The Prophet now repeats the sentence which we have noticed in the last chapter for the sake of amplifying the sin of the people. For had they never known sound doctrine, had they never been brought up in the law, there would have been some colour for alleviating their fault; because they might have excused themselves by saying, that as they had never known true religion, they had gone astray according to the common practice of men; but as they had from infancy been taught sound doctrine, as God had brought them up as it were in his own bosom, as they had learned from their first years what it was to worship God purely, when they thus retook themselves to the superstitions of the heathens, what could there be for an excuse for them? We then see the bearing of the complaint, when God says, that he had been the God of Israel from the land of Egypt
I am then, he says, Jehovah your God. By calling himself Jehovah, he glances at all their fictitious gods; as though he said “I am doubtless justly, and in mine own rights your God; for I am of myself — I am the Creator of the world, no one can take away my power: but whence have these their divinity, except from the madness of men?” He says further, I am thy God, O Israel; that is, “I have manifested myself to thee from the land of Egypt, from thy very nativity. When I redeemed thee from Egypt I brought thee out as it were from the womb to the light of life; for Egypt was to thee like the grave. Thou didst then begin to live, and to be some sort of people, when I stretched forth my hand to thee.”
And now also ought to be noticed what I have said before, that the people were redeemed on this condition, that they should devote themselves wholly to God. As we are at this day Christ’s, and no one of us ought to live according to his own will, for Christ died and rose again for this end, that he might be the Lord of the living and of the dead: so also then, the Israelites had been redeemed by God, that they might offer themselves wholly to Him. And since God ruled by this right over the people of Israel, how shameful and inexcusable was their defections when the people wilfully abandoned themselves to the superstitions of the Gentiles?
A God, he says, besides me thou oughtest not to know These words the Prophet had not before used. This sentence, then, is fuller, for it more clearly explains the import of what he had said, that God had purchased Israel for himself by bringing them out of Egypt, and that is, that Israel ought to have been content with this one Redeemer, and not to seek for themselves other gods. A God, then, besides me thou shalt not know. For if this one God was sufficient for redeeming his people, what do the people now mean, when they wander, and seek aid here and there? For they ought to render to God the life received from him, which they now enjoy, and ought to acknowledge to be sufficiently safe under his protection. We now then see why this was added, Thou shalt not know a God besides me
A reason, confirmatory of this, follows: For no one, he says, is a Saviour except me The copulative ו, vau, ought to be regarded here as a causative, For no one, etc., or, Surely no one is a Saviour except me. And this is a remarkable passage; for we learn that the worship of God does not consist in words, but in faith, and hope, and prayer. The Papists of the present day think that they do not profane the worship of God, though they fly to statues, though they pray to dead men, though they look here and there for the accomplishment of their hopes. How so? Because they ever retain the only true God, that is, they do not ascribe the name of God to Christopher or to Antony. The Papists think themselves free from all blame, since God retains his own name. But we see how differently the matter is regarded by the Lord. “I am,” he says, “the only true God.” How is this? “Because I am the only Saviour: feign not to thyself another God, for thou shalt find none that will save thee.” Then God puts an especial value on the honour that is due to him from hope and prayer; that is, when our soul recumbs on him alone, and when we seek and hope for salvation from no other but from him. We see then how useful is the doctrine contained in this passage, in which the Prophet clearly shows, that the Israelites acted absurdly and shamefully when they formed another god for themselves, for no Saviour, except the one true God, can be found.
Yet I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt. The prophet here commences a recital of God’s favors to Israel from ancient times, all which they forgot, ungratefully and impiously turning aside from the worship of Jehovah. Jehovah had been Israel’s God long before, but never before had the evidence of his power and love to his people been so signal and conspicuous as at the period of the Exodus and onward. And thou shalt know no god but me. The use of תֵדָע in the imperfect is to connect the future with the past. It may be rendered either
(1) “Thou knowest,” viz. a God of such wonderful attestation thou knowest or findest not beside me—the opposite of the statement, “Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them” (Deu_13:3); or
(2) “Thou shouldest not know or recognize any god beside me.” So Kimchi: “Thou shouldest not know other gods, nor serve them beside me, for ye see there is no helper Beside me.” Likewise Rashi: “Thou shouldest not rebel against me.” Also Aben Ezra: “How hast thou turned to kiss the calf, which does not save nor satisfy, and hast left him who has been thy God from ancient days, who has helped thee and knows all thy necessities.” The word זוּלָחִי (from זוּל, which, as the cognate Arabic signifies, “to go forth or away”) is synonymous with בִּלְתִּי.
Yet – , (literally, and) I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt God was still the same God who had sheltered them with His providence, ever since He had delivered them from Egypt. He had the same power and will to help them. Therefore their duty was the same, and their destruction arose, not from any change in Him, but from themselves. “God is the God of the ungodly, by creation and general providence.”
And thou shalt – (i. e., oughtest to) know no God but Me, for (literally, and) there is not a Saviour but me “To be God and Lord and Saviour are incommunicable properties of God. Wherefore God often claimed these titles to Himself, from the time He revealed Himself to Israel. In the song of Moses, which they were commanded to rehearse, He says, “See now that I, I am He, and there is no God with Me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand” Deu_32:39. Isaiah repeats this same, “Is there a God besides Me? yea there is no God; I know not any” Isa_44:8; and “There is no God else besides Me, a just God and a Saviour; there is none else. Look unto Me and be ye saved, for I am God and there is none else” Isa_45:21, Isa_45:2; and, “I am the Lord, that is My Name; and My glory will I not give to another; neither My praise to graven images” Isa_42:8. : “That God and Saviour is Christ; God, because He created; Saviour, because, being made Man, He saved. Whence He willed to be called Jesus, i. e., Saviour. Truly “beside” Him, “there is no Saviour; neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved” Act_4:12. “It is not enough to recognize in God this quality of a Saviour. It must not be shared with “any other.” Whoso associates with God any power whatever to decide on man’s salvation makes an idol, and introduces a new God.”
He afterwards adds Thee I knew in the desert, in the land of droughts God here confirms the truth that the Israelites had acted very absurdly in having turned their minds to other gods, for he himself had known them. The knowledge here mentioned is twofold, that of men, and that of God. God declares that he had a care for the people when they were in the desert; and he designates his paternal solicitude by the term, knowledge: I knew thee; that is, “I then chose thee a people for myself, and familiarly manifested myself to thee, as if thou were a near friend to me. But then it was necessary that I should have been also known by thee.” This is the knowledge of men. Now when men are known by God, why do they not apply all their faculties, so that they may remain fixed on him? For when they divert them to other objects, they extinguish, as much as they can, this benefit of God. So also Paul speaks to the Galatians, ‘After ye have known God, or rather after ye are known by him,’ (Gal_4:9.)
In the first clause, he shows that they had done very wickedly in retaking themselves to various devices after the light of the gospel had been offered to them: but he increases their sin by the next clause, when he says, ‘Rather after ye are known by him;’ as though he said, “God has anticipated you by his gratuitous goodness. Since, then, God has thus first known you, and first favoured you with his grace, how great and how shameful is now your ingratitude in not seeking to know him in return?” We now then see why the Prophet added that the Israelites had been known by God in the desert, in the land of droughts
And there is an express mention made of the desert: for it was then necessary for the people to be sustained miraculously by the Lord; for except God had rained manna from heaven, and had also given water for drink, the people must have miserably perished. Since, then God had thus supported the people contrary to the usual course of nature, so that without his paternal care there could have been no hope of life, the Prophet now rightly adds, In the desert, in the land of droughts; that is, in that dry solitude, where not a grain of corn grew, so that the people could not live except God had, as it were, with his own hand, given them meat, and put it in their mouth. We now see that the extreme impiety of the people is here manifestly proved; for having been taught in God’s law, and been encouraged by so many benefits, they yet went astray after profane superstitions. And the Prophet, at the same time, adds —
I did know thee in the wilderness. The pronoun at the beginning of the verse is emphatic: As for me; or, I it was that knew thee. The meaning of the sentiment is: I acknowledged thee with kindness, with paternal care and kind providence watching over thee. “Thou shouldest gratefully acknowledge me,” is the comment of Kimchi, “because I knew thee in the wilderness, and cared for thy necessity in the wilderness, in which there were no means of livelihood.” In the land of great drought. The root of the word תַּלְאוּבֹת is לאב, unused in Hebrew, but signifying, in Arabic, “to burn, dry, be dry,” akin to לָחַב. Aben Ezra correctly explains it to be “a dry and thirsty laud, and so in the Arabic language; and (that it is so called) on account of all hardships being in it, is the allegorical explanation and not the literal sense.” Instead of a lengthened enumeration of all God’s loving-kindnesses to Israel at the Exodus and during the desert wanderings, the prophet sums up all in the expressive, “the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt;” and “I it was that did know thee in the wilderness.” It is as though he had said, “I pitied thee in the bondage and among the brick-kilns of Egypt; I brought thee forth with a strong hand and outstretched arm; I led thee through the wilderness; I relieved thee in thy straits; I gave thee bread from heaven to satisfy thy hunger, and water from the rock to quench thy thirst; I defended thee from enemies; nor did I relax my care till I gave thee the goodly laud of promise.”
I did know thee in the wilderness – “God so knew them, as to deserve to be known by them. By “knowing” them, He shewed how He ought to be acknowledged by them.” “As we love God, because He first loved us,” so we come to know and own God, having first been owned and known of Him. God showed His knowledge of them, by knowing and providing for their needs; He knew them “in the wilderness, in the land of great drought,” where the land yielded neither food nor water. He supplied them with the “bread from heaven” and with “water from the flinty rock.” He knew and owned them all by His providence; He knew in approbation and love, and fed in body and soul those who, having been known by Him, knew and owned Him. : “No slight thing is it, that He, who knoweth all things and men, should, by grace, know us with that knowledge according to which He says to that one true Israelite, Moses, “thou hast found grace in My sight, and I know thee by name” Exo_33:17. This we read to have been said to that one; but what He says to one, He says to all, whom now, before or since that time, He has chosen, being foreknown and predestinate, for He wrote the names of all in the book of life. All these elect are “known in the wilderness,” in the land of loneliness, in the wilderness of this world, where no one ever saw God, in the solitude of the heart and the secret of hidden knowledge, where God alone, beholding the soul tried by temptations, exercises and proves it, and accounting it, when “running lawfully,” worthy of His knowledge, professes that He “knew it.” To those so known, or named, He Himself saith in the Gospel, “rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” Luk_10:20.
The Prophet shows here that the people were in every way intractable. He has indeed handled this argument in other places; but the repetition is not superfluous. After he had said that the people were ungrateful in not continuing in the service of their Redeemer, by whom they had been so kindly and bountifully treated in the desert, where they must have perished through famine and want, had not the Lord in an unwonted manner brought them help in their great necessity, he now adds, “The Lord would have also allured you by other means, had you not been of a wholly wild and barbarous disposition: but it is hence manifest, that you are utterly disobedient; for after you have been brought out of the desert, you came to rich pastures.” For the land of Israel is here compared to rich and fertile pastures; as though he said, “God has placed you in an inheritance where you might eat to the full, as when a shepherd leads his sheep to a spot especially fertile.” What did take place? To their pastures they came, and were filled; they were filled, and elevated became their heart, and they forgat me
Since, then, the Israelites had extinguished the memory of their redemption, after the Lord had fed them when hungry in the desert, and since in their fulness they rejected God, and shook off his yoke, and, like ferocious horses, kicked against him, it became evident that their nature was so unnameable, that they could by no means be reduced to obedience or submission. We shall defer the rest till tomorrow.
Keil & Delitzsch
But prosperity made Israel proud, so that it forgot its God. Hos_13:6. “As they had their pasture, they became full; they became full, and their heart was lifted up: therefore have they forgotten me.” This reproof is taken almost word for word from Deu_8:11. (cf. Deu_31:20; Deu_32:15.). כְּמַרְעִיתָם, answering to their pasture, i.e., because they had such good pasture in the land given them by the Lord. The very thing of which Moses warned the people in Deu_8:11 has come to pass. Therefore are the threats of the law against the rebellious fulfilled upon them.
