Hosea 8



This chapter deals with the punishment of apostasy. Once more the sins of

the northern kingdom are enumerated and its approaching fall predicted.

There is a close connection between the verses in the first section of the

chapter. That connection is as follows: The first verse begins with an

exclamation containing Jehovah’s command to the prophet to act as his

herald, putting the trumpet to his mouth and sounding the alarm about

coming calamity. In the second clause of the same verse the nature of the

calamity is announced. In the third and last clause of it the cause of the

calamity is declared. The second verse represents Israel in their extremity

crying to God for deliverance; the cry is very earnest, and proceeds from

every member of the community, backed also with the assertion of their

acquaintance with Jehovah. In the third verse Jehovah rejects their cry and

refuses to interpose between them and the enemy, because their knowledge

of Him was merely historical and neither spiritual nor practical, as their

dislike of what was good continued unabated. The fourth verse specifies

facts in proof of Israel’s renunciation of Jehovah. The fifth verse shows a

just retribution, for, inasmuch as Israel disliked what was good, the object

of their idolatry has disgusted Jehovah or cast them off. The sixth verse

contains the doom of this silly, sinful, and disgusting idol. In the seventh

verse the threat of such destruction is accounted for on a broad principle

taken from agricultural life, that the harvest will correspond to the seed

sown; and so Israel shall reap the fruit of their ungodliness.


1 “Set a trumpet to thy mouth.”  The exclamation in this verse, A trumpet to

thy mouth, supersedes the necessity of supplying a verb. The alarm of war or of

hostile invasion is to be sounded by the prophet at the command of Jehovah.

The trumpet is at once to be employed for the purpose. The rendering of

both the Targum and Syriac express the same idea, though under a different form;

the former has, “Cry with thy throat, as if it were a trumpet;” and the latter,

“Let thy mouth be as a trumpet.” According to this view, the Prophet Hosea

expresses here very briefly what Isaiah has done more fully in the words,

“Cry aloud [Hebrew, ‘with the throat’] spare not, lift up thy voice like a

trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob

their sins” (Isaiah 58:1).  The Septuagint here deviates considerably from the

Maseoretic Hebrew text, translating eijv ko>lpon eis kolpon - (Úq]yte) aujtw~n,

wJv gh~  - auton hos gae -  put the trumpet to your lips - of the meaning of

which Jerome acknowledges his ignorance, though he attempts to explain

it. Cyril connects the words with the concluding part of the preceding

chapter, thus: “This their setting at naught (of me) in the land of Egypt

shall come into their own bosom. As the land, as the eagle against the

house of the Lord;” while his explanation is as follows: “Since, though I

preserved them and instructed them, and gave them victory over their

enemies (for I strengthened them), they have impiously set me at naught,

worshipping demons for gods, and have trusted to the land of the

Egyptians, and have fancied that their help shall be sufficient for their

prosperity, therefore their attempt shall return unto their own bosom, and

they shall find no good reward of their temerity; but they shall receive, as it

were, into their bosom the deserved punishment. For he shall come, he

shall come who shall lay them waste — the King of Assyria, with an

innumerable multitude of warriors, and he shall come to them as the whole

land and region and country, that one might think that the whole region of

the Persians and Medes had wholly migrated and had come into Samaria.

This is the meaning of the whole land (wJv gh~). He shall likewise come as

an eagle into the house of the Lord.” “He shall come as an eagle against

the house of the Lord,” -  These words cannot mean, as Hitzig thinks, the

rapidity with which the prophet is directed to convey his tidings of alarm, as

if it were, “Fly [had imperfect being supplied], thou prophet, as an eagle;”

nor yet, with others, the loudness of the alarm he was to sound. The meaning

abruptly though vividly expressed refers to the approaching invasion of the

enemy, though there is no need to supply hady, or aby, It is the substance

of the prophet’s alarm. As an eagle the enemy (as is evident from v. 3) shall

come against the house of the Lord. The enemy was, in all probability, the

Assyrian, in whose symbolism the eagle bulks largely; while the griffin vulture,

scenting from afar, and coming down with rapid and terrific swoop upon its prey,

is an appropriate image of the sudden and impetuous character of his invasion.

The house of the Lord is neither the temple at Jerusalem, for the prophecy

relates to the northern kingdom; nor the temple at Samaria, which could

not be called Beta Yehovah, but Bethbamoth; nor the land of Israel, which

could not with any propriety be called a house; but the people of Israel,

which, owing to God’s covenant relation to that people, is called His house,

as in Numbers 12:7, “My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all

mine house.” The figure seems an echo of Deuteronomy 28:49, “The

Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth,

 as swift as the eagle flieth;” while it has a parallel in Matthew 24:28, “For

wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together”-

because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against

my Law.”   These words exhibit the cause of Israel’s being exposed to the

sudden hostile attack which the prophet was commissioned to proclaim.

The provocations of Israel consisted in violating the covenant which God

had been pleased to make with them, and in proving unfaithful to that Law,

obedience to which was the condition of the covenant. The explanation of

the whole verse thus given is confirmed by the Hebrew commentators; thus

Rashi says, “The Shechinah (or Divine Majesty) says to the prophet, ‘Let

the voice of thy palate be heard and sound the trumpet and say, The

enemies fly hither as the eagle flieth and come unto the house of the

Lord.’” Aben Ezra more concisely conveys the same sense: “It is the words

of Jehovah to the prophet, ‘ Set the cornet to thy palate, for the enemy

flieth as the eagle against the house of the Lord.’” Kimchi differs in two

respects from his brethren, understanding the address to be not that of

Jehovah to the prophet, but of the prophet to the people; and the house of

the Lord to include the whole land of Israel and temple at Jerusalem: “The

cornet to thy palate, as he said .above, ‘Sound the trumpet in Gibeah.’

Many a time the prophet speaks to the people in the singular and many a

time in the plural. He says, ‘Put the trumpet to thy mouth, for behold! the

enemy flies hither like the eagle over the house of Jehovah; ‘he means to

say,’ Over the whole land and also over the house of Jehovah, in order to

destroy it.’ And he joins the trumpet to the palate (and yet man sets the

trumpet to the mouth) because the voice passes over the way of the palate

after it comes out of the throat.”


2  Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee.”  The more

literal as well as more exact rendering is, to me wilt they cry, My God, we

know thee, we Israel! Notwithstanding their provocation, their

unfaithfulness to the covenant of God, and their disobedience to the Law,

they appeal unitedly and severally to God in the day of their distress, and

urge two pleas — their knowledge of God, or acknowledgment of Him as

the true God; and their high position as His people. Thus the Chaldee

paraphrase has: “As often as calamity comes upon them they pray and say

before me, Now we acknowledge that we have no God beside thee; deliver

us, because we are thy people Israel.” As to the construction, either

Israel” is in apposition to anachnu, the subject of the verb, or there is a

transposition. Thus Rashi: “We must transpose the words, and explain, ‘

To me, cries Israel, My God, we know thee; ‘“ so also Kimchi and Aben

Ezra. The former says, “‘ Israel ‘ which comes after, should be before,

after wyyl, and many inversions of this kind occur in Scripture, as

Ezekiel 39:11 and Psalm 141:10.” The word “Israel” is omitted by

the Septuagint and Syriac, and in many manuscripts of Kennicott and De Rossi.


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

This is the reply of Jehovah. The good which Israel rejected is not exactly God

the One Good, nor Jehovah the greatest Good, nor the Law, which was good;

but all the goodness which God  bestows on such as keep His covenant.

