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2. Artificial Kings and Artificial Gods.

Hosea viii. 4-13.

The curse of such a state of dissipation as that to which Israel had fallen is that it produces no men. Had the people had in them "the root of the matter,"277 had there been the stalk and the fibre of a national consciousness and purpose, it would have blossomed to a man. In the similar time of her outgoings upon the world Prussia had her Frederick the Great, and Israel, too, would have produced a leader, a heaven-sent king, if the national spirit had not been squandered on foreign trade and fashions. But after the death of Jeroboam every man who rose to eminence in Israel, rose, not on the nation, but only on the fevered and transient impulse of some faction; and through the broken years one party monarch was lifted after another to the brief tenancy of a blood-stained throne. They were not from God, these monarchs; but man-made, and sooner or later man-murdered. With his sharp insight Hosea likens these artificial kings to the artificial gods, also the work of men's hands; and till near the close of his book the idols of the sanctuary and the puppets of the throne form the twin targets of his scorn.

They have made kings, but not from Me; they have made princes, but I knew not. With their silver and their gold they have manufactured themselves idols, only that they550550   So LXX., but Hebrew it. may be cut off—king after king, idol upon idol. He loathes thy Calf, O Samaria, the thing of wood and gold which thou callest Jehovah. And God confirms this. Kindled is Mine anger against them! How long will they be incapable of innocence?—unable to clear themselves of guilt! The idol is still in his mind. For from Israel is it also—as much as the puppet-kings; a workman made it, and no god is it. Yea, splinters shall the Calf of Samaria become.551551   Davidson's Syntax, § 136, Rem. 1, and § 71, Rom. 4. Splinters278 shall everything in Israel become. For they sow the wind, and the whirlwind shall they reap. Indeed like a storm Hosea's own language now sweeps along; and his metaphors are torn into shreds upon it. Stalk it hath none: the sprout brings forth no grain: if it were to bring forth, strangers would swallow it.552552   So by the accents runs the verse, but, as Wellhausen has pointed out, both its sense and its assonance are better expressed by another arrangement: Hath it grown up? then it hath no shoot, nor bringeth forth fruit. ên lo ṣemach, b'li ya'aseh qemach.
    Yet to this there is a grammatical obstacle.
Nay, Israel hath let herself be swallowed up! Already are they become among the nations like a vessel there is no more use for. Heathen empires have sucked them dry. They have gone up to Assyria like a runaway wild-ass. Ephraim hath hired lovers.553553   Wellhausen's reading to Egypt with love gifts scarcely suits the verb go up. Notice the play upon P(h)ere', wild-ass and Ephra'[îm]. It is again the note of their mad dissipation among the foreigners. But if they thus give themselves away among the nations, I must gather them in, and then shall they have to cease a little from the anointing of a king and princes.554554   So LXX. reads. Heb.: they shall involve themselves with tribute to the king of princes, presumably the Assyrian monarch. This wilful roaming of theirs among the foreigners shall be followed by compulsory exile, and all their unholy artificial politics shall cease. The discourse turns to the other target. For Ephraim hath multiplied altars—to sin; altars are his own—to sin. Were I to write for him by myriads My laws,555555   So LXX. as those of a stranger would they be accounted. They slay burnt-offerings for Me and eat flesh.556556   Text obscure. Jehovah hath no delight in them. Now must He remember their279 guilt and make visitation upon their sin. They—to Egypt—shall return....557557   LXX. addition here is plainly borrowed from ix. 3. For the reasons for omitting ver. 14 see above, p. 223. Back to their ancient servitude must they go, as formerly He said He would withdraw them to the wilderness.558558   ii. 16.

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