Hosea 4

 

1 “Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD

hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is

no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.”

A new and distinct division of the book commences with this

fourth chapter and continues till the close. What had previously been

presented in figure and symbol is now plainly and literally stated. The

children of Israel are summoned in the first verse of this chapter to hear the

charge preferred against them and the sentence pronounced. Having

convened, as it were, a public assembly and cited the persons concerned,

the prophet proceeds to show cause why they are bound to give an

attentive hearing. In God’s controversy with the people of the land the

prophet acts as His ambassador, accusing the people of great and grievous

sins, and vindicating the justice of God’s judgments in their punishment.

The ki with which the last clause of the verse commences may be either

causal or recitative, and may thus specify either the ground or subject of

controversy. It is commonly understood here in the former sense. Israel is

charged with want of truth, mercy, and the knowledge of God. Kimchi

comments on this controversy as follows: “With the inhabitants of the land

of Israel I have a controversy, for I gave them the land on the condition

that they should exercise righteousness and judgment, and on this condition

I pledged myself to them that my eyes would be upon them from the

beginning of the year to the end of the year. But since they practice the

opposite — cursing, lying, etc. — I also will act with them in a way

contrary to what I assured them, and will hide my face from them.” He

adds, “There were some righteous among them, but they were few, and

they hid themselves from the face of the multitude who were wicked.”

Truth and mercy are at once Divine attributes and human virtues; it is in

the latter sense, of course, that they are here employed. Truth includes

works as well as words, doing as well as saying; it implies uprightness in

speech and behavior — thorough integrity of character and conduct,

Mercy goes beyond and supplements this. We sometimes say of such a one

that he is an honest but a hard man. Mercy combined with truth, on the

contrary, makes a man kind as well as honest, benevolent as well as

upright. In a somewhat similar sense the apostle conjoins goodness and

righteousness when he says, “Scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet

peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die” (Romans 5:7).

The knowledge of God is the real root of these two virtues of truth and mercy.

If we know God as He is in Himself and as He stands in His relations to us,

we shall conform our conduct to His character and our actions to His will. If

we know God to be a God of truth, who delighteth in truth in the inward

parts, we shall cultivate truth in our hearts, express it with our lips, and

practice it in our lives. If we know God as a God of mercy, who has shown

such boundless mercy to us in pardoning our multiplied and aggravated

offences, we shall imitate that mercy in our relations to our fellow-man;

nor shall we enact the part of the merciless man in the parable, who owed

his lord ten thousand talents, and who, having nothing to pay, was freely

forgiven the debt; but finding his fellow-servant, who owed him only an

hundred pence, laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, “Pay

me that thou owest,” and, deaf to that fellow-servant’s supplications, cast

him into prison till he should pay the debt (Matthew 18:23-34). The intimate

connection of the knowledge of God with the virtues in question is confirmed

by the Prophet Jeremiah, Did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment

and justice, and then it was well with him? he judged the cause of the poor

 and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me, saith the

Lord?”  (Jeremiah 22:15-16)

 

2 “By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing

adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.” Having given a picture

of Israel negatively, he next presents the positive side. The absence of the virtues

specified implies the presence of the opposite vices. In the most vivid and impressive

manner the prophet, instead of enumerating prosaically the vices so prevalent at the

time, expresses them more emphatically by a species of exclamation, using

 

  1. infinitives absolute instead of finite verbs; thus: “Swearing, and lying,

and murdering, and stealing, and committing adultery.” They may,

however, be regarded as in the nominative as subjects to vye. Instead of

either supplying aw]v;l], to allot, or closely connecting” allot” with the verb

“to lie,” which immediately follows, it is better to understand the two verbs

separately, as expressing two different species of sin; that is, swearing and

cursing, and lying. So the Septuagint renders them by the nouns ajra< kai<

yeu~dov – ara kai pseudo - equivalent to “cursing and lying;” as also the

Chaldee, “they swear falsely and lie.” The commandments which the children

of Israel thus violated were the third, the ninth, the sixth, the eighth,

and the seventh.

 

  1. The construction, adopted in the Septuagint, Vulgate, and by Luther in his

version, takes the infinitives (nounal expressions of habitual or continued

actions) as nominatives to the verb paratsu; thus: “Cursing, and lying, and

murder, and theft, and adultery abound (ke>cutai – kechutai - or

ekke>cutai – ekkechutai - ) in the land;” 

 

  1. The common mode of constructing the infinitives independently as above in (1)

or gerundively as in the Authorized Version, and in either case understanding

an indefinite subject to paratsu, is preferable on the whole; thus: “By

swearing, etc., they break out.” The allusion to the water overflowing its

banks and spreading in all directions, implied in the Septuagint Version, is

approved by Jerome in his Commentary: “He (the prophet) did not say est,

but, to demonstrate the abundance of crimes, introduced inundaverunt

(overflowed).” The common meaning of parats is to tear or break — break

in upon, especially with violence, as robbers and murderers; so paritsim has

the sense of murderers and robbers. It is better, therefore, to take the verb

here as a present perfect connecting past and present, and to translate it”

break through,” or” in to,” that is, as burglars into houses. So Kimchi,

though figuratively: “They break through the wall which is the fence of the

Law, and multiply transgressions.”   The context, which speaks of

bloodshed, is quite in keeping with acts of violence.

 

The next three verses relate,  with much particularity, the sufferings consequent on sins,

especially such as are  specified in the preceding verses. The mourning of the land

 mentioned in v.3  may be understood either figuratively or literally. If in the former way,

there are many Scripture parallels which represent nature in full accord with

 human feelings, sympathizing with man, now in joy, again in sorrow; for example:

The little hills rejoice on every side;” the valleys “shout for joy, they also sing”

(Psalm 65:12-13); on the other hand, “The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the

World languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.”

(Isaiah 24:4)

 

3 “Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein

shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven;

yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.”  But if the expression

be taken literally, it conveys a solemn fact, and one in perfect harmony with the

entire tone and character of the old economy, according to which moral evil

transmutes itself into physical evil, and impresses itself in dismal characters on the

face of inanimate nature. The Hebrew commentators seem to understand the statement

literally; thus Rashi: “The land shall be laid waste, and there shall be great mourning;”

likewise Kimchi: “The land of Israel shall be laid waste and desolated.” The

latter has this further comment: “After the land of Israel shall have been

laid waste, man and beast shall be cut off out of it. But under the beasts of

the field the prophet does not mean the wild beasts, but the large domestic

animals which dwell with the sons of men, likewise called hyj. It is also

possible that even the beasts that roam at largo are included, for the wild

beast does not come to inhabited places that are laid waste, unless they are

partially inhabited.” He also adds, in reference to the fowls of heaven,

“When he speaks of the fowls of heaven, it is because most of the fowls do

not dwell in the wilderness, but in inhabited places, where they find seeds

and fruits and blossoms of trees. Or the fowls of heaven are mentioned by

way of hyperbole to represent the matter in its totality; and, according to

this sense, it is used in the Prophet Jeremiah; and it explains itself in like

manner in one of these two ways.” With the mourning of the land the

dwellers therein languish. Nor is this languishing condition confined to

rational beings; it comprises the irrational as well, and that without

exception. The dominion assigned man at the beginning over the whole

creation of God is here reversed in the case of Israel; while the

denunciation of wrath has that reversal for its dark background. The terms

of the dominion to man by the Creator are, “Have dominion over the fish

of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that

moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28); but in this denunciation these terms

are reversed and read backwards, being, “with the beasts of the field, and

with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also.” Thus all nature,

inanimate and animate, and all creation, rational and irrational, are

involved in the consequences of Israel’s sin. The particles “yea, even,”

preceding “the fishes of the sea” (such as the Sea of Galilee or other inland

seas and rivers), show the entirely unexpected as well as unusual nature of the

event. The Chaldee paraphrases the clause as follows: “And even the fishes

of the sea shall be diminished in number, on account of their (Israel’s)

sins.” Earth refuses sustenance to man and beast, no longer yielding grass

for the cattle or herb for the service of man; the waters of the sea, being

lessened by drought or becoming putrid by stagnation, no longer supply

their accustomed quota of fishes for human food. An illustration of the

literal sense has been quoted by Rosenmüller and Pusey from Jerome. It is

the following: “Whoso believeth not that this befell the people of Israel, let

him survey Illyricum, let him survey the Thraces, Macedonia, the

Pannonias, and the whole land which stretches from the Propoutis and

Dosphorus to the Julian Alps, and he will experience that, together with

man, all the creatures also fail, which afore were nourished by the Creator

for the service of man.” The le before yhis explained by Abarbanel in the

sense of through, as though the inhabitants would be slain by wild beasts:

by Hitzig as extending to; by Keil as of in enumeration. It is simply with.

 

 4  “Yet let no man strive,  nor reprove another: for thy people are as

they that strive with the priest.”  This looks like an interjected clause, coming

in the middle of the enumeration of Divine judgments; and the purpose is not so

much to justify the severity of those judgments as to intimate their inefficacy, owing

to the incorrigible character of the people. There is:

 

  1. the rendering of the Authorized Version, “Yet let no man strive, nor

reprove another.”  This seems to show that mutual reproof was out of

place, since one was as bad as another; or that every one was to look to

his own sins, and not throw the blame on others; but this rendering is not

tenable nor capable of being supported by such an expression as ish beish.

 

  1. The correct rendering is rather, only let no man strive (with them), and

let no man reprove them. This imports:

 

a.      that reasoning with them would be useless, and reproof thrown away,

in consequence of the desperate obstinacy of these offenders; or

b.      that they were so self-willed that they would not allow any one to

reprove them for their conduct.

 

The rendering (1) is favored by Kimchi: “Let a man not strive, nor reprove his fellow

For his wickedness, for it profits him not, because he also does evil like him.”

The fact often experienced in a season of public calamity, that every one

comes forth as a correcter of morals, and transfers to his neighbor the

cause of such calamity.  The explanation (2b), which is pretty much that of Ewald,

is supported by the comments of Rashi and Aben Ezra. The former explains: “Ye

warn the true prophets against striving with you and against reproving you;” the latter:

“There is no one that strives with another or reproves him: and yet it was the right of

the priest to reprove Israel; but now they turn to reprove the priest, for he also is

wicked in his works.”

