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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Hosea Chapter 10

Hosea 10:1

hos 10:1

In a fresh turn the concluding thought of the last strophe (Hos 9:10) is resumed, and the guilt and punishment of Israel still more fully described in two sections, Hos 10:1-8 and Hos 10:9-15. Hos 10:1. "Israel is a running vine; it set fruit for itself: the more of its fruit, the more altars did it prepare; the better its land, the better pillars did they make. Hos 10:2. Smooth was their heart, ow will they atone. He will break in pieces their altars, desolate their pillars. Hos 10:3. Yea, now will they say, No king to us! for we feared not Jehovah; and the king, what shall he do to us?" Under the figure of a vine running luxuriantly, which did indeed set some good fruit, but bore no sound ripe grapes, the prophet describes Israel as a glorious plantation of God Himself, which did not answer the expectations of its Creator. The figure is simply sketched in a few bold lines. We have an explanatory parallel in Psa 80:9-12. The participle bōqēq does not mean "empty" or "emptying out" here; for this does not suit the next clause, according to which the fruit was set, but from the primary meaning of bâqaq, to pour out, pouring itself out, overflowing, i.e., running luxuriantly. It has the same meaning, therefore, as ג סרחת in Eze 17:6, that which extends its branches far and wide, that is to say, grows most vigorously. The next sentence, "it set fruit," still belongs to the figure; but in the third sentence the figure passes over into a literal prophecy. According to the abundance of its fruit, Israel made many altars; and in proportion to the goodness of its land, it made better מצּבות, Baal's pillars (see at Kg1 14:23); i.e., as Israel multiplied, and under the blessing of God attained to prosperity, wealth, and power in the good land (Exo 3:8), it forgot its God, and fell more and more into idolatry (cf. Hos 2:10; Hos 8:4, Hos 8:11). The reason of all this was, that their heart was smooth, i.e., dissimulating, not sincerely devoted to the Lord, inasmuch as, under the appearance of devotedness to God, they still clung to idols (for the fact, see Kg2 17:9). The word châlâq, to be smooth, was mostly applied by a Hebrew to the tongue, lip, mouth, throat, and speech (Psa 5:10; Psa 12:3; Psa 55:22; Pro 5:3), and not to the heart. But in Eze 12:24 we read of smooth, i.e., deceitful prophesying; and there is all the more reason for retaining the meaning "smooth" here, that the rendering "their heart is divided," which is supported by the ancient versions, cannot be grammatically defended. For châlâq is not used in kal in an intransitive sense; and the active rendering, "He (i.e., God) has divided their heart" (Hitzig), gives an unscriptural thought. They will now atone for this, for God will destroy their altars and pillars. ערף, "to break the neck of the altars," is a bold expression, applied to the destruction of the altars by breaking off the horns (compare Amo 3:14). Then will the people see and be compelled to confess that it has no longer a king, because it has not feared the Lord, since the king who has been set up in opposition to the will of the Lord (Hos 8:4) cannot bring either help or deliverance (Eze 13:10). עשׂה, to do, i.e., to help or be of use to a person (cf. Ecc 2:2).

