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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Hosea 3

 

 

Verse 1

Hosea 3:1. Then said the Lord unto me, Go yet, love a woman — This is the literal meaning of the Hebrew עוד לךְ אהב אשׁה, and is the sense in which It is understood by the LXX., who read, ετι πορευθητι, και αγαπησον γυναικα ; and by the Vulgate, which renders it, Adhuc vade et dilige mulierem. A different woman from the person whom he had espoused before seems evidently to be intended. Thus St. Jerome and St. Cyril of Alexandria understand the words, considering the connection here spoken of as a new one, formed after the dismission of Gomer; in which opinion they are followed by Estius, Menochius, Tirinus, and many other expositors. The injunction, Archbishop Newcome supposes, was given after the death of Hosea’s former wife. But if not, it was undoubtedly given after she was divorced, for her unfaithfulness to her husband; in consequence of which, according to the law, he could not take her back again. Beloved of her friend — That is, her husband. But the LXX. render the words, αγαπωσαν πονηρα, loving evil things; a reading which accords with that of the Arabic and Syriac, and is approved both by Archbishop Newcome and Bishop Horsley; the former of whom renders the clause, A lover of evil, and the latter, addicted to wickedness, observing, “I adopt the rendering of the LXX. and Syriac, which nothing opposes but the Masoretic pointing.” And an adulteress — That is, who had been such, and that not only in the spiritual sense, of forsaking God, but according to the carnal meaning of the term. According to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel — After the manner of Jehovah’s love for the children of Israel, who look to other gods, or, although they look to other gods, and are addicted to goblets of wine. So Bishop Horsley, who observes, that “children of Israel, and house of Israel, are two distinct expressions, to be differently understood. The house of Israel, and sometimes Israel by itself, is a particular appellation of the ten tribes, a distinct kingdom from Judah. But the children of Israel, is a general appellation for the whole race of the Israelites, comprehending both kingdoms. Indeed it was the only general appellation, before the captivity of the ten tribes; afterward, the kingdom of Judah only remaining, Jews came into use as the name of the whole race, which before had been the appropriate name of the kingdom of Judah. It occurs, for the first time 2 Kings 16., in the history of Ahaz. It is true, we read in Hosea 1:11, of the children of Judah, and the children of Israel; but this is only an honourable mention of Judah, as the principal tribe, not as a distinct kingdom. And the true exposition of the expression is, ‘the children of Judah, and all the rest of the children of Israel.’ We find Judah thus particularly mentioned, as a principal part of the people, before the kingdoms were separated: see 2 Samuel 24:1; 1 Kings 4:20; 1 Kings 4:25. And yet, at that time, Israel was the general name, 1 Kings 4:1.” The expression, And love flagons of wine, implies, that they loved to drink wine in the temples of their idols. They were wont to pour out wine to their false gods, and, it is probable, drank the remainder even to excess. The festivity, or rather dissoluteness, which was used by the heathen in the worship of their gods, seems to have been one principal thing that made the Israelites so fond of their rites of worship. Some think that the words, rendered here flagons, or goblets, of wine, should be translated cakes of dried grapes. The expression, according to the love of the Lord, &c., means, Let this be an emblem of my love to the children of Israel; or, By this I intend to let Israel know how I have loved them, and what returns they have made for my love. How great and constant my love has been to them, and how inconstant and insincere theirs has been to me. The words seem, in general, to express their leaving the service of the true God, and imitating the idolaters, in following after false gods, bodily delights and pleasures, as gluttony, drunkenness, and the like, which the service of idols did not only permit, but require.


Verse 2

Hosea 3:2. So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver — That is, according to the ancient custom, I paid her dower. It was usual among the Hebrews for men to purchase, or pay a consideration for, their wives, either by money or labour; thus Jacob agreed to serve Laban seven years for Rachael. And for a homer of barley, &c. — Sir John Chardin observed in the East, that, in their contracts for temporary wives, there is always the formality of a measure of corn mentioned, over and above the stipulated sum of money. — Harmer, vol. 2:513. The low price at which the prophet purchased this woman, was significative how base and of little value the Israelites were, since their apostacy from the worship of God to idolatry. Or, according to Calvin, “the parsimonious gift, a sum of money which was but half the price of a female slave, and a pittance of black barley bread, typified the hard fare which the Israelites were to expect at the hand of God in their state of exile.”