This Israel rejected, and in turn is rejected of God and delivered up into the

hands of his pursuers.



Ministerial Faithfulness (vs.1-3)


The prophet is represented as a messenger with alarming tidings, or

sentinel at his post to give warning of the enemy’s approach, or rather as a

herald commissioned to declare war (See Ezekiel 33:1-11).  Earthly kings

have heralds or special messengers for this purpose, and here the KING

OF KINGS  charges the prophet as his herald to proclaim war. “Go,

then, and let the Israelites know, not now by thy mouth, but even by thy

throat, by the sound of the trumpet, that I am an enemy to them, and that

I am present with a strong army to destroy them.” The presence of a herald

on such occasions presupposed the preparation of the enemy — that they

were ready to take the field, or were actually on the march. As the prophets

of old, so ministers still require to act boldly, bravely, with earnestness

 and faithfulness in rebuking sin, warning men of approaching peril

and punishment, and calling on them loudly and fearlessly to repent

 and return to God.



has sung, “Seldom does punishment, though lame of foot, quit the criminal

who goes before.” Sometimes the prophet is summoned to declare the

people’s sin, showing them its guilt and dangerous consequences;

sometimes to denounce its punishment. We have a notable example of the

former in a passage a good deal like the opening verse of this chapter; thus

Isaiah is commanded by God in the words, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up

thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and

the house of Jacob their sins” (Isaiah 58:1).  But the Prophet Hosea is

here enjoined to proclaim the punishment which the sin of Israel was surely

and swiftly bringing upon them: “He shall come as an eagle against the house

of the Lord.” The abruptness imparts vigor to the expression, while it indicates

the sad and sudden reality. When the cup of a people’s iniquity is brimful,

calamity is just at hand (Genesis 14:15-16); when they are ripe for judgment,

the enemy is ready to execute it; when the day of vengeance has arrived, no

distance can secure them from it. From the far-distant land of Assyria, the

Assyrian eagle, Shalmaneser, like the great Babylonian eagle, Nebuchadnezzar,

of a later date, “with great wings, long-winged, full of feathers” (Ezekiel

17:7), came from afar, swift in his advance, sudden in his approach, sure of

his prey, and savage in rending it. No boasted privileges can delay that day of

disaster, nor deliver when it comes; even the house of the Lord shall not be

exempt.  Israel, though God’s people, His house and family, shall fall by the

assault of the Assyrian. God usually speaks before He strikes, and warns

before He pours down His wrath; nor does He either threaten or strike

until He has been provoked by sin.



“Because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against

 my Law;” such is the cause which God assigns for the threatened punishment.

God thus indicates His proceedings, exhibits His justice, asserts His patience

and long-suffering, declares His hatred of sin, and gives to all a solemn

warning against its commission. Here again the mercy of God is made

manifest, notwithstanding God’s supreme right over men and absolute

authority to dispose of them as He pleases, yet He graciously condescends

to enter into a covenant with His creatures, stipulating promise of reward

to obedience, and penalty in case of disobedience. Nor could Israel plead

ignorance of the conditions of this covenant; for the Law, with its

commandments, exhibited those conditions, explicitly declaring all the

duties of the covenant. They, however, broke the commandment, and so

prepared the way for breaking the covenant; they trespassed against the

Law, and so transgressed the covenant. They violated the commandments

of the Law that taught them their duty to their neighbor; they broke the

covenant that bound them to their God. Usually men proceed from

omissions to commissions, and frequent violations of the Law make way

for the final and entire renunciation of the covenant.



Israel had, no doubt, more knowledge of the true God than any of the

neighboring nations. God s Name was known among them; to Israel

belonged “the adoption, the glory, and the covenants”  (Romans

9:4).  They depended much on this, and in their adversity they urged with

much vehemence the plea, “My God, we know thee.” So at last many

will cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us” (Matthew 25:11), or, “Lord, Lord,

 have we not prophesied in thy Name, and in thy Name cast out

 devils, and in thy Name done many wonderful works?’ (Ibid. ch.

7:22)  But this plea shall only meet, as it merits, the indignant response,

“Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity” (Ibid. v.23; Luke 13:27).

Here is the secret of their rejection: their profession was not

 supplemented by practice. They pretend to know God in the

day of their distress; but as long as they basked in the sunshine of

prosperity, they neither desired the knowledge of God’s ways, nor

delighted in the duties required of them; nay, THEY DESPISED

PRACTICAL PIETY! They had a name to live, but were dead; they

had a form of godliness, but denied its power in their heart and life.

Alas!  how many professors of religion are in this same state. “What stead

will it stand a man in to be able to say, My God, I know thee,’ when he

cannot say, ‘My God, I love thee,’ and ‘My God, I serve thee, and cleave

 to thee only’?  Israel had cast off the thing that is good; they had cast off

God, the supreme Good. There is nothing truly great but God, and

nothing really good but God; and IN REJECTING GOD THEY

REJECTED ALL THAT IS GOOD!. God is the Author of all

goodness, and nearness to Him is the sure way of getting good.

“Whatsoever any man hath or enjoys of good, is from his relation to Him,

his nearness to Him, his congruity with Him.” Israel cast off the Law of

God, though that Law was holy and just and good; they cast off His

worship, though that conduced both to their temporal and ETERNAL

GOOD, they abandoned His service, though it was good for all the

 relations of life; they had cast over everything good and upright, just

 and true; and now in turn they are cast off. The contrast is observable;

they had driven away from all that was good, and now the enemy drives in

hot pursuit after them.


4 They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made

princes, and I knew it not:” -  Here was the first instance and evidence of

Israel’s rejection of Jehovah. Their conduct was not guided by Divine

direction, nor in obedience to the Divine will, nor with the Divine sanction.

This state of things began with Israel’s revolt from the house of David, and

rebellion against the son of Solomon their legitimate sovereign, and was

repeated in subsequent usurpations. Perhaps we may go further back, even

to the appointment of the first king of the yet undivided kingdom, when

the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all

that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have

rejected me, that I should not reign over them”  (I Samuel 8:7).  Usurpations

such as those of Zimri, Omri, and Shallum at least are comprehended in the

appointments referred to — appointments on making which the people did

not inquire of the Lord, nor act under His guidance, nor seek His sanction.

Some go so far as to include all the kings of Israel that succeeded Jeroboam. Thus

Cyril says, “He denies the kingdom of Israel and his successors on the throne of

Israel.” Aben Ezra also extends the statement to the kings of the northern

kingdom from the days of Jeroboam: “They inquired not of God with

respect to the making of Jeroboam king, although it is written, ‘ Thou shalt

in any wise set him king over thee whom the Lord thy God shall choose’”

(Deuteronomy 17;15).  A seeming contradiction here exists between the statement

of the prophet here and that in I Kings 11:37, where God promises by the Prophet

Ahijah, “I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul

desireth, and shalt be king over Israel,” and the fact of Jehu’s anointing

being ordered by the Prophet Elisha, who sent one of the children of the

prophets for that purpose with the words, “Thus saith the Lord, I have

anointed thee king over Israel.” The plotting of Jeroboam, and the

conspiracy of Jehu against Joram, and the conspiracies of other usurpers,

were things which God could not approve; and so we must distinguish

between the permission and approval of Jehovah; in His government He

permits many things which from His nature we know He does not and

cannot approve. wryçh is usually and properly rendered, “they have made

princes;” but Aben Ezra and Rashi translate it as wdysh equivalent to

they have removed;” while the Massora reckon wrçh in the number of

those words which are written with shin but are read and explained with

samech. Some manuscripts also of Kennicett and De Rossi have wrysh -

of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they (literally,

it) may be cut off.”  This is a second proof of Israel’s renunciation of

Jehovah. They used their gold in making the idolatrous calves, and their

silver in supporting their idolatrous worship; or they made the idol-calves,

some of silver, and others of gold. The consequence rather than the

purpose is the destruction of it, namely, the gold and silver; or the ruin of

the kingdom or of each member of it; or the cutting off of their name,

according to Kimchi. The word ˆ["m"l], like iJna hina – end; intent;

in Greek, is generally telic, denoting “purpose;” nor is it ecbatic here,

denoting “result,” though, according to the Hebrew mode of thought,

design and consequence often coincide. Its meaning here is well explained

by Keil, yl describes the consequence of this conduct, which, though not

designed, was nevertheless inevitable, as if it had been distinctly intended.”


