Hoshea the Prophet
Hoshea – Chapter Eight
The “Shofar,” the Eagle, and the Sowers of Wind
In this Chapter, we find the Prophet Hoshea, once again taking aim at both Kingdoms, the secessionist Kingdom of Israel, that broke from the rest of the Jewish people in the time of Rechavam ben Shlomo, and the remaining Kingdom of Yehudah. The latter Kingdom seemed to have significant moral advantage over the renegade Kingdom, because it included the Tribe of Yehudah, that had been designated by HaShem for Kingship, its kings stemmed from David HaMelech, proclaimed by HaShem as the Founder of the Messianic Dynasty, and it had on its territory the Spiritual Centers of the City of Yerushalayim and the Holy Temple, built by Shlomo ben David. These factors seemed to place a degree of restraint on its Kings and subjects. But even that Kingdom, with all its advantages, could not maintain its loyalty to HaShem.
Again, here we see the importance of Jewish Unity, because things began to go in the wrong direction for both Kingdoms almost immediately after the secession. To coin a phrase, “E Pluribus Unum;” “In Unity there is Strength.”
The Chapter opens with the use of two symbols, both of which are generally positive, but here profoundly negative:
The first is the Shofar, almost always a positive symbol for the Jewish People. Our first encounter with the Shofar is at the Akeidah, where Avraham Avinu had been ready to sacrifice Yitzchak, with Yitzchak’s faithful consent; but HaShem intervenes, declaring human sacrifice forbidden under any circumstances, and substitutes a ram for Yitzchak. It is the horn of this ram, that brings to mind the loyalty and devotion of Avraham and Yitzchak, that is the main symbol of Rosh HaShanah, that brings the merit of the Jewish People before HaShem on Judgment Day, every year, in every generation.
The Sound of the Shofar was the sound that was heard at Sinai, “And behold the sound of the Shofar grew continuously louder, Moshe would speak, and the L-rd would answer him with a peal of thunder” (Shemot 19:19). Of all the nations, the People of Israel accepted the Torah and said, “…Everything that G-d has commanded we will obey before we understand” (Shemot 24:7 ), and the merit of this acceptance stands for them forever.
It is the sound of the Shofar that marks the arrival of and the departure of the “Shechinah,” the Divine Presence. During Elul, we blow the Shofar to remind us that the Supreme Judge of All the World is coming. On Rosh HaShanah we blow one hundred blasts in His Honor, to represent our acceptance of His Kingship, to bring His Omniscience and the fact that there is no forgetfulness before Him to our minds, and to recall the Shofar of Sinai. And at Neilah, we blow again at the departure of the immediate Presence of the Holy King.
The last Psalm in the Book of “Tehilim,” Psalm 150, is recited every morning. In that Psalm, a whole “symphony orchestra” is described, playing in praise of G-d. One of the musical instruments is the Shofar.
It was the Shofar that the Jewish forces blew when they marched around Yericho seven days, before the walls of that city came tumb’lin down.
And in our Prayers, we constantly request of HaShem “Teka Be-Shofar Gadol Le-Cheruteinu,” “Blow that Great Shofar of our Redemption.”
The great “Nesher,” the Eagle, strongest of the Bird Kingdom, is generally a positive symbol for us, as it is in the verse, in Shemot 19:4, where HaShem says, “I carried you on the wings of eagles, and I brought you to Me,” where HaShem pictures His support of the Children of Israel as the support that the eagle gives its hatchlings, whereby it carries them on its wings. There they are protected from above, because no bird of prey can fly higher than the eagle, and from below, from the arrows of the hunter, because the mother eagle prefers that they pierce her body rather than her childrens’.
Another example of the use of the word nesher in a positive sense is on the Page that introduces the “Mishne Torah,” the magnum opus of the RAMBAM, where that great Torah scholar is described by the publishers as the “Nesher HaGadol,” the “Great Eagle,” who could fly higher and farther than any of his contemporaries in the study of Torah.
But here in Chapter 8, the Prophet Hoshea uses the Shofar as a negative symbol. The armies of our enemies also respond to the call of the Shofar, and that is how they are told by G-d to come against us in their attack. The Chapter begins with HaShem’s command to Hoshea HaNavi, “To your palate, a Shofar,” and rouse the enemy to come and attack My People.
And how shall they come? As an eagle, for the nesher is also a fierce predator. HaShem, spurned by His People, sees the only “refuah,” healing, for them is destruction and exile. For the purpose, as Moshe told the People in Arvot Moav, of bringing them to do “Teshuvah,” Repentance, with all their heart. So that they will be able, ultimately, to return to the Holy Land, after yet another destruction and long exile, finally ready (we hope and pray) to recognize their special relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and to assume their role as “mamlechet Kohanim ve-goy Kadosh,” a “Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation” (Shemot 19:6).
"To your palate a Shofar: Like an eagle upon the House of the L-rd, for they have transgressed My Covenant and they have rebelled against My Law."