Verse 3

Hosea 3:3. And I said, Thou shalt abide for me many days — The Vulgate renders this, Dies multos expectabis me, non fornicaberis, Thou shalt wait for me many days; thou shalt not commit fornication. The meaning is, that she should remain in a state of separation from the prophet, and every other man, sequestered and solitary, for many days, that there might be proof of her reformation. Thou shalt not be for another man, so will I also be for thee — As there is nothing in the Hebrew for the word another, so the sentence may be more accurately translated thus, Thou shalt not have a husband, neither will I have thee, namely, for a wife. Bishop Horsley renders it, And thou shalt not have to do with a husband, neither will I with thee; that is, thou shalt continue for some time in a state of widowhood, or without commerce with man. The Hebrew phrase here used, לא תהיו לאישׁ, properly means, Thou shalt not have a husband, and is so rendered by our interpreters, Ezekiel 44:25 . And to the same sense, without the negative particle, Ruth 1:12. Thus the LXX. render it, ουδε μη γενη ανδρι; (compare Romans 7:3;) and so also the Vulgate, et non eris viro. By these conditions, which the prophet makes with the woman whom he takes, that she should humble herself and not go after other men, as formerly, but remain separate from every man, must be meant, with respect to Israel, that though God should separate himself from them for a long time, and humble them by reducing them to a low condition, and restraining them from their idolatry and former luxury; yet he would not so utterly reject them, but that he would, in due time, upon their conversion, again receive them. This was intended, 1st, To be an emblem of the state of the Jews during the Babylonish captivity; when snatched, as it were by force, from the objects of their impure love, they continued in their exile equally separated from their God and their idols; but with this difference, that their God retained toward them sentiments of affection, expecting on their part true repentance. And, 2d, “The condition of the woman, restrained from licentious courses, owned as a wife, but without conjugal rites, admirably represents also the present state of the Jews, manifestly owned as a peculiar people, withheld from idolatry, but as yet without access to God, through the Saviour.” — Horsley.


Verse 4

Hosea 3:4. For the children of Israel shall abide many days — Here begins a more plain and full explication of the symbolical action of the prophet, namely, that it signified what should befall the children of Israel; that they should continue many days in a state of captivity; without a king, as the woman continued without a husband; without the means of worshipping God according to the rites of their law; and yet refraining from idolatry, as the woman refrained from unfaithfulness to her betrothed husband. And this prediction was remarkably fulfilled upon the ten tribes, when made captives by Shalmaneser, (compare Hosea 9:4,) and upon the two remaining tribes, after the destruction of their temple and commonwealth by Nebuchadnezzar, and during their captivity in Babylon. This prophecy has also been fulfilled upon the whole nation of the Jews, from the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus unto this day. From that time, they have had no republic, or civil government of their own; but have lived everywhere like so many exiles, only upon sufferance; they have had neither priest nor sacrifice, their temple being destroyed where only they were to offer sacrifices: and yet the want of a place where to perform the most solemn parts of their public worship, does not tempt them to idolatry, or make them fond of image-worship, or any such idolatrous practice, which was the epidemical sin of their forefathers. This seems the general import of this remarkable prophecy; but the several expressions must be more particularly explained. Without a king — Namely of their own; and without a prince — Without any civil magistrate of their own with supreme authority. And without a sacrifice — Deprived of the means of offering the typical sacrifices of the law, and having, as yet, no share in the true sacrifice of Christ. And without an image — Or, as the LXX. and Vulgate read, without an altar. The Hebrew word, מצבה, here rendered image, seems properly to signify those pillars, which, in the patriarchal ages, were erected to the honour of God, and used as altars. Thus we read, Genesis 28:18, that Jacob, after the divine vision he had had, took the stone that he had put for his pillow, and set it up for a PILLAR, (Hebrew, מצבה, the same word which is used here,) and poured oil upon the top of it; that is, he made an altar of it to pour out a libation upon it, as a token of gratitude for the vision with which he had been favoured, and to ratify, in a solemn manner, his resolution of serving Jehovah. And again, Genesis 35:14, we find the same word rendered pillar twice, and used in the same sense. And without an ephod — The ephod being one principal part of the high-priest’s garments of consecration and of service, the saying here, that the children of Israel should be without an ephod, seems to signify, that they should be without a high-priest to minister in the priest’s office. And without teraphim — Those interpreters who suppose that the different words here used denote the several ways of lawful worship practised among God’s ancient people, and the means they used of inquiring after the will of God, understand the word teraphim here as signifying the same with the Urim and Thummim, or the oracle placed in the breast-plate of the high-priest; which they think is fitly joined with the ephod, that being often put for the whole priestly habit, and used when there was occasion of consulting God by the high-priest: see 1 Samuel 23:9 ; 1 Samuel 30:7. This interpretation is followed by the LXX., and it makes an easy and natural sense of the text, namely, that God would deprive the Jews of the principal offices, for the enjoyment of which they chiefly valued themselves, namely, that of the priesthood, and that of prophecy. The Jews had no succession of prophets, for a considerable time before Christ’s coming; and both kingdom and priesthood were taken away, within forty years after Christ’s death.

