Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi - that is, "My people, and to your sisters, Ruhamah," i. e., "beloved or tenderly pitied." The words form a climax of the love of God. First, the people scattered , unpitied , and disowned by God , is re-born of God; then it is declared to be in continued relation to God, "My people;" then to be the object of his yearning love. The words, "My people," may be alike filled up, "ye are My people," and "be ye My people." They are words of hope in prophecy, "ye shall be again My people;" they become words of joy in each stage of fulfillment. They are words of mutual joy and gratulation, when obeyed; they are words of encouragement, until obeyed. God is reconciled to us, and willeth that we be reconciled to Him. Among those who already are God's people, they are the voice of the joy of mutual love in the oneness of the Spirit of adoption; "we are His people;" to those without (whether the ten tribes, or the Jews of heretics,) they are the voice of those who know in whom they have believed, "Be ye also His people." Despair of the salvation of none, but, with brotherly love, call them to repentance and salvation."
This verse closes what went before, as God's reversal of His own sentence, and anticipates what is to come (Hos 5:14 ff). God commands the prophets and all those who love Him, to appeal to those who forget Him, holding out to them the mercy in store for them also, if they will return to Him. He bids them not to despise those yet alien from Him, "but to treat as brethren and sisters, those whom God willeth to introduce into His house, and to call to the riches of His inheritance."
Plead with your mother, plead - The prophets close the threats of coming judgments with the dawn of after-hopes; and from hopes they go back to God's judgments against sin, pouring in wine and oil into the wounds of sinners. The "mother" is the Church or nation; the "sons," are its members, one by one. These, when turned to God, must plead with their mother, that she turn also. When involved in her judgments, they must plead with her, and not accuse God. God "had not forgotten to be gracious;" but she "kept not His love, and refused His friendship, and despised the purity of spiritual communion with Him, and would not travail with the fruit of His will." : "The sons differ from the mother, as the inventor of evil from those who imitate it. For as, in good, the soul which, from the Spirit of God, conceiveth the word of truth, is the mother, and whoso profiteth by hearing the word of doctrine from her mouth, is the child, so, in evil, whatsoever soul inventeth evil is the mother, and whoso is deceived by her is the son. So in Israel, the adulterous mother was the synagogue, and the individuals deceived by her were the sons."
"Ye who believe in Christ, and are both of Jews and Gentiles, say ye to the broken branches and to the former people which is cast off, "My people," for it is your brother; and "Beloved," for it is "your sister." For when Rom 11:25-26 the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come in, then shall all Israel be saved. In like way we are bidden not to despair of heretics, but to incite them to repentance, and with brotherly love to long for their salvation" .
For she is not My wife - God speaketh of the spiritual union between Himself and His people whom He had chosen, under the terms of the closest human oneness, of husband and wife. She was no longer united to Him by faith and love, nor would He any longer own her. Plead therefore with her earnestly as orphans, who, for her sins, have lost the protection of their Father.
Let her therefore put away her whoredoms - So great is the tender mercy of God. He says, let her but put away her defilements, and she shall again be restored, as if she had never fallen; let her but put away all objects of attachment, which withdrew her from God, and God will again be All to her.
Adulteries, whoredores - God made the soul for Himself; He betrothed her to Himself through the gift of the Holy Spirit; He united her to Himself. All love, then, out of God, is to take another, instead of God. "whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee." "Adultery" is to become another's than His, the Only Lord and Husband of the soul. Whoredom is to have many other objects of sinful love. Love is one, for One. The soul which has forsaken the One, is drawn here and there, has manifold objects of desire, which displace one another, because none satisfies. Hence, the prophet speaks of "fornications, adulteries;" because the soul, which will not rest in God, seeks to distract herself from her unrest and unsatisfiedness, by heaping to herself manifold lawless pleasures, out of, and contrary to the will of, God.
From before her - Literally "from her face." The face is the seat of modesty, shame, or shamelessness. Hence, in Jeremiah God says to Judah, "Thou hadst a harlot's forehead; thou refusedst to be ashamed" Jer 3:3; and "they were not at all ashamed, neither will they blush" Jer 6:15. The eyes, also, are the "windows" Jer 9:21, through which "death," i. e., lawless desire, "enters into" the soul, and takes it captive.
From her breasts - These are exposed, adorned, degraded in disorderly love, which they are employed to allure. Beneath too lies the heart, the seat of the affections. It may mean then, that she should no more gaze with pleasure on the objects of her sin, nor allow her heart to dwell on tilings which she loved sinfully. Whence it is said of the love of Christ, which should keep the soul free from all unruly passions which might offend him Sol 1:13, "My Well-beloved shall lie all night between my breasts Sol 8:6, as a seal upon the heart" beneath.
Lest I strip her naked - "There is an outward visible nakedness and an inward, which is invisible. The invisible nakedness is, when the soul within is bared of the glory and the grace of God." The visible nakedness is the privation of God's temporal and visible gifts, the goods of this world, or outward distinction. God's inward gifts the sinful soul or nation despises, while those outward gifts she prizes. And therefore, when the soul parts with the inward ornaments of God's grace, He strips her of the outward, His gifts of nature, of His providence and of His protection, if so be, through her outward misery and shame and poverty, she may come to feel that deeper misery and emptiness and disgrace within, which she had had no heart to feel. So, when our first parents lost the robe of innocence, "they knew that they were naked" Gen 3:7.
And set her - (Literally "I will fix her," so that she shall have no power to free herself, but must remain as a gazing stock,) "as in the day that she was born," i. e., helpless, defiled, uncleansed, uncared for, unformed, cast out and loathsome. Such she was in Egypt, which is in Holy Scripture spoken of, as her birthplace Eze 16:4; for there she first became a people; thence the God of her fathers called her to be His people. There she was naked of the grace and of the love of God, and of the wisdom of the law; indwelt by an evil spirit, as being an idolatress; without God; and under hard bondage, in works of mire and clay, to Pharaoh, the type of Satan, and her little ones a prey. For when a soul casts off the defense of heavenly grace, it is an easy prey to Satan.
And make her as a wilderness, and set her as a dry land, and slay her with thirst - The outward desolation, which God inflicts, is a picture of the inward. Drought and famine are among the four sore judgments, with which God threatened the land, and our Lord forewarned them, "Your house is left unto you desolate" Mat 23:38; and Isaiah says, "Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee" Isa 60:15. But the prophet does not say, make her a wilderness, but make "her as a wilderness." The soul of the sinner is solitary and desolate, for it has not the presence of God; unfruitful, bearing briars and thorns only, for it is unbedewed by God's grace, unwatered by the Fountain of living waters; athirst, "not with thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord," yet also, burning with desire, which the foul streams of this world's pleasure never slake. In contrast with such thirst, Jesus says of the Holy Spirit which He would give to them that believe in Him, "Whosoever drinketh of the water, that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water, that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life" Joh 4:14; Joh 7:38-39.
