Hosea 10:12
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) In their despair come some characteristic gleams of hope on the desolation; the eternal law which makes reaping a consequence of sowing will still apply. The mercy of God will be the harvest of a sowing to the Spirit. (Comp. Galatians 6:8; Romans 8:7-13; and Micah 6:8.) The very soil of the soul is fallow and unbroken. Break it up, seek Jehovah, and He will come as never before. This momentary rift in the storm-cloud shows the light behind it.

Hosea 10:12. Sow to yourselves in righteousness. — Exercise yourselves in the works of righteousness and holiness, in the performance of all duties due both to God and man. Reap in mercy — And then God, of his grace and mercy, will, in due time, bestow an abundant reward upon you. Break up your fallow ground — Your hearts are as ground overrun with weeds, which have need to be ploughed and broken up by conviction, humiliation, and godly sorrow for sin, that good seed may be sown in them. For it is time — High time, if you mean to do it at all, and a fit season for it, 2 Corinthians 6:2, now that troubles are near; to seek the Lord — To seek reconciliation and peace with him, to seek his favour, and a conformity to his will. Seek him, with earnest desire and persevering diligence, in the use of all the means which he hath appointed. Till he come and rain righteousness upon you — That is, pour down his grace and blessings upon you, according to what he has promised.

10:9-15 Because God does not desire the death and ruin of sinners, therefore in mercy he desires their chastisement. The children of iniquity still remained in Israel. The enemies would be gathered against them. It is just with God to make those know what hardships mean, who indulge themselves in ease and pleasure. Let them cleanse their hearts from all corrupt affections and lusts, and be a broken and contrite spirit. Let them abound in works of piety towards God, and of justice and charity towards one another: herein let them sow to the Spirit. Seeking the Lord is to be every day's work, but there are special occasions when to seek him. Christ shall come as the Lord our righteousness, and grant us of it abundantly. If we sow in righteousness, we shall reap according to mercy; a reward not of debt, but of grace. Even the gains of sin yield the sinner no satisfaction. As our comforts, so our confidences in the service of sin will certainly fail us. Come and seek the Lord, and thy hope in him shall not deceive thee. See what cruel work war makes. Whatever mischief is done, it is sin that does it. What miseries men's sins bring on them, even in this world!Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy - Literally, "in the proportion of mercy," not in proportion to what you have sown, nor what justice would give, but beyond all deserts, "in the proportion of mercy;" i. e., "according to the capacity and fullness of the mercy of God; what becometh the mercy of God, which is boundless," which overlooketh man's failings, and giveth an infinite reward for poor imperfect labor. As our Lord says, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together and running over, shall men give into your bosom" Luke 6:38. : "If the earth giveth thee larger fruits than it has received, how much more shall the requiting of mercy repay thee manifold more than thou gavest!" Sowing and reaping always stand over against each other, as labor and reward. "He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully" 2 Corinthians 9:6.

And, "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. In due season we shall reap, if we faint not" Galatians 6:7-9. We are bidden "to sow to ourselves," for, "our goodness reacheth not to God" Psalm 16:2; our's is the gain, if we love God, the Fountain of all good. This reward, "according to mercy," is in both worlds. it is in this world also. For "grace well used draws more grace." God giveth "grace upon grace" John 1:16; so that each good deed, the fruit of grace, is the seed-corn of larger grace. "If thou humble thyself, it stimulates thee to humble thyself more. If thou prayest, thou longest to pray more. If thou givest alms, thou wishest to give more." It is in the world to come. For, says a holy man , "our works do not pass away as it seems, but each thing done in time, is sown as the Seed of eternity. The simple will be amazed, when from this slight seed he shall see the copious harvest arise, good or evil, according as the seed was." "Thou seekest two sheaves, rest and glory. They shall reap glory and rest, who have sown toil and self-abasement" .

Break up your fallow ground - This is not the order of husbandry. The ground was already plowed, harrowed, sown. Now he bids her anew, "Break up your fallow ground." The Church breaks up her own fallow ground, when she stirs up anew the decaying piety of her own members; she breaks up fallow ground, when, by preaching the Gospel of Christ, she brings new people into His fold. And for us too, one sowing sufficeth not. It must be no surface-sowing. And "the soil of our hearts must ever be anew cleansed; for no one in this mortal life is so perfect, in piety, that noxious desires will not spring up again in the heart, us tares in the well-tilled field."

