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Ver.1. "Then said the Lord unto me, Go again, love a [Pg 274] woman beloved of her friend, and an adulteress, as the Lord loveth the sons of Israel, and they turn to other gods and love grape-cakes."
The right point of view for the interpretation of this verse has been already, in many important respects, established; compare p.183 sqq. We here take for granted the results there obtained. It is of great importance, for an insight into the whole passage, to remark, that the symbolical action in this section, just as in that to which chap. i. belongs, embraces the entire relation of the Lord to the people of Israel, and not, as some interpreters assume, one portion only, viz., the time from the beginning of the captivity. This false view -- of which the futility was first completely exposed by Manger -- has arisen from the circumstance, that the prophet, in narrating the execution of the divine commission, omits very important events. In the expectation that every one would supply them, partly from the commission itself, and partly from the preceding portions, where they had been treated of with peculiar copiousness, he rather at once passes from the first conclusion of the marriage, to that point which, in this passage, forms his main subject, namely, the disciplinary punishment to which he subjects his wife, -- the Lord, Israel. The prophet's aim and purpose is to afford to the people a right view of the captivity so near at hand; to lead them to consider it neither as a merely accidental event, having, no connection at all with their sins; nor as a pure effect of divine anger, aiming at their entire destruction; but rather as being at the same time a work of punitive justice, and of corrective love. Between the second verse, "I purchased her to me," etc., and the third, "Then I said unto her," etc., we must supply. And I took her in marriage and loved her; but she committed adultery. That this is the sound view, appears clearly from ver.2. According to the right exposition (compare p.195 sqq.), this verse can be referred only to the first beginning of the relation betwixt the Lord and the people of Israel -- to that only by which He acquired the right of property in this people, on delivering them from Egypt. This is confirmed, moreover, by the second half of the verse under consideration: "As the Lord loveth," etc. Here the love of the Lord to Israel in its widest extent is spoken of. Every limitation of it to a single manifestation -- be it a [Pg 275] renewal of love after the apostasy, or the corrective discipline inflicted from love -- is quite arbitrary; and the more so, because, by the addition, "And they turned," etc., the love of God is represented as running parallel with the apostasy of the people. The same result is obtained from a consideration of the first half. For what entitles us to explain "love" by "love again," or even by "restitue amoris signa" as is done by those who hold the opinion, already refuted, that the woman is Gomer? The word "love" corresponds exactly with "as the Lord loveth." If the latter must be understood of the love of the Lord in its whole extent, -- if it does not designate merely the manifestation of love, but love itself, -- how can a more limited view be taken of the former "love?" How could we explain, as is done by those who defend the reference to a new marriage, the words, "Beloved of her friend, and an adulteress," as referring to a former marriage of the wife, and as tantamount to -- who was beloved by her former husband, and yet committed adultery? In that case, there would be the greatest dissimilarity betwixt the type and the antitype. Who, in that case, is to be the type of the Lord? Is it to be the former husband, or the prophet? If the figure is at all to correspond with the reality, -- the first member with the second, the [Hebrew: re] can be none other than the prophet himself. -- Let us now proceed to particulars, [Hebrew: ahb], "love," is stronger than [Hebrew: qH], "take," in chap. i.2. There, marriage only was spoken of; here, marriage from love and in love. This is still more emphatically pointed out by the subsequent words [Hebrew: ahbt re], and contrasted with the conduct of the wife, which is indicated by [Hebrew: mnapt], so that the sense is this: "In love take a wife who, although she is beloved by thee, her friend, commits adultery, and with whom -- I tell it to thee beforehand -- thou wilt live in a constant antagonism of love, and of ingratitude, the grossest violation of love." The word "love" has a reference to the love preceding and effecting the marriage; the word "beloved," to the love uninterruptedly continuing during the marriage, and notwithstanding the continued adultery, unless we should say -- and it is quite admissible -- that "love" implies, at the same time, "to take out of love," and "to love constantly." Instead of "beloved by thee" it is said, "beloved by her friend." Many have been thereby misled; but it only serves to make the contrast more [Pg 276] prominent. [Hebrew: re] has only one signification -- that of friend. It never, by itself, means "fellow-man," never "fellow-Jew," never "one with whom we have intercourse." The Pharisees were quite correct in understanding it as the opposite of enemy. In their gloss, Matt. v.43, [Greek: kai miseseis ton echthronsou], there was one thing only objectionable -- the most important, it is true -- that by the friend, they understood only him whom their heart, void of love, loved indeed; not him whom they ought to have loved, because God had united him to them by the sacred ties of friendship and love. Thus, what ought to have awakened them to love, just served them as a palliation for their hatred. Now this signification, which alone is the settled one, is here also very suitable. He whom the wife