For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough

8:1.  “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.”

The command “Set the trumpet to thy mouth,” was God’s warning that disobedient Israel was about to be invaded and carried off into captivity, the one who would come as an eagle (vulture) being the Assyrian, the instrument in God’s hand for the chastisement of those who had rejected all previous warnings.

The “house of the Lord” in the present context refers to the people rather than to the temple.

To transgress is literally to cross over, i.e., Israel had crossed over or broken the covenant into which she had entered with God at Sinai, that covenant requiring her to be obedient so that God could bless her; but warning her that disobedience would bring chastisement.

To trespass, on the other hand, is to act treacherously and covertly, and here it conveys the thought of covering or hiding the evil, and this is exactly what Israel had foolishly done. Forgetting that nothing can be hidden from God’s omniscient eye,she imagined that her worship of Baal would be “covered” by her continuing the outward form of worshiping Jehovah.

The enemy’s coming “as an eagle against the house of the Lord” indicates the suddenness with which the judgment would come, and was the warning that that same Lord was about to deliver into the hand of the enemy everything connected with the cold, loveless, empty, ritualistic form which passed with Israel for the worship of Him.  Nor is it different with Christendom today.  She too maintains the cold ritual of worshiping God, even while passionately worshiping money, worldly knowledge, pleasure, etc., her sin blinded eyes failing to see that she too should be setting the trumpet to her mouth, for the judgment of God is as near for her as it was for Israel in the days of Hosea.

8:2.  “Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee.”

Israel’s detachment from God was to be brought to an abrupt and catastrophic end with Assyria’s invasion of the land.  Too late the rebels would discover the worthlessness of the Baalim.  Too late they would realize that Jehovah alone is God. 

And if anyone doubts that Christendom is to be brought to the same end, he has but to read Mt 7:21-23, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?  and in thy name have cast out devils?  and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

It is one thing for a man to profess to know God, but it is a very different thing for God to say of a man, “I know you.  You are Mine.”  Christendom’s ritualistic worship is as repugnant to Him as was that of disobedient Israel, and will be visited with the same condign, swift and certain judgment. 

8:3.  “Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him.”

The NEB translation of the first clause is, “Israel is utterly loathsome;” and “cast off” means to push aside, reject, forsake. The nation’s rejection of good went far beyond passive indifference: it was a deliberate pushing away of God Himself, and of all that was good, and an equally energetic pursuit of everything evil, her loathing of good making her loathsome to God Who is “of purer eyes than to behold evil,” and Who “canst not look on iniquity,” Hab 1:13.  The result of her evil activity was to exchange the protection and blessing of Jehovah for the destructive oppression of the enemy.  And so is it with all who deliberately reject good and pursue evil.

8:4.  “They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.”

As it had been shortly after the beginning of her national existence so was it still.  In those early days she rejected the benign dominion of Jehovah, desiring instead to be like the nations around her: she wanted a king, see 1 Sa 8:5, “... make us a king to judge (rule) us like all the nations,” causing God to declare to Samuel, “... they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them,” 1 Sa 8:7.  Accepting their rejection, He commanded Samuel to give them what they desired, but not before warning them of what would result from their folly, see verses 9-17, concluding His warning with the words, “And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day,” verse 18.

Now centuries later they were reaping the results of their evil sowing.  Regicide resulted in a quick succession of kings, each of whom proved to be as bad or worse than his predecessors, and worse was to follow: without choice they were about to fall into the hand of the Assyrian tyrant, God’s early warning given through Samuel being fulfilled in His refusal to deliver them. 

This, however, wasn’t the end of Israel’s disastrous submission to human rulers instead of to God, though it is to be noted that since the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, there has never been a Jewish king.  But on that fateful day when given the choice of Christ or Caesar, they cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him.... We have no king but Caesar,” Jn 19:15. And for two thousand years, without a king of her own, she has existed in unwilling submission to Gentile rulers, the circle coming full when the tyranny of the Assyrian will be duplicated and will culminate in the reign of the Tribulation age Roman beast.

By focusing exclusively on Israel’s dereliction, however, we may miss the practical lesson relative to Church leaders.  Spiritual Israel, the Church, has also been guilty of great departure from God’s order in this sphere.  For example, it is almost universally accepted that a theological education is a requisite of those who would teach and preach, and this in spite of the fact that Scripture is absolutely silent as to the need of such qualification.  The Word of God is very clear that the necessary ability for this work is given to men chosen by the Holy Spirit, Who having gifted these men, then gives them as gifts to the local churches, see Eph 4:11 and 1 Cor 12, the men themselves gradually becoming recognized as they exercise the gift God has given them.

The appointment of elders is also almost universally by the vote of the congregation, a procedure about which Scripture is also silent.  Here too the Holy Spirit sovereignly bestows the gift, and then gives the men as gifts to the local churches, the congregation gradually becoming aware of the gift in their midst as the gifted men exercise the spiritual gift God has given them, see e.g., Acts 20:28.

The human selection of leaders has proved as disastrous for the Church as for Israel!