For it is time to seek the Lord, until He come and rain righteousness upon you - Or better, "until he shall come and teach you righteousness." To "rain righteousness" is the same image as Solomon uses of Christ; "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth" Psalm 72:6, and Isaiah, "drop down ye heavens from above and let the skies pour down righteousness" Isaiah 45:8. It expresses in picture-language how He, who is "our Righteousness," came down from heaven, to give life to us, who were dried and parched up and withered, when the whole face of our mortal nature was as dead. Yet there is nothing to indicate that the prophet is here using imagery. The Hebrew word is used very rarely in the meaning, to "rain;" in that of teaching, continually, and that, in exactly the same idiom as here . One office of our Lord was to teach. Nicodemus owned Him, "as a teacher sent from" God John 3:2. The Samaritans looked to the Messiah, as one who should "teach all things" John 4:25. The prophets foretold that He should "teach us His ways" Isaiah 2:3, that He should be a "witness unto the people" Isaiah 55:4.

The prophet bids them "seek diligently," and perseveringly, "not leaving off or desisting," if they should not at once find, but continuing the search, quite "up to" the time when they should find. His words imply the need of perseverance and patience, which should stop short of nothing but God's own time for finding. The prophet, as is the way of the prophets, goes on to Christ, who was ever in the prophets' hearts and hopes. The words could only be understood improperly of God the Father. God does not "come," who is everywhere. He ever was among His people, nor did He will to be among them otherwise than heretofore. No coming of God, as God, was looked for, to "teach righteousness." Rather, the time was coming, when He would be less visibly among them than before. Among the ten tribes, as a distinct people, He would shortly be no more, either by prophecy, or in worship, or by any perceptible token of His providence. From Judah also He was about, although at a later period, to withdraw the kingdom of David, and the Urim and Thummira, and the Shechinah, or visible presence. Soon after the captivity, prophecy itself was to cease. But "the coming of Christ the patriarchs and holy men all along desired to see: Abraham saw it and was glad John 8:56. Jacob longed for it Genesis 49:18. The law and the prophets directed to it, so that there were always in Israel such as waited for it, as appears by the example of old Simeon and Joseph of Arimathaea, and those many prophets and righteous men whom our Saviour speaks of Luke 2:25; Mark 15:43; Matthew 13:17. "He that should come" seems to have been a known title for Him; since John Baptist sent two of his disciples, to say unto Him, "Art thou He that shall come, or do we look for another?" Matthew 11:3.

The prophet saith then, "Now is the time to seek the Lord, and prepare for the coming of Christ, for He, when He cometh, will teach you, yea, will give you true righteousness, whereby ye shall be righteous before God, and heirs of His kingdom." : "So God speaketh through Isaiah, "keep ye judgment and do justice, for My salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed." In both places, people are warned, "to prepare the way" to receive Christ, which was the office assigned to the law. As Paul saith, "Whereunto was the law? It was added because of transgressions." It was given to restrain the passions of people by fear of punishment, lest they should so defile themselves by sin, as to despise the mercy and office of Christ. It was given to prepare our souls by love of righteousness and mercy to receive Christ, that he might enrich them with the divine wealth of righteousness." : "If Israel of old were so to order their ways in expectation of Him, and that they might be prepared for His coming; and if their neglecting to do this made them liable to such heavy judgments, how much severer judgments shall they be worthy of, who, after His Coming and raining upon them the plentiful showers of heavenly doctrine, and abundant measure of His grace and gifts of His Holy Spirit, do, for want of breaking up the fallow ground of their hearts, suffer His holy word to be lost on them. The fearful doom of such unfruitful Christians is set down by Paul" Hebrews 6:4-8.

The present is ever the time to seek the Lord. "Behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the Day of Salvation" 2 Corinthians 6:2. As Hosea says, "it is time to seek the Lord until He come," so Paul saith, "unto them that look for Him, shall he appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation" Hebrews 9:28.

