and buildeth temples; to idols, as the Targum adds; to the calves at Dan and Bethel, at which places, as there were altars set up, and priests appointed, so temples and houses of high places built to worship in; see 1 Kings 12:31;
and Judah hath multiplied fenced cities; to protect them from their enemies, which was not unlawful; but that they should put their trust and confidence in them, and not in the Lord their God, which was their sin; when they saw the ten tribes carried captive by the Assyrians, they betook themselves to such methods for their security, but were not careful to avoid those sins which brought ruin upon Israel:
but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof; that is, an enemy, that should set fire to their cities, particularly Jerusalem their chief city, and burn the temple of the Lord, the palaces of their king and nobles, and all the fine houses of the great men; which was done many years after this prophecy, by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Jeremiah 52:13.
INTRODUCTION TO Hosea 9
This chapter is an address to Israel or the ten tribes, and contains either a new sermon, or is a very considerable part of the former upon the same subject, the sins and punishment of that people. It begins with an instruction to them, not to rejoice in their prosperity, as others did; since it would soon be at an end, because of their idolatry, which was everywhere committed, and for which they expected a reward of temporal good things, Hosea 9:1; but, on the contrary, they are threatened with famine, with want both of corn and wine, Hosea 9:2; and with an ejection out of their land into foreign countries; where they should be obliged to eat things unclean by their law, Hosea 9:3; and where their sacrifices and solemnities should be no more attended to, Hosea 9:4; yea, where their carcasses should fall and be buried, while their own country and houses lay waste and desolate, Hosea 9:6; for, whatsoever their foolish and mad prophets said to the contrary, who pretended to be with God, and know his will, and were a snare to them that gave heed unto them, and brought hatred on them, the time of their punishment would certainly come, Hosea 9:7; and their iniquities would be remembered and visited; seeing their corruptions were deep, like those that appeared in Gibeah, in the days of old, Hosea 9:9; they acting the same ungrateful part their fathers had done, of whom they were a degenerate offspring, Hosea 9:10; wherefore for these, and other offences mentioned, they are threatened with being bereaved of their children, and drove out of their land, to wander among the nations, Hosea 9:11.
for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God; playing the harlot with many lovers; committing adultery with stocks and stones; worshipping idols, and so departing from God, the true God, they had professed to be their God, their God in covenant; who stood in the relation of a husband to them, but they proved treacherous to him, and were guilty of spiritual adultery, which is idolatry; and therefore had no cause to rejoice as other nations that never left their gods, but to take shame to themselves, and mourn over their sad departure; see Hosea 1:3;
thou hast loved a reward upon every corn floor; alluding to the hire of a harlot, prostituting herself for it on a corn floor, or any where else, and that for a measure of corn, or for bread: it may point either at their giving the times of their corn floors to their idols, instead of giving them to the Lord; or to their ascribing their plenty of corn, and all good things to their worship of them, which they called their rewards, or hires their lovers gave them, Hosea 2:5; or to their erecting of altars on their corn floors; as David erected one to the true God on the threshing floor of Araunah, 2 Samuel 24:24; and which they might do, either by way of thanksgiving for a good harvest, which they imputed to them; or in order to obtain one, but in vain, as follows. The Targum is,
"for you have erred from the worship of your God; you have loved to serve idols on all, corn floors.''
(q) "super similitudine, seu idolo" Schmidt. (r) signifies a likeness of age, stature, and complexion, in Dan. i. 10. an idol is the similitude or likeness of anything in heaven or is earth, Exodus 20.4.
and the new wine shall fail in her; in the congregation or land of Israel: or, "shall lie to her" (s); shall not answer their expectations, but disappoint and deceive them; whereas they expected great plenty from the promising prospect of the vines, these by one means or another should be destroyed, so that they would yield but little, and balk them; see Habakkuk 3:17.
