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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Hosea 13

 

 

Verse 1

Hosea 13:1. When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself — While he behaved himself submissively and obediently, and humbled himself before God, he was reckoned among the principal tribes of Israel. Here Ephraim is spoken of as distinct from the other tribes: in other places of this prophecy he is put for the whole kingdom of the ten tribes. But when he offended in Baal, he died — When he gave himself to idolatry, his strength immediately declined, and had manifest symptoms of ruin and destruction. Bishop Horsley’s version of the verse is, When Ephraim spake there was dread: he was exalted in Israel. But he offended in Baal and died — “The former part of the verse describes the consequence and pre-eminence of Ephraim in his own country, and among the neighbouring nations; the latter part, his diminution and loss of consequence by his idolatry.” The word Baal is here taken in a general sense for all false gods or idolatrous ways of worship, so as to comprehend the worship of the golden calves, though they were designed for symbolical representations of the true God.


Verse 2

Hosea 13:2. And now they sin more and more — They did not content themselves with worshipping the golden calves only, which they made to be symbols of Jehovah the true God, but made themselves images of various idols after the manner of the heathen nations; which were nothing more than merely pieces of handicraft work. They at first worshipped Jehovah under the images of the golden calves, but at last they came to worship the mere images themselves. Thus do men sink deeper and deeper into vice, folly, and ignorance, whenever they depart from the right way! Instead of, according to their own understanding, Bishop Horsley reads, In their great wisdom they made themselves images, &c., considering the words as spoken ironically. They say of them — Of the idols; Let the men that sacrifice, kiss the calves — Let all that bring their offerings to these idols worship and adore, and show they do so by kissing the calves. Among the ancient idolaters, to kiss the idol was an act of the most solemn adoration. Thus we read, 1 Kings 19:18, of all the knees which have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. And so Job describes the adoration which the idolaters of his time paid to the heavenly bodies, Job 31:27. Tully mentions a brazen statue of Hercules at Agrigentum, in which the workmanship of the mouth was sensibly worn by the frequent kisses of the worshippers. And, in allusion to this rite, the holy psalmist, calling upon the apostate faction to avert the wrath of the incarnate God, by a full acknowledgment of his divinity, bids them kiss the Son, that is, worship him.


Verses 3-5

Hosea 13:3-5. Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, &c. — All the comparisons in this verse are intended to express a quick destruction, or that they should soon come to nothing. Yet I am the Lord thy God, &c. — Notwithstanding thy recourse to idols, I am the Lord thy God, who delivered thee out of the bondage of Egypt. And thou shalt know — That is, thou oughtest to acknowledge; no god but me — For thou hast never yet proved, and thou never wilt prove by experience, the power and protection of any other. Those whom thou callest thy gods will be able to do nothing for thee; for there is no saviour besides me — No one who can deliver, or preserve thee from evil as I have done. I did know thee in the wilderness, &c. — That is, I acknowledged thee as my peculiar people, by my watchful care of thee. I was attentive to thee, protecting thee in all dangers, and supplying all thy wants.


Verses 6-8

Hosea 13:6-8. According to their pasture, &c. — As I was their shepherd, and provided pasture for them, so they were fully fed; they had an abundant plenty of all things. And their heart was exalted — The consequence of their having this plenty was, that from thence they grew proud and high-minded. Therefore they have forgotten me — They so abused my kindness to them, as to make it the occasion of their ingratitude; “for in the pride of their heart, which the miraculous supply of their wants for so long a time produced in them, they forgot their benefactor.” Therefore I will be unto them as a lion — That suddenly seizes upon and tears his prey: that is, I will utterly consume them from being a nation, and give them up into the hands of such enemies as will show them no mercy; as a leopard by the way — That lies in wait by the way; will I observe them — Watch for them, that I may be sure to take them, or watch all opportunities to destroy them. I will meet them as a bear, &c. — In the greatest fury imaginable; bereaved of her whelps — A circumstance which adds a particular degree of fierceness. “They never venture to fire upon a young bear when the mother is near: for if the cub drop, she becomes enraged to a degree little short of madness; and if she get a sight of the enemy, will only quit her revenge with her life.” — Cook’s Voyage, vol. 3. page 307. And will rend the caul of their heart — The seat of the blood, with which wild beasts love to glut themselves. The wild beast shall tear them — The Assyrian shall prove as a wild beast to them. The word תבקעם, here used, signifies, shall cleave them, or rip them. Bishop Horsley renders it, shall tear them limb from limb; observing, “The verb expresses a violent distraction and severing of united parts in any manner: and is to be differently rendered with regard to the particular agent and patient. When the agent is a wild beast, and the patient the beast’s prey, it must be tearing limb from limb: tearing, by itself, is inadequate.”