5 “Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off; mine anger is

kindled against them.:” - This portion of the verse has occasioned much

diversity of translation and exposition, and yet the general meaning is much

the same. In the translation of the Authorized Version the word “thee” is supplied;

others supply “me,” meaning Jehovah, thus, “Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast

me off;” while Rosenmüller prefers supplying “them,” viz. the Israelites: “Thy calf, O

Samaria, hath cast them off,” i.e. has been the cause of their rejection,

which is favored by μb; in the following clause. The meaning of “me” is plain,

the import being that the idol-worship had led to the rejection and so the

withdrawal of Jehovah; while the sense of  “thee” conveys the idea that the

golden calf which the country represented by its capital and the

government had established at Bethel as the symbol of their worship, so far

from protecting its worshippers, would fall itself into the hands of the

Assyrian invader.  The Septuagint translates by ajpo>treyai to<n mo>scon sou

Sama>reia apotrepsai ton moschon sou Samareia -  equivalent to “Cast off

[as if jn"z]] thy calf, O Samaria;” which is an exhortation to Samaria, and not

only Samaria, but the entire country, with the inhabitants of the capital at its

 head, to cast aside the calf-worship by which they had incurred the wrath

of the Almighty.  Jerome, reading jN"zu (Pual), renders, “Cast off is thy calf.”

Some modern scholars translate, “He has cast off thy calf,” and refer it

to the enemy, and rather in the sense of carrying off the golden image as a

spoil; or to Jehovah  which is not in keeping with the first person in the next clause.

Others take the verb intransitively, and give it the meaning of “smelling

bodily,” “emitting intolerable stench.” “being loathsome or disgusting;”

thus Keil has, “Thy calf disgusts, O Samaria.” Israel loathed or felt disgust at pure

worship and what was really good; now Jehovah in turn is disgusted with

their golden calf and hateful idolatry. No wonder it is added, Mine anger

 is waxed hot (has burnt or blazed out) against them; i.e. not the calf and Samaria,

nor the calves, but their stupid, sinful worshippers“how long will it be ere

they attain to innocency?”  Or it may be translated, How long will it be ere they

 shall be able to endure (bear) innocence (guiltlessness)? The verb lky, has

frequently to be supplemented by another verb, as in Psalm 101:5,

lk"Wa al, “A proud heart will not I suffer;” so also Isaiah 1:13. The

speaker here turns, as it were, from unwilling auditors to others more ready

to lend an ear, and asks, “How long are they incapable of purity of life

instead of the abominations of idolatry? How great the madness that, while

I allow space and place for repentance, they are unwilling to return to

soundness of mind!   The Authorized Version rendering is supported by

Aben Ezra and Kimchi. The former explains: “It is as if z were written

double, ‘ Thee as thy calf cast off — thee Samaria, as if it has rejected thee,

for the city shall be laid and its inhabitants shall go into captivity;’” and

Kimchi says, “z is transitive, and has the meaning of ‘ remove,’ as in

Lamentations 2:7. He says, ‘O Samaria, thy calf has removed thee,’

that is, on account of it thou art removed out of thy land.” The last clause

is also well explained by Kimchi, though in a different sense from that

given above, thus: “How long are they unable to purify themselves from

this guilt (i.e. idolatry)?”


6  For from Israel was it also: the workman made it; therefore

it is not God:” -  The prophet here vindicates the justness of Jehovah’s

complaint and the folly of Israel’s conduct. The first clause points out the

origin of this idolatry — this god of gold was out of Israel, it proceeded

from them and was invented by their kings. The second clause shows that it

was of human manufacture; while the natural inference follows in the third

clause to the effect that, having its origin with man and being made by man,

it could not be God. Or if the rendering, “Thy calf disgusts,” be adopted,

the ki introduces the explanation of the disgust which that abomination

caused. This idol was of home manufacture, not imported from abroad, as

Baal and Ashtaroth from the Sidoniaus, Chemosh from the Moabites, and

Moloch from the Ammonites. The Israelites themselves and their king

Jeroboam made for the northern kingdom what had been learnt in Egypt.

Thus Israel’s god was a creature of Israel’s own devising. How stupid and

how absurd! ISRAEL’S GOD, MAN MADE,  how enormous and

 abominable the iniquity!  - “but the calf of Samaria shall be broken

in pieces.”  It shall become splinters; the hapaz legomenon, ybç is

derived from an Arabic root, shaba, to cut; and thus, as the calf at Sinai

was burnt and pulverized, the calf of Samaria shall be broken into splinters

and destroyed. The whole verse is well explained by Kimchi: “Now ye will see

if the calf is able to deliver its worshippers; it cannot even deliver itself, for it shall

become splinters, as if he said that the enemies shall break it up and carry it away

for the worth of the gold, not for any utility that is in it while it is still in the

form of a calf. ybç is equivalent to μydbç (broken pieces, shivers),



7 “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind:” –

The harvest corresponds to the seed-time; their foolish and vain idolatries shall

have corresponding results. This proverbial expression imports more than merely

labor in vain; it denotes labor that has an injurious and destructive result. It has more

than a negative significance of lost labor; it conveys the idea of positive detriment.

“The prophet,” says Kimchi, “means to say that they will weary themselves in vain

in this service (of idols), just as if a man who sows the wind, in which there is

nothing substantial, shall only reap the wind, or even still less; as if he had

said, ‘ Ye shall not obtain the least enjoyment, but only injury.’” If, then,

the wind denote the vanity and nothingness of human effort, the whirlwind

is the image of destruction and annihilation, viz. a storm or hurricane

remorselessly tearing all away with it. Suphah itself intensifies the notion

included in ruach, while the paragogic h intensifies still more, so as to

denote A STORM OF GREATEST VIOLENCE.  The double feminine

ending is regarded by most as strengthening the sense in this word suphathah,

hh;m;yae ht;r;z][, - “it hath no stalk (margin, standing corn): the bud

shall yield no meal:” -  better, shoot brings no fruit. This is a further

development of the figure. When wind is the seed sown, destruction

represented by tempest is the harvest reaped. The seed sown produces no

stalk, or at least no stall with grain in it — no standing corn. If the seed

shoot up at all, the shoot has no fruit. Here the play on words, of which the

Hebrews were so fond, is obvious — the tse-mach has no yemach; the

halm has no maim; the Spross no Schoss; the corn no kern – “if so be it

yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.”  When, or if, any fruit is attained,

the invasion of rapacious foreigners swallows it up. First, then, when the

wind of vain human efforts is the sowing, destruction is the harvest. If the

seed spring up at all, the ear does not fill; or if the ear should fill, there is

no substance in it; or if it fill and have substance, the rapacity of hostile

invaders consumes it. Thus A BLIGHT FALLS ON ALL THEY DO!

