Here, I. The people of Israel are charged with spiritual adultery: O Israel! thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, Hos. 9:1. Their covenant with God was a marriage-covenant, by which they were joined to him as their God, renouncing all others. But when they set up idols and worshipped them, when they fled to creatures for succour and put a confidence in them, they went a whoring from God as their God, and honoured the pretenders and rivals with the affection, adoration, and confidence, which were due to God only. Other people were idolaters, but that sin was not, in them, going a whoring from God, as it was in Israel that had been married to him. Note, The sins of those who have made a profession of religion and relation to God are more provoking to him than the sins of others. As a proof of their going a whoring from God, it is charged upon them that they loved a reward upon every corn-floor. 1. They loved to give rewards to their idols, in the offerings and first-fruits they presented to them out of every corn-floor. They took a strange pleasure in serving their idols with that which they would have grudged to consecrate to God and employ in his service. Note, It is common for those that are niggardly in the expenses of their religion to be very prodigal in spending upon their lusts. Or, 2. They loved to receive rewards from their idols; and such they reckoned the fruits of the earth to be: These are my rewards, which my lovers have given me, Hos. 2:12. Note, Those are directly disposed to spiritual idolatry that love a reward in the corn-floor better than a reward in the favour of God and eternal life.
II. They are forbidden to rejoice as other people do: “Rejoice not, O Israel! for joy. Do not expect to rejoice. What peace, what joy, what hast thou to do with either, while thy whoredoms and witchcrafts are so many?” 2 Kgs. 9:19-22. Be not disposed to rejoice, for it does not become thee, but rather to be afflicted, and mourn, and weep, Jas. 4:9. Judah, that keeps close to the true God, nay, and other people that never knew him nor could ever be charged with revolting from him, may be allowed to rejoice, as not having so much cause to be ashamed as Israel has, that has gone a whoring from him. Some think that they had at this time particular occasions for joy, probably upon the account of some losses recovered, or some advantages gained, or some league made with a potent ally, for which they had public rejoicings, as other people used to have upon such occasions; but God sends to them not to rejoice. Note, Joy is forbidden fruit to wicked people. They must not rejoice, because they have gone a whoring from their God; and therefore, 1. Whatever it was that they rejoiced in, it would be no security nor advantage to them, so long as they were at a distance from God and at war with him. Note, We are likely to have small joy of any of our creature-comforts if we make not God our chief joy. 2. The sense of sin and dread of wrath ought to be a damp upon their joy and a strong alloy to all their comforts. Note, Those who by departing from God have made work for repentance have thereby marred their own mirth, till they return and make their peace with God.
III. They are threatened with destroying judgments for their spiritual whoredoms, according to what was said long before. Ps. 73:27; Thou hast destroyed all those that go a whoring from thee. It is here threatened,
1. That their land shall not yield its wonted increase. Canaan, that fruitful land, shall be turned into barrenness for the wickedness of those that dwell therein. They love the reward in the corn-floor, and are so full of the joy of harvest that they have no disposition at all to mourn for their sins; and therefore God will, for their effectual humiliation, take away from them, not only their delights and dainties, but even their necessary food (Hos. 9:2): The floor and the wine-press shall not feed them, much less feast them; they shall either be blasted by the hand of God or plundered by the hand of man. The new wine with which they used to make merry shall fail in her. Note, When we make the world, and the things of it, our idol and portion, above what they were designed for, it is just with God to deny us even support and nourishment from them, according to that which they were designed for, to show us our folly and correct us for it. Let those miss of their food in the corn-floor that look for their reward in the corn-floor. We forfeit the good things of this world if we love them as the best things.
2. That their land shall not only cease to feed them, but cease to lodge them and to be a habitation for them; it shall spue them out, as it had done the Canaanites before them (Hos. 9:3): They shall not dwell any longer in the Lord’s land. The land of Canaan was in a peculiar manner the Lord’s land, the land of the Shechinah (so the Chaldee), the land of the Lord of the world (so the Arabic); he whose all the earth is (Ps. 24:1) took that for his demesne. The land is mine, says God, Lev. 25:23. They had used it, or abused it rather, as if it had been their own, had not paid the rent, nor done the services, due to God as their landlord, and therefore God justly enters, and takes possession of it, they having forfeited their lease. “It is my land” (says God) “and I will make it appear, for they shall be turned off, as bad tenants, and be made to know that, though they thought themselves freeholders, they were but tenants at will.” Note, It is for the honour of God’s justice and holiness that those who go a whoring from God should not be suffered to dwell upon his land; and therefore, sooner or later, the wicked shall be chased out of the world. Or it is called the Lord’s land because it was the holy land, Immanuel’s land, the land that had peculiar tokens of God’s favour to it, and presence in it, where God was known and his name was great, where God’s prophets and oracles were; it was a kind of copy of the earthly paradise, and a type of the heavenly one. It was a great privilege to have a lot in such a land as this. It was a great sin and folly to rebel against God, and go a whoring from him, in such a land as this, to deal unjustly in a land of uprightness, Isa. 26:10. And it was a sad and sore judgment to be driven out from such a land as this; it was like driving our first parents out of the garden of Eden, and almost amounted to an exclusion out of the heavenly Canaan. Note, Those cannot expect to dwell in the Lord’s land that will not be subject to the Lord’s laws, nor be influenced by his love. Those have forfeited the privileges of the church that conform not to the rules of it.
