Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
Ho 6:1-11. The Israelites' Exhortation to One Another to Seek the Lord.
At Ho 6:4 a new discourse, complaining of them, begins; for Ho 6:1-3 evidently belong to Ho 5:15, and form the happy termination of Israel's punishment: primarily, the return from Babylon; ultimately, the return from their present long dispersion. Ho 6:8 perhaps refers to the murder of Pekahiah; the discourse cannot be later than Pekah's reign, for it was under it that Gilead was carried into captivity (2Ki 15:29).
1. let us return—in order that God who has "returned to His place" may return to us (Ho 5:15).
torn, and … heal—(De 32:39; Jer 30:17). They ascribe their punishment not to fortune, or man, but to God, and acknowledge that none (not the Assyrian, as they once vainly thought, Ho 5:13) but God can heal their wound. They are at the same time persuaded of the mercy of God, which persuasion is the starting-point of true repentance, and without which men would not seek, but hate and flee from God. Though our wound be severe, it is not past hope of recovery; there is room for grace, and a hope of pardon. He hath smitten us, but not so badly that He cannot heal us (Ps 130:4).
After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.
2. Primarily, in type, Israel's national revival, in a short period ("two or three" being used to denote a few days, Isa 17:6; Lu 13:32, 33); antitypically the language is so framed as to refer in its full accuracy only to Messiah, the ideal Israel (Isa 49:3; compare Mt 2:15, with Ho 11:1), raised on the third day (Joh 2:19; 1Co 15:4; compare Isa 53:10). "He shall prolong His days." Compare the similar use of Israel's political resurrection as the type of the general resurrection of which "Christ is the first-fruits" (Isa 26:19; Eze 37:1-14; Da 12:2).
live in his sight—enjoy His favour and the light of His countenance shining on us, as of old; in contrast to Ho 5:6, 15, "Withdrawn Himself from them."
Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.
3. know, if we follow on to know the Lord—The result of His recovered favor (Ho 6:2) will be onward growth in saving knowledge of God, as the result of perseverance in following after Him (Ps 63:8; Isa 54:13). "Then" implies the consequence of the revival in Ho 6:2. The "if" is not so much conditional, as expressive of the means which God's grace will sanctify to the full enlightenment of Israel in the knowledge of Him. As want of "knowledge of God" has been the source of all evils (Ho 4:1; 5:4), so the knowledge of Him will bring with it all blessings; yea, it is "life" (Joh 17:3). This knowledge is practice, not mere theory (Jer 22:15, 16). Theology is life, not science; realities, not words. This onward progress is illustrated by the light of "morning" increasing more and more "unto the perfect day" (Pr 4:18).
prepared—"is sure," literally, "fixed," ordered in His everlasting purposes of love to His covenant-people. Compare "prepared of God" (Ge 41:32, Margin; Re 12:6). Jehovah shall surely come to the relief of His people after their dark night of calamity.
as the morning—(2Sa 23:4).
as the rain … latter … former—(Job 29:23; Joe 2:23). First, "the rain" generally is mentioned; then the two rains (De 11:14) which caused the fertility of Palestine, and the absence of which was accounted the greatest calamity: "the latter rain" which falls in the latter half of February, and during March and April, just before the harvest whence it takes its name, from a root meaning "to gather"; and "the former rain," literally, "the darting rain," from the middle of October to the middle of December. As the rain fertilizes the otherwise barren land, so God's favor will restore Israel long nationally lifeless.
O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.
4. what shall I do unto thee—to bring thee back to piety. What more could be done that I have not done, both in mercies and chastenings (Isa 5:4)? At this verse a new discourse begins, resuming the threats (Ho 5:14). See opening remarks on this chapter.
morning cloud—soon dispersed by the sun (Ho 13:3). There is a tacit contrast here to the promise of God's grace to Israel hereafter, in Ho 6:3. His going forth is "as the morning," shining more and more unto the perfect day; your goodness is "as a morning cloud," soon vanishing. His coming to His people is "as the (fertilizing) latter and former rains"; your coming to Him "as the early dew goeth away."
Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth.
5. I hewed them by the prophets—that is, I announced by the prophets that they should be hewn asunder, like trees of the forest. God identifies His act with that of His prophets; the word being His instrument for executing His will (Jer 1:10; Eze 43:3).
by … words of my mouth—(Isa 11:4; Jer 23:29; Heb 4:12).
thy judgments—the judgments which I will inflict on thee, Ephraim and Judah (Ho 6:4). So "thy judgments," that is, those inflicted on thee (Zep 3:15).
are as the light, &c.—like the light, palpable to the eyes of all, as coming from God, the punisher of sin. Henderson translates, "lightning" (compare Margin, Job 37:3, 15).
