Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Warning against false security. The earthly prosperity of the people and kingdom was no security against destruction. Because Israel had fallen away from its God, it should not enjoy the blessing of its field-produce, but should be carried away to Assyria, where it would be unable to keep any joyful feasts at all. Hos 9:1. "Rejoice not, O Israel, to exult like the nations: for thou hast committed whoredom against thy God: hast loved the wages of whoredom upon all corn-floors. Hos 9:2. The threshing-floor and press will not feed them, and the new wine will deceive it." The rejoicing to which Israel was not to give itself up was, according to Hos 9:2, rejoicing at a plentiful harvest. All nations rejoiced, and still rejoice, at this (cf. Isa 9:2), because they regard the blessing of harvest as a sign and pledge of the favour and grace of God, which summon them to gratitude towards the giver. Now, when the heathen nations ascribed their fights to their gods, and in their way thanked them for them, they did this in the ignorance of their heart, without being specially guilty on that account, since they lived in the world without the light of divine revelation. But when Israel rejoiced in a heathenish way at the blessing of its harvest, and attributed this blessing to the Baals (see Hos 2:7), the Lord could not leave this denial of His gracious benefits unpunished. אל־גּיל belongs to תּשׂמח, heightening the idea of joy, as in Job 3:22. כּי זנית does not give the object of the joy ("that thou hast committed whoredom:" Ewald and others), but the reason why Israel was not to rejoice over its harvests, namely, because it had become unfaithful to its God, and had fallen into idolatry. זנה מעל, to commit whoredom out beyond God (by going away from Him). The words, "thou lovest the wages of whoredom upon all corn-floors," are to be understood, according to Hos 2:7, Hos 2:14, as signifying that Israel would not regard the harvest-blessing upon its corn-floors as gifts of the goodness of its God, but as presents from the Baals, for which it had to serve them with still greater zeal. There is no ground for thinking of any peculiar form of idolatry connected with the corn-floors. Because of this the Lord would take away from them the produce of the floor and press, namely, according to Hos 9:3, by banishing the people out of the land. Floor and press will not feed them, i.e., will not nourish or satisfy them. The floor and press are mentioned in the place of their contents, or what they yield, viz., for corn and oil, as in Kg2 6:27. By the press we must understand the oil-presses (cf. Joe 2:24), because the new wine is afterwards specially mentioned, and corn, new wine, and oil are connected together in Hos 2:10, 24. The suffix בּהּ refers to the people regarded as a community.
"They will not remain in the land of Jehovah: Ephraim returns to Egypt, and they will eat unclean things in the land of Asshur. Hos 9:4. They will not pour out wine to Jehovah, and their slain-offerings will not please Him: like bread of mourning are they to Him; all who eat it become unclean: for their bread is for themselves, it does not come into the house of Jehovah." Because they have fallen away from Jehovah, He will drive them out of His land. The driving away is described as a return to Egypt, as in Hos 8:13; but Asshur is mentioned immediately afterwards as the actual land of banishment. That this threat is not to be understood as implying that they will be carried away to Egypt as well as to Assyria, but that Egypt is referred to here and in Hos 9:6, just as in Hos 8:13, simply as a type of the land of captivity, so that Assyria is represented as a new Egypt, may be clearly seen from the words themselves, in which eating unclean bread in Assyria is mentioned as the direct consequence of their return to Egypt; whereas neither here nor in Hos 9:6 is their being carried away to Assyria mentioned at all; but, on the contrary, in Hos 9:6, Egypt only is introduced as the place where they are to find their grave. This is still more evident from the fact that Hosea throughout speaks of Asshur alone, as the rod of the wrath of God for His rebellious people. The king of Asshur is king Jareb (striver), to whom Ephraim goes for help, and by whom it will be put to shame (Hos 5:13; Hos 10:6); and it is from the Assyrian king Salman that devastation and destruction proceed (Hos 10:14). And, lastly, it is expressly stated in Hos 11:5, that Israel will not return to Egypt, but to Asshur, who will be its king. By the allusion to Egypt, therefore, the carrying away to Assyria is simply represented as a state of bondage and oppression, resembling the sojourn of Israel in Egypt in the olden time, or else the threat contained in Deu 28:68 is simply transferred to Ephraim. They will eat unclean things in Assyria, not only inasmuch as when, under the oppression of their heathen rulers, they will not be able to observe the laws of food laid down in the law, or will be obliged to eat unclean things from simple want and misery; but also inasmuch as all food, which was not sanctified to the Lord by the presentation of the