corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Hosea 9

 

 

Verse 1

1. Rejoice not — The occasion of the exhortation is probably the noisy celebration of a harvest festival. Harvest time has always been a season of rejoicing (Isaiah 9:3); for, on the one hand, a rich harvest insures prosperity, on the other, it is a sign of the divine favor, for which people desired to express their appreciation and gratitude. Why does the prophet oppose the celebration? (1) Because it is like the celebrations of other people — That is, of the surrounding nations; literally, the peoples, which, Wellhausen suggests, is here used for the first time in prophetic language in the sense of heathen. Among “the nations” these celebrations were noisy and wild, accompanied by all manner of excesses; but this revelry was out of harmony with the prophet’s lofty and spiritual conception of the religion of Jehovah. (2) 1b makes it plain that, though nominally the festival may have been held in the name of Jehovah (Hosea 9:4), the chief credit for the blessings of harvest was given to the Baalim (compare Hosea 2:5-8); to this also the Jehovah prophet must take exception.

For joy — Literally, unto rejoicing — too loudly. LXX. reads “exult not,” which would restore the parallelism.

Hosea 9:1 b is to be connected with Hosea 9:2, setting forth the cause of the judgment. The connection may be expressed, “Because thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, (because) thou hast loved a reward upon every cornfloor, (therefore) the (threshing) floor… shall not feed them.”

Gone a whoring [“played the harlot”] from thy God — In a spiritual sense (see on Hosea 2:2-5).

Loved a reward [“hire”] — Literally, harlot’s hire (Hosea 2:12).

Upon every cornfloor — There are stored the blessings of harvest, which are received as gifts from the Baalim. To recognize them as such would oblige the Israelites to worship these Canaanitish deities, but to worship these would imply faithlessness to Jehovah; and anything received from the Baalim which might induce the Israelites to play spiritual harlot to Jehovah could be called harlot’s hire. This they were fond of, else they would not have been so enthusiastic in their worship.


Verses 1-4

THE PRESENT REJOICING OF ISRAEL CONTRASTED WITH THE DESPAIR OF THE EXILE, 1-9.

Hosea 9:1, marks a new beginning. The prophet beholds the rejoicing of the people at harvest time, perhaps at a joyous religious festival. Rejoicing at such a time is perfectly natural, but, judging from chapter 2, much of the celebration, though nominally in recognition of Jehovah’s goodness, was in reality in honor of the Baalim. This the prophet cannot endure. He warns the people not to be too exuberant (Hosea 9:1), for the occasions of rejoicing will soon cease. On account of their apostasy Jehovah will withdraw his blessings (Hosea 9:2); yea, they will be carried into exile (Hosea 9:3), where, upon an unclean land, joyful religious feasts can be celebrated no longer (Hosea 9:4-5); their own land will become a wilderness (Hosea 9:6). After announcing the impending doom the prophet points out once more the moral and spiritual apostasy responsible for the judgment (Hosea 9:7-9).


Verse 2

2. Faithlessness to Jehovah will be punished by a withdrawal of the divine gifts (Hosea 2:9).

Wine press — The Hebrew word denotes not the press in which the grapes are pressed out, but the receptacle into which flows the juice after the grapes are crushed (see on Joel 2:24). Threshing floor — where the grain is stored as well as threshed out — and winepress stand for grain and wine.

New wine — See on Hosea 4:11.

Feed them — LXX., with a change of one consonant, “know them.”

Fail in her — Better R.V., “fail her,” that is, Israel. The change to a feminine pronoun would have to be explained by the representation of Israel as a harlot (Hosea 4:19). It should be noted, however, that all the versions read the plural, as in the first clause. Changes from the second person (Hosea 9:1) to the third person (Hosea 9:2) are not uncommon in prophetic discourse. For the thought compare Amos 5:11; Isaiah 5:10.

The manner in which Jehovah will execute the judgment is indicated in Hosea 9:3. Israel is to be removed from the land.

Egypt — See on Hosea 8:13. The other power upon which Israel relies for help, Assyria (Hosea 7:11; Hosea 8:9), will also be a means of Israel’s destruction.

