Here, I. They are put in mind of the sins of their fathers and predecessors, for which God would now reckon with them. It was told them (Hos. 9:9) that they had corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah, and here (Hos. 10:9), O Israel! thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah. Not only the wickedness that was committed in that age is revived in this, and reacted, a copy from that original, but the wickedness that was committed in that age has been continued in a constant series and succession through all the intervening ages down to this; so that the measure of iniquity had been long in filling; and still there had been made additions to it. Or, “Thou has sinned more than in the days of Gibeah” (so it may be read); “the sins of this age exceed those of the worst of former ages. The case was bad then, for there they stood; the criminals stood in their own defence, and the tribes of Israel, who undertook to chastise them for their wickedness, were at a stand, when both in the first and in the second battle the malefactors were the victors; and the battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them till the third engagement, and then did not overtake them all, for 600 made their escape. But thy sin is worse than theirs, and therefore thou canst not expect but that the battle against the children of iniquity should overtake thee, and overcome thee.”
II. They have warning given them, fair warning, of the judgments of God that were coming upon them, Hos. 10:10. God had hitherto pitied and spared them. Though they had been very provoking, he had a mind to try whether they would be wrought upon by patience and forbearance; but now, “It is in my desire that I should chastise them; it is what I have a purpose of and will take pleasure in.” He will rejoice over them to do them hurt, Deut. 28:63. Note, Because God does not desire the death and ruin of sinners, therefore he does desire their chastisement. And see what the chastisement it: The people shall be gathered against them, as all the other tribes were against Benjamin in the battle of Gibeah. One of the rabbin thus descants upon it: “Because they receive not chastisement from me by my prophets, who in my name rebuke them, I will chastise them by the hands of the people who shall be gathered against them, when they shall bind themselves in their two furrows,” that is, when they shall think to fortify themselves, as it were, within a double entrenchment. Or, When I shall bind them for their two transgressions (so the margin reads it), meaning their corporal and spiritual whoredom, which they are so often charged with, or the two calves at Dan and Bethel, or those two great evils mentioned Jer. 2:12. Or, When I shall bind them to their two furrows, that is, bring them into servitude to the Assyrians, who shall keep them under the yoke as oxen in the plough, who are bound to the two furrows up the field and down it, and dare not, for fear of the goad, stir a step out of them. The Chaldee says, Those that are gathered against them shall exercise dominion over them, in like manner as a pair of heifers are tied to their two furrows. Thus those that would not be God’s freemen shall be their enemies’ slaves, and shall be made to know the difference between God’s service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries, 2 Chron. 12:8.
III. They are made to know that their unacquaintedness with sufferings and hardships should not excuse them from a very miserable captivity, Hos. 10:11. See how nice, and tender, and delicate, Ephraim is; he is as a heifer that is taught to tread out the corn, and loves that work, because, being not allowed to be muzzled, she has liberty to eat at pleasure, and the work itself was dry and easy, and both its own diversion and its own wages. “But,” says God, “I have a yoke to put upon her fair neck, fair as it is. I will make Ephraim to ride, that is, I will tame them, or cause them to be ridden by the Assyrians and other conquerors that shall rule them with rigour, as men do the beasts they ride upon (Ps. 66:12); and Judah too shall be made to plough, and Jacob to break the clods,” that is, they shall be used hardly, but not so hardly as Ephraim. Note, It is just with God to make those know what hardships mean that indulge themselves too much in their own ease and pleasure. The learned Dr. Pocock inclines to another sense of these words, as intimating the tender gentle methods God took with this people, to bring them into obedience to his law, as a reason why they should return to that obedience; he had managed them as the husbandman does his cattle that he trains up for service. Ephraim being as a docile heifer, fit to be employed, God took hold of her fair neck, to accustom her to the hand, harnessed her, or put the yoke of his commandments upon her, gave his people Israel a law, that, being trained up in his institutions, they might not be tempted by the usages of the heathen; he had used all fair and likely means with them to keep them in their obedience, had set Judah to plough and Jacob to break the clods, had employed them in the observance of precepts proper for them; and yet they would not be retained in their obedience, but started aside.
IV. They are invited and encouraged to return to God by prayer, repentance, and reformation, Hos. 10:12, 13. See here,
1. The duties they are called to. They are God’s husbandry (1 Cor. 3:9), and the duties are expressed in language borrowed from the husbandman’s calling. If they would not be brought into bondage by their oppressors, let them return to God’s service. (1.) Let them break up the fallow ground; let them cleanse their hearts from all corrupt affections and lusts, which are as weeds and thorns, and let them be humbled for their sins, and be of a broken and contrite spirit in the sense of them; let them be full of sorrow and shame at the remembrance of them, and prepare to receive the divine precepts, as the ground that is ploughed is to receive the seed, that it may take root. See Jer. 4:3. (2.) Let them sow to themselves in righteousness; let them return to the practice of good works, according to the law of God, which is the rule of righteousness; let them abound in works of piety towards God, and of justice and charity towards one another, and herein let them sow to the Spirit, as the apostle speaks, Gal. 6:7, 8. Every action is seed sown. Let them sow in righteousness; let them sow what they should sow, do what they should do, and they themselves shall have the benefit of it. (3.) Let them seek the Lord; let them look up to him for his grace, and beg of him to bless the seed sown. The husbandman must plough and sow with an eye to God, asking of him rain in the season thereof.
