Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
When Israel was a child, then I loved him - God loved Israel, as He Himself formed it, ere it corrupted itself. He loved it for the sake of the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as he saith, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" Mal 1:2. Then, when it was weak, helpless, oppressed by the Egyptians, afflicted, destitute, God loved him, cared for him, delivered him from oppression, and called him out of Egypt. : "When did He love Israel? When, by His guidance, Israel regained freedom, his enemies were destroyed, he was fed with "food from heaven," he heard the voice of God, and received the law from Him. He was unformed in Egypt; then he was informed by the rules of the law, so as to be matured there. He was a child in that vast waste. For he was nourished, not by solid food, but by milk, i. e., by the rudiments of piety and righteousness, that he might gradually attain the strength of a man. So that law was a schoolmaster, to retain Israel as a child, by the discipline of a child, until the time should come when all, who despised not the heavenly gifts, should receive the Spirit of adoption. The prophet then, in order to show the exceeding guilt of Israel, says, "When Israel was a child," (in the wilderness, for then he was born when he bound himself to conform to the divine law, and was not yet matured) "I loved him," i. e., I gave him the law, priesthood, judgments, precepts, instructions; I loaded him with most ample benefits; I preferred him to all nations, expending on him, as on My chief heritage and special possession, much watchful care and pains."
I called My son out of Egypt - As He said to Pharaoh, "Israel is My son, even My firstborn; let My son go, that he may serve Me" Exo 4:22-23. God chose him out of all nations, to be His special people. Yet also God chose him, not for himself, but because He willed that Christ, His only Son, should "after the flesh" be born of him, and for, and in, the Son, God called His people, "My son." : "The people of Israel was called a son, as regards the elect, yet only for the sake of Him, the only begotten Son, begotten, not adopted, who, "after the flesh," was to be born of that people, that, through His Passion, He might bring many sons to glory, disdaining not to have them as brethren and co-heirs. For, had He not come, who was to come, the Well Beloved Son of God, Israel too could never, anymore than the other nations, have been called the son of so great a Father, as the Apostle, himself of that people, saith, "For we were, by nature, children of wrath, even as others" Eph 2:3.
Since, however, these words relate to literal Israel, the people whom God brought out by Moses, how were they fulfilled in the infant Jesus, when He was brought back out of Egypt, as Matthew teaches us, they were?" Mat 2:15.
Because Israel himself was a type of Christ, and for the sake of Him who was to be born of the seed of Israel, did God call Israel, "My son;" for His sake only did he deliver him. The two deliverances, of the whole Jewish people, and of Christ the Head, occupied the same position in God's dispensations. He rescued Israel, whom He called His son, in its childish and infantine condition, at the very commencement of its being, as a people. His true Son by Nature, Christ our Lord, He brought up in His Infancy, when He began to show forth His mercies to us in Him. Both had, by His appointment, taken refuge in Egypt; both were, by His miraculous call to Moses in the bush, to Joseph in the dream, recalled from it. Matthew apparently quotes these words, not to prove anything, but in order to point out the relation of God's former dealings with the latter, the beginning and the close, what relates to the body, and what relates to the Head. He tells us that the former deliverance had its completion in Christ, that in His deliverance was the full solid completion of that of Israel; and that then indeed it might, in its completest fullness, be said, "Out of Egypt have I called My Son."
When Israel was brought out of Egypt, the figure took place; when Christ was called, the reality was fulfilled. The act itself, on the part of God, was prophetic. When He delivered Israel, and called him His firstborn, He willed, in the course of time, to bring up from Egypt His Only-Begotten Son. The words are prophetic, because the event which they speak of, was prophetic. "They speak of Israel as one collective body, and, as it were, one person, called by God "My son," namely, by adoption, still in the years of innocency, and beloved by God, called of God out of Egypt by Moses, as Jesus, His true Son, was by the Angel." The following verses are not prophetic, because in them the prophet no longer speaks of Israel as one, but as composed of the many sinful individuals in it. Israel was a prophetic people, in regard to this dispensation of God toward him; not in regard to his rebellions and sins.
