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This chapter deals with the punishment of apostasy. Once more the sins of the northern kingdom are enumerated and its approaching fall predicted. There is a close connection between the verses in the first section of the chapter. That connection is as follows: The first verse begins with an exclamation containing Jehovah's command to the prophet to act as his herald, putting the trumpet to his mouth and sounding the alarm about coming calamity. In the second clause of the same verse the nature of the calamity is announced. In the third and last clause of it the cause of the calamity is declared. The second verse represents Israel in their extremity crying to God for deliverance; the cry is very earnest, and proceeds from every member of the community, backed also with the assertion of their acquaintance with Jehovah. In the third verse Jehovah rejects their cry and refuses to interpose between them and the enemy, because their knowledge of him was merely historical and neither spiritual nor practical, as their dislike of what was good continued unabated. The fourth verse specifies facts in proof of Israel's renunciation of Jehovah. The fifth verse shows a just retribution, for, inasmuch as Israel disliked what was good, the object of their idolatry has disgusted Jehovah or cast them off. The sixth verse contains the doom of this silly, sinful, and disgusting idol. In the seventh verse the threat of such destruction is accounted for on a broad principle taken from agricultural life, that the harvest will correspond to the seed sown; and so Israel shall reap the fruit of their ungodliness.
The exclamation in this verse, A trumpet to thy mouth, supersedes the necessity of supplying a verb. The alarm of war or of hostile invasion is to be sounded by the prophet at the command of Jehovah. The
(1) trumpet is at once to be employed for the purpose. The rendering of both the Targum and Syriac
(2) expresses the same idea, though under a different form; the former has, "Cry with thy throat, as if it were a trumpet;" and the latter, "Let thy mouth be as a trumpet." According to this view, the Prophet Hoses expresses here very briefly what Isaiah has done more fully in the words, "Cry aloud [Hebrew, 'with the throat'] spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins."
(3) The LXX. here deviates considerably from the Maseoretic Hebrew text, translating εἰς κόλπον (תֵיקְךָ) αὐτῶν, ὡς γῆ, of the meaning of which Jerome acknowledges his ignorance, though he attempts to explain it. Cyril connects the words with the concluding part of the preceding chapter, thus: "This their setting at naught (of me) in the land of Egypt shall come into their own bosom. As the land, as the eagle against the house of the Lord;" while his explanation is as follows: "Since, though I preserved them and instructed them, and gave them victory over their enemies (for I strengthened them), they have impiously set me at naught, worshipping demons for gods, and have trusted to the land of the Egyptians, and have fancied that their help shall be sufficient for their prosperity, therefore their attempt shall return unto their own besom, and they shall find no good reward of their temerity; but they shall receive, as it were, into their bosom the deserved punishment. For he shall come, he shall come who shall lay them waste—the King of Assyria, with an innumerable multitude of warriors, and he shall come to them as the whole land and region and country, that one might think that the whole region of the Persians and Medes had wholly migrated and had come into Samaria. This is the meaning of the whole land (ὡς γῆ). He shall likewise come as an eagle into the house of the Lord." (He shall come) as an eagle against the house of the Lord. These words cannot mean,
(1) as Hitzig thinks, the rapidity with which the prophet is directed to convey his tidings of alarm, as if it were, "Fly [דאה imperfect being supplied], thou prophet, as an eagle;" nor yet, with others, the loudness of the alarm he was to sound. The meaning abruptly though vividly expressed refers
(2) to the approaching invasion of the enemy, though there is no need to supply ידאה, or יבא, It is the substance of the prophet's alarm. As an eagle the enemy (as is evident flora verse 3) shall come against the house of the Lord. The enemy was, in all probability, the Assyrian, in whose symbolism the eagle bulks largely; while the griffin vulture, scenting from afar, and coming down with rapid and terrific swoop upon its prey, is an appropriate image of the sudden and impetuous character of his invasion. The house of the Lord is neither the temple at Jerusalem, for the prophecy relates to the northern kingdom; nor the temple at Samaria, which could not be called Beta Yehovah, but Bethbamoth; nor the land of Israel, which could not with any propriety be called a house; but the people of Israel, which, owing to God's covenant relation to that people, is called his house, as in Numbers 12:7, "My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house." The figure seems an echo of Deuteronomy 28:49, "The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth;" while it has a parallel in Matthew 24:28, "For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together." Because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my Law. These words exhibit the cause of Israel's being exposed to the sudden hostile attack which the prophet was commissioned to proclaim. The provocations of Israel consisted in violating the covenant which God had been pleased to make with them, and in proving unfaithful to that Law, obedience to which was the condition of the covenant. The explanation of the whole verse thus given is confirmed by the Hebrew commentators; thus Rashi says, "The Shechinah (or Divine Majesty)says to the prophet, 'Let the voice of thy palate be heard and sound the trumpet and say, The enemies fly hither as the eagle flieth and come unto the house of the Lord.'" Abeu Ezra more concisely conveys the same sense: "It is the words of Jehovah to the prophet, ' Set the cornet to thy palate, for the enemy flieth as the eagle against the house of the Lord.'" Kimchi differs in two respects from his brethren, understanding the address to be not that of Jehovah to the prophet, but of the prophet to the people; and the house of the Lord to include the whole laud of Israel and temple at Jerusalem: "The cornet to thy palate, as he said above, 'Sound the trumpet in Gibeah.' Many a time the prophet speaks to the people in the singular and many a time in the plural. He says, 'Put the trumpet to thy mouth, for behold! the enemy flies hither like the eagle over the house of Jehovah; 'he means to say,' Over the whole land and also over the house of Jehovah, in order to destroy it.' And he joins the trumpet to the palate (and yet man sets the trumpet to the mouth) because the voice passes over the way of the palate after it comes out of the throat."
Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee. The more literal as well as more exact rendering is, to me wilt they cry, My God, we know thee, we Israel! Notwithstanding their provocation, their unfaithfulness to the covenant of God, and their disobedience to the Law, they appeal unitedly and severally to God in the day of their distress, and urge two pleas—their knowledge of God, or acknowledgment of him as the true God; and their high position as his people. Thus the Chaldee paraphrase has: "As often as calamity comes upon them they pray and say before me, Now we acknowledge that we have no God beside thee; deliver us, because we are thy people Israel." As to the construction, either "Israel" is in apposition to anachnu, the subject of the verb, or there is a transposition. Thus Rashi: "We must transpose the words, and explain, ' To me, cries Israel, My God, we know thee; '" so also Kimchi and Aben Ezra. The former says, "' Israel ' which comes after, should be before, after לייו, and many inversions of this kind occur in Scripture, as Ezekiel 39:11 and Psalms 141:10." The word "Israel" is omitted by the LXX. and Syriac, and in many manuscripts of Kennicott and De Rossi.
Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him. This is the reply of Jehovah. The good which Israel rejected is not exactly God the One Good, nor Jehovah the greatest Good, nor the Law, which was good; but all the goodness which he bestows on such as keep his covenant. This Israel rejected, and in turn is rejected of God and delivered up into the hands of his pursuers.
They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not. Here was the first instance and evidence of Israel's rejection of Jehovah. Their conduct was not guided by Divine direction, nor in obedience to the Divine will, nor with the Divine sanction. This state of things began with Israel's revolt from the house of David, and rebellion against the son of Solomon their legitimate sovereign, and was repeated in subsequent usurpations. Perhaps we may go further back, even to the appointment of the first king of the yet undivided kingdom, when "the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them." Usurpations such as those of Zimri, Omri, and Shallum at least are comprehended in the appointments referred to—appointments on making which the people did not inquire of the Lord, nor act under his guidance, nor seek his sanction. Some go so far as to include all the kings of Israel that succeeded Jeroboam. Thus Cyril says, "He denies the kingdom of Israel and his successors on the throne of Israel." Aben Ezra also extends the statement to the kings of the northern kingdom from the days of Jeroboam: "They inquired not of God with respect to the making of Jeroboam king, although it is written, ' Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee whom the Lord thy God shall choose.'" A seeming contradiction here exists between the statement of the prophet here and that in 1 Kings 11:37, where God promises by the Prophet Ahijah, "I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel," and the fact of Jehu's anointing being ordered by the Prophet Elisha, who sent one of the children of the prophets for that purpose with the words, "Thus saith the Lord, I have anointed thee king over Israel." The plotting of Jeroboam, and the conspiracy of Jehu against Joram, and the conspiracies of other usurpers, were things which God could not approve; and so we must distinguish between the permission and approval of Jehovah; in his government he permits many things which from his nature we know he does not and cannot approve. השירו is usually and properly rendered, "they have made princes;" but Aben Ezra and Rashi translate it as הסידו equivalent to "they have removed;" while the Massora reckon השרו in the number of those words which are written with shin but are read and explained with samech. Some manuscripts also of Kennicett and De Rossi have הסירו. Of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they (literally, it) may be cut off. This is a second proof of Israel's renunciation of Jehovah. They used their gold in making the idolatrous calves, and their silver in supporting their idolatrous worship; or they made the idol-calves, some of silver, and others of gold. The consequence rather than the purpose is the destruction of it, namely, the gold and silver; or the ruin of the kingdom or of each member of it; or the cutting off of their name, according to Kimchi. The word לְמַעַן, like ἱνα in Greek, is generally relic, denoting "purpose;" nor is it ecbatic here, denoting "result," though, according to the Hebrew mode of thought, design and consequence often coincide. Its meaning here is well explained by Keil, לי describes the consequence of this conduct, which, though not designed, was nevertheless inevitable, as if it had been distinctly intended."
Thy calf, O Samaria, hath east thee off; mine anger is kindled against them. This portion of the verse has occasioned much diversity of translation and exposition, and yet the general meaning is much the same.
(1) In the translation
(a) of the Authorized Version the word "thee" is supplied; others
(b) supply "me," meaning Jehovah, thus, "Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast me off;" while
(c) Rosenmüller prefers supplying "them," viz. the Israelites: "Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast them off," i.e. has been the cause of their rejection, which is favored by בָם in the following clause. The meaning of (b) is plain, the import being that the idol-worship had led to the rejection and so the withdrawal of Jehovah; while the sense of (a) conveys the idea that the golden calf which the country represented by its capital and the government had established at Bethel as the symbol of their worship, so far from protecting its worshippers, would fall itself into the hands of the Assyrian invader.
(2) The Septuagint translates by ἀπότρεψαι τὸν μόσχον σου Σαμάρεια, equivalent to "Cast off [as if זְנַח] thy calf, O Samaria;" which is an exhortation to Samaria, and not only Samaria, but the entire country, with the inhabitants of the capital at its head, to cast aside the calf-worship by which they had incurred the wrath of the Almighty. Jerome, reading זֻנַּח (Pual), renders, "Cast off is thy calf."
(3) Some modern scholars translate, "He has cast off thy calf," and refer it to the enemy, and rather in the sense of carrying off the golden image as a spoil; or to Jehovah; thus De Wette has, "[Jehova] verwirft deiu Calb, Samarien," which is not in keeping with the first person in the next clause.
(4) Others take the verb intransitively, and give it the meaning of "smelling bodily," "emitting intolerable stench." "being loathsome or disgusting;" thus Keil has, "Thy calf disgusts, O Samaria." So Wunsche: "Anekolt deiu Calb." Israel loathed or felt disgust at pure worship and what was really good; now Jehovah in turn is disgusted with their golden calf and hateful idolatry. No wonder it is added, Mine anger is waxed hot (has burnt or blazed out) against them; i.e. not the calf and Samaria, nor the calves, but their stupid, sinful worshippers. How long will it be ere they attain to innocence? Or it may be translated, How long will it be ere they shall be able to endure (bear) innocence (guiltlessness)? The verb יכל, has frequently to be supplemented by another verb, as in Psalms 150:5, לא אוּכַל, "A proud heart will not I suffer;" so also Isaiah 1:13. The speaker here turns, as it were, from unwilling auditors to others more ready to lend ancar, and asks, "How long are they incapable of purity of life instead of the abominations of idolatry? How great the madness that, while I allow space and place for repentance, they are unwilling to return to soundness of mind! " The Authorized Version rendering is supported by Aben Ezra and Kimchi. The former explains: "It is as if זwere written double, 'Thee as thy calf cast off—thee Samaria, as if it has rejected thee, for the city shall be laid and its inhabitants shall go into captivity;'" and Kimchi says, " זis transitive, and has the meaning of ' remove,' as in Lamentations 2:7. He says, 'O Samaria, thy calf has removed thee,' that is, on account of it thou art removed out of thy land." The last clause is also well explained by Kimchi, though in a different sense from that given above, thus: "How long are they unable to purify themselves from this guilt (i.e. idolatry)?"
For from Israel was it also: the workman made it; therefore it is not God. The prophet here vindicates the justness of Jehovah's complaint and the folly of Israel's conduct. The first clause points out the orion of this idolatry—this god of gold was out of Israel, it proceeded from them and was invented by their kings. The second clause shows that it was of human manufacture; while the natural inference follows in the third clause to the effect that, having its origin with man and being made by man, it could not be God. Or if the rendering, "Thy calf disgusts," be adopted, the ki introduces the explanation of the disgust which that abomination caused. This idol was of home manufacture, not imported from abroad, as Baal and Ashtaroth from the Sidoniaus, Chemosh from the Moabites, and Moloch from the Ammonites. The Israelites themselves and their king Jeroboam made for the northern kingdom what had been learnt in Egypt. Thus Israel's god was a creature of Israel's own devising. How stupid and how absurd! Israel's god man-made, how enormous and abominable the iniquity! But the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces. It shall become splinters; the hapaz legomenon, שבי is derived from an Arabic root, shaba, to cut; and thus, as the calf at Sinai was burnt and pulverized, the calf of Samaria shall be broken into splinters and destroyed. The whole verse is well explained by Kimchi: "Now ye will see if the calf is able to deliver its worshippers; it cannot even deliver itself, for it shall become splinters, as if he said that the enemies shall break it up and carry it away for the worth of the gold, not for any utility that is in it while it is still in the form of a calf. שבי is equivalent to שבדים (broken pieces, shivers), fragments." The Septuagintal rendering, πλανῶν, is probably due to the reading שׁוֹבֵב, Micah 2:4, "turning away."
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. The harvest corresponds to the seed-time; their foolish and vain idolatries shall have corresponding results. This proverbial expression imports more than merely labor in vain; it denotes labor that has an injurious and destructive result. It has more than a negative significancy of lost labor; it conveys the idea of positive detriment. "The prophet," says Kimchi, "means to say that they will weary themselves in vain in this service (of idols), just as if a man who sows the wind, in which there is nothing substantial, shall only reap the wind, or even still less; as if he had said, ' Ye shall not obtain the least enjoyment, but only injury.'" If, then, the wind denote the vanity and nothingness of human effort, the whirlwind is the image of destruction and annihilation, viz. a storm or hurricane remorselessly tearing all away with it. Suphah itself intensifies the notion included in ruach, while the paragogic הintensifies still more, so as to denote a storm of greatest violence. The double feminine ending is regarded by most as strengthening the sense in this word suphathah, עֶזְרָתָה אֵימָהָה, etc. It hath no stalk (margin, standing corn): the bud shall yield no meal; better, shoot brings no fruit. This is a further development of the figure. When wind is the seed sown, destruction represented by tempest is the harvest reaped. The seed sown produces no stalk, or at least no stall= with grain in it—no standing corn. If the seed shoot up at all, tile shoot has no fruit. Here the play on words, of which the Hebrews were so fond, is obvious—the tsemach has no yemach; the halm has no malm; the Spross no Schoss; the corn no kern. If so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up. When, or if, any fruit is attained, the invasion of rapacious foreigners swallows it up. First, then, when the wind of vain human efforts is the sowing, destruction is the harvest. If the seed spring up at all, the ear does not fill; or if the ear should fill, there is no substance in it; or if it fill and have substance, the rapacity of hostile invaders consumes it. Thus a blight falls on all they do. Kimchi explains the verse fully as follows: "Because the prophet compares their works to one who sows the wind, he adds further to the same image, and says, 'It has no stalk, it reaches not the time when it shall be stalk' (or 'standing corn'). Now קמה is the name of the corn when it stands ready for the harvest, from which the husbandmen (literally, 'sowers') soon expect enjoyment, i.e. after harvest, when they shall make it into meal. Yea, even at the time they expect profit from their works, they shall have none. And he says further, 'The shoot shall not produce fruit or meal,' as if he said, ' Even should the seed spring up after the sowing.' He thus represents in a figure that should they prosper a little in their works after they have begun to do evil, yet that prosperity will not last, and it will not come to perfect enjoyment (beauty) like corn which comes to harvest and to grinding. And if it should yield, strangers devour it. Perhaps for a time it may produce so as to come to meal, as if he said that, should they prosper in their possessions so that a little enjoyment should be accorded to them at the first, then strangers shall come and devour it, and their enjoyment will not be complete."
