Expositor's Bible Commentary

THE Prophets, to whom this and a following Part are dedicated, have, to our loss, been haunted for centuries by a peddling and ambiguous title. Their Twelve Books are in size smaller than those of the great Three which precede them, and doubtless none of their chapters soar so high as the brilliant summits to which we are swept by Isaiah and the Prophet of the Exile. But in every other respect they are undeserving of the niggardly name of "Minor." Two of them, Amos and Hosea, were the first of all prophecy-rising cliff-like, with a sheer and magnificent originality, to a height and a mass sufficient to set after them the trend and slope of the whole prophetic range. The Twelve together cover the extent of that range, and illustrate the development of prophecy at almost every stage from the eighth century to the fourth. Yet even more than in the case of Isaiah or Jeremiah, the Church has been content to use a passage here and a passage there, leaving the rest of the books to absolute neglect or the almost equal oblivion of routine-reading. Among the causes of this disuse have been the more than usually corrupt state of the text; the consequent disorder and in parts unintelligibleness of all the versions; the ignorance of the various historical circumstances out of which the books arose; the absence of successful efforts to determine the periods and strophes, the dramatic dialogues (with the names of the speakers), the lyric effusions and the passages of argument, of all of which the books are composed.

The following exposition is an attempt to assist the bettering of all this. As the Twelve Prophets illustrate among them the whole history of written prophecy, I have thought it useful to prefix a historical sketch of the Prophet in early Israel, or as far as the appearance of Amos. The Twelve are then taken in chronological order. Under each of them a chapter is given of historical and critical introduction to his book; then some account of the prophet himself as a man and a seer; then a complete translation of the various prophecies handed down under his name, with textual footnotes, and an exposition and application to the present day in harmony with the aim of the series to which these volumes belong: finally, a discussion of the main doctrines the prophet has taught, if it has not been found possible to deal with these in the course of the exposition.

An exact critical study of the Twelve Prophets is rendered necessary by the state of the entire text. The present work is based on a thorough examination of this in the light of the ancient versions and of modern criticism. The emendations which I have proposed are few and insignificant, but I have examined and discussed in footnotes all that have been suggested, and in many cases my translation will be found to differ widely from that of the Revised Version. To questions of integrity and authenticity more space is devoted than may seem to many to be necessary. But it is certain that the criticism of the prophetic books has now entered on a period of the same analysis and discrimination which is almost exhausted in the case of the Pentateuch. Some hints were given of this in a previous book on Isaiah, chapters 40-66, which are evidently a composite work. Among the books now before us, the same fact has long been clear in the case of Obadiah and Zechariah, and also since Ewald’s time with regard to Micah. But Duhm’s "Theology of the Prophets," which appeared in 1875, suggested interpolations in Amos. Wellhausen (in 1873) and Stade (from 1883 onwards) carried the discussion further both on those, and others, of the Twelve; while a recent work by Andree on Haggai proves that many similar questions may still be raised and have to be debated. The general fact must be admitted that hardly one book has escaped later additions-additions of an entirely justifiable nature, which supplement the point of view of a single prophet with the richer experience or the riper hopes of a later day, and thus afford to ourselves a more catholic presentment of the doctrines of prophecy and the Divine purposes for mankind. This general fact, I say, must be admitted. But the questions of detail are still in process of solution. It is obvious that settled results can be reached (as to some extent they have been already reached in the criticism of the Pentateuch) only after years of research and debate by all schools of critics. Meantime it is the duty of each of us to offer his own conclusions, with regard to every separate passage, on the understanding that, however final they may at present seem to him, the end is not yet. In previous criticism the defects, of which work in the same field has made me aware, are four:

1. A too rigid belief in the exact parallelism and symmetry of the prophetic style, which I feel has led, for instance, Wellhausen, to whom we otherwise owe so much on the Twelve Prophets, into many unnecessary emendations of the text, or, where some amendment is necessary, to absolutely unprovable changes.

2. In passages between which no connection exists, the forgetfulness of the principle that this fact may often be explained as justly by the hypothesis of the omission of some words, as by the favorite theory of the later intrusion of portions of the extant text.

3. Forgetfulness of the possibility, which in some cases amounts almost to certainty, of the incorporation, among the authentic words of a prophet, of passages of earlier as well as of later date. And,

4. depreciation of the spiritual insight and foresight of pre-exilic writers. These, I am persuaded, are defects in previous criticism of the prophets. Probably my own criticism will reveal many more. In the beginnings of such analysis as we are engaged on, we must be prepared for not a little arbitrariness and want of proportion; these are often necessary for insight and fresh points of view, but they are as easily eliminated by the progress of discussion.

All criticism, however, is preliminary to the real work which the immortal prophets demand from scholars and preachers in our age. In a review of a previous volume, I was blamed for applying a prophecy of Isaiah to a problem of our own day. This was called "prostituting prophecy." The prostitution of the prophets is their confinement to academic uses. One cannot conceive an ending, at once more pathetic and more ridiculous, to those great streams of living water, than to allow them to run out in the sands of criticism and exegesis, however golden these sands may be. The prophets spoke for a practical purpose; they aimed at the hearts of men; and everything that scholarship can do for their writings has surely for its final aim the illustration of their witness to the ways of God with men, and its application to living questions and duties and hopes. Besides, therefore, seeking to tell the story of that wonderful stage in the history of the human spirit-surely next in wonder to the story of Christ Himself-I have not feared at every suitable point to apply its truths to our lives today. The civilization in which prophecy flourished was in its essentials marvelously like our own. To mark only one point, the rise of prophecy in Israel came fast upon the passage of the nation from an agricultural to a commercial basis of society, and upon the appearance of the very thing which gives its name to civilization -city-life, with its unchanging sins, problems, and ideals.

A recent Dutch critic, whose exact scholarship is known to all readers of Stade’s "Journal of Old Testament Science," has said of Amos and Hosea:

"These prophecies have a word of God, as for all times, so also especially for our own. Before all it is relevant to ‘the social question’ of our day, to the relation of religion and morality. Often it has been hard for me to refrain from expressly pointing out the agreement between Then and Today."

This feeling will be shared by all students of prophecy whose minds and consciences are quick; and I welcome the liberal plata of the series in which this book appears, because, while giving room for the adequate discussion of critical and historical questions, its chief design is to show the eternal validity of the Books of the Bible as the Word of God, and their meaning for ourselves today.

Previous works on the Minor Prophets are almost innumerable. Those to which I owe most will be found indicated in the footnotes. The translation has been executed upon the purpose, not to sacrifice the literal meaning or exact emphasis of the original to the frequent possibility of greater elegance. It reproduces every word, with the occasional exception of a copula. With some hesitation I have retained the traditional spelling of the Divine Name, Jehovah, instead of the more correct Jahve or Yahweh; but where the rhythm of certain familiar passages was disturbed by it, I have followed the English versions and written LORD. The reader will keep in mind that a line may be destroyed by substituting our pronunciation of proper names for the more musical accents of the original. Thus, for instance, we obliterate the music of "Israel" by making it two syllables and putting the accent on the first: it has three syllables with the accent on the last. We crush Yerushalayîm into Jerusalem; we shred off Asshûr into Assyria, and dub Misraîm Egypt. Hebrew has too few of the combinations which sound most musical to our ears to afford the suppression of any one of them.



IN the order of our English Bible the Minor Prophets, as they are usually called, form the last twelve books of the Old Testament. They are immediately preceded by Daniel, and before him by the three Major Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah (with Lamentations), and Ezekiel. Why all sixteen were thus gathered at the end of the other sacred books we do not know. Perhaps, because it was held fitting that prophecy should occupy the last outposts of the Old Testament towards the New.

In the Hebrew Bible, however, the order differs, and is much more significant. The Prophets form the second division of the threefold Canon: Law, Prophets, and Writings; and Daniel is not among them. The Minor follow immediately after Ezekiel. Moreover, they are not twelve books, but one. They are gathered under the common title "Book of the Twelve"; and although each of them has the usual colophon detailing the number of its own verses, there is also one colophon for all the twelve, placed at the end of Malachi and reckoning the sum of their verses from the first of Hosea onwards. This unity, which there is reason to suppose was given to them before their reception into the Canon, they have never since lost. However much their place has changed in the order of the books of the Old Testament, however much their own internal arrangement has differed, the Twelve have always stood together. There has been every temptation to scatter them because of their various dates. Yet they never have been scattered; and in spite of the fact that they have not preserved their common title in any Bible outside the Hebrew, that title has lived on in literature and common talk. Thus the Greek Canon omits it; but Greek Jews and Christians always counted the books as one volume, calling, them "The Twelve Prophets," or "The Twelve-Prophet Book." It was the Latins who designated them "The Minor Prophets": "on account of their brevity as compared with those who are called the Major because of their ampler volumes." And this name has passed into most modern languages, including our own. But surely it is better to revert to the original, canonical and unambiguous title of "The Twelve."

The collection and arrangement of "The Twelve" are matters of obscurity, from which, however, three or four facts emerge that are tolerably certain. The inseparableness of the books is a proof of the ancient date of their union. They must have been put together before they were received into the Canon. The Canon of the Prophets-Joshua to Second Kings and Isaiah to Malachi-was closed by 200 B.C. at the latest, and perhaps as early as 250; but if we have (as seems probable) portions of "The Twelve," which must be assigned to a little later than 300, this may be held to prove that the whole collection cannot have long preceded the fixing of the Canon of the Prophets. On the other hand, the fact that these latest pieces have not been placed under a title of their own, but are attached to the Book of Zechariah, is pretty sufficient evidence that they were added after the collection and fixture of twelve books-a round number which there would be every disposition not to disturb. That would give us for the date of the first edition (so to speak) of our Twelve some year before 300; and for the date of the second edition some year towards 250. This is a question, however, which may be reserved for final decision after we have examined the date of the separate books, and especially of Joel and the second half of Zechariah. That there was a previous collection, as early as the Exile, of the books written before then, may be regarded as more than probable. But we have no means of fixing its exact limits. Why the Twelve were all ultimately, put together is reasonably suggested by Jewish writers. They are small, and, as separate rolls, might have been lost. It is possible that the desire of the round number twelve is responsible for the admission of Jonah, a book very different in form from all the others; just as we have hinted that the fact of there being already twelve may account for the attachment of the late fragments to the Book of Zechariah. But all this is only to guess, where we have no means of certain knowledge.

"The Book of the Twelve" has not always held the place which it now occupies in the Hebrew Canon, at the end of the Prophets. The rabbis taught that Hosea, but for the comparative smallness of his prophecy, should have stood first of all the writing prophets, of whom they regarded him as the oldest. And doubtless it was for the same chronological reasons’ that early Christian catalogues of the Scriptures and various editions of the Septuagint placed the whole of "The Twelve" in front of Isaiah.

The internal arrangement of "The Twelve" in our English Bible is the same as that of the Hebrew Canon, and was probably determined by what the compilers thought to be the respective ages of the books. Thus, first we have six, all supposed to be of the earlier Assyrian period, before 700-Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah; then three from the late Assyrian and the Babylonian periods-Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah; and then three from the Persian period after the Exile-Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The Septuagint have altered the order of the first six, arranging Hosea, Amos, Micah, Joel, and Obadiah according to their size, and setting Jonah after them, probably because of his different form. The remaining six are left as in the Hebrew.

Recent criticism, however, has made it clear that the Biblical order of "The Twelve Prophets" is no more than a very rough approximation to the order of their real dates; and, as it is obviously best for us to follow in their historical succession prophecies which illustrate the whole history of prophecy from its rise with Amos to its fall with Malachi and his successors, I propose to do this. Detailed proofs of the separate dates must be left to each book. All that is needful here is a general statement of the order.

Of the first six prophets the dates of Amos, Hosea, and Micah (but of the latter’s book in part only) are certain. The Jews have been able to defend Hosea’s priority only on fanciful grounds. Whether or not he quotes from Amos, his historical allusions are more recent. With the exception of a few fragments incorporated by later authors, the Book of Amos is thus the earliest example of prophetic literature, and we take it first. The date we shall see is about 755. Hosea begins five or ten years later, and Micah just before 722. The three are in every respect-originality, comprehensiveness, influence upon other prophets-the greatest of our Twelve, and will therefore be treated with most detail, occupying the whole of the first volume.

The rest of the first six are Obadiah, Joel, and Jonah. But the Book of Obadiah, although it opens with an early oracle against Edom, is in its present form from after the Exile. The Book of Joel is of uncertain date, but, as we shall see, the great probability is that it is late; and the Book of Jonah belongs to a form of literature so different from the others that we may, most conveniently, treat of it last.

This leaves us to follow Micah, at the end of the eighth century, with the group Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habakkuk from the second half of the seventh century; and finally to take in their order the post-exilic Haggai, Zechariah 1:1-21; Zechariah 2:1-13; Zechariah 3:1-10; Zechariah 4:1-14; Zechariah 5:1-11; Zechariah 6:1-15; Zechariah 7:1-14; Zechariah 8:1-23; Zechariah 9:1-17., Malachi, and the other writings which we feel obliged to place about or even after that date.

One other word is needful. This assignment of the various books to different dates is not to be held as implying that the whole of a book belongs to such a date or to the author whose name it bears. We shall find that hands have been busy with the texts of the books long after the authors of these must have passed away; that besides early fragments incorporated by later writers, prophets of Israel’s new dawn mitigated the judgments and enlightened the gloom of the watchmen of her night; that here and there are passages which are evidently intrusions, both because they interrupt the argument and because they reflect a much later historical environment than their context. This, of course, will require discussion in each case, and such discussion will be given. The text will be subjected to an independent examination. Some passages hitherto questioned we may find to be unjustly so; others not hitherto questioned we may see reason to suspect. But in any case we shall keep in mind that the results of an independent inquiry are uncertain; and that in this new criticism of the prophets, which is comparatively recent, we cannot hope to arrive for some time at so general a consensus as is being rapidly reached in the far older and more elaborated criticism of the Pentateuch.

Such is the extent and order of the journey which lies before us. If it is not to the very summits of Israel’s outlook that we climb-Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the great Prophet of the Exile-we are yet to traverse the range of prophecy from beginning to end. We start with its first abrupt elevations in Amos. We are carried by the side of Isaiah and Jeremiah, yet at a lower altitude, on to the Exile. With the returned Israel we pursue an almost immediate rise to vision, and then by Malachi and others are conveyed down dwindling slopes to the very end. Beyond the land is flat. Though Psalms are sung and brave deeds done, and faith is strong and bright, there is no height of outlook; "there is no more any prophet" {Psalm 74:9} in Israel.

But our "Twelve" do more than thus carry us from beginning to end of the Prophetic Period. Of second rank as are most of the heights of this mountain range, they yet bring forth and speed on their way not a few of the streams of living water which have nourished later ages and are flowing today. Impetuous cataracts of righteousness-"let it roll on like water, and justice as an everlasting stream"; the irrepressible love of God to sinful men; the perseverance and pursuits of His grace; His mercies that follow the exile and the outcast His truth that goes forth richly upon the heathen; the ‘hope of the Savior of mankind the outpouring of the Spirit; counsels of patience; impulses of tenderness and of healing melodies innumerable, -all sprang from these lower hills of prophecy, and sprang so strongly that the world hears and feels them still,

And from the heights of our present pilgrimage there are also clear those great visions of the Stars and the Dawn, of the Sea and the Storm, concerning which it is true that as long as men live they shall seek out the places whence they can be seen, and thank God for His prophets.


