Bible: What Does Hosea 9-14 Teach Us About Ephraim and Assyria?
Hosea and "Egypt" (Assyria)
Ephraim: Good Beginning,Tragic Ending
Directly addressing Israel, Hosea admonishes her not to rejoice in her prosperity—acquired through spiritual prostitution—for Yahweh will impoverish her (vv. 1-2).
The LORD will banish Ephraim to Assyria where He will not accept their defiled offerings (vv. 3-4).
The people will not be able to celebrate the Passover, because they will then dwell in "Egypt"—the typical place of bondage and judgment (here, Assyria).
All they have acquired is lost--only nettles and thorns remain—and they will pass away (vv. 5-6).
When these events occur, Israel will know that Yahweh is punishing her (v. 7a).
Comment: The NIV interprets this passage differently. Because Israel's sin is so great and her hatred so deep, Hosea must inform her that God's chastening has come. His exhortation "Let Israel know this'' definitely suggests this fact. The people regard their spiritual leader as foolish or insane (v. 7b). Though the prophet watches over Ephraim, he risks his life on the street and in the temple (v. 8).
Yahweh recounts the early days of Israel when they were "grapes" and "first fruits on the fig tree"-- produce which soon degenerated and followed Baal at Peor (v. 10).
Ephraim's glory is fleeting; when God abandons them, their future is cut off (vv. 11-12).
The LORD compares Ephraim to Tyre in that both started well, but ended tragically (v. 13).
[Hosea's interjection is bitter indeed (v. 14)].
Israel's wickedness in Gilgal causes God to drive her away and make her childless (vv. 15-16).
In his concluding remarks, Hosea cites disobedience as the reason for the LORD's rejection of His people (v. 17).
Israel uses the proceeds from her land's "produce" to build even greater idols (v. 1); her divided heart makes her culpable for her deeds.
Yet what punishment will the nation endure?
The LORD will destroy these new altars and pillars (v. 2).
The nation recognizes that she has no king because she did not fear God.
Yet even now, she does not seem to see the need for a ruler (v. 3).
She is not serious about obeying the terms of the covenant; consequently, only judgment awaits her (v. 4).
General panic strikes Samaria and Ephraim, because Assyria is transporting their idol calf to King Jareb (vv. 5-6).
In addition, Samaria's king is killed, and a certain prominent high place (Aven) is destroyed and overgrown with weeds.
The people pray that the mountains might hide them from their destiny (captivity) [vv. 7-8; cf. Rev. 6:16].
Although Israel has long sinned, she has yet to be punished; nevertheless, Yahweh assures her that He will chasten the people when "it is My desire" (vv. 9-10).
A Red Heifer
Israel: A Trained Heifer
God compares Ephraim to "a trained heifer that loves to thresh grain."
In order to teach her "to seek the LORD," He will cause not only this “heifer” (Ephraim) to undergo hard service, but also Judah and Jacob (v. 11).
The man of God exhorts Israel to change her ways.
He writes, "Instead of plowing wickedness and reaping iniquity, you ought to sow righteousness and reap mercy."
Instead of trusting in her own way and strength, she ought to depend upon Yahweh (vv. 12-13).
The news is not good for the future; tumult, plundering, and death will result from her great wickedness (vv. 14-15).
Joseph and Mary Take Jesus to Egypt
Conqueror of the Northern Kingdom
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Yahweh recalls His saving act of love toward His son, Israel, when Egypt held him captive in the early days (v. 1; cf. Mt. 2:15.
[Walter Kaiser's The Uses of the Old Testament in the New may help with the interpretation here (47-53)].
Verse 2 introduces a grammatical change ("him" to "them"), but no antecedent (i.e., explicit objects to which one may attach the pronoun).
Perhaps certain spiritual leaders (prophets)—the ones calling—attempted to influence the people—the ones called—to obey Yahweh; sadly, they stubbornly turned away from their counsel and worshiped other gods instead.
God showed real parental concern for Ephraim, but the latter did not acknowledge it.
He made every effort to woo her into a reciprocal love relationship with Himself, but she would not have it (vv. 3-4).
Therefore, because of her impenitence and self-reliance, the "Assyrian" will ruthlessly rule over Ephraim's cities and districts (vv. 5-6).
False counseling, backsliding, and artificial worship characterize God's people (v. 7).
Despite Israel's continual rebellion, Yahweh's compassionate heart ''churns" within Him; He does not and will not yet "execute the fierceness" of His anger or "destroy Ephraim."
Man would seek revenge, but not "the Holy One in your midst" (vv. 8-9).
One day Israel will "walk after the LORD," coming to Him trembling (with a chastened silence and humility), and she will dwell in her land (vv. 10-11).
Although verse twelve completes the chapter, its thought, by no means, ends there.
Yahweh contrasts the lifestyles of Ephraim and Judah, respectively; lying and deceit characterize the former while the latter manifests faithfulness.
Jacob Wrestles the Angel
Fruits of Repentance
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“Pursuing the east wind” and “feeding on the wind” sound like futile acts.
