Hosea 10:1
Israel is an empty vine, he brings forth fruit to himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he has increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images.
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(1) Empty in the English version is wrong, being inconsistent with what follows. (Comp. LXX. and Vulg.) Read luxuriant. The metaphors of the vintage (comp. also Genesis 49:22, and Introduction to Hosea 9) are still prevalent in the mind of the prophet. Wünsche has powerfully illustrated this wild strong growth of Israel as compared with Judah. Joash prevailed over Amaziah, and plundered Jerusalem (2Kings 14:12-14). Jeroboam II. extended his power as far as Hamath (2Kings 14:23-25). The kingdom had resisted the attacks of Syria, and had become insolent as well as idolatrous. The last clause should be rendered, The more abundant his fruit, the more he increased altars; the fairer his land, the fairer the Baal-pillars. On “Baal-pillars,” see W. R. Smith, Old Testament in the Jewish Church, pp. 248, 425. (Comp. 9:1 and 2:5.) Misapprehending the cause of their temporal prosperity, and wilfully ignoring Jehovah’s forbearance and love, they attributed their mercies to the grace of Baal, and multiplied idolatrous shrines (see Romans 2:4.)



Hosea 10:1 - Hosea 10:15

The prophecy of this chapter has two themes-Israel’s sin, and its punishment. These recur again and again. Reiteration, not progress of thought, characterises Hosea’s fiery stream of inspired eloquence. Conviction of sin and prediction of judgment are his message. We trace a fourfold repetition of it here, and further note that in each case there is a double reference to Israel’s sin as consisting in the rebellion which set up a king and in the schism which established the calf worship; while there is also a double phase of the punishment corresponding to these, in the annihilation of the kingdom and the destruction of the idols.

The first section may be taken to be Hosea 10:1 - Hosea 10:3. The image of a luxuriant vine laden with fruit is as old as Jacob’s blessing of the tribes {Genesis 49:22}, where it is applied to Joseph, whose descendants were the strength of the Northern Kingdom. Hosea has already used it, and here it is employed to set forth picturesquely the material prosperity of Israel. Probably the period referred to is the successful reign of Jeroboam II. But prosperity increased sin. The more fruit or material wealth, the more altars; the better the harvests, the more the obelisks or pillars to gods, falsely supposed to be the authors of the blessings. The words are as condensed as a proverb, and are as true to-day as ever. Israel had attributed its prosperity to Baal {Hosea 2:8}. The misuse of worldly wealth and the tendency of success to draw us away from God, and to blind to the true source of all blessing, are as rife now as then.

The root of the evil was, as always, a heart divided-that is, between God and Baal-or, perhaps, ‘smooth’; that is, dissimulating and insincere. In reality, Baal alone possesses the heart which its owner would share between him and Jehovah. ‘All in all, or not at all,’ is the law. Whether Baals or calves were set beside God, He was equally deposed.

Then, with a swift turn, Hosea proclaims the impending judgment, setting himself and the people as if already in the future. He hears the first peal of the storm, and echoes it in that abrupt ‘now.’ The first burst of the judgment shatters dreams of innocence, and the cowering wretches see their sin by the lurid light. That discovery awaits every man whose heart has been ‘divided.’ To the gazers and to himself masks drop, and the true character stands out with appalling clearness. What will that light show us to be? An unnamed hand overthrows altars and pillars. No need to say whose it is. One half of Israel’s sin is crushed at a blow, and the destruction of the other follows immediately.

They themselves abjure their allegiance; for they have found out that their king is a king Log, and can do them no good. A king, set up in opposition to God’s will, cannot save. The ruin of their projects teaches godless men at last that they have been fools to take their own way; for all defences, recourses, and protectors, chosen in defiance of God, prove powerless when the strain comes. The annihilation of one half of their sin sickens them of the other. The calves and the monarchy stood or fell together. It is a dismal thing to have to bear the brunt of chastisement for what we see to have been a blunder as well as a crime. But such is the fate of those who seek other gods and another king.