criminally forsakes, is not a severe husband, but her loving friend, whom she herself formerly acknowledged as such, and who always remains the same. Entirely parallel is Jer. iii.20: "As a wife is faithless towards her friend, so have ye been faithless to Me;" compare ver.4: "Hast thou not formerly called me. My father, friend of my youth art thou?" Compare also Song of Sol. v.16. The correct meaning was long ago seen by Calvin: "There is," says he, "an expressiveness in this word. For often, when women prostitute themselves, they complain that they have done it on account of the too great severity of their husbands, and that they are not treated by their husbands with sufficient kindness. But if a husband delight in having his wife with him, if he treat her kindly and perform the duties of a husband, she is then less excusable. Hence, it is this most heinous ingratitude of the people that is here expressed, and set in opposition to the infinite mercy and kindness of the Lord." For a still better insight into the meaning of the first half of this verse, we subjoin the paraphrasis by Manger: "Seek thee a wife in whom thou art to have thy delight, and whom thou art to treat with such love, that, even if she, by her unfaithfulness, violate the sacred rights of matrimony, and thou, for that reason, canst no longer live with her, [Pg 277] she shall still remain dear to thee, and shall be willingly received again into thy favour, as soon as she shall have reformed her life." -- In the second half of the verse, there is a verbal agreement with passages of the Pentateuch, so close that it cannot certainly be accidental. Compare on [Hebrew: kahbt ihvh at-bni iwral], Deut. vii.8, [Hebrew: mahbt ihvh atkM], -- an agreement which undoubtedly deserves so much more attention, that we have already established the relationship of the passage with ver.2. On [Hebrew: pniM al alhiM aHriM], compare Deut. xxxi.18: "I will hide My face in that day for all the evil they are doing, for they turn to other gods," [Hebrew: pnH al alhiM aHriM] -- [Hebrew: awiwi enbiM], "grape-cakes," has, as to its substance, been already explained, p.194 sqq. It is the result of an entire misunderstanding, that some interpreters should here think of the love of feasting and banqueting. Others (as Gesenius) are anxious to prove that such cakes were used at the sacrifices which were offered to idols. The grape-cakes are rather idolatry itself; but the expression, "They love grape-cakes," adds an essential feature to the words, "They turn to other gods." It points, namely, to the sinful origin of idolatry. Earnest and strict religion is substantial and wholesome food; but idolatry is soft food, which is sought only by the dainty and squeamish. That which is true of idolatry, is true also of the service of sin, and of the world in general, which, in Job xx.12, appears under the image of meat which is, in the mouth, as sweet as honey from the comb, but which is, in the belly, changed into the gall of asps. In the symbolism of the law, honey signified the lust of the world; compare my work Die Opfer der Heil. Schrift, S.44. It is only the derivation of [Hebrew: awiwiT], the signification of which is sufficiently established by parallel passages, which requires investigation. We have no hesitation in deriving it from [Hebrew: aw], "fire;" hence it means properly, "that which has been subjected to fire (compare [Hebrew: awh]) = that which has been baked," "cakes." The derivation from [Hebrew: aww], "to found," has of late become current; but the objections to it are: -- partly, that the transition from "founding," to "cake," is by no means an easy one; partly and mainly, that there is not the slightest trace of this root elsewhere in Hebrew. It is asserted, indeed, that [Hebrew: awiwiM] itself is found in Is. xvi.7, with a signification which renders necessary the derivation from the verb [Hebrew: aww]. But, even in that passage, the signification of [Pg 278] "cakes" must be retained. The following reasons are in favour of it, and against the signification "ruins," adopted by Gesenius, Winer, and Hitzig.1. The signification "cakes" deserves, ceteris paribus, a decided preference, because it is established by the other passages. It is only for reasons the most cogent that we can grant that one and the same word has two meanings, and these not at all connected with each other.2. The transition from the meaning "foundation," which alone can be derived from the verb [Hebrew: aww], to that of "ruins," is by no means so easy as those critics would represent it. With respect to a rebuilding, for which the ruins' afford the foundation, they might, it is true, be called foundations, compare Is. lviii.12, but not where destruction only is concerned. Who would speak of howling over foundations, instead of howling over ruins? 3. The context is quite decisive. If we translate [Hebrew: awiwiM] by "ruins," the subsequent [Hebrew: ki] is quite inexplicable. This little word, upon which so much depends, performs also the office of a guide: "For this reason Moab howls, for Moab altogether does he howl, for the cakes of Kirhareseth you do sigh, wholly afflicted; for the vineyards of Heshbon are withered, the vine of Sibmah, the grapes of which intoxicated the lord of the nations," etc. Then, ver.9, "Therefore I weep with Jaeser for the vine of Sibmah." If there be no more grapes, neither are there any more grape-cakes. The destruction of the vineyards is therefore the cause of the howling for the cakes. That such cakes, moreover, were prepared in many places in Moab, sufficiently appears from the name of the place Dibhlathaim, i.e., town of cakes. It may be remarked further, that we are not entitled to assume a sing. [Hebrew: awiw] as given by lexicographers along with [Hebrew: awiwh]; [Hebrew: dblh] likewise forms the plural [Hebrew: dbliM].