Overall, Ephraim's lying habits lead him to this emptiness.
Alliance with Assyria through the sale of oil—the parallel structure here indicates that Egypt is a symbol for Assyria—is a further evidence of apostasy (v. 1).
Then Hosea reveals that Yahweh will punish both the north and the south (that is, Judah and Jacob) for their wicked deeds (v. 2).
[Note Judah's sudden reversal from faithfulness (11:12) to deeds worthy of punishment (12:2)].
He recounts the treachery of Jacob of old (specifically the person, not the people) in his supplanting of Esau, and his wrestling match with the Angel of the LORD as he "sought favor from Him" (vv. 3-4; cf. Gen. 32:28).
As Jacob struggled with Him in Bethel, God, whose memorial name is Yahweh (v. 5), spoke to "us"—the nation.
[Is this an example of corporate solidarity?]
What, then, does He expect from Israel but a repentance producing the fruits of mercy, justice, and persevering trust (v. 6): the same behavior He desired from Jacob, the individual.
By cunning, deceitful business practices and oppression, Ephraim made a name for himself in the heathen world (vv. 7-8).
Yahweh, on the other hand, built His reputation by doing good to Israel and instructing His people through prophets, visions, and symbols (vv. 9-10).
He will see to it that idolatry will come to nothing in Gilead and Gilgal (v. 11), but that those who respond to the prophet will survive.
Jacob, for example, escaped from Isaac and Esau's wrath in Syria, and served Laban many years for Rachel and Leah.
Moses, God's prophet, brought Israel out of Egypt, and Yahweh preserved them (vv. 12-13).
Impenitent Ephraim, on the other hand, will remain stained with bloodguiltiness and reproach (v. 14).
Ephraim's Future Prospects
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Secure and at home in Israel, Ephraim exalts himself; however, in "Baal" his offensive sin and idolatry bring him death (vv. 1-2).
Yahweh compares his future to four transient things (namely, a cloud, early dew, chaff, and smoke), signifying that they have only a short time remaining to them as a people (v. 3).
The LORD nevertheless has remained faithful to Israel, and the latter "shall know no God" but Him (v. 4).
Though divinely cared for and blessed, he forgot the LORD (vv. 5-6).
Therefore, Yahweh portrays Himself to Israel as ferocious beasts (lion, leopard, bear [possibly referring to Babylon, Persia and Greece]) that will attack and devour the nation (vv. 7-8).
Even now, God, as Israel's Help and King, promises to save him.
He showed His sovereign control over Israel by first giving him a king and then deposing him (vv. 9-11).
[May this ruler have been Saul, or another man who reigned over the northern kingdom alone?]
Ephraim's abounding sin causes great sorrow as he witnesses the deaths of many young children (vv. 12-13).
Yet Yahweh promises victory for him one day when He announces to “Death” and the “Grave” their end. He will show no pity to those devouring forces (v. 14).
Ephraim may appear wealthy to his brethren, but Yahweh assures him that he will fall.
"His" wind from the East (Assyria?) will wither what makes the nation prosper (v. 15).
Samaria also will die by the sword because of her guilt and rebellion (v. 16).
Repentance Brings Blessing and Prosperity
Finally, Hosea exhorts the fallen nation to repent (v. 1).
When they do return to Yahweh, Israel must come with appropriate words.
They must express their need for God's forgiving grace, vow to "offer the sacrifices of our lips," i.e., praise and thanksgiving (cf. Heb. 13:15), and not trust in Assyria or his idols for salvation anymore (vv. 2-3).
If these events should occur, God would gladly receive them back into fellowship with Himself.
Abundant love, not anger, would proceed from His hand (v. 4), and produce spiritual growth and beauty in Israel.
Comparing the nation to various plants, flowers and trees (namely, lily, olive tree, grain, vine), the LORD promises that revival and the scent of beauty would flow from them (vv. 5-7).
Ephraim will reject idols one day; God answers this right determination with an exhortation for him to find his fruit in the LORD (v. 8).
As a fitting conclusion to his prophecy, Hosea answers two pertinent questions ("Who is wise?" and "Who is prudent?").
The one who lives his life by the ways of Yahweh is wise, but the one who transgresses God's law will stumble (v. 9).
SUMMARY QUESTIONS OF HOSEA
1. What did God intend Hosea's family relationships to communicate to Israel?
2. When Gomer goes astray, what does the LORD tell Hosea to do?
3. What does God allow when His people apostatize?
4. What is a condition for restoration to fellowship?
5. To God, what is more important than sacrifice?
6. What metaphors does God use in chapter seven to describe Ephraim? Name other metaphors that He uses elsewhere in Hosea.
7. What do you notice about God's "heart" for Israel in chapter eleven?
8. According to chapter fourteen, what awaits those who repent?
9. Whom does God use as a symbol of Assyria?
10. What might be the meaning of "Out of Egypt I called My son"?
11. What groups in Israel were primarily responsible for the nation’s decline?
12. What metaphors does God use to describe Himself as judge of Ephraim?
13. What passage promises a Messiah in the latter days?
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