CHAP. I.-II. 3 (II. 1).
The section chap. i.-iii. is distinguished from the other prophecies by this,—that, in it, the relation of the Lord to the [Pg 198] people of Israel Is represented, throughout, under the figure and symbol of marriage, whilst this same mode of representation is soon relinquished wherever else it occurs in the book. By this closer limitation, the objections of Boeckel and Stuck to the common division of the collection into two parts, are set aside. This first portion may be divided into three parts, which are, in one respect, closely connected, as is shown by the Fut. with the Vav Conv. in iii.1, and likewise by the fact that this chapter requires to be supplemented from the two preceding ones, while, in another respect, they may be considered as wholes, complete in themselves. They do not, by any means, so distribute the contents among themselves, as that the first describes the apostasy; the second, the punishment; and the third, the return and restoration; but each of them contains all these three features, and yet in such a manner, that here the one feature, and there the other, is more fully expanded; so that the whole description is complete, only when all the three parts are taken together. In the portion now before us, the covenant relation into which the Lord entered with Israel is typified by a marriage which the prophet contracted at the command of the Lord; the apostasy of the people, and especially of the ten tribes, to whom the prophet was sent in the first instance, is typified by the adultery of the wife, by the divine punishment, and the unpropitious names which he gives to the children born by the adulterous wife. In chap. ii.1-3, there follows the announcement of salvation more directly, and only with a simple allusion to the symbol.
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Ver.1. "The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Joash, king of Israel. Ver.2. At the beginning when the Lord spake to Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea: Go take unto thee a wife of whoredoms, and children of whoredoms; for the land is whoring away from the Lord."
[Hebrew: dbr] is never a noun—not even in Jeremiah 5:13—but always the 3d pers. Pret. Piel. The status constr. [Hebrew: tHlt] is explained by the fact, that the whole of the following sentence is treated as one substantive idea: the beginning "of the Lord hath spoken," [Pg 199] etc., for "the beginning of speaking." [Hebrew: ivM dbr ihvh], the day of "the Lord spoke," instead of, "the day on which the Lord spoke." Similar constructions occur also in Isaiah 29:1, and Jeremiah 48:6.—The Fut. with Vav Conv., [Hebrew: viamr], "and then He spoke," carries forward the discourse, as if there had preceded: the Lord began to speak to Hosea. There is here a constructio ad sensum. It is intentionally, and in order the more distinctly to point out the idea of the beginning, that the prophet has made use of the noun [Hebrew: tHlt], not of the verb. The construction of [Hebrew: dbr] with [Hebrew: b], with the signification "to speak to some one," may be explained thus:—that the words are, as it were, put into the mind of the hearer in order that they may remain there. Several interpreters erroneously translate, "spoke through:" others, following Jerome (the last is Simson), "spoke in;" as if thereby the act of speaking were to be designated as an inward one. The difference between outward and inward speaking disappears in the vision; and, for this reason, we cannot imagine that there is any intention of here noticing it particularly. Everything which takes place in the vision is substantially, indeed, internal, but in point of form it is external. Moreover, [Hebrew: dbr] with [Hebrew: d] several times occurs in other passages also, where the signification, "to speak to some one," is alone admissible. Thus 1 Samuel 25:39, where Simson's explanation, "David sent and ordered to speak about Abigail," is set aside by ver.40. The analogy of the construction of the verbs of hearing and seeing with [Hebrew: b] is likewise in favour of our explanation.—A wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms. The wife belongs to whoredoms in so far as she is devoted to them; the children, in [Pg 200] so far as they proceed from them. For we cannot suppose that the children themselves are described as given to whoredom. Such a thought would here be altogether out of place. For whoredom is here only the general designation of adultery, as, by way of applying it to the case in question, it is immediately subjoined, "away from Jehovah." The subject of consideration is only the relation of the wife and children to the prophet, as the type of the Lord; and with this view, it is only the origin of the children from an adulterous wife which can be of importance. That this alone is regarded, appears from ii.6 (4), compared with ver.7 (5). That the children, as children of whoredoms, deserve no compassion, is founded upon the fact that their mother plays the harlot. [Hebrew: awt znvniM] is stronger than [Hebrew: zvnh]; it expresses the idea that the woman is given, soul and body, to whoredoms. The same emphasis is expressed also by the analogous designations: man of blood, of deceit, etc.—Calvin says, "She is called a wife of whoredoms, because she was long accustomed to them, gave herself over to the lusts of all indiscriminately, did not prostitute herself once, or twice, or to a few, but to the debauchery of every one." It is not without reason that "take" is connected with the children also. The prophet shall, as it were, receive and take, along with the wife, those who, without his agency, have been born of her. It is self-evident, and has been, moreover, formerly proved, that we cannot speak of children who were previously born of the prophet's wife; but that, on the contrary, the children are they whose birth is narrated in ver.4 seqq. And that we cannot consider these children as children of the prophet, as is done by several interpreters (Drus.: "Accipe uxorem et suscipe ex ea liberos"), is obvious from their being designated "children of whoredoms;" from the word "take" itself, which is expressive of the passive conduct of the prophet; from the fact that, in the subsequent verses, the conceiving and bearing of the wife are alone constantly spoken of, but never, as in Isaiah 8:3, the begetting by the prophet; and, finally, from the relation of the type to the thing typified. By the latter, it is absolutely required that children and mother stand in the same relation of alienation from the legitimate husband and father. The words in ver.3, "She bare him a son," are not indeed in opposition to it, for these words are only intended to mark the deceit of the wife who [Pg 201] offers to her husband the children begotten in adultery, as if they were his, and, at the same time, to bring out the patience and forbearance of the husband who receives them, and brings them up as if they were his, although he knows that they are not. In like manner, the Lord treated, for centuries, the rebellious Israelites as if they were His children, and granted to them the inheritance which was destined only for the children, along with so many other blessings, until at length He declared them to be bastards, by carrying them away into captivity. The last words state the ground of the symbolical action. The causal [Hebrew: ki] is explained from the fact that the import of a symbolical action is also its ground. The Inf. absol. preceding the tempus finitum gives special emphasis to the verbal idea. The prophet thereby indicates that, in using the expression "to whore," he does so deliberately, and because it corresponds exactly to the thing, and wishes us to understand it in its full strength and compass. In calling the thing by its right name, he silences, beforehand, every attempt at palliating and extenuating it. Of such palliations and extenuations the Jews had abundance. They had not the slightest notion that they had become unfaithful to their God, but considered their intercourse with idols as trifling and allowable attentions which they paid to them.—Manger understands by whoredoms, their placing, at the same time, their confidence in man; but from what follows, where idolatry alone is constantly spoken of, it is obvious that this is inadmissible. If this special thing be reduced to its idea, it is true that trusting in men is, then, not less comprehended under it than idolatry, inasmuch as this idea is the turning away from God to that which is not God. And, from this dependence of what is special upon the idea, it follows that the description has its eternal truth, and does not become antiquated, even where the folly of gross idolatry has been long since perceived.—[Hebrew: hariN], the definite land, the land of the prophet, the land of Israel.—Concerning the last words, Psalm 73:27 may be compared, where [Hebrew: znh mN] occurs with a similar signification. This phrase contains an allusion to the common expression, "to walk with, or after, God;" compare 2 Kings 23:3. According to Calvin, the spiritual chastity of the people of God consists in their following the Lord.
Ver.3. "And he went and took Gamer the daughter of Dibhlaim, and she conceived and bare him a son."
Many interpreters suppose that, by the three children, three different generations are designated, and the gradual degeneracy of the people, which sinks deeper and deeper. But this opinion must certainly be rejected. There is no gradation perceptible. On the contrary, the announcement of the total destruction of the kingdom of Israel is connected immediately with the name of the first child, ver.4. Nor is it legitimate to say, as Rueckert does, that the three children are a designation of the "conditions" in which the Israelites would be placed in consequence of their apostasy from the Lord. For, how could mercy be shown to conditions? The right view rather is, that the wife and children are both the people of Israel, viewed only in different relations. In the first designation, they are viewed as a unity; in the latter, as a plurality proceeding from, and depending upon, this unity. The circumstance that the prophet mentions the birth of children at all, and the birth of three only, is accounted for by their names. The children exist only that they may receive a name. The three names must, therefore, not be considered separately, but must be viewed together. In that case they present a corresponding picture of the fate impending upon Israel. The circumstance that the mother and sons are distinguished in Hosea, rests upon the Song of Solomon. (Compare the more copious remarks in my commentary on the Song of Sol. iii.4: "By the mother, the people is designated according to its historical continuity,—by the daughter or sons, according to its existence at any moment.")
