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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Hosea 9

 

 

Verses 1-4

CRITICAL NOTES.] Israel had fallen away from God, would not enjoy the produce of the field, but would be taken captive into Assyria, and be unable to keep the feasts.

Hos . Rejoice] Lit. to exultation (Job 3:22). Their rejoicings are out of place; festivity and mirth are reproved. The blessings of harvest were attributed unto the gods of the heathen, and would be taken away. Reward] Lit. hire. In reward for idolatry thou hast desired temporal prosperity, corn on every threshing-floor.

Hos . Feed] Crops were abundant, but they would be no better for their plenty.

Hos . Land] which God sware to give their fathers (Deu 30:20). Egypt] A state of bondage and oppression in Assyria. Unclean] A sore trial, seen in the case of Daniel (ch. Hos 1:8). Eleazar and the Maccabees (2Ma 6:7). They had wilfully transgressed the law, and would be forced to live in its habitual breach; had lived as heathen, and must be in the condition of heathen.

Hos . Wine] i.e. drink-offerings, connected with burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, betokened joy in sacrifice. Hence public service would cease; they would no longer have the means for reconciliation, for pleasing God; and if they should attempt to sacrifice, so far from being acceptable, their sacrifices would defile them as the bread of mourning; food which contracted pollution by being in the place of death. The dead defiled for seven days the house and all that was in it (Num 19:14). In offering tithes a man had to declare that he had not touched the bread (Deu 26:14). Sacrifice could only be offered in God's land: in captivity it would be a fresh sin to Israel. Their soul] i.e. for themselves, for the support of animal life, and not for worship.

Hos . Gather them] in one common grave—none shall escape. Memphis] called Noph (Isa 19:13; Jer 2:16; Eze 30:13); at this time the capital of Egypt; the seat of idolatry, the house of the celebrated Apis, the original of Jeroboam's calf; a favourite burial-place of the Egyptians. "It embraced a circuit of about nineteen miles, with magnificent buildings; it declined after the building of Alexandria; its very ruins gradually perished, after Cairo rose in its neighbourhood" [Pusey]. Pleasant places] Heb. the desire. Silver should be desired, but not found, or nettles should possess their pleasant houses. In either sense thorns indicate utter desolation (Isa 34:13).

Hos . Visitation] Vengeance now at hand. Fool] False prophets who predicted prosperity will be convicted of folly. The event will test them. Mad] A man of the spirit, lit. maddened; pretending to inspiration (Lam 2:14; Eze 13:3; Mic 3:11). Those who mock the true prophets shall themselves become fools. Multitude] Manifold iniquity. Hatred] Great enmity to good men and God. The punishment in proportion to the sin.

Hos . The watchman] Looking out, waiting for Divine revelation (Heb 2:1). The true prophet always consults God. Ephraim or Israel was designed to be the watchman of God, to witness among the nations for him; but was led by false prophets, whose words were "a snare of the fowler." In] Lit. upon all his ways, i.e. wherever the people went they were beset with false prophets, who hated intensely the house of God.

Hos . Deeply] Lit. gone deep, they are corrupted; deeply immersed themselves in wickedness. Days] when Benjamin espoused the children of Belial (Jud 19:22; Gen 19:4).

HOMILETICS

THE SINNER'S LIFE A JOYLESS LIFE.—Hos

Israel is forbidden to rejoice like other nations. They had forsaken God, and sinned wilfully against light and warning. Their prosperity was attributed to wrong sources. The judgment of God was threatened against them. Other people might enjoy the results of their labours, but they would be deprived of the fruits of the earth and the services of religion. Thus God breaks into the mirth and festivity of the sinner. There is no cause of joy in his present condition or future prospects.

I. His present condition affords no joy. "Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy." All men seek to be happy. The wicked even have a kind of joy, a superficial, short-lived pleasure. But true joy is the good man's portion. "I have enjoyed almost a fearful amount of happiness," exclaimed Dr Arnold in reviewing the past.

1. The sinner forsakes God, the fountain of joy. "Thou hast gone a whoring from thy God." All true joy springs from him, and is enjoyed only in him, in living for him. What joy so pure as "the joy of the Lord"? Carnal joy is a mere flash, which leaves the mind in deeper darkness and greater misery. Joy in God is like the light of the sun, healthy and lasting. It may be overclouded with mists and storms, but breaks out in greater splendour and sweetness. In God's presence only "is fulness of joy" (Psa ); pleasures which satisfy; enough to fill every soul with "joy unspeakable and full of glory." Joy is forbidden, withheld from the wicked. The sense of sin robs them of peace (Isa 48:22); their present possessions are no security nor advantage to them. Living in distance from God and at enmity with him, gloomy feelings damp their joy and act as an alloy to their comforts. "In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare; but the righteous doth sing and rejoice."

2. The sinner fails in his efforts to secure joy. "The floor and the winefat shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her." Israel doted on prosperity which could not sustain them. The fruits of the earth would fail, and all their efforts would end in bitter disappointment. The sinner turns away from God, and becomes restless and dissatisfied. He loves to hire himself to sin and degradation. He tries first one thing and then another, but all plans and policies utterly "fail them." Men have recourse to every mean shift, submit to the lowest drudgery, and suffer the greatest hardship in pursuit of sin. Like the prodigal, they become wanderers, spendthrifts, and slaves. But the solemn pause comes. They are arrested, alarmed, and astonished. Their pleasures forsake them, and hopes vanish like vain shadows. God curses the blessings and frustrates the efforts of the sinner. "Doomed to disappointment as usual," many continually exclaim. "The wicked man travelleth with pain all his days."

