Set the trumpet to your mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the LORD, because they have transgressed my covenant…
In this passage the announcement of Israel's doom is still more direct than it has hitherto been. Up to this point the prophet's message has been principally one of complaint, with threatening of punishment in the future; now, however, he speaks of the judgment as immediately about to fall upon the sinful nation.
I. THE PROCLAMATION OF JUDGMENT. (Ver. 1.) Hosea is here abruptly addressed by the Spirit as a sentinel or watchman. Being the herald of Jehovah, he is to proclaim with the trumpet of prophecy the near approach of the day of vengeance. His immediate message is that Shalmaneser, the Assyrian king, is soon to descend upon Israel as with the fell swoop of an eagle, and to carry the ten tribes captive. Beyond that, however, and little more than a hundred years later, Nebuchadnezzar, "a great eagle with great wings" (Ezekiel 17:3), is to fall similarly upon Judah. And yet again, in the year , when Jerusalem shall have become a "carcass," the Roman eagles under Titus shall assemble around it, perch victoriously upon the crest of Moriah, and take away from the Jews "both their place and nation." By means of such judgments as these was the wonderful prediction of Moses to be fulfilled, in which the Lord threatened to "bring a nation against Israel from far, as swift as the eagle flieth" (Deuteronomy 28:49). Even yet, however, in these times of the gospel, must the Lord's prophet "set the trumpet to his mouth" to warn wicked nations of the doom which national sin entails, and to remind the sinner of" the wrath to come" which shall overwhelm the impenitent. The "silver trumpet" of the gospel jubilee is to announce, not only the salvation which the Lord Jesus Christ brought at his first coming, but also the judgments which are to overtake unbelievers at the second advent, and which shall then be heralded by the dread "trumpet" of the resurrection.
II. THE CAUSE OF THE JUDGMENT. It was apostasy. This is stated generally in ver. 1, and more specifically in ver. 4. Israel had "transgressed the covenant" (ver. 1) that Jehovah had made with them at Sinai; they had done so by "trespassing against his Law," as written in "the book of the covenant" (Exodus 24:7). They had forsaken God in two ways: by rebelling against the royal house of David, and by rejecting the priestly order of Aaron (ver. 4).
1. Israel maintained a schismatic kingdom. In revolting under Jeroboam, they consulted only their own evil self-will, and not the will of Jehovah. During the two hundred and fifty years that the northern kingdom lasted, the throne was occupied by six or more wretched dynasties, and by nineteen unhappy monarchs, all of whom were apostates from God and tyrants over the people. Not one of the kings of the ten tribes did Jehovah recognize as his vicegerent. Dethronements and assassinations and usurpations followed one another, and he "knew it not."
2. Israel embraced a false religion. "They made them idols," and went astray into calf-worship and Baal-worship. Not only did the political apostasy lead to the adoption of these heathen practices; the tribes, apart from that, had at this period of their history strong leanings towards idolatry. The people found it pleasant to employ as objects of worship what they could see and touch. They desired to be like the nations around them that served graven images. So they gave freely of their wealth (ver. 4) for the maintenance of their idol temples. In our age, too, the Lord's prophet must point to apostasy from him as the cause of spiritual ruin. The gospel trumpet is to emphasize the counsel of the apostle, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21). The pulpit ought to warn men that the one sure result of persistently setting any creature - whether money, or power, or fame, or any earthly love - in the place of the Creator, will be the irreparable loss and everlasting shame of the soul
III. THE FALSE PLEA WHICH ISRAEL WOULD USE TO DEPRECATE THE JUDGMENT. (Vers. 2, 3.) Their affliction would drive the people to pray, and to plead that "we, Israel, have known thee." But such a declaration on their part were pretentious and hypocritical. It was irrelevant, and it would be unavailing. For, after all, it rested only upon their natural descent as the chosen race, and upon the historical information about God which they possessed. The plea is that the Lord must protect his own people; but he does not recognize as such those who can say nothing more than that "they have Abraham for their father." He regards mere head-knowledge of himself as dead knowledge. Israel "professed that they knew God, but in works they denied him" (Titus 1:16). "Israel hath cast off good" (ver. 3) - thrown it from him with loathing and contempt. He had rejected God's salvation, by "transgressing his covenant" - in token whereof he had separated himself from the dynasty of David and from the priestly house of Aaron. And he had rejected Jehovah himself as the chief Good, by seeking a portion for himself in idolatry. Inevitably, therefore, "the enemy shall pursue him;" the Assyrian must crush the northern kingdom under his iron heel, and utterly destroy it. But these verses sound still in our ears the warning, to beware lest we trust in spiritual privilege, as if that were personal piety; or in the faith of our godly ancestors, as if that could be imputed to us; or in our knowledge of theology merely, as if that were synonymous with heart-religion. There is a strong tendency in human nature towards such vain confidence; and Satan plies us with subtle temptations in this direction. The Lord Jesus has warned us that when the last "trumpet" shall sound, anti the great assize shall be held, this same false plea shall be presented by multitudes (Matthew 7:22; Luke 13:25-27). To many who shall then cry, "My God, we know thee," the reply of the Judge will be, "I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.' We must during the present life calmly accept Christ, and live by the faith of him; we must have his Spirit reigning in our hearts, and devote ourselves to the pursuit of righteousness, if we would "not be ashamed before him at his coming." - C.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.