first-fruits, was unclean food to Israel (Hengstenberg). In Assyria these offerings would cease with the whole of the sacrificial ritual; and the food which was clean in itself would thereby become unclean outside the land of Jehovah (cf. Eze 4:13). This explanation of טמא is required by Hos 9:4, in which a further reason is assigned for the threat. For what we have there is not a description of the present attitude of Israel towards Jehovah, but a picture of the miserable condition of the people in exile. The verbs are pure futures. In Assyria they will neither be able to offer wine to the Lord as a drink-offering, nor such slain-offerings as we well-pleasing to Him. For Israel could only offer sacrifices to its God at the place where He made known His name by revelation, and therefore not in exile, where He had withdrawn His gracious presence from it. The drink-offerings are mentioned, as pars pro toto, in the place of all the meat-offerings and drink-offerings, i.e., of the bloodless gifts, which were connected with the zebhâchı̄m, or burnt-offerings and thank-offerings (shelâmı̄m, Num 15:2-15, Num 15:28-29), and could never be omitted when the first-fruits were offered (Lev 23:13, Lev 23:18). "Their sacrifices:" zibhchēhem belongs to יערבוּ־לו (shall be pleasing to Him), notwithstanding the previous segholta, because otherwise the subject to יערבו would be wanting, and there is evidently quite as little ground for supplying נס'כיהם from the preceding clause, as Hitzig proposes, as for assuming that ערב here means to mix. Again, we must not infer from the words, "their slain-offerings will not please Him," that the Israelites offered sacrifices when in exile. The meaning is simply that the sacrifices, which they might wish to offer to Jehovah there, would not be well-pleasing to Him. We must not repeat זבחיהם as the subject to the next clause להם ... כּלחם, in the sense of "their sacrifices will be to them like mourners' bread," which would give no suitable meaning; for though the sacrifices are called bread of God, they are never called the bread of men. The subject may be supplied very readily from kelechem (like bread) thus: their bread, or food, would be to them like mourners' bread; and the correctness of this is proved by the explanatory clause, "for their bread," etc. Lechem 'ōnı̄m, bread of affliction, i.e., of those who mourn for the dead (cf. Deu 26:14), in other words, the bread eaten at funeral meals. This was regarded as unclean, because the corpse defiled the house, and all who came in contact with it, for seven days (Num 19:14). Their bread would resemble bread of this kind, because it had not been sanctified by the offering of the first-fruits. "For their bread will not come into the house of Jehovah," viz., to be sanctified, "for their souls," i.e., to serve for the preservation of their life.
Their misery will be felt still more keenly on the feast-days. Hos 9:5. "What will ye do on the day of the festival, and on the day of the feast of Jehovah? Hos 9:6. For behold they have gone away because of the desolation: Egypt will gather them together, Memphis bury them: their valuables in silver, thistles will receive them; thorns in their tents." As the temple and ritual will both be wanting in their exile, they will be unable to observe any of the feasts of the Lord. No such difference can be shown to exist between yōm mō‛ēd and yōm chag Yehōvâh, as would permit of our referring mō‛ēd to feasts of a different kind from chag. In Leviticus 23, all the feasts recurring at a fixed period, on which holy meetings were held, including the Sabbath, are called מועדי יהוהּ; and even though the three feasts at which Israel was to appear before the Lord, viz., the passover, pentecost, and the feast of tabernacles, are described as chaggı̄m in Exo 34:18., every other joyous festival is also called a chag (Exo 32:5; Jdg 21:19). It is therefore just as arbitrary on the part of Grotius and Rosenmller to understand by mō‛ēd the three yearly pilgrim-festivals, and by chag Yehōvâh all the rest of the feasts, including the new moon, as it is on the part of Simson to restrict the last expression to the great harvest-feast, i.e., the feast of tabernacles (Lev 23:39, Lev 23:41). The two words are synonymous, but they are so arranged that by chag the idea of joy is brought into greater prominence, and the feast-day is thereby designated as a day of holy joy before Jehovah; whereas mō‛ēd simply expresses the idea of a feast established by the Lord, and sanctified to Him (see at Lev 23:2). By the addition of the chag Yehōvâh, therefore, greater emphasis is given to the thought, viz., that along with the feasts themselves all festal joy will also vanish. The perfect הלכוּ (Exo 34:6) may be explained from the fact, that the prophet saw in spirit the people already banished from the land of the Lord. הלך, to go away out of the land. Egypt is mentioned as the place of banishment, in the same sense as in Hos 9:3. There will they all find their graves. קבּץ in combination with קבּר is the gathering together of the dead for a common burial, like אסף in Eze 29:5; Jer 8:2; Jer 25:33. מף, or נף, as in Isa 19:13; Jer 2:16; Jer 44:1; Eze 30:13, Eze 