Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
When Ephraim spake trembling - that is, probably "there was 'trembling.'" : "Ephraim was once very awful, so as, while he spake, the rest of the tribes were ready to tremble." The prophet contrasts two conditions of Ephraim, of prosperity, and destruction. His prosperity he owed to the undeserved mercy of God, who blessed him for Joseph's sake; his destruction, to his own sin. There is no period recorded, "when Ephraim spake trembling," i. e., in humility. Pride was his characteristic, almost as soon as he had a separate existence as a tribe (see the note at Hos 5:5). Under Joshua, it could not be called out, for Ephraim gained honor, when Joshua, one of themselves, became the captain of the Lord's people. Under the Judges, their pride appeared. Yet God tried them, by giving them their hearts' desire. They longed to be exalted, and He satisfied them, if so be they would thus serve Him. They had the chief power, and were a "terror" to Judah. "He exalted himself," (or perhaps "he was exalted,) in Israel; but when he offended in Baal he died;" literally, "and he offended in Baal and died."
He abused the goodness of God; his sin followed as a consequence of God's goodness to him. God raised him, and he offended. The alliance with a king of Tyre and Sidon, which brought in the worship of Baal, was a part of the worldly policy of the kings of Israel (Kg1 16:31, see Introduction). "As if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took to wife the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him." The twenty-two years of Ahab's reign established the worship. The prophets of Baal became 450; the prophets of the kindred idolatry of Ashtoreth, or Astarte, became 400; Baal had his one central temple, large and magnificent Kg2 10:21-22, Kg2 10:25, a rival of that of God. The prophet Elijah thought the apostasy almost universal; God revealed to him that He had "reserved" to Himself "seven thousand in Israel." Yet these were "all the knees which had not bowed to Baal, and every mouth which had not kissed him" Kg1 19:18.
And died - Death is the penalty of sin. Ephraim "died" spiritually. For sin takes away the life of grace, and separates from God, the true life of the soul, the source of all life. He "died more truly, than he who is dead and at rest." Of this death, our Lord says, "Let the dead bury their dead" Mat 8:22; and Paul, "She who liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth" Ti1 5:6. He "died" also as a nation and kingdom, being sentenced by God to cease to be.
And now they sin more and more - Sin draws on sin. This seems to be a third stage in sin. First, under Jeroboam, was the worship of the calves. Then, under Ahab, the worship of Baal. Thirdly, the multiplying of other idols (see Kg2 17:9-10), penetrating and pervading the private life, even of their less wealthy people. The calves were of gold; now they "made them molten images of their silver," perhaps plated with silver. In Egypt, the mother of idolatry, it was common to gild idols, made of wood, stone, and bronze. The idolatry, then, had become more habitual, daily, universal. These idols were made of "their silver;" they themselves had had them "molten" out of it. Avaricious as they were (see the note above Kg2 12:7-8), they lavished "their silver," to make them their gods. "According to their own understanding," they had had them formed. They employed ingenuity and invention to multiply their idols. They despised the wisdom and commands of God who forbad it. The rules for making and coloring the idols were as minute as those, which God gave for His own worship. Idolatry had its own vast system, making the visible world its god and picturing its operations, over against the worship of God its Creator. But it was all, "their own understanding:" The conception of the idol lay in its maker's mind. It was his own creation. He devised, what his idol should represent; how it should represent what his mind imagined; he debated with himself, rejected, chose, changed his choice, modified what he had fixed upon; all "according to his own understanding." Their own understanding devised it; the labor of the craftsmen completed it.
All of it the work of the craftsmen - What man could do for it, he did. But man could not breathe into his idols the breath of life; there was then no spirit, nor life, nor any effluence from any higher nature, nor any deity residing in them. From first to last it was "all" man's "work;" and man's own wisdom was its condemnation. The thing made must be inferior to its maker. made man, inferior to Himself, but lord of the earth, and all things therein; man made his idol of the things of earth, which God gave him. It too then was inferior to "its" maker, man. He then worshiped in it, the conception of his own mind, the work of his own hands.
