As modern believers we must soberly ask, “Have I misrepresented God to myself and others?”
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 is important to see the text of this chapter as a continuation of the previous chapter:
“Also, Y’hudah, there is set a harvest for you, in My returning you from captivity My people.” -Hosea 6:11
1Kerafe’iy For I would heal le’Yisrael Israel, veniglah but uncovered avon iniquity, perversity, of Efrayim (doubly fruitful), veraot and the evils of Shomeron (Samaria: guardians): kiy for fa’alu they practice shaker deception; veganav and a thief yavo goes in, pashat gedud bachutz a group of robbers strip what’s outside.
God desires to heal Israel (the northern tribes) but uncovers the iniquity of Israel’s kings (represented by Ephraim re. Jeroboam, Asa, Omri etc.) and the evil practices of idolatry performed in the city of Samaria (1 Kings 16:24) the capital of the territory of Samaria, where deception and theft are present both inside and outside their homes.
“for they practice deception, and a thief goes in, a group of robbers strip what’s outside.”
The deception alluded to may refer to Israel’s feigned repentance or to her alliances with foreign powers.
God offers healing to all, but only the repentant receive it. God will not act against His character by enabling sin. Bringing healing in the midst of open rebellion would not be an act of loving discipline.
“in the night they thieve in houses, and in the day they rob on the plain,” -Targum Yonatan
2Uval-yomeru And they don’t say lilvavam to their inner beings (hearts) kol-ra’atam “All evils zacharetiy I remember”: atah (Ayin not Aleph) now sevavum they’re turned around ma’alleiyhem from their own practices neged right in front of panay My face it has come to pass hayu.
“They do not lay it up to their heart that all their evil is inscribed before Me as a remembrance.” -Rashi
“They” are, in this case, specifically the northern tribes. Hence the reference to Ephraim (kings of the north) in the previous verse.
“They don’t say in their inner beings…” refers to the self-talk of the core being or heart, the “inner person” (not the seat of emotion as in Greco-Roman thought).
“All evils I remember” Within the context, refers to the fact that God sees all and therefore, “remembers” (keeps an account) of evil actions. It can also be understood to refer to the fact that the human soul (body, mind, spirit) remembers, either consciously or subconsciously, the act and consequence of sin, and suffers the fruit of evil actions, either now or in the future.
“they’re turned around from their own practices right in front of My face it has come to pass.” Their sin practices have turned round onto them and they are suffering the consequences. All this is seen by God and it’s as if it were right in front of His face. He is intimately related to Israel and grieves the result of her sin, it is an direct affront to His Person.
3Bere’etam In evils yesamechu-melekh they make joy for a king uvechachasheiyhem and in deceptions, sariym princes .
“In evils they make joy for a king and in deceptions, princes.” The then king of the north has rejoiced in evil and the princes of the north are born from and to deception.
4 Kulam All are mena’afiym from adulteries, kemo like tanur an oven boeirah kindled meiopeh by a baker, yishbot ceasing mei’iyr to rise melush from kneading batzeik the dough, ad-chumtzaro until it is leavened.
“Adulteries” are both sexual sin and idolatrous worship.
“like an oven kindled by a baker” Denotes not only the heat of lust but also the intentional fuelling of that heat. According to the Hebrew text the baker has kindled the fire. The allusion to a baker denotes the possibility of baking something.
“ceasing to rise from kneading the dough, until it is leavened.” This continues the analogy using the baking process as a whole and showing that sin results in a loss of good produce. Simply put, the baker has kindled the oven to cook bread but has not finished kneading the dough. He has instead rested, and has neglected the dough so that it has not been properly proofed, nor has it been baked, thus it sours in the sun and becomes good for nothing.
Rashi sees it differently and I believe misappropriates the analogy, nonetheless he gleans an effective spiritual lesson from it:
“From the time he thinks of the evil in his heart, how he will do it, he rests and sleeps until morning, when he can do it, just as the baker rests from the kneading of the dough until it leavens, when he can bake it. And so it is stated in Micah 2:1: “Woe is to those who plan iniquity and work evil on their beds; when the morning lights up, they do it.” -Rashi
5 Yom A day of malkeinu our king thechelu made weak by sariym, princes chamat miyayin from wine skins mashach he stretched out yado his hand et-lotzetziym with scorners.
