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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

Hosea 13

 

 

Verses 1-9

Hosea was full of complaints against the people of God; for, in his day, they had very sadly wandered from the Lord. They had even forgotten him. In Hosea’s prophecy, we have the plaintive voice of a loving God chiding his backsliding children.

Hosea 13:1. When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.

A modest, humble, trembling heart is often by far the sounder heart, but when we begin to sin, and to sin boastfully, and to wrap ourselves about with the robe of self-complacency, then is death very near to us: “When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.”

Hosea 13:2. And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the word of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.

When Jeroboam became king of the new kingdom of Israel, — in order to prevent his subjects from going to Jerusalem to worship God in Solomon’s temple, — he started two shrines at Dan and Bethel, and there he set up what Holy Scripture calls in derision “calves.” I suppose that his idea was to make images of a bull, the emblem of power, intending them to be the symbol of the Divine Being, and that the people intended still to worship God, but to worship him under the image of a bull. It is the same in Roman Catholicism to this day, — the worship of God, the worship of Christ, by means of crucifixes, and emblems and symbols of various kinds. But when men once begin that kind of idolatry, there is no knowing where they will stop; for the worship of God, through the medium of symbol, soon grows into the worship of other gods saints and saintesses, “blessed virgins” and I know not what besides, are pretty sure to be set up when once people begin to make use of outward and visible emblems of the Deity. So it was with these ancient Israelites. From worshipping the bull, which was meant to be a type of the omnipotent God, they went on to the worshipping of “molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding.” Brethren, let us take warning from these idolaters, and always keep to the simplicity of worship ordained by God in his Word. However comely and beautiful, or grand and imposing, and, consequently, fascinating, any form of idolatry may be to some minds, let us utterly despise it if it is not according to the mind of God, and the teaching of his spirit, as revealed in his Word.

Hosea 13:3. Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.

Those who will have gods of their own making shall have but a brief enjoyment of them. He who truly worships the everlasting God shall have an everlasting blessing; but he who worships gods that he has himself made, — mere objects of this mortal day, shall have but a short day of it. He shall be as the early dew, which glistens brightly, but is soon gone; or as the morning cloud, which is banished by the rising of the sun.

Hosea 13:4-5. Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no Saviour beside me. I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.

The Israelites drew near to God when they wanted bread and water in the wilderness. God says, “I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought;” and the Lord might say to his people nowadays, “I did know you when you were very sick, when you were very poor, when you were in great trouble. You sought me then; how is it that you are trying to do without me now?”

Hosea 13:6-8. According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me. Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them: I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them.

When men forget God, they may expect that they will meet with some terrible judgments; and God’s own people especially will find this to be the case with them if they forget the Lord. Our God is a very jealous God; and when his children will set their hearts on other objects instead of upon himself, he will take care to embitter those objects of their affection to them. He will make their idols to be loathed by them. If God did not love us very much, he would think little of our faults, but just because he loves us so much, he cannot bear that any part of our heart’s affection should go away from himself. So, if he sees that we deal unfaithfully with him, he will make us realize that sin is an exceedingly evil and bitter thing. His anger against us will be like that of a bear that is robbed of her whelps, or of a lion or leopard leaping upon his prey.

Hosea 13:9. Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.

“You have gone away from me, but I will bring you back again. You have destroyed yourself by your sin, but I will restore you to my favor by my grace. You may look within yourself for causes of repentance, but you must not look to yourself for the means of restoration; you must look to me, your Saviour and your God.” So this verse teaches us “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.”


Verses 1-14

Hosea 13:1. When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel;

When we are little in our own esteem, when we are full of fears concerning ourselves, when we dare not think of boasting, then it is that we grow:

“When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel.”

Hosea 13:1. But when he offended in Baal, he died.

It is when, like Ephraim, we turn aside to other gods, when our heart goes astray from the Lord, that there is death-death to our joys, death to our confidence, death to our usefulness. No one knows what destruction there is, even in the least sin, to the most joyful believer. It is like the hot breath of the Sirocco, which scorches up every green thing. If, before this terrible blast, everything is like Eden, behind it all is as a desert. Let us read the whole verse again that we may lay to heart the lesson it teaches us; “When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.”

Hosea 13:2. And now they sin more and more,

That is the usual way of sin; it is a growing evil; its course is downhill.

Hosea 13:2. And have made there molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.

