Hosea 7
Pulpit Commentary
When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria: for they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth without.
Verses 1-3. - When I would hays healed Israel. We may, with some, understand this healing of those

(1) prophetic admonitions and rebukes by which God designed to cure the transgressions and heal the backslidings of his people.

(2) It is more probable, however, that the reference is to the partial restoration of the national prosperity in the days of Jeroboam II., who "restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain."

(3) Jerome's exposition is not so natural when he says, "The sense is: When I wished to blot out the old sins of my people, on account of ancient idolatry, Ephraim and Samaria discovered new idols;" the old sins and ancient idolatry he refers to the making and worshipping of the golden calf in the wilderness, while the new idols were the calf-worship which Jeroboam of the tribe of Ephraim instituted, and the people of the capital, Samaria, adopted. When God would heal, or as often as he proceeded to heal, Israel, the evils broke out afresh, or came more fully to light, just like a wound the dangerous nature of which is discovered by the surgeon's probe in the effort to heal it. Then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria. The sin of the northern kingdom manifested itself in high quarters - in the premier tribe of Israel, and in the capital city of Samaria. "Because," says Abort Ezra, in his comment, "they said, He hath torn, and he will heal us, he says, When I was disposed to heal them, the wickedness concealed in their heart stood before my face, which they have not left off until the present time, for they practice falsehood; by night they steal, and by day troops (of bandits) spread themselves outside the cities." Similarly, Rashi explains: "When I was willing to help and to heal them, their iniquities manifested themselves before me, for they practiced lying constantly; while thieves of their number entered in continually, and stole the wealth of their companions, and even their gangs spread themselves for robberies to rob men." For they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth (margin, strippeth) without. Here follows an enumeration of the crimes of which they were guilty. There was falsehood, or fraud, or deception generally, and that, not only in words, but in works; next comes dishonesty, both in public and in private. The thief privately entered the houses, and committed burglary; gangs of highwaymen publicly infested the roads, spoiling the passers-by, or rather roamed or spread themselves abroad for plunder, since it is the causative conjugation of pashat that has the signification of stripping or spoiling others. The thief within, the rubber robs without.
And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before my face.
Verse 2. - And they consider not in their hearts (margin, say not to their heart) that I remember all their wickedness. Between the common reading libravken and bilravken found in several manuscripts by Kennicott and De Rossi, there is a not unimportant difference. The latter, equivalent to saying "in their heart," which is the usual expression, denotes one's inward thoughts or reasonings with himself; the former, equivalent to saying "to their heart," is an address to, or remonstrance with, the heart with the view of restraining its evil purposes. God's remembrance of wickedness imports its punishment. Now their own doings have beset them about. Their doings

(1) have become evident or conspicuous as a robe or garment with which a man is surrounded, or a troop of body-guards placed about him. Or

(2) the terrors and penal consequences of their sins have surrounded them like a garment, as we elsewhere read, "He clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment." In this latter sense the figure is rather taken from enemies besieging a town or city, and beleaguering it closely all around, or from lictors, i.e. officers of the law surrounding them, or even witnesses confronting them on every side. Kimchi explains the sense as follows: "Now their evil deeds surround them, which were before my face and were not hidden from me; and, while they receive the punishment, they will remember that 1 know all the whole, and that it is I who return their reward upon their head." They are before my face, in the last clause, has a striking and awe-inspiring parallel in the ninetieth psalm: "Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance." Aben Ezra's exposition is somewhat obscure; it is as follows: "They think that I do not see them, and they do not observe that their actions encircle them, as they are before my face."
They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies.
Verse 3. - They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies. The moral corruption and depravity of Israel were extreme and universal. They reached from the rabble to royalty, from the common people to the princes of the court. The king and princes were in full accord with fellows of the basest sort, taking pleasure in their wickedness trod applauding their lies.

