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IRONY OF HOSEA
Much may be learned both of the closed mind and the open door, yes and the call of Christ, from Hosea. Our special interest today is to be found in the translation of Hosea 13:2, a fascinating, not to say intriguing matter, in which one can only agree in the main with some of the old Hebrew assessments and that of Jerome, Cyril and Theodoret. However, there is a spread on the subject, one most illuminating, and it seems good to investigate, knowing this, that the nearer we get to the text, the better prepared we are for the test. The word of God is for action.
Hosea is one of the most stridently tender and poignantly penetrating prophecies in the Old Testament. It is one to awaken not only the sleeping, but those dead in slumber. When, after all, centuries of folly, hypocrisy and pride of life have led through disobedience and rebellion to the revocation of blessing and the axe for asininity, it is time to awaken. At the purely political, but indirectly national level, Churchill had something for the British. At the spiritual level, the Lord had something of Israel.
Hosea 12 advises us in this way of the situation:
"Ephraim feeds on the wind,
And pursues the east wind;
He daily increases lies and desolation.
Also they make a covenant with the Assyrians,
And oil is carried to Egypt.
"The Lord also brings a charge against Judah,
And will punish Jacob according to his ways;
According to his deeds He will recompense him."
Hosea 12:7 makes that charge more particular in terms of cunning and oppression. Chapter 1 has already metaphorically expressed the basic charge, which is adultery of the nation; and since this involves understanding, we need only consult both commonsense and what is written to realise that the 'lovers' are other sources of trust, other grounds for living, other motivations to move and other gods to embrace. This is shown over Hosea 2:4--15. In the following verse we see the Lord as the husband of the nation, bringing her back to Himself, and in verse 17, the exclusion shows what was meant by the inclusion.
Thus, "I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals, and they shall be remembered by their names no more." Baals were 'lords' or recognised local deities, bound in a band of varieties from place to place, often associated with morals like those of Sodom and sometimes with sacrifice of mankind. A naturalistic basis made their religious aspects veiled in evil, misunderstanding and vice.
God then used Hosea in marrying a harlot, as a symbol for His own 'marrying' of Israel, so that the harlot's reversion to promiscuity becomes a spiritual program to show the same of Israel, mingling with alien gods of nature, instead of the Creator of the universe, and the Lord of life. The Lord then had Hosea redeem her, buy her back, symbol of His plan for the fallen people of Israel, each one sought out.
Many are the facets and features of the Lord's ways of reaching and teaching the alienated heart and mind of Israel, shown in this book of Hosea, and the matter is summed up in this regard, in Hosea 12:10, where we are shown the enduring love of God, its practical focus and its intensity:
"I have also spoken by the prophets, and have multiplied visions:
I have given parables through the witness of the prophets."
Multiplied have been the calls of mercy, to purity, to restoration; and multiple have been their dismissals! Many have been the images to explicate reality, reach imagination, alert the people. The Lord has been energetic and diversified in method, singular in message.
It is in this context that we approach the translation of Hosea 13:2. The preceding verse in this matter also deserves attention, to give more contextual flavour.
First, let us consider the translation to be given, and then see the reasons.
"When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling: He exalted himself in Israel.
"Now they sin more and more,
and have made for themselves moulded images, idols of their silver,
according to their skill: all of it the work of craftsmen.
"They say of them, 'Let the sacrificers of mankind kiss the calves!' "
Keil in his Old Testament Commentary, wrought with Delitzsch also, favours with reason the translation of the first line. However his understanding of its import is different. To him the trembling results from the force, power and prestige of an uplifted Israel. It is then that his exaltation is noted.
This however would be, while not dissimilar to some of the actions of Ephraim, far from biblical ground of being exalted in Israel by DIVINE measure!
To understand this, it is first necessary to realise that Ephraim had very fertile land, and it is even used as a synonym for Israel (as distinct from the kingdom of Judah, which resulted in the division of the 10 tribes from Judah and Benjamin, after Solomon's rule, in that of Rehoboam). This is seen in Isaiah 7:2, 5, 9, 17. Samaria of course, here mentioned, was the capital of the entire northern kingdom called more often, "Israel".
Ephraim as a tribe had been itself leader enough! Judges 8:1 shows the chaffing at lacking a prominent place in a conflict; and again, the early pitching of the tabernacle was at Shiloh, in the territory of Ephraim. You see a rather rancorous seeming reaction of eminence and assurance likewise, in Judges 12:1ff..
