How often do we seek comfort from our sin behaviour rather than repenting of it? How often do we seek solace in returning to places of past sin because it appears to be a “good haven”?
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:
“14 And Israel has forgotten, ignored, wilfully turned from their specific Maker and built temples (to false gods); Judah has become great, multiplying fenced cities. But I will send fire in his cities and devour the palaces.” -Hosea 8:14
1 Don’t tismach rejoice, Yisrael (overcome in God/the Judge), el-giyl with circling joy ka’amiym like other tribes (peoples)! Kiy For zaniyta fornicating you have mei’al gone from Eloheycha your God/Judge. Ahavta You have loved etnan the wages of a prostitute al upon kol-garenot all the threshing floors dagan of grain. 2 Goren Threshing floor vayekev and wine press lo will not yireim feed them, vetirosh and the new wine yechachesh bah will fail them/deceive them.
“For you have erred from the worship of your God; you have loved to serve idols on all, grain floors.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE Aramaic paraphrase)
The Targum understands the text to refer to the setting up of idols on the threshing floors and the attribution of fertility, both agricultural and familial, to those gods. This is consistent with the worship of Ha-Ba’al the Canaanite deity of fertility.
“‘Rejoice not, O Israel’ like the other peoples, for they did not receive a Torah, and they did not come to My lot, but you strayed from Me and lost many benefits.” -Rashi
Rashi understands the text to be an admonishment clarifying the advantage of Torah, and the losses associated with the rejecting of it.
“Don’t rejoice, Yisrael with circling joy like other tribes (peoples)!” Israel is rebuked for rejoicing in idolatrous acts and at the same time warned that her rejoicing will cease.
“For fornicating you [masculine] have gone from your God/Judge.” There is no need to debate whether this is meant literally of actual sex acts done in the worship of false gods or as a general metaphor for idolatry. Both are true. The false choice created by some of our rabbis and numerous Christian theologians only proves to show the depth to which we have sunken into Greco-Roman compartmentalization.
“For you [masculine] have loved the wages of a prostitute…” Here, Israel (northern tribes) are likened to a male temple prostitute, temple prostitution being a vocation found among those who worship false gods.
“You have loved the wages of a prostitute upon all the threshing floors of grain.” This is a metaphor denoting the fact that the northern tribes were celebrating the provision of their grain by giving glory to false gods (Baalim, Ashterot etc.)
“Threshing floor and wine press will not feed them, and the new wine will fail them/deceive them.” The references to both threshing floor (grain) and wine press (grapes, a latter harvest fruit) seem to encapsulate a range of harvest festivals beginning with the early barley harvest (Pesach, Passover, Shavuot [Pentecost], First fruits etc.) and ending with the latter harvests which coincide with the celebration of Sukkot (Dwellings). Tragically, it seems that rather than honour God in the prescribed way (Torah), the northern tribes were either syncretizing and or entirely forsaking the worship Instruction of YHVH, and instead acknowledging other gods as their providers and the means of their fertility.
“the new wine will fail them/deceive them.” This is intentionally ambiguous. The new wine will appear to be plentiful but will be scarce. On the other hand the new wine, when consumed in excess will cause clouded judgement and thus, by inference, deceive the drinker etc.
The threshing floor was not, as some erroneously claim, solely the domain of males. Women were involved in gleaning behind the men, and while the men and women slept separately during the harvest, they nonetheless often remained within close proximity to the fields for the duration.
Sadly one popular “Christian” study Bible compares the prostitution and fornication of the northern tribes (Hosea 9:1-2) with the story of Ruth (3:2-3), inferring that it was common practice for prostitutes to be entertained by the entirely male harvesting crew. This is abhorrent nonsense better suited to playground ignorance than it is to sound Biblical interpretation. In the account of Ruth, Ruth acts in righteous purity, as does Boaz, and the context denotes an exception to common practice. While it may be true to say that during her periods of sin as a nation Israel did entertain prostitutes on the threshing floors, paying them with grain (Rashi, on Genesis Rabbah 57:4), when Israel acted righteously there was no such illicit sexual practice among them. Shame on those who say otherwise.
This metaphorical language continues to emphasise the fact that it is YHVH Who provides, and therefore, He will not continue to do so as long as His people are attributing His provision to other gods. To bless and enable perpetual sin action is to curse. Therefore, HaShem does not bless in these circumstances, rather He allows the curse to manifest so that the result of the discipline which follows will be blessing.
3 Lo yeishevu They will not remain be’eretz in the land of the LORD YHVH (Mercy),
Veshav Efrayim (doubly fruitful) Ephraim will turn back to Mitzrayim Egypt (double distress), uveashur and in Assyria tame yochelu they will eat unclean things.
“They will not remain in the land of the LORD.” This is an explicit statement connecting Ha-Aretz (the Land of Israel) to YHVH Himself. He is the One Who established Tziyon (Isaiah 14:32). The prophets are describing a temporary condition when they say that Israel “will not remain in the land.” After all, the redemptive narrative always begins and bears the fruit of Mercy:
“What answer shall be given to the envoys of that goy nation? ‘The Lord YHVH Mercy, has established Tziyon, and in her His afflicted people will find refuge.’” -Isaiah 14:32
Neither Hosea 9:3 nor any other Scripture, imply that God will not honour His covenant with Abram, Isaac and Jacob, concerning the giving of the land to the people of Israel. To say so is to impugn God’s character. After all, the covenant that initiated the giving of the land to Abram and was then reaffirmed to Isaac and Jacob (Ex. 6:8; 33:1; Lev. 26:42; Deut. 1:8 etc. etc.) was made while Abram was unconscious (Genesis 15), meaning that YHVH alone is bound to fully fill it. Abram’s role was simply one of agreeing to receive YHVH by faith.
“Efrayim (doubly fruitful) Ephraim will turn back to Mitzrayim Egypt (double distress), and in Assyria they will eat unclean things.” The kings of the north, who bear the name “doubly fruitful” will become “doubly distressed”, being exiled to both Egypt and Assyria, the nations whose strength they sought for protection. By trusting in the strength of human beings, governments, false gods, the kings of the north became subject to those things they trusted in rather than accepting their position as heirs to God’s kingdom. Therefore, they would suffer along side the idolatrous nations that surrounded them. All human beings are subjects of God’s Kingdom, but only those who receive adoption as sons and daughters through the King Messiah Yeshua will dwell in God’s Kingdom forever.
“And they will eat unclean things.” The food consumed by these nations did not reflect the kashrut of Torah instruction. Nor was it offered according to YHVH in keeping with Torah guidelines, but was instead offered to false gods. Thus, even that food which might have been permissible for Israel to eat while in exile, was defiled based on its association with false gods. In addition this might be seen as a metaphor for the consumption of false ideals, philosophies and religious beliefs.
Iben Ezra makes an interesting connection between the first clause “They will not remain in the land of the LORD” and the last “And they will eat unclean things.” He rightly understands that this is not to be a permanent state for Israel:
“They shall not sit, neither shall they eat of the unclean thing; for they shall eat in the land of the LORD;” -Iben Ezra, on Hosea 9:3
In short, they will not eat again of clean things until that day they return to the Lord and thus, to the land of the Lord, Ha-Aretz Yisrael (the land of Israel).
4 Lo They don’t yisechu pour out drink offerings la-YHVH yayin of wine to the Lord (Mercy), velo and don’t ye’ervu-lo exchange with Him their zivcheiyhem sacrifices.
kelechem Like the bread oniym of mourners lahem to them kol-ochelayv all who eat yitamau are unclean, defiled, polluted; kiy-lachmam for their bread lenafsham is for their soul, lo yavo it will not come into beit YHVH the house of the Lord (Mercy).
“They don’t pour out drink offerings of wine to the Lord (Mercy), and don’t exchange with Him their sacrifices.” The key here is not the offerings themselves but the One to Whom they should be offered. It is inferred by the earlier indictments of this prophetic work, that Israel was making offerings, but to false gods, and not to the God of Israel, or, if they were offering to Him it was in syncretism with idolatrous practice (calf idols, Ba’alim etc.) and not unto Him alone.
