Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor.
Ho 5:1-5. God's Judgments on the Priests, People, and Princes of Israel for Their Sins.
Judah, too, being guilty shall be punished; nor shall Assyria, whose aid they both sought, save them; judgments shall at last lead them to repentance.
1. the king—probably Pekah; the contemporary of Ahaz, king of Judah, under whom idolatry was first carried so far in Judah as to call for the judgment of the joint Syrian and Israelite invasion, as also that of Assyria.
judgment is towards you—that is, threatens you from God.
ye have been a snare on Mizpah … net … upon Tabor—As hunters spread their net and snares on the hills, Mizpah and Tabor, so ye have snared the people into idolatry and made them your prey by injustice. As Mizpah and Tabor mean a "watch tower," and a "lofty place," a fit scene for hunters, playing on the words, the prophet implies, in the lofty place in which I have set you, whereas ye ought to have been the watchers of the people, guarding them from evil, ye have been as hunters entrapping them into it [Jerome]. These two places are specified, Mizpah in the east and Tabor in the west, to include the high places throughout the whole kingdom, in which Israel's rulers set up idolatrous altars.
And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all.
profound—deeply rooted [Calvin] and sunk to the lowest depths, excessive in their idolatry (Ho 9:9; Isa 31:6) [Henderson]. From the antithesis (Ho 5:3), "not hid from me," I prefer explaining, profoundly cunning in their idolatry. Jeroboam thought it a profound piece of policy to set up golden calves to represent God in Dan and Beth-el, in order to prevent Israel's heart from turning again to David's line by going up to Jerusalem to worship. So Israel's subsequent idolatry was grounded by their leaders on various pleas of state expediency (compare Isa 29:15).
to … slaughter—He does not say "to sacrifice," for their so-called sacrifices were butcheries rather than sacrifices; there was nothing sacred about them, being to idols instead of to the holy God.
though—Maurer translates, "and (in spite of their hope of safety through their slaughter of victims to idols) I will be a chastisement to them all." English Version is good sense: They have deeply revolted, notwithstanding all my prophetical warnings.
I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me: for now, O Ephraim, thou committest whoredom, and Israel is defiled.
3. Ephraim—the tribe so called, as distinguished from "Israel" here, the other nine tribes. It was always foremost of the tribes of the northern kingdom. For four hundred years in early history, it, with Manasseh and Benjamin, its two dependent tribes, held the pre-eminence in the whole nation. Ephraim is here addressed as foremost in idolatry.
I how … not hid from me—notwithstanding their supposed profound cunning (Ho 5:2; Re 2:2, 9, 13, 19).
now—"though I have been a rebuker of all them" (Ho 5:2) who commit such spiritual whoredoms, thou art now continuing in them.
They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the LORD.
4. They—Turning from a direct address to Ephraim, he uses the third person plural to characterize the people in general. The Hebrew is against the Margin, their doings will not suffer them" the omission of "them" in the Hebrew after the verb being unusual. The sense is, they are incurable, for they will not permit (as the Hebrew literally means) their doings to be framed so as to turn unto God. Implying that they resist the Spirit of God, not suffering Him to renew them; and give themselves up to "the spirit of whoredoms" (in antithesis to "the Spirit of God" implied in "suffer" or "permit") (Ho 4:12; Isa 63:10; Eze 16:43; Ac 7:51).
And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them.
5. the pride of Israel—wherewith they reject the warnings of God's prophets (Ho 5:2), and prefer their idols to God (Ho 7:10; Jer 13:17).
testify to his face—openly to his face he shall be convicted of the pride which is so palpable in him. Or, "in his face," as in Isa 3:9.
Judah … shall fall with them—This prophecy is later than Ho 4:15, when Judah had not gone so far in idolatry; now her imitation of Israel's bad example provokes the threat of her being doomed to share in Israel's punishment.
They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the LORD; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them.
6. with … flocks—to propitiate Jehovah (Isa 1:11-15).
seek … not find—because it is slavish fear that leads them to seek Him; and because it then shall be too late (Pr 1:28; Joh 7:34).
They have dealt treacherously against the LORD: for they have begotten strange children: now shall a month devour them with their portions.
7. treacherously—as to the marriage covenant (Jer 3:20).
strange children—alluding to "children of whoredoms" (Ho 1:2; 2:4). "Strange" or foreign implies that their idolatry was imported from abroad [Henderson]. Or rather, "regarded by God as strangers, not His," as being reared in idolatry. The case is desperate, when not only the existing, but also the rising, generation is reared in apostasy.
a month—a very brief space of time shall elapse, and then punishment shall overtake them (Zec 11:8). The allusion seems to be to money loans, which were by the month, not as with us by the year. You cannot put it off; the time of your destruction is immediately and suddenly coming on you; just as the debtor must meet the creditor's demand at the expiration of the month. The prediction is of the invasion of Tiglath-pileser, who carried away Reuben, Gad, Naphtali, and the half tribe of Manasseh.
portions—that is, possessions. Their resources and garrisons will not avail to save them. Henderson explains from Isa 57:6, "portions" as their idols; the context favors this, "the Lord" the true "portion of His people" (De 32:9), being in antithesis to "their portions," the idols.
Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah: cry aloud at Bethaven, after thee, O Benjamin.
8. The arrival of the enemy is announced in the form of an injunction to blow an alarm.
cornet … trumpet—The "cornet" was made of the curved horn of animals and was used by shepherds. The "trumpet" was of brass or silver, straight, and used in wars and on solemn occasions. The Hebrew is hatzotzerah, the sound imitating the trumpet note (Ho 8:1; Nu 10:2; Jer 4:5; Joe 2:1).
Gibeah … Ramah—both in Benjamin (Isa 10:29).
Beth-aven—in Benjamin; not as in Ho 4:15; Beth-el, but a town east of it (Jos 7:2). "Cry aloud," namely, to raise the alarm. "Benjamin" is put for the whole southern kingdom of Judah (compare Ho 5:5), being the first part of it which would meet the foe advancing from the north. "After thee, O Benjamin," implies the position of Beth-aven, behind Benjamin, at the borders of Ephraim. When the foe is at Beth-aven, he is at Benjamin's rear, close upon thee, O Benjamin (Jud 5:14).
Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be.
9, 10. Israel is referred to in Ho 5:9, Judah in Ho 5:10.
the day of rebuke—the day when I shall chastise him.
among the tribes of Israel have I made known—proving that the scene of Hosea's labor was among the ten tribes.
that which shall surely be—namely, the coming judgment here foretold. It is no longer a conditional decree, leaving a hope of pardon on repentance; it is absolute, for Ephraim is hopelessly impenitent.
The princes of Judah were like them that remove the bound: therefore I will pour out my wrath upon them like water.
10. remove the bound—(De 19:14; 27:17; Job 24:2; Pr 22:28; 23:10). Proverbial for the rash setting aside of the ancestral laws by which men are kept to their duty. Ahaz and his courtiers ("the princes of Judah"), setting aside the ancient ordinances of God, removed the borders of the bases and the layer and the sea and introduced an idolatrous altar from Damascus (2Ki 16:10-18); also he burnt his children in the valley of Hinnom, after the abominations of the heathen (2Ch 28:3).
Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.
11. broken in judgment—namely, the "judgment" of God on him (Ho 5:1).
walked after the commandment—Jeroboam's, to worship the calves (2Ki 10:28-33). Compare Mic 6:16, "the statutes of Omri," namely, idolatrous statutes. We ought to obey God rather than men (Ac 5:29). Jerome reads "filthiness." The Septuagint gives the sense, not the literal translation: "after vanities."
Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness.
12. as a moth—consuming a garment (Job 13:28; Ps 39:11; Isa 50:9).
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.
When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.
13. wound—literally, "bandage"; hence a bandaged wound (Isa 1:6; Jer 30:12). "Saw," that is, felt its weakened state politically, and the dangers that threatened it. It aggravates their perversity, that, though aware of their unsound and calamitous state, they did not inquire into the cause or seek a right remedy.
went … to the Assyrian—First, Menahem (2Ki 15:19) applied to Pul; again, Hoshea to Shalmaneser (2Ki 17:3).
sent to King Jareb—Understand Judah as the nominative to "sent." Thus, as "Ephraim saw his sickness" (the first clause) answers in the parallelism to "Ephraim went to the Assyrian" (the third clause), so "Judah saw his wound" (the second clause) answers to (Judah) "sent to King Jareb" (the fourth clause). Jareb ought rather to be translated, "their defender," literally, "avenger" [Jerome]. The Assyrian "king," ever ready, for his own aggrandizement, to mix himself up with the affairs of neighboring states, professed to undertake Israel's and Judah's cause; in Jud 6:32, Jerub, in Jerub-baal is so used, namely, "plead one's cause." Judah, under Ahaz, applied to Tiglath-pileser for aid against Syria and Israel (2Ki 16:7, 8; 2Ch 28:16-21); the Assyrian "distressed him, but strengthened him not," fulfiling the prophecy here, "he could not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.
For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him.
14. lion—The black lion and the young lion are emblems of strength and ferocity (Ps 91:13).
I, even I—emphatic; when I, even I, the irresistible God, tear in pieces (Ps 50:22), no Assyrian power can rescue.
go away—as a lion stalks leisurely back with his prey to his lair.
I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.
15. return to my place—that is, withdraw My favor.
till they acknowledge their offence—The Hebrew is, "till they suffer the penalty of their guilt." Probably "accepting the punishment of their guilt" (compare Zec 11:5) is included in the idea, as English Version translates. Compare Le 26:40, 41; Jer 29:12, 13; Eze 6:9; 20:43; 36:31.
seek my face—that is, seek My favor (Pr 29:26, Margin).
in … affliction … seek me early—that is, diligently; rising up before dawn to seek Me (Ps 119:147; compare Ps 78:34).