage as a bear—to tear the very heart of the nation. Thus would Israel "destroy himself" (verse 9), being carried away into sudden exile and total oblivion
1. "Righteousness exalteth a nation" (verse 1).
2. "The Lord is a jealous God;" "His glory he will not give to another, neither his praise to graven images" (verses 2, 8)
3. God destroys our idols that we may learn to "kiss the Son;" for he is "the true God and eternal life," and "there is no Savior beside him" (veto. 3, 4).
4. The dangers of material prosperity to all who neglect those means of grace which make prosperity safe (verse 6).
5. "Pride goeth before destruction" (verse 6).
6. The great moral evils of our age (intemperance, impurity, profanity, infidelity, social disorders, etc) constitute a call to God's people to more faith and prayer and Christian activity.—C.J.
Ruin, retribution, and resurrection.
Underlying these verses, and interpenetrating the judgment of Jehovah's anger with which they are charged, there is a deep undertone of tenderness. The prophet speaks, in the Lord's Name," with the laboring voice, interrupted by sobs, of a judge whose duty it is to pronounce the final heavy sentence after all possible pleadings and considerations have been gone through ' (Ewald).
I. ISRAEL'S RUIN. This is referred to, both as regards its origin and its most recent manifestations.
1. The ruin began with the revolt from the house of David. Ephraim's proud determination to become politically independent of Judah was the root-sin from which sprang the corruption of his religion and the immorality of his whole life. In following Jeroboam, Samaria "rebelled against her God" (Hosea 13:16), and entered upon a career which resulted in moral suicide. She rejected her only true "Help" when she said, "Give me a king and princes" (Hosea 13:10). The kings of the ten tribes could not save the people; for Jehovah, the King of Israel, did not acknowledge their royalty. Neither Jeroboam I; nor any of the princes of the house of Omri, or of the dynasty of Jehu—not to mention the military usurpers who afterwards snatched the crown from one another—had fulfilled the true function of a king as being a shepherd of the people. Despite the seemingly splendid reign of Jeroboam II; the history of the northern kingdom was all along one of misfortune, degradation, and self-destruction. Israel "destroyed himself" with the weapons of pride and idolatry, sensuality and anarchy.
2. The ruin was perpetuated through his refusal to repent. This seems to be the idea presented in Hosea 13:13. Hosea had prophesied for upwards of half a century during the last long agony of his country; and during that period God had sent many calamities upon Israel, which were graciously fitted, like labor-pains, to induce the new birth. The latest of these travail-pangs are now imminent; but still Ephraim delayed thorough repentance, cleaved obstinately to his sins, and refused to be "born again." The Lord desired that Ephraim's "sorrows" should suddenly cease, through the birth of a new Israel; but the people were "joined to idols," and thus—meantime at least—there could be no recovery from the ruin into which they had fallen.
II. ISRAEL'S RETRIBUTION. The sin of the nation accumulated gradually. And the justice of God "retained" it, and pronounced punishment on it, and kept the punishment in store (verse 12). Notwithstanding the distresses of the last two generations, which Hosea had witnessed, and from which he had himself suffered—including now, it may be, the seizure and imprisonment of Hoshea, the last unhappy king of Israel (verse 10; 2 Kings 17:4)—there was still a load of stern wrath waiting to discharge itself upon the guilty commonwealth.
1. Ephraim has been punished through his kings. (Verses 10, 11) The whole nineteen were apostates from Jehovah, and under them the cup of the nation's iniquity was slowly filled. The very "giving" of each monarch in the providence of God was a mark of his anger; indeed, many of them gained the throne as the result of military revolt and assassination of the preceding sovereign, whom God thus "took away in his wrath."
2. The kingdom itself is now to be destroyed. (Verses 15, 16) The once "fruitful" Ephraim is about: to suffer an irretrievable blight. The Assyrian power, like the hot blast of the simoom, shall blow upon his land, and for ever dry up the springs of its fertility. Samaria, its capital city, after a protracted death struggle of three years, shall be subdued and devastated by Sargon, the successor of Shalmaneser. The treasures of the city shall be plundered, and its inhabitants cruelly murdered or dispersed among the heathen. Scarcely any trace will be left of the once proud and luxurious kingdom of Ephraim. The sentence of political extinction pronounced against that state is irreversible.
III. ISRAEL'S RESURRECTION. The proper names "Hosea" and "Hoshea" mean help or salvation. In King Hoshea, however, there was no help during the final extremity of the national peril; but the venerable Hosea still lived, and announced that the Lord, whose word he had so long spoken to a disobedient nation, was still ready to become Israel's "Help" (verse 9), notwithstanding all the wretched past. Although constrained passionately to denounce the sin of his people and to forewarn of the coming desolations, the prophet intimates that these dire punishments are also paternal chastisements, sent by Jehovah to arouse the people, and induce them to return to his service. The Divine heart is still full of tender compassion for Israel. The Lord cannot allow the nation utterly to perish. On the other side of the dreadful judgments and the long dispersion, there will be a recovery so glorious as to be called a resurrection. "What shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" (Romans 11:15). This ultimate restoration is announced in the splendid apostrophe of verse 14.—a passage which the Apostle Paul, following the Septuagint, quotes towards the close of his sublime argument for the certainty of the resurrection of the saints (1 Corinthians 15:55). In its original sense, however, this song of triumph refers to the deliverance of the posterity of Ephraim from their national doom. The ten tribes shall be carried captive, and shall become politically dead and buried; but the time is coming when God will raise them up spiritually, and restore them to his favor. This brilliant promise received no appreciable fulfillment in the return of a few exiles of Ephraim and Manasseh along with the first colony of Jews who went up from Babylon at the close of the seventy years' captivity. The oracle clearly refers to Messianic times. It is in line with the general run of those Scripture prophecies which anticipate the national conversion of Israel, and announce the Lord's unchangeable purpose to effect it (cf. verse 14, last clause, with Romans 11:29). And, as Israel was a typical nation, this paean of victory might well be used, as Paul uses it, to celebrate the triumph over death and Hades which the Messiah has already achieved in his own person, and which he wilt by-and-by repeat in the general resurrection of his people.
1. God destroys no man; every sinner is self-murdered (verse 10).
2. Adequate temporal punishment for our sins often consists in the simple granting of our desires (verses 10, 11; Psalms 106:15).
3. When God leaves a man, his prosperity withers (verse 15).
4. The soul that forsakes God for an earthly portion shall be overwhelmed with regrets (verses 13, 16).
5. Even while the Lord must denounce severe judgments, his love broods over the sinner, and remains invincible.—C.J.
Jehovah the Destroyer of death.
