Hosea 14 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Hosea 14
Pulpit Commentary
O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.
Verse 1. - The foregoing part of this book abounds with denunciations of punishment; this closing chapter superabounds with promises of pardon. Wave after wave of threatened wrath had rolled over Israel and come in unto their soul; now offer after offer of grace is made to them. O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God. The invitation to return implies previous departure, or distance, or wandering from God. The return to which they are invited is expressed, not by אֶל, to or towards, but by ער, quite up to, or as far as right home; the penitent, therefore, is not merely to turn his mind or his face toward God, but to turn his face and his feet home to God; he is not to go half the way and then turn aside, or part of the way and then turn back, but the whole way; in other words, his repentance is to be complete and entire, wanting nothing, according to the state merit of the psalmist, "It is good for me to draw near to God." As punishment was threatened in case of obstinate impenitence, so mercy is promised on condition of thorough repentance. For thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. A reason is here assigned for the preceding invitation; ka-shalta is properly "thou hast stumbled," "made a false step," fallen, yet so that recovery was among future possibilities. The same thought may be included in the fact that Jehovah continues to call his erring people by the honored and honorable name of Israel, and to acknowledge himself their God. Further, many and grievous were the calamities into which by their fall they had been precipitated; neither were any to blame but themselves - their iniquity or their folly was the cause, nor was there any one to lift them up, now that they lay prostrate, save Jehovah. After referring to the desolation of Samaria and the ruthless destruction of its inhabitants, as portrayed in the last verse of the previous chapter, Jerome adds, "All Israel is invited to repentance, that he who has been debilitated, or has fallen headlong in his iniquities, may return to the physician and recover health, or that he who had fallen headlong may begin to stand." The penitent is to direct his thoughts to Jehovah; to him as Center he is attracted, and in him he finds his place of rest; nor is there ether means of recovery or source of help. Thus Kimchi says, "For thou seest that through thine iniquity thou hast fallen, therefore it behooves thee to return to Jehovah, as nothing besides can raise thee from thy fall but thy return to him." "There is none," says Aben Ezra, "can raise thee from thy fall but the Eternal alone."
Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.
Verse 2. - Take with you words, and turn to the Lord.

(1) Some render this clause. "Take with you [i.e. forget not, neglect not, but receive with obedient spirit] my words." This rendering is obviously erroneous.

(2) The correct translation is that of the Authorized Version, and the words referred to are such as express prayer for pardon and confession of sin - the audible sound of the heart's desires. There is an allusion, perhaps, to the requirement of the Law: "None shall appear before me empty." Not outward sacrifices, but words of confession, were the offering to be presented. Thus Cyril eloquently explains it: "Ye shall propitiate the Deity, not by making offerings of riches, not by dedicating gold, not by honoring him with silver vessels, not gladdening him by sacrifices of oxen, not by slaughtering of birds; but ye shall give him discourses and wish to praise the Lord of the universe, appeasing him." To the same purport is the exposition of Aben Ezra: "He desires not from you, when ye go to seek his favor, treasures or burnt offerings, only words with which ye are to confess;" so also Kimchi: "He does not require of you on your return to him silver or gold or offering, which the Israelites lavished at great expense on their idols, but good works with which ye are to confess your iniquities." Say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously. On turning to the Lord with their whole heart, not with their lips only, they are furnished with a form of sound words which God by his prophet puts into their mouth. Elsewhere a formula is prescribed, thus: "Publish ye, praise ye, and say, O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel" (Jeremiah 31:7); compare also Isaiah 48:20; Psalm 16:3; 1 Chronicles 16:35. The position of כָל before the verb creates a difficulty and causes diversity of rendering; for example,

(1) besides the ordinary rendering, which takes kol as holding its peculiar position by an hypallage, there is a modification of it: "All take away of iniquity."

(2) Some supply mem, and translate accordingly: "From all take away iniquity." Kimchi explains it as a transposition: "All iniquity forgive," and compares Ezekiel 39:11; or, understanding le, "Forgive to every one iniquity." The object of the separation may be for greater emphasis. In like manner, the following clause is also subject to diversity of translation and interpretation. There is

(1) the rendering of the Authorized Version, which appears to supply le before tov: "Receive us for good," viz. in bonam partem, or graciously; or, "receive our prayer graciously."

(2) Another rendering or exposition is: "Take what is good (of thine own to bestow it on us);" thus in the sixty-eighth psalm at the nineteenth verse God is said to receive gifts among men, i.e. for distribution among men, and hence the apostle, in Ephesians 4:8, substitutes ἔδωκε for ἔλαβε, and thus expresses the sense. The literal sense

(3) is the correct sense, namely, "and receive good:" "And receive good," says Jerome, "for unless thou hadst borne away our evil things we could not possibly have any good thing to offer thee, according to that which is written, 'Cease from evil and do good.'" Thus also the words are translated and interpreted by Pusey: "When then Israel and, in him, the penitent soul, is taught to say, receive good, it can mean only the good which thou thyself hast given; as David says, ' Of thine own we have given thee;" while he adds in a note on these words, "No one would have doubted that קי ט means, 'receive good,' as just before, קי די means 'take words,' but for the seeming difficulty - What good had they?" So will we render the calves of our lips. This is more accurately rendered,

(1) "So will we render young bullocks, even our lips." The word shillem, to render, or repay, is almost technical in its application to thank offer-tugs or sacrifices in fulfillment of a vow; the best animals for thank offerings were parm, or young oxen; but the lips, that is, the utterances of the lips, consisting of prayers or praises, or both, are to take the place of the animal sacrifices offered in thanksgiving. Thus the psalmist says, "I will praise the Name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs."

