Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
When I would have healed Israel - God begins anew by appealing to Israel, that all which He had done to heal them, had but served to make their sin more evident, and "that," from highest to lowest, as to all manners and ways of sin. When the flash of God's light on the sinner's conscience enlightens it not, it only discloses its darkness. The name "Israel" includes the whole people; the names, Ephraim and Samaria, probably are meant to designate the chief among them, Ephraim having been their royal tribe, and being the chief tribe among them; Samaria being their royal city. The sins, which Hoses denounces in this chapter, are chiefly the sins of the great, which, from them, had spread among the people. Whatever healing methods God had used, whether through the teaching of the prophets or through His own fatherly chastisements, they "would not hearken nor be amended, but ran on still more obstinately in their evil courses. The disease prevailed against the remedy, and was irritated by it, so that the remedy served only to "lay open" the extent of its malignity, and to shew that there was worse in it, than did at first appear" . Paul says of all human nature. "When the commandment came, sin revived" Rom 7:9.
Apart from grace, the knowledge of good only enhances evil. : "So, when God, made Man, present and visible, willed to "heal Israel," then that iniquity of the Jews and wickedness of the Scribes and Pharisees was discovered, whereof this iniquity of Ephraim and wickedness of Samaria was a type. For an evil spirit goaded them to mock, persecute, blaspheme the Teacher of repentance who, together with the word of preaching, did works, such as none other man did. For Christ pleased them not, a Teacher of repentance, persuading to poverty, a Pattern of humility, a Guide to meekness, a Monitor to mourn for sins, a Proclaimer of righteousness, a Requirer of mercy, a Praiser of purity of heart, a Rewarder of peace, a Consoler of those who suffered persecution for righteousness' sake. Why did they reject, hate, persecute, Him who taught thus? Because they loved all contrary thereto, and wished for a Messiah, who should exalt them in this world, and disturb the peace of nations, until he should by war subdue to their empire all the rest of the world, build for them on earth a Jerusalem of gold and gems, and fulfill their covetousness in all things of this sort.
This their mind He once briefly expressed; "How can ye believe which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor which cometh from God only?" Joh 5:24. They persecuted Him then who willed to heal them, as madmen strike the physician offering them medicine, nor did they cease, until they required Him their King to be crucified. Thus was the "iniquity of Ephraim and wickedness of Samaria discovered," yet filled up by them; and so they filled up the measure of their fathers, and discovered and testified, that they were of the same mind with their fathers. In all these things they "committed falsehood," lying against, their King whom they denied, and accused as seditious."
For they - (i. e. all of them) commit falsehood Falsehood was the whole habit and tissue of their lives. : "They dealt falsely in all their doings both with God and man, being hypocritical and false in all their words and doings, given to fraud and deceit, from the highest to the lowest." Night and day; in silence and in open violence; "within," where all seemed guarded and secure, and "without," in open defiance of law and public justice; these deeds of wrong went on in an unceasing round. In the night, "the thief cometh in," breaking into people's houses and pillaging secretly; "a troop of robbers spoileth without," spreading their ravages far and wide, and desolating without resistance. It was all one state of anarchy, violence, and disorganization.
And they consider not in their hearts - Literally, (as in the E. M) "they say not to their hearts." The conscience is God's voice to the heart from within; man's knowledge of the law of God, and his memory of it, is man's voice, reminding his heart and rebellious affections to abide in their obedience to God. God speaks through the heart, when by His secret inspirations he recalls it to its duty. Man speaks to his own heart, when he checks its sinful or passionate impulses by the rule of God's law, "Thou shalt not." "At first, people feel the deformity of certain sorts of wickedness. When accustomed to them, people think that God is indifferent to what no longer shocks themselves." "They say not to their heart" anymore, that "God remembers them."
