Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people: for you have gone a whoring from your God…
Israel had courted the favor of Assyria; but the result would be her absorption and destruction as a nation. In this and the succeeding chapter, notwithstanding acknowledged difficulties of interpretation, the distresses of the Exile are depicted with telling effect.
I. THE PROPHET'S INTERDICT AGAINST ISRAEL. (Ver. 1.) Hosea, as it were, appears suddenly among the people when they are preparing to hold some joyous festival, and sternly forbids it in Jehovah's Name. He is constrained by the burden of the Lord to act the unwelcome raft of "the skeleton of the feast." He tells Israel that, in view of the dread realities of her position as a nation, this was no time for gladness. To ignore the facts would not obliterate them. To rejoice exultingly just now, merely because she had obtained a plentiful harvest, or secured some temporary relief from her political troubles, was to act with the folly of the ostrich, which thrusts her head into the sand, anal thinks that all is well because she does not see her pursuers. If it is "better" for an men "to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting," it would be especially advantageous at present for the Israelitish people to do so. For the condition of the nation was extremely insecure. The prosperity in which they were rejoicing was hollow, and it would be evanescent.
II. THE GROUND OF THE INTERDICT. This is unfolded in the body of the passage. It is twofold.
1. Israel's extreme sinfulness. (Vers. 1, 7, 9.) "Other people," i.e. heathen nations, might more readily be excused for holding festivals of rapturous joy; for, not having the knowledge of God, they could not perceive how far they had trans-grassed his Law. But Israel had sinned against abundant light, and in spite of continual warning. How sad that the chosen nation should look upon her harvests as the gift of heathen gods - as Baal's reward for her devoted service of him! Not only so, but Israel's wickedness was great all round. The people heartily hated both the Lord and his servants the true prophets. The whole country was now as notorious for its monstrous corruption, as Gibeah of Benjamin had been, since the time when the tragic atrocity of the Levite and his concubine had been perpetrated there (Judges 19:16, et seq.). The error of the men of Benjamin in shielding the villains who wrought that foul deed had involved the town of Gibeah in destruction, and the tribe itself almost in extirpation. And so also was it to be now with the ten tribes.
2. Israel's impending misery. The commonwealth was on the verge of destruction, and soon the people's place in the land would know them no more. Surely it were madness to rejoice now, when they are on the very eve of being carried away into captivity. The prophet proclaims most plainly the fiat of expulsion (ver. 3). The nation that is now "Lo-ammi," "Not my people," cannot be allowed any longer to remain in "the Lord's land." "Ephraim shall return to" the new "Egypt" of Assyria, and shall there undergo a second Egypt-like oppression. The Exile shall involve the withdrawal of all the blessings and privileges in which the people gloried; as, e.g.:
(1) Loss of harvests. (Ver. 2.) Palestine was a land of inexhaustible plenty, and there Israel "did eat bread without scarceness;" but, in her effacement from the land, she shall of course lose her harvests. She shall have no happy harvest-homes in Assyria.
(2) Loss of national distinctions. (Vers. 3, 4.) To "eat unclean things in Assyria" would prove a severe trial and a sore punishment. For the Jews, although they imitated the heathen in some things - as, e.g., in desiring a king like the nations, and in falling into Gentile idolatries - plumed themselves all the while upon the fact that the Gentiles and they did not stand religiously upon the same level; and they clung to the Mosaic distinctions of meats because it was a badge of their peculiar privileges as the chosen nation (vide Smith's ' Dictionary of the Bible,' vol. 3. p. 1590).
(3) Loss of spiritual privileges. (Vers. 4, 5.) In their exile the Hebrews would miss the opportunities of sacrifice to Jehovah which they had neglected while they "dwelt in the Lord's land." Jerusalem was the one place of sacrifice; and for the captives there would be no gracious presence of God in heathendom. No temple there, no ritual, no great annual feasts, no exuberant festal joy! The feast of tabernacles, as the grand harvest-home festival, used to be kept by the tribes with lively demonstrations of national gladness; but, alas! the "Greater Hailel" would never be sung amid the miseries of Assyria.
(4) Loss of inheritance in Canaan. (Ver. 6.) That land had been given to the Hebrews, and was continued in their possession, upon condition of obedience to the Divine Law. The occupancy of" the Lord's land" was a symbol of the enjoyment of the Lord's favor. Now, however, seeing that the people have forfeited the blessing of Jehovah, they must be expelled for ever from that goodly heritage. The ten tribes shall not return to Palestine. The people shall find their graves in the Egypt-like exile of Assyria. Thistles and nettles shall spring up in luxuriance among the ruins of their once beautiful houses. The traveler finds these nettles still, growing rankly to a height of six feet - a sign of the curse that yet rests upon the land.
(5) Loss of the hopes held out by the false prophets. (Vers. 7, 8.) At present there were false teachers among the people who kept saying, "Peace, peace," merely to flatter them, and to make matters pleasant for the time. But every prediction of prosperity would be falsified. The people would soon discover that these so-called prophets had been either "fools" or "snares," that is, either simpletons or sharpers. The expectations of well-being which these persons encouraged them to cherish would be miserably disappointed. It would presently be found that Hosea had been the real patriot, and the truest friend of his nation, although he did not prophesy good concerning it, but the worst of evils. The northern kingdom is to be wasted with misery; no wonder, then, that the prophet calls out, "Rejoice not, O Israel."
III. SOME LESSONS OF THE INTERDICT FOR OURSELVES.
1. The ungodly man has no rational ground for gladness or rejoicing (ver. 1).
2. Our harvest-joy should be a joy "before God" (vers. 1, 2).
3. In emigrating to a strange laud there is often danger to one's spiritual nature, arising from the loss of religious privileges (vers. 3, 4).
4. It is supreme folly to banish all thought of" the solemn days "of life by giving one's self up to habits of frivolity and worldly pleasure (ver. 5).
5. We must "beware of false prophets," and "try the spirits, whether they are of God" (vers. 7, 8).
6. "The Lord's land" is only for the Lord's people: for such alone the Lord Jesus prepares a place in the heavenly Canaan (vers. 1-9). - C.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people: for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, thou hast loved a reward upon every cornfloor.