ISRAEL WAS A SPREADING VINE: Not pruned? The grapevine
was a common figure for Israel. Yahweh had planted Israel in Canaan as a vine
and had blessed it with fruitful prosperity (Psa 80:8-10; Jer 2:21; Eze
AS HIS FRUIT INCREASED, HE BUILT MORE ALTARS: The more
the Lord blessed Israel, the more the Israelites multiplied altars and sacred
pillars to honor idols. They worshipped pagan gods in response to Yahweh's
THEIR HEART IS DECEITFUL: Or "divided" (AV). Heb
"halaq" may sig "hypocritical". "No one can serve two masters. Either he will
hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise
the other. You cannot serve both God and Money" (Mat 6:24).
WE HAVE NO KING: When the Lord brought destruction, the
people would realize that their self-appointed king had failed them and that
they did not respect the Lord. They would acknowledge that no human king could
And so it was in Jesus' day: "But they shouted, 'Take him
away! Take him away! Crucify him!' 'Shall I crucify your king?' Pilate asked.
'We have no king but Caesar,' the chief priests answered" (John 19:15).
POISONOUS WEEDS: Refers to a "poisonous plant" (Deu
29:17; Hos 10:4) or "bitter herb" (Psa 69:21; Lam 3:5) (BDB; HAL). Perhaps the
poppy, grown widely in the Middle East today.
The word used is "rosh" and is elsewhere translated gall (Deut
29:18; 32:32; Psa 69:21; Jer 8:14; 9:15; 23:15, Lam 3:5, 3:19; Amos 6:12), venom
(Deut 32:33) poison (Job 20:16).
THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN SAMARIA FEAR FOR THE CALF-IDOL OF
BETH AVEN: When God destroyed Israel's altars (v 2), specifically the golden
calf at Beth Aven (ie, Bethel: cp v 8; Hos 4:15; 5:8), the Israelites who lived
in Samaria, Israel's capital, would fear.
ITS PEOPLE WILL MOURN OVER IT, and so will its idolatrous
priests: They would mourn, and the idolatrous priests (Heb "kemarim": 2Ki 23:5;
Zeph 1:4) who served there would bewail the demise of this altar, since its
glory had departed from the land.
IT WILL BE CARRIED TO ASSYRIA AS TRIBUTE FOR THE GREAT
KING: The Assyrians would carry the golden calf to their land in honor of
their king (cf Hos 8:10).
EPHRAIM WILL BE DISGRACED: Israel would then feel great
shame because the Israelites had decided to trust in a foreign alliance with the
Assyrians for their security (Hos 5:13; 7:8,9,11; 8:9,10).
THORNS AND THISTLES WILL GROW UP AND COVER THEIR
ALTARS: The curse of Eden (Gen 3:18), sym the prevalence of sin that chokes
THEY WILL SAY TO THE MOUNTAINS, "COVER US!" AND TO THE
HILLS, "FALL ON US!": Cit Luk 23:30. Jesus predicted that, when the Romans
came to Jerusalem, the Israelites would express their terror over this judgment
by calling on the mountains and hills to cover them (cp Rev 6:16). They would
prefer death to life (Jer 8:3; Rev 9:6).
GIBEAH: Cp Hos 5:8; 9:9. The Israelites had sinned
consistently since the days of the atrocity at Gibeah (Jdg 19; 20; cp Isa
THEIR DOUBLE SIN: (1) Forsaking God, and (2) turning to
EPHRAIM IS A TRAINED HEIFER THAT LOVES TO THRESH:
Ephraim had abandoned this comparatively light service in preference for
becoming yoked to sin (v 10).
SO I WILL PUT A YOKE ON HER FAIR NECK: As punishment
Yahweh would yoke the people of both Northern and Southern Kingdoms to an enemy
who would greatly restrict their movements and force them to do hard work.
JUDAH: The Southern Kingdom.
JACOB: The Northern Kingdom, using the name of the
patriarch that stresses this ancestor's rebelliousness.
SOW FOR YOURSELVES RIGHTEOUSNESS, REAP THE FRUIT OF
UNFAILING LOVE: God's mercy is still a possibility.