I remember all their wickedness - This was the root of "all their wickedness," want of thought. They would not stop to say to themselves, that God not only saw, but "remembered their wickedness," and not only this, but that He remembered it all. Many will acknowledge that God sees them. He sees all things, and so them also. This is a part of His natural attribute of omniscience. It costs them nothing to own it. But what God "remembers, that" He will repay. This belongs to God's attributes, as the moral Governor of the world; and this, man would gladly forget. But in vain. God does "remember," and remembers in order to punish. "Now," at the very moment when man would not recall this to his own heart, "their own doings have beset them about; they are before my face." Unless or until man repent, God sees man continually, encompassed by all his past evil deeds; they surround him, accompany him, whithersoever he goeth; they attend him, like a band of followers; they lie down with him, they await him at his awakening; they live with him, but they do not die with him; they encircle him, that he should in no wise escape them, until he come attended by them, as witnesses against him, at the judgmentseat of God. "His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins. God remembers all their wickedness" Pro 5:22.
Then He will requite "all;" not the last sins only, but all. So when Moses interceded for his people after the sin of the calf, God says to him, "go lead the people unto the place, of which I have spoken unto thee; behold My Angel shall go before thee; nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them" Exo 32:34; and of the sins of Israel and their enemies; "Is not this laid up in store with Me, and sealed up among My treasures? to Me belongeth "vengeance and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time" Deu 32:34-35. The sins, forgotten by man, are remembered by God, and are requited all together in the end. A slight image of the Day of Judgment, "the Day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, against" which the hard and impenitent heart "treasures up unto itself wrath!"
They are before My face - All things, past, present, and to come, are present before God. He sees all things which have been, or which are, or which shall be, or which could be, although He shall never will that they should be, in one eternal, unvarying, present. To what end then for man to cherish an idle hope, that God will not remember, what He is ever seeing? In vain wouldest thou think, that the manifold ways of man are too small, too intricate, too countless, to be remembered by God. God says, "They are before My Face."
They make the king glad with their wickedness - Wicked sovereigns and a wicked people are a curse to each other, each encouraging the other in sin. Their king, being wicked, had pleasure in their wickedness; and they, seeing him to be pleased by it, set themselves the more, to do what was evil, and to amuse him with accounts of their sins. Sin is in itself so shameful, that even the great cannot, by themselves, sustain themselves in it, without others to flatter them. A good and serious man is a reproach to them. And so, the sinful great corrupt others, both as aiding them in their debaucheries, and in order not to be reproached by their virtues, and because the sinner has a corrupt pleasure and excitement in hearing of tales of sin, as the good joy to hear of good. Whence Paul says, "who, knowing the judgment of God that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them" Rom 1:32.
But whereas, they all, kings, princes, and people, thus agreed and conspired in sin, and the sin of the great is the rarest destructive, the prophet here upbraids the people most for this common sin, apparently because they were free from the greater temptations of the great, and so their sin was the more willful. "An unhappy complaisance was the ruling character of Israel. It preferred its kings to God. Conscience was versatile, accommodating. Whatever was authorized by those in power, was approved." Ahab added the worship of Baal to that of the calves; Jehu confined himself to the sin of Jeroboam. The people acquiesced in the legalized sin. Much as if now, marriages, which by God's law are incest, or remarriages of the divorced, which our Lord pronounces adultery, were to be held allowable, because man's law ceases to annex any penalty to them.
They are all adulterers - The prophet continues to picture the corruption of all kinds and degrees of people. "All of them," king, princes, people; all were given to adultery, both spiritual, in departing from God, and actual, (for both sorts of sins went together,) in defiling themselves and others. "All of them" were, (so the word means,) habitual "adulterers." One only pause there was in their sin, the preparation to complete it. He likens their hearts, inflamed with lawless lusts, to the heat of "an oven" which "the baker" had already "heated." The unusual construction "burning from the baker" instead of "heated "by" the baker" may have been chosen, in order to express, how the fire continued to burn of itself, as it were, (although at first kindled by the baker,) and was ever-ready to burn whatever was brought to it, and even now was all red-hot, burning on continually; and Satan, who had stirred it, gave it just this respite, "from the time when he had kneaded the dough" , until the leaven, which he had put into it, had fully worked, and the whole was ready for the operation of the fire.