This sublime promise of mercy is imbedded among threatenings of judgment. It reminds us, both as it occurs here and in the connection in which the Apostle Paul quotes it (1 Corinthians 15:55), that although in our world "sin hath reigned unto death," it is the prerogative of the Almighty to rescue from the grasp of the grave, and even to abolish death itself. We may profitably consider some of the spheres within which the Lord has chosen to exercise this prerogative. The promise of our text applies to—
I. THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL Ever since the two captivities Israel has been, as it were, a dead nation The Jews have been dispersed over the world, and have not yet been able either to recover their national independence or to maintain their national worship But Hosea here assures his countrymen of future restoration and blessing, notwithstanding the final ruin of the kingdom of Ephraim. "The only meaning that the promise had for the Israelites of the prophet's day was that the Lord possessed the power even to redeem from death, and raise Israel from destruction into newness of life; just as Ezekiel (37) depicts the restoration of Israel as the giving of life to the dry bones that lay scattered about the field" (Keil). But the future thus expressly predicted for Ephraim is more blissful than even Hosea, to whom this oracle was given, could readily, or perhaps possibly, conceive. Israel's restoration shall be spiritual. The captive Hebrews, so far and so long estranged from God, shall return to his favor. The very people who at last crowned their sinful career by "crucifying the Lord of glory"—a sin still more heinous than all the wickedness for which Hosea rebukes them—shall be made the subjects of a glorious future. "They shall look upon him whom they have pierced" (Zechariah 12:10), and at last accept him as the Messiah. They shall become zealous and successful missionaries of the cross, and shall contribute largely to the bringing in of the world's jubilee (Romans 11:15).
II. THE REDEMPTION-WORK OF CHRIST. Students of the New Testament find a larger and deeper meaning in this glowing promise than that which would limit it to the resuscitation of Israel. To our consciousness the Lord, who is "the Plague of death," is Jehovah-Jesus. "He became incarnate" that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 2:15). As the great Teacher, he proclaimed himself to be "the Resurrection and the Life" (John 11:25); and he sealed this testimony by rebuking disease of every kind, and even raising the dead. Most of all, he was himself "obedient unto death;" and by his own decease upon the cross he has "ransomed his people from the power of the grave." Divine justice had put a dart into death's hand to slay us therewith for our sins; but Jesus, in dying for us, satisfied that justice, made adequate atonement for guilt, and received authority to take the dart away. By coming himself under the power of the grave, the Lord Jesus has "abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light" (2 Timothy 1:10). Of this victory his own resurrection upon the third day is an infallible assurance. In emerging from the grave as the risen Savior, Jesus revealed himself as "the Plague of death," and as the Source of spiritual life and Author of eternal salvation to his people. "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the Firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20).
III. THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST'S PEOPLE. Jehovah-Jesus is the Savior of the soul, and of the body also.
1. He redeems the soul from death. Is not the world of mankind like a vast graveyard, where men are lying "dead in trespasses and sins"? Sinful man is naturally destitute of the Spirit of life, and insensible to the beauties of holiness. He is unable to raise himself from the unclean tomb of his own evil lusts and passions. But, so soon as the voice of the Son of God speaks the word, "I will ransom them," the same almighty energy which gave life to Jesus himself, when dead, breathes new spiritual vitality into those for whom he died (John 5:21-27). "Because he lives, they shall live also" (John 14:19).
2. He shall redeem the body from death. The final ruin of the soul is called in Scripture "the second death" (Revelation 21:8); and, if the Lord Jesus can deliver from that, it is no wonder that he is also the Savior of the body. The order of redemption is that he redeems from the "second death" first; and thus the abolition of temporal death at the end of the world shall really be the destruction of" the last enemy" (1 Corinthians 15:26). All men naturally regard "the king of terrors "as the most formidable and cruel of foes. The grave seems to the eye of sense only a despoiler (Proverbs 27:20). But it is the glory of Christianity that the Redeemer has robbed death of its sting, lighted up the under-world with his love, and given us the sure and certain hope of a blessed resurrection. Faith sees hanging at the girdle of the Son of man "the keys of death and of Hades" (Revelation 1:18). The grave is to the saints only an underground pathway to heaven, and "death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
"Death, thou wast once an uncouth, hideous thing:
But since our Savior's death Has put some blood into thy face,
Thou hast grown sure a thing to be desired
And full of grace."
It is also a great joy to know that the Lord's promise to redeem his people from death is certain to be fulfilled. He has passed his word for it; and, as he here assures us, "repentance shall be hid from his eyes." Multitudes of believers die in perfect peace, and some even in triumph, for they are conscious that he is "with them."
1. The harmony of the Old and New Testaments in teaching that "unto God the Lord belong the issues from death."
2. Christ Jesus is the Lord, who by his Spirit exercises this prerogative, both as regards nations and individuals.
3. The alienation of the soul from God is a state of death—the most awful condition possible to man; and from that state he can only escape by being "born again."
4. The dissolution of the body is not death to the believer, but simply a lulling asleep in Jesus.
5. The doctrine that Christ is "the Resurrection and the Life" brings solid comfort in the hour of bereavement.—C.J.
HOMILIES BY A. ROWLAND
Hosea more than once sought to bring this solemn truth home to the conscience of the people (Hosea 14:1, etc). They saw that national disasters were impending, but attributed these to any other cause than their own sin; e.g. to the divided counsels of their leading statesmen, to neglect of the army, to the ambition of their rulers, to temporary reverse of fortune. The prophet says, in effect, "These would not be against you, if God were not; and he is no longer your Deliverer, because you have turned against him. O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself!" This truth may be seen in the fall of other kingdoms—the Assyrian, Roman, etc. These were destroyed, not by an isolated detent, but by the moral deterioration preceding it, which had destroyed all recuperative power. If we should live to see England's decay—our land untilled, our docks empty, our mills and factories silent, our colonies torn away, our people crashed by a debt too heavy for them to bear—it will be due, not to this mistake of policy or to that unfortunate war, but to the fact that as a people we had forsaken righteousness and mercy. This deterioration will precede that desolation. It is true of individuals as of nations. If a man sinks into an abyss of despair or of vicious indulgence, it will be, not through the force of his circumstances, but through the worthlessness of his character. To such a one God says, "Thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help." In treating of self-destruction we will speak of
(1) its causes;
(2) its delusions; and
(3) its remedy.
I. ITS CAUSES. The importance of the subject is seen from the frequency with which its lamentable issues occur. "Wide is the gate, and broad is the road, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat."
1. Neglect of the means of grace. The Word which reveals God, the Son who declares him, etc. "This is life eternal, that they may know thee," etc. A man who denies himself food till he perishes of starvation, or refuses medicine till the disease proves fatal, practically "destroys himself."
2. Inward iniquity. The passions, the worldly spirit, the self-will, etc; which unfit for fellowship with God and prevent all desire for it, are the causes of spiritual ruin. These, and not death, are the true causes of destruction. When a dead tree is cut down as a cumberer of the ground, it is not the gleaming axe, which we can see and hear that destroys it. The tree is destroyed before the axe is laid at its root, and perhaps only after its fall will the cause of death be revealed.
3. Outward transgression. Show how sin committed leads to other sins, how the sense of shame dies out with the frequency of the act, how habits of evil doing grow till there seems no escape, and to all holy influence the man seems dead. Conscience says, "Thou hast destroyed thyself."
II. ITS DELUSIONS. Whatever, in a moment of despair, a man might do with his natural life, he would surely not destroy all hope of spiritual life unless the words were true, "The god of this world hath blinded the eyes of them that believe not." Some justify their irreligiousness to their own consciences:
1. By referring to God's perfections; e.g. to his sovereignty ("If I am to be saved, I shall be"), or to his mercy ("God is too merciful to punish").
