Hosea 11



In vs. 1-4 Jehovah enumerates the benefits conferred on Israel all along from the

time of their departure out of Egypt. But parallel with this enumeration runs the history



1  When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”

 Driver uses this verse to exemplify the principle that when the reference is to what is

past or certain, rather than to what is future or indefinite, we find the predicate or the

apodosis introduced by W", though not with nearly the same frequency as l perfect

and vav causes: (1) with subject or object pre-fixed; (2) after time-determinations.

The life of a nation has its stages of rise, progress, and development, like

the life of an individual man. The prophet goes back to that early period

when the national life of Israel was in its infancy; it was then that a few

patriarchs who had gone down to sojourn in Egypt were becoming a

people; the predicate precedes, to emphasize, that early day when Israel

became God’s peculiar people. The vav marks the apodosis recording

God’s love in choosing that people, calling them into the relation of

sonship, and delivering them out of Egypt. Thus Kimchi says, “When Israel

was yet a child, i.e. in Egypt, then I loved him, therefore I am more angry

with them than with the rest of the nations; for from their youth onward I

have loved them, and delivered them out of the hands of their enemies. But

when they transgress my commandments it is incumbent on me to chastise

them as a man chastises his son.”


The people of Israel is called God’s son in consequence of God

choosing them and bringing them into close relationship to Himself, such as

that of a son to a father. The commencement was the message to Pharaoh

by Moses in the words, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: and I say unto

thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me”  (Exodus 4:22-23).  This sonship

was solemnly ratified by the giving of the Law at Sinai; and the condition clearly

stated that, in the event of their preserving the knowledge of God, fulfilling

His Law, and doing His will, they would at all times enjoy Divine protection,

defense, and blessing, while from generation to generation they were

addressed by that honorable title.


As the deliverance from Egypt is always described as a “leading” or

bringing out,” and never elsewhere as a “calling out,” some expositors

maintain that the words, “out of Egypt,” signify from the time Israel was in

Egypt, and are parallel to “when Israel was a child,” both referring to time,

the time of national infancy. From that period God began to manifest His

love, and in its manifestation He called him by the endearing name of “son

my son.’  The words of this verse are applied by Matthew to the

sojourn of Jesus in Egypt (Matthew 2:15). The older interpreters refer


  • the first part of the verse to Israel and the second part typically to the

history of Messiah’s childhood, in whom that of Israel reached its



  • Rather the verse was applied typically to Israel, and to Jesus as the antitype;

to the former primarily, and to the latter secondarily. Thus the head and the

members are comprehended in one common prediction.


Matthew says that this word of Hosea was fulfilled when the Child Jesus was

brought up out of Egypt (Matthew 2:15). If Israel was “God’s son, even His

firstborn  (Exodus 4:22); Jesus is “the Only Begotten Son, which is in the

bosom of the Father”  (John 1:18).  The history of Israel typified and

foreshadowed His career. He is the true seed of Abraham, the true Representative

of the ancient Hebrew nation. “All the magnificence of prophecy, limited to Israel,

would be bombast; CHRIST ALONE  fulfils the idea which Israel stood for.”

The paternal love of God was exhibited more richly in the protection and

deliverance of His holy Child Jesus than even in the great blessing of the Exodus.

It was to avoid the danger of destruction that the infant Savior and His mother

were taken down into Egypt. The Lord of heaven and earth, just now a wailing

infant, must hide for a little season under the shadow of the Pyramids. By-and-by

He shall be “called out of Egypt” to return to the Holy Land, and to

become at length what Israel ought to have been —THE GREAT WITNESS




2 “As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim,

and burned incense to graven images.”  Adverting to His own call mentioned in

the first verse, God here refers to the many subsequent calls which He addressed to

them through His servants the prophets and other messengers.  The subject of the

verb is erroneously understood by some, as, for example, Aben Ezra and Eichhorn,

to be the idols, or their false priests or prophets; while Jerome is also mistaken in

referring the words to the time of Israel’s rebelling when Moses and Aaron wished

to lead them out of Egypt. The correct reference is that first stated, and the sense is

that, instead of appreciating the invitations and monitions of the prophets of God,

they showed their utter insensibility and thanklessness, turning away from them

in contempt and scorn. Nay, the more the messengers of God called them,

the more they turned a deaf ear to those who were their truest friends and

best advisers. (Is this attitude not duplicated today in 21st century? – CY – 2012)

Pursuing their idolatrous practices, they sacrificed to Baal, that is to say, the various

representations of that idol, and burned incense to their images, whether of wood or

stone or precious metal. Thus Kimchi correctly comments as follows: “The prophets

which I sent to them called to them morning and evening to turn to Jehovah, so (much

the more) did they go away from them, not hearkening to their words nor desisting

from their evil works.” The word ˆke, even so, denoting the measure or relation,

corresponds to rçaw to be supplied in the first clause. The imperfects

imply continuance of action or a general truth.  The Septuagint rendering, followed

by the Syriac, is ejk prosw>pou mou aujtoi< - ek prosopou mou autoi -  from my

 presence they - as if they had read on μhe yn"p;mi instead of the present text.


3 “I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but

they knew not that I healed them.”  This picture of God’s guiding and

guarding care of Ephraim is very touching and tender. It is that of an

affectionate parent or tender nurse teaching a child to walk by leading-strings;

taking it up in the arms when stumbling or making a false step; and

in case it fell curing the wound. Thus, nurse-like, God taught Ephraim, his

wayward perverse child, to use his feet (so the original word imports), all

the while lending considerate help and seasonable aid. He took them by the

hand to guide them, that they might not stray; He took them in His arms to

hold them up, that they might not stumble and to help them over any

obstacle that might lie in the way; and when, left to themselves during a

short season, and in order to test their strength, they did stumble and fall,

He healed their hurt. And yet they did not apprehend nor appreciate God’s

gracious design and dealings with them in thus guiding and guarding them,

and in healing their diseases both temporal and spiritual. There is, perhaps,

an allusion to Exodus 15:26, I will put none of these diseases upon thee which I

have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee.” This

promise, it will be remembered, was vouchsafed immediately after the bitter waters of

Marah had been sweetened by the tree which, according to Divine direction, had been

cast therein. Thus Kimchi: “And they have not acknowledged that I healed them of

every sickness and every affliction, as He said, ‘I will put none of these diseases

upon thee.’” The reference is rather to all those evidences of His love which

God manifested to them during their forty years’ wandering in the

wilderness; or perhaps to His guidance of them by His Law throughout

their entire history. Rashi remarks that “they knew it very well, but

dissembled [literally, ‘trod it down with the heel,’ equivalent to ‘despised’]

and acted, as if they did not know.”  The following comment of Kimchi is worthy

of attention: “The prophet only mentions Ephraim (instead of all Israel), because it

was he that made the calves. He says, ‘And how does Ephraim reward me for this

that I bestowed on them so many benefits, and accustomed them to go on their

feet, and did not burden them with my commandments and my service?’

And because He has compared Ephraim to a boy, He uses the word, ‘I led

them by strings.’ Just as one leads a boy that he may accustom himself to

go little by little without trouble, so I led them from station to station,

when I brought them out of Egypt; I led them gradually without overexertion,

 the cloud going before them by day, and the pillar of fire by night.”



The Tenderness of Divine Discipline (v.3)


Amidst Hosea’s strong denunciations of sin, such a description as this of

Divine tenderness to wayward men is sweet as a song amidst a storm. Both

sternness and sweetness must of necessity appear before us in order to give

a true apprehension of the method of God’s dealing with human souls.

That method is as varied as are the works of the same God in nature,

where every flower and leaf, every wind and stream, has its own place and

its own use. We cannot expect to find a uniform religious experience

amongst men. We have no right to demand of others the agony of shame

or the rapture of pardon we ourselves know, or to declare that their

experience is unreal because it is different from our own. The metaphors of

the Bible might teach us this. One series represents the Word as the

hammer, that breaks the rock with resistless power; as the sword, which

pierces the inmost soul and kills the old life; as the fire, that burns out the

dross of character and fuses the whole nature in a glow of love to God.