According to their pasture so were they filled. The literal rendering is, according to their pasturing so were they filled. The reference is rather to the care in pasturing than to the pasture-ground. By God’s care to the sheep of his pasture they waxed full. They were filled, and their heart was exalted. Two consequences followed from God’s great goodness to Israel—the immediate consequence was pride of heart; the more remote was forgetfulness of God. Perhaps these results should rather be regarded as concurrent, being in point of time simultaneous or nearly so. Therefore have they forgotten me. This forgetfulness of God is identified with the abandonment of his worship in the Chaldee Version, which is, “They have abandoned my service.” The metaphor contained in this verse is taken from a domestic animal, which, in a too luxuriant pasture, becomes headstrong and unmanageable. Thus Rash: “As soon as they came into the land of their pasture, they were filled.” The last clause of the verse notices the misuse which Israel made of the riches and blessing of Jehovah, by forgetting their gracious Benefactor; this the prophet attributes to the abuse of the blessings so richly bestowed upon them. Aben Ezra identifies the blessings here mentioned with those vouchsafed to them on their entrance into Canaan; thus: “The prophet enumerates the benefits which Jehovah bestowed on their fathers when they came out of the wilderness into the land of Canaan.” Kimchi quotes, as a parallel to this passage, Deu_8:1-20; of which it is undoubtedly a reminiscence; he says, “When they entered into the place of their pasture, and it was the land of Canaan, they had all good, and were filled; and their heart was exalted, and they forgot me, as it is said in the Thorah that they were ready to do so. He said, ‘Lest when thou hast eaten and art full … then thine heart be lifted up, and then forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt … who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness … who fed thee in the wilderness.’”
According to their pasture, so were they filled – o: “He implies that their way of being ‘filled’ was neither good nor praiseworthy, in that he says, ‘they were filled according to their pastures.’ What or of what kind were these “their pastures?” What they longed for, what they murmured for, and spoke evil of God. For instance, when they said, ‘who wil give us flesh to eat? We remember the flesh which we did eat in Egypt freely. Our soul is dried up, because our eyes see nothing but this manna’ Num_11:4-6. Since they desired such things in such wise, and, desiring, were filled with them to loathing, well are they called ‘their pastures.’ For they sought God, not for Himself, but for them. They who follow God for Himself, things of this sort are not called ‘their’ pastures, but the word of God is their pasture, according to that, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word, which proceedeth out of the mouth of God’ Deu_8:3.
These words, ‘according to their pastures,’ convey strong blame. It is as if he said, ‘in their eating and drinking, they received their whole reward for leaving the land of Egypt and receiving for a time the law of God.’ It is sin, to follow God for such ‘pastures.’ Blaming such in the Gospel, Jesus saith, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled. Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life’ Joh_6:26-27. In like way, let all think themselves blamed, who attend the altar of Christ, not for the love of the sacraments which they celebrate, but only to ‘live of the altar.’ This fullness is like that of which the Psalmist says, ‘The Lord gave them their desire and sent leanness withal into their bones’ Psa_106:15. For such fullness of the belly generates elation of spirit; such satiety produces forgetfulness of God.” It is more difficult to bear prosperity than adversity. They who, in the waste howling wilderness, had been retained in a certain degree of duty, forgat God altogether in the good land which he had given them. Whence it follows;
They were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten Me – For they owned not that they had all from Him, therefore they were puffed up with pride, and forgot Him in and by reason of His gifts. This was the aggravation of their sin, with which Hosea often reproaches them Hos_2:5; Hos_4:7; Hos_10:1. They abused God’s gifts, (as Christians do now) against Himself, and did the more evil, the more good God was to them. God had forewarned them of this peril, “When thou shalt have eaten and be full, beware lest thou forget the Lord which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Deu_6:11-12; add Deu_8:11, …). He pictured it to them with the song of Moses; “Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked; thou art waxen fat; thou art grown thick; thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him; thou hast forgotten God that formed thee” Deu_32:15, Deu_32:18.
They acted (as in one way or other do most Christians now,) as though God had commanded what he foretold of their evil deeds, or what he warned them against. “As their fathers did, so did they” Act_7:51. “They walked in the statutes of the pagan, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel which they made. They did wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger. And the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah by all the prophets and by all the seers, saying, turn ye from your evil ways. And they hearkened not, and hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the Lord their God” 2Ki_17:8, 2Ki_17:11, 2Ki_17:13-14. : “The words are true also of those rich and ungrateful, whom God hath filled with spiritual or temporal goods. But they, ‘being in honor, and having no understanding,’ abuse the gifts of God, and, becoming unworthy of the benefits which they have received, have their hearts uplifted and swollen with pride, despising others, ‘glorying as though they had not received,’ and not obeying the commands of God. Of such the Lord saith in Isaiah, ‘I have nourished and brought up children and they have rebelled against Me. ‘“
Here the Prophet exhorts the Israelites to repentance, and still propounds some hope of mercy. But this may seem inconsistent as he had already testified that there would be no remedy any more, because they had extremely provoked God. The Prophet seems in this case to contradict himself. But the solution is ready at hand, and it is this, — In speaking before of the final destruction of the people, he had respect to the whole body of the people; but now he directs his discourse to the few, who had as yet remained faithful. And this distinction, as we have reminded you in other places, ought to be carefully noticed; otherwise we shall find ourselves perplexed in many parts of Scripture. We now then see for what purpose the Prophet annexed this exhortation, after having asserted that God would be implacable to the people of Israel; for with regard to the whole body, there was no hope of deliverance; God had now indeed determined to destroy them, and he wished this to be made known to them by the preaching of Hosea. But yet God had ever some seed remaining among his chosen people: though the body, as a whole, was putrid and corrupt; yet some sound members remained, as in a large heap of chaff some grains may be found concealed. As God then had preserved some (as he is wont always to do,) he sets forth to them his mercy: and as they had been carried away, as it were by a tempest, when iniquity so prevailed among the people, that there was nothing sound, the Prophet addresses them here, because they were not wholly incurable.
Let us then know that the irreclaimable, the whole body of the people, are now dismissed; for they were so obstinate that the Prophet could address them with no prospect of success. Then his sermon here ought to be especially applied to the elect of God, who, having fallen away for a time, and become entangled in the common vices of the age, were yet not altogether incurable. The Prophet now exhorts them and says Return, Israel, to Jehovah thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity This reason is added, because men will never repent unless they are made humble; and whence comes true and genuine humility, except from a sense of sin? Unless then men become displeased with themselves, and acknowledge that they are worthy of perdition, they will never be touched by a genuine feeling of penitence. These two things are then wisely joined together by Hosea, that Israel had fallen by their iniquities, and then, that it was time to return to Jehovah. How so? Because, when we are convinced that we are worthy of destruction, nays that we are already doomed to death for having so often provoked God, then we begin to hate ourselves; and a detestation of sin drives us to seek repentance.
But he says, Turn thou, Israel, to thy God The Prophet now kindly invites them; for he could not succeed by severe words without mingling a hope of favour, as we know that there can be no hope of repentance without faith. Then the Prophet not only shows what was necessary to be done, but says also, ‘Thou art Israel, thou art an elect people.’ He does not, however, as it has been already stated, address all indiscriminately, but those who were the true children of Abraham, though they had for a time degenerated. “Turn thou, Israel, then to thy God; for how much soever thou hast for a time fallen away, yet God has not rejected thee: only return to him, and thou shalt find favour, for he is placable to his own people.”
The foregoing part of this book abounds with denunciations of punishment; this closing chapter superabounds with promises of pardon. Wave after wave of threatened wrath had rolled over Israel and come in unto their soul; now offer after offer of grace is made to them. O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God. The invitation to return implies previous departure, or distance, or wandering from God. The return to which they are invited is expressed, not by אֶל, to or towards, but by ער, quite up to, or as far as right home; the penitent, therefore, is not merely to turn his mind or his face toward God, but to turn his face and his feet home to God; he is not to go half the way and then turn aside, or part of the way and then turn back, but the whole way; in other words, his repentance is to be complete and entire, wanting nothing, according to the state merit of the psalmist, “It is good for me to draw near to God.” As punishment was threatened in case of obstinate impenitence, so mercy is promised on condition of thorough repentance. For thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. A reason is here assigned for the preceding invitation; kashalta is properly “thou hast stumbled,” “made a false step,” fallen, yet so that recovery was among future possibilities. The same thought may be included in the fact that Jehovah continues to call his erring people by the honored and honorable name of Israel, and to acknowledge himself their God. Further, many and grievous were the calamities into which by their fall they had been precipitated; neither were any to blame but themselves—their iniquity or their folly was the cause, nor was there any one to lift them up, now that they lay prostrate, save Jehovah. After referring to the desolation of Samaria and the ruthless destruction of its inhabitants, as portrayed in the last verse of the previous chapter, Jerome adds, “All Israel is invited to repentance, that he who has been debilitated, or has fallen headlong in his iniquities, may return to the physician and recover health, or that he who had fallen headlong may begin to stand.” The penitent is to direct his thoughts to Jehovah; to him as Center he is attracted, and in him he finds his place of rest; nor is there ether means of recovery or source of help. Thus Kimchi says, “For thou seest that through thine iniquity thou hast fallen, therefore it behooves thee to return to Jehovah, as nothing besides can raise thee from thy fall but thy return to him.” “There is none,” says Aben Ezra, “can raise thee from thy fall but the Eternal alone.”
O Israel, return – (now, quite) unto the Lord your God The heavy and scarcely interrupted tide of denunciation is now past. Billow upon billow have rolled over Ephraim and the last wave discharged itself in the overwhelming, indiscriminating destruction of the seat of its strength. As a nation, it was to cease to be. its separate existence was a curse, not a blessing; the offspring of rivalry, matured by apostasy; the parent, in its turn, of jealousy, hatred, and mutual vexation.
But while the kingdom was past and gone, the children still remained heirs of the promises made to their fathers. As then, before, Hosea declared that Israel, after having long remained solitary, should in the end “seek the Lord and David their king” Hos_3:5, so now, after these manifold denunciations of their temporal destruction, God not only invites them to repentance, but foretells that they should be wholly converted.
Every word is full of mercy. God calls them by the name of acceptance, which he had given to their forefather, Jacob; “O Israel.” He deigns to beseech them to return; “return now;” and that not “toward” but “quite up to” Himself, the unchangeable God, whose mercies and promises were as immutable as His Being. To Himself, the Unchangeable, God invites them to return; trod that, as being still their God. They had cast off their God; God had “not cast off His people whom He foreknew” Rom_11:2.
“He entreats them not only to turn back and look toward the Lord with a partial and imperfect repentance, but not to leave off until they were come quite home to Him by a total and sincere repentance and amendment.” He bids them “return quite to” Himself, the Unchangeable God, and their God. “Great is repentance,” is a Jewish saying , “which maketh men to reach quite up to the Throne of glory.”
For thou hast fallen by thine iniquity – “This is the first ray of divine light on the sinner. God begins by discovering to him the abyss into which he has fallen,” and the way by which he fell. Their own iniquity it was, on which they had stumbled and so had fallen, powerless to rise, except through “His” call, whose “voice is with power” Psa_29:4, and “Who giveth what He commandeth.” : “Ascribe not thy calamity,” He would say, “to thine own weakness, to civil dissension, to the disuse of miltary discipline, to want of wisdom in thy rulers, to the ambition and cruelty of the enemy, to reverse of fortune. These things had not gone against thee, hadst not thou gone to war with the law of thy God. Thou inflictest the deadly wound on thyself; thou destroyedst thyself. Not as fools vaunt, by fate, or fortune of war, but ‘by thine iniquity hast thou fallen.’ Thy remedy then is in thine own hand. ‘Return to thy God. ‘“
: “In these words, ‘by thine iniquity,” he briefly conveys, that each is to ascribe to himself the iniquity of all sin, of whatsoever he has been guilty, not defending himself, as Adam did, in whom we all, Jews and Gentiles, have sinned and fallen, as the Apostle says, ‘For we were by nature the children of wrath, even as others’ Eph_2:3. By adding actual, to that original, sin, Israel and every other nation falleth. He would say then, O Israel, be thou first converted, for thou hast need of conversion; ‘for thou hast fallen;” and confess this very thing, that ‘thou hast fallen by thine iniquity;’ for such confession is the beginning of conversion.”
But wherewith should he return?
He afterwards shows the way of repentance: and this passage deserves to be noticed; for we know that men bring forward mere trifles when they speak of repentance. Hence when the word, repentance, is mentioned, men imagine that God is to be pacified with this or that ceremony, as we see to be the case with those under the Papacy. And what is their repentance? Even this, — if on certain days they fast, if they mutter short prayers, if they undertake vowed pilgrimages, if they buy masses, — if with these trifles they weary themselves, they think that the right and the required repentance is brought before God: but all this is altogether absurd. As then the world understands not what repentance means, and to what it leads, the Prophet here sets forth true repentance by its fruits. He therefore says, Take with you words, and turn to Jehovah; and say to him, Take away all iniquity and bring good, and we will render to thee the calves of our lips When he bids them to take or find words to present instead of sacrifice, he no doubt alluded to what the law teaches.
