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CHAPTER XX

"I WILL BE AS THE DEW"

Hosea xiv. 2-10.

Like the Book of Amos, the Book of Hosea, after proclaiming the people's inevitable doom, turns to a blessed prospect of their restoration to favour with God. It will be remembered that we decided against the authenticity of such an epilogue in the Book of Amos; and it may now be asked, how can we come to any other conclusion with regard to the similar peroration in the Book of Hosea? For the following reasons.

We decided against the genuineness of the closing verses of Amos, because their sanguine temper is opposed to the temper of the whole of the rest of the book, and because they neither propose any ethical conditions for the attainment of the blessed future, nor in their picture of the latter do they emphasise one single trace of the justice, or the purity, or the social kindliness, on which Amos has so exclusively insisted as the ideal relations of Israel to Jehovah. It seemed impossible to us that Amos could imagine the perfect restoration of his people in the terms only of requickened nature, and say nothing about righteousness, truth and mercy towards the poor. The prospect which now closes his book is psychologically alien to him, and,309 being painted in the terms of later prophecy, may be judged to have been added by some prophet of the Exile, speaking from the standpoint, and with the legitimate desires, of his own day.

But the case is very different for this epilogue in Hosea. In the first place, Hosea has not only continually preached repentance, and been, from his whole affectionate temper of mind, unable to believe repentance impossible; but he has actually predicted the restoration of his people upon certain well-defined and ethical conditions. In chap. ii. he has drawn for us in detail the whole prospect of God's successful treatment of his erring spouse. Israel should be weaned from their sensuousness and its accompanying trust in idols by a severe discipline, which the prophet describes in terms of their ancient wanderings in the wilderness. They should be reduced, as at the beginning of their history, to moral converse with their God; and abjuring the Ba'alim (later chapters imply also their foreign allies and foolish kings and princes) should return to Jehovah, when He, having proved that these could not give them the fruits of the land they sought after, should Himself quicken the whole course of nature to bless them with the fertility of the soil and the friendliness even of the wild beasts.

Now in the epilogue and its prospect of Israel's repentance we find no feature, physical or moral, which has not already been furnished by these previous promises of the book. All their ethical conditions are provided; nothing but what they have conceived of blessing is again conceived. Israel is to abjure senseless sacrifice and come to Jehovah with rational and contrite confession.646646   Cf. vi. 6, etc. She is to abjure her foreign310 alliances.647647   Cf. xii. 2, etc. She is to trust in the fatherly love of her God.648648   Cf. i. 7; ii. 22, 25. He is to heal her,649649   Cf. xi. 4. and His anger is to turn away.650650   Cf. xi. 8, 9. He is to restore nature, just as described in chap. ii., and the scenery of the restoration is borrowed from Hosea's own Galilee. There is, in short, no phrase or allusion of which we can say that it is alien to the prophet's style or environment, while the very keynotes of his book—return, backsliding, idols the work of our hands, such pity as a father hath, and perhaps even the answer or converse of verse 9—are all struck once more.

The epilogue then is absolutely different from the epilogue to the Book of Amos, nor can the present expositor conceive of the possibility of a stronger case for the genuineness of any passage of Scripture. The sole difficulty seems to be the place in which we find it—a place where its contradiction to the immediately preceding sentence of doom is brought out into relief. We need not suppose, however, that it was uttered by Hosea in immediate proximity to the latter, nor even that it formed his last word to Israel. But granting only (as the above evidence obliges us to do) that it is the prophet's own, this fourteenth chapter may have been a discourse addressed by him at one of those many points when, as we know, he had some hope of the people's return. Personally, I should think it extremely likely that Hosea's ministry closed with that final, hopeless proclamation in chap. xiii.: no other conclusion was possible so near the fall of Samaria, and the absolute destruction of the Northern Kingdom. But Hosea had already in chap. ii. painted the very311 opposite issue as a possible ideal for his people; and during some break in those years when their insincerity was less obtrusive, and the final doom still uncertain, the prophet's heart swung to its natural pole in the exhaustless and steadfast love of God, and he uttered his unmingled gospel. That either himself or the unknown editor of his prophecies should have placed it at the very end of his book is not less than what we might have expected. For if the book were to have validity beyond the circumstances of its origin, beyond the judgment which was so near and so inevitable, was it not right to let something else than the proclamation of this latter be its last word to men? was it not right to put as the conclusion of the whole matter the ideal eternally valid for Israel—the gospel which is ever God's last word to His people?651651   Since preparing the above for the press there has come into my hands Professor Cheyne's "Introduction" to the new edition of Robertson Smith's The Prophets of Israel, in which (p. xix.) he reaches with regard to Hosea xiv. 2-10 conclusions entirely opposite to those reached above. Professor Cheyne denies the passage to Hosea on the grounds that it is akin in language and imagery and ideas to writings of the age which begins with Jeremiah, and which among other works includes the Song of Songs. But, as has been shown above, the "language, imagery and ideas" are all akin to what Professor Cheyne admits to be genuine prophecies of Hosea; and the likeness to them of, e.g., Jer. xxxi. 10-20 may be explained on the same ground as so much else in Jeremiah, by the influence of Hosea. The allusion in ver. 3 suits Hosea's own day more than Jeremiah's. Nor can I understand what Professor Cheyne means by this: "The spirituality of the tone of vers. 1-3 is indeed surprising (contrast the picture in Hos. v. 6)." Spirituality surprising in the book that contains "I will have love and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings"! The verse, v. 6, he would contrast with xiv. 1-3 is actually one in which Hosea says that when they go "with flocks and herds" Israel shall not find God! He says that "to understand Hosea aright we must omit it" (i.e. the whole epilogue). But after the argument I have given above it will be plain that if we "understand Hosea aright" we have every reason not "to omit it." His last contention, that "to have added anything to the stern warning in xiii. 16 would have robbed it of half its force," is fully met by the considerations stated above on p. 310.