Ver.2. "And I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and a homer of barley, and a lethech of barley." Compare the explanation of this verse, p.195 sqq.
Ver.3. "And I said unto her. Thou art to sit for me many days: thou art not to whore, and thou art not to belong to a man; and so I also to thee."
The sitting has the accessory idea of being forsaken and solitary, which may be explained from the circumstance, that he who is not invited to go with us is left to sit. Thus, e.g., Gen. xxxviii.11: "Sit as a widow in thy fathers house, until Shelah [Pg 279] my son be grown;" Is. xlvii.8, where Babylon says, "I shall not sit as a widow," etc. The Fut. in this and the following verses must not be taken in an imperative sense, as meaning, thou shalt sit for me, thou shalt not whore; the explanation given in ver.4, and in the parallel passage in chap. ii.8, 9, are alike opposed to it. The husband will not subject his wife to a moral probation, but he will lock her up, so that she must sit solitary, and cannot whore. With reference to this. Manger strikingly remarks: "There is, in that very severity, the beginning of leniency; 'sit for me,' i.e., I who have been so unworthily treated by thee, and who yet am thy most affectionate husband, and who, though now at a distance from thee, will not altogether forget thee." The [Hebrew: li] indicates that the sitting of the wife must have reference to the prophet. Quite similar is Exod. xxiv.14: "And he said unto the elders, [Hebrew: wbv lnv], Sit ye here for us until we return to you." The phrase itself, which must not be explained by "to sit in expectation of some one," does not indicate in what way the sitting has reference to him. The issue of the whole proceeding, described in ver.5, clearly shows, however, that it is not inflicted by him as a merited punishment, as an effect of his just indignation, but rather that we must think chiefly of his compassionate love, which makes use of these means in order to render the reunion possible. -- The distinction between "to whore," and "to belong to a man," is obvious: the former denotes vagos et promiscuus amores; the other, connubial connection with a single individual; compare, e.g., Ezek. xvi.8; Lev. xxi.3. But the question is, -- Who is to be understood by the "man?" Several refer it to the prophet exclusively. Thus Jerome says, "Thou shalt not shamefully prostitute thyself with other lovers, nor be legally connected with me, the man to whom thou art married." Others admit, at least, a co-reference to the prophet = the Lord. By the words, "Thou art not to whore," they say that the intercourse with the lovers is excluded; but, by, "Thou art not to belong to a man," the intercourse with the husband also; so that the sense would be, "Thou shalt not have connubial intercourse either with me, or with any other man." But the correct view is to refer both to the intercourse with the lovers; and so, indeed, that the former designates the giving of herself up, now to one, then to another; while the latter points to her entering [Pg 280] into a firm relation to a single individual; just as, in point of fact, the relation of Israel to the idols hitherto was a whoring. According as it suited their inclination, they made, now this, and then that, god of the neighbouring nations an object of their worship; whilst a marriage connection would have been formed, if they had entered with any one of them into a permanent and exclusive connection, similar to that which had heretofore existed between them and the Lord. This explanation is required by the words, "And so I also to thee," at the close of the verse. If the words, "Thou shalt not belong to any man," referred to the prophet, then "thou shalt not have any intercourse with me" would imply, "I shall not have any intercourse with thee;" and did not require any new mention to be made. -- The questions, however, now arise: -- By what means was the state of things corresponding to the figure to be brought about? By what is adulterous Israel to be prevented from whoring, and from belonging to any man? By what means is idolatry to be extirpated from among the people? The answer has been already given in our remarks on chap. ii.8, 9. The idols manifest themselves to Israel in their supposed gifts. If these were taken from them, -- if they were entirely stripped, and plunged into want and misery, they could not fail to recognise the vanity of all their previous efforts, along with the vanity of the object of their worship, while their love to him could not but vanish. The absolute inability of the idols to afford consolation and help to the people in their sufferings must have put an end to their showing them allegiance. -- The last words, "And I also to thee," are explained by the greater number of interpreters to mean, "I also will be thine." Manger explains them thus: "I will not altogether break the