Hosea 14:4
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for my anger is turned away from him.
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(4) Heal . . . Love.—If the foregoing be the offering of penitent lips, then the majestic reply of Jehovah is full of superlative grace.

Hosea 14:4. I will heal their backsliding — I will deliver them from a backsliding heart and way, and remove those judgments they have brought upon themselves thereby. The Lord says, I will heal, &c., a usual metaphor in Scripture, because sin is our disease, and God is the physician who healeth us, Psalm 103:3; Jeremiah 3:22; and he doth it through Christ, in whom this promise is made to returning backsliders. God makes this promise to the Israelites by his prophet, to encourage them to hearken to his advice, given in the preceding verses. I will love them freely — That is, of my own mere grace, and favour, and liberality. Bishop Horsley renders this verse, I will restore their conversion; (that is, as he understands it, their converted race, taking conversion as a collective noun for converts; like captivity for the captives; and dispersion for the dispersed;) I will love them gratuitously; for mine anger is departed from me. In these words, God promises, he says, to restore the converted nation [of the Israelites] to his favour, and a situation of prosperity and splendour. On the word gratuitously he quotes the following passage from Luther’s commentary on this chapter: “Are good works then nothing? you will say. Is there no place at all for them in the doctrine of repentance? I answer, that hitherto the discourse hath been about remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. These are entirely gratuitous, and not of our merit, but simply of the inexhaustible goodness and compassion of God. Therefore, when we speak of the remission of sins, it is right to be silent about our own works; which, because they are done without the Holy Spirit, although with regard to civil society they may not be bad, yet cannot be called good, and ought not, because of the unclean heart from which they proceed. But when through faith we have received remission of sins, and, together with that, the gift of the Holy Ghost, forthwith from the heart, as from a pure fountain, come forth works also good, and well-pleasing to God. For although, by reason of the remains of original sin, the obedience even of the saints is not perfectly pure, yet, on account of faith in Christ, it is pleasing and acceptable to God.”14:4-8 Israel seeks God's face, and they shall not seek it in vain. His anger is turned from them. Whom God loves, he loves freely; not because they deserve it, but of his own good pleasure. God will be to them all they need. The graces of the Spirit are the hidden manna, hidden in the dew; the grace thus freely bestowed on them shall not be in vain. They shall grow upward, and be more flourishing; shall grow as the lily. The lily, when come to its height, is a lovely flower, Mt 6:28,29. They shall grow downward, and be more firm. With the flower of the lily shall be the strong root of the cedar of Lebanon. Spiritual growth consists most in the growth of the root, which is out of sight. They shall also spread as the vine, whose branches extend very widely. When believers abound in good works, then their branches spread. They shall be acceptable both to God and man. Holiness is the beauty of a soul. The church is compared to the vine and the olive, which bring forth useful fruits. God's promises pertain to those only that attend on his ordinances; not such as flee to this shadow only for shelter in a hot gleam, but all who dwell under it. When a man is brought to God, all who dwell under his shadow fare the better. The sanctifying fruits shall appear in his life. Thus believers grow up into the experience and fruitfulness of the gospel. Ephraim shall say, God will put it into his heart to say it, What have I to do any more with idols! God's promises to us are more our security and our strength for mortifying sin, than our promises to God. See the power of Divine grace. God will work such a change in him, that he shall loathe the idols as much as ever he loved them. See the benefit of sanctified afflictions. Ephraim smarted for his idolatry, and this is the fruit, even the taking away his sin, Isa 27:9. See the nature of repentance; it is a firm and fixed resolution to have no more to do with sin. The Lord meets penitents with mercy, as the father of the prodigal met his returning son. God will be to all true converts both a delight and a defence; they shall sit under his shadow with delight. And as the root of a tree; From me is thy fruit found: from Him we receive grace and strength to enable us to do our duty.I will heal their backsliding - God, in answer, promises to "heal" that wound of their souls, from where every other evil came, their fickleness and unsteadfastness. Hitherto, this had been the characteristic of Israel. "Within a while they forgat His works, and would not abide His counsels" Psalm 106:13. "They forgat what He had done. Their heart was not whole with Him; neither continued they steadfast in His covenant. They turned back and tempted God. They kept not His testimonies, but turned back and fell way like their forefathers, starting aside like a broken bow" Psalm 78:12, Psalm 78:37, Psalm 78:42, Psalm 78:57-58. Steadfastness to the end is the special gift of the Gospel. "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it" Matthew 28:20; Matthew 16:18. And to individuals, "Jesus, having loved His own, loved them unto the end" John 13:1. In healing that disease of unsteadfastness, God healed all besides. This He did to all, wheresoever or howsoever dispersed, who received the Gospel; this He doth still; and this He will do completely in the end, when "all Israel shall be saved."

