Mental assent to returning is not enough, part of faith in action is repentance in action. In fact, devoid of repentance in action faith is worthless.
Verses 13-15 of the previous chapter speak of the sickness (wounds) of Ephraim and Judah and their tearing apart as prey to HaShem (likened to a Lion and a Young Llion). The chapter concludes with a redemptive promise concerning a state of distress, that results in genuine repentance before the LORD. As we continue, we see the counterpoints to wounding and tearing in the healing and binding (bandaging) of Ephraim and Judah described in the first verse of the current chapter.
1“Le’chu, let’s walk ve’nashuvah and return el YHVH (Mercy) to the Lord.
Kiy For Hu He has taraf torn, ve’yirpaeinu He will heal us; He has yach struck, veyachbesheinu He will bind (bandage) us.
1“Come, let’s return to the Lord.
For He has torn us, but He will heal us;
He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
a. “Let us return” is the repentant cry that activates the promised mercy.
b. “LORD”, and the multiple repetitions of “He” establish for the reader (hearer) the Omnipotence of God.
c. “He has torn” and “He has wounded” regard the practical discipline of the LORD which intends to provoke godly sorrow and repentance.
d. “He will heal” and “He will bind” regard His healing work within the spirit and His touch of restoration in the physical.
This opening phrase is pretexted in the Targum Yonatan by the words, “They shall say” referring to those in distress (5:15) in the preceding verse. The Targum reads:
“They shall say ‘Let us return to the worship of the LORD.”
What is certain is that the voice is human and Israelite, a call from one or more of the people to the collective asking all to return to YHVH.
“Let’s walk” has both a physical application and a spiritual one. Halakhah (the way we walk) is the practical outworking of faith that is determined by the inner conviction of the soul.
The Hebrew does not say “Come let’s return” but “Let’s walk and return”. The text is enforcing the idea that mental assent to returning is not enough, part of faith in action is repentance in action. In fact, devoid of repentance in action faith is worthless.
Rashi says that the Hebrew “yach” is present tense and the text therefore reads, “He strikes us, He binds us up.”
It is YHVH Who both destroys and makes alive:
“See now that I, I am He, and no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither can any deliver out of My hand.” -Devarim (Deut.) 32:39
“Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD binds up the breach of his people, and heals the stroke of their wound.” -Yishayahu (Isaiah) 30:26
The Hebrew chabash (bind) is often used to refer to bandaging wounds and should not be presumed to refer to restraint. Misunderstanding this for example leads many to misinterpret Yeshua’s revelation to Peter and the disciples regarding their role as gatekeepers of the kingdom and the authority to bind and loose (Matt. 16:15-19).
Iben Ezra alludes to the fact that the ancient practice of binding wounds included softening the wound with oil prior to binding it. There is a significant link to the work of the Holy Spirit in the healing process.
2 Yechayeinu He will give us life mi-yomayim from two days; bayom in the day hashliyshiy the third yekimeinu He will raise us up, ve’nichyeh that we may live lepanayv before His face.
2 He will revive us after two days;
He will raise us up on the third day,
That we may live before Him.
a. “Two days” and “third day” refer to the progression of a grouping of days, and coupled with “revive” denote the temporal restoration of the people, and “raise” their resurrection.
b. “That we may live before Him” reveals both the outcome and the One Who made the outcome possible.
As I have stated elsewhere in my commentary the repetition of terms in Hebrew poetic phrasing such as this intends synonymous or intrinsically linked ideas. This gives emphasis to the same concept by repeating it in multiples.
The progression of days from two to three denotes two points, the first referring to a revival (awareness) and the second, a final resurrection (life being the result). The revival refers to the first coming of Messiah which occurred following the two figurative (days) captivities of Israel (Egyptian captivity, and Babylonian exile) and the conclusion of the third day refers to that time yet future when Messiah will return and the revival of the entire Jewish people (Israel) will occur convergent with the resurrection of the latter days. This is consistent with the commentary of Kimchi who makes a correlation between these verses and the three captivities of Egypt, Babylon and the present diaspora. Kimchi notes that the Jewish people await Ben Melekh (Son of a king) the Messiah Who will raise us up and bring us comfort.
Therefore, the obvious implication is that the future revival of Israel is intrinsically connected to a resurrection that occurs after three days, and the result of that miraculous event will be that Israel is able to live before God’s face in intimate relationship. Put plainly, Messiah Yeshua will revive us in three (historical, figurative) days (through His death and resurrection) and make it possible for us to be forgiven and restored to intimate holy relationship with YHVH the God of Israel.
