The trumpet announces the imminent judgment of a people who confess with their lips that they know God, but do not take it into account in their actions. They have made many altars and perform their idolatry there, but they regard the words of God as the words of a stranger. Yes, they have forgotten Him and live for their own pleasure. But God will consume all their works by fire (= judgment).
In this chapter five blasts of the trumpet are given, as it were, each giving a reason for judgment:
1. verse 1 transgression and rebellion;
2. verse 4 appointing false kings and rulers without consulting God;
3. verse 5 idolatry;
4. verse 9 asking Assyria for help;
5. verse 11 false altars.
1 The Judgment Announced
1 [Put] the trumpet to your lips!
Like an eagle [the enemy comes] against the house of the LORD,
Because they have transgressed My covenant
And rebelled against My law.
The last part of this Bible book, Hosea 8-14, is probably about the time when the last king, Hoshea, reigned over the ten tribes kingdom. It is not clear whether the prophet also experienced the time of the removal under King Hoshea. He does not write about it. In the previous chapters the prophet Hosea has extensively demonstrated the sins. Now he is going to speak more about the coming judgment that God must let come as a result of those sins.
This chapter begins particularly threatening. War is coming. The prophet must put the trumpet to his lips to warn of this impending judgment that comes according to God’s plan. Several times in the prophetic books the trumpet is mentioned as a warning instrument (Eze 33:3; Isa 58:1; Jer 6:17; Mt 24:31; Rev 8:6). The blowing of the trumpet can be compared to the speaking of the Word of God. It should not be vague, but clear and certain (cf. 1Cor 14:8). The hearers must know where they stand.
Unfortunately, there are preachers who do not talk about the horrors that will come over mankind. Or they explain the Word of God in such a way that it is pleasant for people to hear it. Then the trumpet makes an unclear sound. Conscience is not addressed and therefore no measures are taken to escape the approaching judgment.
If the preacher is faithful to his Sender, he will speak in such a way that his words do not allow any misunderstanding about the situation in which his listeners find themselves. The consequence is then: “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself” (Pro 22:3a). Whoever converts to God will find protection with the Lord Jesus. If the people would repent, they would escape judgment.
The enemy, the judgment, comes to his prey silently and with the speed of an eagle (Deu 28:49). As prey is here called “the house of the LORD”. It is possible to think here of the temple, although it is not in Israel, but in Jerusalem in Judah. It is more likely that “the house of the LORD” refers to Israel as a whole. Israel as such is also a dwelling place for God. In any case, the judgment is announced in connection with the dwelling place of God in the midst of His people.
Where God dwells, everything must correspond to His Being. If that, despite many exhortations, does not happen, God can do nothing but judge the evil and the evildoers. The same goes for the church now: “For [it is] time for judgment to begin with the household of God” (1Pet 4:17a).
The reason for the announced judgment is given. God has made a covenant with them. They have transgressed that. God has given His law. They have rebelled against it. The people have become unfaithful to their covenant with Him. Not only have they ignored His statements, but they have also reproached Him and openly declared that they do not want to abide by them.
This audacity is also found in today’s religious man. That man professes to have a connection with God, but he reserves the right to give his own interpretation of it. In the same way he deals with the Word of God. He reads it, but explains it as he sees fit. How God intended it, he does not care.
2 A Confession of the Lips
2 They cry out to Me,
“My God, we of Israel know You!”
They still live under the delusion that in their need they can call upon God as His people. But that is self-deception. The statement that they know Him is nothing but a confession of the lips, without truth in the heart (Mt 7:21; 25:11-12; Lk 13:26-27). It is precisely because they have knowledge of God that they are all the more guilty of deviating from Him. Only when there is true humility will God listen when an appeal is made to Him.
As in choruses, the people respond to the announcement of judgment. Some say “my God”, others say “we … know You”. With this they want to express that it is unthinkable for them that God will give them up to the judgment. Surely that is not possible? They are the covenant people, aren’t they?
3 The Good
3 Israel has rejected the good;
The enemy will pursue him.
For “the good” can also be read here, as in the first letter of Peter, ‘the Good One’ (1Pet 3:13). It is clear who is meant by ‘the Good One’: God. Instead of being diligent in following the good or following the Good One, Israel abhors the good and therefore the Good One.
