Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images.
Verse 1. - Israel is an empty vine. The comparison of Israel to a vine is frequent; but the epithet boqeq is variously rendered;
(1) as "empty." Thus Aben Ezra explains it as "empty in which there is no strength to bring forth fruit, nor fruit;" and thus also Kimchi explains it: "An empty vine in which there is not any life-sap;" and in the same sense בי ומי, "empty and sick," Nahum 2:11. This, too, is the meaning of the Authorized Version, but is irreconcilable with the statement in the following clause, "he bringeth forth fruit." The Chaldee had preceded in giving the word the sense of "plundered," "empty," "waste." But
(2) some take boqeq transitively, and attach to it the signification of "emptying out its fruit." In this way Rashi explains it: "The Israelites resemble a vine which casts all its good fruit;" and similarly the marginal rendering of the Authorized Version has, "a vine emptying the fruit which it giveth." There is
(3) a signification derivable from the primary meaning of boqeq more suitable than either of the preceding. From the primary sense of "pouring," "pouring itself out," or" poured out," and so overflowing, comes that of "luxuriant." Accordingly Gesenius translates, "a wide-spreading vine." This agrees with the Septuagint εὐκληματοῦσα, "a vine with goodly branches," to which the Vulgate frondosa, "leafy," nearly corresponds. In like manner De Wette renders it wuchernder, "growing prosperously." It was thus a vine of vigorous growth, and extending its branches far and wide; a parallel expression is found in the גי סֹרַחַת of Ezekiel 17:6, "a spreading vine." He (rather, it) bringeth forth fruit unto him self (itself). The word יְשַׁוֶּהliterally signifies "reset to" or "on," and is rightly rendered by Gesenius "to set" or "yield fruit." It is variously interpreted by the Hebrew commentators, but more or less erroneously by them all. Rashi takes it in the sense of "to profit;" Aben Ezra, "to bear" or "make equal;" and Kimchi informs us that the older interpreters understood in the sense of "lying," as if שוא, the whole phrase meaning, "the fruit will lie to him," that is, deceive or fail him (like Hosea 9:2). Kimchi himself takes the verb in the right sense, but, misled by his erroneous explanation of boqeq, empty or plundered, takes the clause interrogatively: "How shall he set on himself [equivalent to 'yield' any fruit], since he is as a plundered vine; for the enemies have plundered him and set him as an empty vessel? how should he still thrive and become numerous in children and treasures?" It makes little difference whether we take the second part of the first clause relatively or independently, as the sense amounts to the same. The meaning of the two difficult and disputed words then we take to be respectively "luxuriant" and "yield;" and the sense of the whole is either
(1) a comparison of the former state of Israel to a vine luxuriant and likely, as far as appearance went, to set forth fruit; but the luxuriance degenerated into leafage, and the likelihood of fruitage failed; or
(2) Israel is compared to a vine luxuriant in growth and abundant in fruit - but only for itself. The former explanation accords with that of Jerome when he says, "Unpruned vines luxuriate in the juice and leaves which they ought to transmute into wine. They disperse in the idle ambitious show of leaves and branches." The more abundantly a fruit tree gives out its strength in leaves and branches, the less abundant and the worse the quality of the fruit. Thus it was with the fig tree, with its abundant leaves and no fruit, which our Lord cursed. But with the same or a similar rendering there is the alternative sense of prosperous growth and plenteous fruit, but that fruit wasted on self or sin; and thus the meaning in either case is much the same. The Septuagint favors this by ὁ καρπὸς εὐθηνῶν αὐτῆς, equivalent to "its fruit exuberant." Cyril favors this latter also in saying, "When Israel still wisely led a life in accordance with the Divine Law, it was as a beautiful vine adorned with branches, which even the neighboring nations admired." This was exactly the state of Israel in the days of Joash and Jeroboam II.; but their prosperity was prostituted to purposes of idolatry. Jerome also, in any other part of his exposition, approaches this sense. Taking ישוּה, in the sense of "to equal," he says, "The fecundity of the grapes equaled the fecundity of the branches: but they who had previously been so fruitful before they offended God, afterwards turned the abundance of fruits into multiplied occasions of offence; and the greater the population they possessed, the more altars they built, and exceeded the abundant produce of the land by the multitude of their idols." Or the verb may mean, "it made fruit equal to itself;" nearly so the Vulgate. The fruit is agreeable to it. According to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars. In this second or middle clause of the verse the figure passes into the fact represented by it. It is no longer the vine, but Israel. The altars kept pace with the increase of population and abundant produce; the multiplication of altars for idolatrous sacrifice and service was proportionate to their prosperity. The l' here and in next clause marks the circumlocutory genitive, and the ke is quantitative. According to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images (margin, statues, or, standing images). The matstsevoth here mentioned are στήλης in the LXX., that is, statues or pillars, and those pillars were erected to Baal or some other idol, as we read in 1 Kings 14:23. The plural of the verb in this last clause arises from Israel being a noun of multitude. Rashi gives the following brief exposition: "Just in proportion as I caused their prosperity to overflow to them, they multiplied calves for the altars;" but Kimchi explains both clauses more fully and accurately thus: "As I increased their prosperous state in treasures and children, they multiplied altars to Baal; as I did good to their land in corn and wine and oil, they waxed strong in setting up pillars for other gods;" the verb חטי has the same sense here as ההטי in Jonah 4:9.
Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images.
