Our reading today begins with more judgment pronounced against Israel, albeit very poetically. God again calls for them to prepare for war (blow the trumpet – 8:1 – see 5:8). The eagle (the “vulture” is translated “eagle” everywhere in the Old Testament except here and Proverbs 30:17) is Assyria. They will pray on Israel because they have been unfaithful to God. They will cry out to God, insisting they know Him (v. 2 – see 4:1 and 6:6), but they will be destroyed because they do not (v. 3). The calf of verses 5 and 6 refer to the idols Jeroboam made (see 1 Kings 12:28). It is typical of Israel’s idolatry and ignorance of God.
In verses 7-10, God again speaks of the Assyrian invasion. Note in verse 8 that God says of Israel: “already they are among the nations.” They have rejected God, and He has rejected them, so they are no different from the nations around them (as we have seen). Verse 10 again points to their turning to foreign nations instead of God for help. In verse 11, Israel is again indicted for worshiping false Gods, and in verse 12, for ignoring God’s Law. God does not accept their offerings (again, see 6:6). He will punish their sins by making them “return to Egypt.” This is referring to their coming captivity. But there’s more to it. This is a symbolic undoing of what God has already done. He saved Israel and called her as His own, now He is rejecting her and putting her back where she came from. Note in verse 14 that Judah is again included in this judgment.
Chapter 9 picks up on the theme of captivity in Egypt. Because Israel has played the whore, they will be removed from the land and returned to Egypt, which God here says is the Assyrian captivity (9:1-3). In verses 4 and 5, God is saying that Israel will forget all about Him. Verse 6 again refers to the coming judgment as a return to Egypt. Verses 7-9 pronounce judgment, likening Israel’s sin to that of the men of Gibeah in Judges 19:22-30. God then reminds them of their worship of Baal at Peor (v. 10 – see Num 25:1-5 and note the “whoring” imagery there). Indeed, Israel’s history is full of failure and false worship. Verses 11-14 speak of Israel being completely cut off and forgotten.
In verse 15, God says “every evil” of Israel “is in Gilgal; where I began to hate them.” Gilgal is where Joshua led Israel over the Jordan to enter the promised land (Josh 4:19-24). It is where the 12 stones were set up as a memorial of what God had done. God is saying that Israel has forgotten Him, and from the very beginning – from the moment they set foot in the promised land – they have been wicked. Note the harsh language of hating them and not loving them anymore. So He will scatter them among the nations (v. 17).
Chapter 10 begins with God describing how His provision for Israel has been repaid by them worshiping false gods (10:1). They will have no king (their last king will be taken – see 2 Kings 17:4) because of their rejection of God (v. 3, 7) and their empty religion (v. 4). They will miss their calf at Bethel (note again the Beth-aven name) rather than YHWH (v. 5 – see 9:4-5). Their false gods will be unable to save them, and will themselves go into captivity (v. 6). Their high places and altars will fall into ruin (v. 8).
In verse 9, God again accuses Israel of being a sinful nation from the moment they entered the promised land (see 9:15). Their “double iniquity” in verse 10 are the two golden calves. They will be “bound up” (go into captivity) because of their idolatry. God uses the calf imagery in verse 11. Israel was a trained calf – an unyoked cow, free to roam. But now God will take away their freedom and put them in a yoke. Note again that Judah is included in this captivity metaphor.
God sticks with this yoked cow imagery to call for repentance (v. 12). Now that Israel and Judah will be “yoked” (sent into captivity), they need to break up their fallow ground – they must plow their hearts and return to God. They need to produce justice and hesed love where they have been plowing sin (v. 13), for which they will fall to the enemy (v. 14). God then pronounces judgment on the idolaters, and the king (v. 15).