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Hosea 8-14 Listen
The circumstances of the prophetic ministry of Hosea are most interesting and relevant. An understanding of those circumstances is vital to an adequate comprehension of his prophetic words. Click here to see the introduction to Hosea.
Israel's fall (Hosea 8)
1 Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the LORD, because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law.
2 Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee.
3 Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him.
4 They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.
5 Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off; mine anger is kindled against them: how long will it be ere they attain to innocency?
6 For from Israel was it also: the workman made it; therefore it is not God: but the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces.
7 For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.
8 Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure.
9 For they are gone up to Assyria, a wild ass alone by himself: Ephraim hath hired lovers.
10 Yea, though they have hired among the nations, now will I gather them, and they shall sorrow a little for the burden of the king of princes.
11 Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin, altars shall be unto him to sin.
12 I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.
13 They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat it; but the LORD accepteth them not; now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins: they shall return to Egypt.
14 For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples; and Judah hath multiplied fenced cities: but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof.
Verse 7 is key here, "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind:" The wind lacks tangible substance. Likewise, Israel (aka Ephraim) trusted in those false gods which lacked substance. We see in verse 5 a reference to Israel's calf worship in their capital city, Samaria. You will recall that Jeroboam established this as the national religion when the Northern Kingdom (Israel) split from Judah after the reign of Solomon (I Kings 12, see notes). Their fall will come like a whirlwind. Verse 9 references the peace that both Israel and Judah (under King Hoshea and King Ahaz) tried to establish with Assyria by paying them off (buying protection, so to speak). It didn't work (II Chronicles 28; II Kings 16-17, see notes).
The "wild ass" reference in verse 9 is interesting. The "ass" (aka donkey) was the beast of burden in that day - the farm tractor as well as the mode of leisure transportation for royalty. However, a "wild ass," one that served no useful function, just ate and wandered without a purpose or a plan. Yup, that's Israel all right - no purpose, no plan and refused to serve God. The statement in verse 9, "Ephraim hath hired lovers" is a reference to that same attempt to deal with Assyria. In verse 14 we see a reference to Israel and Judah in that they both have forsaken God and turned to their own devices.
Incidentally, as the most influential among the tribes comprising the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Ephraim is often mentioned in Hosea's prophecies as characterizing all of Israel. The other prophets of the Old Testament often do the same.
The sin and prophesied fall of Israel (Hosea 9)
1 Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people: for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, thou hast loved a reward upon every cornfloor.
2 The floor and the winepress shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her.
3 They shall not dwell in the LORD’S land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria.
4 They shall not offer wine offerings to the LORD, neither shall they be pleasing unto him: their sacrifices shall be unto them as the bread of mourners; all that eat thereof shall be polluted: for their bread for their soul shall not come into the house of the LORD.
5 What will ye do in the solemn day, and in the day of the feast of the LORD?
6 For, lo, they are gone because of destruction: Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them: the pleasant places for their silver, nettles shall possess them: thorns shall be in their tabernacles.
7 The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.
8 The watchman of Ephraim was with my God: but the prophet is a snare of a fowler in all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God.
9 They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah: therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins.
10 I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baalpeor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved.
11 As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird, from the birth, and from the womb, and from the conception.
12 Though they bring up their children, yet will I bereave them, that there shall not be a man left: yea, woe also to them when I depart from them!
13 Ephraim, as I saw Tyrus, is planted in a pleasant place: but Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer.
14 Give them, O LORD: what wilt thou give? give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.
15 All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more: all their princes are revolters.
16 Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb.
17 My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto him: and they shall be wanderers among the nations.
Chapters 9 continues with the theme of prophecy against the sin of Israel aka Ephraim aka Samaria. The adultery mentioned is the spiritual adultery of going after other gods and turning their backs on the one true God. The references to Egypt in verses 3 and 6 are prophecies that Israel will return to the same corruption they left when God led them out of Egypt under Moses, but this time to Assyria (verse 3). Verse 9 is a reference to the Benjamites of Gibeah, who committed a gruesome crime against the concubine of a guest Levite (Judges 19-21, see notes). This incident, which is one of the most shocking examples of corruption among Hebrews in the Old Testament, led to civil war and brought the tribe of Benjamin to the brink of extinction.