tie of our love, nor marry another wife; but I will remain thine, will at last receive thee again into my favour, and restore thee to the position of my wife." De Wette interprets them thus: "But then I will come to thee;" Umbreit: "And I also only to thee;" Ewald: "And yet I am full of love towards thee." But the words, "And I also to thee," are rather tantamount to -- "I will conduct myself in a similar manner towards thee." Now two things may constitute this equality of conduct. Either it is conceived thus: -- that the prophet is placed in parallelism with the wife. The latter has lost all claims upon the prophet; she has violated connubial [Pg 281] fidelity, and, hence, has no title to demand that he should observe it. But that which she cannot demand from him, he does, from the necessity of his nature. He promises to her that, during the proceeding which has commenced against her, he would not enter into any new connection; and by holding out to her the hope of her returning, at some future period, to her old relation to him, he makes it more easy for her to break off the sinful connections which have destroyed it. Without a figure: The Lord, from His forbearance and mercy, waits for the reformation of those who hitherto were His people; does not drive them to despair by receiving another people in their place. Or, The prophet is placed in parallelism with the other man. As the wife does not enter into any relation with that man, so the prophet also abstains from any nearer intercourse with her. The latter explanation (adopted by Simson and Hitzig) is to be preferred. The exclusiveness cannot in the same sense be applicable to the prophet, representing the Lord, as to the wife, representing the people. So early as in Deut. xxxii.21, we read: "They have moved Me to jealousy with that which is not God, they have provoked Me to anger with their vanities; and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people, I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation," After all that had, in the Song of Solomon, been predicted regarding the reception of the Gentile nations into the kingdom of God and Christ, and about the receiving again into it of Israel, to be effected by their instrumentality (compare my Comment. on Song of Sol., S.239), the thought suggested by the former view would be quite incomprehensible. Quite decisive, however, is ver.4, in which the thought, which is here in a symbolical garb, is expressed in plain language. There, however, not only the intercourse with the idols, but the connection with Jehovah also, appears to be intermitted. The reason why the prophet does not enter into a closer connection with the wife is, that her repentance is more of a negative, than of a positive character. By want and isolation, her hard heart is to be broken, true repentance to be called forth, and the flame of cordial conversion and love to her husband, whose faithful love she had so ill requited, to be enkindled in her. In favour of the explanation given by us, and in opposition to that first mentioned, the [Hebrew: nM] is decisive. Against this, that other explanation, [Pg 282] in its various modifications, tries its strength in vain. "I also will be thine, or will adhere to thee," would require in the preceding context, "Thou shalt be mine, or adhere to me;" but of this, there is no trace. It is only in ver.5 that, with an after, the conversion is reported. In favour of that false interpretation it is said, and with some plausibility, that the explanation would otherwise be more extended than the symbol: The latter would contain the outward dealing only; while the former, in ver.5, would contain at the same time its salutary effect. But, even according to this explanation, the words would not correspond with ver.5. Here, the showing of mercy would be announced without the mention, even by a word, of the sincere return to the husband -- and this, altogether apart from the [Hebrew: gM], would be quite unsuitable, and would, moreover, be opposed by the analogy of chap. ii.9 -- while, in ver.5, not the showing of mercy, but only the reformation, would form the subject. In that case, it ought not to have been said, "They shall return to the Lord," but rather, "The Lord shall return to them." But this plausible reason falls to the ground, along with the unfounded supposition that the two last verses contain the explanation. The correct view is, that the explanation is limited to ver.4. Ver.5 must be considered as an appendix, in which, without any figurative covering, the effect is described which will be produced upon the nation by these outward dealings. The symbol and its explanation extend only as far as the main object of the prophet in the section under review, -- that object being to present the impending captivity in its true light, and thereby to secure against levity and despair when it should appear.