(fulfilling the curse of  Deuteronomy 28:15-20)  - Kimchi explains the

verse fully as follows: “Because the prophet compares their works to one

who sows the wind, he adds further to the same image, and says, ‘It has no

stalk, it reaches not the time when it shall be stalk’ (or ‘standing corn’).

Now hmq is the name of the corn when it stands ready for the harvest,

from which the husbandmen (literally, ‘sowers’) soon expect enjoyment,

i.e. after harvest, when they shall make it into meal. Yea, even at the time

they expect profit from their works, they shall have none. And he says

further, ‘The shoot shall not produce fruit or meal,’ as if he said, ‘ Even

should the seed spring up after the sowing.’ He thus represents in a figure

that should they prosper a little in their works after they have begun to do

evil, yet that prosperity will not last, and it will not come to perfect

enjoyment (beauty) like corn which comes to harvest and to grinding. And

if it should yield, strangers devour it. Perhaps for a time it may produce so

as to come to meal, as if he said that, should they prosper in their

possessions so that a little enjoyment should be accorded to them at the

first, then strangers shall come and devour it, and their enjoyment will not

be complete.”


8 Israel is swallowed u:” -  Not only shall the productions of their

land be swallowed up, but the persons of the Israelites shall be consumed;

nor is the event far off in the distant future, though the Hebrew

commentators translate the past as prophetic future; already has the

process begun. Such is the extension of the punishment – “now shall they be

(rather, are then become) among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no

pleasure.”  The prosperity, population, property, and even nationality, are

swallowed up — ENGULFED AS IN SOME ABYSS  so as to be

undiscoverable to the present time; while their reputation has suffered so

sorely that they are despised as a worthless household vessel — a vessel unto

dishonor, never of much worth, but now cast away as ENTIRELY




The Causes of the Divine Judgments Specified (vs. 4-8)


The first sin which brought down the Divine displeasure was their civil apostasy, as

it has been called, or change of civil government.



DIVINE WRATH. By this we are not to understand, with some, the

election of Saul, because this political offence, if we may rightly so term it,

included the twelve tribes in common, whereas it is the ten tribes of the

northern kingdom with which the prophet here deals; neither are we,

according to others, to confine the sin with which Israel is here charged to

certain usurpers who, by treachery, or conspiracy, or assassination, forced

their way to the throne, for this was long after the disruption, and was the

sin of a few individuals rather than of the whole people, though

undoubtedly the whole people suffered by the transgression of these

particular persons. It is to the separation of Israel from the Davidic

dynasty and the southern kingdom in the days of Jeroboam that the

 prophet refers.  An objection is sometimes urged against the severity with

which Israel is reproved for the disruption of the kingdom of David, seeing

that God had predestined and promised it.


Ø      It is true, indeed, that God had predicted the rending of the kingdom of

Solomon; it is true He had promised ten tribes to Jeroboam by Ahijah

the Shilonite (I Kings 11:29-39; 14:6-16); it is true also that he had

even predetermined the whole. How, then, can it be made to have

taken place without God’s consent? Or why should Israel be so sharply

rebuked for the sin? God had determined to punish Solomon by

rending ten tribes from the kingdom of his son and successor, though he

himself was allowed to retain the government of the whole till the end of

his days, and by handing them over to Jeroboam. The part enacted by

the people was not with the Divine knowledge, that is, the Divine consent,

approval.   They did not consult God about the matter, or the

manner of it, or the time of it; they did not wait for his command

to do it; they did not seek his approbation in doing it; they were

 no way concerned about executing the Divine purpose — nothing

 was further from their thoughts. They revolted from the house of

David not in order to obey God; of this, as far as the history shows,

they never thought. What they did was done from a spirit of sedition;

what they aimed at was a relief from oppressive taxation. They had

no regard to the Divine mind in the whole movement. They

were bent on carrying out their own cherished project, and yet

unwittingly, unintentionally, they were carrying out the purpose

and promise of God, though without any reference to the mind

and will of God.


Ø      The following illustration of this difficult subject is given by Calvin.

“God,” he says, “designed to prove the patience of his servant Job.

The robbers who took away his property, were they excusable?

By no means!  For what was their object, but to enrich themselves

by injustice and plunder? Since, then, they purchased their advantage

at the expense of another, and unjustly robbed a man who had never

injured them, they were destitute of every excuse. The Lord, however,

did in the mean time execute by them what He had appointed, and what

He had already permitted Satan to do. He intended that His servant

should be plundered; and Satan, who influenced the robbers, could

 not himself move a finger except by the permission of God — nay,

except it was commanded him. At the same time, the Lord had nothing in

common or in connection with the wicked, because His purpose was far

apart from their depraved lust. So also it must be said of what is said here

by the prophet.”



and cause of judgment was their religious apostasy in the worship of the



Ø      The first sin, as so often happens, led to the second. The idolatry of

The calves was intended by Jeroboam to help and uphold his usurped

sovereignty. Not only had the national religion fallen into decay, but it

had degenerated into superstitious will-worship. Next to the subversion

of the Davidic kingdom came the perversion of the legitimate priesthood.


Ø      The sin of their apostasy was aggravated by their abuse of the

wealth which God had given them.   (Think how rich America

was before and during our departure from God!  Think of the reasons

for the Fiscal Cliff which Americans are talking about going over, here in

the last month of 2012 – CY)  All they had they owed to God,  and were

in duty bound to employ it for His honor; instead of doing so, they

dishonored Him by making idols of their silver and gold. Men are

sometimes found to be more lavish of their gold and silver in support

of a false religion than in maintaining the pure worship of the true God.

(Think of the millions that certain folk have contributed to undermine

our Judaeo-Christian heritage through support of THE AMERICAN

CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION – CY – 2012)  Israel might pretend

that their calves of gold were only representations of Jehovah; but

Jehovah refuses to be so represented, forbidding men to make any

graven image of metal, or stone, or wood, standing out prominently

and in high relief, or any likeness el anything on a flat surface as a picture,

for the purpose of doing it homage by worship or serving it by sacrifice

(Exodus 20:4-5). If, then, men neglect the Divine prohibitions or precepts,

they must remember that God will not be mocked by their professions

 or pretences, but will estimate them by their practice in the light of His



Ø      Israel was destroying himself by this sinful idolatry. “That he may be

cut off;” such is the literal sense, as though it meant the whole nation as

one man — one and all. Such was the tendency of their conduct, though

it was not their intention; such was the inevitable end of their course,

though they were not aware of it. “So a man chooses destruction or hell,

if he chooses those things which, according to God’s known Law and

Word, end in it.  Man hides from his own eyes the distant future,

 and fixes them on the nearer objects which he has at heart.”

Some take the clause to mean that the gold and silver so sadly misused

and sinfully perverted would be cut off; it appears rather to refer to


in any case their money would perish, either passing out of their

possession or along with the possessors.  (“What shall if profit

a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

(Mark 8:36)



The striking amplification of the same subject seems designed to

impress on the people’s mind that they themselves, and no other, had

wrought their ruin, and that they need not try to transfer the fault to others,

or charge God foolishly. Nor is it necessary to suppose that a calf had been

set up at Samaria, or that one of those at Dan and Bethel had been

removed thither. Samaria was the metropolis of the northern kingdom, and

as such took a leading part in the calf-worship and contributed largely and

liberally to its support. Of the different renderings of the first clause of v.5,

all tending pretty much in the same direction, we may safely adhere to

that of the Authorized Version as affording a good sense. Israel, we read in

v. 3, “had cast off” God and goodness; now the calf which they had set

up as their god had cast them off, left them in the lurch, or caused their

removal to another and a foreign land; thus their sin and its punishment are

linked together by the same word, “cast off” (hnr). The thing is

represented in the past because sure of accomplishment; they had

renounced God, and now the thing which they substituted for God had

abandoned them.


