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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Hosea 7

 

 

Verses 1-7

NEW PICTURE OF THE MORAL CORRUPTION AND RESULTING ANARCHY, Hosea 6:11 to Hosea 7:7.

1, 2. The mercy of Jehovah, manifesting itself in his willingness to “heal,” wrought no change for the better; it was interpreted as an indication of Jehovah’s weakness, and only increased the people’s recklessness. Iniquity… discovered [“uncovered”] — The reflexive force of the verb form may be expressed by rendering “displayed itself.” Iniquity broke out with ever-increasing force and prevented the carrying out of God’s gracious purpose.

Samaria — The capital of the northern kingdom mentioned because it was the center of the corruption. Wherein consisted the iniquity?

Commit falsehood — Practice fraud and deceit toward God and man.

Thief cometh [“entereth”] in — Into the house. Theft and highway robbery were common (Joel 2:9).

Spoileth [“ravageth”] — The highways were made unsafe by robbers in quest of plunder.

Consider — Literally, they do not speak to their heart; their consciences have become seared.

I remember — They have no thought that Jehovah will remember and punish, but they are mistaken; their sins are constantly before his face, where he can see them.

Their own doings have beset them about — They are completely surrounded by their wrongs, so that escape has become impossible; even repentance seems to be out of the question. The verse closes with a re-affirmation that Jehovah is not deceived about their real condition (Psalms 90:8).

In Hosea 7:3-7 the text is in places obscure, but concerning the general drift of the thought there can be no doubt. The prophet describes in vivid colors the corruption that pervades the whole nation, and shows that the existing anarchy is the inevitable result of the same: adultery, drunkenness, conspiracy, assassinations everywhere, not one redeeming feature.

They make the king glad — The subject is the same as in Hosea 7:1-2, the Israelites. As representatives of Jehovah king and princes should rejoice in righteousness and justice; their depravity is seen in the fact that they not only fail to punish crime, but actually delight in it.

Princes — See on Hosea 3:4. The Hebrew gives good sense; the emendation first suggested by Wellhausen and since adopted by many scholars, “they anoint” instead of “they make glad,” is not necessary, though it would give equally good sense and would make this passage agree in meaning with Hosea 8:4.

They are all adulterers — King, princes, and people are filled with unholy passions for revelry, licentiousness, etc. This is a new condemnation, and is not to be connected with the preceding as a circumstantial clause. The rest of the verse is doubtful.

As an oven heated by the baker — R.V. supplies “they are,” which is an improvement. A different division of the consonantal text would give, “they are like a burning oven,” and with “the baker” the new sentence might be begun.

This is preferable. In their madness the people resemble a burning oven.

The heart is the oven, the unholy passions the fire. Modern commentators are inclined to regard this clause, as well as the rest of Hosea 7:4, a later addition, a gloss to Hosea 7:6. Whatever one may think of the rest of the verse, which seems to be dependent on Hosea 7:6, this clause certainly sounds like a part of the original denunciation; Hosea 7:5 would make a good continuation.

The baker… ceaseth — As these words stand now they describe the apparent calm between one outbreak of violence and the next. “The baker ceases from stirring when the oven has reached a certain heat; and then he leaves the fire to smolder until the fermentation of the dough is complete and fresh heating is necessary. So after passion has been gratified it smolders for a time, but is afterward kindled to a greater heat than before, when some attractive object comes within range.”

In Hosea 7:5 the prophet evidently refers to a recent event — Wellhausen thinks to a royal assassination — when passion found unrestrained expression.

Day of our king — Perhaps the king’s birthday (Matthew 14:6), or the coronation day; at any rate, a day of joyful celebration.

The princes have made him sick — R.V., “made themselves sick.” Either translation is possible, though usage favors A.V. — they made the king drunk and assassinated him (2 Samuel 13:28-29). Royal assassinations are referred to in Hosea 7:7; in this verse, however, the thought implied in R.V. is more probable, though usage may favor A.V. — they gave themselves to such excesses that they became ill.

Bottles of wine — Better, R.V., “heat of wine,” or “with fever from wine” (G.A. Smith).