Relative to their idolatrous misuse of the silver and gold which God had given them, it is instructive to remember that in Scripture silver is the emblem of redemption; and gold, of glory.

Israel’s folly wasn’t only in relation to literal silver and gold: she has been equally foolish in regard to the spiritual things which they represent.  The redemption and glory made available to her through the death and resurrection of her rightful King the Lord Jesus Christ she has made the means of her own condemnation by seeking redemption and glory through law keeping.

8:5.  “Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off; mine anger is kindled against them: how long will it be ere they attain to innocency?”

“Thy calf” refers indirectly to the two golden calves originally set up by Jeroboam in Bethel and Dan as a means of inducing the people not to go to Jerusalem to worship, his fear being that those visits to Jerusalem would eventually result in the people’s rejection of his sovereignty, in favor of the rule of Rehoboam, David’s grandson, see 1 Ki 12.  Their worshiping of those calves, in fact, had been the beginning of Israel’s idolatry, hence God’s loathing of them and of all their idols as declared more explicitly in other translations, e.g., “Thy calf, O Samaria, is cast off,” (JPS), “I loathe your bull, O Samaria,” (AAT), “Your calf-gods stink, O Samaria,” (NEB).

God’s impatience is declared in His question as to how long it will be before Israel attains to innocency, i.e., forsakes  idolatry, and returns to Him.  

8:6.  “For from Israel was it also: the workman made it; therefore it is not God: but the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces.”

“For from Israel was it also” means that those golden calves had been made by a workman in Israel, and were therefore no gods at all.  His assurance that they would be smashed to pieces relates not only to His destruction of those two calves, but to His destroying all their idols, and stamping out all their idolatry - accomplished when He caused them to be carried captive into Assyria; and as noted already, though still estranged from God, Israel since then has never been guilty of idolatry.

8:7.  “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.”

Having occupied themselves with that which was not only worthless, but which angered God, they were now about to reap the results of their sinful sowing: God’s wrath was about to break on their guilty heads.  The tragedy is that had their sowing been obedience their harvest would have been His abundant blessing.

Relative to sowing, Paul warns, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting,” Gal 6:78

Continuing to use the metaphor of sowing and reaping, God next turns from the spiritual to the physical.  Their literal sowing would be equally worthless for He would blight their crops so that what was sown would bear no fruit, and when it did, the enemy would be the one to enjoy it.

The warning is no less applicable to the men of today’s world, and to believers as well as unbelievers, for the sorry state of even the true Church evinces the fact that most believers are also sowing the wind: their frenzied pursuit of the worthless things of this perishing world is causing them to neglect the things which have eternal value - and with the same results.  The Bema will reveal the full extent of the believer’s folly; and the great white throne, the madness of the unbeliever, for the former will discover that the pursuit of earth’s worthless baubles has cost him eternal reward; and the latter, his soul, which God says is worth more than the whole world.

But as with rebellious Israel there were immediate consequences, so is it today.  Believer and unbeliever alike are robbing themselves of present peace, forgetting that, “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” 1 Tim 6:6, hence the exhortation, “Be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Heb 13:5.

8:8.  “Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure.”

What is swallowed disappears from sight, and so was it to be with rebellious Israel.  Her national identity was to be taken away.  The people would be simply captives among the Gentiles who would value them as little as a worthless (cracked or broken) crock or pot; and soon equally rebellious Judah would suffer the same fate at the hand of the Babylonians.  Nationally there would be no Israel.

It might have been presumed that these chastisements would have taught them a lesson and given them wisdom, but they didn’t.  Scripture records the return of a remnant from Babylon at the end of seventy years captivity in that land; and undoubtedly over the years some had also returned from Assyria, so that at the time of Christ’s birth Israel, no longer divided into Israel and Judah, but united as a nation, was again dwelling in the land, but without a king.  They were under the dominion of Rome, having, as they themselves declared to Pilate, “no king but Caesar,” Jn 19:15.  And with their rejection of their King expressed in the cry, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him.... We have no king but Caesar,” Jn 19:15, they condemned themselves to a judgment of which the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities were but types.  With the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 at the hand of the Romans under Titus, Jewish autonomy was again brought to an end, as God scattered the survivors of that slaughter among the Gentiles, where they have remained for two thousand years.  In connection with those two millennia it is suggested that the reader review the notes on chapter 6:1-2.

8:9.  “For they are gone up to Assyria, a wild ass alone by himself: Ephraim hath hired lovers.”

Taylor translates this verse, “She is a lonely, wandering wild ass.  The only friends she has are those she hires; Assyria is one of them.”  The reference is to her hiring Assyria to deliver her out of the hand of her enemies, but what foolish Israel failed to realize was that she, by her idolatry, had made God her enemy, and none could deliver her out of His omnipotent hand.  Believers are assured that, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Ro 8:31; but the corollary is equally true: If God be against us, who can deliver us?

“Ephraim hath hired lovers” makes it clear that in God’s sight her buying the protection of those who were His enemies was spiritual harlotry.  But Israel had sunk to such depths that in her case the normal order was reversed: she had to pay her “lovers,” while the literal harlot was paid by those who hired her!