Ø      So shall it ever be; whatever object men make an idol of,

and set it up in their heart instead of God, giving it that place

 in their affections which BELONGS TO GOD ALONE,  

will one day assuredly cast them off, desert them in their sorest need,

and leave them in distress. Is wealth our idol? Do we make gold our

god, and fine gold our confidence?  That calf of gold will cast us off;

for riches make themselves wings and fly away (Proverbs 23:5), as

has been the sorrowful experience of thousands! Is fame the god

we follow? Is popular applause the idol we worship? Are worldly

greatness and its accompanying glory the idols, the objects, of

 our  idolatry, and dear to us as the calves at Dan and Bethel were to

Israel?  This calf of vain-glory will surely cast us off; for FAME IS A


THE STREAM OF TIME;  popularity is often false, always fickle

as the breeze. The words of Wolsey prove with wondrous power how

the calf of worldly glory casts off its worshippers.


“Farewell, a long farewell, to all my greatness!

This is the state of man: Today he puts forth

The tender leaves of hope, tomorrow blossoms,

And bears his blushing honors thick upon him:

The third day comes a frost, a killing freeze;

And, — when he thinks, good easy man, full surely

His greatness is a-ripening, — nips his root,

And then he falls, as I do. I have ventured,

Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,

This ninny summers in a sea of glory;

But far beyond my depth: my high-blown pride

At length broke under me; and now has left me,

Weary, and old with service, to the mercy

Of a rude stream, that must for ever hide me.

Vain pomp and glory of this world, I hate ye!”


Do the pleasures of sin engross our affections, and are they the idol on

which our heart dotes? Our idol will cast us off. The pleasures of sin are

short-lived; they last but for a season, and that season is at most and best a

short one; nor do they satisfy while they last. Is beauty the object of our

idolatry? This calf, so greatly admired and much beloved, in a little while

casts off and disappoints its many worshippers. For beauty is a fair but

fleeting flower; it fades and fails. “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory

of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower

 thereof falleth away” (Isaiah 40:6-8; Psalm 90:5-6).  The heir to or

actual owner of a large estate, with its broad acres and princely mansion,

sets his heart on his splendid possessions; his magnificent property

becomes his idol, but his calf casts him off. If only heir, he may never

enter on the actual possession, and so he is disappointed of it; if already

owner, he may in many ways be disappointed in it, or he may be deprived

of it by force, or fraud, or casualty, or death; in either case the calf casts

off the idolatrous worshipper. The hereditary estate, secure it as men will

by deeds and settlements, shall change proprietorship and be taken

away; there is no real fixity of tenure here on earth. The baronial

residence shall in time become a ruin grey, round which the ivy twines.


Ø      But why does the calf of Samaria, or, generally speaking, men’s idol,

prove so unsatisfactory, blighting men’s hopes and blasting their

expectations, so that they are left a prey to disappointment, disgust,

distress, or even despair? Just because God’s anger is kindled against

it.  God is a jealous God, and will not give His glory to another, or

His praise to graven images (Isaiah 42:8). Whatever course of sin

men pursue becomes like a conductor of electricity, and brings down

the scathing lightning of the Divine wrath upon their guilty heads.


Ø      But the anger of God is not only kindled against them; it is aggravated

and intensified by their obduracy of heart and persistent course of evil.

“How long,” asks God, “will it be ere they attain to innocency?”

 that is to say, how long will they persevere in their present evil ways,

neither purging themselves from the sin of idolatry and putting away

their idols, nor striving to attain to purity of life and uprightness of

character? The omniscient One himself in asking this question seems

surprised — with reverence be it spoken — at their suicidal obstinacy,

as if bent on their own destruction and rushing on their own

ruin. He waits to be merciful, but they repel the overtures of His

grace; He stretches out His hand to receive and welcome them, but

they refuse to return. (Once upon a time in the mid-1970’s, Bill Glass

had a community-wide revival at Tiger Stadium in Hopkinsville, KY. 

I remember to this day a song sang by Miss Illinois, a former Miss

America, sing the song “Reach Out to Jesus – He is Reaching

Out to You!  -  There is evidence of God’s care and mercy

everywhere, at all times and in all generations.  Will not you turn

to Him at this invitation today?  See How to Be Saved - # 5 – this

web site – CY – 2012).  No wonder our blessed Lord,

during the days of His flesh, is reported in a certain place to have

marveled because of men’s unbelief.”  (Mark 6:6)


Ø      We are further shown in the following verse the justness of God’s

indignation against those stupid calf-worshippers. This worship was no

institution of God.; it was Israel’s invention. They could not lay the

blame of it on others. Sinners sometimes feel a miserable satisfaction

or even palliation in endeavoring to make others the scapegoat of

their own iniquities (while at the same time refusing the scapegoat

for their sins which God hath provided – see Leviticus 16:7-28  -

this web site - CY – 2012)  This is an old story. Adam laid the fault

of his eating the forbidden fruit on Eve; Eve in turn transferred it to

the serpent. No doubt a load is lightened when it is laid on the

shoulders of several persons instead of a single individual. Not so

with Israel in this case. No prophetic intimation induced Israel to

adopt the calf-idolatry, neither could they find fault with their neighbors

for seducing them into it. It was their own device, and had its

origin with their king and themselves. How sad that Israel

should make themselves so vile! — that Israel, forgetful of their high

lineage; that Israel, unmindful of their great progenitor, whose title of

nobility was “prince with God” (Genesis 32:28), that Israel, whom

God had taken into covenant to be His peculiar people, and who

at the foot of Sinai avouched the Lord to be their God, should prove

so unspeakably sottish as to worship a man-made god, having

changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that

eateth grass”!  (Psalm 106:20) - But those calves of Dan and

Bethel, or this calf of Samaria, in its collective sense comprehending

all and considered by them as a “sort of tutelary deity of the ten

tribes,” was as contemptible in its end as at its beginning.

Made by man’s hand, it was to be unmade by the same; fashioned

by man, it was doomed to be broken into fragments by man, and,

like Aaron’s calf at Sinai, broken into pieces and ground to powder.



Israel’s punishment is continued in two striking similitudes, one of which

presents the positive side and the other the negative. The positive side is

that of a man sowing the wind and. reaping the whirlwind, as if a person

took immense pains, toiling and laboring like a husbandman when he sows

his seed; but the seed sown is wind, a thing of naught and unsubstantial-

mere empty sound, and nothing more or better; then when harvest comes,

as might in such circumstances be expected, there is grievous

disappointment, and not only disappointment, but destruction, utter

destruction, represented by a fearful whirlwind (the double termination

intensifying the meaning). “If it may be supposed,” says Pococke, “that a

man should sow the wind and. cover it with earth, or keep it there for a

while penned up, what could he expect but that it should be enforced by

its being shut up, and the accession of what might increase its strength to

break forth again in greater quantities with greater violence?” Israel

expended gold and silver on their idols, and were assiduously laborious in

their worship; but instead of reaping any benefit from them, or increasing

their prosperity by them so as to equal the idolatrous nations around, they

labored in vain and wearied themselves for very vanity. Nor was that all;

they reaped ruin, being swept away by the whirlwind of Divine wrath. The

negative side exhibits three degrees of development, or three stages of

progress. They sow, and, as the husbandman expects a crop, so they look

for a harvest of peace, plenty, and prosperity. But lo! the seed they sow

never comes up, it has neither blade nor stalk; or if it should spring up,

produce a stalk or standing corn and develop an ear, it never reaches

maturity — the ear does not fill, there is no ripe corn in the ear, and so the

bud yields no meal; or suppose it to advance yet further, and to ripen and

yield meal, it becomes a spoil to the enemy, for strangers swallow it up.

