Hosea 8
Pulpit Commentary
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.
Verse 1. - 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 (תֵיקְך) 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 ver. 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.
Verse 2. - 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 Psalm 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.
Verse 3. - 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: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.
Verse 4. - 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 cast thee off; mine anger is kindled against them: how long will it be ere they attain to innocency?
Verse 5. - 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 Psalm 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 ז were 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, "ז is 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: but the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces.
Verse 6. - 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 שׁובֵב, Micah 2:4, "turning away."
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.
Verse 7. - 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 ה intensifies 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, the shoot has no fruit. Here the play on words, of which the Hebrews were so fond, is obvious - the tse-roach has no yemach; the halm has no maim; 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: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure.
Verse 8. - 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.
Verse 9. - 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, and they shall sorrow a little for the burden of the king of princes.
Verse 10. - 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, קבצ, is used in Isaiah 54. 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.
Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin, altars shall be unto him to sin.
Verses 11, 12. - These two verses are closely connected with the preceding verse and with each other. Ver. 11 not only accounts for, but justifies, the threat of punishment announced in ver. 10 by reference to Ephraim's sin; and ver. 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 kethie 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 Maasoretie 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.
I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.
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.
Verses 13, 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 riley 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

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.
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

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