Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
In the first strophe (Hos 7:1-7) the exposure of the moral depravity of Israel is continued. Hos 7:1. "When I heal Israel, the iniquity of Ephraim, reveals itself, and the wickedness of Samaria: for they practise deceit; and the thief cometh, the troop of robbers plundereth without. Hos 7:2. And they say not in their heart, I should remember all their wickedness. Now their deeds have surrounded them, they have occurred before my face. Hos 7:3. They delight the king with their wickedness, and princes with their lies." As the dangerous nature of a wound is often first brought out by the attempt to heal it, so was the corruption of Israel only brought truly to light by the effort to stem it. The first hemistich of Hos 7:1 is not to be referred to the future, nor is the healing to be understood as signifying punishment, as Hitzig supposes; but the allusion is to the attempts made by God to put a stop to the corruption, partly by the preaching of repentance and the reproofs of the prophets, and partly by chastisements designed to promote reformation. The words contain no threatening of punishment, but a picture of the moral corruption that had become incurable. Here again Ephraim is not the particular tribe, but is synonymous with Israel, the people or kingdom of the ten tribes; and Samaria is especially mentioned in connection with it, as the capital and principal seat of the corruption of morals, just as Judah and Jerusalem are frequently classed together by the prophets. The lamentation concerning the incurability of the kingdom is followed by an explanatory notice of the sins and crimes that are openly committed. Sheqer, lying, i.e., deception both in word and deed towards God and man, theft and highway robbery and not fear of the vengeance of God. "Accedit ad haec facinora securitas eorum ineffabilis" (Marck). They do not consider that God will remember their evil deeds, and punish them; they are surrounded by them on all sides, and perform them without shame or fear before the face of God Himself. These sins delight both king and prince. To such a depth have even the rulers of the nation, who ought to practise justice and righteousness, fallen, that they not only fail to punish the sins, but take pleasure in their being committed.
To this there is added the passion with which the people make themselves slave to idolatry, and their rulers give themselves up to debauchery (Hos 7:4-7). Hos 7:4. "They are all adulterers, like an oven heated by the baker, who leaves off stirring from the kneading of the dough until its leavening. Hos 7:5. In the day of our king the princes are made sick with the heat of wine: he has stretched out his hand with the scorners. Hos 7:6. For they have brought their heart into their ambush, as into the oven; the whole night their baker sleeps; in the morning it burns like flaming fire. Hos 7:7. They are all red-hot like the oven, and consume their judges: all their kings have fallen; none among them calls to me." "All" (kullâm: Hos 7:4) does not refer to the king and princes, but to the whole nation. נאף is spiritual adultery, apostasy from the Lord; and literal adultery is only so far to be thought of, that the worship of Baal promoted licentiousness. In this passionate career the nation resembles a furnace which a baker heats in the evening, and leaves burning all night while the dough is leavening, and then causes to turn with a still brighter flame in the morning, when the dough is ready for baking. בּערה מאפה, burning from the baker, i.e., heated by the baker. בּערה is accentuated as milel, either because the Masoretes took offence at תּנּוּר being construed as a feminine (Ges. Lehrgeb. p. 546; Ewald, Gramm. p. 449, note 1), or because tiphchah could not occupy any other place in the short space between zakeph and athnach (Hitzig). העיר, excitare, here in the sense of stirring. On the use of the participle in the place of the infinitive, with verbs of beginning and ending, see Ewald, 298, b.
