The Word of the Lord to Hosea

Chapter 9

The distress and captivity of Israel for their sins, 1-17.

1 Do not rejoice, O Israel, for joy, as other people, for you have apostatized from your God. You have loved a reward upon every corn-floor.

2 The floor and the wine-press shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her.

3 They shall not dwell in the LORD'S land, but Ephraim shall return to Egypt and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria.

4 They shall not offer wine-offerings to the LORD, neither shall they be pleasing to him. Their sacrifices shall be to them as the bread of mourners. All who eat of it shall be polluted, for their bread for their soul shall not come into the house of the LORD.

5 What will you do in the solemn day and in the day of the feast of the LORD?

6 For behold, they have gone away because of destruction. Egypt shall gather them up. Memphis shall bury them. The pleasant places for their silver, nettles shall possess them. Thorns shall be in their tabernacles.

7 The days of visitation have come, the days of recompense have come. Israel shall know it. The prophet is a fool and the spiritual man is mad because of the multitude of your iniquity and the great hatred.

8 The watchman of Ephraim was with my God, but the prophet is a snare of a fowler in all his ways and hatred in the house of his God.

9 They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah; therefore, he will remember their iniquity. He will visit their sins.

10 I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness. I saw your fathers as the first ripe in the fig-tree at her first time. But they went to Baal-peor and separated themselves to that shame, and their abominations were according as they loved.

11 As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird from the birth, from the womb, and from the conception.

12 Though they bring up their children, yet I will bereave them, so that there shall not be a man left. Indeed, woe also to them when I depart from them!

13 Ephraim, as I saw Tyre, is planted in a pleasant place. But Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer.

14 Give them, O LORD—what will you give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.

15 "All their wickedness is in Gilgal, for there I hated them. For the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of my house. I will love them no more. All their princes are revolters.

16 Ephraim is smitten. Their root is dried up. They shall bear no fruit. Even though they bring forth, yet I will slay even the beloved fruit of their womb."

17 My God will cast them away because they did not listen to him. And they shall be wanderers among the nations.


Matthew Henry Commentary - Hosea, Chapter 9


John Gill's Chapter Summary:

This chapter is an address to Israel or the ten tribes, and contains either a new sermon, or is a very considerable part of the former upon the same subject, the sins and punishment of that people. It begins with an instruction to them, not to rejoice in their prosperity, as others did; since it would soon be at an end, because of their idolatry, which was everywhere committed, and for which they expected a reward of temporal good things (Hosea 9:1); but, on the contrary, they are threatened with famine, with lack both of corn and wine (Hosea 9:2); and with an ejection out of their land into foreign countries; where they should be obliged to eat things unclean by their law (Hosea 9:3); and where their sacrifices and solemnities should be no more attended to (Hosea 9:4-5); and where their carcasses should fall and be buried, while their own country and houses lay waste and desolate (Hosea 9:6); for, whatever their foolish and mad prophets said to the contrary, who pretended to be with God, and know his will, and were a snare to them who gave heed to them, and brought hatred on them, the time of their punishment would certainly come (Hosea 9:7-8); and their iniquities would be remembered and visited; seeing their corruptions were deep, like those who appeared in Gibeah, in the days of old (Hosea 9:9); they acting the same ungrateful part their fathers had done, of whom they were a degenerate offspring (Hosea 9:10); therefore for these, and other offenses mentioned, they are threatened with being bereaved of their children, and drove out of their land, to wander among the nations (Hosea 9:11-17).

[v.1] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "It is not known at what time the Prophet delivered this discourse, but it is enough to know that it is directed against the obstinate wickedness of the people, because they could by no means be turned to repentance, though their defection was, at the same time, manifest. He now declares that God was so angry, that no success could be hoped for. And this warning ought to be carefully noticed; for we see that hypocrites as long as God spares or indulges them, take occasion to be secure: they think that they have sure peace with God, when he bears with them even for a short time; and further, except the drawn sword appears, they are never afraid. Since, then, men sleep so securely in their vices, especially when the Lord treats them with forbearance and kindness, the Prophet here declares, that the Israelites had no reason to rejoice for their prosperity, or to flatter themselves under this cover, that the Lord had not immediately taken vengeance on them; for he says, that though all people under heaven were prosperous, yet Israel would be miserable, because he had committed fornication against his God."

[v.2] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "God now denounces such a punishment as the Israelites deserved. They had been drawn away, as we have said, from the pure worship of God by allurements; they hoped for more profit from superstitions. Hence God shows, that he would on this account punish them by taking away from them their wine and corn, as we have already noticed in chapter 2: for it is the only way by which the Lord restores men to a sane mind, or at least renders them inexcusable, to deprive them of his blessings."