They say of them - Strictly, Of them, (i. e., of these things, such things, as these,) "they, say, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves." The prophet gives the substance or the words of Jeroboam's edict, when he said, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem, behold thy gods, O Israel." "Whoever would sacrifice, let him do homage to the calves." He would have calf-worship to be the only worship of God. Error, if it is strong enough, ever persecutes the truth, unless it can corrupt it. Idol-worship was striving to extirpate the worship of God, which condemned it. Under Ahab and Jezebel, it seemed to have succeeded. Elijah complains to God in His own immediate presence; "the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thine altars, and slain Thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I, only am left, and they seek my life, to take it away Kg1 19:10, Kg1 19:14. Kissing was an act of homage in the East, done upon the hand or the foot, the knees or shoulder. It was a token of divine honor, whether to an idol (Kg1 19:18 and here,) or to God Psa 2:12. It was performed, either by actually kissing the image, or when the object could not be approached, (as the moon) kissing the hand Job 31:26-27, and so sending, as it were, the kiss to it. In the Psalm, it stands as a symbol of worship, to be shown toward "the" Incarnate "Son," when God should make Him "King upon His holy hill of Sion."
Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud - There is often a fair show of prosperity, out of God; but it is short-lived. "The third generation," says the pagan proverb, "never enjoys the ill-gotten gain." The highest prosperity of an ungodly state is often the next to its fall. Israel never so flourished, as under Jeroboam II. Bright and glistening with light is "the early dew;" in an hour it is gone, as if it had never been. Glowing and gilded by the sun is "the morning cloud;" while you admire its beauty, its hues have vanished. "The chaff" lay in one heap "on the floor" with the wheat. Its owner casts the mingled chaff and wheat against the strong wind; in a moment, it is "driven by the wind out of the floor." While every gram falls to the ground, the chaff, light, dry, worthless, unsubstantial, is hurried along, unresisting, the sport of the viewless wind, and itself is soon seen no more. The "smoke," one, seemingly solid, full, lofty, column, ascendeth, swelleth, welleth, vanisheth . In form, it is as solid, when about to be dispersed and seen no more, as when it first issued "out of the chimney." : "It is raised aloft, and by that very uplifting swells into a vast globe; but the larger that globe is, the emptier, for from that unsolid, unbased, inflated greatness it vanisheth in air, so that its very greatness injures it. For the more it is uplifted, extended, diffused on all sides into a larger compass, so much the poorer it becometh, and faileth, and disappeareth." Such was the prosperity of Ephraim, a mere show, to vanish forever. In the image of "the chaff," the prophet substitutes the "whirlwind" for the wind by which the Easterns used to winnow, in order to picture the violence with which they should be whirled away from their own land.
While these four emblems, in common, picture what is fleeting, two, the "early dew" and the "morning cloud," are emblems of what is in itself good, but passing ; the two others, the chaff and the smoke, are emblems of what is worthless. The dew and the cloud were temporary mercies on the part of God which should cease from them, "good in themselves, but to their evil, soon to pass away." If the dew have not, in its brief space, refreshed the vegetation, no trace of it is left. It gives way to the burning sun. If grace have not done its work in the soul, its day is gone. Such dew were the many prophets vouchsafed to Israel; such was Hosea himself, most brilliant, but soon to pass away. The chaff was the people itself, to be carried out of the Lord's land; the smoke, "its pride and its errors, whose disappearance was to leave the air pure for the household of God." : "So it is written; 'As the smoke is driven away, so shalt thou drive' them 'away; as wax melteth before the fire, so shall the ungodly perish before the presence of God' Psa 68:2; and in Proverbs; 'As the whirlwind passeth' Pro 10:25, so is 'the wicked no' more; 'but the righteous is an everlasting foundation.' Who although they live and flourish, as to the life of the body; yet spiritually they die, yea, and are brought to nothing, for by sin man became a nothing. Virtue makes man upright and stable; vice, empty and unstable. Whence Isaiah says, 'the wicked are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest' Isa 57:20; and Job; 'If iniquity be in thy hand, put it far away; then shalt thou be steadfast.' Job 11:14-15."
Yet - , (literally, and) I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt God was still the same God who had sheltered them with His providence, ever since He had delivered them from Egypt. He had the same power and will to help them. Therefore their duty was the same, and their destruction arose, not from any change in Him, but from themselves. "God is the God of the ungodly, by creation and general providence."
