Hosea 8


This chapter begins with threatening some hostile invasion in

short and broken sentences, full of rapidity, and expressive of

sudden danger and alarm: "The trumpet to thy mouth; he cometh

as an eagle," 1.

And why? For their hypocrisy, 2;

iniquity, 3;

treason (see 2Ki 15:13, 17) and idolatry, 4;

particularly the worshipping of the calves of Dan and Bethel, 5, 6.

The folly and unprofitableness of pursuing evil courses is then

set forth in brief but very emphatic terms. The labour of the

wicked is vain, like sowing of the wind; and the fruit of it

destructive as the whirlwind. Like corn blighted in the bud,

their toil shall have no recompense; or if it should have a

little, their enemies shall devour it, 7.

They themselves, too, shall suffer the same fate, and shall be

treated by the nations of Assyria and Egypt as the vile sherds

of a broken vessel, 8, 9.

Their incorrigible idolatry is again declared to be the cause

of their approaching captivity under the king of Assyria. And

as they delighted in idolatrous altars, there they shall have

these in abundance, 10-14.

The last words contain a prediction of the destruction of the

fenced cities of Judah, because the people trusted in these for

deliverance, and not in the Lord their God.


Verse 1. Set the trumpet to thy mouth] Sound another alarm. Let

them know that an enemy is fast approaching.

As an eagle against the house of the Lord] of this be a prophecy

against Judah, as some have supposed, then by the eagle

Nebuchadnezzar is meant, who is often compared to this king of

birds. See Eze 17:3; Jer 48:40; 49:22; Da 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

this royal bird. He is represented here as hovering over the house

of God, as the eagle does over the prey which he has just espied,

and on which he is immediately to pounce.

Verse 2. Israel shalt cry] The rapidity of the eagle's flight is

well imitated in the rapidity of the sentences in this place.

My God, we know thee.] The same sentiment, from the same sort of

persons, under the same feelings, as that in the Gospel of St.

Matthew, Mt 7:22: "Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and

in thy name have cast out devils? Then will I profess unto them, I

never KNEW YOU."

Verse 4. They have set up kings, but not by me] Properly

speaking, not one of the kings of Israel, from the defection of

the ten tribes from the house of David, was the anointed of the


I knew it not] It had not my approbation. In this sense the

word know is frequently understood.

That they may be cut off.] That is, They shall be cut off in

consequence of their idolatry.

Verse 5. Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off] Bishop Newcome

translates: "Remove far from thee thy calf, O Samaria!" Abandon

thy idolatry; for my anger is kindled against thee.

How long will it be ere they attain to innocency?] How long will

ye continue your guilty practices? When shall it be said that ye

are from these vices? The calf or ox, which was the object of the

idolatrous worship of the Israelites, was a supreme deity in

Egypt; and it was there they learned this idolatry. A white ox was

worshipped under the name of Apis, at Memphis; and another ox

under the name of Mnevis, was worshipped at On, or Heliopolis. To

Osiris the males of this genus were consecrated, and the females

to Isis. It is a most ancient superstition, and still prevails in

the East. The cow is a most sacred animal among the Hindoos.

Verse 6. The workman made it; therefore it is not God] As God

signifies the supreme eternal Good, the Creator and Upholder of

all things, therefore the workman cannot make Him who made all

things. This is an overwhelming argument against all idols.

Nothing need be added. The workman has made them; therefore they

are not God.

Verse 7. They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the

whirlwind] As the husbandman reaps the same kind of grain which he

has sown, but in far greater abundance, thirty, sixty, or one

hundred fold; so he who sows the wind shall have a whirlwind to

reap. The vental seed shall be multiplied into a tempest; so they

who sow the seed of unrighteousness shall reap a harvest of

judgment. This is a fine, bold, and energetic metaphor.

It hath no stalk] Nothing that can yield a blossom. If it have a

blossom, that blossom shall not yield fruit; if there be fruit,

the sower shall not enjoy it, for strangers shall eat it. The

meaning is, the labours of this people shall be utterly

unprofitable and vain.

Verse 8. Now shall they be among the Gentiles] They shall be

carried into captivity, and there be as a vessel wherein there is

no pleasure; one soiled, unclean, infectious, to be despised,

abhorred, not used. The allusion is to a rotten, corrupted

skin-bottle; a bottle made of goat, deer, or calf hide, still

commonly used in Asia and Africa. Some of them are splendidly

ornamented. This is the case with one now before me made of a

goat's skin well dressed, variously painted, and ornamented with

leather fringes, tassels, &c. In such a bottle there might be

pleasure; but the Israelites are compared to such a bottle, rough,

ill-dressed, not ornamented, old, musty, and putrid. This shows

the force of the comparison.

Verse 9. They are gone up to Assyria] For succour.

A wild ass alone by himself] Like that animal, jealous of its

liberty, and suffering no rival. If we may credit Pliny and

others, one male wild ass will keep a whole flock of females to

himself, suffer no other to approach them, and even bite off the

genitals of the colts, lest in process of time they should become

his rivals. "Mares singuli faeminarum gregibus imperitant; timent

libidinis aemulos, et ideo gravidas custodiunt, morsuque natos

mares castrant."-Hist. Nat., lib. viii., c. 30. The Israelites,

with all this selfishness and love of liberty, took no step that

did not necessarily lead to their thraldom and destruction.

Ephraim hath hired lovers.] Hath subsidized the neighbouring

heathen states.

Verse 10. For the burden of the king of princes.] The exactions

of the Assyrian king, and the princes of the provinces.

Verse 11. Many altars to sin] Though it does not appear that the

Jews in Babylon were obliged to worship the idols of the country,

except in the case mentioned by Daniel, yet it was far otherwise

with the Israelites in Assyria, and the other countries of their

dispersion. Because they had made many altars to sin while they

were in their own land, they were obliged to continue in the land

of their captivity a similar system of idolatry against their

will. Thus they felt and saw the evil of their idolatry, without

power to help themselves.

Verse 12. I have written to him the great things of my law] I

have as it were inscribed my laws to them, and they have treated

them as matters in which they had no interest.

Verse 13. They sacrifice flesh] Bp. Newcome translates thus:

"They sacrifice gifts appointed unto me, and eat flesh." They

offer to their idols the things which belong to Jehovah; or, while

pretending to offer unto the Lord, they eat and drink

idolatrously; and therefore the Lord will not accept them.

They shall return to Egypt.] Many of them did return to Egypt

after the conquest of Palestine by Shalmaneser, and many after the

ruin of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar; but they had in effect

returned to Egypt by setting up the worship of the golden calves,

which were in imitation of the Egyptian Apis.

Verse 14. Israel hath forgotten his Maker] And therefore built

temples to other gods. Judah had lost all confidence in the

Divine protection, and therefore built many fenced cities. But the

fire of God's anger burnt up both the temples and the fortified


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