Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Judgment Consequent Upon Apostasy - Hosea 8-9:9
The coming judgment, viz., the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes, is predicted in three strophes, containing a fresh enumeration of the sins of Israel (1-7), a reference to the fall of the kingdom, which is already about to commence (Hos 8:8-14), and a warning against false security (Hos 9:1-9).
The prophecy rises with a vigorous swing, as in Hos 5:8, to the prediction of judgment. Hos 5:1. "The trumpet to thy mouth! Like an eagle upon the house of Jehovah! Because they transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law. Hos 5:2. To me will they cry: My God, we know Thee, we Israel!" The first sentence of Hos 5:1 is an exclamation, and therefore has no verb. The summons issues from Jehovah, as the suffixes in the last sentences show, and is addressed to the prophet, who is to blow the trumpet, as the herald of Jehovah, and give the people tidings of the approaching judgment (see at Hos 5:8). The second sentence gives the alarming message to be delivered: like an eagle comes the foe, or the judgment upon the house of Jehovah. The simile of the eagle, that shoots down upon its prey with the rapidity of lightning, points back to the threat of Moses in Deu 28:49. The "house of Jehovah" is neither the temple at Jerusalem (Jerome, Theod., Cyr.), the introduction of which here would be at variance with the context; nor the principal temple of Samaria, with the fall of which the whole kingdom would be ruined (Ewald, Sim.), since the temples erected for the calf-worship at Daniel and Bethel are called Bēth bâmōth, not Bēth Yehōvâh; nor even the land of Jehovah, either here or at Hos 9:15 (Hitzig), for a land is not a house; but Israel was the house of Jehovah, as being a portion of the congregation of the Lord, as in Hos 9:15; Num 12:7; Jer 12:7; Zac 9:8; cf. οἶκος Θεοῦ in Heb 3:6 and Ti1 3:15. The occasion of the judgment was the transgression of the covenant and law of the Lord, which is more particularly described in Ti1 3:4. In this distress they will call for help to Jehovah: "My God (i.e., each individual will utter this cry), we know Thee?" Israel is in apposition to the subject implied in the verb. They know Jehovah, so far as He has revealed Himself to the whole nation of Israel; and the name Israel is in itself a proof that they belong to the people of God.
But this knowledge of God, regarded simply as a historical acquaintance with Him, cannot possibly bring salvation. Hos 8:3. "Israel dislikes good; let the enemy pursue it." This is the answer that God will give to those who cry to Him. טוב denotes neither "Jehovah as the highest good" (Jerome) or as "the good One" (Sims.), nor "the good law of God" (Schmieder), but the good or salvation which Jehovah has guaranteed to the nation through His covenant of grace, and which He bestowed upon those who kept His covenant. Because Israel has despised this good, let the enemy pursue it.
The proof of Israel's renunciation of its God is to be found in the facts mentioned in Hos 8:4. "They have set up kings, but not from me, have set up princes, and I know it not: their silver and their gold they have made into idols, that it may be cut off." The setting up of kings and princes, not from Jehovah, and without His knowledge, i.e., without His having been asked, refers chiefly to the founding of the kingdom by Jeroboam I. It is not to be restricted to this, however, but includes at the same time the obstinate persistence of Israel in this ungodly attitude on all future occasions, when there was either a change or usurpation of the government. And the fact that not only did the prophet Ahijah foretel to Jeroboam I that he would rule over the ten tribes (Kg1 11:30.), but Jehu was anointed king over Israel by Elisha's command (2 Kings 9), and therefore both of them received the kingdom by the express will of Jehovah, is not at variance with this, so as to require the solution that we have a different view here from that which prevails in the books of Kings, - namely, one which sprang out of the repeated changes of government and anarchies in this kingdom (Simson). For neither the divine promise of the throne, nor the anointing performed by the command of God, warranted their forcibly seizing upon the government, - a crime of which both Jeroboam and Jehu rendered themselves guilty. The way in which both of them paved the way to the throne was not in accordance with the will of God, but was most ungodly (see at Kg1 11:40). Jeroboam was already planning a revolt against Solomon (Kg1 11:27), and led the gathering of the ten tribes when they fell away from the house of David 91 Kings Hos 12:2.). Of Jehu, again, it is expressly stated in Kg2 9:14, that he conspired against Joram. And the other usurpers, just like the two already named, opened the way to the throne by means of conspiracies, whilst the people not only rebelled against the rightful heir to the throne at Solomon's death, from pure dislike to the royal house of David, which had been appointed by God, and made Jeroboam king, but expressed their approval of all subsequent conspiracies as soon as they have been successful. This did not come from Jehovah, but was a rebellion against Him - a transgression of His covenant. To this must be added the further sin, viz., the setting up of the idolatrous calf-worship on the part of Jeroboam, to which all the kings of Israel adhered. It was in connection with this, that the application of the silver and gold to idols, by which Israel completely renounced the law of Jehovah, had taken place. It is true that silver was not used in the construction of the golden calves; but it was employed in the maintenance of their worship. למען יכּרת: that it (the gold and silver) may be destroyed, as more fully stated in Hos 8:6. למען describes the consequence of this conduct, which, though not designed, was nevertheless inevitable, as if it had been distinctly intended.
