Hosea 6
Pulpit Commentary
Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
Verses 1-3. - These three verses have, by the division into chapters, been violently and improperly torn from the preceding chapter, to which they naturally belong. Their connection with the foregoing sentiments is indicated by the ancient versions - Chaldee and Septuagint, the LXX., for example, inserting λέγοντες, as if the reading had been לֵאסֹר: This

(1) represents the Israelites exhorting one another in that good time which the prophet encourages them to expect. But

(2) it may be regarded as the prophet's own exhortation to the exiles; their affliction urging them to seek the Lord, and their encouragement consisting in the knowledge of his ability and willingness to heal the wounds which his own hand had inflicted. Verse 1. - He hath torn, and he will heal us. The presence of the pronoun imparts emphasis to the statement, so that it is rather, he it is that hath torn; and the preterit of this verse, compared with the future in ver. 14 of the foregoing chapter, implies that the destruction there predicted has become an accomplished fact. He hath smitten, and he will bind us up. The language is figurative, and borrowed from medical science. Jehovah, not Jareb nor any sovereign of Assyria, is the physician. Long before he had assured his people Israel of this, saying, "I am the Lord that healeth thee" (Exodus 15:26); and again, "I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal" (Deuteronomy 32:39). Aben Ezra, commenting on yachbeshena, alludes to the ancient mode of surgical practice, probably as indicated m Isaiah 1:6: A wound needs to be pressed out and bound up, and afterwards softened with oil."
After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.
Verse 2. - After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. The expression of time here employed denotes a comparatively short period, and implies that Israel's revival would be speedily as well as certainly accomplished. Paucity is signified by the binary number in Old Testament language, just as we speak of two, or a couple, in the sense of fewness. In 1 Kings 17:12 we find "two" used in this way: "Behold, I am gathering two sticks;" so in Isaiah 7:21, "A man shall nourish a young cow and two sheep;" in Isaiah 17:6 a small number is spoken of as "two or three;" while a short period is similarly described in Luke 13:32, "Behold, I east out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected." The important idea of this verse connects itself with the terms corresponding to revival, resurrection, and restoration to the Divine favor and protection. The drooping, declining, dying state of Israel would be revived; their deathlike condition would undergo a resurrection process; their disfavor would give way to Divine complacency; and all this, though not immediately, yet in a comparatively short time. This appears to us the import of the prophecy. Similar figurative language, and with like significancy, is employed by Ezekiel (37.) in his vision of the valley and the resurrection of its dry bones; as also by Isaiah (26.), where the same or a similar thought is presented in briefer, but still more beautiful, language: "Thy (lead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead." Calvin understands this verse as containing a source of consolation to Israel. "When," he says, "the Israelites, through their long obstinacy, had become nearly incurable, it was needful to lead them to repentance by slow punishments. They, therefore, said, After two days God will revive us; and thus they confirmed themselves in the hope of salvation, though it did not immediately appear; though they long remained in darkness, and the exile was long which they had to endure, they yet did not cease to hope. 