Hosea 13
Pulpit Commentary
When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.
Verse 1. - When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel. This rendering of the Authorized Version

(1) is supported by the Syriac, which is: "When Ephraim spake trembling, then he was, and was great in Israel." Rashi has a similar rendering of the word retheth, which is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, and causes the diversity of translation in this clause; but his exposition of the whole sentence is vague and unsatisfactory. Referring it to Jeroboam of the tribe of Ephraim, he explains as follows: "When Jeroboam, zealous for God, spoke against Solomon hard words, and with terror, Solomon was a great king." Pococke's exposition is in harmony with the Authorized Version, and is the following: "When Ephraim spake with fear and trembling (like his forefather Jacob, in his humble supplication to God), he exalted himself in Israel." But

(2) the rendering adopted by most moderns, is decidedly preferable, as agreeing better with the context, and much more in bar-runny with tribal characteristics of Ephraim, as intimated in this very book, and exhibited elsewhere. The translation we thus prefer is: "When Ephraim spake, there was trembling; he, even he, exalted himself in Israel." Such was the fear inspired, and the deference paid to the authority of that powerful tribe. The word reheth, though not found elsewhere, has a cognate root in Aramaic, with the meaning here assigned to it; for רתת is to fear, shudder, tremble; there is also, in Jeremiah 49:24, the word רֶטֶט, equivalent to "fear," similar in both sense and sound. The Chaldee supports this rendering; its paraphrase is: "When one of the house of Ephraim spake, trembling seized the peoples." Also Aben Ezra and Kimchi. The former's brief comment is: "Before his speaking the peoples were afraid; and the word רתת has no analogue except in the Aramaic." Kimchi's explanation is, "From the beginning, before Ephraim sinned, the fear of him was great over the peoples who surrounded him; for when he spake, fear and trembling were wont to seize him who heard him; and he was great and strong among the tribes of Israel, as it was said of him, ' And his seed shall be a multitude of nations.'"

(3) The LXX. renders reheth by δικαιώματα, thus:" According to the word of Ephraim, be adopted ordinances for himself in Israel," that is, when Ephraim spoke, the rest of the Israelites assented to his ordinances and rights, reverencing his authority, so that the general sense differs little from the Chaldee.

(4) Rosenmüller constructs and explains differently; his exposition runs somehow thus: "When Ephraim spake, instituting that horrible worship of the calves, he himself bore the sin of that horrible dictum, i.e. was guilty of, and bore its punishment." This explanation of נשא is farfetched and unnatural. We have no hesitation in preferring "lifted up," i.e. his head, or exalted himself, for, though it is usually the Hithp. that is employed in this sense, examples also occur in which Qal is so used, for example Psalm 89:10 and Nahum 1:5. Kimchi supplies rosho. We adhere, therefore, to the rendering and exposition of

(2). But when he offended in Baal, he died. This was not merely the calf-worship which, for political reasons, Jeroboam instituted and his successors retained, but the worship of Baal for which, no doubt, the calf-worship had prepared the way, and which had been introduced by Ahab at the instigation of his Sidonian queen. And though the people were partially and temporarily reformed through the efforts of Elijah the prophet and by the royal authority of Jehu, son of Nimshi, the evil was not eradicated, but frequently broke out again. The exaltation of Ephraim was not so much his distinction among his brethren as the governmental predominance at which that tribe ever aimed. That elevation, however, was soon followed by religious declension, culminating in the idolatry of Baal, which soon sealed the doom of the northern kingdom, thenceforth given up to destruction. The sentence of death was pronounced, and the actual dying commenced with the introduction of idolatrous worship. Thus, correctly, Kimchi: "He lifted up his head in Israel. And after he offended in Baal he died, as if he said, he was beaten before his enemies, as if he were dead, the power of his hand had departed."
And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.
Verse 2. - And now they sin more and more (margin, add to sin), and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen. This part of the verse declares their persistent adherence to idolatry. The note of time, "and now," marks the transition from the past period, when Baal-worship had been introduced by Ahab and subsequently overturned by Jehu, to the prophet's own day. Not content with the calves of Jeroboam and the worship of Baal, they added new superstitions and new hideous objects of worship. מַסֵּכָה, a molten image, like the molten calf of Aaron, is singular, but used collectively, so as to correspond with עֲעַבִּים, idols, which is plural. The reference here is,

(1) not to the calves or to Baal, but to various other idols which they had adopted, as at Gilgal and Beersheba (Amos 8:14). Or,

(2) not content with the calves, they introduced gods of their own as their penates. The material out of which these molten images were manufactured was silver. Kimchi, however, gives a curious explanation in proof that the material was gold: "The calves," he says, "were not silver, but he means to say that, of the silver which they each one gave to procure gold to make the calves, they made for themselves idols according to their understanding; and these were the calves." The manner in which they made these idols was

