Hosea 8:11
Because Ephraim has made many altars to sin, altars shall be to him to sin.
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(11) Many altars.—Multiplication of altars was condemned in the law (Deuteronomy 12:5 seq.). The narrative in Joshua 22 shows that unity of altar and sanctuary was essential to the unity of the nation. The last clause should be rendered, he had altars for sinning. The worship of God was degraded into the sensuous approaching Baal-worship. In the first clause sin equals transgression, in the last transgression plus guilt and peril.

Hosea 8:11-12. Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin — “Since the Israelites, forsaking that one altar at which alone God required them to serve him, idolatrously multiplied altars to themselves, — altars against God’s command; (to do which was manifestly a sin in them;) therefore shall those, their beloved altars, be accordingly occasions of great sin, and as such imputed to them to their condemnation.” The meaning is, that

“God would give them up, to run on in their evil courses, till their iniquity was full, and they were ripe for destruction; and then that God would deliver them into the hands of their enemies, who should compel them to do that service at, and to, their idolatrous altars, which should appear a manifest punishment to them for those of their own. So should they be punished by that wherein they had offended.” — Pocock. I have written to him the great things of my law — Or, many things, as רביmay be translated. The Vulgate renders it, multiplices leges meas, my manifold laws. That law which I gave them by Moses, containing rules excellent in themselves, and such as would have made them great in the eyes of their neighbours, they have disregarded, as if it had neither reason nor authority, and did not concern them: see Deuteronomy 4:6; Deuteronomy 4:8.8:11-14 It is a great sin to corrupt the worship of God, and will be charged as sin on all who do it, how plausible soever their excuses may seem to be. The Lord had caused his law to be written for them, but they cared not to know, and would not obey it. Man seems by the temples he builds to be mindful of his Maker, yet really he has forgotten him, because he has cast off all his fear; but none ever hardened his heart against God and prospered. So long as men despise the truths and precepts of God's word, and the ordinances of his worship, all the observances and offerings, however costly, of their own devising, will be unto them for sin; for those services only are acceptable to God, which are done according to his word, and through Jesus Christ.Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin, altars shall indeed be unto him to sin - that is, they shall be proved to him to be so, by the punishment which they shall draw upon him. The prophet had first shown them their folly in forsaking God for the help of man; now he shows them the folly of attempting to "secure themselves by their great shew and pretences of religion and devotion in a false way." God had appointed "one" altar at Jerusalem. There He willed the sacrifices to be offered, which He would accept. To multiply altars, much more to set up altars against the one altar, was to multiply sin. Hosea charges Israel elsewhere with this multiplying of altars, as a grievous sin. "According to the multitude of his fruit, he hath increased altars. Their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the field" Hosea 10:1; Hosea 12:11. They pretended doubtless, that they did it for a religious end, that they might thereon offer sacrifices for the expiation of their sins and appeasing of God. They endeavored to unite their own selfwill and the outward service of God. Therein they might deceive themselves; but they could not deceive God. He calls their act by its true name. To make altars at their own pleasure and to offer sacrifices upon them, under any pretence whatever, was to sin. So then, as many altars as they reared, so often did they repeat their sin; and this sin should be their only fruit. They should be, but only for sin. So God says of the two calves, "This thing became a sin" 1 Kings 12:30, and of the indiscriminate consecration of priests (not of the family of Aaron), "This thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth" 1 Kings 13:33-34. 11. God in righteous retribution gives them up to their own way; the sin becomes its own punishment (Pr 1:31).

many altars—in opposition to God's law (De 12:5, 6, 13, 14).

to sin … to sin—Their altars which were "sin" (whatever religious intentions they might plead) should be treated as such, and be the source of their punishment (1Ki 12:30; 13:34).

Because: this refers to what follows.

Ephraim hath made many altars; multiplied either to many idols, every one having his altar, or multiplied altars in several places to the same idol. They had many high places, and altars in all of them.

To sin; both as acting against the law of God, which required but one altar, and also these altars were to sin, in that they were for sacrifices to be offered on them to idols. These persons did not intend them for sin, but their good intention did not, could not change the thing, it was sin, however they intended.