And thou shalt - (i. e., oughtest to) know no God but Me, for (literally, and) there is not a Saviour but me "To be God and Lord and Saviour are incommunicable properties of God. Wherefore God often claimed these titles to Himself, from the time He revealed Himself to Israel. In the song of Moses, which they were commanded to rehearse, He says, "See now that I, I am He, and there is no God with Me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand" Deu 32:39. Isaiah repeats this same, "Is there a God besides Me? yea there is no God; I know not any" Isa 44:8; and "There is no God else besides Me, a just God and a Saviour; there is none else. Look unto Me and be ye saved, for I am God and there is none else" Isa 45:21, Isa 45:2; and, "I am the Lord, that is My Name; and My glory will I not give to another; neither My praise to graven images" Isa 42:8. : "That God and Saviour is Christ; God, because He created; Saviour, because, being made Man, He saved. Whence He willed to be called Jesus, i. e., Saviour. Truly "beside" Him, "there is no Saviour; neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved" Act 4:12. "It is not enough to recognize in God this quality of a Saviour. It must not be shared with "any other." Whoso associates with God any power whatever to decide on man's salvation makes an idol, and introduces a new God."
I did know thee in the wilderness - "God so knew them, as to deserve to be known by them. By "knowing" them, He shewed how He ought to be acknowledged by them." "As we love God, because He first loved us," so we come to know and own God, having first been owned and known of Him. God showed His knowledge of them, by knowing and providing for their needs; He knew them "in the wilderness, in the land of great drought," where the land yielded neither food nor water. He supplied them with the "bread from heaven" and with "water from the flinty rock." He knew and owned them all by His providence; He knew in approbation and love, and fed in body and soul those who, having been known by Him, knew and owned Him. : "No slight thing is it, that He, who knoweth all things and men, should, by grace, know us with that knowledge according to which He says to that one true Israelite, Moses, "thou hast found grace in My sight, and I know thee by name" Exo 33:17. This we read to have been said to that one; but what He says to one, He says to all, whom now, before or since that time, He has chosen, being foreknown and predestinate, for He wrote the names of all in the book of life. All these elect are "known in the wilderness," in the land of loneliness, in the wilderness of this world, where no one ever saw God, in the solitude of the heart and the secret of hidden knowledge, where God alone, beholding the soul tried by temptations, exercises and proves it, and accounting it, when "running lawfully," worthy of His knowledge, professes that He "knew it." To those so known, or named, He Himself saith in the Gospel, "rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" Luk 10:20.
According to their pasture, so were they filled - o: "He implies that their way of being 'filled' was neither good nor praiseworthy, in that he says, 'they were filled according to their pastures.' What or of what kind were these "their pastures?" What they longed for, what they murmured for, and spoke evil of God. For instance, when they said, 'who wil give us flesh to eat? We remember the flesh which we did eat in Egypt freely. Our soul is dried up, because our eyes see nothing but this manna' Num 11:4-6. Since they desired such things in such wise, and, desiring, were filled with them to loathing, well are they called 'their pastures.' For they sought God, not for Himself, but for them. They who follow God for Himself, things of this sort are not called 'their' pastures, but the word of God is their pasture, according to that, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word, which proceedeth out of the mouth of God' Deu 8:3.
These words, 'according to their pastures,' convey strong blame. It is as if he said, 'in their eating and drinking, they received their whole reward for leaving the land of Egypt and receiving for a time the law of God.' It is sin, to follow God for such 'pastures.' Blaming such in the Gospel, Jesus saith, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled. Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life' Joh 6:26-27. In like way, let all think themselves blamed, who attend the altar of Christ, not for the love of the sacraments which they celebrate, but only to 'live of the altar.' This fullness is like that of which the Psalmist says, 'The Lord gave them their desire and sent leanness withal into their bones' Psa 106:15. For such fullness of the belly generates elation of spirit; such satiety produces forgetfulness of God." It is more difficult to bear prosperity than adversity. They who, in the waste howling wilderness, had been retained in a certain degree of duty, forgat God altogether in the good land which he had given them. Whence it follows;
They were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten Me - For they owned not that they had all from Him, therefore they were puffed up with pride, and forgot Him in and by reason of His gifts. This was the aggravation of their sin, with which Hosea often reproaches them Hos 2:5; Hos 4:7; Hos 10:1. They abused God's gifts, (as Christians do now) against Himself, and did the more evil, the more good God was to them. God had forewarned them of this peril, "When thou shalt have eaten and be full, beware lest thou forget the Lord which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage" (Deu 6:11-12; add Deu 8:11, ...). He pictured it to them with the song of Moses; "Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked; thou art waxen fat; thou art grown thick; thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him; thou hast forgotten God that formed thee" Deu 32:15, Deu 32:18.
