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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Hosea 13



Verse 1-2

Because Israel would not desist from its idolatry, and entirely forgot the goodness of its God, He would destroy its might and glory (Hosea 13:1-8). Because it did not acknowledge the Lord as its help, its throne would be annihilated along with its capital; but this judgment would become to all that were penitent a regeneration to newness of life. Hosea 13:1. “When Ephraim spake, there was terror; he exalted himself in Israel; then he offended through Baal, and died. Hosea 13:2. And now they continue to sin, and make themselves molten images out of their silver, idols according to their understanding: manufacture of artists is it all: they say of them, Sacrificers of men: let them kiss calves.” In order to show how deeply Israel had fallen through its apostasy, the prophet points to the great distinction which the tribe of Ephraim formerly enjoyed among the tribes of Israel. The two clauses of Hosea 13:1 cannot be so connected together as that נשׂא should be taken as a continuation of the infinitive דּבּר . The emphatic הוּא is irreconcilable with this. We must rather take רתת ( ἁπ. λεγ. , in Aramaean = רטט , Jeremiah 49:24, terror, tremor ) as the apodosis to k e dabbēr 'Ephraim (when Ephraim spake), like שׂאת in Genesis 4:7 : “As Ephraim spake there was terror,” i.e., men listened with fear and trembling (cf. Job 29:21). נשׂא is used intransitively, as in Nahum 1:5; Psalms 89:10. Ephraim, i.e., the tribe of Ephraim, “exalted itself in Israel,” - not “it was distinguished among its brethren” (Hitzig), but “it raised itself to the government.” The prophet has in his mind the attempts made by Ephraim to get the rule among the tribes, which led eventually to the secession of the ten tribes from the royal family of David, and the establishment of the kingdom of Israel by the side of that of Judah. When Ephraim had secured this, the object of its earnest endeavours, it offended through Baal; i.e., not only through the introduction of the worship of Baal in the time of Ahab (1 Kings 16:31.), but even through the establishment of the worship of the calves under Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:28), through which Jehovah was turned into a Baal. ויּמת , used of the state or kingdom, is equivalent to “was given up to destruction” (cf. Amos 2:2). The dying commenced with the introduction of the unlawful worship (cf. 1 Kings 12:30). From this sin Ephraim (the people of the ten tribes) did not desist: they still continue to sin, and make themselves molten images, etc., contrary to the express prohibition in Leviticus 19:4 (cf. Exodus 20:4). These words are not merely to be understood as signifying, that they added other idolatrous images in Gilgal and Beersheba to the golden calves (Amos 8:14); but they also involve their obstinate adherence to the idolatrous worship introduced by Jeroboam (compare 2 Kings 17:16). בּתבוּדם from תּבוּנה , with the feminine termination dropped on account of the suffix (according to Ewald, §257, d ; although in the note Ewald regards this formation as questionable, and doubts the correctness of the reading): “according to their understanding,” i.e., their proficiency in art.

The meaning of the second hemistich, which is very difficult, depends chiefly upon the view we take of זבחי אדם , viz., whether we render these words “they who sacrifice men,” as the lxx, the fathers, and many of the rabbins and Christian expositors have done; or “the sacrificers of (among) men,” as Kimchi, Bochart, Ewald, and others do, after the analogy of אביוני אדם in Isaiah 29:19. Apart from this, however, zōbh e chē 'âdâm cannot possibly be taken as an independent sentence, such as “they sacrifice men,” or “human sacrificers are they,” unless with the lxx we change the participle זבחי arbitrarily into the perfect זבחוּ . As the words read, they must be connected with what follows or with what precedes. But if we connect them with what follows, we fail to obtain any suitable thought, whether we render it “human sacrificers (those who sacrifice men) kiss calves,” or “the sacrificers among men kiss calves.” The former is open to the objection that human sacrifices were not offered to the calves (i.e., to Jehovah, as worshipped under the symbol of a calf), but only to Moloch, and that the worshippers of Moloch did not kiss calves. The latter, “men who offer sacrifice kiss calves,” might indeed be understood in this sense, that the prophet intended thereby to denounce the great folly, that men should worship animals; but this does not suit the preceding words הם אמרים , and it is impossible to see in what sense they could be employed. There is no other course left, therefore, than to connect Zōbh e chē 'âdâm with what precedes, though not in the way proposed by Ewald, viz., “even to these do sacrificers of men say.” This rendering is open to the following objections: (1) that הם after להם would have to be taken as an emphatic repetition of the pronoun, and we cannot find any satisfactory ground for this; and, (2) what is still more important, the fact that 'âmâr would be used absolutely, in the sense of “they speak in prayer,” which, even apart from the “prayer,” cannot be sustained by any other analogous example. These difficulties vanish if we take Zōbh e chē 'âdâm as an explanatory apposition to hēm : “of them (the ‛ătsabbı̄m ) they say, viz., the sacrificers from among men (i.e., men who sacrifice), Let them worship calves.” By the apposition zōbh e chē 'âdâm , and the fact that the object ‛ăgâlı̄m is placed first, so that it stands in immediate contrast to 'âdâm , the absurdity of men kissing calves, i.e., worshipping them with kisses (see at 1 Kings 19:18), is painted as it were before the eye.

