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5. Once More: Puppet-Kings and Puppet-Gods.

Hosea x.

For another section, the tenth chapter, the prophet returns to the twin targets of his scorn: the idols and the puppet-kings. But few notes are needed. Observe the reiterated connection between the fertility of the land and the idolatry of the people.

A wanton vine is Israel; he lavishes his fruit:576576   Doubtful. The Heb. text gives an inappropriate if not impossible clause, even if ישׁוה be taken from a root שׁוח, to set or produce (Barth, Etym. Stud., 66). LXX.: ὁ καρπὸς εὐθηνῶν αὐτῆς (A.Q. αὐτῆς εὐθηνῶν), "her [the vine's] fruit flourishing." Some parallel is required to בקק of the first clause; and it is possible that it may have been from a root שׁוּחַ or שִׁיח, corresponding to Arabic sâḥ, "to wander" in the sense of scattering or being scattered. the more his fruit, the more he made his altars; the goodlier287 his land, the more goodly he made his maççeboth, or sacred pillars. False is the heart of them: now must they atone for it. He shall break the neck of their altars; He shall ruin their pillars. For already they are saying, No king have we, for we have not feared Jehovah, and the king—what could he do for us? Speaking577577   After LXX. of words, swearing of false oaths, making of bargains—till law578578   Doubtful. Lawsuits? breaks out like weeds in the furrows of the field.

For the Calf of Beth-Aven the inhabitants579579   "Calf," "inhabitants"—so LXX. of Samaria shall be anxious: yea, mourn for him shall his people, and his priestlings shall writhe for him—for his glory that it is banished from him. In these days of heavy tribute shall the gold of the golden calf be safe? Yea, himself shall they pack580580   LXX. supplies. to Assyria; he shall be offered as tribute to King Pick-Quarrel.581581   See above, p. 263. Ephraim shall take disgrace, and Israel be ashamed because of his counsel.582582   Very uncertain. Wellhausen reads from his idol, מעצבו. Undone Samaria! Her king like a chip583583   קצף: compare Arabic qṣf, "to break"; but there is also the assonant Arabic qṣb, "reed." The Rabbis translate foam: cf. the other meaning of קצף—outbreak of anger, which suggests bubble. on the face of the waters! This may refer to one of the revolutions in which the king was murdered. But it seems more appropriate to the final catastrophe of 724-1: the fall of the kingdom, and the king's banishment to Assyria. If the latter, the verse has been inserted; but the following verse would lead us to take these disasters as still future. And the high places of idolatry shall be destroyed, the sin of Israel; thorn and thistle shall come up on their altars. And they shall say to the mountains, Cover us, and to the hills, Fall on us. It288 cannot be too often repeated: these handmade gods, these chips of kings, shall be swept away together.

Once more the prophet returns to the ancient origins of Israel's present sins, and once more to their shirking of the discipline necessary for spiritual results, but only that he may lead up as before to the inevitable doom. From584584   Rosenmüller: more than in. These days are evidently not the beginning of the kingship under Saul (so Wellhausen), for with that Hosea has no quarrel, but either the idolatry of Micah (Judg. xvii. 3 ff.), or more probably the crime of Benjamin (Judg. xix. 22). the days of Gibeah thou hast sinned, O Israel. There have they remained—never progressed beyond their position there—and this without war overtaking them in Gibeah against the dastards.585585   Obscure; text corrupt, and in next verse uncertain. As soon as I please, I can chastise them, and peoples shall be gathered against them in chastisement for their double sin. This can scarcely be, as some suggest, the two calves at Bethel and Dan. More probably it is still the idols and the man-made kings. Now he returns to the ambition of the people for spiritual results without a spiritual discipline.

And Ephraim is a broken-in heifer, that loveth to thresh.586586   For the tense of the verse both participles are surely needed. Wellhausen thinks two redundant. But I have come on her fair neck. I will yoke Ephraim; Judah must plough; Jacob must harrow for himself. It is all very well for the unmuzzled beast587587   Deut. xxv. 4; 1 Cor. ix. 9; 1 Tim. v. 18. to love the threshing, but harder and unrewarded labours of ploughing and harrowing have to come before the floor be heaped with sheaves. Israel must not expect religious festival without religious discipline. Sow for yourselves righteousness; then shall ye reap the289 fruit of God's leal love.588588   LXX.: fruit of life. Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek Jehovah, till He come and shower salvation589589   צדק surely in the sense in which we find it in Isa. xl. ff. LXX.: the fruits of righteousness shall be yours. upon you.590590   We shall return to this passage in dealing with Repentance; see p. 345. Ye have ploughed wickedness; disaster have ye reaped: ye have eaten the fruit of falsehood; for thou didst trust in thy chariots,591591   So LXX. Wellhausen suspects authenticity of the whole clause. in the multitude of thy warriors. For the tumult of war shall arise among thy tribes,592592   Wellhausen proposes to read בעריד for בעמיך, but there is no need. and all thy fenced cities shall be ruined, as Salman beat to ruin Beth-Arbel593593   See above, p. 216, n. 411. in the day of war: the mother shall be broken on the children—presumably the land shall fall with the falling of her cities. Thus shall I do to you, O house of Israel,594594   So LXX. because of the evil of your evil: soon shall the king of Israel be undone—undone.

The political decay of Israel, then, so deeply figured in all these chapters, must end in utter collapse. Let us sum up the gradual features of this decay: the substance of the people scattered abroad; the national spirit dissipated; the national prestige humbled; the kings mere puppets; the prophets corrupted; the national vigour sapped by impurity; the idolatry conscious of its impotence.


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