This first verse shows the time in which Hosea prophesied. He names four kings of Judah, — Uzziah, Jotham, Ahab, Hezekiah. Uzziah, called also Azariah, reigned fifty-two years; but after having been smitten with leprosy, he did not associate with men, and abdicated his royal dignity. Jotham, his son, succeeded him. The years of Jotham were about sixteen, and about as many were those of king Ahab, the father of Hezekiah; and it was under king Hezekiah that Hosea died. If we now wish to ascertain how long he discharged his office of teaching, we must take notice of what sacred history says, — Uzziah began to reign in the twenty seventh year of Jeroboam, the son of Joash. By supposing that Hosea performed his duties as a teacher, excepting a few years during the reign of Jeroboam, that is, the sixteen years which passed from the beginning of Uzziah’s reign to the death of Jeroboam, he must have prophesied thirty-six years under the reign of Uzziah. There is, however, no doubt but that he began to execute his office some years before the end of Jeroboam’s reign.
Here, then, there appear to be at least forty years. Jotham succeeded his father, and reigned sixteen years; and though it be a probable conjecture, that the beginning of his reign is to be counted from the time he undertook the government, after his father, being smitten with leprosy, was ejected from the society of men, it is yet probable that the remaining time to the death of his father ought to come to our reckoning. When however, we take for granted a few years, it must be that Hosea had prophesied more than forty-five years before Ahab began to reign. Add now the sixteen years in which Ahab reigned and the number will amount to sixty-one. There remain the years in which he prophesied under the reign of Hezekiah. It cannot, then, be otherwise but that he had followed his office more than sixty years, and probably continued beyond the seventieth year.
It hence appears with how great and with how invincible courage and perseverance he was endued by the Holy Spirit. But when God employs our service for twenty or thirty years we think it very wearisome, especially when we have to contend with wicked men, and those who do not willingly undertake the yoke, but pertinaciously resist us; we then instantly desire to be set free, and wish to become like soldiers who have completed their time. When therefore, we see that this Prophet persevered for so long a time, let him be to us an example of patience so that we may not despond, though the Lord may not immediately free us from our burden.
Thus much of the four kings whom he names. He must indeed have prophesied (as I have just shown) for nearly forty years under the king Uzziah or Azariah, and then for some years under the king Ahab, (to omit now the reign of Jotham, which was concurrent with that of his father,) and he continued to the time of Hezekiah: but why has he particularly mentioned Jeroboam the son of Joash, since he could not have prophesied under him except for a short time? His son Zachariah succeeded him; there arose afterward the conspiracy of Shallum, who was soon destroyed; then the kingdom became involved in great confusion; and at length the Assyrian, by means of Shalmanazar, led away captive the ten tribes, which became dispersed among the Medes. As this was the case, why does the Prophet here mention only one king of Israel? This seems strange; for he continued his office of teaching to the end of his reign and to his death. But an answer may be easily given: He wished distinctly to express, that he began to teach while the state was entire; for, had he prophesied after the death of Jeroboam, he might have seemed to conjecture some great calamity from the then present view of things: thus it would not have been prophecy, or, at least, this credit would have been much less. “He now, forsooth! divines what is, evident to the eyes of all.” For Zachariah flourished but a short time; and the conspiracy alluded to before was a certain presage of an approaching destruction, and the kingdom became soon dissolved. Hence the Prophet testifies here in express words, that he had already threatened future vengeance to the people, even when the kingdom of Israel flourished in wealth and power, when Jeroboam was enjoying his triumphs, and when prosperity inebriated the whole land.
This, then, was the reason why the Prophet mentioned only this one king; for under him the kingdom of Israel became strong, and was fortified by many strongholds and a large army, and abounded also in great riches. Indeed, sacred history tells us, that God had by Jeroboam delivered the kingdom of Israel, though he himself was unworthy, and that he had recovered many cities and a very wide extent of country. As, then, he had increased the kingdom, as he had become formidable to all his neighbours, as he had collected great riches, and as the people lived in ease and luxury, what the Prophet declared seemed incredible. “Ye are not,” he said, “the people of the Lord; ye are adulterous children, ye are born of fornication.” Such a reproof certainly seemed not seasonable. Then he said, “The kingdom shall be taken from you, destruction is nigh to you.” “What, to us? and yet our king has now obtained so many victories, and has struck terror into other kings.” The kingdom of Judah, which was a rival, being then nearly broken down, there was no one who could have ventured to suspect such an event.
We now, then, perceive why the Prophet here says expressly that he had prophesied under Jeroboam. He indeed prophesied after his death, and followed his office even after the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, but he began to teach at a time when he was a sport to the ungodly, who exalted themselves against God, and boldly despised his threatening as long as he spared and bore with them; which is ever the case, as proved by the constant experience of all ages. We hence see more clearly with what power of the Spirit God had endued the Prophet, who dared to rise up against so powerful a king, and to reprove his wickedness, and also to summon his subjects to the same judgement. When, therefore, the Prophet conducted himself so boldly, at a time when the Israelites were not only sottish on account of their great success, but also wholly insane, it was certainly nothing short of a miracle; and this ought to avail much to establish his authority. We now then, see the design of the inscription contained in the first verse. It follows —
Hos_1:1. Superscription. It has been shown al ready in the Introduction (§ 1) that the chronological limits assigned in the title must be admitted to be essentially correct. Difficulties have been suggested to the minds of some from the circumstance that when the duration of Hosea’s ministry is given, it is, in the first line, placed in relation to the reigns of Judah, and that a king of Israel is mentioned only in the second line. To argue from this, however, that Hosea belonged to the kingdom of Judah, is inadmissible; for as we saw in the Introduction, all other evidence goes to prove that he was a resident of the Northern Kingdom.
But a further difficulty is felt. Only one king of Israel is named, whom Hosea long survived, and the succession of Judaic kings brings down the life of the prophet far beyond the time of that single monarch, Jeroboam II. Hence it is: alleged that the second part of the superscription does not agree with the first.
Keil seeks to solve this difficulty by assuming that the Prophet acknowledged only the legitimate rulers of the kingdom of Judah as the real kings of the people of God; and that he defined the limits of his ministry according to the real succession of that kingdom. He introduces along with the names of those kings, that of the Israelitish monarch, under whom he began his prophetic course, not only to indicate that occasion more definitely, but chiefly on account of the significant position occupied by Jeroboam in the kingdom of the Ten Tribes. He was the last king through whom God vouchsafed any aid to that state. The succeeding rulers scarcely deserved the title of king.
But this explanation, brought forward in order to defend the originality of the superscription, can scarcely be acquitted of the charge of arbitrariness. (The precedence assigned to the Judaic kings would be better explained on the hypothesis that Hosea, at a later period, took up his residence in Judah and there composed his book.) Ewald, who, to be sure, does not admit in its full extent the correctness of the chronological statements of the superscription, supposes that the allusion to the kings of Judah was added by a later hand (which also inserted Isa_1:1), while the remainder is the old original superscription, which, however, he thinks belonged at first only to chaps, 1, 2.
The question, whether the superscription in its present form is quite original, must be allowed to remain undecided.
[As serving however to defend the genuineness of the superscription, comp. with the view of Keil adduced above, the following full and forcible presentation of the probable design of the prophet in its insertion given by Hengstenberg in his Christology: “Hosea mentions, first and completely, the kings of the legitimate family. He then further adds the name of one of the rulers of the Kingdom of Israel, under whom his ministry began, because it was of importance to fix precisely the time of its commencement. Uzziah, the first of the series of the kings of Judah mentioned by him, survived Jeroboam nearly twenty-six years. Now, had the latter not been mentioned along with him, the thought might easily have suggested itself, that it was only in the latter period of Uzziah’s reign that the prophet entered upon his office; in which case all that he says about the overthrow of Jeroboam’s family, would have appeared to be a vaticinium post eventum, inasmuch as it took place very soon after Jeroboam’s death. The same applies to what is said by him regarding the total decay of the kingdom which was so flourishing under Jeroboam; for, from the moment of Jeroboam’s death, it hastened with rapid strides toward destruction. If, therefore, it was to be seen that future things lie open to God and his servants ‘before they spring forth’ (Isa_42:9), it was necessary that the commencement of the Prophet’s ministry should be the more accurately determined; and this is effected by the intimation that it took place within the period of the fourteen years during which Uzziah and Jeroboam reigned contemporaneously. That this is the main reason for mentioning Jeroboam’s name is seen from the relation of Hos_1:2 to Hos_1:1. The remark made in Hos_1:2, that Hosea received the subsequent revelation at the very beginning of his prophetic ministry, corresponds with the mention of Jeroboam’s name in Hos_1:1. But this is not all.… There was a considerable difference between him and the subsequent kings. Cocceius remarks very strikingly: ‘The other kings of Israel are not viewed as kings but as robbers.’ Jeroboam possessed a quasi legitimacy. The house of Jehu to which he belonged, had opposed the extreme of religious apostasy. It was to a certain degree recognized even by the Prophets. Jeroboam had obtained the throne not by usurpation but by birth. He was the last king by whom the Lord sent deliverance to the Ten Tribes; comp. 2Ki_14:27.”
The English commentators hold to the originality of the superscription, with the exception of Noyes, who speaks of it as “doubtful.” The arguments which establish it are mainly these: (1.) The very fact of its existence in its present form from the earliest known period. (2.) The analogy of other prophetic books as well as of many other portions of the Old Testament, the genuineness of whose superscriptions has never been successfully impugned either by German critics or their English followers. (3.) The improbability of any other hypothesis. Any “redactor” (Ewald and others) could have had no reason to insert such a peculiar title. Its anomalous character shows it to have been the work of the author himself. Any other would either have made no allusion to the kings of Israel, or would have given a complete list of the contemporary ones. There is a purpose manifest here which a collector would not have conceived, and which it was beyond his province to convey to the world by embodying it in an addition to his author’s writings. (4.) The exact correspondence between the character of the superscription, the contents of the book, and the position of the author, as partly shown above, and as might be further proved abundantly.
The superscription therefore is original, and original in its present form. As to the place of its composition there is no improbability in the opinion, mentioned by Schmoller above, that with the rest of the book it was composed in Judah. But this cannot explain, as he supposes, the anomalies of the superscription. It only increases the difficulties. Why was an Israelitish king mentioned at all? This question remains unanswered, while the old difficulty of the non-allusion to succeeding kings of Israel remains in all its force. The true solution must therefore be sought not in any local conditions of the Prophet, but in his necessary relations as a Prophet of God to the two kingdoms, as determined by their respective characters, and in his desire to assign definitely the limits of his ministry.—M.]
The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri. The prophets are divided into the former (rishonim, Zec_1:4) prophets and the later prophets. The writings of the former prophets comprise most of the historical hooks, for the Hebrew conception of a prophet was that of an individual inspired by God to instruct men for the present or inform them of the future, whether orally or by writing; the later were the prophets properly so called, while these, again, are subdivided into the greater, consisting of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and the lesser, or minor, including the remaining twelve. The designation “minor” does not imply any inferiority in importance of subject or value of contents, but has respect solely to the smallness of their size as compared with the larger discourses of the others. The twelve minor prophets were added to the canon before its completion as a single book, “lest,” says Kimchi, in his commentary on this verse, “a book of them should be lost because of its smallness, if each one of them should be kept separate by itself.” They were accordingly reckoned as one book—δώδεκα ἐν μονοβίβλῳ, as Eusebius expresses it. The name Hosea, like other Hebrew names, is significant, and denotes “deliverance,” or” salvation;” or, the abstract being put for the concrete, “deliverer,” or “savior.” It is radically the same name as Joshua, except that the prefix of the latter implies the name of Jehovah as the Author of such deliverance or salvation; while the Greek form of Joshua is Jesus, which in two passages of the Authorized Version stands for it. The form of the name in the original is closely connected with Hosanna (hoshia na),” save now,” which occurs in Psa_118:25. In the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.
The period of Hosea’s prophetic activity is one of the longest, if not the longest, on record. It continued during the reigns of the four kings of Judah above mentioned, and during that of Jeroboam II. King of Israel, which was in part coincident with that of Uzziah. Uzziah and Jeroboam reigned contemporaneously for twenty-six years. Somewhere during or rather before the end of that period Hosea commenced his ministry. Uzziah survived Jeroboam some twenty-six years, then Jotham and Ahaz in succession reigned each sixteen years. During all these fifty-eight years Hosea continued his ministerial labors. To these must be added a few years for the beginning of his prophetic career during the reign of Jeroboam, and some two or three years before its close in the reign of Hezekiah; for the destruction of Samaria, which took place in the fourth year of that king, the prophet looks forward to as still future. Thus for three score years and more—probably nearer three score years and ten, the ordinary period of human life—the prophet persevered in the discharge of his onerous duties.
It may seem strange that, though Hosea exercised his prophetic function in Israel, yet the time during which he did so is reckoned by the reigns of the kings of Judah. The single exception of Jeroboam II. is accounted for in a rabbinic tradition on the ground that he did not credit or act on the evil report which Amaziah the priest of Bethel preferred against the Prophet Amos, as we read (Amo_7:10), “Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam King of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words” (see also Amo_7:11-13 of the same chapter). The real reason for the reckoning by the kings of Judah, and for the exceptional case of Jeroboam, was not that assigned by the rabbins; neither was it an indication, on the part of the prophet, of the legitimacy of the kingdom of Judah on the one hand, and evidence, on the other hand, of the performance of God’s promise to Jehu that his sons would sit upon the throne to the fourth generation, while Jeroboam, Jehu’s great-grandson, was the last king of that dynasty by whom God vouch-sated help to Israel, his son and successor Zechariah retaining possession of the kingdom only for the short space of six months. The true cause is rather to be sought in the regicides, usurpations, occasional anarchy, and generally unsettled state of the northern kingdom, inasmuch as such instability and uncertainty furnished no sure or satisfactory basis for chronological calculation. Thus we find that, on the death of Jeroboam II; there was an interregnum of some dozen years, during which, of course, a state of anarchy prevailed. At length Zechariah succeeded to the throne; he had reigned only six months when he was murdered by Shallum. Shallum’s reign only lasted a month, when he was put to death by Menahem. During his reign often years occurred the invasion of Pal. Menahem’s son, Pekachiah, had only reigned two years when he was murdered by Pekah, in whose reign Tiglath-pileser invaded the land. Hoshea slew Pekah. Next followed an interval of anarchy lasting eight years. Then, after Hoshea’s short reign of nine years, the kingdom was destroyed. Thus it was only in the southern kingdom that a sufficiently firm foundation for chronological reckoning was available, while under these circumstances Jeroboam’s reign was necessary to show the prophet’s connection with Israel, and also that the prediction of the fourth verse preceded the event foretold. The general heading of the whole book is contained in this verse and Divine authority is thus claimed for the whole, as the prophet to whom the word of the Lord came is only Jehovah’s spokesman.
