Matthew Poole's Commentary
O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.An exhortation to repentance, Hosea 14:1-3. A promise of God’s blessing, Hosea 14:4-9.
O Israel, you that are the true Israel of God, you that are the remnant amidst so great a body of incurable rebels, return; repent ye thoroughly, not hypocritically, turn ye from all your sins in which with others you have been defiled, and turn to
the Lord, the everlasting, living God, who is worthy to be worshipped and obeyed; your idols were never worth your love, but the Lord, the Fountain of being and life, is worthy of it. Turn to him as
thy God, in covenant with thee, to get pardon for past sins according to covenant promise, to renew covenant for time to come, and to engage thyself sincerely and heartily to be his people.
For thou hast fallen; thy sins against the Lord thy God have enkindled his wrath against thee, have involved thee in endless troubles, have turned thy prosperity into extreme adversity; sin hath cast thee from the height of glory to the depth of reproach and contempt, thus thou art fallen.
By thine iniquity: it is the singular number, either because all their sins were so linked together they were as one huge mass of sin, or it refers particularly to their idolatry, which is by way of eminency, and above any one other sin a falling from God, and here punished with a fall into calamities.
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; bethink yourselves what words will best set out your sins, God’s patience towards you, and your present sorrow and repentance for sin; prepare yourselves to make confessions, petitions, vows, and praises to God; and turn; with words join deeds, let your hearts be in your words, turn, do not as the incorrigible hypocrite.
To the Lord: see Hosea 14:1.
Say unto him; pray, present your petitions to him who heareth prayer: here is no mention of sheep or oxen, or any legal sacrifices; true repentance is required, which is much better, faith and hope through the great Sacrifice, in virtue of which these converts expect the grace they need and seek.
Take away all iniquity: this petition for pardon of sin includes confession of it, sorrow for it, hope that God will of mere grace forgive it, and take away the guilt, prevent the punishment, and abolish the power of sin, not of some, but of all: sincere converts seek full justification, and full sanctification. Receive us into thy protection, guidance, and benediction, graciously; and this of thy mere grace and goodness; having taken away sin, take also graciously our persons, as reconciled and well-pleasing to thee.
So will we render the calves of our lips: this will qualify and encourage us to give the sacrifices which are to God much more pleasing than an ox that hath horns and hoofs, Psalm 69:31; with these calves of our lips we will give our hearts also, for those praises of the lips are fruits of what praise the heart of the convert first gives, and these here are signs of their heart given to God, that so they may be spiritual sacrifices, such as Psalm 50:23, or Hebrews 13:15.
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.Asshur shall not save us: it had been one great sin of Israel that they did trust to an arm of flesh; Asshur is particularly named, for that he was the last with whom they made a covenant fairly, or above-board, but any other foreign aids and friendships may be here understood. God promised his peculiar protection, and would have continued it if they had not cast him off, and trusted to man. We will not ride upon horses: another fault of theirs was, they multiplied horses, and trusted to their strength, which God forbade; this includes their home strength, and provision of all sorts.
Neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: they had most brutishly thought their idols would be gods to help them; this is the particular confession of their great comprehensive sins, which brought on many others with them; now they renounce as well as confess them, and such renouncing is necessary, and grounded on hope of finding mercy, as appears by the reason they give of their renouncing these sins, and vain confidences in God, to whom they return, in him only there is help to be had.
The fatherless; all that are destitute of strength in themselves, and destitute of help from others; all that, being sensible of their own helpless condition, look for it from God, who hath power, mercy, and wisdom to hell) and relieve.
Findeth, obtaineth as often as he does rightly sue for,
mercy; both fountain and streams of goodness too, free grace and rich bounty.
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.I will heal: it is a usual metaphor in Scripture; sin is our disease. God is the Physician who healeth us, Psalm 103:3 Jeremiah 3:22; and he doth it through Christ, in whom this promise is made to returning backsliders. This promise God maketh by his prophet, to encourage them to hearken to his advice of repenting.
Backslidings; aversions, voluntary and wilful turning away from God; well expressed here, and called rebellions by some other interpreters. These voluntary, continued, and obstinate aversions, or backslidings, are instances of greatest sins and sinners; yet God promiseth to heal these old putrefying sores, that we might be assured that he will heal all other lesser wounds: he will fully heal by pardoning and purifying.
I will love them; though before he hated, could take no pleasure in them, now he will show that his mind and heart are towards them to accept them, and do them good.
Freely; without their desert, and without bounds of time, or measure, or kind. All kinds of mercies the fruit of his love, infinite mercy in grace and glory, eternal mercies, his love will afford to them. This is liberal love indeed, this promised here.
For mine anger is turned away from him; I am reconciled to them, my displeasure is turned away.
I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.I, the Lord, who have pardoned, and am appeased,
will be as the dew, refresh and water, that they may grow, and that they may be fruitful and flourish, as the dew in those countries, where it was more abundant than with us, and for some months together supplied the want of rain; God will refresh and comfort, and make fruitful in good works, through his grace, such as return to him.
Israel; those that do unfeignedly, not hypocritically, confess, pray, and repent.
