Hosea Chapter 9: The Coming Captivity and Punishment of EphraimMar 23rd, 2010 | By admin | Category: Hosea, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)
Hosea Chapter 9: The Coming Captivity and Punishment of Ephraim
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.
Israel had a measure of joy from following improper pursuits like those of the surrounding pagan nations. Therefore, the prophet’s message was, “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 [threshing floor].” There was an association between harlotry and the threshing floor and reward. A form of barter was used. In connection with gathering grain at the threshing floor, those in Israel practiced harlotry on the side; that is, they bartered, or exchanged, sexual intercourse to procure grain. A mixture of peoples was in the land at this time, and they bargained with the enemy, for it was the enemy’s threshing floor. In short, women from the ten tribes engaged in sex to get grain from the enemy to take back home. The literal translation of some of these Scriptures shows that Israel’s depth of depravity was approaching that of Sodom and Gomorrah. The “reward” was harlotry, and grain from the “cornfloor” was the payment.
The burden of Hosea’s message was to the ten-tribe kingdom of natural Israel, although the two tribes were referred to at times. In addition, the Book of Hosea contains lessons and overtones with regard to spiritual Israel. There are lessons as to why nominal spiritual Israel went astray, as well as warnings to true spiritual Israel of what not to do.
What is the allegory about Israel’s playing the harlot upon the “cornfloor”? The “corn” was the kernel, or seed, of the grain. In ancient times, a threshing floor was used to separate the chaff from the kernel. The grain was beaten so that the wind would blow the chaff away and leave the kernels. At such a site, a lot of loose grain lay around. The poor could pick up grain from the surplus by begging. Moreover, harlots often accepted grain instead of money for their labors. God said Israel had departed from Him and loved this reward.
Hosea 9:2 The floor and the winepress shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her.
Comment: As stated in God’s Law, obedience brought prosperity, and disobedience brought privation.
Reply: Yes. Israel failed to draw the proper lesson that crop failures were an evidence of God’s disfavor. When crops were poor, the Israelites went to alien sources to supply this lack instead of going to God in repentance. Thus they went to the threshing floors of others.
At the threshing floor, the final product (grain) was obtained. At the winepress, the final product (wine) was obtained. For disobedience, God caused Israel’s crops to be meager.
Because the Israelites went to the enemy for food, God had a judgment in reservation; namely, the ten tribes would lose not only crops and produce but also the land. Captivity would come.
Hosea 9:3 They shall not dwell in the LORD’S land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria.
“They [the ten tribes] shall not dwell in the LORD’S land [Israel].” The ten tribes would be taken out of the land and into exile in Assyria because of disobedience. God was saying, “You did not get the lesson, so I will have to remove you from the land and send you into captivity.”
“Ephraim shall return to Egypt.” Natural Israel’s departing from God and associating with foreigners was like the Christian’s going back into the world and associating with the unconsecrated, who are pictured here as Egypt and Assyria. Israel originally came out of Egypt, the “furnace of affliction,” through miraculous intervention by God, and now a return to that condition was threatened (Isa. 48:10).
In the natural picture, a minority of Israelites escaped the sudden invasion of Assyria and fled to Egypt. The majority were captured and either killed or taken to Assyria. In their extremity, however, all of the Israelites in the ten tribes were reminded of their former condition of bondage as slaves in Egypt, an alien land.
Israel “shall eat unclean things in Assyria.” In dispersion, Ephraim not only would literally eat unclean food but also would imbibe heathen doctrines. Similarly, when Christianity went astray, it incorporated pagan customs and doctrines of the East, such as eternal torture. The implication to the ten tribes was that they would be taken into captivity by Assyria and would there eat unclean food.