'Well, lot the two days pass, and the Lord will revive us.'" To man in sorrow the time appears long; it is short in the sight of him with whom a thousand years are as one day. Kimchi's explanation is also, to a certain extent, satisfactory: "The prophet says, 'our sickness lasts for two days, yet he will heal us of our sickness, till on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live long before him,' as if he said, 'though our afflictions continue a long time.' The two days are a figaro, for 'in a short time he will bring us his salvation,' and 'on the third day' is figurative." He afterwards refers the "two days" to the captivities of his people - that in Egypt and that in Babylon; while "the third day" denotes the third or present Roman captivity, "out of which he will raise us up and we shall live before him? so that we shall never again go into captivity, but shall live continually before him, while we sin no mere." Rashi refers the words to the three temples - that of Solomon, that of Zerubbabel, and the temple that is to be built by Messiah. Some of the Fathers understand the three periods in the history of humanity - the first, under Adam, as the time of Law and captivity to sin; the second, under Christ, as the time of the gospel and of grace; and the third, with Christ, as the time of the general resurrection. Theodoret and most of the Fathers understood this verse to refer to the resurrection of Christ on the third day after three days' rest in the grave. Calvin, after giving what appeared to him "the simple and genuine sense" of the passage as applying primarily to the Jews, as we have already seen, adds, "I do not deny but that God has exhibited a remarkable and memorable instance of what is here said in his only begotten Son. As often, then, as delay begets weariness in us, let us flee to Christ; for, as it has been said, his resurrection is a mirror of our life; for we see in that how God is wont to deal with his own people: the Father did not restore life to Christ as soon as he was taken down from the cross; he was deposited in the sepulcher, and he lay there till the third day. When God, then, intends that we should languish for a time, let us know that we are thus represented in Christ our Head, and hence let us gather materials of confidence. We have, then, in Christ an illustrious proof of this prophecy." The political resurrection of Israel may dimly shadow forth, by way of type, the resurrection of Messiah and the general resurrection of which he is the Firstfruits.
Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.
Verse 3. - Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord. This is more accurately rendered by, let us therefore know, hunt after the knowledge of Jehovah, the verbs being both cohortative and no conditional particle ("if") in the second clause. The second clause is a more emphatic and energetic reaffirmation of the first, urging to active and zealous effort and steady perseverance in obtaining the knowledge of God - a knowledge theoretic, but especially practical. Aben Ezra understands the exhortation of intellectual knowledge: "To know Jehovah is the secret of all wisdom, and for this alone was man created. But he cannot know God till he has learnt many doctrines of wisdom, which are, as it were, a ladder in order to mount up to this highest step of knowledge." Kimchi, on the other hand, though quoting Aben Ezra's comment with approval, inclines to the practical side of knowledge: "Let us follow on to know Jehovah, exercising justice and righteousness." His going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth. Here, again, the translation of the Authorized Version is susceptible of improvement: his going forth is fixed as the morning dawn; and he shall come to us as the plentiful rain, as the latter rain which watereth (or, watering) the earth. Here we have two beautiful figures - the morning dawn and the fertilizing rain. The going forth of Jehovah is represented as the sun rising upon the earth, or rather as the dawn which heralds the day. The advent of salvation to his people is identified with, or symbolized by, his appearance. But the dawn of day only brings the commencement of salvation; its complement is found in the fruits and blessings of salvation. The root of motsav is zatsa, which is applied to the sunrise in Genesis 19:23, as also in Psalm 19:7. Parallel passages are found in Isaiah 58:8, "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning (dawn), and thy health shall spring forth speedily;" and Isaiah 9:2, "The Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee." Further, the word nakon, meaning "prepared," "fixed firm," is applied to the clear bright light of morning, as in Proverbs 4:18, "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect (nekon) day." The plentiful rain is that which falls after the sowing of the seed in October (the beginning of the Hebrew year) and in the following months; while the malqosh is the late or spring rain, which, tailing in March and till the middle of April, precedes and promotes the harvest. The LXX. translates the

