Hosea 7:16
They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.
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(16) Like a deceitful bow.—Religious observance has the appearance of a bow with the arrow on the string, apparently aimed at some object, but the string being slack, the aim is diverted.

The “raving insolence of their tongue” may mean the boasts that were made of the friendship of King Shebaka of Egypt, who made Israel his tool. In the land of Egypt they would thus become objects of derision. (Comp. Isaiah’s warning to his countrymen, Isaiah 30:1-8.)

7:8-16 Israel was as a cake not turned, half burnt and half dough, none of it fit for use; a mixture of idolatry and of the worship of Jehovah. There were tokens of approaching ruin, as grey hairs are of old age, but they noticed them not. The pride which leads to break the law of God leads to self-flattery. The mercy and grace of God are the only refuge to which obstinate sinners never think of fleeing. Though they may howl forth their terrors in the form of prayers, they seldom cry to God with their hearts. Even their prayers for earthly mercies only seek fuel for their lusts. Their turning from one sect, sentiment, form, or vice, to another, still leaves them far short of Christ and holiness. Such are we by nature. And such shall we prove if left to ourselves. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within us.They return, but not to the most High - God exhorts by Jeremiah, "If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto Me" Jeremiah 4:1. They changed, whenever they did change, with a feigned, hypocritical conversion, but not to God, nor acknowledging His Majesty. Man, until truly converted, turns to and fro, unstably, hither and thither, changing from one evil to another, from the sins of youth to the sins of age, from the sins of prosperity to the sin of adversity; but he remains himself unchanged. He "turns, not to the most High." The prophet says this in three, as it were, broken words, "They turn, not most High." The hearer readily filled up the broken sentence, which fell, drop by drop, from the prophet's choked heart.

They are like a deceitful bow - Which, "howsoever the archer directs it, will not carry the arrow right home to the mark," but to other objects clean contrary to his will. : "God had, as it were, bent Israel, as His own bow, against the tyranny of the devil and the deceit of idolatry. For Israel alone in the whole world cast aside the worship of idols, and was attached to the true and natural Lord of all things. But they turned themselves to the contrary. For, being bound to this, they fought against God for the glory of idols. They became then as a warped bow, shooting their arrows contrariwise." In like way doth every sinner act, using against God, in the service of Satan, God's gifts of nature or of outward means, talents, or wealth, or strength, or beauty, or power of speech. God gave all for His own glory; and man turns all aside to do honor and service to Satan.

Their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue - The word, rendered "rage," is everywhere else used of the wrath of God; here, of the "wrath" and "foaming" of man against God. Jeremiah relates how, the nearer their destruction came upon Judah, the more madly the politicians and false prophets cantradicted what God revealed. Their tongue was a "sharp sword." They sharpened their tongue like a sword; and the sword pierced their own bosom. The phrensy of their speech not only drew down God's anger, but was the instrument of their destruction. They misled the people; taught them to trust in Egypt, not in God; persuaded them to believe themselves, and to disbelieve God; to believe, that the enemy should depart from them and not carry them away captive. They worked up the people to their will, and so they secured their own destruction. The princes of Judah were especially judged and put to death by Nebuchadnezzar Jeremiah 52:10. The like probably took place in Israel. In any case, those chief in power are chief objects of destruction. Still more did these words come true before the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. They were maddened by their own curse, "the rage of their tongue" against their Redeemer, "His blood be on us and on our children." Frenzy became their characteristic. It was the amazement of the Romans, and their own destruction.

This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt - This, i. e., all this, their boasting of Egypt, their failure, their destruction, shall become their "derision." In Egypt had they trusted; to Egypt had they gone for succor; in Egypt should they be derided. Such is the way of man. The world derides those who trusted in it, sued it, courted it, served it, preferred it to their God. Such are the wages, which it gives. So Isaiah prophesied of Judah, "the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion. They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help nor profit, but a shame and also a reproach" Isaiah 30:3, Isaiah 30:5.