Ver.4. "And the Lord said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little (while), and I visit the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel."
The name "Jezreel" is, by most expositors, explained in this passage as meaning: "God disperses." This they maintain to be its real signification, according to the etymology, and that all the rest is only an allusion. But this exposition is erroneous, as Manger has correctly perceived. For, 1. No instance occurs where the verb [Hebrew: zre] has this signification. When applied to men, it is always used only in a good sense: compare ii.25, Ezekiel 36:9, and the subsequent remarks on Zechariah 10:9. The idea of scattering is not at all the fundamental one; so that the signification, to disperse, is much further from the fundamental [Pg 203] signification than might, at first sight, appear.2. The subsequent words must be considered as an explanation of the name Jezreel, as is obvious from the corresponding explanations of the names Lo-Ruhamah in ver.6, and Lo-Ammi in ver.9, which are intimately connected with these names. But in this explanation, not even a single word is said on the subject of the dispersion of the people of Israel. The circumstance that, in this explanation, Jezreel occurs as a proper name, without any regard being paid to its appellative signification—an allusion to which occurs only in the announcement of the salvation—shows that here too it must be viewed in the same way. The correct view is this. Jezreel was the place where the last great judgment of God upon the kingdom of Israel had been executed. The apostasy from the Lord, and the innocent blood of His servants, shed by Jezebel and the whole house of Ahab, had been there avenged upon them by Jehu, the founder of the dynasty which was reigning at the time of the prophet. At the command of God, Jehu is anointed as king by one of the sons of the prophets sent by Elisha, 2 Kings 9.In vers.6-9 the Lord says to him through the latter: "I anoint thee king over the people of the Lord, over Israel. And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master; and I avenge the blood of My servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord at the hand of Jezebel, and the whole house of Ahab shall perish. And I give the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah." The execution corresponded with the command. When Jehu approached Jezreel, Joram the son of Ahab went out against him, and met him in the portion of Naboth the Jezreelite, ver.21. Appealing to the declaration of the Lord, [Pg 204] "Surely I have seen the blood of Naboth, and the blood of his sons, and I will requite thee in this portion of ground" (ver.26), Jehu orders the corpse of the slain king to be cast thither. At Jezreel, Jezebel too found a disgraceful death. Thither, as to the central point of vengeance, were sent the heads of the seventy royal princes, who had been slain, x.1-10, and there Jehu slew all that remained of the house of Ahab, ver.11.—The royal house, and, along with it, all Israel, are now anew to become a Jezreel; i.e., the same divine punitive justice which, at that time, was manifested at Jezreel, is to be exhibited anew. The reason why this should be, is stated in the explanation. The house of Jehu, and all Israel, shall become a Jezreel, in as far as punishment is concerned, because they have become a Jezreel with respect to guilt, and because, as in former times at Jezreel, so now again, blood that has been shed cries to the Lord for vengeance. Where a new carcase is, there the eagles must anew be gathered together.—It must have, already appeared from this, how we understand the words, "I visit the blood of Jezreel," used in the explanation of the name of Jezreel, in the verse under consideration. According to the prophet's custom of designating, by the name of an old thing, any new thing which is substantially similar to it, the new guilt is marked by the name of the old; and it is marked as blood, because the former guilt was pre-eminently blood-guiltiness; and as the blood of Jezreel, because the former blood-guiltiness had been especially contracted there, and it was there where the punishment was executed. The deep impression, which just this mode of representation must have produced, must not be overlooked. The sins formerly committed at Jezreel were acknowledged as such by the whole people, and especially by the royal house, whose whole rights were based upon this acknowledgment. The recollection of the fearful punishment was still in the minds of all; but they did not by any means imagine that they were implicated in the same guilt, and had to expect the same punishment. That which they considered as already [Pg 205] absolutely past, the prophet, by a single word, brings again into the present, and the immediate future. By a single word of dreadful sound he terrified and aroused them out of their self-deception (which will not recognise its own sin in the picture of the sins of others), and out of their carnal security. Entirely analogous are 2 Kings 9:31, where Jezebel says to Jehu, "Hast thou peace, Zimri, murderer of his master?" which Schmid well explains by—"It is time for thee to desist, that thou mayest not experience the same punishment as Zimri;" Zechariah 5:11, where the prophet mentions Shinar as the place of Israel's future banishment; and x.11, where he calls their future oppressors by the names of Asshur and Egypt, and describes a new passing through the Red Sea. In Revelation, the degenerate church is called by the names of Sodom and Egypt (xi.18); the true Church, by Jerusalem; Rome, by Babylon.—The explanation which we have given will be its own defence against the current, and evidently erroneous, expositions. Many interpreters understand, by the blood of Jezreel, the slaughter of the family of Ahab which was accomplished there by Jehu. It is, indeed, quite correct to say that a deed objectively good does not thereby become one which is subjectively so. That which has been willed and commanded by God may itself become an object of divine punishment, if it be not performed from love and obedience to God, but from culpable selfishness. But that Jehu was actuated by motives so bad, is sufficiently obvious from the circumstance, that he himself did the very thing which he had punished in the house of Ahab. Calvin rightly remarks: "That slaughter is, as far as God is concerned, a just vengeance; but, as far as Jehu is concerned, it is open murder." But yet, this deed cannot be regarded as the principal crime of Jehu and his family. We must not overlook other crimes far more heinous, and consider the guilty blood shed by them as the sole ground of their punishment. That this was indeed considered as guilt, but only as a lower degree of it, is clearly seen from 1 Kings 16:7, where destruction is announced to Baasha, who had destroyed the house of Jeroboam I., "on account of all the evil which he did in the sight of the Lord, in provoking Him to anger with the works of his hands, so that he may be like the house of Jeroboam, and because he killed him." The main crime is, that Baasha had become like the house of Jeroboam. [Pg 206] What he perpetrated against this house is the minor crime, and becomes a crime only through the former.—It is worthy of notice that "the blood of Jezreel" exactly corresponds, according to our explanation, with the expression, "so that he may be like the house of Jeroboam." It may be further noticed, that, in the deed of Jehu, every better feeling cannot be excluded. If the command of God had been used by him merely as a pretext, we could not account for the praise and the promises given to him on account of this very deed, 2 Kings 10:30. It is true that the limitation of the promise shows that pure motives alone did not prevail with him.—"The bloody deed to which the house of Jehu owed its elevation" nowhere else appears as the cause of the catastrophe which befell this house. That which he had done against the house of Ahab, whose sins were crying to heaven for vengeance far more than those of Baasha, is, in 2 Kings 10:30, 31, represented as his merit. His guilt consisted in his not departing from the ways of Jeroboam, and in his making Israel to sin. It is this guilt alone which, in the Book of Kings, is charged against all the members of his family,—against Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, in 2 Kings 13:2; against Jehoash, in 2 Kings 13:11; against Jeroboam, in 2 Kings 14:24; against Zechariah, under whom the catastrophe took place, in 2 Kings 15:9: "And he did that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord, as his fathers had done, and departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel to sin." According to the context, we must, in the first place, think of the religious guilt; the blood of Jezreel, in the verse under consideration, must correspond with the whoredoms in ver.2.—Moreover, the extension of the punishment to all Israel could not, according to this explanation, be understood; for the deed was only that of Jehu and his assistants. How, then, could not only the house of Jehu be punished, but also [Pg 207] the kingdom of the house of Israel be destroyed, and its bow broken in the valley of Jezreel?
According to another interpretation still more prevalent, "the blood of Jezreel" denotes "all the evil deeds committed by the Israelitish kings in Jezreel." But this interpretation is sufficiently invalidated by the single circumstance, that the residence of the family of Jehu, which, after all, alone comes into consideration in this place, was, from the very beginning, not Jezreel, but Samaria; compare 2 Kings 10:36, xiii.10, xiv.23.
