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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Hosea 9

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. IX.

The distress and captivity of Israel for their sins and idolatry.

Before Christ 760.


Verse 1

Hosea 9:1. Rejoice not, &c.— Rejoice not, O Israel, with joyous expectation, as the nations do [or among the nations]; for, &c. It should seem that this prophesy was delivered at a time when the situation of public affairs was promising; perhaps after some signal success, which had given occasion to public rejoicings. It is as if the prophet had said, "Those national successes, which might be just cause of rejoicing to other people, are none to thee; for thou liest under the heavy sentence of God's wrath, for thy disloyalty to him; and all thy bright prospects will vanish, and terminate in thy destruction. The Gentiles were not guilty in an equal degree with the Israelites; for, although they sinned, it was not against the light of revelation, in contempt of the warnings of inspired prophets, or in breach of any express covenant."

Thou hast loved a reward, &c.— Houbigant renders this, And thou hast sought the rewards of adultery from every corn-floor: that is, "Thou hast received for thy idolatry, those tithes of the corn, which, if thou hadst served Jehovah, were to have been paid for the support of the temple." It is therefore added in the next verse, The floor shall not feed them; as much as to say, "Because thou hast loved and hast claimed to thyself the produce of the corn-floor, therefore I will utterly deprive thee of that produce." Instead of, shall fail in her, Hosea 9:2. Houbigant and others read, shall fail them.


Verse 3

Hosea 9:3. But Ephraim shall return to Egypt When Salmaneser made the ten tribes captive, such as were able to escape the conqueror fled into Egypt, having implored the aid of that country against the Assyrians. It appears from the last clause, that the ten tribes, however inclined to idolatry, had before their captivity attended to the laws which prohibited the eating of unclean flesh.


Verse 4

Hosea 9:4. Neither shall they be pleasing unto him Houbigant reads, Neither shall their sacrifices be pleasing unto him, which are to them as the bread of iniquity; or, such as is gained by injustice and fraud, whereby the offerer is polluted and not cleansed. Bread for their soul, means "Bread offered for their salvation;" a sufficient proof that these early Jews (for it is to be considered that Hosea was a very ancient prophet) had a speculative belief in the salvation of the soul, and consequently of a future state.


Verse 5

Hosea 9:5. What will ye do in the solemn day "When the days of your feast shall come, and you shall find yourselves far from your own country, without temple, without prophets, without priests, without sacrifices, without solemn assemblies;—what will be your sentiments?" Though the Israelites of the ten tribes were schismatics, and did not go up to the temple at Jerusalem, they omitted not to celebrate, in their own manner, the feast of the Lord in their own country; and as these solemnities were always accompanied with festivity and rejoicings, it must have been a great mortification to be no longer able to celebrate them in the land of their captivity. See Calmet, and Houbigant.


Verse 6

Hosea 9:6. The pleasant places, &c.— The precious things which they had purchased for silver. The words are obscure; but the meaning seems to be, that the Israelites, upon the approach of the enemy, should bury in the earth the more valuable parts of their furniture.