As they called them, so they went from them - The prophet changes his tone, no longer speaking of that one first call of God to Israel as a whole, whereby He brought out Israel as one man, His one son; which one call he obeyed. Here he speaks of God's manifold calls to the people, throughout their whole history, which they as often disobeyed, and not disobeyed only, but went contrariwise. "They called them." Whether God employed Moses, or the judges, or priests, or kings, or prophets, to call them, it was all one. Whenever or by whomsoever they were called, they turned away in the opposite direction, to serve their idols. They proportioned and fitted, as it were, their disobedience to God's long-suffering. : "Then chiefly they threw off obedience, despised their admonitions, and worked themselves up the more franticly to a zeal for the sin which they had begun." "They," God's messengers, "called; so," in like manner, "they went away from them. They sacrificed unto Baalim," i. e., their many Baals, in which they cherished idolatry, cruelty, and fleshly sin. : So "when Christ came and called them manifoldly, as in the great day of the feast, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink," the more diligently He called them, the more diligently they went away from Him, and returned to their idols, to the love and possession of riches and houses and pleasures, for whose sake they despised the truth."
I taught Ephraim also to go - Literally, "and I set Ephraim on his feet;" i. e., while they were rebelling, I was helping and supporting them, as a nurse doth her child, teaching it to go with little steps, step by step, "accustoming it to go by little and little without weariness;" and not only so, but "taking them by their arms;" or it may be equally translated, "He took them in His arms," i. e., God not only gently "taught" them "to walk," but when they were wearied, "He took them up in His arms," as a nurse doth a child when tired with its little attempts to walk. Such was the love and tender care of God, guiding and upholding Israel in His ways which He taught him, guarding him from weariness, or, if wearied, taking him in the arms of His mercy and refreshing him. So Moses says, "In the wilderness thou hast seen, how that the Lord thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came unto this place" Deu 1:31; and he expostulates with God, "Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that Thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth his sucking child, unto the land which Thou swarest unto their father's?" Num 11:12. : "Briefly yet magnificently doth this place hint at the wondrous patience of God, whereof Paul too speaks, "for forty years suffered He their manner's in the wilderness" Act 13:18.
For as a nursing father beareth patiently with a child, who hath not yet come to years of discretion, and, although at times he be moved to strike it in return, yet mostly he sootheth its childish follies with blandishments, and, ungrateful though it be, carries it in his arms, so the Lord God, whose are these words, patiently bore with the unformed people, ignorant of the spiritual mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, and although He killed the bodies of many of them in the wilderness yet the rest He soothed with many and great miracles, "leading them about, and instructing them, (as Moses says) keeping them as the apple of His eye" Deu 32:10.
But they knew not that I healed them - They laid it not to heart, and therefore what they knew with their understanding was worse than ignorance. : "I who was a Father, became a nurse, and Myself carried My little one in My arms, that he should not be hurt in the wilderness, or scared by heat or darkness. By day I was a cloud; by night, a column of fire, that I might by My light illumine, and heal those whom I had protected. And when they had sinned and had made the calf, I gave them place for repentance, and they knew not that I healed them, so as, for forty years, to close the wound of idolatry, restore them to their former health."
: "The Son of God carried us in His arms to the Father, when He went forth carrying His Cross, and on the wood of the Cross stretched out His arms for our redemption. Those too doth Christ carry daily in His arms, whom He continually entreateth, comforteth, preserveth, so gently, that with much alacrity and without any grievous hindrance they perform every work of God, and with heart enlarged run, rather than walk, the way of God's commandments. Yet do these need great caution, that they be clothed with great circumspection and humility, and despise not others. Else Christ would say of them, "They knew not that I healed them."
I drew them with the cords of a man - o: "Wanton heifers such as was Israel, are drawn with ropes; but although Ephraim struggled against Me, I would not draw him as a beast, but I drew him as a man, (not a servant, but a son) with cords of love." "Love is the magnet of love." : "The first and chief commandment of the law, is not of fear, but of love, because He willeth those whom He commandeth, to be sons rather than servants." : "Our Lord saith, 'No man cometh unto Me, except the father who hath sent me, draw him.' He did not say, lead 'him,' but 'draw him.' This violence is done to the heart, not to the body. Why marvel? Believe and thou comest; love and thou art drawn. Think it not a rough and uneasy violence: it is sweet, alluring; the sweetness draws thee. Is not a hungry sheep drawn, when the grass is shewn it? It is not, I ween, driven on in body, but is bound tight by longing. So do thou too come to Christ. Do not conceive of long journeyings. When thou believest, then thou comest. For to Him who is everywhere, people come by loving, not by traveling." So the Bride saith, "draw me and I will run after Thee" Sol 1:4. "How sweet," says Augustine, when converted, "did it at once become to me, to want the sweetnesses of those toys; and what I feared to be parted from, was now a joy to part with. For Thou didst cast them forth from me, Thou true and highest Sweetness. Thou castedst them forth, and for them enteredst in Thyself, sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood; brighter than all light, but more hidden than all depths; higher than all honor, but not to the high in their own conceits" .