The wine offerings (Lev. 23:13; Num. 15:5, 7, 10; 28:14 etc.) commanded in Torah were to be offered at the place appointed by God (Deut. 12; 16; 26:2: Mt Zion, Jerusalem) once Israel entered the land. Therefore, all the offerings of the north were apostate offerings which could not be said to be offered to YHVH even in those cases where His Name was invoked.
“Like the bread of mourners to them all who eat are unclean, defiled, polluted” In the same way that bread which has been in the house where someone has died is considered ritually unclean (Num. 19:14; Deut. 26:14; Jer. 16:7), the food and offerings of the northern tribes are considered unclean and associated with death, a reflection of their soul condition.
“for their bread is for their soul, it will not come into the house of the Lord.” The bread defiled by dead bodies can be eaten by mourners already defiled but cannot be brought into the House of the Lord. Therefore, the tribes of the north have disqualified themselves from God’s presence (temporarily).
The bread in question is made with yeast and therefore cannot be presented as show bread in the House of the LORD. The Show bread was to be unleavened, in fact no yeast was to be offered on the altar of the LORD or brought inside the Holy place of either Mishkan (Tent of Meeting) or Ha-heyichal (The Temple). The exception concerning the wave offering of the first fruits does not compromise this Torah requirement because it is waved before the LORD, and neither offered on the altar nor brought into the Temple.
Yeast always represents sin in Hebrew Scripture. In fact, yeast represents sin in all Scripture, including the New Testament (written in Greek by Jews, thinking as Jews and using Hebrew symbolism accordingly). Therefore, the metaphorical meaning of the present text illuminates the fact that intentional and perpetual sin is not allowed to cohabitate with the godly in the presence of the Holy God of Israel.
They have sought bread for themselves and have kept it from the House of the Lord (Temple), and as a result their priests have not been feed, those Levites (of the north) left to find other employment, had abandoned the teaching and passing on of Torah so that the spiritual condition of the people deteriorated due to their own neglecting of God’s Instruction.
5 Mah What ta’asu will you accomplish leyom on the day of moeid an appointed time (festival), uleyom and on the day of chag a feast of YHVH (Mercy) the Lord?
This rhetorical question is posed almost sardonically by the prophet. “If you’ve defiled the Lord’s appointed times “moadim” with idolatry, and have defiled yourselves with the bread of the dead, what do you think will result, other than your demise?”
6 Kiy-hineih For behold, now, pay attention, halechu they will walk mishod from destruction; Mitzrayim Egypt (double distress) tekabetzem will assemble them, Mof Memphis (haven of good) tekaberem will bury them. Machmad The delight lechaspam of their silver kimos yirasheim will be possessed by thistles, choach be’oholeiyhem thorns in their tents.
“They will walk from destruction…” This means that based on the impending destruction from Assyria, the people were already leaving for other lands, in particular, they were returning to Egypt as a “good haven” (the meaning of Memphis).
“Egypt will assemble them, Memphis (haven of good) will bury them.” Those who flee to Egypt for help, trusting in Egypt rather than in YHVH, will perish in the city they saw as a “good haven” (Memphis). This is in part a reminder of the consequences which God had previously warned the nation of in Deuteronomy 28.
“The Lord will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.” -Deuteronomy 28:68 (NIV)
How often do we seek comfort from our sin behaviour rather than repenting of it? How often do we seek solace in returning to places of past sin because it appears to be a “good haven”?
“The delight of their silver will be possessed by thistles, thorns in their tents.” The silver they had delighted in in the Land of Israel, which they had perhaps hidden intending to return for it, would be overgrown by thistles. As they travel into exile, be it to Egypt or to Assyria, while they dwell in tents on the journey they will suffer the torments of the wild (thorns). The Aramaic Targum Yonatan understands the Hebrew choach to represent wild beasts of the wilderness.
7 Bau yemeiy hapekudah Days have come of the visitation, bau yemeiy hashilum days have come of retribution; yeideu make it known to Yisrael! Eviyl hanaviy The prophet is a fool, meshuga iysh haruach a man of the spirit, al because rov there is a multitude avonecha of your perverseness, iniquity, verabah masteimah and great is your animosity.
“Days have come of the visitation, days have come of retribution;” The just punishment of the northern tribes is at hand. Israel will receive the wages of sin, just as she had received the wages of a prostitute.
“make it known to Israel! ‘The prophet is a fool, a man of the spirit’, because there is a multitude of your perverseness, iniquity, and great is your animosity.” In 2 Kings 9:11 the companions of Yehu (Jehu) call the prophet sent to him by Elisha “ham’shuga” the fool, crazy person. The inference here seems to be that the prophet of God, considered a fool by the wicked, is in fact foolish to believe that such a wicked group of people would repent, given their intentional perversity and constant animosity toward God.
In the following verse Ephraim (Israel’s kings) is referred to as watchman and prophet, but is clearly apostate in both roles and therefore not “a man of the Spirit”. This eliminates Ephraim as a candidate for prophet in the present verse.
8 Tzopeh Efrayim Ephraim was a watchman im-Elohay with my God, naviy a prophet;
pach yakosh a snare of a bird catcher al-kol-derachayv upon all his ways,
masteimah there is animosity beveit Elohayv in the house of his Judge (God).
Ephraim, representing the kings of the northern tribes, was to watch over the tribes of the north and with God, given the opportunity to have prophetic voice and godly influence.
“a snare of a bird catcher upon all his ways, there is animosity in the house of his Judge (God).” However, the kings of the north instead kept watch against those who sought to worship God in Jerusalem and appointed their own false prophets who were not men “of the Spirit”. In doing so Ephraim ensnared himself and in showing animosity toward the House of the LORD, received animosity from the house of his Judge (God).
We note that YHVH is Named as “Elohayv” in the latter clause which denotes judgement against Ephraim (the northern kings).
Kimchi, Yarchi and Rashi all claim that this refers to the murder of Zechariah by Joash, recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:17-27. But this is not the case. Joash was a king of Judah and not of the northern tribes.
9 Hemiyku-shicheitu They’ve become deeply corrupted, kiymeiy like the days hagivah of the Gibeah (hill); yizkor remembering avonam their perversity yifkod He will number, punish chatotam their sin, uncleanses.
“They’ve become deeply corrupted, like the days of the Gibeah…” The Hebrew shachat (corrupt) is the same word used of Israel’s idolatry concerning the golden calf of Sinai (Ex. 32:7; Deut. 9:12; 32:5).
“Gibeah” may refer to Gibeah of Benjamin (Judges 19) and the abhorrent actions of that tribe regarding the concubine/wife of a Levite from Ephraim. Alternatively it may refer to Gibeah of Saul (1 Samuel 15) where Israel rebelled against the words of the prophet Samuel and demanded a king like those who ruled the other nations.
While the rebellion against God’s Kingship is wicked and a root of further rebellion, it seems more likely that Gibeah of Benjamin is meant because a process of descent into deep corruption resulting in vile sin is inferred by the context and qualifying language. It was said of the vile nature of the sin in Gibeah Benjamin, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt.” Some liken the sin of the men of Benjamin (Judges 19) to that of the men of Sodom (Genesis 19). This adds weight to my interpretation. The subject of Egyptian bondage is poignant, making sense of the correlation between the then present depravity of the northern tribes and the historical depravity of Benjamin at Gibeah (Judges 19).
“22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.” 23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.” 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. 27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home. 29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!” -Judges 19:22-30 (NIV)
“remembering their perversity He will number, punish their sin, uncleanses.” HaShem chooses to cover sin that is repented of through blood, but does not cover unrepentant sin and thus “remembers” it unto just punishment. He “numbers” it as a debt against godly morality.
We note that the Hebrew avon means perversity, premeditated perversion that exceeds basic sin, and that excessive types of sin are numbered according to the degree to which they miss the mark chata set by God’s holy standard (Torah).
