Hosea 9:3
They shall not dwell in the LORD's land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria.
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(3, 4) Canaan, the land of Jehovah, is holy, Assyria unholy (Amos 7:17), where there was no temple or sacred ordinances. Since meat was not a divinely sanctioned food, except in connection with a Jehovah festival, it became in the land of exile unclean. This became true in the eyes of Hosea of all eating. “In the family every feast was a Eucharistic sacrifice” (W. R. Smith, Old Testament in the Jewish Church, pp. 235 and 237). (Comp. Ezekiel 4:13.)

Hosea 9:3. They shall not dwell in the Lord’s land, but Ephraim shall return into Egypt — God will turn them out of that inheritance he gave to their fathers, and they shall be carried into captivity or become exiles a second time in Egypt. When Shalmaneser made the ten tribes captive, such as were able to escape the conqueror fled into Egypt, having implored the aid of that country against the Assyrians. And they shall eat unclean things in Assyria — They have transgressed my law, in eating unclean things in their own land; and the time shall come when they shall be forced by their imperious masters the Assyrians to eat unclean things, whether they will or not. They will have no choice left them, but, as slaves, will be forced to eat what is given them.9:1-6 Israel gave rewards to their idols, in the offerings presented to them. It is common for those who are niggardly in religion, to be prodigal upon their lusts. Those are reckoned as idolaters, who love a reward in the corn-floor better than a reward in the favour of God and in eternal life. They are full of the joy of harvest, and have no disposition to mourn for sin. When we make the world, and the things of it, our idol and our portion, it is just with God to show us our folly, and correct us. None may expect to dwell in the Lord's land, who will not be subject to the Lord's laws, or be influenced by his love. When we enjoy the means of grace, we ought to consider what we shall do, if they should be taken from us. While the pleasures of communion with God are out of the reach of change, the pleasant places purchased with silver, or in which men deposit silver, are liable to be laid in ruins. No famine is so dreadful as that of the soul.They shall not dwell in the Lord's land. The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof - Yet He had chosen the land of Canaan, there to place His people; there, above others, to work His miracles; there to reveal Himself; there to send His Son to take our flesh. He had put Israel in possession of it, to hold it under Him on condition of obedience. Contrariwise, God had denounced to them again and again; "if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to possess it" Deuteronomy 30:17-18. The fifth commandment, "the first commandment with promise" Ephesians 5:2, still implies the same condition, "that thy days may be logit in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." God makes the express reserve that the land is His. "The land shall not be sold forever, for the land is Mine, for ye are strangers and sojourners with Me." Leviticus 25:23. It was then an aggravation of their sin, that they had sinned in God's land. It was to sin in His special presence. To offer its first-fruits to idols, was to disown God as its Lord, and to own His adversary. In removing them, then, from His land, God removed them from occasions of sin.

But Ephraim shall return to Egypt - He had broken the covenant, whereon God had promised, that they should not return there (see above the note at Hosea 8:13). They had recourse to Egypt against the will of God. Against their own will, they should be sent back there, in banishment and distress, as of old, and in separation from their God.

And they shall eat unclean things in Assyria - So in Ezekiel, "The children of Israel shall eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them" Ezekiel 4:13. "Not to eat things common or unclean" was one of the marks which God had given them. whereby he distinguished them as His people. While God owned them as His people, He would protect them against such necessity. The histories of Daniel, of Eleazar and the Maccabees (Daniel 1:8; 2 Macc. 6; 7), show how sorely pious Jews felt the compulsion to eat things unclean. Yet this doubtless Israel had done in his own land, if not in other ways, at least in eating things offered to idols. Now then, through necessity or they were to be forced, for their sustenance to eat tilings unclean, such as were, to them, all things killed with the blood in them, i. e., as almost all things are killed now. They who had willfully transgressed God's law, should now be forced to live in the habitual breach of that law, in a matter which placed them on a level with the pagan. People, who have no scruple about breaking God's moral law, feel keenly the removal of any distinction, which places them above others. They had been as pagan; they should be in the condition of pagan.

3. return to Egypt—(See on [1125]Ho 8:13). As in Ho 11:5 it is said, "He shall not return into … Egypt." Fairbairn thinks it is not the exact country that is meant, but the bondage state with which, from past experience, Egypt was identified in their minds. Assyria was to be a second Egypt to them. De 28:68, though threatening a return to Egypt, speaks (De 28:36) of their being brought to a nation which neither they nor their fathers had known, showing that it is not the literal Egypt, but a second Egypt-like bondage that is threatened.

eat unclean things in Assyria—reduced by necessity to eat meats pronounced unclean by the Mosaic law (Eze 4:13). See 2Ki 17:6.

They, who worship idols, and give my glory to them, depending on them, and ascribing to them what I alone give them,

shall not dwell in the Lord’s land; though they have been in possession many years, and though now they seem out of fear of losing it, being great at home and in peace with neighbours abroad, yet in midst of this prosperity and security, let them note it, they shall not much longer dwell in the Lord’s land, which God gave them according to promise, with express condition that they should obey him and fear him, and him only, Deu 6:2,3, and with express menace of exile and ruin if they forgot God, Deu 8:19,20. This land, which is the Lord’s propriety, and theirs only on condition, and this condition broken, shall be their possession no longer.