(1) in their understanding, that is, in their understanding, such as it was, so stupidly employed in such sensuous work, or their proficiency in the art of graving. Kimchi explains it somewhat differently: "The explanation of בתבונם is, 'As if they had carefully reflected on the matter what form they should give it, and then had agreed to make a calf, as they did in the wilderness.'" The reading of the word בתי is disputed, but without sufficient ground. No doubt the Septuagint, which is followed by the Chaldee, Arabic, and Jerome, probably read כִּתְבוּנַת rad בנה, to build, like תַּבְנִית, figure, or כִּתְמוּנַת; for they translate

(2) according to the likeness or fashion of idols; while some manuscripts of Kennicott and De Rossi present

(3) the reading כִּבְבוּנַם, according to their understanding, their own peculiar notions or fancy, and not as Moses, who made everything after the pattern showed him in the mount. The full form would be בִּתְבוּנֶתָם, but the feminine form is shortened before the suffix, like מִדָּה for מִדָתָה (Job 11:9); and פִנָהּ for פִּנָתָתּ (Proverbs 7:8); צוּרָם for צוּרָתָם (Psalm 49:15). Some suppose it from a masculine form, תְּבוּן, of the same meaning. The defect of this man-made god is expressed by its being all of it the work of the craftsmen, without any element of sense, spirit, or divinity in it. On which Kimchi has well observed: "The whole calf is the work of the hands of the craftsman; there is nothing spiritual in it; as he says, 'There is no breath at all in the midst of it' (Habakkuk 2:19)." They say of them, Let the men that sacrifice (margin, the sacrificers of men) kiss the calves. The best explanation of this difficult clause is, in our opinion,

(1) that of Keil. His translation, though slightly different from that of the Authorized Version, has the same general import; thus: "Of them (the 'atsabbim, idols) they say, viz. 'the sacrificers from among men' equivalent to 'the men who sacrifice,' Let them worship calves. By the apposition zobheche 'adam, and the fact that the object 'agalim is placed first, so that it stands in immediate contrast to 'adam, the absurdity of men kissing calves, i.e. worshipping them with kisses (see at 1 Kings 19:18), is painted, as it were, before the eyes." As parallel to zobheche 'adam, comp. evyone 'adam (Isaiah 29:19). Several eminent modern commentators give the same or a similar explanation, with the exception that, instead of translating לָהֶם, "of them," i.e. the idols, as Keil does. They translate it "to them," i.e. the idol-worshippers. Kimchi in the main favors this explanation; he says, "On their account (i.e. on account of the calves) the priests of the calf say to the people who come to offer sacrifice: by the זי אי he means: whoever of the children of men that wish to offer, 'Let them kiss the calves on their mouth; for their worship shall not be perfect until they shall kiss them,' for so was their custom." But

(2) many of the older interpreters among the Hebrews, as also Jerome, Cyril, and Theodoret among Christians, refer the expression to human sacrifices, thus: "Sacrificing men, they kiss, that is, adore, calves." The explanation according to this view, as given by Schmid, is to the following purport: "To these who now worship many idols, and among them Moloch, to whom they even sacrifice men, those the fathers of such as only worshipped the calves or Baal, would say, if they were alive, 'Let those who sacrifice men give over such cruel sacrifice, and rather kiss calves as we did.'" Rashi's comment is: "The idol priests say to Israel, 'He that sacrifices his son to idols is worthy to kiss the calf, for he has presented to him a pleasant gift.' So have our rabbins in (the tract) Sanhedrin explained, and it suits the text of Scripture bettor than the translation of Jonathan;" while that of Aben Ezra is as follows: "To them say the sons of men, in order to mock them [kiss the calves], because they kiss Baalim which are the images of calves, as 'And every month that has not kissed trim' (1 Kings 19:17), while they shed innocent blood, and this is, ' And his blood shall he leave upon him' (Hosea 12:15). And lo! he has reversed the manner of' every man, for man kisses man who is his fellow, and slays calves for his food." The method of kissing the hand in worship is attested by the derivation of the word adore, from ad and os; while in Job 31:27 we read of homage thus rendered: "Or my mouth hath kissed my hand: this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge." The Septuagint, (3, as if reading זִבְהוּ for zobheche,' and ישקטין, instead of ישקון, translate by, "They say, 'Sacrifice (θύσατε) men, for the calves have come to an end' [or, 'failed,' ἐκλελοίπασι]." "Thus," says Jerome, in explanation, "is shown the greed of demons, who are nourished on the blood of victims, that, when victims raft, they desire men to be sacrificed to them."
Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.
Verse 3. - Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind cut of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney. The illative particle with which the verse begins has reference to the sins of Israel, so great and multiplied that punishment could not be long delayed. Their irrational and God-dishonoring conduct was bringing on them sure and swift destruction. The prophet employs four figures to exhibit their political extinction. Two of these, the morning cloud and early dew, or rather the dew early passing away, have already been employed by him to characterize the transient nature of Israel's goodness; here they denote the evanescent nature of their national existence. The other two are the chaff and the smoke; the former whirled away by the storm-wind from the threshing-floor, the latter dissipated and speedily vanishing as soon as it escapes from the chimney or lattice. Such shall be the utter extermination of Israel. The senselessness of their idolatry had been treated with derision in the preceding verse; the punishment of their sin is sternly denounced in this. Kimchi comments concisely and correctly thus: "Therefore they shall go to destruction, and shall be as the morning cloud, or as the dew speedily disappearing in the morning, width vanishes when the heat of the sun has touched it; so they shall go away speedily. So also shall they be as chaff - it is the fine particles of straw, which the wind whirls away from the threshing-floor; thus shall they be whirled away from their land. Or as a pillar of smoke which goes forth out of the lattice, which shall speedily disperse and cease." Instead of אֲרֻבָּה lattice, from ארב, to knit or twist, the Septuagint, according to Jerome, read אַרְבֶּה locusts, as may be inferred from their rendering ἀτμὶς ἀπὸ ἀκρίδων in the Complete-Man edition of the LXX., erroneously written in some copies δακρύων, that is, vapor from locusts or from tears.
Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me.
Verses 4, 5. - These verses make it evident that the punishment inflicted on Israel could not reasonably be accounted too severe; such had been the goodness of Jehovah and the gross ingratitude of Israel. Verse 4. - Yet I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt. The prophet here commences a recital of God's favors to Israel from ancient times, all which they forgot, ungratefully and impiously turning aside from the worship of Jehovah. Jehovah had been Israel's God long before, but never before had the evidence of his power and love to his people been so signal and conspicuous as at the period of the Exodus and onward. And thou shalt know no god but me. The use of תֵדָע in the imperfect is to connect the future with the past. It may be rendered either