RASHI and the MAHARI Kara:
The Prophet is commanded to blow a Shofar for the Nations who will be attacking Israel, that they should assemble and begin their attack, like an eagle upon its prey, a mashal for the Beit HaMikdash.
commanded to sound a Shofar as an alarm to the Jewish People that the enemy
is coming and will shortly swoop down upon them, stopping at nothing; even
attacking and destroying the Beit HaMikdash.
"To Me Israel will cry, ‘My G-d, we know you.’ "
RASHI and the RADAK say that the order of this verse is inverted, and words must be shifted in order to emerge with the meaning stated above. Specifically, “Israel” must be brought adjacent to “cry out.” This is not that rare a necessity in learning the meaning of text in the TANAKH.
When the Jewish
People will find itself in Exile among the nations, it will say that now it
recognizes HaShem, and wishes to return to Him.
"Israel has cast off the Good One; the enemy shall pursue him."
RASHI, MAHARI Kara, RADAK and Ib’n Ezra
Agree that the
“Good One” is a reference to HaShem.
This is one of the expressions somewhat unique to Hoshea.
“…they removed and I did not know” –They appointed and deposed officers and Kings not by My consent, because these individuals contributed to the downfall of the People and made them stumble.
“in order that they be cut off” – The meaning is either they themselves would be cut off and would go into Exile, or they would lose all their money, “Measure for Measure;” they threw their money away, that HaShem had given them, on the construction of idols, so HaShem took all their riches away.
The “passuk”/verse begins, “He has forsaken you…” Who has forsaken you? RASHI fills in the missing subject of the sentence, saying “HaShem has forsaken you, residents of Shomron; he also adds the missing word “because” of the sin of the calves that are in Beit E-l and Dan, where the Kings of Shomron worship and demand that their people worship. ”
“How long will they be unable…” – to cleanse their hearts of the stain of “avodah-zarah,” idol-worship.
In this verse, we see some of the characteristic elements in the difficult “style” of Hoshea; namely, rapid-fire changes of person: the verse begins in the “third person,” describing the People of Israel, then suddenly switches to the First Person, where HaShem says “My wrath…,” and then reverts to the “third person,” again referring to the People of Israel.
Also, as written, the verse would be understood, “He has abandoned your calf…,” clearly not the intentioned meaning.
Also, the verse eliminates verbs occasionally; as for example, the verse as written would be translated “How long will they be unable to cleanliness,” where the verb “to achieve” is omitted.
Asks, “Why does the verse imply that the calves were in Shomron, when they were actually in Dan and Bet E-l! He answers that because the capital city of the Kingdom of Israel, and the residence of the Kings was in Shomron, and they were the ones who perpetuated the worship of the calves, that is why the “passuk” says that the calves “were in Shomron,” as the TANAKH says time and time again, about almost all the Kings of the Kingdom of Israel, that “they did not depart from the path of Yeravam.”
"For it is from Israel; a craftsman made it, and it is a no-god, for the Calf of Samaria shall be splinters."
It seems that RASHI is saying that the guilt for the creation of the Golden Calf in the desert must actually be assigned to the People of Israel, although it was actually the creation of the “Erev Rav,” the community of somewhat questionable converts to Judaism that had come out from Egypt with the Jewish People, only for the purpose of being with “the winner,” but without complete faith in G-d.
At the first sign of trouble, when Moshe seemed to be “late” in returning from Mt. Sinai, they used the “black magic” they had brought from Egypt to create the Golden Calf from the gold that Aharon had thrown into the fire. Nevertheless, says RASHI, if this interpretation is correct, the guilt must still be assigned to the entire People of Israel, whose attitude had allowed the “Erev Rav” to take charge of events, and drag the Jewish People down into the terrible sin of disloyalty that “CHAZAL” compare to a bride who commits adultery while still under her bridal canopy.
Again, with respect to the “style” of Hoshea, as compared to the “style” of Yirmiyahu, and especially Yeshayahu, it is not generally as flowing, and clear, as the style of other Prophets. It is rather, abrupt, with unexpected changes of person, leaving out words; that is, very concise, quite difficult at times to understand at first reading (or “hearing,” as the People of Israel did), but at times rising to soaring heights of beauty, as well as uniform intensity. Perhaps it is the intensity of the message that forces Hoshea to abandon beautiful language, and use instead harsh, abrasive language designed to penetrate the complacent and ultimately out-of-reach minds and hearts of the Jewish People at that time.
"For they sow wind, and will reap the whirlwind; it has no standing grain, a plant that will not produce flour; and if it might produce something, strangers will swallow it."
Here is an example of a metaphor that has entered world literature – “sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind,” meaning investing nothing of value, and profiting even less, although that “loses in the translation.”
“no standing grain” –
This means that
they produce nothing of lasting value, and have no success despite all their
This means that even if they seem to have produced something of value, you should know that it will immediately be swallowed up by their enemies.