Altars, either those here erected, or those they shall find in Assyria when they come captives thither,

shall be unto him to sin; either because forced in captivity to worship Assyrian idols, and to attend their altars and sacrifices, or else by a just and dreadful judgment from God delivering them over to their wilful blindness and idolatrous heart: since they would never be reclaimed, nor taken off from sinful multiplying altars, let them follow their own hearts, and set up what they will; much like that Revelation 22:11. Or else thus, Altars shall be the occasion of his greater guilt and punishment, his altars, i.e. his idolatrous worship, shall be that sin that ruins him. Because Ephraim hath, made many altars to sin,.... Not with an intention to commit sin, but to offer sacrifice for sin, and make atonement for it, as they thought; but these altars being erected for the sake of idols, and sacrifices offered on them to them, they sinned in so doing, and were the cause of sin in others, who were drawn into it by their example; as they were made to sin, or drawn into it, by Jeroboam their king, These altars were those set up at Dan and Bethel, and in all high places, and tops of mountains, where they sacrificed to idols; and which was contrary to the express command of God, who required sacrifice only at one place, and on one altar, Deuteronomy 12:5; typical of the one altar Christ, and his alone sacrifice, who is the only Mediator between God and man; and they are guilty of the same crime as Ephraim here, who make use of more, or neglect him;

altars shall be unto him for sin; either these same altars, and the sacrifices offered on them, shall be reckoned and imputed to him as sins, trod shall be the cause of his condemnation and punishment: or, "let the altars be unto him for sin", so some (n); since he will have them, let him have them, and go on in sinning, till he has filled up the measure of his sins, and brought on him just condemnation; or else other altars are meant, even in the land of Assyria, where, since they were so fond of multiplying altars, they should have altars enough to sin at, whereby their sins would be increased, and their punishment for them aggravated. The Targum is,

"seeing the house of Ephraim hath multiplied altars to sin, the altars of their idols shall he to them for a stumbling block,''

or ruin; so sin is taken in a different sense, both for guilt, and the punishment of it.

(n) "santo ergo illi altaria ad peccandum", Rivet.

Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin, altars shall be unto him to sin.
11. Because] Rather, For. It is a justification of the foregoing threat.

hath made many altars to sin] In times of national trouble, sacrifices were multiplied, to propitiate the national God (comp. Isaiah 1:11). But as no corresponding effort was made to purify the conduct and the character, such sacrifices did but increase the load of the national guilt. Instead of ‘many sacrifices’, Hosea says ‘many altars’ because there was even less attempt in the times of Hosea and Isaiah to centralize worship in the northern kingdom than in the southern. The strict rule of Deuteronomy (one temple and one altar) seems at present far removed from the general consciousness. See Introduction, part v.

altars shall be unto him to sin] Rather, (yea,) altars are to him for sinning (thereby). There is no unfairness on Jehovah’s part; Israel cannot pretend ignorance of His will.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. Another stands up in his place, who causeth נוגשׂ to pass over, through his eagerness for riches. נוגשׂ most understand as a collector of tribute, referring for this to 2 Kings 23:35, and מלכוּת הדר מלכוּת as the Holy Land, and then think on Heliodorus, whom Seleucus Nicator sent to Jerusalem to seize the temple treasure. But this interpretation of the words is too limited. נגשׂ denotes, no doubt (2 Kings 23:35), to collect gold and silver; but it does not thence follow that נוגשׂ, when silver and gold are not spoken of, means to collect tribute. The word in general designates the taskmaster who urges on the people to severe labour, afflicts and oppresses them as cattle. מלכוּת הדר is not synonymous with הצּבי ארץ, Daniel 11:16, but stands much nearer to מלכוּת הוד, Daniel 11:21, and designates the glory of the kingdom. The glory of the kingdom was brought down by נוגשׂ, and העביר refers to the whole kingdom of the king spoken of, not merely to the Holy Land, which formed but a part of his kingdom. By these oppressions of his kingdom he prepared himself in a short time for destruction. אחדים ימים (days few), as in Genesis 27:44; Genesis 29:20, the designation of a very short time. The reference of these words, "in days few," to the time after the pillage of the temple of Jerusalem by Heliodorus is not only an arbitrary proceeding, but is also contrary to the import of the words, since ב in בּימים does not mean post. מאפּים ולא, in contradistinction and contrast to במלחמה ולא, can only denote private enmity or private revenge. "Neither by anger (i.e., private revenge) nor by war" points to an immediate divine judgment.

