God's regard for Israel; their ingratitude. (1-7) The Divine mercy yet in store. (8-12)
Verses 1-7 When Israel were weak and helpless as children, foolish and froward as children, then God loved them; he bore them as the nurse does the sucking child, nourished them, and suffered their manners. All who are grown up, ought often to reflect upon the goodness of God to them in their childhood. He took care of them, took pains with them, not only as a father, or a tutor, but as a mother, or nurse. When they were in the wilderness, God showed them the way in which they should go, and bore them up, taking them by the arms. He taught them the way of his commandments by the ceremonial law given by Moses. He took them by the arms, to guide them, that they might not stray, and to hold them up, that they might not stumble and fall. God's spiritual Israel are all thus supported. It is God's work to draw poor souls to himself; and none can come to him except he draw them. With bands of love; this word signifies stronger cords than the former. He eased them of the burdens they had long groaned under. Israel is very ungrateful to God. God's counsels would have saved them, but their own counsels ruined them. They backslide; there is no hold of them, no stedfastness in them. They backslide from me, from God, the chief good. They are bent to backslide; they are ready to sin; they are forward to close with every temptation. Their hearts are fully set in them to do evil. Those only are truly happy, whom the Lord teaches by his Spirit, upholds by his power, and causes to walk in his ways. By his grace he takes away the love and dominion of sin, and creates a desire for the blessed feast of the gospel, that they may feed thereon, and live for ever.
Verses 8-12 God is slow to anger, and is loth to abandon a people to utter ruin, who have been called by his name. When God was to give a sacrifice for sin, and a Saviour for sinners, he spared not his own Son, that he might spare us. This is the language of the day of his patience; but when men sin that away, then the great day of his wrath comes. Man's compassions are nothing in comparison with the tender mercies of our God, whose thoughts and ways, in receiving returning sinners, are as much above ours as heaven is above the earth. God knows how to pardon poor sinners. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and therein declares his righteousness, now Christ has purchased the pardon, and he has promised it. Holy trembling at the word of Christ will draw us to him, not drive us from him, the children tremble, and flee to him. And all that come at the gospel call, shall have a place and a name in the gospel church. The religious service of Israel were mere hypocrisy, but in Judah regard was had to God's laws, and the people followed their pious forefathers. Let us be faithful: those who thus honour God, he will honour, but such us despise Him shall be lightly esteemed.
Hosea 11:1-12 . GOD'S FORMER BENEFITS, AND ISRAEL'S INGRATITUDE RESULTING IN PUNISHMENT, YET JEHOVAH PROMISES RESTORATION AT LAST.
Hosea 11:5 shows this prophecy was uttered after the league made with Egypt ( 2 Kings 17:4 ).
1. Israel . . . called my son out of Egypt--BENGEL translates, "From the time that he (Israel) was in Egypt, I called him My son," which the parallelism proves. So Hosea 12:9 and Hosea 13:4 use "from . . . Egypt," for "from the time that thou didst sojourn in Egypt." Exodus 4:22 also shows that Israel was called by God, "My son," from the time of his Egyptian sojourn ( Isaiah 43:1 ). God is always said to have led or brought forth, not to have "called," Israel from Egypt. Matthew 2:15 , therefore, in quoting this prophecy (typically and primarily referring to Israel, antitypically and fully to Messiah), applies it to Jesus' sojourn in Egypt, not His return from it. Even from His infancy, partly spent in Egypt, God called Him His son. God included Messiah, and Israel for Messiah's sake, in one common love, and therefore in one common prophecy. Messiah's people and Himself are one, as the Head and the body. Isaiah 49:3 calls Him "Israel." The same general reason, danger of extinction, caused the infant Jesus, and Israel in its national infancy (compare Genesis 42:1-43:34,45:18,46:3,4'Ezekiel 16:4-6'Jeremiah 31:20') to sojourn in Egypt. So He, and His spiritual Israel, are already called "God's sons" while yet in the Egypt of the world.
2. As they called them--"they," namely, monitors sent by Me. "Called," in Hosea 11:1 , suggests the idea of the many subsequent calls by the prophets.
went from them--turned away in contempt ( Jeremiah 2:27 ).
Baalim--images of Baal, set up in various places.
3. taught . . . to go--literally "to use his feet." Compare a similar image, Deuteronomy 1:31 , Deuteronomy 8:2 Deuteronomy 8:5 Deuteronomy 8:15 , Deuteronomy 32:10 Deuteronomy 32:11 , Nehemiah 9:21 , Isaiah 63:9 , Amos 2:10 . God bore them as a parent does an infant, unable to supply itself, so that it has no anxiety about food, raiment, and its going forth. Acts 13:18 , which probably refers to this passage of Hosea; He took them by the arms, to guide them that they might not stray, and to hold them up that they might not stumble.
knew not that I healed them--that is, that My design was to restore them spiritually and temporally ( Exodus 15:26 ).
4. cords of a man--parallel to "bands of love"; not such cords as oxen are led by, but humane methods, such as men employ when inducing others, as for instance, a father drawing his child, by leading-strings, teaching him to go ( Hosea 11:1 ).
I was . . . as they that take off the yoke on their jaws . . . I laid meat--as the humane husbandman occasionally loosens the straps under the jaws by which the yoke is bound on the neck of oxen and lays food before them to eat. An appropriate image of God's deliverance of Israel from the Egyptian yoke, and of His feeding them in the wilderness.
