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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 8

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Hosea 8:0


The Apostasy of IsraelBecause of Constant Rebellion, the Judgment of the Lord is Upon Israel(Hosea 4:1-9)The Lord Condemns Israel for Idol WorshipAn Omen
Hosea 8:1-10Hosea 8:1-6Hosea 8:1-3Hosea 8:1-7
Hosea 8:4-10
Hosea 8:7-10Israel Ruined by Relying on Foreign Powers
Hosea 8:8-10
Against the Outward Show of Worship
Hosea 8:11-14Hosea 8:11-14Hosea 8:11-13Hosea 8:11-14
Hosea 8:14

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 8:1-7 1Put the trumpet to your lips! Like an eagle the enemy comes against the house of the LORD, Because they have transgressed My covenant And rebelled against My law. 2They cry out to Me, “My God, we of Israel know You!” 3Israel has rejected the good; The enemy will pursue him. 4They have set up kings, but not by Me; They have appointed princes, but I did not know it. With their silver and gold they have made idols for themselves, That they might be cut off. 5He has rejected your calf, O Samaria, saying, “My anger burns against them!” How long will they be incapable of innocence? 6For from Israel is even this! A craftsman made it, so it is not God; Surely the calf of Samaria will be broken to pieces. 7For they sow the wind And they reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; It yields no grain. Should it yield, strangers would swallow it up.

Hosea 8:1 “the trumpet” This refers to the “shophar” or “ram's horn” (BDB 1051), which was used for religious purposes and to communicate information to military troops. See note at Hosea 5:8. God is calling Assyria to punish Israel (cf. Hosea 8:3b; Deuteronomy 28:49; Isaiah 10:5).

“an eagle” This refers to a vulture (BDB 676). The symbolism is clear, an unclean bird of prey, which has been sent by God, symbolizing the invading Assyrian army (Targums) with its corresponding death and destruction.

“the house of the LORD” This refers to the people of God, here the northern tribes, Israel (cf. Hosea 9:3-4, Hosea 9:15, NIV). Although the NET Bible translates it as “the temple of the LORD.”

“transgressed My covenant” This means “gone beyond the boundary” (BDB 716, KB 778, Qal PERFECT, cf. Hosea 6:7; Deuteronomy 17:2; Joshua 7:11, Joshua 7:15; Judges 2:20; 2 Kings 18:12; Jeremiah 34:18).

Hosea uses the concept of covenant several times (cf. Hosea 2:18; Hosea 6:7; Hosea 8:1). His unique message from God transforms sin from violation of a law to violation of love (i.e., marriage covenant).

“rebelled against My law” This means “reject rightful authority” (BDB 833, KB 981, Qal PERFECT). The two phrases (“transgressed” and “rebelled”) in this verse are in a Hebrew parallel relationship (both Qal PERFECTS, as are “My covenant” and “My law”).

The NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 712, offers an interesting list of Israel's sins against YHWH:

1. “go after my lovers,” Hosea 2:5, Hosea 2:13

2. “forgot Me,” Hosea 2:13; Hosea 4:6; Hosea 8:14; Hosea 13:6

3. “is stubborn,” Hosea 4:16; Hosea 9:15

4. “dealt treacherously against the Lord,” Hosea 5:7; Hosea 6:7

5. “deal falsely,” Hosea 7:1; Hosea 10:2

6. “lie,” Hosea 7:3; Hosea 10:13; Hosea 11:12

7. “strayed from Me,” Hosea 7:13

8. “have rebelled against Me,” Hosea 7:13; Hosea 8:1

9. “speak lies against Me,” Hosea 7:13

10. “do not cry to Me from their heart,” Hosea 7:14

11. “turn away from Me,” Hosea 7:14

12. “transgressed my covenant,” Hosea 8:1

13. “rebelled against my law,” Hosea 8:1

Hosea 8:2 “They cry out to Me,

‘My God, we of Israel know You'“ They knew God as far as ritual and cultic liturgy (i.e., “cry out” BDB 277; KB 277, Qal IMPERFECT), but they did not know (BDB 393, KB 390, Qal PERFECT) Him in personal relationship and faith. What a tragedy to have the form of godliness but not to know God (cf. Hosea 7:14; Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 7:21-23; 2 Timothy 3:5).