How many every year, every month, every week, ay, every day, are sowing

in this way foolishly and even fatally, being doomed to reap, not only

disappointment, but destruction! The apostle tells us that they who sow to

the flesh shall reap corruption. It is observable that in the passage referred

to (Galatians 6:8) there is a distinction: the seed (o[ga<r eja<n spei>rh

ho gar ean speirae – he that soweth) and the soil, or the field (eijv

th<n sa>rka eis taen sarkainto the flesh), and that which is sown in it.

The field is the flesh, or sensuality in general: in that field some sow the

seed of licentiousness, and they reap rottenness; some sow intemperance,

and they reap corruption.


  • THE SAD SEQUEL OF ISRAEL’S SIN. The figure now resolves

itself into a fact — a threefold fact — namely, Israel’s consumption,

captivity, and contempt.


Ø      They are swallowed up as a victim is swallowed by a beast of prey,

and consumed from being a nation. And yet this consumption is

not annihilation, nor extinction, as we learn from the remainder of

the verse. It is rather impoverishment — their substance devoured

by strangers, and the produce of their land eaten up. The expression

may be paralleled by the Homeric —


Priam and all his house and all his host

Alive devour; then, haply, thou wilt rest.”


More appropriate still is the Scripture parallel, “Have all the workers

of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as. they eat bread.”

(Psalm 14:4)


Ø      Their dispersion and captivity m Gentile lands were soon and certainly

to come to pass. Driven from their own country, and deprived of those

ordinances which, when they might have enjoyed and profited by them,

were abused and despised, they shall ere long find themselves strangers

in a foreign land and among heathen people; for “now shall they be

among the Gentiles.”


Ø      In addition to captivity, they are doomed to contempt, like vessels

put to the vilest use, and into which the filthiest things are poured.

They have been vessels of dishonor, despised broken vessels, in

which there is no pleasure. And has it not been so with Israel for

nearly, or perhaps we might say for more than, two thousand years?

Notwithstanding the eminence to which individuals of that race

have risen in the different professions and in various walks of life,

they have as a people, in the lands of their dispersion, been subject

to outrage, treated with contumely, scorned and spoiled and



Ø      Though these calamities were peculiar to Israel in a special manner,

yet less or more they have been common to sinners at all times and

in all lands.  Those that corrupt religion or contemn its privileges

are not infrequently deprived of them; gospel-despisers are deprived

of the gospel; those that dishonor God are dishonored by their

fellow-men, for them that honor me,” says God, “I will honor;

and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.”  (I Samuel



9 “For they are gone up to Assyria, a wild ass alone by himself:

Ephraim hath hired lovers.”  All their misery and misfortune they have

brought upon themselves. They have prepared this fate for themselves, and

made themselves meet for their fate. The second clause is correctly

rendered, a wild ass goes alone by itself; and this clause is an independent

statement — not connected by comparison either with the clause

preceding nor with the succeeding one. Instead of saying that Ephraim, that

is, Israel, went up to Assyria like a stubborn wild ass alone by itself, or that

like a wild ass going alone Ephraim hired (sued for) lovers, the statement

stands independent and in a measure detached, the meaning being that even

a wild ass, stupid and stubborn as that animal is, keeps by itself to secure

its independence. The conduct of Israel, however, appears to disadvantage

in contrast with that of a stupid wild ass; it is more stupid and senseless;

their folly is seen by the comparison: it maintained its independence by

going alone, Ephraim lost independence by soliciting help from heathen

allies. What, then, was the object to the attainment of which this foolish

conduct was directed? In other words, why did Israel go on this stupid

mission to Assyria? What did they seek to gain by it? The third clause

contains the answer: they sought help and succor from the Assyrians. Thus

the first clause, giving a reason for their calamity, shows it was self-procured

by Ephraim going up to Assyria; the second clause exposes the

folly of such conduct in seeking prohibited and pernicious foreign alliances;

the third clause specifies the precise object of Ephraim’s sinful and foolish

mission, namely, the procuring of succor from Assyria. The above

explanation, which is in substance Keil’s, and which is a contrast between the

independence of the wild ass and Ephraim’s servile suing for foreign help,

is, we think, simpler and more correct than the common one, which is a comparison

of the willfulness, waywardness, and wantonness of the wild ass roaming solitarily

by itself with Ephraim’s willful waywardness in going up to Assyria for succor, and

wantonness in suing for idolatrous alliances. The expression, “going up,”

alludes to going to the interior of the country, or to the capital of the

monarch Assyria now owned as sovereign, or to a place of refuge. The

hiring of lovers, or lover, by Ephraim stigmatizes their shameful conduct as

that of a shameless harlot, who, instead of receiving, bestows presents on

lovers, or as the reward of endearments.


10 “Yea, though they have hired among the nations, now will I gather them,” –

Instead of “have hired,” “sue” would make the sense more obvious. But who are

they of whom it is here said, “I will gather them”?


  • The nations, among whom Ephraim has been suing for endearments

from paramours, shall be gathered together to effect the hurt or ruin of

Ephraim; while for this explanation Ezekiel 16:37, is cited as parallel:

“Behold, therefore, I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast

 taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that

 thou hast hated; I will even gather them round about against thee,

and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy



  • But others maintain that the persons gathered are the Ephraimites whom the

Lord will gather, that is to say,


Ø      will bring them all together among the nations, leading them thither;

and to this exposition Hosea 9:6 is thought to furnish a parallel, at

least as far as the meaning of the verb “to gather” is concerned:

Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them.”


Ø      Or the Ephraimites shall be gathered together to be led away in

Chains and dispersed among the nations;


Ø      or shall be gathered for death and to perish by sword and famine; or


Ø      to be gathered together unto Samaria and other fortified cities, in order

to be taken to. gather and carried by their enemies away into captivity.


  • Rashi understands the gathering together of Israel, but in the sense of a

promise . “Though they have sued for endearments among the nations, I

will gather them out of the nations among which they have been dispersed,

as the same verb, xbq, is used in Isaiah 54. and Jeremiah 31:10, viz. ‘I

will not delay their deliverance.”  This exposition is not in harmony with

the context, from which we expect a threat of punishment rather than a

promise of reward.


and they shall sorrow a little for the burden of the king of princes.  This fixes

with more definiteness the meaning of the foregoing member of the verse. According to:


  • this rendering of Wljey" (Qeri) Hiph. from lWh, “a little” would require

to be taken ironically; it is better, therefore, to render it “in a little time.”

The burden is not that of taxation or even deportation, but of oppression in

exile. The oppressor is the monarch of Assyria, who asks boastingly. “Are

not my princes altogether kings?” (Isaiah 10:8) 


  • Another translation is, “They will begin to diminish on account of the burden of

the king of princes.’ According to this the verb WlheY;w" is future of Hiph.

ljeje from llj, to begin, and f[;m] is either an infinitive for f[m", or

rather a verbal adjective: and the sense is that they begin to be or become

fewer in consequence of the Assyrians oppression.