(1) "Thou knowest," viz. a God of such wonderful attestation thou knowest or findest not beside me - the opposite of the statement, "Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them" (Deuteronomy 13:3); or

(2) "Thou shouldest not know or recognize any god beside me." So Kimchi: "Thou shouldest not know other gods, nor serve them beside me, for ye see there is no helper Beside me." Likewise Rashi: "Thou shouldest not rebel against me." Also Aben Ezra: "How hast thou turned to kiss the calf, which does not save nor satisfy, and hast left him who has been thy God from ancient days, who has helped thee and knows all thy necessities." The word זוּלָחִי (from זוּל, which, as the cognate Arabic signifies, "to go forth or away") is synonymous with בִּלְתִּי.
I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.
Verse 5. - I did know thee in the wilderness. The pronoun at the beginning of the verse is emphatic: As for me; or, I it was that knew thee. The meaning of the sentiment is: I acknowledged thee with kindness, with paternal care and kind providence watching over thee. "Thou shouldest gratefully acknowledge me," is the comment of Kimchi, "because I knew thee in the wilderness, and cared for thy necessity in the wilderness, in which there were no means of livelihood." In the land of great drought. The root of the word תַּלְאוּבֹת is לאב, unused in Hebrew, but signifying, in Arabic, "to burn, dry, be dry," akin to לָחַב. Aben Ezra correctly explains it to be "a dry and thirsty laud, and so in the Arabic language; and (that it is so called) on account of all hardships being in it, is the allegorical explanation and not the literal sense." Instead of a lengthened enumeration of all God's loving-kindnesses to Israel at the Exodus and during the desert wanderings, the prophet sums up all in the expressive, "the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt;" and "I it was that did know thee in the wilderness." It is as though he had said, "I pitied thee in the bondage and among the brick-kilns of Egypt; I brought thee forth with a strong hand and outstretched arm; I led thee through the wilderness; I relieved thee in thy straits; I gave thee bread from heaven to satisfy thy hunger, and water from the rock to quench thy thirst; I defended thee from enemies; nor did I relax my care till I gave thee the goodly laud of promise."
According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.
Verse 6. - According to their pasture so were they filled. The literal rendering is, according to their pasturing so were they filled. The reference is rather to the care in pasturing than to the pasture-ground. By God's care to the sheep of his pasture they waxed full. They were filled, and their heart was exalted. Two consequences followed from God's great goodness to Israel - the immediate consequence was pride of heart; the more remote was forgetfulness of God. Perhaps these results should rather be regarded as concurrent, being in point of time simultaneous or nearly so. Therefore have they forgotten me. This forgetfulness of God is identified with the abandonment of his worship in the Chaldee Version, which is, "They have abandoned my service." The metaphor contained in this verse is taken from a domestic animal, which, in a too luxuriant pasture, becomes headstrong and unmanageable. Thus Rash: "As soon as they came into the land of their pasture, they were filled." The last clause of the verse notices the misuse which Israel made of the riches and blessing of Jehovah, by forgetting their gracious Benefactor; this the prophet attributes to the abuse of the blessings so richly bestowed upon them. Aben Ezra identifies the blessings here mentioned with those vouchsafed to them on their entrance into Canaan; thus: "The prophet enumerates the benefits which Jehovah bestowed on their fathers when they came out of the wilderness into the land of Canaan." Kimchi quotes, as a parallel to this passage, Deuteronomy 8, of which it is undoubtedly a reminiscence; he says, "When they entered into the place of their pasture, and it was the land of Canaan, they had all good, and were filled; and their heart was exalted, and they forgot me, as it is said in the Thorah that they were ready to do so. He said, 'Lest when thou hast eaten and art full... then thine heart be lifted up, and then forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt... who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness... who fed thee in the wilderness.'"
Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them:
Verses 7, 8. - These verses teach that the result of their sins is inevitable destruction, and that Jehovah, merciful and gracious though he is, has now divested himself of all compassion on them. The appropriateness of the terrible figures here employed arises from the fact that Israel had been compared in the previous verse to a flock fed and filled in a luxuriant pasture; the punishment of that flock is now fitly compared to "the tearing in pieces and devouring of that fattened flock by wild beasts." The beasts in question are a lion, a leopard, a bear, a lioness, and fierce wild beasts in general. Verse 7. - Therefore I will be unto them as a lion. The verb, וָךאהִי is the future changed into the preterit or past tense by vav consecutive, and marks the consequence of forgetting God. So Aben Ezra: "The preterit in reference to the evils which Jehovah brought upon them." While the past thus implies that the punishment has commenced, the futures which follow denote its continuance. Rosenmüller regards the preterit here as prophetic and continuative, and paraphrases the meaning by, "I have at length become and have been, and shall continue to be to them." He considers the reference of the preterit to be to past disasters, especially the various defeats sustained by Israel at the hand of the Syrians (2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 10:32) and the Assyrians (2 Kings 15:29). He also very aptly compares Isaiah 63:7-10 in relation to the subject in hand. The Prophet Isaiah, after relating the loving-kindnesses of the Lord and his praises and his great goodness to the house of Israel on the one hand, and their rebellion and vexing his Holy Spirit on the other hand, adds, "Therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them." As a leopard by the way will I observe them. The lion and the leopard are frequently conjoined, as animals of like natural ferocity, by the ancients both in sacred and secular writings. The outlook on the way is for the purpose of springing upon the passers-by. The word אשׁוּר is properly

