Hosea 7

 

 

This chapter may be divided into three sections. In the first section, including vs. 1-7,

the prophet reproves with much but deserved severity the depraved morals of king

and princes. In the second section, consisting of vs. 8-11, he rebukes their

sinfulness, silliness, pride, and stupid obstinacy, notwithstanding the many

 manifest tokens of decay.  Otherwise the first section deals with the internal

corruption of the northern kingdom, and the second exposes their sinful and

harmful foreign policy. The third section, vs. 12-16, threatens the infliction of

punishment incurred by their gross wickedness and base ingratitude to God.

 

1 “When I would have healed Israel,” -  We may, with some, understand this

healing of those  prophetic admonitions and rebukes by which God designed to cure the

transgressions and heal the backslidings of His people.  It is more probable, however,

that the reference is to the partial restoration of the national prosperity in the days of

Jeroboam II., who “restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto

the sea of the plain” (II Kings 14:25).  Jerome’s exposition is not so natural when

he says, “The sense is: When I wished to blot out the old sins of my people, on account

of ancient idolatry, Ephraim and Samaria discovered new idols;” the old sins and

ancient idolatry he refers to the making and worshipping of the golden calf

in the wilderness, while the new idols were the calf-worship which

Jeroboam of the tribe of Ephraim instituted, and the people of the capital,

Samaria, adopted. When God would heal, or as often as He proceeded to

heal, Israel, the evils broke out afresh, or came more fully to light, just like

a wound the dangerous nature of which is discovered by the surgeon’s

probe in the effort to heal it – “then the iniquity of Ephraim was

discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria:” - The sin of the northern

kingdom manifested itself in high quarters — in the premier tribe of Israel,

and in the capital city of Samaria. “Because,” says Aben Ezra, in his

comment, “they said, He hath torn, and he will heal us, he says, When I

was disposed to heal them, the wickedness concealed in their heart stood

before my face, which they have not left off until the present time, for they

practice falsehood; by night they steal, and by day troops (of bandits)

spread themselves outside the cities.” Similarly, Rashi explains: “When I

was willing to help and to heal them, their iniquities manifested themselves

before me, for they practiced lying constantly; while thieves of their

number entered in continually, and stole the wealth of their companions,

and even their gangs spread themselves for robberies to rob men.” – “for

they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers

spoileth (margin, strippeth) without.”  Here follows an enumeration of the

crimes of which they were guilty. There was falsehood, or fraud, or

deception generally, and that, not only in words, but in works; next comes

dishonesty, both in public and in private. The thief privately entered the

houses, and committed burglary; gangs of highwaymen publicly infested

the roads, spoiling the passers-by, or rather roamed or spread themselves

abroad for plunder, since it is the causative conjugation of pashat that has

the signification of stripping or spoiling others. The thief within, the rubber

robs without.

 

2 “And they consider not in their hearts (margin, say not to their heart)

that I remember all their wickedness:” -  Between the common

reading libravken and bilravken found in several manuscripts by Kennicott

and De Rossi, there is a not unimportant difference. The latter, equivalent

to saying “in their heart,” which is the usual expression, denotes one’s

inward thoughts or reasonings with himself; the former, equivalent to

saying “to their heart,” is an address to, or remonstrance with, the heart

with the view of restraining its evil purposes. God’s remembrance of

wickedness imports its punishment -  “now their own doings have beset them

about;” -  Their doings have become evident or conspicuous as a robe or garment

with which a man is surrounded, or a troop of body-guards placed about him. Or

the terrors and penal consequences of their sins have surrounded them

like a garment, as we elsewhere read, “He clothed himself with cursing like

as with his garment”  (Psalm 109:18). In this latter sense the figure is rather

taken from enemies besieging a town or city, and beleaguering it closely all

around, or from lictors, i.e. officers of the law surrounding them, or even

witnesses confronting them on every side. Kimchi explains the sense as follows:

“Now their evil deeds surround them, which were before my face and were

not hidden from me; and, while they receive the punishment, they will

remember that I know all the whole, and that it is I who return their

reward upon their head.”  - “they are before my face.”  This last clause, has

a striking and awe-inspiring parallel in the Psalm 90:8: “Thou hast set

our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.”

Aben Ezra’s exposition is somewhat obscure; it is as follows: “They think

that I do not see them, and they do not observe that their actions encircle

them, as they are before my face.”

 

3  “They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the

princes with their lies. The moral corruption and depravity of Israel were

EXTREME and UNIVERSAL.   They reached from the rabble to royalty,

from the common people to the princes of the court. The king and princes

were in full accord with fellows of the basest sort, taking pleasure in their

wickedness and applauding their lies.  Rosenmüller quotes the explanation

of Abarbanel to the following purport: “He (the prophet) means to say that the

violent men of that age were accustomed to narrate their atrocities to their kings,

that the latter might thence derive entertainment.” It is much the same whether

the king and princes of that time took pleasure in the villanies which were

perpetrated, or in the narratives of those villanies to which they listened,

A somewhat different rendering, and consequently different exposition,

have much to recommend them: “In their wickedness they make the king

merry, and in their feigning the princes;” their wickedness was their

diabolical design to assassinate king and princes; with this object in view

they make the king merry with wine so that he might fall an easy and

unsuspecting victim; their feigning was their fell purpose of assassination

under the profession of friendship. Such was the desperate treachery of

those miscreant conspirators. This view tallies well with the context.

 

Verses. 4, 6, and 7 are linked together by the figure of an “oven,” common to

them; while 4 and 6 have also in common the figure of a “baker.” Further, we are

helped to the literal meaning of the metaphorical language of vs. 4 and 6 by vs.5

and 7 respectively.

 

4 They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker,” -  Whether the

sin indicated was idolatry, which is often represented as spiritual adultery, or

adultery in the literal sense, which was its frequent accompaniment; or in a larger

sense faithlessness to solemn obligations such as treason, treachery, or

perfidy in general; it was their habitual practice, as intimated by Piel

participle in its iterative or intensive sense. The persons charged with this

sin were kullam, all of themsovereign and subjects, princes and people

alike. The traitors of the time referred to, or rather their heart heated with

lawless lust and pernicious passion, is pictured by the prophet as an oven;

and the oven is heated by the baker, or more literally, burning from the

baker. Who or what is represented by the baker? This may be a

personification of the spirit of treason like the spirit of whoredoms

(ch.5:4), or evil agency that impelled these men to their nefarious

deeds; or we may understand by the “baker” those persons who were the

prime movers in such matters, and who instigated others to become their

tools and execute their plans. In either case the burning, once commenced,

continued of itself; the primary instigators had no difficulty in securing

agents ready and willing as themselves for such bad and bloody work, and

who, once set agoeing, needed no further impulse, but of their own motion

delighted to carry it through – “who ceaseth from raising after he hath

kneaded the dough, until it be leavened.” An interval of time elapses

between the inception and execution of the work. The baker ceaseth from

raising, more literally, from stirring or stoking; after kindling the fire in the

oven he lets it burn on and leaves off stirring it until the kneaded dough is

fully fermented. This respite is allowed that the leaven of wickedness may

do its work, and completely pervade the minds into which it has been

introduced, and until matters are thoroughly matured for action. Meantime

the fire burns steadily and sufficiently, until the oven requires to be more

highly heated for the well-prepared and perfectly leavened dough. The use

of the participle dy[ime is well explained by the principle stated by Ewald as

follows: “Just as the idea of the verb ‘to be’ is placed in immediate

construction with the word which more exactly forms the predicate, so also

may those verbs which describe a somewhat more specific kind of being,

e.g. verbs which signify ‘commencing’ to be, i.e. becoming… verbs of

hastening, i.e. quickly becoming… and those of ceasing to be.

The following verb, if such a word be required for the more specific

predicate, most readily chooses the participial form.., verbs denoting

continuance would be constructed in the same way.” The particle d[",

equivalent to usque ad, implies the completeness of the leavening.

 

5 “In the day of our king” - This may mean the anniversary of his

birth — his birthday celebration, or the anniversary of his accession or

coronation; or it may have been used in an ambiguous sense, and to include

the day of his destruction, like the tragic irony or contrast between the

knowledge of the spectator and the supposed ignorance of the actor. The

expression “our” is either a real acknowledgment of the kings of Israel, or

rather the lip-loyalty of the traitorous princes who were compassing his

ruin – “the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine;” -  The literal

rendering is, have made sick the heat of him; i.e. made him sick with heat

from wine. The construction resembles Micah 6:13, “I will make sick

thy smiting;” i.e. I will make thee sick through smiting thee. The heat from

wine repeats in some sort the preceding figure of a heated oven. The object

of these wretches was twofold:

 

  • to inflame their passion, and nerve their hands for the bloody work

on which they were set;

 

  • and to leave the king powerless, a helpless victim in their hands.

