INTRODUCTION TO Hosea 14
This chapter concludes the book, with gracious promises to repenting sinners, to returning backsliders. It begins with an exhortation to Israel to return to the Lord, seeing he was their God, and they had fallen by sin from prosperity into adversity, temporal and spiritual, Hosea 14:1; and they are directed what to say to the Lord, upon their return to him, both by way of petition, and of promise and of resolution how to behave for the future, encouraged by his grace and mercy, Hosea 14:2; and they are told what the Lord, by way of answer, would say to them, Hosea 14:4; and what he would be to them; and what blessings of grace he would bestow on them; and in what flourishing and fruitful circumstances they should be, Hosea 14:5; and the chapter ends with a character of such that attend to and understand those things; and with a recommendation of the ways of the Lord, which are differently regarded by men, Hosea 14:9.
O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God,.... From whom they had revolted and backslidden; whose worship and service they had forsaken, and whose word and ordinances they had slighted and neglected, and had served idols, and had given into idolatry, superstition, and will worship; and are here exhorted to turn again to the Lord by repentance and reformation, to abandon their idols, and every false way, and cleave to the Lord with full purpose of heart; and the rather, since he was their God; not only their Creator, Preserver, and kind Benefactor, but their God, by his special choice of them above all people; by his covenant with them; by his redemption of them; and by their profession of him; and who was still their God, and ready to receive them, upon their return to him: and a thorough return is here meant, a returning "even unto" (w), or quite up to the Lord thy God; it is not a going to him halfway, but a going quite up to his seat; falling down before him, acknowledging sin and backslidings, and having hold upon him by faith as their God, Redeemer, and Saviour: hence, from the way of speaking here used, the Jews (x) have a saying, as Kimchi observes,
"great is repentance, for it brings a man to the throne of glory;''
the imperative may be here used for the future, as some take it; and then it is a prediction of the conversion of Israel, "thou shalt return, O Israel" (y); and which was in part fulfilled in the first times of the Gospel, which met with many of the Israelites dispersed among the Gentiles, and was the means of their conversion; and will have a greater accomplishment when all Israel shall be converted and saved:
for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity; or "though thou art fallen" (z); into sin, and by it into ruin, temporal and spiritual; from a state of great prosperity and happiness, both in things civil and religious, into great adversity, and calamities of every sort; yet return, repent, consider from whence thou art fallen, and by what; or thou shall return, be recovered and restored, notwithstanding thy fall, and the low estate in which thou art. The Targum is,
"return to the fear of the Lord.''
(w) "asque ad Dominum", Montanus, Tigurine version, Oecolampadius, Schmidt, Burkius. (x) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 86. 1.((y) "revertere", i. e. "reverteris", Schmidt. (z) "etsi corruisti", Luther apud Tarnovium.
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.Take with you words, and turn to the Lord,.... Not mere words without the heart, but such as come from it, and express the true sense of it; words of confession, as the Targum; by which sin is acknowledged, and repentance declared, and forgiveness asked. Kimchi's note is a very good one;
"he (that is, God) does not require of you, upon return, neither gold nor silver, nor burnt offerings, but good works; therewith confessing your sins with your whole hearts, and not with your lips only;''
and which best agrees with evangelical repentance and Gospel times, in which ceremonial sacrifices are no more; and not any words neither; not tautologies and multiplicity of words, or words of man's prescribing, but of the Lord's directing to and dictating; the taught words of the Holy Ghost, which he suggests and helps men to, who otherwise know not how to pray, or what to pray for; and these expressed under a sense of sin, and sorrow for it, and in the strength of faith, and are as follow:
say unto him, take away all iniquity; which is to be understood, not of the taking away of the being of sin; which, though very desirable, is not to be expected in this life: nor of the expiation of sin by the sacrifice of Christ, which is done already; he has taken the sins of his people from them to himself, and has bore them, and carried them away, and removed them out of the sight of divine justice, which is satisfied for them: nor of the taking away of the power and dominion of sin; which is done by the Spirit of God, and the efficacy of his grace on the hearts of converted persons: nor of an extinguishing all sense of sin in men; for none have a quicker sense of it than pardoned sinners, or are more humble on the account of it, or more loath it; but of the taking of it away from the conscience of a sensible truly penitent sinner or backslider, by a fresh application of pardoning grace and mercy: sin is a burden, a heavy one, when the guilt of it is charged and lies upon the conscience; pardon of sin applied is a lifting up, as the word here used signifies, a taking off of this burden from it, a causing it to pass away; which is done by the fresh sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, which purges the conscience from sin, and clears it from the guilt of it, and speaks peace and comfort; and which is the blessing here prayed for, and every backslider, sensible of his case, sees he stands in need of, and even to have "all" taken away; for, if but one sin remains, and the guilt of it continues, he can have no peace, nor stand up under it; but, when God forgives sin, he forgives "all" sin;