Two particulars are contained in the announcement of punishment. First,—The whole house of Jehu, and then all Israel, are to become a Jezreel as regards punishment, as they are even now in point of guilt; and, in this announcement, the significant paronomasia must not be overlooked between Israel—the designation of the dignity of the people, and Jezreel—that which is base in deeds and condition. Calvin makes prominent the last-mentioned feature only: "You are," he explains, "a degenerate people, you differ in nothing from your king Ahab." We cannot, however, follow him in this explanation; the words, "I cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel," cannot, as several interpreters suppose, mean merely, "I will put an end to the dominion of the family of Jehu over Israel." That these words rather announce the cessation of every native regal government, and hence of the entire national independence, is so evident, that it stands in need of no proof. Both of these features are, in their fulfilment, separated indeed by a long period of time (see the Introduction); but they are nevertheless closely connected. With the ruin of the house of Jehu, the strength of the kingdom of Israel was broken; from that time it was only a living corpse. The fall of the house of Jehu was the beginning of the end,—the commencement of the process of putrefaction. The omission, in the inscription, of all mention of any of the kings after Jeroboam, coincides with the circumstance that the fall of the house of Jehu is connected with the fall of the kingdom. With regard, however, to the former event, Hosea had an earlier prophecy before him. It had been prophesied to Jehu (2 Kings 10:30) that his children should sit on the throne until the fourth generation. Now, since Jeroboam was the great-grandson of Jehu, the glory of [Pg 208] this family must come to an end with his son. But at no period did the house of Jehu, and the kingdom of Israel, seem to be so far from destruction as under the reign of Jeroboam; and, hence, it was time that the forgotten prophecy should be revived, and, at the same time, expanded.
Ver.5. "And it shall come to pass at that day, that I break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel."
Of this, Calvin gives the following paraphrase: "Ye are puffed up with pride; ye oppose your fierceness to God, because ye excel in weapons and strength; because ye are warlike men, ye believe that God can do nothing against you. But surely your bows shall not prevent His hands from destroying you."—In the valley of Jezreel, Israel shall become, as to punishment, what they already are, as to guilt, viz., a "Jezreel." The verse is a further expansion of the last words of the preceding one, to which the words, "at that day," refer. He whose bow is broken is defenceless and powerless; compare Genesis 49:24; 1 Samuel 2:4; Jeremiah 49:35. It is evident that we can here think only of the defeat of Israel by the Assyrians, the consequence of which was the total overthrow of the kingdom of Israel. But it is not to be overlooked, that the Assyrians, who in the second section of Hosea are frequently mentioned in express terms, as the instruments of God's punishment, are not spoken of at all as such in the first section, which belongs to the reign of Jeroboam. Amos likewise abstains from mentioning any name of the enemies. The Assyrians had not at that time appeared on the historical horizon. But the prophecy was to evince itself as such, by the fact of the announcement of the judgment at a time when its instruments were not as yet prepared; just as Elijah, in 1 Kings 18:41, hears the rushing of the rain before there was even a cloud in the sky.—We are not told in the historical books at what place Israel was defeated by the Assyrians. Jerome, in his remarks on our passage, says that it took place in the valley of Jezreel. It is very probable, however, that this is only an inference clothed in the garb of history. But even apart from the passage under review, the matter is very probable. The valley of Jezreel or Esdrelon "is the largest, and at the same time the most fertile, plain of Palestine. The brook of Kishon, which is, next to Jordan, the most important river of Palestine, waters and fructifies it, and, [Pg 209] with its tributaries, flows through it in all directions." (Ritter, S.689.) In all the wars which were carried on within the territories of the ten tribes, especially when the enemies came from the North, it was the natural battle-field. "It was, in the first centuries, the station of a legion ([Greek: mega pedion legeonos]); it is the place where the troops of Nebuchadnezzar, Vespasian, Justinian, the Sultan Saladdin, and many other conquering armies were encamped, down to the unsuccessful expedition of Buonaparte, whose success in Syria here terminated. Clarke found erected here the tents of the troops of the Pacha of Damascus. In later times, it was the scene of the skirmishes between the parties of hostile hordes of Arabs and Turkish pachas. In the political relations of Asia Minor, it is to this locality that there must be ascribed the total devastation and depopulation of Galilee, which once was so flourishing, full of towns, and thickly populated." (Ritter, Erdk. 1 Ausg. ii. S.387.) We may add, that, in the same plain also, the battle was fought in which Saul and Jonathan perished (for the plain of Esdrelon is bounded on the south-east by the mountains of Gilboa), and so likewise was the battle between Ahab and the Syrians. To it also belonged the plain near the town of Megiddo, where Josiah, in the battle against Pharaoh-Necho, was mortally wounded. Compare Rosenmueller, Alt. ii.1, p.149.
Ver.6. "And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And He said to him, Call her name Lo-Ruhamah (i.e., one who has not obtained mercy): for I will not continue any more to have mercy upon the house of Israel; for I will take away from them."—Interpreters ask why the second child was a female; and this question is by no means an idle one, since the prophet everywhere else adheres closely to the subject-matter, and adds no feature, merely for the sake of giving vividness to the picture. We cannot for a moment suppose, as Jerome and others do, that the female child denotes a more degraded generation. For why, then, is the third again a male child? The supposition proceeds from the altogether unfounded notion that the three children denote different generations. The reason must, on the contrary, be sought for in the name. Schmid says: "It seems to have reference to the weakness of the sex. For the female sex [Pg 210] finds greater sympathy than the male." The verb [Hebrew: rHM] does not denote any kind of love, but only the love of him who is high to him who is low, of the strong to the weak; and hence the LXX., whom Peter follows in 1 Pet. ii.10 ([Greek: ouk eleemene]), render the word more accurately than Paul, in Romans 9:25 ([Greek: ouk egapemene]). Hence it is never used of man's love to God, but only of the love of God to man,—of His mercy. The only passage which seems to contradict this, Psalm 18:2, is not to the purpose, as, there, the Kal is used. But the female sex, being weaker, stands in greater need of the compassion of men, than does the male. Isaiah 9:16. The female child places the neediness and helplessness of the people in more striking contrast with the refusal of help from Him who alone can bestow it. The [Hebrew: rHmh] is either Participle in Pual which has cast off the [Hebrew: m], or the 3d fem. Pret. in pause; thus Cocceius, who explains it by: "She has not obtained mercy." It is in favour of the latter view, that according to Ewald, Sec.310 b, [Hebrew: la] does not often stand before a Participle. The words, "I will not continue," refer to the former great manifestations of divine mercy, and especially the last under Jeroboam, which the people still, at that time, enjoyed; compare 2 Kings 13:23: "And the Lord was gracious unto them, and had mercy upon them, and turned towards them because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast them from His presence." Upon this contrast, also, rests the mild expression, "I will not have mercy,"—an expression which, in virtue of this contrast, becomes stronger than any other. Several interpreters here lay peculiar stress upon the circumstance, that "the house of Israel" is spoken of. This, the kingdom of Israel, they say, as an independent state, is given over to everlasting destruction; it is only single individuals who shall obtain mercy after they have joined the house of David. But the supposition that "house of Israel" is used in this sense, is altogether unfounded. The house is equivalent to the family; and the prophets speak of "a house of Israel" after the destruction, no less than before it. The words in ii.6 (4), "I will not have mercy upon her children," and the circumstance that she who is here called Lo-Ruhamah is afterwards called Ruhamah, also militate against referring "house of Israel" to the state. The right view rather is, that the denial of mercy [Pg 211] must not be understood absolutely, but relatively. It is not for ever that mercy shall be denied to them, but for a time,—until God's punitive justice shall have been satisfied. Just as Israel shall not always remain Jezreel, Lo-Ammi shall, at some future time, become again Ammi.—The last words are, by the greater number of recent interpreters, almost unanimously explained: "That I should forgive them." But, in that case, we can perceive no reason why the Inf. abs. should be placed before the tempus finitum. Why should the verbal idea here be rendered so emphatic? In addition to this, the extreme feebleness of the sense would be remarkable. Nothing would be said that would not be already implied in the words, "I will not continue any more to have mercy." But, on the other hand, we obtain a very suitable sense if we translate thus: "I will take away from them." The object is not mentioned, just because every thing is to be understood. The prominence given to the verbal idea is then accounted for from its being contrasted with the having mercy, which implies giving. There is then, moreover, a very striking contrast with the standing phrase [Hebrew: nwa evN l], or also simply [Hebrew: nwa l]: I shall take away from them, not, however, as hitherto, their guilt (compare Amos 7:8), but all that they have. Calvin had previously directed attention to the circumstance that the following verse also is in favour of the translation by tollere: "Servare et tollere inter se opponit propheta." Chap. v.14 may also be compared, where [Hebrew: nwa] is used in a similar manner, the object being likewise omitted: "I will tear and go away, I will take away, and there is none that delivereth."
Ver.7. "And I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and I save them by the Lord their God; and I do not save them by bow, and by sword, and by war, and by horses, and by horsemen."
