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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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HOSEA 11

This chapter stands sharply detached from the last. The first 7 verses are in the form of a nostalgic remembrance of God's tender care of Israel, especially in their being brought up out of Egypt and disciplined in the wilderness, but in Hos. 11:8, it is clear that Hosea "thinks of the punishment as having fallen."F1 Hos. 11:8-11 are Messianic and have reference to the times of the kingdom of God in Christ, and the ingathering of the "true Israel" from all over the world. This prophetic announcement should have been expected from the inspired designation by the apostle Matthew of Hos. 11:1 as a prophecy pertaining to Jesus Christ himself.

As Meyers pointed out, "Hos. 11 is very closely related to Hos. 2, and cannot be understood without constant reference thereto."F2 It will be recalled that our interpretation of the return of Gomer to Hosea, not as his wife, but as having the status of a slave, is exactly the thing in view for Israel (all of it) in this chapter.

The highly emotional figure of Hos. 11:8-9, depicting the torturing agony of a father (God) who cannot bear to give up a dissolute son (Israel) is one of the highlights of Hosea. There is in it something of the agony that Almighty God Himself underwent (in a figure) when he gave his only begotten Son for the sins of the world. However, it is a gross mistake to make this passage teach that, "God simply doesn't have the heart to destroy us wicked sinners, no matter what we do, and despite any of his threats of punishment." Ah no, the blow will fall upon Ephraim; indeed Hosea views it as already accomplished in all of its terrible and bloody details. The mercy which, even in their destruction, Ephraim was to receive pertains to two things: (1) the reduction of their penalty from extermination like that of Sodom and Gomorrah to a fate that would yet leave some of their descendents alive on the earth to partake of the blessings of the New Covenant, and (2) the laying of the full penalty of the sins upon the heart of God Himself, in the person of his Son, upon the Cross of Calvary. It was there in the event of God's setting forth his Son to be the propitiation for our sins that God showed himself to be "just, and the justifier of them that believe in Christ" (Romans 3:25). It is the unconquerable love of God in Christ Jesus that dramatically comes into focus in this chapter.

Hos. 11:1


 
Verse 1
When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.

It is a misuse of this passage to make it the basis of making the call of Israel an event that took place in Egypt, as Mauchline and others have attempted. The original call of Israel was delivered not in Egypt, but to Abraham, to whom God promised that, "In Isaac shall they seed be called." The particular call here, is not the election as God's chosen people, but their being called up out of slavery in Egypt; and when Jesus appeared upon earth with the mission to call all mankind out of the wretched slavery of sin, it was appropriate indeed to associate the antitype (Christ) with the type (Israel). "The development and guidance of Israel as the people of God all pointed to Christ."F3 Joseph took Jesus and his mother Mary into Egypt to protect them from the wrath of Herod, which, of course, necessitated also their "coming up out of Egypt"; and therefore, Matthew associated the two events thus:

"And he arose and took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt ... that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord, through the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt did I call my son" (Matthew 2:14,15).

A tremendous weight of importance rides upon the necessary identification of the old Israel as a type of the new, Christ himself also being in reality positively identified with both, and making the old Israel, therefore, a type of the church. Harper, as might have been expected, rejected this interpretation of Hosea on the basis of his prior assumptions, admitting at the same time that this place has been understood: "As predictive of the Messiah, to interpret Israel as a type of Christ."F4 This very ancient understanding of the Scriptures should not be abandoned.

We believe that Butler was correct in seeing here another "coming up out of Egypt" in the event of the people of God under the New Covenant "coming up out of the captivity of heathendom, which Hosea had already typified by the use of the name Egypt in Hos. 8:13."F5


 
Verse 2
The more [the prophets] called them, the more they went from them: they sacrificed unto the Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.

A glance at the various translations of this portion of Hosea reveals a wide conflict with quite a number of contradictory renditions. This is due to the fact that many present-day scholars spend a great deal of their time emending (correcting!) the text, an exercise which is precipitated by a number of uncertainties encountered in this text which is now about 2,700 years of age! We are sure that the meaning is clear enough in the broad outlines of it as rendered in the version before us. Quite a few of the emendations are slanted in the direction of establishing some theory or interpretation.

This verse is a thumb-nail history of God's dealings with Israel throughout their existence and the totally rebellious response he received from the people.


 
Verse 3
Yet I taught Ephraim to walk; I took them on my arms; but they knew not that I healed them.

The loving care of a parent for a little child, and the child's unawareness of the love and tenderness being lavished upon him are here made a figure of Israel's unawareness of what God did for them in the days of the nation's helplessness.


 
Verse 4
I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love; and I was to them as they that lift up the yoke on their jaws; and I laid food before them.

Some of the renditions in this verse appear to be questionable; but the meaning is plain enough as Butler paraphrased it:

"I eased all their burdens like a farmer pushes back the yoke upon his oxen, so they may eat their food in comfort; I even fed them manna from heaven, food for which they did not work."F6

I drew them with cords of a man…
This is evidently a reference to the leading strings by which small children are kept near their parents, a device one may see to this day in certain sections of New York City. Cords here contrasts with ropes by which animals were restrained. The view of such cords as bands of love is very expressive.


