Destruction threatened for the impiety of Israel. (1-4) For their idolatry. (5-10) Further threatenings for the same sins. (11-14)
Verses 1-4 When Israel was hard pressed, they would claim protection from God, but this would be disregarded. What stead will it stand in to say, My God, I know thee, if we cannot say, My God, I love thee, serve thee, and cleave to thee only?
Verses 5-10 They promised themselves plenty, peace, and victory, by worshipping idols, but their expectations came to nothing. What they sow has no stalk, no blade, or, if it have, the bud shall yield no fruit, there was nothing in them. The works of darkness are unfruitful; nay, the end of those things is death. The hopes of sinners will deceive them, and their gains will be snares. In times of danger, especially in the day of judgment, all carnal devices will fail. They take a course by themselves, and like a wild ass by himself, they will be the easier and surer prey for the lion. Man is in nothing more like the wild ass's colt, than in seeking for that succour and that satisfaction in the creature, which are to be had in God only. Though men may sorrow a little, yet if it is not after a godly sort, they will be brought to sorrow everlastingly.
Verses 11-14 It is a great sin to corrupt the worship of God, and will be charged as sin on all who do it, how plausible soever their excuses may seem to be. The Lord had caused his law to be written for them, but they cared not to know, and would not obey it. Man seems by the temples he builds to be mindful of his Maker, yet really he has forgotten him, because he has cast off all his fear; but none ever hardened his heart against God and prospered. So long as men despise the truths and precepts of God's word, and the ordinances of his worship, all the observances and offerings, however costly, of their own devising, will be unto them for sin; for those services only are acceptable to God, which are done according to his word, and through Jesus Christ.
Hosea 8:1-14 . PROPHECY OF THE IRRUPTION OF THE ASSYRIANS, IN PUNISHMENT FOR ISRAEL'S APOSTASY, IDOLATRY, AND SETTING UP OF KINGS WITHOUT GOD'S SANCTION.
In Hosea 8:14 , Judah is said to multiply fenced cities; and in Hosea 8:7-9 , Israel, to its great hurt, is said to have gone up to Assyria for help. This answers best to the reign of Menahem. For it was then that Uzziah of Judah, his contemporary, built fenced cities ( 2 Chronicles 26:6 2 Chronicles 26:9 2 Chronicles 26:10 ). Then also Israel turned to Assyria and had to pay for their sinful folly a thousand talents of silver ( 2 Kings 15:19 ) [MAURER].
1. Set the trumpet, &c.--to give warning of the approach of the enemy: "To thy palate (that is, 'mouth,' Job 31:30 , Margin) the trumpet"; the abruptness of expression indicates the suddenness of the attack. So Hosea 5:8 .
as . . . eagle--the Assyrian ( Deuteronomy 28:49 , Jeremiah 48:40 , Habakkuk 1:8 ).
against . . . house of . . . Lord--not the temple, but Israel viewed as the family of God ( Hosea 9:15 , Numbers 12:7 , Zechariah 9:8 , Hebrews 3:2 , 1 Timothy 3:15 , 1 Peter 4:17 ).
2. My God, we know thee--the singular, "My," is used distributively, each one so addressing God. They, in their hour of need, plead their knowledge of God as the covenant-people, while in their acts they acknowledge Him not (compare Matthew 7:21 Matthew 7:22 , Titus 1:16 ; also Isaiah 29:13 , Jeremiah 7:4 ). The Hebrew joins "Israel," not as English Version, with "shall cry," but "We, Israel, know thee"; God denies the claim thus urged on the ground of their descent from Israel.
3. Israel--God repeats the name in opposition to their use of it ( Hosea 8:2 ).
the thing that is good--JEROME translates, "God" who is good and doing good ( Psalms 119:68 ). He is the chief object rejected, but with Him also all that is good.
the enemy shall pursue him--in just retribution from God.
4. kings . . . not by me--not with My sanction ( 1 Kings 11:31 , 12:20 ). Israel set up Jeroboam and his successors, whereas God had appointed the house of David as the rightful kings of the whole nation.
I knew it not--I approved it not ( Psalms 1:6 ).
of . . . gold . . . idols--( Hosea 2:8 , 13:2 ).
that they may be cut off--that is, though warned of the consequences of idolatry, as it were with open eyes they rushed on their own destruction. So Jeremiah 27:10 Jeremiah 27:15 , 44:8 .
5. hath cast thee off--As the ellipsis of thee is unusual, MAURER translates, "thy calf is abominable." But the antithesis to Hosea 8:3 establishes English Version, "Israel hath cast off the thing that is good"; therefore, in just retribution, "thy calf hath cast thee off," that is, is made by God the cause of thy being cast off ( Hosea 10:15 ). Jeroboam, during his sojourn in Egypt, saw Apis worshipped at Memphis, and Mnevis at Heliopolis, in the form of an ox; this, and the temple cherubim, suggested the idea of the calves set up at Dan and Beth-el.
how long . . . ere they attain to innocency?--How long will they be incapable of bearing innocency? [MAURER].
