An exhortation to repentance. (1-3) Israel's instability and breach of the covenant. (4-11)
Verses 1-3 Those who have gone from God by consent, and in a body, drawing one another to sin, should, by consent and in a body, return to him, which will be for his glory, and their good. It will be of great use for support under afflictions, and to encourage our repentance, to keep up good thoughts of God, and of his purposes and designs concerning us. Deliverance out of trouble should be to them as life from the dead. God will revive them: the assurance of this should engage them to return to him. But this seems to have a further reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let us admire the wisdom and goodness of God, that when the prophet foretold the deliverance of the church out of her troubles, he should point out our salvation by Christ; and now these words are fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ, it confirms our faith, that this is He that should come and we are to look for no other. Here is a precious blessing promised; this is life eternal, to know God. The returns of the favour of God are secured to us as firmly as the return of the morning after a dark night. He shall come to us as the latter and former rain unto the earth, which refreshes it, and makes it fruitful. The grace of God in Christ is both the latter and the former rain; and by it the good work of our fruit-bearing is begun and carried on. And as the Redeemer was raised from the grave, so will He revive the hearts and hopes of all that trust in him. The feeblest glimpse of hope in his word, is a sure earnest of increasing light and comfort, which shall be attended with purifying, comforting grace that makes fruitful.
Verses 4-11 Sometimes Israel and Judah seemed disposed to repent under their sufferings, but their goodness vanished like the empty morning cloud, and the early dew, and they were as vile as ever. Therefore the Lord sent awful messages by the prophets. The word of God will be the death either of the sin or of the sinner. God desired mercy rather than sacrifice, and that knowledge of him which produces holy fear and love. This exposes the folly of those who trust in outward observances, to make up for their want of love to God and man. As Adam broke the covenant of God in paradise, so Israel had broken his national covenant, notwithstanding all the favours they received. Judah also was ripe for Divine judgments. May the Lord put his fear into our hearts, and set up his kingdom within us, and never leave us to ourselves, nor suffer us to be overcome by temptation.
Hosea 6:1-11 . THE ISRAELITES' EXHORTATION TO ONE ANOTHER TO SEEK THE LORD.
At Hosea 6:4 a new discourse, complaining of them, begins; for Hosea 6:1-3 evidently belong to Hosea 5:15 , and form the happy termination of Israel's punishment: primarily, the retur n from Babylon; ultimately, the return from their present long dispersion. Hosea 6:8 perhaps refers to the murder of Pekahiah; the discourse cannot be later than Pekah's reign, for it was under it that Gilead was carried into captivity ( 2 Kings 15:29 ).
1. let us return--in order that God who has "returned to His place" may return to us ( Hosea 5:15 ).
torn, and . . . heal--( Deuteronomy 32:39 , Jeremiah 30:17 ). They ascribe their punishment not to fortune, or man, but to God, and acknowledge that none (not the Assyrian, as they once vainly thought, Hosea 5:13 ) but God can heal their wound. They are at the same time persuaded of the mercy of God, which persuasion is the starting-point of true repentance, and without which men would not seek, but hate and flee from God. Though our wound be severe, it is not past hope of recovery; there is room for grace, and a hope of pardon. He hath smitten us, but not so badly that He cannot heal us ( Psalms 130:4 ).
2. Primarily, in type, Israel's national revival, in a short period ("two or three" being used to denote a few days, Isaiah 17:6 , Luke 13:32 Luke 13:33 ); antitypically the language is so framed as to refer in its full accuracy only to Messiah, the ideal Israel ( Isaiah 49:3 ; compare Matthew 2:15 , with Hosea 11:1 ), raised on the third day ( John 2:19 , 1 Corinthians 15:4 ; compare Isaiah 53:10 ). "He shall prolong His days." Compare the similar use of Israel's political resurrection as the type of the general resurrection of which "Christ is the first-fruits" ( Isaiah 26:19 Ezekiel 37:1-14 Daniel 12:2 ).
live in his sight--enjoy His countenance shining on us, as of old; in contrast to Hosea 5:6 Hosea 5:15 , "Withdrawn Himself from them."