Their idolatry was such that they were not satisfied with the bulls that were set on high as images, but they had little imitations of these, which they wore upon their persons, just as Romanists wear small crucifixes or crosses. These they carried about with them for their own private worship. Oh, what a tendency there is in sin to multiply itself. The idolaters were not satisfied with bowing the knee to false gods, but they said, “Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.” Superstition goes from one evil to another, there is no end to it. You may begin with what you call moderate Ritualism, but where you will end I cannot tell. Some go beyond the superstitions of popery itself. The only safe way is to worship the Lord our God, and serve him alone, and purge out the idols from among us.

Hosea 13:3. Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.

If they make idols their gods, they shall be like their idols. Idols are but for a day; what is there in them of endurance? What is there in them of power? “They that make them are like unto them, so is every one that trusteth in them.” If we trust in anything that we can see, if we trust in anything but God, then our hope shall be “as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away,” and we ourselves shall be like the chaff that is driven from the threshing-floor by a whirlwind, or like the smoke driven out of the chimney by the blast.

Hosea 13:4. Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me.

Now here is the wickedness of idolatry, that we have so good a God, and yet must needs look after another. Here is the sin of trusting to an arm of flesh, that we have an almighty arm to lean upon, and instead of doing so we begin to look to a poor arm that has not strength enough to support itself, much less to support us. Are any of you children of God forgetting your God? Is your faith turning away from the great invisible, and the sure promises of his Word? Are you looking to the creature? Beware of it, I pray you; whenever you do that, you are making a rod for your own back.

If you forsake the Lord, to whom will you go?

Hosea 13:5. I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.

Look back upon days of your trouble, when God was very near to you; do you not remember when he was everything to you? When you were poor, when you were sick, when you were despised, God did know you then; yet now you sing,-

“What peaceful hours I once enjoyed,

How sweet their memory still!.”

Hosea 13:6. According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.

What a terrible verse this is! After they had been filled, they turned away from the God that filled them. When they were poor and despised, then he was all to them; but afterwards, when by his providence they grew rich and increased in goods, then they forgot their God. I have often seen it thus; it is a grievous evil under the sun. I have seen the man rejoicing in God, earnest and devout while he has been afflicted and poor. God has prospered him, and then he has turned his back upon sacred things, and made the world his joy. Is not this a horrible sin, a gross evil? I well remember one, who used to steal into this house on Thursday nights, glad to escape a while from the persecution in his own home. He had a hard time of it to be a Christian at all; but he came to be the possessor of his father’s estates, and he has now no care for these things. He is a fashionable gentleman now, he who once was glad enough to mix with even the poorest of God’s people, and to find comfort among them. It is a sad thing when it is so, and when the Lord has to say to any, “I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. They were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.”

Hosea 13:7-8. Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them: I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them.

For God is jealous, and most jealous of those whom he loves best. He cannot endure that we should treat him thus; he means to have our love by some means, and if he cannot have it by gentleness, he will have it by sterner methods. If the Lord has chosen you, he will sooner be to you as a leopard and a lion than he will suffer you to live without him. You must, you shall find your all in him.

Hosea 13:9-10. O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me thine help. I will be thy king:

If thou hast shifted me from the throne, and set up a usurper, I will come and be thy King even now.

Hosea 13:10. Where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities?

To whom else canst thou look? Where else canst thou find peace?

Hosea 13:10. And thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?

What is the good of them? Have they not all turned out to be a delusion?

Hosea 13:11-12. I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath. The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid.

How sadly true this is! Sin seems to be bound up in our very nature. It is hard to find it; it is hidden away; and when we discover some of it, and it is purged away, there is still more to be found. As hidden treasure may lie in a house for many a day, and not be seen, so are there stores of corruption that seem hidden away in our nature, and are not easily discovered. What a gracious God we have to deal with, or else he would have swept us away long ago!

Hosea 13:13-14. The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children. I will ransom them from the power of the grave;

Oh, what great promises we get driven, like piles, into the marshes of our sin, to make a foundation for God’s grace! Here, when the Lord says that we have destroyed ourselves, and he notes all the blackness of our depravity, then he comes in with this gracious word, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave.” You who believe in Jesus shall not die; nay, not even the deadly force of sin shall hold you in your grave. There is a resurrection for the dead. There is a spiritual resurrection for you, believers. When you mourn your death, and cry, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” the Lord will answer you, “I will ransom you from the power of the grave.”

Hosea 13:14. I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.

Lord, work this quickening in thy people tonight, and let us live in the fullness of thy divine love, and so anticipate the day when our bodies also shall be raised by thy glorious power!

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Hosea 13:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/hosea-13.html. 2011.

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