O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? - This is the answer of the Lord to the above pious resolutions; sincere while they lasted, but frequently forgotten, because the people were fickle. Their goodness (for goodness it was while it endured) was like the morning cloud that fadeth away before the rising sun, or like the early dew which is speedily evaporated by heat. Ephraim and Judah had too much goodness in them to admit of their total rejection, and too much evil to admit of their being placed among the children. Speaking after the manner or men, the justice and mercy of Good seem puzzled how to act toward them. When justice was about to destroy them for their iniquity, it was prevented by their repentance and contrition: when mercy was about to pour upon them as penitents its choicest blessings, it was prevented by their fickleness and relapse! These things induce the just and merciful God to exclaim, "O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee?" The only thing that could be done in such a case was that which God did.
O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? - It is common with the prophets, first to set forth the fullness of the riches of God‘s mercies in Christ, and then to turn to their own generation, and upbraid them for the sins which withheld the mercies of God from “them,” and were hurrying them to their destruction. In like way Isaiah, Romans 13:10, Romans 13:8. And, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” 1 John 4:7. Of this their goodness, he says the character was, that it never lasted. The “morning cloud” is full of brilliancy with the rays of the rising sun, yet quickly disappears through the heat of that sun, which gave it its rich hues. The “morning dew” glitters in that same sun, yet vanishes almost as soon as it appears. Generated by the cold of the night, it appears with the dawn; yet appears, only to disappear. So it was with the whole Jewish people; so it ever is with the most hopeless class of sinners; ever beginning anew, ever relapsing; ever making a show of leaves, good feelings, good aspirations, but yielding no fruit. “There was nothing of sound, sincere, real, lasting goodness in them;” no reality, but all show; quickly assumed, quickly disused.
From generation to generation the Lord had borne with His wayward children, and even now, in the face of defiant rebellion, He still longed to reveal Himself to them as willing to save. “O Ephraim,” He cried, “what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.” Hosea 6:4. PK 285.1
The evils that had overspread the land had become incurable; and upon Israel was pronounced the dread sentence: “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.” “The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come; Israel shall know it.” Hosea 4:17; 9:7. PK 285.2
The ten tribes of Israel were now to reap the fruitage of the apostasy that had taken form with the setting up of the strange altars at Bethel and at Dan. God's message to them was: “Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off; Mine anger is kindled against them: how long will it be ere they attain to innocency? For from Israel was it also: the workman made it; therefore it is not God: but the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces.” “The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Beth-aven: for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it.... It shall be also carried unto Assyria for a present to King Jareb” (Sennacherib). Hosea 8:5, 6; 10:5, 6. PK 285.3Read in context »