: "But was not that certain, which God had said, 'I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel?' How then does God recall it, saying, 'Let her put away her fornications, etc. lest I do to her this or that which I have spoken?' This is not unlike to that, when sentence had been passed on Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel saying, 'This is the decree of the Most High, which is come upon my Lord the king; they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling; the same Daniel says, Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and redeem thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy on the poor, if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility' Dan 4:24-25, Dan 4:27. What should we learn hereby, but that it hangs upon our own will, whether God suspend the judgment or no? For we ought not to impute our own evil to God, or impiously think that fate rules us. In other words, this or that evil comes, not because God foreknew or foreordained it; but, because this evil was to be, or would be done, therefore God both foreknew it, and prefixed His sentence upon it. Why then does God predetermine an irrevocable sentence? Because He foresaw incorrigible malice. Why, again, after pronouncing sentence, doth God counsel amendment? That we may know by experience, that they are incorrigible. Therefore, He waits for them, although they will not return, and with much patience invites them to repentance." Individuals also repented, although the nation was incorrigible.
I will not have mercy upon her children - God visits the sins of the parents upon the children, until the entailed curse be cut off by repentance. God enforces His own word "lo-ruhamah, Unpitied," by repeating it here, "lo-arahem," "I will not pity." Reproaches, which fall upon the mother, are ever felt with special keenness. Whence Saul called Jonathan Sa1 20:30, "Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman." Therefore, the more to arouse them, he says, "for they are the children of whoredoms," evil children of an evil parent, as John the Immerser calls the hypocritical Jews, "ye generation of vipers" Mat 3:7. "This they were, from their very birth and swaddling-clothes, never touching any work of piety, nor cultivating any grace." As of Christ, and of those who, in Him, are nourished up in deeds of righteousness, it is said, "I was cast upon Thee from the womb; Thou art my God from my mother's belly;" so, contrariwise, of the ungodly it is said, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies."
And as they who "live honestly, as in the day and in the light," are called "children of the day and of the light," so they who live a defiled life are called the "children of whoredores." : "To call them 'children of whoredoms' is all one with saying, that they too are incorrigible or unchangeable. For of such, Wisdom, after saying, 'executing Thy judgments upon them by little and little,' added immediately (Wisd. 12:10, 11), 'not being ignorant that thy were a naughty generation, and that their malice was bred in them, and that their cogitation would never be changed, for it was a cursed seed from the beginning." All this is here expressed briefly by this word, "that they are the children of whoredoms," meaning that their "malice" too was inbred, and that they, as much as the Ammorite and Hittite, were a "cursed seed." Nor yet, in so speaking, did he blame the nature which God created, but he vehemently reproves the abuse of nature, that malice, which cleaves to nature but was no part of it, was by custom changed into nature."
She that conceived them hath done shamefully, literally, hath made shameful - The silence as to "what" she "made shameful" is more emphatic than any words. She "made shameful" everything which she could "make shameful," her acts, her children, and herself.
I will go after my lovers - (:iterally let me go, I would go). The Hebrew word "Meahabim" denotes intense passionate love; the plural form implies that they were sinful loves. Every word aggravates the shamelessness. Amid God's chastisements, she encourages herself, "Come, let me go," as people harden and embolden, and, as it were, lash themselves into further sin, lest they should shrink back, or stop short in it. "Let me go after." She waits not, as it were, to be enticed, allured, seduced. She herself, uninvited, unbidden, unsought, contrary to the accustomed and natural feeling of woman, follows after those by whom she is not drawn, and refuses to follow God who would draw her (see Eze 16:31-34). The "lovers" are, whatever a man loves and courts, out of God. They were the idols and false gods, whom the Jews, like the pagan, took to themselves, besides God. But in truth they were devils. Devils she sought; the will of devils she followed; their pleasure she fulfilled, abandoning herself to sin, shamefully filled with all wickedness, and travailing with all manner of impurity. These she professed that she loved, and that they, not God, loved her. For whoever receives the gifts of God, except from God and in God's way, receives them from devils. Whoso seeks what God forbids, seeks it from Satan, and holds that Satan, not God, loves him; since God refuses it, Satan encourages him to possess himself of it. Satan, then, is his lover.
That gave me my bread and my water - The sense of human weakness abides, even when divine love is gone. The whole history of man's superstitions is an evidence of this, whether they have been the mere instincts of nature, or whether they have attached themselves to religion or irreligion, Jewish or Pagan or Muslim, or have been practiced by half-Christians. "She is conscious that she hath not these things by her own power, but is beholden to some other for them; but not remembering Him (as was commanded) who had "given her power to get wealth, and richly all things to enjoy," she professes them to be the gifts of her lovers." "Bread and water, wool and flax," express the necessaries of life, food and clothing; "mine oil and my drink" (Hebrew, drinks), its luxuries. Oil includes also ointments, and so served both for health, food and medicine, for anointing the body, and for perfume. In perfumes and choice drinks, the rich people of Israel were guilty of great profusion; from where it is said, "He that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich" Pro 21:17. For such things alone, the things of the body, did Israel care. Ascribing them to her false gods, she loved these gods, and held that they loved her. In like way, the Jewish women shamelessly told Jeremiah, "we will certainly do whatsoever thing goes out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine" Jer 44:17-18.
Therefore - that is, because she said, "I will go after my lovers," "behold I will hedge up thy ways;" literally, "behold, I hedging." It expresses an immediate future, or something which, as being fixed in the mind of God, is as certain as if it were actually taking place. So swift and certain should be her judgments.
Thy way - God had before spoken of Israel; now He turns to her, pronouncing judgment upon her; then again He turneth away from her, as not deigning to regard her. "If the sinner's way were plain, and the soul still had temporal prosperity, after it had turned away from its Creator, scarcely or never could it be recalled, nor would it "hear the voice behind it," warning it. But when adversity befalls it, and tribulation or temporal difficulties overtake it in its course, then it remembers the Lord its God." So it was with Israel in Egypt. When "they sat by the flesh pots, and did eat bread to the full, amid the fish, which they did eat freely, the cucumbers and the melons," they forgat the God of their fathers, and served the idols of Egypt. Then He raised up "a new king, who made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar and in brick and in all the service of the field;" then "they groaned by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of their bondage, and God heard their groaning" Exo 16:3; Num 11:5; Exo 1:8, Exo 1:14; Exo 2:23, Exo 2:4.