3. That, when they are turned out from the Lord’s land, they shall have no rest nor satisfaction in any other land. When Cain was driven out from the presence of the Lord he was a fugitive and a vagabond ever after, and dwelt in the land of trembling. So Israel here. Some shall return into Egypt, the old house of bondage; thither they shall flee from the Assyrian (Hos. 8:13) and they shall lose and ruin themselves where they thought to hide and help themselves. Others shall be carried captives to Assyria and there shall be forced to eat unclean things, either (1.) Such things as were not fit for men to eat, that which is rotten and putrefied, intimating that they shall be reduced to the utmost poverty, as the prodigal that would fain have filled his belly with the husks. Or, (2.) Such things as were not fit for Jews to eat, being prohibited by their law. It is probable that while they were in their own land, however disobedient in other things, they kept up the distinction of meats, and prided themselves in that; but, since they would not keep the law of God in other things, they should not be suffered to keep it in that, and it was a just punishment of their sin in eating things offered to idols. Note, When at any time we suffer in our food, and either through want or for our health are forced to eat or drink that which is unpleasing, we must acknowledge that God is righteous, because we have sinned about our food, and have indulged ourselves too much in that which is pleasing.
4. That in the land of their enemies, to which they shall be driven, they shall have no opportunity either of giving honour to God or obtaining favour with God, by offering any acceptable sacrifice to him; they should not be in a capacity of keeping up any face or show of religion among them; “and so” (as Dr. Pocock expresses it) “should be as it were quite cut off from any expression of relation to him, from all signs of grace, and means of reconciliation with him, which would be to them a token of their being rejected of God, estranged from him, and no more owned by him as his people.” (1.) They shall have no sacrifices to offer, nor any altar to offer them on, nor priests to offer them; they shall not so much as offer drink-offerings to the Lord, much less any other sacrifices. (2.) If they should offer them, neither they nor their sacrifices shall be pleasing to him, for they cannot have any legal offerings, nor are their hearts humbled. (3.) Instead of their sacrifices of joy and praise, they shall eat the bread of mourners; they shall live desolate, and disconsolate, mourning for the death of their relations and their own miseries, so that if they had opportunity of sacrificing they should never be themselves in a frame fit for it; for they were forbidden to eat of the holy things in their mourning, Deut. 26:14 All that eat of the bread of mourners are polluted, and incapacitated to partake of the altar. (4.) Their bread for their soul, the bread which they must either eat or starve, the bread which they shall have for the support of their lives, shall not come into the house of the Lord; they shall have no house of the Lord to bring it to, or, if they had, it is such as is not fit to be brought, nor are they rightly disposed to bring it. (5.) The return of the days of their sacred and solemn feasts would therefore be very melancholy and uncomfortable to them (Hos. 9:5): What will you do in the solemn day, in the sabbath, the solemn day of every week, in the new moons, the solemn days of every month, at the return of the times for keeping the passover, pentecost, and feast of the tabernacles, the solemn days of every year, the days of the feasts of the Lord? Note, The feasts of the Lord are solemn days; and, when we are invited to those feasts, we ought to consider seriously what we shall do. But the question is here put to those who were to be deprived of the benefit and comfort of those solemn feasts, “What will you do then? You will then spend those days in sorrow and lamentation which, if it had not been your own fault, you might have been spending in joy and praise. You will then be made to know the worth of mercies by the want of them and to prize spiritual bread by being made to feel a famine of it.” Note, When we enjoy the means of grace we ought to consider what we shall do if ever we should know the want of them, if either they should be taken from us or we be disabled to attend upon them.
5. That they should perish in the land of their dispersion (Hos. 9:6): For, lo, they have gone out of the Lord’s land, where they might have spent both their sabbath days and other days with comfort, gone because of destruction, gone to Egypt because of the destruction of their own country by the Assyrians, flattering themselves with hopes that they shall return when the storm is over; but those hopes also shall fail them; they shall find there are graves in Egypt, as their murmuring ancestors said (Exod. 14:11), graves for them; for Egypt shall gather them up, as dead men are gathered up and carried forth to the grave, and Memphis (one of the chief cities of Egypt) shall bury them. Gathering and burying are put together, Jer. 8:2; Job 27:19. Note, Those that think presumptuously to flee from the judgments of God are likely enough to meet their death where they hoped to save their lives.
6. That their land, which they left behind and to which they hoped to return, should become a desolation: As for their tabernacles, where they formerly dwelt and where they kept their stores, the pleasant places for their silver, they shall be demolished and laid in ruins, to such a degree that they shall be overgrown with nettles; so that if they should survive the trouble, and return to their own land again, they would find it neither fruitful nor habitable; it would afford them neither food nor lodging. Note, Those that make their money their god reckon the places of their silver their pleasant places, as those that make the Lord their God reckon his tabernacles amiable and his ordinances their pleasant things, Isa. 64:11. But, while the pleasures of communion with God are out of the reach of chance and change, the pleasant places of men’s silver, which were purchased with silver, or in which they deposited their silver, or which were beautified and adorned with silver, are liable to be laid in ruins, in nettles, and therewith all the pleasure men took in them.