 

“he stretched out his hand with scorners.” Whatever the real origin of this

phrase may be, the meaning is plain — he joined in fellowship with those wicked

princes, and took part on terms of equality with them in their brutish debauch and

profane carousal. He stretched out his hand and hailed them as boon-companions.

 

6 “For they have made ready their heart like an oven, whiles

they lie in wait: their baker sleepeth all the night; in the morning it

burneth as a flaming fire.”  Their heart is the oven, as the comparison here

teaches us; the fire by which it is inflamed is the fire of sinful passion, and

the fuel that feeds the flame is the murderous machination on which they

are at present so intent; the baker is either the original contrivers and

prompters of their wickedness, or their own wicked spirit, or the evil one

himself at the head of all. But, though there is a temporary suspension,

there is no real cessation of their evil purpose; they are only biding their

time, lying in wait; the baker sleeps, but it is only whilst the dough is

leavening. Soon as the suitable time has come, soon as the occasion has

arrived, and all circumstances in readiness, in the morning the baker rouses

from his nocturnal slumber, stirs up the fire, and sets the oven ablaze Now

that the dough is sufficiently leavened, and the oven thoroughly heated, the

bread is put in — the meditated assassination is accomplishedit burneth

as a flaming fire. This is the second and last stage of the proceeding, the

last scene of the last act of the tragic drama,

 

7  “They are all hot as an oven, and have devoured their judges; all their

kings are fallen:” -  Here we have the application, and so the explanation of

the figurative language of the preceding verse, which, as we have seen, is the

second stage of the action. The heat of the oven denotes the intense violence of

their passion, as also their fierce and fiery power of destruction. INFERIOR

RULERS AND MAGISTRATES  fell victims to it; while regicides (the

deliberate killing of a monarch) in  incredible number were the result of it. Three

regicides were perpetrated in thirteen years; and four in less than forty, the

victims being Zechariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, and Pekah. Also Nadab, Elah,

Zimri, Zibni, and Jehoram perished by their successors. “There is none

among them that calleth unto me.”  Amid such horrid scenes of blood

and violence, of disorder and anarchy, there was none of them to realize the

calamities of the times or RECOGNIZE THE CAUSE!  Consequently

there was no one to discover the remedy, and apply to the true and only

source of relief.

 

 

Crimes Charged on Israel:  People and Princes (vs. 1-7)

 

It was a time of great corruption and of atrocious crimes. Nor were those

crimes committed only by persons “of the baser sort;” people and princes

alike, rulers and ruled, had their share in them; the country and the capital,

Ephraim and Samaria; the chief tribe and the chief city, with the common

people as well as elite, in the former, and members of the court in the

latter. All classes contributed their portion to the national sins, and sins of

almost all classes were freely indulged in.

 

  • THE CHARACTER OF SIN AS A DISEASE. SIN is represented in

Scripture as A DISEASE  — an all-pervading disease; it is as universal as

The race, for ALL HAVE SINNED (Romans 3:23) it is an all-embracing

disease, for it extends to the faculties and feelings of the soul, and employs

as its instruments all the members of the body. It infects whole peoples as

well as individual persons. The description which Isaiah gives of its

widespread ravages applies to the body politic as well as to the body

human: “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From

the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it;

but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores” (Isaiah 1:5-6).

It is thus a loathsome disease, a dangerous disease, a deadly

disease; and, unless arrested in time, IT IS A FEARFULLY

FATAL DISEASE! . The Apostle James gives us the genesis and

development of this disease: “When lust hath conceived, it bringeth

 forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth DEATH”

(James 1:15) and the symbol of this spiritual malady is LEPROSY 

one of the most frightful SCOURGES OF HUMANITY!

 

  • THE MEANS OF HEALING EMPLOYED. The disease is so

desperate that GOD ALONE CAN CURE IT!

 

Ø      If there is balm in Gilead and a physician there, God Himself is

that Physician, and a Physician who not only supplies the balm

but applies it; He has provided the remedy and prescribed the

way in which it is made available. Thus the Prophet Jeremiah

prays, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I

shall be saved: for thou art my Praise” (Jeremiah 17:14).  To a

people as well as a person laden with sin, God promises relief when

it is earnestly sought and properly applied for; thus we read in II

Chronicles 7:13-14, “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or

if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence

among my people; If my people, which are called by my Name,

shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn

 from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will

forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” If, then, sin-sick

souls are not healed, it is not that God is either unwilling or unable

to heal them. When Christ would have gathered the people of

Palestine, or the inhabitants of its principal city, with all the

tenderness and all the carefulness that the parent bird exercises in

gathering its brood under its outspread wings, THEY WOULD

NOT! (Matthew 23:37).  So is it still; sinners condemnation is

self-procured as well as justly deserved, while the salvation of

the righteous is ONLY OF THE LORD!

 

Ø      The means which God employs for healing, though various, are yet

pretty much the same at all times. One of these means, and that most

commonly employed, is the Word of His grace read, preached, or

meditated on. In all ages the chief instrumentality for reclaiming men

has been HIS MESSAGE OF MERCY! Thus He dealt with His

ancient people: “The Lord God of their fathers sent to them by His

messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because He had

 compassion on His people, and on His dwelling place: but they

 mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and

misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against

 His people, TILL THERE WAS NO REMEDY  (margin, “healing” –

II Chronicles 36:15-16). Other means used for the same end are

afflictions and adverse circumstances of whatever kind; cases of this

sort, such as dearth, or famine, or pestilence, or impoverishment, or

sore sickness and of long continuance, were frequent experiences of

God’s people in the past. David said, “Before I was afflicted I

went astray” (Psalm 119:67).  But the purpose was benevolent

and salutary: “By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be

purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin” (Isaiah 27:9).

It is so still; for while “no chastening for the present seemeth to

be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the

peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised

thereby” (Hebrews 12:11).  Again, God sends intervals of prosperity

with like design. This He did with Israel in the reign of Jeroboam II.,

 in the days of Joash, and at other periods in their history, in order

to wean them from sin and win them to Himself. Another means of

healing which God resorted to in the case of His ancient people was

 the removal of ringleaders in iniquity and notable apostates, as when

He made an end of the dynasty of Ahab.  Not a few similar instances

in subsequent and modern times might be, pointed out.

 

  • THE EXTENT OF THE HURT DISCOVERED BY THE ATTEMPT

AT HEALING. While God was manifesting His intentions of

mercy towards Israel, the virulence of their disease became evident. God

here, in condescension to our weakness, accommodates Himself to the

manner of men and adopts their mode of speech. As though He had not

known the desperate state of matters before, He speaks of it being now

discovered. It is by probing a wound that a surgeon discovers its depth,

and whether it reaches some vital part; it is only by careful examination a

physician detects the character of his patient’s disease, and whether it is

curable or likely to prove fatal. So with the Good Physician on closely

examining the state of Israel; He found it even worse than had been

supposed — much worse than it appeared to the superficial observer.

Much, no doubt, must have appeared on the surface, and much lay hid in

secret; it had been, in fact, “half revealed, half concealed.” When the

iniquity of Ephraim was fully discovered and the wickedness of Samaria

clearly seen, it proved incurable (II Chronicles 36:16),  so enormous was

their guilt, so hardened were they in their transgressions, above all, so

impenitent were they and so unwilling to be helped and healed. Their

obduracy barred the door against the entrance of mercy, their refusal to

part with their enormities checked the outgoings of the Divine goodness

towards them. Nay more; as when a rock rises up in a river-bed, or the

stream is narrowed by the encroaching banks, the water rushes with

greater violence and is lashed into foam, so the very attempt to repress

the sin of Israel rendered it more violent and outrageous. The rulers and

those who occupied high places, as the inhabitants of the metropolis

Samaria, and the people of the preeminent tribe of Ephraim, proved the

most incorrigible of all. Among the vices of the time were falsehood

and fraud, and the fraud was both PRIVATE and PUBLIC.

 

  • THE SINS CHARGED AGAINST ISRAEL ARE COMMON TO

THEM, AND WITH THE UNGODLY, AT ALL TIMES. This

assertion is proved by the further enumeration of these sins by Hosea.

There was also sinful security and senseless stupidity.

 

Ø      They did not confer with their own hearts in reference to their state

in the sight of God, nor impress on themselves their responsibility to

Him.  They were strangers to any right searching of heart, or any

serious reflection on the issues of their conduct and conversation.

It is thus with hundreds of our fellow-men; want of consideration

has ruined thousands;  both for time and eternity; hence the

earnest wish of the great lawgiver, “Oh that they were wise, that

they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!”

