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," Deut. xvii. 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 Exod. i. 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 Mic. ii. 12, 13; Jer. xxiii. 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., Jer. iii. 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 Is. xi.; Ezek. xxxvii. 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 x. 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 Jer. xxxi. 27; Ezek. xxxvi. 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 Ps. lxxii. 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 Hab. ii. 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 Num. xii. 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 Is. i. 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 x. 11." But Ahaziah was not killed at Jezreel: compare 2 Kings ix. 27; 2 Chron. xxii. 9. And "the carnage in 2 Kings xii." 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 iv. [iii.] 2-8; Amos i. 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., Deut. xxviii. 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 ii. 4, 5. Moreover, in Is. xi. 11, 12, also, the return of Judah is prophesied, although no express announcement of the carrying away precedes. In like manner, in Amos ix. 11, the restoration of the fallen tabernacle of David is foretold, although no express mention is made of its fall.
CHAP. II. 4-25 (2-23).
"The significant couple"—Rueckert remarks—"disappears in the thing signified by it; Israel itself appears as the wife of whoredoms." This is the only essential difference between this and the preceding sections; and it is the less marked, because even there, in the last part of it, the symbolical action passed over into a mere figure. With this exception, this section also contains the alternation of punishment and threatening, and of promise,—the latter beginning with ver. 16 (14). The features of the image, which were less attended to in the preceding portion, but are here more carefully portrayed, are the rejection of the unfaithful wife, and her gradual restoration. Calvin says: "After God has laid open their sins before men. He adds some consolation, and tempers the severity, lest they should despair. But then He returns again to threatenings, and He must do so necessarily; for though men may have been terrified by the fear of punishment, yet they do not recover, and become wise for ever." "By a new impetus as it were," says Manger, "he suddenly returns to expand the same argument, and sets out again from things more sad."
Ver. 4. "Contend with your mother, contend; for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband: and let her put away her whoredoms from her face, and her adultery from her breasts."
Calvin is of opinion that a contrast is here intended, inasmuch as the Israelites were striving with God, and attributed to Him the cause of their misfortune: "Do not contend with Me, but rather with your mother, who, by her adultery, has brought down righteous punishment upon herself and upon you." But this interpretation is inadmissible; because it proceeds [Pg 231] from the unfounded supposition that the divorce is to be considered as having already taken place outwardly, whilst the contending here clearly appears as one by which divorce may yet be averted. The words, "Contend with your mother," rather mean, on the contrary, that it is high time to call her to account, if they would not go to destruction along with her. From this, however, we are not entitled to infer that the moral condition of the children was better than that of the mother. Without any regard to their moral condition, the prophet only wishes to say that their interest required them to do this. If it were not his intention just to carry out the image of adultery, he might as well have called upon the mother to contend against the children, as it is said in Is. li. 1: "Behold, for your iniquities you have been sold, and for your transgression your mother has been put away." In point of fact, the mother has no standing-place apart from the children. Vitringa says: "One and the same people is called 'mother' when viewed in their collective character; and 'children' when viewed in the individuals who are born of that people. For a people is born from the people. For the whole people is considered according to that which is radical in it, which constitutes its nature and substance,—and, in this respect, it is called the 'mother of its citizens.'" But we are as little entitled to infer from this exhortation, that a reform, and an averting of the threatened judgments, may still be hoped for. This is opposed by what follows, where the wife appears as incorrigible, and her rejection as unavoidable. The fundamental thought is, on the contrary, only this:—that a reform is necessary if the threatened judgments are to be averted. That this necessity, however, would not become a reality, the prophet foresaw; and for this reason he speaks unconditionally in the sequel. But from this again it must not be inferred that, in that case, his exhortations and threatenings would be altogether in vain. Though no reform was to be expected from the people, single individuals might, nevertheless, be converted. At the same time, it was of great importance for the future, that before the calamity should break in, a right view of it should be opened up to the whole people. It is of great importance, that if any one be smitten, he should know for what reason. The instructions in the doctrines of Christianity, which a criminal has received in childhood, may [Pg 232] often seem for a long series of years to have been altogether in vain; but afterwards, notwithstanding, when punishment has softened his heart, they bring forth their fruits.—In the words, "For she is not my wife, and I am not her husband," the ground of the exhortation is stated. Even for this reason, the words cannot be referred to the external dissolution of the marriage, to the punishment of the wife; they signify rather the moral dissolution of the marriage—the guilt of the wife—and are equivalent to: "our marriage is dissolved de facto." But in the case of the spiritual marriage, this dissolution de facto is always, sooner or later, according to the greater or smaller measure of God's forbearance, followed by the dissolution de jure; or, to speak without figure, wherever there is sin, punishment will always follow. God bears with much weakness on the part of His people; but wherever, through this weakness, the relation to Him is essentially dissolved, He there annuls the relation altogether. The [Greek: parektos logou porneias] applies to spiritual marriages also. The surrender of the main faculties and powers of our nature to something which is not God, stands on a par with carnal adultery. Thus, then, the connection betwixt "contend" and "for" clearly appears.—Many interpreters, viewing the clause beginning with [Hebrew: ki] as parenthetical, would connect the last words of the verse with [Hebrew: ribv]: "Contend with your mother that she may put away." But the words are rather to be considered as parallel with the first member; for "contend," etc., is equivalent to: "seek to bring your mother to a better way," or: "let your mother reform herself." Her crime is designated first as whoredom, and then as adultery. The relation in which the two stand to one another is plainly seen from chap. i. 2, where the notion of adultery is paraphrased by: "whoring away from the Lord." By "whoredom," the genus—carnal crimes in general—is designated; by "adultery," the species, or carnal crime by which the sacred rights of another person are, at the same time, violated. The idea of whoredom, when transferred to a spiritual relation, implies chiefly the worldliness of those with whom God has not entered into any special relation; whilst the idea of adultery implies the worldliness of individuals and communities with whom God has entered into a special marriage, and whose apostasy is, for this reason, far more culpable. Leaving out of [Pg 233] view the more aggravating circumstance, the prophet first speaks of whoredom in the case of the children of Israel also.—The reason why the whoredom is here attributed to the face, and the adultery to the breasts, is well given by Manger: "We need not have any difficulty about seeing adultery attributed to the very face and breasts. There is a certain expressiveness in this conciseness which demonstrates, as it were before our eyes, that, in her whole deportment, the wife was given over to sensuality, and that her whole aim was only to excite to it, and to practise it. For the face is, with women, the sign of dissolute lasciviousness—as Horace expresses it in his Odes, I. 19:—
Urit grata protervitas Et vultus nimium lubricus aspici.