(1) concluding clause by ὑετὸς πρώιμος and ὄψιμος erroneously, for zoreh is not a noun with b, being understood before "earth;" neither is it

(2) the future Hiph., which would necessitate the ellipse being supplied by asher; it is the Qal participle in the sense of" watering." Geshem is "a violent or plentiful rain," stronger than the usual word for" rain," matar; while malqosh is "the late rain" which ceases a short time before harvest. The explanation of the "dawn" by Aben Ezra is erroneous: "The intelligent man at the beginning knows God - blessed be he! - by his works, like the dawn of day in its going forth; but moment after moment the light increases, until the full truth becomes visible." Kimchi more correctly explains the figure as follows: "If we shall do this, viz. follow on to know the Lord, then he will be to us as the morning dawn, of which the going forth is fixed [purposed by God and certain] as though he said, He will cause his light and his goodness to shine over us." His comment on the second similitude is equally appropriate: "He will come to us as the plentiful rain, as the plentiful rain which revives the dead plants; so man sunk in sorrow is like one dead; but when deliverance comes to him it is with him as if he revived out of his dead state." Thus he shall be to his people as "morning to the weary watcher," and as "plentiful rain to the parched ground."
O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.
Verse 4. - For your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away. A new section here commences. God, having tried various expedients and many ways to restore Israel to faithfulness, finds all those methods unavailing; and now he asks what further means of reclamation he can resort to; what further punishment he is to inflict. Thus in Isaiah 1:5, "Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more!" or what additional privileges can be vouchsafed? Thus in Isaiah 5:4, "What could have been done more to my vineyard, than I have not done in it?" The reason is then assigned for such questioning; it was the brief duration of Israel's piety. It was evanescent as the early cloud which floats across a summer's sky and which the sun soon scatters for ever, or which pro-raises a refreshing shower, but which is exhaled by the sun's heat; it was transient as the dew which lies in pearly drops of beauty upon the grass, but which the foot of the passing traveler brushes away in a moment. The prophet had, in the opening verses, referred to real repentance; but now, turning to Israel, he reminds them of their repentance by way of con-trust, showing them that it was neither of the consistency nor permanent character required. Proofs of their deficiency lay on the pages of their national history. Hezekiah had done "that which was right in the sight of the Lord;" but his son and successor, Manasseh, "wrought much wickedness in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to auger." Josiah, again, was eminent for piety, so that "like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might;" but his successors degenerated, for it is added, "neither after him arose there any like him." The connection and meaning are well given by Kimchi: "How shall I heal you, and how shall I bind you up, as your repentance is by no means perfect? For if the kings of Israel did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, so have they soon turned to do evil, like Jehu. And likewise the kings of Judah, who in the days of Josiah did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, turned again to do evil in the days of his son and son's son." Thus he reproves them for the superficial and fleeting character of their goodness. The participles mashkim and holek are either co-ordinated asynde-tously, thus: "coming in the morning, going away;" or the latter is subordinated to the former: "in the morning passing away." Kimchi takes the former word as a noun after the form of makbir, equivalent to "abundance" (Job 36:31); the right rendering is, "as the dew early going away." A somewhat different rendering is proposed by Wunsche, viz. "Your goodness goeth away like a morning cloud, and like the dew in the morning;" "goodness" being the subject, "goeth away" the predicate, "like morning cloud and dew" nearer definitions.
Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth.
Verses 5, 6. - The consequence of Israel's unsteadiness and inconstancy is here stated. Because of the fluctuating and formal nature of their religiousness, God cut them down (instead of rearing them up) through his prophets by fierce denunciations, and slew them (instead of reviving them) by the Divine word. The judgment of Jehovah went forth as the lightning-fish, or was as clear and conspicuous for justice as the light of day. Neither could outward services expiate their sins, when the proper feelings and meet fruits were absent. I have hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth. The language is figurative - the first clause seems borrowed from hewing hard wood and shaping it so as to assume the required form; so God dealt with Israel to bring them into shape morally symmetrical, and make them correspond to the character of a holy people. The slaying is metaphorical, and consisted in the denunciation of death and destruction to the impenitent; in this way he killed, but did not make alive. A different rendering of the clause is given by the LXX. and also by Aben Ezra; the former has, "Therefore have I mown down your prophets; I have slain them with the word of my mouth;" the latter has, "The sense is that he slew some of the prophets who misled the people so that they did not turn (repent)." But be does not imply his hewing in among the prophets; it is instrumental. And thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth. The judgments here spoken of are the Divine judgments denounced against, or inflicted on, the people. Another reading has the pronominal suffix of the first person: "My judgment goeth forth as the light;" to which the Septuagint corresponds: κρίμα μου, equivalent to "my judgment." I desired mercy (or, mercy I delight in)... and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. The former is the right state of the life, the latter the correct condition of the heart; the former manifests itself in practice, the latter embraces the proper feelings and affections; the former is seen in works of charity and benevolence, the latter consists in right motives and the right relation of the soul to God. The Hebrew form of speech here used denotes inferior importance, not the negation of importance. A similar sentiment occurs in 1 Samuel 15:22, "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." Parallel statements are found in Isaiah 1:11-17; Psalm 40:7-9 and Psalm 50:8; also in Micah 6:8. Our Lord cites the first clause of ver. 6 twice - once against Pharisaic ceremonialism (Matthew 9:13), and again against rigorous sabbatarianism (Matthew 12:7); while there is an allusion to it in Mark 12:33, where love to God and to one's neighbor is declared to be better, or "more than, whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." Sacrifices in themselves, and when offered at the proper time and place, and as the expressions of penitent hearts and pure hands, were acceptable, and could not be otherwise, for God himself had appointed them. But soulless sacrifices offered by men steeped in sin were an abomination to the Lord; it was of such he said, "I cannot away with" them. It is to such that the prophet refers here, as is plain from the following verse.
For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.
Verse 7. - But they like men (margin, like Adam) have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me. This verse is variously rendered.

(1) They like men (that is, men in general, or the rest of mankind, to whom they are in no way superior) have transgressed the covenant.