They have despised His law. The law is said to be good (Rom 7:12-21). Doing the law meant life for Israel. But Israel has rebelled against God’s law. Therefore, the enemy will pursue him. It is impossible to say ‘my God’ and not listen to Him. This disobedience is expressed in the abhorrence of His Word and thus of Himself.
4 Kings and Idols
4 They have set up kings, but not by Me;
They have appointed princes, but I did not know [it].
With their silver and gold they have made idols for themselves,
That they might be cut off.
In this verse two sins are mentioned:
1. the people have set up kings according to their own discretion, and
2. it has committed idolatry.
Because it was not God, but the people who have set up kings in their own authority, all the kings who succeeded Jeroboam II are not mentioned at the beginning of this book of the Bible (Hos 1:1). God is not known in it, they have ignored Him (cf. Isa 31:1). That setting up kings outside of God is already present in the bud in their request for a king like the nations (1Sam 8:1-10). In Saul they get the king to their taste. This is repeated in King Jeroboam I (1Kgs 12:20). After Jehu, revolution and manslaughter made kings disappear and appear. All this can only result in their destruction.
Today in Christianity people are also busy arranging things according to their own ideas. How God thinks about it is not asked. His Word is explained as it suits people. This is perceptible in all kinds of groups and churches. They try to make everyone happy. Teachers are chosen for themselves, according to everyone’s taste (2Tim 4:3).
Sometimes this selfish action is defended with pious sounding but misleading arguments. It is said that you do not have to pray for everything, do you? Surely you do not have to speak about your faith in everything, do you? You have to be businesslike, you have to look at things soberly, you have to use your sober mind that God has given you well. That is how reasoning is done and that is how things come about ‘outside of Him’.
Kings are set up without consulting God; that is the political field. In the religious field it is even worse. God has been replaced by idols! To this end they abuse their silver and gold. Idolatry is the root of all sins, through which man can enjoy nothing of what God wants to give him.
This abomination for God is also the great danger for which the Christian is warned. John warns in the last verse of his first letter, in which he wrote about the Lord Jesus as eternal life in the believer: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1Jn 5:21).
5 How Long?
5 He has rejected your calf, O Samaria, [saying],
“My anger burns against them!”
How long will they be incapable of innocence?
The idolatry is denounced. It takes place in the land of Samaria, in imitation of the calf in Bethel. God expresses His abhorrence about it. How long must He endure it before they will cleanse themselves of these abominations? The question “how long?” indicates God’s desire for their recovery, it shows His longsuffering. The LORD calls with His heart and that cannot be said of Israel, which is what is lacking in them. Their very heart is impure in its motives. It is not innocent.
6 The End of the Idol
6 For from Israel is even this!
A craftsman made it, so it is not God;
Surely the calf of Samaria will be broken to pieces.
The calf is human work, it does not come from God. A handmade god is not a god. Yet man, in his foolishness and blindness, believes that hand-made gods are indeed gods. When Paul is accused of exposing this foolishness, he gets the whole crowd against him (Acts 19:26-28). Apart from being foolish and nonsensical, it is also a terrible sin.
Isaiah also shows in a mocking tone the folly of kneeling before the work of human hands. A little sober thinking should make someone understand its foolishness. Isaiah describes a man who goes to the forest and cuts down a tree there that he has cultivated himself. He uses part of that tree to make a fire so he can bake bread. Of another part of the same tree he makes a carved statue and kneels down in front of it (Isa 44:13-19).
What remains of the statue are only pieces or ashes, an example of the powerlessness of the idol to protect himself and his worshippers. What Moses did with the golden calf will happen to it: “He took the calf which they had made and burned [it] with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink [it]” (Exo 32:20).
7 Sowing and Reaping
7 For they sow the wind
And they reap the whirlwind.
The standing grain has no heads;
It yields no grain.
Should it yield, strangers would swallow it up.
Every act performed by a human being has consequences. Good deeds have good consequences, bad deeds have bad consequences. It can be seen in nature. Good seed gives a good harvest, bad seed gives a bad harvest. A human being ‘sows’ words and deeds all day long. Everything he does has certain consequences, for himself and possibly also for others. Sometimes those consequences are dramatic, sometimes they are not perceptible or measurable. In any case God always takes note of them.