16. return, but not to the Most High—or, "to one who is not the Most High," one very different from Him, a stock or a stone. So the Septuagint.

deceitful bow—(Ps 78:57). A bow which, from its faulty construction, shoots wide of the mark. So Israel pretends to seek God, but turns aside to idols.

for the rage of their tongue—their boast of safety from Egyptian aid, and their "lies" (Ho 7:13), whereby they pretended to serve God, while worshipping idols; also their perverse defense for their idolatries and blasphemies against God and His prophets (Ps 73:9; 120:2, 3).

their derision in … Egypt—Their "fall" shall be the subject of "derision" to Egypt, to whom they had applied for help (Ho 9:3, 6; 2Ki 17:4).

They return; they sometimes have given some signs of returning, as when Jehu destroyed Baal, or Hoshea gave liberty to Israel to go up to Jerusalem (if it be true which some affirm of him); and if I were sure Hoshea did this, I should think the prophet aimed at it; in this they return,

but not to the Most High; Jehu fell off to the calves, and Hoshea’s reign was wicked too much, though the reigns of other kings were more wicked; what show soever of repentance among them, yet they never thoroughly repented, never fully embraced the law of God.

They are like a deceitful bow; all was done (as the similitude elegantly sets it forth) in mere hypocrisy; though they seemed bent for and aiming at the mark, yet, like a weak bow, they carried not the arrow home, and, like a false bow, they never carried it straight toward the mark. Their princes; the royal family, principal nobles and magistrates, their brave commanders and leaders.

Shall fall by the sword; be slain by either sword of base, false, and bloody traitors at home, or by sword of foreigners, as the Assyrian.

The rage of their tongue, against God, his prophets and providence, which to decry with scorners was their usual diversion, Hosea 7:5. This, this sad end,

shall be their derision, shall be upbraided to them, in the land of Egypt; among their allies and seeming friends.

They return, but not to the most High,.... To Egypt, and not to Jerusalem, and the temple there, and the worship of it; to their idols, and not to him whose name alone is Jehovah, and is the most High all the earth, the God of gods, and Lord of lords, and King of kings; though they made some feint as if they would return, and did begin, and take some steps towards repentance and reformation; but then they presently fell back again, as in Jehu's time, and did not go on to make a thorough reformation; nor returned to God alone, and to his pure worship they pretended to, and ought to have done: or, "not on high, upwards, above" (w); their affections and desires are not after things above; they do not look upwards to God in heaven for help and assistance, but to men and things on earth, on which all their affection and dependence are placed:

they are like a deceitful bow; which misses the mark it is directed to; which being designed to send its arrow one way, causes it to go the reverse; or its arrow returns upon the archer, or drops at his feet; so these people deviated from the law of God, acted contrary to their profession and promises, and relapsed into their former idolatries and impieties, and sunk into earth and earthly things; see Psalm 78:57;

their princes shall fall by the sword: either of their conspirators, as Zachariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, and Pekah; or by the sword of the Assyrians, as Hoshea, and the princes with him, by Shalmaneser;

for the rage of their tongue; their blasphemy against God, his being and providences; his worship, and the place of it; his priests and people that served him, and particularly the prophets he sent unto them to reprove them;

this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt; whither they sent, and called for help; but now, when their princes are slain, and they carried captive into a foreign land, even those friends and allies of theirs shall laugh and mock at them. The Targum is,

"these were their works while they were in the land of Egypt;''

or rather the words may be rendered, "this is their derision, as of old in the land of Egypt" (x); that is, the calves they now worshipped, and to which they ascribed all their good things, were made in imitation of the gods of Egypt, their Apis and Serapis, which were in the form of an ox, and which their fathers derided there; and these were justly to be derided now, and they to be derided for their worship of them, and ascribing all their good things to them; and which would be done when their destruction came upon them.

(w) "non supra", Montanus; "non sursum", De Dieu, Gussetius; "non erecte", Cocceius. (x) "haec, seu quae est subsannatio, sicut olim in terra Aegypti", Schmidt.

They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage {n} of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.

(n) Because they boast of their own strength, and do not care what they speak against me and my servants; Ps 73:9.

