Hosea was a prophet called to speak to the Northern Kingdom, and although the book is fairly short (14 chapters), Hosea’s ministry was not (more than 70 years). Israel’s Northern kingdom had grown both prosperous and idolatrous, and Hosea was called in to remind them of their unfaithfulness.
The prophecies of Hosea continue in relevance and importance today. Simultaneously, as a culture grows prosperous, the heart grows idolatrous – and quickly forgets about God and the eternal things to come.
Burroughs writes, “It is easy for a minister of God to deal plainly with people in the time of adversity, but when men are in their pride and jollity, to deal faithfully with them is very difficult. That their great prosperity raised up and hardened their hearts with pride against the prophet appears plainly” (5-6).
Jeremiah Burroughs (c. 1600-1646)
Recently, Reformation Heritage Books, Inc. reprinted Jeremiah Burroughs classic commentary: An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea. Burroughs remains one of the most popular Puritan writers because of his warm devotional heart, keen exegetical eye, and sensitive perception to the sinful human heart. And these skills mark every page of his commentary.
Here is just one example.
Early in the commentary, Burroughs displays tremendous humility at the prospect of interpreting Scripture,
“… to the interpretation of Scripture, a Scripture frame of heart is necessary, a heart holy and heavenly, suitable to the holiness and heavenliness which are in the word … And because the authority of Scripture is supreme, we desire the prayers of you all to God for us that his fear may fall upon our hearts, that seeing we are men full of error and evil, yet we may not bring any scripture to maintain any erroneous conceit of our own heads nor any evil of our own hearts: this we know to be a dreadful evil” (2).
How many commentaries begin with an author stating an awareness of the “errors” and “evils” of his own heart and their danger in interpretation?
The commentary was originally published in 4 volumes and is now printed in one large 700-page paperback volume. The text is clean and easy to read.
Burroughs actually died before he finished writing the 13th chapter. Thomas Hall completed chapter 13 and another famous Puritan, Edward Reynolds, completed chapter 14.
Big-picture overviews and help in discerning the major movements of Hosea are not the strengths of this commentary (nor most Puritan commentaries for that matter).
This commentary is high in value because, (as in most Puritan commentaries) the authors are skilled at unpacking each and every verse with dozens of observations. At times I was lost in the sheer volume of application that poured from each and every verse. Burroughs exemplifies the Puritan conviction that every verse in the bible, “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings”
For Hosea 6:6, I give a few of Burrough’s observations as an example of what typifies this commentary.
Now, if you are used to blitzing through blog posts, I encourage you to stop. Just stop. You will need to print these excerpts to get the full effect. The Puritans are not conducive to speed reading. Take these in slowly:
Obs. 1. Carnal hearts which make little conscience of their duties, and are very cruel in their dealings towards men, yet may be contented to submit to instituted worship. This very scripture, ‘I will have mercy, and not sacrifice,’ is a secret rebuke to such people. … Because men may be exercised in instituted worship without any power of godliness, the outward act of performance is a very easy work to flesh and blood, there is little difficulty in it. Because it has the most show of the power of godliness; they seem to be as sincere as any in their worship, there is a great show in the flesh, in the outward man; whereas God’s worship is inward, soul worship, which carnal hearts cannot endure, nor do they desire it, it is outside worship which they prize.
Obs. 2. Carnal men think to satisfy their consciences by joining in outward ordinances. Thus did they in this place think to put off God and their own consciences, by living in the external acts of worship, while they continued in the love of known sin. What a deal of stir [provoking] had the prophet to convince these hypocrites of this their wickedness!
Obs. 4. The Lord has a high esteem of mercy; and it appears in this, that he will have it preferred before sacrifice, and this is called, a ‘sacrifice acceptable,’ and a sweet savor in God’s nostrils, Phil. 4:18. … O Christians! Imitate God in this, let your esteems of mercy be raised higher than ever before, from this that you have heard concerning its excellency. The works of mercy are glorious works, there is more in such than in those acts of religion which men think are more spiritual. I speak the more of this, because it is a scandal [testimony] which is laid upon godly men by the men of the world, that they are miserable and close-handed; now in this we should labor to convince the world by the practice of mercy.
Obs. 5. It is the Christian’s skill, when two duties come together, which to choose. This is a snare in which many Christians are caught and foiled; they think both must be done at the same time, whereas the one is the duty, the other not.
Obs. 6. Though the object of an action be spiritual, yet it is not a sufficient ground to prefer it before another action, whose object may be but natural. The ordinances of God have God for their object, and the enjoying of communion with him; yet in the performance of other actions which may be only natural, I may show more obedience to God than in offering up of sacrifice.
Obs. 7. If God’s own worship may be forborne in case of mercy, how much more men’s institutions and inventions!
Obs. 8. God will have mercy rather than disputing about sacrifices. Suppose there be a truth in that which is disputed about, yet God in this case will have mercy rather than sacrifice, rather than mercy shall be neglected he will have sacrifices omitted.
Obs. 9. Mercy must be preferred before our own wills and lusts. God is contented, that we may perform our duties to our brethren, to forbear his own ordinances; and shall we stand upon our wills and humors? O proud spirit, that exalteth thyself against the Lord; we must be content to deny ourselves very far for the public good, and for our brethren’s sake, since God is please to bear with men so far, as for a time to be without that honor, which he should have from men in their acknowledgment of him in public service.
Obs. 11. The duties of the first and second table are to be joined together. Mercy and sacrifice, knowledge of God and burnt-offerings, when in their place, are acceptable, therefore let us take heed of separating that which God has joined.
Obs. 12. The knowledge of God is a most excellent thing. This is that which sanctifies God’s name, and manifests him to be very glorious in the world. Paul accounted all things but loss and dung in comparison of the excellency of this knowledge of Christ. Instruct then your children and servants in this knowledge, else how can God have his glory from them? How few are there which glorify God as God! And the reason is, because of the ignorance which is in their minds, Eph. 4:18.
Obs. 13. Men may be very diligent in instituted worship, and yet very ignorant. None so acted in their instituted worship as these people, yet none so ignorant as they.
Obs. 14. Soul-worship must be preferred before all other worship. We must not give God a carrion service, a carcass without a soul.
All of these comments come from just 2 pages in the commentary! Multiply this times 350 and you see that this blog post is only a handful of application that originates from a mountain of truth. Spurgeon was right when he said this commentary is “A vast treasure-house of experimental exposition.”
Reformation Heritage Books has served expositors well in their commitment to reprinting a priceless commentary on Hosea that will certainly spur preachers on to put major significance on one minor prophet.
Commentaries > OT > Minor Prophets > Hosea
An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea, Jeremiah Burroughs, 9781892777942 , 1892777940, oversized paperback, 700 pages, Bible translation: KJV, $50.00/$38.00