Israel is swallowed up. Not only shall the productions of their land be swallowed up, but the persons of the Israelites shall be consumed; nor is the event far off in the distant future, though the Hebrew commentators translate the past as prophetic future; already has the process beam. Such is the extension of the punishment. Now shall they be (rather, are then become) among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure. The prosperity, population, property, and even nationality, are swallowed up—engulfed as in some abyss, so as to be undiscoverable to the present time; while their reputation has suffered so sorely that they are despised as a worthless household vessel—a vessel unto dishonor, never of much worth, but now cast away as entirely unfit for use.
For they are gone up to Assyria, a wild ass alone by himself: Ephraim hath hired lovers. All their misery and misfortune they have brought upon themselves. They have prepared this fate for themselves, and made themselves meet for their fate. The second clause is correctly rendered, a wild ass goes alone by itself; and this clause is an independent statement—not connected by n- of comparison either with the clause preceding nor with the succeeding one. Instead of saying that Epraim, that is, Israel, went up to Assyria like a stubborn wild ass alone by itself, or that like a wild ass going alone Ephraim hired (sued for) lovers, the statement stands independent and in a measure detached, the meaning being that even a wild ass, stupid and stubborn as that animal is, keeps by itself to secure its independence. The conduct of Israel, however, appears to disadvantage in contrast with that of a stupid wild ass; it is more stupid and senseless; their folly is seen by the comparison: it maintained its independence by going alone, Ephraim lost independence by soliciting help from heathen allies. What, then, was the object to the attainment of which this foolish conduct was directed? In other words, why did Israel go on this stupid mission to Assyria? What did they seek to gain by it? The third clause contains the answer: they sought help and succor from the Assyrians. Thus the first clause, giving a reason for their calamity, shows it was self-procured by Ephraim going up to Assyria; the second clause exposes the folly of such conduct in seeking prohibited and pernicious foreign alliances; the third clause specifies the precise object of Ephraim's sinful and foolish mission, namely, the procuring of succor from Assyria. The above explanation,
(1) which is in substance Keil's, and which is a contrast between the independence of the wild ass and Ephraim's servile suing for foreign help, is, we think, simpler and more correct than
(2) the common one, which is a comparison of the willfulness, waywardness, and wantonness of the wild ass roaming solitarily by itself with Ephraim's willful waywardness in going up to Assyria for succor, and wantonness in suing for idolatrous alliances. The expression, "going up," alludes to going to the interior of the country, or to the capital of the monarch Assyria now owned as sovereign, or to a place of refuge. The hiring of lovers, or lover, by Ephraim stigmatizes their shameful conduct as that of a shameless harlot, who, instead of receiving, bestows presents on lovers, or as the reward of endearments.
Yea, though they have hired among the nations, now will I gather them. Instead of "have hired," "sue" would make the sense more obvious. But who are they of whom it is here said, "I will gather them"?
(1) The nations, among whom Ephraim has been suing for endearments from paramours, shall be gathered together to effect the hurt or ruin of Ephraim; while for this explanation Ezekiel 16:37, is cited as parallel: "Behold, therefore, I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them round about against thee, and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness." But
(2) others maintain that the persons gathered are the Ephraimites whom the Lord will gather, that is to say,
(a) will bring them all together among the nations, leading them thither; and to this exposition Hosea 9:6 is thought to furnish a parallel, at least as far as the meaning of the verb "to gather" is concerned: "Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them."
(b) Or the Ephraimites shall be gathered together to be led away in chains and dispersed among the nations;
(c) or shall be gathered for death and to perish by sword and famine; or
(d) to be gathered together unto Samaria and other fortified cities, in order to be taken to. gather and carried by their enemies away into captivity.
(3) Rashi understands the gathering together of Israel, but in the sense of a promise "Though they have sued for endearments among the nations, I will gather them out of the nations among which they have been dispersed, as the same verb, קבץ, is used in Isaiah 54:1-23.54.17. and Jeremiah 31:10, viz. 'I will not delay their deliverance."' This exposition is not in harmony with the context, from which we expect a threat of punishment rather than a promise of reward. Both Kimchi and Aben Ezra favor exposition (1) "What benefit is it to them, asks the prophet, that they sue among the nations? For soon I will gather the nations against them to carry them into captivity." Thus Kimchi and somewhat similarly Aben Ezra. Whether we take the verb as pointed with daghesh in the tav, and so from נחן, to give, that is, gifts to lovers, or without daghesh, and from חנה equivalent to נָחַן אֶחִנִח, to hire or bargain, makes little difference in the general sense of the clause. And they shall sorrow a little for the burden of the king of princes. This fixes with more definiteness the meaning of the foregoing member of the verse. According to
(1) this rendering of יַחֵלוּ (Qeri) Hiph. from הוּל, "a little" would require to be taken Ironically; it is better, therefore, to render it "in a little time." The burden is not that of taxation or even deportation, but of oppression in exile. The oppressor is the monarch of Assyria, who asks boastingly. "Are not my princes altogether kings?" Another
(2) translation is, "They will begin to diminish on account of the burden of the king of princes.' According to this the verb וַיָּהֵלוּ is future of Hiph. חֵחֵל from חלל, to begin, and מְעָט is either an infinitive for מַעט, or rather a verbal adjective: and the sense is that they begin to be or become fewer in consequence of the Assyrian's oppression. But
(3) taking the verb from the same root חלל cognate with Greek χαλάω, loose, set free, Gesenius translates, "And they (the hostile nations) shall presently force them from the burden (i.e. the unpleasant dominion)of the king." The Septuagint
(4) read מִמָּשַׁח instead of מִמַּשּׂא, and a copula between, i.e." and princes;" and render, Καὶ κοπάσουσι μικρὸν τοῦ χρίειν βασιλέα καὶ ἄρχπντας, equivalent to "And they shall cease a little to anoint a king and princes." Our choice must lie between (1) and (2) in interpreting this difficult clause; there is a modification of (1) worth mentioning; it is: "They shall in a little while sorrow for the burden which they pay (i.e. the tribute which they pay) kings and princes," viz. all of them, the two concluding words being thus in apposition to the subject of the verb. On the whole, we prefer there rendering of the clause in the Authorized Version, as both grammatical and supplying a sense consistent with the context. The prophet foretells that Israel would ere long feel painfully the sorrowful consequences of their going to Assyria and suing there for help. Oppressed by a yearly tribute to the Assyrian king, they would smart under the yoke, and long to be free.
Hosea 8:11, Hosea 8:12
These two verses are closely connected with the preceding verse and with each other. Hosea 8:11 not only accounts for, but justifies, the threat of punishment announced in Hosea 8:10 by reference to Ephraim's sin; and Hosea 8:12 shows the inexcusableness of Ephraim in thus sinning. Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin, altars shall be unto him to sin. Instead of the one sanctuary with its altar in the place which the Lord their God would choose out of all their tribes to put his Name there and to accept the offerings of his people, they multiplied altars contrary to the express command of God; while those altars which they erected in any places that pleased them were not for the service of the true God, but for the worship of idols, the calves, Baal, and ether vanities of the heathen. Thus they multiplied their sin by every altar they reared and every idol they worshipped. Their altars, instead of proving their piety, plunged them in greater sin and deeper guilt. I have written to him the great things of my Law, but they were counted as a strange thing. For the Athenians, whose city Paul found full of idols, and which in addition to its many other altars had one to an unknown god, there was some excuse, for they were not privileged with a revelation of the Divine will in a written Law; but for Israel no such apology was possible. This verse proves plainly that, in their sinning by multiplying idols and altars, they were entirely without excuse. The kethic or textual reading has ribbo for ribboth by the omission of tar and equivalent to רְבָבָה, that is, ten thousand, or myriads; the Qeri or Maasoretic correction, רֻבֵּי, plural of דב, multitudes. The idea conveyed is the numerous directions, preceptive and prohibitive, of the Pentateuch; the commandments, so full and explicit, comprehending alike the great things and the little; the details, so minute as well as manifold, that there was no possibility of mistake, provided there was any mind to be informed. Still more, these commandments, directions, and details were not only communicated verbally and orally to Israel; they were committed to writing, and thus placed permanently on record. And yet, notwithstanding all this, the great things of God's Law were regarded by many or most of those to whom they were addressed as instructions foreign to their interest, with which they had no concern, and which consequently had no claim on their attention and deserved no place in their recollection. The variety of names for the Divine commands is very noteworthy. There are commandments equivalent to all precepts of which the motives are assigned, as of circumstance to distinguish Israel from ether people; statutes, for which no motives are assigned, as in the case of the red heifer, prohibition against wearing garments of mixed material, and ceremonial prescripts in general; testimonies, precepts intended to keep up the memory of any event of fact as the Passover to remind of the departure from Egypt; precepts, rational injunctions, left, so to say, to our intelligence, as the unity of the Deity and the fact of his being the Creator; and judgments, judicial directions relating to buying and selling, inheritances, and such like.
Hosea 8:13, Hosea 8:14
For the sacrifice of mine offerings, they sacrifice flesh and eat it; but the Lord accepteth them not. The mention of altars naturally suggests that of sacrifices, and, as a matter of fact, with the multiplication of those altars they multiplied their sacrifices, so that the latter kept pace with the former, and a due proportionateness maintained between them. And yet, numerous as those sacrifices were, they were not real sacrifices; they were no more and no better than slaying so many animals and feasting on their flesh; the spirit of devotion was absent, therefore God did not accept them. Now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins: they shall return to Egypt. The turning-point was now reached, their iniquity was full, and the time of punishment had arrived. God had delivered their fathers out of the bondage of Egypt; now he will send their posterity into a bondage similar to or even worse than that of Egypt. For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples (or, palaces). Here Israel's sin, with the consequent suffering, is traced to its source. The origin of all was their forgetfulness of God and false confidence in man—them-selves and others or both. And Judah hath multiplied fenced cities. Israel forgot his Maker, and built shrines on high places, "consecrating," as Jerome says, "whole hills and mountains and shady trees to Baal and Ashtaroth and other idols." Judah also, though aware that Israel had renounced the love of Jehovah and had been punished for their sins, did not return to God, but trusted in fenced cities. But I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof. To the word for "city" the masculine suffix is attached; while with "palaces" the feminine suffix is employed. With the proper names of peoples either gender is used:
(a) the masculine with reference to the people or population, and the feminine in relation to the country; or the reference may be to Israel and Judah, the masculine referring to their respective peoples, and feminine to their lands; though
(b) Aben Ezra refers the feminine suffix of "palaces" to עיר, city, which is feminine.
(c) The Septuagint has τὰ θεμέλια, foundations, instead of palaces
The prophet is represented as a messenger with alarming tidings, or sentinel at his post to give warning of the enemy's approach, or rather as a herald commissioned to declare war. Earthly kings have heralds or special messengers for this purpose, and here the King of kings charges the prophet as his herald to proclaim war. "Go, then, and let the Israelites know, not now by thy mouth, but even by thy throat, by the sound of the trumpet, that I am an enemy to them, and that I am present with a strong army to destroy them." The presence of a herald on such occasions presupposed the preparation of the enemy—that they were ready to take the field, or were actually on the march. As the prophets of old, so ministers still require to act boldly, bravely, with earnestness and faithfulness in rebuking sin, warning men of approaching peril and punishment, and calling on them loudly and fearlessly to repent and return to God.
I. PUNISHMENT IN PURSUIT OF THE GUILTY. Even a heathen poet has sung, "Seldom does punishment, though lame of foot, quit the criminal who goes before." Sometimes the prophet is summoned to declare the people's sin, showing them its guilt and dangerous consequences; sometimes to denounce its punishment. We have a notable example of the former in a passage a good deal like the opening verse of this chapter; thus Isaiah is commanded by God in the words, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins." But the Prophet Hosea is here enjoined to proclaim the punishment which the sin of Israel was surely and swiftly bringing upon them: "He shall come as an eagle against the house of the Lord." The abruptness imparts vigor to the expression, while it indicates the sad and sudden reality. When the cup of a people's iniquity is brimful, calamity is just at hand; when they are ripe for judgment, the enemy is ready to execute it; when the day of vengeance has arrived, no distance can secure them from it. From the far-distant land of Assyria, the Assyrian eagle, Shatmaneser, like the great Babylonian eagle, Nebuchadnezzar, of a later date, "kith great wings, long-winged, full of feathers," came from afar, swift in his advance, sudden in his approach, sure of his prey, and savage in rending it. No boasted privileges can delay that day of disaster, nor deliver when it comes; even the house of the Lord shall not be exempt. Israel, though God's people, his house and family, shall fall by the assault of the Assyrian. God usually speaks before he strikes, and warns before he pours down his wrath; nor does he either threaten or strike until he has been provoked by sin.
II. THE PROCURING CAUSE OF ISRAEL'S PUNISHMENT. "Because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my Law;" such is the cause which God assigns for the threatened punishment. God thus indicates his proceedings, exhibits his justice, asserts his patience and long-suffering, declares his hatred of sin, and gives to all a solemn warning against its commission. Here again the mercy of God is made manifest, Notwithstanding God's supreme right over men and absolute authority to dispose of them as he pleases, yet he graciously condescends to enter into a covenant with his creatures, stipulating promise of reward to obedience, and penalty in case of disobedience. Nor could Israel plead ignorance of the conditions of this covenant; for the Law, with its commandments, exhibited those conditions, explicitly declaring all the duties of the covenant. They, however, broke the commandment, and so prepared the way for breaking the covenant; they trespassed against the Law, and so transgressed the covenant. They violated the commandments of the Law that taught them their duty to their neighbor; they broke the covenant that bound them to their God. Usually men proceed from omissions to commissions, and frequent violations of the Law make way for the final and entire renunciation of the covenant.
III. PROFESSION WITHOUT PRACTICE IS MERE PRETENCE. Israel had, no doubt, more knowledge of the true God than any of the neighboring nations. God s Name was known among them; to Israel belonged "the adoption, the glory, and the covenants." They depended much on this, and in their adversity they urged with much vehemence the plea, "My God, we know thee." So at last many will cry, "Lord, Lord, open to us;" or, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy Name, and in thy Name cast out devils, and in thy Name done many wonderful works?' But this plea shall only meet, as it merits, the indignant response, "Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity." Here is the secret of their rejection: their profession was not supplemented by practice. They pretend to know God in the day of their distress; but as long as they basked in the sunshine of prosperity, they neither desired the knowledge of God's ways, nor delighted in the duties required of them; nay, they despised practical piety. They had a name to live, but were dead; they had a form of godliness, but denied its power in their heart and life. Alas I how many professors of religion are in this same state. "What stead will it stand a man in to be able to say, 'My God, I know thee,' when he cannot say, 'My God, I love thee,' and 'My God, I serve thee, and cleave to thee only'?" Israel had cast off the thing that is good; they had cast off God, the supreme Good. There is nothing truly great but God, and nothing really good but God; and in rejecting God they rejected all that is good. God is the Author of all goodness, and nearness to him is the sure way of getting good. "Whatsoever any man hath or enjoys of good, is from his relation to him, his nearness to him, his congruity with him." Israel cast off the Law of God, though that Law was holy and just and good; they cast off his worship, though that conduced both to their temporal and eternal good; they abandoned his service, though it was good for all the relations of life; they had east over everything good and upright, just and true; and now in turn they are cast off. The contrast is observable; they had driven away from all that was good, and now the enemy drives in hot pursuit after them.
The causes of the Divine judgments are more particularly specified.
The first sin which brought down the Divine displeasure was their civil apostasy, as it has been called, or change of civil government.
I. NATURE OF THE FIRST SIN BY WHICH ISRAEL INCURRED DIVINE WRATH. By this we are not to understand, with some, the election of Saul, because this political offence, if we may rightly so term it, included the twelve tribes in common, whereas it is the ten tribes of the northern kingdom with which the prophet here deals; neither are we, according to others, to confine the sin with which Israel is here charged to certain usurpers who, by treachery, or conspiracy, or assassination, forced their way to the throne, for this was long after the disruption, and was the sin of a few individuals rather than of the whole people, though undoubtedly the whole people suffered by the transgression of these particular persons. It is to the separation of Israel from the Davidic dynasty and the southern kingdom in the days of Jeroboam that the prophet refers.
