Hosea 14:9
Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.
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(9) Who is wise.—Hosea hands his words over to all students of the ways of God. The exhortation to wisdom is expressed in the form of a question. “Wisdom” and “wise men” take in the later Hebrew literature the place of “prophecy” and “prophets.” Wisdom interprets both the word and its fulfilment. Christ’s own teaching goes beyond wisdom and prudence (Matthew 11:28; comp. 1Corinthians 1:20): it was spirit and life (John 6:63).

Hosea 14:9. Who is wise, &c. — That is, who is so truly wise as duly to weigh and consider the important things contained in this prophecy, the duties prescribed, the blessings promised to the obedient, and the judgments threatened to the disobedient? The prophet’s words imply, that there were but few that were endued with such spiritual wisdom and understanding as to do so; but that those who were, would seriously consider and be affected by these things. He shall understand — he shall know them — Those that set themselves to understand and know these things, thereby make it appear that they are truly wise and prudent, and will thereby be made more so; and that many do not understand and know them, is because they are inconsiderate and unwise. Those that are wise in the doing of their duty, that are prudent in practical religion, are most likely to know and understand both the truths and providences of God, which are a mystery to others. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him. For the ways of the Lord are right — “The ways of the Lord are both the ways which he himself takes in his moral government of the world, and the ways of godliness which he prescribes to man. These, taken together, are the ways of the Lord, and they are right, or straight,” (as ישׁריםmay be properly rendered,) “because they go straight forward, without deviation, to the end, — the happiness of man, and the glory of God.” And the just shall walk therein — The truly righteous will conform to the will of God, both in his precepts and in his providences, and shall have the comfort of so doing. They shall well understand the mind of God, both in his word and in his works, shall be well reconciled to both, and shall accommodate themselves to God’s intention in both. The righteous shall walk in those ways toward their great end, and shall not come short of it. Bishop Horsley renders this clause, And in them shall the justified proceed, but revolters shall stumble. “In the ways of God,” says he, “as they have been described, the justified, those who by faith in Christ have obtained remission of their sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost, shall proceed; they will be making daily and hourly approaches to their journey’s end. They shall be able to advance continually in the understanding of the ways of Providence, and of the way laid out by Jehovah for them. But to the incorrigible enemies of God, the very scheme of mercy itself will be a cause of error, confusion, and ruin.” Thus also Mr. Lowth: “They who are sincerely desirous to know and do the will of God, will be fully satisfied of the reasonableness of his laws, and the methods of his providence, and will readily comply with the directions of both, to the securing of their own eternal happiness; whereas men of perverse and disobedient tempers take offence at God’s commands, and repine against his providence, to their own ruin and perdition. The same sense is expressed in that observation of the son of Sirach, Sir 39:24, As God’s ways are plain to the holy, so they are stumbling blocks to the workers of iniquity. To the same purpose are those words of Christ, Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice, John 18:37; and, He that is of God heareth God’s word, chap. John 8:47. And St. Peter says, that Christ is become a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to the disobedient, 1 Peter 2:8. The observation of Grotius is very remarkable upon this subject, De Verit. Christian. Relig., lib. 2. c. ult. The doctrine of the gospel was designed to be ‘tanquam lapis Lydius, ad quem ingenia sanabilia explorarentur,’ as a touchstone to try the tempers of men, whether they were corrigible or not.” 14:9 Who profit by the truths the prophet delivered? Such as set themselves to understand and know these things. The ways of God's providence towards us are right; all is well done. Christ is a Foundation Stone to some, to others a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offence. That which was ordained to life, becomes, through their abuse of it, death to them. The same sun softens wax and hardens clay. But those transgressors certainly have the most dangerous, fatal falls, who fall in the ways of God, who split on the Rock of Ages, and suck poison out of the Balm of Gilead. Let sinners in Zion fear this. May we learn to walk in the right ways of God, as his righteous servants, and may none of us be disobedient and unbelieving, and stumble at the word.Who is wise and he shall understand these things? - The prophet says this, not of the words in which he had spoken, but of the substance. He does not mean that his style was obscure, or that he had delivered the message of God in a way difficult to be understood. This would have been to fail of his object. Nor does he mean that human acuteness is the key to the things of God. He means that those only of a certain character, those "wise," through God, unto God, will understand the things of God. So the Psalmist, having related some of God's varied chastenings, mercies and judgments, sums up, "Whoso is wise and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord" Psalm 107:43. So Asaph says that God's dealings with the good and bad in this life were "too hard" for him to "understand, until" he "went into the sanctuary of God;" then "understood" he "their end" Psalm 73:16-17.