(Deuteronomy 32:29).  Hence, too, the solemn command of

“the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.”  (Haggai 1:5)

 

Ø      The want of consideration or of communing with their own heart

had special reference to the relationship in which they stood to God.

They did not reflect that God remembered all their wickedness,

consequently they did not recollect their liability to punishment for

their wickedness at the hand of God, and therefore they did not

feel any remorse on account of their wickedness when committed.

Being spared after their wickedness, and not visited with immediate

vengeance because of their wickedness, they thought themselves

certain of impunity (see Ecclesiastes 8:11); enjoying a season of

prosperity notwithstanding the greatness of their wickedness, they

were only emboldened in their wicked ways.

 

Ø      Atheism, theoretical or practical, or both, was at the root of the

matter with them. The first article of belief embraces the existence

of God (Hebrews 11:6), and THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

IMPLIES A BEING OF DIVINE ATTRIBUTES AND

INFINITE PERFECTIONS;  the second article includes a belief

in God that He is a Recompenser of men’s actions — a Rewarder

of them that diligently seek Him (Ibid.), and a Punisher of all

workers of wickedness. They rejected, at least practically, these

rudiments of the faith, these primary articles of belief; “as

if God could not see their wickedness, though He is all eye;

and did not heed it, though His name is Jealous; or had forgotten

it, though He is an eternal mind that can never be unmindful; or

would not reckon for it, THOUGH HE IS JUDGE OF

HEAVEN AND EARTH!  This is the sinner’s atheism; as

good say there is no God, as say He is either ignorant or forgetful;

none that judgeth in the earth, as say He remembers not the things

He is to give judgment upon; it is a high affront they put upon God,

IT IS A DAMNING CHEAT THEY PUT UPON THEMSELVES

when they say, “The Lord shall not see, nor remember.”

 

Ø      The eyes of such shall be opened one day. They shall wake up

out of their daydream, and their delusion shall vanish when their

doings shall beset them about and the sad effects thereof shall

entangle them as in a net. They shall see their sins in the

punishments they bring upon them; they shall feel them in the

sorrows and sufferings that attend them; and they shall

recognize that God had them before His face all the time,

having knowledge of them when committed, taking notice of

their demerit, and remembering them for the exercise of His

retributive justice. Even men’s secret sins God sets in the light

(literally “luminary,” maor) of His countenance (Psalm 90:8);

the fireflashing eye of the Omniscient penetrates the deep

recesses of the human heart, and brings forth its secret workings

into the sight of the sun and the broad light of day.

 

  • OBSEQUIOUSNESS (flattery) TO RULERS IN THEIR SINFUL

COMMANDS OR COURSES IS EXTREMELY PERNICIOUS.

It may please ungodly sovereigns or civil rulers to find subjects so

pliable as at once to fall in with their wicked works and ways; or to be

flattered by them; or to hear the upright who oppose their vileness

slandered (i.e. Zedikiah’s accusations of Micaiah before Ahab – I Kings

22:1-28 – CY – 2012); or to listen to the lies by which the unscrupulous

seek to ingratiate themselves; but such pandering must prove pitiful and

profitless work for both the persons who indulge in it and the princes who

encourage it. The former have often realized, though not perhaps to the

same extent, the bitter experience of the great cardinal when he said:

 

    “Oh, how wretched

Is that poor man that hangs on princes’ favors!

There is, betwixt that smile we would aspire to,

That sweet aspect of princes, and their ruin,

More pangs and fears than wars or women have;

And when he falls, he falls like Lucifer,

Never to hope again ....

Had I but served my God with half the zeal

I served my king, he would not in mine age

Have left me naked to mine enemies.”

 

There is an alternative interpretation of v. 3 which presents the other

side, and another aspect of the case, namely, when deceitful men wickedly

and mendaciously impose on the credulity of princes by false professions of

friendship at the very time they are plotting their downfall and planning

their destruction. The ordinary acceptation, however, suits the sense of the

passage very well. When people are so wicked as to conform to the

idolatrous worship prescribed by godless rulers, or to imitate their impious

and immoral practices, or to applaud their worthless favorites, or to

calumniate those known to be obnoxious to them, those rulers are more

than gratified add gladdened by such lying and baseness, they are

encouraged and stimulated in their wrongdoing, while a terrible

responsibility rests upon the head of both. Thus Herod, after harassing the

Church and slaying James the brother of John, “because he saw it pleased

the Jews, proceeded further to take Peter” (Acts 12:3).  People, again, when

they see that their acts of wickedness please their rulers, or their accounts

thereof amuse them, are emboldened to proceed yet further. Thus sovereigns

and subjects ENCOURAGING EACH OTHER IN SIN ULTIMATELY

WORK EACH OTHER’S DESTRUCTION!  (The same in modern politics –

CY – 2012).  There is probably a reference to the people’s facile

complasance with the idolatry of the calves legalized by Jeroboam, or of

Baal by Ahab — a conscienceless acquiescence which in the end was

fraught with THE MOST BANEFUL RESULTS TO PRINCES AND

PEOPLE!

 

  • THE COURSE OF SIN IS A DOWNWARD SLOPE. After

reprehending the profligate pleasure which both princes and people took

in sin, the prophet reproves the servile submission of the latter to idolatry,

and the debaucheries of the former. The adultery which he proceeds to

stigmatize may be understood literally as welt as spiritually, the former

being so frequent an accompaniment of the latter. In this case the heart

is aptly compared to an oven, its lusts the fire with which it is heated;

while Satan supplies by his temptations the fuel to the fire, and at the

same time puts the leaven in the dough. Whether the baker, after kindling

the fire, ceases from stirring it till morning, by which time the dough is

leavened and ready for the oven, which he then raises to a greater heat;

or whether he rests comparatively while still stoking during the interval

that elapses from kneading the dough till it is leavened and ready for use;

in either case there is a respite, not from the fire of lust abating or the

fuel of temptation ceasing, but from want of opportunity or courage or

ability. Soon, however:

 

Ø      as the occasion presents itself or

Ø      opportunity is afforded, or

Ø      means of gratification are available, or

Ø      hope of impunity is cherished,

 

the fire of lust that seemed smoldering flames up with increased

intensity; the wicked plot is executed; the covert passion breaks out into

the overt act; the half-stifled concupiscence finds vent; the lustful,

covetous, or ambitious project is accomplished.

 

  • DRUNKENNESS IS A PREPARATION FOR OTHER

WICKEDNESS. The reference to it in v. 5 is interjected between the

mention of adultery and other enormities, as if it were an incentive thereto,

 

Ø      The occasion on which the intemperance took place was a

celebration day, whether the king’s birthday, or the day of his

accession to the throne, or his coronation day. As it was, it is;

days of celebration, while not improper in themselves, may be

turned into days of sinful carousal. Days of high festival that

ought to be days of thanksgiving to God, of grateful praise and

holy joy, are too often taken advantage of for purposes of

intemperance, gluttony, or dissipation. Days that should be

consecrated to religious exercises or real national rejoicing

 are too frequently desecrated by irreligious sensuality and

anti-religious debauch.

 

Ø      According to the common rendering, the health of the king

suffered; according to another rendering, which some prefer, the

day was begun so that his honor was tarnished. According to

either, his high dignity was leveled in the dust. It is bad enough

and sad enough to see any man indulge in the sin of intemperance —

a sin which deranges and disorders the body, DAMAGES THE

SOUL AND ITS ETERNAL INTERESTS,  DISHONORS GOD,

AND DEGRADES MAN BELOW THE BEASTS THAT

PERISHETH! (Psalm 49:12,20, II Peter 2:12).  But for a king who

is appointed to govern others to lose the government of himself

through such scandalous excess, is the extreme of vileness; hence

the faithful admonition, “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for

kings to drink wine.”  (Proverbs 31:4)

 

Ø      While the duty of a king was neglected, the dignity of a king was

sacrificed. Kimchi has the following judicious remark in reference to

this matter: “The prophet says, What was the business of the princes

with the king? There was no conversation about the might and

conquest of the enemies and about the establishment of justice, as

it becomes the king of a free nation, but their business consisted

in eating and drinking until they made the king sick from the excessive

drinking of wine.” Even worse, if possible, was the fact of his debasing

himself by companionship with profane scoffers. Rashi aptly

observes, “The king withdraws his hand from the good and worthy

in order to join in fellowship with scorners. The men that put the

bottle to his mouth with professed friendliness were, as the

event proved, plotting his ruin and preparing for his assassination.”

 

  • THE SEEMING RESPITE FROM, AND REACTIONARY

NATURE OF, SIN. The respite was not a real rest from sin; it was only

the interval while the mischief was being premeditated, and the opportunity

for putting it in practice waited for.

