COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
LESSON NUMBER 34
“ 8:4 They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off. 5 Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off; mine anger is kindled against them: how long will it be ere they attain to innocency? 6 For from Israel was it also: the workman made it; therefore it is not God: but the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces. 7 For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.” (Hosea 8:4-7)
The Lord continues in His assessment of Israel, confirming that He is righteous in His reaction to their manners and condition. Those unacquainted with the Lord might cite Moses’ final promise to Israel – “He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deut 31:6). As many in our day, they might declare that “God will not forsake us no matter what we do. Even if we are unfaithful to Him, He will be faithful to us.” However, that is a corruption of the Lord’s Word, not an accurate rehearsal of it. Through Hosea, the Lord is confirming there are certain consequences to sin. They are righteous consequences. They are the aftermaths of disobedience and rebellion. Although this is not a popular thing to consider, it something that is necessary. Those in Christ are reminded, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31). In the book of Hosea, we have an example of people falling into the hands of the living God. It should assist us to determine to avoid this kind of judgment – and there is grace to maintain this avoidance.
THEY PROCEEDED WITHOUT GOD
“ 8:4 They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.”
How serious is it when a person or people forsake the God who delivered them? Judging from the massive numbers of people who appear to have departed from the Lord, it might be conjectured it is not a critical matter. We are living in a time when church people have grown accustomed to people leaving their first love, falling away, and becoming lukewarm. In fact, this was even more common in the time of Hosea and the other Prophets. In the case of Israel, this was a manner that characterized them from the very beginning. After forty years of uninterrupted ministry to this people Moses confessed, “Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you” (Deut 9:24). God Himself said of them, “All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people” (Rom 10:21). At Mount Sinai, when the Lord had delivered the Law and covenant to the people, He said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people” (Deut 9:13).
Yet, God could not grow accustomed to the ways of Israel. The Divine nature cannot become acclimated to seeing iniquity in those upon whom love and mercy has been bestowed. There is no point at which God becomes tolerant of sin and able to behold it. At the time Hosea delivered his prophecy nearly seven hundred years had passed since Israel was delivered from Egypt. However, in all of that time, God had not grown accustomed to their ways. Today, I do not believe this aspect of the Divine nature is generally known.
THEY HAVE SET UP KINGS. The kingdom of Israel first began this practice when, following Solomon’s death, they rejected the house of David. It is said of that occasion, “So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents. But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. Then king Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the tribute; and all Israel stoned him with stones, that he died. Therefore king Rehoboam made speed to get him up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day. And it came to pass, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was come again, that they sent and called him unto the congregation, and made him king over all Israel: there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only” (1 Kgs 12:16-20). That rebellion began a succession of kings in Israel – some were selected by Israel, and some took the throne by violence. Jeroboam (22 yrs), Nadab (2 yrs), Baasha (24 yrs), Elah (2 yrs), Zimri (7 days), Omri (12 yrs), Ahab (22 yrs), Ahaziah (2 yrs), Jehoram (12 yrs), Jehu (28 yrs), Jehoahaz (17 yrs), Jehoash (16 yrs), Jeroboam II (41 yrs), Zachariah (6 mths). The final kings siezed the thrown by violence: Shallum (1 mth), Menahem (10 yrs), Pekahiah (2 yrs), Pekah (20 yrs), Hoshea (9 yrs). During the reign of Hoshea, Israel’s last king, the king of Assyria went throughout the land, besieging it for three years. He then captured Israel’s capital Samaria, and “carried Israel away into Assyria” (2 Kgs 17:5-6). This took place during Hosea’s ministry. The kingdom of Israel never recovered from this overthrow.
Israel’s kings were not all voted in or chosen by the people. They did choose Jeroboam (1 Kgs 12:20), the first of this motley line of kings. Many of them seized the throne by violence. Yet, God says they were “set up” by Israel. They reflected the mind of the people, not the mind of the Lord. Therefore they were considered Israel’s choice. Seven times it is said of certain of these kings, “And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, and followed the sins of Jeroboam (the king they chose!)” (2 Kgs 13:2,11; 14:24; 15:9,18,24,28).
The day Israel chose Jeroboam to be their king, they became responsible for the wicked train of rulers who followed him! This could very well account for the deluge of unrighteous leaders, judges, and lawyers that have flooded our own land. They are, no doubt, the direct result of the people making an ungodly choice in the past.
THEY HAVE MADE PRINCES. Princes are captains, generals, or governors who operated under the king. The people did not seek the Lord’s approval for these leaders. When God said, “I did not know it,” He does not mean He was not aware of their choice, but that they chose these leaders “without My approval.” NIV They did not consult God!
THEIR SILVER AND GOLD. They took the silver and the gold that was given to them by God, and made idols of them. As Ezekiel said, “Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of My gold and of My silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them” (Ezek 16:17). The result of this deed was that God Himself cut the people off: “that they (the people) may be cut off.” Thus Divine protection was withdrawn, and they no longer occupied a favored status. They became victims instead of victors.
THEY MADE IT, BUT GOD BROKE IT
“ 5 Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off; mine anger is kindled against them: how long will it be ere they attain to innocency? 6 For from Israel was it also: the workman made it; therefore it is not God: but the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces.” You must not forget that we are being exposed to a Divine analysis – the assessment of a people who had forsaken the Lord in preference of their own will. Worldly analysts would have traced their fall to other things. Perhaps they had been deprived of advantages, or abused by thoughtless rulers. Maybe they did not have enough education, or lacked the skills necessary to maintain a profitable society. It might even be that they were backward and afraid, and thus were the more easily exploited. All such thinking is nothing but the expression of foolishness. God remains the “Governor among the nations” (Psa 22:28). He was superintending Israel’s affairs, even though they did not know it. Now He will explain to them WHY they will fall upon hard times.
THY CALF. This was a calf that belonged to Israel – one of its own making. It refers to an idol, later called “the calf of Samaria” (v 6). Hosea makes four references to idolatrous calves. (1) “Thy calf” (8:6), “the calf of Samaria” (8:6), “the calves of Bethaven” (10:5), and kissing the idol “calves” (13:2).
You will remember that Israel once had Aaron fashion them a golden calf at the foot of Sinai (Ex 32:4-8). They ascribed their deliverance from Egypt to this calf saying, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (Ex 32:4). The whole affair angered the Lord, and He threatened to consume them on the spot (Ex 32:8-10). Now, over six hundred and ninety years later, the people have done the same thing, fashioning a calf and putting it in Samaria, their capital city – “the calf of Samaria.”
It is for this very reason that they will be “cast off” – and this time there will be no intercession as there was at the foot of Sinai (Ex 32:11-14). Even if Moses was to return with Samuel to intercede for this people, the Lord says, “My mind could not be toward this people” (Jer 15:1). Three times God commanded Jeremiah not to pray for the people (Jer 7:16; 11:14; 14:11). He told Ezekiel that Noah, Daniel, and Job dwelling together among them, could give God no reason to deliver this people (Ezek 14:14,20).
KINDLED ANGER. It is a frightening thing to read of the anger of the Lord being kindled against someone – anyone! Kindled wrath is wrath that has fuel thrown upon it, so that it waxes hotter and more destructive. Eleven times we read of the Lord’s anger being “kindled” against someone (Ex 4:14; Num 12:9; 25:3; 29:27; Josh 7:1; 2 Sam 6:7; 24:1; 2 Kgs 13:3; 1 Chron 13:10; 2 Chron 25:15; Isa 5:25). Three times the people were warned to do everything in their power to avoid God’s wrath being kindled against them (Deut 6:15; 7:4; Josh 23:16). Those who attempt to exploit the mercy and longsuffering of the Lord do well to remember that His wrath can be kindled against His own people (Psa 106:40; Isa 5:25). Hearty effort is to be expended to avoid such a judgment.
HOW LONG WILL IT BE? Other versions read, “How long will they be incapable of innocence?” NASB “How long will they be incapable of purity?” NIV and “How long will they be incapable of being cleansed?” DOUAY
Is there such a thing as being INCAPABLE of being innocent, pure, and cleansed? Some would deny such a thing is possible. They imagine the will is “free,” so that men can choose the Lord, and walk out of the prison of sin whenever they want. Such a thought is nothing more than a theological myth. The question posed by the Lord is not IF they are incapable, but how long they will remain in that incapable condition. Sin does render people “incapable of innocence.” If God does not “give” them repentance so they can acknowledge the truth, it is not possible for them to escape (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim 2:25).
If you are tempted to dabble with sin, ponder whether or not you will be able to recover from it. Do not take for granted that such a recovery is guaranteed. Jesus once said, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24). Early in His ministry He said to some men sent to him by the Pharisees, “Ye shall seek Me, and shall not find Me” (John 7:34). And again, “ye shall seek Me, and shall die in your sins” (John 8:21). Sobering words, indeed!