and receive us graciously; receive into grace and favour, that is, openly and manifestly; the free love and favour of God is always the same, but the manifestations of it are different; sometimes more or less, and sometimes scarce any, if any at all, and is the ease here; and therefore a petition is made for the remembrance of it, for a renewed discovery and application of it: or accept us in a gracious manner; acceptance with God is not on account of the merits of men, but his own grace and mercy; not through any works of righteousness done by them, which are impure and imperfect; but through Christ the Beloved, in whom God is well pleased with the persons, and services, and sacrifices of his people, and receives all for his sake, and which is here asked for; as well as that he would take them into his protection, and open affection. It is, in the original text, only, "receive good" (a); meaning either their good hearts, made so by the grace of God; their broken hearts and contrite spirits, which are sacrifices not despised by him, but acceptable to him through Christ: or their good words they were bid to take, and did take, nod use; their good prayers offered up through Christ, in his name, and in the exercise of faith, which are the Lord's delight: or their good works, done from a principle of love, in faith, to the glory of God, and with which sacrifices he is well pleased: or rather, as the same word signifies, to give as well as receive; see Psalm 68:18. It may be rendered, "give good" (b); take good, and give it to us, even all good things, temporal and spiritual, especially all spiritual blessings in Christ; all which good things come from God, and are his gifts; particularly the good Spirit of God, and his grace, which the Lord gives to them that ask; and all supplies of grace from Christ; and more especially, as some interpreters of note explain it, the righteousness of Christ imputed and applied; which goes along with pardoning grace, or the taking away of sin, Zechariah 3:4; and is the good, the better, the best robe; a gift, the gift of grace; a blessing received from the Lord, and to be asked for of him:
so will we render the calves of our lips; not calves, bullocks, and oxen, for sacrifice, as under the law; but the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving for pardoning grace, for a justifying righteousness, and for all good things: these are the fruit of the lips, as the apostle interprets it, Hebrews 13:15; and which are sacrifices more acceptable to God than calves of a year old, or an ox or bullock that has horns and hoofs, Psalm 69:30. This shows that the text and context refer to Gospel times, to the times of the Messiah; in which the Jews themselves say all sacrifices will cease but the sacrifice of praise. The Targum is,
"turn to the worship of the Lord, and say, let it he with thee to forgive sins, and may we be received as good, and the words of our lips be accepted with thee as bullocks for good pleasure upon the altar.''
(a) "accipe bonum", Pagninus, Montanus: Munster, Cocceius, Schmidt, Burkius. (b) "Acceptum confer bonum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius.
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.Ashur shall not save us,.... This is still a continuation of the words repenting and returning Israel are directed to make use of before the Lord, declaring they would not do any more as they had done; to Assyria, or the kings of Assyria, as the Targum, for help, and desire assistance, and expect deliverance and salvation from thence; see Hosea 5:13;
we will not ride upon horses; to seek for help elsewhere; or go to Egypt for them, as they had done; or put their trust in them for safety, in a time of war; or think to make their escape by them when in danger; see Psalm 20:8;
neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, ye are our gods; that is, say so to, or concerning, their idols, which were made by their hands, or by their orders, as they had formerly done to the golden calf in the wilderness, and to the calves at Dan and Bethel; see Exodus 32:4; now, by all these expressions is meant, that they would determine not to put any confidence in any creature, or in any creature performance; that they would not trust in their own merits, but in the mercy of God through Christ for the of their sins; nor in any works of righteousness for their justification before God, and acceptance with him; nor expect salvation in any other way than by the free grace of God, and his abundant mercy in Christ:
for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy; and in thee only; hereby declaring that the Lord was the only Saviour; that there was salvation in Christ, and in no other; and that they would have no other saviour but him; that they would look to the mercy of God proclaimed in him, and communicated from and through him, the mercy seat, and to his mercy alone for eternal life; in whom the most destitute persons, as the fatherless, who are destitute of friends, of help and assistance, of counsel and advice, find favour, kindness, and mercy, even such as are most hopeless and helpless; which is a great encouragement to look to the Lord, to trust in him, and hope in his mercy.