12. Continuation of the image in Ho 10:11 (Pr 11:18). Act righteously and ye shall reap the reward; a reward not of debt, but of grace.

in mercy—according to the measure of the divine "mercy," which over and above repays the goodness or "mercy" which we show to our fellow man (Lu 6:38).

break … fallow ground—Remove your superstitions and vices, and be renewed.

seek … Lord, fill he come—Though not answered immediately, persevere unceasingly "till He come."

rain—send down as a copious shower.

righteousness—the reward of righteousness, that is, salvation, temporal and spiritual (1Sa 26:23; compare Joe 2:23 ).

Sow to yourselves in righteousness: the prophet continueth his care of their welfare, by exhorting them yet at last to repent, which, as learned interpreters observe, the prophet doth here in the same elliptic speech which is used before these imperatives, and is to be made up thus, The Lord hath said by his prophets, Sow, &c.; this same duty hath been pressed on them formerly, and is again commended to them; sow in righteousness, in universal righteousness, towards God in piety, towards man in equity, and herein see that ye sow plentifully, that is, exercise yourselves in these works.

Reap in mercy: this is referred both to the Divine mercy, and so amounteth to a promise, and to the mercy we should show to man, and so is direction for another part of duty; both may well have place here.

Break up your fallow ground; your hearts, O ye Ephraimites, have been and still are, as ground overrun with weeds, which need be ploughed and broken up, that good seed may be sowed in them, that you may bring forth fruit in holy life, from a holy heart, and obtain mercy of God.

It is time to seek the Lord; it is full time, if you consider it aright; or, it is yet time, you may seek and find he is not quite gone, still he calls you, therefore hearken, and follow seasonable advice, seek ye the Lord whilst he may be found.

Till he come; seek with patience and faith until he doth, as certainly he will, come; for this passage is a virtual or implicit promise that God will come to them if they seek him, i.e. he will bless, favour, and love them; in these he will appear to them, which is his coming to them.

Rain righteousness; plentifully pour out the fruits of his own goodness and mercy which he hath promised, and, having promised, it is a righteous thing they should be given according to promise; thus the mercies of God to us are his righteousness to us.

Upon you, who repent and obey his counsel by his prophets.

Saw to yourselves in righteousness,.... Not the seed of grace, which bad men have not, and cannot saw it; and which good men need not, it being sown in them already, and remaining; rather the seed of the word, which should be laid up in their hearts, dwell richly in them, and be kept and retained by them; though it is best of all to understand it of works of righteousness; as sowing to the flesh is doing the works of the flesh, or carnal and sinful acts; so sowing "unto righteousness" (g), as it may be rendered, is doing works of righteousness; living soberly and righteously; doing works according to the word of righteousness, from good principles, and with good views, with a view to the glory of God: and which will be "sowing to themselves", turn to their own account; for though such works are not profitable to God, as to merit anything at his hands; yet they are not only profitable to others, but to those that do them; for though not "for", yet "in keeping" the commands of God there is "great reward", Psalm 19:11. Reap in mercy; or "according to mercy" (h) not according to the merit of works, for there is none in them; but according to the mercy of God, to which all blessings, temporal, spiritual, and eternaL, are owing; and such who sow to the Spirit, or spiritual things, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting; not as the reward of debt, but of grace; not as of merit, but as owing to the mercy of Christ, Galatians 6:9 Jde Galatians 1:21;

break up your fallow ground; that is, of their hearts; which were like ground unopened, unbroken, not filled and manured, nor sown with seed, but overrun with weeds and thistles; and so were they, hard and impenitent, destitute of grace, and full of sin and wickedness, and stood in need of being renewed in the spirit of their minds; which this exhortation is designed to convince them of, and to stir them up to make use of proper methods of obtaining it, through the efficacious grace of God; see Jeremiah 4:5;

for it is time to seek the Lord: for his grace; as the husbandman seeks, prays, and waits for rain, when he has tilled his ground, and sowed his seed, to water it, and make it fruitful, that he may have a good reaping time, a plentiful harvest; and as there is a time to seek for the one, so for the other:

