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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Hosea 9

 

 

Introduction

IX.

It is now harvest and vintage-time—the period of annual vintage festivals, as at Shechem and Shiloh, to which the neighbouring villages gathered. The corn is being reaped, the wine-press is trodden, and the vats are overflowing. But behind this bright picture there looms to the prophet’s gaze a sombre background. This and the following two chapters, which form a connected whole, contains another outburst of prophetic denunciation of the follies of idolatrous Israel.


Verse 1

(1) For joy.—Better, to exultation. “The harlot’s hire on every corn-floor” expresses in bold imagery the prophet’s scorn for the idolatrous corruption of the people. The bounteous yield of the harvest is called the “harlot’s hire,” which lures Jehovah’s faithless bride to worship the false deity from whose hands these gifts were supposed to come. The people’s momentary prosperity is attributed to their idols. (See Hosea 2:12; Jeremiah 44:17-19.)


Verse 2

(2) Winepress.—Read wine-vat (with margin), into which the tîrôsh, new wine (“ grape-juice “), flowed from the winepress. (Comp. Isaiah 5:2.) For “fail in her” read deceive her, with LXX. and Vulgate.


Verse 3-4

(3, 4) Canaan, the land of Jehovah, is holy, Assyria unholy (Amos 7:17), where there was no temple or sacred ordinances. Since meat was not a divinely sanctioned food, except in connection with a Jehovah festival, it became in the land of exile unclean. This became true in the eyes of Hosea of all eating. “In the family every feast was a Eucharistic sacrifice” (W. R. Smith, Old Testament in the Jewish Church, pp. 235 and 237). (Comp. Ezekiel 4:13.)


Verse 4


Verse 5

(5) See Note on Hosea 2:11.


Verse 6

(6) Translate, Behold if they have gone from the desolation (i.e., Palestine laid waste by the invader), Egypt shall gather them, Memphis bury them—Memphis, the vast city and necropolis of Ptah, where Apis and Ibis, kings and men, lay by thousands mummied, the religious shrine of Egyptian faith in the under-world, from which Israel had been emancipated at the Exodus.—There is a longing for their silver (i.e., they shall long for the silver left behind concealed in their desolate land.—The thistle shall possess them, the thorn shall be in their tents. Hosea prophesies an exile to Egypt after the anticipated invasion. That many exiles took refuge in Egypt in 721 B.C., after the great overthrow of the northern kingdom (as in the case of Judah in the days of Jeremiah), cannot admit of doubt. (Comp. Hosea 8:13 and Hosea 9:3 above; see Hosea 11:5, Note.)


Verse 7

(7) The latter part of the verse should be translated Crazed is the prophet, mad the inspired one, because of the multitude of thy iniquity, while persecution is increased. The prophet is crazed either in the depraved public opinion that Hosea scornfully describes, or, he is driven mad, distracted, by the persecutions to which he is subjected. The latter is more probable. (Comp. the following verse.) Other commentators, including Maurer and Hitzig (preceded by Jerome and many Jewish as well as Christian expositors) take the words for prophet in this verse as signifying “false prophet,” and would connect the clauses thus:—“Israel shall recognise that the prophet (who prophesied good to them) is a fool, the inspired one a madman, because of,” &c. But it is doubtful whether the Hebrew for “inspired one” (îsh harûach) can bear this unfavourable sense, with the definite article affixed (comp. 1 Kings 22:21, Heb.); so Nowack. The passage is very difficult, and no decisive superiority can be claimed for any rendering yet proposed.


Verse 8

(8) Prophet.—Many hold that here (as in the previous verse) this word is used in a bad sense (false prophet), and standing contrasted with “the watchman of Ephraim” (or true prophet, Hosea himself, Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 3:17). They would render:—“The watchman of Ephraim is with my God.” But the verse is capable of an altogether different, and, on the whole, more satisfactory interpretation: Ephraim is a lier-in-wait, in conflict with my God. As for the prophet, the fowler’s snare is in all his ways. (Comp. Matthew 23:34-35.) There is persecution in the house of his God. The objection to this rendering lies in this use of the Hebrew ‘im (“in conflict with”). But the word might be read ‘am, “people” (comp. LXX. on 2 Samuel 1:2): “Ephraim, the people of my God, is a lier-in-wait”—a thought full of pathos, and in harmony with the main idea of this prophecy.


Verse 9

(9) For the reference to Gibeah, see Judges 19.


Verse 10

(10) Grapes in the wilderness.—Rich dainties to the desert traveller. So had Jehovah regarded His people at the commencement of their national history in the wilderness.

Firstripe.—The early fig that ripens in June, while the rest come to maturity about August (Isaiah 28:4; Micah 7:1; Jeremiah 24:2).

Baal-peor was the place where Moabitic idolatry was practised. This great disgrace had burned itself into their national traditions and literature (Numbers 25; Deuteronomy 4:3; Psalms 106:28-31).

Shame.—Heb. bosheth was a euphemism for Baal. Observe that names ending in “-bosheth” (Ish-bosheth, &c.) are replaced by the older forms in “-baal” in 1 Chron. Render the last clause, they have become abominations like their love (i.e., Baal).


Verse 11

(11) From the birth . . .—Or rather, so that there shall be no childbirth, nor pregnancy, nor conception—an ascending climax. Progeny was the glory of ancient Israel (Genesis 22:17; Deuteronomy 7:13-14; Psalms 127:5; Proverbs 17:6).


Verse 13

(13) The LXX. suggest a doubt as to the validity of our text. They render “Ephraim, even as I saw, gave their children for a prey.” The reference to Tyre is very obscure. Some would render the Hebrew word for “meadow” by “resting-place,” and interpret, “I look on Ephraim even as I look on Tyre, planted in a sure resting-place.” The impregnable fortress of Tyre was a conspicuous object in the days of Hosea. Similarly Samaria was a stronghold which was able to resist prolonged sieges. (Comp. Isaiah’s graphic words: Isaiah 28:1-4, and Amos 6:1)—“Yet Ephraim shall bring forth sons to the murderer,” i.e., in the impending overthrow and massacre, 721 B.C.


Verse 14

(14) Better universal childlessness than that the off-spring should be exposed to so terrible a fate. Compare this with our Lord’s words: “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare,” &c.


Verse 15

(15) Gilgal.—On Gilgal as a seat of idolatrous worship, see Hosea 4:15. “My house” here, and in Hosea 8:1 (“Jehovah’s house”), is interpreted by Wünsche and Nowack, with considerable show of reason, to mean the “holy land,” Canaan. This interpretation is confirmed by the use of the Assyrian word Bîtu, corresponding to the Hebrew bêth “house.” The term seems to have blended the conception of a people and the territory they occupied. (See Schrader, Keilinschriften und das alte Testament, p. 540, where the examples are cited Bît-Am-ma-na “Ammon,” Bît-A-di-ni, “Beth-Eden.”) Similarly, Egypt is called in Exodus 20:2, “the house of slaves.” We are reminded by the word “house” of the domestic episode (Hosea 1-3): Ephraim, like an adulterous wife, is turned out of house and home (comp. Hosea 3:4), and is no longer Jehovah’s people (Hosea 1:9).


Verse 16

(16) They shall bear no fruit.—Ephraim, whose very name signifies fruitfulness.


Verse 17

(17) Wanderers.—Strangely confirmed from Assyrian monuments and the entire subsequent history of the bulk of Israel; and Israel still wanders, not coalescing with any nation, unless they lose their ancient faith by corruption into idolatry, or conversion to Christianity. (See Pusey.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Hosea 9:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/hosea-9.html. 1905.

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