"Israel has been swallowed; now they are among the nations as a useless utensil."
The nations of the world will swallow her up and devour all of its good produce.
“…now they are among the nations…”
This may mean
either that before their Exile they will go begging for aid and succor from the
nations of the world, who will have only contempt for them, as Hoshea
referred (in Hoshea 7:16) to “their derision in the land of Egypt;” or
it may refer to the time that they are literally among the nations, already in
Exile, away from their homeland, like a ghost-nation, and having no expectation
in the eyes of other nations of survival.
"For they went up to Assyria, a wild donkey secluded to himself, Ephraim paid hire for love."
They became like a wild donkey, that sniffs the air to find the direction to follow, having no other source of direction (as they should have found in the Torah, and in the words of the Prophets).
“paid hire, etc”
Targum Yonatan, quoted by RASHI, doesn’t interpret the word “hitnu” in this manner; rather, he interprets it, based on the word “Tanin,” as a dragon(?), or a large and grotesque reptile, that goes through the desert, seeking all manner of lovers. RASHI also states the interpretation followed above; namely, paid for “love.” The reference is to the grotesque behavior of the Jewish People, who went to former enemies, offering bribes and seeking assistance, instead of to HaShem, Who had always assisted them in times of danger, as well as at all other times.
The People sought to “go up” to Ashur, to seek an alliance, but it was really a “descent,” as is any transition outside the boundaries of the Land of Israel.
Another possibility is that they wished to make “Aliyah,” to return to Eretz Yisrael, prematurely, before the seventy-year length of their Exile had expired.
It’s possible to say that “going up” refers to “going up to Ashur within Eretz Yisrael.” This could be a reference to when Pul, the King of Ashur, came to Israel to attack it, but Menachem ben Gadi, a wicked king, extracted one thousand talents of silver from the rich people in his kingdom, and gave that sum to Pul, so that Ashur would be an ally of Israel, or at least would not attack Israel at that time (Melachim II, 15:19-20).
"Although they pay hire among the nations, now I will gather them, and they will be humbled a little from the burden of the king and of the princes."
There are two ways of interpreting this verse; that it speaks about the Redemption of the People of Israel, or very differently, that it speaks about the Exile of the People of Israel. RASHI and the MAHARI Kara interpret it positively from the perspective of the Jewish people; RADAK interprets it negatively.
Even though they
made that great error, of seeking aid from foreign nations, rather than turning
to Me, I will ultimately forgive them, I will “gather them from their Exile”
and restore them to the Land of Israel.
My only purpose in sending them into Exile, was so that they should “be
humbled a little,” and see the difference between serving Me and serving
kings of foreign nations.
The verse refers to the gathering of the nations to attack and to send the Jewish People into Exile. The “little humbling” refers to the punishment of having to pay taxes to foreign rulers while they were still in their homeland, in Israel; they will see the enormous difference between that and the sufferings of Exile among the nations.
There is a textual and contextual problem with RASHI’s interpretation; that is, it doesn’t seem to fit. Because everything before it and after it in the “Perek”/Chapter is negative and speaks of punishment.
reprimand them through My Prophets, and write for them the great things of My Torah,
but they are considered a strange thing.
… explains the “K’tiv,” the version of the word as it is written, and the “Kri,” the version of the word as it is to be read. The Kri, “Rubay,” referring to the multitude, speaks of the numerous commands, the “mitzvoth,” contained in the Torah. The K’tiv, “Rubo,” refers to great things that were also ignored, or considered strange; for example, when King Yoshiahu found the entire “Sefer Devarim” that had been lost.
Both the Kri and the K’tiv had been lost by the Jewish People!
"As for the sacrifices they burn before Me, let them slaughter the flesh and eat it; the L-rd does not desire them. Now He will remember their iniquity and visit their sins (upon them, when) they return to Egypt."
Whereas RASHI interpreted the word “havhavai” as sacrifices that are burnt, RADAK interprets as “what you consider as “gifts” to me, from the verb “Yehav,” to give, where the “Ayin Ha-Poal” and the “Lamed HaPoal,” the second and third letters of the “shoresh,” the root of the verb, are repeated.
The reference to the return to Egypt is to the tragic episode after the Churban, the Destruction of the Temple, when a portion of the Jewish people under the leadership of Yochanan ben Koreach, fled to Mitzrayim, against the will of HaShem. Yirmiyahu the Prophet warned them that their punishment there would be worse than the punishment visited upon Yerushalayim.
"Israel has forgotten his Maker, and has built temples, and Judah has increased fortified cities, and I will set fire to his cities, and it will consume her palaces."
The word “osehu,” his Maker, refers of course to HaShem, Who chose them and made them great, and Israel forgot Him, and built altars to idols. Alternatively, the verse may refer to the false confidence that the residents of the Kingdom of Yehudah placed in their fortifications, tragically forgetting the One Who is called “Tzur Yisrael V’Goalo,” the “Rock of Israel and its Redeemer.”