But there arc metaphors which represent the same Word as being like the

sun, gradually diffusing light, slowly developing the flowers and fruits; as

the attractive force, so subtle that it can only be known by its result; as the

key which fits, and silently turns the lock, so that the door is opened and

the heavenly guests come in to abide there in holy fellowship. It is in

harmony with all we know of the variety of God’s dealings with men, that

the same prophet who speaks of the unwilling heifer dragged onward by

ropes, should also speak of the little child who is lovingly upheld by his

father when he takes his first tottering steps.




Ø      Its boldness. None but an inspired man, who was conscious of

inspiration, would have dared thus to describe the God he humbly

reverenced. Sometimes a painting represents the glories of sunset, or

the swell of the sea after a storm, the colors of which are so vivid that

the onlooker at first says, “That is unnatural.” A second-rate artist

might have shrunk from such a bold representation, but the great

artist revels in the splendor of the scene; he feels that he must represent

to others what was revealed to him; and so hands down to the future

what had appeared at first a startling revelation of glory, even to himself.

A people accustomed, like the Jews, to the signs of awful reverence

with which Jehovah was approached would have been more surprised

than we, who know God in Christ, to hear the prophet speak of Him as

a Father, or Mother, or Nurse, holding the child by the arms as he

totters and trembles over his first footsteps.


Ø      Its beauty. Any natural figure drawn from a human home is beautiful.

It is well that family life has so often been made the basis of religious

teaching. There are few scenes more universally familiar than this.

When we exercise care and forethought for our children, and our

hearts go out in tenderness to them in their helplessness, WE KNOW

WHAT GOD IS TO US!   When we remember the sense of rest and

sympathy and help which was ours in childhood’s home, we become

more conscious of what we may find, yet so often fail to find, in

our heavenly Father’s love.


Ø      Its truthfulness. Israel had become a great nation because of the Divine

care which overshadowed them in their feeble infancy. In Egypt they

had no national life, but were degraded serfs for whom revolt was

useless.  Brought out by Divine power, they became conscious of

new powers and possibilities. In the wilderness they were fed, not

only with manna, but with the rudiments of piety, which were well

adapted to their infancy. By penalties which immediately and visibly

followed disobedience to Law, they learned that God was King, that

He was near, that He was wise; and imperfect though the revelation

was, it was the most they could receive.  God spake as they were able

to bear it. (Even Jesus Christ, when He walked upon the earth said

the same to His disciples  (John 16:12).  He dealt with them as we

deal with children. Nor is He less wise or less tender in our culture,

but bears with us while we are feeble in thought and resolve, and

blesses us in the first trembling steps we essay in the way of



  • THE TRUTH SET FORTH BY THE FIGURE — namely, that the

Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. (James 5:11)


Ø      In His condescension God does not despise us. Ezekiel describes a

newly born child, taken up in its poverty and misery by tender hands,

as a representation of what Israel had been to God (Ezekiel 16:1-6).

We have known such examples of human kindness: the foundling

left to the stranger, whose motherly heart went out in pity, as she

resolved that, in spite of all her own cares, the little one should

not perish for want because of its parent’s sin.  Much more unworthy

are we of the Divine regard, for each may say, “I am no more

worthy to be called thy son”  (Luke 15:18-19).  Even in earthly

advantages we never won nor deserved, how many of us have

been blessed! The home where no evil words are heard, where

those who love us are daily witnesses for God, the heritage of a

good name and wholesome habits (“yea, I have a goodly

heritage(Psalm 16:6), the tears and entreaties and prayers which

win us to the love of righteousness, — all these are signs that God

can say of many now in wisdom’s way, “I taught you to walk,

taking you by the arms.”


Ø      In His wisdom God does not force us. We are not automatons. They

may do wonderful things without noise, or disobedience, or wrangling;

but God has not made us thus. We are, as the text suggests, children,

who can make their own effort, but to it they must be prompted, in it

they must be supported and helped. When the stirrings of a new life

are felt in the soul, the question comes, “Who then is willing to

consecrate himself to the Lord?”  (I Chronicles 29:5) -  and it is only

the self-consecrated servants God will have. It is a poor thing to

employ the forced labor of those whose bodies are their

owner’s, but whose souls loathe him; but a blessed thing to have the

loyal and loving service of the child, to whom a glance or a whisper

means a command which it is his joy to obey.


Ø      In God’s graciousness He does not curse us. Children are weak and

wayward; they forget what they are told, and do what is amiss; but

their father says to himself, “They are but children,” and he cannot

be bitter or unjust. When Peter denied his Lord, falling through

moral weakness, an angry curse might have driven him to despair;

but “the Lord turned and looked on him,” (Luke 22:61-62)

and as he went out,  weeping bitterly, he yet could say,

“The Lord loves me still.” Christ drew him back with cords of love.


Ø      In His patience God  does not demand of us instant perfection.

Picture the scene suggested here. A child is about to take his first step.

The mother is beside him, encouraging every step, or half-step, with

a smile. Her eye does not wander from him for a moment; her hands

are out to encourage, to support, to save, as she says, “Try, dear, try.”

When at last the effort is made, she catches him up in her arms and

kisses him; and if you wondered at so much gladness and love being

shown over such a feeble attempt, she would be annoyed at your

 dullness, because she sees in this the promise of the future. By such

a homely illustration does Hosea set forth THE DIVINE

TENDERNESS!  God’s “gentleness makes us great.” Christ Jesus

expected nothing wonderful from His disciples; but patiently lived

with them and taught them, forgiving, encouraging, and upholding, till

they became brave and stalwart heroes of the cross. Only let us

keep near Him, and as we recognize the difficulties of our way and

the weakness of our nature, let the prayer of the psalmist be ours,

“Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.”  (Psalm 119:117)


4  I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love:” - This

verse contains a further representation of Jehovah’s fatherly guidance of

Israel. The cords of a man are such as parents use in leading weak or

young children. Bands of love qualify more closely the preceding

expression, “cords of a man,” and are the opposite of those which men

employ in taming or breaking wild and unmanageable animals. The

explanation of Rashi is similar: “I have always led them with tender cords

such as these with which a man leads his child, as if He said with loving

guidance.” Aben Ezra and Kimchi, in their explanations, carry out more

fully the same idea. The former says, “The bands of love are not like the

bands which are fastened on the neck of a plowing heifer;” the latter,

“Because he compared Ephraim to a heifer, and people lead a heifer with

cords, he says, ‘I have led Israel by the cords of a man, and not the cords

of a heifer which one drags along with resistance, (I could tell quite a

story of a Guernsey cow we had when I was 7 years old who put up quite

a resistance but I won’t – CY – 2012)  but as a man draws his fellow-man

without compelling him to go with resistance: even so I have led them after

a gentle method;’ and therefore He afterward calls them (cords of a man)

bands of love.” The Septuagint, taking lb,j, from lb"j;, in the

sense of” injure,” “destroy,” have the mistaken rendering ejn diafqora~

ajnqrw>twn... ejxe>teina aujtou<v – en diaphthora anthroton ….exeteina

autous -  When men were destroyed I drew them.  The other Greek versions

have the correct rendering – “and I was to them as they that take off the

yoke on their jaws,” The word herim does not mean “to lift up on” and so

impose a yoke,” as some think, nor “to take away the yoke,” but “to lift it up.”

The figure is that of a humane and compassionate husbandman raising upwards or

pushing backwards the yoke over the cheeks or dewlaps of the ox, that it may not

press too heavily upon him or hinder him while eating. The reference is, according

to Kimchi, to “taking the yoke off the neck, and letting it hang on the jaw, that it may

not pull but rest from labor one or more hours of the day.” The fact thus

figuratively expressed is, not the deliverance from the bondage of Egypt,

but the loving-kindness of Jehovah in lightening the fulfillment of the

 Law to Israel -  and I laid meat unto them.”  The older and many modern

interpreters,  taking fa"w] as the first person future apoc., Hiph., from jfn, translate,

“And I reached them food to eat,” namely, the manna in the wilderness.  This would

require fa"w;, which some substitute for the present reading.  Ewald, Keil, and others

take fa as an adverb in the sense of”gradually,” “gently,” translating, “And gently

towards him did I give him food,” or “I gently fed him.” Some, again, as Kimchi, take

In this clause also the Septuagint, probably reading as follows: wOl lk"Wa wyl;ae fa"we,

translates, jEpible>yomai pro<v aujto<n dunh>somai aujtw~| - epiblepsomai pros

auton dunaesomai auto -  I will have respect to him; I will prevail with him. Continuing

the several clauses of this verse, we may express the meaning of the whole as

follows: “Cords of a man” denote humane methods which Jehovah

employed in dealing with and drawing His people — not such cords as oxen

or other animals are drawn by; while “bands of love” is a kindred

expression, explaining and emphasizing the former, and signifying such

leading-strings as those with which a parent lovingly guides his child. The

means employed by God for the help, encouragement, and support of His

people were kind as they were bountiful. His benevolent and beneficent

modes of procedure are further exhibited by another figure of like origin;

for just as a considerate and compassionate man, a humane husbandman,

gives respite and relief to the oxen at work by loosening the yoke and

lifting it up off the neck upon the cheeks; and thus affords not only

temporary rest and ease, but also allows an occasional mouthful or more of

food, or even abundant provender, to the animal which toils in the yoke

while plowing or at other work; so Jehovah extended to Israel,

notwithstanding their frequent acts of unfaithfulness, His sparing mercy

 and tender compassions, supplying them in abundant measure with all

 that they needed for the sustenance and even comforts of life. Thus their

sin in turning aside to other gods, which were no gods, in quest of larger

 benefits and more liberal support and succor, was all the more inexcusable.