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.I will heal their backslidings,.... This and what follows is the Lord's answer to the above prayer; and this clause particularly is an answer to that petition, "take away all iniquity", Hosea 14:2; sins are diseases, natural and hereditary, nauseous and loathsome, mortal, and incurable but by the grace of God, and blood of Christ; backslidings are relapses, which are dangerous things; Christ is the only Physician, who heals all the diseases of sin, and these relapses also; he will do it, he has promised it, and never turns away any that apply to him for it; and which he does by a fresh application of his blood, whereby he takes away sin, heals the conscience wounded with it, and restores peace and comfort; which is a great encouragement to take words, and return unto him; see Hosea 6:1;
I will love them freely; this is in answer to that petition, "receive us, graciously"; or "receive good", or rather "give good", Hosea 14:2; not that the love of God or Christ begins when sinners repent and turn to him, or he applies his pardoning grace, since his love is from everlasting; but that in so doing he manifests his love, and will continue in it, nor shall anything separate from it: and this love, as it is freely set upon the objects of it, without any merits of theirs, or any motives in them, but flows from the free sovereign will and pleasure of God in Christ; so it is as freely manifested, and continues upon the same bottom, and is displayed in a most liberal and profuse donation of blessings of grace to them: this love is free in its original, and is liberal and bountiful in the effects of it; and makes the objects of it a free, willing, and bountiful people too:
for mine anger is turned away from him: from Israel, which, under former dispensations of Providence, seemed to be towards him, at least when under his frowns, resentment, and displeasure, as is the case of that people at this day; but when they shall return to the Lord, and he shall manifest and apply his pardoning grace to them, his anger will appear no more, and they shall be in a very happy and comfortable condition, as Israel or the church declares, Isaiah 12:1; which refers to the same times as these words do; see Romans 11:26; and compare Psalm 85:2; where a manifestation of pardoning grace is called the Lord's turning himself from the fierceness of his anger; and especially this suits with Gospel times, satisfaction being made for sin by the sacrifice of Christ.
I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.I will be as the dew unto Israel,.... To spiritual Israel, to those that return to the Lord, take with them words, and pray unto him, whose backslidings are healed, and they are freely loved; otherwise it is said of apostate Israel or Ephraim, that they were "smitten, and their root dried up, and bore no fruit", Hosea 9:16. These words, and the whole, context, respect future times, as Kimchi observes; even the conversion of Israel in the latter day, when they shall partake of all the blessings of grace, signified by the metaphors used in this and the following verses. These words are a continuation of the answer to the petitions put into the mouths of converted ones, promising them many favours, expressed in figurative terms; and first by "the dew", which comes from heaven, is a great blessing of God, and is quickening, very refreshing and fruitful to the earth: and the Lord is that unto his people as the dew is to herbs, plants, and trees of the earth; he is like unto it in his free love and layout, and the discoveries of it to them; which, like the dew, is of and from himself alone; is an invaluable blessing; better than life itself; and is not only the cause of quickening dead sinners, but of reviving, cheering, and refreshing the drooping spirits of his people; and is abundance, never fails, but always continues, Proverbs 19:12; and so he is in the blessings of his grace, and the application of them; which are in heavenly places, in Christ, and come down from thence, and in great abundance, like the drops of dew; and fall silently, insensibly, and unawares, particularly regenerating grace; and are very cheering and exhilarating, as forgiveness of sin, a justifying righteousness, adoption, &c. Deuteronomy 33:13; and also in the Gospel, and the doctrines of it, which distil as dew; these are of God, and come down from heaven; seem little in themselves, but of great importance to the conversion of sinners, and comfort of saints; bring many blessings in them, and cause great joy and fruitfulness wherever they come with power, Deuteronomy 32:2. The Targum is,
