When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria: for they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth without.Hosea 7:1. When I would have healed Israel — When I would have reclaimed them from their sins, and in consequence thereof have averted their judgments. The Hebrew, כרפאי, is, as I was healing: dum in eo essem ut sanarem. At the very time when I was about to heal them; or, as the Seventy render it, Εν τω ιασαθαι με τον Ισραηλ, When I was in the very act of healing Israel. Then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered — Literally, was uncovered, or made bare, that is, showed itself openly, or was avowed and undisguised. The people gave me fresh provocations, especially the inhabitants of Samaria, the principal seat of the kingdom. For they commit falsehood — Or, carry on delusion; literally, practise deceit, or a lie. “The thing meant here seems to be the carrying on of a premeditated plot, or scheme, for the subversion of the true religion, and the establishment of idolatry. And the lie, falsehood, or delusion which they wrought, was every thing that was seductive in the external rites of the false religions:” see Horsley, who, in a note on this passage, observes, “The particular time alluded to is, I think, the reign of the second Jeroboam, when the kingdom of Israel seemed to be recovering from the loss of strength and territory it had sustained in the preceding reigns, by the encroachments of the Syrians; for Jeroboam restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, 2 Kings 14:25. The successes vouchsafed to this warlike prince against his enemies were signs of God’s gracious inclination to pardon the people, and restore the kingdom to its former prosperity. For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel that it was bitter, &c. See 2 Kings 14:26-27. But these merciful purposes of God were put aside by the wickedness of the king and the people. For this same Jeroboam did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, &c.” And the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers, &c. — They are guilty both of the secret methods of fraud, and the open violence of rapine and oppression.
And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before my face.Hosea 7:2. And they consider not in their hearts — They do not seriously reflect; that I remember all their wickedness — To call them to an account, and to punish them for it. Now their own doings — Their studied wickedness, their contrived iniquities: their own, not those of their fathers, as the incorrigible are ready to complain; have beset them about —
Namely, as an enemy invests a town on every side. The meaning is, the guilt and punishment of their sins shall surround them on all sides, and seize upon them that they shall not escape. Some think that by this expression of besetting them about, the prophet alludes to the future siege of Samaria, wherein these sinners against their own souls were so straitly beset by the enemy, that they could not flee, nor escape the being either taken or destroyed.
They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies.Hosea 7:3. They make the king glad with their wickedness — They study to please their kings and great men, by complying with the idolatry they have set up. The Seventy (with whom agree the Syriac and Arabic) read βασιλεις, kings, in the plural number, meaning the succession of the kings of Israel from Jeroboam. And the princes with their lies — Which they speak to please and flatter them. But the word lie sometimes signifies an idol, and the practice of idolatry, as being set up in direct opposition to the true God and his truth. Bishop Horsley renders the verse, By their evil doings they pleasure the king, and by their perfidies the rulers, namely, their perfidies toward God, in deserting his service for idolatry.
They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker, who ceaseth from raising after he hath kneaded the dough, until it be leavened.Hosea 7:4. They are all adulterers — The expression may be here metaphorical, implying that they were apostates from God, to whose service they were engaged by the most solemn bond and covenant: compare Jeremiah 9:2; James 4:4. If the words be understood literally, the prophet compares the heat of their lust to the flame of an oven heated; or, as Bishop Horsley renders it, “Over-heated by the baker.” Who ceaseth from raising after he has kneaded the dough, until it be leavened — Vulgate, Donec fermentaretur totum, until the fermentation of it be complete. When an oven is sufficiently heated, the baker does not increase the fire, but thinks what he has made sufficient to keep the oven hot till the dough be fit to be put into it. “An oven in which the heat is so intense as to be too strong for the baker’s purpose, insomuch that it must be suffered to abate before the bread can be set in, is certainly a most apt and striking image of the heart of the sensualist inflamed with appetite by repeated and excessive indulgence, so that it rages by the mere lust of the corrupted imagination, even in the absence of the external objects of desire that might naturally excite it; and works itself up to an excess which is even contrary to the purpose for which the animal appetites are implanted.” — Horsley.