II. His future prospects afford no joy. Israel was to be deprived of inheritance, carried into bondage, robbed of sacrifices and public service. All their religious efforts would be rejected and turned into defilement and mourning. It was a sad prospect to be driven from the house of God and a land of plenty! What brighter future has the sinner before him as long as he remains from God?

1. The sinner's future will be one of bondage. "Ephraim shall return to Egypt." They knew how hardly Egypt had dealt with their fathers, and how treacherously with them. They had been warned not to go, but were determined to go. Against their own will God would send them into banishment and distress. The sinner will be held in bondage by lusts which he indulges; driven by former habits into greater misery; and find what he thought a place of refuge to be a place of exile. Captivity and exile were additions to the scarcity of home. Future miseries will succeed present distress to the unbeliever. He cannot expect freedom and joy in the service of sin and Satan. The prospect will be no better than the retrospect, and the future worse than the present. "I know that it shall be well unto them that fear God, which fear before him. But it shall not be well with the wicked" (Ecc ).

2. The sinner's future will be one of bitterness and sorrow. It was hard when Israel had to "eat unclean things," things forbidden by their law, when they were forced to eat or starve, when their bread was polluted and their sacrifices "as the bread of mourners." Sin brings bitterness now and hereafter. (a) Bitterness in the spirit of the sinner. (b) Bitterness in his forlorn condition. From affluence and privileges he comes to poverty and want. His experience and his prospects are bitter, bitterness and sorrow past, present, and future. "Let us live on the past," exclaimed Napoleon, but the retrospect was a course of selfish aggrandizement. In thoughts of the future he sickened and pined for death. "I am no longer the Great Napoleon. How fallen I am!" "Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart."

3. The sinner's future will be one of exclusion from God's inheritance. "They shall not dwell in the Lord's land." God had chosen Canaan to be the residence of his glory and the possession of his people. But as sin drove man from Paradise, so idolatry drove the Jews out of Canaan. They were disinherited, deprived of God's favour and protection. This is a warning to all who live in the bosom of the Church and under the sound of the gospel. Many professors forfeit present enjoyment and sin away precious privileges. Sinners cannot enter the kingdom of God on earth, and will be excluded from heaven at last. We cannot dwell with God unless we are subject to his authority and obedient to his will. "If thine heart turn away so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it."

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Hos . Israel ever wished to joy as other nations. When they cried for a king, they forsook God and sought to exult in their own ways. But the greater the privileges, the greater the guilt in despising them. Other nations were idolaters, but Israel's sin was "whoring from thy God."

There is always a snare in the ways of sin, always a song in the service of God [Bridge].

Hos . Not feed them. Punishment attendeth sin at the heels. They had abused their plenty and ascribed it to their idols; therefore shall they be cut short either in their store, as Hag 1:6; Hag 1:10; Hag 2:16, or in their strength, as Hos 4:10; Hos 8:7. One way or other their hopes shall be frustrated, the creature shall lie to them and not answer their expectation [Trapp].

Shall fail. Lit. "shall lie to her." Israel had lied to God (Hos ). So the fruits of the earth would disappoint and requite her. Men reap as they sow. The punishment as the crime. "When the blessings of God have been abused by sin he in mercy takes them away. He cuts them off, in order to show that he alone, who now withheld them, had before given them. When they thought themselves most secure, when the corn was stored on the floor, and the grapes were in the press, then God would deprive them of them."

Hos . Not dwell in the land.

1. The Assyrian captivity was a mark of God's displeasure, the loss of liberty and surrender to a foreign enemy. Men are only free through God, and only remain free as long as they serve him. By apostasy nations lose their independent existence and individuals their freedom and enjoyment.

2. This captivity a great contrast to Israel's former condition as God's people. They ignored the law, and God abandons them. They are "not my people."

3. This captivity was the loss of their possession. No possessions are secure to those who forsake God.

4. With the loss of the land there is peculiar distress, the loss of sacrifice, and the sanctification of life connected with it. Thus men are exiled in lands of impurity, fall into bondage, and deprived of the means of serving God. That which they are now able to do, or wish to do, is not acceptable to God, and will occasion bitter sorrow. "The seeds of our punishment are sown when we sin." They shall eat unclean things. Learn—

1. Sin brings want. Like the prodigal, they were necessitated to eat unclean things, the husks of swine, because they had nothing else.

2. Sin brings disgrace. Perhaps the Assyrians despised them, forced them to eat meats forbidden by the law, in scorn to their religion and the profession of it. Those who willingly slight the word will never be honoured to bear witness to it, or if tested for its principles, will renounce their profession of it. A French Protestant Bishop in the sixteenth century, regarded as a pillar of the Reformation, recanted and brought disgrace upon himself and others. His apostasy staggered many Christians, and was a misfortune to his country. When we forsake God we are left to the mercy of the ungodly.

3. Sin leads to conformity to the world. Israel voluntarily might conform to heathen customs, as they were not humbled by any affliction. Driven from the land, deprived of their own ritual, they adopted the religion of Assyria, and God left them, gave them up to their own course. They would then appear outwardly what they were inwardly. Men who have only outward profession will soon cast off that when tempted or thrown into the world. "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind," &c.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 9

Hos . Joy. The joy of the ungodly is superficial, but for a moment, and not to be compared with the rejoicing of the godly. It is like water taken from the surface, instead of the deep well, and will end quickly and abruptly. "He that makes this mirth and he that likes it—both are fools, and their pleasantness will soon have an end" [Pemble].