So in the book of Judges the ever-recurring history is, they forsook God; He delivered them into the hands of their enemies; they cried unto Him; He sent them a deliverer. A way may be found through a "hedge of thorns," although with pain and suffering; through a stone "wall" even a strong man cannot burst a way. "Thorns" then may be the pains to the flesh, with which God visits sinful pleasures, so that the soul, if it would break through to them, is held back and torn; the wall may mean, that all such sinful joys shall be cut off altogether, as by bereavement, poverty, sickness, failure of plans, etc. In sorrows, we cannot find our idols, which, although so near, vanish from us; but we may find our God, though we are so far from Him, and He so often seems so far from us. "God hedgeth with thorns the ways of the elect, when they find prickles in the things of time, which they desire. They attain not the pleasures of this world which they crave." They cannot "find their paths," when, in the special love of God, they are hindered from obtaining what they seek amiss. "I escaped not Thy scourges," says Augustine, as to his pagan state, "for what mortal can? For Thou wert ever with me, mercifully rigorous, and with most bitter alloy all my unlawful pleasures, that I might seek pleasure without alloy. But where to find such, I could not discover, save in Thee, O Lord, who teachest by sorrow, and woundest us, to heal, and killest us, lest we die from Thee" (Conf. ii. 4).
And she shall follow after - The words rendered "follow after and seek" (רדך, בקשׁ) are intensive and express "eager, vehement pursuit," and "diligent search." They express, together, a pursuit, whose minuteness is not hindered by its vehemence, nor its extent and wideness by its exactness. She shall seek far and wide, minutely and carefully, everywhere and in all things, and shall fail in all. For eighteen hundred years the Jews have chased after a phantom, a Christ, triumphing, after the manner of the kings of the earth, and it has ever escaped them. The sinful soul will too often struggle on, in pursuit of what God is withdrawing, and will not give over, until, through God's persevering mercy, the fruitless pursuit exhausts her, and she finds it hopeless. Oh the willfulness of man, and the unwearied patience of God!
Then shall she say, I will go and return - She encourages herself tremblingly to return to God. The words express a mixture of purpose and wish. Before, she said, "Come, let me go after my lovers;" now, she says, "Come let me go and return," as the progical in the Gospel, "I will arise and go to my Father."
To my first husband - "God is the 'first Husband' of the soul, which, while yet pure, He, through the love of the Holy Spirit, united with Himself. Him the soul longeth for, when it findeth manifold bitternesses, as thorns, in those delights of time and sense which it coveted. For when the soul begins to be gnawed by the sorrows of the world which she loveth, then she understandeth more fully, how it was better with her, with her former husband. Those whom a perverse will led astray, distress mostly converts." "Mostly, when we cannot obtain in this world what we wish, when we have been wearied with the impossibility of our search of earthly desires, then the thought of God returns to the soul; then, what was before distasteful, becomes pleasant to us; He whose commands had been bitter to the soul, suddenly in memory grows sweet to her, and the sinful soul determines to be a faithful wife." And God still vouchsafes to be, on her return, the Husband even of the adulterous soul, however far she had strayed from Him.
For then it was better with me than now - It is the voice of the prodigal son in the Gospel, which the Father hears, "How many hired servants of my Father have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" "I will serve," Israel would say, "the living and true God, not the pride of people, or of evil spirits, for even in this life it is much sweeter to bear the yoke of the Lord, than to be the servant of men." In regard to the ten tribes, the "then" must mean the time before the apostasy under Jeroboam. God, in these words, softens the severity of His upbraiding and of His sentences of coming woe, by the sweetness of promised mercy. Israel was so impatient of God's threats, that their kings and princes killed those whom He sent unto them. God wins her attention to His accusations by this brief tempering of sweetness.
For she did not know - The prophet having, in summary Hos 2:5-7, related her fall, her chastisement, and her recovery, begins anew, enlarging both on the impending inflictions, and the future mercy. She "did not know," because she would not; she "would not retain God in her knowledge" Rom 1:28. "Knowledge," in Holy Scripture, is not of the understanding, but of the heart and the will.
That I gave her corn ... - The I is emphatic (אנכי( ci). "She did not know, that it was I who gave her." God gave them the "corn, and wine, and oil," first, because He gave them the land itself. They held it of Him as their Lord. As He says, "The land is Mine, and ye are strangers and sojourners with Me" Lev 25:23. He gave them also in the course of His ordinary providence, wherein He also gave them "the gold and silver," which they gained by trading. Silver He had so multiplied to her in the days of Solomon, that it was in "Jerusalem as stones, nothing accounted of" Kg1 10:27, Kg1 10:21, and gold, through the favor which He gave him Kg1 9:14; Kg1 10:10, Kg1 10:14, was in abundance above measure.
Which they prepared for Baal - Rather, as in the English Margin, "which they made into Baal" (see Hos 8:4; Eze 16:17-19). "Of that gold and silver, which God had so multiplied, Israel, revolting from the house of David and Solomon, made, first the calves of gold, and then Baal." Of God's own gifts they made their gods. They took God's gifts as from their gods, and made them into gods to them. "Baal," Lord, the same as Bel, was an object of idolatry among the Phoenicians and Tyrians. Its worship was brought into Israel by Jezebel, daughter of a king of Sidon. Jehu destroyed it for a time, because its adherents were adherents of the house of Ahab. The worship was partly cruel, like that of Moloch, partly abominable. It had this aggravation beyond that of the calves, that Jezebel aimed at the extirpation of the worship of God, setting up a rival temple, with its 450 prophets and 400 of the kindred idolatry of Ashtaroth, and slaying all the prophets of God.
It seems to us strange folly. They attributed to gods, who represented the functions of nature, the power to give what God alone gives. How is it different, when people now say, "nature does this, or that," or speak of "the operations of nature," or the laws of "nature," and ignore God who appoints those laws, and "worketh hitherto" Joh 5:17 "those operations?" They attributed to planets (as have astrologers at all times) influence over the affairs of people, and worshiped a god, Baal-Gad, or Jupiter, who presided over them. Wherein do those otherwise, who displace God's providence by fortune or fate or destiny, and say "fortune willed," "fortune denied him," "it was his fate, his destiny," and, even when God most signally interposes, shrink from naming Him, as if to speak of God's providence were something superstitious? What is this, but to ascribe to Baal, under a new name, the works and gifts of God? And more widely yet. Since "men have as many strange gods as they have sins," what do they, who seek pleasure or gain or greatness or praise in forbidden ways or from forbidden sources, than make their pleasure or gain or ambition their god, and offer their time and understanding and ingenuity and intellect, yea, their whole lives and their whole selves, their souls and bodies, all the gifts of God, in sacrifice to the idol which they have made? Nay, since whosoever believes of God otherwise than He has revealed Himself, does, in fact, believe in another god, not in the One True God, what else does all heresy, but form to itself an idol out of God's choicest gift of nature, man's own mind, and worship, not indeed the works of man's own hands, but the creature of his own understanding?
