till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face; till the Israelites acknowledge their idolatry, and the Jews their disbelief and rejection of the Messiah, and all other sins; till they ingenuously confess themselves to be guilty, or know and acknowledge they have sinned, as the Targum; and then humbly seek the face and favour of God, the remission of their sins from him, and acceptance with him:
in their affliction they will seek me early; in the morning, betimes, early, and earnestly; which affliction may be understood both of the Assyrian and Babylonish captivity; or rather of their present affliction toward the close of it, when they shall be sensible of their sins, and confess them, and look to him whom they have pierced, and mourn, and seek for pardon, righteousness, and salvation, from him; and so all Israel shall be saved, of whose conversion this is a prophecy.
INTRODUCTION TO Hosea 6
This chapter gives an account of some who were truly penitent, and stirred up one another to return to the Lord, encouraged by his power, grace, and goodness, Hosea 6:1; and of others, who had only a form of religion, were very unstable in it; regarded more the ceremonial law, and the external sacrifices of it, than the moral law; either that part of it which respects the love of the neighbour, or that which concerns the knowledge of God; and dealt treacherously with the Lord, transgressing the covenant, Hosea 6:4; particularly the city of Gilead is represented as full of the workers of iniquity, and is charged with bloodshed, Hosea 6:8; yea, even the priests were guilty of murder and lewdness, Hosea 6:9; and Israel, or the ten tribes in general, are accused of whoredom, both corporeal and spiritual, with which they were defiled, Hosea 6:10; nor was Judah clear of these crimes, and therefore a reckoning day is set for them, Hosea 6:11.
"let us return to the worship of the Lord;''
from which they have sadly departed. The arguments or reasons follow,
for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up; the same hand that has torn will heal and that has smitten will bind up, and none else can; and therefore there is a necessity of returning to him for healing and a cure, Deuteronomy 32:39; and his tearing is in order to heal, and his smiting in order to bind up; and, as sure as he has done the one, he will do the other, and therefore there is great encouragement to apply to him; all which the Jews will be sensible of in the last day; and then the Lord, who is now tearing them in his wrath, and smiting them in his sore displeasure, both in their civil and church state, dispersing them among the nations, and has been so doing for many hundred years, will "bind up the breach of his people, and heal the stroke of their wound", Isaiah 30:26; and so the Lord deals with all his people, who are truly and really converted by him; he rends their heart, tears the caul of it; pricks and cuts them to the heart; smites them with the hammer of his word; wounds their consciences with a sense of sin; lets in the law into them, which works wrath, whereby they become broken and contrite; and all this in order to their turning to him that smites them, and be healed, and in love to their souls, though for the present grievous to bear: and then the great Physician heals them by his stripes and wounds; by the application of his blood; by means of his word, the Gospel of peace and pardon; by a look to him, and a touch of him by faith; by discoveries of his love, and particularly his pardoning grace and mercy, which as oil and wine he pours into the wounds made by sin, and binds them up; and which he heals universally, both with respect to persons and diseases, for which he is applied unto, and infallibly, thoroughly, and perfectly, and all freely.
