Hosea 8:12
I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.
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(12, 13) The rendering should be, though I write for him a multitude of my precepts. The tense “I write” is imperfect, and represents the continuous process—the prophetic teaching as well as the ancient Mosaic law. In the wild lust for a foreign religion the pure and spiritual Mosaic worship and the religious influence of prophecy had been forgotten. It seemed something “strange;” as Christ’s cross and claims have been accounted strange by so-called Christians.

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.I have written to him the great things of My law - Literally, "I write." Their sin then had no excuse of ignorance. God had written their duties for them in the ten commandments with His own hand; He had written them of old and "manifoldly" , often repeated and in divers manners. He wrote those manifold things "to them" (or "for them") by Moses, not for that time only, but that they might be continually before their eyes, as if He were still writing. He had written to them since, in their histories, in the Psalms. His words were still sounding in their ears through the teaching of the prophets. God did not only give His law or revelation once for all, and so leave it. By His providence and by His ministers He continually renewed the knowledge of it, so that those who ignored it, should have no excuse. This ever-renewed agency of God He expresses by the word, "I write," what in substance was long ago written. What God then wrote, were "the great things of His law" (as the converted Jews, on the day of Pentecost speak of "the great" or "wonderful things of God" ) or "the manifold things of His law," as the Apostle speaks of "the manifold wisdom of God" Ephesians 3:10, and says, that "God at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets" Hebrews 1:1.

They were counted as a strange thing by them - These "great," or "manifold things of God's law," which ought to have been continually before their eyes, in their mind and in their mouth Deuteronomy 6:7-9, they, although God had written them for them, "counted as a strange thing," a thing quite foreign and alien to them, with which they had no concern. Perhaps this was their excuse to themselves, that it Was "foreign" to "them." As Christians say now, that one is not to take God's law so precisely; that the Gospel is not so strict as the law; that people, before the grace of the Gospel, had to be stricter than with it; that "the liberty of the Gospel" is freedom, not from sin, but from duty; that such and such things belonged to the early Christians, while they were surrounded by pagan, or to the first times of the Gospel, or to the days when it was persecuted; that riches were dangerous, when people could scarcely have them, not now, when every one has them; that "vice lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness" ; that the world was perilous, when it was the Christian's open foe, not now, when it would be friends with us, and have us friends with it; that, "love not the world" was a precept for times when the world hated us, not now, when it is all around us, and steals our hearts, So Jeroboam and Israel too doubtless said, that those prohibitions of idolatry were necessary, when the pagan were still in the land, or while their forefathers were just fresh out of Egypt; that it was, after all, God, who, was worshiped under the calves; that state-policy required it; that Jeroboam was appointed by God, and must needs carry out that appointment, as he best could. With these or the like excuses, he must doubtless have excused himself, as though God's law were good, but "foreign" to "them." God counts such excuses, not as a plea, but as a sin.

12. great things of … law—(De 4:6, 8; Ps 19:8; 119:18, 72; 147:19, 20). Maurer not so well translates, "the many things of My law."

my law—as opposed to their inventions. This reference of Hosea to the Pentateuch alone is against the theory that some earlier written prophecies have not come down to us.

strange thing—as if a thing with which they had nothing to do.

I have written: some read it in the future, and by way of question, Shall I write? but most read as we, in the perfect or past tense, I have written, by Moses first, by other prophets afterwards; the law was given to them, as well as to the two tribes.

Great things; for their importance, weighty; for their excellency, precious; and for multitude of precepts, counsels, and directions, sufficient; my law had all this in it for their conduct in all righteousness towards God and man.

But they, all these things which I have written,

were counted as a strange thing; Israel looks on them as nothing to them; they are a distinct kingdom, and have a distinct establishment, their laws are now become unpracticable to us, and we have, by the wisdom of our governors, other laws established for our worship; let Judah keep to theirs, we will keep to our laws; after two hundred years’ desuetude, would it not be madness to introduce Judah’s laws, and innovate all in Israel? Thus they contemned the excellent things of God’s law, as if they were nothing concerned in them. And thus all their sins at last become incurable diseases, which nothing but utter destruction of the sinners can put an end unto.

