Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images.
An empty vine — That hath lost its strength to bring forth fruit.
Unto himself — Whatever fruit was brought forth by its remaining strength, was not brought forth to God.
His fruit — When the land yielded more plentiful increase, this plenty was employed on multiplying idols.
The altars — Of his idols.
The goodness — Imagining that the goodness of their land was a blessing from their idols.
 Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images.
Is divided — From God and his worship.
Faulty — As this was their sin, so the effects hereof should manifestly prove them faulty.
He — God.
 For now they shall say, We have no king, because we feared not the LORD; what then should a king do to us?
Say — See and feel.
No king — Either no king at all, or no such king as we expected.
What then — For kings are not able to save without the God of kings.
 They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant: thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field.
Words — Vain words.
Swearing falsely — By perjury deceiving those they treated with.
A covenant — With the Assyrian king.
Judgment — Divine vengeance.
As hemlock — A proverbial speech, expressing the greatness of this evil.
 The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Bethaven: for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it.
Because of the calves — Because they had sinned by these calves, therefore did this fear seize them.
The people — They who dwelt at Beth-aven.
That rejoiced on it — These priests formerly were fed, clothed, and enriched by this idol, this made them right glad.
The glory thereof — All its credit is vanished.
Is departed — The Assyrians have either broken it, or carried it in derision into Assyria.
 It shall be also carried unto Assyria for a present to king Jareb: Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.
It — The golden calf.
 As for Samaria, her king is cut off as the foam upon the water.
Is cut off — Shortly will be cut off: this prophecy probably was delivered when Samaria was besieged.
 The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.
The high places — The temples and altars of Baal.
Of Aven — Or Beth-aven.
They shall say — When this shall be brought to pass, the idolatrous Israelites shall be in such perplexity, that they shall wish the mountains and hills might fall on them.
 O Israel, thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah: there they stood: the battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them.
They — Probably the six hundred men who fled to the rock Rimmon.
Overtake them — That fatal battle did not reach them; but now Israel shall be more severely punished.
 It is in my desire that I should chastise them; and the people shall be gathered against them, when they shall bind themselves in their two furrows.
The people — The Assyrians.
For their two transgressions — Perhaps, their revolt from David's house, and their idolatry.
 And Ephraim is as an heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the corn; but I passed over upon her fair neck: I will make Ephraim to ride; Judah shall plow, and Jacob shall break his clods.
Taught — Used to, and so skilled in.
Passed over — I laid some lighter yoke upon her, brought some gentle afflictions upon that people to tame them, but this hath not prevailed.
Ride — I will ride on Ephraim and tame him.
Shall plow — Judah tho' less sinful hath been used to harder labour; hath plowed when Ephraim hath reaped.
Break his clods — The same in another proverbial speech, their work at present is harder, but there is an harvest follows. Tho' they sow in tears when going to Babylon, they shall reap in joy at their return.
 Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
Reap — And ye shall reap in mercy.
Fallow ground — Your hearts are as ground over-run with weeds, which need to be plowed and broken up, that good seed may be sowed in them.
And rain — Plentifully pour out the fruits of his goodness and mercy.
 Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men.
Ye have plowed — You, O Israelites.
Ye have reaped — Ye have lived in wickedness, and propagated it, and ye have met with a recompense worthy of your labour.
Eaten — Fed yourselves with vain hopes.
In thy way — Their way was their idolatry.
Mighty men — The next lie on which they lived was the wisdom and valour of their great men.
 Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled, as Shalman spoiled Betharbel in the day of battle: the mother was dashed in pieces upon her children.
As Shalman — Probably Salmaneser.
Beth-arbel — It was a city of Assyria, and gave name to a country or region in part of Assyria.
 So shall Bethel do unto you because of your great wickedness: in a morning shall the king of Israel utterly be cut off.
Beth-el — The idolatry committed there.
Do — Procure all this evil against you.
In a morning — Possibly the Assyrians might assault the city towards morning and master it.