Verse 7

Hosea 9:7. The prophet is a fool, &c.— Stupid is the prophet, &c.; that is to say, the false prophets, who foretel nothing but peace, shall be convinced of their folly and madness, when they see the events happen contrary to what they had foretold. See Calmet and Lowth. The title of prophet seems to have been given to all of the prophetical order; that is, to all who had been educated in the schools of the prophets; because these were usually the persons to whom the gift of prophesy was imparted, though it was by no means given to all, or even to the greater part of them. Some, perhaps, among them pretended to it, who had never received it at all; and others, to whom it was in some degree given; temporized in the use of it, by profane accommodations to the humour of the people, the religious opinions, or the political measures of the court. Of the latter in particular we have a remarkable instance in those prophets of Israel, who encouraged Ahab to the expedition against the Syrian, for the recovery of Ramoth Gilead, which proved so fatal to himself. That the gross imposture of pretences to the spirit of prophesy by persons that had it not at all, was actually practised, seems to be implied in Micah 2:11 and Jeremiah 23:31-32. That those, who had the extraordinary gift, pretended, upon some occasions, to visions which they had never seen, and to commands which they had never received, is certain, from the very memorable history of the imposition practised by the old prophet, who dwelt in Beth-el at the time of the schism of the ten tribes, upon the man of God of Judah, who had prophesied against Jeroboam's altar, 1 Kings 13. The old prophet, whatever his crime might be in this deceit, and it certainly was great, appears to have been in his general character a true servant of God. But the more frequent crime was certainly that of temporizing, in the manner of delivering messages of warning, which had been really received. The persons guilty of this conduct were deeply implicated in the guilt of the nation, and were promoters of the idolatry to which the kings and the people were so much addicted; and they are reproved and threatened in every page of the prophetical writings. These are the persons, who, in this text of Hosea, under the title of prophets, are taxed with stupidity and madness. The communication of the gift of prophesy, to persons so false to the duties of their office, seems somewhat analogous to the communication of the miraculous gifts, in the primitive church, to many who made, if not a wicked, certainly an improper and injudicious use of them. And analogous to the threatened punishment of false teachers, in the latter ages of Christianity, was the punishment of these prevaricating prophets. "God sent them strong delusion that they should believe a lie." See 2 Thessalonians 2:11. "If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet; and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel." Ezekiel 14:9. How it was, that God deceived the prophet, is an awful question, to be cautiously touched. It is evident, from the text of Ezekiel, that the prophet himself was highly criminal in the deception which he suffered. It may be, that, for his unworthiness, the spirit of wisdom and understanding was withheld from him, which might have enabled him to discern the true meaning of the allegorical visions presented to his imagination. Or it may be, that, for the guilt of the nation, the prophetic spirit was imparted to those, who wilfully misinterpreted their visions. Thus the vision was true, and the whole falsity was in the error, or the dishonesty, of the prophet. It cannot be conceived, that falsified scenes of futurity could be obtruded by the Holy Spirit on the prophet's mind. I would observe, that in the case of Ahab, the lying spirit in the mouth of the prophets was not a spirit that lied to them, but a spirit that incited them in effect to lie to the king.


Verse 8

Hosea 9:8. The watchman of Ephraim was with my God It should be, is with his God. The watchman is here evidently a title, by which some faithful prophet is distinguished from the temporizers and seducers. But who in particular is this watchman, thus honourably distinguished, and how is he "with his God?" I think the allusion is to Elijah and his miraculous translation. "Elijah, that faithful watchman, that resolute opposer of idolatry in the reign of Ahab and Jezebel, is now with his God, receiving the reward of his fidelity, in the enjoyment of the beatific vision: but the prevaricating prophets, who now are, are the victims of judicial delusion." The next verse alludes to the history of the young Levite, Judeges 19.


Verse 10

Hosea 9:10. I found Israel, &c.— "After I had miraculously redeemed Israel out of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness, their obedience was as grateful to me as early grapes, or the first ripe figs to a thirsty traveller." See Micah 7:1. Isaiah 28:4. Houbigant renders the last clause of this verse, Which when they loved they became abominable: others read, They went to Baal-peor, and consecrated or devoted themselves unto that shame; and abominations became as their love.


Verse 13

Hosea 9:13. Ephraim, &c.— Some render these words, Ephraim was as if I should look upon Tyre, planted in a fair place: but, &c. Houbigant reads, That Ephraim, which, when I looked upon him, was as a rock planted in a pleasant place, shall bring forth, &c.


Verse 14

Hosea 9:14. Give them a miscarrying womb As a punishment for having inhumanly exposed their infants to death, by sacrificing them to their false gods; or, for having exposed them to the cruelty of the Assyrians, who destroyed them in war. The present passage is strikingly emphatical. But it is to be considered rather as a prediction of what was to happen as a punishment of their crimes, than as an imprecation.


Verse 15

Hosea 9:15. Gilgal; for there I hated them For there they became hateful to me, for their flagitious practices;—I will drive them, &c. That is, "I will no longer consider them as my family, my children, and servants." See chap. Hosea 8:1. The first great offence of the Israelites, after their entrance into the holy land, was committed when they were encamped in Gilgal; namely, the sacrilegious peculation of Achan. There, says God, of old was my quarrel with them; and to this, I think, these words allude. Gilgal was the place where the armies of Israel, upon their entering Canaan, first encamped; where Joshua set up the twelve stones, taken by God's command out of the midst of Jordan, in memorial of the miraculous passage through the river. There the first passover was kept, and the fruits of the promised land first enjoyed. There the captain of the host of Jehovah appeared to Joshua. There the rite of circumcision, which had been omitted during the forty years of the wandering of the people in the wilderness, was renewed. And in the days of the prophet Samuel, Gilgal appears to have been an approved place of worship and burnt-offering. But in later times it appears from Hosea and his cotemporary Amos, that it became a place of great resort for idolatrous purposes. And these are the wickednesses in Gilgal, of which the prophet here speaks. See Bishop Horsley.