2. By referring to the condition of their fellow men. Of the godless, they urge they are so numerous that it is not credible that they should all be in the wrong; of Christians, they say that they are too scrupulous for ordinary society, or else that they are so inconsistent that religion cannot be of great worth.
3. By referring to their own state. If they are moral, they "thank God that they are not as other men are;" if licentious, they argue that they are "committed to do all these abominations;" if ignorant, they declare they are not scholarly enough to understand the teaching of the Church; if intellectual, they maintain that they require no spiritual illumination; if attentive to the externals of religion, their spirit is that of the Pharisee who said, "I fast twice in the week," etc.
III. ITS REMEDY. "In me is thine help." The Speaker is "the Lord Jehovah, in whom is everlasting strength." He alone can save. When there was no eye to pity, he brought to men salvation. The remedy is to be found:
1. In the atonement Christ has made. "He was wounded for our transgressions," etc.; "The blood of Jesus Christ...cleanseth from all sin."
2. In the intercession he presents. "Wherefore he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us."
3. In the grace he gives. When the Holy Spirit is come, "he wilt convince the world of sin," etc. The Spirit comes to cast out the strong man armed. By his grace he vivifies, purifies, sanctifies, until at last we shall stand faultless before God's throne. "Thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help." "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name given under heaven whereby we can be saved."
CONCLUSION. In the text there are
(1) enlightenment for the ignorant;
(2) warning for the self-righteous;
(3) hope for the despondent; and
(4) a song for the redeemed.—A.R.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
They sin more and more.
The tribe of Ephraim was especially upbraided by the prophet on account of their addictedness to idol-worship. Separating themselves from the religious observances which were proper to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the members of this powerful and central tribe had distinguished themselves by their defection from Jehovah, and by their zeal in the service of Baal and other gods of the nations. One sin led to another; and they sinned "more and more." In these words a great principle is enunciated. There is a tendency on the part of sinners not only to continue, but even to exceed, in sin. To understand this, it must be observed that—
I. TEMPTATIONS BECOME GROWINGLY NUMEROUS AND POWERFUL.
1. Circumstances are often in an increasing measure favorable to sin. The sinner puts himself in the way of stronger temptations.
2. Wicked companions and instigators to sin gain in boldness and persuasiveness. They learn by experience that no resistance need be anticipated.
3. Restraints are culpably removed. The practice of sin breaks down the fences which virtue sets up around the law-abiding and obedient.
II. RESISTANCE BECOMES GROWINGLY MORE FEEBLE AND FAINT.
1. Desire is strengthened by indulgence. Unbridled passion, ungoverned pride, insatiable selfishness, have everything as they would.
2. Shame is lessened. The reproach of conscience is silenced. Fear is quieted and stifled. The blush no longer rises to the cheek; and the tongue is habituated to falsehood, or profanity, or impurity, without any check.
3. Moral power is weakened. At first there is a contest within between the better feelings and the worse; but after a while there is no conflict, and the vanquished protest dares no longer assert itself.
APPLICATION. The picture thus drawn of the sinner's progress is so fearful, that the contemplation of it may well lead him who is on the downward road to pause. Facilis descensus Averni. The only hope lies in immediate and sincere repentance, and (by Divine grace) an urgent application for forgiveness, and for a new and better mind.—T.
Driven chaff and vanished smoke.
The imagery here employed is of obvious interpretation. When the blast of the whirlwind or of the winnowing fan passes ever the threshing-floor, the chaff is driven away and dispersed. When the fire is kindled upon the earth, the smoke makes its escape through the lattice-work below the roof into the open air. Even so, those who wickedly depart from Jehovah and addict themselves to the worship of idols shall, says the prophet, learn by bitter experience the folly of their course and the vanity of their trust. No safety, no stability, but certain ruin and destruction shall be their lot.
I. DEFECTION FROM TRUE RELIGION EXCITES THE DISPLEASURE AND INDIGNATION OF THE ONLY TRUE GOD. There are many who refuse to admit that the supreme Ruler concerns himself with the conduct of men. And others consider that benevolence is so all-absorbing an attribute of Deity that they will not hear of punishment either in this world or in a world to come. The declarations of the prophet are utterly inconsistent with such views as these.
II. RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE WILL CERTAINLY ASSERT ITSELF IN THE CONDEMNATION AND PUNISHMENT OF THE IRRELIGIOUS.
1. There is national retribution, as the history of Israel and of every nation abundantly proves.
2. There is individual chastisement, as every human life in a measure may convince us.
3. The punishment inflicted upon the ungodly and impenitent is not limited to this earthly life, to this transitory scene of probation.—T.
The only Savior.
The prophets were in the habit of appealing to the past history of Israel as a nation when they would urge the people to repent of present sin, and would encourage them to seek Divine favor and acceptance. Certainly the records of the past proved that only in returning and in rest had the people ever been saved, and that when they had turned elsewhere than to Jehovah they had only met with disappointment and misery.
I. THE VANITY AND INSUFFICIENCY OF ALL EARTHLY HELPERS.
1. As Israel, when seeking help and deliverance from the deities of the heathen, ever found such a refuge vain, so will all men who look elsewhere than to the Most High experience certain and bitter disappointment. "The idols of the heathen have ears, but they hear not … they that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them."
2. Even the best-intentioned of human friends and counselors are powerless to aid and save. The lesson has to be learned afresh by every generation that the help of man is vain. "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put your confidence in princes."
II. THE SOLE SUFFICIENCY OF GOD AS A MIGHTY SAVIOR.
1. He has wisdom to devise appropriate means of deliverance. Many an instance in Israel's history might have been quoted, in order to produce this conviction. And we, as Christians, have the one supreme evidence of God's infinite wisdom in the provision of spiritual and eternal salvation in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is the wisdom as well as the power of God.
2. The heavenly King has the disposition to deliver. Salvation is not only his prerogative; it is his delight. Mercy and compassion animate him in his treatment of the children of men. "God so loved the world," etc. There is no pity like Divine pity.
3. For an all-sufficient authority and efficacious power to rescue man from sin and death we must look above. The Eternal is "mighty to save." And in appointing his Son to be the Savior, he has laid help upon One who is mighty—
"So strong to deliver,
So good to redeem,
The weakest believer
That hangs upon him."
Remembrance in the wilderness.
No more signal instance of Divine interposition is recorded, even in the wonderful history of Israel, than the care and guidance and protection vouchsafed to the chosen people in their desert-wanderings. No wonder that the inspired prophets should again and again refer to this marvelous record of Divine regard, remembrance, and assistance.
I. THE OCCASION OF DIVINE REMEMBRANCE.
1. To Israel and to humanity (for of the race at large was the chosen people a type) God reveals himself when help is sorely needed. In the wilderness the people hungered; they thirsted; they were in danger from many perils of the way; they were opposed and harassed by many foes; they were beset by frequent perplexities; they were cast down by many fears. Similarly, this race of mankind was without any supply for its sorest needs, without any deliverance from direst dangers and mightiest and most malignant foes, when the eternal Father "remembered us in our low estate."
2. It was an occasion when all other resource and hope were vain. In this respect the tribes in the desert were representative of humanity. "I looked, and there was no helper."
