The same fire that warms the righteous consumes the wicked.
As is the case with all of Hebrew Scripture, there are no chapter breaks in the scroll of the 12 Prophets in which Hosea is located. It’s important to see the text of this chapter as a continuation of the previous chapter:
“Ephraim has provoked bitter anger; and his blood will be left upon him, and his scorn Adonai will return to him.”
1 When Efrayim (doubly fruitful) spoke, reteit trembling. He nasa hu lifted himself up beYisrael in Israel, vayesham and incurred guilt baBa’al in Baal (master, lord, husband, Canaanite fertility deity) vayamot and died.
“When Ephraim spoke, trembling.” This is most likely an allusion to Jeroboam trembling before Solomon in whose court he had served prior to his rebellion and the setting up of the northern kingdom (1 Kings 11:26).
The text speaks of Ephraim (the kings of northern Israel) who exalted himself (pride) in Israel (the 10 northern tribes), in the past tense saying that he has already died as a result of his guilt in worshipping the Canaanite fertility deity Ba’al. In other words, the end of the northern kingship was predetermined by the idolatrous actions of her first king (1 Kings 12:25-33) and the subsequent actions of Ahab, who sinned in worship of Ba’al under the influence of Jezebel (1 Kings 16:31).
With regard to the pride that caused Jeroboam to engage Ba’al Rashi says:
“As soon as he assumed greatness and became guilty with Baal.”
“‘he died’ i.e., Jeroboam’s dynasty was terminated, and so was Ahab’s dynasty. Jonathan renders: When one of the house of Ephraim would speak, fear would seize the nations. They were great among Israel, but when they sinned by worshipping idols, they were slain.” -Rashi
There is strong textual evidence supporting an intrinsic link between the calf deities of Jeroboam, the calf of Sinai and the Ba’aliym (Canaanite deities). Therefore, it is inconsistent to make the claim that the tribes of the north considered the calves to be representations of YHVH. They clearly linked the calves to the false Canaanite deities the Ba’aliym. The fact that there were two calves (1 Kings 12:29) supports this polytheistic understanding, and blatantly contradicts a monotheistic Deity. Both the leaders of Israel (Sinai) [Exodus 32:4] and Jeroboam I [1 Kings 12:28] had appropriated the actions of YHVH and attributed them to other gods (calf deity of Egypt, calf deity representing Baal).
The text teaches us that humble position does not necessarily denote a godly outcome. It is true that the Scripture says “humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up” (Yaakov 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6), however, although Jeroboam was in a humble position before the Lord he had not humbled himself but had been appointed as servant to Solomon (1 Kings 11:26). Additionally Jeroboam lifted himself up (God allowed his kingship in response to Solomon’s disobedience, He did not appoint Jeroboam). His belief in his own strength over that of the Lord’s (in spite of the fact that the prophet Ahijah [1 Kings 11:26-39] had informed him that it was YHVH Who was allowing him to have dominion over the 10 northern tribes) resulted in idolatry.
Note: In this verse “Israel” is used of the 10 tribes and not all of Israel (as some foolish commentators suggest). We know this because the kings of the north beginning with Jeroboam I lifted themselves up over the 10 tribes of the north only. The sin of the southern kingdom under Solomon was the worship of Ashtoret, Molek and Chemosh (1 Kings 11:4-8) and not the worship of Ba’al (who is not mentioned in the indictment against Solomon), as is the case concerning the indictment of Israel in the present verse. Therefore, the resulting death is that of the northern kingship and the exile of the northern tribes, and not, as some erroneously suggest, the death of all Israel (all 12 tribes).
2 And now yosifu they increase lachato their sin (miss the mark of God’s glory), vayasu and they have made lahem for them maseichah cast metal icons, mikasoam from silver, kitvunam skilfully made atzabiym idols ma’aseih charashiym kuloh lahem all from the work of an engraver, to them. Heim They omeriym say zovecheiy adam “sacrifice a man (human sacrifice) agaliym yishakun kiss the calves [alt. they say ‘a man sacrifices to calves he kisses!’]”
This is a description of human sacrifices offered to man-made cast metal and silver plated idols. “They increase their sin” is an allusion to the fact that idolatry diversified and increased under the reign of Ahab and was maintained under the reigns of the pursuant kings of the north. In short the calf idol worship was merely the beginning.
The silver mentioned tells us that idols other than the calves of Bethel and Dan (made of gold ref. 1 Kings 12:28) were being made.
Sadly, human sacrifice to false gods was not alien to Israel (2 Kings 17:17; 23:10; Eze. 20:26; Mic. 6:7).
“Kiss the calves” This is an allusion to worship of the two calf deities of Bethel and Dan. A “kiss” is a symbolic act of intimacy, homage, submission (Psalms 2:12; 1 Kings 19:18).
“Those who sacrifice man may kiss the calves The priests of Molech say to Israel, “Whoever sacrifices his son to the idol is worthy of kissing the calf” for he has offered him a precious gift. So did our Sages explain this in Sanhedrin (63b), and it fits the wording of the verse better than Jonathan’s translation.” -Rashi
“Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” -1 Kings 19:18 NIV
3 Lachein Therefore, yihu they have become ka’anan-boker like a morning cloud vechatal and like night mist (dew) mashkiym holeich and leave early, kemotz like chaff yesoeir driven by the storm winds migoren from the threshing floor, ucheashan and like smoke meiarubah from a chimney.
Each of the examples given here are short lived, they appear and are gone soon after. The inference is that the northern kingdom and its kingship, will, historically speaking, be brief.
4 Ve’Anochiy And I Am YHVH the Lord Eloheycha your God/Judge, meieretz mitzrayim from the land of Egypt (double distress); veilohiym zulatiy lo and no gods but Me teida did you know umoshiya nor any other saviour.
YHVH reminds Ephraim (northern tribes) that He is her God and Judge, and has been from before she existed as a people. He has been with Israel from her bondage in Egypt and is the One Who delivered her from her captivity.
“no gods but Me” is in response to the false claim of Jeroboam I, who pointed out the calf idols and said “Behold your gods, Israel, that brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (1 Kings 12:28).
5 Aniy I yedatiycha yes I knew you bamidbar in the desert be’eretz taluvot in the land of drought.
YHVH was present, in the cloud of the presence, in provision of quail and manna, in provision of water, leading Israel through her desert journey, and continuing to do so even after she had rebelled against Him (Numbers 13 & 14).
6 Kemariytam Because of their pasture, vayisbau they became full, shaveu they were satisfied [alt. they became fully filled], vayarom and exalted with pride libam in their inner being (heart); al-kein shecheichuniy Therefore they’ve forgotten Me.
Due to God’s provision and care Israel became comfortable, full, “well grazed”. Rather than give glory to God for their comfort as their forefather Abraham had done, Israel instead turned to other gods and appropriated God’s gifts naming them as evidence of the provision of false gods.
7 Vaehiy And I will become lahem to them kemo like shachal a lion; kenamer like a leopard I al-derech I will lie in wait in the way, ashur observing.
YHVH previously depicted as the Shepherd of Israel (4:16) is now seen as a Lion Who, like a leopard, a bear, and other predatory wild animals, attacks the sheep and rips them apart (cf. Jeremiah 5:6).
God is pictured figuratively as a Lion throughout Hebrew Scripture. YHVH as Lion is both a terrifying and comforting use of imagery. When Israel sins He comes as a Lion of discipline (Hosea 13:7-8), and when Israel repents He comes as a Lion of fierce protection and comfort (Hosea 11:10-11).
“A lion has roared! Who will not fear?
The Lord God has spoken! Who can do anything but prophesy?” -Amos 3:8 NASB
“I yes, I will lie in wait in the way, (Ashur) observing.” The Lord will not only attack in discipline, He will lie in wait even as Israel is taken into exile. The Hebrew “ashur” observe is identical in spelling to the proper noun of the Empire. Thus, HaShem will ashur (observe) them on the way to Ashur.