(1) Rosenmüller quotes the explanation of Abarbanel to the following purport: "He (the prophet) means to say that the violent men of that ago were accustomed to narrate their atrocities to their kings, that the latter might thence derive entertainment." It is much the same whether the king and princes of that time took pleasure in the villanies which were perpetrated, or in the narratives of those villanies to which they listened,

(2) A somewhat different rendering, and consequently different exposition, have much to recommend them: "In their wickedness they make the king merry, and in their feigning the princes;" their wickedness was their diabolical design to assassinate king and princes; with this object in view they make the king merry with wine so that he might fall an easy and unsuspecting victim; their feigning was their fell purpose of assassination under the profession of friendship. Such was the desperate treachery of those miscreant conspirators. This view tallies well with the context.
They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker, who ceaseth from raising after he hath kneaded the dough, until it be leavened.
Verse 4. - The difficulty of the section including vers. 4-7 has occasioned considerable difference of exposition; it may not, therefore, be amiss to supplement the foregoing observations.

1. Aben Ezra accounts for בערה being accented as milel

(1) on the ground that, though a feminine formation, it is really masculine (to agree with תניו), like נחלה and לילה, both of which, though feminine in form, are notwithstanding of the masculine gender. Abarbanel, who is followed by Wunsche,

(2) takes בֹּעָרְה as a participle feminine for בֹּעָרהָ or בֹּעֶרָח, which is justified by the circumstance that the names of fire and of what is connected therewith are feminine in the Semitic, so that חנור is feminine.

2. The word מֵעִיר, which Ewald and others take, properly we think,

(1) as participle of Hiph., is treated

(2) by Genenius and Maurer as infirmitive Qal with rain prefixed, which would occasion the awkward and unusual combination of two infinitives each prefixed with rain in immediate sequence; while

(3) Kimchi takes it as infinitive Hiph. contracted for מֵהֵעִיר.

3. More important still is the interpretation of the verse. There is

(1) that already given, and which is in some measure supported by the following rabbinic comments: "Their evil passion," says Rashi, "which stirs them up, rests from kneading the dough until it is leavened, i.e. from the time that any one has thought on evil in his heart how he shall execute it, he rests and sleeps till the morning, when he shall be able to execute it, as the baker rests from kneading the dough until it is leavened, when he can bake it." Similar and yet somewhat peculiar is the concluding portion of Kimchi's comment: "As soon as he lays the pieces of wood into the oven, in order to heat it, he commands the women to knead, and he ceases to stir them (the women) up until the dough is leavened, as he estimates it in his heart, and then he rouses them to come with the dough to bake it. And this is the time when the oven is heated."

(2) The LXX. takes עיר as a noun prefixed with the preposition rain (ἀπὸ τῆς φλογός), and translates the whole as follows: "They are all adulterers, as an oven glowing from flame for hot-baking, from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened." The interpretation

(3) of Wunsche differs considerably from both the preceding; it is, "They are all adulterers, like an even, burning from a baker, who rests while stoking from the kneading of the dough till its fermentation;" and he cites in favor of this view Aben Ezra as follows: "This verse is inverted, and accordingly the sense is: As the oven of a baker burneth from the kneading of the dough till its fermentation, so that the baker can scarcely cease to stir it up, but must stir it up and heat it violently."
In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners.
Verse 5. - A like diversity of exposition is found in connection with ver. 5, at least it, first clause.

1. There is

(1) the rendering already given; but

(2) Wunsche, taking החלו from חלל, to begin, as is done by the LXX., Syriac, Chaldee, and Jerome, translates:" The princes begin [i.e. open] the day of our king in the heat of wine." Consequently, yom is

(a) the object of this verb; while,

(b) according to the usual rendering, it is the accusative of time, equivalent to ביום; others again

(c) take the word as a nominative absolute, or translate the clause as an independent one; thus Simson: "It is the day of our king."

2. Again, חֲמַח st. construct of חֵמָה, from the root חמם or יחם, (for the construct state is used, not only for the genitive-relation, but also before prepositions, the relative pronoun, relative clauses, even ray copulative, etc.), is

(1) the accusative of the clause, equivalent to "in the heat (proceeding) from wine;" or

(2) be may be understood; or

(3) the preposition rain may be regarded as transposed, - Rashi explains it: "From the heat of the wine that burneth in them;" or

(4) בַּעֲלֵי may be supplied, as Wunsche suggests, equivalent to "possessors (bearers) of heat from wine."