till he come and rain righteousness upon you; that is, Christ, whose coming is as the rain, Hosea 6:3; and who, when he should come, whether personally by his incarnation, or spiritually by his gracious presence, would rain a plentiful rain of the doctrines of grace, and the blessings of it, such as peace pardon, righteousness, and eternal life by him; particularly the justifying righteousness wrought out by him, which is fully manifested in the Gospel, the ministration of that righteousness, and is applied unto, and put upon, all them that believe: or "till he come and teach you righteousness" (i); as Christ did when come; he taught the word of righteousness in general, and the righteousness of God in particular, and directed men to seek it; declared he came to fulfil all righteousness, and taught men to believe in him for it, and that he is their righteousness, and the end of the law for it; as well as he taught them to live righteously and godly; see Joel 2:23. The Targum is,

"O house of Israel, do for yourselves good works; walk in the way of truth; establish for yourselves the doctrine of the law; behold, at all times the prophets say to you, return to the fear of the Lord; now shall he be revealed, and bring righteousness to you.''

But these exhortations were vain and fruitless, as appears by what follows:

(g) "ad justitiam", Pagninus, Montanus, Munster, Calvin, Junius & Tremellius, Drusius, Tarnovius, Cocceius. (h) "ad os miserecordiae", Montanus; "secundum misericordiam", Pagninus; "secundum pietatem", Cocceius, Schmidt. (i) "et doceat justitiam vos", Pagninus, Montanus, Drusius, Cocceius, Schmidt.

Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; {r} break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.

(r) Read Geneva Jer 4:3 See Jer 4:4

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. If only a moral miracle could take place, Israel’s calamities might yet be averted. Nor is it entirely inconceivable, for miracles, so Hosea thinks, can be wrought by an earnest resolution. Hence Hosea’s final appeal.

Sow to yourselves, &c.] Rather, Sow to yourselves according to righteousness, and ye shall reap in proportion to love; that is, Let your conduct be governed by a regard to righteousness, and it shall be recompensed in accordance with the divine love (or perhaps, see on Hosea 4:1, in accordance with the love ye have shown to one another, ‘righteousness’ being only another aspect of ‘love’ or benevolence).

Break up your fallow ground] Husbandmen in the East are indolent, and sometimes ‘sow among thorns’ (Jeremiah 4:3). The Israelites are warned against committing this fault in their spiritual husbandry. Evil habits must be broken off, and a new character formed, or it will be impossible to sow the seed of righteousness.

for it is time, &c.] There is still time to seek Jehovah, till he listen to your prayer, and rain his righteous gift of salvation upon you. For the figure of righteousness coming down from the sky, comp. Isaiah 45:8; Psalm 85:11. ‘Righteousness’ bears the meaning ‘salvation’ which it virtually has so often in the second part of Isaiah, ‘righteousness’ being the divine principle of action, ‘salvation’ the same divine principle in action.