Every word and every deed is weighed and judged by God. A person is either busy with and for himself, or with and for God. That is the background of everything he says or does. Paul tells the legal believers of the churches in Galatia that a man reaps what he has sown (Gal 6:7-8; Hos 10:13; Job 4:8; Pro 22:8). The idolatrous worshippers, Israel, sow wind. “Wind” refers to the emptiness of Israel’s sin; the “whirlwind” or storm they will harvest speaks of God’s judgment and destruction. According to the law of multiplication, what is harvested is always more than what is sown: the wind has become a storm, a power that destroys.
In all the sowing of sin by the people, any hope of fruit is futile, in vain (Ecc 5:15; Hab 2:13). Fruitlessness is the result. There is no fruit for them, they are hungry, but there is also no fruit for God. And if there is some fruit anyway, it is all swallowed up by strangers. And even that is not the end. The following verse shows an even greater emptiness.
8 No Vessel for Honor
8 Israel is swallowed up;
They are now among the nations
Like a vessel in which no one delights.
Not only has the fruit been swallowed up (verse 7), but Israel itself has disappeared, swallowed up by its enemies. This refers here not so much to the scattering by the Assyrians, but more to the complete mixing with the peoples, as a result of which they have lost their own identity as a people for many centuries. Israel has become a worthless and useless “vessel” (cf. Jer 22:28a).
Who as a person or as a people, but also as a local church, does not or no longer fulfill God’s purpose, will have nothing attractive for all who look at it with God’s eyes. The loss of that attractiveness is caused by the introduction of worldly elements, through which one thinks to be able to promote oneself. But those who think they can come across better by behaving like the world, will have to deal with the opposite effect: it repels.
Israel has given up its high calling and has become an object of contempt. By connecting with the nations, the people have been swallowed up. The same has happened to Christianity, both in its being despised and in its being swallowed up. In opposition to this “vessel in which no one delights”, we can be a vessel for honor, useful to the master (2Tim 2:19-22).
9 A Wild Donkey
9 For they have gone up to Assyria,
[Like] a wild donkey all alone;
Ephraim has hired lovers.
A wild donkey is a shy animal. It lives in the steppes, far away from the noise of the city. With this Ephraim is compared, but as a contrast. The wild donkey, this animal without reason, shuns the contact with people in order to maintain its autonomy and independency (Job 39:5-7). Ephraim however, contrary to its divine destiny, enters into unnatural connections with the peoples around them. Instead of separating himself from Assyria, Ephraim gives evidence of love to Assyria (2Kgs 15:19) to make an alliance with it. They offer themselves for sale. They give gifts of love in order to be able to commit fornication.
What they should learn is that wild donkeys do not dare to come near people, because they could rob them of their freedom. But Israel lacks that wisdom. The people go to Assyria to connect with it and put their freedom at risk. It has actually lost its freedom.
10 False Hope
10 Even though they hire [allies] among the nations,
Now I will gather them up;
And they will begin to diminish
Because of the burden of the king of princes.
God says here that the people have nothing to expect “of the king of princes“, that is the king of Assyria. Even if it would seem that Assyria is responding to the rapprochement of Israel, God will make sure that their desired result will not be achieved. On the contrary, He will use this rapprochement to fulfill His judgments. He will use Assyria to gather His people in captivity. Assyria will not make friendship with them, but will scatter them among the nations. That burden will deprive them of all freedom of movement.
11 The Altars
11 Since Ephraim has multiplied altars for sin,
They have become altars of sinning for him.
God has given His people only two altars: the bronze burnt offering altar in the court of the temple and the golden altar of incense in the temple. David speaks of these two altars as places where a person can find rest (Psa 84:3). The bronze altar of burnt offering represents the cross of the Lord Jesus, where the sinner can get rid of the burden of his sins and where he can find rest for his conscience. The golden altar of incense speaks of the worship that one may bring to God.
All the other altars mentioned do show a semblance of religiosity, but are in reality only a cause for sin. They are altars conceived and erected by people. They speak of an approach to God in a way that is easy for mankind and does not take into account what God has said about approaching Him. Later Hosea refers to these altars again (Hos 10:1).