Several interpreters suppose that mercy is here promised to Judah as a consolation to Israel, inasmuch as the latter should partake in it. But this view is erroneous. From the antithesis to ver.6, it is evident that mercy is here promised to Judah for the time when Israel shall not find mercy; and we are not at liberty to anticipate the time described in ii.1-3, when both become partakers of mercy. This is apparent also from the circumstance that in vers.8, 9, the threatening of punishment [Pg 212] to Israel is still continued. It can then only be the intention of the prophet, by describing the mercy which Judah their brethren should experience, to sharpen the goad, more effectually to rouse Israel from their false security, and to direct their attention to the bad foundation of the entire constitution of their political and ecclesiastical affairs, in consequence of which they considered as legitimate that which, in Judah, was only an abuse. As the showing of mercy to Judah runs parallel with the withholding of it from Israel, we can, primarily and chiefly, think only of the different fates of the two, during the Assyrian dominion. The wonderful deliverance of Judah on that occasion is foretold by Isaiah, xxxi.8, in a similar manner: "And Asshur falls through the sword not of a man, and the sword not of a man devours him." We must not, however, limit ourselves to this event; a preference of Judah over Israel, a remnant of divine mercy appeared, even when they were carried away into captivity. During its continuance, they were not altogether deprived of marks of the continuance of the divine election. Prophets continued to labour among them, as immediate ambassadors of God. Wonderful events showed them in the midst of the Gentiles the superiority of their God, and prepared the way for their deliverance. They maintained, in a far greater degree, their national constitution; and, lastly, their affliction lasted for a far shorter time than did that of the Israelites. Contrary to all human expectation, their affairs soon took a favourable turn, in which only a comparatively small number of their Israelitish brethren partook, while, for the rest, the withholding of mercy continued. But it is just by means of this contrast with the lot of Judah, that the announcement of the lot of Israel appears in its true light. Without this contrast, one might have imagined, that the announcement of the prophet did not go beyond his human vision. It would, of course, appear highly probable that a kingdom so weak as that of Israel,—weak, especially when compared with those great Asiatic kingdoms which were great already, and yet were continually striving after enlargement,—a kingdom, moreover, placed in the midst between these kingdoms, and their natural enemy and rival, Egypt—should not have been able to maintain its existence for any length of time. But this probability existed in a far higher decree in the case of the kingdom of [Pg 213] Judah, which was smaller and weaker still, and which had suffered much through Jehoash the father of Jeroboam (2 Kings 14:13), under the latter of whom, the splendour and glory of Israel had been so greatly increased. But that which prevented this probability from becoming a reality lay altogether beyond the sphere of human calculation, as Hosea himself here so emphatically expresses. And by such help, the kingdom of Israel would have been delivered, no less than the kingdom of Judah. It is true that this prediction of Hosea is no prediction of some accidental event, but has its foundation in the idea. The lots of Israel and Judah could not be otherwise than so different, after their different position in reference to the Covenant-God was once fixed. Nor is this prediction one which has ceased after its first and literal fulfilment, but is constantly and anew realizing itself. The proceeding of God towards the different Churches and States is regulated by their conduct towards Him. The history of the world is a judgment of the world. But even to know this truth is, in itself, a supernatural gift; and they only are able to use it with safety, to whom God has given an insight into the mysteries of His government of the world. This becomes very evident, if we observe how often the predictions of those who knew the truth in general, down to Bengel and his followers, have been put to shame by the result. God's ways are not our ways. No one knows them except Himself, and those to whom He will reveal them. The extent to which the prophecy rests on the idea is, moreover, clearly seen by the words, "And I save them by Jehovah their God." Here we have the ground of their deliverance. Jehovah is the God of Judah, and, hence, the source of their salvation, which does not cease to flow although all human sources be dried up. The reason why Israel does not obtain mercy must then be, that Jehovah is not their God. That this contrast is implied here, is confirmed by iii.5: "Afterwards shall the children of Israel return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king." That which in aftertimes they shall seek, and thereby obtain salvation, they must have lost now; and this loss must be the source of their affliction. Calvin makes the following pertinent remark: "The antithesis between the false gods and Jehovah must here be kept in mind. Jehovah was the God of the house of Judah; and hence, it is just as if the prophet had said, 'Ye [Pg 214] indeed profess the name of God, but ye worship the devil, and not God. Ye have no part in Jehovah. He resides in His temple, and has pledged His faithfulness to David when He commanded him to build Him a temple on Mount Zion; but from you, the true God has departed!'" (Compare Amos 2:8, where the prophet speaks of the god of the ten tribes as one who belongs to them alone, and with whom he has nothing to do.) In contrast with Him who alone could grant help, and whom Israel did not possess, but Judah did, the prophet enumerates, in the remaining part of the verse under consideration, the aids which could not afford any real help, in which Israel was, at that time, much richer than Judah, and in which they placed a false confidence. Compare x.13: "Thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men;" Psalm 20:8; Micah 5:9 seqq.; and Deuteronomy 33:29, where the Lord is spoken of as the only true bulwark and armour: "Happy art thou, Israel: who is like unto thee? a people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, thy proud sword: thine enemies shall be liars unto thee, and thou shalt tread upon their high places." Calvin says, "God does not require any other aids; His own strength is quite sufficient. The sum and substance is therefore this, that although the weakness of the kingdom of Judah excites the contempt of all, this shall be no obstacle to its deliverance by the grace of God, although there be no help at all from men."—The prophet has, at the same time, before his eyes the great events of former history, where, when all human resources failed, the power of God had shown itself to be alone quite sufficient.—We cannot assert with Gesenius, that "war" should here be quite identical with "weapons of war;" it rather comprehends everything which is required for war, viz., the prudence of the commanders, the valour of the heroes, the strength of the army, etc. "Heroes and horsemen" are, however, specially mentioned, because in ancient times the main strength of the armies lay in these. Even Mahommed thought himself entitled to hold up a victory which he had obtained without cavalry—by infantry alone—as a miracle wrought immediately by God; comp. Abulf. vit. Moh. pp.72, 91.
Ver.8. "And she weaned Lo-Ruhamah, and conceived, and bare a son."
Ver.9. "And He said, Call his name, Lo-Ammi (i.e., not [Pg 215] my people); for you are not My people, and I, not will I be yours."
As the prophet everywhere else adheres closely to his subject-matter, as, indeed, he allows the figure to recede behind the subject of his discourse, but never the opposite, we cannot well imagine that the weaning is mentioned merely for the purpose of making the description more graphic. Calvin says, "I do not doubt that the prophet intends here to commend the Lord's long-continued mercy and forbearance towards that people." The unfaithfulness of the wife, and the forbearance of the prophet, do indeed continue for years. But it is better to suppose that the mention of the weaning is intended to separate the territory of Lo-Ruhamah from the following birth, and to call forth the idea that, now, there may follow one of better import.—The literal translation of the close of the verse is, "And I will not be to you"—equivalent to, "I will not any longer belong to you." We cannot assume, as Manger does, that [Hebrew: lalhiM] has been here left out, nor, as others do, that it must be supplied. Since it is God who speaks, "to you," or "yours," is sufficiently definite. Similar is Ezekiel 16:8: "And I entered into a covenant with thee, and thou becamest Mine," [Hebrew: vthii li]; Psalm 118:6: "The Lord is mine, [Hebrew: ihvh li], I will not fear." The explanation given by some, "I shall not be among you," is too limited. It is the highest happiness to possess God Himself, with all His gifts and blessings, and the greatest misery to lose Him. The fulfilment of this threatening is reported in 2 Kings 17:18: "And the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of His sight; and there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone;" comp. also Isaiah 7.p>The first three verses of the following chapter ought to have been connected with the first chapter; for they contain the announcement of salvation which is necessary to complete the first prophecy.
Chap. ii.1. "And the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which is not measured nor numbered. And it shall come to pass, in the place where it was said unto them, Not my people ye, it shall be said unto them. Sons of the living God."
