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2. The Last Judgment.

Hosea xiii.-xiv. 1.

The crisis draws on. On the one hand Israel's sin, accumulating, bulks ripe for judgment. On the other the times grow more fatal, or the prophet more than ever feels them so. He will gather once again the old truths on the old lines—the great past when Jehovah was God alone, the descent to the idols and the mushroom monarchs of to-day, the people, who once had been strong, sapped by luxury, forgetful,304 stupid, not to be roused. The discourse has every mark of being Hosea's latest. There is clearness and definiteness beyond anything since chap. iv. There are ease and lightness of treatment, a playful sarcasm, as if the themes were now familiar both to the prophet and his audience. But, chiefly, there is the passion—so suitable to last words—of how different it all might have been, if to this crisis Israel had come with store of strength instead of guilt. How these years, with their opening into the great history of the world, might have meant a birth for the nation, which instead was lying upon them like a miscarried child in the mouth of the womb! It was a fatality God Himself could not help in. Only death and hell remained. Let them, then, have their way! Samaria must expiate her guilt in the worst horrors of war.

Instead of with one definite historical event, this last effort of Hosea opens more naturally with a summary of all Ephraim's previous history. The tribe had been the first in Israel till they took to idols.

Whenever Ephraim spake there was trembling.632632   Uncertain. Prince633633   נשיא for נשא. was he in Israel; but he fell into guilt through the Ba'al, and so—died. Even now they continue to sin and make them a smelting of their silver, idols after their own model,634634   Read with Ewald כתבנתם. LXX. read כתמונת. smith's work all of it. To them—to such things—they speak! Sacrificing men kiss calves! In such unreason have they sunk. They cannot endure. Therefore shall they be like the morning cloud and like the dew that early vanisheth, like chaff which whirleth up from the floor and like smoke from the window. And305 I was thy God635635   Here the LXX. makes the insertion noted on pp. 203, 226. from the land of Egypt; and god besides Me thou knowest not, nor saviour has there been any but Myself. I shepherded636636   So LXX., רעיתיך. thee in the wilderness, in the land of droughts—long before they came among the gods of fertile Canaan. But once they came hither, the more pasture they had, the more they ate themselves full, and the more they ate themselves full, the more was their heart uplifted, so they forgat Me. So that I must be637637   Read וֶאֱהִי. to them like a lion, like a leopard on the way I must leap.638638   אשׁור, usually taken as first fut. of שור, to lurk. But there is a root of common use in Arabic, sar, to spring up suddenly, of wine into the head or of a lion on its prey; sawâr, "the springer," is one of the Arabic names for lion. I will fall on them like a bear robbed of its young, and will tear the caul of their hearts, and will devour them like a lion—wild beasts shall rend them.639639   We shall treat this passage later in connection with Hosea's doctrine of the knowledge of God: see pp. 330 f.

When He hath destroyed thee, O Israel—who then may help thee?640640   After the LXX. Where is thy king now? that he may save thee, or all thy princes? that they may rule thee;641641   Read with Houtsma וכל שריך וישפטוך. those of whom thou hast said, Give me a king and princes. Aye, I give thee a king in Mine anger, and I take him away in My wrath! Fit summary of the short and bloody reigns of these last years.

Gathered is Ephraim's guilt, stored up is his sin. The nation is pregnant—but with guilt! Birth pangs seize him, but—the figure changes, with Hosea's own swiftness, from mother to child—he is an impracticable son;306642642   Literally a son not wise, perhaps a name given to children whose birth was difficult. for this is no time to stand in the mouth of the womb. The years that might have been the nation's birth are by their own folly to prove their death. Israel lies in the way of its own redemption—how truly this has been forced home upon them in one chapter after another! Shall God then step in and work a deliverance on the brink of death? From the hand of Sheol shall I deliver them? from death shall I redeem them? Nay, let death and Sheol have their way. Where are thy plagues, O death? where thy destruction, Sheol? Here with them. Compassion is hid from Mine eyes.

This great verse has been very variously rendered. Some have taken it as a promise: I will deliver ... I will redeem.... So the Septuagint translated, and St. Paul borrowed, not the whole Greek verse, but its spirit and one or two of its terms, for his triumphant challenge to death in the power of the Resurrection of Christ.643643   The LXX. reads: Ποῦ ἡ δίκη σου, θάνατε; ποῦ τὸ κέντρον σου, ᾅδη; But Paul says: Ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ νῖκος; ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ κέντρον; I Cor. xv. 55 (Westcott and Hort's Ed.). As it stands in Hosea, however, the verse must be a threat. The last clause unambiguously abjures mercy, and the statement that His people will not be saved, for God cannot save them, is one in thorough harmony with all Hosea's teaching.644644   The following is a list of the interpretations of verse 14.
    A. Taken as a threat 1. "It is I who redeemed you from the grip of the grave, and who delivered you from death—but now I will call up the words (sic) of death against you; for repentance is hid from My eyes." So Raschi. 2. "I would have redeemed them from the grip of Sheol, etc., if they had been wise, but being foolish I will bring on them the plagues of death." So Kimchi, Eichhorn, Simson, etc. 3 "Should I" or "shall I deliver them from the hand of Sheol, redeem them from death?" etc., as in the text above. So Wünsche, Wellhausen, Guthe in Kautzsch's Bibel. etc.

    B. Taken as a promise. "From the hand of Sheol I will deliver them, from death redeem them," etc. So Umbreit, Ewald, Hitzig and Authorised and Revised English Versions. In this case repentance in the last clause must be taken as resentment (Ewald). But, as Ewald sees, the whole verse must then be put in a parenthesis, as an ejaculation of promise in the midst of a context that only threatens. Some without change of word render: "I will be thy plagues, O death? I will be thy sting, O hell." So the Authorised English Version.

An appendix follows with the illustration of the307 exact form which doom shall take. As so frequently with Hosea, it opens with a play upon the people's name, which at the same time faintly echoes the opening of the chapter.

Although he among his brethren645645   Text doubtful. is the fruit-bearer—yaphri', he Ephraim—there shall come an east wind, a wind of Jehovah rising from the wilderness, so that his fountain dry up and his spring be parched. He—himself, not the Assyrian, but Menahem, who had to send gold to the Assyrian—shall strip the treasury of all its precious jewels. Samaria must bear her guilt: for she hath rebelled against her God. To this simple issue has the impenitence of the people finally reduced the many possibilities of those momentous years; and their last prophet leaves them looking forward to the crash which came some dozen years later in the invasion and captivity of the land. They shall fall by the sword; their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child ripped up. Horrible details, but at that period certain to follow every defeat in war.

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