Thus the double threat was Egypt and Assyria. God had delivered the nation from Egypt years earlier, but some of the Jews would return there, and others would go into exile in Assyria. The ten tribes were taken into captivity in Assyria, and Judah went into captivity in Egypt. When King Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple in 606 BC, he left a small number of vinedressers there to keep the land from going fallow, and he put a governor, Gedaliah, in charge. After the king returned to Babylon, a rebellious element among the vinedressers murdered Gedaliah, intending to break the yoke of Babylonian bondage. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar sent his army down to Egypt and made a thorough riddance of the land. Even those who fled to Egypt were searched out and humiliated. Jeremiah, who was among those who fled, had buried a brick in Egypt and prophesied that on that very spot of ground, the king of Babylon would set up his pavilion, or throne. Jeremiah said, further, that the rebels from Israel would have to pass in front of the king’s throne as he judged them for death or captivity. That is exactly what happened in due time.
In verses 1-3, Hosea was prophesying that the bulk of the ten tribes would be taken as captives to Assyria, and some would flee to Egypt, where they would be ferreted out and punished. This was the literal, or natural, lesson. In addition, there is the spiritual lesson of the professed Church of Christ going astray into Papacy and the ways of the world. Paganism came into the Church and defiled it. In antitype, the more numerous ten-tribe kingdom pictures Catholicism; the two-tribe kingdom represents Protestantism.
Hosea 9:4 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.
“They shall not offer wine [drink] offerings to the LORD.” In captivity, even if Israel wanted to observe holidays (feasts), they would not be able to do so in their accustomed manner. In the meantime, prior to captivity, they were offering sacrifices that were not acceptable to God. This present unacceptable sacrificing would turn into “the bread of mourners” in captivity, for any observance or sacrificing done then would be pathetic compared to previous opportunities with the great Temple in Jerusalem. The sacrificing done in captivity would be a forceful reminder of their previous glory, as well as their then current plight. Even today, while rejoicing in their return to Israel, Jews who zealously desire to return to the old ways have a “thorn” to contend with, for the Mosque of Omar stands where Ezekiel’s Temple is to be built.
There is another aspect to the “bread of mourners.” Under the Law, if a close relative died, anyone related to him or her was temporarily defiled. Those not related to the deceased tried to get the body onto a coat or other garment, using sticks lest they touch the body; then they rolled up the dead body like a rug and carried it with the sleeves of the garment. Following the death was a period of mourning in memory of the deceased. If the mourning was sincere, there was no delight from food. Here the “bread of mourning” meant that the ten tribes would eat the bread as captives. In the enemy’s land, they would be eating the enemy’s food because they did not have their own crops.
Hosea prophesied to the ten tribes just before the Assyrian siege. Thus he was saying, “Now you are trying to offer bread and wine to Jehovah, but the offerings are not being done on His altar.” Instead of going down to Jerusalem, the people used unauthorized altars in Jehovah’s name and did not reform. In the antitype, it would be like people going to church, but as soon as the service is over, they resume their sinful activities. Were the Israelites’ prayers sincere and acceptable to God? No! As a result of their wayward course and lack of contrition of heart, they would be removed from their environment and taken to Assyria, the land of the enemy.
Spiritual Israel went astray right after the apostles fell asleep. Tares sown in the wheat field prospered rapidly and outnumbered the wheat after a while. Spiritual Ephraim was a fruitful field. Catholicism prospered in money and numbers but not according to the Lord’s ways. Sometimes the Lord’s providence puts us in an unfavorable situation. If so, we should think soberly about the situation and negate the deleterious effects of that environment. Seeing that God’s providence placed us in that situation (and not our own willfulness), we should pray to be preserved and protected.
Hosea 9:5 What will ye do in the solemn day, and in the day of the feast of the LORD?
In other words, “How will you observe a feast day in captivity with no Temple, no high priest, etc.?” Spiritually speaking, Christians in the nominal Church down through the Gospel Age who really wanted to follow the Lord were distressed about being among a nominal, Babylonish element. The godly few, a minority, wanted to please the Lord but were frustrated and hence were “mourners in Zion,” getting no real spiritual food. They looked back longingly to the days of Jesus’ First Advent, when he was among the disciples, giving long discourses. Reminiscing was mournful to them.