The Targum Yonatan reads:
"He will quicken us in the days of consolation which are to come, and in the day of the resurrection of the dead he will raise us up;''
Ultimately, what we are reading here is the promise of God to restore all chosen, ethnic, religious, empirical Israel (the modern Jewish people descended from Yaakov) to Himself through the death and resurrection of the Jewish King Messiah Yeshua (Romans 11:15-36)
3 Veneidah And learn to know nirdefah following after lada’at to know et-YHVH the particular Lord. Keshachar Like the dawn nachaon firmly established motzau is His going forth; veyavo And He will come chageshem like the rain lanu to us, kemalkosh as the latter rain, yoreh as spring rain aretz upon land.”
3 So let’s learn, let’s press on to know the Lord.
His appearance is as sure as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
As the spring rain waters the earth.”
a. “Learn to know” and “press on to know” establish the need for repentant people to apply the knowledge of God.
b. “The LORD”, “His appearance” and “He will come” are supported by the physical reality of the rising sun, the seasonal cycle, and the perpetual precipitation of the created order.
The Sefaria English translation renders the Hebrew “ve’neidah” (and learn to know) as “obedience”. The knowledge being spoken of here is applied knowledge.
In ancient times the seasons were understood to have an almost immutable quality. Therefore, when Hebrew poetic/prophetic language likens the appearance of God to the dawn and to the rains that provide living waters to the land, it is saying that God’s coming to His people with healing and revival is certain, firmly established. His love and intimate knowledge of His creation is, for the creation, as reliable as the rising sun, the seasonal cycle, and the perpetual precipitation of the created order.
Iben Ezra focuses on the fact that it is knowledge of the Holy Name YHVH that will bring about Israel’s truly holy state of being. He is in fact, without knowing it, referring to the revelation of Yeshua the King Messiah.
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved.” -Acts 4:12 NASB
"we shall know him, and it will be as clear to us as the light of the morning without clouds:'' -Yosef Kimchi
4 Mah What e’eseh-lecha shall I fashion with you, Efrayim (doubly fruitful)? Mah What e’eseh-lecha shall I fashion with you, Y’hudah (praise)? Vechasdechem And your kindness, faithfulness, practical love ka’anan-boker is like a morning cloud, vechatal night mist mashkiym that rises early and holeich goes away quickly.
4 What shall I do with you, Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, Judah?
For your loyalty is like a morning cloud,
And like the dew which goes away early.
a. “Ephraim” the northern kingdom.
b. “Judah” the southern kingdom.
c. “Ephraim” and “Judah” are all the tribes of Israel combined.
d. “Loyalty” as a single quality is in this case perpetually unreliable “morning cloud”, “dew”, and “goes away early”.
Sadly Israel’s good intentions did not last. HaShem’s response points out the hypocrisy of Israel’s claim to have understood her need to seek Him in true knowledge and thus be sure of His mercy. The response of God to His people is worded in such a way as to expose their hypocrisy as verbal assent to an idea rather than the application of true repentance. Whereas God’s coming in mercy is as reliable as the dawn, all Israel’s so called “loyalty” is as reliable as a quickly evaporating morning cloud/mist, like the dew which lasts only until the sun has risen.
God’s light exposes the brevity of Israel’s so called “repentance”.
5 Al-kein Therefore chatzavtiy I have quarried them baneviyiym by the prophets; haragtiym the slayings are be’imreiy-fiy in the speaking of My mouth; umishpateycha and the judgments on you or are a light yeitzei going forth.
5 Therefore I have cut them in pieces by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of My mouth;
And the judgments on you are like the light that [b]shines.
a. “Cut” and “slain” refer to established discipline following fair warning.
b. “Prophets” and “Words of My mouth” are intrinsically linked.
c. “Judgements” and “light shining forth” denote a clear and just revelation and manifest application of God’s discipline. Remembering that His Mercy precedes His judgement and is the fruit of it.
The prophets of God (Amos, Micah, Isaiah, Hosea) had been filled with and had publicly proclaimed the Word of YHVH as a means of quarrying out the righteous remnant from among the worthless rock of the wider community. The Word of YHVH will manifest in the physical, coming to pass with the slaying of the wicked and the revelation that His judgement is righteous, and is seen by all.
6 Kiy For chesed kindness, faithfulness, practical love chafatztiy I delight in, velo and not zavach sacrifice, ve’da’at And the knowledge of Elohiym (God, Judge) meiolot from whole burnt offerings.
6 For I [c]desire loyalty rather than sacrifice,
And the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
a. “Kindness, practical love” and “the knowledge (intimacy) of God the Judge” link intimate knowledge with relational love in their applied forms.
b. “Sacrifice” and “burnt offerings” here refer to defiled sacrifice and apostate offerings.