: "Christ "drew" us also "with the cords of a man," when for us He became Man, our flesh, our Brother, in order that by teaching, suffering, dying for us, He might in a wondrous way bind and draw us to Himself and to God; that He might redeem the earthly Adam, might transform and make him heavenly;" : "giving us ineffable tokens of His love. For He giveth Himself to us for our Food; He giveth us sacraments; by Baptism and repentance He conformeth us anew to original righteousness. Hence, He saith, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, shall draw all men unto me" Joh 12:32; and Paul, "I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" Gal 2:20. This most loving drawing, our dullness and weakness needoth, who ever, without grace, grovel amidst vile and earthly things."
"All the methods and parts of God's government are twined together, as so many twisted cords of love from Him, so ordered, that they ought to draw man with all his heart to love Him again." : "Man, the image of the Mind of God, is impelled to zeal for the service of God, not by fear, but by love. No band is mightier, nor constrains more firmly all the feelings of the mind. For it holdeth not the body enchained, while the mind revolteth and longeth to break away, but it so bindeth to itself the mind and will, that it should will, long for, compass, nought beside, save how, even amid threats of death, to obey the commands of God. Bands they are, but bands so gentle and so passing sweet, that we must account them perfect freedom and the highest dignity."
And I was to them as they that take off - (literally, "that lift up") the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them Thus explained, the words carry on the description of God's goodness, that He allowed not the yoke of slavery to weigh heavy upon them, as He saith, "I am the Lord your God, Which brought you out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen, and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright" Lev 26:13; and God appealeth to them, "Wherein have I wearied thee? testify against Me" Mic 6:3.
But the words seem more naturally to mean, "I was to them," in their sight, I was regarded by them, "as they that lift up the yoke on their jaws," i. e., that raise the yoke, (not being already upon them) to place it "over their jaws." "For plainly the yoke never rests on the jaws, but only passed over them, either when put on the neck, or taken off." This, God seemed to them to be doing, ever placing some new yoke or constraint upon them. "And I, God" adds, all the while "was placing meat before them;" i. e., while God was taking all manner of care of them, and providing for them "all things richly to enjoy," He was regarded by them as one who, instead of "laying food before them, was lifting the yoke over their jaws." God did them all good, and they thought it all hardship.
He shall not return to Egypt - Some had probably returned already to Egypt; the rest were looking to Egypt for help, and rebelling against the Assyrian, (whose servant their king Hoshea had become), and making alliance with So king of Egypt. The prophet tells them, as a whole, that they shall not return to Egypt to which they looked, but should have the Assyrian for their king, whom they would not. "They refused to return" to God, who lovingly called them; therefore, what they desired, they should not have; and what they feared, that they should have. They would not have God for their king; therefore "the Assyrian" should "be their king," and a worse captivity than that of Egypt should befall them. For, from "that" they were delivered; from this, now hanging over them, never should they be restored.
And the sword shall abide on his cities - Literally, "shall light, shall whirl" down upon. It shall come with violence upon them as a thing whirled with force, and then it shall alight and abide, to their destruction; as Jeremiah says, "a whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury, a grievous whirlwind; it shall fall grievously (literally, whirl down) on the head of the wicked" Jer 23:19. As God said to David, after the murder of Uriah, "Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thy house" Sa2 12:10, so as to Israel, whose kings were inaugurated by bloodshed. By God's appointment, "blood will have blood." Their own sword first came down and rested upon them; then the sword of the Assyrian. So after they "had killed the Holy One and the Just," the sword of the Zealots came down and rested upon them, before the destruction by the Romans.
And shall consume his branches - that is, his mighty men. It is all one, whether the mighty men are so called, by metaphor, from the "branches of" a tree, or from the "bars" of a city, made out of those branches. Their mighty men, so far from escaping for their might, should be the first to perish.
And devour them, because of their own counsels - Their counsels, wise after this world's wisdom, were without God, against the counsels of God. Their destruction then should come from their own wisdom, as it is said, "Let them fall by their own counsels" Psa 5:10, and Job saith, "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the cunning is carried headlong" Job 5:13, i. e., it is the clean contrary of what they intend or plan; they purpose, as they think, warily; an unseen power whirls their scheme on and precipitates it. "And his own counsel shall cast him down" Job 18:7; and above; "Israel shall be ashamed through his own counsels" Job 10:6. Hoshea's conspiracy with So, which was to have been his support against Assyria, brought Assyria against him, and his people into captivity.