The “solemn day,” the “day of the feast,” was the Day of Atonement. Verse 5 refers to captivity in Assyria when the ten tribes would come to their senses, realizing that the altars of Dan and Beth-el were never acceptable to God. Then they would long to go to Jerusalem to worship on the “solemn day,” but they would not be able to return to the old paths. However, in spite of these lessons, only a minority went back to Israel when Cyrus issued his decree in 536 BC, allowing any Jews who desired to return and build the Temple.
The NIV uses the plural: “your appointed feasts” and “the festival days of the LORD.” The plural signifies that when the three feast days would come (Passover, Pentecost, and Feast of Tabernacles), those of the ten tribes would not be able to attend because of being in captivity.
Hosea 9:6 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.
“For, lo, they are gone because of destruction [spoil]: Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them.” Memphis, the capital of Ancient Egypt, is a city near the Great Pyramid. There were three kingdoms in Egypt: Ancient (Memphis was the capital), Middle (Thebes was the capital), and the more recent (Cairo is the capital).
The enemy stripped the dead bodies and took the cream of the populace into captivity in Assyria. Some escapees fled to Egypt, where they died and were buried near the Great Pyramid at Memphis (Sakkara). The Step Pyramid is there and also many buried bodies. In fact, many tombs in Egypt contain Jewish bodies. (Ephraim was very populous compared with Judah.) Memphis was once the most prominent city of Egypt, that is, earlier, before Thebes and Abydos. Those of the ten tribes who fled to Egypt lived and died there, and those of Judah who later fled to Egypt were pursued by King Nebuchadnezzar and subjected to judgment.
“The pleasant places for their silver, nettles shall possess them: thorns shall be in their tabernacles.” “Nettles” are troublesome weeds with prickly things that stick to clothing when one walks through the fields. Not only are nettles unproductive, but also they are damaging and irritating. The NIV, a better translation, reads, “Their treasures of silver will be overtaken by briers, and thorns will overrun their tents.”
Hosea 9:7 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.
“Days of visitation [judgment]” and “days of recompence [retribution]” would come, and “Israel shall know it.” The prophets repeatedly warned Israel, but the people continued in their sins, so judgment was due. Israel would know when the day of judgment and captivity would come because it would be a historical fact that fulfilled prophecy. The land would be taken away from them; it would be pulled out from under their feet like a rug, and they would be emptied into a foreign land.
“The prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad.” The NIV has the proper thought: “Because your sins are so many and your hostility so great, the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac.” Israel viewed Hosea as a “fool” and a “mad” man. The same attitude applied to previous prophets of the Lord. The true prophet was regarded as a fool, a dangerous madman, and one who spoke falsehood. Considering the prophets to be dreamers and fanatics, the people refused to listen to their counsel. But the judgment and trouble predicted by Hosea were coming to pass.
“The multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.” The people were so hardened in sin— their iniquity was multitudinous—that instead of righteousness appealing to their consciences, evil and unrighteousness were the attraction. When they were reminded of their sins previously, they cried out and admitted, “Yes, we have done wrong,” but now they refused to listen to “mad” Hosea. Conditions were deplorable—righteousness was greatly hated. The people had more of an affinity for violence, error, and sin. They were so sin-sick and filled with hatred for Hosea that they did not esteem him a prophet. Verse 7 shows that it cost Hosea something to be a prophet.
Hosea 9:8 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.
The following translation from the RSV is better, for the King James contradicts itself: “The prophet is the watchman of Ephraim, the people of my God, yet a fowler’s snare is on all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God.” The Prophet Hosea, the “watchman of Ephraim,” was faithful and was with God. However, instead of recognizing Hosea’s faithfulness, the people continually tried to put a trap in front of him. They should have honored the office of prophet and appreciated his warnings, but they continually found fault and set a snare for him.
They hated what he and his God stood for. A “snare” is like a lasso that catches the foot of the prey. Traps were laid for Hosea as for Jesus later—and for other prophets too.
The NIV is also helpful: “The prophet, along with my God, is the watchman over Ephraim, yet snares await him on all his paths, and hostility in the house of his God.” Hosea probably gave his message in Beth-el, where the people congregated—just as Jeremiah delivered messages in the Temple. Hosea declared that the people were sin-sick, but they thought he was mad. Hosea delivered the message with God’s help; that is, Jehovah had put on Hosea’s heart and tongue to be obedient and to declare this unpopular message to Israel that they were sin-sick, but they thought he was crazy.