(2) They are like men who transgress a covenant; according to this rendering the word אדם is otiose, or adds nothing, nor is indeed required.

(3) They like Adam have transgressed the covenant; this rendering, supported by the Vulgate, Cyril, Luther, Rosenmüller, and Wunsche, is decidedly preferable, and yields a suitable sense. God in his great goodness had planted Adam in Paradise; but Adam violated the commandment which prohibited his eating of the tree of knowledge, and thereby transgressed the covenant of his God. Loss of fellowship with God and expulsion from Eden were the penal consequences that immediately followed. Israel, like Adam, had been settled by God in Palestine, the glory of all lands; but, ungrateful for God's great bounty and gracious gift, they broke the covenant of their God, the condition of which, as in the case of the Adamic covenant, was obedience. Thus the comparison projects the shadow of a coming event when Israel would Jose the land of promise. There is still the word "there" to be accounted for. It cannot well be rendered "therein," nor taken as a particle of time equivalent to "the," with Cyril and others. It is local, and points to the place where their breach of covenant and faithlessness had occurred. Yet this local sense is not necessarily so limited as to be referred, with some, to Bethel, as the scene of their apostasy and idolatry. "There, to Israel," says Pusey, "was not only Bethel, or Dan, or Gilgal, or Mizpah, or Gilead, or any or all of the places which God had hallowed by his mercies and they had defiled. It was every high hill, each idol-chapel, each field-altar, which they had multiplied to their idols. To the sinners of Israel it was every spot of the Lord's land which they had defiled by their sin." The word thus acquires a very suggestive significance, reminding Israel of God's goodness on the one hand, and of their own sinfulness and ingratitude on the other.
Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood.
Verses 8, 9. - In these two verses the prophet adduces proof of that faithlessness with which he had just charged Israel. Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood. The latter clause is more literally rendered, foot-printed or foot-tracked from blood. Two things require consideration here - the place and its pollution. Gilead is sometimes a mountain range, and sometimes the mountainous region east of the Jordan; it has Bashan on the north, the Arabian plateau on the east, and Moab on the south. It stretches from the south end of the Sea of Galilee to the north end of the Dead Sea - some sixty miles in length by twenty in breadth. The part of Gilead between the Hieromax and the Jabbok is now called Jebel Ajlun; while the section south of the Jabbok forms the province of Belka. In the New Testament it is spoken of under the name of Pertea, or beyond Jordan. Sometimes the whole trans-Jordanic territory belonging to Israel is called Gilead. In the passage before us it is the name of a city, though some take it to mean the whole land of Gilead. The men of Gilead and the Gileadites in general seem to have been fierce, wild mountaineers; and yet they are represented as still worse in this Scripture. They are nut only barbarous and wicked, but murderous and infamous for homicidal atrocities. As evidence in some sort of the justness of this dark picture, the murder of Pekahiah by Pekah with "fifty men of the Gileadites." as recorded in 2 Kings 15:25, may be specified. The word עְקַוּבָּה is taken

(1) by some as the feminine of the adjective עָקוב, crafty, cunning, wily; thus Rashi explains it: "Gilead is full of people who lie in wait for murder;" and Kimchi likewise has, "Gilead is a city of evil-doers, who are crafty to murder men." But

(2) it is rather the Qal Pual participle feminine from עָקַב, to seize the heel of any one, hold, tread in the footsteps, follow, go after; which is the right meaning, viz. "tracked," as given above. We retain the Authorized Version of the first clause of ver. 9, slightly modified, viz.

(1) As troops of robbers wait for a man, so is the company of priests; חַכֵּי equivalent to חַכֵּה, wait, being an anomalous form of the infinitive Piel for חַכּוה; thus Kimchi says, "The yod stands in the place of he, and the form is the infinitive." Both Aben Ezra and Kimchi translate the first clause as above; the former beg, "The sense is, As robber-troops wait for a man who is to pass along the way, that they may plunder him, so is (or so does) the company of the priests;" the latter explains, "As troops of robbers wait for a man passing along the way to plunder him, so is the company of priests, he means to say, as the priests of the high places who combine to plunder those who pass along the way. There is

(2) another translation, which, connecting ish taken collectively with gedhudhim, and making it the subjective genitive of the infinitive כ, is, "Like the lurking of the men of the gang, s is the company of the priests." This first clause is

