God is the Loving Father of His People
When Israel was a child [a young nation], I loved him,
And I called My son out of Egypt.
The more they [the prophets] called them [to repentance and obedience],
The more they went away from them;
They kept sacrificing to the Baals
And burning incense to the carved images.
Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk,
Taking them in My arms [nurturing the young nation];
But they did not know that I healed them.
I led them gently with cords of a man, with bonds of love [guiding them],
And I was to them as one who lifts up and eases the yoke [of the law] over their jaws;
And I bent down to them and fed them.
They will not return to the land of Egypt,
But Assyria will be their king [bringing them into captivity]
Because they refused to return to Me.
The sword will whirl against and fall on their cities,
And will demolish the bars of their gates and fortifications
And will consume them because of their counsels.
My people are bent on turning from Me;
Though the prophets call them to the One on high,
None at all exalts Him.
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I surrender you, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like [a]Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within Me;
All My compassions are kindled together [for My nation of Israel].
I will not execute the fierceness of My anger;
I will not return to Ephraim to destroy him again.
For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst [who will not revoke My covenant],
And I will not come in wrath or enter the city [in judgment].
They will walk after the Lord [in obedience and worship],
Who will roar like a lion;
He will roar [summoning them]
And His sons will come trembling from the west.
They will come trembling and hurriedly like birds from Egypt
And like doves from the land of Assyria;
And I will settle them in their houses [in the land of their inheritance], declares the Lord.
Ephraim surrounds Me with lies
And the house of Israel with deceit;
Judah is also unruly against God,
Even against the faithful Holy One.
- Hosea 11:8 The cities totally destroyed with Sodom.
Ephraim feeds on the [emptiness of the] wind
And [continually] pursues the [parching] east wind [which brings destruction];
Every day he multiplies lies and violence.
Further, he makes a covenant with Assyria
And (olive) oil is carried to Egypt [to seek alliances].
The Lord also has a dispute [a legal complaint and an indictment] with Judah,
And He will punish Jacob in accordance with his ways;
He will repay him in accordance with his deeds.
In their mother’s womb he took his brother by the heel,
And in his maturity he contended with God.
He wrestled with the angel and prevailed;
He wept [in repentance] and sought His favor.
He met Him at Bethel
And there God spoke with [him and through him with] us—
Even the Lord, the God of hosts,
The name of Him [who spoke with Jacob] is the Lord.
Therefore, return [in repentance] to your God,
Observe and highly regard kindness and justice,
And wait [expectantly] for your God continually.
A merchant, in whose hand are false and fraudulent balances;
He loves to oppress and exploit.
Ephraim said, “I have indeed become rich [and powerful as a nation];
I have found wealth for myself.
In all my labors they will not find in me
Any wickedness that would be sin.”
But I have been the Lord your God since [you became a nation in] the land of Egypt;
I will make you live in tents again,
As in the days of the appointed and solemn [a]festival.
I have also spoken to [you through] the prophets,
And I gave [them] many visions [to make My will known],
And through the prophets I gave parables [to appeal to your sense of right and wrong].
Is there wickedness (idolatry) in Gilead?
Surely the people there are worthless.
In Gilgal [they defy Me when] they sacrifice bulls,
Yes, [after My judgment] their [pagan] altars are like the stone heaps
In the furrows of the fields.
Now Jacob (Israel) fled into the open country of Aram (Paddan-aram),
And [there] Israel (Jacob) worked and served for a wife,
And for a wife he kept sheep.
And by a prophet (Moses) the Lord brought Israel up from Egypt,
And by a prophet Israel was preserved.
Ephraim has provoked most bitter anger;
So his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him [invoking punishment]
And bring back to him his shame and dishonor.
- Hosea 12:9 I.e. the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles).
When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling and terror.
He exalted himself [above the other tribes] in Israel;
But through [the worship of] Baal he became guilty and died [spiritually, and then came ruin, sealing Israel’s doom as a nation].
And now they sin more and more,
And make for themselves molten images,
Idols skillfully made from their silver [as it pleased them],
All of them the work of the craftsmen.
They say of these [very works of their hands], “Let those who sacrifice kiss and show respect to the calves [as if they were living gods]!”
Therefore they will be [swiftly dissipated] like the morning cloud
Or like dew which soon disappears,
Like chaff which swirls with the whirlwind from the threshing floor,
And like smoke from the chimney or through the window [worthless and without substance —they will vanish].
Yet I have been the Lord your God
Since [the time you became a nation in] the land of Egypt;
And you were not to know any god except Me,
For there is no savior besides Me.
I knew and regarded you and cared for you in the wilderness,
In the land of drought.
When they had their pasture, they became satisfied,
And being satisfied, their heart became proud (self-centered);
Therefore they forgot Me.
So I will be like a lion to them;
Like a leopard I will watch and lie in wait [ready to attack] by the road [to Assyria].
I will encounter them like a bear robbed of her cubs,
And I will tear open their chests;
There I will also devour them like a lioness,
As a wild beast would tear them.
It is your destruction, O Israel,
Because you are against Me, [and have rebelled] against your help.
Where now is your king
That he may save you [when you are attacked] in all your cities?
And your judges of whom you asked,
“Give me a king and princes”?
I gave you a king in My anger,
And I took him away in My wrath [as punishment].
The wickedness of Ephraim [which is not yet completely punished] is bound up [as in a bag];
His sin is stored up [for judgment and destruction].
The pains of childbirth come on him;
But he is not a wise son,
For it is not the time to delay [his chance at a new birth] as the womb opens [but he ignores the opportunity to change].
Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol (the place of the dead)?
Shall I redeem them from death?
[a]O death, where are your thorns?
O Sheol, where is your sting?
Compassion is hidden from My eyes [because of their failure to repent].
For though he flourishes among the reeds (his fellow tribes),
An east wind (Assyria) will come,
The breath of the Lord rising from the desert;
And Ephraim’s spring will become dry
And his fountain will be dried up.
Assyria will plunder his treasury of every precious object.
Samaria will be found guilty [and become desolate],
Because she rebelled against her God;
They will fall by the sword,
Their infants will be dashed in pieces,
And their pregnant women will be ripped open.
- Hosea 13:14 The apostle Paul brings this passage to mind—but with a change of meaning made possible by the resurrection of Christ.
Israel’s Future Blessing
O Israel, return [in repentance] to the Lord your God,
For you have stumbled and fallen [visited by tragedy], because of your sin.
Take the words [confessing your guilt] with you and return to the Lord.
Say to Him, “Take away all our wickedness;
Accept what is good and receive us graciously,
So that we may present the fruit of our lips (gratitude).
“Assyria will not save us;
We will not ride on horses [relying on military might],
Nor will we say again to [the idols who are] the work of our hands,
‘You are our gods.’
For in You [O Lord] the orphan finds love and compassion and mercy.”
I will heal their apostasy and faithlessness;
I will love them freely,
For My anger has turned away from Israel.
I shall be like the dew to Israel;
He will blossom like the lily,
And he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon.
His shoots will sprout,
And his beauty will be like the olive tree
And his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon.
Those who live in his shadow
Will again raise grain,
And they will blossom like the vine.
His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon.
O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?
It is I who have answered and will care for you and watch over you.
I am like a luxuriant cypress tree;
With Me your fruit is found [which is to nourish you].
Whoever is [spiritually] wise, let him understand these things;
Whoever is [spiritually] discerning and understanding, let him know them.
For the ways of the Lord are right,
And the righteous will walk in them,
But transgressors will stumble and fall in them.