Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind - The East wind in Palestine, coming from Arabia and the far East, over large tracts of sandy waste, is parching, scorching, destructive to vegetation, oppressive to man, violent and destructive on the sea Psa 48:7, and, by land also, having the force of the whirlwind (Job 27:21; see Jer 18:17). "The East wind carrieth him away and he departeth, and as a whirlwind hurleth him out of his place." In leaving God and following idols, Ephraim "fed on" what is unsatisfying, and chased after what is destructive. If a hungry man were to "feed on wind," it would be light food. If a man could overtake the East wind, it were his destruction. : Israel "fed on wind," when he sought by gifts to win one who could aid him no more than the wind; "he chased the East wind," when, in place of the gain which he sought, he received from the patron whom he had adopted, no slight loss." Israel sought for the scorching wind, when it could betake itself under the shadow of God. : "The scorching wind is the burning of calamities, and the consuming fire of affliction."
He increaseth lies and desolation - Unrepented sins and their punishment are, in God's govermnent, linked together; so that to multiply sin is, in fact, to multiply desolation. Sin and punishment are bound together, as cause and effect. Man overlooks what he does not see. Yet not the less does he "treasure up wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous Judgment of God" Rom 2:5. : "Lying" will signify false speaking, false dealing, false belief, false opinions, false worship, false pretences for color thereof, false hopes, or relying on things that will deceive. In all these kinds, was Ephraim at that time guilty, adding one sort of lying to another."
They do make a covenant with the Assyrians and oil is carried into Egypt - Oil was a chief product of Palestine, from where it is called "a land of oil olive" Deu 8:8; and "oil" with balm was among its chief exports to Tyre (Eze 27:17; see the note above at Hos 2:8). It may also include precious ointments, of which it was the basis. As an export of great value, it stands for all other presents, which Hoshea sent to So, King of Egypt. Ephraim, threatened by God, looked first to the Assyrian, then to Egypt, to strengthen itself. Having dealt falsely with God, he dealt falsely with man. First, he "made covenant with" Shalmaneser, king of "Assyria;" then, finding the tribute, the price of his help, burdensome to him, he broke that covenant, by sending to Egypt. Seeking to make friends out of God, Ephraim made the more powerful, the Assyrian, the more his enemy, by seeking the friendship of Egypt; and God executed His judgments through those, by whose help they had hoped to escape them.
The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob - The guilt of Judah was not open apostasy, nor had he filled up the measure of his sins. Of him, then, God saith only, that He "had a controversy with" him, as our Lord says to the "Angel of the Church of Pergamos, I have a few things against thee. Repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and fight against thee with the sword of My mouth" Rev 2:12, Rev 2:16. Of Ephraim, whose sin was complete, He says, that the Lord "is to punish." God had set His mind, as we say, on punishing him; He had (so to speak) set Himself to do it. Jacob, like Israel, is here the name for the chief part of Israel, i. e., the ten tribes. Our Lord uses the same gradation in speaking of different degrees of evil-speaking; "Whosoever of you is angry without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire" Mat 5:22. : "The justice of God falls more severely on those who degenerate from a holy parent, than on those who have no incitement to good from the piety of their home." To amplify this , "The prophet explains what good things Jacob received, to show both the mercy of God to Jacob, and the hardness of Ephraim toward God. While Jacob was yet in his mother's womb, he took his brother by the heel, not by any strength of his own, but by the mercy of God, who knows and loves those whom he hath predestinated."
