Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
3. Exhortation to Return: Promise of Complete Redemption.
1 Samaria will suffer punishment,1
Because she rebelled against her God;
They shall fall by the sword,
Their sucklings shall be dashed to pieces,
Their pregnant women2 shall be cut open.
2 Return, O Israel, to Jehovah, thy God,
For thou hast fallen through thy transgression.
3 Take with you words
And return to the Lord and say unto Him:
“Forgive all (our) iniquity3 and receive (what is) good [acceptable],
And we shall render unto thee our lips (as) oxen [as our sacrifices].
4 Assyria shall not help us, We will not ride upon horses,
We will no more say: our God, to the work of our hands,
(O Thou) in whom the orphan finds pity:”
5 I will heal their backsliding;
I will love them readily,4
For my anger is turned away from them.
6 I will be as the dew to Israel:
He shall bloom as the lily,
And shall strike his roots like Lebanon!5
7 His shoots shall go forth,
And his glory shall be like the olive,
And his fragrance like Lebanon!
8 Those that dwell under his shade shall revive [produce] corn once more.
And shall bloom as the vine,
His renown (shall be) like the wine of Lebanon.
9 O Ephraim, what have I to do any longer with idols?
I answer and regard [watch over] him.
I am like a green cypress;
With me is thy fruit found.
10 Who is wise, that he may understand these things?
Discerning, that he may know them?
For the ways of the Lord are direct,
And the righteous walk in them;
But transgressors stumble thereon.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Hosea 14:1. Samaria shall make expiation, etc, תֶּאְשַׁם, from אָשָׁםַ, to make atonement, to suffer punishment. [Rendered in E. V.: shall be desolate, comp. the remarks in the Text. and Gram. Section.—M.] It is unnecessary to join this verse to Hosea 13, although it is naturally connected with it. The foregoing threatenings converge here first into the prophecy “concerning the destruction of Samaria because of its apostasy from its God,” and then upon this groundwork is based the exhortation to return, and the promise of renewed mercy conditioned upon repentance. [Henderson] “For the concluding portion of the verse, comp. 2 Kings 8:12; 15:16; Amos 1:13. That such cruelties were not unknown among other nations, see Iliad, 6:58, and Horace, Carm. 4 Od. 6.”—M.]
Hosea 14:2. עַד יְהוָֹה, even unto Jehovah [literally: until, as far as, unto Jehovah.—M.]
Hosea 14:3. Take with you words: They are not to come to Jehovah empty, but at the same time need take nothing more than words, no outward gifts. The words they are to use are now named, וְקַח טוֹב: and accept good, namely, what now follows: the sacrifices of the lips. [The true idea of the phrase seems to be: receive what is good, pleasing, acceptable. For this sense of טוב, comp. Num. 24:1; Deut. 6:18. I find the meaning of the passage admirably expressed by Ewald: “The people must first return to God’s love. The Prophet does not merely exhort them to this course; he shows them also in what manner it should be made; how and in what spirit the penitent are again to draw near to God’s favor; namely, not with outward, even though imposing sacrifices, with bulls, e.g., but with words, with the lips, i.e., with the living promises of the spirit that struggles after mercy and offers what is good.” The English expositors have, for the most part, followed the rendering of E. V.: and receive us graciously. Horsley (who is strangely opposed by Henderson “on the ground of philolgy”) and Pusey recognize and adopt the natural and true construction.—M.] Literally: and we will render as bullocks our lips, i.e., we will offer to thee for our sins the confession of our guilt and the promise of our return instead of sacrificial oxen (comp. Ps. 51:17–19; 69:31 f.; 116:17; 141:2).
Hosea 14:4 follows immediately with such a vow, no longer to rely upon Assyria, no longer upon warlike power (horses) generally, no longer to serve idols, אֲשֶׁר בְּךָ: Thou, through whom, etc. Reliance upon God’s compassion is that upon which the whole prayer of penitence is based.
Hosea 14:5. The promise of mercy follows as an answer to such a prayer of penitence. Heal their apostasy = the calamities which it has entailed. נְדָבָה [spontaneously] expresses God’s perfect readiness to bestow such love.
Hosea 14:6 ff. The effects of this love of the Lord are rich blessings upon Israel: Jehovah Himself will become to Israel like a refreshing dew, and the consequences of this would be that they should bloom and strike root and send forth branches, or that they should flourish and develop a vigorous life. Like Lebanon, not simply like the cedars, but like the mountain itself, rooted as deeply and firmly. Like the olive [Hosea 14:7] with its evergreen leaves and rich fruitage. His fragrance like Lebanon with its cedars and aromatic shrubs.
