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Hosea 8:1 says,
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.
Here is a clear and simple statement telling us why the Assyrians were coming against the house of the Lord. It was not because Assyria was so intelligent and powerful, nor because they had better weapons of war. It was instead “because they have transgressed My covenant and rebelled against My law.”
The law was given by Moses, setting forth the basic principles of God’s character to which the nation was to conform its own character and way of life. The covenant was the agreement which God and Israel had made in Exodus 19:8, when the people vowed to be obedient to God—that is, to His law. This is always the reason God put Israel into captivity, both then and now.
The New Covenant does not negate the terms of the Old Covenant, but obligates God to intervene in order to make the people obedient so that they may be His people. As we have shown earlier, this is accomplished by the Holy Spirit, first through the feast of Pentecost and then through the feast of Tabernacles. Without divine intervention, the terms of the Old Covenant cannot be fulfilled. Only those who are under the New Covenant can hope to remain free of captivity, both internal and external.
Did Israel Know God?
Hosea 8:2-4 continues,
2 They cry out to Me, “My God, we of Israel know Thee!” 3 But Israel has rejected the good; the enemy will pursue him. 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.
The Israelites thought that they knew God, even in the midst of their idol worship. In saying, “We of Israel know Thee,” they imply that their worship was superior to that of other nations. Although they made use of idols, they thought that they were worshiping the God of Israel. For some inexplicable reason, they thought that they knew the God of Israel.
This blind condition has been passed down to all of their succeeding generations. Only a remnant has ever truly known God. The church today is no different, for many reject the law of God, if not in theory, then in practice. Even those who claim to know the law often approach it from an Old Covenant mindset, which tends to make them legalistic rather than lawful. In order to truly know God, one must receive such knowledge by revelation through the Holy Spirit. The knowledge of God is not attained through one’s fleshly eyes and ears.
1 Corinthians 2:9, 10 KJV says, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard… but God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit.” Hence, the source of God-knowledge is not by carnal learning, but by the revelation of His Spirit. Even Christians cannot claim to know God by studying the Bible or by hearing a man preach—unless the Holy Spirit is involved in some way to turn it from a soulish study into a spiritual revelation.
The Gracious One
The prophet says (NASB) that “Israel has rejected the good.” The word translated “good” is tove. This word is used later in Hosea 14:2, where the NASB reads, “and receive us graciously.” Dr. Bullinger comments on this word, saying, “Eminent Jewish commentators take this as a title of the Messiah.” Hence, Hosea 8:3 ought to read, “Israel has rejected the Gracious One,” that is, the Messiah.
In Exodus 33:18, 19 Moses asked God, “show me Thy glory,” and God responded by saying, “I Myself will make all My goodness [tove] pass before you.”
The glory of God is His “goodness” or “graciousness.” It is who He is. But if we are ignorant of His glorious nature, we will reject Him, even if we think we have accepted Him! The Israelite problem in Hosea’s time was that they had a wrong image of God and did not truly know Him.
The Israelites thought they knew their God, but the evidence testified against them. They had set up kings who were not appointed by God, princes that had no calling for such positions, and they used God-owned gold and silver to make idols. When Israel revolted against Judah and set up their own kings, God was in it, because He had decreed judgment against the house of David for the sins of Solomon. However, the Israelites ought to have sought God’s will in choosing kings for themselves, for then they might have been blessed. But instead, they took a vote to enable carnal minds to choose their kings.
The Golden Calf
Hosea 8:5, 6 says,
5 He has rejected your calf, O Samaria, saying, “My anger burns against them!” How long will they be incapable of innocence? 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.
Hosea’s logic is simple. Images are man-made; therefore, they are not God. They are only gods made in the image of man, gods that men can understand—even if they fear those gods for demanding human sacrifice. Men understand fear, because fear is a carnal emotion that the soul understands. Grace and true goodness, on the other hand, are revealed from Spirit to spirit. The human spirit is the point of contact between heaven and earth. The true source of divine knowledge does not originate from the human soul, but from the Spirit of God speaking through the human spirit.