However it is as a nation designated under this name, as a handle, that we find the usage in Hosea, the topic of which is not specialised to tribes, but to the two nations (Hosea 1:1).
You see, in fact, even an alternation between referring to the nation as 'Israel' and 'Ephraim' in this very prophecy, at Hosea 11:1-3. "When ISRAEL was a child, I loved him ... " the Lord declares.
He proceeds in a little,
"I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms;
but they did not know that I healed them. I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love,
and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them."
Here you see the real way in which Ephraim was exalted. He did it by receiving from the Exalted One, the tenderness of His service, the stoop of His grace and the lovingkindness of His compassion. At such a time, when Ephraim spoke, there was trembling. That was the nature of the relationship through which Ephraim was exalted, seen as from his genesis; and it was before the haughteur and self-willed aggrandisements and furies, flurries and worries took hold in the tender soil, like vast weeds.
Again, in Jeremiah 31, you see the Lord referring again in tender terms to Ephraim, as if this sinning segment of mankind, so dear to Him in His historic placarding to all the world of His power and His ways, and His scope for salvation amidst them, and again, Ephraim exalts himself by humbling himself, by baring his heart. For it remains true: "The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit." It is always true this, that "Blessed are the meek, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"! (Matthew 5). God does not change, nor do His ways (Habakkuk 3:6).
Thus it is not that when Ephraim spoke, as in Hosea 13:1, OTHERS trembled, so that he exalted himself in Israel. Far from this is the case. In fact, God resists the proud (James 4:6 cf. Proverbs 3:34), but gives more grace to the lowly. Keil, whose works are usually so delightful in erudition, therefore, though presenting the Hebrew well, does not present its meaning well. The Authorised Version in this instance, however does! It is well that it is so.
Let us see moreover in Jeremiah 31:16-21, the extent to which it is the TREMBLING character of Ephraim's speech, known to God in its reality, is the strength of his placement!
"Thus says the Lord:
'Refrain your voice from weeping,
And your eyes from tears;
For your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord,
And they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
'There is hope in your future, says the Lord,
That your children shall come back to their own border.
'I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself:
"You have chastised me, and I was chastised,
Like an untrained bull;
Restore me, and I will return,
For You are the Lord my God.
Surely, after my turning, I repented;
And after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh;
I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated,
Because I bore the reproach of my youth."
'Is Ephraim My dear son?
Is he a pleasant child?
For though I spoke against him,
I earnestly remember him still;
Therefore My heart yearns for him;
I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord.' "
It immediately proceeds to show Ephraim the ways of stability and godly strength, culminating in the revelation of the Messiah to come! (Jeremiah 31:21-22), that phenomenon in which the Lord is to change all things, something immediately confirmed in Jeremiah 31:31ff., with the very interstices of the New Covenant to come! (see further, Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 1).
Here is the strength, and it is necessary to humble oneself that one may be moved upwards in due time: it is the former, not the latter, which forms the pertinent contrast to Ephraim in former times, and the debased state in which, in the time of Hosea, he was to be found. The nation had NOT been exalted, but humbled, because the day when he spoke, and trembled, has long past.
Now he speaks amiss: indeed, in Hosea 8:3-14, we find these words concerning its debasement, its glorying where glory was not to be found!
"Israel has rejected the good;
The enemy will pursue him.
"They set up kings, but not by Me;
They made princes, but I did not acknowledge them.
From their silver and gold
They made idols for themselves—
That they might be cut off.
"Your calf is rejected, O Samaria!
My anger is aroused against them—
How long until they attain to innocence?
For from Israel is even this:
A workman made it, and it is not God;
But the calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces.
"They sow the wind,
And reap the whirlwind.
The stalk has no bud;
It shall never produce meal.
If it should produce,
Aliens would swallow it up.
"Israel is swallowed up;
Now they are among the Gentiles
Like a vessel in which is no pleasure.
For they have gone up to Assyria,
Like a wild donkey alone by itself;
Ephraim has hired lovers.
Yes, though they have hired among the nations,
Now I will gather them;
And they shall sorrow a little,
Because of the burden of the king of princes.
"Because Ephraim has made many altars for sin,
They have become for him altars for sinning.
