Hosea 11
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
These words refer primarily, of course, to the historical event of the Exodus. But they are also prophetic words, and as such they have been already verified, and still await further verification. When a stone is thrown into a pond, a series of ever-enlarging concentric rings is formed, which extend perhaps to the banks of the water; so in like manner, although the first fulfillment of a prophecy may be near at hand, the prediction may also receive various further and wider fulfillments, until at last it is completely verified, on the largest scale, at the end of the world. The words before us have several applications. They apply -

I. TO THE JEWISH NATION. God elected Israel as his "firstborn son" among the nations (Exodus 4:22), thus constituting the Hebrews the aristocracy of the human race. He set his love upon them when they were a community of slaves. He heard their groaning by reason of their bondage. When the people were lying like toads under the harrows of their taskmasters, he interposed to save them. He raised up Moses to be their emancipator. Jehovah wrought on their behalf the tea plagues of Egypt. He led them, by a mighty miracle, through the bed of the Red Sea, while Pharaoh and his army perished in the waters. Jehovah protected and supported and guided Israel in the wilderness. He rained bread from heaven upon them, and brought them streams also out of the rock. He kept their clothes and shoes from wearing out. He led them by the cloudy pillar. He delivered them from their enemies. He entered into covenant with them, taught them his Word and will, and brought them at last into a goodly inheritance in Canaan. No other nation ever received such marks of honor. To Israel alone "pertained the adoption" (Romans 9:4).

II. TO JESUS CHRIST. Matthew says that this word of Hosea was fulfilled when the Child Jesus was brought up out of Egypt (Matthew 2:15). If Israel was "God's son, even his firstborn," Jesus is "the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father." The history of Israel typified and foreshadowed his career. He is the true seed of Abraham, the true Representative of the ancient Hebrew nation. "All the magnificence of prophecy, limited to Israel, would be bombast; Christ alone fulfils the idea which Israel stood for" (F.W. Robertson). The paternal love of God was exhibited more richly in the protection and deliverance of his holy Child Jesus than even in the great blessing of the Exodus. It was to avoid the danger of destruction that the infant Savior and his mother were taken down into Egypt. The Lord of heaven and earth, just now a wailing infant, must hide for a little season under the shadow of the Pyramids. By-and-by he shall be "called out of Egypt" to return to the Holy Land, and to become at length what Israel ought to have been - the great Witness for God, and Teacher of his wilt to all the nations of the world.

III. TO THE CHRISTIAN. Believers are all the sons of God by faith in Jesus Christ. And the redemption from Egypt was a type of deliverance through him from sin and death. Just as to the Hebrews in the time of Hosea "Egypt" stood for Assyria, or Babylon, or any land which they were to associate with a state of bondage (Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:3, 6), so now to us Gentiles "Egypt" is the symbol of our unregenerate state, and the Egyptian bondage is a type of the bondage of sin. All men are by nature the slaves of sin, and Satan is a much harder taskmaster than the Egyptian overseers. The natural man labors helplessly under the burden of evil. But God calls his people "out of Egypt" with an effectual and a holy calling. He redeems the believer from the bondage of guilt (Galatians 3:13), from subjection to the Law (Galatians 4:5), and from the slavery of sin (Titus 2:14). The very word "Redeemer," which is so dear to the renewed heart, was first consecrated as a sacred name at the time when God "called his Son out of Egypt." To the Christian the song of Moses is also the song of the Lamb (Revelation 15:3); and the preface to the ten commandments (Exodus 20:2) expresses the most forcible and yet tender of all inducements to lead a holy life.

IV. TO THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH. The Church of Christ is the true Israel, God's adopted firstborn son. And this world, in which the Church presently sojourns, may be compared to the land of bondage. It is "this present evil world;" and God's people look to be delivered from it, just as ancient Israel expected deliverance from Egypt. The time is fast coming when the Lord Jesus shall finally redeem his people from all evil. Often in the New Testament the word "redemption" is used to denote the consummation of the Church's hope. Jesus told his disciples that the occurrence of the signs of his second advent would announce to them that their "redemption was drawing nigh" (Luke 21:28). The whole Church is waiting for "the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23). Here, though believers "serve the Law of God with their mind," they yet groan constantly under the burden of indwelling sin. But the hope of Israel - "that blessed hope" - is that Jehovah shall "call him out of Egypt." The Lord Jesus shall one day translate his Church to heaven - the land of perfect spiritual freedom and eternal joy. There bondage shall in every sense be gone forever. So long as Israel is in this world, he is "a child;" but in glory he shall become a man, and "put away childish things." God loves him now as a child; and his adopting grace is the pledge that the ransomed Church shall one day stand by the glassy sea, and sing the song of Moses and the Lamb. - C.J.

This is an extremely beautiful passage. It recalls, in a few most touching expressions, Jehovah's love and condescension and tenderness towards his ancient people. But, alas! the very record of God's kindness becomes the means of throwing into deeper relief the blackness of Israel's sin.

I. GOD'S KINDLY DEALINGS WITH ISRAEL. These had been manifested continually - in the infancy of the nation, during its childhood, and throughout its youth and manhood. Jehovah had been to the Hebrew people:

1. A loving Father. (Ver. 1.) He loved them, and chose them to be his own inheritance, He spoke of Israel as his "son," even during the bondage in Egypt (Exodus 4:22). He showed his fatherly love by accomplishing for his people the grand deliverance of the Exodus. And the Lord is the same still to the spiritual Israel. Those blessings which were shadowed forth in the theocratic adoption belong now to Christians. We are "predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself" (Ephesians 1:5) The believer receives the nature of God. He bears his Name. He enjoys free access to him. He obtains needed protection and provision. He is subjected to suitable training and discipline. And he has an eternal inheritance in reversion (1 John 3:1, 2).

2. A careful Nurse. (Ver. 3.) Jehovah had himself tended his son Israel during the forty years of childhood in the Arabian desert. He "bare him" (Deuteronomy 1:31), "took hint by the hand" (Jeremiah 31:32), and tenderly supported him. As a nursing father, he had used soft and kindly leading-strings, he knew his people's needs. He was "touched with the feeling of their infirmities." He took upon himself the entire charge of the nation. For their schooling he gave them object-lessons - setting up the tabernacle and its ritual as a spiritual "kindergarten." When they wandered from him he brought them back, and patiently "healed them" from those distresses which their apostasy had entailed. And God is the same careful Nurse to his spiritual children. He bears the believer, and bears with him. The Holy Spirit teaches the child of God "to go," and "leads him in the way everlasting." He raises him when he falls, heals his bruises, and is "a very present Help in trouble." The path of duty may lead the believer into slippery places, but "underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deuteronomy 33:27).

3. A kindly Monitor. (Ver. 4, first part.) If ver. 1 refers to the Exodus, and ver. 3 to the forty years in the wilderness, ver. 4: may be applied to Jehovah's dealings with Israel throughout his entire history as a nation. All along the Lord treated his people, not as prisoners or slaves, but as sons. He "drew them with cords of a man;" i.e. his methods of government were humane, and had their seat in reason. He drew them" with bands of love;" i.e. his arguments or influences were tender and persuasive. The mercies showered upon Israel were countless. The Divine forbearance with the people was wonderful. One special mark of God's favor was his raising up the prophets, one after another, to "call them" (ver. 2) from their idols, and to "draw them" back to himself. And does not the Lord deal just thus with men still? His methods of touching the heart are humane and affectionate. We see the "gentleness" of God in his kindly providence, in his wonderful redemption, and in the means and motives towards holiness which he employs. He calls to the sinner, "Come now, and let us reason together" (Isaiah 1:18). He tells the believer that a consecrated life is "your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1).

4. A considerate Master. (Ver. 4, second part.) The Lord did not act towards Israel as brute beasts are often treated by ungentle drivers. A kind farmer treats his ox humanely, both when it is treading out the corn and when it is feeding in the stall; he withdraws the muzzle, or loosens the yoke-strap, that the animal may cat with comfort. Now, God had always acted so towards the Hebrews. In the innumerable blessings which he sent them, in the means of grace which he maintained amongst them, and in the immunities which they enjoyed as his chosen people, God said to them, "My yoke is easy." So, in like manner, does the Lord still deal with his redeemed people. He "removes their shoulder from the burden," taking off the yoke of guilt, the yoke of sin, the yoke of the Law, the yoke of unrest, the yoke of fear. And he "lays meat unto them" - "the hidden manna" of his grace, and "the fatness of his house."

II. ISRAEL'S VILE TREATMENT OF GOD. (Vers. 2, 3.) The nation had proved altogether unworthy of its sunny and glorious past. The people had been:

1. Ungrateful. They persistently forgot both the fact of their redemption and the continued presence of their Redeemer. The prophets "called them," but in vain. God "healed them," but they ascribed their deliverances to others.

2. Unfaithful. Israel requited the tender love of Jehovah with base apostasy. They opposed and rejected him. "They turned their back unto him, and not their face" (Jeremiah 2:27). They shamefully denied him by their sacrifices to Baal.

3. Obstinate in their wickedness. The career of the northern kingdom especially had been one of universal and continuous desertion. People and priests, princes and kings, had alike conspired to return hatred for Jehovah's love. And now, at length, Ephraim's hour of gracious opportunity seemed past. Only by a miracle could the avalanche of judgment be arrested. What a lesson to ourselves is unfolded in this representation of the outrageous guilt of Israel! We must beware of trusting in our national advantages or our spiritual privileges. How often have we, too, acted ungratefully and unfaithfully I God's wonderful tender mercies are a sore aggravation of our sin.

"Lord, with what care hast thou begirt us round!
Parents first season us. Then schoolmasters
Deliver us to laws. They send us bound
To rules of reason. Holy messengers;
Pulpits and Sundays; sorrow dogging sin;
Afflictions sorted; anguish of all sizes;
Fine nets and stratagems to catch us in!

Bibles laid open: millions of surprises;
Blessings beforehand; ties of gratefulness;
The sounds of glory ringing in our ears;
Without, our shame; within, our consciences;
Angels and grace; eternal hopes and fears I
Yet all these fences, and their whole array,
One cunning bosom sin blows quite away."

