Hosea 6

Hosea 6  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 7
In Hosea 6 this draws out a remarkable appeal from the agonized prophet: “Come, and let us return unto Jehovah; for He hath torn, and He will heal us” (vs. 1). Is there any disorder here? What more proper? We have had the proof of the guilt of them all; not only the solemn warning of the Lord, but the distinct statement that He was going away from them to leave them to themselves—not absolutely as if He had done with them, though they had done with Him for the time; for He says, In their affliction they will seek Me early.” (Hos. 5:1515I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early. (Hosea 5:15)) There He gives them up. But this draws out the prophet. If such was the divine character, if God felt so keenly their adultery and spiritual treachery towards Himself, it nevertheless showed that His heart was towards them. “Come, and let us return” (vs. 1). Why wait? Why go to the end of wickedness? “Come, and let us return unto Jehovah: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up” (vs. 1), and with how much delight! It was God’s hand that had brought them low, but He was able to heal. “After two days”—a sufficient witness, it would seem—“After two days he will revive us: in the third day”—the witness was now complete; for “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established”—“in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight” (vs. 2). He first gives enough proof of what we are; then He will prove what He is in raising His people up nationally as from the dead.
Can it be doubted that the passage does in an indirect and hidden but real way refer to the resurrection of Christ? He became the true Israel. Consequently, just as He went down in grace and perfectness into the depths where they had fallen justly for their sins, under the persecuting power of the Gentiles, and was called out of Egypt, as they had been of old (a scripture which is given later in Hosea and applied by the Spirit of God in Matthew 2), so I do not doubt here similarly we have the resurrection of the Lord in mysterious view. Nevertheless its plain and immediate bearing is rather on Israel than on the Messiah. To Him it only refers, inasmuch as the Holy Spirit cannot but bring Him everywhere in the Bible. No matter what He may treat of—if it be only loops or taches, badgers’ or rams’ skins, pillars, curtains, or anything else, revelation must always turn on Christ. His name lies at the bottom and is the top-stone of all. So it is here. Whatever the Spirit may hold out to Israel, Christ is the One fixed and guiding star to which we are directed by the Spirit of God. The chosen people may wax, wane, or disappear; but He abides, occasionally behind clouds, the Sun that never sets. The Spirit is come to glorify Christ; He is now sent down, takes of the things of Christ, and shows them unto us. Even in the Old Testament, when coverings and a vail hung over all that was within, His words might be given, as remarked, in a kindred style: still Christ was ever underneath the vail.
Next we have from verse 4 Jehovah’s grief, to which Hosea gives expression: “O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away. Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and their judgments are as the light that goeth forth. For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. But they like men have transgressed the covenant; there have they dealt treacherously against me” (vss. 4-7). It is the language of Jehovah, as the earlier verses were the prophet’s exhortation. Thence he slides, so to speak, into the language of Him who gave him his office. A prophet was really the voice of Jehovah, and therefore beginning as a prophet he rises up to that which becomes Jehovah Himself. The hewing of the people by the prophets expresses vividly the moral dealings of God which gave the wicked no quarter. “I have slain them by the words of my mouth” (vs. 5), he adds, to make still plainer what kind of slaying it was. “And Thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth” (vs. 5).
But of mercy He speaks. “For I desired mercy:” (vs. 6) this is what He loves, and to this end, that He may be morally vindicated in displaying it. “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. But they like” (vs. 6)—not “men” but—Adam is right. “Men” hardly gives the full force; in fact it is a force contrary to the truth, because men as such were not under the law nor under His covenant, and Adam did not hold such a place. As the head of the race, his position was well defined and peculiar. Adam had a relationship with God; but the fall broke up the state of innocence, and God “drove out the man” (Gen. 3:2424So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)), instead of keeping him in the earthly garden of His delights. The position of man since is that of an outcast from paradise. But Israel were called externally to a place of favor, separate to Jehovah from all the rest of mankind. There was a new trial of man, though of man fallen. Indeed this forms the proper scene of man’s probation: either when in Eden, and there Adam comes before us; or out of Eden, and in due time the Jew manifests his course and issue. The interval between Adam and Israel, though not without divine testimonies and dealings in grace of the deepest interest individually, not to speak of the judgment of the world by the flood, was not one of recognized relationship with man as such, because, being driven out from the presence of God, he had as yet no formal position with God, save the responsibility of avenging His injured image (Gen. 9:5-65And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. 6Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. (Genesis 9:5‑6)).
Consequently, although in the intervening time there were most instructive lessons, and of the greatest importance for us to heed, nevertheless Israel have a peculiar place, as under probation, that was found in no way between the two. Hence there need not be the slightest doubt that, although the word is capable of meaning “men” as well as “Adam,” the context proves the true meaning to be what is given in the margin, not in the text: “But they [that is Israel], like Adam, have transgressed the covenant” (vs. 7). Scripture never so speaks of man in general. Man is called a sinner. The Gentiles as such are not, I think, called transgressors. We hear of “sinners,” never “transgressors, of the Gentiles.” Men generally were not in a position to transgress; but they certainly were sinners and did nothing but sin. Transgression, dreadful as it is, supposes that those guilty of it have had a known revelation of God’s revealed mind and will, and hence stand on a definite ground of relationship, the limits of which they have overpassed. Hence it is that “transgression” suits the state of man not when outcast, but when they break through the bounds that God has been pleased to set them. Certainly Adam was under a law, which he broke; he thus became a transgressor. Israel were under the law, which they broke likewise, and thus became transgressors. But the people between Adam and Moses, although they were sinners just as much as either, were not transgressors as both were.
This appears to be the ground taken here. Therefore the passage does not; I am persuaded, mean men, but Adam. “But they like Adam have transgressed the covenant” (vs. 7). The relation of Adam with God may be regarded as a covenant with God, though not the covenant. There was certainly a law given to Adam, but not the law. Israel had the law and the first or old covenant, in contrast with that new one of which Jeremiah speaks under the Messiah’s reign of peace and glory. But Israel rebelled, or, as it is said here, “transgressed the covenant.” “There have they dealt treacherously against me” (vs. 7).
The region of Gilead, which was across the Jordan, is next specified. No city of the name is known: if none, the name is given by a bold figure to their corporate union in corruption and violence. “Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood” (vs. 8). Nor is this the worst: for the priests banded privily to waylay and destroy. “And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent” (vs. 9). Those that ought to have been a city of refuge and active intercessors for the needy were themselves the ringleaders in evil, and on every ground the most guilty of all. They “murder in the way of consent (or “toward Shechem”): for they commit deliberate crime.” This was the heart-breaking sorrow. Had it been among the heathen, it were not so surprising. But “I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled” (vs. 10). The chapter closes with the assurance of sovereign mercy on His part who must judge iniquity according to the holiness of His nature. “Also, O Judah; He hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned [or rather return] the captivity of My people” (vs. 11). It is impossible fairly to apply this to the return from the captivity in Babylon; for it is striking to observe that the post-captivity prophets never speak of the Jews who returned as “My people,” save in predictions of future blessedness under their Messiah reigning in glory and power over the earth. The return of the Jews by the decree of Cyrus was an unparalleled event, contrary to the policy of the East, and only to be accounted for by the power which wrought in the conscience of Babylon’s conqueror through the divine word, and (it may be) the personal weight of Daniel. But those who returned were never called “My people.” It awaits another and very different day when the Jews shall look on Him whom they pierced. Compare chapters 1-3. For that day awaits the real fulfillment of Psalm 126:1,51<<A Song of degrees.>> When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. (Psalm 126:1)
5They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. (Psalm 126:5)
, when the harvest of joy shall come after many and long sorrows.