"I have written for him the great things of My law,
But they were considered a strange thing.
For the sacrifices of My offerings they sacrifice flesh and eat it,
But the Lord does not accept them.
"Now He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.
They shall return to Egypt.
For Israel has forgotten his Maker,
And has built temples ... "
Thus when Ephraim spoke tremblingly, this figure of Israel, he exalted himself in his land; but now! Baal worship, most devoid of fear of the Lord, has brought him down, degraded his very nationhood to the ground, providing ground for condemnation. In other words, it was in the atmosphere of trembling before God, who in His goodness presented wonders of supervision and kindness, that Israel was brought to a high pitch, but in his bursting with pride, he decided to have some other god for his enjoyment, addition, and so depravity spoiled contentment with richness of blessing. The colon in the translation is intended to signify this. The capital in "He" is merely to increase the sense of flow from trembling to exaltation.
The Stupendous Outrage
"Now they sin more and more,
and have made for themselves moulded images, idols of their silver,
according to their skill: all of it the work of craftsmen.
"They say of them, 'Let the sacrificers of mankind kiss the calves!' "
The rendering of the first part of this verse occasions no challenge. The theme of accelerating, rampant and ramifying sin is not uncommon, and is the 'normal and natural' prelude to disaster, to which alas, Israel in its ways found with abundance but no felicity.
Indeed, so like the current Gentile world is the Israel of that ancient day, that we find they even receive this denunciation: "Because Ephraim has made many altars to sin, they have become for him altars for sinning."
Altars for sin ? In this case, 'high places' for worshipping God in their own non-appointed way would become one way of allowing intoxication with the naturalistic fallacies and religions which surrounded them, each one according to his art, or even a city according to its wish. This is the aggregative, the synthetic field for religious reality from God, PLUS man's ways, cultures, morals, if such they may be called.
Thus in Jeremiah 2:27-30 we have these elemental charges from the Lord to His people. What have they been doing ? it has been things like these:
"Saying to a tree, ‘You are my father,’
And to a stone, ‘You gave birth to me.’
For they have turned their back to Me, and not their face.
But in the time of their trouble
They will say, ‘Arise and save us.’
"But where are your gods that you have made for yourselves?
Let them arise,
If they can save you in the time of your trouble;
For according to the number of your cities
Are your gods, O Judah.
Thus the Lord asks:
"Why will you plead with Me?
You all have transgressed against Me."
His remonstrance tingles on the air:
"In vain I have chastened your children;
They received no correction.
Your sword has devoured your prophets
Like a destroying lion."
Cities have city-gods, like local Baals, that territorial sink for sin which produces like giant weeds, the altars for abominable things, perversions and deaths, as collective infamies breed. When one protests, when a prophet speaks to correct them, from the Lord, it is as when Jehoash slew Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, who had nurtured him. And why did the king act in such heinour hauteur ? It was because of his lust for change.
They use the sword, they 'devour' the prophets like a destroying lion. It becomes like some autocratic land, like Russia, which for so long has slain so many who dared to criticise, in so many sometimes original but always insatiable ways.
This sort of movement we see in II Chronicles 24:17-22:
"Now after the death of Jehoiada the leaders of Judah came and bowed down to the king. And the king listened to them.
"Therefore they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass.
"Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the Lord; and they testified against them, but they would not listen.
"Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them,
'Thus says God:
"Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord,
so that you cannot prosper?
Because you have forsaken the Lord, He also has forsaken you."
"So they conspired against him, and at the command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord. Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but killed his son; and as he died, he said, 'The Lord look on it, and repay!' "
It is in such a development, over the centuries moving like a aeroplane laden with atomic bombs, set upon yielding doors in the bomb-bay, in the midst of it, that Hosea speaks. What new thing, then, have they devised ? what fresh synthesis, laden with the weight of hell has come to afflict their people ?
'New' ? It is not necessarily a genuine novelty, but may be merely a digression from truth, an impression from the rampaging passions of murder, religiously dressed, with pagan concepts of appeasing the gods by slaughter of children, as with Moloch, or in general of mankind, which could also occur with Baal. Indeed, they even import it into scorching substitutes in high places of synthesis, where with the very name of God, they might indulge in such unprincipled works.