In Hosea 10:4 Hosea recurs to Israel’s crime, and appends a description of the chastisement, substantially the same as before, but more detailed, which continues till Hosea 10:8. The sin now is contemplated in its effects on human relations. Before, it was regarded in relation to God. But men who are wrong with Him cannot be right with one another. Morality is rooted in religion, and if we lie to God, we shall not be true to our brother. Hence, passing over all other sins for the present, Hosea fixes upon one, the prevalence of which strikes at the very foundation of society. What can be done with a community in which lying has become a national characteristic, and that even in formal agreements? Honey-combed with falsehood, it is only fit for burning.

Sin is bound by an iron link to penalty. Therefore, says Hosea, God’s judgment springs up, like a bitter plant {the precise name of which is unknown} in the furrows, where the farmer did not know that its seeds lay. They little dreamed what they were sowing when they scattered abroad their lies, but this is the fruit of these. ‘Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’; and whatever other crop we may hope to gather from our sins, we shall gather that bitter one which we did not expect. The inevitable connection of sin and judgment, the bitterness of its results, the unexpectedness of them, are all here, and to be laid to heart by us.

Then Hosea 10:5 - Hosea 10:6 dilate with keen irony on the fate of the first half of Israel’s sin-the calf. It was thought a god, but its worshippers shall be in a fright for it. ‘Calves,’ says Hosea, though there was but one at Beth-el; and he uses the feminine, as some think, depreciatingly. ‘Beth-aven’ or the ‘house of vanity,’ he says, instead of Beth-el, ‘the house of God.’ A fine god whose worshippers had to be alarmed for its safety! ‘Its people’-what a contrast to the name they might have borne, ‘My people’! God disowns them, and says, ‘They belong to it, not to Me.’ The idolatrous priests of the calf worship will tremble when that image, which had been shamefully their ‘glory,’ is carried off to Assyria, and given as a present to ‘king Jareb’-a name for the king of Assyria meaning the fighting or quarrelsome king. The captivity of the god is the shame of the worshippers. To be ‘ashamed of their own counsel’ is the certain fate of all who depart from God; for, sooner or later, experience will demonstrate to the blindest that their refuges of lies can neither save themselves nor those who trust in them. But shame is one thing and repentance another; and many a man will say, ‘I have been a great fool, and my clever policy has all crumbled to pieces,’ who will only therefore change his idols, and not return to God.

Hosea 10:7 recurs to the political punishment of the civil rebellion. The image for the disappearance of the king is striking, whether we render ‘foam’ or ‘chip,’ but the former has special beauty. In the one case we see the unsubstantial bubble,

‘A moment white, then melts for ever’;

and in the other, the helpless twig swept down by the stream. Either brings vividly before us the powerlessness of Israel against the roaring torrent of Assyrian power; and the figure may be widened out to teach what is sure to become of all man-made and self-chosen refuges when the floods of God’s judgments sweep over the world. The captivity of the idol and the burst bubble of the monarchy bid us all make Jehovah our God and King. The vacant shrine and empty throne are followed by utter and long-continued desolation. Thorns and thistles have time to grow on the altars, and no hand cuts them down. What of the men thus stripped of all in which they had trusted? Desperate, they implore the mountains to fall on them, as preferring to die, and the hills to cover them, as willing to be crushed, if only they may be hidden. That awful cry is heard again in our Lord’s predictions of judgment, and in the Apocalypse. Therefore this prophecy foreshadows, in the destruction of Israel’s confidences and in their shame and despair, a more dreadful coming day, in which we shall be concerned.

Hosea 10:9 - Hosea 10:11 again give the sin and its punishment. ‘The days of Gibeah’ recall the hideous story of lust and crime which was the low-water mark of the lawless days of old. That crime had been avenged by merciless war. But its taint had lived on, and the Israel of Hosea’s day ‘stood,’ obstinately persistent, just where the Benjamites had been then, and set themselves in dogged resistance, as these had done, ‘that the battle against the children of unrighteousness might not touch them.’

