Matthew Poole's 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.God’s judgments against the priests, the people, and the princes of Israel, for their manifold sins, Hosea 5:1-14, until they repent, Hosea 5:15.
Hear ye this, O priests: proclamation is made, and the criminals are cited to appear, and attend their charge; amongst which the priests are first summoned: not of the tribe of Levi, not God’s priests, but Baal’s priests, priests of the high places; such they called themselves, so accounted by the people, and priests they were as good as their constitution by Jeroboam son of Nebat could make them.
Hearken, ye house of Israel; all the people of Israel, hearken and consider duly.
Give ye ear, O house of the king; all you of Menahem’s court, and all you that are of the royal family. It is very probable, if not plainly certain, that Menahem was king at this time over Israel, and that Hosea points him out with his whole family.
For judgment is toward you; for to you it appertained to execute judgment, and do right, so some; but the most read it, as we do,
judgment is toward, i.e. against you; you have sinned, and God will punish. God’s controversy, Hosea 4:1, is with you all, but first with priests who neglected to instruct the people, next with the body of the people, and lastly with the king, court, and his family.
Ye have been a snare; you, O priests and princes, nobles and judges, have insnared the people by your examples and practices, which have been idolatrous, and the people have imitated you: it may possibly refer to that the Jews say was done, spies set to watch who went to Jerusalem to worship and to inform, that they might be punished: or else thus. By commending the calves, and palliating the idolatry committed in worshipping them, by persuading the people they might as well worship there as at Jerusalem, you have been a snare unto them, and drawn them into idolatry.
On Mizpah; either taken comparatively, as fowlers and hunters have taken many birds and beasts, by gins and snares, on Mizpah, so you have insnared many souls in idolatry; or, by idolatries acted at Mizpah you have insnared many: so at Mizpah there was a high place, and idolatrous worship performed there; whether at Mizpah in Judah, which is not very likely, or Mizpah part of Libanus, which is the more likely, I determine not.
And a net spread upon Tabor; a very famous mount for its exact roundness, and the height thereof, and as famous for the pleasantness thereof, which easily persuades me to think this hill must needs have some high place on it, and that where high places were so much in fashion, Tabor could not be omitted. Here, as in Mizpah, idolatry caught men as birds or wild beasts are taken in a net: or briefly thus. The priests and secular power did make religion and the civil government a snare for men, both so managed the laws of each as to entrap all they could; as if men were fowls and beasts, and governors civil and ecclesiastical hunters and fowlers, and their laws nets and gins set to catch men, and make a prey of them. Thus it was in Israel at that day.
And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all.The revolters; all those that have cast off the law of God, both in matters of religion and civil government.
Are profound; dig deep to hide their counsels, or have taken deep root since their apostasy from God, and revolt from the house of David.
To make slaughter: all their religion is but a butchering of cattle, no sacrifice to God; or, which is worse, a murdering of men.
Though I, Hosea, have been a rebuker; a preacher, who ill the name and word of God have sharply inveighed against their brutish religion and their bloody slaughters.
Of them all: none that have been guilty have escaped the reproof; I have declaimed against idolatrous priests and bloody usurpers, such as were in those times, Shallum, Menahem, and Pekah.
I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me: for now, O Ephraim, thou committest whoredom, and Israel is defiled.These revolters neither are nor can be so deep as to conceal themselves, their designs, contrivances, and practices, from me; I thoroughly know Ephraim. The revolters are also called
Israel in this verse, who is not hid from me. It is an elegant repetition of the same thing in different words.
Thou committest whoredom; all thy fair pretences thou canst put upon thy devised religion cannot better it, still it is downright idolatry or spiritual whoredom.
And Israel is defiled: Israel here is Ephraim; and when Israel is said to be polluted, it is to be understood both of spiritual and corporal pollution, which mostly are linked together, and draw on each other.
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.They, those revolters, polluted Israelites and idolatrous Ephraimites, will not frame their doings; they are so intent upon their idolatries and oppressions, they have been so long inured to these doings, that now they are become slaves to their own doings, insomuch that they neither have will or power to change them, as Jeremiah 13:23.
To turn unto their God; to repent of those wicked courses, and to leave them, and so return to their God, who was once theirs by covenant, though now they have violated the covenant, and departed from God. They are in sin hardened to a hopeless and remediless obstinacy and impenitence.
The spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them: see Hosea 4:12. Their mind and inclination stands bent and fixed upon spiritual whoredoms, and they are incited to it by the seducing spirit, allured by examples, and all these hurry them on. It is a universal distemper among them, all filled with this spirit, it hath seized the heart of them.
They have not known; they never did rightly know, nor would they ever know, they forgot, were wilfully ignorant of, the way of holiness and pure religion, contained in the law of God.
The Lord, who is pure, zealous for his glory, sovereign in his authority, rich in his rewards, severe in his punishments, and true to his promises and threats; that nothing can be more prejudicial to a people than to forsake, nor any thing more conducive to the good of a people than to keep, his law.
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.The pride of Israel: it might have been rendered, the excellency or glory of Israel; and so, referred to God, it would be a prediction that God himself would witness against Israel. God is said to swear by the excellency of Jacob, Amos 8:7, i.e. by himself. Thus interpreted, it would very well accord with what follows in this and the following verse. But as it is here rendered, it is the haughtiness, carnal confidence of Israel, grown great under the long and prosperous reign of Jeroboam the Second, that they thought it impossible such calamities as foretold by the prophet should overtake them, or that God should think so ill of that worship they thought so well of; they neither confess their sins, nor fear God’s judgments.
Doth testify; is so full and evident witness against Israel, that no other testimony need be produced.
To his face; to convince and silence the most impudent and shameless among them.
Therefore shall Israel and Ephraim, the nine tribes, and the head of them, Ephraim,
fall in their iniquity; be ruined for their sins of which they are guilty, but repent not.
Judah, the two tribes under Ahaz, now lapsed to idolatry, also shall fall with them; be captivated too ere long, soon after sin will undo them.
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.They; the people of Judah, say some, but I rather think it is spoken of the Ephraimites, and either implies by what they did support their confidence of escaping ruin, or else foretells that extremity of sufferings should force them at last to offer sacrifices to God; and the Jewish doctors tell us, that under Hoshea’s reign Israel had liberty of bringing their offerings and sacrifices to Jerusalem: whether this were so or not, it is certain they did not seek him in right manner, it was with their flocks and herds, but not with their hearts, not with sound repentance.
But they shall not find him; whilst he might have been found they would not seek him, now as a punishment, and to leave them remediless, God will not be found of them; he will not either accept a sacrifice, or pardon their sin, or return to save them.
He hath withdrawn himself from them; in displeasure hath withdrawn his favourable presence from them, and with resolution to leave them to the violences of the Assyrian powers.
They have dealt treacherously against the LORD: for they have begotten strange children: now shall a month devour them with their portions.They, the whole house of Israel, priests, people, and princes, and their kings with them,
have dealt treacherously; have falsified their word and promise of fidelity and constancy, of love and affection, when they entered covenant with me; have turned idolaters, and worshipped and relied on false gods.
They have begotten strange children; as if it were not enough that they were idolaters, they have trained up their children in the same idolatry, partly by their instruction, and more by their examples.
Now, or therefore, or ere long, as Hosea 2:10.
A month; either the new moon, one particular species of ceremonial, superstitious worship put for all the rest, as some interpret, or rather, a time not long (as an age); not as to the old world, nor as to Nineveh, forty days, but a shorter time: possibly it may refer to Shallum’s short time of usurpation, which lasted but a month; a month shall devour them, the Assyrians shall make a speedy conquest over you.
With their portions; not only persons, but their goods and chattels, are exposed to speediest spoiling; and as a token of such future speedy desolation, the prophet points out a short reign of one of the usurpers, and foretells the precise time of his continuance, that when they shall see this come to pass. They might believe the rest foretold by the prophet should also come to pass. Nor is this conjecture without some ground, since we know that Shallum slew Zachariah before the people, 2 Kings 15:10, implying the people’s concurrence herein, and their accepting of Shallum with expectation of peace and prosperity, to the increase of their portion under his government, all which was blasted at the month’s end.
Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah: cry aloud at Bethaven, after thee, O Benjamin.Blow ye the cornet; ye watchmen, or whoever have the care and custody of these fortified towns, sound the alarm, for the enemy cometh.