Hosea 10:4

hos 10:4

The thoughts of Hos 10:2, Hos 10:3 are carried out still further in Hos 10:4-7. Hos 10:4. "They have spoken words, sworn falsely, made treaties: thus right springs up like darnel in the furrows of the field. Hos 10:5. For the calves of Beth-aven the inhabitants of Samaria were afraid: yea, its people mourn over it, and its sacred ministers will tremble at it, at its glory, because it has strayed from them. Hos 10:6. Men will also carry it to Asshur, as a present for king Jareb: shame will seize upon Ephraim, and Israel will be put to shame for its counsel." The dissimulation of heart (Hos 10:3) manifested itself in their speaking words which were nothing but words, i.e., in vain talk (cf. Isa 58:13), in false swearing, and in the making of treaties. אלות, by virtue of the parallelism, is an infin. abs. for אלה, formed like כּרת, analogous to שׁתות (Isa 22:13; see Ewald, 240, b). כּרת בּרית, in connection with false swearing, must signify the making of a covenant without any truthfulness in it, i.e., the conclusion of treaties with foreign nations - for example, with Assyria - which they were inclined to observe only so long as they could promise themselves advantages from them. In consequence of this, right has become like a bitter plant growing luxuriantly (ראשׁ = רושׁ; see at Deu 29:17). Mishpât does not mean judgment here, or the punitive judgment of God (Chald. and many others), for this could hardly be compared with propriety to weeds running over everything, but right in its degeneracy into wrong, or right that men have turned into bitter fruit or poison (Amo 6:12). This spreads about in the kingdom, as weeds spread luxuriantly in the furrows of the field (שׂדי a poetical form for שׂדה, like Deu 32:13; Psa 8:8). Therefore the judgment cannot be delayed, and is already approaching in so threatening a manner, that the inhabitants of Samaria tremble for the golden calves. The plural ‛eglōth is used with indefinite generality, and gives no warrant, therefore, for the inference that there were several golden calves set up in Bethel. Moreover, this would be at variance with the fact, that in the sentences which follow we find "the (one) calf" spoken of. The feminine form ‛eglōth, which only occurs here, is also probably connected with the abstract use of the plural, inasmuch as the feminine is the proper form for abstracts. Bēth-'âven for Bēth-'ēl, as in Hos 4:15. Shâkhēn is construed with the plural, as an adjective used in a collective sense. כּי (Hos 4:5) is emphatic, and the suffixes attached to עמּו and כּמריו do not refer to Samaria, but to the idol, i.e., the calf, since the prophet distinctly calls Israel, which ought to have been the nation of Jehovah, the nation of its calf-idol, which mourned with its priests (kemârı̄m, the priests appointed in connection with the worship of the calves: see at Kg2 23:5) for the carrying away of the calf to Assyria. גּיל does not mean to exult or rejoice here, nor to tremble (applied to the leaping of the heart from fear, as it does from joy), but has the same meaning as חיל in Psa 96:9. עליו is still further defined by על־כּבודו, "for its glory," i.e., not for the temple-treasure at Bethel (Hitzig), nor the one glorious image of the calf, as the symbol of the state-god (Ewald, Umbreit), but the calf, to which the people attributed the glory of the true God. The perfect, gâlâh, is used prophetically of that which was as good as complete and certain (for the fut. exact., cf. Ewald, 343, a). The golden calf, the glory of the nation, will have to wander into exile. This cannot even save itself; it will be taken to Assyria, to king Jareb (see at Hos 5:13), as minchâh, a present of tribute (see Sa2 8:2, Sa2 8:6; Kg1 5:1). For the construing of the passive with את, see Ges. 143, 1, a. Then will Ephraim (= Israel) be seized by reproach and shame. Boshnâh, a word only met with here; it is formed from the masculine bōshen, which is not used at all (see Ewald, 163, 164).

Hosea 10:7

hos 10:7

With the carrying away of the golden calf the kingdom of Samaria also perishes, and desert plants will grow upon the places of idols. Hos 10:7, Hos 10:8. "Destroyed is Samaria; her king like a splinter on the surface of the water. And destroyed are the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel: thorn and thistle will rise up on their altars; and they will speak to the mountains, Cover us! and to the hills, Fall on us!" שׁמרון מלכּהּ is not an asyndeton, "Samaria and its king;" but Shōmerōn is to be taken absolutely, "as for Samaria," although, as a matter of fact, not only Samaria, the capital of the kingdom, but the kingdom itself, was destroyed. For malkâh does not refer to any particular king, but is used in a general sense for "the king that Samaria had," so that the destruction of the monarchy is here predicted (cf. Hos 10:15). The idea that the words refer to one particular king, is not only at variance with the context, which contains no allusion to any one historical occurrence, but does not suit the simile: like a splinter upon the surface of the water, which is carried away by the current, and vanishes without leaving a trace behind. Qetseph is not "foam" (Chald., Symm., Rabb.), but a broken branch, a fagot or a splinter, as qetsâphâh in Joe 1:7 clearly shows. Bâmōth 'âven are the buildings connected with the image-worship at Bethel ('âven = Bēth-'ēl, Hos 10:5), the temple erected there (bēth bâmōth), together with the altar, possibly also including other illegal places of sacrifice there, which constituted the chief sin of the kingdom of Israel. These were to be so utterly destroyed, that thorns and thistles would grow upon the ruined altars (cf. Gen 3:18). "The sign of extreme solitude, that there are not even the walls left, or any traces of the buildings" (Jerome). When the kingdom shall be thus broken up, together with the monarchy and the sacred places, the inhabitants, in their hopeless despair, will long for swift death and destruction. Saying to the mountains, "Cover us," etc., implies much more than hiding themselves in the holes and clefts of the rocks (Isa 2:19, Isa 2:21). It expresses the desire to be buried under the falling mountains and hills, that they may no longer have to bear the pains and terrors of the judgment. In this sense are the words transferred by Christ, in Luk 23:30, to the calamities attending the destruction of Jerusalem, and in Rev 6:16 to the terrors of the last judgment.