“by the way I will lurk Heb. אָשּׁוּר. Every instance of אָשּׁוּר in Scripture is punctuated with a “dagesh,” but this one is “weak,” since it is not a place name but it means, “I will lurk and ambush.” Comp. (Num. 24:17) “I see him (אֲשּׁוּרֶנוּ) but not near.” -Rashi
Both the king of Assyria and Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon are referred to as lions scattering the sheep of Israel:
“Israel is a scattered [a]flock, the lions have driven them away. The first one who devoured him was the king of Assyria, and this last one who has gnawed his bones is Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.” -Jeremiah 50:17 NASB
8 Efgesheim I will encounter them kidov like a bear shakul bereaved of her cubs, ve’ekra and tear open segor the enclosure libam of their inner being (hearts); veocheleim I will eat them sham there kelaviy like a lioness, chayat hasadeh a beast of the land tevake’eim that tears them to pieces.
The imagery of the bear is ambiguous. HaShem comes as a bear bereaved of her cubs. Israel are His cubs, and at the same time are the abductors of His cubs (leading their own children astray) [cf. 2 Sam. 17:8; 2 Kings 2:24; Pr. 17:12].
Rashi rightly observes that HaShem is bereaved in the loss of His children the people of Israel and in the need for the disciplining of them.
“as a bereaving bear Heb. שַׁכּוּל. Like שּׁוֹכֵל, as you say חָנּוּן, gracious, and רַחוּם, merciful, so שַּׁכּוּל, i.e., entirely attired with bereavements and ready to bereave people.” -Rashi
“tear open the enclosure of their inner being (hearts)” This denotes the “heart surgery” that will be required in order to fix Israel’s disobedient heart of stone and make it a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19). The heart is the core being and the centre of consciousness. Note that the Hebrew libam (hearts) is plural and that the text says “their”. Therefore the present text denotes God’s intention to open and convert the heart of rebellion at the centre of His people.
“And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,” -Ezekiel 11:19 NASB
The Targum Yonatan supports this understanding:
“My word shall meet them as a bear bereaved, and I will break the wickedness of their hearts…'' -Targum Yonatan
9 Shichetcha It is to your own destruction, Yisrael (overcome in God) Israel, kiy-viy ve’ezrecha that you are against Me, against your help.
God would help Israel, but she has turned her back on Him. The northern kingdom will suffer the consequences of their own sin and therefore, “your own destruction”. The destruction that is coming is a direct consequence of Israel’s poor political decisions and abhorrent worship practices (sacrificing children to false gods). Israel has weakened herself. God will simply pull back His hand of protection and Israel’s discipline will be the fruit of her actions. As I have previously stated, sin, among other things, is self-harm.
Now, as always, our help is in YHVH, and not of our own strength.
10 Ehiy Where is malkecha your king, eifo where? Veyoshiyacha And who will save you bechol-areycha in all your cities? Veshofeteycha And your judges/rulers, asher to whom amarta you said, “tenah-liy melech Give me a king vesariym and princes”?
“Where is your king?” This can be understood as a rhetorical question relating to the withdrawing of YHVH’s (King of Israel) hand. It may refer to the death of Israel’s (the northern kingdom) last king. The former is the most likely given the follow up question “And who will save you?” In short, “Without Me (YHVH) Who will save you?”
And where are “your judges?” God is Israel’s Judge. Israel had asked both God and her human judges and rulers for a king like the other nations (1 Sam. 8:5, 20), however, here the text is referring to the request of the northern tribes for a king other than the king of Judah (1 Kings 12:26).
“I will be, where is your king? Heb. אֱהִי מַלְכְּךָ אֵפוֹא. Jonathan renders: Where is your king? But I say that it is unnecessary to interpret it other than its apparent meaning. I will be standing from afar to see where your king is, for I will make Myself see what your end will be, where your saviour is.” -Rashi
11 Eten-lecha I gave you melekh a king beapiy while My nostrils flared (fierce anger), ve’ekach and snatched him away be’evratiy in the excess of My wrath.
The monarchy of the northern kingdom is considered apostate and rebellious by God Who had allowed it in His anger against Solomon’s sin but did not appoint its kings (1 Kings 12:16). Additionally the first king of all 12 tribes of Israel was given as a response to rebellion against God and that same king Saul likewise rebelled and was taken away by God (killed by the Philistines) [1 Sam. 8:7].
12 Tzarur Bound up avon is the perversity of Efrayim; tzefunah chatato His hidden sin (missing the mark of God’s glory).
The sin of Ephraim is more than a simple missing of the mark, it is intentional and perpetual perversity. It is bound up, kept for a time of punishment. Additionally, the depravity of Ephraim has bound him up. Perversity binds the one who practices it. It comes back upon the sinner. The fornicator contracts a deadly sexually transmitted disease, the murderer is killed by the relative of his victim, the liar tells so many lies that when he speaks the truth he is not believed to his hurt and so on.
"the sins of the house of Ephraim are treasured up; they are reserved to punish all their offences;'' -Targum Yonatan
"the sins of the house of Ephraim are treasured up; they are reserved to punish all their offences;'' -Job 14:17 NASB
13 Chevleiy The (umbilical) cord yoledah of childbirth yavou will wrap (come) around (on) lo him; hu-vein lo chacham He is not a wise son (brain oxygen starved at birth), kiy for eit-lo ya’amod it is not the time to remain, bemishbar in the breaking forth baniym of children [alt. the time for hesitation is not at the moment of birth].
First and foremost this is an analogy concerning new birth. Israel has been offered numerous opportunities to repent and be delivered into a new season of favour in right standing with God, but has instead resisted to her own hurt.
The analogy speaks of a child who knows that it’s time to break forth from the womb but instead twists itself into a breech position and in doing so strangles itself on its own umbilical cord, starving itself of oxygen and impairing its cognitive development. In these circumstances the father of ancient Israel must come and forcibly move the baby into birthing position or cut open the mother performing a C-section delivery. In both cases there is great suffering as a consequence but the baby’s life is saved.
Therefore, YHVH is explaining to His wayward people that they have placed themselves in a position where they are unable to see the predicament they have put themselves in, nor are they able to deliver themselves.
"distress and trouble shall come upon them, as pains on a woman with child; he is not wise to know my fear:'' -Targum Yonatan
14 Miyad From the hand of sheol (the place of the departed) efdeim shall I ransom them? Mimavet From death egaleim I will redeem them! Ehiy Where are they? Devareycha Your plagues mavet Death, Ehiy Where are they? katavecha Of your destruction Sheol (the place of the departed), nocham repent! Yisateir It shall be concealed (covered) from mei’eiynay My eyes.
“From the hand of sheol (the place of the departed) shall I ransom them?” The question is rhetorical, the answer is “Of course yes, I will ransom them!”, in fact the answer is given in the proceeding phrase.
Note: Sheol is NOT the grave (kever). Sheol is the holding place of the departed. Nor are Biblical Israelites (Jews) buried under the earth. Therefore, kever (grave) in Biblical Hebrew means an above ground interment in either a tomb or by piling large rocks over the body above ground. Numerous false theologies regarding death and the afterlife can be avoided by this one simple piece of basic Hebrew understanding.
“From death I will redeem them!” This is a promise, the answer to the previous question. YHVH will redeem Israel from death, not natural death (although He has often delivered Israel this way) but from eternal death. We know that at the time of Israel’s exile to Assyria many died, therefore, HaShem is not alluding to the temporal death of the body but to the eternal death of the soul/spirit, the neshama (transcendent consciousness). Hosea is prophesying the redemption that comes through Yeshua the King Messiah, through His atoning/covering blood and His resurrection living. The fullness of this promise culminating in the salvation of all the remnant of Israel (Romans 11:25-27).
