Wednesday, May 31st, 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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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hosea 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ hosea-2.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hosea 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not thy wife, neither am I her husband. In this second chapter the same cycle of events recurs as in the first, with this difference, that what is expressed by symbol in the one is simply narrated in the other. The cycle is the common one of sin: its usual consequences of suffering and sorrow; then succor and sympathy in case of repentance. The persons addressed in the verse before us are those individuals in Israel who had still retained their integrity, and who, notwithstanding surrounding defection and abounding ungodliness, had continued steadfast in their loyalty and love to the Lord. They might be few in number, widely scattered, perhaps unknown to each other, and of comparatively little note; yet they are here called on to raise their voice in solemn warning and earnest protest against the national defection and wickedness. "The congregation in its totality, or whole people taken conjointly, is compared to the mother, but individual members to the children, and the sense is that they are to plead with each other to bring them back to the way of goodness" (Kimchi). The nation as such, and in its impiety, is the mother; the pious persons still found in it are here required to testify for God both by exhortation and example. "The congregation of Israel is compared to an adulteress, and the children of the different generations to the children of whoredoms. Before them the prophet says, 'Plead with your mother'" (Kimchi). Adultery per se is a virtual dissolution of the marriage-tie; idolatry is spiritual adultery; the close and tender relationship into which God has graciously condescended to take Israel is rendered null and void, and that through Israel's own fault. God threatens the renunciation of it, unless perchance the pleading of the still faithful children might recall the erring mother to penitence and purity. A case the converse of this is that presented in Isaiah 1:1, where the mother's divorce is attributed to the unfaithfulness of the children. "Where," asks the Lord in that passage, "is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away?… for your transgressions is your mother put away." Ki before the second clause is either recitative, introducing the words of pleading, or assigns a reason; the latter seems preferable. Let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts. The word mippaneyha is rather to be rendered "from her face" than "out of her sight." The expression is to be taken literally, as the word "breasts" in the parallel clause proves. Thus Kimchi rightly explains it, saying, "Since he compares her to harlot, he attributes to her the ways of harlots; for the harlot's way is to adorn her face with various kinds of colors, that she may appear fair in the eyes of her paramours." But in addition to ornamenteth as earrings or nose-rings, and other ways of decking herself, as by painting, the expression may imply lascivious looks and wanton expressions of countenance; while the mention of breasts may indicate the making of them bare for the purpose of meretricious blandishments, or as indicating the place of the adulterer (comp. Ezekiel 23:3 and So Ezekiel 1:13). The Jewish commentators adopt the latter sense. Aben Ezra comments on the grammatical form of the words zenuncha and naaphupheha (the former by duplication of the second radical, and the latter by that of the third) as intensive; while Rashi and Kimchi refer to the pressure of the breasts. But others understand them figuratively, the countenance indicating boldness, and the breasts shamelessness. Thus Horace speaks of the brilliant beauty (nixor) and coquettishness (protervitas) of Glyeera.
Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born. The Lord, by his servant the prophet, enforces the preceding exhortation by a stern denunciation, and the threat of further severities unless averted by repentance; as an injured husband withdraws from a faithless wife all the gifts and presents he had made for her adornment, leaving her poor and bare. Not only the removal of her garments by way of degradation and disgrace, but exposure in that position to insult and ignominy would ensue. In other words, the nation is threatened with deprivation of all the blessings previously lavished upon them—property, prosperity, population, and privileges; while dishonor of the deepest dye would aggravate the misery. The day of the nation's birth denotes the weakness and wretchedness of their infant state. To this corresponded their servile, suffering condition during their bondage and oppression in Egypt. Rashi thus explains it; Kimchi says, "The figure of birth is the time they are slaves in Egypt;" so also Theodoret,—the latter calls the day of her birth the sojourn in Egypt. The Prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 16:4) expands the idea, occasionally employing, as Rosenmüller remarks, the very words of Hosea. And make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and clay her with thirst. This part of the verse is susceptible of two explanations. The faithless female, under which character the northern kingdom is personified, may be compared to a wilderness, that is, according to Cyril, fruitless, parched, and productive only of thorns, thirsty and waterless. This comparison of a woman to a desert is wanting in suitability, and seems in some degree awkward in itself, beside being out of harmony with the closing clause; for to "slay with thirst," however applicable to a person, cannot with any propriety be said of a place, whether desert or otherwise. No doubt the wilderness may stand for those dwelling in it. We prefer, therefore, the alternative rendering, "make her as in a wilderness, and set her as in a dry land." Rashi aptly explains the threat to mean, "Lest I pronounce against them such a sentence as of old in this desert (Numbers 14:35), 'In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.'" There is, moreover, a natural connection of ideas between a wilderness, a dry land, and thirst. The nation's birth, represented by or compared to their sojourn in Egypt, naturally suggests the idea of their wandering in the wilderness after their exodus from that country; a wilderness, again, suggests what is an ordinary feature of such a district, namely, a dry land; while a region thus without water is suggestive as well as provocative of thirst. The former explanation, however, is given by Kimehi: "I will make thee like the wilderness which is open to every one, and in which, moreover, one finds no means of subsistence, nor anything that man needs; so I'll withdraw my goodness from them, and they shall be surrendered as a prey to every one."
And I will not have mercy upon her children; for they be the children of whoredoms. The connection of this verse is carried on from the preceding, viz. and lest I will not have mercy upon her children. An exceedingly apt illustration of this verse is given by Jerome. It is to this effect: When the children of Israel were brought out of Egypt, the parents perished in the wilderness; but the children of those who had thus perished, and whose caresses had thus fallen in the wilderness, were spared and permitted to enter the land of promise. Now, however, the case is different, and the punishment aggravated. The adulterous parent perishes, and the children of that parent perish also. Further, the reason is assigned in the concluding clause. The children proved themselves no better than the mother that bore them; they were the worthless progeny of a worthless parent.
Nor their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath dons shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers. The charge of idolatry under the figure of harlotry, spiritual harlotry, is reiterated. "Mother" is repeated in and emphasized by the parallel words, "she that conceived them." A somewhat similar form of expression is that in Psalms 58:3, "The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies." To bosh, to be ashamed, belong the Hiphil forms, hebhish and hobhish (the latter formed from zabhish), properly "to put to shame," but also "to practice shame or do shameful things." The nature of her shameful conduct is more definitely and distinctly expressed in the clauses which follow; and consisted of several particulars. There is the persistent pursuit of her lovers; then the unblushing boldness with which she avows her determination to continue that course; and next come her expectations from them. That give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink (margin, drinks). The original word here rendered "lovers" is the Piel participle, which may have either its usual intensive sense or its occasional causative sense in which it is taken by Rosenmüller, who has "a-mare me facientes," equivalent to "wooers." It matters little which way we understand it. The more important point is to determine who or what are here meant by lovers. Most commentators understand them to be those nations whose friendship Israel set such store by—the Assyrians and the Egyptians. Thus Grotius and Jerome,—the latter explains them of the Assyrians and Egyptians and other nations, with whose idols Israel committed fornication, and from which in distress they vainly hoped for help; so also Kimchi, in the following comment: "By 'friends ' he implies the Assyrians and Egyptians joined in alliance to the Israelites, who delivered them from their enemies, so that they lived safely, in return for the gifts (tribute) which they (the Israelites) were in the habit of giving them. And as they lived in tranquility in virtue of the compact entered into with them, the prophet represents it as if they supplied them with all the necessaries of life. For with their help they tilled their land without fear and in safety traded from country to country." Kimchi quotes at the same time his father's (Joseph Kimchi) interpretation: "But my lord my father of blessed memory explained 'after her lovers' of the sun and moon and stars, which they worshipped; while their intention was that they gave them their food and their sufficiency, as they said, 'But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.'" This exposition of Joseph Kimchi is much nearer the truth than that of his son David; it is, however, too restricted. The "lovers" were the idols on which the people of the northern kingdom so dented, and on which they placed so much dependence. The blessings which they vainly expected from these idols are enumerated: they were—food and raiment and luxuries; the bread and water were the articles of food as it is written elsewhere. "Bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure;" the wool and flax were the materials for clothing; while the oil and drinks were, the former for ornament, the latter for refresh-merit, and so included all luxuries; thus in Psalms 23:5, "Thou anointest my head with oil;" and in Psalms 102:9, "And mingled my drink [literally, 'drinks,' the same word, shigguyar] with weeping;" also in Psalms 104:15 we read of "wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengthened man's heart."
Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths. The sudden change of person from the third to the second is very observable. This directness of address is, in this instance, expressive of deep indignation. She had avowed her determination to pursue her evil courses shamefully and sinfully, as if in despite and defiance of the Almighty. In deep and undisguised displeasure, and with a suddenness springing from indignation, he affirms his determination to thwart her course of sin and shame; as though addressing her personally and promptly, he said, "Then thou shalt not be able to carry out thy plan or accomplish thy purpose; I will see to that." The hedge and wall are elsewhere, as in Job 1:10 and Isaiah 5:5, used for protection and defense, here for prevention and obstruction, and similarly in Job 19:8, "He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set darkness in my paths;" and in Lamentations 3:7, "He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out," and Lamentations 3:9, "He hath enclosed my ways with hewn stone, he hath made my paths crooked." Thus Kimchi: "I will hedge thy way with thorns, so that they cannot go out of the city because of the devastation; and her lovers shall not be able to help her, and they are Assyria and Egypt." After quoting his father's explanation of lovers, he pro-coeds: "So their way is as if there were in it a thorn hedge, and thorns that she could not pass through it, and could not find her paths in which she walked." The fence here is double one a hedge of thorns, sharp, prickly, and piercing, such as forbid her forcing a way through: the other a wall of stone that cannot be climbed, or leaped, or otherwise got over. We need not try to specify the particular circumstances that thus hedged in and walled about the adulteress—whether fightings within or foes beleaguering without, whether straitened means or stress of circumstances raising an impassable barrier against the practice of idolatry, or an enforced conviction of its futility. "If," says Kimchi, "she seek to Assyria and Egypt, they will not give her their friendship and their help."
And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them. This portion of the verse expresses the consequence of the preceding. However eagerly she follows after them—and the form of the verb (Piel conjugation) expresses that eagerness—she shall only experience the ineffectual nature of her efforts, and feel the impossibility of overtaking the darling objects of her pursuit. However earnestly she seeks them (here the Piel is used again), she shall find every passage barred and every outlet obstructed, so that, unable to find them, she shall be forced to abandon her search as utterly vain and impossible. Then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now. The difficulties of her position, the distress in which she found herself, stimulated her to increased eagerness in pursuit of her lovers; but it was only for a brief space, and the efforts were unsuccessful; the means as well as opportunity for the sacrifices and services of idol-worship failed, the obstacles placed in her way were insurmountable. Or, rather, the disappointment was so great and grievous, when all the fondly cherished hopes of help, or succor, or support from those idols were frustrated and found entirely vain, that heartsick and chagrined by unsuccess, she resolves on a change of course. With mingled feelings of remorse and penitence she makes up her mind to retrace her steps. She recalls the better days, the happier time, the more prosperous circumstances, of fidelity to her first and rightful husband and head; and now she is just ready to return to him. She is just now at that stage at which the prodigal in the parable had arrived "when He came to himself," and when he said, "How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father." Kimchi remarks," She will not say this until she has borne the captivity a considerable time."
For she din not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal. From Hosea 2:6 to 13 inclusive, the suffering and sorrow consequent on, and occasioned by, her sins are enumerated; yet now and again certain aggravations of her guilt crop up. Here we have an account of her ignorance of, and ingratitude to, the true and or of her mercies, together with her sinful misuse and sad abuse of those mercies. The products of the earth which God bestowed on her were corn and wine and oil—all that was needed for food, refreshment, and even luxury; the prosperity in trade or commerce with which he favored her resulted in the multiplied increase of silver and gold. The perversion of these blessings consisted in her employment of them in the service of Baal or of idolatry in general. The sin of refusing to acknowledge the Author of such manifold mercies was grievously augmented by this gross abuse of them. The last clause is a relative one, asher, as frequently being understood; while the words asu labbaal do not signify that they made those metals into images of Baal, as implied in the Authorized Version; nor vet that they offered them to Baal according to Gesenius; but that they prepared or employed them in the worship of that idol and the service of idolatry in general. דגן, rad. דגה, to cover, multiply, i.e. multitude and plenty covering ever everything; comp. tego, תירוֹשׁ, rad. ירשׁ, take possession of the brain in intoxicating: יצהר, rad. צהר, to shine. Kimchi remarks as follows: "All the goodness in the possession of which she was, she had not except from me; because I sent my blessing on the corn and wine and oil, and sent my blessing upon the work of their hands, so that they had abundance of silver and gold; but Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked."
Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness. The abuse of the Divine bounties mentioned in the preceding verse fully justifies the series of punishments that follow. God thus vindicates those penal inflictions. Accordingly he threatens them in this ninth verse with the deprivation of the bounties which they had misused as the means of idolatry and sin; in Hosea 2:10 with disgrace; in Hosea 2:11 with the departure of all her merry-makings; in Hosea 2:12 with the destruction of the sources whence the means of idolatrous worship were supplied; and in Hosea 2:13 with days of visitation proportionate to the time of declension and apostasy. The first clause of the verse under consideration is better rendered
(1) according to the common Hebrew idiom, which employs two verbs to express one idea in a modified sense, the first denoting the manner, and so equivalent to an adverb with us, and the second signifying the matter; and it is thus translated by Keil: "Therefore will I take back my corn."
(2) We admit the vav consecutive is opposed to this; and the LXX. has ἐπιστρέψω καὶ κομιοῦναι: and Jerome, "reverter et sumam." The manner of the dispossession intensifies the punishment, just as their abuse of those possessions had augmented their guilt. The food, refreshment, and raiment are to be taken away this certainly would be bad enough by itself, but the suddenness of the stroke adds poignancy to the infliction. The prospect of an indifferent harvest and of a bad vintage for weeks previously might have prepared them in some sort for the disaster. But when the time of harvest has already come and the season of vintage just arrived, by some sudden, unexpected calamity, whether tempest or hostile invasion, the bread-corn perishes and the wine-grapes are destroyed. The food is thus snatched, as it were, from their month, and the cup dashed from their lips; the sadness of the catastrophe is immensely increased by the sudden rudeness of the stroke by which it comes. Nor is this all. In the case of the raiment, or rather the material, the wool and the flax out of which it is formed, its removal reduces the intended wearer to perfect nudity, or, if we understand it as figure, to abject poverty and absolute penury. Aben Ezra attributes this disaster (verse 9) to hostile invasion: "At its season when I shall bring the enemies, to take away the corn and the wine;" Kimchi, on the other hand, sees in it a misgrowth: "I will return and take away my corn in its season, and my wine in its appointed time, because I will send a curse upon them in the time of harvest and at the season of vintage, instead of the blessing I used to send upon them. And so on all the work of their hands I shall send a curse, and all their gain shall be put into a bag with holes; and they shall not have bread to eat nor raiment to wear."
And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of mine hand. Deprivation is followed by disgrace, dispossession by dishonor. The figure of a faithless female being continued, the calamities of Israel are pictured in the extreme deplorableness of her condition. The word navluth does not elsewhere occur, but its meaning is not difficult to ascertain. It denotes literally, "slackness," "laxness," or a withered state, from navel, to be withered, and may be translated either "her shame" or "her turpitude." The LXX. has ἀκαθαρσίαν, while Jerome renders it stultitiam. Thus she is exposed to the derision and disgust of her former admirers and paramours; while deliverance is out of the question. Her lovers are the idols, or, according to Kimchi," Egypt and Assyria, which cannot deliver her." She who once was the object of delight is become the object of disdain and contempt; nor is there any of her quondam lovers desirous of or able to deliver her out of the hand of him who administers the justly deserved punishment.
I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts. The enumeration is complete, "Her feast days" were the three annual festivals of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. "Her new moons" were the monthly celebrations at the commencement of each month. "Her sabbaths'' were the weekly solemnities of one day in seven, dedicated to the Lord. Then there is a general summing up of the whole by the addition of "all her solemn feasts,"—all her festal days and seasons, including, besides those named, the beginning of the years, the solemn assembly or holy convocation on the seventh day of the Passover and on the eighth day of Tabernacles. Preceding the enumeration is the general characteristic of all Israel's festivities. They were times of joy, as we read in Numbers 10:10, "In the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets;" and in Dent. Numbers 12:12 it is expressly declared, "Ye shall rejoice before the Lord... ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your menservants, and your maidservants, and the Levite that is within your gates." All this was to cease; the coming captivity would render all such celebrations impossible. Kimchi remarks on this (Numbers 12:11): "For in the distress there is no new moon and no sabbath; and the beginnings of months and sabbaths on which offerings were presented were days of joy. And so with respect to the feast days and solemn assemblies, which were days of rest and quiet joy, they shall not have in them any joy in consequence of the greatness of their distresses." He subsequently adds, "There is a chag which is not a moed, but joy wherewith men rejoice and eat and drink; and it is called chag," referring to Solomon's feast of dedication; "and there is also a moed which is not a chag, as for signs and for seasons (moedim), and at the appointed time I will return unto thee" (moed, from יער, to appoint as time and place).
And I will destroy (make desolate) her vines and her fig trees, whereof she said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me. God had already threatened to deprive Israel of the means of support—the corn, wine, wool, and flax; he now threatens the removal of the very sources whence that support was derived. The vine and fig tree are usually conjoined, and by a common synecdoche convey the idea of all those sources that combine to support life and supply its luxuries. When the united kingdom of Judah and Israel, before the disruption, had obtained the zenith of prosperity in the reign of Solomon, it is thus expressed: Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon." Yet Israel knew not the time of her merciful visitation, and not only turned aside to idols, but most stupidly and most inexcusably attributed the many mercies she enjoyed to the idols which she worshipped. Like a foul adulteress despising the tokens of her husband's affection and delighting in the rewards of lewdness received from licentious paramours, Israel forfeited all her privileges, and forced the Lord to withdraw his bounties and destroy their very source. גֶפֶן, rad. גפן, equivalent to תאן, to be bent, from the arch made by its drooping boughs, תְאֵנָה, rad. תאן, equivalent to תנן, to extend from its length. And I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. The places where fig trees flourished and vines abounded shall be stripped of those trees, with their pleasant fruits—shall become a forest. The vineyards being no longer hedged or fenced, no longer cultivated or cared for, the beasts of the field shall, in consequence, find free ingress and roam there at large, devouring and devastating at pleasure. The Septuagint translates the first part of the above sentence by καὶ θήσομαι αὐτὰ εἰς μαρτύριον, "and I will make them a testimony," thus reading, according to Jerome, עֵד, instead of יעַרַ; while Cyril comments on the words so read as follows: "For these things being taken away shall testify as it were against Israel's depravity, and render their punishment more signal, and make the wrath conspicuous." The context, however, militates against the reading in question, for in time of war or general devastation places, through neglect, grow trees and brushwood, where wild beasts lair and lay waste. The explanation of the verse is well given by Kimchi in his commentary: "Because she said, 'These are the hire of my harlotry;' because she said that from the hand of her lovers came the corn and must and oil and all good things;—I will make them a desolation, that she may know whether she had those good things from me or from them. אתנה, because he has compared her to a harlot, he calls those good things אתנה, equivalent to אחנן וינה; while their signification is identical with חנאי, and their root, תנה [extend, reach, give], the aleph being prosthetic. But Jonathan renders אתנה by יְקַר, precious things. And he mentions the vine and the fig tree because grapes and figs are the best part of the food of man after the produce of the earth (i.e. corn); and already he had said, 'I will also take away my corn in its season.'"