The world is full of such people now, ever on fire, and pausing only from sin, until the flatteries, whereby they seduce the unstable, have worked and penetrated the whole mind, and victim after victim is gradually leavened and prepared for sin.
In the day of our king, the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine - (Or, "with heat from wine.") Their holydays, like those of so many Englishmen now, were days of excess. "The day of their king" was probably some civil festival; his birthday, or his coronation-day. The prophet owns the king, in that he calls him "our king;" he does not blame them for keeping the day, but for the way in which they kept it. Their festival they turned into an irreligious and anti-religious carousal; making themselves like "the brutes which perish," and tempting their king first to forget his royal dignity, and then to blaspheme the majesty of God.
He stretched out his hand with scorners - as it is said, "Wine is a mocker" (or "scoffer"). Drunkenness, by taking off all power of self restraint, brings out the evil which is in the man. The "scorner" or "scoffer" is one who "neither fears God nor regards man" Luk 18:4, but makes a jest of all things, true and good, human or divine. Such were these corrupt princes of the king of Israel; with these "he stretched out the hand," in token of his good fellowship with them, and that he was one with them. He withdrew his hand or his society from good and sober people, and "stretched" it "out," not to punish these, but to join with them, as people in drink reach out their hands to any whom they meet, in token of their sottish would-be friendliness. With these the king drank, jested, played the buffoon, praised his idols, scoffed at God. The flattery of the bad is a man's worst foe.
For they have made ready their heart like an oven - He gives the reason old their bursting out into open mischief; it was ever stored up within. They "made ready," (literally, "brought near") "their heart." Their heart was ever brought near to sin, even while the occasion was removed at a distance from it. "The "oven" is their heart; the fuel, their corrupt affections, and inclinations, and evil concupiscence, with which it is filled; "their baker," their own evil will and imagination, which stirs up whatever is evil in them." The prophet then pictures how, while they seem for a while to rest from sin, it is but "while they lie in wait;" still, all the while, they made and kept their hearts ready, full of fire for sin and passion; any breathing-time from actual sin was no real rest; the heart was still all on fire; "in the morning," right early, as soon as the occasion came, it burst forth.
The same truth is seen where the tempter is without. Such, whether Satan or his agents, having lodged the evil thought or desire in the soul, often feign themselves asleep, as it were, "letting the fire and the fuel which they had inserted, work together," that so the fire pent-in might kindle more thoroughly and fatally, and, the heart being filled and penetrated with it, might burst out of itself, as soon as the occasion should come.
They are all hot as an oven, and have devoured their judges - Plans of sin, sooner or later, through God's overruling providence, bound back upon their authors. The wisdom of God's justice and of His government shows itself the more, in that, without any apparent agency of His own, the sin is guided by Him through all the intricate mazes of human passion, malice, and cunning, back to the sinner's bosom. Jeroboam, and the kings who followed him, had corrupted the people, in order to establish their own kingdom. They had heated and inflamed the people, and had done their work completely, for the prophet says, "They are all hot as an oven;" none had escaped the contagion; and they, thus heated, burst forth and, like the furnace of Nebchadnezzar, devoured not only what was cast into it, but those who kindled it. The pagan observed, that the "artificers of death perished by their own art."