“A day of our king made weak by princes from wine skins he stretched out his hand with scorners.” Probably refers to one of the palace revolts of the northern kingdom (2 Kings 15:8-30). The reference to wine skins and mockery probably alludes to the state of vulnerability that the usurpers of the king found him in.
“2Ki 15:8 In the thirty and eighth year of Azariah king of Judah did Zachariah the son of Jeroboam reign over Israel in Samaria six months.
2Ki 15:9 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, as his fathers had done: he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.
2Ki 15:10 And Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him, and smote him before the people, and slew him, and reigned in his stead.
2Ki 15:11 And the rest of the acts of Zachariah, behold, they arewritten in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel.
2Ki 15:12 This was the word of the LORD which he spake unto Jehu, saying, Thy sons shall sit on the throne of Israel unto the fourth generation. And so it came to pass.
2Ki 15:13 Shallum the son of Jabesh began to reign in the nine and thirtieth year of Uzziah king of Judah; and he reigned a full month in Samaria.
2Ki 15:14 For Menahem the son of Gadi went up from Tirzah, and came to Samaria, and smote Shallum the son of Jabesh in Samaria, and slew him, and reigned in his stead.
2Ki 15:15 And the rest of the acts of Shallum, and his conspiracy which he made, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel.
2Ki 15:16 Then Menahem smote Tiphsah, and all that weretherein, and the coasts thereof from Tirzah: because they opened not to him, therefore he smote it; and all the women therein that were with child he ripped up.
2Ki 15:17 In the nine and thirtieth year of Azariah king of Judah began Menahem the son of Gadi to reign over Israel, and reigned ten years in Samaria.
2Ki 15:18 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD: he departed not all his days from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.
2Ki 15:19 And Pul the king of Assyria came against the land: and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand.
2Ki 15:20 And Menahem exacted the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and stayed not there in the land.
2Ki 15:21 And the rest of the acts of Menahem, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?
2Ki 15:22 And Menahem slept with his fathers; and Pekahiah his son reigned in his stead.
2Ki 15:23 In the fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah Pekahiah the son of Menahem began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned two years.
2Ki 15:24 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD: he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.
2Ki 15:25 But Pekah the son of Remaliah, a captain of his, conspired against him, and smote him in Samaria, in the palace of the king's house, with Argob and Arieh, and with him fifty men of the Gileadites: and he killed him, and reigned in his room.
2Ki 15:26 And the rest of the acts of Pekahiah, and all that he did, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel.
2Ki 15:27 In the two and fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah Pekah the son of Remaliah began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned twenty years.
2Ki 15:28 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD: he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.
2Ki 15:29 In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abelbethmaachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria.
2Ki 15:30 And Hoshea the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah, and smote him, and slew him, and reigned in his stead, in the twentieth year of Jotham the son of Uzziah.” -2 Kings 15:8-30
6 Kiy-keirevu For they draw near chatanur libam their inner being (heart) like an oven, be’arebam lying in wait; kol-halaylah all the night yashen ofeihem their baker sleeps; boker hu in the morning he voeir burns ke’eish as a flaming lehavah fire.
The imagery of the oven and baker continue to convey the fruit of lust and the strengthening of the fire that propels the ongoing depravity of the leaders and the people.
“They draw near their inner being like an oven...” Their burning lust is born of the inner being. They have not sinned and regretted it, rather they sin and are motivated by a core sinful state made possible by the hardening of their hearts toward HaShem.
“The inner being (heart) is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” -Jerimiah 17:9
“all the night their baker sleeps; in the morning he burns as a flaming fire.” This appears to indicate that the baker has lit a fire in the oven and fallen asleep, the fire has grown so hot as to burst forth and consume the baker and his household. This is consistent with the prophesied discipline against Israel (northern tribes).