And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her ear-rings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forget me, saith the Lord. The name of Baalim, that is, Baals in the plural, has respect to the various forms of the Baal-idolatry,or modification of the Baal-worship; for example, Baal-peor, Baal-be-rith, Baal-zebub, Baal-perazim, Baal-zephon, Baal-zamar, Baal-shalishu. The name of Baal came to be used generally as the designation of any idol or false god. The days of the Baals were the days consecrated to Baal, and on which the worship of the true God was transferred to that idol. It matters little whether we render "wherein" or "to whom," referring to ימי, in which case, however, we should expect בם, though the latter answers better to the meaning of the preposition le in להם. After mentioning the object of their idolatrous worship, he specifies the manner of it, which was the burning of incense, the part of the process being employed by synecdoche for the whole. Every mincha, or meat offering, which was presented by itself as a free-will offering was accompanied with frankincense; every day, morning and evening, incense was burnt in the holy place; while on the great Day of Atone-meat the high priest carried a censer of coals from the golden altar into the holiest of all and there burnt incense before the mercy-seat. But the word has often a wider sense than that of burning incense, and is applied to the offering of any sacrifice whatever. Just as the festivals of Jehovah were transferred to Baal, so his service was turned into that of Baal. Titus Israel prostituted herself and acted the part of a spiritual adulteress by her worship of idols. The same unsavory figure is resumed; and her assiduous efforts to worship the idol acceptably and propitiate his favor is presented under the figure of a whorish woman decking herself with meretricious ornaments—nose-rings and jewels, thus making up by artificial means for the lack of natural beauty—to attract the attention and gain the admiration of her lovers. Thus Aben Ezra: "The meaning of ותעד is metaphorical in allusion to a whorish woman who puts a nose-ring in her nose and a necklace on her neck to make herself beautiful, in order to find favor in the eves of the adulterer." The word עַד has for its verbal root עדה, to overstep the boundary, transgress, plunder, draw to one's self, put on; while חֶלְיָה, (masculine חְלַיִ) is from חלה, to rub, polish, be smooth. But when all fails to draw lovers unto her, she casts aside the last remaining fragment of female delicacy, and goes in pursuit of lovers. Thus did Israel. She put Baal or other idols in place of Jehovah; she made a transfer of Jehovah's festivals to Baal; she burnt incense or offered sacrifice to her idol instead of the true God; she went to great pains to secure the acceptance of her false deities; "and me," says Jehovah very emphatically," she forgat;" that is, me the true God, her bountiful Benefactor, her gracious Lord. and loving Husband, she forgot. The visitation expressed by פקד with accusative of the thing, and על before the person, is commented by Kimchi as follows: "For the transgressions of her (Israel's) iniquity in the exile I will visit upon her the time that she served Baalim; and I will let them remain long in exile for punishment, because they have left my service and served other gods. And even upon children's children shall come this punishment, although they do not serve strange gods in exile; thus is the sentence [literally, 'judgment'] of their punishment, because their children's children shall not be perfect in the service of God and in his commandments in exile, therefore thus shall the iniquity of their fathers who served strange gods unite with their own punishment."
Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. As in Hosea 2:2-5 we have an exposure of Israel's sin, and in Hosea 2:6-13 an enumeration of her sufferings by penal inflictions; so Hosea 2:14-23 contain a touching exhibition of Divine succor and support. The transition is abrupt. Hosea 2:14-17 exhibit the gradual change wrought in Israel through the progressive means of improvement employed by Jehovah. Israel's future is here reflected in the mirror of her past history. The events of that history are elegantly employed to represent as by type or symbol the mercies in store for Israel, wayward and rebellious though she had proved herself to be. Laken (from le causal, and ken, so, equivalent to "because it is so") at the beginning of this verse (14) is rendered by some,
(1) "but" or "yet;" but its natural signification is
It is like the Greek οὖν (from ὦν, Ionic ἔων, neuter ἐόν, contracted οὖν); it being so, therefore, and similar to the Latin phrase, quae cum ita slut, "therefore" implies because Israel can only be turned from her foolish idolatry by the penal measures named. Aben Ezra also understands it here, as elsewhere, in its literal sense; thus: "After she [the unchaste wife representative of Israel] shall know that all this evil has come upon her because that she had forgotten me, and had not known at the beginning that I dealt kindly with her; and when she will say, 'Yet will I go and return to my former husband;' then will I allure her with words." פתה is from the root פת cognate with the Arabic in the sense of "dividing," "being open," "standing open;" thence it signifies "to be susceptible of outward impressions," "allow access and entrance;" in Piel, "to make one open … be susceptible or inclined," "induce by words." The word laken, "therefore," has somewhat puzzled commentators, because the connection between the judgments threatened in the preceding verses and the mercies proffered in what follows is not to a superficial view at once apparent. Yet it is mercy and truth meeting together, righteousness and peace kissing each other. It is
(3) the connecting link between the enormity of our sins and the greatness of the Divine mercy; between the vileness of our iniquities and the riches of Divine grace. In like manner the psalmist prays, "Pardon mine iniquity, for it is great;" and God promises by the prophet, "For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart. I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners." Long previously God had said, "I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." The secret of such striking contrasts is that where sin abounded grace did much more abound. Egypt having been to Israel the house of bondage, the exodus from that land represents deliverance out of a servile, suffering condition.
(1) The wilderness or Arabian desert into which they were brought on leaving that country was a place of freedom. They were emancipated, and breathed the free air of the wilderness; they were exercised with salutary discipline after their emancipation; as they traversed the wilderness they were trained and tried. The allurement which prefaces their deliverance refers to the persuasion of Moses and Aaron, who found it necessary to persuade and even coax their countrymen to turn their back on their bondage and follow the leaders whom God had sent them. The "comfortable words" mentioned in the clone of the verse were addressed to them at a subsequent period, when, allured out of the strange land where they had sojourned so long, they were led forth into the wilderness. The "comfortable words" comprehended both temporal and spiritual mercies—relief in every time of emergency, deliverance in danger and distress, a plentiful supply of their necessities, with pardon of their sins, assurances of grace, and renewed tokens of God's favor on repentance. A difficulty has been found in the words, "and bring her into the wilderness," being interposed between the alluring and the speaking comfortably. The difficulty is removed
(2) by translating vav, not by "and," but by "after," as if equivalent to acher; thus: "After I shall have brought her into the wilderness I wilt allure and comfort her." Then the meaning would be, "After I have humbled them thoroughly as I did their forefathers in the wilderness, then will I speak comfortably unto them." God humbled their forefathers in Egypt, yet that did not suffice; he humbled them afterwards in the wilderness, and then brought them into Canaan. Many times God sends successive afflictions upon his own people, to break their hearts, to humble them thoroughly, and at last "he speaks comfortably unto them." But
(3) the wilderness may be viewed in another light. Besides the distresses experienced in the wilderness, there were deliverances enjoyed. The reference here may be to the latter, and all the more as this part of the chapter deals with merciful providences. The particle vav and other words of the verse then retain their natural sense; and, instead of a denunciation of further afflictions, God declares to Israel that he will perform on their behalf such works of power, wisdom, and goodness, at once great and glorious, merciful and wonderful, as he had wrought for their forefathers in the wilderness after their deliverance from Egypt. Thus the Chaldee: "I will work miracles and great works of wonder for them, such as I wrought in the desert;" as though he said, "Whatever the condition may be into which you shall be brought, vet you shall have me working in as glorious a way for your good and comfort as ever I did for your forefathers when they were in the wilderness." The explanation of "wilderness" under number
(1) above, combining, as it does, deliverance yet discipline, care yet chastisement, deserves the preference; it is neither to be explained with Keil exclusively in the sense of promise, nor, on the other hand, exclusively in the sense of punishment with Rashi, who comments as follows: "I will lead her into the wilderness, which for her is like a wilderness and a dry parched land; and there she shall lay it to heart that it was better with her when she did my will than when she rebelled against me."
And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. The consolations of God are not confined to words; they comprise works as well as words. Friendly doings as well as sayings are embraced in the Divine goodness, and manifest the Divine mercy. On emerging from the wilderness, fruitful vineyards, such as Sibmah, Heshbon, and Elealeh, east of Jordan. and fertile valleys, like that of Achor near Jericho, to the west of Jordan, as coon as they have crossed the river, shall be given them. These vineyards and valleys would thus be the first installments of God's promise, and a prelude to the possession of the whole, so that the door of hopeful expectation and of joyful anticipation would be thrown wide open to them. The verb עוה has three meanings—"humble one's self … answer," "sing." Hence the LXX. and older interpreters adopt ταπεινωθήσεται: Calvin, "respondent;" and Aben Ezra and Kimchi, "she shall sing and play." The last deserves the preference. No wonder if', under such circumstances, Israel responded with songs of praise and thanksgiving, as in that early day of the nation's youth, when, coming up out of Egypt, they sang the song of Moses by the Red Sea's margin, while Miriam and the maidens of Israel in full chorus completed the harmony. Now, all these experiences of the past were to repeat themselves in the future history of Israel. Their past captivity or dispersion was obviously implied in this promised deliverance and God's gracious dealings with them in the future. There is a different explanation of one expression in this verse, which deserves careful consideration—an explanation which turns on what once transpired in that valley, and the meaning of the name of it, troubling, derived flora that transaction; we refer, of course, to the affair of Achan. The punishment of the transgressor in that case, and the putting away of sin in connection with penitence and prayer, reopened, after defeat, the door of hope, and restored the enjoyment of Divine help. The discomfiture that so troubled the host of Israel was immediately followed by the victory at At, which inspired them with the hope of soon possessing the whole land. So with Israel after the captivity—a dreary night of weeping was followed by a bright and blessed morning. So, too, in time to come, when, after a long and sorrowful expectation, Israel shall return from the lands of their exile to their fatherland, or by faith and repentance to the paternal God, the light of better and more hopeful days shall (lawn upon them. To the idea of troubling Kimchi attaches the notion of purification, quoting with approval Rashi and Aben Ezra to the same purpose. His comment is: "Because at the beginning, when they went into the land in the days of Joshua, this misadventure befell them, namely, the matter of Achan, he gave them confidence that they should not fear when they assembled in the land, and that no misadventure would occur to them, as they would all be refined and purified because, in the wilderness of the peoples, they would be purified. And that valley of Achor shall no more be called so, for its name is for depreciation; but a name of honor shall be given to it, and it is a door of hope. And inasmuch as he says 'door,' and not 'valley,' as it should be, it is because it shall be to them as a door, since from there they shall enter into the land as they did at the first, and it shall be to them hope and the aim of what is good; consequently they call it the door of hope. And the sage Rabbi Abraham explains the valley of Achor to be the valley of Jezreel, viz.' because I [Jehovah] troubled her there, it will turn to a door of hope.' And R.S.I. (Rashi) of blessed memory explains it as the depth of the exile, where they were troubled; so 'I will give her a door of hope, the beginning of hope, that out of the midst of those troubles I will give her a heart to return to me.'" To the same purpose he quotes a brief comment of Saadia Gaon. כֶרֶם, cognate with Arabic karma, to be noble, equivalent to "the more fruitful and productive." The word mishsham is, according to some,
(1) an expression of time, equivalent to "from the time of their departure from the desert,"—so Keil; others explain it as
(2) "thereout," i.e. "I will make their vineyards out of it,"—so Simson; and ethers, again, explain it "from there or thence." It is taken in the last-mentioned sense by Kimchi, as follows: "From the wilderness I will give the whole land, which she formerly possessed, as if he said, 'I will constitute her there in the wilderness to do good to her in her land,' because that in the wilderness of the peoples he will purify them and consume the rebellious and the transgressors, so that the remainder shall fear (or flock reverently to him). Consequently they shall need consolations, and be shall speak to their heart. Because God—blessed be he!—shall give them their land as at the first; therefore he says, 'And I will speak to their heart.' And although we have explained that the consolations shall spring out of the distress which they endured in exile, yet will the whole be as well for the one (viz. the consolation) as for the other (the trouble)." It is aptly remarked by Aben Ezra, in relation to the vineyards, that "the words form a contrast to the other words of the prophet, 'And I will destroy their vine;'" likewise Kimchi asking, "And why has the prophet only mentioned their vineyards (i.e. when purposing to give them the whole land)? Because he had mentioned in their punishment, 'I will destroy her vines,' he mentions in the promised consolation her vineyards."
Hosea 2:16, Hosea 2:17
In these verses a renewal of God's covenant with Israel, under the figure of a marriage contract, is predicted. The name by which Israel shall address her beloved shall be henceforth Ishi, not Baali; that is, a term of tender affection, not of stern authority.
(1) The title of "My Husband" will take the place of "My Lord." Some suppose that the latter title was the idol's name, which, in the lips of Israel, had superseded that of the true God, the meaning being
(2) "Thou wilt no more call to me, My Baal." Nay, the names of Baals shall become so abhorrent to their better feelings, as well as hateful to Jehovah, that they shall pass away at once from their mouth and from their memory, never more to be mentioned and never more to be remembered. Rashi's comment favors
(1); thus: "Ye shall serve me out of love, and not out of fear; ishi denoting marriage and youthful love; baali, lordship and fear."
A state of tranquility was to follow, a sort of golden age was to ensue. With both the rational and irrational creation they would be at peace, enjoying security from the one and safety from the other. Peace would be established with the hostile forces of the outer world, and peace at the same time national and political. With the beasts of the field—viz, the wild beasts, as contrasted with behemah, tame animals—and with the fowls of heaven—i.e. birds of prey, destructive of the fruits of the field—and with the creeping things of the ground, detrimental to the products of the earth, they would be in league; while weapons of war would be devoted to destruction, the bow and the sword and the battle being broken, and not only so, but banished out of the earth, so that Israel, free from the alarm of a night attack, and protected by night as well as by day, would be made to lie down safely. Milchamah is constructed with eshbor by zeugma; or it includes, as Kimchi explains it, "all the implements of war except the bow and sword, which he has already mentioned."
Hosea 2:19, Hosea 2:20
Much as was included in these promises, more and better was to follow. The divorced wife was to be taken back; the marriage contract, which her shameful adultery had vitiated, was to be renewed, and past offences condoned. This certainly evidenced extraordinary forbearance and affection. But it was not all. A new and higher relationship was to be entered on; so entirely had God forgiven and forgotten, if we may so say, all the multiplied and aggravated transgressions of Israel against him, that that people is not to be received back as a repudiated wife, but to be henceforth regarded and treated as a chaste virgin, and in that capacity betrothed unto the Lord. And I will betroth thee unto me is the gracious promise thrice repeated, and each time with an additional element of mercy; nor is this betrothal of a temporary character and of short continuance, like the previous marriage compact which the wife's guilt a short time had rendered null and void. It is a durable betrothal, lasting forever. Next to the time during which this betrothal shall continue is the manner in which it is effected, or rather, the basis on which it is established. Justice and judgment present righteousness under two aspects—subjective and objective. Tsedeq, equivalent to tsedaqah, being right, is subjective righteousness and an attribute of God. Mishpat, equivalent to objective right, either as executing judgment or as existing in fact Some attribute these characteristics to God and some to Israel, while others to both. Rashi and Kimchi understand both words tsedeq and mishpat, subjectively and in relation to the Israelites. The former: "In righteousness and judgment wherein ye shall walk;" the latter: "In righteousness which the Israelites shall practice." Wunsche and Hengstenberg understand the righteousness and judgment of God's doing justice and faithfully fulfilling his covenant obligations to Israel. The latter has well remarked in relation to mishpat when distinguishing it from tsedeq, that a man may render what is right to persons and yet not be righteous; that is, there may be objective apart from subjective righteousness. Keil attributes the attributes in question, not only to God fulfilling his covenant engagements to his people, but purifying them through just judgment, and thus providing for their righteousness. That God possesses these is undeniable, but it is equally obvious that he bestows righteousness on his people both by imputation and impartation; he also executes righteousness in their case, purifying them by salutary chastisement, his object being, not only to cleanse, but to keep clean. And yet such is the frailty of man's fallen nature, and so many are the faults and the failings to which he is liable, that loving-kindness (God's condescending love, chesed, equivalent to ἀγάπη) and mercies (inmost compassion on man's weakness, rachamim, σπάχγνα) on God's part must be added to righteousness and judgment in order to secure the stability of those whom he takes into covenant, and the continuance of the contract. Nay; for the attainment of the desired end still more is requisite, for, after all his bestowments and all his discipline, and in addition to all his favor and forbearance, his faithfulness (unwavering steadfastness, emunah, corresponding as the reverse side to and securing the leolam) is indispensable to Israel's perseverance; and thus, notwithstanding Israel's failures, Jehovah's faithfulness guarantees ultimate and lasting success. The special quality on Israel's side is true knowledge of God.
The eighteenth verse pictures a scene of peace for Israel's future; the verses following warrant the expectation of its perpetuity, owing to the higher and holier relationship; the verses before us are a vivid description of unlimited prosperity. The corn and wine and oil appeal, by a graphic personification, to mother earth; earth appeals to the over-canopying heavens; and the heavens appeal to him whose throne is in the heavens, but whom the heavens and heaven of heavens cannot contain. Soon the floating cloud is seen and the falling rain is heard; the parched earth drinks in the moisture; and its products, being nourished and refreshed, supply to the utmost the wants and wishes of Jezreel. Kimchi comments on this picture as follows: "He says that then, in the season of salvation, the heavens shall give their dew, and the earth shall give her increase. And he says, 'I will tear the heavens which were shut up when they were in the land, as in the days of Ahab; on their return to the land at the time of salvation they shall no more be shut.' And he says, 'I will answer,' as if the heavens asked that they might give rain according to their manner, and I will answer; [as if] their earth [asked] that they [the heavens] might give rain after their manner, even showers of blessing. And this ' I will answer' denotes that my favor shall be on them [the heavens]. 'And they shall answer the earth,' as if the earth asked rain and longed for it. 'And the earth shall hear when it shall give its increase, and the tree of the field shall give its fruit …' 'And they shall hear Jezreel,' for in the multiplying of good things the eaters thereof multiply, for the steppes shall be full of the sheep of Israel. In the punishments he called the name of Israel Jezreel, because they were scattered among the nations. In the time of salvation he likewise calls them Jezreel, because they were sown in their land; accordingly, he says afterwards, 'I will sow them to me in the land.'" Such is the prophet's pictorial representation of a prosperity including food in abundance, refreshment limited by moderation, and even luxuries without stint. Old things are passed away; sinful things have ceased; there is a complete reversal of the sorrowful circumstances into which sin had plunged Israel. God's scattering has now become God's sowing. "I sow her" is the remark of Aben Ezra, "that they may multiply and be fruitful as the seed of the earth." The unpitied one has found mercy; the rejected one is received with rejoicing. "I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God."
The prophet exhibits the gross sin of idolatry.
The prophet in this section exposes the shame as well as sin of idolatry. It is a mistaken notion to suppose, with some, that the tribe of Judah is here urged to plead with the tribes of Israel; for Israel cannot, with any propriety of speech or figure, be spoken of as the mother in this case, however possibly they may be addressed as brethren and sisters. The Church or nation is the mother, and the individual members, as nursed and brought up by her, are the children. The doctrines symbolized in the preceding chapter are here more fully developed and plainly set forth.
I. PLEADING COMMANDED. The explanation which Calvin gives of the first clause of this second verse is ingenious, yet we must regard it as rather specious than sound. Instead of "plead," he employs the word "contend;" and interprets the contention to imply that Israel, instead of censuring the seeming severity of God's dealings with them, should rather condemn their mother's sin as the guilty cause of that severity, and thus cast the blame of their sufferings, not on God, as though he had falsified his covenant, but upon their mother, the Israelitish Church or kingdoms that had fallen away and fallen far from fulfilling the conditions of the covenant. After referring to the mark of disgrace fixed on the children born by a marriage with a wife who has been repudiated by her husband, he says, "When a husband repudiates his wife through waywardness, the children justly regard him with hatred. Why? 'Because he loved not our mother as he ought to have done; he has not honored the bond of marriage.' It is, therefore, usually the case that the children's affections are alienated from their father, when he treats their mother with too little humanity or entire contempt. So the Israelites, when they saw themselves rejected, wished to throw the blame on God. For by the name mother are the people here called; it is transferred to the whole body of the people, or the race of Abraham. God had espoused that people to himself, and wished them to be like a with to him. Since, then, God was a Husband to the people, the Israelites were as sons born by that marriage. But when they were repudiated, the Israelites said that God dealt cruelly with them, for he had cast them away for no fault. The prophet now undertakes the defense of God's cause, and speaks also in his person. 'Contend, contend,' he says, 'with your mother [your dispute is not with me].' He brings this charge against the Israelites, that they had been repudiated for the flagitious conduct of their mother, and had ceased to be counted the children of God … the blame of their rejection belonged to the whole race of Abraham (i.e. the mother); but no blame could be imputed to God." We rather understand the pleading mentioned as that which the pious remnant of the nation, who had still kept themselves separate from idolatry and the general degeneracy, are exhorted to address to their mother, that is to say, to the bulk of the people with the heads of the congregation and rulers of the nation. It is the duty of believers to plead for God and his truth, even though the great body of Church or nation should be opposed to them. This is specially the case in times of spiritual leanness, and in days of deep declension or entire apostasy. Thus our Lord and his apostles plod with the people of the Jews in their days, charging their rulers, the chief priests and scribes and Pharisees, with the gravest dereliction of duty. Yet there must be tenderness in this pleading. It is remarkable that, as Jerome remarks, he commands "the sons (children) to speak not at all to the wife of their father whom she forsook, but to their mother who bare them." Neither is there, on the other hand, any impropriety in thus pleading with an erring parent, for we find that Jonathan thus pleaded with his father, Saul, on behalf of David. Humble and modest, yet firm and faithful pleading, is not only lawful, but dutiful even on the part of private persons against national corruptions or public profanations, as of God's Name, or Word, or day, or worship.
