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Hosea 8-14     Listen Podcast  
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 your mouth!
He shall come like an eagle against the house of the LORD,
Because they have transgressed My covenant
And rebelled against My law.
2 Israel will cry to Me,
“My God, we know You!’
3 Israel has rejected the good;
The enemy will pursue him.
4 “They set up kings, but not by Me;
They made princes, but I did not acknowledge them.
From their silver and gold
They made idols for themselves—
That they might be cut off.
5 Your calf is rejected, O Samaria!
My anger is aroused against them—
How long until they attain to innocence?
6 For from Israel is even this:
A workman made it, and it is not God;
But the calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces.
7 “They sow the wind,
And reap the whirlwind.
The stalk has no bud;
It shall never produce meal.
If it should produce,
Aliens would swallow it up.
8 Israel is swallowed up;
Now they are among the Gentiles
Like a vessel in which is no pleasure.
9 For they have gone up to Assyria,
Like a wild donkey alone by itself;
Ephraim has hired lovers.
10 Yes, though they have hired among the nations,
Now I will gather them;
And they shall sorrow a little,
Because of the burden of the king of princes.
11 “Because Ephraim has made many altars for sin,
They have become for him altars for sinning.
12 I have written for him the great things of My law,
But they were considered a strange thing.
13 For the sacrifices of My offerings they sacrifice flesh and eat it,
But the LORD does not accept them.
Now He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.
They shall return to Egypt.
14 “For Israel has forgotten his Maker,
And has built temples;
Judah also has multiplied fortified cities;
But I will send fire upon his cities,
And it shall devour his palaces.”

Verse 7 is key here, "They sow the wind, And 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 donkey" reference in verse 9 is interesting. The 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 donkey," 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 has 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 Do not rejoice, O Israel, with joy like other peoples,
For you have played the harlot against your God.
You have made love for hire on every threshing floor.
2 The threshing 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 shall eat unclean things in Assyria.
4 They shall not offer wine offerings to the LORD,
Nor shall their sacrifices be pleasing to Him.
It shall be like bread of mourners to them;
All who eat it shall be defiled.
For their bread shall be for their own life;
It shall not come into the house of the LORD.
5 What will you do in the appointed day,
And in the day of the feast of the LORD?
6 For indeed they are gone because of destruction.
Egypt shall gather them up;
Memphis shall bury them.
Nettles shall possess their valuables of silver;
Thorns shall be in their tents.
7 The days of punishment have come;
The days of recompense have come.
Israel knows!
The prophet is a fool,
The spiritual man is insane,
Because of the greatness of your iniquity and great enmity.
8 The watchman of Ephraim is with my God;
But the prophet is a fowler’s snare in all his ways—
Enmity in the house of his God.
9 They are deeply corrupted,
As in the days of Gibeah.
He will remember their iniquity;
He will punish their sins.
10 “I found Israel
Like grapes in the wilderness;
I saw your fathers
As the firstfruits on the fig tree in its first season.
But they went to Baal Peor,
And separated themselves to that shame;
They became an abomination like the thing they loved.
11 As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird—
No birth, no pregnancy, and no conception!
12 Though they bring up their children,
Yet I will bereave them to the last man.
Yes, woe to them when I depart from them!
13 Just as I saw Ephraim like Tyre, planted in a pleasant place,
So Ephraim will bring out his children to the murderer.”
14 Give them, O LORD—
What will You give?
Give them a miscarrying womb
And dry breasts!
15 “All their wickedness is in Gilgal,
For there I hated them.
Because of the evil of their deeds
I will drive them from My house;
I will love them no more.
All their princes are rebellious.
16 Ephraim is stricken,
Their root is dried up;
They shall bear no fruit.
Yes, were they to bear children,
I would kill the darlings of their womb.”
17 My God will cast them away,
Because they did not obey 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 obey Him; And they shall be wanderers among the nations."