8:10.  “Yea, though they have hired among the nations, now will I gather them, and they shall sorrow a little for the burden of the king of princes.”

None of the allies they would hire would be able to deliver them out of Jehovah’s hand, for “now will I gather them” is better translated, “I (Jehovah) will grasp or collect them together for judgment,” those grasped or collected by God being idolatrous Israel, though some understand the phrase to refer to God’s gathering of Israel’s enemies against her.

“... they shall sorrow a little for the burden of the king of princes” is translated by AAT as, “and they shall cease a while from anointing a king and princes,” and by NEB as, “... and there they will soon abandon this setting up of kings and princes.”  Israel in Assyrian captivity, and Judah in Babylonian bondage, would have no opportunity to select their rulers: they themselves would be under the dominion of their conquerors.  And following their fateful rejection of their rightful King in AD 32, they have been compelled for two thousand years to remain under the rule of the Gentiles amongst whom God has scattered them.

The sorrow and the burden mentioned here are understood by many to refer to the hardship suffered by Israel as a result of the heavy burden of tribute imposed by Tiglath-Pileser (Pul) the Assyrian king in exchange for his protection prior to Israel’s rebellion and captivity.  His being described as “the king of princes” is generally understood to relate to the fact that many kings ruled by his permission.

8:11.  “Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin, altars shall be unto him to sin.”

Other translations, e.g., the NAB, translate this as, “When Ephraim made many altars to expiate sin, his altars became occasions of sin,” so that while Israel may certainly have relished the sinful excesses connected with the worship of the Baalim, the meaning seems to be that in offering sacrifices for sin, other than those ordained by Jehovah, Israel was actually adding idolatry to her list of sins.  God had commanded that Israel’s sacrifices were to be offered only at Jerusalem, see Deut 12.

Christendom duplicates Israel’s sin when it seeks expiation and righteousness by the penances enjoined by Roman Catholicism, or by good works, for as Israel, by adding to the system appointed by God, declared that system to be inadequate, so do these deluded votaries declare the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ to be inadequate.

8:12.  “I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange (foreign invalid) thing.”

Even though God had written His law with His own finger on the two tablets given to Moses, and had then through Moses given Israel all the details related to that law, she counted them as worthless, accepting instead all the details of the satanically inspired filthy ritual governing the worship of the Baalim, which was in essence the worship of Satan himself.

8:13.  “They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat it; but the Lord accepteth them not; now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins: they shall return to Egypt.”

Even though they continued to observe the outward form of worshiping Jehovah, while at the same time also worshiping the Baalim, that latter worship rendered worthless everything presented to God, for it reduced Him to being nothing more than just another god on the same level as those represented by their graven images.  God, however, will share His glory with none.  He will call them to account.

The return to Egypt refers to the flight of some who fled there in hope of escaping the Assyrians, but there was no place where they would be safe from the judgment of Jehovah.  Some also understand it to mean that as they had once been captives in Egypt, so would they again be delivered into captivity: Israel, to bondage in Assyria; and Judah, in Babylon.  As noted already, however, those captivities were but shadows of the Diaspora which followed their crucifixion of Christ, and which has lasted now for two thousand years, during which they have had to live in subjection to the rule of the Gentiles.

Christendom has followed in Israel’s foolish footsteps.  She too continues the outward form of worshiping God, while at the same time worshiping money, education, pleasure, etc., deeming money and education far more powerful than He, for he is blind who doesn’t see that with many, God has been reduced to the status of One Who is given token acknowledgment at christenings, weddings, and burials, but has no part in the rest of men’s lives.

But for apostate Christendom, Israel, and the whole world, there is an impending judgment: the horrors of the coming Tribulation. In those terrible catastrophes which will destroy  the whole great social order erected by satanic and human ingenuity, men will learn that the God they have so brazenly defied is to be feared, obeyed, and worshiped.

8:14.  “For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples; and Judah hath multiplied fenced cities: but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof.”

As Israel had forgotten her Maker, and had erected temples for the worship of idols, so has today’s world, for while there are no literal idols of money, education, and pleasure to be seen, they are no less the gods worshiped today than were the idols of the Baalim by ancient Israel. 

But are there no temples to Mammon to be seen in the world today?  Of course there are!  They are everywhere.  Look for example at the magnificent buildings which are the workplaces of the world’s commercial system. 

Education has also its temples.  Apart from the architecture of some of the world’s most prestigious institutions of learning, consider the size of many of our college campuses: they are themselves towns so large as to require their own bus systems!

Nor is the goddess Pleasure without her temples.  They too are to be seen everywhere in the form of theaters, art galleries, sports complexes, amusement parks, casinos, to name just a few.

The counterpart of Judah’s fenced cities is the vast military might of the nations, but as God destroyed Judah’s fenced cities, so will He in a soon coming day also destroy the world’s military might, the record of that coming destruction being detailed in the book of Revelation.  The three and a half years preceding the Lord’s return to inaugurate His millennial kingdom will reveal man’s puniness and God’s might.

[Hosea 9]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough