Hosea 9:14
Give them, O LORD: what wilt thou give? give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.
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(14) Better universal childlessness than that the off-spring should be exposed to so terrible a fate. Compare this with our Lord’s words: “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare,” &c.

Hosea 9:14. Give them, O Lord: what wilt thou give? — The prophet here speaks as one greatly agitated, and at a loss what to say upon what he had just heard; but at last concludes with beseeching God rather to let the women be barren, or miscarry; or, if they brought forth children, have no milk in their breasts to give them, that they might die soon after their birth, rather than that they should grow up to be slain by their enemies before their parents’ eyes, or carried into captivity; or, as it is expressed in the foregoing verse, that their parents should be driven to the hard necessity of bringing them forth for the murderer. Some interpret the verse thus: Give them a miscarrying womb, &c., “as a punishment for having inhumanly exposed their infants to death, by sacrificing them to their false gods; or, for having exposed them to the cruelty of the Assyrians, who destroyed them in war. The present passage is strikingly emphatical. But it is to be considered rather as a prediction of what was to happen as a punishment of their crimes, than as an imprecation.”

9:11-17. God departs from a people, or from a person, when he withdraws his goodness and mercy from them; and when the Lord is departed, what can the creature do? Even though, for the present, good things seem to remain, yet the blessing is gone if God is gone. Even the children should perish with the parents. The Divine wrath dries up the root, and withers the fruit of all comforts; and the scattered Jews daily warn us to beware, lest we neglect or abuse the gospel. Yet every smiting is not a drying up of the root. It may be that God intends only to smite so that the sap may be turned to the root, that there may be more of root graces, more humility, patience, faith, and self-denial. It is very just that God should bring judgments on those who slight his offered mercy.Give them a miscarrying womb - The prophet prays for Israel, and debates with himself what he can ask for, amid this their determined wickedness, and God's judgments. Since "Ephraim" was "to bring forth children to the murderer," then it was mercy to ask for them, that they might have no children. Since such are the evils which await their children, grant them, O Lord, as a blessing, the sorrows of barrenness. What God had before pronounced as a punishment, should, as compared to other evils, be a mercy, and an object of prayer. So our Lord pronounces as to the destruction of Jerusalem. "Behold the days are coming, in which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps that never gave suck" Luke 23:29. "O unhappy fruitfulness and fruitful unhappiness, compared with which, barrenness, which among them was accounted a curse, became blessedness." 14. what wilt thou give?—As if overwhelmed by feeling, he deliberates with God what is most desirable.

give … a miscarrying womb—Of two evils he chooses the least. So great will be the calamity, that barrenness will be a blessing, though usually counted a great misfortune (Job 3:3; Jer 20:14; Lu 23:29).

Give them, O Lord; it is an abrupt but very pathetical speech of one that shows his trouble for the state of a sinking, undone nation, it is an intercession for them.

What wilt thou give? as if he should say he knew not what to ask, or how to pray for them; he knew God had peremptorily determined to punish them with a total extermination, and in a most dreadful manner, as described Hosea 9:11-13. Now give some mercy.

Give them a miscarrying womb; the days are coming when the barren womb will be a blessing; give this, O Lord; it is less misery to have none, than to have all our children murdered by a barbarous enemy, Luke 23:29.

Dry breasts; not to starve the children born, but it is a further explication of the former; dry breasts are symptoms of a barren womb, whether by abortion or non-conception, by one or other. Prevent these woeful effects of our enemies’ unjust rage, and of thy most righteous displeasure against us, O Lord.

