Therefore will I be to Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)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.
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.
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.
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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