Hosea 14
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.

(1) Thy.—Tenderness and inextinguishable love are suggested by the use of the pronoun. “Repentance (say the Rabbis) presses right up to the Eternal Throne.”

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.
(2) Say unto him.—This putting of words into the lips of penitents and others is found in Psalm 66:3; Isaiah 48:20; Jeremiah 31:7. In the latter part of the verse render, Accept of good, and we will render as calves (or sacrificial offering) our lipsi.e., the words of true repentance which we take with us shall be our offerings in place of calves. (Comp. Psalm 51:17.)

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.
(3) The three crying sins of Israel are here recounted: (1) Expected salvation from Assyria; (2) dependence on the world-power of Egypt, famed for war-horses and chariots; (3) ascription of Divine names and homage to wrought images of the Divine glory. God’s paternal love to the orphan, peculiarly applicable to Israel now, cast on a cold and fatherless world.

I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.
(4) Heal . . . Love.—If the foregoing be the offering of penitent lips, then the majestic reply of Jehovah is full of superlative grace.

I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
(5, 6) As the Dew.—For this imagery see Psalm 130:3. Properly it is “a copious mist, shedding small invisible rain, that comes in rich abundance every night in the hot weather, when west or north-west winds blow, and which brings intense refreshment to all organised life” (Neil’s Palestine Explored, p. 136). The lily, which carpets the fields of Palestine (Matthew 6:29), has slender roots, which might easily be uptorn, but under God’s protection, even these are to strike downward like the roots of the cedars.[13] Branches are to grow like the banyan-tree, until one tree becomes a forest, and the beauty of the olive in its dancing radiance is to cover all, while the fragrance shall go abroad like the breezes from the forest of Lebanon.

[13] The lily of the Bible is identified by some with the Lilium chalcedonicum, or Scarlet Martagon, which grows profusely in the Levant, and is said to abound in Galilee in the months of April and May. Wetzstein, on the other hand, identifies it with a beautiful dark violet lily which grows in the large plain south-east of the Hauran range of mountains, and is called susân. The opinion of the Chaldee paraphrast and of Rabbinical writers, that the rose was really meant by the Hebrew, may safely be rejected.

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.
(7) It would be more in accordance with the Hebrew idiom to render, The dwellers under its shadow shall once more cause the corn to grow. The word translated “scent” (margin, “memorial”) should be renown. The form of these promises is derived from the external signs of national prosperity. (Comp. Hosea 12:10.) But corn and wine are throughout the Scriptures the great symbols of spiritual refreshment, and are still the memorials of the supreme love of Him whose body was broken and whose blood was shed for us.

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.
(8) It would be better to adopt the slightly different reading indicated by the rendering of the LXX., and translate, As for Ephraim, what has he to do with, &c. Here again, as in Hosea 13:15, the Hebrew for “thy fruit” contains a play on the name Ephraim. I (says Jehovah) am to thee an evergreen tree of life and protection, and from me is thy fruit found.

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.
(9) Who is wise.—Hosea hands his words over to all students of the ways of God. The exhortation to wisdom is expressed in the form of a question. “Wisdom” and “wise men” take in the later Hebrew literature the place of “prophecy” and “prophets.” Wisdom interprets both the word and its fulfilment. Christ’s own teaching goes beyond wisdom and prudence (Matthew 11:28; comp. 1Corinthians 1:20): it was spirit and life (John 6:63).

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

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