|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
13:1-8 While Ephraim kept up a holy fear of God, and worshipped Him in that fear, so long he was very considerable. When Ephraim forsook God, and followed idolatry, he sunk. Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves, in token of their adoration of them, affection for them, and obedience to them; but the Lord will not give his glory to another, and therefore all that worship images shall be confounded. No solid, lasting comfort, is to be expected any where but in God. God not only took care of the Israelites in the wilderness, he put them in possession of Canaan, a good land; but worldly prosperity, when it feeds men's pride, makes them forgetful of God. Therefore the Lord would meet them in just vengeance, as the most terrible beast that inhabited their forests. Abused goodness calls for greater severity.
Verses 7, 8. - These verses teach that the result of their sins is inevitable destruction, and that Jehovah, merciful and gracious though he is, has now divested himself of all compassion on them. The appropriateness of the terrible figures here employed arises from the fact that Israel had been compared in the previous verse to a flock fed and filled in a luxuriant pasture; the punishment of that flock is now fitly compared to "the tearing in pieces and devouring of that fattened flock by wild beasts." The beasts in question are a lion, a leopard, a bear, a lioness, and fierce wild beasts in general. Verse 7. - Therefore I will be unto them as a lion. The verb, וָךאהִי is the future changed into the preterit or past tense by vav consecutive, and marks the consequence of forgetting God. So Aben Ezra: "The preterit in reference to the evils which Jehovah brought upon them." While the past thus implies that the punishment has commenced, the futures which follow denote its continuance. Rosenmüller regards the preterit here as prophetic and continuative, and paraphrases the meaning by, "I have at length become and have been, and shall continue to be to them." He considers the reference of the preterit to be to past disasters, especially the various defeats sustained by Israel at the hand of the Syrians (2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 10:32) and the Assyrians (2 Kings 15:29). He also very aptly compares Isaiah 63:7-10 in relation to the subject in hand. The Prophet Isaiah, after relating the loving-kindnesses of the Lord and his praises and his great goodness to the house of Israel on the one hand, and their rebellion and vexing his Holy Spirit on the other hand, adds, "Therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them." As a leopard by the way will I observe them. The lion and the leopard are frequently conjoined, as animals of like natural ferocity, by the ancients both in sacred and secular writings. The outlook on the way is for the purpose of springing upon the passers-by. The word אשׁוּר is properly
(1) the future of שוּר, to look around, and thence, to lie in wait; but
(2) some, taking the initial aleph as radical and the word as participle of אָשַׁר, translate it by "trodden way," that is, away trodden and frequented by men and animals. The LXX. and Vulgate again, also Jerome, Hitzig, and Ewald,
(3) translate it by" on the way of the Assyrians," either referring to the time when they would be led captive by the Assyrians or when they persisted in going thither to sue for aid. But the name of Assyria is always written אָשוּר, as Rashi rightly observes: "In every place where אשׁי occurs in Scripture (i.e. as a proper name) it has daghesh (i.e. in the shin); yet here it has raphe, [to show] that it is not the name of a place, but a verb: 'I observe and keep watch,' as 'I shall observe him, but not nigh' (Numbers 24:17)." Kimchi explains the verse as follows: "Because they have forgotten me, I also have rejected them, and have left them in the hand of the peoples; and have become to them like a lion or leopard, which observes the way, and is prepared to tear whatever passes by it on the way. Just so have I been to them, for I have caused their enemies to rule over them, and they have not had power to deliver themselves from their hand until they returned to me, and I took pity upon them."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Therefore I will be unto them as a lion, Because of their idolatry, ingratitude, luxury, and especially their forgetfulness of God, which is last mentioned, and with which the words are connected. By this and the following metaphors are set forth the severity of God's judgments upon them for their sins, and their utter destruction by them. Some observe the word (f) here used signifies an old lion, which, though slower in the pursuit of its prey, is more cruel when it has got it; see Hosea 5:14;
as a leopard by the way will I observe them; which is a quick sighted, vigilant, crafty, and insidious creature, which lurks in trees, and watches for men and beasts that pass by the way, and seizes on them. The lion makes his onset more openly, this more secretly; and both express the various ways God would take in his providence to chastise these people for their sins, and that he would watch over them to do them hurt, as he had to do them good, and take the proper opportunity of doing it, and execute his purpose with great wrath and fury, to their utter ruin; see Jeremiah 5:6. The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions, render it, "as a leopard by the way of Assyria" (g), or "the Assyrians"; and so some interpreters take the sense to be, that God would watch them in their way to Assyria for help, and blast their designs, disappoint them of their expected assistance, and surprise them with his judgments; see Hosea 5:13; and there was a mountain in Syria, called the mountain of the leopards, where they used to haunt, and from whence they came out to take their prey, to which there is a reference in Sol 4:8; which was two miles from Tripoli (a city of Syria) northward, three from the city Arces southward, and one from Mount Lebanon (h); and such is the vigilance and agility of leopards, that they will sometimes, as Pliny (i) says, mount thick trees, and hide themselves in the branches, and leap at once, and unawares, upon those that pass by, whether men or beasts, as before observed; wherefore, with great propriety, is this simile used. The Targum is, "my word shall be", &c.
(f) "vetus leo", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (g) Sept. "in via Assyriormm", V. L. "super via Assyriae", Schmidt; "in via Assyria", Liveleus, Cocceius. (h) Adrichomii Thestrum Terrae Sanct. p. 186. (i) Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 73.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
7. (Ho 5:14; La 3:10).
leopard—The Hebrew comes from a root meaning "spotted" (compare Jer 13:23). Leopards lurk in thickets and thence spring on their victims.
observe—that is, lie in wait for them. Several manuscripts, the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic read, by a slight change of the Hebrew vowel pointing, "by the way of Assyria," a region abounding in leopards and lions. English Version is better.
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