The word of the Lord, that came unto Hosea – Hosea, at the very beginning of his prophecy, declares that all this, which he delivered, came, not from his own mind but from God. As Paul says, “Paul an Apostle, not of men neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father.” He refers all to God, and claims all obedience to Him. That word came to him; it existed then before, in the mind of God. It was first God’s, then it became the prophet’s, receiving it from God. So it is said, “the word of God came to John” Luk_3:2.
Hosea – i. e., “Salvation, or, the Lord saveth.” The prophet bare the name of our Lord Jesus, whom he foretold and of whom he was a type. “Son of Beeri, i. e., my well or welling-forth.” God ordained that the name of his father too should signify truth. From God, as from the fountain of life, Hosea drew the living waters, which he poured out to the people. “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” Isa_12:3.
In the days of Uzziah … – Hosea, although a prophet of Israel, marks his prophecy by the names of the kings of Judah, because the kingdom of Judah was the kingdom of the theocracy, the line of David to which the promises of God were made. As Elisha, to whose office he succeeded, turned away from Jehoram 2Ki_3:13-14, saying, “get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother,” and owned Jehoshaphat king of Judah only, so, in the title of his prophecy, Hosea at once expresses that the kingdom of Judah alone was legitimate. He adds the name of Jeroboam, partly as the last king of Israel whom, by virtue of His promise to Jehu, God helped; partly to show that God never left Israel unwarned. Jeroboam I was warned first by the prophet 1 Kings 13, who by his own untimely death, as well as in his prophecy, was a witness to the strictness of God’s judgments, and then by Ahijah 1 Kings 14; Baasha by Jehu, son of Hanani 1 Kings 16; Ahab, by Elijah and Micaiah son of Imla; Ahaziah by Elijah 2 Kings 1; Jehoram by Elisha who exercised his office until the days of Joash 2Ki_13:14.
So, in the days of Jeroboam II, God raised up Hosea, Amos and Jonah. “The kings and people of Israel then were without excuse, since God never ceased to send His prophets among them; in no reign did the voice of the prophets fail, warning of the coming wrath of God, until it came.” While Jeroboam was recovering to Israel a larger rule than it had ever had since it separated from Judah, annexing to it Damascus 2Ki_14:28 which had been lost to Judah even in the days of Solomon, and from which Israel had of late so greatly suffered, Hosea was sent to forewarn it of its destruction. God alone could utter “such a voice of thunder out of the midst of such a cloudless sky.” Jeroboam doubtless thought that his house would, through its own strength, survive the period which God had pledged to it. “But temporal prosperity is no proof either of stability or of the favor of God. Where the law of God is observed, there, even amid the pressure of outward calamity, is the assurance of ultimate prosperity. Where God is disobeyed, there is the pledge of coming destruction. The seasons when men feel most secure against future chastisement, are often the preludes of the most signal revolutions.”
The Prophet shows here what charge was given him at the beginning, even to declare open war with the Israelites, and to be, as it were, very angry in the person of God, and to denounce destruction. He begins not with smooth things, nor does he gently exhort the people to repentance, nor adopt a circuitous course to soften the asperity of his doctrine. He shows that he had used nothing of this kind, but says, that he had been sent like heralds or messengers to proclaim war. The beginning, then, of what the Lord spake by Hosea was this, “This people are an adulterous race, all are born, as it were, of a harlot, the kingdom of Israel is the filthiest brothel; and I now repudiate and reject them, I no longer own them as my children.” This was no common vehemence. We hence see that the word beginning was not set down without reason, but advisedly, that we may know that the Prophet, as soon as he undertook the office of teaching, was vehement and severe, and, as it were, fulminated against the kingdom of Israel.
Now, if it be asked, why was God so greatly displeased? why did he not first recall the wretched men to himself, since the usual method seems to have been, that the Prophet tried, by a kind and paternal address, to restore those to a sound mind who had departed from the pure worship of God, — why, then, did not God adopt this ordinary course? But we hence gather that the diseases of the people were incurable. The Prophet, no doubt, intimates here distinctly, that he was sent by God, when the state of things was almost past recovery. We indeed know that God is not wont to deal so severely with men, but when he has tried all other remedies; and this may doubtless be easily learned from the records of Scripture. The ten tribes, immediately after their revolt from the family of David, having renounced the worship of God, embraced idolatry and ungodly superstitions.
‘The Lord has chosen mount Zion, where he has desired to be worshipped; this,’ he said ‘is my rest forever; here will I dwell, for I have chosen it,’ (Psa_132:13.)
And this prediction, we know, had not been once or ten times repeated, but a hundred times, that it might be more firmly fixed in the hearts of men. Since, then, they ought to have had this truth fully impressed on their hearts, that the Lord would have himself worshipped nowhere except on mount Zion, it was monstrous stupidity in them to erect a new temple and to make the calves. That the people, then, had so quickly fallen away from God was an instance of the most perverse madness. But, as I have said, they had reached the highest point of impiety. When God punished so great sins by Jehu, the people ought then to have returned to the pure worship of God, and there was some reformation in the land; but they ever reverted to their own nature, yea, the event proved that they only dissembled for a short time; so blinded they were by a diabolical perverseness, that they ever continued in their superstitions. It is not, then, to be wondered at, that the Lord made this beginning by Hosea, “Ye are all born of fornication, your kingdom is the filthiest brothel; ye are not my people, ye are not beloved.” Who, then, will not allow, that God, by fulminating in so dreadful a manner against this people, dealt justly with them, and for the best reason? The contumacy of the people was so indomitable that it could be overcome in no other way. We now understand why the Prophet used this expression, The beginning of speaking which God made
Then it follows, in Hosea. He had said in the first verse, The word of Jehovah which was to Hosea; he now says, נהושע,beusho, in Hosea; and he adds God spake and said to Hosea, repeating the preposition used in the first verse. The word of the Lord is said to have been to Hosea, not simply because God addressed the Prophet, but because he sent him forth with certain commissions, for in this sense is the word of God said to have been to the Prophets. God addresses his word also indiscriminately to others whomsoever he is pleased to teach by his word, but he speaks to and addresses his Prophets in a peculiar way, for he makes them the ministers and heralds of his word, and puts, as it were, into their mouth what they afterwards bring forth to the people. So Christ says, that the word of God came to kings, because he constitutes and appoints them to govern mankind. “If he calls them gods,” he says, “to whom the word of God came;” and that psalm, we know, was written with a special reference to kings. We now perceive what this sentence in the first verse contains. The word of God came to Hosea; for the Lord did not simply address the Prophet in a common way, but furnished him with instructions, that he might afterwards teach the people, as it were, in the person of God himself.
It is now added in the second verse, The beginning of speaking, such as the Lord made by Hosea. They who give this rendering, “with Hosea,” seem to explain the Prophet’s meaning frigidly. The letter ב, beth, I know, has this sense often in Scripture; but the Prophet, no doubt, in this place represents himself as the instrument of the Holy Spirit. God then spake in Hosea, or by Hosea, for he brought forth nothing from his own brain, but God spake by him; this is a form of speaking with which we shall often meet. On this, indeed, depends the whole authority of God’s servants that they give not themselves loose reins, but faithfully deliver, as it were, from hand to hand, what the Lord has commanded them, without adding any thing whatever of their own. God then spake in Hosea. It afterwards follows, The Lord said to Hosea. Now this, which is said the third time, or three times repeated, is nothing else than the commission in different forms. He first said in general, “The word of the Lord which was to Hosea;” now he says, The Lord spake thus, and he expresses distinctly what the word was which he referred to in the first verse.
Go, he says, take to thee a wife of wantonness, and the children of wantonness; and the reason is added, for by fornicating, or wantoning, has the land grown wanton. He doubtless speaks here of the vices which the Lord had long endured with inexpressible forbearance. By wantoning then has the land grown wanton, that it should not follow Jehovah.
Here interpreters labour much, because it seems very strange that the Prophet should take a harlot for a wife. Some say that this was an extraordinary case. Certainly such a license could not have been borne in a teacher. We see what Paul requires in a bishop, and no doubt the same was required formerly in the Prophets, that their families should be chaste and free from every stain and reproach. It would have then exposed the Prophet to the scorn of all, if he had entered a brothel and taken to himself a harlot; for he speaks not here of an unchaste woman only, but of a woman of wantonness, which means a common harlot, for a woman of wantonness is she called, who has long habituated herself to wantonness, who has exposed herself to all, to gratify the wish of all, who has prostituted herself, not once nor twice, nor to few men, but to all. That this was done by the Prophet seems very improbable. But some reply as I have said, that this ought not to be regarded as a common rule, for it was an extraordinary command of God. And yet it seems not consistent with reason, that the Lord should thus gratuitously render his Prophet contemptible; for how could he expect to be received on coming abroad before the public, after having brought on himself such a disgrace? If he had married a wife such as is here described, he ought to have concealed himself for life rather than to undertake the Prophetic office. Their opinion, therefore, is not probable, who think that the Prophet had taken such a wife as is here described.
Then another reason, utterly unresolvable, militates against them; for the Prophet is not only bidden to take a wife of wantonness, but also children of wantonness, begotten by whoredom. It is, therefore, the same as if he himself had committed whoredom. For if we say that he married a wife who had previously conducted herself with some indecency and want of chastity, (as Jerome at length argues in order to excuse the Prophet,) the excuse is frivolous, for he speaks not only of the wife, but also of the children, inasmuch as God would have the whole offspring to be adulterous, and this could not be the case in a lawful marriage. Hence almost all the Hebrews agree in this opinion, that the Prophet did not actually marry a wife, but that he was bidden to do this in a vision. And we shall see in the third chapter (Hos_3:1) almost the same thing described; and yet what is narrated there could not have been actually done, for the Prophet is bidden to marry a wife who had violated her conjugal fidelity, and after having bought her, to retain her at home for a time. This, we know, was not done. It then follows that this was a representation exhibited to the people.
Some object and say, that the whole passage, as given by the Prophet, cannot be understood as relating a vision. Why not? For the vision, they say, was given to him alone, and God had a regard to the whole people rather than to the Prophet. But it may be, and it is probable, that no vision was presented to the Prophet, but that God only ordered him to proclaim what had been given him in charge. When, therefore, the Prophet began to teach, he commenced somewhat in this way: “The Lord places me here as on a stage, to make known to you that I have married a wife, a wife habituated to adulteries and whoredoms, and that I have begotten children by her.” The whole people knew that he had done no such thing; but the Prophet spake thus in order to set before their eyes a vivid representation. Such then, was the vision, a figurative exhibition, not that the Prophet knew this by a vision, but the Lord had bidden him to relate this parable, (so to speak,) or this similitude, that the people might see, as in a living portraiture, their turpitude and perfidiousness. It is, in short, an exhibition, in which the thing itself is not only set forth in words, but is also placed, as it were, before their eyes in a visible form. The reason is added, for by wantoning has the land grown wanton
We now then see how the words of the Prophet ought to be understood; for he assumed a character, when going forth before the public, and in this character he said to the people, that God had bidden him to take a harlot for his wife, and to beget adulterous children by her. His ministry was not on this account made contemptible, for they all knew that he had ever lived virtuously and temperately; they all knew that his household was exempt from every reproach; but here he exhibited in his assumed character, as it were, a living image of the baseness of the people. This is the meaning, and I see nothing strained in this explanation; and we, at the same time, see the meaning of this clause, By wantoning has the land grown wanton. Hosea might have said this in one word, but he had to address the deaf, and we know how great and how stupid is the madness of those who delight themselves in their own superstitions, they cannot bear any reproof. The Prophet then would not have been attended to, unless he had exhibited, as in a mirror before their eyes, what he wished to be understood by them, as though he had said, “If none of you can so know himself as to own his public baseness, if ye are all so obstinate against God, at least know now by my assumed character, that you are all adulterous, and derive your origin from a filthy brothel, for God declares thus concerning you; and as you are not willing to receive such a declaration, it is now set before you in my assumed character.”
That it should not follow Jehovah, literally, From after Jehovah, מאחרי, meachri. We here see what is the spiritual chastity of God’s people, and what also is the signification of the word wantoning. Then the spiritual chastity of God’s people is to follow the Lord; and what else is this to follow, but to suffer ourselves to be ruled by his word, and willingly to obey him, to be ready and prepared for any work to which he may call us? When then the Lord goes before us with his instruction and shows the way, and we become teachable and obedient, and look up to him, and turn not aside, either to the right or to the left hand, but bring our whole life to the obedience of faith, — this is really to follow the Lord; and it is a most beautiful definition of the spiritual chastity of God’s people.
And we may also, from the opposite of this, learn what it is to grow wanton; we do so when we depart from the word of the Lord, when we give ear to false doctrines, when we abandon ourselves to superstitions; when we, in short, wander after our own devices, and keep not our thoughts under the authority of the word of the Lord. But as to the word wantoning, more will be said in chapter 2; but I only wished now briefly to touch on what the Prophet means when he chides the Israelites for having all become wanton. Now follows —
Keil and Delitzsch
For the purpose of depicting before the eyes of the sinful people the judgment to which Israel has exposed itself through its apostasy from the Lord, Hosea is to marry a prostitute, and beget children by her, whose names are so appointed by Jehovah as to point out the evil fruits of the departure from God. Hos_1:2. “At first, when Jehovah spake to Hosea, Jehovah said to him, God, take thee a wife of whoredom, and children of whoredom; for whoring the land whoreth away from Jehovah.” The marriage which the prophet is commanded to contract, is to set forth the fact that the kingdom of Israel has fallen away from the Lord its God, and is sunken in idolatry. Hosea is to commence his prophetic labours by exhibiting this fact. תְּחִלַּת דִּבֶּר יי: literally, “at the commencement of ‘Jehovah spake,’” i.e., at the commencement of Jehovah’s speaking (dibber is not an infinitive, but a perfect, and techillath an accusative of time (Ges. §118, 2); and through the constructive the following clause is subordinated to techillath as a substantive idea: see Ges. §123, 3, Anm. 1; Ewald, §332, c.). דִּבֶּר with בְ, not to speak to a person, or through any one (בְ is not = אֶל), but to speak with (lit., in) a person, expressive of the inwardness or urgency of the speaking (cf. Num_12:6, Num_12:8; Hab_2:1; Zec_1:9, etc.). “Take to thyself:” i.e., marry (a wife). אֵשֶׁת זְנוּנִים is stronger than זוֹנָה. A woman of whoredom, is a woman whose business or means of livelihood consists in prostitution.