Probably the prophet is describing a scene of revelry, debauchery, and scoffing, which preceded the murder of the unhappy Zechariah; and so fills up the brief history of the Book of Kings. He describes a profligate court and a debauched king; and him doubtless, Zechariah ; those around him, delighting him with their wickedness; all of them habitual adulterers; but one secret agent stirring them up, firing them with sin, and resting only, until the evil leaven had worked through and through. Then follows the revel, and the ground wily they intoxicated the king, namely, their lying-in-wait. "For," he adds, "they prepared their hearts like a furnace, "when they lie in wait."" The mention of dates, of facts, and of the connection of these together; "the day of our king;" his behavior: their lying in wait; the secret working of one individual; the bursting out of the fire in the morning; the falling of their kings; looks, as if he were relating an actual history. We know that Zechariah, of whom he is speaking, was slain through conspiracy publicly in the open face of day, "before all the people," no one heeding, no one resisting. Hosea seems to supply the moral aspect of the history, how Zechariah fell into this general contempt; how, in him, all which was good in the house of Jehu expired.
All their kings are fallen - The kingdom of Israel, having been set up in sin, was, throughout its whole course, unstable and unsettled. Jeroboam's house ended in his son; that of Baasha, who killed Jeroboam's son, Nadab, ended in his own son, Elah; Omri's ended in his son's son, God having delayed the punishment on Ahab's sins for one generation, on account of his partial repentance; then followed Jehu's, to whose house God, for his obedience in some things, continued the kingdom to "the fourth generation." With these two exceptions, in the houses of Omri and Jehu, the kings of Israel either left no sons, or left them to be slain. Nadab, Elah, Zimri, Tibni, Jehoram, Zechariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, Pekah, were put to death by those who succeeded them. Of all the kings of Israel, Jeroboam, Baasha, Omri, Menahem, alone, in addition to Jehu and the three next of his house, died natural deaths. So was it written by God's hand on the house of Israel, "all their kings have fallen." The captivity was the tenth change after they had deserted the house of David. Yet such was the stupidity and obstinacy both of kings and people, that, amid all these chastisements, none, either people or king, turned to God and prayed Him to deliver them. Not even distress, amid which almost all betake themselves to God, awakened any sense of religion in them. "There is none among them, that calleth unto Me."
Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people - i. e., with the pagan; he "mixed" or "mingled" himself among or with them, so as to corrupt himself, as it is said, "they were mingled among the pagan and learned their works" Psa 106:35. God had forbidden all intermarriage with the pagan Exo 34:12-16, lest His people should corrupt themselves: they thought themselves wiser than He, intermarried, and were corrupted. Such are the ways of those who put themselves amid occasions of sin.
Ephraim is - (literally, "is become") a cake (literally, "on the coals") not turned The prophet continues the image . "Ephraim" had been "mingled," steeped, kneaded up into one, as it were, "with the pagan," their ways, their idolatries, their vices. God would amend them, and they, withholding themselves from His discipline, and not yielding themselves wholly to it, were but spoiled. The sort of cake, to which Ephraim is here likened, "uggah" literally, "circular," was a thin pancake, to which a scorching heat was applied on one side; sometimes by means of hot charcoal heaped upon it; sometimes, (it is thought,) the fire was within the earthen jar, around which the thin dough was fitted. If it remained long "unturned," it was burned on the one side; while it continued unbaked, doughy, recking, on the other; the fire spoiling, not penetrating it through. Such were the people; such are too many so-called Christians; they united in themselves hypocrisy and ungodliness, outward performance and inward lukewarmness; the one overdone, but without any wholesome effect on the other. The one was scorched and black; the other, steamed, damp, and lukewarm; the whole worthless, spoiled irremediably, fit only to be cast away. The fire of God's judgment, with which the people should have been amended, made but an outward impression upon them, and reached not within, nor to any thorough change, so that they were the more hopelessly spoiled through the means which God used for their amendment.
Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not - Like Samson, when, for sensual pleasure, he had betrayed the source of his strength and God had departed from him, lsrael knew not how or wherein his alliancs with the pagan had impaired his strength. He thought his losses at the hand of the enemy, passing wounds, which time would heal; he thought not of them, as tokens of God's separation from him, that his time of trial was coming to its close, his strength decaying, his end at hand. Israel was not only incorrigible, but "past feeling" Eph 4:19, as the Apostle says of the pagan. The marks of wasting and decay were visible to sight and touch; yet he himself perceived not what all saw except himself. Israel had sought to strangers for help, and it "had turned to his decay." Pul and Tiglath-pileser had "devoured his strength," despoiling him of his wealth and treasure, the flower of his men, and the produce of his land, draining him of his riches, and hardly oppressing him through the tribute imposed upon him. But "like men quite stupified, they, though thus continually gnawed upon, yet suffered themselves willingly to be devoured, and seemed insensible of it." Yet not only so, but the present evils were the forerunners of worse. Grey hairs, themselves the effects of declining age and tokens of decay, are the forerunners of death. "Thy grey hairs are thy passing-bell," says the proverb .
The prophet repeats, after each clause, "he knoweth not." He knoweth nothing; be knoweth not 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. People hide from themselves the tokens of decay, whether of body or soul. And so death, whether of body or soul or both, comes upon them unawares. : "Looking on the surface, he imagines that all things are right with him, not feeling the secret worm which gnaws within. The outward garb remains; the rules of fasting are observed; the stated times of prayer are kept; but the heart is far from Me, saith the Lord. Consider diligently what thou lovest, what thou fearest, whereat thou rejoicest or art saddened, and thou will find, under the habit of religion, a worldly mind; under the rags of conversion, a heart of perversion."
And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face - His pride convicted him. All the afflictions of God humbled him not; yea, they but brought out his pride, which "kept him from acknowledging and repenting of the sins which had brought those evils upon him, and from "turning to God and seeking to Him" for remedy" . People complain of their "fortune" or "fate" or "stars," and go on the more obstinately, to build up what God destroys, to prop up by human means or human aid what, by God's providence, is failing; they venture more desperately, in order to recover past losses, until the crash at last becomes hopeless and final.
Nor seek Him for all this - God had exhausted all the treasures of His severity, as, before, of His love. He Himself marvels at His incorrigible and contumacious servant, as He says in Isaiah, "Why should ye be stricken anymore? Ye will revolt more and more" Isa 1:5. How is this? It follows, because they have "no heart."
Ephraim is - (become) like a silly dove "There is nothing more simple than a dove," says the Eastern proverb. Simplicity is good or bad, not in itself, but according to some other qualities of the soul, good or evil, with which it is united, to which it opens the mind, and which lead it to good or mislead it to evil. The word describes one, easily persuaded, open, and so, one who takes God's word simply, obeys His will, without refinement or subtlety or explaining it away; in which way it is said, "The Lord preserveth the simple;" or, on the other hand, one who lets himself easily be led to evil, as the pagan said of youth, that they were "like wax to be bent to evil" Psa 116:6. In this way, it is said, "How long, ye simple one, will ye love simplicity?" Pro 1:22. Our Lord uses this likeness of the dove, for good, "be wise as serpents, simple, or harmless as doves" Mat 10:16. Hosea speaks of simplicity without wisdom, for he adds, "a silly dove without understanding," (literally, "without a heart,") whereby they should love God's will, and so should understand it. Ephraim "became," he says, like a silly dove. Neglecting God's calls, unmoved by calamity or sufferings, and not "seeking" to God "for all this" which He has done to recall them, they grew in folly. Man is ever "growing in wisdom" or in folly, in grace or in gracelessness. This new stage of folly lay in their flying to Assyria, to help them, in fact, against God; as it follows,
They call to Egypt - Instead of "calling to" God who could and would help, they "called to Egypt" who could not, and "went to Assyria" who would not. So God complains by Isaiah, "To Me, thou hast not called, O Jacob" Isa 43:22. This was their folly; they called not to God, who had delivered them out of Egypt, but, alternately, to their two powerful neighbors, of whom Egypt was a delusive promiser, not failing only, but piercing, those who leant on it; Assyria was a powerful oppressor. Yet what else is almost the whole history of Christian states? The "balance of power," which has been the pride of the later policy of Europe, which has been idolized as a god, to which statesmen have looked, as a deliverance out of all their troubles; as if it were a sort of divine providence, regulating the affairs of human beings, and dispensing with the interference of God; what is it but the self-same wisdom, which balanced Egypt against Assyria?