He stretched out his hand — The meaning is uncertain, but it is generally interpreted as meaning that the king entered into intimate relations with scoffers, that is, worthless, lawless fellows who are always devising mischief. Perhaps the words allude to “some lawless project decided upon in the intoxication of the revel.”

Hosea 7:6-7 do not connect with 4, giving the explanation and ground for the simile of the oven, so that Hosea 7:5 would be parenthetical (Keil); they contain a new assertion, co-ordinate with the statements in Hosea 7:3-5. The subject is the same as in the other verses, the Israelites.

For — Here not a causal conjunction, but, as often, a particle of asseveration — “truly,” “indeed” (G.-K., 148d).

Have made ready their heart like an oven, while they lie in wait — The Hebrew contains several peculiarities, hence the translation and interpretation are uncertain. Many attempts have been made to interpret the present Hebrew text and not a few emendations have been suggested. It seems necessary to alter the text. Following in part LXX., we get, by only slight alterations, an excellent thought: “Indeed, like an oven their hearts burn with their intriguing” (compare Hosea 4:1, “There is no truth in the land”; Hosea 4:2, “There is naught but swearing and breaking faith”).

Their baker — Who is their baker? The subject of burneth is the same in Hebrew as that of sleepeth. Can it be said of the baker that he burns as a flaming fire? Two ancient versions, Targum and Peshitto, read “their anger” for “their baker”; this requires no change of the consonantal text in Hebrew and may be accepted as original: “Their anger sleepeth all the night.” The conspiracy is kept secret until it is matured, then it breaks forth. The darkness of the night is the time when the schemes are developed; in the morning, the time for action having arrived, the conspiracy blazes forth (compare Micah 2:1). Hosea 7:7 describes the result of these intrigues. They are all hot as an oven, and have devoured [“and devour”] — Need not be rejected as an unnecessary repetition; it sums up in a few words the thought of Hosea 7:6. It would be better, however, to translate it as a circumstantial clause, “Being (thus) hot like an oven, they devour.”

Judges — Not to be understood in the narrower sense of that term, but equivalent to rulers, that is, king and princes as the guardians of the law and administrators of justice (Isaiah 40:23; Psalms 2:10).

Their kings are fallen — By assassination; parallel to the preceding clause. 2 Kings 15 furnishes a commentary. In all probability the prophecy comes from the reign of Menahem, which was preceded by two royal assassinations, that of Zechariah after a reign of six months and that of Shallum after one month. There is none among the people that calleth unto me — “A prophetic touch to the historical statement” which precedes. Notwithstanding the serious condition of affairs, no one appealed to Jehovah, who alone could bring relief.


Verse 8

8. Ephraim — As elsewhere, Israel.

Hath mixed himself among the people — R.V., following the Hebrew, “peoples,” that is, the surrounding nations. Israel has given up its divinely appointed seclusion and has mingled with the surrounding nations by (1) adopting their customs and (2) appealing to them for help. The two forms of apostasy were closely connected, the first being the inevitable result of the second. The people who had lost their faith in Jehovah, which would prompt reliance upon him in political matters, could not endure (compare Isaiah 7); their apostasy must be followed by doom (Isaiah 7:9).

A cake not turned — The cake alluded to here is round and flat, baked on a hot stone; if not turned it burns on the bottom while the top remains unbaked. A threefold interpretation of the figure is possible. It is either a picture of ruin — as a cake not turned is burned on the bottom, so Israel is already half ruined (Hosea 7:9 would furnish the explanation); or a picture of folly and inconsistency, like as the modern colloquial “half baked,” “an apt emblem of a character full of inconsistencies” (to this Hosea 7:11 would supply a commentary); or, in the third place, a picture of the internal condition of the people — “How better describe a half-fed people, a half-cultured society, a half-lived religion, a half-hearted policy, than by a half-baked scone?” Perhaps all three thoughts were in the mind of the prophet.


Verses 8-16

ISRAEL, BLIND IN HER FOLLY, RUSHES HEADLONG TO DESTRUCTION, Hosea 7:8-16 a.

Hosea 7:8-16 a connect very closely with the last clause of Hosea 7:7, but these verses differ so much from the preceding in matter and form that they may be treated as a separate section. Instead of turning to Je-hovah the people mingled with the foreign nations, there to learn wisdom and to find help; unaware that by this policy they were courting certain destruction. What a disappointment the chosen nation has proved!