Verse 2. - Their heart is divided. Here their wickedness is traced to its fountainhead; its source was in the corrupt state of the heart. Their heart was
(1) divided, and so they halted between two opinions - between the worship of Jehovah and idolatry. Chalaq is taken in this signification by the Chaldee, Syriac, Septuagint, and Jerome, as also by the Hebrew commentators. The LXX. have
(a) ἐμέρισεν in the singular, which affords some support to Hitzig's rendering, "He (God)divided their heart," - but this is unsuitable and unscriptural; another
(b) reading of the same version is ἐμέρισαν, "They have divided their hearts," which is somewhat better, yet incorrect.
(c) The Authorized Version is also questionable, as the verb is not used intransitively in Qal.
(2) Kimchi, indeed, understands chalaq as equivalent to niehloq in the Niphal, and interprets, "From the fear of God and from his Law their heart is divided," i.e. separated; similarly Rashi: "Their heart is divided from me;" Aben Ezra somewhat peculiarly, though to the same purport: "They (their heart) has not one part (but several),"or is divided. But, notwithstanding this consensus in favor of the meaning of "divide," the rendering preferred, and justly so, by modern expositors in general, is "smooth." This is, indeed, the primary sense, that of "divide" being secondary, as division was made by lot or a smooth stone, cheleq, used for the purpose.
(3) "Their heart is smooth," that is, bland, deceitful, hypocritical; though it must be admitted that the word is mostly applied to the tongue, lip, throat, mouth, speech, and not to the heart. Their heart was hypocritical and faithless. Now shall they be found faulty; rather, they shall be dealt with as such, or punished; better still, perhaps, is the rendering, now shall they atone. The "now" defines sharply the turning-point between God's love and God's wrath. The state of things hitherto existing cannot continue; it must soon come to an end. Ere long they are doomed to discover their guilt in its punishment; they shall find out their sin by suffering; suddenly and to their cost they shall have a fearful awaking to a sense of their iniquity by the inflictions of Divine wrath upon their guilty heads. He shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images. The verb עדפ is peculiar; being a denominative from ערֶפ, the neck, it signifies "to break the neck of," like the Greek τραχηλίζειν, decollate, then figuratively "tear down," "break in pieces." This bold expression of breaking the neck of the altars may allude to their destruction by breaking off the horns of the altars, or rather to their beheading, cutting off the heads of victims at those altars. The Hebrew expositors make the heart of the people, not God, the immediate object of the verb. "Their heart," says one of them, "shall tear down their altars and lay waste their pillars, because it is divided from me. It will tear down their altars which they are said also to have multiplied, and lay waste their pillars which they made so goodly." The means of sinning shall be taken from them and destroyed - their altars broken down and their images spoiled. As the heads of victims had been cut off at these altars erected for idolatrous worship; so the heads of their altars would be broken off.
For now they shall say, We have no king, because we feared not the LORD; what then should a king do to us?
Verse 3. - For now they shall say, We have no king, because we feared not the Lord. In the day of their destruction Israel would be brought to see and even feel that the king appointed through their own self-will and fancied plenitude of power was unable to protect or help them, and that because they had rejected Jehovah and cast aside his fear. The point of time denoted by "now" is either when they see destruction before their eyes, or when Israel is already in captivity. Rashi explains it in the former sense: "When destruction shall come upon them, they shall say, 'We have no king,' that is, our king on whom we set our hopes when we said, 'Our king shall go out before us and light our battles,' affords us no help whatever." Kimchi explains similarly, but fixes the "now" in the time of the Captivity: "Now, when they shall be carried out of their land, they shall recognize and say, 'We have no king;' the explanation is, as it' we had no king among us, for there is no strength in him to deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, as we thought when we asked for a king who should march at our head and fight our battles. God - blessed be he! - was our King, and we needed no king, and he it was that delivered us out of the hand of our enemies when we did his will." Aben Ezra and others understand it as the expression of a wild licorice on the part of Israel, recklessly giving vent to an anarchical and atheistic spirit: "As soon as their heart was divided they had no wish to have a king over them, and had no fear of Jehovah; therefore they had no fear, and every one did what was right in his own eyes." This exposition neglects the note of time, as also the causal particle that follows. They bethought themselves that, as they had not feared Jehovah, but neglected his Law, the king which they had demanded could do them no good. "What," they asked, "can the king do for us? He has no power to deliver us, since God is angry with us, for we have sinned against him?" Such is the confession of Israel in captivity. Pusey remarks in reference to this: "In sin, all Israel had asked for a king, when the Lord was their King; in sin, Ephraim had made Jeroboam king; in sin, their subsequent kings were made, without the counsel and advice of God; and now, as the close of all, they reflect how fruitless it all was."
They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant: thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field.