He took his brother by the heel in the womb - Whether or no the act of Jacob was beyond the strength, ordinarily given to infants in the womb, the meaning of the act was beyond man's wisdom to declare. Whence the Jews paraphrased , "Was it not predicted of your lather Jacob, before he was born, that he should become greater than his brother?" Yet this was not fulfilled until more than 500 years afterward, nor completely until the time of David. These gifts were promised to Jacob out of the free mercy of God, antecedent to all deserts. But Jacob, thus chosen without desert, showed forth the power of faith; "By his strength he had power with God." : "The strength by which he did this, was God's strength, as well as that by which God contended with him; yet it is well called his, as being by God given to him. "Yet he had power with God," God so ordering it, that the strength which was in Jacob, should put itself forth with greater force, than that in the assumed body, whereby He so dealt with Jacob. God, as it were, bore the office of two persons, showing in Jacob more strength than He put forth in the Angel." "By virtue of that faith in Jacob, it is related that God "could" not prevail against him. He could not because he would not overthrow his faith and constancy. By the touch in the hollow of his thigh, He but added strength to his faith, showing him who it was who wrestled with him, and that He willed to bless him." For thereon Jacob said those words which have become a proverb of earnest supplication, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me, and, I have seen God, face to face, and my life is preserved" Gen 32:26, Gen 32:30. : "He was strengthened by the blessing of Him whom he overcame."
He wept and made supplication unto Him - Jacob's weeping is not mentioned by Moses. Hosea then knew more than Moses related. He could not have gathered it out of Moses, for Moses relates the words of earnest supplication; yet the tone is that of one, by force of earnest energy, wresting, as it were, the blessing from God, not of one weeping. Yet Hosea adds this, in harmony with Moses. For "vehement desires and earnest petitions frequently issue in tears." "To implore means to ask with tears" . "Jacob, learning, that God Himself thus deigned to deal with him, might well out of amazement and wonder, out of awful respect to Him, and in earnest desire of a blessing, pour out his supplication with tears." Herein he became an image of Him, "Who, in the days of His flesh, offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared" Heb 5:7.
: "This which he saith, 'he prevailed,' subjoining, 'he wept and made supplication,' describes the strength of penitents, for in truth they are strong by weeping earnestly and praying perseveringly for the forgiveness of sins, according to that, "From the days of John the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." Whosoever so imitates the patriarch Jacob, who wrestled with the Angel, and, as a conqueror, extorted a blessing from him, he, of whatever nation he be, is truly Jacob, and deserveth to be called Israel." : "Yea, herein is the unconquerable might of the righteous, this his wondrous wrestling, herein his glorious victories, in glowing longings, assiduous prayers, joyous weeping. Girt with the might of holy orison, they strive with God, they wrestle with His judgment, and will not be overcome, until they obtain from His goodness all they desire, and extort it, as it were, by force, from His hands."
He found him in Bethel - This may mean either that "God found Jacob," or that "Jacob found God;" which are indeed one and the same thing, since we find God, when He has first found us. God "found," i. e., made Himself known to Jacob twice in this place; first, when he was going toward Haran, when he saw the vision of the ladder and the angels of God ascending and descending, "and the Lord stood above it and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham and the God of Isaac;" and Jacob first called the place "Bethel;" secondly, on his return, when God spake with him, giving him the name of Israel. Both revelations of God to Jacob are probably included in the words, "He found him in Bethel," since, on both occasions, God did "find him," and come to him, and he "found" God. In Bethel, where God found Jacob, Israel deserted Him, setting up the worship of the calves; yea, he deserted God the more there, because of God's mercy to his forefather, desecrating to false worship the place which had been consecrated by the revelation of the true God; and choosing it the rather, because it had been so consecrated.
And there He spake with us - For what He said to Jacob, He said not to Jacob only, nor for Jacob's sake alone, but, in him, He spake to all his posterity, both the children of his body and the children of his faith. Thus it is said, "There did we rejoice in Him" Psa 66:6, i. e., we, their posterity, rejoiced in God there, where He so delivered our forefathers, and, "Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham, for he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchizedek met him" Heb 7:9-10. And Paul saith, that what was said to Abraham, "therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness, was not written for his sake alone, but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead" Rom 4:23, Rom 4:4. There He spake with us, how, in our needs, we should seek and find Him. In loneliness, apart from distractions, in faith, rising in proportion to our tears, in persevering prayer, in earnestness, which "clings so fast to God, that if God would cast us into Hell, He should, as one said Himself go with us, so should Hell not be Hell to us," God is sought and found.