(s) "mentietur in ea", Pagninus, Montanus, Zanchius; "mentietur isti", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Liveleus, Schmidt.
but Ephraim shall return to Egypt; or the ten tribes; that is, some of them, who should flee thither for refuge and sustenance; when the Assyrian should invade their land, and besiege Samaria, they should go thither again, where their ancestors had formerly been in a state of bondage: this is prophesied of them, Deuteronomy 28:68;
and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria; that is, Ephraim or the ten tribes, the far greater part of there, should be taken captive, and carried into Assyria, and there eat food which by their law was unclean, as things sacrificed to idols, swine's flesh, and many others; or food that was not fit for men to eat, which nature abhorred; such bread as Ezekiel was bid to make and eat, Ezekiel 4:9. This may be understood even of them that went to Egypt for help against the Assyrians, or for shelter from them, or for food to eat in the time of famine; who should be brought back again, and carried into Assyria, and there live a miserable and an uncomfortable life; who had been used to enjoy corn and wine, and plenty of all good things, to which these unclean things may be opposed.
neither shall their sacrifices be pleasing unto him; unto the Lord, if they were offered; and is a reason why they should not, because unacceptable to him, and that for the reasons before mentioned:
their sacrifices shall be unto them as the bread of mourners: all that eat thereof shall be polluted; as all that ate of the bread of such who were mourning for their dead, that partook of their funeral feasts, or ate bread with them at any time during their mourning, were defiled thereby, according to the Levitical law, and were unqualified for service, Leviticus 21:1; so the sacrifices of these people being offered up with a wicked mind instead of atoning for their sins, more and more defiled them; and, instead of being acceptable to God, were abominable to him:
for their bread for their soul shall not come into the house of the Lord; in the captivity there was no house of the Lord for them to bring it into; and, when in their own land, they did not bring their offerings to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, as they should have done, but offered them before their calves at Dan and Bethel; and which is the thing complained of, that the bread for their souls, that is, the offerings accompanied with the "minchah", or bread offering, for the expiation of the sins of their souls, were not brought into the house of the Lord (the future for the present); or else, this being the case, their sacrifices were reckoned by the Lord as no other than common bread, which they ate for the sustenance of their lives.
Egypt shall gather them up: being dead; for they shall die there, perhaps by the pestilence, and never return to their own country, as they flattered themselves; and they shall make preparations for their funeral:
Memphis shall bury them; or they shall be buried there; which was a principal city in Egypt, here called Moph, in Isaiah 19:13, Noph. It was the metropolis of upper Egypt, and the seat of the Egyptian kings. In it, as Plutarch says (t), was the sepulchre of Osiris; and some say its name so signifies. Near to it were the famous pyramids, as Strabo (u) says, supposed to be built for the sepulchre of them. Herodotus (w) places these pyramids at Memphis, and says there were three of them; the largest had several subterraneous chambers in it; the next in size had none; the smallest was covered with Ethiopic marble. Strabo, in the place referred to, speaks of many pyramids near it, of which three were very remarkable, and expressly says they were the burying places of the kings. Diodorus (x) agrees with these, as to the number of them, but places them fifteen miles from Memphis. Pliny (y) places them between Memphis and the Delta, six miles from Memphis; pretty near to which is Strabo's account, who in the above place says, they stood forty furlongs, or five miles, from the city. Near it was the lake of Charon or Acherusia, over which he ferried dead bodies from Memphis to the pyramids, or to the plains of the mummies, the Elysian fields. Now since this was so famous for the burying places of kings, there may be an allusion to it in this expression. Here also were buried their deities, the Apis or ox when it died;
the pleasant places for their silver, nettles shall possess them; such beautiful edifices as were made for the repositories or treasure houses for their silver; or were built or purchased at great expense of silver; or were decorated with it; now should lie in ruins, and be like a waste, desert, and desolate place, all overrun with nettles, and uninhabited:
briers shall be in their tabernacles; their dwelling houses, which being demolished, briers shall grow upon the ground where they stood, and overspread it; another token of desolation. The Targum interprets it of living creatures, beasts of prey, that should dwell there; wild cats particularly.
(t) De Iside & Osir. p. 359. (u) Geograph. l. 17. p. 555. (w) Euterpe, sive l. 2. c. 8. 126, 127. (x) Bibliothec. l. 1. p 57. (y) Nat. Hist. l. 36. c. 12.