The Attractiveness of God (v. 4)


These words are true for all ages and peoples. Human laws are limited, but

Divine laws are universal. Gravitation, for example, draws material things

to each other, whether they be the ice-floes that float in the polar seas, or

the creepers which hang in heavy festoons in tropical forests; whether in

the land where liberty loves the light, or in the kingdom where tyrants

brood and conspirators glower in the darkness. The bold use of the second

verse in this chapter by Matthew (Matthew 2:15) shows how in the

special historical fact may be discerned the general and universal principle.

The Divine care of Israel was but a manifestation of the Divine care of the

Babe of Bethlehem, and of every one led out of bondage and darkness into

light and liberty. The soul’s exodus and pilgrimage is as real now as then,

and of those rejoicing in nearness to God He can say, “I drew them with

cords of a man, with bands of love.” Let us consider the evidence and the





Ø      As exhibited in the mission of Christ. Instead of coming in the clouds of

heaven to compel the homage of the world, He came in the likeness of men,

and won the love of those round Him in Bethlehem and Nazareth as a

human child. “He grew… in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52)

During His ministry the same method was pursued; He drew disciples

around Him “with the cords of a man, even with bands of love.”

His chosen disciples were not those whose enthusiasm was aroused by

works of superhuman character; on the contrary, such as these had to

be repressed, as they were when they would take Jesus by force to make

Him a King. John and Peter and others who were specially His own were

won by His love, were drawn with the cords of a man. It was those who

were thus drawn who were ready for the higher blessing. While a wicked

and adulterous generation in vain sought after a sign, despised sinners and

humble children were enriched beyond all expectation. Still Christ seeks

to win such confidence, and to win it by the same means. He speaks not

from the throne of glory, but FROM THE CROSS OF CALVARY!

Divine love is  pleading with us through the weakness of mortality.

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me”

(John 12:32),


Ø      As exhibited in the experience of Christians. If we would know the

laws of mental life we do not seek them in the phenomena of physical

life, and it would be equally absurd to expect the physiologist from his

study of brain movements, or the metaphysician from his acquaintance

 with the laws of intellect, TO UNVEIL UNTO US THE SECRETS

OF SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE.   The subtle movements of religious life

can only be known by religious men. They, without one discordant voice,

declare that they have been and are sensible of Divine drawings. Listen to such

utterances as these: “By the grace of God I am what I am” (I Corinthians

15:10);  We love Him, because He first loved us” (I John 4:19);

“We are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves;

 but our sufficiency is of God” (II Corinthians 3:5).  What are these but

confirmations of the text, and of our Lord’s declaration, “No man can

come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him”?

(John 6:44)  - Here is a quotation from Augustine, which shows

how he had been drawn to the Savior he had so long ignored: “How sweet

did it at once become to me to want the sweetnesses of those toys! and

what I feared to be parted from was now a joy to part with. For thou didst

cast them forth, and for them enteredst in thyself sweeter than all pleasures,

though not to flesh and blood; brighter than all light, but more hidden than

all depths; higher than all honor, but not to the high in their own conceits.”

Every saint on earth and in heaven can say:


“He drew me, and I followed on.

Glad to confess the voice Divine”


  • ITS PURPOSE. Why does God thus lovingly affect the souls of men?


Ø      He would draw us to His feet .for pardon. The prodigal was not forced

home. In his abject misery thoughts came to him of his father’s love, and

with them the idea of returning stole in. So the thought of GOD’S

GREAT GOODNESS should incite the worst sinner to return to

the Lord, WHO WILL ABUNDANTLY PARDON!   (Isaiah 55:7)

Knowest  thou not that the goodness of the Lord leadeth thee to

repentance?”  (Romans 2:4)


Ø      He would draw us to His arms .for protection. To feel that God is

about us is at once our strength and defense, our comfort and joy.

Think of  Joseph in Potiphar’s house, to Jacob at Bethel, and Moses

before the burning bush, etc., for illustrations of this. Still in this world,

which is sobbing with sorrow, dark with foreboding, saddened by




Ø      He would draw us to His home for rest, If life were to be lived out

here, it would not be worth living.   Truly, it is good that a life

so sinful is so short!  But as strangers and pilgrims we are passing

through the world, sometimes driven onward by grief, sometimes allured

onward by joy, but ever journeying towards the rest that remains

for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9).  Beside us, in life, in death,

in eternity, is One who, with love greater than that of any father to his

child, still declares,” “I DREW THEM WITH CORDS OF A MAN,




     A Rich Display of God’s Mercy, Love, and Long-Suffering (vs. 1-4)


One chief design of Scripture is to RECOMMEND TO SINNERS  the goodness

and grace of God.   “The whole Scripture,” says Luther, “aims especially at this,

that we doubt not, but certainly hope, trust, and believe that GOD IS



  • GOD’S LOVE IS UNMERITED. This is evident from the condition of

Israel when he became the object of this love. That condition was one of

childhood, and so of childish ignorance, of childish impotence, of childish

folly; for folly is bound up in the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15).  Nay, if

we compare Ezekiel 16:4-8, we find the natural state of the nation to have

been still worse; that wretched state is there vividly exhibited under the

similitude of a poor perishing infant in the most pitiable condition. So with

persons individually as well as nationally. When, to use the figure of the

prophet, we were polluted, literally trodden down, and perishing in our

own blood, He passed by us and looked upon us, and His tone was a

tone of love.  (For the spirit of this, I highly recommend typing in

your browser – His Banner Over Me is Love – Cedarmont Kids  - You

Tube - My 2 ½ year old grandson and I get a lot out of it! - CY – 2012)



son. The relation of a son to a father is a very near and dear one. The

privilege of sonship is very great. David esteemed it no light thing to be a

king’s son-in-law. How unspeakably greater it is to be a son of God by

adoption as well as by creation, and thus to be an heir of glory! “Is

Ephraim my dear son?” God inquires; and again He says, “I will spare them,

as a man spareth his own son that serveth him” (Malachi 3:17).  But though

the privilege of being a son of God is great and the dignity high, it does not

necessarily exempt us from sore trials and severe sufferings; it rather secures

for us such paternal chastening as for the present is not joyous but grievous,

nevertheless afterward productive of the peaceable fruits of righteousness

(Hebrews 12:11).  Though Israel was God’s son, yet Israel was for years in




wishes well but does well to every son whom He receiveth into his family.

Though Israel had been long in Egypt, he was not allowed to remain there.

God in due time called His son out of Egypt. It was a night much to be

remembered when that call reached them. God speaks the word and it is

done; His call is effectual for the purpose intended. However great our

distress, it only requires a word from God to relieve us; and that word is as

easily spoken as the call which one man addresses to another when he

would invite him from some distance to his side. Strange indeed it may

appear to us that God’s people Israel had been so long left in Egypt, and

equally strange it is that the dearly beloved of His soul are often delivered

into the hand of their enemies. “It is a strange sight indeed to see a child of

God, an heir of heaven, a co-heir with Jesus Christ, one dearer to God than

heaven and earth, subject to the power, the caprice, and lusts of wicked,

base, ungodly men; yea, it may be, for a time slaves to Satan.”



by His messengers called Israel, Israel turned his back upon those

messengers and a deaf ear to their call. Nay, like disobedient children or

stubborn servants, they actually turned in the opposite direction. As God’s

mercy was manifested in delivering them out of the furnace of affliction

and then calling to obedience; so their stubbornness appeared in, and their

sin was aggravated by, THEIR REFUSAL TO HEARKENT TO THAT

CALL and still more by their running in a direction the right opposed.

