HOSEA CHAPTER 13.
Israel's Base Ingratitude.
GODíS BENEFITS SCORNED BY ISRAEL. ó V. 1. When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel, rather, "When Ephraim," as the mightiest of the northern tribes, "spoke, there was trembling"; for the other tribes were so much weaker that they could not hold out against the leading tribe; he exalted himself in Israel, assuming the leadership and enforcing his will; but when he offended in Baal, when he transgressed through his idolatry in serving Baal, he died, his destruction was determined upon. V. 2. And now, after idolatry had thus been introduced, they sin more and more, multiplying their transgressions, and have made them molten images of their silver and idols according to their own understanding, making use of their ideas of art in constructing these statues, all of it the work of the craftsmen; they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves, literally, "to them they are speaking, men who sacrifice: they kiss the calves"; that is, the foolish idolaters speak with the very work of their hands and pray to them; they even kiss these pictures of calves, as though they were on a level with human, beings. The reproof is purposely couched in words of cutting irony. V. 3. Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, the vapor which arises at dawn, and as the early dew that passeth away, cp. chap. 6, 4, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, being carried away from the threshing-floor by every passing breeze, and as the smoke out of the chimney, rather, like smoke from a window; for chimneys were not in general use in the Orient. V. 4. Yet, over against the faithlessness of an apostate people, I am the Lord, thy God, from the land of Egypt, since the days when He delivered His people from the house of bondage, and thou shalt know no god but Me, there being no deliverer like the true God; for there is no savior beside Me. V. 5. I did know thee, with true love and compassion, in the wilderness, even during the desert journey, in the land of great drought, where the land and its inhabitants languished with thirst. V. 6. According to their pasture, so were they filled, their enjoyment of the goodness of God causing them to become proud in their own conceit; they were filled, and their heart was exalted, at the very time when they should have bowed down before the Lord with the greatest feeling of humility; therefore have they forgotten Me. Cp. Deut. 6, 11. 12. V. 7. Therefore I will be unto them as a lion; as a leopard by the way will I observe them, lurking by the path ready to pounce upon his victims; v. 8. I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, which is known for her fierceness, and will rend the caul of their heart, the pericardium or membrane enclosing the heart, and there will I devour them. like a lion; the wild beast shall tear them. The punishment of the apostate people is represented as a rending and devouring of a herd, which has grown fat with a rich pasture, by wild beasts. In the midst of His most serious rebukes the Lord still inserts a pleading cry admonishing men to turn to their only Savior with a repentant heart.
THE RETRIBUTION COMING. ó V. 9. O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thine help, literally, "It has destroyed thee, Israel, because [thou art] against Me, against thy Help." That is the great contrast: on the one side, certain help and deliverance, on the other, destruction which Israel brings upon himself by opposing the true God and His way of redemption. There is no way of bringing about an agreement and of reconciling God and man but by accepting God's way of salvation. V. 10. I will be thy King, so the Lord's offer still holds good; where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? Who else could really deliver them from the power of the Assyrians? And thy judges, of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes? Because the people continued in their rebellious attitude, the Lord gave them kings as they desired them, and through these kings He punished them. V. 11. I gave thee a king in Mine anger, the expression referring, in general, to the kings of Israel, and took him away in My wrath, the constant change of kings being a decided misfortune to the country, while the end of the kingdom was now in sight. V. 12. The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up, one does not need to seek the evidence, it is all collected and preserved; his sin is hid, sealed in a package, for ready reference. This being true, the punishment was bound to follow. V. 13. The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him, in the most violent pains accompanying the Lord's punishment. He is an unwise son, foolish as a baby detained; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children, that is, if the birth does not take place at the proper time, the lives of both mother and child are endangered. Thus Ephraim is a foolish son, because now, when the time for repentance is come, he delays his new birth, refuses to be converted. But lest the true children of God be led to despair, the Lord announces a deliverance from death and destruction through His almighty power. V. 14. I will ransom them from the power of the grave, from the hand of the world of death, of hell; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plagues, a series of pestilences bringing about the death of death; O grave, I will be thy destruction. Repentance shall be hid from Mine eyes, that is, His plan of salvation would most certainly be carried out. In the very midst of a proclamation of wrath and punishment, then, we have a most glorious promise of the victory gained through the redemption planned in God's counsel of love, and the Apostle Paul was right in using this passage as his song of triumph on account of Christ's victory over death and hell. Cp. 1 Cor. 15, 55-57. V. 15. Though he be fruitful among his brethren, the Hebrew text here containing a play upon the name Ephraim, which means fruitfulness, an east wind shall come, with its parching heat, the wind of the Lord, sent by Him in punishment, shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up, so that he would no longer be known as a fertile land; he, namely, Assyria, shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels, of all the wealthy and proud cities of the northern kingdom. V. 16. Samaria shall become desolate, suffering its punishment by being made desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God; they, the inhabitants of the capital and of the country, shall fall by the sword, as the invader proceeds on his campaign of conquest; their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up, according to the unspeakably cruel methods of warfare then in use. The call of the Gospel, as we see here once more, sounded even in the midst of degenerate Israel; for it is not the desire of the Lord that any man should perish, but that all should be led to repentance.