Our "Twelve Prophets" will carry us, as we have seen, across the whole extent of the Prophetical period-the period when prophecy became literature, assuming the form and rising to the ‘intensity of an imperishable influence on the world. The earliest of the Twelve, Amos and Hosea, were the inaugurators of this period. They were not only the first (so far as we know) to commit prophecy to writing, but we find in them the germs of all its subsequent development. Yet Amos and Hosea were not unfathered. Behind them lay an older dispensation, and their own was partly a product of this, and partly a revolt against it. Amos says of himself: "The Lord hath spoken, who can but prophesy?"-but again: "No prophet I, nor prophet’s son!" Who were those earlier prophets whose office Amos assumed while repudiating their spirit-whose name he abjured, yet could not escape from it? And, while we are about the matter, what do we mean by "prophet" in general? In vulgar use the name "prophet" has degenerated to the meaning of "one who foretells the future." Of this meaning it is, perhaps, the first duty of every student of prophecy earnestly and stubbornly to rid himself. In its native Greek tongue "prophet" meant not "one who speaks before," but "one who speaks for, or on behalf of, another." At the Delphic oracle "The Prophet’s" was the title of the official who received the utterances of the frenzied Pythoness and expounded them to the people; but Plato says that this is a misuse of the word, and that the true prophet is the inspired person himself, he who is in communication with the Deity and who speaks directly for the Deity. So Tiresias, the seer, is called by Pindar the "prophet" or "interpreter of Zeus," and Plato even styles poets "the prophets of the Muses." It is in this sense that we must think of the "Prophet" of the Old Testament. He is a speaker for God. The sharer of God’s counsels, as Amos calls him, he becomes the bearer and preacher of God’s Word. Prediction of the future is only a part, and often a subordinate and accidental part, of an office whose full function is to declare the character and the will of God. But the prophet does this in no systematic or abstract form. He brings his revelation point by point, and in connection with some occasion in the history of his people, or some phase of their character. He is not a philosopher nor a theologian with a system of doctrine (at least before Ezekiel), but the messenger and herald of God at some crisis in the life or conduct of His people. His message is never out of touch with events. These form either the subject matter or the proof or the execution of every oracle he utters. It is, therefore, God not merely as Truth, but far more as Providence, whom the prophet reveals. And although that Providence includes the full destiny of Israel and mankind, the prophet brings the news of it, for the most part, piece by piece, with reference to some present sin or duty, or some impending crisis or calamity. Yet he does all this, not merely because the word needed for the day has been committed to him by itself, and as if he were only its mechanical vehicle; but because he has come under the overwhelming conviction of God’s presence and of His character, a conviction often so strong that God’s word breaks through him and God speaks in the first person to the people.


There was no ancient people but believed in the power of certain personages to consult the Deity and to reveal His will. Every man could sacrifice; but not every man could render in return the oracle of God. This pertained to select individuals or orders. So the prophet seems to have been an older specialist than the priest, though in every tribe he frequently combined the latter’s functions with his own.

The matters on which ancient man consulted God were as wide as life. But naturally at first, in a rude state of society and at a low stage of mental development, it was in regard to the material defense and necessities of life, the bare law and order, that men almost exclusively sought the Divine will. And the whole history of prophecy is just the effort to substitute for these elementary provisions a more personal standard of the moral law, and more spiritual ideals of the Divine grace.

By the Semitic race-to which we may now confine ourselves, since Israel belonged to it-Deity was worshipped, in the main, as the god of a tribe. Every Semitic tribe had its own god; it would appear that there was no god without a tribe: the traces of belief in a supreme and abstract Deity are few and ineffectual. The tribe was the medium by which the god made himself known, and became an effective power on earth: the god was the patron of the tribe, the supreme magistrate and the leader in war. The piety he demanded was little more than loyalty to ritual; the morality he enforced was only a matter of police. He took no cognizance of the character or inner thoughts of the individual. But the tribe believed him to stand in very close connection with all the practical interests of their common life. They asked of him the detection of criminals, the discovery of lost property, the settlement of civil suits, sometimes when the crops should be sown, and always when war should be waged and by what tactics.

The means by which the prophet consulted the Deity on these subjects were for the most part primitive and rude. They may be summed up under two kinds: Visions either through falling into ecstasy or by dreaming in sleep, and Signs or Omens. Both kinds are instanced in Balaam. Of the signs some were natural, like the whisper of trees, the flight of birds, the passage of clouds, the movement of stars. Others were artificial, like the casting or drawing of lots. Others were between these, like the shape assumed by the entrails of the sacrificed animals when thrown on the ground. Again, the prophet was often obliged to do something wonderful in the people’s sight in order to convince-them of his authority. In Biblical language he had to work a miracle or give a sign. One instance throws a flood of light on this habitual expectancy of the Semitic mind. There was once an Arab chief who wished to consult a distant soothsayer as to the guilt of a daughter. But before he would trust the seer to give him the right answer to such a question he made him discover a grain of corn which he had concealed about his horse. He required the physical sign before he would accept the moral judgment.

Now, to us, the crudeness of the means employed, the opportunities of fraud, the inadequacy of the tests for spiritual ends, are very obvious. But do not let us, therefore, miss the numerous moral opportunities which lay before the prophet even at that early stage of his evolution. He was trusted to speak in the name of Deity. Through him men believed in God and in the possibility of a revelation. They sought from him the discrimination of evil from good. The highest possibilities of social ministry lay open to him: the tribal existence often hung on his word for peace or war; he was the mouth of justice, the rebuke of evil, the champion of the wronged. Where such opportunities were present, can we imagine the Spirit of God to have been absent-the Spirit Who seeks men more than they seek Him, and, as He condescends to use their poor language for religion, must also have stooped to the picture language, to the rude instruments, symbols and sacraments, of their early faith?

In an office of such mingled possibilities everything depended-as we shall find it depend to the very end of prophecy-on the moral insight and character of the prophet himself, on his conception of God and whether he was so true to this as to overcome his professional temptations to fraud and avarice, malice, towards individuals, subservience to the powerful, or, worst snares of all, the slothfulness and insincerity of routine. We see this moral issue put very clearly in such a story as that of Balaam, or in such a career as that of Mohammed.

So much for the Semitic soothsayer in general. Now let us turn to Israel.

Among the Hebrews the "man of God," to use his widest designation, is at first called "Seer," or "Gazer," the word which Balaam uses of himself. In consulting the Divine will he employs the same external means, he offers the people for their evidence the same signs, as do the seers or soothsayers of other Semitic tribes. He gains influence by the miracles, "the wonderful things," which he does. Moses himself is represented after this fashion. He meets the magicians of Egypt on their own level. His use of "rods"; the holding up of his hands that Israel may prevail against Amaleq: Joshua’s casting of tots to discover a criminal; Samuel’s dream in the sanctuary; his discovery for a fee of the lost asses of Saul; David and the images in his house, the ephod he consulted; the sign to go to battle "what time thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees"; Solomon’s inducement of dreams by sleeping in the sanctuary at Gibeah, -these are a few of the many proofs that early prophecy in Israel employed not only the methods but even much of the furniture of the kindred Semitic religions. But then those tools and methods were at the same time accompanied by the noble opportunities of the prophetic office to which I have just alluded-opportunities of religious and social ministry-and still more, these opportunities were at the disposal of moral influences which, it is a matter of history, were not found in any other Semitic religion than Israel’s; However you will explain it, that Divine Spirit, which’ we have felt unable to conceive as absent from any Semitic prophet who truly sought after God, that Light which light, eth every man who cometh into the world, was present to an unparalleled degree with the early prophets of Israel. He came to individuals, and. to the nation as a whole, in events and in influences which may be summed up as the impression of the character of their national God, Jehovah: to use Biblical language, as "Jehovah’s spirit" and "power." It is true that in many ways the Jehovah of early Israel reminds us of other Semitic deities. Like some of them He appears with thunder and lightning; like all of them He is the God of one tribe who are His peculiar people. He bears the same titles!-Melek, Adon, Baal ("King," "Lord," "Possessor"). He is propitiated by the same offerings. To choose one striking instance, captives and spoil of war are sacrificed to Him with the same relentlessness, and by a process which has even the same names given to it, as in the votive inscriptions of Israel’s heathen neighbors. Yet, notwithstanding all these elements, the religion of Jehovah from the very first evinced, by the confession of all critics, an ethical force shared by no other Semitic creed. From the first there was in it the promise and the potency of that sublime monotheism, which in the period of our "Twelve" it afterwards reached. Its earliest effects of course were chiefly political: it welded the twelve tribes into the unity of a nation; it preserved them as one amid the many temptations to scatter along those divergent lines of culture and of faith, which the geography of their country placed so attractively before them. It taught them to prefer religious loyalty to material advantage, and so inspired them with high motives for self-sacrifice and every other duty of patriotism. But it did even better than thus teach them to bear one another’s burdens. It inspired them to care for one another’s sins. The last chapters of the Book of Judges prove how strong a national conscience there was in early Israel. Even then Israel was a moral, as well as a political, unity. Gradually there grew up, but still unwritten, a body of Torah, or revealed law, which, though its framework was the common custom of the Semitic race, was inspired by ideals of humanity and justice not elsewhere in that race discernible by us.

When we analyze this ethical distinction of early Israel, this indubitable progress which the nation were making while the rest of their world was morally stagnant, we find it to be due to their impressions of the character of their God. This character did not affect them as Righteousness only. At first it was even a more wonderful Grace. Jehovah had chosen them when they were no people, had redeemed them from servitude, had brought them to their land; had borne with their stubbornness, and had forgiven their infidelities. Such a Character was partly manifest in the great events of their history, and partly communicated itself to their finest personalities-as the Spirit of God does communicate with the spirit of man made in His image. Those personalities were the early prophets from Moses to Samuel. They inspired the nation to believe in God’s purposes for itself; they rallied it to war for the common faith, and war was then the pitch of self-sacrifice; they gave justice to it in God’s name, and rebuked its sinfulness without sparing. Criticism has proved that we do not know nearly so much about those first prophets as perhaps we thought we did. But under their God they made Israel. Out of their work grew the monotheism of their successors, whom we are now to study, and later the Christianity of the New Testament. For myself I cannot but believe that in the influence of Jehovah which Israel owned in those early times there was the authentic revelation of a real Being.


Of the oldest order of Hebrew prophecy, Samuel was the last representative. Till his time, we are told, the prophet in Israel was known as the Seer, {1 Samuel 9:9} but now, with other tempers and other habits, a new order appears whose name-and that means to a certain extent their spirit-is to displace the older name and the older spirit.

When Samuel anointed Saul he bade him, for a sign that he was chosen of the Lord, go forth to meet "a company of prophets"-Nebi’im, the singular is Nabi’-coming down from the high place or sanctuary with viols, drums and pipes, and prophesying. "There," he added, "the spirit of Jehovah shall come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man." So it happened; and the people "said one to another, What is this that is come to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?" Another story, probably from another source, tells us that later, when Saul sent troops of messengers to the sanctuary at Ramah to take David, they saw the company of prophets prophesying and Samuel standing appointed over them, and the spirit of God fell upon one after another of the troops; as upon Saul himself when he followed them up. "And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?" {1 Samuel 19:20-24}

All this is very different from the habits of the Seer, who had hitherto represented prophecy. He was solitary, but these went about in bands. They were filled with an infectious enthusiasm, by which they excited each other and all sensitive persons whom they touched. They stirred up this enthusiasm by singing, playing upon instruments, and dancing: its results were frenzy, the tearing of their clothes, and prostration. The same phenomena have appeared in every religion-in Paganism often, and several times within Christianity. They may be watched today among the dervishes of Islam, who by singing (as one has seen them in Cairo), by swaying of their bodies, by repeating the Divine Name, and dwelling on the love and. ineffable power of God, work themselves into an excitement which ends in prostration and often in insensibility. The whole process is due to an overpowering sense of the Deity-crude and unintelligent if you will, but sincere and authentic-which seems to haunt the early stages of all religions, and to linger to the end with the stagnant and unprogressive. The appearance of this prophecy in Israel has given rise to a controversy as to whether it was purely a native product, or was induced by infection from the Canaanite tribes around. Such questions are of little interest in face of these facts: that the ecstasy sprang up in Israel at a time when the spirit of the people was stirred against the Philistines, and patriotism and religion were equally excited; that it is represented as due to the Spirit of Jehovah; and that the last of the old order of Jehovah’s prophets recognized its harmony with his own dispensation, presided over it, and gave Israel’s first king as one of his signs, that he should come under its power. These things being so, it is surprising that a recent critic should have seen in the dancing prophets nothing but eccentrics into whose company it was shame for so good a man as Saul to fall. He reaches this conclusion only by supposing that the reflexive verb used for their "prophesying"-hithnabbe- had at this time that equivalence to mere madness to which it was reduced by the excesses of later generations of prophets. With Samuel we feel that the word had no reproach: the Nebi’im were recognized by him as standing in the prophetical succession. They sprang up in sympathy with a national movement. The king who joined himself to them was the same who sternly banished from Israel all the baser forms of soothsaying and traffic with the dead. But, indeed, we need no other proof than this: the name Nebi’im so establishes itself in the popular regard that it displaces the older names of Seer and Gazer, and becomes the classical term for the whole body of prophets from Moses to Malachi.

There was one very remarkable change effected by this new order of prophets, probably the very greatest relief which prophecy experienced in the course of its evolution. This was separation from the ritual and from the implements of soothsaying. Samuel had been both priest and prophet. But after him the names and the duties were specialized, though the specializing was incomplete. While the new Nebi’im remained in connection with the ancient centers of religion, they do not appear to have exercised any part of the ritual. The priests, on the other hand, did not confine themselves to sacrifice, and other forms of public worship, but exercised many of the so-called prophetic functions. They also, as Hosea tells us, were expected to give Toroth-revelations of the Divine will on points of conduct and order. There remained with them the ancient forms of oracle-the Ephod, or plated image, the Teraphim, the lot, and the Orim and Thummim, all of these apparently still regarded as indispensable elements of religion. From such rude forms of ascertaining the Divine Will, prophecy in its new order was absolutely free. And it was free of the ritual of the sanctuaries. As has been justly remarked, the ritual of Israel always remained a peril to the people, the peril of relapsing into Paganism. Not only did it materialize faith and engross affections in the worshipper which were meant for moral objects, but very many of its forms were actually the same as those of the other Semitic religions, and it tempted its devotees to the confusion of their God with the gods of the heathen. Prophecy was now wholly independent of it, and we may see in such independence the possibility of all the subsequent career of prophecy along moral and spiritual lines. Amos absolutely condemns the ritual, and Hosea brings the message from God, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice." This is the distinctive glory of prophecy in that era in which we are to study it. But do not let us forget that it became possible through the ecstatic Nebi’im of Samuel’s time, and through their separation from the national ritual and the material forms of soothsaying. It is the way of Providence to prepare for the revelation of great moral truths, by the enfranchisement, sometimes centuries before, of an order or a nation of men from political or professional interests which would have rendered it impossible for their descendants to appreciate those truths without prejudice or compromise.

We may conceive then of these Nebi’im, these prophets, as enthusiasts for Jehovah and for Israel. For Jehovah-if today we see men cast by the adoration of the despot-deity of Islam into transports so excessive that they lose all consciousness of earthly things and fall into a trance, can we not imagine a like effect produced on the same sensitive natures of the East by the contemplation of such a God as Jehovah, so mighty in earth and heaven, so faithful to His people, so full of grace? Was not such an ecstasy of worship most likely to be born of the individual’s ardent devotion in the hour of the nation’s despair? {Cf. Deuteronomy 28:34} Of course there would be swept up by such. a movement all the more volatile and unbalanced minds of the day-as these always have been swept up by any powerful religious excitement-but that is not to discredit the sincerity of the main volume of the feeling nor its authenticity as a work of the Spirit of God, as the impression of the character and power of Jehovah.

