The word “shema” is both a request and a challenge. Listen, but don’t just listen, hear. Hear, but don’t just hear, obey. Obey, but don’t just obey, walk in obedience.
Amos 3 (Author’s translation)
1 Listen, hear, comprehend, obey this particular Word, essence, substance this which YHVH (Mercy) the Lord has spoken upon you, children of Israel, upon the entire family which I brought up from the land of Egypt: 2 “Only you I know from all families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your depravity.” 3 How can two people walk in unity except if they are in agreement? 4 Will a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey? Will a young lion employ his voice from his den except if he has caught something? 5 Will a bird fall into a snare on the ground if there is no bait in it? Will a trap rise up from the earth, and seize nothing at all? 6 If a rams horn is blown in a city, will the people not quake with terror? If an evil, distressful disaster occurs in a city, has YHVH (Mercy) the Lord not fashioned it? 7 Adonay YHVH (Mercy) the Lord God does not speak a word unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. 8 A lion has roared! Who will not fear? Adonay YHVH (Mercy) The Lord God has spoken! Who can stop himself from prophesying? 9 Proclaim on the palaces in Ashdod and on the citadels in the land of Egypt and say, “Gather on the mountains of Samaria and see the great turmoil within her and the oppressions in her midst. 10 And they don’t know how to fashion what is straight,” utters YHVH (Mercy) the Lord, “these storers of violence and havoc in their palaces.” 11 Therefore, this is what Adonay YHVH the Lord God says: “An adversary, will circle the land, and take down your might from you, and plunder your citadels.” 12 This is what YHVH (Mercy) the Lord says: “Like when the shepherd snatches from the mouth of the lion two legs or a piece of an ear, so will the children of Israel be snatched away who dwell in Samaria — in a corner of a bed, and in Damascus from a couch! 13 Listen, hear, comprehend, obey and bear witness in the house of Jacob,” utters Adonay YHVH (Mercy) the Lord God, Eloheiy the God Who goes warring.14 “For in the day that I number Israel’s rebellions, I will also number upon the altars of Bethel; and cut off the horns of the altar, and they will fall to the ground. 15 And I will slay the harvest house upon the summer house; the houses of ivory will also perish, and the great houses will come to an end,” utters YHVH (Mercy) the Lord.
Amos 3 (Line Upon Line)
1 Shimu Listen, hear, comprehend, obey et-hadavar this particular Word, essence, substance hazeh this asher which diber YHVH (Mercy) the Lord has spoken aleiychem upon you, b’neiy Yisrael children of Israel, al kol-hamishpachah upon the entire family asher which he’eleiytiy I brought up mei’eretz from the land of Mitzrayim (double distress) Egypt:
1 Listen, hear, comprehend, obey et-ha’davar this particular Word, essence, substance this which YHVH (Mercy) the Lord has spoken upon you, children of Yisrael (overcome in God), upon the entire family which I brought up from the land of Egypt (Mitzrayim: double distress):
“Shimu Listen, hear, comprehend, obey et-hadavar this particular Word, essence, substance”
The opening word “Shimu” (Shema) is well known among the people of Israel. The central prayer of the faith of the Jewish people, which is found in D’varim (Words) Deut. 6:4 begins “Shema Yisrael”, (Listen, hear, comprehend, obey Israel…). The word “shema (shimu)” is both a request and a challenge. Listen, but don’t just listen, hear. Hear, but don’t just hear, obey. Obey, but don’t just obey, walk in obedience. This is a call not only to repentance but to discipleship. It is the very essence of the Good News of our King Messiah.
What follows is the phrase “et-ha’davar”, meaning, “this particular Word, Substance, Essence”. The “et” and “ha” are both determiners, the “ha” being the definite article in Hebrew and the “et” emphasising the “ha”. Thus, in one sense the Hebrew translates as, “Very definitely, The Word”. Put concisely, this is not just any word but the Word (logos: Yeshua [John 1]).
The prophet Amos upon whose tongue God has placed these words is aware that the Word Who places the words, is present. Amos is asking Israel to receive not only the words but also the One Who both births and inhabits them. Imanu-El, With Us God, the King Messiah is manifest in the words of Amos.
“this which YHVH (Mercy) the Lord has spoken upon you, b’neiy Yisrael”
It’s a mistake to translate “aleiychem” as “against you [pl.]”. A translation employed by a number of English versions of the text.
Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of Hebrew knows that this common contraction of “al” (upon) and “l’chem” (to you [pl.]) means “upon you”. This is why we respond to the colloquial phrase “Shalom aleiychem” with the words “Aleiychem shalom”. “Peace be upon you”, and the response “Upon you be peace”.
The common English translation “against” misunderstands the Biblical Hebrew worldview. In the same way that Amos carries the burden of God’s Word upon himself, the people of Israel carry the weight of the Word of God’s rebuke upon themselves. God’s Word is not “against” Israel but “upon” her. It is not punitive but instructional. The weight of God’s rebuke is heavy only so long as Israel remains unrepentant. Through repentance that which was heavy becomes light. This is one of the reasons Yeshua says:
“Come to me, all you that labour and are heavy with burden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am gentle and lowly (close to the earth) in heart (core being): and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” -Mattitiyahu (Matthew) 11:28-30 (Author’s translation)
Given that like the prophet’s name Amos (burden), the word he carries is made a burden upon the children of Israel. We should remember that Amos himself is an Israelite of the tribe of Judah. Thus the prophet identifies with the people. He doesn’t see himself as separated from the people in relationship to his ethnic and religious identity, rather he is distinct from those who are walking in disobedience to God’s instructions.
“upon the entire family which I brought up from the land of Mitzrayim (double distress) Egypt:”
This word is clearly indicated as being for all the tribes of Israel including Judah and Benjamin. In the context of Amos when Israel is used of the northern tribes alone a distinction is made by the lack of qualifying terms. Here, Israel is qualified as “the entire family which I brought from the land of Egypt”.
2 “Rak Only etchem you yada’tiy I know mikol from all mishpechot families ha’adamah of the earth, soil, dirt; al-kein therefore efkod I will punish aleichem you eit kol-avonoteiycham for all your depravity.”
2 “Only you I know from all families of ha-adamah the earth (the substance from which humanity is created in union with the breathe of God [neshamah]); therefore I will punish you for all your depravity (avon).”
These are the words of a devoted husband who has eyes only for the wife of his youth. They’re spoken to a wife who has nonetheless slept around on him and welcomed his affection only so far as it serves her lust filled goals.
We note that the Hebrew specifies that God’s choosing of Israel distinguishes her among all human beings. The phrase “ha-adamah” reflects the creation of humanity from the “adamah” dirt of the earth.
This is an intimate reminder of the fact that God’s relationship with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a familial relationship between Father and sons. When Jacob went down to Egypt he was 70 in total (Gen. 46:27; Ex. 1:5; Deut. 10:22), a family numbered according to the symbolism of the fullness of the nations (Gen. 10). God is reminding Israel that even before her trial of slavery and bondage He had set her apart to belong to Him. Like a bride preparing for her wedding in this sin affected world, Israel was proved through her trial and matured in her suffering.
3 Hyeikechu shenayim How can two people walk yachdav in unity biktiy except im if noadu they are in agreement?
This question begins a series of rhetorical questions denoting cause and effect. Ultimately the rhetorical question that sums up the series would be, “How is it possible that you have been clearly warned by God of coming destruction (the just response to your sin,) and have been directed as to how you might escape it, and yet have chosen to ignore Him?”
This first rhetorical metaphor alludes to God and His chosen people, two men who are not walking in unity because they do not agree on the foundational doctrines of morality.
This does not teach that believers must agree on everything, rather it teaches that unless two agree on the foundational premise for the way they walk, they cannot walk together. The context does not address agreement between Israelites (though that too is important), but agreement between God and Israel.
Put simply, if two men arrange to meet at a given point in order to begin a journey (walk), but one of the men later decides of his own fruition that he thinks he should meet his friend at another time and place entirely, and doesn’t inform his friend of the changed plans, the two will neither meet nor begin their journey together.
With regard to God and Israel, the two had agreed together at Sinai on the holy standard set by God in order for their right relationship to continue. However, while they began the journey together, at some point Israel decided that she knew better and left the path. By doing so, Israel had put herself in a position equal to that of those who refuse to agree to God’s moral standard in the first place. Thus, at the time of the prophecy of Amos, Israel was not in agreement with the foundational principle of her relationship with God. Therefore, “How can two people walk in unity except if they are in agreement?”
To walk in unity with God is to agree with Him, that we have fallen short of His moral standard and accept His grace enacted in mercy, so that we can once again walk unashamed with our Creator.
4 Hayishag aryeih Will a lion roar baya’ar in the forest veteref eiyn when he has no prey? Hayitein Kefiyr kolo Will a young lion employ his voice mimeonato from his den biltiy except im if lachad he has caught something?
4 Will a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey? Will a young lion employ his voice from his den except if he has caught something?
In this metaphor the Lion is HaShem and the prey is Israel. Israel is living in idolatrous comfort believing that the forest is quiet, but the lion is roaring and roaring means He is on the prowl for prey. The right response would be for the prey to cower and seek refuge (refuge is something that according to His nature, God offers perpetually to Israel). However, Israel has numbed herself to the danger (Jer. 5:6; Nahum 2:11), and at this point in her history is perpetually turning away from God (with the exception of the righteous remnant, inclusive of the prophets).
5 Hatipol tzipor Will a bird al pach fall into a snare on ha’aretz the ground umokeish eiyn lah if there is no bait in it? Haya’aleh-pach Will a trap rise up min ha’adamah from the earth, dirt, ground velachod and seize lo yilkod nothing at all?
5 Will a bird fall into a snare on the ground if there is no bait in it? Will a trap rise up from the earth, and seize nothing at all?
While this is another rhetorical question intended to convey the idea that all the coming destruction is inevitable, it is nonetheless also an allusion to the self-destructive behaviour of Israel. Israel has fallen for the bait of sin and death: the false gods, the sexual depravity and the injustice of the neighbouring nations. The snare indeed has been thrown skyward to catch the bird Israel, who has willingly sought out the lure and has become entangled in the fruit of her own sinful choices.
We note that two different words for earth are used: ha-aretz (the land) and ha-adamah (soil). The metaphor speaks of the bait of sin being present in the violated creation, thus “the land”, while also being particularly associated with “Ha-aretz” the Land of Israel. Alongside this are the very building blocks of humanity, “ha-adamah” (the soil) and the “Neshamah” (life breath of God convergent with the soil). These two hold the sin affected human being to account by way of a just snare.
The trap springs up from the beginning of creation and captures the violator of creation, that person who has refused life and invited sin and death. The redemptive solution is always on offer. The offer of salvation being present before the creation of the worlds (1 Peter 1:19-20; Rev. 13:8).
6 Im yitaka shofar If a rams horn is blown beiyr in a city, ve’am will the people lo yecheradu not quake with terror? Im tihyeh ra’ah If an evil, distress, disaster occurs beiyr in a city, has YHVH (Mercy) the Lord lo asah not fashioned it?
6 If a rams horn is blown in a city, will the people not quake with terror? If an evil, distressful disaster occurs in a city, has YHVH (Mercy) the Lord not fashioned it?
Once again it is not a “trumpet” but the shofar (rams horn) which combines the symbolic meanings of warning and substitutionary sacrifice.
The plain meaning (p’shat) being that people in a war torn area who hear the sound of the rams horn become terrified knowing that their city of residence is on the brink of destruction.
“If an evil, distress, disaster occurs in a city, has YHVH (Mercy) the Lord not fashioned it?”
The rhetorical question has an obvious plain meaning. However, some misinterpret it to their detriment.
The foolish notion that God is not in control of evil is silenced here. God is not guilty of evil, nor is He complicit, rather He created the possibility of evil in order that love might be manifest through freewill. Knowing the end from the beginning God also sacrificed Himself in Messiah before the creation of the worlds, thus providing the solution to the problem of evil before the problem of evil existed (1 Peter 1:19-20; Rev. 13:8).
“But he said unto her, ‘You speak in the same way the foolish women speak. What are you saying? Should we receive good at the hand of God, and not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” -Job 2:10 (Author’s translation)
The satanic forces are subject to God. He puts in order all things both good and evil for His divine purposes of holiness and redemption. In God all things exist and have their being, nothing exists outside of God, therefore the forces of evil are reliant on God for their continued existence. If evil comes, God has not only allowed it, He has set it in order for the purpose of good. Because evil relies on God, who is good, for its existence, evil is subject to good. Thus, evil cannot overcome good. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.” (John 1:5)
Put simply, the rhetorical question is, “Do you seriously believe God is not in control of the evil that happens?”
Consider the alternative, if evil is not under God’s control, who controls it? If Satan controls evil and that control is not subject to God, is Satan outside of God’s control? A curse on that lie! The false idea that there is balance between good and evil is a lie seeded by Satan.
The reality is this: God is all existing, Satan is created, the created thing is subject to the Creator. Therefore, the battle of good and evil is the battle between a Papermaker and a piece of paper. The Papermaker finds that the paper has been defiled with vile words, so He lights a match and the paper is incinerated. The battle between Good and Evil is like a battle between an ocean of universes and a speck of dust beneath a toenail.
7 Kiy lo ya’aseh For Adonay YHVH (Mercy) the Lord God does not davar kiy im galah speak a word unless He reveals sodo His secret el-avadayv to His servants haneviyiym the prophets.
7 Adonay YHVH (Mercy) the Lord God does not speak a word unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.
This verse qualifies the former verse by explaining that God has both ordered and given warning regarding the destruction (evil) that is to come. He has not quietly arranged the destruction of the people in response to their sin. He has instead given them every opportunity to repent. This has always been his modus operandi with regard to Israel and humanity as a whole. The prophets are like emergency workers sent to give news of the approaching disaster and direct people to shelter (repentance, reconciliation). Fools who disregard the warning of the emergency workers will always reap what they have sown.
“The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him; and He will show them his covenant.” -Psalms 25:14 (Author’s translation)
8 Aryeih sha’ag A lion has roared! Miy lo era Who will not fear? Adonay YHVH (Mercy) The Lord God diber has spoken! Miy lo yinava Who could stop himself from prophesying?
8 A lion has roared! Who will not fear? Adonay YHVH (Mercy) The Lord God has spoken! Who can stop himself from prophesying?
The Lion, God Himself has roared fair warning. The prophet Amos is incredulous, the rhetorical question sour on his tongue. By the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) it’s as if Amos were saying:
“I can’t help but prophecy this warning to you because of my devotion to God and the realisation that I need to repent and rely on God’s grace and the manifestation of His mercy. How is it that you [pl.] are not terrified of God? How is it that you are not repenting and prophesying warning to others?”
9 Hashmiyu Proclaim al on armenot the palaces be’ashdod in Ashdod (Violent despoiler) veal-armenot and on the citadels be’eretz in the land of Mitzrayim Egypt (double distress) veimru and say, “Heiasfu Gather al on hareiy the mountains shom’ron of Samaria (Guardians) ureu and see the mehumot rabot great turmoil betochah within her va’ashukiym and the oppressions bekirbah in her midst.
9 Proclaim on the palaces in Ashdod and on the citadels in the land of Egypt and say, “Gather on the mountains of Samaria and see the great turmoil within her and the oppressions in her midst.
Amos, by the Spirit declares that the coming punishment upon Israel is to be made known to Israel’s neighbours. The nations must learn that God shows no partiality. All must know that God is just and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.
Within the historical context of this message, how were Israel and Judah (v.13), and the surrounding nations to hear the prophetic warning?
To make a modern comparison we would say that the ancient prophets of Israel were the equivalent of self-published writers with a very small immediate audience. They travelled, certainly, but in and of themselves they did not have the reach required to ensure that all for whom the message was intended would receive it. Even when the ministries of three or four prophets overlapped their collective resources could not have spread the message nationally or internationally. Therefore, there was an element of great trust in the obedience of the prophets. A trust placed in God for the spread of the message, and the fullness of its redemptive outcome.
So how did the message of the prophets spread and become popular knowledge (as indicated by the prophetic word itself)? It spread by word of mouth from one righteous person to the next and was proclaimed not only by fellow prophets but also by common people of righteous faith, people the Scripture refers to as a righteous remnant.
No prophet could hope to be effective based on his own personal reach, rather the spread of the prophetic word relied on the obedience of the faithful remnant community. Some would travel through dangerous lands to convey the message they had received from the Lord via the prophet, others would share the message with their children who in turn would pass it on to their friends and so on. A farmer, a house wife, a stone mason, a builder, a vine tender, a harvester, from the highest echelons of society to the impoverished street person, those who were of the faithful remnant spread the message of warning throughout Israel and Judah and into the neighbouring nations.
