|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
10:1-8 A vine is only valuable for its fruit; but Israel now brought no fruit to perfection. Their hearts were divided. God is the Sovereign of the heart; he will have all, or none. Were the stream of the heart wholly after God, it would run strongly, and bear down all before it. Their pretences to covenant with God were false. Even the proceeding of justice was as poisonous hemlock. Alas, how empty a vine is the visible church even at this day! But all earthly prosperity is but a collection of bubbles, soon destroyed like foam upon the water. Sinners will in vain seek shelter from that Judge, whom they now despise as a Saviour.
Verse 4. - God, by the prophet, had charged Israel with fruitlessness, or with bringing forth fruit to themselves; with perverting the bounties of his providence in promoting idolatry; with their division of heart, or deceitfulness of heart. He had also threatened to punish them for their sin, and to deprive them of the means of sinning by destroying the instruments thereof, and to prevent their obtaining any help from their king, proving to them the folly of depending on him. He now proceeds, in this and following verses (4-8), to point out their moral corruption, the usual consequence or concomitant of irreligion and of false religion, instancing their deceptive dealing in the common affairs of life and their perjury in public compacts or covenants, as also their general unrighteousness. He threatens to destroy their idols to the distress of their worshippers and ministering priests as well as of their chief city. He threatens further to cause their calf-idols to be carried into captivity, pouring shame and contempt on their enterprises; to cut off their king; to leave the places of their idol-worship desolate, filling the people with distress and despair because of all their sins. They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant. In this fourth verse the prophet deplores the absence of truth, faithfulness, and loyalty to duty. This expression, "they have spoken words," is generally understood to signify
(a) "empty words," "false words," only words and no more, like the Latin verba alicui dare. Thus their vain, deceitful, lying words in private transactions and common affairs of everyday life would correspond to their perjury in public treaties and covenants. Their words were deceitful and their oaths falsehood. In their ordinary business transactions they used words, empty words, words without truth, corresponding thereto; in international concerns they had pursued the same course of falsifying and covenant-breaking. After entering into an engagement with the Assyrian king Shalmaneser, they made a covenant with So King of Egypt, as we read in 2 Kings 17:4, "And the King of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea: for he had sent messengers to So King of Egypt, and brought no present to the King of Assyria, as he had done year by year." In this latter case they acted as covenant-breakers, and at the same time contravened the Divine command, which forbade them entering into covenants with foreigners. The first clause, however, is understood by some
(b) in the sense of "deliberating.' Thus Kimchi understands it, erroneously referring it to Jeroboam and his countrymen; thus: "Jeroboam and his companions took counsel what they should do in order to strengthen the government in his hand, and they deliberated (or held consultation) that the people should not go up to Jerusalem to the house of the sanctuary; and for this purpose they bound themselves by oath and made a covenant. But their oath was a vain one, because their oath was intended to frustrate the words of the Law and the command of God, and to make images for their worship." The words אָללֺוֹת ָשוְא have been explained by some
(1) as "oaths of vanity," that is, oaths by vanity or an idol, as an oath of Jehovah is an oath by Jehovah, אָלות being taken for a noun in the plural;
(2) as predicate, while the following words supply the subject; thus: "their covenant contracts are oaths of vanity." This mistake of taking אָלות for a noun arose from the anomalous form of the word, which is really a verb. The form is explained by Aben Ezra, who calls it an irregular formation, as if it were compounded of the infinitive construct as indicated by the ending אּות, and the infinitive absolute as indicated by the qamets in the first syllable; it is in reality the infinitive absolute, and the irregularity is owing to the assonance with karoth thence resulting. As to the construction, it is that of the infinitive standing in place of the finite verb, of which Gesenius says, "This is frequent... in the expression of several successive acts or states, where only the first of the verbs employed takes the required form in respect to tense and person, the others being simply put in the infinitive with the same tense and person implied." The meaning of the clause is obviously that there was no longer any respect for the sanctity of an oath; while the treaties refer to those made with the Assyrian king, with the object of securing and upholding the government. Thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field. The judgment here spoken of is understood
(1) by the Hebrew interpreters, following the Chaldee Version, as the judgment of God and consequent punishment of Israel because of sin; thus Kinchi: "Therefore there springs up against them the judgment of chastisements and punishments like hemlock, which is a bitter herb that springs up on the furrows of the field." Some, again,
(2) explain it of the decree of the kings of Israel in reference to the worship of idols, which, like a bitter herb, was to issue in national ruin. We much prefer
(3) the more obvious sense of the clause which refers it to the perversion of judgment and justice. Thus Amos addresses them as those who "turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth," and calls on them to "establish judgment in the gate;" and Habakkuk writes, "Wrong [wrested] judgment proceedeth." It is implied in the mention of furrows that there has been careful preparation for the intended crop. The seed they sow is injustice; and the plant that springs up from it is a poison-plant - hemlock, bitter and noxious, and is everywhere rampant. Another
(4) explanation understands "judgment" in the sense of crime which calls on judgment for punishment. The field is that of the Israelitish nation; in all the furrows of that wide field judgment, that is, crime, springs up as luxuriantly and abundantly as hemlock. The multiplication of crime in Israel, like a luxurious noxious growth in some large field, is the idea thus conveyed. This explanation has the appearance at least of being somewhat strained and forced, though it yields a good sense.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant,.... Those are other crimes they were guilty of, for which the wrath of God could not be awarded from them by a king, if they had one, or by any other. They had used vain and idle words in their common talk and conversation; and lying and deceitful ones to one another in trade and commerce, in contracts and promises; and so had deceived and overreached one another: they had belched out many "oaths of vanity" (u): or vain oaths and curses; their mouths had been full of cursing and bitterness; and they made covenants with God, and their king, and with other kings and princes, and with one another, and had not kept them; and now for these things God had a controversy with them:
thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field; either the judgment of God, his wrath and vengeance for the above sins, rose up and spread itself in all their cities, towns, and villages; or rather the judgment and justice they pretended to execute, instead of being what it should have been, useful and beneficial to the people, like a wholesome herb, sprung up like hemlock, bitter and poisonous, and spread itself in all parts of the kingdom. Injustice is meant; see Amos 6:12.
(u) "execrationes vanitatis", Schmidt.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. words—mere empty words.
swearing falsely in making a covenant—breaking their engagement to Shalmaneser (2Ki 17:4), and making a covenant with So, though covenants with foreigners were forbidden.
judgment … as hemlock—that is, divine judgment shall spring up as rank, and as deadly, as hemlock in the furrows (De 29:18; Am 5:7; 6:12). Gesenius translates, "poppy." Grotius, "darnel."
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