Hosea 9:9 They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah: therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins.
“They [the ten tribes] have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah.” The term “days of Gibeah” is a reference to Judges 19, which tells of a dead concubine who was cut into 12 pieces by her husband to emphasize the tremendous sin and depravity that had been committed. The background is as follows. A priest who lived a little north of Gibeah married a woman who became unfaithful. She went to her hometown of Bethlehem and played the harlot. Finally the priest got lonesome and went down there to get her. Her father, happy to see him, wanted the priest to stay awhile and have food. Eventually the priest departed with his concubine wife. At sunset, they reached Jerusalem, but not wanting to lodge there, the priest said they would continue on to Gibeah. At Gibeah, they found no place to lodge. Then an old man who came in from working in the field took pity on them and offered hospitality.
Meanwhile, evil “sons of Belial” knocked on the old man’s door and demanded the priest for homosexual purposes. The old man refused and offered his daughter and the priest’s concubine instead to satisfy their passion. The evil men took the concubine and abused her all night long until she died on the threshold of the old man’s house in the morning. The priest took her dead body home, cut it up into 12 pieces, and sent a piece to each of the 12 tribes to underscore the dreadful sin that had been committed by the Benjamites. When representatives from the 12 tribes went to Benjamin to get the sons of Belial and punish them, the Benjamites were so hardened in sin that they would not deliver the perpetrators. A series of battles ensued with the other tribes fighting successively against Benjamin until almost all of the Benjamites had been killed.
What was Hosea’s point in verse 9? He was saying that the whole northern kingdom was getting as depraved as that little town of Gibeah. What an indictment!
Comment: The touching part is that the next morning, when the priest opened the door, he found his concubine dead with her hand on the threshold reaching toward him. She had been unfaithful to him and was now signifying her repentance.
Reply: She recognized the incident as retribution and wanted to go back to the initial relationship. The only way she could show her desire in her dying moment was to reach out her hand for mercy and forgiveness. That must have touched the priest’s heart, for he wanted vengeance on Benjamin.
The practice of cutting a corpse into pieces had been done earlier under Shem. This practice is not recorded in the Bible, but knowing how Nimrod had been cut into pieces, the priest now acted likewise. The other tribes of the nation of Israel were stirred up to think that such a thing could happen in their midst. The Lord was consulted, and the instruction was, “Go up and slay the Benjamites.” The other tribes were defeated twice, but the third time Benjamin was so decimated that if 600 men had not been spared, there would have been no more tribe of Benjamin.
The sins of the ten tribes were likened to those of Gibeah, for when the people went to worship, they committed lewd sexual acts. “Therefore he [God] will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins.” In Rome too, sexuality and abnormal practices became rampant, and those conditions are now happening in the United States. Pending judgment is coming.
Hosea 9:10 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 Baal-peor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved.
Verses 9 and 10 refer to three situations: (1) the days of Gibeah, (2) grapes in the wilderness and the first-ripe figs, and (3) Baal-peor. The first comparison is unfavorable, the second one is favorable, and the third is unfavorable.
“I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness”; that is, Israel’s beginning was pleasant to the Lord. “I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time.” The reference is to the more desirable crop of figs, so again the comparison is favorable. (There are two primary crops of figs each year, the first crop being the sweeter one.) When did God think of Israel in this light? In the beginning, He gave Israel all the blessings and every opportunity, but we will work backward, starting with Baal-peor.
“But they went to Baal-peor [a heathen god], and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved [lusted].” The allusion is to the Prophet Balaam, whose cursing became a prophetic blessing to Israel. (For example, “there shall come a Star out of Jacob”—Num. 24:17. This was not only a prophecy of the coming Messiah but also an allusion to the star that led the wise men to Bethlehem.) This event took place just prior to Israel’s entrance into the Holy Land. King Balak was angry, for he had summoned Balaam to curse Israel, but each time a blessing came out instead. However, Balaam did cause damage to Israel, for he advised King Balak to have his young women seduce the Israelite men into sexual intercourse and the worship of heathen gods. The worship of Baal-peor entailed some especially abominable practices, and as a result, 24,000 Israelites were slain (Num. 25:9). Thus, in the final analysis, Balaam did effectively curse Israel.