(1) the future of שוּר, to look around, and thence, to lie in wait; but

(2) some, taking the initial aleph as radical and the word as participle of אָשַׁר, translate it by "trodden way," that is, away trodden and frequented by men and animals. The LXX. and Vulgate again, also Jerome, Hitzig, and Ewald,

(3) translate it by" on the way of the Assyrians," either referring to the time when they would be led captive by the Assyrians or when they persisted in going thither to sue for aid. But the name of Assyria is always written אָשוּר, as Rashi rightly observes: "In every place where אשׁי occurs in Scripture (i.e. as a proper name) it has daghesh (i.e. in the shin); yet here it has raphe, [to show] that it is not the name of a place, but a verb: 'I observe and keep watch,' as 'I shall observe him, but not nigh' (Numbers 24:17)." Kimchi explains the verse as follows: "Because they have forgotten me, I also have rejected them, and have left them in the hand of the peoples; and have become to them like a lion or leopard, which observes the way, and is prepared to tear whatever passes by it on the way. Just so have I been to them, for I have caused their enemies to rule over them, and they have not had power to deliver themselves from their hand until they returned to me, and I took pity upon them."
I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them.
Verse 8. - I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart. The noun דֹב is epicene, that is, the one form serves for both genders, as here the masculine includes the feminine, and is used as such. Of all animals, Jerome says, the she-bear is the fiercest, either when robbed of her whelps or in want of food. Seghor being that which encloses the heart, is either the pericardium, the immediate and proper enclosure of the heart, or the breast itself. The reference is to a beast of prey which seizes its victim by the breast and tears it open, so that the heart is exposed. The verb פגש is akin to פגע, the meaning of the root-syllable פג, to meet, strike, being the same in both. Such is the continuation of the picture of the threatened punishment. The picture of the severity of the Divine judgment here presented is very terrible. Kimchi remarks on this picture: "A bear robbed, whose young ones they have slain, which is bereft and bitter in spirit, if it find man or beast rends it speedily." Some understand the verse figuratively, as though it meant "'I will rend their obstinate heart,' the enclosure of the heart being equivalent to a shut or obstinate heart, as, in ver. 5 of this same chapter, 'a land of drought' is pretty much the same as 'a dry or parched land.' Thus the Chaldee translates, 'I have broken the wickedness of their heart.'" And there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them. Sham there refers

(1) to 'al-derekh of the preceding verse; or,

(2) as Kimchi explains it, as referring to their cities: "There in their cities shall I destroy them by pestilence and by the sword of the enemy, like the lion that teareth without pity;" or,

(3) more simply still, "there on the spot." The ֵשחִת, equivalent to אתָּה, is the wild beast as opposed to בִי, domestic animals. While some were to be destroyed by famine and pestilence, others would perish by the wild beast of the field. "Also," says Kimchi, "shall the wild beast of the field rend them outside (i.e. outside their cities), as, ' I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number.'"
O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.
Verse 9. - O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help. The literal rendering of this verse is,

(1) It hath destroyed thee, O Israel, that thou hast been against me, against thy Help. The ellipsis is accounted for by the strong emotion of the speaker, ֵשחִת is

(a) the Piel third person, and has the suffix of the second person, from which the pronoun אתָּה may be supplied as subject of the concluding clause. The preposition be has here the meaning of "against," as in Genesis 16:12 and 2 Samuel 24:17, while בִי is in apposition to it. The Hebrew commentators take שי as a verbal form; thus Rashi: "Thou hast destroyed thyself, O Israel;" and Kimchi:

(2) "The calf has destroyed thee which he had mentioned above; he says, 'This has destroyed thee; for unless this had been so, thy help had been in me.'"