Ezekiel, too, in chap. xxiii. 3, speaks of 'the pressed breasts of Israel in Egypt.'" Schmid states as the reason why just the face and breasts are mentioned, "that Scripture, in order not to offend modesty, forbears to mention the worse and grosser deeds of fornication." But this is very little in harmony with the manner of Scripture—as may be seen from a comparison of Ezek. xvi. and xxiii., and of ver. 12 of the chapter before us. The reason rather is, that those parts are here specially to be mentioned, in which the whoring nature openly manifests itself; so that the highest degree of impudence is thereby expressed. This then shows that there is no longer any halting, no longer any struggle of the better against the evil principle. Such an impudent whore he resembles who, without shame or concern, publicly exhibits his devotedness to the world. In this way has Calvin also explained it. "There is no doubt," says he, "that the prophet here expresses the impudence of the people, who in their hardihood, in their contempt of God, in their sinful superstitions, and in every kind of wickedness, had gone to such lengths, that they were like whores who do not conceal their turpitude, but publicly prostitute themselves, yea, try to exhibit the signs of their wickedness in their eyes, as well as in their whole body."
Ver. 5. "Lest I strip her naked and expose her as in the day of her birth, and make her like the wilderness, and set her like dry land, and slay her by thirst."
In the marriage here spoken of, there was this peculiarity, that the husband first redeemed the wife from a condition the [Pg 234] most wretched and miserable, before he united himself to her; and hence became her benefactor, before he became her husband. Compare iii. 2, where the Lord redeems the wife from slavery; and Ezek. xvi. 4, where the people appear as a child exposed, naked, and covered with filth, upon whom the Lord has mercy,—whom He provides with precious clothing and splendid ornaments, and destines for His spouse. During the marriage, the husband continues his liberality towards his wife. But now, the gifts, all of which had been bestowed upon her only with a view to the marriage which was to take place or was already entered upon, are to cease, because the marriage-tie has been broken by her guilt. She now returns to the condition of the deepest misery in which she had been sunk before her union to the Lord.—There is, in this, an allusion to that which, in the case of actual marriage, the husband was bound to give to his wife, viz., clothing and food; compare Is. iv. 1. If God withdraws His gifts, the consequences are infinitely awful, because, altogether unlike the natural husband, He has everything in His possession; if He does not give anything to drink. He then slays by thirst. If we keep in view this aggravation of the punishment, which has its ground only in the person of the husband, it is evident that we have here before us only a reference to the withdrawal of the marriage-gifts which is the consequence of the divorce, and not, as several interpreters—e.g., Manger—suppose, to a punishment of adultery, alleged by them to have been common at that time, "that the wife was stripped of her clothes, exposed to public mockery, and killed by hunger and thirst." The eternal and universal truth which, in the verse before us, is expressed with a special reference to Israel, is, that all the gifts of God are bestowed upon individuals, as well as upon whole nations, either in order to lead them to the communion of life with Him, or because this communion already exists; just as our Saviour says that to him who has successfully sought for the kingdom of heaven, all other things shall be added, without any labour on his part. If we overlook the truth that the gifts of God have this object—if they be not received and enjoyed as the gifts of God—if the spiritual marriage be refused, or if, having been already entered into, it be broken,—sooner or later the gifts will be withdrawn.—The word "naked" properly includes a whole clause: "I shall strip [Pg 235] her so that she shall become naked." The verb [Hebrew: hcig], "to place," "to set," has the secondary signification of public exhibition; compare Job xvii. 6. The literal translation ought to be, "I shall expose her as the day of her birth;" and we must assume that there is here the occurrence of one of those numerous cases, in which the comparison is merely alluded to, without being carried out; compare, e.g., "Like the day of Midian," Is. ix. 3; "Their heart rejoiceth like wine," Zech. x. 7. The tertium comparationis between the day of her birth and her future condition is only the entire nakedness; compare Job i. 21. Any allusion to the filth, etc., is less obvious; the prophet would have been required to give an intimation of this in some manner. The two parts of the first hemistich of the verse correspond with each other; just as do the three parts of the second hemistich. In the first, the withdrawal of clothing, and nakedness; in the second, the withdrawal of food, and hunger and thirst. It is questionable whether the mention of the birth-day here belongs merely to the imagery, is a mere designation of entire nakedness, because man is never more naked than when he comes into the world; or whether it is to be understood as belonging to the thing itself, and refers to the condition of the people in Egypt to which they are now to be reduced. In favour of the latter explanation, there is not only the comparison of the parallel passage in Ezekiel, but, still more, the purely matter-of-fact character of the entire description. Israel is, in this section, not compared to a wife, so that figure and thing would be co-ordinate, but appears as the wife herself. Ver. 17 also is in favour of this interpretation.—The words, "I make her like the wilderness," which, by Hitzig and others, are erroneously referred to the country instead of the people, are pertinently explained by Manger: "The prophet depicts a horrible and desperate condition, where everything necessary for sustaining life is awanting,—where she has to endure a thirst peculiar to an altogether uncultivated and sunburnt wilderness." The comparison appears so much the more suitable, when we remark that wilderness and desert are here personified, and appear as hungry and thirsty. This, however, was too poetical for several prosaic interpreters. Hence they would in both instances supply a [Hebrew: b] after the [Hebrew: k], "as in the wilderness" = "I place her in the condition in which she was formerly, in the [Pg 236] wilderness." But it is self-evident that such a supplying of the [Hebrew: b] is inadmissible. If we were to receive this interpretation, we must rather assume that here also there is merely a comparison intimated: "as the wilderness,"—for, "as she was in the wilderness." But even then, the interpretation cannot, for another reason, be admitted. The impending condition of the people did not, in the least, correspond to what it was in the wilderness. The natural condition of the wilderness was not then seen in all its reality; the people of the Lord received bread from heaven, and water from the rock. It has its antitype rather in such a condition as that which is to follow upon the punishment, ver. 16. The Article indicates that, by "the wilderness," we are here to understand, specially, the Desert of Arabia,—the desert [Greek: kat' exochen]. But that this comes into consideration only as one especially desolate, and not as the former abode of the Israelites, appears from the following—"in dry land," without the Article, and not, as otherwise we would expect, "in the dry land." Finally,—We have a parallel to this in the threatening in Deut. xxviii. 48: "And thou servest thine enemy whom the Lord thy God will send upon thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in great want."
Ver. 6. "And I will not have mercy upon her children, for they are children of whoredoms."
It appears from ver. 7, that the children are to be repudiated on account of their origin (compare the remarks on i. 2), and not on account of their morals. Michaelis says, "They have the same disposition, and follow the same course as their adulterous mother; for a viper bringeth forth a viper, and a bad raven lays a bad egg." The cause of their rejection is, that they are children of whoredoms. That they are such, is proved by the circumstance that their mother is whoring. Compare also v. 7: "They have become faithless to the Lord, for they have born strange children." In point of fact, however, a sinful origin and a sinful nature are identical.
Ver. 7. "For their mother has been whoring, she who bore them has been put to shame; for she has said, I will go after my lovers, the givers of my bread and my water, of my wool and my flax, of my oil and my drink."
[Hebrew: hvbiwh] is explained in a two-fold way. The common explanation is: "She has practised what is disgraceful, she has acted [Pg 237] shamefully." Others, on the contrary, explain: "She has been put to shame, she has been disgraced." In this latter way it is explained by Manger, who remarks, "that this word is stronger than [Hebrew: znh]; that it implies not only an accusation of vile whoredom, but also that she has been convicted of this crime, and as it were apprehended in flagranti; so that, even if she were yet impudent enough, she could no longer deny it, but must sink down in confusion and perplexity." This latter exposition is, without doubt, the preferable one; for, 1. [Hebrew: hvbiw] never occurs in the first-mentioned signification. Winer contents himself with quoting the passage before us. Gesenius refers, moreover, to Prov. x. 5. But the [Hebrew: bN mbiw] of that passage is evidently a son bringing disgrace upon his parents,—in xxix. 15 [Hebrew: amv] is added,—or making them ashamed, disappointing their hopes. On the other hand, the signification, "to be put to shame," "to be convicted of a disgraceful deed," is quite an established one. Compare, e.g., Jer. ii. 26: "As the disgrace of a thief when he is found, thus the whole house of Israel is put to shame;" Jer. vi. 15: "They are put to shame, for they have committed abomination; they shamed not themselves, they felt no shame;" compare also Jer. viii. 9. In all these passages, [Hebrew: hvbiw] signifies the shame forced upon those who have no sense of shame.—2. The signification, "to act disgracefully," does not admit of a regular grammatical derivation. Gesenius refers to analogies such as [Hebrew: hiTib], [Hebrew: hre]; but these would be admissible only if the Kal [Hebrew: bvw] signified, "to be infamous," while it means only "to be ashamed." Being derived from [Hebrew: bvw], the verb can mean only "to put to shame," in which signification it occurs, e.g., in 2. Sam. xix. 6. But, on the other hand, the signification, "to be put to shame," can be well defended. As the Hiphil cannot have an intransitive signification, it must, with this signification, be considered as derived from [Hebrew: bwt], "pudorem, ignominiam contraxit,"—a view which is favoured by Jer. ii. 26.—The "lovers" are the idols; compare the remarks on Zech. xiii. 6. The [Hebrew: ki] confirms the statement, that she who bare them has been whoring, and has been put to shame by a further exposure of the crime and its origin. The same delusion which appears here as the cause of the spiritual adultery, is stated as such also in Jer. xlix. 17, 18. Jeremiah there warns the people not to contract sin by idolatry, because that was the cause of all their present misery, and would bring upon them [Pg 238] greater misery still. But they answer him, that they would continue to offer incense and drink-offerings to the Queen of heaven, as they and their fathers had formerly done in their native land; for, "since we left off to do so, we have wanted all things, and were consumed by hunger and sword." The antithesis in Jer. ii. 13 of the fountain of living waters, and the broken cisterns that hold no water, has reference likewise to this delusion. But that which is the cause of the gross whoredom, is the consequence of the refined one. The inward apostasy must already have taken place, when one speaks as the wife does in the verse before us. As long as man continues faithfully with God in communion of life, he perceives, by the eye of faith, the hand in the clouds from which he receives everything, which guides him, and upon which everything—even that which is apparently the most independent and powerful—depends. As soon as, through unbelief, he has lost this communion with God, and heaven is shut against him, he allows his eye to wander over every visible object, looks out for everything in the world which appears to manifest independence and superior power, makes this an object to which he shows his love, soliciting its favour, and making it his god. In thus looking around, the Israelites would, necessarily and chiefly, have their eyes attracted by the idols. For they saw the neighbouring nations wealthy and powerful; and these nations themselves derived their power and wealth from the idols. To these also the Israelites now ascribed the gifts which they had hitherto received; and this so much the rather, because it was easier to satisfy the demands of these idols, than those of the true God, who requires just that which it is most difficult to give—the heart, and nothing else. And, being determined not to give it to Him, they felt deeply that they could expect no good from Him. Whatever good He had still left to them, they could consider as only a gift of unmerited mercy, and destined to lead them to repentance,—a consideration which makes a natural man recoil and draw back, inasmuch as, in his relation to God, he always thinks only of merit. That which we thus perceive in them is even now repeated daily. We need only put in the place of idols, the abstract God of the Rationalists and Deists, man's own power, or the power of other men, and many other things besides, and it will at once be seen that the words, "I will go after my lovers that give me my [Pg 239] bread," etc., are, up to the present moment, the watch-word of the world.—"Bread and water" signify the necessaries of life; "oil and (strong) drink," those things which serve rather for luxuries.—"My bread," etc., is an expression of affection, indicating that she regards these as most necessary, and to be sought after, in preference to everything else.
Ver. 8. "Therefore, behold, I hedge up thy way with thorns, and I wall her wall, and her paths she shall not find."
The apostate woman is first addressed: "thy way;" but the discourse then passes to the third person,—"her wall, her paths." We must not conceive of this, as if the wife were to be shut up in a two-fold way:—first, by a hedge of thorns, and then, by a wall; but the same thing is expressed here by a double figure, as is also done in Is. v. 5. First, the shutting up is alone spoken of; it is afterwards brought into connection with the effects to be thereby produced; and because she is enclosed by a wall, she cannot find her path. "I wall her wall" is tantamount to, "I make a wall for her." The words of the husband in the verse under consideration form an evident contrast to those of the wife in the preceding verse. Schmid says: "The punishment is by the law of retaliation. She had said, 'I will go to my lovers;' but God threatens, on the contrary, that He will obstruct the way so that she cannot go." The [Hebrew: hnni] points to the unexpectedness of the result. The wife imagined that she would be able to carry out her purpose with great safety and ease; it does not even occur to her to think of her husband, who had hitherto allowed her, from weakness, as she imagines, to go on her way undisturbed; but she sees herself at once firmly enclosed by a wall.—There can be no doubt, that, by the hedging and walling about, severe sufferings are intended, by which the people are encompassed, straitened, and hindered in every free movement. For sufferings regularly appear as the specific against Israel's apostasy from their God. Compare, e.g., Deut. iv. 30: "In the tribulation to thee, and when all these things come upon thee, thou returnest in the end of the days to the Lord thy God, and hearest His voice;" Hosea v. 15: "I will go and return to My place till they become guilty; in the affliction to them, they will seek Me." The figure of enclosing has elsewhere also, undeniably, the meaning of inflicting sufferings. Thus in Job iii. 23: "To the man whose way is hid, [Pg 240] and whom God has hedged in round about;" xix. 8: "He hath fenced up my way and I cannot pass, and upon my paths He sets darkness;" Lam. iii. 7: "He hath hedged me about, and I cannot get out; He hath made my chain heavy;" compare also ibid. ver. 9; Ps. lxxxviii. 9.—The object of the walling about is to cut her off from the lovers; the infliction of heavy sufferings is to put an end to idolatrous tendencies.—The words, "thy way," clearly refer to, "I will go after my lovers," in ver. 7; and by "her paths which she cannot find," her whole previous conduct in general is indeed to be understood, but chiefly, from the connection with ver. 7, her former intercourse with idols. But here the question arises:—How far is the remedy suited for the attainment of this end? We can by no means think of an external obstacle. Outwardly, there was, during the exile, and in the midst of idolatrous nations, a stronger temptation to idolatry than they had in their native land. Hence, we can think of an internal obstacle only; and then again we can think only of the absolute incapacity of the idols to grant to the people consolation and relief in their sufferings. If this incapacity has been first ascertained by experience, we begin to lose our confidence in them, and seek help where alone it can be found. As early as in Deut. xxxii. we are told how misery proves the nothingness of false gods, and shows that the Lord alone is God; compare especially ver. 36 sqq. Jeremiah says in ii. 28, "And where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? Let them arise and help thee in the time of trouble." That which the gods cannot turn away, they cannot have sent; and if the suffering be sent by the Lord, it is natural that help should be sought from Him also. Compare vi. 1: "Come and let us return unto the Lord, for He hath torn and He healeth us, He smiteth and He bindeth us up."