If we go back even further in Israel’s history to the days when the Israelites were in Egypt, they cried for a deliverer for quite a long time. God sent Moses, whom they followed through the Red Sea. On the opposite shore, they all rejoiced. The Israelites were on a spiritual high as Moses and Miriam excited the nation into song and praise for the miraculous deliverance. Subsequently, however, the Israelites murmured in the wilderness, so God had ten plagues come on the ones who were worthy of dying. Of all those over a certain age, only Caleb and Joshua were allowed to enter the Promised Land because of the spies’ unfavorable report and the reaction of the people. For 38 more years after the Tabernacle was completed, the Israelites had to wander in the wilderness as a judgment, and eventually the younger generation entered the Promised Land. In other words, the younger generation had a greater appreciation for and memory of the miracle of crossing the Red Sea than the older generation, and God watched over them like a nurse, wrapping them with swaddling clothes, as it were, and protecting them in the wilderness in various ways. Thus, with natural Israel, there was a period of weaning for the relatively younger generation and of perishing for the older element except for Caleb and Joshua (and the two priests, Eleazar and Ithamar, whose ages are not known). Incidentally, the sins with Baal-peor separated even some of the younger Israelites, but up to that time, the younger generation was a pleasure to the Lord. Nevertheless, the “holy remnant” of that day was large. Those who were enticed with the counsel of Balaam were weeded out, so that the Israelites who went into the Promised Land with Joshua were the more obedient ones. In fact, their obedience in following his orders in the multiple circuitings of Jericho was remarkable, for they were not allowed to speak the entire time until the trumpets were blown.
Hosea 9:11 As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird, from the birth, and from the womb, and from the conception.
The RSV is a better translation: “Ephraim’s glory shall fly away like a bird—no birth, no pregnancy, no conception!” However, these three processes are in reverse order. The thought is that there would be no conception, no pregnancy, and no birth.
The Book of Hosea contains much repetition with many short, cryptic statements sprinkled throughout, suggesting that the statements were made on different occasions. Similarly, we, as Christians, have a habit of thought in witnessing, and although our witnessing may vary a little from person to person, certain general themes and statements keep repeating. It appears that Hosea spoke to one group on one occasion and to another group on another occasion. The choppy way the book is presented seems to indicate it is a summation of several sermons he gave that were inspired of God.
Hosea 9:12 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!
The RSV reads, “Even if they bring up children, I will bereave them till none is left.” In other words, there would be a complete loss with no inhabitants left in the land, for they would be taken into captivity. This statement was a manifestation by God that He was departing from the ten tribes, at least temporarily, so that they would get the lesson.
Successful people who have power, wealth, and all temporal goods often want to perpetuate their money and glory. Consequently, they build a monument, establish a fund, or do something else to keep their memory alive. In verse 12, the Lord was saying that no posterity would be left in the land to proclaim or continue Israel’s glory.
And what was Ephraim’s glory? God had dealt with the ten tribes. He had brought them out of Egypt; established them in Israel, the land of milk and honey; given them prophets and the Law; helped them to multiply and conquer their enemies; and so forth. When the people did not listen to the prophets, they began to decline until all of their former glory came to naught. When the ten-tribe kingdom was taken into captivity, nothing was left of that glory. God departed from them—temporarily.
Hosea 9:13 Ephraim, as I saw Tyrus, is planted in a pleasant place: but Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer.
How was Ephraim “planted in a pleasant place” like the city of Tyre? Ephraim was compared with Tyre, a prosperous commercial maritime city. Both cities were strategically located for commerce and mercantile professions and were made rich with the transport of goods. Being on the seacoast in an ideal place with a good harbor, Tyre was pleasantly situated from the standpoint of commerce, which made the city wealthy. Ephraim was similarly favorably situated, for the northern kingdom occupied the most fruitful portion of the land and was very productive agriculturally.
Spiritually speaking, the Church was favorably situated in the beginning under the Lord’s blessing, but as time went on, it wove itself into the councils of the wealthy of earth, worldlyminded people. The Church should have kept separate from the world and from evil. For example, Jesus did not get contaminated in going to the Pharisees, for he gave a lesson and left. Later on, the Church dwelled in the “Pharisees’ house,” as it were. The nominal Church thus departed from the Lord.
“Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer [the Assyrian king].” Evil waxed worse and worse, with each generation getting more corrupt. Therefore, Ephraim was bringing the children to judgment and retribution. Because the people did not heed the voice of the Lord, they would be bereaved of children and punished. Ephraim’s children would be given over to the murderer, or the “slaughter” (RSV) of the Assyrian host, who would take them into captivity. Stated another way, the king of Assyria would be the Lord’s slaughter weapon.
Hence this generation of children was being reared only to be slaughtered. Spiritually, Revelation 2:22,23 gives the same principle. Papacy will be cast into great tribulation, and her children, the Protestant systems, will be “killed,” or destroyed. The coming trouble will cause these systems to go into extinction.
With regard to the ten tribes, the parents were taken into captivity in a foreign land, for the most part, and deprived of all luxuries to live a hard life as a subject people. However, their children who were of military age did the fighting and were slain in the battle with Assyria. Thus the parents saw their own flesh and blood destroyed and then were taken into captivity.
Hosea 9:14 Give them, O LORD: what wilt thou give? give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.
The end of verse 14 is similar to verses 11 and 13 in that the fruitage of the womb would not prosper. The “miscarrying womb” and the “dry breasts” suggested a very dark picture for the next generation.
The sense of verse 14 is as follows. Through Hosea, God said, “Give them [the ten tribes].”
Hosea replied, “O LORD: what wilt thou give [them]?” God answered through Hosea, “Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.” In other words, Hosea spontaneously interjected, or interrupted with, a question much as the Apostle John enthusiastically interjected his personality in the Book of Revelation.
Comment: The prophets spoke mechanically as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Although Hosea both spoke the words the Lord gave him and interjected his own thoughts, the change was apparent to the people who were listening. Mechanical speaking was different from Hosea’s spontaneous speaking. When a prophet was mechanically moved, it was obvious the words came from the Lord.
Hosea 9:15 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.
“All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them.” The thought is, “Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them.” Gilgal, which is mentioned three times in the Book of Hosea, had a bad background of idol worship (Hos. 4:15; 9:15; 12:11).
Q: In a general way, does this scenario of Ephraim’s experiences represent the tribulation that will befall the Great Company, for instance, the reference to a “miscarrying womb and dry breasts”? The “little sister” in Song of Solomon is described as having “no breasts” (Song 8:8).
A: Yes, and this observation will become more apparent later.
Through Hosea, God was addressing the ten tribes. “Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of my house. I will love them no more; all their princes are rebels” (RSV). In other words, “This is it! Because you have gone too far, it is necessary for you to go into captivity and for destruction to be visited upon the land.”
For “all their princes are revolters,” the NIV has “all their leaders are rebellious.” The last five kings of Israel were particularly evil, with one assassination after another. In addition, all the contemporary leaders of the ten tribes were rebellious. As each king was assassinated and another king took his place, conditions just got worse.
Hosea 9:16 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.
Hosea 9:17 My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto him: and they shall be wanderers among the nations.
The offspring would be cut off in death, and the parents would end up as “wanderers among the nations,” being scattered into other lands. Even if Ephraim bore children, they would be slain by the enemy. The theme that God would slay the children through impending judgment was repeated again and again (verses 13, 14, and 16). Hosea did not give a long sermon but spoke in fits and spurts on different occasions.