But these ecstatics were also enthusiasts for Israel; and this saved the movement from morbidness. They worshipped God neither out of sheer physical sympathy with nature, like the Phoenician devotees of Adonis or the Greek Bacchantes; nor out of terror at the approaching end of, all things, like some of the ecstatic sects of the Middle Ages; nor out of a selfish passion for their own salvation, like so many a modern Christian fanatic; but in sympathy with their nation’s aspirations for freedom and her whole political life. They were enthusiasts for their people. The ecstatic prophet was not confined to his body nor to nature for the impulses of Deity. Israel was, his body, his atmosphere, his universe. Through it all he felt the thrill of Deity. Confine religion to the personal, it grows rancid, morbid. Wed it to patriotism, it lives in the open air and its blood is pure. So in days of national danger the Nebi’im would be inspired like Saul to battle for their country’s freedom; in more settled times they would be lifted to the responsibilities of educating the people, counseling the governors, and preserving the national traditions. This is what actually took place. After the critical period of Saul’s time has passed, the prophets still remain enthusiasts; but they are enthusiasts for affairs. They counsel and they rebuke David. {2 Samuel 12:1 ff.} They warn Rehoboam, and they excite Northern Israel to revolt. {1 Kings 11:29; 1 Kings 12:22} They overthrow and they set up dynasties. {1 Kings 14:2; 1 Kings 7:11; 1 Kings 19:15 ff} They offer the king advice on campaigns. {1 Kings 22:5 2 Kings 2:11 ff} Like Elijah, they take up against the throne the cause of the oppressed; {1 Kings 21:1 ff} like Elisha, they stand by the throne its most trusted counselors in peace and war. {2 Kings 6:1-8, etc.} That all this is no new order of prophecy in Israel, but the developed form of the ecstasy of Samuel’s day, is plain from the continuance of the name Nebi’im and from these two facts besides: that the ecstasy survives and that the prophets still live in communities. The greatest figures of the period, Elijah and Elisha, have upon them "the hand of the Lord," as the influence is now called: Elijah when he runs before Ahab’s chariot across Esdraelon, Elisha when by music he induces upon himself the prophetic mood. {2 Kings 3:15} Another ecstatic figure is the prophet who was sent to anoint Jehu; he swept in and he swept out again, and the soldiers called him "that mad fellow."

But the roving bands had settled down into more or less stationary communities, who partly lived by agriculture and partly by the alms of the people or the endowments of the crown (1 Kings 18:4; 1 Kings 18:19; 2 Kings 2:3, 2 Kings 4:38-44; 2 Kings 5:20 ff.; 2 Kings 6:1 ff.; 2 Kings 8:8 f., etc.). Their centers were either the centers of national worship, like Bethel and Gilgal, or the centers of government, like Samaria, where the dynasty of Omri supported prophets both of Baal and of Jehovah. {2 Kings 18:19; 2 Kings 22:6} They were called prophets, but also "sons of the prophets," the latter name not because their office was hereditary, but by the Oriental fashion of designating every member of a guild as the son of the guild. In many, cases the son may have succeeded his father; but the ranks could be recruited from outside, as we see in the case of-the young farmer Elisha, whom Elijah anointed at the plough. They probably all wore the mantle which is distinctive of some of them, the mantle of hair, or skin of a beast.

The risks of degeneration, to which this order of prophecy was liable, arose both from its ecstatic temper and from its connection with public affairs.

Religious ecstasy is always dangerous to the moral and intellectual interests of religion. The largest prophetic figures of the period, though they feel the ecstasy, attain their greatness by rising superior to it. Elijah’s raptures are impressive; but nobler are his defense of Naboth and his denunciation of Ahab. And so Elisha’s inducement of the prophetic mood by music is the least attractive element in his career: his greatness lies in his combination of the care of souls with political insight and vigilance for the national interests. Doubtless there were many of the sons of the prophets who with smaller abilities cultivated a religion as rational and moral. But for the herd ecstasy would be everything. It was so easily induced or imitated that much of it cannot have been genuine. Even where the feeling was at first sincere we can understand how readily it became morbid; how fatally it might fall into sympathy with that drunkenness from wine and that sexual passion which Israel saw already cultivated as worship by the surrounding Canaanites. We must feel these dangers of ecstasy if we would understand why Amos cut himself off from the Nebi’im, and why Hosea laid such emphasis on the moral and intellectual sides of religion: "My people perish for lack of knowledge." Hosea indeed considered the degeneracy of ecstasy as a judgment:

"the prophet is a fool, the man of the spirit is mad - for the multitude of thine iniquity." {Hosea 9:7} A later age derided the ecstatics, and took one of the forms of the verb "to prophesy" as equivalent to the verb "to be mad."

But temptations as gross beset the prophet from that which should have been the discipline of his ecstasy-his connection with public affairs. Only some prophets were brave rebukers of the king and the people. The herd which fed at the royal table-four hundred under Ahab-were flatterers, who could not tell the truth, who said Peace, peace, when there was no peace. These were false prophets. Yet it is curious that the very early narrative which describes them {1 Kings 22:1-53} does not impute their falsehood to any base motives of their own, but to the direct inspiration of God, who sent forth a lying spirit upon them. So great was the reverence still for the "man of the spirit"! Rather than doubt his inspiration, they held his very lies to be inspired. One does not of course mean that these consenting prophets were conscious liars; but that their dependence on the king, their servile habits of speech, disabled them from seeing the truth. Subserviency to the powerful was their great temptation. In the story of Balaam we see confessed the base instinct that he who paid the prophet should have the word of the prophet in his favor. In Israel prophecy went through exactly the same struggle between the claims of its God and the claims of its patrons. Nor were those patrons always the rich. The bulk of the prophets were dependent on the charitable gifts of the common people, and in this we may find reason for that subjection of so many of them to the vulgar ideals of the national destiny, to signs of which we are pointed by Amos. The priest at Bethel only reflects public opinion when he takes for granted that the prophet is a thoroughly mercenary character: "Seer, get thee gone to the land of Judah: eat there thy bread, and play the prophet there!" {Amos 7:12} No wonder Amos separates himself from such hireling craftsmen!

Such was the course of prophecy up to Elisha, and the borders of the eighth century. We have seen how even for the ancient prophet, mere soothsayer though we might regard him in respect of the rude instruments of his office, there were present moral opportunities of the highest kind, from which, if he only proved true to them, we cannot conceive the Spirit of God to have been absent. In early Israel we are sure that the Spirit did meet such strong and pure characters, from Moses to Samuel, creating by their means the nation of Israel, welding it to, a unity, which was not only political but moral-and moral to a degree not elsewhere realized in the Semitic world. We saw how a new race of prophets arose under Samuel, separate from the older forms of prophecy by lot and oracle, separate, too, from the ritual as a whole; and therefore free for a moral and spiritual advance of which the priesthood, still bound to images and the ancient rites, proved themselves incapable. But this new order of prophecy, besides its moral opportunities, had also its moral perils: its ecstasy was dangerous, its connection with public affairs was dangerous too. Again, the test was the personal character of the prophet himself. And so once more we see raised above the herd great personalities, who carry forward the work of their predecessors. The results are, besides the discipline of the monarchy and the defense of justice and the poor, the firm establishment of Jehovah as the one and only God of Israel, and the impression on Israel both of His omnipotent guidance of them in the past and of a worldwide destiny, still vague but brilliant, which He had prepared for them in the future.

This brings us to Elisha, and from Elisha there are but forty years to Amos. During those forty years, however, there arose within Israel a new civilization; beyond her there opened up a new world; and with Assyria there entered the resources of Providence, a new power. It was these three facts-the New Civilization, the New World, and the New Power-which made the difference between Elisha and Amos, and raised prophecy from a national to a universal religion.


THE long life of Elisha fell to its rest on the margin of the eighth century. He had seen much evil upon Israel. The people were smitten in all their coasts. None of their territory across Jordan was left to them; and not only Hazael and his Syrians, but bands of their own former subjects, the Moabites, periodically raided Western Palestine, up to the very gates of Samaria. {2 Kings 10:32; 2 Kings 13:20; 2 Kings 13:22} Such a state of affairs determined the activity of the last of the older prophets. Elisha spent his life in the duties of the national defense, and in keeping alive the spirit of Israel against her foes. When he died they called him "Israel’s chariot and the horsemen thereof," {2 Kings 13:14} so incessant had been both his military vigilance (2 Kings 6:12 ff., etc.), and his political insight (2 Kings 8:1-29, etc.). But Elisha was able to leave behind him the promise of a new day of victory (2 Kings 13:17 ff.). It was in the peace and liberty of this day that Israel rose a step in civilization; that prophecy, released from the defense, became the criticism, of the national life; and that the people, no longer absorbed in their own borders, looked out, and for the first time realized the great world, of which they were only a part.

King Joash, whose arms the dying Elisha had blessed, won back in the sixteen years of his reign (798-783) the cities which the Syrians had taken from his father. {2 Kings 13:23-25} His successor, Jeroboam II, came in, therefore, with a flowing tide. He was a strong man, and he took advantage of it. During his long reign of about forty years (783-743) he restored the border of Israel from the Pass of Hamath between the Lebanons to the Dead Sea, and occupied at least part of the territory of Damascus. This means that the constant raids to which Israel had been subjected now ceased, and that by the time of Amos, about 755, a generation was grown up who had not known defeat, and the most of whom had perhaps no experience even of war.

Along the same length of years Uzziah (circa 778-740) had dealt similarly with Judah. {2 Kings 15:1-38; cf. 2 Chronicles 26:1-23} He had pushed south to the Red Sea, while Jeroboam pushed north to Hamath: and while Jeroboam had taken the Syrian towns he had crushed the Philistine. He had reorganized the army, and invented new engines of siege for casting stones.

On such of his frontiers as were opposed to the desert he had built towers: there is no better means of keeping the nomads in subjection.

All this meant such security across broad Israel as had not been known since the glorious days of Solomon. Agriculture must everywhere have revived: Uzziah, the Chronicler tells us, "loved husbandry." But we hear most of Trade and Building. With quarters in Damascus and a port on the Red Sea, with allies in the Phoenician towns and tributaries in the Philistine, with command of all the main routes between Egypt and the North as between the Desert and the Levant, Israel, during those forty years of Jeroboam and Uzziah, must have become a busy and a wealthy commercial power. Hosea calls the Northern Kingdom a very Canaan-Canaanite being the Hebrew term for trader-as we should say a very Jew; and Amos exposes all the restlessness, the greed, and the indifference to the poor of a community making haste to be rich. The first effect of this was a large increase of the towns and of town-life. Every document of the time-up to 720-speaks to us of its buildings. In ordinary building houses of ashlar seem to be novel enough to be mentioned. Vast palaces- the name of them first heard of in Israel under Omri and his Phoenician alliance, and then only as that of the king’s citadel-are now built by wealthy grandees out of money extorted from the poor; they can have risen only since the Syrian wars. There are summer houses in addition to winter houses; and it is not only the king, as in the days of Ahab, who furnishes his buildings with ivory. When an earthquake comes and whole cities are overthrown, the vigor and wealth of the people are such that they build more strongly and lavishly than before. {Isaiah 9:10} With all this we have the characteristic tempers and moods of city-life: the fickleness and liability to panic which are possible only where men are gathered in crowds; the luxury and false art which are engendered only by artificial conditions of life; the deep poverty which in all cities, from the beginning to the end of time, lurks by the side of the most brilliant wealth, its dark and inevitable shadow.

In short, in the half-century between Elisha and Amos, Israel rose from one to another of the great stages of culture. Till the eighth century they had been but a kingdom of fighting husbandmen. Under Jeroboam and Uzziah city-life was developed, and civilization, in the proper sense of the word, appeared. Only once before had Israel taken so large a step: when they crossed Jordan, leaving the nomadic life for the agricultural; and that had been momentous for their religion. They came among new temptations: the use of wine, and the shrines of local gods who were believed to have more influence on the fertility of the land than Jehovah who had conquered it for His people. But now this further step, from the agricultural stage to the mercantile and civil, was equally fraught with danger. There was the closer intercourse with foreign nations and their cults. There were all the temptations of rapid wealth, all the dangers of an equally increasing poverty. The growth of comfort among the rulers meant the growth of thoughtlessness. Cruelty multiplied with refinement. The upper classes were lifted away from feeling the real woes of the people. There was a well-fed and sanguine patriotism, but at the expense of indifference to. social sin and want. Religious zeal and liberality increased, but they were coupled with all the proud’s misunderstanding of God: an optimist faith without moral insight or sympathy.

It is all this which makes the prophets of the eighth century so modern, while Elisha’s life is still so ancient. With him we are back in the times of our own border wars-of Wallace and Bruce, with their struggles for the freedom of the soil. With Amos we stand among the conditions of our own day. The City has arisen. For the development of the highest form of prophecy, the universal and permanent form, there was needed that marvelously unchanging mold of human life, whose needs and sorrows, whose sins and problems, are today the same as they were all those thousands of years ago.

With Civilization came Literature. The long peace gave leisure for writing; and the just pride of the people in boundaries broad as Solomon’s own, determined that this writing should take the form of heroic history. In the parallel reigns of Jeroboam and Uzziah many critics have placed the great epics of Israel: the earlier documents of our Pentateuch which trace God’s purposes to mankind by Israel, from the creation of the world to the settlement of the Promised Land; the histories which make up our Books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings. But whether all these were composed now or at an earlier date, it is certain that the nation lived in the spirit of them, proud of its past, aware of its vocation, and confident that its God, who had created the world and so mightily led itself, would bring it from victory by victory to a complete triumph over the heathen. Israel of the eighth century were devoted to Jehovah: and although passion or self-interest might lead individuals or even communities to worship other gods, He had no possible rival upon the throne of the nation.

As they delighted to recount His deeds by their fathers, so they thronged the scenes of these with sacrifice and festival. Bethel and Beersheba, Dan and Gilgal, were the principal; but Mizpeh, the top of Tabor, {Hosea 5:1} and Carmel, {1 Kings 18:30} perhaps Penuel, {1 Kings 12:25} were also conspicuous among the countless "high places" of the land. Of those in Northern Israel Bethel was the chief. It enjoyed the proper site for an ancient shrine, which was nearly always a market as well-near a frontier and where many roads converged; where traders from the East could meet halfway with traders from the West, the wool-growers of Moab and the Judaean desert with the merchants of Phoenicia and the Philistine coast. Here, on the spot on which the father of the nation had seen heaven open, a great temple was now built, with a priesthood endowed and directed by the crown, {1 Kings 12:25; Amos 7:1-17} but lavishly supported also by the tithes and free-will offerings of the people. {Amos 4:4} "It is a sanctuary of the king and a house of the kingdom." {Amos 7:13} Jeroboam had ordained Dan, at the other end of the kingdom, to be the fellow of Bethel; {1 Kings 12:25} but Dan was far away from the bulk of the people, and in the eighth century Bethel’s real rival was Gilgal. Whether this was the Gilgal by Jericho, or the other Gilgal on the Samarian hills near Shiloh, is uncertain. The latter had been a sanctuary in Elijah’s day, with a settlement of the prophets; but the former must have proved the greater attraction to a people so devoted to the sacred events of their past. Was it not the first resting-place of the Ark after the passage of Jordan, the scene of the reinstitution of circumcision, of the anointing of the first king, of Judah’s second submission to David? As there were many Gilgals in the land-literally "crom-lechs," ancient "stone-circles" sacred to the Canaanites as well as to Israel-so there were many Mizpehs, "Watch-towers," "Seers’ stations": the one mentioned by Hosea was probably in Gilead. To the southern Beersheba, to which Elijah had fled from Jezebel, pilgrimages were made by northern Israelites traversing Judah. The sanctuary on Carmel was the ancient altar of Jehovah which Elijah had rebuilt; but Carmel seems at this time to have lain, as it did so often, in the power of the Phoenicians, for it is imagined by the prophets only as a hiding-place from the face of Jehovah. {Amos 9:13}

At all these sanctuaries it was Jehovah and no other who was sought: "thy God, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." {1 Kings 12:28} At Bethel and at Dan He was adored in the form of a calf; probably at Gilgal also, for there is a strong tradition to that effect; and elsewhere men still consulted the other images which had been used by Saul and by David, the Ephod and the Teraphim. With these there was the old Semitic symbol of the Maccebah, or upright stone on which oil was poured. All of them had been used in the worship of Jehovah by the great examples and leaders of the past; all of them had been spared by Elijah and Etisha: it was no wonder that the common people of the eighth century felt them to be indispensable elements of religion, the removal of which, like the removal of the monarchy or of sacrifice itself, would mean utter divorce from the nation’s God.

One great exception must be made. Compared with the sanctuaries we have mentioned, Zion itself was very modern. But it contained the main repository of Israel’s religion, the Ark, and in connection with the Ark the worship of Jehovah was not a worship of images. It is significant that from this, the original sanctuary of Israel, with the pure worship, the new prophecy derived its first inspiration. But to that we shall return later with Amos. Apart from the Ark, Jerusalem was not free from images, nor even from the altars of foreign deities.