Ver. 9. "And she runs after her lovers and shall not overtake, and she seeks them and shall not find; then she saith: I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better with me then than now."
[Hebrew: rdP] has, in Piel, not a transitive, but an intensive meaning. Calvin remarks: "By the verb, insane fervour is indicated, as indeed we see that idolaters are like madmen; it shows that such is the perverseness of their hearts, that they will not at once return to a sound mind." The distress at first only increases [Pg 241] the zeal in idolatry; compare Jer. xliv. 17. Every effort is made to move the idols to help. But if help be, notwithstanding, refused—and how could it be otherwise, since they from whom it is sought are Elilim, i.e., nothings?—they by and by begin to bethink themselves, and to recover their senses. They discover the nothingness of their idols, and return to the true God. This apostasy and return are in a touching manner described by our prophet in xiv. 2-4 also. The words, "I will go and return to my first husband," form a beautiful contrast to, "I will go after my lovers," in ver. 7. This statement of the result shows that God's mercy is then greatest and most effective, just when it seems to have disappeared altogether, and when His punitive justice seems alone to be in active exercise. For the latter is by no means to be excluded, inasmuch as there is no suffering which does not, at the same time, proceed from it, and no punishment which is inflicted solely on account of the reformation.
Ver. 10. "And she, she does not know that I gave her the corn, and the must, and the oil, and silver I multiplied unto her, and gold which upon Baal they spent."
The prophet, starting anew, here returns to a description of her guilt and punishment; and it is only from ver. 16 that he expands what, in ver. 9, he had intimated concerning her conversion, and her obtaining mercy. The words, "She saith," in that verse, belong thus to a period more remote than the words, "She does not know," in the verse before us. The things which are here enumerated were, in the case of Israel, in a peculiar sense, the gift of God. He bestowed them upon the Congregation as her Covenant-God, as her husband. They are thus announced as early as in the Pentateuch; compare, e.g., Deut. vii. 13: "And He loveth thee, and blesseth thee, and multiplieth thee, and blesseth the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, thy must, and thy oil;" xi. 14: "And I give the rain of your land in due season, and thou gatherest in thy corn, thy must, and thy oil." It is certainly not accidental that Hosea enumerates the three objects, just in the same order in which they occur in these two passages. By the celebration of the feasts, and by the offering of the first-fruits, the Israelites were to give expression to the acknowledgment, [Pg 242] that they derived these gifts of God from His special providence—from the covenant relation. The relative clause [Hebrew: ewv lbel] is subjoined, as is frequently the case, without a sign of its relation, and without a pron. suff., which is manifest from the preceding substantive. Several interpreters, from the Chaldee Paraphrast down to Ewald, give the explanation, "which they have made for a Baal," i.e., from which they have made images of Baal, and appeal to viii. 4: "Their silver and their gold they have made into idols for themselves." But we must object to this opinion on the following grounds. 1. [Hebrew: ewh], with [Hebrew: l] following, is a religious terminus technicus, with the sense of, "to make to any one," "to appropriate," "to dedicate," as appears from its frequent repetition in Exod. x. 25 sqq., and also from the fact that [Hebrew: lihvh] is frequently omitted. The phrase is used with a reference to idolatry in 2 Kings xvii. 32; 2 Chron. xxiv. 7.—2. It cannot be proved that [Hebrew: hbel], in the singular and with the Article, could be used for "statues of Baal."—3. By this explanation we lose the striking contrast between that which the Israelites were doing, and that which they were to do. That which the Lord gave to them, they consecrated to Baal, instead of to Him, to whom alone these embodied thanks were due. And, not satisfied in withdrawing from the true God the honour and thanks which were due to Him, they transferred them to His enemy and worthless rival,—a proceeding which bears witness to the deep corruption of human nature, and which, up to the present day, is continually repeated, and must be so, because the corruption remains the same. It is substantially the same thing that the Israelites dedicated their gold to Baal, and that our great poets consecrate to the world and its prince the rich intellectual gifts which they have received from God. The words, "and she knew not," in both cases show that they are equally guilty and equally culpable. He who bestows the gifts has not concealed Himself; but they on whom they are bestowed have shut their eyes, that they may not see Him to whom they are unwilling to render thanks. They would fain wish that their liberal benefactor were utterly annihilated, in order that they may not be disturbed in the enjoyment of His gifts by a disagreeable thought of Him,—in order that they may freely use and dispose of them, without being obliged to fear their loss,—and in order that they may be able to devote them, without any [Pg 243] obstruction, to a god who is like themselves, who is only their own self viewed objectively (ihr objectivirtes Ich). Parallel to the passage before us, and, it may be, formed after it, is Ezek. xvi. 17, 18: "And thou didst take thy ornament of My gold and of My silver which I gave thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them. And thou tookest thy broidered garments, and coveredst them, and My fat and Mine increase thou gavest before them." Hitzig understands, by the Baal here, the golden calf, appealing to the fact that the real worship of Baal had been abolished by Jehu. But no proof at all can be adduced for the assertion that the name of Baal had been transferred to the golden calf. It is self-evident, and is confirmed by 2 Kings xiii. 6, xvii. 16 (in the latter of which passages the worship of Baal appears as a continuous sin in the kingdom of the ten tribes), that the destruction of the heathenish worship by Jehu was not absolute. But so much is certain, that by the mention of Baal, the sin is here designated only with reference to its highest point, and that, in substance, the service of the calves is here included. In 1 Kings xiv. 9, it is shown that the sin of worshipping Jehovah under the image of calves is on a par with real idolatry; and in 2 Chron. xi. 15, the calves are put on a footing with the goat-deities of Egypt.
Ver. 11. "Therefore I return, and take My corn in its time, and My must in its season, and take away My wool and My flax to cover her nakedness."
