Hosea (day 863-876)

Hosea 1 (day 863) 12 May 2012

            1: The period in which Hosea prophesied was a particularly disruptive time in Israel’s history. Most scholars date him from 750-724 B.C. It is not obvious from the opening verse, but Hosea lived and prophesied in the northern kingdom, Israel. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel were all connected to the southern kingdom, Judah.

            2-3: God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute, a surprising beginning to the book and a surprising suggestion from God, but Hosea’s marriage to Gomer is a reflection of God’s “marriage” to Israel.

            4-5: Their first son is to be named Jezreel, a valley in Israel about 20 miles southwest of the Sea of Galilee. That is where Jehu brutally assassinated Joram (9:17-25) and became king of Israel and established his own dynasty. God says the day is coming when Jehu’s line will be terminated and Israel with it.

            6-7: A second child, a daughter, is named “Not Pitied,” to symbolize God’s lack of pity for Israel. Judah, however, will be spared (but not for long).

            8-9: After a few years another son is born, and God tells Hosea to name him “Not My People,” signifying the complete break between God and Israel.

            10-11: Now the prophesy is reversed: the day will come when all will be restored, the two kingdoms reunited under one throne, and God’s people will once again take possession of the land.


Hosea 2 (day 864) 13 May 2012

            1: Chapter 2 will turn from the marriage of Hosea and Gomer and take up God’s marriage to Israel. To begin with, Israel was “My People” and “Pitied.” But now, as symbolized in the names of Hosea’s children they are “Not My People” and “Not Pitied.”

            2-13: Now Israel is the prostitute. Israel has consorted with Baal and other gods and God is going to punish Israel for going after other lovers.

            14-23: But the day will come when God and Israel will be reconciled to one another and their relationship will be restored. The play on names is used to illustrate that relationship. Jezreel means “God sows,” and now is mentioned as a promise from God that the land will once more be fruitful. God will once again claim them as his people, and they will once again claim God as their God.

Hosea 3 (day 865) 14 May 2012

            1-5: The first part of Hosea, chapters 1-3, compares God’s relationship with Israel to Hosea’s relationship with an unfaithful wife. Chapter 4 will begin a new section with a different metaphor for God’s relationship to Israel. Even so, Chapter 3 is hard to understand. The difficulty has partly to do with guessing where the quotation marks begin and end, and partly to do with the implication that Hosea is marrying yet another promiscuous woman. Most scholars seem to agree that Gomer is still the woman involved. Perhaps she and Hosea were divorced for awhile after the birth of their children because of her unfaithfulness, and now Hosea is being told to buy her back, though there is no explanation as to why she must be bought unless the silver, grain and wine offered is a bridal price paid once again to her father; or represents the cost of redeeming her from an owner if she has become a slave in a prostitution ring. In any case, his relationship with her is supposed to symbolize the time the Israelites are bereft of a king. The last two verses say that Israel’s dispersion will be temporary; they will be brought back to the land and once again worship the LORD in a holy kingdom ruled by a descendant of David.


Hosea 4 (day 866) 15 May 2012

            1-3: A renewed indictment against the kingdom of Israel, with a list of grievances from swearing (taking God’s name in vain?) to adultery. The sin of the people is nullifying the fruitfulness and the productivity of the land.

            4-6: The priests and prophets are held responsible because they have not taught the people. “Your mother” in verse 5 is a reference to the kingdom of Israel; “your children” in verse 6 is a reference to the population that will be dispersed when the kingdom is conquered by Assyria.

            7-10: The priests have become no better than the people and will be likewise punished.

            11-14: The people, women and men alike, have “played the whore;” that is, they have worshiped idols and consulted mediums.

            15-16: God implores them not to take their pagan excesses into the southern kingdom of Judah.

            17-19: Sexual promiscuity is the overriding charge against them. I suppose that means that either the pagan religions are fertility cults that use temple prostitutes, or their going after other gods is labeled adultery and unfaithfulness.


Hosea 5 (day 867) 16 May 2012

            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 (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 whoredom is repeated.

            5-6: God will no longer respond should they begin again to offer sacrifices to him.

            7: “Illegitimate children” plays on the whoredom 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 his “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 6 (day 868) 17 May 2012

            1-3: Many scholars believe these verses represent Hosea’s rendition of the shallow religious promises of the people of Israel and Judah: They think all they have to do is make a show of repentance and God will quickly reverse their fortunes in a matter of a couple of days.

            4-6: God responds by saying he is not interested in sacrifices but rather in a lasting change of heart that reflects God’s own steadfast love.

            7-11: Other cities are named — Adam, Gilead, and Shechem — and their transgressions documented. The priests, he says, are no better than murderers. For this Ephraim (Israel) will be punished. Judah’s punishment has also been assigned to a later “harvest.”


Hosea 7 (day 869) 18 May 2012

            1-7: God continues making charges against Israel. Whenever God was ready to heed their pleas and heal them their corrupt behavior would come forth. The primary charge is twofold: they worship pagan gods, the reference to them being “hot as an oven” is perhaps a description of the sexual frenzy the fertility cults engender; and they turn their backs on God — “none of them calls on me,” God complains.

            8-10: Now Hosea takes up the attack. Ephraim (Israel, the northern kingdom, Hosea’s home) is guilty of intermarriage with foreigners (“mixing with the people”). They are an unturned cake, baked on one side but not the other so that it is unpalatable. Their strength is fading like an old man’s (“grey hairs are sprinkled upon him”).

            11-16: God speaks again, comparing Israel to a dove that flits hither and yon, a colorful metaphor for Israel seeking first an alliance with Egypt, then with Assyria. Again we find a reference to their refusal to call on God, and again their affair with fertility cults (verse 14). God “trained and strengthened their arms,” but they have turned away.