 

Ø      In the morning, at the first and earliest opportunity, soon as the plot was

matured and the favorable moment for its execution arrived, the fire of

passion or lust that had been burning slowly all the time broke out afresh

and with greatly increased vigor. They made ready, applied, or, as Pusey

says,” literally brought near their heart. Their heart was ever brought

near to sin, even while the occasion was removed at a distance from it.”

While the leaven is commingling with the dough and the fuel combining

with the fire, the baker may sleep, or seem to do so; so, while temptation,

like fuel, is acting on the fire of lust within, and the evil suggestion of

Satan is pervading the powers of the soul in which it has found lodging

(I recommend Jeremiah 4 – Spurgeon Sermon – Bad Lodgers and

How to Treat Them – this web site – CY – 2012);  the tempter may

appear to slumber. The work is going on internally, and once the

occasion offers it shall be carried out externally in full force and certain

effect.

 

Ø      A man throws a stone in the air and it comes back on his own head; men

sin themselves or tempt others to sin, and the consequences recoil on

themselves. The Israelite kings, from the period of the disruption in the

days of Jeroboam, corrupted the worship of God or acquiesced in that

corruption (Jeremiah 5:31), and induced the people to conform to that

corruption and other sinful courses that followed in its wake; and ALL

FOR THEIR OWN POLITICAL ADVANTAGE AND PRIVATE

SELFISH ENDS — to prevent, if possible, the return of power to

the Davidic line, and the reunion of the ten tribes with the two. But the

time of reaction arrived, and the retributive Nemesis began to work;

the people who had been corrupted by their rulers now turned

against their corrupters; disloyalty to God brought in its train

disloyalty to man; kings and subordinate rulers perished in quick

succession. And notwithstanding the times of anarchy, insecurity

for life and property, and GENERAL UPHEAVAL OF SOCIAL

ORDER  — amid all those scenes of terrible confusion, there was

none among them to realize the fact that “for the transgression of a

 land many are the princes thereof”  (Proverbs 28:2).  Consequently

there was none among them to call upon God in supplication for relief

and preservation.  (However, ponder how Proverbs 28:2 ends:

“But by a man of understanding and knowledge the state

thereof shall be prolonged!” -  CY – 2012)

 

8 “Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake

not turned.”   The people of the northern kingdom had fallen away from Jehovah,

and mixed themselves with the heathen nationalities. They resembled a cake which,

through neglect of turning, was burnt on the one side and raw on the other.

The best commentary on the first clause of this verse is found in Psalm 106:35-36,

and 39; they “were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works.

And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them.... Thus were

 they defiled with their own works, and went a-whoring with their own

 inventions.” The second clause is well explained by Bishop Horsley as follows:

 “One thing on one side, another on the other; burnt to a coal at bottom, raw

dough at the top. An apt image of A CHARACTER THAT IS ALL

INCONSISTENCIES!   Such were the ten tribes of the prophet’s day;

worshippers of Jehovah in profession, but adopting all the idolatries of the

 neighboring nations, in addition to their own semi-idolatry of the calves.”

Similarly, the Geneva Bible has, “Baked on one side and raw on the

other, he is neither through hot nor through cold, but partly a Jew

 and partly a Gentile.” (Reminiscent of Christ’s depiction of the Church

of Laodecia“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot:

I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm,

and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

Revelation 3:15-16).   Jehovah had chosen Israel out of the nations of the

earth, and given them a special constitution. The object of this segregation

was that Israel should be a peculiar people and a holy nation. Thus

distinguished, they were to dwell alone; but, ungrateful for this high

distinction, and unmindful of their high destiny, they mingled

 with the nations, learned their heathenish ways, and worshipped

 their hateful idols. Thus they forfeited their theocratic preeminence.

While it was their privilege as well as duty to follow the precepts

of Jehovah, and serve Him with undivided affection, they fell away from His

service and adopted the idolatries and habits of the heathen; it was only a

just retribution, therefore, when God gave them ever into the hand of those

heathen peoples TO WASTE THEIR RESOURCES AND LEAVE

THEM SHORN OF THEIR STRENGTH!   The second clause is the

counterpart of this; exactly like the peoples subsequently brought from Assyria,

and planted in the lands of the dispossessed Israelites, they feared  the

Lord, but served their own gods (II Kings 17:33) — they were neither true

worshippers of Jehovah nor out-and-out followers of Baal. In religion THEY

WERE MONGRELS — inconsistent and worthless hybrids; they were, in fact,

 what Calvin in rather homely phrase says of them,” neither flesh nor fish.” The

comment of Kimchi is concise as it is clear: “The prophet means to say, He

(Israel) mixes himself among the peoples; though God — blessed be He! 

separated them from them, yet they mix themselves among them and do

according to their works.” His explanation of the second clause is not so

satisfactory when he says, “As a cake which is baked upon the coals; if

they do not turn it, it is burnt below and not baked above, so is the counsel

that is not right when they do not turn it from side to side (sense to sense)

until they bring it upon their wheels (into action). So (THOUGHTLESS

and HASTY)  is Ephraim in his determination to serve the calves and

other gods without proving and choosing what is good.”

 

 

The Decline of Spiritual Life in the Soul (v.8)

 

A cake not turned signifies what is spoiled, ill-advised, and worthless.

The figure appropriately describes the backslidings of true and professed believers.

We shall mention one or two symptoms which even those who themselves manifest

them are prone to fail to recognize.

 

  • Habits of sin. It may be that seeds of evil which we sowed long ago in

our hearts are growing up now, and occasioning us spiritual failure and

confusion. Little sins are like these” grey hairs;” e.g. the spirit of over-

carefulness, the spirit of caviling, the spirit of ostentation in religious

duties, the unforgiving spirit, undue love of human praise, uncharitable

judging, etc.  (I recommend: Genesis 19 – Spurgeon Sermon – Little Sins

this web site – CY - 2012)

 

  • Neglect of ordinances. Christ has given us His Word, and has invited us

to come to the throne of grace, and has spread for us the communion-table.

But how gradually may we lose our relish for these means of grace, and

how easily may the habit of neglecting them steal in upon our souls!

 

  • Covetousness. Some one has described the love of money as “the

Church member’s sin.” Thomas Binney has said of it that it is “about the

only great damning vice which can be indulged and clung to in connection

with a recognized modern religious profession.” There is no sin more

insidious; it may occupy the heart and one “not know” it.

 

  • Conformity to the world. The daily circumstances of our lot constantly

appeal to sense and self, and continually tempt us to give up trying to lead

a spiritual, pure, and consecrated life. Even a true believer, before he

knows it, may be “following afar off (Matthew 26:58), and slowly abating

his testimony as a nonconformist to the ungodly customs of the world.

 

We require frequently to “examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith”

(II Corinthians 13:5).  We ought constantly to hold up before our eyes the

clear mirror of Holy Scripture, that we may detect the “grey hairs.” We

must also see reflected in it THE GLORIOUS FORM OF THE LORD

JESUS , THE ONE IMAGE OF PERFECT MANHOOD!   There are

no “grey hairs” upon Him; “His locks are bushy, and black as a raven”

(Song of Solomon 5:11). We must seek grace to give ourselves

CONSTANTLY TO THE IMITATION OF CHRIST!

 

9 “Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not:” –

 Israel’s intercourse with other nationalities could not but issue in

disaster; a specimen of that disaster is here given. As the Greeks called all

who did not speak the Greek language, whether they were savage or

civilized, barbarians, so Israel called all foreigners, whether near or far off,

strangers. The foreign nations here meant were those with which Israel had

entered into treaties or formed alliances, in contravention of the

constitution which God had given them. These nations, moreover,

devoured their national resources by the imposition of taxes and hostile

incursions; thus the King of Syria left “of the people to Jehoahaz only fifty

horsemen, and ten chariots, and ten thousand footmen; for the King of

Syria had destroyed them, and had made them like the dust by threshing”

(II Kings 13:7);  again, when Pul, the King of Assyria, came against the

 land,” we read that “Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that

 his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand. And

Menahem exacted the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of

wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver, to give to the King of Assyria

(Ibid. ch. 15:19-20); then, “in the days of Pekah King of Israel came

Tiglath-pileser King of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abel-bethmaachah,

and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazer, and Gilead, and Galilee, all

the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria  (Ibid. v.29).