How can I be so certain of this? After all, I don’t live in ancient Israel. My certainty, like the trust of the prophets, is born of and reliant on God, Who is just. Justice demands an accurate indictment, the opportunity for the guilty to face their accuser, and a fair trial. This has always been the modus operandi of the King of Justice, YHVH (Mercy).
“and say, ‘Gather on the mountains shom’ron of Samaria (Guardians) and see the great turmoil within her and the oppressions in her midst.’”
The plain meaning points to the neighbouring nations standing on the high places of Samaria in the territory of the ten northern tribes of Israel in order to witness Israel’s punishment. This of course denotes Israel’s future exile and the desecration of the shrines of idolatrous worship constructed on the high places.
The neighbouring nations are called to bear witness to Israel’s punishment. They are called to gather on the mountains of Shom’ron (Guardians). The remez (hint at deeper meaning) here is that of guardianship. The nations are to gather in the midst of the guardians of Israel and look upon the discipline that the guardians of Israel meet out upon her according to God’s instruction. The malakhiym (angelic guardians) who surround Israel, surround her for her protection. Both her protection from outside threats and protection from the threats within. The greatest of the threats within being idolatry.
10 Velo-yadeu And they don’t know asot-nechochah how to fashion what is straight,” neum utters YHVH (Mercy) the Lord, “ha’otzriym these storers chamas of violence vashod and havoc be’armenoteiyham in their palaces.”
10 And they don’t know how to fashion what is straight,” utters YHVH (Mercy) the Lord, “these storers of violence and havoc in their palaces.”
The Targum reads, “And they know not how to practice the Torah”.
At this point in our history, we Israelites have so neglected God’s written word that we no longer know how to obey it due to our being devoid of it. Instead we store up sinful violence and practice injustice within our cities and palaces.
11 Lachein Therefore, ko this is what amar Adonay YHVH the Lord God says: “Tzar An adversary, useviyv will circle ha’aretz the land, vehorid and take down mimeich uzeich your might from you, venavozu and plunder armenotayich your citadels.”
11 Therefore, this is what Adonay YHVH the Lord God says: “An adversary, will circle the land, and take down your might from you, and plunder your citadels.”
This refers to the king of Assyria, who invaded the land of Israel in the days of king Hoshea, and conquered Samaria, carrying Israel captive (2 Kings 17:6).
12 Ko This is amar what YHVH (Mercy) the Lord says: “Ka’asher Like when yatziyl haroeh the shepherd snatches mipiy from the mouth ha’ariy of the lion sheteiy two chera’ayim legs or a vedal-ozen piece of an ear, kein so will yinatzelu b’neiy Yisrael the children of Israel be snatched away hayosheviym who dwell beshomeron in Samaria — bif’at mitah in a corner of a bed uvidmeshek and Damascus ares on a couch!
12 This is what YHVH (Mercy) the Lord says: “Like when the shepherd snatches from the mouth of the lion two legs or a piece of an ear, so will the children of Israel be snatched away who dwell in Samaria — in a corner of a bed, and in Damascus from a couch!
The plain meaning is that only a small remnant of the northern tribes will survive the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions.
“Israel are scattered sheep; the lions have driven away: first the king of Assyria has devoured him; and last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has broken his bones.” -Yermiyahu (Jeremiah) 50:17 (Author’s translation)
The phrase “in Samaria in a corner of a bed” can be understood multiple ways. First, it speaks of the very corner of the tribal land and therefore means that all will be affected from the Greatest to the least. Second, it may be a metaphor for cowardice, hiding in the corner of the bed. Third, a metaphor for poverty, having only a corner to lie in.
The phrase “Damascus on a couch” refers to the residents of Damascus, the then capital of the kingdom of Aram, being comfortable, sitting on luxurious couches thinking themselves secure. However, Damascus was taken around the same time Samaria was.
The Targum reads “that dwell in Samaria, in the strength of power, trusting in Damascus.” Inferring that the northern tribes had begun to place their trust in the foreign power Aram. Some Israelites even living in Damascus. Regardless, both Aram and Israel would be conquered.
13 Shimu Listen, hear, comprehend, obey vehaiydu and bear witness beveit Ya’akov in the house of Jacob (follower),” neum utters Adonay YHVH (Mercy) the Lord God, Eloheiy the God hatzeva’ot Who goes warring.
13 Listen, hear, comprehend, obey and bear witness in the house of Jacob,” utters Adonay YHVH (Mercy) the Lord God, Eloheiy the God Who goes warring.
Once again the Hebrew “Shimu (Shema)” is employed. Listen, but don’t just listen, hear. Hear, but don’t just hear, obey. Obey, but don’t just obey, walk in obedience.
“Bear witness in the house of Jacob” is a declaration to the prophets, and the righteous remnant who live within all Israel (inclusive of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin).
As is the case elsewhere in the TaNaKh (OT), two witnesses of a matter are established by the third witness, God Himself (Deut. 19:15). The first witness being the neighbouring nations (v.9), and the second being the prophets and righteous ones within Israel’s borders (present verse).
“Adonay YHVH (Mercy) the Lord God, Eloheiy the God hatzeva’ot Who goes warring.”
Three titles for God are expressed here. “Adonay”, meaning Lord, Master, “YHVH”, the unpronounceable proper noun which denotes mercy*, and “Eloheiy Hatzevaot” meaning, “God Who goes warring”. The Hebrew “tzevaot” is an intense plural form of “tzava”, to go forth in war. Thus, “God Who goes warring.” These three names teach us that God is the Merciful Lord Who goes warring against sin and death. We are not to diminish His character in our own eyes by saying that He is a pacifist, nor that He is devoid of mercy when He disciplines. We accept and hold the mysterious tension of His holiness with awe.
*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 of the universe (Gen 1:1-2:4a) and implies strength, power, 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.
14 “Kiy For beyom in the day pakediy that I number fisheiy Yisrael Israel’s rebellions, alayv ufakadtiy I will also number al-mizbechot upon the altars of Beiyt El Bethel (House of God); venigdeu and cut off karnot the horns hamizbeach of the altar, venafelu and they will fall la’aretz to the ground.
14 “For in the day that I number Israel’s rebellions, I will also number upon the altars of Bethel; and cut off the horns of the altar, and they will fall to the ground.
“For beyom in the day pakediy that I number fisheiy Yisrael Israel’s rebellions”
We note that the coming day of numbering is not a possibility but a certainty. “When”, not “if”.
The language of “numbering” is a measure of accountability and a sort of listing, in this case a listing of sins recorded in the indictment against Israel. Specifically, the root “pasha” (rebellion) is addressed. The idolatrous act of rebellion forms the foundation for all other types of sin.
“I will also number al-mizbechot upon the altars of Beiyt El Bethel (House of God)”
Not only does God bring to account the general sins of Israel, He also very specifically numbers the many infractions of idolatrous syncretism performed at the apostate centre of worship in Bethel.
Bethel was the location of one of the calves Jeroboam fashioned in a vile re-enactment of Israel’s idolatry at the foot of Sinai (Choreb)[Ex. 32; 1 Kings 12:28].
God, through the prophet, brings His indictment upon “altars”, meaning multiple altars set up in worship of multiple deities and in connection with the misuse of God’s Name (Hosea 8:11).
“and cut off karnot the horns hamizbeach of the altar, venafelu and they will fall la’aretz to the ground.”
Having mentioned multiple heathen altars He now speaks of the primary apostate altar of Bethel, that being the rosh (head) over all other altars. It had been constructed in direct opposition to the singular altar of Mt Tziyon in Jerusalem. It is likely that the primary altar at Bethel was a replica of the altar in Jerusalem. No matter how detailed a counterfeit is, the maker of the genuine article can always tell the difference.
The phrase “cut off the horns” refers both to the literal cutting off of the horns of the altar where blood was sprinkled in provocation of efficacy, and to the removal of the fourfold strength* of the heathen altar (a horn at each corner).
*Throughout the TaNaKh (OT) horns are seen to represent strength.
15 Vehikeiytiy And I will slay beiyt-hachoref the harvest house al-beiyt hakayitz upon the summer house; veavedu bateiy the houses hashen of ivory will also perish, vesafu batiym rabiym and the great houses will come to an end,” neum utters YHVH (Mercy) the Lord.
15 And I will slay the harvest house upon the summer house; the houses of ivory will also perish, and the great houses will come to an end,” utters YHVH (Mercy) the Lord.
The idiom denotes full destruction from seed time to harvest. Destruction that continues over a period of at least a year.
Additionally, it seems that the king of the northern tribes may have had both a winter and a summer house, each residence serving him according to the seasonal changes. A modern example would be that of a financially stable resident of Canada’s northern regions wintering in Colorado.
In Jewish tradition it is noted that the king of Moab had a chariot (described in the ancient text as a “house”) made from ivory, and 1 Kings 22:39 says that king Ahab built a house of ivory.
The Jewish commentator Radak explains:
“This was the custom of the kings to make themselves a house for the winter and a house for the summer, and it is also said of Jehoiakim ‘the king sits in the winter house in the ninth month’, and concerning the chariot of the king of Moab it is written ‘and the house of the tooth which he built’, the tooth is the tooth of the elephant from which we make certain crafts:” -Radak on Amos 3:15
“the great houses will come to an end,” neum utters YHVH (Mercy) the Lord.
This is a reference to the houses of the wealthy and in particular to the many houses of the king of Israel.
Copyright Yaakov Brown 2022
Will He relent? The answer is “Most certainly not!” Because He is holy He is loving, because He is loving He is just, because He is just He cannot allow injustice to go unaccounted for.
This chapter concludes the opening prophetic indictment against the nations with words spoken against Moav (one of Israel’s greatest historic enemies). The last nation to be charged is, Y’hudah and Yisrael. No, this isn’t a grammatical error, Judah and Israel, in spite of their being divided into two separate kingdoms at this point in history, are nonetheless am echad, one people, a complex unity. So complex in fact as to be a divided unity. This in part is what God is addressing through the prophet Amos.
Reconciliation to God means reconciliation to one another. Through destruction and exile (Assyria, Babylon) God will unite and return Israel to the land as a whole people. That people will return to Judea to the remnant of the tribe of Judah and thus from the conclusion of the Babylonian exile onward all the tribes of Israel become known colloquially as “Y’hudiym” (Jews), from their association with Y’hudah (Judea).
Effectively the opening words of indictment expressed in the scroll of Amos (Ch. 1 & 2) have addressed the neighboring enemies of all Israel [all 12 tribes] (many of whom Israel had formerly been charged with eradicating from the land) in descending order, from the then most recently active to that first and perhaps most notorious of enemies Moav, who came against Israel seeking to curse and annihilate her as she wandered out of Egypt toward the land of promise (Num. 22-25).
The litany of charges (Ch. 1 & 2) addresses first the sin of the nations’ regarding universal moral law and then the sin of Judah and Israel regarding their violating of the sacred covenant made between God and their forebears.
The charges against Judah and Israel are more detailed and have far reaching consequences. However, ultimately the final consequences of Israel’s discipline are her redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. This, because YHVH (Mercy) the God of Israel has purposed in the love that radiates from His holiness, to redeem Israel and the nations by His own everlasting blood through the King Messiah Yeshua (Who is fully God and fully man).
Amos Chapter Two (Author’s translation)
1 Here is what YHVH, the Lord says: “Upon three rebellions of Moav, and upon four, I will not turn away, upon his burning bones of a king of Edom to whitewash. 2 And I will send fire in Moav and it will eat the citadels of Keriyot; and death in an uproar will come to Moav amid the sounding of judgement in the voice of a shofar. 3 And I will cut off a judge from her inner part and all her princes will be slain with him,” says YHVH the Lord. 4 Here is what YHVH, the Lord says: “Upon three rebellions of Y’hudah, and upon four, I will not turn away, upon their rejecting the Instructions YHVH of the Lord and the prescribed limits they have not guarded; and astray they wander because of lies which their fathers walked in. 5 And I will send fire upon Y’hudah, and it will eat the citadels of Yerushalayim.” 6 Here is what YHVH, the Lord says: “Upon three rebellions of Yisrael, and upon four, I will not turn away, upon their selling for silver a righteous one and the needy in order to get a pair of sandals. 7 That breathe heavily upon dust of the land on the head of the ones who are low, and the way of the humble they have bent, and a man and his father enter the same servant girl with intent to pollute My Holy Name. 8 And upon clothing bound in pledge stretched out near every altar (of slaughter), and the wine of those condemned, fined, they drink in a house of their God. 9 “And I, indeed I destroyed the Amorite from before their faces, whose height was like cedars height and strong was he, like oaks, yet I destroyed his fruit from higher up still and his roots from beneath. 10 And I, yes I caused you all to ascend from the land of Egypt and you all walked in the desert forty years to take possession of the land from the Amorites. 11 And I raised up from your children some to be prophets, and from your young men some to be Nazirites. Is this not so, children of Israel?” declares YHVH the Lord. 12 “And you forced the Nazarites to drink wine, and you placed upon the prophets, orders saying, ‘You shall not prophesy!’ 13 Behold, now, pay attention! I am making a rut beneath you, like that which is made by the pressing of the cart when it’s filled with sheaves of grain. 14 And escape will perish from the swift, and the strong will not be strengthened because of his power, and the mighty will not deliver his soul. 15 And the one who grasps the bow will not stand, the swift in foot will not slip away, and the rider of the horse will not save his soul. 16 And the mighty of heart among the mighty ones, will flee naked in that day,” declares YHVH the Lord.
Amos Chapter Two: Line Upon Line
1 Here is what amar YHVH (Mercy), the Lord says: “Al Upon sheloshah three pisheiy rebellions of Moav (from his father), ve'al and upon arba’ah four, lo ashiyvenu I will not turn away, al upon sarfo his burning atzmot bones of Melekh a king of Edom (red: descendants of Esau) lasiyd to lime, whitewash.
A heinous root of sin was established in Moab (a people related to Israel being descended from Lot Abraham’s brother) from conception. Moab being the son born to Lot’s eldest daughter through incest (Gen. 19:30-38).
Moab later became notorious as a people for their hatred of Israel and their calling on the false prophet Bala’am (not of the people) to curse Israel as she journeyed out of Egypt toward the land of promise (Num. 22-25).
Moab’s many sins included horrific idolatrous practices in worship of the false gods Chemosh (Subduer) and Ba’al Peor (husband, master, lord of the cleft/gap [2 Kings 11:7, 33]). Hosea, one of the contemporaries of Amos writes:
“I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the first ripeness in the fig tree in her first fruiting time: but they went to Baal Peor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according to their love.” -Hosea 9:10
Israel, having been delivered by God from slavery in Egypt and brought out of the desert into the land of promise, had none the less rejected YHVH and gone after the demonic husband Ba’al Peor, God of the Moabites (enemies and haters of Israel).
Jeremiah (48:13) likens the shame of Moab’s worship of Chemosh to Israel’s apostate worship at Bethel. God is indicting Moab while pointing toward Israel’s syncretism. Thus, the indictment of Moab is also the beginning of the indictment against all of Israel.
It’s worth noting that Moav means “from his father”. This is significant because it points to the indictment against Judah in verse 4 which says that Judah has gone astray “because of lies which their fathers walked in.”
“upon his burning bones of a king of Edom to lime, whitewash.”
The Targum (a second century CE Aramaic translation of the Scriptures), and the Jewish commentators Yarchi and Kimkhi say that a ruler of Moab burnt the bones of a king of Edom until they became powder likened to lime, and then used the powder in a recipe for plaster which he used to plaster the walls of his palace in order to show contempt for Edom.* This is consistent with what we know of the ancient practice of using bone ash in formulas for paint and cosmetics.
* Scholia in Targum in loc.
Bone ash (called “lime” in English translations of the TaNaKh [OT]) “was used in ancient formulas for white paint and cosmetic pigments, and in the cupellation process to separate silver from lead..”*
. Phosphate Minerals. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. 2010. p. 3.
. Charvat, Petr (2003). Mesopotamia Before History. Taylor & Francis.
It appears highly likely that the king in question was the heir to the throne of Edom whom the king of Moab offered as a burnt sacrifice to his gods on the wall of Edom’s defences, as recorded in 2 Kings 3:26-27.
While in many cases the bone ash used to whitewash tombs and that utilized in ancient cosmetics was derived from the calcination of animal bones, the indictment used here infers the use of the ash of the bones of a king of Edom as whitewash. This is a vile desecration of moral law concerning the sanctity of human life and the honouring of human remains. The Torah says that blood guilt remains on the land and cannot be atoned for except by the blood of the one guilty of shedding that innocent blood (Num. 35:33).