Therefore I will return - God is, as it were, absent from men, when He lets them go on in their abuse of His gifts. "His judgments are far above out of their sight." He returns to them, and His presence is felt in chastisements, as it might have been in mercies. He is not out of sight or out of mind, then. Others render it, "I will turn, i. e. I will do other than before; I will turn" from love to displeasure, from pouring out benefits to the infliction of chastisements, from giving abundance of all things to punishing them with the want of all things.
I will take away My corn in the time thereof - God shows us that His gifts come from Him, either by giving them when we almost despair of them, or taking them away, when they are all but our's. It can seem no chance, when He so doeth. The chastisement is severer also, when the good things, long looked-for, are, at the last, taken out of our very hands, and that, when there is no remedy. If in harvest-time there be dearth, what afterward! "God taketh away all, that they who knew not the Giver through abundance, might know Him through want."
And will recover My wool - God "recovers," and, as it were, "delivers" the works of His Hands from serving the ungodly. While He leaves His creatures in the possession of the wicked, they are holden, as it were, in captivity, being kept back from their proper uses, and made the handmaidens and instruments and tempters to sin. God made His creatures on earth to serve man, that man, on occasion of them, might glorify Him. It is against the order of nature, to use God's gifts to any other end, short of God's glory much more, to turn God's gifts against Himself, and make them serve to pride or luxury or sensual sin. It is a bondage, as it were, to them. Whence of them also Paul saith, "The creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly; and, all creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" Rom 8:20, Rom 8:22. Penitents have felt this. They have felt that they deserve no more that the sun should shine on them, or the earth sustain them, or the air support them, or wine refresh them, or food nourish them, since all these are the creatures and servants of the God whom themselves have offended, and they themselves deserve no more to be served by God's servants, since they have rebelled against their common Master, or to use even rightly what they have abused against the will of their Creator.
My flax - Given "to cover her nakedness, i. e. which God had given to that end. Shame was it, that, covered with the raiment which God had given her to hide her shame, she did deeds of shame. The white linen garments of her priests also were symbols of that purity, which the Great high priest should have and give. Now, withdrawing those gifts, He gave them up to the greatest visible shame, such as insolent conquerors, in leading a people into captivity, often inflicted upon them. Thereby, in act, was figured that loss of the robe of righteousness, heavenly grace, wherewith God beautifies the soul, whereof when it is stripped, it is indeed foul.
Her lewdness - The word originally means "folly," and so "foulness." For sin is the only real folly, as holiness is the only true wisdom. But the folly of sin is veiled amid outward prosperity, and people think themselves, and are thought, wise and honorable and in good repute, and are centers of attraction and leaders of society, so long as they prosper; as it is said, "so long as thou doest well unto thyself, men will speak of thee" Psa 49:18. But as soon as God withdraws those outward gifts, the mask drops off, and people, being no longer dazzled, despise the sinner, while they go on to hug the sin. God says, "I will discover," as just before He had said, that His gifts had been given to "cover her." He would then lay her bare outwardly and inwardly; her folly, foulness, wickedness, and her outward shame; and that, "in the sight of her lovers," i. e. of those whom she had chosen instead of God, her idols, the heavenly bodies, the false gods, and real devils. Satan must jeer at the wretched folly of the souls whom he deceives.
And none shall deliver her out of My hand - Neither rebel spirits nor rebel people. The evil spirits would prolong the prosperity of the wicked, that so they might sin the more deeply, and might not repent, (which they see people to do amid God's chastisements,) and so might incur the deeper danmation.
I will also cause her mirth to cease, her feast days ... - Israel had forsaken the temple of God; despised His priests; received from Jeroboam others whom God had not chosen; altered, at least, one of the festivals; celebrated all, where God had forbidden; and worshiped the Creator under the form of a brute creature (see Introduction). Yet they kept the great "feast-days," whereby they commemorated His mercies to their forefathers; the "new moons," whereby the first of every month was given to God; "the sabbaths," whereby they owned God as the Creator of all things; and all the other "solemn feasts," whereby they thanked God for acts of His special providence, or for His annual gifts of nature, and condemned themselves for trusting in false gods for those same gifts, and for associating His creatures with Himself. But man, even while he disobeys God, does not like to part with Him altogether, but would serve Him enough to soothe his own conscience, or as far as he can without parting with his sin which he loves better. Jeroboam retained all of God's worship, which he could combine with his own political ends; and even in Ahab's time Israel "halted between two opinions," and Judah "sware both by the Lord and by Malcham" Zep 1:5, the true God and the false. All this their worship was vain, because contrary to the will of God. Yet since God says, "I will take away all her mirth," they had, what they supposed to be, religious "mirth" in their "feasts," fulfilling as they thought, the commandment of God, "Thou shalt rejoice in thy feasts" Deu 16:14. She could have no real joy, since true joy is "in the Lord" Phi 4:4. So, in order that she might not deceive herself anymore, God says that he will take away that feigned formal service of Himself, which they blended with the real service of idols, and will remove the hollow outward joy, that, through repentance, they might come to the true joy in Him.
And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees - Before, God had threatened to take away the fruits in their seasons; now He says, that he will take away all hope for the future; not the fruit only, but the trees which bare it. "The vine is a symbol of joy, the fig of sweetness" (see Jdg 9:11, Jdg 9:13). It was the plague, which God in former times laid upon those, out of the midst of whom He took them to be His people (Psa 105:33; see Jer 5:17). "He smote their vines also and their fig trees, and brake the trees of their coasts." Now that they had become like the pagan, He dealt with them as with the pagan.
Of which she said, these are my rewards - Literally "my hire." It is the special word, used of the payment to the adulteress, or degraded woman, and so continues the likeness, by which he had set forth the foulness of her desertion of God.
And I will make them a forest - The vines and fig-trees which had aforetime been their wealth, and full of beauty, should, when neglected, run wild, and become the harbor of the wild beasts Which should prey upon them. So to the wicked God causes, "that the things which should have been for their wealth should be an occasion of falling" Psa 69:22. They contain in themselves the sources of their own decay.
I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, or Baals - When men leave the one true God, they make to themselves many idols. They act, as if they could make up a god piece-meal out of the many attributes of the One God, and create their Creator. His power of production becomes one God; His power of destroying, another; His providence, a third; and so on, down to the very least acts. So they had many Baals or Lords; a "Baal-berith Jdg 8:33, Lord of covenants," who was to guard the sanctity of oaths; "Baal-zebub Kg2 1:2, Lord of flies," who was to keep off the plague of flies, and "Baal-Peor" Num 25:3, who presided over sin. All these their various idolatries, and all the time of their idolatries, God threatens to visit upon them at once. "The days of punishment shall equal the days of the wanderings, in which she burnt incense to Baal." God spares long. But when persevering impenitence draws down His anger, He punishes not for the last sin only, but for all. Even to the penitent, God mostly makes the chastisement bear some proportion to the length and greatness of the sin.
