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HOSEA CHAPTER 8
Destruction is threatened both to Israel and Judah for their impiety and idolatry.
The Lord here commands the prophet to publish, as by sound of trumpet, that which God will bring upon apostate Israel, awaken them with the alarm of war.
He; the king of Assyria, Shalmaneser, who carried Israel captive.
As an eagle; swift, hungry, surmounting all difficulties, and which from above seizeth his prey; so shall the Assyrian army come.
Against; or up to, as far as, so some, but it is better as here,
against. The house of the Lord; either so called because the Israelites pretended their temples were not idols’ houses, but houses of Jehovah, and so the prophet for once calls them so, perhaps to intimate to that their sins would bring an enemy against those though they were indeed what they pretend them to be, the house of the Lord; or else by
house of the Lord is meant the family of Israel, or the Israelitish church, which till unchurched might be called the house of the Lord: or it may be a sarcasm or irony against their wilful, brutish ignorance, who would not understand what was most plain, that his house was only at Jerusalem; or a softer derision of them, one of whose principal places of worship was Beth-el, which in signification is near the same with this in the text, house of God.
They have transgressed my covenant; taken other gods instead of me, turned idolaters.
Trespassed against my law: this explains and confirms the former; covenant and law are synonymous, and so are transgressing and trespassing. They have violated the whole law and covenant, and are apostates from their God, rebels against him their King.
Israel, the ten tribes,
shall cry in deep distress; when the Assyrian rangeth over their country, when Samaria is besieged, they will cry out aloud, but hypocritically; they will roar, but not pray.
My God; then they will look to the ancient alliance and league between their fathers and me.
We know thee, an only Saviour; be ours, for we are thine. Thus in hypocrisy will they carry it.
This seems to be the answer God by his prophet gives to Israel; in the first part of the verse he doth refute their pretence of a peculiar relation and interest in God, in the latter he tells them what they must expect.
Israel, the whole house of Israel, hath. east off, with an abhorrence, as an adulterous wife puts away her husband.
Good; moral good to be done, all virtue and goodness; and the supreme good to be enjoyed, God, true religion and virtue; all cast off for idols, false religion, and debaucheries. Such a nation cannot be my people, nor do they know me.
The enemy shall pursue him; that enemy he would be delivered from, the Assyrian army, shall overthrow, and then pursue, till he have cooped him up in Samaria, and till he have brought them captives out of their own land into Chalah, Chabor, and Gozan, &c. By this they shall know that I know them, their transgressions and hypocrisy.
They; Israel, the prevailing faction among them in Hosea’s time.
Have set up kings; Shallum, Menahem, Pekah, and Hoshea, who usurped the throne.
But not by me; not by my direction, or with my approbation; they neither prayed his blessing nor asked his leave. And this may be applied to the very first founding of the kingdom of Israel, divided from the house of David. They have made princes; rulers and magistrates, or nobles.
And I knew it not: he that will not approve any one evil, when his omniscience discerns all, is pleased to say he knew not what he did not approve.
They made them idols; heathen like, they have made them gods, and set up idolatry, so have perverted all in church and state settled by me.
That they may be cut off; as if they were resolved to cut themselves off from being a people. By this they thought to establish themselves, but it will be quite contrary, these sins will be their ruin.
Thy calf; Jeroboam at first set up two calves, at Dan and Beth-el, but it is probable that in process of time there were more set up in other places, for when Israel forgot his God he built temples, Hosea 8:14. The calf then here is the chief idol set up in Samaria, and worshipped there. The prophet, in contempt of the idol, and in derision of their folly, gives it its right name, it is no god, but a calf; nor yet so much, for that it is senseless and without life.
Hath cast thee off; been the occasion of casting thee far off, in that by this thou hast provoked God to anger, and he hath cast thee off. Or else thus, if thy God, thy idol, thy calf, have done aught, it is mischief; thy calf could not keep itself in Samaria, but it is either carried a captive god, or, broken into pieces, is carried piecemeal into Assyria, and so hath cast time off: it carrieth somewhat of irony in it.
Mine anger is kindled against them; now it is evident that my anger, as fire, burneth against the idols, idol-makers, and idol-worshippers, and shall so burn till they are purified or consumed.
How long will it be ere they attain to innocency? the prophet is very concise, and perhaps here must be supposed some or other (some one of the people, or the prophet himself) sighing out to God, How long shall thine anger burn? and answer returned by God, How long will it be ere they be cleansed?
For, or because,
from Israel, by their invention and authority, was it also, both the idol and the worship of it.
The workman, the founder, silversmith, or goldsmith,
made it; fashioned the calf.
Therefore it is not God; you are sottish fools to think it is a god: if the making it will not convince you it is no god, yet I hope the destroying it will prove, whatever it was made for, or whatever thought to be, yet it was not, nor could it ever be, a god.
But the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces; but when the idol is broken into pieces, Samaria shall see it was but a calf, and confess their folly in worshipping it; however, the destruction of it will be a perpetual witness of Samaria’s sin, and God’s just displeasure in its ruin.
