O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.Hosea 14:1-2. O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God — O Israel, return now at length, after thou hast suffered so many evils, to the Lord by true repentance and reformation of conduct. The whole family of Israel, in both its branches, seems to be here addressed. For thou hast fallen — From God’s love and favour into his displeasure, and consequently into misery, by thine iniquity — Which has involved thee in endless troubles, and will be the cause of thy destruction. Take with you words — Make your confessions, present your petitions, and signify your promises and resolutions unto God, not only in your thoughts, but also by words well chosen and digested; sanctioned by the Holy Scriptures, and agreeable to the will of God. The prophet here prescribes a form of confession, petition, and supplication very proper to be used upon their repentance and conversion. It implies in substance, Confess your sins, entreat for pardon, and promise amendment. And turn to the Lord — In heart and life, in faith, love, and new obedience, otherwise your confessions and prayers will be to little purpose. Say, Take away all iniquity, &c. — Deliver us from the guilt and power of our sins, internal and external; take entirely away the sinful principle within us, the carnal heart of the old Adam. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me; and receive us graciously — Accept our persons and performances of thy mere grace and favour, thy unmerited mercy and love. But this clause may be rendered, Give us what is good; that is, bestow thy grace and blessing upon us: or, accept the good; that is, when we are begotten again unto holiness by thy Spirit, accept, as good, what we, thus regenerated, shall be enabled to perform. So will we render the calves of our lips — That is, the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving uttered by our lips. By calling vocal devotions calves, (or bullocks, as Bishop Horsley renders the word פרים,) “is shown, that this form of supplication is prepared for those times, when animal sacrifices will be abolished, and prayer and thanksgiving will be the only offering.”
Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.
Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.Hosea 14:3. Asshur shall not save us — We will not rely on Assyria for protection and help. The Israelites frequently sought the alliance of the Assyrians, and are often reproved by the prophets for so doing. We will not ride upon horses — We will not implore the help of Egypt, as we did formerly, nor depend on horses brought thence, or on any of our military preparations. It was chiefly on account of their cavalry that the Jews and Israelites courted the help of Egypt, having no cavalry of their own. This is the first part of the people’s repentance. It consists in their renouncing all dependance on foreign alliances, and on every arm of flesh. The second is, their renouncing every species of idolatry and image-worship, expressed in the next clause, Neither will we say, &c., to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods — This is often spoken of in the prophets, as an introduction to that state of the church which is to commence from the time of the conversion of the Jews: see notes on Hosea 2:17; and Isaiah 1:29. For in thee the fatherless findeth mercy — Thou art the helper of the weak and friendless; of us, who are unable to help ourselves, and are exposed to the injuries of others, having none to defend us. Observe, reader, God never fails to be the helper of all that are destitute of strength in themselves, and destitute of help from others: and who, being sensible of their helpless condition, look for it from God, who hath sufficient power, mercy, and wisdom to help.
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.Hosea 14:4. I will heal their backsliding — I will deliver them from a backsliding heart and way, and remove those judgments they have brought upon themselves thereby. The Lord says, I will heal, &c., a usual metaphor in Scripture, because sin is our disease, and God is the physician who healeth us, Psalm 103:3; Jeremiah 3:22; and he doth it through Christ, in whom this promise is made to returning backsliders. God makes this promise to the Israelites by his prophet, to encourage them to hearken to his advice, given in the preceding verses. I will love them freely — That is, of my own mere grace, and favour, and liberality. Bishop Horsley renders this verse, I will restore their conversion; (that is, as he understands it, their converted race, taking conversion as a collective noun for converts; like captivity for the captives; and dispersion for the dispersed;) I will love them gratuitously; for mine anger is departed from me. In these words, God promises, he says, to restore the converted nation [of the Israelites] to his favour, and a situation of prosperity and splendour. On the word gratuitously he quotes the following passage from Luther’s commentary on this chapter: “Are good works then nothing? you will say. Is there no place at all for them in the doctrine of repentance? I answer, that hitherto the discourse hath been about remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. These are entirely gratuitous, and not of our merit, but simply of the inexhaustible goodness and compassion of God. Therefore, when we speak of the remission of sins, it is right to be silent about our own works; which, because they are done without the Holy Spirit, although with regard to civil society they may not be bad, yet cannot be called good, and ought not, because of the unclean heart from which they proceed. But when through faith we have received remission of sins, and, together with that, the gift of the Holy Ghost, forthwith from the heart, as from a pure fountain, come forth works also good, and well-pleasing to God. For although, by reason of the remains of original sin, the obedience even of the saints is not perfectly pure, yet, on account of faith in Christ, it is pleasing and acceptable to God.”