Hosea 8:3 “Israel has rejected the good” This VERB (BDB 276, KB 276, Qal PERFECT) is repeated in Hosea 8:5. Israel rejected God's covenant. He rejects their “calf” worship! This seems to refer to YHWH's covenant obedience (cf. Amos 5:14, Amos 5:15; Micah 6:8), which denotes a healthy, loving, prosperous society.

Hosea 8:4 “They have set up kings, but not by Me” Note the parallel between the first two lines. The next two lines are parallel to Hosea 8:5's first two lines and the last two of Hosea 8:6. All of these refer to the golden calves. Images meant to represent YHWH (cf. Exodus 32:0), but which had turned into fertility idols!

“They” refers to the leaders (priests and princes) of Israel. They had turned away from the Davidic kings (in Judah) and appointed their own leaders and made their own worship sites (the two “calves” set up by Jeroboam I at Bethel and Dan). The contemporary example is the series of kings after Jeroboam II, (see note on Hosea 7:3). YHWH was their true king and only He could designate His earthly representative.

Hosea 8:5 “calf” Jeroboam I, the new leader of the northern tribe (in 922 B.C.) did not want his people to continue to worship in Jerusalem so he set up two golden calves as a symbol of YHWHism in Dan in the north and Bethel in the south in order to keep his people at home. This was thoroughly denounced (e.g., Exodus 32:4-5; 1 Kings 12:28-29; Hosea 13:2).

“He has rejected. . .My anger burns against them” God's feelings about these alternate worship sites is clearly expressed:

1. “Reject” (BDB 276, KB 276, Qal PERFECT) is a strong term; the same root in the Hiphil means “stench”! The NIV translates it as “throw out.”

2. “Anger burned” (BDB 354, KB 351, Qal PERFECT) is used to describe God's reaction to covenant disobedience (e.g., often in Moses, Deuteronomy 6:15; Deuteronomy 7:4; Deuteronomy 11:17; Deuteronomy 29:26; Deuteronomy 31:17; rare in the prophets, Isaiah 5:24-25).

NASB, NRSV“How long will they be incapable of innocence” NKJV“How long will it be until they attain to innocence” TEV“How long will it be before they give up their idolatry” NJB“How long will it be before they recover their innocence”

This is a rhetorical question that demands a negative response. Israel has been permanently rendered incapable of innocence or purity!

Hosea 8:6 This verse may be a sarcastic response to Israel's (of all people) idolatry. Those who were warned to have no image of God (cf. Exodus 20:4-5, Exodus 32:1-4; Deuteronomy 5:7, Deuteronomy 5:8-9) have a calf two of them!

Hosea 8:7 “For they sow the wind,

And they reap the whirlwind” The first two lines form a proverb that speaks of our responsibility to God both corporately and individually (i.e., the spiritual principle of sowing and reaping, cf. Hosea 10:12-13; Hosea 12:2; Job 4:8; 2 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 6:7).

“strangers would swallow it up” This is a reference to the exile of Israel by Assyria (cf. Isaiah 1:7). The crops (if there are any, cf. Hosea 8:7, lines c,d) that Israel had thanked Ba'al for would not be enjoyed by others (i.e., Assyrians).

Verses 8-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 8:8-10 8Israel is swallowed up; They are now among the nations Like a vessel in which no one delights. 9For they have gone up to Assyria, Like a wild donkey all alone; Ephraim has hired lovers. 10Even though they hire allies among the nations, Now I will gather them up; And they will begin to diminish Because of the burden of the king of princes.