30:16, probably contracted from מנף, answers rather to the Coptic Membe, Memphe, than to the old Egyptian Men-nefr, i.e., mansio bona, the profane name of the city of Memphis, the ancient capital of Lower Egypt, the ruins of which are to be seen on the western bank of the Nile, to the south of Old Cairo. The sacred name of this city was Ha-ka-ptah, i.e., house of the worship of Phtah (see Brugsch, Geogr. Inschriften, i. pp. 234-5). In their own land thorns and thistles would take the place of silver valuables. The suffix attached to יירשׁם refers, ad sensum, to the collective מחמד לכספּם, the valuables in silver. These are not "silver idols," as Hitzig imagines, but houses ornamented and filled with the precious metal, as בּאהליהם in the parallel clause clearly shows. The growth of thorns and thistles presupposes the utter desolation of the abodes of men (Isa 34:13).
"The days of visitation are come, the days of retribution are come; Israel will learn: a fool the prophet, a madman the man of spirit, for the greatness of thy guilt, and the great enmity. Hos 9:8. A spy is Ephraim with my God: the prophet a snare of the bird-catcher in all his ways, enmity in the house of his God. Hos 9:9. They have acted most corruptly, as in the days of Gibeah: He remembers their iniquity, visits their sins." The perfects in Hos 9:7 are prophetic. The time of visitation and retribution is approaching. Then will Israel learn that its prophets, who only predicted prosperity and good (Eze 13:10), were infatuated fools. אויל וגו introduces, without kı̄, what Israel will experience, as in Hos 7:2; Amo 5:12. It does not follow, from the use of the expression 'ı̄sh rūăch, that the reference is to true prophets. 'Ish rūăch (a man of spirit) is synonymous with the 'ı̄sh hōlēkh rūăch (a man walking in the spirit) mentioned in Mic 2:11 as prophesying lies, and may be explained from the fact, that even the false prophets stood under the influence of a superior demoniacal power, and were inspired by a rūăch sheqer ("a lying spirit," Kg1 22:22). The words which follow, viz., "a fool is the prophet," etc., which cannot possibly mean, that men have treated, despised, and persecuted the prophets as fools and madmen, are a decisive proof that the expression does not refer to true prophets. על רב עונך is attached to the principal clauses, השּׁלּם ... בּאוּ. The punishment and retribution occur because of the greatness of the guilt of Israel. In ורבּה the preposition על continues in force, but as a conjunction: "and because the enmity is great" (cf. Ewald, 351, a). Mastēmâh, enmity, not merely against their fellow-men generally, but principally against God and His servants the true prophets. This is sustained by facts in Hos 9:8. The first clause, which is a difficult one and has been interpreted in very different ways, "spying is Ephraim עם אלהי" (with or by my God), cannot contain the thought that Ephraim, the tribe, is, according to its true vocation, a watchman for the rest of the people, whose duty it is to stand with the Lord upon the watch-tower and warn Israel when the Lord threatens punishment and judgment (Jerome, Schmidt); for the idea of a prophet standing with Jehovah upon a watch-tower is not only quite foreign to the Old Testament, but irreconcilable with the relation in which the prophets stood to Jehovah. The Lord did indeed appoint prophets as watchmen to His people (Eze 3:17); but He does take His own stand upon the watch-tower with them. Tsâphâh in this connection, where prophets are spoken of both before and after, can only denote the eager watching on the part of the prophets for divine revelations, as in Hab 2:1, and not their looking out for help; and עם אלהי cannot express their fellowship or agreement with God, if only on account of the suffix "my God," in which Hosea contrasts the true God as His own, with the God of the people. The thought indicated would require אלהיו, a reading which is indeed met with in some codices, but is only a worthless conjecture. עם denotes outward fellowship here: "with" = by the side of. Israel looks out for prophecies or divine revelations with the God of the prophet, i.e., at the side of Jehovah; in other words, it does not follow or trust its own prophets, who are not inspired by Jehovah. These are like snares of a bird-catcher in its road, i.e., they cast the people headlong into destruction. נביא stands at the head, both collectively and absolutely. In all its ways there is the trap of the bird-catcher: i.e., all its projects and all that it does will only tend to ensnare the people. Hostility to Jehovah and His servants the true prophets, is in the house of the God of the Israelites, i.e., in the temple erected for the calf-worship; a fact of which Amos (Amo 7:10-17) furnishes a practical example. Israel has thereby fallen as deeply into abomination and sins as in the days of Gibeah, i.e., as at the time when the abominable conduct of the men of Gibeah in connection with the concubine of a Levite took place, as related in Judg. 19ff., in consequence of which the tribe of Benjamin was almost exterminated. The same depravity on the part of Israel will be equally punished by the Lord now (cf. Hos 8:13).
