Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The trumpet to thy mouth! - So God bids the prophet Isaiah, "Cry aloud, spare not, llft up thy voice like a trumpet" Isa 58:1. The prophets, as watchmen, were set by God to give notice of His coming judgments Eze 33:3; Amo 3:6. As the sound of a war-trumpet would startle a sleeping people, so would God have the prophet's warning burst upon their sleep of sin. The ministers of the Church are called to be "watchmen" . "They too are forbidden to keep a cowardly silence, when "the house of the Lord" is imperilled by the breach of the covenant or violation of the law. If fear of the wicked or false respect for the great silences the voice of those whose office it is to "cry aloud," how shall such cowardice be excused?"
He shall come as an eagle against the house of the Lord - The words "he shall come" are inserted for clearness. The prophet beholds the enemy speeding with the swiftness of an eagle, as it darts down upon its prey. "The house of the Lord" is, most strictly, the temple, as being "the place which God had chosen to place His name there." Next, it is used, of the kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem, among whom the temple was; from where God says, "I have forsaken My house, I have left Mine heritage; I have given the dearly-beloved of My soul into the hands of her enemies" Jer 12:7, and, "What hath My beloved to do in Mine house, seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many?" Jer 11:15. Yet the title of "God's house" is older than the temple, for God Himself uses it of His whole people, saying of Moses, "My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all Mine house" Num 12:7. And even the ten tribes, separated as they were from the Temple-worship, and apostates from the true faith of God, were not, as yet, counted by Him as wholly excluded from the "house of God." For God, below, threatens that removal, as something still to come; "for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of My house" Hos 9:15. The eagle, then coming down "against or upon" the house of the Lord, is primarily Shalmaneser, who came down and carried off the ten tribes. Yet since Hosea, in these prophecies, includes Judah, also, "the house of the Lord" is most probably to be taken in its fullest sense, as including the whole people of God, among whom He dwelt, and the temple where His Name was placed. The "eagle" includes then Nebuchadnezzar also, whom other prophets so call Eze 17:3, Eze 17:12; Jer 48:40; Hab 1:8; and (since, all through, the principle of sin is the same and the punishment the same) it includes the Roman eagle, the ensign of their armies.
Because they have transgressed My covenant - "God, whose justice is always unquestionable, useth to make clear to people its reasonableness." Israel had broken the covenant which God had made with their fathers, that He would be to them a God, and they to Him a people. The "covenant" they had broken chiefly by idolatry and apostasy; the "law," by sins against their neighbor. In both ways they had rejected God; therefore God rejected them.
Israel shall cry unto Me, My God, we know Thee - Or, according to the order in the Hebrew, "To Me shall they cry, we know Thee, Israel," i. e., "we, Israel," Thy people, "know Thee." It is the same plea which our Lord says that He shall reject in the Day of Judgment. "Many shall say unto Me, in that Day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name, and in Thy Name cast out devils, and in Thy Name done many wonderful works" Mat 7:22. In like way, when our Lord came in the flesh, they said of God the Father, He is our God. But our Lord appealed to their own consciences; "It is My Father who honoreth Me, of whom ye say, He is our God, but ye have not known Him" Joh 8:54. So Isaiah, when speaking of his own times, prophesied of those of our Lord also; "This people draweth nigh unto Me, with their mouth and honoreth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me" Mat 15:8; Isa 29:13. "God says, that they shall urge this as a proof, that they know God, and as an argument to move God to have respect unto them, namely, that they are the seed of Jacob, who was called Israel, because he prevailed with God, and they were called by his name." As though they said, "we, Thy Israel, know thee." It was all hypocrisy, the cry of mere fear, not of love; from where God, using their own name of Israel which they had pleaded, answers the plea, declaring what "Israel" had become.
Israel has cast off the thing that is good - Or (since the word means "to cast off with abhorrence" "Israel hath east off and abhorred Good," both "Him who is Good" and "that which is good." The word "tob" includes both. They rejected good in rejecting God , "Who is simply, supremely, wholly, universally good, and good to all, the Author and Fountain of all good, so that there is nothing simply good but God; nothing worthy of that title, except in respect of its relation to Him who is "good and doining good" Psa 119:68. So then whatsoever any man hath or enjoys of good, is from his relation to Him, his nearness to Him, his congruity with Him. "The drawing near to God is good to me" Psa 73:28. All that any man hath of good, is from his being near to God, and his being, as far as human condition is capable of, like unto Him. So that they who are far from Him, and put Him far from them, necessarily "cast off" all that is "good."