Where the externals of the ritual were thus so much the same as those of the Canaanite cults, which were still practiced in and around the land, it is not surprising that the worship of Jehovah should be further invaded by many pagan practices, nor that Jehovah Himself should be regarded with imaginations steeped in pagan ideas of the Godhead. That even the foulest tempers of the Canaanite ritual, those inspired by wine and the sexual passion, were licensed in the sanctuaries of Israel, both Amos and Hoses testify. But the worst of the evil was wrought in the popular conception of God. Let us remember again that Jehovah had no real rival at this time in the devotion of His people, and that their faith was expressed both by the legal forms of His religion and by a liberality which exceeded these. The tithes were paid to Him, and paid, it would appear, with more than legal frequency. {Amos 4:4 ff.} Sabbath and New Moon, as days of worship and rest from business, were observed with a Pharisaic scrupulousness for the letter if not for the spirit. {Amos 7:4; cf. 2 Kings 5:23} The prescribed festivals were held, and thronged by zealous devotees who rivaled each other in the amount of their free-will offerings. {Amos 4:4 f.} Pilgrimages were made to Bethel, to Gilgal, to far Beersheba, and the very way to the latter appeared as sacred to the Israelite as the way to Mecca does to a pious Moslem of today. If Yet, in spite of all this devotion to their God, Israel had no true ideas of Him. To quote Amos, they sought His sanctuaries, but Him they did not seek; in the words of Hosea’s frequent plaint, they "did not know Him." To the mass of the people, to their governors, their priests, and the most of their prophets, Jehovah was but the characteristic Semitic deity-patron of His people, and caring for them alone-who had helped them in the past, and was bound to help them still-very jealous as to the correctness of His ritual and the amount of His sacrifices, but indifferent about real morality. Nay, there were still darker streaks in their views of Him. A god, figured as an ox, could not be adored by a cattle-breeding people without starting in their minds thoughts too much akin to the foul tempers of the Canaanite faiths. These things it is almost a shame to mention; but without knowing that they fermented in the life of that generation, we shall not appreciate the vehemence of Amos or of Moses.

Such a religion had no discipline for the busy, mercenary life of the day. Injustice and fraud were rife in the very precincts of the sanctuary. Magistrates and priests alike were smitten with their generation’s love of money, and did everything for reward. Again and again do the prophets speak of bribery. Judges took gifts and perverted the cause of the poor; priests drank the mulcted wine, and slept on the pledged garments of religious offenders. There was no disinterested service of God or of the common weal. Mammon was supreme. The influence of the commercial character of the age appears in another very remarkable result. An agricultural community is always sensitive to the religion of nature. They are awed by its chastisements- droughts, famines, and earthquakes. They feel its majestic order in the course of the seasons, the procession of day and night, the march of the great stars, all the host of the Lord of hosts. But Amos seems to have had to break into passionate reminders of Him that maketh Orion and the Pleiades, and turneth the murk into morning. Several physical calamities visited the land. The locusts are bad in Palestine every sixth or seventh year: one year before Amos began they had been very bad. There was a monstrous drought, followed by a famine. There was a long-remembered earthquake-"the earthquake in the days of Uzziah." With Egypt so near, the home of the plague, and with so much war afoot in Northern Syria, there were probably more pestilences in Western Asia than those recorded in 803, 765, and 759. There was a total eclipse of the sun in 763. But of all these, except perhaps the pestilence, a commercial people are independent as an agricultural are not. Israel speedily recovered from them, without any moral improvement. Even when the earthquake came "they said in pride and stout ness of heart, the bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones; the sycamores are cut down, but we will change to cedars." {Isaiah 9:10} It was a marvelous generation-so Joyous, so energetic, so patriotic, so devout. But its strength was the strength of cruel wealth, its peace the peace of an immoral religion.

I have said that the age is very modern, and we shall indeed go to its prophets feeling that they speak to conditions of life extremely like our own. But if we wish a still closer analogy from our history, we must travel back to the fourteenth century in England-Langland’s and Wyclif’s century, which, like this one in Israel, saw both the first real attempts to yards a national literature, and the first real attempts towards a moral and religious reform. Then as in Israel a long and victorious reign was drawing to a close, under the threat of disaster when it should have passed. Then as in Israel there had been droughts, earthquakes, and pestilences with no moral results upon the nation. Then also there was a city life developing at the expense of country life. Then also the wealthy began to draw aloof from the people. Then also there was a national religion, zealously cultivated and endowed by the liberality of the people, but superstitious, mercenary, and corrupted by sexual disorder. Then too there were many pilgrimages to popular shrines, and the land was strewn with mendicant priests and hireling preachers. And then too prophecy raised its voice, for the first time fearless in England. As we study the verses of Amos we shall find again and again the most exact parallels to them in the verses of Langland’s "Vision of Piers the Plowman," which denounce the same vices in Church and State, and enforce the same principles of religion and morality.

It was when the reign of Jeroboam was at its height of assured victory, when the nation’s prosperity seemed impregnable after the survival of those physical calamities, when the worship and the commerce were in full course throughout the land, that the first of the new prophets broke out against Israel in the name of Jehovah, threatening judgment alike upon the new civilization of which they were so proud and the old religion in which they were so confident. These prophets were inspired by feelings of the purest morality, by the passionate conviction that God could no longer bear such impurity and disorder. But, as we have seen, no prophet in Israel ever worked on the basis of principles only. He came always in alliance with events. These first appeared in the shape of the great physical disasters. But a more powerful instrument of Providence, in the service of judgment, was appearing on the horizon. This was the Assyrian Empire. So vast was its influence on prophecy that we must devote to it a separate chapter.


BY far the greatest event in the eighth century before Christ was the appearance of Assyria in Palestine. To Israel since the Exodus and Conquest, nothing had happened capable of so enormous an influence at once upon their national fortunes and their religious development. But while the Exodus and Conquest had advanced the political and spiritual progress of Israel in equal proportion, the effect of the Assyrian invasion was to divorce these two interests, and destroy the state while it refined and confirmed the religion. After permitting the Northern Kingdom to reach an extent and splendor unrivalled since the days of Solomon, Assyria overthrew it in 721, and left all Israel scarcely a third of their former magnitude. But while Assyria proved so disastrous to the state, her influence upon the prophecy of the period was little short of creative. Humanly speaking, this highest stage of Israel’s religion could not have been achieved by the prophets except in alliance with the armies of that heathen empire. Before then we turn to their pages it may be well for us to make clear in what directions Assyria performed this spiritual service for Israel. While pursuing this inquiry we may be able to find answers to the scarcely less important questions: why the prophets were at first doubtful of the part Assyria was destined to play in the providence of the Almighty; and why, when the prophets were at last convinced of the certainty of Israel’s overthrow, the statesmen of Israel and the bulk of the people still remained so unconcerned about her coming, or so sanguine of their power to resist her. This requires, to begin with, a summary of the details of the Assyrian advance upon Palestine.

In the far past Palestine had often been the hunting-ground of the Assyrian kings. But after 1100 B.C., and for nearly two centuries and a half, her states were left to themselves. Then Assyria resumed the task of breaking down that disbelief in her power with which her long withdrawal seems to have inspired their polities. In 870 Assurnasirpal reached the Levant, and took tribute from Tyre and Sidon. Omri was reigning in Samaria, and must have come into close relations with the Assyrians, for during more than a century and a half after his death they still called the land of Israel by his name. In 854 Salmanassar II defeated at Karkar the combined forces of Ahab and Benhadad. In 850, 849, and 846 he conducted campaigns against Damascus. In 842 he received tribute from Jehu, and in 839 again fought Damascus under Hazael. After this there passed a whole generation during which Assyria came no farther south than Arpad, some sixty miles north of Damascus; and Hazael employed the respite in those campaigns which proved so disastrous for Israel, by robbing her of the provinces across Jordan, and ravaging the country about Samaria. {2 Kings 10:32 f.; 2 Kings 13:3} In 803 Assyria returned, and accomplished the siege and capture of Damascus. The first consequence to Israel was that restoration of her hopes under Joash, at which the aged Elisha was still spared to assist, {2 Kings 13:14 ff.} and which reached its fulfillment in the recovery of all Eastern Palestine by Jeroboam II Jeroboam’s own relations to Assyria have not been recorded either by the Bible or by the Assyrian monuments. It is hard to think that he paid no tribute to the "king of kings." At all events it is certain that, while Assyria again overthrew the Arameans of Damascus in 773 and their neighbors of Hadrach in 772 and 765, Jeroboam was himself invading Aramean land, and the Book of Kings even attributes to him an extension of territory, or at least of political influence, up to the northern mouth of the great pass between the Lebanons. For the next twenty years Assyria only once came as far as Lebanon-to Hadrach in 759-and it may have been this long quiescence which enabled the rulers and people of Israel to forget, if indeed their religion and sanguine patriotism had ever allowed them to realize, how much the conquests and splendor of Jeroboam’s reign were due, not to themselves, but to the heathen power which had maimed their oppressors. Their dreams were brief. Before Jeroboam himself was dead, a new king had usurped the Assyrian throne (745 B.C.) and inaugurated a more vigorous policy. Borrowing the name of the ancient Tiglath-Pileser, he followed that conqueror’s path across the Euphrates. At first it seemed as if he was to suffer check. His forces were engrossed by the siege of Arpad for three years (c. 743), and this delay, along with that of two years more, during which he had to return to the conquest of Babylon, may well have given cause to the courts of Damascus and Samaria to believe that the Assyrian power had not really revived. Combining, they attacked Judah under Ahaz. But Ahaz appealed to Tiglath-Pileser, who within a year (734-733) had overthrown Damascus and carried captive the populations of Gilead and Galilee. There could now be no doubt as to what the Assyrian power meant for the political fortunes of Israel. Before this resistless and inexorable empire the people of Jehovah were as the most frail of their neighbors-sure of defeat, and sure, too, of that terrible captivity in exile which formed the novel policy of the invaders against the tribes who withstood them. Israel dared to withstand. The vassal Hoshea, whom the Assyrians had placed on the throne of Samaria in 730, kept back his tribute. The people rallied to him; and for more than three years this little tribe of highlanders resisted in their capital the Assyrian siege. Then came the end. Samaria fell in 721, and Israel went into captivity beyond the Euphrates.

In following the course of this long tragedy, a man’s heart cannot but feel that all the splendor and the glory did not lie with the prophets, in spite of their being the only actors in the drama who perceived its moral issues and predicted its actual end. For who can withhold admiration from those few tribesmen, who accepted no defeat as final, but so long as they were left to their fatherland rallied their ranks to its liberty and defied the huge empire. Nor was their courage always as blind, as in the time of Isaiah Samaria’s so fatally became. For one cannot have failed to notice, how fitful and irregular was Assyria’s advance, at least up to the reign of Tiglath-Pileser; nor how prolonged and doubtful were her sieges of some of the towns. The Assyrians themselves do not always record spoil or tribute after what they are pleased to call their victories over the cities of Palestine. To the same campaign they had often to return for several years in succession. It took Tiglath-Pileser himself three years to reduce Arpad; Salmanassar IV besieged Samaria for three years, and was slain before it yielded. These facts enable us to understand that, apart from the moral reasons which the prophets urged for the certainty of Israel’s overthrow by Assyria, it was always within the range of political possibility that Assyria would not come back, and that while she was engaged with revolts of other portions of her huge and disorganized empire, a combined revolution on the part of her Syrian vassals would be successful. The prophets themselves felt the influence of these chances. They were not always confident, as we shall see, that Assyria was to be the means of Israel’s over, throw. Amos, and in his earlier years Isaiah, describe her with a caution and a vagueness for which there is no other explanation than the political uncertainty that again and again hung over the future of her advance upon Syria. If, then, even in those high minds, to whom the moral issue was so clear, the political form that issue should assume was yet temporarily uncertain, what good reasons must the mere statesmen of Syria have often felt for the proud security which filled the intervals between the Assyrian invasions, or the sanguine hopes which inspired their resistance to the latter.

We must not cast over the whole Assyrian advance the triumphant air of the annals of such kings as Tiglath-Pileser or Sennacherib. Campaigning in Palestine was a dangerous business even to the Romans; and for the Assyrian armies there was always possible besides some sudden recall by the rumor of a revolt in a distant province. Their own annals supply us with good reasons for the sanguine resistance offered to them by the tribes of Palestine. No defeat, of course, is recorded; but the annals are full of delays and withdrawals. Then the Plague would break out; we know how in the last year of the century it turned Sennacherib, and saved Jerusalem. In short, up almost to the end the Syrian chiefs had some fair political reasons for resistance to a power which had so often defeated them; while at the very end, when no such reason remained and our political sympathy is exhausted, we feel it replaced by an even warmer admiration for their desperate defense. Mere mountain-cats of tribes as some of them were, they held their poorly furnished rocks against one, two, or three years of cruel siege.

In Israel these political reasons for courage against Assyria were enforced by the whole instincts of the popular religion. The century had felt a new outburst of enthusiasm for Jehovah. This was consequent, not only upon the victories He had granted over Aram, but upon the literature of the peace which followed those victories: the collection of the stories of the ancient miracles of Jehovah in the beginning of His people’s history, and of the purpose He had even then announced of bringing Israel to supreme rank in the world. Such a God, so anciently manifested, so recently proved, could never surrender His own nation to a mere Goi-a heathen and a barbarian people. Add this dogma of the popular religion of Israel to those substantial hopes of Assyria’s withdrawal from Palestine, and you see cause, intelligible and adequate, for the complacency of Jeroboam and his people to the fact that Assyria had at last, by the fall of Damascus, reached their own borders, as well as for the courage with which Hoshea in 725 threw off the Assyrian yoke, and, with a willing people, for three years defended Samaria against the great king. Let us not think that the opponents of the prophets were utter fools or mere puppets of fate. They had reasons for their optimism; they fought for their hearths and altars with a valor and a patience which proves that the nation as a whole was not so corrupt as we are sometimes, by the language of the prophets, tempted to suppose.

But all this-the reasonableness of the hope of resisting Assyria, the valor which so stubbornly fought her, the religious faith which sanctioned both valor and hope-only the more vividly illustrates the singular independence of the prophets, who took an opposite view, who so consistently affirmed that Israel must fall, and so early foretold that she should fall to Assyria.

The reason of this conviction of the prophets was, of course, their fundamental faith in the righteousness of Jehovah. That was a belief quite independent of the course of events. As a matter of history the ethical reasons for Israel’s doom were manifest to the prophets within Israel’s own life, before the signs grew clear on the horizon that the doomster was to be Assyria. Nay, we may go further, and say that it could not possibly have been otherwise. For except the prophets had been previously furnished with the ethical reasons for Assyria’s resistless advance on Israel, to their sensitive minds that advance must have been a hopeless and a paralyzing problem. But they nowhere treat it as a problem. By them Assyria is always Either welcomed as a proof or summoned as a means-the proof of their conviction that Israel requires humbling, the means of carrying that humbling into effect. The faith of the prophets is ready for Assyria from the moment that she becomes ominous for Israel, and every footfall of her armies on Jehovah’s soil becomes the corroboration of the purpose He has already declared to His servants in the terms of their moral consciousness. The spiritual service which Assyria rendered to Israel was therefore secondary to the prophets’ native convictions of the righteousness of God, and could not have been performed without these. This will become even more clear if we look for a little at the exact nature of that service.

