The Word Made Fresh
1Don’t celebrate, Israel.
Don’t boast as other nations do.
You have gone to prostitutes and left your God.
You have loved them on your threshing floors.
2But the threshing floor and the wine vat will not feed them.
Even the new wine will fail them.
3They shall not remain in the LORD’s land.
Ephraim will return to Egypt
and to Assyria where they will eat ritually unclean foods.
4They won’t pour drink offerings to the LORD,
and their sacrifices won’t please the LORD.
Their sacrifices will be like the bread of those who mourn,
and all who eat it will be defiled.
Their bread will only satisfy their hunger.
It will not enter the house of the LORD.
5What will they do on the appointed festival days,
and on the days of the LORD’s great festival?
6Even if they escape annihilation Egypt will gather them
and Memphis will bury them.
Briers will grow over their precious silver
and thorns will grow inside their tents.
7Their days of punishment have arrived.
Their time of payback has come.
Israel cries out, “The prophet is a fool!
The man who claims to speak for the spirit is insane!”
And because of their great corruption they are angry.
8But the prophet watches over Israel for my God,
even though all his ways are entrapped
and anger fills the house of his God.
9They are as utterly corrupt as they were in the days of Gibeah.
God will remember their sins and punish them.
10When I found Israel they were like grapes in the desert.
Like the first fig on the fig tree in its first season
I saw your ancestors.
But they came to Baal-Peor and bowed before a shameful thing.
They became as detestable as the thing they loved.
11The glory of Ephraim flies away like a bird –
there is no birth, no pregnancy, and no conception.
12And even if they have children,
I will deprive them until none remain.
Woe to them when I leave them for good!
13Once I saw Ephraim as a young palm tree in a lovely meadow,
but now Ephraim must lead his children to slaughter.
14What can you give them, LORD?
Will it be only wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry?
15They began all the evil things at Gilgal.
That is where I came to hate them, and because they acted wickedly
I will send them out of my family.
I will love them no more, for all their leaders have rebelled.
16Ephraim has been stricken. Their root has dried up.
They will not bear any fruit.
And even though they give birth,
I will put their cherished offspring to death.
17So, my God will reject them because they refused to listen.
They will become nomads wandering among the nations.
1-6: The sentencing of Israel is relentless. The emphasis here is on their loss of ritual access to God: they will be slaves in Assyria as in Egypt before; they will not be able to observe the dietary laws; they will not be able to make offerings to God; they will lose the festival days.
7-9: Their corruption is so deep that they are angered by the prophet’s attempts to turn them back. “The days of Gibeah” is a reference to the decadence of that city (see Judges 19:10-30).
10-13: Horticultural metaphors are often used as illustrations of Israel’s history. Baal-Peor is probably a reference to a Moabite deity who is to blame for the corruption of the people while they camped in Moabite territory for many years before they crossed the Jordan River.
14: This verse appears to be an insertion; Hosea interrupts God’s decree to encourage God in Israel’s punishment.
15-16: God responds with an indictment of their behavior which God says began at Gilgal, a reference to their very first campsite when they crossed the Jordan opposite Jericho (Joshua 4:19). God’s patience has run out.
17: Hosea summarizes the chapter.
Hosea’s characterization of Israel’s and Judah’s sinfulness is terrible indeed. It is hard to read these charges, knowing that many of them might very well apply to our society today. But don’t despair. Our God is a forgiving God, and the opportunity to reenter God’s circle is always available through a renewed embracing of faith. What can we do today to draw closer to God?