Jehovah’s land — The land in which Israel now dwells. So long as primitive religious conceptions prevailed in Israel Palestine was thought to be the land of Jehovah in much the same sense in which Moab was the land of Chemosh or Ammon the land of Milcom (Judges 11:23-24). Outside of Israel Jehovah was powerful only as he went to the assistance of his people Israel against another people and its deity. Even to David exile from the land meant inability to worship Jehovah (1 Samuel 26:19; compare Jonah 1:3). The eighth century prophets had a broader conception of Jehovah; he controlled other nations as well as Israel (Amos 1:3 to Amos 2:3; Amos 9:7), though they never ceased to believe that Jehovah had a peculiar interest in the Hebrews. Nevertheless, in several places passages are found which imply that the common people continued to cling to the narrower view. Thus may be explained the latter part of this verse.

Unclean things [“food”] — Not food which was per se ceremonially unclean, but food which was unclean because the land in which it was eaten was unclean (Amos 7:17; Ezekiel 4:13); and the land was unclean because Jehovah could not properly be worshiped there (compare 2 Kings 5:17).

To a people so scrupulous about the fulfillment of the ceremonial requirements one of the greatest calamities of life in exile would be the inability to continue properly the external forms of worship. This calamity the prophet brings before them in vivid colors in Hosea 9:4. Whether the prophet himself shared the common notion, or whether he simply used these expressions because they would present the climax of calamity to the minds of those whom he was anxious to influence, is not made clear; that Hosea conceived of the sway of Jehovah as extending over nations outside of Israel cannot be doubted. Offer [“pour out”] wine offerings to Jehovah — Drink offerings will cease (see on Joel 1:9).

Neither shall they (the wine offerings) be pleasing unto him — Margin of R.V., which connects the words differently, reproduces more accurately the Hebrew, “neither shall their sacrifices be pleasing unto him.” This presupposes the bringing of sacrifice, only it will not be acceptable to Jehovah. But the first as well as the last clause of the verse states that certain offerings shall be discontinued. The same is implied in the whole verse; Hosea 3:4, also teaches that sacrifice is to be entirely discontinued in exile. To remove this apparent contradiction scholars generally accept the emendation first suggested by Kuenen, and read, with a change of one single consonant, “neither shall they prepare for him their sacrifices.”

Their sacrifices shall be unto them as the bread of mourners — That is, unclean. The bread of mourning is the bread eaten during the seven days of mourning (Deuteronomy 26:14) and at funeral meals. Everyone coming near a dead person is unclean for seven days (Numbers 19:14), and everything such an unclean person touches, even his food, becomes unclean (Numbers 19:22); anyone eating this unclean food shares the uncleanness.

Their bread for their soul — The last word means also appetite, so R.V., “shall be for their appetite”; sometimes it is even used in the place of the pronoun — “for themselves.” Whichever rendering is adopted, the thought remains the same. Part of the bread (or food) was presented to Jehovah in the form of first fruits, offerings, or tithes, and thus it assisted in securing the divine favor; a part was used to satisfy the hunger of the owner. In the exile there will be no sanctuary, and offerings cannot be brought; the food cannot be used to secure or maintain the divine favor; it serves only to satisfy physical hunger.

House of Jehovah — Any sanctuary consecrated to Jehovah.


Verse 5

5. In exile what can Israel do in the solemn day — The religious festivals held on sacred days, such as the sabbath and new moon. In an unclean land these celebrations become impossible. LXX. reads “days,” which may be original.

Day of the feast of Jehovah — Feast and solemn assembly are not synonyms; the former is literally pilgrimage, and is used of the three annual pilgrimages (Exodus 23:14-17); of these it is applied in particular to the harvest festival (1 Kings 8:2; 1 Kings 12:32; Ezekiel 45:25, see on Zechariah 14:19). When the pilgrimage season comes around, whither will they go?


Verses 6-9

6. Already the prophet sees the people leaving the land of Jehovah to experience the deprivations of the exile pictured in Hosea 9:4-5.

They are gone — The prophetic perfect in Hebrew.

Because of destruction — If the text is correct, better, with the R.V., ‘“away from destruction” — away from the destruction of their native land. Some alter the text so as to read “to Assyria,” chiefly because Hosea frequently joins Egypt and Assyria.

Shall gather them up — In exile (Hosea 8:10); in connection with “bury” the thought seems to be of gathering for burial (Jeremiah 8:2; Jeremiah 25:33).

Memphis shall bury — Memphis was the old capital of Lower Egypt, and throughout the entire history of Egypt it remained a city of great prominence. It is located on the Nile a short distance south of Cairo.