5. He shall not return into . . . Egypt--namely, to seek help against Assyria (compare Hosea 7:11 ), as Israel lately had done ( 2 Kings 17:4 ), after having revolted from Assyria, to whom they had been tributary from the times of Menahem ( 2 Kings 15:19 ). In a figurative sense, "he shall return to Egypt" ( Hosea 9:3 ), that is, to Egypt-like bondage; also many Jewish fugitives were literally to return to Egypt, when the Holy Land was to be in Assyrian and Chaldean hands.
Assyrian shall be his king--instead of having kings of their own, and Egypt as their auxiliary.
because they refused to return--just retribution. They would not return (spiritually) to God, therefore they shall not return (corporally) to Egypt, the object of their desire.
6. abide--or, "fall upon" [CALVIN].
branches--villages, which are the branches or dependencies of the cities [CALVIN]. GROTIUS translates, "his bars" (so Lamentations 2:9 ), that is, the warriors who were the bulwarks of the state. Compare Hosea 4:18 , "rulers" (Margin), "shields" ( Psalms 47:9 ).
because of their own counsels--in worshipping idols, and relying on Egypt (compare Hosea 10:6 ).
7. bent to backsliding--Not only do they backslide, and that too from ME, their "chief good," but they are bent upon it. Though they (the prophets) called them (the Israelites) to the Most High (from their idols), "none would exalt (that is, extol or honor) Him." To exalt God, they must cease to be "bent on backsliding," and must lift themselves upwards.
8. as Admah . . . Zeboim--among the cities, including Sodom and Gomorrah, irretrievably overthrown ( Deuteronomy 29:23 ).
heart is turned within me--with the deepest compassion, so as not to execute My threat ( Lamentations 1:20 ; compare Genesis 43:30 , 1 Kings 3:26 ). So the phrase is used of a new turn given to the feeling ( Psalms 105:25 ).
repentings--God speaks according to human modes of thought ( Numbers 23:19 ). God's seeming change is in accordance with His secret everlasting purpose of love to His people, to magnify His grace after their desperate rebellion.
9. I will not return to destroy Ephraim--that is I will no more, as in past times, destroy Ephraim. The destruction primarily meant is probably that by Tiglath-pileser, who, as the Jewish king Ahaz' ally against Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria, deprived Israel of Gilead, Galilee, and Naphtali ( 2 Kings 15:29 ). The ulterior reference is to the long dispersion hereafter, to be ended by God's covenant mercy restoring His people, not for their merits, but of His grace.
God, . . . not man--not dealing as man would, with implacable wrath under awful provocation ( Isaiah 55:7-9 Malachi 3:6 ). I do not, like man, change when once I have made a covenant of everlasting love, as with Israel ( Numbers 23:19 ). We measure God by the human standard, and hence are slow to credit fully His promises; these, however, belong to the faithful remnant, not to the obstinately impenitent.
in the midst of thee--as peculiarly thy God ( Exodus 19:5 Exodus 19:6 ).
not enter into the city--as an enemy: as I entered Admah, Zeboim, and Sodom, utterly destroying them, whereas I will not utterly destroy thee. Somewhat similarly JEROME: "I am not one such as human dwellers in a city, who take cruel vengeance; I save those whom I correct." Thus "not man," and "in the midst of thee," are parallel to "into the city." Though I am in the midst of thee, it is not as man entering a rebellious city to destroy utterly. MAURER needlessly translates, "I will not come in wrath."
10. he shall roar like a lion--by awful judgments on their foes ( Isaiah 31:4 , Jeremiah 25:26-30 , Joel 3:16 ), calling His dispersed "children" from the various lands of their dispersion.
shall tremble--shall flock in eager agitation of haste.
from the west--( Zechariah 8:7 ). Literally, "the sea." Probably the Mediterranean, including its "isles of the sea," and maritime coast. Thus as Hosea 11:11 specifies regions of Africa and Asia, so here Europe. Isaiah 11:11-16 , is parallel, referring to the very same regions. On "children," see Hosea 1:10 .
11. tremble--flutter in haste.
dove--no longer "a silly dove" ( Hosea 7:11 ), but as "doves flying to their windows" ( Isaiah 60:8 ).
in their houses--( Ezekiel 28:26 ). Literally, "upon," for the Orientals live almost as much upon their flat-roofed houses as in them.
12. MAURER joins this verse with the twelfth chapter. But as this verse praises Judah, whereas Hosea 12:2 censures him, it must belong rather to the eleventh chapter and a new prophecy begins at the twelfth chapter. To avoid this, MAURER translates this verse as a censure, "Judah wanders with God," that is, though having the true God, he wanders after false gods.
ruleth with God--to serve God is to reign. Ephraim wished to rule without God (compare 1 Corinthians 4:8 ); nay, even, in order to rule, cast off God's worship [RIVETUS]. In Judah was the legitimate succession of kings and priests.
with the saints--the holy priests and Levites [RIVETUS]. With the fathers and prophets who handed down the pure worship of God. Israel's apostasy is the more culpable, as he had before him the good example of Judah, which he set at naught. The parallelism ("with GOD") favors Margin, "With THE MOST HOLY ONE."