II. THE SAME THING DONE AND NOT DONE BY GOD. An objection is sometimes urged against the severity with which Israel is reproved for the disruption of the kingdom of David, seeing that God had predestined and promised it.
1. It is true, indeed, that God had predicted the rending of the kingdom of Solomon; it is true he had promised ten tribes to Jeroboam by Ahijah the Shilonite; it is true also that he had even predetermined the whole. How, then, can it be maid to have taken place without God's consent? Or why should Israel be so sharply rebuked for the sin? God had determined to punish Solomon by rending ten tribes from the kingdom of his son and successor, though he himself was allowed to retain the government of the whole till the end of his days, and by handing them over to Jeroboam. The part enacted by the people was not with the Divine knowledge, that is, the Divine consent, approval They did not consult God about the matter, or the manner of it, or the time of it; they did not wait for his command to do it; they did not seek his approbation in doing it; they were no way concerned about executing the Divine purpose—nothing was further from their thoughts. They revolted from the house of David not in order to obey God; of this, as far as the history shows, they never thought. What they did was done from a spirit of sedition; what they aimed at was a relief from oppressive taxation. They had no regard to the Divine mind in the whole movement. They were bent on carrying out their own cherished project, and yet unwittingly, unintentionally, they were carrying out the purpose and promise of God, though without any reference to the mind and will of God.
2. The following illustration of this difficult subject is given by Calvin. "God," he says, "designed to prove the patience of his servant Job. The robbers who took away his property, were they excusable? By no means. For what was their object, but to enrich themselves by injustice and plunder? Since, then, they purchased their advantage at the expense of another, and unjustly robbed a man who had never injured them, they were destitute of every excuse. The Lord, however, did in the mean time execute by them what he had appointed, and what he had already permitted Satan to do. He intended that his servant should be plundered; and Satan, who influenced the robbers, could not himself move a finger except by the permission of God—nay, except it was commanded him. At the same time, the Lord had nothing in common or in connection with the wicked, because his purpose was far apart from their depraved lust. So also it must be said of what is said here by the prophet."
III. THE SECOND CAUSE OF DIVINE JUDGMENT. The second sin and cause of judgment was their religious apostasy in the worship of the calves.
1. The first sin, as so often happens, led to the second. The idolatry of the calves was intended by Jeroboam to help and uphold his usurped sovereignty. Not only had the national religion fallen into decay, but it had degenerated into superstitious will-worship. Next to the subversion of the Davidic kingdom came the perversion of the legitimate priesthood.
2. The sin of their apostasy was aggravated by their abuse of the wealth which God had given them. All they had they owed to God, and were in duty bound to employ it for his honor; instead of doing so, they dishonored him by making idols of their silver and gold. Men are sometimes found to be more lavish of their gold and silver in support of a false religion than in maintaining the pure worship of the true God. Israel might pretend that their calves of gold were only representations of Jehovah; but Jehovah refuses to be so represented, forbidding men to make any graven image of metal, or stone, or wood, standing out prominently and in high relief, or any likeness el anything on a fiat surface as a picture, for the purpose of doing it homage by worship or serving it by sacrifice. If, then, men neglect the Divine prohibitions or precepts, they must remember that God will not be mocked by their professions or pretences, but will estimate them by their practice in the light of his Law.
3. Israel was destroying himself by this sinful idolatry. "That he may be cut off;" such is the literal sense, as though it meant the whole nation as one man—one and all. Such was the tendency of their conduct, though it was not their intention; such was the inevitable end of their course, though they were not aware of it. "So a man chooses destruction or hell, if he chooses those things which, according to God's known Law and Word, end in it. Man hides from his own eyes the distant future, and fixes them on the nearer objects which he has at heart." Some take the clause to mean that the gold and silver so sadly misused and sinfully perverted would be cut off; it appears rather to refer to the persons who were the possessors thereof; in any case their money would perish, either passing out of their possession or along with the possessors.
IV. THEIR SIN AND CONSEQUENT SUFFERING ARE INSISTED ON. The striking amplification of the same subject seems designed to impress on the people's mind that they themselves, and no other, had wrought their ruin, and that they need not try to transfer the fault to others, or charge God foolishly. Nor is it necessary to suppose that a calf had been set up at Samaria, or that one of those at Dan and Bethel had been removed thither. Samaria was the metropolis of the northern kingdom, and as such took a leading part in the calf-worship and contributed largely and liberally to its support. Of the different renderings of the first clause of verse 5, all tending pretty much in the same direction, we may safely adhere to that of the Authorized Version as affording a good sense. Israel, we read in verse 3, "had cast off" God and goodness; now the calf which they had set up as their god had cast them off, left them in the lurch, or caused their removal to another and a foreign land; thus their sin and its punishment are linked together by the same word, "cast off" (רנה). The thing is represented in the past because sure of accomplishment; they had renounced God, and now the thing which they substituted for God had abandoned them. So shall it ever be; whatever object men make an idol of, and set it up in their heart instead of God, giving it that place in their affections which belongs to God alone, will one day assuredly cast them off, desert them in their sorest need, and leave them in distress. Is wealth our idol? Do we make gold our god, and fine gold our confidence? That calf of gold will cast us off; for fiches make themselves wings and fly away, as has been the sorrowful experience of thousands! Is fame the god we follow? Is popular applause the idol we worship? Are worldly greatness and its accompanying glory the idols, the objects, of our idolatry, and dear to us as the calves at Dan and Bethel were to Israel? This calf of vain-glory will surely cast us off; for fame is a bubble that bursts before it goes far along the stream of time; popularity is often false, always fickle as the breeze. The words of Wolsey prove with wondrous power how the calf of worldly glory casts off its worshippers.
"Farewell, a long farewell, to all my greatness!
This is the state of man: Today he puts forth
The tender leaves of hope, tomorrow blossoms,
And bears his blushing honors thick upon him:
The third day comes a frost, a killing freest;
And,—when he thinks, good easy man, full surely
His greatness is a-ripening,—nips his root,
And then he falls, as I do. I have ventured,
Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,
This ninny summers in a sea of glory;
But far beyond my depth: my high-blown pride
At length broke under me; and now has left me,
Weary, and old with service, to the mercy
Of a rude stream, that must for ever hide me.
Vain pomp and glory of this world, I hate ye!"
Do the pleasures of sin engross our affections, and are they the idol on which our heart dotes? Our idol will cast us off. The pleasures of sin are short-lived; they last but for a season, and that season is at most and best a short one; nor do they satisfy while they last. Is beauty the object of our idolatry? This calf, so greatly admired and much beloved, in a little while casts off and disappoints its many worshippers. For beauty is a fair but fleeting flower; it fades and fails. "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away." The heir to or actual owner of a large estate, with its broad acres and princely mansion, sets his heart on his splendid possessions; his magnificent property becomes his idol, but his calf casts him off. If only heir, he may never enter on the actual possession, and so he is disappointed of it; if already owner, he may in many ways be disappointed in it, or he may be deprived of it by force, or fraud, or casualty, or death; in either case the calf casts off the idolatrous worshipper. The hereditary estate, secure it as men will by deeds and settlements, shall change proprietorship and be taken away; there is no real fixity of tenure here on earth. The baronial residence shall in time become a ruin grey, round which the ivy twines.
2. But why does the calf of Samaria, or, generally speaking, men's idol, prove so unsatisfactory, blighting men's hopes and blasting their expectations, so that they are left a prey to disappointment, disgust, distress, or even despair? Just because God's anger is kindled against it. God is a jealous God, and will not give his glory to another, or his praise to graven images. Whatever course of sin men pursue becomes like a conductor of electricity, and brings down the scathing lightning of the Divine wrath upon their guilty heads.
3. But the anger of God is not only kindled against them; it is aggravated and intensified by their obduracy of heart and persistent course of evil. "How long," asks God, "will it be ere they attain to innocency?" that is to say, how long will they persevere in their present evil ways, neither purging themselves from the sin of idolatry and putting away their idols, nor striving to attain to purity of life and uprightness of character? The omniscient One himself in asking this question seems surprised—with reverence be it spoken—at their suicidal obstinacy, as if bent on their own destruction and rushing on their own ruin. He waits to be merciful, but they repel the overtures of his grace; he stretches out his hand to receive and welcome them, but they refuse to return. No wonder our blessed Lord, during the days of his flesh, is reported in a certain place to have "marveled because of men's unbelief."
4. We are further shown in the following verse the justness of God's indignation against those stupid calf-worshippers. This worship was no institution of God.; it was Israel's invention. They could not lay the blame of it on others. Sinners sometimes feel a miserable satisfaction or even palliation in endeavoring to make others the scapegoat of their own iniquities. This is an old story. Adam laid the fault of his eating the forbidden fruit on Eve; Eve in turn transferred it to the serpent. No doubt a load is lightened when it is laid on the shoulders of several persons instead of a single individual. Not so with Israel in this case. No prophetic intimation induced Israel to adopt the calf-idolatry, neither could they find fault with their neighbors for seducing them into it. It was their own device, and had its origin with their king and themselves. How sad that Israel should make themselves so vile!—that Israel, forgetful of their high lineage; that Israel, unmindful of their great progenitor, whose title of nobility was "prince with God;" that Israel, whom God had taken into covenant to be his peculiar people, and who at the foot of Sinai avouched the Lord to be their God, should prove so unspeakably sottish as to worship a man-made God, having "changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass"! But those calves of Dan and Bethel, or this calf of Samaria, in its collective sense comprehending all and considered by them as a "sort of tutelary deity of the ten tribes," was as contemptible in its end as at its beginning. Made by man's hand, it was to be unmade by the same; fashioned by man, it was doomed to be broken into fragments by man, and, like Aaron's calf at Sinai, broken into pieces and ground to powder.
V. A MORAL SEED-TIME AND ITS HARVEST. The account of Israel's punishment is continued in two striking similitudes, one of which presents the positive side and the other the negative. The positive side is that of a man sowing the wind and. reaping the whirlwind, as if a person took immense pains, toiling and laboring like a husbandman when he sows his seed; but the seed sown is wind, a thing of naught and unsubstantial-mere empty sound, and nothing more or better; then when harvest comes, as might in such circumstances be expected, there is grievous disappointment, and not only disappointment, but destruction, utter destruction, represented by a fearful whirlwind (the double termination intensifying the meaning). "If it may be supposed," says Pococke, "that a man should sow the wind and. cover it with earth, or keep it there for a while penned up, what could he expect but that it should be enforced by its being shut up, and the accession of what might increase its strength to break forth again in greater quantities with greater violence?" Israel expended gold and silver on their idols, and were assiduously laborious in their worship; but instead of reaping any benefit from them, or increasing their prosperity by them so as to equal the idolatrous nations around, they labored in vain and wearied themselves for very vanity. Nor was that all; they reaped ruin, being swept away by the whirlwind of Divine wrath. The negative side exhibits three degrees of development, or three stages of progress. They sow, and, as the husbandman expects a crop, so they look for a harvest of peace, plenty, and prosperity. But lo! the seed they sow never comes up, it has neither blade nor stalk; or if it should spring up, produce a stalk or standing corn and develop an ear, it never reaches maturity—the ear does not fill, there is no ripe corn in the ear, and so the bud yields no meal; or suppose it to advance yet further, and to ripen and yield meal, it becomes a spoil to the enemy, for strangers swallow it up. How many every year, every month, every week, ay, every day, are sowing in this way foolishly and even fatally, being doomed to reap, not only disappointment, but destruction! The apostle tells us that they who sow to the flesh shall reap corruption. It is observable that in the passage referred to (Galatians 6:8) there is a distinction: the seed (ὅγὰρ ἐὰν σπείρη) and. the soil, or the field (εἰς τὴν σάρκα), and that which is sown in it. The field is the flesh, or sensuality in general: in that field some sow the seed of licentiousness, and they reap rottenness; some sow intemperance, and they reap corruption.
VI. THE SAD SEQUEL OF ISRAEL'S SIN. The figure now resolves itself into a fact—a threefold fact—namely, Israel's consumption, captivity, and contempt.
1. They are swallowed up as a victim is swallowed by a beast of prey, and consumed from being a nation. And yet this consumption is not annihilation, nor extinction, as we learn from the remainder of the verse. It is rather impoverishment—their substance devoured by strangers, and the produce of their land eaten up. The expression may be paralleled by the Homeric—
"Priam and all his house and all his host
Alive devour; then, haply, thou wilt rest."
More appropriate still is the Scripture parallel, "Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as. they eat bread."
2. Their dispersion and captivity m Gentile lands were soon and certainly to come to pass. Driven from their own country, and deprived of those ordinances which, when they might have enjoyed and profited by them, were abused and despised, they shall ere long find themselves strangers in a foreign land and among heathen people; for "now shall they be among the Gentiles."
3. In addition to captivity, they are doomed to contempt, like vessels put to the vilest use, and into which the filthiest things are poured. They have been vessels of dishonor, despised broken vessels, in which there is no pleasure. And has it not been so with Israel for nearly, or perhaps we might say for more than, two thousand years? Notwithstanding the eminence to which individuals of that race have risen in the different professions and in various walks of life, they have as a people, in the lands of their dispersion, been subject to outrage, treated with contumely, scorned and spoiled and peeled.
4. Though these calamities were peculiar to Israel in a special manner, yet less or more they have been common to sinners at all times and in all lands. Those that corrupt religion or contemn its privileges are not infrequently deprived of them; gospel-despisers are deprived of the gospel; those that dishonor God are dishonored by their fellow-men, for "them that honor me," says God, "I will honor; and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."
The justice of the judgments threatened with further additions.
Their errand to Assyria added to their sin; they sought heathen helpers to uphold them in their apostasy and idolatry, increasing their sin.
I. ONE SINFUL ACT IS PROLIFIC OF MANY MORE. One sinful course draws on another, just as one lie necessitates one or more to make it plausible, or prop it up or cloak it. The revolt from the Davidic dynasty was a wrong step and a sinful one; the idolatry Of the calves was still more wicked. The progression was from bad to worse; but to have recourse to foreign allies to secure them in their twofold national iniquity was yet another step down the steep incline of sin.
II. SIN IS AT ONCE A FOOLISH AND EXPENSIVE THING.
1. Ephraim's conduct was as perverse in this regard as the headstrong wild ass that refuses all restraint, and stubbornly pursues its own headlong course through the desert; or, if it be a contrast and not a comparison, the folly of Ephraim is reproved by the wild ass, which is sufficiently wise to roam at large in its own solitary way, keeping aloof from all interference with its liberty and retaining its independence.
2. But Epraim's folly cost them dear. Like a shameless wanton, wooing and not waiting to be wooed, they resorted to sinful helps which were as much adultery as idolatry itself; they hired help by such adulterous alliances. The help they thus procured in reality helped them not; they submitted to the suzerainty of Assyria, and became subject to imposts and tribute. To escape one master, men sometimes put themselves in the power of a worse, repeating the experience of the poet's fable "
A lordly stag, arm'd with superior force,
Drove from their common field a vanquish'd horse,
Who for revenge to man his strength enslaved,
Took up his rider and the bit received;
But, though he conquer'd in the martial strife,
He felt his rider's weight, and champ'd the hit for life."
II. GOD ALONE IS THE SURE REFUGE OF HIS PEOPLE IN THEIR STRAITS. In time of trouble men often sin against God, and sin against their own soul by going elsewhere in search of help. If in their straits they seek help of God, all will be well with them in the end. When trouble comes, when affliction comes, when we are in distress, instead of simple shifts we are to seek help from God; instead of putting confidence in creaturely succors, we must apply to the Creator. To neglect him and sue for relict elsewhere, is forsaking our own mercies and turning our back on God; to depart from God and depend on sinful means of help, is hurtful in the effort and in the effect, as well in the emergency as in the issue and end. Nor need we ever distrust his care or doubt his kindness, if only in earnest we apply to him; his help is real, his help is effectual; he bestows it without stint and without fee or reward, without money and without price. As the psalmist sings so beautifully
"God is our Refuge and our Strength,
In straits a present Aid;
Therefore, although the earth remove,
We shall not be afraid."
IV. WRONG MEANS OF HELP PROVE RUINOUS. The help which Israel hired among the heathen, so far from availing them, put them in a worse position than before.
1. God would frustrate their purpose, gathering their hired allies against them, or themselves as exiles among aliens and enemies. If "a little ' be not referred to time nor understood ironically, it may mean that heavy as was the tribute imposed by the Assyrian monarch, and grievous to be borne so that it caused revolt, it was the source of little grief compared with what followed, when first a portion and then the whole of the nation were carried into Captivity.