“Where are they? Your plagues Death, Where are they? Of your destruction Sheol (the place of the departed), repent! It shall be concealed (covered) from My eyes.”
How does God conceal death? By covering it. Kippur, to cover, atone for. The beginning of the verse explains that the concealing of death will come about through “ransom” and “redemption”. Therefore, the covering and concealment of death from the eyes of HaShem will be made possible through vicarious sacrifice, a kaparah (atonement, sacrifice, reconciliation) that puts death to death permanently. Those who have met Yeshua the King Messiah know that He performed that atoning sacrifice by giving His sinless body into the hands of God and died on the Roman cross, rising again on the third day according to Scripture and thus offering redemption through the ransom He paid, perpetually to the Jew first, and also to the nations in perpetuity unto the judgement and life everlasting (Romans 1:16).
It is this verse that Rav Shaul is quoting in 1 Corinthians 15:55:
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?” (NIV)
“I am He Who would ransom them from the clutches of the grave and redeem them from death…” -Rashi
15 Kiy For hu he bein among achiym brothers and sisters yafriy is fruitful, yavo kadiym ruach an east wind will come, YHVH (Mercy) The Lord mimidbar from the wilderness oleh comes up; ve’yeivosh mekoro and his fountain will become dry veyecherav and dried up ma’yano his spring; hu yishseh he will plunder otzar the treasure kol-keliy chemdah of all the precious vessels.
“For he among brothers and sisters is fruitful” This refers to Ephraim and is the literal meaning of his name. Ephraim was prophesied to be fruitful (Gen. 48:10-20), and became a powerful tribe (Judges 8:1-3; 12:1-7; 1 Sam. 1:1-4). Prominent leaders such as Joshua (Josh. 24:30) and Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:26) came from Ephraim and the tribe was subsequently named for the 10 tribes of the north.
“An east wind will come” This refers specifically to the wind of the Assyrian empire wielded by God as a sword of discipline (Hosea 5:13, 7:11, 8:9; 2 Kings 17:3).
The Targum supports this understanding:
"now will I bring against him a king strong as a burning wind;''-Targum Yonatan
The king of Babylon is also referred to as a violent wind in Jeremiah 4:11.
The “east wind” is used as a metaphor for false knowledge (Job 15:2), imminent onslaught (Isaiah 27:21), a scattering force (Jeremiah 18:17), it is a wind of discipline wielded by YHVH for the purpose of returning His people to Himself.
“The Lord from the wilderness comes up;” The Lord is in control of all that is about to happen, He is wielding the winds of Assyria and Babylon.
"by the word of the Lord, through the way of the wilderness shall he come up;'' -Targum Yonatan
“And his fountain will become dry and dried up his spring” This is a metaphor for the drying up of Israel’s access to the living waters of YHVH poured out on the faithful among His people.
The LORD is the fountain of Israel, who have access to His waters through repentance and return.
“Lord, the hope of Israel, All who abandon You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, Because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, that is the Lord.” -Jeremiah 17:13 NASB
It is also a metaphor denoting the reduction of progeny over the period of exile (cf. Deut. 33:28). Israel (the sons of Jacob) are called the “fountain of Jacob” in Scripture (Psalms 68:26).
The fear of the Lord is also called a fountain (Prov. 14:27). Therefore, this is an indication that Israel’s fear of God has dried up and resulted in Israel’s discipline.
“He will plunder the treasure of all the precious vessels.” This does not concern the vessels of the Temple which were taken away over 100 years later by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Chronicles 36:7). Rather it refers to vessels associated with the worship of false gods, removed by the Assyrians when they invaded the northern territories of Israel.
“he shall destroy the house of his treasures, and shall lay waste the city of his kingdom; he shall spoil the treasuries, all vessels of desire.'' -Targum Yonatan
16 [14:1] Tesham Shomeron (guardian mountain) Samaria will pay for her guilt (offense), kiy Because maretah she rebelled beiloheyah against her God. Bacherev In the sword yipolu they will fall oleleiyhem their infants yerutashu dashed to pieces vehariyotayv and their pregnant women yevukau will be ripped apart.
Samaria was the head/capital of Ephraim (Isaiah 7:9) which was besieged for three years by Shalmaneser king of Assyria (the east wind); and eventually conquered and its inhabitants taken into exile (2 Kings 17:5) [Assyria invaded in 734 BCE then conquered and exiled its residents between 722 and 721 BCE]. Samaria was a hot bed of idolatry and vile sacrificial practices to false deities, a beacon of pagan worship. God would give a foreign idolater the strength to topple it and destroy its altars. Samaria’s guilt would come upon her own head because she rebelled against her God to her own harm.
1  Shuvah Return, Yisrael, ad to YHVH the Lord Eloheycha your God/Judge, kiy for chashalta you have stumbled ba’avonecha in your depravity.
"return to the fear of the Lord.'' -Targum Yonatan
“to the Lord your God One taught in the name of Rabbi Meir: Return, O Israel, while He is still יהוה, with the Divine Attribute of Mercy; otherwise, He is אֶלֹהֶיךָ with the Divine Attribute of Justice, before the defense becomes the prosecution. [from Pesikta d’Rav Kahana, p. 164a]” -Rashi
YHVH continues to offer a hand of mercy and calls Israel to return to Him and turn away from her depravity. The rhythm of Mercy, judgement and the fruit of judgement Mercy, continues just as it does in the words of Hosea’s contemporaries (Isaiah, Amos, Micah).
"great is repentance, for it brings a man to the throne of glory;'' -Talmud Bavliy Yoma, fol. 86. 1.
Rashi understands this as a warning to the southern kingdom of Judah (& Benjamin):
“Return, O Israel You, who are in the land of Judah, lest what happens to Samaria happens to you. Therefore, the topics are juxtaposed. This can be compared to a king against whom a province rebelled. The king sent a general and commanded him to destroy it. That general was expert and deliberate. He said to them, “Take for yourselves days (sic); otherwise, I will do to you as I have done to such-and-such a province and to its allies, and to such-and-such a prefecture and to its allies.” Therefore it says, “Samaria shall be accounted guilty,” and then Scripture says: “Return, O Israel.” As is found in Sifrei in the section commencing. (Num. 25:1), “And Israel abode in Shittim.” -Rashi
2  Kechu Take imachem with you devariym words, essences, things veshuvu and return el-YHVH to the Lord. Imru Say to Him, “Eilayv away kol-tisa avon take all depravity away vekach-tov and receive good uneshalemah and a covenant of peace, wholeness, wellbeing pariym sefateiynu fruit [calves] of our lips.
The text uses “devariym” (words, essence, things) rather than ketuviym (written words) or Torah (Instruction) because God is admonishing Israel to carry and walk in His living Word that is His written Word in action, the Word not only the Torah but of the prophets and writings, the right action of faith in Him, Halakhah (the way we walk). Yeshua the King Messiah is revealed as the Living Word (Davar) Essence of the Universe Who is both Author and Goal of the TaNaKH (Bible) [John 1; Romans 10:4]. We note that only in the Word is Israel able to return to YHVH (Mercy).
“Say to Him, “take all depravity away and receive good and a covenant of peace, wholeness, wellbeing fruit [calves] of our lips.” This is an instruction to the people to ask God to take away all their iniquity through a covenant that brings peace. This is a reference to the blood sacrifice of Yeshua the King Messiah and the covenant of peace that His shed blood establishes. Only by receiving it can Israel be saved from the rightful punishment for her sin. We note that this covenant becomes an act of worship that overflows from her lips, that is, the testimony of salvation through Yeshua the King Messiah. This is why the ambiguity occurs in the Hebrew text. The Hebrew prym can mean either the plural of fruit peri or of calf par. This is because the author of the prophetic work is conveying the Divine Word of God indicating both sacrifice and the testimony of that same sacrifice as it is heard on the lips of those who receive it. The ambiguity therefore, conveys an intended convergent meaning.
