The idolatry of Israel. (1-8) They are exhorted to repentance. (9-15)
Verses 1-8 A vine is only valuable for its fruit; but Israel now brought no fruit to perfection. Their hearts were divided. God is the Sovereign of the heart; he will have all, or none. Were the stream of the heart wholly after God, it would run strongly, and bear down all before it. Their pretences to covenant with God were false. Even the proceeding of justice was as poisonous hemlock. Alas, how empty a vine is the visible church even at this day! But all earthly prosperity is but a collection of bubbles, soon destroyed like foam upon the water. Sinners will in vain seek shelter from that Judge, whom they now despise as a Saviour.
Verses 9-15 Because God does not desire the death and ruin of sinners, therefore in mercy he desires their chastisement. The children of iniquity still remained in Israel. The enemies would be gathered against them. It is just with God to make those know what hardships mean, who indulge themselves in ease and pleasure. Let them cleanse their hearts from all corrupt affections and lusts, and be a broken and contrite spirit. Let them abound in works of piety towards God, and of justice and charity towards one another: herein let them sow to the Spirit. Seeking the Lord is to be every day's work, but there are special occasions when to seek him. Christ shall come as the Lord our righteousness, and grant us of it abundantly. If we sow in righteousness, we shall reap according to mercy; a reward not of debt, but of grace. Even the gains of sin yield the sinner no satisfaction. As our comforts, so our confidences in the service of sin will certainly fail us. Come and seek the Lord, and thy hope in him shall not deceive thee. See what cruel work war makes. Whatever mischief is done, it is sin that does it. What miseries men's sins bring on them, even in this world!
Hosea 10:1-15 . ISRAEL'S IDOLATRY, THE SOURCE OF PERJURIES AND UNLAWFUL LEAGUES, SOON DESTINED TO BE THE RUIN OF THE STATE, THEIR KING AND THEIR IMAGES BEING ABOUT TO BE CARRIED OFF; A JUST CHASTISEMENT, THE REAPING CORRESPONDING TO THE SOWING.
The prophecy was uttered between Shalmaneser's first and second invasions of Israel. Compare Hosea 10:14 ; also Hosea 10:6 , referring to Hoshea's calling So of Egypt to his aid; also Hosea 10:4 Hosea 10:13 .
1. empty--stripped of its fruits [CALVIN], ( Nahum 2:2 ); compelled to pay tribute to Pul ( 2 Kings 15:20 ). MAURER translates, "A widespreading vine"; so the Septuagint. Compare Genesis 49:22 Psalms 80:9-11 Ezekiel 17:6 .
bringeth forth fruit unto himself--not unto ME.
according to . . . multitude of . . . fruit . . . increased . . . altars--In proportion to the abundance of their prosperity, which called for fruit unto God (compare Romans 6:22 ), was the abundance of their idolatry ( Hosea 8:4 Hosea 8:11 ).
2. heart . . . divided--( 1 Kings 18:21 , Matthew 6:24 , 4:8 ).
now--that is soon.
break down--"cut off," namely the heads of the victims. Those altars, which were the scene of cutting off the victims' heads, shall be themselves cut off.
3. now, &c.--Soon they, deprived of their king, shall be reduced to say, We have no king ( Hosea 10:7 Hosea 10:15 ), for Jehovah deprived us of him, because of our not fearing God. What then (seeing God is against us) should a king be able to do for us, if we had one? As they rejected the heavenly King, they were deprived of their earthly king.
4. words--mere empty words.
swearing falsely in making a covenant--breaking their engagement to Shalmaneser ( 2 Kings 17:4 ), and making a covenant with So, though covenants with foreigners were forbidden.
judgment . . . as hemlock--that is, divine judgment shall spring up as rank, and as deadly, as hemlock in the furrows ( Deuteronomy 29:18 , Amos 5:7 , 6:12 ). GESENIUS translates, "poppy." GROTIUS, "darnel."
5. fear because of the calves--that is, shall fear for them.
Beth-aven--substituted for Beth-el in contempt ( Hosea 4:15 ).
it--singular, the one in Beth-el; after the pattern of which the other "calves" (plural) were made. "Calves" in the Hebrew is feminine, to express contempt.
priests--The Hebrew is only used of idolatrous priests ( 2 Kings 23:5 , Zephaniah 1:4 ), from a root meaning either "the black garment" in which they were attired; or, "to resound," referring to their howling cries in their sacred rites [CALVIN].
that rejoiced on it--because it was a source of gain to them. MAURER translates, "Shall leap in trepidation on account of it"; as Baal's priests did ( 1 Kings 18:26 ).
the glory thereof--the magnificence of its ornaments and its worship.
6. It . . . also--The calf, so far from saving its worshippers from deportation, itself shall be carried off; hence "Israel shall be ashamed" of it. to the king (whom they looked to as) their defender," or else avenger, whose wrath they wished to appease, namely, Shalmaneser. The minor states applied this title to the Great King, as the avenging Protector.
his own counsel--the calves, which Jeroboam set up as a stroke of policy to detach Israel from Judah. Their severance from Judah and Jehovah proved now to be not politic, but fatal to them.
7. ( Hosea 10:3 Hosea 10:15 ).
foam--denoting short-lived existence and speedy dissolution. As the foam, though seeming to be eminent raised on the top of the water, yet has no solidity, such is the throne of Samaria. MAURER translates, "a chip" or broken branch that cannot resist the current.