In its broadest effects, the Assyrian invasion meant for Israel a very considerable change in the intellectual outlook. Hitherto Israel’s world had virtually lain between the borders promised of old to their ambition-"the river of Egypt, and the great river, the River Euphrates." These had marked not merely the sphere of Israel’s politics, but the horizon within which Israel had been accustomed to observe the action of their God and to prove His character, to feel the problems of their religion rise and to grapple with them. But now there burst from the outside of this little world that awful power, sovereign and inexorable, which effaced all distinctions and treated Israel in the same manner as her heathen neighbors. This was more than a widening of the world: it was a change of the very poles. At first sight it appeared merely to have increased the scale on which history was conducted; it was really an alteration of the whole character of history. Religion itself shriveled up, before a force so much vaster than anything it had yet encountered, and so contemptuous of its claims. "What is Jehovah," said the Assyrian in his laughter, "more than the gods of Damascus, or of Hamath, or of the Philistines?" In fact, for the mind of Israel, the crisis, though less in degree, was in quality not unlike that produced in the religion of Europe by the revelation of the Copernican astronomy. As the earth, previously believed to be the center of the universe, the stage on which the Son of God had achieved God’s eternal purposes to mankind, was discovered to be but a satellite of one of innumerable suns, a mere ball swung beside millions of others by a force which betrayed no sign of sympathy with the great transactions which took place on it, and so faith in the Divine worth of these was rudely shaken-so Israel, who had believed themselves to be the peculiar people of the Creator, the solitary agents of the God of Righteousness to all mankind, and who now felt themselves brought to an equality with other tribes by this sheer force, which, brutally indifferent to spiritual distinctions, swayed the fortunes of all alike, must have been tempted to unbelief in the spiritual facts of their history, in the power of their God and the destiny He had promised them. Nothing could have saved Israel, as nothing could have saved Europe, but a conception of God which rose to this new demand upon its powers-a faith which said, "Our God is sufficient for this greater world and its forces that so dwarf our own; the discovery of these only excites in us a more awful wonder of His power." The prophets had such a conception of God. To them He was absolute righteousness-righteousness wide as the widest world, stronger than the strongest force. To the prophets, therefore, the rise of Assyria only increased the possibilities of Providence. But it could not have done this had Providence not already been invested in a God capable by His character of rising to such possibilities.

Assyria, however, was not only Force: she was also the symbol of a great Idea-the Idea of Unity. We have just ventured on one historical analogy. We may try another and a more exact one. The Empire of Rome, grasping the whole world in its power and reducing all races of men to much the same level of political rights, powerfully assisted Christian theology in the task of imposing upon the human mind a clearer imagination of unity in the government of the world and of spiritual equality among men of all nations. A not dissimilar service to the faith of Israel was performed by the Empire of Assyria. History, that hitherto had been but a series of angry pools, became as the ocean swaying in tides to one almighty impulse. It was far easier to imagine a sovereign Providence when Assyria reduced history to a unity by overthrowing all the rulers and all their gods, than when history was broken up into the independent fortunes of many states, each with its own religion divinely valid in its own territory. By shattering the tribes Assyria shattered the tribal theory of religion, which we have seen to be the characteristic Semitic theory-a god for every tribe, a tribe for every god. The field was cleared of the many: there was room for the One. That He appeared, not as the God of the conquering race, but as the Deity of one of their many victims, was due to Jehovah’s righteousness. At this juncture, when the world was suggested to have one throne and that throne was empty, there was a great chance, if we may so put it, for a god with a character. And the only God in all the Semitic world who had a character was Jehovah.

It is true that the Assyrian Empire was not constructive, like the Roman, and, therefore, could not assist the prophets to the idea of a Catholic Church. But there can be no doubt that it did assist them to a feeling of the moral unity of mankind. A great historian has made the just remark that, whatsoever widens the imagination, enabling it to realize the actual experience of other men, is a powerful agent of ethical advance. Now Assyria widened the imagination and the sympathy of Israel in precisely this way. Consider the universal Pity of the Assyrian conquest: how state after state went down before it, how all things mortal yielded and were swept away. The mutual hatreds and ferocities of men could not persist before a common Fate, so sublime, so tragic. And thus we understand how in Israel the old envies and rancors of that border warfare with her foes which had filled the last four centuries of her history is replaced by a new tenderness and compassion towards the national efforts, the achievements, and all the busy life of the Gentile peoples. Isaiah is especially distinguished by this in his treatment of Egypt and of Tyre; and even where he and others do not, as in these cases, appreciate the sadness of the destruction of so much brave beauty and serviceable wealth, their tone in speaking of the fall of the Assyrian on their neighbors is one of compassion and not of exultation. As the rivalries and hatreds of individual lives are stilled in the presence of a common death, so even that factious, ferocious world of the Semites ceased to "fret its anger and watch it forever" (to quote Amos’ phrase) in face of the universal Assyrian Fate. But in that Fate there was more than Pity. On the date of the prophets Assyria was afflicting Israel for moral reasons: it could not be for other reasons that she was afflicting their neighbors. Israel and the heathen were suffering for the same righteousness’ sake. What could have better illustrated the moral equality of all mankind! No doubt the prophets were already theoretically convinced of this-for the righteousness they believed in was nothing if not universal. But it is one thing to hold a belief on principle and another to have practical experience of it in history. To a theory of the moral equality of mankind Assyria enabled the prophets to add sympathy and conscience. We shall see all this illustrated in the opening prophecies of Amos against the foreign nations.

But Assyria did not help to develop monotheism in Israel only by contributing to the doctrines of a moral Providence and of the equality of all men beneath it. The influence must have extended to Israel’s conception of God in Nature. Here, of course, Israel was already possessed of great beliefs. Jehovah had created man; He had divided the Red Sea and Jordan. The desert, the storm, and the seasons were all subject to Him. But at a time when the superstitious mind of the people was still feeling after other Divine powers in the earth, the waters and the air of Canaan, it was a very valuable antidote to such dissipation of their faith to find one God swaying, through Assyria, all families of mankind. The Divine unity to which history was reduced must have reacted on Israel’s views of Nature, and made it easier to feel one God also there. Now, as a matter of fact, the imagination of the unity of Nature, the belief in a reason and method pervading all things, was very powerfully advanced in Israel throughout the Assyrian period.

We may find an illustration of this in the greater, deeper meaning in which the prophets use the old national name of Israel’s God-Jehovah Seba’oth, "Jehovah of Hosts." This title, which came into frequent use under the early kings, when Israel’s vocation was to win freedom by war, meant then (as far as we can gather) only "Jehovah of the armies of Israel" - the God of battles, the people’s leader in war, whose home was Jerusalem, the people’s capital, and His sanctuary their battle emblem, the Ark. Now the prophets hear Jehovah go forth (as Amos does) from the same place, but to them the Name has a far deeper significance. They never define it, but they use it in associations where "hosts" must mean something different from the armies of Israel. To Amos the hosts of Jehovah are not the armies of Israel, but those of Assyria: they are also the nations whom He marshals and marches across the earth, Philistines from Caphtor, Aram from Qir, as well as Israel from Egypt. Nay, more; according to those Doxologies which either Amos or a kindred spirit has added to his lofty argument, Jehovah sways and orders the powers of the heavens: Orion and Pleiades, the clouds from the sea to the mountain peaks where they break, day and night in constant procession. It is in associations like these that the Name is used, either in its old form or slightly changed as "Jehovah God of hosts," or "the hosts": and we cannot but feel that the hosts of Jehovah are now looked upon as all the influences of earth and heaven-human armies, stars and powers of nature, which obey His word and work His will.


"For real love have I desired and not sacrifice And the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings."


The Book of Hosea consists of two unequal sections, chapters 1-3 and chapters 4-14, which differ in the dates of their standpoints, to a large extent also in the details of their common subjects, but still more largely in their form and style. The First Section is the main narrative; though the style rises to the pitch of passionate pleading and promise, it is fluent and equable. If one verse be omitted and three others transposed, the argument is continuous. In the Second Section, on the contrary, we have a stream of addresses and reflections, appeals, upbraidings, sarcasms, recollections of earlier history, denunciations and promises, which, with little logical connection and almost no pauses or periods, start impulsively from each other, and for a large part are expressed in elliptic and ejaculatory phrases. In the present restlessness of Biblical Criticism it would have been surprising if this difference of style had not prompted some minds to a difference of authorship. Gratz has distinguished two Hoseas, separated by a period of fifty years. But if, as we shall see, the First Section reflects the end of the reign of Jeroboam II, who died about 743, then the next few years, with their revolutionary changes in Israel, are sufficient to account for the altered outlook of the Second Section; while the altered style is fully explained by difference of occasion and motive. In both sections not only are the religious principles identical, and many of the characteristic expressions, but there breathes throughout the same urgent and jealous temper which renders Hosea’s personality so distinctive among the prophets. Within this unity, of course, we must not be surprised to find, as in the Book of Amos, verses which cannot well be authentic.


With the removal of some of the verses the argument becomes clear and consecutive. After the story of the wife and children, {Hosea 1:2-9} who are symbols of the land and people of Israel in their apostasy from God (Hosea 1:2, Hosea 1:4, Hosea 1:6, Hosea 1:9), the Divine voice calls on the living generation to plead with their mother lest destruction come (Hosea 2:2-5), but then passes definite sentence of desolation on the land and of exile on the people (Hosea 2:6-13), which, however, is not final doom, but discipline, with the ultimate promise of the return of the nation’s youth, their renewed betrothal to Jehovah and the restoration of nature (Hosea 2:14-23). Then follows the story of the prophet’s restoration of his wife, also with discipline (chapter 3).

Notice that, although the story of the wife’s fall has preceded the declaration of Israel’s apostasy, it is Israel’s restoration which precedes the wife’s. The ethical significance of this order we shall illustrate in the next chapter.

In this section the disturbing verses are Hosea 1:7 and the group of three- Hosea 1:10, Hosea 1:11, Hosea 2:1. Hosea 1:7 introduces Judah as excepted from the curse passed upon Israel; it is so obviously intrusive in a prophecy dealing only with Israel, and it so clearly reflects the deliverance of Judah from Sennacherib in 701, that we cannot hold it for anything but an insertion of a date subsequent to that deliverance, and introduced by a pious Jew to signalize Judah’s fate in contrast with Israel’s.

The other three verses (Hosea 1:10, Hosea 1:11 Hosea 2:1) introduce a promise of restoration before the sentence of judgment is detailed, or any ethical conditions of restoration are stated. That is, they break and tangle an argument otherwise consistent and progressive from beginning to end of the section. Every careful reader must feel them out of place where they lie: Their awkwardness has been so much appreciated that, while in the Hebrew text they have been separated from chapter 1, in the Greek they have been separated from chapter 2. That is to say, some have felt they have no connection with what precedes them, others none with what follows them; while our English version, by distributing them between the two chapters, only makes more sensible their superfluity. If they really belong to the prophecy, their proper place is after the last verse of chapter 2. This is actually the order in which part of it and part of them are quoted by St. Paul. At the same time, when so arranged, they repeat somewhat awkwardly the language of Hosea 2:23, and scarcely form a climax to the chapter. There is nothing in their language to lead us to doubt that they are Hosea’s own; and Hosea 1:11 shows that they must have been written at least before the captivity of Northern Israel.

The only other suspected clause in this section is that in Hosea 3:5, "and David their king"; but if it be struck out the verse is rendered awkward, if not impossible, by the immediate repetition of the Divine name, which would not have been required in the absence of the suspected clause.

The text of the rest of the section is remarkably free from obscurities. The Greek version offers few variants, and most of these are due to mistranslation. In Hosea 3:1 for "loved of a husband" it reads "loving evil."

Evidently this section was written before the death of Jeroboam II. The house of Jehu still reigns; and as Hosea predicts its fall by war on the classic battle-ground of Jezreel, the prophecy must have been written before the actual fall, which took the form of an internal revolt against Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam. With this agrees the tone of the section. There are the same evils in Israel which Amos exposed in the prosperous years of the same reign; but Hosea appears to realize the threatened exile from a nearer standpoint. It is probable also that part of the reason of his ability to see his way through the captivity to the people’s restoration is due to a longer familiarity with the approach of captivity than Amos experienced before he wrote. But, of course, for Hosea’s promise of restoration there were, as we shall see, other and greater reasons of a religious kind.


When we pass into these chapters we feel that the times are changed. The dynasty of Jehu has passed: kings are falling rapidly: Israel devours its rulers: there is no loyalty to the king; he is suddenly cut off; {Hosea 10:3; Hosea 10:7-8; Hosea 10:15} all the princes are revolters. {Hosea 9:15} Round so despised and so unstable a throne the nation tosses in disorder. Conspiracies are rife. It is not only, as in Amos, the sins of the luxurious, of them that are at ease in Zion, which are exposed; but also literal bloodshed: highway robbery with murder, abetted by the priests (Hosea 6:8-9); the thief breaketh in and the robber-troop maketh a raid (Hosea 7:1). Amos looked out on foreign nations across a quiet Israel; his views of the world are wide and clear; but in the Book of Hosea the dust is up, and into what is happening beyond the frontier we get only glimpses. There is enough, however, to make visible another great change since the days of Jeroboam. Israel’s self-reliance is gone. She is as fluttered as a startled bird: "They call unto Egypt, they go unto Assyria." {Hosea 7:1} Their wealth is carried as a gift to King Jareb, {Hosea 10:6} and they evidently engage in intrigues with Egypt. But everything is hopeless: kings cannot save, for Ephraim is seized by the pangs of a fatal crisis. {Hosea 13:12}

This broken description reflects-and all the more faithfully because of its brokenness-the ten years which followed on the death of Jeroboam II about 743. His son Zechariah, who succeeded him, was in six months assassinated by Shallum ben Jabesh, who within a month more was himself cut down by Menahem ben Gadi. Menahem held the throne for six or seven years, but only by sending to the King of Assyria an enormous tribute which he exacted from the wealthy magnates of Israel. {2 Kings 15:17-22} Discontent must have followed these measures, such discontent with their rulers as Hosea describes, Pekahiah ben Menahem kept the throne for little over a year after his father’s death, and was assassinated by his captain, Pekah ben Remaliah, with fifty Gileadites, and Pekah took the throne about 736. This second and bloody usurpation may be one of those on which Hosea dwells; but if so it is the last historical allusion in his book. There is no reference to the war of Pekah and Rezin against Ahaz of Judah which Isaiah describes, {Isaiah 7:1-25 2 Kings 15:37-38} and to which Hosea must have alluded had he been still prophesying. There is no allusion to its consequence in Tiglath-Pileser’s conquest of Gilead and Galilee in 734-733. On the contrary, these provinces are still regarded as part of the body politic of Israel. Nor is there any sign that Israel have broken with Assyria; to the last the book represents them as fawning on the Northern Power.

In all probability, then, the Book of Hosea was closed before 734 B.C. The Second Section dates from the years behind that and back to the death of Jeroboam II about 743, while the First Section, as we saw, reflects the period immediately before the latter.

We come now to the general style of chapters 4-14. The period, as we have seen, was one of the most broken of all the history of Israel; the political outlook, the temper of the people, were constantly changing. Hosea, who watched these kaleidoscopes, had himself an extraordinarily mobile and vibrant mind. There could be no greater contrast to that fixture of conscience which renders the Book of Amos so simple in argument, so firm in style. It was a leaden plummet which Amos saw Jehovah setting to the structure of Israel’s life. But Hosea felt his own heart hanging at the end of the line; and this was a heart that could never be still. Amos is the prophet of law; he sees the Divine processes work themselves out, irrespective of the moods and intrigues of the people, with which, after all, he was little familiar. So each of his paragraphs moves steadily forward to a climax, and every climax is doom-the captivity of the people to Assyria. You can divide his book by these things; it has its periods, strophes, and refrains. It marches like the hosts of the Lord of Hosts. But Hosea had no such unhampered vision of great laws. He was too familiar with the rapid changes of his fickle people; and his affection for them was too anxious. His style has all the restlessness and irritableness of hunger about it-the hunger of love. Hosea’s eyes are never at rest. He seeks, he welcomes, for moments of extraordinary fondness he dwells upon every sign of his people’s repentance. But a Divine jealousy succeeds, and he questions the motives of the change. You feel that his love has been overtaken and surprised by his knowledge; and in fact his whole style might be described as a race between the two-a race varying and uncertain up to almost the end. The transitions are very swift. You come upon a passage of exquisite tenderness: the prophet puts the people’s penitence in his own words with a sympathy and poetry that are sublime and seem final. But suddenly he remembers how false they are, and there is another light in his eyes. The luster of their tears dies from his verses, like the dews of a midsummer morning in Ephraim; and all is dry and hard again beneath the brazen sun of his amazement. "What shall I do unto thee, Ephraim? What shall I do unto thee, Judah?" Indeed, this figure of his own is insufficient to express the suddenness with which Hosea lights up some intrigue of the statesmen of the day, or some evil habit of the priests, or some hidden orgy of the common people. Rather than the sun it is the lightning-the lightning in pursuit of a serpent.

