WHEN EPHRAIM SPOKE, MEN TREMBLED: When members of the
tribe of Ephraim spoke, the other Israelites trembled because they looked to
Ephraim for leadership (Jdg 8:1-3; 12:1-6).
HE WAS EXALTED IN ISRAEL: Jacob had prophesied that
Ephraim would lead (Gen 48:13-20), and the first king of the Northern Kingdom,
Jeroboam I, had come from the tribe of Ephraim (1Ki 11:26; 12:25). The
Ephraimites exalted themselves in the North as well.
BUT HE BECAME GUILTY OF BAAL WORSHIP: But being leaders
can be a dangerous responsibility, because it can result in great evil as well
as great good. The men of Ephraim were also the leaders in Baal worship (cp 2Ki
17:16). Anything that we worship which is not God is an idol, so let us not
deceive ourselves. This world, in which we live, thrives on covetousness, which
is idolatry (Col 3:5).
AND DIED: They were as good as dead, since God would
NOW THEY SIN MORE AND MORE; THEY MAKE IDOLS FOR
THEMSELVES...: The Ephraimites, and the other Israelites, had continued to
sin more and more by making molten images and carved idols of silver (cf Exo
20:4,5; 34:17; Deu 5:8,9).
CLEVERLY FASHIONED IMAGES, ALL OF THEM THE WORK OF
CRAFTSMEN: They took great pains to make beautiful idols by employing
skilled craftsmen for their construction.
THEY OFFER HUMAN SACRIFICE: "The last two lines admit
of two renderings: The key words in the last two lines are 'zobehe adam', which
can mean either 'sacrifices of men' (ie, 'human sacrifices') or 'sacrificers
among men' (ie, 'men who sacrifice'); here the second meaning is preferable. Our
translation [the NIV] takes them to refer to 'human sacrifice.' This, however,
seems unlikely since no other indication is given that human sacrifice was
practiced at Bethel or Dan. The other and more likely rendering may be expressed
as follows: 'In respect to the images [of the calves], they [leaders in this
form of worship] are saying, "Let the sacrificers among men [ie, those who would
sacrifice] do so by kissing the calf-idols." ' To kiss an image was to do homage
to it (see 1Ki 19:18; cf Psa 2:12). Jeroboam I had first bidden the people to
give this homage, and leaders in the worship were continuing the practice.
Persistence in this sin, answered Hosea, would have but one outcome. This he
traced in four striking figures (v 3) that reiterate how surely and speedily the
offending people would disappear and perish" (EBC).
AND KISS THE CALF-IDOLS: For the men of Ephraim, there
would be no half-hearted devotion in the service of these "gods". They also
required that those who made sacrifices to them profess their devotion and
homage by kissing the images. (In later times, Jews were compelled to kiss the
image of a pig, set up in the temple, as a particularly hideous test of their
allegiance to the Greek conquerors: cp 1Ki 19:18; Rom 11:4.)
Four things which are most easily dissipated, being driven by
the wind and vanishing away. Judgment would come swiftly and surely upon
I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD, WHO BROUGHT YOU OUT OF EGYPT. YOU
SHALL ACKNOWLEDGE NO GOD BUT ME, NO SAVIOR EXCEPT ME: Yahweh had been
Israel's God since the Israelites had lived in Egypt. He had commanded the
Israelites not to acknowledge any gods beside Himself, because He was the only
God who could save them (Deu 11:28; 32:17; Jer 9:2; 31:34). For them to become
idolaters would only be frustrating and futile, for they would be abandoning
their only hope of salvation.
God's miraculous provisions, of food and water, and shelter,
for Israel in the wilderness.
IN THE LAND OF BURNING HEAT: Cp Deu 8:15.
Prosperity is often a greater temptation to depart from
conscious dependence on God than adversity is, and Israel fell into this
Vv 7,8: The lion, leopard, and bear were all wild animals
native to Canaan that were notorious for their relentless manner of killing
prey. The four beasts here recall the four Gentiles kingdoms symbolized in Dan
7, as well as the great beasts of Rev 12; 13 -- these would be the "destroyers"
of Israel (v 9)! -- the "lion" (Dan 7:4), the "leopard" (Dan 7:6), the "bear"
(Dan 7:5), and the "wild beast" (Dan 7:7,8).
A LION: The black Ethiopian lion.
A LEOPARD: Distinguished by its spotted skin.
I WILL LURK BY THE PATH: Hiding in the high underbrush,
waiting to trap unsuspecting prey.