Thus we read in Jeremiah, “They turned unto me the back, and not the

face.”  (Jeremiah 2:27; 32:33).




Ø      It combines the tenderness of a parent with the carefulness of a nurse.

When the way was dark and obscure, He guided them as by the pillar

of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Thus He pointed out the

way and showed them the direction in which they were to walk. Thus

He taught them to go. When obstacles lay in the way and difficulties

blocked it, He lifted them up by the arms and carried them over all

hindrances. Similarly we read in Deuteronomy 1:31, “In the wilderness,

where thou hast seen how that the Lord thy God bare thee, as a man

doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went.” Now He took them by

the hand and led them again; He lifted them up and carried them in the

arms, ever conducting them in the right way.


Ø      So with us all more or less the path in life is untrodden; frequently we

are at a standstill; often we are sorely perplexed to know which way we

should go; often and often we go astray and wander from the way.

(“O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself:  it is not

in man that walketh to direct his steps  - Jeremiah 9:23).  Again,

there are stumbling-blocks in the way, and we stumble and fall over

them.  What need we have to depend on Divine love all the way,

ever praying, “Lord, take us by the hand and lead us; Lord, hold up

our goings in thy paths that our footsteps slip not; Lord, keep our

feet from falling, our eyes from tears, and our soul from death”!

(Psalm 116:8)


Ø      The way may be strait, as when Israel was hemmed in between

mountains, the sea before them and Pharaoh’s host behind; or it may

be difficult, and so steep as well as strait, it; or it may be dangerous,

for in the way through the wilderness there is the place of lions’ dens

and the mountains of the leopards; but, notwithstanding all such

drawbacks, we have reason to bless God for leading us forth by the

right way. And when we are in greatest straits and the way is hardest,

we have only to cry to God in our trouble; and as He led Israel of old,

so will He lead us also forth by the right way. They shall come with

weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to

walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not

stumble: for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn”

(Jeremiah 31:9).  Thus God not only bears His people, but bears with

His people; and commissions His ministering servants to do

likewise, as Moses complained that God wanted him to  “Carry them

 in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child.” 


  • GOD’S LOVE IS RESTORATIVE. In spite of all God’s love and

care, we run into the way of danger through our own frowardness or folly.

We stumble and fall, getting many a sore bruise and severe knock. Yet God

in His love restores us; He heals us. As the child, when hurt, runs to the

parent for sympathy — to the mother to kiss the wound and make it well;

so, when unhappily we have strayed from the way, and got bruised and

hurt and painfully wounded through our own willfulness, WE ARE


God might, indeed, if He dealt with us in strict justice, leave us to ourselves

and to the sad consequences of our own sinful waywardness, and refuse to

lead us any more. Not so, however. As he says by the Prophet Isaiah,

I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore

comforts unto him, and to his mourners.”  (Isaiah 57:18)



MECHANICALLY. He deals with us as a rational being, treating us

neither as machines nor yet as “dumb driven cattle.” The lower animal

must sometimes be drawn, or forced with a degree of violence; but God

does not draw men in this way. In drawing them He uses neither hard

cords nor iron bands. He draws us by rational means, addressing Himself

to our intelligence and appealing to our affections. Thus Paul says,

“I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say” (I Corinthians 10:15).  He

draws us by persuasion and argument.  He draws us with gentleness, and

not by force. He employs the mildest means and the tenderest motives. He

draws us in a manner suitable to the dignity of our nature. Made in the

image of God, originally created in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness,

and still possessed of great susceptibilities, strong affections, warm emotions,

and tender sensibilities, we are treated by God with a considerate regard to

the high qualities with which He has endowed us. Accordingly He draws us

with human cords and DIVINE LOVE!   The instrumentality employed is

human, and the love that employs it is DIVINE!



husbandman lightens the labor of the weary beasts, and lifts up the yoke on

its jaws in order to ease it and give it some respite, so God lifts up the

weight that presses on the back of poor humanity. He sustains us under

 our burdens, or even shares with us the load. Sometimes He removes the

yoke entirely; oftener He gives respite and refreshment; always He sanctifies

the load of labor, or care, or trouble, or suffering, or sorrow of whatever kind

which His own hand has laid on the back of His people, and never does He

lay more on them than He enables them by His grace and strength to bear.


  • GOD’S LOVE IS SATISFYING LOVE. The figure is continued in

the words, “And laid meat unto them.” The same kind hand that lifts up the

yoke, by way of respite and relief, supplies provender for the purpose of

refreshment. God laid meat before His people in the desert, when He rained

down manna and sent them quails. The same bountiful Benefactor spreads

a table before us daily, and makes our cup run over.  (“He daily loads us

with benefits” – Psalm 68:19)  Better still, and surer token of His love, is the

abundant spiritual provision He has made for the souls of His people, in

giving them the bread that cometh down from heaven. “We are satisfied

with the goodness of His house, even of His holy temple.” (Ibid. ch. 65:4)


The next three verses (5-7) describe the severe chastisement Israel incurred

by ingratitude for, and contempt of, the Divine love.


5 “He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian

shall be his king, because they refused to return.” These words sound

like an announcement that the season of Divine grace, so long extended to

that sin-laden people, HAD AT LENGTH EXPIRED;  and that on account

of their stubborn and ungrateful rebellion against Jehovah they would be

forced, to go into exile and become subject to the monarch of Assyria.


  • They had been threatened with a return to Egypt and its bondage in

ch.8:13, “They shall return to Egypt;” and 9:3, “Ephraim

shall return to Egypt;” yet now God, without any change of purpose,

changes His mode of procedure, not allowing them to return to Egypt, but

dooming them to a worse bondage under the Assyrians.


  • Having been tributary to Assyria from the time of Menahem, they had

revolted and applied to Egypt for help; now, however, no help would be

permitted to come from Egypt nor even an opportunity of applying for it

allowed. The power of Assyria would be paramount; instead, therefore, of

native kings and Egyptian auxiliaries, Israel would have to submit to that

iron yoke. However desirous of returning to Egypt, they would have

neither the power nor the privilege of doing so. And this poor privilege of a

choice of masters they were refused as a just retribution, because they had

not repented of their sin and returned to God. Various methods have

been resorted to, to harmonize the apparent contradiction alluded to, that is,

between the affirmative and negative statements about Israel’s return into



Ø      Dathe, Eichhorn, and De Wette agree with the Septuagint in reading wOl

instead of al, and connecting it with the preceding verse; but the other

versions, as well as the manuscripts, support the received text.


Ø      Jerome and Rosenmüller explain it of the people’s desire to conclude an

alliance with Egypt in order to throw off the yoke of Assyria, being

frustrated by the superior power of the latter; thus the sense is that they

shall not return any more to Egypt, as they had lately done by their

ambassadors, to seek help from that land or its people. Then he assigns

the reason why they would not again send ambassadors to Egypt for the

purpose indicated, because the Assyrian alone would be their king. The

objection to this is that lo yashubu must refer to the whole people rather

than to their ambassador going to and fro between the countries.


Ø      Ewald, Maurer, and others cut the knot by taking lo interrogatively, as

if it were halo, and thus equivalent to an affirmative, i.e. Shall they not

return to Egypt and the Assyrian be their king?” The expected answer

would be in the affirmative. Neither grammar nor context sanctions this

interrogative sense.