In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners.Hosea 7:5-7. In the day of our king — Probably the anniversary of his birth, or coronation; the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine — Or, when the princes began to be hot with wine, (so Newcome,) he stretched out his hand with scorners — Deriders of God and man. Some recent and notorious act of contempt to God, or to his prophets, or to public justice, is here alluded to. “Those,” says Bishop Horsley, “who in their cups made a jest of the true religion, and derided the denunciations of God’s prophets, the king distinguished with the most familiar marks of his royal favour; in this way carrying on the plot of delusion.” They — Those luxurious and drunken princes; have made ready their heart like an oven — Hot with concupiscence, ambition, revenge, and covetousness. While they lie in wait — Against the life or estate of some of their subjects. Their baker sleepeth, &c. — As a baker, having kindled a fire in his oven, goes to bed and sleeps all night, and in the morning finds his oven well heated, and ready for his purpose; so these, when they have laid some wicked plot, though they may seem to sleep for a while, yet the fire is glowing within, and flames out as soon as ever there is opportunity for it. They are all hot as an oven — The whole people are inflamed with bad passions, and have followed the ill example of their princes and great men. Or, the flame of civil discord is spread among the people in general; and, as fire devours, so has this destroyed their judges and rulers by conspiracies and assassinations. All their kings are fallen — An anarchy continued for eleven years after the death of Jeroboam II., and the six following kings, the last who reigned in Israel, fell by conspirators, namely, Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, and Hoshea. There is none among them that calleth unto me — And yet these plain signs of my indignation have not brought either kings or people to a due humiliation and sorrow for their sins.
For they have made ready their heart like an oven, whiles they lie in wait: their baker sleepeth all the night; in the morning it burneth as a flaming fire.
They are all hot as an oven, and have devoured their judges; all their kings are fallen: there is none among them that calleth unto me.
Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.Hosea 7:8-10. Ephraim, he hath mixed among the people — By his alliances with the heathen, and by imitation of their manners, he is himself become one of them. He has thrown off all the distinctions, and forfeited the privileges of the chosen race. “The Hebrew word here rendered people,
עמים, is in the plural, and, when applied to bodies politic,” says Bishop Horsley, “always signifies the various nations of the earth, the unenlightened nations, in opposition to God’s peculiar people, the Israelites.” He therefore renders the word peoples here, “though,” as he observes, “not without some violation of the propriety of the English language, which disowns the word in the plural form.” Ephraim is a cake, or, like a cake, not turned — Burned on one side, and dough on the other, and so good for nothing on either; always in one extreme or the other. An apt image of a character that is all inconsistency. Such were the ten tribes of the prophet’s day; worshippers of Jehovah in profession, but adopting all the idolatries of the neighbouring nations, in addition to their own semi- idolatry of the calves. Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not — His national strength is impaired and decaying, and he acts as if he were insensible of it. The Syrians, in the time of Jehoahaz, reduced them very low, 2 Kings 13:7. Afterward they became tributaries to Pul, king of Assyria; and at length were carried captives by Shalmaneser, (chap. 17.,) and yet the afflictions that befell them did not make them sensible of the ill state of their affairs, and that the hand of God was against them. Yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him — The symptoms of decay. He declines in strength and power, like a man worn out with age. Rome, in the midst of great calamities, is thus described by Claudian:
— — — Humeris vix sustinet ægris Squalentem clypeum; laxata casside, prodit Canitiem. — —
And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face — Or, witnesseth against him. Their insolent and obstinate behaviour, and continuance in sin, notwithstanding the warnings and admonitions they have had, sufficiently show how deserving they are of punishment; and they do not return, &c., nor seek him for all this — Notwithstanding such severe denunciations against them, and that they are forewarned of approaching calamities, yet they do not return to God in true repentance, nor make their supplication to him to avert his wrath.
Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not.
And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him for all this.
Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.Hosea 7:11-12. Ephraim is like a silly dove without heart — Which has neither courage to defend itself, nor cunning to prevent its falling into the snares that are laid for it. They call to Egypt, &c. — Sometimes they seek the alliance of one nation, and sometimes of another, all equally unserviceable to them; but are under no concern to seek the favour and protection of God, which alone can be of real and lasting benefit to them. When they shall go — When they shall do every thing their inclinations lead them to do, make the alliances they desire, and seek for safety in all the ways their imaginations can invent; I will spread my net upon them — I will entangle and disappoint them in their designs, execute my decrees upon them, and bring them to destruction, like as birds are taken in the snares of the fowler, although they have wings to fly out of danger. I will chastise them as their congregation hath heard — I will bring those calamities upon them which I have denounced in my laws against the whole people of Israel, whenever they should forsake me; and also have repeatedly denounced them by my prophets.
When they shall go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard.
Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me.Hosea 7:13-14. Wo unto them, &c. — These are words both of menace and lamentation. The prophet at once foretels and bewails their miseries. For they have fled from me — As if it had not been enough that they at first left my government, temple, and worship, they have gone still further from me by their sinful and idolatrous courses. Destruction unto them — The ruin of their country and commonwealth will be the consequence of their apostacy. Because they have transgressed against me — Rebelliously cast off my authority and laws. Though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies, &c. — Though I delivered them from the Egyptians, and afforded them many other signal deliverances, yet they have not given me true glory, but have likened me to golden calves, and other images. Idolatry is frequently called in Scripture a lie, because it gives false representations of things; attributing power, &c., to things which, in their own nature, have no such power, or representing the Deity by forms which he is in no way like; therefore it was, properly speaking, changing the truth and glory of God into a lie, or, speaking lies against him. They also belied his corrections, as if not deserved; they belied the good which God had done them, as if it were too little, or not done by him, but by their idols. And they have not cried unto me, when they howled, &c. — When they bemoaned their calamities, as sick men bewail themselves upon their beds of sickness; yet they did not call upon me heartily and sincerely. They assemble, &c., for corn and wine, and they rebel, &c. — When they assemble themselves to deprecate a famine, they still retain the same disobedient temper toward me.
And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds: they assemble themselves for corn and wine, and they rebel against me.
Though I have bound and strengthened their arms, yet do they imagine mischief against me.Hosea 7:15-16. Though I have bound, &c. — Though, after bringing them low, I have given them new strength and vigour; yet do they imagine mischief against me — Yet they are continually devising some new idolatrous inventions, whereby they may dishonour me. The word יסרתי, rendered I have bound them, more properly signifies, I have chastised them, and is so rendered by Archbishop Newcome, Bishop Horsley, and others. The general sense of the verse is, Whether I inflict punishment on them, or show them favour, they are still the same, and reject me for their idols. They return, but not to the Most High — Their conversion is only outward, not inward and sincere. When they left the worship of Baal, they turned to the worship of the calves; and now they rest in an external reformation, or some ceremonial observances, and do not come up to true repentance, spiritual worship, or holy obedience. This seems to be the meaning of the clause, according to our translation of it. But the Hebrew text, ישׁובו לא על, is very obscure, and variously rendered by interpreters. Grotius and the Vulgate read, Reversi sunt ut essent absque jugo, They have returned that they might be without yoke, that is, without the restraint of God’s law. Which is thus expounded by Grotius, “Denuo voluerunt esse absque jugo,” They would be again without yoke. The LXX. render it, Απεστραφησαν εις ουδεν, They have been turned away to nothing. Thus also the Syriac, or, as Bishop Horsley interprets it, They fall [have fallen] back into nothingness of condition. On which he remarks as follows: “The situation of the Israelites, as the chosen people of God, was a high degree; a rank of distinction and pre-eminence among the nations of the earth. By their voluntary defection to idolatry, they debased themselves from this exaltation, and returned to the ordinary level of the heathen, so far above which the mercy of God had raised them. As if a man, ennobled by the favour of his sovereign, should renounce his honours, and, of his own choice, mix himself with the lowest dregs of the people. Thus, voluntarily descending from their nobility of condition, the Israelites returned to not high; for so the Hebrew literally sounds.” The bishop observes elsewhere, that the Hebrew words will certainly bear the interpretation given by Grotius and the Vulgate; “and of all that have been proposed,” says he, “it seems the best sense, next after that which I have given in my translation, which is R. Tanchum’s, and in my judgment the best of all. Thus we say in common speech, of a man who by misconduct has lost all esteem and credit in the world, ‘He has brought himself to nothing.’” They are like a deceitful bow — Which seems bent for and aiming at the mark, yet is too weak to carry the shaft to it; or, is false, and instead of directing the arrow straight to the mark, shoots it on one side or the other. Their princes shall fall, &c., for the rage of their tongue — For the dishonour which they have done me by blasphemous speeches; or, shall fall by conspiracies, stirred up and fomented by murmurings and seditious expressions. This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt — Their frequent rebellions and conspiracies against their kings, shall make them the derision of Egypt. Houbigant renders it, For the wantonness of their tongues, they shall be a derision in the land of Egypt. It is probable that many of the ten tribes fled to Egypt when invaded by the Assyrians; and that their blasphemies, and other enormities committed there, brought them under deserved reproach.
They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.