Hosea 10:9

hos 10:9

After the threatening of punishment has thus been extended in Hos 10:8, even to the utter ruin of the kingdom, the prophet returns in Hos 10:9 to the earlier times, for the purpose of exhibiting in a new form and deeply rooted sinfulness of the people, and then, under cover of an appeal to them to return to righteousness, depicting still further the time of visitation, and (in Hos 10:14, Hos 10:15) predicting with still greater clearness the destruction of the kingdom and the overthrow of the monarchy. Hos 10:9. "Since the days of Gibeah hast thou sinned, O Israel: there have they remained: the war against the sons of wickedness did not overtake them at Gibeah. Hos 10:10. According to my desire shall I chastise them; and nations will be gathered together against them, to bind them to their two transgressions." Just as in Hos 9:9, the days of Gibeah, i.e., the days when that ruthless crime was committed at Gibeah upon the concubine of the Levite, are mentioned as a time of deep corruption; so are those days described in the present passage as the commencement of Israel's sin. For it is as obvious that מיממי is not to be understood in a comparative sense, as it is that the days of Gibeah are not to be taken as referring to the choice of Saul, who sprang from Gibeah, to be their king (Chald.). The following words, שׁם עמדוּ גגו, which are very difficult, and have been variously explained, do not describe the conduct of Israel in those days; for, in the first place, the statement that the war did not overtake them is by no means in harmony with this, since the other tribes avenged that crime so severely that the tribe of Benjamin was almost exterminated; and secondly, the suffix attached to תּשּׂיגם evidently refers to the same persons as that appended to אסּ'רם in Hos 9:10, i.e., to the Israelites of the ten tribes, to which Hosea foretels the coming judgment. These are therefore the subject to עמדוּ, and consequently עמד signifies to stand, to remain, to persevere (cf. Isa 47:12; Jer 32:14). There, in Gibeah, did they remain, that is to say, they persevered in the sin of Gibeah, without the war at Gibeah against the sinners overtaking them (the imperfect, in a subordinated clause, used to describe the necessary consequence; and עלוה transposed from עולה mo, like זעוה in Deu 28:25 for זועה). The meaning is, that since the days of Gibeah the Israelites persist in the same sin as the Gibeahites; but whereas those sinners were punished and destroyed by the war, the ten tribes still live on in the same sin without having been destroyed by any similar war. Jehovah will now chastise them for it. בּאוּתי, in my desire, equivalent to according to my wish - an anthropomorphic description of the severity of the chastisement. ואסּ'רם from יסר (according to Ewald, 139, a), with the Vav of the apodosis. The chastisement will consist in the fact, that nations will be gathered together against Israel בּאסרם, lit., at their binding, i.e., when I shall bind them. The chethib עינתם cannot well be the plural of עין, because the plural עינות is not used for the eyes; and the rendering, "before their two eyes," in the sense of "without their being able to prevent it" (Ewald), yields the unheard-of conception of binding a person before his own eyes; and, moreover, the use of שׁתּי עינות instead of the simple dual would still be left unexplained. We must therefore give the preference to the keri עונת, and regard the chethib as another form, that may be accounted for from the transition of the verbs עי into עו, and עונת as a contraction of עונת, since עונה cannot be shown to have either the meaning of "sorrow" (Chald., A. E.), or that of the severe labour of "tributary service." And, moreover, neither of these meanings would give us a suitable thought; whilst the very same objection may be brought against the supposition that the doubleness of the work refers to Ephraim and Judah, which has been brought against the rendering "to bind to his furrows," viz., that it would be non solum ineptum, sed locutionis monstrum. לשׁתּי עונתם, "to their two transgression" to bind them: i.e., to place them in connection with the transgressions by the punishment, so that they will be obliged to drag them along like beasts of burden. By the two transgressions we are to understand neither the two golden calves at Bethel and Daniel (Hitzig), nor unfaithfulness towards Jehovah and devotedness to idols, after Jer 2:13 (Cyr., Theod.); but their apostasy from Jehovah and the royal house of David, in accordance with Hos 3:5, where it is distinctly stated that the ultimate conversion of the nation will consist in its seeking Jehovah and David their king.