The elusiveness of the style is the greater that many passages do not seem to have been prepared for public delivery. They are more the play of the prophet’s mind than his set speech. They are not formally addressed to an audience, and there is no trace in them of oratorical art.

Hence the language of this Second Section of the Book of Hosea is impulsive and abrupt beyond all comparison. There is little rhythm in it, and almost no argument. Few metaphors are elaborated. Even the brief parallelism of Hebrew poetry seems too long for the quick spasms of the writer’s heart. "Osee," said Jerome, "commaticus est, et quasi per sententias loquitur." He speaks in little clauses, often broken off; he is impatient even of copulas. And withal he uses a vocabulary full of strange words, which the paucity of parallelism makes much the more difficult.

To this original brokenness and obscurity of the language are due, first, the great corruption of the text: second, the difficulty of dividing it; third, the uncertainty of deciding its genuineness or authenticity.

1. The Text of Hosea is one of the most dilapidated in the Old Testament, and in parts beyond possibility of repair. It is probable that glosses were found necessary at an earlier period and to a larger extent than in most other books: there are evident traces of some; yet it is not always possible to disentangle them. The value of the Greek version is curiously mixed. The authors had before them much the same difficulties as we have, and. they made many more for themselves. Some of their mistranslations are outrageous: they occur not only in obscure passages, where they may be pardoned; but even where there are parallel terms with which the translators show themselves familiar. Sometimes they have translated word by word, without any attempt to give the general sense; and as a whole their version is devoid both of beauty and compactness. Yet not infrequently they supply us with a better reading than the Massoretic text. Occasionally they divide words properly which the latter misdivides. They often give more correctly the easily confused pronominal sub fixes; and the copula. And they help us to the true readings of many other words. Here and there an additional clause in the Greek is plethoric, perhaps copied by mistake from a similar verse in the context. All of these will be noticed separately as we reach them. But, even after these and other aids, we shall find that the text not infrequently remains impracticable.

2. As great as the difficulty of reaching a true text in this Second Section of the book is the difficulty of Dividing it. Here and there, it is true, the Greek helps us to improve upon the division into chapters and verses of the Hebrew text, which is that of our own English version. Hosea 6:1-4 ought to follow immediately on to the end of chapter 5, with the connecting word "saying." The last few words of chapter 6 go with the first two of chapter 7, but perhaps both are gloss. The openings of chapters 11 and 12 are better arranged in the Hebrew than in the Greek. As regards verses we shall have to make several rearrangements. But beyond this more or less conventional division into chapters and verses our confidence ceases. It is impossible to separate the section, long as it is, into subsections, or into oracles, strophes, or periods. The reason of this we have already seen, in the turbulence of the period reflected, in the divided interest and abrupt and emotional style of the author, and in the probability that part at least of the book was not prepared for public speaking. The periods and climaxes, the refrains, the catchwords by which we are helped to divide even the confused Second Section of the Book of Amos, are not found in Hosea. Only twice does the exordium of a spoken address occur: at the beginning of the section (Hosea 4:1), and at what is now the opening of the next chapter (Hosea 5:1). The phrase "‘tis the oracle of Jehovah," which occurs so periodically in Amos, and thrice in the second chapter of Hosea, is found only once in chapters 4-14. Again, the obvious climaxes or perorations, of which we found so many in Amos, are very few, and even when they occur the next verses start impulsively from them without a pause.

In spite of these difficulties, since the section is so long, attempts at division have been made. Ewald distinguished three parts in three different tempers: First, Hosea 4:1-19 - Hosea 6:11 a, God’s Plaint against His people; Second, Hosea 6:11 b - Hosea 9:9, Their Punishment; Third, Hosea 9:12 to Hos 14:10, retrospect of the earlier history-warning and consolation. Driver also divides into three subsections, but differently. First, Hosea 4:1-19; Hosea 5:1-15; Hosea 6:1-11; Hosea 7:1-16; Hosea 8:1-14, in which Israel’s Guilt predominates; Second, Hosea 9:1-17 - Hosea 11:11, in which the prevailing thought is their Punishment; Third, Hosea 11:12 - Hos 14:10, in which both lines of thought are continued, but followed by a glance at the brighter future. What is common to both these arrangements is the recognition of a certain progress from feelings about Israel’s guilt which prevail in the earlier chapters, to a clear vision of the political destruction awaiting them; and finally more hope of repentance in the people, with a vision of the blessed future that must follow upon it. It is, however, more accurate to say that the emphasis of Hosea’s prophesying, instead of changing from the Guilt to the Punishment of Israel, changes about the middle of chapter 7 from their Moral Decay to their Political Decay, and that the description of the latter is modified or interrupted by two visions of better things: one of Jehovah’s early guidance of the people, with a great outbreak of His Love upon them, in chapter 11; and one of their future return to Jehovah and restoration in chapter 14. It is on these features that the division of the following exposition is arranged.

3. It will be obvious that with a text so corrupt, with a style so broken and incapable of logical division, questions of authenticity are raised to a pitch of the greatest difficulty. Allusion has been made to the number of glosses which must have been found necessary from even an early period, and of some of which we can discern the proofs. We will deal with these as they occur. But we may here discuss, as a whole, another class of suspected passages-suspected for the same reason that we saw a number in Amos to be, because of their reference to Judah. In the Book of Hosea (chapters 4-14) they are twelve in number. Only one of them is favorable: {Hosea 4:15} "Though Israel play the harlot, let not Judah sin." Kuenen, argues that this is genuine, on the ground that the peculiar verb "to sin" or "take guilt to oneself" is used several other times in the book, and that the wish expressed is in consonance with what he understands to be Hosea’s favorable feeling towards Judah. Yet Hosea nowhere else makes any distinction between Ephraim and Judah in the matter of sin, but condemns both equally; and as Hosea 4:15 f. are to be suspected on other grounds as well, I cannot hold this reference to Judah to be beyond doubt. Nor is the reference in Hosea 8:14 genuine: "And Israel forgat her Maker and built temples, and Judah multiplied fenced cities, but I will send fire on his cities and it shall devour her palaces." Kuenen refuses to reject the reference to Judah, on the ground that without it the rhythm of the verse is spoiled; but the fact is the whole verse must go. Hosea 5:13 forms a climax, which Hosea 5:14 only weakens; the style is not like Hosea’s own, and indeed is but an echo of verses of Amos. Nor can we be quite sure about Hosea 5:5 : "Israel and Ephraim shall stumble by their iniquities, and" (LXX) "stumble also shall Judah with them"; or Hosea 6:10-11 : "In Bethel I have seen horrors: there playest thou the harlot, Ephraim; there Israel defiles himself; also Judah" (the rest of the text is impracticable). In both these passages Judah is the awkward third of a parallelism, and is introduced by an "also," as if an afterthought. Yet the afterthought may be the prophet’s own; for in other passages, to which no doubt attaches, he fully includes Judah in the sinfulness of Israel. Cornill rejects Hosea 10:11, "Judah must plough," but I cannot see on what grounds; as Kuenen says, it has no appearance of being an intrusion. In Hosea 12:3 Wellhausen reads "Israel" for "Judah," but the latter is justified if not rendered necessary by the reference to Judah in Hosea 12:1, which Wellhausen admits. Against the other references- Hosea 5:5, Hosea 5:10, "The princes of Judah are as removers of boundaries"; Hosea 5:12, "I shall be as the moth to Ephraim, and a worm to the house of Judah"; Hosea 5:13, "And Ephraim saw his disease, and Judah his sore"; Hosea 5:14, "For I am as a roaring lion to Ephraim, and as a young lion to the house of Judah"; Hosea 6:4, "What shall I do to thee, Ephraim? what shall I do to thee, Judah?"-there are no apparent objections and they are generally admitted by critics. As Kuenen says, it would have been surprising if Hosea had made no reference to the sister kingdom. His judgment of her is amply justified by that of her own citizens, Isaiah and Micah.

Other short passages of doubtful authenticity will be treated as we come to them; but again it may be emphasized that, in a book of such a style as this, certainty on the subject is impossible.

Finally, there may be given here the only notable addition which the Septuagint makes to the Book of Hosea. It occurs in Hosea 13:4, after "I am Jehovah thy God That made fast the heavens and founded the earth, whose hands founded all the host of the heaven, and I did not show them to thee that thou shouldest follow after them, and I led thee up"-"from the land of Egypt." At first this recalls those apostrophes to Jehovah’s power which break forth in the Book of Amos; and the resemblance has been taken to prove that they also are late intrusions. But this both obtrudes itself as they do not, and is manifestly of much lower poetical value.

We have now our material clearly before us, and may proceed to the more welcome task of tracing our prophet’s life, and expounding his teaching.


AMOS was a preacher of righteousness almost wholly in its judicial and punitive offices. Exposing the moral conditions of society in his day, emphasising on the one hand its obduracy and on the other the intolerableness of it, he asserted that nothing could avert the inevitable doom-neither Israel's devotion to Jehovah nor Jehovah's interest in Israel, You alone have I known of all the farnilies of the ground: therefore will I visit upon you all your iniquities. The visitation was to take place in war and in the captivity of the people. This is practically the whole message of the prophet Amos.

That he added to it the promise of restoration which now closes his book, we have seen to be extremely improbable. Yet even if that promise is his own, Amos does not tell us how the restoration is to be brought about. With wonderful insight and patience he has traced the captivity of Israel to moral causes. But he does not show what moral change in the exiles is to justify their restoration, or by what means such a moral change is to be effected. We are left to infer the conditions and the means of redemption from the principles which Amos enforced while there yet seemed time to pray for the doomed people: Seek the Lord and ye shall live.{Amos 5:4} According to this, the moral renewal of Israel must precede their restoration; but the prophet seems to make no great effort to effect the renewal. In short Amos illustrates the easily-forgotten truth that a preacher to the conscience is not necessarily a preacher of repentance.

Of the great antitheses between which religion moves, Law and Love, Amos had therefore been the prophet of Law. But we must not imagine that the association of Love with the Deity was strange to him. This could not be to any Israelite who remembered the past of his people-the romance of their origins and early struggles for freedom. Israel had always felt the grace of their God; and, unless we be wrong about the date of the great poem in the end of Deuteronomy, they had lately celebrated that grace in lines of exquisite beauty and tenderness:

He found him in a desert land,

In a waste and a howling wilderness.

He compassed him about, cared for him,

Kept him as the apple of His eye.

As an eagle stirreth up his nest,

Fliittereth over his young,

Sprcadeih his wings, taketh them,

Beareth them up on his pinions-

So Jehovah alone led him.

{Deuteronomy 32:10-12}

The patience of the Lord with their waywardness and their stubbornness had been the ethical influence on Israel's life at a time when they had probably neither code of law nor system of doctrine. Thy gentleness, as an early Psalmist says for his people, Thy gentleness hath made me great.{Psalm 18:1-50}. Amos is not unaware of this ancient grace of Jehovah. But he speaks of it in a fashion which shows that he feels it to be exhausted and without hope for his generation. I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and led you forty years in the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorites. And I raised up of your sons for prophets and of your young men for Nazirites? {Amos 2:10-11} But this can now only fill the cup of the nation's sin. You alone have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore will I visit upon you all your iniquities.{Amos 3:2} Jehovah's ancient Love but strengthens now the justice and the impetus of His Law.

We perceive, then, the problem which Amos left to prophecy. It was not to discover Love in the Deity whom he had so absolutely identified with Law. The Love of God needed no discovery among a people with the Deliverance, the Exodus, the Wilderness and the Gift of the Land in their memories. But the problem was to prove in God so great and new a mercy as was capable of matching that Law, which the abuse of His millennial gentleness now only the more fully justified. There was needed a prophet to arise with as keen a conscience of Law as Amos himself, and yet affirm that Love was greater still ; to admit that Israel were doomed, and yet promise their redemption by processes as reasonable and as ethical as those by which the doom had been rendered inevitable. The prophet of conscience had to be followed by the prophet of repentance.

Such an one was found in Hosea, the son of Be'eri, a citizen and probably a priest of Northern Israel, whose very name, Salvation, the synonym of Joshua and of Jesus, breathed the larger hope, which it was his glory to bear to his people. Before we see how for this task Hosea was equipped with the love and sympathy which Amos lacked, let us do two things. Let us appreciate the magnitude of the task itself, set to him first of prophets; and let us remind ourselves that, greatly as he achieved it, the task was not one which could be achieved even by him once for all, but that it presents itself to religion again and again in the course of her development.

For the first of these duties, it is enough to recall how much all subsequent prophecy derives from Hosea. We shall not exaggerate if we say that there is no truth uttered by later prophets about the Divine Grace, which we do not find in germ in him. Isaiah of Jerusalem was a greater statesman and a more powerful writer, but he had not Hosea's tenderness and insight into motive and character. Hosea's marvellous sympathy both with the people and with God is sufficient to foreshadow every grief, every hope, every gospel, which make the Books of Jeremiah and the great Prophet of the Exile exhaustless in their spiritual value for mankind. These others explored the kingdom of God: it was Hosea who took it by storm. {Matthew 11:12} He is the first prophet of grace, Israel's earliest evangelist yet with as keen a sense of law, and of the inevitableness of ethical discipline, as Amos himself

But the task which Hosea accomplished was not one that could be accomplished once for all. The interest of his book is not merely historical. For so often as a generation is shocked out of its old religious ideals, as Amos shocked Israel, by a realism and a discovery of law, which have no respect for ideals, however ancient and however dear to the human heart, but work their own pitiless way to doom inevitable; so often must the Book of Hosea have a practical value for living men. At such a crisis we stand today. The older Evangelical assurance, the older Evangelical ideals have to some extent been rendered impossible by the realism to which the sciences, both physical and historical, have most healthily recalled us, and by their wonderful revelation of Law working through nature and society without respect to our creeds and pious hopes. The question presses: Is it still possible to believe in repentance and conversion, still possible to preach the power of God to save, whether the individual or society, from the forces of heredity and of habit ? We can at least learn how Hosea mastered the very similar problem which Amos left to him, and how, with a moral realism no less stern than his predecessor and a moral standard every whit as high, he proclaimed Love to be the ultimate element in religion; not only because it moves man to a repentance and God to a redemption more sovereign than any law; but because if neglected or abused, whether as love of man or love of God, it enforces a doom still more inexorable than that required by violated truth or by outraged justice. Love our Saviour, Love our almighty and unfailing Father, but, just because of this, Love our most awful Judge-we turn to the life and the message in which this eternal theme was first unfolded.

{e-Sword Note: This material appeared at the end of Hosea in the printed edition)



WE have now finished the translation and detailed exposition of Hosea’s prophecies. We have followed his minute examination of his people’s character; his criticism of his fickle generation’s attempts to repent; and his presentation of true religion in contrast to their shallow optimism and sensual superstitions. We have seen an inwardness and spirituality of the highest kind-a love not only warm and mobile, but nobly jealous, and in its jealousy assisted by an extraordinary insight and expertness in character. Why Hosea should be distinguished above all prophets for inwardness and spirituality must by this time be obvious to us. From his remote watchfulness, Amos had seen the nations move across the world as the stars across heaven; had seen, within Israel, class distinct from class, and given types of all: rich and poor; priest, merchant, and judge; the panic-stricken, the bully; the fraudulent and the unclean. The observatory of Amos was the world, and the nation. But Hosea’s was the home; and there he had watched a human soul decay through every stage from innocence to corruption. It was a husband’s study of a wife which made Hosea the most inward of all the prophets. This was "the beginning of God’s word by Hosea 1:2."

Among the subjects in the subtle treatment of which Hosea’s service to religion is most original and conspicuous, there are especially three that deserve a more detailed treatment than we have been able to give them. These are the Knowledge of God, Repentance, and the Sin against Love. We may devote a chapter to each of them, beginning in this with the most characteristic and fundamental truth Hosea gave to religion-the Knowledge of God.

If to the heart there be one pain more fatal than another, it is the pain of not being understood. That prevents argument: how can you reason with one who will not come to quarters with your real self? It paralyses influence: how can you do your best with one who is blind to your best? It stifles love; for how dare she continue to speak when she is mistaken for something else? Here as elsewhere "against stupidity the gods themselves fight in vain."