They acted (as in one way or other do most Christians now,) as though God had commanded what he foretold of their evil deeds, or what he warned them against. "As their fathers did, so did they" Act 7:51. "They walked in the statutes of the pagan, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel which they made. They did wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger. And the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah by all the prophets and by all the seers, saying, turn ye from your evil ways. And they hearkened not, and hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the Lord their God" Kg2 17:8, Kg2 17:11, Kg2 17:13-14. : "The words are true also of those rich and ungrateful, whom God hath filled with spiritual or temporal goods. But they, 'being in honor, and having no understanding,' abuse the gifts of God, and, becoming unworthy of the benefits which they have received, have their hearts uplifted and swollen with pride, despising others, 'glorying as though they had not received,' and not obeying the commands of God. Of such the Lord saith in Isaiah, 'I have nourished and brought up children and they have rebelled against Me. '"
I will be unto them as a lion - They had waxen fat, were full; yet it was, to become themselves a prey. Their wealth which they were proud of, which they abused, allured their enemies. To cut off all hopes of God's mercy, He says that he will be to them, as those creatures of His, which never spare. The fierceness of the lion, and the swiftness of the leopard, together portray a speedy inexorable chastisement. But what a contrast I He who bare Israel in the wilderness like a Father, who bare them on eagle's wings, who drew them with the cords of a man, with bands of love, He, the God of mercy and of love, their Father, Protector, Defender, Avenger, He it is who will be their destroyer.
As a bear bereaved of her whelps - The Syrian bear is fiercer than the brown bears to which we are accustomed. It attacks flocks Sa1 17:34, and even oxen . The fierceness of the she-bear, "bereaved of her whelps," became a proverb (Sa2 17:8; Pro 17:12; and here). : "They who have written on the nature of wild beasts, say that none is more savage than the she-bear, when she has lost her whelps or lacks food." It blends wonderfully most touching love and fierceness. It tenderly protects its wounded whelps, reckless of its life, so that it may bring them off, and it turns fiercely on their destroyer. Its love for them becomes fury against their injurer. Much more shall God avenge those who destroy His sons and daughters, leading and enticing them into sin and destruction of body and soul.
Rend the caul of - (what encloses) their heart that is, the pericardium. They had closed their hearts against God. Their punishment is pictured by the rending open of the closed heart, by the lion which is said to go instinctively straight to the heart, tears it out, and sucks the blood . Fearful will it be in the Day of Judgment, when the sinner's heart is laid open, with all the foul, cruel, malicious, defiled, thoughts which it harbored and concealed, against the will of God. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" Heb 10:31.
And there will I devour them - "There," where they sinned, shall they be punished. "The wild beast shall tear them." What God does, He does mostly through instruments, and what His instruments do, they do fulfilling His will through their own blind will or appetite. Hitherto, He had spoken, as being Himself their punisher, although laying aside, as it were, all His tenderness; now, lest the thought, that still it was He, the God of love who punished, should give them hope, He says, "the wild beast shall devour them." He gives them up, as it were, out of His own hands to the destroyer.
O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in Me is thy help - This is one of the concise sayings of Hosea, which is capable of many shades of meaning. The five words, one by one, are literally, "Israel, thy destruction, for" or "that, in" or "against Me, in" or "against thy help." Something must be supplied any way; the simplest seems; "O Israel, thy destruction" is, "that" thou hast been, hast rebelled "against Me, against thy help" . Yet, in whatever way the words are filled up, the general sense is the same, that God alone is our help, we are the sources of our own destruction; and "that," in separating ourselves from God, or rebelling against Him who is our help until we depart from Him, who alone could be, and who if we return, will be, our help. The sum of the meaning is, all our destruction is from ourselves; all our salvation is from God. : "Perdition, reprobation, obduration, damnation, are not, properly and in themselves, from God, dooming to perdition, reprobating, obdurating, damning, but from man sinning, and obduring or hardening himself in sin to the end of life. Contrariwise, predestination, calling, grace, are not from the foreseen merits of the predestinate, but from God, predestinating, calling, and, by His grace, forecoming the predestinate. Wherefore although the cause or ground, why they are predestinated, does not lie in the predestinate, yet in the not-predestinated does lie the ground or cause why they are not predestinated."
"This saying then, 'O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in Me is thy help,' may be thus unfolded;
Thy captivity, Israel, is from thee; thy redemption from Me.
Thy perishing is from thee; thy salvation from Me.
Thy death from thee; thy life from Me.
Thy evil from thee; thy good from Me.