In like way Daniel, at the close of his prophecy, sums up the account of a sifting-time, "Many shall be purified and made white and tried, and the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand" Daniel 12:10. As these say that the wise alone understand the actual dealings of God with man, so Hosea says, that the wise alone would understand what he had set forth of the mercy and severity of God, of His love for man, His desire to pardon, His unwillingness that any should perish, His longing for our repentance, His store of mercies in Christ, His gifts of grace and His free eternal love, and yet His rejection of all half-service and His final rejection of the impenitent. "Who is wise?" "The word "who" is always taken, not for what is impossible, but for what is difficult." So Isaiah saith, "Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed?" Isaiah 53:1.

Few are wise with "the wisdom which is from above;" few understand, because few wish to understand, or seek wisdom from Him who "giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not" James 1:5. The question implies also, that God longs that people should understand to their salvation. He inquires for them, calls to them that they would meditate on His mercies and judgments. As Paul says, "Behold the goodness and severity of God; on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out" Romans 11:22, Romans 11:33. Unsearchable to intellect and theory; intelligible to faith and for acting on.

And he shall understand these things - (that is, that he may understand). The worldly-wise of that generation, too, doubtless, thought themselves too wise to need to understand them; as the wise after this world counted the Cross of Christ foolishness.

Prudent - Properly "gifted with understanding," the form of the word expressing, that he was "endowed with" this "understanding," as a gift from God. And He shall know them. While the wise of this world disbelieve, jeer, scoff at them, in the name of human reason, he who has not the natural quickness of man only, but who is endued with the true wisdom, shall "know" them. So our Lord says, "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it is of God" John 7:17. The word, "wise," may especially mean him who contemplates these truths and understands them in themselves, yet plainly so as to act upon them; and the word "endued with prudence," may especially describe such as are gifted with readiness to apply that knowledge to practice, in judgment, discrimination, act . By uniting both, the prophet joins contemplative and practical wisdom, and intensifies the expression of God's desire that we should be endowed with them.

For the ways of the Lord are right - If in the word, "ways," the figure is still preserved, the prophet speaks of the "ways," as "direct and straight;" without a figure, as "just and upright."

The ways of the Lord - Are, what we, by a like figure, call "the 'course' of His providence;" of which Scripture says, "His ways are judgment" Deuteronomy 32:4; Daniel 4:37; "God, His ways are perfect" Psalm 18:30; "the Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works" Psalm 145:17; "Thy way is in the sea, and Thy paths in the great waters, and Thy footsteps are not known" Psalm 77:19; "lo, these are parts of His ways, but how little a portion is heard of Him, and the thunder of His power who can understand?" Job 26:14; "who hath enjoined Him His way, and who can say, Thou hast wrought iniquity?" Job 36:23. These "ways of God" include His ordering for us, in His eternal wisdom, that course of life, which leads most directly to Himself. They include, then, all God's commandments, precepts, counsels, His whole moral law, as well as His separate purpose for each of us. In the one way, they are God's ways toward us; in the other they are God's ways for us.

The just shall walk in them - God reveals His ways to us, not that we may know them only, but that we may do them. "The end of moral science is not knowledge, but practice," said the Pagan philosopher . But the life of grace is a life of progress. The word, "way," implies not continuance only, but advance. He does not say," they shall "stand" in God's ways," but "they shall walk in them." They shall go on in them "upright, safe, and secure, in "great peace" and with "nothing whereat to stumble" . In God's ways there is no stumbling block, and they who walk in them, are free from those of which other ways are full. Whereas, out of God's ways, all paths are tangled, uneven, slippery, devious, full of snares and pitfalls, God maketh His "way straight," a royal highway, smooth, even, direct unto Himself.