“and teach [us the] good [way] Heb. וְקַח-טוֹב. And teach us the good way. Another explanation: The few good deeds in our hands take in Your hand and judge us accordingly. And so does David say (Psalms 17:2): “Let my sentence come forth from before You, may Your eyes behold the right.” Another explanation: And accept good And accept confession from us, as it is said (Psalms 92:2): “It is good to confess to the Lord.
and let us render [for] bulls that we should have sacrificed before you, let us render them with the placation of the words of our lips.” -Rashi
3  Ashur (a step) Assyria lo yoshiyeinu will not save us, al-sus lo nirkav on horses we will not ride; velo-nomar and nor will we say od again, ‘eloheiynu Our god’ lema’aseih To the work yadeiynu of our hands; asher-becha For in You yerucham there is mercy, compassion for yatom the fatherless.”
These words continue the proposed confession of repentant Israel at a future time post exile. Assyria to whom the northern kings had turned would not only not save them but would in fact conquer and subjugate them.
“Assyria shall not save us Say this also before Him, “We no longer seek the aid of man, neither from Assyria nor from Egypt.” -Rashi
“nor will we say again, ‘Our god’ To the work of our hands” Part of Israel’s repentance involves turning their backs on all false idols. I am reminded of the son of a Hindu High Priest who came to faith in our community and was being immersed (tevilah) in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He excitedly answered my question to him, “Do you choose to worship of the God of Israel alone, do you forsake the worship of all other Gods? Do you acknowledge that Yeshua the King Messiah is Imanu with us El God?” his response was a resounding “I do!”
When we turn to God in Messiah we are in one sense taking a wedding vow, “I cleave to You alone, forsaking all others…”
“For in You there is mercy, compassion for the fatherless.” An acknowledgement that only the Greatest of father’s the Creator of the universe can truly understand and gift compassion for the fatherless.
4  Erpa I will heal, repair meshuvatam their turning away, ohaveim I will love them nedavah freely, voluntarily, kiy Because shav afiy turned away is My flaring nostril (anger) mimenu from them.
“I will heal, repair their turning away” This is a certain promise. YHVH will heal, repair, cure Israel of her turning away. In short, turning away from God is an illness that leads to death. Through His Son the King Messiah He has provided the cure for that illness and with it wholeness and eternal life.
“I will love them freely, voluntarily” The Calvinists avoid this verse because it describes free will as an attribute of God and is therefore one of many Scriptures that refute their false supposition. In fact, without free will there is no love, only mindless robotic subjugation.
“Because turned away is My flaring nostril (anger) from them.”
God will yet turn away His wrath from His people because His purpose has always been to discipline them unto repentance and restoration.
“I will remedy their backsliding Said the prophet: So has the Holy Spirit said to me. After they say this before Me, I will remedy their backsliding, and I will love them with My charitable spirit. Although they do not deserve the love, I will love them charitably since My wrath has turned away from them.” -Rashi
5  Eyeh It will be chatal like night mist (dew) leYisrael to Israel; kashoshanah He will blossom like the lily, veyach And he will cast forth sharashayv his roots kalevanon like Lebanon (whiteness from lavan).
“It will be like night mist (dew) to Israel” Here, it’s the wrath of God that will disperse like the dew. This is the counterpoint to Ephraim’s temporal reign and Israel’s (northern tribes) fading prosperity in the land (v.3).
“He will blossom like the lily, and he will cast forth his roots kalevanon like Lebanon (whiteness, from lavan).” Whiteness, purity, is multiplied here (Lilly [white] & Lebanon [whiteness]). This is an allusion to the purity that will blossom and put down roots as a result of the salvation that comes through Yeshua the King Messiah from YHVH the Deliverer of Israel.
"they shall dwell in the strength of their land, as a tree of Lebanon, which sends forth its branch.'' -Targum Yonatan
There is also a picture of strength such as that of the strong well rooted trees of the northern region (not the modern state of Lebanon).
“and it shall strike I.e. the dew shall strike its roots and cause them to prosper like the Lebanon like the roots of the trees of the Lebanon, which are large.” -Rashi
6  Yeilechu And he will send out yonekotayv his young branches, vihiy like chazayit an olive tree hodo in its beauty, vereiyach lo and his aroma kalevanon like Lebanon (whiteness).
"they shall multiply or increase with sons and daughters:'' -Targum Yonatan
When Israel returns to HaShem through the King Messiah, he will send out his branches like an olive tree and his aroma will draw the nations to the purity (Lebanon/whiteness) of Messiah in him. This has a correlation to the olive tree imagery of Rav Shaul (Romans 11).
“Its branches shall go forth Sons and daughters shall increase and it shall be Their beauty shall be like the beauty of the menorah of the Temple, and their fragrance like the fragrance of the incense.” -Rashi
7  Yashuvu yosheveiy They shall return and dwell vetzilo in His shadow yechayu they will revive dagan grain veyifrechu and sprout forth chagafen like a grape vine. Zichro keyeiyn His remembrance, memorial like wine levanon of Lebanon.
“They shall return and dwell in His shadow” This is a reference to God and is also seen by our ancient Jewish forebears as a reference to the King Messiah. Therefore, acknowledging an intrinsic link between the two.
"and they shall be gathered out of the midst of their captivity, they shall dwell under the shadow of their Messiah;'' -Targum Yonatan
“they will revive grain and sprout forth like a grape vine. His remembrance, memorial like wine of Lebanon.” Redeemed Israel (chosen, ethnic, religious, empirical) will be revived in Messiah and produce fruit, the fruit that Ephraim should have produced but did not. The true King will be of Judah and will be the Vine Who breaks forth and spreads in righteousness. His Name/Remembrance will be like whiteness/purity, the strength of the trees of Lebanon (the northern mountain ranges of ancient Israel).
“its fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon Jonathan renders: Like the remembrance of the blasts of the trumpets over the old wine poured for libations in the Temple. For they would blow the trumpets over the libations when the Levites would recite the song.” -Rashi
8  Efrayim, mah-liy od says what more have I to do la’atzabiym with idols? Aniy I aniytiy I answer va’ashurenu and watch over you. Aniy kivrosh I am like a juniper ra’anan luxuriant, green. Mimeniy From Me peryecha your fruit nimtza is attained.
"they of the house of Israel shall say, ‘what is it to us to serve idols anymore?’ ‘I by my Word will receive the prayer of Israel, and will have mercy on him:’'' -Targum Yonatan
Redeemed Ephraim (kings and tribes of the north) who will come under the kingship of Judah over all Israel, will say “What more do I have to do with idols?” In short, “I’m forever done with idolatry!”
“Ephraim will say, ‘What more do I need to follow the images?’ And they will turn away from idolatry. I will answer him I will answer him from his trouble.” -Rashi
“I, yes, I answer and watch over you.” YHVH will answer redeemed Ephraim in her repentance and say “I hear and answer you with mercy and protection!”
“I am like a juniper luxuriant, green. From Me your fruit is attained.” This is the only instance in the Tanakh where God is figuratively compared to a tree and it is not a cedar but a juniper (a fruit bearing evergreen tree). We note that the fruit of redeemed Ephraim is not of Ephraim but of God. Ephraim in her sinful state bore fruit of destruction but through the King Messiah she has been created anew to bear the fruit of God’s character.
“Therefore if anyone be in Messiah, he is a new creation: the old has gone; behold, pay attention, all things have become new.” -2 Corinthians 5:17 (Author’s translation)
Our righteousness is in God and not of ourselves. Our right actions proceed from the Spirit of God in us through the King Messiah Yeshua.
9  Miy Who chacham is wise, veyavein let him understand, discern, consider eileh these things; Navon understand, ve’yeida’eim and they will know, comprehend. Kiy For yeshariym straight, right darcheiy are the ways YHVH of the Lord (Mercy), vetzadikiym and the righteous ones yeilechu will walk vam in them, ufoshe’iym and rebels, transgressors yikashelu shall stumble vam in them.