3. know, if we follow on to know the Lord--The result of His recovered favor ( Hosea 6:2 ) will be onward growth in saving knowledge of God, as the result of perseverance in following after Him ( Psalms 63:8 , Isaiah 54:13 ). "Then" implies the consequence of the revival in Hosea 6:2 . The "if" is not so much conditional, as expressive of the means which God's grace will sanctify to the full enlightenment of Israel in the knowledge of Him. As want of "knowledge of God" has been the source of all evils ( Hosea 4:1 , 5:4 ), so the knowledge of Him will bring with it all blessings; yea, it is "life" ( John 17:3 ). This knowledge is practice, not mere theory ( Jeremiah 22:15 Jeremiah 22:16 ). Theology is life, not science; realities, not words. This onward progress is illustrated by the light of "morning" increasing more and more "unto the perfect day" ( Proverbs 4:18 ).
prepared--"is sure," literally, "fixed," ordered in His everlasting purposes of love to His covenant-people. Compare "prepared of God" ( Genesis 41:32 , Margin; Revelation 12:6 ). Jehovah shall surely come to the relief of His people after their dark night of calamity.
as the morning--( 2 Samuel 23:4 ).
as the rain . . . latter . . . former--( Job 29:23 , Joel 2:23 ). First, "the rain" generally is mentioned; then the two rains ( Deuteronomy 11:14 ) which caused the fertility of Palestine, and the absence of which was accounted the greatest calamity: "the latter rain" which falls in the latter half of February, and during March and April, just before the harvest whence it takes its name, from a root meaning " to gather"; and "the former rain," literally, "the darting rain," from the middle of October to the middle of December. As the rain fertilizes the otherwise barren land, so God's favor will restore Israel long nationally lifeless.
4. what shall I do unto thee--to bring thee back to piety. What more could be done that I have not done, both in mercies and chastenings ( Isaiah 5:4 )? At this verse a new discourse begins, resuming the threats ( Hosea 5:14 ). See opening remarks on this chapter.
morning cloud--soon dispersed by the sun ( Hosea 13:3 ). There is a tacit contrast here to the promise of God's grace to Israel hereafter, in Hosea 6:3 . His going forth is "as the morning," shining more and more unto the perfect day; your goodness is "as a morning cloud," soon vanishing. His coming to His people is "as the (fertilizing) latter and former rains"; your coming to Him "as the early dew goeth away."
5. I hewed them by the prophets--that is, I announced by the prophets that they should be hewn asunder, like trees of the forest. God identifies His act with that of His prophets; the word being His instrument for executing His will ( Jeremiah 1:10 , Ezekiel 43:3 ).
by . . . words of my mouth--( Isaiah 11:4 , Jeremiah 23:29 , Hebrews 4:12 ).
thy judgments--the judgments which I will inflict on thee, Ephraim and Judah ( Hosea 6:4 ). So "thy judgments," that is, those inflicted on thee ( Zephaniah 3:15 ).
are as the light, &c.--like the light, palpable to the eyes of all, as coming from God, the punisher of sin. HENDERSON translates, "lightning" (compare Job 37:3 , Margin; Job 35:15 ).
6. mercy--put for piety in general, of which mercy or charity is a branch.
not sacrifice--that is, "rather than sacrifice." So "not" is merely comparative ( Exodus 16:8 , Joel 2:13 , John 6:27 , 1 Timothy 2:14 ). As God Himself instituted sacrifices, it cannot mean that He desired them not absolutely, but that even in the Old Testament, He valued moral obedience as the only end for which positive ordinances, such as sacrifices, were instituted--as of more importance than a mere external ritual obedience ( 1 Samuel 15:22 , Psalms 50:8 Psalms 50:9 , 51:16 , Isaiah 1:11 Isaiah 1:12 , Micah 6:6-8 , Matthew 9:13 , 12:7 ).
knowledge of God--experimental and practical, not merely theoretical ( Hosea 6:3 , Jeremiah 22:16 , 1 John 2:3 1 John 2:4 ). "Mercy" refers to the second table of the law, our duty to our fellow man; "the knowledge of God" to the first table, our duty to God, including inward spiritual worship. The second table is put first, not as superior in dignity, for it is secondary, but in the order of our understanding.