A BEAR ROBBED OF HER CUBS: And thus noted for its great
ferocity: 2Sa 17:8; Pro 17:12.
A LION: Heb "labi" -- an old, strong lion.
How ironic that Israel's helper would become her
WHERE IS YOUR KING, THAT HE MAY SAVE YOU?: All these
other kings had proved ineffective in saving the Israelites. Only Yahweh was
their savior (v 4).
WHERE ARE YOUR RULERS IN ALL YOUR TOWNS, OF WHOM YOU SAID,
'GIVE ME A KING AND PRINCES'?: Reference to the time Israel cast off God as
their King, and demanded a human king from Samuel: 1Sa 8:1-9; 12:12. And, more
recently, to the kings of Israel -- who were not of David's line but were kings
of the people's own choosing (1Ki 12:16-20).
SO IN MY ANGER I GAVE YOU A KING, AND IN MY WRATH I TOOK
HIM AWAY: God conceded to His people's request for a king, but it made Him
angry because is expressed their reluctance to trust and obey Him. When Saul
proved ineffective, since He did not trust in Yahweh, the Lord removed him,
which also made Him angry (1Sa 30; 31). The Lord would also remove all the
Ephraimite kings because they followed the pattern of Saul. The sins and bad
times that all these kings' reigns brought on Israel were unnecessary and
displeasing to Yahweh, who wanted His people to enjoy peace and
THE GUILT OF EPHRAIM IS STORED UP, HIS SINS ARE KEPT ON
RECORD: God would not forget Israel's sins. Its iniquities were rolled up
(Heb "sarar") in a bundle like a scroll and stored up (Heb "sapan") like a
treasure -- which would be revealed at the appropriate time. Then they would
stand as irrefutable evidence to condemn the nation.
PAIN AS OF A WOMAN IN CHILDBIRTH... HE DOES NOT COME TO THE
OPENING OF THE WOMB: Israel was like a baby that refused to come out of its
mother's womb in the sense that it refused to leave its comfortable sin. Despite
the mother's (God's) strenuous efforts to bring the child into freedom, Israel
refused to repent. This was evidence that Israel was a foolish child. She would
die rather than leave her sins apparently feeling that the proper time for
repenting was not yet.
Or, Israel was like a woman travailing in childbirth, whose
pain would never be alleviated.
I WILL RANSOM THEM FROM THE POWER OF THE GRAVE; I WILL
REDEEM THEM FROM DEATH. WHERE, O DEATH, ARE YOUR PLAGUES?: The LORD asked
rhetorically if He should buy the Israelites back out of death's hand. Should He
pay a price for their redemption?
I WILL HAVE NO COMPASSION: And the answer, after
reflection, is... No. In the case of Ephraim, compassion would be hidden from
His sight; He would have no pity on them.
Later, we know, God DID provide a ransom for His people from
the power of the grave, and a price of redemption from death. He did this
through His Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross and rose again. God's
future redemptive work for His people meant that death would not be the end for
Israel -- even though judgment in the near future was inevitable.
Paul quoted this phrase in 1Co 15:55, and applied it to the
effect of Christ's redemption on all of God's people. Because God did provide a
ransom and redeemed His people, death and the grave are not the final judgment
and resting place of the believer. God has a glorious future -- beyond His
punishment for sin -- for His own people, both for national Israel (those who
believe) and for Christians. God's purpose will not be fulfilled in a regathered
10-tribe (or even 12-tribe) Israel only, but in a calling of faithful believers
out of all nations, to inherit the "hope of Israel".
Here in Hosea the promise is that the Israel of that day would
indeed suffer death and the grave, not that she would escape it. But Paul turns
the passage around, and shows that Jesus Christ's resurrection overcame the
judgment and death that are otherwise inevitable for sinners.
With the removal of God's compassion (v. 14), Israel's
prosperity would end. Hosea described that change like a hot eastern desert wind
(cp Hos 12:1) sweeping over Israel and drying up all its water sources. Israel
had flourished among its neighbors, as a plant does when it grows in shallow
water among reeds. Like a sirocco Assyria would sweep over Israel from the east
and cause the nation of Israel to wither. The Assyrians would plunder everything
valuable in the land.
THEIR LITTLE ONES WILL BE DASHED TO THE GROUND, THEIR
PREGNANT WOMEN RIPPED OPEN: These shocking brutalities are in keeping with
the character of the Assyrians as revealed by archaeology (cp 2Ki 15:16; Amos
1:13). These were curses that the Lord warned would follow rebellion against the
terms of His covenant (Lev 26:25; Deu 28:21; 32:24,25; Amos 4:10).