And My people are bent to backsliding from Me - Literally, "are hung to it!" as we say, "a man's whole being "hangs" on a thing." A thing "hung to" or "on" another, sways to and fro within certain limits, but its relation to that on which it is hung, remains immovable. Its power of motion is restrained within those limits. So Israel, so the sinner, however he veer to and fro in the details and circumstances of his sin, is fixed and immovable in his adherence to his sin itself. Whatever else Israel did, on one thing his whole being, as a nation, depended, on "backsliding" or aversion from God. The political existence of Israel, as a separate kingdom, depended on his worship of the calves, "the sin wherewith" Jeroboam "made Israel to sin." This was the ground of their "refusing to return" Hos 11:5, that, through habitual sin, they were no longer in their own power: they were fixed in evil.
Though they called them to the most High - Literally, "called him." As one man, the prophets called Israel; as one man, Israel refused to return; "none at all would exalt" Him, literally, "together he exalteth Him not."
How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? - o: "God is infinitely just and infinitely merciful. The two attributes are so united in Him, yea, so one in Him who is always one, and in whose counsels "there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning," that the one doth not ever thwart the proceeding of the other. Yet, in order to shew that our ills are from our own ill-deserts, not from any pleasure of His in inflicting ill, and that what mercy He sheweth, is from His own goodness, not from any in us, God is represented in this empassioned expression as in doubt, and (so to say) divided between justice and mercy, the one pleading against the other. At the last, God so determines, that both should have their share in the issue, and that Israel should be both justly punished and mercifully spared and relieved."
God pronounces on the evil deserts of Israel, even while He mitigates His sentence. The depth of the sinner's guilt reflects the more vividly the depth of God's mercy. In saying, "how shall I make thee as Admah?" how "shall I set thee as Zeboim?" He says, in fact, that they were, for their sins, worthy to be utterly destroyed, with no trace, no memorial, save that eternal desolation like the five "cities of the plain," of which were Sodom and Gomorrah, which God "hath set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" Jde 1:7. Such was their desert. But God says, with inexpressible tenderness, "Mine heart is turned within Me" literally, "upon Me or against Me," so as to be a burden to Him; as we say of the heart, that it is "heavy." God deigneth to speak as if His love was heavy, or a weight upon Him, while He thought of the punishment which their sins deserved.
My heart is turned - o: "As soon as I had spoken evil against thee, mercy prevailed, tenderness touched Me; the tenderness of the Father overcame the austerity of the Judge."
My repentings are kindled together, - or My strong compassions are kindled. i. e., with the heat and glow of love; as the disciples say, "Did not our hearts burn within us?" Luk 24:32, and as it is said of Joseph "his bowels did yearn Gen 43:30 (literally, were hot) toward his brother;" and of the true mother before Solomon, "her bowels yearned Kg1 3:26 (English margin, were hot) upon her son."
"Admah" and "Zeboim" were cities in the same plain with Sodom and Gomorrah, and each had their petty king Gen 14:2. In the history of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, they are not named, but are included in the general title "those cities and all the plain" (Gen 19:25). The more then would Hosea's hearers think of that place in Moses where he does mention them, and where he threatens them with the like end; "when the stranger shall see, that the whole land thereof is brimstone and salt and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and His wrath" Deu 29:22-23. Such was the end, at which all their sins aimed; such the end, which God had held out to them; but His "strong compassions were kindled."
I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger - It is the voice of "mercy, rejoicing over judgment." mercy prevails in God over the rigor of His justice, that though He will not suffer them to go utterly unpunished, yet He will abate of it, and not utterly consume them.
I will not return to destroy Ephraim - God saith that He will not, as it were, glean Ephraim, going over it again, as man doth, in order to leave nothing over. As it is in Jeremiah, "They shall thoroughly glean the remnant of Israel, as a vine. Turn back thine hand, as a grapegatherer into the baskets" Jer 6:9; and, "If grapegatherers come to thee, would they not leave some gleaning-grapes? but I have made Esau bare" Jer 49:9-10.
For I am God and not man - o: "not swayed by human passions, but so tempering His wrath, as, in the midst of it, to remember mercy; so punishing the iniquity of the sinful children, as at once to make good His gracious promises which He made to their forefathers." : "Man punishes, to destroy; God smites, to amend."
