A Threshing CowBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Israel is like a vine that cannot stand good fruit. The more good things G-d gives them, the more they embrace idolatry. Their heart has separated from G-d, so He will demolish their altars. When this happens, the people will say that their king is useless to save them from their enemies; of course, had they recognized G-d as their King, He could have done so! The nation sinned with their mouths; they conspired to keep people from going to the Temple, they swore falsely and they forged a pact with idolatry. Their judgment will be bitter like hemlock.
The neighbors of Samaria, where a calf idol was, should be very afraid. (The prophet calls Beth-El “Beth-Aven,” meaning house of sin, rather than house of G-d.) Off they go, to Assyria, to Sennacherib. The kingdom will be ashamed of their idolatry, which led to exile. The king of Israel will have no reply. The places of idolatry destroyed, thorns will grow over their altars. The people will beg the mountains to hide their shame from the nations. Since the days of Gibeah, Israel has been sinful. (See the comment on Gibeah in the previous chapter.) They have remained stubbornly sinful; they have not conquered that trait. G-d judged them and delivered them into their enemies’ hands.
The nation of the Ten Tribes is like an cow wearing a yoke; they are beaten down, but they love to thresh grain (but not to plow – a threshing cow gets to eat, a plowing cow has to work). G-d will put them to work. They should sow righteousness and reap kindness, but instead they planted evil and harvested perversion. The fruit they eat is lies and they relied on the wrong people. A cry will go out as the cities are plundered and the women and children are abandoned and slaughtered. This is what they can thank the calf idols for bringing about. The king of Israel has no strength left to reply.