Wherein she burnt incence unto them - Incense was that part of sacrifice, which especially denoted thanksgiving and prayer ascending to God.
And she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels - Christ says to the bride, "Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold" Sol 1:10. But what He gave her, she threw away upon another, and "cast her pearls before swine." She "decked herself," i. e., made God's ornaments her own, used them not as He gave them, but artificially as an adulteress. And what else is it, to use wit or beauty or any gift of God, for any end out of God? : "The ornament of souls which choose to serve idols, is to fulfill those things which seem good to the unclean spirits. Very beautiful to devils must be the sin-loving soul, which chooses to think and to do whatsoever is sweet to, and loved by them." Sins of the flesh being a part of the worship of Baal, this garish trickery and pains to attract had an immediate offensiveness, besides its belonging to idols. He still pictures her as seeking, not sought by her lovers. "She went after her lovers, and forgat Me." The original has great emphasis. "She went after her lovers, and Me she fogat, saith the Lord." She went after vanities, and God, her All, she forgat. Such is the character of all engrossing passion, such is the course of sin, to which the soul gives way, in avarice, ambition, worldliness, sensual sin, godless science. The soul, at last, does not rebel against God; it "forgets" Him. It is taken up with other things, with itself, with the objects of its thoughts, the objects of its affections, and it has no time for God, because it has no love for Him. So God complains of Judah by Jeremiah, "their fathers have forgotten My name for Baal (Jer 23:27; add Jdg 3:7; Sa1 12:9-10; Jer 2:32; Jer 3:20; Jer 13:25; Jer 18:15; Eze 22:12; Eze 23:35; Isa 17:10; Psa 9:17; Psa 50:22; Psa 78:11; Psa 106:13, Psa 106:21).
Therefore - The inference is not what we should have expected. Sin and forgetfulness of God are not the natural causes of, and inducements to mercy. But God deals not with us, as we act one to another. Extreme misery and degradation revolt man; man's miseries invite God's mercies. God therefore has mercy, not because we deserve it, but because we need it. He therefore draws us, because we are so deeply sunken. He prepareth the soul by those harder means, and then the depths of her misery cry to the depths of His compassion, and because chastisement alone would stupify her, not melt her, He changes His wrath into mercy, and speaks to the heart which, for her salvation, He has broken.
I will allure her - The original word is used of one readily enticed, as a simple one, whether to good or ill. God uses, as it were, Satan's weapons against himself. As Satan had enticed the soul to sin, so would God, by holy enticements and persuasiveness, allure her to Himself. God too hath sweetnesses for the penitent soul, far above all the sweetnesses of present earthly joys; much more, above the bitter sweetnesses of sin.
I Myself will allure her - (Such is the emphasis). God would show her something of His Beauty, and make her taste of His Love, and give her some such glimpse of the joy of His good-pleasure, as should thrill her and make her, all her life long, follow after what had, as through the clouds, opened upon her.
And will bring her into the wilderness - God, when he brought Israel out of Egypt, led her apart from the pressure of her hard bondage, the sinful self-indulgences of Egypt and the abominations of their idolatries, into the wilderness, and there, away from the evil examples of the nation from which he drew her and of those whom she was to dispossess, He gave her His law, and taught her His worship, and brought her into covenant with Himself (see Eze 20:34-36). So in the beginning of the Gospel, Christ allured souls by His goodness in His miracles, and the tenderness of His words, and the sweetness of His preaching and His promises, and the attractiveness of His sufferings, and the mighty manifestations of His Spirit. So is it with each penitent soul. God, by privation or suffering, turns her from her idols, from the turmoil of the world and its distractions, and speaks, Alone to her alone.
And speak to her heart - Literally, on her heart, making an impression on it, soothing it, in words which will dwell in it, and rest there. Thus within, not without, "He putteth His laws in the mind, and writeth them in the heart, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God" Heb 8:10; Co2 3:3. God speaks to the heart, so as to reach it, soften it, comfort it, tranquilize it, and, at the last, assure it. He shall speak to her, not as in Sinai, amid "blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words, which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more Heb 12:18-19, but to the heart." But it is in solitude that he so speaks to the soul and is heard by her, warning, reproving, piercing, penetrating through every fold, until he reaches the very inmost heart and dwells there. And then he infuseth hope of pardon, kindleth love, enlighteneth faith, giveth feelings of child-like trust, lifteth the soul tremblingly to cleave to Him whose voice she has heard within her. Then His infinite Beauty touches the heart; His Holiness, Truth, mercy, penetrate the soul; in silence and stillness the soul learns to know itself and God, to repent of its sins, to conquer self; to meditate on God. "Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you" Co2 6:17.
: "Search we the Scriptures, and we shall find, that seldom or never hath God spoken in a multitude; but so often as he would have anything known to man, He shewed Himself, not to nations or people, but to individuals, or to very few, and those severed from the common concourse of people, or in the silence of the night, in fields or solitudes, in mountains or vallies. Thus He spake with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, and all the prophets. Why is it, God always speaketh in secret, except that He would call us apart? Why speaketh He with a few, except to collect and gather us into one? In this solitude doth God speak to the soul, from the beginning of its conversion to the loneliness of death. Here the soul, which, overspread with darkness, knew neither God nor itself, learns with a pure heart to know God. Here, placed aloft, she sees all earthly things flee away beneath her, yea, herself also passing away in the sweeping tide of all passing things." Here she learns, and so unlearns her sins, sees and hates herself, sees and loves God. : Only "the solitude of the body availeth not, unless there be the solitude of the heart." And if God so speak to the penitent, much more to souls, who consecrate themselves wholly, cleave wholly to Him, meditate on Him. By His presence , "the soul is renewed, and cleaving, as it were, to Him, feels the sweetness of an inward taste, spiritual understanding, enlightening of faith, increase of hope, feeling of compassion, zeal for righteousness, delight in virtue. She hath in orison familiar converse with God, feeling that she is heard, and mostly answered: speaking face to face with God, and bearing what God speaketh in her, constraining God in prayer and sometimes prevailing."
And I will give her her vineyards from thence - God's mercies are not only in word, but in deed. He not only speaks to her heart, but he restores to her what He had taken from her. He promises, not only to reverse His sentence, but that He would make the sorrow itself the source of the joy. He says, I will give her back her vineyards "thence," i. e., from the wilderness itself; as elsewhere, He says, "The wilderness shall be a fruitful field" Isa 32:15. Desolation shall be the means of her restored inheritance and joy in God. Through fire and drought are the new flagons dried and prepared, into which the new wine of the Gospel is poured.
