Hosea 10:8
The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) Aven.—On Beth-Aven, see Note on Hosea 4:15. The “thorn and thistle” are part of the first curse upon apostate Adam (Genesis 3:18), and the prophet not only predicts utter ruin for king and calf, temple and shrine, but the future desolation which should conceal all. Meanwhile, the people shall desire death rather than life. The awful words in the latter part of this verse are used by our Lord concerning the terrors of the impenitent in the fall of Jerusalem (Luke 23:30), and twice by St. John (Revelation 6:16; Revelation 9:6), to denote the extremity of despair.

10:1-8 A vine is only valuable for its fruit; but Israel now brought no fruit to perfection. Their hearts were divided. God is the Sovereign of the heart; he will have all, or none. Were the stream of the heart wholly after God, it would run strongly, and bear down all before it. Their pretences to covenant with God were false. Even the proceeding of justice was as poisonous hemlock. Alas, how empty a vine is the visible church even at this day! But all earthly prosperity is but a collection of bubbles, soon destroyed like foam upon the water. Sinners will in vain seek shelter from that Judge, whom they now despise as a Saviour.The high places of Aven - that is, of vanity or iniquity. He had before called "Bethel, house of God," by the name of "Bethaven, house of vanity;" now he calls it "Aven, vanity" or "iniquity," as being the concentration of those qualities. Bethel was situated on a "hill," the "mount of Bethel," and, from different sides, people were said to "go up" (Joshua 16:1; 1 Samuel 13:2; above Hosea 4:13; Genesis 35:1; Judges 1:22; 1 Samuel 10:3; 2 Kings 2:23) to it. "The high place" often means the shrine, or "the house of the high places." Jeroboam had built such at Bethel 1 Kings 12:31; many such already existed in his time, so that, "whoever would, he consecrated" as their "priests" 1 Kings 13:32-33. The high place or shrine, is accordingly said to be "built" 1 Kings 11:7, "broken down and burnt" 2 Kings 23:15. At times, they were tents, and so said to be "woven 2 Kings 23:7, made of garments of divers colors" Ezekiel 16:16. The calf then, probably, became a center of idolatry; many such "idol-shrines" were formed around it, on its mount, until Bethel became a metropolis of idolatry. This was "the sin of Israel," as being the source of all its sins.

The thorn and the thistle shall come up upon their altars - This pictures, not only the desolation of the place, as before Hosea 9:6, but the forced cessation of idolatry. Fire destroys, down to the root, all vegetable life which it has once touched. The thorn, once blackened by fire, puts out no fresh shoot. But now, these idol fires having been put out forever, from amid the crevices of the broken altars, "thorn and thistle" should grow freely as in a fallow soil. Where the victims aforetime "went up" is also a sacrificial term), or were offered, now the wild briars and thistles alone should "go up," and wave freely in undisputed possession. Ephraim had "multiplied altars," as God multiplied their "goods;" now their altars should be but monunments of the defeat of idolatry. They remained, but only as the grave-stones of the idols, once worshiped there.

They shall say to the mountains, cover us - Samaria and Bethel, the seats of the idolatry and of the kingdom of Israel, themselves both on heights, had both, near them, mountains higher than themselves. Such was to Bethel, the mountain on the East, where Abraham built an altar to the Lord Genesis 12:8; Samaria was encircled by them. Both were probably scenes of their idolatries; from both, the miseries of the dwellers of Bethel and Samaria could be seen. Samaria especially was in the center of a sort of amphitheater; itself, the spectacle. No help should those high places now bring to them in their need. The high hills round Samaria, when the tide of war had filled the valley around it, hemmed them in, the more hopelessly. There was no way, either to break through or to escape. The narrow passes, which might have been held, as flood gates against the enemy, would then be held against them. One only service could it seem, that their mountains could then render, to destroy them. So should they be freed from evils worse than the death of the body, and escape the gaze of people upon their misery. "They shall wish rather to die, than to see what will bring death." "They shall say to the mountains on which they worshiped idols, fall on us, and anticipate the cruelty of the Assyrians and the extreme misery of captivity." Nature abhors annihilation; man shrinks from the violent marring of his outward form; he clings, however debased, to the form which God gave him. What misery, then, when people long for, what their inmost being shrinks from!

