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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Hosea 6

 

 

Verses 1-3

THE PEOPLE’S RETURN TO JEHOVAH, Hosea 6:1-3.

The first three verses of chapter 6 form the natural continuation of Hosea 5:15, with which LXX. connects them by prefixing “saying.” This addition explains them as a mutual exhortation to return to Jehovah. While saying may have been added by the Greek translator, it embodies undoubtedly a correct interpretation. As expected, they will return, but without real, heartfelt repentance. There is not one expression of sorrow for wrongdoing, only anxiety to have distress and calamity removed. Therefore Jehovah is not impressed with the supplication (Hosea 6:4 ff.). The verses offer “but one symptom of the optimism of this light-hearted people, whom no discipline and no judgment can impress with the reality of their incurable decay.” Giesebrecht’s interpretation of the passage as a new exhortation by the prophet is less natural.

He will heal us — The context shows that they desire healing, not from corruption and sin, but from the wounds inflicted by the punishment. Such desire is no indication of repentance.

Two days… third day — The combination of a numeral with the next above is called ascending enumeration; it expresses an indefinite or unlimited number (G.-K., 134s); here an indefinite period but, since the numbers are small, a short period. The deliverance will come in the briefest time possible.

Revive… raise us up — A hope of a resurrection, but evidently not a personal resurrection, and certainly not, as some commentators used to say, a direct prediction of the resurrection of Jesus. Rather a hope of national restoration from a period of calamity and distress. The allegory of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-10) is an expansion of this hope. That the verb does not always mean restoration to life from death is clearly shown by such passages as Joshua 5:8, where it is translated “become whole”; 2 Kings 8:9, “recover,” etc. The result of the divine interference will be that they live in his sight [“before him”] — In his presence, with his eye resting upon them in loving and protecting care (Genesis 17:18; compare the opposite thought in Hosea 5:15; Isaiah 8:17).

Then shall we know — Better R.V., “And let us know.” The lack of the knowledge of Jehovah (Hosea 4:6; compare Hosea 2:20), the secret of all their trouble, they seek to remove; again there is no confession of sin; no evidence that they seek to know him in order to live better, only that they may enjoy his gifts.

If we follow on — Better, R.V., “let us follow on.” The same verb is translated in Hosea 2:7, “follow after”; it expresses the persistence with which they will seek Jehovah. If only the motive had been otherwise! They are confident that Jehovah will speedily respond. As surely as the morning dawns from day to day, so surely will Jehovah manifest himself.

Going forth — That is, to heal, to bind up, to bless. LXX. suggests a different reading, requiring a different division and slight rearrangement of the consonantal text, “As soon as we seekhim we shall find him,” which fits admirably in the context and is accepted as original by several modern commentators.

As the rain — Hebrews geshem (see on Joel 2:23); in contrast with the rain mentioned in the next clause it might be called winter rain. Not only as regularly but also as beneficially as this rain will Jehovah show himself.

As the latter and former rain unto the earth — R.V., more accurately, “as the latter rain that watereth the earth.” On this rain also see on Joel 2:23.


Verse 4-5

4, 5. What shall I do unto thee — What more can I do to move you to heartfelt repentance?

Goodness — In Hosea 2:19, “lovingkindness” (see comment there); here the loving attitude and disposition toward Jehovah. It is unstable and fickle; “evanescent and transient, like the morning cloud which is dispersed by the rising sun,” and like the dew which remains but for a little time.

Therefore — This fickleness has compelled Jehovah to use severe means.

Hewed… by the prophets — He carefully carved them like a piece of hard wood or marble, which requires hard and effective blows. He sought to make Israel a holy nation through the efforts of the prophets.

Slain them by the words of my mouth — As spoken by the prophets. The words of Jehovah have power to kill (Isaiah 11:4; compare Isaiah 9:8; Isaiah 49:2); here is meant not so much extinction of life as infliction of severe judgments. The activity of Elijah and Elisha may be in the prophet’s mind.

Thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth — Better, R.V. margin, following several ancient versions, “my judgments,” that is, the penal judgments of Jehovah. The thought is the same as in the preceding clauses, and the whole sentence is translated most naturally, “My judgment went forth as the light,” that is, so that all could see it and profit thereby. Sometimes the Hebrew light is used in the sense of lightning; if so in this case, it calls attention to the terrible character of the divine judgments.


Verses 4-11

JEHOVAH’S REPLY: SUPERFICIAL REPENTANCE IS NOT ACCEPTABLE TO JEHOVAH — THE CORRUPTION SEEMS INCURABLE, Hosea 6:4-11 a.

No distinct break can be recognized between Hosea 6:4, and Hosea 8:14. The whole section is a severe denunciation of the people’s attitude toward Jehovah. Hosea 6:4 may be regarded as the direct reply to the people’s plea. Jehovah perceives that the sentiments expressed in Hosea 6:1-3, are superficial. But if all he has done has not wrought repentance, what can he do with them? From this question he passes immediately to point out their utter misconception of the divine commands and their rebellious career.


Verses 6-9

6. Why does Jehovah use these severe means? Because he has for the people a lofty ideal of righteousness to which they are strangers and against which they rebel. His ideal is mercy — R.V. “goodness.” See on Hosea 2:19; used here in all the fullness of its meaning.

Sacrifice — The whole external ceremonial service. The attitude of Hosea is that of the other eighth century prophets (Amos 5:21 ff.; Isaiah 1:11 ff.; Micah 6:6 ff.). Did these prophets intend to condemn sacrifice as such? Did they desire to abolish it entirely? Some think they did; but all the passages referred to bear a different interpretation. The people addressed were corrupt, steeped in sin, living under the false impression that the bringing of sacrifice met all religious requirements. Condemnation of sacrifices offered by these people, in this spirit, does not necessarily imply condemnation of sacrifice offered in the proper spirit by a penitent people. Besides, there are passages which show that the prophets did not discard sacrifice entirely. A prophet who considers the discontinuation of sacrifice a national calamity (Hosea 9:1 ff.; compare Hosea 3:4; Isaiah 19:21; Jeremiah 17:26; Jeremiah 33:18) cannot be understood as condemning all sacrifice. The prophets were not abolitionists, but reformers; they attacked the abuses of sacrifice and sought to place the emphasis where it belonged, on the life and spirit (1 Samuel 15:22). This the passage before us is intended to do. (See article “Sacrifice” in Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible, and last sermon in Driver, Sermons on the Old Testament.)

Knowledge of God — See on Hosea 2:20.

Burnt offerings — The offerings entirely consecrated to God and completely burned upon the altar (Leviticus 1:3 ff.; compare Amos 5:22; Micah 6:6).

With Hosea 6:7 begins a description of the people’s corruption, the depth of which proves that they are incorrigible.

Transgressed the covenant — Made with Israel at the time of the Exodus, when Jehovah adopted the nation as his child.

Like men — A much-discussed expression. If the translation of A.V. is correct, the thought is, in human fashion, as men are wont to do; recognizing a tendency in unregenerate men to break covenants, the law written in the human heart (Job 31:33). Others consider men to be a designation of the neighboring nations. Israel, with all his special privileges, has broken the divine covenant like the heathen nations who enjoyed none of these. R.V. margin translates, with less probability and force, “they are as men that have transgressed a covenant.” The Revisers embodied in the text a translation favored by many moderns, “they like Adam have transgressed.” True, there is no statement in the Old Testament that Jehovah made a covenant with Adam, or that the latter broke such a covenant, but the command which God gave and which Adam broke was in the nature of a covenant; for on obedience to it depended continued fellowship with God. All the interpretations are based upon the text as it now stands; they all give fairly acceptable sense.

