Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The prophet goes back a third time (cf. Hos 10:1; Hos 9:10) to the early times of Israel, and shows how the people had repaid the Lord, for all the proofs of His love, with nothing but ingratitude and unfaithfulness; so that it would have merited utter destruction from off the earth, if God should not restrain His wrath for the sake of His unchangeable faithfulness, in order that, after severely chastening, He might gather together once more those that were rescued from among the heathen. Hos 11:1. "When Israel was young, then I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. Hos 11:2. Men called to them; so they went away from their countenance: they offer sacrifice to the Baals, and burn incense to the idols." Hos 11:1 rests upon Exo 4:22-23, where the Lord directs Moses to say to Pharaoh, "Israel is my first-born son; let my son go, that he may serve me." Israel was the son of Jehovah, by virtue of its election to be Jehovah's peculiar people (see at Exo 4:22). In this election lay the ground for the love which God showed to Israel, by bringing it out of Egypt, to give it the land of Canaan, promised to the fathers for its inheritance. The adoption of Israel as the son of Jehovah, which began with its deliverance out of the bondage of Egypt, and was completed in the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai, forms the first stage in the carrying out of the divine work of salvation, which was completed in the incarnation of the Son of God for the redemption of mankind from death and ruin. The development and guidance of Israel as the people of God all pointed to Christ; not, however, in any such sense as that the nation of Israel was to bring forth the son of God from within itself, but in this sense, that the relation which the Lord of heaven and earth established and sustained with that nation, was a preparation for the union of God with humanity, and paved the way for the incarnation of His Son, by the fact that Israel was trained to be a vessel of divine grace. All essential factors in the history of Israel point to this as their end, and thereby become types and material prophecies of the life of Him in whom the reconciliation of man to God was to be realized, and the union of God with the human race to be developed into a personal unity. It is in this sense that the second half of our verse is quoted in Mat 2:15 as a prophecy of Christ, not because the words of the prophet refer directly and immediately to Christ, but because the sojourn in Egypt, and return out of that land, had the same significance in relation to the development of the life of Jesus Christ, as it had to the nation of Israel. Just as Israel grew into a nation in Egypt, where it was out of the reach of Canaanitish ways, so was the child Jesus hidden in Egypt from the hostility of Herod. But Hos 11:2 is attached thus as an antithesis: this love of its God was repaid by Israel with base apostasy. קראוּ, they, viz., the prophets (cf. Hos 11:7; Kg2 17:13; Jer 7:25; Jer 25:4; Zac 1:4), called to them, called the Israelites to the Lord and to obedience to Him; but they (the Israelites) went away from their countenance, would not hearken to the prophets, or come to the Lord (Jer 2:31). The thought is strengthened by כּן, with the כּאשׁר of the protasis omitted (Ewald, 360, a): as the prophets called, so the Israelites drew back from them, and served idols. בּעלים as in Hos 2:15, and פּסלים as in Kg2 17:41 and Deu 7:5, Deu 7:25 (see at Exo 20:4).
Nevertheless the Lord continued to show love to them. Hos 11:3, Hos 11:4. "And I, I have taught Ephraim to walk: He took them in His arms, and they did not know that I healed them. I drew them with bands of a man, with cords of love, and became to them like a lifter up of the yoke upon their jaws, and gently towards him did I give (him) food." תּרגּלתּי, a hiphil, formed after the Aramaean fashion (cf. Ges. 55, 5), by hardening the ה into ת, and construed with ל, as the hiphil frequently is (e.g., Hos 10:1; Amo 8:9), a denom. of רגל, to teach to walk, to guide in leading-strings, like a child that is being trained to walk. It is a figurative representation of paternal care foz a child's prosperity. קחם, per aphaeresin, for לקחם, like קח for לקח in Eze 17:5. The sudden change from the first person to the third seems very strange to our ears; but it is not uncommon in Hebrew, and is to be accounted for here from the fact, that the prophet could very easily pass from speaking in the name of God to speaking of God Himself. קח cannot be either an infinitive or a participle, on account of the following word זרועתיו, his arms. The two clauses refer chiefly to the care and help afforded by the Lord to His people in the Arabian desert; and the prophet had Deu 1:31 floating before his mind: "in the wilderness the Lord thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son." The last clause also refers to this, רפאתים pointing back to Exo 15:26, where the Lord showed Himself as the physician of Israel, by making the bitter water at Marah drinkable, and at the same time as their helper out of every trouble. In Hos 11:4, again, there is a still further reference to the manifestation of the love of God to Israel on the journey through the wilderness. חבלי אדם, cords with which men are led, more especially children that are weak upon their feet, in contrast with ropes, with which men control wild, unmanageable beasts (Psa 32:9), are a figurative representation of the paternal, human guidance of Israel, as explained in the next figure, "cords of love." This figure leads on to the kindred figure of the yoke laid upon beasts, to harness them for work. As merciful masters lift up the yoke upon the cheeks of their oxen, i.e., push it so far back that the animals can eat their food in comfort, so has the Lord made the yoke of the law, which has been laid upon His people, both soft and light. As הרים על על does not mean to take the yoke away from (מעל) the cheeks, but to lift it above the cheeks, i.e., to make it easier, by pushing it back, we cannot refer the words to the liberation of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, but can only think of what the Lord did, to make it easy for the people to observe the commandments imposed upon them, when they were received into His covenant (Exo 24:3, Exo 24:7), including not only the many manifestations of mercy which might and ought to have allured them to reciprocate His love, and yield a willing obedience to His commandments, but also the means of grace provided in their worship, partly in the institution of sacrifice, by which a way of approach was opened to divine grace to obtain forgiveness of sin, and partly in the institution of feasts, at which they could rejoice in the gracious gifts of their God. ואט is not the first pers. imperf. hiphil of נטה ("I inclined myself to him;" Symm., Syr., and others), in which case we should expect ואט, but an adverb, softly, comfortably; and אליו belongs to it, after the analogy of Sa2 18:5. אוכיל is an anomalous formation for אאכיל, like אוביד for אאביד in Jer 46:8 (cf. Ewald, 192, d; Ges. 68, 2, Anm. 1). Jerome has given the meaning quite correctly: "and I gave them manna for food in the desert, which they enjoyed."