Verse 4. - God, by the prophet, had charged Israel with fruitlessness, or with bringing forth fruit to themselves; with perverting the bounties of his providence in promoting idolatry; with their division of heart, or deceitfulness of heart. He had also threatened to punish them for their sin, and to deprive them of the means of sinning by destroying the instruments thereof, and to prevent their obtaining any help from their king, proving to them the folly of depending on him. He now proceeds, in this and following verses (4-8), to point out their moral corruption, the usual consequence or concomitant of irreligion and of false religion, instancing their deceptive dealing in the common affairs of life and their perjury in public compacts or covenants, as also their general unrighteousness. He threatens to destroy their idols to the distress of their worshippers and ministering priests as well as of their chief city. He threatens further to cause their calf-idols to be carried into captivity, pouring shame and contempt on their enterprises; to cut off their king; to leave the places of their idol-worship desolate, filling the people with distress and despair because of all their sins. They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant. In this fourth verse the prophet deplores the absence of truth, faithfulness, and loyalty to duty. This expression, "they have spoken words," is generally understood to signify
(a) "empty words," "false words," only words and no more, like the Latin verba alicui dare. Thus their vain, deceitful, lying words in private transactions and common affairs of everyday life would correspond to their perjury in public treaties and covenants. Their words were deceitful and their oaths falsehood. In their ordinary business transactions they used words, empty words, words without truth, corresponding thereto; in international concerns they had pursued the same course of falsifying and covenant-breaking. After entering into an engagement with the Assyrian king Shalmaneser, they made a covenant with So King of Egypt, as we read in 2 Kings 17:4, "And the King of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea: for he had sent messengers to So King of Egypt, and brought no present to the King of Assyria, as he had done year by year." In this latter case they acted as covenant-breakers, and at the same time contravened the Divine command, which forbade them entering into covenants with foreigners. The first clause, however, is understood by some
(b) in the sense of "deliberating.' Thus Kimchi understands it, erroneously referring it to Jeroboam and his countrymen; thus: "Jeroboam and his companions took counsel what they should do in order to strengthen the government in his hand, and they deliberated (or held consultation) that the people should not go up to Jerusalem to the house of the sanctuary; and for this purpose they bound themselves by oath and made a covenant. But their oath was a vain one, because their oath was intended to frustrate the words of the Law and the command of God, and to make images for their worship." The words אָללֺוֹת ָשוְא have been explained by some
(1) as "oaths of vanity," that is, oaths by vanity or an idol, as an oath of Jehovah is an oath by Jehovah, אָלות being taken for a noun in the plural;
(2) as predicate, while the following words supply the subject; thus: "their covenant contracts are oaths of vanity." This mistake of taking אָלות for a noun arose from the anomalous form of the word, which is really a verb. The form is explained by Aben Ezra, who calls it an irregular formation, as if it were compounded of the infinitive construct as indicated by the ending אּות, and the infinitive absolute as indicated by the qamets in the first syllable; it is in reality the infinitive absolute, and the irregularity is owing to the assonance with karoth thence resulting. As to the construction, it is that of the infinitive standing in place of the finite verb, of which Gesenius says, "This is frequent... in the expression of several successive acts or states, where only the first of the verbs employed takes the required form in respect to tense and person, the others being simply put in the infinitive with the same tense and person implied." The meaning of the clause is obviously that there was no longer any respect for the sanctity of an oath; while the treaties refer to those made with the Assyrian king, with the object of securing and upholding the government. Thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field. The judgment here spoken of is understood
(1) by the Hebrew interpreters, following the Chaldee Version, as the judgment of God and consequent punishment of Israel because of sin; thus Kinchi: "Therefore there springs up against them the judgment of chastisements and punishments like hemlock, which is a bitter herb that springs up on the furrows of the field." Some, again,
(2) explain it of the decree of the kings of Israel in reference to the worship of idols, which, like a bitter herb, was to issue in national ruin. We much prefer
(3) the more obvious sense of the clause which refers it to the perversion of judgment and justice. Thus Amos addresses them as those who "turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth," and calls on them to "establish judgment in the gate;" and Habakkuk writes, "Wrong [wrested] judgment proceedeth." It is implied in the mention of furrows that there has been careful preparation for the intended crop. The seed they sow is injustice; and the plant that springs up from it is a poison-plant - hemlock, bitter and noxious, and is everywhere rampant. Another
(4) explanation understands "judgment" in the sense of crime which calls on judgment for punishment. The field is that of the Israelitish nation; in all the furrows of that wide field judgment, that is, crime, springs up as luxuriantly and abundantly as hemlock. The multiplication of crime in Israel, like a luxurious noxious growth in some large field, is the idea thus conveyed. This explanation has the appearance at least of being somewhat strained and forced, though it yields a good sense.
The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Bethaven: for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it.
Verse 5. - The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear Because of the calves of Beth-aven. Samaria was the capital of Israel, the northern kingdom. Bethel means "house of God," once a place of sacred memory from its association with the history of the patriarch Jacob; afterward one of the two centers of idolatrous worship, and here called Beth-aven, "house of vanity," because of the idolatry. The word for "calves" is in the feminine, in order to express contempt for those idols which Jeroboam set up. With this have been compared the following expressions in Greek and Latin: Ἀχαι'´ιδες οὐκ ἔτ Ἀχαιοὶ, and O vere Phrygiae, nec enim Phryges! The Hebrews ignored the existence of female divinities, as of their, ten names of the Deity all are masculine. The feminine may also imply their weakness; so far from helping their worshippers, their worshippers were in trepidation for them, or rather it, lest it should be carried away captive. Further, this same word is in the plural, to cast ridicule on it, as if mimicking the plural of majesty, or rather, perhaps, to include that of Dan, or to intimate that the calf of Bethel, the more celebrated place, was that after which the calf of Dan and probably those of other places were fashioned, especially so as it is afterwards referred to in the singular. Besides, a few - a very few - manuscripts, it is true, read the singular, as also the LXX., which has μόσχος, and the Syriac; while Bathe, relying on these authorities, maintains the reading