12. The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid.
12. Obsignatum est peccatum Ephraim (vel, obsignata est iniquitas Ephraim;) reconditum peccatum ejus.
13. The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children.
13. Dolores parturientis venient ei; ipse filius insipiens (non sapiens,) quia tempore non staret in ruptura filiorum (ad verbum.)
He says, first, that sealed is the iniquity of Ephraim, and that hidden is his sin; by which words he means, that hypocrites in vain flatter themselves while God suspends his vengeance; for though he may connive for a time, yet he does not sleep; nor ought it to be believed that he is blind, but he seals up the sins of men, and keeps them inclosed until the proper time for revealing them shall come. This is the chief point; but the Prophet has expressed something more. For as Jeremiah says,
The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron,
with the point of a diamond,' (Jeremiah 17:1;)
so now also does Hosea say, that the iniquity of Ephraim was sealed up. For writings may perish, when they spread abroad: but what is laid up and put under a seal always remains. What, then, Hosea now means is, that the people flattered themselves in vain, while a truce was granted them; for the Lord kept their sins under his seal; as though he said |God forgets not your iniquity: as he, however, spares you only for a time, it would be far better to suffer immediate punishment, for thus the memory of your sin would pass away; but he now carefully keeps all your iniquities as it were under seal, and your sins are laid up in store.|
We now see that what the Prophet means in this verse is, that the Israelites had made such advances in their sins, that now no pardon or remission could be hoped for. |God then shall never be propitious to you, for your sin is sealed up.| And this sentence applies to all those who disguise themselves before God, when he does not severely treat them, but, on the contrary, kindly sustains and bears with them. Since, then, they thus disappointed his forbearance, it was necessary that this should befall them, that he should seal up their iniquities, and keep inclosed their sins.
He afterwards says, that the sorrows of one in travail would come on this proud and rebellious people. He pursues the same subject, but under another figure; for by the sorrows of one in travail he points out the sudden destruction which befalls careless men. And this mode of speaking is common in Scripture. There will come then the sorrows of one in travail on these men; that is, |As they promise to themselves continual peace, and are now awakened by any threatenings, and as they proudly despise both my hand and my word, a sudden destruction shall crush them.| Thus much as to the beginning of the verse, There shall come on them the sorrows of one in travail
He then adds, He is an unwise son, that is, he is altogether foolish. Here God reprobates the extreme madness of the people of Israel, as though he had said, |If any particle of sound understanding remained in this people, they would at least perceive the judgement which is impending; and there would then be some hope of a remedy: but this people are now wholly infatuated.| And this proves their folly, for they ought not, he says, to stay in the breaking forth of children This clause, however, some interpreters explain thus, |The time will come, they will not stay in the breaking forth of children.| But rather the contrary is meant by the words; for the Prophet means, that when the time of birth came, the people would stop in the breaking forth; which they would not do, were they endued with a right and sound mind.
It must be noticed, that the Prophet alludes to the time of birth; for he had said before, that the sorrows of one in travail would come on the people of Israel; he now declares that these sorrows would be filial. Though a woman be in labour and in great danger in giving birth, she is yet freed in a moment, and as Christ says, joy and gladness arise from that sorrow, (John 16:21.) But the Prophet says that this bringing forth would be very different; for it would be an abortion, and the child would be retained to putrefy in the womb. If a woman in the very birth restrains effort and shrinks in her strength, she destroys the child and herself at the same time; for she cannot bring forth without exertion. Since then the safety of the woman depends on the exertion made, the Prophet now says, that the contrary would be the case with the people of Israel. They are, he says, like a woman in travail; but they are at the same time blinded with folly, for they retain the child in the womb and make no effort: so this parturition must at last be fatal to them. Why? Because they make no effort to bring forth the child.
The Prophet by these figurative representations no doubt glances at the obstinate hardness of the people; for when they ought to bewail and humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, we know how perversely they hardened themselves against all punishment. Since, then, this people did thus as it were champ the bridle, and at the same time make hard their heart, partly by their fierce temper, partly by stupidity, partly by desperation, it was no wonder that the Prophet said that they were an unwise and insane people, for they stayed at the breaking forth of children; that is they made no effort to obtain the wished-for end to their evils. For when the Lord afflicts us, and we bring forth, this bringing forth is our deliverance. Now, how can there be deliverance except we hate ourselves for our sins, except we raise up our minds to God, and thus open a passage for God's grace? But when we oppose God pertinaciously through our fierceness and stupidity, it is the same as if one closed up every avenue. We now then see how appropriate is this metaphor used by the Prophet, when he says that the people were mad; for when the time of bringing, forth came, they stayed in the breaking forth; that is, at the opening of the womb, for this is what the Prophet means by the word. Since then they stayed in the very opening, and restrained, as it were, every effort, and ceased from all strivings, they must have perished. We now see what the obstinacy of men produces when they harden themselves, when they thus contracts as it were, within narrow limits their heart and mind and all their faculties. For when a woman who is in travail restrains all efforts, she wilfully seeks death for herself: so they do the same who harden themselves against all punishments, and especially when the time of birth is come; and to this the word, breaking forth, refers: for when the Lord strikes us not only once, but continues to lay on us many stripes, so that we must either repent or perish for ever, it is the ripened time for bringing forth; for God then leads us to an extremity, and nothing remains for us but to humble ourselves under his mighty hand or to perish. The Prophet then calls that condition, the breaking forth, in which obstinate men continue, who will not obey God. It is necessary to join with these verses the two which follow: this I shall do to-morrow.