I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love
As Ephraim is compared to a heifer in the preceding chapter, here he is said to be drawn; but not with such cords and bands as cattle are, but with such as men are; in a rational and gentle way, in a kind, loving, tender, humane, friendly, and fatherly way and manner; so the Lord drew Israel on in the wilderness, till he was brought to Canaan's land, by bestowing kind favours upon them, and by making precious promises to them. So the Lord deals with his spiritual Israel; he draws them out of the present state and circumstances, in which they are by nature, to himself, and to his Son, and to follow after him, and run in the ways of his commandments; and which he does not by force and compulsion against their wills, nor by mere moral persuasion, but by the invincible power of his grace, sweetly working upon them, and attracting them; he does it by revealing Christ in them, in the glories of his person and in the riches of his grace, and by letting in his love into their hearts; and by kind invitations, precious promises, and divine teachings, attended with his powerful and efficacious grace; see ( Jeremiah 31:3 ) ( John 6:44 ) ( Song of Solomon 1:4 ) ; and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws;
as one that is merciful to his beast; as a kind and humane husbandman, when his cattle have been hard at work, takes off their bridles or muzzles, or the yokes on them, fastened with a halter about their jaws, that they may have liberty to feed on food set before them, as the next clause shows. So the Targum,
``my word was to them as a good husbandman, who lightens the shoulder of oxen, and looses "the bridles" on their jaws.''This may refer to Israel's deliverance from their bondage in Egypt; and be spiritually applied to Christ, the essential Word of God, breaking and taking the yoke of sin, Satan, and the law from off his people, and bringing them into the liberty of the children of God. Schmidt reads and interprets the words quite otherwise, "and I was to them as they that lift up the yoke upon their jaws"; not remove it from them but put it on them; expressing their ignorance and ingratitude, who, when the Lord drew them in the kind and loving manner he did, reckoned it as if he put a yoke upon them, and treated them rather as beasts than men; but this seems not to agree with what follows: and I laid meat unto them:
``and, even when they were in the wilderness, I multiplied to them good things to eat.''And thus in a spiritual sense the Lord gives meat to them that fear him, while in the wilderness of this world; he brings it near, and sets it before them, in the ministry of the word and ordinances; even that meat which endures to everlasting life, the flesh of Christ, which is meat indeed; and the doctrines of the Gospel, which are milk for babes, and strong meat for more experienced saints.