Along with the woman, Hosea is to take children of prostitution as well. The meaning of this is, of course, not that he is first of all to take the woman, and then beget children of prostitution by her, which would require that the two objects should be connected with קַח per zeugma, in the sense of “accipe uxorem et suscipe ex ea liberos” (Drus.), or “sume tibi uxorem forn. et fac tibi filios forn.” (Vulg.). The children begotten by the prophet from a married harlot-wife, could not be called yaldē zenūnı̄m, since they were not illegitimate children, but legitimate children of the prophet himself; nor is the assumption, that the three children born by the woman, according to Hos_1:3, Hos_1:6, Hos_1:8, were born in adultery, and that the prophet was not their father, in harmony with Hos_1:3, “he took Gomer, and she conceived and bare him a son.” Nor can this mode of escaping from the difficulty, which is quite at variance with the text, be vindicated by an appeal to the connection between the figure and the fact. For though this connection “necessarily requires that both the children and the mother should stand in the same relation of estrangement from the lawful husband and father,” as Hengstenberg argues; it neither requires that we should assume that the mother had been a chaste virgin before her marriage to the prophet, nor that the children whom she bare to her husband were begotten in adultery, and merely palmed off upon the prophet as his own. The marriage which the prophet was to contract, was simply intended to symbolize the relation already existing between Jehovah and Israel, and not the way in which it had come into existence. The “wife of whoredoms” does not represent the nation of Israel in its virgin state at the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai, but the nation of the ten tribes in its relation to Jehovah at the time of the prophet himself, when the nation, considered as a whole, had become a wife of whoredom, and in its several members resembled children of whoredom. The reference to the children of whoredom, along with the wife of whoredom, indicates unquestionably à priori, that the divine command did not contemplate an actual and outward marriage, but simply a symbolical representation of the relation in which the idolatrous Israelites were then standing to the Lord their God. The explanatory clause, “for the land whoreth,” etc., clearly points to this. הָאָרֶץ, “the land,” for the population of the land (cf. Hos_4:1). זָנָה מֵאַחֲרֵי יי, to whore from Jehovah, i.e., to fall away from Him (see at Hos_4:12).
The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea or in Hosea – God first revealed Himself and His mysteries to the prophet’s soul, by His secret inspiration, and then declared, through him, to others, what He had deposited in him. God enlightened him, and then others through the light in him.
And the Lord said unto Hosea – For this thing was to be done by Hosea alone, because God had commanded it, not by others of their own mind. To Isaiah God first revealed Himself, as sitting in the temple, adored by the Seraphim: to Ezekiel God first appeared, as enthroned above the cherubim in the holy of holies; to Jeremiah God announced that, ere yet he was born, He had sanctified him for this office: to Hosea He enjoined, as the beginning of his prophetic office, an act contrary to man’s natural feelings, yet one, by which he became an image of the Redeemer, uniting to Himself what was unholy, in order to make it holy.
Go take unto thee – Since Hosea prophesied some eighty years, he must now have been in early youth, holy, pure, as became a prophet of God. Being called thus early, he had doubtless been formed by God as a chosen instrument of His will, and had, like Samuel, from his first childhood, been trained in true piety and holiness. Yet he was to unite unto him, so long as she lived, one greatly defiled, in order to win her thereby to purity and holiness; herein, a little likeness of our Blessed Lord, who, in the Virgin’s womb, to save us, espoused our flesh, in us sinful, in Him all-holy, without motion to sin; and, further, espoused the Church, formed of us who, “whether Jews or Gentiles,” were all under sin, aliens from God and gone away from Him, “serving divers lusts and passions Eph_5:27, to make it a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle.”
A wife of whoredoms – i. e., take as a wife, one who up to that time had again and again been guilty of that sin. So “men of bloods” Psa_5:6 are “men given up to bloodshedding;” and our Lord was “a Man of Sorrows Isa_53:3, not occasional only, but manifold and continual, throughout His whole life. She must, then, amid the manifold corruption of Israel, have been repeatedly guilty of that sin, perhaps as an idolatress, thinking of it to be in honor of their foul gods (see the Hos_4:13, note; Hos_4:14, note). She was not like those degraded ones, who cease to bear children; still she must have manifoldly sinned. So much the greater was the obedience of the prophet. Nor could any other woman so shadow forth the manifold defilements of the human race, whose nature our incarnate Lord vouchsafed to unite in His own person to the perfect holiness of the divine nature.
And children of whoredoms – For they shared the disgrace of their mother, although born in lawful marriage. The sins of parents descend also, in a mysterious way, on their children, Sin is contagious, and, unless the entail is cut off by grace, hereditary. The mother thus far portrays man’s revolts, before his union with God; the children, our forsaking of God, after we have been made His children. The forefathers of Israel, God tells them, “served other gods, on the other side of the flood” Jos_24:14, (i. e., in Ur of the Chaldees, from where God called Abraham) “and in Egypt.” It was out of such defilement, that God took her Eze_23:3, Eze_23:8, and He says, “Thou becamest Mine” Eze_16:8. whom He maketh His, He maketh pure; and of her, not such as she was in herself by nature, but as such as He made her, He says, “I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals when thou wentest after Me, in the wilderness” Jer_2:2. But she soon fell away; and thenceforth there were among them (as there are now among Christians,) “the children of God, the children of the promise, and the children of whoredoms, or of the devil.”
For the land … – This is the reason why God commands Hosea to do this thing, in order to shadow out their foulness and God’s mercy. What no man would dare to do Jer_3:1, except at God’s bidding, God in a manner doth, restoring to union with Himself those who had gone away from Him. “The land,” i. e., Israel, and indirectly, Judah also, and, more widely yet, the whole earth.
Departing from – Literally, “from after the Lord.” Our whole life should be Phi_3:13, forgetting the things which are behind, to follow after Him, whom here we can never fully attain unto, God in His Infinite Perfection, yet so as, with our whole heart, “fully to follow after Him.” To depart from the Creator and to serve the creature, is adultery; as the Psalmist says, “Thou hast destroyed all them, that go a whoring from Thee” Psa_73:27. He who seeks anything out of God, turns from following Him, and takes to him something else as his god, is unfaithful, and spiritually an adulterer and idolater. For he is an adulterer, who becomes another’s than God’s.
The Prophet seems in this verse to contradict himself; for he promised reconciliation, and now he speaks of a new repudiation. These things do not seem to agree well together that God should embrace, or be willing to embrace, again in his love those whom he had before rejected, — and that he should at the same time send a bill of divorce, and renounce the bond of marriage. But if we weigh the design of the Prophet, we shall see that the passage is very consistent, and that there is in the words no contrariety. He has indeed promised that at a future time God would be propitious to the Israelites: but as they had not yet repented, it was needful to deal again more severely with them, that they might return to their God really and thoroughly subdued. So we see that in Scripture, promises and threatening are mingled together, and rightly too. For were the Lord to spend a whole month in reproving sinners they may in that time fall away a hundred times. Hence God, after showing to men their sins adds some consolation and moderates severity, lest they should despond: he afterwards returns again to threatening, and does so from necessity; for though men may be terrified with the fear of punishment, they do not yet really repent. It is then necessary for them to be reproved not only once and again, but very often.
We now then perceive what the Prophet had in view: he had spoken of the people’s defection; afterwards he proved that the people had been justly rejected by the Lord; and then he promised the hope of pardon. But now seeing that they still continued obstinate in their vices, he reproves again those who had need of such chastisement. He, in a word, has in view their present state.
Almost all so expound this verse as if the Prophet addressed the faithful: and with greater refinement still do they expound, who say, that the Prophet addresses the faithful who had fallen away from the synagogue. They have and I have no doubt, been much deceived; for the Prophets on the contrary, shows here that God was justly punishing the Israelites, who were wont to excuse themselves in the same way as hypocrites are wont to do. When the Lord treated them otherwise than according to their wishes, they expostulated, and raised up contention — “What does this mean?” So do we find them introduced as thus speaking, by Isaiah. [Isa_58:1.] There, indeed, they fiercely contend with God, as if the Lord dealt with them unjustly, for they seemed not conscious of having done any evil. Hence the Prophet, seeing the Israelites so senseless in their sins, says, Contend, contend with your mother. He speaks here in the person of God: and God, as it has been stated, uses the similitude of a marriage. Let us now see what is the import of the words.
When a husband repudiates his wife, he fixes a mark of disgrace on the children born by that marriage: their mother has been divorced; then the children, on account of that divorce, are held in less esteem. When a husband repudiates his wife through waywardness, the children justly regard him with hatred. Why? “Because he loved not our mother as he ought to have done; he has not honoured the bond of marriage.” It is therefore usually the case, that the children’s affections are alienated from their father, when he treats their mother with too little humanity or with entire contempt. So the Israelites, when they saw themselves rejected, wished to throw the blame on God. For by the name, “mother”, are the people here called; it is transferred to the whole body of the people, or the race of Abraham. God had espoused that people to himself, and wished them to be like a wife to him. Since then God was a husband to the people, the Israelites were as sons born by that marriage. But when they were repudiated, the Israelites said, that God dealt cruelly with them, for he has cast them away for no fault. The Prophet now undertakes the defence of God’s cause, and speaks also in his person, Contend, contend, he says with your mother In a word, this passage agrees with what is said in the beginning of Isa_50:1, ‘Where is the bill of repudiation? Have I sold you to my creditors? But ye have been sold for your sins, and your mother has been repudiated for her iniquity.’
Husbands were wont to give a bill of divorce to their wives, that they themselves might see it: for it freed them from every reproach, inasmuch as the husband bore a testimony to his wife: “I dismiss her, not that she has been unfaithful, not that she has violated the bond of marriage; but because her beauty does not please me, or because her manners are not agreeable to me.” The law compelled the husband to give such a testimony as this. God now says by his Prophet, “Show me now the bill of repudiation: have I of my own accord cast away your mother? No, I have not done so. Ye cannot accuse me of cruelty, as though her beauty did not please me, and as though I had followed the common practice approved by you. I have not willingly rejected her, nor at my own pleasure, and I have not sold her to my creditors, as your fathers were sometimes wont to do, as to their children, when they were in debt.” In short, the Lord shows there that the Jews were to be blamed, that they were rejected together with their mother. So he says also in this place, Contend, contend with your mother; which means, “Your dispute is not with me:” and by the repetition he shows how inveterate was their perverseness, for they never ceased to glamour against God. We now see the real meaning of the Prophet.
In vain then do they philosophise, who say that the mother was to be condemned by her own children; because, when they shall be converted to their former faith, they ought then to condemn the synagogue. The Prophet meant no such thing; but, on the contrary, he brings this charge against the Israelites, that they had been repudiated for the flagitious conduct of their mother, and had ceased to be counted the children of God. For the comparison between husband and wife is here to be understood; and then the children are placed as it were in the middle. When the mother is dismissed, the children indignantly say that the father has been too inhuman if indeed he wilfully divorces his wife: but when a wife becomes unfaithful to her husband, or prostitutes herself to any shameful crime, the husband is then free from every blame; and there is no cause for the children to expostulate with him; for he ought thus to punish a shameless wife. God then shows that the Israelites were justly rejected, and that the blame of their rejection belonged to the whole race of Abraham; but that no blame could be imputed to him.
And for a reason it is added, Let her then take away her fornication from her face, and her adulteries from the midst of her breasts The Prophet, by saying, “Let her then take away her fornications”, (for the copulative ו, vau, ought to be regarded as an illative,) confirms what we have just now said; that is that God had stood to his pledged faith, but that the people had become perfidious; and that the cause of the divorce or separation was, that the Israelites persevered not, as they ought to have done, in the obedience of faith. Then God says, Let her take away her fornications. But the phrase, Let her take away from her face and from her breasts, seems singular; and what does it mean? because women commit fornication neither by the face nor by the breasts. It is evident the Prophet alludes to meretricious finery; for harlots, that they may entice men, sumptuously adorn themselves, and carefully paint their face and decorate their breasts. Wantonness then appears in the face as well as in the breasts. But interpreters do not touch on what the Prophet had in view. The Prophet, no doubt, sets forth here the shamelessness of the people; for they had now so hardened themselves in their contempt of God, in their ungodly superstitions, in all kinds of wickedness, that they were like harlots, who conceal not their baseness, but openly prostitute themselves, yea, and exhibit tokens of their shamelessness in their eyes as well as in every part of their bodies. We see then that the people are here accused of disgraceful impudence as they had grown so callous as to wish to be known to be such as they were. In the same way does Ezekiel set forth their reproachful conduct, ‘Spread has the harlot her feet, she called on all who passed by the way,’
We now then understand why the Prophet expressly said, Let her take away from her face her fornication, and from her breasts her adulteries: for he teaches that the vices of the people were not hidden, and that they did not now sin and cover their baseness as hypocrites do, but that they were so unrestrained in their contempt of God, that they were become like common harlots.
Here is a remarkable passage; for we first see that men in vain complain when the Lord seems to deal with them in severity; for they will ever find the fault to be in themselves and in their parents: yea, when they look on all impartially, they will confess that all throughout the whole community are included in one and the same guilt. Let us hence learn, whenever the lord may chastise us, to come home to ourselves, and to confess that he is justly severe towards us; yea, were we apparently cast away, we ought yet to confess, that it is through our own fault, and not through God’s immoderate severity. We also learn how frivolous is their pretext, who set up against God the authority of their fathers, as the Papists do: for they would, if they could, call or compel God to an account, because he forsakes them, and owns them not now as his Church. “What! has not God bound his faith to us? Is not the Church his spouse? Can he be unfaithful?” So say the Papists: but at the same time they consider not, that their mother has become utterly filthy through her many abominations; they consider not, that she has been repudiated, because the Lord could no longer bear her great wickedness. Let us then know, that it is in vain to bring against God the examples of men; for what is here said by the Prophet will ever stand true, that God has not given a bill of divorce to his Church; that is, that he has not of his own accord divorced her, as peevish and cruel husbands are wont to do, but that he has been constrained to do so, because he could no longer connive at so many abominations. It now follows —
Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not thy wife, neither am I her husband. In this second chapter the same cycle of events recurs as in the first, with this difference, that what is expressed by symbol in the one is simply narrated in the other. The cycle is the common one of sin: its usual consequences of suffering and sorrow; then succor and sympathy in case of repentance. The persons addressed in the verse before us are those individuals in Israel who had still retained their integrity, and who, notwithstanding surrounding defection and abounding ungodliness, had continued steadfast in their loyalty and love to the Lord. They might be few in number, widely scattered, perhaps unknown to each other, and of comparatively little note; yet they are here called on to raise their voice in solemn warning and earnest protest against the national defection and wickedness. “The congregation in its totality, or whole people taken conjointly, is compared to the mother, but individual members to the children, and the sense is that they are to plead with each other to bring them back to the way of goodness” (Kimchi). The nation as such, and in its impiety, is the mother; the pious persons still found in it are here required to testify for God both by exhortation and example. “The congregation of Israel is compared to an adulteress, and the children of the different generations to the children of whoredoms. Before them the prophet says, ‘Plead with your mother’” (Kimchi). Adultery per se is a virtual dissolution of the marriage-tie; idolatry is spiritual adultery; the close and tender relationship into which God has graciously condescended to take Israel is rendered null and void, and that through Israel’s own fault. God threatens the renunciation of it, unless perchance the pleading of the still faithful children might recall the erring mother to penitence and purity. A case the converse of this is that presented in Isa_1:1, where the mother’s divorce is attributed to the unfaithfulness of the children. “Where,” asks the Lord in that passage, “is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away?… for your transgressions is your mother put away.” Ki before the second clause is either recitative, introducing the words of pleading, or assigns a reason; the latter seems preferable. Let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts. The word mippaneyha is rather to be rendered “from her face” than “out of her sight.” The expression is to be taken literally, as the word “breasts” in the parallel clause proves. Thus Kimchi rightly explains it, saying, “Since he compares her to harlot, he attributes to her the ways of harlots; for the harlot’s way is to adorn her face with various kinds of colors, that she may appear fair in the eyes of her paramours.” But in addition to ornamenteth as earrings or nose-rings, and other ways of decking herself, as by painting, the expression may imply lascivious looks and wanton expressions of countenance; while the mention of breasts may indicate the making of them bare for the purpose of meretricious blandishments, or as indicating the place of the adulterer (comp. Eze_23:3 and So Eze_1:13). The Jewish commentators adopt the latter sense. Aben Ezra comments on the grammatical form of the words zenuncha and naaphupheha (the former by duplication of the second radical, and the latter by that of the third) as intensive; while Rashi and Kimchi refer to the pressure of the breasts. But others understand them figuratively, the countenance indicating boldness, and the breasts shamelessness. Thus Horace speaks of the brilliant beauty (nixor) and coquettishness (protervitas) of Glyeera.