 

  1. Pusey’s rendering, though only a slight modification of the preceding,

conveys a different sense. It is “Only men let him not strive, and let not

man reprove,” which he explains as follows: “God had taken the

controversy with His people into His own hands; the Lord, he said (v.1),

had a controversy (rib) with the inhabitants of the land. Here He forbids

man to intermeddle; man let him not strive (he again uses the same word).

The people were obstinate and would not hear… so God bids man

to cease to speak in His Name. He Himself alone will plead them, whose

pleading none could evade or contradict.”

 

The rendering (2) is, in our opinion, decidedly entitled to the preference both on

The ground of simplicity and agreement with the following clause. That clause,

for thy people are as they that strive with the priest, is thought by

Abarbanel to allude to the opposition of Korah and his company to Aaron

the high priest, as recorded in Numbers 16., and referred to in Psalm 106:16.

In Numbers 16:11, it is asked, “And what is Aaron, that ye murmur against

him?” while in the latter, at ver. 16, we read the statement: “They envied Moses

 also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the Lord.” This allusion, by which the

Israelites of the prophet’s day were compared to the Korathires, will appear to

most as far-fetched.  (1) The usual acceptation is both simpler and more satisfactory.

It takes the expression to denote such contumacy as is reproved in Deuteronomy

17:12, “The man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto

the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto

the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from

Israel.” The contumaciousness of Israel is thus compared to that of persons

who were so obstinate and presumptuous as neither to obey nor reverence,

but rather rebel against, the true priests of Jehovah, who, in his Divine

Name and by Divine authority, instructed or reproved. Such persons

neither feared God nor regarded man. (Compare Romans 3:18, “There is no

fear of God before their eyes.”  It was the refractoriness of pupils

acting in opposition to their teacher, or of a people rising in rebellion

against their spiritual instructors. Thus the Chaldee understands it: “And

thy people contend [quarrel] with their teachers.” The last clause

is fairly well explained by Kimchi (except that he explains kaph of certainty

and not similitude) as follows: “The prophet says, The priest should have

taught, striven with, and reproved the people; but at this time the people

strive with the priest; for it is not enough that they do not receive his

reproof, but they strive with and reprove him, after the way they say, ‘A

generation that judges its judges.’ Or the explanation is, ‘The priest is as

wicked as they, and if he reproves them so also they reprove him.’”

(2) The Septuagint has wJv ajnti lego>menov iJereu<v – hos anti legomenos

iereus -  bring charges against a priest - as a priest spoken against.

The text being thus somewhat doubtful, Michaelis made a very slight

change in the pointing, putting a patach instead of tsere in the word for

“contend;” thus: yb"rm]ki instead of ybeyrim]ki, so that the translation would

be, “And thy people are as my adversaries (those who contend with me), O

priest.” The people that should have learnt the Law from the lips of the

priest WOULD NOT EVEN SUBMIT TO REPROOF FROM THE

MOST HIGH HIMSELF!   The expression, “priest-disputers” or “priest-

gainsayers,” is admittedly an unusual one, and given as a specimen of the

peculiarities of this prophet’s style, to which, however, there is a parallel in

“boundary-movers” (ch.5:10). Still, we see no real advantage gained by the

conjectural emendation of Michaelis, though some are disposed to accept it on

the ground that the representation of the incorrigibleness of a people by

.gainsaying opposition to the priest appears incongruous with the

immediately succeeding denunciation of the priesthood. The objection is

obviated by understanding, as above, opposition to the true priests of the

Lord. Another conjectural reading is that of Beck, via wyr;m;K]k" yMi["w],

equivalent to “and my people are like their priests” (see v.9).  Such

conjectural emendation is needless as useless.

 

5 Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall

with thee in the night,” - The parallelism of this verse is marked by the

peculiarity of dividing between the two members what belongs to the sentence

as one whole. Instead of saying that the people would fall (literally, stumble)

in the day, and the prophet with them in the night, the meaning of the sentence,

divested of its peculiar form of parallelism, is that people and prophet alike

would fall together, at all times, both by day and by night, that is to say, there

would be no time free from the coming calamities; and there would be no

 possibility of escape, either for the sinful people or their unfaithful priests;

 the darkness of the night would not hide them, the light of the day would

not aid them; destruction was the doom of priests and people, inevitable and

 at all times – “and I will destroy thy mother.”  Their mother was the whole nation

as such — the kingdom of Israel. The expression is somewhat contemptuous, as though

he said of the individual members that they were truly their mother’s children —

RESEMBLING HER IN HER SIN AND JOINING HER SOON IN SORROW.

 

  • Though the verb hmd is seldom used in Qal to denote “likeness,”

Abarbanel, as quoted by Rosenmüller, translates, “I have been like thy

mother,” and explains of the people addressing priest and prophet as a

mother reproving her petulant children in order to improve them. Besides

the far-fetched nature of such a rendering, there is the formidable

grammatical objection that, in the sense of “similitude,” this verb requires

to be constructed with le or el. so that it should be le immeka or el

immeka. “This word, when derived from demuth, likewise has el with

seghol after it; but without el, it has the meaning of destroy,” is the

statement of Aben Ezra. The Septuagint. assigning to the verb the sense of

“similarity,” renders the phrase by nukti< ojmoi>wsa th<n mhte>ra sou

nukti omoiosa taen maetera sou -  “I have compared thy mother to night.”

 

  • Jerome, connecting the verb with μWd or μm"d;, understands it in the

sense of “silence:” “I have made thy mother silent in the night; that is,

Israel is delivered up in the dark night of captivity, sorrow, and

overwhelming distress.” The Syriac likewise has: “And thy mother has

become silent” (if shathketh be read). The Chaldee, though more

periphrastic, brings out nearly the same sense: “I will overspread your

assembly with stupefaction.” To the same purport is the exposition of

Rashi: “My people shall be stupefied as a man who sits and is

overwhelmed with stupor, so that no answer is heard from his mouth.”

The meaning “destroy” is well supported by the cognate Arabic, and gives

a good sense; thus Gesenius renders: “I destroy thy mother, that is, lay waste

thy country.” Rather, the nation, collectively, is the mother; while the members

individually are the children. Nor shall private persons escape in the public

catastrophe — root and branch are to perish. Kimchi’s comment on

yjymd is: “I will cut off the whole congregation, so that no congregation

shall remain in Israel; for they shall be scattered in the exile, the one here,

theother there.”

 

 

Israel’s Sin and Consequent Suffering (vs. 1-5)

 

The prophet is Jehovah’s mouth-piece, and as such he calls on his fellowmen

to hear the word of the Lord; he thus speaks by commission and with

authority. Having thus claimed an attentive hearing in his Master’s Name,

he denounces Israel’s sins, and declares the judgments that await them. In

this discharge of his duty the prophet has a twofold object in view. By his

timely and truthful warning he hopes to reclaim some, at least, of his

countrymen, and in any case he means to leave all without excuse. God by

His ambassador displays in this way both His mercy and His justice. His

mercy in that He speaks to them before He strikes them — He warns them of

their danger while it is yet impending, and before they are actually involved

in it; His justice — for He condescends to debate the matter with His people,

and convince them of the reasonableness of His dealings, that they may see

that He does not contend with them without cause, and that when He is

forced to execute sentence for their sills, that sentence has been well deserved.

 

  • RELIGION IS THE SURE FOUNDATION OF MORALITY. True

religion begins with a saving knowledge of God. This is the fountain-head;

moral duties are the salutary streams that issue from it. Godliness is the

source of uprightness; piety towards God produces propriety of conduct

 in demeaning ourselves and in dealing with others; where the right

knowledge of God is absent, we need not expect truth or mercy among men.

(It is vain to expect mercy from someone who will not do justice)  On the

contrary, a profession of piety without the performance of duty to our

fellows God will disown; without truth and mercy religion is only a

pretence, a painful hypocrisy. Religion, then, is the rich soil in which

virtue strikes root and its growth is maintained.

 

  • THE RELATION OF THE VIRTUES HERE SPECIFIED. With

regard to mercy and truth, Kimchi has well remarked that “no truth”

imports that there is “no one doing the truth, and no one speaking the

truth;” while on the words “nor mercy,” he adds, “How much [does it

follow thence] that there is no mercy, for mercy is the superabundance of

goodness over and above what is meet; and as to him who does not

maintain either truth or justice, how much less will he show mercy?” The

combination of truth, mercy, and knowledge of God may be compared

with the triple duties specified by Micah, as doing justly, loving mercy, and

walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8); and with the apostolic triad of living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (Titus 2:12).  In each

of these our duty to ourselves, to our neighbor, and to our God is expressed;

so, too, in the verse before us. While mercy mainly respects the duty we owe

our fellowman, and knowledge of God our relation to Him, truth has to do

with a man himself as well as with his neighbor. We are to be true to

conscience, seeking to have it enlightened, striving to keep it clear, and

having the courage of our convictions. We are to be true to ourselves, in

our strangely composite personality; true to the soul by seeking its salvation,

for “what shall it profit a man, should he gain the whole world, and lose

his own soul?” (Mark 8:36) - true to the body by preserving its purity, maintaining its sobriety, and securing its health, that we may possess a

sound mind in a sound body.  Of course, truth has large scope in our

intercourse with others. We are required to be truthful in our utterances,

true to our promises, true in all our engagements, true and just in all our

dealings. The duty of mercy, in a world where sin has wrought such ruin

and caused such misery, is obvious. As sinful creatures, we need the mercy

of our Creator; as suffering, sorrowful beings, we are strongly obligated to

the exercise of mercy towards each other.

 

“The quality of mercy is not strain’d:

It droppeth, as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice blessd;

It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes:

The mightiest in the mightiest;…”

while

 

“In the course of justice, none of us Should see salvation.”

 

(I would like to recommend a sermon by Adrian Rogers with particular

emphasis on “Truth Fallen in the Street” of verse 14 – it was entitled

“A Nation in Crisis” – program 2093 – which aired on April 5, 2009 - I

recommend accessing this site (Bro. Rogers is deceased) – at www.lwf.org

(lwf = Love Worth Finding) – Every American should ponder this  -

every person in the world could and should profit from it – CY – Nov.

