The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Hosea 5

Hos 5:1

Hos 5: "This appears in a section dealing with Israel's intolerable wantonness, and the holiness of Yahweh (Hos 4-7). After Yahweh's formal charge against Israel (Hos 4), the prophet now bears Yahweh's indictment against the people and priests of the nation (Hos 5). The Deity will not associate with sin in any sense. Therefore the prophet declares: (1) God withdrew from the adulterous people: vv 1-7. (2) They would be abandoned to their fate: vv 8-14. (3) Yet the door of reconciliation would be left open: v 15. The prophecy is dramatic, for it was delivered to Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II in the north, and the line of four kings of Judah (Hos 1:1), including the faithful Hezekiah. But sin was a festering sore in the nation, waiting for the opportunity to burst forth in its degrading depravity. Yet the mercy of Yahweh waited in the days of Hosea, and would return when they would 'seek Him early' (Hos 5:15). This was typically seen in the days of Hezekiah, but will be fulfilled in 'the third day' (Hos 6:2)" (GEM).

MIZPAH... TABOR: There was an Israelite Mizpah in Gilead (Jdg 10:17; 11:29), and a mount Tabor which stood in the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel. These were eminent sites for hunting.

Hos 5:2

THE REBELS ARE DEEP IN SLAUGHTER: "They have made deep the pit" (RSV) -- as though to trap men!

Hos 5:3

EPHRAIM: Ephraim had played the harlot against her husband, the Lord, and had defiled herself by doing so (cf Lev 18:20,24; Num 5:20,27,28). Ephraim was the largest tribe in Israel and so frequently was a synonym for the Northern Kingdom (eg, Hos 4:17). Hosea may have referred to Ephraim here because this tribe was foremost in idolatry.

Hos 5:4

THEIR DEEDS DO NOT PERMIT THEM TO RETURN TO THEIR GOD. A SPIRIT OF PROSTITUTION IS IN THEIR HEART: The idolatrous practices of the Israelites -- together with the accompanying immoralities -- had ensnared them so they could not return to their real God. The spirit of a harlot had taken them over; they had become "sin-addicts". Consequently they did not acknowledge Yahweh.

Hos 5:5

ISRAEL'S ARROGANCE TESTIFIES AGAINST THEM: They sin proudly, openly (cp Isa 3:9).

THE ISRAELITES, EVEN EPHRAIM, STUMBLE IN THEIR SIN: With their proud noses high in the air, they frequently stumbled as they walked: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (Pro 16:18).

JUDAH ALSO STUMBLES WITH THEM: We are responsible for others, who may follow our bad example.

Hos 5:6

WHEN THEY GO WITH THEIR FLOCKS AND HERDS TO SEEK THE LORD, THEY WILL NOT FIND HIM; HE HAS WITHDRAWN HIMSELF FROM THEM: The guilty might seek Yahweh, bringing their animal sacrifices to Him, but they would not find Him because He had withdrawn from them. Whereas holiness makes fellowship with God possible, sin and hypocrisy rule it out. He would withdraw His help and blessing from them. He would not accept superficial, or hypocritical worship: Psa 51:17; Jer 29:13; John 4:21,22; 2Ti 3:5.

Cp Mic 3:4: "Then they will cry out to the LORD, but he will not answer them. At that time he will hide his face from them because of the evil they have done."

Hos 5:7

THEY ARE UNFAITHFUL TO THE LORD; THEY GIVE BIRTH TO ILLEGITIMATE CHILDREN: They had dealt treacherously against Yahweh by being unfaithful to their natural and covenant responsibilities to Him. In this they were like an unfaithful wife who had given birth to illegitimate children (as Gomer: see Hos 1:6,8n), the natural result of unfaithfulness. Probably many illegitimate children -- the products of unions between Israelites and temple prostitutes -- populated the Northern Kingdom.

NOW THEIR NEW MOON FESTIVALS WILL DEVOUR THEM AND THEIR FIELDS: Participation in apostate religious festivals would only hasten their destruction. Prob "new moon" relates to the stargazers and monthly prognosticators that led Israel astray (ie, Isa 47:13).

Perhaps sexually transmitted diseases were also taking their toll on the Israelites.

Furthermore, their lands would experience destruction when enemy invaders overran Israel (this may refer to the Assyrian invaders).

Hos 5:8

SOUND THE TRUMPET: Announcing the coming of an invader (cp Eze 33:1-6). Throughout Israel's towns the sentries would blow alarms, at the approach of the Assyrian armies.