The enemy shall pursue him - "Forsaking God, and forsaken by Him, they must needs be laid open to all evils." The "enemy," i. e., the Assyrian, "shall pursue him." This is according to the curse, denounced against them in the law, if they should forsake the Lord, and break His covenant, and "not hearken to His voice to observe to do His commandments" Deu 28:15-25.
They have set up kings, but not by ME - God Himself foretold to Jeroboam by Ahijah the prophet, that He would "rend the kingdom out of the hands of Solomon, and give ten tribes" to him, "and" would "take" him, "and" he "should reign according to all that" his soul desired and" should "be king over Israel" Kg1 11:31, Kg1 11:37; and, after the ten tribes had made Jeroboam king, God said by Shemaiah the prophet to Rehoboam and the two tribes, "Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing is from Me" Kg1 12:22-24.
Yet although here, as everywhere, man's self-will was overruled by God's will, and fulfilled it, it was not the less self-will, both in the ten tribes and in Jeroboam. It was so in the ten tribes. For they cast off Rehoboam, simply of their own mind, because he would not lessen the taxes, as they prescribed. If he would have consented to their demands, they would have remained his subjects Kg1 12:4. "They set up kings, but not by or through" God, whom they never consulted, nor asked His will about the rules of the kingdom, or about its relation to the kingdom of Judah, or the house of David. They referred these matters no more to God, than if there had been no God, or than if He interfered not in the affairs of man. It was self-will in Jeroboam himself, for he received the kingdom (which Ahijah told him, he "desired") not from God, not requiring of him, how he should undertake it, nor anointed by Him, nor in any way acknowledging Him, but from the people. And as soon as he had received it, he set up rebellion against God, in order to establish his kingdom, which he founded in sin, whereby he made Israel to sin.
In like way, the Apostle says, "against Thy holy Child Jesus, whom Thou hast both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done" Act 4:27, Act 4:8. Yet not the less did they sin in this Deicide; and the Blood of Jesus has ever since, as they imprecated on themselves, been on the Jews and on their children, as many as did not repent.
As was the beginning of the kingdom of Israel, such was its course. "They made kings, but not from God." Such were all their kings, except Jehu and his house. During 253 years, for which the kingdom of Israel lasted eighteen kings reigned over it, out of ten different families, and no family came to a close, save by a violent death. The like self-will and independence closed the existence of the Jewish people. The Roman Emperor being afar off, the Scribes and Pharisees hoped, under him, without any great control, to maintain their own authority over the people. They themselves, by their "God forbid!" Luk 20:16, owned that our Lord truly saw their thoughts and purpose, "This is the heir; come let us kill Him, that the inheritance may be ours." They willed to reign without Christ, feared the Pagan Emperor less than the holiness of Jesus, and in the words, "We have no king but Caesar," they deposed God, and shut themselves out from His kingdom.
And I knew it not - "As far as in them lay, they did it without His knowledge" Joh 8:54. They did not take Him into their counsels, nor desire His cognizance of it, or His approbation of it. If they could, they would have had Him ignorant of it, knowing it to be against His will. And so in His turn, God knew it not, owned it not, as He shall say to the ungodly, "I know you not" Mat 25:12.
Of their silver and their gold have they made them idols - God had multiplied them, (as He said before Hos 2:8), and they ungratefully abused to the dishonor of the Giver, what He gave them to be used to His glory.