Hosea 14:8. Here from Israel as a whole, compared to a tree, are distinguished the members of the people, as those who flourish vigorously beneath the shadow of the tree. יָשׁוּבוּ is to be joined with יְחַיּוּ in an adverbial sense=again. The latter word=live again, become fruitful. They themselves shall even become like a vine, producing wine as precious as that of Lebanon. O Ephraim! what have I still to do with idols? = I will have nothing more to do with idols, i.e., “I have now no longer to plead with thee on account of idols, as during the whole course of this prophecy Jehovah’s claims to honor as against idols have formed the predominant theme. This is all done away upon the ground on which this promise rests, that Israel has returned to the Lord” (Schmieder). I have answered and will regard him (Ephraim)=will concern myself, care for him. God lastly compares Himself to a green cypress. In Him the people are to find their fruit, i.e., the fruit which shall nourish them. [The English expositors, generally, adopt the rendering of the E. V., chiefly because the words of the first line do not seem to them suitable as uttered by God. But if they are held to assert that God would not have anything more to do with idols, would not come any longer into competition with idols for the affections of the people and so be brought into connection with them, they are seen to be suitable, and just what would be expected at the close of this book. And it would be altogether unnatural to introduce Ephraim as uttering this single exclamation in the midst of an extended passage in which God is the speaker. Finally, it is a most arbitrary principle which would require the insertion of the supplied words, or of any other, in a sentence in which the sense would be complete without an ellipsis. Manger carries such an unwarranted license to an extreme when he supposes that the whole verse forms a sort of dialogue, thus:—
EPHRAIM: What have I more to do with idols?
GOD: I have answered him and will regard him.
EPHRAIM: I am like a green cypress.
GOD: From me is thy Fruit found.
Upon this it is obvious to remark, that if the verse is a dialogue, and it were necessary to indicate who the speaker is in his first utterance, it would be just as necessary to give a similar intimation at the beginning of his next response.—M.]
Hosea 14:9. Who is wise, etc. An epilogue to the whole Prophetic Book. אֵלֶּה refers to all that precedes, to the chidings and threatenings concerning sin and idolatry. For right are the ways of the Lord. This the crowning declaration, comp. Deut. 32:4. The ways which God is said to follow are straight, i.e., direct, leading to the object. The righteous walk upon them, and are thereby righteous. But transgressors stumble thereon, i.e., they deviate from them, and are thereby transgressors, and at the same time the consequences of such deviation are recorded: they fall into ruin.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. It is clearly manifest here that the severe judgments announced as impending upon the kingdom of Israel have not their object in themselves, but are only means to an end. The kingdom in its present form must assuredly be destroyed, for it is utterly corrupt. But this is not to be done because God has turned Himself away from his people or desired to do so, or because his love for them is extinguished, but only because it is the only means of making room for something new, for the regeneration of his people.
2. Repentance, a return to God who had been forsaken, is to be the fruit of these judgments (comp. Hosea 2:18, 19), because it was their only design to lead to repentance, to make its necessity clear to the hearts of the people, and to prepare them for it through the severity of the wrath of God which they experienced, through their condition as “orphans” (Hosea 14:4). The essential element of such a return was the prayer for forgiveness of guilt, involving both confession of and sorrow for sin, and in connection therewith the vow of a change of life. Rieger: “When the sinner resolves to return unto the Lord, the Spirit of Grace makes his soul willing. I said, I will confess my transgression to the Lord. O how good it is if only the sullen silence is broken and he begins to speak with God from a heart freed from deceit. The highest instance of the honor which he can give to God in sincerely returning to Him, is to reject all help in men which he had sought before, and all creaturely consolation, to sanctify God the Lord in his heart, and to seek mercy like a helpless orphan, as our Lord Jesus has shown us that we are all orphans, teaching us to seek our Father in Heaven, like orphans who have no father on earth.”
3. It is significant how “words” are emphasized as an expression of such repentance, and as explained by the contrast to “sacrifices,” literal offerings of animals, every external legal service. Such sacrifices are not needed; “words” are sufficient; these are the true sacrifices well pleasing to God; and yet they must be words that express a right state of mind within. (On the other hand it must be remembered that words are no guarantee of a freedom from outward lip-service.) It cannot be said with certainty from this brief remark, whether the Prophet contemplates the sacrifices as entirely done away, as in the expected time of the coming redemption. The main object is to speak of the return to God, and it is clear that he regards this as a going forth of the heart, which does not need the intervention of any sacrifice, and therefore as a prayerful and penitent approach to Him without the medium of an offering. The idea is certainly at once suggested that if mercy can be found without sacrifices, there is no need of them afterwards in the state of grace.