It’s not true to say that all sin is the same. It’s true that “all have sinned” and that any sin great or small separates us from God’s holiness, but, this concerns the salvation of the person (neshama) unto eternal life and does not negate degrees of sin within time and space. Within time and space murder is worse than stealing but both are sin that separate us from God’s holiness. Within time and space the consequences of these sins differ, as do the commanded punishments for them.
1. "Now if someone murders a person, that one must be put to death." -Leviticus 24:17
2. "If someone steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep." -Exodus 22:1
10 Ka’anaviym Like grapes bamidbar (in-from-thing/word/essence) in the wilderness matzatiy I found Yisrael; kevikurah like the first ripe fruit vite’einah on the fig tree bereishiytah in the beginning raiytiy I saw avoteichem your fathers heimah who ba’u came to Ba’al-peor (Master, Husband, Lord of a gap, cleft) vayinazeru and separated themselves laboshet unto shame, vayihyu and they became shikutziym as detestable abominations (idols) keohovam according to their loving.
“Like grapes in the wilderness I found Yisrael; like the first ripe fruit on the fig tree in the beginning…” Grapes are rare in the desert, as are figs. The delight of finding such fruit is incredible, overwhelming, redemptive, satisfying. This was how the choosing of Israel as a people began in HaShem’s sight. However, this was soon turned to heartbreak as a result of Israel’s unfaithfulness.
“your fathers who came to Ba’al-peor (Master, Husband, Lord of a gap, cleft) and separated themselves unto shame, and they became as detestable abominations (idols) according to their loving.” This is an allusion to the sin of Israel described in Numbers 25 (ref. Deut. 4:3-4), where they allowed themselves to be seduced by the women of Moab and entered into idolatry. Rashi interprets the last line of this verse as “when they loved the daughters of Moab.” The “fathers” is a reference to the forebears of Israel who left Egypt and not to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
In using this reference to Israel’s past sin the prophet is also reminding the righteous remnant of the way that HaShem dealt with that sin:
“Your eyes have seen what the Lord has done in the case of Baal-peor, for all the men who followed Baal-peor, the Lord your God has destroyed [a]them from among you. 4 But you who clung to the Lord your God are alive today, every one of you.” -Deuteronomy 4:3-4 (NASB)
It is no coincidence that Ba’al-peor means Lord of a gap. Nor is it a coincidence that the next phrase says “and separated”. The god of the gap is the one who acted to separate itself (angelic being) from YHVH and thus tempted humanity to do the same. His name is Ha-Satan (the accuser), the Serpent of Genesis.
11 Efrayim, kaof like a bird yitofeif will fly away, kevodam so will be their glories mileidah from birth umibeten and from the womb umeiheirayin and from conception!
“Ephraim like a bird that flies away” A trained bird that leaves its master behind and seeks sustenance elsewhere.
“their glories from birth and from the womb and from conception.” The glories of a husband and wife are their children. Due to Ephraim’s sin the children of the northern tribes will die at each point of development. Some at birth, some during gestation, and some the moment they are conceived. This is a consequence of the abuse suffered by the body when sexual sin spreads disease and repeated intentional abortions leave damage that makes carrying a child to full term impossible. It is chilling to read this regression of baby deaths in light of the modern (legal) practice of abortions from conception (day after pill) up to birth (now allowed for through legislation introduced by governing bodies in many western countries including my own). In one sense this text written more than two and a half thousand years ago is an indictment against all abortions, past, present and future.
12 Kiy For im-yegadelu though they attempt to bring up et-beneiyhem their children, veshikaltiym and I will cause them to miscarry, meiadam from a man (their humanity) kiy-gam-oiy likewise also alas, woe. Besuriy meihem When I depart from them!
This does not mean that HaShem murders babies and children but that He allows human beings to exercise their freewill in sinning against their own bodies. Therefore, God is in control and the cause of the miscarriages is man’s rejection of God and His Instruction. God does not force Himself upon His wife Israel. If she refuses Him, He leaves like a gentleman. And when a gentleman leaves, there is room in the house for an abusive man to enter. Thus, “Woe, when I depart from them.”
13 Efrayim, ka’asher-raiytiy whom I have seen, leTzor in Tyre (a rock) shetulah is transplanted venaveh in a pasture; ve’efrayim But Ephraim lehotziy will bring forth el-horeig banayv his children for murder.
Tyre was an ancient Phoenician port city to the north of Israel. It is the fourth largest city in modern Lebanon (approx. 15km north of Akko on the Mediterranean coast). Ancient Tyre controlled area bordering ancient Israel, and was often but not always a friend of Israel. It’s noteworthy that the allotment of land to the tribe of Asher (recorded in Joshua 13:1-22:34) included a third of the latter Phoenician kingdom.
Tyre was wealthy and comfortable at the time of Hosea’s prophecy, and Ephraim (Israel’s kings) may have traded there. However, the kings of the north will be transplanted into a pasture where their children will be raised only to be murdered by their enemies and the overlords of their impending exile.
The text may also be alluding to the fact that Tyre, situated in a good location by the sea, with abundant wealth, being well fortified, seemed secure from all enemies like Ephraim (kings of the north representing the ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel). However, Tyre would first be conquered by Nebuchadnezzar (573 BCE), and then by Alexander (332 BCE) and thus meet its doom and the slaughter of its children. In the same way Ephraim (the northern kingdom), would meet her destruction at the hand of the Assyrians (732 BCE).
On the other hand the phrasing “Efrayim, whom I have seen in Tyre is transplanted in a pasture…” may simply mean that at that time, due to the proximity of the northern tribes to the Phoenician border, it may be that the kings of the north had stock in the lower part of the area governed by Tyre’s rulers.
Rashi sees the text as referring to the sacrificing of children to idols:
“Ephraim, as I saw Tyre in its tranquility, enjoying royalty and wealth more than all the provinces, so did I see Ephraim, planted in a dwelling place. But Ephraim what recompense did he recompense Me? He occupied himself with taking his children out to the slayer, to slaughter them in worship of the idols. So did Jonathan translate.” -Rashi
“they of the house of Ephraim have sinned in slaying their children to the service of idols;'” -Targum Yonatan
Once again, the prophet Hosea, speaking in the Spirit of God, is simply stating the fact that Ephraim is guilty of the deaths of her own children. God is not to blame.
14 Tein-lahem YHVH Give to them, Lord (Mercy)--mah what titein will You give? Tein-lahem Give them rechem mashkil a barren womb veshadayim and breasts tzomekiym dried up.
This appears harsh but is rather a statement of mercy in response to a rhetorical question concerning the vile behaviour of the northern kings.
YHVH denotes Mercy. Therefore, we could read “Give to them Mercy”. What would be the merciful thing to give in the case of children who are being raised to idolatry? The merciful thing would be barrenness.
“The prophet prays that they should die when young, for the mourning for a child is not as bad as the mourning for an adult. Therefore, if it is impossible that they die from birth, from the womb, or from conception, for it was already decreed from the Creation of the world, (Gen. 3:l6) “And to your husband shall be your longing,” give them quickly in their childhood what you say to give to them after a time, for You said, “For, if they raise their children. I will bereave them.” [from Pesikta Rabbathi 45:3]” -Rashi
For it is better not to raise children at all, than to raise them unto sin, idolatry, self-destruction and death everlasting.
15 Kol All ra’atam their evil bagilgal is in Gilgal (rolling, wheel); kiy for sham there seneitiym I hated them! Al roa Upon the wickedness ma’aleiyhem of their practices mibeiytiy from My house agaresheim I will expel them! Lo oseif ahavatam I will no longer increase love to them; kol-sareiyhem All their princes sore’iym are revolters, rebels.
“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
“there I hated them!” can also be read “made a foe of them”. Hate here is the counterpoint to love. The language means to emphasise the fact that what Israel had done was abhorrent because they had made a place that was once a location of the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting: the portable Temple) into a place of heinous idolatry and desecration. Hate therefore, is not too strong a word for the just response of God to their vile sin.