The strength here mentioned includes all those things which constitute the

wealth and well-being of a country, the produce of the soil and the riches of its

inhabitants. Thus Aben Ezra rightly explains this clause, referring it to “the

tribute which the Israelites gave to Assyria and Egypt, as is written in the

Book of Kings.” – “yea, grey hairs are here and there (margin, sprinkled)

upon him,” -  What from foreign foes and internal feuds, the BODY

POLITIC  was MANIFESTING UNMISTAKEABLE SYMPTOMS

OF DECAY AND DECRETITUDE AND APPROACHING

DISSOLUTION just as grey hairs on the human body give indication of

the advance of old age, with its decay of strength and nearness to the tomb.

“The course of nature,” says Aben Ezra, “has sprinkled grey hairs upon him, just

as grey hair comes on men in consequence of the course of nature;” this

corresponds to the sentiment of the preceding clause, for, according to the

commentator just named,” the grey hair denotes that their power is weakened

and their possession perished.”   - “yet he knoweth not.”And he knoweth

(it) not,” and repeats the same sentiment, of course with emphasis of what was

Israel thus ignorant? Not, surely, of the declining state of the national strength

and the decay of the national importance. After so many drains upon their

resources and the unsatisfactory position of their foreign relations, they

could not shut their eyes upon the STEADILY AND RAPIDLY

APPROACHING DECADENCE!  But though they could not pretend

ignorance of the fact, THEY REMAINED IGNORANT:

 

  • OF THE CAUSE
  • ITS CONSEQUENCE, and
  • THE CURE!

 

Notwithstanding the already exhausted condition of their country, and the

process of exhaustion still going on, they overlooked the lamentable cause

of all, which was their sin, national and individual, in departing from

the Lord; and at the same time the dangerous consequences that were neither

remote nor capable of being staved off; as also THE ONLY POSSIBLE

CURE TO BE FOUND IN DIRECT AND IMMEDIATE RETURN

TO GOD FROM WHOM THEY HAD SO REVOLTED!

 

10 “And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return

to the Lord their God, nor seek Him for all this.” - (amid all this). If with

Keil and others we understand “the pride of Israel to mean Jehovah

the glory of Israel, and take the verb in the sense of “testify,” the meaning will

be that Jehovah bore witness to the face of Israel by the weakening and wasting

of their kingdom, as portrayed in the preceding verse. We prefer to understand

“the pride of Israel in the sense of “the haughtiness” of Israel, and the verb

in the sense of “being humbled,” as in ch.5:5. The real meaning, then, is expressed

in the following rendering: And the haughtiness of Israel shall be humbled to

 his face. This humiliation is the effect of the wasting mentioned in the preceding

verse; while the evidence of their humiliation is specified in the succeeding verse

by their resorting to Egypt and repairing to Assyria from a consciousness of

 their helplessness. This rendering is countenanced by the Septuagint., both

here and in ch.5:5; while Rashi says, “The verb hg[ has the meaning of

“humiliation.”  For all this. This emphasizes the obstinate blindness and

perverseness of Ephraim, when, amid all the calamities and miseries of the

kingdom both within and without, they turned not to Jehovah to solicit help and

deliverance, but concluded treaties or made alliances with foreign nations

in hope of being lifted up out of their NATIONAL IMPOTENCE!   On

this Aben Ezra makes the judicious remark: “They turned not to Jehovah as

paupers who have nothing more to give foreign nations that they may help them.”

 

11 “Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart:” -  The silliness

of the dove, with which the stupidity of Ephraim is compared, is not

manifested by its missing its nest and resting-place, and then helplessly

fluttering about, according to Ewald; nor by its falling into the net of the

bird-catcher in its effort to escape from the hawk, according to Hitzig; nor

by its neither grieving nor searching for its young when it is robbed of

them, according to Jerome; nor by its becoming dejected or devoid of

consideration when it has lost its young, according to the Targum; BUT BY

ITS FLYING RIGHT INTO THE NET OF A BIRD-CATCHER,

WITHOUT SUSPECTING IT OR OBSERVING IT, IN ITS

SEARCH FOR FOOD, according to Rosenmüller. Thus Kimchi explains

it: “The prophet compares Ephraim to a dove which gets caught in a net

owing to its simplicity, because it has no sense to perceive that, when

it goes to gather grains of corn, a net is spread there to catch it.

Normally, the net is spread in vain in the sight of any bird  Proverbs 1:17).

So Ephraim, when they went and asked help from Assyria or from Egypt, (did

not perceive) that they went to their hurt, when they sought help from the

foreign nations and not from God — Blessed be Be! — in whose hand all is.

And he mentions the dove, though it is the manner of other birds, because

the dove has no bitterness, as if it went in simplicity and without

apprehension of the evil that would come upon it.” – “they call to Egypt,

they go to Assyria.”  The position of Palestine exposed its inhabitants to

attacks from the two great rival powers of Egypt and Assyria, or Babylon.

“It stood midway,” says Stanley, “between the two great seats of ancient

empire, Babylon and Egypt. It was on the high-road from one to the other

of these mighty powers, the prize for which they contended, the battlefield

on which they fought, the lofty bridge over which they ascended and

descended respectively into the deep basins of the Nile and Euphrates.”

Accordingly the rulers of the people sought help, now from Egypt to

strengthen them against the oppression of Assyria; at another time they

sought to secure the support of Assyria. The most powerful enemy of the

northern kingdom was Assyria, which distressed that kingdom more and

more, until at last they made an end of it. “But,” says Kimchi, “while they

think to obtain help by them (Egypt and Assyria), they fall into the net of

the Almighty Blessed be He!  — and this is what He says (in the following

verse). As they go I spread my net over them.

 

 

The Silly Sinful Pride and Obduracy of Israel, in Spite of Many Manifest

       Tokens of Decay, or Their Disastrous Foreign Policy (vs. 8-11)

 

The prophet had described the corruption; he now turns to the state of the

country. From the iniquity of the princes he descends to THE SIN OF THE

PEOPLE.   The figure of baking is still present to the prophet, as is evident

from the metaphor of a cake.

 

  • THE INCONSISTENCY AND WORTHLESSNESS OF DIVIDED

ALLEGIANCE. God had intended to separate Israel from the rest of the

nations, and by prohibiting intermarriages to keep them distinct.

 

Ø      The great purpose of this separation was to prevent their associating

with their heathen neighbors, and conforming to their idolatries and

immoralities. Thus they were to conserve the doctrines of the Divine

unity, the knowledge of the true God, and the purity of His worship.

But by intercourse with their neighbors, and forming alliances now

with one then with another, in order to secure their help — the help

of one against another — they got mixed up with them, and

became like a cake in which two ingredients at least, Judaism and

Gentilism, were kneaded together. The consequence of such

admixture, as the word (llb) implies, was CONFUSION!

 

Ø      But, in addition to baking the cake of such heterogeneous elements,

there was the defective ovening, or rather imperfect hardening of the

cake by fire, so that one side was burnt and blackened, the other

doughy and damp — neither roast nor raw, and consequently useless.

Thus Israel was often, as in the days of Ahab, halting between God

and Baal (I Kings 18:21); now zealous for the latter and indifferent to

the former, or the converse; more commonly cold towards Jehovah

and warm for Baal; frequently neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm

(Revelation 3:15-16). They blended Gentile idolatry with the worship

of the true God; they joined in the calf-worship at Dan and Bethel,

while they swore by the Name of Jehovah. It is thus also with many

professing Christians: they have a name to live, but are dead

(Ibid. v.1); they have a form of godliness, but want the power

(II Timothy 3:5); they are hypocritical professors, but are devoid

of real godliness. Whatever outward services they perform, it is

for parade or to be seen of men, while they are strangers to the

practice of piety and exercise of charity. The Targum explains this

of punishment rather than of position. “The house of Ephraim is like

to a cake baked on coals, which before it is turned is eaten;” that is,

they are suddenly destroyed by their enemies, who are like hungry

men that, without waiting for the turning and proper baking of a cake,

snatch it up, though only half baked, and speedily devour it.

 

  • TOKENS OF DIVINE DISPLEASURE. When God is displeased with

a person or a people, one way in which He manifests such displeasure is by

DESERTION!   He leaves them in the hands of their enemies. On the

contrary, when a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes his enemies to be

at peace with him (Proverbs 16;7).  When Israel, in consequence of sin, was

thus deserted, strangers devoured his strength, that is to say, his substance;

they robbed him of his wealth, they wasted the fruits of his field, they dismantled

his fortresses, they destroyed the flower of the population, and they imposed

oppressive tribute. The strangers referred to included several nationalities. The

Syrians had so weakened and distressed Israel in the reign of Jehoahaz that

they had made them “like the dust by threshing” (II Kings 13:7).  Then came

the Assyrians under Pul in the days of Menahem King of Israel, and exacted

a tribute of a thousand talents of silver, thus draining their resources and

devouring their strength. Subsequently, Tiglath-pileser, monarch of Assyria,

captured many of the Israelitish fortresses, and carried the inhabitants into

captivity. By such exactions and devastations strangers exhausted the

strength of Israel

 

  • MARKS OF NATIONAL AND SPIRITUAL DECAY. Grey hairs, if

plentiful, are a sign that old age has already arrived; grey hairs, when

sprinkled here and there, are symptoms of its approach, and of life’s

decline.