Thy reprobation from thee; thy predestination from Me, who ever stand at the door of thy heart and in mercy knock.
Thy dereliction from thee; thy calling from Me.
Thy misery from thee; thy bliss from Me.
Thy damnation from thee, thy salvation and beatifying from Me."
For " many good things doeth God in man, which man doeth not, but none doeth man, which God endueth not man to do." : "The first cause of the defect of grace is from us; but the first cause of the gift of grace is from God." : "Rightly is God called, not the Father of judgments or of vengence, but the "Father of mercies," because from Himself is the cause and origin of His mercy, from us the cause of His judging or avenging."
"Blessed the soul which comprehendeth this, not with the understanding only, but with the heart. Nothing can destroy us before God, but sin, the only real evil; and sin is wholly from us, God can have no part in it. But every aid to withdraw us from sin, or to hinder us from falling into it, comes from God alone, the sole Source of our salvation. The soul then must ever bless God, in its ills and its good; in its ills, by confessing that itself is the only cause of its suffering; in its good, owning that, when altogether unworthy of it, God prevented it by His grace, and preserves it each instant by His Almighty goodness."
: "No power, then, of the enemy could harm thee, unless, by thy sins, thou calledst forth the anger of God against thee to thy destruction. Ascribe it to thyself, not to the enemy. So let each sinful city or sinful soul say, which by its guilt draws on it the vengeance of God."
This truth, that in Him alone is help, He confirms by what follows:
I will be thy King - (literally, "I would be" thy King) Where is any other that, etc. A better translation would be: "Where now is thy king, that he may save thee in all thy cities; and thy judges, of whom thou saidst, give me a king and princes."
As Israel was under Samuel, such it remained. "Then" it mistrusted God, and looked to man for help, saying, "Nay, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles" Sa1 8:19. In choosing man they rejected God. The like they did, when they chose Jeroboam. In order to rid themselves of the temporary pressure of Rehoboam's taxes, they demanded anew "king and princes." First they rejected God as their king; then they rejected the king whom God appointed, and Him in His appointment. "In all thy cities." It was then to be one universal need of help. They had chosen a king "to fight their battles," and had rejected God. Now was the test, whether their choice had been good or evil. One cry for help went up from "all their cities." God would have heard it; could man?
: "This question is like that other, 'Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drink the wine of their drink offerings?' Deu 32:37-39. As there, when no answer could be made, He adds, 'See now that I, I am He, and that there is no god with Me,' so here He subjoins;"
I gave thee a king in Mine anger - o: "God, when He is asked for ought amiss, sheweth displeasure, when He giveth, hath mercy, when He giveth not." "The devil was heard," (in asking to enter into the swine) "the Apostle was not heard," (when he prayed that the messenger of Satan might depart from him) , "God heard him whom He purposed to condemn; and He heard not him whom He willed to heal." : "God, when propitious, denieth what we love, when we love amiss; when wroth, He giveth to the lover, what he loveth amiss. The Apostle saith plainly, "God gave them over to their own hearts' desire." He gave them then what they loved, but, in giving, condemned them." God did appoint Jeroboam, although not in the way in which Israel took him. Jeroboam and Israel took, as from themselves, what God appointed; and, so taking it, marred God's gift.
Taking it to themselves from themselves, they maintained it for themselves by human policy and sin. As was the beginning, such was the whole course of their kings. The beginning was rebellion; murder, intestine commotion, anarchy, was the oft-repeated issue. God was against them and their kings; but he let them have their way. In His displeasure with them He allowed them their choice; in displeasure with their evil kings He took them away. Some He smote in their own persons, some in their posterity. So often as He gave them, so often He removed them, until, in Hoshea, He took them away forever. This too explains, how what God "gave in anger," could be "taken away" also "in anger." The civil authority was not a thing wrong in itself, the ceasing whereof must be a mercy. Israel was in a worse condition through its separate monarchy; but, apart from the calf-worship, it was not sin. The changing of one king for another did not mend it.