“Upon the wickedness of their practices from My house I will expel them!” Due to the depths of depravity that the northern tribes had sunk, they will be removed from the land, expelled from the House of God. Ironic, given that they had wilfully rejected the temple cult and had instead set up their own places of worship to false gods in the north. Not to mention their fowl syncretism when likening HaShem to the calf idols of Bethel and Dan. The northern tribes had removed themselves from God. Now, He simply gives them a push on their way out of the land. Their exile is the result of their sin.
“I will no longer increase love toward them” This simply means, that like a spurned husband, God will not continue to chase after a woman who refuses to return to Him.
“All their princes are rebels.” Alludes to the fact that the rebellious kings of the north have born rebellious children and that they perpetuated rebellion against YHVH and His moral law.
16 Hukan Struck down is Efrayim, sharesham their root yaveish dried up, periy val-ya’asun gam also hardly fruiting. Kiy For though they will yeileidun bring forth children, vehematiy yet I will kill machamadiy the precious ones vitenam in their womb.
The striking down of Ephraim, while it inevitably refers to the tribes of the north in a general sense, nonetheless specifically denotes the end of the kingship of the north. Thus, “Their root dried up…”
Any potential progeny will die in the womb. “I will kill them” like “I will cause them” (v.12), alludes to God’s control over the ordered universe and simply conveys the idea that God has allowed them to make their own sinful choices and suffer the natural consequences of those choices.
17 Yim’aseim He has cast them off, rejected them Elohay My Judge/God, kiy for lo shameu lo they have not listened, received, comprehended Him; veyihyu And they have become nodediym retreating wanderers bagoyim in the nations.
God has cast off the kings of the north and rejected them. He has cast off the particular wicked generation of Hosea’s day and has sent them into exile. He has not cast off or rejected all Israel forever (as some fools suggest). If that were true we would have to remove large portions of Scripture which promise to the contrary that God will never perpetually forsake Israel whom He has chosen as a people for Himself. Israel, like Judah, is first and foremost an ethnic noun referring to the person Jacob and his blood descendants who are now known as Jews (Y’hudiym) and continue to find their place in God’s redemptive purposes for all humanity through Yeshua the promised King Messiah of the Jews.
“27 Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of mankind and the seed of animals. 28 And just as I have watched over them to uproot them, tear them down, ruin, destroy, and bring disaster on them, so I will watch over them to build and to plant them,” declares the Lord.
29 “In those days they will no longer say,
‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
[m]But it is the children’s teeth that have become blunt.’
30 But everyone will die for his own wrongdoing; each person who eats the sour grapes, his own teeth will become blunt.
31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord: “I will put My law within them and write it on their heart; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their wrongdoing, and their sin I will no longer remember.”
35 This is what the Lord says,
He who gives the sun for light by day
And the [n]fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar--
The Lord of armies is His name:
36 “If [o]this fixed order departs
From Me,” declares the Lord,
“Then the descendants of Israel also will cease
To be a nation before Me [p]forever.”
37 This is what the Lord says:
“If the heavens above can be measured
And the foundations of the earth searched out below,
Then I will also reject all the descendants of Israel
For everything that they have done,” declares the Lord.
38 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when the city will be rebuilt for the Lord from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. 39 The measuring line will go out farther straight ahead, to the hill Gareb; then it will turn to Goah. 40 And the entire valley of the dead bodies and of the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be holy to the Lord; it will not be uprooted or overthrown ever again.” -Yermiyahu (Jeremiah 31:27-40 (NASB)
The only “spiritual Jew” is an ethnic Jew, the only “Israel of God” are Jews who are redeemed through Yeshua.
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
False comfort is found in temporal things and bears the fruit of selfish dissatisfaction. The comfort of God is everlasting, eternally present in those who have turned to Him, and overflows into the lives of others.
3 1Vayomer And said YHVH (Mercy) the Lord to me (Hosea), “Eilay od leicha Walk continually toward and, ehav-ishah love a woman ahuvat who is beloved by/as an reia intimate friend, umena’afet and yet continues to commit adultery, ke’ahavat because of the love YHVH (Mercy) the Lord bestows on et-beneiy Yisrael the children of Israel, ve’hem and they poniym look/turn (continually) el-elohiym acheiriym toward other gods veohaveiy and love ashiysheiy fire pressed anaveiym fruit/grapes (raisin cakes, wine libation).”
“go, deliver a prophecy against the house of Israel, who are like a woman dear to her husband; and though she commits fornication against him, yet he so loves her that he will not put her away:” -Hosea 3:1 Targum Yonatan Ben Uzziel (2nd Centruy CE Aramaic paraphrase translation)
We note that in the previous chapter HaShem has promised to show compassion upon Israel and to seed righteousness in them through His sacrificial love. Their future is belonging and right relationship but their present was the antithesis of these things. The stark contrast between the faithfulness of God and the unfaithfulness of Israel is illuminated in the living mashal (parable) of Hosea’s life.
Hosea (Salvation) is tasked with physically showing the northern tribes and by extension all Israel (including Judah and Benjamin) the abhorrent nature of her condition. Consider the gut wrenching heartbreak the prophet must suffer in order to act out these instructions, the self-sacrificing obedience to God, the forsaking of an opportunity for marriage to a faithful bride of the remnant in order to continue to offer grace to the wayward wife Gomer (Perfect, beautiful), who has wilfully chosen to seek her own pleasure over the secure love of her husband. Are we willing to be obedient in the face of suffering? To forgo just outcomes in this temporary world in order to expose wickedness and offer redemption to the wicked? What would that look like in our lives?
“And Mercy said to me, ‘Walk continually toward and love a woman who is loved by/as an intimate friend, and yet continues to commit adultery…”
There are two ways to understand this verse. First, the intimate friend is the wayward women and second, the intimate friend is a friend of the prophet who has cheated with the wayward woman (Gomer). If the latter is the intended meaning the weight of Hosea’s task becomes exponentially greater. Regardless, the woman is intentionally and flamboyantly adulterous and thus her actions both break her husband’s heart privately and humiliate her husband publicly. The fact that she is clearly (according to the social norms that had developed through sin practices and in opposition to the Torah) not being held accountable by society at large, places the righteous prophet in an extremely vulnerable position.
“for the love the Lord bestows on the children of Israel, and they look/turn (continually) toward other gods and love fire-pressed grapes.”
The plain meaning shows that HaShem’s relationship with Israel is being reflected in what Hosea has been instructed to do.
The last phrase (description) is difficult to translate into English. The Hebrew ashiysheiy essential means “to press down” and appears to come from the root ish (fire) and the plural anaveiym refers to fruit and in particular grapes. Therefore the phrase may refer to raisin cakes offered to Ba’al [Husband, Master, Lord] (Canaanite deity of the harvest and fruitfulness in general), but could just as easily refer to libation offerings of wine made on a fiery altar to any number of other false deities (Ba’al is not mentioned specifically here, though is mentioned in the surrounding text along with the many ba’aliym). The Talmud Bavliy (Babylonian Talmud) contains a dispute between two rabbis, one of whom explains the Hebrew “ashiysheiy” to mean “a cake prepared from one-sixth of an eipha of flour” and the other as “a jug of grapes”, or “excessive wine” (Pesachim 36b:15).
2 Va’ekereah And I purchased her liy to me bachamishah asar for fifteen pieces kasef of silver, vechomer and a portion of se’oriym barley veleitech and a half portion of se’oriym barley.
It is highly unlikely that the purchase of Gomer was a transaction related to her price as a prostitute for two reasons: first, the price was too high (being half the worth of a servant/bond servant Ex.21:23), and secondly, being a figure for God’s relationship with Israel it would impugn God’s character were His proxy (Hosea) to validate the price of prostitution. Therefore, this “purchase, trade” is most likely the result of a discounted sale of a slave/bondservant (Ex.21:23).
Due to her lifestyle Gomer had apparently been left with no other option but to sell herself into slavery to an Israelite household. They seem to have placed little value on her and were thus willing to sell her for half the accepted price (Ex.21:23) along with a portion and a half of barley to compensate them for the remainder (15 shekelim).
It’s impossible to accurately equate the value of ancient Biblical silver to modern silver values. Therefore, it is far better to qualify our understanding of the value being placed based on the relevant Biblical texts.