2. Partly similar and partly dissimilar is the following exposition of Kimchi: "They at first murmured and complained on account of the burthen of the king and the princes, as is written in the Book of Kings that the kings of the nations imposed tribute on them; and this the prophet calls a trifle in comparison with the Captivity." The taxes and burdens with which they were oppressed were, indeed, mere trifles, and easily borne in respect of the Captivity and the calamities that succeeded.
3. "A people," says an old expositor, "who have suffered under lesser trouble, and yet have made no right use of it to prevent more, or have used sinful means to be rid of it, may expect no other issue but that the Lord will send a greater trouble to make them forget the former; for this had been their carriage under their tribute and burdens, and they are therefore told they shall sorrow a little for the burden of the king of princes." Further, the means that men use will be of little avail so long as they refuse to acknowledge God, while the most prudent plans of their own devising, if unsanctioned and unblessed by him, end in disappointment and disaster; what they hire for their preservation becomes their undoing, and issues in destruction. Israel had applied to Assyria, and as the result of that application "began to be minished through the burden of the king of princes" (according to one rendering of the clause). First came the exactions of Pul, then the captivity of Gilead by Tiglath-pileser, and in the end the deportation of all Israel by Shatmaneser.
V. A SHOW OF RELIGION WITHOUT THE SUBSTANCE SERVES ONLY TO INCREASE BIN. God had, from the time of Moses, appointed one altar at Jerusalem; and when, in the days of Joshua, the trans-Jordanic tribes were thought by their brethren to have built an altar in violation of the Divine appointment, it called forth a most vigorous remonstrance: "What trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the Lord, in that ye have builded you an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the Lord?" It was only on receiving an explanation that it was not a sacrificial but monumental altar that the western brethren were reconciled.
1. Now, however, they had so far degenerated that beside the once central altar at Jerusalem they had one at Dan, another at Bethel, and others on every high hill and any other place that pleased them. This multiplication of altars had the appearance of religion, but only the appearance; these many altars were in all likelihood made for the ostensible purpose of offering expiatory sacrifices for sin, but were actually an augmentation of the people's sin, each altar becoming an additional element in the national transgression.
2. They had turned aside from God for human help; next they turned aside from the divinely appointed mode of worship to bureau methods, substituting for the pure service of the Most High the miserable semblance of self-devised religiousness. They had made many altars, which, however intended, resulted in the commission of sin; and now these many altars, instead of expiating their sins or making amends for their transgressing God's express command, are counted to them for sin and bring them in guilty before God, not to speak of the fact that the multiplication of altars to the true God would occasion the further sin of dedicating altars to other and strange gods. If men corrupt religion, however plausible their pretext, they do it at unspeakable peril to their own soul and the souls of others,
VI. THERE IS NO REASONABLE EXCUSE FOR SIN. This was specially the case with Israel, and still more particularly with ourselves. If Israel had been left in heathen darkness, if they had been ignorant of the Divine statutes and judgments, if they had not enjoyed the high privilege of being made the custodians of God's living oracles, there might have been some excuse for them, though indeed natural reason is sufficient to leave even the heathen without any reasonable excuse for idolatry.
1. But how different it was with Israel! God had made known to them, and that in permanent written record, the many lessons of his Law; but much as God had done for the people of Jewry, still more has he done for the peoples of Christendom, for while the Law came by Moses, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. We have in our hands, and for daily perusal, the wondrous things of the Law and the gracious things of the gospel; the twin lips of God's great oracle speak to us.
2. Many and great are the lessons of the written Word. Many as they are in number, they are yet greater in importance—great in their origin, for they come from God and are given by inspiration of his Spirit; great in their utility to man, for they make him acquainted with the things that pertain to life and godliness; great in their issues, for the interests of eternity are intertwined with them and depend on them; great as revealing the one living and true God, the way of his worship, his well-beloved Son our only Savior, and the plan of salvation by him.
3. Proportionately great is the sin of neglecting them. Israel, though God had been at pains to write to them the great things of his Law, turned their back upon them as something strange in which they had no concern, and with which they were disinclined to intermeddle, and which, even if attended to, could prove of little moment. These things, in greater measure and with greater fullness, have been handed on to us; for, though written long ago, they were written for our learning. What a terrible responsibility rests on us if we neglect these things from indifference, or slight them from contempt, or refuse to be directed, guided, and governed by them, or reject them altogether as unworthy of our observance and obedience, or as unsuitable to a progressive age and present circumstances!
VII. SELFISH SERVICES ARE VOID OF SIGNIFICANCE. "Most part of worshippers follow the external duties of religion no further than their own ends lead them; and men's own advantage is the upholder of all false religion, for they sacrifice and eat it."
1. They feasted on their sacrifices. This was allowable in the case of peace offerings and thank offerings; but in the case of the burnt offerings they were wholly consecrated to God, and ascended (according to the import of the name) in the altar-smoke to heaven. Israel was not, it is probable, careful to mark the distinction or restrict their appetite in the case. It is right and proper that we should carry our religion into our business, but decidedly wrong to carry our business, with all its selfishness or greed of gain, into our religion.
2. Their worship was a lifeless, soul-less, unspiritual service. Besides being offered in the wrong place and by the wrong persons—that is, in places forbidden and by unauthorized persons, such as Jeroboam's priests—they were offered without the right aim or right end, or any true devotion of spirit. It was mere external worship, without spiritual affections, or spiritual dispositions, or spiritual life; and therefore such sacrifices wanted the proper qualities and necessary characteristics of sacrifice; they were, in fact, only flesh, and the victims only carcasses, and consequently the Lord could not away with them; he accepted them not.
3. A proper spirit, a pure heart, and clean hands are among the conditions of acceptable service. God, by the Prophet Isaiah, after affirming his respect to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembling at the Divine Word, adds in relation to the opposite character, "He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol." So in the New Testament we are required to present "reasonable service," or service in which the soul and spirit are engaged, as opposed to what is merely outward and corporeal. 4. Unhallowed services only remind God of the offences of the worshippers, whose sins in consequence he remembers, not to pardon them, but to punish them. The God that redeemed them and brought them out of Egypt will send them back into bondage, in Assyria or elsewhere, equal to or worse than that of Egypt. Some literally and actually went to Egypt, and found a grave there.
Israel and Judah both in the transgression.
In this closing verse of the chapter God takes Judah to task as well as Israel for forgetfulness of God; while that forgetfulness of his Maker on the part of Israel manifested itself in idolatry, and so in building idol-temples, but on the part of Judah by carnal confidences, and so in multiplying fenced cities. The one set up idols m the place of God, the other confided in outward means of defense and safety instead of trusting in God; thus the heart of both was far from God and the remembrance of his Name. The sin here recorded occurred in the reign of Ahaz, who sought to secure Judah by fortified cities, dreading the incursions of Assyria (Isaiah 22:8-23.22.11). The punishment was inflicted by Sennacherib (Isaiah 36:1).
HOMILIES BY C. JERDAN
A trumpet-blast of judgment.
In this passage the announcement of Israel's doom is still more direct than it has hitherto been. Up to this point the prophet's message has been principally one of complaint, with threatening of punishment in the future; now, however, he speaks of the judgment as immediately about to fall upon the sinful nation.
I. THE PROCLAMATION OF JUDGMENT. (Hosea 8:1) Hosea is here abruptly addressed by the Spirit as a sentinel or watchman. Being the herald of Jehovah, he is to proclaim with the trumpet of prophecy the near approach of the day of vengeance. His immediate message is that Shalmaneser, the Assyrian king, is soon to descend upon Israel as with the fell swoop of an eagle, and to carry the ten tribes captive. Beyond that, however, and little more than a hundred years later, Nebuchadnezzar, "a great eagle with great wings" (Ezekiel 17:3), is to fall similarly upon Judah. And yet again, in the year 70 A.D; when Jerusalem shall have become a "carcass," the Roman eagles under Titus shall assemble around it, perch victoriously upon the crest of Moriah, and take away from the Jews "both their place and nation." By means of such judgments as these was the wonderful prediction of Moses to be fulfilled, in which the Lord threatened to "bring a nation against Israel from far, as swift as the eagle flieth" (Deuteronomy 28:49). Even yet, however, in these times of the gospel, must the Lord's prophet "set the trumpet to his mouth" to warn wicked nations of the doom which national sin entails, and to remind the sinner of" the wrath to come" which shall overwhelm the impenitent. The "silver trumpet" of the gospel jubilee is to announce, not only the salvation which the Lord Jesus Christ brought at his first coming, but also the judgments which are to overtake unbelievers at the second advent, and which shall then be heralded by the dread "trumpet" of the resurrection.
II. THE CAUSE OF THE JUDGMENT. It was apostasy. This is stated generally in verse 1, and more specifically in verse 4. Israel had "transgressed the covenant" (verse 1) that Jehovah had made with them at Sinai; they had done so by "trespassing against his Law," as written in "the book of the covenant" (Exodus 24:7). They had forsaken God in two ways: by rebelling against the royal house of David, and by rejecting the priestly order of Aaron (verse 4).
1. Israel maintained a schismatic kingdom. In revolting under Jeroboam, they consulted only their own evil self-will, and not the will of Jehovah. During the two hundred and fifty years that the northern kingdom lasted, the throne was occupied by six or more wretched dynasties, and by nineteen unhappy monarchs, all of whom were apostates from God and tyrants over the people. Not one of the kings of the ten tribes did Jehovah recognize as his vicegerent. Dethronements and assassinations and usurpations followed one another, and he "knew it not."
2. Israel embraced a false religion. "They made them idols," and went astray into calf-worship and Baal-worship. Not only did the political apostasy lead to the adoption of these heathen practices; the tribes, apart from that, had at this period of their history strong leanings towards idolatry. The people found it pleasant to employ as objects of worship what they could see and touch. They desired to be like the nations around them that served graven images. So they gave freely of their wealth (verse 4) for the maintenance of their idol temples. In our age, too, the Lord's prophet must point to apostasy from him as the cause of spiritual ruin. The gospel trumpet is to emphasize the counsel of the apostle, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21). The pulpit ought to warn men that the one sure result of persistently setting any creature—whether money, or power, or fame, or any earthly love—in the place of the Creator, will be the irreparable loss and everlasting shame of the soul
III. THE FALSE PLEA WHICH ISRAEL WOULD USE TO DEPRECATE THE JUDGMENT. (Verses 2, 3) Their affliction would drive the people to pray, and to plead that "we, Israel, have known thee." But such a declaration on their part were pretentious and hypocritical. It was irrelevant, and it would be unavailing. For, after all, it rested only upon their natural descent as the chosen race, and upon the historical information about God which they possessed. The plea is that the Lord must protect his own people; but he does not recognize as such those who can say nothing more than that "they have Abraham for their father." He regards mere head-knowledge of himself as dead knowledge. Israel "professed that they knew God, but in works they denied him" (Titus 1:16). "Israel hath cast off good" (verse 3)—thrown it from him with loathing and contempt. He had rejected God's salvation, by "transgressing his covenant"—in token whereof he had separated himself from the dynasty of David and from the priestly house of Aaron. And he had rejected Jehovah himself as the chief Good, by seeking a portion for himself in idolatry. Inevitably, therefore, "the enemy shall pursue him;" the Assyrian must crush the northern kingdom under his iron heel, and utterly destroy it. But these verses sound still in our ears the warning, to beware lest we trust in spiritual privilege, as if that were personal piety; or in the faith of our godly ancestors, as if that could be imputed to us; or in our knowledge of theology merely, as if that were synonymous with heart-religion. There is a strong tendency in human nature towards such vain confidence; and Satan plies us with subtle temptations in this direction. The Lord Jesus has warned us that when the last "trumpet" shall sound, anti the great assize shall be held, this same false plea shall be presented by multitudes (Matthew 7:22; Luke 13:25-42.13.27). To many who shall then cry, "My God, we know thee," the reply of the Judge will be, "I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.' We must during the present life calmly accept Christ, and live by the faith of him; we must have his Spirit reigning in our hearts, and devote ourselves to the pursuit of righteousness, if we would "not be ashamed before him at his coming."—C.J.
Sin its own punishment.
These verses exhibit
(1) the root of viz. forgetfulness of God (Hosea 8:14);
(2) its folly (Hosea 8:6);
(3) its fruitlessness (Hosea 8:7); and
(4) the ruin which it entails (Hosea 8:8, Hosea 8:10, Hosea 8:13, Hosea 8:14).
But perhaps the most prominent thought in the passage is that of the self-punishing nature of sin, as illustrated in the early history and the later fortunes of Ephraim. We see this fact reflected—
I. IN THE NATIONAL CALF-WORSHIP. (Hosea 8:5-28.8.7) Samaria had "cast off good" (Hosea 8:3) by departing from the pure ritual which Jehovah had prescribed; and therefore the "calf" which she had set up, and in which she gloried, had "cast her off." There was no help in the golden god during the crisis of the country's peril. How could there be?—for "the workman made it." Instead, therefore, of interposing to save their worshippers from exile, the two calves were themselves taken to Nineveh as a spoil. Tiglath-pileser carded away the calf of Dan, and Shalmaneser that of Bethel. The worship of Jeroboam's images proved the ruin of the nation. It was a sowing of the wind. For the breach of the second commandment paved the way for the violation of the first, and for contempt of the whole Decalogue; and then Israel "reaped the whirlwind."
II. IN THE MULTIPLICATION OF ALTARS AND SACRIFICES (Hosea 8:11-28.8.14) The Divine will had appointed but one central sanctuary and place of sacrifice (Deuteronomy 12:5-5.12.14). But Israel evinced the corruption of her worship by multiplying temples all over the land, not only to Jehovah, but to the gods of heathendom. The people protested, indeed, that they did not deny the Lord God of their fathers, even when they called upon Baal (Hosea 2:11). But Jehovah could not accept a divided homage; he regarded their altars as set up only "to sin," and he rejected the sacrifices which they laid upon them. The temples which the men of Ephraim built, thus became a millstone round their neck to drag them to destruction (Hosea 8:11). What a pathetic word-picture of a dead ritualism is sketched with one slight touch in Hosea 8:14, "Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples"! Yet these shrines were not true temples after all, for there was no Divine presence in them. Without the presence of God the most splendid cathedral is not a sanctuary, but a sepulcher.
III. IN THE POLITICAL FLIRTATIONS WITH ASSYRIA. (Hosea 8:8-28.8.10) Again and again the kingdom of Israel endeavored to bolster itself up by abject vassalage to the King of Assyria, and by paying heavy tribute to buy off his invading armies. To this adulterous policy Hosea refers in the words, "Ephraim hath hired lovers." But such expedients, so far from contributing to the safety of the nation, served rather to precipitate and aggravate its ruin. First of all, the tribute imposed upon the people caused them to "sorrow" (verse 10); and at length Israel was entirely "swallowed up" by the invader. The nation became, in its headstrong obstinacy of disobedience, like the solitary "wild ass" of the desert; and it fell an easy prey to the Assyrian lion.
IV. IN THE CONFIDENCE OF THE PEOPLE IN MATERIAL DEFENSES.. A fortified city is certainly a place of refuge from the invading host. But the motto of such should be, "Nisi Dominus frustra;" for, "except the Lord keep the city," it will be quite defenseless, in spite of its fortifications. Judah's battlements were not the Lord's; so they attracted the thunderbolts of the Divine vengeance, and were at last burned with fire by Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:13), and by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:9, 2 Kings 25:10). His cities and towers had been erected, Babel-like, in proud self-confidence; and thus they ultimately became his destruction.
1. What was true of Ephraim will be true also of England, so soon as the national life of our land shall resemble his. If we claim that the spiritual promises made to Ephraim apply to England, we ought also to acknowledge that the denunciations directed against Ephraim may possibly be deserved by England too.
2. If Ephraim's sin turned out to be its own punishment, it is the same also with that of each individual sinner. Retribution fails upon the wrong-doer in the course of natural law. For Providence is just, and "of our pleasant vices makes instruments to plague us."—C.J.
Reaping the whirlwind.
The figure here is extremely striking; it is one of the most forcible and vivid of Hosea's images. It suggests the folly and unprofitableness of a life of sin; those who live such a life "sow the wind." And it emphasizes the fact that while the harvest must be the same in kind as the seed sown, the increase will be tremendous, both in strength and volume. The whirlwind of the desert tears along with a roar like a cataract, and carries in its wings violent and sweeping destruction; it is, therefore, a fit metaphor for the issue of a career of sin Let us inquire who are some of those that thus reap.