"Thy calf disgusts, O Samaria; my wrath is kindled against them: how long are they incapable of purity. Hos 8:6. For this also is from Israel: a workman made it, and it is not God; but the calf of Samaria will become splinters." Zânach (disgusts) points back to Hos 8:3. As Israel felt disgust at what was good, so did Jehovah at the golden calf of Samaria. It is true that zânach is used here intransitively in the sense of smelling badly, or being loathsome; but this does not alter the meaning, which is obvious enough from the context, namely, that it is Jehovah whom the calf disgusts. The calf of Samaria is not a golden calf set up in the city of Samaria; as there is no allusion in history to any such calf as this. Samaria is simply mentioned in the place of the kingdom, and the calf is the one that was set up at Bethel, the most celebrated place of worship in the kingdom, which is also the only one mentioned in Hos 10:5, Hos 10:15. On account of this calf the wrath of Jehovah is kindled against the Israelites, who worship this calf, and cannot desist. This is the thought of the question expressing disgust at these abominations. How long are they incapable of נקּין, i.e., purity of walk before the Lord, instead of the abominations of idolatry (cf. Jer 19:4); not "freedom from punishment," as Hitzig supposes. To לע יוּכלוּ, "they are unable," we may easily supply "to bear," as in Isa 1:14 and Psa 101:5. "For" (kı̄, Hos 8:6) follows as an explanation of the main clause in Hos 8:5, "Thy calf disgusts." The calf of Samaria is an abomination to the Lord, for it is also out of Israel (Israel's God out of Israel itself!); a workman made it, - what folly! והוּא is a predicate, brought out with greater emphasis by ו, et quidem, in the sense of iste. Therefore will it be destroyed like the golden calf at Sinai, which was burnt and ground to powder (Exo 32:20; Deu 9:21). The ἅπ. λεγ. שׁבבים, from Arab. sabb, to cut, signifies ruins or splinters.
This will Israel reap from its ungodly conduct. Hos 8:7. "For they sow wind, and reap tempest: it has no stalks; shoot brings no fruit; and even if it brought it, foreigners would devour it." With this figure, which is so frequently and so variously used (cf. Hos 10:13; Hos 12:2; Job 4:8; Pro 22:8), the threat is accounted for by a general thought taken from life. The harvest answers to the sowing (cf. Gal 6:7-8). Out of the wind comes tempest. Wind is a figurative representation of human exertions; the tempest, of destruction. Instead of rūăch we have און, עמל, עולה (nothingness, weariness, wickedness) in Hos 10:13; Job 4:8, and Pro 22:8. In the second hemistich the figure is carried out still further. קמה, "seed standing upon the stalk," is not to it (viz., that which has been sowed). Tsemach brings no qemach, - a play upon the words, answering to our shoot and fruit. Qemach: generally meal, here probably the grain-bearing ear, from which the meal is obtained. But even if the shoot, when grown, should yield some meal, strangers, i.e., foreigners, would consume it. In these words not only are the people threatened with failure of the crop; but the failure and worthlessness of all that they do are here predicted. Not only the corn of Israel, but Israel itself, will be swallowed up.
With this thought the still further threatening of judgment in the next strophe is introduced. Hos 8:8. "Israel is swallowed up; now are they among the nations like a vessel, with which there is no satisfaction." The advance in the threat of punishment lies less in the extension of the thought, that not only the fruit of the field, but the whole nation, will be swallowed up by foes, than in the perfect נבלע, which indicates that the time of the ripening of the evil seeds has already begun (Jerome, Simson). עתּה היוּ, now already have they become among the nations like a despised vessel, which men cast away as useless (cf. Jer 22:28; Jer 48:38). This lot have they prepared for themselves.