For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
6. mercy—put for piety in general, of which mercy or charity is a branch.
not sacrifice—that is, "rather than sacrifice." So "not" is merely comparative (Ex 16:8; Joe 2:13; Joh 6:27; 1Ti 2:14). As God Himself instituted sacrifices, it cannot mean that He desired them not absolutely, but that even in the Old Testament, He valued moral obedience as the only end for which positive ordinances, such as sacrifices, were instituted—as of more importance than a mere external ritual obedience (1Sa 15:22; Ps 50:8, 9; 51:16; Isa 1:11, 12; Mic 6:6-8; Mt 9:13; 12:7).
knowledge of God—experimental and practical, not merely theoretical (Ho 6:3; Jer 22:16; 1Jo 2:3, 4). "Mercy" refers to the second table of the law, our duty to our fellow man; "the knowledge of God" to the first table, our duty to God, including inward spiritual worship. The second table is put first, not as superior in dignity, for it is secondary, but in the order of our understanding.
But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.
7. like men—the common sort of men (Ps 82:7). Not as Margin, "like Adam," Job 31:33. For the expression "covenant" is not found elsewhere applied to Adam's relation to God; though the thing seems implied (Ro 5:12-19). Israel "transgressed the covenant" of God as lightly as men break everyday compacts with their fellow men.
there—in the northern kingdom, Israel.
Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood.
8. Gilead … city—probably Ramoth-gilead, metropolis of the hilly region beyond Jordan, south of the Jabbok, known as "Gilead" (1Ki 4:13; compare Ge 31:21-25).
work iniquity—(Ho 12:11).
polluted with blood—"marked with blood-traces" [Maurer]. Referring to Gilead's complicity in the regicidal conspiracy of Pekah against Pekahiah (2Ki 15:25). See on Ho 6:1. Many homicides were there, for there were beyond Jordan more cities of refuge, in proportion to the extent of territory, than on this side of Jordan (Nu 35:14; De 4:41-43; Jos 20:8). Ramoth-gilead was one.
And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit lewdness.
9. company—"association" or guild of priests.
murder by consent—literally, "with one shoulder" (compare Zep 3:9, Margin). The image is from oxen putting their shoulders together to pull the same yoke [Rivetus]. Maurer translates, "in the way towards Shechem." It was a city of refuge between Ebal and Gerizim; on Mount Ephraim (Jos 20:7; 21:21), long the civil capital of Ephraim, as Shiloh was the religious capital; now called Naploos; for a time the residence of Jeroboam (1Ki 12:25). The priests there became so corrupted that they waylaid and murdered persons fleeing to the asylum for refuge [Henderson]; the sanctity of the place enhanced the guilt of the priests who abused their priestly privileges, and the right of asylum to perpetrate murders themselves, or to screen those committed by others [Maurer].
commit lewdness—deliberate crime, presumptuous wickedness, from an Arabic root, "to form a deliberate purpose."
I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled.
10. horrible thing—(Jer 5:30; 18:13; 23:14).
Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of my people.
11. an harvest—namely, of judgments (as in Jer 51:33; Joe 3:13; Re 14:15). Called a "harvest" because it is the fruit of the seed which Judah herself had sown (Ho 8:7; 10:12; Job 4:8; Pr 22:8). Judah, under Ahaz, lost a hundred twenty thousand "slain in one day (by Israel under Pekah), because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers."
when I returned the captivity of my people—when I, by Oded My prophet, caused two hundred thousand women, sons, and daughters, of Judah to be restored from captivity by Israel (2Ch 28:6-15). This prophecy was delivered under Pekah [Ludovicus De Dieu]. Maurer explains, When Israel shall have been exiled for its sins, and has been subsequently restored by Me, thou, Judah, also shalt be exiled for thine. But as Judah's punishment was not at the time when God restored Israel, Ludovicus De Dieu's explanation must be taken. Grotius translates, "When I shall have returned to make captive (that is, when I shall have again made captive) My people." The first captivity of Israel under Tiglath-pileser was followed by a second under Shalmaneser. Then came the siege of Jerusalem, and the capture of the fenced cities of Judah, by Sennacherib, the forerunner of other attacks, ending in Judah's captivity. But the Hebrew is elsewhere used of restoration, not renewed punishment (De 30:3; Ps 14:7).