(b) The Septuagint and Jerome take שחחך as a noun, the former translating by τῆ διαφθορᾶ: "Who will aid thee in thy destructions" the latter by "Thy destruction, O Israel; but in me is thy help," the noun being of the form קֵטֵּר דִבֵּר. The explanation of Rashi, who understands

(c) the verb as second person preterit Piel with suffix, is: "'Because thou hast acted unfaithfully against me, thou hast rebelled against thy help.' The Scripture uses brevity, but he who understands the language of Scripture will recall to mind that כי בי is 'because against me is the rebellion with which thou hast rebelled. And if thou shouldst say, What does it concern thee? Against thy help hast thou rebelled when thou didst rebel against me.'" Kimchi remarks in the two beths servile that one of them would suffice, and that the sense might have been expressed by כי בי עזרך or כי אני בעזרך . All the disaster and destruction previously mentioned are charged on Israel's misconduct; they had brought all upon themselves by their rebellion against Jehovah who would otherwise have been their Shield and Deliverer. The sense is well expressed by Calvin thus: "How comes it, and what is the reason, that I do not now help thee according to my usual manner? Thou hast indeed found me hitherto to be thy Deliverer.... How comes it now that I have cast thee away, that thou criest in vain, and that no one brings thee any help? How comes it that thou art thus forsaken, and receivest no relief whatever from my hand, as thou hast been wont to do? And doubtless I should never be wanting to thee, if thou wouldest allow me; but thou closest the door against me, and by thy wickedness spurnest my favor, so that it cannot come to thee. It then follows, that thou art now destroyed through thine own fault:

(3) Something then hath destroyed thee." It will be observed that the rebellion against Jehovah here complained of is not that of all Israel, when they are said to have rejected Jehovah by asking a king of Samuel; but the defection of the ten tribes that cast off their allegiance to the house of David and made Jeroboam their king.
I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?
Verses 10-16. - The concluding verse is at once a conclusion and commencement - an inference from what preceded, and the beginning of a second line of proof showing that, while their ruin was by themselves, their restoration would be by God. When the kings and princes whom they had sinfully sought, and who had been given to them in anger would fail, God himself would be their King, as is stated in vers. 10 and 11. Further, when in consequence of their iniquities treasured up, their sorrows and sufferings would be extreme, as stated in vers. 12 and 13, yet they would be raised up as out of their graves, as promised in ver. 14. Verses 10, 11. - Israel had shown contempt for Jehovah by putting confidence in kings of their own choice, yet these kings could not afford them help, whence the questions of ver. 10. The usual rendering is at fault. I will be thy King. This should rather be, Where now is thy king? though ehi may be either verb or adverb. Where is any other that may says thee in all thy cities? Better take both clauses together and in connection, thus: Where, now, is thy king, that he may save thee in all thy cities?

(1) The word ehi we take, with Ewald, to be a dialectic variation for אֵיַּה, or shortened form אֵי, and this is strengthened by אֵפוא, equivalent to the Greek ποτε or Latin tandem, for sake of emphasis. The purpose for which the Israelites had asked a king was that he might "judge them and go out before them to fight their battles" (1 Samuel 8:20). The question, then, does not indicate the want of a king, or the prevalence of a state of anarchy, but that a crisis had come when such a king as they had requested should exhibit his prowess and display his power. It is as though the prophet asked, or rather God by his servant," Where is now the king that can defend the besieged cities, or deliver the attacked fortresses; and defeat the Assyrian foeman who is now threatening both? Or where are the judges (shophetim), or the princes (sarim), who constitute his cabinet or royal counselors sharing in the counsels of state, and administering the affairs of the kingdom under him?" The answer implied is that those visible helps, on which Israel had so confidently calculated, turned out valueless; the kingly constitution on which they had set their heart proved a failure, as far as help and deliverance were concerned.