Individual kings were taken away in anger against themselves; their removal brought fresh misery and bloodshed. Nations and Churches and individuals may put themselves in an evil position, and God may have allowed it in His anger, and yet, it may be their wisdom and humility to remain in it, until God change it, lest He should "take" it away, not in forgiveness, but in "anger." : "David they neither asked for, nor did the Lord give him in His anger; but the Lord first chose him in mercy, gave him in grace, in His supreme good-pleasure He strengthened and preserved him." : "Let no one who suffereth from a wicked ruler, accuse "him" from whom he suffereth, for it was from his own ill deserts, that he became subject to such a ruler. Let him accuse then his own deeds, rather than the injustice of the ruler, for it is written, "I gave thee a king in Mine anger." Why then disdain to have as rulers, those whose rule we receive from the anger of God?" : "When a reprobate people is allowed to have a reprobate pastor, that pastor is given, neither for his own sake, nor for that of the people; inasmuch as he so governeth, and they so obey, that neither the teacher nor the taught are found meet to attain to eternal bliss. Of whom the Lord saith by Hosea, "I gave thee a king in Mine anger." For in the anger of God is a king given, when the bad have a worse appointed as their ruler. Such a pastor is then given, when he undertakes the rule of such a people, both being condemned alike to everlasting punishment."
The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up - (As in a bag or purse, and so, "treasured up"), as Job saith, using the same word, "My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and Thou sewest up mine iniquity." Job 14:17. "His sin" is "hid" i. e., as people lay up hidden treasure, to be brought out in its season. What Job feared for himself; was to be the portion of Ephraim. All his sins should be counted, laid by, heaped up. No one of them should escape His eye who sees all things as they pass, and with whom, when past, they are present still. One by one, sins enter into the treasure-house of wrath; silently they are stored up, until the measure is full; to be brought out and unfolded in the Great Day. Ephraim thought, as do all sinners, that because God does not punish at once, He never will. They think, either that God will bear with them always, because He bears with them so long; or that He does not see, does not regard it, is not so precise about His laws being broken. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" Ecc 8:11.
But God had forewarned them; "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, Deu 32:5; and, "These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; and thou thoughtest wickedly that I was altogether such an one as thyself; I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes" Psa 50:21. Unrepented sin is an evergrowing store of the wrath of God, hid out of sight in the depths of the divine judgments, but of which nothing will be lost, nothing missing. Man treasures it up, lays it up in store for himself, as the Apostle saith; "Despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance; but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds?" Rom 2:4-6. : "'Sin is hidden,' when it is laid open by no voice of confession; yea, when it is covered with a shield of proud self-defense. Then iniquity is bound up, so that it cannot be loosed or forgiven. Contrariwise a holy man saith, "I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and my iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin" Psa 32:5.
But these hide their sin in the sight of people, and since they cannot hide it in the sight of God, they defend it with impenitent hearts, but "the pangs of a travailing woman," he saith, "shall come upon him." For as a woman can conceal her conception for a time, but, at last, the travail-pangs betraying her, she discloses what was concealed, so these can dissemble and conceal for a time their sin, but in their time all the hidden things of their hearts shall, with anguish, be revealed, according to that, 'There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed, and hid, that shall not be known.' Mat 10:26."
The sorrows of a travailing woman are come upon him - The travail-pangs are violent, sudden, irresistible. A moment before they come, all is seemingly perfect health; they come, increase in vehemence, and, if they accomplish not that for which they are sent, end in death, both to the mother and the child. Such are God's chastisements. If they end not in the repentance of the sinner, they continue on in his destruction. But never is man more secure, than just before the last and final throe comes upon him. "The false security of Israel, when Samaria was on the point of falling into the hands of its enemies, was a picture of that of the synagogue, when greater evils were coming upon it. Never did the Jews less think that the axe was laid to the root of the trees." This blind presumption is ever found in a people whom God casts off. At the end of the world, amid the awful signs, the fore-runners of the Day of Judgment, people will be able to reassure themselves, and say, "Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape" Th1 5:3.
The prophet first compares Israel to the mother, in regard to the sufferings which are a picture of the sudden overwhelming visitations of God; then to the child, on whose staying or not staying in the womb, the welfare of both depends.
He is an unwise son, for he should not stay long - Senseless would be the child, which, if it had the power, lingered, hesitated, whether to come forth or no. While it lingers, at one time all but coming forth, then returning, the mother's strength is wasted, and both perish. Wonderful picture of the vacillating sinner, acted upon by the grace of God, but resisting it; at one time all but ready to pour out before his God the hidden burden which oppresses him, at the next, withholding it; impelled by his sufferings, yet presenting a passive resistance; almost constrained at times by some mightier pang, yet still with-held; until, at the last, the impulses become weaker, the pangs less felt, and he perishes with his unrepented sin.