6. from Israel was it--that is, the calf originated with them, not from Me. "It also," as well as their "kings set up" by them, "but not by Me" ( Hosea 8:4 ).
7. sown . . . reap--( Proverbs 22:8 , Galatians 6:7 ). "Sow . . . wind," that is, to make the vain show of worship, while faith and obedience are wanting [CALVIN]. Rather, to offer senseless supplications to the calves for good harvests (compare Hosea 2:8 ); the result being that God will make them "reap no stalk," that is, "standing corn." Also, the phraseology proverbially means that all their undertakings shall be profitless ( Proverbs 11:29 , Ecclesiastes 5:16 ).
the bud--or, "growth."
strangers--foreigners ( Hosea 7:9 ).
8. vessel wherein is no pleasure--( Psalms 41:12 , Jeremiah 22:28 , 48:38 ).
9. gone . . . to Assyria--referring to Menahem's application for Pul's aid in establishing him on the throne (compare Hosea 5:13 , 7:11 ). Menahem's name is read in the inscriptions in the southwest palace of Nimrod, as a tributary to the Assyrian king in his eighth year. The dynasty of Pul, or Phalluka, was supplanted at Nineveh by that of Tiglath-pileser, about 768 (or 760) B.C. Semiramis seems to have been Pul's wife, and to have withdrawn to Babylon in 768; and her son, Nabonassar, succeeding after a period of confusion, originated "the era of Nabonassar," 747 B.C. [G. V. SMITH]. Usually foreigners coming to Israel's land were said to "go up"; here it is the reverse, to intimate Israel's sunken state, and Assyria's superiority.
wild ass--a figure of Israel's headstrong perversity in following her own bent ( Jeremiah 2:24 ).
alone by himself--characteristic of Israel in all ages: "lo, the people shall dwell alone" ( Numbers 23:9 ; compare Job 39:5-8 ).
hired lovers--reversing the ordinary way, namely, that lovers should hire her ( Ezekiel 16:33 Ezekiel 16:34 ).
10. will I gather them--namely, the nations (Assyria, &c.) against Israel, instead of their assisting her as she had wished ( Ezekiel 16:37 ).
a little--rather, "in a little" [HENDERSON]. English Version gives good sense: They shall sorrow "a little" at the imposition of the tribute; God suspended yet the great judgment, namely, their deportation by Assyria.
the burden of the king of princes--the tribute imposed on Israel (under Menahem) by the Assyrian king Pul, ( 2 Kings 15:19-22 ), who had many "princes" under his sway ( Isaiah 10:8 ).
11. God in righteous retribution gives them up to their own way; the sin becomes its own punishment ( Proverbs 1:31 ).
many altars--in opposition to God's law ( Deuteronomy 12:5 Deuteronomy 12:6 Deuteronomy 12:13 Deuteronomy 12:14 ).
to sin . . . to sin--Their altars which were "sin" (whatever religious intentions they might plead) should be treated as such, and be the source of their punishment ( 1 Kings 12:30 , 13:34 ).
12. great things of . . . law--( Deuteronomy 4:6 Deuteronomy 4:8 , Psalms 19:8 , Psalms 119:18 Psalms 119:72 , Psalms 147:19 Psalms 147:20 ). MAURER not so well translates, "the many things of My law."
my law--as opposed to their inventions. This reference of Hosea to the Pentateuch alone is against the theory that some earlier written prophecies have not come down to us.
strange thing--as if a thing with which they had nothing to do.
13. sacrifices of mine offerings--that is, which they offer to Me.
eat it--Their own carnal gratification is the object which they seek, not My honor.
now--that is, "speedily."
shall return to Egypt--( Hosea 9:3 Hosea 9:6 , 11:11 ). The same threat as in Deuteronomy 28:68 . They fled thither to escape from the Assyrians (compare as to Judah, Jeremiah 42:1-44:30'), when these latter had overthrown
14. forgotten . . . Maker--( Deuteronomy 32:18 ).
Judah . . . fenced cities--Judah, though less idolatrous than Israel, betrayed lack of faith in Jehovah by trusting more to its fenced cities than to Him; instead of making peace with God, Judah multiplied human defenses ( Isaiah 22:8 , Jeremiah 5:17 , Micah 5:10 Micah 5:11 ).
I will send . . . fire upon . . . cities--Sennacherib burned all Judah's fenced cities except Jerusalem ( 2 Kings 18:13 ).
palaces thereof--namely, of the land. Compare as to Jerusalem, Jeremiah 17:27 .