The first point which requires to be determined, is the subject of the verse. Every other reference except that to the [Pg 216] ten tribes is here out of the question; inasmuch as the same who, in the preceding verse, were called Lo-Ammi, are now to be called sons of the living God. Several of the ancient expositors here assume a sudden transition to the Christian Church; but such would be a salto mortale. Nor are we to understand by the children of Israel, all the descendants of Jacob; for the children of Judah are distinguished from them in ver.2. Substantially, however, those too are included, as appears from this very verse; for both shall then form one nation of brethren. But here the prophet views only one portion, because to this only did the preceding threatening, and the mission of the prophet in general, refer. From this, also, it may be explained how the prophet may apply to the part the promises of Genesis, which there refer to the whole. The reference to these promises, in the first part of the verse, cannot be at all mistaken. Compare especially, as agreeing most literally, the passage in Genesis 22:17: "I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is on the shore of the sea;" and xxxii.13 (12): "I make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which is not numbered for multitude." A similar literal reference is in Jeremiah 33:22: "As the host of heaven is not numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured; so will I multiply the seed of David My servant." Now, the reference here cannot be accidental. It supposes that these promises were at that time generally known in the kingdom of Israel. They served to strengthen the ungodly in their false security. Relying on them, they charged the prophets with making God a liar in thus announcing the impending destruction of the kingdom, inasmuch as the prophecy had not yet been fulfilled in all its extent. The prophet, however, by his almost literal repetition of the promise, shows that thereby his threatenings are not excluded—"teaches that the visitation of which he had spoken would be such that, nevertheless, God would not forget His word; that the rejection of the people would be such that, nevertheless, its election should stand firm and sure,—and, finally, that the adoption should not be invalid by which He had chosen Abraham's progeny as His people" (Calvin).—The case is quite analogous, when corrupted Christian churches harden themselves in trusting in the promise that the Lord would be with them all the days, and that the gates of hell should not prevail against His Church. The [Pg 217] Lord knoweth how to execute His judgments so that His promises shall not suffer thereby, yea, that their fulfilment is thereby rendered possible. The relation of our passage to Isaiah 10:22 requires further to be considered: "For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant only shall return." Here, too, the reference to the promises in Genesis cannot be mistaken. But there is this difference,—that in the time of Isaiah, the people, viewing the partial fulfilment of the promises of God in their then prosperous condition, as a sure pledge of divine mercy, founded thereupon their false security. To this, however, the prophet replies, that even the perfect fulfilment would give no warrant for it. In Hosea, however, they rely on the perfect fulfilment, which had, as yet, no existence at all. But Hosea has in view the godly as much as the ungodly. To the former he shows that here also there would be a fulfilment of what is written in Numbers 23:19: "God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent. Should He say, and not do it; and speak, and not fulfil it?" Moreover, we cannot fail to see that, in the verse under review, as also in ver.2, there is an allusion to the first child, Jezreel,—that in the second member of the verse there is an allusion to Lo-Ammi, and in ver.3, to Lo-Ruhamah. But the name Jezreel is now taken in a good sense, probably in the sense in which it was first given to the valley (compare remarks on i.4), and also to the town by its founders. Jezreel means "God sows." The founders of the town thereby expressed the hope that God would cause an abundant harvest to proceed from a small sowing—a glorious end from a small beginning. Thus God will now sow the small seed of Israel, and an infinitely rich harvest shall be gained from this sowing; compare remarks on ver.25.—But if now we seek for the historical reference of the announcement, we are compelled to go back to the sense of those declarations in Genesis. By many, these are referred merely to the bodily descendants of the Patriarchs; by many, also, to their spiritual descendants, their successors in the faith. But the latter reference is altogether arbitrary; and the former could be well-founded only, if the Congregation of the Lord had been destined solely for the natural descendants, and if all the Gentiles had been refused admittance into it. But that such is not the case, is evident from the command to circumcise every bondservant; [Pg 218] for, by circumcision, a man was received among the people of God. This appears, further, from the command in Exodus 12:48, that every stranger who wished to partake of the Passover must be previously circumcised; and this implies that strangers might partake in the sign and feast of the covenant if they wished; compare Michaelis, Mos. Recht. 1 Thessalonians 4.Sec.184. This appears, moreover, from Deuteronomy 23:1-8, where the Edomites and Egyptians are expressly declared to be capable of being received into the Congregation of the Lord. It appears, still further, from the circumstance that, in the same passage, the command to exclude the Ammonites and Moabites is founded upon a special reason. And, finally, it appears from the Jewish practice at all times. But the heathens who were received among the people of God were considered as belonging to the posterity of the Patriarchs, as their sons by adoption. How indeed could it be otherwise, since, by intermarriage, every difference must have very soon disappeared? They were called children of Israel, and children of Jacob, no less than were the others. It now appears to what extent the promise to the Patriarchs refers to the Gentiles also—viz., in so far as they became believers in the God of Israel, and joined themselves to Israel. Compare Isaiah 44:5: "One shall say, I am Jehovah's, and another shall call the name of Jacob, and another shall write with his hand. Unto the Lord! and boast of the name of Israel." Such an eager desire of the Gentiles towards the kingdom of God regularly took place, either when the God of Israel had revealed Himself by specially distinguishing manifestations of His omnipotence and glory, as, e.g., in the deliverance from the Egyptian and Babylonish captivities, in both of which events we find a number of those who had previously been heathens, [Hebrew: erb], in the train of the Israelites;—or when a feeling of the vanity of the idols of the heathen world had been awakened with special vividness, as in the times after Alexander the Great, in which Roman and Greek heathenism became more and more effete, and rapidly hastened on towards ruin. In the time of Christ, both of these causes co-operated. If there were soundness in the opinion now generally prevalent, according to which the Church of the New Testament stands quite independent of the Congregation of Israel, having originated from a free and equal union of believers from Israel, and of those from among the Gentiles, [Pg 219] then indeed the promise now before us would have no longer any reference to New Testament times. The New Testament Church would be a generation altogether different, and no longer acknowledge Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as their fathers. But, according to the constant doctrine of the Old as well as of the New Testament, there is only one Church of God from Abraham to the end of the days—only one house under two dispensations. John the Baptist proceeds upon the supposition that the members of the New Testament also must be children of Abraham, else the covenant and promise of God would come to nought. But as the bodily descent from Abraham is no security against the danger of exclusion from his posterity—of which Ishmael was the first example—and as, so early as in the Pentateuch, it is said, with reference to every greater transgression, "This soul is cut off from its people," so, on the other hand, God, in the exercise of His sovereign liberty, may give to Abraham, in the room of his degenerate children after the flesh, adopted children without number, who shall sit down with him, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God, whilst the sons of the kingdom are cast out.—After these remarks on the promise to the Patriarchs, there can be no longer any difficulty in making out the historical reference of the announcement before us. It cannot refer to the bodily descendants of Abraham, as such, any more than the promise of a son to Abraham was fulfilled in the birth of Ishmael, or than the Arabs stand related to the promise of the innumerable multitude of his descendants,—a promise which is repeated, in the same extent, to Isaac and Jacob, although they were not the ancestors of the Arabs. Degenerate sons are not a blessing; they are no objects of promise, no sons in the full sense. Every one is a son of Abraham, only in so far as he is a son of God. For this reason the phrases "sons of Israel" and "sons of the living God" are, in the passage before us, connected with each other. Not as though the corporeal descent were altogether a matter of indifference. The corporeal descendants of the Patriarchs had the nearest claims to becoming their children in the full sense. It was to them that the means of becoming so were first granted. To them pertained the covenants, the promises, and the adoption, Romans 9:4. But all these external advantages were of no avail to them when they allowed them to [Pg 220] remain unused; in these circumstances, neither the promise to Abraham, nor the announcement before us, had any reference to them. Both of them would have remained to this day unfulfilled, although the unconverted children of Israel had increased so as to have become the most populous nation on the face of the whole earth. It thus appears that the announcement before us was first truly realized in the time of the Messiah; inasmuch as it was at that time that the family of the Patriarchs was so mightily increased; and that it will yet be more fully realized, partly by the reception of an innumerable multitude of adopted sons, and partly by the elevation of those who were sons only in a lower sense, to be sons in the highest. That which occurred at the time after the Babylonish captivity, when the Lord stirred up a number of Israelites to return to Palestine, we can regard as only an insignificant prelude; partly because this number was too small to correspond, even in any degree, to the infinite extent of the promise, and partly because there were among them certainly a few only who, in the fullest sense, deserved the name of "Children of Israel." "Israel"—which is the higher name, and has reference to the relation to God—is here used emphatically, as appears especially from a comparison with ver.4, where it is taken from the degenerate children, and exchanged for the name "Jezreel."