Hosea 8:8 “Israel is swallowed up” This VERB is used as a metaphor of suddenness of death (Sheol, cf. Proverbs 1:12) and destruction. Here it is used for Israel being taken into exile (e.g., Psalms 124:3; Jeremiah 51:34; Lamentations 2:16).

“Like a vessel in which no one delights” The term “vessel” (BDB 479) has a wide semantic field:

1. something made by man from precious materials (i.e., the golden calves)

2. a precious container of some kind (e.g., Jeremiah 25:34d)

3. items taken into exile (i.e., “baggage,” e.g., Jeremiah 46:19; Ezekiel 13:3, Ezekiel 13:4, Ezekiel 13:7)

4. metaphor of a defeated nation (e.g., Jeremiah 48:38)

There may be an intentional ambiguity between #4 and #1! The descendants of Israel were to be “a special treasure among all the people,” “a kingdom of priests” (cf. Exodus 19:5-6), but now they were just like the nations. God's purpose of revealing Himself to the world through them (cf. Exodus 19:5c; Amos 3:2) has been thwarted!

Hosea 8:9 “they have gone up to Assyria” This VERB (BDB 748, KB 828, Qal PERFECT) is used in the sense of compass direction. Although Assyria is to the northeast, the only road to it was directly north. North became a metaphor for evil and invasion. This verse is about Israel seeking a political alliance with Assyria for protection.

“Like a wild donkey all alone” One of the characteristics of wild donkeys (BDB 825) during mating season (allusion to the fertility cult) is their uncontrollableness (cf. Jeremiah 2:23-24). Israel was acting just this way toward idolatry.

“Ephraim has hired lovers” The VERB (BDB 1071, KB 1759, Hiphil PERFECT) has the connotation of hired cultic lovers (cf. Hosea 2:12). This refers to the foreign alliances (e.g., Hosea 8:10; Ezekiel 16:36-37). These political alliances always involved, to some extent, the deities of the nation. The irony is that her lovers are now enemies (cf. Hosea 8:3)!

In this context it is obvious that fertility worship is used as a way to denote spiritual adultery. It is difficult to know if this is (1) literal, (2) metaphorical, or (3) both. There is very little direct evidence of a sexual component to Canaanite Ba'al worship. Israel may have added this, which makes their guilt even more abominable!

Hosea 8:10 “Even though they hire allies among the nations. . .the burden of the king of princes” This refers to the heavy tribute demanded by Assyria (whose king is called “the king of princes,” which is parallel to the Babylonian title, “king of kings”).

“Now I will gather them up” The VERB (BDB 867, KB 1062, Piel IMPERFECT) is commonly used for God gathering His scattered people after a judgment, but here it means to gather them for judgment (i.e., exile).

Verses 11-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 8:11-14 11Since Ephraim has multiplied altars for sin, They have become altars of sinning for him. 12Though I wrote for him ten thousand precepts of My law, They are regarded as a strange thing. 13As for My sacrificial gifts, They sacrifice the flesh and eat it, But the LORD has taken no delight in them. Now He will remember their iniquity, And punish them for their sins; They will return to Egypt. 14For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces; And Judah has multiplied fortified cities, But I will send a fire on its cities that it may consume its palatial dwellings.

Hosea 8:11 “Ephraim has multiplied altars for sin” This refers either to (1) the golden calf worship at both Dan and Bethel or (2) the local Ba'al shrines in each village on every high hill. The irony is that Israel's religiosity was not helpful, but disastrous! The phrase “altars for sin” is repeated twice for emphasis.

Hosea 8:12 “Though I wrote for him ten thousand precepts of My law” God has clearly and repeatedly revealed Himself to them (i.e., “ten thousand precepts”, e.g., Hosea 11:2 and 2 Kings 17:13-15 for Judah). Their problem was not lack of information, but lack of (1) truth; (2) covenant loyalty; and (3) personal faith (cf. Hosea 4:1)! They rebelled against God's light and truth.