That they may be cut off - Literally, "that he may be cut off." The whole people is spoken of as one man, "one and all," as we say. It is a fearful description of obstinate sin, that their very object in it seemed to be their own destruction. They acted with one will as one man, who had, in all he did, this one end - to perish. : "As if on set purpose they would provoke destruction, and obstinately run themselves into it, although forewarned thereof." Holy Scripture speaks of that as people's end, at which all their acts aim. "They see, not, nor know, that they may be ashamed" Isa 44:9; i. e., they blind themselves, as though their whole object were, what they will bring upon themselves, their own shame. "They prophesy a lie in My Name, that I might drive you out, and that ye might perish, ye, and the prophets that prophesy unto you" Jer 27:15. This was the ultimate end of those false prophecies. The false prophets of Judah filled them with false hopes; the real and true end of those prophecies, that in which they ended, was the ruin of those who uttered, and of those who listened to them. We ourselves say almost proverbially, "he goes the way to ruin himself;" not that such is the man's own object, but that he obstinately chooses a course of conduct, which, others see, must end in utter ruin. So a man chooses destruction or hell, if he chooses those tilings which, according to God's known law and word, end in it. Man bides from his own eyes the distant future, and fixes them on the nearer objects which he has at heart. God lifts the veil, and discovers to him the further end, at which he is driving, which he is, in fact, compassing, and which is in truth the end, for his own fleeting obiects perish in the using; this and this alone abides.
Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off - Israel had cast off God, his good. In turn, the prophet says, the "calf," which he had chosen to be his god instead of the Lord his God, "has cast" him "off." He repeats the word, by which he had described Israel's sin, "Israel hath cast off and abhorred good" in order to show the connection of his sin and its punishment. "Thy calf," whom thou madest for thyself, whom thou worshipest, whom thou lovest, of whom thou saidst, "Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt" Kg1 12:28-31; "thy" calf, in whom thou didst trust instead of thy God, it has requited thee the dishonor thou didst put on thy God; it hath "cast thee off" as a thing "abhorred." So it is with all people's idols, which they make to themselves, instead of God. First or last, they all fail a man, and leave him poor indeed. Beauty fades; wealth fails; honor is transferred to another; nothing abides, save God. Whence our own great poet of nature makes a fallen favorite say, "had I but serv'd my God with half the zeal I served my king, He would not in mine age have left me naked to mine-enemies."
Mine anger is kindled against them - Our passions are but some distorted likeness of what exists in God without passion; our anger, of His displeasure against sin. And so God speaks to us after the manner of people, and pictures His divine displeasure under the likeness of our human passions of anger and fury, in order to bring home to us, what we wish to hide from ourselves, the severe and awful side of His Being, His Infinite Holiness, and the truth, that He will indeed avenge. He tells us, that He will surely punish; as people, who are extremely incensed, execute their displeasure if they can.
How long will it be ere they attain to innocency? - Literally, "how long will they not be able innocency?" So again it is said, "him that hath an high look and a proud heart, I cannot" Psa 101:5; we supply, "suffer." "New moons and sabbaths I cannot" Isa 1:13; our version adds, "away with," i. e., endure. So here probably. As they had with abhorrence cast off God their good, so God says, "they cannot endure innocency;" but He speaks as wondering and aggrieved at their hardness of heart and their obdurate holding out against the goodness, which He desired for them. "How long will they not be able to endure innocency?" "What madness this, that when I give them place for repentence, they will not endure to return to health of soul!"
For - This verse may assign the reasons of God's displeasure, "mine anger is kindled;" or of Israel's impenitency, "How long will it be?" This indeed is only going a little further back, for Israel's incorrigibleness was the ground of God's displeasure. And they were incorrigible; because they had themselves devised it; "for from Israel was it also." Those are especially incorrigible, who do not fall into error through ignorance, but who through malice devise it out of their own heart. Such persons act and speak, not as seduced by others, but seducing themselves, and condemned by their own judgment. Such were Israel and Jeroboam his king, who were not induced or seduced by others to deem the golden calf to be God, but devised it, of malicious intent, knowing that it was not God. Hence, Israel could be cured of the worship of Baal, for this was brought from without by Jezebel; and "Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel." But of the sin of the calf they could not be healed. In this sin all the kings of Israel were impenitent.
From Israel was it also - Their boast, that they were of Israel, aggravated their sin. They said to God, we, Israel, know thee. So then their offence, too, their brutishness also, was from those who boasted themselves of bearing the name of their forefather, Israel, who were the chosen people of God, so distinguished by His favor. The name of Israel, suggesting their near relation to God, and the great things which He had done for them, and their solemn covenant with Him to be His people as He was their God, should, in itself, have made them ashamed of such brutishness. So Paul appealeth to us by our name of Christians, "Let every one who nameth the Name of Christ depart from iniquity" Ti2 2:19.