Give them, O Lord: what wilt thou give them?.... The prophet foreseeing the butchery and destruction of their children, his heart ached for them; and, to show his tender affection for this people, was desirous of putting up a supplication for them; but was at a loss what to ask, their sins were so many, and so aggravated, and the decree gone forth for their destruction: or, "give them what thou wilt give them" (l); so Jarchi, Kimchi, and Abarbinel, what thou hast threatened before to give them, Hosea 9:11; do not give them to be butchered and murdered before the eyes of their parents by their enemies; but rather let them die in the womb, or as soon as born; so it follows:

give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts; the latter being a sign of the former, as physicians observe; or the words may be rendered disjunctively, give them one, or the other; that is, to the wives of the people of Israel, if they conceive, let them miscarry, prove abortive, rather than bring forth children to be destroyed in such a cruel manner by murderers; or if they bear them to the birth, and bring them forth, let their breasts be dried up, and afford no milk for their nourishment; and so die for lack of it, rather than fall into the hands of their merciless enemies: thus, of two evils, the prophet chooses and prays for the least. Some interpret this as a prediction of what would be, or an imprecation of it; but it rather seems a pathetic wish, flowing from the tender affection of the prophet, judging such a case to be preferable to the former; see Luke 23:29; though the other sense seems best to agree with what follows, and which is favoured by the Targum,

"give thou, O Lord, the recompence of their works; give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.''

(l) "da eis quod daturus es", Junius & Tremellius, Vatablus, Grotius; "da illis id quod dabis", Schmidt.

Give them, O LORD: what wilt thou give? give them a {p} miscarrying womb and dry breasts.

(p) The Prophet seeing the great plagues of God toward Ephraim, prays to God to make them barren, rather than that this great slaughter should come upon their children.

14. The prophet recognizes the necessity of a judgment, but pleads for a mitigation. Love for his people burns within him, and prompts him to do all that is consistent with his moral perceptions and the revelation made to him. Comp. the conduct of Moses in a similar case, Exodus 32:11-14.

what wilt thou give them?] The prophet considers what he had best ask for. He is a patriot, but he is also a prophet; he loves his nation with a feminine tenderness, but in zeal for his God he is not inferior to Amos or Isaiah. Hence his momentary perplexity. And yet this is perhaps too literal an interpretation. Rather is it, to use Ewald’s language, ‘a paroxysm of despair.’ Better were it that the Israelites should be condemned to barrenness than lose their choicest young population thus! It is an involuntary cry from the heart.

Hosea 9:14The vanishing of the glory of Ephraim is carried out still further in what follows. Hosea 9:13. "Ephraim as I selected it for a Tyre planted in the valley; so shall Ephraim lead out its sons to the murderer. Hosea 9:14. Give them, O Jehovah: what shalt Thou give him? Give them a childless womb and dry breasts." In Hosea 9:13 Ephraim is the object to ראיתי (I have seen), but on account of the emphasis it is placed first, as in Hosea 9:11; and ראה with an accusative and ל dna evi signifies to select anything for a purpose, as in Genesis 22:8. The Lord had selected Ephraim for Himself to be a Tyre planted in the meadow, i.e., in a soil adapted for growth and prosperity, had intended for it the bloom and glory of the rich and powerful Tyre; but now, for its apostasy, He would give it up to desolation, and dedicate its sons, i.e., its people, to death by the sword. The commentators, for the most part, like the lxx, have overlooked this meaning of ראה, and therefore have not only been unable to explain letsōr (for a Tyre), but have been driven either to resort to alterations of the text, like letsūrâh, "after the form" (Ewald), or to arbitrary assumptions, e.g., that tsōr signifies "palm" after the Arabic (Arnold, Hitzig), or that letsōr means "as far as Tyre" (ל equals עד), in order to bring a more or less forced interpretation into the sentence. The Vav before 'Ephraim introduces the apodosis to כּאשׁר: "as I have selected Ephraim, so shall Ephraim lead out," etc. On the construction להוציא, see Ewald, 237, c. In Hosea 9:14 the threat rises into an appeal to God to execute the threatened punishment. The excited style of the language is indicated in the interpolated mah-titteen (what wilt Thou give?). The words do not contain an intercessory prayer on the part of the prophet, that God will not punish the people too severely but condemn them to barrenness rather than to the loss of the young men (Ewald), but are expressive of holy indignation at the deep corruption of the people.
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