The Targum Yonatan suggests a figurative connection between the purchase of Gomer and the feast of unleavened bread which is convergent with Passover and lasts seven days. The Targum paraphrases this verse as follows:
“And I redeemed them at My command on the fifteenth day of the month of Nisan, and I made shekalim of silver an atonement for their souls, and I declared that they offer before me an ‘omer’ as heave-offering from the barley harvest; that is to say, I did not weary you with difficult duties.” -Hosea 3:2 Targum Yonatan Ben Uzziel (2nd Centruy CE Aramaic paraphrase translation)
This is consistent with the fact that barley is the first grain crop and its first appearance when coming up from the ground coincides with yom habikkurim (the day of first fruit), not to be confused with the later “first fruits” offering associated with Shavuot (Pentecost). At very least the price being partially paid in barley gives seasonal context, and seasonal context allows for the connection to the Biblical moedim (appointed times), the one most closely associated with barley being Pesach (Passover). Additionally the Hebrew denotes a portion of grain alluding to the counting of the “omer”(portion) for the 50 days between Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost).
A “chomer” of barley is thought to be approximately 6.5 bushels and is equivalent to 230 litres.
Barley being the early crop, was generally eaten by the poor and or lower middle class, who had no means of either purchasing or storing large amounts of wheat from the previous year’s latter harvest: whereas wheat was the latter crop and was consumed by the upper class due to their wealth and ability to store wheat from the previous year’s harvest to be enjoyed in the subsequent year. Bread made from barley being rougher and bread made from wheat being more refined and at that time preferred by the upper class. In short, Gomer was purchased cheaply based on the price she set upon her body when selling herself to other men. This is figurative of the cheap price Israel (the northern kingdom) sold herself for to her false gods and foreign political “friends”.
The price paid in these verses is a price of redemption intended to return wayward Israel to her true Husband YHVH.
3 Vayomer And I said to her, “Yamiym rabiym For many days teisheviy liy sit, abide, dwell with me. Lo don’t tizniy sell your body (practice prostitution), velo and don’t have le’ish another man; Vegam-aniy and also eilaych I will be toward you.”
“Many days” denotes a temporary period. (v.5) Rashi understands this phrase to refer to a period of 5 days in total:
“The plural “days” refers to (a minimum) of two, “many” to (a minimum of) three, making a total of five. This (the forty-five of the previous verse added to the five of this verse) alludes to the fifty days between Passover and Pentecost. On that day I offered her the Torah, admonishing her:” -Rashi
“and don’t have le’ish another man” is a figurative way of saying “You shall have no other gods before Me” -Exodus 20:3
Gomer, and therefore Israel is being asked not to continue to worship false gods (practice prostitution). Rashi interprets the pretext “many days” to be a promise of the longevity of the children of Israel in the land provided they do as HaShem asks.
God will be as He has always been toward Israel, and she is being asked to use her opportunity of redemption to change her behaviour and dwell with her Husband in purity.
“I will be toward you” is a continued offer of fidelity from God to Israel (from Hosea to Gomer). Essentially it means, “I will not replace you with another woman, I will continue to be faithful to you despite having every reason to divorce you.”
4 Kiy For yamiym rabiym many days yeishevu beneiy Yisrael the children of Israel will be without melekh a king ve’eiyn and without sar a prince, ve’eiyn and without zevach a slaughter (sacrifice) matzeivah a memorial stone (pillar, idol, stump), ve’eiyn and without an eiphod (seamless priestly garment) uterafiym or household idols/healers.
Once again and by means of firmly establishing the fact, “Many days” denotes a temporary period. (v.5).
“the children of Israel will be without a king and without a prince”
It’s important to remember that in the context of Hosea this refers to the northern kingdom seeing an end to her kings. To be without both king and prince means to be without the hope of an heir coming into power. It means an end to the line of a king. In this case it means an end to the kingship of a divided kingdom and points to a return to the kingship of a united kingdom [all 12 tribes under David’s greater Son (the King Messiah) of Judah].
“without a slaughter (sacrifice), a memorial stone (pillar, idol, stump), and without an (seamless priestly garment) or household idols/healers.”
Each of these is associated with Israel’s idolatry. Either because the godly forms are missing or because the ungodly forms are present. However. The last descriptor “household idols (teraphim)” indicates that God will remove all worship tools including both those divinely appointed and those associated to false gods.
Iben Ezra understands this to refer to the lack of godly representations:
“without a king of the house of David, and without a ruler over Israel; without sacrifice for acceptance in Jerusalem; and without a high place in Samaria; and without an ephod, and him that shows;” -Iben Ezra
Whereas Rashi combines the two ideas, seeing this as representing both the absence of godly forms and the introduction of idolatrous alternatives.
“In the Temple in Judah. nor pillar The pillar of Baal in Samaria of the kings of Israel. nor ephod of the Urim and Tummim, which discloses to them hidden things. teraphim They are images constructed, having in mind a particular hour established, at which time they speak of their own accord and tell of hidden things. So does Jonathan translate: and there shall be no ephod or oracle.” -Rashi
Modern readers often ask “What exactly are these teraphim?” Jewish tradition answers:
“what are the ‘teraphim?’ they slay the firstborn of a man, cut off his head, and pickle it with salt and oil, and inscribe on a plate of gold the name of an unclean spirit, and put that under his tongue; then they place it in a wall, and light candles before it, and pray unto it, and it talks with them.’” - Pirke Eliezer, c. 36. fol. 40. 1.
This combines the occult practice of speaking with the dead to demonic spirits and in some cases ancestral idolatry, where the idol itself is an ancestor under whose tongue the name of a demon is placed. Based on this understanding the teraphim therefore, are the ultimate convergence of self-deification and witchcraft. An abhorrent form of idolatry.
5 Achar Afterward yashuvu he will return beneiy Yisrael the sons of Israel uvikshu and they will seek, desire et the particular YHVH (Mercy) Lord Eloheiyhem their God/Judge ve’et-daveed and David malkam their king; ufachadu and they will fear, tremble, be in awe el before YHVH (Mercy) the Lord ve’el-tovu and before His goodness be’acharit hayamiym in the latter days.
“and seek the worship of the Lord their God, and obey Messiah the Son of David their King;” -Hosea 3:5 Targum Yonatan Ben Uzziel (2nd Centruy CE Aramaic paraphrase translation)
The return of Israel (the northern tribes) to the LORD will be marked by their return to the greater heir to David’s throne. The kings of Israel (northern kingdom) were never going to endure because to deny the God appointed succession of David’s throne was to deny the greater Son of David, the King Messiah, Who was to be a descendant of David by blood and to rule on David’s throne forever over all Israel (12 tribes).
Therefore, the King of Judah was to be King of the Jews and all the remaining tribes would come under His authority and be known as Y’hudim. This began in a practical historical sense upon the return of the 12 tribes to dwell in Judea as Judeans (Jews) following the Babylonian exile, joining the remnant of Judah that had remained in the land.
“The latter days” refers to the olam haba (world to come). We note that it is in the goodness of God that all Israel will tremble. Terror and security united in love through the redemptive work of God in Messiah Yeshua the greater Son of David.
“the Rabbis say this is the King Messiah; if of the living, David is his name; if of the dead, David is his name.” - T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 5. 1.
“it is said, when Jerusalem is built, David comes; that is, the Son of David, the Messiah; which is proved by this passage, ‘afterwards the children of Israel shall return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their King’” - Talmud Bavliy Megillah, fol. 18. 1.
“the holy blessed God is well pleased with him in this world, and in the world to come; in this world, as it is written, ‘and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake’, 2 Kings 20:6, and in the world to come, as it is written, ‘they shall seek the Lord their God, and David their King,’” - Zohar in Exod. fol. 93. 3.