"my Word shall be as dew to Israel;''
the essential Word of God, the Messiah; of whose incarnation of a virgin some interpret this; having, like the dew, no father but God, either in his divine or human nature; but rather it is to be understood of the blessings of grace he is to his people as Mediator; being to them wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, and every other, even their all it, all:
he shall grow as the lily; to which the church and people of God are sometimes compared, especially for their beauty and comeliness in Christ, Solomon in all his glory not being arrayed like one of these; particularly for their unspotted purity, being clothed with fine linen, clean and white, the white raiment of Christ's righteousness, and having their garments washed and made white in his blood; see Sol 2:1; and here for its growth. The root of the lily lies buried in the earth a long time, when it seems as if it was dead; but on a sudden it springs out of the earth, and runs up to a great height, and becomes very flourishing; which is not owing to itself, it "toils not"; but to the dew of heaven: so God's elect in a state of nature are dead, but, being quickened by the grace of God, spring up on a sudden, and grow very fast; which is not owing to themselves, but to the dews of divine grace, the bright shining of the sun of righteousness upon them, and to the influences of the blessed Spirit; and so they grow up on high, into their Head Christ Jesus, and rise up in their affections, desires, faith and hope to heavenly things, to the high calling of God in Christ, and become fruitful in grace, and in good works. The Targum is,
"they shall shine as the lily;''
see Matthew 6:29;
and cast forth his roots as Lebanon; as the tree, or trees, of Lebanon, as the Targum; and so Kimchi, who adds, which are large, and their roots many; or as the roots of the trees of Lebanon, so Jarchi; like the cedars there, which, as the word here used signifies, "struck" (c) their roots firm in that mountain, and stood strong and stable, let what winds and tempests soever blow: thus, as in the following, what one metaphor is deficient in, another makes up. The lily has but a weak root, and is easily up; but the cedars in Lebanon had roots firm and strong, to which the saints are sometimes compared, as here; see Psalm 92:12; and this denotes their permanency and final perseverance; who are rooted in the love of God, which is like a root underground from all eternity, and sprouts forth in regeneration, and is the source of all grace; is itself immovable, and in it the people of God are secured, and can never be rooted out; and they may be said to "strike" their roots in it, as the phrase here, when they exercise: a strong faith in it, and are firmly persuaded of their interest in it; see Ephesians 3:17; they are also rooted in Christ, who is the root of Jesse, of David, and of all the saints; from whom they have their life, their nourishment and fruitfulness, and where they remain unmoved, and strike their roots in him, by renewed acts of faith on him, claiming their interest in him; and are herein so strongly rooted and grounded, that all the winds and storms of sin, Satan, and the world, cannot eradicate them; nay, as trees are more firmly rooted by being shaken, so are they; see Colossians 2:7. The Targum is,
"they shall dwell in the strength of their land, as a tree of Lebanon, which sends forth its branch.''
(c) "percutiet", Montanus, Tarnovius, Rivet, Cocceius; "figet", Calvin, Pareus; "defiget"; Zanchius; "et infiget", Schmidt; "incutiet", Drusius.
