The past tense used in reference to God’s love is simply a reference point relative to chronology. The love of God is everlasting, past, present and future, affecting time and space but not limited by them.
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:
15 So it will be done to you all at Beiyt-El (house of God/Judge) from the face of your evil, evils. Alt. [of your great wickedness.] In the dawn cut off, destroyed will be a king of Yisrael. -Hosea 10:15
1Kiy When na’ar Yisrael (overcome in God) was young va’ohaveihu I loved him, umimitzrayim and out of Egypt (double distress) karatiy livniy I called to My son.
“When he who overcomes in God was a young boy I loved him and from a place of double distress and bondage I called to My son.” -Author’s paraphrase based on meaning of Hebrew names
This is now the prophet’s third allusion to historical events concerning Israel’s relationship to YHVH (9:10; 10:9). In this case Israel is called a young boy, meaning between the ages of 8 and 30 years. This is an important time in a person’s development, a time when one is still open to being taught and to seeking out a teacher. Iben Ezra in his commentary on this verse likens young Israel in Egypt to a talmid (student of a rabbi). It is also an important time in the development of the relationship between a father and a son who is moving toward adulthood and independence.
This verse is illuminated by the talmid Mattisiyahu as a type for the King Messiah (Matt. 2:15). However, in the context of Hosea’s prophetic work it begins a heart breaking interaction between a good Father and a wayward Son. Mattisiyahu uses it to show the response of the Son of righteousness as being the counterpoint to the action of the rebellious son.
“I loved him” Does not mean “I used to love him” rather, it means “I have loved him” and will continue to. The past tense used in reference to God’s love is simply a reference point relative to chronology. The love of God is everlasting, past, present and future, affecting time and space but not limited by them.
“From afar Adonai appeared to me.”
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love.
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” -Jeremiah 31:2  TLV
There is continuity here between the loss of human kingship alluded to in the last verse of chapter 10 and the return to thoughts of a time before Israel demanded her own human king like the other nations had. The Father points back to a time of innocence born of suffering. A time when Israel looked to Him for redemption and freedom from bondage. This of course is starkly contrasted against Israel’s disobedience and rejection of God at this point in history prior to the Assyrian invasion.
2 Kareu lahem They called to them, ken halechu yes they walked mipeneiyhem from their faces. Labealiym To the Ba’als (lords, masters, husbands, gods) yezabeichu they sacrifice velapesiliym and to idols yekateirun they burn incense.
“I sent the prophets to teach them, but they wandered from them;” -Targum Yonatan
“They” refers to Moses and Aaron (Exodus 6:9), and by extension to the prophets sent by God to call His beloved son Israel to Himself and away from the bondage that results from idolatry and sin. However, Israel “walked from their (Moses, Aaron, prophets) faces” and toward “the Ba’aliym (false gods)”.
“As much as the prophets call to teach them the good way, so did they turn their backs to run away from them.” -Rashi
“The prophets to whom I am sending call them early in the morning and in the evening to return to the Lord:” -Radak
“To the husbands (ba’aliym) they sacrificed” Israel, having been trained as a young boy in the way he should go nonetheless rebelled as a teenager and went after lovers who were unequal in faith. Elsewhere we read of God as Husband, here we read of Israel’s direct affront to her true Husband in her chasing after false husbands.
The ba’aliym being masters, were the slave masters Israel chose in place of the slave masters of Egypt. Therefore, from the face of freedom (the prophets of God) Israel turned toward a different kind of bondage.
Metzudat David understand the idols to be synonymous with the calf idols of Dan and Bethel.
3 Ve’anochiy And I tirgaltiy I walked with, taught Efrayim (doubly fruitful), kacham I took them al-zero’otayv upon my arms; velo But they didn’t yadeu learn (know) kiy though refatiym I healed them.
“I, by an angel sent by Me, led Israel in the right way.” -Targum Yonatan
“And I, I walked with, taught Efrayim” This refers to the kings of the north and their dominion and therefore to the northern tribes. The prophet is likening HaShem’s care for them to the care He gave Israel when He lead her from Egypt by His Malakh (Angel, Messenger).
“I took them upon My arms” This is probably a nursing mother metaphor but may also convey the actions of a shepherd or herdsman. It could be seen to represent both personages as a transition to the next verse where Israel is metaphorically cared for as a herd animal.
“And in the wilderness, where you all have seen how the LORD your God bore you all, as a man bears his son, in every way that you all went, until you all came into this place.” -Deuteronomy 1:31
“he took them on his arms This is Moses, concerning whom it is stated (Num. 11:12): “As the nursing father carries the sucking child.” -Rashi
“But they did not learn though I healed them” In spite of God’s care and healing the northern tribes did not learn from their mistakes or the mistakes of the peoples around them whose false gods they had turned to. Further, they didn’t “know”, meaning they didn’t receive the intimate connection YHVH had offered in the nurture of them. The Hebrew “yada” is used euphemistically to refer to sexual intercourse.