This reference to whitewash may also further illuminate the meaning of Yeshua’s words:
“27 Alas, Oiy, a warning to you, scribes and Perushiym (Set apart ones), hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed (limed) tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 In the same way, you appear outwardly righteous to people, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and devoid of law (without Torah).” -Mattitiyahu (Matthew) 23:27-28 (Author’s translation)
2 Veshilachtiy And I will send eish fire bemoav in Moab ve’achlah and it will eat armenot the citadels of ha-Keriyot (literally “cities”: specifically a city in the territory of Moab); umeit and death beshaon in an uproar will come to Moav bit’ruah amid the sounding (teruah: shofar sound of warning and judgement) bekol in the voice shofar of a ram’s horn.
“And I will send fire in Moab and it will eat the citadels of ha-Keriyot”
Ha-Keriyot can be understood as both “all the cities” and as a specific city of Moab (Jer. 48:24). Either way, destruction against the entire people of Moab is denoted.
Just as Moab had offered a king of Edom on the walls of Edom’s defences, as a burnt sacrifice to their false gods (2 Kings 3:26-27), so now God will burn Moab and devour its cities.
“and death in an uproar will come to Moav amid the sounding (teruah: shofar sound of warning and judgement) in the voice of a ram’s horn.”
It’s not a “trumpet” as many English translations mistranslate (a trumpet is usually made of silver, brass etc.), but a shofar (ram’s horn) that is sounded in this verse. The symbolic significance of the ram’s horn finds its origin in Ha-Akeidah (the Binding of Isaac Gen. 22).
The shofar warning of coming judgement through warfare which is sounded from the beginning of the scroll of Amos (in the name of his town), is here reiterated against Moab. In the midst of battle and destruction she will hear again the warning call of the shofar of God, a reminder that she had every opportunity to repent and did not. In like manner the final great shofar blast (Tekiah Gedolah) announcing Yom Ha-Din (the Judgement Day) will strike terror into the hearts of those who have rejected God’s warning and offer of redemption.
3 Vehichratiy And I will cut off (kill) shofeit a judge mikirbah from her inner part vekol-sareyah and all her princes eherog will be slain imo with him,” amar says YHVH (Mercy) the Lord.
“And I will cut off (kill) a judge from her inner part and all her princes will be slain with him,” says YHVH (Mercy) the Lord.”
Most scholars agree that the judge in question is probably the king of Moab who acted as judge over the people. This is supported by the following clause which alludes to the princes or sub-rulers of Moab being slain. This took place five years after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem (589-587 BCE).*
* Josephus Antiquities of the Jews l. 10. c. 9. sect. 7.
4 Here is what amar YHVH (Mercy), the Lord says: “Al Upon sheloshah three
pisheiy rebellions of Y’hudah (Praise), ve'al and upon arba’ah four, lo ashiyvenu
I will not turn away, al upon mo’osam their rejecting et-torat the Instructions YHVH (Mercy) of the Lord vechukayv and the prescribed limits lo shamaru they have not guarded; vayat’um and astray they wander kizveiyhem because of lies asher-halechu avotam achareiyhem which their fathers walked in.
“Upon three pisheiy rebellions of Y’hudah, even upon four”
Having addressed all the neighbours of Israel and Judah, the prophet now speaks the word of the LORD to the chosen people Israel, beginning with the tribe of Judah (including Benjamin) and concluding with the northern tribes, here called Israel as distinct from Judah. We note that God is just, judging Judah with the same formula used in judgement of the heathen nations that neighbour her.
“upon their rejecting the instructions of the Lord and the prescribed limits, they have not guarded;”
The indictment against Judah differs in regard to the specific laws that Judah has broken. Being ignorant of the specific laws of distinction commanded to Israel the nations had nonetheless sinned in regard to the universal laws of morality contained in the Torah as an indictment against all sin. Judah on the other hand had sinned not only in regard to general morality but also in regard to the very specific laws given by God to His chosen, set apart people. Laws relating to identity, purity, cleanliness, worship etc.
Judah has rejected “et-torat” the instructions contained within the wealth of holy Scriptures which were accessible to them at that point. Including, but not limited to the Torah, parts of the record of the kings, the writings of Solomon, the psalms of David, and numerous early prophetic works.
We note that while many claim “torat”, (teachings), refers to the Torah alone, they can’t explain why the text uses “et-torat”, meaning the instructions or teachings, rather than “Ha-Torah”, which refers specifically to the five books of Moses. The Torah is of course part of the greater number of instructions being alluded to, but it is not the only instruction that had been given to Israel by that time in her history.
The Hebrew “vechukayv” translated “and commands” in most English versions of the Bible, does not carry the same meaning as the Hebrew “mitzvot” but is from the root “chok” meaning “limit”, denoting prescribed boundaries, portions, and civil conduct. It is specifically used to point toward the social injustices being committed within the framework of God’s justice.
“and astray they wander because of lies which their fathers walked in.”
Judah hasn’t just wandered, she continues to wander. She has gone astray because of generational sin. Her father’s, forebears, having adopted the idolatry of the inhabitants of the land and syncretised (mixed it into) their worship of YHVH the God of Israel, have passed on their sin to the subsequent generations.
The Jewish commentator Kimkhi notes that the “lies” referred to were those of the false prophets. Regardless of the origin of the lies, the point is that Judah had traded the truth of HaShem for lies.
5 Veshilachtiy And I will send eish fire bey’hudah upon Judah (Praise), ve’achlah and it will eat armenot the citadels of Yerushalayim (Flood of Peace) Jerusalem.”
“And I will send fire upon Judah, and it will eat the citadels of Jerusalem.”
“God is no respecter of persons”, meaning, He shows no partiality. Thus the punishment against Judah mirrors that of her neighbours (Aram [1:4], Gaza [1:7], Tyre [1:10], Edom [1:12], Amon [1:14], Moab [2:2]).
The temple of the most High God (YHVH), and the palaces of the king of Judah and his princes were burned with fire when Jerusalem was taken by the Babylonian army, approximately two hundred years after this prophecy (589-587 BCE).
6 Here is what amar YHVH (Mercy), the Lord says: “Al Upon sheloshah three pisheiy rebellions of Yisrael (overcomes in Elohiym), ve'al and upon arba’ah four, lo ashiyvenu I will not turn away, al upon, michram their selling bakesef for silver tzadiyk a righteous one ve’evyon and the needy ba’avur, in order to get na’alayim a pair of sandals.
“Upon three rebellions of Yisrael, and upon four”
While Israel in the form of the northern tribes is being delineated as a unique entity, the pursuant allusion to the deliverance from Egypt draws on the united experience of the twelve tribes of Israel. Therefore, in part, the judgement against the northern tribes is also an indictment against Judah. This is of course not the case where specific northern locations and sin practices are referred to.
“upon, their selling for silver a righteous one”
In this context, given that disregard for God’s et-torat (instructions) is the premise for the judgement, it is likely that the plain meaning “selling for silver a righteous one” alludes to the sale of a man who is without debt, this being akin to slavery and contrary to Torah (Deut. 15:7-11; Lev. 25:39-43).
The singular phrasing “a righteous one” seems intentional and looks back to the sinful actions of Joseph’s brothers and forward to the sinful actions of Judah Ish-kariyot. Notice that Judas Iscariot is Judah “ish” a man from “keriyot”, Judas who betrayed Messiah was from the chief city of Moab (which in the first century C.E. was no longer a Moabite city).
The rabbis who arranged Amos 2:6-3:8 as the Haftarah (completion/fulfilment of instruction) portion for Va-yeshev [And dwelt Jacob] (Gen. 37:1-40:23) [the Torah portion that recounts the selling of the righteous man Joseph into slavery] clearly understood this phrase to have prophetic significance.
“and the needy, in order to get a pair of sandals.”
This describes the heinous act of selling on an indentured poor person for a pitiful sum, thus openly devaluing that person. This is also in direct opposition to the command concerning those poor who have no other choice but to sell themselves into indentured service. The Torah requires justice in these circumstances and the release of that person at the end of their term of service (Lev. 25).
7 Hasho’afiym That breathe heavily al upon afar-eretz dust of the land berosh on the head daliym of the ones who are low, vederekh and the way anaviym of the humble yatu they have bent, ve’iysh and a man veaviv and his father yelechu enter el-hana’arah the same servant girl lema’an with intent to chaleil pollute et-sheim kadshiy My Holy Name.
“That breathe heavily upon dust of the land on the head of the ones who are low”
This is a Hebrew idiom that speaks directly to the oppression of those in the community who are suffering. Again, this contradicts the Torah, which states:
“You shall not pervert the justice that is owed to your needy brother in his dispute. 7 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty.” -Shemot (Exodus) 23:6-7
“and the way of the humble they have bent”
The humble are not synonymous with the poor as some wrongly conclude. This is in fact referring to the righteous remnant who walk humbly before God (Micah 6:8). This particular indictment therefore, regards the intentional harming of the livelihood and future of the righteous ones living among the community.
“a man and his father enter the same servant girl”
Not only is the sharing of the same woman by father and son considered repugnant universally, it is also very specifically outlawed by Torah (Lev. 18:7-8, 15; 20:11-12). Additionally, using any woman in this way, be she a servant or otherwise, was strictly forbidden. According to the Torah, women were to be honoured and cared for in the ancient Israelite community. Where a man received sex from a woman he was obligated to marry and provide for her in a age when survival as an abandoned woman was difficult (Ex. 22:16; Deut. 22:28-29).
“with intent to pollute My Holy Name.”
While many read this phrase as being a separate indictment against idolatry which is unrelated to the sexual sin named in the previous clause, I understand it as being related.
The sexual sin in the previous clause is made more heinous due to the fact that the man and his son in question are performing these acts as part of a syncretised worship practice which names the God of Israel. It is an abhorrent desecration of the Holy Name that unites the immoral sexual sin act with the worship of false gods, and links the entire practice to the worship of the God of Israel.
As modern believing men we may look upon this vile sin retrospectively from our position in history and say, “Thank God that I haven’t done anything that terrible”. And yet, today, believing men and their sons lust after the same actresses, sportswomen and models. Yeshua says:
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 And I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” -Matthew 5:27-28
Rather than smugly tutting our tongues at Israel, we would do well to repent and rely on Messiah’s strength to maintain our walk with integrity.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” -Exodus 20:17 KJV
8 Ve’al-begadiym And upon clothing chavuliym bound in pledge yatu stretched out eitzel near kol-mizbeiach every altar (of slaughter), ve’yiyn and the wine of anushiym those condemned, fined, yishtu they drink in Beit a house Eloheiyham of their God.
We note that this is speaking of the ten northern tribes, so that when the text says “Beit Eloheiyham”, (a house of their God), it is not speaking of the temple in Jerusalem, something that is wrongly inferred by the standard English translation, which reads “in the house of their God”.
The northern tribes were not worshipping God at the appointed place (the temple on Mt Zion in Jerusalem) according to the command of Torah (Deut. 12:5-12; Josh. 21:41-43), but were instead worshipping Him, and or other deities along with Him at various high places in the north, one of the chief locations being Beit-El (Bethel). Therefore, God is commanding punishment upon the northern tribes regarding their practice of syncretism, the assimilation of heathen practices into their worship of the God of Israel. Which is one of the reasons HaShem has said “a man and his father enter the same servant girl with intent to pollute My Holy Name”.
“upon clothing bound in pledge stretched out near every altar”
This refers to withholding the garments taken from poor people in pledge (Deut. 4:17; Job 22:6, 24:3-4, 9) and compounding the sin by laying the garments out in worship of either false gods or in hypocritical worship of the God of Israel in syncretism with false gods (Ex. 22:26). Thus the poor are left shivering in the night while their garments are used as an offering to God by wicked people who have plenty.
“the wine of those fined, they drink in a house of their God.”
The Hebrew allows for the readings “in a house of there god”. In other words, they are not necessarily even worshipping the God of Israel.
The wine can be understood as the wine that should have been given to the poor, suffering and the dying as a means of pain management (Proverbs 31:6-7), or it can be understood as wine gained by fining innocent people. Either way, and whether or not they are drinking the wine in worship of the God of Israel or some other deity, their sin is a vile desecration of the Torah.
9 “Ve’anochiy And I, indeed hishmadtiy I destroyed et-ha’amoriy the Amorite (public speaker) mipeneiyhem from before their faces, asher whose kegovah height was like araziym cedars gaveho height vechason and strong hu was he ka’aloniym like oaks va’ashmiyd yet I destroyed piryo his fruit mi’ma’al from higher up still (above) vesharashayv and his roots mitachat from beneath.
What follows is a summary of Israel’s journey. Throughout God is faithful, and throughout Israel is rebellious, unfaithful, in need of discipline.
We note that this is a reference to Numbers 13 and 14 which record the sending of the spies and the rebellion of Israel, born of a fearful report concerning the inhabitants of the land (Num. 13:33). Therefore, this rebuke likens the rebellion of the northern tribes to that of all Israel in approaching the land of promise, a rebellion that resulted in their wandering for another 40 years.
The metaphor used points to the fact that when a people gives in to the fear of anyone or anything other than YHVH, that people are prone to rebel against Him. Instead of trusting in YHVH, they have trusted in the strength of the false gods of the land, gods which HaShem has and will uproot and remove. We remember that the fear of YHVH is an end to fear and its fruit.
The metaphor of the mighty oaks is meant to show that even something as strong and enduring as the oak is subject to God’s might. Where the Cedars of Lebanon are high, they are nonetheless vulnerable to strong winds, whereas the oak is both high and strong (thick), able to withstand strong winds. However, God is higher and stronger, and His Spirit (wind) can tear up even the strongest tree. Thus, the intimidating Amorites whom Israel feared when told of their stature (Num. 13:28), were uprooted, that is the source of their strength was removed.
10 Ve’anochiy And I, he’eleiytiy etchem I caused you all to ascend mei’eretz from the land mitzrayim (double distress) of Egypt va’oleich etchem and you all walked bamidbar (in and from the Word) in the desert arbaiym shanah forty years lareshet to take possession et-eretz of the land from ha’emoriy Amorites.
This is a reminder of the consequences of Israel’s rebellion, as well as being a reminder of God’s faithfulness. In spite of Israel’s rebellion God made the defeat of the Amorites possible.
11 Va’akiym And I raised up mibeneichem from your children lin’viyiym some to be prophets umibachureiychem and from your young men lin’ziriym some to be Nazirites (consecrated ones). Ha’af eiyn-zot Is this not so, beneiy-Yisrael children of Israel?” neum declares YHVH (Mercy) the Lord.
“And I raised up from your children some to be prophets”
Throughout Israel’s history up to that point in time God had raised up prophets, from Joseph the son of Jacob to Moses, Joshua, Samuel and so on. All Israel is included here. At this point in the indictment Judah and Benjamin are implicitly included in the phrase “beneiy-Yisrael”.
Upon hearing these words from Amos few Israelites would have been able to forget the following words of the Torah:
“15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” 17 The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.” -Deuteronomy 18:15-19 NIV
“from your young men some to be Nazirites”
The Hebrew “nazir” (Nazarite) from the root “nazar”, means “consecrated”. Numbers 6:1-21 explains that the Nazarite vow was one that a person chose as an act of their freewill and out of a desire to set themselves apart as devoted to God (Judges 13:5).
“Is this not so, children of Israel?” declares YHVH (Mercy) the Lord.”
To paraphrase, “Have I not given you ample warning children of Israel?”
12 “Vatashku et-hanezitiym yayin And you forced the Nazirites to drink wine, veal-haneviyiym and you placed upon the prophets, tziviytem orders leimor saying, ‘lo tinaveu You shall not prophesy!’
In spite of the goodness of God in giving Israel righteous ones to direct them toward Him, Israel rebelled by defiling those righteous ones, either by tempting or by forcing violation of their vows upon them. In the case of the prophets Israel had hated what they heard and had told the true prophets of God to be silent while inviting the false prophets to speak.
Ironically, Amaziyah the apostate priest of Bethel would later tell Amos to go away and prophesy to Judah (7:12-13). Following this Amos speaks the word of the LORD which quotes the people of Israel as saying:
“You say, ‘Don’t Prophesy against Israel’, and ‘Don’t drop the Word against the house of Isaac’.” -Amos 7:16b (Author’s translation)
Therefore, for the duration of the ten years of the prophetic ministry of Amos, Israel had wilfully ignored his warning to repent for their having demanded that the prophets of God be silent, and instead, nearing the end of his ministry, they repeated this sin like children with their fingers in their ears yelling “La, la, la…”
13 Hineih Behold, now, pay attention! Anochiy I am mei’iyk making a rut tachteiychem beneath you, ka’asher like that which is made ta’iyk by the pressing ha’agalah of the cart hamleiam lah when it’s filled amiyr with sheaves of grain.
