Hosea 11 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

(Read all of Hosea 11)


Ho 11:5 shows this prophecy was uttered after the league made with Egypt (2Ki 17:4).

1. Israel . . . called my son out of Egypt--BENGEL translates, "From the time that he (Israel) was in Egypt, I called him My son," which the parallelism proves. So Ho 12:9 and Ho 13:4 use "from . . . Egypt," for "from the time that thou didst sojourn in Egypt." Ex 4:22 also shows that Israel was called by God, "My son," from the time of his Egyptian sojourn (Isa 43:1). God is always said to have led or brought forth, not to have "called," Israel from Egypt. Mt 2:15, therefore, in quoting this prophecy (typically and primarily referring to Israel, antitypically and fully to Messiah), applies it to Jesus' sojourn in Egypt, not His return from it. Even from His infancy, partly spent in Egypt, God called Him His son. God included Messiah, and Israel for Messiah's sake, in one common love, and therefore in one common prophecy. Messiah's people and Himself are one, as the Head and the body. Isa 49:3 calls Him "Israel." The same general reason, danger of extinction, caused the infant Jesus, and Israel in its national infancy (compare Ge 42:1-43:34; 45:18; 46:3, 4; Eze 16:4-6; Jer 31:20) to sojourn in Egypt. So He, and His spiritual Israel, are already called "God's sons" while yet in the Egypt of the world.

2. As they called them--"they," namely, monitors sent by Me. "Called," in Ho 11:1, suggests the idea of the many subsequent calls by the prophets.
went from them--turned away in contempt (Jer 2:27).
Baalim--images of Baal, set up in various places.

3. taught . . . to go--literally "to use his feet." Compare a similar image, De 1:31; 8:2, 5, 15; 32:10, 11; Ne 9:21; Isa 63:9; Am 2:10. God bore them as a parent does an infant, unable to supply itself, so that it has no anxiety about food, raiment, and its going forth. Ac 13:18, which probably refers to this passage of Hosea; He took them by the arms, to guide them that they might not stray, and to hold them up that they might not stumble.
knew not that I healed them--that is, that My design was to restore them spiritually and temporally (Ex 15:26).

4. cords of a man--parallel to "bands of love"; not such cords as oxen are led by, but humane methods, such as men employ when inducing others, as for instance, a father drawing his child, by leading-strings, teaching him to go (Ho 11:1).
I was . . . as they that take off the yoke on their jaws . . . I laid meat--as the humane husbandman occasionally loosens the straps under the jaws by which the yoke is bound on the neck of oxen and lays food before them to eat. An appropriate image of God's deliverance of Israel from the Egyptian yoke, and of His feeding them in the wilderness.

5. He shall not return into . . . Egypt--namely, to seek help against Assyria (compare Ho 7:11), as Israel lately had done (2Ki 17:4), after having revolted from Assyria, to whom they had been tributary from the times of Menahem (2Ki 15:19). In a figurative sense, "he shall return to Egypt" (Ho 9:3), that is, to Egypt-like bondage; also many Jewish fugitives were literally to return to Egypt, when the Holy Land was to be in Assyrian and Chaldean hands.
Assyrian shall be his king--instead of having kings of their own, and Egypt as their auxiliary.
because they refused to return--just retribution. They would not return (spiritually) to God, therefore they shall not return (corporally) to Egypt, the object of their desire.

6. abide--or, "fall upon" [CALVIN].
branches--villages, which are the branches or dependencies of the cities [CALVIN]. GROTIUS translates, "his bars" (so La 2:9), that is, the warriors who were the bulwarks of the state. Compare Ho 4:18, "rulers" (Margin), "shields" (Ps 47:9).
because of their own counsels--in worshipping idols, and relying on Egypt (compare Ho 10:6).

7. bent to backsliding--Not only do they backslide, and that too from ME, their "chief good," but they are bent upon it. Though they (the prophets) called them (the Israelites) to the Most High (from their idols), "none would exalt (that is, extol or honor) Him." To exalt God, they must cease to be "bent on backsliding," and must lift themselves upwards.

8. as Admah . . . Zeboim--among the cities, including Sodom and Gomorrah, irretrievably overthrown (De 29:23).
heart is turned within me--with the deepest compassion, so as not to execute My threat (La 1:20; compare Ge 43:30; 1Ki 3:26). So the phrase is used of a new turn given to the feeling (Ps 105:25).
repentings--God speaks according to human modes of thought (Nu 23:19). God's seeming change is in accordance with His secret everlasting purpose of love to His people, to magnify His grace after their desperate rebellion.

9. I will not return to destroy Ephraim--that is I will no more, as in past times, destroy Ephraim. The destruction primarily meant is probably that by Tiglath-pileser, who, as the Jewish king Ahaz' ally against Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria, deprived Israel of Gilead, Galilee, and Naphtali (2Ki 15:29). The ulterior reference is to the long dispersion hereafter, to be ended by God's covenant mercy restoring His people, not for their merits, but of His grace.
God, . . . not man--not dealing as man would, with implacable wrath under awful provocation (Isa 55:7-9; Mal 3:6). I do not, like man, change when once I have made a covenant of everlasting love, as with Israel (Nu 23:19). We measure God by the human standard, and hence are slow to credit fully His promises; these, however, belong to the faithful remnant, not to the obstinately impenitent.
in the midst of thee--as peculiarly thy God (Ex 19:5, 6).
not enter into the city--as an enemy: as I entered Admah, Zeboim, and Sodom, utterly destroying them, whereas I will not utterly destroy thee. Somewhat similarly JEROME: "I am not one such as human dwellers in a city, who take cruel vengeance; I save those whom I correct." Thus "not man," and "in the midst of thee," are parallel to "into the city." Though I am in the midst of thee, it is not as man entering a rebellious city to destroy utterly. MAURER needlessly translates, "I will not come in wrath."

10. he shall roar like a lion--by awful judgments on their foes (Isa 31:4; Jer 25:26-30; Joe 3:16), calling His dispersed "children" from the various lands of their dispersion.
shall tremble--shall flock in eager agitation of haste.
from the west-- (Zec 8:7). Literally, "the sea." Probably the Mediterranean, including its "isles of the sea," and maritime coast. Thus as Ho 11:11 specifies regions of Africa and Asia, so here Europe. Isa 11:11-16, is parallel, referring to the very same regions. On "children," see Ho 1:10.

11. tremble--flutter in haste.
dove--no longer "a silly dove" (Ho 7:11), but as "doves flying to their windows" (Isa 60:8).
in their houses-- (Eze 28:26). Literally, "upon," for the Orientals live almost as much upon their flat-roofed houses as in them.

12. MAURER joins this verse with the twelfth chapter. But as this verse praises Judah, whereas Ho 12:2 censures him, it must belong rather to the eleventh chapter and a new prophecy begins at the twelfth chapter. To avoid this, MAURER translates this verse as a censure, "Judah wanders with God," that is, though having the true God, he wanders after false gods.
ruleth with God--to serve God is to reign. Ephraim wished to rule without God (compare 1Co 4:8); nay, even, in order to rule, cast off God's worship [RIVETUS]. In Judah was the legitimate succession of kings and priests.
with the saints--the holy priests and Levites [RIVETUS]. With the fathers and prophets who handed down the pure worship of God. Israel's apostasy is the more culpable, as he had before him the good example of Judah, which he set at naught. The parallelism ("with GOD") favors Margin, "With THE MOST HOLY ONE."