(George Herbert.) C.J.

There is something wonderfully touching in this representation of God's affection and compassion towards the nation of his choice. The father, distressed in heart because of his son's waywardness and disaffection, recalls the period of that son's childhood, when parental care and love watched over and upheld. and guided him. Now that Israel has done wickedly in departing from God, in the midst of deserved upbraiding and rebuke, the Lord appeals to the memory of early and better days. Israel symbolizes humanity, and Jehovah's watchful care and tender love to Israel is representative of his feelings towards and his treatment of the children of men. Three stages are here noticeable.

I. LOVE to Abraham, God had revealed himself as an attached and affectionate Friend; he was designated "the friend of God." Towards the second father of the nation, Moses, Jehovah had manifested himself in a manner remarkable for intimacy. The love which marked the call of Abraham was displayed in the treatment of his descendants. But "God is love," and mankind is the object of his fatherly regard. Love revealed in Christ appeals to our hearts. "We love him, because he first loved us."

II. ADOPTION. Jehovah is represented as regarding and treating Israel as his son, as thinking with a fatherly fondness and tenderness of Israel's early days: "When Israel was a child." It is the glory of revelation that it has taught us to look up and to say, "Our Father, which art in heaven." The effect of our Savior's work is that his disciples may have the adoption of sons; the Spirit of God within them is the Spirit of adoption.

III. DELIVERANCE. Jehovah "called his son out of Egypt." A reminder of merciful interposition and mighty deliverance was a fit summons to submission and reconciliation. It is, indeed, a Divine appeal. By the memory of the great Redemption, the God of righteousness calls for our obedience and devotion. He has redeemed us that we may be a holy, filial, and devoted people, recognizing his fatherly favor, and evincing our gratitude for his delivering hand which has interposed on our behalf. - T.

When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images. I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them. He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return. And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches, and devour them, because of their own counsels. And my people are bent to backsliding from me; though they called them to the Most High, none at all would exalt him. In these verses we have three things worthy of note.

I. A HIGHLY FAVORED PEOPLE. What is said here concerning the people of Israel?

1. God loved them. "When Israel was a child, then I loved him." "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn" (Exodus 4:22). The early period of the existence of the Hebrew people is frequently represented as their youth (Isaiah 54:15; Jeremiah 2:2). Why the Almighty should have manifested a special interest in the descendants of Abraham is a question which the Infinite only can answer. We know, however, that he loves all men. "God so loved the world, that he gave," etc.

2. God emancipated them. "And called my son out of Egypt." He broke the rod of their oppressor. He delivered them from Egyptian thraldom. This material emancipation of the Jews is a striking emblem of the great moral emancipation.

3. God educated them. "I taught Ephraim also to go." Some read this line, "I have given Ephraim a leader" - referring to Moses. Moses was only the instrument. "I taught Ephraim also to go" - as a child in leading-strings is taught. When they were in the wilderness God led them by a pillar of cloud.

4. God healed them. "I healed them." "I am the Lord that healeth thee" (Exodus 15:26).

5. God guided them. "I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love." With human cords I drew them, with bands of love. He did not draw them by might; he attracted them by mercy.

6. God relieved them. "I was to them as they that take off the yoke, on their jaws." As the kind farmer raises from the neck and cheek of the ox the heavy yoke so as to leave him freedom to eat his food, so I raised from your neck the yoke of Egyptian bondage.

7. God fed them. "1 laid meat, unto them." He rained manna about their camp. He gave them bread from heaven, and water horn the rock. What a kind God he was to those people! And has he not been even more kind to us, the favored men of this laud and age?


1. They disobeyed God's teaching. "As they called them, so they went from them." "They" - the lawgivers, judges, priests, prophets, whom he employed. "They went from them." That is, the people went from their Divine teachers - went from them in heart.

2. They gave themselves to idolatry. "They sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images." Idolatry was their besetting sin. It marked their history more or less from the beginning to the end. What is idolatry but giving that love to inferior objects that is due to God and God alone?

3. They ignored God's kindness. "They knew not that I healed them." They ascribed their restoration either to themselves or others, not to God.

4. They persistently backslided. "And my people are bent to backsliding from me." They forsake me and are bent on doing so. Such is the signally ungrateful conduct of this people.

III. A RIGHTEOUSLY PUNISHED PEOPLE. "He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return. And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches, and devour them, because of their own counsels." Whilst they would not be driven back to Egypt again, judgment should overtake them even in the promised land, and the judgment would be:

1. Extensive. "On the cities," and on the "branches." The large town and the little hamlets.

2. Continuous. "Abide on his cities."

3. Destructive. "Consume his branches."

CONCLUSION. Is not the history of this people typical? Do not they represent especially the peoples of modern Christendom, highly favored of God, signally ungrateful to God, and exposed to punishment from God? - D.T.

The mind, pained by ingratitude, naturally reverts to the kindnesses formerly showered on the unworthy recipient. God here reminds Israel of his early love to the nation - how he had adopted it as his son, called it out of Egypt, taught it to go alone, drawn it with love, and bountifully provided for it. No sin is so odious as filial ingratitude (Isaiah 1:3). None is so grievous to the heart of a parent. It is this sin which God here charges on Israel.

I. THE CHILDHOOD OF ISRAEL. "When Israel was a child, then I loved him" (ver. 1).

1. Israel had a childhood. Every nation has. There is a time when, in the natural development of society, the patriarchal stage passes over into the political. This time came to Israel in Egypt. The patriarchal family had grown into a horde. It had lost its domestic character, yet it had no polity. It might never have had one had the people remained in bondage. God gave them freedom, and with it nationality. Thus the nation was created.

2. The individual has a childhood. He is cast on God's care from the womb (Psalm 22:9, 10). One can sometimes almost trace a special providence in the care of children. Those who can look back on special mercies in childhood and early life are in the position of Israel here.

3. The spiritual life has a childhood. It has its feeble beginnings. There are those who are but "babes in Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:1). They are as "new-born babes," needing "the sincere milk of the Word," that they may "grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2). God is tenderly careful of such, considerate of their weakness and. watchful in their nurture.

II. GOD'S LOVE TO ISRAEL IN HIS CHILDHOOD. "I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt," etc. (vers. 1, 3, 4:). God's love to Israel was shown:

1. In his adoption. He chose the nation, and called it "My son, my firstborn" (Exodus 4:22). "Israel was a type of Christ, and for the sake of him who was to be born of the seed of Israel did God call Israel 'My Son.'" In Christ the honor is extended to each individual believer (1 John 3:1). The relation expressed is one of peculiar endearment and of pre-eminent privilege. It is connected, in the case of believers, with the impartation of a new principle of life in regeneration (1 John 3:9). The children of believers are "holy" (1 Corinthians 7:14). God claims them in baptism as his children. The name "sons of God" shall be restored to Israel on their conversion (Hosea 1:10).

2. In calling him out of Egypt. Freedom is an attribute of God's children (Romans 8:21). When God made Israel his son he bound himself to deliver him. He gives freedom to all his spiritual children. The call to leave Egypt was, moreover, a proof of God's faithfulness and love, in view of the promises made to the fathers. It bore also a prophetic character (Matthew 1:15). Egypt having, by express Divine selection, been chosen a second time as a place of refuge for God's Son - for him of whom Israel, God's firstborn, was but a type - the former call became prophetically a pledge that in this case also the Father's summons would in due time arrive. Arrive, accordingly, it did. The word, "Out of Egypt have I called my son," found a new and higher fulfillment. On the Divine side, the fulfillment was neither unforeseen nor undesigned.

3. In training him to go alone. "I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by the arms." God gave the nation freedom. He further taught it to use its freedom. Freedom, without power to use it, is a sorry gift. In the training of Israel we observe:

(1) Wisdom. The people, as they came from Egypt, were unfit for independent national existence. They could not go alone. The bondage they had experienced had broken their manliness. They were servile, cowardly, fickle, petulant, disunited. They had to be guided at every step - treated like children who cannot walk alone. But the point is, that God sought to train them to walk. It is not his wish that his children should go in leading-strings. He would train them to self-reliance. He therefore put the people in situations fitted to develop their own powers. His training was wise.

(2) Care. God was kind and tender with Israel while yet they were weak. He did not try them above what they were able. In difficult situations he brought help to them in time. He was like a nurse who stands near while the child is walking, ready to catch it if it totters, and to support it when it can walk no further. Thus God deals with all his children (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:7). Wisdom, goodness, and care are manifest in his leading of them, especially in the beginning of their way.

4. In drawing the people with love. "I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love." The people needed to be drawn. They were often recalcitrant and ill to manage. God emphasizes here:

(1) The humanness of his drawing of them. "Cords of a man." There was a humanness in the manner of his approach to them - speaking to them in human words, through human servants, and with the persuasions of human affection. The heart of God was found to be like the heart of man. The Almighty tempered his glory, and spake to Israel as Father to Son. His cords were those of a man in another sense. He drew them by rational considerations, He treated them as rational beings, and appealed to them throughout on rational grounds. God draws men in this way still. The Bible is the most human book in the world. Christ is God become man. The Spirit acts through rational motives on the will.

(2) The gentleness of his drawing of them. "Bands of love." God employed, not stern, but gentle methods to overcome the people's refractoriness. He sought to draw them to himself by kindness. Especially in the earlier stages of the wilderness discipline do we find him making large and merciful allowances for them. The people are constantly rebelling, but seldom do we read of God so much as chiding them; he bore with them, like a father bearing with his children. He knew how ignorant they were; how much infirmity there was about them; how novel and trying were the situations in which he was placing them; and he mercifully gave them time to improve. This was the drawing of love, of which every one who knows God has also had ample experience.

5. In bountifully providing for them. "I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them." God provided for Israel all that was necessary for their sustenance, and not only thus supplied their creature wants, but was kind in his manner of doing, it. He was also the Healer of their diseases (Exodus 15:26)

III. ISRAEL'S REQUITAL OF THIS LOVE. (Vers. 2, 3.) Israel had made God a shameful return for all his goodness to them. They:

1. Refused obedience. "As they [the prophets] called them, so they went from them." They flatly turned their back on duty. They went further in sin the more they were warned.