The Holy One in the midst of thee - The holiness of God is at once a ground why He punishes iniquity, and yet does not punish to the full extent of the sin. Truth and faithfulness are part of the holiness of God. He, the Holy One who was "in the midst" of them, by virtue of His covenant with their fathers, would keep the covenant which He had made, and for their father's sakes would not wholly cut them off. Yet the holiness of God hath another aspect too, in virtue of which the unholy cannot profit by the promises of the All-Holy. "I will not," paraphrases Cyril, "use unmingled wrath. I will not "give" over Ephraim, wicked as he has become, to entire destruction. Why? Do they not deserve it? Yes, He saith, but "I am God and not man," i. e., Good, and not suffering the motions of anger to overcome Me. For that is a human passion. Why then dost Thou yet punish, seeing Thou art God, not overcome with anger, but rather following Thine essential gentleness? I punish, He saith, because I am not only Good, as God, but holy also, hating iniquity, rejecting the polluted, turning away from God-haters, converting the sinner, purifying the impure, that he may again be joined to Me. We, then, if we prize the being with God, must, with all our might, fly from sin, and remember what He said. "Be ye holy, for I am holy."
And I will not enter the city - God, who is everywhere, speaks of Himself, as present to us, when He shows that presence in acts of judgment or of mercy. He visited His people in Egypt, to deliver them; He visited Sodom and Gomorrah as a Judge, making known to us that He took cognizance of their extreme wickedness. God says, that He would "not enter the city," as He did "the cities of the plain," when He overthrew them, because He willed to save them. As a Judge, He acts as though He looked away from their sin, lest, seeing their city to be full of wickedness, He should be compelled to punish it. : "I will not smite indiscriminately, as man doth, who when wroth, bursts into an offending city, and destroys all. In this sense, the Apostle says, "Hath God cast away His people? God forbid! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not east away His people, whom He foreknew. What saith the answer of God to Elias! I have reserved to Myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to Bard. Even so then, at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace" Rom 11:1-2, Rom 11:4-5. God then was wroth, not with His people, but with unbelief. For He was not angered in such wise, as not to receive the remnant of His people, if they were converted. No Jew is therefore repelled, because the Jewish nation denied Christ; but whoso, whether Jew or Gentile, denieth Christ, he himself, in his own person, repels himself."
They shall walk after the Lord - Not only would God not destroy them all, but a remnant of them should "walk after the Lord," i. e., they shall believe in Christ. The Jews of old understood this of Christ. One of them saith , "this pointeth to the time of their redemption." And another , "Although I will withdraw from the midst of them My divine presence for their iniquity, and remove them out of their own land, yet shall there be a long time in which they shall seek after the Lord and find Him." This is what Hosea has said before, that they should "abide many days without a king and without a prince, and without a sacrifice; afterward shall the children of Israel return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king" Hos 3:4-5. : "Whereas now they "fled from" God, and "walked after other gods after the imagination of their evil hearts, after their own devices" Hos 7:13; Jer 7:9; Jer 3:17; Jer 18:12, then he promises, they shall "walk after God the Lord," following the will, the mind, the commandments, the example of Almighty God. As God says of David, He "kept My commandments, and walked after Me with all his heart" Kg1 14:8; and Micah foretells that "many nations shall say, we will walk in His paths" Mic 4:2. They shall "follow after" Him, whose infinite perfections none can reach; yet they shall "follow after," never standing still, but reaching on to that which is unattainable by His grace, attaining the more by imitating what is inimitable, and stopping short of no perfection, until, in His presence, they be perfected in Him.
He shall roar like a lion - Christ is called "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" Rev 5:5. His "roaring" is His loud call to repentance, by Himself and by His Apostles. The voice of God to sinners, although full of love, must be full of awe too. He calls them, not only to flee to His mercy, but to "flee from the wrath to come." He shall call to them with a voice of Majesty command.
When He shall roar, the children shall tremble from the West - that is, they shall come in haste and fear to God. "His word is powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow" Heb 4:12. Whence those whose hearts were pricked at the preaching of Peter, said to him with trembling, "Men and brethren what shall we do?" Act 2:37. So did the preaching of judgment to come terrify the world, that from all places some did come out of the captivity of the world and did fly to Christ" . He says, "from the West;" for "from the West" have most come in to the Gospel. Yet the Jews were then about to be carried to the East, not to the West; and of the West the prophets had no human knowledge. But the ten tribes, although carried to the East into Assyria, did not all remain there, since before the final dispersion, we find Jews in Italy, Greece, Asia Minor; where those who had been restored to their own land, would not have anew exiled themselves. In these, whenever they were converted, this prophecy was fulfilled.
