Hosea 11:8
How shall I give you up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver you, Israel? how shall I make you as Admah? how shall I set you as Zeboim? my heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.
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(8) In the depth of despair the prophet delivers himself of one of the most pathetic passages in Hebrew prophecy. On the darkest cloud gleams the bow of promise. A nation so much beloved as Israel cannot be destroyed by Him who has fostered it so tenderly. As the prophet loved his faithless bride, so Jehovah continued to love His people. The “how?” of this verse expresses the most extreme reluctance. Admah and Zeboim were cities of the plain destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah, which are often referred to as the type of irremediable catastrophe. (Comp. Isaiah 1:9; Isaiah 13:19; Matthew 10:15.)

Mine heart is turned within me.—Better, against me—a violent revulsion of feeling. Divine compassion pleads with Divine justice.

Hosea 11:8-9. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim — To utter destruction? God’s mercy is here pathetically described as contending with his justice, to show that he does not willingly destroy, or even afflict, or grieve, the children of men, Lamentations 3:33. How shall I make thee as Admah? &c. — How shall I give thee up to a perpetual desolation? Admah and Zeboim were two cities which were wholly destroyed, together with Sodom and Gomorrah. My heart is turned within me — Or, upon me; so Horsley. My repentings are kindled together — Not that God is ever fluctuating or unresolved; but these are expressions after the manner of men, to show what severity Israel had deserved, and yet how divine grace would be glorified in sparing them. Thus God’s compassion toward sinners is elsewhere expressed by the sounding, or yearning, of his bowels, Isaiah 63:15; Jeremiah 31:20; a metaphor taken from the natural affection which parents have for their children. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger — I will not punish to the utmost strictness of justice; I will not return to destroy Ephraim — I will not carry it so far as to make a second destruction of Ephraim; so as to cut off those who escaped the first infliction of my punishments, and thereby wholly destroy them. Conquerors, that plunder a conquered city, carry away the wealth of it, and, after some time, often return to burn it. God will not thus utterly destroy Israel. For I am God, and not man — Therefore my compassions fail not; the Holy One in the midst of thee — A holy God, and in covenant, though not with all, yet with many among you, and present with you to preserve a remnant to be my faithful servants. And I will not enter into the city — As an enraged enemy to destroy your cities, as I did Sodom.11:8-12 God is slow to anger, and is loth to abandon a people to utter ruin, who have been called by his name. When God was to give a sacrifice for sin, and a Saviour for sinners, he spared not his own Son, that he might spare us. This is the language of the day of his patience; but when men sin that away, then the great day of his wrath comes. Man's compassions are nothing in comparison with the tender mercies of our God, whose thoughts and ways, in receiving returning sinners, are as much above ours as heaven is above the earth. God knows how to pardon poor sinners. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and therein declares his righteousness, now Christ has purchased the pardon, and he has promised it. Holy trembling at the word of Christ will draw us to him, not drive us from him, the children tremble, and flee to him. And all that come at the gospel call, shall have a place and a name in the gospel church. The religious service of Israel were mere hypocrisy, but in Judah regard was had to God's laws, and the people followed their pious forefathers. Let us be faithful: those who thus honour God, he will honour, but such us despise Him shall be lightly esteemed.How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? - o: "God is infinitely just and infinitely merciful. The two attributes are so united in Him, yea, so one in Him who is always one, and in whose counsels "there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning," that the one doth not ever thwart the proceeding of the other. Yet, in order to shew that our ills are from our own ill-deserts, not from any pleasure of His in inflicting ill, and that what mercy He sheweth, is from His own goodness, not from any in us, God is represented in this empassioned expression as in doubt, and (so to say) divided between justice and mercy, the one pleading against the other. At the last, God so determines, that both should have their share in the issue, and that Israel should be both justly punished and mercifully spared and relieved."