Verses 5-9

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Solemn day] God "singles out the great festivals which commemorated his great doings for his people as though they had no more share in these mercies." Sad to be deprived of ordinary sacrifice, how much more to be excluded from feasts of joy!

HOMILETICS

THE SOLEMN DAYS OF LIFE.—Hos

Israel had sinned away their privileges, and deprived themselves of sacrifices and feasts. What would they do "in the solemn day" when it was impossible to rejoice before the Lord (Num )? In captivity they would not be able to celebrate the festivals. The temple would be in ruins, and they would be exiled into a foreign country. "The more solemn the day, the more total man's exclusion, the more manifest God's withdrawal." There are solemn days in our life which we must all meet. How shall we meet them?

I. The day of affliction is a solemn day. "Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward." Suffering is the law of our being, and co-extensive with our race. As certain as we are born to live we are born to trouble, and our days are "full of trouble." No wealth can purchase, no power effect, deliverance from the common lot. Reverses of fortune, poverty and want, disquietude and fear, prey upon the mind. Inward consumption and outward accidents lay men on beds of sickness. They cannot go to places of amusement, nor enjoy company of pleasure; they are shut out from Christian fellowship, and deprived of all the means of grace; they are on "the bed of languishing" and sorrow. When the world deserts them, and remembrance of the past distresses them, what will they do? When a Christian is sick God gives ease and health to his soul. "Thou wilt make all his bed in sickness." But "in the day of adversity" what will the sinner do?

II. The day of death is a solemn day. "What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?" Neither by wisdom nor strength can we avoid the common doom. Death spares no rank nor condition, calls with impartial step at the cottage of the poor and the palace of the prince. "There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death; and there is no discharge in that war." Charles V. was advised to retire from danger at the battle of Tunis, but refused, and said that an emperor was never slain with great shot. William Rufus declared that kings were never drowned. But the hero of a thousand fights can claim no exemption here. What a solemn day is this day! What will you do when the physician's skill is of no avail? when millions of money would not buy an inch of time? when there is no help from earth or heaven? The wicked may strengthen himself in wickedness, but he can neither outwit nor overcome his enemy. His "covenant with death and with hell shall be disannulled." "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death."

III. The day of judgment will be a solemn day. "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ." That will be the most solemn day, when the eternal destinies of men are fixed by the Great Judge. Every work, great and small, public and private; every secret thing, good or bad, the hidden thoughts of the heart and the forgotten sins of youth; "every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." Simeon, a holy bishop, was saluted on his way to martyrdom by Urthazanes, a Persian courtier, and an apostate. But the courtier was frowned upon by the bishop, and cried, "How shall I appear before the great God of heaven, whom I have denied, when Simeon, but a man, will not endure to look upon me? If he frown, how will God behold me when I come before his tribunal?" This led to his reclamation. How will you appear before the Judge? What will you do in that solemn day? Will you call to the rocks and to the mountains to fall upon you and hide you? Make your peace with God, and prepare to meet him, "that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."

"At his call the dead awaken,

Rise to life from earth and sea;

All the powers of Nature, shaken

By his looks, prepare to flee:

Careless sinner,

What will then become of thee!"

A SAD PICTURE.—Hos

Israel fled to Egypt because of the destruction of their own land, hoping to find help in time of need. But they were disappointed. In Egypt they found their graves (Exo ); they were gathered and buried together (Jer 8:2; Job 27:15). Their tents were overrun with nettles, their treasures of silver were in ruins, and the land desolate and without inhabitants. A sad picture of the consequences of sin.

I. Expected refuge turned into destruction. "Memphis shall bury them." Men run away from one trouble only to get into another. Wealth, friends, and the world are tried and fail. Places of refuge prove places of death. They are received and gathered only to be buried. Those who flee from God, expecting life, will be certain to meet their death. They flee from the smoke only to fall into the fire. They seek good and find evil. Calamity sooner or later overtakes the Christless and impenitent from which they cannot escape. They choose death and obtain their choice. "The eyes of the wicked shall fail and they shall not escape, and their hope the giving up of the ghost" (Job ).

II. Fruitful land turned into desolation.

1. Silver, once treasured, had gone.

2. Nettles and thorns grew amid their habitations.

3. The land was swept of its inhabitants. What a scene of desolation and sadness! Sin has cursed the ground on which we tread, and drained many a nation of its prosperity. The cities of the plain were destroyed and "the garden of the Lord" turned into barrenness (Gen ). Where is the glory of Greece, once so famous for arts and sciences? What will become of "England, great, glorious, and free," if she forsakes God, her defence? God can empty our stores, demolish our temples, and diminish our people. Let us take warning. "He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the water-springs into dry ground; a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein."

HOMILETICS

DAYS OF VISITATION.—Hos

Israel's sin is one, but the tendencies and the manifestations are many. God had shown them what little cause for joy they had, warned them of the coming day; and now, lest they should slight the warning, declares that retribution is near. "The days of visitation are come."

I. Days of retribution for guilt. "The days of recompence are come." Men deny such days, and seek to delay them, but they come. They come to recompense, to reward men for their ways, and fix their doom. "For the Lord God of recompences shall surely requite" (Jer ). There is retribution enough to prove a moral government among men—that justice sees and will avenge the wrong, and that hereafter right will be dealt to all. Nature tells us that every law must have a penalty, or it is no law. Reason teaches that under no government, human or Divine, should the just be as the unjust. As there is no law without penalty, so there is no penalty inflicted but for law violated. "For the multitude of thine iniquity" are the days of visitation come. "Punishment ripens on the tree of evil." "Punishment is justice for the unjust." "Be sure your sin will find you out."

