Hosea 2:7
And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
2:6-13 God threatens what he would do with this treacherous, idolatrous people. They did not turn, therefore all this came upon them; and it is written for admonition to us. If lesser difficulties be got over, God will raise greater. The most resolute in sinful pursuits, are commonly most crossed in them. The way of God and duty is often hedged about with thorns, but we have reason to think it is a sinful way that is hedged up with thorns. Crosses and obstacles in an evil course are great blessings, and are to be so accounted; they are God's hedges, to keep us from transgressing, to make the way of sin difficult, and to keep us from it. We have reason to bless God for restraining grace, and for restraining providences; and even for sore pain, sickness, or calamity, if it keeps us from sin. The disappointments we meet with in seeking for satisfaction from the creature, should, if nothing else will do it, drive us to the Creator. When men forget, or consider not that their comforts come from God, he will often in mercy take them away, to bring them to think upon their folly and danger. Sin and mirth can never hold long together; but if men will not take away sin from their mirth, God will take away mirth from their sin. And if men destroy God's word and ordinances, it is just with him to destroy their vines and fig-trees. This shall be the ruin of their mirth. Taking away the solemn seasons and the sabbaths will not do it, they will readily part with them, and think it no loss; but He will take away their sensual pleasures. Days of sinful mirth must be visited with days of mourning.And she shall follow after - The words rendered "follow after and seek" (רדך, בקשׁ) are intensive and express "eager, vehement pursuit," and "diligent search." They express, together, a pursuit, whose minuteness is not hindered by its vehemence, nor its extent and wideness by its exactness. She shall seek far and wide, minutely and carefully, everywhere and in all things, and shall fail in all. For eighteen hundred years the Jews have chased after a phantom, a Christ, triumphing, after the manner of the kings of the earth, and it has ever escaped them. The sinful soul will too often struggle on, in pursuit of what God is withdrawing, and will not give over, until, through God's persevering mercy, the fruitless pursuit exhausts her, and she finds it hopeless. Oh the willfulness of man, and the unwearied patience of God!

Then shall she say, I will go and return - She encourages herself tremblingly to return to God. The words express a mixture of purpose and wish. Before, she said, "Come, let me go after my lovers;" now, she says, "Come let me go and return," as the progical in the Gospel, "I will arise and go to my Father."

To my first husband - "God is the 'first Husband' of the soul, which, while yet pure, He, through the love of the Holy Spirit, united with Himself. Him the soul longeth for, when it findeth manifold bitternesses, as thorns, in those delights of time and sense which it coveted. For when the soul begins to be gnawed by the sorrows of the world which she loveth, then she understandeth more fully, how it was better with her, with her former husband. Those whom a perverse will led astray, distress mostly converts." "Mostly, when we cannot obtain in this world what we wish, when we have been wearied with the impossibility of our search of earthly desires, then the thought of God returns to the soul; then, what was before distasteful, becomes pleasant to us; He whose commands had been bitter to the soul, suddenly in memory grows sweet to her, and the sinful soul determines to be a faithful wife." And God still vouchsafes to be, on her return, the Husband even of the adulterous soul, however far she had strayed from Him.

For then it was better with me than now - It is the voice of the prodigal son in the Gospel, which the Father hears, "How many hired servants of my Father have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" "I will serve," Israel would say, "the living and true God, not the pride of people, or of evil spirits, for even in this life it is much sweeter to bear the yoke of the Lord, than to be the servant of men." In regard to the ten tribes, the "then" must mean the time before the apostasy under Jeroboam. God, in these words, softens the severity of His upbraiding and of His sentences of coming woe, by the sweetness of promised mercy. Israel was so impatient of God's threats, that their kings and princes killed those whom He sent unto them. God wins her attention to His accusations by this brief tempering of sweetness.

6, 7. thorns … wall—(Job 19:8; La 3:7, 9). The hindrances which the captivity interposed between Israel and her idols. As she attributes all her temporal blessings to idols, I will reduce her to straits in which, when she in vain has sought help from false gods, she will at last seek Me as her only God and Husband, as at the first (Isa 54:5; Jer 3:14; Eze 16:8).

then—before Israel's apostasy, under Jeroboam. The way of duty is hedged about with thorns; it is the way of sin that is hedged up with thorns. Crosses in an evil course are God's hedges to turn us from it. Restraining grace and restraining providences (even sicknesses and trials) are great blessings when they stop us in a course of sin. Compare Lu 15:14-18, "I will arise, and go to my father." So here, "I will go, and return," &c.; crosses in the both cases being sanctified to produce this effect.

And she, hedged in with many and great distresses, when under the judgments of God, shall follow after her lovers; with earnest travel, and with wearisome toil, she shall attempt every way to get to them, but to no purpose: afflictions and sorrows surround Israel; these Israel can by no means break out of to these lovers, and they, like false lovers, hasten as fast and as far from this adulteress as they can.

Her lovers, idols and idolaters, her false friends, and falser gods.

She shall not overtake them; they which hasten after such strange gods and helps, as this shameless harlot, shall meet with sorrow, but never overtake their desired help.