There — Where? Some say the northern kingdom, to which the prophet turns with a “gesture of indignation”; others, the localities mentioned in 8ff. Ordinarily there refers to a locality already named. The divergence from the rule in this case leads some commentators to suspect in the word translated “like Adam” or “like men” the corrupt name of a locality. With very slight alterations one could read “in Edom,” or “in Aram,” or “in Admah” (Hosea 11:8); Marti suggests the modern Tel-ed-Damije, near the juncture of the Jabbok with the Jordan; Cheyne, Beth-aven. None of these places, except Beth-aven (Beth-el), is known as connected with special transgressions, and any conjecture must remain more or less doubtful. If the present Hebrew text is retained there must refer to Israel.

Two illustrations of Israel’s depravity are given in Hosea 6:8-9.

Gilead — Here and in Judges 10:17, apparently the name of a city, everywhere else the name of the territory east of the Jordan. If a city, its location is not known. Among others, Ramoth-gilead, Jabesh-gilead, Mizpah-gilead, and Gal’ud, south of the Jabbok, have been suggested.

Them that work iniquity — Why this locality receives special condemnation is not known; it must have been the scene of some startling outbreak of violence. If Gilead could be interpreted as the whole territory east of the Jordan the reference might be to some of the assassinations subsequent to the death of Jeroboam II. Shallum (2 Kings 15:10) may have been a Gileadite (compare name of his father); Gileadites were also involved in the murder of Pekah (2 Kings 15:25).

Polluted [“stained”] with blood — Not the blood of idolatrous sacrifices, but a figure of violence and bloodshed. The verb is a derivative of the noun heel; Cheyne renders aptly, “tracked with bloody footprints.”

By consent — Better, R.V., “toward Shechem,” a town frequently mentioned in the Old Testament; it is located among the hills of Ephraim, about thirty-one and a half miles north of Jerusalem; now Nablus.

The Hebrew text of Hosea 6:9 is obscure; it may have suffered in transmission. As a translation of the present Hebrew text, margin R.V. is more satisfactory than R.V. or A.V.: “And as robbers lying in wait, so the company of priests murder in the way toward Shechem; yea, they have committed lewdness.” The thought is that even the priests have fallen from their holy estate and have become highway robbers. The prophet probably refers to a well-known recent event, though now unknown. For “the company” read, with the Hebrew, “a company”; for “murder,” “murdered.”

Lewdness — Here equivalent to the more general outrage.


Verse 10-11

Hosea 6:10-11 sum up the accusation. Wherever the eye of Jehovah falls, he sees a horrible thing… whoredom — The former signifies abominations and crimes of every kind (Jeremiah 18:13); the second, the one outstanding sin, spiritual and literal whoredom.

Israel is defiled — Compare Hosea 5:3. In Hosea 6:11 the prophet turns to Judah. This verse and Hosea 7:1 a, are thought by some to be a later addition; so that Hosea 7:1 b, “uncovered is the iniquity of Ephraim,” would be the continuation of Hosea 6:10. The omitted words might, indeed, be left out without affecting seriously the thought of the prophet, but that is not sufficient reason for rejecting them. LXX. differs from the Hebrew, and in some respects is to be preferred. Following LXX. part of Hosea 6:11 should probably be connected with Hosea 7:1, chapter vi, closing, “Also, O Judah, there is a harvest appointed to thee.”

Harvest — Figure of judgment (Joel 3:13; Jeremiah 51:33). Judah, as corrupt as Israel, must share the latter’s fate. 11b, in the same construction as the opening words of Hosea 7:1, should be taken with the latter and rendered, “When I would turn the fortune of my people, when I would heal Israel.”

Returned [“bring back”] the captivity — The Hebrew phrase which is frequently thus rendered in the Old Testament is literally turn a turning. In some cases the turning involved is the restoration from exile; in others a more general idea is expressed, a turning in the fortunes of the people, of calamity into prosperity; and this latter meaning is suitable in every place where the phrase occurs (Amos 9:14; Zephaniah 2:7, etc.). So here, “When I would turn the fortunes of my people.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hosea 6:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/hosea-6.html. 1874-1909.

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