Verse 9

Hosea 13:9. O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself — Thy sins have brought down destruction upon thee, and it is from me only thou canst expect any help, which I will in due time afford thee. The Hebrew of this verse is capable of different versions. That of the Vulgate, Destruction is thy own, O Israel: only in me is thy help, seems one of the most literal; unless, taking שׁחתךְ for a verb, we prefer rendering the first clause, It has destroyed thee, O Israel; that is, all that sin and folly of thine, with which thou hast been before charged. As thy own wickedness has many a time corrected thee, so it has now at length destroyed thee. Observe, reader, wilful sinners are self-destroyers; obstinate impenitence is the grossest self- murder. Those that are destroyed of the destroyer, have their blood upon their own heads: they have destroyed themselves. Observe, also, that the case of such is not yet desperate: God will be their help if they will make application to him. This is a plank thrown out after shipwreck; and greatly magnifies not only the power of God, that he can help when things are at the worst, can help those that cannot help themselves; but the riches of his grace, that he will help those who have destroyed themselves, and therefore might justly be left to perish, and even those that had long refused his help. Dr. Pocock reads this verse, O Israel, this has destroyed thee, that in me is thy help. And R. Tanchum interprets it to the same effect. They understand the sentiment to be, “that the cause of the destruction of Israel was, his presuming upon God’s readiness to help him. They hardened themselves in their corrupt practices, in the confidence that God would never give them up; that, notwithstanding the severity of his threatenings, he would interpose, as upon so many occasions he before had done, to rescue them from their enemies when things came to an extremity. The passage, thus understood is a cool reflection upon the fatal effects of God’s kindness upon the perverse minds of the Israelites.” — Horsley.


Verse 10-11

Hosea 13:10-11. I will be thy king — I would have been thy king to save and govern thee, but thou refusedst me in both respects: yet I will be thy king to judge me and punish thee. The LXX. and all the ancient versions interpret the clause differently, and give the interrogative, Where? Where is thy king now, that he may serve thee? They seem to have taken the word אהי, I will be, for איה, where, by a transposition of letters, as the same word is used again, Hosea 13:14 . Bishop Horsley understands the words in the same sense, and reads, Where is thy king? Where now is he? To save thee forsooth in all thy cities — and thy judges? — “This vehement, re-doubled interrogation,” says he, “seems to suppose a denial, on the part of the Israelites, of the helpless, ruined state, asserted in the former verse, as the consequence of God’s withdrawing his protection. Do you deny this? Do you pretend that you have still means of defence, hope of deliverance? You rely upon the policy or prowess of your monarch. Where is he, this wise and mighty king? Tell me in what quarter? Your judges, your provincial rulers, where are they? Let us see what deliverance this king and these rulers can effect.” The words seem to be spoken with a reference to the Israelites desiring a king to be set over them, instead of continuing under the theocracy, or the immediate government of God, who raised them up from time to time, as he saw most fit for them, defenders and protectors, and endued them with extraordinary abilities for the purpose. But the Israelites foolishly thought they should thrive better under a kingly government, such as the rest of the nations around them were under, which is expressed in the latter part of this verse, Of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes — That is, a king and such principal officers as he shall appoint. This is what is meant by the word judges in this verse. I gave thee a king in mine anger — Being angry at your sins and provocations, I gave you a king at first, and have since suffered you, by seditions and conspiracies, to change your kings according as you pleased, whereby your state hath received more and more damage, and now I will take away your present king by the hand of the Assyrians.