The workman made it, therefore it is not God - The workman was rather a god to his idol, than it to him, for "he" made it; "it" was a thing made. To say that it was made, was to deny that it was God. Hence, the prophets so often urge this special proof of the vanity of idols. No creature can be God. Nor can there be anything, between God and a creature. : "Every substance which is not God is a creature; and that which is not a creature, is God." God Himself could not make a creature who should be God. The Arian heresy, which imagined that God the Son could be a creature and yet an object of our worship, or that there could be a secondary god, was folly as well as blasphemy. They did not conceive what God is. They had low, debased notions of the Godhead. They knew not that the Creator must be removed as infinitely above His most exalted creature, as above the lowest.
Nor do the prophets need any subtleties (such as the pagan alleged) that their idol might be indwelt by some influence. Since God dwelt not in it, any such influence could only come from a creature, and that, an evil one.
The calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces - The calves were set up at Bethel and at Dan, but they were the sort of tutelar deity of the ten tribes; therefore they are called "the calf of Samaria." They represented one and the same thing; from where they are called as one, the calf, not "calves." A thing of nought it was in its origin, for it had its form and shape from man; a thing of nought it should be in its end, for it should be "broken in pieces," or become "chips, fragments," for fire.
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind - "They shall reap," not merely as "they have sown," but with an awful increase. They sowed folly and vanity, and shall reap, not merely emptiness and disappointment, but sudden, irresistible destruction. "They sowed the wind," and, as one seed bringeth forth many, so the wind, "penn'd up," as it were, in this destructive tillage, should "burst forth again, reinforced in strength, in mightier store and with great violence." Thus they "reaped the whirlwind," yea, (as the word means) "a mighty whirlwind". But the whirlwind which they reap doth not belong to "them;" rather they belong to it, blown away by it, like chaff, the sport and mockery of its restless violence.
It hath no stalk - If their design should for the time seem to prosper, all should be but empty show, disappointing the more, the more it should seem to promise. He speaks of three stages of progress. First, the seed should not send forth the grain with the ear; "it hath no stalk or standing corn;" even if it advanced thus far, still the ear should yield no meat; or should it perchance yield this, the enemy should devour it. Since the yielding fruit denotes doing works, the fruit of God's grace, the absence of the "standing corn" represents the absence of good works altogether; the absence of the "meal," that nothing is brought to ripeness; the "devouring" by "the enemy," that what would otherwise be good, is, through faulty intentions or want of purity of purpose, given to Satan and the world, not to God. : "When hypocrites make a shew of good works, they gratify therewith the longings of the evil spirits. For they who do not seek to please God therewith, minister not to the Lord of the field, but to "strangers." The hypocrite, then, like a fruitful but neglected "ear," cannot retain his fruit, because the "ear" of good works lieth on the ground. And yet he is fed by this very folly, because for his good works he is honored by all, eminent above the rest; people's minds are subject to him; he is raised to high places; nurtured by favors. But "then" will he understand that he has done foolishly, when, for the delight of praise, he shall receive the sentence of the rebuke of God."
Israel is swallowed up - Not only shall all which they have, be swallowed up by the enemy, but themselves also; and this, not at any distant time, but "now." "Now," at a time all but present, "they shall be among the Gentiles, as a vessel wherein is no pleasure," or, quite strictly, "Now they have become, among the Gentiles." He speaks of what should certainly be, as though it already were. "A vessel wherein is no pleasure," is what Paul calls "a vessel to dishonor" Ti2 2:20, as opposed to "vessels to honor" or honorable uses. It is then some vessel put to vile uses, such as people turn away from with disgust. Such has been the history of the ten tribes ever since: "swallowed up," not destroyed; "among" the nations, yet not of them; despised and mingled among them, yet not united with them; having an existence, yet among that large whole, "the nations," in whom their national existence has been at once preserved and lost; everywhere had in dishonor; the Pagan and the Muslim have alike despised, outraged, insulted them; avenging upon them, unconsciously, the dishonor which they did to God. The Jews were treated by the Romans of old as offensive to the smell, and are so by the Muslims of North Africa still. "Never," says a writer of the fifth century , "has Israel been put to any honorable office, so as, after losing the marks of freedom and power, at least to have the rank of honorable servitude; but, like a vessel made for dishonorable offices, so they have been filled with revolting contumelies." "The most despised of those in servitude" was the title given by the Roman historian to the Jews, while yet in their own land.
