Ephraim [shall say], what have I to do any more with idols?
&c.] This is to be understood, not of apostate Ephraim, as in the times of the prophet, who was so wedded and glued to the idols, that there was no hope of getting him from them; and therefore is bid to let him alone, ( Hosea 4:17 ) ; but of Ephraim Israel returning to God at his call, under the influence of his grace, in the latter day, ( Hosea 14:1 Hosea 14:2 ) . Idols are the same with the works of their hands, ( Hosea 14:3 ) ; and to be interpreted, not of graven or molten images, to the worship of which the Jews have not been addicted since their captivity to this day; see ( Hosea 3:4 ) ; but of the idols of their hearts, their impiety, their unbelief, their rejection of the Messiah, which, at the time of their conversion, they will loath, abhor, and mourn over; likewise the traditions of their elders, they are now zealous and tenacious of, and prefer even to the written word; but will now relinquish them, and embrace the Gospel of Christ; as well as the idol of their own righteousness they have always endeavoured to establish; but shall now renounce, and receive Christ as the Lord their righteousness. The like to this is to be found in common in all truly penitent and converted sinners; who, being made sensible of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, detest and abhor it, and declare they will have nothing to do with it; not but that it continues in them, and has to do with them, and they with that; yet not so as to live and walk in it; to yield their members as instruments of it; to serve and obey it as their master; to make provision for it, and to have the course of their lives under the direction and power of it; and so likewise, being convinced of the imperfection and insufficiency of their own righteousness to justify them, they will have nothing to do with that in the business of justification before God, and acceptance with him: now these are the words of the Lord, affirming what Ephraim should say, as Kimchi rightly observes; he promises for him, as he well might, since it is he that gives repentance to Israel, and works in his people principles of grace, and enables them both to will and to do, to make such holy resolutions, and perform them. Some render the words, "O Ephraim, what have I to do" F9? &c. and take them to be words of God concerning himself, declaring he would have nothing to do with idols, nor suffer them in his service, nor should they; for "what concord hath Christ with Belial?" or "what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" ( 2 Corinthians 6:15 2 Corinthians 6:16 ) ; but the former sense is much best; rather what Schmidt suggests is more agreeable, who, rendering the words in the same way, makes them to be the words of a believing Gentile returning and dwelling under the shadow of Israel; so he interprets ( Hosea 14:7 ) , and takes this to be the language of such an one throughout. The Targum is,
``they of the house of Israel shall say, what [is it] to us to serve idols any more?''I have heard [him];
says the Lord; Ephraim bemoaning himself, repenting of his sins, and confessing them; his prayers for pardon and acceptance, and the resolutions made by him in the strength of divine grace, ( Hosea 14:2 Hosea 14:3 Hosea 14:8 ) ; see ( Jeremiah 31:18-20 ) ; and this is what his idols he once served could not do, who had ears, but heard not; but the Lord not only heard, but answered, and granted his request. So the Targum,
``I by my Word will receive the prayer of Israel, and will have mercy on him:''and observed [him];
looked at him, and on him; with an eye of pity and compassion; with a favourable and propitious look, as the Lord does towards those that are poor, and of a contrite spirit; observed the ways and steps he took in returning to him; marked his tears and humiliations, groans and moans, and took notice of his wants in order to supply them; I [am] like a green fir tree:
these are the words of the Lord continued; though some take them to be the words of Ephraim; or, as Schmidt, of the Gentile believer, like those of David, ( Psalms 52:8 ) ; but they best agree with Christ, who may be compared to such a tree, as he is to many others in Scripture; because a choice one, as he is to his Father, and to all believers, chosen and precious, lovely and beloved; a tall tree, so Christ is highly exalted as Mediator, higher than the kings of the earth, above the angels in heaven, yea, higher than the heavens. The boughs of this tree, as Jarchi and Kimchi observe, bend downward so low as to be laid hold on; Christ, though the high and lofty One, dwells with humble souls, and suffers himself to be laid hold upon by the faith of everyone that comes to him. Pliny says F11, that this tree is of a cheerful aspect, smooth, and scarce any knots upon it; and its leaves so thick that a shower of rain will not pass through it: Christ is most amiable, and altogether lovely to look at in his person and fulness; and he looks in a loving smiling manner upon his people; he is without any knot of sin or corruption in him, as to principle or practice; and is a delightful shade from the wrath of God, or rage of man, from the heat of a fiery law, and the darts of Satan: and as this tree, as here, is ever green, so he is always the same; he ever lives, and his people in him, and by him; his fulness always continues to supply them. Once more, the fir tree is the habitation of the stork, an unclean creature by the law of God; so Christ is the dwelling place of sinners, he receives them, and converses with them, ( Psalms 104:17 ) . The Septuagint version renders it, "as a thick juniper tree": which naturalists say F12 has such a virtue in it, as by the smell to drive away serpents. So the old serpent the devil was drove away by Christ in the wilderness, in the garden, and on the cross; and resisting by faith, holding out his blood and righteousness, causes him to flee from the saints, The Arabic version is, "as the fruitful cypress tree"; which is of a good smell, and its wood very durable; and so may be expressive of the savour of Christ, his righteousness and sacrifice, the graces of his Spirit, and of his duration. Some take this to be a promise that Ephraim should be as a green fir tree, so Aben Ezra; with which agrees the Targum,
``I by my word will make him as the beautiful fir tree;''and to which sometimes the saints are compared; see ( Isaiah 41:19 ) ( 55:13 ) ( 60:13 ) ; and this being a tree that bears no fruit, it follows, to make up that defect in the metaphor, from me is thy fruit found;
from Christ are all the spiritual blessings of grace, peace, pardon, righteousness, adoption, a right and meetness for eternal life, and that itself; all the fruits and graces of the Spirit, as faith, hope, love and all good works, which spring from union with him, are done in his strength, and influenced by his grace and example; see ( Philippians 1:11 ) .
F9 (dwe yl hm Myrpa) "Ephraim, [vel] O quid mihi amplius" Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Tigurine version, Castalio, Cocceius, Schmidt, Burkius.
F11 Nat. Hist. l. 16. c. 10.
F12 Varinus apud Rivet. in loc.