Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.
Ho 14:1-9. God's Promise of Blessing, on Their Repentance: Their Abandonment of Idolatry Foretold: The Conclusion of the Whole, the Just Shall Walk in God's Ways, but the Transgressor Shall Fall Therein.
1. fallen by thine iniquity—(Ho 5:5; 13:9).
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. Take with you words—instead of sacrifices, namely, the words of penitence here put in your mouths by God. "Words," in Hebrew, mean "realities," there being the same term for "words" and "things"; so God implies, He will not accept empty professions (Ps 78:36; Isa 29:13). He does not ask costly sacrifices, but words of heartfelt penitence.
receive us graciously—literally "(for) good."
calves of our lips—that is, instead of sacrifices of calves, which we cannot offer to Thee in exile, we present the praises of our lips. Thus the exile, wherein the temple service ceased, prepared the way for the gospel time when the types of the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament being realized in Christ's perfect sacrifice once for all, "the sacrifice of praise to God continually that is the fruit of our lips" (Heb 13:14) takes their place in the New Testament.
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. Three besetting sins of Israel are here renounced, trust in Assyria, application to Egypt for its cavalry (forbidden, De 17:16; compare Ho 7:11; 11:5; 12:1; 2Ki 17:4; Ps 33:17; Isa 30:2, 16; 31:1), and idolatry.
fatherless—descriptive of the destitute state of Israel, when severed from God, their true Father. We shall henceforth trust in none but Thee, the only Father of the fatherless, and Helper of the destitute (Ps 10:14; 68:5); our nation has experienced Thee such in our helpless state in Egypt, and now in a like state again our only hope is Thy goodness.
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.
4. God's gracious reply to their self-condemning prayer.
backsliding—apostasy: not merely occasional backslidings. God can heal the most desperate sinfulness [Calvin].
freely—with a gratuitous, unmerited, and abundant love (Eze 16:60-63). So as to the spiritual Israel (Joh 15:16; Ro 3:24; 5:8; 1Jo 4:10).
I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
5. as the dew—which falls copiously in the East, taking the place of the more frequent rains in other regions. God will not be "as the early dew that goeth away," but constant (Ho 6:3, 4; Job 29:19; Pr 19:12).
the lily—No plant is more productive than the lily, one root often producing fifty bulbs [Pliny, Natural History, 21.5]. The common lily is white, consisting of six leaves opening like bells. The royal lily grows to the height of three or four feet; Mt 6:29 alludes to the beauty of its flowers.
roots as Lebanon—that is, as the trees of Lebanon (especially the cedars), which cast down their roots as deeply as is their height upwards; so that they are immovable [Jerome], (Isa 10:34). Spiritual growth consists most in the growth of the root which is out of sight.
His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.
6. branches—shoots, or suckers.
beauty … as the olive—which never loses its verdure. One plant is not enough to express the graces of God's elect people. The lily depicts its lovely growth; but as it wants duration and firmness, the deeply rooted cedars of Lebanon are added; these, however, are fruitless, therefore the fruitful, peace-bearing, fragrant, ever green olive is added.
smell as Lebanon—which exhaled from it the fragrance of odoriferous trees and flowers. So Israel's name shall be in good savor with all (Ge 27:27; So 4:11).
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. They that used to dwell under Israel's shadow (but who shall have been forced to leave it), shall return, that is, be restored (Eze 35:9). Others take "His shadow" to mean Jehovah's (compare Ps 17:8; 91:1; Isa 4:6), which Ho 14:1, 2 ("return unto the Lord," &c.) favor. But the "his" in Ho 14:6 refers to Israel, and therefore must refer to the same here.
revive as … corn—As the corn long buried in the earth springs up, with an abundant produce, so shall they revive from their calamities, with a great increase of offspring (compare Joh 12:24).
scent thereof—that is, Israel's fame. Compare Ho 14:6, "His smell as Lebanon"; So 1:3: "Thy name is as ointment poured forth." The Septuagint favors the Margin, "memorial."
as the wine of Lebanon—which was most celebrated for its aroma, flavor, and medicinal restorative properties.
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. Ephraim shall say—being brought to penitence by God's goodness, and confessing and abhorring his past madness.
I have heard … and observed him—I Jehovah have answered and regarded him with favor; the opposite of God's "hiding His face from" one (De 31:17). It is the experience of God's favor, in contrast to God's wrath heretofore, that leads Ephraim to abhor his past idolatry. Jehovah heard and answered: whereas the idols, as Ephraim now sees, could not hear, much less answer.
I am … a green fir—or cypress; ever green, winter and summer alike; the leaves not falling off in winter.
From me is thy fruit found—"From Me," as the root. Thou needest go no farther than Me for the supply of all thy wants; not merely the protection implied by the shadow of the cypress, but that which the cypress has not, namely, fruit, all spiritual and temporal blessings. It may be also implied, that whatever spiritual graces Ephraim seeks for or may have, are not of themselves, but of God (Ps 1:3; Joh 15:4, 5, 8; Jas 1:17). God's promises to us are more our security for mortifying sin than our promises to God (Isa 27:9).
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. Epilogue, summing up the whole previous teaching. Here alone Hosea uses the term "righteous," so rare were such characters in his day. There is enough of saving truth clear in God's Word to guide those humbly seeking salvation, and enough of difficulties to confound those who curiously seek them out, rather than practically seek salvation.
fall—stumble and are offended at difficulties opposed to their prejudices and lusts, or above their self-wise understanding (compare Pr 10:29; Mic 2:7; Mt 11:19; Lu 2:34; Joh 7:17; 1Pe 2:7, 8). To him who sincerely seeks the agenda, God will make plain the credenda. Christ is the foundation-stone to some: a stone of stumbling and rock of offense to others. The same sun softens wax and hardens clay. But their fall is the most fatal who fall in the ways of God, split on the Rock of ages, and suck poison out of the Balm of Gilead.