3. לֵצ is a scoffer and worse than כְסִיל, a fool, or פְחִי, a simpleton; the last acts through inexperience, the second from unwisdom, the first, though possessing in some measure both wisdom and experience, acts in disregard of both. The meaning is given by Kimchi in the following comment: "The sense of חי מי is that the one came with his bottle full of wine, and the other with his bottle; and they made the king sick;" and to this there is an exact parallel in Habakkuk 2:15, "Woe unto him that giveth his neigh-hour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also." In the second clause the expression, "drawing out the hand," is borrowed from drunken carousals, in which the hand is stretched out in asking, receiving, and handing the goblets; or, more simply, according to Pussy, who says, "Men in drink reach out their hands to any whom they meet, in token of their sottish would be friendliness."
For they have made ready their heart like an oven, whiles they lie in wait: their baker sleepeth all the night; in the morning it burneth as a flaming fire.
Verse 6. - This verse, Wunsche thinks, is probably the most difficult in the whole book.

1. The translation of the first clause in the Authorized Version is susceptible of a more literal and improved rendering.

(1) "For they bring near as an oven their heart, whilst they lie in wait;" that is, they approach the king with loyalty on their lips, but hatred in their heart. Their heart (which is the fact) is heated with evil passion, as an oven (which is the figure) is heated for baking purposes; while they are secretly set for wickedness.

(2) Wunsche, after enumerating a great variety of renderings and expositions, with none of which he is satisfied, gives the following: "For they press close together; like an oven is their heart in their artifice (cunning)." The meaning, according to the same author, is that all, scoffers and king alike, press near each other, being of one heart and disposition; cunning makes them one single society.

(3) Keil translates more simply as follows: "For they have brought their heart into their ambush, as into the oven." In this rendering he combines the explanation of Ewald and Hitzig.

2. In the second clause which Keil translates in the same sense as

(1) the Authorized Version, Wunsche

(2) changes the common reading into אַפְהָם, equivalent to אַפָם, their anger, and translates accordingly, "All night their anger sleeps, in the morning it burns like flaming fire." That the reading here is somewhat doubtful may be inferred from the fact that the LXX. has Ἔφραιμ: while the Chaldee and Syrian rugzehon, their fury; still, as it is only a conjectural emendation, we prefer abiding by the ordinary reading and rendering, at least in this instance. The following explanation of the whole verse by Aben Ezra gives a consistent sense: "By בארבם are meant their evil purposes, which they devise all night long. And their heart is like an oven, only with the difference that there the baker sleeps the whole night, and only in the morning kindles the oven; but their heart does not sleep at all, but devises evil the whole night." It is curious how Rashi and Kimchi, while giving in the main the same explanation with Aben Ezra, differ from him about the meaning of the sleeping. The former has the following brief comment: "Their baker lights the oven. After they have prepared their heart and thought out the consummation of their wickedness, how they could carry the same into effect, then their baker sleeps, that is, they sleep till morning; at the break of day, however, they burn like fire, until they have brought their wickedness fully to an end." Kimchi goes into the matter a little more fully, as is usual with him; he comments as follows: "The heart is the instrument of the thought, and the power that works therein is the baker by way of figure. And as the baker lights the oven at night, and in the morning finds that the pieces of wood have burnt out, and he baketh therein the bread, which is the chief end of the work of heating; and lo, the baker sleeps in the night after he has put the pieces of wood into the oven, because he has nothing more to do till the morning. Just so the baker in this figurative sense, which is the power of thought - he sleeps in the night; as if he said he lies there and rests, because the project comes not forth into execution until the morning; and the prophet calls him who thinks sleeping, because that there is no effort of the body in thought, In the morning he burneth, as if he said that they are in flame in the morning to execute the evil which they have devised at night."
They are all hot as an oven, and have devoured their judges; all their kings are fallen: there is none among them that calleth unto me.
Verse 7. -

1. "To call unto me (God)" is to cry to God for help and succor, to seek safety and deliverance with him. It is not the same with that other expression, viz. "to call on the Name of Jehovah," which is rather to reverence and worship Jehovah.

2. The word דין is more poetic than שָׁפַט, though the meaning of both is "judging," the latter probably derived from שָׁפַח, to set, then to set right, defend.

3. Their not calling unto God is well explained by Kimchi as follows: "Also they (the people) had failed by the hand of their enemies, the kings of the Gentiles; but, notwithstanding this, no one among them calls to me. They should have thought in their heart, There is no power in the hand of our king to help us out of our distress; we will turn to Jehovah, for he will be our Helper." This verse is not so difficult as the three preceding; we proceed, therefore, in regular order to the next.
Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.
Verse 8. - Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned. The people of the northern kingdom had fallen away from Jehovah, and mixed themselves with the heathen nationalities. They resembled a cake which, through neglect of turning, was burnt on the one side and raw on the other. The best commentary on the first clause of this verse is found in Psalm 106:35, 36, and 39; they "were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them.... Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a-whoring with their own inventions." The second clause is well explained by Bishop Horsley as follows: "One thing on one side, another on the other; burnt to a coal at bottom, raw dough at the top. An apt image of a character that is all inconsistencies. Such were the ten tribes of the prophet's day; worshippers of Jehovah in profession, but adopting all the idolatries of the neighboring nations, in addition to their own semi-idolatry of the calves." Similarly, the Geneva Bible has, "Baked on one side and raw on the ether, he is neither through hot nor through cold, but partly a Jew and partly a Gentile." Jehovah had chosen Israel out of the nations of the earth, and given them a special constitution. The object of this segregation was that Israel should be a peculiar people and a holy nation. Thus distinguished, they were to dwell alone; but, ungrateful for this high distinction, and unmindful of their high destiny, they mingled with the nations, learned their heathenish ways, and worshipped their hateful idols. Thus they forfeited their theocratic pre-eminence. While it was their privilege as well u duty to follow the precepts of Jehovah, and serve him with undivided affection, they fell away from his service and adopted the idolatries and habits of the heathen; it was only a just retribution, therefore, when God gave them ever into the hand of those heathen peoples to waste their resources and leave them shorn of their strength. The second clause is the counterpart of this; exactly like the peoples subsequently brought from Assyria, and planted in the lands of the dispossessed Israelites, they worshipped the Lord, but served their own gods - they were neither true worshippers of Jehovah nor out-and-out followers of Baal. In religion they were mongrels - inconsistent and worthless hybrids; they were, in fact, what Calvin in rather homely phrase says of them," neither flesh nor fish." The comment of Kimchi is concise as it is clear: "The prophet means to say, He (Israel) mixes himself among the peoples; though God - blessed be he I - separated them from them, yet they mix them. selves among them and do according to their works." His explanation of the second clause is not so satisfactory when he says, "As a cake which is baked upon the coals; if they do not turn it, it is burnt below and not baked above, so is the counsel that is not right when they do not turn it from side to side (sense to sense) until they bring it upon their wheels (into action). So (thoughtless and hasty) is Ephraim in his determination to serve the calves and other gods without proving and choosing what is good."

(2) Other explanations need only be referred to in order to be rejected, as

(1) that of Rashi, who is followed by Grotius. He takes the verb in the future sense: "Ephraim in exile shall be mixed among the peoples." But it is obviously the present, not the future time, that is intended - the present sin, not its future punishment. There is

(2) the explanation of Aben Ezra, followed by Eichhorn and Maurer, referring to the alliances or treaties which the northern kingdom formed with their neighbors to repel their enemies, and by which the resources of the land were consumed; while the second clause,

(a) according to Aben Ezra, refers to the over-hastiness and thoughtlessness with which Israel proceeded in their resolutions; and,