Ø      According to Hitzig, Keil, Simson, and others, we are to understand

Egypt in the previous places, viz. chps.8:13 and 9:3, as received

of the land of bondage, where in the present passage the typical

sense is inadmissible, owing to the contrast with Assyria. Into Egypt

Israel should not return, lest the object of the Exodus might seem

frustrated, but a worse lot lay before them — another and harder

bondage awaited them; the King of Assyria would be their king and

reign over them, and all because of their impenitence and refusal to

return to Jehovah. The following is the explanation of Kimchi: “They

should not have returned to the land of Egypt to seek help; I had

already said to them, ‘Ye shall henceforth return no more that

way;’  (Deuteronomy 17:16);  for if they had returned to me, they

would not have needed help from Egypt. And against their will

Assyria rules over them, and they serve him and send him a present

year by year. And why is all this? Because they refused, etc.; as if

He said (they refused) to return to me; for if they had returned to

me, FOREIGN KINGS (literally, ‘kings of the nations’) WOULD

NOT EVER HAVE RULED THEM but they would have ruled

over the nations as they had done in the days of David and

Solomon, when they did my will; and so have I assured them, ‘Thou

Shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over

thee.’”  (The root of ˆam is cognate with [nm, to hold back,

refuse; the le strengthens the connection of the objectival infinitive

with the governing verb; the ellipsis of yl,ae is obvious.


6  And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches,

and devour them,” -  A more accurate rendering would be, and the sword shall

 sweep round in its cities, and destroy its bolts and devour. Nay, they could not

free themselves from invasion and attack. The sword of war would whirl down

upon their cities and consume the branches, that is, the villages, or the city bars, or

the strong warriors set for defense. Some understand the word so variously

interpreted in the sense of “liars,” and refer it to the prophets, priests, and

politicians who spake falsehood and. acted deceitfully. The word jlh

is rendered “the sword,” as the principal weapon in ancient warfare anti the symbol

of war’s destructive power shall sweep round in, circulate, or make the

round of the cities of Israel; but  others, “whirl down,” “light on ;” thus both

Rashi and Kimchi. Again, μyDb" is, as already intimated, variously rendered.

The most appropriate translation


  • is (literally, “poles for carrying the ark,” Exodus 25:13) “bolts or

bars” for securing gates, the root being ddb, to separate.

  • Some explain it as a figure for “mighty men;” so Jerome and the

Targum, as also Rashi: “It destroys his heroes and consumes them.” this is

the meaning of the word preferred by Gesenius.

  • Ewald understands it in the sense of “fortresses,” especially on the

frontier, by which a land is shut against or opened to the enemy.

  • Aben Ezra and Kimchi take it to mean “branches,” i.e. villages, and are

followed by the Authorized Version. “The explanation of yb,” says

Kimchi, “is ‘ branches,’ and it is a figure for villages, for he had already

mentioned his cities; and villages are related to cities as branches to a tree;

in like manner they are called ‘ daughters,’ being related to a city as

daughters to a mother.”


because of their own counsels.”  The cause of all their calamitous invasions,


OUT  was their evil counsels in DEPARTING FROM THE LORD,  as Kimchi

correctly explains: “All this comes upon them in consequence of their evil counsel,

because they have forsaken my service to serve other gods.” Rashi draws

attention to the peculiarity of the accentuation — tasha and sellug — to

separate it from the preceding word.


7 “And my people are bent to backsliding from me:” -  This first

clause of the verse is very expressive, every word almost having an

emphasis of its own. With all their sinfulness and shortcomings, Israel was

still the people of God — my people; they were guilty of the sin of

backsliding, and of backsliding from GOD, THE BEST OF

BENEFACTORS and their chief good. Nor was it occasionally and after

long intervals of time that they back-slided; it was their habit, their tendency.

They were suspended on, or rather fastened on, backsliding – “though they

called them to the Most High, none at all would exalt Him.” -  margin,

together they exalted Him not. This second clause signifies either that the prophets

called Israel from their idols to the Host High, yet none exalted him (literally,

together they did not or would not exalt him”) by abandoning their idols and

abstaining from backsliding; or, “though they call him (Israel) upwards, yet not

one of them all will lift himself up,” that is, they together — one and all — refused

or neglected to lift themselves upward towards God or goodness.


The word syaWlt is equivalent to μyailut], the same as μywlt, from

alt, equivalent to hl;t;, so that it signifies, according to:


  • Keil, “suspended,” “hung up, hanging fast upon,” “impaled on; ‘


  • Hengstenberg, “swaying about from inconstancy,” and “in danger of falling

away;” but Pusey seems to combine both in the original sense of the word,

and explains it as follows: “Literally, hung to it! as we say, ‘a man’s whole

being hangs on a thing.’ A thing hung to or on another sways to and fro

within certain limits, but its relation to that on which it is hung remains

immovable, Its power of motion is restrained within these limits. So Israel,

so the sinner, however he veer to and fro in the details and

circumstances of his sin, is fixed and immovable in his adherence

to his sin itself.”


Though Rashi and the Targum of Jonathan make hbwçm as synonymous

with Tbwçt, thus: “When the prophets teach them to return to me, they

are in suspense whether to return or not to return; with difficulty do they

return to me,” — they are, however, distinguished as turning away from

and turning to God — aversion from and conversion to Him; while the

suffix yAi is objective, that is, “My people are hung to apostatizing from



The phrase l["Ala, is variously interpreted, by some as:


  • “upwards,” the prophets being the subject; thus Rashi: “To the matter

that is above him (Israel) the prophets call him unitedly; but my people do

not lift themselves up nor desire to do it.” Corruption was so deeply seated

in Israel, that THE IDLE MASS GAVE NO RESPONSE  to the voice

 of the prophets urging them upwards.


  • Aben Ezra and Kimchi both take l[ as an adjective, and synonymous

with ˆwl]a,, the Most High. Kimchi explains as follows: “He says, My

people oscillate between distress and freedom; sometimes distress comes

upon them, and again they are in the condition of freedom, and this takes

place for their backsliding from me, as if He said, because of the

backsliding and rebellion which they practice against me… The prophets

call them constantly to return to God most high.” So Aben Ezra: “The

interpretation is, the callers call him to the Most High, and they are the

prophets of God; but they all in one way raise not the head.”


  • Jerome takes it for l[O, a yoke, and renders accordingly: “But a yoke

shall be imposed on them together, that is not taken away.”


The verb μm]wOr]y signifies,


  • according to Gesenius and many others, “to celebrate with praises,” or



  • It is rather  “to lift one’s self up,” “rise upwards;” nor is it necessary with this

Sense to supply wOvaOr]y, his head, with Grotius, nor yet to understand it written

for or in the sense of μm"wOr]y, with Joseph Kimchi. Similarly the Syriac:

“They call him to God, but they think together, conspire, and do not raise

themselves.” The word dty is “all together,” and therefore aldj"y" is “no



  • The Septuagint translates the second clause as follows: “But God shall be

angry with His precious things, and shall not at all exalt him,” having probably

read rh"yi wyr;q;y] l["Ala,w]



Fatal Courses (vs. 5-7)


So the wise man teaches, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man,

but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25). We have



  • ISRAEL’S BANE. They insisted on thinking their own way better than

God’s. This is brought out in the different expressions: “They refused to

return(v. 5); “Because of their own counsels” (v. 6); My people are

bent on backsliding from me” (v. 7); “None at all would exalt him” (or

exalt themselves, raise themselves up to God). They were in error, but they

would not be persuaded of it. They were hugging a delusion, but they

clung to it as wisdom. They thought their own way right, and the way

which the prophets pointed out to them silly, stupid, contemptible. This is

the folly of the sinner. He sets himself up as wiser than God. He snaps

his fingers at those who call him to the Most High (v. 7). The folly of his

way might seem self-evident, but, unwarned by the lessons of the past, he

sounds its praises as if reason and experience were entirely on his side.


  • ISRAEL’S PUNISHMENT. The roads of sin, unhappily, lead to

DESTRUCTION  whether those who walk in them are persuaded

of the fact or not.  (whether they will hear, or whether they will

forbear, [for they are a rebellious house]; …….whether they

will hear or forbear:…….whether they will hear or whether

they will forbear”  - Ezekiel 2:5,7; 3:11)  So Israel found it. Their

own counsels, which they preferred to Gods, COST THEM:


Ø      Relegation to bondage. (v. 5.) The freedom God had bestowed

upon them (v. 1) he would again deprive them.   Their destination,

however, would not be the literal Egypt, but Assyria. The principles

of Gods moral administration abide, but they seldom embody

themselves in precisely the same outward forms.