7. like men--the common sort of men ( Psalms 82:7 ). Not as Margin, "like Adam," Job 31:33 . For the expression "covenant" is not found elsewhere applied to Adam's relation to God; though the thing seems implied ( Romans 5:12-19 ). Israel "transgressed the covenant" of God as lightly as men break everyday compacts with their fellow men.
there--in the northern kingdom, Israel.
8. Gilead . . . city--probably Ramoth-gilead, metropolis of the hilly region beyond Jordan, south of the Jabbok, known as "Gilead" ( 1 Kings 4:13 ; compare Genesis 31:21-25 ).
work iniquity--( Hosea 12:11 ).
polluted with blood--"marked with blood-traces" [MAURER]. Referring to Gilead's complicity in the regicidal conspiracy of Pekah against Pekahiah ( 2 Kings 15:25 ). Jordan more cities of refuge, in proportion to the extent of territory, than on this side of Jordan ( Numbers 35:14 , Deuteronomy 4:41-43 , Joshua 20:8 ). Ramoth-gilead was one.
9. company--"association" or guild of priests.
murder by consent--literally, "with one shoulder" (compare Zephaniah 3:9 , Margin). The image is from oxen putting their shoulders together to pull the same yoke [RIVETUS]. MAURER translates, "in the way towards Shechem." It was a city of refuge between Ebal and Gerizim; on Mount Ephraim ( Joshua 20:7 , 21:21 ), long the civil capital of Ephraim, as Shiloh was the religious capital; now called Naploos; for a time the residence of Jeroboam ( 1 Kings 12:25 ). The priests there became so corrupted that they waylaid and murdered persons fleeing to the asylum for refuge [HENDERSON]; the sanctity of the place enhanced the guilt of the priests who abused their priestly privileges, and the right of asylum to perpetrate murders themselves, or to screen those committed by others [MAURER].
commit lewdness--deliberate crime, presumptuous wickedness, from an Arabic root, "to form a deliberate purpose."
10. horrible thing--( Jeremiah 5:30 , 18:13 , 23:14 ).
11. an harvest--namely, of judgments (as in Jeremiah 51:33 , Joel 3:13 , Revelation 14:15 ). Called a "harvest" because it is the fruit of the seed which Judah herself had sown ( Hosea 8:7 , 10:12 , Job 4:8 , Proverbs 22:8 ). Judah, under Ahaz, lost a hundred twenty thousand "slain in one day (by Israel under Pekah), because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers."
when I returned the captivity of my people--when I, by Oded My prophet, caused two hundred thousand women, sons, and daughters, of Judah to be restored from captivity by Israel ( 2 Chronicles 28:6-15 ). This prophecy was delivered under Pekah [LUDOVICUS DE DIEU]. MAURER explains, When Israel shall have been exiled for its sins, and has been subsequently restored by Me, thou, Judah, also shalt be exiled for thine. But as Judah's punishment was not at the time when God restored Israel, LUDOVICUS DE DIEU'S'S explanation must be taken. GROTIUS translates, "When I shall have returned to make captive (that is, when I shall have again made captive) My people." The first captivity of Israel under Tiglath-pileser was followed by a second under Shalmaneser. Then came the siege of Jerusalem, and the capture of the fenced cities of Judah, by Sennacherib, the forerunner of other attacks, ending in Judah's captivity. But the Hebrew is elsewhere used of restoration, not renewed punishment ( Deuteronomy 30:3 , Psalms 14:7 ).