Hosea Chapter 8: God’s Judgment on Israel

Mar 18th, 2010 | By | Category: Hosea, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Hosea Chapter 8: God’s Judgment on Israel

Hosea 8:1 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.

“Set the trumpet to thy mouth.” Hosea was instructed to proclaim a public message with force. If the message was literal, the prophet then gave the proclamation, but the word “trumpet” can be figurative.

“Eagle” should be “vulture,” as translated in the Revised Standard Version. “Set the trumpet to your lips, for a vulture is over the house of the LORD [that is, over Israel, the ten tribes, Samaria, Ephraim], because they have broken my [God’s] covenant, and transgressed my law.” Not only is a vulture swift, but it circles and hovers over the potential victim, waiting for the prey to die. In other words, the circling action indicates that death is approaching. Here the vulture was figuratively hovering over the house of Jehovah because doom (death, calamity) was near. Judgment was coming because Israel had broken God’s Law.

A vulture is nearby while seeking its prey from overhead. In contrast, the eagle, with its hunger and keen eyesight, spots its prey afar off and then comes with great speed and makes one swift glide down to the prey. Verse 1 was a warning of what would happen if Israel did not change course. Death was approaching and near.

Hosea 8:2 Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee.

In their final calamity, Israel would call upon God, crying to Him for deliverance. Only superficially did Israel acknowledge or recognize God; the ten tribes had a form of godliness but denied the power. They needed to repent and acknowledge their wrong; then their cry would be sincere.

Hosea 8:3 Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him.

Hosea 8:4 They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.

“They [Israel] have set up kings, but not by me.” The ten tribes had cast aside Rehoboam to set up Jeroboam in authority. God did not approve this arrangement. “They have made princes, and I knew it not.” Israel also set up princes who were not recognized by God.

Because Israel had cast off the Law Covenant, judgment would come. The “trumpet” (verse 1) was the burden of the message, as follows: (1) Israel “cast off the thing that is good”; that is, because they had cast off the Law, righteousness, and morals, the enemy would pursue them.

(2) Israel set up unauthorized kings, starting with Jeroboam. Not one king of the ten tribes got a favorable report. For example, even though Jehu was anointed and performed a work, he went overboard in destroying Jezebel, Ahaziah, Jehoram, the house of Baal, etc. The kings were of the people’s own choosing and not of the house of David. (3) Israel made idols of silver and gold. For all of these reasons, the ten tribes would be taken captive to Assyria.

“Of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.” The two prominent golden calves that Jeroboam instituted are a reminder of the golden calf the Israelites made when Moses was up in the mount. Aaron’s excuse was, “I put the gold in the fire, and look what came out.” In other words, Aaron had tried a delaying tactic with the people. Wanting to stall them in departing from the Lord, he asked them to donate all their gold (rings, earrings, etc.), never thinking that they actually would. Then Aaron did not have the strength of character to refuse to allow the building of the calf, so he molded the image.

Nevertheless, Aaron was a “saint,” so God does overlook certain mistakes at times, even though retribution and suffering follow in one form or another (Psa. 106:16). Aaron and Miriam both got leprosy, and Aaron was rebuked before the people and had to ask Moses to pray over him in the sight of the whole nation. This experience was humiliating, but evidently, Aaron was faithful in the final analysis (although not to the degree that Moses was).

Hosea 8:5 Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off; mine anger is kindled against them: how long will it be ere they attain to innocency?

“Thy calf” is mentioned in the singular, but there were two calves, one in Dan and the other in Beth-el. One calf was put in the suburbs and the other in the city to make it convenient for both types of people not to go to Jerusalem to worship. Moreover, one calf was in the hilly region, and one was on the coastal plain. The word “calf” was used in the singular to indicate, collectively, “idol worship.”