4. Such a return presupposes the restoration of God’s favor, which is manifested by the promise of a condition of rich blessing. On this promise a restoration into their own country is not indicated as a special element, although it is evidently assumed, as exile from their country is to be regarded as the punishment that was decreed, according to the threatenings of chaps. 9–11. The promise in our chapter presents, so to speak, the positive side, after the negative has been shown. Punishment shall not merely be taken away; blessing shall be restored to them, through which alone a return to their country is to be gained. From the fact, however, that here at the close of the Book such a return is not promised, it is to be inferred that in the picture of the future redemption which the Prophet sketches, such return is not of itself the most important element, i.e., the Prophecy looks beyond it and towards something greater connected with it, a complete manifestation of God’s favor to his people, which finds its expression in a state of rich and wondrous blessedness. This we designate the Messianic character of the prophetic promise. It is therefore clear that we are not to seek the fulfillment of this promise in premessianic time; apart from the consideration that it did not then appear. The Messiah Himself, according to the statement of the promise, did not accomplish it as consisting in the glorious bloom and vigor of the people; nor will He do so, simply because He has already brought a still higher disclosure of God’s mercy, and will yet introduce a more glorious display, in which the whole believing people of God will enjoy (outward and inward) blessedness, as the nation of Israel will no longer be the object of special favor.
5. The promise here made to the people of Israel, that of full bloom and prosperity, and vigor, through the influence of God’s grace—still chiefly in a temporal sense,—shall be fulfilled for all believers as God’s true people in a higher sense: they shall be perpetually bedewed with power from God. The favor of God is ever fresh and blooming for them, and they enjoy its fruits without intermission, as they themselves become like a living, firmly-rooted, wide-spreading, never-fading, sweet-smelling tree. All this has its beginning even now, as surely as the divine favor brought to us through Christ is a reality, but shall only find its complete perfection when the kingdom of God shall have attained its complete realization.
6. “It is the object of the Prophet Hosea and of all Prophecy, in the spirit of Hosea 14:10, to alarm and to warn the apostate, to confirm and to comfort the converted, and to glorify the Lord” (Schmieder). Only the ways of the Lord are right. Then inevitable destruction must befall him who departs from them. True wisdom is to regard them, and all the prophetic Scriptures are like an uplifted finger, which warns against any departure from them, and at the same time like an outstretched finger which points to the way upon which the righteous must walk.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Hosea 14:2–9. FRANKE: He who would read what is sweet and agreeable, should read the close of all the Prophets. They are like a choir of singers, one singing one part, another another; but at last they all dwell upon one note. The glory of Christ’s Church at last is the finale.
Hosea 14:2. This is the key-note of all Prophecy; it always comes back to this. This warning is the most needed and the weightiest of all. All God’s judgments have this as their aim. They cry out earnestly: Return. O that we might hear! It is well to hear when God calls through his deeds; but it is better to hear his Words. “To thy God,” not to a strange God, but to One from whom so much good has been experienced, and who remains, the God of mercy and our God, even when He must punish us. Return! (I) the object: to the Lord, thy God; (2) the reason: because thou hast fallen through thy iniquity.
[MATT. HENRY: Sin is a fall, and it concerns those who have fallen by sin to get up again by repentance.
FAUSSET: God assures us that He is the God of his people, and invites us not merely to return towards, but never to rest until we have reached even UP TO Himself—to be satisfied with nothing short of Himself.—M.]
Hosea 14:3. Words are nothing unless they come from the depths of the heart. But when they come from thence, as did the Publican’s prayer, and David’s psalm of confession, then, though seemingly slight and less than “sacrifices,” they are in truth as great and naturally more than all merely outward offerings, since they are measured according to the disposition of the heart. All grief over sin avails nothing without the prayer for forgiveness addressed to God. Not repentance but forgiveness, gives rest and peace.
[PUSEY: What other good can we offer than detestation of our past sins with burning desire of holiness?
FAUSSET: What so cheap as words? And yet words such as God requires are not natural to fallen man. The Spirit of God alone can teach such words. In Gospel times we have no longer burdensome literal sacrifices to offer, but we have an offering continually to render which is more acceptable to Him (Ps. 69:30, 31), the thanksgivings of unfeigned “lips,” sanctified through the offering of Christ once for all.—M.]