Even the Lord God of Hosts, the Lord is His memorial - The word, here as translated and written Lord, is the special and, so to say, the proper Name of God, that which He gave to Himself, and which declares His Being. God Himself authoritatively explained its meaning. When Moses inquired of Him, what he should say to Israel, when they should ask him, "what is the Name of the God of their fathers," who, he was to tell them, had sent him to them, "God said ... I Am That I Am ... thus shalt thou say, I Am" (Ehyeh) "hath sent me unto you; and God said again unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord" (literally, He is, YeHeWeH , "God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you; This is My Name forever, and this is My memorial unto all generations" Exo 3:13-15.
I am, expresses self-existence; He who alone is. I am that I am, expresses His unchangeableness, the necessary attribute of the Self-existent, who, since He is, ever is all which He is. "To Be," says Augustine , "is a name of unchangeableness. For all things which are changed, cease to be what they were, and begin to be what they were not. True Being, pure Being, genuine Being, no one hath, save He who changeth not. He hath Being to whom it is said, "Thou shalt change them and they shall be changed, but Thou art the Same." What is, I am that I am, but, I am Eternal? What is, I am that I am, save, I cannot be changed? No creature, no heaven, no earth, no angel, "nor Power, nor Throne, nor Dominion, nor Principality." This then being the name of eternity, it is somewhat more, than He vouchsafed to him a name of mercy, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. That," He is in Himself, "this," to us.
If he willed only to be That which he is in Himself, what should we be? Since Moses understood, when it was said to him, I am that I am, He who is hath sent me unto you, he believed that this was much to people, he saw that this was far removed from people. For whose hath understood, as he ought, That which is, and which truly is, and, in whatever degree, hath even transiently, as by a lightning flash, been irradiated by the light of the One True Essence, sees himself far below, in the utmost farness of removal and unlikeness." This, the Self-existent, the Unchangeable, was the meaning of God's ancient Name, by which He was known to the patriarchs, although they had not in act seen His unchangeableness, for theirs was a life of faith, hoping for what they saw not. The word, He is, when used of Him by His creatures, expresses the same which He says of Himself, I AM. This He willed to be "His memorial forever." This the way in which He willed that we should believe in Him and think of Him as He who is, the Self-existing, the Self-Same.
The way of pronouncing that Name is lost . The belief has continued, wherever the Lord is named. For by the Lord we mean the Unchangeable God. That belief is contradicted, whenever people use the name "Jehovah," to speak of God, as though the belief in Him under the Old Testament differed from that of the New Testament. Perhaps God allowed it to be lost, that people might not make so familiar with it, as they do with the word "Jehovah," or use it irreverently and in an anti-Christian manner, as some now employ other ways of pronouncing it. The Jews, even before the time of our Lord, ordinarily ceased to pronounce it. In the translations of the Old Testament, and in the Apocrypha, the words, "the Lord," were substituted for it. Jewish tradition states, that in later times the Name was pronounced in the temple only, by the priests, on pronouncing the blessing commanded by God in the law . On the great Day of Atonement, it was said that the high priest pronounced it ten times , and that when the people heard it, they fell on their faces, saying, "Blessed be the glorious name of His kingdom forever and ever" . They say, however, that in the time of Simeon the Just (i. e., ), Jaddua, who died about 322 b.c., the high priests themselves disused it, for fear of its being pronounced by some irreverent person .
Our Lord Himself sanctioned I the disuse of it, (as did the inspired Apostles yet more frequently,) since, in quoting places of the Old Testament in which it occurs, He uses instead of it the Name, "the Lord" . It stands, throughout the Old Testament, as the Name which speaks of God in relation to His people, that He ever is; and, since He ever is, then He is unchangeably to us, all which He ever was, "The Same, yesterday and today and forever" Heb 13:8.
He then who appeared to Jacob, and who, in Jacob, spake to all the posterity of Jacob, was God; whether it was (as almost all the early fathers thought ), God the Son, who thus appeared in human form to the patriarchs, Moses, Joshua, and in the time of the Judges, under the name of "the Angel of the Lord," or whether it was the Father. God Almighty thus accustomed man to see the form of Man, and to know and believe that it was God. He it was, the prophet explains, "the Lord," i. e., the Self existent, the Unchangeable, "Who was, and is and is to come" Rev 1:4, Rev 1:8, who alone is, and from whom are all things , "the Fullness of Being, both of His own, and of all His creatures, the boundless Ocean of all which is, of wisdom, of glory, of love, of all good."
The Lord of Hosts - that is, of all things visible and invisible, of the angels and heavenly spirits, and of all things animate and inanimate, which, in the history of the Creation, are called "the host of heaven and earth" Gen 2:1, the one host of God. This was the way in which He willed to be had in mind, thought of, remembered. On the one hand then, as relates to Ephraim's sin, not by the calves, nor by any other created thing, did He will to be represented to people's minds or thoughts. On the other hand, as relates to God's mercies, since He, who revealed Himself to Jacob, was the unchangeable God, Israel had no cause to fear, if he returned to the faith of Jacob, whom God there accepted. Whence it follows;
Therefore turn thou to thy God - (Literally, "And thou, thou shalt turn" so as to lean "on thy God.") "And thou" unlike, he would say, as thou art to thy great forefather, now at least, "turn to thy God;" hope in Him, as Jacob hoped; and thou too shalt be accepted. God was the Same. They then had only to turn to Him in truth, and they too would find Him, such as Jacob their father had found Him, and then "trust in him continually. mercy and judgment" include all our duty to our neighbor, love and justice. The prophet. selects the duties of the second table, as Micah also places them first, "What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God?" Mic 6:8, and our Lord chooses those same commandments, in answer to the rich young man, who asked him, "What shall I do, in order to enter into life?" Mat 19:17. For people cannot deceive themselves so easily about their duties to their neighbor, as about their duty to God. It was in love to his neighbor that the rich young man failed.
Thou shalt turn - that is, it is commonly said, thou oughtest to turn; as our's has it, "turn." But it may also include the promise that, at one time, "Israel shall turn to the Lord," as Paul says, "so shall all Israel be saved."
And wait on thy God continually - If they did so, they should not wait in vain. : "This word, "continually," hath no small weight in it, shewing with what circumstances or properties their waiting or hope on God ought to be attended; that it ought to be on Him alone, on Him always, without doubting, fainting, failing, intermission or ceasing, in all occasions and conditions which may befall them, without exception of time, even in their adversity." "Turn to 'thy' God," he saith, "wait on 'thy' God," as the great ground of repentance and of trust. "God had avouched them for His peculiar people" Deu 26:17-18, and they had "avouched Him for" their only "God." He then was still their God, ready to receive them, if they would return to Him.
He is a merchant - Or, indignantly, "a merchant in whose hands are the balances of deceit!" How could they love "mercy and justice," whose trade was "deceit," who weighed out deceit with their goods? False in their dealings, in their weights and measures, and, by taking advantage of the necessities of others, oppressive also. Deceit is the sin of weakness oppression is the abuse of power. Wealth does not give the power to use naked violence but wealthy covetousness manifoldly grinds the poor. When for instance, wages are paid in necessaries priced exorbitantly, or when artisans are required to buy at a loss at their masters' shops, what is it but the union of deceit and oppression? The trading world is full of oppression, scarcely veiled by deceit. "He loveth to oppress." Deceit and oppression have, each, a devilish attractiveness to those practiced in them; deceit, as exercising cleverness, cunning, skill in overreaching, outwitting; oppression, as indulging self will, caprice, love of power, insolence, and the like vices. The word "merchant," as the prophet spoke it, was "Canaan;" merchants being so called, because the Canaanites or Phoenicians were the then great merchant-people, as astrologers were called Chaldeans. The Phoenicians were, in Homer's time, infamous for their griping in traffic. They are called "gnawers" and "money-lovers" . To call Israel, "Canaan," was to deny to him any title to the name of Israel, "reversing the blessing of Jacob, so that, as it had been said of Jacob, "thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel," he would in fact say, 'Thy name shall be called no more Israel, but Canaan'; as being, through their deeds, heirs, not to the blessings of Israel but to the curse of Canaan." So Ezekiel saith, "Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite" Eze 16:3.