Verse 9-10

Hosea 7:9 calls attention to the blindness which prevented Israel from recognizing its helpless condition. He, Ephraim, knoweth it not — Not only, he does not understand the significance of the calamity, but he is blind and in absolute ignorance concerning it.

Strangers have devoured his strength — The foreign nations, instead of helping and strengthening, have sapped his resources. If the above-given interpretation is correct the reference cannot be primarily to territory lost in war, though this may not be excluded entirely (2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 10:32-33; 2 Kings 13:3; 2 Kings 13:7), but to the strength and resources lost by adopting foreign customs and entering into alliances with foreign nations. The introduction of foreign customs was accompanied by moral degradation. That immorality saps the strength of nations needs no proof. “Moral decay means political decay; sins… are the gangrene of nations.” That foreign alliances sapped the nation’s resources is definitely stated in 2 Kings 15:19-20; compare 2 Kings 16:7-8. Hosea may have had in mind the act of Menahem.

Gray hairs are here and there upon him — Literally, are sprinkled upon him. The nation is personified as an individual passing through the various stages of life (compare Hosea 11:1; Isaiah 46:4). Gray hair is an indication of old age, of impending death and dissolution. To all this the nation is blind.

The connection of Hosea 7:10 with the preceding verse is obscure; perhaps it is unfortunate that the verse division was made where it now is, for Hosea 7:10 a closely connects with the preceding, while 10b gives expression to a new thought and logically connects more closely with Hosea 7:11.

The pride of Israel testifieth — The proud and arrogant attitude toward Jehovah, manifesting itself in blindness (see on Hosea 5:5).

For all this — Though apparently all resources are sapped, and the nation is rapidly approaching dissolution, they have not returned to Jehovah nor sought him who alone could heal and restore the lost strength (Amos 4:6 ff.; compare Isaiah 9:12 ff.). Instead — Hosea 7:11 — like a silly dove they sought help where not only no help could be found but where their hurt increased. Marti omits Hosea 7:10, but without sufficient reason. Silly dove without heart [“understanding”] — The dove is celebrated for its simplicity and unsuspicious nature (Matthew 10:16). An Arabic proverb says, “There is nothing more simple than a dove.”

Egypt… Assyria — To the action of a silly dove is likened the policy of Israel past and present. The point of comparison is the absence of any settled plan or fixed purpose. Now they appeal to the one, now to the other, without regard for possible dangers. The additional thought brought out by many commentators, “As a dove fleeing from a hawk is snared in the fowler’s net, so Ephraim when afraid of Assyria calls in the help of Egypt, and when afraid of Egypt appeals to Assyria,” is not contained in the text. Israel is seeking to escape, not from Assyria or from Egypt, but from its own helpless condition (Hosea 7:8-9); in this attempt it does not seek help from Jehovah (Hosea 7:10), but now from Egypt and now from Assyria (Hosea 7:11), as the Egyptian or the Assyrian party may predominate. 2 Kings 15:19, illustrates the pro-Assyrian policy; of the pro-Egyptian policy we have no indication in the historical books as early as the date of this prophecy, but compare 2 Kings 17:4, which speaks of events about a dozen years later.


Verse 12

12. Such policy is contrary to the will of Jehovah, therefore he will make it of no effect; yea, he will severely punish them for it. As they go to Egypt or Assyria, thinking to find relief, Jehovah will bring upon them sudden ruin.

Net — The figure of the dove is continued. The silly dove, Israel, will be entangled in the net of calamity and ruin.

I will bring them down — A poetic parallel to the preceding. Just as the birds of the air are brought down and captured by the fowler, so Jehovah will bring down Israel from the air of freedom into the net of exile. The latter part of Hosea 7:12 is obscure.

As their congregation hath heard — As has been publicly proclaimed by the prophets, for example, Amos and Hosea. The ancient versions reproduce a different text, and various emendations have been proposed: Marti, “on account of their sins,” Harper, “by the abundance of their afflictions.” The Hebrew is peculiar, but certainty as to the original is impossible. Harper’s transposition of “I will chastise” so that it follows Hosea 7:10 does not improve the text. That the words might be omitted from their present place is true; that they “furnish just the required completion for the thought of Hosea 7:10” is, to say the least, doubtful, since Hosea 7:11 furnishes a proper continuation of Hosea 7:10.

