Hosea 8

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  • Hosea 8:1.
  • Masoretic Text: To your lips, a horn — like an eagle over the house of YHWH, because they have transgressed my covenant and rebelled against my law.

    Septuagint: Into their bosom like land, like an eagle upon the house of the Lord, because they have transgressed my covenant and acted wickedly against my law.


    The basic meaning of the Hebrew word chek is “palate.” In this context, “lips” is the appropriate rendering.

    No comprehensible meaning can be gleaned from the Septuagint. Brenton’s translation reads: “He shall come into their midst as the land, as an eagle against the house of the Lord.” (Even with the addition of the words in italics and the alternate rendering “midst” instead of “bosom,” the thought of coming “as land” is not meaningful.) With the following conjectural adjustments, a meaning can be conveyed: [One is coming] into their midst, [into the] land, like an eagle upon the house of the Lord.

    The horn is a shofar or a ram’s-horn trumpet.

    The Hebrew word nésher and the Greek word aetós can designate either an eagle or a vulture. Because there is no subject and no verb in the phrase involving this bird of prey, translators vary in their renderings. “You who watch over the house of the Lord!” (NAB) “One like a vulture is over the house of the LORD.” (NRSV) “Now an eagle is swooping down to attack my land.” (CEV) “An eagle is over the house of the LORD.” (NIV ) Denn wie ein Geier kommt das Unheil über das Haus des Herrn. (For like a vulture, the calamity is coming upon the house of the Lord.) (German, Einheitsübersetzung) “Something like an eagle is over Yahweh’s house.” (NJB)


    The directive to prepare to blow the horn evidently is to be understood as meaning to sound an alarm. In the Hebrew text, the second person suffix, meaning “your,” is singular, suggesting that the prophet would be the one to herald the warning. Possibly the eagle is representative of the enemy army, with the house of YHWH being the people of the ten-tribe kingdom by reason of their covenant relationship with him. They had proved unfaithful to their covenant obligations and rebelliously disregarded YHWH’s law. As a consequence, calamity was impending, requiring the sounding of an alarm. The bird of prey was already in position over the house of Israel.

  • Hosea 8:2.
  • Masoretic Text: They cry out to me, “My God, we know you, [we] Israel.”

    Septuagint: They will cry out to me, “O God, we have known you.”

    Note: In the Masoretic Text, “Israel” appears at the end, with no direct link to the preceding words. Translators have chosen two basic meanings: (1) “God of Israel” (NAB) and (2) “Israel cries out to me” (NIV).


    In their distress, the people of the ten-tribe kingdom would cry out to YHWH. Their claim of knowing him as their God implied that they had a relationship with him and expected a favorable response. The Israelites generally, however, had proved unfaithful to their covenant obligations. In word and action, they did not conduct themselves as persons whose God was YHWH. Accordingly, their claim to knowing him as their God did not rest on a solid foundation.

  • Hosea 8:3.
  • Masoretic Text: Israel has rejected good. An enemy will pursue him.

    Septuagint: For Israel has rejected good. They have pursued an enemy.


    The Greek term for “good” is plural and so denotes “good things.”

    Unlike the Masoretic Text, the Septuagint refers to the Israelites as pursuing an enemy. This could be understood of their seeking an alliance with the Assyrians, an enemy that had invaded their land. (Compare 2 Kings 15:19, 20.) The Hebrew text, though, does appear to convey the sense that fits the context better.


    The good that Israel had rejected included faithfulness to YHWH and obedience to his lofty requirements. The bad they chose was calf worship and the veneration of other gods, accompanied by such degrading practices as ceremonial prostitution. The people also showed little regard for the poor and the disadvantaged. In the fulfillment, the enemy that pursued Israel was Assyria, the military power that brought the ten-tribe kingdom to its end and carried the survivors into exile. (2 Kings 17:3-11; Amos 2:6-8; 8:4-6)

  • Hosea 8:4.
  • Masoretic Text: They made kings and not from me. They made princes, and I did not know [it]. [From] their silver and their gold, they made idols for themselves so that [they] may be cut off.