II. PENITENCE ENJOINED. Though Israel had forfeited her right to the name or privilege of wife since she had so grievously fallen away from faithfulness and affection, and though God disowned the relationship as she had virtually dissolved her marriage union by her unfaithfulness, yet she had not actually and formally received the bill of divorce parting her away; in other words, her outward and public rejection. There was thus still left space for repentance, and room for hope in case of repentance. So great is the mercy of God, that if she lent an ear to the pleadings of her children orphaned through her misconduct, and put away her whoredoms or defilements with many lovers, and her adulteries or departures from her rightful Husband and Lord, she might hope for restoration. Thus God deals with sinners in general, if they will only hearken to the admonitions and invitations of his Word, and put away from them the objects, one or many, of their sinful attachment, which withdraw their affection from him who is their true and proper Object. There is a practical comment by Matthew Henry on the close of this verse which appears to us well worth quoting. He says, "Every sinful course persisted in is an adulterous departure from God; and here we may see what it is truly to repent of it and turn from it.
(1) True penitents will forsake both open sins and secret sins; will put away, not only the whoredoms that lie in sight, but those that lie in secret between their breasts—the sin that is rolled under the tongue as a sweet morsel.
(2) They will both avoid the outward occasions of sin and mortify the inward disposition to it."
III. PUNISHMENT THREATENED. The punishment threatened in case of impenitence consists of several particulars.
1. There is destitution of the extremest kind. Israel would be stripped of all the favors, temporal and spiritual, which God had bestowed, and be so situated that she could not help herself. The idea is more fully developed by Ezekiel, who in Hosea 16. presents us with a most pitiable picture—that of an infant exposed, neglected, nude, and helpless: "As for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou was not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the loathing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born."
2. Next to destitution is desolation. In this particular the representation is that of a wilderness and a dry land, or rather of a traveler in such a district. The nature of the wilderness or of the way through it is easily inferred from other Scriptures; thus we read of Israel's departure from Horeb: "We went through all that great and terrible wilderness;" again it is written, "He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness." A traveler, in journeying through that waste and howling and terrible wilderness, would meet with many a rough road, many a rugged way, many a rocky ascent, many an uncultivated waste, many a harsh sound, many a scaresome sight, many a tangled spot, many a thorny place, many a toil, and many a trial. Travelers passing through such a scene of desolation are said to wander "in the wilderness in a solitary way."
3. The dangers of the wilderness are manifold. There is the place of lions' dens. and of the mountains el the leopards. There, too, the Israelites of old encountered the fiery serpents that infested it. For a time they had been restrained, but afterwards they were uncontrolled, and even commissioned to chastise the erring Israelites.
4. Death itself is included in the threatened punishment:" And slay her with thirst." There is no water to cleanse, no thirst-satisfying fountain, no life-giving spring. Of wayfarers in such a region it is written," They were hungry and thirsty; their soul fainted in them."
IV. POSTERITY INVOLVED IN THE THREATENED PUNISHMENT. The repetition of" lest" at the beginning of verse 4 is needed to make the meaning plain and carry on the connection. Particular members of a Church or nation too o[ten share the sins of the general body or rulers of the people; so too children, frequently following in the footsteps of godless parents, suffer by the sad heritage of those parents' guilt; for God "visits the sins of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate him." It has been well said that "God visits the sins of the parents upon the children until the entailed curse be cut off by repentance."
V. PERSISTENCE IN SIN. The harlotry and shameful conduct of the libidinous woman, who represents Israel in this passage, evidence the greatest perversity. In spite of warnings ant threatenings, in spite of entreaties and exhortations, and in spite of inducements and invitations, Israel persists in her iniquitous idolatry and perseveres in her shameless conduct. Like an abandoned woman, who has renounced all the instinctive modesty of womanhood, and who, instead of waiting for the addresses of paramours, actually takes the initiative, and pursues them with her unwomanly appeals, Israel goes after her lovers, that is, her idols, or, as some think, her idolatrous allies We may not, however, overlook the fact that, besides the gross idolatry of Israel, there is a spiritual idolatry, to which all are exposed, and to which many are addicted. Anything that draws away our thoughts and affections from God, or that occupies that place in our heart that belongs to him, is an idol—not so rude as the image of wood, or stone, or metal, but not less perilous, not less pernicious, not less insidious. Let us beware of following such lovers; let us beware of spiritual harlotry, and of shamefully pursuing wealth, or fame, or power, or pleasure, anti of turning aside from God!
VI. PROSPERITY REGARDED AS THE BESTOWMENT OF IDOLS. Israel in time of plenty forgot the important lesson that her prosperity came from God. Her sottish stupidity was only equaled by her ingratitude, when she attributed all she had to those miserable idols on which her heart was fixed, and of which she showed herself so dotingly fond. Put by Jehovah into the possession of such a lifesome land, of food in abundance, of raiment—garments tinier and outer—and of the luxuries as well as the comforts of life, she forgot—basely forgot—that she continued a pensioner on his providence and blessed by his bounties. Bad enough and base enough as such ingratitude was, it was still worse to transfer her love and her gratitude to idols dumb such as blinded nations fear. How unspeakably mean it was on Israel to form such a low estimate of religion as to value it according to the worldly advantages to be derived from it, or in proportion to the selfish interests served by it! How much worse stilt to depend on idols for such advantages, and in hope of furthering those interests!
The pains and penalties that are attached to sin.
In the Book of Judges it is stated once and again that, when the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, he delivered them into the hand of their enemies. "They forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of the spoilers that spoiled them; The children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin King of Canaan;" "And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian."
I. THE DIFFICULTIES PLACED IS THEIR WAY. First there is a hedge, which no one can crush through without risk of painful lacerations. God frequently draws round sinful pleasures, as a fence, severe sufferings to warn men against their indulgence. But when all restraints are cast aside, and men will force their way through all such fences, there is another mode of Divine operation, which opposes an insurmountable barrier to men's lusts. If a hedge may be broken through, a wall cannot; if a hedge fail to check men in their onward career of sin, a wall will effect the purpose. 1t thorns in the flesh do not deter men from sinful gratifications, a wall is raised up that cannot be passed over, when, through failure of bodily strength, the crippling of worldly resources, the removal of opportunity or occasion, or otherwise, those gratifications become impossible. The sorrows which Israel suffered by their idols and idolatrous alliances were only the hedge, and served merely for a partial and passable fence; the wall was a complete separation between them and their sins.
II. THE DEFEAT OF HER DESIGNS. The most vigorous pursuit fails, the most minute search is frustrated. For years and centuries the Hebrew race has had their eyes directed to a temporal Messiah, who would lead the armies of his people, fight their battles, triumph over all enemies, and raise them to the highest pinnacle of human greatness, and their nation to a proud pre-eminence among the kingdoms of the earth. We know the result. God has hedged up their way and walled up their path. So, too, with sinners in general. God often seeks by cross providences to withdraw man from his purpose. He places thorns and snares in the way of the froward, making the way of sin difficult, sometimes impossible, so that they follow after their beloved lusts but do not overtake them, and seek them but cannot find them. How different with the search after gospel grace! It is "ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find."
III. THE DETERMINATION AT LENGTH ARRIVED AT. The disappointments which Israel meets with bring them to a sense of sin and its sorrows. Having long and eagerly sought satisfaction in the pursuits of the world and in the pleasures of sense, they are forced at last to acknowledge their mistake. Such things do not and cannot satisfy; they are husks that starve but do not support a hungry soul; their idols cannot succor them in the time of need. They recall the early history of their nation, and, contrasting the past with the present, are convinced of the better days that had long gone by. They thought of the time when Jehovah was the God of Israel, sitting between the cherubim, and when the prosperity of the people had kept pace with their piety. How different now! How different ever after Jeroboam seduced them to the idolatry of the calves, or Ahab indoctrinated them in the heathenish rites of the dual deities of Phoenicia! The retrospect persuaded them of their sad mistake in departing from their true Husband and Head. Finding themselves hardly bestead, their condition desperate, and their hopes blighted, they determine to retrace their steps, and with sentiments and language closely akin to the prodigal in our Lord's parable, they set about the accomplishment of their purpose.
IV. THE SAD MISTAKE OF ISRAEL. In the time of their plenty and prosperity they mistook the source of their blessings, as also the right use of them. They attributed them to their idols, and abused them in their service. Worldly prosperity was what Israel, in the period of degeneracy, most cared for. What contributed to bodily gratification, luxurious living, and worldly wealth, was most esteemed by them. These they counted blessings, and regarded as the bestowments of their idols. Just as in Jeremiah's time their brethren, or rather sisters, of Judah clung obstinately and stupidly to the evil and error of their ways, saying," We will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine." Whatever excuse the heathen may have had when they spoke of their corn as coming from Ceres, and their wine as the gift of Bacchus, and their wealth as bestowed by Ptutus, Israel had none; for they had early been instructed in the knowledge of the one living and true Cod, and early as well as impressively reminded that the good land, which yielded the corn and on which the vine and olive grew, was God's gift; and that it was God, moreover, who gave them power to get wealth, so that however plentiful the silver and abundant the gold, they owed all to him. Worst of all, they not only mistook the Author of these mercies, but perverted them to the service of a rival deity, thus provoking Jehovah to jealousy with that which was not God, but the miserable idol of Sidon, Tyre, and Phoenicia.
V. SEVERE CHASTISEMENT WAS THE CONSEQUENCE. This was to be expected. Created things are given to man for his service, and man himself was created for God's service; but when man perverts the creatures which God has given him, and, instead of serving and glorifying God by means of them, actually employs them in ways and for purposes derogatory to the Divine glory, no wonder the Almighty, in just indignation, should snatch them from him who so misuses and abuses them. As in yen. 8 the addition of the personal pronoun to the verb gives emphasis, so in verse 9 the repetition of the possessive pronoun with the nouns serves the same end. "She did not know, not she, that I even I it was that gave her corn and wine and oil,… therefore I will take away my corn, my wine, my wool, and my flax." God requires two things at least in return for his mercies:
(1) that we gratefully acknowledge the Giver in the gifts; and
(2) that we employ them in his service or to his glory.
Men praise the fruitful earth, but it is God that makes the earth fruitful; men talk learnedly of the laws of nature, but it is God that invests nature with those functions, or arranges those natural sequences called laws; men boast of good fortune, but such fortune is only the bounteous providence of God. Whether, then, it is articles of food, or materials of raiment, or the precious metals which represent wealth that men possess, it is God that either gives or withholds at pleasure. How beautifully this lesson is inculcated in that precious chapter, the eighth of Deuteronomy! "When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee;" and again, beware that "thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth." Further, the question with Israel, as with the heathen both then and now, is, "What shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed?" whereas the question should be. "How shall we use God's gifts to God's glory; so that whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we may glorify God?" The abuse of God's mercies abridges the time of their enjoyment; when we misuse or mismanage our stewardship, he turns us out of office, and tells us we may be no longer stewards; when we forget the Giver and forsake his service, we forfeit our interest m his gifts. The manner, too, of their removal adds justly merited severity to the stroke. Just as the time of reaping arrives, the harvest becomes a heap; just as the ship reaches the port, it becomes a wreck; just at the season when all seems sure and hopes are highest, the blight descends and expectation ends in bitterest disappointment.
VI. SHAME AGGRAVATES THE CHASTISEMENT. A sense of shame is sometimes the most painful punishment; men of greatest physical courage have often been found devoid of sufficient moral courage to bear up against a laugh or resist a sneer. Besides, when insult is added to injury, the indignity is complete. When Israel prospered, her folly was covered and her sin cloaked; her lewdness was long concealed, being unseen, or overlooked, or thought lightly of. But when the prosperity is withdrawn, the covering is cast aside and the cloak torn off. Outward prosperity, while it lasts, is like gilding over many a lewd life, or like veneering over a loose character. But when, in the providence of God, the day of adversity comes, the inward vileness becomes transparent; when Israel fell from her prosperous state, her corruption was made manifest, even in the sight of the idols she loved, and whose love-tokens she fancied herself to have enjoyed, or of the idolatrous nations whose alliance she courted, or of the sun and moon which as deities she worshipped; she is stripped naked, and exposed to shame, contempt, and insult. Nor is there any hope of remedy or prospect of recovery. It has been well remarked that "those who will not deliver themselves into the hand of God's mercy, cannot be delivered out of the hand of his justice."
VII. SORROW FOLLOWS SHAME IN THE DAY OF ISRAEL'S DISTRESS. Israel continued to keep up the outward ordinances of religion, but the inward essence had long departed; there was the semblance of worship, but the reality was altogether absent; there was a form of godliness, but it was destitute of the living power. Jeroboam had made the worship of Jehovah a state religion. The changes he introduced were with the view of furthering his political interests. The worship he established was a sort of rival worship, so that the breach between the ten tribes and the two might become wider and still widening. He changed the manner of worship by the introduction of images or symbols, so that Jehovah was worshipped under the form of a calf, as though in allusion to the cherubim over the mercy-seat; he changed the place of worship from its central seat at Jerusalem to Dan in the north and Bethel in the south; he changed the time of worship, at least in the case of the Feast of Tabernacles, from the seventh month to the eighth, as though the harvest was later in the north than in the south; he changed the ministers of worship, taking the priests out of all the tribes without distinction, and not from that of Levi, which had resisted his innovations and refused to sanction his godless novelties. But notwithstanding these changes—and important changes they were—he retained so much of the national worship as suited his purpose, and did not clash with his usurpation or tend to weaken his authority. Israel still had the weekly sabbath, memorial of creation work completed; and the month-sabbath, a monthly dedication to God. They had the three yearly festivals—the pesach, with the chag ha-matzoth, to commemorate the deliverance from Egypt; the chag ha-sh'bu'oth, or feast of weeks, called also chag ha-gatzir, the feast of harvest, and yom ha-biccurim, day of firstfruits; and the chag ha-asiph, the feast of ingathering, or chag ha-succoth. feast of tabernacles, or simply chag, the feast by way of eminence, the completion of the ingathering of fruits and vintage, and commemoration of Israel dwelling in tents in the wilderness; they had all the other solemn feasts of thanksgiving to God for special providences or particular blessings. With all these feasts were associated merry-makings, especially with that of tabernacles; but now God takes all these away. The outward joy had for long been severed from that inward spiritual joy of true religion; only the semblance remained, for the substance was gone. And now shadow as well as substance is to pass away. God in judgment turns their joy into sorrow, their mirth into melancholy. "Sin and mirth," says an old writer, "can never hold long together; but if men will not take away sin from their mirth, God will take away mirth from their sin."
VIII. RUIN OF THEIR PROSPECTS AS WELL AS OF THEIR POSSESSIONS. The threatened destruction of their vines and fig trees affected, not only their present and actual possessions, but also their future and possible prospects. The fruits of one year, or even of several, might fail; but other years of better harvests and other seasons of greater fruitfulness might repair in some measure the loss. The destruction here threatened, however, is not only that of one year's fruits or of one season's produce, but the cutting off of all future hope. It is not only the destruction of the fruits, but of the trees, and so a ruin without remedy. Neither is it a partial destruction—some of those fruit-bearing trees being still spared—but total; the country would be laid waste, the fences would be broken down, the enclosures taken away, and the vineyards left as a common; the fig trees would give place to forest trees, and wild beasts devour and dwell amid the ruins. Yet Israel could not say that this ruin was unmerited, for the prophet is careful to remind them bow foully they had abused the favors of God's providence, and scandalously regarded them as the fruits of their idolatry, the gifts of their idols, or the hire of their spiritual adultery.
IX. RETRIBUTION COMMENSURATE WITH THEIR WRONGDOING. God's chastisements in this, as often in other cases, bear an obvious proportion to the heinousness of men's sin and the time of its continuance. Like wicked men and seducers in general, idolaters wax worse and worse. From the wrong way of worshipping God under the images of the calves according to their own devices, they had proceeded to the grosser sin of setting up an idol in his place. This idolatry had long continued, and that continuance made an era in their history here named the days of Baalim.
1. The variety of this idolatry is specified. They worshipped Baal under divers forms, for divers purposes, and in divers places; and hence the plural, Baalim.
2. We may notice the devoutness of their idolatry. The burning of incense preceded the morning and succeeded the evening sacrifice of a lamb in the temple. It was symbolical of prayer and thanksgiving; it was, in fact, the highest and holiest of the priest's functions, as we may infer from Luke 1:9.
3. Further, the preparation and pomp of this service to which Israel prostituted the wealth she possessed, decking herself, adulteress-like, with her earrings and her jewels, and lavishing the good gifts of God's providence on contemptible and filthy idols.
4. Her eagerness for idol-worship is as noticeable as it is lamentable. Unsought, unsolicited, without inducement or allurement, she takes the initiative, and with unblushing importunity makes advances to her lovers.
5. The blackest sin of all, and in some sort the source of all, was her forgetfulness of God. Alas! how often do men and women abuse the best gifts of God, and pervert them to the vilest purposes! How often are they far more zealous in a wrong course than in the right! How often do sinful pursuits engross their noblest powers! How often does the storm of evil passion sweep away all thoughts of God out of their mind I How often, amid the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, the pride of life, groveling avarice, soaring ambition, and schemes of worldliness, do men forget God altogether; or at least how often do they consecrate to self, or sensuality, or sin in some of its countless forms, the thoughts, affections, and love which God claims as justly his duel How often, too, does God visit with terrible retribution the sins of such!
Sympathy with Israel in spite of their sins.
The laken which introduces Hosea 2:14 is rendered by some "notwithstanding," and this is what we might expect; but it is opposed by linguistic usage. We muse adhere to the ordinary translation, which is "therefore." The word thus translated tends to exalt our idea of God's goodness. Israel had sinned and forgotten God; the "therefore" we would expect, and the inference we would draw is God's final and forever abandonment of such a sinful, God-forgetting people. Not so, however. Israel had sinned by idolatry, and sunk into a depth of misery from which they were utterly unable to extricate themselves. But their extremity is God's opportunity; their misery appeals to God's mercy; and what man could not do, and man would not do if he could, God does, lifting Israel up out of the pit of misery into which, through sin and forgetfulness of God, they had plunged. Not their desert, but their distress, turned the eye of Divine compassion upon them. "His ways are not as our ways, neither are his thoughts as our thoughts." "He hath not dealt with us," says the psalmist, "after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities." He had indeed dealt with Israel in wrath, tad prepared the people to put away their idols, and now, to prevent them giving way to despair, he deals with them in mercy.
1. "This 'therefore' has a strange and wonderful 'wherefore' if we dwell on what precedes: 'She went after her lovers, and forgot me, saith the Lord. Therefore, behold, I will allure her:' there needs, indeed, a 'behold' to be put to this 'therefore.'... The right knowledge of the fullness, and riches of the grace of the covenant will help us out of this difficulty, and tell us how these two, the greatness of man's sin and the riches of God's grace, may have a connection one with another, and that by an illative 'therefore.'"
2. The allurements of God are
(1) those manifestations which he makes of himself to his people, when he displays to them the beauty of his holiness, the goodness of his grace, the greatness of his mercy, and the glory of his power. Again,
(2) he allures men when he draws them away from the specious blandishments and subtle snares of sin and Satan, the world, and the flesh. He counteracts the enticements of things temporal, and turns the affections to things spiritual and eternal. From earthly gain he allures them to godliness, which, with contentment, is great gain; from the pleasures of the world he allures them to delight themselves in God and in the things of God; from all sinful pursuits and from all unworthy ambitions he allures us to seek our satisfaction in himself, and to set our affections on things above, where Jesus sits at God's right hand.
3. He speaks comfortably to his people, literally, to their heart. Man can only speak to the ear, God speaks to the heart; yet God's words in man's mouth are brought home by the Holy Spirit to the affections, and so to the comfort of man's heart.
4. Whether, then, the wilderness state be one of afflictive dispensations or of merciful deliverances, the power of Divine attraction is experienced and Divine consolations are enjoyed.
(1) Days of even painfully afflictive dispensations are often days of spiritual consolations; whereas in days of outward prosperity there are many obstructions barring the way to man's heart and preventing the entrance of heavenly comfort.
(2) Again, what comfort we derive from the record of God's merciful manifestations to his people in the past! "We may read the stories of God's wonderful power displayed in delivering his people out of their straits in the wilderness, and make them our own; and plead with God that he would show forth that old, that ancient power and wisdom and goodness of his, as he did unto his people formerly." Hence the prophet prays and teaches us to pray, "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord, awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old."