By despising this love, Israel brings severe punishment upon itself. Hos 11:5. "It will not return into the land of Egypt; but Asshur, he is its king, because they refused to return. Hos 11:6. And the sword will sweep round in its cities, and destroy its bolts, and devour, because of their counsels. Hos 11:7. My people is bent upon apostasy from me: and if men call it upwards, it does not raise itself at all." The apparent contradiction between the words, "It will not return into the land of Egypt," and the threat contained in Hos 8:13; Hos 9:3, that Israel should return to Egypt, ought not to lead us to resort to alterations of the text, or to take לא in the sense of לו, and connect it with the previous verse, as is done by the lxx, Mang., and others, or to make an arbitrary paraphrase of the words, either by taking לא in the sense of הלא, and rendering it as a question, "Should it not return?" equivalent to "it will certainly return" (Maurer, Ewald, etc.); or by understanding the return to Egypt as signifying the longing of the people for help from Egypt (Rosenmller). The emphatic הוּא of the second clause is at variance with all these explanations, since they not only fail to explain it, but it points unmistakeably to an antithesis: "Israel will not return to Egypt; but Asshur, it shall be its king," i.e., it shall come under the dominion of Assyria. The supposed contradiction is removed as soon as we observe that in Hos 8:13; Hos 9:3, Hos 9:6, Egypt is a type of the land of bondage; whereas here the typical interpretation is precluded partly by the contrast to Asshur, and still more by the correspondence in which the words stand to Hos 11:1. Into the land from which Jehovah called His people, Israel shall not return, lest it should appear as though the object, for which it had been brought out of Egypt and conducted miraculously through the desert, had been frustrated by the impenitence of the people. But it is to be brought into another bondage. ואשּׁוּר is appended adversatively. Asshur shall rule over it as king, because they refuse to return, sc. to Jehovah. The Assyrians will wage war against the land, and conquer it. The sword (used as a principal weapon, to denote the destructive power of war) will circulate in the cities of Israel, make the round of the cities as it were, and destroy its bolts, i.e., the bolts of the gates of the fortifications of Ephraim. Baddı̄m, poles (Exo 25:13.), cross-poles or cross-beams, with which the gates were fastened, hence bolts in the literal sense, as in Job 17:16, and not tropically for "princes" (Ges.), electi (Jer., Chald., etc.). "On account of their counsels:" this is more fully defined in Hos 11:7. נעמּי, and my people (= since my people) are harnessed to apostasy from me (meshūbhâthı̄, with an objective suffix). תּלוּאים, lit., suspended on apostasy, i.e., not "swaying about in consequence of apostasy or in constant danger of falling away" (Chald., Syr., Hengst.), since this would express too little in the present context and would not suit the second half of the verse, but impaled or fastened upon apostasy as upon a stake, so that it cannot get loose. Hence the constructing of תּלה with ל instead of על or ב (Sa2 18:10), may be accounted for from the use of the verb in a figurative sense. על־על, upwards (על as in Hos 7:16), do they (the prophets: see Hos 11:2) call them; but it does not rise, sc. to return to God, or seek help from on high. רומם pilel, with the meaning of the kal intensified, to make a rising, i.e., to rise up. This explanation appears simpler than supplying an object, say "the soul" (Psa 25:1), or "the eyes" (Eze 33:25).
