Hosea Chapter 5: Sins of the 10-Tribes and God’s Retribution

Mar 12th, 2010 | By | Category: Hosea, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Hosea Chapter 5:  Sins of the 10-Tribes and God’s Retribution

Hosea 5:1 Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor.

Hosea addressed these words to the priests, the people, and the king—that is, to the religious and the civil leaders, as well as to the common people. “Hear ye this … and hearken”! The prophet would have spoken with thrust and volume—and in a public place so that many could hear and, in turn, tell others. Some commentators think the Sanhedrin was being addressed rather than the house of Israel, the people. However, which one was being addressed does not really matter.

“Judgment is toward you,” or as stated in the RSV, “The judgment pertains to you.” This part of verse 1 is a play on words, for in exercising their judgment, the people were found wanting and guilty—priests, judges, people, and king. (Much of the Book of Hosea is a play on words, especially with regard to individuals.) Because the judges misused their prerogative of judgment, retributive judgment would come upon them. In other words, because of their misjudgment, God would judge them.

“Ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor.” Both places were in the tentribe kingdom. Mizpah was a prominent height, or mountain, like Mount Tabor, the latter being a holy mount in the Galilee region near Nazareth. A “snare,” a type of animal trap, usually consisted of a noose, or lasso, that was concealed in the ground; the noose was triggered when an animal stepped on the mechanism. A “net” was usually spread over a hole to keep animals who fell into the hole from getting out. Both the snare and the net were hidden to entrap the unwary. From a spiritual standpoint, both Mizpah and Tabor were known for being religious places; hence the devout were entrapped religiously.

When Jeroboam and Rehoboam split Israel into ten- and two-tribe kingdoms, Jeroboam established religious services to correspond with the usual feast days so that the people of the ten tribes would go to his places, Beth-el and Gilgal, instead of to the Temple in Jerusalem. Thus Beth-el and Gilgal, with their golden calves, became rival centers of worship, and the people were expected to show their loyalty by attending services there rather than in Jerusalem. The two mountains of Mizpah and Tabor were astride the route down to Jerusalem. Spies were put in these strategically located mountains so that any pilgrims from the ten tribes who went down to Jerusalem were spotted and, in addition, waylaid and made objects of vengeance. The priesthood was involved in this evil, for they laid “snares” or “nets” on the two mounts, with the result that the people were spotted and then preyed upon. What depths of degradation some in the ten tribes sunk to in order to prevent the proper religion from being followed!

Because of this evil strategy, the priests were guilty in the eyes of the Lord. Those who went to Beth-el and Gilgal for religious services usually did not escape from the influence. Hence we can see, in antitype, the danger of being entrapped by an evil religious influence or atmosphere. The unwary looked upon Dan and Beth-el as reverencing God.

Hosea 5:2 And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all.

The RSV reads, “And they have made deep the pit of Shittim; but I will chastise all of them.”

The “deep pit” continues the thought of “snares” and “nets.”

The “revolters” were those of the ten-tribe kingdom. They had seceded from the two tribes, from the nation of Israel.

Altars throughout the northern kingdom were so numerous that they were likened to the furrows of a field that is being plowed. Sacrifices were offered at these altars. God’s true prophets warned about the false practices, but the people did not listen to the rebukes.

Hosea 5:3 I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me: for now, O Ephraim, thou committest whoredom, and Israel is defiled.

Ephraim (Israel) was not hidden from God in that He knew all about their wickedness, even though much of it was done secretly. We are reminded of Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek. 8:7-12). He was told to dig a hole in the Temple wall, and when he looked in, he saw a secret room and the Sanhedrin with heathen idols all over the wall. While outwardly pious before the people, the Sanhedrin was secretly and inwardly irreverent and idolatrous. Thus the Temple of Solomon was due for judgment. Incidentally, the Sanhedrin interpreted the civil law, like our Supreme Court, and the priests read and taught the religious law.

Ephraim’s “whoredom” included incorporating prostitution into religious practices to raise revenue. The people went under the shade of trees, thinking they were having intercourse in secret, but God said, “ I know everything that is going on. All your acts are open before me.”

Hosea 5:4 They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the LORD.

The RSV reads, “Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. For the spirit of harlotry is within them, and they know not the LORD.” The people, especially the leaders, were getting deeper and deeper into sin. As they became hardened in sin, they strayed further and further from God.

The people would not repent because the sin was so deeply ingrained. Preferring evil to good, they were satisfied in sin and happy in their delusion. It was contentment without godliness. Ostensibly they worshipped God, but so evil were their practices that they were far from Him and did not know Him.

Hosea 5:5 And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them.

“The pride of Israel doth testify to his [the Israelites’] face.” The “pride of Israel” was their arrogance and hard-heartedness, which prevented them from breaking down and repenting.