2. Dishonored God in the very article of his Godhead. "They sacrificed to Baalim, and burned incense to graven images," thus breaking the first and second commandments.

3. Renounced God as a Healer. "They knew not that I healed them" (cf. Hosea 5:13). - J.O.

Hosea 11:3 (first clause)
Amidst Hosea's strong denunciations of sin, such a description as this of Divine tenderness to wayward men is sweet as a song amidst a storm. Both sternness and sweetness must of necessity appear before us in order to give a true apprehension of the method of God's dealing with human souls. That method is as varied as are the works of the same God in nature, where every flower and leaf, every wind and stream, has its own place and its own use. We cannot expect to find a uniform religious experience amongst men. We have no right to demand of others the agony of shame or the rapture of pardon we ourselves know, or to declare that their experience is unreal because it is different from our own. The metaphors of the Bible might teach us this. One series represents the Word as the hammer, that breaks the rock with resistless power; as the sword, which pierces the inmost soul and kills the old life; as the fire, that burns out the dross of character and fuses the whole nature in a glow of love to God. But there arc metaphors which represent the same Word as being like the sun, gradually diffusing light, slowly developing the flowers and fruits; as the attractive force, so subtle that it can only be known by its result; as the key which fits, and silently turns the lock, so that the door is opened and the heavenly guests come in to abide there in holy fellowship. It is in harmony with all we know of the variety of God's dealings with men, that the same prophet who speaks of the unwilling heifer dragged onward by ropes, should also speak of the little child who is lovingly upheld by his father when he takes his first tottering steps.


1. Its boldness. None but an inspired man, who was conscious of inspiration, would have dared thus to describe the God he humbly reverenced. Sometimes a painting represents the glories of sunset, or the swell of the sea after a storm, the colors of which are so vivid that the onlooker at first says, "That is unnatural." A second-rate artist might have shrunk from such a bold representation, but the great artist revels in the splendor of the scene; he feels that he must represent to others what was revealed to him; and so hands down to the future what had appeared at first a startling revelation of glory, even to himself. A people accustomed, like the Jews, to the signs of awful reverence with which Jehovah was approached would have been more surprised than we, who know God in Christ, to hear the prophet speak of him as a Father, or Mother, or Nurse, holding the child by the arms as he totters and trembles over his first footsteps.

2. Its beauty. Any natural figure drawn from a human home is beautiful. It is well that family life has so often been made the basis of religious teaching. There are few scenes more universally familiar than this. When we exercise care and forethought for our children, and our hearts go out in tenderness to them in their helplessness, we know what God is to us. When we remember the sense of rest and sympathy and help which was ours in childhood's home, we become more conscious of what we may find, yet so often fail to find, in our heavenly Father's love.

3. Its truthfulness. Israel had become a great nation because of the Divine care which overshadowed them in their feeble infancy. In Egypt they had no national life, but were degraded serfs for whom revolt was useless. Brought out by Divine power, they became conscious of new powers and possibilities. In the wilderness they were fed, not only with manna, but with the rudiments of piety, which were well adapted to their infancy. By penalties which immediately and visibly followed disobedience to Law, they learnt that God was King, that he was near, that he was wise; and imperfect though the revelation was, it was the most they could receive. God spake as they were able to bear it. He dealt with them as we deal with children. Nor is he less wise or less tender in our culture, but bears with us while we are feeble in thought and resolve, and blesses us in the first trembling steps we essay in the way of righteousness.

II. THE TRUTH SET FORTH BY THE FIGURE - namely, that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

1. In his condescension he does not despise us. Ezekiel describes a newly born child, taken up in its poverty and misery by tender hands, as a representation of what Israel had been to God. We have known such examples of human kindness: the foundling left to the stranger, whose motherly heart went out in pity, as she resolved that, in spite of all her own cares, the little one should not perish for want because of its parent's sin. Much more unworthy are we of the Divine regard, for each may say, "I am no more worthy to be called thy son." Even in earthly advantages we never won nor deserved, how many of us have been blessed! The home where no evil words are heard, where those who love us are daily witnesses for God, the heritage of a good name and wholesome habits, the tears and entreaties and prayers which win us to the love of righteousness, - all these are signs that God can say of many now in wisdom's way, "I taught you to walk, taking you by the arms."

2. In his wisdom he does not force us. We are not automatons. They may do wonderful things without noise, or disobedience, or wrangling; but God has not made us thus. We are, as the text suggests, children, who can make their own effort, but to it they must be prompted, in it they must be supported and helped. When the stirrings of a new life are felt in the soul, the question comes, "Who then is willing to consecrate himself to the Lord?" and it is only the self-consecrated servants God will have. It is a poor thing to employ the forced labor of those whose bodies are their owner's, but whose souls loathe him; but a blessed thing to have the loyal and loving service of the child, to whom a glance or a whisper means a command which it is his joy to obey.

3. In his graciousness he does not curse us. Children are weak and wayward; they forget what they are told, and do what is amiss; but their father says to himself, "They are but children," and he cannot be bitter or unjust. When Peter denied his Lord, falling through moral weakness, an angry curse might have driven him to despair; but "the Lord turned and looked on him," and as he went out, weeping bitterly, he yet could say, "The Lord loves me still." Christ drew him back with cords of love.

4. In his patience he does not demand of us instant perfection. Picture the scene suggested here. A child is about to take his first step. The mother is beside him, encouraging every step, or half-step, with a smile. Her eye does not wander from him for a moment; her hands are out to encourage, to support, to save, as she says, "Try, dear, try." When at last the effort is made, she catches him up in her arms and kisses him; and if you wondered at so much gladness and love being shown over such a feeble attempt, she would be annoyed at your dullness, because she sees in this the promise of the future. By such a homely illustration does Hoses set forth the Divine tenderness. God's "gentleness makes us great." Christ Jesus expected nothing wonderful from his disciples; but patiently lived with them and taught them, forgiving, encouraging, and upholding, till they became brave and stalwart heroes of the cross. Only let us keep near him, and as we recognize the difficulties of our way and the weakness of our nature, let the prayer of the psalmist be ours, "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe." - A.R.

The gentle, considerate, and tender manner in which Jehovah had treated Ephraim is very strikingly portrayed in the figurative language of the first part of this verse. Ephraim is depicted as a little child who is just learning to walk. The Lord condescends to represent himself as taking Ephraim by the arms, upholding the feeble, tottering form, and guiding the uncertain, unsteady steps. Such treatment augments the sin of insensibility and ingratitude on the part of those who have been dealt with so compassionately, and yet have forgotten their Helper.

I. THE CHARACTER IN WHICH GOD REVEALED HIMSELF IN ISRAEL. He was their "Healer," which implies that they had been wounded, sick, and helpless. When Israel had been in such a case, their covenant God had again and again interposed upon their behalf to succor, to heal, to save them.


1. This insensibility was a proof that the spiritual benefit intended had not been realized. Men often resemble Israel in receiving temporal advantages and bounties from the hand of God, without learning the lesson of devout acknowledgment and filial affection.

2. This insensibility was an occasion of sorrow to the Divine Benefactor. God is not indifferent to such a response rendered to his kindness and love; it distresses his fatherly heart.

3. This insensibility called for repentance and a better mind; or must needs involve, if persevered in, debasement and punishment. - T.

I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love. These words refer, in the first instance, to ancient Israel, and remind us how kindly and tender had been the Lord's dealings with them. In applying the text to ourselves, we shall consider it under two aspects. We have here -

I. A REPRESENTATION OF GOD'S WAY OF DEALING WITH MEN. The supreme power over the world of mankind is not the relentless power of natural law. The forces of nature dominate the physical universe; but man is a moral being, and is conscious of moral freedom. The force which draws his mind is reason - "cords of a man ;" and the power which influences his heart is tenderness - "bands of love." God uses these forces:

1. In his common providence. His love for his creatures is analogous to parental affection: it is as human, and more tender than that of a mother for her child. His mercy is long-suffering and indestructible. It leads him "daily to load us with benefits." And even the cords of affliction with which he sometimes binds us are "bands of love ' cast around us to draw us to himself.

2. In the plan of redemption. "The Word was made flesh" in order to draw men by cords of human sympathy. What blessing the Incarnation has brought to the reason of man! In looking upon the Lord Jesus Christ we see truth in the concrete. He is himself "the Truth," "the Word of Life."

"Though truths in manhood darkly join
Deep-seated in our mystic frame,
We yield all blessing to the Name
Of him that made them current coin

"For Wisdom dealt with mortal powers,
Where truth in closest words shall fail,
When truth embodied in a tale
Shall enter in at lowly doors.

"And so the Word had breath, and wrought
With human hands the creed of creeds
In loveliness of perfect deeds,
More strong than all poetic thought."

(Tennyson.) What blessing, also, the Incarnation has brought to the heart of man! The Lord Jesus is bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. He was the "Son of Mary," and he "shed the human tear." So he is qualified, as our merciful and sympathizing High Priest, to enter into all our feelings, and thereby to bind us to himself and to God.

3. In the invitations of the gospel. The Lord, in these, appeals to us as rational and moral beings. The invitation, e.g., "Come now, and let us reason together" (Isaiah 1:18), suggests that the most rational of all the actions of the human mind is to accept of Christ as the Savior; and that a life of faith in him is the only reasonable and manly and truly successful life. The gospel voices, moreover, are "bands of love." The prodigal son, so soon as he returned to reason, was led by the remembrance of his father's love to return home (Luke 15:17, 183. And, similarly, the love of God is the loadstar which leads poor sinners to himself.

4. In the appointed means of grace. Take:

(1) The Word of God. The Bible is a Divine Book, but it is also intensely human. The sacred writers display everywhere a profound knowledge of human nature. The spirit of the Book is humane and tender; it draws" with bands of love." In the universities of Scotland, the Professor of Latin is usually called "Professor of Humanity," from the supposed beneficial effects of the study of Roman literature; but surely the supreme humanizing influence in letters is the Word of God.

