The Word Made Fresh
1Listen, priests, and pay attention, people of Israel!
Listen, family of the king; judgment will come to you
because you set traps at Mizpah
and spread nets over Tabor.
2Those who have rebelled will all be punished;
a deep pit has been dug for them.
3I know Ephraim well, and Israel is not out of my sight.
Ephraim has been unfaithful, and Israel is corrupted.
4Because of the things they have done
they will not be allowed to return to their God.
No, the spirit of prostitution is in them
and they do not know the LORD.
5Israel’s pride is a witness against him.
Israel and Ephraim stumble in guilt, and Judah with them.
6They will gather their flocks and herds and seek the LORD,
but the LORD has withdrawn from them and cannot be found.
7They have not been faithful to the LORD,
and have given birth to illegitimate children.
Now the new moon will devour them and their fields.
8Sound the horns in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah.
Sound the alarm in Beth-Aven; look out behind you Benjamin!
9Ephraim will be wiped out on the day of punishment;
I am the one who declared that will happen.
10Judah’s royal family are like the ones who remove property markers,
and I will pour my anger out on them like water.
11Ephraim is oppressed and crushed
because he went after other gods.
12That is why I will be like a moth eating away at Ephraim,
and like decay to the house of Judah.
13When Ephraim realized his illness and Judah his wound,
then Ephraim went to the great king of Assyria,
but he was unable to cure you or dress your wounds.
14So, I will be a lion to Ephraim; a young lion to Judah.
I will tear them apart and take them away.
I will carry them off, and no one will follow.
15But I will return to my place until they realize what they have done.
Then they will seek my face and in their distress beg for my help.
1-2: The blame for the current state of Israel is placed again on the priests as well as all the people (“the whole house”) but now also on the king (there will be more on the ruling elites later in the chapter). The locations mentioned are scattered around the country, indicating that the sin is widespread.
3-4: The theme of prostitution is repeated.
5-6: God will no longer respond should they begin again to offer sacrifices to the LORD.
7: “Illegitimate children” plays on the prostitution theme and simply refers to the growing corruption of the people with each passing generation. “New moon” is a reference to pagan fertility rituals, and they will find that their worship of these gods will not make their fields produce.
8-15: Cities in Benjamin’s territory are given the alarm about the destruction to come — Benjamin is the tribal territory in the south adjacent to Judah. Bethel (“house of God) is sneeringly referred to as Beth-Aven (“house of wickedness”). Now Judah is included in the indictment as well, perhaps because they have been raiding in Israel’s territory (they “remove the landmark”). Hosea derides Israel for seeking help from Assyria (2 Kings 15:19). Both Israel and Judah stand under God’s judgment; God will be against them both “until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face.” The reference in verse 15 about God returning again to God’s “place” may be Hosea’s acknowledgement that the final goal of God’s wrath is to return all the people to acknowledge the temple in Jerusalem as the seat of God’s habitation on earth.
Hosea’s charge is that the people have become as unfaithful to God as they have been to their spouses. Just as a husband might put his unfaithful wife away (and vice-versa) God will put away the entire nation because of their unfaithfulness.