“It was taught in the name of R. Shimon the son of Yochai: The children of Israel rejected three things during the reign of Rehoboam; the Kingdom of Heaven, the kingdom of the House of David, and the Holy Temple, as it is written: “What portion have we in David” (1 Kings 12:16) which may be understood literally; “to your tents O’ Israel” (ibid.), do not read, “to your tents” (Heb. לְאֹהָלֶךָ) but “to your gods” (Heb.לֵאלֹהֶך) “now see your own house, David” (ibid.), refers to the Holy Temple (see Rashi 1 Kings 12:16). R. Shimon the son of Menassiah said: Israel shall not be shown any omen of good until they repent by seeking out all three; “Afterwards shall the children of Israel return, and seek their Lord their God,” which refers to the Kingdom of Heaven; “and David their king” is self-explanatory; “and shall come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness,” which refers to the Holy Temple, as it is written “that good mount” (Deut. 3:7) (a reference to the Temple Mount. [from Midrash Samuel 13:4]” -Rashi
Introduction to Chapter 4:
Throughout my commentary of chapter 4 I will give a secondary rendering of the text with the poetic couplets and mechanisms highlighted for emphasis.
Once again the poetic couplets, word play and synonymous terms of Hebrew poetry are employed in this chapter. Take note of the emphasis on connected attributes, practices, ideas, and principles.
This chapter essentially addresses the spiritual prostitution of Israel, her idolatry (worship of Canaanite deities) and her political adultery (courting the aid of foreign powers and their gods).
4 1Shimu Hear, listen, receive, understand, comprehend devar a word of YHVH (Mercy) the Lord, beneiy Yisrael you children of Israel, for YHVH (Mercy) the Lord has riyv a case, dispute im with yosheveiy those who dwell in ha-aretz the land/earth (Land of Israel), kiy For eiyn there is no emet truth, ve’eiyn and no chesed goodness, kindness, mercy, practical love, ve’eiyn and no da’at knowledge Elohiym of God/the Judge ba-aretz in the land/earth (Land of Israel).
4 1Listen to a word of the Lord, you children of Israel,
Because the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land of Israel,
For there is no truth, nor practical love,
Nor knowledge of God in the land of Israel.
a. The Word of the LORD and the LORD are echad (One)
b. Israel (northern tribes) must “listen” to “the case”
c. Truth, practical love (mercy), and knowledge of God are connected in unity
The LORD has a legitimate case against Israel according to Torah (moral law). His case is not (in this instance) against all inhabitants of the earth but against the inhabitants of the land of the northern tribes.
While it’s true that haaretz can be translated “the earth”, it is not contextually true in this case. Here haaretz refers specifically to the land of Israel. God’s indictment against Israel begins by explaining that by ignoring God and His attributes the people of the land have lost their knowledge of God, a knowledge given by Him for their good.
“For there is no truth, and no goodness, kindness, mercy, practical love, and no knowledge of God/the Judge in the Land of Israel.”
The popular English translation “there is no faithfulness” does not reflect the Hebrew text. The Hebrew word emet means “truth”. Faithfulness is born of truth but it does not convey the fullness of truth.
Each of the attributes listed as missing from among the people of the land are manifestations of God’s character. Therefore, the fact that these attributes are not present among the people means that the people have wilfully rejected God and as a result have no knowledge of His role as Judge (Elohiym). The word Elohiym (the Judge) is used because the situation regards judgement of a crime.
2 Aloh oath-taking, vechacheish and deception, veratzoach and murder, veganov and stealing, venaof and adultery. Paratzu They break out (in violence), vedamiym and bloodshed bedamiym follows bloodshed nagau (at their) touch.
2 Oath-taking, and deception, and murder, and stealing, and adultery.
They break out (in violence), and bloodshed follows bloodshed (at their) touch.
a. Deceptive oath taking, murder, stealing, adultery, are all sins against fellow human beings. Therefore, because they have forsaken their God and lack knowledge of His right judgement they have also forsaken the second of the greatest commandments “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Lev.19:18). One cannot love one’s self if one does not recognize the fact that human worth is defined by the Creator and His love, and without true love for self it is impossible to love someone else.
b. Sinful violence, and bloodshed upon bloodshed, denotes an intrinsic murderous nature (Cain).
c. All of these actions ultimately lead to death.
“Oath taking” is not the problem. “Oath taking and deception” together are the problem.
“blood touches blood They multiply transgression upon transgression (Targum Jonathan). Now according to its more apparent meaning: they broke down all bounds and increased bloodshed until the blood of one murdered person touches the blood of another.” -Rashi
3 Al-kein Therefore upon this te’eval ha-aretz the land mourns,
Veumlal kol-yosheiv And all who dwell in it languish
Bah b’chayat It’s in the animals hasadeh of the field uve’of and in the birds hashamayim of the sky, ve’gam and also degeiy the fish of hayam the waters ye’asefu which are gathered.
3 Therefore upon this the land mourns,
And all who dwell in it languish
Mourning is in the animals of the field, and in the birds of the sky,
And also the fish of the waters, which are gathered.
a. As a result of the sinful practices of human beings, in particular the northern tribes of Israel, the land of Israel (ha-aretz) mourns. Humanity were tasked from the beginning of creation with being caretakers of creation (the earth), through humanity’s choice to sin death entered the world and in the perpetuation of sin death reigned over creation.
b. The mention of land animals, birds, and water life reflects the creation narrative (Gen.1).
4 Yet let no iysh man (person) yarev complain, and let no one rebuke another iysh man (person); ve’amecha for your people kimriyveiy are like those who argue with kohein a priest.
4 Yet let no one complain, and let no one rebuke another person; for your people are like those who argue with a priest.
a. Complaining about the repercussions of one’s sin is ludicrous, like those who know God’s Torah but argue with a priest about how it should be observed
In a greater sense the northern kingdom “argues against the true priesthood” which has remained true to the Temple cult instructed by Torah (Mt Zion, Jerusalem).
The opening clause is quite simply an admonishment against hypocrisy.
“‘let no man strive’ You forewarn the true prophets not to strive with you nor to reprove you, as it is written concerning Amos 7:16, that Amaziah the priest of Bethel said to him (i.e. to Amos): “Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.” This transpired in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash in whose time Hosea prophesied.” -Rashi
“‘them who strive with the priest’ They strive with their instructors, for the priests were the instructors, as it is written [concerning the priestly tribe of Levi]: “They shall teach Your judgments to Jacob, etc.” (Deut. 33:10).
5 Vechashalta And you will stagger hayom during the day,
vechashal And staggering gam also, naviy will be a prophet imecha (with ayin) with you Laylah at night; vedamiytiy and I will put a stop to imecha (with aleph) your mother.
5 And you will stagger during the day,
And staggering also, will be a prophet along with you at night;
And I will put a stop to your mother.
a. Staggering is the couplet to destruction. Thus staggering from sin leads to being cut off.
b. The “mother” here is generally speaking Israel (the northern kingdom) as allegorised in the living parable of Gomer, Hosea’s wife. However “mother” may refer to Shomron (Samaria) one of the main cities of the northern tribes, and a hotbed of idolatry and sexual immorality.
c. “Put a stop to” is the better translation of the Hebrew text. It means that God will “put a stop to” her sinful behaviour.
Staggering is associated with drunkenness, a self-imposed state of disorder. Staggering during the day is a sign of an extreme state of perpetual drunkenness given that even those given to drunkenness tend to limit their behaviour to the cover of darkness. Such is the extent of the people’s pride and haughty outlook that they brazenly flaunt their sinful chaos in the daylight.
The result of the common people staggering during the day is that they eventually lure in the priest. Alternatively, the priests in question are priests of Ba’al and are staggering at night due to the drunken worship of the false god.
6 Nidmu Cut off, destroyed are amiy My people mibeliy from lack of hada’at the knowledge. Kiy For atah you (singular) hada’at ma’asta have refused the knowledge,
Ve’emasecha And I refuse you mikahein liy from being My priest.
vatishkach Since you have ignored Torah the Instruction Eloheycha of your God,
Eshkach baneycha gam-Aniy I also will ignore your children.
6 Cut off, destroyed are My people from lack of the knowledge.
For you (singular) have refused the knowledge,
And I refuse you from being My priest.