Hosea 10:11

hos 10:11

In the next verse the punishment is still further defined, and also extended to Judah. Hos 10:11. "And Ephraim is an instructed cow, which loves to thresh; and I, I have come over the beauty of her neck: I yoke Ephraim; Judah will plough, Jacob harrow itself." Melummâdâh, instructed, trained to work, received its more precise definition from the words "loving to thresh" ('ōhabhtı̄, a participle with the connecting Yod in the constructive: see Ewald, 211, b), not as being easier work in comparison with the hard task of driving, ploughing, and harrowing, but because in threshing the ox was allowed to eat at pleasure (Deu 25:4), from which Israel became fat and strong (Deu 32:15). Threshing, therefore, is a figurative representation not of the conquest of other nations (as in Mic 4:13; Isa 41:15), but of pleasant, productive, profitable labour. Israel had accustomed itself to this, from the fact that God had bestowed His blessing upon it (Hos 13:6). But it would be different now. עברתּי על, a prophetic perfect: I come over the neck, used in a hostile sense, and answering to our "rushing in upon a person." The actual idea is that of putting a heavy yoke upon the neck, not of putting a rider upon it. ארכּיב not to mount or ride, but to drive, or use for drawing and driving, i.e., to harness, and that, as the following clauses show, to the plough and harrow, for the performance of hard field-labour, which figuratively represents subjugation and bondage. Judah is also mentioned here again, as in Hos 8:14; Hos 6:11, etc. Jacob, in connection with Judah, is not a name for the whole nation (or the twelve tribes), but is synonymous with Ephraim, i.e., Israel of the ten tribes. This is required by the correspondence between the last two clauses, which are simply a further development of the expression ארכיב אף, with an extension of the punishment threatened against Ephraim to Judah also.

Hosea 10:12

hos 10:12

The call to repentance and reformation of life is then appended in Hos 10:12, Hos 10:13, clothed in similar figures. Hos 10:12. "Sow to yourselves for righteousness, reap according to love; plough for yourselves virgin soil: for it is time to seek Jehovah, till He come and rain righteousness upon you. Hos 10:13. Ye have ploughed wickedness, ye have reaped crime: eaten the fruit of lying: because thou hast trusted in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men." Sowing and reaping are figures used to denote their spiritual and moral conduct. לצדקה, for righteousness, is parallel to לפי חסד; i.e., sow that righteousness may be able to spring up like seed, i.e., righteousness towards your fellow-men. The fruit of this will be chesed, condescending love towards the poor and wretched. Nı̄r nı̄r, both here and in Jer 4:3 to plough virgin soil, i.e., to make land not yet cultivated arable. We have an advance in this figure: they are to give up all their previous course of conduct, and create for themselves a new sphere for their activity, i.e., commence a new course of life. ועת, and indeed it is time, equivalent to, for it is high time to give up your old sinful says and seek the Lord, till (עד) He come, i.e., till He turn His grace to you again, and cause it to rain upon you. Tsedeq, righteousness, not salvation, a meaning which the word never has, and least of all here, where tsedeq corresponds to the tsedâqâh of the first clause. God causes righteousness to rain, inasmuch as He not only gives strength to secure it, like rain for the growth of the seed (cf. Isa 44:3), but must also generate and create it in man by His Spirit (Psa 51:12). The reason for this summons is given in Hos 10:13, in another allusion to the moral conduct of Israel until now. Hitherto they have ploughed as well as reaped unrighteousness and sin, and eaten lies as the fruit thereof, - lies, inasmuch as they did not promote the prosperity of the kingdom as they imagined, but only led to its decay and ruin. For they did not trust in Jehovah the Creator and rock of salvation, but in their way, i.e., their deeds and their might, in the strength of their army (Amo 6:13), the worthlessness of which they will now discover.

