But Ephraim shall return to Egypt - See on Hosea 8:12; (note).
They shall not dwell in the Lord‘s land. The earth is the Lord‘s and the fulness thereof - Yet He had chosen the land of Canaan, there to place His people; there, above others, to work His miracles; there to reveal Himself; there to send His Son to take our flesh. He had put Israel in possession of it, to hold it under Him on condition of obedience. Contrariwise, God had denounced to them again and again; “if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to possess it” Deuteronomy 30:17-18. The fifth commandment, “the first commandment with promise” Ephesians 5:2, still implies the same condition, “that thy days may be logit in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” God makes the express reserve that the land is His. “The land shall not be sold forever, for the land is Mine, for ye are strangers and sojourners with Me.” Leviticus 25:23. It was then an aggravation of their sin, that they had sinned in God‘s land. It was to sin in His special presence. To offer its first-fruits to idols, was to disown God as its Lord, and to own His adversary. In removing them, then, from His land, God removed them from occasions of sin.
But Ephraim shall return to Egypt - He had broken the covenant, whereon God had promised, that they should not return there (see above the note at Hosea 8:13). They had recourse to Egypt against the will of God. Against their own will, they should be sent back there, in banishment and distress, as of old, and in separation from their God.
And they shall eat unclean things in Assyria - So in Ezekiel, “The children of Israel shall eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them” Ezekiel 4:13. “Not to eat things common or unclean” was one of the marks which God had given them. whereby he distinguished them as His people. While God owned them as His people, He would protect them against such necessity. The histories of Daniel, of Eleazar and the Maccabees (Daniel 1:8; 2 Maccabees 6; 7), show how sorely pious Jews felt the compulsion to eat things unclean. Yet this doubtless Israel had done in his own land, if not in other ways, at least in eating things offered to idols. Now then, through necessity or they were to be forced, for their sustenance to eat tilings unclean, such as were, to them, all things killed with the blood in them, i. e., as almost all things are killed now. They who had willfully transgressed God‘s law, should now be forced to live in the habitual breach of that law, in a matter which placed them on a level with the pagan. People, who have no scruple about breaking God‘s moral law, feel keenly the removal of any distinction, which places them above others. They had been as pagan; they should be in the condition of pagan.