Matthew Poole's 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.Israel reproved for manifold sins, Hosea 7:1-10. God’s wrath against them for their hypocrisy, Hosea 7:11-16.
When: whether this chapter be a new sermon, or a continuation of that begun Ho 6, we need not inquire, nor are there any particulars by which we can guess at the time when this healing work was attempted; but, so soon as it was endeavoured; indefinitely it is spoken, and so to be interpreted.
I would have healed Israel: God doth assume the person of a physician or chirurgeon, who compassionately endeavours to cure a people sick and wounded: such was the house of Israel, the whole body of the people.
The iniquity; the hidden, old, and putrefying sores, here called iniquity, the impieties and injustice.
Of Ephraim; of Israel, called Ephraim, or of Ephraim, the chief tribe of this revolting kingdom; some would have it mean the rulers, or principal men.
Was discovered; broke out; as many times in cures of old sores it happens some deeper and more rooted distemper, unthought of by the chirurgeon, appears. The wickedness, the great and many sins
of Samaria, the royal city of the kingdom, where citizens, priests, prophets, and courtiers as much outsinned others as they exceeded them in wealth and ease.
They commit falsehood; lying and cozening each other is acted as if it were a business they were bound to attend.
The thief cometh in; secret thefts, or robbing others by subtle and undiscerned methods.
The troop of robbers spoileth without; and open violence by hands joined to hands to spoil abroad. In a word, the strength and danger of their disease appears and increaseth more and more under endeavours to heal them.
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.They who are thus greatly wicked, notorious sinners,
consider not in their hearts, do not remember, nor will they once seriously ponder this, that I remember all their wickedness; that I see all they do, and remember all I see; and that with more than an idle, unactive looking on, or retaining in memory; I look on, and remember to call them to account, and to punish for their sins. They would flatter themselves into an opinion that I take no notice of their wickedness, and that I will never require it.
Their own doings; the guilt and punishment, the iniquity and mischief, of the works they have done; their own doings, not their fathers’, as hypocrites and the incorrigible are ready to complain.
Have beset them about: as cords wrap one taken in them, or as an enemy invests and besiegeth a town on every side, so these profligate people, courtiers, priests, prophets, and citizens, are all held enclosed with their own sins.
They are before my face; what they have done I do see, and what they suffer I do see, and it is but just they should suffer what their sins deserve: they hoped for impunity, because they thought I did not regard, but now by a just punishment, by full measures of sorrows heaped upon them, they shall find all their ways were under my eye, and that I weighed their doings.
They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies.They, either the subjects in general, or rather the courtiers in particular who were about the king,
make the king glad with their wickedness: the kings of Israel, every one of them from first to last, were addicted to vicious practices, and their minds were vitiated, deeply tainted with all kind of sins, and they it seems took pleasure in sins, both in their own and other men’s; and here are a parcel of flagitious fellows that make it their work to invent pleasing wickedness, to acquaint their king with it, who is so far from doing his duty in discountenancing it, that it is one of his delights to hear or see it.
The princes; great men about the court.
With their lies; with false accusations brought in against the more innocent, or by false reports made of their words and actions, representing them as ridiculous or foolish, drolling them into infamy.
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.They are all adulterers, both spiritually and carnally, and this latter adultery is that which here is charged on the courtiers and people of Israel.
As an oven heated by the baker: this vice is grown raging hot among them, as you see the fire in an oven, when the baker, having called up those that make the bread, to prepare all things ready, and the whole mass is leavened, he doth by continued supply of fuel heat the oven to the highest degree. So doth adultery among this people grow by degrees to raging flames. The whole mass of the people are leavened with this vice also, as well as the court, and every one inflamed with this unclean fire, as the oven heated by the baker.
In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners.In the day of our king: whether this day were any occasional day that the king of Israel took to feast his nobles, as Ahasuerus did his; or whether the anniversary of his birth or coronation, both which were usually celebrated among most nations, the birthday especially; so Pharaoh, Genesis 40:20, and Herod, Matthew 14:6; whether of these we inquire not curiously.