Verse 12-13

Hosea 13:12-13. The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up — This verse may be better rendered, The iniquity of Ephraim is treasured up, his sin is laid up That is, laid up in my memory, as that which ought to be punished at a proper time. The sentence is manifestly equivalent to that expression in Job 14:17, My transgression is sealed up in a bag; that is, thou keepest an exact account of it, as men do of money which they seal up in a bag, to be forthcoming on a proper occasion. To the same purpose are those words, Deuteronomy 32:34, Is not this laid up in store for me, and sealed among my treasures? To me belongs vengeance, &c. The sorrows of a travailing woman — Grievous sorrows, or pains, shall come upon him — Great calamities are often compared to the pains of child- bearing. He is an unwise son: for he should not — Or rather, else he would not, stay long, &c. — As a child, if it could be supposed to have understanding, would deliver itself out of the womb, and not tarry there to the manifest danger of itself and the mother; so if Ephraim or Israel had acted wisely, they would have prevented their approaching destruction by a speedy reformation. Horsley’s version is, He is of the thoughtless race, for it is the critical moment, when he ought not to stand still; the children are in the aperture: Hebrew, in the breach. “They are actually passing through the opening of the parts distended by the throes of labour. It is the very moment when the pains must terminate in the delivery or the death of the woman. A proverbial expression, for a crisis of extreme danger and doubtful catastrophe: see Isaiah 37:3. At such a moment as this, thoughtless Ephraim is supine and unconcerned.”


Verse 14

Hosea 13:14. I will ransom them from the power of the grave — If we apply this promise to Ephraim, or the Israelites spoken of before, it may signify, that though they should be in never so desperate a condition, God would in due time deliver them out of it: see the like expressions, Psalms 30:3; Psalms 71:20; Psalms 86:13. But there is a more sublime and spiritual sense contained in the words, as appears by the following clause. O death, I will be thy plagues — It is usual for the prophets, when they foretel temporal deliverances, to be carried away by the influence of the prophetic spirit, to predict the greater mercies and deliverances which belong to the gospel state: so here the prophet takes occasion, from foretelling temporal mercies, to enlarge his views, and set forth that great and final deliverance of the faithful from the power of sin and death, which shall be completed by Christ, when he shall swallow up death in victory, 1 Corinthians 15:54. That St. Paul understood the words in this sense appears from the next verse of the same chapter, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? which is almost an exact quotation of the Septuagint translation of this passage of the prophet. For the word אהי, which we translate, I will be, is rendered by them, where, as it also signifies, Hosea 13:10 th of this chapter. The apostle, indeed, seems to have quoted the text from his memory, and therefore rather gives the sense than keeps exactly close to the letter of it. Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes — I will never alter my purpose concerning these mercies prepared for my people.


Verse 15

Hosea 13:15. Though he be fruitful among his brethren — The name Ephraim denotes fruitfulness, and this tribe answered its name, being the most numerous of all the ten tribes. An east wind shall come — The east wind was often pestilent and destructive in Judea and the countries about it; therefore this expressed that destruction was coming upon Ephraim and likewise pointed out the quarter from whence it was to come, namely, from Assyria, which lay eastward of Judea. It is called the wind of the Lord, in the next words, because the destruction which the king of Assyria was to make of Ephraim was to be brought about by the divine will and providence. It is said to come up from the wilderness, because the way of the Assyrian army to Samaria lay through the desert part of Syria. His spring shall become dry, &c. The Assyrian king being spoken of as an east wind, which in those countries is very hot and drying; therefore the destruction, or desolation he was to make, is described by drying up the springs and fountains. He shall spoil the treasure — The same enemy shall plunder all their treasures and take away their rich and costly furniture, as the word כלי is translated, Nahum 2:9.


Verse 16

Hosea 13:16. Samaria shall become desolate, for she hath rebelled, &c. — The prophet foretels the final destruction of Samaria, for her idolatry and other impieties, by Shalmaneser, king of Assyria. Their infants shall be dashed in pieces, &c. — These were the barbarous practices of conquerors when they took cities by storm, or put all to the sword without distinction of age or sex: see the margin.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Hosea 13:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/hosea-13.html. 1857.

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