|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:1-7 Israel was prosperous, yet then Hosea boldly tells them of their sins, and foretells their destruction. Men are not to be flattered in sinful ways because they prosper in the world; nor will it last long if they go on still in their trespasses. The prophet must show Israel their sin; show it to be exceedingly hateful. Their idolatry is the sin they are here charged with. Giving that glory to any creature which is due to God alone, is an injury and affront to God; such as for a wife to take a stranger, is to her husband. The Lord, doubtless, had good reasons for giving such a command to the prophet; it would form an affecting picture of the Lord's unmerited goodness and unwearied patience, and of the perverseness and ingratitude of Israel. We should be broken and wearied with half that perverseness from others, with which we try the patience and grieve the Spirit of our God. Let us also be ready to bear any cross the Lord appoints. The prophet must show the ruin of the people, in the names given to his children. He foretells the fall of the royal family in the name of his first child: call his name Jezreel, which signifies dispersion. He foretells God's abandoning the nation in the name of the second child; Lo-ruhamah, not beloved, or not having obtained mercy. God showed great mercy, but Israel abused his favours. Sin turns away the mercy of God, even from Israel, his own professing people. If pardoning mercy is denied, no other mercy can be expected. Though some, through unbelief, are broken off, yet God will have a church in this world till the end of time. Our salvation is owing to God's mercy, not to any merit of our own. That salvation is sure, of which he is the Author; and if he will work, none shall hinder.
Verse 5. - And it shall some to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel. Here we have a prediction of a most momentous event, with express statement of the place where it should occur, as also the time of its occurrence. The event itself was more than the downfall of a dynasty; it was the destruction of a kingdom. The date of that destruction is defined simply as the period when God would punish the sins of both the princes and people of Israel The close of Jehu's dynasty was at once the preparation for and the commencement of the cessation of the kingdom of Israel. The place of this calamity was the Valley of Jezreel. This famous valley was the cockpit of Palestine. There Israel conquered the host of King Jabin; there Gideon overthrew the Midianites; there Saul was defeated by the Philistines, when driven up the slopes of Gilbea "the beauty of Israel was slain in thy high places;" there a defeat equally sorrowful and not less disastrous was aggravated by the death of good King Josiah, and proved fatal to the kingdom of Judah; there, too, in later times, the last conflict took place between the Crusaders and the Moslems, in which victory crowned the arms of Saladin; there, also, was fought the battle, as we learn from this passage, which decided the fate of the kingdom of Israel. The situation of this valley was admirably suited for such scenes. This plain, or valley, broad as it is beautiful, begins where the maritime plain, interrupted by the ridge of Carmel, turns aside and extends across the center of the country from the Mediterranean Sea on the west to the Jordan valley on the east, and from the hills of Galilee on the north to those of Ephraim or Samaria on the south. The form of this plain is triangular; its eastern side or base is fifteen miles, reaching from Engannim, now Jenin, to the hills below Nazareth; the north side along the hills of Galilee is twelve miles; the southern, formed by the hills of Samaria, is eighteen miles; while the apex of this somewhat irregular triangle is a narrow pass through which the river Kishon - "that ancient river, the river Kishon" - with its winding stream makes its way to the sea. On the east there are three branches in the direction of the Jordan, which bear a remote resemblance to the fingers of a hand. The northern branch passes between Tabor and Little Hermon, or Jebel ed-Duhy; the central one, which is the Valley of Jezreel proper, runs between Shunem and Jezreel, now Zerin; the southern between Mount Gilboa and En-gannim, now Jenia - this branch, having no outlet, loses itself among the eastern hills. The name of this plain was derived from the city of Jezreel, situated near its eastern extremity on a spur of Mount Gilboa, which Ahab chose as a royal residence, and which remained so for three successive reigns, though in the time of Jeroboam II. Samaria had again, as in the days of Omri, become the royal city. In this great plain, called by the Greeks Esdraelon, the bow of Israel was to be broken. The bow (qesheth, tad. qashah, hard, stiff, unbending) was the warrior's weapon of offence and defense - strong and powerful; the breaking of his bow deprived him of his chief weapon, and left him at the mercy of the enemy to conquer or to kill; thus we read, "His bow abode in strength;" and again, "My glory was fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand." But while such general references prove the bow to have been an emblem of strength and power, as Kimchi explains it, still there is something very special and suitable in the expression of the prophet here. "In one important respect," says the author of the 'Jewish Church,' "the ancient military glory of Israel was, if not confined to the northern