27, 2012)

 

  • OMISSIONS SOON MAKE WAY FOR COMMISSIONS. When the

duties of truth, mercy, and the knowledge of God were omitted, the

grossest sins succeeded and took their place. But we must notice the

expression, “in the land;” this appears to mean more than the general

prevalence of such through all this country; it seems to hint at Israel’s

ingratitude. God had given them that good land, where God should have

had grateful worshippers and a holy people. Kimchi makes the following

judicious comment on this subject: “I have a controversy with them (the

inhabitants of the land of Israel), for I gave them the land conditionally that

they should exercise justice and judgment; and herein I made a covenant

with them, that my eyes should be upon it from the beginning of the year

even to the end of the year. But since they acted in a way contrary to this

— perjuring, stealing, and committing adultery — I also will act towards

them in a way contrary to what I promised, and hide my face from them;

and the land shall mourn, and all the dwellers in it shall languish.” The sins

committed by Israel at this period evidence an almost DISORGANIZED

STATE OF SOCIETY!   The most important duties were omitted and the

most enormous sins committed; nor was this strange, when there was no knowledge of God in the land; and yet this very circumstance was the great aggravation both of their omissions and commissions. It was the privilege

of the highly favored inhabitants of that land to know God; as we read,

“In Judah is God known: His Name is great in Israel. In Salem also is

 His tabernacle, and His dwelling-place in Zion (Psalm 76:1-2).  But

while both tables of the Law were transgressed, and fearfully transgressed,

the violations of the sixth commandment were something shocking. This

black feature in Israel’s iniquity is made prominent by the prophet, and

specially noticed by the Hebrew expositors. Rashi says, “They multiply the shedding of bloods until the blood of one slain man touches the blood of his neighbor;” and Kimchi’s comment is, “The bloods of the slain touch one

another from abundance.” Though we may not be able to fix with certainty

the period referred to, it may with considerable probability be conjectured

that about this time the numerous and dreadful regicides occurred. Shallum slaying Zechariah; Menahem slaying Shallure; Pekah slaying Pekahiah; and Hoshea slaying Pekah; so that “the land was polluted with blood.”  (And

don’t forget the slaying of the children in their sacrifices – a la – abortion

on demand – CY – 2012)

 

  • HUMAN SINFULNESS DRAPES NATURE IN WEEDS OF WOE.

We have here at once an expansion and illustration of the sentiment of the

Psalm 107:33-34), “He turneth… a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.” Man and beast, fish and fowl alike,

are sufferers in consequence of human sin. The whole creation groaneth

and suffereth together in consequence of the creature having been

subjected to vanity (Romans 8:20-22). “When,” says Jerome, on this verse,

“the inhabitant is removed, the beasts also, and fowls of heaven, and fishes

of the sea shall fail; and even the dumb elements shall feel the wrath of God.”

Many actual illustrations of this state of things, we doubt not, had taken

place in the history of Israel, as in the days of Ahab and many a time

besides. When rain was long delayed and drought ensued, the land

mourned and its inhabitants languished.  (I caught part of a TV program

today from the Negev Desert – it was very barren – CY – 2012).

 

  • PERVERSENESS IS A PREPARATION FOR DESTRUCTION.

When people become so froward and perverse as to be beyond reproof, so

that God says of them, as He does in effect of Israel in this passage, “Let

them proceed and reproof cease,” they are on the very verge of a fearful

precipice. Israel had gone so far towards that perilous position that no

private person was permitted to warn, if so disposed, or reason with his

neighbor; not even the priest, God’s appointed minister, in those days

dared venture to do so, or if he did it was labor lost. They stumble and fall,

teacher and taught, prophet and people together. As also both night and

day alike; by day, when danger was least and the disgrace greatest; in the

night season, when darkness made destruction inevitable. Worst of all, no

helper to be hoped for; or, rather, the mother — she that might be

expected to hold up or lift up her children — is herself doomed. That

mother, whether Samaria, the mother city, or the commonwealth itself, the

mother of them all, was devoted to the silence of destruction.

 

Two lessons of this passage are specially prominent:

 

  • the essential connection between religion and morality;  (The Founding

Fathers were aware of this truth when in Article 3 of the Northwest

Land Ordinance of 1787 they said:  “Religion, morality, and knowledge,

being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind,

schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Oh, how far we have declined! - CY – 2012)

     

  • the inevitable connection between national sin and national suffering.

Wherever the right knowledge of God is wanting, there sin and Satan are

sure to triumph. Ancient Greece gave to Europe the glorious beginnings

both of political and intellectual life and was herself resplendent with the

choicest triumphs of literature and art; yet some of her wisest philosophers

countenanced the practice of unmentionable vices. The sun never shone

upon a more brilliant company of scholars, poets, philosophers, orators,

jurists, and litterateurs, than that which adorned the court of Augustus, the

first emperor of Rome; yet during the Augustan age the Roman people

were plunging into depths of moral degradation which ultimately led to the

ruin of the empire. On the other hand, when the general overthrow of the

continental monarchs took place in 1848, and the throne of Great Britain

remained as stable as ever, M. Guizot said one day to Lord Shaftesbury, “I

will tell you what saved your empire. It was not your constable; it was not

your army; it was not your statesmen. It was the deep, solemn, religious

atmosphere that still is breathed over the whole people of England.” For

nations, knowledge of God and acceptance of His salvation are necessary,

in order to the prevalence of that righteousness which is the source of

national stability. And for each citizen in like manner, “This is life eternal,

to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent.”

(John 17:3)

 

6  “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge:”  Here the verb is plural

and its subject singular, because, being collective, it comprehends all the individual

 members of the nation. The word wmdk is rendered by Jerome in the sense of

“silence:” “conticuit populus incus,” which he explains to mean “sinking into eternal

silence.” So also the Chaldee.  The Septuagint, understands it in the sense of

“likeness:” “My people are like (wJmoiw>qh – homoiothae - destroyed) as if they

had no knowledge.” Aben Ezra disproves this sense as follows: “This word, if it

were from the root signifying ‘likeness,’ would have after it el with seghol, as,

‘To [el with seghol] whom art thou like in thy greatness?’ (Ezekiel 31:2); but

without the word el it has the meaning of ‘ cutting off.’” So Kimchi: “Here also it

has the sense of ‘cutting off.’” The article before “knowledge” implies renewed

mention and refers to the word in v.1; or it may emphasize the word as that

knowledge by way of eminence, which surpasses all other knowledge, and

without which no other knowledge can really prove a blessing in the end.

THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IS THE MOST EXCELLENT OF ALL

SCIENCES.   Paul counted all things but loss in comparison with its

possession (Philippians 3:8) and our blessed Lord Himself says, “This is life eternal,

 that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou

hast sent” (John 17:3) while the Prophet Isaiah attributed the captivity to its

absence:  “My people are gone into captivity because they have no knowledge”

(Isaiah 5:13) – “because thou hast rejected knowledge,” - The cause

of this ignorance is here charged on the unfaithfulness of the priesthood.

They rejected knowledge and forgot the Law of their God. The two

concluding clauses of this verse may be regarded as “split members” of a

single sentence. As rejection implies the presence of the object rejected,

while forgetfulness implies its absence from the mind or memory, some

have understood rejection of knowledge as the sin of the priest, and

forgetfulness that of the people. This separation is not necessary, for WHAT

MEN CONTINUE TO DESPISE FOR A TIME, THEY WILL BY

AND BY FORGET.  (Reader, do not choke on this one, but, is this not

what is happening in your day in America?  You treat God’s Word as

unscientific and by despising it, ARE YOU NOT IN THE PROCESS

OF FORGETTING IT? – CY – 2012)  The forgetfulness is thus an

advance upon rejection. The sin of these priests was very great, for, while

the priests’ lips were required to keep knowledge (Malachi 2:7), they neither

preserved that knowledge themselves NOR PROMOTED IT AMONG

THE PEOPLE,  hence the indignant and direct address. Thus Kimchi says:

“He addresses the priestly order that existed at that time: Thou hast rejected the

knowledge for thyself (this reminds me of a very serious charge of Jesus,

“Woe unto you lawyers!  for ye have taken away the key to knowledge:

ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye

hindered.” - Luke 11:52 – American Civil Liberty Union members and

sympathizers – SIT UP AND LISTEN CY – 2012) and to teach it to the

people, consequently I will reject thee from being a priest unto me. Since

thou dost not exercise the office of priest, which is to teach the Law, I will

reject thee so that thou shalt not be a priest in my house.” I will also reject

thee that thou shalt be no priest to me:  seeing thou hast forgotten

the law of God, I will also forget thy children (even I).”  The punishment

resembles the offence; the human delinquency is reflected in the Divine retaliation.

To make this the more pointed, the “thou on thy part (attah)” at the head of the

sentence has its counterpart, or rather is counterbalanced by the “even I” or

“I too (gam ani)” at its close. The severity of the punishment is augmented by the

threat that, not only the then existing priests, but their sons after them,

would be excluded from the honor of the priesthood. This was touching

painfully the tenderest part. It needs scarcely be observed that forgetfulness

is only spoken of God in a figurative sense, and after the manner of men,

that being forgotten which is no longer the object of attention or affection.

“The meaning of va,” says Kimchi, “is by way of figure, like the man who

forgets something and does not take it to heart.” The unusual form

Úa;s]a;m]a, has been variously accounted for. The Massorites mark the

aleph before caph as redundant; it is omitted in several manuscripts of

Kennicott and De Rossi, as also some of the early printed editions. Kimchi

confesses his ignorance of its use. Olshausen treats it as a copyist’s error;

but Ewald “regards it as an Aram-seen pausal form.” Some take the

reference to be to Israel as a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6) rather

than to the actual priesthood.

 

7 “As they were increased,” -  As they were increased; rather, multiplied.