II. THE FRUITS OF DIVINE REMEMBRANCE.
1. The thoughtfulness of God supplies his people's wants. Israel's hunger was met by manna; Israel's thirst by water from the rock, etc. So "the Lord hath been mindful of us." Every spiritual want is supplied in the gospel, where is living water, heavenly bread, etc.
2. Adversaries are overcome by the interposition of the Most High. He who vanquished Israel's foes led captivity captive, and secured salvation for all who trust in him.
3. Difficulties are removed by Divine intervention.
4. Courage and hope are inspired in the breasts of the timid and downcast.
5. Gratitude, piety, and devotion are enkindled in the souls of those who are set free and rescued by the interposition of a merciful and mighty Savior.
APPLICATION. The gracious knowledge and remembrance of God, leading to merciful interposition on our behalf, should incite us to think upon and to remember him "who led his people through the wilderness; for his mercy endureth forever."—T.
The conduct of Israel in the wilderness was an anticipation and prediction of their national history generally. The parallelism suggested itself to the minds of the prophets, who evidently referred to the books of Moses to find there a description and a censure of their own contemporaries.
I. THE CAUSE OF FORGETFULNESS OF GOD.
1. Generally speaking, this sin arises from absorption in earthly pursuits and pleasures.
2. Particularly it may be learned from this passage—and the lesson is enforced by daily observation—that prosperity is the occasion of irreligion. The more this world's good is sought and prized, the more it often proves to be the case that the great Giver of all good is forgotten.
II. THE SIN AND GUILT OF FORGETTING GOD.
1. This appears from human dependence upon the Maker and Ruler of all.
2. And from the consequent indebtedness of the creature to the Creator. To him men owe all they have, and it is the basest ingratitude to forget the one Divine Benefactor.
3. And from their responsibility to God. Life has to be accounted for, at last, before him who gave it as a sacred trust. If the trust has been abused, such abuse is sin, and sin of the deepest dye.
III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF FORGETTING GOD.
1. Moral deterioration will certainly follow. The soul from which God is banished is degraded and ruined by the absence of what alone can dignify and bless.
2. Judgment cannot be escaped. If men forget God he will indeed remember them, but he cannot remember them "for good."—T.
This is language, not merely of reproach, but of sorrow. After all that Jehovah had done for his favored people, it grieved him that to so large an extent his goodness was abused, and that those who had enjoyed the greatest advantages had made the worst use of them. At the same time, he justly cast all the blame upon Israel, who, against the Savior and Helper, had resolved, as it were, upon spiritual suicide.
I. IN TURNING AWAY FROM GOD, MEN TURN AWAY FROM THEIR TRUE SAVIOR AND THEIR TRUE SALVATION. They often look upon the great and righteous Judge as their enemy, hostile to their pleasures and interests, and consequently imagine that they will secure their own welfare by forgetting and forsaking God. That this is a delusion is certain. In setting themselves against God, men set themselves against their help.
II. IN SEEKING THEIR OWN SELFISH ENDS, MEN ACCOMPLISH THEIR OWN DESTRUCTION.
1. Ungodliness is destructive of all peace of mind.
2. Ungodliness is destructive of character. They who live without God in the world deprive themselves of the highest motives to obedience, and ensure their own spiritual deterioration.
3. Ungodliness is destructive of all bright and blessed prospects for the future life. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Destruction, ruin, banishment from God, such is the doom which sinners work out for themselves. It is not the arbitrary appointment of the Supreme Judge; it is the self-inflicted fate.—T.
There is great simplicity and great beauty in this designation of the Almighty. It is indeed wonderful that he who fashioned and who rules this mighty universe should deign to reveal himself to the poor, frail, feeble children of men as their Help!
I. MAN'S NEED OF HELP. We need help from one another; and there is no member of society who is independent. The child is dependent upon the help of the parent, the master upon the help of the servant, etc. But all stand in need of moral, spiritual help, which none but God can bring. And there are special occasions and circumstances which bring home to us our need of help; e.g. when we feel our weakness in the presence of difficult duties, sore temptations, crushing sorrows.
II. GOD'S SUFFICIENCY AS THE HELP OF MAN.
1. We perceive this from the consideration of Divine power and resources. All things are at God's command and under God's control.
2. His pity and sympathy assure us of effective help. There are circumstances in which power and even-liberality are of little avail. The heart craves for the heart's sympathy. Of God we know that "in all our afflictions he is afflicted;" and Christ has revealed himself as "touched with a feeling of our infirmities." God makes himself known to men as their Help, and his assurance must be unhesitatingly and joyfully accepted.
3. The experience of "all saints" witnesses to God's power and willingness to help in time of need.—T.
Hosea 13:10, Hosea 13:11
The vanity of earthly kings.
The historic reference of this passage is obvious. The Hebrew nation was properly a theocracy. God himself was their Lawgiver, Ruler, Leader, and Judge. But the people desired a king, that they might resemble the nations around them; and God, in condescension to their infirmities and in answer to their entreaties, gave them a king. The kings proved by no means an unmixed blessing. Many of the kings, both of Judah and of the northern dominion, led the people astray. Hosea addressed himself especially to Israel; and the chronicles of that nation show us how many evils followed upon the reign and power of their monarchs. Disasters and ruin came upon the tribes of Israel, and the inspired prophet well urged upon the people the question, "Where are your kings, to save and deliver you?" The principle involved in the appeal is one of general application.
I. MORAL MALADIES ARE NOT HEALED BY POLITICAL REMEDIES.
II. THE SPLENDOR OF KINGS IS NO COMPENSATION FOR THE MISERY OF THE PEOPLE.
III. EARTHLY AUTHORITY CAN ONLY BE EXERCISED WITHIN LIMITS APPOINTED BY DIVINE PROVIDENCE.
IV. A CORRUPT COURT IS AN EVIL EXAMPLE TO AN UNSTABLE POPULATION.
V. NO SECULAR—CIVIL OR MILITARY—POWER CAN AVERT THE CONSEQUENCES OF APOSTASY AND DEBASEMENT.
VI. KINGS THEMSELVES ARE SUBJECT, AS WELL AS CITIZENS, TO THE LAWS OF A RETRIBUTIVE PROVIDENCE.—T.
Redemption from death.
Different interpretations are possible of this majestic language. According to one view, these words express the resolution of the righteous King and Judge to let the powers of death and destruction loose upon apostate Israel. According to another view, they express a determination, at some future time and upon Israel's repentance, on God's part to destroy the powers of destruction and to secure for his people an everlasting salvation. Regard the great truths common to both interpretations.
I. DEATH AND THE GRAVE ARE BUT CREATURES AND MINISTERS OF THE ETERNAL. There is apparent among men a tendency to attribute to the forces of destruction an independent power, to regard death as a natural and necessary law of being. But the fact is otherwise; these are only agents used for a temporary and governmental purpose by the Lord of the universe.
II. DEATH AND THE GRAVE ARE TERRIBLE ONLY TO THE ENEMIES OF GOD. To such as resist and defy Divine authority it must needs be a depressing and terrible thought, that their power will speedily come to an end, and they leveled in the dust. But God's people need have no fear of their Father's messengers.
III. DEATH AND THE GRAVE HAVE BEEN ALREADY POTENTIALLY VANQUISHED BY THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. The Apostle Paul makes use of this language in expounding the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection, and sanctions the application of the language of Hosea to the triumph of the Divine Redeemer, when he arose from the dead and abolished death, and became the Firstfruits of them that sleep. The words are in this connection precious and consolatory to the Christian mind.