This anguish Hosea had suffered. As closely as two souls may live on earth, he had lived with Gomer. Yet she had never wakened to his worth. She must have been a woman with a power of love, or such a heart had hardly wooed her. He was a man of deep tenderness and exquisite powers of expression. His tact, his delicacy, his enthusiasm are sensible in every chapter of his book. Gomer must have tasted them all before Israel did. Yet she never knew him. It was her curse that, being married, she was not awake to the meaning of marriage, and, being married to Hosea, she never appreciated the holy tenderness and heroic patience which were deemed by God not unworthy of becoming a parable of His own.

Now I think we do not go far wrong if we conclude that it was partly this long experience of a soul that loved, but had neither conscience nor ideal in her love, which made Hosea lay such frequent and pathetic emphasis upon Israel’s ignorance of Jehovah. To have his character ignored, his purposes baffled, his gifts unappreciated, his patience mistaken-this was what drew Hosea into that wonderful sympathy with the heart of God towards Israel which comes out in such passionate words as these: "My people perish for lack of knowledge. {Hosea 4:6} There is no troth, nor leal love, nor knowledge of God in the land. {Hosea 4:1} They have not known the Lord. {Hosea 5:4} She did not know that I gave her corn and wine. {Hosea 2:10} They knew not that I healed them. {Hosea 9:3} For now, because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will reject thee. {Hosea 4:6} I will have leal love and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings." {Hosea 6:6} Repentance consists in change of knowledge. And the climax of the new life which follows is again knowledge: "I will betroth thee to Me, and thou shalt know the Lord. {Hosea 2:22} Israel shall cry, My God, we know Thee." {Hosea 8:2}

To understand what Hosea meant by knowledge we must examine the singularly supple word which his language lent him to express it. The Hebrew root "Yadha," almost exclusively rendered in the Old Testament by the English verb to know, is employed of the many processes of knowledge, for which richer languages have separate terms. It is by turns to perceive, be aware of, recognize, understand or conceive, experience, and be expert in. But there is besides nearly always a practical effectiveness, and in connection with religious objects a moral consciousness.

The barest meaning is to be aware that something is present or has happened, and perhaps the root meant simply to see. But it was the frequent duty of the prophets to mark the difference between perceiving a thing and laying it to heart. Isaiah speaks of the people "seeing," but not so as "to know"; {Hosea 6:9} and Deuteronomy renders the latter sense by adding "with the heart," which to the Hebrews was the seat, not of the feeling, but of the practical intellect. "And thou knowest with thy heart that as a man chastiseth his son, so the Lord your God chastiseth you." Usually, however, the word "know" suffices by itself. This practical vigor naturally developed in such directions as "intimacy, conviction, experience," and "wisdom." Job calls his familiars "my knowers"; of a strong conviction he says, "I know that my Redeemer liveth," {Job 19:25; cf. Genesis 20:6} and referring to wisdom, "We are of yesterday and know not"; (Job 8:9) while Ecclesiastes says, "Whoso keepeth the commandment shall know"-that is, "experience," or "suffer-no evil." {Ecclesiastes 8:5; cf. Hosea 9:7} But the verb rises into a practical sense-to the knowledge that leads a man to regard or care for its object. Job uses the verb "know" when he would say, "I do not care for my life"; {Job 9:1-35} and in the description of the sons of Eli, that "they were sons of Belial, and did not know God," it means that they did not have any regard for Him. Finally, there is a moral use of the word in which it approaches the meaning of conscience: "Their eyes were opened, and they knew that they were naked." {Genesis 3:7} They were aware of this before, but they felt it now with a new sense. Also it is the mark of the awakened and the full-grown to know, or to feel, the difference between good and evil. {Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 7:15 etc.}

Here, then, we have a word for knowing, the utterance of which almost invariably starts a moral echo, whose very sound, as it were, is haunted by sympathy and by duty. It is knowledge, not as an effort of, so much as an effect upon, the mind. It is not to know so as to see the fact of, but to know so as to feel the force of knowledge: not as acquisition and mastery, but as impression, passion. To quote Paul’s distinction, it is not so much the apprehending as the being apprehended. It leads to a vivid result-either warm appreciation or change of mind or practical effort. It is sometimes the talent conceived as the trust, sometimes the enlistment of all the affections. It is knowledge that is followed by shame, or by love, or by reverence, or by the sense of a duty. One sees that it closely approaches the meaning of our "conscience," and understands how easily there was developed from it the evangelical name for repentance, Metanoia-that is, change of mind under a new impression of facts.

There are three writers who thus use knowledge as the key to the Divine life-in the Old Testament Hosea and the author of Deuteronomy, in the New Testament St. John. We likened Amos to St. John the Baptist: it is not only upon his similar temperament, but far more upon his use of the word knowledge for spiritual purposes, that we may compare Hosea to St. John the Evangelist.

Hosea’s chief charge against the people is one of stupidity. High and low they are "a people without intelligence." Once he defines this as want of political wisdom: "Ephraim is a silly dove without heart," or, as we should say, "without brains"; {Hosea 7:11} and again, as insensibility to every ominous fact: "Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not; yea, grey hairs are scattered upon him, and he knoweth it not," {Hosea 7:9} or, as we should say, "lays it not to heart."

But Israel’s most fatal ignorance is of God Himself. This is the sign and the cause of every one of their defects. "There is no truth, nor leal love, nor knowledge of God in the land. {Hosea 4:1} They have not known the Lord. Hosea 5:4. They have not known Me."

With the causes of this ignorance the prophet has dealt most explicitly in the fourth chapter. They are two: the people’s own vice and the negligence of their priests. Habitual vice destroys a people’s brains. "Harlotry, wine, and new wine take away the heart of My people." Lust, for instance, blinds them to the domestic consequences of their indulgence in the heathen worship, "and so the stupid people come to their end." Again, their want of political wisdom is due to their impurity, drunkenness, and greed to be rich. Let those take heed who among ourselves insist that art is independent of moral conditions that wit and fancy reach their best and bravest when breaking from any law of decency. They lie: such license corrupts the natural intelligence of a people, and robs them of insight and imagination.

Yet Hosea sees that all the fault does not lie with the common people. Their teachers are to blame priest and prophet alike, for both "stumble," and it is true that a people shall be like its priests. "The priests have rejected knowledge and forgotten the Torah" of their God; they think only of the ritual of sacrifice and the fines by which they fill their mouths. It was, as we have seen, the sin of Israel’s religion in the eighth century. To the priests religion was a mass of ceremonies which satisfied the people’s superstitions and kept themselves in bread. To the prophets it was an equally sensuous, an equally mercenary ecstasy. But to Hosea religion is above all a thing of the intellect and conscience: it is that knowing which is at once common-sense, plain morality, and the recognition by a pure heart of what God has done and is doing in history. Of such a knowledge the priests and prophets are the stewards, and it is because they have ignored their trust that the people have been provided with no antidote to the vices that corrupt their natural intelligence and make them incapable of seeing God.

In contrast to such ignorance Hosea describes the essential temper and contents of a true understanding of God. Using the word knowledge, in the passive sense characteristic of his language, not so much the acquisition as the impression of facts, an impression which masters not only a man’s thoughts but his heart and will, Hosea describes the knowledge of God as feeling, character, and conscience. Again and again he makes it parallel to loyalty, repentance, love, and service. Again and again he emphasizes that it comes from God Himself. It is not something which men can reach by their own endeavors, or by the mere easy turning of their fickle hearts. For it requires God Himself to speak, and discipline to chasten. The only passage in which the knowledge of God is described as the immediate prize of man’s own pursuit is that prayer of the people on whose facile religiousness Hosea pours his scorn. "Let us know, let us follow on to know the Lord," he heard them say, and promise themselves, "As soon as we seek Him we shall find Him." But God replies that He can make nothing of such ambitions; they will pass away like the morning cloud and the early dew. {Hosea 6:4} This discarded prayer, then, is the only passage in the book in which the knowledge of God is described as man’s acquisition. Elsewhere, in strict conformity to the temper of the Hebrew word to know, Hosea presents the knowledge of the Most High, not as something man finds out for himself, but something which comes down on him from above.

The means which God took to impress Himself upon the heart of His people were, according to Hosea, the events of their history. Hosea, indeed, also points to another means. "The Torah of thy God," which in one passage he makes parallel to "knowledge," is evidently the body of instruction, judicial, ceremonial, and social, which has come down by the tradition of the priests. This was not all oral; part of it at least was already codified in the form we now know as the Book of the Covenant. But Hosea treats of the Torah only in connection with the priests. And the far more frequent and direct means by which God has sought to reveal Himself to the people are the great events of their past. These Hosea never tires of recalling. More than any other prophet, he recites the deeds done by God in the origins and making of Israel. So numerous are his references that from them alone we could almost rebuild the early history. Let us gather them together. The nation’s father Jacob "in the womb overreached his brother, and in his manhood strove with God; yea, he strove with the Angel and he overcame, he wept and supplicated Him; at Bethel he found Him, and there He spake with us Jehovah God of Hosts, Jehovah is His name. And Jacob fled to the territory of Aram, and he served for a wife, and for a wife he tended sheep. And by a prophet Jehovah brought Israel up out of Egypt, and by a prophet he was tended. {Hosea 12:13-14} When Israel was young, then I came to love him, and out of Egypt I called My son. As often as I called to them, so often did they go from me: they to the Ba’alim kept sacrificing, and to images offering incense. But I taught Ephraim to walk, taking him upon Mine arms, and they did not know that I nursed them {Hosea 9:1-3} Like grapes in the wilderness I found Israel, like the firstfruits on an early fig tree I saw your fathers"; but "they went to Ba’al-Peor, and consecrated themselves to the Shame {Hosea 9:10} But I am Jehovah thy God from the land of Egypt, and gods besides Me thou knowest not, and Savior there is none but Me. I knew thee in the wilderness, in the land of burning heats. But the more pasture they had, the more they fed themselves full; as they fed themselves full their heart was lifted up: therefore they forgat Me. {Hosea 13:4-6} I Jehovah thy God from the land of Egypt." And all this revelation of God was not only in that marvelous history, but in the yearly gifts of nature and even in the success of the people’s commerce: "She knew not that it was I who have given her the corn and the wine and the oil, and silver have I multiplied to her." {Hosea 2:10}

This, then, is how God gave Israel knowledge of Himself. First it broke upon the Individual, the Nation’s Father. And to him it had not come by miracle, but just in the same fashion as it has broken upon men from them until now. He woke to find God no tradition, but an experience. Amid the strife with others of which life for all so largely consists, Jacob became aware that God also has to be reckoned with, and that, hard as is the struggle for bread and love and justice with one’s brethren and fellow-men, with the Esaus and with the Labans, a more inevitable wrestle awaits the soul when it is left alone in the darkness with the Unseen. Oh, this is our sympathy with those early patriarchs, not that they saw the sea dry up before them or the bush ablaze with God, but that upon some lonely battlefield of the heart they also endured those moments of agony, which imply a more real foe than we ever met in flesh and blood, and which leave upon us marks deeper than the waste of toil or the rivalry of the world can inflict. So the Father of the Nation came to "find" God at Bethel, and there, adds Hosea, where the Nation still worship God "spake with us" in the person of our Father.

The second stage of the knowledge of God was-when the Nation awoke to His leading, and "through a prophet," Moses, were brought up out of Egypt. Here again no miracle is adduced by Hosea, but with full heart he appeals to the grace and the tenderness of the whole story. To him it is a wonderful romance. Passing by all the empires of earth, the Almighty chose for Himself this people that was no people, this tribe that were the slaves of Egypt. And the choice was of love only: "When Israel was young I came to love him, and out of Egypt I called My son." It was the adoption of a little slave-boy, adoption by the heart; and the fatherly figure continues, "I taught Ephraim to walk, taking him upon Mine arms." It is just the same charm, seen from another point of view, when Hosea hears God say that He had "found Israel like grapes in the wilderness, like the firstfruits on an early fig tree I saw your fathers."

Now these may seem very imperfect figures of the relation of God to this one people, and the ideas they present may be felt to start more difficulties than ever their poetry could soothe to rest: as, for instance, why Israel alone was chosen-why this of all tribes was given such an opportunity to know the Most High. With these questions prophecy does not deal, and for Israel’s sake had no need to deal. What alone Hosea is concerned with is the Character discernible in the origin and the liberation of his people. He hears that Character speak for itself; and it speaks of a love and of a joy, to find figures for which it goes to childhood and to spring-to the love a man feels for a child, to the joy a man feels at the sight of the firstfruits of the year. As the human heart feels in those two great dawns, when nothing is yet impossible, but all is full of hope and promise, so humanly, so tenderly, so joyfully had God felt towards His people. Never again say that the gods of Greece were painted more living or more fair! The God of Israel is Love and Springtime to His people. Grace, patience, pure joy of-hope and possibility-these are the Divine elements which this spiritual man, Hosea, sees in the early history of his people, and not the miraculous, about which, from end to end of his book, he is utterly silent.

It is ignorance, then, of such a Character, so evident in these facts of their history, with which Hosea charges his people-not ignorance of the facts themselves, not want of devotion to their memory, for they are a people who crowd the sacred scenes of the past, at Bethel, at Gilgal, at Beersheba, but ignorance of the Character which shines through the facts. Hosea also calls it forgetfulness, for the people once had knowledge. {Hosea 4:6} The cause of their losing it has been their prosperity in Canaan: "As their pastures were increased they grew satisfied; as they grew satisfied their heart was lifted up, and therefore they forgat Me." {Hosea 13:6}

Equally instructive is the method by which Hosea seeks to move Israel from this oblivion and bring them to a true knowledge of God. He insists that their recovery can only be the work of God Himself-the living God working in their lives today as He did in the past of the nation. To those past deeds it is useless for this generation to go back, and seek again the memory of which they have disinherited themselves. Let them rather realize that the same God still lives. The knowledge of Him may be recovered by appreciating His deeds in the life of today. And these deeds must first of all be violence and terror, if only to rouse them from their sensuous sloth. The last verse we have quoted, about Israel’s complacency and pride, is followed by this terrible one: "I shall be to them like a lion, like a leopard I Shall leap upon the way. I will meet them as a bear bereft" of her cubs, "that I may tear the caul of their heart, that I may devour them there like a lion: the wild beast shall rend them." {Hosea 13:7 ff.} This means that into Israel’s insensibility to Himself God must break with facts, with wounds, with horrors they cannot evade. Till He so acts, their own efforts, "then shall we know if we hunt up to know," {Hosea 6:3} and their assurance, "My God, we do know Thee," {Hosea 8:2} are very vain. Hosea did not speak for nothing. Events were about to happen more momentous than even the Exodus and the Conquest of the Land. By 734 the Assyrians had depopulated Gilead and Galilee; in 725 the capital itself was invested, and by 721 the whole nation carried into captivity. God had made Himself known.

We are already aware, however, that Hosea did not count this as God’s final revelation to His people. Doom is not doom to him, as it was to Amos, but discipline; and God withdraws His people from their fascinating land only that He may have them more closely to Himself. He will bring His Bride into the wilderness again, the wilderness where they first met, and there, when her soul is tender and her stupid heart broken, He will plant in her again the seeds of His knowledge and His love. The passages which describe this are among the most beautiful of the book. They tell us of no arbitrary conquest of Israel by Jehovah, of no magic and sudden transformation. They describe a process as natural and gentle as a human wooing; they use, as we have seen, the very terms of this: "I will woo her, bring her into the wilderness, and speak home to her heart And it shall be in that day that thou shalt call Me, My husband and I will betroth thee to Me forever in righteousness and in justice, and in leal love and in mercies and in faithfulness; and thou shalt know Jehovah."

{e-Sword Note: This material appeared at the end of Hosea in the printed edition)



IF we keep in mind what Hosea meant by knowledge-a new impression of facts implying a change both of temper and of conduct-we shall feel how natural it is to pass at once from his doctrine of knowledge to his doctrine of repentance. Hosea may be accurately styled the first preacher of repentance, yet so thoroughly did he deal with this subject of eternal interest to the human heart, that between him and ourselves almost no teacher has increased the insight with which it has been examined, or the passion with which it ought to be enforced.