“And said, If you all will diligently hear and act in response to the voice of the LORD your God, and will do that which is right in His sight, and will give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon you all, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I the LORD heal you all.” -Exodus 15:26
4 Bechavleiy With cords adam of a man (humanity) emshecheim with dragging ba’avotot in ropes ahavah of love, va’ehyeh I have become lahem to them kimriymeiy like one who lifts the ol yoke al from lecheiyhem their jaws; ve’at and gently eilayv I bent down to ochiyl feed them.
“My word was to them as a good husbandman, who lightens the shoulder of oxen, and loses the bridles on their jaws.’” -Targum Yonatan
Having been compared to a heifer in the previous chapter, Ephraim the son is here likened to a herd animal but is said to be drawn, not by ropes used to pull cattle but by the cords of human love and in the complex bindings of rope made up of the many facets of the immutable love of God. Thus, HaShem is like one who lifts the harness/yoke that prevents the herd animal from eating and with care, bends down to fed them hand to mouth.
"and, even when they were in the wilderness, I multiplied to them good things to eat.'' -Targum Yonatan
“I constantly drew them with tender cords with which a man draws his son… Like the farmers who lift the yoke off the neck of the cow or the ox by lengthening the peg upon which the yoke is placed, to lighten it for the ploughing cow. So was I with them in every trouble to make it lighter for them. So did Jonathan render it: like a good farmer [who makes it lighter for the shoulders of the oxen and lengthens their bridles.]… and I extended to him the ability to bear I extended him the strength to bear the yoke of the torments. Jonathan renders: referring to His supplying them food in the desert.” -Rashi
“The LORD has appeared of old unto me, saying Yes, I have loved you all with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you all.” -Jeremiah 31:2 
5 Lo They will not yashuv return el-eretz to the land Mitzrayim of Egypt (double distress); ve’ashur But Assyria--hu he will be malko his king kiy because mei’anu they refused lashuv to return.
This is not a contradiction of Hosea 9:3 but rather refers to the majority of the northern tribes. While a small number will seek refuge in Egypt to no avail, the majority will be taken into exile in Assyria.
“He” refers to the king of Assyria who will subjugate them.
“Because they refused to return” Israel has been given ample opportunity to return to HaShem but has not only refused, she has wilfully turned from Him.
6 Vechalah And the twisting, dancing cherev sword be’arayv against their cities, vechiletah and put an end to vadayv their isolated, separated, (branches) oracle priests, ve’achalah and devour them, mimo’atzoteiyhem because of their counsels, plans, devices, principals.
The Assyrian king besieged the capital Samaria for three years. Thus, “the twisting sword against their cities”, meaning that the Assyrian invaders will be relentless.
“put an end to their branches, and devour them, because of their counsels.” The branches may refer to the diviners and apostate priests. “Branches” may also denote leaders, mighty men, princes etc.
“and it shall slay his mighty men, and destroy his princes;” -Targum Yonatan
We note that HaShem sends the Assyrians to discipline Israel and put an end to the false spiritual guides to whom they had turned.
7 Ve’amiy And My people teluiym cling limshuvatiy to turning away from Me. Ve’el-al And toward the Most High [alt. the heights] yikrauhu they call.
“Cling to turning away” This is a description of deep seeded devotion to rebellion.
“Toward the heights they call” seems the more likely translation given the intentional nature of the rebellion of the people. However, it may also be correct to render “Toward the Most High” as a transition to the next verse.
8 Eiych How etencha can I give you up, Efrayim? How can I amagencha shield, encompass you, Israel? Eiych How etencha can I make you cheadmah like Admah (red earth, city near the dead sea)? How can I asiymecha set you kitzvoyim like Zeboiim (gazelles, one of the 5 cities in the plain of Sodom and Gomorrah)? Nehpach Turned alay within Me libiy is My heart, yachad unified nichmeru with yearning nichumay are My compassions, comforting.
“How can I give you up” God is faithful even when Israel is unfaithful.
“if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot disown himself.” -2 Timothy 2:13
“How can I shield, encompass you” God is just and righteous, a good Father Who disciplines His son. To shield someone who sees the shield as an affirmation of sin behaviour is to hate that one. Thus, HaShem speaks the rhetorical question “How can I enable you?”
“How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim?” In short, given My love for you, “How can I utterly destroy you as I did the cities surrounding Sodom and Gomorrah?”
“Admah” and “Zeboiim” were cities of the plain destroyed when Sodom and Gomorrah were wiped out (Gen. 10:19; 14:2, 8; 19:24-25; Deut. 29:23; Jer. 49:18).
“Turned within Me is My heart, unified with yearning are My compassions.” In spite of Israel’s sin and rejection of HaShem, He is nonetheless incapable of completely abandoning her because of His faithful character, His everlasting love for her. This language conveys the struggle within the heart of a loving Father as He watches His son wilfully rebel against His love.
9 Lo e’eseh I will not execute charon My burning apiy nostrils (anger); lo ashuv I will not return to leshacheit destroy Efrayim. Kiy For El Anochiy I am God/Judge velo-iysh and not a man, bekirbecha in the midst of you (plural) kadosh Holy, velo avo and I will not come beiyr in terror.
“I will not execute My burning nostrils…” Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit born of the character of God. HaShem has every right to outwork his anger but chooses not to utterly destroy His wayward people.