Verse 3

They prepare for themselves swift destruction in consequence. Hosea 13:3. “Therefore will they be like the morning cloud, and like the dew that passes early away, as chaff blows away from the threshing-floor, and as smoke out of the window.” Lâkhēn , therefore, viz., because they would not let their irrational idolatry go, they would quickly perish. On the figures of the morning cloud and dew, see at Hosea 6:4. The figure of the chaff occurs more frequently (vid., Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 41:15-16; Psalms 1:4; Psalms 35:5, etc.). יס'ער is used relatively: which is stormed away, i.e., blown away from the threshing-floor by a violent wind. The threshing-floors were situated upon eminences (compare my Bibl. Archäol. ii. p. 114). “Smoke out of the window,” i.e., smoke from the fire under a saucepan in the room, which passed out of the window-lattice, as the houses were without chimneys (see Psalms 68:3).

Verse 4-5

“And yet I am Jehovah thy God from the land of Egypt hither; and thou knowest no God beside me, and there is no helper beside me. Hosea 13:5. I knew thee in the desert, in the land of burning heats.” As in Hosea 12:10, a contrast is drawn here again between the idolatry of the people and the uninterrupted self-attestation of Jehovah to the faithless nation. From Egypt hither Israel has known no other God than Jehovah, i.e., has found no other God to be a helper and Saviour. Even in the desert He knew Israel, i.e., adopted it in love. ידע , to know, when applied to God, is an attestation of His love and care (compare Amos 3:2; Isaiah 58:3, etc.). The ἁπ. λεγ. תּלאוּבת , from לאב , Arab. lâb , med. Vav , to thirst, signifies burning heat, in which men famish with thirst (for the fact, compare Deuteronomy 8:15).

Verse 6

But prosperity made Israel proud, so that it forgot its God. Hosea 13:6. “As they had their pasture, they became full; they became full, and their heart was lifted up: therefore have they forgotten me.” This reproof is taken almost word for word from Deuteronomy 8:11. (cf. Deuteronomy 31:20; Deuteronomy 32:15.). כּמרעיתם , answering to their pasture, i.e., because they had such good pasture in the land given them by the Lord. The very thing of which Moses warned the people in Deuteronomy 8:11 has come to pass. Therefore are the threats of the law against the rebellious fulfilled upon them.

Verse 7-8

“And I became like a lion to them; as a leopard by the wayside do I lie in wait. Hosea 13:8. I fall upon them as a bear robbed of its young, and tear in pieces the enclosure of their heart, and eat them there like a lioness: the beast of the field will tear them in pieces.” The figure of the pasture which made Israel full (Hosea 13:6) is founded upon the comparison of Israel to a flock (cf. Hosea 4:16). The chastisement of the people is therefore represented as the tearing in pieces and devouring of the fattened flock by wild beasts. God appears as a lion, panther, etc., which fall upon them (cf. Hosea 5:14). ואהי does not stand for the future, but is the preterite, giving the consequence of forgetting God. The punishment has already begun, and will still continue; we have therefore from אשׁוּר onwards imperfects or futures. אשׁוּר , from שׁוּר , to look round, hence to lie in wait, as in Jeremiah 5:26. It is not to be changed into 'Asshur , as it is by the lxx and Vulgate. סגור לבּם , the enclosure of their heart, i.e., their breast. Shâm (there) points back to ‛al - derekh (by the way).

