Hosea 5:12

12. Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness.

12. Et ego tanquam tinea ipsi Ephraim, et tanquam putredo (vel, caries; quanquam alii vertunt, Teredinem, qui est etiam vermiculus, qui nascitur in lignis) domui Jehudah.


God now denounces punishment in common on the two kingdoms; but he speaks not as before, he says not that his fury would be like a deluge, to overwhelm and drown the people. What then? He compares himself to little worms which gnaw wood and consume cloths; or he compares himself to rottenness; for, as we have said, the second word is to be so taken, as bqr, rekob, is properly rottenness, and is derived from bqr, rekab, to rot;" it is then rottenness or putrescence. But as I have said, some would render it, "a grub;" and there is a probable reason for this, because he first mentioned moth; and these two, moth and grub 1, would be more suitable to each other, than moth and rottenness. However, the meaning of the Prophet is by no means obscure, and that is, that the Lord would by a slow corrosion consume both the people; that though he would not by one onset destroy them, yet they would pine away until they became wholly rotten. This is the meaning.

But we must observe why the Prophet used this metaphor. It was, that the Israelites and the Jews might understand, that though the Lord would in some measure withhold his hand from resting heavily upon them, and that though he would spare them, yet they would not be safe, because they would by little and little feel a slow decay, that would consume them. And the Lord meant in this way to turn the people to repentance; but he effected nothing: for such was their hardness, that they felt not this slow decay; as those who are stupid are not moved, except they feel a most grievous pain; they think that they are doing well, and they struggle against their own disease: many such we see. Hence the Prophet here reminds them, that though the Lord should not openly fulminate against the Israelites and the Jews, they yet in vain flattered themselves, because the Lord would be to them a moth and a worm; that is, that however gradually he might consume them, they would yet be greatly deceived, if they did not perceive that they had to do with him.

The chief instruction is, that God does not always punish men in the same way; for he deals with them differently, either to promote their salvation, or to render them in this way more inexcusable. Hence God sometimes pours forth his severity, and at another time he slowly chastises us. But whatever may be the way, we are reminded that we ought not to sleep, whenever the Lord awakens us; nor should we wait until he appears as a lion or a bear, until he devours us, until he rages against us in dreadful fury. We are then reminded that there is no reason why we should wait for this; but that when God consumes us by degrees, it ought instantly to occur to us, that though the moth and the worm are but very small insects, hardly seen by the eyes, yet a hard and firm tree is consumed by these little worms, or by its own cariousness; and that cloths are consumed with putridity, when once the moth enters into them; we see valuable furniture perishing. Since it is so, there is no reason for men to be secure when God shows any sign of his wrath, though he pours not forth his horrible vengeance, but is as a hidden putrefaction. We now perceive what Hosea means in this verse. It now follows --

1 "That it signifies some kind of worm or maggot I have no doubt, because the rule of the parallelism demands some gnawing insect, that may correspond with se, the moth." -- By. Horsley