Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
With the words "Hear ye this," the reproof of the sins of Israel makes a new start, and is specially addressed to the priests and the king's house, i.e., the king and his court, to announce to the leaders of the nation the punishment that will follow their apostasy from God and their idolatry, by which they have plunged the people and the kingdom headlong into destruction. Hos 5:1-5 form the first strophe. Hos 5:1. "Hear ye this, ye priests; and give heed thereto, O house of Israel; and observe it, O house of the king! for the judgment applies to you; for ye have become a snare at Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor." By the word "this," which points back to Hos 5:4, the prophecy that follows is attached to the preceding one. Beside the priests and the king's house, i.e., the royal family, in which the counsellors and adjutants surrounding the king are probably included, the house of Israel, that is to say, the people of the ten tribes regarded as a family, is summoned to hear, because what was about to be announced applied to the people and kingdom as a whole. There is nothing to warrant our understanding by the "house of Israel," the heads of the nation or elders. Lâkjem hammishpât does not mean, It rests with you to know or to defend the right; nor, "Ye ought to hear the reproof," as Hitzig explains it, for mishpât in this connection signifies neither "the maintenance of justice" nor "a reproof," but the judgment about to be executed by God, τὸ κρίμα (lxx). The thought is this, The judgment will fall upon you; and lâkhem refers chiefly to the priests and the king's house, as the explanatory clause which follows clearly shows. It is impossible to determine with certainty what king's house is intended. Probably that of Zechariah or Menahem; possibly both, since Hosea prophesied in both reigns, and merely gives the quintessence of his prophetical addresses in his book. Going to Asshur refers rather to Menahem than to Zechariah (comp. Kg2 15:19-20). In the figures employed, the bird-trap (pach) and the net spread for catching birds, it can only be the rulers of the nation who are represented as a trap and net, and the birds must denote the people generally who are enticed into the net of destruction and caught (cf. Hos 9:8).
(Note: Jerome has given a very good explanation of the figure: "I have appointed you as watchmen among the people, and set you in the highest place of honour, that ye might govern the erring people; but ye have become a trap, and are to be called sportsmen rather than watchmen.")
Mizpah, as a parallel to Tabor, can only be the lofty Mizpah of Gilead (Jdg 10:17; Jdg 11:29) or Ramah-Mizpah, which probably stood upon the site of the modern es-Salt (see at Deu 4:43); so that, whilst Tabor represents the land on this side of the Jordan, Mizpah, which resembled it in situation, is chosen to represent the land to the east of the river.
(Note: As Tabor, for instance, rises up as a solitary conical hill (see at Jdg 4:6), so es-Salt is built about the sides of a round steep hill, which rises up in a narrow rocky valley, and upon the summit of which there stands a strong fortification (see Seetzen in Burckhardt's Reisen in Syrien, p. 1061).)
Both places were probably noted as peculiarly adapted for bird-catching, since Tabor is still thickly wooded. The supposition that they had been used as places of sacrifice in connection with idolatrous worship, cannot be inferred from the verse before us, nor is it rendered probable by other passages.
This accusation is still further vindicated in Hos 5:2., by a fuller exposure of the moral corruption of the nation. Hos 5:2. "And excesses they have spread out deeply; but I am a chastisement to them all." The meaning of the first half of the verse, which is very difficult, and has been very differently interpreted by both ancient and modern expositors, has been brought out best by Delitzsch (Com. on Psa 101:3), who renders it, "they understand from the very foundation how to spread out transgressions." For the word שׂטים the meaning transgressions is well established by the use of סטים in Psa 101:3, where Hengstenberg, Hupfeld, and Delitzsch all agree that this is the proper rendering (see Ewald's philological defence of it at 146, e). In the psalm referred to, however, the expression עשׂה סטים also shows that shachătâh is the inf. piel, and sētı̄m the accusative of the object. And it follows from this that shachătâh neither means to slaughter or slaughter sacrifices, nor can be used for שׁחתה in the sense of acting injuriously, but that it is to be interpreted according to the shâchūth in Kg1 10:16-17, in the sense of stretching, stretching out; so that there is no necessity to take שׁחט in the sense of שׁטח, as Delitzsch does, though the use of עלוה for עולה in Hos 10:9 may no doubt be adduced in its support. שׂטים, from שׂטה (to turn aside, Num 5:12, Num 5:19), are literally digressions or excesses, answering to the hiznâh in Hos 5:3, the leading sin of Israel. "They have deepened to stretch out excesses," i.e., they have gone to great lengths, or are deeply sunken in excesses, - a thought quite in harmony with the context, to which the threat is appended. "I (Jehovah) am a chastisement to them all, to the rulers as well as to the people;" i.e., I will punish them all (cf. Hos 5:12), because their idolatrous conduct is well known to me. The way is thus prepared for the two following verses.