to have been לְעֶגְלַת in the singular. Others suppose an enallage of both gender and number; or an indefinite generality is expressed by the plural, while for abstracts the feminine is used. The coming punishment is casting its shadow before, so that the inhabitants, perceiving symptoms of its approach, tremble for their god of gold, now, like themselves, in greatest jeopardy. For the people thereof shall mourn over it. The people of Israel are now called the people of the calf, as once they had been the people of Jehovah, and as Moab was called the people of Chemosh. They had chosen the calf for their god. Of their own free-will they had done so, though at first enjoined and prompted to adopt this course by the mandate of their king; they had even rejoiced and gloried in it. Now they mourn for their idol, which can neither help itself nor them. And the priests thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it. According to this rendering, the relative must be understood before "rejoiced," which, though quite possible and not ungrammatical, is, however, unnecessary. The Hebrew commentators all understand the word in the sense of "joy" or "jubilation;" thus Rashi says," Why is it that its people mourn over, it and its priests, who always rejoiced over it, now mourn over its glory that is gone away?" The word גִיל, however, is primarily "to twist or whirl one's self," and is thence applied to any violent emotion, generally of joy, also of anxiety and fear, as here, so that the simpler and more correct rendering is, the priests thereof shall tremble for it, for its glory, because it is departed from it. The priests here mentioned have a peculiar name, kemarim, from kamar, to be black, from the black garments in which they ministered, and are thus distinguished as ministers of a foreign cult; for kohen is the usual word for a Hebrew priest, and his robe of office is said to have been white. The glory of the calf-god was not the temple treasure at Bethel, nor its glory as the state God set up there, but the honor and the Divine halo with which its worship there was surrounded. Thus Kimchi: "When its glory is departed from it; and this means the honor of its worship. When the calf is broken before their eyes its glory shall depart from it." The perfects of "mourn" and "departed" are prophetic, denoting the certainty of the events, though yet future; while galah and yagilu form the favorite assonance. But a question still remains - Why is Samaria and not Beth-avert said to mourn? To this the explanation of Kimchi is a satisfactory reply: "The inhabitants of Samaria tremble. And the prophet makes mention of Samaria, though there were no calves there, because it was the metropolis of the kingdom, where the kings of Israel resided, and it was these kings who strengthened the people in the worship of the calves. And he says," When Bethel is laid waste, and the calves cannot deliver it, the inhabitants of Samaria tremble for themselves, which place (Samaria) the King of Assyria laid siege to for three years."
It shall be also carried unto Assyria for a present to king Jareb: Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.
Verse 6. - It shall he also carried unto Assyria for a present to King Jareb. Here we have an explanation and confirmation of what has just been said in the preceding verse. The calf, the glorious and magnificent national god, as Israel considered it, is brought to Assyria, and there offered as a present to the Assyrian king. The word gam is emphatic; that is, "it also," "itself also," or "it also with men and other spoils" - the golden idol of Beth-aven. Kimchi's explanation of gam is as follows: "Genesis, extension or generalization of the term, refers to the glory he bad mentioned. He says, 'Lo, in its place the glory shall depart from it as soon as they shall break it. Also, the stump of the calf, namely, the gold thereon, after its form is broken, they shall take away as a present to King Jareb.'" The sign of the accusative with suffix אוחו, which here stands before a passive verb, may be taken either
(1) absolutely, "as to it also," "it shall be brought ;" or
(2) as an instance of anacoluthon; or
(3), according to Gesenius, the passive may be regarded as an impersonal active, and thus it may take the object of the action in the accusative. The word yubhal is from yabhal, primarily used of flowing in a strong and violent stream, and so the root of מַבּול, the flood; then it signifies "to go," "to be brought or carried." The minchah here spoken of cannot well mean tribute, but is rather a gift of homage to the Assyrian conqueror, whom the prophet m vision sees already wasting the land of Israel and carrying away all its treasures and precious things. Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel. The feminine form, בָשְׁנָה - of which נּשֶׁן, the masculine, by analogy, is not in use - is wrongly explained by the Hebrew expositors as having a pleonastic nun. The construction usually preferred is
(1) that given above.
(2) Others render it, "Shame shall seize Ephraim;" but tiffs constructs a feminine noun with a masculine verb, contrary to grammar.
(3) Hitzig translates," He (the Assyrian king) shall take away or carry off the shame of Ephraim; that is, the calf-idol." He remarks that the construct feminine does not always in the speech of North Israel end in ־ת, and cites several passages in proof. The counsel of which Israel would be ashamed is understood
(1) of the consultation held before making a covenant or treaty with the King of Assyria;
(2) it is generally and more correctly understood of Jeroboam taking counsel with his tribesmen of Ephraim about setting up the calf idols. Jareb is a proper name, or rather an appellation. The King of Assyria, or the great king, was looked up to by the smaller Asiatic states for protection, and consequently styled their Jareb, avenger or defender, just as σώτηρ. savior, was a title applied to or assumed by certain kings for a similar reason, as Ptolemy Soter and others. The object of Israel's idolatry is carried off as a present to propitiate or appease the wrath of the Assyrian patron and protector - probably Shalmaneser in the present instance - or taken as a trophy to grace the triumph of the conqueror. So far from defending the calf-people, as Israel had become, their calf-god could not defend itself; instead of preserving its worshippers from deportation, it was doomed itself to deportation. Ephraim, the premier tribe. received shame, and Israel, the remaining tribes that had followed its lead and adopted its evil counsel, shared the shame; all of them together were thoroughly put to shame because of their mistaken and wicked policy. The counsel of Jeroboam - for to it, in our opinion, is the reference - appeared an able stroke of policy; but this policy, by which he hoped to detach Israel from Judah, was not only frustrated, but proved positively ruinous, so far were the means from effecting the end, or the end from justifying the wisdom of the means.
As for Samaria, her king is cut off as the foam upon the water.
Verse 7. - As for Samaria, her king is out off as the foam upon the water (face of the waters). Instead of the throne of Samaria being established, or the kingdom consolidated by the idolatrous measures which Jeroboam had adopted for the purpose, the king himself was cut off as foam upon the surface of the waters, or as a chip carried off by the current, and the kingdom ingloriously ruined. Though the sense is sufficiently plain, the sentence has been variously constructed. Thus
(1) one of the Hebrew commentators renders it, "In the city of Samaria her king has been made like foam on the surface of the water" (be being understood and נדמה taken in the sense of "being like").