: "He had said, that the unwise cannot bring forth, that the wise can. He had mentioned 'children,' i. e., such as are not still-born; who come forth perfect into the world. These, God saith, shall by His help be redeemed from everlasting destruction, and, at the same time, having predicted the destruction of that nation, He gives the deepest comfort to those who will to retain firm faith in Him, not allowing them to be utterly cast down."
I will ransom them from the power of the grave - Literally, "from the hand," i. e., the "grasp of the grave," or "of hell." God, by His prophets, mingles promises of mercy in the midst of His threats of punishment. His mercy overflows the bounds of the occasion upon which He makes it known. He had sentenced Ephraim to temporal destruction. This was unchangeable. He points to that which turns all temporal less into gain, their eternal redemption. The words are the fullest which could have been chosen. The word rendered "ransom," signifies, rescued them by the payment of a price, the word rendered "redeem," relates to one, who, as the nearest of kin, had the right to acquire anything as his own, by paying that price. Both words, in their exactest sense, describe what Jesus did, buying us "with a price," a full and dear price, "not of corruptible things, as of silver and gold, but with His precious blood" Pe1 1:18-19; and that, becoming our near kinsman, by His Incarnation, "for which cause He is not ashamed to call us brethren Heb 2:11, and "little children" Joh 13:33.
This was never done by God at any other time, than when, out of love for our lost world, "He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" Joh 3:16; and He "came to give His life a ransom for many" (Mat 20:28, add Ti1 2:6). Then only was man really delivered from the "grasp" of the "grave;" so that "the first death" should only be a freedom from corruption, an earnest, and, to fallen man, a necessary condition of immortality; man "the second death" should "have no power over" them Rev 20:6. : Thenceforward "death, the parent of sorrow, ministers to joy; death, our dishonor, is employed to our glory; the "gate of hell" is the portal to the kingdom of heaven; the "pit of destruction" is the entrance to salvation; and that to man, a sinner." At no other time , "were men freed from death and the grave, so as to make any distinction between them and others subject to mortality." The words refuse to be tied down to a temporal deliverance. A little longer continuance in Canaan is not a redemption from the power of the grave; nor was Ephraim so delivered. Words of God , "cannot mean so little, while they express so much." Then and then alone were they, in their literal meaning, fulfilled when God the Son "took" our flesh, "that, through death, He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage" Heb 2:14-15.
The Jews have a tradition wrapped up in their way, that this was to be accomplished in Christ. : "I went with the angel Kippod, and Messiah son of David went with me, until I came to the gates of hell. When the prisoners of hell saw the light of the Messiah, they wished to receive him, saying, this is he who will bring us out of this darkness, as it is written, 'I will redeem them from the hand of hell. '"
: "Not without reason is the vouchsafed mercy thus once and again outspoken to us, "I will ranson them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death." It is said in regard to that twofold death whereby we all died in Adam, of the body and of the soul." "O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction." So full is God's word, that the sense remains the same, amid much difference of rendering. Christ was the death of death, when He became subject to it; the destruction of the grave when He lay in the tomb. Yet to render it in the form of a question is most agreeable to the language. "O death, where are thy plagues? O grave, where is thy destruction?" It is a burst of triumph at the promised redemption, then fulfilled to us in earnest and in hope, when "Christ," being "risen from the dead, became the First-fruits of them that slept" Co1 15:20, and we rose in Him. But the Apostle teaches us, that then it shall be altogether fulfilled, when, at the Last Day, "this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality" Co1 15:54. "Then shall death and hell deliver up the dead which shall be in them, and themselves be cast into the lake of fire" Rev 20:13-14. "Then shall there be no sting of death; sorrow and sighing shall flee away; fear and anxiety shall depart; tears shall be no more, and in place thereof shall be boundless pleasure, everlasting joy, praise of the glory of God in most sweet harmony." But now too, through death, the good man "ceases to die, and begins to live;" he "dies wholly to the world, that he may live perfectly with God; the soul returns to the Author of its being, and is hidden in the hidden presence of God" .
Death and hell had no power to resist, and God says that He will not alter His sentence; "Repentance shall be hid from Mine eyes;" as the Apostle says, "the gifts and calling of God are with out repentance" Rom 11:29.