The words of the prophet become a sort of proverbial saying for misery, which longs for death rather than life. The destruction of Samaria was the type of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and of every other final excision, when the measure of iniquity was filled, and there was neither hope nor remedy. This was the characteristic of the destruction of Samaria. They had been God's people; they were to be so no more. This was the characteristic of the destruction of Jerusalem, not by the Babylonians, after which it was restored, but by the Romans, when they had rejected Christ, and prayed, "His Blood be on us and on our children." So will it be in the end of the world. Hence, our Lord uses the words Luke 23:30, to forewarns of the miseries of the destruction of Jerusalem, when the Jews hid themselves in caves for fear of the Romans ; and John uses them to picture man's despair at the end of the world Revelation 6:16. "I dread" says Bernard , "the gnawing worm, and the living death. I dread to fall into the hands of a living death, and a dying life. This is "the second death," which never out-killeth, yet which ever killeth. How would they long to die once, that they may not die forever! "They who say to the mountains, fall on us, and to the hills, cover us," what do they will, but, by the aid of death, either to escape or to end death? "They shall seek death, but shall not find it, and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them," saith John" Revelation 1:6.

8. Aven—that is, Beth-aven.

the sin—that is, the occasion of sin (De 9:21; 1Ki 12:30).

they shall say to … mountains, Cover us—So terrible shall be the calamity, that men shall prefer death to life (Lu 23:30; Re 6:16; 9:6). Those very hills on which were their idolatrous altars (one source of their confidence, as their "king," Ho 10:7, was the other), so far from helping them, shall be called on by them to overwhelm them.

The high places; the temples and altars of Baal and other idols.

Aven, for Beth-aven, say most interpreters: what if. Aven, vanity, folly, be here put for all idol worship and rites, which was notoriously

the sin of Israel?

Shall be destroyed; utterly overthrown; and lie so long waste and desolate, that thorns and thistles shall spring up out of the places where their altars once stood within their stately temples. When this shall be brought to pass, the idolatrous Israelites shall be in such perplexity, that they shall wish the mountains and hills might fall on them, and bury them alive, that they might escape the troubles that they did foresee were coming upon them; or it may be an upbraiding them for praying to lifeless stocks or statues, and telling them in their distress, and when their gods are gone, and cannot help, they should cry to deaf mountains to cover them.

The high places also of Aven,.... Bethel, which is not only as before called Bethaven, the house of iniquity; but Aven, iniquity itself; the high places of it were the temple and altars built there for idolatrous service, which were usually set on hills and mountains:

the sin of Israel shall be destroyed; that is, which high places are the sin of Israel, the occasion of sin unto them; and where they committed sin, the sin of idolatry, in worshipping the calves; these should be thrown down, demolished, and no longer used:

the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; lying in ruins, these shall grow upon them, the people and priests being carried captive that used to sacrifice upon them; but now they shall lie deserted by them, being destroyed by the enemy:

and they shall say to the mountains, cover us; and to the hills, fall on us; not that the high places and altars shall say so in a figurative sense, according to R. Moses in Aben Ezra; but, as Japhet, they that worshipped there, the priests and people of Samaria, Bethaven, and even of all Israel, because of their great distress; and, as persons in the utmost consternation, and in despair, and confounded, and ashamed, shall call to the mountains and hills where they have been guilty of idolatry to hide and cover them from the wrath of God; see Luke 23:30 Revelation 6:16.

The high places also of {i} Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.

(i) This he speaks in contempt of Bethel. Read Geneva (t) Ho 4:15

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. The high places also of Aven] Perhaps the same as Beth-aven, i.e. Bethel (Hosea 4:15, Hosea 10:5). But ‘the high places of idolatry’ (as Aben Ezra) is an equally admissible rendering of the phrase; all the local sanctuaries of the steer-god will then be referred to. The term ‘high place’ includes both the mound and the shrine and altar erected upon it.

they shall say …] Applied proverbially by our Lord (Luke 23:30) and by St John (Revelation 6:16; Revelation 9:6).