Hos 9:10. "I found Israel like grapes in the desert, I saw your fathers like early fruit on the fig-tree in the first shooting; but they came to Baal-peor, and consecrated themselves to shame, and became abominations like their lover." Grapes in the desert and early figs are pleasant choice fruits to whoever finds them. This figure therefore indicates the peculiar pleasure which Jehovah found in the people of Israel when He led them out of Egypt, or the great worth which they had in His eyes when He chose them for the people of His possession, and concluded a covenant with them at Sinai (Theod., Cyr.). Bammidbâr (in the desert) belongs, so far as its position is concerned, to ‛ănâbhı̄m: grapes in the dry, barren desert, where you do not expect to find such refreshing fruit; but, so far as the fact is concerned, it also refers to the place in which Israel was thus found by God, since you can only find fruit in the desert when you are there yourself. The words, moreover, evidently refer to Deu 32:10 ("I found him Israel in the wilderness," etc.), and point implicite to the helpless condition in which Israel was when God first adopted it. The suffix to berē'shı̄thâh (at her beginning) refers to תּאנה, the first-fruit, which the fig-tree bears in its first time, at the first shooting. But Israel no longer answered to the good pleasure of God. They came to Baal-peor. בּעל־פּעור without the preposition אל is not the idol of that name, but the place where it was worshipped, which was properly called Beth-peor or Peor (see at Num 23:28 and Num 25:3). ינּזרוּ is chosen instead of יצּמד (Num 23:3, Num 23:5), to show that Israel ought to have consecrated itself to Jehovah, to have been the nazir of Jehovah. Bōsheth (shame) is the name given to the idol of Baal-peor (cf. Jer 3:24), the worship of which was a shame to Israel. 'Ohabh, the paramour, is also Baal-peor. Of all the different rebellions on the part of Israel against Jehovah, the prophet singles out only the idolatry with Baal-peor, because the principal sin of the ten tribes was Baal-worship in its coarser or more refined forms.
It is very evident that this is what he has in his mind, and that he regards the apostasy of the ten tribes as merely a continuation of that particular idolatry, from the punishment which is announced in Hos 9:11, Hos 9:12, as about to fall upon Ephraim in consequence. Hos 9:11. "Ephraim, its glory will fly away like a bird; no birth, and no pregnancy, and no conception. Hos 9:12. Yea, though they bring up their sons, I make them bereft, without a man; for woe to them when I depart from them!" The glory which God gave to His people through great multiplication, shall vanish away. The licentious worship of luxury will be punished by the diminution of the numbers of the people, by childlessness, and the destruction of the youth that may have grown up. מלּדה, so that there shall be no bearing. בּטן, the womb, for pregnancy or the fruit of the womb. Even (kı̄ emphatic) if the sons (the children) grow up, God will make them bereft, מאדם, so that there shall be no men there. The grown-up sons shall be swept away by death, by the sword (cf. Deu 32:25). The last clause gives the reason for the punishment threatened. גּם adds force; it usually stands at the head of the sentence, and here belongs to להם: Yea, woe to them, if I depart from them, or withdraw my favour from them! שׂוּר stands for סוּר, according to the interchangeableness of שׂ and ס (Aquila and Vulg.). This view has more to support it than the supposition that שׂוּר is an error of the pen for שׁוּר (Ewald, Hitzig, etc.), since שׁוּר, to look, construed with מן, in the sense of to look away from a person, is never met with, although the meaning is just the same.