Plead with your mother, plead – The prophets close the threats of coming judgments with the dawn of after-hopes; and from hopes they go back to God’s judgments against sin, pouring in wine and oil into the wounds of sinners. The “mother” is the Church or nation; the “sons,” are its members, one by one. These, when turned to God, must plead with their mother, that she turn also. When involved in her judgments, they must plead with her, and not accuse God. God “had not forgotten to be gracious;” but she “kept not His love, and refused His friendship, and despised the purity of spiritual communion with Him, and would not travail with the fruit of His will.” : “The sons differ from the mother, as the inventor of evil from those who imitate it. For as, in good, the soul which, from the Spirit of God, conceiveth the word of truth, is the mother, and whoso profiteth by hearing the word of doctrine from her mouth, is the child, so, in evil, whatsoever soul inventeth evil is the mother, and whoso is deceived by her is the son. So in Israel, the adulterous mother was the synagogue, and the individuals deceived by her were the sons.”
“Ye who believe in Christ, and are both of Jews and Gentiles, say ye to the broken branches and to the former people which is cast off, “My people,” for it is your brother; and “Beloved,” for it is “your sister.” For when Rom_11:25-26 the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come in, then shall all Israel be saved. In like way we are bidden not to despair of heretics, but to incite them to repentance, and with brotherly love to long for their salvation” .
For she is not My wife – God speaketh of the spiritual union between Himself and His people whom He had chosen, under the terms of the closest human oneness, of husband and wife. She was no longer united to Him by faith and love, nor would He any longer own her. Plead therefore with her earnestly as orphans, who, for her sins, have lost the protection of their Father.
Let her therefore put away her whoredoms – So great is the tender mercy of God. He says, let her but put away her defilements, and she shall again be restored, as if she had never fallen; let her but put away all objects of attachment, which withdrew her from God, and God will again be All to her.
Adulteries, whoredores – God made the soul for Himself; He betrothed her to Himself through the gift of the Holy Spirit; He united her to Himself. All love, then, out of God, is to take another, instead of God. “whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee.” “Adultery” is to become another’s than His, the Only Lord and Husband of the soul. Whoredom is to have many other objects of sinful love. Love is one, for One. The soul which has forsaken the One, is drawn here and there, has manifold objects of desire, which displace one another, because none satisfies. Hence, the prophet speaks of “fornications, adulteries;” because the soul, which will not rest in God, seeks to distract herself from her unrest and unsatisfiedness, by heaping to herself manifold lawless pleasures, out of, and contrary to the will of, God.
From before her – Literally “from her face.” The face is the seat of modesty, shame, or shamelessness. Hence, in Jeremiah God says to Judah, “Thou hadst a harlot’s forehead; thou refusedst to be ashamed” Jer_3:3; and “they were not at all ashamed, neither will they blush” Jer_6:15. The eyes, also, are the “windows” Jer_9:21, through which “death,” i. e., lawless desire, “enters into” the soul, and takes it captive.
From her breasts – These are exposed, adorned, degraded in disorderly love, which they are employed to allure. Beneath too lies the heart, the seat of the affections. It may mean then, that she should no more gaze with pleasure on the objects of her sin, nor allow her heart to dwell on tilings which she loved sinfully. Whence it is said of the love of Christ, which should keep the soul free from all unruly passions which might offend him Son_1:13, “My Well-beloved shall lie all night between my breasts Son_8:6, as a seal upon the heart” beneath.
Though the Prophet in this verse severely threatens the Israelites, yet it appears from a full view of the whole passage, that he mitigates the sentence we have explained: for by declaring what sort of vengeance was suspended over them, except they timely repented, he shows that there was some hope of pardon remaining, which, as we shall see, he expresses afterwards more clearly.
He now begins by saying, Lest I strip her naked, and set her as on the day of her nativity This alone would have been dreadful; but we shall see in the passage, that God so denounces punishment, that he cuts not off altogether the hope of mercy: and at the same time he reminds them that the divorce, for which they were disposed to contend with God, was such, that God yet shows indulgence to the repudiated wife. For when a husband dismisses an adulteress, he strips her entirely, and rightly so: but God shows here, that though the Israelites had become wanton, and were like a shameless woman, he had yet so divorced them hitherto, that he had left them their dowry, their ornaments and marriage gifts. We then see that God had not used, as he might have done, his right; and hence he says, Lest I strip her naked; which means this, “I seem to you too rigid, because I have declared, that I am no longer a husband to your mother: and yet see how kindly I have spared her; for she remains as yet almost untouched: though she has lost the name of wife, I have not yet stripped her; she as yet lives in sufficient plenty. Whence is this but from my indulgence? for I did not wish to follow up my right, as husbands do. But except she learns to humble herself, I now gird up myself for the purpose of executing heavier punishments.” We now comprehend the whole import of the passage.
What the Prophet means by the day of nativity, we may readily learn from Eze_16:0; for Ezekiel there treats the same subject with our Prophet, but much more at large. He says that the Israelites were then born, when God delivered them from the tyranny of Egypt. This then was the nativity of the people. And yet it was a miserable sight, when they fled away with fear and trembling, when they were exposed to their enemies: and after they entered the wilderness, being without bread and water, their condition was very wretched. The Prophet says now, Lest I set her as on the day of her nativity, and set her as the desert. Some regard the letter כ caph to be understood, as if it were written, כבמדבר as in the desert; that is, I will set her as she was formerly in the desert; and this exposition is not unsuitable; for the day of nativity, the Prophet doubtless calls that time, when the people were brought out of Egypt: they immediately entered the desert, where there was the want of every thing. They might then have soon perished there, being consumed by famine and thirst, had not the Lord miraculously supported them. The sense then seems consistent by this rendering, Lest I set her as in the deserts and as in a dry land. But another exposition is more approved, Lest I set her like the desert and dry land
With regard to what the Prophet had in view, it was necessary to remind the Israelites here of what they were at their beginning. For whence was their contempt of God, whence was their obstinate pride, but that they were inebriated with their pleasures? For when there flowed an abundance of all good things, they thought of themselves, that they had come as it were from the clouds; for men commonly forget what they formerly were, when the Lord has made them rich. As then the benefits of God for the most part blind us, and make us to think ourselves to be as it were half-gods, the Prophet here sets before the children of Abraham what their condition was when the Lord redeemed them. “I have redeemed you,” he says, “from the greatest miseries and extreme degradation.” Sons of kings are born kings, and are brought up in the midst of pomps and pleasures; nay, before they are born, great pomps, we know, are prepared for them, which they enjoy from their mother’s womb. But when one is born of an ignoble and obscure mother, and begotten by a mean and poor father, and afterwards arises to a different condition, if he is proud of his splendour, and remembers not that he was once a plebeian and of no repute, this may be justly thrown in his face, “Who were you formerly? Why! do you not know that you were a cow-herd, or a mechanic, or one covered with filth? Fortune has smiled on you, or God has raised you to riches and honours; but you are so self-complacent as though your condition had ever been the same.”
This is the drift of what the Prophet says: I will set thy mother, he says, as she was at her first nativity. For who are you? A holy race, a chosen nation, a people sacred to me? Be it so: but free adoption has brought all this to you. Ye were exiles in Egypt, strangers in the land of Canaan, and were nothing better than other people. Besides, Pharaoh reduced you to a base servitude, ye were then the most abject of slaves. How magnificent, with regard to you, was your going forth! Did you not flee away tremblingly and in the night? And did you not afterwards live in a miraculous way for forty years in the desert, when I rained manna on you from the clouds? Since then your poverty and want has been so great, since there is nothing to make you to raise your crests, how is it that you show no more modesty? But if your present condition creates in you forgetfulness, I will set you as on the day of your nativity.” It now follows —
Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born. The Lord, by his servant the prophet, enforces the preceding exhortation by a stern denunciation, and the threat of further severities unless averted by repentance; as an injured husband withdraws from a faithless wife all the gifts and presents he had made for her adornment, leaving her poor and bare. Not only the removal of her garments by way of degradation and disgrace, but exposure in that position to insult and ignominy would ensue. In other words, the nation is threatened with deprivation of all the blessings previously lavished upon them—property, prosperity, population, and privileges; while dishonor of the deepest dye would aggravate the misery. The day of the nation’s birth denotes the weakness and wretchedness of their infant state. To this corresponded their servile, suffering condition during their bondage and oppression in Egypt. Rashi thus explains it; Kimchi says, “The figure of birth is the time they are slaves in Egypt;” so also Theodoret,—the latter calls the day of her birth the sojourn in Egypt. The Prophet Ezekiel (Eze_16:4) expands the idea, occasionally employing, as Rosenmüller remarks, the very words of Hosea. And make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and clay her with thirst. This part of the verse is susceptible of two explanations. The faithless female, under which character the northern kingdom is personified, may be compared to a wilderness, that is, according to Cyril, fruitless, parched, and productive only of thorns, thirsty and waterless. This comparison of a woman to a desert is wanting in suitability, and seems in some degree awkward in itself, beside being out of harmony with the closing clause; for to “slay with thirst,” however applicable to a person, cannot with any propriety be said of a place, whether desert or otherwise. No doubt the wilderness may stand for those dwelling in it. We prefer, therefore, the alternative rendering, “make her as in a wilderness, and set her as in a dry land.” Rashi aptly explains the threat to mean, “Lest I pronounce against them such a sentence as of old in this desert (Num_14:35), ‘In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.’” There is, moreover, a natural connection of ideas between a wilderness, a dry land, and thirst. The nation’s birth, represented by or compared to their sojourn in Egypt, naturally suggests the idea of their wandering in the wilderness after their exodus from that country; a wilderness, again, suggests what is an ordinary feature of such a district, namely, a dry land; while a region thus without water is suggestive as well as provocative of thirst. The former explanation, however, is given by Kimehi: “I will make thee like the wilderness which is open to every one, and in which, moreover, one finds no means of subsistence, nor anything that man needs; so I’ll withdraw my goodness from them, and they shall be surrendered as a prey to every one.”
Lest I strip her naked – “There is an outward visible nakedness and an inward, which is invisible. The invisible nakedness is, when the soul within is bared of the glory and the grace of God.” The visible nakedness is the privation of God’s temporal and visible gifts, the goods of this world, or outward distinction. God’s inward gifts the sinful soul or nation despises, while those outward gifts she prizes. And therefore, when the soul parts with the inward ornaments of God’s grace, He strips her of the outward, His gifts of nature, of His providence and of His protection, if so be, through her outward misery and shame and poverty, she may come to feel that deeper misery and emptiness and disgrace within, which she had had no heart to feel. So, when our first parents lost the robe of innocence, “they knew that they were naked” Gen_3:7.
And set her – (Literally “I will fix her,” so that she shall have no power to free herself, but must remain as a gazing stock,) “as in the day that she was born,” i. e., helpless, defiled, uncleansed, uncared for, unformed, cast out and loathsome. Such she was in Egypt, which is in Holy Scripture spoken of, as her birthplace Eze_16:4; for there she first became a people; thence the God of her fathers called her to be His people. There she was naked of the grace and of the love of God, and of the wisdom of the law; indwelt by an evil spirit, as being an idolatress; without God; and under hard bondage, in works of mire and clay, to Pharaoh, the type of Satan, and her little ones a prey. For when a soul casts off the defense of heavenly grace, it is an easy prey to Satan.
And make her as a wilderness, and set her as a dry land, and slay her with thirst – The outward desolation, which God inflicts, is a picture of the inward. Drought and famine are among the four sore judgments, with which God threatened the land, and our Lord forewarned them, “Your house is left unto you desolate” Mat_23:38; and Isaiah says, “Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee” Isa_60:15. But the prophet does not say, make her a wilderness, but make “her as a wilderness.” The soul of the sinner is solitary and desolate, for it has not the presence of God; unfruitful, bearing briars and thorns only, for it is unbedewed by God’s grace, unwatered by the Fountain of living waters; athirst, “not with thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord,” yet also, burning with desire, which the foul streams of this world’s pleasure never slake. In contrast with such thirst, Jesus says of the Holy Spirit which He would give to them that believe in Him, “Whosoever drinketh of the water, that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water, that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life” Joh_4:14; Joh_7:38-39.
“But was not that certain, which God had said, ‘I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel?’ How then does God recall it, saying, ‘Let her put away her fornications, etc. lest I do to her this or that which I have spoken?’ This is not unlike to that, when sentence had been passed on Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel saying, ‘This is the decree of the Most High, which is come upon my Lord the king; they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling; the same Daniel says, Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and redeem thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy on the poor, if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility’ Dan_4:24-25, Dan_4:27. What should we learn hereby, but that it hangs upon our own will, whether God suspend the judgment or no? For we ought not to impute our own evil to God, or impiously think that fate rules us. In other words, this or that evil comes, not because God foreknew or foreordained it; but, because this evil was to be, or would be done, therefore God both foreknew it, and prefixed His sentence upon it. Why then does God predetermine an irrevocable sentence? Because He foresaw incorrigible malice. Why, again, after pronouncing sentence, doth God counsel amendment? That we may know by experience, that they are incorrigible. Therefore, He waits for them, although they will not return, and with much patience invites them to repentance.” Individuals also repented, although the nation was incorrigible.