Stiff-necked setting oneself against God’s merciful fighting with evil lasts for a little while, but verse 10 tells how soon and easily it is annihilated. God’s ‘desire’ brushes away all defences, and the obstinate sinners are like children, who are whipped when their father wills, let them struggle as they may. The instruments of chastisement are foreign armies, and the chastisement itself is described with a striking figure as ‘binding them to their two transgressions’; that is, the double sin which is the keynote of the chapter. Punishment is yoking men to their sins, and making them drag the burden like bullocks in harness. What sort of load are we getting together for ourselves? When we have to drag the consequences of our doings behind us, how shall we feel?

The figure sets the Prophet’s imagination going, and he turns it another way, comparing Israel to a heifer, broken in, and liking the easy work of threshing, in which the unmuzzled ox could eat its fill, but now set to harder tasks in the fields. Judah, too, is to share in the punishment. If men will not serve God in and because of prosperous ease, He will try what toil and privation will do. Abused blessings are withdrawn, and the abundance of the threshing-floor is changed for dragging a heavy plough or harrow.

Hosea 10:12 still deals with the figure suggested in the close of the previous verse. It is the only break in the clouds in this chapter. It is a call to amendment, accompanied by a promise of acceptance. If we ‘sow for righteousness’-that is, if our efforts are directed to embodying it in our lives-we ‘shall reap according to mercy.’ That is true universally, whether it is taken to mean God’s mercy to us, or ours to others. The aim after righteousness ever secures the divine favour, and usually ensures the measure which we mete being measured to us again.

But sowing is not all; thorns must be grubbed up. We must not only turn over a new leaf, but tear out the old one. The old man must be slain if the new man is to live. The call to amend finds its warrant in the assurance that there is still time to seek the Lord, and that, for all His threatenings, He is ready to rain blessings upon the seekers. The unwearying patience of God, the possibility of the worst sinner’s repentance, the conditional nature of the threatenings, the possibility of breaking the bond between sin and sorrow, the yet deeper thought that righteousness must come from above, are all condensed in this brief gospel before the Gospel.

But that bright gleam passes, and the old theme recurs. Once more we have sin and punishment exhibited in their organic connection in Hosea 10:13 - Hosea 10:14. Israel’s past had been just the opposite of sowing righteousness and reaping mercy. Wickedness ploughed in, iniquity will surely be its fruit. Sin begets sin, and is its own punishment. What fruit have we of doing wrong? ‘Lies’; that is, unfulfilled expectations of unrealised satisfaction. No man gets the good that he aimed at in sinning, or he gets something more that spoils it. At last the deceitfulness of sin will be found out, but we may be sure of it now. The root of all Israel’s sin was the root of ours; namely, trust in self, and consequent neglect of God. The first half of Hosea 10:13 is an exhaustive analysis of the experience of every sinful life; the second, a penetrating disclosure of the foundation of it.

Then the whole closes with the repeated threatening, dual as before, and illustrated by the forgotten horrors of some dreadful siege, one of the ‘unhappy, far-off things,’ fallen silent now. A significant variation occurs in the final threatening, in which Beth-el is set forth as the cause, rather than as the object, of the destruction. ‘They were the ruin of him and of all Israel.’ Our vices are made the whips to scourge us. Our idols bring us no help, but are the causes of our misery.