She shall seek them; as is the manner of immodest strumpets; it speaks also her obstinate resolution in her way: so Israel forsook a God that would have sought him to do him good, and by no disappointments would be (for a long time) taken off from this frantic wildness, of seeking to idols that could do him no good.

But shall not find them; the final issue of all is at last, she is wearied in her folly, tired with fruitless labour, and sits down hopeless of ever finding help from idols and idolaters.

Then shall she say; as the prodigal, first think well on it, next resolve with herself.

I will go and return; restless, she will try one way more; happy she if she had tried this sooner, this would have been successful; she will return, come back, and seek to her Husband.

To my first Husband, i.e. God, who had married Israel to himself, who was her Husband indeed: all others were as adulterers, as deceivers and seducers, who abuse the credulity of wanton women first, and next abuse their husbands’ beds.

For then was it better with me than now: how much the tune is changed! In Hosea 2:5, all her gallantry, her feasts, her rich apparel, these are gifts of her lovers; not a word of her Husband’s greatest kindnesses. But now she sees and confesseth the least of her Husband’s kindnesses was better than the greatest kindness of these her paramours, and at worst with her Husband she was better than at best with adulterers. And she shall follow after her lovers,.... Before mentioned; that is, in her affections and desires, with great eagerness and earnestness, as men pursue what they are bent upon; otherwise, being hedged in and walled up, she could not go after them in a proper sense:

but she shall not overtake them; they fleeing from her, and she pent up:

she shall seek them, but shall not find them; shall not be able to enjoy them, or act according to her wishes and desires, with respect to the performance of sacrifices, rites, and ceremonies, as before observed:

then shall she say; in her heart, finding all endeavours fruitless, and that the things sought after were never to be had; the hedges and wall, the obstructions in the way, were never to be removed, while in such a pursuit; wherefore after a long time, many hundreds of years, even in the latter day, being convinced of her sin and folly in rejecting Christ, and pursuing after other objects, she will take up the following resolution:

I will go and return to my first husband; either the God of Israel, whom the ten tribes departed from by worshipping the calves Jeroboam set up; but in the latter day will seek the Lord their God again, who was a husband to them, and shall cleave to him again, and all Israel shall be saved: so the Targum,

"I will go and return to the service of my first master, for it was well with me when I served him; henceforth I will not serve idols:''

or Christ, who was promised and prophesied of as a husband to the Jewish church, Isaiah 54:5 and whom they believed in, and expected as such, but when he came rejected him; but now being convinced of their error shall seek David their King, appoint themselves one head, and embrace Christ as their husband, and adhere to him; see Hosea 3:5,

for then was it better with me than now; while in the faith, and hope, and expectation of the true Messiah; having a spiritual apprehension of him, true faith in him, and comfort from him, as held forth in the promise; being then possessed of the good land, in the enjoyment of the word and ordinances, and of all religious and civil privileges, but now deprived of them. This may be applied to the case of true believers in Christ, having partially departed from him, and being restored. Christ is a husband to them, who has betrothed them to himself, and they have given themselves to him, and have been loved, nourished, cherished, and provided for by him, and for a while had much nearness, familiarity, and communion with him; but unbelief prevailing, first love waxing cold, and being got into a carnal and sleepy frame, neglect both private and public worship, fall into sin, and removed from church communion, and so may be said to have departed from Christ their husband; but being recovered by divine grace, and sensible of their sins, resolve to return to him again by repentance and acknowledgment, by doing their first works, and by attendance on his word and ordinances; instigated hereunto very much by remembering how it has been with them when they kept close to him, and observing the difference between those times and the present; how they had then the presence of God and Christ, and communion with them, and the secret discoveries of the love of God; in what lively exercise the graces of the Spirit were; what delight and profit they had in ordinances, and what peace, joy, and comfort, in their souls; all which now they want; see Job 29:2.

And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, {i} I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now.

(i) This he speaks of the faithful, who are truly converted, and also shows the use and profit of God's punishments.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. not overtakenot find them] Because the sense of the mystic nearness of the Baalim, formerly enjoyed by their worshippers, will have disappeared together with the prosperity which they were imagined to have granted; prayers and sacrifices will have lost their supposed efficacy.

I will go and return] Rather, Let me go and return. A resolution which strikingly resembles that of the Jews in Upper Egypt in the time of Jeremiah, who persisted in worshipping the Queen of Heaven, on the ground that when they had worshipped her in former times ‘they had plenty of food, and were well, and saw no evil’ (Jeremiah 44:17). Israel’s language here reminds us of a later parallel passage (Hosea 6:1-3); it is not so much the expression of penitence, as of a longing to escape from the sense of misery.