Ø      A whirling sword. (v.6.) The sword would whirl and devour


 A type of the more terrible wrath that will CONSUME



8 “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee,

Israel?  how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as

Zeboim?”  This verse paves the way for transition to promise. Although the

Israelites on account of such conduct had merited complete annihilation,

yet Jehovah, for His love and mercy’s sake, SUBSTITUTES GRACE

FOR JUSTICE  and will not destroy them from off the face of the earth.

One rendering gives the clause the turn of an exclamation rather than of an

interrogation; thus: “How readily and justly could I [or should I, or how

thoroughly could I if I punished thy rebellion as I deserved] give thee up to

destruction!” We prefer the ordinary rendering, by which it is treated as a

question: “How shall I give thee up to the power of the enemy, and not only

that, but destroy thee?” Calvin’s exposition seems indeed to favor the former:

“Here,” he says, “God consults what He is to do with the people; and first, indeed,

He shows that it was His purpose to execute vengeance such as the Israelites

deserved, even wholly to destroy them; but yet He assumes the character of

one deliberating, that none might think that He hastily fell into anger, or

that, being soon excited by excessive fury, He devoted to ruin those who

had lightly sinned, or were guilty of no great crimes By these expressions

of the text God shows what the Israelites deserved, and that He was now

inclined to inflict the punishment of which they were worthy, and yet not

without repentance, or at least not without hesitation. He afterwards adds

in the next clause, This I will not do; my heart is within me changed” -

mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.”

The l[", literally, “upon,” “with,” then, “in,” or “within:” “My heart is

turned or changed from anger to pity in me.” The expression, Wrm]k]ni dh"y",

signifies, according to Rashi, “one warmed,” as in Genesis 43:30,

where this same word is rendered in the Authorized Version, “yearned:”

“His bowels did yearn upon his brother,” or “warmed towards.” But

many modern interpreters understand the word in the sense of”

gathering themselves together:” “The feelings of compassion gathered

themselves together;” nichumim, from Piel μjeni, a noun of the form dwbh,

less definite than rachamim, bowels, as the seat of the emotions, “gathered

themselves together,” or “were excited all at once.” The cities of the plain

included Admah and Zeboim, Sodom and Gomorrah, all of which, in

consequence of their sins, were overthrown and perished in one common

calamity. In Deuteronomy 29:23 these cities are all named, though

Admah and Zeboim are not mentioned by name in the narrative of the

catastrophe contained in Genesis (See arkdiscovery.com. – CY – 2012).

Though Israel had been as guilty and deserving of wrath as these, God expresses

strong reluctance to deliver them over into the hands and power of their enemies,

or to give them up to destruction. His heart revolted at the thought, and turned

aside from the fierceness of His anger, though so fully deserved, into the direction

of mercy; a new turn was given to His feelings in the direction of compassion.

All His relentings or repentings together — one and all — yearned or were

at once aroused. Repenting on the part of God is an expression suited to

human comprehension, implying no change of purpose on the side of God,

but only a change of procedure consistent with his purpose of everlasting

love. “The Law speaks in the language of the sons of men.”


9  I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not

return to destroy Ephraim:” -  The promise of this verse is in harmony with

the spirit of compassion expressed in the preceding. It is at once the effect

and evidence of that feeling of DIVINE COMPASSION!  God would neither

execute the burning heat of His wrath, for so the words literally mean, nor

destroy Ephraim utterly, or again any more as formerly. The historic event

referred to may be the destruction effected by Tiglath-pileser, ally of Ahaz

King of Judah against Pekah King of Israel and Rezin King of Syria, when

he carried away captive the inhabitants of Gilead, Galilee, and Naphtali, as

we read in II  Kings 15:29, “In the days of Pekah King of Israel came

Tiglath-pileser King of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abel-beth-maachah, and

Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazer, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of

Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria.” But while this is probably

the primary allusion, there is an ulterior reference to the future restoration

of Israel“for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of

thee: and I will not enter into the city (or, come into bumming wrath,

Keil).”  A reason is here assigned for the exercise of the Divine

commiseration just expressed; this reason is GOD’S COVENANT OF

EVERLASTING LOVE!   He is God, and must be measured by a Divine

standard — not man, implacable and revengeful; though His people’s

provocation had been grievous, God was in the midst of them as their God,

long-suffering and steadfast to His covenant of love and purposes of mercy.

He would not enter  into the city as an enemy, and for the purpose of utter

destruction, as He had entered into the cities of the plain FOR THEIR

ENTIRE AND FINAL RUIN  (Jude 1:7 says, “Even as Sodom and

Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner…………are


VENGEANCE OF ETERNAL FIRE ”) or, if the alternative rendering

be preferred, He would not come into burning wrath. The fiery heat or

 fierceness of God’s wrath tends to destruction, not the amendment of the

impenitent. The expression, “I will not return,” may also be understood

as equivalent to:  “I will not turn from my pity and promises;” or, “I will not

turn away from Israel;” but it suits the context better to translate on the principle

of two verbs expressing one idea in a modified sense, i.e. “I will not return to

destroy,” that is, “I will not again destroy Ephraim.” Jerome’s explanation favors

the first, and is, “I will not act according to the fury of my anger, nor change

from my clemency to destroy Ephraim; for I do not strike to destroy for

ever, but to amend... for I am God and not man. Man punishes for this

purpose of destroying; God chastises for the purpose of amending.” As

God, His purpose of mercy was changeless; as the Holy One in Israel, He

was infinitely pure and absolutely perfect, “the Father of lights, with whom

can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning”   (James



The meaning already given of coming into the city is supported by ancient versions,

Hebrew expositors, and some of the ablest Christian commentators; yet we prefer

that which understands dY[ in the sense of “the heat of wrath,” deriving it from dW[

effervescence, which is that given in Keil’s translation. There is an explanation

strongly advocated by Bishop Lowth and adopted by Rosenmüller. It is as follows

in the words of the bishop: “Jerome is almost singular in his explanation: ‘I am not

one of those who inhabit cities; who live according to human laws; who think

cruelty justice.’ Castalio follows Jerome. There is, in fact, in the latter member of the

sentence, yb yaal, a parallelism and synonym to ya yl in the former. The

future ya has a frequentative power (see Psalm 22:3 and 8), ‘I am not accustomed

to enter a city: I am not an inhabitant of a city.’ For there is a beautiful

opposition of the different parts: ‘I am God, and not man.’ This is

amplified in the next line, and the antithesis a little varied: ‘ I am thy God,

inhabiting with thee, but in a peculiar and extraordinary manner, not in the

manner of men.’ Nothing, I think, can be plainer or more elegant than

this.” The bishop’s rendering of the whole verse is —


“I will not do according to the fervor of my wrath,

I will not returnf1 to destroy Ephraim:

For I am God, and not man;

Holy in the midst of thee, though I inhabit not thy cities.”


10 “They shall walk after the Lord: He shall roar like a lion:

when He shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west.”

Others translate, “After the Lord shall they go as after a lion that roareth.”

But this necessitates a double ellipsis of “after which.” They would go after

the Lord in obedience to His summons. That summons is represented as

far-reaching and terrible. Calling His people to return, the Lord roars as a

lion, to denote at once the loudness of the call, and the awful majesty of

the Lord when thus calling His people to return. “As a lion,” says Kimchi,

which roars that the animals whose king he is may assemble to him, so the

Israelites shall assemble on hearing the voice of the Lord when He roars.”

The roaring of the lion may signify His terrible judgments on Israel’s

enemies, when He calls His people home from the lands of their dispersion.

The result would be a speedy return of His children from the lands of the

West — the countries round or beyond the Mediterranean.


11 “They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of

the land of Assyria:  and I will place them in their houses saith the

Lord.” The trembling here is eager haste, or precipitate agitation, in which

they would hurry home, and that from west and east and south — from

west as we infer from v.10, from Assyria in the east and Egypt in the south.

They would thus hurry as a bird home to its nest in the greenwood; as a dove

no longer a silly dove (ch. 7:11), but flying home to its window. This

chapter is regarded by some as ending here. Others include v. 12.


12 “Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of

Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with

the saints.”   The first clause sets forth the faithlessness and insincerity of

Israel, and that in contrast with Judah. Thus understood, the verse properly

belongs to the present chapter. But others understand the last clause

differently, and deny the contrast, viz. “Judah is yet defiant towards God

and towards the All-Holy One, who is faithful.”