IV. DEATH AND THE GRAVE, WHEN THEY HAVE FULFILLED THEIR DIVINELY APPOINTED PURPOSE, SHALL FOREVER CEASE TO BE. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." The destroyer's turn shall come; the grave shall itself be buried; death shall itself be slain. From all fear of mortality the glorified saints shall be eternally delivered. And God shall be forever glorified in the reign of imperishable life.—T.
Rebellion against God.
Samaria here is no doubt put for the Israelitish kingdom, of which that city was the capital. The seat of government concentrates within itself the various elements of the national life. If there be profligacy, ambition, cruelty, treachery, self-seeking, in a nation, these qualities will be pre-eminently apparent in the capital. Israel, in the person of her monarch and her capital, "rebelled against her God."
I. THE SYMPTOMS OF REBELLION. These are:
1. The defiance of rightful authority. When God's Name is profaned, and God's laws are violated, and God's threatenings are despised, this is a sign that those who are bound to be loyal subjects are so far from fulfilling their obligations that they are in rebellion.
2. The substitution of another authority for that of the Supreme. Whether this be an idol, or a hierarchy of pagan deities, or some selfish, carnal, worldly principle, is of little consequence; the allegiance has been transferred.
II. THE WICKEDNESS OF REBELLION. Samaria's special sin was in rebelling against her God. It is the consideration that God has done everything for us; that he has regarded us as his own, and treated us with bounty, forbearance; and loving-kindness, that, in a word, he has every claim upon us;—it is this that brings home the charge of rebellion, and exhibits it in all its heinousness.
III. THE END OF REBELLION. This must be either
(1) submission with true repentance, or
(2) conquest and destruction. The Lord shall have the defiant rebels in derision, and break them with a rod of iron.—T.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
The life of the wicked.
"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." This verse may be taken as a picture of a human life unregenerate, out of vital sympathy with God and goodness.
I. IT IS DECEPTIVE. "Like the morning cloud." In Palestine and countries of the same latitude, dense clouds often appear in the morning, cover the heavens, and promise fertilizing showers that never come. The farmer whose land is parched by drought looks up with anxious hope as he sees them gather and float over his head. But they often pass away without a fertilizing drop, and leave him with a disappointed and anxious heart. A life without moral goodness is necessarily deceptive. It walks in a vain show, it deceives itself and deceives others; it is an acted lie from beginning to end. How many lives seem full of promise! They awaken as much interest and as much hope as clouds that float over parched lands; but they result in nothing but disappointment. Oh, what lives there are which are like clouds without water!
II. IT IS EVANESCENT. "The early dew that passeth away." In such latitudes, too, the copious dews that sparkle on the hedges and the fields soon evaporate and disappear. How transient is life!—not the life of the wicked only, but the life of the righteous as well; just like the dew, appearing for a short time, then gone for ever. The Bible abounds with figures to represent the transientness of human life—the grass, the flower, the vapor, the dew, the shadow. The millions that make up this generation are only as dewdrops, sparkling for an hour and then lost and gone!
III. IT IS WORTHLESS. "As chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor." Like chaff stowed away from the threshing-floor. Chaff, empty, dead, destined to rot. How empty the life of an ungodly man! The life of the righteous is grain—it will grow and flourish; but that of the wicked is only chaff. It is destitute of moral vitality. "Driven away." "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness, whilst the righteous hath hope in his death." The wicked die reluctantly, they hold on to the last; it is only the strong storm of death that bears them off.
IV. IT IS OFFENSIVE. "As the smoke out of the chimney." The ancient houses of Palestine were without chimneys; the smoke filled the houses, and smoke is a nuisance. A corrupt life is evermore offensive to the moral sense of mankind. To what conscience is falsehood, selfishness, carnality, meanness, and such elements that make up the character of the wicked, at all pleasing? To none. The aroma of a corrupt life is as offensive to the moral soul as "smoke out of the chimney."
"Like to the falling of a star,
Or as the flight of eagles are,
Or like the fresh spring's gaudy hue,
Or silver drops of morning dew,
Or like a wind that chafes the flood,
Or bubbles which on water stood,
E'en such is man, whose borrowed light
Is straight called in, and paid to-night.
The wind blows out, the bubble dies,
The spring entombed in autumn lies,
The dew dries up, the star is shot,
The flight is past—and man forgot."
Mercy in beneficent action and in retributive displeasure.
"I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought," etc. Mercy is the subject of these words; and mercy, like the mystic pillar that guided the Israelites in the wilderness, has two sides—a bright one to guide and cheer, and a dark one to confound and destroy. In these two aspects the text presents it.
I. Here is mercy IN BENEFICENT ACTION. "I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. According to their pasture, so were they filled." What mercy did the great Father show the Israelites in the wilderness! The wilderness was a trying region (Deuteronomy 8:15; Jeremiah 2:6). How constantly the Almighty interposed on behalf of his people! He gave them water from the rock and manna from the clouds. He fought their battles, guided them through perplexities, and helped them in every exigency and trial. The hand of mercy was ever outstretched on their behalf, supplying them with all that they required. In truth, mercy gave them, not only necessities, but luxuries. "Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked." Thus mercy is treating us now, giving us "all things richly to enjoy" in nature, and offering to us all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. The bright side of mercy gleams on us in this life, lights up our path and cheers us on the way.
II. Here is mercy IN RIGHTEOUS DISPLEASURE. "They were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me." Observe:
1. The cause of the indignation. "They have forgotten me." They abused his mercy. His mercy led them to self-indulgence, the pampering of their appetites, the gratification of their lusts, and the fostering of indolence and pride. Alas! how often the mercies of God in providence are abused I Whilst they should lead men to repentance and to a higher life, they lead them to worldliness and impiety. Because of this, mercy becomes indignant, the oil breaks into flame.
2. The severity of the indignation. "Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them: 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." What terrible words are these! As a lion, savage and strong; a "leopard," crafty and vigilant, watching an opportunity to wreak destruction; a "bear," bereaved of her whelps, terribly exasperated and heartless ;—he "will rend the caul of their heart." It is said the lion always aims at the heart of the beast he falls upon. "Devour them like a lion; the wild beast shall tear them." What does all this mean? It does not mean that the Almighty is carried away by a savage impulse, that he has, in fact, aught of passion in him. No, but it means that after his mercy has been abused it will assuredly become the destroyer. Mercy abused becomes a determined, resistless destroyer. A plant that is not strengthened by the sunbeam is scorched; the soul that is not saved by mercy is damned,
"Thy mercy, Lord, is like the morning sun,
Whose beams undo what sable night had done;
Or like a stream, the current of whose course,
Restrained awhile, runs with a swifter force.
Oh I let me glow beneath those sacred beams;
After, bathe me in those silver streams.
To thee alone my sorrows shall appeal;
Hath earth a wound too hard for Heaven to heal?"
Sin the destroyer, God the Restorer.
"O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help."
I. SIN THE DESTROYER. "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself." What connected with self does a man destroy? Not his mental faculties, not his conscience, not his moral responsibilities, These he cannot put an end to. But he destroys the liberty, the peace, the blessedness of his being. He can destroy all connected with his existence that can make existence tolerable or worth having. How is this done? By sin. Sin is the soul-destroyer. Every sin is destructive of something. From the eternal laws of moral mind men cannot commit a wrong act without the infliction of an injury to the soul, without blinding the judgment, deadening the sensibility, curtailing the liberty, drying up the affection, enfeebling the will. Sin is suicidal. "He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul." What is a sinner doing? Murdering himself. Every lying word, every dishonest act, every impure thought, every impious sentiment, every lustful gratification, is a deadly blow inflicted upon the soul. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." There is nothing arbitrary in this. "To be carnally minded is death."
II. GOD THE RESTORER. "In me is thine help." Who can restore a destroyed soul? God, and he only. He restores it:
(1) By extracting the poison of sin.
(2) By breathing into it a new life.
(3) By bringing it out into the salubrious atmosphere of truth.
(4) By affording it the most wholesome supplies and invigorating exercises.
"In me is thy help found." Yes, thou art mighty to save.—D.T.
The great conqueror of the world conquered.
"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." Delitzsch translates this, "Out of the hand of hell will I redeem them; from death will I set them free. Where are thy plagues, O Death? Where thy destruction, O Hell? Repentance is his idea from mine eyes." Primarily, these words apply 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. But Paul's reference to it (1 Corinthians 15:23) authorizes us to give it a wider application; and we may regard it as referring to death and Christ.
I. Here is the great CONQUEROR, called the "death and the grave." What a conqueror is Death!
1. Heartless, dead to all appeals.
2. Resistless. Bulwarks, battalions, castles, are nothing before him.
3. Universal, his eyes fastened on the world. Young, old, rich, poor, he has marked them all as victims.
4. Ever active. He does not pause a moment. Year after year, month after month, day after day, minute after minute, he works without a pause. Thousands fall before him every hour. This is the conqueror keeping the world in awe, filling our houses with mourning, our streets with funereal processions, our cemeteries with the dead.
II. Here is the great conqueror of the world CONQUERED. "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death I will be thy plagues, I will be thy destruction." I. Who? "I am the Resurrection and the Life: whoso believeth in me shall never die." How has he conquered Death? Not by weakening his power or arresting his progress, for he is as mighty and active as ever, but by stripping him of his terror. Mentally he overcomes him, swallows him up. He fills the souls of his people with such love to the infinite Father, such interest in the spiritual universe, such desire for a higher life, that they say, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." A few weeks hence, and spring will come forth as a messenger from the great fountain of life, and look abroad over the earth in winter desolation under the icy reign of death; and will say to every withered plant and buried germ, "I will ransom thee from the power of the grave." This Christ says to all dead souls.
"It is not death, to die;
To leave this weary road,
And 'midst the brotherhood on high
To be at home with God.
"It is not death, to close
The eye long dimmed by tears,
And wake in glorious repose
To spend eternal years.
"It is not death, to bear
The wrench that sets us free
From dungeon-chain, to breathe the air
Of boundless liberty.
"It is not death, to fling
Aside this sinful dust,
And rise on strong, exulting wing
To live among the just.
"Jesus thou Prince of life,
Thy chosen cannot die;
Like thee, they conquer in the strife,
To reign with thee on high."
Reverses of fortune in human life.
"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." "For he will hear fruit among brethren. East wind will come—a wind of Jehovah, rising up from the desert; and his fountain will dry up, and his spring become dried. He plunders the treasuries of all splendid vessels" (Delitzsch). "This and the following verse set forth the devastation and destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes, which was to precede the deliverance promised in that which precedes. While the promise was designed to afford consolation to the pious and encouragement to the penitent, the threatening was equally necessary for the refractory and the profane" (Henderson). We shall take the words as suggesting a few remarks on the reverses of fortune in human life.
I. Reverses in human fortune are SOMETIMES VERY STRIKING. Ephraim was "fruitful among his brethren." The very name signifies fruitfulness. Its territory was most fertile, its people the most numerous.
(1) Its riches would give way to poverty. Ephraim was at once a rich and a Populous tribe; but see the change predicted: "His spring shall become dry.... He shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels." The enemy would invade the country, impoverish husbandry, check merchandise.
(2) Its populousness would give way to paucity. The enemy would reduce its numbers and almost depopulate it. "His fountain shall be dried up." How great the reverse! and yet such reverses in human history are frequent. Saul, Herod, Nebuchadnezzar, Napoleon, are a few amongst millions of examples. Constantly do we see men hurled from the sunny mountain of opulence into the gloomy valley of poverty. Such reverses should teach us:
1. To hold all worldly good with a very light hand.
2. To settle our interests on the good that is permanent. "Labor not for the meat that perisheth."
II. Reverses in human fortune are GENERALLY BROUGHT ABOUT BY SECONDARY INSTRUMENTALITY. "An east wind shall come, shall come from the wilderness." Nations, communities, and individuals may always trace their calamities to certain natural causes. If a kingdom decays, if a mercantile transaction breaks down, if a fortune is lost, man can generally trace the dispensation to some "east wind"—some secondary agent. This should teach us
(1) to study natural laws;
(2) to be diligent in checking all elements inimical to human progress.
III. Reverses in human fortune are UNDER THE DIRECTION OF GOD. The change in the fortunes of Ephraim, although brought about by a variety of secondary agencies, was nevertheless under the superintendence of the Almighty. Though a country may be ruined by civil wars, or foreign invasions, or pestilential atmospheres, or unfruitful harvests bringing on famine, still Divine intelligence foresees all, and Divine power overrules all. Both true philosophy and religion teach us to trace all the events of life to him. Some come directly from him; all are directed by him. Friendship and bereavement, prosperity and adversity, sickness and health, sorrow and joy—he is in all. "The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away." Learn
(1) to acquiesce in his dispensations;
(2) to look to him for all that is good.—D.T.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The first clause is better read, "When Ephraim spake, there was trembling; he was exalted in Israel." The contrast is between what Ephraim once was, and what his offending in Baal had now brought him to. Once he was great in Israel. He had authority, influence, power to inspire terror. Now he was but the wreck of his former self. He would be swept away like chaff before the whirlwind.
I. THE FIRST FALSE STEP. (Hosea 13:1) It is the first false step in sin which needs specially to be guarded against. Israel's first false step as a separate kingdom was the denial of God's spirituality, and the breach of his commandment, in the setting up of the worship of the calves. This was:
1. Trespass in a fundamental article. It was practically the denial of the Godhead. It made God like—not to corruptible man-but, worse, to four-footed beasts (Romans 1:23). They called their worship still Jehovah worship, but God repudiates it as in no sense his. It was really Baal-worship. God gives the sin its right name
2. The admission of a wrong principle. The principle was that of self-will in religion. Setting aside God's commandment, Ephraim claimed to organize his worship after his own heart. He would have no law but his own will. It was to gratify himself that he had set up an independent kingdom. It was to gratify himself that he now set up the golden calves. The adoption of a wrong principle by an individual or nation is the sowing of a seed out of which is sure to spring ulterior mischief. Israel reaped from this seed of self-will, sown in the heart of the constitution, an unforeseen harvest of evil and woe.