First, it is certain that the Prophet speaks not of feigned words; for we know what God declares by Isaiah, ‘This people draw nigh me with their lips,
but their heart is from me far distant,’ (Isa_29:13.)
But he bids them to take words, by which they might show what was conceived and felt in their heart. Then he means this first, that their words should correspond with their feeling.
It must, secondly, be noticed, that the Prophet speaks not here of any sort of words, but that there is to be a mutual relation between the words of God and the words of men. How are we then to bring words to God, such as prove the genuineness of our piety? Even by being teachable and submissive; by suffering willingly when he chastises us, by confessing what we deserve when he reproves us, by humbly deprecating vengeance when he threatens us, by embracing pardon when he promises it. When we thus take words from God’s mouth, and bring them to him, this is to take words according to what the Prophet means in this place. We hence see the import of the Prophet’s exhortation, when he bids us to take words: but I cannot proceed further now.
Take with you words, and turn to the Lord.
(1) Some render this clause. “Take with you [i.e. forget not, neglect not, but receive with obedient spirit] my words.” This rendering is obviously erroneous.
(2) The correct translation is that of the Authorized Version, and the words referred to are such as express prayer for pardon and confession of sin—the audible sound of the heart’s desires. There is an allusion, perhaps, to the requirement of the Law: “None shall appear before me empty.” Not outward sacrifices, but words of confession, were the offering to be presented. Thus Cyril eloquently explains it: “Ye shall propitiate the Deity, not by making offerings of riches, not by dedicating gold, not by honoring him with silver vessels, not gladdening him by sacrifices of oxen, not by slaughtering of birds; but ye shall give him discourses and wish to praise the Lord of the universe, appeasing him.” To the same purport is the exposition of Aben Ezra: “He desires not from you, when ye go to seek his favor, treasures or burnt offerings, only words with which ye are to confess;” so also Kimchi: “He does not require of you on your return to him silver or gold or offering, which the Israelites lavished at great expense on their idols, but good works with which ye are to confess your iniquities.” Say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously. On turning to the Lord with their whole heart, not with their lips only, they are furnished with a form of sound words which God by his prophet puts into their mouth. Elsewhere a formula is prescribed, thus: “Publish ye, praise ye, and say, O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel” (Jer_31:7); compare also Isa_48:20; Psa_16:3; 1Ch_16:35.
The position of כָל before the verb creates a difficulty and causes diversity of rendering; for example,
(1) besides the ordinary rendering, which takes kol as holding its peculiar position by an hypallage, there is a modification of it: “All take away of iniquity.”
(2) Some supply mem, and translate accordingly: “From all take away iniquity.” Kimchi explains it as a transposition: “All iniquity forgive,” and compares Eze_39:11; or, understanding le, “Forgive to every one iniquity.” The object of the separation may be for greater emphasis. In like manner, the following clause is also subject to diversity of translation and interpretation.
(1) the rendering of the Authorized Version, which appears to supply le before tov: “Receive us for good,” viz. in bonam partem, or graciously; or, “receive our prayer graciously.”
(2) Another rendering or exposition is: “Take what is good (of thine own to bestow it on us);” thus in the sixty-eighth psalm at the nineteenth verse God is said to receive gifts among men, i.e. for distribution among men, and hence the apostle, in Eph_4:8, substitutes ἔδωκε for ἔλαβε, and thus expresses the sense. The literal sense
(3) is the correct sense, namely, “and receive good:” “And receive good,” says Jerome, “for unless thou hadst borne away our evil things we could not possibly have any good thing to offer thee, according to that which is written, ‘Cease from evil and do good.’” Thus also the words are translated and interpreted by Pusey: “When then Israel and, in him, the penitent soul, is taught to say, receive good, it can mean only the good which thou thyself hast given; as David says, ‘ Of thine own we have given thee;” while he adds in a note on these words, “No one would have doubted that קי ט means, ‘receive good,’ as just before, קי די means ‘take words,’ but for the seeming difficulty—What good had they?”
So will we render the calves of our lips.
This is more accurately rendered,
(1) “So will we render young bullocks, even our lips.” The word shillem, to render, or repay, is almost technical in its application to thank offer-tugs or sacrifices in fulfillment of a vow; the best animals for thank offerings were parm, or young oxen; but the lips, that is, the utterances of the lips, consisting of prayers or praises, or both, are to take the place of the animal sacrifices offered in thanksgiving. Thus the psalmist says, “I will praise the Name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs.”
(2) The Septuagint, reading פְרְי instead of פָרְים, renders by καρπὸν χείλεων, to which the inspired author of Hebrews alludes, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks [margin, 'confessing'] to his Name;” or perhaps the reference in Hebrews is to Isa_57:19, “I create the fruit of the lips.” Further, as words of confession in Isa_57:2 take the place of sacrifices of sin offerings, so here words of thanksgiving replace sacrifices of thanksgiving.
Take with you words – He bills them not bring costly offerings, that they might regain His favor; not whole burnt-offerings of bullocks, goats or rams; with which, and with which alone, they had before gone to seek Him (see the note above at Hos_5:6); not the silver and gold which they had lavished on their idols; but what seems the cheapest of all, which any may have, without cost to their substance; “words;” worthless, as mere words; precious when from the heart; words of confession and prayer, blending humility, repentance, confession, entreaty and praise of God. God seems to assign to them a form, with which they should approach Him. But with these words, they were also to turn inwardly “and turn unto the Lord,” with your whole heart, and not your lips alone. “After ye shall be converted, confess before Him.”
Take away all iniquity – (Literally and pleadingly, “Thou will take away all iniquity”.) They had “fallen by their iniquities;” before they can rise again, the stumbling-blocks must be taken out of their way. They then, unable themselves to do it, must turn to God, with whom alone is power and mercy to do it, and say to Him, “Take away all iniquity,” acknowledging that they had manifold iniquities, and praying Him to forgive all, “take away all. All iniquities!” “not only then the past, but what we tear for the future. Cleanse us from the past, keep us from the future. Give us righteousness, and preserve it to the end.”
And receive us graciously – (Literally, “and receive good” ). When God has forgiven and taken away iniquity, He has removed all hindrance to the influx of His grace. There is no vacuum in His spiritual, anymore than in His natural, creation. When God’s good Spirit is chased away, the evil spirits enter the house, which is “empty, swept, and garnished” Mat_12:44, for them. When God has forgiven and taken away man’s evil, He pours into him grace and all good. When then Israel and, in him, the penitent soul, is taught to say, “receive good,” it can mean only, the good which Thou Thyself hast given; as David says, “of Thine own we have given Thee” 1Ch_29:14. As God is said to “crown in us His own gifts;” (“His own gifts,” but “in us” ; ) so these pray to God to receive from them His own good, which they had from Him. For even the good, which God giveth to be in us, He accepteth in condescension and forgiving mercy, “Who crowneth thee in mercy and lovingkindness” Psa_103:4.
They pray God to accept their service, forgiving their imperfection, and mercifully considering their frailty. For since “our righteousnesses are filthy rags,” we ought ever humbly to entreat God, not to despise our dutifulness, for the imperfections, wanderings, and negligences mingled therewith. For exceedingly imperfect is it, especially if we consider the majesty of the Divine Nature, which should be served, were it possible, with infinite reverence.” They plead to God, then, to accept what, although from Him they have it, yet through their imperfection, were, but for His goodness, unworthy of His acceptance. Still, since the glory of God is the end of all creation, by asking Him to accept it, they plead to Him, that this is the end for which He made and remade them, and placed the good in them, that it might redound to His glory. As, on the other hand, the Psalmist says, “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down into the pit” Psa_30:9, as though his own perishing were a loss to God, his Creator, since thus there were one creature the less to praise Him. : “‘Take from us all iniquity,’ leave in us no weakness, none of our former decay, lest the evil root should send forth a new growth of evil; ‘and receive good;’ for unless Thou take away our evil, we can have no good to offer Thee, according to that, ‘depart from evil, and do good.’ Psa_37:27.”
So will we render the calves of our lips – Literally, “and we would fain repay, calves, our lips;” i. e., when God shall have “forgiven us all our iniquity,” and “received” at our hands what, through His gift, we have to offer, the “good” which through His good Spirit we can do, then would we “offer” a perpetual thankoffering, “our lips.” This should be the substitute for the thank-offerings of the law. As the Psalmist says, “I will praise the Name of God with a song, and magnify Him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord, better than a bullock that hath horns and hoofs” Psa_69:30-31. They are to bind themselves to perpetual thanksgiving. As the morning and evening sacrifice were continual so was their new offering to be continual. But more. The material sacrifice, “the bullock,” was offered, consumed, and passed away. Their “lips” were offered, and remained; a perpetual thank-offering, even a “living sacrifice,” living on like the mercies for which they thanked; giving forth their “endless song” for never-ending mercies.
This too looks on to the Gospel, in which, here on earth, our unending thanksgiving is beginning, in which also it was the purpose of God to restore those of Ephraim who would return to Him. : “Here we see law extinguished, the Gospel established. For we see other rites, other gifts. So then the priesthood is also changed. For three sorts of sacrifices Were of old ordained by the law, with great state. Some signified the expiation of sin; some expressed the ardor of piety; some, thanksgiving. To those ancient signs and images, the truth of the Gospel, without figure corresponds. Prayer to God, ‘to take away all iniquity,’ contains a confession of sin, and expresses our faith, that we place our whole hope of recovering our lost purity and of obtaining salvation in the mercy of Christ. ‘Receive good.’ What other good can we offer, than detestation of our past sin, with burning desire of holiness? This is the burnt-offering. Lastly, ‘we will repay the calves of our lips,’ is the promise of that solemn vow, most acceptable to God, whereby we bind ourselves to keep in continual remembrance all the benefits of God, and to render ceaseless praise to the Lord who has bestowed on us such priceless gifts. For ‘the calves of’ the ‘lips’ are orisons well-pleasing unto God. Of which David says, ‘Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt-offerings and whole burnt-offerings; then shall they offer bullocks upon Thine altar.’ (Ps. 51 ult.).”
This verse ought to be joined with the last, as the Israelites show here more clearly and fully in what they had sinned, and, at the same time, give proof of their repentance; for when they say, The Assyrian shall not save us, we shall not mount on horses, we shall not say to the work of hands, Our gods, it is to be understood as a confession, that they had in these various ways roused against themselves the vengeance of God; for they had hoped for safety from the Assyrians, ran here and there, and had thus alienated themselves from God; they had also fled to statues and idols, and had transferred to dumb images the honour due to the only true God. We hence see, that though the faithful speak of future time, they yet indirectly confess that they had grievously sinned, had forsaken the only true God, and transferred their hopes to others, either to the Assyrians or to fictitious gods. But at the same time, they promise to be different in future; as though he said, that they would not only be grateful to God in celebrating his praises, but that their way of living would be also new, so as not to abuse the goodness of God. This is the substance of what is here said.
By saying, The Assyrian shall not save us, they doubtless condemned, as I have already stated, the false confidence with which they were before deluded, when they sought deliverance by means of the Assyrians. There is, indeed, no doubt, but that the Israelites were ever wont to pretend to trust in the name of God; but in thinking themselves lost without the succour of the Assyrians, they most certainly defrauded God of his just honour, and adorned men with spoils taken from him. For except we be convinced that God alone is sufficient for us, even when all earthly aids fail us, we do not place in him our hope of salvation; but, on the contrary, transfer to mortals what belongs alone to him. For this sacrilege the Israelites therefore condemn themselves, and, at the same time, show that the fruit of their repentance would be, to set their minds on God, so as not to be drawn here and there as before, or to think that they could be preserved through the help of men. Let us hence learn, that men turn not to God, except when they bid adieu to all creatures, and no longer fix their hopes on them. This is one thing.
What follows, On a horse we shall not mount, may be explained in two ways; — as though they said, that they would no longer be so mad as to be proud of their own power, or consider themselves safe because they were well furnished with horses and chariots; — but the clause may be more simply explained, as meaning, that they would not as before wander here and there to procure for themselves auxiliaries; We shall not then mount a horse, but continue quiet in our country; and this sense seems more appropriate. I do not then think that the Prophet brings forward any new idea, but I read the two sentences conjointly, The Assyrian shall not save us, we shall not then mount on a horse, that is, that we may ride in haste; for they had wearied themselves before with long journeys: as soon as any danger was at hand, they went away afar off into Assyria to seek help, when God commanded them to remain quiet.