And Ephraim said, Yet am I become rich - Literally, "I am simply rich." As if he said, "the only result of all this, with which the prophets charge me, is that 'I am become rich:' and since God thus prospers me, it is a sure proof that he is not displeased with me, that 'no iniquity' can be 'found in me;'" the ordinary practical argument of men, as long as God withholds His punishments, that their ways cannot be so displeasing to Him. With the people of this world, with its politicians, in trade, it is the one decisive argument: "I was in the right, for I succeeded." "It was a good speculation, for he gained thousands." "it was good policy, for, see its fruits. An answer, at which the pagan laughed, "the people hisses me, but I, I, safe at home, applaud myself, when the coin jingles in my chest" . The pagan ridiculed it; Christians enact it. But in truth, the fact that God does not punish, is often the evidence of His extremest displeasure.
They shall find none iniquity in me, that were sin - The merchants of Ephraim continue their protest; "in all the toil of my hands, all my buying and selling, my bargains, contracts, they can bring no iniquity home to me," and then, in a tone of simple innocence, they add, 'that' were 'sin,' as though they 'could' not do, what to do were sin. None suspect themselves less, than those intent on gain. The evil customs of other traders, the habits of trade, the seeming necessity for some frauds, the conventional nature of others, the minuteness of others, with their frequent repetition, blind the soul, until it sees no sin, while, with every smallest sale, "they sell their own souls into the bargain" .
And I, the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt - God, in few words, comprises whole centuries of blessings, all, from the going out of Egypt to that very day, all the miracles in Egypt, in the wilderness, under Joshua, the Judges; one stream of benefits it had been, which God had poured out upon them from first to last. The penitent sees in one glance, how God had been "his" God, from his birth until that hour, and how he had all along offended God.
Will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles - The feast of tabernacles was the yearly remembrance of God's miraculous guidance and support of Israel through the wilderness. It was the link, which bound on their deliverance from Egypt to the close of their pilgrim-life and their entrance into their rest. The passage of the Red Sea, like Baptism, was the beginning of God's promises. By it israel was saved from Egypt and from bondage, and was born to be a people of God. Yet, being the beginning, it was plainly not the completion; nor could they themselves complete it. Enemies, more powerful than they, had to be dispossessed; "the great and terrible wilderness, the fiery serpents and scorpions, and the land of exceeding drought, where was no water" Deu 8:15, had to be surmounted; no food was there, no water, for so vast a multitude. It was a time of the visible presence of God. He promised; "I send an Angel before thee to keep thee in the way and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared" Exo 23:20. "He brought them forth water out of the rock of flint, and fed them with manna which," He says, "thy fathers knew not" Deu 8:15-16. "Thy raiment," He appeals to them, "waxed not old, nor did thy foot swell these forty years" Deu 8:4; "thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot; ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God" Deu 29:5-6.