“Hineih” is a wakeup call. “Pay attention now!”, would be a better modern translation than the old English “Behold”.
The metaphor of the heavily laden cart at harvest time is poignant. At this time in history Israel was heavily laden with riches and success, just like the overloaded cart at harvest time. However, her successes would soon weigh her down so as to make a rut beneath her that she will not be able to climb out of. This is essentially a metaphor describing the fruit of the love of worldly wealth (1 Tim. 6:10). The love of worldly wealth being a form of idolatry. Israel had planted the seed of rebellion in the soil of her abundance and would soon reap the fruit of rebellion. Destruction.
14 Veavad manos And escape will perish mikal from the swift, vechazak and the strong lo-ye’ameitz will not be strengthened kocho because of his power, vegibor and the mighty lo-yemaleit will not deliver nafsho his soul.
Although Israel considered herself strong at this point in history, she would nonetheless be unable to escape. Her strong men will be unable to overcome in the coming fire of judgement in spite of their strength, they will not even be able to deliver themselves.
15 Vetofeis And the one who grasps hakeshet the bow lo ya’amod will not stand, vekal the swift beraglayv in foot lo yemaleit will not slip away, verocheiv and the rider of hasus the horse lo yemaleit will not save nafsho his soul.
The bowman will fail to have an effect in the coming battle that will topple the northern kingdom, and the fastest runners will not be able to escape, nor will the rider on the swiftest horse be able to save himself.
16 Veamiytz And the mighty libo of heart bagiboriym among the mighty ones, arom yanus will flee naked bayom-hahu in that day,” neum declares YHVH (Mercy) the Lord.
The most courageous of Israel’s warriors will flee naked, meaning “unarmed”, shaking like terrified children in that promised day when God brings the fire of His discipline against the northern tribes. This is something God declares through Amos as a foregone conclusion. Will He relent? The answer is “Most certainly not!” Because He is holy He is loving, because He is loving He is just, because He is just He cannot allow injustice to go unaccounted for.
We know that “God is love”, good! Now let’s go and learn what love is. We don’t define love, God does. Any love founded in the temporal fallen emotion of humanity is false love. We know that “God is love”, good! Now let’s go and learn Who love is.
Copyright 2022 Yaakov Brown
All that we do for God is idolatry (God needs nothing done for Him, nor are we capable of doing anything without Him), all that we do from God is righteousness. Not human righteousness (which God refers to as being like used menstrual cloth [Isaiah 64:6]) but the righteousness of God.
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:
“17 He has cast them off, rejected them My Judge/God, they have not listened, received, comprehended Him; And they have become retreating wanderers in the nations.”
1Gefen bokeik A vine is empty, it is Yisrael; periy fruit yeshaveh-lo He produces for himself. Kerov According to the abundance lefiryo of his fruit hirbah he has increased lamizbechot his altars; ketov due to the goodness leartzo of the land heiytiyvu matzeivot the memorial pillars/idols were made better.
This verse emphasises the idolatrous practices of Israel (northern kingdom) in relationship to their successful grape harvests (corresponding to the appointed time of Sukkot [September-October]).
The tribes of the north had, as we have already seen, been giving credit for their successful harvests to false gods of fertility rather than to YHVH their Provider. The common grace of God that allows all human beings to continue to exist in the sin affected creation is extended for a time unto repentance, however, where there is no repentance punishment is applied to provoke it, for the good of creation. In this case punishment will come upon the northern tribes so as to provoke repentance and position all Israel (including Judah and Benjamin) to become a light to the nations through the King Messiah Yeshua.
The vine is often used as a metaphor for the people of Israel, cared for by the Master Vine Dresser HaShem (Deut. 32:32; Psalm. 80:8-11; Isaiah 5:1; Jer. 2:21; John. 15:1).
“You removed a vine from Egypt (Double distress); You drove out the goyim (nations other than Israel) and planted it. You cleared the way before it, and it took deep root and filled the land (of Israel).” -Tehilim (Psalms) 80:8-9 (Authors translation)
“A vine is empty, it is Israel” A vine devoid of fruit is worthless. At the end of the fruiting season it’s severely pruned in order to provoke fruiting in the future. The ground must also be addressed to ensure drainage and rainfall mitigated so as to cause stress to the vine in order to promote fruiting. All this God will enact toward Israel. The irony of this first phrase in 10:1 is palpable as we read of Israel’s fruitfulness toward other gods.
God is conveying in the prophet the reality that fruit alone is not evidence of a healthy vine, rather good fruit is. “You will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:15-23) refers to the nature of the fruit and not the appearance of it. Yeshua further illuminates this explaining that even acts of “ministry” (fruit) can be camouflage for lawlessness. He teaches that His intimate knowledge (relationship) with us is the defining factor and not the action or fruit in and of itself. This is a sobering challenge to believers. Speaking in His Name is not the same as being in Him. Good fruit is that which is the product of a motivation to glorify God, whereas fruit that appears good but is in fact ungodly, is born of a motivation to glorify self.
“15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns, nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 Therefore, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruit. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Adonay, Adonay’ will enter the kingdom of the heavens, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in the heavens. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Adonay, Adonay, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and in Your Name cast out demons, and in Your Name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS (PSALMS 6:9).’” -Mattisiyahu 7:15-23
This first clause can also be seen as prophetic of what is to come, that being the Assyrian invasion and the removal of the fruit of Israel by the armies of her enemies so that her vine is left empty.
“Israel resembles a vine that casts off all its good fruit. So did they forsake Me, Who is the good and fitting fruit for them.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:1
“fruit He produces for himself.” Idolatry finds a willing companion in the selfishness of humanity. In fact, all sin is the progeny of self-worship. Satan acted on his self-worship at the inception of sin (which is a decision of the will of a created being). This is why Rav Shaul teaches in the New Testament that “The love of worldly wealth is the root of all evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:10). The Greek text uses the definite article “ho” which properly translates “the root” and not “a root” as many misleading English translations convey. What is “the love of worldly wealth”? It is of course the love of something other than God. This by definition is idolatry. We notice of course that the result of self-worship is self-harm.
“According to the abundance of his fruit he has increased his altars; due to the goodness of the land the memorial pillars/idols were made better.” In and of themselves “memorial pillars and altars” are not idolatrous (Exodus 24:4-5). The qualifying aspect of idolatry is the worship of anything or anyone other than YHVH (Exodus 20:5). The only exception is where an object depicts a known deity, in which case it is an idol by nature according to the identity of the one it depicts. In the case of the present text the pillars were erected in memory of false gods and those gods were being credited with the fruitfulness of the harvest.
“When I increased their good, they increased for the altars When I lavished good upon them, they made many calves for the altars. Another explanation Israel is a plundered vine; the produce of their deeds brought it about to them. פְּרִי יְשַׁוֶּה לוֹ means ‘will avail them’ to be plundered, for they made the altars and availed their nation for evil. This is the wording of the Targum.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:1
2 Chalak Divided, slippery, deceitful libam is their inner being (core, heart); now ye’shamu they suffer for their offence. Hu He (The Lord) ya’arof will break the neck of mizbechotam their altars, yeshoded violently ruin matzeivotam their memorial pillars/idols.
“Divided, slippery, deceitful is their inner being (core, heart)” The meaning of the Hebrew “chalak” illuminates the demise of the inner person through sin, and the phrasing addresses the “heart, core being, inner person” of collective Israel (northern tribes) by using the plural “libam”. When our inner being is divided, undecided, self-deceiving, we become the authors of our own demise.
“Now they suffer for their offence.” This can also be understood to mean that “they suffer because of their offense”. Their suffering is a result of their “divided, slippery, deceitful inner being”. A wilful condition.
“He (The Lord) will break the neck of their altars, violently ruin their memorial pillars/idols.” The Hebrew “ya’arof” is used of the breaking of an animals neck for sacrifice. The prophet is saying that HaShem will do to the altars that which has been done to the animals placed upon them.
3 Kiy For now yomeru they say, ‘Eiyn melekh lanu We have no king, Kiy For lo yareinu we do not fear et the particular YHVH (Mercy) Lord. Ve’hamelekh And the king, mah-ya’aseh lanu what does he do for us?’”
“For now they say, ‘We have no king, For we do not fear the particular YHVH (Mercy) Lord. And the king, what does he do for us?’” Although rebellion and the overthrow of kings was prevalent among the northern tribes at this time (2 Kings 15:30), it is not the then king of the north that is being referred to here but YHVH the King of all. The northern kingdom had historically rejected the line of Davidic kingship and had since rejected YHVH as King.
The northern tribes say “We have no king, we do not fear YHVH (Mercy).” Ironically, as a result of their sin they will be left devoid of their human kingship and will suffer under the oppression of foreign kings, so they’re correct in saying “We have no king”.
“And the king, what does he do for us?” This is a further insult aimed at YHVH. These foolish words confirm what the prophet’s indictment denotes, that the northern tribes consider the success of their harvest to be due to their own efforts and the help of false gods (who are not gods at all), and not the work of YHVH.
4 Diberu They speak devariym words, essences, things, alot taking oaths shav falsely karot cutting beriyt covenants; ufarach and sprouting forth karosh venom (because of, like, associated with the head), noxious weeds mishpat as judgment al upon talmeiy the furrows of saday the field.
“They speak words, essences, things, taking oaths falsely cutting covenants;” Both the kings and the people of the north were making oaths in the names of false gods and or in syncretistic rites combining worship of false gods with that of YHVH. Additionally, the kings of the north had cut covenants with foreign powers, paying tribute to them.
“sprouting forth venom, noxious weeds as judgment upon the furrows of the field.” This ambiguous phrasing conveys the ideas of both the false poisonous judgement born of idolatry and the judgement that comes back on the one who made it. In short, their own noxious assertions and actions seeded poison in the furrows of their ploughed fields, physically and metaphorically.
The prophet Amos, a contemporary of Hosea says something similar:
“Do horses run on rocks?
Or does one ]plow with oxen?
Yet you have turned justice into poison,
And the fruit of righteousness into noxious weeds,” -Amos 6:12 (Author’s translation)
“swearing falsely Heb. אָלוֹתשָוְא, swearing falsely. אָלוֹת is, in construction, like כָּרֹת, a present tense. forming a covenant with pagan worship. Therefore, judgment of torments and retribution shall spring up upon them… the furrows Heb. תַּלְמֵי. The furrow of a plowshare is called תֶּלֶם. Another explanation: on the furrows of the field where they erect their altars, as it is said (below 12:12): “like heaps on the furrows of the field.” There the judgment for their iniquity shall spring up on them. Another explanation: swearing falsely Every covenant they form with one another they break. and...shall spring up like hemlock which springs up on the furrows of the field, which is a bitter grass, so do their judgments spring up and bitterness grows for the poor and needy. Amos, too, says: (6:12) “For you have turned judgment into hemlock.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:4
5 Le’eglot For the calves of Beit Aven (Beth-aven, House of vanity, wickedness, sorrow, iniquity) yaguru shechan Shomeron the inhabitants of Samaria will be afraid. Kiy For aval its people will mourn alayv amo over it, uchemarayv and its self-macerated (idolatrous) priests alayv yagilu will tremble over it, al-kevodo over its glory, kiy because galah mimenu it (the glory) has departed from it.
“For the calves of Beth-aven, House of wickedness the inhabitants of Samaria will be afraid.” Invasion is imminent, the day is near when the residents of the northern capital Samaria will tremble in fear as the Assyrians invaders first take the other tribes of the north and then conclude their invasion by taking Samaria and toppling the calf idols. The qualifying phrase “The calves of” confirms the assertion that Beiyt-Aven and Beiyt-El are synonymous, given that the two calf idols of Jeroboam were located at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:26-30).
“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
“For its people will mourn over it, and its self-macerated (idolatrous) priests will tremble over it, over its glory, because it has departed from it.” “It” refers to the calf idol. The Hebrew used to describe the priests is not the common term “kohen” but rather a diminished term “kamar” which is essentially an ascetic description of the named party. “Kamar” means tender, shrunken, macerated, hot. In short it is a metaphor denoting an idolatrous priest, an illegitimate spiritual guide.
The glory of the calf god will literally depart from Samaria and be carried away into exile.
Seder Olam Rabba records that Tiglathpileser king of Assyria came and took away the golden calf in Dan in the twentieth year of Pekah king of Israel; and a subsequent king of Assyria (Shalmaneser) came in the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Israel and took away the golden calf at Bethel:” ref. Seder Olam Rabba, c. 22. p. 60, 61.
6 Gam Also oto it will le’ashur be taken to Assyria (a step) yuval carried minchah as an offering lemelekh Yarev to King Jareb (contender) alt. to a king of contention; Efrayim (doubly blessed) yikach will be received veyeivosh and ashamed, Yisrael mei’atzato from his own counsel.
“Also it will be taken to Assyria (a step) carried as an offering to King Jareb (contender) alt. to a king of contention;” Once again “it” refers to the calf idol. It is said to become an offering to a king/ruler of Assyria. This makes a mockery of its deity. Gods are offered to, they are not made an offering of.
Rashi says that “Yareb” is another name for Sennacherib.
“Efrayim (doubly blessed) will be received and ashamed, Yisrael from his own counsel.” The kings of the north will be received into exile and thus the kingship of the northern tribes will be no more. This agrees with traditional rabbinic interpretation.
“Ephraim shall take shame Heb. בָּשְׁנָה. Jeroboam, who was from the tribe of Ephraim, shall take shame for himself, that he erected this calf for a deity… and Israel shall be ashamed of that counsel that they took counsel to make them, as it is said (1 Kings 12:28) “The king took counsel and made two golden calves.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:6
7 Nidmeh Shomeron malcah Cut off, left silent will be Samaria without a kingship, queen, her king, keketzef like a splintered twig (wrath) al-peneiy-mayim on the face of the waters.
Samaria, as capital of the northern tribes, here represents all the tribes and the authority over them. The kingship of the northern tribes is to be ended permanently.
“like a splintered twig on the face of the water” This is a metaphor alluding to the temporal nature of human power born of fallen motivations which manifest idolatry. All that is idolatrous will become like worthless flotsam washed away by the punishing waters of HaShem.
“The king of Samaria is silenced Heb. נִדְמֶה. The king of Samaria is silenced, and he is like foam on the surface of the water, which is eskoume (ecume) in Old French.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:7
8 Venishmedu And destroyed are bamot the high places of aven (wickedness, trouble, idolatry), chatat the sinful, missing the mark of Yisrael; kotz thorn vedardar and thistle ya’aleh will come up al-mizbechotam on their altars; veameru and they will say lehariym to the mountains, “Kasunu Conceal us!” velagevaot And to the hills, “niflu aleiynu Fall on us!”
“And destroyed are the high places of aven (wickedness, trouble, idolatry)” This refers to the high places of Bethel according to Rashi. While Iben Ezra understands this to refer to the deaths of those who “owned” or were responsible for the upkeep of the calf idols.
“the sinful, missing the mark of Yisrael; thorn and thistle will come up on their altars;” The altars will be left destroyed and their remnants will be untouched, thus they will be overgrown by fruitless weeds such as thorns and thistles so that anyone who touches them will be pierced by barbs. This is the counterpoint to the fruitfulness of idolatry described in verse 1. This has a startling correlation to the teaching of Yeshua regarding the fruit of vines and the fruitlessness of thorns:
“16 You will know them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns, nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 Therefore, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” -Matthew 7:16-19
“and they will say to the mountains, “Conceal us!” And to the hills, “Fall on us!” Sadly this is not a cry of repentance but one seeking concealment from God and or a choice of death over exile and suffering. This is the hubris of vulnerability. When this text is quoted by Yeshua as recorded in Luke’s Gospel (23:30) and repeated in the Revelation to John (6:16), it refers to wilfully unrepentant people. People who, even when faced with the reality that it is their sin and rejection of God that has brought their suffering, nonetheless refuse to repent and instead invoke concealment and death, calling on created things to hide and or kill them rather than crying out to the Creator for deliverance.
Ref. Isaiah 2:10; Hosea 10:8; Luke 23:30; Revelation 6:16
9 Miymeiy From the days of ha-Givah the Gibeah (hill) chatata you have sinned, missed the mark Yisrael; sham there amadu they remain! Lo-tasiygeim Will it not reach them bagivah in Gibeah, milchamah the battle al-beneiy alvah against the sons of injustice?
“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.