They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt - The West denoted Europe; Egypt and Assyria stand, each for all the lands beyond them, and so for Africa and Asia; all together comprise the three quarters of the world, from where converts have chiefly come to Christ. These are likened to birds, chiefly for the swiftness with which they shall then haste to the call of God, who now turned away the more, the more they were called. The dove, especially, was a bird of Palestine, proverbial for the swiftness of its flight, easily aftrighted, and flying the more rapidly, the more it was frightened, and returning to its cot from any distance where it might be carried; from where Isaiah also says of the converts, "Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?" Isa 60:8. "The Hebrews," says Jerome, "refer this to the coming of the Christ, who, they hope, will come; we shew that it hath taken place already. For both from Egypt and Aasyria, i. e., from East and West, from North and South, have they come, and daily do they come, who sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."
And I will place them in their houses - "Their houses" may be their own particular Churches, in the one Church or "House of God" Ti1 3:15. In this house, God says, that He will make them to dwell, not again to be removed from it, nor shaken in it, but in a secure dwelling-place here until they be suited to be removed to everlasting habitations. : "In their houses, i. e., in the mansions prepared for them. For from the beginning of the world, when He created our first parents, and blessed them and said, "Increase and multiply and replenish the earth," He prepared for them everlasting houses or mansions. Whereof He said, just before His Death, "In My father's house are many mansions," and in the Last Day, He will say, "Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
Ephraim compasseth Me about with lies - Having spoken of future repentance, conversion, restoration, he turns back to those around him, and declares why they can have no share in that restoration. Nothing about them was true. If ever they approached God, it was "with lies." : "God, being infinite, cannot really be "compassed about." The prophet so speaks, to describe the "great multitude of those who thus lied to God, and the multitude and manifoldness of their lies. Wherever God looked, in all parts of their kingdom, in all their doings, all which He could see was lying to Himself." All was, as it were, one throng of lies, heaped on one another, jostling with one another. Such is the world now. "Their sin was especially a lie, because they sinned, not through ignorance, but through malice." Their chief lie was the setting up of the worship of the calves, with a worldly end, yet with pretence of religion toward God; denying Him, the One true God, in that they joined idols with Him, yet professing to serve Him. And so all their worship of God, their repentance, their prayers, their sacrifices were all one lie. For one lie underlay all, penetrated all, corrupted all. All half-belief is unbelief; all half-repentance is unrepentance, all half-worship is unworship; and, in that each and all give themselves out for that divine whole, whereof they are but the counterfeit, each and all are "lies," wherewith men, on all sides, encompass God. From these wrong thoughts of God all their other deceits flowed, while yet, "they deceived, not Him but themselves, in that they thought that they could deceive Him, who cannot be deceived." When Christ came, the house of Israel surrounded Him with lies, the scribes and lawyers, the Pharisees and Sadducees and Herodians, vying with one another, "how they might entangle Him in His talk" Mat 22:15.
But Judah yet ruleth with God - Ephraim had cast off the rule of God, the kings and priests whom He had appointed, so that his whole kingdom and polity was without God and against Him. In contrast with this, Judah, amid all His sins, was outwardly faithful. He adhered to the line of kings, from whom was to spring the Christ, David's Son but David's Lord. He worshiped with the priests whom God had appointed to offer the typical sacrifices, until "He" should come, "the high priest forever, after the order of Melchisedek," who should end those sacrifices by the Sacrifice of Himself. Thus far Judah "ruled with God;" he was on the side of God, maintained the worship of God, was upheld by God. So Abijah said to Jeroboam, "The Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken Him, and the priests which minister unto the Lord are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites wait upon their business. For we keep the charge of the Lord our God, but ye have forsaken Him, and behold God is with us for our Captain, ..." Ch2 13:10-12.
And is faithful with the saints - Or (better perhaps, with the E. M) "with the All-Holy." The same plural is used of God elsewhere (Jos 24:19; and in Pro 30:3); and its use, like that of the ordinary name of God, is founded on the mystery of the Trinity. It does not teach it, but neither can it be accounted for in any other way. This faithfulness of Judah was outward only, (as the upbraiding of the prophet to Judah testifies,) yet did it much favor inward holiness. "The body without the soul is dead;" yet the life, even when seeming to be dying out, might be brought back, when the body was there; not, when it too was dissolved. Hence, Judah had many good kings, Israel none. Yet, in that he says, "yet ruleth with God," he shows that a time was coming when Judah too would be, not "with God" but against Him, and also would be cast off.