“O Samaria, I reject this calf-this idol you have made. My fury burns against you. How long will you be incapable of innocence? This calf you worship was crafted by your own hands! It is not God! Therefore, it must be smashed to bits.” (Hosea 8:5-6) This Hebrew word translated “innocence” in Hebrew sounds like nik-kaw-yone.” It has a basic meaning of “clearness.” It has application in matters of sexual immorality and in ritual purification. Historically, there were two mentions of calf worship, The first is found in Exodus 32. Moses was on the mountain receiving the law of God. Aaron was helping the people form a golden calf to worship. The second is found in 1 Kings 12 when Jeroboam rebelled against Rehoboam, formed a separate nation in the north, called it Israel, and crafted two golden calves to be worshiped in Dan and Bethel so the northern tribes would not go to Jerusalem to Solomon’s temple. These calves were modeled after the Egyptian god called Apis. The god they called Baal, meaning lord, took many forms, one of which was a bull. Here Hosea. or God speaking through Hosea, calls the bull a mere calf, emphasizing its weakness. Baal worship and its accompanying sexual rituals were meant to symbolize purification.
Now with this background material before us, let’s dive into the meaning of this. This entire system of Baal worship was fundamentally corrupt from top to bottom. It was built on lies, deceit, falsehoods, unsubstantiated premises, and baseless claims. The idol is false. The calf is a puny bull. It was crafted by their hands. They made it, it didn’t make them. Simply, “It is not God.” Often today when debating the current cultural issues like abortion, trans, LBGTQ+, CRT, immigration, climate change, gender issues, and the like, those of us brought up on a Christian worldview feel like we just dropped down the rabbit hole. We feel like we have no solid frame of reference. We have no true north to guide us through the maze of arguments. We are searching for CLEARNESS. We want INNOCENCE. We just want a PURE position on which to stand. However, we are incapable of reaching this desired end because of all the false premises. When falseness is at the core of our belief system no innocence will be found. Take the theory of evolution as an example. If our belief is based on the idea of a scientific explanation of man’s origins which leaves God out, then all moral and ethical discussions are irrelevant. We may argue for some utilitarian view of ethics, but we can never arrive at a real innocence.
Innocence requires a clear moral standard. In court the word “innocence” follows “not guilty.” A “not guilty” verdict can only be rendered if there is some objective standard of law against which a person is measured and found to be innocent of the alleged crime. When we say a child is “innocent” we mean they have not had a conscious and culpable exposure to evil. Here is Paul’s commentary on Hosea’s words from Titus 1:15-16. “Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving because their minds and consciences are defiled. Such people claim they know God, but they deny Him by the way they live. They are despicable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good.” This is why Hosea says that these calves need to be “smashed to bits.” There is no cleaning them up. There is no tweaking an idol to make it real. There is no amount of makeup you can put on a pig to make it beautiful. An idol and the worship given to it will never be innocent.
Everything under the sun is called innocent today. Our standard seems to be that the sinner is not hurting anyone. What they do behind closed doors is their business. They should be able to do what they want with their body. Or, we say, “They are just having fun.” “Just some good ole boys, never meaning no harm,” I fear we are throwing our innocent children into a world that is incapable of innocence.