Verse 8. - The high places also of Avon, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. By Aven is generally understood Beth-aven, that is, Bethel; but some take the word as an appellative, and thus bamoth-aven would signify the "high places of iniquity." These unlawful places of sacrifice and unholy places of iniquity are further characterized by the appositional "the sin of Israel." By constructing and frequenting such places Israel had primarily and grievously sinned. By sacrificing to and worshipping even Jehovah on these high places instead of in Jerusalem, the only legal place for Divine service under the Law, their national sin in the matter of worship began; subsequently, however, things became worse, and these high places became scenes of most abominable idolatries and shamelessly sinful practices. Those places - one and all - are in the words before us doomed to destruction. The thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars. The destruction is thus vividly described as total and complete; those bad eminences were devoted to entire wasteness and desolation. "It is a sign of extreme solitude," says Jerome, "so that no traces even of wall or buildings remained to be seen;" similarly Rashi says, "Thorns and thistles shall grow up upon their altars, because the worshippers thereof have departed and no one longer remains to attend to them" so Kimchi: "On the altars of Israel which they (the enemies) shall lay waste shall thorns spring up." And they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us. The sight of such fearful ruin and desolation overwhelms the wretched inhabitants of the land with distress and dismay; in sheer despair and even desperation they invoke a sure and sudden death as much preferable to their remaining longer spectators of such heart-rending scenes. Their exclamation appears to be proverbial, and to have had its origin in the custom of the Israelites fleeing, in seasons of great calamities, to the mountains and clefts of the rocks to hide themselves; thus in Judges 4:2 we read that "because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and eaves, and strongholds." The object of their exclamation is to be buried under the hills or mountains rather than endure such calamities longer; or rather than the enemies should see them in their shame. Aben Ezra makes "altars" the subject of "shall say," as if it were the wish of the altars to be covered that they may never more be seen. Theodoret considers the sense of the passage to be that the multitude of calamities in the war occasioned by hostile invasion would be so great that there would be no one who would not prefer being overwhelmed in an earthquake or by the sudden fall of the mountains, rather than endure the calamities inflicted by the enemies. Similarly, but more concisely, Jerome says, "They are more willing to die than see the evils that bring death." Hosea 10:8With the carrying away of the golden calf the kingdom of Samaria also perishes, and desert plants will grow upon the places of idols. Hosea 10:7, Hosea 10:8. "Destroyed is Samaria; her king like a splinter on the surface of the water. And destroyed are the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel: thorn and thistle will rise up on their altars; and they will speak to the mountains, Cover us! and to the hills, Fall on us!" שׁמרון מלכּהּ is not an asyndeton, "Samaria and its king;" but Shōmerōn is to be taken absolutely, "as for Samaria," although, as a matter of fact, not only Samaria, the capital of the kingdom, but the kingdom itself, was destroyed. For malkâh does not refer to any particular king, but is used in a general sense for "the king that Samaria had," so that the destruction of the monarchy is here predicted (cf. Hosea 10:15). The idea that the words refer to one particular king, is not only at variance with the context, which contains no allusion to any one historical occurrence, but does not suit the simile: like a splinter upon the surface of the water, which is carried away by the current, and vanishes without leaving a trace behind. Qetseph is not "foam" (Chald., Symm., Rabb.), but a broken branch, a fagot or a splinter, as qetsâphâh in Joel 1:7 clearly shows. Bâmōth 'âven are the buildings connected with the image-worship at Bethel ('âven equals Bēth-'ēl, Hosea 10:5), the temple erected there (bēth bâmōth), together with the altar, possibly also including other illegal places of sacrifice there, which constituted the chief sin of the kingdom of Israel. These were to be so utterly destroyed, that thorns and thistles would grow upon the ruined altars (cf. Genesis 3:18). "The sign of extreme solitude, that there are not even the walls left, or any traces of the buildings" (Jerome). When the kingdom shall be thus broken up, together with the monarchy and the sacred places, the inhabitants, in their hopeless despair, will long for swift death and destruction. Saying to the mountains, "Cover us," etc., implies much more than hiding themselves in the holes and clefts of the rocks (Isaiah 2:19, Isaiah 2:21). It expresses the desire to be buried under the falling mountains and hills, that they may no longer have to bear the pains and terrors of the judgment. In this sense are the words transferred by Christ, in Luke 23:30, to the calamities attending the destruction of Jerusalem, and in Revelation 6:16 to the terrors of the last judgment.
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