"he will quicken us in the days of consolation which are to come, and in the day of the resurrection of the dead he will raise us up;''
where by days of consolation are meant the days of the Messiah, with which the Jews generally connect the resurrection of the dead; and if we understand them of the last days of the Messiah, it is not much amiss; for the words respect the quickening and raising up of the Jews in the latter day, the times of Christ's spiritual coming and reign: and these two and three days may be expressive of a long and short time, as interpreters differently explain them; of a long time, as the third day is a long time for a man to lie dead, when there can be little or no hope of his reviving, Luke 24:21; or of a short time, for which two or three days is a common phrase; and both true in this case: it is a long time Israel and Judah have been in captivity, and there may seem little hope of their restoration; but it will be a short time with the Lord, with whom a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years: and this I take to be the sense of the words, that after the second Millennium, or the Lord's two days, and at the beginning of the third, will be the time of their conversion and restoration, reckoning from the last destruction of them by the Romans; for not till then were Israel and Judah wholly in a state of death: many of Israel were mixed among those of Judah before the Babylonish captivity, and many returned with them from it; but, when destroyed by the Romans, there was an end of their civil and church state; which will both be revived on a better foundation at this period of time: but if this conjecture is not agreeable (for I only propose it as such), the sense may be taken thus, that in a short time after the repentance of Israel, and their conversion to the Lord, they will be brought into a very comfortable and happy state and condition, both with respect to things temporal and spiritual;
and we shall live in his sight; comfortably, in a civil sense, in their own land, and in the possession of all their privileges and liberties; and in a spiritual sense, by faith on Jesus Christ, whom they shall now embrace, and in the enjoyment of the Gospel and Gospel ordinances; and the prophet represents the penitents and faithful among them as believing and hoping for these things. This may be applied to the case of sensible sinners, who, as they are in their natural state dead in sin, and dead in law, so they see themselves to be such when awakened; and yet entertain a secret hope that sooner or later they shall be revived and refreshed, and raised up to a more comfortable state, and live in the presence of God, and the enjoyment of his favour. The ancient fathers generally understood these words of Christ, who was buried on the sixth day, lay in the grave the whole seventh day, and after these two days, on the third, rose again from the dead; and to this passage the apostle is thought to have respect, 1 Corinthians 15:3; and also of the resurrection of his people in and with him, and by virtue of his: and true it is that Christ rose from the dead on the third day, and all his redeemed ones were quickened and raised up together with him as their head and representative, Ephesians 2:5; and his in virtue of his being quickened that they are regenerated and quickened, and made alive, in a spiritual sense; he is the author of their spiritual life, and their life itself; see 1 Peter 1:3; and not only in virtue of his resurrection is their spiritual resurrection from the death of sin to a life of grace, but even their corporeal resurrection at the last day; and as, in consequence of their spiritual resurrection, they live in the sight of God a life of grace and holiness by faith in Christ, and in a comfortable view and enjoyment of the divine favour; so they shall live eternally in the presence of God, where are fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore: but the first sense is best, and most agreeable to the context and scope of it.
(s) Comment. in Isaiah 8.20.
his going forth is prepared as the morning; that is, the Lord's going forth, who is known, and followed after to be more known; and is to be understood, not of his going forth in the council and covenant of grace from everlasting; nor of his incarnation in time, or of his resurrection from the dead; but of his spiritual coming in the latter day, with the brightness of which he will destroy antichrist; or of his going forth in the ministration of the Gospel, to the conversion of Jews and Gentiles, the light of which dispensation will be very great; it will be like a morning after a long night of darkness with the Jewish and Pagan nations; and be as grateful and delightful, beautiful and cheerful, as the morning light; and move as swiftly and irresistibly as that, and be alike growing and increasing: and so the words are a reason of the increasing knowledge of the Lord's people in those times, because he shall go forth in the ministration of the word like the morning light, which increases more and more till noon; and of the evidence and clearness of it, it being like a morning without clouds; with which agrees the note of Joseph Kimchi,
"we shall know him, and it will be as clear to us as the light of the morning without clouds:''
and also of the firmness and certainty of it; for both the increasing knowledge of the saints, and the going forth of Christ in a spiritual manner, is "firm" and "sure" (which may be the sense of the word (w)) as the morning; for, as sure as the night cometh, so also the morning;
and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth; in the land of Israel they had usually two rains in a year; the one in autumn, or quickly after the seed was sown; the other in the spring, when the corn was ripe, and harvest near, and which was very reviving and refreshing to the earth, and the fruits of it; and such will be the coming of Christ unto his people, in the ministration of the Gospel in the latter day, which will drop as the rain, and distil as the dew, as the small rain on the tender herb, and as showers upon the grass; and in the discoveries of his favour and love to them, and in the distribution of the blessings of his grace among them. Much the like phrases are used of the spiritual coming of Christ in the latter day, Psalm 72:6. The Targum is,
"and we shall learn, and we shall follow on, to know the fear of the Lord, as the morning light, which darts in its going out; and blessings will come to us as a prevailing rain, and as the latter rain which waters the earth.''