(2) The sacraments. As "signs," baptism and the Lord's Supper are "cords of a man." They appeal to the physical senses as well as to mind and heart. They are like pictures or illustrative diagrams of the great truths of redemption. The sacraments are also "seals;" and, as such, "bands of love." Each of them is, as it were, a keepsake, or love-token, given by the Redeemer to his Church. Once more, take

(3) Prayer. Prayer is the converse with God of his human children. It has for its key-note the child's cry, "Our Father." It is the voice of childlike trust in the humanity, the tenderness, the father-pity of our Maker and Redeemer.

5. As the motive-powers to holiness of life. Our text expresses the master consideration which impels the believer to a career of Christian consecration. The Apostle Paul urges the same in Romans 12:1: "Your reasonable service," i.e. "cords of a man;" "by the mercies of God," i.e. "bands of love." The meaning is that in a life of devotion to God all the rational faculties find their chief end, and that to such a life "the love of Christ constraineth us."

II. A LESSON OF CONDUCT FOR OURSELVES. The words before us reveal the secret of influence. They point out the magnet with which we are to attract our fellow-men in all the relations of life. God Almighty draws with the loadstone of love; and in this we are to be "imitators of God, as dear children" (Ephesians 5:1). Here is a lesson to:

1. Parents. The family bond is love. We must throw "cords of a man" around our children, if we would train them to live to the Redeemer. Our training must be humane, and in harmony with the moral nature of its subjects. A father ought, as soon as possible, to enlist his child's reason on the side of obedience. When our children do well, let us praise them without stint. When they do wrong, and we must show displeasure, let us welcome the earliest tokens of penitence, and be very ready to forgive. Next to Divine grace itself, the bands of paternal love are the strongest that can attract the child-heart.

2. Teachers. Humaneness of spirit is the mainspring of an educator's influence. The most effectual stimulus to learn is not that which is supplied by the rod, but that which is given by the "cords of a man." The secret of Dr. Arnold's influence at Rugby was his intense human sympathy, added to the regal supremacy of his spiritual character. In sabbath school work, especially, we must use these "cords" and "bands;" we must come to our classes "in love, and in the spirit of meekness."

3. Pastors. The preacher is to be himself a man, every inch of him. His influence in the community ought to be a masculine influence, he is to be "a preacher of righteousness." And he must take care to use "bands of love." His lifework is to "win" souls; and there is no way of winning without love (1 Corinthians 13:1). Like the high priest, the pastor ought to be one "who can bear gently with the ignorant and erring" (Hebrews 5:2). No Christian teacher has ever been more successful than the Apostle Paul; and Paul drew "with cords of a man" (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), and "with bands of love" (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8).

4. Employers. This relationship, alike in business and domestic life, should be characterized by kindness. Masters ought to "forbear threatening" (Ephesians 6:9), and extend sympathy and confidence to their workmen. The responsibilities of an employer do not end with the punctual payment of wages. He is not to think of his workmen merely as "hands," i.e. as machines by using which he hopes to make money; but rather as his own flesh and blood, in whose welfare he ought to take a warm interest. And so, also, in the sphere of domestic service. Mistresses ought to treat their servants as part of the family, and see to their comfort as they see to their own. Happiness will enter our households through the door which has written over it these words: "I drew them with bands of love."

5. Neighbors, in their mutual intercourse. We who profess to be Christ's people ought to show the grace that dwells in us by striving to be eminent in courtesy and gentleness. We ought to be so even to the ungodly and profane, and to those who treat us as enemies "A soft answer turneth away wrath." And if love is the fire that will melt an enemy, is it not also the tie which binds believers together into a goodly fellowship? A strong and healthy Church is one the members of which "increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men' (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

CONCLUSION. To draw with these "cords" and "bands" is always, at least, self-rewarding. It is true that love will sometimes fail with its object. Jehovah himself failed with Ephraim during long centuries. Similarly, some whom we attempt to draw may say persistently, "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us." In such circumstances we ought to remember that duty is ours, and that results are with God. "Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my Strength" (Isaiah 49:5). - C.J.

Hosea 11:4 (first clause)
These words are true for all ages and peoples. Human laws are limited, but Divine laws are universal. Gravitation, for example, draws material things to each other, whether they be the ice-floes that float in the polar seas, or the creepers which hang in heavy festoons in tropical forests; whether in the land where liberty loves the light, or in the kingdom where tyrants brood and conspirators glower in the darkness. The bold use of the second verse in this chapter by Matthew (Matthew 2:15) shows how in the special historical fact may be discerned the general and universal principle. The Divine care of Israel was but a manifestation of the Divine care of the Babe of Bethlehem, and of every one led out of bondage and darkness into light and liberty. The soul's exodus and pilgrimage is as real now as then, and of those rejoicing in nearness to God he can say, "I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love." Let us consider the evidence and the influence of the Divine attractiveness.


1. As exhibited in the mission of Christ. Instead of coming in the clouds of heaven to compel the homage of the world, he came in the likeness of men, and won the love of those round him in Bethlehem and Nazareth as a human child. "He grew... in favor with God and man." During his ministry the same method was pursued; he drew disciples around him "with the cords of a man, even with bands of love." His chosen disciples were not those whose enthusiasm was aroused by works of superhuman character; on the contrary, such as these had to be repressed, as they were when they would take Jesus by force to make him a King. John and Peter and others who were specially his own were won by his love, were drawn with the cords of a man. It was those who were thus drawn who were ready for the higher blessing. While a wicked and adulterous generation in vain sought after a sign, despised sinners and humble children were enriched beyond all expectation. Still Christ seeks to win such confidence, and to win it by the same means. He speaks not from the throne of glory, but from the cross of Calvary. Divine love is pleading with us through the weakness of mortality. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."

2. As exhibited in the experience of Christians. If we would know the laws of mental life we do not seek them in the phenomena of physical life, and it would be equally absurd to expect the physiologist from his study of brain-movements, or the metaphysician from his acquaintance with the laws of intellect, to unveil to us the secrets of spiritual experience. The subtle movements of religious life can only be known by religious men. They, without one discordant voice, declare that they have been and are sensible of Divine drawings. Listen to such utterances as these: "By the grace of God I am what I am;" "We love him, because he first loved us;" "We are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God." What are these but confirmations of the text, and of our Lord's declaration, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him"? Here is a quotation from Augustine, which shows how he had been drawn to the Savior he had so long ignored: "How sweet did it at once become to me to want the sweetnesses of those toys! and what I feared to be parted from was now a joy to part with. For thou didst cast them forth, and for them enteredst in thyself sweeter than all pleasures, though not to flesh and blood; brighter than all light, but more hidden than all depths; higher than all honor, but not to the high in their own conceits." Every saint on earth and in heaven can say -

"He drew me, and I followed on.
Glad to confess the voice Divine"

II. ITS PURPOSE. Why does God thus lovingly affect the souls of men?

1. He would draw us to his feet .for pardon. The prodigal was not forced home. In his abject misery thoughts came to him of his father's love, and with them the idea of returning stole in. So the thought of God's great goodness should incite the worst sinner to return to the Lord, who will abundantly pardon. "Knowest thou not that the goodness of the Lord leadeth thee to repentance?"

2. He would draw us to his arms .for protection. To feel that God is about us is at once our strength and defense, our comfort and joy. Refer to Joseph in Potiphar's house, to Jacob at Bethel, and to Moses before the burning bush, etc., for illustrations of this. Still in this world, which is sobbing with sorrow, dark with foreboding, saddened by sin, the ark of safety may be found, and the door is open.

3. He would draw us to his home for rest, If life were to be lived out here, it would not be worth living. But as strangers and pilgrims we are passing through the world, sometimes driven onward by grief, sometimes allured onward by joy, but ever journeying towards "the rest that remains for the people of God." Beside us, in life, in death, in eternity, is One who, with love greater than that of any father to his child, still declares," I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love." - A.R.

Language is lavished to impress upon Israel the gracious, the undeserved, but generous and forbearing treatment received from the Most High. As though an exhibition of the justice of obedience and piety were insufficient, there is added many a representation of the mercy which has marked the Lord's treatment of his ungrateful and rebellious people.

I. GRACIOUS ATTRACTION Instead of driving men with authority, God draws them with a truly humane and tender persuasion. We see this in the whole Christian scheme, in the gift of Jesus Christ, in his spiritual dispensation, in which he is" drawing all men unto himself." No violence, but a sweet and hallowed constraint is, in the gospel, brought to bear upon the heart. We feel that the motives addressed to us are very different from what we might have expected, and from what human authority would probably have employed.

II. MERCIFUL RELIEF. God's treatment of Israel is represented as resembling that of the husbandman wire suffers the laboring ox to pause in his toil, and who lifts the oppressive and galling yoke to afford the beast a little welcome relief. Similarly, God has not dealt with us after our sins. In the midst of wrath he has remembered mercy. It is his delight to unloose the heavy burden, and to let the oppressed go free. Christ's prized invitation is an instance in point: "Come unto me, all ye that labor.... My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

III. BOUNTIFUL PROVISION. The Hebrew was forbidden to muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. The conduct here recorded goes beyond a mere permission to lend; for the generous owner is depicted as setting food before the hungry animal. A homely but just and impressive image of the Divine treatment of those who look to him. "He openeth his hands, and satisfieth," etc. He gives them" bread from heaven to eat." The provisions of the gospel are spread before the hungering, needy seal, and the invitation is addressed to all who are in want: "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters!" - T.