They deserved to be utterly destroyed for this, and would have been if the compassion of God had not prevented it. With this turn a transition is made in Hos 11:8 from threatening to promise. Hos 11:8. "How could I give thee up, O Ephraim! surrender thee, O Israel! how could I give thee up like Admah, make thee like Zeboim! My heart has changed within me, my compassion is excited all at once. Hos 11:9. I will not execute the burning heat of my wrath, I will not destroy Ephraim again: for I am God, and not man, the Holy One in the midst of thee: and come not into burning wrath." "How thoroughly could I give thee up!" sc. if I were to punish thy rebellion as it deserved. Nâthan, to surrender to the power of the enemy, like miggēn in Gen 14:20. And not that alone, but I could utterly destroy thee, like Admah and Zeboim, the two cities of the valley of Siddim, which were destroyed by fire from heaven along with Sodom and Gomorrha. Compare Deu 29:22, where Admah and Zeboim are expressly mentioned along with the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha, which stand alone in Gen 19:24. With evident reference to this passage, in which Moses threatens idolatrous Israel with the same punishment, Hosea simply mentions the last two as quite sufficient for his purpose, whereas Sodom and Gomorrha are generally mentioned in other passages (Jer 49:18; cf. Mat 10:15; Luk 10:12). The promise that God will show compassion is appended here, without any adversative particle. My heart has turned, changed in me (על, lit., upon or with me, as in the similar phrases in Sa1 25:36; Jer 8:18). יחד נכמרוּ, in a body have my feelings of compassion gathered themselves together, i.e., my whole compassion is excited. Compare Gen 43:30 and Kg1 3:26, where, instead of the abstract nichūmı̄m, we find the more definite rachămı̄m, the bowels as the seat of the emotions. עשׂה חרון אף, to carry out wrath, to execute it as judgment (as in Sa1 28:18). In the expression לא אשׁוּב לשׁחת, I will not return to destroy, שׁוּב may be explained from the previous נהפּך לבּי. After the heart of God has changed, it will not return to wrath, to destroy Ephraim; for Jehovah is God, who does not alter His purposes like a man (cf. Sa1 15:29; Num 23:19; Mal 3:6), and He shows Himself in Israel as the Holy One, i.e., the absolutely pure and perfect one, in whom there is no alternation of light and darkness, and therefore no variableness in His decrees (see at Exo 19:6; Isa 6:3). The difficult expression בּעיר cannot mean "into a city," although it is so rendered by the ancient versions, the Rabbins, and many Christian expositors; for we cannot attach any meaning to the words "I do not come into a city" at all in harmony with the context. עיר signifies here aestus irae, the heat of wrath, from עוּר, effervescere, just as in Jer 15:8 it signifies the heat of alarm and anxiety, aestus animi.
"They will go after Jehovah; like a lion will He roar; for He will roar: and sons will tremble from the sea. Hos 11:11. Tremble like birds out of Egypt, and like doves out of the land of Asshur: and I cause them to dwell in their houses, is the saying of Jehovah." When the Lord turns His pity towards the people once more, they will follow Him, and hasten, with trembling at His voice, from the lands of their banishment, and be reinstated by Him in their inheritance. The way for this promise was opened indeed by Hos 11:9, but here it is introduced quite abruptly, and without any logical particle of connection, like the same promise in Hos 3:5. הלך אחרי יי, to walk after the Lord, denotes not only "obedience to the gathering voice of the Lord, as manifested by their drawing near" (Simson), but that walking in true obedience to the Lord which follows from conversion (Deu 13:5; Kg1 14:8), so that the Chaldee has very properly rendered it, "They will follow the worship of Jehovah." This faithfulness they will exhibit first of all in practical obedience to the call of the Lord. This call is described as the roaring of a lion, the point of comparison lying simply in the fact that a lion announces its coming by roaring, so that the roaring merely indicates a loud, far-reaching call, like the blowing of the trumpet in Isa 27:13. The reason for what is affirmed is then given: "for He (Jehovah) will really utter His call," in consequence of which the Israelites, as His children, will come trembling (chârēd synonymous with pâchad, Hos 3:5). מיּם, from the sea, i.e., from the distant islands and lands of the west (Isa 11:11), as well as from Egypt and Assyria, the lands of the south and east. These three regions are simply a special form of the idea, "out of all quarters of the globe;" compare the more complete enumeration of the several remote countries in Isa 11:11. The comparison to birds and doves expresses the swiftness with which they draw near, as doves fly to their dovecots (Isa 60:8). Then will the Lord cause them to dwell in their houses, i.e., settle them once more in their inheritance, in His own land (cf. Jer 32:37, where לבטח is added). On the construing of הושׁיב with על, cf. Kg1 20:43, and the German auf der Stube sein. The expression נאם יי affixes the seal of confirmation to this promise. The fulfilment takes place in the last says, when Israel as a nation shall enter the kingdom of God. Compare the remarks on this point at Hos 2:1-3.