Verses 9-11

Hosea 13:9 commences a new strophe, in which the prophet once more discloses to the people the reason for their corruption (Hosea 13:9-13); and after pointing to the saving omnipotence of the Lord (Hosea 13:14), holds up before them utter destruction as the just punishment for their guilt (Hosea 13:15 and Hosea 14:1). Hosea 13:9. “O Israel, it hurls thee into destruction, that thou (art) against me, thy help. Hosea 13:10. Where is thy king? that he may help thee in all thy cities: and (where) they judges? of whom thou saidst, Give me king and princes! Hosea 13:11. I give thee kings in my anger, and take them away in my wrath.” שׁחתך does not combine together the verbs in Hosea 13:8, as Hitzig supposes; nor does Hosea 13:9 give the reason for what precedes, but shichethkhâ is explained by Hosea 13:10, from which we may see that a new train of thought commences with Hosea 13:9. Shichēth does not mean to act corruptly here, as in Deuteronomy 32:5; Deuteronomy 9:12, and Exodus 32:7, but to bring into corruption, to ruin, as in Genesis 6:17; Genesis 9:15; Numbers 32:15, etc. The sentence כּי בי וגו cannot be explained in any other way than by supplying the pronoun אתּה , as a subject taken from the suffix to שׁחתך (Marck, and nearly all the modern commentators). “This throws thee into distress, that thou hast resisted me, who am thy help.” בעזרך : as in Deuteronomy 33:26, except that ב is used in the sense of against, as in Genesis 16:12; 2 Samuel 24:17, etc. This opposition did not take place, however, when all Israel demanded a king of Samuel (1 Samuel 8:5). For although this desire is represented there (Hosea 13:7) as the rejection of Jehovah, Hosea is speaking here simply of the Israel of the ten tribes. The latter rebelled against Jehovah, when they fell away from the house of David, and made Jeroboam their king, and with contempt of Jehovah put their trust in the might of their kings of their own choosing (1 Kings 12:16.). But these kings could not afford them any true help. The question, “Where” ( 'ehı̄ only occurs here and twice in Hosea 13:14, for אי or איה , possibly simply from a dialectical variation - vid . Ewald, §104, c - and is strengthened by אפוא , as in Job 17:15), “Where is thy king, that he may help thee?” does not presuppose that Israel had no king at all at that time, and that the kingdom was in a state of anarchy, but simply that it had no king who could save it, when the foe, the Assyrian, attacked it in all its cities. Before shōph e teykhâ (thy judges) we must repeat 'ĕhı̄ (where). The shōph e tı̄m , as the use of the word sârı̄m (princes) in its stead in the following clause clearly shows, are not simple judges, but royal counsellors and ministers, who managed the affairs of the kingdom along with the king, and superintended the administration of justice. The saying, “Give me a king and princes,” reminds us very forcibly of the demand of the people in the time of Samuel; but they really refer simply to the desire of the ten tribes for a king of their own, which manifested itself in their dissatisfaction with the rule of the house of David, and their consequent secession, and to their persistence in this secession amidst all the subsequent changes of the government. We cannot therefore take the imperfects אתּן and אקּח in Hosea 13:11 as pure preterites, i.e., we cannot understand them as referring simply to the choice of Jeroboam as king, and to his death. The imperfects denote an action that is repeated again and again, for which we should use the present, and refer to all the kings that the kingdom of the ten tribes had received and was receiving still, and to their removal. God in His wrath gives the sinful nation kings and takes them away, in order to punish the nation through its kings. This applies not merely to the kings who followed one another so rapidly through conspiracy and murder, although through these the kingdom was gradually broken up and its dissolution accelerated, but to the rulers of the ten tribes as a whole. God gave the tribes who were discontented with the theocratical government of David and Solomon a king of their own, that He might punish them for their resistance to His government, which came to light in the rebellion against Rehoboam. He suspended the division of the kingdom not only over Solomon, as a punishment for his idolatry, but also over the rebellious ten tribes, who, when they separated themselves from the royal house to which the promise had been given of everlasting duration, were also separated from the divinely appointed worship and altar, and given up into the power of their kings, who hurled one another from the throne; and God took away this government from them to chastise them for their sins, by giving them into the power of the heathen, and by driving them away from His face. It is to this last thought, that what follows is attached. The removal of the king in wrath would occur, because the sin of Ephraim was reserved for punishment.