II. Days of bitter experience. "Israel shall know it." Men will not heed Divine warning. They must know by feeling the results of their sins. They cannot check the consequences, not confine them to the outer world when they come. They must experience the bitterness of their course. A man of sin is a man of pains. He lives in sin, eats it up, and it is bitter in his belly (Rev ). He tastes the wormwood and the gall, and drinks the bitter for the sweet. "Everything that I love, everything that belongs to me, is stricken," cried Napoleon. "Heaven and mankind unite to afflict me." Lord Byron declared that his days were "in the yellow leaf"—"the flowers" and the fruits were gone, and "the worm, the canker, and the grief are mine alone." The poet Burns said in dying hours, "I close my eyes in misery, and open them without hope."

When haughty guilt exults with impious joy,

Mistake shall blast, or accident destroy;

Weak man, with erring rage, may throw the dart,

But Heaven shall guide it to the guilty heart.

III. Days of discriminating character. "The prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad." The man pretending to have spiritual inspiration, the prophets predicting prosperity, were mad, and retribution would convince them of their folly. The event would show what spirit was in them.

1. Character in public teachers is discriminated. Some called the prophets of God mad men, as Festus thought Paul. Elisha (2Ki ), Jeremiah (Jer 29:5), and Christ himself were called mad. For ages the early Christian teachers were considered under the influence of phrenzy or madness. True prophets have never been understood; often called fools and fanatics by those who pretend to higher revelations and superior wisdom. False teachers commend themselves, glory in appearance, and condemn others. Real prophets proclaim their message, are "beside" themselves to God and "sober" to men. They are contradicted in words and blackened in character; but God and time defend their cause. The flatterer will be unmasked, the contrast between the false prophet and the true "watchman" shall be manifest, and it shall be seen that one walked "with God" and the other was "a snare" to the people "in all his ways." "Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit and have seen nothing."

2. Character in private individuals is discriminated. Christians have often to bear reproach and maintain a dignified silence; but days of God's visitation, times of persecution, defend their character, and rank them in their position. The wicked tremble and fear, the false professor forsakes God, but the righteous suffer and are glorified. Days of retribution sift character and conduct. Men are forced to confess that the wicked have not the best of it—that there is a God to recompense truth and justice, and reverse the judgments of men. "Then shall ye return (to a better state of mind), and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not."

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Hos . If we apply the words to religious teachers—

1. It is an unreasonable charge. Wise men have grounds for their judgment; but it is most unjust to condemn without a cause. These men are servants of God, pure in their life and noble in their aim.

2. It is a common charge. In every age when selfishness reigns supreme and scepticism abounds, men of deep convictions and unwearied zeal for God have been regarded as fanatics and madmen. But what appears insanity to some are "words of truth and soberness" to others.

3. It is a dangerous charge. Those who deal plentifully in terms of folly may have them flung upon themselves. Events may reverse the judgments of men, and those who call others fools may prove to be the greatest fools themselves. "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete," &c.

The great hatred.

1. Against God. The carnal mind at hostility with God. The question at issue, the casus belli, who shall govern—God or the sinner? Many think they can adore and love God as Creator and Benefactor, while they rebel against him as Lawgiver. Many may love Cromwell, the Queen, or any ruler, for piety and courage, yet condemn the government as harsh and despotic. God's moral government admits not of this distinction. His nature and office, his person and his throne, are inseparable. No neutrality in human affection and conduct. Either at peace or at war with God.

2. Against God's Law. The law demands supreme and universal obedience—not only takes cognizance of external actions, but touches the inward springs of all action, weighs the motives and thoughts concealed in the heart. Its rigour never relaxes, its demands never cease. Hence the enmity and resistance.

3. Against God's servants. Ahab said of Michaiah, "I hate him" (1Ki ). They hated so intensely (Hos 9:8) that their whole soul was turned into hatred; they were hatred, as we say, personified; hatred was embodied in them, and they ensouled with hate. They were also the source of hatred against God and man. And this, each false prophet was in the house of his God! for God was still his God, although not owned by him. God is the sinner's God to avenge, if he will not allow him to be his God to convert and pardon [Pusey].

Hos . Watchmen and fowlers.

1. Watchmen walking with God, warning of danger, and urging the people to duty.

2. Watchmen neglecting their duty, and sleeping at their post.

3. Watchmen turned into fowlers, predicting peace, flattering the people and leading them to destruction. "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me."

Hos . Deeply corrupted. Sin corrupts—

(1) the understanding,

(2) the affections, and

(3) the life. Sin corrupts everything it touches. The touch and the taint go together. It leads from bad to worse, and makes men totally and entirely depraved, if not forsaken.

Days of Gibeah (Judges 19).

1. Days of great lewdness.

2. Days of great shame.

3. Days of great punishment.

4. Days which epitomize Israel's history in guilt and judgment (Rom ).

Sins and punishment.

1. Contempt of God and his law will draw men into bominable wickedness.

2. When men have plunged into deeper wickedness they cannot recover themselves.

3. There is no wicked course into which men have fallen which the Church, departing from God, may not fall into again.

4. Whatever patience God may have, sinners of one age who fall into guilt will be visited by the same measure as another. As God spared not in the days of Gibeah, so now "he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins."