(2) Kimchi and others take אהי as first person future of the verb היה; thus: "I shall be established for ever, but where is thy king? Whereas thou didst reject my kingdom, and demanded a king who should save you; and it should be he that would save you in all your cities against which the enemies came."
I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.
Verse 11. - I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath. The imperfects אחי and אקי here are correctly explained by Keil as denoting "an action that is repeated again and again, for which we should use the present; and refer to all the kings that the kingdom of the ten tribes had received and was receiving still, and to their removal." Hitzig calls it here the historical present. Jerome, Aben Ezra, and Kimchi refer the first clause to Saul as given in anger; and the second to Zedekiah as taken away in wrath.
The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid.
Verse 12. - The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid. This verse is in tended to remove all doubt about the punishment of sin, whatever interval may have elapsed. The day of reckoning would certainly come, for the sin of Ephraim was neither forgotten nor blotted out. As a miser puts his money in a bag and seals it to prevent it being lost, so the Almighty had, as it were, hoarded Ephraim's sin, putting it in a bag and tying it. A parallel expression occurs in Job 14:17," My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and thou sewest up mine iniquity." Usually when men put money into a bag, purse, or treasure-house, they count it; so the sins of Ephraim were reckoned, laid up in the treasury of wrath, till the amount should be full and the day of reckoning arrive. The sinner himself is represented as treasuring up unto himself wrath against the day of wrath. Aben Ezra only remarks on the place where it is treasured: "It is bound up in my heart; I shall not forget it as they have forgotten me, as is written above" (ver. 6, "They have forgotten me").
The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children.
Verse 13. - The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him. The threatened punishment that is to overtake them is compared to the throes of a parturient woman, on account of their severity, as 1 Thessalonians 5:3. Their sinfulness, which stands in the way of their success, shall be succeeded by severe sufferings and many sorrows. But eventually these worldly sorrows shall, under Divine grace, issue in the godly sorrows of repentance: then, and not till then, shall a new and happier period of existence be ushered in. The sorrow of travail shall give place to the joy of birth Delay of confession and repentance defers that joy, prolongs the sufferings, and puts the life of both parent and child in peril, so far as their personality is identical. He is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children. Here the unwisdom of Israel is accounted for: it is folly, sheer folly that postpones repentance, and delays efforts and aspirations after new spiritual life, The literal rendering of the last clause is -

(1) For it is time, he should not tarry at the place of the breaking forth of children; or rather,

(2) When it is time, he does not place himself at (literally, stand) or come forward to the opening of the womb; and some translate עֵתִ

(3) "at the time," but that would rather require לְעֵת; it might, indeed, be duration of time, and Aben Ezra so renders it: "Therefore at the time he will not stand in the breaking forth of children." Also Wunsche: "He is an unwise son, for at the time he stands not in the breaking forth of children." It might be expressed, as in the Authorized Version, with a slight modification; thus: For otherwise he would not stand long time in the place of the breaking forth of children. The figure is now shifted from the mother to the child; such abrupt and sudden transitions are not infrequent in Scripture, especially in the Pauline Epistles (setup. e.g. 2 Corinthians 3:13-16). The danger is represented as extreme, as may be inferred from the similar expression, "The children are come to the birth, and there is no strength to bring forth." A perilous period in Israel's history is indicated, and to escape the danger he must make no tarrying, but advance at once into the new life of faith and repentance. Kimchi has the following comment: "Because he has compared his pains to the pain of a woman in travail, he says, 'The children are not wise,' as if he said, 'The coming generations, who have seen their fathers in affliction because of their iniquities, are not wise, and do not consider that distress has overtaken their fathers because of their iniquity; and turn not from the evil deeds of their fathers, but have done wickedness like them.'" He adds: "There are children lively by nature in their coming forth out of the womb; so also would these, if they were wise, not stay a single hour in distress, but immediately On returning to the Lord be delivered out of their distress." The LXX. omit the negative and render מי by ἐν συντριβῇ: "This wise son of thine [employed ironically] shall not stand [or, 'endure'] in the destruction of his children or people."
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.
Verse 14. - I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. God here promises them deliverance from utter ruin; the grave shall be thus deprived of his victim, and the victim rescued out of the tyrant grasp of death. פָדָה is to redeem by payment of a price; גאל by right of kinship; while שְׁאול, the under world, is derived

(1) by some from ָשאַל, to ask or demand, and is favored by such statements as the following: "There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: the grave," and so on; "Who enlargeth his desire as well, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied." Others

(2) derive it from שאל, equivalent to שעל (by a softening of the ayin into aleph), to be hollow; but this signification of the word is not satisfactorily established. A third

(3) derivation is שׁוּל, to hang down loose or slack, then to be deep, or low, and so the noun comes to signify sinking, depth, abyss. O Death, I will be thy plagues; O Grave, I will be thy destruction. Thus אֶהִי is

(a) incorrectly taken by some for the first person future of היה; it is

(b) more properly taken in the sense of "where," as in ver. 10 of the present chapter. בְבָרֶיך is plural, referred by some to דָבָר, hence δικηῆ, LXX.; it is, however, the plural of

(c) דֶבֶר, pestilence, and קָטָבְך, pestilence, destruction, from קְטֹב, to cut off, akin to חטב. Hitzig says that קְבֹל קְטֹב, and קְטֹן are originally infinitives, and the last two designate instruments or members, and thus give a sort of support to the traditional κέντρον of the LXX. Now, this verse has been understood by some in the sense

(1) of consolation; and by others

(2) in that of combination.

