|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
31:18-20 Ephraim (the ten tribes) is weeping for sin. He is angry at himself for his sin, and folly, and frowardness. He finds he cannot, by his own power, keep himself close with God, much less bring himself back when he is revolted. Therefore he prays, Turn thou me, and I shall be turned. His will was bowed to the will of God. When the teaching of God's Spirit went with the corrections of his providence, then the work was done. This is our comfort in affliction, that the Lord thinks upon us. God has mercy in store, rich mercy, sure mercy, suitable mercy, for all who seek him in sincerity.
Verse 20. - The Divine speaker asks, as it were in surprise, whether Ephraim, who has so flagrantly sinned against him, can really be his dear (or, precious) son, his pleasant child (literally, child of caressing, i.e. one caressed). The latter expression occurs in a remarkable passage of Isaiah (Isaiah 5:7). Since I spake against him; rather, as often as I spake against him; i.e. as often as I pronounced sentence against Ephraim - such a sentence as is recorded in Isaiah 9:8-21 (where the future tenses should he perfects) and Isaiah 28:1-4. We must remember that, with God, to speak is to perform. Often as Jehovah punished Israel, he still remembered him in love - a love which was the pledge of his future restoration to favour upon his true repentance. I do earnestly remember; rather, I verily remembered. "To remember" is the Old Testament term for providential care (comp. Genesis 8:1; Genesis 19:29). My bowels are troubled; literally, sound, moan (so Isaiah 16:11; Isaiah 63:15). Something analogous to the thrilling sensation of deep human grief is predicated of Jehovah. Such is the "humility" of the God of revelation (Psalm 18:35; comp. Hosea 11:8).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Is Ephraim my dear son?.... Questions put in this form, in the Hebrew language, usually more vehemently deny; and then the sense must be, Ephraim is not my dear son: and agreeably to this all the following clauses must be interpreted; which seems quite contrary to the scope and design of the context: wherefore it seems better to render the words thus, "Is not Ephraim my dear son?" (w) yes, he is; and so is everyone that stands in the relation of children to the Lord, they are all of them his dear children, Ephesians 5:1; his beloved ones, loved by him with an everlasting love; they are "precious" to him, as the word used signifies; they are dear to him as the apple of his eye; they are highly esteemed of by him; they are his jewels and peculiar treasure: how precious they are to him appears by his parting with his own most precious Son for their sakes; by sympathizing with them under all their afflictions; by providing so largely and liberally for them; by feeding them with the most delicious food; by clothing them with the robe of righteousness, and garments of salvation; by protecting them with a guard of angels, and preparing an incorruptible inheritance for them;
is he a pleasant child? or, "is he not a child of delights" (x)? verily he is: and so are all the children of God by adopting grace; they are pleasant to him for delights; they are little images of himself, in whom he is well pleased; they are lovely and comely in his sight, through the perfect comeliness of Christ, that is put upon them; their speech is comely and pleasant to him; their prayer is his delight; and especially he loves to hear them cry "Abba", Father, though they do but lisp it out; just as parents take pleasure in their children, which are images of themselves, and comely in their view; particularly when they begin to talk, and can just lisp out their names. Moreover, as the little actions of children, though there may be a great deal of childishness in them, are pleasing to their parents, so are the acts of grace and duty well pleasing to God; those of faith, hope, fear, and love, and the several duties of religion, though but imperfectly performed: and their nearness to him, and communion with him, which he indulges them with, show his delight in them; he kisses them with the kisses of his mouth; he dandles them on his knee, and comforts them, as one whom his mother comforts; he carries them in his bosom; he takes them by the hand, and teaches them to go, and lays meat before them;
for since I spake against him; in his word, and by his providences; by way of complaint, as a peevish, perverse, backsliding, and rebellious child; by way of threatening with the rod, in case of impenitence and obstinacy; by way of rebuke, though in love, for many misdemeanors and offences; and in a providential, though not in a judicial way: God has nothing against his children in a judicial way, all their sins being stoned for by Christ; but in a providential way he has many things against them for their correction and chastisement; at least which seem to be against them, though they all work together for their good. However, as he here says,
I do earnestly remember him still; or, "in remembering I will" or "do remember him still" (y); constantly as well as earnestly; God never forgets his children, though they and others may think he does; see Isaiah 49:14; he forgets their sins, but not their persons; he is ever mindful of his covenant with them, and remembers his promises to them; he remembers both his love to them, and their love to him; yea, he remembers their thoughts of him, their words concerning him, and their works done in his name, and to his glory; his dear children are had in everlasting remembrance, and are never forgotten by him;
therefore my bowels are troubled for him; sound for him, or yearn toward him; so that he did not do what he threatened, or was seemingly about to do. The phrase is expressive of great relentings, strong and melting pity in his heart, towards his his dear and delightful children; see Hosea 11:8;
I will surely have mercy on him, saith the Lord; or show mercy to him; as the Lord does to his children, by receiving them graciously upon, their return; by manifesting and applying pardoning grace; by bestowing fresh mercies and favours on them; and by bringing them safe to eternal glory and happiness.
(w) "nonne filius pretiosus mihi?" Pagninus, Montanus. (x) "nonne natus delicarum?" Montanus; "unum natus delicarum?" Schmidt. (y) "recordando recordabor ejus iterum", Schmidt; so Pagninus, Montanus, Calvin; "recordor", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
20. Is Ephraim my dear son? &c.—The question implies that a negative answer was to be expected. Who would have thought that one so undutiful to His heavenly Father as Ephraim had been should still be regarded by God as a "pleasant child?" Certainly he was not so in respect to his sin. But by virtue of God's "everlasting love" (Jer 31:3) on Ephraim's being "turned" to God, he was immediately welcomed as God's "dear son." This verse sets forth God's readiness to welcome the penitent (Jer 31:18, 19), anticipating his return with prevenient grace and love. Compare Lu 15:20: "When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion," &c.
spake against—threatened him for his idolatry.
remember—with favor and concern, as in Ge 8:1; 30:22.
bowels … troubled for him—(De 32:36; Isa 63:15; Ho 11:8)—namely, with the yearnings of compassionate love. The "bowels" include the region of the heart, the seat of the affections.
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