Since you have ignored the Instruction of your God,
I also will ignore your children.
a. Destruction is the result of a lack of the knowledge and the lack of the knowledge is the result of wilful ignorance.
b. Lack of the knowledge is disobedience to Torah.
c. God ignores the children of sin in order to bring about repentance. To prosper the children of sin would be to enable their sinful lifestyle.
Notice, not just “knowledge” but “the knowledge”. The people are not cut off for lack of knowledge but for the lack of “the knowledge” of God. “Knowledge (human) puffs up, Love (of God) builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1).
The word “forgotten” used in some English versions is a poor translation. Israel had not “forgotten” Torah, to the contrary, they had intentionally “ignored” Torah. Or, more precisely, had neglected the remembrance of Torah.
God speaks through Hosea using the singular to refer to Israel (northern kingdom) as a priest who has neglected to pass on the Instruction of God and will therefore produce offspring that do not know the truth about the God of Israel or of the judgement and mercy He offers.
God had called all Israel a “priesthood”:
“and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” -Exodus 19:6 NASB
It’s important to note that the priests of the northern kingdom appointed by Jeroboam were not Levites and therefore were illegitimate priests.
“And he (Jeroboam) made a house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.” -1 Kings 12:31 KJV
7 Kerubam Because of abundance, kein so chateu-liy they sinned (missed the mark) against Me; kevodam their glory, honour bekalon amiyr I will change into shame, dishonour.8 Chatat The sin (missing the mark) Amiy of My people, yocheilu they eat up, devour, burn up ve’el-avonam And perversity, depravity, iniquity yisu they set nafsho their souls (entire functioning being) on.
7 Because of abundance, so they sinned (missed the mark) against Me;
Their glory, honour I will change into shame, dishonour.
8 The sin (missing the mark) of My people, they eat up, devour, burn up
And perversity, depravity, iniquity they set their souls (entire functioning being) on.
a. Abundance (material) has resulted in sin born of false comfort.
b. The glory (idolatry) of abundance will bear the fruit of shame.
c. Sin is delighted in, consumed with passion.
d. The soul being of the people respectively seeks out depravity. “The heart (lev, inner being) of man deceitful and desperately wicked above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9).
With the exception of Abraham very few Biblical characters remained faithful during times of abundance. It seems that the nature of human beings causes us to be prone to wander when we are comfortable (in material things). Our faith undergoes its greatest refining, not in the furnace of poverty but in the trial of abundance.
False comfort is found in temporal things and bears the fruit of selfish dissatisfaction. The comfort of God is everlasting, eternally present in those who have turned to Him, and overflows into the lives of others.
“The sin of My people, they eat up, devour, burn up And perversity, depravity, iniquity they set their souls (entire functioning being) on.”
This refers to the illegitimate priests of the former verse. Those priests who were not Levites but were appointed by Jeroboam from other tribes. The sin offerings were meant as a means of symbolic propitiation and were to be offered properly before God in order to cover the sins of the people. The illegitimate priests of the northern kingdom were desecrating these offerings with syncretised idolatry and drunkenness and as a result the sin of the northern tribes remained upon them before God’s judgement.
9 Vehayah And it will be, cha’am like people, kakohein like priest;
Ufakadtiy And I will punish them alayv according to derachayv their ways
Uma’alalayv ashiyv lo And repay them for their practices.
9 And it will be, like people, like priest;
And I will punish them according to their ways
And repay them for their practices.
a. Both the priests and common people of the northern kingdom were apostate. The fact that Levites were worshipping at altars outside of Jerusalem and non-Levites were being appointed priests (1 Kings 12:31) was abominable by Torah standards.
b. The punishment of the LORD is just and is according to the sinful actions of the people. It is repeated because it is firmly established.
10 Ve’achelo And they will eat, velo yisba’u and not have enough;
Hiznu They practice prostitution, velo and don’t yifrotzu break out (give birth, prosper), kiy-et-YHVH because YHVH (Mercy) the Lord azevu they have forsaken, lishmor and have ceased watching for Him, alt. guarding, observing the things of Him.
10 And they will eat, and not have enough;
They practice prostitution, and not break out (give birth, prosper),
Because YHVH (Mercy) the Lord they have forsaken,
And have ceased watching for Him,
a. To eat and not have enough is a figure of excess rather than want. Gluttony eventually lessens the effectiveness of the palate and causes all food to seem common (familiarity breeds contempt), meaning that one is always seeking something more even while being full to overflowing. Thus obesity gives way to want for more, an insatiable appetite. This is also reflected in the prostitution metaphor which sees the practice become fruitless due to its proliferation (disease, infertility etc.)
b. This is happening not because God has forsaken Israel (northern kingdom) but because she has intentionally and consistently forsaken Him and has ceased looking for Him or observing His Word.
We are all potentially guilty of these same practices in spiritual form if not physical. When we neglect the reading and observance of God’s Word on a daily basis we become less and less interested in the things of God and thus, perhaps at first in small ways, forsake Him Who has redeemed us. What might it mean for the modern believer who is otherwise chased in their behaviour to ask, “Have I ceased to watch for Him?”
11 Zenut Prostitution, veyayin and wine, vetiyrish and new wine yikach-leiv take away the heart (inner being, core being). 12 Amiy My people be’eitzo yishal seek counsel from their wooden idol, umaklo and their magic wand yagid speaks to them;
Kiy For ruach a spirit zenuniym of prostitutions hit’ah has caused them to err, stagger, wander, go astray, vayiznu and they prostitute themselves, mitachat coming out from under Eloheiyhem their God.
11 Prostitution, and wine, and new wine take away the heart (inner being, core being).
12 My people seek counsel from their wooden idol, and their magic wand speaks to them; for a spirit of prostitutions has caused them to err, stagger, wander, go astray, and they prostitute themselves, coming out from under their God.
"there shall not be found among you any that use divination" -Deuteronomy 18:10
a. Prostitution and excessive alcohol are vehicles for the destruction of the inner being of a person. Sexual immorality being a sin that one sins against one’s self (1 Cor. 6:18), and drunkenness (stoned, high etc. Eph. 5:18) causing one to become out of control and therefore lacking self-control, which gives way sins a sober mind is able to withstand. Inevitably intoxication leads a person into a spiral of self-destructive behaviour.
b. Demonic spirits are involved in the tempting of the people but it is people who are responsible for giving in to temptation. Israel have chosen to come out from under the covering of God their Husband.
The NASB translation “understanding” in place of “heart” albeit possibly a choice which follows the Septuagint, is nonetheless extremely poor. “Understanding” in a Greco-Roman or modern English sense is an insufficient representation of what is meant. Mental acuity is not what’s being spoken of here, but the complete breakdown of the core person.
The heart of the people is taken away by the false comfort of material things. The wine in this context is from the abundance of the previous harvest and the new wine reflects the belief that Ba’al the Canaanite deity of fertility is at work.
Verse 12 describes the occult practices of the northern tribes and reveals that through their intentional and repeated sin choices they have given access to a demonic spirit of prostitution because they have come out (of their own free will) from under the covering of their Husband HaShem and have made themselves fair game for the powers of darkness. The modern “Church” is in no position to pass judgement. We are guilty of the same. We have allowed access to the demonic through perpetual sin practices, small compromises that when proliferated open wide the gates of destruction.
“14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it has run its course, brings forth death.” -Yaakov (James) 1:14-15 NASB
13 Al Upon rasheiy the summits of hehariym mountains yezabechu they slaughter/kill (offer sacrifices) ve’al and upon hagevaot the hills they yekateru burn incense, tachat under alon oaks, velivneh and poplars, ve’eilah and terebinth, kiy because tov tzilah their shade is good. Al-kein Therefore tizneynah benoteiychem your daughters practice prostitution, vechaloteiychem And your brides/daughter’s in law tena’afnah commit adultery.
13 Upon the summits of mountains they slaughter/kill (offer sacrifices) and upon the hills, they burn incense, under oaks, and poplars, and terebinth, because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters practice prostitution, And your brides/daughter’s in law commit adultery.
a. Here the worship of false gods and the practice of divination are linked to prostitution and adultery. The repetitions affirm the prolific and deep seeded nature of the sin being practiced among the people.
