on Hosea 6 :11
O Judah, he hath set a harvest for thee - Thou also hast transgressed; thy harvest will come; thou shalt be reaped down and sent into captivity. The sickle is already thrust in. That which thou hast sowed shalt thou reap. They who sow unto the flesh shall reap corruption.
When I returned the captivity of my people - Bp. Newcome translates, "Among those who lead away the captivity of my people." There is thy harvest; they who have led Israel into captivity shall lead thee also into the same. The Assyrians and Babylonians were the same kind of people; equally idolatrous, equally oppressive, equally cruel. From the common reading some suppose this to be a promise of return from captivity. It is true that Judah was gathered together again and brought back to their own land, but the majority of the Israelites did not return, and are not now to be found.
on Hosea 6 :11
Also, O Judah, He hath set a harvest for thee, when I returned - (rather, when I return) the captivity of My people.
The "harvest" may be either for good or for bad. If the harvest is spoken of, as bestowed upon the people, then, as being of chief moment for preserving the life of the body, it is a symbol of all manner of good, temporal or spiritual, bestowed by God. If the people is spoken of, as themselves being the harvest which is ripe and ready to be cut down, then it is a symbol of their being ripe in sin, ready for punishment, to be cut off by God's judgments. In this sense, it is said of Babylon, "Yet a little while, and the time of her harvest shall come" Jeremiah 51:33; and of the pagan, "put ye in the sickle, for their harvest is ripe, for their wickedness is great" Joel 3:13; and of the whole earth, "the harvest of the earth is ripe" Revelation 14:15. Here God must be speaking of a "harvest," which he willed hereafter to give "to" Judah. For the time of the harvest was to be, when He should "return the captivity of His people," restoring them out of their captivity, a time of His favor and of manifold blessings.
A "harvest" then God "appointed for Judah." But when? Not at that time, not for a long, long period, not for any time during the life of man, but at the end of the captivity of 70 years. God promises relief, but after suffering. Yet He casts a ray of light, even while threatening the intermediate darkness. He foreshows to them a future harvest, even while their coming lot was captivity and privation. "Now" Judah, His people, was entangled in the sins of Ephraim, and, like them, was to be punished. Suffering and chastisement were the condition of healing and restoration. But whereas the destruction of the kingdom of Israel was final, and they were no more to be restored as a whole, God who loveth mercy, conveys the threat of impending punishment under the promise of future mercy. He had rich mercies in store for Judah, yet not until after the captivity, when He should again own them as "My people." Meantime, there was withdrawal of the favor of God, distress, and want.
The distinction between Judah and Israel lay in the promise of God to David. "The Lord hath sworn in truth to David, He will not turn from it; of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne" Psalm 132:11. It lay in the counsels of God, but it was executed through those who knew not of those counsels. The ten tribes were carried away by the Assyrians into Media; Judah, by Nebuchadnezzar, into Babylon. The Babylonian empire, which, under Nebuchadnezzar, was the terror of Asia, was but a continuation of the Assyrian, being founded by a revolted Assyrian general. . The seat of empire was removed, the policy was unchanged. In man's sight there was no hope that Babylon would give back her captives, anymore than Assyria, or than the grave would give back her dead. To restore the Jews, was to reverse the human policy, which had removed them; it was to re-create an enemy; strong in his natural position, lying between themselves and Egypt, who could strengthen, if he willed, their great rival.
The mixed multitude of Babylonians and others, whom the king of Assyria had settled in Samaria, in their letter to a successor of Cyrus, appealed to these fears, and induced the impostor Smerdis to interrupt the restoration of Jerusalem. They say; "We have sent and certified the king, that search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers. So shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time, for which cause was this city destroyed" Ezra 4:14-15. The king did find in his records, that Judah had been of old powerful, and had refused the yoke of Babylon. "I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition hath been made therein. There have been mighty kings over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all countries beyond the river, and toll, tribute, and custom, hath been given to them" Ezra 4:19-20.
Conquerors do not think of restoring their slaves, nor of reversing their policy, even when there is no constraining motive to persevere in it. What is done, remains. This policy of transplanting nations, when once begun, was adopted, as a regular part of Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian policy . Yet no case is known, in which the people once removed were permitted to return, save the Jews. But God first foretold, that Cyrus should restore His people and build His temple; then, through people's wills He ordered the overthrow of empires. Cyrus overcame the league against him, and destroyed first the Lydian, then the Babylonian, empire. God then brought to his knowledge the prophecy concerning him, given by Isaiah 178 years before, and disposed his heart to do, what Isaiah had foretold that he should do. "Cyrus made his proclamation throughout all his kingdom."
The terms were ample. "Who is there among you of all His people? His God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is the God) which is in Jerusalem" Ezra 1:3. The proclamation must have reached "the cities of the Medes," where the ten tribes were. But they only, "whose spirit God had raised," returned to their land. Israel remained, of his own free will, behind; and fulfilled unwittingly the prophecy that they should be "wanderers among the nations," while in Judah "the Lord brought again the captivity of His people," and gave them "the harvest" which He had "appointed" for them. A Psalmist of that day speaks of the strangeness of the deliverance to them. "When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream" Psalm 126:1, Psalm 126:5. And primarily of that "bringing" back "the captivity of His people," he uses Hosea's image of the "harvest." "They which sow in tears shall reap in joy." To the eye of the politician, it was an overthrow of empires and convulsion of the world, the herald of further convulsions, by which the new-established empire was in its turn overthrown. In the real, the religious, history of mankind, of far greater moment were those fifty thousand souls, to whom, with Zorobabel of the line of David, Cyrus gave leave to return. In them he fulfilled prophecy, and prepared for that further fulfillment, after his own empire had been long dissolved, and when, from the line of Zorobabel, was that Birth which was promised in Bethlehem of Judah.
on Hosea 6 :11
6:11 He - But God hath appointed an harvest for thee; thou shalt not as Israel be cut off; a seed of thee shall be sowed, and thou shalt reap the harvest with joy.