Verse 12-13

“The guilt of Ephraim is bound together: his sin is preserved. Hosea 13:13. The pains of a travailing woman come upon him: he is an unwise son; that he does not place himself at the time in the breaking forth of children.” Hosea 13:12 is a special application of Deuteronomy 32:34 to the ten tribes. Tsârūr , bound up in a bundle, like a thing which you wish to take great care of (compare Job 14:17; 1 Samuel 25:29). The same thing is applied in tsâphūn , hidden, carefully preserved, so as not to be lost (Job 21:19). “All their sins are preserved for punishment” (Chald.). Therefore will pains overtake Ephraim like a woman in labour. The pains of childbirth are not merely a figurative representation of violent agony, but of the sufferings and calamities connected with the refining judgments of God, by which new life was to be born, and a complete transformation of all things effected (cf. Micah 4:9-10; Isaiah 13:8; Isaiah 26:17; Matthew 24:8). He cannot be spared these pains, for he is a foolish son (cf. Deuteronomy 32:6, Deuteronomy 32:28.). But in what respect? This is explained in the words כּי עת וגו , “for at the time,” or as עת cannot stand for לעת , more correctly “when it is time,” he does not place himself in, i.e., does not enter, the opening of the womb. Mishbar bânı̄m is to be explained as in 2 Kings 19:3 and Isaiah 37:3; and עמד , c. ב as in Ezekiel 22:30. If the child does not come to the opening at the right time, the birth is retarded, and the life of both mother and child endangered. The mother and child are one person here. And this explains the transition from the pains of the mother to the behaviour of the child at the time of birth. Ephraim is an unwise son, inasmuch as even under the chastening judgment he still delays his conversion, and will not let himself be new-born, like a child, that at the time of the labour-pains will not enter the opening of the womb and so come to the birth.

Verse 14

But in order to preserve believers from despair, the Lord announces in Hosea 13:14 that He will nevertheless redeem His people from the power of death. Hosea 13:14. “Out of the hand of hell will I redeem them; from death will I set them free! Where are thy plagues, O death? where thy destruction, O hell! Repentance is hidden from mine eyes.” The fact that this verse contains a promise, and not a threat, would hardly have been overlooked by so many commentators, if they had not been led, out of regard to Hosea 13:13, Hosea 13:15, to put force upon the words, and either take the first clauses as interrogative, “Should I ... redeem?” (Calvin and others), or as conditional, “I would redeem them,” with “ si resipiscerent ” (supplied (Kimchi, Sal. b. Mel. Ros., etc.). But apart from the fact that the words supplied are perfectly arbitrary, with nothing at all to indicate them, both of these explanations are precluded by the sentences which follow: for the questions, “Where are thy plagues, O death?” etc., are obviously meant to affirm the conquest or destruction of hell and death. And this argument retains its force even if we take אהי as an optative from היה , without regard to Hosea 13:10, since the thought, “I should like to be thy plague, O death,” presupposes that deliverance from the power of death is affirmed in what comes before. But, on account of the style of address, we cannot take אהי even as an interrogative, in the sense of “Should I be,” etc. And what would be the object of this gradation of thought, if the redemption from death were only hypothetical, or were represented as altogether questionable? If we take the words as they stand, therefore, it is evident that they affirm something more than deliverance when life is in danger, or preservation from death. To redeem or ransom from the hand (or power) of hell, i.e., of the under world, the realm of death, is equivalent to depriving hell of its prey, not only by not suffering the living to die, but by bringing back to life those who have fallen victims to hell, i.e., to the region of the dead. The cessation or annihilation of death is expressed still more forcibly in the triumphant words: “Where are thy plagues (pestilences), O death? where thy destruction, O hell?” of which Theodoret has aptly observed, παιανίζειν κατὰ θανάτου κελεύει. דּבריך is an intensive plural of debher , plague, pestilence, and is to be explained in accordance with Psalms 91:6, where we also find the synonym קטב in the form קטב , pestilence or destruction. The Apostle Paul has therefore very properly quoted these words in 1 Corinthians 15:55, in combination with the declaration in Isaiah 25:8, “Death is swallowed up in victory,” to confirm the truth, that at the resurrection of the last day, death will be annihilated, and that which is corruptible changed into immortality. We must not restrict the substance of this promise, however, to the ultimate issue of the redemption, in which it will receive its complete fulfilment. The suffixes attached to 'ephdēm and 'eg'âlēm point to Israel of the ten tribes, like the verbal suffixes in Isaiah 25:8. Consequently the promised redemption from death must stand in intimate connection with the threatened destruction of the kingdom of Israel. Moreover, the idea of the resurrection of the dead was by no means so clearly comprehended in Israel at that time, as that the prophet could point believers to it as a ground of consolation when the kingdom was destroyed. The only meaning that the promise had for the Israelites of the prophet's day, was that the Lord possessed the power even to redeem from death, and raise Israel from destruction into newness of life; just as Ezekiel (ch. 37) depicts the restoration of Israel as the giving of life to the dry bones that lay scattered about the field. The full and deeper meaning of these words was but gradually unfolded to believers under the Old Testament, and only attained complete and absolute certainty for all believers through the actual resurrection of Christ. But in order to anticipate all doubt as to this exceedingly great promise, the Lord adds, “repentance is hidden from mine eyes,” i.e., my purpose of salvation will be irrevocably accomplished. The ̔απ. λεγ. nōcham does not mean “resentment” (Ewald), but, as a derivative of nicham , simply consolation or repentance. The former, which the Septuagint adopts, does not suit the context, which the latter alone does. The words are to be interpreted in accordance with Psalms 89:36 and Psalms 110:4, where the oath of God is still further strengthened by the words ולא ינּחם , “and will not repent;” and לא ינחם corresponds to אם אכזּב in Psalms 89:36 (Marck and Krabbe, Quaestion. de Hos. vatic. spec. p. 47). Compare 1 Samuel 15:29 and Numbers 23:19.