I. RELIEF IS THE FIRST MANIFESTATION OF THIS MERCY. That relief is described in terms calculated to remind them of God's gracious dealings with their forefathers, and to recall his merciful deliverance of them out of Egypt.
1. Several incidents connected with their redemption out of the land of bondage are laid hold of by the prophet and impressed into his prediction, which is thus rendered beautifully vivid and picturesque, of future deliverance. Among these incidents, which give such a life-like coloring to the prophecy, are God's persuasion of Israel through his servants, Moses and Aaron; their exit from Egypt, and entrance into the wilderness on the way to Canaan; his cordial and comforting dealings with them in the wilderness, when he gave them that fiery, yet just and good and holy Law, instructed them in the ways and means whereby they might worship him acceptably, and took them into covenant with himself.
2. The Prophet Isaiah speaks of the wilderness becoming a fruitful field, and again of the wilderness and solitary place being gladdened, and of the desert rejoicing and blossoming as the rose. Whether, then, the wilderness itself shall bloom with vineyards for Israel, or whether, on emerging from the wilderness, they were to be put in possession of vineyards in the promised land, the promised blessing of restoration remains the same; while the responsive song of praise and thanksgiving, such as Moses and the men el Israel sang for the glorious triumph at the Red Sea, and in which Miriam and the women of Israel responded, shall be repeated on the occasion of Israel's rehabilitation in their former inheritance.
3. A remembrancer of a practical kind is interjected, if we are to understand Achor rather appellatively than locally. That remembrancer of Achan's sin, and Israel's suffering in consequence, teaches the lesson sometimes difficult to realize, that the bitterest sorrow becomes the source of sweetest comfort to penitent souls. God subjects his people to humbling providences in order to make them contrite; he awakens within them painful convictions, to prepare them for heavenly consolations; he tries them by distressing circumstances, but it is by way of wholesome discipline; by all their wanderings in the wilderness he humbles and proves them in order to do them good at the latter end. If, too, like Israel, we put away sin, the accursed thing within us, we may confidently hope for God's presence with us, and power to prevail over all enemies around us. Mortifying sin expels the troubles kern the camp; "trouble for sin, if it be sincere, opens a door of hope, for that sin that truly troubles us shall not ruin us."
II. REVIEW OF GOD'S DEALINGS WITH ISRAEL. In the strong language of prophecy, Israel had been married to God, but had proved unfaithful; going after other lovers, and thus committing spiritual adultery, which is idolatry. Her unfaithfulness had exposed her to the just judgments of God, issuing in her captivity.
1. From the fourteenth verse to the close of the present chapter, however, promises of mercy take the place of denunciation and reproof. Because of Israel's adultery God had threatened her with a bill of divorce; but now he allures her, that is, woos her again, as a young man a maiden whom he means to make his wife, and in the sequel actually renews that relationship, as we learn from the words, "At that day thou shalt call me Ishi"—"my Husband." He here dwells with complacency on his manner of dealing with her when alluring or wooing her in order to make her his wife. Having brought her into the wilderness, or a state of trouble and distress, and thereby humbled her, he wins her heart, not merely by pleasant words, but by most valuable presents.
2. These precious gifts are comfort, hope, and joy. These are the present manifestations of his love which he promises to bestow on Israel. He gives, or rather restores, the vineyards which had been forfeited; that is to say, he gives not only necessaries but delights, not only subsistence but abundance. Vineyards affording wine, which comforts and makes glad the heart of man, imply comfort, with the subsidiary notion of rest and peace, from the figure of men sitting restfully and peacefully under their own vine and fig tree. The second gift is hope. A door of hope, wide and effectual, is opened before God's people, and they are privileged to enter in. The third is joy, spiritual joy, so that they have good ground and a right disposition to celebrate with songs of joy the praises of their Maker, who is at once their heavenly Husband and gracious Benefactor.
3. We must, however, note the manner of bestowal. It takes place after much trouble and great abasement. He gives "her vineyards from thence," the reference being to the wilderness mentioned in the preceding verse. After difficulties and distresses in a land where they had been hardly bestead, and a condition in which they had been much straitened, they would have comforts of a most valuable kind. Further, the valley of Achor denotes the valley of trouble, and derives its name from having been the scene where God troubled the troubler of Israel, when Achan, who by his sin had troubled the host of Israel, was stoned to death. Sin is the soul-troubler still; and when sin is slain and forsaken, with sorrow of heart and bitterness of repentance, the door of hope flies open. Just as the valley of Achor was the door of hope to Israel, inasmuch as-it was the first place they got possession of on entering Canaan, and inasmuch as, valley of trouble though it was, it became the source of much good to them; so the valley of trouble and humiliation is often the opening up of hope and comfort to the believer. Conviction of sin causes trouble. The awakened sinner is troubled by a sense of guilt and fear of deserved wrath; but such troubling opens the door to conversion and comfort.
4. The history of Israel repeats itself in the history of God's people still.
(1) The trials of the wilderness were past, and Israel anticipated rest and happiness in the hind of promise, but on the very threshold a sore trouble awaited them. So with ourselves; we may fancy trouble past, and flatter ourselves with future happiness, at the very time when other great and sore troubles are awaiting us.
(2) As Israel got vineyards from the wilderness, so God prepares us for great mercies by sore troubles or severe afflictions. "The afflictions of the saints are not only harbingers of mercies, but doors of hope to let in mercies, means to advance their progress. God commands light to shine, not only after darkness, but out of darkness. Joseph's prison, David's persecution, Daniel's den, made way for the glorious mercies God had m store for them." Many a one can say, "The undoing of worldly prosperity has been the making of me in religion;" in times of trouble, therefore, it is our duty to be patient, and our privilege even to be joyful.
(3) Instead of "door of hope," the Septuagint translates, "to open their understanding;" and, though an inaccurate rendering, it conveys the meaning of God's having opened the understanding of Israel to perceive the sinfulness of sin, God's hot displeasure against it, the dreadfulness of his wrath, the holiness of his commandments, and the duty of putting away sin.
III. RENUNCIATION OF IDOLATRY IS IN CASE OF ISRAEL ANOTHER RESULT OF DIVINE MERCY. He draws them, and they run after him; he makes them willing in the day of his power. Relief from suffering is followed by renunciation of sin; this is a blessed consummation.
1. Other lords had dominion over her, but now she renounces all these, and devotes herself to Jehovah alone. So with sinners when they give up the sin that does most easily beset them. No longer is some beloved lust the subject of their thoughts or the object of their affections; no longer are they wedded to sensuality, or avarice, or ambition, or worldliness, or pride, or passion, or sin in any form; their Maker is now their Husband-even the Lord of hosts, which is his name. Nay, more; they acknowledge God as their Lord and Master, and so he is; they look up to him as their Patron and Protector, and so he is; they confess his right of ownership so as to dispose of them according to his sovereign will and pleasure—and they do welt, for so he is.
2. But, above all this, they can come nearer to him and claim a closer connection; with holy boldness they can approach his throne with more confidence and less apprehension than Esther to her imperial husband, when she touched the golden scepter which he held out to her. The Church can address Jehovah not merely as Baali—"my Lord," but with true wifely affection as Ishi—"my Husband." Or, if the distinction we have intimated be disallowed, the name of an idol shall never again be put in the place of the living God, according to the injunction in Exodus 23:13, "Make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy month." So with whatever lust, or evil appetite, or sinful gratification, or vicious course we have had for an idol, let it not be once named among us.
3. But how is the change effected? It is God himself who by his grace brings it about. "I," says God, "will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth." The very name is to be treated with abhorrence; it must never more be mentioned, but consigned to the oblivion of the past. God himself girds his people with strength for the sacrifice; "for it is God which worketh in you both to will arid to work, for his good pleasure."
"The dearest idol I have known,
Whate'er that idol be,
Help me to pluck it from thy throne,
And worship only thee."
IV. RESTORATION TO PEACE LIKE THAT OF PARADISE. Once sin is renounced and man is at peace with God, he has peace with all around.
1. A scene of peace did once prevail on earth; it was in Paradise. In those Eden bowers our foreparents enjoyed sweet peace; they had peace with each other, peace and communion with God. Day was succeeded by night, and night melted into day; they slept, they waked, they walked; they kept that Paradisaical spot and dressed it. Above, around, within, the Divine favor brightly shone. No sound of discord was anywhere heard, nor did jarring note intrude. But soon as man broke the peace by turning rebel against God, the beasts, that till then had been subject to man and rendered him willing service, rose in fury and in fierceness against him. Man by sin turned a foe to himself, roused to rage the creatures before subject to him, and was at war with his fellow.
2. But when Israel returns to allegiance to God, the various sections of animate creation shall resume subjection to him. Wild beasts of the most savage nature, or bloodthirsty disposition, or venomous character, shall be at peace with him; the fowls of heaven, the winged emissaries of the evil one, that snatch the Divine Word out of the heart, shall lose the power of injury; enemies resembling the creeping things of the ground, however harmful before in enticing to low lusts, and leaving the slimy trail of sin behind, shall be restrained from hurtling. Not only so; the curse of war shall cease. Jehovah pledges himself by covenant to bless Israel with peace; but the promise carries us on to that happy day when the Prince of peace shall restore peace to the individual heart, peace to the domestic hearth, and peace to the human family throughout all the world.
3. When the weapons of war shall have perished, men shall' dwell, not only in safety, but security. They shall he fearless of every foe; fearless of all the powers of evil; fearless in life, for "perfect love casteth out fear;" fearless in death, and triumphant over the last enemy. May the good Lord hasten that time when
"No strife shall rage, nor hostile feuds
Disturb these peaceful years;
To ploughshares men shall beat their swords,
To pruning-hooks their spears.
No longer hosts, encount'ring hosts,
Shall crowds of slain deplore:
They hang the trumpet in the hall,
And study war no more."
V. RENEWAL OF THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT OR COVENANT. If we take this Old Testament picture and put it in a New Testament frame, or if we take this Old Testament flower and transplant it to the New Testament parterre, we shall realize the words of the apostle to the Ephesians, when he says, "Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.… This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church."
1. The betrothal is in righteousness, in truthful sincerity, without the suspicion of dissimulation on the one side or the shadow of hypocrisy on the other; in judgment, with due deliberation, not rashly, not unadvisedly, not through some sudden or fitful impulse; in loving-kindness, in outward acts of kindness and innumerable love-tokens; in mercies, in bowels of mercy; this is the source whence all those countless acts of kindness proceed, the fountain from which such abundant streams of love flow forth; in faithfulness, in stability on the part of God, "with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning," and steadfastness on the part of the saint. These are the precious stones in the wedding-ring which the bride, the Lamb's wife, receives—righteousness and judgment, loving-kindness and mercies, faithfulness—and thus the guarantee of a union that is to last for ever.
VI. REVIVAL OF PROSPERITY. In this part of the picture—and a beautiful picture is here presented to us—we see a specimen of the manifold wisdom of God, and of the many links in the chain of his providence. The boldness of the figure, and the beauty of the personification exhibiting the chain of second causes, and their connection with the great First Cause of all, have been much admired. When the people of God stand in need of, and prayerfully seek, outward comforts, "immediately the corn and the wine and the oil, as if they heard their complaints, shall say, O Lord, we would help Jezreel, and satisfy these thy servants. The corn shall cry to the earth, O earth, let me come into thy bowels; I will rot there that so I may bring forth fruit for this people. The vines and the olives shall desire the earth to receive them, to impart juice and nourishment to them, that they may refresh these reconciled ones of God. The earth shall say, Oh that I may receive the corn and wine and oil that I may be fruitful in my kind! but, ye heavens, I can do nothing except I have your influences, and the warm beams of the sun to make me fructify; come, therefore, and assist me, that I may bear fruit for Jezreel. And the heavens shall cry, Lord, we would fain help the earth, that the earth may help the corn and wine and oil, that they may supply Jezreel; but we can do nothing without thy hand; therefore hear us and suffer us to ram upon the earth, that it may become fruitful." Thus the creatures plead with each other for the saints of God; God hears the heavens, and the heavens the earth, and the earth the corn and wine and oil, and the corn and wine and oil supply abundance to the people of God.
1. If the creatures cry to one another for help to the people of God, shall we turn a deaf ear to the appeals of God's afflicted people when they cry for help to us? Or shall we refuse to hearken to the call of God when he summons us to help forward his cause and extend his kingdom?
2. If God hears his creatures when they cry to him for our support, what encouragement we have to believe that he will hear his own Son, when, as Advocate and Intercessor, he pleads on our behalf and in the presence of God for us!
HOMILIES BY C. JERDAN
Jehovah's condemnation of faithless Israel.
In Hosea 1:1-11. the prophet has Fainted a "vigorous fresco" (Ewald) illustrative of his domestic sorrows. And now he presents an explanation of the sad picture in its prophetic meaning. The supreme thought of the Book of Hosea is that of Jehovah's conjugal love for Israel, which she by her unfaithfulness had so foully dishonored. Here, in Hosea 2:1-23; accordingly, we have an allegory suggested by the prophet's symbolic marriage with Gomer; which depicts the deep sorrow of Jehovah on account of Israel's fall, and his long-suffering tenderness towards her. The first strophe (Hosea 2:2-7) is occupied chiefly with words of solemn condemnation.
I. THE DIVINE, REPROACH. Jehovah charges Israel with:
1. Spiritual adultery. (Hosea 2:2, Hosea 2:4, Hosea 2:5) He was himself the rightful Husband of the nation, but she had slighted and rejected his love. With infatuated determination she kept saying, "I will go after my lovers." There was the calf-worship; and the calves were simply idols (Hosea 13:2). There was the Baal-worship, with its shameful impurities. There was the infidelity which had shown itself in separation from the dynasty of David. These were spurious, carnal loves; and the people who cherished them were guilty of spiritual harlotry.
2. Ascribing her material prosperity to their idols. (Hosea 2:5) Jeroboam I. had done so: "Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up cut of the land of Egypt" (1 Kings 12:28). Jeroboam II. was still doing so; during these gala-days of his reign Israel trusted in her own might, and boasted of her military glory. The calf-worship meant virtually the deification of nature. The Baal-worship was the idolatry of mere power, apart altogether from righteousness. Among Hosea's fellow-countrymen, as by so many in our own days, the worship of the living God was neglected amidst the deification of the popular will, reverence for physical law, and the idolatry of worldly success. These were the powers—Israel judged in her blindness—that made her land prosperous.
3. The guilt of an outrage upon the Divine honor. (Verse 2) In degrading herself, Israel had foully dishonored her rightful Husband. For two centuries now her infidelity had been one long agony to Jehovah's heart. And how often, since the days of Hosea, has God been similarly grieved! He was so with Judah before her captivity (Jeremiah 3:8-11), and with the Jewish Church in the time of our Lord. Of how many Christian communities also has the Lord been constrained to say, "She is not my wife"—e.g; the Churches at Ephesus and Thyatira (Revelation 2:4, Revelation 2:20); the Church of the dark ages before the Reformation; every Church that remains in Erastian bondage; every one that is grossly impure in doctrine or communion.
II. THE DIVINE THREATENING. The word "lest" was fitted to remind Israel that, guilty and fallen though she was, it was still possible for her, by timely repentance, to avert the impending judgments. Should she, however, stop her ears to the Lord's reproaches:
1. He will take away her temporal prosperity. (Verse 3) At the time of her birth as a nation, Israel was in a low condition indeed. In Egypt she had to struggle for life, like a castaway child. The very continuance of her existence seemed a miracle (Ezekiel 16:3-6). But God now threatens to chastise her for her faithlessness by making her again a castaway. He will strip her of her material resources, bring to the ground her national pride, and cause her to become like a parched and desolate desert. The Almighty will touch with his finger her choicest possessions, and consign to destruction everything which has become tainted with the Baal-spirit.
2. He will involve in this distress the individual children of the nation. (Verse 4) The ten tribes had been unanimous in their apostasy. Each citizen had brought his own contribution to the universal guilt. There was meantime no godly remnant who could be thought of with comfort as still the Lord's people. So all must suffer in one common punishment. And what a dreadful doom to become "Lo-ruhamah"—to be shut out even from the very "mercy" of God!
III. THE DIVINE DISCIPLINE. The condemnation is not, after all, with a view to "a bill of divorcement;" rather it is the first step of a course of gracious discipline. The discipline consists of:
1. Restraining words. (Verse 2) Jehovah's heart is so full of relenting towards Ephraim that he summons individual citizens, who may have become themselves penitent, to reason with the nation at large about its sin. The children are to share in the mother's punishment; and it is right that they should expostulate with her regarding her manifold idolatry.
2. Restraining providences. (Verses 6, 7) God will effect a forcible separation between Israel and her idols. The seventy years' captivity of Judah would be as it were a "hedge" of "thorns." The perpetual exile of Ephraim would be a solid wall interposed between the northern tribes and their "Baalim." Such methods of restraint God had often employed heretofore. The Book of Judges tells us of no fewer than six thorn-fences which God planted in succession, to break off the seductive alliances formed from time to time with the idolatrous Canaanites. The long drought during Ahab's reign was a wail thrown up between him and his Baal-worship. But none of these obstructions had been permanently effectual. Only the Assyrian and Babylonish captivities were so. By their long exile the Jews were at length forever weaned from all gross idolatry. They could not forget that their false gods had given them no aid against the thundering advance of the Assyrian, or during the last agonies of Samaria and Jerusalem.
3. Restraining grace. (Verse 7) It is here predicted that the distresses of the protracted exile shall induce repentance, and awaken a longing desire to return to Jehovah. By the moral discipline of sorrow he will operate upon the hearts of his erring people, and sweetly draw them back to himself. As the "mighty famine" became the means of convincing the prodigal that he had wandered from his true well-being in leaving his father's house (Luke 15:14-19); so Israel, in her days of sad adversity, shall resolve to return to the home of her Divine Husband, to whom she has for so long been unfaithful. This glorious consummation is still future. We think of it as belonging to "the last things." But it shall most surely be accomplished. There will be a national conversion of the Jews to the Christian faith. Israel shall "go and return to her first Husband;" "for the Lord delighteth in her, and her land shall be married" (Isaiah 62:4).
1. The exceeding sinfulness of sin. It is whoredom and adultery. How it debases and brutifies man's noble nature! It also blinds the mind to the true source of blessing (verse 5). And what an agony it must be to the pure and loving heart of God!
2. The unprofitableness of a sinful life. Even from the sinner's point of view, such a life never pays. What expenditure of time and toil, of health and substance, a career of vice entails I How precarious, too, are all merely temporal blessings, and how utterly unsatisfying to those who choose them as their soul's portion!
3. The goodness of God in the restraints which he imposes upon the sinner. He has many "hedges" and "wails"—public opinion, conscience, temporal loss, personal sickness, family bereavement, etc. These become inestimable blessings to a man when they hinder him in a course of sin, and constrain him, not only to confess his folly (verse 7), but to turn from it to the Lord.—C.J.
Prosperity abased and blighted.
In this second strophe of the chapter Jehovah continues to expatiate upon Israel's ingratitude and infidelity, and warns her with solemn iteration of the punishment awaiting her. These verses speak of—
I. PROSPERITY PLENTIFULLY BESTOWED. (Hosea 2:8, Hosea 2:9) The time of Jeroboam II; to which this part of the prophecy refers, was to Israel one of unexampled national wealth. The kingdom seemed as rich and powerful at that period as it had been even in the days of Solomon. The ten northern cantons, we must remember, included the fairest and most fertile districts of Palestine. They possessed "the glory of Lebanon, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon," the fruitful meadows of Bashan, and the green pasture-lands of Gilead. So Ephraim was rich in "corn and wine and oil," in "wool and flax," in "silver and gold." But has not God bestowed vastly greater gifts upon our own country? The climate of our island is damp, and its soil only moderately fertile; yet how much wealth there is amongst us! God has exalted Great Britain to heaven. The English nation is colonizing the world. And for what purpose does the Lord confer temporal prosperity? It is with the same design for which he lends us spiritual blessings—that we may learn to know him, and love him, and serve him.
