Ho 13:1-16. Ephraim's Sinful Ingratitude to God, and Its Fatal Consequence; God's Promise at Last.
This chapter and the fourteenth chapter probably belong to the troubled times that followed Pekah's murder by Hoshea (compare Ho 13:11; 2Ki 15:30). The subject is the idolatry of Ephraim, notwithstanding God's past benefits, destined to be his ruin.
1. When Ephraim spake trembling -- rather, |When Ephraim (the tribe most powerful among the twelve in Israel's early history) spake (authoritatively) there was trembling|; all reverentially feared him [Jerome], (compare Job 29:8, 9, 21).
offended in Baal -- that is, in respect to Baal, by worshipping him (1Ki 16:31), under Ahab; a more heinous offense than even the calves. Therefore it is at this climax of guilt that Ephraim |died.| Sin has, in the sight of God, within itself the germ of death, though that death may not visibly take effect till long after. Compare Ro 7:9, |Sin revived, and I died.| So Adam in the day of his sin was to die, though the sentence was not visibly executed till long after (Ge 2:17; 5:5). Israel is similarly represented as politically dead in Eze 37:1-28.
2. according to their own understanding -- that is, their arbitrary devising. Compare |will-worship,| Col 2:23. Men are not to be |wise above that which is written,| or to follow their own understanding, but God's command in worship.
kiss the calves -- an act of adoration to the golden calves (compare 1Ki 19:18; Job 31:27; Ps 2:12).
3. they shall be as the morning cloud ... dew -- (Ho 6:4). As their |goodness| soon vanished like the morning cloud and dew, so they shall perish like them.
the floor -- the threshing-floor, generally an open area, on a height, exposed to the winds.
chimney -- generally in the East an orifice in the wall, at once admitting the light, and giving egress to the smoke.
4. (Ho 12:9; Isa 43:11).
no saviour -- temporal as well as spiritual.
besides me -- (Isa 45:21).
5. I did know thee -- did acknowledge thee as Mine, and so took care of thee (Ps 144:3; Am 3:2). As I knew thee as Mine, so thou shouldest know no God but Me (Ho 13:4).
in ... land of ... drought -- (De 8:15).
6. Image from cattle, waxing wanton in abundant pasture (compare Ho 2:5, 8; De 32:13-15). In proportion as I fed them to the full, they were so satiated that |their heart was exalted|; a sad contrast to the time when, by God's blessing, Ephraim truly |exalted himself in Israel| (Ho 13:1).
therefore have they forgotten me -- the very reason why men should remember God (namely, prosperity, which comes from Him) is the cause often of their forgetting Him. God had warned them of this danger (De 6:11, 12).
7. (Ho 5:14; La 3:10).
leopard -- The Hebrew comes from a root meaning |spotted| (compare Jer 13:23). Leopards lurk in thickets and thence spring on their victims.
observe -- that is, lie in wait for them. Several manuscripts, the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic read, by a slight change of the Hebrew vowel pointing, |by the way of Assyria,| a region abounding in leopards and lions. English Version is better.
8. |Writers on the natures of beasts say that none is more savage than a she bear, when bereaved of her whelps| [Jerome].
caul of ... heart -- the membrane enclosing it: the pericardium.
there -- |by the way| (Ho 13:7).
9. thou ... in me -- in contrast.
hast destroyed thyself -- that is, thy destruction is of thyself (Pr 6:32; 8:36).
in me is thine help -- literally, |in thine help| (compare De 33:26). Hadst thou rested thy hope in Me, I would have been always ready at hand for thy help [Grotius].
10. I will be thy king; where -- rather, as the Margin and the Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, |Where now is thy king?| [Maurer]. English Version is, however, favored both by the Hebrew, by the antithesis between Israel's self-chosen and perishing kings, and God, Israel's abiding King (compare Ho 3:4, 5).
where ... Give me a king -- Where now is the king whom ye substituted in My stead? Neither Saul, whom the whole nation begged for, not contented with Me their true king (1Sa 8:5, 7, 19, 20; 10:19), nor Jeroboam, whom subsequently the ten tribes chose instead of the line of David My anointed, can save thee now. They had expected from their kings what is the prerogative of God alone, namely, the power of saving them.
judges -- including all civil authorities under the king (compare Am 2:3).