(2) Rashi, understanding the verb to signify being "reduced to silence," explains, "The King of Samaria is brought to silence."
(3) The correct signification of the verb, however, is "cut off" or "annihilated," while the construction may be
(a) an asyndeton; thus: "Samaria (and) her king;" or
(b) Samaria taken as nominative absolute, - thus in the Authorized Version, "(As for) Samaria, her king is cut off;" or
(c) supplying נדמה to the second noun, with Aben Ezra, "Samaria is cut off, her king is cut off." Some
(d) consider it simpler to translate as follows: "Samaria is cut off; her king is like [literally, 'as'] a chip on the surface of the waters." In this way the Massoretic punctuation is neglected. Sheraton is feminine, as the names of cities and countries usually are, and therefore the suffix to "king" is feminine, while the masculine form, נִדְמֶה, is justified by its position at the head of the sentence; for, according to Gesenius, the predicate at the beginning of a clause or sentence "often takes its simplest and readiest form, viz. the masculine singular, even when the subject," not yet expressed, but coming after, "is feminine or plural." קצפ is explained either as "foam" or "splinter." The latter is, perhaps, preferable, as the verbal root cognate with the Arabic katsapha signifies "to break," "break off," "crack;" then "to be angry" (its most common meaning) from the sudden breaking out or breaking loose of passion, with which may be compared the Greek ὀήγνυμι. The word קצפה in Joel 1:7, from the same root, is literally a" breaking or breaking off," "barking," The word דמה, again, has two principal meanings - one "to be like," the other "to be silent" (connected, according to Gesenius, with a different root, darnam, dum, like the English "dumb"); or the meanings are traceable to one root, in the sense of "making flat," "plane," "smooth;" then "silent," and so "reduced to silence," "destroyed."
The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.
Verse 8. - The high places also of Avon, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. By Aven is generally understood Beth-aven, that is, Bethel; but some take the word as an appellative, and thus bamoth-aven would signify the "high places of iniquity." These unlawful places of sacrifice and unholy places of iniquity are further characterized by the appositional "the sin of Israel." By constructing and frequenting such places Israel had primarily and grievously sinned. By sacrificing to and worshipping even Jehovah on these high places instead of in Jerusalem, the only legal place for Divine service under the Law, their national sin in the matter of worship began; subsequently, however, things became worse, and these high places became scenes of most abominable idolatries and shamelessly sinful practices. Those places - one and all - are in the words before us doomed to destruction. The thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars. The destruction is thus vividly described as total and complete; those bad eminences were devoted to entire wasteness and desolation. "It is a sign of extreme solitude," says Jerome, "so that no traces even of wall or buildings remained to be seen;" similarly Rashi says, "Thorns and thistles shall grow up upon their altars, because the worshippers thereof have departed and no one longer remains to attend to them" so Kimchi: "On the altars of Israel which they (the enemies) shall lay waste shall thorns spring up." And they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us. The sight of such fearful ruin and desolation overwhelms the wretched inhabitants of the land with distress and dismay; in sheer despair and even desperation they invoke a sure and sudden death as much preferable to their remaining longer spectators of such heart-rending scenes. Their exclamation appears to be proverbial, and to have had its origin in the custom of the Israelites fleeing, in seasons of great calamities, to the mountains and clefts of the rocks to hide themselves; thus in Judges 4:2 we read that "because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and eaves, and strongholds." The object of their exclamation is to be buried under the hills or mountains rather than endure such calamities longer; or rather than the enemies should see them in their shame. Aben Ezra makes "altars" the subject of "shall say," as if it were the wish of the altars to be covered that they may never more be seen. Theodoret considers the sense of the passage to be that the multitude of calamities in the war occasioned by hostile invasion would be so great that there would be no one who would not prefer being overwhelmed in an earthquake or by the sudden fall of the mountains, rather than endure the calamities inflicted by the enemies. Similarly, but more concisely, Jerome says, "They are more willing to die than see the evils that bring death."
O Israel, thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah: there they stood: the battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them.
Verse 9. - O Israel, thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah. Two explanations given of this clause - namely, that which understands, rain comparatively, that is, "more than" - their sins were greater than those of the Benjamites in the days of Gibeah; and that which refers the sin here spoken of to the appointment of Saul, who was of Gibeah of Benjamin, to be king - must be unhesitatingly rejected. Tile sin of the men of Gibeah was the shameful outrage committed on the Levite's concubine by the men of Gibeah, which with its consequences is recorded in Judges 19. and 20. That sin became proverbial, overtopping, as it did, all ordinary iniquities by its shameless atrocity and heinousness. By along-continued course of sin, even from ancient days, Ephraim has been preparing for a fearful doom. There they stood: the battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them. This portion of the verse is not a little perplexing, and in consequence has called forth considerable diversity of exposition. There is
(1) that which is implied in the Authorized Version, viz. "there they stood," smitten twice but not destroyed, chastened but not killed, the battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them then so as utterly to destroy them, but it shall overtake them now. Or if the verb "overtake," which is future, be strictly rendered, the meaning is - Not a battle like that in Gibeah against the children of iniquity shall overtake them, but one much more sanguinary and terrible, resulting, not in the reduction of a single tribe to six hundred men, but in the extirpation of ten tribes.
