|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
12:7-14 Ephraim became a merchant: the word also signifies a Canaanite. They carried on trade upon Canaanitish principles, covetously and with fraud and deceit. Thus they became rich, and falsely supposed that Providence favoured them. But shameful sins shall have shameful punishments. Let them remember, not only what a mighty prince Jacob was with God, but what a servant he was to Laban. The benefits we have had from the word of God, make our sin and folly the worse, if we put any slight upon that word. We had better follow the hardest labour in poverty, than grow rich by sin. We may form a judgment of our own conduct, by comparing it with that of ancient believers in the like circumstances. Whoever despises the message of God, will perish. May we all hear his word with humble, obedient faith.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Is there iniquity in Gilead?.... Idolatry there? strange that there should be, seeing it was a city of the priests; a city of refuge; or there is none there, say the priests, who pretended they did not worship idols, but the true Jehovah in them: or, "is there not iniquity", or idolatry, "in Gilead" (e)? verily there is, let them pretend to what they will: or, "is there only iniquity in it" (f)? that the men of it should be carried captive, as they were by TiglathPileser, before the rest of the tribes; see 2 Kings 15:29; no, there is iniquity and idolatry committed in other places, as well as there, who must expect to share the same fate in time: or, "is Gilead Aven?" (g) that is, Bethaven, the same with Bethel; it is as that, as guilty of idolatry as Bethel, where one of the calves was set up:
surely they are vanity: the inhabitants of Gilead, as well as of Bethel, worshipping idols, which are most vain things, vanity itself, and deceive those that serve them, and trust in them:
they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal: to idols, as the Targum adds; and so Jarchi and Kimchi; according to Aben Ezra, they sacrificed them to Baal; this shows that Gilead was not the only place for idolatry, which was on the other side Jordan, but Gilgal, which was on this side Jordan, was also polluted with it. The Vulgate Latin version is,
"in Gilgal they were sacrificing to bullocks;''
to the calves there, the same as were at Dan and Bethel; so, in the Septuagint version of 1 Kings 12:29; it was formerly read: and so Cyril (h) quotes it, "he (Jeroboam) set the one (calf) in Gilgal, and the other in Dan"; hence the fable that Epiphanius (i) makes mention of, that, when Elisha was born, the golden ox or heifer at Gilgal bellowed very loudly, and so loud as to be heard at Jerusalem. The Targum makes mention of an idol temple here; and as it was near to Bethel, as appears from 1 Samuel 10:3; and from Josephus (k); and so Jerom says (l), hard by Bethel; some suspect another Gilgal; hence it might be put for it; however, it was a place of like idolatrous worship; it is mentioned as such along with Bethaven or Bethel, in Hosea 4:15; see also Hosea 9:15;
yea, their altars are as heaps in, the furrows of the fields; not only in the city of Gilgal, and in the temple there, as the Targum; but even without the city, in the fields they set up altars, which looked like heaps of stones; or they had a multitude of altars that stood as thick as they. So the Targum,
"they have multiplied their altars, like heaps upon the borders of the fields;''
and the Jewish commentators in general understand this as expressive of the number of their altars, and of the increase of idolatrous worship; but some interpret it of the destruction of their altars, which should become heaps of stones and rubbish, like such as are in fields. These words respect Ephraim or the ten tribes, in which these places were, whose idolatry is again taken notice of, after gracious promises were made to Judah. Some begin here a new sermon or discourse delivered to Israel.
(e) "an non in Galaad iniquitas?" Vatablus. (f) "En in Gileade tantum iniquitas?" Piscator. (g) "Num Gilead Aven?" Schmidt. (h) Apud Reland. Palestina Illustrata, tom. 2. l. 3. p. 783. (i) De Vita & Interitu Prophet. c. 6. & Paschal. Chronic. p. 161. apud Reland. ib. (k) Antiqu. l. 6. c. 4. sect. 9. (l) De locis Hebr. fol. 91. M.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
11. Is there iniquity in Gilead?—He asks the question, not as if the answer was doubtful, but to strengthen the affirmation: "Surely they are vanity"; or as Maurer translates, "They are nothing but iniquity." Iniquity, especially idolatry, in Scripture is often termed "vanity." Pr 13:11: "Wealth gotten by vanity," that is, iniquity. Isa 41:29: "They are all vanity … images." "Gilead" refers to Mizpah-gilead, a city representing the region beyond Jordan (Ho 6:8; Jud 11:29); as "Gilgal," the region on this side of Jordan (Ho 4:15). In all quarters alike they are utterly vile.
their altars are as heaps in the furrows—that is, as numerous as such heaps: namely, the heaps of stones cleared out of a stony field. An appropriate image, as at a distance they look like altars (compare Ho 10:1, 4; 8:11). As the third member in the parallelism answers to the first, "Gilgal" to "Gilead," so the fourth to the second, "altars" to "vanity." The word "heaps" alludes to the name "Gilgal," meaning "a heap of stones." The very scene of the general circumcision of the people, and of the solemn passover kept after crossing Jordan, is now the stronghold of Israel's idolatry.
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