THE WORKMAN MADE IT. The “calf” of reference was made by a human workman, not God: “therefore it is not God.” Whatever man makes, whether tangible or a concept, is not God. It cannot strengthen, bring peace, produce victory, or make people better! The epitaph over every work of man is this: it “shall be broken in pieces.” All who have trusted in such things will be broken with them. About this, there must be no doubt.
SOWING AND REAPING
“ 7 For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.”
SOWN TO THE WIND. The text is very precise. It does NOT say “sown TO the wind,” but “sown THE wind.” The idea is NOT that they sowed their seed during a strong wind that carried it away. Rather, it was the wind itself that was sown: “they planted the wind,” NLT and “they have been planting the wind.” BBE
Remember, this is a description of Israel’s religious activity. They were looking to other gods (3:1; 4:17; 8:4; 13:2; 14:3,8). It is where they put their trust that was the issue (7:11; 8:9; 10:13). It is what they DID NOT KNOW about the Lord that was the point of contention (2:8). Their miserable condition existed because they did not respond to the Lord (9:17). Their religion was their weak point. That is WHY they became idolatrous, sought help from other nations, and began to practice all manner of immorality, while consorting with the heathen. Their religion was nothing more than sowing the wind.
This is a phrase denoting absolute vanity. It speaks of a religion with no substance . It has nothing with which God can work. There is no life in it. The Holy Spirit cannot use it, and thus it is like throwing a handful of air into the ground, expecting a crop of grain to spring forth from it. It cannot happen. There is a religion that is nothing more than “wind.” There is no substance to it, but it is only empty and vain appearance. This is an Old Covenant way of saying “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim 3:5). This is religion without faith, without power, and without heart: WIND! There is nothing in it that God can bless – nothing He can use or make beneficial to the soul .
REAPING THE WHIRLWIND. Vain religion will have a result – but it will not be a favorable one. What is reaped will not come from “the wind,” but from God . Elsewhere it is called “the whirlwind of the Lord” (Jer 30:23). The Lord alone can create a time called “the day of the whirlwind” (Amos 1:14). He alone has “His way in the whirlwind,” which comes from Him to do His work (Nah 1:3).
The word “whirlwind” is more literally translated hurricane. It is when the wind loses its helpful and cleansing utility, and works together for destruction. Spiritually, it is when Divine qualities that can work together for good – lifting, delivering, and sustaining the people – work together for their destruction. Thus we read of the “whirlwind” taking people away in Divine wrath (Psa 58:9), removing the wicked (Prov 10:25; Isa 40:24), and scattering the people (Isa 41:16). It is also associated with Divine “fury” (Jer 23:19; 30:23).
And why is such a judgment rendered against the kingdom of Israel? Because their religion was vain like the wind. There was no reality in it, no substance, and no power. It consisted of empty routines through which God could not work. There are some rather alarming implications in this text – implications the modern church would do well to grasp.
NO STALK. Other versions read, “The stalk has no bud,” NKJV “The standing grain has no heads,” NASB “his grain has no stem,” BBE and “the stalks of wheat wither.” NLT The idea is not that no stalk ever appeared, but that the stalk was never brought to maturity. The only reason for the stalk is to bear the grain. The idea here is that there were no productive stalks – a field of nothing but chaff! This is another way of saying, “They have sown the wind.” From the standpoint of reaping, their seed would yield nothing more than if they had sown a handful of wind into the ground, all the while expecting a bountiful harvest.
NO MEAL. The “bud” is what would sprout from the seed. The tender sprout would push out of the ground and grow, but yield nothing conducive for food. “Meal” is the flour that could be produced from grain. Thus, the whole purpose for sowing was cast down to the ground. The sprout would be useless, and the stalk as well. This is a symbolic way of saying their religion would bring no profit to them, or give them any advantage before the Lord.
STRANGERS WILL SWALLOW IT. Perhaps there would be a few stalks here and there that would yield some preliminary fruit – like the “firstfruits.” As little as the fruitage might be, however, the Israelites would not be able to eat it: “foreigners would swallow it up.” NIV If there was any benefit at all found within the kingdom of Israel, it would only bring advantages to the heathen – the ones in whom they were trusting.
The saints of the Lord can be advantaged by this text. Human efforts alone are all like the wind, that can yield no profitable harvest. Even more than that, “dead works,” which are works without faith, also stir up the indignation of the God of heaven. They set the forces of Divine wrath in the pattern of a destructive hurricane that will leave “neither root nor branch” (Mal 4:1). This accounts for the vain and powerless religion of our day.