BREAK UP YOUR UNPLOWED GROUND: ...if you turn about and
begin diligently to serve Him. Fallow or unplowed ground needs to be broken up
-- which is hard work -- thus exposing that which hides under the surface:
FOR IT IS TIME TO SEEK THE LORD, UNTIL HE COMES AND SHOWERS
RIGHTEOUSNESS ON YOU: "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him
while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he
will freely pardon" (Isa 55:6,7).
"Our nature at its largest is but a small farm, and we had
need to get a harvest out of every acre of it, for our needs are great. Have we
left any part of our small allotment uncultivated? If so, it is time to look
into the matter and see if we cannot improve this wasteful state of things. What
part of our small allotment have we left fallow? We should think very poorly of
a farmer who for many years allowed the best and the richest part of his farm to
lie altogether neglected and untilled. An occasional fallow has its benefits in
the world of nature; but if the proprietor of rich and fruitful land allowed the
soil to continue fallow year after year we should judge him to be out of his
wits. The wasted acres ought to be taken from him and given to another
husbandman who would worthily cherish the generous fields and encourage them to
yield their harvests.
"Bad is the man who neglects to cultivate his farm, but what
shall be said of the sluggard who fails to cultivate himself? If it be wrong to
leave untended a part of our estate, how much worse must it be to disregard a
portion of ourselves! Now, there is a part of our nature which many allow to lie
fallow. It is not often that they neglect the clay soil of their outward frame.
They dress that field which is called the body with sufficient care; and truly I
would not that they should be careless about it, for it is worthy to be kept in
due order and culture. Albeit that it is a very secondary part of our nature,
yet it is so interwoven with the higher that it is most important that the body
should not be neglected. See ye well to that field, and by temperance,
cleanliness, and obedience to the rules of health let it be as a garden... Few
need to be exhorted to pay attention to their bodies... The fault is not that
they care for the body, but that it takes an undue share of consideration, and
usurps a higher place than it can claim.
"There is another field in man's self-farm... The soil where
true religion should flourish in the furrows is left by many to produce the
deadly nightshade of superstition, the hemlock of error, or the thistle of
doubt... Your hearts, your innermost natures, have been neglected, and from the
finest part of your being the Lord has derived neither rent nor revenue. Your
best acres lie fallow -- fallow when you have good need to cultivate every inch
of the ground.
"Do you know what happens to a fallow field? how it becomes
caked and baked hard as though it were a brick? All the fragile qualities seem
to depart, and it hardens as it lies caked and unbroken; I mean, of course, if
year succeed year, and the fallow remains untouched. And then the weeds! If a
man will not sow wheat, he shall have a crop for all that, for the weeds will
spring up, and they will, seed themselves, and in due time the multiplication
table will be worked out to a very wonderful extent; for these seeds,
multiplying a hundred-fold, as evil usually does, will increase, and increase,
and increase again till the fallow field shall become a wilderness of thorns and
briars, and a thicket of nettle and thistle" (CHS).
SHALMAN: King Shalmaneser III, an Assyrian who
conducted campaigns in the West in the ninth century BC. Or, the Assyrian king
Shalmaneser V who prepared the way for Israel's captivity by invading the land
(cf 2Ki 17:3-6).
BETH ARBEL: Poss the town of Arbela about 18 miles se
of the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee) or to Mount Arbel two miles west of that sea.
In any case, the battle had been a bloody one that the Israelites of Hosea's day
remembered vividly. The enemy had slaughtered mothers and their children without
THUS WILL IT HAPPEN TO YOU, O BETHEL, BECAUSE YOUR
WICKEDNESS IS GREAT: The Israelites would suffer a similar slaughter at
Bethel because of their great wickedness. "Bethel" here may refer to the town or
to the whole nation of Israel (by metonymy: cp v 7).
WHEN THAT DAY DAWNS, THE KING OF ISRAEL WILL BE COMPLETELY
DESTROYED: And, finally, at the beginning of a new day, the true King of
Israel -- Jesus Christ -- would be cut off; and the sin of the House of God
would be complete!
Hosea sees the cutting off of Israel's king as the nation's
final break with its God. Israel will now suffer at God's hands and be rejected
-- for a long age at least -- while God's love is transferred to a new Son,
Jesus the spiritual "Israel". Through him a new nation, a new "Israel", will be