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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 11–17
Verses 11–17

In the foregoing verses we saw the s 38ba in of Israel derived from their fathers; here we see the punishment of Israel derived to their children; for, as death entered by sin at first, so it is still entailed with it. We may observe, in these verses,

I. The sin of Ephraim. Some expressions are here which describe that. 1. They did not hearken to God (Hos. 9:17); they did not give attention to the voice either of his word or of his rod; they did not believe what he said, nor would they be ruled by him. He told them their duty, their interest, their danger, but they regarded him not; all he said to them by his words and by his prophets was to them as a tale that is told; and then no wonder that we hear, 2. Of the wickedness of their doings (Hos. 9:15), the downright malice that was in their sins; they were not infirmities, but daring presumptions. How can those but do wickedly who will not hearken to the word of God, that would teach and persuade them to do well? And no wonder that there were wicked doings among them when, 3. Their worship was corrupt (Hos. 9:15): All their wickedness is in Gilgal, which was a place infamous for idolatry, as appears, Hos. 4:15; 12:11; Amos 4:4; 5:5. It is probable that the idolaters chose that place for their head-quarters because it had been famous in other ages for solemn transactions between God and Israel, as Josh. 5:2, 10; 1 Sam. 10:8; 11:15. There, where the source of idolatry was, whence it spread through the kingdom, there it might be said that all their wickedness was, for all other wickedness owed its origin to that. Corruptions in worship make way for corruptions in morals. The mother of harlots is the mother of all other abominations, Rev. 17:5. The learned Grotius conjectures that there is a mystical sense here. Golgotha in Syriac is the same with Gilgal in Hebrew, and therefore he thinks this may have reference to the putting of Christ to death at Golgotha, which was the greatest sin of the Jewish nation, and of which it might truly be said, All their wickedness was summed up in that. And no wonder that the people did wickedly, both in worship and conversation, when 4. All their princes were revolters; the whole succession of the kings of the ten tribes did evil in the sight of the Lord, or all the set of judges and magistrates at this time were wicked; they turned aside to sinful ways and persisted in those ways.

II. The displeasure of God against Ephraim for sin. This is variously expressed here, to show what a provocation sin is to the pure eyes of his glory, and how odious it makes the sinner to him. 1. He departs from them, Hos. 9:12. When they revolt from him, and withdraw from their allegiance to him, how can they expect but that he should depart from them and withdraw both his protection and his bounty? And well may his threatening be enforced as it is, and made terrible: Woe also unto them when I depart from them! Note, Those are in a woeful condition indeed whom God has forsaken. Our weal or woe depends upon the gracious presence of God with us; and, if he goes, all weal goes with him and all woes come upon us. God has forsaken him; persecute and take him. Saul knew this when he laid such an emphasis upon this part of his complaint, The Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me. Nay, he does not only depart from them, but, 2. He hates them. In Gilgal, where all their wickedness is, there I hated them. There, where the abominations of sin are committed, there God abominates the sinners. In Gilgal he had bestowed many tokens of his favour upon their ancestors, but now that is the place where he hates them for their base ingratitude. Nay, he not only hates them, but, 3. He will love them no more, will never take them into his favour again; the breach between God and Israel is wide as the sea, which cannot be healed. This agrees with what he had said, (Hos. 1:6, 7), I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel, the ten tribes. 4. He will discard them, and have no more to do with them: For the wickedness of their doings, I will drive them out of my house. He will no longer own them as his, or as belonging to his family in the world; he will turn them out of doors as unfaithful tenants that pay him no rent, as unprofitable servants that do him neither credit nor work. Note, Those that profane God’s house can expect no other than to be expelled his house, and no longer suffered to be either lodgers in it or retainers to it. Nay, he will not only drive them out of his house, but, 5. He will drive them far enough (Hos. 9:17): My God will cast them away, not only out of his house, but out of his sight; he will quite abandon and reject them; they shall be cast-aways. God said that he would drive them out of his house, and here the prophet seconds it, as one that knew his Master’s mind very well: My God will cast them away. See with what comfort and pleasure he calls God his God. Note, When others disown God, and are disowned by him, it is a very great satisfaction to good people that they can call God their God, can cheerfully own him and see themselves owned by him—all revolters, all ruined, yet God is my God.