God pronounces on the evil deserts of Israel, even while He mitigates His sentence. The depth of the sinner's guilt reflects the more vividly the depth of God's mercy. In saying, "how shall I make thee as Admah?" how "shall I set thee as Zeboim?" He says, in fact, that they were, for their sins, worthy to be utterly destroyed, with no trace, no memorial, save that eternal desolation like the five "cities of the plain," of which were Sodom and Gomorrah, which God "hath set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" Jde 1:7. Such was their desert. But God says, with inexpressible tenderness, "Mine heart is turned within Me" literally, "upon Me or against Me," so as to be a burden to Him; as we say of the heart, that it is "heavy." God deigneth to speak as if His love was heavy, or a weight upon Him, while He thought of the punishment which their sins deserved.

My heart is turned - o: "As soon as I had spoken evil against thee, mercy prevailed, tenderness touched Me; the tenderness of the Father overcame the austerity of the Judge."

My repentings are kindled together, - or My strong compassions are kindled. i. e., with the heat and glow of love; as the disciples say, "Did not our hearts burn within us?" Luke 24:32, and as it is said of Joseph "his bowels did yearn Genesis 43:30 (literally, were hot) toward his brother;" and of the true mother before Solomon, "her bowels yearned 1 Kings 3:26 (English margin, were hot) upon her son."

"Admah" and "Zeboim" were cities in the same plain with Sodom and Gomorrah, and each had their petty king Genesis 14:2. In the history of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, they are not named, but are included in the general title "those cities and all the plain" (Genesis 19:25). The more then would Hosea's hearers think of that place in Moses where he does mention them, and where he threatens them with the like end; "when the stranger shall see, that the whole land thereof is brimstone and salt and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and His wrath" Deuteronomy 29:22-23. Such was the end, at which all their sins aimed; such the end, which God had held out to them; but His "strong compassions were kindled."

8. as Admah … Zeboim—among the cities, including Sodom and Gomorrah, irretrievably overthrown (De 29:23).

heart is turned within me—with the deepest compassion, so as not to execute My threat (La 1:20; compare Ge 43:30; 1Ki 3:26). So the phrase is used of a new turn given to the feeling (Ps 105:25).

repentings—God speaks according to human modes of thought (Nu 23:19). God's seeming change is in accordance with His secret everlasting purpose of love to His people, to magnify His grace after their desperate rebellion.

After such unparalleled abuse of infinite mercy and patience, what could be expected, but unrelenting wrath and fiercest indignation? but here is a wonder above all the rest; bowels troubled, and struggling with anger, and contesting on behalf of most inexcusable sinners. O Ephraim, thou hast deserved to be destroyed for ever, thy sins call for this, and my justice threatens it, I may do it; but my mercy interposeth, and I would rather spare in mercy than destroy injustice, there is still a debate between these two: How shall I give up to justice? saith mercy; and, How shall I not give up (saith justice) into the hands of enemies? Justice must be executed, that I must do, saith God; and mercy shall be magnified, that I will do; but how shall this be done? If I deliver thee, O Israel, to thine enemies, they will utterly destroy, and where then is mercy? If I deliver thee not, thy sins will not be chastised, and where then is justice? If I punish thee, as I punished Admah and Zeboim, with fire from heaven, I do what is just, but then I show no mercy; for these are two of the four cities which suffer the vengeance of eternal fire, of which Genesis 19:24.

Mine heart is turned within me: after the manner of man God speaks; we know what it is to have a heart turned from wrath into kindness and compassions, so God speaks of himself here, and Isaiah 63:15 Jeremiah 31:20.