As I understand the Hebrew text the best reading of it is: “For kindness, faithfulness, practical love I delight in, and not (defiled) sacrifice, and knowledge of God, the Judge from whole burnt offerings.”
In short, this is not saying that God desires faithfulness and knowledge of Him in place of sacrifice and offering but that faithful love for Him is better than defiled sacrifices, and knowledge of Him is evidenced in the right application of burnt offerings.
The sacrifices and burnt offerings being spoken of here are the defiled and syncretised sacrifices mixing worship of YHVH with other gods. This text is not contradicting the Torah sacrificial system, nor is it saying that properly offered sacrifices and offerings are unpleasing to God, to the contrary, loyalty to God and knowledge of Him result in appropriate sacrifice and offering. In Messiah we are instructed to offer our body’s as a living sacrifice to God, and in whatever we do, be it word or deed, to do it in the name, identity, and character of the Lord Yeshua our Messiah, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3:17).
7 Veheimah And in the same way ke’adam as Adam (the first man) averu they have missed the mark, violated the veriyt covenant; sham there bagedu they have acted deceitfully viy toward Me.
7 But like [d]Adam they have violated the covenant;
There they have dealt treacherously with Me.
a. “Adam” and “dealt treacherously” are the couplet that reminds the reader/hearer of humanity’s decision to disobey God and allow sin to enter the world and death with it.
b. “Violated the covenant” and “Me” show the connection between the covenant Maker God and those who enter into covenant (agreement) with Him.
“Like Adam” does not mean that Adam the first man violated a written or blood atoned covenant, no such covenant was made between God and Adam. Covenant is used here in the sense of the root meaning of “bara” (cutting, eating, agreement) and denoting agreement between two persons or groups of people. In Adam’s case he and Chavah ate of the fruit of garden in agreement with the Creator. Through relationship this agreement (covenant) was implied, thus by eating of the fruit which they had agreed (covenanted) not to eat, they broke covenant with God.
In the same way that the first man and subsequently mankind have chosen to act by missing the mark (which is what the Hebrew “averu” means), of The Covenant established by God’s all existing holiness (predates Exodus 19:5, Torah), Israel has despised the written covenant of Sinai.
We note that the covenant entered into at Sinai at the revealing of the Torah of HaShem was unanimously agreed to by the people of Israel (Exodus 24:3). We further observe that the Torah was given as the physical, written and lasting measure by which sin is exposed. The Torah is a legal document that is therefore used to indict sinners. God’s holiness is all existing and is the ultimate reference point for determining Good from Evil. Therefore, the measure by which we determine Good and Evil predates the written Torah and makes Adam (the first man, and humanity as a whole) culpable in regard to the choice to sin against God’s holiness (the mark).
“There” refers to the land of Israel and may infer a correlation between the sin of Ephraim and Judah to that sin which occurred in the valley of Achor (named after the sin of Achan who stole items dedicated to destruction from the ruins of Jericho; Joshua 7). We note that it is God’s intention to turn the valley of Achor (trouble) into a door of hope (Hosea 2:15).
God had brought the tribes of Israel, from Egypt, to Sinai (Covenant of Torah) and into ha-aretz (the Land). Therefore, having been delivered from captivity, given covenant law and carried into a land of abundance, Israel, once comfortable in the land had dealt treacherously with the One Who had given them all this.
“In a good land where I settled them, there they betrayed Me, like Adam, whom I brought into the Garden of Eden, and he transgressed My commandment. [from Gen. Rabbah]” -Rashi
"and in the good land, which I gave unto them to do my will, they have dealt falsely with my word.'' -Targum Yonatan
8 Gil’ad (witness heap) kiryat is a city po’aleiy of makers of aven iniquity, wickedness, idolatry. akubah insidious, slippery, polluted midam from blood.
8 Gilead is a city of wrongdoers,
Tracked with bloody footprints.
a. “Gilead” meaning “witness heap” testifies as a witness against its own vile sin.
b. “Iniquity” is linked to “slippery blood” an denotes a city in which murder and idolatrous sacrifices have resulted in the shedding of so much blood that the ground is slippery with it.
The city Gilead in Gad (territory of the tribe of Gad) was the capital of the wider region of Gilead. The wider region covered area near and beyond the Jordan river, and was inhabited by Gad, Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh; and thus belonged to the ten tribes of the north.
The city of Gilead is thought to be Ramot-Gilead, a city of refuge inhabited by priests, both apostate and Levite. This made the sin of the city even more deplorable given that the priests and Levites had knowledge of the Torah but had clearly not properly conveyed that knowledge to the wider community.