If we now, before proceeding further in our exposition, attentively consider the contents of the revelation of vv. 5-20, so as to have a clear view of its relation to the historical fulfilment, we shall find the following to be the course of the thoughts exhibited: - After the fall of the Javanic world-kingdom (Daniel 11:4) the king of the south shall attain to great power, and one of his princes shall found (Daniel 11:5) a yet greater dominion in the north. After the course of years they shall enter into an agreement, for the king of the south shall give his daughter in marriage to the king of the north so as to establish a right relationship between them; but this agreement shall bring about the destruction of the daughter, as well as of her father and all who co-operated for the effecting of this marriage (Daniel 11:6). Hereupon a descendant of that king of the south shall undertake a war against the king of the north, victoriously invade the country of the adversary, gather together great spoil and carry it away to Egypt, and for years hold the supremacy. The king of the north shall, it is true, penetrate into his kingdom, but he shall again return home without effecting anything (Daniel 11:7-9). His sons also shall pass over the kingdom of the south with a multitude of hosts, but the multitude shall be given into the hand of the king, who shall not come to power by casting down myriads. The king of the north shall return with a host yet more numerous; against the king of the south many, also faithless members of the Jewish nation, shall rise up, and the king of the north shall take the fortified cities, without the king of the south having the power to offer him resistance (Daniel 11:10-15). The conqueror shall now rule in the conquered lands after his own pleasure, and set his foot on the Holy Land with the intention of destroying it. Thereupon he shall come with the whole might of his kingdom against the king of the south, and by the marriage of his daughter seek to establish a right relationship with him, but he shall only thereby bring about the destruction of his daughter. Finally, he shall make an assault against the islands and the maritime countries of the west; but he shall be smitten by his chiefs, and be compelled to return to the fortresses of his own land, and shall fall (Daniel 11:16-19). But his successor, who shall send taskmasters through the most glorious regions of the kingdom, shall be destroyed in a short time (Daniel 11:20).

Thus the revelation depicts how, in the war of the kings of the south and of the north, first the king of the south subdued the north, but when at the summit of his conquest he sank under the power of his adversary through the insurrections and the revolt of an apostate party of the Jews; whereupon, by an assault upon the west in his endeavour, after a firmer establishment and a wider extension of his power, he brings about his own overthrow, and his successor, in consequence of the oppression of his kingdom, comes to his end in a few days.

Now, since the king who comes into his place (Daniel 11:21.) after he has become strong raises himself up against the holy covenant, takes away the daily worship in the temple of the Lord, etc., is, according to the historical evidence found in the books of the Maccabees, the Seleucidan Antiochus Epiphanes, so the prophetic announcement, vv. 5-20, stretches itself over the period from the division of the monarchy of Alexander among his generals to the commencement of the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes in the year 175 b.c., during which there reigned seven Syrian and six Egyptian kings, viz. -

Syrian Kings (from b.c.) Egyptian Kings (from b.c.) Seleucus Nicator 310-280 Ptolemy Lagus 323-284 Antiochus Sidetes 280-260 Ptolemy Philadelphus 284 Antiochus Theus 260-245 Ptolemy Euergetes 246-221 Seleucus Callinicus 245-225 Ptolemy Philopator 221-204 Seleucis Ceraunus 225-223 Ptolemy Epiphanes 204-180 Antiochus the Great 223-186 Ptolemy Philometor 180

But in the prophetic revelation there is mention made of only four kings of the north (one in Daniel 11:5-9; his sons, Daniel 11:10-12; a third, Daniel 11:13-19; and the fourth, Daniel 11:20) and three kings of the south (the first, Daniel 11:5 and Daniel 11:6; the "branch," Daniel 11:7-9; and the king, Daniel 11:10-15), distinctly different, whereby of the former, the relation of the sons (Daniel 11:10) to the king indefinitely mentioned in Daniel 11:11, is admitted, and of the latter the kings of the south, it remains doubtful whether he who is spoken of in Daniel 11:9-15 is different from or is identical with "the branch of her roots" (Daniel 11:7). This circumstance shows that the prophecy does not treat of individual historical personages, but only places in view the king of the south and the king of the north as representatives of the power of these two kingdoms. Of these kings special deeds and undertakings are indeed mentioned, which point to definite persons; e.g., of the king of the north, that he was one of the princes of the king of the south, and founded a greater dominion than his (Daniel 11:5); the marriage of the daughter of the king of the south to the king of the north (Daniel 11:6); afterwards the marriage also of the daughter of the king of the north (Daniel 11:17), and other special circumstances in the wars between the two, which are to be regarded not merely as individualizing portraitures, but denote concrete facts which have verified themselves in history. But yet all these specialities do not establish the view that the prophecy consists of a series of predictions of historical facta, because even these features of the prophecy which find their actual fulfilments in history do not coincide with the historical reality.