Wealth, otherwise so coveted, for the most part has not exempted them from dishonor, but exposed them to outrage. individuals have risen to eminence in philosophy, medicine, finance; but the race has not gained through the credit of its members; rather, these have, for the most part, risen to reputation for intellect, amid the wreck of their own faith. When Hosea wrote this, two centuries had passed, since the fame of Solomon's wisdom (which still is venerated in the East) spread far and wide; Israel was hated and envied by its neighbors, not despised; no token of contempt yet attached to them; yet Hosea foretold that it should shortly be; and, for two thousand years, it has, in the main, been the characteristic of their nation.
For they are gone up to Assyria - The ground of this their captivity is that wherein they placed their hope of safety. They shall be presently swallowed up; "for" they went to Asshur. The holy land being then honored by the spectral presence of God, all nations are said to "go up" to it. Now, since Israel forgetting God, their strength and their glory, went to the Assyrian for help, he is said to "go up" there, where he went as a suppliant.
A wild donkey alone by himself - As "the ox" which "knoweth its owner, and the donkey its Master's crib," represents each believer, of Jew or Gentile; Israel, who would not know Him, is called the "wild ass." The "pere," or "wild ass" of the East , is "heady, unruly, undisciplinable" , "obstinate, running with swiftness far outstripping the swiftest horse" , whither his lust, hunger, thirst, draw him without rule or direction, hardly to be turned aside from his intended course." Although often found in bands, one often breaks away by himself, exposing itself for a prey to lions, from where it is said, "the wild donkey is the lion's prey in the wilderness" (Ecclus. 13:19). Wild as the Arab was, a "wild ass' colt by himself" , is to him a proverb for one , "singular, obstinate, pertinacious in his purpose." Such is man by nature Job 11:12; such, it was foretold to Abraham, Ishmael would be Gen 16:12; such Israel again became; "stuborn, heady, selfwilled, refusing to be ruled by God's law and His counsel, in which he might find safety, and, of his own mind, running to the Assyrian," there to perish.
Ephraim hath hired lovers or loves - The plural, in itself, shows that they were sinful loves, since God had said, "a man shall cleave unto his wife and they twain shall be one flesh." These sinful "loves" or "lovers" she was not tempted by, but she herself invited them (see Eze 16:33-34). It is a special and unwonted sin, when woman, forsaking the modesty which God gives her as a defense, becomes the temptress. "Like such a bad woman, luring others to love her, they, forsaking God, to whom, as by covenant of marriage, they ought to have cleaved, and on Him alone to have depended, sought to make friends of the Assyrian, to help them in their rebellions against Him, and so put themselves to that charge (as sinners usually do) in the service of sin, which in God's service they need not to have been at."
And yet that which God pictures under colors so offensive, what was it in human eyes? The "hire" was presents of gold to powerful nations, whose aid, humanly speaking, Israel needed. But wherever it abandoned its trust in God, it adopted their idols. "Whoever has recourse to human means, without consulting God, or consulting whether He will, or will not bless them, is guilty of unfaithfulness which often leads to many others. He becomes accustomed to the tone of mind of those whose protection he seeks, comes insensibly to approve even their errors, loses purity of heart and conscience, sacrifices his light and talents to the service of the powers, under whose shadow he wishes to live under repose."