The Ingratitude of Israel and Its Punishment (vs. 5-12)


Both are remarkably manifested in these verses. After all God’s loving-kindness



  • THEIR PERVERSENESS. History repeats itself. This is true

ecclesiastically as well as civilly, under the Jewish economy as in the

Christian dispensation. Once before, at an early period in Hebrew history

and on a remarkable occasion, the Israelites:


Ø      discouraged by the teachings of the spies,

Ø      debased by previous servitude,

Ø      deficient in moral courage, and,

Ø      worst of all, distrustful of Divine providence,



They murmured against God and against Moses. “Back to Egypt,”

was their cry. And back they went, not to Egypt, but to wander in the

wilderness for thirty-eight years longer, as a justly merited punishment

for their unthankfulness and rebellion against God. Similarly on the

occasion to which the prophet here refers, they had grievously sinned

against God, yet they fancied they would find refuge in Egypt; they had

rebelled and resisted all the means employed to bring them back to God,

but they would not return to Him. And now they cry, like their forefathers,

To Egypt,” as if shelter and safety could be obtained there. But God

frustrates their silly, sinful purpose. A worse than the bondage of Egypt

awaits them; they were destined to go into captivity to Assyria.

So with stubborn and stout-hearted sinners still. They will go anywhere,

or resort to any expedient, even returning to Egypt, RATHER THAN

RETURN TO GOD! For a time the prodigal would rather be a swineherd,

and share the husks on which the swine fed, than return to the abundance

of his father’s house (Luke 15). “Some stubborn children care not what

miseries they suffer rather than return and humble themselves to their

parents;” so some stubborn spirits seem disposed, IN THEIR FOLLY



THEMSELVES TO GOD. Let such beware lest, owing to their

impatience and impenitence, a worse thing befall them.


  • THEIR PUNISHMENT. The three chief scourges by which God

chastises a disobedient people are famine, pestilence, and the sword.


Ø      Of the three, THE SWORD  is, perhaps, the worst. At all events

David thought it so. When he was called to make choice between

seven years of famine, three days’ pestilence, and three months’

flight before the pursuing sword of the enemy, he preferred falling

into the hand of God rather than into the hand of man, choosing

THE PESTILENCE rather than the sword.  (II Samuel 24)


Ø      And yet the sword also has its commission from God, as we learn

from the exclamation of the prophet, “O thou sword of the Lord,

how long will it be ere thou be quiet? put up thyself into thy scabbard,

rest, and be still.” But it is added, in answer to this inquiry, “How

can it be quiet, seeing the Lord hath given it a charge against

Ashkelon, and against the sea-shore?  there hath He appointed it.”

(Jeremiah 47:6-7)


Ø      The Prophet Hosea pictures the severity of the stroke either by the

wide area which the sword swept over, or the length of time it

continued to distress them; also by the fact that the cities which

were looked upon as the strong fortresses, at all events the strength

of the land, were the main objects of attack. Elsewhere in the fields

or open country the ravages of war are not quite so dreadful as in

the city with its crowded population, where human beings, densely

massed together, are literally mowed down.  Nor yet were the

villages spared, nor did their bars shut out the enemy.


Ø      The duty of prayer is incumbent in time of war. This lesson is

inculcated by the example of the psalmist. After speaking in the

fifty-fifth psalm of having seen violence and strife in the city,

while men hurried to and fro upon the walls, with other sad

accompaniments of troublous times — mischief, sorrow,

wickedness, deceit, and guile — he announces the course

he pursued: “As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord

 shall save me.  Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray,

and call aloud: and He shall hear my voice”  (Psalm 55:16-17)

while peace and deliverance were the happy outcome of

his prayers: “He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle

 that was against me: for there were many with me.”  (Ibid. v.18).


  • THEIR PRONENESS TO BACKSLIDE. Proneness to backsliding

was not peculiar to the people or the period of Hosea’s prophesyings. The

UNREGENERATE HEART is invariably the source of backsliding.

When a religious profession is influenced only by external motive and not

by internal power, men may be expected to backslide. In the days of our

Lord it was sorrowfully said of some that they went back and walked

no more with Jesus  (John 6:66).  In seasons of religious revival, of many

who make a profession of religion, that profession, in the case of some,

proceeds from an outward impulse, certain convictions, or even the power

of sympathy, and soon as the time of excitement is over they backslide;

their convictions did not ripen into conversion; the root of the matter was

never in them (Matthew 13:20-22). The same is occasionally found in the

case of some young communicants. At the first communion, the boy in the

freshness of his youth, the girl in the purity of her childhood, feel much

ardor of affection and manifest much fervor of devotion; but what from

unfavorable surroundings, or evil communications, or little sins unchecked,

the love of their espousals grows cold, and backsliding ensues. Even in the

case of persons truly converted, a degree of coldness creeps over them; they

seem to grow weary of the ways of God; they become apathetic, and

backslide for a time. Beware of grieving the Holy Spirit; beware of resisting

the strivings and stirrings of conscience; beware of putting the hand to the

plough and then turning back or turning aside to folly; in a word,

BEWARE OF BACKSLIDING!  Be warned by that solemn Scripture,

“If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”

(Hebrews 10:38)



reverence be it spoken, the conduct of Israel seems to have puzzled the

All-Merciful One Himself. Judgment was due, but love holds it in check;

the vials of wrath were ready to be poured out but the voice of mercy

intercedes; punishment was well deserved, but the hand of pity pushes

it aside. (However, the Seven Vials in Revelation 15:7-16:1 - will be

poured out upon a wicked world – CY  - 2012)  They had been called

to the Most High, to acquaint themselves with Him, to acknowledge Him,

and to accept Him as their God and King; but they stopped their ears

against those calls. They refused to lift themselves up from their low

groveling course of conduct, and they refused to exalt the Most High,


BLESSING AND PRAISE!   We cannot exalt God, or make Him more

glorious than HE IS  “yet then God accounts Himself to be exalted

when He is known (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND  Ezekiel  - Study of

God’s Use of the Word Know – this web site – CY – 2012)

and acknowledged as the high, supreme, first Being; when we fear Him

as God; when we humble ourselves before Him as before a God; when

we are sensible of the infinite distance there is between Him and us;

when we are willing to consecrate what we are, or have, or can do, to

the furtherance of His praise; when His will is made the rule of all our

 ways, and especially of His worship; when we make Him the last end

of all; when it is the great care of our souls and work of our lives to do

what possibly we can, that He may be magnified and lifted up in the

world; and when we account the least sin a greater evil than can be

recompensed by all the good which heaven and earth can afford us; 

(“Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is

my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where

is the place of my rest?  For all those things hath mine hand made,

and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man

will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and

trembleth at my word.  He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man;

he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that

offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth

incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own

ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.   I also will

choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because

when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear:

but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted

not.  Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word; Your

brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said,

Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and

they shall be ashamed.” – Isaiah 66:1-5 – CY – 2012) — when we


But Israel had acted in opposition to all this; hence the controversy,

the perplexity, the puzzling questions which follow. Four questions are

followed by four answers.


Ø      “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?” to which the answer is,

“Mine heart is turned within me.”


Ø      “How shall I deliver thee, Israel?” to which the reply is,

My repentings are kindled together.”


Ø      “How shall I make thee as Admah?” to which the response is,

“I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger.”


Ø      “How shall I set thee as Zeboim?” to which the rejoinder is,

“I will not return to destroy Ephraim.”


  • THE PURPOSE DENOUNCED. He will not execute the fierceness of

His wrath, nor return to destroy Ephraim, nor enter into the city. Here we

note a remarkable contrast in God’s dealings with us. He compares Himself

to a man in the exercise of mercy. It is different in regard to the execution

of His wrath; then He is God and not man. In expressing His mercy He

speaks after the manner of men; in the yearnings of His bowels, in the

extent of His mercifulness, He expresses Himself as man, though more,

infinitely more, than man. But when He speaks of wrath, HE ASSURES

US HE IS GOD and not man.  A man of war may, with the soldiers

under him, come upon a town or city, capture it, and plunder it; months

or years elapse, and he returns to the same place again, lays siege to it,

and sacks it, leaving it in a much worse state than at first. But God will

not so return to destroy. HE IS GOD,  not man. Free from all the

weakness of human passion, from all vindictiveness of feeling, from all

fickleness of purpose, from all the littlenesses of the human spirit, He

does not revoke His purposes nor recall His promises of mercy, neither

does He retain His anger for ever, nor renew the outpouring of the

vials of His wrath.


