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Verse 4

Hosea 3:4. For the children of Israel shall abide many days Here begins a more plain and full explication of the symbolical action of the prophet, namely, that it signified what should befall the children of Israel; that they should continue many days in a state of captivity; without a king, as the woman continued without a husband; without the means of worshipping God according to the rites of their law; and yet refraining from idolatry, as the woman refrained from unfaithfulness to her betrothed husband. And this prediction was remarkably fulfilled upon the ten tribes, when made captives by Shalmaneser, (compare Hosea 9:4,) and upon the two remaining tribes, after the destruction of their temple and commonwealth by Nebuchadnezzar, and during their captivity in Babylon. This prophecy has also been fulfilled upon the whole nation of the Jews, from the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus unto this day. From that time, they have had no republic, or civil government of their own; but have lived everywhere like so many exiles, only upon sufferance; they have had neither priest nor sacrifice, their temple being destroyed where only they were to offer sacrifices: and yet the want of a place where to perform the most solemn parts of their public worship, does not tempt them to idolatry, or make them fond of image-worship, or any such idolatrous practice, which was the epidemical sin of their forefathers. This seems the general import of this remarkable prophecy; but the several expressions must be more particularly explained. Without a king Namely of their own; and without a prince Without any civil magistrate of their own with supreme authority. And without a sacrifice Deprived of the means of offering the typical sacrifices of the law, and having, as yet, no share in the true sacrifice of Christ. And without an image Or, as the LXX. and Vulgate read, without an altar. The Hebrew word, מצבה , here rendered image, seems properly to signify those pillars, which, in the patriarchal ages, were erected to the honour of God, and used as altars. Thus we read, Genesis 28:18, that Jacob, after the divine vision he had had, took the stone that he had put for his pillow, and set it up for a PILLAR, (Hebrew, מצבה , the same word which is used here,) and poured oil upon the top of it; that is, he made an altar of it to pour out a libation upon it, as a token of gratitude for the vision with which he had been favoured, and to ratify, in a solemn manner, his resolution of serving Jehovah. And again, Genesis 35:14, we find the same word rendered pillar twice, and used in the same sense. And without an ephod The ephod being one principal part of the high-priest’s garments of consecration and of service, the saying here, that the children of Israel should be without an ephod, seems to signify, that they should be without a high-priest to minister in the priest’s office. And without teraphim Those interpreters who suppose that the different words here used denote the several ways of lawful worship practised among God’s ancient people, and the means they used of inquiring after the will of God, understand the word teraphim here as signifying the same with the Urim and Thummim, or the oracle placed in the breast-plate of the high-priest; which they think is fitly joined with the ephod, that being often put for the whole priestly habit, and used when there was occasion of consulting God by the high-priest: see 1 Samuel 23:9; 1 Samuel 30:7. This interpretation is followed by the LXX., and it makes an easy and natural sense of the text, namely, that God would deprive the Jews of the principal offices, for the enjoyment of which they chiefly valued themselves, namely, that of the priesthood, and that of prophecy. The Jews had no succession of prophets, for a considerable time before Christ’s coming; and both kingdom and priesthood were taken away, within forty years after Christ’s death.

The word teraphim, however, evidently signifies images, Genesis 31:34, and, it seems, is used of idol-images, Judges 17:5; and some commentators of great note understand it in the same sense here, and indeed interpret also the two preceding expressions as intended of the worship of idols. Thus Archbishop Newcome, “My opinion is, that the teraphim were objects of idolatrous worship; and such, in their state of captivity, the Israelites would not harbour.” Thus also Bishop Horsley, “After much consideration of this passage, and of much that has been written upon it by expositors, I rest in the opinion strenuously maintained by the learned Pocock, in which he agrees with many that went before him, and has the concurrence of many that came after, Luther, Calvin, Vetablus, Drusius, Houbigant, and Archbishop Newcome, with many others of inferior note; I rest, I say, in the opinion, that statue, ephod, and teraphim, are mentioned as principal implements of idolatrous rites. And the sum of this 4th verse is this; that for many ages the Jews would not be their own masters; would be deprived of the exercise of their own religion, in its most essential parts; not embracing the Christian, they would have no share in the true service; and yet would be restrained from idolatry, to which their forefathers had been so prone.” As a confirmation of this interpretation, the bishop observes, that this 4th verse is the exposition of the type of the prophet’s conduct toward his wife; and that, if the restriction of the Jews from idolatry is not mentioned, we have nothing in the exposition answering to that article, Thou shalt not play the harlot.” “This is surely a most astonishing prophecy of events directly contrary to all human probability; yet undeniably taking place, not on a particular occasion, or for a short time, but through very many revolving centuries. How could Hosea have foreseen this, had not God inspired him? And does not this demonstrate the divine inspiration of this prophecy?” Scott.

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