The meaning of this will be better understood by referring to other passages, which correspond with what is here said. God says by Isaiah, ‘On horses mount not; but ye said, We will mount: then mount,’ says he, (Isa_30:16.) Here is a striking intimation, that the Jews against God’s will rode and hastened to seek aids. “I see you,” he says, “to be very prompt and swift: then mount, but it shall be for the purpose of fleeing.” We see what was the design of this reproof of the Prophet; it was to show that the Jews, who ought to have remained still and quiet, fled here and there for the sake of seeking assistance. So also in this place, when they would show the fruit of their repentance, they say, “We will not hereafter mount a horse, for the Lord, who promises to be our aid, is not to be sought as one far off: we will not then any more fatigue ourselves in vain.” It seems to me that this is what is meant by the Prophet.
Then he adds, And we shall not say, Our gods, to the work of our hands. As they had spoken of the false trust they placed in men, so now they condemn their own superstition. And these are the two pests which are wont to bring destruction on men; for nothing is more ruinous than to transfer our hope from God; and this is done in two ways, either when men trust in their own strength, or pride themselves on human aids and despise God, as if they can be safe without him, — or when they give up themselves to false superstitions. Both these diseases ever prevail in the world, when men entangle themselves in their own superstitions, and form for themselves new gods, from whom they expect safety; as we see to be the case with those under the Papacy. God is almost of no account with them, Christ is not sufficient. For how comes it that they contrive so many patrons for themselves, that they devise so many guardianships, except that they despise the help of God, or so extenuate it, that they dare not to hope for salvation from him? We hence see that superstition draws men away from God, and becomes thus the cause of the worst destruction. But there are some, who are not thus given up to superstitions, but who derive a hope from their own valour or wisdom; for the children of this world are inflated with their own strength; and when princes have their armies prepared, when they have fortified cities, when they possess abundance of money, when they are strengthened by many compacts, they are blinded with false confidence. So then this verse teaches us, that these are two destructive pests, which commonly draw men away from real safety; and if then we would repent sincerely from the heart, we must purge our minds from these two evils, so that we may not ascribe any thing to our own strength or to earthly helps, nor form any idols to be in the place of God, but feel assured that God alone is a sufficient help to us.
But it follows, For in thee will the fatherless find mercy. Here the Israelites show that it is necessary for us to be depressed that we may remain dependent on God alone; for those are compared to the fatherless who are so humbled, that they cast away all vain hopes, and, conscious of their nakedness and want, recumb on God alone. Hence, that God’s mercy may find a way open to come to us, we must become fatherless. Now what this metaphor means is well known to us. The fatherless, we know, are, first, destitute of aid, and, secondly, of wisdom; and they are also without strength. They are then dependent on the aid of another, and stand in need of direction; in short, their safety depends on the assistance of others. Thus, also, we are really fatherless, when we rely not on our own prudence, nor recumb on our own strength, nor think that we can be safe through the aids which come from the earth, but cast all our hopes and cares on God alone. This is one thing. The fatherless then shall find mercy in thee; that is, “When thou, Lord, dost so afflict us, that we become wholly cast down, then we shall find mercy in thee; and this mercy will be sufficient for us, so that we shall no more wander and be drawn aside by false devices, as it has hitherto been the case with us.” When, therefore, they say,in God will the fatherless find mercy, they mean that the grace offered by the Lord will be sufficient, so that there will be no need any more of seeking aid from any other. We now understand what the Prophet means in this verse. It follows —
Keil & Delitzsch
After the prophet has set before the sinful nation in various ways its own guilt, and the punishment that awaits it, viz., the destruction of the kingdom, he concludes his addresses with a call to thorough conversion to the Lord, and the promise that the Lord will bestow His grace once more upon those who turn to Him, and will bless them abundantly (Hos_14:1-8). Hos_14:1. (Heb. Bib. v. 2). “Return, O Israel, to Jehovah thy God; for thou hast stumbled through thy guilt. Hos_14:2. Take with you words, and turn to Jehovah; say ye to Him, Forgive all guilt, and accept what is good, that we may offer our lips as bullocks. Hos_14:3. Asshur will not help us: we will not ride upon horses, nor say ‘Our God’ any more to the manufacture of our own hands; for with Thee the orphan findeth compassion.” There is no salvation for fallen man without return to God. It is therefore with a call to return to the Lord their God, that the prophet opens the announcement of the salvation with which the Lord will bless His people, whom He has brought to reflection by means of the judgment (cf. Deu_4:30; Deu_30:1.). שׁוּב עַד יי, to return, to be converted to the Lord, denotes complete conversion; שׁוּב אֶל is, strictly speaking, simply to turn towards God, to direct heart and mind towards Him. By kâshaltâ sin is represented as a false step, which still leaves it possible to return; so that in a call to conversion it is very appropriately chosen. But if the conversion is to be of the right kind, it must begin with a prayer for the forgiveness of sin, and attest itself by the renunciation of earthly help and simple trust in the mercy of God. Israel is to draw near to God in this state of mind. “Take with you words,” i.e., do not appear before the Lord empty (Exo_23:15; Exo_34:20); but for this ye do not require outward sacrifices, but simply words, sc. those of confession of your guilt, as the Chaldee has correctly explained it. The correctness of this explanation is evident from the confession of sin which follows, with which they are to come before God. In כָּל־תִּשָּׂא עָוןֹ, the position of col at the head of the sentence may be accounted for from the emphasis that rests upon it, and the separation of ‛âvōn, from the fact that col was beginning to acquire more of the force of an adjective, like our all (thus 2Sa_1:9; Job_27:3 : cf. Ewald, §289, a; Ges. §114, 3, Anm. 1). Qach tōbh means neither “accept goodness,” i.e., let goodness be shown thee (Hitzig), nor “take it as good,” sc. that we pray (Grotius, Ros.); but in the closest connection with what proceeds: Accept the only good thing that we are able to bring, viz., the sacrifices of our lips. Jerome has given the correct interpretation, viz.: “For unless Thou hadst borne away our evil things, we could not possibly have the good thing which we offer Thee;” according to that which is written elsewhere (Psa_37:27), “Turn from evil, and do good.” שְׂפָתֵינוּ … וּנְשַׁלְּמָה, literally, “we will repay (pay) as young oxen our lips,” i.e., present the prayers of our lips as thank-offerings. The expression is to be explained from the fact that shillēm, to wipe off what is owing, to pay, is a technical term, applied to the sacrifice offered in fulfilment of a vow (Deu_23:22; Psa_22:26; Psa_50:14, etc.), and that pârı̄m, young oxen, were the best animals for thank-offerings (Exo_24:5). As such thank-offerings, i.e., in the place of the best animal sacrifices, they would offer their lips, i.e., their prayers, to God (cf. Psa_51:17-19; Psa_69:31-32). In the Sept. rendering, ἀποδώσομεν καρπὸν χείλεων, to which there is an allusion in Heb_13:15, פָּרִים has been confounded with פְּרִי, as Jerome has already observed. but turning to God requires renunciation of the world, of its power, and of all idolatry. Rebellious Israel placed its reliance upon Assyria and Egypt (Hos_5:13; Hos_7:11; Hos_8:9). It will do this no longer. The riding upon horses refers partly to the military force of Egypt (Isa_31:1), and partly to their own (Hos_1:7; Isa_2:7). For the expression, “neither will we say to the work of our hands,” compare Isa_42:17; Isa_44:17. אֲשֶׁר בְּךָ, not “Thou with whom,” but “for with Thee” (‘ăsher as in Deu_3:24). The thought, “with Thee the orphan findeth compassion,” as God promises in His word (Exo_22:22; Deu_10:18), serves not only as a reason for the resolution no longer to call the manufacture of their own hands God, but generally for the whole of the penitential prayer, which they are encouraged to offer by the compassionate nature of God. In response to such a penitential prayer, the Lord will heal all His people’s wounds, and bestow upon them once more the fulness of the blessings of His grace. The prophet announces this in Isa_44:4-8 as the answer from the Lord.
Take with you words – And you may be assured that you pray aright, when you use the words which God himself has put in your mouths. On this very ground there is a potency in the Lord’s Prayer, when offered up believingly, beyond what can be found in any human composition. And it may be presumed that it was this consideration that induced our reformers to introduce it so frequently in the public liturgy.
See the order of God’s directions here: -
1. Hearing these merciful invitations, believe them to be true.
2. Cast aside your idols; and return to God as your Maker, King, and Savior.
3. Take with you the words by which you have been encouraged, and plead them before God.
4. Remember your iniquity, deeply deplore it, and beg of God to take it all away.
5. Let faith be in exercise to receive what God waits to impart. “Receive us graciously;” וקח טוב vekach tob, receive, or let us receive good; when thou has emptied us of evil, fill us with goodness.
6. Be then determined, through grace, to live to his glory, “so shall we render thee the calves” (פרים parim, for which the versions in general read פרי peri, fruits, omitting the ם mem) “of our lips;” the sacrifices of praise, thanksgiving, gratitude, and the hearty obedience which our lips have often promised.
7. Having thus determined, specify your resolutions to depend on God alone for all that can make you wise, useful, holy, and happy. The resolutions are: -
1. Asshur shall not save us – We will neither trust in, nor fear, this rich and powerful king. We will not look either to riches or power for true rest and peace of mind.
2. We will not ride upon horses – We shall no more fix our hopes on the proud Egyptian cavalry, to deliver us out of the hands of enemies to whom thy Divine justice has delivered us. We will expect no rest nor happiness in the elegances of life, and gratification of our senses.
3. Neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods – We will not trust in any thing without us; nor even in any good thing we are able to do through thy grace; knowing we have nothing but what we have received. We will trust in thy infinite mercy for our final salvation.
4. And we will do all this from the conviction, that in thee the fatherless findeth mercy; for we are all alike helpless, desolate, perishing orphans, till translated into thy family.
God here confirms what we have observed respecting his gratuitous reconciliation, nor is the repetition useless; for as men are disposed to entertain vain and false hopes, so nothing is more difficult than to preserve them in dependence on the one God, and to pacify their minds, so that they disturb not nor fret themselves, as experience teaches us all. For when we embrace the promises of free pardon, our flesh ever leads us to distrust, and we become harassed by various fancies. “What! can you or dare you promise with certainty to yourself that God will be propitious to you, when you know that for many reasons he is justly angry with you?” Since, then, we are so inclined to harbour distrust, the Prophet again confirms the truth which we have before noticed, which is, that God is ready to be reconciled, and that he desires nothing more than to receive and embrace his people.
Hence he says, I will heal their defections The way of healing is by a gratuitous pardon. For though God, by regenerating us by his Spirit, heals our rebellion, that is, subdues us unto obedience, and removes from us our corruptions, which stimulate us to sin; yet in this place the Prophet no doubt declares in the person of God, that the Israelites would be saved from their defections, so that they might not come against them in judgement, nor be imputed to them. Let us know then that God is in two respects a physician while he is healing our sins: he cleanses us by his Spirit, and he abolishes and buries all our offences. But it is of the second kind of healing that the Prophet now speaks, when he says, I will heal their turnings away: and he employs a strong term, for he might have said, “your faults or errors” but he says, “your defections from God;” as though he said, “Though they have so grievously sinned, that by their crimes they have deserved hundred deaths, yet I will heal them from these their atrocious sins, and I will love them freely.”
The word נדבה, nudebe, may be explained either freely or bountifully. I will then love them bountifully, that is, with an abounding and not a common love; or I will love them freely, that is gratuitously. But they who render the words “I will love them of mine own accord,” that is, not by constraint, pervert the sense of the Prophet; for how frigid is the expression, that God is not forced to love us; and what meaning can hence be elicited? But the Lord is said to love us freely, because he finds in us no cause of love, for we are unworthy of being regarded or viewed with any favour; but he shows himself liberal and beneficent in this very act of manifesting his love to the unworthy.
We then perceive that the real meaning of the Prophet is this, that though the Israelites had in various ways provoked the wrath of God, and as it were designedly wished to perish, and to have him to be angry with them; yet the Lord promises to be propitious to them. In what way? Even in this, for he will give proof of his bounty, when he will thus gratuitously embrace them. We now see how God becomes a Father to us, and regards us as his children, even when he abolishes our sins, and also when he freely admits us to the enjoyment of his love. And this truth ought to be carefully observed; for the world ever imagines that they come to God, and bring something by which they can turn or incline him to love them. Nothing can be more inimical to our salvation than this vain fancy.