Verse 16

Hosea 9:16. Ephraim is smitten Ephraim shall be smitten. Their root shall triumph: Houbigant. This may be understood as spoken in the prophetic style, wherein a future event is frequently set forth as present.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Israel's guilt and ruin are still the burden of the prophetic word.

1. They are forbidden to rejoice as other people. Though now, perhaps, their affairs might be flourishing, as under Jeroboam; or their harvest plenteous; yet, while their sins were so many, they ought to weep and lament, for judgment hung over their heads. Note; The joys of the impenitent sinner are as unseemly as songs of mirth in the mouth of a dying malefactor.

2. Their iniquities, which witnessed against them, should damp their mirth, and bring them to mourning. For thou hast gone a-whoring from thy God; committing spiritual adultery, with stocks and stones: thou hast loved a reward upon every corn-floor; prostituting themselves to their idols, regarding their corn and wine as their gifts, see chap. Hosea 2:5; Hosea 2:12 and offering their tithes of first-fruits at the shrines of their idols, instead of the sanctuary at Jerusalem. Note; (1.) They who place their affections on earthly goods, commit the same spiritual adultery, as if they worshipped an idol. (2.) Many spend freely on their lusts, what they would greatly grudge to employ in the service of God.

3. Wrath is gone forth against them for their wickedness.

[1.] Their earthly goods shall perish. Their land shall be cursed with barrenness; the floor and the wine-press shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her; blasting, mildew, or the ravages of an enemy, shall rob them of their abused blessings, and leave them pining for want: so poor and perishing a possession is every earthly good.

[2.] They shall not dwell in the Lord's land: since they have broken the covenant on which they held possession, he, as proprietor, will resume the grant, and send them into a miserable captivity. They shall return to Egypt, as fugitives and vagabonds flying from the sword of the Assyrians: and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria; led captives thither, and driven through hunger to eat food forbidden by the law, and such as was unfit for men's use. Note; They who will not be governed by God's laws, shall not dwell in his land. The wicked shall be cast into hell, with all the nations that forget God.

[3.] In their dispersion they should be deprived of the possibility of keeping up any professions of religion, and have neither altar nor sacrifice. They shall not offer wine-offerings to the Lord; much less any other oblations: neither shall their sacrifices be pleasing unto him; if they had power to offer them, their impenitence and hypocrisy would render them an abomination. Their sacrifices shall be unto them as the bread of mourners; instead of purging them from their sins, all that eat thereof shall be polluted, see Leviticus 21:1. Deuteronomy 26:14 for their bread for their soul, either the common bread, that which fed them, or the מנחה Minchah, the portion of bread or flour which accompanied the sin-offerings, shall not come into the house of the Lord, that glorious temple being destroyed; nor, if it stood, would their oblations be accepted. What will ye do in the solemn day, and in the day of the feast of the Lord? the sabbaths, new moons, &c. when, groaning under their burdens, they should neither have sacrifices to slay, nor an altar to offer them upon, nor permission to observe these solemn seasons? Note; They who slight and abuse the means of grace that they enjoy, shall know, by dire experience in their loss, the value of the mercies that they disregarded.

[4.] They and their land shall be utterly destroyed. For lo, they are gone, because of destruction, thinking to find refuge in Egypt from the sword of the Assyrians; but they are mistaken: Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them; one of the chief cities whither they fled, and where probably a great part of them died with the pestilence, or through want. The pleasant places for their silver, nettles shall posses them: thorns shall be in their tabernacles: so utterly shall all their cities be demolished, and their land be desolate without inhabitant. Note; There is no escaping from God: the sinner may fly to him, and find mercy: to attempt to fly from him is madness and must end in misery.

2nd, To awaken their consciences God threatens them,

1. With the speedy execution of his judgments. The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come; they are surely coming and near, even at the door: Israel shall know it by dire experience, and feel the wrath that they would not believe or fear. Note; A day of recompense for sinners is at hand, when God will visit upon them all their iniquities.

