This chapter begins with threatening the Israelites for ensnaring the people to idolatry by their sacrifices and other rites on Mizpah and Tabor, 1-5. Their sacrifices, however costly, are declared to be unacceptable, 6; and their substance is devoted to the locust, 7. Nor is judgment to stop here. The cities of Judah are called upon, in a very animated manner, to prepare for the approach of enemies. Benjamin is to be pursued; Ephraim is to be desolate; and all this is intimated to Israel, that they may by repentance avert the judgment, 8, 9. The following verses contain farther denunciations, 10-13, expressed in terms equally terrible and sublime, 14. The Lordafflicts not willingly the children of men; he visits them with temporal calamities that he may heal their spiritual malady, 15.
Verse 2. "The revolters are profound to make slaughter" - Here may be a reference to the practice of hunters, making deep pits in the ground, and lightly covering them over, that the beasts, not discovering them, might fall in, and become a prey.
"Though I have been a Rebuker" - "I will bring chastisement on them all." As they have made victims of others to their idolatry, I will make victims of them to my justice. Some have thought that as many as wished to depart from the idolatrous worship set up by Jeroboam, were slaughtered; and thus Jeroboam the son of Nebat MADE Israel to sin.
Verse 3. "I know Ephraim" - I know the whole to be idolaters.
Verse 4. "They will not frame their doings" - They never purpose to turn to God, they have fully imbibed the spirit of idolatry.
Verse 5. "The pride of Israel doth testify to his face" - The effrontery with which they practise idolatry manifests, not only their insolence, but the deepdepravity of their heart; but their pride and arrogance shall be humbled.
Verse 6. "They shall go with their flocks" - They shall offer many sacrifices, professing to seek and be reconciled to the Lord; but they shall not find him. As they still retain the spirit of their idolatry, he has withdrawn himself from them.
"After thee, O Benjamin" - An abrupt call of warning. "Benjamin, fly for thy life! The enemy is just behind thee!" This is a prediction of the invasion of the Assyrians, and the captivity of the ten tribes.
Verse 9. "Among the tribes of Israel have I made known" - They have got sufficient warning; it is their own fault that they have not taken it.
Verse 10. "Like them that remove the bound" - As execrable as they who remove the land-mark. They have leaped over law's enclosure, and scaled all the walls of right; they have despised and broken all laws, human and Divine.
Verse 11. "Walked after the commandment." - Jeroboam's commandment to worship his calves at Dan and Beth-el. Many of them were not forced to do this, they did it willingly.
Verse 12. "Unto Ephraim as a moth" - I will consume them by little and little, as a moth frets a garment.
"King Jareb" - This name occurs nowhere in Scripture but here and in chap. x. 6. The Vulgate and Targum render bry yareb, an avenger, a person whom they thought able to save them from their enemies. It is well known that Menahem, king of Israel, sought alliance with Pul and Tiglath-pileser, kings of Assyria, and Ahaz, king of Judah. These were the protectors that Ephraim sought after. See 2 Kings xv. and xvi. But far from healing them by making them tributary, the Assyrians made their wound more dangerous.
Verse 14. "l will be-as a lion" - lj¨k cashshachel, as a panther or lioness.
Verse 15. "I will go and return to my place" - I will abandon them till they acknowledge their offenses. This had the wished-for effect, as we shall see in the following chapter; for they repented and turned to God, and he had mercy upon them. These two verses are considered as instances of the true sublime.