—In the second part of the verse, we must first set aside the false interpretation of [Hebrew: bmqvM awr] by "instead of," which is given by Grotius and others. It has arisen from an inappropriate reference to the Latin, which has, however, no support in the Hebrew usus loquendi. The words can only mean (compare Leviticus 4:24, 33; Jeremiah 22:12; Ezekiel 21:35; Nehemiah 4:14): "in the place where," or, more literally still, "in the place that"—the wider designation instead of the narrower. The status constr. is explained by the circumstance that the whole succeeding sentence together expresses only one substantive idea, equivalent to: "in the place of the being said unto them." The place may here be, either that where the people first received the name Lo-Ammi, i.e., Palestine, or the place of the exile, where they first felt the full meaning of it,—the misery being a sermo realis of God. Decisive in favour of the latter reference is the following verse, where the [Hebrew: harC], the land of the exile, corresponds with [Hebrew: mqvM] in the verse before us. (According to Jonathan, the sense is: "In the place to [Pg 221] which they have been carried away among the Gentiles.") It is intentionally that both times the Future [Hebrew: iamr] is used, which is to be understood as the Present. The difference of time being thus disregarded, the contrast becomes so much the more striking.—By "people" and "children" of God, the same thing is expressed according to different relations. The Israelites were the people of God, inasmuch as He was their King; and children of God, in as far as He was their Father,—their Father, it is true, in the first place, not, as in the New Testament (John 1:12, 13), in reference to the spiritual generation, but in relation to heart-felt love, similar to the love of a father for a son. With regard to the Old Testament idea of son ship to God, compare the remarks on Psalm 2:7. In this relation, sometimes all Israel is personified as the son of God; thus, e.g., Exodus 4:22: "Thus thou shalt say unto Pharaoh: My son. My first-born is Israel." Sometimes the Israelites are also called the children or sons of God; e.g., Deuteronomy 14:1: "Ye are children to the Lord your God" (compare also Deuteronomy 32:19), although not every single individual could on this account be called "son of God." In this sense, that designation is never used, evidently because the sonship under the Old Testament does not rest so much on the personal relation of the single individual to God,—as is the case in the New Testament,—but the individual rather partakes in it only as a part of the whole. But there is an easy transition from the sonship as viewed in the Old Testament, to the sonship as seen in the New. The former, in its highest perfection, cannot exist at all without the latter. It is only when its single members are born of God, that the Congregation can be regarded and treated as the child of God in the full sense of the word, and that the whole fulness of His love can be poured out upon it; for this is the only way of attaining to likeness with God, which is the condition of admission to the rights of children. Hence it appears that the [Greek: huiothesia] under the Old Testament was an actual prophecy of the times of the New Testament; and from it, it follows also that the announcement under consideration has its ultimate reference to these times. Earlier fulfilments—especially at the return from the Babylonish captivity—are not to be excluded, inasmuch as the idea comprehends in it everything in which it is, even in the least degree, realized; but they can be considered [Pg 222] only as a slight prelude to Its real fulfilment, which takes place only when the reality fully coincides with the idea; so that we are not at liberty to limit ourselves to the commencement of the Messianic time, but must include the Messianic time in its last consummation.—Another question still remains:—Why is God here called the "living?" Plainly, to point out the antithesis of the true God to dead idols, which cannot love, because they do not live; and thus to bring out the greatness of the privilege of being the child of such a God. The same antithesis is found in Deuteronomy 32:3 seqq.: "Where are now their gods, the rock in whom they trusted, which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink-offerings? Let them rise up and help you; let it be a covering to you. See now that I, I am He, and not is a God beside Me. I kill and I make alive. I wound and I heal." This antithesis still continues; the world has only changed its idols. It still always seeks the life from the dead, from the gross idol of sin up to the refined idol of a self-made abstract god, whether he be formed from logical notions or from emotions and feelings. But how much soever they may strive to give life to their idols, they remain dead, although they should even attain to a semblance of life. The true God, on the contrary, lives and continues to live, how much soever they may strive to slay Him. He manifests Himself as the living one, either by smiting and killing them, if they continue in their impenitence, or by God—is here used emphatically, as appears especially from a comparison with ver.4, where it is taken from the degenerate children, and exchanged for the name "Jezreel."—In the second part of the verse, we must first set aside the false interpretation of [Hebrew: bmqvM awr] by "instead of," which is given by Grotius and others. It has arisen from an inappropriate reference to the Latin, which has, however, no support in the Hebrew usus loquendi. The words can only mean (compare Leviticus 4:24, 33; Jeremiah 22:12; Ezekiel 21:35; Nehemiah 4:14): "in the place where," or, more literally still, "in the place that"—the wider designation instead of the narrower. The status constr. is explained by the circumstance that the whole succeeding sentence together expresses only one substantive idea, equivalent to: "in the place of the being said unto them." The place may here be, either that where the people first received the name Lo-Ammi, i.e., Palestine, or the place of the exile, where they first felt the full meaning of it,—the misery being a sermo realis of God. Decisive in favour of the latter reference is the following verse, where the [Hebrew: harC], the land of the exile, corresponds with [Hebrew: mqvM] in the verse before us. (According to Jonathan, the sense is: "In the place to [Pg 221] which they have been carried away among the Gentiles.") It is intentionally that both times the Future [Hebrew: iamr] is used, which is to be understood as the Present. The difference of time being thus disregarded, the contrast becomes so much the more striking.—By "people" and "children" of God, the same thing is expressed according to different relations. The Israelites were the people of God, inasmuch as He was their King; and children of God, in as far as He was their Father,—their Father, it is true, in the first place, not, as in the New Testament (John 1:12, 13), in reference to the spiritual generation, but in relation to heart-felt love, similar to the love of a father for a son. With regard to the Old Testament idea of son ship to God, compare the remarks on Psalm 2:7. In this relation, sometimes all Israel is personified as the son of God; thus, e.g., Exodus 4:22: "Thus thou shalt say unto Pharaoh: My son. My first-born is Israel." Sometimes the Israelites are also called the children or sons of God; e.g., Deuteronomy 14:1: "Ye are children to the Lord your God" (compare also Deuteronomy 32:19), although not every single individual could on this account be called "son of God." In this sense, that designation is never used, evidently because the sonship under the Old Testament does not rest so much on the personal relation of the single individual to God,—as is the case in the New Testament,—but the individual rather partakes in it only as a part of the whole. But there is an easy transition from the sonship as viewed in the Old Testament, to the sonship as seen in the New. The former, in its highest perfection, cannot exist at all without the latter. It is only when its single members are born of God, that the Congregation can be regarded and treated as the child of God in the full sense of the word, and that the whole fulness of His love can be poured out upon it; for this is the only way of attaining to likeness with God, which is the condition of admission to the rights of children. Hence it appears that the [Greek: huiothesia] under the Old Testament was an actual prophecy of the times of the New Testament; and from it, it follows also that the announcement under consideration has its ultimate reference to these times. Earlier fulfilments—especially at the return from the Babylonish captivity—are not to be excluded, inasmuch as the idea comprehends in it everything in which it is, even in the least degree, realized; but they can be considered [Pg 222] only as a slight prelude to Its real fulfilment, which takes place only when the reality fully coincides with the idea; so that we are not at liberty to limit ourselves to the commencement of the Messianic time, but must include the Messianic time in its last consummation.—Another question still remains:—Why is God here called the "living?" Plainly, to point out the antithesis of the true God to dead idols, which cannot love, because they do not live; and thus to bring out the greatness of the privilege of being the child of such a God. The same antithesis is found in Deuteronomy 32:3 seqq.: "Where are now their gods, the rock in whom they trusted, which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink-offerings? Let them rise up and help you; let it be a covering to you. See now that I, I am He, and not is a God beside Me. I kill and I make alive. I wound and I heal." This antithesis still continues; the world has only changed its idols. It still always seeks the life from the dead, from the gross idol of sin up to the refined idol of a self-made abstract god, whether he be formed from logical notions or from emotions and feelings. But how much soever they may strive to give life to their idols, they remain dead, although they should even attain to a semblance of life. The true God, on the contrary, lives and continues to live, how much soever they may strive to slay Him. He manifests Himself as the living one, either by smiting and killing them, if they continue in their impenitence, or by healing and quickening them, if they become His children.