[Hebrew: lkN] stands here with great emphasis. It points to the eternal law of God's government of the world, according to which He is sanctified upon them, in whom He has not been sanctified; and this so much the more, the closer was His relation to them, and the greater were His gifts. From him who is not thereby moved, they will be taken away; and nothing but his natural poverty and nakedness is left to him who was formerly so richly endowed. And well is it with him if they be taken from him at a time when he is able still to recognise the giver in Him who taketh away, and may yet deeply repent of his unthankfulness, and return to Him, as is said of Israel in iii. 5. If such be done, it is seen that the ungrateful one has not yet become an object of divine justice alone, but that divine mercy is still in store for him. The longer God allows His [Pg 244] gifts to remain with the ungrateful, the darker are their prospects for the future. That which He gave in mercy, He, in such a case, allows to remain only in anger. The words [Hebrew: awvb vlqHti] are commonly explained by expositors, "I shall take again," inasmuch as two verbs are frequently found together which, in their connection, are independent of each other—the one indicating only an accessory idea of the action. But this mode of expression occurs in general far more rarely than is commonly assumed; and here the explanation, "I will return and take," is to be preferred without any hesitation. Scripture says, that God appears even when He manifests Himself only in the effects of His omnipotence, justice, and love,—a mode of expression which is explained by that large measure of faith which perceives, behind the visible effect, the invisible Author of it; compare, e.g., Gen. xviii. 10, where the Lord says to Abraham, that He would return to him at the same period in the following year; whereas He did not return in a visible form, as then, but only in the fulfilment of His promise. Thus God had formerly appeared to Israel as the Giver; and now that they did not acknowledge Him as such. He returns as the God that takes away. "She did not know that I gave, therefore I shall return and take." That the words were to be thus understood, the prophet, as it appears, intended to indicate by the change of the tenses. It is quite natural that a verb, used as an adverb, should be as closely as possible connected with that verb which conveys the principal idea; and it would scarcely be possible to find a single instance—at all events there are not many instances—where, in such a case, a difference of the tense takes place. Altogether analogous is Jer. xii. 15: "And it shall come to pass after I have destroyed them, [Hebrew: awvb vrHmtiM], I will return and have compassion on them;" where the sense would be very much weakened if we were to translate, "I shall again have compassion." There appears to be the same design in the change of the tenses in iii. 5 also. What is there said of Israel forms a remarkable parallel to what is here said of God. God had formerly come, giving—Israel, taking; God now returns, taking—Israel giving,—a relation which opens up an insight into the whole economy of the sufferings.—"My corn," etc., forms a contrast to ver. 7, where Israel had spoken of all these things as theirs. Whatever God gives, always remains [Pg 245] His own, because He gives only as a loan, and on certain conditions. If any one should consider himself as the absolute master of it, He makes him feel his error by taking it away.—"In its time" and "in its season" are added, because it was then, ordinarily, that God had appeared as giving, and because then they therefore confidently expected His gifts. But now He appears at once as taking, because they were already so sure of the expected gifts that they held them, as it were, already in their hands; just as if, at Christmas—which corresponds to the harvest, the ordinary season of God's granting gifts—parents should withdraw from their children the accustomed presents, and put a rod in their place. It is better thus to understand the expression, "in its time, etc.," than to follow Jerome, who remarks, that "it is a severe punishment, if at the time of harvest the hoped-for fruits are taken away, and wrested from our hands;" for if, even at the time of the harvest, there be a want of all things, how will it be during the remaining time of the year.—The words, "to cover, etc.," are very concise, but without any grammatical ellipsis, instead of, "which hitherto served to cover her nakedness." As to the sense, the LXX. are correct in translating, [Greek: tou me kaluptein ten aschemosunen autes]. For that which had hitherto been, is mentioned by the prophet only for the purpose of drawing attention to what in future will not be.—It is the Lord who must cover the nakedness; and this leads us back to the natural poverty of man, who has not, in the whole world, a single patch or shred—not even so much as to cover his shame, which is here specially to be understood by nakedness. The same thought which is so well calculated to humble pride—what have we that we have not received, and that the Giver might not at any moment take back?—occurs also in Ezek. xvi. 8: "I spread out My wings over thee, and covered thy nakedness."
Ver. 12. "And now I will uncover her shame before the eyes of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of My hands."
The [Greek: hapax legomenon] [Hebrew: nblvt] is best explained by "decay," "corpus multa stupra passum." Being a femin. of a Segholate-form, its signification can be derived only from the Kal; but [Hebrew: nbl] always signifies "to be faded, weak, feeble;" in Piel it means, "to make weak," "to declare as weak," "to disgrace," "to despise." As the signification of Kal does not [Pg 246] imply the Idea of ignominy, we cannot explain the noun, as several interpreters do, by "turpitudo, ignominia." The [Greek: akatharsia] of the LXX. is probably a free translation of the word according to our view.—[Hebrew: leini] is constantly used for "coram, inspectante aliquo," properly, "belonging to the eyes of some one," and cannot therefore be explained here by "to the eyes," as if she were uncovered to, or for, the lovers alone; these, on the contrary, are mentioned only as fellow-witnesses. But in what respect do they come into consideration here? Several interpreters are of opinion that their powerlessness, and the folly of trusting in them, are intended to be here pointed out. Thus Calvin says: "The prophet alludes to the impudent women who are wont, even by terror, to prevent their husbands from using their rights. He says, therefore, this shall not prevent me from chastising thee as thou deservest." Thus also Stuck, who subjoins to the phrase "her lovers:" "who, if they had the strength, might be a help to her." But it is altogether erroneous thus to understand the verse. The words, "Before the eyes of the lovers," rather mean, that the Lord would make her an object of disgust and horror even to those who formerly sought after her. The idea is this: Whosoever forsakes God on account of the world, shall, by God, be put to shame, even in the eyes of the world itself, and all the more, the more nearly he formerly stood to Him. This idea is here expressed in a manner suited to the figurative representation which pervades the whole section. Jerome says: "All this is brought forward under the figure of the adulterous woman, who, after she has been taken in the very act, is exposed and disgraced before the eyes of all." The uncovering, as guilt, is followed by the uncovering, as punishment; and every one (and her lovers first) turns away with horror from the disgusting spectacle. They now at once see her who, hitherto, had made a show with the apparel and goods of her lawful husband, in her true shape as a withered monster. That this explanation is alone the correct one, appears from the parallel passages: compare, e.g., Nah. iii. 5: "Behold, I come upon thee, saith the Lord of hosts, and uncover thy skirts upon thy face, and make the heathen to see thy nakedness, and kingdoms thy shame. And it cometh to pass, all that see thee shall flee from thee:" Lam. i. 8: "Jerusalem hath committed sin, therefore she has [Pg 247] become a reproach; all that honoured her, despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; she sigheth and turneth away;" Jer. xiii. 26: "And I also (as thou hast formerly uncovered) uncover thy skirts over thy face, and thy shame shall be seen;" Ezek. xvi. 37, 41; Is. xlvii. 3.—But now, it might seem that, according to this explanation, not the idols, but only the nations serving them, can be understood by the lovers. But this is only in appearance. In order to make the scene more lively, the prophet ascribes to the [Hebrew: aliliM], to them who are nothing, life and feeling. If they had these, they would act just as it is here described, and as their worshippers really acted afterwards.—The second member of the verse, "And none shall deliver," etc., is in so far parallel to the first, as both describe the dreadfulness of the divine judgment. Parallel is v. 14: "For I will be as one who roars to Ephraim, and as a lion to the house of Judah: I will tear and go away, I will take away, and there is no deliverer."
Ver. 13. "And I make to cease all her mirth, her feast, and her new-moon, and her sabbath, and all her festival time."