12 Treating God as a Stranger
12 Though I wrote for him ten thousand [precepts] of My law,
They are regarded as a strange thing.
Ephraim has been able to know the right way, the right path, but it does not want to listen to any teachings. They regard what God says as the words of a stranger. They do not listen to what He says, because it does not concern them, they think. They do not understand that this teaching of God is meant for them.
We too can deal with God’s Word as if He were a stranger to us. We only listen to Him when we have time or feel like it, or we consult Him by reading His Word only on special occasions. Sometimes we read the Bible to please our religious feelings, in which case reading the Bible can be experienced as a pleasant pastime.
What is lacking in all of this is the sober application of what God says in all areas of life. From Moses to Hosea, God has given an abundance of teaching, so that Israel has no excuse for not knowing God’s will.
13 Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice
13 As for My sacrificial gifts,
They sacrifice the flesh and eat [it],
[But] the LORD has taken no delight in them.
Now He will remember their iniquity,
And punish [them] for their sins;
They will return to Egypt.
If God’s Word is not listened to (verse 12), it makes no sense to sacrifice either. God does not value it then. He does not want those sacrifices. He does not even notice them. Moreover, they themselves eat of their sacrifices to their heart’s content, as the sons of the priest Eli did (1Sam 2:12-17). Their hearts are not focused on God, but on themselves. Therefore, the sacrifices they make are in God’s eyes only food for His people and not sacrifices for Him.
It is as with much that is called “worship” in Christianity. It comes down to the fact that you may and must immerse yourself in it, you enjoy it, you feast on it, and then you believe that God will also be very happy with it. We do not worry about the arranging of our lives according to God’s will. Reading and studying His Word is just an exhausting activity.
Still, our obedience is the only thing God is really waiting for. “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, [And] to heed than the fat of rams” (1Sam 15:22). Where obedience is not found, there may seem to be so much spiritual activity, but God cannot take it. He will bring all those religious people back to Egypt. That is, they will return to the slavery in which they used to be and which they have forgotten. This time the Assyrians will take them away into slavery (Hos 9:3; 11:5).
14 The Maker Forgotten
14 For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces;
And Judah has multiplied fortified cities,
But I will send a fire on its cities that it may consume its palatial dwellings.
There is more often talk about God as “Maker” (Deu 32:15; Job 35:10; Psa 100:3). What He makes belongs to Him and is for Him, to benefit from it and to rejoice in it. As a Maker, He has equipped His makings with all kinds of functions, so that His makings can function optimally, with a perfect harmony between the different functions. He has given in His law a detailed manual for His creation.
But unfortunately, it has forgotten to remain dependent on its Maker. They have ignored his ‘instructions for use’. They have given their own interpretation to their functioning. They have forgotten who they are and what their task is. When entering into the bond with His people, God said: “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel” (Exo 19:6). That is what they have lost.
The word “forgot” here literally means “put it in the wrong place”. Forgetting God is not the same as not thinking about Him, but not giving Him the place He deserves. For example, we can assume as a fact that God exists, intellectually agree that He is there, without this affecting our behavior. In this way we can banish God until the Sunday meeting or church service and leave Him there until the next Sunday.
If God has been given a wrong place, He has lost His active power over our lives. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses warns the people time and again not to forget God, not to give Him the wrong place by not taking Him into account. In that case God is, so to speak, banished to the temple and left there.
If the people no longer give God the place that is due to Him, this can be seen, among other things, in the activities they develop. Instead of occupying themselves with His house, they are building their own temples or palaces and fortified cities. Temples and palaces both point to space, vastness. It does not matter if that space is used for worship or for pleasure. The origin is the will and lust of man. It is the desire for greatness, a building without God.
Building fortified cities looks at the attempt to obtain safety and security apart from God. Israel and Judah are addressed together again. They have forgotten their Maker and dedicate themselves to earthly splendor and greatness, palaces in which one lives luxuriantly, and solid cities in which one feels safe from the enemy. Safety is something that man is constantly looking for. He constantly lives in fear of what he can lose in terms of possessions and health.
As punishment, God will give it all up to the fire. Both Israel and Judah will have to deal with the judgment, each for the sin it has committed. Israel will be scattered by the Assyrians and Judah will be taken away in exile to Babylon.