Then in verse 10, Hosea brings up one of Israel's earliest transgressions back in Numbers 25 (see notes) with the mention of Baalpeor. Verse 15 is a reference to the fact that Gilgal had clearly become a center of false worship. Yup! Israel's fall is imminent, as seen in the prophetic decree of verse 17, "My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto him: and they shall be wanderers among the nations."
1 Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images.
2 Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images.
3 For now they shall say, We have no king, because we feared not the LORD; what then should a king do to us?
4 They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant: thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field.
5 The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Bethaven: for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it.
6 It shall be also carried unto Assyria for a present to king Jareb: Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.
7 As for Samaria, her king is cut off as the foam upon the water.
8 The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.
9 O Israel, thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah: there they stood: the battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them.
10 It is in my desire that I should chastise them; and the people shall be gathered against them, when they shall bind themselves in their two furrows.
11 And Ephraim is as an heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the corn; but I passed over upon her fair neck: I will make Ephraim to ride; Judah shall plow, and Jacob shall break his clods.
12 Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
13 Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men.
14 Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled, as Shalman spoiled Betharbel in the day of battle: the mother was dashed in pieces upon her children.
15 So shall Bethel do unto you because of your great wickedness: in a morning shall the king of Israel utterly be cut off.
If there was any question about the fate of Israel according to Hosea's prophecy, look at these verses in chapter 10:
Hosea 10:6 It shall be also carried unto Assyria for a present to king Jareb: Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.
Hosea 10:7 As for Samaria, her king is cut off as the foam upon the water.
Apparently "king Jareb" is an alternate name for one of the Assyrian kings; the name is also used in Hosea 5:13, but nothing is known of the name. And there's the reference to Gibeah again in verse 9. Maybe it's of little significance here, but don't you find amusing Hosea's "heifer" metaphor in verse 11 referencing Ephraim (Israel) as the calf-worshipping people? And finally, notice verse 13, "Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men." That's it - both Israel and Judah (verse 11) adopted the corrupt practices of wicked men at the exclusion of the one true God.
It is interesting that Jesus draws from the words of verse 8 as he is being led to the cross in Luke 23:30 (see notes), "Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us." In that passage it is likely that Jesus is referring to the future destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
1 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
2 As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.
3 I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.
4 I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.
5 He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return.
6 And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches, and devour them, because of their own counsels.
7 And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him.
8 How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.
9 I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.
10 They shall walk after the LORD: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west.
11 They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith the LORD.
Here, the prophecy reflects back on how much God loved Israel and protected them. Yet, they showed nothing but ingratitude in return. God does promise not to completely destroy them (verse 8) as he did Admah and Zeboim in Deuteronomy 29:23 (see notes). Admah and Zeboim were two neighboring cities in the plain of Sodom who were destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah, as mentioned in that passage and this. Verses 10-11 allude to a restoration one day of Israel - probably a reference to the return from exile to the homeland in 535 B.C.
Incidentally, Matthew quotes verse 1 here in Matthew 2:15 (see notes) as being fulfilled when Joseph took baby Jesus to Egypt to avoid the murder of the babies in Judea.
Some stories are hard to forget (Hosea 11:12-12:14)
11:12 Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.
12:1 Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.
2 The LORD hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him.
3 He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God:
4 Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us;
5 Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial.
6 Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.
7 HE IS A MERCHANT, THE BALANCES OF DECEIT ARE in his hand: he loveth to oppress.
8 And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: IN ALL MY LABOURS THEY SHALL FIND NONE INIQUITY IN ME THAT WERE sin.
9 And I THAT AM THE LORD thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast.
10 I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.
11 Is there iniquity in Gilead? surely they are vanity: they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal; yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields.