kingdom yet regarded as eminently characteristic of it. Judah, with all its warlike qualities, had never been celebrated for its archery. The use of the bow was there a late acquisition (2 Samuel 1:18). But in Benjamin and Ephraim it had been an habitual weapon. The bow of Jonathan was known far and wide. The children of Ephraim were characterized as 'carrying bows.' And so the chief weapon of the captain of the host of Israel was his bow. The King of Israel had always his bow and arrows with him. The sign of the fall of the kingdom was the breaking of the bow of Israel." The language employed by the prophet was thus singularly appropriate. An historical basis, though denied by some and pronounced precarious by others, is, we have little doubt, found for this prediction in Hosea 10:14 of this very book. The bow, that is, the archery in which Israel excelled so much, was broken in the Valley of Jezreel, when Shalmon, identified with Shalman-ezer, King of Assyria by Pusey and Stanley, spoiled Beth-Arbel, or Arbela, the city between Sepphoris and Tiberias, and near the middle of the valley, and thus crushed Israel in an overwhelming defeat. If the identification be sustained, that day of battle was most calamitous to Israel, and as cruel as calamitous, for neither the helplessness of infancy nor the tenderness of womanhood was spared; the infants were dashed to death against the stones, and the mothers then hurled in mortal agony upon the dead bodies of their little ones. Kimchi explains it generally: "On that day when I shall visit the blood of Jezreel, I shall break the bow of Israel, that is to say, their might and power."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And it shall come to pass at that day,.... When the Lord shall take vengeance on the family of Jehu, and deprive them of the kingdom of Israel, and shall punish the idolatrous kings that succeed:
that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel; of which valley see Joshua 17:16. It is now called the plain of Esdraelon; as it is in the Apocrypha:
"And to those among the nations that were of Carmel, and Galaad, and the higher Galilee, and the great plain of Esdrelom,'' (Judith 1:8)
the great plain of Esdraelon; according to Adrichomius, (o) it is two miles broad, and ten miles long; its soil exceeding rich and fruitful, and abounding with grain, wine, and oil; all travellers agree they never saw the like: one says (p) of this plain or valley, formerly the lot of the tribe of Issachar, this is the most fertile portion of the land of Canaan, where that tribe might well be supposed to have "rejoiced in their tents", Deuteronomy 33:18, at present, indeed, it is not manured, as another traveller (q) observes, and yet very fruitful; who says, it is of a vast extent, and very fertile, but uncultivated, only serving the Arabs for pasturage; and, according to the same writer, the ancient river Kishon runs through the middle of it: from the largeness of it, it is frequently called by writers the great plain or valley; and sometimes, from the places near it, or on it, the great plain of Legio, the great plain of Samaria, the great plain or valley of Megiddo, 2 Chronicles 35:22, and the great plain of Esdraelon, and here the valley of Jezreel; Jezreel or Esdraela being situated in this great plain or valley between Scythopolis and Legio, a very large village, as Jerom says (r) it was in his days; and also on this passage observes, that Jezreel, from whence this valley had its name, is now near Maximianopolis, and was the metropolis of the kingdom of Samaria, near which were very large plains, and a valley of a very great length, extending more than ten miles: here Ahab had a palace in his days, near to which was Naboth's vineyard, and where God revenged his blood: this city is called by Josephus (s) Azare and Azarus, or Izarus; and in the times of Gulielmus Tyrius (t) it went by the name of Little Gerinum. The "bow" is put for all instruments of war, and everything in which confidence was put, which was weakened or removed from them: this refers either to Menhchem's slaughter of Shallum, and wasting some parts of the land of Israel, 2 Kings 15:14, or rather it may be to a battle fought between Hoshea king of Israel and Shalmaneser king of Assyria in this valley, which was not far from Samaria; in which the former was defeated, and the latter, having the victory, proceeded to Samaria, besieged and took it, 2 Kings 17:6 though of the action the Scripture is silent; but it is not improbable. The Targum is,
"I will break the strength of the warriors of Israel in the valley of Jezreel;''
which seems to confirm the same conjecture. Some render it, "because of the valley of Jezreel" (u); that is, because of the idolatry, bloodshed, and other sins, committed there.
(o) Theatrum Terrae Sanctae, p. 35, 37. (p) Dr. Shaw's Travels, tom. 2. c. 1. p. 275. Ed. 2.((q) Maundrell's Journey from Aleppo, &c. p. 57. Ed. 7. (r) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 92. I.((s) Antiqu. l. 8. c. 13. sect. 6, 8. (t) Tyr. Hist. l. 22. c. 26. (u) "propter vallem Jisreelis", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator,
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
5. bow—the prowess (Jer 49:35; compare Ge 49:24).
valley of Jezreel—afterwards called Esdraelon, extending ten miles in breadth, and in length from Jordan to the Mediterranean near Mount Carmel, the great battlefield of Palestine (Jud 6:33; 1Sa 29:1).
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