The Lord countered their folly with such words as these (Jeremiah 19:5):
"They have built also the high places of Baal,
to burn their sons with fire
for burnt offerings unto Baal,
which I did not commanded, nor speak it,
neither came it into My mind ... "
High places, synthetic religiosity! Murder plus sacrilege plus blasphemy plus tragic distortion of the tenderness due to the child, what an array for judgment; and if a practice, what a thrust for the overthrow of a people!
Now we revert to the translation of Hosea 13:2. We come to the last segment,
"They say of them, 'Let the sacrificers of mankind kiss the calves!' "
Kissing the calves refers to the use of a calf as a symbol for the Lord, perhaps after the style of Aaron's colossal evil, when as a leader of Israel out of the literal slavery in Egypt, by the mighty power of God, he yielded and made a golden calf, so that they could say of it, that this was had led them out of Egypt.
Since such an animal could be sacred in significance in Egypt, this was a synthesis of the things of the Lord with Egyptian power and culture, which God had overthrown, withering their false gods with a literally devastating scorn!
Therefore, when later such things as religiously devised calves were used, there was a ridiculous recidivism, a yearning for the days of slavery if followed to its end, and a mockery of the power that had saved them! How many modern nations are now doing just the same, and are the USA and even Australia coming into this field even now ?
In ancient Israel, what had been exposed as fiction and vapidity, man-religion for the heart of man, in the defeat of Pharaoh's harsh rule over the people of Israel, mere slaves, had thus been brought into the realm of the God who provides, like an imported boil. It was an affront to history, to their escape, that escapade, that miracle chapter in history, but most of all to Him who had rescued them in one of the most scintillating actions of all time, systematic, verbally explicit, wrought in food and water to provide for millions for years, involving not only escape but escapade, not merely deliverance but triumph.
To CONTINUE such practices was of course an action of systematic rebellion, concocted impudence, deliberate duress in the relationship of the people with God, like a divorcee insisting on using the signature of his wife on dud cheques, when the relationship was a mockery! Such was Samaria, with its golden calves. KISSING the calves became an expression of tenderness amidst perversity, worship amidst idolatry, spiritual promiscuity amid rebellion, adorned with sentiment, outrageous in infelicity, a holy hypocrisy.
Thus the charge is that those who deal thus with mankind, that they even SLAY them, in the field of religion, outrageous, inhuman, atrocity-makers, covenant breakers, murderers in the realm of the divine, 'SACRIFICERS OF MANKIND', then come and aggravate their spiritual crimes. How do they, how can they make things worse after religiously drafted murders ? It is in this way.
Theythen make such a pseudo-sanctified folly of it, that they DARE, even dare to mix their faiths and beliefs and ways with the Lord, and at that, with Himself under the idolatrous guise of a calf, and at that, a calf which looks back to the hideous defilement of giving an Egyptian cult figure, cattle, to the work of the Lord, and at that, doing this when the Lord had just led them out of that culture, and at that, led them out of the slavery which had soiled their spirits, crushed their hearts and riddled their race with ruin.
Moreover, being so callous, they KISS the calf, as if there is to be no end to the mismatches, to the mischiefs, to the perversions and diversions which could be found, as if folly were an art form and the architecture of religion were made an innovative affront to its object, even to the Author of the human race, of 'mankind'.
What more of provocation is POSSIBLE!
This then is the result of sinning more and more, earlier in Hosea 13:2, and here is the climax to it
THEREFORE, the LORD indicates, they will become like the morning cloud and early dew - it just passes with time; and like chaff blown off, like chimney smoke (Hosea 13:3). There comes a time when calamity can be kind, and an interruption of hideous practices by blight can be the only redress to reality.
The Translation and the Application
The above translation, as we find in the Pulpit Commentary, is the kind made by Jerome, Theodoret, Cyril and many of the older Hebrews. This is scarcely surprising. However Keil on this occasion, in the Old Testament Commentary of Keil and Delitzsch, prefers to render it, that the SACRIFICERS AMONG MANKIND kissed the calves.
The Hebrew actually says, sacrificers of men, a participle, those who slay, with an object, men. This is the object of the verbal form and of the sacrifice: mankind!
The term is actually the most generic MAN (transliterated adam). Firstly, however, why should we speak of MAN, in the generic, when it is a sub-section of Israel which is involved ? What is the point of dealing with the human race when the criminal actions are of a highly specialised segment of it, engaging in select impudence against their King in the Covenant ?
