Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
After the prophet has set before the sinful nation in various ways its own guilt, and the punishment that awaits it, viz., the destruction of the kingdom, he concludes his addresses with a call to thorough conversion to the Lord, and the promise that the Lord will bestow His grace once more upon those who turn to Him, and will bless them abundantly (Hos 14:1-8). Hos 14:1. (Heb. Bib. v. 2). "Return, O Israel, to Jehovah thy God; for thou hast stumbled through thy guilt. Hos 14:2. Take with you words, and turn to Jehovah; say ye to Him, Forgive all guilt, and accept what is good, that we may offer our lips as bullocks. Hos 14:3. Asshur will not help us: we will not ride upon horses, nor say 'Our God' any more to the manufacture of our own hands; for with Thee the orphan findeth compassion." There is no salvation for fallen man without return to God. It is therefore with a call to return to the Lord their God, that the prophet opens the announcement of the salvation with which the Lord will bless His people, whom He has brought to reflection by means of the judgment (cf. Deu 4:30; Deu 30:1.). שׁוּב עד יי, to return, to be converted to the Lord, denotes complete conversion; שׁוּב אל is, strictly speaking, simply to turn towards God, to direct heart and mind towards Him. By kâshaltâ sin is represented as a false step, which still leaves it possible to return; so that in a call to conversion it is very appropriately chosen. But if the conversion is to be of the right kind, it must begin with a prayer for the forgiveness of sin, and attest itself by the renunciation of earthly help and simple trust in the mercy of God. Israel is to draw near to God in this state of mind. "Take with you words," i.e., do not appear before the Lord empty (Exo 23:15; Exo 34:20); but for this ye do not require outward sacrifices, but simply words, sc. those of confession of your guilt, as the Chaldee has correctly explained it. The correctness of this explanation is evident from the confession of sin which follows, with which they are to come before God. In כּל־תּשּׂא עון, the position of col at the head of the sentence may be accounted for from the emphasis that rests upon it, and the separation of ‛âvōn, from the fact that col was beginning to acquire more of the force of an adjective, like our all (thus Sa2 1:9; Job 27:3 : cf. Ewald, 289, a; Ges. 114, 3, Anm. 1). Qach tōbh means neither "accept goodness," i.e., let goodness be shown thee (Hitzig), nor "take it as good," sc. that we pray (Grotius, Ros.); but in the closest connection with what proceeds: Accept the only good thing that we are able to bring, viz., the sacrifices of our lips. Jerome has given the correct interpretation, viz.: "For unless Thou hadst borne away our evil things, we could not possibly have the good thing which we offer Thee;" according to that which is written elsewhere (Psa 37:27), "Turn from evil, and do good." שׂפתינוּ ... וּנשׁלּמה, literally, "we will repay (pay) as young oxen our lips," i.e., present the prayers of our lips as thank-offerings. The expression is to be explained from the fact that shillēm, to wipe off what is owing, to pay, is a technical term, applied to the sacrifice offered in fulfilment of a vow (Deu 23:22; Psa 22:26; Psa 50:14, etc.), and that pârı̄m, young oxen, were the best animals for thank-offerings (Exo 24:5). As such thank-offerings, i.e., in the place of the best animal sacrifices, they would offer their lips, i.e., their prayers, to God (cf. Psa 51:17-19; Psa 69:31-32). In the Sept. rendering, ἀποδώσομεν καρπὸν χείλεων, to which there is an allusion in Heb 13:15, פּרים has been confounded with פּרי, as Jerome has already observed. but turning to God requires renunciation of the world, of its power, and of all idolatry. Rebellious Israel placed its reliance upon Assyria and Egypt (Hos 5:13; Hos 7:11; Hos 8:9). It will do this no longer. The riding upon horses refers partly to the military force of Egypt (Isa 31:1), and partly to their own (Hos 1:7; Isa 2:7). For the expression, "neither will we say to the work of our hands," compare Isa 42:17; Isa 44:17. אשׁר בּך, not "Thou with whom," but "for with Thee" ('ăsher as in Deu 3:24). The thought, "with Thee the orphan findeth compassion," as God promises in His word (Exo 22:22; Deu 10:18), serves not only as a reason for the resolution no longer to call the manufacture of their own hands God, but generally for the whole of the penitential prayer, which they are encouraged to offer by the compassionate nature of God. In response to such a penitential prayer, the Lord will heal all His people's wounds, and bestow upon them once more the fulness of the blessings of His grace. The prophet announces this in Isa 44:4-8 as the answer from the Lord.