They became hardened in sin, stiff-necked, and arrogant, doing what they wanted and forgetting God. This arrogant attitude predominated, as manifested in their worship of heathen religions and idols and in the malpractices of their priesthood. If the nation would just consider, listen, and look, they would know Hosea was right. Evidence of their guilt was all around.

Israel and Ephraim both represent the ten tribes here. “Ephraim” is used because of the prophecy that he would be fruitful (numerous). Of the ten tribes in the northern kingdom, the Ephraimites far outnumbered all of the other tribes. Similarly in the two-tribe kingdom, Judah was much more populous than Benjamin. In antitype, “Ephraim” pictures Catholicism, which far outnumbers “Judah,” or Protestantism. As the apostate Church, Catholicism went astray first, followed by Protestantism later.

Hosea addressed the ten tribes in the name of “Ephraim,” the most numerous tribe, but lest the other nine tribes think they were excluded from judgment, the prophet also used the term “Israel.” Then Hosea included Judah, for the two tribes would fall later. All were guilty, and the various judgments were just a matter of time. Hosea had been emphasizing the evil of the ten tribes, but little by little, he started to include Judah in the condemnation. Verse 5 is prophetic.

In Hosea 4:15, the prophet said, “Let not Judah offend.” Here he said, “Judah also shall fall with them.” Thus there was a time lapse between the warning and now the statement of judgment to come.

Hosea was laying down certain principles of judgment that would be used by the other minor prophets and in the New Testament. For the most part, he was moralistically rebuking the corruption of natural Israel. Here and there a spiritual application was pertinent, but the emphasis was primarily on the natural.

Hosea 5:6 They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the LORD; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them.

“They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the LORD” with their sacrifices, but God would not accept them. Verse 6 applied mostly to the ten tribes but also to Judah in a lesser sense.

Hosea 5:7 They have dealt treacherously against the LORD: for they have begotten strange children: now shall a month devour them with their portions.

“They have begotten strange children.” The inhabitants of the ten tribes intermarried with the surrounding heathen peoples, so the children, born of mixed marriages, were estranged, separated, and not recognized. Children who were the product of a wholly Israelitish marriage would have received blessings that were now forfeited.

Now shall a month devour them with their portions”; that is, within a month, judgment would come. Verse 7 is a play on words. Just as it was the custom of the Israelites to go up at the time of the new moon (every month) and offer “their portions [sacrifices]”— which God did not appreciate because the sacrifices were blemished and the people’s lives did not conform to the sacrifices—so “a month [a new moon—RSV]” would mark the time of judgment. Israel reaped condemnation from the Lord a month from the time Hosea delivered this message. In other words, a time limit was set. (Through successive murders, four kings died in the year preceding the captivity of the ten tribes. Then came a period of anarchy just before the captivity.)

Every new moon, that is, every month, there was a festival, and certain sacrifices were offered.

The word “portions” (plural) refers to the part of the animal that was offered to the Lord, the part that the priest got, and what the person who brought the offering kept. The prize portion—the breast and the shoulder—went to God and to the priest, and the other portion was eaten by the offerer. The festival was like a social event with a meal that included worship. Through these monthly get-togethers, the people kept their religious worship active and their reverence for the Lord alive. At least that was the intent of the Law, if properly adhered to.

The prophesied judgment came in the days of Hezekiah, which was toward the end of Hosea’s ministry. At the time of the ten-tribe captivity, Hezekiah was the king of Judah, and Hoshea was the king of Israel (2 Kings 17:6; 18:1).

Hosea 5:8 Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah: cry aloud at Beth-aven, after thee, O Benjamin.

The cornet was to be blown in Gibeah and the trumpet in Ramah, and an alarm was to be sounded at Beth-aven. As explained earlier, Beth-el and Beth-aven were the same place, with “Beth-aven” being a play on words. Beth-el means “house of God,” and Beth-aven signifies “house of idols” or “house of iniquity.” (Similarly, “Babylon” pertains to God, yet it also refers to confusion.)

“After thee, O Benjamin” means “behind thee, O Benjamin.” The trumpet of alarm was blown, and the next thing the people knew, the enemy was behind them. Thus Hosea was saying that the warning would be too late. The trumpets were sounded to call the people to prepare for battle, but the call came too late because the enemy had already surrounded them. Ephraim would be made desolate (verse 9).

King Saul’s headquarters were in Gibeah, even though he was a Benjamite, and Gibeah subsequently became part of the ten tribes. The reference to Benjamin in verse 8 indicates that Israel’s wickedness was much like that of Benjamin years earlier when a concubine was so horribly abused (Judges 19-21). Just as that evil demanded retribution, so did Israel’s current situation. Violence would come! Incidentally, after the captivity of the ten tribes, Samaria was repopulated with “Samaritans,” an alien people or half-breed people who espoused the Hebrew religion.