Ephraim had acted as if the mercy of God were unconditional; and he persistently contravened the one condition, via repentance, upon which alone that favor could be continued. He was thus guilty of despising the Divine loving-kindness; and hence these words of grievous denunciation. We learn from them -

I. THE FOLLY OF CARNAL CONFIDENCES. (Ver. 6.) The ten tribes had followed "their own counsels," but these were the result of wicked infatuation. The calves which the men of Israel kissed led to the national ruin. Egypt would afford the tribes no asylum; there was no hope of relief from her as an auxiliary against Assyria. It was indeed strange that the people should think of returning to Egypt, the land of their ancient bondage. Now, however, they are to endure a more dreadful tyranny than their fathers had suffered there. The devouring sword of the Assyrian is to make the round of the cities of Israel. The northern kingdom, with its rich territory and its sacred places - Shiloh, Shechem, Ebal and Gerizim, Sharon, Carmel, and the valley of Jezreel - is to pass into the possession of the heathen. Such was only the natural result of Israel's wickedness, and it stands in history as an affecting warning against ungodly counsels. "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord" (Jeremiah 17:5-8). "My brethren, it is a great mercy of God to be so wholly taken from all carnal props, from all vain shifts and hopes, as to be thoroughly convinced that there is no help in any thing, or in any creature, in heaven and earth, but only in turning to God, and casting the soul down before mercy; if that saves me not, I am undone forever" (Jeremiah Burroughs, in loc.).

II. THE POWER OF SIN TO HOLD FAST THE SOUL. (Ver. 7.) Israel was "bent on backsliding" from Jehovah. They were "fastened to defection" (Calvin); or, "impaled upon apostasy as upon a stake" (Keil). The prophets "called and exhorted the people, but in vain. They refused to raise themselves, in order to return to the Most High. Such is the effect of sin when long persisted in. All of us have by nature this fixed aversion to God and Divine things, unless he interpose in his grace to wean us from our idols. Even while the Word is calling us to rise, the flesh persistently drags us downwards, and with a dead weight which only the might of the Spirit of God can overcome. Many professors of religion suddenly fall away, because, the good work" never having been begun in them, they cannot restrain themselves from at last following visibly the "bent" of nature. And how hard it is, even for the Lord's true people, to escape from the entanglement of old habits of sin! During the process the soul may be often convulsed, if not almost torn asunder. A good man will sometimes continue throughout life to follow a trade or profession about the moral lawfulness of which his conscience is continually uneasy. Only by steadfastly looking to Christ, and allowing his love to flow into the heart, can we be set free from the dangers of backsliding. Clothed with his strength, the believer, instead of being "impaled upon apostasy," shall daily "crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts." Once more, this passage reminds us that -

III. TO "REFUSE TO RETURN" TO JEHOVAH IS THE SIN OF SINS. (Ver. 5.) Ephraim had done more and worse than to reject the Lord as the chief good. He had, besides, scorned the Divine grace and mercy which had so long and lovingly "called" him to "return," and promised to "heal his backsliding." For such foul and shocking ingratitude the ruin of the northern kingdom was a. righteous retribution. And so now, in these gospel times, the denial of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior is the crowning sin of man. To reject him is to "refuse to return" to Jehovah. It is to oppose the clearest light, and to despise the dearest love. It is to elect to serve Satan rather than God. This sin of sins does not render it necessary that sentence be pronounced against those who are guilty of it: the sinner's unbelief is of itself his sentence. "He that believeth not hath been judged already" (John 3:18). If we neglect the great salvation, there can be no escape for us from eternal shame and ruin. Sins against law do not exclude the possibility of the exercise of mercy, but the persistent rejection of mercy must close the door of hope against the soul forever (Proverbs 1:24-33). - C.J.

So the wise man teaches, "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 16:25). We have here -

I. ISRAEL'S BANE. They insisted on thinking their own way better than God's. This is brought out in the different expressions: "They refused to return" (ver. 5); "Because of their own counsels" (ver. 6); "My people are bent on backsliding from me" (ver. 7); "None at all would exalt him" (or exalt themselves, raise themselves up to God). They were in error, but they would not be persuaded of it. They were hugging a delusion, but they clung to it as wisdom. They thought their own way right, and the way which the prophets pointed out to them silly, stupid, contemptible. This is the folly of the sinner. He sets himself up as wiser than God. He snaps his fingers at those who call him to the Most High (ver. 7). The folly of his way might seem self-evident, but, unwarned by the lessons of the past, he sounds its praises as if reason and experience were entirely on his side.

II. ISRAEL'S PUNISHMENT. The roads of sin, unhappily, lead to destruction, whether those who walk in them are persuaded of the fact or not. So Israel found it. Their own counsels, which they preferred to God's, cost them:

1. Relegation to bondage. (Ver. 5.) The freedom God had bestowed upon them (ver. 1) he would again deprive them of. Their destination, however, would not be the literal Egypt, but Assyria. The principles of God's moral administration abide, but they seldom embody themselves in precisely the same outward forms.

2. A whirling sword. (Ver. 6.) The sword would whirl and devour till it had devastated the whole kingdom. A type of the more terrible wrath that will consume the sinner. - J.O.

Jehovah's love for Israel had been conspicuous during the infancy of the nation (vers. 1-4); but it seems even more wonderful now, in the time el Ephraim's moral decrepitude and premature decay. There is no more exquisitely pathetic passage in Holy Scripture than the one before us. It is of a piece with Jeremiah's prophecy respecting the restoration of the ten tribes (Jeremiah 31:20). The denunciation of punishment contained in vers. 5-7 suddenly dissolves into an ecstasy of tenderness, which is followed by a promise of blessing.

I. THE LORD'S MERCY TO EPHRAIM. (Vers. 8, 9.) Moses had predicted (Deuteronomy 29:23) that the lapse of the nation into confirmed idolatry would be punished with a curse upon "the whole land," like that which overtook the cities of the plain (Genesis 19.). But just when' we might expect the lawgiver's words to be at once fulfilled, there is an outburst of Divine compassion. Here the Lord is:

1. Apparently changeful. It often seems as if, instead of there being one center of thought in this book, there were rather two foci. In Hosea's message threats and promises alternate, and sometimes commingle. In ver. 8 the Lord, speaking after the manner of men, appears as if in doubt as to his course of action. Is justice to have its way to the end, or is any place to be found for mercy? Jehovah's attitude is like that of the tender-hearted monarch who trembles when the death-warrant is placed before him, and hesitates whether he will sign it. But he declares at length that he cannot sacrifice his brooding yearning love for Ephraim even to the most righteous anger. He is resolved to exercise his mercy; he will display his grace more conspicuously than his justice. In all this, however, the Lord is:

2. Really unchangeable. He is "God, and not man." The apparent conflict within his heart is only apparent. All the time that he has been threatening vengeance, his bowels have been melting with love. He cannot forget that Ephraim is his "son." Yet the Lord's mercy does not blind the eyes of his justice. He says here, in effect, that Ephraim fully deserved the irreparable doom of the Cities of the Plain. And he must inflict judgment upon the present generation of Israelites. But the three years' siege of Samaria, and the long Assyrian captivity, with the total oblivion of the northern kingdom as such, are not "the fierceness of his anger." On the other side of these judgments there will be rich mercy for Israel. In the New Testament gospel, in like manner, we "behold the goodness and severity of God." Jehovah says now, more distinctly than ever, "As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 33:11). Calvary shows that God is "just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Romans 3:26).

II. THE GROUND OF THIS MERCY. (Ver. 9.) It has a twofold basis.

1. The nature of God. Jehovah speaks after the manner of men; but he is "God, and not man." Were he not God, he would not tolerate the wicked world for a single day. Because he is "God," and "the Holy One," he "in wrath remembers mercy." The Divine compassion is self-originated; it wells up out of the infinite fountain of the Divine nature. God has the heart of a father; but he is without the infirmities of a human parent. His mind is not discomposed by frail human passions; and he never in his thoughts - as finite men do - straitens the abundance of his grace.

2. The Divine covenant with Israel. "In the midst of thee" (ver. 9). "I wilt dwell among them" had been Jehovah's promise to the Hebrew nation. Of this promised presence there had been many symbols; as, e.g., the burning bush, the tabernacle, Jerusalem, and the temple. "And what was the purport of the covenant which God made with Israel? Even that God would punish his people; yet so as ever to leave some seed remaining" (Calvin). In the New Testament gospel we see God's mercy similarly grounded. Its basis is the Divine nature. That nature is love. "God so loved the world." And its basis is also the Divine covenant; for we live under a new and better dispensation of the covenant of grace (Hebrews 8:6-13).

III. ITS FAULT IN EPHRAIM'S RESTORATION, (Vers. 10, 11.) These verses shall be fulfilled in Messianic times. In the last days, the "Lion" of the tribe of Judah "shall roar," earnestly calling the Hebrews to repentance.

1. The restoration will consist in heart-renewal. "They shall walk after the Lord," i.e. spiritually. The time is coming when the house of Israel shall accept of Jesus as the Messiah, and clothe themselves with his righteousness, "The children" of the exiles "shall tremble" with convictions of guilt, with conscious unworthiness, and yet with eagerness to accept the gospel call They shall return to a relation of intimate friendship and fellowship with God.

2. It will be national and universal. The Jews shall at last return from all the various lands to which they have been banished. The Lord shall "gather together the outcasts of Israel." Students of prophecy, indeed, are not agreed whether there is to be a literal restoration to Palestine; but all expect an infinitely more blessed consummation - the admission of Israel as a people into the kingdom of Christ, as the result of their repentance and faith in him. This oracle applies also to all the spiritual seed of Abraham. Jew and Gentile, in these gospel times, are adopted into God's household upon precisely the same footing. The west (ver. 10) stands mainly for Gentile Europe; Egypt represents (ver. 11) the whole continent of Africa beyond itself; and "Assyria" in like manner the continent of Asia. "They shall come from the east and from the west," etc. (Luke 13:29). The doom denounced in Hosea has been inflicted; and in that fact have we not a pledge that the promises which this prophet makes shall also be fulfilled? "Two rabbis approaching Jerusalem saw a fox running upon the hill of Zion; and Rabbi Joshua wept, but Rabbi Eliezer laughed. ' Wherefore dost thou laugh?' said he who wept. 'Nay, wherefore dost thou weep?' demanded Eliezer. 'I weep,' replied the Rabbi Joshua, 'because I see what is written in the Lamentations fulfilled because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it.' 'And, therefore,' said Rabbi Eliezer, 'do I laugh; for when I see with mine own eyes that God has fulfilled his threatenings to the very letter, I have thereby a pledge that not one of his promises shall fail, for he is ever more ready to show mercy than judgment.'"