Ver.4. "For many days the children of Israel shall sit without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without a pillar, and without an Ephod and Teraphim."
[Hebrew: ki] is used because the reason of the performance of the symbolical action lies in its signification. Concerning [Hebrew: iwb], see the remarks on ver.3; compare, moreover. Lament, i.1: "How does the city sit solitary that was full of people! she has become as a widow." -- The question is, whether, by the religious objects here mentioned, such only are to be understood as belonged to the worship of the idols, or such also as belonged to the worship of Jehovah. The following furnishes the reply. The [Hebrew: mcbh] only [Pg 283] can be considered as belonging exclusively to the idolatrous worship. Such pillars always occur only as being consecrated to the idols -- especially to Baal. It cannot be proved in any way that, contrary to the express command in Lev. xxvi.1, Deut. xvi.22, they were, in the kingdom of Israel, consecrated to the Lord also; compare 2 Kings iii.2, xvii.10, x.26-28. On the other hand, among the objects mentioned, there is also one, the [Hebrew: apvd], the mantle for the shoulders of the high priest, on which the Urim and Thummim were placed, which must be considered as belonging exclusively to the worship of Jehovah; at least there is not the smallest trace to be found that it was part of any idolatrous worship. It is true that Gesenius, in the Thesaurus, p.135, gives s. v. [Hebrew: apvd], under 2, the signification statua, simulacrum idoli, and, besides the passages under consideration, refers to Jud. viii.27, xvii.5, xviii.14, 17. But one requires only to examine these passages a little more minutely, to be convinced that the metamorphosis of Jehovah into an idol is as little justified as the changing of the mantle into a statue. From the personal character of Gideon, who was so zealous for the Lord against the idols, we cannot at all think of idolatry in Jud. viii.27. In the Dissertations on the Genuineness of the Pentateuch, vol. ii. p.80, it has been proved that the Ephod of Gideon was a precious imitation of that of the high priest. In chap. xvii.5, we need only to consider these words: "And the man Micah had an house of God, and made an Ephod and Teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, and he became a priest to him." Afterwards, Micah took a Levite for a priest. But for what reason should he have been better suited for that purpose than any other man? The answer is given in ver.13: "Then said Micah, Now I know that Jehovah will do me good, for the Levite has become a priest to me." The ignorant man knows after all thus much, that the Levites alone are the only legitimate servants of Jehovah, and he rejoices, therefore, that he had now remedied the former irregularity. Jud. xviii.14 does not require any particular illustration, for it is the same Ephod which is spoken of in that passage; but we must still direct attention to vers.5 and 6 of that chapter. "Then they (the Danites) said unto him (the Levite), Ask God, we pray thee, in order that we may know whether our way in which we go shall be prosperous. And the priest said unto them, Go in [Pg 284] peace, before Jehovah is the way wherein ye go." Here, then, we have a revelation given to the priest, as is alleged, by means of Ephod and Teraphim; and this revelation is not ascribed to the idols, but to Jehovah, whom alone the Levite wished to serve. From this it appeal's that the graven image and the molten image -- which, besides Ephod and Teraphim, according to ver.14, exist in the house of Micah -- must be considered as representations of Jehovah, similar to the calvesin the kingdom of the ten tribes. In vol. ii. pp.78, 79, of my Dissertations on the Genuineness of the Pentateuch, it has been demonstrated that the Ephod of Micah was, along with the Teraphim, an apeing of the high-priestly Ephod with the Urim and Thummim. The four objects mentioned in Judges xvii. and xviii. are such as were separable although connected, and connected although separable. The molten work is the pedestal under the image; the image is clothed with the Ephod, and in the Ephod were the Teraphim, from whom information and good counsel for the future were expected. For, that this is the object of the whole contrivance, is plain from chap. xviii.5, 6, where the priest asks counsel of God for the Danites. -- With regard to the other two objects mentioned in the verse before us, viz., the sacrifice and Teraphim, a reference, at least exclusive, to idolatrous worship, cannot be by any means maintained. As sacrifices are mentioned in the widest generality, without any limitation in the preceding context, there is certainly nothing which could in the least entitle us to exclude the sacrifices which were offered to Jehovah. The Teraphim are intermediate deities, by means of which the future is to be disclosed (compare the remarks on Zech. x.2); they might be brought into connection with every religious system, but are found only once in connection with any other religion than that of Jehovah, -- and this in a case where a non-Israelite is spoken of. It is true, however, that, in substance, the Teraphim belong to the side of idolatry; for, wherever they occur