It was a long trial-time, in which they were taught entire dependence upon God; a time of sifting, in which God proved His faithfulness to those who persevered. Standing there between the beginning and the end of the accomplishment of God's promise to Abraham and to them, it was a type of His whole guidance of His people at all times. It was a pledge that God would lead His own, if often "by a way which they knew not" Isa 42:16, yet to rest, with Him. The yearly commemoration of it was not only a thanksgiving for God's past mercies; it was a confession also of their present relation to God, that "here we have no continuing city" (Heb 13:14; compare Hos 11:9-10); that they still needed the guidance and support of God; and that their trust was not in themselves, nor in man, but in Him. This they themselves saw. : "When they said, 'Leave a fixed habitation, and dwell in a chance abode,' they meant, that the command to dwell in tabernacles was given, to teach us, that no man must rely on the height or strength of his house, or on its good arrangements though it abound in all good; nor may he rely on the help of any man, not though he were lord and king of the whole earth, but must trust in Him by whose word the worlds were made. For with Him alone is power and faithfulness, so that, whereinsoever any man may place his trust, he shall receive no consolation from it, since in God alone is refuge and trust, as it is said, 'Whoso putteth his trust in the Lord, mercy embraceth him on every side, and I will say unto the Lord, my Refuge and my Fortress, my God, in Him will I trust. '"
The feast of tabernacles was also a yearly thanksgiving for the mercies with which God had "crowned the year." The joy must have been even the greater, since it followed, by five days only, after the mournful day of atonement, its rigid fast from evening to evening, and its confession of sin. Joy is greater when ushered in by sorrow; sorrow for sin is the condition of joy in God. The Feast of tabernacles was, as far it could be, a sort of Easter after Lent. At the time when Israel rejoiced in the good gifts of the year, God bade them express, in act, their fleeting condition in this life. It must have been a striking confession of the slight tenure of all earthly things, when their kings and great men, their rich men and those who lived at ease, had all, at the command of God, to leave their ceiled houses, and dwell for seven days in rude booths, constructed for the season, pervious in some measure to the sun and wind, with no fixed foundation, to be removed when the festival was passed. "Because," says a Jewish writer , "at the time of the gathering of the increase from the field, man wishes to go from the field to his house to make a fixed abode there, the law was anxious, lest on account of this fixed abode, his heart should be lifted up at having found a sort of palace, and he should 'wax fat and kick.' Therefore it is written, 'all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths.' Whoso begins to think himself a citizen in this world, and not a foreigner, him God biddeth, leaving his ordinary dwelling, to remove into a temporary lodging, in order that, leaving these thoughts, he may learn to acknowledge that he is only a stranger in this world and not a citizen, in that he dwells as in a stranger's hut, and so should not attribute too much to the shadow of his beams, but 'dwell under the shadow of the Almighty. '"
Every year, the law was publicly read in the feast. Ephraim was living clean contrary to all this. He boasted in his wealth, justified himself on the ground of it, ascribed it and his deliverance from Egypt to his idols. He would not keep the feast, as alone God willed it to be kept. While he existed in his separate kingdom, it could not be. Their political existence had to be broken, that they might be restored.
God then conveys the notice of the impending punishment in words which promised the future mercy. He did not, "then, make" them "to dwell in tabernacles." For all their service of Him was out of their own mind, contrary to His will, displeasing to Him. This, then, "I will "yet" make thee dwell in tabernacles," implies a distant mercy, beyond and distinct from their present condition. Looking on beyond the time of the captivity, He says that they shall yet have a time of joy, "as in the days of the solemn feast." God would give them a new deliverance, but out of a new captivity.
The feast of tabernacles typifies this our pilgrim-state, the life of simple faith in God, for which God provides; poor in this world's goods, but rich in God. The Church militant dwells, as it were, in tabernacles; hereafter, we hope to be "received into everlasting habitations," in the Church triumphant.
I have also spoken by the prophets - Literally, "upon the prophets," the revelation coming down from heaven upon them. Somewhat like this, is what Ezekiel says, "the hand of the Lord was strong upon me" (Eze 3:14, ...). God declares, in what way He had been their God "from the land of Egypt." Their ignorance of Him was without excuse, for He had always taught them, although they ever sought the false prophets, and persecuted the true. He taught them continually and in divers ways, if so be any impression might be made upon them. He taught them, either in plain words, or in the "visions" which He "multiplied" to the prophets; or in the "similitudes" or parables, which He taught through their ministry. In the "vision," God is understood to have represented the things to come, as a picture, to the prophet's mind, , "whether the picture were presented to his bodily eyes, or impressed on his imagination, and that, either in a dream, or without a dream."