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 9

Hos . While the sun shines upon the earthly horizon the evil days are put to a distance. We scarcely admit the possibility of a change of scene. We exclude the prospect of dark days as an unwelcome intruder. The young revel in their pleasure, as if it would never end. But oh! the folly, the presumption of creatures born for an eternal existence, and to whom the present life is but the preparation time for a never-ending one, and to whom death is but the door of eternity, so wilfully shutting their eyes to this near approach, determining to live for this life only, and to let eternity take its chance [Bridges]. In the day of prosperity there is a forgetfulness of affliction; and in the day of affliction there is no more remembrance of prosperity (Sir 11:25).

Hos . Corrupt. "O Lord, abhor me not, though I be most abhorrible," said the dying Thos. Scott. "My repentance needs to be repented of; my tears want washing, and the very washing of my tears needs still to be washed over again with the blood of my Redeemer" [Bp. Beveridge]. There is no vice that doth so cover a man with shame as to be found false and perfidious [Bacon]. The disposition of a liar is dishonourable, and his shame is ever with him (Sir 20:26).


Verse 10

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Like grapes] with which the traveller delights to quench his thirst. Grapes and early figs a great delicacy in the East (Isa 28:4; Jer 24:2); so God delighted in Israel at first. He gave them richness and pleasantness, but they corrupted themselves, and no longer answered his good pleasure. Baal-peor] The Moabite idol to whom young females prostituted themselves (Num 25:3). Shame] that foul idol (Jer 11:13).

HOMILETICS

HONOURED AND DISHONOURED.—Hos

These words indicate the great honour that God put upon his people, the great worth which they had in his sight when he chose them, and the great care that he took with them in training them up for his purpose and good pleasure. But they despised this dignity, consecrated themselves to Baal-Peor, and became as abomin able as the idol they loved.

I. God's grace honours a worthless people. What refreshing grapes and the first ripe figs are to the weary traveller, such was Israel at first to God.

1. By nature we are in a helpless condition. Education, wealth, and outward distinctions avail not before God. Israel was found in the wilderness; in a barren, wild, and solitary place.

2. God in love seeks men in their helpless condition. God could not have found Israel, unless he had sought. "I have found him in the wilderness" (Deu ). God goes after men like the shepherd after the lost sheep until he finds them. In love and kindness he restores and exalts them; makes them holy and acceptable in his sight. They are not found until restored. "I can wander, but cannot find my way back," was the confession of Augustine. "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant."

3. When God finds men he trains and cultures them for himself. Grapes and figs indicate continual care and kindness. Israel were planted and trained for God. Their "first ripe" buds and future prosperity came from him. He gave them riches and wealth, pleasantness and odour in the sight of others. They were precious in his sight and honourable (Isa ). God honours nations, Churches, and families now, preserves them carefully, and prefers them constantly if they obey him. "The vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant" (Isa 5:1; Isa 5:7). Men are dignified, nations are honoured, not by wealth, fleets, and outward splendour—God's presence makes them glorious, God's grace roots them, causes them to blossom, bud, and fill the world with fruit and sweetness (Isa 27:6).

II. A people honoured by God's grace may dishonour themselves by idolatry. "But they went unto Baal-Peor, and separated themselves unto that shame,"—and that was a most shameful and abominable idol. They joined the Moabites in worshipping, in sacrificing, and eating to a god," the filthiest and foulest of the heathen gods (Num ; Psa 106:28). They separated themselves, as Nazarites, united, devoted themselves to shame. The very people whom God exalted and blessed forsook him, sank below others, and dishonoured their own nature (Jer 2:21). Is England free? are Christian Churches free from idolatry, debasing in its influence and tendencies? We hate cruel rites and bow not to Pagan gods; but do we not dishonour God and blaspheme his name among others by formalism, hypocrisy, and ungodly lives? We clothe our evil imaginations, our depraved affections, with attributes of power and wisdom, "and change the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image like to corruptible man."

III. The dishonour of a people will be according to the nature of the objects they worship. "Their abominations were according as they loved." If history proclaims one truth more loudly than another, it is that man becomes assimilated to the moral character of the objects which he worships. The gods and hero-kings, Odin and Thor, of the Scythians were bloodthirsty and cruel—turned "the milk of human kindness" into gall in the bosoms of their votaries, and made them revel in slaughter and scenes of blood. Because heathen deities have destroyed themselves suicide has been recommended, and a natural death thought to exclude from eternal happiness. The more men worship such idols the more they resemble them. Hence the notion that the gods did not like the service, would not accept the sacrifice, of those who were unlike them. Israel became like their loves—shame was the object of their worship, and they had as many abominable idols as they had loves. Their deities corrupted their passions; their passions multiplied their deities, and corrupted their minds and lives. "Man," says an author, "first makes his god like his own corrupt self, or to some corruption in himself; and then, worshipping this ideal of his own, he becomes the more corrupt through copying that corruption. He makes his god in his own image and likeness, the essence and concentration of his own bad passions, and then conforms himself to the likeness, not of God, but of what was most evil in himself." Concerning all false gods the Psalmist says, "They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them." Love the world, you become worldly; love God, you become godly. Love has a transforming power which nothing else has. "Nothing else makes good or evil actions," says Augustine, "but good or evil affections. What a man's love is, that he is." "Love the Lord thy God."

SEPARATED UNTO SHAME.—Hos

Idolatry is not a harmless mistake, misdirected aim, but a serious evil, the source of all evils. Its consequences are degradation and shame. All sin is shame, and those who separate, devote themselves to sin, separate themselves to shame.

I. This shame is a common experience. Adam and Eve were ashamed, and hid themselves in the garden. Men blush now when caught in the act of sin. They excuse, palliate, and apologize for their guilt. They were ignorant, tempted, and surprised. They are afraid to confess, and seek to cover their shame. If men do not appear to blush, they feel ashamed. They may be light before men, but serious before God—laugh in public, and sigh in secret. There are sad hearts beneath cheerful faces. "The conscious mind is its own awful world."

