|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:1-6 The convincing, awakening word must be heard and heeded, as well as words of comfort and peace; for whether we hear or forbear, the word of God shall take effect. The Lord still proclaims mercy to men, but they often expect deliverance from such self-invented forms as make their condemnation sure. While they refuse to come to Christ and to seek mercy in and by him, that they may live, the fire of Divine wrath breaks forth upon them. Men may make an idol of the world, but will find it cannot protect.
Verse 6. - Break out like fire. God is called "a consuming fire" (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29; comp. Jeremiah 4:4). And devour it; Septuagint, Ὅπως μὴ ἀναλάμψη ὡς πῦρ ὁ οϊκος Ἰωσὴφ καὶ καταφάγῃ αὐτόν, "Lest the house of Joseph blaze as fire, and he devour him;" Vulgate, Ne forte comburatur ut ignis domus Joseph, et devorabit. But it is best to take the last member of the sentence thus: "and it (the fire) devour." The house of Joseph. Ephraim, i.e. the kingdom of Israel, of which Ephraim was the distinguishing tribe. In Bethel; or, for Bethel. The LXX., paraphrasing, has, τῷ οἴκῳ Ἰσραήλ, "for the house of Israel."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Seek the Lord, and ye shall live,.... This is, repeated to stir up unto it, because of their backwardness and slothfulness, and to show the importance and necessity of it. By the "Lord" may be meant the Messiah, Israel's God that was to come, and they were to prepare to meet, Amos 4:12; and the rather, since life spiritual and eternal is only to be had from him, and he is to be sought unto for it, and all the blessings of it, peace, pardon, righteousness, rest, and salvation as well as temporal deliverance, and all outward mercies:
lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it; that is, lest his wrath and fury break out like fire as the Targum, by sending an enemy to invade the land, destroy it, and carry the inhabitants of it captive; even all the ten tribes, who frequently go by the name of Ephraim the son of Joseph, that being the principal tribe, and the first king of them being of it:
and there be none to quench it in Bethel; the calf worshipped there, and the priests that officiated, would not be able to avert the stroke of divine vengeance, or turn back the enemy, and save the land from ruin. The Targum is,
"and there be none to quench it, because of your sins, who have been serving idols in Bethel.''
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
6. break out like fire—bursting through everything in His way. God is "a consuming fire" (De 4:24; Isa 10:17; La 2:3).
the house of Joseph—the kingdom of Israel, of which the tribe of Ephraim, Joseph's son, was the chief tribe (compare Eze 37:16).
none to quench it in Beth-el—that is, none in Beth-el to quench it; none of the Beth-el idols on which Israel so depended, able to remove the divine judgments.
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