When however it is realised that we are not referring to those who sacrifice among men, but those who sacrifice in the very realm of MANKIND, religious man-killers, that the topic is the horrendous and inhuman practice denounced in Psalm 106:37-38 concerning religious killing of their children, then the incredible presumption and folly of it, contrary to the very testimony of truth as in Genesis 22, requires the use of the more categorical 'adam', for mankind! This is the point. So far from being pointless, or blunting the point, it IS the point. The term used applies the principle in view roundly.
Secondly, why make it complex, when if the Lord had intended us to understand the preposition, 'among' to be inserted before 'men', He could have inspired its use when He spoke to Hosea! If we want to make ourselves clear and the means are at hand, what sort of communication fails to use them and enables a blur which most simply rendered is 'sacrificers of men', when it is meant that those who sacrifice AMONG men are in view ? This is implicitly to address negatively the expressive power of the Lord, when all His words are pure, seven times refined; and when this 'interpretation' is merely gratuitous.
Thirdly, this is a crescendo in judgment, and to refer to A GENERAL GROUP, 'sacrificers' some of whom do well, some very evilly, when the accusation is against a SPECIAL GROUP, those who do it wantonly, is strangely lacking in application. Do you charge the good and the bad, the sacrificers among men, and then deal with the kissing of the calves by them, when only some of the group first noted, are astray in sacrifice at all ? What would be the point of that ? Does the barrister refer to the women of the city, when only one has murdered! or to the women of the world when an alley incident occurs in a broken home ?
Even if he did, would he refer to the women of the world, the workers among women, when seeking to select a special case ? The very term 'workers' carries rather a special sense, and is not readily impressed for service as such, with some highly particular sin. SO too the term 'those who sacrifice among men' has to be moved into evil alignment for the charge to have pith and point, and it tends to do the exact opposite, like an harassment in the argument, instead of a help.
It is a general term, and with the normal Old Covenant background, one formally a good one. It is the act rather than the object of sacrifice which is then in view, and that whether done well or evilly, as humble obeisance or arrogant obfuscation and obtrusion.
If it be said that it is assumed that we are dealing with the evil, so be it: but do we then choose a generic term to lessen as far as may be, and to give an extenuating sense to what is specific in its wickedness ? Why ? It is counter-productive as WELL as not specifically indicated in the text, when most simply by the mere use of a short preposition, it could have been made clear. Do we INCLUDE the word 'among', because it is conceivable, when it is not there, and when what is actually there is eminently clear!
To do such appears actually to add to the word of God. It is to assume that what is not there MUST be imported when it has not been inserted, and to add to what is there with the utmost simplicity and clarity: and this, for reasons which CANNOT be simply to render what is written. It is an adventure into the superfluous, addition without warrant. We must not however add to His words, lest He rebuke us, and then ? it is possible then to be found a liar, says the proverb (Proverbs 30:6).
Thus the trend of such an addition is to add a point, as well as to lose all point. The point is the utterly atrocious and outrageous addition of sin to sin, impudent, rampaging, ruinous, with vast and soon stated result from the Lord, to meet this extravaganza of evil. Without addition, this is found in the hideous and harrowing slaughter of men in the very name of God and in the very domain of religion, with the very hypocritical addition of kissing, and at that, kissing an emblem of that very Egyptian culture from which, in devastating exhibition of its helpless deceits, He had performed the wonders of the Exodus!
It is one thing in pagan worship to enter the category of those who make animal sacrifices as a prelude to that of Christ, group one; it is quite another to become a man-slayer, man-sacrificer, or in this case particularly, to gain title to the post of child-murderer for sacrifice, group two. The term 'those who sacrifice,' with the addition of a preposition, 'among' includes both kinds, the atrocious and the ardent and ordered: as it stands, it refers only to those who by 'kissing the calf' reach a climax of ethical catastrophe, starting at z and ending at z minus!
Confronting what after all is a NATION in which group one is as frequent as the day, involving a thing ordered and part of their very life in the ways of God, with such a term as this, in order to ridicule and shame their other actions, would be like saying this: You are a people who do not steal, and yet you have pagan worship. Slippage from good things in life, many, into some one folly is so common as to be almost a proverb. What would have final impact in the charge, in that! It is adding sin to sin not slipping into sin which is the thrust of the passage, and indeed its phrasing.