The "similitude," which God says that He repeatedly, continually, used, seems to have been the parable, as when God compared His people to a vine, Himself to the Lord of the vineyard, or when He directed His prophets to do acts which should shadow forth some truth, as in the marriage of Hosea himself. God had said to Aaron, that He would thus make Himself known by the prophets. "If there be a prophet among you, I, the Lord, will make Myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all My house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches" Num 12:6-8. "The dark speech" in Moses answers to the "similitude" of Hosea; the "vision" and "dream" in Moses are comprehended in "visions," as used by Hosea. The prophet Joel also says, "your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions" Joe 2:28. So little ground then have they, who speak of the visions of Daniel and Zechariah, as if they belonged to a later age. : "I have instructed," God saith, "men of God, to form thee to piety, enlightening their minds with manifold knowledge of the things of God. And because the light of divine wisdom could not otherwise shine on people placed here below in the prison-house of the body, I had them taught through figures and corporeal images, that, through them, they might rise to the incorporeal, and receive some knowledge of divine and heavenly things. And thou, how didst thou requite me? How didst thou shew thy teachableness? It follows;"
Is there iniquity in Gilead? - The prophet asks the question, in order to answer it the more peremptorily. He raises the doubt, in order to crush it the more impressively. Is there "iniquity" in "Gilead?" Alas, there was nothing else. "Surely they are vanity," or, strictly, "they have become merely vanity." As he said before, "they become abominations like their love." "For such as men make their idols, or conceive their God to be, such they become themselves. As then he who worships God with a pure heart, is made like unto God, so they who worship stocks and stones, or who make passions and lusts their idols, lose the mind of men and become 'like the beasts which perish.'" "In Gilgal they have sacrificed oxen. Gilead" represents all the country on its side, the East of Jordan; "Gilgal," all on its side, the West of Jordan. In both, God had signally shown forth His mercies; in both, they dishonored God, sacrificing to idols, and offering His creatures, as a gift to devils.
Yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the field - Their altars are like the heaps of stones, from which men clear the plowed land, in order to fit it for cultivation, as numerous as profuse, as worthless, as desolate. "Their" altars they were, not God's. They did, (as sinners do,) in the service of devils, what, had they done it to God, would have been accepted, rewarded, service. Full often they sacrificed oxen; they threw great state into their religion; they omitted nothing which should shed around it an empty show of worship. They multiplied their altars, their sins, their ruins; many altars over against His one altar; : "rude heaps of stones, in His sight; and such they should become, no one stone being left in order upon another." In contrast with their sins and ingratitude, the prophet exhibits two pictures, the one, of the virtues of the patriarch whose name they bore, from whom was the beginning of their race; the other, of God's love to them, in that beginning of their national existence, when God brought those who had been a body of slaves in Egypt, to be His own people.
And Jacob fled into the country of Syria - Jacob chose poverty and servitude rather than marry an idotatress of Canaan. He knew not from where, except from God's bounty and providence, he should have "bread to eat, or raiment to put on" Gen 28:20; "with his staff alone he passed over Jordan" Gen 32:10. His voluntary poverty, bearing even unjust losses Gen 31:39, and "repaying the things which he never took," reproved their dishonest traffic; his trustfulness in God, their mistrust; his devotedness to God, their alienation from Him, and their devotion to idols. And as the conduct was opposite, so was the result. Ill-gotten riches end in poverty; stable wealth is gained, not by the cupidity of man, but by the good pleasure of God. Jacob, having "become two bands," trusting in God and enriched by God, returned from Syria to the land promised to him by God; Israel, distrusting God and enriching himself, was to return out of the land which the Lord his God had given him, to Assyria, amid the loss of all things.