 

Ø      Grey hairs had at this time appeared here and there in Israel, and thus

proved the kingdom to be in a weak and declining state; they were not

only symptomatic of the present, but prognostic of the future. The

afforded proof plain and simple of national declension at present

existing through the depredations and exactions of the enemy; they

also foreboded the melancholy fact that UTTER DECAY WAS

NEAR AT HAND.

 

Ø      But there is also spiritual decay, and the life of the soul IS

SUBJECT TO IT!  How many professing Christians — members

of the visible Church — are in this sad condition of spiritual declension,

and hardly conscious of it!  Grey hairs are here and there upon them,

and they know it not. The dwelling-place of God is not so lovely, nor

the tabernacles of His grace so amiable, as they once were; there is

not the same relish for the Word of God as there once was; prayer

is not so fervent or so frequent as formerly; praises are not so hearty

nor so heavenly as when the Christian life began; — all such

circumstances give evidence that grey hairs are here and there upon

persons in the condition indicated, whether they perceive them or

not. But we cannot stay to dwell on the nature of spiritual decay and the

marks thereof; we may, however, briefly sum them up. They are such as

the following: diminished appreciation of the Divine Word, without self-

application of it or growth in the knowledge of it; restraining prayer

before God, without supplication for one’s self on special occasions

and under particular circumstances, and without earnest intercession

for others; less love to Christ and less leaning on Him; less hatred of

sin and less esteem for the righteous.

 

Ø      It is of prime importance to ascertain the causes of decay. What

caused the national decay of Israel? There was the prevalence of lust:

They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker;” this

was one of the causes of Israel’s decline. Another cause was their

intercourse with the ungodly: Ephraim, he hath mixed himself

among the people” (v. 8).  These may be taken as specimens of the

causes which brought about the national decline of Israel. When lust

prevailed, or when they associated freely among the nations instead

of dwelling alone, grey hairs appeared here and there upon them. So

is it with spiritual decay in the case of Christians. When sensual

lust, or lust for gold, or for pleasure, or for praise, overmasters a

follower of Christ, decay has set in, grey hairs show themselves here

and there upon him. Again, when worldly society is eagerly sought

and keenly relished by Christians, forgetful that, like Israel of old,

they are a peculiar people, as our Lord has said, “Ye are not of

the world, as I am not of the world” (John 17:16),  then spiritual

affections are decaying, grey hairs are here and there upon them.

 

Ø      The most surprising circumstance of all is the ignorance of those who

are sufferers by this process of decay. Israel did not know because he

did not wish to know, as if by ignoring it he could conceal it from

 himself or others. “He knoweth not,” says Pusey, “the tokens of

decay in himself, but hides them from himself; he knoweth not God,

who is the Author of them; he knoweth not the cause of them, his

sins; he knoweth not the end and object of them, his conversion;

he knoweth not what, since he knoweth not any of these things,

will be the issue of them, his destruction.” Somehow thus it is

with spiritual decay. Most persons dislike the idea of growing old,

or even of being thought old. They care not to notice themselves,

and they conceal from others as much as possible, the marks of age

and the progress of decay. All the while grey hairs multiply, and

 old age creeps on apace, almost imperceptibly and without being

observed, so that in a certain sense many persons become old without

fully realizing the fact. Likewise in the decay of life in a Christian’s

soul, it goes on secretly, and little, if at all, noticed, like the silent

advance of age with its gradually increasing decrepitude and decay;

grey hairs are here and there upon him, and he knows it not. Let us

beware of the insidious approach of spiritual decay, and be on our

guard against it.

 

  • PRIDE RAISES A GREAT BARRIER BETWEEN THE SOUL

AND GOD.  Notwithstanding Israel’s decline, pride attended them still; it

remained unsubdued; it prevented their return to God; it stood in the way

of their seeking Him. Or, if the other translation be preferred, and if it be

granted that Israel’s pride was humbled by the calamities that had come

upon them, those calamities had not been sanctified, and so they returned

not to nor sought the Lord. For all this, and in spite of all God’s merciful

dealings with them, they persisted in their impenitence and stood out

against the Most High. God had shown them His loving-kindness, and again

He had visited them with severe corrections; He had almost exhausted the

resources of His grace; and yet they were in no way bettered, but rather

grew worse. So is it with many. God’s gracious dealings fail to draw them

to God; His afflictive dispensations too often drive them away from God.

And yet, when He sends affliction, it is A LOUD CALL  on men, not

only to seek relief from God, BUT TO SEEK GOD HIMSELF

(Our testimony should be with the psalmist, “When thou saidst, Seek ye

my face; my heart said unto thee, THY FACE, LORD, WILL I

SEEK!” - Psalm 27:8 – CY – 2012),  His face and favor-free as

well as that help which He alone can give; whereas obstinate impenitence

frustrates the dispensations of Providence, and afflictions unsanctified in no

way better men or improve their state.

 

  • FOLLY THE CAUSE OF MEN NEGLECTING THE RIGHT, AND

RESORTING TO WRONG SOURCES OF SUCCOR AND RELIEF.

 

Ø      Simplicity with godly sincerity, in accepting the Word of God and in

obeying the will of God, is estimable and highly commendable; simplicity

without a heart to love God, following His guidance, and delighting in His

governance, is both wrong-headed and reprehensible. With regard to the

former there is the promise, “The Lord preserveth the simple”

(Psalm 116:6), in relation to the latter the solemn question is asked,

“How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity?”  (Proverbs

1:22)  - The union of simplicity or ingenuousness of purpose with

understanding of heart is commended by the exhortation of our Lord,

Be ye wise as serpents, harmless [or, ‘simple ‘] as doves”

                        (Matthew 10:16).

 

Ø      The silliness of Israel was simplicity in its bad sense, as we learn from

the specimen of their conduct which the prophet subjoins. The

calamities which befell them were so many calls to them to return

 to God and seek His merciful interposition; but, instead of applying

to God, they exhibited unspeakable folly in having recourse to one or

other of the two great rival powers, Egypt and Assyria, of which the

former was as unreliable as a broken reed, piercing the hand that leans

on it (Isaiah 36:6), and the latter crushing and cruel as the king of

foreign beasts in devouring his prey. “Egypt,” it has been well said,

“was a delusive promiser, not failing only, but piercing those who

leant on it; Assyria was a powerful oppressor.”

 

Ø      The miseries which Israel brought upon himself, and in which men

frequently involve themselves by taking a similarly silly and simple

course, were:

 

o       inescapable, and such as they could by no possibility

extricate themselves from, for the net of God would ensnare

and envelop them.

 

o       unquestionably certain; for however high hopes men may

entertain of their carnal confidences, to whatever height of

temporary prosperity they may be elevated, God is sure to

bring them down, and their fall will be disgraceful in proportion

to the elevation they fancied themselves to have attained.

 

o       sore chastisements, and all the sorer from being so

well deserved.

 

Ø      The folly of such conduct in the face of warnings so great and manifold

is as inexcusable as undeserving of pity. Israel sent southward to Egypt

or traveled northward to Assyria in search of human helps, all the time

turning their back on God; while to all the exhortations and

remonstrances addressed to the congregation of Israel they refused to

lend an ear. Line upon line they had been favored with in the book

of the Law — in the blessings on obedience and the curses on

disobedience which Ebal and Gerizim respectively re-echoed

(Deuteronomy 27:11-26), in the teachings of other prophets, in the

appeals of Hosea himself; their heedlessness to all these disentitled

them to sympathy from man or SUCCOR FROM GOD!

 

12 “When they shall go, l will spread my net upon them;”  - Threats

of punishment are contained in this and the following verses. He begins by

the application of the comparison of Ephraim to a dove. Exactly as a dove

in its silliness falls into the net set by the fowler, so Israel runs into the net

of destruction in seeking help from Egypt and Assyria. The literal rendering

is, according as they go, or, whatsoever way they shall go. God threatens

to spread a net over them, from which there can be no escape. The chief

aim of Hebrew sovereigns and rulers was to defend themselves from Egypt

by the help of Assyria, or from Assyria by the aid of Egypt; in either case

God threatens to spread over them the net of destruction as the bird-catcher.