Here, as a representative city of the kingdom, it is synonymous with Egypt. The figure is taken from the numerous and extensive burial grounds in Egypt, many of which recent excavations have brought to light. One of the largest of these was uncovered at Memphis, stretching twenty miles from north to south. As the dead are gathered in these burial fields never to rise again, so Israel will be swallowed up in Egypt. Meanwhile their own land will become a wilderness, covered with nettles and thorns.

Pleasant places for their silver — The treasure houses; but R.V., “pleasant things of silver” — their valuable possessions made of silver. The expression cannot be limited to idols. From the parallel clause it seems that the reference is to houses decorated and filled with silver.

Nettles shall possess — They will grow over them; and thorns shall cover their tabernacles — Dwellings.

In Hosea 9:7-9 the text is in such confusion that the exact meaning of some parts cannot be determined. The first part of Hosea 9:7 evidently connects with Hosea 9:6.

Are come — To express his assurance that the days of visitation, that is, of judgment and recompense for wrongdoing (described in 2-6), will certainly come the prophet uses the prophetic perfect, equivalent to shall surely come.

Israel shall know it — Find out by experience (compare Isaiah 9:9). Shall know what? Some answer, that “the prophet is a fool,… is mad.” In other words, the people will discover that they have been deceived by the prophets who have promised continued peace and prosperity (Micah 2:11; Micah 3:5). This interpretation makes the prophet and the spiritual man, or man that hath the spirit, the false prophet. If this is the correct interpretation the words “Israel shall… mad” must be regarded as a parenthetical sentence, since the latter part of the verse, “for the abundance of thine iniquity,” must be connected with the announcement of judgment in the first part. But would a true prophet call a false prophet a spiritual man? This is at least doubtful (Ezekiel 13:3); the expression is certainly more applicable to a true prophet. If so here, the above interpretation cannot be correct. A second interpretation connects “Israel shall know it” with the preceding; Israel shall know the terrors of the judgment. With “the prophet” begins a new sentence, which continues to the end of the verse. According to this view, Hosea says that the true prophet has become a fool and madman; that is, he has become beside himself at the sight of the awful condition and the thought of the impending doom of the people. The awfulness of the expected calamity was indeed sufficient to drive mad a man with the sensitive nature of an Hosea. A third interpretation sees in the words “the prophet… mad” a defiant reply of the people. They meet the exhortations of the prophet with a contemptuous sneer that he is a fool and a madman (2 Kings 9:11; compare Acts 2:13). These words the prophet takes up and says, The prophet has indeed gone mad, but it is your sin and his yearning sympathy for you which has made him so. It may be difficult to say which of these is the right interpretation; on the whole, the last seems preferable.

The great hatred — R.V., “the enmity is great”; that is, the enmity manifested against the prophet (explained further in Hosea 9:8) helps to drive him mad. Some change the text and read “greatness of thy sin,” so as to bring it in accord with the parallel clause.

Hosea 9:8 also presents serious difficulties.

The watchman of Ephraim was with my God — R.V., “Ephraim was a watchman with my God.” Most commentators seem to prefer the construction adopted by the Revisers, but all recognize the difficulties of the clause. As a result there have been many translations and interpretations, and not a few emendations. Delitzsch, understanding watchman in a bad sense, interprets, “The God who speaks by the prophet has in Ephraim a malignant spy instead of a humble observer”; for this reason the prophet is persecuted. More commonly, however, the word is used in a good sense, a watchman appointed by Jehovah (Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 3:17; Habakkuk 2:1, etc.). Therefore Keil and others interpret, “Ephraim (Israel) looks out for the prophecies or divine revelations with the God of the prophets, that is, at the side of Jehovah; in other words, it does not trust or follow its own prophets, who are not inspired by Jehovah.” These interpreters regard the prophets mentioned in the latter part of the verse as false prophets, who are to the people a snare of the fowler in all its ways; that is, everywhere they attempt to ensnare the people; even in the house of Jehovah they manifest their evil intentions (compare Amos 7:10-17). These are two representative interpretations of the text as it stands; of these that of Delitzsch is preferable, for after condemning so persistently the attitude of Ephraim toward Jehovah it is not probable that Hosea would describe Ephraim as a watchman waiting longingly for divine revelations. But, even admitting that the Hebrew may possibly yield the thought suggested by Delitzsch, the expression is peculiar and un-Hebraic; and it is this feeling that accounts for the many emendations proposed. Of these the most simple is that of Cheyne, which requires only the addition of one letter ( מ ), which, he assumes, has fallen out accidentally at the beginning of one word because the preceding word ends with the same consonant. In addition, he connects the first clause with the second and reads the entire verse, “The watchman of Ephraim (so A.V.), appointed by my God (literally, from my God), even the prophet — a fowler’s snare is in all his ways, and enmity in the house of his God.” This gives a very satisfactory sense.