You can't say it more plainly (Hosea 10)

1 Israel empties his vine;
He brings forth fruit for himself.
According to the multitude of his fruit
He has increased the altars;
According to the bounty of his land
They have embellished his sacred pillars.
2 Their heart is divided;
Now they are held guilty.
He will break down their altars;
He will ruin their sacred pillars.
3 For now they say,
“We have no king,
Because we did not fear the LORD.
And as for a king, what would he do for us?”
4 They have spoken words,
Swearing falsely in making a covenant.
Thus judgment springs up like hemlock in the furrows of the field.
5 The inhabitants of Samaria fear
Because of the calf of Beth Aven.
For its people mourn for it,
And its priests shriek for it—
Because its glory has departed from it.
6 The idol also shall be carried to Assyria
As a present for King Jareb.
Ephraim shall receive shame,
And Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.
7 As for Samaria, her king is cut off
Like a twig on the water.
8 Also the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel,
Shall be destroyed.
The thorn and thistle shall grow on their altars;
They shall say to the mountains, “Cover us!”
And to the hills, “Fall on us!”
9 “O Israel, you have sinned from the days of Gibeah;
There they stood.
The battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity
Did not overtake them.
10 When it is My desire, I will chasten them.
Peoples shall be gathered against them
When I bind them for their two transgressions.
11 Ephraim is a trained heifer
That loves to thresh grain;
But I harnessed her fair neck,
I will make Ephraim pull a plow.
Judah shall plow;
Jacob shall break his clods.”
12 Sow for yourselves righteousness;
Reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the LORD,
Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.
13 You have plowed wickedness;
You have reaped iniquity.
You have eaten the fruit of lies,
Because you trusted in your own way,
In the multitude of your mighty men.
14 Therefore tumult shall arise among your people,
And all your fortresses shall be plundered
As Shalman plundered Beth Arbel in the day of battle—
A mother dashed in pieces upon her children.
15 Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel,
Because of your great wickedness.
At dawn the king of Israel
Shall be cut off utterly.

If there was any question about the fate of Israel according to Hosea's prophecy, look at these verses in chapter 10:

6 The idol also shall be carried to Assyria
As a present for King Jareb.
Ephraim shall receive shame,
And Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.
7 As for Samaria, her king is cut off
Like a twig on 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, "You have plowed wickedness; You have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies, Because you trusted in your own way, In the multitude of your 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 they will 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.

I've done so much for you, Israel (Hosea 11:1-11)

1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.
2 As they called them,
So they went from them;
They sacrificed to the Baals,
And burned incense to carved images.
3 “I taught Ephraim to walk,
Taking them by their arms;
But they did not know that I healed them.
4 I drew them with gentle cords,
With bands of love,
And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck.
I stooped and fed them.
5 “He shall not return to the land of Egypt;
But the Assyrian shall be his king,
Because they refused to repent.
6 And the sword shall slash in his cities,
Devour his districts,
And consume them,
Because of their own counsels.
7 My people are bent on backsliding from Me.
Though they call to the Most High,
None at all exalt Him.
8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I set you like Zeboiim?
My heart churns within Me;
My sympathy is stirred.
9 I will not execute the fierceness of My anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man,
The Holy One in your midst;
And I will not come with terror.
10 “They shall walk after the LORD.
He will roar like a lion.
When He roars,
Then His sons shall come trembling from the west;
11 They shall come trembling like a bird from Egypt,
Like a dove from the land of Assyria.
And I will let them dwell in their houses,”
Says 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 has encircled Me with lies,
And the house of Israel with deceit;
But Judah still walks with God,
Even with the Holy One who is faithful.

12:1 “Ephraim feeds on the wind,
And pursues the east wind;
He daily increases lies and desolation.
Also they make a covenant with the Assyrians,
And oil is carried to Egypt.
2 “The LORD also brings a charge against Judah,
And will punish Jacob according to his ways;
According to his deeds He will recompense him.
3 He took his brother by the heel in the womb,
And in his strength he struggled with God.
4 Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed;
He wept, and sought favor from Him.
He found Him in Bethel,
And there He spoke to us—
5 That is, the LORD God of hosts.
The LORD is His memorable name.
6 So you, by the help of your God, return;
Observe mercy and justice,
And wait on your God continually.
7 “A cunning Canaanite!
Deceitful scales are in his hand;
He loves to oppress.
8 And Ephraim said,
“Surely I have become rich,
I have found wealth for myself;
In all my labors
They shall find in me no iniquity that is sin.’
9 “But I am the LORD your God,
Ever since the land of Egypt;
I will again make you dwell in tents,
As in the days of the appointed feast.
10 I have also spoken by the prophets,
And have multiplied visions;
I have given symbols through the witness of the prophets.”
11 Though Gilead has idols—
Surely they are vanity—
Though they sacrifice bulls in Gilgal,
Indeed their altars shall be heaps in the furrows of the field.
12 Jacob fled to the country of Syria;
Israel served for a spouse,
And for a wife he tended sheep.
13 By a prophet the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt,
And by a prophet he was preserved.
14 Ephraim provoked Him to anger most bitterly;
Therefore his Lord will leave the guilt of his bloodshed upon him,
And return his reproach upon 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 Esau’s 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 to her: 'Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older 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 Esau said, 'Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!' And he said, 'Have you 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).