The Prophet ends with the same double reference which prevails throughout, when he once more declares the annihilation of the monarchy, which, rather than a particular person, is meant by ‘the king.’ ‘In the morning’ is enigmatical. It may mean ‘prematurely,’ or ‘suddenly,’ or ‘in a time of apparent prosperity,’ or, more probably, the Prophet stands in vision in that future day of the Lord, and points to ‘the king’ as the first victim. The force of the prophecy does not depend on the meaning of this detail. The teaching of the whole is the certainty that suffering dogs sin, but yet does so by no iron, impersonal law, but according to the will of God, who will rain righteousness even on the sinner, being penitent, and will endow with righteousness from above every lowly soul that seeks for it.Hosea 10:1. Israel is an empty vine — The Hebrew, גפן בוקק, may either signify, an empty, or emptying vine. If we take it in the former sense, the meaning is, Israel is a vine which has no fruit on it; that is, that they brought forth no fruit to God, had no true worshippers of him among them, none that truly served and glorified him; for it is said in the following words that he brought forth fruit unto himself. If the expression be understood in the other sense, and be rendered an emptying vine, the sense of the clause is, Israel is a vine which casteth its grapes, that is, does not bring them forth to perfection. And by the next words, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself, may be understood, not only that they used the blessings which God had given them according to their pleasure, and to the gratification of their lusts, but that their apparent good works proceeded from selfish motives, and not from a regard to the glory and will of God. The LXX. give the expression yet another sense, Αμπελος ευκληματουσα, a vine well furnished with branches: with which accords the Vulgate, vitis frondosa. Thus interpreted, the words may be considered as indicative of their national prosperity, increasing population, and military strength. According to the multitude of his fruit — By the fruit here spoken of we are not to understand good works, but their abundant crops, numerous flocks and herds, and public opulence; he hath increased the altars — When their land yielded a most plentiful harvest, and their flocks, and herds, and wealth increased, this plenty was employed on multiplying their idols. Their idolatrous altars were as numerous as their national prosperity was great, and were increased in proportion thereto. And according to the goodness, &c., they have made goodly images — Imagining that the goodness of their land was a blessing from their idols. Bishop Horsley reads here, Like the beauty of his land he made the beauty of his images, interpreting the meaning to be, “That the exquisite workmanship of his images was as remarkable as the natural beauty of his country.”10:1-8 A vine is only valuable for its fruit; but Israel now brought no fruit to perfection. Their hearts were divided. God is the Sovereign of the heart; he will have all, or none. Were the stream of the heart wholly after God, it would run strongly, and bear down all before it. Their pretences to covenant with God were false. Even the proceeding of justice was as poisonous hemlock. Alas, how empty a vine is the visible church even at this day! But all earthly prosperity is but a collection of bubbles, soon destroyed like foam upon the water. Sinners will in vain seek shelter from that Judge, whom they now despise as a Saviour.Israel is an empty vine - Or, in the same sense, "a luxuriant vine;" literally, "one which poureth out," poureth itself out into leaves, abundant in switches, (as most old versions explain it,) luxuriant in leaves, emptying itself in them, and empty of fruit; like the fig-tree, which our Lord cursed. For the more a fruit tree putteth out its strength in leaves and branches, the less and the worst fruit it beareth. : "The juices which it ought to transmute into wine, it disperseth in the ambitious idle shew of leaves and branches." The sap in the vine is an emblem of His Holy Spirit, through whom alone we can bear fruit. "His grace which was in me," says Paul, "was not in vain." It is in vain to us, when we waste the stirrings of God's Spirit in feelings, aspirations, longings, transports, "which bloom their hour and fade" . Like the leaves, these feelings aid in maturing fruit; when there are leaves only, the tree is barren and "nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned" Hebrews 6:8.

It bringeth forth fruit for itself - Literally, "setteth fruit to, or on itself." Luxuriant in leaves, its fruit becomes worthless, and is from itself to itself. It is uncultured; (for Israel refused culture,) pouring itself out, as it willed, in what it willed. It had a rich show of leaves, a show also of fruit, but not for the Lord of the vineyard, since they came to no size or ripeness. Yet to the superficial glance, it was rich, prosperous, healthy, abundant in all things, as was the outward state of Israel under Jehoash and Jeroboam II.