Hosea 8 (day 870) 19 May 2012

            1-6: The trumpet is to herald the beginning of God’s action against Israel. The charges against Israel continue to be catalogued: they have spurned God’s ways in spite of claiming to know God. The kings of Israel have not been chosen by God as have been the kings of Judah who were all descended from David. The man who made himself their first king, Jeroboam, set up golden calves at Bethel and Dan in Samaria (1 Kings 12:25-13:34; 2 Kings 17:14-23).

            7-10: Israel has bargained with Assyria instead of turning to God, and God will let them be conquered and scattered.

            11-14: Their establishment of a rival cult so their people wouldn’t have to go to Jerusalem to make offerings was the beginning of their downward spiral. “They shall return to Egypt” is a metaphor for being returned to being enslaved by foreign rulers. Judah, too, has forsaken the true worship of God, and their time of punishment will come.


Hosea 9 (day 871) 20 May 2012

            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 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.

            16-17: Hosea summarizes the chapter.


Hosea 10 (day 872) 21 May 2012

            1-2: Hosea charges that Israel’s prosperity only resulted in more apostasy. As they prospered they built more altars that were used to sacrifice to local deities.

            3: “We have no king” is a strange thing for them to say unless the “king” is God.

            4: Their worship rituals are hollow words and the oaths they make to their gods are empty. They have become a litigious society because of their disdain for the Law God gave them.

            5: Samaria is the capital city of Israel. Beth-aven (“house of wickedness”) is a slur against Bethel (“house of God”), a primary cultic site where Jeroboam had set up a golden calf for them to worship.

            6: The golden calf will become part of the spoil carried away to Assyria when the kingdom falls.

            7-8: The king will perish and the high places of worship will be desolate.

            9-10: God speaks: Gibeah is once again given as an example of the kind of people Israel has become; their destruction is nigh.

            11: The calf imagery continues: once upon a time Ephraim was trained and loved to do God’s bidding without being yoked (“I spared her fair neck”). But now Ephraim and Judah, and indeed all of Jacob (all twelve tribes) will be forced to labor.

            12: There still appears to be a window of opportunity left them though, doesn’t there?

            13-15: Ephraim and Judah will be yoked because they have “plowed wickedness.” Verse 13 follows the annual agricultural cycle of plowing, reaping and eating; but they have plowed wickedness, and wickedness has produced a bitter harvest. They trusted in their own military instead of God and as a result they will suffer the punishment of war. “Shalman” and “Beth-arbel” occur nowhere else in the Bible. Shalman may be the Assyrian king Shalmanesar (see 2 Kings 18:9).


Hosea 11 (day 873) 22 May 2012

            1-2: These verses move to a new metaphor of Israel as God’s wayward child. Matthew, in telling about Joseph taking Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape King Herod, quotes verse 1 to connect the story of Jesus with the story of Israel. I suppose Matthew didn’t read the next verse!

            3-4: God recalls Israel’s early history the way a mother recalls her child’s infancy.

            5-7: Returning to Egypt is meant mostly figuratively, meaning that they will return to slavery, although a few of them did flee south when the Assyrian army invaded. Assyria is the next and coming world power, and at their hand Israel will suffer the consequences for having turned away from God.

            8-11: And yet, God agonizes over their fate. Up to this point we have listened to lengthy presentations describing God’s wrath, but now we come face to face with a God who grieves and it is a most touching scene, one to which every parent can relate.

            12: Many scholars believe this verse introduces the change of direction in chapter 12, back to the catalogue of ills. However, I read in these lines a wistful parental hope that, although Israel has turned away from God, perhaps Judah is still faithful.


Hosea 12 (day 874) 23 Mary 2012

            1: Israel “herds the wind,” an expression that means their attempts to appease both Assyria and Egypt is as futile as trying to control the wind. (It is interesting that Israelite oil is being carried to Egypt! Of course, petroleum is not the kind of oil spoken of here.)

            2-6: Hosea reaches back in time to the story of Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah, who became Israel when “he strove with the angel and prevailed” (Genesis 32:22-32).

            7-9: In these last chapters, when Hosea refers to Israel he calls them Ephraim, the predominant tribe of the north. Here he points out their arrogance in thinking they are blameless. But they have forsaken God’s ways, and so they will be made to live in tents as a homeless people, recalling the Festival of Booths which they have not kept as God commanded.

            10-14: The present-day atrocities of Israel are interspersed with references to earlier times. Verse 12 hearkens back to the story of Jacob working for Laban to secure his daughter Rachel for his wife (Genesis 29:15-30), and verse 13 to the story of Moses leading Israel out of Egypt. In verse 14 Hosea declares once again that Israel/Ephraim will suffer the consequences of their sins.


Hosea 13 (day 875) 24 May 2012

            1-3: Ephraim’s downfall is traced from the time when (Hosea imagines) that tribe was prominent among the tribes, to the Numbers 25 account 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 the 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 is 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 shall flourish 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.


Hosea 14 (day 876) 25 May 2012

            1-3: Hosea begs Israel to return to God as an orphan begging for mercy, for the scriptures have made abundantly clear God’s tender compassion toward the orphan and the widow.

            4-7: Here is God’s response. Is this not the response God makes to every repentant sinner?

            8-9: Verse nine presents a number of difficulties in translation. However, the sentiment seems to be pretty clear: If/when they repent their security will be secured by God’s faithfulness to them even though they have been unfaithful to God. The book ends with a platitude we have seen often, especially in the book of Proverbs: “The ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble on them.”


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