Verse 17 is a reminder of the condemnation that came upon Cain. A mark was put on him, and he was sent out from a favorable condition into the wilderness as a wanderer. And that has been the condition of the Jews—they would just get settled in one place when persecution, or a pogrom, would arise, causing them to go to another place. Judah had the same experience except that the two tribes remained together more as a unit, whereas the ten tribes were “lost” and their history could not be traced. The Bible tells more about Judah—where the two tribes were taken captive; how they were brought back, right up to Jesus’ day; and then how they were scattered in Diaspora. Except for a very small number of Jews of the ten tribes who returned to Israel with those of Judah in 536 BC, the history of the ten tribes has been lost. In fact, the last part of verse 17, “they shall be wanderers among the nations,” gave rise to the common expression “the lost tribes of Israel,” referring to the ten-tribe kingdom.
The two-tribe kingdom was brought to a particular place, whereas most of the ten tribes were dispersed into Europe from Assyria. The British-Israelite theory is fundamentally incorrect with regard to God’s coming favor, but it is correct in identifying that Jewry was dispersed into Germany, Italy, Spain, and England.
Although the focus of attention was on the northern kingdom, the reference to Ephraim’s root being dried up and the bearing of no fruit is a reminder of Jesus’ cursing the fig tree (all of Israel) because it had no fruit. Hence the nation was rejected in AD 33 and destroyed in 69-70. Most of the Book of Hosea rebukes the ten tribes—and repetitiously. Judah is mentioned infrequently.
Comment: Taken by themselves, certain strong statements in verses 15 and 17 seem to imply that Israel has lost God’s favor forever; namely “for there I hated them,” “I will love them no more,” and “God will cast them away.” However, the Book of Hosea goes on and teaches repentance and restoration of favor. For example, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him” (Hos. 14:4).
Reply: Yes, the book teaches redemption and favor coming back to the Jews. Their experiences produced in them a yearning and a desire to return to the Lord.
Not only the ten tribes but also the ten toes and the ten horns pertain to Christendom. Thus, in the broad sense, these verses in Hosea can also apply to Christendom.
Q: How does chapter 9 give lessons with regard to Christendom?
A: One of Israel’s problems was incorporating sexuality into their religious practices. The people did not see the incompatibility of worshipping God while catering to the flesh. They trusted in their own fruitfulness, wealth, numbers, etc. Catholicism has boasted for centuries of being the true Church, the vast numbers of communicants being considered one proof. One can sin, go to the Confessional, leave there planning to commit the same sin again, go back to the Confessional, etc., in a continuing cycle. The Catholic Church published a list of payments to be made to the church, according to the sin, in order to receive forgiveness. Catholicism became a religion of convenience in which one could have one foot on the earth and one foot in heaven. By following church regulations, communicants have “insurance,” but they are departing from the real God and the real and only Mediator, Jesus Christ. In the type, the northern kingdom was weaned away from Jerusalem to false worship, yet they ostensibly worshipped Jehovah. Similarly, Catholicism has taught that the Bible is God’s Word, but that Word is supplemented with Catholicism’s own catechism. Moreover, the interpretation of the Bible came from the priesthood, not from individual independent study.
The two places of rival worship, Dan and Beth-el, represent Roman Catholicism and the Greek Orthodox Church. Then, as the ten tribes prospered, the number of altars increased. In addition to Dan and Beth-el, altars were built on almost every hill, providing diversity, which represents Protestantism. The Catholic Church is one and is strongly centralized, whereas Protestantism has many altars, making many divisions in Christendom.
From another standpoint, a deception is putting too much confidence in human leaders and teachers, and not realizing that the fundamental relationship is between God, Christ, and the individual. Nothing should come in between, no matter how much truth a teacher might have.
We should appreciate one’s leadership only in relationship to his understanding of God’s Word and not allow anything to take away from our individual, personal relationship with God and Jesus. We should look forward to seeing the Heavenly Father and His Son, not other human beings. Otherwise, nominalism creeps in and interrupts the close communion with the Lord.
Wealth, popularity, and power are very dangerous for the Christian. As one prospers with money and influence, the tendency is to get involved in something that takes us away from the simplicity in Christ that should be ours and should be maintained at all times. The next chapter, Hosea 10, deals with lawsuits. Like today, there was a multiplicity of lawsuits. In our day, they are a sign of the end of the age.
(1969 and 1993 Studies)