—Finally,—we must still consider the two citations, in the New Testament, of the passage before us. One in 1 Pet. ii.10, [Greek: hoi pote ou laos, nun de laos Theou. hoi ouk eleemenoi, nun de eleethentes], must certainly strike us, inasmuch as this epistle, on conclusive grounds (compare Steiger S.14 ff.), cannot be considered as being addressed to Jewish Christians exclusively. But still more striking is the second quotation in Romans 9:25, 26: [Greek: hos kai en to hOsee legei. Kaleso ton ou laon mou, laon mou. kai ten ouk egapemenen, egapemenen. Kai estai, en to topo hou erhrethe autois ou laos mou humeis, ekei klethesontai huioi Theou zontos.] Here our passage is not only alluded to, but expressly quoted, and, in opposition to the Jews, the calling of the Gentiles is proved from it. But how can a passage which, according to the whole context, can refer to Israel only, be applied [Pg 223] directly to the Gentiles? The answer very readily suggests itself when we reduce the prophecy to its fundamental idea. This is none other than that of divine mercy, which may indeed, by apostasy and unfaithfulness, be prevented from manifesting itself, but can never be extinguished, because it has its foundation in God's nature. Compare Jeremiah 31:20: "Is Ephraim a dear son to Me, a child of joy? For as often as I speak of him, I must still remember him. Therefore My bowels sound for him, I will have mercy upon him, saith the Lord." Now, in the same manner as this truth was realized in the restoration of the children of Israel to be again the children of God, so it is in the reception of the Gentiles. It is not at all a mere application, but a real proof which here forms the question at issue. It is because God had promised to receive again the children of Israel, that He must receive the Gentiles also; for otherwise that divine decree would have its foundation in mere caprice, which cannot be conceived to have any existence in God. Although the Gentiles are not so near as Israel, yet He must satisfy the claims of those who are more remote, just because He acknowledges the claims of those who are near. The necessity of going back to the fundamental idea appears in the promises as well as in the commandments. We cite only one instance which is especially fitted to serve as a parallel to the case before us. There is no doubt, and prejudice alone could have denied, that in the Pentateuch, by friend and brother the Israelite is to be understood throughout; it is in the New Testament that the command of Christian brotherly love is given. After having commended truthfulness, Paul adds: "Because ye are members of one another"—a reason which can refer to those only who have Christ as their common head. From this limitation, can anything be inferred to the prejudice of love towards the whole human race, or of the duties towards all without any distinction? Just the reverse. It is just because the Israelite is bound to love the Israelite, and the Christian the Christian, that he should embrace all men in love. If the special relation to God as the common Redeemer afford the foundation for the special love, then the general relation to God as the Creator and Preserver must also afford the foundation of universal love; just as from the command to honour father and mother, it necessarily follows that we must also [Pg 224] honour uncle and aunt, king and magistrate. This is the only correct view of the laws and prophecies; and if it be consistently followed out, it will make water to flow out of the rock, and will create streams in the wilderness.
Ver.2. "And the children of Judah and the children of Israel assemble themselves together, and set over themselves one head, and go up out of the land; for great is the day of Jezreel."
The words, "They appoint themselves a king," appear strange at first sight. For it is not, in general, the union of Judah and Israel which the prophet expects from better times;—a perverse union of both, one, it may be, in which the house of Judah shall also give up Jehovah his God, and David his King, only in order to be able to live on a right brotherly footing with Israel, would have been anything but a progress and a blessing;—but such a union as has for its foundation the return of Israel to the true God, and to the Davidic dynasty. This appears clearly from iii.5. The difficulty is removed by a comparison with the passage of the Pentateuch to which the prophet seems to allude: "Thou shalt set over thee a king, whom the Lord thy God shall choose," Deuteronomy 17:15. The prophet seems to have these words before his eyes, as it appears elsewhere also, where he describes the hitherto opposite conduct of the Israelites; compare the remarks on iii.4. From these it appears that the election of the king by God, who had promised eternal dominion to the house of David, and his election by the people, do not in the least exclude one another. On the contrary, it is because God had elected the king, that now the people also elect him. Calvin remarks: "There appears to be transferred to men what properly belongs to God alone—viz., the appointment of a king; but the prophet expresses, by this word, the obedience of faith; for it is not enough that Christ be given, and placed before men as a King, but they must also acknowledge and reverently receive Him as a King. From this we infer, that when we believe the Gospel, we choose, as it were by our own vote, Christ as our King." That the prophet understands the "setting of a head" in this sense, appears also from the circumstance that the whole verse is based upon the reference to the Exodus from Egypt, which is now to be repeated. To this the words, "They assemble themselves together," likewise refer; for the departure from Egypt was preceded by the assembling together of the [Pg 225] whole people. The mention of a "head" refers back to Moses. In his case, as well as that of David subsequently, the election by the people was only the acknowledgment of his having been divinely called.—Another question is, How are the words, "They go up out of the land," to be understood? There can be no doubt that by "land," the land of captivity is designated. For the words are borrowed from Exodus 1:10, where Pharaoh says, "When there falleth out any war, they will join our enemies, and fight against us, and go up out of the land," [Hebrew: velh mN harC]. The prophet, moreover, is his own interpreter in ii.17, where he expressly compares this new going up to the promised land with the former going up from Egypt: "As in the day when she went up out of the land of Egypt;" just as, in other passages, he describes their being carried away, under the figure of their being carried away to Egypt—Assyria being considered as another Egypt. Compare viii.13: "Now will He remember their iniquity and visit their sins; they shall return to Egypt;" ix.3: "They shall not dwell in the Lord's land, and Ephraim returns to Egypt." (Compare, on this passage, the Author's Dissertations on the Genuineness of the Pentateuch, vol. i. p.121 ff.) Moreover, in the other prophets also, the going up from, or deliverance out of, Egypt, forms throughout the basis of the second great deliverance. And this is quite natural; for both of those events stand in the closest actual connection with each other;—both proceeded from the same Divine Being; and the former was a prophecy by fact, and a pledge of the latter. The deliverance of the people of God from Egypt sealed their election; and from the latter the new deliverance necessarily followed;—a relation which repeats itself in individuals also. From this we may explain the fact that in the Psalms, they who celebrate God's former mercies, prove from them to Him and to themselves, throughout, that He must now also be their helper. It is then by no means a mere external similarity which induces the prophets ever and anon to refer to the deliverance from Egypt (compare the passages Micah 2:12, 13; Jeremiah 23:7, 8, which bear so close a resemblance to the passage before us), any more than that the Passover is a mere memorial. Such cannot occur in the true religion which has a living God, and hence knows nothing of anything absolutely past. Ewald's [Pg 226] exposition, that they go up out of the country for the purpose of further conquest, and that of Simson, that they go up to Jerusalem, sever the three events which, as the example of previous history shows, are evidently so closely allied; and these expositors, moreover, give, by an addition of their own, that definiteness to the words, "And they shall go up out of the land," which they can obtain only by a reference to the history of the past. In their ambiguity, they almost expressly point to such a commentary.—The article in [Hebrew: harC], the (i.e., the definite) land, is explained from the circumstance that, in the previous context, there had been an indirect allusion to their being carried away into a strange land. If Israel was no more the people of God,—if they no longer enjoyed His mercy, then it is supposed that they could not remain in the land which they had received only as the people of God, and had hitherto retained only through His mercy. But, primarily, the article refers to "the place where it was said unto them," in the preceding verse.—That along with the children of Israel, the children of Judah also assemble themselves and go up, implies a fact which the prophet had not expressly mentioned, because it did not stand immediately connected with his purpose—viz., that Judah too should be carried into captivity. It thus supplements chap. i.7, by showing that the mercy there promised to the inhabitants of Judah is to be understood relatively only. Such suppositions, indeed, show very plainly how distinctly the future lay before the eyes of the prophet.