In Gibeah; a town of Benjamin situate on a hill, built by Asa, 1 Kings 15:22; made by him a frontier, and likely always garrisoned against the incursion of the ten tribes.
And the trumpet; add to the sound of the cornet the trumpet also, which is proper for war, and will be best understood by the people; lest they mistake the meaning of the cornet, which is, say some, a pastoral instrument, proper for shepherds, sound the trumpet.
In Ramah; of which there were three, one in Naphtali, and Rama-sophim, and this of Benjamin near Gibeah, and was an inlet into Judah, of great importance, as appears 1 Kings 15:17,21; a town of strength, built on a high hill, and fit to be as a watchtower. Be you upon your guard when the invader is so near.
Cry aloud at Beth-aven; as more concerned, cry out with more vehemency, awaken all to prepare for defence; or, howl and lament for the things that are come upon thee, O Beth-aven. The Assyrians’ march will alarm thy neighbours, but their success against thee will ruin thee utterly. Let thine inhabitants therefore cry and howl. If that Beth-aven situate in the wilderness, this passage foretells the destruction of it by the Assyrians, probably in the beginning of their invasion; if it were Beth-el, it was the chief seat of idolatry, and first or chief in miseries.
After thee, O Benjamin:
thee referred to Beth-aven speaks thus; after thy cries, when thou hast howled, let Benjamin and Judah too begin theirs, for they shall also fall for their sin.
Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be.Ephraim; the whole kingdom of the ten tribes, all sorts and ranks of men among them.
Shall be desolate; a desolation, i. e. most desolate, utterly cut off.
In the day of rebuke; when Shalmaneser shall come up with his forces, besiege, sack, and captivate all thy cities, and Samaria with the rest; when by these Assyrians I shall rebuke, i.e. punish.
Among the tribes of Israel, to the house of Israel openly, so that all might be informed, have I made known; by my prophets I have foretold what should be, and by some judgments already executed I have further made known to them; they are sufficiently warned, and should have considered in time, and prevented their own calamities.
That which shall surely be; what is irrevocably determined and ratified, and they shall never evade, nor ever overcome.
The princes of Judah were like them that remove the bound: therefore I will pour out my wrath upon them like water.The princes; the great men about the king and court, the rulers and governors, who by the law of God and man should have been the maintainers of equity and justice among the people.
Of Judah; of the kingdom of Judah, or the two tribes.
Were; have been, and now are in the days of Ahaz, for to this man’s time the prophet now pointeth.
Like them that remove the bound; the ancient bounds which limited every one, prevented controversies and oppressions of encroaching, covetous men. The prophet, I doubt not, aims at reproving the sin of these great ones in changing the laws of religion, as well as altering the bounds of civil rights, whether by encroaching upon foreigners, and enlarging the kingdom of Judah by entrenching on the neighbouring kingdoms, or, which is more certain, by injustice and violence seizing what was another’s.
Therefore I will pour out my wrath upon them: this was sin and forbidden, Deu 19:14; this practice is cursed, Deu 27:17, and God now will punish it.
Like water; like an overflowing flood.
Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.Ephraim; the subjects of the kingdom of Israel, the ten tribes; the prophet resumeth his threat against them.
Is oppressed; supposing, as well we may, that this prophecy respecteth Ahaz’s time, it will appear that the reigns of Zachariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, and Pekah were past, which were unjust, seditious, bloody, and tyrannical times, in which oppressions abounded, and of which our prophet now speaketh. The ten tribes are by sedition, civil wars, and bloody conspiracies eaten up already almost. But to those God will add his displeasure, and the Assyrians shall be the executioners, and shall oppress Ephraim.
Broken in judgment, i.e. through fear of the partiality of the judge; though his cause be equal and just, yet money, or money’s worth, is extorted, to prevent an unjust, or to procure a just sentence; a known course in such days as those the prophet lived in, or as the days of Marius and Sylla.
Because he, Ephraim, spoken of as if one person, perhaps to intimate the universal defection,
willingly walked; it was not forced upon them, they did it willingly. Though there was a law commanding, yet there was in the people a forwardness, and too great a readiness, to comply and obey that law which made idolatry the establishment in the ten tribes.