The word teraphim, however, evidently signifies images, Genesis 31:34, and, it seems, is used of idol-images, 17:5; and some commentators of great note understand it in the same sense here, and indeed interpret also the two preceding expressions as intended of the worship of idols. Thus Archbishop Newcome, “My opinion is, that the teraphim were objects of idolatrous worship; and such, in their state of captivity, the Israelites would not harbour.” Thus also Bishop Horsley, “After much consideration of this passage, and of much that has been written upon it by expositors, I rest in the opinion strenuously maintained by the learned Pocock, in which he agrees with many that went before him, and has the concurrence of many that came after, Luther, Calvin, Vetablus, Drusius, Houbigant, and Archbishop Newcome, with many others of inferior note; I rest, I say, in the opinion, that statue, ephod, and teraphim, are mentioned as principal implements of idolatrous rites. And the sum of this 4th verse is this; that for many ages the Jews would not be their own masters; would be deprived of the exercise of their own religion, in its most essential parts; not embracing the Christian, they would have no share in the true service; and yet would be restrained from idolatry, to which their forefathers had been so prone.” As a confirmation of this interpretation, the bishop observes, that this 4th verse is the exposition of the type of the prophet’s conduct toward his wife; and that, if the restriction of the Jews from idolatry is not mentioned, we have nothing in the exposition answering to that article, Thou shalt not play the harlot.” “This is surely a most astonishing prophecy of events directly contrary to all human probability; yet undeniably taking place, not on a particular occasion, or for a short time, but through very many revolving centuries. How could Hosea have foreseen this, had not God inspired him? And does not this demonstrate the divine inspiration of this prophecy?” — Scott.


Verse 5

Hosea 3:5. Afterward shall the children of Israel return — When they have lived a long time in this state, without any country or government of their own, without any temple or place of worship, and without the liberty and proper means for offering sacrifices; they shall be touched with a true remorse for their former errors, and weary of this forlorn and desolate condition, shall bethink themselves of Jehovah the true God, and shall seek unto him by prayer and supplication. And shall seek David their king — That is, the son of David, the Messiah, often called David by the prophets, as being not only descended from David, but the person in whom all the promises made to David were to receive their full and final accomplishment: see the margin. So the Chaldee paraphrase expounds this and the parallel texts. David was also a type of the Messiah, and therefore the latter is called by the name of David. Thus John the Baptist is called Elias, Malachi 4:5, because he was to resemble him, and to succeed him in his office of reproving the people, and calling them to repentance. The expression cannot be literally understood here, David himself having been dead long before the uttering of this prophecy. And shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days — That is, they shall reverence the Lord, stand in awe of him, and fear to offend him, and shall put their trust in and be grateful for his goodness, manifested in their redemption, their illumination by the gospel, their conversion to God, and their restoration to their own land; and hence they shall yield an entire obedience to him, shall worship and serve him in spirit and in truth, and live to his glory. And this will come to pass in the latter days, or times, of the world: see notes on Isaiah 2:2; Daniel 2:44.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Hosea 3:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/hosea-3.html. 1857.

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