Verse 15

“For he will bear fruit among brethren. East wind will come, a wind of Jehovah, rising up from the desert; and his fountain will dry up, and his spring become dried. He plunders the treasuries of all splendid vessels.” The connection between the first clause and the previous verse has been correctly pointed out by Marck. “Hosea 13:15,” he says, “adduces a reason to prove that the promised grace of redemption would certainly stand firm.” כּי cannot be either a particle of time or of condition here (when, or if); for neither of them yields a suitable thought, since Ephraim neither was at that time, nor could become, fruit-bearing among brethren. Ewald's hypothetical view, “Should Ephraim be a fruitful child,” cannot be grammatically sustained, since kı̄ is only used in cases where a circumstance is assumed to be real. For one that is merely supposed to be possible, אם is required, as the interchange of אם and כּי , in Numbers 5:19-20, for example, clearly shows. The meaning of יפריא is placed beyond all doubt by the evident play upon the name Ephraim ; and this also explains the writing with א instead of ה fo d , as well as the idea of the sentence itself: Ephraim will bear fruit among the brethren, i.e., the other tribes, as its name, double-fruitfulness, affirms (see at Genesis 41:52). This thought, through which the redemption from death set before Israel is confirmed, is founded not only upon the assumption that the name must become a truth, but chiefly upon the blessing which the patriarch promised to the tribe of Ephraim on the ground of its name, both in Genesis 48:4, Genesis 48:20, and Genesis 49:22. Because Ephraim possessed such a pledge of blessing in its very name, the Lord would not let it be overwhelmed for ever in the tempest that was bursting upon it. The same thing applies to the name Ephraim as to the name Israel, with which it is used as synonymous; and what is true of all the promises of God is true of this announcement also, viz., that they are only fulfilled in the case of those who adhere to the conditions under which they were given. Of Ephraim, those only will bear fruit which abides to everlasting life, who walk as true champions for God in the footsteps of faith and of their forefathers, wrestling for the blessing of the promises. On the other hand, upon the Ephraim that has turned into Canaan (Hosea 12:8) an east wind will come, a tempest bursting from the desert (see at Hosea 12:2), and that a stormy wind raised by Jehovah, which will dry up his spring, i.e., destroy not only the fruitful land with which God has blessed it (Deuteronomy 33:13-16), but all the sources of its power and stability. Like the promise in Hosea 13:14, the threatening of the judgment, to which the kingdom of Israel is to succumb, is introduced quite abruptly with the word יבוא . The figurative style of address then passes in the last clause into a literal threat. הוּא , he, the hostile conqueror, sent as a tempestuous wind by the Lord, viz., the Assyrian, will plunder the treasure of all costly vessels, i.e., all the treasures and valuables of the kingdom. On k e lı̄ chemdâh compare Nahum 2:10 and 2 Chronicles 32:27. We understand by it chiefly the treasures of the capital, to which a serious catastrophe is more especially predicted in the next verse (Hosea 14:1), which also belongs to this strophe, on account of its rebellion against God.

Verse 16

(Heb. Bibl. Hosea 14:1). “Samaria will atone, because it has rebelled against its God: they will fall by the sword; their children will be dashed to pieces, and its women with child ripped up.” אשׁם , to atone, to bear the guilt, i.e., the punishment. It is not equivalent to shâmēm in Ezekiel 6:6, although, as a matter of fact, the expiation consisted in the conquest and devastation of Samaria by Shalmanezer. The subject to yipp e lū (will fall) is the inhabitants of Samaria. The suffix to הריּותיו (its women, etc.) refers to the nation. The form הריּה is one derived from הרה , for הרה (Ewald, §189, c ). The construction with the masculine verb יבקּעוּ , in the place of the feminine, is an anomaly, which may be explained from the fact that feminine formations from the plur. imperf. are generally very rare (see Ewald, §191, b ). For the fact itself, compare Hosea 10:14; 2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 15:16; Amos 1:13.


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The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Bibliography Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Hosea 13:4". 1854-1889.

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