Both king and princes are addicted to debauchery (Hos 7:5). "The day of our king" is either the king's birthday, or the day when he ascended the throne, on either of which he probably gave a feast to his nobles. יום is taken most simply as an adverbial accus. loci. On this particular day the princes drink to such an extent, that they become ill with the heat of the wine. החלוּ, generally to make ill, here to make one's self ill. Hitzig follows the ancient versions, in deriving it from חלל, and taking it as equivalent to החלּוּ ot , "they begin," which gives a very insipid meaning. The difficult expression משׁך ידו את־ל, "he draws his hand with the scoffers," can hardly be understood in any other way than that suggested by Gesenius (Lex.), "the king goes about with scoffers," i.e., makes himself familiar with them, so that we may compare שׁוּת ידו עם (Exo 23:1). The scoffers are drunkards, just as in Pro 20:1 wine is directly called a scoffer. In Hos 7:6, Hos 7:7, the thought of the fourth verse is carried out still further. כּי introduces the explanation and ground of the simile of the furnace; for Hos 7:5 is subordinate to the main thought, and to be taken as a parenthetical remark. The words from כּי קרבוּ to בּארבּם ot כּי קרבוּ form one sentence. קרב is construed with ב loci, as in Jdg 19:13; Psa 91:10 : they have brought their heart near, brought them into their craftiness. "Like a furnace" (כּתנּוּר) contains an abridged simile. But it is not their heart itself which is here compared to a furnace (their heart = themselves), in the sense of "burning like a flaming furnace with base desires," as Gesenius supposes; for the idea of bringing a furnace into an 'ōrebh would be unsuitable and unintelligible. "The furnace is rather 'orbâm (their ambush), that which they have in common, that which keeps them together; whilst the fuel is libbâm, their own disposition" (Hitzig). Their baker is the machinator doli, who kindles the fire in them, i.e., in actual fact, not some person or other who instigates a conspiracy, but the passion of idolatry. This sleeps through the night, i.e., it only rests till the opportunity and time have arrived for carrying out the evil thoughts of their heart, or until the evil thoughts of the heart have become ripe for execution. This time is described in harmony with the figure, as the morning, in which the furnace burns up into bright flames (הוּא points to the more remote tannūr as the subject). In Hos 7:7 the figure is carried back to the literal fact. With the words, "they are all hot as a furnace," the expression in Hos 7:4, "adulterous like a furnace," is resumed; and now the fruit of this conduct is mentioned, viz., "they devour their judges, cast down their kings." By the judges we are not to understand the sârı̄m of Hos 7:5, who are mentioned along with the king as the supreme guardians of the law; but the kings themselves are intended, as the administrators of justice, as in Hos 13:10, where shōphetı̄m is also used as synonymous with מלך, and embraces both king and princes. The clause, "all their kings are fallen," adds no new feature to what precedes, and does not affirm that kings have also fallen in addition to or along with the judges; but it sums up what has been stated already, for the purpose of linking on the remark, that no one calls to the Lord concerning the fall of the kings. The suffix בּהם does not refer to the fallen kings, but to the nation in its entirety, i.e., to those who have devoured their judges. The thought is this: in the passion with which all are inflamed for idolatry, and with which the princes revel with the kings, they give no such heed to the inevitable consequences of their ungodly conduct, as that any one reflects upon the fall of the kings, or perceives that Israel has forsaken the way which leads to salvation, and is plunging headlong into the abyss of destruction, so as to return to the Lord, who alone can help and save. The prophet has here the times after Jeroboam II in his mind, when Zechariah was overthrown by Shallum, Shallum by Menahem, and Menahem the son of Pekahiah by Pekah, and that in the most rapid succession (Kg2 15:10, Kg2 15:14, Kg2 15:25), together with the eleven years' anarchy between Zechariah and Shallum (see at Kg2 15:8-12). At the same time, the expression, "all their kings have fallen," shows clearly, not only that the words are not to be limited to these events, but embrace all the earlier revolutions, but also and still more clearly, that there is no foundation whatever for the widespread historical interpretation of these verses, as relating to a conspiracy against the then reigning king Zechariah, or Shallum, or Pakahiah, according to which the baker is either Menahem (Hitzig) or Pekah (Schmidt).