The feasts served a double purpose. They were days of sacred dedication, and days of joy; compare Num. x. 10. Israel had violated them in the former character—just as at present the sacred days have, throughout the greater part of Christendom, the name only by way of catachresis—and, as a merited punishment, they were taken away by God in the latter character. They had deprived the festival days of their sacredness; by God, they are deprived of their joy fulness. The prophet, in order to intimate that he announces the cessation of the festival days as days of gladness, premises "all her mirth," to which all that follows stands in the relation of species to genus. [Hebrew: mwvw] does not here denote "joyful time:" it might, indeed, according to its formation, have this signification: but it is never found with it. It here means "joy" itself. (Compare the parallel passages, Jer. vii. 34; Lam. i. 4: "The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the feasts;" Amos viii. 10: "And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation;" Lam. v. 15; Is. xxiv. 8, 11.) The three following nouns were very correctly distinguished by Jerome. [Hebrew: mvedi], "feast," is the designation of the three annual principal festivals. In addition to these, there was in every month the [Pg 248] feast of the new-moon; and in every week, the Sabbath. This connection is a standing one, which, even in the New Testament (compare Col. ii. 16), still reverts. The words, "all her festival time," comprehend the single species in the designation of the genus. That [Hebrew: mved] properly signifies "appointed time," then, more specially, "festival time," "feast," appears from Lev. xxiii. 4: "These are the [Hebrew: mvedi] of the Lord, the sacred assemblies which you shall call [Hebrew: bmvedM], in their appointed time." That the feasts are not a single species co-ordinate with the new-moons and Sabbaths, but the genus, appears from the fact that in Lev. xxiii. the Sabbath opens the series of the [Hebrew: mvediM]. In a wider sense, the new-moons also belonged to the [Hebrew: mvediM] although they are not enumerated among them in Lev. xxiii. on account of their subordinate character. In Num. x. 10, Is. i. 14, Ezra iii. 5, the new-moons are mentioned along with the [Hebrew: mvediM] only as the species by the side of the genus. But we are at liberty to think only of the feasts appointed by God; for, otherwise, there would be no room for the application of the lex talionis:—God takes from the Israelites only what they had taken from Him. The days of the Baalim are afterwards specially mentioned in ver. 15. The days of God are taken from them; for the days of the Baalim they are punished. This much, however, appears from the passage before us—and it is placed beyond any doubt by several other passages in Hosea as well as in Amos—that, outwardly, the worship, as regulated by the prescriptions of the Pentateuch, had all along continued. (For the arguments in proof of this assertion, the author's Dissertations on the Genuineness of the Pentateuch, vol. i., are to be compared.)
Ver. 14. "And I make desolate her vine and fig-tree, whereof she said, They are the wages of whoredom to me, that my lovers have given me; and I make them a forest, and the beasts of the field eat them."
The vine and fig-tree, as the two noblest productions of Palestine—Ispahan, in the "Excerpta ex vita Saladini," p. 10, calls them "ambos Francorum oculos"—are here also connected with each other, as is commonly done in threatenings and promises, as the representatives of the rich gifts of God, wherewith He has blessed this country.—[Hebrew: awr] is often placed before an entire sentence, to mark it out as being relative in general. [Pg 249] It is the looser, instead of the closer connection, = "of which."—[Hebrew: atnh] "wages of prostitution," instead of which, in ix. 1 and other passages, the form [Hebrew: atnN] occurs, requires a renewed investigation. It is commonly derived from [Hebrew: tnh], to which the signification "largiter donavit, dona distribuit," is ascribed. But opposed to this, there is the fact that the root [Hebrew: tnh] is, neither in Hebrew, nor in any of the dialects, found with this signification. It has in Hebrew, Arabic, and Syriac, the signification "to laud," "to praise," "to recount." But besides this [Hebrew: tnh], there occurs another [Hebrew: tnh], not with the general signification "to give," but in the special one, "to give a reward of whoredom;" in which signification it cannot be a primitive word, but derived from [Hebrew: atnh] = [Hebrew: ntN atnh], in the passage under consideration, and in Ezek. xvi. 34. The supposition of a primitive verb [Hebrew: tnh], with the signification "to give," is also opposed by the circumstance that the noun which is said to be derived from it never occurs with the general signification "gift," but always with the special one, "reward of prostitution." [Hebrew: atnh] is rather derived from the first pers. Fut. Kal of the verb [Hebrew: ntN], a "I will-give-thee," similar to our "forget-me-not." The whore asks, in Gen. xxxviii. 16, [Hebrew: mh-ttN li] ("what wilt thou give me?"), and the whoremonger answers, [Hebrew: atN-lK] ("I will give thee"), ver. 18. From this there originated, in the language of the brothel, a base word for such base traffic. The sacred writers are not ashamed or afraid to use it. They speak, throughout, of common things in a common manner; for the vulgar word is the most suitable for the vulgar thing. The morality of a people, or of an age, may be measured by their speaking of vulgar things in a vulgar manner, or the reverse. Wherever, in the language, the "fille de joie" or "Freudenmaedchen" has taken the place of the "whore," a similar change will, in reality, have taken place. Whatsoever the people of Israel imagined that they received from their idols, they certainly will not have designated as a "reward of prostitution," but as a "reward of true love." But the prophet at once destroys all their pleasant imaginings by putting into their mouths the corresponding expression,—an expression which must certainly have sounded very rudely and vulgarly in their tender ears; for the tongue and the ear become more tender, in the same degree in which the heart becomes more vulgar. She who imagined herself so tender and affectionate sees herself [Pg 250] at once addressed as a common prostitute. The sweet proofs of the heartfelt mutual love which her "lovers" gave her are called "wages of whoredom." This is indeed a good corrective for our language, for our whole view of things, for our own hearts, which are so easily befooled. All love of the world, all striving after its favour, every surrender to the spirit of the age, is whoredom. A reward of whoredom, which must not be brought into the temple of the Lord (for it is an abomination unto the Lord thy God, Deut. xxiii. 19), is everything which it offers and gives us in return. Like a reward of whoredom, it will melt away; "of wages of whoredom she has collected, and to wages of whoredom it shall return."—This derivation from the Future has a great many analogies in its favour; among others, the whole class of nouns with [Hebrew: t] prefixed, in which it is quite evident (although this has been so often overlooked) that they have arisen from the Fut. If the [Hebrew: t] in these forms originated from the Hiphil, how could it be explained that they are more frequently connected with Kal? Even the very common occurrence of the formation from the Future in the case of proper names, induces us to expect, a priori, that it will be more frequent in appellative names than is commonly supposed. The occurrence of the phrase [Hebrew: ntN atnh], in the passages quoted, is also in favour of this derivation. By it, the interchange of the two forms [Hebrew: atnh] and [Hebrew: atnN] is easily accounted for. In the latter of these forms, the Nun which prevails in [Hebrew: ntN], but which had been dropped at the beginning, again reappears. A variation in the form is, moreover, quite natural in a word which originated from common life, which is entirely destitute of accurate analogies, and is therefore, as it were, without a model; for the other nouns of this class are formed from the 3d pers. of the Fut.—As regards, now, the substance:—Egotism, and selfishness arising out of it, are the ground of all desire for the love of that which is not God, especially in the case of those who have already known the true God; for where this is not the case, there may be, even in idolatry, a better element, which seeks for a false gratification only because it does not know the true one. From this, however, it appears, that the idolatry of the Israelites (and this is only a species of the idolatry of all those who have had opportunity to know the true God, and of whom it is true that "the last is worse than the first") was [Pg 251] much lower than that of the Gentiles, whose poets and philosophers, in part, zealously opposed the dispositions which are here expressed; compare the passages in Manger. Egotism is here, as it always is, folly; for it trusts in him who himself possesses only borrowed and stolen goods, which the lawful owner may, at every moment, take away from him. And in order that such folly may appear as such, and very glaringly too. He appears here indeed, and takes what He had in reality given out of His mercy, but what, according to their imagination, they had received from the idols as a reward.—The suffix in [Hebrew: wmtiM] refers to the vine and fig-tree. The gardens of vines and fig-trees carefully tended, hedged and enclosed round about, are to be deprived of hedges, enclosures, and culture ([Greek: kathulomanei gar me kladeuomene he ampelos], Clem. Alex. Paed. i. 1, p. 115 Sylb.), to be changed into a forest, and given over to the ravages of wild beasts; for the words "and eat them" are by no means to be referred to the fruits only. The same image of an entirely devastated country is found in Is. vii. 23 ff.; Mic. iii. 12.