I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.Hosea 14:5-6. I will be as the dew unto Israel — These verses contain gracious promises of God’s favour, and of blessings upon Israel’s conversion, represented by different metaphors. These are first described by that refreshment which copious dews give to the grass in the heat of summer. And if we consider the nature of the climate, and the necessity of dews in so hot a country, not only to refresh, but likewise to preserve life; if we consider also the beauty of the oriental lilies, the fragrance of the cedars which grow upon Lebanon, the beauteous appearance which the spreading olive-trees afforded, the exhilarating coolness caused by the shade of such trees, and the aromatic smell exhaled by the cedars; we shall then partly understand the force of the metaphors here employed by the prophet; but their full energy no one can conceive, till he feels both the want, and enjoys the advantage of the particulars referred to, in that climate where the prophet wrote. See Bishop Lowth’s xiith and xixth Prelection. Mr. Harmer’s illustration of this passage will be acceptable to the reader. “The image in general,” says he, “made use of here by Hosea, is the change that takes place upon the descent of the dew of autumn on the before parched earth, where every thing appeared dead or dying; upon which they immediately become lively and delightful. Israel, by their sins, reduced themselves into a wretched, disgraceful state, like that of the earth, when no rain or dew has descended for a long time; but God promised he would heal their backslidings, and restore them to a flourishing state. The gentleman that visited the holy land in autumn 1774, found the dews very copious then, as well as the rain, and particularly observed, in journeying from Jerusalem, a very grateful scent arising from the aromatic herbs growing there, such as rosemary, wild thyme, balm, &c. If the fragrant herbs between Jerusalem and Joppa afforded such a grateful smell, as to engage this ingenious traveller to remark it in his journal, the scent of Lebanon must have been exquisite; for Mr. Maundrell found the great rupture in that mountain, in which Canobin is situated, had ‘both sides exceeding steep and high, clothed with fragrant green from top to bottom, and everywhere refreshed with fountains, falling down from the rocks, in pleasant cascades; the ingenious work of nature.’“ This sufficiently illustrates the clause, His smell, that is, his fragrance, shall be like that of Lebanon. To illustrate the clause, He shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon, Mr. Harmer quotes a passage from Dr. Russell’s account of the natural history of Aleppo, vol. 1. c. 3: “After the first rains in the autumn, the fields everywhere throw out the autumnal lily daffodil; and the few plants which had stood the summer now grow with fresh vigour.” The other trees of Lebanon, as well as the cedars, are admired by travellers on account of their enormous size. So de la Roque, describing his ascending this mountain, says, the farther they advanced, the loftier were the trees, which, for the most part, were plane-trees, cypresses, and evergreen oaks. And Rauwolff, after mentioning several kinds of trees and herbs which he found there, goes on; But chiefly, and in the greatest number, were the maple-trees, which are large, high, and expand themselves very much with their branches: but, above all, the size of the cedar attracts admiration. “I measured,” says Maundrell, “one of the largest, and found it twelve yards six inches in girt, and yet sound; and thirty-seven yards in the spread of its boughs. At about five or six yards from the ground it was divided into five limbs, each of which was equal to a great tree.” The beauty of the olive-tree is frequently mentioned in Scripture, and has come under our observation before: see note on Psalm 128:3.
His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.
They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.Hosea 14:7. They that dwell under his shadow shall return — “Not only was Israel to regain its former prosperity, but those smaller tribes of people that were connected with Israel, and shared in its depression, which are here described by dwelling under his shadow.” But many versions translate this clause, They shall return and dwell under his shadow. That is, they shall return to their own country, and rest safely under the protection of the Almighty. They shall revive as the corn — They shall arise out of their calamities: this is properly expressed by reviving as the corn, because the corn is buried, and lies as it were dead in the earth, till, after some time, it springs forth. And grow as the vine — Which in winter seems dead, but yet has life, sap, and a fructifying virtue in it. The reference here is to a vine that had been stripped of its leaves, and afterward flourishes again, recovering its lost verdure. A lively emblem this of the Jewish nation, arising from a state of great depression and affliction, and recovering its former prosperity and dignity. And a still more lively image of the revival and increase of true religion in the church of God, and of the graces and virtues of its members after a time of barrenness and unprofitableness. The scent thereof shall be as the vine of Lebanon — Their wisdom, holiness, and usefulness, their piety and virtue, shall diffuse an agreeable fragrance far and wide, and shall be acceptable both to God and man. Mr. Harmer produces several testimonies in proof of the excellence of the wine of Lebanon above all the wines of that part of the world: and indeed above those which have been most celebrated elsewhere.
Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.Hosea 14:8. Ephraim shall say, &c. — The words, shall say, are not in the Hebrew. The clause is therefore translated thus by Bishop Horsley, Ephraim! What have I to do any more with idols, “an exultation,” says he, “of Jehovah over idols. Ephraim! even he is returned to me. I have no more contest to carry on with idols. They are completely overthrown. My sole Godhead is confessed.” I have heard him, and observed him — It is I, not his idols, who have heard his petitions and watched over him to preserve him. I am like a green fir-tree — If these be understood as the words of God, the meaning is, It is I, who am ever-existing, and have it in my power to give my people blessings at all times; as the fir is ever green and flourishing, and affords its shelter, not only in the summer, but in the winter too, when all the rest of the trees are stripped of their leaves and can afford no shelter at all. In other words, As a weary traveller finds rest and safety under a green, thick, and flourishing tree, so there are safety and refreshment under the protection of Jehovah. But some understand these as the words of Ephraim, or Israel, acknowledging that he is in a flourishing condition; and then God reminds him in the next words, that his fruitfulness and prosperity are wholly owing to the divine blessing. Thus the church of God, and all the members thereof, how much soever they may abound in the fruits of righteousness, and in the comforts connected therewith, must confess, that from Christ the true and living vine is their fruit found; and they must not fail to give him the glory thereof, remembering, that without him they can do nothing excellent or praiseworthy; nothing that will ultimately promote the glory of God, or their own salvation.
Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.Hosea 14:9. Who is wise, &c. — That is, who is so truly wise as duly to weigh and consider the important things contained in this prophecy, the duties prescribed, the blessings promised to the obedient, and the judgments threatened to the disobedient? The prophet’s words imply, that there were but few that were endued with such spiritual wisdom and understanding as to do so; but that those who were, would seriously consider and be affected by these things. He shall understand — he shall know them — Those that set themselves to understand and know these things, thereby make it appear that they are truly wise and prudent, and will thereby be made more so; and that many do not understand and know them, is because they are inconsiderate and unwise. Those that are wise in the doing of their duty, that are prudent in practical religion, are most likely to know and understand both the truths and providences of God, which are a mystery to others. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him. For the ways of the Lord are right — “The ways of the Lord are both the ways which he himself takes in his moral government of the world, and the ways of godliness which he prescribes to man. These, taken together, are the ways of the Lord, and they are right, or straight,” (as ישׁריםmay be properly rendered,) “because they go straight forward, without deviation, to the end, — the happiness of man, and the glory of God.” And the just shall walk therein — The truly righteous will conform to the will of God, both in his precepts and in his providences, and shall have the comfort of so doing. They shall well understand the mind of God, both in his word and in his works, shall be well reconciled to both, and shall accommodate themselves to God’s intention in both. The righteous shall walk in those ways toward their great end, and shall not come short of it. Bishop Horsley renders this clause, And in them shall the justified proceed, but revolters shall stumble. “In the ways of God,” says he, “as they have been described, the justified, those who by faith in Christ have obtained remission of their sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost, shall proceed; they will be making daily and hourly approaches to their journey’s end. They shall be able to advance continually in the understanding of the ways of Providence, and of the way laid out by Jehovah for them. But to the incorrigible enemies of God, the very scheme of mercy itself will be a cause of error, confusion, and ruin.” Thus also Mr. Lowth: “They who are sincerely desirous to know and do the will of God, will be fully satisfied of the reasonableness of his laws, and the methods of his providence, and will readily comply with the directions of both, to the securing of their own eternal happiness; whereas men of perverse and disobedient tempers take offence at God’s commands, and repine against his providence, to their own ruin and perdition. The same sense is expressed in that observation of the son of Sirach, Sir 39:24, As God’s ways are plain to the holy, so they are stumbling blocks to the workers of iniquity. To the same purpose are those words of Christ, Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice, John 18:37; and, He that is of God heareth God’s word, chap. John 8:47. And St. Peter says, that Christ is become a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to the disobedient, 1 Peter 2:8. The observation of Grotius is very remarkable upon this subject, De Verit. Christian. Relig., lib. 2. c. ult. The doctrine of the gospel was designed to be ‘tanquam lapis Lydius, ad quem ingenia sanabilia explorarentur,’ as a touchstone to try the tempers of men, whether they were corrigible or not.”