 
Verse 5
They shall not return into the land of Egypt; but the Assyrian shall be their king, because they refused to return [to me].

The critics quickly hail this verse as a contradiction of "they shall return to Egypt" in Hos. 8:13; but, of course, the word was used figuratively in that place and literally here, as many of the best commentators have pointed out. It is totally irresponsible to harmonize(!) the two places by reversing the meaning in this verse as in the New English Bible, "But they shall go to Egypt, the Assyrian shall be their king." It is this type of emending texts that discredits the people doing it "The Hebrew in its most obvious meaning here reads a negative, `He shall not return.'...They will not go back to Egyptian bondage, but fall to the Assyrian conqueror."F7 Smith accepted the New English Bible rendition, but corrected their error in his interpretation:

"If they want Egypt, then Egypt they shall have. But it shall not be the old literal Egypt, but rather another bondage in which Assyria shall be their king."F8

Butler and others have followed Keil in seeing that, "Egypt is a type of the land of bondage; but here the typical interpretation is precluded, especially by the correspondence in which the words stand to Hos. 11:1b.F9 The point of this is that in Hos. 11:1b the coming up of Israel out of Egypt was undeniably a literal thing; and since a literal return to Egypt was never intended by God, the reference here absolutely required a similar literal implication, hence the negative. "They shall not return to Egypt," that is, "not to that Egypt."


 
Verse 6
And the sword shall fall upon their cities, and shall consume their bars, and devour [them], because of their own counsels.

Assyria is clearly identified in this chapter as the place of slavery for Israel, and with the deportation shall come a savage murder of many of their population. The sword, as one of the principal weapons used by the military in those days, is here used by metonymy for all of the horrors and devastation of military conquest.

Consume their bars…
is a reference to the bars that secured the locks upon the city gates, hence a symbol of the safety and security of the people. All such things shall perish in the invasion.

Because of their own counsels…
It was the false teaching forming the principal guidance of the people that actually resulted in their overthrow. The false teaching was the philosophy which they had adopted instead of following the commandments of the Lord.


 
Verse 7
And my people are bent on backsliding from me: though they call them to [him that is] on high, none at all will exalt [him].

Though they call them…
Though God's prophets, such as Hosea, call the people to God, no one pays any attention to it.

"This whole verse is declared wholly corrupt by modern commentators,"F10 and due to the damage which the the Hebrew text of the O.T. has received through the ages, there might not be any way to find out the exact meaning of the few mutilated syllables that have reached us; but, certainly, the rendition as given here is fully in line with everything that Hosea or any other sacred writer has written elsewhere.


 
Verse 8
How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? [how] shall I cast thee off, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? [how] shall I set thee as Zeboiim? my heart is turned within me, my compassions are kindled together.

Admah. Zeboiim ..…
The cities of the plain included these, as well as Sodom and Gomorrah; all were overthrown for their wickedness.F11 See Deut. 29:23.

How shall I give thee up…
In this passage, God is represented as having human emotions about the overthrow of his once chosen people; but the reason behind this type of passage is profound. Under the utmost necessity, God would have to preserve a portion of the old secular Israel to keep from thwarting his holy purpose of bringing in the Redeemer to provide salvation for the lost myriads of humanity; but the problem was just this: how could God be just and continue to spare Israel? This is exactly the problem mentioned in Rom. 3:25, which found its ultimate solution in the coming of Christ into the world. To make the problem even more acute, Israel had fallen into a state of sinful debauchery which actually exceeded the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah (Ezek. 16), which places God had summarily destroyed for their sins; how then could God Almighty retain any inherent justice in himself, unless he should also exterminate Israel? That was what brought about the tension as one writer calls it, in the heart of God! It was not God's mere reluctance to destroy wicked sinners who richly deserved his wrath, simply because God had fallen in love with them! Such views are unworthy. And the real problem with God in this and the following verses was the necessity of refraining from the extermination of Israel, who deserved it every whit as much as had Sodom and Gomorrah; but there was the larger purpose of redemption to be made available for all mankind; and that was the consideration that overrode the immediate consideration of justice on God's part toward Israel. The vast majority of Israel was exterminated; it was the remnant which was preserved to keep alive the hope of salvation for the world.

As Butler said, "This is the very essence of the gospel! The good news is that God is both just and the Justifier" (Romans 3:21-26).F12 "It was on the Cross that God paid the penalty of sin and satisfied his own justice."F13


 
Verse 9
I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee; and I will not come in wrath.

The sentiment of this verse was fully fulfilled in the amelioration of Israel's punishment, which was reduced from the sentence of death and extermination, which they so richly deserved, even in a greater degree than Sodom and Gomorrah which had received the ultimate penalty, to a lesser sentence of invasion, captivity, dispersion, and the wholesale slaughter of vast numbers of them.