II. PROSPERITY SHAMEFULLY ABUSED. Israel's prosperity was only in material things. Although imposing, it was external and hollow. It was not the wealth of well-being; for:
1. The Giver was ignored. (Hosea 2:8) "She did not know," means that she was not willing to know. Her material prosperity begat pride, and pride engendered forgetfulness of God. But Israel was without excuse. For she had been taught by Moses (Deuteronomy 8:1-20). She had been warned by Elijah (1 Kings 17:1-24). Every page of her marvelous history spoke of the Divine bounty. The offering of the first-fruits—the three great Hebrew festivals—and especially the Feast of Pentecost, were all just so many solemn thanksgivings to Jehovah for the blessings of his providence. It was true that the men of Ephraim still formally observed these institutions, but the living spirit of them had ebbed away; God was no longer remembered as the Giver of all good. And are there not multitudes still, even in Christian lands, who make no grateful acknowledgment of the Divine mercies? They ascribe their successes entirely to their good luck; or, at best, to their skill, or enterprise, or industry (Habakkuk 1:16), without recognizing the smile of a benignant Providence upon their efforts.
2. The prosperity itself was deified. (Hosea 2:8, Hosea 2:12, Hosea 2:13) Ephraim prostituted it to the worship of the powers of physical nature. The people became "lotus-eaters;" they were enervated with sensuous pleasure. They regarded their harvests as the gifts of the Baalim—the "lovers' wages" which they received from their idols (Hosea 2:12). They employed their silver and gold in the manufacture of images of Baal and Ashtaroth (Hosea 2:8), as well as in the adornment of their persons for the celebration of the idolatrous festivals (Hosea 2:13). But are not similar evils rampant just now amongst ourselves? The air is still full of the spirit of Baalism—the deification of force, the worship of success. We meet with this spirit:
(1) In politics. "Witness the French saying: ' God is always on the side of the heavy battalions.' Witness Prince Bismarck's motto: 'Beati possidentes.' Witness the modern English phrase: ' British interests,' as used to express a rule of diplomacy which some regard as even more binding than the moral Law."
(2) In economics. There can be only one true system of political economy; but in times of trade-disputes the capitalist and the laborer often adhere to diverse systems. The strike and the lock-out are an appeal to physical force—a virtual offering of the prayer, "O Baal, hear us!"
(3) In philosophy. How many of our modern scientists deify nature under the name of" law"! They repudiate Providence, and recognize only force. They ignore the living God, and substitute in his room some blind impersonal power. They exalt proud reason to the place which should be occupied by a childlike faith. They ask us to accept a reading of the universe which leaves out the fact of sin, and the soul's hunger for immortality.
(4) In literature. How many of our great authors—poet historians, and even moralists—have dedicated their golden intellectual gifts to the service of materialism!
(5) In social life. The immense increase of wealth in our time tends to foster ostentatious and luxurious habits. What multitudes "bow the knee" to the Baal of commercial success! With many life consists not in being, but only in having. But" the word of the Lord by Hosea" reminds us that the love of the world is moral harlotry, and that deference to its spirit is Baalism.
III. PROSPERITY MISERABLY BLIGHTED. Israel shall suffer:
1. Deprivation. (Verse 9) She has refused to remember God, therefore he win compel her to think of him. He is the real Proprietor of the corn and wine, of the wool and flax. Israel was only his steward, and yet she has claimed these precious gifts as if they were altogether within her own power. So the Lord will suddenly withdraw them. He will send the foreign foe, or the simoom, or the locusts. He will blast the ears of corn when they are just ready for the sickle. He will destroy the vine-clusters in the very hour of the vintage. He will take away his material gifts from those who worship only a God of corn and wine, forgetting that the true God is "righteous," and "loveth righteousness." It is a simple matter for Divine Providence to pauperize the man who is making his own prosperity an idol. He may do it by means of business losses, or family bereavement, or personal affliction, or by giving power to the monitions of conscience.
2. Chastisement. God can and will "curse our blessings" (Malachi 2:2) if we persistently misuse them. So in store for poor Israel there shall be:
(1) Shame. (Verse 10) The Lord will dishonor her before her idols themselves by withdrawing his gifts, and exposing Israel's folly in placing her trust in material things.
(2) Mourning. (Verse 11) The people's sinfulness and their light-hearted mirth, which they had unnaturally wedded to each other, shall be divorced. What though Israel still professed to observe joyfully the Mosaic festivals? She could have no true gladness in Jehovah, so long as she refused to recognize his supremacy in providence. Her mirth was "the laughter of the fool," and God would turn it into mourning.
(3) Exile. (Verse 12) The vineyards and the fig orchards shall become "a forest" (Psalms 107:33, Psalms 107:34). The ravaging Assyrian shall come, like "the boar out of the wood," and root up the vine which was at first brought out of Egypt. Ephraim shall disappear forever from among the nations.
CONCLUSION. We should cherish gratitude to the Hebrew prophets for the great lesson which they constantly teach, viz; that national sin is certain, in the course of providence, to be followed by national calamity.
"In them is plainest taught and easiest learnt
What makes a nation happy, and keeps it so;
What ruins kingdoms, and lays cities flat."
A nation's strength does not consist in its wealth, nor in its armies, nor in its diplomacy. The true palladium of a commonwealth is its moral character. And the destiny of a people is determined by their willingness to lay to heart the lessons of national chastisement, and to use these as stepping-stones to a purer life.—C.J.
The word "therefore," with which this strophe opens, illustrates the blessed truth that God's thoughts are not our thoughts. The conclusion here is not what the premises would have led us to expect. This "therefore" is of Divine grace, not of hard cold intellect. Although Israel has foully dishonored her heavenly Husband, and must be severely chastised, he will not give her a" bill of divorcement" to put her away. Rather, her miseries shall attract his mercies. Jehovah's love uses even her shameful unfaithfulness as an argument for the bestowal of his own matchless grace. These verses describe the future restoration, both of the literal and the spiritual Israel; and they are also a parable illustrative of God's thoughts and ways towards every returning prodigal.
I. THE METHODS OF ISRAEL'S RESTORATION. (Hosea 2:14) We need not stay to speak of its Author, even although the first "I" (Hosea 2:14) is emphatic. Only Jehovah himself has heart and power equal to this task. Only he who makes the summer of the year can produce that spiritual summer which is here described with such tender pathos. His methods are twofold.
1. The outward discipline of the wilderness. After Israel shall have endured the punishments denounced upon her, her national life is to begin anew. The generation that had come out of Egypt with Moses had needed the protracted discipline of the Arabian desert before God could "give them their vineyards;" and so would it be again. The nation must be taken apart, and be for a time alone with Croci. Similarly, the Lord removes the individual soul whom he designs to bless, into the wilderness of temporal loss, or sickness, or sorrow. When the aged Christian reviews his spiritual experience, he generally finds that the most marked spots in it have been connected with his times of sorrow.
2. The inward realization of the constancy and tenderness of the Divine love. The discipline must be spiritual also. Outward providences alone will not restore Israel. Neither will the truth of God presented only to her mind. In the wilderness the Divine Spirit must "speak to her heart." His purpose in carrying the nation into exile is that he may "allure" her, i.e. decoy her with tender words, persuade her by the persistent manifestation of his love. He will stoop to court her. He will outbid the Baals. His inextinguishable love will woo and win her soul. So, oftentimes, God "speaks to the heart" of the prodigal when he sits by the swine-troughs, in the time of the mighty famine. He "speaks to his heart," to soften it, comfort it, cleanse it, claim it, fill it. He has his ways of holy enticement for "alluring" sinners to receive and return his love.
II. THE BLESSED RESULTS OF THE RESTORATION. (Hosea 2:15-20) These are described with exquisite beauty. The Divine promise is that in "the wilderness" Israel's national life shall begin afresh. God's nuptial covenant with her shall be renewed. She shall be enfeoffed again in the land of Canaan, the possession of which she had forfeited. The Lord "will give her her vineyards from thence." And the results shall be glorious.
1. Fresh hope. (Hosea 2:15) The valley of Achor (i.e. trouble) was the door by which Israel had at first entered into possession of the highlands of Palestine. It had been the scene of a dreadful tragedy (Joshua 7:1-26): the defeat before Ai, and Achan's sacrilege, conviction, and doom. But so soon as Israel purged herself of "the accursed thing," the valley of Achor had become to her "a door of hope." Now, however, she must again pass through a still more doleful Achor. The destruction of Samaria and the desolation of Jerusalem would mark a defeat greatly more disastrous than the repulse at Ai. But through "the valley of trouble" she shall come again to peace and rest. Does not the expression before us furnish a valuable watchword for the Christian? It reminds him that he must pass through "the great tribulation" (Revelation 7:1-2) before he can reach the heavenly Canaan. Every ungodly lust is an Achan in the camp of the soul, which must be convicted and stoned and burned.
2. Youthful joy. (Hosea 2:15) Israel, n hen restored to the Divine favor, shall recover the sprightliness and joy of youth. "Site shall sing there, as in the days of her youth;" and in those days she could indeed sing. Is not the song of Moses a masterpiece both of poetry and praise? In conception it is sublime. In execution it must have been thrilling. That old Red Sea ads is the first song of redemption. But, in the days of her restoration, Israel shall resume it, and with a fuller appreciation of its meaning. For the song of salvation which returning penitents now sing is "the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb" (Revelation 15:3).
3. Renewed conjugal love. (Hosea 2:16, Hosea 2:17) In the rapture of her recovered love, Israel shall call Jehovah "Ishi"—"my Husband." She shall no longer use the name "Baali." In itself, of course, "Baal" is a good enough word. In Hebrew it is a common noun, meaning "master," "possessor," "owner;" and it had been used as a designation of Jehovah. But, alas! the word had at length been prostituted to base purposes, and defiled by wicked associations. Its purity was now hopelessly gone. So, in the good time coming, it shall be used no more. God will not be called Baal, lest the word should tempt Israel to think of her old idols.
4. Paradisiacal peace. (Hosea 2:18) The picture here suggests a return to the garden of Eden. The forces of nature, once so hostile (Hosea 2:9, Hosea 2:12), shall be brought into harmony with Israel. Wars shall cease forever. The face of the world shall be changed. How different this picture from the state of matters that is still thought necessary in order to the preservation of the peace of Europe! The favorite maxim just now is that the best security for peace is to be well prepared for war. The Baal-spirit professes to see the basis of peace in our arsenals and ironclads; but Jehovah's plan is to "break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth."
5. An everlasting marriage union. (Hosea 2:19, Hosea 2:20) The Lord will forget all Israel's past infidelity, and treat her again as if she were innocent and pure. He will espouse her, as if she were a chaste virgin, to himself. He will bestow upon her, as bridal gifts, every Divine and spiritual blessing—"righteousness," "judgment," "loving-kindness," "mercies, faithfulness." And the new marriage-covenant shall be "for eternity" (Hosea 2:19). The former one, alas! had been sadly broken; but the renewal of the conjugal relationship shall be enduring as Jehovah's invincible, unchangeable love.
CONCLUSION. How important for the sinner to "know and believe the love that God hath to him"! The eternal love of God is a fact. Every pure human attachment is but a rill from the infinite fountain of the Divine tenderness. Love, no less than holiness and justice, lies at the root of the Divine wrath against sin. Jehovah our God is "a jealous God;" but he would not trouble himself to cherish holy jealousy about the affections of our poor hearts, if he did not love us with an ardent and a quenchless love. Oh for grace to love him in return as we ought!—C.J.
Hosea 2:21, Hosea 2:22
The golden chain of causation.
This promise is a parable in miniature, and has been much admired for its poetic beauty. It completes the prophetic picture of Israel's restoration in the Messianic era. Doubtless, also, it refers in its fullness of meaning, not merely to Israel after the flesh, but to the entire Christian Church during the time of the latter-day glory.
I. JEHOVAH IS THE FIRST CAUSE OF ALL THINGS. "I will hear, saith the Lord." According to Scripture, from its opening utterance (Genesis 1:1) onwards, the all-pervading power of God is the mainspring of the universe, and his all-controlling superintendence is its balance-wheel. Jehovah is the First Cause:
1. In the world of nature. He gives "the corn, and the wine, and the oil" (Psalms 104:13-15). The order of the year is in his hand. No sunbeam glances, no raindrop falls, but at his bidding. Therefore he says with emphasis and iteration, "I wilt hear, I will hear the heavens." From this we should learn the sacredness of nature. The heavens are holy: they are "the work of God's fingers." The sea is holy he" hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand." The flowers are holy: each of them "shows some touch of his unrivalled pencil."
2. In the world of grace. Jehovah is the ultimate Author of all spiritual blessing. He gives the "corn" of Bible truth, and the "wine" of gospel joy, and the "oil" of spiritual influence. When the foundation-stone of a place of worship is laid, sometimes corn and wine and oil are sprinkled upon it—a beautiful expression of the great truth, that "except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." It is Jehovah alone who has "built up mercy forever," and who sustains the fabric of redemption. The Lord, in the Trinity of his sacred Persons, is the First Cause of our salvation (Titus 3:4-6).
II. ATTACHED TO HIS THRONE HANGS A CHAIN OF SECOND CAUSES. These are represented here by the "heavens," and the "earth," and the "corn and wine and oil," and by "Jezreel." The second causes have a real efficiency of their own: we live under "the reign of law." Yet they are at most only second causes—instrumentalities controlled by the will of the First Cause. There can be no such reign of taw as makes Jehovah a subject or an alien in his own world. Law reigns, but God governs. He was, before any second causes began to operate. He used none when he created the universe, when he originated life upon the earth, when he instituted the laws of matter and of mind. And, when be pleases, be may still work without them, both in nature and grace. Usually, however, God does not dispense with second causes. In his ordinary providence everything requires everything.
All are needed by each one;
Nothing is fair or good alone."
Second causes combine:
1. In the world of nature. Indeed, there is scarcely any physical effect which we can ascribe to the operation of any one natural force alone. When God wills that it should rain, or that we should have sunshine, he wills that all the physical causes which produce these effects respectively should come into operation. And, moreover, there are many other powers engaged in the management of the world besides what we call physical laws. There are, e.g; the power of animal instinct; the power of human thought and sentiment; the power of love and sympathy; the power of conscience; the power of free-will. There is the power of master-minds, wielded sometimes by direct communications, and oftener by subtle influence. Some men are "world-controllers," and leave their impress upon millions.
2. In the world of grace. In this region we call the subordinate causes "means of grace." Of these, some are inward, such as faith and repentance. Some are outward—the Word, the sacraments, and prayer. Among the means of grace, we must also reckon those influences in providence which operate in the formation of a godly character—education, early training, parental example, youthful companionships, disappointments, and afflictions. And these various kinds of means act in combination. They are a "sacred chain that binds the earth to heaven above." "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). "All things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28).
III. PRAYER LINKS ITSELF ON TO THE ENTIRE CHAIN OF CAUSATION. It is represented here as the last link of the chain; and it is in the hands of Jezreel. But who is "Jezreel"? She is "the seed of God," whom he has "sown unto himself in the earth" (Hosea 2:23); i.e. the spiritual Israel, the Christian Church in the latter days. Just as the valley of Esdraelon, in this beautiful parable, is conceived of as praying to "the corn, and the wine, and the oil," so the supplications of God's chosen seed have their place among the second causes of things. Believing prayer is, of course, addressed directly only to Jehovah, the First Cause. According to the teaching of Scripture and the testimony of experience, it is the condition which God himself has attached to the enjoyment of his mercies, and especially of all spiritual blessings (Ezekiel 36:37; Matthew 7:7, Matthew 7:8).
"For so the whole round world is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God."
But true prayer takes hold also of the second causes, "They shall hear Jezreel." It does so:
1. In the world of nature. How does man pray to "the corn, and the wine, and the oil'? He does so by tilling the ground, sowing the seed, planting the vines, and tending the olives. He uses the fixed laws of nature—directing their action so as to make them subservient to his will. The pious farmer's motto is, "Ors et labors." And so with all other pursuits of men. If I pray rightly that I may prosper in some plan or enterprise, I use also the other practical means of attention, arrangement, and diligence, else the larger number o! second causes will make for the failure of my prayer. There must be a settled harmony between my plans of working and the petitions which I offer.
2. In the world of grace. Here prayer is not merely one of the means of grace, co-ordinate with the others; it is an indispensable condition to the successful use of any other. Prayer is not an intermediate link in the chain. It is at the one end; the throne and will of Jehovah being at the other end. But, while it is necessary that we pray for spiritual blessings, we must at the same time see that all the other second causes combine harmoniously with our petitions, e.g. our salvation is of grace alone, and vet the moral influences which go to shape character operate all the same. The revelation of Jesus Christ has not repealed the ethical precepts of the Book of Proverbs. Paul wrote his Epistle to the Galatians to teach that sinners are saved and that saints are sanctified by grace alone; and yet in that same Epistle he solemnly insists that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7). Prayer is one second cause; but there is a whole chain of them to which it must join itself. It is not enough to pray for one's own growth in grace, or for the conversion of one's children, or to observe family worship; we must take care that the other influences at our command shall harmonize with our petitions, and conspire to obtain the answer which we plead for.
IV. UNIVERSAL PRAYERFULNESS ON THE PART OF MAN SHALL BRING WITH IT THE RESTORATION OF NATURE. This text asserts the deep sympathy of nature with the cause of righteousness. We know that as soon as Adam in Paradise renounced his allegiance to God, the earth renounced its allegiance to him (Genesis 3:17, Genesis 3:18). But, on the other hand, so soon as Jehovah shall be at peace with Israel, and the people of the world shall have become "the seed of God" in the day of the Redeemer's power, all things shall become theirs, and Paradise shall be restored (Psalms 67:5-7). Already, it is true, man possesses a wide sovereignty in the kingdom of nature. As holy George Herbert says, in his poem on 'Man'—a poem which is Miltonic in the majesty of its conceptions—
"For us the winds do blow;
The earth doth rest, heaven move, and fountains flow.
Nothing we see, but means our good,
As our delight, or as our treasure:
The whole is either our cupboard of food,
Or cabinet of pleasure.
"More servants wait on man
Than he'll take notice of …
O mighty love! Man is one world, and hath
Another to attend him."
But, in the golden age that is coming, man's sovereignty over nature shall be complete; and nature's sympathy with man shall be perfect (Isaiah 11:6-9).
1. Recognize our absolute dependence upon God, the great First Cause.
2. Earnestly seek his presence and aid, both in the discharge of daily duty and for the furtherance of our spiritual life.
3. Accompany our prayers with assiduous practical effort.
4. Rejoice in the hope of the ultimate restitution of all things.—C.J.
(See homily above, on the curse reversed, Hosea 1:10, Hosea 1:11, and Hosea 2:1)—C.J.
HOMILIES BY A. ROWLAND
Hosea 2:14, Hosea 2:15
The message from home.
There will be but little difficulty in the exposition of this passage if we remember that two distinct figures are blended by the prophet. On the one hand he recalls the early history of Israel. He remembers their degradation in Egypt, and traces the moral effects upon them of the wilderness-life which transformed a horde of slaves into a nation; binding each man to his fellow, and all to God. To the prophet, as a moral teacher, the wilderness appears the place for the cure of idolatry, for the reception of the Law, for the appointment of Divine worship, and for the gathering of national and moral strength. Glancing from the wilderness across the Jordan, he sees, next, the disaster at Ai which ensued on sin, and notes the way in which, in the valley of Achor, the iniquity was purged, so that the people were ready for new victories and the possession of the land of promise. After recalling these incidents, Hoses says to the Israel of his own day, "These experiences shall be repeated in all their essential features. You shall be taken from the Egypt of idolatry, you shall be led into the wilderness of exile, you shall pass through the valley of trouble, and there, your sin being discovered and removed, you shall go on to a nobler future and have the fulfillment of the promises." But with this figure is blended another, which pervades the first three chapters, in which Israel is represented as a disloyal wife, whose husband loves her still, and seeks by the gentlest means to draw her again to himself. God's condescension and wisdom are shown in these attempts to set forth Divine responsibilities and privileges by analogies drawn from human relationships. The human is sanctified, and the Divine is made natural by such a method. Here God is represented as the Husband of the Church, bearing with her waywardness and sin, taking upon himself her sorrows and cares, purging her from all evil, that at last she may appear radiant in the sheen of her white robes, and crowned with light in his presence. (Text)
I. CONSIDER THE ENTICEMENT OF SIN LEADING TO ESTRANGEMENT which is set before us in the earlier part of this chapter. The ideal condition of Israel, and therefore of every soul, is that of one betrothed to the Lord, yearning for his society, mourning his absence, cheered by his smile, and waiting for the marriage. Nothing satisfies the soul but God. In the imperfection of our friends, in the mistakes we make about each other, in the spurning of our love, in the loss of dear ones by removal or death, we are disquieted by the ordinance of God, so that, like Augustine, we may say, "Cor nostrum inquietum est, donec in te requiescat." As Israel said, "I will go after my lovers," so one says, "I will go after pleasure;" and another, "I will go after wealth," as if the highest good could be found there. And this sin is aggravated, because (as Hosea 2:8 implies) all that is used or enjoyed in this vain pursuit is given to us by the Cod we forget; as the prodigal wasted in the far country what his father had given to him. In order to bring us to thought and penitence, wandering from God is made difficult to us, and often the words have been fulfilled, "I will hedge up thy way with thorns." He thwarts our plans and disappoints our hopes. The idolized friend proves false, the adored child is torn from our embrace, the hoarded wealth is swept away. The fruit has its bitter kernel, and the rose its thorn. Nor is it only in what is outward that we recognize a hedge planted by God to turn us back from evil. When one is about to sin, he is checked by the thought of dishonor to his father's name, or by the reproaches of conscience, or by the memories of old teaching, or by the tears of a mother. He can say, as Augustine did in the review of his sinful life, "I escaped not thy scourges, for what mortal can? For thou wert even with me mercifully rigorous, and besprinkling with most bitter alloy all my unlawful pleasures, that I might seek pleasures without alloy. But where to find such I could not discover save in thee, O Lord, who teachest by sorrow, and woundest us to heal, and killest us lest we die from thee."