within the religion of Jehovah, they belong to a degenerate condition of it only, which is on a par with idolatry. It would appear that they are here contrasted with the Ephod, as the illegal means for ascertaining the future, in opposition to the legal means. That the Ephod was used for discovering the divine will, is seen from 1 Sam. xxiii.9, xxx.7. The Teraphim, in like manner, served to explore [Pg 285] the future. A closer connection of the two seems to be indicated by the circumstance that [Hebrew: aiN] is omitted before [Hebrew: trpiM]. -- But how can we account for this strange intermingling of what belonged to the idols with what belonged to Jehovah, since it cannot but be done intentionally? It points to the dark mixture which at that time existed among the people, and is a kind of ironical reflection upon it. -- The Lord makes them disgusted with idolatry, and all that belongs to it, through His visitations, in which they seek in vain the help of the idols, and become thoroughly acquainted with their vanity; compare remarks in ver.3. At the same time, however, all the pledges of His grace are taken from them, so that they get into an altogether isolated position. He withdraws from them their independent government, the altar and priesthood -- the former as a just punishment for their rebellion against the dynasty ordained by God (compare chap. viii.4), of which, first Israel, and then Judah, had made themselves guilty. -- As regards the historical reference of this prophecy, interpreters are divided, and refer it either to the Assyrian, the Babylonish, or the Romish exile. The greater number of them, however, refer it exclusively to the last. This is especially the case with the Jewish interpreters; e.g., Kimchi, who says: "These are the days of the exile, in which we are now; we have neither an Israelitish king nor an Israelitish prince, but are under the dominion of the Gentiles and their kings." The principal defenders of a direct reference to the Assyrian captivity, are Venema (Dissert. p.232) and Manger. The decision depends chiefly upon what we are to understand by "the children of Israel." If these are the whole people, it is arbitrary to assign any narrower limits to the Word of God, than to His deed. The prophecy must, in that case, comprehend everything in which the idea is realized; and this so much the more, as the spiritual eye of the prophet, directed to the idea only, does not generally regard the intervals which, in the fulfilment, lie between the various realizations of the idea. But now, ver.5 would seem to lead us to entertain the opinion, that, in the first instance, the prophet has in view the children of Israel in the more limited sense only. The words, "They shall return and seek David their king," imply a reference to the then existing apostasy of the ten tribes from the dynasty of David. But the future apostasy of the sons of Judah also from [Pg 286] David their king may be as well presupposed here, as, in chapter ii.2, their being carried away; and this so much the rather, as in chap. ii.2, the words, "They appoint themselves a king," suggest that the sons of Judah also, no less than the sons of Israel, are without a head, and hence have apostatized from David the king. And it is so much the more natural to adopt such a supposition, as the Song of Solomon had already described so minutely the rebellion of the whole people against the glorious descendant of David -- the heavenly Solomon -- to which the apostasy of the ten tribes from the house of David was only a prelude. Considering the whole relation in which Hosea stands to the Song of Solomon, we could scarcely imagine that, in this respect, he should not have alluded to, and resumed its contents. In the whole third chapter there is nothing which refers exclusively to the ten tribes. Chap. iii.2 has reference to all Israel. Throughout the whole Book of Hosea also, as well as by the second Israelitish prophet Amos (compare the remarks on Amos, chap ix.), Judah and Israel are viewed together, both as regards apostasy and punishment (v.5, 12, viii.14, x.11, etc.), and as regards salvation, vi.1-4, etc. Of special importance is the comparison of the remarkable prophecy of Azariah in 2 Chron. xv.2-4, which was uttered at the time of Asa, king of Judah, and which so nearly coincides with the one before us, that the idea suggests itself of an allusion to it by Hosea: "Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord will be with you, if you are with Him; and if ye seek Him, He will be found of you; and if ye forsake Him, He will forsake you. And many days will be to Israel when there is no true God, and no teaching priest, and no law. Then they return in their trouble unto Jehovah the God of Israel, and they seek Him, and He is found of them." If the fundamental prophecy refer to all Israel, the same must be the case with the prophecy under consideration. The condition in which the Jews are, up to the present day, is described in both of these prophecies with remarkable clearness; and hence we may most confidently entertain [Pg 287] the hope, that there shall be a fulfilment also of that which, in them as well as in the Song of Solomon, has been foretold regarding the glorious issue of these dealings of God.
