Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria: for they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth without.
Ho 7:1-16. Reproof of Israel.
Probably delivered in the interreign and civil war at Pekah's death; for Ho 7:7, "all their kings … fallen," refers to the murder of Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, and Pekah. In Ho 7:8 the reference seems to be to Menahem's payment of tribute to Pul, in order to secure himself in the usurped throne, also to Pekah's league with Rezin of Syria, and to Hoshea's connection with Assyria during the interregnum at Pekah's death [Maurer].
1. I would have healed Israel—Israel's restoration of the two hundred thousand Jewish captives at God's command (2Ch 28:8-15) gave hope of Israel's reformation [Henderson]. Political, as well as moral, healing is meant. When I would have healed Israel in its calamitous state, then their iniquity was discovered to be so great as to preclude hope of recovery. Then he enumerates their wickedness: "The thief cometh in (indoors stealthily), and the troop of robbers spoileth without" (out-of-doors with open violence).
And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before my face.
2. consider not in their hearts—literally, "say not to," &c. (Ps 14:1).
that I remember—and will punish.
their own doings have beset them about—as so many witnesses against them (Ps 9:16; Pr 5:22).
before my face—(Ps 90:8).
They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies.
3. Their princes, instead of checking, "have pleasure in them that do" such crimes (Ro 1:32).
They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker, who ceaseth from raising after he hath kneaded the dough, until it be leavened.
4. who ceaseth from raising—rather, "heating" it, from an Arabic root, "to be hot." So the Septuagint. Their adulterous and idolatrous lust is inflamed as the oven of a baker who has it at such a heat that he ceaseth from heating it only from the time that he hath kneaded the dough, until it be leavened; he only needs to omit feeding it during the short period of the fermentation of the bread. Compare 2Pe 2:14, "that cannot cease from sin" [Henderson].
In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners.
5. the day of our king—his birthday or day of inauguration.
have made him sick—namely, the king. Maurer translates, "make themselves sick."
with bottles of wine—drinking not merely glasses, but bottles. Maurer translates, "Owing to the heat of wine."
he stretched out his hand with scorners—the gesture of revellers in holding out the cup and in drinking to one another's health. Scoffers were the king's boon companions.
For they have made ready their heart like an oven, whiles they lie in wait: their baker sleepeth all the night; in the morning it burneth as a flaming fire.
6. they have made ready—rather, "they make their heart approach," namely their king, in going to drink with him.
like an oven—following out the image in Ho 7:4. As it conceals the lighted fire all night while the baker sleeps but in the morning burns as a flaming fire, so they brood mischief in their hearts while conscience is lulled asleep, and their wicked designs wait only for a fair occasion to break forth [Horsley]. Their heart is the oven, their baker the ringleader of the plot. In Ho 7:7 their plots appear, namely, the intestine disturbances and murders of one king after another, after Jeroboam II.
They are all hot as an oven, and have devoured their judges; all their kings are fallen: there is none among them that calleth unto me.
7. all hot—All burn with eagerness to cause universal disturbance (2Ki 15:1-38).
devoured their judges—magistrates; as the fire of the oven devours the fuel.
all their kings … fallen—See on Ho 7:1.
none … calleth unto me—Such is their perversity that amid all these national calamities, none seeks help from Me (Isa 9:13; 64:7).
Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.
8. mixed … among the people—by leagues with idolaters, and the adoption of their idolatrous practices (Ho 7:9, 11; Ps 106:35).
Ephraim … cake not turned—a cake burnt on one side and unbaked on the other, and so uneatable; an image of the worthlessness of Ephraim. The Easterners bake their bread on the ground, covering it with embers (1Ki 19:6), and turning it every ten minutes, to bake it thoroughly without burning it.
Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not.
9. Strangers—foreigners: the Syrians and Assyrians (2Ki 13:7; 15:19, 20; 17:3-6).
gray hairs—that is, symptoms of approaching national dissolution.
are here and there upon—literally, "are sprinkled on" him.
yet he knoweth not—Though old age ought to bring with it wisdom, he neither knows of his senile decay, nor has the true knowledge which leads to reformation.
And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him for all this.
10. Repetition of Ho 5:5.
not return to … Lord … for all this—notwithstanding all their calamities (Isa 9:13).
Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.
11. like a silly dove—a bird proverbial for simplicity: easily deceived.
without heart—that is, understanding.
call to Egypt—Israel lying between the two great rival empires Egypt and Assyria, sought each by turns to help her against the other. As this prophecy was written in the reign of Hoshea, the allusion is probably to the alliance with So or Sabacho II (of which a record has been found on the clay cylindrical seals in Koyunjik), which ended in the overthrow of Hoshea and the deportation of Israel (2Ki 17:3-6). As the dove betrays its foolishness by fleeing in alarm from its nest only to fall into the net of the fowler, so Israel, though warned that foreign alliances would be their ruin, rushed into them.
When they shall go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard.
12. When they shall go—to seek aid from this or that foreign state.
spread my net upon them—as on birds taken on the ground (Eze 12:13), as contrasted with "bringing them down" as the "fowls of the heavens," namely, by the use of missiles.
as their congregation hath heard—namely, by My prophets through whom I threatened "chastisement" (Ho 5:9; 2Ki 17:13-18).
Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me.
13. fled—as birds from their nest (Pr 27:8; Isa 16:2).
me—who both could and would have healed them (Ho 7:1), had they applied to Me.
redeemed them—from Egypt and their other enemies (Mic 6:4).
lies—(Ps 78:36; Jer 3:10). Pretending to be My worshippers, when they all the while worshipped idols (Ho 7:14; Ho 12:1); also defrauding Me of the glory of their deliverance, and ascribing it and their other blessings to idols [Calvin].
And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds: they assemble themselves for corn and wine, and they rebel against me.
14. not cried unto me—but unto other gods [Maurer], (Job 35:9, 10). Or, they did indeed cry unto Me, but not "with their heart": answering to "lies," Ho 7:13 (see on Ho 7:13).
when they howled upon their beds—sleepless with anxiety; image of deep affliction. Their cry is termed "howling," as it is the cry of anguish, not the cry of repentance and faith.
assemble … for corn, &c.—namely in the temples of their idols, to obtain from them a good harvest and vintage, instead of coming to Me, the true Giver of these (Ho 2:5, 8, 12), proving that their cry to God was "not with their heart."
rebel against me—literally, "withdraw themselves against Me," that is, not only withdraw from Me, but also rebel against Me.
Though I have bound and strengthened their arms, yet do they imagine mischief against me.
15. I … bound—when I saw their arms as it were relaxed with various disasters, I bound them so as to strengthen their sinews; image from surgery [Calvin]. Maurer translates, "I instructed them" to war (Ps 18:34; 144:1), namely, under Jeroboam II (2Ki 14:25). Grotius explains, "Whether I chastised them (Margin) or strengthened their arms, they imagined mischief against Me." English Version is best.
They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.
16. return, but not to the Most High—or, "to one who is not the Most High," one very different from Him, a stock or a stone. So the Septuagint.
deceitful bow—(Ps 78:57). A bow which, from its faulty construction, shoots wide of the mark. So Israel pretends to seek God, but turns aside to idols.
for the rage of their tongue—their boast of safety from Egyptian aid, and their "lies" (Ho 7:13), whereby they pretended to serve God, while worshipping idols; also their perverse defense for their idolatries and blasphemies against God and His prophets (Ps 73:9; 120:2, 3).
their derision in … Egypt—Their "fall" shall be the subject of "derision" to Egypt, to whom they had applied for help (Ho 9:3, 6; 2Ki 17:4).