The Lord now comes close to each individual, after having spoken in general of the whole people: and thus we see that to be true which I have said, that it was far from the mind of the Prophet to suppose, that God here teaches the faithful who had already repented, that they ought to condemn their own mother. The Prophet meant nothing of the kind; but, on the contrary, he wished to check the waywardness of the people, who ceased not to contend with God, as though he had been more severe than just towards their race. Now then he reproves each of them; your children, he says, I will not pity; for they are spurious children He had indeed said before that they had been born by adultery; but he afterwards received them into favour. This is true; but what I have said must be remembered that the Prophet as yet continues in his reproofs; for though he has mingled some consolation, he yet saw that their hearts were not as yet contrite and sufficiently humbled. We must bear in mind the difference between their present state and their future favour. God before promised that he would be propitious to apostates who had departed from him: but now he shows that it was not yet the ripe time, for they had not ceased to sin. Hence he says, I will not pity your children
Having spoken of the mother’s divorce, he now says that the children, born of adultery, were not his: and certainly what the Prophet promised before was not immediately fulfilled; for the people, we know, had been disowned, and when deprived of the land of Canaan, were rejected, as it were, by the Lord. The Babylonian exile was a kind of death: and then when they returned from exile, a small portion only returned, not the whole people; and they were tossed, we know, by many calamities until Christ our Redeemer appeared. Since then the Prophet included the whole of this time, it is no wonder that he says that the children were to be repudiated by the Lord, because they were born of adultery: for until they returned from captivity, and Christ was at length revealed, this repudiation, of which the Prophet speaks, ever continued Thy children, he says, I will not pity. At first sight it seems very dreadful, that God takes away the hope of mercy; but we ought to confine this sentence to that time during which it pleased God to cast away his people. As long, then, as that temporary casting away lasted, God’s favour was hid; and to this the Prophet now refers, I will not then pity her children, for they are born by adultery. At the same time, we must remember that this sentence specifically belonged to the reprobate, who boasted of being the children of Abraham, while they were profane and unholy, while they impiously perverted the whole worship of God, while they were wholly ungovernable. Then the Prophet justly pronounces such a severe judgement on obstinate men, who could be reformed by no admonitions.
I will not have mercy upon her children – God visits the sins of the parents upon the children, until the entailed curse be cut off by repentance. God enforces His own word “lo-ruhamah, Unpitied,” by repeating it here, “lo-arahem,” “I will not pity.” Reproaches, which fall upon the mother, are ever felt with special keenness. Whence Saul called Jonathan 1Sa_20:30, “Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman.” Therefore, the more to arouse them, he says, “for they are the children of whoredoms,” evil children of an evil parent, as John the Immerser calls the hypocritical Jews, “ye generation of vipers” Mat_3:7. “This they were, from their very birth and swaddling-clothes, never touching any work of piety, nor cultivating any grace.” As of Christ, and of those who, in Him, are nourished up in deeds of righteousness, it is said, “I was cast upon Thee from the womb; Thou art my God from my mother’s belly;” so, contrariwise, of the ungodly it is said, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.”
And as they who “live honestly, as in the day and in the light,” are called “children of the day and of the light,” so they who live a defiled life are called the “children of whoredores.” : “To call them ‘children of whoredoms’ is all one with saying, that they too are incorrigible or unchangeable. For of such, Wisdom, after saying, ‘executing Thy judgments upon them by little and little,’ added immediately (Wisd. 12:10, 11), ‘not being ignorant that thy were a naughty generation, and that their malice was bred in them, and that their cogitation would never be changed, for it was a cursed seed from the beginning.” All this is here expressed briefly by this word, “that they are the children of whoredoms,” meaning that their “malice” too was inbred, and that they, as much as the Ammorite and Hittite, were a “cursed seed.” Nor yet, in so speaking, did he blame the nature which God created, but he vehemently reproves the abuse of nature, that malice, which cleaves to nature but was no part of it, was by custom changed into nature.”
He afterwards declares how the children became spurious; their mother, who conceived or bare them, has been wanton; with shameful acts has she defiled herself בוש bush, means, to be ashamed; but here the Prophet means not that the Israelites were touched with shame, for such a meaning would be inconsistent with the former sentence; but that they were like a shameless and infamous woman, touched with no shame for her baseness. Their mother, then, had been wanton, and she who bare them had become scandalous Here the Prophet strips the Israelites of their foolish confidence, who were wont to profess the name of God, while they were entirely alienated from him: for they had fallen away by their impiety from pure worship, they had rejected the law, yea, and every yoke. Since then they were wild beasts, it was extreme stupidity ever to set up for their shield the name of God, and ever to boast of the adoption of their father Abraham. But as the Jews were so perversely proud, the Prophet here answers them, “Your mother has been wanton, and with shameful acts has she defiled herself; I will not therefore count nor own you as my children, for ye were born by adultery.”
This passage confirms what I have shortly before explained, — that it is not enough that God should choose any people for himself, except the people themselves persevere in the obedience of faith; for this is the spiritual chastity which the Lord requires from all his people. But when is a wife, whom God has bound to himself by a sacred marriage, said to become wanton? When she falls away, as we shall more clearly see hereafter, from pure and sound faith. Then it follows that the marriage between God and men so long endures at they who have been adopted continue in pure faith, and apostasy in a manner frees God from us, so that he may justly repudiate us. Since such apostasy prevails under the Papacy, and has for many ages prevailed, how senseless they are in their boasting, while they would be thought to be the holy Catholic Church, and the elect people of God? For they are all born by wantonness, they are all spurious children. The incorruptible seed is the word of God; but what sort of doctrine have they? It is a spurious seed. Then as to God all the Papists are bastards. In vain then they boast themselves to be the children of God, and that they have the holy Mother Church, for they are born by filthy wantonness.
The Prophet pursues still the same subject: “She said, I will go after my lovers, the givers of my bread, of my waters, of my wool, and of my flax, and of my oil, and of my drink The Prophet here defines the whoredom of which he had spoken: this part is explanatory; the Prophet unfolds in several words what he had briefly touched when he said, your mother has been wanton. Now, if the Jews object and say, How has she become wanton? Because, “she said, I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my waters, etc. The Prophet here compares false gods to lovers, who seduce women from their conjugal fidelity; for he pursues the similitude which he had introduced. The Church, to whom God has pledged his faith, is represented as a wife; and as a woman does, when enticed by gifts, and as many women follow covetousness and become lascivious, that they may dress sumptuously, and live luxuriously, so the Prophet now points out this vice in the Israelitic Church, She said, I will go after my lovers Some understand by lovers either the Assyrians or the Egyptians; for when the Israelites formed connections with these heathen nations, they were drawn away, we know, from their God. But the Prophet inveighs especially against false and corrupt modes of worship, and all kinds of superstitions; for the pure worship of God, we know, is ever to have the first place, and that justly; for on this depend all the duties of life. I therefore doubt not, but that he includes all false gods, when he says, “I will go after my lovers”.
But by introducing the word, “said”, he amplifies the shamelessness of the people, who deliberately forsook their God, who was to them as a legitimate husband. It indeed happens sometimes that a man is thoughtlessly drawn aside by a mistake or folly, but he soon repents; for we see many of the unexperienced deceived for a short time: but the Prophet here shows that the Israelites premeditated their unfaithfulness, so that they wilfully departed from God. Hence she said; and we know that this said means so much; and it is to be referred, not to the outward word as pronounced, but to the inward purpose. She therefore said, that is, she made this resolution; as though he said, “Let no one make this frivolous excuse, that they were deceived, that they did it in their simplicity: ye are, he says, avowedly perfidious, ye have with a premeditated purpose sought this divorce.” He, however, ascribes this to their mother: for defection began at the root, when they were drawn away by Jeroboam into corrupt superstitions; and the promotion of this evil became as it were hereditary. He therefore intended to condemn here the whole community. Hence, “she said, I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my waters”. But I cannot finish today; I must therefore break off the sentence.
Nor their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath dons shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers. The charge of idolatry under the figure of harlotry, spiritual harlotry, is reiterated. “Mother” is repeated in and emphasized by the parallel words, “she that conceived them.” A somewhat similar form of expression is that in Psa_58:3, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” To bosh, to be ashamed, belong the Hiphil forms, hebhish and hobhish (the latter formed from zabhish), properly “to put to shame,” but also “to practice shame or do shameful things.” The nature of her shameful conduct is more definitely and distinctly expressed in the clauses which follow; and consisted of several particulars. There is the persistent pursuit of her lovers; then the unblushing boldness with which she avows her determination to continue that course; and next come her expectations from them.
That give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink (margin, drinks). The original word here rendered “lovers” is the Piel participle, which may have either its usual intensive sense or its occasional causative sense in which it is taken by Rosenmüller, who has “a-mare me facientes,” equivalent to “wooers.” It matters little which way we understand it. The more important point is to determine who or what are here meant by lovers. Most commentators understand them to be those nations whose friendship Israel set such store by—the Assyrians and the Egyptians. Thus Grotius and Jerome,—the latter explains them of the Assyrians and Egyptians and other nations, with whose idols Israel committed fornication, and from which in distress they vainly hoped for help; so also Kimchi, in the following comment: “By ‘friends ‘ he implies the Assyrians and Egyptians joined in alliance to the Israelites, who delivered them from their enemies, so that they lived safely, in return for the gifts (tribute) which they (the Israelites) were in the habit of giving them. And as they lived in tranquility in virtue of the compact entered into with them, the prophet represents it as if they supplied them with all the necessaries of life. For with their help they tilled their land without fear and in safety traded from country to country.” Kimchi quotes at the same time his father’s (Joseph Kimchi) interpretation: “But my lord my father of blessed memory explained ‘after her lovers’ of the sun and moon and stars, which they worshipped; while their intention was that they gave them their food and their sufficiency, as they said, ‘But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.’” This exposition of Joseph Kimchi is much nearer the truth than that of his son David; it is, however, too restricted. The “lovers” were the idols on which the people of the northern kingdom so dented, and on which they placed so much dependence. The blessings which they vainly expected from these idols are enumerated: they were—food and raiment and luxuries; the bread and water were the articles of food as it is written elsewhere. “Bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure;” the wool and flax were the materials for clothing; while the oil and drinks were, the former for ornament, the latter for refresh-merit, and so included all luxuries; thus in Psa_23:5, “Thou anointest my head with oil;” and in Psa_102:9, “And mingled my drink [literally, 'drinks,' the same word, shigguyar] with weeping;” also in Psa_104:15 we read of “wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengthened man’s heart.”
She that conceived them hath done shamefully, literally, hath made shameful – The silence as to “what” she “made shameful” is more emphatic than any words. She “made shameful” everything which she could “make shameful,” her acts, her children, and herself.
I will go after my lovers – (:iterally let me go, I would go). The Hebrew word “Meahabim” denotes intense passionate love; the plural form implies that they were sinful loves. Every word aggravates the shamelessness. Amid God’s chastisements, she encourages herself, “Come, let me go,” as people harden and embolden, and, as it were, lash themselves into further sin, lest they should shrink back, or stop short in it. “Let me go after.” She waits not, as it were, to be enticed, allured, seduced. She herself, uninvited, unbidden, unsought, contrary to the accustomed and natural feeling of woman, follows after those by whom she is not drawn, and refuses to follow God who would draw her (see Eze_16:31-34). The “lovers” are, whatever a man loves and courts, out of God. They were the idols and false gods, whom the Jews, like the pagan, took to themselves, besides God. But in truth they were devils. Devils she sought; the will of devils she followed; their pleasure she fulfilled, abandoning herself to sin, shamefully filled with all wickedness, and travailing with all manner of impurity. These she professed that she loved, and that they, not God, loved her. For whoever receives the gifts of God, except from God and in God’s way, receives them from devils. Whoso seeks what God forbids, seeks it from Satan, and holds that Satan, not God, loves him; since God refuses it, Satan encourages him to possess himself of it. Satan, then, is his lover.
That gave me my bread and my water – The sense of human weakness abides, even when divine love is gone. The whole history of man’s superstitions is an evidence of this, whether they have been the mere instincts of nature, or whether they have attached themselves to religion or irreligion, Jewish or Pagan or Muslim, or have been practiced by half-Christians. “She is conscious that she hath not these things by her own power, but is beholden to some other for them; but not remembering Him (as was commanded) who had “given her power to get wealth, and richly all things to enjoy,” she professes them to be the gifts of her lovers.” “Bread and water, wool and flax,” express the necessaries of life, food and clothing; “mine oil and my drink” (Hebrew, drinks), its luxuries. Oil includes also ointments, and so served both for health, food and medicine, for anointing the body, and for perfume. In perfumes and choice drinks, the rich people of Israel were guilty of great profusion; from where it is said, “He that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich” Pro_21:17. For such things alone, the things of the body, did Israel care. Ascribing them to her false gods, she loved these gods, and held that they loved her. In like way, the Jewish women shamelessly told Jeremiah, “we will certainly do whatsoever thing goes out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine” Jer_44:17-18.
The substance of this chapter is, that it was God’s purpose to keep in firm hope the minds of the faithful during the exile, lest being overwhelmed with despair they should wholly faint. The Prophet had before spoken of God’s reconciliation with his people; and he magnificently extolled that favor when he said, ‘Ye shall be as in the valley of Achor, I will restore to you the abundance of all blessings; in a word, ye shall be in all respects happy.’ But, in the meantime, the daily misery of the people continued. God had indeed determined to remove them into Babylon. They might, therefore, have despaired under that calamity, as though every hope of deliverance were wholly taken from them. Hence the Prophet now shows that God would so restore the people to favor, as not immediately to blot out every remembrance of his wrath, but that his purpose was to continue for a time some measure of his severity.