"I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me: for now, O Ephraim, thou hast committed whoredom; Israel has defiled itself. Hos 5:4. Their works do not allow to return to their God, for the spirit of whoredom is in them, and they know not Jehovah." By עתּה, the whoredom of Ephraim is designated as in fact lying before them, and therefore undeniable; but not, as Hitzig supposes, an act which has taken place once for all, viz., the choice of a king, by which the severance of the kingdoms and the previous idolatry had been sanctioned afresh. נטמא, defiled by whoredom, i.e., idolatry. Their works do not allow them to return to their God, because the works are merely an emanation of the character and state of the heart, and in their hearts the demon of whoredom has its seat (cf. Hos 4:12), and the knowledge of the Lord is wanting; that is to say, the demoniacal power of idolatry has taken complete possession of the heart, and stifled the knowledge of the true God. The rendering, "they do not direct their actions to this," is incorrect, and cannot be sustained by an appeal to the use of נתן לב in Jdg 15:1 and Sa1 24:8., or to Jdg 3:28.
"And the pride of Ephraim will testify against its face, and Israel and Ephraim will stumble in their guilt; Judah has also stumbled with them." As the meaning "to answer," to bear witness against a person, is well established in the case of ענה ב (cf. Num 35:30; Deu 19:18, and Isa 3:9), and ענה בפנים also occurs in Job 16:8 in this sense, we must retain the same meaning here, as Jerome and others have done. And there is the more reason for this, because the explanation based upon the lxx, καὶ ταπεινωθήσεται ἡ ὕβρις, "the haughtiness of Israel will be humbled," can hardly be reconciled with בפניו. "The pride of Israel," moreover, is not the haughtiness of Israel, but that of which Israel is proud, or rather the glory of Israel. We might understand by this the flourishing condition of the kingdom, after Amo 6:8; but it would be only by its decay that this would bear witness against the sin of Israel, so that "the glory of Israel" would stand for "the decay of that glory," which would be extremely improbable. We must therefore explain "the glory of Israel" here and in Hos 7:10 in accordance with Amo 8:7, i.e., we must understand it as referring to Jehovah, who is Israel's eminence and glory; in which case we obtain the following very appropriate thought: They know not Jehovah, they do not concern themselves about Him; therefore He Himself will bear witness by judgments, by the destruction of their false glory (cf. Hos 2:10-14), against the face of Israel, i.e., bear witness to their face. This thought occurs without ambiguity in Hos 7:10. Israel will stumble in its sin, i.e., will fall and perish (as in Hos 4:5). Judah also falls with Israel, because it has participated in Israel's sin (Hos 4:15).