While the polluting of blood can refer to murder and idolatrous sacrifices, it can also denote bloodguilt brought on the city by the misapplication of the law of refuge. It may be that murderers guilty of premeditated murder were being given refuge contrary to the law, or that those guilty of accidental killing were being given over to the avenger of blood rather than being protected by the city of refuge in accordance with Torah law*.
*The Bible names the six cities as being cities of refuge: Golan, Ramot-Gilead and Bosor, on the east of the Jordan river (Left bank) [Deut. 4:43; Josh. 20:8], and Kedesh, Shechem, and Hebron on the west bank of the Jordan river [Joshua 20:7].
9 Uchechakeiy And like robbers lying in wait for iysh a man gedudiym as a group, chever a company kohaniym of priests yeratztzechu commit murder on the way to Shechmah (Shechem, shoulder/back); kiy Surely zimah (premeditation) they have planned asu to fashion evil.
9 And as a band of robbers lie in wait for a person,
So a band of priests murder on the way to Shechem;
Certainly they have committed an act of infamy.
a. “robbers” and “priests” are seen as synonymous.
b. “lie in wait” and “way to Shechem” are considered synonymous.
This verse describes priests who acting like robbers not only murder others on their way to make sacrifices (perform religious acts), but do so with premeditation. Therefore, they have exceeded even the depravity of the godless nations that surrounded Israel. They have not stumbled upon evil, they have planned it.
“On the way to Shechem” can be understood to refer to those who are murdered. They are those who are passing through Shechem on their way to Jerusalem to worship the LORD at one of the Regaliym/Aliyot (going up festivals: Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot).
Some understand the verse to read “As a band of robbers wait to pounce on a person, so priests are murdered on the way to Shechem, certainly they have planned to do this evil.”
*We note that Shechem was also a city of refuge and that the blood guilt on the city of Ramot-Gilead is extended to Shechem and the priests associated with that city.
Shechem rests in the valley between Mt Ebal (bald) and Mt Gerizim (Cuttings off) where the Curses (Ebal) and Blessings (Gerizim) were pronounced over Israel as she entered the land (Deut. 11:29; 27; 28; Joshua 8:30-35).
10 Be’beiyt In the house Yisrael (overcome in God) raiytiy I have seen sha’aruriyah an opening to horror, dread, storm; sham there zenut fornication, harlotry le’Efrayim to Ephraim, nitma uncleanness, defilement in Yisrael.
10 In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing;
Ephraim’s infidelity is there, Israel has defiled itself.
a. “House of Israel” and “Ephraim” join the northern tribes to the house from which their kingship had originated.
b. “Horrible thing”, “Infidelity (sexual sin)” and “defiled herself” link the abhorrent sight of sexual sin to its repercussions. Thus, as mentioned in my commentary prior to this, sexual sin is self-harm.
The horror in Israel resulting from her infidelity, mixes idolatry and sexual sin. The calves set up at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:25-33) mirrored the calf worshipped at the foot of Sinai (Exodus 32) and represented the ultimate affront to the covenant of YHVH. The spiritual fornication of the worship of false gods overflowed into physical sexual immorality and was mingled with the blood of the innocent in orgies of vile apostate religion. All this Israel had chosen while wilfully turning her back on HaShem.
11 Gam Also, Y’hudah, shat there is set katziyr a harvest lach for you, beshuviy in My returning you shevut from captivity Amiy My people.
11 Also, Judah, there is a harvest appointed for you,
When I restore the fortunes of My people.
a.“Judah” is not immune to sin, there is a judgement coming upon the southern kingdom also (Babylonian exile). However, “Harvest” represents both judgement outworked and redemption made full.
b.“Return” the LORD will return Judah from exile.
The meaning of this verse is beautifully complex and denotes both judgement (Harvest: Joel 3:13; Matt. 13:30-39) and salvation (Harvest: Isaiah 9:3; Luke 10:2; Matt.9:38) through returning (repentance).
The English translation “When I restore the fortunes of My people” is ineffective. The Hebrew text literally reads “In My returning you from captivity My people”. The Hebrew is saying, “When I personally return you through judgement and harvest from captivity, you My people.”
We note that both the harvest of judgement and the harvest of returning are associated to Judah specifically and will benefit all Israel. In other words, the judgement and restoration will come through Judah. This initially refers to the Babylonian exile and the subsequent return of all the tribes of Israel to Judea where they collectively become known as Y’hudim (Jews). However, it ultimately refers to the deliverance of Israel from sin through the King Messiah born of Judah, and the fullness of the redemption of all ethnic, chosen, religious, empirical Israel through Yeshua at the end of days (Romans 11:15-36).
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.