NASB, NRSV“They are regarded as a strange thing” NKJV“But they were considered a strange thing” TEV“But they reject them as strange and foreign” NJB“Ephraim regards it as alien to him”

The term “strange thing” (DBD 266, KB 267, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) is used in several senses:

1. non-family members (e.g., Deuteronomy 25:5; Hosea 5:7)

2. not conforming to proper regulations

a. incense, Exodus 30:9

b. fire, Leviticus 10:1

3. adulterers, e.g., Proverbs 2:16; Proverbs 5:3, Proverbs 5:20; Proverbs 7:5; Proverbs 22:14

4. foreigners (enemies, invaders), e.g., Hosea 7:9; Hosea 8:7; Isaiah 1:7; Isaiah 25:2, Isaiah 25:5; Isaiah 29:5; Isaiah 61:5; Jeremiah 51:51; Ezekiel 28:7, Ezekiel 28:10

God's law had become to them as a non-family foreigner!

Hosea 8:13 “They sacrificed the flesh and ate it Notice the use of NOUN (BDB 257) and VERB (BDB 256) for emphasis. This seems to refer to the selfish motive of appetite in the performing of religious ritual, especially the communal meal (cf. Leviticus 7:15-18).

But the LORD has taken no delight in them” The term “delight” (BDB 953, KB 1280, Qal PERFECT) means “accept” (people, cf. Jeremiah 14:10; Ezekiel 20:40 and sacrifices, cf. Jeremiah 14:12; Ezekiel 20:41). This verse and concept are paralleled by Hosea 5:6. God is only pleased with cultic ritual when it is accompanied by heartfelt faith and obedience (cf. Amos 5:21- 28: Micah 6:6-8).

“Now He will remember their iniquity” See note at Hosea 7:2.

“They will return to Egypt” This seems be a metaphor for a reverse Exodus or a way of referring to slavery (cf. Hosea 7:16; Hosea 9:3). When you compare this to Hosea 11:5 it seems like a contradiction. However, I think this is using Egypt as a symbol of slavery. Israel will return to slavery, but this time it will be to the nation of Assyria (i.e., exile).

Israel will not “turn” (i.e., repent BDB 996, KB 1427) so she will “return” (i.e., exile, same VERB).

Hosea 8:14 “Israel has forgotten” Israel has “forgotten” (BDB 1013, KB 1484, Qal IMPERFECT) God and His covenant (cf. Hosea 2:13; Hosea 4:6; Hosea 13:6), so God will “remember” (cf. Hosea 8:13d) her iniquities!

“Maker” This is the DIRECT OBJECT of “forgotten” and it is a Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE of the VERB “to make” (BDB 793, KB 889). There is an irony between Israel making idols (i.e., golden calves) for themselves (cf. Hosea 8:6) and forgetting the One who made them (cf. Genesis 1:26; Isaiah 17:7).

It is possible that “maker” refers to God's initiation to form a people (i.e., call of Abraham, the Exodus, the giving of the Law at Sinai), not Genesis.

“built palaces. . .fortified cities” Israel was trusting in her wealth (cf. Hosea 8:14c). Judah was trusting in her military might. The Maker is not impressed by human makings. They will be destroyed! In 2 Kings 18:13 Sennacherib is said to have captured all of the fortified cities of Judah.

“I will send fire” NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 533, “the punishment prophesied for Israel's enemies often included the burning of cities (Jeremiah 43:12-13; Jeremiah 49:27), expressed with particular effect in Amos 1:4, Amos 1:7, Amos 1:10, Amos 1:12, Amos 1:14; Amos 2:2, Amos 2:5; Hosea 8:14, where the concept of holy war probably lies behind the formula, ‘I will send fire upon...'“ If so, then instead of God fighting for and defending Israel, He is the very One who is her enemy! What a shocking reversal, so characteristic of the prophets' messages!


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Who does the “they” refer to in Hosea 8:4?

2. Why was “golden calf” worship such an abomination to YHWH?

3. Is Hosea 8:13 in contradiction to Hosea 11:5?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Hosea 8". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/hosea-8.html. 2021.
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