Watchman of Ephraim — The prophet (compare Jeremiah 6:17).

Snare of a fowler — Spread by the Israelites who seek to destroy the prophet.

The house of his God — Either the sanctuary of Jehovah (Amos 7:10-17), or house may be used, as in Hosea 8:1; Hosea 9:15, in the sense of land. Nowhere in the land is the prophet safe. All other emendations require more radical changes in the text. Nowack, by means of omissions, transpositions, and other changes, gets, “Hostility to the watchman is found in the house of his God; the prophet finds fowler’s snares in all his ways.” Harper, taking “enmity” over from Hosea 9:7, connecting the latter part of Hosea 9:8 with 9a, and changing the latter, reads, “Enmity exists toward Ephraim’s watchman; the prophet (finds) the snares of the fowler in all his ways; in the (very) house of God they dig for him a deep pit.”

Hosea 9:9, as it now stands, forms a suitable conclusion. They have gone to the lowest depths of corruption.

As in the days of Gibeah — Hosea refers again to this crime in Hosea 10:9 (compare Judges 19:22-30; Judges 20:46-48).

That deed of shame was severely punished. Would Israel escape? Surely not. He will remember… visit — See on Hosea 7:2; Hosea 8:13.


Verse 10

10. Like grapes in the wilderness — As grapes unexpectedly discovered in the desert delight the heart of the weary traveler, so Israel, in the beginning, delighted the heart of Jehovah (compare Hosea 2:15; Jeremiah 2:3). In the wilderness is to be connected with like grapes, not with Israel, though there may be an allusion to Israel’s abode in the desert (Deuteronomy 32:10).

As the first-ripe in the fig tree at her first time — R.V., “at its first season,” that is, when figs first begin to ripen. The appearance of the early figs is greeted with much joy, especially since they are regarded as of an extra fine quality. With similar joy Jehovah looked upon Israel; but ere long it proved a disappointment to him.

Baal-peor — Equivalent to Beth-peor, or Peor (Deuteronomy 3:29; Numbers 23:28), where the Baal of Peor was worshiped (Numbers 25:3; see on Hosea 2:5); there the apostasy of Israel had its beginning.

Separated — Or, R.V., “consecrated.” Shame [“shameful thing”] — Hebrews bosheth — Baal. Probably shame was substituted for Baal (see on Hosea 2:16, and references there).

And their abominations were according as they loved — Better, R.V., “and (they) became abominable (literally, abominations), like that which they loved.” The noun is used in the place of the adjective for the sake of emphasis (G.-K., 141c) — they became abomination incarnate. Worshipers inevitably grow into the image of the being they worship; thus the Israelites partook of the corrupt character of the Baal of Peor.

While the prophet does not say so, he certainly implies that the present conduct of Israel is equally abominable, for in Hosea 9:11 he proceeds to announce judgment.

Glory — Not only children, but all the elements which combine to make a nation glorious — wealth, prosperity, great numbers, etc. All these will vanish as swiftly as birds fly. The greatest curse will be the withholding of offspring (compare Psalms 127, 128). The three threats are arranged in the form of a climax, which is expressed more clearly in R.V., “There shall be no birth, and none with child, and no conception.” Women will not conceive; if by accident they do, the offspring will perish in the womb; if perchance it retains life it will die at birth. The judgment is one suited to sins against chastity (compare Hosea 4:11 ff.).


Verses 10-17

ISRAEL, APOSTATE AND REBELLIOUS FROM TIME IMMEMORIAL, IS DOOMED TO DESTRUCTION, Hosea 9:10-17.

Three times in chapters 9-11 (Hosea 9:10; Hosea 10:9; Hosea 11:1) Hosea reverts to the early history of Israel to show how loving had been the divine care and how persistent Israel’s apostasy and rebellion. In the beginning Israel appeared to Jehovah like a desirable fruit; but ere long contact with the Canaanitish religion caused contamination and Israel became an abomination in the sight of Jehovah (Hosea 9:10). In consequence, awful judgments will come (Hosea 9:11-17). The form which the punishment will take is not quite clear, as the description is highly poetic. For the greater part Jehovah himself speaks; in Hosea 9:14; Hosea 9:17 the prophet appears as speaker.