They're just a bunch of idol worshippers (Hosea 13)

1 When Ephraim spoke, trembling,
He exalted himself in Israel;
But when he offended through Baal worship, he died.
2 Now they sin more and more,
And have made for themselves molded images,
Idols of their silver, according to their skill;
All of it is the work of craftsmen.
They say of them,
“Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!”
3 Therefore they shall be like the morning cloud
And like the early dew that passes away,
Like chaff blown off from a threshing floor
And like smoke from a chimney.
4 “Yet I am the LORD your God
Ever since the land of Egypt,
And you shall know no God but Me;
For there is no savior besides Me.
5 I knew you in the wilderness,
In the land of great drought.
6 When they had pasture, they were filled;
They were filled and their heart was exalted;
Therefore they forgot Me.
7 “So I will be to them like a lion;
Like a leopard by the road I will lurk;
8 I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs;
I will tear open their rib cage,
And there I will devour them like a lion.
The wild beast shall tear them.
9 “O Israel, you are destroyed,
But your help is from Me.
10 I will be your King;
Where is any other,
That he may save you in all your cities?
And your judges to whom you said,
“Give me a king and princes’?
11 I gave you a king in My anger,
And took him away in My wrath.
12 “The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up;
His sin is stored up.
13 The sorrows of a woman in childbirth shall come upon him.
He is an unwise son,
For he should not stay long where children are born.
14 “I will ransom them from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
O Death, I will be your plagues!
O Grave, I will be your destruction!
Pity is hidden from My eyes.”
15 Though he is fruitful among his brethren,
An east wind shall come;
The wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness.
Then his spring shall become dry,
And his fountain shall be dried up.
He shall plunder the treasury of every desirable prize.
16 Samaria is held guilty,
For she has rebelled against her God.
They shall fall by the sword,
Their infants shall be dashed in pieces,
And their women with child ripped open.

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 is held guilty, For she has rebelled against her God. They shall fall by the sword, Their infants shall be dashed in pieces, And their women with child ripped open." 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 your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?"

Here's a final plea to repent (Hosea 14)

1 O Israel, return to the LORD your God,
For you have stumbled because of your iniquity;
2 Take words with you,
And return to the LORD.
Say to Him,
“Take away all iniquity;
Receive us graciously,
For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.
3 Assyria shall not save us,
We will not ride on horses,
Nor will we say anymore to the work of our hands, “You are our gods.’
For in You the fatherless finds mercy.”
4 “I will heal their backsliding,
I will love them freely,
For My anger has turned away from him.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel;
He shall grow like the lily,
And lengthen his roots like Lebanon.
6 His branches shall spread;
His beauty shall be like an olive tree,
And his fragrance like Lebanon.
7 Those who dwell under his shadow shall return;
They shall be revived like grain,
And grow like a vine.
Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
8 “Ephraim shall say, ‘What have I to do anymore with idols?’
I have heard and observed him.
I am like a green cypress tree;
Your fruit is found in Me.”
9 Who is wise?
Let him understand these things.
Who is prudent?
Let him know them.
For the ways of the LORD are right;
The righteous walk in them,
But transgressors stumble in them.

Notice verse 1, "O Israel, return to the LORD your God," Assyria is mentioned in verse 3 as a possible savior, but ultimately it was to the Assyrians that Israel fell. 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? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right; The righteous walk in them, But transgressors stumble in them." 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.