Thus all interpreters regard the king of the south, Daniel 11:5, as Ptolemy Lagus, and that one of his princes (מן־שׂריו) who founded a greater dominion as Seleucus Nicator, or the "Conqueror," who, in the division of the countries which the conquerors made after the overthrow and death of Antiochus, obtained, according to Appian, Syr. c. 55, Syria from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean Sea and Phrygia; then by using every opportunity of enlarging his kingdom, he obtained also Mesopotamia, Armenia, and a part of Cappadocia, and besides subjugated the Persians, Parthians, Bactrains, Arabians, and other nations as far as the Indus, which Alexander had conquered; so that, after Alexander, no one had more nations of Asia under his sway than Seleucus, for from the borders of Phyrgia to the Indus all owned his sway. While this extension of his kingdom quite harmonizes with the prophecy of the greatness of his sovereignty, yet the designation "one of his princes" does not accord with the position of Ptolemy Lagus. Both of these were certainly at the beginning generals of Alexander. Seleucus, afterwards vicegerent of the Babylonians, found himself, however, from fear of Antigonus, who sought to put him to death, under the necessity of fleeing to Egypt to Ptolemy, by whom he was hospitably received, and with whom and other vicegerents he entered into a league against Antigonus, and when war arose, led an Egyptian fleet against Antigonus (Diod. Sic. xix. 55-62). He was accordingly not one of Ptolemy's generals.

Moreover, the marriage of the king's daughter, Daniel 11:6, is thus explained by Jerome, and all interpreters who follow him: - Ptolemy Philadelphus made peace with Antiochus Theus, after many years' war, on the condition that Antiochus should put away his own wife Laodice, who was at the same time his half-sister, and disinherit her son, and should marry Berenice, the daughter of Ptolemy, and should appoint her first-born son as his successor on the throne of the kingdom (Appian, Syr. c. 65, and Jerome). This factum can be regarded as a fulfilling of the prophecy, Daniel 11:6; but the consequences which resulted from this political marriage do not correspond with the consequences prophesied of. According to the testimony of history, Ptolemy died two years after this marriage, whereupon Antiochus set aside Berenice, and took to himself again his former wife Laodice, along with her children. But she effected the death of her husband by poison, as she feared his fickleness, and then her son Seleucus Callinicus ascended the throne. Berenice fled with her son to the asylum of Daphne, but she was there murdered along with him. The prophecy, according to this, differs from the historical facts, not merely in regard to the consequences of the events, but also in regard to the matter itself; for it speaks not only of the daughter, but also of her father being given up to death, while the natural death of her father is in no respect connected with that marriage, and not till after his death did the consequences fatal to his daughter and her child develop themselves.