Verses 12, 13. - Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy. These two verses contain a call to repentance and reformation of life, in figurative language borrowed from the same department of human industry, לצדי is "for righteousness;" that is, sow such seed as that righteousness may spring from it. לפי הי is "according to," or "in proportion to, mercy." When two imperatives are joined, is here, the latter indicates a promise, and may be expressed by a future, as, "Do this and live," i.e. "ye shall live" (Genesis 42:18). Kimchi explains it correctly, thus: "Sow to yourselves, etc., that is, do good in mine eyes, and the recompense from me shall be far greater than your good deeds, just as if one sows a measure (seah), and hopes to reap therefore two measures (seahs) or still more. Therefore, he uses in sowing righteousness, and in connection with reaping grace, in order to intimate that grace surpasses righteousness. Or that God rewards men's actions, not according to merit, but according to grace. As men sew, they reap; accordingly Israel is directed to sow ac-eroding to righteousness - to act righteously in their dealings with their fellow-men; and their reaping or reward would be, not in proportion to what they had sown, not merely commensurate with their righteous actions or dealings, not proportionate to what justice would give; but in proportion to mercy - Divine mercy, and so far above their highest deserts. They are promised a reward far above their poor doings, and irrespective of their sad failings - a reward, not of debt, not of merit, but of grace. The seed-time of righteousness would be followed by a reaping-time proportionate to the boundless measure of the Divine mercy. Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. Here they are urged to turn over a new leaf, as we say; to begin a new life; to root out the weeds of sin; to eradicate those evil passions that checked and stifled any noble feelings, as the husbandman runs his plough through the fallow field, and breaks it up, clearing out the weeds and roots, that the ground may be pure and clean for the sowing of the seed in spring. The LXX., reading נוּרו, instead of נֵיר נירוּ for נִיר, and דָּעַח for וְעֵח translates accordingly by φωτίσατε ἑαυτοῖς φῶς γνώσεως. They are further reminded that it is high time to begin this process, laying aside their stiff-necked, perverse ways; expelling from their heart the noxious growth that had overspread it; and by every way and means working earnestly and zealously for a renewal of life and return to the long-neglected work and worship of Jehovah. Neither were they to relax their efforts till the blessed end was attained, עד, with imperfect, marking the goal to be reached; nor would their efforts be in vain. The Lord would rain - bestow abundantly upon them, or touch (another and more frequent meaning of the word), their righteousness. Thus the ground that had long lain fallow must be broken up; its waste, wild state must cease and give place to cultivation; the ploughshare must be driven through it; its wild growths and weeds must be cut down and uprooted. A process of renewal must succeed; the vices of their natural state, the idolatrous and wicked practices that had sprung up, must be abandoned. Renewal and radical reform are imperatively demanded. Matters had remained too long in a miserable and unsatisfactory condition. A long night of sinful slumber had overcome them; it was high time to awake out of that sleep. Too long had they shamefully forgotten and forsaken God; it was more than time to wait upon him. Nor would such waiting, if persevered in, end in disappointment; notwithstanding their great and manifold provocations, he would come and rain righteousness in welcome, refreshing, and plenteous showers upon returning penitents; and with righteousness would be conjoined its reward of blessing and salvation, both temporal and spiritual. Hosea 10:12The call to repentance and reformation of life is then appended in Hosea 10:12, Hosea 10:13, clothed in similar figures. Hosea 10:12. "Sow to yourselves for righteousness, reap according to love; plough for yourselves virgin soil: for it is time to seek Jehovah, till He come and rain righteousness upon you. Hosea 10:13. Ye have ploughed wickedness, ye have reaped crime: eaten the fruit of lying: because thou hast trusted in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men." Sowing and reaping are figures used to denote their spiritual and moral conduct. לצדקה, for righteousness, is parallel to לפי חסד; i.e., sow that righteousness may be able to spring up like seed, i.e., righteousness towards your fellow-men. The fruit of this will be chesed, condescending love towards the poor and wretched. Nı̄r nı̄r, both here and in Jeremiah 4:3 to plough virgin soil, i.e., to make land not yet cultivated arable. We have an advance in this figure: they are to give up all their previous course of conduct, and create for themselves a new sphere for their activity, i.e., commence a new course of life. ועת, and indeed it is time, equivalent to, for it is high time to give up your old sinful says and seek the Lord, till (עד) He come, i.e., till He turn His grace to you again, and cause it to rain upon you. Tsedeq, righteousness, not salvation, a meaning which the word never has, and least of all here, where tsedeq corresponds to the tsedâqâh of the first clause. God causes righteousness to rain, inasmuch as He not only gives strength to secure it, like rain for the growth of the seed (cf. Isaiah 44:3), but must also generate and create it in man by His Spirit (Psalm 51:12). The reason for this summons is given in Hosea 10:13, in another allusion to the moral conduct of Israel until now. Hitherto they have ploughed as well as reaped unrighteousness and sin, and eaten lies as the fruit thereof, - lies, inasmuch as they did not promote the prosperity of the kingdom as they imagined, but only led to its decay and ruin. For they did not trust in Jehovah the Creator and rock of salvation, but in their way, i.e., their deeds and their might, in the strength of their army (Amos 6:13), the worthlessness of which they will now discover.
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