"Israel Has Forgotten His Maker" (Hosea 8) March 6
Here again we see the root cause of Israel's problems—their broken covenant with God (verse 1). This is a serious matter, and Hosea must proclaim the warning as if with a trumpet (Hebrew shofar, ram's horn), an analogy of sounding an alarm familiar to readers of Bible prophecy (Isaiah 58:1; Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 33:3-6; Joel 2:1,15; Amos 3:6; Zephaniah 1:16; Zechariah 9:14; Matthew 24:31; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). Continued disobedience has removed Israel farther and farther away from God—to a point where, Hosea says, "Israel has forgotten his Maker" (Hosea 8:14), which, in turn, has led to even greater disobedience.
As in other verses, the eagle of verse 1 is most likely a reference here to Assyrian invasion: "Just as an eagle swiftly swoops down and snatches its prey, so Assyria would invade Israel and take its people into captivity" (Nelson Study Bible, note on verse 1). And as a bird of prey rends and tears its prey, so would Assyria deal with Israel.
Israel setting up kings against God's will does not refer to the monarchy in general. Rather, "this phrase alludes to the political turmoil surrounding the throne of the northern kingdom during the eighth century b.c., when," as referred to earlier, "four kings were assassinated during a 20-year period (7:4-7)" (note on 8:4). Since so much of Hosea's prophecies apply in some degree to the end-time, perhaps there will be similar assassinations and coups in the future. How strange this concept seems in the context of modern Israel's stable democracies. But much will change between now and the prophesied crisis at the close of this age.
The expression "your calf is rejected" (verse 5) literally means, in the original Hebrew, "your calf stinks." "Here again the golden calves of Bethel and Dan, which were so odious to God, are in view…. The rhetorical question at the close of the verse implies that there would never be a time when the idolatry of Israel would not be sinful" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, note on verse 5). In this sense, the calves are metaphorical for Israel's continuing idolatry in general. It's worth noting that the same Hebrew word is used for "rejected" in verse 3. In this case, the implication is that Israel thinks that God's way stinks.
Israel has sown nothing but "wind" (verse 7), representing, as it does in Ecclesiastes, vanity and emptiness. "Morally speaking, Israel had planted wind, symbolizing its moral bankruptcy, and would reap a whirlwind, symbolizing the coming judgment" (Nelson, note on verse 7). "Wind is one of the most powerful forces of nature…. It is no surprise, then, that the O[ld] T[estament] uses the imagery of a powerful windstorm to picture calamity and irresistible divine judgment" ("Whirlwind," Dictionary of Bible Imagery, p. 943). The whirlwind mentioned here refers to a high wind such as a tornado. Other Bible passages also refer to the whirlwind as one of God's methods of judgment against evil (Jeremiah 23:19; 30:23; Ezekiel 13:11, 13, Amos 1:14; Zechariah 7:14; Proverbs 10:25; Job 21:18).
Israel cannot win against God's wrath. The crop will be so damaged that it cannot produce grain—and what little it might produce will be consumed by foreign powers. The warning is just as much for today as for the time of Hosea. No matter how great and powerful the nations of modern-day Israel have been, they will be swallowed up. Even going to other nations such as Assyria for help (going to Europe for help in our time) will not ultimately profit. Indeed, hiring "lovers," or allies, will backfire, bringing Israel under the increasing yoke of the "king of princes" (Hosea 8:9-10)—i.e., the Assyrian emperor. The Assyrian emperor of the end time, who seems to be the primary reference here, will apparently be a dictator over a united Europe. In the book of Revelation he is called "the beast."
Israel's "altars for sin," where sins are supposed to be atoned for through sacrifices, have become "altars for sinning" (verse 11). Religion itself, instead of being a means of worship and seeking God, becomes a means of sin—rejected by God. God's law is spurned by the Israelites as "strange"—unfamiliar and unwelcome (verse 12). He had given specific instructions about how He was to be worshiped, but Jeroboam had set up his own altars in Bethel and Dan. Likewise, the nations of modern-day Israel have followed false Christianity's numerous changes of God's method of worship, replacing His commanded worship on the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week (Exodus 20:8-11), with worship on Sunday, the first day of the week, and replacing God's Holy Days (Leviticus 23) with ancient, pre-Christian pagan festivals such as Easter and Christmas. In its entry on "Easter," Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words states: "pascha… mistranslated 'Easter' in Acts 12:4, kjv, denotes the Passover (rv)…. The term Easter is not of Christian origin. It is another form of Astarte, one of the titles of the Chaldean goddess, the queen of heaven.… From this Pasch the Pagan festival of 'Easter' was quite distinct and was introduced into the apostate Western religion, as part of the attempt to adapt Pagan festivals to Christianity" (New Testament Section). And all this despite God's clear instruction that we not incorporate pagan worship practices into our worship of Him (Deuteronomy 12:29-32).
Because Israel's worship places, considered places for seeking divine forgiveness, are actually places where teachings and practices contrary to God are promoted and participated in, God will not forgive and forget the Israelites' sins through them. Instead, He will "remember their iniquity and puni their sins" (Hosea 8:13). God is so unhappy with Israel as to send the Israelites back into the captivity they came out of when they left Egypt. We should realize that what God desires of people is all for our own good. He's unhappy with the Israelites harming themselves and knows in His wisdom that the extreme measure of captivity is necessary to bring them to repentance.
While verse 13 seems to say that Israel will actually go to Egypt, 9:3 makes it clear that Egypt is being used metaphorically of exile and slavery—and that the actual location of captivity will be Assyria, parallel with Amos' warning of "captivity beyond Damascus" (Amos 5:27). However, as explained in tomorrow's highlights, a number of Israelites will apparently end up in Egypt as well.
While certainly a warning of ancient invasion and deportation, this is also a warning of calamity that is yet future. Indeed, the warning of coming fire on the cities of Israel and Judah that will devour palaces was also directly given, practically word for word, by Amos as a reference to, primarily, end-time destruction (Amos 1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2, 5).