on Hosea 14 :5
I will be as the dew unto Israel - On these metaphors I gladly avail myself of the elegant and just observations of Bp. Lowth. "These verses (Hosea 14:5-7) contain gracious promises of God's favor and blessings upon Israel's conversion. In the fifth verse, it is described by that refreshment which copious dews give to the grass in summer. If we consider the nature of the climate, and the necessity of dews in so hot a country, not only to refresh, but likewise to preserve life; if we consider also the beauty of the oriental lilies, the fragrance of the cedars which grow upon Lebanon, the beauteous appearance which the spreading olive trees afforded, the exhilarating coolness caused by the shade of such trees, and the aromatic smell exhaled by the cedars; we shall then partly understand the force of the metaphors here employed by the prophet; but their full energy no one can conceive, till he feels both the want, and enjoys the advantage, of the particulars referred to in that climate where the prophet wrote." - Lowth's twelfth and nineteenth prelection; and Dodd on the place.
What a glorious prophecy! What a wonderful prophet! How sublime, how energetic, how just! The great master prophet, Isaiah, alone could have done this better. And these promises are not for Israel merely after the flesh; they are for all the people of God. We have a lot and portion in the matter; God also places his love upon us. Here the reader must feel some such sentiment as the shepherd in Virgil, when enraptured with the elegy which his associate had composed on their departed friend. The phraseology and metaphors are strikingly similar; and therefore I shall produce it.
Tale tuum carmen nobis, divine poeta,
Quale sopor fesses in gramine, quale per aestum
Dulcis aquae saliente sitim restinguere rivo.
Nec calamis solum aequiparas, sed voce magistrum.
Fortunate puer! tu nunc eris alter ab illo.
Nos tamen haec quocunque modo tibi nostra vicissim
Dicemus, Daphninque tuum tollemus ad astra:
Daphnin ad astra feremus: amavit nos quoque Daphnis.
Virgil. Ecl. v., ver. 45.
"O heavenly poet, such thy verse appears,
So sweet, so charming to my ravish'd ears,
As to the weary swain with cares oppress'd,
on Hosea 14 :5
I will be as the dew unto Israel - Before, He had said, "his spring shall become dry and his fountain shall be dried up" Hosea 13:15. Now again He enlarges the blessing; their supply shall be unfailing, for it shall be from God; yea, God Himself shall be that blessing; "I will be the dew; descending on the mown grass" Psalm 72:6, to quicken and refresh it; descending, Himself, into the dried and parched and sere hearts of men, as He saith, "We will come unto him and make Our abode in him" John 14:23. The grace of God, like the dew, is not given once for all, but is, day by day, waited for, and, day by day, renewed. Yet doth it not pass away, like the fitful goodness John 6:4 of God's former people, but turns into the growth and spiritual substance of those on whom it descends.
He shall grow as the lily - No one image can exhibit the manifold grace of God in those who are His own, or the fruits of that grace. So the prophet adds one image to another, each supplying a distinct likeness of a distinct grace or excellence. The "lily" is the emblem of the beauty and purity of the soul in grace; the "cedar" of Lebanon, of its strength and deep-rootedness, its immovableness and uprightness; the evergreen "olive tree" which "remaineth in its beauty both winter and summer," of the unvarying presence of Divine Grace, continually, supplying an eversustained freshness, and issuing in fruit; and the fragrance of the aromatic plants with which the lower parts of Mount Lebanon are decked, of its loveliness and sweetness; as a native explains this , "he takes a second comparison from Mount Lebanon for the abundance of aromatic things and odoriferous flowers."
Such are the myrtles and lavender and the odoriferous reed; from which "as you enter the valley" (between Lebanon and Anti-lebanon) "straightway the scent meets you." All these natural things are established and well-known symbols of things spiritual. The lily, so called in Hebrew from its dazzling whiteness, is, in the Canticles Sol 2:1-2, the emblem of souls in which Christ takes delight. The lily multiplies exceedingly : yet hath it a weak root and soon fadeth. The prophet, then, uniteth with these, plants of unfading green, and deep root. The seed which "had no root," our Lord says, "withered away" Matthew 13:6, as contrariwise, Paul speaks of these, who are "rooted and grounded in love" Ephesians 3:17, and of being "rooted and built up in Christ" Colossians 2:7. The widespreading branches are an emblem of the gradual growth and enlargement of the Church, as our Lord says, "It becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof" Matthew 13:32.
The symmetry of the tree and its outstretched arms express, at once, grace and protection. Of the "olive" the Psalmist says, "I am like a green olive tree in the house Of God" Psalm 52:8; and Jeremiah says, "The Lord called thy name a green olive tree, fair and of goodly fruit" Jeremiah 11:16; and of "fragrance" the spouse says in the Canticles, "because of the savor of Thy good ointments, Thy name is as ointment poured forth" Sol 1:3; and the Apostle says, "thanks be to God, which maketh manifest the savor of His knowledge by us in every place" 2 Corinthians 2:14. Deeds of charity also are "an odor of good smell" Philippians 4:18; the prayers of the saints also are "sweet odors" Revelation 5:8. All these are the fruits of the Spirit of God who says, "I will be as the dew unto Israel." Such reunion of qualities, being beyond nature, suggests the more, that, that, wherein they are all combined, the future Israel, the Church, shall flourish with graces beyond nature, in their manifoldness, completeness, unfadingness.
on Hosea 14 :5
14:5 As the dew - I will refresh and comfort, and make fruitful in good works, such as return to me. As Lebanon - As the cedars in Lebanon, so shall the true Israel, converted backsliders, be blessed of God: so flourishing and happy shall the church be under Christ.