Whether μB;ruK] be taken as infinitive with suffix and prefix, or as a noun, it will

amount to the same. The reference is rather to the multitude of the population than to

the greatness of their prosperity or the abundance of their wealth. In the

latter sense it is understood by the Chaldee paraphrase, but in the former

by the Syriac translator. So also Kimchi, where he says, “As for Aaron the

priest their father, the Law of truth was in his mouth; but now that his sons

have multiplied and spread abroad, they have sinned against me and

forgotten my law; according as I did them good they did evil.” He also

gives as the explanation of others, “As I increased them in wealth and

riches, they sinned against me” - “so they sinned against me: therefore

will I change their glory into shame.”  The “therefore” of the Authorized

Version is inserted unnecessarily. Both the Chaldee and Syriac render, “And

they changed their glory into shame;” as they took rymia; for the infinitive

rymih;, and that in the sense of the preterite; or the infinitive in the gerundival sense:

“changing their glory into shame.” Kimchi explains the meaning correctly:

“Therefore I made them heads over the people and expiators, yet if they do not

observe my Law I will change their glory into shame; and the people will contemn

and despise them.” (Dear Reader, if you are unsaved and when you come to

judgment, who will rise up and accuse you?  Compare Jesus’ teaching in Matthew

12:41-42 – Besides the men of Nineveh who repented at Jonah’s preaching and

the Queen of Sheba who inconvenienced herself and others, by traveling far to

meet Solomon, will there not be a great number who rise up and say “O Lord

of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart,

let me see thy vengeance on them:” - Jeremiah 11:20 – CY – 2012)  Their

numbers multiplied with the multiplication of idols, and THE APOSTASY OF

THE PEOPLE KEPT PACE WITH BOTH  and now as a fit punishment

they are to be deprived of their priestly glory — their dignity and splendor.

 

 8 “They eat up the sin of my people,” - The word haF"j" may be understood

In either of two senses; and the meaning of the verse will correspond thereto.

It may either mean that these faithless priests lived upon the sin of the

people, deriving their livelihood and profit from the people’s idolatrous

practices (Does this sound familiar to the American Bar Association member-

ship? to those who roam the halls of Congress?  to those who sit on the bench

of the Highest Court in the land or those who sit in the lower courts? – CY – 2012)

or that they were delighted with their sin, approving rather than

reproving them for the same. The other explanation understands the word

of sin offering, and is thus expressed by Kimchi: “They are only priests for

eating up the sin and trespass offering which the people offer on account of

sins, not for teaching the Law or right way” - “and they  set their heart on

their iniquity.” To their iniquity they lift up (each one) his soul. They set

their heart upon and eagerly desire the continued practice of sin on the

 part of the people that they may profit by the sacrifices. Thus Kimchi

explains this clause in accordance with his exposition of the former: “The priests

lift up every one his soul to the sin of the people, saying, When will they sin, and

bring sin offering and trespass offering that we may eat?”

 

9 “And there shall be, like people, like priest,” - As it had fared with the

people who had sinned and had been punished, as is stated in the third and fifth

verses; so shall it be with the priest or whole priestly order. He has involved

himself in sin and punishment like the people, and that as the consequence

of his extreme unfaithfulness; whereas by faithful dealing with the people

and discharge of his duty he might have delivered his own soul, as stated

by Ezekiel 33:9, “Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to

turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but

thou hast delivered thy soul.” It is well explained by Kimchi as follows:

“These two caphs of likeness are by way of abbreviation, and the

explanation is — the people are like the priest and the priest is like the

people. And the meaning is that, as the people and the priest are equal with

respect to sin, SO SHALL THE BE EQUAL IN RELATION TO

PUNISHMENT! -  “and I will punish them for their ways, and reward

them their doings.”  The retribution here threatened includes the whole priestly

order, not people and priest as one man, according to Pusey, who, however, makes

the following excellent comment on wyll[m: “The word rendered doings

signifies great doings when used of God, bold doings on the part of man.

These bold presumptuous doings against the Law and will of God, God

will bring back to the sinner’s bosom,” or rather, DOWN OVER-

WHELMINGLY UPON HIS HEAD.  The singular individualizes; so both

Aben Ezra and Kimchi: “Upon every one of them.”

 

It is doubtless sometimes the fact that the priest and the people never

become assimilated to each other at all. It was so, e.g., in the case of

Hosea; in that of Jeremiah; in that of the Lord Jesus Himself, during His

earthly ministry. But what the text expresses is simply an ordinary tendency

in connection with this sacred relationship.  Let our thought be this, that the

obligation involved in the pastoral tie is a mutual one. If his Church

responsibilities should weigh heavily upon the minister’s heart, they should

also press upon the conscience of each member. Both are responsible for the

results of the tie.  It is, “like people, like priest.”

 

10 “for they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit

whoredom, and shall not increase:” - This part of the verse states the

punishment to be inflicted and the reward to be received; it is thus an

expansion of the closing clause of the preceding verse, with an obvious

allusion to the sin specified in the eighth verse. To eat and not be satisfied

may occur in time of famine, or be the effect of disease or the consequence

of insatiable craving. “Since,” says Kimchi, “they eat in an unlawful

manner, their food shall not be to them a blessing.” This was one of the

punishments threatened for violation of the Law, as we read in

Leviticus 26:26, “When I have broken the staff of your bread, ten

women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver you your

bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied.” Further, the

multiplication of wives or concubines would not increase their posterity;

Solomon long previously had been a notable exemplification of this. “So in

their cohabitation with their women, since it is in a whorish manner, they

shall not increase, for they shall not have children by them; or, if they have,

they shall die from the birth.” The Hiph. hiznu has rather the intensive

sense of Qal than that of causing or encouraging whoredom – “because they

have left off to take heed to the Lord.”  The verbal lishmor either

 

  • has Jehovah for its object, as in the Authorized Version; or
  • durko or darkair may be supplied, as is done by Kimchi and Aben Ezra.

The former has, “To observe His ways, for they have no delight in Him and

in His ways; to observe His ways they have left off;” the latter has, “They

have forsaken Jehovah, to observe His way or His Laws.” But

  • Kimchi informs us that “Saadiah Gaon of blessed memory has

connected the word with the verse that comes after it; they have

forsaken the Lord to observe whoredom and wine and new wine.”

 

 

Priestly Neglect and Its Consequences (vs. 6-10)

 

This section deals with the sin and punishment of the priests, as the preceding

one had described the sin and punishment of the people. The priests here referred

to were probably Levitical priests still scattered through the northern kingdom,

since God speaks of them as His priests; while those which Jeroboam appointed

out of other tribes than that of Levi, and from all, even the lowest, ranks of society,

were rather priests for the worship of the calves.

 

  • MINISTERIAL UNFAITHFULNESS. The ignorance of the people is

here attributed to priestly negligence. They disliked and despised the

knowledge of God for themselves, and consequently had no heart for

dispensing it to others. The means available for knowing God they did not

take advantage of, and accordingly their own ignorance unfitted them for

instructing the people. Idleness combined with indifference in the ease of

these unfaithful ministers of religion, so that they were neither rightly

instructed themselves nor capable of instructing others; while their

carelessness increased their incapacity. It is incumbent on all public

teachers to be diligent in their private studies; and a fearful

responsibility is incurred by those who, appointed to instruct others in

religious matters, refuse to take the pains necessary to qualify them for

the efficient discharge of such important duty. It is a grievous sin for

ministers of religion to serve God with what costs them nothing, and

so to feed God’s people with husks instead of the finest of the wheat.

How different is the picture our Lord gives us of one who is faithful to

such an important trust! “Therefore,” He says, “every scribe which is

 instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a

 householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.”

 

  • THE PUNISHMENT CORRESPONDS TO THEIR SIN. They had

rejected Divine knowledge; God rejects their priestly services. They had

forgotten the Law from disuse, no doubt having previously forsaken it;

God threatens to forget them, and, what was more galling, their children

after them, so that the priesthood would be lost to them forever. Wunsche

and some others insist that it is the people and not the priesthood that is

here addressed; that the whole nation is addressed as a single person, and

that consequently the children are the individual members of the nation.

Both priests and people were guilty in this matter. Both had shut their

Eyes upon the light, and the light was at length withdrawn. Both had said,

“Depart from us: we desire not the knowledge of thy ways” (Job 21:14);

and God in turn had virtually said to them, “Depart from me: I know you

 not” (Luke 13:25).  The priests, whose duty was to teach the people

knowledge, had been unable or unwilling to do so, and the people

remained in ignorance; the people, who should have received the Law

from the priests’ lips, are represented as striving with, and gainsaying,

their spiritual instructors. The consequence was that they destroyed

themselves, for the verb nidmu has here the proper reflexive sense of the

Niphal; nor is it without knowledge, but because of the want of (mibbli)

the necessary knowledge. The punishment, if it be not a re-echo, yet

reminds us of I Samuel 15:26, where Samuel says to Saul, “For thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being

 king over Israel.” The worst feature of the case was their gross and

grievous ingratitude; for just in proportion as,, they increased in numbers

and in wealth they multiplied transgression (Just like contemporary

Americans who think “it’s the economy stupid” – CY – 2012);  just as of

old when Jeshurun waxed fat, he kicked (Deuteronomy 32:15); Kimchi,

indeed, in mentioning the exposition of those who regarded the increase as financial rather than numerical, says, “Some interpret ‘according to their

increase’ as equivalent to as I increased them in wealth and riches so they

sinned after the manner of ‘when Jeshurun waxed fat he kicked.’” Their

either in number or riches — and both we think, are included — ministered

to THE SINS OF AN UNTHANKFUL PEOPLE and afforded occasions

of trespassing yet more and more against God. Justly, then, did God turn to

shame that which He had given Israel for the Divine glory, but which Israel

used for vain-glory. “He,” says Pusey,” not only gives them shame instead

 of their glory; He makes the glory itself the means and occasion of their

shame. (Oh, Lost Person – consider yourself when God is revealed in glory

and you yourselves not a part of it – compare Matthew 8:11-12; Luke 13:28) - THAT WILL BE SHAME – CY – 2012)  Beauty becomes the occasion of degradation; pride is proverbially near a fall; ‘vaulting ambition overleaps

itself and falls on the ‘other side;’ riches and abundance of population tempt nations to wars which become their destruction, or they invite other and

stronger nations to prey upon them.” Jehoash’s reproof of Amaziah and the

result, as recorded in II Kings 14:9-14, furnishes a good illustration of this subject.