This final challenge is issued to all who have ears to hear. It is much like the former challenge of HaShem to the tribes of Israel as they entered the land:
15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil. 16 What I am commanding you today is to love Adonai your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His mitzvot, statutes and ordinances. Then you will live and multiply, and Adonai your God will bless you in the land you are going in to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you do not listen, but are drawn away and bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I tell you today that you will certainly perish! You will not prolong your days on the land, where you are about to cross over the Jordan to go in to possess. 19 “I call the heavens and the earth to witness about you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20 by loving Adonai your God, listening to His voice, and clinging to Him. For He is your life and the length of your days, that you may dwell on the land that Adonai swore to your fathers—to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob—to give them.” -D’varim (Deuteronomy) 30:15-20 TLV
“Who is wise and will understand these Who among you is wise and will ponder to put his heart to all these and return to Me?” -Rashi
“Who is wise, let him understand, discern, consider these things; understand, and they will know, comprehend.” Only those who take the time to pause and consider these things will gain the understanding required to act on the warning of God in repentance. Today many pass on information they have no real knowledge of, spreading rumours and falsehoods on social media, email, message boards and the like without bothering to consider, discern, investigate and learn the truth of a mater. We would do well to take pause here and allow the Spirit of God to expose our hearts, and with sober judgement to access the state of our being and repent.
“For straight, right are the ways YHVH of the Lord (Mercy), and the righteous ones will walk in them, and rebels, transgressors shall stumble in them.” To the wicked the Instruction/Ways of YHVH (the Torah) are an indictment that condemns them to death, but that same Way/Instruction (Torah) points the righteous to its Goal Yeshua (Romans 10:4). How does one know that he is redeemed? The evidence of Messiah in us is seen in our halakhah (the way we walk), “For straight, right are the ways of Mercy (YHVH), and the righteous ones will walk in them!”
The same fire that warms the righteous consumes the wicked.
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
...the blood guilt that is presently manifest upon the lands of many western democracies due to the mass murder of pre-born human beings is palpable, and it remains that only the blood of those who shed it can cover it (Num. 35:33), except where those who have committed these crimes truly confess, and repent of them and accept the blood of Yeshua as ransom for their heinous acts.
A Supplementary Note:
Throughout my commentary I refer to the attributes of mercy and justice as they relate to the Names of God YHVH and Elohim. Some have asked where this understanding comes from. The following is a brief explanation.
In Jewish tradition it is written:
"The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to those, You want to know my name? I am called according to my actions. When I judge the creatures I am Elohim, and when I have mercy with My world, I am named YHWH" (Exodus Rabbah 3:6).
In Scripture Elohim is the Name given for God as the Creator & Judge of the universe (Gen 1:1-2:4a) and implies strength, power, rule, and justice, whereas YHVH, expresses the idea of God's closeness to humans. For example, YHVH "breathed into his (Adam's) nostrils the breath of life" (Genesis 2:7). Closeness to humanity only continues in the sin affected world and beyond through YHVH's mercy.
Therefore, we say “YHVH Elohim, our Merciful Judge”.
As is the case with all of Hebrew Scripture, there are no chapter breaks in the scroll of the 12 Prophets in which Hosea is located. It’s important to see the text of this chapter as a continuation of the previous chapter:
“Ephraim turns back from Me with lies and with deceit the house of Israel; and Judah continues to rule with God, and with the holy ones is faithful.
1  Efrayim (doubly fruitful) roeh feeds ruach a wind, breath, spirit verodeif and follows kadiym the east wind, breath, spirit; kol all hayom the day kazav deception vashod and destruction yarbeh increase. uveriyt and a covenant im-Ashur (a step) with Assyria yichrotu they have cut, veshemen and oil lemitzrayim to Egypt (double distress) yuval is carried.
“Efrayim feeds a wind, breath, spirit and follows the east wind, breath, spirit;”
The Hebrew text doesn’t say “feeds on a wind” but “feeds a wind”. This is supported by the Aramaic Targum:
“the house of Israel are like to one that sows the wind, and reaps the whirlwind all the day;” -Targum Yonatan
Ephraim, the northern kingship and its dominion “feeds a wind, breath, spirit” among the tribes of the north that is the fruit of following “the east wind, breath, spirit” of the Assyrians.
Both striving after and releasing wind are Biblical metaphors for futility (Ecclesiastes 1:14; Job 15:2). The particular wind being sown by Ephraim is one of idolatry (the calf idols etc.) Rashi notes that “roeh” (feed) is an expression of “reia” (friend) and that this infers a friendship with false gods.
“joins the wind Heb. רֹעֵה. An expression of רֵעַ, a friend. He joins words of the wind, viz. idolatry.” -Rashi
The “east wind” is used as a metaphor for false knowledge (Job 15:2), imminent onslaught (Isaiah 27:21), a scattering force (Jeremiah 18:17), it is a wind of discipline wielded by YHVH for the purpose of returning His people to Himself.
Alternatively or jointly, the two types of wind alluded to may represent Egypt (2 Kings 17:4; Isaiah 30:6-7) and Assyria (Hosea 5:13, 7:11, 8:9; 2 Kings 17:3), the two powers with whom the northern kings sought to solidify their political position in the volatile region (The northern kings in question being Menahem, Pul, and Hoshea, who sought help from Shalmaneser of Assyria in order to assist them against their enemies, and to strengthen their kingdom [2 Kings 15:19]).
The ever changing nature of wind is also a factor here. With the exception of the Wind of God’s Spirit, winds are constantly shifting and changing and are therefore not a firm foundation on which to establish the direction of the nation.
“all the day deception and destruction increase.”
“He is forever adding Illusion to calamity.” -Sefaria English Version
The phrase “all the day” infers perpetual consequence. “Deception and destruction” increase as the fruit of Ephraim’s pursuit of foreign powers and false gods.
“Ephraim is a shepherd of wind and vanity in matters of faith, and all day long he lies and demons abound in the words spoken between a man and his friend,” -Malbim
“and a covenant with Assyria they have cut, and oil to Egypt is carried.”
“and they carried gifts to Egypt;” -Targum Yonatan
The kings of the north have “cut” a covenant in blood with the Assyrians in order to get a “step up” (Ashur). This symbolizes their embracing both the spirituality and the political strength of the Assyrian Empire. They have also carried “oil” (abundance, fat of the land) to Egypt, symbolising their attempts to use the abundance attributed to false gods as a means of purchasing political security. At that time these foreign powers were at war with one another for control of the east. Therefore, the kings of the north were playing both sides off against one another and would reap the dire consequences.
Ultimately, regardless of the political intrigue, Ephraim was seeking provision, protection and security from powers other than YHVH. In each instance they were practicing idolatry, in both its religious and secular forms.
2  Veriyv And a dispute laYHVH has the Lord (Mercy) im-Y’hudah with Judah (praise), velifkod and will appoint punishment al-Yaakov upon Jacob (follower) kema’alalayv for his deeds yashiv lo will return to him.
The southern kingdom is also put on notice. HaShem is bringing an indictment (ref. 4:1) against Judah and will establish punishment for all Israel, both Ephraim and Judah (ref. 10:11). Thus “upon Jacob”. The deeds of all the tribes will come back on them. They have sown a wind and will reap a whirlwind.
3  Babeten In the womb akav by the heel et-achiyv he grasped his brother, uveono and in his vigorous strength sarah he contended et-Elohiym with God/the Judge.
“prophet, say unto them, was it not said of Jacob, before he was born, that he would be greater than his brother?” -Targum Yonatan
The birth and life of Jacob, from whom all the tribes of Israel are descended (a chosen, ethno-religious people), is used as a mashal (teaching parable) by the prophet. It is as if HaShem were saying, “remember when you grasped after the right of the first born? (Gen. 25:25) And when as an adult you wrestled with My messenger (a man “iysh” Gen. 32:22-32), and I blessed you so that you overcame in Me “Yisrael” (yisra-overcome, El-God).
