The Word of the Lord to Hosea

Chapter 6

Their resolution to return to God, 1-3. The instability of many of them, 4, 5. God's covenant with them, and their violation of it, 6-11.

1 "Come, and let us return to the LORD. For he has torn and he will heal us. He has smitten and he will bind us up.

2 After two days he will revive us. On the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.

3 Then we shall know, if we follow on to know the LORD. His going forth is prepared as the morning, and he will come to us as the rain, as the latter and former rain to the earth."

4 "O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your goodness is as the morning cloud, and as the early dew it goes away.

5 Therefore, I have hewed them by the prophets. I have slain them by the words of my mouth. And your judgments are as the light that goes forth.

6 For I desired mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings.

7 But they, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant. There they have dealt treacherously against me.

8 Gilead is a city of those who work iniquity and is polluted with blood.

9 And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent, for they commit lewdness.

10 I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel. There is the prostitution of Ephraim, Israel is defiled.

11 Also, O Judah, he has set a harvest for you, when I returned the captivity of my people."


Matthew Henry Commentary - Hosea, Chapter 6


John Gill's Chapter Summary:

This chapter gives an account of some who were truly penitent, and stirred up one another to return to the Lord, encouraged by his power, grace, and goodness (Hosea 6:1-3); and of others, who had only a form of religion, were very unstable in it; regarded more the ceremonial law, and the external sacrifices of it, than the moral law; either that part of it which respects the love of the neighbor, or that which concerns the knowledge of God; and dealt treacherously with the Lord, transgressing the covenant (Hosea 6:4-7); particularly the city of Gilead is represented as full of the workers of iniquity, and is charged with bloodshed (Hosea 6:8); and even the priests were guilty of murder and lewdness (Hosea 6:9); and Israel, or the ten tribes in general, are accused of prostitution, both corporeal and spiritual, with which they were defiled (Hosea 6:10); nor was Judah clear of these crimes, and therefore a reckoning day is set for them (Hosea 6:11).

[v.1] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "The Prophet means by these words, that God does not so punish men as to pour forth his wrath upon them for their destruction; but that he intends, on the contrary, to promote their salvation, when he is severe in punishing their sins. We must then remember... that the beginning of repentance is a sense of God's mercy... At the same time, something more is expressed in the Prophet's words, and it is this, that God never so rigidly deals with men, but that he ever leaves room for his grace."

[v.2a] - In 1st Corinthians 15:3-4, Paul mentions that the Scriptures tell of Christ's resurrection. This verse here in Hosea is the passage to which he refers. Furthermore, this verse has a second sense to be taken from it that compliments the reference to Christ's resurrection. This verse shows how God does not immediately give salvation, but rather gives reproofs gradually and then the hope of salvation, as was demonstrated in the previous chapter. The people's salvation was not at this time given, but the hope of it was. The were, after all, to go into a long exile. Now, to tie in the connection to Christ's resurrection, here is a passage from John Calvin's Commentary: "I do not deny but that God has exhibited a remarkable and a memorable instance of what is here said in his only-begotten Son. As often then as delay begets weariness in us, and when God seems to have thrown aside every care of us, let us flee to Christ; for, as it has been said, His resurrection is a mirror of our life; for we see in that how God is known to deal with his own people: the Father did not restore life to Christ as soon as he was taken down from the cross; he was deposited in the sepulcher, and he lay there to the third day. When God then intends that we should languish for a time, let us know that we are thus represented in Christ our head, and hence let us gather materials of confidence. We have then in Christ an illustrious proof of this prophecy. But in the first place, let us lay hold on what we have said, that the faithful here obtain hope for themselves, though God extends not immediately his hand to them, but defers for a time his grace of redemption."

[v.2b] - Reference, Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 26:19.

[v.3a] - "Then we shall know, if we follow on to know the LORD" - This may also be read as, "Then we shall know, and pursue after the knowledge of the LORD."

[v.3b] - In this verse, Hosea continues on with the hope of salvation. This is likely to reinforce this hope to a people prone to doubt and backsliding. This hope is given with a couple of similitudes. The first is the morning. In this, Hosea is showing to the people that the going forth of the LORD, that is the coming of His grace, is as sure as the morning comes after the darkness of the night. In other words, God will show Himself benevolent to His people, despite their long captivity, and will restore them by His grace. The second similitude is that of rain. This is the effect of God's grace in that it is a symbol of restoration, as the rain restores life to the barren land.

[v.4a] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "Whenever the Prophets make known the grace of God, they at the same time add an exception, lest hypocrites falsely apply to themselves what is offered to the faithful alone. The Prophets, we know, never threatened ruin to the people, but that they added some promise, lest the faithful should despair, which must have been the case, except some mitigation had been made known to them. Hence the Prophets do this in common, — they moderate their threatening and severity by adding a hope of God's favor. But at the same time, as hypocrites ever draw to themselves what belongs only to the faithful, and thus heedlessly deride God, the Prophets add another exception, by which they signify, that God's promise of being gracious and merciful to his people is not to be deemed universal, and as appertaining to all indiscriminately."