For; since that; or, for so much as; or, verily; so the Hebrew particle is sometimes used, Isaiah 7:9.
They have sown the wind; a proverbial speech, to denote either lost labour, or, which is much worse, labour that will undo and tear to pieces him that laboureth: both these are in the verse. Man’s life and labour is a seed that will bring forth fruit; but when this life and labour is laid out on sin, as here Israel’s was, it will bring forth that fruit the sinner is unwilling to reap.
They shall reap the whirlwind; a violent, tearing, and dissipating tempest, which beareth down and destroyeth all that is in its way; an emblem of the wrath of God breaking out against these vain and sinful men: so Ephraim reaped in his civil wars, and much more in the Assyrian war, which ended in a whirlwind, that hath scattered them into unknown countries, and where they have lain buried in forgetfulness above two thousand four hundred years.
It hath no stalk; suppose this seed should have its harvest in no whirlwind, it will end in loss and disappointment, as seed that never springs up into a stalk, nor hath bud or ear: all your worship of and dependence on idols, and foreign assistance, will at best be as seed that yields neither stalk nor bud.
The bud shall yield no meal; or suppose it produced stalk and bud, yet it will be no profit, but all lost labour, for the bud shall be lank, shrivelled, and blasted, and never yield meal: so was the fruit Israel reaped, from Pul to Menahem, and from Egypt’s assistance to Hoshea against Shalmaneser.
If so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up; or, if yet meal be found in the bud, Israel shall be never the better, foreigners devour it: so did Pul and his, and Shalmaneser and his Assyrians, eat up all.
In the former verse the prophet foretells the lost labour of such pains and seed as Ephraim bestowed; now he addeth somewhat more dreadful, the harvest is ruin and destruction to the seedsman, he is swallowed up; and this is the effect of the whirlwind, Hosea 8:7; ordinarily whirlwinds scatter the fruit, but here is one swallows up both labour and labourer.
Swallowed up, very soon and irreparably, as a man that is swallowed alive by a mighty, overgrown shark.
Now; ere long, within three or four years at most, as I noted on Hosea 7:11.
Shall they be among the Gentiles; carried out of their own country by Shalmaneser, and dispersed at the pleasure of the conqueror into Chalah, Habor, &c.
As a vessel wherein is no pleasure; as worthless and useless, cast out of doors; or if of any use, yet in basest and most contemptible: so shall these captives be among the nations whom they must serve; or Israel, impoverished by chargeable confederates, is now looked upon with contempt by them all, and cast off.
The prophet gives now an account why Israel was so impoverished, and why they should be so severely punished, why so punished of God, and why so slighted by man.
They are gone up to Assyria; either gone, i.e. have sent ambassadors with rich presents to purchase assistance from Assyria, or gone with their tribute to procure the continuance of the Assyrian confederacy and aids. This confidence and trust in Assyria was accompanied with a casting off their dependence on and subjection to God: this their sin was very great, and their punishment shall, as their sin, be very great. Others refer this going up to their going into captivity into Assyria, and it surely may be a prediction of what shall be (if it be not a narrative of what is) done.
Assyria was at that time a mighty nation, whose kings were very great, and yet more proud than great, as appears in Sennacherib’s deportment toward God and man. This kingdom had now grown on through Pul, Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser, and Sennacherib’s reigns, was a terror to enemies, and the vain confidence of this foolish and sinful people, for which they are particularly threatened and severely punished.
A wild ass: this is differently applied by interpreters; some refer it to the king of Assyria, who is fierce, swift, and haughty as the wild ass, and all for himself; thus the French interpret it: so it suits well; Israel, thou wilt be disappointed in thy expectation from Asshur, a wild ass, who seeks himself only. Others refer
wild ass to Israel, who, wild, untamed, and burning in lust, (as is reported of the wild ass,) rangeth far and wide for lovers, seeks every where for aids and succours.
Alone by himself; solitary, or in a wilderness, where is no path or track: this will well suit them in their captivity, when they shall be left as in a wilderness, and may, as perhaps many did, flee into more remote and desolate places, and ramble into uninhabited places, and there take rooting, and give being to nations which are now known to us, though we know not whence they descended. Or,
alone by himself, in a posture fit to become a prey to the lion of Assyria; so it is reported the lions make a prey of the wild asses in the wilderness; so will Assyria make Israel a prey.
Ephraim hath hired lovers; hath dearly bought the friendship of Assyria in Pul and Shalmaneser’s time, and more dearly bought friendship of Egypt in the time of So, or Sabacon, or Sevechus; for beside all the treasure they laid out on this, they parted with their God for it, and set him against Israel.
Yea, though; or, Yea, because; they think this the way to prevent their calamities, but it shall appear this was the ready way to bring their calamities upon them; and forasmuch as they have hired the aid of the nations to secure them against their God and his judgments, therefore, &c.