8. Aven--that is, Beth-aven.
the sin--that is, the occasion of sin ( Deuteronomy 9:21 , 1 Kings 12:30 ).
they shall say to . . . mountains, Cover us--So terrible shall be the calamity, that men shall prefer death to life ( Luke 23:30 , Revelation 6:16 , 9:6 ). Those very hills on which were their idolatrous altars (one source of their confidence, as their "king," Hosea 10:7 , was the other), so far from helping them, shall be called on by them to overwhelm them.
specimen of the whole nation. there they stood
--The Israelites have, as there and then, so ever since, persisted
in their sin [CALVIN]. Or, better, "they stood their ground," that is, did not perish then [MAURER]. the battle . . . did not overtake them
--Though God spared you then, He will not do so now; nay, the battle whereby God punished the Gibeonite "children of iniquity," shall the more heavily visit you for your continued impenitence. Though "they stood" then, it shall not be so now. The change from "thou" to "they" marks God's alienation from them; they are, by the use of the third person, put to a greater distance from God.
10. my desire . . . chastise--expressing God's strong inclination to vindicate His justice against sin, as being the infinitely holy God ( Deuteronomy 28:63 ).
the people--Foreign invaders "shall be gathered against them."
when they shall bind themselves in their two furrows--image from two oxen ploughing together side by side, in two contiguous furrows: so the Israelites shall join themselves, to unite their powers against all dangers, but it will not save them from My destroying them [CALVIN]. Their "two furrows" may refer to their two places of setting up the calves, their ground of confidence, Dan and Beth-el; or, the two divisions of the nation, Israel and Judah, "in their two furrows," that is, in their respective two places of habitation; Hosea 10:11 , which specifies the two, favors this view. HENDERSON prefers the Keri (Hebrew Margin) "for their two iniquities"; and translates, "when they are bound" in captivity. English Version is best, as the image is carried out in Hosea 10:11 ; only it is perhaps better to translate, "the people (the invaders) binding them," that is, making them captives; and so Hosea 10:11 alludes to the yoke being put on the neck of Ephraim and Judah.
11. taught--that is, accustomed.
loveth to tread out . . . corn--a far easier and more self-indulgent work than ploughing. In treading corn, cattle were not bound together under a yoke, but either trod it singly with their feet, or drew a threshing sledge over it ( Isaiah 28:27 Isaiah 28:28 ): they were free to eat some of the corn from time to time, as the law required they should be unmuzzled ( Deuteronomy 25:4 ), so that they grew fat in this work. An image of Israel's freedom, prosperity, and self-indulgence heretofore. But now God will put the Assyrian yoke upon her, instead of freedom, putting her to servile work.
I passed over upon--I put the yoke upon.
make . . . to ride--as in Job 30:22 ; that is, hurry Ephraim away to a distant region [CALVIN]. LYRA translates, "I will make (the Assyrian) to ride upon Ephraim." MAURER, "I will make Ephraim to carry," namely, a charioteer.
his clods--"the clods before him."
12. Continuation of the image in Hosea 10:11 ( Proverbs 11:18 ). Act righteously and ye shall reap the reward; a reward not of debt, but of grace.
in mercy--according to the measure of the divine "mercy," which over and above repays the goodness or "mercy" which we show to our fellow man ( Luke 6:38 ).
break . . . fallow ground--Remove your superstitions and vices, and be renewed.
seek . . . Lord, fill he come--Though not answered immediately, persevere unceasingly "till He come."
rain--send down as a copious shower.
righteousness--the reward of righteousness, that is, salvation, temporal and spiritual ( 1 Samuel 26:23 ; compare Joel 2:23 ).
13. reaped iniquity--that is, the fruit of iniquity; as "righteousness" ( Hosea 10:12 ) is "the fruit of righteousness" ( Job 4:8 , Proverbs 22:8 , Galatians 6:7 Galatians 6:8 ).
lies--false and spurious worship.
trust in thy way--thy perverse way ( Isaiah 57:10 , Jeremiah 2:23 ), thy worship of false gods. This was their internal safeguard, as their external was "the multitude of their mighty men."
14. tumult--a tumultuous war.
among thy people--literally, "peoples": the war shall extend to the whole people of Israel, through all the tribes, and the peoples allied to her.
Shalman spoiled Beth-arbel--that is, Shalmaneser, a compound name, in which the part common to it and the names of three other Assyrian kings, is omitted; Tiglath-pileser, Esar-haddon, Shar-ezer. So Jeconiah is abbreviated to Coniah. Arbel was situated in Naphtali in Galilee, on the border nearest Assyria. Against it Shalmaneser, at his first invasion of Israel ( 2 Kings 17:3 ), vented his chief rage. God threatens Israel's fortresses with the same fate as Arbel suffered "in the day (on the occasion) of the battle" then well-known, though not mentioned elsewhere (compare 2 Kings 18:34 ). This event, close on the reign of Hezekiah, shows the inscription of Hosea ( Hosea 1:1 ) to be correct.
15. So shall Beth-el do unto you--Your idolatrous calf at Beth-el shall be the cause of a like calamity befalling you.
your great wickedness--literally, "the wickedness of your wickedness."
in a morning--speedily as quickly as the dawn is put to flight by the rising sun ( Hosea 6:4 , 13:3 , Psalms 30:5 ).