After the commandment; to forbear going to the temple, and to worship the calves at Dan and Beth-el, as Jeroboam son of Nebat required.
Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness.Therefore, or And, Heb. I will be; I am; it is concise in the Hebrew, and might be thus expressed, But, or And, as for me, I am, and will be, to the ten tribes.
As a moth: moths do leisurely eat up and mar our clothes; so God was then, and had been from Jeroboam’s death to this day, weakening the ten tribes; their seditions did eat them up.
And to the house of Judah; the two tribes, who now with Ahaz did, as Ephraim, cast God off.
As rottenness; shall secretly consume and rot as wood doth by worms; so God will punish both Israel and Judah, these shall be forerunners and preparatories to the final desolation of both; of the one by Assyria, and of the other by Babylon.
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.When, Heb. And, after that. Ephraim; the king, and council, and kingdom of the ten tribes; Menahem is surely meant: see 2 Kings xv.
Saw his sickness; weakness, like a consumption, threatening death. Though Menahem had killed Shallun, and got into the throne, yet he found himself unable to hold it against the opposite faction, and therefore sent for assistance from Assyria, 2 Kings 15:19, or at least purchased the friendship of Pul, who was come out as an enemy.
Judah, the other kingdom of the two tribes, saw his wound; a deep and festering wound; or a corrupting imposthume, which needs be opened, cleansed, and bound up: such was the state of the two tribes at that day, ulcerous and full of danger, for Ahaz had done very wickedly, and wounded the kingdom.
Then went, made application,
Ephraim to the Assyrian; particularly to Pul, as 2 Kings 15:19,20. Not one word of their going to God, he was not in all their thoughts: he did afflict leisurely that they might seek him, but they forgot him still.
And sent ambassadors and presents to entreat and procure his help,
to king Jareb: whilst interpreters agree not who this Jareb was, while some will have it be a proper, others an appellative name, of a person or place, I think it will be a surer course’ to compare times, who was king of Assyria when Ephraim was sick and Judah was wounded, and both felt it, for whoever this will prove to be, he it is that is meant by Jareb: Pul in Menahem’s time, Tiglath-pileser in Ahaz’s time. Or what if Jareb be the sum of what Ephraim and Judah desired of this Assyrian king; they complained of wrong received, and sent to this foreign king their complaint, and requested that he would judge, or, in our modern terms, be arbitrator; so the word will bear.
Yet could he not heal you; Ephraim’s sickness grew worse by it, Israel was sicker for it.
Nor cure you, Judah, Ahaz, and his wounded state, of your wound; the Assyrian king was either unable or unwilling to heal the wound, which he knew would as much profit him as hurt his patient.
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.For I, the Lord, whose power is infinite, whose wrath they have enkindled, who hath threatened to extirpate them,
will be unto Ephraim as a lion; a panther, say some, a very swift beast, wherein he excels the lion, and a very fierce and ravenous creature, wherein he equals the lion; or a lioness, say others: but to leave that, God will make the Assyrian a chirurgeon, such as a fierce, ravenous lion would be to a wounded man. As a young lion to the house of Judah; which is grown up to his strength for mischief, and retains his inclination to gamesomeness, or to play with his prey; so should Judah find himself when caught by this lion, first made a sport to please the tyrannous humour, and after made a feast to feed his ravenous hunger.
I, even I, will tear: the threat is doubled to ascertain it and make it more dreadful. Divine vengeance by the Assyrians shall be as a lion tearing his prey.
And go away: when satisfied, the lion goes away, fleeth not for fear.
I will take away: he leaveth not ally behind him, carrieth away what he did not cat; so should Assyria devour the land, and carry away the people.
None shall rescue him: none have courage to attempt or power to effect a rescue, the prey must hopelessly perish; so it will be with Ephraim and Judah, when God appears as a lion against them.
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.I will go and return to my place: after the manner of man God speaks, he will do that which shall be like a man’s going away from such as refuse though they need his help, he retires; God will withdraw his saving help.
Till they acknowledge their offence; till they confess and humble themselves for their sins.
And seek my face; me their God, my mercy, and my law; their Sovereign as well as Saviour.
In their affliction they will seek me early; in deep distresses they will, at least some will, seek me diligently, as indeed they did at the end of Judah’s seventy years’ captivity.