Gather them; bring Israel together by a secret and unfailing train. I will, saith God, assemble and herd them together, that they may be taken and destroyed together. Others say, God will gather the nations together against Israel.
They shall sorrow a little, for a while before their final captivity they shall complain and be grieved,
for the burden of the king of princes; the tribute laid on them by the king and princes, i.e. of Israel; but better as we read it, the king of Assyria, the great king who boasted of his princes.
Because: this refers to what follows.
Ephraim hath made many altars; multiplied either to many idols, every one having his altar, or multiplied altars in several places to the same idol. They had many high places, and altars in all of them.
To sin; both as acting against the law of God, which required but one altar, and also these altars were to sin, in that they were for sacrifices to be offered on them to idols. These persons did not intend them for sin, but their good intention did not, could not change the thing, it was sin, however they intended.
Altars, either those here erected, or those they shall find in Assyria when they come captives thither,
shall be unto him to sin; either because forced in captivity to worship Assyrian idols, and to attend their altars and sacrifices, or else by a just and dreadful judgment from God delivering them over to their wilful blindness and idolatrous heart: since they would never be reclaimed, nor taken off from sinful multiplying altars, let them follow their own hearts, and set up what they will; much like that Revelation 22:11. Or else thus, Altars shall be the occasion of his greater guilt and punishment, his altars, i.e. his idolatrous worship, shall be that sin that ruins him.
I have written: some read it in the future, and by way of question, Shall I write? but most read as we, in the perfect or past tense, I have written, by Moses first, by other prophets afterwards; the law was given to them, as well as to the two tribes.
Great things; for their importance, weighty; for their excellency, precious; and for multitude of precepts, counsels, and directions, sufficient; my law had all this in it for their conduct in all righteousness towards God and man.
But they, all these things which I have written,
were counted as a strange thing; Israel looks on them as nothing to them; they are a distinct kingdom, and have a distinct establishment, their laws are now become unpracticable to us, and we have, by the wisdom of our governors, other laws established for our worship; let Judah keep to theirs, we will keep to our laws; after two hundred years’ desuetude, would it not be madness to introduce Judah’s laws, and innovate all in Israel? Thus they contemned the excellent things of God’s law, as if they were nothing concerned in them. And thus all their sins at last become incurable diseases, which nothing but utter destruction of the sinners can put an end unto.
They sacrifice; or, As for sacrifices, my gifts, so some, taking the words absolute and in apposition, read them, and perhaps they are plainer and closer connected with the former when so taken. I have written to them, and they count it a strange thing; and the sacrifices and gifts which they call mine, I tell you what I account them to be; as for sacrifices, which now they pretend to give me, it is flesh they sacrifice, and eat it when they have done, and I account no more of it: they sacrifice that they may feast and fill themselves with wine and mirth, and what is that to me?
The Lord accepteth them not; neither owneth them as his, nor taketh any pleasure at all in them. These sacrifices shall never expiate their sins, nor reconcile me to them, saith God. I think here is a meiosis in these words, they may be a softer expression of hatred and detestation, which God bears towards such.
Now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins; in his just and hot displeasure, he will reckon with them, and, by punishing them for all, make them know he remembers all their sins. Here remembering and visiting are the same, and include punishment.
They shall return to Egypt; either alluding to their bondage in Egypt; so Assyria shall use them. Or else it is an upbraiding them for and minding them of their perfidiousness to Shalmaneser. They had been ever covenant-breakers with God and man; this last part of treachery God will punish. Or else, they shall return to Egypt, i.e. many shall to save their lives flee from the Assyrian into Egypt, and there seek their safety; and if they preserve their life there, the punishment of their sins shall follow them; exile, with misery as bad as captivity, shall be their lot there. So Hosea 9:6.
Israel; the ten revolted idolatrous tribes.
Hath forgotten; the same with Hosea 2:5, which see; or Hosea 4:1,Hosea 4:6. Either remembers not at all, or it is without love, thankfulness, and consideration what becomes him towards God. His Maker; who made, who preserved, who advanced them, and gave them all those privileges wherein they excel other nations; who brought them out of Egypt, &c.
Buildeth temples; the word will bear palaces, or towers. It is like their idol temples were magnificent, that they might boast of them, and strong like towers, that they might for need garrison and fortify them, and trust in their strength in a day of war and trouble.
Judah hath multiplied fenced cities; on like designs and motives doth Judah multiply strong holds, fortifying against threatened judgments, making flesh their arm, whilst their heart (as at this time of Ahaz’s reign and apostacy) did depart from the living God.
Send a fire upon his cities; bring an enemy upon them that shall besiege them in their cities, and burn them, which was effected by Nebuchadnezzar and his armies about one hundred and thirty years after.
It shall devour the palaces; the stately palaces of their princes and nobles in their cities, these shall be burnt too. Judah hath imitated Israel, and made himself like to Israel in sin, and God will make them like in sufferings; the fire which their sin hath kindled shall consume both.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Hosea 8". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19