But - (and) the transgressors shall fall therein - Literally, "shall stumble thereon" Psalm 119:165. Transgressors, i. e., those who rebel against the law of God, "stumble" in divers manners, not "in," but "at" the ways of God. They stumble at God Himself, at His All-Holy Being, Three and One; they stumble at His attributes; they stumble at His providence, they stumble at His acts; they stumble at His interference with them; they stumble at His requirements. They rebel against His commandments, as requiring what they like not; at His prohibitions, as refusing what they like. They stumble at His Wisdom, in ordering His own creation; at His Holiness, in punishing sin; but most of all, they stumble at His Goodness and condescension. They have a greater quarrel with His condescension than with all His other attributes. They have stumbled, and still stumble at God the Son, becoming Man, and taking our flesh in the Virgin's womb; they stumble at the humility of the Crucifixion; they stumble at His placing His Manhood at the Right Hand of God; they stumble at the simplicity, power and condescension, which He uses in the sacraments; they stumble at His giving us His Flesh to eat; they stumble at His forgiving sins freely, and again and again; they stumble at His making us members of Himself, without waiting for our own wills; they stumble at His condescension in using our own acts, to the attainment of our degree of everlasting glory.

Every attribute, or gift, or revelation of God, which is full of comfort to the believer, becomes in turn an occasion of stumbling to the rebellious. "The things which should have been for his wealth, become to him an occasion of falling. "They cannot attemper their own wishes and ways to the divine law, because, obeying what they themselves affect, "the law of their members," they stumble at that other law, which leadeth unto life" Psalm 69:22. : With this the prophet sums up all the teaching of the seventy years of his ministry. This is the end of all which he had said of the severity and mercy of God, of the Coming of Christ, and of our resurrection in Him. This is to us the end of all; this is thy choice, Christian soul, to walk in God's ways, or to stumble at them. As in the days when Christ came in the Flesh, so it is now; so it will be to the end. So holy Simeon prophesied, "'This Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel' Luke 2:34; and our Lord said of Himself, 'For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind' John 9:39. And Peter; 'Unto you which believe He is precious; but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling and rock of offence, to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient' 1 Peter 2:7-8. 'Christ crucified was unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness, but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God' 1 Corinthians 1:23-24. The commandment, which' was ordained 'to life,' Paul, when yet unregenerate, 'found' to be 'unto death' Romans 7:10. : "Pray we then the Eternal Wisdom, that we may be truly wise and understanding, and receive not in vain those many good things which Christ has brought to the race of man. Let us cleave to Him by that 'faith, which worketh by love;' let us seek the Good, seek the Just, 'seek the Lord while He may be found, and call upon Him while He is near.' Whatever God doeth toward ourselves or others, let us account right; 'for the ways of the Lord are right,' and 'that' cannot be unjust, which pleaseth the Just. Whatever He teacheth, whatever He commandeth, let us believe without discussion, and embrace most firmly for "that" cannot be false, which the Truth hath taught. Let us walk in His ways;" for Christ Himself is "the Way" unto Himself, "the Life." : "Look up to heaven; look down to Hell; live for Eternity." "Weigh a thousand, yea thousands of years against eternity what dost thou, weighing a finite, how vast soever, against Infinity."

9. Epilogue, summing up the whole previous teaching. Here alone Hosea uses the term "righteous," so rare were such characters in his day. There is enough of saving truth clear in God's Word to guide those humbly seeking salvation, and enough of difficulties to confound those who curiously seek them out, rather than practically seek salvation.

fall—stumble and are offended at difficulties opposed to their prejudices and lusts, or above their self-wise understanding (compare Pr 10:29; Mic 2:7; Mt 11:19; Lu 2:34; Joh 7:17; 1Pe 2:7, 8). To him who sincerely seeks the agenda, God will make plain the credenda. Christ is the foundation-stone to some: a stone of stumbling and rock of offense to others. The same sun softens wax and hardens clay. But their fall is the most fatal who fall in the ways of God, split on the Rock of ages, and suck poison out of the Balm of Gilead.

Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? though not many wise, yet some methinks; now of those few, who is there that will consider what sins God complains of and threatens to punish in his people, what sins God forbade them so much as once to commit, and peremptorily commanded them to turn from when once committed; what duties he required, what promises he proposed, what patience he used toward them while any hope of their amendment, what severity upon their incorrigible sins? Whoso with any tolerable degree of wisdom will view these things, and seriously consider of them, they will understand, and know that the prophet hath given best advice, and that it is the safest course to follow it.

Prudent, and he shall know them? the same thing doubled with elegancy, and to confirm the word, as is usual in Scripture.