The princes, who attended on the king to witness their joy in the remembrance of that day which made the public glad so great a blessing was bestowed upon them, and to wish many such days unto their king and the kingdom.
Have made him sick with bottles of wine; in their excess of drinking healths, no doubt; instead of a pious arid thankful remembrance of God’s mercies, they run into monstrous impieties of luxury and drunkenness, and with bottles of wine, drank off probably at one draught, inflame themselves and their king, and drink him almost to death while they drink and wish his life.
He stretched out his hand: in these drunken feasts it seems the king of Israel forgat himself, became too familiar a companion, and used the formalities of these drinking matches, stretched out his hand with scorners, who deride religion, and wish confusion to the professors of it.
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.For; surely.
They; those luxurious and drinking princes, Hosea 7:5.
Have made ready their heart like an oven; do keep close some fire of ambition, revenge, or covetousness, like as a baker keeps a hot fire within his oven.
Whiles they lie in wait, either against the life or estate of some of their fellow subjects, or it may be, as appears Hosea 7:7, against the life which they seemed in their cups to pray for.
Their baker sleepeth all the night; he who should watch and prevent mischief is swallowed up in the day with feasting and drunkenness, and sleeps in security all the night, never suspecting the projects of conspirators.
In the morning it burneth as a flaming fire; but when he awakes too late, he seeth all in flames, and past quenching. Sedition and rebellion is among these a sin as hateful to God as dangerous to the public, yet frequently acted by the usurpers of those dissolute times.
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.This verse is a key to the former, and helps us to understand the true sense thereof.
They: see Hosea 7:6.
All; in a larger and more vulgar sense, the most, or almost all of them, few excepted.
As an oven: see Hosea 7:6.
Have devoured; as fire destroys, so have these conspirators, when successful, destroyed.
Their judges; those that were magistrates and rulers. who having somewhat of integrity, would not join with them, nor promote the interest of usurpers.
All their kings; all that had been since Jeroboam the Second’s reign to the delivery of this prophecy, viz. Zachariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, Pekah; these four fell by the conspiracy of such hot princes, only Menahem died a natural death. Are fallen, by treason and violence from such as would drink them sick with wishes of health.
There is none among them that calleth unto me; not one of all these either feared, trusted, or worshipped God. By profession all were idolaters, in practice debauched, and by their company they kept these latter kings of Israel appear under a suspicion of men contemning God, and deriding providence; but they are long since fallen, where they must lie for ever, under God’s justice.
Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.Ephraim; the kingdom of Israel.
Hath mixed himself among the people, by leagues and commerce, by imitation of their manners, and by either entertaining their gods, and sacrificing to them, or at least worshipping idols as the nations about them did, directly contrary to the express law of God, Deu 7:2-4 12:2,3. This was their sin, and the greater because voluntary: the expression seems to represent it as a thing of their own seeking, they did mix themselves with the heathen, whereas had the heathen sought it, it would in likelihood have been said that the nations mixed themselves with Ephraim; but this is in other words the same with Hosea 2:5,7. Or this passage may be (as some conceive) a threat that the Ephraimites should be scattered among the nations, be captives to them, and dispersed amongst them, with whom, to ease their condition a little, they should endeavour to mix by friendship and alliances: if so, this is the punishment of their former sinful confederacies.
Ephraim is a cake not turned: some interpret this of the particoloured temper of Ephraim, by such a proverb as ours, Is neither fish nor flesh; neither Israelite nor heathen, but a mongrel; neither a heathen idolater nor yet a worshipper of God, a hotch-potch of different religions and policies, like them, 1 Kings 18:21 Zephaniah 1:5; neither bread nor yet dough, but partly both, as the unturned cake on the coals is: but it better expresseth their danger and sudden ruin, whose hungry enemies will eat them up quickly, as men do who for haste will not stay the full baking of their cake.
Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not.Strangers; foreigners, whose aid Ephraim sought, as 2 Kings 15:19,20, when Menahem bought the friendship of Pul king of Assyria for one thousand talents of silver, and impoverished the land thereby.
Have devoured; eat up, lived upon, as men live on bread they eat.
His strength; the riches and goods of the kingdom of Israel; the fruit of the olive and vine; the fruit of the earth, corn; the increase of their flocks and of their herds; the most or best of all eaten up by strangers, either soldiers in garrison among them, or else courted by presents and rich gifts sent to them.
Knoweth it not; is not sensible either of the cause why, or the tendency of this hasty consumption of all; still they are secure, and sin as much as ever.
Grey hairs are here and there upon him; the manifest symptoms of approaching death, undeniable tokens of old age, and declining strength never recoverable, are upon their kingdom, like grey hairs that are here and there intermixed on the head of a man: what with domestic seditions and foreign invasions, and the fears, cares, and griefs from both, Ephraim is turned grey-headed, his vital vigour and strength decayeth, and this is a forerunner of his death.
Yet he knoweth it not; so secure and stupid, that no notice is taken of this, nor any course thought of for preventing the dismal effects of this declining consumptive state; none turn from sin, none seek to God, the only Physician that can heal.
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.The pride of Israel testifieth to his face: see Hosea 5:5. Their proud contempt of God and his threats, of the prophets and their warnings, is notorious.
They do not return to the Lord; they persist in sin without repentance, run away from God rather than return to him. Of this phrase,
return, see Hosea 6:1.
Their God; who was theirs of old, who still would be theirs on fair terms, of whom they talk and boast.
Nor seek him; see this phrase Hosea 5:15; they pray not, repent not, nor rely on God.
For all this; though so greatly, continually, and severely punished, though almost eaten up.
Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.Ephraim: see Hosea 7:1,8.
Is like a silly dove; a deceived dove, seduced by false prophets and idolatrous priests, whose weak arguments are soon believed, and whose unseasonable advice is too soon followed: Ephraim is now become like the dove in weakness and fear, as well as in imprudence and liableness to be deceived.
Without heart: this explains the former, whether heart here be judgment and discretion, as sometimes it is, or be resolution and courage, as other while it is; this dove, this Ephraim, wants both.
They call; they should in their perplexity call on God, who can help, but they do not; they call indeed, but not to their God, or to a friend.
To Egypt: this Hoshea did, 2 Kings 17:4; and I remember not any mention of other application to Egypt since Jehu’s time. It is probable Hosea aims at this embassy, and private confederacy, of which, as of a thing in hand, he speaketh. They do call to Egypt, whose king is called So, and judged to be Sabacon the Ethiopian, who had lately conquered Egypt: by this also may we guess at the time of this prophecy, about some four years before Samaria was taken.
They go to Assyria; so did Menahem when on the throne, so did Hoshea, as is evident, 2 Kings 15:19,20, with 2 Kings 17:3. Thus both betrayed the greatest imprudence, depending for help on professed, old inveterate enemies. So silly were they! See Hosea 5:13 14:3.
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.When they shall go, whensoever they shall send their ambassadors to seek aid of Egypt or Assyria,
I will spread my net upon them; as fowlers spread the net, watch the birds, and cast it over them to catch them, so will God do to Ephraim. So he did with Israel when he accepted the alliance of Shalmaneser, and turned tributary; and again, when Israel sought by Egypt’s help to get out of the snares of their vassalage to Shalmaneser, who revenged the conspiracy with a total captivity; nor can there be likelihood or possibility these fugitives should escape when it is God’s net, and he spreads it, his almighty power, his allsearching wisdom, his just vengeance, that follows them.
I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; though they attempt to fly, yet as fowls in the net they shall certainly fall, I will bring them down; as he did when they were gathered into Samaria as a net, and there made prisoners, and thence carried captives.
I will chastise them, thus they shall be punished,
as their congregation hath heard, both from the law of Moses which they had with them, and as they had heard from my prophets which I have sent unto them. I will, saith God, make good my word.
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.Woe unto them! it is the voice both of menace and lamentation, the prophet doth at once foretell and bewail their miseries.
They have fled from me; as if it were not enough that they did at first leave my government, temple, and worship, they have gone further from me, they have hastened herein, they flew from me as birds on wing: their sin is apostacy.