And the valley of Achor for a door of hope - (Literally, "troubling"). As, at the first taking possession of the promised land, Israel learned through the transgression and punishment of Achan, to stand in awe of God, and thenceforth, all went well with them, when they had wholly freed themselves from the accursed thing, so to them shall "sorrow be turned into joy, and hope dawn there, where there had been despair." "Therefore, only had they to endure chastisements, that through them they might attain blessings." It was through the punishment of those who "troubled" the true "Israel," the destruction of Jerusalem, that to the Apostles and the rest who believed, the hope of victory over the whole world was opened." "Hope." The word more fully means, a "patient, enduring longing." To each returning soul, "the valley of trouble," or the lowliness of repentance, becometh a door of patient longing, not in itself, but because "God giveth" it to be so; a longing which "reacheth on, awaiteth on," entering within the veil, and bound first to the Throne of God. But then only, when none of the "accursed thing" Jos 7:11-15 cleaveth to it, when it has no reserves with God, and retains nothing for itself, which God hath condemned.
And she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth - The song is a responsive song, choir answering choir, each stirring up the other to praise, and praise echoing praise, as Israel did after the deliverance at the Red Sea. "Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord. I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously. And Miriam the prophetess the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel, and all the women went out after her. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously" Exo 15:1, Exo 15:20-21. So the Seraphim sing one to another, holy, holy, holy Isa 6:3; so Paul exhorts Christians "to admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in their hearts to the Lord" Col 3:16; so the Jewish psalmody passed into the Christian Church, and the blessed in heaven, having on the Cross passed the troublesome sea of this world, "sing the new song of Moses and of the Lamb" Rev 15:3.
She shall sing there - Where? There, where he "allureth" her, where He leadeth her, where He "speaketh to her heart," where He in worketh in her that hope. There, shall she sing, there, give praise and thanks.
As in the days of her youth - Her "youth" is explained, in what follows, to be "the days when she came up out of the land of Egypt," when she was first born to the knowledge of her God, when the past idolatries had been forgiven and cut off; and she had all the freshness of new life, and had not yet wasted it by rebellion and sin. Then God first called "Israel, My firstborn son. My son, My firstborn" Exo 4:22. "She came up" into the land which God chose, out of Egypt, since we "go up" to God and to things above; as, on the other hand, the prophet says, "Woe to those who go down to Egypt" Isa 31:1, for the aids of this world; and the man who was wounded, the picture of the human race, was "going down from Jerusalem to Jericho" (Luk 10:30; see the note above at Hos 1:11).
And it shall be ... thou shall call Me Ishi - (my Husband) and shalt call Me no more Baali (my Baal, Lord). "Baal," originally Lord, was a title sometimes given to the husband. "The lord of the woman," "her lord," "the heart of her lord," stand for "the husband," "her husband" (Exo 21:22; Sa2 11:26; Pro 31:11, ...). God says, "so wholly do I hate the name of idols, that on account of the likeness of the word Baal, "my Lord," I will not be so called even in a right meaning, lest, while she utter the one, she should think on the other, and calling Me her Husband, think on the idol." Yet, withal, God says that He will put into her mouth the tenderer name of love, אישׁ 'ı̂ysh, literally, "my man." In Christ, the returning soul, which would give herself wholly to God, however far she had wandered, should not call God so much her Lord, as her Husband. : "Every soul, although laden with sins, meshed in vices, snarcd by a captive in exile, imprisoned in the body, sticking fast in the mud, fixed in the mire, affixed to its earthly members, nailed down by cares, distracted by turmoils, narrowed by fears, prostrated by grief, wandering in errors, tossed by anxieties, restless through suspicions, in fine, a captive "in the land of the enemy, defiled with the dead, accounted with them who go down in the grave" (Baruch 3:10, 11), although she be thus condemned, in state thus desperate, yet she may perceive that in herself, from where she may not only respire to hope of pardon and of mercy, but from where she may dare to aspire to the nuptials of the Word, tremble not to enter into alliance with God, be not abashed to take on her the sweet yoke of love with the Lord of Angels. For what may she not safely dare with Him, with whose image she seeth herself stamped, and glorious with His likeness?
To this end God Himself, the Author of our being, willed that the ensign of our divine nobleness of birth should ever be maintained in the soul, that she may ever have that in herself from the Word, whereby she may ever be admonished, either to stand with the Word, or to return to Him, if she have been moved. Moved, not as though removing in space, or walking on foot, but moved (as a spiritual substance is moved) with its affections, yea, its defections, it goes away from itself, as it were, to a worse state, making itself unlike itself and degenerate from itself, through pravity of life and morals; which unlikeness, however, is the fault, not the destruction, of nature. Contrariwise, the return of the soul is its conversion to the Word, to be re-formed by Him, conformed to Him. Wherein? In love. For He saith, "be ye followers of me, as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us." Such conformity marries the soul to the Word, when she, having a likeness to Him by nature, also maketh herself like to Him in will, loving as she is loved. Wherefore, if she loveth perfectly, she is married. What sweeter than this conformity? What more desirable than this love? For by it, not content with human guidance, thou approachest, by thyself, O soul, confidentially to the Word; to the Word thou constantly cleavest; of the Word thou familiarly inquirest, and consultest as to all things, as capacious in understanding as emboldened in longing. This is contract of marriage, truly spiritual and holy. Contract! I have said too little. It is embrace. For embrace it is, when to will the same and nill the same, maketh of twain, one spirit."
For I will take array the names of Baalim out of her mouth - It is, then, of grace. He does not only promise the ceasing of idolatry, but that it shall be the fruit of His converting grace, the gift of Him from whom "is both to will and to do. I will take away, as God saith elsewhere, "I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall be no more remembered Zac 13:1-9; and, "the idols He shall utterly abolish" Isa 2:18. In like way God foretells of Judah that the fruit of her captivity should be, that her idols should cease, that He would cleanse them from their idols, and renew them by His grace. "In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your images may be cut down, and your works may be abolished" Eze 6:6. And, "Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you. Neither shall they defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions" Eze 36:25-26; Eze 37:23.
And they shall be no more remembered, or, made mention of - The names of Baal and the idols, through which Israel sinned, are remembered now, only in the history of their sin.
And in that day - o: "Truly and properly is the time of the Incarnation of the Only-Begotten called "the Day," wherein darkness was dispelled in the world, and the mist dispersed, and bright rays shed into the minds of believers, and the Sun of Righteousness shone upon us, pouring in the light of the true knowledge of God, to those who could open wide the eye of the mind."
