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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Hosea 8


A continuation of the same indictment along a new line of illustration. Jehovah bids the prophet put the trumpet to his lips and blow a shrill blast, announcing the approach of disaster.

Verse 1

(1) Eagle.—The image of swiftness (Jeremiah 4:13; Jeremiah 48:40). So Assyria shall come swooping down on Samaria, to which Hosea, though with some irony, gives the name “House of Jehovah,” recognising that the calf was meant to be symbolic in some sense of Israel’s God. (See, however, Note on Hosea 9:15.)

Verse 2

(2) Should be rendered, To me they cry, My God, we know Thee, we Israel.

Verse 3

(3) Cast off.—Jehovah’s reply to Israel’s hollow repentance. The word “cast off” means a scornful loathing of what is putrescent or obscene. “The thing that is good” is the name of God, which is the salvation of Israel (Aben Ezra).

Verse 4

(4) Set up kings.—It is possible that the prophet alludes to the history of the northern kingdom as a whole. Though the revolt of the Ten Tribes received Divine sanction (1 Kings 11:9-11), it was obviously contrary to the Divine and prophetic idea which associated the growth of true religion with the line of David (Hosea 3:5). But it is best to regard the passage as referring to the short reigns of usurpers and to the foul murders which disgraced the annals of the northern kingdom since the death of Jeroboam II. Jehovah repudiates all participation in their anarchy.

Knew it not.—Should be, knew them not—viz., the gold and silver splendours wherewith Israel had adorned its apostacy.

Verse 5

(5) Thy calf . . . hath cast thee off.—Rather, is loathsome, Nothing can exceed the scorn of this outburst. The last clause should be rendered, How long are ye unable to attain purity? The attribution of consuming fire to God is not peculiar to the prophet. (Comp. Hebrews 12:29.)

Verse 6

(6) It is best to abandon the Masoretic punctuation, and translate, For it (i.e., the calf) is from Israel (not of Divine origin); as for it, an artificer made it, and it is no god. Yea, the calf of Samaria shall be shattered to fragments (literally, become splinters or fine dust).

Verse 7

(7) Wind . . . whirlwind.—The great law of Divine retribution, the punishment for sin being often a greater facility in sinning—indifference to God becoming enmity, forgetfulness of duty or truth becoming violent recoil from both. “Wind” expresses what is empty and fruitless, and the pronoun “it” refers, in accordance with the metaphor, to such unproductive seed.

It hath no stalk.—Not even incipient prosperity, as in the days of Jeroboam II. “The growth shall yield no grain,” as we might express the play of words in the Hebrew.

Verse 8

(8) Vessel wherein is no pleasurei.e., worthless (comp. Jeremiah 48:38; Psalms 31:13; 2 Timothy 2:20); a vessel devoted to vilest uses, or smashed up as worthless.

Verse 9

(9) Gone up to Assyria.—The word thus translated is elsewhere used for “going up” to the sanctuary of the Lord. (See Note on Hosea 7:11.) Wild ass is the image of untamed waywardness (Job 39:5, sea.) it is described by Wetzstein as inhabiting the steppes, a creature of dirty yellow colour, with long ears and no horns, and a head resembling a gazelle’s. Its pace is so swift that no huntsman can overtake it. It is seldom seen alone, but in herds of several hundreds. From Jeremiah 2:24 we infer that the animal wanders alone after the object of its lust. Israel, like a solitary wild ass, seeks strange loves, courts strange alliances. On the last clause, see Ezekiel 16:32-34. Ephraim pays abnormally for her own shame.

Verse 10

(10) There is much difference of opinion as to the interpretation of this verse. Much depends on the reference of the word “them.” We prefer to regard it as referring to Ephraim rather than to the nations (i.e., Assyria and Egypt). Render, I will gather them (Israel) together, so that in a short time they may delay (this translation approved by Ewald, Wünsche, and Simson) to render the tribute burden due to the king of princes (i.e., the Assyrian monarch). “Gather them together,” i.e., in restraint, so that they cannot roam so wildly, seeking help (Ewald). This accords with Hosea 2:8-9; Hosea 3:4. Such non-payment of tribute actually occurred a few years later (2 Kings 17:4). Others render it: I will gather these nations (of the East) round about her to look scornfully on her ruin, and they shall sorrow a little (used ironically) at the imposition of the king of the princes.

Verse 11

(11) Many altars.—Multiplication of altars was condemned in the law (Deuteronomy 12:5 seq.). The narrative in Joshua 22:0 shows that unity of altar and sanctuary was essential to the unity of the nation. The last clause should be rendered, he had altars for sinning. The worship of God was degraded into the sensuous approaching Baal-worship. In the first clause sin equals transgression, in the last transgression plus guilt and peril.

Verses 12-13

(12, 13) The rendering should be, though I write for him a multitude of my precepts. The tense “I write” is imperfect, and represents the continuous process—the prophetic teaching as well as the ancient Mosaic law. In the wild lust for a foreign religion the pure and spiritual Mosaic worship and the religious influence of prophecy had been forgotten. It seemed something “strange;” as Christ’s cross and claims have been accounted strange by so-called Christians.

Verse 13

(13) They sacrifice flesh . . .—Should be, “They sacrifice the sacrifices of my gifts—flesh, and eat it.” Clear reference to the Mosaic institute. Ye shall go back to Egypt, says the prophet, and there learn again the bitter lessons of the past—either the positive return to Egypt or the disastrous hankering after Egyptian alliances.

Verse 14

(14) Temples.—The word here used for temple is used sixty times for Jehovah’s temple. The building of these temple-palaces was a distinct sin against the unity of the Godhead.

Judah hath multiplied fenced cities.—Referred to by Sennacherib, in the inscription relating to the campaign of 701 B.C. “Forty-six of his (Hezekiah’s) strong cities, fortresses . . . I besieged, I captured.” These were erected by Uzziah and Jotham (2 Chronicles 26:10; 2 Chronicles 27:4). With the allusions to Israel’s temples (palaces) compare Amos 3:11; Amos 3:15.

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Hosea 8". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.