 

  • GAIN TAKES THE PLACE OF GODLINESS. Whichever

interpretation be adopted, the general sense here remains the same. The

priests pandered to the sins of the people, and, lest they should lose their

influence with them, they connived at and countenanced their sins when

they should have sharply censured them. Or they encouraged sin that they

might share the sin offerings presented in expiation. What was this in

either case but to live by and upon the sin of a people sinful and laden

with iniquity? Calvin, who makes the priests and people share the sin in

common, says, “There is a collusion between the priests and the people.

How so? Because the priests were the associates of robbers, and gladly

seized on what was brought; and so they carried on no war, as they ought

to have done, with vices, but, on the contrary, urged only the necessity of

sacrifices; and it was enough if men brought things plentifully to the

temple. The people also themselves showed their contempt for God; for

they imagined that, provided they made satisfaction by their ceremonial

performances, they would be exempt from punishment. Thus, then, there

was an ungodly compact between the priests and the people; the Lord was

mocked in the midst of them.”

 

  • WHAT IS GOT BY SIN GIVES NO SATISFACTION.Ill got, ill

gone,” is a common proverb and a very pithy one; so with these faithless

priests in their ministrations for a sinful people. They said in effect, “The

more sin the more sacrifices, and so the greater share of our profits;” but

there was no satisfaction in such things and no success by our share of

profits;” but there was no satisfaction in such things and no success by

them.

 

Ø      The pleasures of sin are mostly sensual; they last only for a season —

a short one; and they afford no real satisfaction and need to be

repeated for the effect. “What profit,” asks the apostle, “had ye

then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end

of those things is death.”  (Romans 6:21)

 

Ø      The priests, instead of reproving sin, did practically recommend it

by their own godless conduct; and the people were well pleased to

have it so (Jeremiah 5:31).   Alike in sin, however, they shall be

alike in suffering; they helped each other in sin, they must have

their share in punishment. The priests abused their position by

neither practicing piety themselves nor inculcating its practice on

others; the people, freed from all restraint and having no fear of

God before their eyes, sinned with a high hand. Both ran to an

excess of riot, and both are to be punished with equal severity;

neither can reasonably expect to be spared.

 

Ø      The root of the evil was their leaving off to take heed to the Lord.

The word shamar, here rendered “to take heed to,” is very expressive;

it means to have a sharp eye upon, then to observe attentively. Applied

to a person, it signifies to have the eye steadily set on his will, to meet

his wishes, to obey. Thus it is said of one waiting on his master, as in Proverbs 27:18,“He that waiteth on his master shall be honored;”

while in Psalm 123:2, we have a good practical illustration of the observance indicated: “Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand

of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until

that He have mercy upon us.”

 

11 “Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.”

It makes no great difference whether we regard this verse as

concluding the foregoing or commencing a new paragraph, though we

prefer the latter mode of connecting it. It states the debasing influence

which debauchery and drunkenness are known to exercise over both

HEAD AND HEART,  they dull the faculties of the former and deaden the

affections of the latter. The heart is not only the seat of the affections, as with us; it

comprises also the, intellect and hwill; while the word tQ"yi is not so much to

take away as to captivate the heart, Rashi gives the former sense: The

whoredom and drunkenness to which they are devoted take away their

heart from me.” Kimchi’s explanation is judicious: “The whoredom to

which they surrender themselves and the constant drunkenness which they

practice take their heart, so that they have no understanding to perceive

what is the way of goodness along which they should go.” He further

distinguishes the tirosh from the yayin, remarking that the former is the

new wine which takes the heart and suddenly intoxicates. The prophet,

having had occasion to mention the sin of whoredom in v.10, makes a

general statement about the consequences of that sin combined with

drunkenness, as not only debasing, BUT DEPRIVING MEN OF THE

RIGHT USE OF THEIR REASON, AND THE PROPER EXERCISE

OF THEIR AFFECTIONS.  (One time in my teaching career, a young girl

gave an oral report on the effects of alcohol on human sexuality.  She said

that “Alcohol increases the desire while hindering the performance.” – CY –

2012) The following verses afford abundant evidence of all this in the insensate

conduct of Israel at the time referred to. 

 

This verse contains the solemn statement of a great moral truth respecting

all sin, and which is specially applicable to sins of sensuality. Who can place

confidence in the moral judgments of an adulterer or a fornicator? (Thus

the plight of our legislative branch of government and often that of the

executive branch.  The Judicial Branch hands down decisions that in the

last half century has promoted whoredom, i.e. Roe v. Wade and other

anti-morality rulings – CY - 2012)  How sad when such men occupy

positions of influence in Church or state!

 

“Beware of lust; it doth pollute and foul

Whom God in baptism washed with His own blood:

It blots thy lesson written in thy soul;

The holy lines cannot be understood.

How dare those eyes upon a Bible look,

Much less towards God, whose lust is all their book!”

(George Herbert.)

 

The first of the next three verses exhibits the private life of the people as depraved

 by sin and folly; the second their public life as degraded by idolatry and lewdness;

while the third points to the corresponding chastisement and its cause.

 

12 “My people ask counsel at their stocks (literally, wood), and their staff

declareth unto them:” - Rashi explains “stocks,” or literally, “wood,” to mean

“a graven image made out of wood;” while Aben Ezra prefaces his exposition of

this by an observation which serves well as a link of connection between the

eleventh and twelfth verses. It is as follows: “The sign that they are in reality without

heart, is that my people turn to ask counsel of its stocks and wood.” Kimchi not

inaptly remarks, “They are like the blind man to whom his staff points out

the way in which he should go.” The stupidity of idolatry and the sin of

divination are here combined. By the “wood” is meant an idol carved out

of wood; while the staff may likewise have an image carved at the top for

idolatrous purposes, or it may denote mode of divination by a staff which

by the way it fell determined their course. Theophylact explains this

method of divination as follows: “They set up two rods, and muttered some

verses and enchantments; and then the rods falling through the influence of

demons, they considered how they fell, whether forward or backward, to

the right or the left, and so gave answers to the foolish people, using the

fall of the rods for signs.” Cyril, who attributes the invention of

rabdomancy to the Chaldeans, gives the same account of this method of

divination. Herodotus mentions a mode of divination prevalent among the

Scythians by means of willow rods; and Tacitus informs us that the

Germans divined by a rod cut from a fruit-bearing tree. “They (the

Germans) cut a twig from a fruit tree, and divide it into small pieces,

which, distinguished by certain marks, are thrown promiscuously on a

white garment. Then the priest or ‘the canton, if the occasion be public —

if private, the master of the family — after an invocation of the gods, with

his eyes lifted up to heaven, thrice takes out each piece, and as they come

up, interprets their signification according to the marks fixed upon them.”

The sin and folly of any people consulting an idol of wood about the

success or otherwise of an undertaking, or deciding whether by a species of

teraphim or staff divination, is sufficiently obvious. But the great

aggravation of Israel’s sin arose from the circumstance not obscurely

hinted by the possessive “my” attached to “people.” That a people like

Israel, whom God had chosen from among the nations of the earth and

distinguished by special tokens of Divine favor, and to whom He had given

the ephod with the truly oracular Urim and Thummim, should forsake Him

and the means He had given them of knowing His will, and turn aside to

gods of wood, evinced at once stupidity unaccountable and sin inexcusable.

“The prophet,” says Calvin, “calls here the Israelites the people of God, not

to honor them, but rather to increase their sin; for the more heinous was

the perfidy of the people, that, having been chosen, they had afterwards

forsaken their heavenly Father.... Now this people, that ought to be mine,

consult their own wood, and their staff answers them!” – “for the spirit of

whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a-whoring

from under their God.”  In this part of the verse the prophet attempts to

account for the extreme folly and heinous sin of Israel, as described in the

first clause. It was an evil spirit, some demoniac power, that had inspired

them with an insuperable fondness for idolatry, which in prophetic

language is spiritual adultery. The consequence was a sad departure from

the true God and a sinful wandering away from His worship,

notwithstanding His amazing condescension and love by which He placed

Himself in the relation of a husband towards them.

 

13 “They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn

incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the

shadow thereof is good:”  - The prophet here enlarges on the sin of idolatry

mentioned in the preceding verse, and explains fully HOW IT SHOWED

ITSELF IN THE PUBLIC LIFE OF THE PEOPLE.   Two places are

specified as scenes of idolatrous worship: one was the tops of mountains and hills;

the other under every green tree, here specified as oaks, poplars, and terebinths,

whether growing alone or in groves, in vale or upland. The hills and

mountain-tops were selected on account of their elevation, as though the

worshippers were thus brought nearer to the objects of their adoration; the

green trees as affording shade from the scorching heat of an Eastern sun,

secrecy for their licentious rites, and a sort of solemn awe associated with

such shadow. In such scenes they not only slew victims, but burnt odors in

honor of their idols. The resemblance to, if not imitation of, the rites of

heathenism in all this is obvious. Among the Greeks the oak was sacred to

Jupiter at Dodona, and among the old Britons the Druidical priests

practiced their superstitions in the shadow of the oaks. The poplar again

was sacred to Hercules, affording a most grateful shade; while in

Ezekiel 6:13 we read that “under every thick terebinth” was one of the

places where “they did offer sweet savor to their idols.” The inveterate

custom of these idolaters is implied in the Piel or iterative form of the verb;

the singular of the nouns, under oak and poplar and terebinth, intimates

that scene after scene of Israel’s sin passes under the prophet’s review,

each exciting his deep indignation; the mention of the goodly shadow

seems designed to heighten that feeling of just indignation, as though it

came into competition or comparison with “THE SHADOW OF THE

ALMIGHTY,” the abiding-place of him that “dwelleth in the secret

 place of the Most High.” – “therefore your daughters shall commit

whoredom, and your spouses (properly, daughters-in-law) shall commit

adultery. hL;K" primarily signifies “bride,” but for the parents of the bridegroom,

“daughter-in-law,” its secondary sense. The bad example of the parents

acts upon their children and reacts upon themselves; on their children in

causing bad conduct, on themselves by way of chastisements. The parents

had been guilty of spiritual whoredom by their idolatry; their daughters

and daughters-in-law would commit whoredom in THE LITERAL AND

CARNAL SENSE!   This would wound the parents’ feelings to the quick and

pain them in the tenderest part. Their personal honor would be compromised by

such scandalous conduct on the part of their daughters; their family honor

would be wounded and the fair fame (and name) of posterity TARNISHED

BY SUCH GROSS MISCONDUCT on the part of the daughters-in-law.