“I will not return to destroy Efrayim…” God will not allow the disciplining of the northern tribes to be multiplied unto their complete destruction. They will eventually return to the land and, yet future, live under the reign of the Greater Son of David the King Messiah Yeshua of Judah.
“For I am God/Judge and not a man, in the midst of you (plural) Holy, and I will not come in terror.” HaShem is patient, just, slow to anger and abounding in love, He is not prone to rash vengeance or punitive reaction, He is Holy and in the midst of Israel, grieving her sin, feeling her pain, set apart and working to set Israel apart in Him.
“I will not come in terror” This means that even while allowing invaders to enact the discipline required by justice, HaShem will nonetheless be in the midst of His disobedient people in order to guide them back to His loving arms.
“I will not return from My good word, which I said (Lev. 26:44) ‘I have not rejected them nor have I abhorred them,’ to destroy Ephraim… for I am God Who keeps His favorable word, and I do not retract the good… I will not enter a city I.e., another city. I have already promised to cause My Shechinah to rest in your midst in Jerusalem, and I will never again cause it to rest on another city. Others explain it as an expression of hatred. Comp. (I Sam. 28:16) “And has become your adversary (וַיְהִי עָרֶךָ).” -Rashi
10 Achareiy After Me YHVH (Mercy) yelechu will they walk, ke’aryah like a lion yishag He will roar; kiy indeed Hu He will yishag roar, veyecherdu and trembling will come vaniym the children miym from the sea.
This is prophetic of the return from exile. The roar is a call to return following the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles. In addition to the return of the eastern exiles this phrasing alludes to the children of Israel returning from the sea (to the west), which infers a later exile that will ultimately end in Israel (all tribes) returning from a world-wide diaspora. This was fulfilled in part prior to and during the formation of the modern state of Israel (1948), and is yet to be fully filled (today more than half the world’s Jewish population still live outside of Israel).
“The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.” -Joel 3:16 KJV
“After Me YHVH (Mercy) will they walk” In the midst of Israel’s disobedience HaShem prophecies her future obedience.
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” -Zechariah 12:10 ESV
“25 For I do not want you, brothers and sisters, to be ignorant of this mystery—lest you be wise in your own eyes[m]—that a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; [n] 26 and in this way[o] all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer shall come out of Zion.
He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.
27 And this is My covenant with them,[p]
when I take away their sins.”[q]” -Romans 11:25-27 TLV
11 Yecherdu chetzipor They will come trembling like birds mimitzrayim from Egypt (double distress), ucheyonah and like doves mei’eretz from the land Ashur (a step) of Assyria; vehoshavtiym and I will place them al-batayhem in their houses, ne’um-YHVH (Mercy) declares the Lord.
“as a bird which comes openly, so shall they come who are carried captive into the land of Egypt; and as a dove that returns to its dove house, so shall they return who are carried into the land of Assyria; and I will return them in peace to their houses, and my word shall be their protection, saith the Lord.” -Targum Yonatan
Unlike the foolish doves (7:11), these bird metaphors indicate an eager return to the nesting ground. Birds kept captive excitedly returning home upon their release.
“I will place them in their houses, YHVH (Mercy) declares the Lord.” The Hebrew “batayhem” (their houses) denotes peaceful civil dwelling in a land devoid of war. In short, they will dwell in everlasting peace within the appointed housing of God as rooms in the greater house of God, the Olam Haba (world to come).
12 Sevavuniy vechachash Efrayim Ephraim turns back from Me with lies uvemirmah and with deceit beiyt Yisrael the house of Israel; and ve’Y’hudah (praise) od continues rad to rule [alt. wander] im-Eil with God, ve’im-kedoshiym and with the holy ones (plural intense) ne’eman is faithful [alt. with the Holy One, is faithful].
“Ephraim turns back from Me with lies and with deceit the house of Israel…” Both the kings and the collective tribes of the north have behaved deceitfully and turned their backs on YHVH. All this in spite of HaShem’s open hand.
“and Judah continues to rule with God, and with the Holy One, is faithful.” This does not mean that Judah will not sin and go into exile but that the kingship will not depart from Judah until Shiloh (the King Messiah) comes (Gen. 49:8-12). Thus, “continues to rule with God”. This describes the rule of the Greater Son of David Yeshua the King Messiah. Once again the rhythm of Mercy, discipline and the fruit of discipline being the product of Mercy, is seen.
8“Judah, so you are--
your brothers will praise you:
Your hand will be on your enemies’ neck.
Your father’s sons will bow down to you.
9 A lion’s cub is Judah--
from the prey, my son,
you have gone up.
He crouches, lies down like a lion,
or like a lioness--
who would rouse him?[a]
10 The scepter will not pass from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,[b]
until Shiloh (he to whom it belongs) comes.
To him will be the obedience of the peoples.[c]
11 Binding his foal to the vine,
his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,[d]
he washes his garments in wine,
and in the blood of grapes his robe.[e]
12 His eyes are darker than wine,
and teeth that are whiter than milk.” -Genesis 49:8-12
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.