And I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field ... - God promises to do away the whole of the former curse. Before, He had said that their vineyards should be laid waste "by the beasts of the field;" now, He would make an entire and lasting peace with them. He, whose creatures they are, would renew for them in Christ the peace of Paradise, which was broken through Adam's rebellion against God, and would command none to hurt them. The blessings of God do not correspond only, they go beyond the punishment. The protection is complete. Every kind of evil animal, beast, bird and reptile, is named. So Peter "saw all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air." All were to be slain to their former selves, and pass into the Church. Together the words express, that God would withhold the power of all enemies, visible or invisible; worldly or spiritual. Each also may denote some separate form or character of the enemy. Thus "wild beasts" picture savageness or bloodthirstiness, the ceasing whereof Isaiah prophesies under the same symbols of beasts of prey, as the leopard, lion, wolf, and bear, or of venomous reptiles, as the asp or the basilisk. The "fowls of heaven" denote stealthy enemies, which, unperceived and unawares, take the word of God out of the heart; "creeping things," such as entice to degrading, debasing sins, love of money or pleasure or appetite, "whose god is their belly, who mind earthly things" Phi 3:19. All shall be subdued to Christ or by Him; as He says, "I give you power over serpents and scorpions, and all the power of the enemy: and Thou shalt go upon the lion and the adder; the young lion and the adder shalt thou trample underfoot" Luk 10:19; Psa 91:13.
I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth - God foretells much more the greatness of what He would do for man, than the little which man receives. The Gospel brings peace within, and, since "wars and fightings come from" Jam 4:1 evil passions and lusts, it brings "peace," as far it prevails, without also; peace, as the "borders of" the Church Psa 147:14; peace in the world, as far as it is won to Christ by the Church; peace to the soul of the believer, so far as he loves God and obeys the Gospel.
And will make them to lie down safely - that is, in confidence. God gives not outward peace only, but fearlessness. Fearless, the Christian lies down during life, at peace with God, his neighbor, and his own conscience; fearless, because "perfect love casteth out fear Jo1 4:18; and fearless in death also, because resting in Jesus, in everlasting, unfailing, unfading peace.
And I will betroth her unto Me forever - God does not say here, "I will forgive her;" "I will restore her;" "I will receive her back again;" "I will again shew her love and tenderness." Much as these would have been, He says here much more. He so blots out, forgets, abolishes all memory of the past, that He speaks only of the future, of the new betrothal, as if it were the first espousal of a virgin. Hereafter God would make her wholly His, and become wholly her's, by an union nearer and closer than the closest bond of parent and child, that, whereby they are "no more twain, but one flesh;" and through this oneness, formed by His own indwelling in her, giving her Himself, and taking her into Himself, and so bestowing on her a title to all which is His. And this, forever. The betrothal and union of grace in this life passeth over into the union of glory, of which it is said, "Blessed are they who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb" Rev 19:9.
He, by His Spirit, shall be with His Church "unto the end of the world," and so bind her unto Himself that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against her." The whole Church shall never fail. This "betrothal" implies and involves a new covenant, as God says, "Behold the days come, that I will make a new covenant with the hoarse of Israel and the house of Judah, not according to My covenant which I made with their fathers, which My covenant they brake" Jer 31:31-32, and which vanisheth away. To those who had broken His covenant and been unfaithful to Him, it was great tenderness, that He reproached them not with the past; as neither doth He penitents now. But beyond this, in that He speaks of "espousing" her who was already espoused to Him, God shows that He means something new, and beyond that former espousal. What God here promised He fulfilled, not as God the Father, but in Christ. What God promised of Himself, He only could perform. God said to the Church, "I will betroth thee unto Me." He who became the "Bridegroom" Joh 3:29 of the Church was Christ Jesus; she became "the wife of the Lamb" Rev 21:9; to Him the Church was "espoused, as a chaste Virgin" Co2 11:2. He then who fulfilled what God promised that He would Himself fulfill, was Almighty God.
I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness - Or rather, (which is more tender yet and more merciful,) by, with, righteousness, etc. These are the marriage-dowry, the bridal gifts, "with" which He purchaseth and espouseth the bride unto Himself. Righteousness then and Judgment, loving-kindness and mercies, and faithfulness or truth, are attributes of God, wherewith, as by gifts of espousal, He maketh her His own. "Righteousness" is that in God, whereby He is Himself righteous and just; "Judgment," that whereby He puts in act what is right against these who do wrong, and so judges Satan; as when the hour of His Passion was at hand, He said, "when the Comforter is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged" Joh 16:8, Joh 16:11. "Loving-kindness" is that tender affection, wherewith He cherisheth His children, the works of His hands; Mercies, His tender yearnings over us (see the note above at Hos 1:6), wherewith He hath compassion on our weakness; "Faithfulness," that whereby He "keepeth covenant forever" Psa 111:9, and "loveth His own unto the end" Joh 13:1.
And these qualities, as they are His, whereby He saved us, so doth He impart them to the Church in her measure, and to faithful souls. These are her dowry, her jewels, her treasure, her inheritance. He giveth to her and to each soul, as it can receive it, and in a secondary way, His Righteousness, Judgment, Loving-kindness, Mercies, Faithfulness. His "Righteousness," contrary to her former unholiness, He poureth into her, and giveth her, with it, grace and love and all the fruits of the Spirit. By His Judgment, He giveth her a right judgment in all things, as contrary to her former blindness. "Know ye not, says the Apostle Co1 6:3, that we shall judge angels? how much more, things that pertain to this life?" "Loving-kindness" is tender love, wherewith we "love one another, as Christ loved us" Joh 15:12. "Mercies" are that same love to those who need mercy, whereby we are "merciful, as our Father is merciful" Luk 6:36. "Faithfulness" is that constancy, whereby the elect shall "persevere unto the end, as He saith, Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" Rev 2:10.
The threefold repetition of the word betroth is also, doubtless mysterious, alluding chiefly to the Mystery of the All-Holy Trinity, so often and so manifoldly, in Holy Srcipture, foreshadowed by this sacred number. To them is the Church betrothed, by the pronouncing of whose names each of her members is, in Holy Baptism, "espoused as a chaste virgin unto Christ." At three times especially did our Lord espouse the Church unto Himself. : "First in His Incarnation, when He willed to unite His own Deity with our humanity," and "in the Virgin's womb, the nature of the woman, our nature, human nature, was joined to the nature of God," and that "forever." "He will be forever the Word and Flesh, i. e., God and Man." Secondly, in His Passion, when he washed her with His Blood, and bought her for His own by His Death. Thirdly, in the Day of Pentecost, when He poured out the Holy Spirit upon her, whereby He dwelleth in her and she in Him. And He who thus espoused the Church is God; she whom He espoused, an adulteress, and He united her to Himself, making her a pure virgin without spot or blemish. : "Human marriage makes those who were virgins to cease to be so; the divine espousal makes her who was defiled, a pure virgin." "I have espoused you," says Paul to those whom he had won back from all manner of pagan sins, "to one Husband, that I may present you a chaste virgin unto Christ" (Co2 11:2; see Jer 3:1-2). O the boundless clemency of God! : "How can it be possible, that so mighty a King should become a Bridegroom, that the Church should be advanced into a Bride? That alone hath power for this, which is All-powerful; 'love, strong as death' Sol 8:6. How should it not easily lift her up, which hath already made Him stoop? If He hath not acted as a Spouse, if He hath not loved as a Spouse, been jealous as a Spouse, then hesitate thou to think thyself espoused."