    Septuagint: For themselves they made [kings] to reign and not through me. They have ruled and did not make [it] known to me. [From] their silver and their gold, they have made idols for themselves in order that they might be destroyed.


    YHWH made a covenant for a kingdom with David of the tribe of Judah, which assured the continuance of the royal line through his descendants. (2 Samuel 7:10-16) The ten-tribe kingdom, however, had its start through a popular revolt against Rehoboam of the Davidic dynasty. (1 Kings 12:12-16; 2 Chronicles 10:12-19) Princes or lesser officials also were made such without any divinely granted authority. The introduction of calf worship by Jeroboam, the first monarch of the ten-tribe kingdom, laid the foundation for the eventual destruction of the realm. (1 Kings 12:25-33; 2 Chronicles 11:14, 15)

    During the final decades of the ten-tribe kingdom, Shallum, Menahem, Pekah, and Hoshea attained to the kingship through assassination plots. (2 Kings 15:10-14, 23-25, 30) The princes or lesser officials under the usurpers were not constituted such with YHWH’s recognition nor was their any seeking of YHWH on the part of the Israelites respecting who might serve as kings and princes. In the choice of kings, YHWH was ignored. Those responsible for making someone king did not do it from YHWH or on the basis of his authorization. In their making princes, they kept YHWH out of any deliberations. From that standpoint, YHWH did not “know” about their dealings. They used gold and silver to make idols, with the result that their thus abandoning YHWH would lead to their ruin. (2 Kings 17:7-23)

  • Hosea 8:5.
  • Masoretic Text: Rejected [is] your calf, Samaria; my anger has burned against them. How long will they be incapable of cleanness?

    Septuagint: Reject your calf, Samaria. My anger was aroused against them. How long will they definitely not be able to be cleansed...


    In the Masoretic Text, the opening verb is third person and could be translated “he has rejected.” “He rejects your calf, Samaria.” (Tanakh) The next phrase speaks of YHWH’s anger in the first person. From a grammatical standpoint, this would make “I reject” more appropriate.

    A number of translators have chosen the imperative sense of the Septuagint. “Cast away your calf, O Samaria!” (NAB) Throw out your calf-idol, O Samaria!” (NIV)

    Another option for translation is the use of passive voice. “Your calf is rejected, O Samaria.” (NRSV)

    In the Septuagint, two different words for “not” appear, with the second one serving as an intensifier. The sense conveyed is “absolutely not,” “definitely not,” or “by no means.”


    From the time of King Omri, Samaria was the capital of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. (1 Kings 16:23, 24) As capital, the city could be representative of the entire realm. The “calf” may refer collectively to the idolatrous representations of a calf at Dan and Bethel. Jeroboam, the first monarch of the ten-tribe kingdom, set aside these two cities as centers for calf worship. (1 Kings 12:28-33)

    Samaria may, however, be understood in the restrictive sense as applying only to the city. The capital likely did serve as a major center for calf worship.

    According to the reading of the Septuagint, either the inhabitants of Samaria or the people of the entire realm under the rulership of their king in Samaria were called upon to reject calf worship. The Masoretic Text may point to YHWH’s rejection of this form of idolatry. His anger was directed against the people for their unfaithfulness to him. Idolatry had made them unclean in his sight. The question was as to how long they would be unable to reform themselves and become a clean, pure, or innocent people. Their abominable record provided no promise of any change for the better.

  • Hosea 8:6.
  • Masoretic Text: For [it is] from Israel, and he, a workman, made it and [it] is not God. The calf of Samaria will become splinters.

    Septuagint: in Israel? And a craftsman has made it, and it is not God; for your calf, Samaria, was for causing wandering.


    Translators have variously treated the reference to Israel. A number of translations combine the phrase with the previous statement, which does fit the reading of the Septuagint. “How long will they be unable to attain innocence in Israel?” (NAB) “How long will it be before they are pure in Israel?” (NLT) Others endeavor to convey a meaning by adding words. “For it is from Israel, an artisan made it.” (NRSV) “They are from Israel!” (NIV) “Someone from Israel built that idol for you.” (CEV) “For this is even from Israel!” (NJB) Was hat so etwas in Israel zu suchen? (What place does something like this have in Israel?) (German, Gute Nachricht Bibel) Denn wer sind Israel und das Kalb? (For who are Israel and the calf?) (German, Einheitsübersetzung)

    The Septuagint rendering indicates that the calf caused Israel to wander, evidently meaning that this form of idolatry caused the Israelites to stray from YHWH.


    If not regarded as part of the question that precedes this verse, the reference to Israel may be understood to mean that the calf originated with Israel. This form of idolatry was instituted at the direction of Jeroboam, the first monarch of the ten-tribe kingdom. As an object of human craftsmanship, the calf could not be God. It was merely a lifeless representation.

    Samaria, the capital of the ten-tribe kingdom (as in the previous verse) could refer either to the city or representatively to the entire realm. The “calf of Samaria” (referring either to the one in the Samaria or, collectively, to the representations of a calf at the centers of idolatry) would be reduced to fragments. This “calf,” as suggested by the reading of the Septuagint, was the means by which the Israelites were led astray from the worship of YHWH at the temple in Jerusalem. (1 Kings 12:26-33)

  • Hosea 8:7.
  • Masoretic Text: For wind they sow, and a gale they will reap. The standing grain will not sprout [ears] for [them]. It will not yield flour. If perhaps it does produce, strangers will devour it.

    Septuagint: For wind-blasted [things] they sowed, and their ruin will await them. A sheaf does not have [enough] substance to produce flour. But even if it should produce, strangers will devour it.


    Sowing wind refers to engaging in activities that have no substance and are empty or worthless. By forsaking YHWH and adopting idolatry and the debased practices associated therewith, the Israelites made themselves guilty of such worthless sowing. As a consequence, they would experience the destructive fury of a gale, which would spell the end for the ten-tribe kingdom. Even what might give promise of yielding something beneficial would prove to be disappointing. Although there would be stalks of grain, their would not be enough kernels in the ears for making flour. Even if there should prove to be a yield, the Israelites would not benefit from it. Strangers or foreigners would devour it. In the fulfillment, the Assyrian military repeatedly devastated the territory of the ten-tribe kingdom and, finally, destroyed the capital Samaria, exiled the Israelite survivors, and transplanted peoples from other nations in the conquered land. (2 Kings 15:19, 20, 29; 17:3-6, 22-24)

  • Hosea 8:8.
  • Masoretic Text: Israel is devoured. Now they are among the nations like a vessel not bringing pleasure.

    Septuagint: Israel was devoured. Now it has come to be among the nations like a useless vessel.


    On account of the certainty of the end for the ten-tribe kingdom, the devouring of Israel may be referred to as an accomplished reality. The reference could also be to circumstances prior to the capture of Samaria. Before Hoshea, the last king of the ten-tribe kingdom, began to reign, Assyria had already devoured a considerable portion of Israel. Assyrian monarch Tiglath-pileser III had conquered the region east of the Jordan River and the northern portion of the ten-tribe kingdom and then exiled the surviving population. (2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26) Among the nations, the humiliated Israelites would have been regarded with disdain and treated with contempt, like a useless vessel or a vessel in which no one found pleasure or delight.

    With the fall of Samaria, all that remained of Israel was consumed. Those then exiled were subjected to the same treatment as those who had been deported earlier.

  • Hosea 8:9.
  • Masoretic Text: For they have gone up [to] Assyria — [like] a wild ass going alone — for Ephraim has hired lovers.

    Septuagint: For they have gone up to the Assyrians. Ephraim has revived himself. They loved gifts.


    Aside from the opening phrase, the Septuagint differs from the Masoretic Text. The Septuagint reading may be understood to mean that, through alliances, Ephraim (representing the ten-tribe kingdom as the dominant tribe) thought to revive himself, flourish again, or gain new strength. The gifts the Israelites loved apparently designate the tribute paid to foreign powers for military aid. They loved such gifts on account of what they believed could be secured by means of them.

    In the Hebrew text, the connection with the wild ass is not clear. English translations generally have linked the actions of Ephraim to that of the animal. “For they have gone up to Assyria like a wild donkey wandering alone.” (NIV) “You are like a wild donkey that goes its own way.” (CEV) “Like a wild donkey looking for a mate, they have gone up to Assyria.” (NLT)

    In the Tanakh, the phrase about the wild ass has been transposed and made part of the thought of verse 8. “They have now become among the nations like an unwanted vessel, [like] a lonely wild ass.”

    A number of modern German translations draw a contrast between the wild ass and Ephraim. Examples are: Sogar ein Wildesel bleibt für sich allein und unabhänging, aber die Leute von Ephraim versuchen, sich Freunde zu kaufen. (Even a wild ass remains solitary and independent, but the people of Ephraim try to buy friends.) (Hoffnung für alle) Ein Wildesel wahrt seine Unabhängigkeit, aber die Leute von Efram suchen überall Freunde zu kaufen. (A wild ass preserves its independence, but the people of Ephraim seek to buy friends everywhere.) (Gute Nachricht Bibel) These renderings, however, require the addition of more words than do the commonly used English translations.

    In Hebrew, there appears to be a wordplay involving “wild ass” (pere’) and “Ephraim” (‘ephrayim).


    The Israelites of the ten-tribe kingdom, through their monarch and royal officials, negotiated with Assyria, seeking the aid and protection of this strong military power. In being like an isolated wild ass, the Israelites stubbornly chose their own way instead of looking to YHWH as the One who could secure their safety and well-being. Alone, a wild ass would also be more vulnerable to attack from large beasts of prey, and the Israelites endangered themselves through involvement with Assyria. The hire of the lovers consisted of the tribute paid for military aid. During the concluding decades of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, the representative members of the realm formed alliances with Syria and the competing powers of Assyria and Egypt. (2 Kings 15:19, 20; 17:3-6; Isaiah 7:1, 2)

  • Hosea 8:10.
  • Masoretic Text: Although they hire among the nations, I will now assemble them, and they will begin [as] littleness from the burden of a king of princes.

    Septuagint: Therefore, they will be delivered up among the nations. Now I will take them, and they will cease a little from anointing a king and rulers.


    The Hebrew text is obscure, and translators have chosen various ways to convey something meaningful. Usually, chalál means “pollute,” “defile,” or “profane.” In this case, one suggested meaning is “begin.” To “begin littleness” has been rendered “begin to waste away” (NIV) and “shall begin to diminish in number” (Tanakh).

    Another common rendering is, “They shall soon writhe under the burden of kings and princes.” (NRSV) A paraphrase of this basic thought is, “Soon you will suffer abuse by kings and rulers.” (CEV)

    The opposite thought is conveyed by the following translation: “King and princes shall shortly succumb under the burden.” (NAB)

    In the Hebrew text, there is no conjunction between “king” and “princes.” Translators have either added the “and” (as in the Septuagint) or have taken the Hebrew to mean “king of princes” or “great king.” (NLT)

    The reading of the Septuagint differs considerably from the Masoretic Text.


    Septuagint: On account of their seeking the help of the Assyrians, YHWH would permit the Israelites to be delivered up among the nations, apparently as exiles from their land. Perhaps YHWH’s taking them is to be understood of his taking them into exile by means of the conquering Assyrians. As a consequence, there would be a “little” cessation in the anointing of a king and associate rulers.

    Masoretic Text: The Israelites sought to hire among the nations, apparently paying tribute to secure military alliances. The sense in which YHWH would do the assembling is not readily apparent. Perhaps the thought is that he would permit the conquerors to gather the Israelites to take them into exile. “But now I am going to gather them together and punish them.” (GNT) Another possibility is that YHWH would permit the Assyrian forces to assemble for the purpose of conquering the ten-tribe kingdom. “I will now gather an army.” (NAB)

    The “king of princes” could refer to the monarch under whom princes or lesser rulers functioned. Or, as in the case of the Septuagint, the reference may be to a “king and princes” or rulers.

    The burden may refer to the horrendous consequences from the Assyrian conquest. Israelite survivors (a greatly reduced number from those who once lived in the ten-tribe kingdom) would continue in a state of decline, experiencing humiliation and oppression as exiles under the dominion of the Assyrian monarch and lesser rulers.

  • Hosea 8:11.
  • Masoretic Text: For Ephraim has increased altars — for sinning. They have become to him altars for sinning.

    Septuagint: For Ephraim has increased altars. [His] beloved altars have become sins to him.


    The Septuagint does not repeat the aspect of sinning and refers to the altars as being loved by Ephraim, that is, Ephraim was ardently attached to the altars associated with calf worship and numerous deities.

    The same Hebrew word for “sinning” appears in two places. In the case of the first occurrence, the thought appears to be Ephraim’s objective respecting the altars. They concerned sin or guilt. Many translators have made this aspect explicit. Examples are: “Though Ephraim built many altars for sin offerings, these have become altars for sinning.” (NIV) “Israel, you have built many altars where you offer sacrifices for sin. But these altars have become places for sin.” (CEV) “When Ephraim made many altars to expiate sin, his altars became occasions of sin.” (NAB) “For Ephraim has multiplied altars — for guilt; his altars have redounded to his guilt.” (Tanakh)


    According to God’s law to Israel, only one altar for burnt offerings was authorized for continued use. (Deuteronomy 12:4-6, 13, 14, 27) Ephraim, representing the entire ten-tribe kingdom by reason of its being the dominant tribe, violated this law. The first king of the ten-tribe kingdom set aside Dan and Bethel as centers for calf worship to prevent his subjects from going to Jerusalem for worship. (1 Kings 12:25-33) In time, many altars were erected for sacrificing to other deities. (Amos 2:8) In itself, increasing the number of altars would have been sinful. Their use for idolatrous purposes compounded the sin.

  • Hosea 8:12.
  • Masoretic Text: I did write for him thousands [of commandments] of my law, [but] as foreign they are reckoned.

    Septuagint: I will write him an abundance, and his laws have been reckoned as strange [things] — altars, the beloved.

    Note: In this verse, the reading of the Septuagint is obscure. The reference to altars seems to be a copyist’s erroneous repetition from the previous verse.


    YHWH’s writing may refer to his providing the many commandments making up his law to Israel. This is the sense conveyed by a number of modern translations. “I wrote for them the many things of my law.” (NIV) “The many teachings I wrote for him.” (Tanakh) Evidently, because this verse is in a context of sacrifice, the words also have been understood in a more specific sense. One interpretive paraphrase is, “My instructions for sacrifices were written in detail.” (CEV) Although receiving a multitude of specific instructions or commandments, the people disregarded them, treating them as foreign and as if they did not apply to them.

  • Hosea 8:13.
  • Masoretic Text: [As] sacrifices of gifts [to me], they sacrifice flesh, and so they eat. YHWH does not accept them. Now he will remember their iniquity, and he will punish [them for] their sins. They will return to Egypt.

    Septuagint: For if they do sacrifice a sacrifice, and do eat meat, the Lord will not accept them. Now he will remember their iniquities and avenge their sins. They have returned to Egypt, and they will eat unclean things among the Assyrians.


    The Masoretic Text is obscure, whereas the Septuagint provides a clearer reading. To convey something meaningful, words need to be supplied when rendering the Hebrew text. Examples of two renderings are: “When they present sacrifices to Me, it is but flesh for them to eat.” (Tanakh) “They offer sacrifices given to me and they eat the meat.” (NIV)

    In the Septuagint, the identical words about the Assyrians are later repeated (9:3), and there the Masoretic Text does have the corresponding phrase.


    The Israelites did offer sacrifices, both holocausts and communion offerings. In the case of communion sacrifices, they ate a portion of the meat. In view of the corrupt form of worship involving golden calves, YHWH could not possibly be pleased with their sacrifices. The communion sacrifices amounted to no more than their eating meat. Through Hosea, YHWH expressed his disapproval, indicating that he would not accept them (either the faithless people or their offerings). YHWH would not forget their iniquity — their idolatry and failure to live uprightly. He would remember the bad record they had made for themselves, and punish them for their sins or their flagrant disregard of their covenant obligations.

    The Masoretic Text does not indicate in what sense they would return to Egypt, whether as captives sold into slavery (Deuteronomy 28:68), as refugees (Jeremiah 42:14), or as petitioners seeking an alliance with Egypt to free themselves from Assyrian servitude (2 Kings 17:3, 4).

  • Hosea 8:14.
  • Masoretic Text: And Israel has forgotten his Maker and built temples, and Judah has increased fortified cities. And I will send fire upon his cities, and it will consume her fortresses.

    Septuagint: And Israel has forgotten his Maker and built shrines, and Judah has increased walled cities. And I will send fire into his cities, and it will consume their foundations.

    Note: The Hebrew word heykál can designate either a temple or a palace, and both meanings are found in translations. The corresponding Greek term (témenos) does not refer to a palace but to a shrine or sacred precinct. The Vulgate uses the plural of delubrum, meaning “sanctuary,” “shrine,” or “temple.” The erection of shrines, temples, or sanctuaries would more appropriately represent an abandoning of YHWH than would the building of palaces. Therefore, the meaning “temples” would appear to be preferable.


    YHWH was the one who made it possible for Israel to come into existence. Through a miracle, the aged Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the father of Jacob or Israel. Without this miracle, there would have been no nation of Israel. Moreover, YHWH delivered the people from slavery in Egypt and made them his nation. Israel, the people of the ten-tribe kingdom, lost sight of this, choosing to turn away from YHWH and to venerate lifeless idols. In violation of their covenant obligations, they erected sanctuaries for the adoration of golden calves and various deities.

    Judah, the people of the ten-tribe kingdom, also acted faithlessly. Instead of relying on YHWH’s help and protection, they increased the number of their fortified cities, trusting in massive encircling walls to protect them.

    Because YHWH’s word through Hosea was primarily directed to the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, this reference to Judah may be parenthetical. The Tanakh conveys the parenthetical meaning through punctuation. “Israel has ignored his Maker and built temples (And Judah has fortified many cities). So I will set fire to his cities, and it shall consume their fortresses.” This rendering suggests that the fire would be directed against the Israelite cities of the northern realm. In the fulfillment, this occurred during the Assyrian invasions of the territory of the ten-tribe kingdom. The fortresses probably designated the strongly fortified royal residence and the impressive fortified structures where the wealthy resided.

    If the reference to Judah is not parenthetical, the cities would be those of the two-tribe kingdom. In the time of Hezekiah, many fortified cities fell before the Assyrian forces. (2 Kings 18:13) During the concluding years of the rule of the royal house in Jerusalem, the Babylonians invaded, capturing fortified cities and finally destroying Jerusalem. Judah’s trust in walled cities thus proved to be in vain. (2 Kings 24:1, 2, 10; 25:1-10; Jeremiah 5:17; 34:6, 7)

    An interpretive paraphrase of the New Living Translation represents the words as applying to both kingdoms. “Israel has built great palaces, and Judah has fortified its cities. But they have both forgotten their Maker. Therefore, I will send down fire on their palaces and burn their fortresses.” This, however, is a departure from the actual wording of the Hebrew text.