Ver. 15. "And I visit upon her the days of the Baalim, to whom she burnt incense, and put on her ring and her ornament, and went after her lovers, and forgat Me, saith the Lord."
The days of the Baalim are the days consecrated to their worship, whether they were specially set apart for that purpose, or whether they were originally devoted to the worship of the Lord, whom they sought to confound with Baal. Manger, and with him, most interpreters, are wrong in understanding by the days of Baal, "all the time—certainly a very long one—in which that forbidden worship flourished in this nation." Such would be too indefinite an expression. When days of the Baalim are spoken of, every one must think of days specially consecrated to them,—their festivals. To this must be added, moreover, the reference to the days of the Lord in ver. 13. In ver. 10, however, only one Baal, [Hebrew: hbel], is spoken of; here there are several. This may be reconciled by the supposition that one and the same Baal was worshipped according to his various modes of manifestation which were expressed by the epithets. But the plural may also be explained—and this seems to be preferable—from 1 Kings xviii. 18, where Baalim is tantamount to Baal and his associates (compare Dissertations on the Gen. of the Pent. vol. i. p. 165); or from Lev. xvii. 7, where [Hebrew: weiriM] denotes the Goat-idol, [Pg 252] and others of his kind. The calves, the worship of which was, at the time of Hosea, the prevailing one throughout the kingdom of the ten tribes, are, in that case, comprehended in the Baalim.—In the words, "And she put on her ring and ornament," the figurative mode of expression has been overlooked by most interpreters. Misled by the [Hebrew: tqTir], which refers directly to the spiritual adulteress, they imagined that the wearing of nose-rings, and other ornaments, in honour of the idols, was here spoken of. A more correct view was held by the Chaldee who thus paraphrases: "The Congregation of Israel was like a wife who deserted her husband, and adorned herself, and ran after her lovers. Thus the Congregation of Israel was pleased to worship idols, and to neglect My worship." A great many false interpretations have had their origin in the circumstance, that they could not comprehend this liberty of the sacred writers, who at one time speak plainly of the spiritual antitype, and at another time transfer to it the peculiarities of the outward type. Had this been kept in view, it would not, e.g., have been asserted, that David had, in Ps. xxiii. 5, relinquished the image of the good shepherd, because he does not speak of a trough which the actual good shepherd places before his sheep, but of a table, placed before them by the spiritual good Shepherd. In the passage under consideration, the [Hebrew: tqTir] denotes an action performed by her who is an adulteress in a spiritual point of view. In the words, "She puts on," etc., her conduct is described under the figure of that of her outward type. The actual correspondence is to be found in her efforts of making herself agreeable,—in the employing of every means in order to gain her spiritual lovers. The putting on of precious ornaments comes into view, only in so far as it is one of these efforts, and, indeed, a very subordinate one. The burning of incense, the offering of sacrifices, etc., are, in this respect, of far greater importance. The correctness of our interpretation is confirmed by those parallel passages also, in which the same figurative mode of expression occurs. Thus, e.g., Is. lvii. 9: "Thou lookest upon the king (the common translation, "thou goest to the king," cannot be defended on philological grounds) in oil (i.e., smelling of ointment), and multipliest thy perfume,"—evidently a figurative designation, taken from a coquetish woman, to express the employing of all means in, order to gain favour;—Is. iv. 30: [Pg 253] "And thou desolate one, what wilt thou do? For thou puttest on thy purple, for thou adornest thyself with golden ornaments, for thou rentest thine eyes with painting. In vain thou makest thyself fair; the lovers despise thee, they seek thy life." In Ezek. xxii. 40-42, Jerusalem washes and paints herself, expecting her lovers, and decks herself with ornaments; then she sits down upon a stately couch; a table is prepared before her, upon which she places the incense of the Lord, and His oil. In this last feature in Ezekiel, the type disappears behind the thing typified, although not so completely as is the case in the passage under consideration, in the words, "She burns incense."—From what has been remarked, it appears that, in substance, Hos. iv. 13, "They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains and bum incense upon the hills," is entirely parallel. The two clauses, "She went after her lovers," and "she forgat Me," both serve to represent the crime in a more heinous light. Sin must certainly have already poisoned the whole heart, if occasion for its exercise be spontaneously sought after. In reference to the latter, Calvin remarks: "Just as when a wife has for a long time lived with her husband, and has been kindly and liberally treated by him, and then prostitutes herself to lovers, and does not entertain or retain any more love for him; such a depravity is nothing less than brutish."
Ver. 16. "Therefore, behold, I allure her, and lead her into the wilderness and speak to her heart."