We hence see that this prediction occupies a middle place between the denunciation the Prophet previously pronounced and the promise of pardon. It was a dreadful thing, that God should divorce his people and cast away the Israelites as spurious children: but a consolation was afterwards added. But lest the Israelites should think that God would immediately, as on the first day, be so propitious to them as to visit them with no chastisement, it was the Prophet’s design expressly to correct this mistake, as though he said, ‘God will indeed receive you again, but in the meantime a chastisement is prepared for you, which by its intenseness would break down your spirits were it not that this comfort will ease you, and that is, that God, though he punishes you for your sins, yet continues to provide for your salvation, and to be as it were your husband.’ We now perceive the intention of the Prophet. But I shall first run over the words, and then return to the subject
Jehovah said to me, Go yet and love a woman. There is no doubt but that God describes here the favor he promises to the Israelites in a type or vision: for they are too gross in their notions, who think that the Prophet married a woman who had been a harlot. It was then only a vision, as though God had set a picture before the eyes of the people, in which they might see their own conduct. And when he says, “yet”, he refers to the vision, mentioned in the first chapter. But he bids a woman to be loved before he took her to be the partner of his conjugal bed; which ought to be noticed: for God intends here to make a distinction between the people’s restoration and his hidden favor. God then before he restored the people from exile, loved them as it were in their widowhood. We now understand why the Prophet does not say, ‘Take to thee a wife,’ but, ‘love a woman.’ The meaning is this: God intimates, that though exile would be sad and bitter, yet the people, whom he treated with sharpness and severity, were still dear to him. Hence, Love a woman, who had been loved by a husband
The word רע, ro, is here to be taken for a husband, as it is in the second chapter of Jeremiah, [Jer_3:20 ] where it is said, ‘Perfidiously have the children of Israel dealt with me, as though a woman had departed from her husband, מרעה, meroe,’, or, ‘from her partner.’ And there is an aggravation of the crime implied in this word: for women, when they prostitute themselves, often complain that they have done so through too much severity, because they were not treated with sufficient kindness by their husbands; but when a husband behaves kindly towards his wife, and performs his duty as a husband, there is then less excuse for a wife, in case she fixes her affections on others. To increase then the sin of the people, this circumstance is stated that the woman had been loved by her friend or partner, and yet that this kindness of her husband had not preserved her mind in chastity.
He afterwards says, According to the love of Jehovah towards the children of Israel; that is, As God loved the people of Israel, who yet ceased not to look to other gods. This metaphor occurs often in Scripture, that is, when the verb פנה “panah”, which means in Hebrew, to look to, is used to express hope or desire: so that when men’s minds are intent on any thing, or their affections fixed on it, they are said to look to that. Since then the Israelites boiled with insane ardor for their superstitions, they are said to look to other gods.
It then follows, And they love flagons of grapes. The Prophet, I doubt not, compares this rage to drunkenness: and he mentions flagons of grapes rather than of wine, because idolaters are like drunkards, who sometimes so gorge themselves, that they have no longer a taste for wine; yea, the very smell of wine offends them, and produces nausea through excessive drinking; but they try new arts by which they may regain their fondness for wine. And such is the desire of novelty that prevails in the superstitious. At one time they go after this, at another time after that, and their minds are continually tossed to and fro, because they cannot acquiesce in the only true God. We now then perceive what this metaphor means, when the Prophet reproaches the Israelites, because they loved flagons of grapes.
I now return to what the Prophet, or rather God, had in view. God here comforts the hearts of the faithful, that they might surely conclude that they were loved, even when they were chastised. It was indeed necessary that this difference should have been well impressed on the Israelites, that they might in exile entertain hope and patiently bear God’s chastisement, and rise that this hope might mitigate the bitterness of sorrow. God therefore says that though he shows not himself as yet reconciled to them, but appears as yet severe, at the same time he is not without love. And hence we learn how useful this doctrine is, and how widely it opens; for it affords a consolation of which we all in common have need. When God humbles us by adversities, when he shows to us some tokens of severity or wrath, we cannot but instantly fail, were not this thought to occur to us, that God loves us, even when he is severe towards us, and that though he seems to cast us away, we are not yet altogether aliens, for he retains some affection even in the midst of his wrath; so that he is to us as a husband, though he admits us not immediately into conjugal honor, nor restores us to our former rank. We now then see how the doctrine is to be applied to ourselves.
We must at the same time notice the reproachful conduct of which I have spoken, — That though the woman was loved yet she could not be preserved in chastity, and that she was loved, though an adulteress. Here is pointed out the most shameful ingratitude of the people, and contrasted with it is God’s infinite mercy and goodness. It was the summit of wickedness in the people to forsake their God, when he had treated them with so much benignity and kindness. But wonderful was the patience of God, when he ceased not to love a people, whom he had found to be so perverse, that they could not be turned by any acts of kindness nor retained by any favors.
With regard to the flagons of grapes we may observe, that this strange disposition is ever dominant in the superstitious, and that is, that they wander here and there after their own devices, and have nothing fixed in them. Lest, then, such charms deceive us, let us learn to cleave firmly and constantly to the word of the Lord. Indeed the Papists of this day boast of their ancientness, when they would create an ill-will towards us; as though the religion we follow were new and lately invented: but we see how modern their superstitions are; for a passion for them bubbles up continually and they have nothing that remains constant: and no wonder, because the eternal truth of God is regarded by them as of no value. If, then, we desire to restrain this depraved lust, which the Prophet condemns in the Israelites, let us so adhere to the word of the Lord, that no novelty may captivate us and lead us astray. It now follows —
The general meaning of this verse is well given in the Chaldee Targum: “Go, utter a prophecy against the house of Israel, who are like a woman very dear to her husband, and who, though she is unfaithful to him, is nevertheless so greatly loved by him that he is unwilling to put her away. Such is the love of the Lord towards Israel; but they turn aside to the idols of the nations.” The word עוֹר is in contrast with ‘techillath, as the second part of Jehovah’s continued discourse. It is erroneously and, contrary to the accents, constructed with “said” by Kimchi and others (Ewald considers it admissible, Umbreit preferable). Kimchi’s comment on this verse is: “After the prophet finished his words of consolation, he returns to words of censure, turning to the men of his own time. And it is the custom of the prophets to intermingle reproofs with consolations in their discourses. But he says yet (again), because he had already commanded him to marry a wife of whoredoms, and now he speaks to him another parable.” This time he does not employ the ordinary and usual word “take,” but “love.” plainly implying that he had already married her, so that her unfaithfulness took place in wedlock; or rather indicating the object of the union. Beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress. Her friend or companion is
(1) her lawful husband, but contemporaneously and continuously with her husband’s love to her are her adulteries with others, as is implied by the participles.
(2) רֵע, being indefinite as not having article or suffix, is understood by some to be an acquaintance or lover, and preferred, as a milder term, to מְאַהֵב. The contrast was realized in Jehovah’s love for Israel, notwithstanding their spiritual adultery in worshipping other gods. According to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel who look (turn) to other gods. Two expressions in this clause recall, if they do not actually reflect, the words of two older Scriptures; thus in Deu_7:8 we read, “Because the Lord loved you;” and in Deu_31:18, “They are turned unto ether gods.”
(3) The LXX. has γυναῖκα ἀγαπῶσαν πονηρά, having probably read אֹהֶבֶת רַע. And love flagons of wine (margin, grapes). The term ashishe, according to Rashi and Aben Ezra, means “bowls,” that is, “bowls of wine” (literally, “of grapes”). They probably connected the word with the root shesh, six, a sextorius, and hence any other wine-vessel. The Septuagint, however, renders the word πέμματα μετὰ σταφίδος, “cakes with dried grapes.” This meaning is to be preferred, whether we derive the word from אִשַׁשׁ, to press together, or from אֵשׁ, fire; according to the former and correct derivation, the sense being cakes of grapes pressed together; according to the latter, cakes baked with fire. Gesenius differentiates the word from צִמּוּק, dried grapes, but not pressed together into a cake, and from דְּבֵלַה, figs pressed together into a cake. These raisin-cakes were regarded as luxuries and used as delicacies; hence a fondness for such indicated a proneness to sensual indulgence, and figuratively the sensuous service belonging to idol-worship.
Go yet, love a woman, beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress – This woman is the same Gomer, whom the prophet had before been bidden to take, and whom, (it appears from this verse) had forsaken him, and was living in adultery with another man. The “friend” is the husband himself, the prophet. The word “friend” expresses, that the husband of Gomer treated her, not harshly, but mildly and tenderly so that her faithlessness was the more aggravated sin. “Friend or neighbor” too is the word chosen by our Lord to express His own love, the love of the good Samaritan, who, not being akin, became “neighbor to Him who fell among thieves,” and had mercy upon him. Gomer is called “a woman,” in order to describe the state of separation, in which she was living. Yet God bids the prophet to “love her,” i. e., show active love to her, not, as before, to “take” her, for she was already and still his with, although unfaithful. He is now bidden to buy her back, with the price and allowance of food, as of a worthless slave, and so to keep her apart, on coarse food, abstaining from her former sins, but without the privileges of marriage, yet with the hope of being, in the end, restored to be altogether his wife. This prophecy is a sequel to the former, and so relates to Israel, after the coming of Christ, in which the former prophecy ends.
According to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel – The prophet is directed to frame his life, so as to depict at once the ingratitude of Israel or the sinful soul, and the abiding, persevering, love of God. The woman, whom God commands him to love, he had loved before her fall; he was now to love her after her fall, and amid her fall, in order to rescue her from abiding in it. His love was to outlive her’s, that he might win her at last to him. Such, God says, “is the love of the Lord for Israel.” He loved her, before she fell, for the woman was “beloved of her friend, and yet an adulteress.” He loved her after she fell, and while persevering in her adultery. For God explains His command to the prophet still to love her, by the words, “according to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel, while they look to other gods, literally, and they are looking.” The words express a contemporary circumstance. God was loving them and looking upon them; and they, all the while, were looking to other gods.
Love flagons of wine – Literally, “of grapes,” or perhaps, more probably, “cakes of grapes,” i. e., dried raisins. Cakes were used in idolatry Jer_7:18; Jer_44:19. The “wine” would betoken the excess common in idolatry, and the bereavement of understanding: the cakes denote the sweetness and lusciousness, yet still the dryness, of any gratification out of God, which is preferred to Him. Israel despised and rejected the true Vine, Jesus Christ, the source of all the works of grace and righteousness, and “loved the dried cakes,” the observances of the law, which, apart from Him, were dry and worthless.
These verses have been read together, for in these four the Prophet explains the vision presented to him. He says, first, that he had done what had been enjoined him by God; which was conveyed to him by a vision, or in a typical form, that by such an exhibition he might impress the minds of the people: I bought, he says, a wife for fifteen silverings, and for a corus of barley and half a corus; that is, for a corus and a half. He tells us in this verse that he had bought the wife whom he was to take for a small price. By the fifteen silverings and the corus and half of barley is set forth, I have no doubt, her abject and mean condition. Servants, we know, were valued at thirty shekels of silver when hurt by an ox, (Exo_21:32.) But the Prophet gives her for his wife fifteen silvering; which seemed a contemptible gift. But then the Lord shows, that though he would but scantily support his people in exile, they would still be dear to him, as when a husband loves his wife though he does not indulge her, when that would be inexpedient: overmuch indulgence, as it is well known, has indeed often corrupted those who have gone astray. When a husband immediately pardons an adulterous wife, and receives her with a smiling countenance, and fawningly humbles himself by laying aside his own right and authority, he acts foolishly, and by his levity ruins his wife: but when a husband forgives his wife, and yet strictly confines her within the range of duty, and restrains his own feelings, such a moderate course is very beneficial and shows no common prudence in the husband; who, though he is not cruel, is yet not carried away by foolish love. This, then is what the Prophet means, when he says, that he had given for his wife fifteen silverings and a corus and half of barley. Respectable women did not, indeed, live on barley. The Prophets then, gave to his wife, not wheat-flour, nor the fine flour of wheat, but black bread and coarse food; yea, he gave her barley as her allowance, and in a small quantity, that his wife might have but a scanty living. We now then understand the Prophet’s meaning.
Some elicit a contrary sense, that the Lord would splendidly and sumptuously support the wife who had been an adulteress; but this view by no means harmonizes with the Prophet’s design, as we have already seen. Besides, the words themselves lead us another way. Jerome, as his practice is, refines in allegorizing. He says, that the people were bought for fifteen silverings, because they came out of Egypt on the fifteenth day of the month; and then he says, that as the Hebrew homer contains thirty bushels, they were bought for a corus and half, which is forty-five bushels. because the law was promulgated forty-five days after. But these are puerile trifles. Let then the simple view which I have given be sufficient for us, — that God, though he favored her, not immediately with the honor of a wife and liberal support, yet ceased not to love her. Thus we see the minds of the faithful were sustained to bear patiently their calamities; for it is an untold consolation to know that God loves us. If a testimony respecting his love moderates not our sorrows, we are very ill-natured and ungrateful.
The Prophet then more clearly proves in these words, that God loved his people, though he seemed to be alienated from them. He might have wholly destroyed them: he yet supplied them with food in their exile. The people indeed lived in the greatest straits; and all delicacies were no doubt taken from them, and their fare was very sordid and very scanty: but the Prophet forbids them to measure God’s favor by the smallness of what was given them; for though God would not immediately receive into favor a wife who had been an adulteress, yet he wished her to continue his wife.
Keil and Delitzsch
“And I acquired her for myself for fifteen pieces of silver, and a homer of barley, and a lethech of barley.” אֶכְּרֶהָ, with dagesh lene or dirimens (Ewald, §28, b), from kârâh, to dig, to procure by digging, then generally to acquire (see at Deu_2:6), or obtain by trading (Job_6:27; 40:30). Fifteen keseph are fifteen shekels of silver; the word shekel being frequently omitted in statements as to amount (compare Ges. §120, 4, Anm. 2). According to Eze_45:11, the homer contained ten baths or ephahs, and a lethech (ἡμίκορος, lxx) was a half homer. Consequently the prophet gave fifteen shekels of silver and fifteen ephahs of barley; and it is a very natural supposition, especially if we refer to 2Ki_7:1; 2Ki_16:18, that at that time an ephah of barley was worth a shekel, in which case the whole price would just amount to the sum for which, according to Exo_21:32, it was possible to purchase a slave, and was paid half in money and half in barley. The reason for the latter it is impossible to determine with certainty. The price generally, for which the prophet obtained the wife, was probably intended to indicate the servile condition out of which Jehovah purchased Israel to be His people; and the circumstance that the prophet gave no more for the wife than the amount at which a slave could be obtained, according to Ecc. 21:32 and Zec_11:12, and that this amount was not even paid in money, but half of it in barley – a kind of food so generally despised throughout antiquity (vile hordeum; see at Num_5:15) – was intended to depict still more strikingly the deeply depressed condition of the woman. The price paid, moreover, is not to be regarded as purchase money, for which the wife was obtained from her parents; for it cannot be shown that the custom of purchasing a bride from her parents had any existence among the Israelites (see my Bibl. Archäologie, ii. §109, 1). It was rather the marriage present (mōhar), which a bridegroom gave, not to the parents, but to the bride herself, as soon as her consent had been obtained. If, therefore, the woman was satisfied with fifteen shekels and fifteen ephahs of barley, she must have been in a state of very deep distress.