In the next strophe (Hos 7:8-16) the prophecy passes from the internal corruption of the kingdom of the ten tribes to its worthless foreign policy, and the injurious attitude which it had assumed towards the heathen nations, and unfolds the disastrous consequences of such connections. Hos 7:8. "Ephraim, it mixes itself among the nations; Ephraim has become a cake not turned. Hos 7:9. Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not; grey hair is also sprinkled upon him, and he knoweth it not." יתבּולל, from בּלל, to mix or commingle, is not a future in the sense of "it will be dispersed among the Gentiles;" for, according to the context, the reference is not to the punishment of the dispersion of Israel among the nations, but to the state in which Israel then was. The Lord had separated Israel from the nations, that it might be holy to Him (Lev 20:24, Lev 20:26). As Balaam said of it, it was to be a people dwelling alone (Num 23:9). But in opposition to this object of its divine calling, the ten tribes had mingled with the nations, i.e., with the heathen, learned their works, and served their idols (cf. Psa 106:35-36). The mingling with the nations consisted in the adoption of heathen ways, not in the penetration of the heathen into Israelitish possessions (Hitzig), nor merely in the alliances which it formed with heathen nations. For these were simply the consequence of inward apostasy from its God, of that inward mixing with the nature of heathenism which had already taken place. Israel had thereby become a cake not turned. עגּה, a cake baked upon hot ashes or red-hot stones, which, if it be not turned, is burned at the bottom, and not baked at all above. The meaning of this figure is explained by Hos 7:9. As the fire will burn an ash-cake when it is left unturned, so have foreigners consumed the strength of Israel, partly by devastating wars, and partly by the heathenish nature which has penetrated into Israel in their train. "Greyness is also sprinkled upon it;" i.e., the body politic, represented as one person, is already covered with traces of hoary old age, and is ripening for destruction. The object to לא ידע may easily be supplied from the previous clauses, namely, that strangers devour its strength, and it is growing old. The rendering non sapit is precluded by the emphatic והוּא, and he knoweth it not, i.e., does not perceive the decay of his strength.
"And the pride of Israel beareth witness to his face, and they are not converted to Jehovah their God, and for all this they seek Him not." The first clause is repeated from Hos 5:5. The testimony which the pride of Israel, i.e., Jehovah, bore to its face, consisted in the weakening and wasting away of the kingdom as described in Hos 7:9. But with all this, they do not turn to the Lord who could save them, but seek help from their natural foes.
"And Ephraim has become like a simple dove without understanding; they have called Egypt, they are gone to Asshur. Hos 7:12. As they go, I spread my net over them; I bring them down like fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, according to the tidings to their assembly." The perfects in Hos 7:1 describe the conduct of Israel as an accomplished fact, and this is represented by ויהי as the necessary consequence of its obstinate impenitence. The point of comparison between Israel and the simple dove, is not that the dove misses its proper dwelling and resting-place, and therefore goes fluttering about (Ewald); nor that, in trying to escape from the hawk, it flies into the net of the bird-catcher (Hitzig); but that when flying about in search of food, it does not observe the net that is spread for it (Rosenmller). אין לב is to be taken as a predicate to Ephraim in spite of the accents, and not to yōnâh phōthâh (a simple dove), since phōthâh does not require either strengthening or explaining. Thus does Ephraim seek help from Egypt and Assyria. These words do not refer to the fact that there were two parties in the nation - an Assyrian and an Egyptian. Nor do they mean that the whole nation applied at one time to Egypt to get rid of Asshur, and at another time to Asshur to escape from Egypt. "The situation is rather this: the people being sorely pressed by Asshur, at one time seek help from Egypt against Asshur; whilst at another they try to secure the friendship of the latter" (Hengstenberg, Christology, i. p. 164 transl.). For what threatened Israel was the burden of the "king of princes" (Hos 8:10), i.e., the king of Asshur. And this they tried to avert partly by their coquettish arts (Hos 8:9), and partly by appealing to the help of Egypt; and while doing so, they did not observe that they had fallen into the net of destruction, viz., the power of Assyria. In this net will the Lord entangle them as a punishment. As they go thither, God will spread His net over them like a bird-catcher, and bring them down to the earth like flying birds, i.e., bring them down from the open air, that is to say, from freedom, into the net of captivity, or exile. איסירם, a rare hiphil formation with Yod mobile, as in Pro 4:25 (see Ewald, 131, c). "According to the tidings (announcement) to their assembly:" i.e., in accordance with the threatening already contained in the law (Lev 26:14.; Deu 28:15.), and repeatedly uttered to the congregation by the prophets, of the judgments that should fall upon the rebellious, which threatening would now be fulfilled upon Ephraim.