  • But taking the verb from the same root llj cognate with Greek cala>w -

chalao - loose, set free, Gesenius translates, “And they (the hostile nations)

shall presently force them from the burden (i.e. the unpleasant dominion)of

the king.”


  • The Septuagint reads  jv"M;mi instead of aCM"mi, and a copula between, i.e.”

and princes;” and render, Kai< kopa>sousi mikro<n tou~ cri>ein basile>a

kai< a]rcpntav – Kai kopasousi micron tou chriein Basilea kai archpntas

because of the oppression of the king of the mighty ones - equivalent to

And they shall cease a little to anoint a king and princes.”


On the whole, we prefer there rendering of the clause in the Authorized Version, as

both grammatical and supplying a sense consistent with the context. The prophet

foretells that Israel would ere long feel painfully the sorrowful consequences of their

going to Assyria and suing there for help. Oppressed by a yearly tribute to the Assyrian

king, they would smart under the yoke, and long to be free.



Israel among the Gentiles (vs. 8-10)


We have here the Nemesis of a false desire of independence.



THE WORLD (v. 8).  It was the complaint against Ephraim that he had

mixed himself among the people (ch.7:8). He was not content to

remain separate, as God had ordained. He must have his freedom (compare

Psalm 2:1-3; Luke 15:11-13). We now see the end of this: “Israel is

swallowed up.”  He was:


Ø      Absorbed by the world. The Gentiles got wholly the possession of him.

It is so spiritually with those who try to serve both God and mammon

(Luke 16:13).  The attempt to serve two masters proves vain. The

world gains ground in the heart; God loses ground. By-and-by the

world has the whole. The backslider is “swallowed up” (compare

I Timothy 6:9-10; II Timothy 4:10).


Ø      An object of contempt to the world. “Among the Gentiles as a

vessel wherein there is no pleasure.” The world in its heart

secretly despises those whom it has got under its influence, having

turned them away from God. It holds them in contempt. Two

kinds of men the world has respect for:


o       its own kind, and

o       the thoroughly godly.


It has no respect at all for the third something, that tries to be

both and yet is neither — the trimmer, the compromiser, the

backslider. Nor, once it has them in its power, is it slow

to show its contempt for them.



DEPENDENCE ON THE WORLD. (v.9.) Israel went up to Assyria —

a wild ass alone by itself.” We understand the figure to allude to Israel’s

intractable spirit and desire of independence. The nation must, at all costs,

be rid of God’s yoke, and go out “alone by itself.” The use it makes of its

independence, however, is to go to Assyria. The motive is not, of course,

to have Assyria’s yoke imposed on it instead of God’s; but this is the

result. Seeking independence of God, it sinks into dependence on Assyria.

Herein is imaged the end of all attempts at a false independence.


Ø      True freedom for man — true independence — lies in loyal

acceptance of the rule of God. This gives inward emancipation

and superiority to the seductions of the world.


Ø      Renouncing this, the soul sinks into a dependence on finite things,

ALIEN TO ITS NATURE.   It falls into bondage. It exchanges

God’s service for a worse. It is ruled by the lust of the eye, the

 lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (I John 2:15). The prodigal,

leaving his father’s house for freedom, ended by joining himself to

a citizen in the “far country,” who sent him into his fields to feed

 swine (Luke 15:15-16).



BY THE WORLD. (v. 10.) Israel trafficked with the world for its favor

    “hired among the nations;” the result being that it was given up by

God to be oppressed by the world — “the burden of the king of

princes.” The stages are:


Ø      sinful desire towards the world“hired lovers” (v. 9);


Ø      propitiation of the world, by gifts, alliances, etc.;


Ø      absorption by the world and subjection to the world, as

already described;


Ø      oppression by the world. This power of Assyria over Israel was:


o       Divinely given. “Now will I gather them. It was God,

and no one else, who gave this people into the hands of

the foreigners.


o       Distressing.  Israel would suffer much in exile. Her

burden would be heavy; her numbers would be diminished.

The world is a terrible tyrant over those whom it gets in its



o       Equitable. We trace here the same proportion between sin

and punishment as falls so frequently to be noticed. They

voluntarily hired”among the nations; now they are oppressed

by Gentile tribute.


The next two verses are closely connected with the preceding verse and with each other.

V.11 not only accounts for, but justifies, the threat of punishment announced in v.10 by

reference to Ephraim’s sin; and ver. 12 shows the inexcusableness of Ephraim in

thus sinning.


11 “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 other 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.


God had, from the time of Moses, appointed one altar at Jerusalem; and when, in the

days of Joshua, the trans-Jordanic tribes were thought by their brethren to have built

an altar in violation of the Divine appointment, it called forth a most vigorous

remonstrance: “What trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of

Israel, to turn away this day from following the Lord, in that ye have builded you

an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the Lord?”   (Joshua 22:16)  It was

only on receiving an explanation that it was not a sacrificial but monumental altar

that the western brethren were reconciled. Now, however, they had so far

degenerated that beside the once central altar at Jerusalem they had one at Dan,

another at Bethel, and others on every high hill and any other place that pleased

them. This multiplication of altars had the appearance of religion, but only the

appearance; these many altars were in all likelihood made for the ostensible

purpose of offering expiatory sacrifices for sin, but were actually an augmentation

of the people’s sin, each altar becoming an additional element in the national



They had turned aside from God for human help; next they turned aside

from the divinely appointed mode of worship to human methods,

substituting for the pure service of the Most High the miserable semblance

of SELF-DEVISED RIGHTEOUSNESS.  (Paul describes it as “being

ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own

righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God”

(Romans 10:3).   They had made many altars, which, however

intended, resulted in the commission of sin; and now these many altars,

instead of expiating their sins or making amends for their transgressing

God’s express command, are counted to them for sin and bring them in

guilty before God, not to speak of the fact that the multiplication of altars

to the true God would occasion the further sin of dedicating altars to other

and strange gods. If men corrupt religion, however plausible their pretext,


 and the souls of others. 


12 I have written to him the great things of my Law, but they were counted

as a strange thing.”   Many and great are the lessons of the written Word. Many

as they are in number, they are yet greater in importance — great in their origin,

for they come from God and are given by inspiration of His Spirit; great in their

utility to man, for they make him acquainted with the things that pertain to

life and godliness; great in their issues, for the interests of eternity are

intertwined with them and depend on them; great as revealing the one

living and true God, the way of His worship, His well-beloved Son our only

Savior, and the plan of salvation by Him.  Proportionately great is THE SIN

OF NEGLECTING THEM.   Israel, though God had been at pains to write to

them the great things of His Law, turned their back upon them as something

strange in which they had no concern, and with which they were disinclined

to intermeddle, and which, even if attended to, could prove of little moment.

These things, in greater measure and with greater fullness, have been handed

on to us; for, though written long ago, they were written for our learning.

(Paul said “they are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of

the world are come”  (I Corinthians 10:11).  What a terrible responsibility

rests on us:


Ø      if we neglect these things from indifference, or

Ø      slight them from contempt, or

Ø      refuse to be directed, guided, and governed by them, or

Ø      reject them altogether as unworthy of our observance and obedience, or

Ø      as unsuitable to a progressive age and present circumstances!  (This

last statement, written 200 years ago, is highly significant in trying

to make sense in the United States, a country that is tottering in the

attempted takeover of so called “PROGRESSIVE POLITICS.”