So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver – The fifteen shekels were half the price of a common slave Exo_21:32, and so may denote her worthlessness. The homer and half-homer of barley, or forty-five bushels, are nearly the allowance of food for a slave among the Romans, four bushels a month. Barley was the offering of one accused of adultery, and, being the food of animals, betokens that she was “like horse and mule which have no understanding.” The Jews gave dowries for their wives; but she was the prophet’s wife already. It was then perhaps an allowance, whereby he bought her back from her evil freedom, not to live as his wife, but to be honestly maintained, until it should be fit, completely to restore her.
Hence he adds, I said to her, For many days shalt thou tarry for me, and thou shalt not become wanton, and thou shalt not be for any man, that is, ‘Thou shalt remain a widow; for it is for this reason that I still retain thee, to find out whether thou wilt sincerely repent. I would not indeed be too easy towards thee, lest I should by indulgence corrupt thee: I shall see what thy conduct will be: you must in the meantime continue a widow.’ This, then was God’s small favor which remained for the people, even a sort of widowhood. God might, indeed, as we have said, have utterly destroyed his people: but he mitigated his wrath and only punished them with exile, and in the meantime, proved that he was not forgetful of his banished people. Though then he only bestowed some scanty allowance, he yet did not wholly deprive them of food, nor suffer them to perish through want. This treatment then in reality is set forth by this representation, that the Prophet had bidden his wife to remain single.
He says, And I also shall be for thee: why does he say, I also? A wife, already joined to her husband, has no right to pledge her faith to another. Then the Prophet shows that Israel was held bound by the Lord, that they might not seek another connection, for his faith was pledged to them. Hence he says, I also shall be for thee; that is, ‘I pledge my faith to thee, or, I subscribe myself as thy husband: but another time must be looked for; I yet defer my favor, and suspend it until thou givest proof of true repentance.’ “I also”, he says, “shall be for thee”; that is, ‘Thou shalt not be a widow in vain, if thou complainest that wrong is done to thee, because I forbid thee to marry any one else, I also bind myself in turn to thee.’ Now then is evident the mutual compact between God and his people, so that the people, though a state of widowhood be full of sorrows ought not yet to succumb to grief, but to keep themselves exclusively for God, till the time of their full and complete deliverance, because he says, that he will remain true to his pledge. “I will then be thine: though at present, I admit thee not into the honor of wives, I will not yet wholly repudiate thee.”
But how does this view harmonize with the first prediction, according to which God seems to have divorced his people? Their concurrence may be easily explained. The Prophet indeed said, that the body of the people would be alienated from God: but here he addresses the faithful only. Lest then the minds of those who were healable should despond, the Prophet sets before them this comfort which I have mentioned, — that though they were to continue, as it were, single, yet the Lord would remain, as it were, bound to them, so as not to adopt another people and reject them. But we shall presently see that this prediction regards in common the Gentiles as well as the Jews and Israelites.
Keil & Delitzsch
“And I said to her, Many days wilt thou sit for me: and not act the harlot, and not belong to a man; and thus will I also towards thee.” Instead of granting the full conjugal fellowship of a wife to the woman whom he had acquired for himself, the prophet puts her into a state of detention, in which she was debarred from intercourse with any man. Sitting is equivalent to remaining quiet, and לִי indicates that this is for the husband’s sake, and that he imposes it upon her out of affection to her, to reform her and grain her up as a faithful wife. הָיָה לְאִישׁ, to be or become a man’s, signifies conjugal or sexual connection with him.
Commentators differ in opinion as to whether the prophet himself is included or not. In all probability he is not included, as his conduct towards the woman is simply indicated in the last clause. The distinction between זָנָה and הָיָה לְאִישׁ, is that the former signifies intercourse with different paramours, the latter conjugal intercourse; here adulterous intercourse with a single man. The last words, “and I also to thee” (towards thee), cannot have any other meaning, than that the prophet would act in the same way towards the wife as the wife towards every other man, i.e., would have no conjugal intercourse with her. The other explanations that have been given of these words, in which vegam is rendered “and yet,” or “and then,” are arbitrary. The parallel is not drawn between the prophet and the wife, but between the prophet and the other man; in other words, he does not promise that during the period of the wife’s detention he will not conclude a marriage with any other woman, but declares that he will have no more conjugal intercourse with her than any other man. This thought is required by the explanation of the figure in Hos_3:4. For, according to the former interpretation, the idea expressed would be this, that the Lord waited with patience and long-suffering for the reformation of His former nation, and would not plunge it into despair by adopting another nation in its place. But there is no hint whatever at any such though as this in Hos_3:4, Hos_3:5; and all that is expressed is, that He will not only cut off all intercourse on the part of His people with idols, but will also suspend, for a very long time, His own relation to Israel.
Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shall not be for another man. The prophet imposes certain restrictions of a very stringent character on his wife; he places her in a state of isolation; her past excesses and his purpose of effecting her reformation necessitate such measures, however strict and severe or even harsh they may appear. She is not to be admitted into full fellowship with her husband, nor is she to be allowed the possibility of intercourse with others. From friend, that is, husband and lovers, she is shut out; all sexual connection, whether illicit or legitimate, is peremptorily cut off. The clause, “thou shalt abide [or, 'sit still'] for me,” denotes an attitude of waiting, not necessarily in sorrow, like the captive maiden who before marriage with her captor bewailed her parents for the period of a month, but in patient expectation of her husband’s fortune and favor, though in seclusion from him, as also exclusion of all others. During this long period of “many days” she is not only debarred the society of her lawful partner, but forbidden either to play the harlot with several or to attach herself to a single paramour. Jerome directs attention to the fact that the word “another” has no place in the original text; otherwise it would imply that she was prohibited from intercourse with any other than her husband, while the real meaning makes the prohibition absolute and inclusive even of conjugal connection with her husband. So will I also be for thee. The Hebrew expositors, Aben Ezra and Kimchi, repeat the negative flora the preceding clause and translate, “Nor shall I even come to you,” that is, for marital society. This is not necessary to bring out the true sense, which is that, as she was to be restrained from intercourse with any and every other man, so he himself also would abstain from intercourse with her. “And also I will be for [unto] thee [i.e. thy husband] to preserve conjugal fidelity to thee, but hold aloof from thee during thy detention.” Thus separated from both lovers and husband, Israel would for many a long day suspend her worship of idols, and be at the same time shut out from her covenant relation to Jehovah. Kimchi’s comment mounts to pretty much the same, as does also that of Aben Ezra. The explanation of the former is, “I said to her, After thou hast committed adultery against me, thy punishment shall be that thou shalt abide in widowhood of life many days; and the meaning of ‘for me’ is, thou shalt be called by my name and not by another man’s; thou shalt say, I am the wife of such a one, and thou shelf not play the harlot with others, and also thou shalt not be the wife of any other man than myself.” Aben Ezra makes mention of another interpretation of the verse, to the effect, “If ye shall return to me, I also will return to you.” With this the Chaldee Targum is in accord, which represents God as commanding the prophet to say, “O congregation of Israel, your sins have been the cause of your exile for many days; ye shall devote yourselves to my service, and not go astray nor worship idols, and I also will have compassion upon you.” Maurer considers the expression היאל־אי equivalent to היעִם אי, viz. remhabere cum muliere; but to this linguistic usage is opposed. Umbreit renders the phrase, “and I will only be for thee;” this, however, partakes more of the nature of a promise than of a punishment, and is not quite, therefore, in accord with the context. Ewald: “And yet I am kind to thee [i.e. love thee];” this is a rather trivial, as also ill-supported idea. Calvin’s exposition is pretty much the same as we have given, and is the following: “I also shall be for thee; that is, I pledge my faith to thee, or I subscribe myself as thy husband: but another time must be looked for; I yet defer my favor, and suspend it until thou givest proof of true repentance. I also shall be for thee; that is, thou shalt not be a widow in vain; if thou complainest that wrong is done to thee, because I forbid thee to marry any one else, I also bind myself in turn to thee.”
Thou shalt abide for me many days – Literally, “thou shalt sit,” solitary and as a widow Deu_21:13, quiet and sequestered; not going after others, as heretofore, but waiting for him; Exo_24:14; Jer_3:2); and “that,” for an undefined, but long season, until he should come and take her to himself.
And thou shalt not be for another man – Literally, “and thou shalt not be to a man,” i. e., not even to thine own man or husband. She was to remain without following sin, yet without restoration to conjugal rights. Her husband would be her guardian; but as yet, no more. So will “I also be for thee or toward thee.” He does not say “to thee,” so as to belong to her, but “toward thee;” i. e., he would have regard, respect to her; he would watch over her, be kindly disposed toward her; he, his affections, interests, thoughts, would be directed “toward” her. The word toward expresses regard, yet distance also. Just so would God, in those times, withhold all special tokens of His favor, covenant, providence; yet would he secretly uphold and maintain them as a people, and withhold them from falling wholly from Him into the gulf of irreligion and infidelity.
He afterwards adds, For many days shall the children of Israel abide He says, for many days, that they might prepare themselves for long endurance, and be not dispirited through weariness, though the Lord should not soon free them from their calamities. “Though then your exile should be long, still cherish,” he says, “strong hope in your hearts; for so long a trial must necessarily be made of your repentance; as you have very often pretended to return to the Lord, and soon after your hypocrisy was discovered; and then ye became hardened in your wilful obstinacy: it is therefore necessary that the Lord should subdue you by a long chastisement.” Hence he says, The children of Israel shall abide without a king and without a prince
But it may still be further asked, What is the number of the days of which the Prophet speaks, for the definite number is not stated here; and we know that the exile appointed for the Jews was seventy years? (Jer_29:10.) But the Prophet seems here to extend his prediction farther, even to the time of Christ. To this I answer, that here he refers simply to the seventy years; though, at the same time, we must remember that those who returned not from exile were supported by this promise, and hoped in the promised Mediator: but the Prophet goes not beyond that number, afterwards prefixed by Jeremiah. It is not to be wondered at, that the Prophet had not computed the years and days; for the time of the captivity, that is, of the last captivity, was not yet come. Shortly after, indeed, four tribes were led away, and then the ten, and the whole kingdom of Israel was destroyed: but the last ruin of the whole people was not yet so near. It was therefore not necessary to compute then the years; but he speaks of a long time indefinitely, and speaks of the children of Israel and says, They shall abide without a king and without a prince: and inasmuch as they placed their trust in their king, and thought themselves happy in having this one distinction, a powerful king, he says, They shall abide without a king, without a prince. He now explains their widowhood without similitudes: hence he says, They shall be without a king and a prince, that is, there shall be among them no kind of civil government; they shall be like a mutilated body without a head; and so it happened to them in their miserable dispersion.
And without a sacrifice, he says, and without a statue. The Hebrews take מצבה, metsabe, often in a bad sense, though it means generally a statue, as a monument over a grave is called מצבה, metsabe,: but the Prophet seems to speak here of idols, for he afterwards adds, תרפים “teraphim”; and teraphim were no doubt images, (Gen_31:19,) which the superstitious used while worshipping their fictitious gods, as we read in many places. The king of Babylon is said to have consulted the teraphim; and it is said that Rachel stole the teraphim, and shortly after Laban calls the teraphim his gods. But the Hebrews talk idly when they say that these images were made of a constellation, and that they afterwards uttered words: but all this has been invented, and we know what liberty they take in devising fables. The meaning is, that God would take away from the people of Israel all civil order, and then all sacred rites and ceremonies, that they might abide as a widow, and at the same time know, that they were not utterly rejected by God without hope of reconciliation.
It is asked, why “ephod” is mentioned; for the priesthood continued among the tribe of Judah, and the ephod, it is well known, was a part of the sacerdotal dress. To this I answer, that when Jeroboam introduced false worship, he employed this artifice — to make religion among the Israelites nearly like true religion in its outward form: for it seems to have been his purpose that it should vary as little as possible from the legitimate worship of God: hence he said, ‘It is grievous and troublesome to you to go up to Jerusalem; then let us worship God here,’ (1Kg_12:28.)
But he pretended to change nothing; he would not appear to be an apostate, departing from the only true God. What then? “God may be worshipped without trouble by us here; for I will build temples in several places, and also erect altars: what hinders that sacrifices should not be offered to God in many places?” There is therefore no doubt but that he made his altars according to the form of the true altar, and also added the ephod and various ceremonies, that the Israelites might think that they still continued in the true worship of God.
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and teraphim. For a long series of years they were thus doomed to be without civil polity, or ecclesiastical privilege, or prophetic intimations. More particularly they were to remain without royal rule, or princely power, or priestly function, or prophetic instruction. As the prophet’s wife was neither to be, strictly speaking, her husband’s nor yet belong to another man; so Israel, as represented by her, was destined to be deprived of independent self-government and princely sovereignty; of Divine service, whether allowed as by sacrifice—the central part of Hebrew worship—or disallowed as by statue; of oracular responses, whether lawful as by the ephod or unlawful as by teraphim. There was thus an entire breaking up of Church and state as they had long existed; of all civil and ecclesiastical relations and privileges as they had been long enjoyed. Without a king of their own nationality to sit upon the throne, or a prince of their own race as heir apparent to the kingdom, or princes as the great officers of state; without offering by sacrifice to Jehovah, or statue by way of memorial to Baal; without means of ascertaining the will of Heaven in relation to the future by the Urim and Thummim of the high-priestly ephod, only the more than questionable means of soothsaying by the teraphim;—the children of Israel were to be left. And what attaches special importance to this remarkable passage is the undeniable tact that these predictions were uttered, not only before the dissolution of the monarchy and the cessation of sacrifices, but at a time when no human sagacity could foresee and no human power foretell the future abstention of the Hebrew race from idol-worship so long practiced, and from heathenish divination resorted to from such an early period of their history.
Rashi, in his comment, has the following: “I said to her, Many days shalt thou abide for me; thou shalt not go a-whoring after other gods; for if thou shalt play the harlot, thy sons shall remain many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice in the sanctuary in Judah, and without a statue of Baal in Samaria of the kings of Israel, and without an ephod with Urim and Thummim which declared to them secrets, and without teraphim; they are images that are made with the observation of one hour composed for the purpose, and which speak of themselves and declare secrets; and so Jonathan has translated, “Neither will there be an ephod nor one to give a response.’” Similarly Aben Ezra: “Without king, nor is there any objection from the Chasmoneans, for they were not of the children of Judah … without sacrifice to Jehovah nor statue to Baal, without ephod to Jehovah and without teraphim to the worshippers of idols, which Laban called his gods.” It is a matter of much consequence that some of the ablest of the Jewish expositors realize these predictions as applicable to their own case and the existing circumstances of their nation. Thus Kimchi, in commenting on this verse, says, “These are the days of the exile in which we are this day, and we have neither king nor prince of Israel, for we are in the power of the Gentiles, and in the power of their kings and princes … no sacrifice to God and no statue for worshippers of idols … and no ephod which shall declare future things by Urim and Thummim, and no teraphim for idolaters which declare the future according to the notion of those who believe in them; and thus we are this day in this exile, all the children of Israel;” he then cites the Targum of Jonathan in confirmation of his sentiments. For the ephod, comp. Exo_28:6-14, from which we learn that it was “a short cloak, covering shoulders and breast, wrought with colors and gold, formed of two halves connected by two shoulder-pieces, on each of which was an onyx engraved with six names of tribes, and held together round the waist by a girdle of the same material;” it was part of the high priest’s attire.