3. A fatal step. One false step is often decisive of a whole future, it was so with our first parents. Adam's sin determined the spiritual condition of the race. "In Adam all die" (1 Corinthians 15:22). It was so with this first false step in Israel. "When he offended in Baal, he died." tie died:
(1) Morally. We die morally the moment we determine to take our own will rather than God's as the law of our life. Self-wall is the seed-principle of sin. It is a seed of death.
(2) As a nation. That was the step which settled Ephraim's future. It determined the direction of his after-way. Looking back from the end, it could be seen that this was the time when the fatal course was entered on. Virtually, this step doomed him. As Adam, on the day of his transgression, became a dying man, though he did net actually die till long after, so Israel, in this early sin, wrote out their sentence of death as a people.
II. SIN'S PROGRESS. (Hosea 13:2) Sin, like strife, is in its beginning as the letting in of water. Israel, having admitted into its midst a wrong principle, went on from bad to worse. Idolatry spread in the nation. In the practice of this idolatry the people were:
1. Extravagant. "They have made them molten images of their silver." They lavished their wealth upon their idols. People are generally willing to spend extravagantly upon their vices.
2. Ingenious. "Idols according to their understanding; all of it the work of the craftsmen." Not content with the gods of their neighbors, they invented new forms of idolatry for themselves. They were ingenious in forming, adorning, and diversifying their idols. Nothing they could do, however, could make the objects of their ingenuity aught else than idols. "All of it the work of the craftsmen"—this only. And to this product of their own crafts they bowed themselves down. Men whose hearts are too proud to bow to God are ready to bow clown to idols of their own making (Isaiah 2:9).
3. Intolerant. "They say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves." The world will brook no refusal to worship at its shrines. E.g. the tyranny of codes of fashion.
III. VANISHING PROSPERITY. (Hosea 13:3) Four images are employed to set forth the swiftness, suddenness, and completeness with which Ephraim's once lordly prosperity would vanish. These are
(1) the morning cloud;
(2) the early dew;
(3) the chaff driven by the whirlwind;
(4) smoke escaping from a chimney (or window).
Some of these things are:
1. Beautiful at first. The cloud hangs gay and gilded in the morning sky, and the dewdrop sparkles with a heavenly beauty as it catches the sun's rays.
2. Unsubstantial. The cloud, though fair, is a mere mass of vapor. The dew but borrows its sparkle from the light. The chaff is husk without substance. The smoke, rising at first in a solid-looking column, or in thick, heavy folds, is bodiless and without coherence.
3. They rapidly vanish. All the four metaphors represent something that "appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (James 4:14). The cloud is gone while yet we gaze on it. The dew, drenching grass and flowers at dawn, soon dries up with the heat. The wind rapidly bears off the chaff. The smoke scatters, or is dispersed by the breeze, and vanishes. In combination, the figures point to different causes of vanishing. Internal lightness (chaff), dissipation of parts (vapor, smoke), external absorption (sun and air), strong forces of destruction (whirlwind). The whole show the short-lived nature of the sinner's prosperity. Its beauty is not abiding. It is substanceless. It is soon swept away.
IV. GOD, NOT BAAL. (Hosea 13:4) The end of this judgment was, not utterly to destroy the people, but to drive them out of false confidences, and tend them to the right knowledge of God. It would bring them to see:
1. That God had been faithful to them, though not they to him. "Yet I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt."
2. That there was no God but himself. "Thou shalt know no God but me." They worshipped Baal as God, but experience only showed that he was none.
3. That God was the only Savior. "There is no Savior beside me." Yet be was a Savior. He had sought to be their Savior all through. He would save them still, if they would but turn to him.—J.O.
As Moses had foretold (Deuteronomy 8:10-18; Deuteronomy 32:15), when Israel became prosperous, he forgot God, and lightly esteemed the rock of his salvation. The exaltation of Baal was itself an act of self-will—a species of self-exaltation. The egoistic principle, however, had more direct manifestations. We have in these verses—
I. GOD KNOWN IN ADVERSITY. "I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought" (Hosea 13:5).
1. God knew Israel, in the great care he exercised over the nation, leading it, providing for its wants, protecting it, and showing it manifold tokens of his goodness.
2. Israel knew God. The nation was never nearer to its God than during these years of severe trial and hourly dependence. It believed in him, waited on him, trusted him, and was—at least latterly—willing to serve him. Adversity had its uses. It did the people good, It made a strong nation of them, fit to conquer and occupy Canaan.
II. GOD FORGOTTEN IN PROSPERITY. (Hosea 13:6) As the people grew prosperous, they forgot God. The stages are:
1. Sense of repletion. "They were filled." Satisfied with the good things of earth, they did not feel the same need of God's blessing. They had not the same sense of dependence.
2. Uplifting of heart. "Their heart was exalted." Prosperity tends in this direction. It uplifts the heart. It makes the possessor of wealth proud, self-sufficient, arrogant.
3. Forgetfulness of God. "Therefore have they forgotten me." This was their base ingratitude. Yet the sin is common. The more we receive from God—so perverse and prone to depart are we—the more ready we are to forget him. We feel as if we were independent. We are full. We reign as kings without him.
III. THE PENALTY OF SELF-EXALTATION. (Hosea 13:7, Hosea 13:8) Pride in the creature is the sin which more than any other provokes God to wrath. The Greeks, with just discrimination, viewed the gods as specially wroth with the man who unduly exalted himself. Υβρις never failed to bring down on the unhappy mortal who was guilty of the sin "swift destruction." God here likens himself to the wild beasts that tear the flock—so fierce and unsparing is his anger. He will be "as a lion," "a leopard," "a bear bereaved of her whelps." Strange images to apply to him whose name is Love! But love, outraged and grieved, is the most vehement and fierce of all passions. God's love, because it is intense and real, is not to be trifled with, and, when roused to anger, is terrible to encounter. Better meet wild beasts of the forest than fall into the hands of the living God.—J.O.
God is exalted, negatively, by the overthrow of whatever is opposed to him—in Israel's case, by the humbling of their pride, the discovery of the vanity of their earthly trusts, and the overthrow of the sinful kingdom; and, positively, by the ultimate triumph of his purpose of salvation—a triumph even over death.
I. ISRAEL THE AUTHOR OF HIS OWN DESTRUCTION. (Hosea 13:9) It was a destruction:
1. For which he only was responsible. "Destroyed thyself." It was entirely the result of his own perverse actings. Had he taken God's way, all would have been well with him. But—so the words literally run—he was against God. He chose of his own will the way which God told him was the way of death. The sinner's ruin is entirely his own work. God refuses all responsibility for it. He has no pleasure in the death of him that dieth (Ezekiel 18:32).
2. Resulting from refusal of Divine help. "Thy help." This aggravated the sin. "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" (Jeremiah 8:22). God wished to be Israel's helper, but Israel would not let him. Sinners perish though salvation is within reach. "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light," etc. (John 3:19); "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life" (John 5:40).