The golden calf mentioned in Hosea 8:5 originated by government decree from Samaria, the capital of Israel, but it was actually located in Bethel, the so-called “house of God.” As long as this idol of gold remained as the man-made god of Israel, the nation was “incapable of innocence.” Unfortunately, when Israel was deported to Assyria, the golden calf remained as the national god of the dispersed Israelites, and the problem persisted to our day.
The Lost Birthright
Hosea 8:7 says,
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.
Here again the prophet refers to the name of Ephraim, “double portion of fruit,” but says that Ephraim had no fruit. The Birthright was lost. The Fruitfulness Mandate was unfulfilled. And even if some fruit should appear, “strangers would swallow it up,” for such is the judgment of God upon the disobedient nation, prophesied in Deuteronomy 28:33,
33 A people whom you do not know shall eat up the produce of your ground and all your labors, and you shall never be anything but oppressed and crushed continually.
When Israel was destroyed and the people taken as captives to Assyria, it appeared that the Birthright of Joseph was lost. But God always retained an overcoming remnant for Himself through whom the promises of God would be fulfilled. Nonetheless, even they were affected by the sin of the nation and the judgment of God as well. No doubt God preserved them, but they too were required to go into captivity with the others.
Hosea 8:8 continues,
8 Israel is swallowed up; they are now among the nations like a vessel in which no one delights. 9 For they have gone up to Assyria, like a wild donkey all alone; Ephraim has hired lovers.
Here the prophet recognizes that Israel (led by Ephraim) was the “fruit” that the Assyrians were swallowing up. It was not only their grain from the field. Israel was supposed to be the grain of God, for God had planted Israel in the land in order to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. This metaphor is clearly seen in Isaiah 5 and in Jesus’ parable of the vineyard in Matthew 21:33-44. But when Israel was in rebellion, God gave Israel to be swallowed up by Assyria.
We have already seen how Israel was “a silly dove” being swallowed up by Assyria. Now Israel is pictured as grain and as bread for Assyria.
Again, Israel is pictured as “a wild donkey” (Hebrew: pereh), who “has hired lovers.” Wild donkeys had a reputation for seeking mates in the time of heat. Another prophet made this comparison in Jeremiah 2:24 in a message to Jerusalem, saying,
24 A wild donkey [pereh] accustomed to the wilderness, that sniffs the wind in her passion, in the time of her heat who can turn her away? All who seek her will not become weary; in her month they will find her.
The prophet says that the people of Jerusalem, like Israel, were like wild donkeys when it came to searching for lovers (i.e., false gods and foreign alliances). It is a picture that fits well with Gomer’s adultery.
By referring to Israel and Judah as wild donkeys, the prophets essentially call them spiritual Ishmaelites, because the angel told Hagar that her son would be a pereh awdawm, “wild donkey man” in Genesis 16:12. This revelation invoked the law found in Exodus 13:13, which says that the first-born of a donkey had to be redeemed with a lamb. Moses adds that “every first-born of man among your sons you shall redeem,” showing that God considered Israel to be wild donkeys from the beginning.
In fact, it was only because of the Passover lamb that the people were redeemed from God and had the potential of becoming the sheep of His pasture. Unfortunately, it was easier to take the people out of Egypt than to take Egypt (prophetic Hagar) out of the people. Paul says that the Old Covenant is Hagar (Galatians 4:24, 25), and so anyone who adheres to the Old Covenant or who has an Old Covenant mindset is a wild donkey in the eyes of God. It is only when one is redeemed by the true Lamb of God that a person can be transformed into a lamb (arnion).
Ishmael was a prophetic wild donkey, because his father was Abram and his mother was an Egyptian. Prophetically speaking, he represents those who have the faith of Abram but the life style of Egypt, a mixture of truth and idolatry. Israel claimed Yahweh as their Father, but in practice, they had adopted foreign gods and had rejected The Gracious One, who alone could have redeemed them.
The lawless ways of Israel made them spiritual donkeys and spiritual Ishmaelites. This was the message of the trumpet in Hosea 8:1, which the prophet was inspired to preach to the people.