II. LISTEN TO THE VOICE OF LOVE CALLING TO THE WILDERNESS. "Therefore I will allure her." It is the last inference we should expect. Sin and forgetfulness are not inducements to mercy. If trouble is the obvious result of extreme wickedness which is still unreported, the father would say of the child, the husband of the wife, "It is right she should suffer, and till she returns she cannot expect blessing from me." So long as lawful authority is set at defiance, human law knows no mercy. God does not deal with us, however, as we deal with others. He did not cast Israel off at once, nor did he summon her to his feet by the thunders of Sinai or the terrors of hell, but says, "I will allure her;" speaking gently as Christ did by his Word and life, so that the sin-stained felt that, though no other mercy could be had, it might be found at the feet of the Friend of sinners. "I will draw her into the wilderness," the place of silence and of solitude. The Divine voice is seldom heard amidst a multitude. God severs the individual from his fellows when he would give him a message far himself or for others. He spoke to Jacob, not in the family, but in the desert, where only the quiet stars wore watching; to Moses, not in the crowded camp, but high above it, on Sinai; to Samuel, not amid the worshippers, but in the silent chamber where the child slept alone; to Elijah, not in the tumult of Carmel's victory, but in the silence of the cave at Horeb. So Israel had been taught, not in Egypt, but in the wilderness; and thus, said the prophet, it shall be again, and there "I wilt speak comfortably unto her"—literally, "I will speak upon her heart"—that henceforth my Law and my love may be graven on it. Such has been the experience of the Christian. Convinced of sin, the world seemed dreary as a desert to him, till hope was infused into his heart that pardon and reconciliation were not far from him. Believing that God was near, he lifted up his trembling heart in prayer, and in Christ, the crucified and risen Savior, he saw God reconciled to him; and the glimpse of his infinite beauty, of his unspeakable love, won his heart forever. Then the very place of grief became the place where the fruits of joy were growing, and in the wilderness of repentance the promise was fulfilled, "I will give thee vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope."
III. LOOK FOR THE DOOR OF HOPE IN THE VALLEY OF TROUBLE. "The valley of Achor," or of troubling, on the north of Gilgal and Jericho, was the place in which Israel was gathered after the repulse at Ai; when the sin of Achan was discovered with such terrible exactitude, and removed by dreadful expiation (see Joshua 6:1-27). But, though it seemed a valley of despair, it was really a place of hope, because the camp was purged from the curse and. the people made ready for Canaan. So, in the coming exile of which Hosea spoke, some even in Israel would cast off their sin and turn to the Lord, and that valley of Achor would be a door of hope. The principle of using the most unlikely means for deliverance and blessing has often been exemplified, by him who brought water out of the rock, and made the cross the means of the world's salvation, and death the entrance to heaven. Most conspicuously is it seen in our redemption.
1. The door of hope was opened for the world in the valley of trouble, through which Christ walked on our behalf. We are raised to heaven because he came down to earth; we have the life eternal because he submitted to death. But for his obedience in humiliation, God's Law would not have been vindicated in its righteousness and beauty; but for his sorrows, we should have had no almighty Intercessor whose sympathy is perfect; but for his crucifixion, the handwriting against us would never have been nailed to the cross; and but for his death, and burial, and resurrection, and ascension, we should not have seen the kingdom of heaven opened to all believers.
2. The door of hope was opened for the Jews, as a nation, in the valley of trouble. Egyptian bondage prepared for liberty, wilderness wandering was the means of moral culture, defeat led to the putting away of sin, the captivity in Babylon tore up idolatry by its roots. After the coming of Christ, the destruction of Jerusalem amidst tears and blood was the opening of a new door of hope, for by it the noblest of the race began to look for the heavenly Jerusalem, to understand the spirituality of worship, and to find in Christ the one Center round which the true Israel would gather. Thus every nation may look for a door of hope in its valley of trouble? When called to pass through commercial depression, military disasters, diplomatic defeats, there is hope of finding purification from immorality, extravagance, and self-indulgence, and a new and loftier sense of responsibility to others and to God.
3. The door of hope is opened for sinners in the valley of trouble. Trouble is not itself and of necessity a good. The wind, which wafts one vessel to the haven, may drive another on the rocks. The fiver, which today gives fertility to the fields, may to-morrow bring desolation to the works and to the homes of men. Trouble may injure us, yet it is meant to bless us; and this is specially true of the inward sorrow represented here. If one is convinced of sin, so that the old enjoyment of pleasures is gone, and paradise becomes a wilderness, his penitential grief is the true beginning of the joy the publican had, who went down to his house justified because he cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner." If we are in the sadder condition of one who has, like Israel, forsaken her first love, and are compelled to say, "Then was it better with me than now," our hope is found in going out, like Peter, weeping bitterly. And in the valley of the shadow of death, which seems to mortal eyes so dark and strange, so sad and fearsome, that it may well be called the valley of Achor, we shall find in it the door of hope—ay, the door of heaven—and, like others, we shall sing in it as in the days of our youth, "Thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory."—A.R.
Hosea 2:21, Hosea 2:22
God's rule in nature and in grace.
Hosea was projecting himself into the future. He felt as if standing already amid the desolation threatened against Israel. He saw around him a laud barren through drought. Its inhabitants, dying of starvation, were craving the wonted produce of vineyards and corn-fields, but looked in vain for a sign of coming blessing. Under the name "Jezreel" they are represented as crying to the" corn" and wine to satisfy them; but these are in bondage to the earth, and appeal to it for vitalizing power. Then earth takes up the wail; every fissure in it becomes a mouth calling to the heavens for rain. Last in the series, the heavens, not able to send rain except by Divine ordinance, appeal to him who is over them all. (Quote text) Context shows that spiritual as well as natural blessings are portrayed. Prophets saw the analogies of nature, the unity of the whole Divine economy, and devoutly believed that in the realms of nature and of grace the same God reigned. Draw out the analogy between the spring-time promised here, and the new creation in the soul of man. The text reminds us of—
I. THE PERSONALITY OF GOD'S RULE. "I will hear," etc.
1. All things ultimately dependent on him. This denied by many in Hosea's days and in ours. "Nature," with inanimate forces and partially investigated laws, so exalted that a personal God is declared to be needless. Hosea believed that the products of nature expressed God's thoughts and fulfilled his purpose, and that the cry of his people reached him and moved him through the series of forces represented by corn, earth, and heavens. Surrounding nations held that one god gave corn, another wine, etc. (illustrate from mythology); but Hosea ascribed all to one God, in whom all power centered, to whom all cries ultimately came. (Illustrate this re-echoed cry by the fires on the beacon hills telling from town to town that the Armada was in sight; or by the system of signaling in our army and navy, which makes known peril and want to him who commands in chief)
2. All things mutually dependent on each other. Rain necessary to the earth, earth to seed, seed to bread, bread to man; so the withholding of rain, as in Elijah's time, brought home the sense of guilt to the sinful. Show intimacy of relation between man and earth, between moral and material prosperity, from history. Paul's "whole creation groaneth," etc. Complete reconciliation between man and man, between man and God, will bring about new heavens and new earth, in which righteousness will dwell. Still true "the eyes of all wait upon thee, and thou givest," etc.; "Thou openest thy hand, and satisfiest," etc.
II. THE MEDIATENESS OF GOD'S METHOD. Text reminds that all through the universe one force acts on another to effect the desired result, yet God is not the less working because his hand is unseen. As we do not pay the tool, but the workman whose skilful hand uses it, so we pay homage, not to" force" or to "law," but to God. The age wants what the prophets had—spiritual discernment. Ezekiel saw the "wheels," but also "the living one" within them. He noticed the "hand of the man," but above it "the wing of the cherubim." If possible to him, more so to disciples of Christ, who taught so distinctly the care of God even over birds and flowers. The Holy Spirit, moreover, was promised to bring all such truths to our remembrance. Show how God works through secondary menus.
1. Of our physical constitution this is true.
(1) The individual man is not created afresh from the dust. He has intimate relations with predecessors, is affected by their strength, weakness, prejudices, habits, etc. He is the result of complicated agencies working for centuries, yet it is "God that hath made us, not we ourselves."
(2) Man's support comes not directly from God (as in the manna, or Christ's feeding the multitude), but by process described in text, yet he gives us each day our dally bread.
(3) Man's life on earth is terminated, not by angel's touch, but by some chill, or infection, or developed germ of disease, which brings weakness, then death.
2. Of our spiritual life this is true.
(1) Pardon came through our hearing the truth, which by the power of the Spirit brought us to penitence and prayer.
(2) Reconciliation is possible to the world through the mediation of Christ.
(3) Others will be brought to God, not by the voice that spoke to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, and to Samuel in the tabernacle, but by pleading of parents, influence of teachers, etc. "He that rejecteth you rejecteth me;" "Ambassadors for Christ," etc.
1. How great the privilege of God's people! They shall hear Jezreel." Earth and heaven are to supply our wants. "Meek shall inherit the earth;" "All things are yours."
2. How splendid the destiny of God's people! "I will sow her unto me;" "A handful of corn in the earth … the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon." God's Church the germ of God's harvest. Perhaps like seed God's people must be scattered, sown, buried, forgotten; but the harvest is sure, and in it God will find his glory. Application: By his mercies God has said to you, "Thou art my people;" have you answered with loyal heart, "Thou art my God"?—A.R.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
The delusions of the ungodly.
Israel sinned, not only by forsaking God and by worshipping the idols of the heathen, but by defending this conduct—by justifying her apostasy, and attributing to the supposed deities her mercies and enjoyments. This is a common case with sinners; who first do wickedly in departing from God, and then give God's honor to another, praising those whom they have substituted for the great Giver for what they owe to him alone.
I. THE UNGODLY ATTRIBUTE THEIR ADVANTAGES AND ENJOYMENTS TO OTHERS THAN TO GOD. It is not only professed idolaters who act thus. Whoever they may be who turn aside from the Lord, they are one in this—they all assign to inferior beings or principles the credit and honor which are properly due to God alone. For example, men deify their own created and limited powers of body and of mind. "They give me my bread and my water," etc. Or they attribute all prosperity and happiness to society, to the political authority under which they live, to human kindred or patrons. God is not in all their thoughts. The agents they see, but him who is above all they see not and will not see.
II. THE UNGODLY CONSEQUENTLY ENCOURAGE THEMSELVES IN DEVOTION TO OTHERS THAN GOD. The unfaithful wife perseveres in the adulterous connections she has formed, because she persuades herself that her happiness and welfare are dependent upon others than her lawful spouse. "I will go after my lovers," etc. Thus men first forget God, and give themselves to the pleasures and the service of sin, and then, fancying themselves to be under obligation to the gods they have made, they addict themselves the more zealously to the debasing worship in which they have engaged.
III. THE UNGODLY MUST BE CONFRONTED WITH THE SHAMEFULNESS AND VILENESS OF THEIR COURSES. The language of the prophet is frank and unsparing; had it been otherwise it would have been unfaithful. The case is one that does not admit of nice language, or of gentle tones and bated breath. The spiritual harlotry of ungodliness must be exposed and rebuked; otherwise there is no prospect of repentance and of reformation.—T.
The way hedged up.
A way may be hedged or walled up on either side for security and protection. But when the hedge is planted, or the wall built right across the path, such a barrier is of course intended to impede progress, and to render proceeding in that direction impossible.
I. DIVINE PROVIDENCE SOMETIMES HEDGES UP THE SINNER'S PATH. It does sometimes seem as if the ungodly were left to go their way unchecked; as if there were nothing to restrain their headlong race upon the downward path; as if sentence against an evil work were not executed speedily. But how often is it observed that Providence does interpose to restrain the mad career of iniquity and folly! To change the figure, it is as though the voice addressed the aging sea, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed."
II. VERY VARIOUS ARE THE HEDGES AND WALLS ENCOUNTERED IN THE WAY OF SIN. Sometimes sickness and infirmity render the sinner incapable of pursuing his evil ways; sometimes temptation is signally removed from his path; sometimes disappointment and sorrow produce revulsion and even disgust; sometimes conscience is awakened, and sternly forbids indulgence in the pleasures of sin.
III. SUCH HEDGES AND WALLS AROUSE A HASTY AND VEHEMENT RESENTMENT. The bird strikes her wings against the iron bars of the cage in which she is confined; the ox kicks against the goad by which the driver urges him. And the first impulse of the sinner who encounters a hedge upon his sinful path, is to resent, to resist, to displace it. This is human nature; and only calm reflection and Divine grace can effect that it shall be otherwise.
IV. NEVERTHELESS, THE INTENTIONS OF DIVINE MERCY MAY IN TIME BE RECOGNIZED. The disappointed adulteress, finding that her unlawful lovers are indifferent to her, and have forsaken her, comes to a better mind, and compares with their treatment of her the conduct of her just and rightful spouse. The sinner, learning by bitter experience that the way of transgressors is hard, comes to see that this is a provision of heavenly tore and pity; acknowledges that it was not intended that the pursuits of worldliness and selfishness should satisfy man's immortal soul; and thus is led to seek forgiveness and reconciliation from a justly offended God.
V. THE HEDGING UP OF THE WAY THUS APPEARS TO THE PENITENT SINNER S BLESSING 1N DISGUISE. He says within himself, "Had the road been open, and my course unimpeded, perhaps I should never have paused until I had rushed into ruin and destruction. How does it become me to adore and to bless the very mercy which I hated and despised, to which I owe it that my mad career was checked, and that my wandering feet have at last been led into the way of peace!"—T.
Ingratitude and insensibility are odious vices; when displayed by God's intelligent creatures towards their Maker, they are hateful sins. The case is still worse when, as with Israel, the bestowments of a beneficent Deity are employed in the service of a rival and a foe. Jehovah gave to the people silver and gold; the people made of the precious metals shrines to Baal. Yet this is a just picture of the conduct of those who receive gifts from Heaven and use them in the service of sin.
I. GIFTS MAY BE RECEIVED AND THE GIVER UNRECOGNIZED. The produce of the soil—corn, wine, and oil; the mineral wealth of earth—silver and gold,—are all the provision of Divine bounty. But, whilst God opens his hands, multitudes, like Israel, take the gifts but give no thought to the Divine Benefactor. The powers of body and of mind which we possess are provided by Divine wisdom and goodness. Yet how often men use them as if they were absolutely their own, and involved no responsibility!
II. THE GIFTS OF GOD ARE SOMETIMES TRACED, NOT TO GOD, BUT TO HIS FOES. To take from Jehovah, and then to offer thanks and praise to Baal—such was the base and brutish proceeding of Israel. And now men praise themselves, or they praise fortune, or they praise the sinful arrangements of society, for the gifts they owe to Heaven. They "do not know," even as Israel "did not know." It is blamable, inexcusable ignorance, and only Divine forbearance could endure it.
III. THE GIFTS OF GOD MAY EVEN BE TURNED AGAINST HIM AS WEAPONS OF REBELLION. Israel took Jehovah's gold and made of it images of Baal. How often do men employ the wealth which God has enabled them to get, against the Giver, and in the promotion of the cause of error and of vice! How often do they prostitute the faculties and influence which they owe to God, to the service of Satan! The state, the Church, are from God; yet both have too often been made instruments of evil. Only infinite long-suffering could permit such an abuse of what was provided and intended for man's highest good.
APPLICATION. Ingratitude should be succeeded by repentance; and the abuse of God's sifts should be laid aside, and followed by lowly consecration.—T.
It was part of the office of the prophet to exhibit the righteousness of the Most High. Justice and mercy, the attributes which appear so harmonious in the gospel, are equally apparent in the writings of the inspired seers of the old covenant.
I. THE SIGNS OF APOSTASY AND INFIDELITY. These are again set forth under the similitude of a loved and well cared for, yet unfaithful and adulterous wife.
1. Forgetfulness of the Lord, the Husband. if he had been remembered, honored, and loved, others would not have been permitted to be his rivals and successors. To forget God is to fling one's self in the way of temptation.
2. The quest of other objects of affection and intimacy. When faithless Israel went after strange gods, "lovers," or paramours, she furnished an example of human infidelity to God. Men, forgetting God, worship the works of their hands, make idols of their talents, their wealth, their influence, their position in life, etc.
3. Devotion to the service of God's rivals. As the abandoned woman adorns herself, and sets forth her charms in order to attract the attention and admiration of men, so idolaters consume their substance and waste their energies in superstitious observances; and so all who forsake God encompass the vain objects of their devotion and affection with much lavish display of zeal
II. THE AVENGING OF APOSTASY AND INFIDELITY. The language of Jehovah is simple, but vigorous: "I will visit upon her the days of Baalim."
1. God observes with indignation the unfaithfulness of those whom he created for his glory. He will not give his honor to another. He is not indifferent or unconcerned when his own depart from him.
2. God makes use of punitive means to assert his authority, and to arrest the downward progress of those who are unfaithful to him. In the previous verses are recounted the several "judgments" which the righteous Governor inflicts upon the disobedient. All affliction is designed to lead our thoughts to him who is the great Chastener.
3. Retribution is with a view to the repentance and reformation of the offender. The Lord does not cast off his people; he does not afflict them willingly; in the midst of wrath he remembers mercy.—T.
In the later periods of Jewish history, references were frequently made to the early experiences by which Israel had been, in the providence of God, made a nation. In this verse the prophet, in assuring the people that the time of Divine reconciliation and favor was approaching, sets forth this prospect in language borrowed from the days of the Exodus. Then Jehovah had delivered his people from the bondage of Egypt, had led them into the wilderness, and there had entered into a covenant of espousals with the nation, and had spoken to them words of comfort and of encouragement. Hosea foretells that a similar experience is in reserve for the smitten but penitent and returning children of the covenant.
I. MAN'S NEED OF COMFORTABLE WORDS. This may be said to arise from the fact that severe words had been uttered to the people's sorrow. God is faithful, and he never flatters, and never withholds the correction which is deserved and required. When the voice of God has threatened, and the voice of conscience has condemned, welcome are words of consolation expressive of Divine interest and favor.
II. THE IMPORT OF COMFORTABLE WORDS DIVINE.
1. They are words of forgiveness.
2. They are words expressive of favor.
3. They are words assuring of gracious help.
4. They are words faithful and certain to be exactly and entirely made good.
Unlike the well-meant comfortable words spoken by human lips, which often are nothing but words and are altogether vain, the gracious language of the Divine Deliverer is powerful to effect the purposes of the utterer, and to heal the sorrows and relieve the anxieties of those addressed.
III. THE EFFECT OF COMFORTABLE WORDS.
1. They reassure the timid and trembling.
2. They bring peace to the conscience-stricken and alarmed.
3. They soothe the anxious and distressed.
4. They banish the fears of the foreboding, and inspire with hope.
APPLICATION. The preachers of the gospel are commissioned to "speak comfortably to Jerusalem," to bind up the broken-hearted, to pour the balm of consolation into the spirit of the lowly and the contrite.—T.
A door of hope.
Still continuing his reference to the early history of the chosen people, Hosea assures to the penitent and contrite the blessings of Divine favor, promising to returning Israel" the valley of Achor for a door of hope." As Achor was near Jericho—upon the threshold of the land of promise—the possession of this fertile valley was the earnest of the full and hoped-for inheritance. Entrance upon this was, as it were, passing through the door into the land flowing with milk and honey.
I. MERCIES FOR THE PRESENT.
1. The vineyards represent the possessions end privileges of God's people. They contrast with the dry and thirsty wilderness. They abound with proofs of God's care, with provision for man's wants. God gives his beloved all things richly to enjoy.