According to the multitude of his fruit - Or more strictly, "as his fruit was multiplied, he multiplied altars; as his land was made good, they made goodly their images." The more of outward prosperity God bestowed upon them, the more they abused His gifts, referring them to their idols; the more God lavished His mercies on them, the more profuse they were in adoring their idols. The superabundance of God's goodness became the occasion of the superabundance of their wickedness. They rivaled and competed with and outdid the goodness of God, so that He could bestow upon them no good, which they did not turn to evil. People think this strange. Strange it is, as is all perversion of God's goodness; yet so it is now. People's sins are either the abuse of what God gives, or rebellion, because He withholds. In the sins of prosperity, wealth, health, strength, powers of mind, wit, people sin in a way in which they could not sin, unless God continually supplied them with those gifts which they turn to sin. The more God gives, the more opportunity and ability they have to sin, and the more they sin. They are "evil," not only in despite of God's goodness, but "because" He is good.


Ho 10:1-15. Israel's Idolatry, the Source of Perjuries and Unlawful Leagues, Soon Destined to Be the Ruin of the State, Their King and Their Images Being About to Be Carried Off; a Just Chastisement, the Reaping Corresponding to the Sowing.

The prophecy was uttered between Shalmaneser's first and second invasions of Israel. Compare Ho 10:14; also Ho 10:6, referring to Hoshea's calling So of Egypt to his aid; also Ho 10:4, 13.

1. empty—stripped of its fruits [Calvin], (Na 2:2); compelled to pay tribute to Pul (2Ki 15:20). Maurer translates, "A widespreading vine"; so the Septuagint. Compare Ge 49:22; Ps 80:9-11; Eze 17:6.

bringeth forth fruit unto himself—not unto Me.

according to … multitude of … fruit … increased … altars—In proportion to the abundance of their prosperity, which called for fruit unto God (compare Ro 6:22), was the abundance of their idolatry (Ho 8:4, 11).Israel is reproved and threatened for their impiety and idolatry, and exhorted to repentance.

Israel and Ephraim are terms our prophet doth ordinarily use, and they signify the same people, the ten tribes revolted from the house of David, and from the true worship of God.

Is an empty vine; a vine wasted and spoiled, that hath lost its strength to bring forth any fruit, or that is robbed and pilled of the fruit it doth bring forth; this partly for want of the Divine protection and benediction, which they were wont to have, and partly from an inherent barrenness and weakness in this vine.

He bringeth forth fruit unto himself; whatever fruit was brought forth by its remaining strength was not brought forth to God, for his service and honour; but for themselves, for their own use, for service of a state interest, to make presents, and to pay tribute; or, which is yet worse, to maintain the worship of idols.

According to the multitude of his fruit: when the land yielded more plentiful increase, this plenty was impiously employed on multiplied idols, or on multiplied altars, built to the same idols.

He hath increased the altars of their idols, either by adding to the number of altars, or else adding to the numbers of sacrifices offered to the idols on their altars.

According to the goodness of his land: idolaters sottishly imagined that the goodness of their land was a blessing on them from their idols; thus sacrilegiously they robbed God, and on this mistake they proceed to further impiety.

He hath made goodly images; more stately, more curiously wrought, more richly adorned, and it is most likely more for number too, accounting it a great devotion to have many and rich statues of their idols.

Israel is an empty vine,.... The people of Israel are often compared to a vine, and such an one from whence fruit might be expected, being planted in a good soil, and well taken care of; see Psalm 80:8; but proved an "empty vine", empty of fruit; not of temporal good things, for a multitude of such fruit it is afterwards said to have; but of spiritual fruit, of the fruit of grace, and of good works, being destitute of the Spirit of God, and his grace; and, having no spiritual moisture, was incapable of bringing forth good fruit: or, "an emptying vine" (o); that casts its fruit before it is ripe; these people, what fruit they had, they made an ill use of it; even of their temporal good things; they emptied themselves of their wealth and riches, by sending presents, or paying tribute, to foreign princes for their alliance, friendship, and help; or by consuming it on their idols, and in their idolatrous worship. The Targum renders it,

