1 "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
2 As they called them, so they went from them. They sacrificed to Baalim and burned incense to engraved images.
3 I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them.
4 I drew them with cords of a man, with ropes of love. And I was to them as those who take off the yoke from their jaws, and I laid food for them.
5 He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king because they refused to return.
6 And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches and devour them because of their own counsels.
7 And my people are bent to backsliding from me. Though they called to the most High, no one at all would exalt him.
8 How shall I give you up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver you, Israel? How shall I make you as Admah? How shall I set you as Zeboim? My heart is turned within me. My repentings are kindled together.
9 I will not execute the fierceness of my anger. I will not return to destroy Ephraim, for I am God and not man, the Holy One in the midst of you, and I will not enter into the city.
10 They shall walk after the LORD. He shall roar like a lion. When he roars, the children shall tremble from the west.
11 They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt and as a dove out of the land of Assyria. And I will place them in their houses," says the LORD.
12 Ephraim encompasses me with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit, but Judah yet rules with God and is faithful with the saints.
John Gill's Chapter Summary:
This chapter gives an account of the free and ancient love of God to Israel, and of the benefits and blessings of goodness he bestowed upon them; and of their ingratitude in not owning them, nor listening to his prophets, but sacrificing and burning incense to idols (verses 1-4); why they are threatened with disappointment of relief from Egypt, with captivity into Assyria, and with the ravages of the sword in all places, being a people bent to backsliding, and incorrigible (verses 5-7); and yet, notwithstanding all this, the bowels of the Lord yearn after them, and promises of mercy are made to them; that they shall not utterly be destroyed, but a remnant shall be spared; which in the latter day shall be called and follow after the Lord, the King Messiah, and be returned from their captivity, and be resettled in their own land, and replaced in their own houses (verses 8-11); the chapter is concluded with an honorable character of Judah (verse 12).
[v.1] - Quoted in Matthew 2:15.
[v.2a] - "As they called them" - That is, as the prophets called them. Not just one prophet, but many prophets.
[v.2b] - "so they went from them" - The meaning may be more clear if this were written as, "so they turned away from their presence." It shows that the Israelites turned away from the presence of the prophets. In other words, the Israelites refused to hear the message God gave to them through His prophets.
[v.4a] - "I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love" - This is saying that God governed His people as a father would govern his children and that He was bountiful toward them.
[v.4b] - "And I was to them as those who take off the yoke from their jaws" - This similitude is showing that God is "like someone who does not wish to burden his ox, but bears up the yoke himself with his own hands, lest the ox should faint through weariness" (John Calvin).
[v.4c] - "and I laid food for them" - This can be read in two other ways: 1) "and I have brought food to them," or, 2) "and I have made them to eat in quietness." That is, God gave the Israelites their sustenance from His own hand and did not toss it to them on the ground or put it out of reach so that they would labor to reach it.
[v.5] - "they refused to return" - That is, they refused to return to God, or, they refused to repent of their sin and turn to God.
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 1-5:
Grant, Almighty God, that as you have consented to choose us before the foundations of the world were laid, and included us in your free adoption when we were the children of wrath and doomed to utter ruin, and afterward embraced us even from the womb, and have at length favored us with a clearer proof of your love, in calling us by your gospel into a union and communion with your only-begotten Son,— O grant, that we may not be unmindful of so many and so singular benefits, but respond to your holy calling, and labor to devote ourselves wholly to you, and labor, not for one day, but for the whole time designed for us here, both to live and to die according to your good pleasure, so that we may glorify you to the end, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
[v.6a] - "abide" - This may also be read as, "fall upon."
[v.6b] - "branches" - That is, towns or villages, or whatever strength and defense the Israelites possessed.
[v.8] - Admah and Zeboim are mentioned in this verse. These cities saw the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah (Deuteronomy 29:23).
[v.9] - "the fierceness of my anger" - This may also be read as, "the fury of my wrath."
[v.12] - "the saints" - That is, the whole Church, or those who justly deserve to be counted among the children of God.
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 6-12:
Grant, Almighty God, that since we are too secure and torpid in our sins, your dread majesty may come to our minds, to humble us, and to remove our fear, that we may learn anxiously to seek reconciliation through Christ, and so abhor ourselves for our sins, that you may then be prepared to receive us: and that unbelief may not shut the door against us, enable us to regard you to be such as you have revealed yourself, and to acknowledge that you are not like us, but the fountain of all mercy, that we may thus be led to entertain a firm hope of salvation, and that, relying on the Mediator, your only-begotten Son, we may know him as the throne of grace, full of compassion and mercy. O grant, that we may thus come to you, that through him we may certainly know that you are our Father, so that the covenant you have made with us may never fail through our fault, even this, that we are your people, because you have once adopted us in your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.