Though - (literally, "when") he (shall) be fruitful among his brethren Fruitfulness was God's promise to Ephraim, and was expressed in his name. It was fulfilled, abused, and, in the height of its fulfillment, was taken away. Ephraim is pictured as a fair and fruitful tree. An "East wind," so desolating in the East, and that, no chance wind, but "the wind of the Lord," a wind, sent by God and endued by God with the power to destroy, "shall come up from the wilderness," parching, scorching, fiery, from the burning sands of "Arabia the desert," from which it came, "and shall dry up the fountain" of his being. Deep were the roots of this fair and flourishing tree, great its vigor, ample and perpetual the fountain of its waters, over which it grew and by which it was sustained. He calls it "'his' spring, 'his' fountain," as though this source of its life were made over to it, and made its own. It "was planted by the water side;" but it was not of God's planting. "The East wind from the Lord" should dry up the deepest well-spring of its waters, and the tree should wither. Such are ungodly greatness and prosperity. While they are fairest in show, their life-fountains are drying up.
He shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels - He, emphatically, the enemy whom the prophet had ever in his mind, as the instrument of God's chastisement on His people, and who was represented by the East wind; the Assyrian, who came from the East, to whom, as to the East Wind, the whole country between lay open, for the whirlwinds of his armies to sweep over in one straight course from the seat of his dominion.
Samaria shall become desolate - Or "shall bear her iniquity." Her iniquity should now find her out, and rest upon her. Of this, "desolation" was, in God's judgments, the consequence. Samaria, "the nursery of idolatry and rebellion against God," the chief in pride should be chief in punishment. "For she hath rebelled against her God." It aggravated her sin, that He "against" whom "she rebelled," was "her" own "God." He who had chosen her to be His, and made Himself her God; who had showed Himself "her" God in the abundance of His loving-kindness, from the deliverance out of Egypt to that day. This her desolation, it is again said, should be Complete. Hope remains, if the people of a generation are cut off; yet not only should these fall by the sword; those already born were to be dashed in pieces; those as yet unborn were to be sought out for destruction, even in their mother's womb. Such atrocities were common then. Elisha foretold to Hazael that he would perpetrate both cruelties Kg2 8:12, Shalmaneser clashed the young children in pieces Kg2 10:14, as did the conqueror of NoAmmon Nah 3:10, and the Babylonians Psa 137:9 afterward. The children of Ammon ripped up the women with child in Gilead Amo 1:13, and the usurper Menahem in Tiphsah and its coasts Kg2 15:16. Isaiah prophesies that Babylon should undergo, in its turn, the same as to its children Isa 13:16, and the Psalmist pronounces God's blessing on its destroyer who should so requite him Psa 137:9.
Such was to be the end of the pride, the ambition, the able policy, the wars, the oppressions, the luxury, the self-enjoyment, and, in all, the rebellion of Samaria against "her" God. She has stood the more in opposition to God, the nearer she might have been to Him, and "bare her iniquity." As a city of God's people, it was never restored. The spot, in its pagan colonists, with which Assyrian policy repopulated it Kg2 17:24, was still the abode of a mingled religion. Corruption clung, by inheritance, to its site. This too was destroyed by John Hyrcanus. "He effaced thee marks that it had ever been a city" . It was rebuilt by the Romans, after Pompey had taken Jerusalem . Herod reenclosed a circuit of two miles and a half of the ancient site, fortified it strongly, as a check on the Jews; repopulated it, partly with some who had served in his wars, partly with the people around; gave them lands, revived their idolatry by replacing their poor temple by one remarkable for size and beauty, in an area of a furlong and a half; and called the place Sebaste in honor of his pagan patron, Augustus .
A coin of Nero, struck there, bears the figure (it is thought) of its old idol, Ashtaroth . Jerome says, that John the Baptist was buried there . The pagan, who were encouraged in such desecrations by Julian the Apostate , opened the tomb, burned the bones, and scattered the dust . The city became a Christian See, and its Bishops were present at the four first General Councils . It is now but a poor village, connected with the strongly-fortified town of Herod by its pagan name Sebastieh, a long avenue of broken pillars, and the tomb of the great Forerunner . Of the ancient capital of Ephraim, not even a ruin speaks.
The prophet closes this portion of his prophecy, as other prophets so often do, with the opposite end of the righteous and the wicked. He had spoken of the victory over death, the irrevocable purpose of God for good to his own; then he speaks of utter final destruction. Then when the mercy of God shall be shown to the uttermost, and the victory over sin and death shall be accomplished, then shall all the pomp of the its riches, joys, luxuries, elegance, glory, dignity; perish and not a wreck be left behind of all which once dazzled the eyes of people, for which they forsook their God, and sold themselves to evil and the evil one.