His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.His branches shall spread,.... As the well rooted cedars in Lebanon; see Numbers 24:6. This respects the propagation of the church of God, and the interest of Christ in the world, as in the first times of the Gospel, and will be in the latter day; when the Gospel shall be spread everywhere; churches set up in all places; the Jews converted, and the fulness of the Gentiles brought in; and these like spreading branches, and fruitful boughs, abounding in grace and good works. The Targum is,
"they shall multiply or increase with sons and daughters:''
and his beauty shall be as the olive tree; which lies in its being laden with excellent fruit, and being always green; for which reasons particular believers, and the whole church of God, are sometimes compared to it; having that fatness in them, with which God and men are honoured; and that true grace, which is signified by oil in the vessels of the heart, and is called the unction and anointing of the Holy One; and they persevering in this grace to the end, which is evergreen and durable, immortal, and dies not; see Psalm 52:8. Here again it may be observed, that the trees of Lebanon, though they had strong roots, and spreading branches, yet were not fruitful; and the deficiency of that metaphor is supplied by this of the olive:
and his smell as Lebanon; as the trees of Lebanon, the cedars, trees of frankincense, and other odoriferous trees and plants, which grew upon it; here what is wanting in the olive tree, whose smell is not so grateful, is made up by this simile of the trees of Lebanon, and the smell of them; which may denote the sweet and grateful smell the Lord smells in his people, or his gracious acceptance of them in Christ; whose garments of righteousness and salvation on them are as the smell of Lebanon; and whose graces in them exceed the smell of all spices; and whose prayers are odours, and their praises a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savour to God; see Sol 4:10. Some render it, "as incense" (d) called "lebonah" in Hebrew, from whence the mountain is thought to have its name, frankincense growing upon it. So the Targum,
"and their smell as the smell of the incense of spices.''
Jarchi says, as the sanctuary, which was made of the cedars of Lebanon.
(d) "Ut thuris", Grotius.
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.They that dwell under his shadow shall return,.... Either under the shadow of Lebanon, as Japhet and Jarchi; the shadow of that mountain, or of the trees that grew upon it; or under the shadow of Israel, the church, to which young converts have recourse, and under which they sit with pleasure; or rather under the shadow of the Lord Israel was called to return unto, and now return, Hosea 14:1; as the Israelites will in the latter day. So the Targum,
"and they shall be gathered out of the midst of their captivity, they shall dwell under the shadow of their Messiah;''
thus truly gracious persons sit under the shadow of Christ, who come to themselves, and return unto the Lord; even under the shadow of his word and ordinances, where they desire to sit, and do sit with delight and pleasure, as well as in the greatest safety; and find it a very refreshing and comfortable shadow to them; even a shadow from the heat of avenging justice, a fiery law, the fiery darts of Satan, and the fury of the world; and, like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land, exceeding pleasing and cheering to weary travellers; see Sol 2:3 Isa 25:4;
they shall revive as the corn: which first dies, and then is quickened; or which, after a cold nipping winter, at spring revives again: thus do believers under the dews of divine grace, under the shadow of Christ, and the influences of his Spirit: or, "shall revive with corn" (e); by means of it; by which may be signified the corn of heaven, angels' food, the hidden manna, the Gospel of Christ, and Christ himself, the bread of life; by which the spirits of his people are revived, their souls upheld in life, and their graces quickened; which they find and eat, and it is the joy and rejoicing of their hearts:
and grow as the vine: which, though weak, and needs support, and its wood unprofitable; yet grows and spreads very much, and brings forth rich fruit in clusters: so the saints, though they are weak in themselves, and need divine supports, and when they have done all they can are unprofitable servants; yet through the power of divine grace, which is like the dew, they grow in every grace, and are filled with the blessings of it, and bring forth much fruit to the glory of God:
and the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon; like the wine of those vines which grow on Mount Lebanon, and judged to be the best. On Mount Lebanon, about the midway between the top and the bottom of it, there is now a convent called Canobine, situated in a very pleasant place; and Le Bruyn in his travels relates, that it is preferable to all other places on account of its wines, which are the richest and finest in the world; they are very sweet, of a red colour, and so oily that they stick to the glass. At Lebanon was a city called by the Greeks Ampeloessa, from the excellency of its wine, as Grotius from Pliny (f) observes. Gabriel Sionita (g) assures us, that even to this day the wines of Libanus are in good reputation. Kimchi relates from Asaph, a physician, that the wines of Lebanon, Hermon, and Carmel, and of the mountains of Israel and Jerusalem, and of the mountains of Samaria, and of the mountains of Caphtor Mizraim, were the best of wines, and exceeded all others for scent, taste, and medicine. Japhet interprets it, the smell of their vine afar off was as the wine of Lebanon; and so Kimchi, the smell of the wine of the vine, to which Israel is compared, is like the smell of the wine of Lebanon. This may denote the savouriness of truly converted gracious souls, of their graces, doctrines, life, and conversation. Some choose to render it, "their memory (h) shall be as the wine of Lebanon"; so the Targum interprets it of
"the memory of their goodness;''
the saints obtain a good report through faith, and have a good name, better than precious ointment; their memory is blessed; they, are had in everlasting remembrance; the memory of them is not only dear to the people of God in after ages; but the memory of their persons, and of their works, is exceeding grateful to God and Christ.