(2) That of Keil and others, though not the same, is similar. It is: "There, in Gibea, did they remain, persevering in the sin of Gibeah, and yet the war in Gibeah against the sinners has not overtaken them." This makes the meaning of the prophet to be that since the days of Gibeah the Israelites persevered in the same or like sin as the Gibeahites; and, though the Gibeahites were so severely punished, actually destroyed, because of their sin, the ten tribes of Israel, persisting in the same or similar sin, have not yet been resisted with any such exterminating war. Jehovah announces his intention now to visit them with punishment and severest chastisement for all. The meaning which Keil aims at may be better brought out by rendering the latter clause interrogatively; thus: "There they stood - persisting in the criminality of Gibeah - shall there not overtake them, living as they do in Gibeah, the war which exterminated the children of crime?" It is admitted that עמר may have been the meaning of "persevering;" but a better sense
(3) is gained by Wunsche referring the subject of עמדו to the Benjamites; the suffix of תשינם to the בני עולה, or "children of iniquity," that is, their guilty tribesmen in Gibeah; taking the intermediate clause parenthetically; and עמד with על to "stand in defense of;" thus: "Since the days of Gibeah hast thou sinned, O Israel: there they (the Benjamites) stood in defense of the children of iniquity, that the war might not reach them in Gibeah." This gives a satisfactory sense, and intimates that, by a long-continued course of iniquity and crime, the Ephraimites were preparing themselves for a fearful fate. Already from days long gone by grievous guilt cleaved to them; thus in the days of Gibeah they (the Benjamites) stood by their iniquitous brethren that the battle in Gibeah might not reach them. As this was before the disruption, the Benjamites were part and parcel of Israel here represented by them.
(4) Rosenmüller's explanation is the following: "They (the Benjamites) survived (עָמַד, opposed to אָבַד, as in Psalm 102:27) being severely punished, though they did not entirely perish, six hundred being left to revive the tribe." But a still severer punishment awaits the Israelites (the person being changed from the second to the third, and the prophet addressing himself to hearer or reader): not the war waged in Gibeah (or on account of the crime committed there) against the children of iniquity shall overtake them, but a far more deadly and destructive war. The word עלוה is by metathesis for עולה as זְעַוָה for זְוָעָה, commotion; כֶשָׂב for כֶבֶשׂ; and שַׂלְמָה, for שִׂמְלָה.
It is in my desire that I should chastise them; and the people shall be gathered against them, when they shall bind themselves in their two furrows.
Verse 10. - It is in my desire that I should chastise them; and the people shall be gathered against them. This is better translated thus: When I desire it, then (vav of the apodosis) shall I chastise them; and the peoples shall be gathered against them. This expresses God's determination to punish sin and vindicate his justice as the infinitely Holy One. It means, not only that his desire to punish them does exist, but that, this desire being taken for granted, there shall be no let nor hindrance; nothing can stay his hand. Then the mode and means of chastisement are indicated - peoples, foreign invaders, shall be gathered against them. The verb אָסֹר is future Qal of יסר irregularly, as if coming from נסד, the daghesh in samech compensating for the absorbed yod. When they shall bind themselves in their two furrows; margin, When I shall bind them for their two transgressions, or, in their two habitations.
(1) Gesenius, Ewald, and others, abiding by the Kethir or textual reading of the original, translate, "Jehovah will chastise them before with their eyes," that is, not in secret, but openly before the world. They thus refer the word to עַיִן, eye, but עְינָות is "fountains," not "eyes."
(2) The Hebrew commentators, Aben Ezra and Kimchi, explain the word in the sense of "two furrows" as in Authorized Version; and refer them to Judah and Ephraim. Thus Kimchi says, "The prophet compares Judah and Ephraim to two plowing oxen. I thought they would plough well, but they have ploughed ill, since they have bound themselves together one with the other and have allied themselves the one with the other to do evil in the eyes of Jehovah." Similarly Rosenmüller: "To be bound to two furrows is said of oxen plowing when they are bound together in a common yoke, so that in two adjacent furrows they walk together and with equal pace."
(3) The Septuagint rendering, based on the Qeri and followed by the Syriac and Arabic, gives a better and clearer sense than the preceding. It is, Ἐν ταῖς δυσὶν ἀδικίαις αὐτῶν, and is followed by Jerome in Super duas iniquitates suas, as also by the most judicious expositors of ancient and modern times. Yet there is great variety as to what those iniquities are. Some, like Jerome, refer to the double idolatry - that of Micah and that of Jeroboam; others, like Dathe, to the two golden calves set up at Dan and Bethel; Cyril and Theodoret to the apostasy of Israel from Jehovah, and devotion to idols; De Wette and Keil to the double unfaithfulness of Israel to Jehovah and the royal house of David. The exact rendering would, according to any of these views, be, "When I bind them to their two transgressions," or, "When I allow the foreigners to bind them on account of their two transgressions;" that is to connect or yoke them to their two transgressions by the punishment, so that they, like beasts of burden, must drag them after them, whatever be the view we take of the nature of those transgressions.
And Ephraim is as an heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the corn; but I passed over upon her fair neck: I will make Ephraim to ride; Judah shall plow, and Jacob shall break his clods.