Yea, though they have hired - Or better, "because or when they hinge among the pagan, now will I gather them;" i. e., I will gather the nations together. The sin of Israel should bring its own punishment. He sent presents to the king of Assyria, in order to strengthen himself against the will of God; "he thought himself secured by his league made with them; but he should find himself much deceived in his policy;" he had "hired among them" only; "now," ere long, very speedily, God Himself would "gather them," i. e., those very nations, not in part, but altogether; not for the help of Israel, but for its destruction. As though a man would let out some water from a deep lake ponded up, the water, as it oozed out, loosened more and more the barriers which withheld it, until, at length, all gave way, and the water of the lake was poured out in one wide wild waste, desolating all, over which it swept. It may be, that Assyria would not have known of, or noticed Israel, had not Israel first invited him.
And they shall sorrow a little for the burden of the king of princes - So great shall be the burden of the captivity hereafter, that they shall then sorrow but little for any burdens put upon them now, and which they now feel so heavy. "The king of princes" is the king of Assyria, who said, "Are not my princes altogether kings?" Isa 10:8. The burden of plained will then be the thousand talents of silver which Menahem gave to Pul, king of Assyria, to support him in his usurpation, and in order to pay which, he "exacted the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver" Kg2 15:19-20.
If we adopt the English margin, "begin," we must render, "and they shall begin to be minished through the burden of the king of the princes," i. e., they shall be gradually reduced and brought low through the exactions of the Assyrians, until in the end they shall be carried away. This describes the gradual decay of Israel, first through the exactions of Pul, then through the captivity of Gilead by Tiglathpileser.
Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin, altars shall indeed be unto him to sin - that is, they shall be proved to him to be so, by the punishment which they shall draw upon him. The prophet had first shown them their folly in forsaking God for the help of man; now he shows them the folly of attempting to "secure themselves by their great shew and pretences of religion and devotion in a false way." God had appointed "one" altar at Jerusalem. There He willed the sacrifices to be offered, which He would accept. To multiply altars, much more to set up altars against the one altar, was to multiply sin. Hosea charges Israel elsewhere with this multiplying of altars, as a grievous sin. "According to the multitude of his fruit, he hath increased altars. Their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the field" Hos 10:1; Hos 12:11. They pretended doubtless, that they did it for a religious end, that they might thereon offer sacrifices for the expiation of their sins and appeasing of God. They endeavored to unite their own selfwill and the outward service of God. Therein they might deceive themselves; but they could not deceive God. He calls their act by its true name. To make altars at their own pleasure and to offer sacrifices upon them, under any pretence whatever, was to sin. So then, as many altars as they reared, so often did they repeat their sin; and this sin should be their only fruit. They should be, but only for sin. So God says of the two calves, "This thing became a sin" Kg1 12:30, and of the indiscriminate consecration of priests (not of the family of Aaron), "This thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth" Kg1 13:33-34.
I have written to him the great things of My law - Literally, "I write." Their sin then had no excuse of ignorance. God had written their duties for them in the ten commandments with His own hand; He had written them of old and "manifoldly" , often repeated and in divers manners. He wrote those manifold things "to them" (or "for them") by Moses, not for that time only, but that they might be continually before their eyes, as if He were still writing. He had written to them since, in their histories, in the Psalms. His words were still sounding in their ears through the teaching of the prophets. God did not only give His law or revelation once for all, and so leave it. By His providence and by His ministers He continually renewed the knowledge of it, so that those who ignored it, should have no excuse. This ever-renewed agency of God He expresses by the word, "I write," what in substance was long ago written. What God then wrote, were "the great things of His law" (as the converted Jews, on the day of Pentecost speak of "the great" or "wonderful things of God" ) or "the manifold things of His law," as the Apostle speaks of "the manifold wisdom of God" Eph 3:10, and says, that "God at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets" Heb 1:1.