(e) , Sept. "vivent tritico", V. L. "vivificabunt frumento", Munster, Castalio; so Syr. & Ar. (f) Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 18. (g) Apud Calmet, Dictionary, on the word "Wine". (h) "memoria ejus", Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Tarnovius, Cocceius, Castalio, Schmidt, Burkius.
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.Ephraim shall say, what have I to do any more with idols?.... This is to be understood, not of apostate Ephraim, as in the times of the prophet, who was so wedded and glued to the idols, that there was no hope of getting him from them; and therefore is bid to let him alone, Hosea 4:17; but of Ephraim Israel returning to God at his call, under the influence of his grace, in the latter day, Hosea 14:1. Idols are the same with the works of their hands, Hosea 14:3; and to be interpreted, not of graven or molten images, to the worship of which the Jews have not been addicted since their captivity to this day; see Hosea 3:4; but of the idols of their hearts, their impiety, their unbelief, their rejection of the Messiah, which, at the time of their conversion, they will loath, abhor, and mourn over; likewise the traditions of their elders, they are now zealous and tenacious of, and prefer even to the written word; but will now relinquish them, and embrace the Gospel of Christ; as well as the idol of their own righteousness they have always endeavoured to establish; but shall now renounce, and receive Christ as the Lord their righteousness. The like to this is to be found in common in all truly penitent and converted sinners; who, being made sensible of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, detest and abhor it, and declare they will have nothing to do with it; not but that it continues in them, and has to do with them, and they with that; yet not so as to live and walk in it; to yield their members as instruments of it; to serve and obey it as their master; to make provision for it, and to have the course of their lives under the direction and power of it; and so likewise, being convinced of the imperfection and insufficiency of their own righteousness to justify them, they will have nothing to do with that in the business of justification before God, and acceptance with him: now these are the words of the Lord, affirming what Ephraim should say, as Kimchi rightly observes; he promises for him, as he well might, since it is he that gives repentance to Israel, and works in his people principles of grace, and enables them both to will and to do, to make such holy resolutions, and perform them. Some render the words, "O Ephraim, what have I to do" (i)? &c. and take them to be words of God concerning himself, declaring he would have nothing to do with idols, nor suffer them in his service, nor should they; for "what concord hath Christ with Belial?" or "what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" 2 Corinthians 6:15; but the former sense is much best; rather what Schmidt suggests is more agreeable, who, rendering the words in the same way, makes them to be the words of a believing Gentile returning and dwelling under the shadow of Israel; so he interprets Hosea 14:7, and takes this to be the language of such an one throughout. The Targum is,
"they of the house of Israel shall say, what is it to us to serve idols any more?''