"a spoiled vine (p);''

spoiled by their enemies, who robbed them of their wealth and riches, and trampled them under foot. The Septuagint version, and those that follow that, understand it in a sense quite the reverse, rendering it, "a flourishing vine"; putting forth branches, leaves, and fruit; and which the learned Pocock confirms from the use of the word in the Arabic language: but then it follows,

he bringeth forth fruit unto himself; all the good works done by them were not to the praise and glory of God, as fruits of righteousness are, which come by Jesus Christ; but were done to be seen of men, and to gain their applause and esteem, and so were for themselves; and all their temporal good things they abounded with were not made use of in the service of God, and for the promoting of his glory, and of true religion among them; but either consumed on their own lusts, or in the service of idols: or, "the fruit is like unto himself" (q); as was the vine, so was its fruit: the vine was empty, and devoid of goodness, and so the fruit it produced. The Targum is,

"the fruit of their works was the cause of their being carried captive:''

according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars: as the Israelites increased in riches and wealth, their land bringing forth in great abundance, they erected the greater number of altars to their idols, and multiplied their sacrifices to them; this was the ill use they made of what fruit they did produce:

according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images; of richer metal, and more ornamented, and more of them, according to the plenty of good things, corn, and wine, and oil, their land produced; thus abusing the providential goodness of God to such vile purposes!

(o) "vitis evacuans", Drusius, Rivetus, Schmidt; so Stockius, p. 149. (p) So Calvin. (q) "fructum aequat sibi", Mercerus; "fracture facit similem sibi", Schmidt.

Israel is an {a} empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the {b} goodness of his land they have made goodly images.

(a) Of which though the grapes were gathered, yet always as it gathered new strength it increased in new wickedness, so that the correction which should have brought them to obedience, only proclaimed their stubbornness.

(b) As they were rich and had abundance.

Israel’s guilt and its punishment, each shown by examples. But even in this dark chapter there is a short gleam of hope (Hosea 10:12)

1. Israel is an empty vine …] Rather, Israel was a luxuriant vine, which freely put forth fruit. A development of the suggestions in Hosea 9:10; Hosea 9:16; compare with it the fuller description in Psalm 80:8-11. The ‘fruit’ spoken of is not moral, but material. The bounties of Providence were lavished upon northern Israel (comp. chap 2.), and gave ground for the expectation of Israel’s grateful obedience. The allusion will be to the prosperous reign of the second Jeroboam.

according to the multitude, &c.] Rather, as his fruit increased, he increased his altars; the better it was with his land, the better he made his (sacred) pillars. The material wealth of the country only served to strengthen and extend the idolatrous system of worship (comp. Hosea 2:8, Hosea 8:4, and note on Hosea 8:11). ‘Altars’ and (sacred) ‘pillars’ are naturally mentioned together, the ‘pillar’ (maçççbah) or consecrated stone being the recognized token of a ‘high place.’ Not only did Jacob set up such pillars at Bethel and elsewhere (Genesis 28:18; Genesis 31:45; Genesis 35:14; Genesis 35:20), but Moses himself is recorded to have built an altar with no less than twelve sacred pillars (Exodus 24:4). They were forbidden no doubt, absolutely and entirely, in Deuteronomy 16:21, but, besides the pillars of Baal (2 Kings 3:2; 2 Kings 10:26; 2 Kings 17:9), there is reason to think that those great stones spoken of in the narrative books (Joshua 24:26; 1 Samuel 6:14; 1 Samuel 7:12; 2 Samuel 20:8; 1 Kings 1:9) were really sacred pillars, though the narrator, to avoid startling his readers, denies them the name. Isaiah himself, too, speaks of a ‘pillar’, or sacred stone, as a sign, together with an altar, of the worship of Jehovah in Egypt (Isaiah 19:19). If then pillars, sacred to Jehovah, were tolerated in Judah in Isaiah’s time, much more must we suppose that they were tolerated in Israel. But why does Hosea refer to them as signs of infidelity? Because the worship of Jehovah at the high places was purely formal, and produced no moral effect upon the character (see on Hosea 8:11). In short, he is more consistent, more outspoken than Isaiah himself, who never says that the high places are occasions of sin. True, Hosea speaks of the north; Isaiah of the south.Verse 1. - Israel is an empty vine. The comparison of Israel to a vine is frequent; but the epithet boqeq is variously rendered;