For the ways of the Lord are right; the ways which he would have us walk in towards him, his law, his ordinances of worship, his whole doctrine which directeth our walk, are all righteous and equal. And the ways wherein God walketh toward us, in corrections for sins committed, in suspending his. promises of grace, on conditions of duty, in afflicting or comforting, are all righteous and very equal.

The just shall walk in them; will approve them, all justifying the righteousness of God’s displeasure, and confessing he remembereth mercy in the midst of judgment; and justifying the righteousness of his precepts by endeavouring to observe them.

But the transgressors, wilful, obstinate, and inconsiderate sinners,

shall fall therein; eventually it proves so, they stumble and are offended somewhat at his precepts and commands, but more at his severe judgments; they cast off the one, and vainly hope to shift off the other, till at last they fall under the weight of their own sins and God’s wrath. Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent,

and he shall know them?.... Contained in this book, and particularly in this chapter; which expresses so much of the goodness of God and grace of Christ to Israel; though it may be applied to the whole Scripture, and to all the mysteries and doctrines of the Gospel, respecting Christ and his grace; and be a recommendation of these to the consideration of every wise and prudent man; where he will find enough to exercise his wisdom and understanding; though he need not be discouraged in his search and inquiry into them. It suggests as if there were but few such wise persons, and that they are the only wise men that do know and understand these things; and all others are but fools, let them be thought as wise as they will:

for the ways of the Lord are right; straight, plain, even, according to the rules of, justice and equity; there is no unrighteousness in them; none in the ways in which he himself walks; either in his ways and methods of grace, his decrees and purposes, his counsels and covenant; or in his providential dispensations; nor in those he directs others to walk in, the paths of faith and doctrine; or the ways of his commandments:

and the just shall walk in them; such as are, justified by the righteousness of Christ, and have ills grace wrought in them, and live righteously; these walk, and continue to walk, in the ways of God; which shows that the doctrine of justification by Christ's implored righteousness is no licentious doctrine:

but the transgressors shall fall therein; the transgressors of the law of God, not being used to his ways, as Kimchi's father observes, stumble in them and fall; or rather, as Jarchi and the Targum, they fall into hell, into ruin and destruction, because they walk not in them; though the sense seems to be, that as Christ himself, so his ways and his word, his doctrines and his ordinances, are stumbling blocks to wicked men, at which they stumble, and fall, and perish; see Luke 2:34 Romans 9:33.

Who is {h} wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.

(h) Signifying that the true wisdom and knowledge consists in this, even to rest upon God.

9. An epilogue or conclusion to the prophecy, unspecializing it, as it were, and extracting the general moral lesson which underlies it all. The tone and language of it remind us of the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 11:5; Proverbs 15:19). The term ‘the righteous’ occurs nowhere else in Hosea.

Who is wise, &c.] Rather, Whoso is wise, let him understand these things (i.e. the foregoing prophecies). One great mark of ‘wisdom’ in the Old Testament sense was a rational acquiescence in the equity of the providential government.

for the ways of the Lord, &c.] The ‘ways of Jehovah’ are those marked out by Him as Governor of the world for the righteous and for the wicked respectively. These ‘ways’ are ‘straight’ or ‘right’ (synonymous with ‘righteous’, as Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 119:37), alike when they spread themselves out in an unbroken level for the pious, and when they oppose themselves in rocky stumbling-blocks to the ungodly. Comp. Proverbs 11:5; Proverbs 15:19; Isaiah 26:7.Verse 9. - Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall far therein. This verse demands attention to all the prophet has written, whether for warning, or reproof, or correction in righteousness, or encouragement to piety and virtue, and evidently alludes to Deuteronomy 32:4. The ways of the Lord are those he prescribes for them to walk in, as also the ways he takes in guiding, guarding, and governing men. Like the dictates of the Word, so the dispensations of his providence are to some the savor of life, to others the savor of death; therefore it is added that, while the righteous walk therein, the wicked stumble in them (comp. Deuteronomy 30:19, 20).

"Therefore it will happen as to the people so to the priest; and I will visit his ways upon him, and I repay to him his doing." Since the priests had abused their office for the purpose of filling their own bellies, they would perish along with the nation. The suffixes in the last clauses refer to the priest, although the retribution threatened would fall upon the people also, since it would happen to the priest as to the people. This explains the fact that in Hosea 4:10 the first clause still applies to the priest; whereas in the second clause the prophecy once more embraces the entire nation.
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