An Earnest Invitation and a Further Admonition.

Having stated his threat in a most uncompromising form, the prophet adds a powerful appeal to the people of his nation to heed the warning of the Lord and to accept His mercy. V. 1. Come and let us return unto the Lord, the appeal being to seek the Lord in agreement with the last statement of the preceding chapter, for He hath torn, by the punishments for sin which He sent upon them, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, so that they were suffering with wounds, and He will bind us up. Even if the Lord does not always send punishments in the same degree as those which He visited upon Israel, He has a most impressive way of administering correction. The hammer of the Law must smite and soften the hard hearts before the gentle message of the Gospel may find entrance. V. 2. After two days will He revive us, the early and certain return of His love being promised to a repentant people; in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight. Cp. Deut. 32, 39. V. 3. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord, or, "Therefore let us understand, follow after the knowledge of Jehovah!" for such pursuit, on the basis of true faith, was bound to have results. His going forth is prepared as the morning, as sure as the dawn comes, the Lord will return, bringing salvation; and He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth, as welcome and as fruitful as these two rainy seasons were for the harvest of Palestine. But from this pleasing picture, promising the mercy of Jehovah to all those who repent, the prophet must once more abruptly turn to his doleful cry. V. 4. O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? Cp. Is. 5, 4. What more was to be done in a case of this kind? For your goodness is as a morning cloud, their godliness and brotherly love passing away just as quickly, and as the early dew it goeth away, there was nothing durable and stable about it; it vanished away upon close inspection. V. 5. Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets, endeavoring to give them the right shape; I have slain them by the words of My mouth, in most emphatic rebukes; and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth, that is, the Lord's judgment upon the apostate people was so obvious that every one had to admit its source and object. V. 6. For I desired mercy and not sacrifice, the true piety of the heart rather than a mere outward form of worship, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. Cp. Matt. 9, 13; 12, 7. To have a form and shell of godliness, but to deny its substance, is the essence of hypocrisy. V. 7. But they, the people whom the prophet is rebuking, like men, rather, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant, this statement being a testimony to the historical character of the first man and his transgression of God's command; there have they dealt treacherously against Me, in a faithless rejection of the one God of their salvation. V. 8. Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, the entire province being a gathering-place of wicked people, and is polluted with blood, so that the entire district east of Jordan was guilty in the sight of God. V. 9. And as troops of robbers wait for a man, lying in ambush in order to fall upon the unsuspecting traveler unawares, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent, for they commit lewdness, or, "they murder on the way to Shechem," surprising the travelers and cutting them down in cold blood, probably as they sought refuge there, or as they were on their way to Bethel with rich sacrificial gifts. V. 10. I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel, abominable things happening in the northern kingdom; there is the whoredom of Ephraim, its shameful idolatry; Israel is defiled, namely, as the result of such unparalleled transgressions. V. 11. Also, O Judah, He hath set an harvest for thee, the harvest of the judgment of the Lord being prepared, when I returned the captivity of My people. The great misery of the entire nation of the Jews could be changed only by means of God's judgments of punishment, through which the godless would be destroyed and those who repented would be saved. To this day the only way for any person to be acceptable in the sight of God is by repentance and faith.