I. IDOLATERS. It is of such that the prophet is more immediately speaking. The people of the ten tribes were "sowing the wind" when they prayed to the golden calves for abundant harvests; and they would presently "reap the whirlwind" in the three years' siege of Samaria by Shalmaneser, in the successive deportations into exile, and in the final ruin of the nationality of Ephraim. The generation that came out of Egypt seven centuries before had reaped a sad harvest from the calf-worship at Horeb. "There fell of the people that day about three thousand men" (Exodus 32:28). And ever since that time the idolatries of Israel had been a standing grief to Jehovah their Redeemer (Psalms 81:8-19.81.16); until at length there was nothing for it but the two hurricanes of captivity, which respectively swept the ten tribes into Assyria, and the remaining two into Babylon. All heathendom, moreover, "reaps the whirlwind' still as the fruit of its idolatries—a harvest (as Paul tells us in Romans 1:18-45.1.32) of moral corruption and vileness, overhung by the storm-cloud of the Divine wrath.
II. DESPOTS. The tyrant makes an idol of his own evil will, and "sows the wind" of ambition, and pride, and vain-glory, and disregard of the rights of others. Universal history teems with illustrations of the fact that those kings and grandees of the earth who will not give God the glory are doomed to reap a harvest of whirlwind. Take, e.g; from sacred history such cases as Pharaoh, Ahab and Jezebel, Sennacherib, Haman, Herod. Or, from profane history, such illustrations as the Stuart kings of England, the Bourbon kings of France, and the fate of the two Napoleons, Some tyrants have foreseen the harvest before it began to be gathered in; like Louis XV; when he said to his courtiers, "After me, the deluge."
III. CARELESS PARENTS. All who neglect the godly upbringing of their children "sow the wind." There are well-meaning heads of households who fail to maintain a firm and resolute as well as kindly family government. They allow their young people to cherish self-will, or to follow pleasure as if it were the business of life, and neglect to exercise due restraint over them. This was the sin of Eli (1 Samuel 3:13); and he soaped the tornado in the disgrace which was thus brought upon the priesthood, together with the destruction of his own house. There are parents, also, who in their own personal character fail to set a consistent godly example before their sons and daughters. David's great sin entailed evil upon his family like a whirlwind; some of his sons became arrows in his heart, instead of "arrows in his hand." The historian shows us the poor king reaping his dismal harvest in the pathetic scene in which he bewailed the fate of Absalom (2 Samuel 18:33),
IV. Vicious MEN. The young man who "wastes his substance with riotous living" has his career described in our text. In following the impulse of his wild hot passions he "sows the wind." The sensualist, the drunkard, the gambler,—how profitless all their sowing "to their own flesh"! And what a harvest of torment and terror and shame they are compelled to reap! It has been so even with men of the most brilliant genius, as e.g. the poets Byron and Burns. A career of sinful pleasure produces the whirlwind as its natural harvest. It undermines the foundations of morality within the soul (Hosea 4:11). The appropriate epitaph for such a life is, on the one side of the tombstone, "Vanity of vanities;" and on the other, "Vexation of spirit."
V. ALL UNBELIEVERS. For even the man of good moral character "sows the wind," if he neglects the salvation of Jesus Christ. Every one who lives without God is without hope. He who believes that the only real life is a life of sense, and who therefore shuts his eyes to the world of the unseen, shall one day be fully undeceived. Should no whirlwind arise within his conscience during the present life, he shall find himself, when he passes into eternity, at once involved in tremendous wreaths of storm. He "shall eat of the fruit of his own way," and his "destruction shall come as a whirlwind" (Proverbs 1:24-20.1.33). What a dreadful tempest is "the wrath of the Lamb" (Revelation 6:12-66.6.17). Yet the ungodly shall be exposed to all its fury. They shall "reap the whirlwind;" or, rather, the whirlwind shall reap them; they are "like the chaff which the wind driveth away" (Psalms 1:4).
1. This life is the seed-time of eternity, and all are sowers.
2. The harvest depends upon the seed; hence the importance of sowing good seed.
3. To sow sin is a policy of wretched infatuation; it is like "sowing wind."
4. The harvest of sin is not only profitless, but terrific and destructive; it is "the whirlwind."
5. All men have "sown the wind," for all are sinners; but there is "a Man" who is able to shelter us from the whirlwind (Isaiah 32:2).—C.J.
Holy Scripture, and man's neglect of it.
The complaint contained in this verse may reasonably be addressed to multitudes still. With even more reason, indeed, than to Ephraim seven centuries before Christ; for our completed Bible contains a much richer revelation of Divine truth than those earlier Scriptures which are here referred to.
I. GOD'S GREAT GIFT OF HOLY SCRIPTURE. "I have written to him the great things of my Law."
1. What is God's "Law."? The word is used in various senses. Sometimes it denotes the ten commandments alone; sometimes the five hooks of Moses as distinguished from the prophets; sometimes the Mosaic economy, in distinction from the gospel; and sometimes the whole will of God as published in Holy Writ to determine man's faith and to control his conduct. Hosea in this verse, without doubt, refers immediately to the Pentateuch; but, in applying the passage to ourselves, we must extend the application of the term "Law" so that it shall cover the whole Bible.
2. What are "the great things" of God's Law? These can be nothing else than those matters which constitute the substance of revelation. The Bible discloses truths which are:
(1) Great in themselves. The Book is a revelation of God—his nature, his trinity in unity, his ways in providence, his love to sinners. It unveils to man his own origin and destiny; shows him the greatness of his nature, despite its ruins; supplies him with the perfect standard of moral purity; and satisfies his loftiest aspirations. The Book grapples with the problem of sin, and reveals the way of salvation, through the mediation of the Son of God, his incarnation, his obedience unto death, his resurrection and exaltation (1 Timothy 3:16), and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It anticipates "the last things "—the universal triumph of the gospel, the find resurrection, the general judgment, and the blessedness of the heavenly kingdom.
(2) Great in their importance to man For the Bible tells man what he most needs to know, in order to his highest well-being. It answers to all the wants of his many-sided nature—his desire of knowledge, his admiration of what is noble, his yearning after sympathy, his need of inward rest, his hunger for immortality. Holy Scripture is a lamp unto his feet. It is the storehouse of his spiritual food. It is the fountain of life (see Psalms 19:7-19.19.11).
(3) Great in their comprehensiveness. Some read the clause thus: "I wrote to him the myriads [or, 'the fulnesses'] of my Law;" the reference being to the almost numberless individual ordinances connected with the Mosaic institutions. This thought may well remind us of the inexhaustible supplies of knowledge of all kinds—facts, doctrines, ethical principles, precepts, promises, predictions, etc.—which are stored up in Holy Scripture. The Book evinces its greatness in this respect, that it affords us sure rules and directions for out' life under all circumstances.
3. In what sense has God "written" these great things? In the same sense, surely, in which a man reveals his thoughts through the medium of his writings. The Lord himself is the Author of the Bible. Its teachings rest upon his authority. Whatever is declared by inspired men to be part of Divine truth or of human duty, God declares to be such. Christians may and do differ regarding theories of inspiration, but every believer accepts the fact that the books of Scripture are the Word of God.
II. MAN'S SHAMEFUL NEGLECT OF THIS GIFT. "But they were counted as a strange thing." The people of the ten tribes treated the precepts of the Pentateuch as if they were a matter which did not concern them. Holy Scripture is treated similarly still:
1. By worldly men. Some refuse to receive it as a Divine revelation. They reject the supernatural, ignore the whole realm of faith, and particularly dislike the distinctive doctrines of Christianity. Many more, however, have an orthodox intellectual) belief in the Bible as the Word of God; but their faith, such as it is, does not affect the conscience or the heart. When they read from the inspired volume, its words do not "come home to their business and bosoms." "They do not realize the grand evil which the Bible has come to cure, and they have not a heart to the blessings which it offers to bestow. The film of a fallen nature, self-maintained, is upon their eyes while they read" (Dr. John Ker). So, they neglect "the great things of God's Law" for the little matters of sense and worldly vanity. Many see no further grandeur in the Bible than its literary beauty. Others prize it simply as a book of moral culture, and nothing more. The baser sort profane Divine revelation by jesting with its holy subjects, and using its most sacred words as idle oaths.
2. By many professing Christians. Are there not such, to whom the Bible is "a strange thing," because the), very seldom sit down to read it? And of those who do regularly read "their chapter," how many do so merely to pacify conscience, and thus make little or no effort to understand the meaning of the passages read! Some sincere believers confine their attention to a few pet chapters which contain what they call "the simple gospel," and ignore the rest, although the Scriptures are full of "the manifold wisdom of God." This very prophecy of Hosea, as one has said, is "too often a deserted well;" but those, however, who come and draw from it find it full of living water. One of the wants of the age among professing Christians is a more adequate acquaintance with the contents of the Bible. The man who would enjoy robustness of spiritual life must study the Scriptures book by book, that he may discern the drift and scope of each book, apprehend its particular place in the scheme of truth, and at the same time appropriate and assimilate its teaching for the nourishment of his soul.
III. HOW WE OUGHT TO USE HOLY SCRIPTURE. (See Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 90) If we would avoid incurring the censure of this text, we must:
1. Receive the Book with a believing and thankful heart; treat it with deep reverence as the Divine Word; and make what effort we can to circulate it throughout the world.
2. "Search the Scriptures" with regularity and system, that our intellectual acquaint and with them may be both accurate and comprehensive.
3. Meditate upon Bible teaching with self-application in our leisure hours, that our minds may be imbued with its principles of truth and duty, and that conscience and affections and will may become subject to their power.
4. "Keep" God's Word in our dally acts, and in the habits which we form, so that it may mould our character, and make us Christ-like. "My mother and my brethren are these which hear the Word of God, and do it" (Luke 8:21).
5. And in all our use of Scripture we must pray for the promised aid of the Holy Spirit, without which our best efforts will be in vain.—C.J.
HOMILIES BY A. ROWLAND
On knowing God.
Ignorance of God or forgetfulness of him leads to moral depravity. This may be illustrated both by national history and by individual experience. Israel was an example of this truth. The people had forsaken God, had turned to idols, and were therefore sunk in the licentiousness of pagan worship. Their only hope of moral restoration and of future blessedness lay in the fulfillment of the promise, "Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee." The converse of our first statement is equally true. The habitual consciousness that God is near cannot but give simplicity, dignity, reverence, and holiness to life. This was the source of Abraham's magnanimity, of Joseph's purity, of Moses' dignity, of Daniel's heroism. "They endured as seeing him who is invisible." Our hope is to be found in the same source: "This is life eternal, that they might know thee," etc.
I. THE MEANS OF KNOWING GOD. They can be seen in the experience of Jacob, who first won for himself the name "Israel."
1. Repentance is the first step in such knowledge. No one can see goodness while gazing on sin, or know God while absorbed in self. A moral change, not a mental, is required of us as of Israel. The teaching of Christ was not too abstruse for comprehension, but it was too Divine for those absorbed in earthliness. His foes "loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." Paul was surrounded by men of culture, yet declared "the natural man receiveth not the things of God … neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned." John knew the advantages of intelligent study, but he said, "He that loveth not knoweth not God." The change from sin to holiness involves, in the spiritual realm, the change from ignorance to knowledge. Exhibit this in the vision Jacob had at Mahanaim. He knew God's Name after he had repented of his old sin against Esau, and of the habitual subtlety it revealed. Then as Israel he could say, "My God, I know thee."
2. Prayer is the outcry of repentance. "Israel shall cry to me." We know a man by fellowship with him, and thus we may know God; and he who speaks to God oftenest knows him best. How infinite the condescension that permits this, the love that encourages it! None can make God known to others unless they know him themselves. Hence the special need of prayer on the part of all who speak of him. The Divine teachers of the race have been those who have come from the presence of the Eternal. Illustrations found in the great lawgiver, who had spoken to God in Midian and on Sinai; in David, whose psalms show the agony of his prayer, the intensity of his worship; in the prophets, who saw visions of God; in the apostles, who were prepared for service by being with Jesus, and not by rabbinical culture; in reformers and others, whose spiritual power has been proportionate to their intimacy with God. If all professing Christians could say, "My God, we know thee," a human priesthood would be abolished, and the skepticism of the world would be paralyzed. It is true of this knowledge, as of all the higher blessings, "He that asketh receiveth."
II. THE JOYS OF KNOWING GOD.
1. The sense of personal relationship to him. "My God." He who can say, "My God," implies such blessings as these:
(1) Thou art the Pardoner of my sin; e.g. David in Psalms 51:1-19.51.19.
(2) The Bearer of my burdens: Esther and Nehemiah.
(3) The Source of my strength: Paul, "I can do all things," etc.
(4) The Place of my safety: Noah and Elijah.
(5) The Spring of my hope: John in Patmos.
(6) The Crowner of my life: Paul, "Henceforth there is laid up," etc.
2. The sense of saintly association. "Israel shall cry." In this cry the people of Hosea's time were associated with their forefathers. The God of their fathers was their God. He is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. Hence the helpfulness of the Scripture histories, which tell us what God has been to others. Dwell on the advantages of the history and the memories of the past. Show how the saints were accustomed to strengthen themselves for their present need by recalling former help. David recalled his experience as a shepherd; the exiles their former glory; the Jews their early deliverances, etc. Christian fellowship enlarges the possibilities of this. The experience of one is enriched by the memories of others. The joy of heaven will consist partly in the remembrances the redeemed have of the loving-kindness of God. Associations with the saintly are the noblest and most abiding.
III. THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF KNOWING GOD. They who know him are called upon:
1. To wait on him in lowly prayer. If he be God, he demands our constant homage.
2. To serve him with loyal heart, with no reserve of thought, or wish, or love.
3. To learn of him by constant thought. To one who knows him he says, "I will guide thee with mine eye." His glance, his whisper, is enough for us.
4. To represent him by consecrated life. When Moses came from the presence of God his face shone with heavenly light. When the Sanhedrim saw the courage and wisdom of Peter and John, they saw that they had been with Jesus. So he who is habitually with God will have about him something of heaven's atmosphere and of Christ's Spirit.
CONCLUSION. "No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal him."—A.R.
Hosea 8:3, Hosea 8:5 (parts)
Sin's mockery of the sinner
"Israel hath cast off the thing that is good … . Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off." The power of the human will to choose good or evil. This evidenced by the representation Hoses gives of a people resolved on iniquity, whom God was longing to save. Refer to the teaching of our Lord upon this subject; e.g. "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life;" or, "How often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, but ye would not!" Appeal to experience for proof of our power to receive or reject good. Our text describes a fallacious, sinful, and fatal choice. The sin for which sacrifice was made ultimately sacrificed the sinner. Look at the two sides of this moral picture.
I. THE CASTING OFF OF THE GOOD. "Israel hath cast off the thing that is good." Illustrate this by a delineation of the depraved condition of Israel at this period. Show that what they cast off is still being cast off by multitudes in modern life; e.g.:
1. Faith in the nearness of God. It was the loss of this which led Israel to form fatal alliances with the heathen. In our day materialism and Positivism are enervating, and sometimes destroying faith. The symbol of the spiritual is becoming the substitute for it, This may be traced both in the teachings of a school of philosophy, and in the sensuousness of ritualistic worship. Many have cast off the old faith—"the thing that is good"—instead of believing where they cannot prove.
2. Fidelity in witnessing for God. It had been the glory of Israel to proclaim, both by its worship and in its history, the unity, the invisibility, and the holiness of God. By turning to the worship of visible idols, diverse in their attributes, yet all hideous in their impurity, they had deliberately repudiated this Divine commission. Still it is man's peculiar dignity to appear as the witness and the worshipper of God, in whose image he was created, and over whose works he rules. Pre-eminently he may be the Divine witness by the moral character and the spiritual life inwrought in him by the Divine Spirit, who conforms us to the image of God's Son. Falling short of this, man fails (as Israel failed) to fulfill his destiny. Hence, in proportion as a man refuses the grace of God, he casts off the thing that is good.
3. Obedience to the Law of God. Show from pagan history, and from the condition of modern heathen, as well as from the growing degradation of those to whom Hoses spoke, that idolatry brings with it moral deterioration. The man who ignores the first table of the Law will of necessity ignore the second also. Religious faith and moral rightness stand or fall together. When Israel turned from Jehovah to Baal and Astarte, the nation gradually but surely became false, self-seeking, ambitious in its political alliances, and hideously corrupt in its inward social condition. Israel had cast off the thing that was good.