2. The songs are songs of deliverance, such as Israel sang upon the Red Sea shore; they are songs of rejoicing over enemies vanquished, safety experienced, fellowship in Divine favor.
II. PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE. It is well to enter at the open door; but the open door admits to the apartments of the house or palace. A guest does not enter by the door in order to remain standing in the hall; he is welcomed to the family hearth, and the society and enjoyments of the abode of his host. Thus, when God opens to his people a door, it, is a door of hope. What they are is a promise of what they shall be, and what they have is an earnest of what is provided for them in the future. Through the vale of Achor they enter into the land of promise; and its abundance is to them the assurance of an unfailing and perennial bounty. Hope extends to every stage of the earthly pilgrimage and warfare; there is progress and victory before the Lord's people. And hope stretches away to the infinite hereafter, which affords for its anticipations a boundless and immortal scope.
APPLICATION. The door of hope is by the gospel set open before every hearer of the gospel. What encouragement we have to enter in and to possess the land!—T.
Hosea 2:19, Hosea 2:20
The unfaithfulness of the past is forgotten. The love of the Divine Husband is renewed. A joyous betrothal is the prelude to a hallowed, prolonged, and happy union.
I. THE BRIDEGROOM. Jehovah condescends to represent himself as sustaining this relationship. It implies on his part love and attachment, purposes of everlasting kindness, for the marriage cannot be broken, and a provision for all the wants of her whom he takes to himself.
II. THE BRIDE. Israel is here the type of the Church whom the Lord Jesus has purchased unto himself—the bride of the Lamb. She is indeed happy and honored in the choice of her Divine spouse. She is called to purity, to fidelity, to holy service.
III. THE COVENANT AND CONTRACT. On the side of the Lord all is of grace; and the undertakings of the Bridegroom are "for ever." On the side of his spouse, the Church, there is implied the spiritual marriage vow, with all which that involves.
IV. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH THE UNION IS CONTRACTED. This is faithfulness, or the certainty of the fulfillment of the pledge voluntarily given. All God's promises are sure, for he is faithful.
V. THE CONDESCENDING PROMISE OF THE BRIDEGROOM TO THE BRIDE. "Thou shalt know the Lord." This knowledge shall be of all Jehovah's gracious attributes, and in itself it is eternal life.—T.
Hosea 2:21, Hosea 2:22
The great First Cause of blessing.
The language of the prophet here is language of true poetry. To his vivid imagination all nature is personified, endowed with hearing and with speech. The wants of the penitent Israel (figured as Jezreel) are known to the products of the earth by which human need is supplied; the earth when called upon yields her fruits, and the heaven, in response to earth's demands, pours down the fertilizing showers which ensure a plenteous harvest; for the Lord of all hears the entreaty of the skies, and bids them be bountiful and free.
I. HUMAN WANTS ARE SUPPLIED BY PHYSICAL AGENCIES. Man, though a spiritual being, has a physical nature with corresponding necessities. As a servant of the Creator, he depends upon nature for the maintenance of bodily strength and the opportunity of pious service. To despise the material is to question the wisdom of the God of nature.
II. CREATION IS A SYSTEM ARRANGED TO SECURE THE GOOD OF GOD'S INTELLIGENT SUBJECTS. The body of man depends upon the fruits of the earth; the fruits of the earth depend upon the atmospheric influences. There is mutual dependence among all parts of the great system of which, through our corporeal nature, we form a part. And all things work together, and by Divine appointment, for the good of those who love God.
III. GOD IS HIMSELF THE CONSCIOUS AND BENEVOLENT MAINSPRING OF THE VAST MACHINE. "I," saith the Lord, "will hear the heavens." From this we gather that the Divine mind arranges and controls universal nature, and that the delight of the great Ruler is in the welfare of his dependent and intelligent creatures, for which all things terrestrial and celestial are fashioned to co-operate, to which all things concur. That there is physical law no thoughtful man will question; and those who are alike thoughtful and devout will recognize the Lawgiver who is behind the law, and will delight in the conviction that whilst the Divine mind is infinite wisdom, the Divine heart is infinite love.—T.
Purposes of pity and of possession.
The name Jezreel had been applied by the Divine command to one of Hosea's sons, and thence to Israel, by way of marking God's displeasure with the rebellious people, whose capital has been marked by deeds of disobedience and of bloodshed. But the name itself was good, moaning "God will sow." And in this verse it is declared that God will indeed sow Israel unto himself, in mercy and for life and blessing. It is thus figuratively asserted that days of favor and of prosperity shall be accorded to repenting Israel.
I. MERCY COMES TO THOSE WHO BY REBELLION HAD PUT THEMSELVES BEYOND MERCY. In this respect the northern tribes are representative, not of the Hebrew people only, but of the human race. God has ever pitied those who have had no pity upon themselves. Had there been no sin, there would have been no room for mercy. This Divine attribute is manifested pre-eminently in the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is incarnate compassion.
II. GOD CLAIMS AS HIS OWN PEOPLE THOSE WHO HAD THROWN OFF HIS AUTHORITY AND THEIR ALLEGIANCE. Israel was bound to Jehovah, both by the common ties of human creatureship and by the special ties of the covenant he had made with the fathers of the nation. It was especially discreditable in those who owed so much to God, to forsake his worship, to despise his ordinances, to break his laws, to defy his authority. Yet, even for those who had so sinned, there was, when they repented, reconciliation and restoration. His of right and his by covenant, Israel now became his by actual possession. The language of mutual appropriation here employed is very beautiful. "Thou art my people," says Jehovah. And Israel responds, "Thou art my God." When such language is sincere, the convictions it expresses may be regarded as the foundation of all good. Such a relationship involves unfailing favor from God and unfailing faithfulness from man.
1. Consider the light this passage casts upon the Divine disposition towards mankind.
2. Consider the urgency of our condition, and the consequent desirableness of taking advantage of this Divine disposition.—T.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
"Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths." "There is a twofold hedge," says Burroughs, "that God makes about his people. There is the hedge of protection to keep evil from them, and there is the hedge of affliction to keep them from evil. The hedge of protection you have in Isaiah 5:5, where God threatens that he will take away the hedge from his vineyard, that is, he will take away his protection; and it is said of Job, that God had hedged him about. But the hedge here meant is the hedge of affliction. I will hedge up thy way, that is, I will bring sere and heavy afflictions upon you, but yet in a way of mercy: these afflictions shall be but as a hedge to keep you from evil, they shall not do evil to you or bring evil upon you." God puts restraints on the sinner here.
I. THESE RESTRAINTS ARE MANIFOLD. "I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall." The first metaphor is taken from a husbandman who, to prevent the cattle from breaking away from the field, plants a prickly hedge. The other figure is taken from architecture—"a wall." If the thorns are insufficient, high and massive walls must be built. What are the restraints?
1. There is the restraint of affliction. When the wicked purpose some great crime, affliction comes, breaks their plans, and strikes them down.
2. There is the restraint of public sentiment. Public opinion, as it gets enlightened and strong, is a tremendous check to the wicked. The most daring cower before the public voice.
3. There is the restraint of conscience. Conscience is a Divine officer holding the sinner in.
II. THESE RESTRAINTS ARE NECESSARY. It is necessary that God should plant thorny hedges and build massive walls around the sinner.
1. It is necessary for the sinner himself. Were it not for these he would go galloping to perdition. "O unhappy men," says Luther," when God leaves them to themselves and does not resist them in their lusts! You bless yourselves many times that in the way of sin you find no difficulty. Bless thyself! Thou hast cause to howl and wring thy hands; thou hast the curse of God on thee. A dreadful curse to make pleasant the way of sin!"
2. It is necessary for the world. What would become of the world if the wicked were not reined in? Were it not for restraints, the Caesars, the Alexanders, and the Napoleons would soon turn it into a Pandemonium.
3. It is necessary for the Church. Had wicked men their full fling, how long would the Church last! The flames of martyrdom would soon blaze to heaven and consume Zion to ashes. Thank God for thorny hedges and massive walls—for all the restraints he puts on sinful men.—D.T.
The conjunction of sin and mirth.
"I will also cause all her mirth to cease." Mirth is not happiness. It is but the mimicry of real joy. Happiness is river deep and clear; mirth at best is but a sparkling bubble. There is but little happiness in the world, but there is much mirth, much noisy frolic and hilarious glee. The text speaks of mirth in connection with sinfulness. Israel, who had grown corrupt, had, notwithstanding, much mirth. In relation to the conjunction of sin and mirth we may remark—
I. THAT THE CONJUNCTION IS COMMON. The notes of jollity and fun are heard everywhere through society. At theatres, taverns, divans, and social festivities it flares and rattles. The drunkard has his mirth, the liar his mirth, the debauchee his mirth, the blasphemer his mirth, the sabbath-breaker his mirth. The union of sin and mirth is, alas! very common. We meet it everywhere, in the dance and in the song, in the joke and in the gibe.
II. THAT THE CONJUNCTION IS INCONGRUOUS. Gaiety and laughter in a sinner are most revolting when rightly regarded. The condition of a sinner is one of awful solemnity; a condition upon which God and his holy universe look with deepest seriousness. The sighs of moral anguish and tears of bitter remorse become the sinner. Fun and laughter are more unbeseeming to him than jests and jollities in a dying chamber. "Mirth," says Dr. Young, "at a funeral is scarce more indecent or unnatural than a perpetual flight of gaiety and burst of exultation in a world like this is a world which may seem a paradise to fools, but is a hospital with the wise."
"The ground is hollow in the path of mirth;
Oh! far too daring seems the joy of earth,
So darkly pressed and girdled in by death."
(Mrs. F. Hemana)
III. THAT THE CONJUNCTION IS TEMPORARY. Amos, who was contemporary with Hoses, and like him was a prophet of the ten tribes, describes the conjunction well and indicates the necessity of the separation: "Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near; that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; that chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David; that drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed."
1. The separation is certain. There is no mirth for the sinner either in moral conviction, death, the judgment-day, or in the scenes of final retribution. "If you will not take away sin from your mirth," says an old writer, "God will take away your mirth from your sin."
2. The separation will be solemn. It is said that Pope Adrian exclaimed when he was dying, "O my soul, where art thou going? Thou shalt never be merry any more." "I will cause all her mirth to cease," says God.
CONCLUSION. Confound not mirth with happiness! The brightest gleams of mirth are but the rays of rushlights; only visible in the dark, and that must go out. Happiness is a quenchless sunbeam; it streams from the eternal Father of lights. Happiness will follow holiness forever; mirth will only, like the ignis fatuus, flare about sin for a short time at most, then go out, and there is pitch darkness.—D.T.
Hosea 2:12, Hosea 2:13
The prosperity of the wicked.
"And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, whereof she hath said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me: and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her ear-rings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgot me, saith the Lord." These verses lead us to look upon wicked man in three aspects.
I. As PROSPERING IN THE WORLD. "I will destroy her [i.e. idolatrous Israel] vines and. her fig trees." Vines and fig trees stand for prosperity. There is a synecdoche here: vines and fig trees mean all outward prosperity. Wicked men are allowed to prosper on this earth; they are often more successful in worldly enterprises than the righteous. They live for the world and to the world, and they have their reward. Their ground becomes fruitful, their trade prosperous, their profession remunerative.
II. AS ASCRIBING THEIR PROSPERITY TO WRONG CAUSES. "These are my rewards that my lovers have given me." Israel ascribed its prosperity to its idols, here called its "lovers." The wicked ascribe their success sometimes to fortune, sometimes to chance, sometimes to their own industry, and sometimes to their rogueries. They don't trace it to the true Source, the great God.
III. AS DEVOTING THEIR PROSPERITY TO WRONG OBJECTS. "And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them," etc. "Baalim" is the plural number, by which some suppose inferior gods are meant. Israel is here accused of burning incense to these deii minores. Wicked men devote their wealth, not to the improvement of their minds or to the true progress of mankind, but to their own selfish and superstitious ends. God is recognized in the use no more than in the pursuit of their wealth. "She went after her lovers, and forgot me, saith the Lord."
IV. AS DEPRIVED OF THEIR PROSPERITY BY THE GREAT GOD. "I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim." The threatening is, that God will not only destroy all their prosperity, "the vines and fig trees," but punish them for their idolatry. "I will visit upon her the days of Baalim."
CONCLUSION. "The tinsel glare upon a sinner is too apt to offend the weak eyes of a saint. Alas! why should he envy him a little light who is to be shrouded in everlasting darkness? Why should we throw bludgeons at boughs which are only laden with poisonous fruits?"—D.T.
Hosea 2:14, Hosea 2:15
"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt." These words refer to the restoration of Israel to friendship and fellowship with God. "The desert," says Delitzsch, "into which the Lord will lead his people cannot be any other than the desert of Arabia, through which the road from Egypt to Canaan passes. Leading into this desert is not a punishment, but a redemption out of bondage. The people are not to remain in the desert, but to be enticed and led through it to Canaan, the land of vineyards. The description is typical throughout. What took place in the olden time is to be repeated, in all that is essential, in the time to come. Egypt, the Arabian desert, and Canaan are types. Egypt is a type of the land of the captivity in which Israel had been oppressed in its fathers by the heathen power of the world." The verses may be used to illustrate the subject of soul-restoration, and they suggest two facts.
I. THAT THE STAGES IN SOUL-RESTORATION ARE GRADUAL. The reference throughout here is to the emancipation of the Jews from the Egyptian bondage, their Divine guidance in the wilderness, and their entrance into the promised land. And all this is here employed to illustrate spiritual restoration. We may remark, therefore:
1. That the first step to soul-restoration is froth bondage to liberty. "I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness." Into the wilderness from where? From Egyptian bondage. In Egypt the Israelites were slaves, in the wilderness they were free. All souls are in moral Egypt, and the first step to their restoration is their exodus into the moral Arabia.
2. The next step is from despondency to hope. The valley of Achor, which was situated to the north of Gilgal, is mentioned by the prophet with a manifest reference to Joshua 7:1-26. Through the sin of Achan Israel had incurred the displeasure of the Almighty, and its army against Ai was defeated. But through the prayers of Joshua and the elders, the Divine favor was again obtained, and Israel became triumphant, and the valley of Achor, where there was great trouble, radiated with "hope." The victory of Ai threw all Canaan into their hands (Joshua 7:8), and Achor, once the scene of great trouble, became to them "a door of hope." It was, indeed, the first place of which they took possession in Canaan; it was the entrance into the promised land. In spiritual restoration the soul passes from trouble into hope; in the "deep valley of affliction it finds a door of hope." Joseph in his prison, David in his persecutions, Saul in his manifold trials,—all found "a door of hope." Through much-tribulation we enter into kingdoms.
3. The next step is from sterility to fruitfulness. "I will give her her vineyards from thence." The wilderness was a barren desert, but Canaan was a land of vineyards; it abounded with fruit. In spiritual restoration the soul passes from the sterile into the fruitful; it leaves the desert for a paradise.
4. The next step is from sadness to exultation. "She shall sing there, as in the days of her youth." The reference here again is to the song which the Israelites sang after they had crossed the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1). The song of the redeemed soul at last will be the song of Moses and the Lamb (Revelation 15:3). Such are the stages through which the soul in its restoration passes—from thraldom to liberty, despondency to hope, barrenness to fruitfulness, sadness to exultation.
II. THAT THE AGENCY IN SOUL-RESTORATION IS DIVINE. Who is it that effects this restoration? God. "I will allure her," etc.; "I will give her her vineyards," etc. No one but God can restore souls. Mark how he does it.
1. Morally. "I will allure her." It is not by force or violence, not by menace or might, but by the enticements of the moral beauty of his character and the charms of his love. God restores souls by manifesting all his tenderness, his goodness, his perfections to them through Christ. The power of the gospel is the power of allurement. If souls are to come out of their Egypt into the wilderness, God must allure them.
2. Lovingly. "Speak comfortably unto her." He declares he has no pleasure in the death of a sinner. He assures of his readiness to pardon and to bless. He says, "Come now, and let us reason together," etc.
3. Generously. "I will give her her vineyards from thence." He who gave Canaan to the Jews gives heaven to restored souls.
CONCLUSION. Brother, knowest thou aught of this soul-restoration? Have the allurements of Divine love drawn thee out of Egypt? In the midst of thy deep troubles hast thou found a "door of hope"? Is the wilderness within thee beginning to blossom as the rose, and do the fruitful vines refresh thee with their clusters? Has the song of Moses and the Lamb inspired thy heart and tuned thy voice? If so, "sing praises unto our God, sing praises."—D.T.
Hosea 2:18, Hosea 2:19
The sublime privileges of the good.
"And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea,! will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies." These words present to us a few of the many surpassing privileges which all men might enjoy.
I. INFERIOR CREATURES MIGHT BE DIVINELY RESTRAINED FROM INJURING THEM. "In that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field," etc. There are creatures that have both the power and the inclination to devour man. Prowling beasts of the field, and ravenous fowls of the air, and creeping scorpions of the earth, have at once the power and passion to put an end to the human race. Who restrains them? God's hand is on them. He holds them hack. Sometimes he withdraws his hand and men are devoured. Will not a lion devour a saint as well as a sinner? It depends upon whether the saint has committed himself to the Divine protection, and has received into his own heart an assurance of Divine guardianship. Daniel was safe in the presence of the ravenous lions; and in modern times, instances have occurred where savage beasts have been restrained from inflicting injury on godly men. "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder" (Psalms 91:13). I have an impression that were man to possess and manifest the moral majesty of goodness, the wildest and most savage creatures would stand in awe of him.
II. HUMAN ENEMIES MIGHT BE MADE TO SUBMIT TO THEM. "I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth." Those who trust in the Lord need not be afraid of war. The potsherds of the earth might strive with each other, but they would not harm the good. The man who would never strike a blow is not likely ever to be struck. The spirit of the good man is to overcome evil with good. Imagine an army drawn up to attack a body of truly Christly men—men who prayed for their enemies, and did good to them that despitefully used them, and who held no weapons in their hands, They would look calmly on their assailants while they were brandishing their swords and shouldering their bayonets. What would be the result? Why, a moral force would go forth from the unarmed multitude, which would break the" bow, the sword, and the battle." As a rule, bad as human nature is, it will not intentionally injure the unquestionably good and unoffending. It is the moral power of goodness that can alone break "the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth."
III. THEY MIGHT ENJOY A PERFECT SECURITY. "Will make them to lie down safely." Every man might have God as his Refuge and Strength, as his Shield and Buckler. "The Name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous shall flee thereto and be safe." "Who shall harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" "If God be for us, who can be against us?" What is the true safety? Not the mere safety of the body. The body is not the man; it is his—not him. The body may be in safety when the soul is in peril, and it might be in danger when the soul is secure. Soul-safety is the safety of the man; and soul-safety means protection from all that is unholy in thought, impure in feeling, unrighteous in volition. Blessed is the man that feels his spirit safe!
IV. THEY MIGHT ENJOY VITAL UNION WITH THE EVERLASTING FOUNTAIN OF GOODNESS. "I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies." Here is a union! the closest union, one represented by that of a husband and wife; a union formed by immutable ties. Righteousness, judgment, loving-kindness, faithfulness,—who can break these bonds? "The mountains shall depart, the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed."
CONCLUSION. Learn the supreme importance of moral goodness to man. With godliness man has everything. All things are his, and he is Christ's, and Christ is God's.—D.T.
God and his universe.
"And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel. And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God." As the word "Jezreel" literally means "seed of God," I shall take it in its etymological sense, and regard it as denoting the good in every age and land. Our subject is God and his universe, and the text contains three facts.
I. That the operations of the universe are UNDER THE WISE DIRECTION OF THE GREAT GOD. The universe is represented as in action. The "heaven," the "earth," the "wine," the" corn," and "Jezreel" are all acting. There is nothing stationary. Creation is like a flowing river, there is not a particle at rest. It is our happiness, however, to know that all its activities are presided over by God. It is not a self-acting machine; the great machinist is ever in it and with it. The fact of his superintendence serves several useful purposes.
1. To account for the unbroken order of nature. Why does not the ocean overflow its boundaries, or the massive globes swerve from their orbits? God is over all.
2. To impress us with the sanctity of nature. God is in all—the luster of the light, the beauty of the lovely, the majesty of the grand, the support of the feeble, the might of the strong.
3. To inspire with reverence for God's greatness. How great must he be, etc.!
II. That the operations of the universe are GENERALLY CONDUCTED UPON THE MEDIATORY PRINCIPLE. "I will hear the heavens," etc. One part of nature is here represented as acting upon another, in order to give a certain result. In the material as well as the spiritual world, God works out his plans by secondary instrumentalities. Look at this in relation to man.