Ver.5. "Afterwards shall the children of Israel return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and shall tremble to the Lord and to His goodness in the end of the days."
[Hebrew: iwbv] must not by any means be regarded as modifying [Hebrew: bqwv], so that both the verbs would constitute only one verbal idea. This must be objected to, not only from the arguments already stated in the remarks on chap. ii.11, but, most decidedly, on account of the parallel passage, chap. ii.9, "I will go and return to my first husband." Compare chap. vi.1: "Come and let us return unto the Lord;" v.15, where the Lord says, "I will go and return to My place until they become guilty and seek My face; in their affliction they will seek Me;" Jer. l.4: "In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, weeping will they come, and seek the Lord their God," -- a passage which, like Jer. xxx.9, points to the one before us in a manner not to be mistaken; Is. x.21: "The remnant shall return, the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God." The text, and the parallel passages, most clearly indicate what is to be considered as the object of their return, namely, the Lord their God, and David their king, from whom they had so shamefully apostatized; so that those interpreters who here think of a return to Canaan do not deserve a refutation. The words, "Jehovah their God," at the same time lay open the delusion of the Israelites (who imagined that they could still possess the true God, in the idol which they called Jehovah), and rebuke their ingratitude. Calvin says, "God had offered Himself to them, yea. He had had familiar intercourse with them, -- He had, as it were, brought them up on His bosom just as a father does his sons. The prophet, therefore, indirectly rebukes, in these words, their stupendous wickedness." The God of the Israelites, as well as the God of the Jews after they had rejected Christ, stood to the God of Israel in the same relation as does the God of the Deists and Rationalists to the God of the Christians. The question here arises. Who is to be understood here by "David their king?" Some interpreters refer it, after the example of Theodoret (t. ii. p.2, p.1326), to [Pg 288] Zerubbabel: but by far the greater number of them, following the Chaldee ("And they shall obey the Messiah, the son of David their king"), understand, thereby, the Messiah. It is true that the latter exposition is quite correct as to its substance, but not as to the form in which it is commonly expressed. From the words, "They shall return and seek," it is evident that the Messiah is here not called David as an individual, as is done in other passages, e.g., Jer. xxx.9. For the return presupposes their having been there formerly, and their having departed; just as the seeking implies neglecting. The expression, "their king," also requires special attention. In contrast to the "king" in ver.4 (compare viii.4, "They have made a king, and not by Me, a prince, and I knew it not"), it shows that the subject of discourse is not by any means a new king to be elected, but such an one as the Israelites ought to obey, even now, as the king ordained for them by God. The sound view is this: By the "king David" the whole Davidic house is to be understood, which is here to be considered as an unity, in the same manner as is done in 2 Sam. vii., and in a whole series of Psalms which celebrate the mercies shown, and to be shown, to David and his house. These mercies are most fully concentrated in Christ, in whose appearance and everlasting dominion the promises given to David were first to be fully realized. The prophet mentions the whole -- the Davidic family -- because it was only thus that the contrast between the apostasy and the return could be fully brought out; but that, in so doing, he has Christ especially in view -- that he expected a return of the children of Israel to David in Christ, is shown by the term [Hebrew: baHrit himiM], which, in the prophets, never occurs in any other sense than the times of the Messiah. (Compare, regarding this expression, the remarks on Amos ix.1.) This reason is alone sufficient to refute the reference to Zerubbabel; although so much must indeed be conceded, that the circumstance of part of the citizens of the kingdom of the ten tribes adhering to him, the descendant of the house of David, may be considered as a prelude of that general return. The close connection betwixt the seeking of Jehovah their God and David their king, likewise claims our attention. David and his family had been elected by God to be the mediator between Him and the [Pg 289] people -- the channel through which all His blessings flowed clown upon the people -- the visible image of the invisible King, who, at the end of the days, was, in Christ, most perfectly to reflect His glory. The Israelites, in turning away from David their king, turned away, at the same time, from Jehovah their God, -- as was but too soon manifested