12 And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.
13 And by a prophet the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved.
14 Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him.
Jacob never lived down his first moments outside the womb. These verses make reference to Jacob's determination and intensity in acquiring Esau's birthright. Refer to Genesis 25:26 (see notes), "And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esaus heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them." I'm not sure what exactly Isaac and Rebekah were thinking when the twins were born with Jacob hanging onto Esau's heel. It appears that they had not given much thought previously to what they would name the boys. She knew she was having twins from the word of the Lord in Genesis 25:23 (see notes), "And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger."
When the first of the twins was born, he was one of the hairiest babies she had ever seen, so she called him "Hairy." The Hebrew word for "Hairy" is Esau. But hanging onto Esau's heel was the second child. "Isn't that cute!" Rebekah may have thought. So, she named him the Hebrew word for "the one who hangs onto another's heel." Actually, there is a single word for that in Hebrew; that word sounds like "Jacob." The verb form of the word means "to grab another's heel to gain an advantage." Literally it means "to supplant - to gain a competitive position over another." Esau knew what it meant in Genesis 27:36 (see notes), "And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?" Hosea's prophecy reminds us of Jacob's intensity in verses 2 through 4 here - going all the way back to a reference to Jacob's heel grabbing at birth. As Israel's common ancestor, his competitive attribute in seeking God's favor is in view here. If only Israel would do the same and seek God with the same intensity that Jacob did.
In verse 11, Gilead on the east of the Jordan and Gilgal on the west are here made representative references to all the land of Israel. And in verse 12 we see a reference to Jacob's trip to Haran (in Syria) to acquire his wife (Genesis 28-29, see notes).
1 When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.
2 And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.
3 Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.
4 Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me.
5 I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.
6 According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.
7 Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them:
8 I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them.
9 O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.
10 I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?
11 I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.
12 The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid.
13 The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children.
14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.
15 Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels.
16 Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.
Here's the word from Hosea's prophecy, "Israel is just a bunch of idol worshippers!" Actually they are called "calf kissers" in verse 2, a reference to the foundational religion of the Northern Kingdom which involved the two golden calves their first king, Jeroboam, established as their objects of worship. Maybe that's the derogatory statement the people in Judah made to the Northern Kingdom (Israel) residents, "You bunch of calf kissers!" Will they repent? NO! They will not. So, watch out for that "east wind" in verse 15, a reference to the armies of Assyria coming to town - thus, a prophecy of Israel's fall in 721 B.C. to the Assyrian army found in II Kings 17 (see notes). A very disturbing prophecy accompanying Israel's fall to Assyria is found in verse 16, "Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up." Ouch!
Incidentally, Paul loosely paraphrases a portion of verse 14, "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes." He says in I Corinthians 15:55 (see notes), "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
Here's a final plea to repent (Hosea 14)
1 O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.
2 Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.
3 Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.
4 I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.
5 I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
6 His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.
7 They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
8 Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.
9 Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.
Notice verse 1, "O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God." Assyria is mentioned in verse 3 (Asshur) as a possible savior, but ultimately it was to the Assyrians that Israel fell. The exact Hebrew word is translated "Assyrians" in 12:1 and "Asshur" in 14:3 in the KJV. Even though this prophecy encourages Israel to repent from their backsliding, they would not. And there's the proposition in verse 9, "Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein." Well...they can't say that they weren't adequately warned. However, even in the face of imminent destruction, they would not serve the one true God.
In conclusion, it should be noted that Hosea's warning to Israel and Judah is as clear as clear can be. In these 14 chapters, Hosea has repeated over and over again with metaphors, analogies, figures of speech and just plain ol' declarative statements the following offer: Israel and Judah may return to the worship of the one true God and flourish, or they can reject this offer and fall to Assyria. Yet, despite this clear warning, Israel and Judah refused to repent. Only Jerusalem itself would repent under Hezekiah and survive the Assyrian onslaught, but not the strength of the Babylonians 135 years later.