It is utter nonsense to say that Jacob is being referenced here as a deceiver by nature, something predicated on a misrepresentation of Jacob’s name propagated by far too many Christian theologians. One popular Christian commentary says “In their deceitfulness, Israel and Judah were living up to the name of their forefather…” If only they had been, for the name Jacob means “to grasp after, to follow”, it does not mean “deceiver”, a lie all too often promoted by the ignorant. Note that Radak rightly interprets the meaning of Jacob’s name:
“In the womb he (Jacob) followed his brother as it is said ‘and his hand held the heel of Esau’ and it was a great miracle that the foetus while in the womb having no strength or ability in even one of its limbs to achieve this, and the placenta would surely have ruptured and caught him in the heel of the other foetus, (and yet he wast able to do so) it is a great wonder…” -Radak on Hosea 12:3 
Further, Rashi rightly identifies God’s hand in promoting the position of Jacob over Esau, not through deceit but as a result of Divine intervention.
“In the womb, he seized his brother’s heel All this I did for him, he held him by the heel, as a sign that he would be a master over him.” -Rashi
We note that as a man Jacob, here symbolic of all Israel, wrestled with God as Judge. That is the point here, God has come to apostate Israel as Judge in order to reconcile her to Himself through discipline and t’shuvah (repentance, returning). In short, when Israel (Jacob) stops fighting against God and instead takes hold of Him and asks Him to bless and transform her, she, like her namesake and progenitor Jacob, will come into the fullness of her name “one who overcomes in God” (Israel).
4  Vayasar and he wrestled el-malach with a messenger (angel) vayuchal and attained; bachah he wept vayitchanen-lo and begged His favour. Beiyt-Eil At Bethel (house of God) yimtzaenu He found him, vesham and there yedabeir He spoke imanu with us,
“and he wrestled with a messenger and attained;”
Continuing the story of Jacob the finer details of his wrestling with God’s Messenger are affirmed. Jacob wrestled with a Messenger (Angel) [Hosea 12:4 (5)] who is also a Man (iysh) [Gen. 32:24]. The common misconception among English readers is that “angel” inherently denotes a noncorporeal supernatural or spiritual being with wings. While this is sometimes the case, it is not always the case. In some instances the Hebrew “malakh” refers to a human messenger, (the name of the prophet Malachi is from the root malakh and means “My messenger”) in others a supernatural messenger and in the present case, it refers to Imanu El (God with us), both man and supernatural being, at once both corporeal and noncorporeal. Therefore, we don’t ask “Did Jacob wrestle a man or an angel?” Rather we accept that he wrestled an individual Who is both a Man (the last Adam) and a Messenger (HaMalakh HaShem), God with us, Yeshua the resurrected and transcendent King Messiah.
“he wept and begged His favour.”
This refers to Jacob. It cannot refer to the Messenger/Angel as is suggested by the Jewish commentators Rashi, Yarchi and Kimkhi, along with numerous Christian theologians. In the account of Genesis 32 the only one who makes petition (begging) is Jacob, and the only one capable of bestowing favour is the Messenger (man) with Whom Jacob wrestles. Therefore, according to the Biblical text it is Jacob who “wept and begged His (the Man’s) favour”.
“25 So Jacob remained all by himself. Then a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. [a] 26 When He saw that He had not overcome him, He struck the socket of his hip, so He dislocated the socket of Jacob’s hip when He wrestled with him. 27 Then He said, “Let Me go, for the dawn has broken.”
But he said, “I won’t let You go unless You bless me.”
28 Then He said to him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he said.
29 Then He said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but rather Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men, and you have overcome.”
30 Then Jacob asked and said, “Please tell me Your name.”
But He said, “What’s this—you are asking My name?” Then He blessed him there.
31 So Jacob named the place Peniel, “for I’ve seen God face to face, and my life has been spared.”
32 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed by Peniel—limping because of his hip.” -Genesis 32:25-32 TLV
“At Bethel (house of God) He found him, and there He spoke with us,”
God is the nearest subject as the Messenger Who wrestled with Jacob. Therefore, we understand from this verse that God, as Messenger, not only wrestled with Jacob but is also the One who found Jacob at Bethel (Gen. 28:10-22), and that at that time, God spoke not only to the individual Jacob but also to all his progeny through him. This is why the text says “He (YHVH, as Messenger) spoke to us”.
Of this same Messenger/Angel, not a created being but that person of the all existing God Imanu El, Jacob says:
“The Messenger/Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” -Genesis 48:16
Note “which redeemed me from ALL evil”. Jacob understood that the Messenger/Angel of YHVH had not simply delivered him from Esau but had redeemed him from the wages of sin.
In summation, YHVH entered time and space to offer Jacob and his descendants blessing and deliverance from evil, speaking to all the generations of Jacob through His deliverer the King Messiah Yeshua (resurrected and transcendent [not pre-incarnate!]), the Malakh (messenger), Iysh (man), Imanu El (God with us).
5  VaYHVH And the Lord (Mercy), Eloheiy God hatzevaot the One Who goes warring, YHVH (Mercy) The Lord zichro is His remembrance (memorial, Name).
The nearest subject is the Messenger/Angel of the LORD Who spoke to all Israel through Jacob with whom He wrestled. Therefore, the Name/Memorial of the Messenger Who wrestled with Jacob is Eloheiy HaTzevaot God the One Who goes warring [God of the Hosts of the heavens]. We note that the usual designation YHVH Tzevaot is rendered differently here as Eloheiy HaTzevaot. This is because the Messenger Who is the Person of God manifest within time and space, is subject to the fullness of God Who is outside all things, thus the Messenger is called Eloheiy (Ruler, Judge, God) Who is the Person of YHVH with us.
However, the Messenger is also definitively YHVH, as the text says “YHVH is His Remembrance/Name.” This of course refers to the Messenger Yeshua the King Messiah, Imanu El God with us. It is interesting that elsewhere it appears that other than Hosea only the prophet Amos, a contemporary of Hosea uses the formula “Eloheiy Tzevaot” (Amos 3:13; 6:14; 9:5), and thus denotes that the speaker Who has imparted his words of prophecy is the Messenger/Angel of YHVH (Yeshua). This makes cohesive sense in light of the fact that almost every prophet is introduced to us as one to whom HaDavar YHVH the Word of the LORD has come (ref. John 1:1).
6  Veatah And you, beiloheycha in your God tashuv return to, chesed kindness, faithfulness, practical love umishpat and justice, shemor guard, keep, observe, vekaveh and wait, looking with hopeful expectation el-Eloheycha for your God tamiyd continually.
These words are spoken to all Israel (Jacob).
Based on the recollection of the Messenger of YHVH, Who has been with Israel from the beginning, it is Jacob (All Israel) who is now challenged to return in God to the practice of God’s character. Note that “In God” precedes the “return to kindness, faithfulness, practical love and justice…” all these being the practice of attributes of the Creator.
In God and having returned to right action, Jacob is then instructed to guard what he has been given and to look with hopeful expectation for the deliverance of his God, and not to cease looking, hoping, expecting. For if Jacob (Israel) will confess his sin HaShem is faithful and just to forgive Jacob (Israel) his sin and cleanse him from all unrighteousness.
Another contemporary of Hosea writes:
“For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest you will be saved; in quietness and in confidence will be your strength: and you would not.” -Isaiah 30:15
7  Kena’an A merchant (Canaanite), beyado in his hands mozneiy are scales mirmah of deceit, la’ashok aheiv he loves to oppress.
