1 O Israel, return to the LORD your God, for you have fallen by your iniquity.
2 Take with you words and turn to the LORD. Say to him, "Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously, so that we will render as calves the offering of our lips.
3 Ashur shall not save us. We will not ride upon horses. We will no more say to the work of our hands, 'You are our gods.' For in you the fatherless finds mercy."
4 "I will heal their backsliding and I will love them freely, for my anger is turned away from him.
5 I will be as the dew to Israel. He shall grow as the lily and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
6 His branches shall spread. His beauty shall be as the olive-tree and his smell as Lebanon.
7 Those who dwell under his shade shall return. They shall revive as the corn and grow as the vine. Its scent shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
8 Ephraim shall say, 'What have I to do anymore with idols?' I have heard him and observed him. I am like a green fir-tree. Your fruit is found from me."
9 Who is wise, that he shall understand these things? Who is prudent, that he shall know them? For the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them, but the transgressors shall fall in them.
John Gill's Chapter Summary:
This chapter concludes the book, with gracious promises to repenting sinners, to returning backsliders. It begins with an exhortation to Israel to return to the Lord, seeing he was their God, and they had fallen by sin from prosperity into adversity, temporal and spiritual (verse 1); and they are directed what to say to the Lord, upon their return to him, both by way of petition, and of promise and of resolution how to behave for the future, encouraged by his grace and mercy (verses 2-3); and they are told what the Lord, by way of answer, would say to them (verse 4); and what he would be to them; and what blessings of grace he would bestow on them; and in what flourishing and fruitful circumstances they should be (verses 5-8); and the chapter ends with a character of such that attend to and understand those things; and with a recommendation of the ways of the Lord, which are differently regarded by men (verse 9).
[v.1-2] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "Men will never repent unless they are made humble; and from where comes true and genuine humility, except from a sense of sin? Unless then men become displeased with themselves, and acknowledge that they are worthy of perdition, they will never be touched by a genuine feeling of repentance. These two things are then wisely joined together by Hosea, that Israel had fallen by their iniquities, and then, that it was time to return to Yahweh. How so? Because, when we are convinced that we are worthy of destruction, no, that we are already doomed to death for having so often provoked God, then we begin to hate ourselves; and a detestation of sin drives us to seek repentance."
[v.2a] - "Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously" - The sign of a false conversion is when there is no confession of sin, which leads to a life void of repentance (see 1st John 1:9). "If a sinner desires to return into favor with God, and yet does not confess his guilt, he adopts a way the most strange. The very beginning must be a confession." —John Calvin
[v.2b] - "so that we will render as calves the offering of our lips" - From John Calvin's Commentary: "And calves of the lips the Prophet fitly calls the praises which God requires as the chief sacrifice; for under the law, some offered calves when they payed their vows. But the Prophet shows that God regards not external sacrifices, but only those exercises which men perform in another way, even the sacrifices of thanksgiving. This then is the meaning of the metaphor, as though he said, 'The calves which are known to be offered are not the true sacrifices in which God delights, but tend rather to show that men are to offer praise to God.'"
John Calvin's Prayer for 13:14-14:2:
Grant, Almighty God, that as we now carry about us this mortal body, and even nourish through sin a thousand deaths within us,— O grant, that we may ever by faith direct our eyes toward heaven, and to that incomprehensible power, which is to be manifested at the last day by Jesus Christ our Lord, so that in the midst of death we may hope that you will be our Redeemer, and enjoy that redemption, which he completed when he rose from the dead; and not doubt but that the fruit which he then brought forth by his Spirit will come also to us, when Christ himself shall come to judge the world; and may we thus walk in the fear of your name, that we may be really gathered among his members, to be made partakers of that glory, which by his death he has procured for us. Amen.
[v.3a] - "Ashur" - That is, the Assyrians.
[v.3b] - "We will not ride upon horses" - Reference, Isaiah 30:16.
[v.3c] - "For in you the fatherless finds mercy" - Reference, Psalm 10:14, 68:5, 146:9; Proverbs 23:10-11; John 14:18.
[v.9a] - "Who is wise, that he shall understand these things? Who is prudent, that he shall know them?" - Reference, Psalm 107:43; Proverbs 1:7; Daniel 12:10; Matthew 13:11-12; John 8:47, 18:37.
[v.9b] - "For the ways of the LORD are right" - Deuteronomy 32:4; Job 34:10-12; Psalm 19:7-8, 119:75; Zephaniah 3:5; Romans 7:12.
[v.9c] - "and the just shall walk in them, but the transgressors shall fall in them" - Job 17:9; Proverbs 10:29; Isaiah 8:13-15; Luke 7:23; John 3:19-20, 9:39, 15:24; Romans 9:32-33; 2nd Corinthians 2:15-16; 2nd Thessalonians 2:9-12; 2nd Peter 2:7-8.
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 3-9:
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are so miserable as soon as you withdraw your favor from us,— O grant, that we may deeply feel this conviction, and thus learn to be humble before you, and to hate our own selves, and that we may not in the mean time deceive ourselves by such allurements as commonly prevail, to put our hope in creatures or in this world, but raise our minds upward to you, and fix on you our hearts, and never doubt, but that when you embrace us with your paternal love, nothing shall be lacking to us. And in the meantime, may we suppliantly flee to your mercy, and with true and genuine confession, acknowledge this to be our only protection—that you deign to receive us into favor, and to abolish our sins, into which we not only daily fall, but by which we also deserve eternal death, so that we may daily rise through your free pardon, until at length our Redeemer Christ your Son shall appear to us from heaven. Amen.