Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
This chapter stands in immediate connection with the close of the preceding. The words of imperfect penitence (Hosea 6:1-3) are put by the prophet into the lips of those who are in trouble, and are counting too soon on the boundless compassion of Jehovah. They are not an exhortation to repentance, for they are followed by indignant expostulation.
Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.(2) The haste of the seeming penitents for the fulfilment of their hope. They expect the rapid restoration of the national prosperity, prompted by the abundance of the Divine love, and His response to the first touch of penitence (signified in Hosea 5:15).
After two days.—A phrase sometimes used for the second day, i.e., to-morrow.
In the third day—i.e., after a short time. This and the above expression are not identical in the designation of time. Some Christian interpreters (Jerome, Luther, Pusey) consider the passage has sole reference to the resurrection of Christ. But with Calvin, Henderson, Schmoller, &c., we consider this to be contradicted by the form of the expression. To bring in the resurrection of Christ with no authority from the New Testament is far-fetched over-refinement, and breaks the consistency of the passage.
(2, 3) Render, So that we shall live in his presence, and shall know and strive after the knowledge of Jehovah, whose coming forth is sure, like the dawn (another play on 6:15, “I will return to my place, &c.”), so that he may come as the plentiful (dashing) rain for us, as the latter rain (needed for the ripening corn) which watereth the earth.
O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.(4) Here ends the supposed language of the penitents. If it were genuine, and accompanied by a deep sense of sin, it would not be in vain. But the prophet utters the heartrending response and expostulation of Jehovah, who bewails the transitory nature of their repentance.
Your goodness . . .—Better rendered, Your love (to me) is like the morning cloud (which promises rain, and does not give it; like the dew (or, “morning mist;” see Note, Hosea 14:5), which early goeth away, vanishing in the blaze of summer day—your tears leaving you parched and dried as before.
Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth.(5) The LXX. render, Therefore I have mowed down their prophets; but this would destroy the parallelism, in which “prophets” correspond to “words of my mouth.” The sense is, I have slain them by the announcement of deserved doom.
Thy judgments . . .—An error has crept here into the Masoretic text from which the LXX. and other ancient versions are free. The mistake consists in misplacing an initial letter as a final one. Translate, My judgment shall go forth as the light, clear, victorious, and beneficent. (Comp. the language of Psalm 37:6 and Isaiah 62:1-2.)
For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.(6) Mercy.—Better rendered, love. This passage is richly sustained by our Lord’s adoption of its teaching (Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7). Mark 12:33 shows that according to even Old Testament teaching, the moral ranks above the ceremonial, that ritual is valueless apart from spiritual conformity with Divine will.
But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.(7) Critics differ much as to the interpretation of this verse. The marginal rendering supplies the strongest meaning. God made a covenant with Adam, and promised him the blessings of Paradise on condition of obedience. He broke the condition, transgressed the covenant, and was driven from his Divine home. So Israel had violated all the terms on which the goodly land of conditional promise had been bestowed. For the other references to Adam in the Old Testament see Psalm 82:7; Job 31:33. (See Excursus.)
EXCURSUS B (Hosea 6:7).
Buhl, in Zeitschrift für Kirchliche Wissenschaft, Part 5, 1881, throws some light on the enigmatical phrase keAdam, by pointing out that Adam is employed in many places to express all the other races of mankind as opposed to Israel. Thus, he translates Jeremiah 32:20, “Thou who didst perform wonders in Israel, as well as in Adam.” Similarly Isaiah 43:4, on which Delitzsch remarks that those who do not belong to the chosen people are called Adam, because they are regarded as nothing but descendants of Adam. In this passage the emphatic position of the Hebrew pronoun hemmah lends significance to the contrasted term Adam. The meaning, therefore, is—the Israelites, who should be a chosen race, belong now, through their violation of the covenant, to the heathen: have become, in fact, Lo’Ammi. (Comp. Hosea 1:9.) The word “there” in the last clause may refer to some local sanctuary, notorious for idolatrous corruption. This is confirmed by the mention of localities in the next verse. We prefer, however, to understand it (with the Targum of Jonathan) as referring to the Holy Land.
Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood.(8) Polluted . . .—More accurately, betrodden (or foot-tracked) with blood. We infer from Judges 10:17 that there was a town called Gilead east of the Jordan distinct altogether from Mizpah (identified by many with the city of refuge Ramoth-Gilead), and this is confirmed by notices in Eusebius and Cyril. Murder in a “city of refuge” adds to the horror. On the murderous propensities of the Gileadites see 2Kings 15:25.
And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit lewdness.(9) Should be rendered, As a robber lies in wait, so the company of priests murder on the road to Shechem; yea, they execute the plot. Shechem, charged with historic interest (Genesis to Judges), is also a city of refuge, a Levitical city, on the road to Bethel, where the priests of the calves resided. (Comp. Hosea 5:1.)
I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled.(10) House of Israel.—This phrase means Ephraim and Judah subsequently discriminated. The “horrible thing” refers to polluting idolatry. This peculiar word occurs again in Jeremiah. According to the punctuation of the Hebrew the reciter hesitates before pronouncing the “horrible thing” which grated through his teeth.
Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of my people.(11) An harvest.—The harvest is not of joy, but of sorrow and affliction, befalling Judah, like Israel, for her sins: a contrast to the usual accompaniments of the season when the Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated (Deuteronomy 12:13-16; Leviticus 23:40; Psalm 126:5-6). In regard of the last clause of the verse, “when I turn the captivity of my people,” it is best to unite it with the succeeding chapter. (So Ewald, Reuss, &c.) Some writers (as recently, Nowack) explain the Hebrew word for captivity by a different etymology, and here interpret “destiny,” or “fate.” The full turning of the captivity cannot be realised till Ephraim and Judah accept the Christ.