The teraphim—from the Arabic tarifa, to live comfortably, and turfator, a comfortable life, were the household gods and domestic oracles, like the Roman penates, and deriving the name from being thought the givers and guardians of a comfortable life, חֶרֶף. They were images in human form and stature, either graven of wood or stone (pesel), or molten out of precious metal (massekhah). The first mention of them is in Gen_31:19, and the name occurs fifteen times in the Old Testament. They appear to have been of Syrian or Chaldean origin. Aben Ezra says of them, “What appears to me most probable is that they had a human form and were made for the purpose of receiving supernal power, nor can I explain it further.” The two principal species of offerings were the זבח, or bloody sacrifice, and the מנחה, or unbloody oblation. The former comprehended those entirely burnt on the altar, עֹלָח rad. עלה, to ascend, from going up entirely in the altar-smoke; and חלב, or those of which only the fat was burnt. According to the object of the offerer, they were chattah, sin offering, pointing to expiation or pardon for something done demanding punishment; or asham, trespass offering, implying satisfaction and acceptance, or something undone demanding amends; and shelamim, peace offerings.
For the children of Israel shall abide many days – The condition described is one in which there should be no civil polity, none of the special temple-service, nor yet the idolatry, which they had hitherto combined with it or substituted for it. “King and prince” include both higher and lower governors. Judah had “kings” before the captivity, and a sort of “prince” in her governors after it. Judah remained still a polity, although without the glory of her kings, until she rejected Christ. Israel ceased to have any civil government at all. “Sacrifice” was the center of worship before Christ. It was that part of their service, which, above all, foreshadowed His love, His atonement and sacrifice, and the reconciliation of God by His blood, whose merits it pleaded. “Images,” were, “contrariwise,” the center of idolatry, the visible form of the beings, whom they worshipped instead of God. The “ephod” was the holy garment which the high priest wore, with the names of the twelve tribes and the Urim and Thummim, over his heart, and by which he inquired of God. The “Teraphim” were idolatrous means of divination.
So then, “for many days,” a long, long period, “the children of Israel” should “abide,” in a manner waiting for God, as the wife waited for her husband, kept apart under His care, yet not acknowledged by Him; not following after idolatries, yet cut off from the sacrificial worship which He had appointed for forgiveness of sins, through faith in the Sacrifice yet to be offered, cut off also from the appointed means of consulting Him and knowing His will. Into this state the ten tribes were brought upon their captivity, and (those only excepted who joined the two tribes or have been converted to the Gospel,) they have ever since remained in it.’ Into that same condition the two tribes were brought, after that, by “killing the Son, they had filled up the measure of their father’s” sins; and the second temple, which His presence had hallowed, was destroyed by the Romans, in that condition they have ever since remained; free from idolatry, and in a state of waiting for God, yet looking in vain for a Messiah, since they had not and would not receive Him who came unto them; praying to God; yet without sacrifice for sin; not owned by God, yet kept distinct and apart by His providence, for a future yet to be revealed. “No one of their own nation has been able to gather them together or to become their king.”
Julian the Apostate attempted in vain to rebuild their temple, God interposing by miracles to hinder the effort which challenged His Omnipotence. David’s temporal kingdom has perished and his line is lost, because Shiloh, the peace-maker, is come. The typical priesthood ceased, in presence of the true “priest after the order of Melchisedek.” The line of Aaron is forgotten, unknown, and cannot be recovered. So hopelessly are their genealogies confused, that they themselves conceive it to be one of the offices of their Messiah to disentangle them. Sacrifice, the center of their religion, has ceased and become unlawful. Still their characteristic has been to wait. Their prayer as to the Christ has been, “may He soon be revealed.” Eighteen centuries have flowed by. “Their eyes have failed with looking” for God’s promise, from where it is not to be found. Nothing has changed this character, in the mass of the people.
Oppressed, released, favored; despised, or aggrandised; in East or West; hating Christians, loving to blaspheme Christ, forced (as they would remain Jews,) to explain away the prophecies which speak of Him, deprived of the sacrifices which, to their forefathers, spoke of Him and His atonement; still, as a mass, they blindly wait for Him, the true knowledge of whom, His offices, His priesthood, and His kingdom, they have laid aside. Anti God has been “toward them.” He has preserved them from mingling with idolaters or Muslims. Oppression has not extinguished them, favor has not bribed them. He has kept them from abandoning their mangled worship, or the Scriptures which they understand not, and whose true meaning they believe not; they have fed on the raisinhusks of a barren ritual and unspiritual legalism since the Holy Spirit they have grieved away. Yet they exist still, a monument to “us,” of God’s abiding wrath on sin, as Lot’s wife was to them, encrusted, stiff, lifeless, only that we know that “the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.”
True it is, that idolatry was not the immediate cause of the final punishment of the two, as it was of the ten tribes. But the words of the prophecy go beyond the first and immediate occasion of it. The sin, which God condemned by Hosea, was alienation from Himself. He loved them, and “They turned to other gods.” The outward idolatry was but a fruit and a symbol of the inward. The temptation to idolatry was not simply, nor chiefly, to have a visible symbol to worship, but the hope to obtain from the beings so symbolized, or from their worship, what God refused or forbade. It was a rejection of God, choosing His rival. “The adulteress soul is whoever, forsaking the Creator, loveth the creature.” The rejection of our Lord was moreover the crowning act of apostasy, which set the seal on all former rejection of God. And when the sinful soul or nation is punished at last, God punishes not only the last act, which draws down the stroke, but all the former accumulated sins, which culminated in it. So then they who “despised the Bridegroom, who came from heaven to seek the love of His own in faith, and, forsaking Him, gave themselves over to the Scribes and Pharisees who slew Him, that the inheritance, i. e., God’s people, “might be” theirs,” having the same principle of sin as the ten tribes, were included in their sentence.
But it follows, Afterwards shall the children of Israel return and seek Jehovah their God, and David their king. Here the Prophet shows by the fruit of their chastisement, that the Israelites had no reason to murmur or clamour against God, as though he treated them with too much severity; for if he had stretched out his hand to them immediately, there would have been in them no repentance: but when thoroughly cleansed by long correction, they would then truly and sincerely confess their God. We then see that this comfort is set forth as arising from the fruit of chastisement, that the Israelites might patiently bear the temporary wrath of God. Afterwards, he says, they shall return; as though he said, “They are now led away headlong into their impiety, and they can by no means be restrained except by this long endurance of evils.”
They shall therefore return, and then will they seek Jehovah their God. The name of the only true God is set here in opposition, as before, to all Baalim. The Israelites, indeed, professed to worship God; but Baalim, we know, were at the same time in high esteem among them, who were so many gods, and had crept into the place of God, and extinguished his pure worship: hence the Prophet says not simply, They shall seek God, but they shall “seek Jehovah their God”. And there is here an implied reproof in the word אלהים “Elohehem”; for it intimates that they were drawn aside into ungodly superstitions, that they were without the true God, that no knowledge of him existed among them; though God had offered himself to them, yea, had familiarly held intercourse with them, and brought them up as it were in his bosom, as a father his own children. Hence the Prophet indirectly upbraids them for this great wickedness when he says, They shall seek their God. And who is this God? He is even Jehovah. They had hitherto formed for themselves vain gods: and though, he says, they had been deluded by their own devices, they shall now know the only true God, who from the beginning revealed himself to them even as their God. He afterwards adds a second clause respecting King David: but I cannot now finish the subject.
Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord theft God, and David their king. The note of time in the beginning of Hos_3:5 is explained by Rashi to signify “after the days of the Captivity;” and by Kimchi as follows: “This will take place at the end of the days, near the time of salvation, when the children of Israel shall return in repentance.” Though not comprehended in the symbolic representation that precedes, this statement is necessary to complete it. The future of Israel is the burden of this promise; the blessedness of that future is its brightness. It comprises three items—the reversal of their previous career, their loving return to the Lord their God, and their cordial reception of David their king. Contemporaneous with their sorrow for the sins of the past was their serious seeking of the Lord their God and submission to David their king. Their revolt from the Davidic dynasty in the days of Rehoboam was immediately followed by the idolatry of the calves which Jeroboam set up at Dan and Bethel. The reversal of this course is symptomatic of their complete recovery. The patriarch David was long dead and buried, and his sepulcher was in Palestine at the time when the prophet wrote; one, therefore, in the Davidic line, a descendant from, and dynastic representative of, the patriarch must be meant. That this was Messiah there can be no reasonable doubt; parallel passages in the other prophets prove this; for example: “I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them” (Eze_34:23, Eze_34:25; comp. also Eze_37:24). Again in Jeremiah (Jer_30:9) we read to the same purpose, “They shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.” We can by no means concur with those who refer this promise to Zerubbabel as a later occupant of the Davidic throne; and just as little with those who, like Wunsche, hold that the prophet has no particular period and no particular person in view, but presents the prospect of a happy and blissful future when Israel would return to the pure worship of Jehovah and enjoy his gracious protection, and when the national prosperity would equal or even far surpass that under the glorious reign of David himself. The best Jewish authorities are quoted in favor of the same; thus Rabbi Tanchum says, “He (the prophet) understands the son of David, occupying his place, from his lineage, walking in his way, by whom his name shall endure and his kingdom be preserved.” The Chaldee Targum translates in the same sense: “They shall seek the worship of Jehovah their God, and obey Messiah, the Son of David, their king.” So Aben Ezra says that “David their king is this Messiah, Like ‘My servant David shall be their prince forever’ (Eze_37:25).” The well-known idiom of one idea expressed by two verbs, so that the rendering of the clause would be “They shall again seek the Lord their God, and David their king,” if applied here, as undoubtedly it might, would weaken the sense, and so be unsuitable to the context. And shall fear (literally, come with trembling to) the Lord and his goodness in the latter days. The comment of Kimchi on the first part of this clause is as follows: “They shall tremble and be afraid of him when they return to him, and shall with repentance wait for the goodness of redemption on which they have trusted.” A somewhat different meaning is assigned to the words by Aben Ezra: “They shall return in haste, when the end (i.e. the time of redemption) comes to their own land with hasty course suddenly.” His goodness is taken by some in a concrete sense, as signifying the blessings which he bestows and the good gifts which he imparts; and by others in the abstract, as the Divine goodness or majesty, to which Israel resorts for the pardon of sin and the gracious acceptance of their petitions and answer of their prayers.
Afterward shall the children of Israel return – Elsewhere it is said more fully, “return to the Lord.” It expresses more than “turning” or even conversion to God. It is not conversion only, but reversion too, a turning “back from” the unbelief and sins, for which they had left God, and a return to Him whom they had forsaken.
And shall seek the Lord – This word, “seek,” expresses in Hebrew, from its intensive form, a diligent search; as used with regard to God, it signifies a religious search. It is not such seeking as our Lord speaks of, “Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled” Joh_6:26, or, “many shall seek to enter in and shall not be able” Luk_13:24, but that earnest seeking, to which He has promised, “Seek and ye shall find.” Before, she had diligently sought her false gods. Now, in the end she shall as diligently seek God and His grace, as she had heretofore sought her idols and her sins.
And David their King – David himself, after the flesh, this could not be. For he had long since been gathered to his fathers; nor was he to return to this earth. “David” then must be “the Son of David,” the same, of whom God says, “I will set up One Shepherd over them, and He shall feed them, even My servant David, and He shall be their Shepherd, and I the Lord will be their God, and My servant David a Prince among them” Eze_34:23-24. The same was to be a “witness, leader, commander to the people Isa_55:4; He who was to be “raised up to David Jer_23:5-6, a righteous Branch,” and who was to “be called the Lord our Righteousness; David’s Lord” Psa_110:1, as well as “David’s Son.” Whence the older Jews, of every school, Talmudic, mystical, Biblical, grammatical, explained this prophecy, of Christ. Thus their received paraphrase is: “Afterward the children of Israel shall repent, or turn by repentance, and shall seek the service of the Lord their God, and shall obey Messiah the Son of David, their King” .
And shall fear the Lord – Literally, “shall fear toward the Lord and toward His goodness.” It is not then a servile fear, not even, as elsewhere, a fear, which makes them shrink back from His awful Majesty. It is a fear, the most opposed to this; a fear, whereby “they shall flee to Him for help, from all that is to be feared;” a reverent holy awe, which should even impel them to Him; a fear of losing Him, which should make them hasten to Him. : “They shall fear, and wonder exceedingly, astonied at the greatness of God’s dealing, or of their own joy.” Yet they should “hasten tremblingly,” as bearing in memory their past unfathfulness and ill deserts, and fearing to approach, but for the greater fear on turning away. Nor do they hasten with this reverent awe and awful joy to God only, but “to His Goodness also.” His Goodness draws them, and to it they betake themselves, away from all cause of fear, their sins, themselves, the Evil one. Yet even His Goodness is a source of awe. “His Goodness!” How much it contains. All whereby God is good in Himself, all whereby he is good to us. That whereby he is essentially good, or rather Goodness; that whereby He is good to us, as His creatures, its yet more as His sinfill, ungrateful, redeemed creatures, re-born to bear the Image of His Son. So then His Goodness overflows into beneficence, and condescension, and graciousness and mercy and forgiving love, and joy in imparting Himself, and complacence in the creatures which he has formed, and re-formed, redeemed and sanctified for His glory. Well may His creatures “tremble toward” it, with admiring wonder that all this can be made their’s!
This was to take place “in the latter days.” These words, which are adopted in the New Testament, where Apostles say, “in the last days, in these last days” Act_2:17; Heb_1:2, mean this, the last dispensation of God, in contrast with all which went before, the times of the Gospel . The prophecy has all along been fulfilled during this period to those, whether of the ten or of the two tribes, who have been converted to Christ, since God ended their temple-worship. It is fulfilled in every soul from among them, who now is “converted and lives.” There will be a more full fulfillment, of which Paul speaks, when the eyes of all Israel shall be opened to the deceivableness of the last antichrist; and Enoch and Elias, the two witnesses Rev_11:3, shall have come to prepare our Lord’s second Coming, and shall have keen slain, and, by God’s converting grace, “all Israel shall be saved” Rom_11:26.