Israel, moreover, will not be able to avert the threatening judgment by sacrifices. Jehovah will withdraw from the faithless generation, and visit it with His judgments. This is the train of thought in the next strophe (Hos 5:6-10). Hos 5:6. "They will go with their sheep and their oxen to seek Jehovah, and will not find Him: He has withdrawn Himself from them. Hos 5:7. They acted treacherously against Jehovah, for they have born strange children: now will the new moon devour them with their fields." The offering of sacrifices will be no help to them, because God has withdrawn Himself from them, and does not hear their prayers; for God has no pleasure in sacrifices which are offered in an impenitent state of mind (cf. Hos 6:6; Isa 1:11.; Jer 7:21.; Psa 50:7, Psa 50:8.). The reason for this is given in Hos 5:7. Bâgad, to act faithlessly, which is frequently applied to the infidelity of a wife towards her husband (e.g., Jer 3:20; Mal 2:14; cf. Exo 21:8), points to the conjugal relation in which Israel stood to Jehovah. Hence the figure which follows. "Strange children" are such as do not belong to the home (Deu 25:5), i.e., such as have not sprung from the conjugal union. In actual fact, the expression is equivalent to בּני זנוּנים in Hos 1:2; Hos 2:4, though zâr does not expressly mean "adulterous." Israel ought to have begotten children of God in the maintenance of the covenant with the Lord; but in its apostasy from God it had begotten an adulterous generation, children whom the Lord could not acknowledge as His own. "The new moon will devour them," viz., those who act so faithlessly. the meaning is not, "they will be destroyed on the next new moon;" but the new moon, as the festal season, on which sacrifices were offered (Sa1 20:6, Sa1 20:29; Isa 1:13-14), stands here for the sacrifices themselves that were offered upon it. The meaning is this: your sacrificial feast, your hypocritical worship, so far from bringing you salvation, will rather prove your sin. חלקיהם are not sacrificial portions, but the hereditary portions of Israel, the portions of land that fell to the different families and households, and from the produce of which they offered sacrifices to the Lord.
(Note: It is very evident from this verse, that the feasts and the worship prescribed in the Mosaic law were observed in the kingdom of the ten tribes, at the places of worship in Bethel and Dan.)
The prophet sees in spirit the judgment already falling upon the rebellious nation, and therefore addresses the following appeal to the people. Hos 5:8. "Blow ye the horn at Gibeah, the trumpet at Ramah! Raise the cry at Bethaven, Behind thee, Benjamin!" The blowing of the shōphâr, a far-sounding horn, or of the trumpet
(Note: "The sophar was a shepherd's horn, and was made of a carved horn; the tuba (chătsōtserâh) was made of brass or silver, and sounded either in the time of war or at festivals." - Jerome.)
(chătsōtserâh), was a signal by which the invasion of foes (Hos 8:1; Jer 4:5; Jer 6:1) and other calamities (Joe 2:1, cf. Amo 3:6) were announced, to give the inhabitants warning of the danger that threatened them. The words therefore imply that foes had invaded the land. Gibeah (of Saul; see at Jos 18:28) and Ramah (of Samuel; see at Jos 18:25) were two elevated places on the northern boundary of the tribe of Benjamin, which were well adapted for signals, on account of their lofty situation. The introduction of these particular towns, which did not belong to the tribe of Israel, but to that of Judah, is intended to intimate that the enemy has already conquered the kingdom of the ten tribes, and has advanced to the border of that of Judah. הריע, to make a noise, is to be understood here as relating to the alarm given by the war-signals already mentioned, as in Joe 2:1, cf. Num 10:9. Bethaven is Bethel (Beitin), as in Hos 4:15, the seat of the idolatrous worship of the calves; and בּית is to be taken in the sense of בּבית (according to Ges. 118, 1). The difficult words, "behind thee, Benjamin," cannot indicate the situation or attitude of Benjamin, in relation to Bethel or the kingdom of Israel, or show that "the invasion is to be expected to start from Benjamin," as Simson supposes. For the latter is no more appropriate in this train of thought than a merely geographical or historical notice. The words are taken from the ancient war-song of Deborah (Jdg 5:14), but in a different sense from that in which they are used there. There they mean that Benjamin marched behind Ephraim, or joined it in attacking the foe; here, on the contrary, they mean that the foe is coming behind Benjamin - that the judgment announced has already broken out in the rear of Benjamin. There is no necessity to supply "the enemy rises" behind thee, O Benjamin, as Jerome proposes, or "the sword rages," as Hitzig suggests; but what comes behind Benjamin is implied in the words, "Blow ye the horn," etc. What these signals announce is coming after Benjamin; there is no necessity, therefore, to supply anything more than "it is," or "it comes." The prophet, for example, not only announces in Hos 5:8 that enemies will invade Israel, but that the hosts by which God will punish His rebellious people have already overflowed the kingdom of Israel, and are now standing upon the border of Judah, to punish this kingdom also for its sins. This is evident from Hos 5:9, Hos 5:10, which contain the practical explanation of Hos 5:8.