The application to one or other of these powers God forbade, but

when they go to either for relief, the result is sure to prove fatal. The image

of a net is frequent in Ezekiel; so in Job, he “hath compassed me with his

net”  (Job 19:6) -  “I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven;” -

The comparison with birds and bird-catching continues. Though their sunward

soaring flight be high as the eagle’s, or rapid as the soft swift wing of the

dove, they cannot outrun or escape the hand of God, but shall be

brought down to earth. Or the idea may be that, swiftly as a bird of prey

swoops down out of the free air of heaven upon its quarry on the low-lying

earth, Jehovah will bring Israel down out of the air of freedom into the net

of captivity. Thus in Obadiah 1:4 we read, “Though thou exalt thyself

as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I

bring thee down, saith the Lord;” likewise in Amos 9:2, “Though they

dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to

heaven, thence will I bring them down” -  “I will chastise them as their

congregation hath heard.”  The word μdeysiy]a" is an anomalous Hiph.

instead of μreysiyae, that is, yod mobile instead of yod quiescent or

diphthongal zere. The literal rendering makes the meaning more obvious; it

is: “I will chastise them according to the tidings [or,’ announcement ‘] to

their congregation.” In the Law and by the prophets it was repeatedly

declared that judgments would fall upon the disobedient and rebellions. As

specimens of such announcements, we may refer to Leviticus 26:14-39;

Deuteronomy 28:15-68; and 32:15-35.   The prophet now assures Ephraim

that the judgments so frequently and forcibly announced to the congregation

of the children of Israel in the wilderness, and repeated in subsequent

times by the prophets, WOULD BE EXECUTED ON THE REBELLIOUS

RIGOROUSLY  and IN EXACT ACCORDANCE WITH THOSE MANY

PREVIOUS DENUNCIATIONS!   Kimchi has the following comment: “I will

assemble them through the chastisement of the peoples, as I announced to

their assembly in the wilderness words of chastisement, which are written

in the Law, if they will not hearken to the words of the Law.” The Septuagint

may have read μtrx, as their rendering is ejn th~| ajkoh~|th~v qli>yewv

aujtw~n – en tae akontaes thlipseos auton - equivalent to “‘I will chasten them

with the rumor of their (coming) affliction,”

 

13 “Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction (margin, spoil)

unto them! because they have transgressed against me.” Of these exclamations,

the first is general and indefinite, the second is specific and precise. The thought of

coming chastisement calls forth the exclamation of woe; while the second exclamation

fixes the character and explains the nature of that woe denounced. In neither case

does yhiy] or aboyneed to be supplied; the opposite expression is μh,l; μwOlv;

or μh;l;  hk;l;B] In assigning the reason, there is a retrospective reference to the

figures of the two immediately preceding verses. The word dd"n; with rain

is employed in relation to birds which, when scared from their nest, fly

away. Kimchi thinks it applies to the abstention or withdrawal of the

Israelites from Divine service in the national sanctuary in Jerusalem. His

comment is: “They fly from me, from the service of the house of my

sanctuary, to the service of the calves; and this is a breach of faith and

defection from me.” The Septuagint translate the beginning of the second clause

freely by deilai~oi eijsi<n deilaioi eisin -  equivalent to “they are cowards.”

The cause assigned is their breaking covenant with God, which is expressed by

[v"p;, literally, “to break away from,” “tear one’s self loose from” – “though

I have redeemed them,” -  This first part of the last clause is rendered

as a past by some, as Jerome, who refers it to the redemption from

Egypt; thus also the Chaldee: “And I was their Deliverer.” Rosenmüller

approves of this, but, instead of restricting it to the deliverance from Egypt,

includes their recent deliverance from the Syrians by Jeroboam II. It is

better rendered in a voluntative or optative sense: “I would (should

like) to redeem them, but they speak lies against (or, concerning) me.” The

verb ‘ephdem cannot with any propriety be taken for a preterite. Yet they

have spoken lies against me; rather, but they on their part have spoken lies

concerning me. The prophet had already charged them with lying at v. 3,

and previously in ch. 4:2; but their lies were not confined to their

intercourse or dealings with their fellow-men; they spoke lies against or, as

the preposition sometimes signifies, concerning God. The lies in question

included, no doubt, a denial of His essential Deity or sole Divinity; of His

power or willingness either to protect or punish. Or they might consist in

their falsehood in drawing near to God with their lips without either true

faith or real affection in their hearts; some were directly opposed to the

claims of Jehovah, some insincere in His service, and others turned aside to

the idolatry of the calves — all, with probably some honorable exceptions,

had proved false to His covenant with Israel. The last clause has been taken

independently by Ewald, without any considerable alteration of the

sense: “I, for my part, would redeem them, “yet they have spoken lies

against me.”  The whole clause is correctly explained by Kimchi thus: “It

was in my heart to redeem them out of their distress; but they speak lies against

me, while they say that I know nothing nor exercise any providential care over

their actions, whether their actions are good or bad. Therefore I have withdrawn

my providential oversight, and have hidden my face from them, and they

shall be consumed.”

 

14 “And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when

they howled upon their beds:” - This clause may be more correctly

rendered, They did not cry to me in their heart, but howl upon their beds.

Their falsehood manifested itself in works as well as words; a practical

example is here given. They did not, in reality, seek help from God; if they

sought at all, it was insincerely. They cried to God, but that cry did not

proceed from their heart. They gave vent to their feelings of distress by

howlings upon their beds; but those howlings were the expression of

unbelief and despair, not by any means evidences of faith. “They do not cry

to me,” says Aben Ezra, “as the sick man cries to the physician.” The

comment of Kimchi is still fuller and more explicit: “They have not cried to

me in their heart, because of their notion that I do not see their cry nor

know what is good or bad for them; but they howl upon their beds, i.e.

when they are upon their bed and when they think of that misfortune which

is coming upon them. They howl and weep because of their evil case, and

do not think that the evil falls on them from me, because they have broken

faith with me.” The form of Wliliyey] is correctly explained by Gesenius as

future Hiph. with preformative put before the third person, the yod of the

simple form being superficially taken to belong to the stem. His derivation

from lae, God, as if a cry to Him for help, is incorrect; it is really an

onomatopoetic word -  “they assemble themselves for corn and wine, and

they rebel against me.” What this assembling of themselves was does not

clearly appear; whether it was in the market-place or elsewhere to purchase corn

in time of famine, as some think; or in idol-temples to propitiate their deities, like

the Roman supplicatio or lectiosternium, as others suppose; or for the

performance of some extra rite of worship to Jehovah; or for the purpose of

plunder in a season of scarcity; or generally their assembling in knots and crowds

to discuss anxiously and lament despairingly the distressed state of the

country; — their chief design and highest aim being a good supply of corn

and wine, that is, the supply of MERE BODY WANTS!   The construction

of the last clause is pregnant, that is “they turn aside (and turn) against me.”

Here, again the Septuagint  seem to have read Wrs]W;yi, to which their translation,

ejpaideu>qhsan ejn ejmoi> - epaideuthaesan en emoi - equivalent to “they were

instructed by me,” corresponds.

 

 

Useless prayers (v.14)

 

There are two instances in Scripture of true repentance at the point of death.

Manasseh in the Old Testament (II Chronicles 33:12-13), and the dying thief

in the New Testament (Luke 23:42). These save from despair, yet are too

few to allow any to presume on them, Four characteristics of the useless

prayer mentioned in the text,

 

  • IT IS A DEFERRED PRAYER. “On their beds.” In health and strength

the idols had been worshipped. Now death seemed near, the Name of

Jehovah was on the trembling lip. Mercifully, delay is not of itself sufficient

to make a cry to God useless. David lingered in sin till Nathan rebuked

him. The prodigal dwelt in the far country till all was gone, etc. Still it is

perilous to defer any known duty, most of all that of coming to God.

 

  • IT IS AN INSINCERE PRAYER. “They have not cried unto me with

their heart.” This fact would make any prayer useless. “God is a Spirit,

 and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit, and in truth”

(John 4:24).  Compare the prayers of the Pharisees’in the temple or the

street with those of publicans and sinners (Matthew 6:5,7; 15:8).

 

  • IT IS A DESPERATE PRAYER,. “They howled upon their beds.”

The agony of pain or the dread of meeting God, not the consciousness of

sin, caused this. Repentance is not the dread of sin’s punishment, but the

turning from sin because of its sinfulness. Contrast the cry of the

condemned criminal with the prayer of the dying Christian. Depict, for

example, the death of Stephen (Acts 7:55-60), and the utterance of Paul

about his departure (II Timothy 4:6-8).

