Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
2. THE JUDGMENT
A. “Sowing the Wind brings forth the Whirlwind as a Harvest.” Galling Dependence upon Assyria
1 To thy mouth (set) the trumpet:
“Like the eagle (it is coming) upon the house of Jehovah,”
Because they broke my Covenant,
And sinned against my Law.
2 To me they will cry:
“My God,1 we know Thee, (we) Israel.
3 Yet Israel has rejected the good;
Let the enemy pursue him!2
4 They set up kings, but not by me,
Made princes, but I knew (them) not.
Their silver and their gold
They made into idols for themselves,
That it [silver and gold] might be destroyed.
5 He has rejected thy calf, Samaria,
My anger is inflamed against them,
How long shall ye be incapable of purity?
6 For that also [the calf] is from Israel,
The maker has formed it,
And it is no God,
For the calf of Samaria will become fragments.3
7 For they sowed wind and will reap a whirlwind,
It has no stalk,
(But) a sprout which will yield no meal;
If it should yield (any),
Strangers would devour it.
8 Israel is swallowed up,
Even now have they become among the nations,
Like a vessel, in which no pleasure is taken.
9 For they have gone up to Assyria;
(As) a wild-ass going alone by herself,
Ephraim gave presents4 (for) love.
10 Even if they give presents4 among the nations,
I will now gather [carry] them together (thither),
And in a little they will have sorrow for the tribute of the king of the princes.5
11 For Israel has increased altars for sinning,
They became to him altars for sinning.
12 I presented to him a myriad6 (precepts) of my Law,
(Yet) they are regarded as something strange.
13 My sacrificial offerings they sacrifice as flesh and eat (them):
Jehovah has no pleasure in them,
He will now remember their guilt,
And will punish their princes;
They will return to Egypt!
14 For Israel forgot his Creator
And built (idol-) temples,
And Judah increased the fortified cities:7
But I will send fire into his cities,
And it shall devour her palaces.7
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Ver. I. (Set) the trumpet to thy mouth. Jehovah commands the Prophet, as the herald of God, to proclaim with the trumpet of Israel the impending judgment: “Like an eagle (it is coming) upon the house of Jehovah.” The judgment will fall as swiftly as an eagle (comp. Deut. 28:49). The house of Jehovah not=the Temple, but Israel, as the people among whom God dwells (should and would dwell), comp. 9:8–15; Num. 12:7; Jer. 12:7; Zech. 9:8.
Hosea 8:2. Every one will cry: “My God!” Israel is in apposition to the subject contained in the verb [we know thee, we, Israel]. They rely upon the knowledge of God, which, as his people, they assuredly have. But it is a dead knowledge which can bring no deliverance.
Hosea 8:3 and 4 show the position of Israel.
Hosea 8:4. They have set up kings, but not by me. This refers to the self-authorized schism from the royal house of David. All the kings of Israel were not from God (that the government of the Ten Tribes was announced beforehand to Jeroboam by Ahijah the Prophet, I Kings 11:30 ff., and that Jehu was anointed king and commissioned by Elisha, do not contradict this, for God makes use even of human sins to execute his decrees); and besides, according to Hosea 7:7, the Prophet probably has in view the frequent violent dethronements and usurpations individually.—׃לְמַעַן יִכָּרֵת in order that it, namely, the silver and gold, may be destroyed (comp. Hosea 8:6). למען expresses the certainty of the result as if it had been designed. [Most have regarded Israel (collectively) as the subject of this verb, but, as Keil says, the same thing is more fully stated in Hosea 8:6, and the connection of the clause is clear.—M.]
Hosea 8:5. He has rejected thy calf, Samaria. Samaria is mentioned as the capital instead of the whole kingdom. The Calf in Bethel is meant. [Henderson, with many Continental Translators, renders: thy calf is an abomination, the verb being taken intransitively. This is better than the translation of E. V., which is retained by Pusey in its natural sense, and by Horsley with a most astonishing application of the expression: “Here God himself turns short upon Samaria or the Ten Tribes, and upbraids their corrupt worship by taking to Himself the title of Samaria’s calf. I whom on have so dishonored by setting up that contemptible idol as the symbol of my glory—now expressly disown you.” The parallelism, as well as the whole drift of the passage seems to confirm the view adopted above.—M.] How long will they be incapable of purity? incapable of walking purely before the Lord instead of polluting themselves with idols.