Thus, it is no reference to those who sacrifice among men, with a calf-kiss as an additive, that we find here, as if this potentially lawful body is suddenly seen with one evil, or a composite body were suddenly to be seen in differential in what follows. We do not need to feed into the text such additives of ambiguity or such features of imagination. Indeed, we have then no reason for the expansion to the 'human race' (in the term selected in the text) of the already too general concept of what is either good or bad, depending on the nature and purpose of the sacrifice.
Such a muddle would only limit the application of the finale, almost as if a climax in peroration were to become a single indictment.
Who then are in view, and who are those who engage in such a multitude of emotional, spiritual and perverse sins as kissing the calf - the second feature of the charge in this sentence ? Why is it not those so tender that they offer human sacrifice! No sooner do you sacrifice children in ONE system, than versatile, they transfer to another and kiss claves. Multiply synthetic, they move in diverse realms, insatiable for evil. Yes, with all their adorational religiosity, another of their exploits is this: that they slay men, and do it as part of their religion! Put in the sequence of the text: They even associate with the idolatrous worship of the Lord who perform such ethical enormities, unnatural vices, such heinous crimes.
Following then the text with fidelity and not assuming what is not there in an additive exercise - one not in principle to be considered unless there is contextual constraint for it, in this case lacking , with rather the opposite is in view: what do we find ? In this adding sin to sin depiction which the Lord has just announced in judgment, in Hosea 13:1-2, what follows in the final sentence ?
First, we find that there IS a class of sacrificers, we are not moving inchoately in the realm of the entirety, good and bad of such persons, but into the class in view. It is those who are sacrificers of the human, almost a religious oxymoron, an outrage in the very phrasing. This is something about which the Lord was and is on record as detesting, as noted above from Jeremiah. Religious sacrifice in the HUMAN RACE! It did not even come into His mind (Jeremiah 19:5-6). There is the significance of the term for man deployed: it is an outrage against the race.
Secondly, these who so act, dare to have other religious exercises at all, as if murder were inadequate for their follies. They sin more and more, like incessant waves in motion.
The waves moreover mount to the heavens.
Thirdly, when they do, in noxious contrast with the pure love of God, who sends and gives, and does not require such things from man the rebel (as so eloquently shown with Abraham who, willing to sacrifice Isaac, even if it meant the lad's arising from the dead, was shown not only not to do so, but the alternative of God, that ram caught in the thicket, a foreshadowing of Christ, caught amongst criminals), engage in religious activities, what is their way then ? What do they add to calamitous mischaracterisation of the love of God in such sacrifices ? They provide a doubly hideous caricature, contortion and distortion.
What is that ? They KISS the calves, they embrace with emotion and fealty the idolatrous, they move to a depraved naturalism, and an alien depiction, they merge with Egyptian follies and cast behind their backs the salvation of God, while yet mouthing it. Sin having human blood on its hands, having insulted God with what Psalm 49 declares systematically useless and hopeless in its presentation of the truth of redemption, must follow up neological murder by psychological excesses, adoration of heart! Here is the very shambles of ruin, irrevocable sin in a setting ready for insatiable lust. If it be not physical, then it is at least spiritual.
It is like Romanism, in this*1, that the idolatrous bread is merged with the purity of God, that the cultural use of sacred emblems is merged with what must have no image made of it, that the murder of Christ is to be sanctified by priests, who allege that they are performing what happened at Calvary, and that this is the most sacred of rites, its bread symbol becoming worthy of the uttermost in the realms of devotion, of worship.
It is no less like ecumenicity and liberalism, merging with the cultural objects of the land, while daring still to mention the name of the Lord, their spiritual fidgets and imperial prototypes emerging without ostensible sanctity, as if the mere massed multitude of men made the mercies of God in their own image, and the concurrence of phrases among rebels, made the word of God!
Is not Isaiah 8:20 as relevant as ever ? There is the word of God and that of man, and if you do not speak in accord with what He says, then there is no light in you.
You can neither makes gods nor the word of God: it is God Himself who, the I AM, refuses to have such mergers, as you see not only in the Exodus in the error of Aaron, but in Galatians 1, and II Corinthians 11, where the christs being formed were forged in the fires of human imagination, so that those making them are called false apostles. We have them today. There are many false christs, just as Christ foretold in Matthew 24:24, and many false apostles you purvey them.