4. Loyalty to sacred resolves. The people often appeared about to repent, but their goodness was transient as the morning cloud. How frequently now right impressions and even holy vows are cast off! How jealously all should guard themselves against the subtle influence of a busy life, or of an alluring pleasure, or of an ill-chosen companionship! There are many whose hearts are hard, and whose lives are godless, respecting whom, in memory of their early promise, it may be truly and sadly said, "They have cast off the thing that is good."
II. THE CASTING OFF OF THE SINNER. "Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off'." History shows that Israel was ruined by trusting to Egypt and to its own martial prowess, instead of confiding In God and simply doing righteousness. Jeremiah's words were fulfilled, "Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord." Casting off good, Israel was cast off by evil. See how often this principle is exemplified in the broader sphere of human life. That which men put in the place of God sooner or later fails them.
1. Pleasures fail to give satisfaction. When the soul tries to quench its thirst with these the words of Isaiah are fulfilled, "It shall even be as when a hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty." The awakening comes ultimately to every man, and it is well when it does not come too late.
2. Intellect fails to find spiritual truth. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned, and the unrest of many arise from the fact that they have cast off the yoke of him who alone was able to say, "I am the …Truth."
3. Self-righteousness fails to bring salvation. See our Lord's words respecting the Pharisees. The house built on the sand stands side by side with the house founded upon the rock; but the testing-time comes to both.
4. The world fails to afford a home. Whether we will or not, the world must fail us at last. If we make it our servant, we shall rule like kings; if we make it our god, in our hour of helplessness it will cast us off.
CONCLUSION. "There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us."—A.R.
Hosea 8:7 (first clause)
What shall the harvest be?
In Scripture "the wind" is an emblem of vanity or folly, and "the whirlwind" of sudden and unexpected destruction. Here the latter is declared to be the product of the former. As a gentle "wind" may be the precursor of the "whirlwind," so the foolish policy of Israel would be followed by resistless disaster. By a change of figure in the following clause, Hosea announces that plans which at first seemed successful would bring no ultimate advantage. The clause may be thus paraphrased: "That which is sown produces no stalk, or even if it does the stalk will yield no grain; or if so be it does yield any, foreign armies shall swallow it up." The principle which underlies this teaching is sufficiently evident in the first clause, the consideration of which suggests the following truths:—
I. THAT MEN SHALL REAP AS THEY HAVE SOWN IS A DIVINE AND UNIVERSAL LAW.
1. This law is seen in nature. Sow wheat, and without further anxiety, you are confident that you will reap wheat, and not something else. And not in kind only, but in quantity, whether abundantly or sparsely, you will reap as you sowed. The child is surprised to see his own name appear written in living green; but he who sowed the seed in that form sees in it only what is natural and usual.
2. This law asserts itself in social life. If a nation allows its children to be brought up without regard to the sanctities of life, it finds its retribution in crowded jails and asylums, in political insecurity, in death-bringing pestilence, etc. Having sown the wind, it reaps the whirlwind. So it is with the methods adopted by despotic tyranny. History shows how often repressive measures, excessive and uncertain punishments, etc; have culminated in the whirlwind of revolution which has overwhelmed and wrecked orderly society.
3. this law is visible in the culture of the mind and the occupations of life. Contrast the destiny of the indolent shifty schoolboy with that of the steady student who yearly grows in intellectual capacity.
4. This law never fails in the moral and religious sphere. Suppose a man resolves to do that which will pay in a financial sense. He deliberately abjures righteousness for expediency, resolving at all costs to win wealth. He does win it. He reaps according to the seed he has sown, but it is no wonder if in his moral being he is "given over to a reprobate mind." On the other hand, the religious man gives up a profitable practice because he believes it to be immoral. The result is that he fails to reap riches because he has not sown for them, but he does reap the bliss of having a conscience void of offense towards God and towards men.
II. THAT THIS LAW SOMETIMES ASSERTS ITSELF IN THE SAD EXPERIENCE OF SINNERS EVEN IN THIS PRESENT LIFE. "Even as I have seen, they that plough inequity, and sow wickedness, reap the same" (Job 4:8). Retribution often comes (as it came to Israel) through the sin that at first brought nothing but success. The notorious life of James Fisk, of New York, was a remarkable illustration of the declaration, "The wicked shall fall by their own wickedness."
1. Examples from Scripture.
(1) Haman plotted against Mordecai to his own destruction. His was the vaulting ambition that overleaps itself.
(2) Daniel's foes were themselves cast into the lion's den.
(3) The Pharisees found that the cross to which they triumphantly nailed our Lord was at once the means of their confusion and of his victory over the world.
2. Examples from experience. Pope Alexander VI. Tried to poison his friend Cardinal Adrian. Through the mistake of his cupbearer, he himself died by the cup which was meant to destroy another. The Regent Morton was another example. So was Thomas Cromwell, of whom Macaulay says, "No one ever made a more unscrupulous use of the legislative power for the destruction of his foes;" and it was by these means he was himself destroyed.
2. Common proverbs illustrate the text. "Ashes always fly in the face of him who throws them." "Harm watch, harm catch," etc. Thus, even in outward circumstances, the words of the text have been fulfilled; but how much more terribly in that inward retribution which is veiled even from the victim's dearest friends! The anxiety that fears detection, the loss of self-respect, the horror of being alone, the failure of hope, the growing dread of the future, have caused many a man, even on earth, to know what it is to "reap the whirlwind." But observe finally—
III. THAT THIS LAW WILL ULTIMATELY PROCLAIM ITSELF WITH UNMISTAKABLE DISTINCTNESS. Sin's retribution is not always seen here. Human taws may be powerless to reach a recognized offender. Social morality may be too degraded to rebuke his sin. For these and other reasons much is necessarily left to the future, when crooked things will be made straight. Perhaps it is well that it should be so. It is for our profit that we should walk by faith, and not by sight. God does not append instant pain to every act of disobedience. He deals with us as men, not as children. To do right not because it pays, but because it is right, is the obedience of the wise man, not that of the petted child; and it is the higher God ever seeks. Hence he has contented himself with giving a few signs that his Law cannot be broken with impunity, and these point us on to the day when righteousness and truth shall be crowned, and wrong and falsehood cursed amidst the "Amens" of the universe. In such events as those to which we have referred, we see a few ripening ears which tell us what the harvest will be when those who have sown the wind shall reap the whirlwind. This experience, so far as it refers to the future retribution, denotes:
1. That it is sudden in its arrival. (See MtMat 24:37-39; Proverbs 29:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:2)
2. That it is resistless in its approach. Who can arrest the whirlwind (see Psalms 1:4; Revelation 6:15)?
3. That it is terrible in its effects. Compare the destruction of men's works by a whirlwind, with the desolation of the worldling's hopes by death.
1. Show how close is the connection between this life and the life to come. That is the reaping of this sowing. Therefore do not wait till harvest-time before beginning to sow in righteousness.
2. Show how possible it is, through God's goodness, to reap a harvest. Both of Christian character and of Christian work the promise is true, "He that soweth and he that reapeth will rejoice together."—A.R.
The inspiration of Scripture.
This is an emphatic declaration of the Divine origin of Scripture. If it required utterance in Hosea's day, it equally demands our earnest consideration. The accessibility and cheapness of God's Word has tended to its neglect. Because it is less rare it appears to many less precious. In the reign of Edward I. a copy would cost £37, and as a laborer earned only three half-pence as his daily wage, it represented to him the product of fifteen years' work. How different now! Probably the abundance of religious and other literature has also done something to divert attention from the Bible. In fear of this Luther wished that his own books were burnt, "because," said he, "I fear lest they should hinder men from reading the Bible, that Book of books, in comparison whereof all the books in the world are but waste paper." If all were convinced that Scripture is a revelation from God, such neglect would be less frequent; and therefore it may be well to consider our belief in Divine inspiration, which the occult influence of materialistic philosophy has done much to weaken. May the Spirit of truth! give us definiteness of conception, and may the Spirit of love give us generosity of tone.
I. THAT INSPIRATION IS CONSTANT WITH REASON. If it be admitted that God exists as the Creator of man, it is reasonable to expect that he would so tar direct and control the human mind as to secure the ends of moral government. We do not believe that the laws of physical necessity are paramount. We refuse to throw the reins to the modern Phaeton, who drives he knows not whither, and who cares not though the whole world of, Christian thought and of moral life be burnt to ashes. The theory that the universe is a vast machine, governed only by the laws of material organization, and that all its affairs are carried on by its own conceited powers, leads ultimately to the abasement of man and to the abolition of God; and from the abyss of despair to which Positivism leads us we recoil with horror. Our soul is something more than the concatenation of physical causes and effects; thought is not the mere product of movements in the particles of brain-matter; and love to each other and to God is higher than the ganglionic affection with which it may be associated. We believe that, though we are endued with freedom, God has not renounced all control over us; that side by side with our plans is a concurrent Providence evolving good; that the words are profoundly true, "in him we live, anti move, and have our being." It is to those with such a belief we are addressing ourselves, and say the inspiration of Scripture is what you might reasonably expect. If God control the physical world, it is not incongruous that he should present to human minds, and incline them to regard, and to communicate truths which relate to man's future destiny. If he make his sun to rise and flood the natural world with light, he will not leave the intellectual creation in darkness. In this thought lies the essential truth of inspiration. We shall not attempt to enumerate all the methods of Divine revelation. God's ways are various in this, as in the natural world. He can hurl up an island by volcanic force or he can build it by the multitudinous labors of coral insects. He can split a rock by the crash of the sea, or let a tiny stream trickle through it till it falls asunder. So in his revelations, Sometimes a voice has spoken, as on Sinai, and during the ministry of our Lord. Sometimes angels have appeared to speak to Abraham in his tent, or to the women at Christ's grave. The future has been revealed, now in dreams, as to Joseph; now in visions, as to Ezekiel. But we speak not of these revelations (ἀποκαλύψις), but of inspiration (Θεοπνεύστια), the direct internal suggestion given to men who wrote and spoke for God, giving to us in Scripture an authoritative rule of faith and practice.
II. THAT INSPIRATION IS CLAIMED FOR ITSELF BY SCRIPTURE.
1. These writers, who were evidently modest, humble men, declare that they were imbued with supernatural knowledge; that they knew what they could not recognize by intellectual research, being wrought on directly by the Holy Ghost; e.g. 2 Samuel 23:2; Matthew 10:20; 1 Peter 1:11, etc.
2. The truths they uttered justify such pretensions. Think fairly of any one of these men, consider his previous culture, his mental capacity, the condition of the world around him, mentally and morally, and see whether the dignity of Mosaic theology, the devout wisdom of the psalms, the pregnancy of prophecy, the nobility of moral tone throughout Scripture, could find source in the writers themselves. Above and behind them all a voice says," I have written the great [or, 'multitudinous'] things of my Law."
3. We may rest our belief in the inspiration of the Old Testament on declarations in the New. And these ultimately depend on the authority of Christ, the everlasting Word of God. Our Lord refers to several writers by name, appealing to them as of Divine authority, and using their utterances in his great conflict in the wilderness. He habitually spoke of" the Law and the prophets "as giving a revelation of God's will, saying about these, "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." His promises also to his disciples give authority to their utterances (comp. John 14:17, John 14:26; John 16:13). (Note the effects produced in human society by the direct and indirect influence of Scripture)
III. THAT INSPIRATION IS TO BE DISTINGUISHED BOTH FROM
(1) GENIUS AND
(2) FROM THE ORDINARY WORK OF GRACE IN THE HEART OF MAN.
1.Job 32:8; Job 32:8 is a declaration that intellectual gifts are of God; and some speak of Shakespeare and of others as "inspired" men. In Job's sense they were inspired; but their thought is not parallel with the thought of Scripture. The Bible writers were not men of extraordinary ability; nothing in their history, or claims, or writings would indicate that they were; and sometimes they affirm that it was by giving up their own thinking for trust and prayer that they knew God's will.
2. Nor must the inspiration of the sacred writers be considered as identical with that being "filled with the Spirit," etc; of which we often read. It was even given sometimes independently of character, as to Balaam—though (as there is congruity in all God's works, so there was in this) usually it was associated with sanctified character. The two were separable, yet true men spoke of truth, pure men of purity, devout men of God. "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. They were not unconscious instruments—mere automata. God employed their faculties, but did not supersede them. Each man retained his own individuality. It is well [or us that it was so. We read the psalms and hear the voice of God; yet we hear also in them the sobs and songs of man. We find Divine truth in Paul's Epistles; yet it is commended to us in Paul's human argument. Whether, however, it be in the thunder of Isaiah or in the trembling of Jeremiah, whether in the logic of Paul or the mysticism of John, we hear throughout all the declaration of God, "I have written," etc. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God."
CONCLUSION. Never account God's Word "a strange thing."
1. We may do so by applying its precepts and promises to others and not to ourselves, as it' they were foreign to us.
2. We may do so by allowing God's Word to lie beside us unread. Illustrate our duty by the story of the conversion of St. Augustine.—A.R.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
It could not be that, however tempted and however sinful, the children of the covenant should lose all remembrances of the mercies shown to them and the blessings promised to them. God had not forgotten them, neither did they altogether forget God. This cry, represented as rising to Heaven from Israel's lips, seems natural enough: "My God, we know thee."
I. WHEN A CRY OF HYPOCRISY, FEAR, OR SELFISHNESS, IT WAS VAIN. Alas! It was often this. Superstition led the people to conjoin the worship of Jehovah with the worship of idols. It would seem that, in their ignorant, selfish, worthless religiousness, they wished to stand well with both. There was a measure of truth in the cry; for the children of Abraham had a right to look to Jehovah and say, "My God," and they could justly add, "We know thee." Yet, occupying the position they did, their utterance was unheard by and unacceptable to the Searcher of hearts.
II. WHEN A CRY OF SINCERITY AND FAITH, IT WAS ACCEPTABLE. It was not that the words were wrong in themselves; it was the spirit that was defective and blamable. When such words came from filial, grateful, spiritual natures, most welcome were they to the ear of the Supreme. The language admits of, nay, it naturally expresses, devoutness—a joyful appropriation, heartfelt communion. It rejoices in an honorable and blessed relationship; it acknowledges a happy, elevating, and unbroken familiarity.—T.
The broken idol
The calf-worship in northern Palestine is an example of the inconsistencies to which human nature is liable, and the declensions incident to social and national life. The indignation of the prophet is a fit expression of the displeasure of Jehovah. And the threat conveyed in the language of the text must have been felt by those to whom it was addressed to be as righteously deserved as it was certain to be executed. The lesson of the passage is a more general and extensive one than appears upon the surface. We are reminded of—
I. MAN'S PRONENESS TO SET OTHER OBJECTS IN THE SUPREME PLACE WHICH OF RIGHT IS GOD'S. Every object, every being, every pursuit, which men place in the position which is God's alone, becomes an idol. Thus idolatry is a sin of all times. Pleasure, fame, learning, power, etc; all by turns assume the throne of the heart, stand in the shrine of Deity.
II. SUCH IDOLATRY CAN ONLY ISSUE IN HUMAN DISAPPOINTMENT. The vanity of trusting to the works of their own hands was impressed again and again upon Israel, until at length idolatry was rendered forever impossible to them. How much of the Old Testament consists of warnings that to trust in other refuges, in other helpers, than in Jehovah is the way to shame, confusion, and destruction! "Confounded be all they that serve graven images." Who is there that has forsaken God, and sought another deliverer, but has been miserably disappointed?
III. THE DIVINE DISPLEASURE IS MANIFESTED TOWARDS SUCH AS FORSAKE GOD FOR OTHER HELPERS. His honor he will not give to another. He sent prophets to Israel, and inspired them to upbraid and to denounce the unfaithful and apostate. The greater the mercies the Hebrew nation had enjoyed, the greater the Divine indignation with those who, having been so favored, had so rebelled.
IV. DOOM AND DESTRUCTION ARE PRONOUNCED BOTH UPON IDOLS AND UPON THOSE WHO TRUST IN THEM. "The calf shall be broken in pieces." The reed, upon which the faithless leans, shall pierce his side. He shall see the hosts in which he trusted melt into nothingness before his eyes. Riches shall take wings and fly away. The bubble of honor shall burst and vanish. The blossom of power shall be nipped, or the fruit shall fall unripe. Man is but man, and not God.