When they go - (Literally, "according as" they go, in all circumstances of time or place or manner, when whithersoever or howsoever they shall go,) I "will spread My net upon them," so as to surround and envelop them on all sides and hold them down. The "dove" soaring aloft, with speed like the storm-wind Psa 55:6-8, is a picture of freedom, independence, impetuous, unhindered, following on its own course; weak and timid, it trusts in the skillfulness with which it guides its flight, to escape pursuit; the "net," with its thin slight meshes, betokens how weak instruments become all-sufficient in the hands of the Almighty; the same dove, brought down from its almost viewless height, fluttering weakly, helplessly and hopelessly, under those same meshes, is a picture of that same self-dependent spirit humiliated, overwhelmed by inevitable evils, against which it impotently struggles, from which it seems to see its escape, but by which it is held as fast, as if it lay motionless in iron.
As their congregation hath heard - Manifoldly had the message of reward on obedience, and of punishment on disobedience, come to Israel. It was spread throughout the law; it fills the book of Deuteronomy; it was concentrated in the blessing and the curse on mount Ebal and Gerizim; it was put into their mouths in the song of Moses; it was inculcated by all the prophets who had already prophesied to them, and now it was being enforced on that generation by Hosea himself. Other kingdoms have fallen; but their fall, apart from Scripture, has not been the subject of prophecy. Their ruin has come mostly unexpected, either by themselves or others.
Woe unto them, for they have fled from Me - The threatening rises in severity, as did the measure of their sin. Whereas "Salvation belonged to God" Psa 3:8 alone, and they only "abide under His shadow" Psa 91:1-2, who make Him their "refuge, woe" must needs come on them, who leave Him. "They forsake their own mercy" Jon 2:8. "Woe" they draw upon themselves, who forget God; how much more then they, who willfully and with a high hand transgress against Him! "Destruction unto them, for they have transgressed against Me." To be separated from God is the source of all evils; it is the "pain of loss" of God's presence, in hell; but "destruction" is more than this; it is everlasting death.
And I have redeemed them and they have spoken lies against Me - The "I" and "they" are both emphatic in Hebrew; "I redeemed;" "they spoke lies." Such is man's requital of His God. Oft as He redeemed, so often did they traduce Him. Such was the history of the passage through the wilderness; such, of the period under the Judges; such had it been recently, when God delivered Israel by the hand of Jereboam II Kg2 14:25-27. The word, "I have redeemed," denotes "habitual oft-renewed deliverance," "that He was their constant Redeemer, from whom they had found help, did still find it, and might yet look to find it, if they did not, by their ill behavior, stop the course of His favor toward them" . God's mercy overflowed their ingratitude. "They" had Spoken lies against Him, often as He had delivered them; He was still their abiding Redeemer. "I do redeem them."
They have spoken lies against Me - People "speak lies" against God, in their hearts, their words, their deeds; whenever they harbor thoughts, speak words, or act, so as to deny that God is what He is, or as to imply that He is not what He has declared Himself to be. Whoever seeks anything out of God or against His will; whoever seeks from man, or from idols, or from fortune, or from his own powers, what God alone bestows; whoever acts as if God was not a good God, ready to receive the penitent, or a just God who will avenge the holiness of His laws and "not clear the guilty," does in fact, "speak lies against God." People, day by day, "speak lies against God," against His Wisdom, His providence, His justice, His Goodness, His Omniscience, when they are thinking of nothing less. Jeroboam spake lies against God, when he said, "these be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt," whereas God had so often enforced upon them Exo 20:2; Lev 19:36; Lev 23:43; Num 15:41; Deu 5:6, Deu 5:15, "the Lord redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt (Deu 7:8; add. Deu 13:5; Deu 15:15; Deu 24:18); the Lord thy God brought thee out thence with a mighty hand and stretched out arm."