(1) as "empty." Thus Aben Ezra explains it as "empty in which there is no strength to bring forth fruit, nor fruit;" and thus also Kimchi explains it: "An empty vine in which there is not any life-sap;" and in the same sense בי ומי, "empty and sick," Nahum 2:11. This, too, is the meaning of the Authorized Version, but is irreconcilable with the statement in the following clause, "he bringeth forth fruit." The Chaldee had preceded in giving the word the sense of "plundered," "empty," "waste." But

(2) some take boqeq transitively, and attach to it the signification of "emptying out its fruit." In this way Rashi explains it: "The Israelites resemble a vine which casts all its good fruit;" and similarly the marginal rendering of the Authorized Version has, "a vine emptying the fruit which it giveth." There is

(3) a signification derivable from the primary meaning of boqeq more suitable than either of the preceding. From the primary sense of "pouring," "pouring itself out," or" poured out," and so overflowing, comes that of "luxuriant." Accordingly Gesenius translates, "a wide-spreading vine." This agrees with the Septuagint εὐκληματοῦσα, "a vine with goodly branches," to which the Vulgate frondosa, "leafy," nearly corresponds. In like manner De Wette renders it wuchernder, "growing prosperously." It was thus a vine of vigorous growth, and extending its branches far and wide; a parallel expression is found in the גי סֹרַחַת of Ezekiel 17:6, "a spreading vine." He (rather, it) bringeth forth fruit unto him self (itself). The word יְשַׁוֶּהliterally signifies "reset to" or "on," and is rightly rendered by Gesenius "to set" or "yield fruit." It is variously interpreted by the Hebrew commentators, but more or less erroneously by them all. Rashi takes it in the sense of "to profit;" Aben Ezra, "to bear" or "make equal;" and Kimchi informs us that the older interpreters understood in the sense of "lying," as if שוא, the whole phrase meaning, "the fruit will lie to him," that is, deceive or fail him (like Hosea 9:2). Kimchi himself takes the verb in the right sense, but, misled by his erroneous explanation of boqeq, empty or plundered, takes the clause interrogatively: "How shall he set on himself [equivalent to 'yield' any fruit], since he is as a plundered vine; for the enemies have plundered him and set him as an empty vessel? how should he still thrive and become numerous in children and treasures?" It makes little difference whether we take the second part of the first clause relatively or independently, as the sense amounts to the same. The meaning of the two difficult and disputed words then we take to be respectively "luxuriant" and "yield;" and the sense of the whole is either

(1) a comparison of the former state of Israel to a vine luxuriant and likely, as far as appearance went, to set forth fruit; but the luxuriance degenerated into leafage, and the likelihood of fruitage failed; or