Verse 12-13

12. The children already born will not escape.

Though — More accurately, Yea, though.

Bereave — Or, make childless (1 Samuel 15:33).

Not be a man left [“not a man shall be left”] — Children will not reach the age of manhood.

To them — Is interpreted most naturally as referring to the parents; they also will suffer.

When I depart from them — There is no need for changing the text so as to read, “I look away” (compare Hosea 5:6; Hosea 5:15).

Hosea 9:13 presents grave linguistic difficulties. The thought which the English translators seek to express seems to be: At present Israel is flourishing like Tyre, but soon it will become desolate, for it must bring out its children to the slayer. Would the prophet express this thought in as awkward Hebrew as the verse now contains? LXX. reads a different, and in some respects a better text, and by its aid we may reconstruct the Hebrew so as to read, “Ephraim, according as I see, for prey has appointed his children; Ephraim — he must lead out his children to slaughter.” The reading becomes still smoother if according as I see is omitted. With these alterations Hosea 9:13 becomes an expansion of Hosea 9:11-12, setting forth the destruction of Ephraim’s youth in war.


Verse 14

14. The judgment is richly deserved. The prophet understands, with all his love for the people, that mercy has become impossible; in holy indignation he prays Jehovah to execute his judgment. The abruptness of the style indicates the deep emotion of the prophet.

What wilt thou give — A rhetorical question. The prophet meditates what he should ask for. Shall it be mercy? That cannot be; and he offers a petition that Jehovah may allow justice to proceed. The interpretation of the verse as an “intercessory prayer on the part of the prophet that God will not punish the people too severely, but condemn them to barrenness rather than the loss of the young men,” is less probable.

Hosea 9:15 is the continuation of Hosea 9:13.

Their wickedness is in Gilgal — Is focused there (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 12:10; compare Amos 4:4; Amos 5:5). Gilgal must have been a prominent center of Hebrew worship. Perhaps the prophet has in mind some recent flagrant outburst of wickedness, now unknown.

For — Better, yea.

I hated — The love for Ephraim (Hosea 9:10) was transformed into hate as a result of their wickedness, which Jehovah can endure no longer.

Drive them out of mine house — As in Hosea 8:1, equivalent to my land; this will mean separation from his presence (see on Hosea 9:3; compare 1 Samuel 26:19), and from his interest and love — Jehovah will completely withdraw his mercy and favor.

All their princes are revolters — Indicates one of the chief reasons for Jehovah’s rejection of Israel. The nobles who should have been the leaders of the common people have rebelled against their great leader, Jehovah, and thus they have become misleaders (Isaiah 3:12). The original contains a play upon words (as in Isaiah 1:23), which may be reproduced partly by rendering, “Their princes are unprincipled.” The judgment upon Israel is further described in Hosea 9:16. In 16a, under the figure of a plant whose roots are dried up as a result of being smitten with withering heat (compare Jeremiah 17:8), or by a worm (Jonah 4:7), so that it can bear no more fruit (compare Hosea 9:11 b); 16b returns to the thought of Hosea 9:11-12, the destruction of the nation by cutting off the children and young men.

Hosea 9:16 b would be most appropriate between Hosea 9:11 and Hosea 9:12; the former speaks of the cessation of childbirth; Hosea 9:16 b continues, if by some chance children should be born, Jehovah will slay them; then Hosea 9:12 adds, if somehow they should live for a while, they will die before reaching manhood (so Marti). In Hosea 9:17 the prophet repeats, in his own words, the threat expressed by Jehovah in Hosea 9:15.

My God — He is still the prophet’s God, but no longer that of Israel.

Did not hearken — The appeals of the prophet fell upon deaf ears (compare Hosea 4:10). Now Jehovah must cast them off. Here the judgment is thought of not as extermination, but as banishment among the nations (Hosea 9:15).

Wanderers — Or, fugitives (Genesis 4:12); the same verb is used in a different sense in Hosea 7:13. To secure a more satisfactory logical connection Harper rearranges Hosea 9:10-17 as follows, Hosea 9:10-11; Hosea 9:16; Hosea 9:12 (except the last clause), Hosea 9:13-15; Hosea 9:12 (last clause), Hosea 9:17.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hosea 9:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/hosea-9.html. 1874-1909.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology