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Israel’s Apostasy


Set the trumpet to your lips!

One like a vulture is over the house of the L ord,

because they have broken my covenant,

and transgressed my law.


Israel cries to me,

“My God, we—Israel—know you!”


Israel has spurned the good;

the enemy shall pursue him.



They made kings, but not through me;

they set up princes, but without my knowledge.

With their silver and gold they made idols

for their own destruction.


Your calf is rejected, O Samaria.

My anger burns against them.

How long will they be incapable of innocence?


For it is from Israel,

an artisan made it;

it is not God.

The calf of Samaria

shall be broken to pieces.



For they sow the wind,

and they shall reap the whirlwind.

The standing grain has no heads,

it shall yield no meal;

if it were to yield,

foreigners would devour it.


Israel is swallowed up;

now they are among the nations

as a useless vessel.


For they have gone up to Assyria,

a wild ass wandering alone;

Ephraim has bargained for lovers.


Though they bargain with the nations,

I will now gather them up.

They shall soon writhe

under the burden of kings and princes.



When Ephraim multiplied altars to expiate sin,

they became to him altars for sinning.


Though I write for him the multitude of my instructions,

they are regarded as a strange thing.


Though they offer choice sacrifices,

though they eat flesh,

the L ord does not accept them.

Now he will remember their iniquity,

and punish their sins;

they shall return to Egypt.


Israel has forgotten his Maker,

and built palaces;

and Judah has multiplied fortified cities;

but I will send a fire upon his cities,

and it shall devour his strongholds.


Interpreters think that the Israelites are here derided because they trusted in their own ceremonies, and that their sacrifices are reproachfully called flesh. But we must see whether the words of the Prophet contain something deeper. For the word הבהב, ebeb, some rightly expound, in my judgment, as meaning “sacrifices,” either burnt or roasted; it is a word of four letters. Others derive it from יהב, ieb, which signifies “to give gifts;” and hence they render thus, “sacrifices of my gifts;” and this is the more received opinion. I view the Prophet here as not only blaming the Israelites for putting vain trust in their own ceremonies, which were perverted and vicious; but also as adducing something more gross, and by which it could be proved, that their folly was even ridiculous, yea, to profane men and children. When we only read, The sacrifices of my gifts, which they ought to have offered to me, the sense seems frigid; but when we read, “The sacrifices of my burnt-offerings! they offer flesh”, the meaning is, So palpable is their contempt, that they cannot but be condemned even by children. How so? Because for burnt-offerings they offer flesh to me; that is they fear lest any portion of the sacrifices should be lost: and when they ought, when offering burnt-sacrifices, to burn the flesh, they keep it entire, that they may stuff themselves. Hence they make a great display in sacrificing: and yet it appears to be palpable mockery, for they turn burnt-offerings into peace-offerings, that the flesh may remain entire for them to eat it. And no doubt, it has ever been a vice dominant in hypocrites to connect gain with superstitions. How much soever, then, idolaters may show themselves to be wholly devoted to God, they yet will take care that nothing be lost.

The Prophet then seems now to reprove this vice; I yet allow that the Israelites are blamed for thinking that God is pacified by sacrifices which were of themselves of no value, as we have had before a similar declaration. But I join both views together — that they offered to God vain sacrifices without piety, and then, that they offered flesh for burnt-offerings, and thus fed themselves and cared not for the worship of God. The sacrifices then of my burnt-offerings they offer; but what do they offer? Flesh Nor does he seem to have mentioned in vain the word flesh. Some say that all sacrifices are here called flesh by way of contempt; but there seems rather to me to be a contrast made between burnt sacrifices and flesh; because the people of Israel wished to take care of themselves and to have a rich repast, when the Lord required a burnt-offering to be presented to him: and he afterwards adds, and they eat By the word eating, he confirms what I have already said, that is, that he here reproves in the Israelites the vice of being intent only on cramming themselves, and of only putting forth the name of God as a vain pretence, while they were only anxious to feed themselves.

It is the same with the Papists of our day, when they celebrate their festivals; they indulge themselves, and think that the more they drink and eat, the more God is bound to them. This is their zeal; they eat flesh, and yet think that they offer sacrifices to God. They offer, then, their stomach to God, when it is thus well filled. Such are the oblations of the Papists. So also the Prophet now says, “They eat the flesh which they ought to have burned.”

The Lord, he says, will not accept them Here again he briefly shows, that while hypocrites thus make pretences, they are self-deceived, and will at last find out how vainly they have lied to God and men: “God will not accept them.” He here repudiates, in the name of God, their sacrifices; for whatever they might promise to themselves, it was enough that they devised for themselves these modes of worship; for God had never commanded a word respecting them.

It then follows, Now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins The Prophet denounces a future punishment, lest hypocrites should flatter themselves, when God’s fury is not immediately kindled against them, for it is usual with them to abuse the patience of God. Hence Hosea now forewarns them, and says, “Though God may connive for a time, there is yet no reason for the Israelites to think that they shall be free from punishment: God will at length,” he says, “remember their iniquity.” He uses a common form of speaking, which everywhere occurs in Scripture: God is said to remember when he really, and as with a stretched-out hand, shows himself to be an avenger. “The Lord now spares you; but he will, in a short time, show how much he abominates these your impure sacrifices: He will remember, then, your iniquity Visitation follows this remembering, as the effect the cause.

They shall flee, he says, to Egypt The Prophet, I doubt not, intimates here, that vain would be all the escapes which the Israelites would seek; and though God might allow them to flee to Egypt, yet it would be, he says, without any advantage: “Go, flee to Egypt, but your flight will be useless.” The Prophet expressed this distinctly, that the people might know that they had to do with God, against whom they could make no defense, and that they might no longer deceive themselves by foolish imaginations. And though the people were blinded by so great an obstinacy, that this admonition had no effect; yet they were thus rendered the more inexcusable. It now follows —

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