Hosea 9:14
Give them, O LORD: what will you 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.The exalting of himself above all on the part of the king is further described. "He shall not regard the gods of his fathers," i.e., shall cast aside the worship of the gods transmitted to him from his fathers. This again does not accord with Antiochus Epiphanes, regarding whom it is true that history records that he wished to suppress the worship practised by the Jews, but it knows nothing

(Note: The statement in 1 Macc. 1:41ff., "Moreover king Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and every one should have his laws: so all the heathen agreed according to the commandment of the king," does not amount to a proof of this. "For," as Grimm rightly remarks, "the account of such a decree of Antiochus to all (not Hellenic) peoples of his kingdom is very doubtful. No profane historian records anything about it, neither does Josephus, nor the author of the second book of the Maccabees in the parallel passages. It is true that Antiochus, according to Livy, xli. 20, put great honour upon Jupiter by building a splendid temple to Tages, and according to Polybius, xxvi. 10, 11, he excelled all kings who preceded him in expensive sacrifices and gifts in honour of the gods; but this is no proof of a proselytizing fanaticism." The contrary rather appears from Josephus, Antt. xii. 5. 5, where the Samaritans, in a letter to Antiochus, declare, contrary to the opinion entertained regarding them by their governor, that by descent and custom they were not Jews. Their letter rests on the supposition that the royal decree was directed only against the Jews. Cf. Falthe, Gesch. Macedoniens, ii. p. 596. Diodorus also (xxxiv. 1), to whom Hitzig refers, only states that Antiochus wished to dissolve τὰ νόμιμα of the Jewish people, and to compel the Jews to abandon their manner of life (τὰς ἀγωγὰς μεταθέσθαι).

of attempts made by him to destroy the gods and the worship of other nations. The words which follow, נשׁים על־חמדּת, the old interpreters understood of the love of women, or of conjugal love; the modern, after the example of J. D. Michaelis and Gesenius, on the contrary, understand them of the goddess Anatis or Mylitta, the Assyrian Venus, and refer them specially to the spoiling of the temple of this goddess in Elymas (1 Macc. 6:1, cf. 2 Macc. 1:13). Ewald finally would understand by the expression "the desire of women," the Syrian deity Tammuz-Adonis. The connection requires us to think on a deity, because these words are placed between two expressions which refer to the gods. But the connection is not altogether decisive; rather the כּל על in the clause at the end of the verse denotes that the subject spoken of is not merely the king's raising himself above the gods, but also above other objects of pious veneration. A verbal proof that נשׁים חמדּת denotes the Anatis or Adonis as the favourite deity of women has not been adduced. For these words, desiderium mulierum, denote not that which women desire, but that which women possess which is desirable; cf. under 1 Samuel 9:20. But it is impossible that this can be Anatis or Adonis, but it is a possession or precious treasure of women. This desirable possession of women is without doubt love; so that, as C. B. Michaelis has remarked, the expression is not materially different from נשׁים אהבת, the love of women, 2 Samuel 1:26. The thought: "he shall not regard the desire of women, or the love of women," agrees perfectly with the connection. After it has been said in the first clause: he shall set himself free from all religious reverence transmitted from his fathers, from all piety toward the gods in which he had been trained, it is then added in the second clause: not merely so, but generally from all piety toward men and God, from all the tender affections of the love of men and of God. The "love of women" is named as an example selected from the sphere of human piety, as that affection of human love and attachment for which even the most selfish and most savage of men feel some sensibility. Along with this he shall set himself free from כּל־אלוהּ, from all piety or reverence toward God or toward that which is divine (Klief.). This thought is then established by the last clause: "for he shall magnify himself above all." To כּל על we may not supply אלוהּ; for this clause not only presents the reason for the foregoing clause, וגו כּל־אלוהּ על, but for both of the foregoing clauses. Hitzig and Kliefoth are right in their interpretation: "above everything, or all, gods and men," he shall magnify himself, raise himself up in arrogance.

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