By a prophet was he preserved - Or "kept." Jacob "kept sheep" out of love of God, sooner than unite himself with one, alien from God; his posterity "was kept" like a sheep by God, as the Psalmist said, "He led His people like sheep by the hand of Moses and Aaron" Psa 77:20. They were "kept" from all evil and want and danger, by the direct power of God; "kept" from all the might of Pharaoh in Egypt and the Red Sea , "not through any power of their own, but by the ministry of a single prophet; "kept, in that great and terrible wilderness" Deu 8:15, wherein were "fiery serpents and scorpions and drought, where" was "no water," but what God brought out of the rock of flint; no bread, but what he sent them from heaven." All this, God did for them "by "a single "prophet; they" had many prophets, early and late, calling upon them in the name of God, but they would not hearken unto them."
Ephraim provoked - the Lord most bitterly Literally, "with bitternesses," i. e., with most heinous sins, such as are most grievously displeasing to God, and were a most bitter requital of all His goodness. "Wherefore He shall leave" (or, "cast") "his blood" (literally, "bloods") "upon him." The plural "bloods" expresses the manifoldness of the bloodshed . It is not used in Holy Scripture of mere guilt. Ephraim had shed blood profusely, so that it ran like water in the land (see the notes above at Hos 4:2; Hos 5:2). He had sinned with a high hand against God, in destroying man made in the image of God. Amid that bloodshed, had been the blood not of the innocent only, but of those whom God sent to rebuke them for their idolatry, their rapine, their bloodshed. "Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord" Kg1 18:4, as far as in her lay, with a complete excision. Ephraim thought his sins past; they were out of his sight; he thought that they were out of God's also; but they were laid up with God; and God, the prophet says, would cast them down upon him, so that they would crush him.
And his reproach shall his Lord return unto him - For the blood which he had shed, should his own blood be shed, for the reproaches which he had in divers ways cast against God or brought upon Him, he should inherit reproach. Those who rebel against God, bring reproach on Him by their sins, reproach Him by their excuses for their sins reproach Him in those whom He sends to recall them from their sins, reproach Him for chastening them for their sins. All who sin against the knowledge of God, bring reproach upon Him by acting sinfully against that knowledge. So Nathan says to David, "Thou hast given much occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme" Sa2 12:14. The reproachful words of the enemies of God are but the echo of the opprobrious deeds of His unfaithful servants. The reproach is therefore, in an special manner, "their reproach" who caused it. All Israel's idolatries had this aggravation.
Their worship of the calves or of Baal or of any other gods of the nations, was a triumph of the false gods over God. Then, all sin must find some plea for itself, by impugning the wisdom or goodness of God who forbad it. Jeroboam, and Ephraim by adhering to Jeroboam's sin reproached God, as though the going up to Jerusalem was a hard service. "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." : "It was an open injury and reproach to God, to attribute to dead lifeless things those great and wonderful things done by Him for them." All the reproach, which they, in these ways, brought, or cast upon God, he says, "his Lord shall return" or "restore" to them. Their's it was; He would give it back to them, as He says, "Them that honor Me, I will honor; and they that despise Me, shall be lightly esteemed" Sa1 2:30.
Truly shame and reproach have been for centuries the portion of God's unfaithful people. To those who are lost, He gives back their reproach, in that they "rise to reproaches Dan 12:2 and everlasting abhorrence . It is an aggravation of this misery, that He who shall "give back to him" his reproach, had been "his God." Since "his God" was against him, who could be for him? "For whither should we go for refuge, save to Him? If we find wrath with Him, with whom should we find ruth?" Ephraim did not, the sinner will not, allow God to be "his God" in worship and service and love: but whether he willed or no, God would remain his Lord. He was, and might still have been their Lord for good; they would not have Him so, and so they should find Him still their Lord, as an Avenger, returning their own evil to them.