V. THE PURPOSE OF THIS PROVISION IS TO LEAD TO REPENTANCE AND TO RETURN UNTO THE LORD. Declarations of displeasure and denunciations of wrath afford no pleasure to the Divine mind that authorizes them. God's threat to destroy all rivals to his authority and supremacy must indeed be literally fulfilled. But for those who return to the God they have forsaken, there are open arms, there is a heart of mercy, there are words of pardon, there is welcome, restoration, and life.—T.
Sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind.
Sowing and reaping in the natural world are processes of husbandry so closely and vitally connected, that they obviously suggest corresponding connections in the spiritual realm. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Such is the great moral law. Yet there is a characteristic of the working of this law which is very suggestive. Whilst the kind remains the same, the measure of what is reaped largely exceeds the measure of what is sown. This is the lesson of the text. What is sown is the wind; what is reaped is the whirlwind.
I. IS WHAT SENSE SINNERS SOW THE WIND. The sins for which Israel was chiefly denounced by the prophet were idolatry and heathen alliances, in both of which the Lord's honor was given to another, and the confidence due to him was unrighteously and foolishly transferred. Now, the wind is the emblem of emptiness and unsubstantial vanity. Accordingly, the language of the text teaches that the conduct of Israel was foolish and vain. And this may be asserted of all who, by vice, or crime, or irreligion, depart from God.
II. IN WHAT SENSE SINNERS REAP THE WHIRLWIND. Under the government of a just and almighty Ruler, it could not be that Israel or any nation could forsake the true religion and abandon lofty principles, without suffering the consequences in the penalties attached to disobedience and rebellion. But the point of the text is to be found in the apparent disproportion between the offence and the penalty. Israel hoped for safety; instead of this, and as the result of apostasy, Israel went into captivity. The national life of the kingdom and people of Samaria was absolutely destroyed, never to be revived. Thus a mighty whirlwind, the messenger of Divine indignation, carried the people away in their sins. Thus is it with all high-handed and stiff-necked sinners. Their rebellion and apostasy has even to human eyes the appearance of a sowing to the wind; but in the order of the Divine government it is appointed that such shall reap the whirlwind. We read the lesson in the awful fate which has overtaken all nations which have been unfaithful to their calling, which have defied the righteous and Divine Governor. And in how many instances of individual life have we seen the operation of the same law! Moral ruin and utter overthrow have followed upon estrangement and rebellion. The very confidence which sinners repose in the idols they choose for themselves becomes the occasion of their more complete and irremediable confusion. Judgment is delayed; but the stores of retributive force accumulate, and in due time the tornado of Divine indignation sweeps down upon the sinner's head with irresistible force, issuing in the catastrophe of temporal and spiritual ruin.—T.
Israel excited the displeasure of Jehovah by not merely renouncing confidence in him, but by placing confidence in foreign nations and strange gods. And Israel aggravated the offence by rejecting the aid which her covenant God would readily and gratuitously have bestowed, and by expending her treasure in purchasing from neighboring nations assistance which proved to be vain and unprofitable. Her conduct is compared to that of an adulteress, so wanton as to purchase with her husband's money the affection and embraces of a stranger.
I. IT IS THE INFATUATION OF SIN TO FORSAKE THE FREE AND UNDESERVED FAVOR OF GOD. The folly of such a course is apparent to all whose minds are not under the influence of prejudice and passion. When the fountain of living waters is accessible, how wretched is the self-delusion of those who turn away from it!
II. THIS INFATUATION IS STILL MORE APPARENT WHEN IT LEADS SINNERS TO TRUST TO VAIN REFUGES. The cisterns which are sought when the fountain is forsaken are broken cisterns, which can hold no water. Such was the powerlessness, the insufficiency of the gods and the kings whom Israel sought. And in that they represent the men, the systems, the societies, the pursuits, which sinners are ever wont to exalt to the seat of God.
III. TILE INFATUATION OF SINNERS LEADS THEM TO PART WITH EVERYTHING IN ORDER TO OBTAIN NOTHING. Israel spent her treasure, drained her resources; and for what? Only to endure the bitterest humiliation, the most cruel disappointment. There was none, in the day of her sorrow, that could help, deliver, or comfort her—none! And this was all she obtained for her apostasy. The lovers, the friends, whom she "hired" were unfaithful and unhelpful. So is it with all who put their confidence in men and in princes. Men give up character and friends, a good conscience, a bright hope; they part with all, and what do they receive in return? The pleasures of sin for a season; but very soon weariness, disappointment, and misery. And "the end of these things is death."—T.
The Maker forgotten.
It is not an uncommon case that one who has received very substantial benefits from a fellow-man forgets his benefactor, and, when raised to a higher position in life, ignores those who by their exertions, sacrifices, and sympathy have contributed to his elevation. We deem such ingratitude reprehensible and almost monstrous. Yet how lightly do we regard those who are guilty of forgetfulness of their Creator and Redeemer! And yet this has been a common fault from the days of Israel of old down to the present time.
I. THE GUILT OF FORGETTING GOD, GENERALLY CONSIDERED. This appears when it is borne in mind:
1. That God is our Maker. To him we owe our existence; and to be unmindful of our Creator is the grossest sin.
2. That God has not forgotten us. He did not create man to leave him to himself, to live or to die. On the contrary, his care is ever over us, his love is always towards us. The tokens of his remembrances are always around us, in the bounties of his providence and in the proffers of his gospel. 3. That God has done much to keep himself in our memory. This is condescension indeed on the part of him who is the theme of heaven's eternal song; whom they praise day and night in his temple. Yet on every side we see tokens of God's presence, we hear the tones of his voice. He is not far from every one of us. Unnumbered suggestions of his presence, unnumbered reminders of his Fatherly love, aggravate the guilt of the unreflecting and ungrateful
II. THE SPECIAL GUILT OF FORGETTING GOD ON THE PART OF ISRAEL OF OLD AND ON THE PART OF CHRISTIANS NOW. To the children of Abraham God was a covenant God; he had done great things for their fathers and for them. To forget One who had the highest claims upon their memory, their fidelity, their devotion,—this was guilt indeed. Yet not comparable to the guilt of those who enjoy the advantages secured to such as live under the sound of the gospel, and in the midst of the privileges of the Church. How, if we forget God, can we hope, can we ask, that he should remember us in mercy and for good?—T.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
Hosea 8:1, Hosea 8:2
The conventional Church
"Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the Lord, because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my Law. Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee." "It is not unusual," says Elzas," for the prophets, without naming the invading foe, to announce his approach (see Isaiah 13:1-23.13.22). The words are singularly abrupt, and indicate the suddenness of the threatened invader. 'Like an eagle.' If this be a prophecy against Judah, as some have supposed, then by the eagle Nebuchadnezzar is meant, who is often compared to the king of birds (see Jeremiah 48:1-24.48.47.; Ezekiel 17:1-26.17.24.; Daniel 7:4). But if the prophecy be against Israel, which is the most likely, then Shalmaneser King of Assyria is intended, who for his rapidity, avarice, rapacity, and strength is fitly compared to the royal bird. ' The house of the Lord.' This cannot mean here the temple at Jerusalem, which is otherwise so designated, since the threatenings are most probably denounced against the kingdom of the ten tribes. It must therefore be taken to denote the people of Israel, the whole nation viewed as the family of God." By the "house of the Lord," therefore, we are to understand not the temple at Jerusalem, nor the land of Judaea, but Israel as a section of the professed people of God. The house of the Lord was a conventional Church. Look at the words as presenting a conventional Church in three aspects.
I. AS ENDANGERED. "He shall come as an eagle against the house of the Lord." How comes the eagle? Ravenously, suddenly, and swiftly; it pounces down on its prey with the rapidity of lightning, and fastens its talons on its heart. A conventional Church is in greater danger than any secular community. Why?
1. Its guilt is greater. It has the oracles of God, and it professes faith in those oracles, and yet its heart is out of sympathy with God and his laws. "Wee unto thee, Chorazin," etc.! "He that knoweth his master's will and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes." The hell of conventional Churches will be, methinks, deeper and darker than any other hell in the black domain of retribution.
2. Its influence is more pernicious. Whose influence on society is the most baneful—the man who denies God, the man who ignores him, or the man that misrepresents him? The last, I trow. The conventional Church gives society a real-representation of God and his religion. Of all the men in Christendom there is no man who is a greater bane to his race than he who wears the garb of religion but is destitute of its spirit. Surely the eagle of retribution will wing its way to no class more savagely and more quickly than to these conventional religionists.
II. AS WARNED. "Set the trumpet to thy mouth." This is Heaven's command to the prophet. Blow a blast that shall thrill every heart in the vast congregation of Israel. Why sound the warning?
1. Because the danger is tremendous. It is utter destruction.
2. Because the danger is at hand. The eagle has spread its pinions, has mounted the air, fastened his eye on the victim, and is about swooping down in fury.
3. Because the danger may be avoided. Were there no escape, why blew the trumpet? Why raise the alarm? Thank God there is escape as long as life continues.
"While the lamp holds out to burn
The vilest sinner may return."
What is wanted now is a ministry of warning to conventional Churches. We want bold, intrepid, fiery prophets, like unto Elijah, to sound the trumpet of alarm to all who are at ease in Zion.
III. AS REPENTANT. "Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee." The alarm has been taken and the refuge is sought. "My God, we know thee." "This is life eternal to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." Oh, hasten the day when all conventional Churches shall be brought to a deep and experimental knowledge of God and his Son! When this transpires, the dense cloud that has concealed the sun of Christianity shall be swept away, and the quickening beam shall fall on every heart. The mountain that has obstructed the chariot of redemptive truth shall be leveled to a plain, and the wheels shall move with lightning speed. "The Word of the Lord shall have free course, and be glorified."—D.T.
Hosea 8:3, Hosea 8:4
The abandonment of good, and the consequent pursuit of evil.
"Israel hath cast off the thing that is good." Two things are contained in these verses.
I. THE ABANDONMENT OF GOOD. "Israel hath rejected what is good" (Elzas). The good here undoubtedly refers to the true worship of the true God. Observe:
1. That true worship is the "good thing" for man. It is good not only because God requires it, but because it is the necessary condition of spiritual life, growth, harmony, and blessedness. True worship is the soul's only heaven.
2. That this "good thing" man sometimes abandons. Israel was once a true worshipper, but the true worship it had now "cast off." Fallen angels were once true worshippers, and many a human spirit once inspired with true devotion has fallen into worldliness and idolatry. Moral mind has the power of abandoning the highest good.
3. That the abandonment of this "good thing" imperils the soul. "The enemy shall pursue them." Moral good is the only effective safeguard of the spirit; when this is given up or "cast off," all the gates of the soul are thrown open to tormenting fiends. The walls of the vineyard axe broken down, and it lies exposed to the tread and ravages of every moral beast.
II. THE CONSEQUENT PURSUIT OF EVIL. "They have set up kings, but not by me," etc. The setting up of kings here refers to the founding of the kingdom by Jeroboam, and to the entire series of Israelitish kings. The kings of Israel were not according to Divine ordination (1 Kings 11:27-11.11.40). "Their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be out off." From these kings of their own making came the setting up of the idolatrous calf-worship which was started by Jeroboam. Though silver was not used in the construction of the golden calves, it was employed to support the idolatrous worship. Thus, because they abandoned the "good thing," they went wrong in their politics and religion. They made their own kings and their own gods. When once men give up the right they rush into the wrong. Let a man go wrong in relation to God, and he will go wrong in all his relations, secular and spiritual.
CONCLUSION. There is nothing in connection with the human race of such transcendent importance as worship. The religious element is the strongest of all elements; and men must have a god of some sort or other, and their god will fashion their character and determine their destiny.
"And yet from him we turn away,
And fill our hearts with worthless things;
And fires of avarice melt the clay,
And forth the idol springs.
Ambition's flame and passion's heat.
By wondrous alchemy, transmute
Earth's dross, to raise some gilded brute
To fill Jehovah's seat."
(J. H. Clinch)
"Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off." These verses present to us idolatry in five aspects.
I. AS ABHORRENT TO JEHOVAH. "Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off; mine anger is kindled against them." By a synecdoche, Samaria is here used for all the ten tribes. There is no allusion in history to any calf set up in the city of Samaria, but its existence in Bethel, the most celebrated place of worship in the kingdom, is a matter of certainty. "The introduction of the worship of the golden calves by Jeroboam, in imitation of that of Apis at Memphis, and of Mnevis at Heliopolis, which he must have seen during his residence in Egypt, paved the way for the imitation and adoption of the gross idolatries practiced by the Phoenicians, Syrians; and Chaldeans.' Now, against this idolatry Jehovah declares his anger "to be kindled." The language is, of course, anthropomorphic, and used only to express his unconquerable opposition to idolatry, the foulest of all evils—a violation of his command, "Thou shalt have no other god beside me," It is the abominable thing which he hates. The fact that idolatry is abhorrent to the great God is the grand reason why his loyal servants should consecrate themselves to his service.
II. AS ANTAGONISTIC TO MORAL PURITY. "How long shall they be incapable of purity?" (Elzas). Where there is not supreme love to the supremely Good, there is no soil in which one solitary virtue can germinate, there is no foundation on which one stone can be laid for the temple of goodness. Hence the history of idolatry shows that it is inseparably associated with pollution and crime. Idolatry is a fountain essentially corrupt, and all its streams are filthy and foul. Paul's description in the first chapter of Romans is true to universal fact. If the world is ever to be made virtuous, it must have the one true and living God presented to it as the one Object of supreme love and worship.
III. As AN OUTRAGE ON REASON. "For from Israel was it also: the workman made it; therefore it is not God." "It is the greatest folly," says an old author, "to look upon that which derives its excellency from ourselves as superior to us, and that in the highest degree; to forsake God that made us, and to make that to be a god unto us that we have made ourselves. If one be maintained or raised by another, he is expected to be serviceable to him. In this relation we stand to God, but idolatry makes men go against the very principles of reason. They fashion the idol and yet account it their god; they are made and sustained by God, and yet forget him." And yet this folly men are constantly committing every day, not only in heathen lands, but in Christendom. Men are everywhere making their gods. Power, money, pleasure, fame,—these be thy gods, O England!
IV. As DOOMED TO DESTRUCTION. "But the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces." "All idolatry must be destroyed" (Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5; Ezekiel 20:7).
1. God has destroyed idols by the gospel.
2. God is destroying idols by the gospel. D.T.
"As I live, saith the Lord, all the earth shall be filled with my glory." "In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats: to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth."
V. As PRODUCTIVE OF GREAT EVIL. "They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind," etc. "As the husbandman reaps the same kind of grain which he has sown, but in far greater abundance, so he who sows the wind shall have the whirlwind to reap." "It hath no stalk." Nothing that can yield a blossom. "The bud shall yield no meal." "If they should have a stalk, and that stalk should have a blossom, that blossom shall yield no fruit; and if there be fruit, the sower shall not enjoy it, for strangers shall eat it. The Israelites should be unsuccessful in all their undertakings, and whatever partial gains they might acquire would be eagerly seized by the Assyrians" (Elzas).
1. All men are sowing. Every human act is a seed.
2. Some are sowing worthless seed—" wind." The worldling, the man of pleasure, the conventional religionist, the speculative skeptic, are all "sowing the wind."
3. The more worthless the seed sown, the more terrible the reaping. "Reap the whirlwind." Great is the power of the whirlwind. The Scripture describes it as very great. In 1 Kings 19:11 it "rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks." Sabdicos reports that Cambyses' soldiers being at dinner in a sandy place, there arose a whirlwind and drove the sand upon them, so that it covered them all. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
"Hear, Father! hear and aid!
If I have loved too well; if I have shed,
In my vain fondness, o'er a mortal head
Gifts on thy shrine, my God, more fitly laid;
If I have sought to live
But in one light, and made a mortal eye
The lonely star of my idolatry;
Thou art Love; oh, pity and forgive!"
Hosea 8:11, Hosea 8:12
Perversion of worship
"Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin." Israel was to have only one altar, and that in the place where the Lord would reveal his Name (Deuteronomy 12:5). But, instead of that, Ephraim had built a number of altars in different places to multiply the sin of idolatry, and thereby heap more and more guilt upon itself (Delitzsch). The passage leads us to notice the perversion of worship. This is one of the oldest, the most prevalent, and most baneful sins amongst mankind. Men have perverted worship, not only by making false gods, but by making false altars for the true God. There is only one altar in true worship, and that altar is Christ (Hebrews 13:10). The text leads us to make two remarks in relation to false worship.