"For they went up to Asshur; wild ass goes alone by itself; Ephraim sued for loves. Hos 8:10. Yea, though they sue among the nations, now will I gather them, and they will begin to diminish on account of the burden of the king of the princes." Going to Assyria is defined still further in the third clause as suing for loves, i.e., for the favour and help of the Assyrians. The folly of this suing is shown in the clause, "wild ass goes by itself alone," the meaning and object of which have been quite mistaken by those who supply a כ simil. For neither by connecting it with the preceding words thus, "Israel went to Asshur, like a stubborn ass going by itself" (Ewald), nor by attaching to it those which follow, "like a wild ass going alone, Ephraim sued for loves," do we get any suitable point of comparison. The thought is rather this: whilst even a wild ass, that stupid animal, keeps by itself to maintain its independence, Ephraim tries to form unnatural alliances with the nations of the world, that is to say, alliances that are quite incompatible with its vocation. Hithnâh, from tânâh, probably a denom. of 'ethnâh (see at Hos 2:14), to give the reward of prostitution, here in the sense of bargaining for amours, or endeavouring to secure them by presents. The kal yithnū has the same meaning in Hos 8:10. The word אקבּצם, to which different renderings have been given, can only have a threatening or punitive sense here; and the suffix cannot refer to בּגּוים, but only to the subject contained in yithnu, viz., the Ephraimites. The Lord will bring them together, sc. among the nations, i.e., bring them all thither. קבּץ is used in a similar sense in Hos 9:6. The more precise definition is added in the next clause, in the difficult expression ויּחלּוּ מעט, in which ויּחלּוּ may be taken most safely in the sense of "beginning," as in Jdg 20:31; Ch2 29:17, and Eze 9:6, in all of which this form occurs, and מעט as an adject. verb., connected with החל like the adjective כּהות in Sa1 3:2 : "They begin to be, or become, less (i.e., fewer), on account of the burden of the king of princes," i.e., under the oppression which they will suffer from the king of Assyria, not by war taxes or deportation, but when carried away into exile. מלך שׂרים = מלך מלכים is a term applied to the great Assyrian king, who boasted, according to Isa 10:8, that his princes were all kings.
This threat is accounted for in Hos 8:11., by an allusion to the sins of Israel. Hos 8:11. "For Ephraim has multiplied altars for sinning, the altars have become to him for sinning. Hos 8:12. I wrote to him the fulnesses of my law; they were counted as a strange thing." Israel was to have only one altar, and that in the place where the Lord would reveal His name (Deu 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. לחטא is used, in the first clause, for the act of sin; and in the second, for the consequences of that act. And this was not done from ignorance of the divine will, but from neglect of the divine commandments. אכתּוב is a historical present, indicating that what had occurred was continuing still. These words refer unquestionably to the great number of the laws written in the Mosaic thorah. רבו, according to the chethib רבּו, with ת dropped, equivalent to רבבה, as in Ch1 29:7, ten thousand, myriads. The Masoretes, who supposed the number to be used in an arithmetical sense, altered it, as conjecturally unsuitable, into רבּי, multitudes, although רב does not occur anywhere else in the plural. The expression "the myriads of my law" is hyperbolical, to indicate the almost innumerable multitude of the different commandments contained in the law. It was also in a misapprehension of the nature of the hyperbole that the supposition originated, that אכתּוב was a hypothetical future (Jerome). כּמו זר, like something foreign, which does not concern them at all.
"Slain-offerings for gifts they sacrifice; flesh, and eat: Jehovah has no pleasure in them: now will He remember their transgression, and visit their sins: they will return to Egypt. Hos 8:14. And Israel forgot its Creator, and built palaces: and Judah multiplied fortified cities: and I shall send fire into its cities, and it will devour its castles." With the multiplication of the altars they increased the number of the sacrifices. הבהבי is a noun in the plural with the suffix, and is formed from יהב by reduplication. The slain-offerings of my sacrificial gifts, equivalent to the gifts of slain-offerings presented to me continually, they sacrifice as flesh, and eat it; that is to say, they are nothing more than flesh, which they slay and eat, and not sacrifices in which Jehovah takes delight, or which could expiate their sins. Therefore the Lord will punish their sins; they will return to Egypt, i.e., be driven away into the land of bondage, out of which God once redeemed His people. These words are simply a special application of the threat, held out by Moses in Deu 28:68, to the degenerate ten tribes. Egypt is merely a type of the land of bondage, as in Hos 9:3, Hos 9:6. In Hos 8:14 the sin of Israel is traced back to its root. This is forgetfulness of God, and deification of their own power, and manifests itself in the erection of היכלות, palaces, not idolatrous temples. Judah also makes itself partaker of this sin, by multiplying the fortified cities, and placing its confidence in fortifications. These castles of false security the Lord will destroy. The 'armânōth answer to the hēkhâloth. The suffixes attached to בּעריו and ארמנתיה refer to both kingdoms: the masculine suffix to Israel and Judah, as a people; the feminine to the two as a land, as in Lam 2:5.