1. In the gospel "mercy and truth are met together." God "spared not his own Son," that he might not have to "give up" such as Ephraim.

2. The hindrance to salvation is not in God, but in the sinner's wicked will. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, and ye would not!" (Matthew 23:37).

3. If God deals so tenderly with the sinner, how complete must be the security of the believer! "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be renewed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee" (Isaiah 54:10). - C.J.

Our text tells the old story of man's rebellion and God's love. The subject has its human and its Divine aspect, which we will consider in turn.

I. MAN'S REBELLION is implied in the text and described graphically in other parts of the prophecy.

1. Its signs, as they are illustrated in the moral condition of Israel.

(1) The dethronement of God. He was no longer the object of worship or the source of authority. Baal was worshipped in the high places, and Astarte in the groves. In other words, confidence in one's own power, or contentment with sensuous pleasures, now displaced devotion to God. This is not brought about with startling rapidity. There is no sensible shock felt when a man breaks with God. There is a progressiveness in evil almost imperceptible. Israel first professed to worship God in the calf, but at last worshipped the devil in Astarte. Sin is generally progressive in the hold it gets upon its victims. Judas Iscariot is an example of this.

(2) The confidence in man. Many shrewd men in Israel held aloof from idolatrous worship as degrading superstition, yet were equally with the worshippers in rebellion against God. For national deliverance they would not trust to Baal, but they would trust in Egypt, which was equally distrust of Jehovah. Many now are free from the folly and the degradation of heathendom, yet are in God's sight rebels against his authority. In their judgment they are righteous enough to do without his pardon, strong enough to do without his aid, wise enough to do without his revelation.

2. Its consequences.

(1) Disappointment. (Read ver. 5.) Hoshea was subject to Assyria, but joined Egypt to win independence. The result was that the Assyrian king destroyed Israel, carrying the people away into an exile from which there was no return. Similarly, one who from a spirit of self-reliance says of Christ, "We will not have this man to rule over us," becomes the slave of human opinion, of popular customs, of evil passions, etc. Others who live in forbidden pleasure find in old age, not only the pleasure gone, but the retribution come, physically as well as morally. "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread?" Happy is it if the prodigal grows sick of the husks the swine eat, before it is too late to return to the Father's house, where there is bread enough and to spare.

(2) Punishment. In the wilderness days the people, in plagues and defeats, had signs of this. Here it was foretold that the sword should abide on their cities (ver. 6). And in our text reference is made to a standing example of Divine retribution - the destruction of the cities of the plain. Admah and Zeboim are selected, as the smallest or least known, to indicate that the most insignificant would not escape the judgment of God. In reference to the coming punishment of the impenitent, even our loving Savior speaks awful and ominous words. It is in the New Testament, the special revelation of God's love, that we read of "the fire that cannot be quenched;" of "the second death;" of the" outer darkness, where shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth."


1. It is described by the prophet. He represents God as saying, "How shall I make thee as Admah?" etc. "Thy sin merits a punishment fearful as was that, yet my heart is heavy within me at the thought of its coming to thee, my child; yea, my strong compassions are kindled by my love." Such language is in harmony with the whole teaching of Scripture. "God is not willing that any should perish," etc. Note: It would be well if all the children of God in this were like him. Some, however, are indifferent to the sins of their fellows, as if sins were of little consequence, or as if they themselves had no more sense of responsibility than Cain acknowledged when he said, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Others are indignant and angry with the fallen, as were the Pharisees in the house of Simon. But in the eye of him who abhors evil, the sinner, going away from hope and light and heaven is too pitiful for resentment, though too willful for excuse. Therefore he says, "How shall I give thee up?" etc.

2. It is proclaimed in the gospel. The coming of the beloved Son is well described by the Lord himself, in his parables of the wicked husbandmen, of the good shepherd seeking the one sheep that was lost, etc. See in these the unmerited love, the infinite tenderness, of him who so loved us as to give his only Son for our redemption. In the ministry of him who was the express Image of God's Person we see proofs of the truth in the text; not only in his miracles, but in his invitations, notably in the words, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem... how often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!" In the commission given to the apostles the text reappears. What pathetic meaning in the words, "beginning at Jerusalem"! In the experience of the redeemed this assurance is re-echoed. Saul of Tarsus, the chief of sinners, obtained mercy as a pattern for those who should hereafter believe.

CONCLUSION. Beware of presuming on Divine long-suffering. What more mad and perilous than to leap into the angry sea because the lifeboat is there! What more ungenerous and unmanly than the conduct of him who says in his heart, "I will be hard, because God is so tender; I wilt withdraw further from him, because I know he loves me"! "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" - A.R.

It was an idolatrous and rebellious generation to which Hosea prophesied. Sundered from Jerusalem, Israel had lapsed from the worship and service of Jehovah. The prophet was not satisfied merely to discover in forcible language the sin of the people, merely to threaten with deserved punishment. He was touched with the spectacle of apostasy. He expressed the mind of the Lord in mingling expostulations and promises with denunciations and threats. The most pathetic language of the text implies -

I. EFFORTS ALREADY MADE FOR THE SALVATION OF THE SINFUL. Evidently this was not a first appeal; many and urgent counsels and entreaties had been already addressed to Israel. Looking over a wider field, we may recognize that God has in mercy visited men, in the messages of revelation, in the Law Which declares his will, by the prophets who have presented motives and appeals, and especially by his own Son, his own Spirit, his own gospel. His aim in all has been to lead men to repentance and faith, to bring them to eternal life.

II. THE THWARTING OF SUCH EFFORTS BY HUMAN NEGLECT AND WILLFULNESS. The free nature with which God the Creator has endowed man is capable of rebellion; and he can only save us upon our repentance and renewal. But what resistance do his gracious designs meet from sinful men! In some cases, obstinate love of sin, determined opposition to truth, prolonged insensibility; in other cases, transient gleams of good, followed by relapse; in yet other cases, shameful apostasy; - account for this alienation of the heart from a God of mercy. Yet observe -


1. This arises from his, own compassionate nature. Exhibited e.g. in the long-suffering during the days of Noah; by the Lord Jesus in his grief over Jerusalem.

2. And from his desire that the gift of his Son may not be in vain. He is the Savior, in order that he may save. The Father delights in the satisfaction of the Son, when he sees of the travail of his soul.

3. And from his regard for men's interests and happiness. As the mechanic wishes the engine he has made to work well, as the husbandman wishes to reap a harvest from the land upon which he has labored, as the statesman hopes for the success of the measure he has devised, as the parent longs for the realization of the plans he has formed for his child, so the Lord and Father of us all desires our salvation. He knows that there is no happiness for men except in their subjection and devotion to him. He can have no motive in seeking our welfare except Divine, unwearying, and unmerited love; and he asks, "How can I give thee up?"


1. If God so bears with us, we Christians, and especially Christian ministers, must not be ready to "give up" even obstinate sinners.

2. God pleads again with the unbelieving and the wavering, saying, "Why will ye die?" - T.

How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy' Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city. The Bible is pre-eminently an anthropomorphitic book, that is, a book revealing God, not directly in his absolute glory, nor through the affections, thoughts, and conduct of angels, but through man - through man's emotions, modes of thought, and actions. It sometimes brings God before us in the character of a Husband, that we may appreciate his fidelity and tenderness; sometimes in the character of a Warrior, that we may appreciate his invincibility and the victories that attend his procedure; sometimes as a Monarch, that we may appreciate his wealth, splendor, and authority; sometimes as a Father, that we may appreciate the reality, depth, and solicitude of his love. It is in this last character, the character of a father, that these verses present him to our notice. No human character, of course, can give a full or perfect revelation of him - all fall infinitely short. The brightest human representation of him is to his glory less than the dimmest glow-worm to the central fires of the universe. And yet it is only through man that we can get any clear or impressive idea of him. It is only through human love, human faithfulness, human justice, that we can gain any conception of the love, faithfulness, and justice of the Eternal The verses lead us to consider several things.

I. Mercy and justice as CO-EXISTING in the heart of the great Father. "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim?" To give up to ruin, to deliver to destruction, burn up, as Admah and Zeboim - cities of the plain - were burnt up, is the demand of justice. "Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together." This is the voice of men. Here, then, in the heart of this great Father is justice and mercy. What is justice? It is that sentiment that demands that every one should have his due, that virtue should be rewarded, that vice should be punished. What is mercy? A disposition to overlook injuries and to treat beings better than they deserve. These two must never be regarded as elements essentially distinct; they are branches from the same root, streams from the same fountain. Both are but modifications of love. Justice is but love standing up sternly against the wrong; mercy is but love bending in tenderness over the helpless and the suffering. Now, in the heart of God this love assumes these two phases or manifestations.

1. Material nature shows that there is the stern and the mild in God. Winter reveals his sternness, summer Ms amiability and kindness.

2. Providence shows that there is the stern and the mild in God. The heavy afflictions that befall nations, families, and individuals reveal his sternness; the health and the joy that gladden life reveal his mercy.

3. The spiritual constitution of man shows that there is the stern and the mild in God. In the human soul there is an instinct to revenge the wrong, often stern, inexorable, and heartless. There is also an instinct of tenderness and compassion. Whence came these? From the great Father. In God, then, there is justice and mercy.

II. Mercy and justice as EXCITED BY MAN in the heart of the Father.

1. The moral wickedness of Ephraim evoked his justice. Ephraim, unfaithful, sensual, false, idolatrous, justly deserved punishment. Justice awoke, demands destruction; it says, "Let Ephraim be given up, make no more efforts for its restoration and happiness; let it be delivered into the hand of the enemy, let it be torn to pieces. Rain fire from heaven upon it, and let it burn to ashes, as did Admah and Zeboim." Human wickedness is always stirring, so to say, the justice of the infinite heart.

2. The filial suffering of Ephraim evoked his mercy. Elsewhere (Jeremiah 31:20), we have these remarkable words: "Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord." God calls Ephraim his son, and Ephraim was in suffering, and hence his compassion was turned. Why does the eternal Father show mercy unto mankind? They deserve destruction on account of their sins; but men are his children, and his children in suffering.

III. Mercy STRUGGLING AGAINST justice in the heart of the great Father. There is a father who has a son, not only disobedient, but unloving and malignantly hostile; he spurns his father's authority, and pursues a course of conduct antagonistic to his father's will and interests. Often has the father reproved him with love and entreated him to reform, but he has grown worse and worse, and has become incorrigible. The wickedness of the son rouses the sentiment of justice in the heart of the father, and the father says, "I will give you up, I will shut my door against you, I will disown you, and send you as a vagabond on the world; never more shall you cross the threshold of my home, never more will I speak to you." This is justice; but then the thought that he is his son rouses the other sentiment, love, and here is the struggle: "How shall I give thee up?" Such experience as this is, alas! too common in human life. Such a struggle between mercy and justice is going on now in the heart of many a father in London. The passage gives us to understand there is something like this in the heart of the infinite Father. Justice crying out, "Damn!" mercy crying out, "Save!" This is wonderful. I cannot understand it; it transcends my conception; and yet this passage suggests the fact.

IV. Mercy TRIUMPHING OVER justice in the heart of the great Father. "Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim."

1. Mercy has triumphed over justice in the perpetuation of the race. Justice said, "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Adam did eat of the fruit, but lived and became the father of a countless and ever-multiplying race. Why? Mercy triumphed.

2. Mercy has triumphed over justice in the experience of every living man. Every man is a sinner, and his sins cry out for destruction; and he lives on because mercy has triumphed.

3. Mercy has triumphed over justice in the redemptive mission of Christ. In relation to the whole family tree, justice said, "Cut it down, for it cumbereth the ground;" but mercy interposed, and said, "Spare it a little longer." How comes it to pass that mercy thus triumphs? Here is the answer. "For I am God, and not man." Had I been a man it would have been otherwise. "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord." - D.T.

God's wrath, had it burned against Ephraim according to his deserts, would have utterly consumed him. It would have made him like Admah and Zeboim, cities of the plain, "which the Lord overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath" (Deuteronomy 29:23). But Divine compassion sets limits to Divine wrath God would punish, but, in remembrance of the covenant made with the fathers, would yet spare a part, and in the end would recover and restore. For "city" (ver. 9), read "heat (of wrath)."


1. God's wrath is limited by his com. passion. "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel?" In the threatening, God speaks as if he would destroy Israel altogether. He states what their sins deserve, and what, having regard to his wrath only, he would be bound to inflict. Their sins kindled an indignation which, had it burned unchecked, would have consumed them from the face of the earth. He now shows how compassion works to limit this God, having set his love on Ephraim, cannot give him up. Wrath is not the only principle in the Divine breast, and wrath having uttered itself in threatenings, pity is called forth by the thought of the woe with which the threatenings are charged. So God says, "Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled" (cf. Psalm 58:38, 39). Were it not for God's compassions, sinners would not be so long borne with, nor would their punishments so often stop short of destruction (Lamentations 3:22).

2. God's compassion does not alter the determination to punish. Though God's repentings were kindled, this did not mean that Ephraim was to escape the punishment of his sins. Right must be maintained. If God - the "Holy One" - is not sanctified in men, he must be sanctified upon them. God declares only that he will turn from the "fierceness" of his anger - that he will not utterly destroy Israel (ver. 9). The sinner, therefore, need not build hopes on the Divine mercy, as though he could sin and yet evade penalty. His sins may even reach a point at which mercy can do no more for him.

II. REPENTING, YET IMMUTABLE. God's repentings are kindled, yet the guarantee given that he will not destroy Ephraim is that he is "God, and not man" - "the Holy One," an attribute of whose character is faithfulness (ver. 9). The apparent contradiction is to be resolved, not by turning what is said of the Divine relentings into a mere anthropomorphism, but by remembering - what immutability involves - that the same principles which operate in the Divine breast in the execution of his purposes operated also in the forming of them. God, that is, in the forming of his purposes bad in view both what justice would dictate and what love would desire. His purpose was framed in the interest of both. The evolution of the purpose in history brings God into living relations with men, and calls the forces of the Divine nature into active and intensely real exercise.

1. God is not man in his long-suffering. Man would not bear with man as God bears with sinners. He would not forgive as God forgives. He would not show the same patience in working for his fellow-man's recovery. He would not be so easily entreated. He would not stoop, as God stoops, to love the worthless. He would not make the sacrifice which God has made for the salvation of enemies (Romans 5:6-8).

2. God is not man in his unchangeability. He "is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent" (Numbers 23:19). He is not swayed by passing feelings to change his intentions. "I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed" (Malachi 3:6). God had in view the promise to the fathers, and would not be false to it. God's faithfulness is the saint's consolation and the repentant sinner's hope. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins" (1 John 1:9). "He abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself" (2 Timothy 2:13).

III. REJECTING, YET PROMISING TO RESTORE. (Vers. 10, 11.) Israel was to become a "people" to Jehovah (Hosea 1:9), but not absolutely. They would ultimately be restored. A day of grace was set for them. The return would be:

1. In response to a Divine call. "He shall roar as a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west." God's call would be loud, far-reaching, effectual. God's call precedes the sinner's return. Believers are designated "the called." This call came m a preliminary way to Israel at the time of the return from captivity under Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-3). It was then but very partially answered, it comes spiritually in the preaching of the gospel. The complete fulfillment is yet in the future.

2. Joyful and prompt. They "shall tremble from the west. They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria." The trembling would be in holy joy and fear. The return would be in haste, as a bird flies to its nest, and a dove to its dovecote. It would be from west and east, i.e. from all quarters whither God had scattered them.

3. Permanent. "And I will place them in their houses, saith the Lord." The prediction will have its main fulfillment in the reception of Israel back into the kingdom of God. It may have a lower temporal fulfillment in the restoration of the nation to their own land. - J.O.

Well is it for us that them are respects in which God is as man; that he is sympathizing and (as we say) humane. But better is it for us that in other respects God is not as man; for, had he been subject to like passions with ourselves, he would not have borne with us, and we should have been utterly consumed.

I. A REVELATION OF DIVINE SUPERIORITY. God, in his treatment of mankind, has shown himself to be altogether superior:

1. To human ignorance. He knows us as we cannot know one another, and all his counsels have been counsels of consummate wisdom.

2. To human vacillation. We are prone to be swayed, now by this motive and again by that; there is no such thing as perfect consistency and steadfastness in man. But God is above all such human weakness. "I am the Lord that changeth not, therefore the sons of Jacob are not consumed." "God is faithful," and we may trust him with an implicit confidence.

3. To human impatience. The hasty impatience of man with his fellow-man is in striking contrast with the forbearance of the supreme Ruler. Long-suffering is ever represented in the Scriptures as his especial attribute, and there is none for which we have more reason to be grateful. Had he not been a patient God he would not have borne with any one of us, for all have taxed and tried his patience.

II. AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO HUMAN CONFIDENCE. It is well always to begin with the consideration of God's character and attributes. But we cannot end there. We naturally and properly turn our regard towards ourselves, and see what is the bearing of the Divine attributes upon our necessities. This we may learn from the assurance that we are in the hands of One who is God and not man - we may learn to cast ourselves with unhesitating confidence upon the Divine faithfulness and grace. No human pettiness shall we meet with from him, but large-hearted forbearance, sympathy, bounty, and love. - T.

Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit. The Almighty here represents himself as a man beset with lies on every hand, as if he could not move either one way or the other. Let us notice -

I. THE NATURE OF THE LIES OF A NATION. Lies are as abundant in England today as they were in Ephraim centuries ago. The social atmosphere is infested with falsehoods.

1. There are commercial lies. From the largest warehouse to the pedlar's paltry stall lies abound. They infest the commercial world more densely far than insects the summer air.

2. There are theological lies. Doctrines are propounded and enforced from the press and theological chairs utterly untrue to eternal realities.

3. There are religious lies. Sentiments and aspirations are expressed in the prayers, psalmodies, and liturgies of congregations, untrue to facts, untrue to the experience of those who give them utterance.

4. There are literary lies. The journals and volumes that stream from the modern press teem with falsehood. Surely, if the Almighty were to speak of England as he spoke of Ephraim in olden times, he would say it "compasseth me about with lies."

"How false are men, both in their heads and hearts!
And there is falsehood in all trades and arts.
Lawyers deceive their clients by false law;
Priests, by false gods, keep all the world in awe.
For their false tongues such flatt'ring knaves are raised,
For their false wit scribbles by fools are praised."

(John Crown.)

II. THE CAUSE OF THE LIES OF A NATION. All lies spring from at least three sources.

1. Vanity. A desire to appear before our compeers in the world greater than we are, leads to the exaggeration of our virtues, if we have any, and to the denial of our infirmities and faults.

2. Greed. Greed is a prolific source of falsehood. Greed creates the lies that crowd our markets.

3. Fear. Fear creates lies as shields of defense. Religious lies spring in a great measure from fear. Nearly all the lies that fill the world are the children either of vanity, greed, or fear.

III. THE EVIL OF THE LIES OF A NATION. All lies are bad things.

1. They are bad in themselves. They are repugnant to the God of truth. They are a miasma in the moral atmosphere, essentially offensive as well as pernicious.

2. They are bad in their influence. Lies deceive and ruin. Every system built on lies, commercial, scientific, political, and religions, is like a house built on the sand that must tumble down before the rushing storms of reality.

"Let falsehood be a stranger to thy lips:
Shame on the policy that first began
To tamper with the heart to hide its thoughts!
And doubly shame on that inglorious tongue
That sold its honesty and told a lie!"

(William Havard) D.T.

In this passage the prophet exposes the degeneracy of the Hebrew nation by contrasting their ungodly ways with those of their ancestor Jacob, and strives to win them back to the service of God by reminding them of the mercy and grace of which that patriarch had been the recipient.

I. THE DEGENERATE JACOB. (Hosea 11:12, and Hosea 11:1, 2.) The entire Israelitish people had proved unfaithful to Jehovah. It was especially so with:

1. Ephraim. The career of the ten tribes had been one of faithlessness and falsehood. The whole life of the northern kingdom was a lie. Its people had renounced the Divine authority. They had lied to God by revolting from the dynasty of David; by rejecting the priesthood of the sons of Aaron; by worshipping the golden calves of Jeroboam; by abjuring Jehovah to do homage to Baal and Ashtaroth; by loosening the bonds of morality in their social life (Hosea 4:1-3); and by seeking help in times of national distress, at one period from Assyria and at another from Egypt (ver. 1). And yet all the while they claimed to be still the Lord's people, and boasted that Jacob had been their father. Ephraim's apostasy, Hosea says, brought the people no satisfaction; it was like "feeding on wind." Their career of national hypocrisy involved them in "desolation;" it proved as disastrous as for a caravan of travelers to "follow after" the simoom, which bears on its wings the hot poison of death. The degeneracy of the nation had also at last begun to affect:

2. Judah. Although the guilt of the southern kingdom was by no means so great as that of Ephraim, yet Judah was now following in some measure the bad example of its northern neighbor. King Ahaz had given himself up to gross idolatry and iniquity; his reign at Jerusalem was a time of sad moral deterioration and spiritual darkness (2 Kings 16.). So "the Lord had also a controversy with Judah" (ver. 2); for Judah was "unbridled against God, and against the faithful Holy One" (Hosea 11:12, Keil's translation). "Jacob," i.e. Ephraim, is already ripe for punishment; but Judah has now gone so far astray as to require solemn reproof and warning.

II. THE TYPICAL JACOB. (Vers. 3-5.) The Jews gloried in being "the children of Israel," and here the prophet shows them how unlike they were to their father. The national career of Ephraim had been one of constant degeneracy: from the time of Jeroboam, "who made Israel to sin," the people had gone from bad to worse with ever-accelerating speed. Their ancestor Jacob, on the other hand, had trod the path which is "as the dawning light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18). Born with a selfish and unlovely nature, and prone to acts of deceit and meanness, he became a child of God, and had his heart molded by Divine grace, until he showed himself not only a really religious man, but a great saint. How different it would have been now with Ephraim had he lived conformably to his claim of being "the seed of Jacob"! The prophet recalls various acts of the Divine favor to the patriarch.

1. Before his birth. His taking his twin-brother's heel by the hand did not foreshadow merely his future overreaching of Esau; rather it was a prognostic of his precedence over him in the Divine purpose of grace, and of the eagerness with which Jacob would labor to obtain the covenant-blessing.

2. At Peniel. There what at first seemed a man wrestled with him; and perhaps Jacob mistook him for a robber of the road, until at length the Stranger with a touch dislocated his hip-joint, thus effectually disabling him. Then Jacob perceived that his antagonist was an "Angel" - the Angel of the covenant himself; so he gave up his useless wrestling, and began to pray. "He wept, and made supplication unto him" (ver. 4); and the Divine blessing, which he could never have obtained by wrestling or supplanting, curse to him in answer to his prayer. At Peniel Jacob "was knighted on the field," and there he received his new and heavenly name. He who from the womb had been known as the supplanter, the wrestler, the tripper-up, now became Israel - "a prince with God" (Genesis 32:24-29). Ever afterwards Jacob's weapons were not carnal. He learned at Peniel to "prevail" by the power of faith and prayer, and of a holy life.

3. At Bethel. Hoses elsewhere calls the Bethel of his time by the contemptuous nickname of Beth-avert (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8; Hosea 10:5); for, alas! "the house of God" had become "the house of vanity" - an abode of naughty idols. At Bethel, where Jehovah "found" Jacob, he himself was lost by Jacob's degenerate children. At Bethel, where Jacob saw in vision the stairway reaching to heaven, Satan had established a stairway leading to destruction. But now the prophet recalls the early national associations, so pure and hallowed, which were connected with Bethel God "found Jacob in Bethel, and there he spake with us." In revealing himself to Jacob he had in view also Jacob's posterity. The patriarch received a Divine visitation at Bethel upon two occasions. The first, when on his way to Padan-aram (Genesis 28:11-22); and the second, twenty-five years afterwards, some time after his return to Canaan. Probably Hoses refers here chiefly to the latter; for then Jacob performed the vow which he had made on occasion of his first visit, and then God confirmed his new covenant name of Israel, and repeated the promise of his blessing (Genesis 35:9-15). God did all this at Bethel to Jacob and to "us" as "Jehovah, God of hosts" (ver. 5): as "God of hosts," omnipotent in heaven and earth; and as "Jehovah," the unchanging, covenant-keeping God, who desires his people ever to remember him by this profoundly significant Name (Exodus 3:15).

III. HOW DEGENERATE JACOB MAY BECOME REGENERATE. (Ver. 6.) These words are an urgent exhortation to Ephraim to return to God, from whom he had "deeply revolted." The word "therefore" indicates that the call is grounded upon the representation just given both of the Divine character and of the Divine goodness to his ancestor Jacob. "Turn thou to thy God," i.e. thy covenant God, who still offers himself to thee, and is still ready to keep his ancient covenant, if thou approach him in penitence and faith. Why should Ephraim go down to destruction when he may have the "God of hosts" for his helper, and when he can plead the promise of the eternal "I Am"? In the second part of the verse the prophet looks at conversion on its practical side. The reality of Ephraim's return to God would show itself in the discharge of moral duty. "Mercy and judgment" are the sum of the duties which we owe to our neighbor, and the performance of these is the most convincing outward evidence of piety (Psalm 15.). Again, to "wait on God continually" excludes idolatry and image-worship, and all other sins against the first table of the Law. Jacob had learned at Peniel to renounce the carnal device of supplanting, and when he came the second time to Bethel he put away Rachel's teraphim and other household gods. Now, Ephraim must begin to-day to act so if he would become, before it is too late, a worthy descendant of his ancestor. True turning to God involves obedience to both tables of the moral Law.


1. The sinfulness of insincerity in worship (Hosea 11:12).

2. The mischievousness of a life of sin (Hosea 12:1).

3. The duty of following the faith of our godly ancestors (vers. 3, 4).

4. Places which have been the scenes of special mercy should be dear to God's people (ver. 4).

5. The power that there is in penitent believing prayer (vers. 3, 4).

6. "The Name of the Lord is a strong tower;" it brings to the godly man strength and hope and joy (ver. 5).

7. The practical nature of true piety (ver. 6). - C.J.

Probability seems against the rendering, "Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the All-Holy;" for, though a relative truth might be claimed for the first statement, the other references to Judah are in a very different strain (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:5, 10, 14; Hosea 6:4, 11; Hosea 8:14; Hosea 10:11), and in any case the second clause would be untrue to fact. "Faithful with God" is too glaringly at variance with what Isaiah says of the state of Judah at this time: "Their land is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands" (Hosea 2:8). The other rendering, "Judah vacillates [roves about] with God, and with the faithful Holy One," better meets the conditions of the context. Ephraim's condition, however, was much worse than Judah's.

I. EPHRAIM'S DECEIT. Deceit had become as second nature to Ephraim.

1. He nourished himself upon it. "Ephraim feedeth on wind," i.e. on lies. Lies were his pabulum. He believed the false prophets who preached "peace" to him. He built himself up in his own counsels. He greedily listened to the voice of seducers.

2. He practiced it. Deceit had become part of his being. It corrupted his whole existence. Religion, politics, trade - all was penetrated by the spirit of lies. All partook of the character of unreality. There was:

(1) Deceit in religion. "Ephraim compasseth himself about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit." This was towards God (Hosea 11:12). With plenty of the outward show of religion - altars, sacrifices, feasts, etc. - there was no heart-reality. All was hypocrisy, pretence, lip-worship. God was owned in name, but denied in fact. His worship was associated with that of idols, and conducted in a way which was a scandal to morality.

(2) Deceit in politics. "He daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt" (ver. 1; cf. Hosea 10:4). This duplicity in national transactions brought forth its natural fruit in desolation. Treachery is a dangerous game to play in political engagements.

(3) Deceit in commerce. This also is charged against Ephraim in the chapter (see below, ver. 7).

3. He pursued it. "Feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind." Pursuing their ungodly aims, the people were as those chasing the scorching blast of the desert. Their hopes deceived them, and they were destroyed (cf. Hosea 13:15).

II. JUDAH'S INCONSTANCY. (Hosea 11:12.) Judah vacillated with God. Ephraim sought to practice deceit on the Faithful One. Judah trifled with the Holy One. Religious inconstancy shows itself:

1. In the maintenance of a right theory of religion with numerous infidelities in practice. Judah maintained, in form and theory, the right order in religion. They had the temple, the Levitical priesthood, the Davidic line of kings, etc. They set up no calves, as Jeroboam had dune. Yet, with this show of orthodoxy, they tolerated many things that were not right, and idolatry was winked at when it ought to have been suppressed.

2. In the alternation of great fervors in religion with times of backsliding and coolness. Under good kings, Judah had frequently reformations of religion. At these times there seemed no bounds to the piety and fervor of the people. But the enthusiasm did not last. There was reaction and greater coldness than before.

3. In divided service. Judah had of late begun to swerve from the service of the one God. They imported idols. More and more the people were being drawn to idol-service. Their hearts vacillated between Jehovah and the false gods. Inconstancy as often takes this form as any other. The heart is ostensibly God's, but is really divided between God and the world.

III. JEHOVAH'S FAITHFULNESS. God is "the faithful Holy One" (Hosea 11:12). In virtue of his faithfulness and holiness, God:

1. Resented Ephraim's deceit. He would punish Jacob (ver. 2).

2. Was displeased at Judah's inconstancy. He had "a controversy with Judah" (ver. 2).

3. Nevertheless would not utterly destroy them. This point is implied in what follows.

4. In punishment would be strictly just. "According to their ways." - J.O.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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All rights reserved. Used by permission. BibleSoft.com

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