My repentings are kindled together; still, like a compassionate man, he could wish his threats in again, his bowels are now as in a flame for them. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee,

Israel?.... That is, as usually interpreted, into the hand of the enemy, or unto wrath, ruin, and destruction; for, notwithstanding all the sins of this people before observed, and the punishment threatened to be inflicted on them, the Lord is pleased here, and in the following verses, to give some intimations of his goodness, grace, and mercy to them; not to the whole body of them, for they as such were given and delivered up to the enemy, and carried captive, and dispersed among the nations, and were never recovered to this day; but to a remnant among them, according to the election of grace, that should spring from them, for the sake of which they were not all cut off by the sword; but were reserved as a seed for later times, the times of the Messiah, which the prophecy in this and the following words has respect unto; not only the first times of the Gospel, when some of the dispersed of Israel were met with by it, and converted under it; but the last times of it; times yet to come, when all Israel shall be saved; and may be applied to the elect of God, in all ages, and of all nations, The words are generally understood as a debate in the divine mind, struggling within itself between justice and mercy; justice requiring the delivery of these persons unto it, and mercy being reluctant thereunto, pleading on their behalf; and which at last gets the victory, and rejoices against judgment. There is a truth in all this; justice seems to demand that sinners, as such, who have injured and affronted him, be given up to, him, and suffer the curse of the law, according to their deserts, and be delivered unto death, even eternal death, as well as to temporal punishments; and which might be expected would be the case, by the instances and examples of the angels that sinned, and of the men of the old world, and of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah; but mercy cannot bear it, pleads against; it, and asks how can it be done, since these are my children, my dear child, on, pleasant ones, as Ephraim was, my chosen and my covenant ones, and, besides, for whom provision is made in Christ for the satisfactions of justice? But the sense is rather this, "how might" or "could I give thee up; Ephraim? how might" or "could I deliver thee, Israel" (e)? that is, with what severity might I deal with thee? and how justly and righteously could I do it? since thy sins are so many, and so great;

how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? two cities that were utterly destroyed by fire from heaven, along with Sodom and Gomorrah, Deuteronomy 29:23; how justly could I have made thee, and put thee in, the same condition and circumstances, as those two cities, and the inhabitants of them, who were so severely punished for their sins, and were never restored again? signifying, that inasmuch as they were guilty of the same or like heinous sins, was he utterly to destroy them, and cut them off from the face of the earth, he should not exceed the due bounds of justice. To this sense Schmidt interprets the words. The design of which is to show the greatness of Ephraim's sins, as deserving the uttermost wrath and vengeance of God, and to magnify the riches of God's grace in their salvation, as next expressed; and it is true of all God's elect, who, considered as sinners in Adam, and by their own transgressions, both before and after conversion, deserved to be treated according to the rigour of justice; but God is merciful to them, according to his choice of them, covenant with them, and provision he has made in Christ, and upon the foot of his satisfaction;

mine heart is turned within me; not changed; for there is no shadow of turning with the Lord, neither in his mind and purposes, which he never turns from, nor can be turned back; nor in his affections for them; as his heart is never turned from love to hatred, so neither from hatred to love; or his love would not be from everlasting, as it is, and he rest in it as he does; but this expresses the strong motion of mercy in him towards his people, springing from his sovereign will and pleasure, and what is elsewhere signified by the troubling, soundings, and yearnings of his bowels towards them; see Jeremiah 31:20; with which compare Lamentations 1:20;

my repentings are kindled together; not that repentance properly belongs to God, who is neither man, nor the Son of Man, that he should repent of anything, Numbers 23:19; he repents not of his love to his people, nor of his choice of them, nor of his covenant with them, nor of his special gifts and grace bestowed on them; but he sometimes does what men do when they repent, he changes his outward conduct and behaviour in the dispensations of his providence, and acts the reverse of what he had done, or seemed to be about to do; as, with respect to the old world, the making of Saul king, and the case of the Ninevites, Genesis 6:6; so here, though he could, and seemed as if he would, go forth in a way of strict justice, yet changes his course, and steers another way, without any change of his will. The phrase expresses the warmth and ardour of his affections to his people; how his heart burned with love to them, his bowels and inward parts were inflamed with it; from whence proceeded what is called repentance among men, as in the case of Jeremiah, Jeremiah 20:9. The Targum is,

"the word of my covenant met me; my mercies (or bowels of mercies) were rolled together.''