Hosea 14:4. God is gracious to orphans. O that all orphaned ones might turn to God’s mercy!
[PUSEY: He is indeed fatherless who hath not God for his Father.
Hosea 14:5. PUSEY: Steadfastness to the end is the special gift of the Gospel. In healing that disease of unsteadfastness God heals ail besides.—M.]
Hosea 14:6. STARKE: God alone can truly revive the heart. Let him who needs comfort and refreshing seek them in God.
PFAFF. Bibelwerk: See how believers bloom in their holiness, strike root, bring forth fruit, and diffuse fragrance all around! Art thou also such a fruitful tree displaying such vigor of spiritual life?
[FAUSSET: All that is beautiful, solid, harmonious, and enduring shall be found in harmonious unison in the “trees of righteousness,” etc. (Is. 61:3).
PUSEY: Such reunion of qualities, being beyond nature, suggests the more, that that wherein they are all combined, the future Israel, the Church, shall flourish with graces that are beyond nature, in their manifold ness, completeness, unfadingness.—M.]
Hosea 14:9. O that God could speak thus of us, finding in us no idolatry, nor needing to plead with us any longer because of our idols! What better thing could we wish than that God would regard us in mercy? In Christ this is realized. In Him he is also as an evergreen tree of life to believers; his mercy never ceases, and from its fullness they may all receive grace for grace. He is for them an evergreen tree of life, but also one whose fruit never fails, and ever nourishes.
[MATT. HENRY: God will be to all true converts both a delight and a defense; under his protection and influence they shall both dwell in safety and dwell at ease. He will be either a sun and a shield, or a shade and a shield, as their case requires.
PUSEY: Created beauty must at best be but a faint image of the beauty of the soul in grace; for this is from the indwelling of God the Holy Ghost.—M.]
Hosea 14:10, God’s ways are direct; we must therefore not follow roundabout or crooked courses, but go straight forward in faith and labor; a straight course makes the best runner. Righteousness brings a blessing; unfaithfulness a curse, remains the simple and infallible rule of living, attested by God’s word, and confirmed by experience.
LUTHER: Let us thank the merciful Father of Jesus Christ, for these greatest gifts, that He has revealed to us these direct ways, and pray that He would guide by his Holy Spirit those that walk therein, and preserve us to eternity.
[MATT. HENRY: God’s discovery of Himself, both in the judgments of his mouth, and the judgments of his hand, is to us according as we are affected by it. The same sun softens wax and hardens clay. But of all transgressors, those certainly have the most dangerous fatal falls that fall in the way of God, that split on the Rock of Ages, that suck poison out of the balm in Gilead. Let sinners in Zion be afraid of this.
PUSEY God reveals his ways to us not that we may know them only, but that we may do them, The life of grace is a life of progress. Every attribute or gift or revelation of God, which is full of comfort to the believer, becomes in turn an occasion of stumbling to the rebellious. With this the Prophet sums up all the teaching of the seventy years of his ministry. This is to us the end of all; this is thy choice, O Christian soul, to walk in God’s ways, or to stumble at them.—M.]
Hosea 14:1.—תֶּאְשֵׁם. From the notion of suffering punishment is derived the signification: to be desolated, waste =שָׁמֵם. [The reverse would be the order if any connection between the verbs existed. But there is none whatever. The latter meaning in all likelihood arose from the similarity in form between the two words, the one form naturally suggesting the other. But it is not to be inferred from this that the words are cognate. The roots are not at all related, but belong to families essentially distinct. Fürst, however, holds to the affinity. But see the forms in Arabic and Ethiopic related to אשׁם, and compare the radically different notions which lie at the basis of their prevailing significations respectively.—M.]
Hosea 14:1.—הָרִוָּה= הָרָה. The masc. verb, with a fem. substantive is anomalous. According to Ewald it is to be explained from the fact that the fem, terminations of the plur. imperf. are but seldom employed. [The suggestion of Henderson is worthy of consideration, that the anomaly was occasioned by the form of יְרֻטָּשׁוּ immediately preceding.—M.]
Hosea 14:3.—כָּל־תִּשָּׂא עָוֹן. כָּל precedes for the sake of emphasis, and becomes an adverbial notion [=take away our iniquity altogether.]
Hosea 14:5.—נְדָבָה is an adverbial accusative [spontaneously, voluntarily, readily].
Hosea 14:6.—Newcome prefers to read לְבֹנָה, as more consistent with the context. But this cannot be admitted though it was the one followed by the Targum. See the exposition for the propriety of the image.—M.]
O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.