Destruction unto them! this explains the woe already mentioned, such woe it will be as ends in destruction.
Because they have transgressed against me; rebelliously cast off my law and government, much in state, more in church matters, oppressors in one, idolaters in the other, and incorrigible in both.
Though I have redeemed them; out of Egypt; but that is long since, and the prophet speaks of deliverance nearer to the times he lived in: God redeemed them partly by Joash, 2 Kings 18, but more fully by Jeroboam the Second, 2 Kings 14, and would have completed this deliverance, but they by sins hinder it.
Yet they have spoken lies against me; practically they belie me, fleeing to idols, worshipping them, praying to them, as if I were not able or willing to help them; and ascribing praise of the good they enjoy to their idols, Hosea 2:5-7: they belied his corrections, as if not deserved, or severer than need; they belied the good done, as if too little, or not done by God, but by their idol.
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.And they, immersed in these troubles. taken in the net, have not cried unto me; either they cried to their idols, not to God, see Hosea 7:7; or else their tongues made noise, their hearts were silent, and that is, in God’s account, no cry at all.
With their heart; with affection, hope, humility, and sincerity; but out of some trouble, and more fear, they cried out to be delivered out of their pain and fear; it is therefore elegantly and properly called howling: though they did thus howl, yet they prayed not, they did not pour out a supplication to their God.
Upon their beds; on their couches, or in their chambers.
They assemble, in the houses of their idols, for corn and wine; that they may have plenty of these to satisfy their appetite, to live luxuriously, and in jollity.
They rebel against me; as in the use of these to excess, so in this manner of seeking these, they rebel against God, and give that honour to the idol which is due only to God.
Though I have bound and strengthened their arms, yet do they imagine mischief against me.Though I; but as for me, or, And I.
Bound; or chastised, as the word will bear; or instructed; either notion will well suit the place. When I had chastised them for their sins, as in Jehoahaz’s time, I strengthened them in Jehoash’s time, and in Jeroboam’s time, and made them stronger than their enemies. Or, I taught them, gave them wisdom and skill to handle their weapons; so David speaks, Psalm 18:34, He teacheth my hands to war, and Psalm 144:1. But the sense best suits with what he took upon him before, if we retain it as our version hath it, bound as a chirurgeon binds up a weakened member, or, having set a broken one, doth with swathes and bands bind it up; so did God for Ephraim, when the Syrians and other enemies had broken their arms.
And strengthened their arms; as I took care to bind, so I did, what none else could, give strength to them, both courage of mind, and strength of body, and success added to both; so they subdued them that had formerly wasted and spoiled them. What successes Jehoash had, or Jeroboam had, I gave, and they should have owned it, and been thankful; but they imagine mischief against me; they contrived, laid their heads together, and designed what evil they could against me: they imputed their successes to their idols, to their way of worship, and hardened themselves against all thoughts of repentance, and returning to me; and devised mischief against my prophets, and let loose the reins to all impieties. This is their requital for all my love!
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.They return; they sometimes have given some signs of returning, as when Jehu destroyed Baal, or Hoshea gave liberty to Israel to go up to Jerusalem (if it be true which some affirm of him); and if I were sure Hoshea did this, I should think the prophet aimed at it; in this they return,
but not to the Most High; Jehu fell off to the calves, and Hoshea’s reign was wicked too much, though the reigns of other kings were more wicked; what show soever of repentance among them, yet they never thoroughly repented, never fully embraced the law of God.
They are like a deceitful bow; all was done (as the similitude elegantly sets it forth) in mere hypocrisy; though they seemed bent for and aiming at the mark, yet, like a weak bow, they carried not the arrow home, and, like a false bow, they never carried it straight toward the mark. Their princes; the royal family, principal nobles and magistrates, their brave commanders and leaders.
Shall fall by the sword; be slain by either sword of base, false, and bloody traitors at home, or by sword of foreigners, as the Assyrian.
The rage of their tongue, against God, his prophets and providence, which to decry with scorners was their usual diversion, Hosea 7:5. This, this sad end,
shall be their derision, shall be upbraided to them, in the land of Egypt; among their allies and seeming friends.