(e) "quam juste et misere desolatum te dabo? dare jure deberem et possem?" Schmidt. So Luther and Tarnovius.

{f} How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as {g} Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, {h} my repentings are kindled together.

(f) God considers with himself, and that with a certain grief, how to punish them.

(g) Which were two of the cities that were destroyed with Sodom; De 29:23.

(h) Meaning that his love with which he first loved them positioned him between doubt and assurance in terms of what to do: and in this appears his Fatherly affection, that his mercy toward his own will overcome his judgments, as he declares in the next verse.

8. deliver thee] Not in the sense of ὑπερασπιῶ of the Sept., but in that of Symmachus’ ἐκδώσω. Better, surrender thee.

Admah … Zeboim] Hosea, like the author of Deuteronomy 29:23, derives his knowledge of the overthrow of the ‘cities of the plain’ from a tradition independent of that in Genesis 19. For another instance of such independent knowledge, see Hosea 12:3-5.

my repentings are kindled together] Even this inaccurate rendering cannot quite conceal the fine intuition of the prophet. By partly humanizing God’s nature, he as it were divinizes man’s. Human sympathy is but a rill from the mighty stream of God’s tender mercy. A closer rendering would be, I am wholly overcome with sympathy. The Hebrew idiom however is different—‘my sympathies are wholly overcome.’ Almost the same phrase occurs in Genesis 43:20, ‘his compassions were overcome towards his brother.’ [The word rendered ‘are overcome’ (nik’meru) has the closest affinity with the Assyrian kamâru ‘to throw down’, referred to in the note on Hosea 10:5 in explanation of k’mârîm ‘(idolatrous) priests.’] In Jeremiah 15:6 a different but equally anthropomorphic expression is ascribed to Jehovah—‘I am weary of sympathizing.’

8–11. The prophet cannot believe in a final rejection of Israel (comp. Hosea 13:14). He speaks as if Jehovah had at first contemplated this. Evidently there was a conflict in his own mind between the ideas of justice and love. Justice seemed to demand that all relations between Jehovah and Israel should be broken off; love remonstrated with the assurance of its undecayed healing faculty (Hosea 14:4). Both justice and love were divine; hence it seemed that there must be a conflict even in the mind of Jehovah. Let us not however presume to deduce a ‘doctrine’ from Hosea’s description of his mental mood. His final intuition alone is his legacy to the Church; not the inward struggle out of which he triumphantly emerged.Verse 8. - 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? This verse paves the way for transition to promise. Although the Israelites on account of such conduct had merited complete annihilation, yet Jehovah, for his love and mercy's sake, substitutes grace for justice, and will not destroy them from off the face of the earth. One rendering

(1) gives the clause the turn of an exclamation rather than of an interrogation; thus: "How readily and justly could I [or should I, or how thoroughly could I if I punished thy rebellion as I deserved] give thee up to destruction!" We prefer

(2) the ordinary rendering, by which it is treated as a question: "How shall I give thee up to the power of the enemy, and not only that, but destroy thee?" Calvin's exposition seems indeed to favor the former: "Here," he says, "God consults what he is to do with the people; and first, indeed, he shows that it was his purpose to execute vengeance such as the Israelites deserved, even wholly to destroy them; but yet he assumes the character of one deliberating, that none might think that he hastily fell into anger, or that, being soon excited by excessive fury, he devoted to ruin those who had lightly sinned, or were guilty of no great crimes By these expressions of the text God shows what the Israelites deserved, and that he was now inclined to inflict the punishment of which they were worthy, and yet not without repentance, or at least not without hesitation. He afterwards adds in the next clause, This I will not do; my heart is within me changed." Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. The עַל, literally, "upon," "with," then, "in," or "within:" "My heart is turned or changed from anger to pity in me." The expression, יַהַד נִכְמְרוּ, signifies, according to Rashi, "one warmed," as in Genesis 43:30, where this same word is rendered in the Authorized Version," yearned:" "His bowels did yearn upon his brother," or "warmed towards." But

