Hosea 13
Expositor's Bible Commentary
When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.

Hosea 12:1-14 - Hosea 14:1THE impassioned call with which the last chapter closed was by no means an assurance of salvation: "How am I to give thee, up, Ephraim? how am I to let thee go, Israel? On the contrary, it was the anguish of Love, when it hovers over its own on the brink of the destruction to which their willfulness has led them, and before relinquishing them would seek, if possible, some last way to redeem. Surely that fatal morrow and the people’s mad leap into it are not inevitable! At least, before they take the leap, let the prophet go back once more upon the moral situation of today, go back once more upon the past of the people, and see if he can find anything else to explain that bias to apostasy {Hosea 11:7} which has brought them to this fatal brink-anything else which may move them to repentance even there. So in chapters 12 and 13 Hosea turns upon the now familiar trail of his argument, full of the Divine jealousy, determined to give the people one other chance to turn; but if they will not, he at least will justify God’s relinquishment of them. The chapters throw even a brighter light upon the temper and habits of that generation. They again explore Israel’s ancient history for causes of the present decline; and, in especial, they cite the spiritual experience of the Father of the Nation, as if to show that what of repentance was possible for him is possible for his posterity also. But once more all hope is seen to be in vain; and Hosea’s last travail with his obstinate people closes in a doom even more awful than its predecessors."

The division into chapters is probably correct; but while chapter 13 is well ordered and clear, the arrangement, and, in parts, the meaning of chapter 12 are very obscure.


Hosea 13:1-16 - Hosea 14:1The crisis draws on. On the one hand Israel’s sin, accumulating, bulks ripe for judgment. On the other the times grow more fatal, or the prophet more than ever feels them so. He will gather once again the old truths on the old lines-the great past when Jehovah was God alone, the descent to the idols and the mushroom monarchs of today, the people, who once had been strong, sapped by luxury, forgetful, stupid, not to be roused. The discourse has every mark of being Hosea’s latest. There are clearness and definiteness beyond anything since chapter 4. There are ease and lightness of treatment, a playful sarcasm, as if the themes were now familiar both to the prophet and his audience. But, chiefly, there is the passion-so suitable to last words-of how different it all might have been, if to this crisis Israel had come with store of strength instead of guilt. How these years, with their opening into the great history of the world, might have meant a birth for the nation, which instead was lying upon them like a miscarried child in the mouth of the womb! It was a fatality God Himself could not help in. Only death and hell remained. Let them, then, have their way! Samaria must expiate her guilt in the worst horrors of war.

Instead of with one definite historical event, this last effort of Hosea opens more naturally with a summary of all Ephraim’s previous history. The tribe had been the first in Israel till they took to idols.

"Whenever Ephraim spake there was trembling. Prince was he in Israel; but he fell into guilt through the Ba’al, and so-died. Even now they continue to sin and make them a smelting of their silver, idols after their own modelsmith’s work all of it. To them"-to such things-"they speak! Sacrificing men kiss calves!" In such unreason have they sunk. They cannot endure. "Therefore shall they be like the morning cloud and like the dew that early vanisheth, like chaff which whirleth up from the floor and like smoke from the window. And I was thy God from the land of Egypt; and god besides Me thou knowest not, nor savior has there been any but Myself. I shepherded thee in the wilderness, in the land of droughts"-long before they came among the gods of fertile Canaan. But once they came hither, "the more pasture they had, the more they ate themselves full, and the more they ate themselves full, the more was their heart uplifted, so they forgat Me. So that I must be to them like a lion, like a leopard in the way I must leap. I will fall on them like a bear robbed of its young, and will tear the caul of their hearts, and will devour them like a lion-wild beasts shall rend them."

When "He hath destroyed thee, O Israel-who then may help thee? Where is thy king now? that he may save thee, or all thy princes? that they may rule thee; those of whom thou hast said, Give me a king and princes." Aye, "I give thee a king in Mine anger, and I take him away in My wrath!" Fit summary of the short and bloody reigns of these last years.

"Gathered is Ephraim’s guilt, stored up is his sin." The nation is pregnant - but with guilt! "Birth pangs seize him but"-the figure changes, with Hosea’s own swiftness, from mother to child-"he is an impracticable son; for this is no time to stand in the mouth of the womb." The years that might have been the nation’s birth are by their own folly to prove their death. Israel lies in the way of its own redemption-how truly this has been forced home upon them in one chapter after another! Shall God then step in and work a deliverance on the brink of death? "From the hand of Sheol shall I deliver them? from death shall I redeem them?" Nay, let death and Sheol have their way. "Where are thy plagues, O death? where thy destruction, Sheol?" Here with them. Compassion is hid from Mine eyes.

This great verse has been variously rendered. Some have taken it as a promise: "I will deliver. I will redeem" So the Septuagint translated, and St. Paul borrowed, not the whole Greek verse, but its spirit and one or two of its terms, for his triumphant challenge to death in the power of the Resurrection of Christ. As it stands in Hosea, however, the verse must be a threat. The last clause unambiguously abjures mercy, and the statement that His people will not be saved, for God cannot save them, is one in thorough harmony with all Hosea’s teaching.

An appendix follows with the illustration of the exact form which doom shall take. As so frequently with Hosea, it opens with a play upon the people’s name, which at the same time faintly echoes the opening of the chapter.

"Although he among his brethren is the fruit-bearer"-yaphri’, he Ephraim-"there shall come an east wind, a wind of Jehovah rising from the wilderness, so that his fountain dry up and his spring be parched." He -" himself," not the Assyrian, but Menahem, who had to send gold to the Assyrian-"shall strip the treasury of all its precious jewels. Samaria must bear her guilt: for she hath rebelled against her God." To this simple issue has the impenitence of the people finally reduced the many possibilities of those momentous years; and their last prophet leaves them looking forward to the crash which came some dozen years later in the invasion and captivity of the land. "They shall fall by the sword; their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child ripped up." Horrible details, but at that period certain to follow every defeat in war.

The Expositor's Bible

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