—With regard, now, to the historical reference,—it must, in the first place, be remarked, that whatever is here determined concerning it, must be applicable to all other [Pg 227] parallel passages also, in which a future reunion of Israel and Judah, and their common return to the promised land, are announced; e.g., Jeremiah 3:18: "In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given to their fathers;" l.4: "In those days the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, weeping shall they come and seek the Lord their God." Compare also Isaiah 11. Ezekiel 37:19, 20. In the passage under consideration, several interpreters, as Theodoret, think of the return from Babylon, and refer the "one head" to Zerubbabel. Now we certainly cannot deny that, in that event, there is a small beginning of the fulfilment. But if that had been the entire fulfilment, Hosea would more resemble a dreamer and an enthusiast than a true prophet of the living God. The objection which immediately presents itself—viz., that, after all, the greatest portion of the ten tribes, and a very considerable part of Judah, remained in captivity—is by no means the strongest. Although the whole both of Judah and Israel had returned, the real and final fulfilment could not be sought for in that event. It is not the renewed possession of the country, as such, which the prophet promises, but rather a certain kind of possession,—such a possession as that the land is completely the land of God, partaking in all the fulness of His blessings, and thus a worthy residence for the people of God, and for their children. One may be in Canaan, and yet, at the same time, in Babylon or in Assyria. Had not the threatened punishment of God been indeed as fully executed upon those who, during the Assyrian and Babylonish captivities, wandered about the country in sorrow and misery, as upon those who were carried away? Can the circumstance that Jews are even now living in Jerusalem in the deepest misery, be adduced as a proof that the loss of the promised land, with which the people were threatened, had not been completely fulfilled? It is true that, during the times of the Old Covenant, there existed a certain connection betwixt the lower and the higher kinds of possession. As soon as the people ceased to be the people of the Lord, they lost with the former, after being often previously warned by the decrease of it, the latter also. As soon as they obtained again the lower kind of possession, which could happen only in the case of a [Pg 228] return to the Lord, they recovered, to a certain degree, in proportion to the earnestness and sincerity of their conversion, the higher kind of possession also. A commencement of the fulfilment must, therefore, be at all events assumed in the return from the Babylonish captivity; but a very feeble commencement only. Just as the conversion was very superficial, so was the degree of the higher kind of possession but a very small one. The manifestations of mercy were very sparing; the condition of the new colony was, upon the whole, very poor; they did not possess the land as a free property, but only under the dominion of a foreigner. That which was, in one respect, the termination of the captivity, was, in another, much rather a continuation of it. It was certainly not the true Canaan which they possessed, any more than one still possesses the beloved object while he embraces only his corpse. Where the Lord is not present with His gifts and blessings, there Canaan cannot be. It was just as the land of the presence of the Lord, that it was so dear and valuable to all believers.—From what has now been said, it appears that, as regards the historical reference, we need not limit ourselves to the times of the Old Covenant, nor dream of a return of Israel to Canaan to take place at some future time. Luther's explanation, "They will go up from this place of pilgrimage to the heavenly father-land," is quite correct,—not indeed according to the letter, but according to the spirit. It is not the form, but the essence of the divine inheritance, which the prophet has in view. The form is a different one under the New Covenant, where the whole earth has become a Canaan; but the essence remains. To cling here to the form, would be just as absurd as if one, who, for Christ's sake, has forsaken all, were to upbraid Him because he had not received again, according to the letter of His promise, precisely an hundred-fold, lands, brothers, sisters, mothers, etc., Mark 10:30. The words of God, which are spirit and life, must be understood with spirit and life.—Suppose that the children of Israel were, at some future time, to return to Canaan, this would have nothing to do with our prophecy. In a religious point of view, it would be a matter of no consequence, and could not serve to prove the covenant-faithfulness of God. Under the New Covenant it finds its fulfilment, that "Canaan must, even in the North, bloom joyfully around the beloved." The three stations [Pg 229]—Egypt, the wilderness, and Canaan—will continue to exist for ever; but we go from the one to the other only with the feet of the spirit, and not, as in the Old Covenant, with the feet of the body at the same time. The grossly literal explanation which knows not to separate the thought from its drapery, the essential from the accidental, agrees, just in the main point, with the allegorical explanation—viz., in interpolating, instead of interpreting.—The fulfilment of the prophecy before us is, therefore, a continuous and progressive one, which will not cease until God's whole plan of salvation be consummated. It began at Babylon, and was carried forward at the appearance of Christ, whom many out of Judah and Israel set over themselves as their head, to be their common leader to Canaan. It is, even now, realized every day before our eyes in every Israelite who follows their example. It will, at some future time, find its final fulfilment in the last and greatest manifestation of God's covenant-faithfulness towards Israel, which, happily, is as strongly guaranteed by the New as it is by the Old Testament.—The last words of the verse have been already explained, substantially, in ver.1. The name "Jezreel" is here used with a reference to its appellative signification. Israel appears here (compare ver.25 , which serves as a commentary and as a refutation of differing interpretations) as a seed which is sown by God in fruitful land, and which shall produce a rich harvest. The figure appears, with a somewhat different turn, in Jeremiah 31:27; Ezekiel 36:9, where the house of Israel, and the house of Judah, appear as the soil in which the seed is sown by God. Analogous is also Psalm 72:16: "They of the city shall flourish up like the grass of the earth."—The [Hebrew: ki] is explained by the circumstance that the sowing, which can take place only in the land of the Lord (compare ver.25), supposes the going up from the land of the captivity. But if the day of sowing be great, if it be regarded by God as high and important, then the going up, which is the condition of sowing, must necessarily take place.
Ver.3. "Say ye unto your brethren, My people (Ammi); and to your sisters, Who has obtained mercy (Ruhamah)."
The words, "My people," are a concise expression for: "You whom the Lord has called. My people." The mention of the brothers and sisters is explained by the reference to the [Pg 230] male and female members of the prophet's family. The phrase, "Say ye," is in substance equivalent to: "Then will ye be able to say." The prophet sees before him the people of the Lord who have experienced mercy; and calls upon the members to salute one another joyfully with the new name given to them by God. Such is the simple meaning of the verse, which has been darkened by a multitude of forced interpretations.
Footnote 1: In Habakkuk 2:1, where the prophet is standing upon his watch, and watches to see what the Lord will say unto him, it would be rather strange to translate "in me." There is nothing else to lead us to conceive that the apparition of angels in Zech. is internal. But Numbers 12:8 is quite decisive. The Lord there says, with reference to His relation to Moses, "Mouth to mouth I speak to him ([Hebrew: bv]);" and immediately afterwards it is said, "Wherefore, then, were ye not afraid to speak to My servant ([Hebrew: bebdi]), to Moses?" It is evident that the [Hebrew: b] cannot be explained by "in" in the one case, and by "through" in the other. It is remarkable, however, that [Hebrew: dbr] with [Hebrew: b] occurs very frequently when the Lord Himself, or, as in Zechariah, the Angel, speaks. This may, perhaps, be explained from the circumstance, that the heavenly discourses have an especially penetrating power, and sink very deeply into the heart.
Footnote 2: This is very natural, for the proper name has originally a cheering signification. It is apparent from the remarks of Schubert (Reise iii.-S.164-166), and of Ritter (Erdkunde 16, i. S.693), on the natural condition of the plain of Jezreel, how it happened that it received this name, which means: "God sows." Schubert calls the soil of Jezreel a field of corn, the seed of which is not sown by any man's hand, the ripe ears of which are not reaped by any reaper. The various kinds of corn appeared to him to be wild plants; the mules walked in them with half their bodies covered by them; the ears of wheat were sown by themselves. "All travellers," says Ritter, "agree in their descriptions of the extraordinary beauty and fertility of the plain."
Footnote 3: This transference was so much the more natural, as, under the government of the house of Jehu, guilt had certainly been frequently concentrated in the form of blood-guiltiness. Compare Isaiah 1:21, where the prophet, in order to mark out the reigning sin in its highest degree, represents Jerusalem as being full of murderers.
Footnote 4: Hitzig is of opinion that "the prophet cannot blame him for the death of Joram and Jezebel, but may well do so for the murder of Ahaziah, king of Judah, and of his brethren, and for the carnage described in 2 Kings 10:11." But Ahaziah was not killed at Jezreel: compare 2 Kings 9:27; 2 Chronicles 22:9. And "the carnage in 2 Kings 12. likewise took place at Jezreel to a small extent only, in so far, namely, as it concerned the princes of the house of Ahab, who still remained in Jezreel. Compare Thenius on this passage.
Footnote 5: That the carrying away of Judah, which is here supposed, is a total and future one, and not, as Hofmann (Weiss. u. Erf. i. S.210) asserts, one which is partial and already past (Joel 4. [iii.] 2-8; Amos 1:6, 9), appears from the analogy of the children of Israel,—from the reference to the type of the Egyptian conditions,—from a comparison of chap. v.5, 12, xii.1-3,—from the fact that the carrying away is placed in the view of the whole people as early as in the Pentateuch, e.g., Deuteronomy 28:36, iv.26, 27,—and, finally, from the fact, that the other prophets also, even from the most ancient times, manifest a clear knowledge of the catastrophe which threatened Judah also; compare, e.g., Amos 2:4, 5. Moreover, in Isaiah 11:11, 12, also, the return of Judah is prophesied, although no express announcement of the carrying away precedes. In like manner, in Amos 9:11, the restoration of the fallen tabernacle of David is foretold, although no express mention is made of its fall.