The announcement of judgment in Hosea 7:12 is continued in Hosea 7:13 in the form of a “Woe,” which is in turn explained by the exclamation, “destruction unto them!” There is, indeed, no escape; their rebellion has been too persistent.

They have fled [“wandered”] from me — The special sin condemned is not spiritual or moral, but political, apostasy; instead of seeking help from Jehovah they have sought it from Assyria and Egypt. As the second exclamation is an explanation of the first, so the second causal clause is an expansion of the first. The wandering away involved rebellion against the rightful master.

Transgressed — Better, rebelled, or, apostatized. The exact rendering and interpretation of 13b are uncertain.

Though I have redeemed… they have spoken lies. Refers to actual past deliverances and expressions of ingratitude. R.V., “though I would redeem… they have spoken lies,” emphasizes the willingness or desire of Jehovah to redeem, which is met by defiance. Others take the sentence conditionally, “If I should redeem… they would only speak lies,” or as a question of astonishment, “And I, should I redeem them, and they spoke only lies,” or, “when they have spoken only lies!” A still different though similar rendering makes it an exclamation of astonishment, “And I redeem them when they have spoken only lies!” The Hebrew permits any one of these renderings; the context must determine the correct one. Hosea 7:14 makes it probable that “they have spoken lies” refers to an act of the past. As to the preceding clause it would seem, in view of the apparently unconditional announcement of judgment, that one of the last two interpretations must be accepted. Between the two there is little to choose. The words are a reply to a possible objection on the part of the people that destruction would be unjust; they set forth the truth that divine displeasure is well deserved. Additional justification is offered in Hosea 7:14 — they have never sought Jehovah in sincerity.

Spoken lies — In saying by word or deed that Jehovah was unwilling or unable to help (Isaiah 44:8); they surely did not know God (compare Hosea 4:6).

Not cried unto me with their heart — The people had not ceased entirely to worship Jehovah, or to call upon him, but their petitions were insincere; they did not come from the heart (Isaiah 29:13).

Howled upon their beds — In distress and despair they roll upon their beds unable to sleep. Since 14b refers to attempts to secure the favor and good will of Jehovah by acts of worship, the howling would better be connected with religious celebrations, perhaps the howling connected with sacrificial feasts (Amos 5:23); for “bed” we must then read “divans,” or “couches,” upon which they reclined during their meals. A simple emendation would give “beside their altars,” which is accepted by some commentators. Other emendations are less satisfactory.

Assemble themselves — The derivation, and therefore also the meaning of the Hebrew verb form, is uncertain. The English translation suggests a gathering together in solemn assembly at the sanctuary for the purpose of imploring Jehovah for a rich harvest. Another possible rendering is, they excite themselves, that is, in connection with the worship. LXX. presents a different text; changing one consonant, ר, into another, ד, it reads, “they cut themselves” (compare 1 Kings 18:28 ; Deuteronomy 14:1; Jeremiah 16:6, etc.). In some way this self-mutilation, condemned by the religious leaders of Israel, was thought to secure the divine favor. Whatever the exact meaning of the word, the prophet evidently speaks of some selfish efforts connected with the heartless worship to secure material blessings from Jehovah.

They rebel against me — Notwithstanding their religious zeal, they are rebels against Jehovah’s majesty.


Verse 15-16

15, 16. Neither judgment nor the divine mercy produced repentance or loyalty to Jehovah.

Bound — Better, R.V., “taught” (Isaiah 28:26; Proverbs 31:1); margin, “chastened.” The object, their arms, in Hebrew goes with both verbs; chasten, therefore, gives no suitable sense, “taught” or “trained” is better; perhaps a reference to divine help in war (2 Kings 14:27; compare Psalms 18:34); or perhaps only a figurative expression for restoration of prosperity. By such help Jehovah expected to win the hearts of the people, but he failed. Symmachus, an early Greek translator, gives a different sense to the passage by reading after the first verb the pronoun, “I chastened them,” that is, by the judgment implied in Hosea 7:14; he understands only the second verb as calling attention to the giving of prosperity. Whether Jehovah sent calamity or prosperity the people persisted in rebellion. LXX. omits the first verb; it makes Hosea 7:14 refer, by implication, to one method of God’s dealings, chastisement; Hosea 7:15 to the other, lovingkindness. In any case the thought expressed remains the same, the complete failure of Jehovah to win the affections of the people.