by the other signs of apostasy from Him, by the introduction of the worship of calves, etc. He who refuses to acknowledge God in that which He has Himself declared to be His visible image (from Christ down to every relation which represents Him in any respect, e.g., that of the father to the son, of the king to the subject), will soon cease to acknowledge Himself. But as, first, the ten tribes, and afterwards, the entire people, apostatized from God, by apostatizing from David, so, by their apostasy from him, they excluded themselves from all participation in the privileges of the people of God, which could flow to them only through him. It is only when they return to David by returning to Christ, that, from their self-made God, they come to the true God, and within the sphere of His blessings. That the same thing is repeated among ourselves in the case of those who have forsaken Christ their King, and yet imagine still to possess God, and that it is only by their returning to the brightness of His glory that they can attain to a true union with the Lord their God, and to a participation in the blessings which He bestows, -- all this is so obvious as to require nothing beyond a simple suggestion. A perfectly sound interpretation of this passage is to be found in Calvin, who remarks: "David was, as it were, a messenger of the Lord, and, hence, that defection of the ten tribes was tantamount to a rejection of the living God. The Lord had, on a former occasion, said to Samuel (1 Sam. viii.7), 'They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me.' But how much more was this applicable in the case of David, whom Samuel had anointed at the command of God, and whom the Lord had adorned with so many glorious attributes, that they could not reject his rule without, at the same time, publicly rejecting, to a certain extent, the Lord Himself! It is true, indeed, that David was then dead; but Hosea here represents, in his person, his everlasting dominion, which the Jews knew would last as long as the sun and moon." The expression, [Pg 290] "They tremble to the Lord," graphically describes the disposition of heart in him, who, trembling with terror and anxiety on account of the surrounding danger and distress, flees to Him who can alone afford help and deliverance. That we must thus explain it, -- that we cannot entertain the idea of any trembling which proceeds from the inconceivable greatness of the blessing -- a disposition of heart so graphically described by Claudian in the words,
"Horret adhuc animus, manifestaque gaudia differt
and that we can as little think of a fearing or trembling which is the consequence of the knowledge of deep sinfulness and unworthiness, is shown by the parallel passage in chap. xi.11: "They tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria." The bird and the dove are here an emblem of helplessness. Substantially parallel is also chap. v.15: "In their affliction they will seek Me." Their trembling is not voluntary; it is forced upon them by the Lord. But that they tremble to the Lord -- that, through fear, they suffer themselves to be led to the Lord -- is their free act, although possible only by the assistance of grace. The manner in which the words, "and to His goodness," are to be understood, is most plainly shown by the words, "I will return to my first husband, for it was better with me then than now," chap. ii.9. Along with the Lord, they have lost His goodness also, and the gifts flowing from it. But distress again drives them to seek the Lord, and His goodness, which is inseparable from Himself. This explanation is confirmed by other parallel passages also; e.g., Jer. xxxi.12: "And they come and exult on the height of Zion, and flow together to the goodness of the Lord ([Hebrew: Tvb ihvh]), to corn, and must, and oil, and lambs, and cattle;" ver.14: "My people shall be satisfied with My goodness." Compare also Ps. xxvii.13, xxxi.20; Zech. ix.17. We would therefore object to the opinion of several interpreters, who would explain [Hebrew: Tvb ihvh] as being equivalent to [Hebrew: kbvd ihvh], to His manifestation in the Angel of the Lord, the [Greek: Logos], by whom His glory and goodness are made known.
Footnote 1: It is quite impossible to refer [Hebrew: re] to the adulterers, and for this reason: -- that it is always Israel's love to the idols that is spoken of, but never the love of the idols to Israel. In the explanation given in the words immediately following, it is not the idols that take the initiative; it is Israel who turns to other gods.
Footnote 2: J. D. Michaelis remarks: "In the present captivity they do not, indeed, worship idols, but nevertheless they do not know, nor worship, the true God, since they reject the Son, without whom the Father will not be worshipped, John xvii.3; 1 John ii.23; 2 John 9."
Footnote 3: The "priest" here corresponds with the "Ephod" in Hosea.
Footnote 4: In 1 Kings xii.16, also, David stands for the Davidic dynasty.