Hosea 8:6. וְחוּא is the predicate; this also=the Calf. It originated from men—from Israel through the maker—and is therefore no God.
Hosea 8:7. This result is the natural harvest of the evil sowing. The same image occurs in 12:2רוּחַ is an image of vain human efforts, from which ruin is developed, as naturally as the wind becomes a tempest. Hosea 10:13; Job 6:8; Prov. 22:8 are analogous, where אָוֶן, עָמָלand עולה are the seed. The sowing of the wind is first regarded as one which brings a harvest of disaster and ruin, but afterwards, as one which, like the wind (image of nothingness, from which nothing can come), deceives the sower, brings him in no harvest צֶמָח־־קֶמַח: a word-play. The latter is literally meal, flour: perhaps ears, as bearing the grains from which the flour is made. The following sentence declares that all their prospects were blasted. Israel’s efforts in every direction are fruitless. The judgment through Assyria stands in the back ground already.
Hosea 8:8 is connected with Hosea 8:7, but advances through the pret. נבְלַע. Israel is now—already—actually swallowed up. The sequel shows how far and by what means. Like a vessel, etc.: comp. Jer. 22:28; 48:38.
Hosea 8:9. פֶּרֶא בּדֵד לֹו. Keil gives the meaning thus: While a wild ass, a silly animal, remains alone by itself, in order to maintain its independence, Ephraim seeks to make alliances with the nations of the world, that are unnatural and incompatible with its position. Yet such a comparison by antithesis is somewhat forced. It is much more natural to consider as the tertium comp. the burning lust of the wild ass, and to attach the sentence to the following, in which Ephraim is described as a paramour. Wünsche finds the tert. comp. in the stubborn and intractable nature of the wild ass: that Israel made a like exhibition in going to Assyria in spite of all prophetic admonition. [So Henderson and, to a certain extent, Pococke, Horsley, Newcome, and Pusey. There is no reason why the two ideas should not be united.—M.] The meaning of the following member is clearly the same as in our phrase: courting one’s friendship or love, and with this object giving him presents, flattering him, etc. So did Ephraim court the friendship of Assyria; but the expression is peculiarly pregnant. They presented love=they gave presents in order thereby to obtain love=they gave gifts for love.
Hosea 8:10. But this is all in vain. אֲקַבִּצֵם: I will bring them together, namely, among the nations, i.e., will carry them together thither.—The following words again are very difficult. According to the Masoretic punctation: וַיָּחֵלּוּ, they began. Therefore R. Tanchum, and, among the modems, Eichhorn, Rosenmüller, Hitzig, Keil: They began to become small from the burden of the king of the princes. Others, after the LXX. (Symm., Theodot, Syr., Vulg.), deduce the word from חול, and take it=to cease from, rest: they will rest a little from the burden of the king and princes: to be understood ironically=they will in captivity be deprived of their kings, and will have therefore to pay tribute to them no longer. Ewald and Meier read וְיָחִלוּ, also from חוּל: to wait, abstain from anything = that they may cease a little from, paying this shameful tribute, i.e., that they should wait a little before paying it. But was it Jehovah’s purpose only to relieve Israel a short time from this tribute? Simson would therefore explain: In a little sorrow will seize them from the tribute of the king and the princes=in a little they will reap in sorrow the fruits of the tribute which they intend to pay as their security, and which makes them a prey to Assyria. So also Wünsche. [It will be noticed that E. V. takes the same view of the verb, but translates: they shall sorrow a little for the burden. Henderson agrees exactly: they shall suffer in a little (so the marginal reading in E. V.) by reason of the tribute. So also Cowles. Pusey thinks the meaning to be, that they shall sorrow but a little now on account of their burdens, in comparison with the greater trials of the captivity.—M.] The various views taken of מֶלֶךְ שָׂרִים are already apparent. It is usually and probably correctly understood of the Assyrian king, in the sense: king of kings. [The native Assyrian word for prince, as lately made out from the inscriptions, is sarru, answering to the Hebrew sar, and Professor Green (Pres. Quarterly, July, 1872, p. 128) is inclined to suspect that it explains this expression: king of princes, “which would seem not to be an arbitrary or merely poetic variation of the lordly title, ‘king of kings,’ but to contain a designed allusion to the native Assyrian word. And a like allusion may be found in the words attributed to Sennacherib (Is. 10:8): ‘Are not my princes altogether kings?’ ”—M.) Therefore (regarding מַשָּא as=tribute) tribute to the king, or tribute which he imposes. [See Textual note.]