In the latter sense it is understood by the Hebrew commentators, and by not a few Christian interpreters. Thus Rashi: "I am he who redeemed them from the hand of Sheol, and delivered them from death; but now I will set myself to speak against thee words of death." Aben Ezra: "I redeemed thy fathers; now I shall be thy deadly pestilence; I will also be thy destruction." Kimehi is more diffuse, as usual; he explains thus: "I would have redeemed them from the power of Sheol, if they had been wise. But now that he is not wise, but a feel, and denies my goodness, it is not enough that I shall not redeem thee from death, but I shall bring upon thee death by pestilence, and by the sword, and by famine, and by evil beast." The condition supplied by Kimchi is entirely arbitrary and without anything in the context to suggest it. Calvin in like manner interjects a condition; thus: "I will redeem them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death; that is, except they resist, I will become willingly their Redeemer. Some have, therefore, rendered the passage in the subjunctive mood, 'From the hand of the grave I would redeem them, from death I would deliver them.... I will then redeem them, as far as this depends on me;' for a condition is to be introduced, as though God came forth and declared that he was present to fulfill the office of a Redeemer. What, then, does stand in the way? Even the hardness of the people. He afterwards adds, 'I will be thy perdition, O Death; I will be thy excision, O Grave.' By these words the prophet more distinctly sets forth the power of God, and magnificently extols it, lest men should think that there is no way open to him to save, when no hope according to the judgment of the flesh appears. Hence the prophet says, 'Though men are now dead, there is yet nothing to prevent God to quicken them. How so? For he is the ruin of death, and the excision of the grave;' that is, 'Though death should swallow up all men, though the grave should consume them, yet God is superior to both death and the grave, for he can slay death, for he can abolish the grave.' He afterwards proceeds to "answer to that which is said of Paul quoting this passage. The solution is not difficult. The apostles do not avowedly at all times adduce passages which in their whole context apply to the subject they handle; but sometimes they allude to a word only, sometimes they apply a passage to a subject in the way of resemblance, and sometimes they bring forward passages as testimonies. When the apostles use the testimonies of Scripture, then the genuine and real truth must be sought out; but when they glance only at one word, there is no occasion to make any anxious inquiry; and when they quote any passage of Scripture in the way of resemblance, it is a too scrupulous anxiety to seek out how all the parts agree. But it is quite evident that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, has not quoted the testimony of the prophet for the purpose of confirming the doctrine el which he speaks. What then? As the resurrection of the flesh was a truth very difficult to be believed, nay, wholly contrary to the judgment of nature, Paul says that it is no matter of wonder...because it is the peculiar prerogative of God to be the perdition of death and the destruction of the grave.... He is endued with that incomprehensible power by which he can raise us from a state of putrefaction; nay, since he created the world from nothing, he will also raise us up from the grave, for he is the death of death, the grave of the grave, the ruin of ruin, and the destruction of destruction; and the simple object of Paul is to extol by these striking words that incredible power of God, which is beyond the reach of human understanding." Others viewing the subject in the same light, read the clauses interrogatively, and the imperfects in a subjunctive sense; thus -

"From the power of Sheol should I ransom them?
From death deliver them?'
The answer being, "Certainly not."