Yes, this sort of combination worship could be even associated with sodomy as you see in II Kings 23:7, when the godly Josiah removed their booths from the very TEMPLE precincts. This reminds of those, whether Anglican or Uniting, who are enabling, allowing, forwarding or endorsing the use of the offices of the church by those, pastors or other, who are practising homosexuals, or engaged in biblically defined perversity. The fact that these, among many others, cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, not because sinners, but because they remain in the category of rebellion, rather than that of repentance with humility before the word, ways and witness of God: this is ignored.
But Paul does not ignore it in I Corinthians 5:11-12, 6:9-11, I Timothy 1:10.
Returning to Hosea's day, then, who are those who engage in such a multitude of evils ? Why is it not those so tender, so synthetic, so godless in contrivance and heedless in arrogance that they kiss an idol of vast historic debasement, one of the signals of ruin for Israel (Exodus 32:1-30), which caused vast deaths and suffering when it happened, and was to be followed by their catastrophic faith-failure, when they actually refused to enter the promised land! (cf. Hebrews 4:1-2, I Corinthians 10).
What we actually find then in Hosea 13:2 becomes like a chant, or possibly even an inducement: Sacrificers of men, they kiss the calves!
firstly because of the actual word of God,
not including what is suggested
and not requiring its invention or insertion of the preposition;
secondly because God could have inserted it
if the simple meaning were not intended, and did not;
thirdly because of the comparatively bathetic result if this fact is ignored;
fourthly because of the intensive procedure to climax immediately
before the announcement of divine judgment which the text as given directly provides;
fifthly because the preceding context is stressing
the adding of sin to sin in a cyclotronic sort of style which this exhibits in detail;
sixthly because this rendering is the most simple, direct and has ancient testimony
from eminent scholars among the Greeks and ancient ones of the Hebrews;
seventhly because of the use of the generic term for man, not a specific one,
when the specific is in view; but above all,
eighthly, because the translation given is not only the literal rendering
but one totally immersed in all that precedes and set
in every aspect with refined delicacy and robust force, ending in utter judgment:
for all these reasons, this is the translation given.
And what a testimony it has to multiplying religions and syntheses and sacrificial additives, not satisfied with Calvary, whether in physical or mental terms, and what a warning it brings!
Moreover, in Hosea, the book of contrasts, not least there is some verses later shown the way GOD will handle it: what is the right way (13:14). It is not in the sacrifice of mankind, that category, sinners for sin, so that alters for sin become altars for sinning as Hosea puts it. Rather as always, the Lord insists that it is HE HIMSELF, none other, in His own purity, power and plan, without aid from the afflicted, support from the condemned, but out of sheer mercy and divine love, who will pardon sin. This He will do to the uttermost, removing the ultimate results, so that both death and destruction are made away, as old accounts, by godly payment. It is HIS OWN payment that will do it (as in Romans 3:23ff., Ephesians 2:1-10 in the New Testament).
It is HIMSELF indeed who will pay, and NOTHING will turn Him from this decision, inflexible in kind, immiscible in its purity, decisive in its provision. "Pity is hidden from My eyes." That is, as in Hebrews 5:7, the extremity of cost, He will bear, though it astound the world, cover the depths and anoint the skies with light. This is the open door of Christ, given whether to closed or peering minds; and this is the call, invariant in essence and the beauty of divine power and love, the fundamentals of His own free mercy, from that day to this, yes and from the very beginning, from the protevangelion.
Such is the message in this very same chapter of Hosea, so that you get the contrast -Hosea is a book of contrasts, of virgin and prostitute, of godly marriage and promiscuity, of mercy and ingratitude, of enormous love and sinful enormity. What then is THIS contrast ? It is that -
between the depth of iniquity in those who slay mankind
(thus including children as part of the race, as for Psalm 106,
which speaks of offering them as sacrifices to idols, as of a worm infection),
and the height of divinity's desire, in the sacrifice of HIMSELF.
I WILL BE... He says, death's plagues and the grave's destruction! (Hosea 13:14). This is precisely what Christ says, as seen in Matthew 20:28, and Paul indites in Galatians 3, what is declared in Romans 3, 5, 8 as in I Corinthians 15.
That, God translated into action. That is an excellent translation!
*1 See SMR pp. 1032-1088H, esp. pp. 1086ff..