11. I gave ... king in ... anger ... took ... away in ... wrath -- true both of Saul (1Sa 15:22, 23; 16:1) and of Jeroboam's line (2Ki 15:30). Pekah was taken away through Hoshea, as he himself took away Pekahiah; and as Hoshea was soon to be taken away by the Assyrian king.
12. bound up ... hid -- Treasures, meant to be kept, are bound up and hidden; that is, do not flatter yourselves, because of the delay, that I have forgotten your sin. Nay (Ho 9:9), Ephraim's iniquity is kept as it were safely sealed up, until the due time comes for bringing it forth for punishment (De 32:34; Job 14:17; 21:19; compare Ro 2:5). Opposed to |blotting out the handwriting against| the sinner (Col 2:14).
13. sorrows of a travailing woman -- calamities sudden and agonizing (Jer 30:6).
unwise -- in not foreseeing the impending judgment, and averting it by penitence (Pr 22:3).
he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children -- When Israel might deliver himself from calamity by the pangs of penitence, he brings ruin on himself by so long deferring a new birth unto repentance, like a child whose mother has not strength to bring it forth, and which therefore remains so long in the passage from the womb as to run the risk of death (2Ki 19:3; Isa 37:3; 66:9).
14. Applying primarily to God's restoration of Israel from Assyria partially, and, in times yet future, fully from all the lands of their present long-continued dispersion, and political death (compare Ho 6:2; Isa 25:8; 26:19; Eze 37:12). God's power and grace are magnified in quickening what to the eye of flesh seems dead and hopeless (Ro 4:17, 19). As Israel's history, past and future, has a representative character in relation to the Church, this verse is expressed in language alluding to Messiah's (who is the ideal Israel) grand victory over the grave and death, the first-fruits of His own resurrection, the full harvest to come at the general resurrection; hence the similarity between this verse and Paul's language as to the latter (1Co 15:55). That similarity becomes more obvious by translating as the Septuagint, from which Paul plainly quotes; and as the same Hebrew word is translated in Ho 13:10, |O death, where are thy plagues (paraphrased by the Septuagint, 'thy victory')? O grave, where is thy destruction (rendered by the Septuagint, 'thy sting')?| The question is that of one triumphing over a foe, once a cruel tyrant, but now robbed of all power to hurt.
repentance shall be hid from mine eyes -- that is, I will not change My purpose of fulfilling My promise by delivering Israel, on the condition of their return to Me (compare Ho 14:2-8; Nu 23:19; Ro 11:29).
15. fruitful -- referring to the meaning of |Ephraim,| from a Hebrew root, |to be fruitful| (Ge 41:52). It was long the most numerous and flourishing of the tribes (Ge 48:19).
wind of the Lord -- that is, sent by the Lord (compare Isa 40:7), who has His instruments of punishment always ready. The Assyrian, Shalmaneser, &c., is meant (Jer 4:11; 18:17; Eze 19:12).
from the wilderness -- that is, the desert part of Syria (1Ki 19:15), the route from Assyria into Israel.
he -- the Assyrian invader. Shalmaneser began the siege of Samaria in 723 B.C. Its close was in 721 B.C., the first year of Sargon, who seems to have usurped the throne of Assyria while Shalmaneser was at the siege of Samaria. Hence, while 2Ki 17:6 states, |the king of Assyria took Samaria,| 2Ki 18:10 says, |at the end of three years they took it.| In Sargon's magnificent palace at Khorsabad, inscriptions mention the number -- 27,280 -- of Israelites carried captive from Samaria and other places of Israel by the founder of the palace [G. V. Smith].
16. This verse and Ho 13:15 foretell the calamities about to befall Israel before her restoration (Ho 13:14), owing to her impenitence.
her God -- the greatest aggravation of her rebellion, that it was against her God (Ho 13:4).
infants ... dashed in pieces, &c. -- (2Ki 8:12; 15:16; Am 1:13).