The vanishing of the glory of Ephraim is carried out still further in what follows. Hos 9:13. "Ephraim as I selected it for a Tyre planted in the valley; so shall Ephraim lead out its sons to the murderer. Hos 9:14. Give them, O Jehovah: what shalt Thou give him? Give them a childless womb and dry breasts." In Hos 9:13 Ephraim is the object to ראיתי (I have seen), but on account of the emphasis it is placed first, as in Hos 9:11; and ראה with an accusative and ל dna evi signifies to select anything for a purpose, as in Gen 22:8. The Lord had selected Ephraim for Himself to be a Tyre planted in the meadow, i.e., in a soil adapted for growth and prosperity, had intended for it the bloom and glory of the rich and powerful Tyre; but now, for its apostasy, He would give it up to desolation, and dedicate its sons, i.e., its people, to death by the sword. The commentators, for the most part, like the lxx, have overlooked this meaning of ראה, and therefore have not only been unable to explain letsōr (for a Tyre), but have been driven either to resort to alterations of the text, like letsūrâh, "after the form" (Ewald), or to arbitrary assumptions, e.g., that tsōr signifies "palm" after the Arabic (Arnold, Hitzig), or that letsōr means "as far as Tyre" (ל = עד), in order to bring a more or less forced interpretation into the sentence. The Vav before 'Ephraim introduces the apodosis to כּאשׁר: "as I have selected Ephraim, so shall Ephraim lead out," etc. On the construction להוציא, see Ewald, 237, c. In Hos 9:14 the threat rises into an appeal to God to execute the threatened punishment. The excited style of the language is indicated in the interpolated mah-titteen (what wilt Thou give?). The words do not contain an intercessory prayer on the part of the prophet, that God will not punish the people too severely but condemn them to barrenness rather than to the loss of the young men (Ewald), but are expressive of holy indignation at the deep corruption of the people.
The Lord thereupon replies in Hos 9:15 : "All their wickedness is at Gilgal; for there I took them into hatred: for the evil of their doings will I drive them out of my house, and not love them any more; all their princes are rebellions." How far all the wickedness of Ephraim was concentrated at Gilgal it is impossible to determine more precisely, since we have no historical accounts of the idolatrous worship practised there (see at Hos 4:15). That Gilgal was the scene of horrible human sacrifices, as Hitzig observes at Hos 12:12, cannot be proved from Hos 13:2. שׂנא is used here in an inchoative sense, viz., to conceive hatred. On account of their wickedness they should be expelled from the house, i.e., the congregation of Jehovah (see at Hos 8:1). The expression "I will drive them out of my house" (mibbēthı̄ 'ăgâreshēm) may be explained from Gen 21:10, where Sarah requests Abraham to drive (gârash) Hagar her maid out of the house along with her son, that the son of the maid may not inherit with Isaac, and where God commands the patriarch to carry out Sarah's will. The expulsion of Israel from the house of the Lord is separation from the fellowship of the covenant nation and its blessings, and is really equivalent to loving it no longer. There is a play upon words in the last clause שׂריהם סוררים.
"Ephraim is smitten: their root is dried up; they will bear no fruit: even if they beget, I slay the treasures of their womb. Hos 9:17. My God rejects them: for they have not hearkened to Him, and they shall be fugitives among the nations." In Hos 9:16 Israel is compared to a plant, that is so injured by the heat of the sun (Psa 121:6; Psa 102:5), or by a worm (Jon 4:7), that it dries up and bears no more fruit. The perfects are a prophetic expression, indicating the certain execution of the threat. This is repeated in Hos 9:16 in figurative language; and the threatening in Hos 9:11, Hos 9:12, is thereby strengthened. Lastly, in Hos 9:17 the words of threatening are rounded off by a statement of the reason for the rejection of Israel; and this rejection is described as banishment among the nations, according to Deu 28:65.