The abuse of God's favour leads to punishment. (1-8) A promise of God's mercy. (9-16)
Verses 1-8 While Ephraim kept up a holy fear of God, and worshipped Him in that fear, so long he was very considerable. When Ephraim forsook God, and followed idolatry, he sunk. Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves, in token of their adoration of them, affection for them, and obedience to them; but the Lord will not give his glory to another, and therefore all that worship images shall be confounded. No solid, lasting comfort, is to be expected any where but in God. God not only took care of the Israelites in the wilderness, he put them in possession of Canaan, a good land; but worldly prosperity, when it feeds men's pride, makes them forgetful of God. Therefore the Lord would meet them in just vengeance, as the most terrible beast that inhabited their forests. Abused goodness calls for greater severity.
Verses 9-16 Israel had destroyed himself by his rebellion; but he could not save himself, his help was from the Lord only. This may well be applied to the case of spiritual redemption, from that lost state into which all have fallen by wilful sins. God often gives in displeasure what we sinfully desire. It is the happiness of the saints, that, whether God gives or takes away, all is in love. But it is the misery of the wicked, that, whether God gives or takes away, it is all in wrath, nothing is comfortable. Except sinners repent and believe the gospel, anguish will soon come upon them. The prophecy of the ruin of Israel as a nation, also showed there would be a merciful and powerful interposition of God, to save a remnant of them. Yet this was but a shadow of the ransom of the true Israel, by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. He will destroy death and the grave. The Lord would not repent of his purpose and promise. Yet, in the mean time, Israel would be desolated for her sins. Without fruitfulness in good works, springing from the Holy Spirit, all other fruitfulness will be found as empty as the uncertain riches of the world. The wrath of God will wither its branches, its sprigs shall be dried up, it shall come to nothing. Woes, more terrible than any from the most cruel warfare, shall fall on those who rebel against God. From such miseries, and from sin, the cause of them, may the Lord deliver us.
This chapter begins with observing the different state and condition of Ephraim before and after his idolatry, Ho 13:1; his increase in it, Ho 13:2; and therefore his prosperity was very short lived, which is signified by various metaphors, Ho 13:3; and his sins are aggravated by the former goodness of God unto him his great ingratitude unto God, and forgetfulness him, Ho 13:4-6; hence he is threatened with his wrath and vengeance in a very severe manner, Ho 13:7,8; for which he had none to blame but himself; yea, such was the grace and goodness of God to him, that though he had destroyed himself, yet there were help and salvation for him in him, Ho 13:9; though not in his king he had desired, and was given, and was took away in wrath, Ho 13:10,11; but his sin being bound up and hid, and he foolish and unwise, sharp corrections would be given him, Ho 13:12,13; and yet a gracious promise is made of redemption from death and the grave by the Messiah, Ho 13:14; but, notwithstanding this, and all his present prosperity, he would be blasted in his wealth and riches; and Samaria the metropolis of his country would he desolate; and the inhabitants of it be used in the most cruel manner, because of their rebellion against God, Ho 13:15,16.