Ø      He is, besides, the Holy One: even in His vindicatory justice

He is holy; no unholy element of any kind mingles with His

wrath. Holiness is at once an attribute of His nature and a

characteristic of all His administrations. Oh, to be holy as

God is holy, pure as Christ is pure, perfect as our heavenly

Father is perfect! His presence is with His people, according

to His promise, “I will walk among you, and will be your God,

 and ye shall be my people” (Leviticus 26:12);  nay, more,

“I will dwell in them, and walk in them” (II Corinthians 6:16).


Ø      When, in the close of v. 9, God says, “I will not enter into the city,”

it is “to be taken in reference to the manner of God’s proceedings

in the destruction of Sodom; after He had done conferring with

Abraham, He entered into the city, and destroyed it by fire and

brimstone. God many times stands at the gates of a city, ready

to enter in and destroy it, but humiliation in prayer and

reformation keep Him out  (Jonah 3:5-10).   Oh! let not our sins

cause a merciful God to go out, and a provoked God to enter in.”




Ø      The walking after the Lord here predicted is to follow the Lord

whithersoever He leadeth. The Savior is given for a Leader to His

people; He is represented as the Captain of salvation, and just as

a good soldier follows his superior officer at the head of the

storming party or in the perilous breach, in the onward march

and in the unwelcome but necessary retreat; so the Christian

soldier, loyal to his Lord, follows Him fully, faithfully, fearlessly,

through evil report as well as good report, closely, carefully, and

constantly. “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever

he goeth(Revelation 14:4).  The path may appear perilous, the

way may be difficult; we may have to turn our backs on our dearest

delights, on our sweetest comforts; we may be ignorant of the

immediate goal to which the Lord leads us, or the use He intends

to make of us, or what He means to do with us; yet none of these

things shall deter us. If we only make sure that the Lord is leading us,

we run no risk in following Him; and though He lead us by a way

that we know not, we are sure it is the right way, the safe way,

and in every respect the best way in the end. The opposite course is

that pursued by those who walk, not after the Lord, but after the

lusts of their own hearts, or their own inclinations, or their own

inventions, or their own counsels, or the example of wicked men.


Ø      The prediction includes a hasty return in obedience to the Divine

summons. God’s calling people to return to Him is not inaptly

compared to the roaring of a lion. By judgments on the adversary,

or by a solemn awe on the spirits of His people, or by terrible

things in righteousness, God summons men to submission and

obedience.  (Psalm 65:5)


Ø      When God speaks the word in whatever way, His children hurry

home out of many lands from the far West, the distant East, and

the remote South. Thus it is in seasons of revival, thus it shall be

more literally in the millennial period, and in the time of the

restitution of all things  (Revelation 20:1-7; Acts 3:21).   When the

Spirit shall be poured out from on high in Pentecostal power and in

Pentecostal plenty, men shall, as at the first Pentecost, when they

were assembled from many lands, join themselves to God’s people.

They shall not only come hastily, but swiftly. Their hasty arrival is

compared to a flight resembling that of the dove, which flies swiftly

(As I changed the color on this phrase, I can see the dove, in its

quickness, darting this way and that – scenes from my childhood

and all life long – CY  - 2012),  as implied in the psalmist’s words,

“Oh that I had wings like a dove!”  (Psalm 55:6) - They shall,

moreover, arrive in great numbers, as doves fly in flocks, as

implied in the words of the prophet, “Who are these that fly as a

cloud, and as doves to their windows?”  (Isaiah 60:8)


Ø      A place of rest is promised them. When men walk after the Lord and

unite themselves lovingly with His people, they are assured both of

rest and refreshment. Whether this may have had a literal fulfillment,

in the return of members of the ten tribes from Assyria with their

brethren of Judah from Babylon, and others of the same people from

Egypt, we do not know for certain; but this much is sure, that such a

return of God’s people to him shall actually take place in the day of

the restitution of all things; while its figurative application repeats

itself in every real revival of religion, when sinners, truly penitent like

the prodigal, shall return from many a far country of sin and shame

and sorrow to their Father’s house and home, renouncing the

swineherd’s husks for that rich spiritual abundance of bread

enough and to spare.  (Luke 15:16-18)


  • THE PRETENCES OF ISRAEL. The people of Israel, or the ten

tribes with Ephraim at their head, that is, rulers and ruled, are here charged

with lies and deceit. Their professions of worship were nothing better than

lying pretences; their political schemes were little less than deceitful

maneuvers. Their piety and their policy were alike hollow and futile. With

such false worship and carefully devised strokes of policy, which were but

deceitful tricks, they compassed God as though they could deceive the

omniscient One Himself. The following illustration from an old divine

seems apt, though homely: “I am, in respect of their sins, as a man beset

round, who would have egress, but when he goes one way there he is

stopped, and another way he is stopped there too. God compares Himself

to such a man, as if, in going on in the ways of mercy, he is there stopped

by some course of sin, and entering on another part he is there stopped again.”

(I am reminded of the dog who used to get in our garbage and I got tired

and built a fence.  He got in through the gate but when he wanted to leave,

he put his head down and went north and looked up, there was a fence;

when he went west, there was a fence; when he went south, there was

a fence, etc. – CY – 2012)  How many there are whose acts of worship are

so many solemn lies! Their professions of piety are mere pretences; their

prayers may be eloquent and comprehensive, but they do not proceed

from the heart; their presence in the sanctuary is only bodily, their

thoughts being away about their worldly business, or roaming over

mountains of vanity. Many there are who are ready to acknowledge

God, His greatness and glory, His glorious majesty, His almighty power,

His infinite wisdom, and His sovereign disposal of all human affairs;

but they do not realize the august nature of the Divine attributes, nor


confess their great sinfulness, and profess deep humiliation on account of

it; but their confession is not accompanied by contrition, nor is their

professed humiliation either provable by facts or practical in its effects.

Strange, passing strange, it is that men thus impose on themselves, or

attempt to deceive God! “They did flatter Him with their mouth,” says

the psalmist, “and they lied unto Him with their tongues”  (Psalm 78:36). 

And if this is the conduct men venture on in relation to God, how much

more likely they are to compass their fellow-men with lies, or overreach

them by deceit!  If they carry their deceit into the sacred exercises of

religion and the solemn services of the sanctuary, how much more

may we expect to find fraudulent transactions and deceitful dealings

in their intercourse with fellow-men!


  • THE PREEMINENCE OF JUDAH. While Israel or the ten tribes

were besetting God with their lies and provoking Him by deceit, their

worship being idolatrous and their service false, Judah for so far

continued in the true worship. With not a few drawbacks and many

defects, they had hitherto adhered to the ordinances He had prescribed,

the place He had chosen, and the mode and ministers of religion He had

appointed. Such is the drift of the verse according to the Authorized

Version. Assuming this to be the right rendering, we find Israel left

without excuse. They could not plead the example of Judah. If an

evil example had been set them by Judah, it might have in some sort

extenuated, but could not have excused, sin in Israel. (In fact, it

was just the opposite.  See Jeremiah 3:6-11 – CY – 2012)  The absence

of such example was no small aggravation of their guilt.


Ø      It redounded to the honor of Judah that in the day of Israel’s

defection they persevered in the way of truth, and maintained

the true worship of Jehovah. It is recorded to the credit of those

Sardians who remained faithful in A CORRUPT PLACE and

A DEGENERATE AGE - Thou hast a few names even in

Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall

walk with me in white: for they are worthy.”  (Revelation 3:4)


Ø      When we serve God we reign with Him. It is righteousness that

exalts a nation (Proverbs 14:34) and elevates an individual.

To serve God is our HIGHEST GLORY,  and to enjoy Him

OUR GREATEST HAPPINESS!   To serve God is the most

honorable service; hence our blessed Lord has made us KINGS

as well as PRIESTS unto God  (Ibid. ch. 1:6).  Luther,

commenting on this verse, speaks of certain errorists “not

venturing to embrace the true doctrine for fear their rule should

be lost. So is it with many people; they are afraid of the loss of

their rule if they should entertain the true ways of God’s worship;

they think that the true ways of God’s worship cannot consist

with their rule and power, and therefore they had rather retain

them and let the true worship of God go.”



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