[v.4b] - As to the similitude given in this verse, it is to show that the Jews and the Israelites both only had the appearance of goodness and as the morning cloud and the early dew, it quickly evaporates in their obstinancy. This, again, only refers to the hypocrites who claim God's favor and grace for their own to hide themselves behind a very thin veil of goodness.

[v.5a] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "God kindly and sweetly draws or invites to himself those whom he sees to be teachable; but when he sees so great a perverseness in men, that he cannot bend them by his goodness, he then begins, as we have said, to put on a new character. We now then under stand God's design: that hypocrites might not complain that they had been otherwise treated than what is consistent with God's nature."

[v.5b] - "your judgments" - John Gill notes that this can mean two different things, namely, "either the statutes and judgments prescribed them by the Lord, and to be observed by them; which were clear and plain as the light at noon day, and therefore could not plead any excuse of ignorance of them, that they did not observe them: or the judgments of God upon them for their sins; which were open and manifest to all, and increasing like the light, more and more, and no more to be resisted than that."

[v.6a] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "God in this place declares that he desires mercy, and not sacrifices; and he does so to prevent an objections and to anticipate all frivolous pretenses. There is never wanting to hypocrites, we well know, a cover for themselves; and so great is their assurance, that they hesitate not sometimes to contend with God. It is indeed their common practice to maintain that they worship God, provided they offer sacrifices to him, provided they toil in ceremonies, and accumulate many rites. They think then that God is made bound to them, and that they have fully performed their duty. This evil has been common in all ages."

[v.6b] - Another thing to note about this verse is that God desires mercy, love, kindness—Love your neighbor (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8)—and the knowledge of Him, that is, faith (John 3:14-18, 5:24; Romans 4:5, 10:17; Galatians 3:14; Ephesians 2:8), over the outward show of ceremonies. This very much parallels Christ's answer to the question of which is the greatest commandment: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:37-40; see also Mark 12:29-31 and Luke 10:25-28).

[v.6c] - Quoted in Matthew 9:13, 12:7.

[v.7] - "Since then hypocrites so grossly mock God and turn away sacrifices from Christ, they turn away from the doctrine of repentance and faith; in a word, they regard God only as a dead idol. When then they thus deprave the whole worship of God and adulterate it, when they so impiously corrupt the word of God and pervert his institutions, are they not covenant-breakers?" —John Calvin

[v.8a] - "Gilead" - Gilead was a city of refuge and occupied by the Levites the priests (see Numbers, ch. 35 and Joshua 21:38). Anyone who kills another person by accident was to flee to a city of refuge to avoid being the target of revenge and to receive a fair trial. The priests were to be a shining example to the people, much in the same manner that Christ called His disciples "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14). So, it is shown here that even the cities of refuge, the places where true holiness was to be exemplified, had all together been corrupted.

[v.8b] - "polluted with blood" - This may also be read as, "occupied," or, "possessed by blood."

[v.9] - Hosea, after speaking against Gilead, a city of the priests, is showing the corruption of the cities. He shows that the conspire together as robbers waiting in ambush with their lewdness. He is not saying that they are openly committing robberies and murders, but that they are robbers and murderers before God, who looks at the heart of man (1st Samuel 16:7; 2nd Chronicles 6:30; Psalm 7:9; Jeremiah 17:10; Luke 16:15).

[v.10-11] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "God does here by one word lay prostrate whatever men may set up for themselves, and shows that there remains no more defense for what he declares he does not approve, however much men may value and applaud it." Hosea speaks out against both Israel and Judah. First, he speaks of Israel, or the whole of the ten tribes, who had fallen to idolatry at the hand of their king Jeroboam, of the tribe of Ephraim. Second, he mentions Judah, and John Gill explains it like this: "God has set and appointed a time of wrath and vengeance for [Judah], which is sometimes signified by a harvest (Revelation 14:15); because [Judah] has been guilty of idolatry also, as well as Ephraim or the ten tribes: or rather it may be rendered, 'but, O Judah, he,' that is, God, 'has set a harvest for thee;' appointed a time of joy and gladness, as a time of harvest is."

[v.11] - "the captivity of my people" - From John Gill's Exposition: "[That is], the people of Judah from the Babylonish captivity; so that here is a prophecy both of their captivity, and of their return from it: and it may be applied to their return from their spiritual captivity to sin, Satan, and the law, through the Gospel of Christ and his apostles, first published in Judea, by means of which there was a large harvest of souls gathered in, and was an occasion of great joy."