They were counted as a strange thing by them - These "great," or "manifold things of God's law," which ought to have been continually before their eyes, in their mind and in their mouth Deu 6:7-9, they, although God had written them for them, "counted as a strange thing," a thing quite foreign and alien to them, with which they had no concern. Perhaps this was their excuse to themselves, that it Was "foreign" to "them." As Christians say now, that one is not to take God's law so precisely; that the Gospel is not so strict as the law; that people, before the grace of the Gospel, had to be stricter than with it; that "the liberty of the Gospel" is freedom, not from sin, but from duty; that such and such things belonged to the early Christians, while they were surrounded by pagan, or to the first times of the Gospel, or to the days when it was persecuted; that riches were dangerous, when people could scarcely have them, not now, when every one has them; that "vice lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness" ; that the world was perilous, when it was the Christian's open foe, not now, when it would be friends with us, and have us friends with it; that, "love not the world" was a precept for times when the world hated us, not now, when it is all around us, and steals our hearts, So Jeroboam and Israel too doubtless said, that those prohibitions of idolatry were necessary, when the pagan were still in the land, or while their forefathers were just fresh out of Egypt; that it was, after all, God, who, was worshiped under the calves; that state-policy required it; that Jeroboam was appointed by God, and must needs carry out that appointment, as he best could. With these or the like excuses, he must doubtless have excused himself, as though God's law were good, but "foreign" to "them." God counts such excuses, not as a plea, but as a sin.
They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of Mine offerings, and eat it; but the Lord accepteth them not - As they rejected God's law, so God rejected their "sacrifices," which were not offered according to His law. They, doubtless, thought much of their sacrifices; and this the prophet perhaps expresses by an intensive form ; "the sacrifices of My gifts, gifts," as though they thought, that they were ever giving. God accounted such sacrifices, not being hallowed by the end for which He instituted them, as mere "flesh." They "offered flesh" and "ate" it. Such was the beginning, and such the only end. "He" would "not accept them." Nay, contrariwise, "now," now while they were offering the sacrifices, God would show in deed that He "remembered" the sins, for which they were intended to atone. God seems to man to forget his sins, when He forbears to punish them; to "remember" them, when He punishes.
They shall return to Egypt - God had commanded them to return no more to Egypt Deu 17:16 of their own mind. But He had threatened that, on their disobedience, "the Lord would bring them back to Egypt by the way, whereof He spake unto them, Thou shalt see it no more again" Deu 28:68. Hosea also foretells to them, that they (i. e., many of them) should go to Egypt and perish there Hos 9:3, Hos 9:6. Thence also, as from Assyria, they were to be restored Hos 12:11. Most probably then, Hosea means to threaten an actual return to Egypt, as we are told, that some of the two tribes did go therefor refuse, against the express command of God Jer. 42-43. The main part of the ten tribes were taken to Assyria, yet as they were, even under Hosea, conspiring with Egypt Kg2 17:4, such as could, (it is likely) took refuge there. Else, as future deliverance, temporal or spiritual, is foretold under the image of the deliverance out of Egypt, so, contrariwise, the threat, "they shall return to Egypt," may be, in figure, a cancelling of the covenant, whereby God had promised, that His people should not return: a threat of renewed bondage, "like" the Egyptian; an abandonment of them to the state, from which God once had freed them and had made them His people.
For Israel hath forgotten his Maker - God was his Maker, not only as the Creator of all things, but as the Author of his existence as a people, as He saith, "hath he not made thee, and established thee?" Deu 32:6.
And buildeth temples - as for the two calves, at Bethel and at Dan. Since God had commanded to build one temple only, that at Jerusalem, to "build temples" was in itself sin. The sin charged on Ephraim is idolatry; that of Judah is self-confidence ; from where Isaiah blames them, that they were busy in repairing the breaches of the city, and cutting off the supplies of water from the enemy; "but ye have not looked unto the Maker thereof, neither had respect unto Him, that fashioned it long ago Isa 22:11. Jeremiah also says, "that they shall impoverish (or, crush) the fenced cities, wherein thou trustedst, with the sword" Jer 5:17.
But I will send a fire upon his cities - In the letter, the words relate to Judah; but in substance, the whole relates to both. Both had forgotten God; both had offended Him. In the doom of others, each sinner may read his own. Of the cities of Judah, Isaiah says, "your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire Isa 1:7 and in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah," (some twelve years probably after the death of Hosea) "Sennacherib came up against all the cities of Judah and took them" Kg2 18:13; and of Jerusalem it is related, that Nebuchadnezzar "burnt the house of the Lord, and the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man's house he burnt with fire" Kg2 25:8-9. Man set them on fire; God brought it to pass; and, in order to teach us that He doeth all things, giving all good, overruling all evil, saith that He was the doer of it.