(b) according to Maurer, Jerome, and Theodoret, it signifies what is spoiled, ill-advised, and worthless.
Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not.
Verse 9. - Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not. Israel's intercourse with other nationalities could not but issue in disaster; a specimen of that disaster is here given. As the Greeks called all who did not speak the Greek language, whether they were savage or civilized, barbarians, so Israel called all foreigners, whether near or far off, strangers. The foreign nations here meant were those with which Israel had entered into treaties or formed alliances, in contravention of the constitution which God had given them. These nations, moreover, devoured their national resources by the imposition of taxes and hostile incursions; thus the King of Syria left "of the people to Jehoahaz only fifty horsemen, and ten chariots, and ten thousand footmen; for the King of Syria had destroyed them, and had made them like the dust by threshing;" again, when "Pul, the King of Assyria, came against the laud," we read that Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand. And Menahem exacted the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver, to give to the King of Assyria;" then, "in the days of Pekah King of Israel came Tiglath-pileser King of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abel-beth-maachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazer, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria. "The strength here mentioned includes all those things which constitute the wealth and well-being of a country, the produce of the soil and the riches of its inhabitants. Thus Aben Ezra rightly explains this clause, referring it to "the tribute which the Israelites gave to Assyria and Egypt, as is written in the Book of Kings." Yea, grey hairs are here and there (margin, sprinkled) upon him. What from foreign foes and internal feuds, the body politic was manifesting unmistakable symptoms of decay and decrepitude and approaching dissolution, just as grey hairs on the human body give indication of the advance of old age, with its decay of strength and nearness to the tomb. "The course of nature," says Aben Ezra, "has sprinkled grey hairs upon him, just as grey hair comes on men in consequence of the course of nature;" this corresponds to the sentiment of the preceding clause, for, according to the commentator just named," the grey hair denotes that their power is weakened and their possession perished." Yet he knoweth not is parallel to. "And he knoweth (it) not," and repeats the same sentiment, of course with emphasis of what was Israel thus ignorant? Not, surely, of the declining state of the national strength and the decay of the national importance. After so many drains upon their resources and the unsatisfactory position of their foreign relations, they could not shut their eyes upon the steadily and even rapidly approaching decadence. But though they could not pretend ignorance of the fact, they remained in ignorance of the cause, its consequence, and the cure. Notwithstanding the already exhausted condition of their country, and the process of exhaustion still going on, they overlooked the lamentable cause of all, which was their sin, national and individual, in departing from the Lord; and at the same time the dangerous consequences that were neither remote nor capable of being staved off; as also the only possible cure to be found in direct and immediate return and application to that God from whom they had so revolted. The "it" supplied in the Authorized Version

(1) had better be omitted;

(2) the construction adopted by Rashi and others, who make the first part of each clause the object of the second, is erroneous, as we have shown in the preceding observations. "They took it not to heart that the kings of Syria consumed them in the days of Jehoahaz" is the exposition of Rashi just referred to; but that of Kimchi favors the first and correct construction, as may be inferred from the words, "And he (Israel) knows not that on account of his iniquity all this has come upon him, and yet he turns not from his wickedness."
And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him for all this.
Verse 10. - And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek him for all this (amid all this). If with Keil and others

(1) we understand "the pride of Israel" to mean Jehovah the glory of Israel, and take the verb in the sense of "testify," the meaning will be that Jehovah bore witness to the face of Israel by the weakening and wasting of their kingdom, as portrayed in the preceding verse. We prefer