II. This shame is a penal suffering. It is the result of wrong-doing, of broken law. The violation of all natural laws brings suffering—sin brings suffering, and this suffering is shame. It is not a shame to labour, to be poor and afflicted; but it is a shame to sin, and sin will expose a man to shame. The wicked are often put to shame before men. They lose respect and honour, get exposed to contempt and danger. They will be cursed by God in his providence. "Then time turns torment, when man turns a fool." "A wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame."

III. This shame is a threatened punishment. Believers will "have confidence, and not be ashamed" before Christ at his coming. But the wicked will "rise to everlasting shame and contempt." Once great men of the world seemed wise, and those who denied sinful lusts were fools; but at the judgment day all things will be unmasked and realities seen in their true light. Shame will then be infamous, and disgrace conspicuous to the universe. "The wise shall inherit glory; but shame shall be the promotion of fools."

IV. This shame is often a penitential feeling. When sin is seen in the light of Divine love, judged by the sufferings of Christ, it is felt to be exceedingly sinful. The penitent regards its pollution, not its punishment, feels ashamed, reproached, and self-condemned. The publican and the Psalmist, Ezra and Nehemiah, Job and Isaiah, all felt ashamed for their iniquities, and cried to God for cleansing and pardon. This is a painful, but hopeful experience. It attracts the notice of God. "He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light."

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 9

Hos . Corrupt. "O Lord, abhor me not, though I be most abhorrible," said the dying Thos. Scott. "My repentance needs to be repented of; my tears want washing, and the very washing of my tears needs still to be washed over again with the blood of my Redeemer" [Bp. Beveridge]. There is no vice that doth so cover a man with shame as to be found false and perfidious [Bacon]. The disposition of a liar is dishonourable, and his shame is ever with him (Sir 20:26).


Verses 11-14

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Their glory] Children the glory of parents, sterility a reproach. Eph.]= fruitfulness (Gen 41:52, marg), which characteristic should cease; licentious worship would diminish the people: leave them childless, by threefold gradation. "First, when their parents should have joy in their birth, they were to come into the world only to go out of it; then their mother's womb was to be itself their grave; then, stricken with barrenness, the womb itself was to refuse to conceive them." Cf. the threefold stages of failure (ch. Hos 8:7).

Hos . Bereave] them, though they should rear children (Job 27:14). A man] Lit. from man. Woe] Lit. for woe. God's departure the source of all evil (1Sa 4:21; 1Sa 28:15-16). Loss of children sad, but loss of God beyond description.

Hos . Planted] Ephraim chosen, and carefully put in soil to grow and flourish, like Tyre, a royal city strongly built and pleasantly situated. The image suggested from the name, a fruitful tree (Eze 16:27-28). Children] brought forth only to be slain.

Hos . Give] As if overwhelmed, the prophet deliberates; prays in compassion, let this never happen; then leaves it with God. Miscarrying] Barrenness, usually counted misfortune (Job 3:3; Jer 20:14), will be a blessing, so great will be their calamity.

THE GLORY AND GRIEF OF A PEOPLE.—Hos

Ephraim had parted with God, the true glory, and now all in which they gloried should be taken from them. Their posterity should be cut off, their prosperity would decay, and God himself would depart from them. The most powerful tribe of the people became the most miserable, and all its glory was turned into grief.

I. The glory of a people. Fruitfulness and strength were promised to Ephraim in great abundance (Gen ). Moses had assigned tens of thousands to him, while to Manasseh thousands only were promised (Deu 33:17). She was proud of her offspring and increase, of her wealth and situation.

1. Posterity is considered the glory of a people. In families "children are an heritage from the Lord." We boast of our sons and daughters. In them we love to see our image, hope to perpetuate our name, and secure our fortunes. Like Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, when asked to display our jewels we point to our sons and say, "These are my jewels." In nations posterity are the hope and foundation of the future. From the rising generation, fathers and mothers, leaders and teachers, are to spring. As "the child is father of the man," so children are the nation's population and prosperity in the bud. Hence to our posterity are entrusted the interests of our commerce, the defence of our throne, and the glory of our name. In them are the germs of national virtues and vices, feelings and sentiments which will determine the character and decide the fate of this empire. "The worth of a state, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals comprising it," says J. S. Mill.

II. Outward prosperity is considered the glory of a people. "Ephraim, as I saw Tyrus, is planted in a pleasant place." Ephraim, like Tyre, was populous and wealthy; strong and beautifully situated; planted with care, and defended by God. Beauty and strength surrounded her. "Thou hast been in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering," &c. (Eze ; Eze 28:13). So now nations trust to the abundance of their revenues, the beauty of their public buildings, and the strength of their fortifications. England relies on its wealth and position, its armies and its fleets, its philosophy and its morality. But our chief strength, our real power, consists in the characters of the rising generation, the enlightenment of our citizens, and the integrity of our conduct. The nation that has no higher god than pleasure, gold, or position, is poor indeed. Heathen deities often imaged human virtues, but these are vanities to depend upon, and will cause a people's downfall. Glory is false glory when attributed to numbers and wealth, to outward prosperity and empire, to anything short of God. God warns us as he did Israel. "If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law—ye shall be left few in number—the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought" (Deu 28:58; Deu 28:62-63).

III. The glory of a people turned into grief. The glory departed from Ephraim in the destruction of their children, the decay of national prosperity, and the departure of God from their midst.