"I will heal their apostasy, will love them freely: for my wrath has turned away from it. Hos 14:5. I will be like dew for Israel: it shall blossom like the lily, and strike its roots like Lebanon. Hos 14:6. Its shoots shall go forth, and its splendour shall become like the olive-tree, and its smell like Lebanon. Hos 14:7. They that dwell in its shadow shall give life to corn again; and shall blossom like the vine: whose glory is like the wine of Lebanon. Hos 14:8. Ephraim: What have I further with the idols? I hear, and look upon him: I, like a bursting cypress, in me is thy fruit found." The Lord promises first of all to heal their apostasy, i.e., all the injuries which have been inflicted by their apostasy from Him, and to love them with perfect spontaneity (nedâbhâh an adverbial accusative, promta animi voluntate), since His anger, which was kindled on account of its idolatry, had now turned away from it (mimmennū, i.e., from Israel). The reading mimmennı̄ (from me), which the Babylonian Codices have after the Masora, appears to have originated in a misunderstanding of Jer 2:35. This love of the Lord will manifest itself in abundant blessing. Jehovah will be to Israel a refreshing, enlivening dew (cf. Isa 26:19), through which it will blossom splendidly, strike deep roots, and spread its shoots far and wide. "Like the lily:" the fragrant white lily, which is very common in Palestine, and grows without cultivation, and "which is unsurpassed in its fecundity, often producing fifty bulbs from a single root" (Pliny h. n. xxi. 5). "Strike roots like Lebanon," i.e., not merely the deeply rooted forest of Lebanon, but the mountain itself, as one of the "foundations of the earth" (Mic 6:2). The deeper the roots, the more the branches spread and cover themselves with splendid green foliage, like the evergreen and fruitful olive-tree (Jer 11:16; Ps. 52:10). The smell is like Lebanon, which is rendered fragrant by its cedars and spices (Sol 4:11). The meaning of the several features in the picture has been well explained by Rosenmller thus: "The rooting indicates stability: the spreading of the branches, propagation and the multitude of inhabitants; the splendour of the olive, beauty and glory, and that constant and lasting; the fragrance, hilarity and loveliness." In Hos 14:7 a somewhat different turn is given to the figure. The comparison of the growth and flourishing of Israel to the lily and to a tree, that strikes deep roots and spreads its green branches far and wide, passes imperceptibly into the idea that Israel is itself the tree beneath whose shade the members of the nation flourish with freshness and vigour. ישׁוּבוּ is to be connected adverbially with יהיּוּ. Those who sit beneath the shade of Israel, the tree that is bursting into leaf, will revive corn, i.e., cause it to return to life, or produce it for nourishment, satiety, and strengthening. Yea, they themselves will sprout like the vine, whose remembrance is, i.e., which has a renown, like the wine of Lebanon, which has been celebrated from time immemorial (cf. Plin. h. n. xiv. 7; Oedmann, Verbm. Sammlung aus der Naturkunde, ii. p. 193; and Rosenmller, Bibl. Althk. iv. 1, p. 217). The divine promise closes in Hos 14:9 with an appeal to Israel to renounce idols altogether, and hold fast by the Lord alone as the source of its life. Ephraim is a vocative, and is followed immediately by what the Lord has to say to Ephraim, so that we may supply memento in thought. מה־לּי עוד לע, what have I yet to do with idols? (for this phrase, compare Jer 2:18); that is to say, not "I have now to contend with thee on account of the idols (Schmieder), nor "do not place them by my side any more" (Ros.); but, "I will have nothing more to do with idols," which also implies that Ephraim is to have nothing more to do with them. To this there is appended a notice of what God has done and will do for Israel, to which greater prominence is given by the emphatic אני: I, I hearken (‛ânı̄thı̄ a prophetic perfect), and look upon him. שׁוּר, to look about for a person, to be anxious about him, or care for him, as in Job 24:15. The suffix refers to Ephraim. In the last clause, God compares Himself to a cypress becoming green, not only to denote the shelter which He will afford to the people, but as the true tree of life, on which the nation finds its fruits - a fruit which nourishes and invigorates the spiritual life of the nation. The salvation which this promise sets before the people when they shall return to the Lord, is indeed depicted, according to the circumstances and peculiar views prevailing under the Old Testament, as earthly growth and prosperity; but its real nature is such, that it will receive a spiritual fulfilment in those Israelites alone who are brought to belief in Jesus Christ.
Hos 14:9 (10) contains the epilogue to the whole book. "Who is wise, that he may understand this? understanding, that he may discern it? For the ways of Jehovah are straight, and the righteous walk therein: but the rebellious stumble in them." The pronoun אלּה and the suffix to ידעם refer to everything that the prophet has laid before the people in his book for warning, for reproof, for correction, for chastening in righteousness. He concludes by summing up the whole substance of his teaching in the one general sentence, which points back to Deu 32:4 : The ways of the Lord are straight. "The ways of Jehovah" (darkhē Yehōvâh) are the ways taken by God in the guidance and government of men; not only the ways which He prescribes for them, but also His guidance of them. These ways lead some to life and others to death, according to the different attitudes which men assume towards God, as Moses announced to all the Israelites that they would (Deu 30:19-20), and as the Apostle Paul assured the church at Corinth that the gospel of Jesus also would (Co1 1:18).