(2) to understand "the pride of Israel" in the souse of "the haughtiness" of Israel, and the verb in the sense of "being humbled," as at Hosea 5:5. The real meaning, then, is expressed in the following rendering: And the haughtiness of Israel shall be humbled to his face. This humiliation is the effect of the wasting mentioned in the preceding verse; while the evidence of their humiliation is specified in the succeeding verse by their resorting to Egypt and repairing to Assyria from a consciousness of their helplessness. This rendering is countenanced by the LXX., both here and at Hosea 5:5; while Rashi says, "The verb עגה has the meaning of "humiliation." For all this. This emphasizes the obstinate blindness and perverseness of Ephraim, when, amid all the calamities and miseries of the kingdom both within and without, they turned not to Jehovah to solicit help and deliverance, but concluded treaties or made alliances with foreign nations in hope of being lifted up out of their national impotence. On this Aben Ezra makes the judicious remark: "They turned not to Jehovah as paupers who have nothing more to give foreign nations that they may help them."
Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.
Verse 11. - Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart. The silliness of the dove, with which the stupidity of Ephraim is compared, is not manifested by its missing its nest and resting-place, and then helplessly fluttering about, according to Ewald; nor by its falling into the net of the bird-catcher in its effort to escape from the hawk, according to Hitzig; nor by its neither grieving nor searching for its young when it is robbed of them, according to Jerome; nor by its becoming dejected or devoid of consideration when it has lost its young, according to the Targum; but by its flying right into the net of the bird-catcher, without suspecting or observing it in its search for food, according to Rosenmüller. Thus Kimchi explains it: "The prophet compares Ephraim to a dove which gets caught in a net owing to its simplicity, because it has no sense to perceive that, when it goes to gather grains of corn, a net is spread there to catch it. So Ephraim, when they went and asked help from Assyria or from Egypt, (did not perceive) that they went to their hurt, when they sought help from the foreign nations and not from God - blessed be he! - in whose hand all is. And he mentions the dove, though it is the manner of other birds, because the dove has no bitterness, as if it went in simplicity and without apprehension of the evil that would come upon it." They call to Egypt, they go to Assyria. The position of Palestine exposed its inhabitants to attacks from the two great rival powers of Egypt and Assyria, or Babylon. "It stood midway," says Stanley, "between the two great seats of ancient empire, Babylon and Egypt. It was on the high-road from one to the other of these mighty powers, the prize for which they contended, the battlefield on which they fought, the lofty bridge over which they ascended and descended respectively into the deep basins of the Nile and Euphrates." Accordingly the rulers of the people sought help, now from Egypt to strengthen them against the oppression of Assyria; at another time they sought to secure the support of Assyria. The most powerful enemy of the northern kingdom was Assyria, which distressed that kingdom more and more, until at last they made an end of it. "But," says Kimchi, "while they think to obtain help by them (Egypt and Assyria), they fall into the net of the Almighty - blessed be he - and this is what he says (in the following verse). As they go I spread my net over them."
When they shall go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard.
Verse 12. - When they shall go, l will spread my net over them. Threats of punishment are contained in this and the following verses. He begins by the application of the comparison of Ephraim to a dove. Exactly as a dove in its silliness falls into the net set by the fowler, so Israel runs into the net of destruction in seeking help from Egypt and Assyria. The literal rendering is, according as they go, or, whatsoever way they shall go. God threatens to spread a net over them, from which there can be no escape. The chief aim of Hebrew sovereigns and rulers was to defend themselves from Egypt by the help of Assyria, or from Assyria by the aid of Egypt; in either case God threatens to spread over them the net of destruction as the bird-catcher. The application to one or other of these powers God forbade, but when they go to either for relief, the result is sure to prove fatal. The image of a net is frequent in Ezekiel; so in Job, he "hath compassed me with his net." I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven. The comparison with birds and bird-catching continues. Though their sunward soaring flight be high as the eagle's, or rapid as the soft swift wing of the dove, they cannot outspeed or escape the hand of God, but shall be brought down to earth. Or the idea may be that, swiftly as a bird of prey swoops down out of the free air of heaven upon its quarry on the low-lying earth, Jehovah will bring Israel down out of the air of freedom into the net of captivity. Thus in Obadiah 1:4 we read, "Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord;" likewise in Amos 9:2, "Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down." I will chastise them as their congregation hath heard. The word אַיְסִידֵם is an anomalous Hiph. instead of אֵיסִירֵם, that is, yod mobile instead of yod quiescent or diphthongal zere. The literal rendering makes the meaning more obvious; it is: "I will chastise them according to the tidings [or,' announcement '] to their congregation." In the Law and by the prophets it was repeatedly declared that judgments would fall upon the disobedient and rebellions. As specimens of such announcements, we may refer to Leviticus 26:14-39; Deuteronomy 28:15-68; and Deuteronomy 32:15-35 The prophet now assures Ephraim that the judgments so frequently and forcibly announced to the congregation of the children of Israel in the wilderness, and repeated in subsequent times by the prophets, would be executed on the rebellious rigorously, and in exact accordance with those many previous denunciations. Kimchi has the following comment: "I will assemble them through the chastisement of the peoples, as I announced to their assembly in the wilderness words of chastisement, which are written in the Law, if they will not hearken to the words of the Law." The LXX. may have read צרתם, as their rendering is ἐν τῇ ἀκοῇ τῆς θλίψεως αὐτῶν, equivalent to "'I will chasten them with the rumor of their (coming) affliction,"
Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me.
Verse 13. - Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction (margin, spoil) unto them! because they have transgressed against me. Of these exclamations, the first is general and indefinite, the second is specific and precise. The thought of coming chastisement calls forth the exclamation of woe; while the second exclamation fixes the character and explains the nature of that woe denounced. In neither case does יְהִי or ךיבֹא need to be supplied; the opposite expression is שָׁלום לָהֶם or בְּלָכָה לָהָם In assigning the reason, there is a retrospective reference to the figures of the two immediately preceding verses. The word נָדַד with rain is employed in relation to birds which, when scared from their nest, fly away. Kimchi thinks it applies to the abstention or withdrawal of the Israelites from Divine service in the national sanctuary in Jerusalem. His comment is: "They fly from me, from the service of the house of my sanctuary, to the service of the calves; and this is a breach of faith and defection from me." The LXX. translate the beginning of the second clause freely by δειλαῖοι εἰσὶν, equivalent to "they are cowards;" and Jerome by "miseri (maticulose) erunt, et semper timentis ac formidantes." The cause assigned is their breaking covenant with God, which is expressed by פָשַׁע, literally, "to break away from," "tear one's self loose from." Though I have redeemed them. This first part of the last clause is rendered

(1) as a past by some, as Jerome, who refers it to the redemption from Egypt; thus also the Chaldee: "And I was their Deliverer." Rosenmüller approves of this, but, instead of restricting it to the deliverance from Egypt, includes their recent deliverance from the Syrians by Jeroboam II. It is

(2) better rendered in a voluntative or optative sense: "I would (should like) to redeem them, but they speak lies against (or, concerning) me." The verb 'ephdem cannot with any propriety be taken for a preterit. Yet they have spoken lies against me; rather, but they on their part have spoken lies concerning me. The prophet had already charged them with lying at ver. 3, and previously at Hosea 4:2; but their lies were not confined to their intercourse or dealings with their fellow-men; they spoke lies against or, as the preposition sometimes signifies, concerning God. The lies in question included, no doubt, a denial of his essential Deity or sole Divinity; of his power or willingness either to protect or punish. Or they might consist in their falsehood in drawing near to God with their lips without either true faith or real affection in their hearts; some were directly opposed to the claims of Jehovah, some insincere in his service, and others turned aside to the idolatry of the calves - all, with probably some honorable exceptions, had proved false to his covenant with Israel. The last clause has been taken

(3) independently by Ewald, without any considerable alteration of the sense: "I, for my part, would redeem them, but they, on their side, speak lies against me." Other acceptations,

(a) interrogative and

(b) conditional, evidently mistake the sense.

The whole clause is correctly explained by Kimchi thus: "It was in my heart to redeem them out of their distress; but they speak lies against me, while they say that I know nothing nor exercise any providential care over their actions, whether their actions are good or bad. Therefore I have withdrawn my providential oversight, and have hidden my face from them, and they shall be consumed."
And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds: they assemble themselves for corn and wine, and they rebel against me.
Verse 14. - And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds. This clause may be more correctly rendered, They did not cry to me in their heart, but howl upon their beds. Their falsehood manifested itself in works as well as words; a practical example is here given. They did not, in reality, seek help from God; if they sought at all, it was insincerely. They cried to God, but that cry did not proceed from their heart. They gave vent to their feelings of distress by howlings upon their beds; but those howlings were the expression of unbelief and despair, not by any means evidences of faith. "They do not cry to me," says Aben Ezra, "as the sick man cries to the physician." The comment of Kimchi is still fuller and more explicit: "They have not cried to me in their heart, because of their notion that I do not see their cry nor know what is good or bad for them; but they howl upon their beds, i.e. when they are upon their bed and when they think of that misfortune which is coming upon them. They howl and weep because of their evil case, and do not think that the evil falls on them from me, because they have broken faith with me." The form of יְיֵלִלִוּ is correctly explained by Gesenius as future Hiph. with preformative put before the third person, the yod of the simple form being superficially taken to belong to the stem. His derivation from אֵל, God, as if a cry to him for help, is incorrect; it is really an onomatopoetic word. They assemble themselves for corn and wine, and they rebel against me. What this

(1) assembling of themselves was does not clearly appear; whether it was in the market-place or elsewhere to purchase corn in time of famine, as some think; or in idol-temples to propitiate their deities, like the Roman supplicatio or lectiosternium, as others suppose; or for the performance of some extra rite of worship to Jehovah; or for the purpose of plunder in a season of scarcity; or generally their assembling in knots and crowds to discuss anxiously and lament despairingly the distressed state of the country; - their chief design and highest aim being a good supply of corn and wine, that is, the supply of mere bodily wants.