“there they remain.” Israel has remained in the place (sham), both physical and spiritual, of their missing the mark of God’s Instruction. In short, they have wilfully chosen to remain in their sin.
“Will it not reach them in Gibeah, the battle against the sons of injustice?” The spiritual battle against injustice will come against the sons of injustice, thus the sons of the northern tribes who have sown poison (v. 4) will reap poisoned fruit.
10 Beavatiy In My desire, ve’esoreim I will discipline them; veusefu and gather aleihem upon them amiym the peoples be’aseram in binding lishteiy them twice eiynotam their torture onotam glowing. Alt. punished twofold for their double crime.
HaShem desires to discipline Israel for her good. The twofold punishment of exile (Assyria) upon exile (Babylon). The punishment is just and the outcome is repentance (returning).
The binding of the northern tribes can also be seen as pretext to the ploughing metaphor which follows.
“Since Hosea compares them to a heifer as stated further: “Ephraim is a goaded heifer,” he, therefore, compared their chastisement to a cow, which they tire with plowing and they bind it to the yoke of the plowshare, and the pegs of the yoke penetrate it, [i.e., they penetrate the yoke,] one on this side and one on that side, next to the ox’s two eyes. And so did Jonathan render: as one hinds a “padna” on its two eyes. “Padna” is a yoke of oxen.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:10
11 And Efrayim eglah a heifer melumadah taught, ohavtiy I love ladush to tread out (thresh), va’aniy and I avartiy I passed by al-tov tzavarah upon her good, lovely neck; arkiyv I will harness Efrayim, Y’hudah yacharosh will plough, yesaded-lo Yaakov will break up clods of earth for himself.
The opening phrasing speaks of God’s care for Ephraim (the northern kings and their dominion) teaching her, allowing her to feed while she trampled out the grain on the threshing floor.
“I passed by upon her good, lovely neck; I will harness Efrayim” The “good” neck of Ephraim’s younger days of training is made counterpoint to her stiff necked rebellion in her latter days. Her neck once good is now stiff/rebellious.
“I will harness Epharim, Judah will plow, Yaakov will break up clods of earth for himself.” This trifold naming unites all Israel. The order of the ploughing process is seen in each task associated with each named party. Ephraim (kings of the north, people of the north) are harnessed, Judah (southern kingdom, people of Judah and Benjamin) will plough to cover the seed, then, in the following season (after exile) all Israel together as Jacob will break up the hard ground left fallow by their exile. This is a text of prophetic hope for the soon to be punished people of God.
12 Ziru Sow lachem for yourselves, litzdakah to righteousness; kitzru reap lefiy from My mouth chesed kindness, practical love, faithfulness. Niyru lachem Break up your niyr fallow ground, ve’eit for its time lidrosh to seek, enquire of et-YHVH the particular Lord (Mercy) ad-yavo until He comes veyoreh and rains tzedek righteousness lachem on you all.
Mercy precedes judgement and is the fruit of discipline. Here, once again, YHVH offers an opportunity for true repentance, an opportunity for sowing righteousness and reaping kindness, an opportunity for enquiring of the LORD (Mercy) and receiving the cleansing rains of righteousness. Seeing the end from the beginning HaShem knows that Israel will not receive this until after her exile. This is why the final aspect of the order of ploughing in the previous verse denotes the breaking of hard ground following its many years of being left fallow.
Rashi understands this as an admonishment to turn to Torah observance, however, Torah observance does not bear the seed of righteousness, rather godly righteousness bears the fruit of right action which is approved by the Torah, that is, when measured against Torah righteousness is seen as holy (set apart).
Righteousness sown in God enquires of God and thus reaps righteousness from God. Messiah in us outworks righteousness. Therefore, we are not Torah keepers, rather God keeps us through the righteous One (the King Messiah), Who is the Goal of Torah (Romans 10:4). All that we do for God is idolatry (God needs nothing done for Him, nor are we capable of doing anything without Him), all that we do from God is righteousness. Not human righteousness (which God refers to as being like used menstrual cloth [Isaiah 64:6]) but the righteousness of God.
13 Charashtem-resha You have ploughed, engraved wickedness, avlatah injustice ketzartem you have reaped achaltem, you have eaten periy-chachash fruit of deception. Kiy Because vatachta you trusted vedarkecha in your way, bero in great numbers giboreycha of your mighty men (warriors),
Israel, the northern tribes had engraved their soil, both literal and metaphorical, with wickedness and injustice and had therefore deceived themselves. Knowing that the Torah and Prophets say otherwise, they nonetheless concluded that the strength of their own armies was more trustworthy than God’s strength.
“‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord Who goes warring.” -Zechariah 4:6b (Author’s translation)
14 Vekam And raise shaon an uproar be’amecha among your people, vechol-mivtzareycha and all your fortified cities yushad will be ruined, keshod like Shalmaneser (Shalman: fire worshipper) destroyed Beiyt-arbel (house of God’s ambush) beyom in the day milchamah of battle, eim al-baniym mothers upon children rutashah torn to pieces.
The uproar among the people is understood by Yarchi, Rashi and others as an alarm calling out “Flee, flee!”
“Your fortified cities” This means that what is to come will affect both the vulnerable unwalled towns and the fortified cities (like those Judah trusted in). This is a prophecy of all out invasion, one that came soon after at the hand of the Assyrian Empire.
“Beit Arbel” Is a city of the Kinneret (Galilee) region (Antiqu. l. 12. c. 11. sect. 1. & l. 14. c. 15. sect. 4. In Vita sua, sect. 69. p. 922, 934.), situated between Sipphore and Tiberias (Yuchasin, fol. 65. 1.).
“mothers upon children torn to pieces” This horrific language denotes the most heinous of wartime acts which leaves the conquered devoid of their women and children. This imagery is commonly used in Scripture 2 Kings 8:12; Isaiah 13:16; Nahum 3:10; Psalms 137:9; Hosea 14:1.
15 Kachah So asah it will be done lachem to you all at Beiyt-el (house of God/Judge) mipeneiy from the face of your ra’at evil ra’atchem evils. Alt. [of your great wickedness.] Bashachar In the dawn nidmoh nidmah cut off, destroyed will be melekh a king of Yisrael.
This horror will come against all who, at a location named for Jacob’s (Israel) intimate connection with God (Bethel: House of God), had brought evil forth unto evil multiplied. Thus, once again, the self-harming idolatry of evil is emphasised. Bethel (Beth Aven) was home to one of the two calf idols set up by the first king of the northern tribes Jeroboam I.
“The calf in Bethel has brought about all this retribution upon you.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:15
“In the dawn” This makes the destruction of the northern tribes immanent. Both Hoshea (not the prophet) the last king of the northern tribes, and the kingdom itself will be cut off.
As tragic as this is, there is also the future hope in the Greater Son of David, that King of Judah Who will reign over all the tribes of Israel. Therefore, the permanent end of the kingship of the north is a sign pointing to the redemption for all Israel through the King Messiah born of the Davidic line of Judah.
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
Messiah follower, do we pass judgement on those who worship idols while trusting in our own intellect, physical strength, talents, finances, emotional intelligence, qualifications, righteousness? If so, we are hypocrites and idolaters.
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:
“They return not to the most High: they have become like a slackened bow: their princes will fall by the sword from the rage of their tongue: this stammering derision in the land Egypt.” -Hosea 7:16
1“Put a shofar (ram’s horn) to your mouth! Kanesher Like an eagle al upon beit YHVH the house of the Lord (Mercy) Ya’an because averu the people have passed over, alienated veriytiy My covenant (cutting agreement), ve’al and against Toratiy My Torah Instruction pashau rebelled.
“Put the shofar to your mouth” is an instruction to the prophet Hosea. He is to blow the shofar (ram’s horn) with the wind (ruach) of the Holy Spirit in him. The mouth denotes both intimacy and proclamation. The shofar (Gen. 22) represents the voice of the Ram of God (Yeshua the King Messiah), Who is the Word (Ha-Davar) essence, the substance of God and the testimony of Yeshua is the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10).
It is interesting to compare a similar phrasing spoken to Yishayahu (Isaiah):
“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a shofar, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” -Isaiah 58:1
“Ram’s horn” (shofar) is often blown as a warning (Joel 2:1; Amos 3:6) and is also associated with the giving of the Torah (Ex. 19:16) [poignant given the accusation concerning rejection of Torah in verses 1 & 11], the jubilee (Lev. 25:9), war & miracles (Jos. 6:4; Jdg. 6:34; 7:8) etc. And finds its true origin in the “binding of Isaac” (Gen. 22). Meaning that at its root it is the sound of redemption.
Rashi understands this verse to carry the same meaning as that of Isaiah 58:1.
“The Shechinah says to the prophet: Let the voice of your palate be heard, and call like a shophar, and say: You enemies! Fly and hasten as the eagle swoops and come to the house of the Lord. To your palate a shophar, it is as though a shophar is placed to your palate. [after Jonathan]” -Rashi
“Like an eagle upon the house of the LORD”
“behold, as an eagle flies, so shall a king with his army come up and encamp against the house of the sanctuary of the Lord.” -Targum Yonatan
The eagle is a bird of prey and is used as a figure for invading rulers and their empires (Eze. 17:3; Deut. 28:49). This is misinterpreted by the majority of Christian scholars as referring to the Assyrian invasion. This cannot be the case because the Assyrians did not take Jerusalem and defile the Temple (House of the LORD).
The rabbinical interpretation rightly concludes that this is prophetic of the Babylonian invasion when Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 17) would destroy the Temple in 586 BCE. Therefore, the warning reaches beyond the exile of the northern tribes to the exile of all Israel including Judah and Benjamin.
“And say, ‘Thus says the LORD GOD; A great eagle with great wings, long winged, full of feathers, which had divers colours, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar:” -Ezekiel 17:3
All this had been long since prophesied over Israel’s disobedience:
“The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand;” -Deuteronomy 28:49
“because the people have passed over, alienated My covenant, and against My Torah Instruction rebelled.” The reason for the warning is that Israel (the northern tribes) have ignored the covenant they have with YHVH (made at Sinai) and have wilfully rebelled against the Torah Instruction of YHVH. “Pasha” a Hebrew word for sin means “to miss the mark” and at its root denotes rebellion born of idolatry. This is significant because the beginning of this chapter addresses with warning the idolatry of the previous chapter.
2 Liy To Me Yisrael (overcome in God) yizaku cries, ‘Elohay My God, yeda’anucha we know You!’
The northern tribes claim to call on God as “My God”, “Our God”, but they do so while calling on many gods and while rejecting YHVH’s covenant and wilfully turning from his Torah. To this hypocrisy they add the self-incriminating phrase “we know you” denoting intimate knowledge of God. This is vile for two reasons, first, God has offered Israel faithful intimacy and they have spurned Him, and second, they have been consistently intimate with false gods, prostituting themselves before His face.
The Targum Yonatan interprets this as temporary, situational confession from the lips of the unrepentant:
"in every time that distress comes upon them, they pray before me, and say, now we know that we have no God besides thee; redeem us, for we are thy people Israel;'' -Targum Yonatan
Rav Shaul the Shaliach (Apostle) writes concerning hypocritical “Messianic Gentiles” who acted in a similar way. These gentile believers were demanding that other gentiles be circumcised in the flesh contrary to Shaul’s (Paul’s) teaching (Philippians 3). This same gentile circumcision cult were claiming to teach the things of God and to know God, but were in themselves detestable, disobedient, and worthless in God’s sight.
“10 For there are many rebellious people, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of [h]dishonest gain. 12 One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. For this reason reprimand them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” -Titus 1:10-16 (NIV)
Amos, another contemporary of Hosea, makes it clear that while Israel was claiming to Know YHVH she was practicing flagrant idolatry (Amos 2:4, 7-8; 3:14; 5:26).
3 Zanach Yisrael Israel has cast off, spurned, rejected tov good; oyeiyv an enemy yirdefov will pursue him.
“Israel has cast off, spurned, rejected good;” Good is not just a reference to a distinction in circumstance or flavour. Good is defined by the character of God. This is why Yeshua said “Why do you call me good, no one is good but God alone.” (Matt. 19:17; Mark 10:18). Therefore, this opening phrase is the poetic couplet which correlates to “rebelled against My Torah” (v.1). Some of our ancient rabbis rightly interpret this as “Israel has cast off and rejected God (Good Himself).”
“an enemy will pursue him.” This correlates to the “eagle” who is to come against all Israel including Judah and Benjamin. In fact there is a progression of eagles through Assyria (against the northern tribes) and on to Babylon (taking Judah and Benjamin into exile).
4 Heim They himlichu have set up kings ve’lo mimeniy that did not come from Me; heisiyru they appointed princes ve’lo yadaetiy not known by Me. Kaspam With silver uzehavam and gold asu they make lahem for themselves atzabiym idols/images lema’an for the purpose of yikareit cutting themselves off.
“They have set up kings that did not come from Me”
“They” refers to the northern tribes and the “kings” are all the kings of the north from Jeroboam I onward. Jeroboam I having set the stage for the idolatry of the north by setting up the calf idols of Bethel and Dan (1 Kings 12:25-33). The evidence that the kings did not “come from” (were not established) by God is manifest in their idolatrous and unrepentant behaviour. This is not to say that God was not in control but that He allowed their disobedience for a greater redemptive purpose.
Jeroboam I was allowed by the will of God to become king of the northern tribes, but was nonetheless crowned by the people without the express instruction of God, and without His counsel being sought by either rulers or people. God allowed but did not consent to the crowning of Jeroboam I. Therefore, the appointment of Jeroboam I was on the heads of the people themselves.
Many of Jeroboam’s (I) successors were conspirators, who set themselves up without the consent of either God or the people of the northern tribes. They plotted to overthrow others, and reigned after slaughtering them. This is true of Shallum, Menahem, Pekah, and Hoshea (the king, not the prophet).
Further still, the people of Israel had no right to choose a king for themselves; the right belonged to God alone; it was He that chose and appointed the kings of all Israel (Deut. 17:15): Saul, David, and Solomon, were all chosen and appointed by YHVH (1 Samuel 10:24).
The people of the north brought curse on all the kings of the northern tribes through their rejection of the line of David. By rejecting the throne of David they rejected the greater Son of David, the King Who was to come, the King Messiah.
“What share do we have in David?
We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse;
To your tents, Israel!
Now look after your own house, David!” -1 Kings 12:16 (NIV)
Jeroboam I had built up Shechem as his residence. Thus the connection to the rebuke of Hosea levelled against those practicing acts of perversity on their way to Shechem (Hosea 6:9).
“they appointed princes not known by Me” Here “known” does not negate knowledge of the princes, rather it reveals the fact that there was not an intimate connection between them and YHVH as there had been with Solomon and David. The key is that the princes were “appointed” by apostate people and not by God.
“With silver and gold they make for themselves idols/images for the purpose of cutting themselves off.” Their idolatry results in self-harm. Practically speaking idolatry makes waste of things which God has purposed for use while turning useful things into waste.
Isaiah another contemporary of Hosea, says:
“They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he makes it a god: they fall down, yes, they worship.” -Isaiah 46:6
5 Zanach Cast off, reject, spurn egleich your calf-idol Shomeron (Samaria, guarding/watch mountain) [alt. “Your calf-idol has been cast off Samaria” or "Your calf has cast you off"]! Charah Fury burns apiy in My nostrils bam against them. Ad-matay How long will they lo yuchelu refuse to overcome nikayon with innocence?
“Cast off, reject, spurn your calf-idol Samaria!” This connects the apostate kingship of the north through Jeroboam I to the calf idols established by him in the territory of Samaria in the towns of Bethel and Dan (1 Kings 12:28-33). It is worth noting that upon setting up these calf idols Jeroboam I had spoken the same words Aaron had spoken when setting up the calf deity at Sinai.
“So the king Jeroboam I consulted, and he made two golden calves; and he said to the people, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.’” -1 Kings 12:28
This can be read as “Your calf-idol has been cast off Samaria” or "Your calf has cast you off" Kimkhi and Ben Melekh understand this to mean that the false god has left the northern tribes in the lurch, it has forsaken them, and has removed itself. It can also mean that the calf will be carried away. In fact that is exactly what Hosea prophecies, indicating that the king of Assyria will do so (Hosea 10:5).
“Fury burns in My nostrils against them. How long will they refuse to overcome with innocence? The mention of snorting nostrils in the Hebrew denotes intimate fury. There is heartbreak in the expression and a sense of incredulity, though God is not capable of the human response, it is meant to be viewed with incredulity by the hearer/reader. A shocking indictment. Israel, knowing the way of innocence revealed through covenant and Torah, nonetheless wilfully refuse it to their own harm.