Let us then learn from this passage, that God cannot be otherwise a Father to us than by becoming our physician and by healing our transgressions. But the order also is remarkable, for God puts love after healing. Why? Because, as he is just, it must be that he regards us with hatred as long as he imputes sins. It is then the beginning of love, when he cleanses us from our vices, and wipes away our spots. When therefore it is asked, how God loves men, the answer is, that he begins to love them by a gratuitous pardon; for while God imputes sins, it must be that men are hated by him. He then commences to love us, when he heals our diseases.
It is not without reason that he adds, that the fury of God is turned away from Israel. For the Prophet intended to add this as a seal to confirm what he taught; for men ever dispute with themselves when they hear that God is propitious to them. “How is this, that he heals thine infirmities? for hitherto thou hast found him to be angry with thee, and how art thou now persuaded that his wrath is pacified?” Hence the Prophet seals his testimony respecting God’s love, when he says, that his wrath has now ceased.
urned away then is my fury “Though hitherto I have by many proofs, manifested to thee my wrath, yet I now come to thee as one changed. Judge me not then by past time, for I am now pacified to thee, and my fury is from thee turned away It follows —
I will heal their backsliding – God, in answer, promises to “heal” that wound of their souls, from where every other evil came, their fickleness and unsteadfastness. Hitherto, this had been the characteristic of Israel. “Within a while they forgat His works, and would not abide His counsels” Psa_106:13. “They forgat what He had done. Their heart was not whole with Him; neither continued they steadfast in His covenant. They turned back and tempted God. They kept not His testimonies, but turned back and fell way like their forefathers, starting aside like a broken bow” Psa_78:12, Psa_78:37, Psa_78:42, Psa_78:57-58. Steadfastness to the end is the special gift of the Gospel. “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it” Mat_28:20; Mat_16:18. And to individuals, “Jesus, having loved His own, loved them unto the end” Joh_13:1. In healing that disease of unsteadfastness, God healed all besides. This He did to all, wheresoever or howsoever dispersed, who received the Gospel; this He doth still; and this He will do completely in the end, when “all Israel shall be saved.”
I will love them freely – that is, as the word means, “impelled” thereto by Himself alone, and so, (as used of God) moved by His own Essential Bountifulness, the exceedling greatness of His Goodness, largely, bountifully. God “loves” us “freely” in loving us against our deserts, because He “is love;” He “loves” us “freely” in that He freely became Man, and, having become Man freely shed His Blood for the remission of our sins, freely forgave our sins; He “loves” us “freely,” in “giving us grace, according to the good pleasure of His will” Eph_1:5, to become pleasing to Him, and causing all good in us; He “loves” us “freely,” in rewarding infinitely the good which we have from “Him.” : “More manifestly here speaketh the Person of the Saviour Himself, promising His own Coming to the salvation of penitents, with sweetly sounding promise, with sweetness full of grace.”
For Mine anger is turned away from him – As He says, “In My wrath I smote thee; but in My favor have I had mercy on thee” Isa_60:10. He doth not withhold only, or suspend His anger, but He taketh it away wholly. So the Psalmist saith, “Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of Thy people; Thou hast covered all their sin; Thou hast taken away all Thy wrath; Thou hast turned from the fierceness of Thine anger” Psa_85:2-3.
The Prophet now again repeats what he had said, that God, after restoring the people to favour, would be so beneficent, as to render apparent the fruit of reconciliation. Seeing that the Israelites had been afflicted, they ought to have imputed this to their own sins, they ought to have perceived by such proofs, the wrath of God. They had been so stupid as to have on the contrary imagined, that their adversities happened to them by chance. The Prophet had been much engaged in teaching this truth, that the Israelites would be ever miserable until they turned to God, and also, that all their affairs would be unhappy until they obtained pardon. He now speaks of a change, that God would not only by words show himself propitious to them, but would also give a proof by which the Israelites might know that they were now blessed, because they had been reconciled to God; for his blessing would be the fruit of his gratuitous love. Thus then ought this sentence, I will be to Israel as the dew, to be connected: He intimates that they were before dry, because they had been deprived of God’s favour. He compares them to a rose or lily: for when the fields or meadows are burnt up by the heat of the sun, and there is no dew distilling from heaven, all things wither. How then can lilies and roses flourish, except they derive moisture from heaven, and the dew refreshes the grounds that they may put forth their strength? The reason then for the similitude is this, because men become dry and destitute of all vigour, when God withdraws his favour. Why? Because God must, as it were, distil dew, otherwise, as it has been said, we become wholly barren and dry. I will be then as dew to Israel
And further, He shall Flourish as the lily, and his roots he shall send forth Some render ויך, vaic, “and he will strike;” and נכה, nuke, means to strike. Others render the words, “His branches will extend:” but the verb is in the singular number, and the noun, “roots,” is in the plural. The Prophet then speaks of Israel, that he strikes his roots; but he means to fix in a metaphorical sense: he will then fix his roots. As when we strike, we fetch a blow, and extend our arms; so he will spread forth his roots as Libanus. This is the second effect of God’s favour and blessing; which means, that the happiness of the people would be perpetual. With regard to the rose or lily, the meaning of the metaphor is, that God would suddenly, and as in a moment, vivify the Israelites, though they were like the dead. as in one night the lily rises, and unexpectedly also the rose; so sudden would be the change signified by this metaphor. But as the lilies and the roses soon wither, it was not enough to promise to Israel that their salvation would come suddenly; but it was needful to add this second clause, — that though they would be like lilies and roses, they yet would be also like tall trees, which have deep roots in the ground, by which they remain firm and for a long time flourish.
We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet. He mentions here the twofold effect of God’s blessing as to the Israelites, — that their restoration would be sudden, as soon as God would distil like the dew his favour upon them, and also that this happiness would not be fading, but enduring and permanent. And the words may be rendered, as Libanus, or as those of Libanus: as Libanus he shall cast forth his roots, as the trees which grow there; or, he shall cast forth his roots as the trees which are in Libanus. But as to the sense there is no difference. It follows —
I will be as the dew unto Israel – Before, He had said, “his spring shall become dry and his fountain shall be dried up” Hos_13:15. Now again He enlarges the blessing; their supply shall be unfailing, for it shall be from God; yea, God Himself shall be that blessing; “I will be the dew; descending on the mown grass” Psa_72:6, to quicken and refresh it; descending, Himself, into the dried and parched and sere hearts of men, as He saith, “We will come unto him and make Our abode in him” Joh_14:23. The grace of God, like the dew, is not given once for all, but is, day by day, waited for, and, day by day, renewed. Yet doth it not pass away, like the fitful goodness Joh_6:4 of God’s former people, but turns into the growth and spiritual substance of those on whom it descends.
He shall grow as the lily – No one image can exhibit the manifold grace of God in those who are His own, or the fruits of that grace. So the prophet adds one image to another, each supplying a distinct likeness of a distinct grace or excellence. The “lily” is the emblem of the beauty and purity of the soul in grace; the “cedar” of Lebanon, of its strength and deep-rootedness, its immovableness and uprightness; the evergreen “olive tree” which “remaineth in its beauty both winter and summer,” of the unvarying presence of Divine Grace, continually, supplying an eversustained freshness, and issuing in fruit; and the fragrance of the aromatic plants with which the lower parts of Mount Lebanon are decked, of its loveliness and sweetness; as a native explains this , “he takes a second comparison from Mount Lebanon for the abundance of aromatic things and odoriferous flowers.”
Such are the myrtles and lavender and the odoriferous reed; from which “as you enter the valley” (between Lebanon and Anti-lebanon) “straightway the scent meets you.” All these natural things are established and well-known symbols of things spiritual. The lily, so called in Hebrew from its dazzling whiteness, is, in the Canticles Son_2:1-2, the emblem of souls in which Christ takes delight. The lily multiplies exceedingly : yet hath it a weak root and soon fadeth. The prophet, then, uniteth with these, plants of unfading green, and deep root. The seed which “had no root,” our Lord says, “withered away” Mat_13:6, as contrariwise, Paul speaks of these, who are “rooted and grounded in love” Eph_3:17, and of being “rooted and built up in Christ” Col_2:7. The widespreading branches are an emblem of the gradual growth and enlargement of the Church, as our Lord says, “It becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof” Mat_13:32.
The symmetry of the tree and its outstretched arms express, at once, grace and protection. Of the “olive” the Psalmist says, “I am like a green olive tree in the house Of God” Psa_52:8; and Jeremiah says, “The Lord called thy name a green olive tree, fair and of goodly fruit” Jer_11:16; and of “fragrance” the spouse says in the Canticles, “because of the savor of Thy good ointments, Thy name is as ointment poured forth” Son_1:3; and the Apostle says, “thanks be to God, which maketh manifest the savor of His knowledge by us in every place” 2Co_2:14. Deeds of charity also are “an odor of good smell” Phi_4:18; the prayers of the saints also are “sweet odors” Rev_5:8. All these are the fruits of the Spirit of God who says, “I will be as the dew unto Israel.” Such reunion of qualities, being beyond nature, suggests the more, that, that, wherein they are all combined, the future Israel, the Church, shall flourish with graces beyond nature, in their manifoldness, completeness, unfadingness.
The Prophet goes on with the same subject, but joins the beginning of the first verse with the second clause of the former verse. He had said that the roots of the people would be deep when God should restore them. Now he adds, that their branches shall go on He mentions here “to go on” metaphorically for extending far; for branches of trees seem to go on, when they extend and spread themselves far and wide. His branches, then, shall go on; which means, that a tree, after striking roots, remains not in the same state, but grows and spreads forth its branches in all directions. In short, God promises a daily increase to his blessing, after he has once begun to show himself bountiful to the people of Israel. “I will then be bountiful at the beginning; and further, he says, my blessing shall, as time passes, increase and be multiplied.”
He afterwards adds, His comeliness shall be like the olive The Prophet accumulates similitudes, that he might more fully confirm the people. And we certainly see that the minds of men grow faint, when they look for prosperity from this or that quarter; for there is hardly one in a hundred who is fully persuaded that when God is propitious, all things turn out well and happily: for men regard not the love of God when they wish things to be well with them, but wander here and there through the whole world; and now they seek prosperity from themselves, then from the earth, now from the air, then from the sea. Since then it is so difficult to impress this truth fully on the hearts of men, that the love of God is the fountain of all blessings, the Prophet has collected together a number of similitudes to confirm what he teaches. Then his comeliness, he says, shall be like the olive; and further, his fragrance like that of Libanus: and odoriferous trees, we know, grow on Mount Libanus. But by these various similes the Prophet shows that the state of the people would be prosperous and happy as soon as they should be received by God into favour. He afterwards adds, the dwellers under his shadow shall return; but I defer this till to-morrow.
The dwellers under his shadow shall return, (so it is literally;) they shall revive themselves with corn, (or, revive as the corn;) they shall grow as the vine: his odour shall be as the wine of Libanus. The Prophet proceeds with the same subject, that God would show himself bountiful to his people, that it might plainly appear from their different state that they had before suffered just punishment. And he says, The dwellers under his shadow shall return. But the verb ישבו, ishibu, in this place rightly means, “to be refreshed,” as in Psa_19:7; where the law of God is spoken of as משיבת, meshibet, converting the soul; which signifies the same as refreshing or restoring the soul. So the Prophet intimates, that after the Israelites shall begin to flourish again, their shadow would be vivifying, such as would restore and refresh those lying under it. He calls the “dwellers under his shadow”, all those who belong to the people; and compares the common state of the people of Israel to a tree full of leaves, which extends its branches far and wide, so that they who flee under its shadow are defended from the heat of the sun. We now see the design of this metaphor, and what the Prophet means by the verb ישבו, ishibu
He afterwards adds They shall vivify themselves with corn, or, revive as corn. If we read the word in the nominative case, the preposition כ, caph, is to be understood. The ablative case is more approved by some, “They shall vivify themselves with corn.” But the former sense seems more suitable; for, as I have said yesterday, the Prophet, as he handles a truth difficult to be believed, does on this account accumulate similitudes, such as serve for confirmation. Hence they shall revive as corn; that is, they shall increase. As from one grain, we know, many stalks proceed; so also, since the prophet speaks of the increase of the people after their restoration to God’s favour, he says that they would grow like corn.