One thing we must hold clear from the outset. To us repentance is intelligible only in the individual. There is no motion of the heart which more clearly derives its validity from its personal character. Repentance is the conscience, the feeling, the resolution of a man by himself and for himself-"I will arise and go to my Father." Yet it is not to the individual that Hosea directs his passionate appeals. For him and his age the religious unit was not the Israelite but Israel. God had called and covenanted with the nation as a whole; He had revealed Himself through their historical fortunes and institutions. His grace was shown in their succor and guidance as a people; His last judgment was threatened in their destruction as a state. So similarly, when by Hosea God calls to repentance, it is the whole nation whom He addresses.

At the same time we must remember those qualifications which we adduce with regard to Hosea’s doctrine of the nation’s knowledge of God. They affect also his doctrine of the national repentance. Hosea’s experience of Israel had been preceded by his experience of an Israelite. For years the prophet had carried on his anxious heart a single human character-lived with her, travailed for her, pardoned and redeemed her. As we felt that this long cure of a soul must have helped Hosea to his very spiritual sense of the knowledge of God, so now we may justly assume that the same cannot have been without effect upon his very personal teaching about repentance. But with his experience of Gomer, there conspired also his intense love for Israel. A warm patriotism necessarily personifies its object. To the passionate lover of his people, their figure rises up one and individual-his mother, his lover, his wife. Now no man ever loved his people more intimately or more tenderly than Hosea loved Israel. The people were not only dear to him, because he was their son, but dear and vivid also for their loneliness and their distinction among the peoples of the earth, and for their long experience as the intimate of the God of grace and loving kindness. God had chosen this Israel as His Bride; and the remembrance of the unique endowment and lonely destiny stimulated Hosea’s imagination in the work of personifying and individualizing his people. He treats Israel with the tenderness and particularity with which the Shepherd, leaving the ninety and nine in the wilderness, seeks till He find it the one lost lamb. His analysis of his fickle generation’s efforts to repent, of their motives in turning to God, and of their failures, is as inward and definite as if it were a single heart he were dissecting. Centuries have passed; the individual has displaced the nation; the experience of the human heart has been infinitely increased, and prophecy and all preaching has grown more and more personal. Yet it has scarcely ever been found either necessary to add to the terms which Hosea used for repentance, or possible to go deeper in analyzing the processes which these denote.

Hosea’s most simple definition of repentance is that of returning unto God. For "turning" and "returning" the Hebrew language has only one verb-shubh. In the Book of Hosea there are instances in which it is employed in the former sense; but, even apart from its use for repentance, the verb usually means to return. Thus the wandering wife in the second chapter says, "I will return to my former husband"; {Hosea 2:9} and in the threat of judgment it is said, "Ephraim will return to Egypt." {Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:3; Hosea 11:5} Similar is the sense in the phrases "His deeds will I turn back upon him" (Hosea 4:9; Hosea 12:3) and "I will not turn back to destroy Ephraim." (Hosea 11:9; Hosea 2:11) The usual meaning of the verb is therefore, not merely to turn or change, but to turn right round, to turn back and home. This is obviously the force of its employment to express repentance. For this purpose Hosea very seldom uses it alone. He generally adds either the name by which God had always been known, Jehovah, or the designation of Him, as "their own God."

We must emphasize this point if we would appreciate the thoroughness of our prophet’s doctrine, and its harmony with the preaching of the New Testament. To Hosea repentance is no mere change in the direction of one’s life. It is a turning back upon one’s self, a retracing of one’s footsteps, a confession and acknowledgment of what one has abandoned. It is a coming back and a coming home to God, exactly as Jesus Himself has described in the Parable of the Prodigal. As Hosea again and again affirms, the Return to God, like the New Testament Metanoia, is the effect of new knowledge; but the new knowledge is not of new facts-it is of facts which have been present for a long time and which ought to have been appreciated before.

Of these facts Hosea describes three kinds: the nation’s misery, the unspeakable grace of their God, and their great guilt in turning from Him. Again it is as in the case of the prodigal: his hunger, his father, and his cry, "I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight."

We have already felt the pathos of those passages in which Hosea describes the misery and the decay of Israel, the unprofitableness and shame of all their restless traffic with other gods and alien empires. The state is rotten {Hosea 5:12 etc.} anarchy prevails (Hosea 4:2 ff; Hosea 6:7 ff., etc.) The national vitality is lessened: "Ephraim hath grey hairs." {Hosea 7:7} Power of birth and begetting has gone; the universal unchastity causes the population to diminish: "their glory flieth away like a bird." {Hosea 9:11} The presents to Egypt, {Hosea 12:2} the tribute to Assyria, drain the wealth of the people: "strangers devour his strength." {Hosea 7:7} The prodigal Israel has his far-off country where he spends his substance among strangers. It is in this connection that we must take the repeated verse: "the pride of Israel testifieth to his face." {Hosea 5:5; Hosea 7:10} We have seen the impossibility of the usual exegesis of these words, that by "the Pride of Israel" Hosea means Jehovah; the word "pride" is probably to be taken in the sense in which Amos employs it of the exuberance and arrogance of Israel’s civilization. If we are right then Hosea describes a very subtle symptom of the moral awakening whether of the individual or of a community. The conscience of many a man, of many a kingdom, has been reached only through their pride. Pride is the last nerve which comfort and habit leave quick; and when summons to a man’s better nature fail, it is still possible in most cases to touch his pride with the presentation of the facts of his decadence. This is probably what Hosea means. Israel’s prestige suffers. The civilization of which they are proud has its open wounds. Their politicians are the sport of Egypt; {Hosea 7:16} their wealth, the very gold of their Temple, is lifted by Assyria. {Hosea 10:4} The nerve of pride was also touched in the prodigal: "How many hired servants of my father have enough and to spare, while I perish with hunger." Yet, unlike him, this prodigal son of God will not therefore return. {Hosea 7:10} Though there are grey hairs upon him, though strangers devour his strength, "he knoweth it not"; of him it cannot be said that "he has come to himself." And that is why the prophet threatens the further discipline of actual exile from the land and its fruits (Hosea 2:16, etc., Hosea 9:2 ff., etc.) of bitter bread {Hosea 10:4} and poverty {Hosea 12:10} on an unclean soil. Israel must also eat husks and feed with swine before he arises and "returns to his God." But misery alone never led either man or nation to repentance: the sorrow of this world worketh only death. Repentance is the return to God; and it is the awakening to the truth about God, to the facts of His nature and His grace, which alone makes repentance possible No man’s doctrine of repentance is intelligible without his doctrine of God; and it is because Hosea’s doctrine of God is so rich, so fair, and so tender, that his doctrine of repentance is so full and gracious. Here we see the difference between him and Amos. Amos had also used the phrase with frequency; again and again he had appealed to the people to seek God and to return to God. {Hosea 4:6; Hosea 4:8-11} But from Amos it went forth only as a pursuing voice, a voice crying in the wilderness. Hosea lets loose behind it a heart, plies the people with gracious thoughts of God, and brings about them, not the voices only, but the atmosphere, of love. "I will be as the dew unto Israel," promises the Most High; but He is before His promise. The chapters of Hosea are drenched with the dew of God’s mercy, of which no drop falls on those of Amos, but there God is rather the roar as of a lion, the flash as of lightning. Both prophets bid Israel turn to God; but Amos means by that, to justice, truth, and purity, while Hosea describes a husband, a father, long-suffering and full of mercy. "I bid you come back," cries Amos. But Hosea pleads, "If only you were aware of What God is, you would come back." "Come back to God and live," cries Amos; but Hosea, "Come back to God, for He is Love." Amos calls, "Come back at once, for there is but little time left till God must visit you in judgment"; but Hosea, "Come back at once, for God has loved you so long and so kindly." Amos cries, "Turn, for in front of you is destruction"; but Hosea, "Turn, for behind you is God." And that is why all Hosea’s preaching of repentance is so evangelical. "I will arise and go to my Father."

But the third element of the new knowledge which means repentance is the conscience of guilt. "My Father, I have sinned." On this point it might be averred that the teaching of Hosea is less spiritual than that of later prophets in Israel, and that here at last he comes short of the evangelical inwardness of the New Testament. There is truth in the charge; and here perhaps we feel most the defects of his standpoint as one who appeals, not to the individual, but to the nation as a whole. Hosea’s treatment of the sense of guilt cannot be so spiritual as that, say, of the fifty-first Psalm. But, at least, he is not satisfied to exhaust it by the very thorough exposure which he gives us of the social sins of his day, and of their terrible results. He, too, understands what is meant by a conscience of sin. He has called Israel’s iniquity harlotry, unfaithfulness to God; and in a passage of equal insight and beauty of expression he points out that in the service of the Ba’alim Jehovah’s people can never feel anything but a harlot’s shame and bitter memories of the better past.

"Rejoice not, O Israel, to the pitch of rapture like the heathen: for thou hast played the harlot from thine own God; ‘tis hire thou hast loved on all threshing-floors. Floor and vat shall not acknowledge them; the new wine shall play them false." Mere children of nature may abandon themselves to the riotous joy of harvest and vintage festivals, for they have never known other gods than are suitably worshipped by these orgies. But Israel has a past-the memory of a holier God, the conscience of having deserted Him for material gifts. With such a conscience she can never enjoy the latter; as Hosea puts it, they will not acknowledge or "take to" her. Here there is an instinct of the profound truth, that even in the fullness of life conscience is punishment; by itself the sense of guilt is judgment.

But Hosea does not attack the service of strange gods only because it is unfaithfulness to Jehovah, but also because, as the worship of images, it is a senseless stupidity utterly inconsistent with that spiritual discernment of which repentance so largely consists. And with the worship of heathen idols Hosea equally condemns the worship of Jehovah under the form of images.

Hosea was the first in Israel to lead the attack upon the idols. Elijah had assaulted the worship of a foreign god, but neither he nor Elisha nor Amos condemned the worship of Israel’s own God under the form of a calf. Indeed Amos, except in one doubtful passage, {Amos 5:26} never at all attacks idols or false gods. The reason is very obvious. Amos and Elijah were concerned only with the proclamation of God as justice and purity; and to the moral aspects of religion the question of idolatry is not relevant; the two things do not come directly into collision. But Hosea had deeper and more wide views of God, with which idolatry came into conflict at a hundred points. We know what Hosea’s "knowledge of God" was-how spiritual, how extensive-and we can appreciate how incongruous idolatry must have appeared against it. We are prepared to find him treating the images, whether of the Ba’alim or of Jehovah with that fine scorn which a passionate monotheism, justly conscious of its intellectual superiority, has ever passed upon the idolatry even of civilizations in other respects higher than its own. To Hosea the idol is an "‘eseb, a made thing." It is made of the very silver and gold with which Jehovah Himself had endowed the people. {Hosea 2:8} It is made only "to be cut off" {Hosea 8:4} by the first invader! Chiefly, however, does Hosea’s scorn fall upon the image under which Jehovah Himself was worshipped. "Thy Calf, O Samaria!" {Hosea 8:5} he contemptuously calls it. "From Israel is it also," as much as the Ba’alim. "A workman made it, and no god is it: chips shall the Calf of Samaria become!" In another place he mimics the "anxiety of Samaria for their Calf; his people mourn for him, and his priestlings writhe for his glory," why?-"because it is going into exile": {Hosea 10:5} the gold that covers him shall be stripped for the tribute to Assyria. And once more: "They continue to sin; they make them a smelting of their silver, idols after their own modeling, smith’s work all of it. To these things they speak! Sacrificing men" actually "kiss calves!" {Hosea 13:2} All this in the same vein of satire which we find grown to such brilliance in the great Prophet of the Exile. {Isaiah 41:1-29 ff.} Hosea was the first in whom it sparkled; and it was due to his conception of "the knowledge of God." Its relevancy to his doctrine of repentance is this, that so spiritual an apprehension of God as repentance implies, so complete a "metanoia" or "change of mind," is intellectually incompatible with idolatry. You cannot speak of repentance to men who "kiss calves" and worship blocks of wood. Hence he says: "Ephraim is wedded to idols: leave him alone." {Hosea 4:17}

There was more than idolatry, however, in the way of Israel’s repentance. The whole of the national worship was an obstacle. Its formalism and its easy and mechanical methods of "turning to God" disguised the need of that moral discipline and change of heart, without which no repentance can be genuine. Amos had contrasted the ritualism of the time with the duty of civic justice and the service of the poor; {Amos 5:1-27} Hosea opposes to it leal love and the knowledge of God. "I will have leal love and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings." {Hosea 6:6} It is characteristic of Hosea to class sacrifices with idols. Both are senseless and inarticulate, incapable of expressing or of answering the deep feelings of the heart. True repentance, on the contrary, is rational, articulate, definite. "Take with you words," says Hosea, "and so return to Jehovah."

To us who, after twenty-five more centuries of talk, know painfully how words may be abused, it is strange to find them enforced as the tokens of sincerity. But let us consider against what the prophet enforces them. Against the "kissing of calves" and such mummery-worship of images that neither hear nor speak. Let us remember the inarticulateness of ritualism, how it stifles rather than utters the feelings of the heart. Let us imagine the dead routine of the legal sacrifices; their original symbolism worn bare, bringing forward to the young hearts of new generations no interpretation of their ancient and distorted details, reducing those who perform them to irrational machines like themselves. Then let us remember how our own reformers had to grapple with the same hard mechanism in the worship of their time, and how they bade the heart of every worshipper "speak"-speak for itself to God with rational and sincere words. So in place of the frozen ritualism of the Church there broke forth from all lands of the Reformation, as though it were birds in springtime, a great burst of hymns and prayers, with the clear notes of the Gospel in the common tongue. So intolerable was the memory of what had been, that it was even enacted that henceforth no sacrament should be dispensed but the Word should be given to the people along with it. If we keep all these things in mind, we shall know what Hosea means when he says to Israel in their penitence, "Take with you words."

No one, however, was more conscious of the danger of words. Upon the lips of the people Hosea has placed a confession of repentance, which, so far as the words go, could not be more musical or pathetic. {Hosea 6:1-4} In every Christian language it has been paraphrased to an exquisite confessional hymn. But Hosea describes it as rejected, its words are too easy; its thoughts of God and of His power to save are too facile. Repentance, it is true, starts from faith in the mercy of God, for without this there were only despair. Nevertheless in all true penitence there is despair. Genuine sorrow for sin includes a feeling of the irreparableness of the past, and the true penitent, as he casts himself upon God, does not dare to feel that he ever can be the same again, "I am no more worthy to be called Thy son: make me as one of Thy hired servants." Such necessary thoughts as these Israel does not mingle with her prayer. "Come and let us return to Jehovah, for He hath torn only that He may heal, and smitten only that He may bind up. He will revive us again in a couple of days, on the third day raise us up, that we may live before Him. Then shall we know if we hunt up to know the Lord. As soon as we seek Him we shall find Him: and he shall come upon us like winter-rain, and like the spring-rain pouring on the land." This is too facile, too shallow. No wonder that God despairs of such a people. "What am I to make of thee, Ephraim?"

Another familiar passage, the Parable of the Heifer, describes the same ambition to reach spiritual results without spiritual processes. "Ephraim is a broken-in heifer-one that loveth to tread" out the corn. "But I will pass upon her goodly neck. I will give Ephraim a yoke. Judah must plough. Jacob must harrow for himself." {Hosea 10:11} Cattle, being unmuzzled by law at threshing time, loved this best of all their year’s work. Yet to reach it they must first go through the harder and unrewarded trials of ploughing and harrowing. Like a heifer, then, which loved harvest only, Israel would spring at the rewards of penitence, the peaceable fruits of righteousness, without going through the discipline and chastisement which alone yield them. Repentance is no mere turning or even returning. It is a deep and an ethical process-the breaking up of fallow ground, the labor and long expectation of the sower, the seeking and waiting for Jehovah till Himself send the rain. "Sow to yourselves in righteousness; reap in proportion to love" (the love you have sown), "break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek Jehovah, until He come and rain righteousness upon us." {Hosea 10:12}

A repentance so thorough as this cannot but result in the most clear and steadfast manner of life. Truly it is a returning not by oneself, but "a returning by God," and it leads to the "keeping of leal love and justice, and waiting upon God continually." {Hosea 12:7}

The Expositor's Bible

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