[v.3] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "The Prophet proclaims here a heavier punishment — that the Lord would drive them into exile. It was indeed a dreadful repudiation, when they were deprived of the land of Canaan, which was the Lord's rest, as it is called in the Psalms (Psalm 132:14). While they dwelt in the land of Canaan, they lived as it were in the habitations of God, and could have a sure hope that he would be a father to them: but when they were expelled from there, the Lord testified that he regarded them as aliens; it was the same as when a father disinherits his son. The Prophet now threatens them not only with the want of food, but also with repudiation (i.e., abandonment), which was far more grievous." Moreover, God's abandonment of His people would demote them from the peculiar people of God to nothing more than the profane Gentiles. They shall go to Egypt and Assyria do be with the Gentiles and eat and do as they do. "And now we ought to consider, whether it be right, when we are among idolaters, to conform to the rites (i.e., social customs, practices) approved by them. This place, no doubt, as other places, most clearly shows, that nothing more grievous can happen to us than the doing away of all difference between us and the profane despisers of God, even in the outward manner of living." —John Calvin

[v.4] - From Matthew Henry's Commentary: "It is here threatened, that in the land of their enemies, to which they shall be driven, they shall have no opportunity either of giving honor to God or obtaining favor with God, by offering any acceptable sacrifice to him; they should not be in a capacity of keeping up any face or show of religion among them."

[v.5] - From John Gill's Exposition: "Since their sacrifices now were so disagreeable and displeasing to the Lord, and so unavailable to themselves, what would they do when in captivity, 'in the solemn day', the seventh day of the week, appointed by the Lord for rest and religious worship; and in the first day of the month, which also was to be solemnly observed, by offering sacrifice, etc.; and on feast days of the Lord's instituting, as the feasts of the passover, pentecost, and tabernacles? [What would they do] seeing those that carried and held them captive would not allow them time for such solemnities; nor would they be furnished with proper sacrifices; nor could they be accommodated with a proper place to offer them at; nor be able, in a strange land, and under hardships and miseries, to express that joy that is suitable to such occasions: thus should they learn, by sad experience, the lack of those means and opportunities of serving the Lord, which in their own land they rejected and despised."

[v.6a] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "The Prophet confirms here what is contained in the last verse, that is, that the Israelites would at length find that the Prophets had not in vain threatened them, though they at the time heedlessly despised the judgement of God." Hosea shows the Israelites that a return to Egypt would not be a good one, but rather, it would be their grave. Furthermore, since they would be gone so long, their home would be overgrown with nettles and thorns, that is, an uncultivated wasteland.

[v.6b] - "The pleasant places for their silver, nettles shall possess them" - In other words, "The nettle shall possess the desirable place of their silver."

[v.7a] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "The Prophet says, in the first place, that the day of vengeance was now at hand, because the Lord by forbearance could prevail nothing with the obstinate. He then adds, that as all threatenings were despised by the people, and as they were deaf to every instruction, they would at length know that God had not spoken in vain but would perceive that they were justly treated; for the Lord would not now teach them by his word, but by scourges. He adds, in the third place, that the Prophet was foolish and delirious, and also, that they who boasted themselves to be the men of the spirit were mad: by which expressions he meant that the flatteries, by which the people were lulled asleep were foolish; for God would not fail at last, when the time came, to execute his office. And, lastly he reminds them that this would happen through the fault of the people, that there was no reason for them to trace or to ascribe the cause of the evil to anything else; for this blindness was their just punishment. The Lord would have never permitted Satan thus to prevail in his own inheritance, had not the people, by the immense filth of their sins, provoked God for a long time, and as it were with a determined purpose."

[v.7b] - "mad" - That is, foolish, insane, lunatic, senseless, absurd, etc.

[v.8] - False prophets are a snare to humanity. They preach peace when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14, 8:11; see also Jeremiah 14:13). They preach to man his salvation without the need of repentance, faith, and holiness of life. This is, after all, an easy message to hear. Why acknowledge and repent of sin when peace and salvation can be so easily attained? "My people love to have it so" (Jeremiah 5:31). "For the time will come, when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts they will multiply for themselves [false] teachers, having itching ears, and they will turn away their ears from the truth, and will be turned to fables." (2nd Timothy 4:3-4). "Satan hunts his prey, when he soothes the people by his false teachers, and keeps them, as it were, asleep, that they may not regard the hand of God." —John Calvin

[v.9] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "The Prophet says now, that the whole of Israel had become as corrupt as formerly the citizens of Gibeah (Judges, ch. 19-21). Deeply sunk, then, were the Israelites in their vices, and were as addicted as the inhabitants of Gibeah to their corruptions. What, then, is to follow? 'God,' he says, 'will remember their iniquities, and will visit their sins.' The Prophet means two things: first, that as the Israelites were wholly disobedient, and would receive no instruction, God would in no other way deal with them... [second], that though God had hitherto spared the people of Israel, he had not yet forgotten the filth of sins which prevailed among them. Hence God, he says, will at length remember and, as he had said before, will visit their sins... Let, then, each of us stir up himself to repentance and carefully beware lest he should descend into this deep gulf."