1. In relation to him as a material being. Whence came these corporeal frames? how are they sustained? by what menus are they broken up? All through secondary means.
2. In relation to him as a spiritual being. How is he instructed, converted, sanctified? Not directly, but mediatively.
III. That the operations of the universe are MERCIFULLY SUBORDINATED TO THE INTERESTS OF THE GOOD. "Jezreel," the seed of God, i.e. good men, are spoken of as receiving three things.
1. The blessing sought. Jezreel prayed, and all nature is represented as conveying its prayers to God. The universe labors for the good.
2. The multiplication of their number. "I will say to them," etc. The strongest desire of the truly good is to make others good.
3. The heightening of the sympathy between them and their God. "I will say to them which were not my people," etc. What a privilege is this!—D.T.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The individuals of the nation are exhorted to plead with their mother Israel, that she may turn from her adulterous courses, and so avert the doom which is otherwise certain to overtake her. Consider—
I. ISRAEL'S SHAMELESS PROFLIGACY. (Hosea 2:2, Hosea 2:5) The sin charged against Israel is that of adultery, in her relations with Jehovah. Owing to the peculiarity of these relations, the sin was of a specially aggravated kind.
1. The people had withdrawn from Jehovah that undivided allegiance which, as the one living and true God, he demanded of them.
2. They had set up idol images (the calves), and had changed God in their thoughts to a mere nature-deity, like the heathen Baals.
3. They had gone after the heathen Baals as well. In form, the worship of Jehovah was kept up; in reality, idolatry had the sole dominion. This was their adultery. It was public and unblushing. Even in the eyes of the heathen, Israel was guilty of great wantonness, for the heathen were not wont thus lightly to change their gods (Jeremiah 2:11). The crime for which Israel is indicted, however, is not peculiar to that nation. In a deeper regard, it is the fundamental sin of the race. The soul made by God for himself has left him, and gone after other lovers. It has turned to the creature. It lusts for illicit satisfactions. Its dispositions are "evil and adulterous" (Matthew 12:39). Especially is this sin committed by those who, entering into a new covenant with God by grace, afterwards go back to the world.
II. HER CERTAIN PUNISHMENT. (Hosea 2:3, Hosea 2:4) Israel's adultery dissolved de facto the marriage relation between the nation and Jehovah. Hosea 2:2 is the Divine deed of separation. Separation is followed by punishment. Under the Law, adultery was punished by death. This doom also, as respects corporate existence, was about to overtake Israel. But the figure in the text alludes rather to the withdrawal of God's good gifts—the gifts bestowed on Israel in her relation of spouse—with its result in the reduction of the nation to a condition of utter wretchedness and want. The "slaying with thirst" (Hosea 2:3) is not absolute, since recovery is predicted (Hosea 2:7), but denotes a state of extreme anguish, in which multitudes would actually perish (Deuteronomy 28:33, Deuteronomy 28:34, Deuteronomy 28:48, Deuteronomy 28:65-68). There is here:
1. A reminder of the source of natural blessings. God could take away, because it was he who at first gave. It was he who gave Israel all she had. Hence the destitution to which the withdrawal of his gifts reduced her. "If God withdraws his gifts, the consequences are infinitely awful, because, altogether unlike the natural husband, he has everything in his possession; if he does not give anything to drink, he then slays by thirst" (Hengstenberg).
2. A correspondence between sin and punishment. What Israel possessed, she received in virtue of the marriage covenant. At first she had nothing. God had given her all. Answerably to this, she is punished by being reduced to her original destitute condition. Marriage unfaithfulness leads to the withdrawal of the marriage gifts. "The eternal and universal truth which, in the verse before us, is expressed with a special reference to Israel, is, that all the gifts of God are bestowed on individuals as well as upon whole nations, only in order to lead them to the communion of life with him, or because this communion already exists. If we fail to see that the gifts of God have this object, if they be not received and enjoyed as the gifts of God, if the spiritual marriage be refused, or if, having been already entered into, it be broken, sooner or later the gifts will be withdrawn" (Hengstenberg).
3. A picture of the state of the soul from which God has withdrawn himself. The outward is the image of the inward. The soul which has forsaken God—which God has forsaken—is solitary and desolate, burnt with hunger, parched with intolerable thirst, a desert. God's design in withdrawing the outward gifts is that the soul may be led to feel the deeper misery and disgrace within.
III. THE ONE WAY OF ESCAPE. (Hosea 2:2) Repentance-turning from the evil courses. God is unwilling to proceed to extremities, though, if the sin be persisted in, he must. He gives here a final warning, a last opportunity. There is thus a limit to the Divine forbearance. The last appeal will come some day. Often, by the time it comes, we are so sunk in sin as to be past attending to it, While, however, mercy lasts, the moat abandoned may return.
IV. THE DUTY OF THE INDIVIDUAL. "Plead with your mother, plead' (Hosea 2:2). Individuals are implicated in the guilt of the community. They have a stake in the general well-being (Hosea 2:4). They have, accordingly, a responsibility in connection with national backslidings. It is their duty
(1) to separate themselves from the prevailing wickedness;
(2) to testify against it;
(3) to use every means to try to bring about repentance and reformation.—J.O.
The philosophy of the Divine chastisements.
The punishment of Israel, while retributive, was designed also to be reformatory. It would display the Divine wisdom. Consider—
I. THE DELUSION UNDERLYING ISRAEL'S DEVOTION TO THE IDOLS. (Hosea 2:5, Hosea 2:8, Hosea 2:12)
1. The nature of the delusion. The root of it was the notion that her prosperity was attributable to the assiduity of her service of the idols. It was they, she thought, who had given her her corn and wine and oil, her bread and water, her wool and flax. She ignored the real Giver. The delusion is not uncommon. Men put natural laws, second causes, their own skill and power, or the skill and power of others, in place of the living God. They forget him.
2. The sources of the delusion.
(1) Ignorance of the true God. Israel had parted with the right knowledge of Jehovah (Hosea 4:6). She had it not, because she did not wish to have it (cf. Romans 1:28).
(2) Corrupt propensities. The state of the heart pointed out the way for the devotions. The heathen idols were more congenial objects of worship than the spiritual, holy God.
3. The effects of the delusion. The prosperity which the people enjoyed confirmed them in their adhesion to the Baals. It led them to redouble their assiduity in serving them (Hosea 2:5). It led them increasingly to disregard the true Giver. Hence the necessity for breaking up the delusion by withdrawing the gifts.
II. THE DIVINE DEALING AS DIRECTED TO THE BREAKING UP OF THIS DELUSION. (Hosea 2:6, Hosea 2:7, Hosea 2:9) God declares that he will:
1. Block up Israel's way in pursuit of her idols. "Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns," etc. (Hosea 2:6). That is, he would put bars and difficulties in the way of the service of the idol-gods, tie would interrupt and suspend their worship. He would break up the sense of fellowship with them. He would do this by means of afflictions. The effect would be to shatter the dreams of the worshippers. They would find to their discomfiture that the service of the idols was not all bliss. They would be led to consider de novo what they should do. Unexpected checks in the pursuit of favorite objects are among God's means of inciting us to reflection.
2. Take away from her the blessings which are the chief support of her delusion. (Hosea 2:9) The removal of the corn and wine and oil, in fulfillment of the threatening, would show that these blessings were from Jehovah, and were not the gift of the idols. They must be his, else he could not thus take them away. Conversely, the inability of the idols to prevent this deprivation, or to restore the gifts, or to help their devotees in the time of need, would demonstrate the futility of putting trust in gods that were no gods. The removal of earthly blessings is intended in this way to work for our good. God seeks by it to break up false confidences. He would dispel our illusions. He would teach us dependence. He would lead us to recognize in him the only Giver of our good.
III. THE BEHAVIOR OF ISRAEL UNDER THIS DIVINE DISCIPLINE. (Hosea 2:7)
1. A first effect would be to make Israel more earnest than ever in pursuit of her idol-gods. "O Baal, hear us!" (2 Kings 18:26). Dawning conviction has often this result. The heart is slow to believe that it has been so utterly befooled. It tries hard to defeat God.
2. The second effect—when she had had full experience of the inability of the idol-gods to help her—would be to lead her to bethink herself of returning to Jehovah. "I will go and return to my first husband," etc. She sees now, like the prodigal (Luke 15:17, Luke 15:18), the folly of her past conduct; she realizes its wickedness; she feels that it was better with her formerly than now, and that "the way of transgressors is hard" (Proverbs 13:15). So, cured of her delusions, she returns to her Lord. He, in turn, is ready to receive her. This was the end to which the whole discipline pointed. God is equally willing to receive every sinner who returns to him (Isaiah 55:6, Isaiah 55:7). The experience of the bitterness of the fruits of sin is designed to lead to repentance. Well for the transgressor when chastisement produces in him the result here described!—J.O.
Israel's punishment, while retributive, was reformatory. It is equally true that, while reformatory, it was retributive. It repaid Israel for her sins. It vindicated righteousness. All earthly punishments have this double character. The following principles come to light in the passage:—
I. SIN ENDS IN THE FULL REVELATION OF ITS HIDEOUSNESS. (Hosea 2:10) At first its true nature is concealed. It comes with fair appearances; it decks itself in festal garments (Hosea 2:13); it makes large promises. Only at a later period is the mask stripped off, and it appears in its full hideousness. Such a day of revelation will come for every sinner. He will find himself put to shame even in the eyes of those whom he sought to serve. How loathsome even the body can become when sin has wrought its work in it (the drunkard, the harlot)! How much more the soul! Every rag of deceptive appearance will yet be stripped off, and the foul, abhorrent spectacle of depravity exposed to the whole universe.
II. SIN ENDS IN THE DYING OUT OF JOY. "I will also cause all her mirth to cease" (Hosea 2:11). This is literally true, even in the present life. After a time, sin ceases to yield the pleasures which at first were found in it. The very capacity for joy dies out. The debauchee, the fortune-hunter, the slaves of fashion, the victims of ambition, know this well.
III. SIN ENDS IN THE WITHDRAWAL OF ABUSED PRIVILEGES. (Hosea 2:11) The feast days, new moons, sabbaths, and other festivals, which Israel had turned into days of unholy carnival, would be taken from her. They were given her for different ends, and she had abused them. We cannot hope to reject God and yet retain unimpaired our religious liberties, opportunities, and blessings; e.g. our sabbaths. These will vanish with our regard for the Giver of them.
IV. SIN ENDS IN THE REMOVAL OF NATURAL BLESSINGS. (Hosea 2:12) Failing in the due acknowledgment of God in the reception of them, we may look for the withdrawal of these also.
V. SIN ENDS IN POIGNANT MEMORIES OF AN EVIL PAST. "The days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself," etc. (Hosea 2:13). The memory of past follies is no small part of the sinner's misery. "Son, remember" (Luke 16:25).—J.O.
It had already been told that God's dealings with Israel would not be permanently in vain. This truth is now expanded. Times and seasons are not specified; for
(1) it was not given to the prophet to know them (cf. Acts 1:7); and
(2) it lay with Israel itself, in some measure, to make the times and seasons.
1. The earliest phase of the predicted allurement is seen in the promises held out in connection with the return from the Babylonian captivity. These promises embraced Israel as well as Judah (Isaiah 40-66.; Ezekiel 37:1-28.; Zechariah 8:1-23; etc). The result, however, showed that Israel was not yet in a fit condition to receive the fulfillment.
2. The second phase of the allurement was in the preaching of Christ's gospel. This, which was addressed to both Jews and Gentiles, tells of God's redeeming love, and prays, "Be ye reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20). Many of the "house of Israel" listened—many still listen—to this allurement.
3. The final fulfillment will be reached in the day of Israel's national conversion. Then, as the result, perhaps, of great experience of trouble (Hosea 2:15), God's words will come with new power to their hearts. Earnest penitence will ensue. "All Israel shall be saved" (Romans 11:26). The fulfillment of these promises is connected in prophecy with the coming of a Redeemer and the gift of the Spirit. This supposes new dispensational arrangements. There is implied the bringing in of a new economy, which yet, from its nature, would have a wider scope than the economy which then existed. Israel participates in the blessings of the new covenant only as part of a larger "people of God." This is the principle which legitimizes the extension of these promises—so far as they are not plainly national—to the whole Church of believers.—J.O.
Wonderful are the steps of Divine love in the history of the recovery of a soul. View those which are here presented.
I. WILDERNESS PREPARATION. (Hosea 2:14) Chastisement would prepare the way for mercy. Israel was to be taken out "into the wilderness." There, deprived of her idols, and stripped of her earthly blessings, she would bethink herself of the God from whom she had departed. It takes much discipline, oftentimes, to bring us into the state of mind in which we are willing to listen to God. Pride needs to be humbled; self-will needs to be broken; the heart built up in self-righteousness needs to be convinced of sin. To this end God employs trials, hardships, crosses, bereavements, sorrows of various kinds. He trains us by the wilderness.
II. DIVINE ALLUREMENT. (Hosea 2:15) We are led here to study the operations of Divine love under the character of allurement. "I will allure her." Allurement is the art of reaching the heart by soft influences. It is not compulsion. It is not conviction by argument. It is a persuasive, drawing influence exerted on the affections and will. It is gentle, not violent; it is mild, not passionate. It conquers by the might of love. Some persons have more of this power of attraction, of fascination, than others. It is a gift—an influence, emanating from the personality. It cannot be communicated. The Divine Spirit is the great Allurer. His dealings with a soul are a secret between that soul and himself. God allures:
1. By solitude. "I will bring her into the wilderness.'' He takes the soul apart by itself, he isolates it, as he did Israel when he spoke with her at first (Exodus 19:3-5). We cannot hear God's voice amidst the busy hum of earth. Our own age stands much in need of more solitary communion.
2. By word. "I will speak comfortably unto her." The words of God are found in Scripture. How well fitted the Bible, with its gracious, tender, comforting, reassuring utterances, is for this purpose of allurement, we all know. It is shaped and adapted in every way to draw the soul to God.
3. By gift. "I will give her her vineyards from thence." The typical blessings shadow out the higher. God attests his love to us by gift as well as by word. He has given his Son (John 3:16). He gives himself. He gives all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3). He gives eternity. Christ is "the unspeakable Gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15). "All things are yours" (1 Corinthians 3:21).
4. By chastisement. "And the valley of Achor for a door of hope." The valley of Achor lay at the entrance of Canaan. It was there that God "troubled" Israel for the sin of Achan (Joshua 7:1-26). That sin barred the entrance to the land, and only when it was judged and removed could Israel proceed. The meaning is that, so often as sin bars the way to the possession of the inheritance, and brings down chastisement, so often will grace, working through judgment on the sin, bring good out of evil, and new hope out of the experience of sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:9-11). Israel, after the sin had been put away, received a pledge of the Divine presence with them for future victories. "In this relation the Lord here promises that the place of sanctified trial shall not only be a re, on of endurance, but a door of hope." Trouble becomes a means of spiritual profiting.
5. God's allurement begets joy. "She shall sing there, as in the days of her youth," etc. God puts a new song in the mouths of his people (Psalms 40:1, Psalms 40:2). It is, as in the triumph at the Red Sea, a song
(1) of deliverance;
(2) of victory.
"The song of Moses and the Lamb" (Revelation 15:1-8). The joy is the greater after the sorrow (Revelation 7:9-17).
III. HOLIER ESPOUSALS. (Hosea 2:16, Hosea 2:17) Won by the Divine allurements, Israel ratifies a new marriage covenant with Jehovah. The new union is very different from the older one. It is a union marked:
1. By earnest affection. "Thou shalt call me Ishi"—"my Husband."
2. By purified feeling. "And shalt no mere call me Baali"—"my Baal." Israel's feelings towards Jehovah would be purged of all idolatrous associations.
3. By sincere abhorrence of the past. "I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth." So does the sinner shudder at the very thought of the things which formerly pleased him. They are hateful to him. He would count it a shame even to speak of those things in secret (Ephesians 5:12).
4. By jealous care for the future. "They shall no more be remembered by their name." Israel would guard, in her future relations with Jehovah, against the intrusion of even the thought of her former paramours.—J.O.
The new betrothal
Jehovah, on his part, signs, as it were, a new marriage contract with Israel. The relation will this time be an enduring one. He will grant to Israel security and peace. He will restore her blessings. He will dower her with fresh gifts. He will increase her fruitfulness. The promises may be legitimately extended to all the Israel of faith.
I. SECURITY AND PEACE IN THE NEW RELATION. (Hosea 2:18)
1. The new covenant will be, not merely a covenant of God with man, but a covenant of God with nature on behalf of man. "I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven," etc. The idea here is that of security. The figure is common in the prophets (Leviticus 26:6; Isaiah 11:6-9; Ezekiel 34:25). Underlying the promise is the deep truth that redemption will involve a palingenesis of nature—of the earth. So bound together are man and nature that the dissolution of the tic between him and his God leads also to the loss of his dominion over the creatures. This will be restored. The animal world will stand in awe of him, will serve him, will be tame before him.
2. The new covenant will ensure peace. "I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth," etc. A promise like this can only be fulfilled on the basis of a universal regeneration of society, and therefore points to the bringing in of a covenant not limited in its scope to the literal Israel. On the peace tendency of the gospel, see Foster's two sermons on 'The Cessation of War an Effect of the Prevalence of Christianity.'
II. THE ENDURINGNESS OF THE NEW RELATION. (Hosea 2:19, Hosea 2:20) The first covenant failed because of
(1) want of depth in Israel's knowledge of God;
(2) want of entire surrender of heart to him;
(3) want of spiritual powers, under the Law, adequate to renew the heart.
The new covenant was not to be like that old one. Compare with this passage Jeremiah 31:31-34, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers," etc.
1. The new covenant was to be formed after a discipline in which Israel had learned to know God thoroughly. "Thou shalt know the Lord" (Jeremiah 31:20). Knowing God as she had come to do, Israel would be no longer under any temptation to wander from him.
2. The new covenant would be based on fuller manifestations of the character of God. "I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies" (Jeremiah 31:19). The sin of Israel was the means of God's character becoming better known. His righteousness, judgment, loving-kindness, mercy, and faithfulness come to light in her history in many awful and affecting ways. It is with this fuller knowledge of the character of God that she now unites herself to him in love. The union is not one of impulse, of haste, of indiscretion. It is a true, sincere, heartfelt, and intelligent union, certain never to be repented of. Yet fuller knowledge of the character of God is derived from the manifestation of his attributes in the saving work of Christ. It is there, most of all, that we see displayed his hatred of sin, his determination to punish it, his exalted righteousness, his unspeakable goodness and love.
3. God engages his own attributes to secure the perpetuation of this new covenant. (Jeremiah 31:19, Jeremiah 31:20) He had prepared the way for it; had laid the foundations of it deep; and he would now take the perpetuation of it into his own hands. He engages his righteousness, mercy, and faithfulness to accomplish this. "We are not under the Law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14). The new covenant has powers at its disposal which the old covenant had not. It is based on renewal, on regeneration. God sees to it that his people, once spiritually quickened, do not utterly tall away again. He preserves his Church by judgment and mercy.
III. THE REVERSAL OF THE CURSE IS THE NEW RELATION. (Jeremiah 31:21, Jeremiah 31:22) For Israel's sake the land had been cursed, and made barren (Deuteronomy 29:22-28). That curse was now to be recalled. So one effect of redemption will be the recall of the primal curse on the earth for man's sin (Genesis 3:17, Genesis 3:18).
1. Israel pleads for the removal of the curse. The end of the chain of prayer is Jezreel. "They shall hear Jezreel" (Jeremiah 31:22). Till Israel became penitent, removal of the curse was impossible. The success of the earth's prayer depended on hers.
2. Nature pleads for the removal of the curse. All her departments hang together. Each depends on the other. The suffering of one is the suffering of all. The corn, wine, and oil entreat the earth; the earth entreats the heavens; the heavens entreat God (cf. Romans 8:19-22).
3. God hears. He answers Nature's prayer. Nature becomes friendly. She showers her blessings on the restored people. The natural blessings are typical of the spiritual.
IV. FAITHFULNESS IN THE NEW RELATION. (Jeremiah 31:23) Jezreel, in the sense of "I will scatter," is changed into Jezreel, in the sense of "I will sow." Lo-ruhamah becomes Ruhamah; and Lo-ammi becomes Ammi (Jeremiah 31:1). God "sows" Israel in the earth, so that she becomes greatly multiplied. The spiritual seed is here included with the natural. The widening of the covenant to embrace the Gentiles gives the words, "I will have mercy on her that had not obtained mercy," etc; a greatly extended application (Romans 9:25; 1 Peter 2:9).—J.O.