(t) "sciemusque, sequemur ad sciendum Dominum", Montanus; "et cognoscemus, et persequemur ad cognoscendum Jehovam", Zanchius; "sciemus persequemur", Liveleus. (u) "Cognoscamus, sive agnoscamus, et persequautur scientiam Dominis", Schmidt. (w) "firmum certum notat", sic quidam in Schmidt; "firmatus ac stabilitus", Tarnovius.
for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth way; meaning not the goodness of God bestowed upon them, and the mercy he showed to them; but the goodness that appeared in them, and all the good things done by them, their repentance, reformation, holiness, and righteousness; these, which were only in show, did not last long, came to nothing, and disappeared; like a light cloud in the morning, which vanishes away when the sun rises; or like the dew that falls in the night, which is quickly dried up and gone, after the sun has been up a small time. Thus it was with Ephraim, or the ten tribes, in the time of Jehu; there was a show of zeal for religion, and a reformation from idolatry; but it did not go on, nor last long; and with the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the times of Hezekiah and Josiah, who did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord; but then the Jews, in the times of their successors, returned to their former evil ways. And so the best works, holiness and righteousness of men, can no more stand before the justice of God, and the strict examination of it, than a thin light morning cloud, or the small drops of dew, before the light, force, and heat of the sun; nor do formal and carnal professors continue in these things; they may run well for a while, and then drop their profession and religion, and turn from the holy commandment. And this being the case, what can they expect from the Lord?
(x) "in tuum commodum", Schmidt.
"because I admonished them by the message of my prophets, and they returned not, I will bring upon them those that slay, because they have transgressed the word of my will.''
But the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions, and so Aben Ezra and Joseph Kimchi, understand these words, not of hewing, and cutting, and slaying of the people by the prophets, but of the cutting and slaying the prophets themselves, and read the words, "therefore have I cut off the prophets, and slain them &c.", either the false prophets, some of them that caused the people to err, that they might not repent, as Aben Ezra; as the prophets of Baal in the times of Elijah, and the Scribes and Pharisees in Christ's time, who were in the way of the people's repentance, reformation, and reception of Christ; these he cut off, and their doctrine, and condemned by his own, and the doctrine of his apostles, the words of the Lord's mouth; see Zechariah 11:8; and this he did for the good of his people, in answer to the question put by himself in Hosea 6:4; so Schmidt interprets it: or else the true prophets of God, who were exposed to death, to be cut off and slain, for the messages they were sent with: or those messages were such as were killing to them to carry them, and deliver them; and they were so constantly employed, early and late, in such service, that for the work of the Lord they were often nigh unto death: but our version, and the sense agreeable to it, scent best;
and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth; that is, their judgments, the people's, a sudden change of person: meaning either the statutes and judgments prescribed them by the Lord, and to be observed by them; which were clear and plain as the light at noon day, and therefore could not plead any excuse of ignorance of them, that they did not observe them: or the judgments of God upon them for their sins; which were open and manifest to all, and increasing like the light, more and more, and no more to be resisted than that; and the righteousness of God in them was very conspicuous; his judgments were manifest, and the justice of them. Some understand this of the judgments or righteousnesses of the saints, both imputed and inherent, Romans 5:16; which appear light and clear, the darkness of pharisaism being removed by Christ. The Targum is,
"my judgment goes forth as the light.''
and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings; which were reckoned the greatest and most excellent sacrifices, the whole being the Lord's; but knowledge of God is preferred to them; by which is meant, not the knowledge of God, the light of nature, which men might have, and not him; nor by the law of Moses, as a lawgiver, judge, and consuming fire; but a knowledge of him in Christ, as the God and Father of Christ, as the God of all grace, gracious and merciful in him; as a covenant God and Father in him, which is through the Gospel by the Spirit, and is eternal life, John 17:3; this includes in it faith and hope in God, love to him, fear of him and his goodness, and the whole worship of him, both internal and external. These words seem designed to expose and remove the false ground of trust and confidence in sacrifices the people of Israel were prone unto; as we find they were in the times of Isaiah, who was contemporary with Hoses; see Isaiah 1:12. The Targum interprets them of those that exercise mercy, and do the law of the Lord.
