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This chapter begins with threatening the Israelites for ensnaring the people to idolatry by their sacrifices and other rites on Mizpah and Tabor, Hosea 5:1-5. Their sacrifices, however costly, are declared to be unacceptable, Hosea 5:6; and their substance is devoted to the locust, Hosea 5:7. Nor is judgment to stop here. The cities of Judah are called upon, in a very animated manner, to prepare for the approach of enemies. Benjamin is to be pursued; Ephraim is to be desolate; and all this is intimated to Israel, that they may by repentance avert the judgment, Hosea 5:8, Hosea 5:9. The following verses contain farther denunciations, Hosea 5:10-13, expressed in terms equally terrible and sublime, Hosea 5:14. The Lord afflicts not willingly the children of men; he visits them with temporal calamities that he may heal their spiritual malady, Hosea 5:15.
Hear ye this, O priests - A process is instituted against the priests, the Israelites, and the house of the king; and they are called on to appear and defend themselves. The accusation is, that they have ensnared the people, caused them to practice idolatry, both at Mizpah and Tabor. Mizpah was situated beyond Jordan; in the mountains of Gilead; see Judges 11:29. And Tabor was a beautiful mountain in the tribe of Zebulum. Both these places are said to be eminent for hunting etc., and hence the natural occurrence of the words snare and net, in speaking of them.
The revolters are profound to make slaughter - Here may be a reference to the practice of hunters, making deep pits in the ground, and lightly covering them over, that the beasts, not discovering them, might fall in, and become a prey.
Though I have been a Rebuker - “I will bring chastisement on them all.” As they have made victims of others to their idolatry, I will make victims of them to my justice. Some have thought that as many as wished to depart from the idolatrous worship set up by Jeroboam, were slaughtered; and thus Jeroboam the son of Nebat Made Israel to sin.
I know Ephraim - I know the whole to be idolaters.
They will not frame their doings - They never purpose to turn to God, they have fully imbibed the spirit of idolatry.
The pride of Israel doth testify to his face - The effrontery with which they practise idolatry manifests, not only their insolence, but the deep depravity of their heart; but their pride and arrogance shall be humbled.
They shall go with their flocks - They shall offer many sacrifices, professing to seek and be reconciled to the Lord; but they shall not find him. As they still retain the spirit of their idolatry, he has withdrawn himself from them.
Now shall a month devour them - In a month‘s time the king of Assyria shall be upon them, and oblige them to purchase their lives and liberties by a grievous tax of fifty shekels per head. This Menahem, king of Israel, gave to Pul, king of Assyria, 2 Kings 15:16-20. Instead of month, some translate the original locust. “The locusts shall devour them.”
Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah - Gibeah and Ramah were cities of Judah, in the tribe of Benjamin.
After thee, O Benjamin - An abrupt call of warning. “Benjamin, fly for thy life! The enemy is just behind thee!” This is a prediction of the invasion of the Assyrians, and the captivity of the ten tribes.
Among the tribes of Israel have I made known - They have got sufficient warning; it is their own fault that they have not taken it.
Like them that remove the bound - As execrable as they who remove the land-mark. They have leaped over law‘s enclosure, and scaled all the walls of right; they have despised and broken all laws, human and Divine.
Walked after the commandment - Jeroboam‘s commandment to worship his calves at Dan and Beth-el. Many of them were not forced to do this, they did it willingly.
Unto Ephraim as a moth - I will consume them by little and little, as a moth frets a garment.
When Ephraim saw his sickness - When both Israel and Judah felt their own weakness to resist their enemies, instead of calling upon and trusting in me, they sought sinful alliances, and trusted in their idols.
King Jareb - This name occurs nowhere in Scripture but here and in Hosea 10:6. The Vulgate and Targum render ירב (yareb), an avenger, a person whom they thought able to save them from their enemies. It is well known that Menahem, king of Israel, sought alliance with Pul and Tiglath-pileser, kings of Assyria, and Ahaz, king of Judah. These were the protectors that Ephraim sought after. See 2 Kings 15 and 16. But far from healing them by making them tributary, the Assyrians made their wound more dangerous.
I will be - as a lion - כשחל (cashshachel), as a panther or lioness.
I will go and return to my place - I will abandon them till they acknowledge their offenses. This had the wished-for effect, as we shall see in the following chapter; for they repented and turned to God, and he had mercy upon them. These two verses are considered as instances of the true sublime.