I will love them freely - that is, as the word means, "impelled" thereto by Himself alone, and so, (as used of God) moved by His own Essential Bountifulness, the exceedling greatness of His Goodness, largely, bountifully. God "loves" us "freely" in loving us against our deserts, because He "is love;" He "loves" us "freely" in that He freely became Man, and, having become Man freely shed His Blood for the remission of our sins, freely forgave our sins; He "loves" us "freely," in "giving us grace, according to the good pleasure of His will" Ephesians 1:5, to become pleasing to Him, and causing all good in us; He "loves" us "freely," in rewarding infinitely the good which we have from "Him." : "More manifestly here speaketh the Person of the Saviour Himself, promising His own Coming to the salvation of penitents, with sweetly sounding promise, with sweetness full of grace."

For Mine anger is turned away from him - As He says, "In My wrath I smote thee; but in My favor have I had mercy on thee" Isaiah 60:10. He doth not withhold only, or suspend His anger, but He taketh it away wholly. So the Psalmist saith, "Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of Thy people; Thou hast covered all their sin; Thou hast taken away all Thy wrath; Thou hast turned from the fierceness of Thine anger" Psalm 85:2-3.

4. God's gracious reply to their self-condemning prayer.

backsliding—apostasy: not merely occasional backslidings. God can heal the most desperate sinfulness [Calvin].

freely—with a gratuitous, unmerited, and abundant love (Eze 16:60-63). So as to the spiritual Israel (Joh 15:16; Ro 3:24; 5:8; 1Jo 4:10).

I will heal: it is a usual metaphor in Scripture; sin is our disease. God is the Physician who healeth us, Psalm 103:3 Jeremiah 3:22; and he doth it through Christ, in whom this promise is made to returning backsliders. This promise God maketh by his prophet, to encourage them to hearken to his advice of repenting.

Backslidings; aversions, voluntary and wilful turning away from God; well expressed here, and called rebellions by some other interpreters. These voluntary, continued, and obstinate aversions, or backslidings, are instances of greatest sins and sinners; yet God promiseth to heal these old putrefying sores, that we might be assured that he will heal all other lesser wounds: he will fully heal by pardoning and purifying.

I will love them; though before he hated, could take no pleasure in them, now he will show that his mind and heart are towards them to accept them, and do them good.

Freely; without their desert, and without bounds of time, or measure, or kind. All kinds of mercies the fruit of his love, infinite mercy in grace and glory, eternal mercies, his love will afford to them. This is liberal love indeed, this promised here.

For mine anger is turned away from him; I am reconciled to them, my displeasure is turned away. I will heal their backslidings,.... This and what follows is the Lord's answer to the above prayer; and this clause particularly is an answer to that petition, "take away all iniquity", Hosea 14:2; sins are diseases, natural and hereditary, nauseous and loathsome, mortal, and incurable but by the grace of God, and blood of Christ; backslidings are relapses, which are dangerous things; Christ is the only Physician, who heals all the diseases of sin, and these relapses also; he will do it, he has promised it, and never turns away any that apply to him for it; and which he does by a fresh application of his blood, whereby he takes away sin, heals the conscience wounded with it, and restores peace and comfort; which is a great encouragement to take words, and return unto him; see Hosea 6:1;

I will love them freely; this is in answer to that petition, "receive us, graciously"; or "receive good", or rather "give good", Hosea 14:2; not that the love of God or Christ begins when sinners repent and turn to him, or he applies his pardoning grace, since his love is from everlasting; but that in so doing he manifests his love, and will continue in it, nor shall anything separate from it: and this love, as it is freely set upon the objects of it, without any merits of theirs, or any motives in them, but flows from the free sovereign will and pleasure of God in Christ; so it is as freely manifested, and continues upon the same bottom, and is displayed in a most liberal and profuse donation of blessings of grace to them: this love is free in its original, and is liberal and bountiful in the effects of it; and makes the objects of it a free, willing, and bountiful people too:

for mine anger is turned away from him: from Israel, which, under former dispensations of Providence, seemed to be towards him, at least when under his frowns, resentment, and displeasure, as is the case of that people at this day; but when they shall return to the Lord, and he shall manifest and apply his pardoning grace to them, his anger will appear no more, and they shall be in a very happy and comfortable condition, as Israel or the church declares, Isaiah 12:1; which refers to the same times as these words do; see Romans 11:26; and compare Psalm 85:2; where a manifestation of pardoning grace is called the Lord's turning himself from the fierceness of his anger; and especially this suits with Gospel times, satisfaction being made for sin by the sacrifice of Christ.

{e} I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.

(e) He declares how ready God is to receive those that do repent.

Verses 4-7. - I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. The penitential prayer put in the mouth of the people receives in this verse a gracious response; words of contrite confession are echoed back in accents of compassion and consolation. When thus penitent and prayerful they returned to the Lord, he promises them favor as well as forgiveness, so as to heal the moral malady under which they had long labored, remedy the evil effects of their apostasy, and withhold the stripes he was going to inflict. Meshubhatham means

(1) their turning away from God and all included therein - defection, rebellion, idolatry, and other sins. The disease would be healed, and its consequences averted.

(2) Some, however, understand the word, in a good sense, to mean "conversion ' or "the converted," the abstract being put for the concrete; the blessing is thus promised them when they turned or returned to God. Thus the Syriac version.

(3) The LXX. again, connecting meshubhah with yashav, to sit or dwell, render it by κατοικίαν, that is," I will heal their dwelling." There is little doubt that

(1) is the correct translation, and it is generally accepted as such. They are next assured of God's love, and that spontaneously (נְדָבָה, the preposition le understood) with ready willinghood and unfeignedly. God's love is

(a) free, anticipating its objects, not waiting to be merited or purchased, without money and without price; it is

(b) also purest and most sincere affection, altogether unlike that feigned affection sometimes found among men, who profess much love while their heart goeth after their covetousness, or after some other and different object from that pretended. Then follows an assurance that there is no barrier to the exercise and no obstacle to the outgoing of God's love; the turning away of God's anger from Israel is the ground of such assurance. Some copies read mimmeni, my anger is turned away from me, instead of mimmena; this, however, is erroneous, though the sense is not much affected by it. The error may have arisen from a misunderstanding of Jeremiah 2:35. Rashi explains the verse correctly: "After they have thus spoken before me: I will heal them of their apostasy, and love them of my own free will; although they themselves are not worthy of love, yet will I love them freely, for mine anger has turned away from them." Aben Ezra says. "Backsliding is in the soul what disease is in the body, therefore he uses the word 'heal.' But God proceeds to perform what he has promised; he does not confine his goodness to words, he exhibits it in works, as the following verses show." I will be as the dew unto Israel. "The Jussive assumes different shades of meaning, varying with the situation or authority of the speaker.... Sometimes, from the circumstances of the case, the command becomes a permission: Hosea 14:6, 'I will be as the dew to Israel: let him flourish, וְיַך, and strike forth his roots as Lebanon'" (Driver). In lands where there is little rain, the dew, falling copiously, fertilizes the earth, refreshes the languid plants, revives the face of nature, and makes all things grow. Thus the dew becomes the source of fruitfulness. So God, by his Spirit's grace, is the Source of Israel's spiritual fruitfulness. He shall grow (margin, blossom) as the lily. This comparison suggests many qualities, any one of which may characterize, or all of which may combine in, the spiritual growth thus pictured. There is the purity of the lily, the beauty of the lily, the fecundity of the lily, the perfume of the lily, the rapidity of its growth, the stately slightness of its stem. We may combine the rapidity of its growth; its fecundity, with regard to which Pliny informs us that a single root produces fifty bulbs; its beauty, to which our Lord refers in contrast with the glory of Solomon. But its root is weak, and he, on that account perhaps, subjoins: And cast forth (margin, strike) his roots as Lebanon. Whether it mean that the roots are as the trees of Lebanon or the mountain of Lebanon itself, the thought expressed by this comparison is stability. "As the trees of Lebanon," says Jerome, "which strike their roots as far down into the depths as they lift their heads up into the air, so that they can be shaken by no storm, but by their stable massiveness maintain their position." His branches shall spread; margin, go; rather, go on. This feature in the representation denotes enlargement or expansion. The tender branches (suckers) spreading out in all directions very aptly set forth the multiplication of Israel or their growth and increase numerically. But branches straggling, crooked, and ill-shaped would rather be a blemish than a beauty. It is, therefore, added: His beauty shall be as the olive tree. The olive has been called the crown of the fruit trees of Palestine, but besides, its fruitage so plentiful and useful, the splendor of its green, and the enduring freshness of its foliage, make it a vivid picture of that beauty of holiness or spiritual graces which it is here employed to represent. There is still an additional element of interest pertaining to this goodly tree, namely, And his smell as Lebanon. This signifies the fragrance of this beautiful tree of righteousness. The smell of Lebanon is referred to in Song of Solomon 4:11, "And the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon." What with its cedars, and spices, and fruit, and flowers, and aromatic shrubs, and fragrant vines, Lebanon must perfume the air with the most delightful odors. Thus acceptable to God and pleasing to man shall Israel become. The commentators quote with commendation Rosenmüller's explanation of the individual features of this inimitable picture: "The rooting indicates stability; the spreading of the branches, propagation and the multitude of inhabitants; the splendor of the olive, beauty and glory, and that constant and lasting; the fragrance, hilarity and loveliness." The simile changes into the metaphor; Israel, from being likened to a tree, becomes the tree. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow (margin, blossom) as the vine: the scent (rather, renown) thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon. There is some difficulty and consequent diversity of rendering and explanation in connection with this verse. If the tree be Israel in its collective or national capacity, the dwellers under its shadow are the members of the nation, separate]y and severally, flourishing under the widespread branches of this umbrageous tree. The word yashubhu is explained:


(a) return, i.e. betake themselves to his shadow, which is incongruous, for how could they be said to return to their own shadow or dwell securely under it?

(b) return to their native land, so the Chaldee, - this is somewhat better;

(c) return to the worship of Jehovah, said of Israelites who had abandoned it, not properly of Gentiles turning to that worship;

(d) Rosenmüller, comparing Judges 15:19 and 1 Samuel 30:12, explains it in the sense of coming to themselves, reviving.

(2) Keil constructs yashubhu adverbially by a common idiom with yechayyu, and

(a) translates "shalt give life to come again," that is, "Those who sit beneath the shade of Israel, the tree that is bursting into leaf, will revive corn, cause it to return to life, or produce it for nourishment, satiety, and strengthening." Similarly the Vulgate, "sustain life by corn." This, however, must appear tame after the splendid promises that went before.

(b) Vivify; i.e. produce seed like corn, and rejoice in a numerous offspring as from a seed of corn many proceed; according to this, "seed" (זֶרַע) must be supplied, and caph of comparison. The added clause agrees with this, for the flourishing of the vine also symbolizes prolific persons (comp. Psalm 128:3). Further, the vine does not always flourish, yet, not like the corn which after harvest ceases and is no more seen, its root remains, and next year grows green and yields its fruit anew. The fame of the wine of Lebanon is celebrated for its taste and fragrance. Kimchi cites Asaph, a physician, as writing that the wine of Lebanon, of Hermon, of Carmel, of the mountains of Israel and Jerusalem and Caphior, surpass all others in flavor, taste, and for medicinal purposes. Notwithstanding the outburst of the divine judgments, the people prove themselves to be incorrigible in their sins. Hosea 4:4. "Only let no man reason, and let no man punish; yet thy people are like priest-strivers." אך is to be explained from the tacit antithesis, that with much depravity there would be much to punish; but this would be useless. The first clause contains a desperatae nequitiae argumentum. The notion that the second 'ı̄sh is to be taken as an object, is decidedly to be rejected, since it cannot be defended either from the expression אישׁ בּאישׁ in Isaiah 3:5, or by referring to Amos 2:15, and does not yield any meaning at all in harmony with the second half of the verse. For there is no need to prove that it does not mean, "Every one who has a priest blames the priest instead of himself when any misfortune happens to him," as Hitzig supposes, since עם signifies the nation, and not an individual. ועמּך is attached adversatively, giving the reason for the previous thought in the sense of "since thy people," or simply "thy people are surely like those who dispute with the priest." The unusual expression, priest-disputers, equivalent to quarrellers with the priest, an analogous expression to boundary-movers in Hosea 5:10, may be explained, as Luther, and Grotius, and others suppose, from the law laid down in Deuteronomy 17:12-13, according to which every law-suit was to be ultimately decided by the priest and judge as the supreme tribunal, and in which, whoever presumes to resist the verdict of this tribunal, is threatened with the punishment of death. The meaning is, that the nation resembled those who are described in the law as rebels against the priest (Hengstenberg, Dissertations on Pentateuch, vol. 1. p. 112, translation). The suffix "thy nation" does not refer to the prophet, but to the sons of Israel, the sum total of whom constituted their nation, which is directly addressed in the following verse.
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