"Ephraim will become a desert in the day of punishment: over the tribes of Israel have I proclaimed that which lasts. Hos 5:10. The princes of Judah have become like boundary-movers; upon them I pour out my wrath like water." The kingdom of Israel will entirely succumb to the punishment. It will become a desert - will be laid waste not only for a time, but permanently. The punishment with which it is threatened will be נאמנה. This word is to be interpreted as in Deu 28:59, where it is applied to lasting plagues, with which God will chastise the obstinate apostasy of His people. By the perfect הודעתּי, what is here proclaimed is represented as a completed event, which will not be altered. Beshibhtē, not in or among the tribes, but according to ענה ב, in Deu 28:5, against or over the tribes (Hitzig). Judah also will not escape the punishment of its sins. The unusual expression massı̄gē gebhūl is formed after, and to be explained from Deu 19:14, "Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's landmark;" or Deu 27:17, "Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's landmark." The princes of Judah have become boundary-removers, not by hostile invasions of the kingdom of Israel (Simson); for the boundary-line between Israel and Judah was not so appointed by God, that a violation of it on the part of the princes of Judah could be reckoned a grievous crime, but by removing the boundaries of right which had been determined by God, viz., according to Hos 4:15, by participating in the guilt of Ephraim, i.e., by idolatry, and therefore by the fact that they had removed the boundary between Jehovah and Baal, that is to say, between the one true God and idols. "If he who removes his neighbour's boundary is cursed, how much more he who removes the border of his God!" (Hengstenberg). Upon such men the wrath of God would fall in its fullest measure. כּמּים, like a stream of water, so plentifully. For the figure, compare Psa 69:25; Psa 79:6; Jer 10:25. Severe judgments are thus announced to Judah, viz., those of which the Assyrians under Tiglath-pileser and Sennacherib were the instruments; but no ruin or lasting devastation is predicted, as was the case with the kingdom of Israel, which was destroyed by the Assyrians.
From these judgments Israel and Judah will not be set free, until in their distress they seek their God. This thought is expanded in the next strophe (Hos 5:11-15). Hos 5:11. "Ephraim is oppressed, broken in pieces by the judgment; for it has wished, has gone according to statute." By the participles ‛âshūq and râtsūts, the calamity is represented as a lasting condition, which the prophet saw in the spirit as having already begun. The two words are connected together even in Deu 28:33, to indicate the complete subjection of Israel to the power and oppression of its foes, as a punishment for falling away from the Lord. Retsuts mishpât does not mean "of broken right," or "injured in its right" (Ewald and Hitzig), but "broken in pieces by the judgment" (of God), with a genitivum efficientis, like mukkēh Elōhı̄m in Isa 53:4. For it liked to walk according to statute. For הלך אחרי compare Jer 2:5 and Kg2 18:15. Tsav is a human statute; it stands both here and in Isa 28:10, Isa 28:13, the only other passages in which it occurs, as an antithesis to the word or commandment of God. The statute intended is the one which the kingdom of Israel upheld from beginning to end, viz., the worship of the calves, that root of all the sins, which brought about the dissolution and ruin of the kingdom.