Israel "spake lies against God," when he said, "these are my rewards which my lovers have given me" Hos 2:12, or when, "they returned not to Him" but "called on Egypt," as though God would not help them, who said that He would, or as though Egypt could help them, of whom God said that it should not. Sometimes, they "spoke" out "lies" boldly, telling God's true prophets that He had not sent them, or forbidding them to speak in His Name; sometimes covertly, as when they turned to God, not sincerely but feignedly; but always perversely. And when God the Son came on earth to "redeem them," then still more, they spoke lies against Him, all His life long, saying, "He deceiveth the people," and all their other blasphemies, and , "when He, forgave them the sin of His death, saying, "Father, forgave them for they know not what they do," they persevered in "speaking lies" against Him, and bribed the soldiers to speak lies against Him," and themselves do so to this day.
And they have not cried unto him with their heart, when they howled upon their beds - Or, in the present time, "they cry not unto Me when they howl." They did "cry," and, it may be, they "cried" even "unto God." At least, the prophet does not deny that they cried to God at all; only, he says, that they did "not cry to" Him "with their heart." Their cries were wrung from them by their temporal distresses, and ended in them, not in God. There was no sincerity in their hearts, no change in their doings. Their cry was a mere howling. The secret complaint of the heart is a loud cry in the ears of God. The impetuous "cry" of impatient and unconverted suffering is a mere brutish "howling." Their heart was set wholly on their earthly needs; it did not thank God for giving them good things, nor cry to Him truly when He withheld them.
But, it may be, that the prophet means also to contrast the acts of the ungodly, private and public, amid distress, with those of the godly. The godly man implores God in public and in private. The prayer on the "bed," expresses the private prayer of the soul to God, when, the world being shut out, it is alone with Him. In place of this, there was the "howling," as people toss fretfully and angrily on their beds, roar for pain; but, instead of complaining "to" God, complain "of" Him, and are angry, not with themselves, but with God. In place of the public prayer and humiliation, there was a mere tumultuous assembly, in which they clamored "for grain and wine," and "rebelled against God. They assemble themselves;" (literally, "they gather themselves tumultuously together). They rebel against Me ;" (literally, "they turn aside against Me"). They did not only (as it is expressed elsewhere) "turn aside "from" God." "They turn aside against Me," He says, flying, as it were, in the very face of God. This "tumultuous assembly" was either some stormy civil debate, how to obtain the grain and wine which God withheld, or a tumultuous clamoring to their idols and false gods, like that of the priests of Baal, when arrayed against Elijah on Mount Carmel; whereby they removed the further from God's law, and rebelled with a high hand against Him.
: What is to "cry to the Lord," but to long for the Lord? But if anyone multiply prayers, crying and weeping as he may, yet not with any intent to gain God Himself, but to obtain some earthly or passing thing, he cannot truly be said to "cry unto the Lord," i. e., so to cry that his cry should come to the hearing of the Lord. This is a cry like Esau's, who sought no other fruit from his father's blessing, save to be rich and powerful in this world. When then He saith, "They cried not to Me in their heart, etc.," He means, they were not devoted to Me, their heart was not right with Me; they sought not Myself, but things of Mine. They howled, desiring only things for the belly, and seeking not to have Me. Thus they belong not to "the generation of those who seek the Lord, who seek the face of the God of Jacob" Psa 24:6, but to the generation of Esau."