GIBEAH... RAMAH... BETH AVEN: ""This verse describes an invasion of the territory of Benjamin from the south, i.e., from Judah. The enemy is portrayed as advancing along the main mountain road from Jerusalem through Bethel and thereafter into the heart of Ephraim. Gibeah, only three miles north of Jerusalem, is the first to be attacked; then Ramah, five miles north of Jerusalem; and finally Bethel, eleven miles north of Jerusalem, on the northern border of Benjamin" (Stuart, cited in Const).

Hos 5:9

I PROCLAIM WHAT IS CERTAIN: No longer is this punishment conditional; it has become an absolute guarantee! It would surely happen: cp Lev 26:32-35.

Hos 5:10

JUDAH'S LEADERS ARE LIKE THOSE WHO MOVE BOUNDARY STONES: The removal of property markers, to defraud one's brethren (Deu 19:14; 27:17; Job 24:2; Pro 22:28; 23:10), symbolizes also the removal of spiritual landmarks and traditions. the leaders of Judah had moved the boundaries between right and wrong, true and false religion, and the true God and idols.

Hos 5:11

INTENT ON PURSUING IDOLS: Ephraim would experience crushing judgment by an enemy invader because he determined to follow false gods rather than divine commands (Deu 4:3; 6:14; 8:19; 28:14,33; Jer 2:5; Mic 6:16). The human command in view is probably Jeroboam I's institution of calf worship at altars in Bethel and Dan (1Ki 12:27-30).

Hos 5:12

I AM LIKE A MOTH TO EPHRAIM: Yahweh would consume the Northern Kingdom as a moth eats cloth -- silently and slowly, but surely (Isa 50:9; 51:8; Job 13:28). The moth is a symbol of destruction of things much larger and stronger than itself (cp Job 4:19; 27:18; Mat 6:19,20; Luk 12:33).

LIKE ROT: Long duration, and inward decay, as in the eating away of a great tree -- until it topples, all at once, with a great crash.

Cp Pro 12:4: "A disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones."

Hos 5:13

EPHRAIM TURNED TO ASSYRIA, AND SENT TO THE GREAT KING FOR HELP: Both Israel and Judah appealed to the king of Assyria for help, but he was unable to save them. King Ahab of Judah did this (2Ki 16:5-9), and so did King Menahem of Israel (2Ki 15:19,20) and King Hoshea of Israel (cf 2Ki 17:3). Rather than assisting, the Assyrians attacked both nations.

Hos 5:14

I WILL BE LIKE A LION TO EPHRAIM: In ct the moth and the rot (v 12), the lion's judgment is swift -- destroying and carrying away and devouring in a moment! And it was so: 2Ki 17:6,20.

Hos 5:15

THEN I WILL GO BACK TO MY PLACE UNTIL THEY ADMIT THEIR GUILT: God would withdraw Himself from them, until they repented.

IN THEIR MISERY THEY WILL EARNESTLY SEEK ME: "Earnestly" is "early" in AV. The "early" or "earnest" seeking of Yahweh is discerned in the next chapter. This last statement provides a transition, from the messages of judgment in Hos 4; 5 to the promises of restoration in Hos 6:1-3.

"Losses and adversities are frequently the means which the great Shepherd uses to fetch home His wandering sheep; like fierce dogs they worry the wanderers back to the fold. There is no making lions tame if they are too well fed; they must be brought down from their great strength, and their stomachs must be lowered, and then they will submit to the tamer's hand; and often have we seen the believer rendered obedient to the Lord's will by scarcity of bread and hard labour. When rich and increased in goods many believers carry their heads much too loftily, and speak exceeding boastfully. Like David, they flatter themselves, 'My mountain standeth fast; I shall never be moved.' When the believer groweth wealthy, is in good repute, hath good health, and a happy family, he too often admits Mr Fleshly Security to feast at his table, and then if he be a true child of God there is a rod preparing for him. Wait awhile, and it may be you will see his substance melt away as a dream. There goes a portion of his estate -- how soon the acres change hands. That debt, that dishonoured bill -- how fast his losses roll in, where will they end? It is a blessed sign of divine life if -- when these embarrassments occur one after another -- he begins to be distressed about his backslidings, and betakes himself to his God. Blessed are the waves that wash the mariner upon the rock of salvation! Losses in business are often sanctified to our soul's enriching. If the chosen soul will not come to the Lord full-handed, it shall come empty. If God, in His grace, findeth no other means of making us honour Him among men, He will cast us into the deep; if we fail to honour Him on the pinnacle of riches, He will bring us into the valley of poverty. Yet faint not, heir of sorrow, when thou art thus rebuked, rather recognize the loving hand which chastens, and say, 'I will arise, and go unto my Father' [Luk 15:18]" (CHS).

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