Hosea 10:14

hos 10:14

"And tumult will arise against thy peoples, and all thy fortifications are laid waste, as Shalman laid Beth-Arbeel waste in the day of the war: mother and children are dashed to pieces. Hos 10:15. Thus hath Bethel done to you because of the wickedness of your wickedness: in the morning dawn the king of Israel is cut off, cut off." קאם with א as mater lect. (Ewald, 15, e), construed with ב: to rise up against a person, as in Psa 27:12; Job 16:8. שׁאון, war, tumult, as in Amo 2:2. בּעמּיך: against thy people of war. The expression is chosen with a reference to rōbh gibbōrı̄m (the multitude of mighty men), in which Israel put its trust. The meaning, countrymen, or tribes, is restricted to the older language of the Pentateuch. The singular יוּשּׁד refers to כּל, as in Isa 64:10, contrary to the ordinary language (cf. Ewald, 317, c). Nothing is known concerning the devastation of Beth-Arbeel by Shalman; and hence there has always been great uncertainty as to the meaning of the words. Shalman is no doubt a contracted form of Shalmanezer, the king of Assyria, who destroyed the kingdom of the ten tribes (Kg2 17:6). Bēth-'arbē'l is hardly Arbela of Assyria, which became celebrated through the victory of Alexander (Strab. Isa 16:1, Isa 16:3), since the Israelites could scarcely have become so well acquainted with such a remote city, as that the prophet could hold up the desolation that befel it as an example to them, but in all probability the Arbela in Galilaea Superior, which is mentioned in 1 Maccabees 9:2, and very frequently in Josephus, a place in the tribe of Naphtali, between Sephoris and Tiberias (according to Robinson, Pal. iii. pp. 281-2, and Bibl. Researches, p. 343: the modern Irbid). The objection offered by Hitzig, - viz. that shōd is a noun in Hos 9:6; Hos 7:13; Hos 12:2, and that the infinitive construct, with ל prefixed, is written לשׁדד in Jer 47:4; and lastly, that if Shalman were the subject, we should expect the preposition את before בּית, - is not conclusive, and the attempt which he makes to explain Salman-Beth-Arbel from the Sanscrit is not worth mentioning. The clause "mother and children," etc., a proverbial expression denoting inhuman cruelty (see at Gen 32:12), does not merely refer to the conduct of Shalman in connection with Beth-arbel, possibly in the campaign mentioned in Kg2 17:3, but is also intended to indicate the fate with which the whole of the kingdom of Israel was threatened. In Kg2 17:16 this threat concludes with an announcement of the overthrow of the monarchy, accompanied by another allusion to the guilt of the people. The subject to כּכה עשׂה is Beth-el (Chald.), not Shalman or Jehovah. Bethel, the seat of the idolatry, prepares this lot for the people on account of its great wickedness. עשׂה is a perf. proph.' and רעת רעתכם, wickedness in its second potency, extreme wickedness (cf. Ewald, 313, c). Basshachar, in the morning-dawn, i.e., at the time when prosperity is once more apparently about to dawn, tempore pacis alluscente (Cocc., Hgst.). The gerund נדמה adds to the force; and מלך ישׂ is not this or the other king, but as in Kg2 17:7, the king generally, i.e., the monarchy of Israel.

Next: Hosea Chapter 11