I — Emphatic in the original: “Though it was I that taught…”

They imagine — R.V., “devise.”

Mischief against me — Not an accurate reproduction of the original. “With regard to me they think,” or, even better, “they keep thinking evil.” Hosea 7:13 implies that the people had false conceptions of Jehovah; here the same complaint finds expression. No matter what Jehovah does, the people fail to understand him, they continue to think evil of him. The strongest evidence of the truth of this accusation is their disregard for Jehovah while they appeal to Assyria and Egypt.

They return — Better, turn. While not recognizing fully the hopelessness of their condition, they see enough to be persuaded that they need help; to secure it they turn hither and thither; where they finally decide to seek it is stated in Hosea 7:11.

Not to the most High — R.V., “not to him that is on high,” that is, Jehovah (Hosea 7:10; compare Hosea 11:7). The Hebrew is obscure; a more literal rendering, upward, would express practically the same thought. LXX. and Peshitto apparently transpose two words and read “unto not” — that is, unto that which is not, namely, idols — which would be a good continuation of Hosea 7:15. Concerning Jehovah they think evil, therefore to the idols — the Baalim — they turn (compare especially chapter ii). Unto not, which is a peculiar expression, is thought by some to be an intentional substitution for “unto Baal” or “unto Baals” (see on Hosea 2:16), which is considered original.

They are like a deceitful bow — A bow which is expected to shoot in one direction but disappoints by sending the arrow in another, and thus fails to accomplish its purpose (Psalms 78:57). Israel has proved a painful disappointment to Jehovah (compare Isaiah 5:1-7). 16b is more closely connected with Hosea 8:1-3.


Verse 16

IMMINENCE OF THE JUDGMENT IN THE FORM OF AN INVASION, Hosea 7:16 to Hosea 8:3.

Israel has proved a disappointment; defiantly it persists in rebellion, therefore judgment has become inevitable — indeed, it is rapidly approaching. Hosea 7:16 to Hosea 8:3, deals with the crisis that is imminent. The deep emotion of the prophet is indicated by the rapidity with which he moves from one thought to another.

Their princes shall fall — All the eighth century prophets insist that the ruling classes are largely to blame for the prevalent corruption, therefore the first blow will fall upon them.

Rage of their tongue — The word translated rage has received various translations and interpretations: roughness, deception, boasting, mockery, skepticism, insolence, bitterness, etc. The most satisfactory is probably “insolence,” that is, toward Jehovah. “The root meaning is to make a grumbling sound, like an irritated camel.” They have taken an insolent attitude toward Jehovah, hence he must vindicate himself by their overthrow.

This — The overthrow of the princes.

Their derision in the land of Egypt — Their false friends in the land of Egypt will laugh at them in scorn. Why the reference to Egypt? The eighth century prophets saw in Assyria the divinely commissioned executioner of judgment; the sword, therefore, should probably be understood as the sword of Assyria. During the same period the policy of Egypt was to incite, by promises of support, rebellion against Assyria among the nations throughout Syria and Palestine. The scheme was to keep the Assyrian armies busy, and thus prevent their advance against Egypt. Trusting in Egyptian promises, the nations frequently rebelled, but in the hour of need Egypt usually failed her allies; she looked on, laughing, while the nations suffered for their folly. This the prophet declares will happen now. It is quite possible that just at this time the Egyptian party in Israel was becoming prominent, favoring an alliance with Egypt and the throwing off of the obligations assumed by Menahem. New foreign entanglements the prophet condemns; he announces the speedy advance of Assyria, describes the overthrow of the vacillating princes, and pictures the derision with which Egypt will watch the humiliation of Israel. There is not sufficient reason for regarding “this shall be their derision” as a gloss, and for connecting “in the land of Egypt” with the preceding, so as to read, “The insolence of their tongue in the land of Egypt” — that is, the insolence manifesting itself in the negotiations carried on with Egypt.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hosea 7:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/hosea-7.html. 1874-1909.

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