Israel shall know it; by sad experience, that these days are come; and shall acknowledge the truth of the divine predictions, and the righteousness of God in his judgments. Schultens (z), from the use of the phrase in the Arabic language, interprets it of Israel's suffering punishment; with which agrees the Septuagint version, "Israel shall be afflicted", or it shall go ill with him; and to the same purpose the Arabic version:
the prophet is a fool; so Israel said, before those days came, of a true prophet of the Lord, that he was a fool for prophesying of evil things, but now they shall find it otherwise. So the Targum,
"they of the house of Israel shall know that they who had prophesied to them were true prophets;''
but rather this is to be understood of false prophets, who, when the day of God's visitation shall come on Israel in a way of wrath and vengeance, will appear both to themselves and others to be fools, for prophesying good things to them, when evil was at hand:
the spiritual man is mad; he that was truly so, and prophesied under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, was accounted a madman for speaking against the idolatry of the times, and foretelling the judgments of God that would come upon the nation for it; but now it would be manifest, that not he, but such who pretended to be spiritual men, and to be directed and dictated by the Spirit of God, when they promised the people peace, though they walked after the imagination of their hearts, were the real madmen; who pursued the frenzies and fancies of their own minds, to the deception of themselves and the people, and called these the revelations of God, and pretended they came from the Spirit of God:
for the multitude of thine iniquities, and the great hatred; that is, either those evil days came upon them for their manifold sins and transgressions, which were hateful to God, and the cause of his hatred of them; or they were suffered to give heed to those foolish and mad prophets, because of their many sins, especially idolatry; and because of their great hatred of God, and of his true prophets, and of his laws and ordinances, of his word, will, and worship, and of one another, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to a judicial blindness and hardness of heart, to believe a lie, and whatsoever those false prophets declared unto them, because they did not like to retain him in their knowledge, to walk according to his law, and to believe his prophets. The Targum is,
"but the false prophets besotted them, so as to increase thy transgression, and strengthen thine iniquities.''
(z) Animadv. Philol. in Job, p. 78.
but the prophet is a snare of a fowler in all his ways; the false prophet, the same with the watchman, instead of guiding and directing Ephraim in the right way in which he should go, lays snares for him in all the ways he takes, to lead him wrong, and draw him into sin, particularly into idolatry, both by his doctrine and example:
and hatred in the house of his God; and so became detestable and execrable it the house of his own god, the calf at Bethel, in the temple there: prophesying such things as in the event prove false, and drawing into such practices as brought on ruin and desolation. The Targum interprets it, of laying snares for their prophets, their true prophets; and Kimchi and Jarchi of slaying Zechariah the prophet in the temple.
therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins: that is, God, my God, as the prophet calls him in Hosea 9:8, will not forgive and forget their sins; pardon being often expressed by a non-remembrance of sins; but will make inquiry after them, and visit them in a way of wrath and vengeance, and punish for them as they deserve: they being obstinate and impenitent, and persisting in their sins, like the men of Gibeah and Benjamin.
I saw your fathers as the first ripe in the fig tree at her first time; the Lord looked upon their ancestors when they were settled as a people, in their civil and church state, upon their being brought out of Egypt, with as much pleasure as a man beholds the first ripe fig his fig tree produces after planting it, or the first it produces in the season, the fig tree bearing twice in a year; but the first is commonly most desired, as being most rare and valuable; and such were the Israelites to the Lord at first, Micah 7:1. This is observed, to aggravate their ingratitude to the Lord, which soon discovered itself; and to suggest that their posterity were like them, who, though they had received many favours from the Lord, as tokens of his affection to them, and delight in them; yet behaved in a most shocking and shameful manner to him:
but they went to Baalpeor: or "went into Baalpeor" (a); committed whoredom with that idol, even in the wilderness where the Lord found them and showed so much regard to them; this refers to the history in Numbers 25:1. Baalpeor is by some interpreted "the lord" or "god of opening": and was so called, either from his opening his mouth in prophecy, as Ainsworth (b) thinks, as Nebo, a god of Babylon, had his name from prophesying; or from his open mouth, with which this idol was figured, as a Jewish writer (c) observes; whose worshipper took him to be inspired, and opened their mouths to receive the divine afflatus from him: others interpret it "the lord" or "god of nakedness"; because his worshippers exposed to him their posteriors in a shameful manner, and even those parts which ought to be covered; and this is the sense of most of the Jewish writers. So, in the Jerusalem Talmud (d), the worship of Peor is represented in like manner, and as most filthy and obscene, as it is by Jarchi (e), who seems to have taken his account from thence; and even Maimonides (f) says it was a known thing that the worship of Peor was by uncovering of the nakedness; and this he makes to be the reason why God commanded the priests to make themselves breeches to cover their nakedness in the time of service, and why they might not go up to the altar by steps, that their nakedness might not be discovered; in short, they took this Peor to be no other than a Priapus; and in this they are followed by many Christians, particularly by Jerom on this place, who observes that Baalpeor is the god of the Moabites, whom we may call Priapus; and so Isidore (g) says, there was an idol in Moab called Baal, on Mount Fegor, whom the this call Priapus, the god of gardens; but Mr. Selden (h) rejects this notion, and contends that Peor is either the name of a mountain, of which Isidore, just now mentioned, speaks; see Numbers 23:28; where Baal was worshipped, and so was called from thence Baalpeor; as Jupiter Olympius, Capitolinus, &c. is so called from the mountains of Olympus, Capitolinus, &c. where divine honours are paid him; or else the name of a man, of some great person in high esteem, who was deified by the Moabites, and worshipped by them after his death; and so Baalpeor may be the same as "Lord Peor"; and it seems most likely that Peor is the name of a man, at least of an idol, since we read of Bethpeor, or the temple of Peor, in Deuteronomy 34:6;
and separated themselves unto that shame; they separated themselves from God and his worship, and joined themselves to that shameful idol, and worshipped it, thought by many, as before observed, to be the Priapus of the Gentiles, in whose worship the greatest of obscenities were used, not fit to be named: so that this epithet of shame is with great propriety given it, and aggravates the sin of Israel, that such a people should be guilty of such filthy practices; though Baal, without supposing him to he a Priapus, may be called "that shame", for Baal and Bosheth, which signifies shame, are some times put for each other; so Jerubbaal, namely Gideon, is called Jerubbesheth, Judges 8:35; and Eshbaal appears plainly to be the same son of Saul, whose name was Ishbosheth, 1 Chronicles 8:33; and Meribbaal is clearly the same with Mephibosheth 1 Chronicles 8:34; yea, it may be observed that the prophets of Baal are called, in the Septuagint version of 1 Kings 18:25; , "the prophets of that shame"; every idol, and all idolatry being shameful, and the cause of shame, sooner or later, to their worshippers; especially when things obscene were done in their religious rites, as were in many of the Heathens in which the Jews followed them; see Jeremiah 3:24;
and their abominations were according as they loved: or, "as they loved them", the daughters of Moab; for it was through their impure love of them that they were drawn into these abominations, or to worship idols, which are often called abominations; or, as Joseph Kimchi reads the words, and gives the sense of them, "and they were abominations as I loved them"; that is, according to the measure of the love wherewith I loved them, so they were abominations in mine eyes; they were as detestable now as they were loved before.
(a) "ingressi sunt", Pagninus, Montanus, Calvin, Drusius. (b) Annotations on Numbers 25.3.((c) Racenatensis in Capito, apud Drusium in loc. (d) T. Hieros. Sanhedrin, fol. 28. 4. (e) Perush in Numbers 25.3.((f) Moreh Nevochim, par. 3. c. 45. p. 477. (g) Origin. l. 8. c. 11. p. 70. (h) De Dis Syris, Syntagma 1. c. 5. p. 162, 163. See Cumberland's Sanchoniatho, p. 73, &c.
from the birth, and from the womb, and from the conception; that is, some of them, as soon as they were born; others while in the womb, being abortives; or, however, when they should, or as soon as they did, come from thence; and others, as soon as conceived, never come to any thing; or not conceived at all, as Kimchi interprets it, the women being barren.
yet will I bereave them; their parents of them, by the sword, famine, pestilence, or by carrying them captive into a foreign country:
that there shall not be a man left; in the whole land of Israel, but all shall be destroyed, or carried captive; or, "from men" (i); that is, either from being men, as the Targum; though they are brought up to some ripeness, and a more adult age than others, yet arrive not to such a time and age as to be called men, as Kimchi observes; or from being among men, being either taken away by death, or removed from the society of men to live among beasts, and to he slaves like them:
yea, woe also to them, when I depart from them; withdraw my presence, favour, and protection from them; or remove my Shechinah from them, as the Targum; and leave them to the spoil and cruelty of their enemies, which would be a greater calamity and judgment than the former. The Septuagint, and so Theodotion, render it, "woe is to them, my flesh is of them"; which some of the ancients interpret of the incarnation of Christ, not considering that the words are spoken of Ephraim, or the ten tribes; whereas the Messiah was to spring, and did, from the family of David, and tribe of Judah.