(2) The LXX. seem to have read ויתגדדו, as their rendering is κατετεμνόντο, equivalent to "they cut themselves," or" pined for corn and wine;" corresponding to which rendering is Cyril's exposition: "As enthusiasts and fanatics making incisions with steel in their breasts and both hands, and absurdly all but shedding in sacrifice their own blood, perhaps to graven images."

(3) Jerome, taking the verb from גָּרַר, to ruminate, translates accordingly: "super triticum et vinum ruminabant."

(4) The Syriac, tracing it to גוּר, to be afraid, translates: "They feared (or, were fearfully anxious) about corn and wine." The common reading and rendering are clearly preferable; Kimchi's exposition is in harmony therewith: "When corn or new wine comes into the city for sale, they all assemble at (or, round) it on account of the famine which is in the city; and yet they fall away from me." The construction of the last clause is pregnant, that is

(1) "they turn aside (and turn) against me." Here, again

(2) the LXX. seem to have read יִוָּסְרוּ, to which their translation, ἐπαιδεύθησαν ἐν ἐμοί, equivalent to "they were instructed by me," corresponds.
Though I have bound and strengthened their arms, yet do they imagine mischief against me.
Verse 15. - Though I have bound (margin, chastened) and strengthened their arms, yet do they imagine mischief against me. The first clause of this verse is more accurately translated as follows: And yet I have instructed, have strengthened their arms. Here we have another instance of God's goodness and Israel's ingratitude. He had done much for them, and would fain have done more; and yet the return they made was devising mischief against him. The arms are the seat and symbol of strength, as the hands and fingers symbolize skill; thus, in reference to the latter the psalmist says, "Blessed be the Lord my Strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight;" and with regard to the former he says, "He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms." Two benefits are here included in the prophet's enumeration. He instructed the arms, by which is meant that he showed them how and where to get strength. But this was not all; he not only directed to the source, and taught the secret of acquiring strength, he actually supplied strength, thereby giving them power to contend against and conquer their enemies. At a time when "there was not any shut up, nor any left [that is, 'neither bond nor free'] nor helper for Israel... the Lord... saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash." Notwithstanding all this, they

(1) acted the part of apostates and rebels against him: they devised mischief against him by their idolatry which denied him the Godhead glory which was his due, and by their rebellion which aimed at depriving him of his kingly power and dignity. The reference of the last clause,

(2) according to Ewald, is to the treaties which Israel entered into with Assyria and Egypt for safety and defense; and

(3) according to Kimchi, to Israel's false representations of the government and providence of Jehovah: "For they say the good or evil does not come to them from me, but is purely accidental." With respect to יסר, it must be borne in mind that, like ינח, it has two meanings, viz. the chastisement of punishment (κόλασις) and the chastisement of love (παιδεία).
They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.
Verse 16. - They return, but not to the Most High. This verse is closely connected in sense with the preceding. Their God-defying attitude, as described in ver. 15, is represented in ver. 16 allegorically as a deceitful bow, which fails to scud the arrow to the mark; also their unsuccess is represented as exposing them to the derision of Egypt; while the princes who spake so exceeding proudly, and who instigated their ungodliness and consequent wretchedness, would be slain with the sword. This is the drift of the whole verse; its details, however, demand more particular consideration.

1. The word עַל is by some identified in meaning with

(1) the adjective עֶלְיון, equivalent to "the Most High;" by others

(2) it is taken adverbially, and translated "upwards."

(3) The Septuagint does not express it. translating ἀπεστράφησαν εἰς οὐθέν, "They turned aside to that which is not [literally, 'nothing']."

(4) Jerome translates it as is עֹל, were equivalent to "yoke: They returned that they might be without a yoke." Their return, according to Jerome, would be to their pristine condition before the can of Abram, like the other nations, without yoke or knowledge of law.

2. The return spoken of implies that there were junctures at which they seemed disposed to return to religiousness, but ere long they again relapsed into idolatry. They disappointed the high hopes raised, and missed their own high destiny, and thus they resembled a bow, of which the string, losing its elasticity, could not propel the arrow to the object aimed at. Appearing to return to the worship of Jehovah, they turned aside to an idol. Thus in Psalm 78:57, they "turned back and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow."

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

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