then was it better with me than now] For, after all, Israel was better off materially at the opening of her national existence. She had not indeed as yet appropriated the good things of Canaanitish civilization; but her independence was secured, and she had a bright horizon of hope.Verse 7. - And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them. This portion of the verse expresses the consequence of the preceding. However eagerly she follows after them - and the form of the verb (Pie! conjugation) expresses that eagerness - she shall only experience the ineffectual nature of her efforts, and feel the impossibility of overtaking the darling objects of her pursuit. However earnestly she seeks them (here the Piel is used again), she shall find every passage barred and every outlet obstructed, so that, unable to find them, she shall be forced to abandon her search as utterly vain and impossible. Then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now. The difficulties of her position, the distress in which she found herself, stimulated her to increased eagerness in pursuit of her lovers; but it was only for a brief space, and the efforts were unsuccessful; the means as well as opportunity for the sacrifices and services of idol-worship failed, the obstacles placed in her way were insurmountable. Or, rather, the disappointment was so great and grievous, when all the fondly cherished hopes of help, or succor, or support from those idols were frustrated and found entirely vain, that heartsick and chagrined by unsuccess, she resolves on a change of course. With mingled feelings of remorse and penitence she makes up her mind to retrace her steps. She recalls the better days, the happier time, the more prosperous circumstances, of fidelity to her first and rightful husband and head; and now she is just ready to return to him. She is just now at that stage at which the prodigal in the parable had arrived "when He came to himself," and when he said, "How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father." Kimchi remarks," She will not say this until she has borne the captivity a considerable time." The vision. - Daniel 8:3. Daniel first sees one ram, איל, standing by the river. The אחד (one) does not here stand for the indefinite article, but is a numeral, in contradistinction to the two horns which the one ram has. The two horns of the ram were high, but the one was higher than the other, the higher coming up later. האחת does not mean the first, but the one, and השּׁנית the other; for the higher grew up last. This is not to be understood as if Daniel first saw the ram without horns, and then saw the horns grow up, and at length the one horn become higher than the other (v. Leng., Hitzig); but that from the first Daniel saw the ram with two horns, but afterwards saw the one horn grow higher than the other (Kliefoth). The angel (Daniel 8:20) explains the ram with two horns of the king of Media and Persia. This does not mean that the two horns are to be understood (with Theodoret) of the two dynasties of Cyrus and of Darius Hystaspes; but since the ram represents the one kingdom of the Medes and Persians, so the two horns represent the people of the Medes and Persians, from the union of which the Medo-Persian kingdom grew up. Both nations were the horns, i.e., the power of the monarchy; therefore are they both high. The one horn, which afterwards grew up higher than the other, represents the Persians, who raised themselves above the Medians. A ram and goat, as emblems of kings, princes, chiefs, often occur; cf. Isaiah 14:9; Ezekiel 34:17; Ezekiel 39:18; Jeremiah 50:8; Zechariah 10:3. In Bundehesch the guardian spirit of the Persian kingdom appears under the form of a ram with clean feet and sharp-pointed horns, and, according to Amm. Marcell. xix. 1, the Persian king, when he stood at the head of his army, bore, instead of the diadem, the head of a ram (cf. Hv.). The point of resemblance of this symbol is to be sought, not in the richness (the wool) and in the aggressive nature (the horns) of the ram (Theod., Venema), but the ram and the he-goat form, as Hofmann has justly remarked, a contrast to dull firmness and nimble lightness, as the bear and the panther.

The ram stands by the river and pushes toward the west, north, and south, but not toward the east. The river is thus not the one flowing on the east of Susa, for, standing there, the ram pushing toward the west from Susa would push against the capital of his kingdom, but the one flowing on the west; and the ram is to be conceived of as standing on the western bank of this river, from whence he pushed down with his horns all beasts before him, i.e., subdued all nations and kingdoms to his power in three regions of the earth. In the west he pushed against Babylon, Syria, and Asia Minor; in the south, Egypt; in the north, the Armenian and Scythian nations. These he subdued and incorporated in the Persian kingdom. He did not push toward the east - not because he could only push forwards and against that which was nearer, but not, without changing his position, backwards (Hitzig); nor because the Medo-Persians themselves came from the east (v. Leng., Kran.); not yet because the conquests of the Persians did not stretch toward the east (Hv.), for Cyrus and Darius subdued nations to the east of Persia even as far as to the Indus; but because, for the unfolding of the Medo-Persian monarchy as a world-power, its conquests in the east were subordinate, and therefore are not mentioned. The pushing toward the three world-regions corresponds to the three ribs in the mouth of the bear, Daniel 7:5, and intimates that the Medo-Persian world-kingdom, in spite of the irresistibility of its arms, did not, however, extend its power into all the regions of the world. חיּוח, to push, of beast, Exodus 21:28, in the Piel figuratively is used of nations, Deuteronomy 33:17; Psalm 44:6. יעמדוּ is potentialis: could not stand. The masculine is here used, because חיּות (beasts) represents kingdoms and nations. כרצנו עשׂה, did according to his will, expresses arbitrary conduct, a despotic behaviour. הגדּיל, became great. The word does not mean to become haughty, for בּלבבו, in his heart, is not added here as it is in Psalm 44:25, but to magnify the action. It is equivalent to לעשׂות הגדּיל in Joel 2:20 (hath done great things), and Psalm 126:2-3, in the sense of to become great, powerful; cf. Daniel 8:8.

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