1 Israel is an empty vine that brings forth fruit to himself. According to the multitude of his fruit he has multiplied the altars. According to the goodness of his land they have made ornate images.
2 Their heart is divided. Now they shall be found faulty. He shall break down their altars. He shall spoil their images.
3 For now they shall say, "We have no king because we did not fear the LORD. What then should a king do to us?"
4 They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant. Thus judgment springs up as hemlock in the furrows of the field.
5 The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Beth-aven. For its people shall mourn over it, and also its priests who rejoiced over it for its glory, because it has departed from it.
6 It shall also be carried to Assyria for a present to king Jareb. Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.
7 As for Samaria, her king is cut off as the foam upon the water.
8 Also the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. The thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars, and they shall say to the mountains, "Cover us," and to the hills, "Fall on us."
9 "O Israel, you have sinned from the days of Gibeah. There they stood. The battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them.
10 It is in my desire that I should chastise them. And the people shall be gathered against them when they bind themselves in their two furrows.
11 And Ephraim is as a heifer that is taught and loves to tread out the corn. But I passed over upon her fair neck. I will make Ephraim to ride. Judah shall plow, and Jacob shall break his clods.
12 Sow to yourselves in righteousness. Reap in mercy. Break up your fallow ground. For it is time to seek the LORD until he comes and rains righteousness upon you.
13 You have plowed wickedness. You have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your way, in the multitude of your mighty men,
14 Therefore a tumult shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be plundered, as Shalman plundered Beth-arbel in the day of battle. The mother was dashed in pieces upon her children.
15 Beth-el shall do so to you because of your great wickedness. In a morning the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off."
John Gill's Chapter Summary:
This chapter is of the same argument with the former, and others before that; setting forth the sins of the ten tribes, and threatening them with the judgments of God for them; and exhorting them to repentance, and works of righteousness. They are charged with unfruitfulness and ingratitude; increasing in idolatry, as they increased in temporal good things (verse 1); with a divided heart, and with irreverence of God, and their king; and with false swearing, covenant breaking, and injustice (verses 2-4); and are threatened with a removal of their king, and with the destruction of their idols, and places of idolatry, which should cause fear in the common people, and mourning among the priests (verses 5-8). It is observed, that their sin had been of long continuance, though the Lord had been kind and good to them, in chastising them in love, giving them good laws, sending his prophets to exhort them to repentance and reformation, but all in vain (verses 9-13); therefore they are threatened with the spoiling of their fortresses, the destruction of the people, and the cutting off of their king (verses 14-15).
[v.1] - "Israel is an empty vine that brings forth fruit to himself" - This may also be read as, "Israel is like a robbed vine. He will lay up fruit for himself."
[v.2] - "Their heart is divided" - That is, their heart is divided from God. It is as if they withdrew their heart from God.
[v.4a] -"They have spoken words" - These are vain and empty words.
[v.4b] - "hemlock" - Or, wormwood. Either way, the reference is to some bitter plant.
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 1-4:
Grant, Almighty God, that as you train us up with so much diligence and assiduous care, and regard us as dear and precious like a hereditary vine,— O grant, that we may not bring forth wild grapes, and that our fruit may not be bitter and unpleasant to you, but that we may strive so to form our whole life in obedience to your law, that all our actions and thoughts may be pleasant and sweet fruits to you. And as there is ever some sin mixed up with our works, even when we desire to serve you sincerely and from the heart, grant that all stains in our works may be so cleansed and washed away by the sacrifice of your Son, that they may be to you sacrifices of sweet odor, through the same, even Christ Jesus, who has so reconciled us to you, as to obtain pardon even for our works. Amen.
[v.5] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "The Prophet simply means that the inhabitants of Samaria were now glorying in their calves (for the calves we know, were in Dan and Bethel), but that in a short time the Lord would strike them with terror, and the cause we shall see hereafter [in the next verse]."
[v.7] - Foam appears to have substance, but is mostly empty and has nothing substantial in it.
[v.8a] - "Aven" - This is the same as Bethel, and has been called Beth-aven, or the house of iniquity, before (Hosea 4:18, 5:8, 10:5; see also the notes for Hosea 4:18).
[v.8b] - Quoted in Luke 23:30.
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 5-9:
Grant, Almighty God, that as you have once appeared in the person of your only-begotten Son, and have rendered in him your glory visible to us, and as you daily set forth to us the same Christ in the glass of your gospel,— O grant, that we, fixing our eyes on him, may not go astray, nor be led here and there after wicked inventions, the fallacies of Satan, and the allurements of this world: but may we continue firm in the obedience of faith and persevere in it through the whole course of our life, until we are at length fully transformed into the image of your eternal glory, which now in part shines in us, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
[v.10] - "furrows" - This word can also be read as, "iniquities," as in, "when they bind themselves in their two iniquities." That reading might make more sense, but the verse can be explained with either of the two words. If read with furrows, this shows that the Israelites "did not plough in one furrow, or keep in the true and pure worship of God; but made two furrows, worshiping partly God, and partly idols" (John Gill). If read with iniquities, this means "either their worshiping the two calves at Daniel and Bethel; or their corporeal and spiritual adultery; or their forsaking the true God, and worshiping idols" (John Gill).
[v.14] - "Shalman" - This may be a simplified form of the name of Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria, mentioned in 2nd Kings 17:3, 18:9. But as to the events mentioned in this verse that concern him, they may be of some history not recorded in Scripture, but known by Hosea.
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 10-15:
Grant, Almighty God, that as we remain yet in our own wickedness, though often warned and sweetly invited by you, and as you prevail not with us by your daily instruction,— O grant, that we may, in a spirit of meekness, at length turn to your service, and fight against the hardness and obstinacy of our flesh, until we render ourselves submissive to you, and not wait until you put forth your hand against us, or at least so profit under your chastisements, as not to constrain you to execute extreme vengeance against us, but to repent without delay; and that we may indeed, without hypocrisy, plough under your yoke, and so enjoy your special blessings, that you may show yourself to us not only as our Lord, but also as our Father, full of mercy and kindness, through Christ our Lord. Amen.