"Woe to them! for they have flown from me; devastation to them! for they have fallen away from me. I would redeem them, but they speak lies concerning me. Hos 7:14. They did not cry to me in their heart, but howl upon their beds; they crowd together for corn and new wine, and depart against me." The Lord, thinking of the chastisement, exclaims, Woe to them, because they have fled from Him! Nâdad, which is applied to the flying of birds, points back to the figures employed in Hos 7:11, Hos 7:12. Shōd, used as an exclamation, gives the literal explanation of 'ōi (woe). The imperfect 'ephdēm cannot be taken as referring to the redemption out of Egypt, because it does not stand for the preterite. It is rather voluntative or optative. "I would (should like to) redeem them (still); but they say I cannot and will not do it." These are the lies which they utter concerning Jehovah, partly with their mouths and partly by their actions, namely, in the fact that they do not seek help from Him, as is explained in Hos 7:14. They cry to the Lord; yet it does not come from the heart, but (כּי after לא) they howl (יילילוּ, cf. Ges. 70, 2, note) upon their beds, in unbelieving despair at the distress that has come upon them. What follows points to this. Hithgōrēr, to assemble, to crowd together (Psa 56:7; Psa 59:4; Isa 54:15); here to gather in troops or crowd together for corn and new wine, because their only desire is to fill their belly. Thus they depart from God. The construction of סוּר with ב, instead of with מן or מאחרי, is a pregnant one: to depart and turn against God.
Yet Jehovah has done still more for Israel. Hos 7:15. "And I have instructed, have strengthened their arms, and they think evil against me. Hos 7:16. They turn, but not upwards: they have become like a false bow. Their princes will fall by the sword, for the defiance of their tongue: this is their derision in the land of Egypt." יסּר here is not to chastise, but to instruct, so that זרועתם (their arms) is to be taken as the object to both verbs. Instructing the arms, according to the analogy of Psa 18:35, is equivalent to showing where and how strength is to be acquired. And the Lord has not contented Himself with merely instructing. He has also strengthened their arms, and given them power to fight, and victory over their foes (cf. Kg2 14:25-26). And yet they think evil of Him; not by speaking lies (Hos 7:13), but by falling away from Him, by their idolatrous calf-worship, by which they rob the Lord of the glory due to Him alone, practically denying His true divinity. This attitude towards the Lord is summed up in two allegorical sentences in Hos 7:16, and the ruin of their princes is foretold. They turn, or turn round, but not upwards (על, an adverb, or a substantive signifying height, as in Hos 11:7; Sa2 23:1, not "the Most High," i.e., God, although turning upwards is actually turning to God). From the fact that with all their turning about they do not turn upwards, they have become like a treacherous bow, the string of which has lost its elasticity, so that the arrows do not hit the mark (cf. Psa 78:57). And thus Israel also fails to reach its destination. Therefore its princes shall fall. The princes are mentioned as the originators of the enmity against God, and all the misery into which they have plunged the people and kingdom. זעם, fury, here defiance or rage. Defiance of tongue the princes showed in the lies which they uttered concerning Jehovah (Hos 7:13), and with which they blasphemed in a daring manner the omnipotence and faithfulness of the Lord. זו stands, according to a dialectical difference in the mode of pronunciation, for זה, not for זאת (Ewald, 183, a). This, namely their falling by the sword, will be for a derision to them in the land of Egypt: not because they will fall in Egypt, or perish by the sword of the Egyptians; but because they put their trust in Egypt, the derision of Egypt will come upon them when they are overthrown (cf. Isa 30:3, Isa 30:5).