But he adds, They shall germinate as the vine This similitude strengthens what I have just said, that the people are compared both to trees and to corn, and also to vines. And what is said of dwellers ought not to appear strange, for he wished more fully to express how this common benefit would come, that is, to every one. He afterwards adds, His odour shall be as the wine of Libanus; that is, when they shall germinate as the vine, they shall not produce common or sour wine, but the sweetest, such as is made on Mount Libanus, and which is of the best odour. But the Prophet means no other thing than that the Israelites will be happy, and that their condition will be prosperous and joyful, when they shall be converted from their superstitions and other vices, and shall wholly surrender themselves to be governed by God. This is the meaning. Let us now proceed —
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. The penitential prayer put in the mouth of the people receives in this verse a gracious response; words of contrite confession are echoed back in accents of compassion and consolation. When thus penitent and prayerful they returned to the Lord, he promises them favor as well as forgiveness, so as to heal the moral malady under which they had long labored, remedy the evil effects of their apostasy, and withhold the stripes he was going to inflict. Meshubhatham means
(1) their turning away from God and all included therein—defection, rebellion, idolatry, and other sins. The disease would be healed, and its consequences averted.
(2) Some, however, understand the word, in a good sense, to mean “conversion ‘ or “the converted,” the abstract being put for the concrete; the blessing is thus promised them when they turned or returned to God. Thus the Syriac version.
(3) The LXX. again, connecting meshubhah with yashav, to sit or dwell, render it by κατοικίαν, that is,” I will heal their dwelling.” There is little doubt that (1) is the correct translation, and it is generally accepted as such. They are next assured of God’s love, and that spontaneously (נְדָבָה, the preposition le understood) with ready willinghood and unfeignedly. God’s love is
(a) free, anticipating its objects, not waiting to be merited or purchased, without money and without price; it is
(b) also purest and most sincere affection, altogether unlike that feigned affection sometimes found among men, who profess much love while their heart goeth after their covetousness, or after some other and different object from that pretended. Then follows an assurance that there is no barrier to the exercise and no obstacle to the outgoing of God’s love; the turning away of God’s anger from Israel is the ground of such assurance. Some copies read mimmeni, my anger is turned away from me, instead of mimmena; this, however, is erroneous, though the sense is not much affected by it. The error may have arisen from a misunderstanding of Jer_2:35. Rashi explains the verse correctly: “After they have thus spoken before me: I will heal them of their apostasy, and love them of my own free will; although they themselves are not worthy of love, yet will I love them freely, for mine anger has turned away from them.” Aben Ezra says. “Backsliding is in the soul what disease is in the body, therefore he uses the word ‘heal.’ But God proceeds to perform what he has promised; he does not confine his goodness to words, he exhibits it in works, as the following verses show.”
I will be as the dew unto Israel. “The Jussive assumes different shades of meaning, varying with the situation or authority of the speaker … . Sometimes, from the circumstances of the case, the command becomes a permission: Hos_14:6, ‘I will be as the dew to Israel: let him flourish, וְיַךְ, and strike forth his roots as Lebanon’” (Driver). In lands where there is little rain, the dew, falling copiously, fertilizes the earth, refreshes the languid plants, revives the face of nature, and makes all things grow. Thus the dew becomes the source of fruitfulness. So God, by his Spirit’s grace, is the Source of Israel’s spiritual fruitfulness.
He shall grow (margin, blossom) as the lily. This comparison suggests many qualities, any one of which may characterize, or all of which may combine in, the spiritual growth thus pictured. There is the purity of the lily, the beauty of the lily, the fecundity of the lily, the perfume of the lily, the rapidity of its growth, the stately slightness of its stem. We may combine the rapidity of its growth; its fecundity, with regard to which Pliny informs us that a single root produces fifty bulbs; its beauty, to which our Lord refers in contrast with the glory of Solomon. But its root is weak, and he, on that account perhaps, subjoins: And cast forth (margin, strike) his roots as Lebanon. Whether it mean that the roots are as the trees of Lebanon or the mountain of Lebanon itself, the thought expressed by this comparison is stability. “As the trees of Lebanon,” says Jerome, “which strike their roots as far down into the depths as they lift their heads up into the air, so that they can be shaken by no storm, but by their stable massiveness maintain their position.”
His branches shall spread; margin, go; rather, go on. This feature in the representation denotes enlargement or expansion. The tender branches (suckers) spreading out in all directions very aptly set forth the multiplication of Israel or their growth and increase numerically. But branches straggling, crooked, and ill-shaped would rather be a blemish than a beauty. It is, therefore, added: His beauty shall be as the olive tree. The olive has been called the crown of the fruit trees of Palestine, but besides, its fruitage so plentiful and useful, the splendor of its green, and the enduring freshness of its foliage, make it a vivid picture of that beauty of holiness or spiritual graces which it is here employed to represent.
There is still an additional element of interest pertaining to this goodly tree, namely, And his smell as Lebanon. This signifies the fragrance of this beautiful tree of righteousness. The smell of Lebanon is referred to in So Hos_4:11, “And the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.” What with its cedars, and spices, and fruit, and flowers, and aromatic shrubs, and fragrant vines, Lebanon must perfume the air with the most delightful odors. Thus acceptable to God and pleasing to man shall Israel become. The commentators quote with commendation Rosenmüller’s explanation of the individual features of this inimitable picture: “The rooting indicates stability; the spreading of the branches, propagation and the multitude of inhabitants; the splendor of the olive, beauty and glory, and that constant and lasting; the fragrance, hilarity and loveliness.” The simile changes into the metaphor; Israel, from being likened to a tree, becomes the tree. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow (margin, blossom) as the vine: the scent (rather, renown) thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
There is some difficulty and consequent diversity of rendering and explanation in connection with this verse. If the tree be Israel in its collective or national capacity, the dwellers under its shadow are the members of the nation, separate]y and severally, flourishing under the widespread branches of this umbrageous tree. The word yashubhu is explained:
(a) return, i.e. betake themselves to his shadow, which is incongruous, for how could they be said to return to their own shadow or dwell securely under it?
(b) return to their native land, so the Chaldee,—this is somewhat better;
(c) return to the worship of Jehovah, said of Israelites who had abandoned it, not properly of Gentiles turning to that worship;
(d) Rosenmüller, comparing Jdg_15:19 and 1Sa_30:12, explains it in the sense of coming to themselves, reviving.
(2) Keil constructs yashubhu adverbially by a common idiom with yechayyu, and
(a) translates “shalt give life to come again,” that is, “Those who sit beneath the shade of Israel, the tree that is bursting into leaf, will revive corn, cause it to return to life, or produce it for nourishment, satiety, and strengthening.” Similarly the Vulgate, “sustain life by corn.” This, however, must appear tame after the splendid promises that went before.
(b) Vivify; i.e. produce seed like corn, and rejoice in a numerous offspring as from a seed of corn many proceed; according to this, “seed” (זֶרַע) must be supplied, and caph of comparison. The added clause agrees with this, for the flourishing of the vine also symbolizes prolific persons (comp. Psa_128:3). Further, the vine does not always flourish, yet, not like the corn which after harvest ceases and is no more seen, its root remains, and next year grows green and yields its fruit anew. The fame of the wine of Lebanon is celebrated for its taste and fragrance. Kimchi cites Asaph, a physician, as writing that the wine of Lebanon, of Hermon, of Carmel, of the mountains of Israel and Jerusalem and Caphior, surpass all others in flavor, taste, and for medicinal purposes.
They that dwell under his shadow – that is, the shadow of the restored Israel, who had just been described under the image of a magnificent tree uniting in itself all perfections. : “They that are under the shadow of the Church are together under the shadow of Christ the Head thereof, and also of God the Father.” The Jews, of old, explained it , “they shall dwell under the shadow of their Messias.” These, he says, “shall return,” i. e., they shall turn to be quite other than they had been, even back to Him, to whom they belonged, whose creatures they were, God. “They shall revive as the corn.” The words may be differently rendered, in the same general meaning. The simple words, “They shall revive” (literally, “give life” to, or “preserve in life,”) “corn,” have been filled up differently. Some of old, (from where ours has been taken) understood it, “they shall revive” themselves, and so, “shall live” , and that either “as corn,” (as it is said, “shall grow as the vine”); or “by corn” which is also very natural, since “bread is the staff of life,” and our spiritual Bread is the support of our spiritual life.
Or lastly, (of which the grammar is easier, yet the idiom less natural) it as been rendered “they shall give life to corn,” make corn to live, by cultivating it. In all ways the sense is perfect. If we render, “shall revive” as “corn,” it means, being, as it were, dead, they shall net only live again with renewed life, but shall even increase. Corn first dies in its outward form, and so is multiplied; the fruit-bearing branches of the vine are pruned and cut, and so they bear richer fruit. So through suffering, chastisement, or the heavy hand of God or man, the Church, being purified, yields more abundant fruits of grace. Or if rendered, “shall make corn to grow,” since the prophet, all around, is under figures of God’s workings in nature, speaking of His workings of grace, then it is the same image, as when our Lord speaks of those “who receive the seed in an honest and true heart and bring forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” Mat_13:23. Or if we were to render, “shall produce life through wheat,” what were this, but that seed-corn, which, for us and for our salvation, was sown in the earth, and died, and “brought forth much fruit;” the Bread of life, of which our Lord says, “I am the Bread of life, whoso eateth of this bread shall live forever, and the bread which I will give is My Flesh, which I will give for the life of the world?” Joh_6:48, Joh_6:51.
The scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon – The grapes of Lebanon have been of the size of plums; its wine has been spoken of as the best in the East or even in the world . Formerly Israel was as a luxuriant, but empty, vine, bringing forth no fruit to God Hos_10:1. God “looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes” Isa_5:2. Now its glory and luxuriance should not hinder its bearing fruit, and “that,” the noblest of its kind. Rich and fragrant is the odor of graces, the inspiration of the Spirit of God, and not fleeting, but abiding.
The Prophet again introduces the Israelites speaking as before, that they would deplore their blindness and folly, and renounce in future their superstitions. The confession then which we have before noticed is here repeated; and it is a testimony of true repentance when men, being ashamed, are displeased with themselves on account of their sins, and apply their minds to God’s service, and detest their whole former life. To this subject belongs what the Prophet now says. It is a concise discourse; but yet its brevity contains nothing obscure. Ephraim, he says, What have I to do with idols? There is indeed a verb understood, ‘Ephraim “shall say”, What have I to do with idols?’ But still it is evident enough what the Prophet means. There is then in these words, as I have said, a sincere confession; for the ten tribes express their detestation of their folly, that they had alienated themselves from the true God, and became entangled in false and abominable superstitions: hence they say, What have we to do with idols? and when they add, any more, they confess that their former life had been corrupt and vicious: at the same time they announce their own repentance, when they say that they would have nothing more to do with fictitious gods.
The reason follows, because God will hear and look on Israel, so as to become to him a shady tree. Some so explain this, as though God promised to be propitious to Israel after they had manifested their repentance. But they pervert the sense of the Prophet; for, on the contrary, he says, that after the Israelites shall perceive, and find even by the effect, that God is propitious to them, they will then say, “How foolish and mad we were, while we followed idols? It is now then time that our souls should recumb on God.” Why? “Because we see that there is nothing better for us than to live under his safeguard and protection; for he hears us, he regards us, he is to us like a shady tree, so that he protects us under his shadow.” We now perceive how these two clauses are connected together; for God shows the reason why Ephraim will renounce his idols because he will perceive that he was miserably deceived as long as he wandered after his idols. How will he perceive this? Because he will see that he is now favoured by the Lord, and that he was before destitute of his help. When God then shall give such a proof to his people, he will at the same time produce this effect, that they will cast away all false confidences, and confess that they were miserable and wretched while they were attached to idols. He therefore says, I have heard and favoured him What is then later in the words of the Prophet goes before; it precedes in order of things this clause, Ephraim shall say, What have I to do with idols?
In saying, I will be as a shady fir-tree, and adding at the same time, From me is thy fruit found, the two similitudes seem not to accord; for, as it is well known, the fir-tree bears no fruit. Why then is fruit mentioned? The answer is that these two similitudes are not connected. For when God compares himself to a fir-tree, he speaks only of protection: and we know that when one seeks a cooling shade, he may find it under a fir-tree; besides, it is always green, as we all know, when leaves fall from other trees; and further, its height and thickness afford a good shadow. The reason, then, why God promises to be like a fir-tree to his people is this, because all who will fly under his shadow shall be preserved from the heat. But the meaning of the second similitude, that God would supply his people with fruit, is different. The Prophet had said before that the Israelites would be like a tree, which fixes its roots deep in the ground. He now transfers the name of a tree to God. Both these things are true; for when God makes us fruitful we are branches set in the best vine; and it is also true, that the whole fruit we have is from him; for all vigour would fail us, except God were to supply us with moisture, and even life itself. We now then see that there is no inconsistency in the words of the Prophet, as the object is different From me then is thy fruit found; as though God said, that the Israelites, if wise, would be content with his favour; for they who seek support from him will be satisfied; because they will find from him fruit sufficiently rich and abundant. We now then understand what is meant. But it follows —
Keil & Delitzsch
“I will heal their apostasy, will love them freely: for my wrath has turned away from it. Hos_14:5. I will be like dew for Israel: it shall blossom like the lily, and strike its roots like Lebanon. Hos_14:6. Its shoots shall go forth, and its splendour shall become like the olive-tree, and its smell like Lebanon. Hos_14:7. They that dwell in its shadow shall give life to corn again; and shall blossom like the vine: whose glory is like the wine of Lebanon. Hos_14:8. Ephraim: What have I further with the idols? I hear, and look upon him: I, like a bursting cypress, in me is thy fruit found.” The Lord promises first of all to heal their apostasy, i.e., all the injuries which have been inflicted by their apostasy from Him, and to love them with perfect spontaneity (nedâbhâh an adverbial accusative, promta animi voluntate), since His anger, which was kindled on account of its idolatry, had now turned away from it (mimmennū, i.e., from Israel). The reading mimmennı̄ (from me), which the Babylonian Codices have after the Masora, appears to have originated in a misunderstanding of Jer_2:35. This love of the Lord will manifest itself in abundant blessing. Jehovah will be to Israel a refreshing, enlivening dew (cf. Isa_26:19), through which it will blossom splendidly, strike deep roots, and spread its shoots far and wide.
“Like the lily:” the fragrant white lily, which is very common in Palestine, and grows without cultivation, and “which is unsurpassed in its fecundity, often producing fifty bulbs from a single root” (Pliny h. n. xxi. 5). “Strike roots like Lebanon,” i.e., not merely the deeply rooted forest of Lebanon, but the mountain itself, as one of the “foundations of the earth” (Mic_6:2). The deeper the roots, the more the branches spread and cover themselves with splendid green foliage, like the evergreen and fruitful olive-tree (Jer_11:16; Ps. 52:10). The smell is like Lebanon, which is rendered fragrant by its cedars and spices (Son_4:11). The meaning of the several features in the picture has been well explained by Rosenmüller thus: “The rooting indicates stability: the spreading of the branches, propagation and the multitude of inhabitants; the splendour of the olive, beauty and glory, and that constant and lasting; the fragrance, hilarity and loveliness.”
In Hos_14:7 a somewhat different turn is given to the figure. The comparison of the growth and flourishing of Israel to the lily and to a tree, that strikes deep roots and spreads its green branches far and wide, passes imperceptibly into the idea that Israel is itself the tree beneath whose shade the members of the nation flourish with freshness and vigour. יָשׁוּבוּ is to be connected adverbially with יְהַיּוּ. Those who sit beneath the shade of Israel, the tree that is bursting into leaf, will revive corn, i.e., cause it to return to life, or produce it for nourishment, satiety, and strengthening. Yea, they themselves will sprout like the vine, whose remembrance is, i.e., which has a renown, like the wine of Lebanon, which has been celebrated from time immemorial (cf. Plin. h. n. xiv. 7; Oedmann, Verbm. Sammlung aus der Naturkunde, ii. p. 193; and Rosenmüller, Bibl. Althk. iv. 1, p. 217).
The divine promise closes in Hos_14:9 with an appeal to Israel to renounce idols altogether, and hold fast by the Lord alone as the source of its life. Ephraim is a vocative, and is followed immediately by what the Lord has to say to Ephraim, so that we may supply memento in thought. מַה־לִּי עוֹד לע, what have I yet to do with idols? (for this phrase, compare Jer_2:18); that is to say, not “I have now to contend with thee on account of the idols (Schmieder), nor “do not place them by my side any more” (Ros.); but, “I will have nothing more to do with idols,” which also implies that Ephraim is to have nothing more to do with them. To this there is appended a notice of what God has done and will do for Israel, to which greater prominence is given by the emphatic אֲנִי: I, I hearken (‛ânı̄thı̄ a prophetic perfect), and look upon him. שׁוּר, to look about for a person, to be anxious about him, or care for him, as in Job_24:15. The suffix refers to Ephraim. In the last clause, God compares Himself to a cypress becoming green, not only to denote the shelter which He will afford to the people, but as the true tree of life, on which the nation finds its fruits – a fruit which nourishes and invigorates the spiritual life of the nation. The salvation which this promise sets before the people when they shall return to the Lord, is indeed depicted, according to the circumstances and peculiar views prevailing under the Old Testament, as earthly growth and prosperity; but its real nature is such, that it will receive a spiritual fulfilment in those Israelites alone who are brought to belief in Jesus Christ.
Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? This is full, final, and for over a renunciation of idolatry on the part of Israel. I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found. This is God’s promise, that his eye is fixed on Israel in order to look after him, care for him, and provide for him, and to protect and prosper him; while the figure of a green fir tree is the pledge of shelter and security. But, though the fir tree is evergreen, it is fruitless; and therefore it is added that God will prove the Source of fruitfulness, and supply all that his people shall or can ever need.
Ephraim shall say, what have I to do anymore with idols? – So Isaiah fortells, “The idols He shall utterly abolish” Isa_2:18. Aforetime Ephraim said obstinately, in the midst of God’s chastisements; “I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink” Hos_2:5. Now she shall renounce them wholly and forever. This is entire conversion, to part wholly with everything which would dispute the allegiance with God, to cease to look to any created thing or being, for what is the gift of the Creator alone. So the Apostle says, “what concord hath Christ with Belial?” 2Co_6:15. This verse exhibits in few, vivid, words, converted Ephraim speaking with God, and God answering; Ephraim renouncing his sins, and God accepting him; Ephraim glorying in God’s goodness, and God reminding him that he holds all from Himself.
I have heard and observed him – God answers the profession and accepts it. I, (emphatic) “I Myself have heard and have answered,” as He says, “Before they call I will answer” Isa_65:24. Whereas God, before, had hid His face from them, or had “observed” Hos_13:7 them, only as the object of His displeasure, and as ripe for destruction, now He reverses this, and “observes” them, in order to forecome the wishes of their hearts before they are expressed, to watch over them and survey and provide for all their needs. To this, Ephraim exulting in God’s goodness, answers, “I” am “like a green fir tree,” i. e., ever-green, ever-fresh. The “berosh,” (as Jerome, living in Palestine, thought) one of the large genus of the “pine” or “fir,” or (as others translated) the cypress , was a tall stately tree Isa_55:13; in whose branches the stork could make its nest Psa_104:17; its wood precious enough to be employed in the temple (1 Kings 5:22, 24 (1Ki_5:8, 1Ki_5:10, English); 6:15, 34); fine enough to be used in all sorts of musical instruments 2Sa_6:5; strong and pliant enough to be used for spears Nah_2:3.
It was part of the glory of Lebanon Isa_37:24; Isa_60:13. A Greek historian says that Lebanon “was full of cedars and pines and cypresses, of wonderful beauty and size” . A modern traveler says, of “the cypress groves of Lebanon” ; “Each tree is in itself a study for the landscape painter – some, on account of their enormous stems and branches. Would you see trees in all their splendor and beauty, then enter these wild groves, that have never been touched by the pruning knife of art.” This tree, in its majestic beauty, tenacity of life, and undying verdure, winter and summer, through the perpetual supply of sap, pictures the continual life of the soul through the unbroken supply of the grace of God. Created beauty must, at best, be but a faint image of the beauty of the soul in grace, for this is from the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit.
From Me is thy fruit found – Neither the pine nor the cypress bear any fruit, useful for food. It is probable then that here too the prophet fills out one image by another and says that restored Israel, the Church of God, or the soul in grace, should not only have beauty and majesty, but what is not, in the way of nature, found united therewith, fruitfulness also. From Me is thy fruit found; as our Lord says, “I am the vine, ye are the branches” Joh_15:5. Human nature, by itself, can as little bear fruit well-pleasing to God, as the pine or cypress can bear fruit for human use. As it were a miracle in nature, were these trees to bring forth such fruit, so, for man to bring forth fruits of grace, is a miracle of grace. The presence of works of grace attests the immediate working of God the Holy Spirit, as much as any miracle in nature.
The Prophet, I have no doubt, very often inculcated what he here says, and frequently recalled it to mind, for we know that he had a constant struggle with extreme obstinacy. It was not only for one day that he found the people hard and perverse, but through the whole course of his preaching. Since then the Israelites continued, either openly to despise the Prophet’s teaching, or at least to regard as fables what they heard from his mouth, or to chide him in words, and even to threaten him, when he treated them with severity and when the Prophet saw that the wickedness of the people was irreclaimable, he, being armed with confidence, no doubt went forth very often among them, and said “Ye think that you shall be unpunished, while ye make a mock of what I teach; ye shall surely find at last that the ways of the Lord are right.” And I have already reminded you, that the Prophets, after having harangued the people at large and in many words, reduced at last into brief heads what they had taught; for it is not probable, that since Hosea had so long discharged the office of a teacher, he had spoken only these few things, which might have been gone through in three hours. This is absurd. But when he had diligently attended to the office deputed to him, he afterwards, as I have said, collected together these few chapters, that the remembrance of his teaching might be perpetuated. What he was constrained then often to repeat, he now lays down at the end of his book, that it might be as it were a complete sealing up of his teaching.
Who is wise, he says, and he will understand these things? who is intelligent, and he will know them? This interrogatory mode is expressive; for Hosea was amazed at the fewness of those who yielded themselves to be taught by God. The Israelites no doubt, arrogated to themselves great wisdom, as ungodly men are wont to do. For they seem to themselves to be then especially acute, when they laugh at every thing like piety, when they treat God’s name with scorn, and indulge themselves, as we see at this day, in their own impiety. And this diabolical rage lays hold on many, because they think that they would be very simple and stupid, were they to embrace any thing the Scripture contains.
“O! what is faith but foolish credulity?” This is the thought that comes to their minds. There are also filthy dogs, who hesitate not to vomit forth such a reproach as this, “Only believe! But what is this thy believing, but wilfully to give up all judgement and all choice, and to allow thyself to be like mute cattle driven here and there? If then thou art wise, believe nothing.” Thus godless men speak; and hence, as I have said, they pride themselves on their own acuteness, when they can shake off every fear of God and all regard for divine truth. There were many such, we may easily believe, in the time of the Prophet. Since then the whole land was filled with dreadful contempt of God, and yet men commonly thought themselves wise, nay, imagined in their deep thoughts, as Isaiah says, that they could deceive God, he now asks, Who is wise, and he will understand? As though he said, “I indeed see, that if I believe you, ye are all wise; for, imitating the giants, ye dare to rise up against God, and ye think yourselves ingenious when ye elude every truth, when ye proudly tread religion under foot; in this way ye are all wise. But at the same time, if there be any grain of wisdom in you, you must surely acknowledge me to be sent by God, and that what I declare is not the invention of men, but the word of the living God.” We now then see what force there is in this question, when the Prophet says, Who is wise, and he will understand these things? Who is intelligent, and he will know them?
We at the same time see that the Prophet here condemns all the wisdom of men, and as it were thunders from heaven against the pride of those who thus presumptuously mock God; for how much soever they imagined themselves to be pre-eminent, he intimates that they were both blind and stupid and mad. Who then is wise? he says. But at the same time, he shows that the true wisdom of men is to obey God and to embrace his word; as it is said in another place, that wisdom and the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God, (Pro_1:7.) Whosoever then wishes to be truly wise, he must begin with the fear of God and with reverence to his word; for where there is no religion, men cannot certainly understand any thing aright. Let us suppose men endued, not only with great clearness of mind, but also with the knowledge of all the sciences; let them be philosophers, let them be physicians, let them be lawyers, let nothing be wanting to them, except that they have no true knowledge of eternal life, would it not be better for them to be mere cattle than to be thus wise, to exercise their minds for a short time on fading things, and to know that all their highly valued treasure shall perish with their life? Surely to be thus wise is far more wretched than if men were wholly void of understanding. Justly then does the Prophet intimate here that those were not only foolish, but also mad, and wholly destitute of all understanding, who regarded not celestial truth, and were deaf to the Prophets, and discerned not when God spake, nor understood the power of his word. All then who are not thus wise, the Prophet justly says, are utterly void of all prudence and judgement: he therefore repeats the same thing, Who is wise, and he will understand these things? Who is intelligent, and he will know them? that is, “If any excels others, he ought surely to show in this particular his wisdom, and if any one is endued with common understanding, he ought to know what this doctrine means, in which the image and glory of God shine forth brightly. All then who know and understand nothing in this respect are no doubt altogether foolish.”