And thou shalt know the Lord - This knowledge of God follows on God's act of betrothal and of love. "We love God, because God first loved us." And the true knowledge of God includes the love of God. "To love man, we must know him: to know God, we must love Him." To "acknowledge" God, is not yet to "know" Him. They who love not God, will not even acknowledge Him as He Is, "Supreme Wisdom and Goodness and Power, the Creator and Preserver; the Author of all which is good, the Governor of the world, Redeemer of man, the most bounteous Rewarder of those who serve Him, the most just retributor of those who persevere in rebellion against Him." They who will not love God, cannot even "know" aright of God. But to "know God," is something beyond this. It is to know by experience that God is good; and this God makes known to the soul which he loves, while it meditates on Him, reads of Him; speaks of Him, adores Him, obeys Him. "This knowledge cometh from the revelation of God the Father, and in it is true bliss. Whence, when Peter confessed Him to be the Son of man and Son of God, He said, "Blessed art thou, for Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven." Yea, this knowledge is life eternal, as He said, "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" Joh 17:3.
I will hear the heavens ... - As all nature is closed, and would refuse her office to those who rebel against her God, so, when He hath withdrawn His curse and is reconciled to man all shall combine together for man's good, and, by a kind of harmony, all parts thereof join their ministries for the service of those who are at unity with Him. And, as an image of love, all, from lowest to highest, are bound together, each depending on the ministry of that beyond it, and the highest on God. At each link, the chain might have been broken; but God who knit their services together, and had before withheld the rain, and made the earth barren, and laid waste the trees, now made each to supply the other, and led the thoughts of people through the course of causes and effects up to Himself, whoever causes all which comes to pass.
The immediate desire of His people was the grain, wine and oil; they needed the fruitfulness of the earth; the earth, by its parched surface and gaping clefts, seemed to crave the rain from heaven; the rain could not fall without the will of God. So all are pictured as in a state of expectancy, until God gave the word, and His will ran through the whole course of secondary causes, and accomplished what man prayed Him for. Such is the picture. But, although God's gifts of nature were gladdening tokens of His restored favor, and now too, under the Gospel, we rightly thank Him for the removal of any of His natural chastisements, and look upon it as an earnest of His favor toward us, the prophet who had just spoken of the highest things, the union of man with God in Christ, does not here speak only of the lowest. What God gives, by virtue of an espousal "forever," are not gifts in time only. His gifts of nature are, in themselves, pictures of His gifts of grace, and as such the prophets employ them. So then God promiseth, and this in order, a manifold abundance of all spiritual gifts. Of these, "corn and wine," as they are the visible parts, so are they often, in the Old Testament, the symbols of His highest gift, the holy eucharist; and "oil," of God's Holy Spirit, through whom they are sanctified.
God here calls "Israel" by the name of "Jezreel," repealing, once more in the close of this prophecy, His sentence, conveyed through the names of the three children of the prophet. The name "Jezreel" combines in one, the memory of the former punishment and the future mercy. God did not altogether do away the temporal part of His sentence. he had said, "I will scatter;" and, although some were brought back with Judah, Israel remained scattered in all lands, in Egypt and Greece and Italy, Asia Minor, and the far East and West. But God turned His chastisement into mercy to those who believed in Him. Now he changes the meaning of the word into, "God shall sow." Israel, in its dispersion, when converted to God, became every where the preacher of Him whom they had persecuted; and in Him - the true Seed. whom God sowed in the earth and it "brought forth much fruit," converted Israel also bore, "some a hundred-fold; some sixty; some thirty."
And I will sow her unto Me in the earth - She whom God sows, is the Church, of whom God speaks as her, because she is the Mother of the faithful. After the example of her Lord, and by virtue of His Death, every suffering is to increase her. "The blood of Christians was their harvest-seed" . "The Church was not diminished by persecutions, but increased and the field of the Lord was even clothed with the richer harvest, in that the seeds, which fell singly, arose multiplied" .
In the earth - "o He does not say "in their own land," i. e., Judea, but "the earth." The whole earth was to be the seed-plot of the Church, where God would sow her to Himself, plant, establish, cause her to increase, and multiply her mightily." As he said, "Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the pagan for Thine inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for Thy possession" Psa 2:8. Of this sowing, Jews were the instruments. Of them according to the flesh, Christ came; of them were the Apostles and Evangelists and all writers of Holy Scripture; of them was the Church first formed, into which the Gentiles were received, being, with them; knit into one in Christ.
I will ... have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy - This which was true of Israel in its dispersion, was much more true of the Gentiles. These too, the descendants of righteous Noah, God had cast off for the time, that they should be no more His people, when he chose Israel out of them, to make known to them His Being, and His will, and His laws, and, (although in shadow and in mystery,) Christ who was to come. So God's mercies again overflow His threatenings. He had threatened to Israel, that he should be "unpitied," and no more His people; in reversing His sentence, He embraces in the arms of His mercy all who were not His people, and says of them all, that they should be "My people and beloved." At one and the same time, was Israel to be thus multiplied, and "pity" was to be shown to those not pitied, and those who were "not God's people," were to become "His people." At one and the same time were those promises fulfilled in Christ; the one through the other; Israel was not multiplied by itself; but through the bringing in of the Gentiles. Nor was Israel alone, or chiefly, brought into a new relation with God. The same words promised the same mercy to both, Jew and Gentile, that all should be "one in Christ," all one Jezreel, one Spouse to Himself, one Israel of God, one Beloved; and that all, with one voice of jubilee. should cry unto Him, "my Lord and my God."
And they shall say, Thou art my God, - (or rather, shall say, my God) There seems to be more affectionateness in the brief answer, which sums up the whole relation of the creature to the Creator in that one word, "Elohai, my God." The prophet declares, as before, that, when God thus anew called them His people, they by His grace would obey His call, and surrender themselves wholly to Him. For to say, "my God," is to own an exelusive relation to God alone. It is to say, my beginning and my end, my hope and my salvation, my whole and only good, in whom Alone I will hope, whom alone I will fear, love, worship, trust in, obey and serve, with all my heart, mind, soul and strength; my God and my all.