It was not just certain woman but the majority of women who were practicing sexual immorality.
14 I will lo-efkod not punish benoteiychem your daughters kiy when they tizneiynah practice prostitution, or your kaloteiychem brides/daughters in law when they commit tena’afnah adultery, kiy because the men hem themselves hazonot yefareidu separate, divide (themselves) with the prostitutes, veim-hakedeishot and with shrine prostitutes yezabeichu slaughter/kill (offer sacrifices); ve’am lo-yaviyn and the people don’t understand yilaveit and are cast down, ruined.
14 I will not punish your daughters when they practice prostitution, or your brides/daughters in law when they commit adultery, because the men themselves separate, divide (themselves) with the prostitutes, and with shrine prostitutes slaughter/kill (offer sacrifices); and the people don’t understand and are cast down, ruined.
a. Punishment or lack thereof is mitigated equitably. God does not hold the misplaced patriarchal view that men should be allowed to keep mistresses but women should be punished for having lovers. To the contrary, inevitably the fruit of sexual immorality and idolatry will be poison to both sexes.
b. Sexual sin separates, which is the opposite of godly unity.
c. Sexual sin is intrinsically connected to idolatry.
d. Sexual sin and idolatry numb the consciousness and result in self destruction. Sexual sin itself being a form of self-harm (1 Cor. 6:18).
The punishment concerning “bitter waters” (Numbers 5:11-29) will not be enforced because the men are as guilty as the women.
“‘I will not punish your daughters’ anymore, to test them with the ‘bitter waters’ should they commit adultery. Why? Because their husbands join with harlots; for once the man is not free of sin, the waters do not test his wife.” [based on Sifrei Num. 5:82 and Sotah 47a] -Rashi
15 Im-zoneh With a prostitute atah Yisrael you Israel are al upon
Yesham Y’hudah (Judah, Praise) must not become an offender in HaGilgal The Gilgal (rolling wheel); ve’al-ta’alu And don’t go into to Beit Aven (Beth-aven, House of vanity, wickedness, sorrow, iniquity), ve’al-tishave’u and don’t take an oath saying, “Chay-YHVH (Mercy) Life is in YHVH alt. As the Lord lives!”
15 With a prostitute you Israel are upon
Judah (Praise) must not become an offender in the Gilgal (rolling wheel);
And don’t go into to Beth-Aven (House of vanity, wickedness, sorrow, iniquity),
And don’t take an oath saying, “As the Lord lives!”
a. Israel are in the midst of the act of idolatry (sexual immorality). That is, it has become a perpetual practice.
b. Judah is warned not to do as the northern tribes are doing: “Don’t become offenders like them, don’t desecrate the righteous heritage of Samuel by participating in the idolatry practiced at Gilgal, don’t go to the house of vanity and wickedness, and don’t swear oaths as hypocrites who, while worshipping other gods, say ‘As YHVH lives!’” “for if they say, ‘As the Lord lives,’ they, nevertheless, swear falsely” (Jer. 5:2).
Giglal is the first site of the Israelite camp west of the Jordan and east of Jericho. It is where Samuel the prophet was judge and Saul was made king. It was also a main centre for Israel’s (the northern kingdom) idolatrous worship practices (Hosea 9:15; Amos 4:4).
“Beit-Aven” (House of vanity, wickedness, sorrow, iniquity) is a sarcastic way of referring to Bethel (House of God)[Talmud], and or a place very close to Bethel (Joshua 7:2), it was a main centre of northern apostate worship located in the territory of Ephraim/Benjamin. A place that has a strong connection to both the physical and spiritual journeys of the Patriarchs and in particularly to Jacob, who became Israel. It was on the border of the territories of Ephraim and Benjamin (according to the interpretation that equates it to Bethel it is technically located in the territory of Benjamin to the east of the border between the two territories).
It seems likely, given Hosea 4:15, that Beth Aven was considered to be part of the territory of Ephraim (northern tribes):
“Judah must not become an offender in the Gilgal; and don’t go into to Beth-Aven” -Hosea 4:15
16 Kiy For kefarah like a cow soreiram that rebels, pulls away, slides back, is stubborn sarar with stubbornness, rebellion, pulling away, is Yisrael (Israel)[northern kingdom]
Atah (Ayin not Aleph) Now yireim YHVH (Mercy) will the Lord feed them kecheves like a lamb bamerchav in a large field?
16 For like a cow that rebels, with rebellion, is Israel (northern kingdom)
Now will the Lord feed them like a lamb in a large field?
a. The rebellion of the northern kingdom is firmly established (rebels with rebellion). Therefore, the LORD cannot feed them because rather than being like a gentle, vulnerable lamb that is entirely reliant on the shepherd (and or its mother) for milk, Israel is like a hyper stubborn cow that will not receive food from the herdsman’s hand.
The figurative reference to God as Shepherd (herdsman) is well established in Scripture.
17 Chavur Joined, bound together, coupled atzabiym to idols is Efrayim (Doubly fruitful, Ephraim); hanach-lo rest him (leave him to it).
18 Sar Sour saveam is their liquor, fortified drink, strong drink,
Hazneh They prostitute themselves hiznu in the act of prostitution;
Ahavu heivu Loving to love kalon shame, disgrace, dishonour magineyah is her shield.
17 Coupled to idols is Ephraim; leave him to it.
18 Sour is their liquor,
They prostitute themselves in the act of prostitution;
Loving to love shame, is her shield.
a. The quadruple ideas of coupling to idols, strengthened liquor, doubled prostitution, and loving to love a shame shield, are an horrific indictment against the wilful unrepentant nature of the northern kingdom. By extension, these are an horrific indictment against the modern body of believers, given that these same things are ratified and practiced prolifically throughout the modern “Church” under the guise of syncretism.
Ephraim is an alternative name for the northern kingdom (Israel). This is because Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:26) the northern kingdom’s first king and founder was from Ephraim.
19 Tzarar Bind her ruach otah with a miraculous sign of wind, spirit, breath bichnafeyah that wraps them in her wings, ve’yeivoshu And they will be ashamed mizivchotam because of their sacrifices.
19 Bind her with a miraculous sign of wind that wraps them in her wings,
And they will be ashamed because of their sacrifices.
The traditional Jewish and Christian scholarship interpretations of this verse see the wind as likened to the sifting of wheat on a threshing floor. That wind being the invading Assyrian Empire and the resulting shame brought upon Israel as she’s dragged into exile. However, the Hebrew text indicates something quite different and in a plain sense presents the wind as a redemptive sign which convicts unto godly sorrow rather than a punishing wind that forces shame upon the people.
I have researched this extensively and find that my interpretation is unique. However, as I read the Hebrew text I find it difficult to conclude otherwise (it is of course quite possible that I’ve misunderstood what is meant, given that so many others have concluded a contrary interpretation).
“Bind her” is reminiscent of the binding of Torah and of tefillin in order to remember and act righteously. This is a binding that produces freedom.
“With a miraculous sin of spirit that wraps them in her wings” How could this refer to the threshing floor or to a destructive wind, except by way of refining. The wind “wraps them” it does not agitate them or thresh them.
“And they will be ashamed because of their sacrifices” This is a godly repentant response to a manifest garment of God’s Spirit. The sacrifices are the defiled, syncretised and idolatrous sacrifices of the northern kingdom. As a result of the coming of this miraculous sign of “Ruach” (Spirit, Wind, Breath) Israel becomes ashamed, seeing the wickedness of her idolatry for what it really is.
To follow this rhythm of redemptive hope after stern rebuke fits the pattern of Hosea and indeed of Isaiah and numerous other prophetic voices of the Tanakh.
“Put to shame” is a poor translation that infers shame forced upon them. This is not what the Hebrew is saying. It literally reads “and they will be ashamed”. This is a response born of sober self-reflection and not one forced upon them. It is to be a genuine form of shame leading to repentance and not forced shame leading to a return to shame. Artificial shame is a satanic separation, whereas godly shame (sorrow over a sin act) leads to reconciliation.
“For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance [a]without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” -2 Corinthians 7:10 NASB
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.