Verse 11. - And Ephraim is as an heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the corn. Ephraim is compared to a heifer trained. The work she was taught to do was treading cut the corn; by training and habit it had became a second nature, so that she took delight in it. The connecting vowel occurs seldom, and usually with an antique coloring in prose, according to Ewald; it is poetical besides, and used in the concourse of words somewhat closely connected, but not in the strict construct state. Thus is לֺאהַבֵתִּי accounted for. This work was probably easier, at all events pleasanter, than plowing or harrowing. In treading out corn oxen were not yoked together, but worked singly, treading it with their feet, or drawing a threshing-sledge, or iron-armed cylinder, over it; they were unmuzzled also, so that they were free to snatch an occasional mouthful of the grain, and frequently fattened by such indulgence. Such had been the position of Ephraim in easy employment, comfortable circumstances like the heifer threshing and allowed to eat at pleasure, pleasantly situated prosperous, self-indulgent, and luxurious. The victories of Ephraim - threshing and treading down may perhaps be also hinted at. But I passed over upon her fair neck (margin, the beauty of her neck): I will make Ephraim to ride; Judak shall plough, and Jacob shall break his clods. Times have changed, as is here indicated a yoke, that of Assyria, is placed on the fair neck, a rider is set on the sleek back. Mere onerous and less pleasant labor is now imposed. Judah too is to share the toil, being put to the heavier work of plowing while Jacob - the ten tribes, or the twelve including both Judah and Israel - shall cross plough; and thus both alike shall be henceforth employed in the heaviest labors of the field and the severest toils of agriculture. Once victorious, Ephraim is now to be subdued; once free and intractable, it must now receive the yoke and engage in laborious service. The expression עבר, followed by על, is generally used in a bad sense; "to pass over," says Jerome, "especially when it is said of God, always signifies inflictions and troubles." The fatness of the neck is the ox's ornament or beauty. That is now to be assaulted or invaded gently it may be, and softly, as men are wont to approach a young untamed animal in order to put the yoke upon it. This passing over, however tender, fixes the yoke on Ephraim's neck all the same. A more difficult word is אדכיב, which Ewald
(1) renders, "I will set a rider" on Ephraim, of course to subdue and tame;
(2) Jerome has, "I will mount or ride," thus representing Jehovah himself as the mediate rider on Ephraim. The first sense has a parallel in Psalm 56:12, "Thou hast made men to ride over our head," and thus ruling them at pleasure. Unwilling to bear the easy yoke of their Divine Ruler, they shall be subjected to the tyrant mastery of man. But
(3) Keil says the word here is "not" to mount or ride, 'but' to drive or use for drawing and driving,' i.e. to harness," as to the plough and harrow. This meaning is best reached by understanding the words thus: "I will make the yoke to ride on Ephraim's neck;" as הרכב is used in 2 Kings 13:16, for "put thine hand upon the bow," margin, "make thine hand to ride upon the bow." The remaining clauses of the verse is a further development of this expression, but extending to Judah; and thus including both Judah and Ephraim, or Jacob - both kingdoms. The Septuagint version of the last clause is peculiar; it is Παρασιωπήσομαι Ἰούδαν ἐνισχύσει αὐτῷ Ἰακώβ. That is, as explained by Jerome, "I shall leave Judah for the present and say nothing about him; but whoever, whether of Ephraim or Judah, shall observe my precepts, he shall acquire strength for himself and be called Jacob."
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
Verses 12, 13. - Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy. These two verses contain a call to repentance and reformation of life, in figurative language borrowed from the same department of human industry, לצדי is "for righteousness;" that is, sow such seed as that righteousness may spring from it. לפי הי is "according to," or "in proportion to, mercy." When two imperatives are joined, is here, the latter indicates a promise, and may be expressed by a future, as, "Do this and live," i.e. "ye shall live" (Genesis 42:18). Kimchi explains it correctly, thus: "Sow to yourselves, etc., that is, do good in mine eyes, and the recompense from me shall be far greater than your good deeds, just as if one sows a measure (seah), and hopes to reap therefore two measures (seahs) or still more. Therefore, he uses in sowing righteousness, and in connection with reaping grace, in order to intimate that grace surpasses righteousness. Or that God rewards men's actions, not according to merit, but according to grace. As men sew, they reap; accordingly Israel is directed to sow ac-eroding to righteousness - to act righteously in their dealings with their fellow-men; and their reaping or reward would be, not in proportion to what they had sown, not merely commensurate with their righteous actions or dealings, not proportionate to what justice would give; but in proportion to mercy - Divine mercy, and so far above their highest deserts. They are promised a reward far above their poor doings, and irrespective of their sad failings - a reward, not of debt, not of merit, but of grace. The seed-time of righteousness would be followed by a reaping-time proportionate to the boundless measure of the Divine mercy. Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. Here they are urged to turn over a new leaf, as we say; to begin a new life; to root out the weeds of sin; to eradicate those evil passions that checked and stifled any noble feelings, as the husbandman runs his plough through the fallow field, and breaks it up, clearing out the weeds and roots, that the ground may be pure and clean for the sowing of the seed in spring. The LXX., reading נוּרו, instead of נֵיר נירוּ for נִיר, and דָּעַח for וְעֵח translates accordingly by φωτίσατε ἑαυτοῖς φῶς γνώσεως. They are further reminded that it is high time to begin this process, laying aside their stiff-necked, perverse ways; expelling from their heart the noxious growth that had overspread it; and by every way and means working earnestly and zealously for a renewal of life and return to the long-neglected work and worship of Jehovah. Neither were they to relax their efforts till the blessed end was attained, עד, with imperfect, marking the goal to be reached; nor would their efforts be in vain. The Lord would rain - bestow abundantly upon them, or touch (another and more frequent meaning of the word), their righteousness. Thus the ground that had long lain fallow must be broken up; its waste, wild state must cease and give place to cultivation; the ploughshare must be driven through it; its wild growths and weeds must be cut down and uprooted. A process of renewal must succeed; the vices of their natural state, the idolatrous and wicked practices that had sprung up, must be abandoned. Renewal and radical reform are imperatively demanded. Matters had remained too long in a miserable and unsatisfactory condition. A long night of sinful slumber had overcome them; it was high time to awake out of that sleep. Too long had they shamefully forgotten and forsaken God; it was more than time to wait upon him. Nor would such waiting, if persevered in, end in disappointment; notwithstanding their great and manifold provocations, he would come and rain righteousness in welcome, refreshing, and plenteous showers upon returning penitents; and with righteousness would be conjoined its reward of blessing and salvation, both temporal and spiritual.
Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men.
Verse 13. - Ye have ploughed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies. Hitherto their course had been the very opposite of that which they are now exhorted to enter on. Hitherto their work had been wickedness, and their wages, as might be expected, the fruit of iniquity. What they had wrought for they reaped. Their plowing had been sin, their sowing wickedness, and their harvest sorrow. Wickedness against God and man was what they both ploughed and sowed; oppression at the hand of their enemies was the harvest or reward of iniquity which they reaped. Their lies, including their idolatry in reference to God, disloyalty to their king, their false words and false works with one another, bore fruit, bitter fruit, sour fruit, and they were obliged to eat that fruit till their teeth were set on edge. Thus Kimchi explains it: "After the plowing follows the sowing, and both of them are a figurative representation of work, as we have explained it. The prophet says, 'Ye have done the opposite of that which I commanded you, when I said, Sow to yourselves in righteousness.'" The harvest is the reward of the work done; the genitive is expressive of contents - that in which the fruit consists; the fruit of lies against God is the fruit which disappoints those who wait for it Ki directs attention to the ground of Israel's gradual declension and final destruction; the two fundamental errors, or rather evils, that led on to Israel's ruin, were apostasy from Jehovah and sinful self-confidence. Sunk in idolatry, they no longer looked to Jehovah as the Source of their power and strength; while they pursued their own ways, confident of the excellence of their own sagacity and foresight. Because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men. They had placed their confidence in the wisdom of their own ways - their prudent plans and wise counsels; in the heroism of their soldiers and the excellence of their preparations of war. By these means they fancied themselves independent of the Almighty, and sufficiently defended against their enemies. "Thou hast trusted," says Kimchi, in his exposition, "to thine own way which thou goest; and that is the way of iniquity and of confidence in evil; and in like manner thou hast trusted in the multitude of thy men of war which thou hast had among thine own people, or among the Egyptians, from whom they sought help, and thou hast made flesh thine arm, and not trusted in me; therefore thou hast stumbled."
Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled, as Shalman spoiled Betharbel in the day of battle: the mother was dashed in pieces upon her children.
Verse 14. - Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled. This was the fruit of their doings, the result of their sins. The tumult of war is already heard, and the work of destruction has begun. The word shaon, tumult, is from שָׁאָה, as applied to the loud rushing of waters, then the tumult of advancing warriors. The preposition be is rendered
(1) as above by the Authorized Version, Umbreit, and others; and, joined with "peoples" (which is plural), signifies that the confused noise of war would be heard among their own peoples, or the multitude of the mighty ones in whom they had had such confidence; or the plural may refer to the tribes of Israel, each of which was an עם, though Keil would confine this meaning to Pentateuchal times. Host of the versions read the singular, like our own Authorized Version, yet it must still be referred to the people of Israel. But
(2) the preposition is translated "against" by many modern interpreters, and thus the confused noise of the advance of the enemy against Israel is denoted. The attack of the invaders is directed against the fortresses, or fenced cities, so called from a verb denoting "to cut off" (בצד), as if all approach to them were cut off, and assault impossible. Nevertheless they were to go down, all of them, before the enemy - laid waste and spoiled; while inhuman cruelty would characterize the conquerors. As an illustration of or specimen resembling that cruelty, an obscure piece of history is quoted. As Shalman spoiled Beth-arbel in the day of battle: the mother was dashed in pieces upon her children. In the great variety of opinion with respect to the event referred to, and the consequent diversity of exposition, we shall not venture to do more than select that which on the whole, notwithstanding a certain chronological difficulty that lies against it, appears the most probable. Accordingly, Beth-arbel may have been Arbela, mentioned in 1 Macc. 9:2 and more than once by Josephus, in Upper Galilee, in the tribe of Naphtali, between Sephoris and Tiberias, now Irbid; and Shalman may be an abbreviation for Shal-maneser; while the circumstance here mentioned may have been an incident of the campaign of which we read in 2 Kings 17:3, 5. "Against him came up Shalmaneser King of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant.... Then the King of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years." The manifestation of the cruelty was when the mother, with true motherly affection, bent over her children to defend them, and she and they perished in a common ruin, or when the children were dashed to the ground before their mother's eyes, and she, done to death, hurled upon them.
So shall Bethel do unto you because of your great wickedness: in a morning shall the king of Israel utterly be cut off.
Verse 15. - So shall Bethel do unto you because of your great wickedness (margin, the evil of your evil): in a morning shall the King of Israel utterly be cut off. Their coming sufferings were all traceable to their sin. Bethel, the principal place of calf-worship, was the cause of their coming calamities, not the place itself, but the wickedness of which it was the scene. The real cause was the great and crowning wickedness practiced there. Bethel, once the house of God, would in consequence become another Beth-arbel, the house of the ambush of God. In the morning, when perhaps a season of prosperity seemed beginning to dawn, or at an early dale and in a speedy manner, quickly as the morning dawn gives place before the rising sun, the king, Hoshea, or perhaps no particular king, but merely the representative of the royal office, would be cut off-entirely cut off. Thus their main refuge would come to an ignominious end, bringing along with it the frustration of all their hopes and the conclusion of their mistaken and misplaced confidences.