Hosea 8:11. Increased the altars, while Israel should have only one altar.
Hosea 8:12. Myriads of my Law, hyperbole, to express the almost innumerable individual commands of the Law. [See Textual note.]
Hosea 8:13. הַבְהָבֵי, according to Fürst from a root הוּב, to roast, formed by reduplication: a sacrifice burnt upon the altar, a holocaust. It is incomplete unless joined with זֶבַח, literally, a sacrifice of what is burnt, a burnt-offering. My burnt-offerings, i.e., those which should be burnt for Me, they slaughter for meat and devour. Therefore a complete profanation of the sacrifices. They were concerned only about the flesh. [The usual derivation from יהב, to give, with the meaning: offerings, gives substantially the same sense: sacrificial offerings, and is, at least, as probable as the other.—M.] They return to Egypt. Egypt is a type of the land of bondage (comp. Deut. 28:68). Actual captivity in Egypt is scarcely meant.
Hosea 8:14. Israel forgot his Creator. Comp. Deut. 32:15. Temples, perhaps idol-temples. Keil: palaces. The assertion would then be similar to that concerning Judah. But the notion is that Israel builds idol-temples, while Judah does not do that, but by increasing its fortified cities upon which it relied, it showed no less that it was forgetting God. Cities, Palaces, therefore refer to Judah alone.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. In spite of all departure from God, the sinner will often not quite abandon religion, worship, and prayer. In his hypocrisy he often misuses the most beautiful words (Hosea 8:2): “Thou art my God,” is otherwise the sum of all precious prayer. Hypocrites compile from the Scriptures a little book of compliments when they find some formulas which are extolled there. They place themselves behind these, while they are far from feeling their power (Rieger).
2. To practice idolatry, in the grosser or in the more refined sense, is to sow the wind, and the whirlwind follows sooner or later, as the harvest. When men forsake the living God, they build upon themselves, upon their own power and wisdom, and the more self-inflated they become, the more certain is their violent fall. All the more so that the foundations of a moral life have been undermined by forgetting the living God; more place is gradually given to vanity, thirst for pleasure, and evil desires, even against their own inclination. They are given up by the God to whom they would not give the glory. There must come a dreadful harvest of whirlwinds, though it may tarry long, though the results of the sowing may deceive and corrupt him long with their glitter and eclat. How often has this been proved in the history of individuals and nations! Compare the fate of the Second French Empire.
3. “God prescribed to Israel myriads of commands.” How strongly this expresses the care of God of his people, and the comprehensiveness of his revelation! Truly nothing is wanting to them; in no way can they complain that they have been meagrely supplied. All the greater is their guilt, in regarding these commands as something “strange,” as though they did not concern them at all, while they were issued solely for that people, and designed for their good. On the other side, the expression, “myriads of my Law,” is certainly most significant as regards the Old Testament stand-point. All these myriads were then received, but the Gospel was not yet given. The one gospel, the one message: the Word became Flesh, outweighs them all. The mercy of God in Christ assured by that message has a force quite different from all law. This mercy of the Gospel is also regarded as something strange, though men should regard it as most truly their own, i.e., as answering their most intimate and their inmost needs, which can be said of no law.
