|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
11:1-7 When Israel were weak and helpless as children, foolish and froward as children, then God loved them; he bore them as the nurse does the sucking child, nourished them, and suffered their manners. All who are grown up, ought often to reflect upon the goodness of God to them in their childhood. He took care of them, took pains with them, not only as a father, or a tutor, but as a mother, or nurse. When they were in the wilderness, God showed them the way in which they should go, and bore them up, taking them by the arms. He taught them the way of his commandments by the ceremonial law given by Moses. He took them by the arms, to guide them, that they might not stray, and to hold them up, that they might not stumble and fall. God's spiritual Israel are all thus supported. It is God's work to draw poor souls to himself; and none can come to him except he draw them. With bands of love; this word signifies stronger cords than the former. He eased them of the burdens they had long groaned under. Israel is very ungrateful to God. God's counsels would have saved them, but their own counsels ruined them. They backslide; there is no hold of them, no stedfastness in them. They backslide from me, from God, the chief good. They are bent to backslide; they are ready to sin; they are forward to close with every temptation. Their hearts are fully set in them to do evil. Those only are truly happy, whom the Lord teaches by his Spirit, upholds by his power, and causes to walk in his ways. By his grace he takes away the love and dominion of sin, and creates a desire for the blessed feast of the gospel, that they may feed thereon, and live for ever.
Verse 7. - And my people are bent to backsliding from me. This first clause of the verse is very expressive, every word almost having an emphasis of its own. With all their sinfulness and shortcomings, Israel was still the people of God - my people; they were guilty of the sin of backsliding, and of backsliding from God, the best of benefactors and their chief good. Nor was it occasionally and after long intervals of time that they backslided; it was their habit, their tendency. They were suspended on, or rather fastened on, backsliding. Though they called them to the Most High, none at all would exalt him; margin, together they exalted him not. This second clause signifies either
(1) that the prophets called Israel from their idols to the Host High, yet none exalted him (literally, "together they did not or would not exalt him") by abandoning their idols and abstaining from backsliding; or,
(2) "though they call him (Israel) upwards, yet not one of them all will lift himself up," that is, they together - one and all - refused or neglected to lift themselves upward towards God or goodness. The word תלוּאיס is equivalent to תְלֻאִים, the same as תלוים, from תלא, equivalent to תָלָה, so that it signifies, according to Keil,
(1) "suspended," "hung up, hanging fast upon," "impaled on; ' Hengstenberg,
(2) "swaying about from inconstancy," and "in danger of falling away;" but Pusey seems to combine both in the original sense of the word, and explains it as follows: "Literally, hung to it! as we say, 'a man's whole being hangs on a thing.' A thing hung to or on another sways to and fro within certain limits, but its relation to that on which it is hung remains immovable, Its power of motion is restrained within these limits. So Israel, so the sinner, however he veer to and fro in the details and circumstances of his sin, is fixed and immovable in his adherence to his sin itself." Though Rashi and the Targum of Jonathan make משובה as synonymous with תשובתּ, thus: "When the prophets teach them to return to me, they are in suspense whether to return or not to return; with difficulty do they return to me," - they are, however, distinguished as turning away from and turning to God - aversion frets anal conversion to him; while the suffix יִ is objective, that is, "My people are hung to apostatizing from me." The phrase אֶל־עַל is variously interpreted, by some as
(1) "upwards," the prophets being the subject; thus Rashi: "To the matter that is above him (Israel) the prophets call him unitedly; but my people do not lift themselves up nor desire to do it." Corruption was so deeply seated in Israel, that the idle mass gave no response to the voice of the prophets urging them upwards.
(2) Aben Ezra and Kimchi both take על as an adjective, and synonymous with אֶלְון, the Most High. Kimchi explains as follows: "He says, My people oscillate between distress and freedom; sometimes distress comes upon them, and again they are in the condition of freedom, and this takes place for their backsliding from me, as if he said, because of the backsliding and rebellion which they practice against me... The prophets call them constantly to return to God most high." So Aben Ezra: "The interpretation is, the callers call him to the Most High, and they are the prophets of God; but they all in one way raise not the head."
(3) Jerome takes it for עֹל, a yoke, and renders accordingly: "But a yoke shall be imposed on them together, that is not taken away." The verb ירְומְם signifies,
(1) according to Gesenius and many others, "to celebrate with praises," or "extol." It is rather
(2) "to lift one's self up," "rise upwards;" nor is it necessary with this sense to supply ירְלֺאשׁו, his head, with Grotius, nor yet to understand it written for or in the sense of ירְומַם, with Joseph Kimchi. Similarly the Syriac: "They call him to God, but they think together, conspire, and do not raise themselves." The word יתד is "all together," and therefore יַחַדלא is "no one." The LXX. translate
(3) the second clause as follows: "But God shall be angry with his precious things, and shall not at all exalt him," having probably read וְאֶל־עַל יְקָרָיו יִהַר
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And my people are bent to backsliding from me,.... There is a propensity in thorn to it, through prevailing corruption in them; they are inclined unto it, the bias of their minds is that way; they are bent upon it, and pertinaciously abide in it; nor will they be reclaimed from it, by all the means and methods made use of, even though they had been, and professed themselves to be the people of God. Some understand this, not of their backsliding and aversion from God; but either of his return to them, or of their return to him, rendering the words, "and my people are in suspense" (a); like a man that hangs in the air, as Aben Ezra, neither ascends nor descends; that is, they are in doubt of what should be done to thorn, or they themselves should do: either "about my return" (b); that is, to them; whether after all they may expect that God would be kind and merciful to them, so Abarbinel: or "about return to me" (c); whether they should or not, inclining rather not to return. So the Targum,
"my people divide (or hesitate) to return to my law;''
with which Jarchi agrees, paraphrasing it,
"when the prophets instruct them to return unto me, they are in suspense whether to return or not;''
but Aben Ezra and Kimchi observe the word is always used in a bad sense, of aversion or backsliding, and that the word is in another form when used for repentance or returning;
though they called them to the most High; that is, the prophets of the Lord called them to turn from their idols, and return to the most high God, the true and the living God, from whom they had backslidden, and to his true worship, they had neglected and forsaken:
none at all would exalt him; the most high God, and give him the praise and glory due to his name; but, on the other hand, extolled their idols, and ascribed all their good things to them: or "none would exalt them" (d) the prophets of the Lord that called them; would not give that honour to them that was due to their office, or pay any regard to them, or to their admonitions and advice, but depreciated them, and reproached and persecuted them: or "none at all would lift up": that is, their head, as Aben Ezra, toward the heaven, and to God in it, to whom they were called; but kept looking on the earth, and to earthly things, particularly to their idols; and did not lift up or erect their ears, to hearken to what was said to them, but were deaf to all counsel and reproof. The Targum is,
"they walked not in an erect stature.''
Agreeably to which the former clause may be rendered, as by some, "and they called them to things above"; but none would look upwards; See Gill on Hosea 7:16.
(a) "suspensi haerent", Junius & Tremellius; "suspensi", Montanus, Schmidt. (b) "ad reditum meum", V. L. (c) "Circa redire ad me", Castalio. (d) "eos non exaltabit", Schmidt.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
7. bent to backsliding—Not only do they backslide, and that too from Me, their "chief good," but they are bent upon it. Though they (the prophets) called them (the Israelites) to the Most High (from their idols), "none would exalt (that is, extol or honor) Him." To exalt God, they must cease to be "bent on backsliding," and must lift themselves upwards.
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