(i) "ab homine", Montanus, Tigurine version, Schmidt; "ut non sint homines", Pagninus.
but Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer; to sacrifice them to Mo, as some; so the Targum,
"they of the house of Ephraim have sinned in slaying their children to the service of idols;''
with which Jarchi agrees; but rather the sense is, with Kimchi, and others, when their enemies shall come against them, as the Assyrian army, they shall go out with their sons to fight with them, and these shall be destroyed and murdered by them; it will be like leading lambs to the slaughter to be butchered and devoured by them.
(k) "quando vidi usque ad Tyrum", Schmidt.
give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts; the latter being a sign of the former, as physicians observe; or the words may be rendered disjunctively, give them one, or the other; that is, to the wives of the people of Israel, if they conceive, let them miscarry, prove abortive, rather than bring forth children to be destroyed in such a cruel manner by murderers; or if they bear them to the birth, and bring them forth, let their breasts be dried up, and afford no milk for their nourishment; and so die for lack of it, rather than fall into the hands of their merciless enemies: thus, of two evils, the prophet chooses and prays for the least. Some interpret this as a prediction of what would be, or an imprecation of it; but it rather seems a pathetic wish, flowing from the tender affection of the prophet, judging such a case to be preferable to the former; see Luke 23:29; though the other sense seems best to agree with what follows, and which is favoured by the Targum,
"give thou, O Lord, the recompence of their works; give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.''
(l) "da eis quod daturus es", Junius & Tremellius, Vatablus, Grotius; "da illis id quod dabis", Schmidt.
for there I hated them; or "therefore" (m), because they sinned so greatly against him in a place where they had formerly worshipped him; their sacrifices there, instead of being acceptable, were the more abominable to him, as they were offered there where his tabernacle once was, and sacrifices were offered to him according to his will:
for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house; not out of the house of my sanctuary, or the temple, as the Targum; unless this is to be understood of losing the opportunity of going to the temple at Jerusalem, which those of the ten tribes had while they were in their own land, which the few godly persons among them then took, and made use of; but now their idolatry increasing in Gilgal, and other places, they should be carried captive; and, if they would, could not go up to the house of the Lord, and worship him there: or rather this may design, either the visible church of God, out of which they would be now ejected; or their native country, where they had been, as the family and household of God; but now should be so no more, but, as afterwards said, wanderers among the nations, and no more reckoned as belonging to the Lord, and under his paternal care and protection:
I will love them no more; which is not to be understood of the special love and favour the Lord bears to his own people in Christ, which is everlasting and unchangeable; but of his general and providential favour and regard unto these people, which he had manifested in bestowing many great and good things upon them; but now would do so no more; he would do nothing to them, or for them, that looked like love, or be interpreted of it, but all the reverse; and, by his behaviour to them, show that they were the objects of his aversion and hatred; and this was to continue, and has continued, and will continue unto the time of their conversion in the latter day, when "all Israel shall be saved", Romans 11:26;
all their princes are revolters; from God and his worship, who should have set a good example to the people; and since these were perverse and rebellious against God, it is no wonder that the people in general apostatized. This is to be understood of their king as supreme, and all subordinate rulers; of their judges and magistrates of every order; of all their governors, both civil and ecclesiastic; and not at Gilgal only, but in all the land. There is an elegant play on words (n) in the original, the beauty of which cannot be expressed in the translation.
(m) "ideo", Rivet. (n) "Sharehem Sorerim".
their root is dried up; like the root of a tree that has no sap and moisture in it, and can communicate none to the body and branches of the tree, which in course must die. This may be understood of their king, princes, nobles, and chief men, the support and strength of the nations; and of parents and heads of families, cut off by one judgment or another:
they shall bear no fruit; as a tree thus smitten, and its root dried up, cannot; so neither, this being their case, there would be none to beget, nor any to bear children, and bring them forth; called the fruit of the womb, in allusion to the fruit of trees:
yea, though they bring forth; though some of them should be spared, women with their husbands, and should procreate children:
yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb; their children they should bring forth, on whom their affections were strongly set; and the rather, as they were but few, and from whom they had raised expectations of building up their families; even these the Lord would stay, or suffer to be slain, either by the sword of the enemy, or by famine, or by pestilence, or by some disease or another; so that there should be no hope of a future posterity, at least of no great number of them.