I. IT IS A GREAT SIN.
1. It is a very propagative sin. "Ephraim hath made many altars." "It men leave the rule," says an old author, "they know not where to stay; hence the multiplying of things thus amongst the Papists—five hundred altars in some one temple." How sublimely antagonistic the Jews were to the introduction of any altar but one (Joshua 22:11)! But now they had "many." Once admit a wrong thing in worship, and that one thing will multiply itself; superstition will give it fertility. The Romish Church is a sad illustration of this, and the Anglican Church in some sections is multiplying examples.
2. It is a self-punishing sin. "Altars shall be unto him to sin." The idea probably is, "As you have gone on persisting to multiply altars contrary to my will, I will let you alone; you shall go on. Your altars shall be a sin to you." That is, thus seeing they will have them, they shall have them; they shall have enough of them. Let them go on in their ways; let them multiply their sin. They make a great deal of stir for it, and have it they must; they refuse to see the light; they are prejudiced against the way of God's worship. Let them have their desires; let them have, saith God, governors to establish by their authority, and teachers to defend by their subtle arguments, what they wish for. They multiply altars to sin, and they shall be to sin, even to harden them; their hearts are set upon them, and they will have them and love them, and they shall be hardened in their heart's desire in what is evil. And as it shall be to them for sin, so it shall be to them for misery, the fruit of sin; for so sin is taken very frequently in Scripture for the fruit of sin. They will have them to sin, and they shall find in them the fruit of sin—misery. The text leads us to remark that—
II. IT IS A SIN AGAINST GREAT LIGHT. "I have written to him the great things of my Law, but they were counted as a strange thing." They could not say they sinned in ignorance. God gave them directions most concise and abundant concerning the nature and object of true worship. Some translate the words," I may prescribe my laws to them by myriads; they will treat it as a strange thing."
1. God has given us laws concerning worship.
2. Those laws are oft repeated. By myriads or by thousands. We have "line upon line, precept upon precept."
3. These oft-repeated laws leave false worshippers without excuse.—D.T.
Neither the religion nor security of a nation to be judged by appearances.
"For Israel bath forgotten," etc. The "temples" referred to here are the idolatrous temples which Israel had built after the models of those built by the Syro-phoenicians; and the "fenced cities" refers to those fortified places which they had erected against foreign invaders. The words imply that neither the temples nor the "fenced cities" were any proof either of their religion or their security.
I. THE MULTIPLICATION OF TEMPLES IS NO INFALLIBLE PROOF OF THE GROWTH OF RELIGION IN A COUNTRY. Temples were now multiplied in Israel. And the reason assigned is forgetfulness of their Maker. When strangers visit England and witness the number of our churches of all sects, and measures of beauty and size, their first impression would be—What a religious people these English are! But when we think of the moral causes that often lead to the erection of temples, they rather prove our forgetfulness of God.
1. There is greed. Churches are sometimes built as an investment.
2. There is spite. One or two, or more, have received a grievance at the neighboring Church, and, inspired by spite, they set to the erection of another.
3. There is sectism. Episcopalians, Wesleyans, Congregationalists, all seek to rival each other in this respect; so that the multiplication of temples, we fear, must not be taken as a proof of the growth of religion.
II. THE INCREASE OF NATIONAL DEFENSES IS NO PROOF OF THE INCREASE OF NATIONAL SECURITY. "I will send a fire upon his cities." When noble foreigners visit our shores, we, with our national vanity, seek to impress them with the greatness of our national defenses. We exhibit our fleets, our standing armies, our fortifications; we have our naval and military reviews. What fools are they who think that national security is in these things! The safety of a people is in the moral excellence of their character and the guardianship of Heaven.—D.T.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The trumpet sounds the approach of judgment. It is judgment which begins at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). The "eagle" is the Assyrian; in later times the Roman (cf. Deuteronomy 28:49). The cause of the judgment is that constantly insisted on: "They have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my Law" (Hosea 8:1).
I. KNOWLEDGE OF GOD THROUGH JUDGMENT. (Hosea 8:2) In the day of doom Israel would cry to God, "My God, we know thee, we Israel" So at the last judgment:
1. Those who have hitherto denied God will be forced to acknowledge him. Their startled cry, when it is too late, will be, "My God, we know thee." They will know him to their cost. They will no longer be able to disguise to themselves the fact of his existence or the reality of his power. No more pretence of ignorance, no more caviling, no more blasphemous defiance.
2. Those who have hitherto forgotten God will be force to remember him. They will experience a rude awakening from the careless security ,n which they have been living. They will find God's words to be true, his warnings real, the "wrath to come" a dreadful certainty. It will be impossible longer to put off reflection, or to shut out thoughts of him with whom they have to do.
3. Those who have hitherto slighted God's friendship will be eager to make friends with him. They will address him as their God ("My God"), will recall past knowledge of him, will urge any pleas which they think will gain them mercy. They are as anxious now to make themselves out God's friends as formerly they were to have nothing to do with him. In times of affliction or peril, as well as on the approach of death or judgment, sinners show themselves very willing to call on God. "Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord," etc. (Matthew 7:22). Such pleas, however, will not avail. The repentance is too late, and it is not sincere. Israel would gain nothing by being of the seed of Jacob (cf. Matthew 3:9).
II. AN INVARIABLE SEQUENCE. (Hosea 8:3) Israel, having cast off good, would be pursued by the enemy. The sequence is short, simple, certain. It is as sure as any law of nature.
1. Antecedent. "Israel hath cast off good." In every sense Israel had done this. The nation had
(1) cast out the knowledge of good (Hosea 4:6);
(2) cast off the practice of good (Hosea 4:1, Hosea 4:7; Hosea 5:4; Hosea 6:7; Hosea 7:1, Hosea 7:2);
(3) despised the hope of good, the blessing and salvation promised on condition of obedience.
2. Consequent. "The enemy shall [or, 'let the enemy'] pursue him." The enemy pursues those who cast off good.
(1) Conscience pursues. The sinner cannot escape from its rebukes, scourgings, and pursuing memories.
(2) The laws of nature pursue. Nature is so constituted that its laws are on the side of the virtuous, and against those that do evil. Sin is followed by inevitable natural penalties.
(3) Divine justice pursues. There is, even in this life, a providential retribution which the sinner seldom escapes (cf. Deuteronomy 28:1-5.28.68). In any case there is a final judgment, when every one shall receive for the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).
III. REPRESENTATIVE TRANSGRESSION. (Hosea 8:4) Israel's kings were not of God. They had been set up without consulting God, and had ruled in disregard of God's will. The worship of the calves was in direct opposition to Divine commandment. It had its ground in political expediency. This lays bare to us the essence of ungodliness. Ungodliness:
1. Waives all regard to God's will in the shaping of life. It plans existence irrespectively of God. Whatever the ungodly man "sets up," it is done "without God." He seeks an independent being.
2. Makes gods for itself out of God's gifts. "Of their silver and gold have they made them idols." The world becomes its god.
3. The end—"cut off?"—J.O.
Samaria would now discover the folly of trusting in her calf.
I. SAMARIA'S CALF. (Hosea 8:5, Hosea 8:6)
1. The futility of making it. "From Israel was it also: the workman made it; therefore it is not God" (Hosea 8:6). Idolatry is a huge absurdity. That cannot be a god which we make with our own hands (cf. Isaiah 40:18-23.40.20; Isaiah 44:9-23.44.20). As foolish is it to make a god of wealth, position, reputation, or anything created by man's effort.
2. The folly of trusting in it. "Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off" (Hosea 8:5); "The calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces" (Hosea 8:6).
(1) It could not help. 6
(2) It was helpless to save itself.
Anything earthly that man relies on will prove a vain help when God wills its overthrow, or the overthrow of him who depends on it.
3. The reward of serving it. "Mine anger is kindled against them" (Hosea 8:5). God's anger was kindled
(1) at the idolatry;
(2) at the sins connected with the idolatry;
(3) at the resistance shown to the means used for the nation's spiritual recovery.
"How long will it be ere they attain to innocency?" The effects of this kindling of God's anger are described in Hosea 8:7. One effect would be the destruction of their idol (Hosea 8:6).
II. SIN'S PENALTIES. (Hosea 8:7) Retribution is set forth under two images.
1. The wind and whirlwind. "They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind." "The wind is an image of vain human efforts, from which ruin is developed, as naturally as the wind becomes a tempest" (Schmoller). The image suggests:
(1) The insubstantiality of sinful objects of pursuit. Substanceless as wind (cf. Hosea 12:1).
(2) That the sinner is not his own master. Wind is an image of the hurrying force of passion. The sinner's passions hurry him along.
(3) That sin develops the elements of its own retribution. The sowing is congruous with the reaping. As the sinner is hurried along by sin, so he must submit to be swept along by God's judgments. As he lived an unsubstantial life, he must submit to have the unsubstantiality of his life revealed by the tempest that lays it in ruins.
2. The blasted grain. "It hath no stalk." etc. The thought here is that of designs frustrated at every stage. It appears first as if there would be no stalk. Then such stalk as there is yields no fruit. Or if, perchance, there should be any, it is devoured by strangers. Thus, life without God proves to be but deceptive show, promise without performance, effort without result. It has to reckon with God's frown at every stage. He may nip its designs in their inception. He may thwart them a stage further on. He may prevent them from attaining final success. Or, if success be permitted, it is only that he may make their overthrow more striking in the end (Psalms 73:18; cf. Hosea 9:11, Hosea 9:16).—J.O.
Israel among the Gentiles.
We have here the Nemesis of a false desire of independence.
I. MINGLING WITH THE WORLD LEADS TO ABSORPTION BY THE WORLD. (Hosea 8:8) It was the complaint against Ephraim that he had mixed himself among the people (Hosea 7:8). He was not content to remain separate, as God had ordained. He must have his freedom (cf. Luke 15:11-42.15.13). We now see the end of this: "Israel is swallowed up." He was:
1. Absorbed by the world. The Gentiles got wholly the possession of him. It is so spiritually with those who try to serve both God and mammon. The attempt to serve two masters proves vain. The world gains ground in the heart; God loses ground. By-and-by the world has the whole. The backslider is "swallowed up" (cf. 1Ti 6:9, 1 Timothy 6:10; 2 Timothy 4:10).
2. An object of contempt to the world. "Among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein there is no pleasure." The world in its heart secretly despises those whom it has got under its influence, having turned them away from God. It holds them in contempt. Two kinds of men the world has respect for—its own kind, and the thoroughly godly. It has no respect at all for the third something, that tries to be both and yet is neither—the trimmer, the compromiser, the backslider. Nor, once it has them in its power, is it slow to show its contempt for them.
II. THE DESIRE TO BE INDEPENDENT OF GOD LEADS TO DEPENDENCE ON THE WORLD. (Hosea 8:9) Israel went up to Assyria—"a wild ass alone by itself." We understand the figure to allude to Israel's intractable spirit and desire of independence. The nation must, at all costs, be rid of God's yoke, and go out "alone by itself." The use it makes of its independence, however, is to go to Assyria. The motive is not, of course, to have Assyria's yoke imposed on it instead of God's; but this is the result. Seeking independence of God, it sinks into dependence on Assyria. Herein is imaged the end of all attempts at a false independence.
1. True freedom for man—true independence—dies in loyal acceptance of the rule of God. This gives inward emancipation and superiority to the seductions of the world.
2. Renouncing this, the soul sinks into a dependence on finite things, alien to its nature. It fails into bondage. It exchanges God's service for a worse. It is ruled by the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (l John 2:10). The prodigal, leaving his father's house for freedom, ended by joining himself to a citizen in the "far country," who sent him into his fields to feed swine (Luke 15:15, Luke 15:16).
III. TRAFFICKING WITH THE WORLD LEADS TO OPPRESSION BY THE WORLD. (Hosea 8:10) Israel trafficked with the world for its favor—"hired among the nations;" the result being that it was given up by God to be oppressed by the world—"the burden of the king of princes." The stages are
(1) sinful desire towards the world—"hired lovers" (Hosea 8:9);
(2) propitiation of the world, by gifts, alliances, etc.;
(3) absorption by the world and subjection to the world, as already described;
(4) oppression by the world. This power of Assyria over Israel was:
1. Divinely given. "Now will I gather them." It was God, and no one else, who gave this people into the hands of the foreigners.
2. Distressing. Israel would suffer much in exile. Her burden would be heavy; her numbers would be diminished. The world is a terrible tyrant over those whom it gets in its power.
3. Equitable. We trace here the same proportionateness between sin and punishment as falls so frequently to be noticed. They voluntarily "hired" among the nations; now they are oppressed by Gentile tribute.—J.O.
Religion become sin
Israel's holiest things became sin to them through their disregard of God's commandments.
I. THE ALTAR BECOME SIN. (Hosea 8:11) The law required that there should be but one altar, and that in the place where God had put his Name (Deuteronomy 12:1-5.12.32). Ephraim disregarding this command, multiplied altars, and so committed sin. The worship at local altars was at most but tolerated in the days of the judges, of Samuel, and the early kings, in consideration of the unsettled state of the nation (1 Kings 3:2). It became sin once a house had been built for God's worship. Had it been necessary, after the division of the nation, to appoint a district center for Israel, God would have directed the people in the choice of one. They, however, neither desired nor sought for guidance, but organized their worship in their own way, blending with it idolatrous rites, and, beside Jehovah's altars, reared altars to idols (Hosea 10:1). They thus sinned, both in the number of their altars and in the use they put them to. Accordingly, God declares that these very altars, the things whereby they professed to worship him, would be imputed to them for sin. We are taught:
1. That God claims to regulate his own worship.
2. That wanton departures from the rule he has given is imputed as transgression.
3. That will-worship is not acceptable to God (Colossians 2:23).
4. That we cannot condone for disobedience in the matter of worship by either the number or magnificence of our services.
II. THE LAW BECOME SIN. (Hosea 8:12) God had given Israel a Law, the myriad precepts of which would have guided them aright in every situation of life; but this Law Israel had "counted as a strange thing." The Law, which was "holy, and just, and good," became sin to the people through their neglect of it. Consider:
1. The dignity of the Law. It is God's Law ("my Law"); one, yet many. Single in its principle—" Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," etc. (cf. Deuteronomy 6:5)—yet manifold in its applications, branching out into an infinite multiplicity of precepts, and extending to every detail of life.
2. The accessibility of the Law. God had, to secure its being kept it: remembrance, put it in written form. The turn sometimes given to these words, "I would have written to him," etc; is meaningless in the connection. The prophet is dealing with what Ephraim has done, not with what he might have done under certain conceivable circumstances in which he was never placed. The passage is a testimony to the existence of a written Law. We should remember our own privileges in the possession of a written revelation.
3. The neglect of the Law. Ephraim permitted this Law, great, wonderful, and holy as it was, fitted to instruct and guide him m the way of life, to be as "a strange thing" unto him. He forbore to study it. He neglected to practice it. The very Law thus redounded to his condemnation. How many act in a similar way with the Bible! They possess it, but leave it unopened, unstudied. The unread Book becomes sin to them. It will rise against then, in the judgment.
III. SACRIFICES BECOME SIN. (Hosea 8:13) As seen before, sacrifices will not be accepted by God as a substitute for obedience (Hosea 6:6; 1 Samuel 15:22). Without the right spirit in the offerer, they become as mere "flesh," in which God takes no pleasure. The sacred thing becomes a thing common. Instead of atoning for iniquity, the sacrifices became themselves iniquity. They were imputed for sin. Neither the number nor magnitude of them could avert the wrath that was decreed. "They shall return to Egypt," i.e. to a new Egypt, to Assyria.
IV. TEMPLES BECOME SIN. (Hosea 8:14) As sacrifices cannot be taken instead of obedience, so temples cannot be accepted as a substitute for godliness. Israel "built temples," but had "forgotten his Maker." The very temples thus became as sin. The building of temples and the lavishing of outward adornment upon them often proceeds the more rapidity that God himself has been forgotten. Worship becomes externalism. The outward is made the most of, as if to condone for the want of the inward. It is not, however, outward temples that God primarily desires, but the temples of humble and contrite spirits (Isaiah 57:15). The former without the latter are sin.
V. FENCED CITIES BECOME SIN. (Hosea 8:14) It is added that Judah had multiplied fenced cities. As sacrifices were substituted for obedience, and temples were substituted for godliness, so fenced cities got to be put instead of God himself. The sin lay in looking away from the pledged Divine help to mere earthly defenses. Those who do this are left at last to prove the worthlessness of their defenses. God would send a fire upon the cities, and it would devour the palaces. Human strength is no protection in the absence of God's help; it is equally powerless to protect against God's judgments.—J.O.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hosea 8". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent