Hosea 3:4 MEANING

Hosea 3:4
(4) The prophet suddenly passes from his personal history to that of Israel, which it symbolised.

Without a king . . .--The isolation of Gomer's position pre-figured that of Israel in the exile. Her bitter experience was a parable of Israel's utter deprivation of all civil and religious privilege. There was to be no king, or prince, or sacred ritual of any kind. Observe that the terms of both cultus are here intermingled, suggesting the idolatrous conceptions of the pure ancient practice which Jeroboam's calf-worship was only too likely to introduce. By "image" we are to understand upright stones, representing Baal or the sun-god. (Comp. Hosea 10:1 and Exodus 24:4.) On "ephod," see Judges 17:5; Judges 18:14; Judges 18:17-20; on "teraphim," Genesis 31:19-35; 1 Samuel 19:13-16; Ezekiel 21:21; Zechariah 10:2. In the last two passages the word is translated "idols," "images," their use as instruments of divination being condemned.

Verse 4. - For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and teraphim. For a long series of years they were thus doomed to be without civil polity, or ecclesiastical privilege, or prophetic intimations. More particularly they were to remain without royal rule, or princely power, or priestly function, or prophetic instruction. As the prophet's wife was neither to be, strictly speaking, her husband's nor yet belong to another man; so Israel, as represented by her, was destined to be deprived of independent self-government and princely sovereignty; of Divine service, whether allowed as by sacrifice - the central part of Hebrew worship - or disallowed as by statue; of oracular responses, whether lawful as by the ephod or unlawful as by teraphim. There was thus an entire breaking up of Church and state as they had long existed; of all civil and ecclesiastical relations and privileges as they had been long enjoyed. Without a king of their own nationality to sit upon the throne, or a prince of their own race as heir apparent to the kingdom, or princes as the great officers of state; without offering by sacrifice to Jehovah, or statue by way of memorial to Baal; without means of ascertaining the will of Heaven in relation to the future by the Urim and Thummim of the high-priestly ephod, only the more than questionable means of soothsaying by the teraphim; - the children of Israel were to be left. And what attaches special importance to this remarkable passage is the undeniable tact that these predictions were uttered, not only before the dissolution of the monarchy and the cessation of sacrifices, but at a time when no human sagacity could foresee and no human power foretell the future abstention of the Hebrew race from idol-worship so long practiced, and from heathenish divination resorted to from such an early period of their history. Rashi, in his comment, has the following: "I said to her, Many days shalt thou abide for me; thou shalt not go a-whoring after other gods; for if thou shalt play the harlot, thy sons shall remain many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice in the sanctuary in Judah, and without a statue of Baal in Samaria of the kings of Israel, and without an ephod with Urim and Thummim which declared to them secrets, and without teraphim; they are images that are made with the observation of one hour composed for the purpose, and which speak of themselves and declare secrets; and so Jonathan has translated, "Neither will there be an ephod nor one to give a response.'" Similarly Aben Ezra: "Without king, nor is there any objection from the Chasmoneans, for they were not of the children of Judah... without sacrifice to Jehovah nor statue to Baal, without ephod to Jehovah and without teraphim to the worshippers of idols, which Laban called his gods." It is a matter of much consequence that some of the ablest of the Jewish expositors realize these predictions as applicable to their own case and the existing circumstances of their nation. Thus Kimchi, in commenting on this verse, says, "These are the days of the exile in which we are this day, and we have neither king nor prince of Israel, for we are in the power of the Gentiles, and in the power of their kings and princes... no sacrifice to God and no statue for worshippers of idols... and no ephod which shall declare future things by Urim and Thummim, and no teraphim for idolaters which declare the future according to the notion of those who believe in them; and thus we are this day in this exile, all the children of Israel;" he then cites the Targum of Jonathan in confirmation of his sentiments. For the ephod, comp. Exodus 28:6-14, from which we learn that it was "a short cloak, covering shoulders and breast, wrought with colors and gold, formed of two halves connected by two shoulder-pieces, on each of which was an onyx engraved with six names of tribes, and held together round the waist by a girdle of the same material;" it was part of the high priest's attire. The teraphim - from the Arabic tarifa, to live comfortably, and turfator, a comfortable life, were the household gods and domestic oracles, like the Roman penates, and deriving the name from being thought the givers and guardians of a comfortable life, חֶרֶפ. They were images in human form and stature, either graven of wood or stone (pesel), or molten out of precious metal (mas-sekhah). The first mention of them is in Genesis 31:19, and the name occurs fifteen times in the Old Testament. They appear to have been of Syrian or Chaldean origin. Aben Ezra says of them, "What appears to me most probable is that they had a human form and were made for the purpose of receiving supernal power, nor can I explain it further." The two principal species of offerings were the זבח, or bloody sacrifice, and the מנחה, or unbloody oblation. The former comprehended those entirely burnt on the altar, עֹלָח rad. עלה, to ascend, from going up entirely in the altar-smoke; and חלב, or those of which only the fat was burnt. According to the object of the offerer, they were chattah, sin offering, pointing to expiation or pardon for something done demanding punishment; or asham, trespass offering, implying satisfaction and acceptance, or something undone demanding amends; and shelamim, peace offerings.

3:4-5 Here is the application of the parable to Israel. They must long sit like a widow, stripped of all joys and honours; but shall at length be received again. Those that would seek the Lord so as to find him, must apply to Christ, and become his willing people. Not only are we to fear the Lord and his greatness, but the Lord and his goodness; not only his majesty, but his mercy. Even Jewish writers apply this passage to the promised Messiah; doubtless it foretold their future conversion to Christ, for which they are kept a separate people. Though the first fear of God arise from a view of his holy majesty and righteous vengeance, yet the experience of mercy and grace through Jesus Christ, will lead the heart to reverence so kind and glorious a Friend and Father, and to fear offending him.For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince,.... Without any form of civil government, either regal or without any civil magistrate, either superior or subordinate, of their own; being subject to the kings and princes of other nations, as the ten tribes were from their captivity by Shalmaneser, to the coming of Christ, which was about seven hundred years; and from that time the tribes of Judah and Benjamin have had no kings and princes among them, for the space of nineteen hundred years, which may very well be called "many days". This answers to the harlot's abiding for the prophet many days, in the parable:

and without a sacrifice; the daily sacrifice, which has ceased as long as before observed; and any other sacrifice of slain beasts, as the passover lamb, &c.; the Jews not thinking it lawful to offer sacrifice in a strange land, or any where but upon the altar in Jerusalem; and to this day have no such sacrifices among them, though they have no notion of the abrogation of them, as the Christians have; but so it is ordered in Providence, that they should be without them, being kept out of their own land, that this and other prophecies might be fulfilled:

and without an image, or "statue": such as were made for Baal, or as were the calves at Dan and Bethel; and though the people of Israel were very subject to idolatry, and set up images and statues for worship before their captivities, yet since have nothing of image worship among them, but strictly observe the command.

And without an ephod; a linen garment wore by the high priests under the law, to which the breastplate was fastened, which had in it the Urim and Thummim; and which were wanting in the second temple, and have been ever since; so that these people have been so long without this way and means of inquiry of God about future things, see Ezra 2:63, this may be put for the whole priesthood, now ceased in a proper sense; and so the Septuagint render it, "without a priesthood"; so that the Jews are without any form of government, civil or ecclesiastical; they have neither princely nor priestly power: "and without teraphim"; which some understand to be the same with the Urim and Thummim; and so the Septuagint render it, "without manifestations"; by which they are thought to mean the Urim, which according to them so signifies: but the word is generally thought to design some little images or idols, like the penates or household gods of the Romans, which were consulted about future things; and so the Jews commonly understand it, and some describe them thus (g),

"what are the "teraphim?" they slay the firstborn of a man, cut off his head, and pickle it with salt and oil, and inscribe on a plate of gold the name of an unclean spirit, and put that under his tongue; then they place it in a wall, and light candles before it, and pray unto it, and it talks with them.''

But now, according to this prophecy, the Jews in their captivity should have no way and means of knowing future things, either in a lawful or unlawful manner; see Psalm 74:9. How the whole of this prophecy is now fulfilled in them, hear what they themselves say, particularly Kimchi;

"these are the days of the captivity in which we now are at this day; we have no king nor prince out of Israel; for we are in the power of the nations, and of their kings and princes; and have no sacrifice for God, nor image for idols; no "ephod" for God, that declares future things; and no "teraphim" for idolatry, which show things to come, according to the mind of those that believe in them;''

and so Jarchi

"without a sacrifice in the sanctuary in Judah; without an image of Baal in Samaria, for the kings of Israel; without an ephod of Urim and Thummim, that declares hidden things; and "teraphim" made for a time to speak of, and show things that are secret;''

and to the same purpose Aben Ezra. The Targum is,

"without a king of the house of David, and without a ruler over Israel; without sacrifice for acceptance in Jerusalem; and without a high place in Samaria; and without an ephod, and him that shows;''

i.e. what shall come to pass. The Syriac version renders the last clause, "without one that offers incense"; and the Arabic version, "without one that teaches".

(g) Pirke Eliezer, c. 36. fol. 40. 1.

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