He afterwards adds, For right are the ways of Jehovah He alleges this truth in opposition to the profane rashness of men, who haughtily reject God, and dare to despise his word. Right, he says, are the ways of the Lord: and by saying that they are right, he no doubt glances at the abominable blasphemies which the ungodly have recourse to, when they wish to render the word of God not only odious and contemptible, but also absurd, so as not to deserve any respect. Thus we see at this day, that godless men not only in words reject both the Law and the Prophets, but also search out pretences, that they may appear to be doing right in destroying all faith in the oracles of God. For instance, they seek out every sort of contradiction in Scripture, every thing not well received, every thing different from the common opinion, — all these absurdities, as they call them, they collect together, and then they draw this conclusion, that all those are fools, who submit to any religion, since the word of God, as they say, contains so many absurd things. This raving madness prevailed then no doubt in the world: and the Prophet, by saying that right are the ways of Jehovah, means, that how much soever the ungodly may clamour, or murmur, or taunt, nothing is yet done by the Lord but what is right, and free from every blame and defect. However much then the ungodly may vomit forth slanders against the word of God, it is the same as if they threw dust into the air to darken the light of the sun; just so much they effect, he seems to say, by their audacity: for perfect rectitude will ever be foundin the ways of the Lord; his word will ever be found free from every stain or defect.
He then adds, And the just shall walk in them, but in them shall the ungodly stumble By saying that the just shall walk in them, he confirms the last sentence by experience, for the just really find the ways of the Lord to be right We ought also to be furnished with this assurance, if we would boldly repel all the impious calumnies, which are usually heaped together by profane men against the word of God: for if we know not what it is to walk in the ways of the Lord, we shall surely, as soon as any thing is alleged against them, be suspended in doubt, or be wholly upset; for we see that many, not deeply rooted in the word of God, instantly quail, as soon as any thing is said against it, because they know not what it is to walk in the ways of the Lord; but they who walk in the Lord’s ways courageously fight against all the temptations of the world; they carry on the context that they may attain celestial life; they feel assured that though now miserable for a time, they shall yet be blessed, for they have embraced the grace of God in Christ; they are sustained too by their own conscience, so that they can look down on all the reproaches and slanders of the world, and proceed onward in their course. They then who thus walk in the ways of the Lord are unconquerable; yea, were the whole world to oppose them, and were the ungodly with their profane words to infect the whole atmosphere, the godly would still pursue their course until they reached the end. All the ways of Jehovah are therefore right, the just shall walk in them; but in them shall the ungodly stumble, or fall; for כשל, cashel, means both, but I prefer rendering it “stumble,” as it seems more suitable to the design of the Prophet. The just then find a plain and an even way in the word of the Lord, and nothing stands in their path to obstruct their course, and by daily advances they attain that to which the Lord calls them, even their celestial inheritance. The just shall thus walk in the Lord’s ways, because the Lord will lead them, as it were, by his hand; faith will be to them for hundred eyes, and also for wings: and hope, at the same time, sustains them; for they are armed with promises and encouragements; they have also stimulants, whenever the Lord earnestly exhorts them; they have, besides, in his threatenings, such terrors as keep them awake. Thus then the faithful find in the word of the Lord the best ways, and they follow them. But what of the ungodly? They imagine all doubts, even the least, to be mountains: for as soon as they meet with any thing intricate or obscure, they are confounded, and says “I would gladly seek to know the Holy Scriptures but I meet with so many difficulties.” Hence when a doubt is suggested, they regard it as a mountain; nay, they purposely pretend doubts, that they may have some excuse, when they wish to evade the truth, and turn aside that they may not follow the Lord. The ungodly, then,stumble in the ways of Jehovah. But this ought to be read adversatively, “Though the ungodly stumble, yet the just shall always walk in the ways of Jehovah;” which means, that there is no reason why the ungodly should stop or retard us by their continual stumbling, and by exclaiming that the word of God is full of what gives offence; for we shall find in it an even way, only let us ascribe to God this glory, that he is just, and that his ways are right. This is the meaning of the sentence….
Keil & Delitzsch
Hos_14:9 (10) contains the epilogue to the whole book. “Who is wise, that he may understand this? understanding, that he may discern it? For the ways of Jehovah are straight, and the righteous walk therein: but the rebellious stumble in them.” The pronoun אֵלֶּה and the suffix to יֵדָעֵם refer to everything that the prophet has laid before the people in his book for warning, for reproof, for correction, for chastening in righteousness. He concludes by summing up the whole substance of his teaching in the one general sentence, which points back to Deu_32:4 : The ways of the Lord are straight. “The ways of Jehovah” (darkhē Yehōvâh) are the ways taken by God in the guidance and government of men; not only the ways which He prescribes for them, but also His guidance of them. These ways lead some to life and others to death, according to the different attitudes which men assume towards God, as Moses announced to all the Israelites that they would (Deu_30:19-20), and as the Apostle Paul assured the church at Corinth that the gospel of Jesus also would (1Co_1:18).
Who is wise and he shall understand these things? – The prophet says this, not of the words in which he had spoken, but of the substance. He does not mean that his style was obscure, or that he had delivered the message of God in a way difficult to be understood. This would have been to fail of his object. Nor does he mean that human acuteness is the key to the things of God. He means that those only of a certain character, those “wise,” through God, unto God, will understand the things of God. So the Psalmist, having related some of God’s varied chastenings, mercies and judgments, sums up, “Whoso is wise and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord” Psa_107:43. So Asaph says that God’s dealings with the good and bad in this life were “too hard” for him to “understand, until” he “went into the sanctuary of God;” then “understood” he “their end” Psa_73:16-17.
In like way Daniel, at the close of his prophecy, sums up the account of a sifting-time, “Many shall be purified and made white and tried, and the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand” Dan_12:10. As these say that the wise alone understand the actual dealings of God with man, so Hosea says, that the wise alone would understand what he had set forth of the mercy and severity of God, of His love for man, His desire to pardon, His unwillingness that any should perish, His longing for our repentance, His store of mercies in Christ, His gifts of grace and His free eternal love, and yet His rejection of all half-service and His final rejection of the impenitent. “Who is wise?” “The word “who” is always taken, not for what is impossible, but for what is difficult.” So Isaiah saith, “Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed?” Isa_53:1.
Few are wise with “the wisdom which is from above;” few understand, because few wish to understand, or seek wisdom from Him who “giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” Jam_1:5. The question implies also, that God longs that people should understand to their salvation. He inquires for them, calls to them that they would meditate on His mercies and judgments. As Paul says, “Behold the goodness and severity of God; on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out” Rom_11:22, Rom_11:33. Unsearchable to intellect and theory; intelligible to faith and for acting on.
And he shall understand these things – (that is, that he may understand). The worldly-wise of that generation, too, doubtless, thought themselves too wise to need to understand them; as the wise after this world counted the Cross of Christ foolishness.
Prudent – Properly “gifted with understanding,” the form of the word expressing, that he was “endowed with” this “understanding,” as a gift from God. And He shall know them. While the wise of this world disbelieve, jeer, scoff at them, in the name of human reason, he who has not the natural quickness of man only, but who is endued with the true wisdom, shall “know” them. So our Lord says, “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it is of God” Joh_7:17. The word, “wise,” may especially mean him who contemplates these truths and understands them in themselves, yet plainly so as to act upon them; and the word “endued with prudence,” may especially describe such as are gifted with readiness to apply that knowledge to practice, in judgment, discrimination, act . By uniting both, the prophet joins contemplative and practical wisdom, and intensifies the expression of God’s desire that we should be endowed with them.
For the ways of the Lord are right – If in the word, “ways,” the figure is still preserved, the prophet speaks of the “ways,” as “direct and straight;” without a figure, as “just and upright.”
The ways of the Lord – Are, what we, by a like figure, call “the ‘course’ of His providence;” of which Scripture says, “His ways are judgment” Deu_32:4; Dan_4:37; “God, His ways are perfect” Psa_18:30; “the Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works” Psa_145:17; “Thy way is in the sea, and Thy paths in the great waters, and Thy footsteps are not known” Psa_77:19; “lo, these are parts of His ways, but how little a portion is heard of Him, and the thunder of His power who can understand?” Job_26:14; “who hath enjoined Him His way, and who can say, Thou hast wrought iniquity?” Job_36:23. These “ways of God” include His ordering for us, in His eternal wisdom, that course of life, which leads most directly to Himself. They include, then, all God’s commandments, precepts, counsels, His whole moral law, as well as His separate purpose for each of us. In the one way, they are God’s ways toward us; in the other they are God’s ways for us.
The just shall walk in them – God reveals His ways to us, not that we may know them only, but that we may do them. “The end of moral science is not knowledge, but practice,” said the Pagan philosopher . But the life of grace is a life of progress. The word, “way,” implies not continuance only, but advance. He does not say,” they shall “stand” in God’s ways,” but “they shall walk in them.” They shall go on in them “upright, safe, and secure, in “great peace” and with “nothing whereat to stumble” . In God’s ways there is no stumbling block, and they who walk in them, are free from those of which other ways are full. Whereas, out of God’s ways, all paths are tangled, uneven, slippery, devious, full of snares and pitfalls, God maketh His “way straight,” a royal highway, smooth, even, direct unto Himself.
But – (and) the transgressors shall fall therein – Literally, “shall stumble thereon” Psa_119:165. Transgressors, i. e., those who rebel against the law of God, “stumble” in divers manners, not “in,” but “at” the ways of God. They stumble at God Himself, at His All-Holy Being, Three and One; they stumble at His attributes; they stumble at His providence, they stumble at His acts; they stumble at His interference with them; they stumble at His requirements. They rebel against His commandments, as requiring what they like not; at His prohibitions, as refusing what they like. They stumble at His Wisdom, in ordering His own creation; at His Holiness, in punishing sin; but most of all, they stumble at His Goodness and condescension. They have a greater quarrel with His condescension than with all His other attributes. They have stumbled, and still stumble at God the Son, becoming Man, and taking our flesh in the Virgin’s womb; they stumble at the humility of the Crucifixion; they stumble at His placing His Manhood at the Right Hand of God; they stumble at the simplicity, power and condescension, which He uses in the sacraments; they stumble at His giving us His Flesh to eat; they stumble at His forgiving sins freely, and again and again; they stumble at His making us members of Himself, without waiting for our own wills; they stumble at His condescension in using our own acts, to the attainment of our degree of everlasting glory.
Every attribute, or gift, or revelation of God, which is full of comfort to the believer, becomes in turn an occasion of stumbling to the rebellious. “The things which should have been for his wealth, become to him an occasion of falling. “They cannot attemper their own wishes and ways to the divine law, because, obeying what they themselves affect, “the law of their members,” they stumble at that other law, which leadeth unto life” Psa_69:22. : With this the prophet sums up all the teaching of the seventy years of his ministry. This is the end of all which he had said of the severity and mercy of God, of the Coming of Christ, and of our resurrection in Him. This is to us the end of all; this is thy choice, Christian soul, to walk in God’s ways, or to stumble at them. As in the days when Christ came in the Flesh, so it is now; so it will be to the end. So holy Simeon prophesied, “‘This Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel’ Luk_2:34; and our Lord said of Himself, ‘For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind’ Joh_9:39. And Peter; ‘Unto you which believe He is precious; but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling and rock of offence, to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient’ 1Pe_2:7-8. ‘Christ crucified was unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness, but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God’ 1Co_1:23-24. The commandment, which’ was ordained ‘to life,’ Paul, when yet unregenerate, ‘found’ to be ‘unto death’ Rom_7:10. : “Pray we then the Eternal Wisdom, that we may be truly wise and understanding, and receive not in vain those many good things which Christ has brought to the race of man. Let us cleave to Him by that ‘faith, which worketh by love;’ let us seek the Good, seek the Just, ‘seek the Lord while He may be found, and call upon Him while He is near.’ Whatever God doeth toward ourselves or others, let us account right; ‘for the ways of the Lord are right,’ and ‘that’ cannot be unjust, which pleaseth the Just. Whatever He teacheth, whatever He commandeth, let us believe without discussion, and embrace most firmly for “that” cannot be false, which the Truth hath taught. Let us walk in His ways;” for Christ Himself is “the Way” unto Himself, “the Life.” : “Look up to heaven; look down to Hell; live for Eternity.” “Weigh a thousand, yea thousands of years against eternity what dost thou, weighing a finite, how vast soever, against Infinity.”