I will not return to destroy Ephraim…
This was rendered by Cheyne as, I will not come to exterminate.F14 Hailey also found exactly this same meaning: He will not completely exterminate Israel.F15 The restoration of Israel which seems to be promised in this passage has its fulfillment in the precious conditions of the New Covenant, available alike to Jew and Gentile. As Polkinghorne observed: The penalty in view here was executed in history, but the restoration is eschatological,F16 which is exactly right, provided that the current era of the kingdom is included in the concept of what is eschatological, the last times as in Acts 2:16-17.


 
Verse 10
They shall walk after Jehovah, who will roar like a lion; for he will roar, and the children shall come trembling from the west.

Mauchline defended this verse against the attack that would make it an interpolation from some later time, saying, "It is undoubtedly difficult, but even more difficult as an interpolation than as a genuine utterance of Hosea."F17

This verse, as Keil noted, not only indicates obedience to the gathering voice of the Lord on Israel's part, but also denotes their, "Walking in true obedience to the Lord which follows from conversion."F18 This verse is therefore a reference to the times of the dispensation of Christ and his holy apostles; and the Israel in view is not the old secular kingdom at all, but the new Israel of the Church of Jesus Christ. "This word is a ray of hope to be realized under the Messiah, through whom they would be called by the gospel to peace and protection `in Him.'"F19 Butler also construed this verse as positively Messianic and noted that the roaring lion as a figure of the Lord is like those of Joel 3:16-17 and Amos 1:2, which is, of course, "A sending forth of the gospel from Jerusalem to all those who will hear and become sons of the covenant in the Messianic age."F20

The children shall come trembling from the west…
West is a very unusual word in Hosea,F21 and despite the fact of most commentators applying it to the Mediterranean area, we believe it applies to people all over the world who would obey the gospel.


 
Verse 11
They shall come trembling as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria; and I will make them to dwell in their houses, saith Jehovah.

"Nothing is said here of their returning to Palestine."F22 The dwelling in "their houses" is used as a metaphor of the blessings in the kingdom of Christ. Keil and others who referred this to a literal return to Palestine are undoubtedly mistaken. "This mercy of God which the prophet foresees is fulfilled in Christ."F23 The physical facts of the situation force this interpretation, because Assyria no longer exists; and we cannot take the "return from Assyria" as figurative, and the entering into their houses as literal.


 
Verse 12
Ephraim compasseth me about with falsehood, and the house of Israel with deceit; but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the Holy One.

The big problem with this verse lies in the fact of Judah's being an essential part of "the house of Israel" which is identified with "deceit" in almost the same sentence. Uncertainties in the text are evidently responsible for the difficulty. Mauchline translated the last sentence of this verse thus:

Judah is still wayward with God,

And is faithful with sacred prostitutes.F24

The New English Bible renders the passage thus:

And Judah is still restive under God,

Still loyal to the idols he counts holy.

It is beyond the scope of our purpose to attempt any resolutions of questions deriving from damaged manuscripts, and we shall leave the matter as uncertain. The two renditions just noted appear to fit what has been repeatedly stated throughout Hosea with regard to Judah.

All of the intimations of some great holiness in the future for Israel in this chapter are to be understood of the New Israel in the kingdom of Christ. This is made starkly clear by a review of Hos. 2 where Gomer's return as a slave to her former home was not the prelude to a remarriage of the prophet with her. There is another wedding, to be sure, but it was to be with the New Israel, not with the old one. That is why Gomer was not mentioned in connection with the nuptial scenes of Hos. 2:14--3:5. She represented the old Israel, not the new.


Footnotes for Hosea 11
1: John Mauchline, Interpreter's Bible. Vol. VI (New York: Abingdon, 1957), p. 688.
2: Jacob M. Myers, Layman's Bible Commentary, Vol. 14 (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1959), p. 58.
3: C. F. Keil, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 10 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 137.
4: W. R. Harper, International Critical Commentary Hosea (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1905), p. 362.
5: Paul T. Butler, Commentary on Minor Prophets (Joplin: College Press, 1968), p. 547.
6: Ibid., p. 545.
7: J. B. Hindley, The New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 713.
8: Ralph L. Smith, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. 7 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1972), p. 50.
9: C. F. Keil, op cit., p. 140.
10: W. R. Harper, op. cit., p. 367.
11: J. J. Given, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 13, Hosea (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 335.
12: Paul T. Butler, op. cit., p. 551.
13: Jacob M. Myers, op. cit., p. 59.
14: Charles F. Pfeiffer, Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962) p. 814.
15: Homer Hailey, Commentary on the Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972), p. 174.
16: G. J. Polkinghorne, The New Layman's Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zonervan Publishing House, 1979), p. 936.
17: John Mauchline, op. cit., p. 691.
18: C. F. Keil, op. cit., p. 142.
19: Homer Hailey, op. cit., p. 175.
20: Paul T. Butler, op. cit., p. 552.
21: John Mauchline, op. cit., p. 691.
22: Homer Hailey, op. cit., p. 175.
23: Paul T. Butler, op. cit., p. 554.
24: John Mauchline, op. cit., p. 692.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Hosea 11". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=ho&chapter=011>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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