6 Kiy For miYisrael from Israel vehu charash asahu he (the calf idol) is made by a craftsman; ve’lo and it is not elohiym a god/judge. Hu he (the calf idol) kiy-shevaviym will be splintered, powdered yihyeh it will happen egel to that calf of Shomeron (Samaria, guarding/watch mountain).
“For it was Israel’s doing; It was only made by a joiner, It is not a god. No, the calf of Samaria shall be reduced to splinters!” -Hosea 8: 6 Sefaria translation
“For from Israel he (the calf idol) is made by a craftsman.” This is an important phrase which emphasizes the fact that the calf idol is not an assimilated deity from the Canaanites or from other foreign cults but is an invention of Israel, from Sinai to Samaria (Bethel and Dan) the calf idol is the sole responsibility of Israel. The idea for the calf idol may have originally been borrowed from the Egyptians who had a cult that worshipped a living ox or cow, however the allusion here is to the fact that it was gold and silver of Israel moulded by a member of the northern tribes that was crafted into the calf idols of Bethel and Dan.
With prophetic irony the calf idol of which Jeroboam I had said “behold your gods…” is called “not a god!”
“he (the calf idol) will be splintered, it will happen to that calf of Shomeron (Samaria, guarding/watch mountain).” The calf idol, not a god, will provide no protection, it will not guard the mountain of guardians (Shomeron), it will be splintered like a breaking beam, pulverised into powder.
The commentator Yarchi says that in ancient Aramaic (Syriac) “shevaviym” signifies, beams, planks, and boards, and pieces of them falling as dust. The Targum and Ben Meleckh agree in accordance with rabbinical teaching. The inference being that the calf idol of Samaria will be ground to fine dust and the northern tribes made to drink it mixed with water just as the golden calf was ground to powder by Moses, and all those who sinned in it were made to drink the powder mixed with water. The symbolism of the act conveys the reality that idolatry is self-harm.
7 “Kiy For ruach a wind yizrau they have sown vesufatah and a whirlwind yiktzoru they will reap. Kamah eiyn-lo The standing grain does not tzemach bud, fruit; beliy wearing out it will not ya’aseh produce kemach flour. Ulay ya’aseh If perhaps it yields grain, zariym strangers yivlahu would swallow it down.
“For a wind they have sown and a whirlwind they will reap.” The wind produced by the voice of idolatrous worship has reaped the much greater whirlwind of God’s prophetic judgement at the hand of Assyria and then Babylon.
“The standing grain does not bud, fruit; wearing out it will not produce flour.” The grain barely grew tall enough to produce ears sufficient for grinding flour.
“If perhaps it yields grain, strangers would swallow it down.” Even if the crop were to produce grain the tribes of the north will not consume it, rather it will be eaten by the invading armies of Assyria.
8 Nivla Yisrael (overcomes in God/the Judge) is swallowed up; now she hayu has become bagoyim in the nations kichliy like a vessel eiyn-chefetz none delight in.
Like swallowed grain Israel (northern tribes) will be swallowed up by the invading Assyrian armies. As a result of her exile she will become known among the nations as a worthless vessel, a jug with cracks in it, a tool with a blunt edge, without value, devoid of purpose, and without place.
9 Kiy For they have alu gone up to Ashur (Assyria, a step) pere a wild donkey bodeid wandering alone. Efrayim (doubly fruitful) hitnu has hired herself out ahaviym to lovers.
A wild donkey wanders aimlessly and is vulnerable as prey to lions.
The kings (Ephraim) of the northern tribes have sought help from the Assyrians, paying them tribute (Menachem 2 kings 15:19, Hoshea 2 Kings 17:3) and courting their power like prostitutes trying to sleep their way to a position of higher social status and strength.
10 Gam Also kiy because yitnu they have hired themselves out bagoyim in the nations, now akabetzem they gather together. Vayacheilu and defile, pollute themselves me’at becoming a little thing mimasa from the burden Melekh of a king sariym of princes.
The gathering of the northern tribes refers to them being gathered for captivity. They intensify the fruit of their idolatrous sin and as a result are weakened and become subject to a king who is over many princes (an allusion to the king of Assyria Isaiah 10:8).
11 “Kiy-hirbah For Efrayim mizbechot has made many altars lachato for sin (offerings), hayu-lo which have become mizbechot altars lachato for sinning.
The northern kings, first inspired by Jeroboam’s (I) idolatrous act (calf idols), have syncretised the practice of sin offerings from the Torah with the altars of false gods and the worship of the calf idols. Thus the offerings that might have covered their sin have in fact become additional sin of an abhorrent nature.
How many “altars”, both physical and metaphorical, have been built in “Church” communities throughout the world? Altars built as places to repent and receive forgiveness for sin by connecting to the Gospel message, that have instead been turned into altars of sinful practice. The list is long:
· “Church” Buildings costing millions, while the people of the community struggle for work and the sick and poor go unaided
· Popular “Christian” music proliferated and profited from by secular record companies that own smaller “Christian” record labels. The money of believer’s being used to fund immoral secular agendas
· Famous pastors, prophets, authors and worship leaders, followed as heroes to the point of idolatry
· “Christian” psychology intended to help and mature believers, nonetheless fallen prey to secular psychological philosophies that contradict and distort the message of Scripture. Places where people come for help from godly men and women who should be pointing them to God’s strength in their time of need, but instead encourage them to trust in their own mental strength, and promise the self-empowerment to overcome (that empowerment being from the poisoned well of secular self-help doctrines
· The list goes on and on…
12 Echtov-lo I wrote for them kemov-ribov the many things Toratiy of my Instruction (Torah), zar nechshavu but they thought of them as a foreign thing.
Here God refers to His Torah which Israel had treated like the spiritual writings of another people, written in a foreign language, an alien thing that had no connection to them. They had spurned the love letter of the Creator to His creation, given to and through the nation Whom He had chosen and called to be a light to others.
“I constantly reprimand them through My prophets, and write for them the great things of My Law, but they are considered a strange thing.” -Rashi
13 Zivcheiy They offer sacrifices havhavay as gifts to Me, yizbechu they sacrifice vasar flesh vayocheilu and they eat it, YHVH (Mercy) the Lord lo does not ratzam accept them.
The offered sacrifices may have included offerings which were to be eaten only by the priests (Levites)[Lev. 6:24-26]. These offerings were apparently being eaten by those who should not eat them. Additionally it is possible that the priests were acting in a similar way to the sons of Eli, taking the fat that should have been burned as the LORD’s portion, and instead eating it themselves (1 Samuel 2:15-17).
Of course, the priests of the north included men from tribes other than Levi, meaning that all offerings brought to God by them were apostate based on the requirements of the Torah.
Ultimately, the reason the offerings were not accepted was because there was no genuine repentance, no real willingness to obey YHVH.
“21 This is what the Lord of armies, the God of Israel says: “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat flesh. 22 For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them on the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. 23 But this is [h]what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you shall walk [i]entirely in the way which I command you, so that it may go well for you.’ 24 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked by their own advice and in the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and they [j]went backward and not forward.” -Jeremiah 7:21-24 (NIV)
Now yizkor he will remember avonam their perverse depravities. Veyifkod and visit chatotam their sins (missing the mark, uncleanness, offenses) upon them: Hemah They yashuvu Mitzrayim will return to Egypt (double distress).
God is just and must punish perversity. The disobedience of Israel will result in a return to bondage (Egypt) for the purpose of discipline and return to God.
14 Vayishkach Yisrael And Israel (overcomes in God/the Judge) has forgotten, ignored, wilfully turned from et-Oseihu their specific Maker vayiven and built heiychalot temples (to false gods);
The Targum reads “and built temples to idols”.
No one forgets a lover except by wilful avoidance. Israel had turned her back on her Husband (YHVH), Who was also her Creator. Like an adulterous and hateful wife she had sought other lovers (idolatry).
Israel (the northern tribes) had sought strength in other gods (idolatry).
Y’hudah (praise) hirbah has become great, multiplying ariym betzurot fenced cities (excitement). Veshilachtiy-eish But I will send fire be’arayv in his cities ve’achelah and devour armenoteyah the palaces.”
Where Israel (the northern tribes) had sought strength in other gods (idolatry), Judah had trusted in his own strength (idolatry). But fire from God would devour them and burn away the weak strength of those temporary things they had trusted in. Historically speaking Jerusalem would be burned by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (Jeremiah 52:13).
Messiah follower, do we pass judgement on those who worship idols while trusting in our own intellect, physical strength, talents, finances, emotional intelligence, qualifications, righteousness? If so, we are hypocrites and idolaters.
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
Mental assent to returning is not enough, part of faith in action is repentance in action. In fact, devoid of repentance in action faith is worthless.
Verses 13-15 of the previous chapter speak of the sickness (wounds) of Ephraim and Judah and their tearing apart as prey to HaShem (likened to a Lion and a Young Llion). The chapter concludes with a redemptive promise concerning a state of distress, that results in genuine repentance before the LORD. As we continue, we see the counterpoints to wounding and tearing in the healing and binding (bandaging) of Ephraim and Judah described in the first verse of the current chapter.
1“Le’chu, let’s walk ve’nashuvah and return el YHVH (Mercy) to the Lord.
Kiy For Hu He has taraf torn, ve’yirpaeinu He will heal us; He has yach struck, veyachbesheinu He will bind (bandage) us.
1“Come, let’s return to the Lord.
For He has torn us, but He will heal us;
He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
a. “Let us return” is the repentant cry that activates the promised mercy.
b. “LORD”, and the multiple repetitions of “He” establish for the reader (hearer) the Omnipotence of God.
c. “He has torn” and “He has wounded” regard the practical discipline of the LORD which intends to provoke godly sorrow and repentance.
d. “He will heal” and “He will bind” regard His healing work within the spirit and His touch of restoration in the physical.
This opening phrase is pretexted in the Targum Yonatan by the words, “They shall say” referring to those in distress (5:15) in the preceding verse. The Targum reads:
“They shall say ‘Let us return to the worship of the LORD.”
What is certain is that the voice is human and Israelite, a call from one or more of the people to the collective asking all to return to YHVH.
“Let’s walk” has both a physical application and a spiritual one. Halakhah (the way we walk) is the practical outworking of faith that is determined by the inner conviction of the soul.
The Hebrew does not say “Come let’s return” but “Let’s walk and return”. The text is enforcing the idea that mental assent to returning is not enough, part of faith in action is repentance in action. In fact, devoid of repentance in action faith is worthless.
Rashi says that the Hebrew “yach” is present tense and the text therefore reads, “He strikes us, He binds us up.”
It is YHVH Who both destroys and makes alive:
“See now that I, I am He, and no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither can any deliver out of My hand.” -Devarim (Deut.) 32:39
“Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD binds up the breach of his people, and heals the stroke of their wound.” -Yishayahu (Isaiah) 30:26
The Hebrew chabash (bind) is often used to refer to bandaging wounds and should not be presumed to refer to restraint. Misunderstanding this for example leads many to misinterpret Yeshua’s revelation to Peter and the disciples regarding their role as gatekeepers of the kingdom and the authority to bind and loose (Matt. 16:15-19).
Iben Ezra alludes to the fact that the ancient practice of binding wounds included softening the wound with oil prior to binding it. There is a significant link to the work of the Holy Spirit in the healing process.
2 Yechayeinu He will give us life mi-yomayim from two days; bayom in the day hashliyshiy the third yekimeinu He will raise us up, ve’nichyeh that we may live lepanayv before His face.
2 He will revive us after two days;
He will raise us up on the third day,
That we may live before Him.
a. “Two days” and “third day” refer to the progression of a grouping of days, and coupled with “revive” denote the temporal restoration of the people, and “raise” their resurrection.
b. “That we may live before Him” reveals both the outcome and the One Who made the outcome possible.
As I have stated elsewhere in my commentary the repetition of terms in Hebrew poetic phrasing such as this intends synonymous or intrinsically linked ideas. This gives emphasis to the same concept by repeating it in multiples.
The progression of days from two to three denotes two points, the first referring to a revival (awareness) and the second, a final resurrection (life being the result). The revival refers to the first coming of Messiah which occurred following the two figurative (days) captivities of Israel (Egyptian captivity, and Babylonian exile) and the conclusion of the third day refers to that time yet future when Messiah will return and the revival of the entire Jewish people (Israel) will occur convergent with the resurrection of the latter days. This is consistent with the commentary of Kimchi who makes a correlation between these verses and the three captivities of Egypt, Babylon and the present diaspora. Kimchi notes that the Jewish people await Ben Melekh (Son of a king) the Messiah Who will raise us up and bring us comfort.
Therefore, the obvious implication is that the future revival of Israel is intrinsically connected to a resurrection that occurs after three days, and the result of that miraculous event will be that Israel is able to live before God’s face in intimate relationship. Put plainly, Messiah Yeshua will revive us in three (historical, figurative) days (through His death and resurrection) and make it possible for us to be forgiven and restored to intimate holy relationship with YHVH the God of Israel.
The Targum Yonatan reads:
"He will quicken us in the days of consolation which are to come, and in the day of the resurrection of the dead he will raise us up;''
Ultimately, what we are reading here is the promise of God to restore all chosen, ethnic, religious, empirical Israel (the modern Jewish people descended from Yaakov) to Himself through the death and resurrection of the Jewish King Messiah Yeshua (Romans 11:15-36)
3 Veneidah And learn to know nirdefah following after lada’at to know et-YHVH the particular Lord. Keshachar Like the dawn nachaon firmly established motzau is His going forth; veyavo And He will come chageshem like the rain lanu to us, kemalkosh as the latter rain, yoreh as spring rain aretz upon land.”
3 So let’s learn, let’s press on to know the Lord.
His appearance is as sure as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
As the spring rain waters the earth.”
a. “Learn to know” and “press on to know” establish the need for repentant people to apply the knowledge of God.
b. “The LORD”, “His appearance” and “He will come” are supported by the physical reality of the rising sun, the seasonal cycle, and the perpetual precipitation of the created order.
The Sefaria English translation renders the Hebrew “ve’neidah” (and learn to know) as “obedience”. The knowledge being spoken of here is applied knowledge.
In ancient times the seasons were understood to have an almost immutable quality. Therefore, when Hebrew poetic/prophetic language likens the appearance of God to the dawn and to the rains that provide living waters to the land, it is saying that God’s coming to His people with healing and revival is certain, firmly established. His love and intimate knowledge of His creation is, for the creation, as reliable as the rising sun, the seasonal cycle, and the perpetual precipitation of the created order.
Iben Ezra focuses on the fact that it is knowledge of the Holy Name YHVH that will bring about Israel’s truly holy state of being. He is in fact, without knowing it, referring to the revelation of Yeshua the King Messiah.
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved.” -Acts 4:12 NASB
"we shall know him, and it will be as clear to us as the light of the morning without clouds:'' -Yosef Kimchi
4 Mah What e’eseh-lecha shall I fashion with you, Efrayim (doubly fruitful)? Mah What e’eseh-lecha shall I fashion with you, Y’hudah (praise)? Vechasdechem And your kindness, faithfulness, practical love ka’anan-boker is like a morning cloud, vechatal night mist mashkiym that rises early and holeich goes away quickly.
4 What shall I do with you, Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, Judah?
For your loyalty is like a morning cloud,
And like the dew which goes away early.
a. “Ephraim” the northern kingdom.
b. “Judah” the southern kingdom.
c. “Ephraim” and “Judah” are all the tribes of Israel combined.
d. “Loyalty” as a single quality is in this case perpetually unreliable “morning cloud”, “dew”, and “goes away early”.
Sadly Israel’s good intentions did not last. HaShem’s response points out the hypocrisy of Israel’s claim to have understood her need to seek Him in true knowledge and thus be sure of His mercy. The response of God to His people is worded in such a way as to expose their hypocrisy as verbal assent to an idea rather than the application of true repentance. Whereas God’s coming in mercy is as reliable as the dawn, all Israel’s so called “loyalty” is as reliable as a quickly evaporating morning cloud/mist, like the dew which lasts only until the sun has risen.
God’s light exposes the brevity of Israel’s so called “repentance”.
5 Al-kein Therefore chatzavtiy I have quarried them baneviyiym by the prophets; haragtiym the slayings are be’imreiy-fiy in the speaking of My mouth; umishpateycha and the judgments on you or are a light yeitzei going forth.
5 Therefore I have cut them in pieces by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of My mouth;
And the judgments on you are like the light that [b]shines.
a. “Cut” and “slain” refer to established discipline following fair warning.
b. “Prophets” and “Words of My mouth” are intrinsically linked.
c. “Judgements” and “light shining forth” denote a clear and just revelation and manifest application of God’s discipline. Remembering that His Mercy precedes His judgement and is the fruit of it.