7 Kulam All yeichamu of them are hot katanur like an oven, ve’achelu and have eaten et-shofeteiyhem their judges; kol-malcheiyhem all their kings nagalu are fallen: eiyn-korei none call out vahem in them eilay unto Me.
Once again, “hot like an oven” denotes a fiery lust for sin.
“have eaten their judges” They have done away with those who might have held them morally accountable.
“all their kings have fallen” Four kings of Israel were assassinated over a 20 year period at this time in history. Two of those kings, Zechariah and Shallum were killed within two years of each other (2 Kings 15:10-15). Ultimately, God will put an end to the kings of the northern tribes and bring all the tribes of Israel under the reign of the Messiah Ben David, King of Judah (the Jews, now synonymous with Israel) and over all nations, in fulfilment of the Torah, Prophets and Writings of Scripture.
“none call out in them unto Me.” Not only do the kings refuse to call out to YHVH for help, but also the princes, priests and common people. A heart breaking indictment.
“Palestinian Talmud in tractate Avodah Zarah (1:1) it is expounded as follows: ‘On the day they crowned Jeroboam, “the princes became ill from the heat of wine” as is explained. They came to him and said to him, “Get up! Make idols for us.” He replied, “Now is the time of evening, and all the people are drinking”; i.e., it is a time of drunkenness. Perhaps now you are drunk, and tomorrow you will recant. “Go and return in the morning.” They went and returned in the morning. That is what is written: “For they have made ready etc.” He said to them, “I fear your Sanhedrin.” They replied, “We will kill them.” I.e. what is written: “And they devour their judges.” “He draws his hand etc.” When he saw a righteous man, he would seat two scorners next to him, and they would say to him, “Which generation was the most beloved of all generations?” And he would reply, “The generation of the desert.” And they would say to him, “Did they not worship idols?” And he would reply, “Since they were beloved, they were not punished.” And they would say to him, “Quiet! The king wants to do that.”’” -Rashi
8 Efrayim, ba’amiym is in the people, hu yitbolal he has mixed, confused, mingled himself; Efrayim hayah has become ugah hot bread beliy wearing out (burning on one side) hafuchah not turned over.
“Efrayim is in the people, he has mixed, confused, mingled himself…” This refers to both physical intermarriage and spiritual adultery due to sexual connection with people from other nations, worshippers of other gods. This practice is forbidden according to the Torah and the Prophets (Ex. 34:12-26; Ezr. 9:12; Neh. 10:29-30; 13:25). This cannot refer to the exile as Rashi suggests because the Hebrew is in the present tense and clearly spoken as a warning to the pre-exilic northern tribes.
“Efrayim has become hot bread wearing out (burning on one side) not turned over.” Bread left lying on one side until it burns and becomes uneatable. Thus, the heat of the fire (lust) damages the bread (progeny of lust). A metaphor concerning the unfit nature of the kings of the north (Ephraim).
9 Achelu zariym Strangers have eaten kocho his strength, vehu lo yada and he doesn’t know, comprehend, learn: gam also sheiyvah grey hairs zarekah sprinkled come on him vehu lo yada and he doesn’t know, comprehend, learn.
“Strangers have eaten his strength, and he doesn’t know, comprehend, learn.” Strangers consuming Ephraim’s strength may refer to the intermarriage of the previous verse and the subsequent idolatry. It may also refer to political intrigue as per Rashi:
“the kings of Aram consumed him in the days of Jehoahaz, as it is said: (2 Kings 13:7) “For he had not left to Jehoahaz etc. and made them like dust to trample.” Nonetheless, Jeroboam his son did not repent of his father’s evil.” -Rashi
“He doesn’t learn” refers to Ephraim’s wilful rejection of God and his refusal to learn from his mistakes which have resulted from rebellion against God’s Torah.
