on Hosea 8 :9
They are gone up to Assyria - For succor.
A wild ass alone by himself - Like that animal, jealous of its liberty, and suffering no rival. If we may credit Pliny and others, one male wild ass will keep a whole flock of females to himself, suffer no other to approach them, and even bite off the genitals of the colts, lest in process of time they should become his rivals. "Mares singuli faeminarum gregibus imperitant; timent libidinis aemulos, et ideo gravidas custodiunt, morsuque natos mares castrant." - Hist. Nat., lib. viii., c. 30. The Israelites, with all this selfishness and love of liberty, took no step that did not necessarily lead to their thraldom and destruction.
Ephraim hath hired lovers - Hath subsidized the neighboring heathen states.
on Hosea 8 :9
For they are gone up to Assyria - The ground of this their captivity is that wherein they placed their hope of safety. They shall be presently swallowed up; "for" they went to Asshur. The holy land being then honored by the spectral presence of God, all nations are said to "go up" to it. Now, since Israel forgetting God, their strength and their glory, went to the Assyrian for help, he is said to "go up" there, where he went as a suppliant.
A wild donkey alone by himself - As "the ox" which "knoweth its owner, and the donkey its Master's crib," represents each believer, of Jew or Gentile; Israel, who would not know Him, is called the "wild ass." The "pere," or "wild ass" of the East , is "heady, unruly, undisciplinable" , "obstinate, running with swiftness far outstripping the swiftest horse" , whither his lust, hunger, thirst, draw him without rule or direction, hardly to be turned aside from his intended course." Although often found in bands, one often breaks away by himself, exposing itself for a prey to lions, from where it is said, "the wild donkey is the lion's prey in the wilderness" (Ecclus. 13:19). Wild as the Arab was, a "wild ass' colt by himself" , is to him a proverb for one , "singular, obstinate, pertinacious in his purpose." Such is man by nature Job 11:12; such, it was foretold to Abraham, Ishmael would be Genesis 16:12; such Israel again became; "stuborn, heady, selfwilled, refusing to be ruled by God's law and His counsel, in which he might find safety, and, of his own mind, running to the Assyrian," there to perish.
Ephraim hath hired lovers or loves - The plural, in itself, shows that they were sinful loves, since God had said, "a man shall cleave unto his wife and they twain shall be one flesh." These sinful "loves" or "lovers" she was not tempted by, but she herself invited them (see Ezekiel 16:33-34). It is a special and unwonted sin, when woman, forsaking the modesty which God gives her as a defense, becomes the temptress. "Like such a bad woman, luring others to love her, they, forsaking God, to whom, as by covenant of marriage, they ought to have cleaved, and on Him alone to have depended, sought to make friends of the Assyrian, to help them in their rebellions against Him, and so put themselves to that charge (as sinners usually do) in the service of sin, which in God's service they need not to have been at."
And yet that which God pictures under colors so offensive, what was it in human eyes? The "hire" was presents of gold to powerful nations, whose aid, humanly speaking, Israel needed. But wherever it abandoned its trust in God, it adopted their idols. "Whoever has recourse to human means, without consulting God, or consulting whether He will, or will not bless them, is guilty of unfaithfulness which often leads to many others. He becomes accustomed to the tone of mind of those whose protection he seeks, comes insensibly to approve even their errors, loses purity of heart and conscience, sacrifices his light and talents to the service of the powers, under whose shadow he wishes to live under repose."
on Hosea 8 :9
8:9 Gone up - Israel is like a wild ass. A wild ass - Stubborn, wild, untamed. Alone - Solitary, where is no path or tract; so they were in their captivity.