Another Reproof of Israel.

THE SEATS OF WORSHIP DESTROYED. V. 1. Israel is an empty vine, a thriving, climbing vine; he bringeth forth fruit unto himself, growing up with every indication of strength and fruitfulness, but utterly selfish and godless in aim; according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars, that is, the more Israel grew in prosperity, the more the members of the nation rejected the Lord and became addicted to idolatry; according to the goodness of his land, in proportion to the riches obtained, they have made goodly images, statues of idols. V. 2. Their heart is divided, rather, "smooth, false, insincere"; now shall they be found faulty, they will have to make expiation, they will have to suffer for their duplicity; He shall break down their altars, destroying them by demolishing their horns, He shall spoil their images, the true God thereby proving Himself to be the Master of the idols. V. 3. For now, when the punishment of the Lord would strike them, they shall say, We have no king because we feared not the Lord, for the man whom they selected for the position against the Lord's will was unable to help them, in their emergency; what, then, should a king do to us? that is, of what benefit could he be, what possibility was there of his helping them in their difficulty? V. 4. They have spoken words, empty, vain statements, swearing falsely in making a covenant; for they were not fair and honest in their treaties with other nations, keeping them only as long as they hoped to have some benefit or advantage from them; thus judgment, what they wanted to consider right and good, springeth up as hemlock, a poisonous plant, in the furrows of the field. Cp. Amos 6, 12. Since they themselves were not clear on what was right, their hazy notions reacted in a most unfavorable manner on themselves, like a poisonous weed overgrowing a field. V. 5. The inhabitants of Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, shall fear because of the calves of Bethaven, trembling for the fate of their idol at Bethel; for the people thereof shall mourn over it, at its loss or destruction, and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it, its idol-priests shall tremble for it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it, being taken away into captivity. V. 6. It shall be also carried unto Assyria for a present to King Jareb, to the warlike monarch; Ephraim shall receive shame, be completely overcome with shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel, of all its planning with regard to its idolatrous cult. V. 7. As for Samaria, her king is cut off as the foam upon the water, for its kingdom had just as little solidity and stability, it was as speedily dissolved as the foam which rides on the breakers. V. 8. The high places also of Aven, of Bethel, the sin of Israel, where idolatry was practiced to such a shocking extent, shall be destroyed; the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars, so that they would be overgrown with weeds; and they, the inhabitants of the country, shall say to the mountains, Cover us! and to the hills, Fall on us! That is the cry of the unbelievers, of the enemies of God, when they see the judgment approaching them, when it is too late for salvation. Cp. Is. 2, 19; Luke 23, 30.

THE KINGDOM DEVASTATED. V. 9. O Israel, thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah, when such an abominable atrocity happened in the midst of the people of God, cp. chap. 9, 9; Judg. 19,22; there they stood, continuing in the same immorality which was committed by the inhabitants of Gibeah. The battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them, that is, while they were guilty of the same immorality, they were mercifully not punished in the same manner as the criminals of those early days. V. 10. It is in My desire that I should chastise them, the Lord had firmly made up His mind to that effect; and the people, various heathen nations, shall be gathered against them when they shall bind themselves in their two furrows, the purpose of the invasion being to place the fetters of captivity on Israel for their twofold transgression, namely, that they left Jehovah, the one true God, and that they rejected the rule of the house of David. V. 11. And Ephraim is as an heifer that is taught, trained for some particular work, and loveth to tread out the corn, which was a pleasant task because the animals were permitted to eat as much as they liked during the process, Deut. 25, 4; but I passed over upon her fair neck, coming down upon it with the object of making a decided change. I will make Ephraim to ride, placing the yoke for drawing heavy loads upon her neck; Judah shall plow, being likewise guilty of transgressing the Lord's will, and Jacob, here standing for the northern tribes, shall break his clods, by laboriously drawing the harrow over the plowed surface. V. 12. Sow to yourselves in righteousness, so that fairness and justice would be practiced toward all; reap in mercy, in showing the true love toward all men and thereby being assured also of a benignant acceptance on the part of God; break up your fallow ground, plowing new soil, turning a new leaf; for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you, rewarding those who are sincere in the evidence of their faith with the richest spiritual blessings, those of His salvation. V. 13. Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity, that being the harvest which one must naturally expect under the circumstances; ye have eaten the fruit of lies, of idolatrous worship, because thou didst trust in thy way, upon their own false manner of doing things, in the multitude of thy mighty men, in proud self-confidence, all this instead of relying upon Jehovah, the God of the covenant, and His Word. V. 14. Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, namely, the noise of war against her armies, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled, taken and devastated, as Shalman, very likely Shalmaneser, spoiled Betharbel, in Northern Galilee, in the day of battle; the mother was dashed in pieces upon her children, in an excess of unnatural cruelty. V. 15. So shall Bethel do unto you because of your great wickedness, Bethel, as the main center of idolatry, being the cause of the punishment which descended upon them; in a morning, while the dawn rises, while it seems that the fortunes are turning toward the better, shall the king of Israel utterly be cut off, so that the kingdom would no longer be in existence. Such is the end of hypocrisy and unrighteousness when the patience of the Lord with the wicked is exhausted.