I have written to him the great things of my law,.... Which was given by Moses to Israel at the appointment of God, in which were many commands, holy, just, and true; a multiplicity of them, as the Targum, relating to the honour of God, and the good of men; many excellent and useful ones of a moral nature, and others of a ceremonial kind; and particularly concerning sacrifices, showing what they should be, the nature and use of them, and where and on what altar they should be offered; and which pointed at the great sacrifice of the Messiah, who is both altar, sacrifice, and priest: and these things were frequently inculcated by the prophets, who from time to time were sent unto them; so that the Lord was continually writing these things to them by them, as Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Melech interpret it; hence they could not plead ignorance, and excuse themselves on that account. The law sometimes not only designs the law of the decalogue, and the ceremonial law, respecting sacrifices, &c. but all the books of Moses, in which are written many great and excellent things concerning Christ, his person, offices, and grace; yea, all the books of the prophets, the whole of Scripture, which is by inspiration of God, and is the writing and word of God, and not men; and of which holy men of God were the "amanuenses"; and in which many valuable and precious things are recorded, even all the works of God, of creation, providence, and grace; yea, the various thoughts, counsels, and purposes of his heart, relating to the salvation of men, are transcribed here; and the manifold grace of God, or each of the doctrines of grace, are contained herein, especially in the doctrinal and evangelical part of it, which is sometimes called the law of the Lord, even of Christ; and the law or doctrine of faith; see Psalm 119:18; here are delivered and held forth the great doctrines of a trinity of Persons in the Godhead; of the everlasting love of God to his people, and of their choice in Christ before the world began; of the covenant of grace; of the incarnation of Christ; of redemption by him; of peace, pardon, righteousness, and atonement, through him; of eternal salvation by him; these things are written, and to be read and referred unto, and observed as the rule of faith and practice, and not unwritten traditions, pretended revelations, reveries, and dreams of men; and written they were, not for the use of the Israelites only under the former dispensation, but for the learning and instruction of us Gentiles also, Romans 3:2;

but they were counted as a strange thing; the laws respecting sacrifices more especially, and the place where they were to be offered, which are the things mentioned in the context, had been so long disregarded and disused by Ephraim or the ten tribes, that when they were put in mind of them by the prophets, they looked upon them as things they had no concern with; as laws that belonged to another people, and not to them: and so the great things of divine revelation, the great doctrines of the Gospel, are treated by many as things they have nothing to do with, not at all interesting to them; yea, as nauseous and despicable things, deserving their scorn and contempt, very ungrateful and disagreeable, and in this sense strange, as Job's breath was to his wife Job 19:17; and also as foreign to reason and good sense, and what cannot be reconciled thereunto: so the Athenians charged the doctrines of the Apostle Paul as strange, irrational, and unaccountable, Acts 17:20.

I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a {i} strange thing.

(i) In this way the idolaters consider the word of God as strange with regard to their own invention.

12. I have written to him] Auth. Vers, here follows the Targum and the Peshito (the Septuagint and the Vulgate give the future), but it is more idiomatic (see p. 36, not[56] to render in the present—I am wont to write. The prophet is fully conscious that the divinely given laws under which Israel lives (or ought to live) were not formulated once for all in the Mosaic age, but grew up in different ages. Thus understood, the passage is an important authority for the existence of a legal literature before the Pentateuch became canonical. But another rendering is grammatically possible, ‘Though I wrote unto him’ (my law by myriads, i. e. in myriad precepts).

[56] te The Targum and Aben Ezra, followed by the Authorized Version, render ‘I have written’ (better, ‘I wrote’). The tense is the imperfect, which is sometimes used in highly poetical passages where past occurrences are referred to; see Driver, Hebrew Tenses, § 27 (1) (β). Such a use of the imperfect would however here be isolated, nor is the passage in a poetical style. We must therefore reject the rendering of Auth. Vers., and with it the theory that the prophet refers simply and solely to a body of Mosaic legislation. In fact, when Moses is referred to by Hosea, it is as a prophet and a leader of the people, not as a legislator (Hosea 12:13).

the great things of my law] The expression in the Hebrew, however we understand it, is remarkable and somewhat harsh. All difficulty would we removed if we might suppose the omission of a letter and a transposition; the phrase would then run, ‘the words of my law.’ The Hebrew Bible however gives 1, in the margin, ‘the multitudes of my law’ (Vulg. multiplices leges meas), which is adopted by Auth. Ver., and 2, in the text, ‘the myriads (or, the myriad precepts) of my law.’ The word rendered ‘multitudes’ is questionable, since it occurs elsewhere only in the singular, and there is here no apparent occasion for a plural. ‘The myriads of my law’ is a bold expression, but this reading is generally preferred. ‘My law’ may be understood to imply that, though Jehovah’s will was made known ‘by divers portions’ (Hebrews 1:1 R. V.), yet these ‘portions’ when fitly joined together made a whole. This was certainly the feeling of those Jewish Bible-students who affixed the vowel-points; but, as Hosea is thinking of the multiplicity of the laws, rather than of their unity, some have thought that we should rather read (altering one point), ‘my laws.’ We can estimate the multiplicity spoken of from the Pentateuch, whether this work was known to Hosea in anything at all like its present form or not. We must remember, however, that the laws to which the prophet alludes are concerned, not with rites and ceremonies, but with civil justice and the applications of a plain but religiously sanctioned morality (comp. the so-called Book of the Covenant, Exodus 21-23).

they were (rather, are) counted as a strange thing] As something which did (does) not concern them.

Hosea 8:12This threat is accounted for in Hosea 8:11., by an allusion to the sins of Israel. Hosea 8:11. "For Ephraim has multiplied altars for sinning, the altars have become to him for sinning. Hosea 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 (Deuteronomy 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 1 Chronicles 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.
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