As the lily; which grows apace, is fragrant, beautiful, and delights in valleys, often grows among thorns; so the Israel of God among troubles in low state, yet comely, and fragrant to the Lord, and grows up in him speedily.
Lebanon, put for the trees of Lebanon; as those trees spread forth their roots, grow up to strength, are most beautiful, odoriferous, and durable, cedars in Lebanon are these trees; so shall the true Israel, converted backsliders, be blessed of God. So flourishing and happy shall the church be under Christ.
His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.His branches, his tenderest branches which are new sprung out, shall gather strength, not be broken off, but by these shall they multiply in number of boughs.
Shall spread; grow great and beautiful, and excellent for shade.
As the olive tree; which retains its verdure all the winter, and is rich in fruit; so the true Israel of God shall flourish, pot in fruitless beauty and stateliness, but in desirable and lovely fruit, even in winters of affliction and troubles.
As Lebanon; the mountain famous for cedars, where also were the trees that afford the frankincense, which sweat out that excellent aromatic, and where many more sweetest flowers grow and perfume the air; such shall the spiritual fragrance of the church be to God and man.
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; as many as unite to the church, are members of it, shall dwell under these spreading trees: the churches planted and spreading shall be to new converts as such trees to fainting travellers, almost spent with toil and heat; they shall find rest in this shadow, which may refer to Christ and the church.
Shall return; revive and recover new strength and life; so do souls weary and heavy laden with sin and fears find comfort and life coming to Christ, conversing with such as have been eased and comforted by Christ in like manner formerly.
They shall revive as the corn, which dieth ere it liveth to bring forth fruit; so converts die indeed to sin that they may live to God, die to all legal righteousness that they may live on rich grace: or else it may refer to the increase of the church, which shall be as many stalks from one ear of wheat.
And grow as the vine; which in winter seems dead, is pruned, and promiseth little to the eye, but yet life, sap, and a fructifying virtue is in it, and it will spring and bring forth fruit; so the church of Christ is used, that it may bring forth fruit more abundantly, John 15:2.
The scent thereof, the savour of it to God and good men, shall be pleasing as the scent of the delicious wines of Lebanon, which are mentioned by profane authors with a great praise for their sweetness and deliciousness.
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; not the whole body of Ephraim, but converted Ephraim, those who, Hosea 14:1,2, were sensible of sin, confessed it, and sued for pardon.
What have I to do any more with idols? i.e. I have no more to do with them, nor ever will; they have been, first my sin, and next my sorrows, and my sorrows have been multiplied by hasting after other gods; I will no more do so: and with detestation against idols doth Ephraim speak, as the question implieth.
I have heard him, and observed him: some refer these words to Ephraim, owning what he had found and observed in God; what grace and mercy in pardon, deliverance from miseries, and comfortable revival of his state. Others refer it to God, and make it a gracious promise from God of hearing prayers, and taking especial care of converted Ephraim; either way suits the words and matter, and I leave it to your choice.
I am like a green fir tree: these words also, as the former, are either Israel’s giving praise to God, who had on Israel’s return changed his dead, withered state into a flourishing, lovely, and beautiful state: others say it is God’s promise to be to Ephraim as such a tree is to a weary traveller, who may with delight and safety sit under the shadow of it; a tree, say some, that grows with very thick boughs, that rain or heat pierceth not, and whose smell drives away wild beasts; so there is safety and refreshment under the protection of the Lord, under his shadow.
From me is thy fruit found: this also is differently interpreted: Israel confesseth that the fruit of God’s grace is seen from what Israel now is and doth: others say, God promiseth the fruits of comfort Israel enjoys, and still shall enjoy, from God, and his grace toward Israel. I determine neither, but sure I am such is the correspondence of God’s grace to the converted, that they cannot more readily acknowledge what God hath done for them, nor more readily engage to do what God adviseth and requireth, than God is ready to encourage them by gracious, and rich, and suitable promises.
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? though not many wise, yet some methinks; now of those few, who is there that will consider what sins God complains of and threatens to punish in his people, what sins God forbade them so much as once to commit, and peremptorily commanded them to turn from when once committed; what duties he required, what promises he proposed, what patience he used toward them while any hope of their amendment, what severity upon their incorrigible sins? Whoso with any tolerable degree of wisdom will view these things, and seriously consider of them, they will understand, and know that the prophet hath given best advice, and that it is the safest course to follow it.
Prudent, and he shall know them? the same thing doubled with elegancy, and to confirm the word, as is usual in Scripture.
For the ways of the Lord are right; the ways which he would have us walk in towards him, his law, his ordinances of worship, his whole doctrine which directeth our walk, are all righteous and equal. And the ways wherein God walketh toward us, in corrections for sins committed, in suspending his. promises of grace, on conditions of duty, in afflicting or comforting, are all righteous and very equal.
The just shall walk in them; will approve them, all justifying the righteousness of God’s displeasure, and confessing he remembereth mercy in the midst of judgment; and justifying the righteousness of his precepts by endeavouring to observe them.
But the transgressors, wilful, obstinate, and inconsiderate sinners,
shall fall therein; eventually it proves so, they stumble and are offended somewhat at his precepts and commands, but more at his severe judgments; they cast off the one, and vainly hope to shift off the other, till at last they fall under the weight of their own sins and God’s wrath.