Though I have bound - Rather, (as in the E. M) "And I have chastened, I have strenghened their arms, and they imagine mischief against Me." God had tried all ways with them, but it was all one. He chastened them in love, and in love He strengthened them; He brought the enemy upon them, (as aforetime in the days of the Judges,) and He gave them strength to repel the enemy; as He raised up judges of old, and lately had fulfilled His promise which He had made to Joash through Elisha. But it was all in vain. Whatever God did, Israel was still the same. All only issued in further evil. The prophet sums up in four words all God's varied methods for their recovery, and then sets over against them the one result, fresh rebellion on the part of His creatures and His people.
They imagine - Or "devise mischief against Me." The order in the Hebrew is emphatic, "and against Me they devise evil;" i. e., "against Me," who had thus tried all the resources and methods of divine wisdom to reclaim them, "they devise evil." These are words of great condescension. For the creature can neither hurt nor profit the Creator. But since God vouchsafed to be their King, He deigned to look upon their rebellions, as so many efforts to injure Him. All God's creatures are made for His glory, and on earth, chiefly man; and among men, chiefly those whom He had chosen as His people. In that, then, they set themselves to diminish that glory, giving to idols (see Isa 42:8), they, as far as in them lay, "devised evil against" Him. Man would dethrone God, if he could.
They return, but not to the most High - God exhorts by Jeremiah, "If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto Me" Jer 4:1. They changed, whenever they did change, with a feigned, hypocritical conversion, but not to God, nor acknowledging His Majesty. Man, until truly converted, turns to and fro, unstably, hither and thither, changing from one evil to another, from the sins of youth to the sins of age, from the sins of prosperity to the sin of adversity; but he remains himself unchanged. He "turns, not to the most High." The prophet says this in three, as it were, broken words, "They turn, not most High." The hearer readily filled up the broken sentence, which fell, drop by drop, from the prophet's choked heart.
They are like a deceitful bow - Which, "howsoever the archer directs it, will not carry the arrow right home to the mark," but to other objects clean contrary to his will. : "God had, as it were, bent Israel, as His own bow, against the tyranny of the devil and the deceit of idolatry. For Israel alone in the whole world cast aside the worship of idols, and was attached to the true and natural Lord of all things. But they turned themselves to the contrary. For, being bound to this, they fought against God for the glory of idols. They became then as a warped bow, shooting their arrows contrariwise." In like way doth every sinner act, using against God, in the service of Satan, God's gifts of nature or of outward means, talents, or wealth, or strength, or beauty, or power of speech. God gave all for His own glory; and man turns all aside to do honor and service to Satan.
Their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue - The word, rendered "rage," is everywhere else used of the wrath of God; here, of the "wrath" and "foaming" of man against God. Jeremiah relates how, the nearer their destruction came upon Judah, the more madly the politicians and false prophets cantradicted what God revealed. Their tongue was a "sharp sword." They sharpened their tongue like a sword; and the sword pierced their own bosom. The phrensy of their speech not only drew down God's anger, but was the instrument of their destruction. They misled the people; taught them to trust in Egypt, not in God; persuaded them to believe themselves, and to disbelieve God; to believe, that the enemy should depart from them and not carry them away captive. They worked up the people to their will, and so they secured their own destruction. The princes of Judah were especially judged and put to death by Nebuchadnezzar Jer 52:10. The like probably took place in Israel. In any case, those chief in power are chief objects of destruction. Still more did these words come true before the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. They were maddened by their own curse, "the rage of their tongue" against their Redeemer, "His blood be on us and on our children." Frenzy became their characteristic. It was the amazement of the Romans, and their own destruction.
This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt - This, i. e., all this, their boasting of Egypt, their failure, their destruction, shall become their "derision." In Egypt had they trusted; to Egypt had they gone for succor; in Egypt should they be derided. Such is the way of man. The world derides those who trusted in it, sued it, courted it, served it, preferred it to their God. Such are the wages, which it gives. So Isaiah prophesied of Judah, "the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion. They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help nor profit, but a shame and also a reproach" Isa 30:3, Isa 30:5.