16. They return, but not to the most High] Rather, They turn (i.e. shift or change), but not upwards (as Hosea 11:7). They are not content with passive complaints; they have reached a turning-point in their history, but their way only leads them further and further from the ‘knowledge of God.’

like a deceitful bow] i.e. like a bow which shoots an arrow in a wrong direction, ‘not upwards’, towards Israel’s ‘strong rock’, but earthwards. Cf. the same figure in Psalm 78:57.

for the rage of their tongue] ‘Rage’; or insolence (i.e. towards God). The root-meaning (as gathered from Arabic) is to make a grumbling sound, like an irritated camel. Hence the appropriateness of the mention of the tongue. The verb is sometimes rendered ‘to curse.’

their derision in the land of Egypt] Probably an embassy had boasted of Israel’s strength, to entice the Egyptians into an alliance. We may probably assume that the ‘sword’ by which the princes were to fall is that of the Assyrians.

Verse 16. - They return, but not to the Most High. This verse is closely connected in sense with the preceding. Their God-defying attitude, as described in ver. 15, is represented in ver. 16 allegorically as a deceitful bow, which fails to scud the arrow to the mark; also their unsuccess is represented as exposing them to the derision of Egypt; while the princes who spake so exceeding proudly, and who instigated their ungodliness and consequent wretchedness, would be slain with the sword. This is the drift of the whole verse; its details, however, demand more particular consideration.

1. The word עַל is by some identified in meaning with

(1) the adjective עֶלְיון, equivalent to "the Most High;" by others

(2) it is taken adverbially, and translated "upwards."

(3) The Septuagint does not express it. translating ἀπεστράφησαν εἰς οὐθέν, "They turned aside to that which is not [literally, 'nothing']."

(4) Jerome translates it as is עֹל, were equivalent to "yoke: They returned that they might be without a yoke." Their return, according to Jerome, would be to their pristine condition before the can of Abram, like the other nations, without yoke or knowledge of law.

2. The return spoken of implies that there were junctures at which they seemed disposed to return to religiousness, but ere long they again relapsed into idolatry. They disappointed the high hopes raised, and missed their own high destiny, and thus they resembled a bow, of which the string, losing its elasticity, could not propel the arrow to the object aimed at. Appearing to return to the worship of Jehovah, they turned aside to an idol. Thus in Psalm 78:57, they "turned back and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow."

Hosea 7:16Yet Jehovah has done still more for Israel. Hosea 7:15. "And I have instructed, have strengthened their arms, and they think evil against me. Hosea 7:16. They turn, but not upwards: they have become like a false bow. Their princes will fall by the sword, for the defiance of their tongue: this is their derision in the land of Egypt." יסּר here is not to chastise, but to instruct, so that זרועתם (their arms) is to be taken as the object to both verbs. Instructing the arms, according to the analogy of Psalm 18:35, is equivalent to showing where and how strength is to be acquired. And the Lord has not contented Himself with merely instructing. He has also strengthened their arms, and given them power to fight, and victory over their foes (cf. 2 Kings 14:25-26). And yet they think evil of Him; not by speaking lies (Hosea 7:13), but by falling away from Him, by their idolatrous calf-worship, by which they rob the Lord of the glory due to Him alone, practically denying His true divinity. This attitude towards the Lord is summed up in two allegorical sentences in Hosea 7:16, and the ruin of their princes is foretold. They turn, or turn round, but not upwards (על, an adverb, or a substantive signifying height, as in Hosea 11:7; 2 Samuel 23:1, not "the Most High," i.e., God, although turning upwards is actually turning to God). From the fact that with all their turning about they do not turn upwards, they have become like a treacherous bow, the string of which has lost its elasticity, so that the arrows do not hit the mark (cf. Psalm 78:57). And thus Israel also fails to reach its destination. Therefore its princes shall fall. The princes are mentioned as the originators of the enmity against God, and all the misery into which they have plunged the people and kingdom. זעם, fury, here defiance or rage. Defiance of tongue the princes showed in the lies which they uttered concerning Jehovah (Hosea 7:13), and with which they blasphemed in a daring manner the omnipotence and faithfulness of the Lord. זו stands, according to a dialectical difference in the mode of pronunciation, for זה, not for זאת (Ewald, 183, a). This, namely their falling by the sword, will be for a derision to them in the land of Egypt: not because they will fall in Egypt, or perish by the sword of the Egyptians; but because they put their trust in Egypt, the derision of Egypt will come upon them when they are overthrown (cf. Isaiah 30:3, Isaiah 30:5).
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