"And I am like the moth to Ephraim, and like the worm to the house of Judah." The moth and worm are figures employed to represent destructive powers; the moth destroying clothes (Isa 50:9; Isa 51:8; Psa 39:12), the worm injuring both wood and flesh. They are both connected again in Job 13:28, as things which destroy slowly but surely, to represent, as Calvin says, lenta Dei judicia. God becomes a destructive power to the sinner through the thorn of conscience, and the chastisements which are intended to effect his reformation, but which lead inevitably to his ruin when he hardens himself against them. The preaching of the law by the prophets sharpened the thorn in the conscience of Israel and Judah. The chastisement consisted in the infliction of the punishments threatened in the law, viz., in plagues and invasions of their foes.
The two kingdoms could not defend themselves against this chastisement by the help of any earthly power. Hos 5:13. "And Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his abscess; and Ephraim went to Asshur, and sent to king Jareb (striver): but he cannot cure you, nor drive the abscess away from you." By the imperfects, with Vav rel., ויּלך, ויּרא, the attempts of Ephraim and Judah to save themselves from destruction are represented as the consequence of the coming of God to punish, referred to in Hos 5:12. Inasmuch as this is to be seen, so far as the historical fulfilment is concerned, not in the present, but in the past and future, the attempts to obtain a cure for the injuries also belong to the present (? past) and future. Mâzōr does not mean a bandage or the cure of injuries (Ges., Dietr.), but is derived from זוּר, to squeeze out (see Del. on Isa 1:6), and signifies literally that which is pressed out, i.e., a festering wound, an abscess. It has this meaning not only here, but also in Jer 30:13, from which the meaning bandage has been derived. On the figure employed, viz., the disease of the body politic, see Delitzsch on Isa 1:5-6. That this disease is not to be sought for specially in anarchy and civil war (Hitzig), is evident from the simple fact, that Judah, which was saved from these evils, is described as being just as sick as Ephraim. The real disease of the two kingdoms was apostasy from the Lord, or idolatry with its train of moral corruption, injustice, crimes, and vices of every kind, which destroyed the vital energy and vital marrow of the two kingdoms, and generated civil war and anarchy in the kingdom of Israel. Ephraim sought for help from the Assyrians, viz., from king Jareb, but without obtaining it. The name Jareb, i.e., warrior, which occurs here and at Hos 10:6, is an epithet formed by the prophet himself, and applied to the king of Assyria, not of Egypt, as Theodoret supposes. The omission of the article from מלך may be explained from the fact that Jârēbh is, strictly speaking, an appellative, as in למוּאל מלך in Pro 31:1. We must not supply Yehūdâh as the subject to vayyishlach. The omission of any reference to Judah in the second half of the verse, may be accounted for from the fact that the prophecy had primarily and principally to do with Ephraim, and that Judah was only cursorily mentioned. The ἅπ. λεγ. יגהה from גּהה, in Syriac to by shy, to flee, is used with min in the tropical sense of removing or driving away.
No help is to be expected from Assyria, because the Lord will punish His people. Hos 5:14. "For I am like a lion to Ephraim, and like the young lion to the house of Judah: I, I tear in pieces, and go; I carry away, and there is no deliverer. Hos 5:15. "I go, return to my place, till they repent and shall seek my face. In their affliction they will seek me early." For the figure of the lion, which seizes its prey, and tears it in pieces without deliverance, see Hos 13:7 and Isa 5:29. אשּׂא denotes the carrying away of booty, as in Sa1 17:34. For the fact itself, compare Deu 32:39. The first clause of Hos 5:15 is still to be interpreted from the figure of the lion. As the lion withdraws into its cave, so will the Lord withdraw into His own place, viz., heaven, and deprive the Israelites of His gracious, helpful presence, until they repent, i.e., not only feel themselves guilty, but feel the guilt by bearing the punishment. Suffering punishment awakens the need of mercy, and impels them to seek the face of the Lord. The expression, "in the distress to them," recals בּצּר לך in Deu 4:30. Shichēr is to be taken as a denom. of shachar, the morning dawn (Hos 6:3), in the sense of early, i.e., zealously, urgently, as the play upon the word כּשׁחר in Hos 6:3 unmistakeably shows. For the fact itself, compare Hos 2:9 and Deu 4:29-30.