4. “They shall return to Egypt.” See on Hosea 9.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Hosea 8:2, 3. How ready men are in time of affliction to depend upon their acquaintance with God and their service of Him, and upon their religious life, and to found on these a claim for help, and yet at other times they inquire after God so little! In affliction we hear nothing else than: my God.
WÜRT. SUMM: The cause of war and all its resulting evils, is, that men reject “the good.” And the good is God and his Word, with faith and obedience.
[POCOCKE: God is simply, supremely, wholly, universally good, and good to all, the Author and Fountain of all good, so that there is nothing simply good but God; nothing worthy of that title except in respect of its relation to Him who is good and doing good. Ps. 119:68.—M.]
Hosea 8:5, 6. Idolatry is man’s foulest pollution.
[MATTHEW HENRY: Deifying any creature makes way for the destruction of it.—M.]
Hosea 8:8. PFAFF. Bibelwerk: Sin has this bitter fruit also, that those who serve it come to be despised even by the world.
Hosea 8:9, 10. Trust in men or in earthly things more than in God is by Him counted idolatry. Trust in men must be most sorely repented of; for not only is the desired help most frequently not found, but those who trust in them are outwardly or inwardly still dependent upon them, and will be heavily oppressed.
Hosea 8:11. It does not help to increase altars. It depends on the one to whom the sacrifice is made.
Hosea 8:12. How richly has God remembered us with direction! What a rich treasure of the most varied instruction we have in his Word! But what will it profit us if we regard it as something “strange,” when God in it addresses Himself directly to us?—The one Gospel is assuredly a greater gift of God than the myriads of the Law.
Hosea 8:13. God is as strict a creditor toward impenitent sinners as He is a kind and indulgent one towards the penitent.
[MATT. HENRY: A petition for leave to sin amounts to an imprecation of the curse for sin, and so it shall be answered.
PUSEY: God seems to man to forget his sins, when He forbears to punish them; to remember them when He punishes.—M.]
Hosea 8:14. Incomprehensible that man should forget his Maker! but it is only too frequent. To have been created by God, and yet to build temples to idols; what a plain contradiction!
[Hosea 8:2.—אֱלֹהַי: my God. A distributive use of the singular pronoun. Each of the Israelites is represented as uttering the exclamation, and then all combined as making the protestation in common. Israel is in apposition to the subject of יְדַעֲנוּךָ.—M.]
[Hosea 8:3.—The rendering of Schmoller follows the reading יִרְדְּפוֹ which has nearly as much authority (“forty-seven of De Rossi’s MSS., and two more by correction, eight of the most ancient and sixty-two other editions, the Syr., Vulg., and Targ.”) as יִרְדְּפוּ in the Textus Receptus, and is probably correct.—M.]
[Hosea 8:6.—שְׁבָבִים, ἅπ. λεγ. Its root does not exist in Heb. It is usually compared with Chald. שׁבַב to break in pieces. Henderson prefers to consider it= שְׁבִיבִים flames. Arab. شَبَّ, to kindle a fire.—M.]
Hosea 8:9, 10.—הִתְנוּ—יִתְנוּ. The Hiphil and the Kal have here the same meaning: to give presents.
Hosea 8:10.—Simson and others translate: king and princes, namely, those of Israel, referring to the tribute which they pay. Here an asyndeton is assumed, or וְשָׂרִים is read, after the ancient versions and several codices.
Hosea 8:12.—רבו. According to the Kethibh= רבּו with ת rejected=10000, a myriad. The Masorites, probably because they thought the expression too strong, would make the reading רֻבֵּי, multitudes, from רֹב, which however does not elsewhere occur in the plural.
Hosea 8:14.—בְּעָרָיו, אַרְמִנֹתֶיהָ. Both of these refer merely to Judah. In the former the people are thought of and therefore the masc. suffix is employed; in the latter the country, and therefore the fern. [It is possible, also, that the latter refers to each of the cities regarded individually.—M.]
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.