Since Beth-el, Gibeah, and Ramah were on the border of Benjamin, verse 8 also suggests that the judgment against the ten tribes was moving southward to the two tribes. Benjamin was on the north side of Judah, so the evil influence was filtering down. In other words, “Your judgment will be next, Benjamin.”

Hosea 5:9 Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be.

“Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke,” that is, when the Assyrians carried away the ten tribes into captivity. These prophecies of doom were known but were not given much credence. Notice that when the ten tribes were taken into captivity, the land was to be left desolate. The two tribes were not to move in and appropriate the land; however, they disobeyed and occupied the land.

Hosea 5:10 The princes of Judah were like them that remove the bound: therefore I will pour out my wrath upon them like water.

Under the Law, there was a strict penalty against removing boundary lines (Deut. 19:14; 27:17). The people were forbidden to fraudulently enlarge their property holdings by stealing one another’s land. God originally made certain boundaries for the nation, and these were to be maintained. The penalty also applied to individual property lines and boundaries. The “bounds” were not to be altered dishonestly in any way.

Judah was mentioned in verse 10 because the tendency was to move into the territory of the ten tribes and occupy the land following the Assyrian captivity. Instead Judah should have allowed the land to lie desolate until the ten tribes returned. The God-given territory was to be respected and left alone—even though the ten tribes were being punished. By removing the boundaries, Judah capitalized on the misfortune of their brethren. This violation was the “last straw,” as it were, and God’s wrath would be poured out “like water” on the two tribes for their disobedience. Because of this infraction, the wrath that was stored up would later break forth like a flood; that is, the same fate would befall Judah at the due time.

In the Holocaust, Jews were forced out of their homes, and Gentiles had no qualms in appropriating their houses and lands. Now the second or third generation has the property, and the Gentiles look back on history with no shame. The land of Christians was similarly appropriated in the Dark Ages. The principle was the same here with Judah. When the ten tribes were taken captive, Judah took advantage of and profited from the situation.

Hosea 5:11 Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.

Possibly verse 11 means that a local commandment—another code of ethics that was contrary to God’s law—was practiced in Hosea’s day. Walking after this false set of religious principles, or rules, which was different from the ones given to Moses at Sinai, would bring judgment on the ten tribes. (In antitype, the Catholic Church has its own set of commandments, the canon of the church, which is often contrary to Scripture.) True prophets warned against the evil and disobedience, but the people continued to willfully walk “after the [wrong] commandment.”

Hosea 5:12 Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness.

The people were willingly oblivious to what was right and were so absorbed in evil practices that when the judgment was coming, they did not realize it was a punishment—at least not until the trouble hit them strongly and personally. Hence the trouble seemed to hit them overnight.

Therefore, God would “be unto Ephraim as a moth.” With a moth, the damage is not apparent for some time. The eggs are laid in secret, and the larvae eat the fabric unobservedly. With the destruction being secret and within, there is surprise when the holes in the fabric are discovered. The holes seem to suddenly appear, whereas the destruction has been going on for a long time. Stated another way, the condition exists long before the holes are visible.

God would “be unto … the house of Judah as rottenness.” The same is true of “rottenness.” It comes about gradually, little by little, but the revelation of the rot is sudden. Usually the rottenness begins interiorly, for the corruption is secret and within. Then, at some point, the rottenness becomes manifest. Although the rottenness with Judah was slower than the moth with Ephraim, it was a stored-up condition in both cases.

The thoughts in the two preceding paragraphs are in harmony with the previous chapter, where the openness of the condition was manifested when a brothel was incorporated into religious worship without twinges of conscience. The encroachment of sin was so gradual that the people did not oppose it as they would have done had the enormity of sin occurred suddenly in the beginning, when they were closer to the Lord. Now the sin was so entrenched that it could not be corrected except by divine help.

Hosea 5:13 When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.

“When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound.” According to the Law, if Israel was obedient, the nation had temporal prosperity: good health, abundant crops, productive livestock, success in warfare, etc. Disobedience brought the opposite: temporal deprivation.

The “sickness” had begun to manifest itself in the nation. The priesthood was corrupt, kings gave wrong judgments, thievery abounded, false balances were rampant, battles were being lost, etc. When those of Ephraim saw that conditions were deteriorating and corruption was great, instead of going to the Lord, they looked to King Jareb of Assyria for help commercially, socially, and religiously. Ephraim thought this alliance would save them and bring a return of prosperity, but it did not. The problem was their departure from the Lord. Assyria was the chief world empire at the time.