 

  • IT IS UNAVAILING. The unreality of the prayer was seen in the

subsequent conduct of those who offered it. This is described in the next

clause. No sooner were they restored to health than “they assembled for

corn and wine,” i.e. went back to the old revelries and forgetfulness. How

many have dealt thus with God!  Brought back from the gates of death,

the spared life is no more sober, devout, and holy than the past. Let us

beware lest we harden ourselves through the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews

3:13).  If, of those restored (“Where are the nine?” - see Luke 17:17), so

small a proportion prove that the prayers and vows in illness were genuine

and availing, how can we indulge much hope of those whose future is not in

time but in eternity?

 

In view of this solemn subject: We need to :

 

  • urge Christians to speak faithfully to sinners in the day of health.
  • urge sinners to come humbly to the Savior in the day of hope.

 

15 “Though I have bound (margin, chastened) and strengthened their arms,

yet do they imagine mischief against me.”  The first clause of this verse is more

accurately translated as follows: And yet I have instructed, have strengthened

 their arms. Here we have another instance of God’s goodness and Israel’s

ingratitude. He had done much for them, and would fain have done more;

and yet the return they made was devising mischief against Him. The arms are

the seat and symbol of strength, as the hands and fingers symbolize skill; thus,

 in reference to the latter the psalmist says, “Blessed be the Lord my Strength,

which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight”  (Psalm 144:1);

and with regard to the former he says, “He teacheth my hands to war, so that a

bow of steel is broken by mine arms” (Ibid. ch. 18:34).  Two benefits are here

included in the prophet’s enumeration. He instructed the arms, by which is meant

that he showed them how and where to get strength. But this was not all; He not

only directed to the source, and taught the secret of acquiring strength, He actually

supplied strength, thereby giving them power to contend against and conquer their

enemies. At a time when “there was not any shut up, nor any left [that is,

‘neither bond nor free’] nor helper for Israel… the Lord… saved them by

the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash (II Kings 14:26).  Notwithstanding

all this, they  acted the part of apostates and rebels against Him: they devised

mischief against Him by their idolatry which denied Him the Godhead glory which

was His due, and by their rebellion which aimed at depriving Him of His kingly

power and dignity. The reference of the last clause,  according to Ewald, is to

the treaties which Israel entered into with Assyria and Egypt for safety and

defense; and according to Kimchi, to Israel’s false representations of the

government and providence of Jehovah: “For they say the good or evil does not

come to them from me, but is purely accidental.” With respect to rsy, it must be

borne in mind that, like jny, it has two meanings, viz. the chastisement of

punishment (ko>lasiv - kolasis -  punishment) and the chastisement of love

(paidei>a -  paideiacorrection; chastisement ).

 

16 “They return, but not to the Most High:” - This verse is closely

connected in sense with the preceding. Their God-defying attitude, as

described in v.15, is represented in v 16 allegorically as a deceitful

bow, which fails to send the arrow to the mark; also their ill success is

represented as exposing them to the derision of Egypt; while the princes

who spake so exceeding proudly, and who instigated their ungodliness and

consequent wretchedness, would be slain with the sword. This is the drift

of the whole verse; its details, however, demand more particular

consideration.

 

  • The word l[" is by some identified in meaning with the adjective ˆwOyl][,,

equivalent to “the Most High;” by others it is taken adverbially, and

translated “upwards.”  The Septuagint does not express it translating

ajpestra>fhsan eijv oujqe>n,- apestraphaesan eis outhen - They turned

aside to that which is not [literally, ‘nothing’].”  Jerome translates it as is

l[O, were equivalent to “yoke: They returned that they might be without

a yoke.” Their return, according to Jerome, would be to their pristine

condition before the call of Abram, like the other nations, without yoke

or knowledge of law.

 

“they are like a deceitful bow:  there princes shall fall by the sword for

the rage of their tongue:  this shall be their derision in the land of

Egypt.”    The return spoken of implies that there were junctures at which they

seemed disposed to return to religiousness, but ere long they again relapsed

into idolatry. They disappointed the high hopes raised, and missed their

own high destiny, and thus they resembled a bow, of which the string,

losing its elasticity, could not propel the arrow to the object aimed at.

Appearing to return to the worship of Jehovah, they turned aside to an

idol. Thus in Psalm 78:57, they “turned back and dealt unfaithfully like

their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.”

 

 

Ephraim’s Flight from God (vs.11-16)

 

Every sinner may read a warning in the words here addressed to Ephraim.

 

  • FLEEING FROM GOD. (vs. 11-12.) The wicked “say unto God,

Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways” (Job

21:14). They themselves try, though vainly, to escape from God. They

would fain put a great distance between Him and them (Jonah; the prodigal).

 

Ø      Fleeing from God is sin. It is an attempt on the part of the creature

to establish an independence which the Creator does not allow. Even

the attempt at such flight God must check and punish.

 

Ø      Fleeing from God is folly. It is foolish:

 

o       because it is an attempt at the impossible; and

 

o       because, if the wicked could succeed in the attempt, it would

still be to their own hurt. Abandoning God, the soul is doomed

to the pursuit of vanity. It cannot rest in itself, for it is not self-

centered; but neither can it rest in the creature, for the creature

is constantly proving itself a false support. Besides, life without

God has no longer a proper aim. The soul is thus smitten

with restlessness; its movements become vague, aimless,

erratic. “They call to Egypt; they go to Assyria.” It flits

from one object to another, and FINDS REPOSE IN

NONE!   (God has designed it this way – CY – 2012)

 Existence is a succession of new trials, and a series of

new disappointments.

 

Ø      Fleeing from God is destruction. God declares that when the sinner

flees, He will pursue (v.12). No matter how lofty their soarings, He will

spread His net for them, and bring them down. He has forewarned them

of this, and they will find it true, Jonah found, when he tried to escape,

that God’s net was spread for him. EVERY SINNER WILL FIND

THE SAME!   The net which God spreads for the haughty, would-be

independent ones is that of His punitive justice. Their pride will end,

as all evil ends, IN DESTRUCTION!

 

  • FALSE DEALING WITH GOD. (vs. 13-16.) A main part of the

charge against Ephraim is falsehood (vs. 1, 3). The falsehood is primarily

falsehood towards God. We have here three phases of it.

 

Ø      Insincerity in repentance. “They have not cried with their heart,

When they howled upon their beds, etc. (v.14). The insincerity of

their repentance was evinced:

 

o       By the very noise they made about it “they howled,” etc.

 

o       By their unabridged indulgence in sin: They assemble

themselves for corn and wine, and they rebel against me.”

They insulted God by lying protestations of a desire to return

to Him, while openly dishonoring Him by their wickedness.

It is not loud outcries, but changed actions, which show the

reality of repentance (Matthew 3:8).

 

Ø      Speaking lies against God.

 

o       God had attested His willingness to redeem, but they alleged that

He would not do so. “I would redeem them, but they speak lies

 against me” (v. 13). It was easier to profess doubt of God’s

Word than to fulfill the moral conditions necessary for the securing

of the blessing.

 

o       God had shown himself their true Helper — “ I instructed and

strengthened their arms” — yet they plotted alliances with

heathen powers, disowning His past goodness. “They imagine

 mischief against me” (v.15). Thus, doubly, they made God a liar.

But their whole life and worship was a denial of his Word. They

gainsaid the Word sent them by the prophets, denied His anger

at their sins, changed His truth into a lie in the worship of the calves,

 etc.  (Modern society also  - CY – Romans 1:25).

 

Ø      Faithlessness in promises. Even when, for a brief moment, they

seemed wishful of amendment, their goodness did not last (ch.6:4).

Their promises were broken. They did not keep faith with God.

They were as “a deceitful bow” (v.16). The deceitful bow:

 

o       holds out a promise. The person who shoots thinks he can

depend upon it. It seems a bow that will serve his ends.

 

o       suggests an aim. The use of a bow is to drive the arrow to

the point aimed at. God had an aim in the calling of Israel. It

was His desire to reach that aim through the obedience of the

nation. He has an aim in our own creation, calling, and

moral discipline.

 

o       proves treacherous on trial. It either does not shoot at all, or

sends the arrow but a little way, or turns it off in a different

direction from that which the shooter intended. In any case,

it proves incapable of being depended on.  Confidence

cannot be placed in it. It deceives and disappoints. Israel had

thus repeatedly disappointed the expectations raised by

repentances and vows.

 

  • A LAUGHING-STOCK TO MEN. (v.16.) “This shall be their

derision in the, land of Egypt.” Their princes had used boastful

language“the rage of their tongue.” Once their pretensions were

exposed, they would become a mockery to those for the sake of

whose friendship and help THEY HAD DESERTED GOD!

 

 

Terms to Consider:

 

Half-Heartedness                  Moral Decay              Sin’s Malignancy

Wrong Companionship          Proverbs 13:20

 

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