(2) The Septuagint, reading פְרְי instead of פָרְים, renders by καρπὸν χείλεων, to which the inspired author of Hebrews alludes, "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks [margin, 'confessing'] to his Name;" or perhaps the reference in Hebrews is to Isaiah 57:19, "I create the fruit of the lips." Further, as words of confession in ver. 2 take the place of sacrifices of sin offerings, so here words of thanksgiving replace sacrifices of thanksgiving.
Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.
Verse 3. - Asshur shall not save us: we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy. This was the practical side of Israel's repentance; this was bringing forth fruits meet for repentance. Here was a renunciation of all hope of safety from the world-powers - both Assyria and Egypt. They would never again have recourse to Assyria for help, nor to Egypt for horses; nor confide in their own unaided power or prowess; while this renunciation of worldly power and carnal confidences implied, as its opposite, unfaltering faith in the protecting power and saving strength of Jehovah. All thin was much, and yet more was required; next to such renunciation of merely human aid, as indicated, and its contrary, the recognition of Divine assistance, comes the absolute and complete abandonment of their national and besetting sin of idolatry. They have so far come to themselves and received the right use of reason as to confess that the manufacture of man's hands cannot be man's god, thus giving up with feelings of contempt and disgust the groveling sin of idolatry with its attendant vices. Still more, they are penetrated with the conviction that man without God is a poor fatherless creature, in no better, if not in a worse, condition than that of a weak orphan child. They have the consolation at the same time that for all such, on their return to him, the father of the fatherless and the God of the orphan has bowels of tenderest compassion. To the presumed prayer of the penitent an answer overflowing with mercy is promised at once, and by God himself in the next section, consisting of -
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.
Verses 4-7. - I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. The penitential prayer put in the mouth of the people receives in this verse a gracious response; words of contrite confession are echoed back in accents of compassion and consolation. When thus penitent and prayerful they returned to the Lord, he promises them favor as well as forgiveness, so as to heal the moral malady under which they had long labored, remedy the evil effects of their apostasy, and withhold the stripes he was going to inflict. Meshubhatham means

(1) their turning away from God and all included therein - defection, rebellion, idolatry, and other sins. The disease would be healed, and its consequences averted.

(2) Some, however, understand the word, in a good sense, to mean "conversion ' or "the converted," the abstract being put for the concrete; the blessing is thus promised them when they turned or returned to God. Thus the Syriac version.

(3) The LXX. again, connecting meshubhah with yashav, to sit or dwell, render it by κατοικίαν, that is," I will heal their dwelling." There is little doubt that

(1) is the correct translation, and it is generally accepted as such. They are next assured of God's love, and that spontaneously (נְדָבָה, the preposition le understood) with ready willinghood and unfeignedly. God's love is

(a) free, anticipating its objects, not waiting to be merited or purchased, without money and without price; it is

(b) also purest and most sincere affection, altogether unlike that feigned affection sometimes found among men, who profess much love while their heart goeth after their covetousness, or after some other and different object from that pretended. Then follows an assurance that there is no barrier to the exercise and no obstacle to the outgoing of God's love; the turning away of God's anger from Israel is the ground of such assurance. Some copies read mimmeni, my anger is turned away from me, instead of mimmena; this, however, is erroneous, though the sense is not much affected by it. The error may have arisen from a misunderstanding of Jeremiah 2:35. Rashi explains the verse correctly: "After they have thus spoken before me: I will heal them of their apostasy, and love them of my own free will; although they themselves are not worthy of love, yet will I love them freely, for mine anger has turned away from them." Aben Ezra says. "Backsliding is in the soul what disease is in the body, therefore he uses the word 'heal.' But God proceeds to perform what he has promised; he does not confine his goodness to words, he exhibits it in works, as the following verses show." I will be as the dew unto Israel. "The Jussive assumes different shades of meaning, varying with the situation or authority of the speaker.... Sometimes, from the circumstances of the case, the command becomes a permission: Hosea 14:6, 'I will be as the dew to Israel: let him flourish, וְיַך, and strike forth his roots as Lebanon'" (Driver). In lands where there is little rain, the dew, falling copiously, fertilizes the earth, refreshes the languid plants, revives the face of nature, and makes all things grow. Thus the dew becomes the source of fruitfulness. So God, by his Spirit's grace, is the Source of Israel's spiritual fruitfulness. He shall grow (margin, blossom) as the lily. This comparison suggests many qualities, any one of which may characterize, or all of which may combine in, the spiritual growth thus pictured. There is the purity of the lily, the beauty of the lily, the fecundity of the lily, the perfume of the lily, the rapidity of its growth, the stately slightness of its stem. We may combine the rapidity of its growth; its fecundity, with regard to which Pliny informs us that a single root produces fifty bulbs; its beauty, to which our Lord refers in contrast with the glory of Solomon. But its root is weak, and he, on that account perhaps, subjoins: And cast forth (margin, strike) his roots as Lebanon. Whether it mean that the roots are as the trees of Lebanon or the mountain of Lebanon itself, the thought expressed by this comparison is stability. "As the trees of Lebanon," says Jerome, "which strike their roots as far down into the depths as they lift their heads up into the air, so that they can be shaken by no storm, but by their stable massiveness maintain their position." His branches shall spread; margin, go; rather, go on. This feature in the representation denotes enlargement or expansion. The tender branches (suckers) spreading out in all directions very aptly set forth the multiplication of Israel or their growth and increase numerically. But branches straggling, crooked, and ill-shaped would rather be a blemish than a beauty. It is, therefore, added: His beauty shall be as the olive tree. The olive has been called the crown of the fruit trees of Palestine, but besides, its fruitage so plentiful and useful, the splendor of its green, and the enduring freshness of its foliage, make it a vivid picture of that beauty of holiness or spiritual graces which it is here employed to represent. There is still an additional element of interest pertaining to this goodly tree, namely, And his smell as Lebanon. This signifies the fragrance of this beautiful tree of righteousness. The smell of Lebanon is referred to in Song of Solomon 4:11, "And the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon." What with its cedars, and spices, and fruit, and flowers, and aromatic shrubs, and fragrant vines, Lebanon must perfume the air with the most delightful odors. Thus acceptable to God and pleasing to man shall Israel become. The commentators quote with commendation Rosenmüller's explanation of the individual features of this inimitable picture: "The rooting indicates stability; the spreading of the branches, propagation and the multitude of inhabitants; the splendor of the olive, beauty and glory, and that constant and lasting; the fragrance, hilarity and loveliness." The simile changes into the metaphor; Israel, from being likened to a tree, becomes the tree. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow (margin, blossom) as the vine: the scent (rather, renown) thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon. There is some difficulty and consequent diversity of rendering and explanation in connection with this verse. If the tree be Israel in its collective or national capacity, the dwellers under its shadow are the members of the nation, separate]y and severally, flourishing under the widespread branches of this umbrageous tree. The word yashubhu is explained:


(a) return, i.e. betake themselves to his shadow, which is incongruous, for how could they be said to return to their own shadow or dwell securely under it?

(b) return to their native land, so the Chaldee, - this is somewhat better;

(c) return to the worship of Jehovah, said of Israelites who had abandoned it, not properly of Gentiles turning to that worship;

(d) Rosenmüller, comparing Judges 15:19 and 1 Samuel 30:12, explains it in the sense of coming to themselves, reviving.

(2) Keil constructs yashubhu adverbially by a common idiom with yechayyu, and

(a) translates "shalt give life to come again," that is, "Those who sit beneath the shade of Israel, the tree that is bursting into leaf, will revive corn, cause it to return to life, or produce it for nourishment, satiety, and strengthening." Similarly the Vulgate, "sustain life by corn." This, however, must appear tame after the splendid promises that went before.

(b) Vivify; i.e. produce seed like corn, and rejoice in a numerous offspring as from a seed of corn many proceed; according to this, "seed" (זֶרַע) must be supplied, and caph of comparison. The added clause agrees with this, for the flourishing of the vine also symbolizes prolific persons (comp. Psalm 128:3). Further, the vine does not always flourish, yet, not like the corn which after harvest ceases and is no more seen, its root remains, and next year grows green and yields its fruit anew. The fame of the wine of Lebanon is celebrated for its taste and fragrance. Kimchi cites Asaph, a physician, as writing that the wine of Lebanon, of Hermon, of Carmel, of the mountains of Israel and Jerusalem and Caphior, surpass all others in flavor, taste, and for medicinal purposes.
I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.
They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.
Verse 8. - Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? This is full, final, and for over a renunciation of idolatry on the part of Israel. I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found. This is God's promise, that his eye is fixed on Israel in order to look after him, care for him, and provide for him, and to protect and prosper him; while the figure of a green fir tree is the pledge of shelter and security. But, though the fir tree is evergreen, it is fruitless; and therefore it is added that God will prove the Source of fruitfulness, and supply all that his people shall or can ever need.
Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.
Verse 9. - Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall far therein. This verse demands attention to all the prophet has written, whether for warning, or reproof, or correction in righteousness, or encouragement to piety and virtue, and evidently alludes to Deuteronomy 32:4. The ways of the Lord are those he prescribes for them to walk in, as also the ways he takes in guiding, guarding, and governing men. Like the dictates of the Word, so the dispensations of his providence are to some the savor of life, to others the savor of death; therefore it is added that, while the righteous walk therein, the wicked stumble in them (comp. Deuteronomy 30:19, 20).

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