Ephraim shall return to Egypt; many of Ephraim, for it is not meant of all or the most part; but of the more timorous, wary, and who consult their safety beforehand, many shall flee into Egypt, and shift out of the enemies’ reach. So again Hosea 9:6.

They shall eat unclean things in Assyria; the residue who flee not into Egypt shall be carried captives, and in Assyria be forced to eat forbidden meats, called here unclean, such as polluted the eater. They shall not dwell in the Lord's land,.... The land of Israel, or Canaan; which, though all the earth is the Lord's, was peculiarly his; which he had chosen for himself, and for this people; where he had his temple, and caused his Shechinah or divine Majesty to dwell in a very special manner, and where his worship and service were performed. So the Targum calls it the land of the Shechinah or majesty of the Lord. Sometimes it is called Immanuel's land, where the Messiah Immanuel, God with us, was to be born, and dwell, and where he did. Kimchi wrongly interprets this of Jerusalem only; and others of Judea; but it designs the whole land of promise, which God save by promise to the fathers of this people, and put them in the possession of, the tenure of which they held by their obedience; but they not living according to will, and in obedience to his laws, who was Lord of the land, sole Proprietor and Governor of it, he turned them out of it, and would not suffer them to continue any longer in it; and which was a great punishment indeed, to be driven out of such a land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and where they had been favoured with privileges and blessings of every kind;

but Ephraim shall return to Egypt; or the ten tribes; that is, some of them, who should flee thither for refuge and sustenance; when the Assyrian should invade their land, and besiege Samaria, they should go thither again, where their ancestors had formerly been in a state of bondage: this is prophesied of them, Deuteronomy 28:68;

and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria; that is, Ephraim or the ten tribes, the far greater part of there, should be taken captive, and carried into Assyria, and there eat food which by their law was unclean, as things sacrificed to idols, swine's flesh, and many others; or food that was not fit for men to eat, which nature abhorred; such bread as Ezekiel was bid to make and eat, Ezekiel 4:9. This may be understood even of them that went to Egypt for help against the Assyrians, or for shelter from them, or for food to eat in the time of famine; who should be brought back again, and carried into Assyria, and there live a miserable and an uncomfortable life; who had been used to enjoy corn and wine, and plenty of all good things, to which these unclean things may be opposed.

They shall not dwell in the LORD's land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria.
3. in the Lord’s land] ‘For I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel’, Numbers 35:34. The expression originated in the popular belief that as, for example, Chemosh was the God of the Amorites, so Jehovah was the God of the Israelites (Jdg 11:24), a belief which could lead even Jonah to imagine that he could ‘flee unto Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah’ (Jonah 1:3).

shall return to Egypt, &c.] A repetition of the threat so well calculated to deter the Israelites from disobedience (see on Hosea 8:13).

shall eat unclean things in Assyria] Comp. Ezekiel 4:13, ‘Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their bread defiled among the nations whither I will drive them.’ The prospect held out is not that the captive Israelites would be reduced to the necessity of eating prohibited food, but that, since all heathen lands were ‘unclean’ (Amos 7:17), all the products of the soil would also be unclean. The ‘uncleanness’ in both cases was caused by the absence of sanctuaries dedicated to Jehovah. See the foll. notes.Verse 3. - They shall not dwell in the Lord's land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria. The Lord's land was Canaan, which Jehovah chose to dwell there by visible symbol of the Shechinah-glory, and which he gave to Israel as his people. Israel expected to have it for a permanent place of abode, but that hope was frustrated by their sin. The remaining clauses of the verse may be understood either

(1) that Ephraim would return to Egypt to obtain anxiliaries, but to no purpose, - for they would be carried away captive and be compelled to eat unclean things in the land of Assyria; or

(2) the prophet threatens that some of them would go as exiles into Egypt, and others of them into Assyria This latter explanation is much to be preferred; while with regard to Egypt the threats, ring thus understood would re-echo an crier prophecy in Deuteronomy 28:68, "The Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you." In Assyria also they would be obliged to cat things ceremonially unclean, as it would be impossible to conform to the requirements of the Law, according to which the eating of certain animals was prohibited. There is yet

(3) another interpretation, which takes Assyria to be the place of exile, while Egypt figuratively represents the condition of that exile, namely, a state of hard bondage and sore oppression, such as Israel endured in Egypt in the days of yore. Here it is more definitely stated why he cannot stand. פתבּגו אכּלי, who eat his food (פּתבּג, see under Daniel 1:5), i.e., his table-companions (cf. Psalm 41:10[9]), persons about him. ישׁבּרוּהוּ, shall break him, i.e., cast him to the ground. His army shall therefore overflow, but shall execute nothing, only many shall fall down slain. The first member of the verse points to treachery, whereby the battle was lost and the war was fruitless. Hitzig incorrectly interprets ישׁטוף rushes away, i.e., is disorganized and takes to flight. But שׁטף cannot have this meaning.
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