The prophets of God (Amos, Micah, Isaiah, Hosea) had been filled with and had publicly proclaimed the Word of YHVH as a means of quarrying out the righteous remnant from among the worthless rock of the wider community. The Word of YHVH will manifest in the physical, coming to pass with the slaying of the wicked and the revelation that His judgement is righteous, and is seen by all.
6 Kiy For chesed kindness, faithfulness, practical love chafatztiy I delight in, velo and not zavach sacrifice, ve’da’at And the knowledge of Elohiym (God, Judge) meiolot from whole burnt offerings.
6 For I [c]desire loyalty rather than sacrifice,
And the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
a. “Kindness, practical love” and “the knowledge (intimacy) of God the Judge” link intimate knowledge with relational love in their applied forms.
b. “Sacrifice” and “burnt offerings” here refer to defiled sacrifice and apostate offerings.
As I understand the Hebrew text the best reading of it is: “For kindness, faithfulness, practical love I delight in, and not (defiled) sacrifice, and knowledge of God, the Judge from whole burnt offerings.”
In short, this is not saying that God desires faithfulness and knowledge of Him in place of sacrifice and offering but that faithful love for Him is better than defiled sacrifices, and knowledge of Him is evidenced in the right application of burnt offerings.
The sacrifices and burnt offerings being spoken of here are the defiled and syncretised sacrifices mixing worship of YHVH with other gods. This text is not contradicting the Torah sacrificial system, nor is it saying that properly offered sacrifices and offerings are unpleasing to God, to the contrary, loyalty to God and knowledge of Him result in appropriate sacrifice and offering. In Messiah we are instructed to offer our body’s as a living sacrifice to God, and in whatever we do, be it word or deed, to do it in the name, identity, and character of the Lord Yeshua our Messiah, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3:17).
7 Veheimah And in the same way ke’adam as Adam (the first man) averu they have missed the mark, violated the veriyt covenant; sham there bagedu they have acted deceitfully viy toward Me.
7 But like [d]Adam they have violated the covenant;
There they have dealt treacherously with Me.
a. “Adam” and “dealt treacherously” are the couplet that reminds the reader/hearer of humanity’s decision to disobey God and allow sin to enter the world and death with it.
b. “Violated the covenant” and “Me” show the connection between the covenant Maker God and those who enter into covenant (agreement) with Him.
“Like Adam” does not mean that Adam the first man violated a written or blood atoned covenant, no such covenant was made between God and Adam. Covenant is used here in the sense of the root meaning of “bara” (cutting, eating, agreement) and denoting agreement between two persons or groups of people. In Adam’s case he and Chavah ate of the fruit of garden in agreement with the Creator. Through relationship this agreement (covenant) was implied, thus by eating of the fruit which they had agreed (covenanted) not to eat, they broke covenant with God.
In the same way that the first man and subsequently mankind have chosen to act by missing the mark (which is what the Hebrew “averu” means), of The Covenant established by God’s all existing holiness (predates Exodus 19:5, Torah), Israel has despised the written covenant of Sinai.
We note that the covenant entered into at Sinai at the revealing of the Torah of HaShem was unanimously agreed to by the people of Israel (Exodus 24:3). We further observe that the Torah was given as the physical, written and lasting measure by which sin is exposed. The Torah is a legal document that is therefore used to indict sinners. God’s holiness is all existing and is the ultimate reference point for determining Good from Evil. Therefore, the measure by which we determine Good and Evil predates the written Torah and makes Adam (the first man, and humanity as a whole) culpable in regard to the choice to sin against God’s holiness (the mark).
“There” refers to the land of Israel and may infer a correlation between the sin of Ephraim and Judah to that sin which occurred in the valley of Achor (named after the sin of Achan who stole items dedicated to destruction from the ruins of Jericho; Joshua 7). We note that it is God’s intention to turn the valley of Achor (trouble) into a door of hope (Hosea 2:15).
God had brought the tribes of Israel, from Egypt, to Sinai (Covenant of Torah) and into ha-aretz (the Land). Therefore, having been delivered from captivity, given covenant law and carried into a land of abundance, Israel, once comfortable in the land had dealt treacherously with the One Who had given them all this.
“In a good land where I settled them, there they betrayed Me, like Adam, whom I brought into the Garden of Eden, and he transgressed My commandment. [from Gen. Rabbah]” -Rashi
"and in the good land, which I gave unto them to do my will, they have dealt falsely with my word.'' -Targum Yonatan
8 Gil’ad (witness heap) kiryat is a city po’aleiy of makers of aven iniquity, wickedness, idolatry. akubah insidious, slippery, polluted midam from blood.
8 Gilead is a city of wrongdoers,
Tracked with bloody footprints.
a. “Gilead” meaning “witness heap” testifies as a witness against its own vile sin.
b. “Iniquity” is linked to “slippery blood” an denotes a city in which murder and idolatrous sacrifices have resulted in the shedding of so much blood that the ground is slippery with it.
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 polluting of blood 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].
9 Uchechakeiy And like robbers lying in wait for iysh a man gedudiym as a group, chever a company kohaniym of priests yeratztzechu commit murder on the way to Shechmah (Shechem, shoulder/back); kiy Surely zimah (premeditation) they have planned asu to fashion evil.
9 And as a band of robbers lie in wait for a person,
So a band of priests murder on the way to Shechem;
Certainly they have committed an act of infamy.
a. “robbers” and “priests” are seen as synonymous.
b. “lie in wait” and “way to Shechem” are considered synonymous.
This verse describes priests who acting like robbers not only murder others on their way to make sacrifices (perform religious acts), but do so with premeditation. Therefore, they have exceeded even the depravity of the godless nations that surrounded Israel. They have not stumbled upon evil, they have planned it.
“On the way to Shechem” can be understood to refer to those who are murdered. They are those who are passing through Shechem on their way to Jerusalem to worship the LORD at one of the Regaliym/Aliyot (going up festivals: Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot).
Some understand the verse to read “As a band of robbers wait to pounce on a person, so priests are murdered on the way to Shechem, certainly they have planned to do this evil.”
*We note that Shechem was also a city of refuge and that the blood guilt on the city of Ramot-Gilead is extended to Shechem and the priests associated with that city.
Shechem rests in the valley between Mt Ebal (bald) and Mt Gerizim (Cuttings off) where the Curses (Ebal) and Blessings (Gerizim) were pronounced over Israel as she entered the land (Deut. 11:29; 27; 28; Joshua 8:30-35).
10 Be’beiyt In the house Yisrael (overcome in God) raiytiy I have seen sha’aruriyah an opening to horror, dread, storm; sham there zenut fornication, harlotry le’Efrayim to Ephraim, nitma uncleanness, defilement in Yisrael.
10 In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing;
Ephraim’s infidelity is there, Israel has defiled itself.
a. “House of Israel” and “Ephraim” join the northern tribes to the house from which their kingship had originated.
b. “Horrible thing”, “Infidelity (sexual sin)” and “defiled herself” link the abhorrent sight of sexual sin to its repercussions. Thus, as mentioned in my commentary prior to this, sexual sin is self-harm.
The horror in Israel resulting from her infidelity, mixes idolatry and sexual sin. The calves set up at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:25-33) mirrored the calf worshipped at the foot of Sinai (Exodus 32) and represented the ultimate affront to the covenant of YHVH. The spiritual fornication of the worship of false gods overflowed into physical sexual immorality and was mingled with the blood of the innocent in orgies of vile apostate religion. All this Israel had chosen while wilfully turning her back on HaShem.
11 Gam Also, Y’hudah, shat there is set katziyr a harvest lach for you, beshuviy in My returning you shevut from captivity Amiy My people.
11 Also, Judah, there is a harvest appointed for you,
When I restore the fortunes of My people.
a.“Judah” is not immune to sin, there is a judgement coming upon the southern kingdom also (Babylonian exile). However, “Harvest” represents both judgement outworked and redemption made full.
b.“Return” the LORD will return Judah from exile.
The meaning of this verse is beautifully complex and denotes both judgement (Harvest: Joel 3:13; Matt. 13:30-39) and salvation (Harvest: Isaiah 9:3; Luke 10:2; Matt.9:38) through returning (repentance).
The English translation “When I restore the fortunes of My people” is ineffective. The Hebrew text literally reads “In My returning you from captivity My people”. The Hebrew is saying, “When I personally return you through judgement and harvest from captivity, you My people.”
We note that both the harvest of judgement and the harvest of returning are associated to Judah specifically and will benefit all Israel. In other words, the judgement and restoration will come through Judah. This initially refers to the Babylonian exile and the subsequent return of all the tribes of Israel to Judea where they collectively become known as Y’hudim (Jews). However, it ultimately refers to the deliverance of Israel from sin through the King Messiah born of Judah, and the fullness of the redemption of all ethnic, chosen, religious, empirical Israel through Yeshua at the end of days (Romans 11:15-36).
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
It’s not true to say only that “All things work together for good”, a part truth is a lie. What is true is that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28; cf. Eph. 1:11). Neither “things” nor “works” themselves are the cause, rather, they are the substance moulded by the cause, and the cause proceeds from God.
1Shimu-zot Hear, listen, receive, understand this, ha-kohaniym you the priests!
Ve’hakshiyvu and pay attention, be attentive, heed, incline your ears beiyt Yisrael house of Israel! Uveiyt ha-melekh And house of the king ha’azinu give ear, listen, harken, be obedient! Kiy For lachem upon you hamishpat is the judgment, kiy because you have been a pach bird trap le’Mitzpah at Mizpah (look out, watch point, watchtower), vereshet and a net perusah spread out, breaking in pieces al-Tavor (mound, breaking) on Tabor (Mt Tabor).
1Hear this, you priests!
Pay attention, house of Israel!
Listen, you of the house of the king!
For the judgment applies to you,
Because you have been a trap at Mizpah,
And a net spread out on Tabor.
a. “Hear… Pay attention… Listen” are a trifold admonishment in response to Israel’s wilful decision to block her ears, ignore and refuse to listen to God.
b. “You priests” is spoken to the illegitimate priests of the north but also regards Israel being a nation of priests called by God (Exodus 19:6) and finds its triplet in the “house of Israel” and the “house of the king”. Each of the three were responsible for maintaining justice: a. Priest [Godly, spiritual justice] b. Israel [social justice] c. King [justice of governance].
c. “House of the king” could refer to HaShem as King [the King], or to the king of Judah, linking to the reference to Judah in verse 5, it could also be a reference to Menachem [the then king of the north] or a symbolic reference to Jeroboam: of Ephraim, as first king of the north).
d. “Judgement” corresponds to “a trap” and “a net”.
e. The two locations of “Mizpah” and “Tabor” are mentioned as locations relating to Israel’s idolatrous sin against God. They mark two places where idolatry was being practiced, a reference to high places of occult worship. They may also have been look out stations intended to prevent members of the northern tribes from going up to Jerusalem to worship (Rashi).
“Hear this you priests”
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
We could read “Hear this you illegitimate priests!”
“incline your ears house of Israel! And house of the king give ear”
The distinction made by admonishing the “house of Israel” and the “house of the king” could mean that God is addressing both the northern tribes and Judah (Benjamin). The remaining verses and the greater context makes this the most likely interpretation. However, as stated in the points above regarding the poetic mechanisms, there are at least two other possible interpretations.
“For upon you is the judgment, because you have been a bird trap at Mizpah (look out, watch point, watchtower), and a net spread out, breaking in pieces (mound, breaking) on Tabor.”
Bird traps and the like are used in Scripture as a metaphor of the practices of the wicked in entrapping innocent people (Job 18:8-10; Psalm 140:5; Proverbs 29:5; Lamentations 1:13). This adds weight to Rashi’s assertion that Mizpah and Tabor were look outs intended to prevent members of the northern tribes from going up to worship in Jerusalem.
Mizpah could be one of two places: 1. Mizpah in Gilead east of the Jordan (Genesis 31:43-49) 2. Mizpah in Benjamin (1 Samuel 7:5-6; 10:17). Given the historical context it seems more likely that Mizpah in Benjamin is being alluded to, making the indictment equally against the northern and southern kingdoms. However, Rashi infers that both locations were in the northern kingdom and were high points where look outs were placed to prevent members of the northern tribes from going up to Jerusalem to worship.
“On these two mountains they stationed sentries so that Israel would not make the pilgrimage to the Temple.” -Rashi
Regardless, as a result of her occult and idolatrous practices on the high places of Mizpah and Tabor, the northern kingdom and perhaps Benjamin (Mizpah: 1 Samuel 7:5-6; 10:17) have set a trap for all residents of Israel (and Judah) and have caused a breaking out of violence and debauchery that has permeated through the entire northern region and as a result has overflowed into Judah.
Mizpah means “look out” and Tabor “breaking”. Thus, both Israel (northern kingdom) and Judah have invited demonic false deities to have access to the north (Tabor) and south (Mizpah). They have done this by a. preventing those who wish to come to worship at the God appointed location of the temple mount and b. by worshipping other deities in syncretism with their worship of HaShem.
There is a warning here for all who believe. When we compromise the clear instruction of God and in turn allow other forms of worship to converge with our faith practice, we too invite demonic influence, and if we leave these things unaddressed, that influence becomes a stronghold with the potential to lead us to destruction.
2 Veshachatah And the slaughter seitiym of the rebels he’miyku has gone deep,
va’aniy And I musar will discipline lechulam all of them. 3 Aniy yadatiy I know Efrayim (doubly fruitful), veYisrael and Israel (Overcome in El) lo-nichchad is not hidden/cut off mimeniy from Me; kiy for now nitma unclean, impure Efrayim (doubly fruitful), has been, as has Israel.
2 And the rebels have gone deep in [a]depravity,
But I will discipline all of them.
3 I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hidden from Me;
Because now, Ephraim, you have been unfaithful,
Israel has defiled itself.
a. “Depravity” is the fruit of “Rebellion”, and a loving God disciplines the ones He loves.
b. “Ephraim” and “Israel” (northern tribes) are synonymous terms. The northern tribes are neither hidden nor cut off from HaShem YHVH (Mercy).
c. “Unfaithfulness (in particular, sexual unfaithfulness)” is “Self-defilement”.
“the slaughter of the rebels has gone deep”
Iben Ezra calls them “those idolaters, revolters, or worshippers of Baal.”
This refers to the fruit of idolatrous blood sacrifices. Both the spiritual and physical implications have found their way into the depths of societal and individual consciousness.
“The extent of their straying they have deepened. I said that anyone who does not go up to Jerusalem on the Pilgrimage festivals transgresses a positive commandment, and they decreed that anyone who does go up to Jerusalem shall be put to death. Hence, they went deeper than I. I.e., they were more stringent than I (Sanhedrin 102a).” -Rashi
“I will discipline all of them”
“All of them” refers to all who have sinned. God is just, those who are part of the righteous remnant will go into exile along with the wicked but will be kept set apart from the punishment of the wicked.
“I know Efrayim, and Israel is not hidden/cut off from Me;”
“I know” is an intimate phrase denoting God’s relationship to Ephraim. “Not hidden” is an affirmation of God’s intimate knowledge of Israel and is a reminder of His All Knowing (omniscient) nature.
“Until Hosea son of Elah, they blamed their sins on their kings, who prevented them from going on the pilgrimages. This one arose and abolished the sentries; yet they did not go up. Therefore, they were exiled. For now you have committed harlotry, O Ephraim, and they cannot blame the king. I learned this in Seder Olam [Order of the world] (ch. 22).” -Rashi
4 Lo yitnu Nothing will be given them ma’aleiyhem from their deeds, lashuv to return el-Eloheiyhem to their God. Kiy For ruach a spirit, wind, breath of zenuniym prostitution, adultery, fornication bekirbam is within them, ve’et-YHVH and the particular YHVH (Mercy) lo yadau they do not know.
4 Their deeds will not allow them
To return to their God.
For a spirit of [b]infidelity is within them,
And they do not know the Lord.
a. “Their deeds” and “infidelity” are connected to a spirit (demonic) of infidelity which has gained access through the perpetual nature of their sin.
b. Their ability to “return to” is corrupted by the fact that they “do not know”.
“Nothing will be given them from their deeds, to return to their God.”
The fruit of idolatry does not lead to repentance. To the contrary, an awareness of God’s holiness exposes sin and leads to godly sorrow and returning. It’s not true to say only that “All things work together for good”, a part truth is a lie. What is true is that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28; cf. Eph. 1:11). Neither “things” nor “works” themselves are the cause, rather, they are the substance moulded by the cause, and the cause proceeds from God.
