Hosea 5:12
Therefore will I be to Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) Rottenness.—The Authorised version is right in this rendering (the disease caries) rather than worm (margin). Both images express concealed causes of irreparable destruction which come suddenly to view when it is too late.

5:8-15 The destruction of impenitent sinners is not mere talk, to frighten them, it is a sentence which will not be recalled. And it is a mercy that we have timely warning given us, that we may flee from the wrath to come. Compliance with the commandments of men, who thwart the commandments of God, ripens a people for ruin. The judgments of God are sometimes to a sinful people as a moth, and as rottenness, or as a worm; as these consume the clothes and the wood, so shall the judgments of God consume them. Silently, they shall think themselves safe and thriving, but when they look into their state, shall find themselves wasting and decaying. Slowly, for the Lord gives them space to repent. Many a nation; as well as many a person, dies of a consumption. Gradually, God comes upon sinners with lesser judgments, to prevent greater, if they will be wise, and take warning. When Israel and Judah found themselves in danger, they sought the protection of the Assyrians, but this only helped to make their wound the worse. They would be forced to apply to God. He will bring them home to himself, by afflictions. When men begin to complain more of their sins than of their afflictions, then there begins to be some hope of them; and when under the conviction of sin, and the corrections of the rod, we must seek the knowledge of God. Those who are led by severe trials to seek God earnestly and sincerely, will find him a present help and an effectual refuge; for with him is plenteous redemption for all who call upon him. There is solid peace, and there only, where God is.Therefore I will be unto Ephraim a moth - Literally, "and I as a moth." This form of speaking expresses what God was doing, while Ephraim was "willingly following" sin. "And I" was all the while "as a moth." The moth in a garment, and the decay in wood, corrode and prey upon the substance, in which they lie hid, slowly, imperceptibly, but, at the last, effectually. Such were God's first judgments on Israel and Judah; such are they now commonly upon sinners. He tried, and now too tries at first, gentle measures and mild chastisements, uneasy indeed and troublesome and painful; yet slow in their working; each stage of loss and decay, a little beyond that which preceded it; but leaving long respite and time for repentance, before they finally wear out and destroy the impenitent. The two images, which He uses, may describe different kinds of decay, both slow, yet the one slower than the other, as Judah was, in fact, destroyed more slowly than Ephraim. For the "rottenness," or caries in wood, preys more slowly upon wood, which is hard, than the moth on the wool.

So God visits the soul with different distresses, bodily or spiritual. He impairs, little by little, health of body, or fineness of understanding; or He withdraws grace or spiritual strength; or allows lukewarmness and distaste for the things of God to creep over the soul. These are the gnawing of the moth, overlooked by the sinner, if he persevere in carelessness as to his conscience, yet in the end, bringing entire decay of health, of understanding, of heart, of mind, unless God interfere by the mightier mercy of some heavy chastisement, to awaken him. : "A moth does mischief, and makes no sound. So the minds of the wicked, in that they neglect to take account of their losses, lose their soundness, as it were, without knowing it. For they lose innocency from the heart, truth from the lips, continency from the flesh, and, as time holds on, life from their age." To Israel and Judah the moth and rottenness denoted the slow decay, by which they were gradually weakened, until they were carried away captive.

12. as a moth—consuming a garment (Job 13:28; Ps 39:11; Isa 50:9).

Judah … rottenness—Ephraim, or the ten tribes, are as a garment eaten by the moth; Judah as the body itself consumed by rottenness (Pr 12:4). Perhaps alluding to the superiority of the latter in having the house of David, and the temple, the religious center of the nation [Grotius]. As in Ho 5:13, 14, the violence of the calamity is prefigured by the "wound" which "a lion" inflicts, so here its long protracted duration, and the certainty and completeness of the destruction from small unforeseen beginnings, by the images of a slowly but surely consuming moth and rottenness.

Therefore, or And, Heb. I will be; I am; it is concise in the Hebrew, and might be thus expressed, But, or And, as for me, I am, and will be, to the ten tribes.

As a moth: moths do leisurely eat up and mar our clothes; so God was then, and had been from Jeroboam’s death to this day, weakening the ten tribes; their seditions did eat them up.

And to the house of Judah; the two tribes, who now with Ahaz did, as Ephraim, cast God off.

As rottenness; shall secretly consume and rot as wood doth by worms; so God will punish both Israel and Judah, these shall be forerunners and preparatories to the final desolation of both; of the one by Assyria, and of the other by Babylon. Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth,.... Which eats garments, penetrates into them, feeds on them privately, secretly, without any noise, and gradually and slowly consumes them; but at last utterly, that they are of no use and profit: this may signify the various things which befell the ten tribes in the reigns of Zachariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, and Pekah, which secretly and gradually weakened them; and the utter consumption of them in the times of Hoshea by Shalmaneser:

and to the house of Judah as rottenness; as rottenness in the bones, Proverbs 12:4; which can never be got out or cured; or as a worm that eats into wood, as Jarchi interprets it; and gets into the very heart of a tree, and eats it out: thus the Lord threatens the house of Judah, or the two tribes, with a gradual, yet thorough, ruin and destruction.

Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. Therefore will I be …] Rather, And as for me, I am, &c. The same two figures are of frequent occurrence; they are combined again in Job 13:28. A gradual inward corruption was destroying the two Israelitish states quite as effectually as a foreign conquest. Anarchy and civil war combined with a retrograde religion and a lax morality to bring northern Israel in particular to the verge of ruin. Elsewhere Hosea describes its condition as a living death (Hosea 13:1).Verse 12. - Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness. This verse is well explained by Calvin as follows: "The meaning of the prophet is by no means obscure, and that is, that the Lord would by a slow corrosion consume both the people; and that, though he would not by one onset destroy them, yet they would pine away until they became wholly rotten." The two agents of destruction here named - the moth which eats away clothes, and the woodworm which gnaws away wood - figuratively represent slow but sure destruction. They are found together in Job 13:28. Kimchi explains the sense in like manner: "Like the moth which eats away garments, and like the woodworm which consumes bones and wood, so shall I consume you." The pronoun at the beginning of the verse is emphatic: "I your God, who would have been your protector and preserver, whom you have sinfully forsaken, and whose commandments you have arbitrarily set aside - even I am to you as the source of rottenness, and of slow but sure ruin."
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