Further, as to the contents of Daniel 11:7-9, history furnishes the following confirmations: - In order to save his sister, who was put aside by Antiochus Theus, her brother, Ptolemy Euergetes, invaded the Syrian kingdom, in which Seleucus Callinicus had succeeded his father on the throne, in alliance with the armies of the Asiatic cities, and put to death his mother Laodice, since he had come too late to save his sister, in revenge for her murder, overthrew all the Syrian fortresses from Cilicia to the Tigris and Babylonia, and would have conquered the whole of the Syrian kingdom, if an insurrection which had broken out in Egypt had not caused him to return thither, carrying with him many images of the gods, and immense treasure, which he had taken from the vanquished cities. Then, while engaged in Egypt, Callinicus recovered the cities of Asia Minor, but failed to conquer the maritime countries, because his fleet was wrecked in a storm; and when he thereupon undertook a land expedition against Egypt, he was totally defeated, so that he returned to Antioch with only a few followers: cf. Justin, Hist. xxvii. 1, 2; Polyb. v. 58; and Appian, Syr. c. 65. On the other hand, the announcement of the war of his sons with many hosts overflowing the land, Daniel 11:10, is not confirmed by history. After the death of Callinicus in captivity, his son Seleucus Ceraunus succeeded to the government, a very incompetent man, who after tow years was poisoned by his generals in the war with Attalus, without having undertaken anything against Egypt. His brother Antiochus, surnamed the Great, succeeded him, who, in order to recover Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, renewed the war against the king of Egypt (not till about two years after he ascended the throne, however, did Ptolemy Philopator begin to reign), in which he penetrated twice to Dura, two (German) miles north from Caesarea (Polyb. x. 49), then concluded a four months' truce, and led his host back to the Orontes (Polyb. v. 66; Justin, xxx. 1). After the renewal of hostilities he drove the Egyptian army back to Sidon, conquered Gilead and Samaria, and took up his winter-quarters in Ptolemais (Polyb. v. 63-71). In the beginning of the following year, however, he was defeated by the Egyptians at Raphia, not far from Gaza, and was compelled, with great loss in dead and prisoners, to return as quickly as possible to Antioch, and to leave Coele-Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine to the Egyptians (Polyb. v. 79, 80, 82-86). Daniel 11:11 and Daniel 11:12 refer to this war. Thirteen our fourteen years after this, Antiochus, in league with Philip III of Macedon, renewed the war against the Egyptians, when, after Philopator's death, Ptolemy Epiphanes, being five years old, had ascended the throne, retook the three above-named countries (Coele-Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine), vanquished the Egyptian host led by Scopas near Paneas, and compelled the fortress of Sidon, into which the Egyptians had fled, to surrender after a lengthened siege, and then concluded a peace with Ptolemy on the condition that he took to wife the daughter of Antiochus, Cleopatra, who should bring with her, as her dowry, Coele-Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine (Polyb. xv. 20, xxviii. 17; App. Syr. c. i.; Liv. xxxiii. 19; and Joseph. Antt. xii. 4. 1). Since the time of Jerome, the prophecy Daniel 11:13-17 has been referred to this last war. But also here the historical events fall far behind the contents of the prophecy. The prophecy points to the complete subjugation of the king of the south, while this war was carried on only for the possession of the Asiatic provinces of the Egyptian kingdom. Also the rising up of many (רבּים, Daniel 11:14) against the king of the south is not historically verified; and even the relation spoken of by Josephus (Antt. xii. 3. 3) in which the Jews stood to Antiochus the Great was not of such a kind as to be capable of being regarded as a fulfilling of the "exalting themselves" of the פריצים בּני, Daniel 11:14. Still less does the statement of Daniel 11:16, that the king of the north would stand in the glorious land, agree with כּלה interpreted of conduct of Antiochus the Great toward the Jews; for according to Josephus, Antt. l.c., he treated the Jews round about Jerusalem favourably, because of their own accord they had submitted to him and had supported his army, and granted to them not only indulgence in regard to the observance of their religious ordinances, but also afforded them protection.

Moreover, Daniel 11:18, containing the prophecy of the undertaking of the king of the north against the islands, has not its historical fulfilment in the expedition of Antiochus the Great against the coasts and islands of Asia Minor and the Hellespont; but Daniel 11:19, that which is said regarding his return to the fortresses of his own land and his overthrow, does not so correspond with the historical issues of the reign of this king that one would be able to recognise therein a prediction of it. Finally, of his successor, Seleucus Philopator, to whom Daniel 11:20 must refer, if the foregoing verses treat of Antiochus the Great, nothing further is communicated, than that he quum paternis cladibus fractas admodum Syriae opes accepisset, post otiosum nullisque admodum rebus gestis nobilitatum annorum duodecim regnum, was put to death through the treachery of Heliodorus, unius ex purpuratis (Liv. xli. 19, cf. App. Syr. c. 45), and the mission of Heliodorus to Jerusalem to seize the treasures of the temple, which is fabulously described in 2 Macc. 3:4ff. The ישּׁבר (shall be destroyed) of this king אחדים בּימים (within few days) does not harmonize with the fact of his twelve years' reign.

From this comparison this much follows, that the prophecy does not furnish a prediction of the historical wars of the Seleucidae and the Ptolemies, but an ideal description of the war of the kings of the north and the south in its general outlines, whereby, it is true, diverse special elements of the prophetical announcement have historically been fulfilled, but the historical reality does not correspond with the contents of the prophecy in anything like an exhaustive manner. This ideal character of the prophecy comes yet more prominently forward to view in the following prophetic description.

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