The consolation and promise here begin with as great abruptness as in the first section. It is reported how the Lord gradually leads back His unfaithful wife to reformation, and to reunion with Him, the lawful husband. Great difficulty has been occasioned to interpreters by the [Hebrew: lkN] at the commencement. Very easily, but at the same time very inconsiderately, the difficulty is got over by those who give it the signification, "_utique_, _profecto_;" but this cannot be called interpreting. It must be, above all, considered as settled and undoubted, that [Hebrew: lkN] can here have that signification only which it always has; and this all the more, that in vers. 8 and 15 it occurred in the same signification. This being taken for granted, the "therefore" might be referred to the words of the wife in ver. 9, "I will go and return to my first husband," and all which follows be considered as only a kind of parenthesis. That the Lord begins again to show Himself [Pg 254] kind to His wife would then have its foundation in this:—that in her the first symptoms of a change of character manifested themselves. But this supposition is, after all, too forced. These words are too far away as that the prophet could have expected to be understood, in thus referring to them in a manner so indefinite. Several interpreters follow the explanation of _Tarnovius_: "Therefore, because she is not corrected by so great calamities, I will try the matter in another and more lenient way, by kindness." But the prophet could not expect that his hearers and readers should themselves supply the thought, which is not indicated by anything,—the thought, namely, "because that former method was of no avail, or rather, because it _alone_ did not suffice;" for it was by no means wholly in vain. When the Lord had hedged up her way with thorns, the woman speaks: "I will go and return;" and where tribulations are of no avail—tribulations through which we must enter the kingdom of God—nothing else will. The severity of God must precede His love. And even though this train of thought should have occurred to them, they had no guarantee for its correctness. It is most natural to take the [Hebrew: lkN] as being simply co-ordinate with the [Hebrew: lkN] in vers. 8 and 11. The "_because_," which, in all the three places, corresponds to the _therefore_, is the wife's apostasy. Because she has forgotten God, He recalls Himself to her remembrance, first by the punishment, and then, after this has attained its end,—after the wife has spoken: "I will go and return,"—by proofs of His love. The leading to Egypt, into the wilderness, into the land of Canaan, rests on her unfaithfulness as its foundation. Without it, the Congregation would have remained in undisturbed possession of the promised land. By it, God is induced, both according to His justice and His mercy, to take it from her, to lead her back into the wilderness, and thence to the promised land.—[Hebrew: pth], in the _Piel_, is a _verbum amatorium_; it signifies "to allure by tender persuasion." There is to be a repetition of the proceeding of God, by which He formerly, in Egypt, allured the people to Himself, and induced them to follow Him into the wilderness, from the spiritual and bodily bondage in Egypt. After the sufferings, there always follows the alluring. God first takes away the objects of sinful love, and then He comes alluring and persuading us that we should choose, for the object of our love. Him who alone is worthy of, and entitled to, love. He is not [Pg 255] satisfied with the strict prosecution of His right, but endeavours to make duty sweet to us, and, by His love, to bring it about that we perform it from love. After He has thus allured us. He leads us from Egypt into the wilderness.—The words, "I lead her into the wilderness," have been very much misunderstood by interpreters. According to _Manger_, the wilderness here is that through which the captives should pass on their return from Babylon. But one reason alone is sufficient to refute this opinion,—namely, that on account of the following verse, by the wilderness (the article must not be overlooked), only that wilderness can be understood which separates Egypt from Canaan. Others (_Ewald_, _Hitzig_), following _Grotius_, understand by the wilderness, the Assyrian captivity. _Kuehnoel_ has acquired great merit for this exposition, by proving from a passage in _Herodotus_, that there were, at that time, uncultivated regions in Assyria! The same reason which militates against the former interpretation is opposed to this also. To this it may be further added, that, according to it, we can make nothing of the _alluring_. The Israelites were not _allured_ into captivity by kindness and love; they were driven into it _against_ their will, by God's wrath. _Moreover_, what according to this interpretation is to be done with the [Hebrew: mwM] in ver. 17? Did, perhaps, the vineyards of Canaan begin immediately beyond Assyria, or does not even this rather lead us to the Arabian desert? It is certain, then, that this desert is the one to be thought of here, and, in addition, that it can only be as an image and type that the prophet here represents the leading through the wilderness, as a repetition of the former one in its individual form; inasmuch as it was, substantially, equal with it. For they who returned from the Assyrian captivity could not well pass through the literal Arabian desert; and the comparison expressed in the following verse, "As in the day when she went up from the land of Egypt," shows that here also a _decurtata comparatio_ must take place. But, now, all depends upon determining the essential feature, the real nature and substance, of that first leading through the wilderness; because the leading spoken of in the verse before us must have that essential feature in common with it. The principal passage—which must guide us in this investigation, and which is proved to be such by the circumstance that the Lord Himself referred [Pg 256] to it when He was _spiritually_ led through the wilderness, an event which, for a sign, _outwardly_ also took place in the wilderness—is Deut. viii. 2-5: "And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to afflict thee and to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart, whether thou wouldst keep His commandments, or no. And He afflicted thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with the manna which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know, that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by everything which proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell these forty years. And thou knowest in thine heart, that as a father chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee." The essential feature in the leading through the wilderness is, accordingly, the _temptation_. By the wonderful manifestations of the Lord's omnipotence and mercy, on the occasion of Israel's deliverance from Egypt, a heartfelt love to Him had been awakened in the people. (Compare the tender expression of it in the Song in Exod. xv.; and also the passage in Jer. ii. 2: "I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, thy going after Me in the wilderness in a land not sown,"—which cannot but refer to the very first time of the abode in the wilderness, before the giving of the law on Sinai, as is evident from the mention of the youth and espousals; for the latter ceased on Sinai, where the marriage took place.) The whole conduct of the people at the giving of the law,—their great readiness in promising to do all that the Lord should command,—likewise bear testimony to this love. The Lord's heartfelt delight in Israel during the first period of their marching through the wilderness, of which Hosea speaks in ix. 10, likewise presupposes this love. Thus the first station was reached. The people now hoped to be put in immediate possession of the inheritance promised to them by the Lord. But, because the Lord knew the condition of human nature. His way was a different one. A state of temptation and trial succeeded that of entire alienation from God. The first love is but too often—nay, it is, more or less, always—but a flickering flame. Sin has not been entirely slain; it has been only subdued for a moment, and only wants a favourable opportunity [Pg 257] to regain its old dominion. It would never be thoroughly destroyed, if God allowed this condition always to continue; if by always putting on new fuel, if by uninterrupted proofs of His love. He were to keep that fire burning continually. If the love of the feelings and imagination is to become a cordial, thorough moral love, it requires to be tried, in order that thus it may recognise its own nothingness hitherto, and how necessary it is that it should take deeper root. The means of this trial are God's afflicting us, concealing Himself from us, leading us in a way different from that which we expected, and, apparently, forsaking vis. But because He is the merciful One who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able,—because He Himself has commanded us to pray, "Lead us not into temptation," _i.e._, into such an one as we are not able to bear, and would thereby become a temptation inwardly,—He makes His gifts to go by the side of His chastisements. He who suffered Israel to hunger, gave them also to eat. He who suffered them to thirst, gave them also to drink. He who led them over the burning sand, did not suffer their shoes to wax old. But this counterpoise to tribulation becomes, in another aspect, a new temptation. As Satan tries to overthrow us by pleasure as well as by pain; so God proves us by what He gives, no less than by what He takes away. In the latter case, it will be seen whether we love God _without_ His gifts; in the former, whether we love Him in His gifts. This second station is, to many, the last; the bodies of many fall in the wilderness. But while a multitude of individuals remain there, the Congregation of God always passes over to the third station,—the possession of Canaan. The state of temptation is, to her, always a state of sifting and purification at the same time. That which is to the individual a calamity, is to her a blessing.—That we have thus correctly defined the nature and substance of the leading through the wilderness, is confirmed by the temptation of Christ also, which immediately succeeded the bestowal of the Spirit, which again corresponded to the first love. That this temptation of Christ corresponded to the leading through the wilderness—in so far as it could do so in the case of Him who was tempted in all things, yet without sin; while in our case, there is no temptation, even when resisted [Pg 258] victoriously, that is without sin—appears sufficiently from its two external characteristics, viz., the stay in the wilderness, and the forty days; but still more so, from the internal feature,—the fact that the Saviour, in order to show the tempter that He recognised in His own case a repetition of the stay in the wilderness, opposed Him with a passage taken from the _locus