Persistent intentional sin, the decision to make sin a lifestyle, eventually leads a person to a place where repentance is impossible (Jeremiah 13:23; Hebrews 6:4-6).
“For a spirit, wind, breath of prostitution, adultery, fornication is within them,”
Israel, through perpetual and intentional sin has opened the door of her inner self to the demonic and the demonic has taken up residence “within” her. All of this is a result of her wilful ignorance of God:
“They do not know the LORD”
This is because they have refused to know Him. In one sense this is consistent with the sexual sin metaphor, in that they have rejected intimacy with their Husband and have “known” (in the Biblical sense: sexually) other husbands (false gods, foreigners, strangers).
They have sinned both corporeally and spiritually by practicing orgies of worship before false deities, on the high places that God had commanded them not to worship at.
5 Ve’anah and testifies, geon-Yisrael the pride of Israel befanayv in his face,
ve’yisraeil and Israel ve’Efrayim (doubly fruitful) and Ephraim yikashelu have stumbled, staggered ba’avonam in their depravity, iniquity, perversity; kashal stumbling gam-Y’hudah also Judah (praise) imam with them.
5 Moreover, the pride of Israel testifies against him,
And Israel and Ephraim stumble in their wrongdoing;
Judah also has stumbled with them.
a. The “pride of Israel”, “their wrong doing”, and the “stumbling” of Judah are a trifold indictment.
b. The sin itself (pride) is testifying against the sinner (Israel).
“and testifies, the pride of Israel in his face,”
The outworking of Israel’s pride is staring her in the face. Her sin is obvious to her. The use of the Hebrew befanayv denotes intimacy and affirms the idea of the previous verse that notes Israel’s intimacy with other lovers. One of her other lovers is her own pride.
“Israel and Ephraim have stumbled in their perversity…”
The Hebrew avon denotes vile perversity, the English (NASB) “wrong doing” is a benign translation. The imagery is of one who is caught in the quagmire of his own debasement, sin and death being both cause and effect.
“also Judah with them”
As evidenced by the repeated references to Judah, Israel (northern kingdom) are not alone in idolatrous practice (1:7; 3:5; 4:15; 5:5, 10, 12, 14; 6:11; 12:3). Judah has, of her own freewill chosen to adopt the idolatrous practices of Israel.
6 Betzonam With their flocks uvivkaram and herds yelechu they will walk (go out)
levakeish to seek et-YHVH (Mercy) the particular Lord, velo yimtzau and they will not find Him; chalatz He has withdrawn meihem from them.
6 They will go with their flocks and herds
To seek the Lord, but they will not find Him;
He has withdrawn from them.
a. “Flocks and herds” and “seek the LORD” qualify the flocks and herds as sacrificial animals intended for the covering of sin before YHVH.
b. “Will not find Him” and “withdrawn from them”, establish the fact that Israel’s intentional and perpetual idolatry has made it impossible, at this juncture, for her to find Him. They intend to defile the sacrifices commanded by God and as a result the sin sacrifices will be ineffective, leaving them incapable of reconciliation to YHVH, at this point in time.
“With their flocks and herds they will walk out”
“To seek the particular Lord, and they will not find Him; He has withdrawn from them.”
They intend to seek the LORD with syncretized worship practices. Therefore, He will not be found by them. It will be as if He has withdrawn from them. Grace and mercy are offered to all through blood covering but only the truly repentant can receive God’s free gift.
To seek to offer compromised sacrifices to YHVH in their situation was abhorrent (Isaiah 1:10-14; Amos 5:21-25; Micah 6:6-8). Note that when the prophets speak of God not wanting sacrifices and festivals they are not speaking of the proper observance of the LORD’s appointed times or the proper offering of sacrifices according to His Torah, but the syncretized, compromised observance of festivals and the offering of defiled sacrifices.
Rashi interprets “withdrawn” as “slipped off” and infers that God as Husband has removed Israel’s marital covering like the removal of a garment. This is consistent with the marriage metaphor.
“Heb. חָלַץ, slipped away. Comp. (2 Samuel 2:21) “and take to yourself his clothing (חֲלִצָתוֹ),” the clothing that you will slip off them.” -Rashi
This verse is not saying that Israel will never return to the LORD, but that she was unable to at that time. Elsewhere we are told that Israel will return to the LORD when she repents in the true integrity of her inner being (3:5; 5:15; Dt. 4:29—31; Jer. 29:13).
7 Ba-YHVH Against the LORD they have dealt bagadu treacherously,
Kiy For vaniym children zariym strangers yaladu they have given birth to.
Now yochlem chodesh the new moon/new month is devouring them et-chelkeiyhem with their portion, share, territory, possession.
7 They have dealt treacherously with the Lord,
For they have given birth to [c]illegitimate children.
Now the new moon will devour them with their [d]land.
a. “Dealt treacherously” finds its correlation in “given birth”.
b. “The LORD” and “illegitimate children” are connected phrases because a point is being made that Israel has birthed children of idolatrous practices and the children are therefore worshipping false gods because they are not the legitimate children of YHVH. In some cases the children in question are literally children born of the sexual union of Israelites and foreigners (idolaters).
“For children strangers they have given birth to…”
Israel had attributed the successful birth of her children to the Canaanite fertility god Ba’al and therefore have made Ba’al the father, making them legitimate children of Satan illegitimate children of Israel.
“the new moon/new month is devouring them with their portion, share, territory, possession.”
The desecration of the God appointed new moon celebration will become a sign of the punishment coming against Israel. The punishment will happen over a metaphorical month and she will be removed from her tribal territories and taken into captivity. Why, because the reason for the removal of the inhabitants of the land given to Israel, was their idolatrous behaviour (Lev. 20:23). Therefore, being a just God and Father, YHVH removes (temporarily) Israel for the same reason. However, being Israel’s Father YHVH intends this removal as temporal discipline and not permanent banishment (as some fools teach).
8 Tiku Blow shofar a ram’s horn ba-Givah in Gibeah (bowl, in the mountain district of Judea), And chatzotzerah the trumpet in ba-Ramah (high place, near to Gibeah).
Hariyu Shout, raise an alarm at Beit Aven (Beth-aven, House of vanity, wickedness, sorrow, iniquity): “Behind you, Benyamiyn (son of the right hand [strength])!”
8 Blow the horn in Gibeah,
And the trumpet in Ramah.
Sound an alarm at Beth-aven:
“Behind you, Benjamin!”
a. “Ram’s horn” and “Trumpet” are both instruments for calling the people. However, they serve different purposes in calling. The Ram’s horn is associated with the binding of Isaac (Gen. 22), the giving of the Torah (Ex. 19:16), the jubilee (Lev. 25:9), war & miracles (Jos. 6:4; Jdg. 6:34; 7:8) etc., whereas the silver trumpets were associated with the movement of the camp in the desert (Num. 10:2), the priesthood (Num. 10:8; 1 Ch. 15:24), worship (1 Ch. 13:8; 2 Ch. 5:12), and the coronation of kings (2 Ch. 23:11-13).
b. “Gibeah”, “Ramah”, and “Beth Aven” are all locations of idolatrous worship, two of which are in the territory of Benjamin (Gibeah and Ramah), and one on the border of Ephraim and Benjamin (Beth Aven), or, if Beth Aven and Bethel are the same place, then it is located in the territory of Benjamin just east of the border.
“Ram’s horn” (shofar) As stated, the ram’s horn is associated with the giving of the Torah (Ex. 19:16), the jubilee (Lev. 25:9), war & miracles (Jos. 6:4; Jdg. 6:34; 7:8) etc. And finds its true origin in the “binding of Isaac” (Gen. 22). Meaning that at its root it is the sound of redemption.
“Trumpet” (chatzotzerah, silver trumpet) As stated, is associated with the movement of the camp in the desert (Num. 10:2), the priesthood (Num. 10:8; 1 Ch. 15:24), worship (1 Ch. 13:8; 2 Ch. 5:12), and the coronation of kings (2 Ch. 23:11-13).
Therefore, all aspects of meaning associated with both instruments are denoted in the naming of them:
1. The Torah has found you wanting (Ex. 19:16).
2. You will not be in the land to celebrate the jubilee (Lev. 25:9).
3. War is at hand, but the power of God is levelled against you by way of punishment at the hand of the Assyrian Empire (Jos. 6:4; Jdg. 6:34; 7:8).
4. The camp is about to move, into exile (Num. 10:2).
5. Your compromised priesthood will fall (Num. 10:8; 1 Ch. 15:24).
6. There will be an end to your apostate worship (1 Ch. 13:8; 2 Ch. 5:12).
7. The north will see no more kings (2 Ch. 23:11-13).
“Gibeah” and “Ramah” are situated in the territory of Benjamin. This means that the alarm being sounded is a warning to Judah and in particular to Benjamin. The Assyrian invasion is immanent.
“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 Beth-Aven” -Hosea 4:15
Proximity is important. Benjamin had absorbed the practices of the northern tribes. “Bad company corrupts good character” (Proverbs 1:8-19; 1 Corinthians 15:33).
“Sound a shofar: [O prophets, raise your voices like a shofar.] The news of the sword which is coming as retribution for the iniquity of crowning Saul, who was in Gibeah, and for disobeying Samuel, who was from Ramah. And their kings caused them to turn away from following Me, such as Jeroboam and his ilk. Shout over them, ‘Violence and great destruction!’” -Targum Yonatan
Some claim that this warning refers to the Aramean/Syrian and Ephraimite war 734-733 BCE recorded in 2 Kings 16:5-9 and alluded to in Isaiah 7:1-9. This cannot be determined definitively.
9 Efrayim (doubly fruitful) le’shamah will become a horror bayom in the day tocheichah of correction; beshivteiy Among the tribes of Yisrael I make known what is ne’emanah to be established.
9 Ephraim will become a desolation in the day of rebuke;
Among the tribes of Israel I make known what is trustworthy.
a. “Ephraim” and “Israel” are in one sense synonymous, however, Ephraim is mentioned as a symbol of the kings of the north (Jeroboam of Ephraim being the first king of the north), whereas Israel encompasses all the tribes. Thus, all are culpable.
b. “made known” and “firmly established” are phrases denoting the obvious outcomes of Israel’s sin and the just indictment made against her to her face by YHVH.
The plain meaning denotes the exile of the northern tribes at the hand of the Assyrians. Their exile will be a horror to both the northern tribes, who endure it, and the southern tribes who observe it. Nonetheless, the southern tribes failed to heed the warning and were taken into exile in Babylon approximately a hundred years later.
“Said Rabbi Abahu in the name of Rabbi Yose bar Chanina. On the day that the Holy One, blessed be He, debates with them in judgment, they will not be able to open their mouths, for among their tribes I made known that the judgment is a true judgment. You find that, when the ten tribes were exiled, Benjamin and Judah were not exiled, and the ten tribes were saying, Because they are the dwellers of His palace, He did not exile them. There is favouritism in this matter. God forbid, there is no favouritism, but their measure of sin was not yet full. As soon as they sinned, they were exiled. Then the ten tribes were bewildered, without an answer in their mouths, and they said, “Behold God! Behold the Mighty One! Behold the Just One! For even to those who dwell in His house He shows no favouritism.” This is to fulfil what is stated: Among the tribes of Israel I made known a true judgment. [from Lam. Rabbah, Proem 6]” -Rashi
10 The sareiy princes of Y’udah have become kemasigeiy like those who remove gevul a boundary (territory) marker; aleiyhem on them eshpoch I will pour out kamayim evratiy My fury like water.
10 The leaders of Judah have become like those who displace a boundary marker;
On them I will pour out My anger like water.
Idolatry is also present in Judah, perhaps not yet to the same extent but it is nonetheless growing. The exile of the northern tribes is to be an unheeded warning and the sins of Judah are being called out. The indictment against Judah addresses a sin against all the tribes. The moving of territory markers which secure the tribal allotments assigned by HaShem.
The Torah forbids the moving of boundary stones because it is an act of stealing from another tribe and a desecration against Israel as a whole.
“You shall not displace your neighbor’s boundary marker, which the ancestors have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to [q]possess.” -Deuteronomy 19:14 NASB
“Cursed is the one who moves his neighbor’s landmark.” - Deuteronomy 27:17 NKJV
This sin is abhorrent to HaShem because it is in direct opposition to His provision of an inheritance for all Israel. It would be a king of Judah who would one day rule over all the tribes in the Messianic age, therefore, for the then kings and princes of Judah to be likened to those who remove boundary markers is to say they have dishonoured their role as protectors of the inheritance of Israel.
11 Efrayim (doubly fruitful) ashuk is oppressed, retzutz crushed mishpat by judgment,
Kiy Because hoiyl he was determined halakh to walk achareiy after tzav a command.
12 Va’aniy And I am cha’ash like a moth to Efrayim, ve’charakav and like decay leveiyt Y’hudah to the house of Judah.
11 Ephraim is oppressed, broken by judgment,
Because he was determined to follow [e]man’s command.
12 Therefore I am like a moth to Ephraim,
And like rottenness to the house of Judah.
a. Ephraim’s oppression is the result of following a command of men, or of Ba’al (as opposed to the commands of God).
b. Oppression is the fruit of human sin, whereas judgement (in this case) is of God, Elohiym (the Judge).
c. “Moth” and “Rottenness” progressively destroy and are the result of neglect. In Israel’s case they have neglected the Torah of YHVH and have instead followed the doctrines of men.
“Now why does he suffer with all this? Because he wished and desired and followed the new commands of the prophets of Baal.” -Rashi
13 When Efrayim saw chalyo his sickness, and Y’udah his et-mezoro particular wound,
Efrayim then went to Ashur (Assyria, a step) vayishlach And sent to Melekh Yarev a king of Jareb (Contender). But he is unable lirpo to heal lachem you, or to yigheh take away mikem from you mazior your wound.
13 When Ephraim saw his sickness,
And Judah his [f]sore,
Ephraim then went to Assyria
And sent word to [g]King Jareb.
But he is unable to heal you,
Or to cure you of your [h]sore.
a. “Sickness” and “wound” are the result of idolatry.
b. “Ephraim (northern tribes)” and “Judah (including Benjamin)”
c. The northern kings went to Tiglath Pileser II for help.
Despite the protests of revisionist liberal scholars both Jewish and Christian, there is clear evidence here of the Assyrian threat.
“King Jareb” or “king of Jareb” appears to be another name for Tiglath Pileser II whom Assyrian records say received a tribute paid by the Israelite (northern tribes) kings Menachem and Hoshea (2 Kings 15:19-20; 17:2). The reading “Of Jareb” would mean that he was a king of a province called Jareb rather than a king named Jareb. This is consistent with the correlation to Tiglath Pileser II.
“This is Hosea son of Elah, who was his vassal and then rebelled against him (II Kings 17:4).” -Rashi
"and sent to the king that shall come to avenge them;'' -Targum Yonatan
14 Kiy For Anochiy I will be chashachal like a lion to Efrayim, vechakefiyr and like a young lion leveiyt to the house of Y’hudah. Aniy Aniy I, indeed I, etrof will tear to pieces ve’elech and go away, esa carrying away, ve’eiyn matziyl and there will be no one to rescue.
14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim
And like a young lion to the house of Judah.
I, yes I, will tear to pieces and go away,
I will carry away, and there will be no one to rescue.
The metaphor “like a lion” used of YHVH is consistent with similar usage elsewhere in prophetic literature. The King Messiah is known as the “Lion of Judah” (Rev. 5:5).
The Assyrian Empire will take away the northern tribes, however, God is in control of what takes place, therefore, He is the One who carries Israel away as prey.
15 I eilech will go ashuvah and return el-makumiy to My place, ad until asher-yeshemu they acknowledge their guilt uvikshu and seek panay My face; batzar In their distress lahem yeshacharuniy they will earnestly search for Me.
15 I will go away and return to My place
Until they [i]acknowledge their guilt and seek My face;
In their distress they will search for Me.
“I will go and return to My place,”
While the plain meaning indicates that God will withdraw His protection over Israel. It is worth noting that the Hebrew el-makumiy can be understood to refer to the temple mount in Jerusalem ha-makum.
“Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face”
According to the redemptive rhythm of the prophetic work an opportunity for repentance is given along with hope for reconciliation.
The acknowledgement of sin is necessary and to seek intimate knowledge of God is essential in order for reconciliation to take place.
“In their distress they will search for Me.”
The discipline that will result in Israel’s distress is intended to bring her to godly sorrow unto repentance and to deliver her from her self-harming lifestyle of idolatry.
“29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. 30 When you are in distress and all these things happen to you, in the latter days you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice.” - Deuteronomy 4:29-30 NASB
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,