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3. Repentance Fails.

Hosea v. 15-vii. 2.

Seeing that their leaders are so helpless, and feeling their wounds, the people may themselves turn to God for healing, but that will be with a repentance so shallow as also to be futile. They have no conviction of sin, nor appreciation of how deeply their evils have eaten.

This too facile repentance is expressed in a prayer which the Christian Church has paraphrased into one264 of its most beautiful hymns of conversion. Yet the introduction to this prayer, and its own easy assurance of how soon God will heal the wounds He has made, as well as the impatience with which God receives it, oblige us to take the prayer in another sense than the hymn which has been derived from it.517517   Cheyne indeed (Introduction to Robertson Smith's Prophets of Israel) takes the prayer to be genuine, but an intrusion. His reasons do not persuade me. But at least it is clear that there is a want of connection between the prayer and what follows it, unless the prayer be understood in the sense explained above. It offers but one more symptom of the optimism of this light-hearted people, whom no discipline and no judgment can impress with the reality of their incurable decay. They said of themselves, The bricks are fallen, let us build with stones,518518   Isaiah ix. 10. and now they say just as easily and airily of their God, He hath torn only that He may heal: we are fallen, but He will raise us up again in a day or two. At first it is still God who speaks.

I am going My way, I am returning to My own place,519519   Cf. Isaiah xviii. 4. until they feel their guilt and seek My face. When trouble comes upon them, they will soon enough seek Me, saying:520520   Saying: so the LXX. adds and thereby connects chap. v. with chap. vi.

"Come and let us return to Jehovah:

For He hath rent, that He may heal us,

And hath wounded,521521   Read ויִךְ. that He may bind us up.

He will bring us to life in a couple of days;

On the third day He will raise us up again,

That we may live in His presence.265

Let us know, let us follow up522522   Literally hunt, pursue. It is the same word as is used of the unfaithful Israel's pursuit of the Ba'alim, chap. ii. 9. to know, Jehovah;

As soon as we seek Him, we shall find Him.523523   So by a rearrangement of consonants (כשחרנו כן נמצאהו) and the help of the LXX. (εὑρήσομεν αὐτόν) Giesebrecht (Beiträge, p. 208) proposes to read the clause, which in the traditional text runs, like the morn His going forth shall be certain.

And He shall come to us like the winter-rain,

Like the spring-rain, pouring on the land!"

But how is this fair prayer received by God? With incredulity, with impatience. What can I make of thee, Ephraim? what can I make of thee, Judah? since your love is like the morning cloud and like the dew so early gone. Their shallow hearts need deepening. Have they not been deepened enough? Wherefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of My mouth, and My judgment goeth forth like the lightning.524524   Read מִשְׁפָּטִי כָאוֹר יֵצֵא. For leal love have I desired, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings.

That the discourse comes back to the ritual is very intelligible. For what could make repentance seem so easy as the belief that forgiveness can be won by simply offering sacrifices? Then the prophet leaps upon what each new year of that anarchy revealed afresh—the profound sinfulness of the people.

But they in human fashion525525   Or like Adam, or (Guthe) like the heathen. have transgressed the covenant! There—he will now point out the very spots—have they betrayed526526   The verb means to prove false to any contract, but especially marriage. Me! Gilead is a city of evildoers:266 stamped with bloody footprints; assassins527527   Read מחכי. in troops; a gang of priests murder on the way to Shechem. Yea, crime528528   In several passages of the Old Testament the word means unchastity. have they done. In the house of Israel I have seen horrors: there Ephraim hath played the harlot: Israel is defiled—Judah as well.529529   Here the LXX. close chap. vi., taking 11 b along with chap. vii. Some think the whole of ver. 11 to be a Judæan gloss.

Truly the sinfulness of Israel is endless. Every effort to redeem them only discovers more of it. When I would turn, when I would heal Israel, then the guilt of Ephraim displays itself and the evils of Samaria, these namely: that they work fraud, and the thief cometh in—evidently a technical term for housebreaking530530   Cf. Joel ii. 9, and the New Testament phrase to come as a thief.—while abroad a crew of highwaymen foray. And they never think in their hearts that all their evil is recorded by Me. Now have their deeds encompassed them: they are constantly before Me.

Evidently real repentance on the part of such a people is impossible. As Hosea said before, Their deeds will not let them return.531531   v. 4.


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