1. The loss of children brings grief. "Though they bring up their children, yet will I bereave them." This carriage and abortion, death at the very birth of their offspring, would diminish their number, and weaken their nation. (a.) They would die suddenly. "Their glory shall fly away like a bird." Swiftly cut off, like Job's family, by tornado, whirlwind, or accident. (b.) They would die violently. "Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer." If any grew up to manhood, they were to be cut off by the sword. (c.) They were to die hopelessly. "There shall not be a man left." They were reduced in every stage from conception to maturity—to die suddenly and prematurely by ruthless hands and sword. Thus the beauty of all earthly blessings is quickly blasted (Isa ; Isa 60:8). Accidents and diseases, "the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and the destruction that wasteth at noonday," cut down the hopes of our life. We mourn like Burke at the loss of his only son: "They who should have succeeded me have gone before me. They who should have been to me as posterity are in the place of ancestors." "Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity."

2. The decay of national prosperity brings grief. Strong and rich, proud and secure, as Tyre was, Ephraim's glory would fade away like a flower. Riches take unto themselves wings and fly away. Trade may prosper and mechanism flourish; the dew may couch beneath, and the sun shine above; the chief things of the ancient mountains and the precious things of the lasting hills may abound (Deu ); but the greatness of a nation depends not on the wealth of its population, nor the extent of its territories. Idleness and love of pleasure, idolatry and forgetfulness of God, will cause inevitable decay. The fatal weakness of Athens were free men, outnumbered by slaves, citizens, corrupt in morals, and women unchaste in conduct. The decline and fall of Rome may be traced to the general corruption of the people. Ephraim fell into sin, and her glory departed from her.

3. The departure of God from a people brings grief. "Woe also to them when I depart from them." The loss of children was grievous; the decay of present prosperity and future hope sad enough; but God's departure was the source of all evil to them. When God withdraws his presence and providence nothing can sustain a Church or people. When Cain was cut off, and Saul forsaken by God, they became more wicked and miserable. When the ark of God was taken Ichabod was pronounced, for the glory had departed from Israel (1Sa ). Pestilence and famine can turn a nation's glory into grief. Withdrawment of Divine favour can change the pride of the Church into shame, and the hope of the family into grief. God's favour is the sublimest of all joys, all triumphs, and all delights. But woe unto any with whom God is angry and from whom God departs. Present afflictions only foreshadow future judgments. Their sun will set, and darkness cover their lands. "I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us" (Deu 31:17)?

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Hos . Bring up their children. How soon could our God insensibly waste the most populous nations! Nay, how often does he thus decrease them! and what awful instances of this has our eventful age exhibited! What an alloy it is to our comfort in our beloved children to reflect for what purposes they may possibly be brought up and reserved! "This is a sore vanity;" but the best remedy of it is submission and confidence in God, and a conscientious performance of our duty: especially in training up our families in the fear of God, and in seeking for them, as well as ourselves, "first the kingdom of God and his righteousness," and setting them a good example. Surely it is far more desirable to be written childless, than to bring up children in the service of sin and Satan [Scott].

The destiny of the rising generation and the fate of the nation is in the "Home School." The great German teacher Frbel declared that the great motto of the people should be, "Let us live for our children." If Simon had thought of what Judas might have been, would not this have affected his treatment of the boy? What if the mother of Napoleon, and of his brother kings and sister queers, had foreseen what became of those around her humble fireside in Corsica? We do not know what part our children may play in life, what joy or sorrow they may cause to millions yet unborn. Think how much depends upon early training!

God's departure. They had departed and turned away from or against God. It had been their characteristic (ch. Hos ). Now God himself would requite them, as they had requited him. He would depart from them. This is the last state of privation, which forms "the punishment of loss" in hell. When the soul has lost God, what has it [Pusey]?

Woe unto them.

1. In personal bereavement.

2. In national distress.

3. In the hour of death.

4. In the day of judgment. "It shall be well with them that fear God … But it shall not be well with the wicked" (Ecc ).

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 9

Hos . Children. "Better is it to have no children, and to have virtue: for the memorial thereof is immortal; because it is known with God and with men" (Wis. of Son 4:1). "Our children that lie in the cradle are ours, and bear in them those lives which shall yet make them to appear, the boy like the father, and the daughter like the mother" [Beecher]. Glory or shame lies in the future of your child, according to your conduct and training.


Verses 15-17

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Gilgal] where they rejected God and chose a king (1Sa 8:7; cf. 1Sa 11:14-15). Hated] Punished their sin (Mal 1:3).

Hos . Smitten] Under the image of a tree, repeats the sentence of God. Smitten from above, by blasting and mildew (Amo 4:9). Root] withered, and fruit impossible. Though] Before they are entirely dead, fruit may appear, yet will I slay the beloved (lit. the desires) fruit of their bodies.

Hos . My God] not theirs; supporting my authority and directing my course. Will cast] Lit. despises them, and banishes them among the nations (Deu 28:65), a monument of his anger and a warning to all people (Rom 11:20-21).

HOMILETICS

GREAT WICKEDNESS AND GREAT PUNISHMENT.—Hos

In the last part of this chapter God accuses Israel of idolatry, condemns their princes for abetting it, and threatens to cast them off for ever, for "the wickedness of their doings." Notice—

I. Their great wickedness. The expressions indicate—

1. Their wickedness began with forgetfulness of God. "They did not hearken unto him." They rebelled against God, would not do what he commanded, nor abstain from what he forbade. God makes himself known by judgment and mercy; but men disregard his voice, and pursue their ends.

