Hosea 13

The Word Made Fresh

1When Ephraim spoke, the people trembled
because he was respected in Israel.
But he sinned through Baal, and died.
2Now they keep on sinning, and have idols cast for themselves,
all of them the work of artisans.
And they sacrifice to these idols and kiss them.
3That is why they will wind up like the mist of morning,
or like the dew that quickly goes away.
They will be like dust from the threshing floor,
and like smoke from the window.
4But I have been the LORD your God since you were in Egypt.
You know no God but me, and there is no other savior.
5I was the one who went with you into the wilderness,
the land of drought and heat.
6I fed them as if they were in their pasture and they were satisfied.
And, being satisfied, they became proud, and turned away from me.
7So, I will be like a lion to them,
or like a leopard hiding beside their path.
8I will pounce on them like a bear robbed of her cubs.
I will tear them open and devour them like a lion
and mangle them like a wild dog.
9I will put an end to you, Israel, and you will find no help.
10Where is your king now? How can he save you?
Where are the rulers in your cities?
You said, “Give me a king and other rulers.”
11I gave you a king because I was angry,
and I took him away because he made me angrier.
12Ephraim’s guilt is stored away and bound.
13He suffers the pangs of birth, but has no wisdom.
He does not come from the womb at the proper time.
14Should I ransom them from the power of the grave?
Should I buy them back from Death?
Where are you plagues, Death?
Where is your destruction, Grave?
No compassion comes from me.
15He may thrive among his brothers,
but the east wind will come as a blast from the LORD.
It will rise from the wilderness.
His fountain will become dry, and his springs parched.
His treasury will be robbed of every valuable thing.
16Samaria will bear her guilt. She rebelled against her God.
Her people will fall by the sword,
their little ones thrown to the ground
and their pregnant women ripped open.


1-3: Ephraim’s downfall is traced from the time when (Hosea imagines) they were prominent among the tribes to the account (see Numbers 25) where the people are enticed by the women of Moab to worship Baal, their fertility god. That sin was compounded when the northern tribes broke away from the Davidic dynasty in Jerusalem and established the nation of Israel centered at Samaria, and set up rival worship centers with golden calves and a multiplication of graven images. For that they will be a temporary nation, like the “morning mist.”

4-11: God took care of them all along the way since they left Egypt, but they became arrogant in thinking their prosperity was their own doing. Therefore, God will become “like a lion” to them, and instead of giving will take away.

12-13: Ephraim is pictured as a child in the womb that was stillborn.

14: This verse is echoed in Paul’s “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O grave, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). There, however, the victory and sting of death are nullified by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross; here the plague and destruction of death are summoned against Ephraim/Israel.

15-16: The first line should probably read, “He may thrive among his brothers.” In the story of Ephraim’s birth, the name Ephraim is given because of its similarity to the word for fruitful (see Genesis 41:52). The “east wind” is Assyria, but perhaps is intended also to indicate Ephraim’s ambitions being thwarted by the very nation they have courted (see 12:1). The gory imagery in verse 16 recalls the bitter conclusion of Psalm 137.


The longer we remain in our sin, the harder will be the result.