[v.10] - This verse gives two tokens of God's favor to His people. First, they are like grapes in the wilderness, that is, as grapes found in the wilderness by a weary traveler. Second, they are like the first-fruits of the fig trees. The fig tree produces fruit twice a year with the first production being greatly valued. God shows these tokens of His favor to His elect people despite all their sinfulness and unworthiness. However, the people rejected this favor, as does all mankind (Psalm 53:1-3; Romans 3:9-12), and preferred to follow after after idols, devoting their affections to them as someone pursuing an adulterous relationship.

[v.11a] - "their glory shall fly away like a bird" - That is, their glory shall depart from them suddenly, swiftly, and irrecoverably, never to return. This glory can refer to a few things: 1) God their glory, and His departure; 2) their wealth and riches, and their loss of it going into captivity; 3) their posterity (Proverbs 17:6), and the hopes of their families cut off. The third of those options is the likely reference, especially with the content of the latter part of this verse, but John Calvin mentions that this illustration is only a part that is taken for the whole. In other words, Hosea mentions children and offspring, but he includes generally the whole condition of the people (i.e., whatever they deemed a source of glory, power, wealth, status, etc.).

[v.11b-12a] - "from the birth, etc." - Hosea is again showing signs of God's wrath by degrees, increasing in severity. Ultimately, their posterity will be cut off by the women being barren and unable to conceive. Then, though some will be allowed to be born and those children allowed to be raised, they will also be cut off, whether by sword, famine, pestilence, or being carried away captive into a foreign country.

[v.12b] - "Indeed, woe also to them when I depart from them" - From Matthew Henry's Commentary: "When they revolt from him, and withdraw from their allegiance to him, how can they expect but that he should depart from them and withdraw both his protection and his bounty? And well may his threatening be enforced as it is, and made terrible: 'Woe also to them when I depart from them!' Note, Those are in a woeful condition indeed whom God has forsaken. Our weal (i.e., well-being) or woe (i.e., misery) depends upon the gracious presence of God with us; and, if he goes, all weal goes with him and all woes come upon us."

[v.13] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "Hosea here confirms his previous statements that the Israelites in vain trusted in their present condition, for the Lord could reverse their prosperity whenever it pleased him. Men, we know, harden themselves in their vices, when they enjoy their wishes and when they are sunk in pleasures; for prosperity is not without reason often compared to wine, because it inebriates men; nay, rather it deprives them of reason... Such pride reigned in the people of Israel, that they heedlessly despised all threatening, as it has been already often stated. To this then the Prophet refers when he says, 'Ephraim is like a tree planted in Tyrus: yet he shall bring forth his children to the slaughter.' The Prophet then points out here the indulgences of Israel, and then adds, that in a short time the Lord would draw them forth to judgement, though he had treated them as a precious tree, by fostering them gently and tenderly for a time."

[v.14] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "The state of the people would be so deplorable that nothing could be more desirable than the barrenness of the women, that no offspring might be afterward born, but that the name and memory of the people might by degrees be blotted out... It was then the Prophet's design here, to strike hypocrites and profane men with terror, that they might understand that God's vengeance, which was at hand, could by no means be fully expressed; for it would be the best thing for them to be deprived of the blessing of an offspring, that their infants might not perish with them, that they might not see women with child cruelly slain by their enemies, or their children led away as a spoil. That such things as these might not take place, the Prophet says, that barrenness ought to be desired by them as the chief blessing."

[v.15] - From Matthew Henry's Commentary: "How can those but do wickedly who will not listen to the word of God, that would teach and persuade them to do well? And no wonder that there were wicked doings among them when their worship was corrupt. All their wickedness is in Gilgal, which was a place infamous for idolatry, as appears Hosea 4:15, 12:11; Amos 4:4, 5:5. It is probable that the idolaters chose that place for their headquarters because it had been famous in other ages for solemn transactions between God and Israel, as Joshua 5:2, 10; 1st Samuel 10:8, 11:15. There, where the source of idolatry was, from where it spread through the kingdom, there it might be said that all their wickedness was, for all other wickedness owed its origin to that. Corruptions in worship make way for corruptions in morals. The mother of harlots is the mother of all other abominations (Revelation 17:5)... And no wonder that the people did wickedly, both in worship and conversation, when all their princes were revolters; the whole succession of the kings of the ten tribes did evil in the sight of the Lord, or all the set of judges and magistrates at this time were wicked; they turned aside to sinful ways and persisted in those ways."

[v.16] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "[This verse shows] that the Lord would no more be content with some moderate punishment, for he had often found that this abandoned people were in vain chastised by paternal love; but that extreme vengeance awaited them, which would consume not only the men, but also their children so that no residue should remain. The reason is afterward added [in the next verse]."

[v.17] - From John Gill's Exposition: "These are the words of [Hosea], who calls the Lord his God, whom he worshiped, by whom he was sent, and in whose name he prophesied; and this in opposition to, and distinction from Israel, who worshiped other gods, and who had cast off the true God, and were now, or would be, cast away by him, and so no longer their God... [Israel] did not obey [God's] law, regard his will, or attend his worship; which was the cause of the rejection of them, and a just one. 'And they shall be wanderers among the nations;' being dispersed by the Assyrians in the several nations of the world, where they were fugitives and vagabonds."