At some point or other, then, in the course of his ministry, there was granted to Hosea an open vision like to the vision which he has recounted in the second chapter. He called on the people to repent. For312 once, and in the power of that Love to which he had already said all things are possible, it seemed to him as if repentance came. The tangle and intrigue of his generation fell away; fell away the reeking sacrifices and the vain show of worship. The people turned from their idols and puppet-kings, from Assyria and from Egypt, and with contrite hearts came to God Himself, who, healing and loving, opened to them wide the gates of the future. It is not strange that down this spiritual vista the prophet should see the same scenery as daily filled his bodily vision. Throughout Galilee Lebanon652652   By Lebanon in the fourteenth chapter and almost always in the Old Testament we must understand not the western range now called Lebanon, for that makes no impression on the Holy Land, its bulk lying too far to the north, but Hermon, the southmost and highest summits of Anti-Lebanon. See Hist. Geog., pp. 417 f. dominates the landscape. You cannot lift your eyes from any spot of Northern Israel without resting them upon the vast mountain. From the unhealthy jungles of the Upper Jordan, the pilgrim lifts his heart to the cool hill air above, to the ever-green cedars and firs, to the streams and waterfalls that drop like silver chains off the great breastplate of snow. From Esdraelon and every plain the peasants look to Lebanon to store the clouds and scatter the rain; it is not from heaven but from Hermon that they expect the dew,313 their only hope in the long drought of summer. Across Galilee and in Northern Ephraim, across Bashan and in Northern Gilead, across Hauran and on the borders of the desert, the mountain casts its spell of power, its lavish promise of life.653653   Full sixty miles off, in the Jebel Druze, the ancient Greek amphitheatres were so arranged that Hermon might fill the horizon of the spectators. Lebanon is everywhere the summit of the land, and there are points from which it is as dominant as heaven.

No wonder then that our northern prophet painted the blessed future in the poetry of the Mountain—its air, its dew and its trees. Other seers were to behold, in the same latter days, the mountain of the Lord above the tops of the mountains; the ordered city, her steadfast walls salvation, and her open gates praise; the wealth of the Gentiles flowing into her, profusion of flocks for sacrifice, profusion of pilgrims; the great Temple and its solemn services; and the glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, fir-tree and pine and box-tree together, to beautify the place of My Sanctuary.654654   Isa. lx. 13. But, with his home in the north, and weary of sacrifice and ritual, weary of everything artificial whether it were idols or puppet-kings, Hosea turns to the glory of Lebanon as it lies, untouched by human tool or art, fresh and full of peace from God's own hand. Like that other seer of Galilee, Hosea in his vision of the future saw no temple therein.655655   Revelation of St. John xxi. 22. His sacraments are the open air, the mountain breeze, the dew, the vine, the lilies, the pines; and what God asks of men are not rites nor sacrifices, but life and health, fragrance and fruitfulness, beneath the shadow and the Dew of His Presence.

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Return, O Israel, to Jehovah thy God, for thou hast stumbled by thine iniquity. Take with you words656656   On all this exhortation see below, p. 343. and return unto Jehovah. Say unto Him, Remove iniquity altogether, and take good, so will we render the calves657657   LXX. fruit, פרי for פרים; the whole verse is obscure. of our lips; confessions, vows, these are the sacrificial offerings God delights in. Which vows are now registered:—

Asshur shall not save us;

We will not ride upon horses (from Egypt);

And we will say no more, "O our God," to the work of our hands:

For in Thee the fatherless findeth a father's pity.

Alien help, whether in the protection of Assyria or the cavalry which Pharaoh sends in return for Israel's homage; alien gods, whose idols we have ourselves made,—we abjure them all, for we remember how Thou didst promise to show a father's love to the people whom Thou didst name, for their mother's sins, Lo-Ruhamah, the Unfathered. Then God replies:—

I will heal their backsliding,

I will love them freely:

For Mine anger is turned away from them.

I will be as the dew unto Israel:

He shall blossom as the lily,

And strike his roots deep as Lebanon;

His branches shall spread,

And his beauty shall be as the olive-tree,

And his smell as Lebanon—

smell of clear mountain air with the scent of the315 pines upon it. The figure in the end of ver. 6 seems forced to some critics, who have proposed various emendations, such as "like the fast-rooted trees of Lebanon,"658658   So Guthe; some other plant Wellhausen, who for ויך reads וילכו. but any one who has seen how the mountain himself rises from great roots, cast out across the land like those of some giant oak, will not feel it necessary to mitigate the metaphor.

The prophet now speaks:—

They shall return and dwell in His shadow.

They shall live well-watered as a garden,

Till they flourish like the vine,

And be fragrant like the wine of Lebanon.659659   Ver. 8 obviously needs emendation. The Hebrew text contains at least one questionable construction, and gives no sense: "They that dwell in his shadow shall turn, and revive corn and flourish like the vine, and his fame," etc. To cultivate corn and be themselves like a vine is somewhat mixed. The LXX. reads: ἐπιστρέψουσιν καὶ καθιοῦνται ὑπὸ τὴν σκέπην αὐτοῦ, ζήσονται καὶ μεθυσθήσονται σίτῳ· καὶ ἐξανθήσει ἄμπελος μνημόσυνην αὐτοῦ ὡς οῖνος Διβάνου. It removes the grammatical difficulty from clause 1, which then reads בְצִלּוֹ יָשֻׁבוּ ויָשְׁבוּ; the supplied vau may easily have dropped after the final vau of the previous word. In the 2nd clause the LXX. takes יהיו as an intransitive, which is better suited to the other verbs, and adds καὶ μεθυσθήσονται, ורויו (a form that may have easily slipped from the Hebrew text, through its likeness to the preceding ויהיו). And they shall be well-watered. After this it is probable that דגן should read כַגַּן. In the 3rd clause the Hebrew text may stand. In the 4th זכר may not, as many propose, be taken for זכרם and translated their perfume; but the parallelism makes it now probable that we have a verb here; and if זכר in the Hiph. has the sense to make a perfume (cf. Isa. lxvi. 3), there is no reason against the Kal being used in the intransitive sense here. In the LXX. for μεθυσθήσονται Qa reads στηριχθήσονται.

God speaks:—

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Ephraim, what has he660660   LXX. to do any more with idols!

I have spoken for him, and I will look after him.

I am like an ever-green fir;

From Me is thy fruit found.

This version is not without its difficulties; but the alternative that God is addressed and Ephraim is the speaker—Ephraim says, What have I to do any more with idols? I answer and look to Him: I am like a green fir-tree; from me is Thy fruit found—has even greater difficulties,661661   This alternative, which Robertson Smith adopted, "though not without some hesitation" (Prophets, 413) is that which follows the Hebrew text, reading in the first clause לִי, and not, like LXX., לוֹ, and avoids the unusual figure of comparing Jehovah to a tree. But it does not account for the singular emphasis laid in the second clause on the first personal pronoun, and implies that God, whose name has not for several verses been mentioned, is meant by the mere personal suffix, "I will look to Him." Wellhausen suggests changing the second clause to I am his Anat and his Aschera. although it avoids the unusual comparison of the Deity with a tree. The difficulties of both interpretations may be overcome by dividing the verse between God and the people:—

Ephraim! what has he to do any more with idols:

I have spoken for him, and will look after him.

In this case the speaking would be intended in the same sense as the speaking in chap. ii. to the heavens and earth, that they might speak to the corn and wine.662662   ענה, ii. 23. Then Ephraim replies:—

I am like an ever-green fir-tree;

From me is Thy fruit found.

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But the division appears artificial, and the text does not suggest that the two I's belong to different speakers. The first version therefore is the preferable.


Some one has added a summons to later generations to lay this book to heart in face of their own problems and sins. May we do so for ourselves!

Who is wise, that he understands these things?

Intelligent, that he knows them?

Yea, straight are the ways of Jehovah,

And the righteous shall walk therein, but sinners shall stumble upon them.


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