I have heard him; says the Lord; Ephraim bemoaning himself, repenting of his sins, and confessing them; his prayers for pardon and acceptance, and the resolutions made by him in the strength of divine grace, Hosea 14:2; see Jeremiah 31:18; and this is what his idols he once served could not do, who had ears, but heard not; but the Lord not only heard, but answered, and granted his request. So the Targum,
"I by my Word will receive the prayer of Israel, and will have mercy on him:''
and observed him; looked at him, and on him; with an eye of pity and compassion; with a favourable and propitious look, as the Lord does towards those that are poor, and of a contrite spirit; observed the ways and steps he took in returning to him; marked his tears and humiliations, groans and moans, and took notice of his wants in order to supply them;
I am like a green fir tree: these are the words of the Lord continued; though some take them to be the words of Ephraim; or, as Schmidt, of the Gentile believer, like those of David, Psalm 52:8; but they best agree with Christ, who may be compared to such a tree, as he is to many others in Scripture; because a choice one, as he is to his Father, and to all believers, chosen and precious, lovely and beloved; a tall tree, so Christ is highly exalted as Mediator, higher than the kings of the earth, above the angels in heaven, yea, higher than the heavens. The boughs of this tree, as Jarchi and Kimchi observe, bend downward so low as to be laid hold on; Christ, though the high and lofty One, dwells with humble souls, and suffers himself to be laid hold upon by the faith of everyone that comes to him. Pliny says (k), that this tree is of a cheerful aspect, smooth, and scarce any knots upon it; and its leaves so thick that a shower of rain will not pass through it: Christ is most amiable, and altogether lovely to look at in his person and fulness; and he looks in a loving smiling manner upon his people; he is without any knot of sin or corruption in him, as to principle or practice; and is a delightful shade from the wrath of God, or rage of man, from the heat of a fiery law, and the darts of Satan: and as this tree, as here, is ever green, so he is always the same; he ever lives, and his people in him, and by him; his fulness always continues to supply them. Once more, the fir tree is the habitation of the stork, an unclean creature by the law of God; so Christ is the dwelling place of sinners, he receives them, and converses with them, Psalm 104:17. The Septuagint version renders it, "as a thick juniper tree": which naturalists say (l) has such a virtue in it, as by the smell to drive away serpents. So the old serpent the devil was drove away by Christ in the wilderness, in the garden, and on the cross; and resisting by faith, holding out his blood and righteousness, causes him to flee from the saints, The Arabic version is, "as the fruitful cypress tree"; which is of a good smell, and its wood very durable; and so may be expressive of the savour of Christ, his righteousness and sacrifice, the graces of his Spirit, and of his duration. Some take this to be a promise that Ephraim should be as a green fir tree, so Aben Ezra; with which agrees the Targum,
"I by my word will make him as the beautiful fir tree;''
and to which sometimes the saints are compared; see Isaiah 41:19; and this being a tree that bears no fruit, it follows, to make up that defect in the metaphor,
from me is thy fruit found; from Christ are all the spiritual blessings of grace, peace, pardon, righteousness, adoption, a right and meetness for eternal life, and that itself; all the fruits and graces of the Spirit, as faith, hope, love, &c. and all good works, which spring from union with him, are done in his strength, and influenced by his grace and example; see Philippians 1:11.
(i) "Ephraim, vel O quid mihi amplius", &c. Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Tigurine version, Castalio, Cocceius, Schmidt, Burkius. (k) Nat. Hist. l. 16. c. 10. (l) Varinus apud Rivet. in loc.
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.Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent,
and he shall know them?.... Contained in this book, and particularly in this chapter; which expresses so much of the goodness of God and grace of Christ to Israel; though it may be applied to the whole Scripture, and to all the mysteries and doctrines of the Gospel, respecting Christ and his grace; and be a recommendation of these to the consideration of every wise and prudent man; where he will find enough to exercise his wisdom and understanding; though he need not be discouraged in his search and inquiry into them. It suggests as if there were but few such wise persons, and that they are the only wise men that do know and understand these things; and all others are but fools, let them be thought as wise as they will:
for the ways of the Lord are right; straight, plain, even, according to the rules of, justice and equity; there is no unrighteousness in them; none in the ways in which he himself walks; either in his ways and methods of grace, his decrees and purposes, his counsels and covenant; or in his providential dispensations; nor in those he directs others to walk in, the paths of faith and doctrine; or the ways of his commandments:
and the just shall walk in them; such as are, justified by the righteousness of Christ, and have ills grace wrought in them, and live righteously; these walk, and continue to walk, in the ways of God; which shows that the doctrine of justification by Christ's implored righteousness is no licentious doctrine:
but the transgressors shall fall therein; the transgressors of the law of God, not being used to his ways, as Kimchi's father observes, stumble in them and fall; or rather, as Jarchi and the Targum, they fall into hell, into ruin and destruction, because they walk not in them; though the sense seems to be, that as Christ himself, so his ways and his word, his doctrines and his ordinances, are stumbling blocks to wicked men, at which they stumble, and fall, and perish; see Luke 2:34 Romans 9:33.