"Where are thy pestilences. O Death?
Where is thy destruction, O Sheol?
Let those pestilences and that destruction
be produced for Ephraim's ruin."
Repentance (relenting) shall be hid from mine eyes. This Rashi explains: "I will feel no regret over this calamity." But we greatly prefer the sense of consolation assigned by many Christian interpreters to the passage. No doubt the verse before and that following this fourteenth verse are a threat which probably induced so many, as we have seen, to include this verse in the menace. But the abruptness of the prophet's style sufficiently accounts for a bright Messianic promise to relieve the gloom of the dark predictions among which it is interjected. Redemption from the power of Sheol signifies, not merely deliverance from danger and deliverance from death, but deliverance from the under world by rescuing the living from the region of the dead, or rescuing from the realm of death those already subject to his grim dominion; while the destruction of death is celebrated in words of triumph, as Theodoret says, "He gives command to sing a paean over [literally, 'against'] death." To the Israelites the promise signified the power of the Lord to redeem from death and restore them from destruction to newness of life, just as the dead dry bones of Israel in the valley of Ezekiel's vision are restored to life. The use which Paul makes of this verse when he couples it with the words of Isaiah, "Death is swallowed up in victory," in 1 Corinthians 15:55, is to confirm the full and final annihilation of death at the resurrection. This fuller and deeper meaning, dimly unfolded to Old Testament saints, was clearly brought to light in New Testament Scripture. The absence of repentance denotes the irrevocable accomplishment of the Divine purpose of salvation. Pussy has pertinently remarked upon this verse: "God by his prophets mingles promises of mercy in the midst of his threats of punishment. His mercy overflows the bounds of the occasion upon which he makes it known. He had sentenced Ephraim to temporal destruction. This was unchangeable. He points to that which turns all temporal loss into gain, that eternal redemption. The words are the fullest which could have been chosen. The word rendered 'ransom' signifies rescued them by the payment of a price; the word rendered 'redeem' relates to one who, as the nearest of kin, had the right to acquire anything as his own by paying that price. Both words, in their exactest sense, describe what Jesus did, buying us with a price... and becoming our near kinsman by his incarnation.... The words refuse to be tied down to a temporal deliverance. A little longer continuance in Canaan is not a redemption from the power of the grave; nor was Ephraim so delivered."
Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels.
Verse 15. - Though he be fruitful among his brethren. It should rather be, for he bear fruit among brethren. כִּי, in this verse, is neither a particle of time, "when," nor a conditional particle, "if," but "for," adducing "a reason to prove that the promised grace of redemption would certainly stand firm." Ki is distinguished from אִם by being "only used in cases where a circumstance is assumed to be real For one that is merely supposed to be pebble, אִם is required," as may be inferred from the interchange of the two words in Numbers 5:19 and 20. The name Ephraim, signifying "double-fruitfulness," shall be verified, confirming the promised redemption from death, and, by the pledge of blessing, which the name implies affording a guarantee that the coming storm would not quite overwhelm them. The play on the name Ephraim fixes the meaning of יַפְרִיא, the aleph taking the place of he. The Septuagint διαστελεῖ, equivalent to "shall cause a division," and Jerome's divider, suppose יַפְרִיד or יַפְלִיא. But though fruitful among the other tribes, yet the abuse of that fruitfulness invited the instrument of destruction. There is an allusion to the patriarchal blessing, "Joseph is a fruitful bough by a well;" the source of his fruitfulness was that well or fountain; while the drying up of it would be the certain cause of barrenness. An east wind shall come, the wind of the Lord shall come up from the wilderness. Thus, while Ephraim presents the pleasing picture of a fair and fruitful tree, the element of destruction is already on the way. A wind, the east wind, with its rude vehemence, blighting heat, and desolating effect, was coming. It was a wind, not coming by chance, but commissioned by Jehovah as a minister of vengeance to execute his wrath. It was, moreover, a wind issuing forth from its home in the desert, and fraught with fiery heat from the scorching sands of the Arabian desert. And his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up. This flourishing tree, planted by the living spring, to which it owed its vigor and verdure, was doomed soon to wither in consequence of the drying up of the waters, that nourished it, by the east wind. He shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels. Here the figure merges in the fact. The Assyrian conqueror was the blustering east wind, that swept like a whirlwind with his armies from the east. He not only ravaged the country, but rifled the treasures of the capital The keli chemdah included all the valuables and treasures of Samaria referred to in the following verse. Kimchi explains the verse as follows: "For Ephraim was fruitful among brethren as long as he did not make calves. He became increasingly great and fruitful among his brethren, as Jacob said of him.... And now that he has sinned, an east wind of the Lord shall come; and it is the King of Assyria that is meant. And he compares him to the east wind, because it is a wind from the east, for the land of Assyria lies to the east of the land of Israel; and further he says, 'east wind,' because it is a violent wind. And he says, 'wind of Jehovah,' to magnify the wind and emphasize it; and he says also, 'spirit of Jehovah,' because Jehovah the blessed stirred up his spirit (i.e. spirit of the King of Assyria) to come against Israel, 'goeth up from the wilderness;' wind is always in the wilderness. Or the explanation is, because the wilderness is between the land of Israel and the land of Assyria; and before this wind, which is the King of Assyria, is dried up the fountain of Ephraim, which was at first like a tree flourishing by the waters." And now before this wind shall its spring become dry and its fountain dried up. The verb יֵבושׁ, as from בּושׁ, is an irregular formation for הובִישׁ, as on the contrary we find the Hiph. הובִישׁ, as if from יָבֵשׁ.
Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.
Verse 16. - Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God. Others translate shall atone, i.e. bear guilt or punishment. In the latter sense it is from אֵָשם, to atone or suffer the punishment of contracted guilt; in the former sense it is from שָׁמְם, and it is translated accordingly by ἀφανισθηδεταῖ in the LXX., and pereat by Jerome; so also Aben Ezra: "It shall be laid waste;" Kimchi: "The aleph has seh'wa alone, and the signification 'desolation,' and so the dwellers therein shall be made desolate." He thus intimates that aleph, having sch'aa alone without seghol, does not belong to the root, which is not אשם (for its future would be תֶּךאשׁם), but שָׁמַם. Rashi, however, understands it in the sense of "atone," or "find out her guiltiness;" he says, "From now will her guilt manifest itself." The reason of Samaria being thus mentioned is not only that it was the capital of the northern kingdom, but, as Kimchi says, "it confirmed Israel in the worship of the calves; for if the kings had been good, they would have brought back Israel to what was good." The ki assigns the reason of Samaria's desolation or guilt; it was rebellion against Jehovah, for Samaria was the seat and center of idolatry, and hence it spread throughout the land. They shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up. The destruction thus described was to be complete. The present population would perish by the sword; the future progeny would be extinguished and all posterity cut off. Not only the children already born, but those unborn, were devoted to destruction; and all this in the most savage and barbarous manner. The word עולֵל (from עלל, to meddle, gratify one's self, indulge one's caprice) presents childhood on the side of playfulness or petulance. The pronominal suffix attached to הרי refers to the city; and the feminine noun itself, forming subject to verbs in the masculine, arises from the fact that the feminine of the imperfect plural becomes rarer; or because the feminine plural only gradually distinguishes itself by a peculiar form from the masculine. The cruelties here specified may have been occasioned by those of the same kind with which Menahem King of Samaria smote Tiphsah. On that occasion "all the women therein that were with child he ripped up" (compare, for the cruel practice, 'Iliad,' 6:58; ,2 Kings 8:12 and 2 Kings 15:16).

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

Bible Hub
Hosea 12
Top of Page
Top of Page