Hosea 9:8

8. The watchman of Ephraim was with my God: but the prophet is a snare of a fowler in all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God. 1

8. Speculator Ephraim cum Deo meo, Propheta laqueus aucupis super omnes vias ejus, odium (hoc est, res execrabilis: est idem nomen quo usus est in proximo versu: res igitur execrabilis) in domo Dei sui.


Interpreters obscure this verse by their various opinions. Almost all suppose a verb to be understood that Ephraim "had set" a watchman. But I see no need to make any change in the words of the Prophet: I therefore take them simply as they are. Now some think that there is here a comparison between the old Prophets who had not turned aside from God's command, and those flatterers who pretended the name of God, while they were the ministers of Satan to deceive. They therefore thus distinguish them, The watchman of Ephraim was with my God; that is, there was a time formerly when the watchmen of Ephraim were connected with God, and declared no strange doctrine, when they drew from the true fountain all that they taught; there was then a connection between God and the Prophets, for they depended on the mouth of God, and the Prophets delivered to the people, as from hand to hand, whatever God commanded; there was then nothing corrupt, or impure, or adventitious in their words. But now the Prophet is a snare of a fowler; that is, the dice is turned, a deplorable change has taken place; for now the Prophets lay snares to draw people by their disciples into destruction; and this abomination bears rule, that is, this monstrous wickedness prevails in the temple of God: these Prophets live not in caves nor traverse public roads, but they occupy a place in the temple of God; so that of the sacred temple of God they make a brothel for the impostures of Satan. Such is their view.

But I read the verse as connected together, The watchman of Ephraim, who ought to have been with God, even the Prophet, is a snare of a fowler on all his ways. The former view would have indeed met my approbations did not the words appear to be forced; and I do not love strained meanings. This is the reason which prevents me from subscribing to an exposition which in itself I approve, as it embraces a useful doctrine. But this simple view is more correct, that the watchman of Ephraim, a Prophet, is a snare of a fowler: and he adds, with God; for it is the duty of teachers to have nothing unconnected with God. Hosea then shows what Prophets ought to do, not what they may do. A Prophet then is he who is a watchman of Israel; for this command, we know, is given in common to all Prophets -- to be as it were on their watch-tower, and to be vigilant over the people of God. It is therefore no wonder that the Prophet dignifies with his own title all those who were then teachers among God's people. But he thus doubles their crime, by saying that they were only keen and sharp-sighted to snare the people. Then the watchmen of Israel, the Prophet, who was placed on the watch-tower to watch or to exercise vigilance over the safety of the whole people -- this Prophet was a snare of a fowler! But he triplicates the crime when he says, With my God: for as we have already observed, teachers could not faithfully discharge their office, except they were connected with God, and were able truly to testify that they brought forth nothing that was invented, but what the Lord himself had spoken, and that they were his organs. We now then apprehend the real meaning of the Prophet; and according to this view there is nothing strained in the words.

The Prophet also thus confirms what he had said before, that the Prophets were fools, that is, that their prophecies would at length appear empty and vain; for they could not prevent God from inflicting punishment on the wicked by their fallacious flatteries; he confirms this truth when he says, The watchmen of Ephraim is a snare of a fowler on all his ways: that is, he ought to have guided the people, and to have kept them safe from intrigues. But now the people could not move a foot without meeting with a snare; and whence came this snare but from false doctrine and impostures? What then was to be at last? Could the snares avail to make them cautious? By no means; but Satan thus hunts his prey, when he soothes the people by his false teachers, and keeps them, as it were, asleep, that they may not regard the hand of God. There was then no reason for the Israelites to think well of the fowlers by whom they were drawn into ruin.

This indignity is more emphatically expressed, when he says, that there was a detestable thing in the temple of God. There was not, indeed, a temple of God in Bethel, as we have often said; but as the people were wont to pretend the name of God, the Prophet, conceding this point, says, that these abominations were covered over by this pretence. There is then no need anxiously to inquire here, whether it was the temple at Samaria or at Bethel, or the house and sanctuary of God; for a concession proves not a thing to be so, but it is to speak according to the general opinion. So then the Prophet does not without reason complain, that the place, on which was inscribed the name of God, was profaned, and that, instead of the teaching of salvation, there was fowling everywhere, which drew the people into apostasy, and finally into utter ruin. It follows --

1 Bishop Horsley gives the following rendering of this verse: --

'The watchman of Ephraim is with his God.
The Prophet! the snare of the fowler is
Over all his ways. Vengeance against
the household of my God.'

For 'his,' instead of 'my' God in the first clause, there is the authority of many MSS: but for turning 'his' into 'my,' in the last clause there is no satisfactory authority: and there is nothing to justify the introducing of 'vengeance' for the word here used. The verb from which it is derived means to hate: and the noun as here formed signifies, no doubt, either the act or feeling of hating, or what is hated or is hateful. Calvin gives nearly its meaning -- 'res execrabilis' -- an execrable thing. I offer the following translation: --

'The watchman of Ephraim,
Before his God a Prophet,
Is a sanre of a fowler in all his ways,
An abomination in the house of his God.'

The first two lines designate his office -- a watchman and a Prophet before God; and the two last, his wicked conduct and base character. -- Ed.