3. Which his self-sought helpers were unable to avert. Israel found in his hour of need the vanity of trusting to his earthly helpers. "Where is thy king, that he may save thee in all thy cities? and the judges, of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?" (Hosea 13:10). Baal failed him (Hosea 8:5; Hosea 10:5); the Assyrian failed him (Hosea 5:13); his kings failed him (Hosea 10:3, Hosea 10:15). Thus it was demonstrated that God is the only Helper, that there is no Savior beside him (Hosea 13:4). God in Christ is the only Hope of the sinner. He is an all-sufficient Hope, if the sinner will only be persuaded to apply to him. Instead of this, how many "refuges of lies" do men resort to I
II. ISRAEL PUNISHED BY THE GRANTING TO HIM OF HIS OWN DESIRE, (Hosea 13:10-12) Often nothing will please the sinner but to get his own way. God, in wrath, sometimes grants the sinner his own way. When he gets it, he finds it to be to his hurt. This is illustrated in the case of Israel.
1. The desire for a king. "Thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes." The kingdom of Israel had its origin in self-will—was an embodiment of that principle. Rehoboam's rough answer afforded the occasion of revolt, but the desire of the northern tribes to have a king of their own was the real soul of the movement. It was a rebellion against the house of David. The people set up kings, but not by God (Hosea 8:4).
2. The desire granted. "I gave thee a king in mine anger." Partly as a punishment of the sins of David's house, and partly as a punishment of the tribes themselves, God granted the wish for a king. The rebellious spirit in which the separate kingdom was set up was chastised by the calamities brought upon the nation by its self-chosen rulers. There is a difference between granting a desire and approving of it. It does not imply approval that Jeroboam was designated beforehand by the prophet as the person to whom God would give the kingdom. God did give Israel its king, but it was "in anger." Doubtless had Jeroboam, on receiving the kingdom, walked in God's ways, his rule, as having a relative sanction from Heaven, would have been established (1 Kings 11:38). But it was obvious, both from the spirit of the man, and from the motives of the rebellion, and the temper in which it was carried out, that nothing of this kind could be expected.
3. The king given in anger taken away in wrath. "I took him away in my wrath." The northern monarchy brought only evil on the nation. The principle of self-will in which it originated wrought itself out further into state-idolatry, Baal-worship, frequent revolutions, intestine conflicts, alliances with Assyria and Egypt, sins and crimes of every description. The kings vied with each other in their wickedness. They set an example which their subjects were only too ready to follow. Thus wrath was prepared which at length swept them away like the whirlwind. Their king perished with them. The monarchy fell, never to rise again.
4. In the wrath which overtook the kingdom, hidden iniquity was brought to mind. "The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid." His whole career was remembered against him. Like a thing treasured up, put past, but not forgotten, it was brought forth at the appointed time for punishment. No sin escapes the remembrance of God. Unrepented of, it will have to be reckoned for in the judgment.
III. ISRAEL UNDULY DELAYING HIS CONVERSION. (Hosea 13:13) The pangs of distress which came on Israel were, had he understood their end, meant for his salvation, They ought to have issued in a change of heart, and in "newness of life." While, however, he felt alarms, convictions, and compunctions for what be had done, Israel failed to come to the birth of a genuine conversion. He was an unwise son, who prolonged the birth-labor by refusal to come forth.
1. The delay of conversion is a cause of needless pain. How much better bad Ephraim come forth at once, instead of thus, as it were, lingering in the womb! Many delay their conversion by indecision, by unwillingness to part with some darling sin, by slowness of heart to believe God's promise, by the thought of what the world will say, what friends will say, etc; thus unnecessarily prolonging their distress, fear, and pains of conscience, and shutting themselves out from the peace, joy, and comfort of the new life of grace.
2. To delay conversion is to risk the loss of life. The infant, delaying to come forth, dies in the womb. Israel, because it refused to be taught by the sorrows which had come upon it, was, as regards the nation at large, to be destroyed. It would perish through its delay of conversion. Procrastination in spiritual child-birth is a cause of spiritual death Compunctions die away, the Spirit ceases to strive, anxiety disappears, the crisis passes and never comes back.
3. Israel's conversion, though long delayed, will yet take place. A remnant of the people will be preserved, and these—though the process is slow and tedious—will yet be reborn to God. The nation will be recovered as from death (Hosea 13:14).
IV. GOD THE RANSOMER EVEN FROM DEATH. (Hosea 13:14) God's gracious purpose in the case of Israel, of the elect soul, of humanity, cannot be defeated. The words contain a pledge:
1. Of national restoration. Israel, though now cast away, will yet be recovered as from death (Hosea 6:2; Romans 11:15). God had promised to be the God of this people, and his love would triumph even over their unbelief and sin, Their recovery will have in it all the marvel of a resurrection.
2. Of spiritual renewal. There is a spiritual death from which recovery is more difficult than from national death, or even from the death of the body. A nation, having played its part in history, and perishing, rarely recovers the life it has thus lost. It needs the power of God to restore national life to Israel. It needs a yet higher exercise of God's power to restore life to their souls, dead in long-continued unbelief. But every soul by nature is "dead in trespasses and sins," and needs a moral miracle to be wrought upon it to give it life. God alone can ransom it from death. Each conversion is a new triumph over him that hath the power of death.
3. Of bodily resurrection. Salvation would be incomplete if it left its subjects still under the power of physical death. This is clearer under the New Testament than it was under the Old, but it underlay the promise of salvation there also. Christ has made the truth perfectly distinct. He has, by his own resurrection, "brought life and immortality to light" (2 Timothy 1:10). "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Corinthians 15:26). Death meanwhile claims all as his prey. He reigns over all. He comes to men in innumerable forms of horror and anguish. His plagues are terrible. But Christ will rescue his own even from the power of this inexorable destroyer. Then, in their full sense, the words of the prophet will be fulfilled (1 Corinthians 15:55).—J.O.
Hosea 13:15, Hosea 13:16
Figure and fact.
The end of the kingdom is first described in expressive figure; it is then foretold in plain terms, which give a fearful idea of its horrors.
I. THE FIGURE ANSWERS TO THE FACTS. (Hosea 13:15) Ephraim was as a fruitful tree among his brethren. But:
1. The east wind would blight him. To this answers the statement that Samaria would become desolate. Ephraim fed on wind, and pursued the east wind; now its hot, scorching breath was his destruction.
2. His spring would become dry. To this answers the statement that mothers and children would be destroyed. These were the spring, the fountains of his fruitfulness. He would be dried up at his roots. The hope of revival through offspring would be cut off from him.
3. His treasures of goodly vessels would be plundered. This leaves the image of the tree. It returns to realism. Plundering would succeed victory. We may apply to sin. It blights the soul; robs it of its bloom and fruitfulness; dries up the springs of its life, which are in God; despoils it of its costly treasures of goodness, truth, holiness, affection, etc.
II. THE FACT IS NOT LESS TERRIBLE THAN THE FIGURE. (Hosea 13:16) We are apt, in reading figurative descriptions of the doom of the sinner—the worm, the fire, weeping and gnashing of teeth, etc.—to break their force to our minds by the secret reflection that they are "only figures." "Only figures." But the figures surely mean something. And is the reality likely to be less terrible than the figures of it? The verse before us should warn us against this delusion. We have in Hosea 13:15 the figure; we have the reality in plain terms here. Which is the more awful? The naked description of what will happen to Samaria greatly surpasses in terribleness all the figures that are employed to image it. And what was predicted actually occurred.—J.O.