2. They would then change their sentiments, both concerning the false prophets and the true. They said in the days of their prosperity, concerning the true prophets who warned them of these judgments, The prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad; treating their persons with contempt, and their preaching as madness: but now it will appear that the false prophets in whom they trusted, who prophesied to them of peace, were the fools; their pretences to spirituality and inspiration, mere phrensies of the brain; and their promises of prosperity to a wicked people, direct madness; and to these delusions they were given up, for the multitude of their iniquity, and for their great hatred; they hated God, his word, his ministers; and therefore he justly left them to themselves, to fill up the measure of their iniquities, and hasten their own destruction. The watchman of Ephraim was with my God; was formerly on the Lord's side, and received directions from him, and should be so now; but the prophet, the false prophet, is a snare of a fowler in all his ways; leading the people wrong by his example and his preaching; and hatred in the house of his God: his lies being detected, he becomes execrable even at Beth-el: or, his hatred is bitter against those who cleave to the true worship of God, whom nevertheless the deceiver calls his God, and from whom he pretends inspiration. Note; (1.) It is no new thing for the true prophets to be branded as fools or madmen. (2.) They who hate the truth are justly given up to strong delusions to believe a lie. (3.) Hatred and contempt of God's faithful ministers will shortly be severely punished.

3. Their iniquities shall be discovered and recompensed. They have deeply corrupted themselves; not only the false prophets, but the people in general, as in the days of Gibeah, advanced to the highest pitch of lasciviousness, cruelty, and contempt of God; therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins; taking exemplary vengeance on them, as of old on that devoted city. I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; took delight in them there, as a traveller who had found such refreshment in a barren place. I saw your fathers as the first ripe in the fig-tree at her first time; pleased with their flourishing estate, delighting in them as his people, showering down upon them his blessings, and watching over them with constant care; which aggravated the baseness of their ingratitude, when they went to Baal-peor, see Numbers 25 and separated themselves unto that shame; joining in the obscene rites with which this idol was worshipped: and their abominations were according as they loved; the daughters of Moab drew them into this abominable idolatry. Note; (1.) The sinner's iniquity will certainly sooner or later prove his shame. (2.) When the love of bad women rages in the heart, to please them the infatuated slave stops at no abominations.

3rdly, The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; and we see it, in the present instance, fearfully lighting upon the transgressors.

God threatens them with a variety of miseries:

1. Death shall spread its ravages among them, and their children shall perish before their eyes; some dying in the cradle; others carried from the womb to the grave; others perishing even from the conception. And though some should be spared to grow up, yet, by the sword, the famine, or pestilence, they would be consumed, or carried captives, till there shall not be a man left: yea, woe also to them, when I depart from them; for this is the heaviest of judgments: the sinner is wretched indeed whom God abandons. At present, indeed, these judgments seemed to be far away; Ephraim, as Tyre, was in prosperity, well fortified, and replenished with inhabitants; but the murderer, the Assyrian army, shall devour his children. Already Ephraim is smitten with tokens of God's displeasure, and soon shall be utterly destroyed. Their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit, like a tree withered and blasted: yea, though they bring forth, a few of them at least, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb; so that when the prophet would intercede for them, he could not but think the barren womb a blessing. Give them, O Lord: what wilt thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb, and dry breasts: better far have no children, than only to bring them up for the slaughter. Note; (1.) Death makes no distinction, nor pays regard to infants' cries or parents' tears. (2.) The children that parents most doat upon are often snatched from their arms, to teach them the folly and sin of creature-idolatry. (3.) Those who are written childless need not murmur; the crosses that children occasion to us, often more than counterbalance all the comfort of them.

2. In hatred God will cast them off, and cast them out. They had given him indeed abundant provocation to do so. All their wickedness is in Gilgal, which was become the chief place of their idolatrous worship; and thence it spread through the land. There I hated them for their abominations, profaning that place where once God's tabernacle had been pitched. For the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house; from the place where he had settled them in Canaan, the type and figure of his church. I will love them no more; at least, for a long while they shall not enjoy any public tokens of his favour and regard. All their princes are revolters; they, who should have restrained the people's wickedness were chief in the transgression, and emboldened them in sin by their evil examples. No wonder, therefore, that my God will cast them away as reprobate, and thrust them from his presence as abominable, because they did not hearken unto him, rejecting the commands of his law, and the warnings of his prophets: and they shall be wanderers among the nations; dispersed into all lands, and, like Cain, vagabonds in the earth; as was the case at their first captivity, and is awfully verified in their posterity to this day. Note; (1.) Of all miseries none can be greater than to be hated of God; and they who persist in malicious wickedness may assuredly expect it. (2.) It is a distinguishing mercy to the faithful, that, when others are abandoned and forsaken, they can still say, My God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Hosea 9:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/hosea-9.html. 1801-1803.

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