III. The fruit of this displeasure, in the cutting off and abandoning of their posterity, which is the judgment here threatened again and again. Observe here,

1. How numerous Ephraim seemed likely to be. The name Ephraim is derived from fruitfulness, Gen. 41:51. Joseph is a fruitful bough, Gen. 49:22. And Moses’s blessing foretold the ten thousands of Ephraim, Deut. 33:17. This was his glory, Hos. 9:11. For this he seemed designed by him that appoints the bounds of men’s habitation; for Ephraim, as I saw Tyrus, is planted in a pleasant place, to encourage his increase, which one may expect as from a tree planted by the river’s side. Ephraim is as strong and rich as ever Tyre was, and as proud and secure. The Chaldee paraphrase gives this sense of it, The congregation of Israel, while they observed the law, was like to Tyrus in prosperity and security.

2. How few Ephraim should be (Hos. 9:11): Their glory shall fly away like a bird; their children shall be taken away and the hopes of their families cut off. All their glory shall fly as an eagle towards heaven, swiftly and irrecoverably. Note, Worldly glory is glory that will fly away; but those that have their God their glory have in him an unfading everlasting glory. Ephraim has been as a fruitful tree. But now Ephraim is smitten, is blasted; their root is dried up; they shall bear no fruit, Hos. 9:16. If the root be dried, the branch must wither of course. Observe,

(1.) God’s threatening this judgment of the destroying of their children. [1.] They shall perish of themselves by the immediate hand of God (Hos. 9:11): They shall fly away from the birth, and from the womb, and from the conception. Some of their children shall die as soon as they are born; the cradle shall be presently turned into a coffin. Others of them shall be still-born, or the womb shall be their grave, and their death there their mothers’ death too. Of others their mothers shall miscarry almost as soon as they have conceived, and they shall be as untimely fruit. See how easily God can, and how justly we are sure he might, root out the whole race of mankind, that degenerate, guilty, obnoxious race, and blot out the name of it from under heaven; it is but doing as he does by Ephraim here, writing them all childless, making all their glory to fly away from the birth, the womb, and the conception, drying up their root, that they bear no fruit, and their business is done in a few years. [2.] They shall perish by the hand of their enemies; they shall die violent deaths (Hos. 9:12): “Though they bring up their children to some maturity, though they escape the diseases and deaths which the infant age is liable to, and are thought to be reared past danger, yet will I bereave them (Hos. 9:12), by one judgment or other, so that there shall not be a man left to build up their families and bear up their name.” Again (Hos. 9:13), Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer. The mothers shall travail with pain to bear their children, and a great deal of care, and pains, and cost shall be bestowed upon the nursing of them, and when a cruel enemy comes and puts all to the word, young and old, without mercy, then they seem but as lambs that were all this while fed for the slaughter. Note, It is a great alloy to the comfort parents have in their children that they know not what they have brought them forth and brought them up for, perhaps for the murderer, or, which is worse, to be themselves the plagues of their generation. It is threatened again (Hos. 9:16), Though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb, those children that they are most fond of. Note, The parents’ love is no security to the children’s lives; nay, sometimes death is commissioned to take the darlings of the family and leave the burdens of it. When sentence was passed upon Israel in the wilderness, that they should all perish there, this mercy was mixed with the wrath, that their children should nevertheless enter into that rest which they through unbelief could not enter into. But this is a total and final rejection; even their children shall be cut off, and the land shall escheat to the crown, ob defectum sanguinis—shall be lost for want of heirs. The Chaldee-paraphrase, and many of the rabbin, by the murderers to whom the children were brought forth, understand those that sacrificed their children to Moloch, a sin which was its own punishment, which showed the parents void of bowels and justly left them void of blessings. [3.] Those few that escape and remain shall be dispersed (Hos. 9:17): They shall be wanderers among the nations; so the remains of the Jews are at this day, and there is no place in the world where they are a distinct nation.

(2.) The prophet’s prayer relating to it (Hos. 9:14): Give them, O Lord! what wilt thou give? What shall I ask for a people thus doomed to destruction? It is this; since the decree has gone forth, that they must either die from the womb or be brought forth for the murderer, of the two let them rather die from the womb. Rather let them have no children than have them to be made miserable; for the same reason, when a total ruin was coming on the Jewish nation, Christ said, Blessed is the womb that never bore and the paps that never gave suck, Luke 23:29. “Give therefore a miscarrying womb and dry breasts; for it is better to fall into the hands of the Lord, whose mercies are great, than into the hands of man.” Note, Those that are childless may with this reconcile themselves to the will of God herein, that the time may come when, if they were not so, they would wish they had been so.