2. The arguments used for the pressing of these duties. Consider, (1.) It is time to do it; it is high time. The husbandman sows in seed-time, and, if that time be far spent, he applies to the work with the more diligence. Note, Seeking the Lord is to be every day’s work, but there are some special occasions given by the providence and grace of God when it is, in a particular manner, time to seek him. (2.) If we do our part, God will do his. If we sow to ourselves in righteousness—if we be careful and diligent to do our duty, in a dependence upon his grace—he will shower down his grace upon us, will rain righteousness, the very thing that those need most who are to sow in righteousness; for by the grace of God we are what we are. Some apply it to Christ, who should come in the fulness of time, and for whose coming they must prepare themselves; he shall come as the Lord our righteousness, and shall rain righteousness upon us, that everlasting righteousness which he has brought in; he will grant us of it abundantly. It is foretold (Ps. 72:6) that he shall come down like rain. (3.) If we sow in righteousness, we shall reap in mercy, which agrees with that promise, If we sow to the Spirit, we shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. We shall reap according to the measure of mercy (so the word is); it shall be a great reward, according to the riches of mercy, such a reward, not as becomes such mean creatures as we are to receive, but as becomes a God of infinite mercy to give, a reward, not of debt, but of grace. We reap not in merit, but in mercy. It is what is sown; God gives a body as it has pleased him. (4.) We have ploughed wickedness and reaped iniquity; and the time past of our life may suffice that we have done so, Hos. 10:13. “You have taken a great deal of pains in the service of sin, have laboured at it in the very fire; and will you grudge to bear the burden and heat of the day in God’s service and in doing that which will be for your own advantage? You have done much to damn your souls; will you not undo it again, and do something to save them?” (5.) We never got any thing in the service of sin. They have ploughed wickedness (that is, they have done the drudgery of sin), and they have reaped iniquity, that is, they have got all that is to be got by it; they have carried it on to the harvest, and what the better? It is all a cheat. They have eaten the fruit of lies, fruit that is but a lie, which looks fair, but is rotten within; the works of darkness are unfruitful works, Eph. 5:11; Rom. 6:21. Even the gains of sin yield the sinner no satisfaction. (6.) As our comforts, so 1375 our confidences, in the service of sin will certainly fail us: “Thou didst trust in thy ways, in the multitude of thy mighty men; thou has stayed thyself upon creatures, thy own power and policy, and therefore hast ventured to plough wickedness, and thy hopes have deceived thee; come therefore, and seek the Lord, and thy hope in him shall not deceive thee.”
V. They are threatened with utter destruction, both for their carnal practices and for their carnal confidences, Hos. 10:14, 15. Therefore, because thou has sown wickedness, and trusted in thy own way, a tumult shall arise among thy people, either by insurrections at home or invasions from abroad, either of which will put a kingdom into confusion and make a noise, much more both together. 1. Their cities and strongholds shall be a prey to the enemy: The fortresses which they confided in, and in which they had laid up their effects, shall be seized and rifled, as Shalman spoiled Beth-arbel in the day of battle. This refers to some event that had lately happened, not elsewhere recorded; and probably Shalman is the same with Shalmaneser king of Assyria, who had lately put some town, or castle, or house (Beth-arbel is the house of Arbel), under military execution, which perhaps he used with severity in the beginning of his conquests, to terrify other garrisons into a speedy surrender at the first summons. God tells them that thus Samaria should be spoiled. 2. The inhabitants shall be put to the sword, as it was at Beth-arbel; when it was taken the mother was dashed in pieces upon her children, that is, they were both dashed in pieces together by the fury of the soldiers. See what cruel work war makes. Jusque datum sceleri—Wickedness has free course. It is strange that any of the human race could be so inhuman; but see what comes of sin. Homo homini lupus—Man is a wolf to man, and then, Homo homini agnus—Man is a lamb to man. 3. Even royal blood shall be mingled with common gore: In a morning shall the king of Israel utterly be cut off, Hos. 10:15. Hoshea was the last king of Israel; in him the whole kingdom was cut off and came to a period; it may refer either to him or to some of his predecessors that were cut off by treachery. It shall be done in a morning, in a very little time, as suddenly as the dawning of the morning, or at the time appointed, for so the morning comes, punctually at its time. Or in the morning, when they think the night of calamity is over, and expect a returning day, then shall all their hopes be dashed by the sudden cutting off of their king, Hos. 10:7. Kings, though gods to us, are men to God, and shall die like men. And (lastly) what does all this desolation owe its rise to? What is the spring of this bloodshed? He tells us (Hos. 10:15): So shall Bethel do unto you. Bethel was the place where one of the calves was; Gilgal, where all their wickedness is said to have been, was hard by; there was their great wickedness, the evil of their evil (so the word is), the sum and quintessence of their sin; and that was it that did this to them, that made all this havoc, for that was it that provoked God to bring it upon them. He does not say, “So shall the king of Assyria do to you;” but, “So shall Bethel do to you.” Note, Whatever mischief is done to us it is sin that does it. Are the fortresses spoiled? Are the women and children murdered? Isa. the king cut off? It is sin that does all this. It is sin that ruins soul, body, estate, all. So shall Bethel do unto you. It is thy own wickedness that corrects thee and thy backslidings that reprove thee.