The following observations are made on the last member of this thirteenth verse by

The Hebrew commentators: “Because the men of the house go out of the city

to the high mountains and under every green tree there to serve idols,

therefore their daughters and daughters-in-law have opportunity to commit

whoredom and adultery” (Kimchi). To like purpose Aben Ezra writes:

“The sense is — On the bare mountains and so on the hills they sacrifice;

they say to the priests of Baal that they shall sacrifice; and therefore,

because the men go out of the cities in order to burn incense, the daughters

and daughters-in-law remain in the houses behind, therefore they commit

whoredom.” Somewhat different is the explanation of Rashi: “Because ye

associate for idolatry after the manner of the heathen, and the heathen

associate with you, and ye form affinities with them, your daughters also

who are born to you by the daughters of the heathen conduct themselves

after the manner of their mothers, and commit whoredom.”

 

14 “I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom,

nor your spouses when they commit adultery:” -  The spiritual

adultery of parents and husbands would be punished by the carnal adultery

of daughters and wives; SIN WOULD THUS BE PUNISHED BY SIN!

Their own dishonor and disgrace, through the unfaithfulness of persons

so near to them, would impress them with a sense of the DISHONOR

DONE TO GOD,  the spiritual Husband of His people; their feeling of pain

and shame in consequence would convey to them a clearer notion of the

abhorrence which their offences had occasioned to God. But their punishment

would become more severe, and their pain intensified by the Divine refusal

to avenge them by punishing the lewdness that caused such dishonor.

(It took me a long time in my life before I understood homosexuality as a

Judgment from God!  For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections:

 for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against

 nature:  And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman,

burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that

which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of

their error which was meet.  And even as they did not like to retain God

 in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those

things which are not convenient;” – Romans 1:26-28 – CY – 2012)  While

punishment would prevent the sin and consequent reproach, impunity, or

the postponement of punishment, would leave the offenders to go on in

their course of sin and shame. Aben Ezra comments on this fourteenth

verse as follows: “The sense is — It is not to be wondered at if the

daughters commit whoredom; for they themselves, when they go up to the

tops of the mountains to burn incense, eat and drink with harlots and

commit whoredom — all of them. And, behold, the sense is, not that he

shall not punish them at all, but He speaks in regard to, i.e. in comparison

with, the fathers; for they teach them to commit whoredom doing

according to their works. Perhaps the daughters are still little, therefore I

shall not punish.” Rashi thinks that this threatening refers to the disuse of

the bitter waters of jealousy, so that suspected guilt could not be detected.

But there is nothing to intimate such a reference; nor would it be in

keeping with the scope of the passage. Again, some, as in the margin of the

Authorized Version, read the words, not indicatively, but interrogatively —

“Shall I not punish,” etc.? This would require such a meaning to be read

into the passage as the following: “Assuredly I shall punish them; and not

the daughters and daughters-in-law only, but the parents and husbands still

more severely, because of their greater criminality.” Equally unsatisfactory

is the explanation of Theodoret, who, taking dq"p; in a good sense, which it

has with the accusative, understands it of God’s refusing any protection or

preservation of their daughters and spouses from outrage at the hands of a

hostile soldiery, so that such sins as they themselves had been guilty in

private, would be committed with the females of their family in public – “for

they themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with

harlots:” - The change of person appears to imply that God turns away with

inexpressible disgust from such vileness, and, turning aside to a third party,

explains the grounds of His procedure. The Qedesheth were females who

devoted themselves to licentiousness in the service of Ashtaroth, the

Sidonian Venus. Persons of this description were attached to idol temples

and idolatrous worship in heathen lands in ancient times, as in India at the

present time. The ‘Speaker’s Commentary’ calls them “devotee-harlots,”

and cites an allusion to the custom from the Moabite Stone, as follows: “I

did not kill the women and maidens, for I devoted them to Ashtarkemosh.”

After stating the humiliating fact that fathers and husbands in

Israel, instead of uniting with their wives in the worship of Jehovah,

separated themselves, going aside with these female idolaters for the

purpose of lewdness, and shared in their sacrificial feasts, the prophet, or

rather God by the prophet, impatient of the recital of such shameless

licentiousness, and indignant at such presumptuous sinning, closes abruptly

with the declaration of the recklessness, and denunciation of the ruin of all

such offenders, in the words“the people that doth not understand

shall fall.”  -  margin, be punished; rather, dashed to the ground, or plunge

into ruin (nilbat). Both Aben Ezra and Kimchi give from the Arabic, as an

alternative sense of silbat, to FALL INTO ERROR!

 

 

Faults in the Life Breed Errors in the Brain

and

  Errors in the Brain Produce Faults in the Life (vs. 11-14)

 

Thus it was with Israel. Debauchery and drunkenness, and this to an extreme

degree, had:

 

o       darkened the understanding,

o       hardened the heart,

o       paralyzed the will, and

o       seared the conscience.

 

In this ENFEEBLED STATE of their intellectual and moral powers, they had

recourse, in cases of doubt or difficulty, not to the high priest, or prophets of God,

or Divine Word, for guidance and direction, but to their images of wood or

idolatrous divining staff.

 

  • SIN LEADS TO SIN. If sorrows love a train, sins like a series. How

often the culprit endeavors to conceal his guilt by lying, and thus adds one

sin to another! Lewdness and intemperance, as here intimated, frequently

go hand in hand. Since, then, sins are so linked to each other, our safety as

well as our duty is to resist the very beginning and budding of evil in the

soul. Every time sin is indulged the power of resistance is weakened, until

men become the prey of the evil one, and, after a few weak wrestlings of

the spirit against the flesh, the heart is easily taken captive (II Timothy

2:26).  An effectual way of avoiding vice or any vicious course is to

practice the opposite virtues. This is vastly more than forming a theory

of virtue in one’s thoughts; for, as Butler has shown, “from our very faculty

of habits passive impressions, by being repeated, grow weaker,” but

“practical habits are formed and strengthened by repeated acts.”

 

  • THE FOLLY OF SIN. The stupidity of which Israel gave evidence is

traced to a spirit of whoredoms. The ruach, or spirit, in this passage

somewhat resembles the personification of Ate by the Greeks, which in

Homer denotes the infatuation or spirit of error that prompts to crime, then

the crime committed, and also the punishment that overtakes crime. In the

allegoric representation of Ate by Homer she has different and apparently

contradictory attributes: as infatuation, taking possession of the mind; and

blinding its faculties through passion. She has tender feet, does not tread

on the ground, but moves gently and noiselessly over men’s heads,

surprising them in their unguarded moments, to their unspeakable injury.

Again, in the commission of crime her gait is marked by strength of body

and firmness of step and strong excitement, while in the punishment of

crime the retribution is sudden, powerful, and certain. In these two

capacities, that that is to say, the perpetration of crime and its punishment,

she is vigorous and firm of step. To the spirit of whoredom as an evil spirit

of infatuation, like this Greek Ate, bewilderingly misleading men to the

perpetration of evil and making them obnoxious to punishment, the

prophet traces Israel’s stupidity in consulting idols and similar means of

divination on the one hand, and their sin in departing from God, the

loving Husband and rightful Head of his people, on the other. Thus the

spirit of whoredoms may be compared with similar Scripture expressions,

such as a spirit of jealousy, a lying spirit, an unclean spirit; or it may denote

the vehement spirit with which men, bent on idolatry and adultery —

adultery both in the spiritual and carnal sense — were hurried along; while

the faithlessness of the adulteress fitly represents the spiritual infidelity

of Israel.

 

  • ZEAL CONTRARY TO KNOWLEDGE. The people of Israel

fancied that they were worshipping God on the high hills and under the

tall trees; but this was ignorant will-worship, or worse. God had appointed

Jerusalem as the place of his worship, and had commanded sacrifices and

incense to be offered there, and NOWHERE ELSE!

 

Ø      The multiplication of altars and memorials elsewhere, however

praiseworthy Israel might imagine it, was really a violation of the

Divine command; and so God regarded it, for “behold, to obey is

 better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams?

(I Samuel 15:22)  Will-worship may have a show of wisdom in it,

and may be well meaning, yet it is will-worship all the same. If

we will worship God acceptably, then it must be in the place He

has appointed and in the manner He has Himself prescribed.

Mountains have often been associated with sacred service and

sacred scenes. Thus the sacrifice of Isaac was to be on a mountain

(Genesis 22);  the giving of the Law was on a mountain (Exodus 19);

the temple was erected on a mountain (I Kings 8); the transfiguration,

the crucifixion, and the ascension, were each on a mountain (Matthew

17; Luke 23; Acts 1). But mountains became scenes of idolatry and

sin, and therefore God, when He forbade such worship, forbade the

scenes thereof.

 

Ø      Israel’s zeal was worthy of a better cause. That zeal characterized

their sacrifices, for it is the intensive form of the verb that is used — yezabbeehu (Piel), not yizbechu (Qal); it distinguished their burning

of incense, for again it is first yeqatteru, not yaqteru. “The words

express,” says Pusey, “that this which God forbade they did

diligently; they sacrificed much and diligently; they burned incense

much and diligently.” Nor was this all. They performed with equal diligence both the important parts of the service — the sacrifice and

the burning of incense.

 

Ø      The blood of the sacrifice signified atonement; the pleasant smell

of the incense typified service acceptably offered. “Incense, being fragrant, represented that which is pleasing, and which has in it acceptability; and when offered along with prayer, praise, or any

feeling of the soul, exhibited a type of the merits of the Surety

enveloping His people’s services.”

 

  • MEN’S OWN SINS ARE OFTEN MADE THEIR SCOURGES.

Never did the great poet of human nature give expression to a truer

sentiment than that —

 

“The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices

Make instruments to scourge us.”