Hosea 4:14 said that God would punish the ten tribes for their sins. Ephraim was falling apart. The same thing is happening to the United States, but at present, the government is not connected with religious worship. When religion does become a factor with the church-state arrangement, the people’s eyes will be opened to see the true condition of this nation. That will be the point of no return except by divine help. In summary, then, Ephraim looked to Assyria for help, and God was about to give the ten tribes into Assyrian captivity. The same principle was illustrated when, for a while, Judah joined forces with the ten tribes.

The children of Jehoshaphat and Ahab intermarried, thinking that an “ecumenical movement” would help, that it was time to get together and end the dissension and no longer be separated brethren. Politically, they joined forces to fight the common enemy, the Assyrian. There is a striking analogy. In the near future, Judah and Israel (picturing Protestantism and Catholicism, respectively) will think that both will be strengthened by fighting the common enemy, the antitypical Assyrian, together. However, the union will fail. The city will become divided; the three-part alliance (beast, dragon, and false prophet) will come apart.

Hosea 5:14 For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him.

God would be a lion to Ephraim and a young lion to Judah. When a lion is devouring its prey, who would dare to take the meat out of its mouth? A feeding lion is very ferocious.

Despite the ferocity of a lion or any other wild animal that threatened the flock, a shepherd was required to defend the sheep. He had to show his fearlessness by risking his own life. And to prove he was a good shepherd, he could not just report a missing sheep but had to produce a part of the sheep to prove he had tried to defend it against the attacking animal. For this reason, Jesus said, “A good shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11 paraphrase). Jesus was referring to more than just his dying on the Cross. He meant that a true shepherd will defend the Lord’s people against errors of practice, doctrine, or judgment and, if necessary, will risk his own reputation in doing so. A false shepherd, on the other hand, will refrain from defending the Lord’s people if such a defense would jeopardize his eldership. Or, being asleep, a false shepherd might be too lazy to even see the danger and the need to defend. Here in verse 14, Jehovah was the lion. Who would dare to take away the prey (Ephraim and Judah) from Him? God would “tear and … take away, and none shall rescue” Ephraim and Judah.

Incidentally, David killed a lion with his bare hands when defending the sheep (1 Sam. 17:34,35). He was large in stature, not the little, curly-headed lad that artists draw. Saul was the tallest man in Israel. Therefore, the fact that Saul offered David his armor to fight Goliath proves that David was also tall.

What is the distinction between a lion and a young lion? Again there is a play on words. Hosea is one of the most unusual books of the Bible because it contains so many puns. The prophet spoke of a “young lion” here in verse 14. Genesis 49:9 mentions an “old lion”: “Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?” A young lion is bold in connection with the prey.

However, when an old lion retreats to his den—and especially if he takes meat—no one would dare to pursue him in there. This distinction points up human characteristics. On the one hand, a young person is brave in battle; he is not worried about dying and does not count the cost.

On the other hand, an older person is more sober; he thinks about his responsibilities toward his wife and baby, for example. The idealism and enthusiasm of youth lead to confidence and strength. And so it is with lions. A young lion is bold and fearless in pursuing prey; he will go right into the flock of sheep where the shepherd is. The older lion is more cautious.

There is a play on words with regard to Judah’s being a “lion’s whelp.” The original prophecy spoke of good things for Judah, but Hosea was now prophesying trouble. The original prophecy was that Judah would be like the lion’s whelp and be prominent among the tribes, not only giving birth to Messiah but also being the founder of the Kingdom. Hosea took these same words of honor—words in which Judah had taken pride and satisfaction—and showed that they would boomerang. Instead of Judah’s being the lion’s whelp, God would be the lion’s whelp to Judah. Similar in principle is the Catholic Church’s boast that the gates of hell will not prevail against it, for there will be a reversal, and the gates of hell will prevail against that system. The former boastful words will have to be swallowed back.

By likening Himself to a lion, God meant that judgment would come through Assyria. Visually, it appeared that Assyria was rendering punishment, but God said He was doing it as a necessary lesson until the ten tribes came to their senses.

Hosea 5:15 I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.

The NIV reads, “Then I [God] will go back to my place.” In other words, “Who shall rouse up the old lion when he returns to his den?” God would return to His place until Ephraim and Judah acknowledged their offense and sought His face. He would abandon Ephraim in captivity and not help or rescue them. In captivity, Ephraim could not get to the Temple.

“In their affliction they will seek me early.” When, in their misery, Ephraim and Judah admit their guilt, they will earnestly seek God’s face. That will not happen until Jacob’s Trouble, still future. When those of the Holy Remnant, being of both kingdoms, admit their guilt in Jacob’s Trouble and seek God, He will rescue them.

(1969 and 1993 Studies)

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