(2) many modern interpreters understand the word in the sense of" gathering themselves together:" "The feelings of compassion gathered themselves together;" nichumim, from Piel נִחֵם, a noun of the form הבוד, less definite than rachamim, bowels, as the seat of the emotions, "gathered themselves together," or "were excited all at once." The cities of the plain included Admah and Zeboim, Sodom and Gomorrah, all of which, in consequence of their sins, were overthrown and perished in one common calamity. In Deuteronomy 29:23 these cities are all named, though Admah and Zeboim are not mentioned by name in the narrative of the catastrophe contained in Genesis. Though Israel had been as guilty and deserving of wrath as these, God expresses strong reluctance to deliver them over into the hands and power of their enemies, or to give them up to destruction. His heart revolted at the thought, and turned aside from the fierceness of his anger, though so fully deserved, into the direction of mercy; a new turn was given to his feelings in the direction of compassion. All his relentings or repentings together - one and all - yearned or were at once aroused. Repenting on the part of God is an expression suited to human comprehension, implying no change of purpose on the side of God, but only a change of procedure consistent with his purpose of everlasting love. "The Law speaks in the language of the sons of men." "And it cometh to pass in that day, that I break in pieces the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel." The indication of time, "in that day," refers not to the overthrow of the house of Jehu, but to the breaking up of the kingdom of Israel, by which it was followed. The bow of Israel, i.e., its might (for the bow, as the principal weapon employed in war, is a synecdochical epithet, used to denote the whole of the military force upon which the continued existence of the kingdom depended (Jeremiah 49:35), and is also a symbol of strength generally; vid., Genesis 49:24; 1 Samuel 2:4), is to be broken to pieces in the valley of Jezreel. The paronomasia between Israel and Jezreel is here unmistakeable. And here again Jezreel is not introduced with any allusion to its appellative signification, i.e., so that the mention of the name itself is intended to indicate the dispersion or breaking up of the nation, but simply with reference to its natural character, as the great plain in which, from time immemorial, even down to the most recent period, all the great battles have been fought for the possession of the land (cf. v. Raumer, Pal. pp. 40, 41). The nation which the Lord had appointed to be the instrument of His judgment is not mentioned here. But the fulfilment shows that the Assyrians are intended, although the brief historical account given in the books of Kings does not notice the place in which the Assyrians gained the decisive victory over Israel; and the statement made by Jerome, to the effect that it was in the valley of Jezreel, is probably simply an inference drawn from this passage.

With the name of the first child, Jezreel, the prophet had, as it were with a single stroke, set before the king and the kingdom generally the destruction that awaited them. In order, however, to give further keenness to this threat, and cut off every hope of deliverance, he now announces two other births. 1 Samuel 2:6. "And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And He (Jehovah) said to him, Call her name Unfavoured; for I will no more favour the house of Israel, that I should forgive them." The second birth is a female one, not in order to symbolize a more degenerate race, or the greater need of help on the part of the nation, but to get a name answering to the idea, and to set forth, under the figure of sons and daughters, the totality of the nation, both men and women. Lō' ruchâmâh, lit., she is not favoured; for ruchâmâh is hardly a participle with the מ dropped, since לא is never found in close connection with the participle (Ewald, 320, c.), but rather the third pers. perf. fem. in the pausal form. The child receives this name to indicate that the Lord will not continue (אוסיך) to show compassion towards the rebellious nation, as He hitherto has done, even under Jeroboam II((2 Kings 13:23). For the purpose of strengthening לא ארחם, the clause כּי נשׂא וגו is added. This can hardly be understood in any other way than in the sense of נשׂא עון ל, viz., to take away sin or guilt, i.e., to forgive it (cf. Genesis 18:24, Genesis 18:26, etc.). The explanation, "I will take away from them, sc. everything" (Hengstenberg), has no tenable support in Hosea 5:14, because there the object to be supplied is contained in the context, and here this is not the case.

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