            One would think that Ephraim was resurrected and is in leadership

            in the U. S. Senate and White House, the scenario is so parallel! –

            CY – 2012)


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 A 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 tau and equivalent to hb;b;r], that is, ten thousand, or myriads;

the Qeri or Maasoretie correction, yBeru, plural of bd, multitudes. The idea

conveyed is the numerous directions, preceptive and prohibitive, of the


 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



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


CONCERN  and which consequently HAD NO CLAIM ON THEIR


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.


(The 119th Psalm is prolific with instruction of these forms.  Larry Purcell, a

former pastor at our church, recommended reading and meditating on a verse

a day from Psalm 119.  With 176 verses, one could go through it twice in a

year – I recommend the exposition on this web site by C. H. Spurgeon, as

the material is taken from his Treasury of David -  Below is an introduction

to these words from that source - CY – 2012)



Psalm 119 consists of twenty-two stanzas, each of eight verses, every verse in each

stanza beginning with its own proper letter — those of stanza 1 with aleph,

the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet; those of stanza 2 with beth, the

second letter; and so on. The writer, having thus fettered himself, moves

with some difficulty, but still has produced what has been justly called “a

sweetly monotonous meditation” (Cheyne). He takes the Law for his one

and only subject, and, further, seems to have bound himself, almost

absolutely, to introduce the word “Law,” or something which he regards as

a synonym of “Law,” into every verse. The synonyms are nine in number:



  • 1.  TORAH, “the Law” itself; but not merely the Law given on Mount Sinai,

      judgments.” Judicial pronouncements by act or word against particular lines of

      conduct.  This word is formed from a verb which means to direct, to guide, to

      aim, to shoot forwards.  Its etymological meaning, then, would be a rule of

            conduct, a “kanw>n safhv - kanw>n kan-ohn; from ka>nh (a straight reed,    

            i.e. rod); a rule (“canon”), i.e. (figurative) a standard (of faith and practice); by

            implication a boundary, i.e. (figurative) a sphere (of activity): — line, rule and

            safhv –- (clear, plain, manifest, distinct, true, certain, real)  - In other words,

            a plain rule of conduct placed clearly in man’s sight.


  • 2.  ‘EDVOTH, or ‘EDOTH, “testimonies.” God’s commands, considered

            as witnesses to His character, and as attesting His will.  The word signifies to

            bear witness, to testify.  Testimonies are more particularly God’s revealed law;

            the witness and confirmation of His promises made to His people, and earnests

            of future salvation.


  • 3.  MISHPATIM, “judgments.” Judicial pronouncements by act or word

            against particular lines of conduct.  Derived from a word signifying to govern,

            to judge or determine, mean judicial ordinances and decisions; legal sanctions.


  • 4.  KHUQQIM, “statutes” — once translated “ordinances” (v. 91).

      Enactments of God as Legislator, but not confined to the written Law.  The

      verb from which this word is formed means to engrave or inscribe.  The word

      means a definite, prescribed, written law, but in this Psalm it has a more

      internal meaning – that moral law of God which is engraven on fleshly tables

      of the heart; the inmost and spiritual apprehension of His will:  not so obvious

      as the law and testimonies, and a matter of more direct spiritual communication

      than His precepts; the latter being more elaborated by the efforts of the mind

      itself, divinely guided indeed, but perhaps more instrumentally, and less

      passively employed.


  • 5.  DABAR or DEBARIM, “God’s Word” or “Words.” His actual spoken

            or written utterances.  There are two terms, quite distinct Hebrew, but both

            rendered “word” in each of our authorized versions.  The latter of these is

            rendered “saying” in the former volume of this work.  They are closely

            connected:  since out of twenty-two passages in which “word” occurs, in

            fourteen it is parallel to it, or in connection with “saying”.   From this very

            circumstance it is evident they are not synonymous.  The term here rendered

            wordseems the “Logov or Word of God, in its most divine sense; the

            announcement of God’s revealed will, His command; His oracle; at times

            the special communication of the prophets.  The Ten Commandments are

            called by this term in Exodus and is the oracle of the temple.  In this Psalm

            it may be considered as:


ü      God’s revealed commandments in general

ü      as a revealed promise of certain blessings to the righteous

ü      as a thing committed to him as the minister of God

ü      as a rule of conduct; a channel of illumination


  • 6.  PIQQUDIM, “precepts.” Instructions given to men to direct their conduct.

      This comes from a word which means to “place in trust” – meaning something

      entrusted to man, “that is committed unto thee”;  appointments of God,

      which consequently have to do with “the conscience”, for which man is

      responsible, as an intelligent being.


  • 7.  MITSROTH, “commandments.” Only slightly differing from piqqudim

            rather wider.  This word is derived from a verb signifying to command or

            ordain.  Such was God’s command to Adam about the tree; to Noah about

            constructing the ark.


  • 8.  IMRAH, properly “promise,” but used rather as a variant, instead of

            dabar, and extending to all God’s utterances.


  • 9.  DAREK or DEEAKIM, “way” Or “ways.” Prescribed lines of conduct (very

      seldom used).  As to this remaining word “way” – it occurs but twice as a

      characteristic word, and the place in which it occurs must rather be considered

      as exceptions to the general rule; its meaning is so direct and simple as to

      require no explanation;  a plain rule of conduct – in its higher sense, the

      assisting grace of God through Christ our Lord, who is the Way, the Truth,

      and the Life!  (John Jebb, 1846)


The synonyms from 1 to 8 occur, each of them twenty times, or oftener, in the psalm.

Darek (derakim) occurs only four times. Emunah, which has been called a synonym,

scarcely deserves to be so considered. It is only wanted as a synonym once (v. 90).

The excellence of “the Law” is considered in almost every possible aspect.

(End comment of Psalm 119)


13 “For the sacrifice of mine offerings, they sacrifice flesh and eat it; but the

Lord accepteth them not.” The mention of altars naturally suggests that of sacrifices,

and, as a matter of fact, with the multiplication of those altars they multiplied their

sacrifices, so that the latter kept pace with the former, and a due proportionateness

maintained between them. And yet, numerous as those sacrifices were, they were not

real sacrifices; they were no more and no better than slaying so many animals and

feasting on their flesh; THE SPIRIT OF DEVOTION WAS ABSENT

therefore God did not accept them – “now will He remember their iniquity, and

visit their sins: they shall return to Egypt.”  The turning point was now reached,

their iniquity was full, and the time of punishment had arrived. God had delivered their

fathers out of the bondage of Egypt; now He will send their posterity into a

bondage similar to or even worse than that of Egypt.


14 “For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples (or, palaces);”

Here Israel’s sin, with the consequent suffering, is traced to its source. The origin of

all was THEIR FORGETFULNESS OF GOD and false confidence in man

 themselves and others or both. (America is in the same boat today – CY – 2012)

and Judah hath multiplied fenced cities:” Israel forgot his Maker, and built shrines

on high places, “consecrating,” as Jerome says, “whole hills and mountains

and shady trees to Baal and Ashtaroth and other idols.” Judah also, though

aware that Israel had renounced the love of Jehovah and had been punished

for their sins, did not return to God (Jeremiah 3:6-11), but trusted in fenced cities –

but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof.”

To the word for “city” the masculine suffix is attached; while with “palaces”

the feminine suffix is employed. With the proper names of peoples either

gender is used:  the masculine with reference to the people or population, and the

feminine in relation to the country; or the reference may be to Israel and

Judah, the masculine referring to their respective peoples, and feminine to

their lands.


Terms to Ponder


Reaping the Whirlwind                    Sin’s Mockery of the Sinner

The Inspiration of Scripture            God Forgotten

The Abandonment of Good             The Pursuit of Evil

Doomsday (v.1)



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