The ten tribes instituted different places of worship, different practices, and a different priesthood. Papacy did the same thing by supplanting and supplementing the original early Christian days with pagan religious days (for example, Easter, Good Friday, and Christmas). At first, there were two calves in the ten-tribe kingdom, but later there were more. And the people had places of worship on every hill and under every large shade tree that was not on private property. False religious practices with statues and relics were rampant. The Roman Catholic counterpart would be statues of saints and of Mary outside in gardens, on lawns, etc. “Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off.” The King James translation indicates that the calf god would be ineffective. However, the thought in the Hebrew is that God instructed the ten tribes to break the calf the way Moses broke the golden calf in the wilderness. Such action would have shown repentance, but the ten tribes did not obey.

“Mine anger is kindled against them.” God’s anger was kindled against the two calf idols in Dan and Beth-el.

“How long will it be ere they attain to innocency?” In other words, “How long will it be until Israel is reclaimed or purified?” The ten tribes were almost at the point of no return—of incorrigibility. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for their good, and so it would be with the ten tribes because they were so permeated with sin. Other prophets showed that a “refiner’s fire” (very severe judgments) would be required.

Hosea 8:6 For from Israel was it also: the workman made it; therefore it is not God: but the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces.

Verse 6 is a reminder of Aaron’s calf being broken into pieces, ground to powder, mixed with water, and given to the people to drink. Why did the Israelites have to drink such a bitter medicine? The golden calf represented Papacy, a man-made institution claiming divine authorization (shown by the “gold”). The calf was an image of the bullock used in the Tabernacle sacrifices. (Originally, Baal meant “Lord” and thus was a good word, but as the practices got distorted, Baal took on an evil connotation.) Just as the people had to drink the powdered golden calf in Moses’ day, so Papacy will have to “swallow back,” or retract, its blasphemous claims.

In other words, the prophecy of the “calf of Samaria” being broken to pieces was like history repeating itself. The golden calf in Moses’ day was ground to powder. In Jeremiah’s day, trees were cut down and overlaid with metal to make dumb idols (Jer. 10:1-5). The calves at Dan and Beth-el were cast; they were not cut-down trees. Incidentally, Samaria, the capital of the ten tribes, became Shechem and is now Nablus.

Hosea 8:7 For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.

The people made empty professions and performed empty sacrifices. They were nominally active in the Lord’s service, but actually their efforts were a “bag of wind.” The performance did not match the profession. By sowing emptiness, they should not have expected a crop.

Since they planted wind instead of seed, nothing of substance would grow. If seed had been planted, it would have multiplied food; for example, one seed could produce a large corn plant with several ears of corn and thousands of kernels. Likewise, if wind was planted, it would multiply and come back as a whirlwind.

“The strangers shall swallow it up.” Israel did not get a normal yield, but if by some miracle, a small crop grew, it would be taken. In the final analysis then, Israel would get nothing. Battles were frequently timed by the enemy to take place after the grain had been harvested. Then the invading army did not have to worry about a food supply or carry food provisions with them, for they seized the food from the people they conquered. Imagine going to the effort of harvesting the crops and storing them in barns, only to have an enemy come along and take them! God was telling Israel in advance that this would happen to them. The “stranger” (the enemy) would swallow up what they had planted.

Comment: We often think of the text “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” meaning equal retribution (Gal. 6:7). But here the analogy was to sow a little seed and get a tremendous plant, tree, or crop. Israel sowed the wind, and now they would reap tremendous trouble.

Reply: Sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind refer to the manner in which seed was sown. A man walked the furrows throwing seed to the wind from a waist-tied bag. Some seed blew away, and some fell too concentrated to produce. In other words, some seed was wasted.

Those of the ten tribes sowed seed to satisfy evil passions and desires: pleasures of the flesh, money, power, riches, etc. Instead of bringing the crop they wanted, the seed became a whirlwind of retribution. They sowed to the wind, and the wind blew it back as a whirlwind of trouble. Hosea 10:13 is similar in principle: “Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity.” The seeds of illegitimate desires were sown. Hosea was a farmer; hence he used agricultural analogies.

From a literal standpoint, the seed that was sown did not produce good crops to assuage the people’s hunger. The seed grew up like a tare. If the stalk had a bud, the bud did not mature.

Three conditions occurred: (1) There was no sign of fruitage (grain), (2) the buds did not mature, and (3) any grain produced was taken by the enemy.

Hosea 8:8 Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure.

With verse 8, the picture changed suddenly. Instead of prophesying about the grain being swallowed up, Hosea said that Israel itself would be devoured. The ten tribes were likened to grain. In verse 7, Israel was doing the sowing, and the meager results would be taken from them by the enemy. Now, in verse 8, Hosea likened Israel to the grain: “You are that grain, and the enemy will swallow you up.” And that is just what happened to the ten tribes. Not only did they go into Diaspora, but they were called the “lost” ten tribes—they were “swallowed up.” The identity of the ten tribes is a great mystery, for when they were taken captive, it became impossible with the passage of time to trace their history. The only reason we know about some of the other tribes is that Judah and a handful from the ten tribes returned to Israel in 536 BC after the 70 years’ desolation. Their history, genealogy, and a continuous chronology of the ten tribes are available up until just a few centuries before Christ.

Stated another way, verse 8 prophesied past the Diaspora and into the AD centuries, for following the Babylonian captivity from 606 to 536 BC, the tribal identities were still known. Those who are lost (primarily of the ten tribes) were dispersed into other nations in such a way that their history and genealogy are hard to trace. There is a gap in history during that period. It is the same situation with the Eskimos. We can conjecture how they got to Alaska, but that part of their history is unknown.

“Now shall they [Israel] be among the Gentiles.“ In other words, the ten tribes were dispersed into various nations. Israel became a vessel of dishonor—”a vessel wherein is no pleasure.” The ten tribes were not a useless vessel but a low and menial vessel, such as a garbage can. The vessel was inferior, ordinary, and unattractive; it was held in disesteem and was subjected to pogroms. As they had sown to evil desires, so they would be strewn as a people throughout Gentile nations and lose their tribal identities. Families would be broken up and dispersed.

Spiritually speaking, Papacy was an inferior system for producing fruitage for the Bride class. Martin Luther was an exception.

“Israel is swallowed up.” Israel had not yet been taken captive to Assyria, but a then future event was stated as past, for the ten tribes had reached the point of needing stern treatment. Assyria would swallow up the ten tribes. Prior warnings had come through Assyrian kings Pul, Tiglath-Pileser, and Shalmaneser, but the warnings did not bring repentance. The three kings dealt successive blows, with Shalmaneser finalizing the destruction and taking the ten tribes captive out of Israel.

Hosea 8:9 For they are gone up to Assyria, a wild ass alone by himself: Ephraim hath hired lovers.

Verse 9 is a break in thought, a new paragraph. Since Hosea was a farmer, many of his illustrations were based on nature, for example, crops, vultures, and here the wild ass. How was Israel’s going up to Assyria like a wild ass? Israel made an alliance with Assyria, a Gentile power, to fight another Gentile power. (Sad to say, the ten tribes even allied themselves with another power to fight against Judah, their own brotherhood, and Judah did the same.) Not only did the ten tribes go to Assyria for help, but they were like a wild ass in that they refused to be under restraint. The wild ass rebels against restraint and does not like to be told what to do. The animal goes where it pleases. It likes to shun people and go out in the wilderness and just run around. And so Israel, instead of staying in its own pasture with God and looking to Him for advice, ran off to the king of Assyria for help. Just like the wild ass, Israel did not want to be told what to do but went ahead on its own advice and in its own power and strength instead of seeking the counsel of the Lord.

See Job 39:5-8 and Jeremiah 2:24. God made the wild ass with qualities and provisions of independence. It inhabits a higher steppe, or plateau, and scorns city traffic. Here in verse 9,  Hosea emphasized the wild ass’s desire not to be inhibited in any sense, showing that Israel wanted no restraints from doing evil. God created the wild ass with certain characteristics, and Job described its habitat and manner of life, not treating the negative aspect.

“Ephraim hath hired lovers.” The thought of the rebellious wild ass continues. Israel not only showed a lack of judgment in going to the king of Assyria for help but also desired the fellowship of others. Israel looked for new pleasures in foreign lands. Most prostitutes get paid for their work, but Israel was even worse. Contrary to nature, Israel went out and paid the one she had an illicit relationship with; that is, Israel bought her lovers. This is powerful language!

Imagine the prophet saying these bold things to the ten tribes! And he was addressing the honored representatives (the king, the priesthood, etc.)—he even used a trumpet (see verse 1).

What a tongue-lashing Hosea gave them, using powerful illustrations! The people understood the analogy about the wild ass. Hosea was a truly courageous prophet. Incidentally, Assyria was not satisfied with the pay, or tribute, and swallowed up the ten tribes.

The ten tribes went to Assyria earlier for help. They fraternized with Assyria and Egypt. When King Ahaz of the ten tribes went to Damascus, Syria, he liked an ornate altar there, so he had a replica made for Israel and then took the Lord’s altar for his personal use (2 Kings 16:10-16). The Lord’s architecture is simple; man’s architecture is ornate. Ahaz was a very evil king.

“A wild ass alone by himself.” Israel, the “wild ass,” was alone without the Lord. Israel broke out of the pasture provided by the Lord and the restraints of the Law Covenant. Israel viewed independence from the Lord as liberty, but it was license to sin. The wild ass loves to be independent and does not want to be governed. In addition, the animal is known for its lust. The burning lust of Israel was hot like an oven (Hos. 7:6,7), so God would give the ten tribes an oven that would burn them up (destroy them).

Jeremiah 2:23-25 in the NIV shows the wild passion. “How can you say, ‘I am not defiled; I have not run after the Baals’? See how you behaved in the valley; consider what you have done. You are … a wild donkey accustomed to the desert, sniffing the wind in her craving—in her heat who can restrain her? Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves; at mating time they will find her. Do not run until your feet are bare and your throat is dry.”

Israel got increasingly hardened in sin. Repentance became less and less likely as the people went down the road of independence. True liberty is being yoked to Christ, whereas man’s independence is license to sin. True liberty is freedom from sin as we try to control the appetites of fallen flesh.

Hosea 8:10 Yea, though they have hired among the nations, now will I gather them, and they shall sorrow a little for the burden of the king of princes.

Hosea used sarcasm to refer to a future gathering and reconciliation. He was saying in effect, “Though I will gather you in the future, you first will have a little trouble.” The prophet used the expression “sorrow a little,” but the trouble was great. The “king of princes” (the mighty king) was the king of Assyria.

Hosea 8:11 Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin, altars shall be unto him to sin.

Instead of going to Jerusalem, those of the ten tribes sacrificed at unauthorized altars.

Moreover, the sacrifices were to be done according to God’s instructions, but those instructions were not followed. These sins were bad enough, but they opened the door to other sins as well. Being careless with sacrifices set a precedent for more evil.

Hosea 8:12 I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.

How different the people were from David, who loved God’s Law and meditated on it day and night!

Hosea 8:13 They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat it; but the LORD accepteth them not; now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins: they shall return to Egypt.

“They sacrifice flesh … and eat it.” Generally speaking, when an animal was sacrificed, only a token portion (choice parts such as the shoulder and the breast) was given to the priesthood.

All the rest was retained and eaten by the individual. Of the parts given to the priesthood, a portion was burned, and the rest, considered a tithe, was eaten. There was nothing wrong with the eating, but its purpose was religious in nature. Although the Israelites sacrificed flesh according to the Law, the improper motive underlying the sacrifice made it unacceptable as a peace offering. Part of the animal was sacrificed to the Lord, and the part that was eaten, the peace offering, was supposed to provide fellowship. In other words, the purpose for the peace offering was fellowship. How did the Lord “eat” His part? By consuming the fat or meat in the fire, He figuratively and invisibly “ate” His portion. When, in the peace offering, the individual ate the remainder of the animal, the representation was a covenant of fellowship. Note: Hosea was not saying it was wrong for the people to eat flesh. Rather, the sin was in eating flesh with a wrong motive and/or spirit and then thinking the Lord accepted the offering.

The ten tribes liked foreign heathen worship rather than the sacrifices ordered by God. Sin (pleasures of the flesh) was incorporated into their religious practices while they ostensibly worshipped God. Unabashed promiscuity was practiced instead of nice, clean family fellowship.

The people did not reject God outright, but they rejected Him by disobedience such as failing to go to Jerusalem. The counterpart is Catholicism, for the ten tribes represent Papacy. Ostensibly its worshippers believe in Christ, but the “mother” is really a harlot (Rev. 17:5).

“They shall return to Egypt.” This clause is a play on words. The ten tribes were carried away to Assyria, where they dwelled by a certain river. After a while, no more was recorded about the ten tribes, for they became “lost,” dispersed. Then in Jeremiah’s day, some in Judah were taken to Egypt. The vinedressers that King Nebuchadnezzar left in Israel made an alliance with Egypt and fled there. In anger, Nebuchadnezzar sent his captain of the guard to Egypt to dispatch the rebellious ones and greatly humiliate them. There is a play on words here.

Originally, the nation of Israel was in Egypt, and God delivered them by miracles and signs at the time of the Exodus. Later He brought them into their land and fenced them about (protected them), but they were disobedient. Now Hosea prophesied that they would be returned to Egypt; that is, while God once delivered the Israelites from Egypt, they would return to an “Egypt” condition. Just as Moses broke the golden calf into powder and made the Israelites drink it, so the calf of Samaria (verse 5), made by man and worshipped as a god, would be broken in pieces. Thus this play on words referred back to the beginning when Moses was alive. As captives in Assyria and in their dispersion into Gentile lands, the ten tribes would return to the “Egypt” condition; that is, they were put back as slaves under oppressive taskmasters and unpleasant experiences like those they had formerly endured in Egypt.

Hosea 8:14 For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples; and Judah hath multiplied fenced cities: but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof.

“Israel … buildeth temples.” Spiritually speaking, the Roman Catholic Church builds churches, but from God’s standpoint, the edifices are not “ordained.” Solomon and Zerubbabel built temples, but they were instructed to do so by God. The sin in Hosea’s day was that instead of recognizing the Temple at Jerusalem as the center of worship, the ten tribes went around and multiplied places of worship. Similarly, while Rome is the center of Catholicism, each locality has its own church, priests, bishop, etc.

The Law stipulated that three times a year the males were to go to Jerusalem for feasts (Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles). These trips entailed effort and sacrifice. If any male was sick, he was permitted to go a month later. Even Jesus went to Jerusalem for these three feasts. However, Jeroboam added two new unauthorized places for religious worship, that is, Dan and Beth-el. His attitude was, “You can worship at Dan or Beth-el and do not have to go to Jerusalem on the feast days.” As time went on and Jeroboam grew more powerful, about five places of worship were appointed in the ten tribes. The multiple places detracted from the importance of Jerusalem as a religious center.

Similarly, Catholicism has downgraded the Jewish religion. Christianity actually has its roots in Judaism, but nominal churchianity does not like to admit the Jewish heritage. (Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets were all Jews.) Therefore, in time, other cities were given prominence: Antioch, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Rome. After a while, Rome was given the preeminence. The “divide and conquer” tactic was used.

The mention of Judah in verse 14 shows that Hosea’s criticism also applied to the two tribes. “Judah hath multiplied fenced cities.” Those of Judah trusted in their own defenses and not in God. Verse 14 was a side comment, for Hosea’s main theme was the ten tribes.

(1969 and 1993 Studies)

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