(2) Israel is compared to a vine luxuriant in growth and abundant in fruit - but only for itself. The former explanation accords with that of Jerome when he says, "Unpruned vines luxuriate in the juice and leaves which they ought to transmute into wine. They disperse in the idle ambitious show of leaves and branches." The more abundantly a fruit tree gives out its strength in leaves and branches, the less abundant and the worse the quality of the fruit. Thus it was with the fig tree, with its abundant leaves and no fruit, which our Lord cursed. But with the same or a similar rendering there is the alternative sense of prosperous growth and plenteous fruit, but that fruit wasted on self or sin; and thus the meaning in either case is much the same. The Septuagint favors this by ὁ καρπὸς εὐθηνῶν αὐτῆς, equivalent to "its fruit exuberant." Cyril favors this latter also in saying, "When Israel still wisely led a life in accordance with the Divine Law, it was as a beautiful vine adorned with branches, which even the neighboring nations admired." This was exactly the state of Israel in the days of Joash and Jeroboam II.; but their prosperity was prostituted to purposes of idolatry. Jerome also, in any other part of his exposition, approaches this sense. Taking ישוּה, in the sense of "to equal," he says, "The fecundity of the grapes equaled the fecundity of the branches: but they who had previously been so fruitful before they offended God, afterwards turned the abundance of fruits into multiplied occasions of offence; and the greater the population they possessed, the more altars they built, and exceeded the abundant produce of the land by the multitude of their idols." Or the verb may mean, "it made fruit equal to itself;" nearly so the Vulgate. The fruit is agreeable to it. According to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars. In this second or middle clause of the verse the figure passes into the fact represented by it. It is no longer the vine, but Israel. The altars kept pace with the increase of population and abundant produce; the multiplication of altars for idolatrous sacrifice and service was proportionate to their prosperity. The l' here and in next clause marks the circumlocutory genitive, and the ke is quantitative. According to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images (margin, statues, or, standing images). The matstsevoth here mentioned are στήλης in the LXX., that is, statues or pillars, and those pillars were erected to Baal or some other idol, as we read in 1 Kings 14:23. The plural of the verb in this last clause arises from Israel being a noun of multitude. Rashi gives the following brief exposition: "Just in proportion as I caused their prosperity to overflow to them, they multiplied calves for the altars;" but Kimchi explains both clauses more fully and accurately thus: "As I increased their prosperous state in treasures and children, they multiplied altars to Baal; as I did good to their land in corn and wine and oil, they waxed strong in setting up pillars for other gods;" the verb חטי has the same sense here as ההטי in Jonah 4:9. Penetrating into the countries and overflowing them with his host, he comes into the glorious land, i.e., Palestine, the land of the people of God. See at Daniel 11:16 and Daniel 8:9. "And many shall be overthrown." רבּות is not neuter, but refers to ארצות, Daniel 11:40. For "that the whole lands are meant, represented by their inhabitants (cf. The verb masc. יכּשׁלוּ [shall be overthrown]), proceeds from the exceptions of which the second half of the verse makes mention" (Kran.). The three peoples, Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites, are represented as altogether spared, because, as Jerome has remarked, they lay in the interior, out of the way of the line of march of Antiochus to Egypt (v. Leng., Hitzig, and others). This opinion Hitzig with justice speaks of as altogether superficial, since Antiochus would not have omitted to make war against them, as e.g., his father overcame the Ammonites in war (Polyb. v. 71), if they had not given indubitable proofs of their submission to him. Besides, it is a historical fact that the Edomites and Ammonites supported Antiochus in his operations against the Jews (1 Macc. 5:3-8; 4:61); therefore Maurer remarks, under ימּלטוּ (they shall escape): eorum enim in oppremendis Judaeis Antiochus usus est auxilio. But since the king here spoken of is not Antiochus, this historizing interpretation falls of itself to the ground. There is further with justice objected against it, that at the time of Antiochus the nation of Moab no longer existed. After the Exile the Moabites no longer appear as a nation. They are only named (Nehemiah 13:1 and Ezra 9:1), in a passage cited from the Pentateuch, along with the Philistines and the Hittites, to characterize the relations of the present after the relations of the time of Moses. Edom, Moab, and Ammon, related with Israel by descent, are the old hereditary and chief enemies of this people, who have become by name representatives of all the hereditary and chief enemies of the people of God. These enemies escape the overthrow when the other nations sink under the power of the Antichrist. עמּון בּני 'ראשׁית, "the firstling of the sons of Ammon," i.e., that which was most valued or distinguished of the Ammonites as a first-fruit, by which Kranichfeld understands the chief city of the Ammonites. More simply others understand by the expression, "the flower of the people, the very kernel of the nation;" cf. Numbers 24:20; Amos 6:1; Jeremiah 49:35. The expression is so far altogether suitable as in the flower of the people the character of the nation shows itself, the enmity against the people of God is most distinctly revealed; but in this enmity lies the reason for this people's being spared by the enemy of God.
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