(3) quite misread and not rendered by the LXX.: Καὶ ἡ ἰσχύς σου ἀνδρὸς πειρατοῦ ἔκρυψαν ἱερεῖς ὁδόν, "And thy strength is that of a robber: the priests have hid the way." Instead of כְּחַכֵּי they read כְּחַך, and for חבד they read חבו or חבאו. In the second clause we prefer decidedly the translation which is intimated in the margin of the Authorized Version; thus: Along the way they murder even go Shechem. The word derekh is an adverbial accusative of place; and Sichem, the present Nablus, was situated on Mount Ephraim between Ebal and Gerizim. It was a Levitical city and a city of refuge; it thus lay on the west as Gilead on the east of Jordan, and both cities, thus perhaps nearly parallel in place on opposite sides of the river, were equal in crime and infamy. The prophet does not tell us who the wayfarers were, or whither they were bound; he only intimates that they fell victims to certain miscreant priests located in these quarters. As this city lay on the main route from the north to Jerusalem, pilgrims to the annual feasts passed along this way. The priests of the calf-win, ship, being in general persons taken from the dregs of the people, waylaid those pilgrims, whether for plunder, or through hostility to the purer worship still maintained in the holy city, or from sheer cruelty. Or it is even possible that the wayfarers referred to may have been persons going from Samaria, the northern capital, to the idolatrous worship at Bethel. In either case, on the way to their destination or on the return journey they were set upon and robbed, or, in the event of resistance, they were murdered. For they commit lewdness; rather, yea, they have committed enormity. The zimmah, or infamy, here mentioned is referred

(1) by some to unnatural wickedness (comp. Leviticus 18:17; Leviticus 19:29); it is rather

(2) a designation of wickedness and abominations in general; thus Kimchi explains it of "evil and abominable work of every kind." He further remarks: "The prophet says, Net this alone have they done; but all their works are zimmah. And perhaps zimmah may be explained of thought, as if he said, As they have thought in their heart so they have acted." On this verse generally it may be briefly remarked

(1) that "by consent" of the Authorized Version would require אחד to be joined with "shoulder;"

(2) the connection of the first and second clauses in the Authorized Version is much the same with that of Ewald: "And as troops lie in wait the company of priests murder along the way to Sichem."

(3) His explanation is that the priests murdered those that fled by the way before they reached the refuge, perhaps at the command of some leading persons ill disposed towards them.
And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit lewdness.
I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled.
Verse 10. - I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled. The house of Israel comprises

(1) the ten tribes of the northern kingdom, according to some; it seems more correct

(2) to understand it of the whole nation, including both the northern and southern kingdoms, in which case the remainder of the verse relates to the northern kingdom of the ten tribes, and the succeeding verse to the southern kingdom of the two tribes. Further, Israel is not synonymous with the parallel Ephraim, as Keil thinks; the latter is the principal tribe which led the way in Israel's apostasy. The "horrible thing" comprehends every sort of crime and abomination; while the" whoredom," literal or spiritual, is specified as an example thereof. (For the explanation of "there," see on ver. 7.)
Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of my people.
Verse 11. - Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee. The subject of shath is the indeterminate third person, like the French on, and our "they" or "one." The third person singular masculine, the third person plural, the second person singular masculine, and the passive voice are all used in this way. So here it is: "One hath appointed (set) a harvest for thee," or "a harvest is appointed for thee." The harvest is either recompense or retribution, and thus it is either good or evil, for as a man sows he maps. The context shows that the reaping here is punishment. Judah had sinned like Israel; and, in the case of both, a seed-time of sin produced a harvest of suffering and sorrow. When I returned (better, return, or, restore) the captivity of my people. The restoration here mentioned is thought

(1) by some to be the bringing back of the captives; but

(2) Keil and others, with good reason, understand it to be turning of the captivity, and that figuratively, that is to say, the restoration of his people's well-being. The shebhuth is the misery of the Hebrew people; the shubh shebhuth, recovery end restoration of them to their true destroy, But this necessitates a previous purification by punishment: with this Judah, as well as Israel, shall be visited. It is as though God said, "Let not Judah claim superiority over Israel, nor expect to escape Divine judgment more than Israel. Each reaps what he sows. When Israel has received the deserved chastisement, Judah's turn shall then come also." The "turning of captivity" is a formula denoting the restoration of the lost fortune or well-being of a people or person; thus Job 42:10, "And the Lord turned the captivity of Job."

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