“also grey hairs sprinkled come on him and he doesn’t know, comprehend, learn.” Grey hair is linked to wisdom and God’s care for human beings (Lev. 19:32; Job 12:12-13; Isa. 46:4-5; Psalm 71:18-18; Proverbs 16:31; 20:28-29). A sprinkling of grey hair is a modicum of wisdom, but even that smattering of wisdom is refused, not learned. Some say that the grey hairs represent frailty and old age. Regardless, Ephraim has learned neither wisdom nor the lessons of old age.
10 Ve’anah geon-yisrael And the pride of Israel answers befanayn in his face: ve’lo-shavu and they do not return el-YHVH to the LORD (Mercy) Eloheiyhem their God (Judge), ve’lo and do not vikshuhu seek Him bechol-zot for all this.
“And the pride of Israel answers in his face” Israel (northern tribes) are testified against by their own pride. The pride is both in Israel’s face and before God’s face.
“and they do not return the LORD their God, and do not seek Him for all this.” In spite of the fact that their own sin testifies against them to their face, they still refuse to return to YHVH (Mercy) their Elohim (Judge, God).
11 Vayehiy Efrayim has become kiyonah like a dove fotah seduced eiyn leiv without a heart (inner being): karau Mitzrayim they call to Egypt (double distress), Ashur halachu they walk to Assyria.
The dove imagery is of a seduced and mis-trained dove which has lost any sense of its true purpose. This is what has happened among the northern tribes. They have lost connection with the true form of religious practice connected to Jerusalem and the temple cult, and ultimately, have lost connection with HaShem. Israel has forgotten her bondage in Egypt and the Redeemer YHVH Who delivered her. She is like a dizzy dove devoid of purpose fluttering about aimlessly, even flying back to captivity.
As a result of losing her sense of identity and purpose Israel has sought help from both those who had (Egypt) subjugated her, and those who would (Assyria) subjugate her.
The fact that the kings (Ephraim) of the north “walk to Assyria” infers that their political alliances were doomed to result in exile.
12 Ka’asher yeileichu For when they will walk, efros I will spread out aleiyhem over them rishtiy My net; keof like birds hashamayim of the heavens oriydeim I will bring them down; aysireim I will discipline them, keshema la’adatam as their assembly has heard.
As a counterpoint to Israel netting would be worshippers headed for Jerusalem (Hosea 5:1), God nets Israel as she attempts to make alliances with foreign powers. The phrase “birds of the heavens” seems to refer to birds of prey (clever, strong, lofty) as distinct from doves (gentle, simple, close). Therefore, even that which Israel considers strength (eagle.) will be caught and brought down to the dust.
“I will discipline them, as their assembly has heard” Indicates fair warning and just retribution.
13 Oy Alas lahem to them! Kiy-nadedu for they have departed mimeniy from Me: shod destruction lahem to them! Kiy-fasheu For they have rebelled viy against Me: veanochiy and I efdeim have redeemed them, veheimah yet they diberu have spoken alay kezaviym lies against Me.
Their “Destruction” is the result of their having “departed from” YHVH.
The house of Israel lead by Ephraim have rebelled against God and have misrepresented Him to both themselves and others.
As modern believers we must soberly ask, “Have I misrepresented God to myself and others?” On what do we base our knowledge of God’s character and redemptive purpose if not the present Spirit of His Son and His written Word (the entire Bible, Tanakh and New Testament).
“I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against Me.” YHVH redeemed Israel from bondage in Egypt, and in spite of this Israel has returned to Egypt for help and gone after the gods of the nations.
Rashi sees the line “they spoke deceit against Me” as referring specifically to Israel’s abuse of the prophet Jeremiah:
“They said to Jeremiah, (Jer. 43:2) ‘You speak falsely; the Lord our God did not send you to say, ‘You shall not come to Egypt.’” -Rashi
14 Velo-za’aku And they have not cried eiliy to Me belibam in their hearts (inner beings), kiy when yeyeiliylu they wailed al-mishkevotam upon their beds: al-dagan upon corn vetiyrush and new wine yitgoraru they assemble themselves, yasuru they depart veiy from Me.
In their distress, which resulted from their sin, they did not cry out to the LORD from their inner being. This is the counterpoint to the earlier references to the utter degradation of the inner being of the northern tribes (verses 2 & 6).
“upon corn and new wine they assemble themselves, they depart from Me.” They celebrate the harvests given by God as if they were the gifts of other gods.
Targum Yonatan links Israel’s departure from God with her over abundance:
"because of the multitude of corn and wine which they have gathered they have rebelled against my word;'' -Targum Yonatan
15 Va’Aniy And I yisartiy I disciplined chizaktiy, I strengthened zero’otam their arms and shoulders, ve’eilay and against Me yechashevu-ra they devise evil.
Through the word of His prophets and through lesser wars and periods of suffering God had disciplined and strengthened Israel. However, she had used that strength to plot evil against God. The evil they devised against God concerns their idolatry and chasing after foreign gods, attributing abundance to false gods (demons) rather than to the God of Israel YHVH.
16 Yashuvu lo They return not Al to the most High: [alt. They return not lifted up] hayu they have become kekeshet remiyah like a slackened bow: yipelu vachrev sareiyhem their princes will fall by the sword miza’am from the rage leshonam of their tongue: zo this la’gam stammering derision be’eretz in the land of Mitzrayim (Egypt, double distress).
The Hebrew “Al” translated “Most High” is a concise form of “Elyon” which is sometimes written “El Elyon” God Most High. This refers to YHVH as being God above all perceived deities and powers. The reason for the use of this title is that at that time Israel’s kings, priests and people had so clouded their ability to recognise God as “El Elohay Yisrael” (God the God of Israel) or “YHVH”, that the prophet must allude to the fact that the only way they can reference YHVH is by using a designation used by those who don’t properly know Him, that designation being “Al” (High) or “Elyon” (the Highest). In short, YHVH had become known simply as the God who reigned above the pantheon consisting of countless other gods, demons, rulers, judges. And still “They return not to the most High.”
Alternatively the Hebrew can read “They return not lifted up” meaning that they have gone to Egypt for help and have returned without it. This follows Rashi’s understanding of the text.
“Heb. עָל. They returned to Egypt, but it did not avail them. Therefore, עָל is vowelized with a “kamatz.” Comp. (2 Sam. 23:1) “The word of the man raised up high (עָל),” which is an expression of raising up and is not attached to the following word.” -Rashi
“they have become like a slackened bow” This could read as “deceitful bow”. The Hebrew remiyah can figuratively convey deceit. In either case the idiom denotes a bow that is of little use. A slackened bow cannot propel the arrow effectively and a deceitful bow shoots the arrow in a contrary direction (re. Rashi).
“their princes will fall by the sword from the rage of their tongue:” This may refer to the revolt s of the conspirators Zachariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, and Pekah, or to those who were killed by the sword of the Assyrians, such as Hoshea (the king), and the princes with him, by Shalmaneser. Rashi notes that some of those who fell were casualties of an armed force which had gone down to Egypt.
Rashi names the princes as “Jonathan son of Kareah and all the officers of the armies who returned to Egypt.”
This appears to be supported by the clause “this stammering derision in the land of Egypt.”
Generally speaking it is as a result of their rage against YHVH that the princes of the northern tribes met their demise. However, Rashi, based on his understanding of verse 13, concludes that the demise of the princes of the north is directly related to their abuse of the prophet Jeremiah:
“The harsh language with which they replied to Jeremiah.” -Rashi
Ref. Verse 13 “They said to Jeremiah, (Jer. 43:2) ‘You speak falsely; the Lord our God did not send you to say, ‘You shall not come to Egypt.’” -Rashi
“this stammering derision in the land of Egypt.” The death of some of Israel’s princes will be a result of derision caused by Israel’s return to Egypt for political assistance.
‘“This is their derision which they will deride them in the land of Egypt. Why have you returned to us to bring retribution upon us? Is it not written concerning you,” (Ex. 14:13) “You shall no longer continue to see them?”’ -Rashi
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.