 

This was eminently the case with Israel. (I recommend Proverbs ch14 v14 –

Spurgeon Sermon- How a Man’s Conduct Comes Home to Him – this web

site – CY  - 2012)  They had committed spiritual adultery, renouncing their subjection to Him by violation of the marriage covenant, and thereby

forfeiting that protection secured to them by the conditions of that covenant. “They,” says an old writer,” who commit idolatry, and follow false religions,

and so do renounce subjection to God, and put themselves from under His directions, do also put themselves from under His protection; for in both

these respects it is true that Israel went “awhoring from under their God.”

They prostituted themselves to idols, and withdrew from under God’s

authority, casting off the obedience they owed Him and the reverence

which was His due. Nay, more, fathers of families and husbands at the

head of households were not only guilty of spiritual whoredom or idolatry;

they were guilty of carnal whoredom with those vile priestesses to

abominable idols and prostitutes to the worshippers — devotee-harlots

who had consecrated themselves to a life of sin, as though such

shameful desecration of themselves were consecration to Divine service.

Now they are in turn disgraced and distressed by the whoredom of

their daughters and the adultery of their wives; nor are they allowed to

comfort themselves by the hope of a speedy cessation of such corruption,

for, unchecked by chastisement, the licentiousness continues,

PROSPERITY IN SIN TEMPTING TO PERSERVERANCE. “So,”

says Pusey, “through their own disgrace and bitter griefs, in the persons

of those whose honor they most cherished, they should learn how ill they themselves had done, in departing from Him who is the Father and

Husband OF EVERY SOUL!  The sins of the fathers descend very often

to the children, both in the way of nature, that the children inherit strong temptations to their parents’ sin, and by way of example, that THEY

GREEDILY IMITATE, and often EXAGGERATE THEM!

 

In the next section, vs. 15-17,  the prophet, as if despairing of any

improvement or amendment on the part of Israel, still resolutely bent on

spiritual whoredom, addresses AN EARNEST WARNING TO JUDAH.

 

15 “Though thou, Israel, play harlot, yet let not Judah offend;” - From

proximity to those idolatries and debaucheries so prevalent in this northern

kingdom, and from the corruption at least of the court in the southern kingdom

during the reigns of Joram, Ahaziah, and Ahaz, JUDAH WAS IN

DANGER and hence the prophet turned aside, with words of earnest warning,

to the sister kingdom not to involve herself in the same or similar guilt.  Rashi’s

brief comment here is, “Let not the children of Judah learn their ways.”

“and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven, nor swear,

The Lord liveth.” -  From a solemn warning in general terms, He proceeds to a

specific prohibition. The prohibition forbids pilgrimages to places of idol-worship,

such as Gilgal and Bethaven; it also forbids a profession of Jehovah-worship to be

made by persons inclined to idolatrous practices. Gilgal, now the village of Jiljilia,

which had been a school of the prophets in the days of Elijah and Elisha, had, as

we may rightly infer from passages in Hoses and Amos, become a seat of idolatrous

worship. The Hebrew interpreters confound the Gilgal here referred to

with the still more renowned Gilgal between Jericho and the Jordan, where

Joshua circumcised the people a second time, and celebrated the Passover,

and where, manna failing, the people ate of the old corn of the land. “And

why,” asks Kimchi, “to Gilgal? Because at Gilgal the sanctuary was at the

first when they entered the land; therefore when they went to worship idols

they built high places there for the idols. But with respect to the tribe of

Judah, what need has it to go to Gilgal and to leave the house of the

sanctuary which is in their own cities?” And Beth-el, now Beitin, had

become Beth-aven — the house of God a house of idols, after Jeroboam

had set up the calf there. Judah was to eschew those places so perilous to

purity of worship; also a practice hypocritical in its nature and highly

dangerous in its tendency, namely, confessing Jehovah with the lips, and by

a solemn act of attestation indicative of adherence to His worship, but

belying that confession by complicity in idolatrous practices, like the

peoples who “worshipped Jehovah, but served their own gods”

(II Kings 17:33).  Kimchi observes as follows: “For ye engage in strange

worship, and yet swear by the Name of Jehovah; this is the way of incensing

and despising Him.”

 

16 “For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the

Lord will feed them s, a lamb in a large place.” This verse conveys the

reason of the warning contained in the preceding; and that reason is the

punishment which is to overtake Israel as the consequence of their

refractoriness. If this view of the connection be correct, it will help to the

right understanding of a difficult passage. The “backsliding,” according to

the Authorized Version, is rather “stubbornness,” “intractableness,” or

“unmanageableness.” Keil renders it “refractory.” This refractoriness was

Israel’s sin; THE PEOPLE WOULD HAVE THEIR OWN WAY  and

became refractory, like an unmanageable heifer, which rebels upon being

trained. Aben Ezra explains hr;reso (which, by the way, has tsere before

the tone syllable) as follows: “ys is he who turns aside from the way that is

appointed him, so that he does not walk in it. And, behold, he compares Israel

to a stubborn cow, with which a man cannot plough.” So also Kfinchi: “Like a

heifer which goes on a crooked way, and curves itself from under the yoke, that

a man cannot plough with it; so Israel are crooked under their God, as they

have taken upon them the yoke of the Law and of the commandments

which He commanded them, and curve themselves under the yoke, and

break from off them the yoke of the commandments.” Israel rebelled

against instruction, waxed stubborn and intractable. They would have their

own way, and worshipped according to their own will, in indulging all the

while with a high hand IN VILEST LUSTS.   Now the season of punishment

is arrived; and as they refused instruction and rebelled against Divine guidance,

God, in just judgment and deserved punishment, LEAVES THEM UNTO

THEMSELVES.  Carried into captivity, they may worship what they will,

and live as they list. IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES THEY WILL

RESEMBLE A LAMB TAKEN AWAY INTO A WILDERNESS AND

LEFT THERE TO RANGE THE WILD AND LIVE AT LARGE, BUT

WITHOUT PROVISION AND WITHOUT PROTECTION.   Untended

by the shepherd’s watchful care, unguarded from ravening wolves or

other beasts of prey, THAT LAMB IS IN A LOST AND PERISHING

CONDITION! (Is that not the condition that the United States, that once great

Christian Nation, the New Testament equivalent of Israel in the Old?  - CY – 2012)

So shall it be with Israel!

 

17 “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.”  Ephraim being the

dominant tribe, gave its name to the northern kingdom. The idols were

Ephraim’s folly, and to that they were wedded; and in consequence they

are left to their folly, and at the same time surrendered to their fate. They

may persist in their folly; they cannot be prevented. “Give him rest,” as the

words literally mean:

 

  • Rest from exhortations and expostulations,
  • Rest from remonstrances and reproofs.

 

He will:

 

·        persist in his folly,

·        prepare for his fate, and

·        PERISH IN HIS SIN.

 

(This abandonment was not without precedent:  see Genesis 6:3 – nor is it

to be the last!  Is not God in the process of withdrawing His Holy Spirit from

the world which will set up the scenario found in II Thessalonians 2:7-12? –

CY – 2012) This abandonment of Ephraim proves the desperate

nature of his case. Left to his own recklessness, HE IS RUSHING

TOWARD RUIN!   Judah is warned to stand aloof from the contagion,

lest by interference he might get implicated in the sin and involved in the

punishment of Ephraim.  The Hebrew commentators express the word

rendered “joined to” in the Authorized Version by words importing “yoked to,”

“allied with,” and “cleaving to.” Again, hn"h", imperative of j"nihe, is explained by

them as follows: — Rashi: “Leave off, O prophet, and prophesy not to reprove

him, for it is of no use.” Aben Ezra: “Let him alone till God shall chastise

him; perhaps his eyes shall then open.” Kimchi: “Jehovah says to the prophet,

Cease to reprove him, for it is of no use .... As a man who is angry with his fellow,

because he will not hearken to him when he reproves him, and says, Since thou

hearkenest not to me, I will cease for ever to reprove thee.”

 

18 “Their drink is sour (margin, is gone): they have committed whoredom

continually:” – This verse gives a picture of the degeneracy of the times. If the

first clause be taken literally:

 

  • it denotes a charge of drunkenness preferred against Ephraim. To this

vice the people of the northern kingdom, as is well known, were addicted:

the wine, from oft-repeated potations, became sour in the stomach and

produced loathsome eructations.

 

  • Some, connecting closely the first and second clauses, and translating

as in the margin, explain the meaning to be that “when their intoxication is

gone they commit whoredom.” But though drunkenness and debauchery

frequently go together, it is rather during the former than afterwards that

the latter is indulged in.

 

  • The first clause had better be understood figuratively, and the latter

either literally or figuratively, or both. Thus the sense is the degeneracy of

principle among the people in general, or rather among the principal men of

that day. By the finest wine becoming vapid, the prophet represents THE

LEADING MEN OF THE NATION, ON WHOM SO MUCH

DEPENDED AND FROM WHOM SO MUCH MIGHT BE

EXPECTED, AS BECOMING UNPRINCIPLED, AND AS

BEING ADDICTED TO IMMORALITY OR IDOLATRY,

OR PROBABLY BOTH -  (hazneh hiznu): “whoring they

have committed whoredom.”  (Does this paragraph not only call

to memory, leadership in the House, Senate and the White House

[living and deceased; openly gay, reputedly and known drunkards,

the known sexually promiscuous] in Washington, D.C., but it is also

a warning.  How does the general populace get into position, or should

I say condition, to elect such to represent and lead them? – Because

as Psalm 47:9 reveals that leaders are to be shields for the people, GOD

GETS INVOLVED BECAUSE OF THEIR NEGLIGENCE  - CY –

2012)

 

“her rulers (margin, shields) with shame do love, Give ye.” -  or rather,

her shields love, love shame. The first takes Ybhe for Wbh;, as imperative of bh"y;,

to give, and should rather be, “Her shields love, ‘ Give ye — shame, as there is no

preposition before the word “shame;” even thus it is awkward. Most modern

expositors take Wbhe as a contraction of wbhea;, and so a repetition of part of the

full verb preceding; thus: Wbhe Wbj]a;, equivalent to “loved, loved.” Ewald, Delitzsch,

and Pusey understand it so; the latter says this “is probably one of the earliest forms of

the intensive verb, repeating a part of the verb itself with its inflection.”

And Keil calls it “a construction resembling the pealal form.” Among the

sebirin, or conjectural readings, we find both words united into one; thus:

Wbhebh"a}, equivalent to “mightily love.” The shields are the princes, or

natural protectors of the state, as in Psalm 47:9, “The princes of the

people are gathered together.., for the shields of the earth belong unto

God.” The shame they loved was the sin which is a shame to either princes

or people, causes shame, and ends in shame. Isaiah expounds the thought

(in Isaiah 1:23), a comparison of which confirms the above exposition.

 

The last verse predicts the destruction that would ensue.

 

19 “The wind hath bound her up in her wings,” -  or, she hath bound up the

wind with her in her skirts.  In the one case the wind is the strong storm-wind of

Divine wrath that will seize on Ephraim, wrap her up with its wings, and carry her

away. (For this ability of God, consider the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy –

CY – 2012).  In the other case, Ephraim wraps up the wind, that is, disappointment,

the result of her sin, in the fold of her skirt.

 

  • The translation of the first clause is supported by Rashi: “The

storm takes her in its wings, as that bird which the wind does not let rest

until it makes him go far away; so the enemies will come upon them and

carry them into exile.”

 

  • Translation two is favored by Aben Ezra and Kimchi; the former says,

“As the man who binds the wind in the folds of his robe without finding

anything therein.”

 

“and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.”  Frustrated in her

hopes, and disappointed by the idols, from which she hoped so much and

got so little, she is ashamed of the sacrifices she offered them; not of the

altars (Septuagint), for the preposition min is indispensable.

 

 

A Passing Word of Warning is Addressed to Judah (vs.15-19)

 

The prophet pauses in his dark catalogue of Israel’s sins and sorrows, and,

turning aside, speaks a word of warning to Judah, that the people of the

southern kingdom might be deterred from the crimes and awed by the

calamities of their northern neighbors. In the large heart and catholic spirit

of the prophet both Judahite and Israelite found a place; he had a message

from God for both.

 

  • PLACES PERILOUS TO PIETY SHOULD BE SHUNNED. Judah

had hitherto maintained their superiority to Israel both in religious worship

and moral conduct; but their proximity to such neighbors was fraught with

PERIL!  Evil communications exercise a fearful potency in corrupting

good manners (I Corinthians 15:33); sensual indulgences, especially in the

guise and under the name of religion, present strong inducements; scenes

of sin have not infrequently a fatal glamour about them. If Judah would

steer clear of the rocks on which the faith of Israel had been wrecked, they

must keep aloof from such places of peril and scenes of dissipation as Gilgal

and Beth-avon. Wantonness and crime had proved disastrous to Israel,

therefore let Judah beware and take warning in time. if men are in earnest

in their prayers and in their efforts to avoid temptation, they must keep away

from those places and those persons that would tend to lead them into temptation. Hypocritical profession with irreligious practice was both

detrimental and dangerous.  After this friendly warning to Judah, Hosea

resumes his complaint aboutIsrael.

 

  • PUNISHMENT IS OFTEN A DARK REFLECTION OF MEN’S

SINS. Israel had refused God’s yoke, comparatively easy as it was, and

started backward or turned sideward instead of drawing forward. They

declined God’s service, and determined to have full liberty and license.

They got their desire, but it was given them in judgment. The limits of the

law and its straitness provoked their resistance; now they will be permitted

to wander forth as captives through the wide wilderness of the East, or as

exiles with all the world before them. They had been strong and stubborn

as a headstrong, unmanageable heifer; now they are to become solitary as a

lamb shut out from its flock or separated from its dam, and in a state as

helpless as that same weak creature when exposed to savage beasts of

prey, and left alone amid the wasteness of a wilderness. Ephraim, turning

away her affections from her Maker as her Husband, got attached to idols,

and clave fast to them; and so they are given up to their own hearts’ lusts.

They don’t wish to part with their beloved idols, or to be parted from

them; nor shall they. They are incorrigible, and God gives them up as

beyond reproof and without hope — absolutely desperate. They wished to

be left to themselves and their own ways, and so they are; not even Judah

is to interfere with them. They are to be let go on without check from

conscience, or reproof from prophet, or warning from the Divine Word, or

any interference by Providence. “It is a sad and sore judgment for any man

to be let alone in sin: for God to say concerning a sinner,” HE IS JOINED

TO IDOLS,  the world and the flesh; he is incurably proud, covetous, or

profane, an incurable drunkard or adulterer, — LET HIM ALONE;

conscience, let him alone; minister, let him alone; providences, let him alone.

Let nothing awaken him till the flames of hell do it. The father corrects not

the rebellious son any more when he determines to disinherit him. “Those

that are not disturbed in their sin will be destroyed for their sin.”

 

  • PERSISTENCE IN EVIL PROVOCATIVE OF DIVINE DESERTION.

 

Ø      Persistence in evil. Idolaters are so attached to their idol-gods that

they will not give them up, however hideous those idols or however

vile those gods may be.

 

o       The people of Israel were bound to their idols; as another prophet

says, “They hold fast deceit” (Jeremiah 8:5);  they are even as

loath to change as to give up their idols. “Hath a nation changed

their gods, which are yet no gods?” (Ibid. ch. 2:11)  The word in

the original is the same as that used in Genesis 14. of the kings

who came together as confederates unto the valley of Siddim; and never was there a more unholy alliance than that of Israel and

Israel’s idols, or that of sinners and their beloved lusts in general.

The word is also used of fascination, by binding magical knots;

and never was magical knot tighter or fascination stronger than

that of an easily besetting sin over its victim.  Men have been

found to sacrifice their best and dearest interests for the sake of

some low lust, some evil propensity, or some sinful habit.

 

o       A great disproportion. “But,” says an old writer, “will idolaters

thus adhere to their idols? will their hearts be united to them? are

they willing to be one spirit with them? Oh, how much more

should we be joined to the Lord our God, to Jesus Christ, the

 Savior, and to the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier, the glorious

triune Jehovah, to be as one spirit with Him!  That exhortation

of Barnabas (Acts 11:23), that with full ‘purpose of heart they

should cleave unto the Lord,’ is seasonable at all times.”

 

Ø      Divine desertion. This was implied in the injunction to whomsoever

it was addressed.

 

o       If addressed to Judah, as it seems, it enjoins them to withdraw from

srael, though their countrymen and brethren — to have nothing more to do with them, to leave them to themselves, to let them alone. Few things are worse to bear than spiritual isolation. When the saints withdraw from a man because of the stubbornness of his rebellion against God, and his incorrigible willfulness in the pursuit of sin,

 it is a heavy judgment from God; it is equal in bitterness to the

curse pronounced on the man who loveth not the Lord Jesus Christ, and of whom it is said, “Let him be Anathema-Maranatha”

(I Corinthians 16:22).  As if it were said, “Let a curse rest on the devoted head of such a one; let him be left to himself, deserted by

the saints and the Lord will deal with him.”

 

o       If the injunction is addressed to the prophet, it means that he is to

take no further trouble with Ephraim, and cast no more pearls

before swine (Matthew 7:6); that he is to cease his ministry in that direction, and shake the very dust off his feet as a testimony

against such wayward rebels (Ibid. ch. 10:14). So when ministers

have exhausted all their powers of persuasion, and all the varied resources of admonition, warning, entreaty, remonstrance with

stout-hearted, refractory sinners, a time comes when they must

just let them alone, LEAVING THEM TO BE DEALT WITH

BY THE MASTER AT HIS COMING.

 

o       But, worst of all, God Himself lets them alone; and when He does

so, it is a token of their rejection. A father has used all legitimate means to reclaim his profligate, prodigal, or rebellious son; and

when all has proved in vain, he is forced to say, “I have done with him; I disown him; I will have nothing more to do with him; I will leave him to himself, and let him alone.” So God lets men alone

when He gives them over to themselves, leaving them to their

own devices, to their lusts, to their evil ways, to their doings that

are not good. “They would none of me,” saith God, “so I gave

them up to their own counsels” (Psalm 81:11-12).  The Spirit of

the living God has striven with that man to turn him away from

his injustice, or profanity, or drunkenness, or impurity, or

hypocrisy; but he has resisted the Spirit, stifled the voice of conscience, and gone on in his way of wickedness, till God,

long-suffering though He be, and full of infinite loving-kindness,

says at last, “My Spirit shall not always strive. Let him that is

filthy be filthy still; let him that is unjust be unjust still.”

(Genesis 6:3; Revelation 22:11)

 

o       Consider the dreadful import of this brief sentence — “Let him alone.”  It is as if God said, “Let him alone — he is rushing on

ruin; let no barrier interpose to stop him; let him take his own

way. Hitherto, and for long, he has been checked by the

restraints of Providence; now let him alone.” It is all very well

when a man is at ease, in safety, or among his friends, to let

him alone; but when he is rushing into the sweltering tide of

ocean, or into the blazing fire of a widespread conflagration,

or in among most deadly enemies, to let him alone is to consign

him to destruction. It is not necessary that God should send His

power to overwhelm us, in His justice to condemn us, or His

wrath to consume us; He has only to let us alone, and

our destruction is inevitable. When He let Adam alone, leaving

him to himself, he undid himself and his posterity; when he let Hezekiah alone, what misery that good king brought upon

himself and his subjects!  (II Kings 20)

 

o       We must refuse to partake of other men’s sins, if we would not

share their punishment. One cannot touch pitch without being

defiled.

 

o       We must beware of the “large place” outside of the Lord’s fold.

The broad way leads to destruction. Men of firm Christian

principle are sometimes called “narrow;” but we must dare to

be as narrow as the straight line of God’s righteousness (Matthew

7:13-14), and at no time depart from the leading of the good

Shepherd.

 

o       Let the fear of this terrible Lord God awe us! Beware of

committing willful sin, lest God should say, Let him alone.”

Dread of being thus let alone is a sure sign that God has

not let us alone, and safe way of keeping us from being let

alone. May the good Lord preserve us from such a fearful

fate!

 

 

Terms for Thougtht

 

The Connection Between Religion and Morality

The Connection Between National Sin and National Suffering

God’s Lawsuit                        Spiritual Insensibility

Religious Ignorance               Feeding on Sin

 

 

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