This verse opens with a wordplay (kena’an = merchant, khena’an = Canaan/Canaanite) that makes a correlation between Israel (named in the following verse as Ephraim, the northern kings and their dominion) and the Canaanite people of the land whom they had been tasked to remove because of their vile and idolatrous practices. Thus, in one sense, God is accusing Israel of being as vile as the Canaanites whom they had been tasked to remove from the land. And in another sense they are wicked merchants who use illusion to scam others out of their money, people who delight in oppressing others to the point of loving it (not unlike the practices of many producers, retailers, and advertisers today). The indictment is just, because Israel has literally adopted the false gods and the vile practices of the inhabitants of the land rather than imparting the light of God’s Torah (Instruction) to those same peoples.
“Do not say in your heart when the Lord your God has driven them away from [a]you, ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to take possession of this land.’ Rather, it is because of the [b]wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you are going in to take possession of their land, [c]but it is because of the [d]wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and in order to confirm the [e]oath which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” -Deuteronomy 9:4-5 NASB
9 “When you enter the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to [f]imitate the detestable things of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, a soothsayer, one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who consults the dead. 12 For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God is going to drive them out before you. 13 You are to be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 For these nations, which you are going to dispossess, listen to soothsayers and diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so.” -Deuteronomy 18:9-14 NASB
8  Vayomer Efrayim And Ephraim said, “Ach Surely ashartiy I have become wealthy, matzatiy I have attained on liy vigour for myself; kol-yegiyay in all my toil lo yimtzeu-liy they will find no avon iniquity in me, asher-cheit which is sin.”
So great is the evil lifestyle of the northern kingdom that upon the foundation of self-provision and self-worship they have built with the straw of self-delusion. Though they were filthy with perverse iniquity they claim that there is no evidence of wicked practices nor fruit of sin in them. Self-sufficiency is manifest idolatry, and leads to self-destruction (cf. Hosea 10:13; Dt. 32:15-18).
Ephraim speaks the heart of the deceitful merchant, “There’s nothing wrong with my practices”. The secular world makes the same claim today, and sadly, so does a large portion of the wider body of believers. We dilute God’s word and claim righteousness while practicing wickedness.
“Such is the way of an adulterous woman; that she eats, and wipes her mouth, and says, I have done no wickedness.” -Proverbs 30:20
“Surely I have become rich Now why should I worship the Holy One, blessed be He?” -Rashi
“And Ephraim said: Surely I have become rich; I have found a deed for myself.” Jeroboam son of Nebat, who was of the tribe of Ephraim, boasts and declares: Surely I have become rich, I have found a deed for myself, one deed, that all Israel are my slaves, for my father acquired them, as it is written: And his brothers too went and fell before him, and said: Behold we are your slaves. And whatever a slave acquires belongs to his master. Hence, all their property is mine. Therefore, I have no sin if I take all that is theirs, for they are my slaves. What is written after this? And I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt. The greatness that came to your father in Egypt was from Me. Said the Holy One, blessed be He. ‘Behold we are your slaves,’ you have not forgotten, but ‘I am the Lord your God,’ which was stated in the Decalogue, you have forgotten, for you have erected two calves, one in Bethel and one in Dan. And according to the simple meaning of the verse, you say, “I have found power for myself through oppression and deceitful scales.” And I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt. There I distinguished between a droplet [of seed] of a firstborn and a droplet which was not of a firstborn. I also know and exact retribution from deceitful scales made without understanding and from one who hides his weights in salt in order to deceive.” -Rashi
9  Veanochiy And I am YHVH (Mercy) the Lord Eloheycha your God mei’eretz from the land mitzrayim of Egypt (double distress); od again oshiyvecha I will make you dwell vo’ohaliym in tents kiymeiy like the days of moeid an appointed time (festival).
Continuing the admonishment to think back to her humble beginnings (cf. Hosea 2:14-15, 13:4; Exodus 20:2), God reminds Israel that He is from before the beginning and was with her in her beginnings as Deliverer. He further reminds her of her disobedience which resulted in her dwelling in tents for forty years by way of discipline. What He is pointing back to He is also pointing forward to, a time of wandering and bondage born of her sin. Concisely put He is explaining to His wayward children that He continues to love them and seek to deliver them while disciplining them for their good, and that due to their rejection of His help and their wilful sin, suffering awaits.
“I will make you dwell in tents like the days of an appointed time (festival).”
The connection to dwelling in tents (temporary dwellings, sukkot) infers that a specific appointed time is being referenced, that being Sukkot (Festival of Booths) [Lev. 23:42-44]. The “days of an appointed time” more generally refers to the time of Israel’s desert wandering when the greatest of Israel’s prophets Moses first spoke to them and the prophets that followed walked in the same Spirit.
While prophesying discipline, this is also a promise of future restoration in the Messianic age, a reminder that just as God once manifestly dwelled with us while we lived in tents in the desert (the Cloud of the presence which dwelt in the Holy of holies in the mishkan [tent of meeting]), He will one day dwell with us eternally.
“And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall surely go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD Who goes warring, and to keep the festival of Sukkot.” -Zechariah 14:16
10  Vedibartiy And I have spoken al-haneviyiym upon the prophets, veanochiy and I chazon hirbeiytiy multiplied visions, uveyad and in the hand of haneviyiym the prophets adameh I used likenesses, comparisons, parables [alt. I appeared as likenesses].
Not only did YHVH speak through His prophets, He spoke upon them, with them, in them, around them. He spoke prolifically to His people the warnings intended to bring about repentance. He gave ample warning and is just in punishing them unto repentance (ref. Hosea 6:5; Amos 2:11, Heb. 1:1).
“In the hand of the prophets I used likenesses, comparisons, parables”
The hand denotes strength and the practice of carrying.
We note that the Hebrew “adameh” only figuratively alludes to parables. More literally it means “likeness, similitude”, which is why Rashi understands the text to say “I appeared to them in many likenesses”. This correlates to the previous verses concerning the Malakh (Angel, Messenger, Man).
God speaks common parables in the mouths of His prophets, using storys and metaphors that reflect the spiritual principles at work in everyday life. Likewise Yeshua spoke in parables using common elements to convey eternal truth (Numbers 12:6-8; Amos 1:1; 2 Sam. 12:1-4; Ps. 78:2; Isa. 5:1-7; Eze. 17:2, 24:3; Matt. 13:10-14). The message of redemption is spoken simply and clearly to all, so that all might be given the opportunity to receive God’s redemptive love.
“and to the prophets I assumed likenesses I appeared to them in many likenesses. Another explanation. I gave My words likenesses to them through allegories in order to make them comprehensible to their listeners.” -Rashi
11  Im-Gilead With Gilead (rocky region: witness heap) aven there is wickedness, ach-shav hayu they also have become worthless. BaGilgal In Gilgal (rolling wheel) shevariym zibeichu they slaughter (sacrifice) bulls, gam also, mizbechotam their altars kegaliym are like stone heaps, al talmeiy upon the furrows of shaday a field.
Gilead was invaded by the Assyrians between 734 and 732 BCE (2 Kings 15:29).
“Gilead” meaning “witness heap” testifies as a witness against its own vile sin.
The city Gilead in Gad (territory of the tribe of Gad) was the capital of the wider region of Gilead. The wider region covered area near and beyond the Jordan river, and was inhabited by Gad, Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh; and thus belonged to the ten tribes of the north.
The city of Gilead is thought to be Ramot-Gilead, a city of refuge inhabited by priests, both apostate and Levite. This made the sin of the city even more deplorable given that the priests and Levites had knowledge of the Torah but had clearly not properly conveyed that knowledge to the wider community.
While the wickedness alluded to can refer to murder and idolatrous sacrifices, it can also denote bloodguilt brought on the city by the misapplication of the law of refuge. It may be that murderers guilty of premeditated murder were being given refuge contrary to the law, or that those guilty of accidental killing were being given over to the avenger of blood rather than being protected by the city of refuge in accordance with Torah law*.
