The distress to come upon Israel. (1-6) The approach of the day of trouble. (7-10) Judgments on Israel. (11-17)
Verses 1-6 Israel gave rewards to their idols, in the offerings presented to them. It is common for those who are niggardly in religion, to be prodigal upon their lusts. Those are reckoned as idolaters, who love a reward in the corn-floor better than a reward in the favour of God and in eternal life. They are full of the joy of harvest, and have no disposition to mourn for sin. When we make the world, and the things of it, our idol and our portion, it is just with God to show us our folly, and correct us. None may expect to dwell in the Lord's land, who will not be subject to the Lord's laws, or be influenced by his love. When we enjoy the means of grace, we ought to consider what we shall do, if they should be taken from us. While the pleasures of communion with God are out of the reach of change, the pleasant places purchased with silver, or in which men deposit silver, are liable to be laid in ruins. No famine is so dreadful as that of the soul.
Verses 7-10 Time had been when the spiritual watchmen of Israel were with the Lord, but now they were like the snare of a fowler to entangle persons to their ruin. The people were become as corrupt as those of Gibeah, ( Judges 19 ) ; and their crimes should be visited in like manner. At first God had found Israel pleasing to Him, as grapes to the traveller in the wilderness. He saw them with pleasure as the first ripe figs. This shows the delight God took in them; yet they followed after idolatry.
11-17. God departs from a people, or from a person, when he withdraws his goodness and mercy from them; and when the Lord is departed, what can the creature do? Even though, for the present, good things seem to remain, yet the blessing is gone if God is gone. Even the children should perish with the parents. The Divine wrath dries up the root, and withers the fruit of all comforts; and the scattered Jews daily warn us to beware, lest we neglect or abuse the gospel. Yet every smiting is not a drying up of the root. It may be that God intends only to smite so that the sap may be turned to the root, that there may be more of root graces, more humility, patience, faith, and self-denial. It is very just that God should bring judgments on those who slight his offered mercy.
This chapter is an address to Israel or the ten tribes, and contains either a new sermon, or is a very considerable part of the former upon the same subject, the sins and punishment of that people. It begins with an instruction to them, not to rejoice in their prosperity, as others did; since it would soon be at an end, because of their idolatry, which was everywhere committed, and for which they expected a reward of temporal good things, Ho 9:1; but, on the contrary, they are threatened with famine, with want both of corn and wine, Ho 9:2; and with an ejection out of their land into foreign countries; where they should be obliged to eat things unclean by their law, Ho 9:3; and where their sacrifices and solemnities should be no more attended to, Ho 9:4,5; yea, where their carcasses should fall and be buried, while their own country and houses lay waste and desolate, Ho 9:6; for, whatsoever their foolish and mad prophets said to the contrary, who pretended to be with God, and know his will, and were a snare to them that gave heed unto them, and brought hatred on them, the time of their punishment would certainly come, Ho 9:7,8; and their iniquities would be remembered and visited; seeing their corruptions were deep, like those that appeared in Gibeah, in the days of old, Ho 9:9; they acting the same ungrateful part their fathers had done, of whom they were a degenerate offspring, Ho 9:10; wherefore for these, and other offences mentioned, they are threatened with being bereaved of their children, and drove out of their land, to wander among the nations, Ho 9:11-17.