2. Their wickedness was encouraged by their rulers. "All their princes are revolters." Political power had no check upon the general corruption. Not one rebuked offence, recalled to virtue, or warned of danger. All had departed, were alienated in heart and mind from God. Judges turned aside, and persisted in sinful ways. Princes committed "the sin of Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin." "He who knows how to dissemble knows how to reign," is the saying of many. But the words of Louis IX. of France are more becoming a prince. "If truth be banished from all the rest of the world, it ought to be found in the breast of princes."

3. Their wickedness was malicious in its design. "The wickedness of their doings." Their sins were not infirmities, but presumptuous, daring evils; not common sins, but the wickedness of their wicked works, the essence of wickedness which excited the anger of God. All sins are evils; but some are "presumptuous sins," sins of greater rebellion and mischief than others. Sins against light and truth, against Divine warnings, and in religious privileges are more wicked than others. Men sin from choice, with eagerness, deliberation, and design. "God overthroweth the wicked for their wickedness."

4. Their wickedness was corrupt in its practice. Gilgal was the centre and scene of their corrupt practices. Here God gave their ancestors the first-fruits of Canaan, renewed his covenant with them, and rolled away their reproach. The service and sanctuary of God once made the place holy. Now it is a place of idolatry, chosen as a pretext to cover their sin and to make it acceptable to the people. The nature of the place adds to the guilt of the sin. Sins in England are worse than sins in heathen lands, and sins in the house of God are more abominable than sins in the world. Provocations turn God's former loving-kindness into anger, and the place of sanctity may become the place of rejection. "In the land of uprightness they will deal unjustly" (Isa ); "the faithful city is become an harlot" (Isa 1:21).

II. Great punishment. Great must be that wickedness which provokes God to hate and reject his people. The judgments were national, and involved every individual in the loss of outward privileges and position.

1. Exclusion from the house of God. "I will drive them out of mine house." He will drive them from the privileges of his house, and drive them out of his land (ch. Hos ). God will disinherit them, and they shall never be restored to the kingdom. God deprives sinful nations of their prestige and position, removes their candlestick for their ingratitude, and rejects them for their wickedness. Unfaithful professors will be driven from his house and robbed of the means of grace.

2. Smitten by the judgments of God. "Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit." Their national prosperity was smitten, by visitation from God, by blasting and mildew (Amo ). If a tree be cut down it may sometimes sprout again (Job 14:7); but there was not hope for Ephraim. Root and branch should wither away and die. Nations have flourishing trade, and nobility grand mottoes; but God can destroy their prosperity, pluck them up by their roots, and leave them without power to revive, inwardly or outwardly. He can overturn a people as easily as men uproot a tree. "Utrecht planted me, Louvain watered me, and Csar gave the increase," was the inscription on the gates of the college, built by Pope Adrian. But to reprove his folly, some one wrote underneath, "Here God did nothing." We cannot flourish without God. God shall destroy thee for ever; he shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling-place, and root thee out of the land of the living.

3. Rejected in the providence of God. "My God will cast them away." This is the climax—hated, forsaken, and cast away. They became objects of aversion to God, and "wanderers among the nations" of the earth. (a.) They were divorced from God. "I will love them no more." They were not any longer his people, and shared not his love. God put the spouse out of his house (b.) They were forsaken of God. They first forsook him, and he forsook them. Cain was a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth. If God scatters his own elect, because they did not hearken unto him, what impunity can any Christian nation or individual professor have, if they neglect Divine warnings, and do not bring forth fruits according to their high calling? "If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations" (Neh ). "And among these nations thou shalt find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind" (Deu 28:65).

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Hos . The great wickedness—idolatry.

1. Turning places of worship and renown into scenes of corruption.

2. Masking present error under the garb of former custom. Plato was reproving a boy for playing at some foolish game on one occasion. "Thou reprovest me," said the youth, "for a very little thing." "But custom," replied Plato, "is not a little thing." Bad custom, consolidated into habit, becomes a tyrant and a curse.

3. Originating God's anger, and

4. Terminating in man's rejection. "Bind not one sin upon another, for in one thou shalt not be unpunished" (Sir ). "Wherewithal a man sinneth, by the same shall he be punished" (Wis 9:16).

Hos . Men, Churches, and nations like trees.

1. Planted and intended to flourish, watered and cared for by God.

2. Sin brings judgments which smite the root and wither the branches. It corrupts and cuts off the offspring. It leaves men to mourn with Edmund Burke at the loss of his only son: "The storm has gone over me, and I am like one of those old oaks which the hurricane scatters around me. I am stripped of all my honours; I am torn up by the roots; I lie prostrate on the earth." Men give themselves deadly wounds. Professors are cursed as the fig-tree, smitten as the vine, and beaten to the ground. "For the Lord shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water," &c. (1Ki ).

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 9

Hos ; Hos 9:16. Root. Any number of depraved units cannot form a great nation. The people may seem to be highly civilized, and yet be ready to fall to pieces at the first touch of adversity. Without integrity of individual character they can have no real strength, cohesion, or soundness. They may be rich, polite, and artistic, and yet hovering on the brink of ruin. If living for themselves only, and with no end but pleasure, each little self his own little god, such a nation is doomed, and its decay is inevitable [Smiles].

This is the state of man: To day he puts forth

The tender leaves of hope, to-morrow blossoms,

And bears his blushing honours thick upon him:

The third day comes a frost, a killing frost;

And,—when he thinks, good easy man, full surely

His greatness is a ripening,—nips his root,

And then he falls, as I do [Shakespeare].

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Hosea 9:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/hosea-9.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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