there have they dealt treacherously against me; in the covenant they entered into, by breaking it, not performing their promises; and eve in the very sacrifices they offered, and were so fond of, and put their confidence in; either by offering such sacrifices as were not legal, or by offering them to idols, under a pretence of offering them to God, which was dealing treacherously against him; and in all other acts of religion, in which they would be thought to have regard to the covenant of God, his laws and precepts, and to be very serious and devout, yet acted the hypocritical part, were false and deceitful, and devoid of all sincerity: or there, in the promised land, where the Lord had so largely bestowed his favours on them; so Jarchi, Kimchi, and Abarbinel, agreeably to the Targum, which paraphrases it thus,
"and in the good land, which I gave unto them to do my will, they have dealt falsely with my word.''
(y) "sicut Adam", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version, Castilio, Grotius, Cocceius. (z) "Tanquam hominis, sub. pectum", Vatablus, Junius & Tremellius, Zanchius.
and is polluted with blood; with the blood of murderers harboured there, who ought not to have been admitted; or with the blood of such who were delivered up to the avenger of blood, that ought to have been sheltered, and both for the sake of money; or with the blood of children, sacrificed to Mo: the word used has the signification of supplanting, lying in wait, and so is understood of a private, secret, shedding of blood, in a deceitful and insidious way: hence some render it, "cunning for blood" (b); to which the Targum seems to agree, calling it a city
"of them that secretly or deceitfully shed innocent blood.''
It has also the signification of the heel of a man's foot, and is by some rendered, "trodden by blood" (c); that is, by bloody men: or "footed" or "heeled by blood" (d); that is, such an abundance of it was shed, that a man could not set his foot or his heel any where but in blood.
(a) "civitas operantium idolum", V. L. (b) "callida et astuta sanguine", so some in Vatablus; "callida sanguine", Castslio. (c) "Calcata a sanguine", Piscator. (d) "Vestigiata a sanguine", Capellus, Tarnovius; "vestigis sanguinolentis", Juuius & Tremellius.
so the company of priests murder in the way by consent; not only encourage murderers, and commit murders within the city, but go out in a body together upon the highway, and there commit murders and robberies, and divide the spoil among them; all which they did unanimously, and were well agreed, being brethren in iniquity, as well as in office: or, "in the way of Shechem" (e); as good people passed by Gilead to Shechem, and so to Jerusalem, to worship there at the solemn feasts, they lay in wait for them, and murdered them; because they did not give into the idolatrous worship of the calves at Dan and Bethel: or, "in the manner of Shechem" (f); that is, they murdered men in a deceitful treacherous manner, as the Shechemites were murdered by Simeon and Levi: Joseph Kimchi interprets this of the princes and great men, so the word "cohanim" is sometimes used; but the context seems to carry it to the priests:
for they commit lewdness; or "enormity"; the most enormous crimes, and that purposely, with deliberation devising and contriving them.
(e) "Sichemam versus", Gussetius, Schmidt; approved by Reinbeck. De Accent. Heb. p. 442. "qua itur Sichem", Tigurine version; "qua via ad Shechemum factum occidunt", Junius & Tremellius; "quae ducit ad Sichermum", Piscator. So Abendana. (f) "Sicemice", so some in Drusius.
there is the whoredom of Ephraim; in the house of Israel is the whoredom of Jeroboam, who was of the tribe of Ephraim, and caused Israel to sin, to go a whoring after idols; or the whoredom of the tribe of Ephraim, which belonged to the house of Israel, and even of all the ten tribes; both corporeal and spiritual whoredom, or idolatry, are here meant:
Israel is defiled; with whoredom of both kinds; it had spread itself all over the ten tribes; they were all infected with it, and polluted by it; see Hosea 5:3.
(g) a "pilus".