*The Bible names the six cities as being cities of refuge: Golan, Ramot-Gilead and Bosor, on the east of the Jordan river (Left bank) [Deut. 4:43; Josh. 20:8], and Kedesh, Shechem, and Hebron on the west bank of the Jordan river [Joshua 20:7].
Ref. Hosea 6:8-9 and notes.
“BaGilgal In Gilgal (rolling wheel) shevariym zibeichu they slaughter (sacrifice) bulls, gam also, mizbechotam their altars kegaliym are like stone heaps (that cover the dead), al talmeiy upon the furrows of shaday a field.”
There is a wordplay here using Gilgal and galiym (heaps, piles). The residents of Gilgal will see their altars so utterly destroyed that the stones of those altars will be scattered and will be picked up from the fields before ploughing and placed in piles.
"they have multiplied their altars, like heaps upon the borders of the fields;'' -Targum Yonatan
The Targum understands the piles of stones as being those picked from fields before ploughing and oiled at the edges.
The stone heaps may also be an allusion to stones piled over the dead. Ancient Jewish interment consisted not of burial beneath the ground but of tombs and or stones piled over the body above ground. Thus, the inference would be that the altars of these supposed gods of fertility and life would end up being broken apart and used as covering for dead bodies. Therefore, the false fertility gods of life are seen for what they are, dead gods, not gods at all.
The Gilgal mentioned here is connected to the wickedness of Gilead and is therefore likely to be the more northern location (Joshua 6:11) rather than the town bordering the territory of Judah and Benjamin (Joshua 15:7; 18:17).
“Gilgal” is thought to be the same as Gibeath-haaraloth, the location where Joshua renewed the covenant of circumcision (Joshua 5:3), following which the Passover was celebrated for the first time in the promised land (5:10). It was to Gilgal that the ark of the covenant was returned each day after the children of Israel paraded it around Jericho (Joshua 6:11). It’s where the Gibeonites made their treaty with Israel (9:3).
Samuel the prophet made Gilgal one of the three places where he held circuit court (1 Samuel 7:14).It was at Gilgal that Samuel killed Agag the king of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:33).
Saul was both crowned and rejected as king at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:14, 15).
Both Hosea and Amos refer to Gilgal as a centre for idolatry (Hosea 4:15; 9:15; 12:11; Amos 4:4; 5:5).
Elisha made Gilgal his headquarters for a time (2 Kings 2:1; 4:38). Gilgal also known as Beit Gilgal (Nehemiah 12:29).
Speaking of Gilgal Rashi says:
“There they worshipped idols to a great extent (on high places, absent in mss.). Since the Mishkan (Tent of meeting) was there first, the prophets of Baal would tell them that was a choice site, and it belonged to the kings of Israel.” -Rashi on Hosea 9:15
12  Vayivrach Yaakov And Jacob was driven away sedeih aram to the country of Aram (Arameans/Assyrians), vaya’avod and served Yisrael beishah for a wife, uveishah and for a wife shamar he kept, guarded, observed sheep.
Stepping back further God reminds Israel that her forebear and namesake Jacob served two lots of seven years for his wife Rachel after fleeing Esau and running to Paddan Aram, where he had become Laban’s herdsman (Gen. 28 through 31). Likewise YHVH had served as Shepherd over Israel, making her His wife. Jacob’s fleeing to Aram is also prophetic of the exile that is about to come upon the northern tribes (Assyrian exile) and subsequently also upon Judah and Benjamin (Babylonian exile), and exile of 70 years, a number representing fullness multiplied and a number connected to the nations of the earth.
13  Uvenaviy And in a prophet he’elah YHVH (Mercy) the Lord brought Yisrael up mimitzrayim from Egypt (double distress), uvenaviy and in a prophet nishmar he was kept, guarded, protected, observed.
The prophet is Moses (Nu. 12:6-8; Deut. 18:15, 34:10), who spoke of the future Prophet of prophets, the King Messiah (Heb.1):
“15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen; to him you shall listen. 16 This is in accordance with everything that you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Do not let me hear the voice of the Lord my God again, and do not let me see this great fire anymore, or I will die!’ 17 And the Lord said to me, ‘They have [g]spoken well. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them everything that I command him. 19 And it shall come about that whoever does not listen to My words which he speaks in My name, I Myself will [h]require it of him.” -Deuteronomy 18:15-19 NASB
Additionally, because “the Prophet” Moses spoke of is all existing (Yeshua, HaMalakh, The Angel/Messenger), and because Yeshua was present, in His resurrected, transcendent form as HaMalakh HaShem in the cloud that lead Israel out of Egypt and brought her to the promised land, we could understand the prophet who guarded Israel (in the later clause of this verse) to be Yeshua Himself, the King Messiah.
14  Hichiys Efrayim tamruriym Ephraim has provoked bitter anger; vedamayv and his blood alayv yitush will be left upon him, vecherpato yashiv lo Adonayv and his scorn Adonai will return to him.
“the fault of innocent blood which he shed shall return upon him:'' -Targum Yonatan
The Northern kings and their dominion had provoked God to anger by their many vile acts of idolatry, adultery, murder, and countless other heinous immoralities (Hosea 1:4, 4:2, 5:2, 6:8). The former verses consistently cite idolatry (spiritual adultery) as the primary sin of the north. Thus, HaShem is provoked in the same way a husband is provoked by a perpetually cheating wife (which is how Hosea’s scroll began).
“his blood will be left upon him and his scorn Adonai will return to him” is an allusion to blood guilt incurred through the murder of innocents.
“So you shall not defile the land in which you live; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of the one who shed it.” -Numbers 35:33 NASB
The Scripture also teaches that:
“Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow,
an undeserved curse cannot land.” -Proverbs 26:2
The people of the north had uttered curses through blood oaths to false gods and would receive back upon themselves that which they had been wishing upon others. Because an undeserved curse cannot land it returns to the one who spoke it. This is a dire warning to all who utter foolish curses. The right response to a realisation that we have acted in folly by way of cursing is to confess, repent and receive deliverance from God through the shed blood of Yeshua which releases us from curse. Further illuminating the teaching of Yeshua (Luke 6:28), Rav Shaul reminds us that except where God commands curse, we should bless and not curse (Romans 12:14-21).
Rashi makes an insightful drash (comparative teaching) on this verse:
“yea, bitterness (Heb. תַּמְרוּרִים,) they are to him for his blood which he shed by causing Israel to sin by clinging to idolatryand one who causes a person to sin is worse to him than one who kills him, as we learn from Ammon and Moab, who misled Israel to cling to Baal-Peor, and Scripture punished them more severely than an Egyptian and an Edomite, who drowned them in the river and went forth toward them with the sword...” -Rashi
We must be careful to understand blood guilt in a modern context. For example, medical techniques including some (not all) vaccinations and medications, utilize cultures grown in labs, originating from the cells of aborted foetuses. Therefore, even though the cultures are not technically cell tissue from the aborted foetuses they originate from, they are nonetheless indirectly connected to the murder of those preborn human beings.
Abortion (not miscarriage, nor a medical procedure that is necessary to save a mother’s life, but in all other cases) is infanticide/murder. Therefore, those who chose it, perform it, and those who use the tissue of the foetus for other purposes, bear the blood guilt associated to murder, as does the land upon which the abortion (murder) was committed.
The only exception is where the commandment for taking the life of a murderer in order to remove the blood guilt attached to the land, is contradicted by the Torah instruction to guard life. In which case the blood guilt is offset by the honouring of innocent life in the application of the medical technique or medication.
Nonetheless, the blood guilt that is presently manifest upon the lands of many western democracies due to the mass murder of preborn human beings is palpable, and it remains that only the blood of those who shed it can cover it (Num. 35:33), except where those who have committed these crimes truly confess, and repent of them and accept the blood of Yeshua as ransom for their heinous acts.
© 2021 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.