God’s love for Israel
‘When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.[a]
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realise
it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them.
‘Will they not return to Egypt
and will not Assyria rule over them
because they refuse to repent?
A sword will flash in their cities;
it will devour their false prophets
and put an end to their plans.
My people are determined to turn from me.
Even though they call me God Most High,
I will by no means exalt them.
‘How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboyim?
My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.
I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
For I am God, and not a man –
the Holy One among you.
I will not come against their cities.
They will follow the Lord;
he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
his children will come trembling from the west.
They will come from Egypt,
trembling like sparrows,
from Assyria, fluttering like doves.
I will settle them in their homes,’
declares the Lord.
Ephraim has surrounded me with lies,
Israel with deceit.
And Judah is unruly against God,
even against the faithful Holy One.[b]
[a]Ephraim feeds on the wind;
he pursues the east wind all day
and multiplies lies and violence.
He makes a treaty with Assyria
and sends olive oil to Egypt.
The Lord has a charge to bring against Judah;
he will punish Jacob[b] according to his ways
and repay him according to his deeds.
In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel;
as a man he struggled with God.
He struggled with the angel and overcame him;
he wept and begged for his favour.
He found him at Bethel
and talked with him there –
the Lord God Almighty,
the Lord is his name!
But you must return to your God;
maintain love and justice,
and wait for your God always.
The merchant uses dishonest scales
and loves to defraud.
‘I am very rich; I have become wealthy.
With all my wealth they will not find in me
any iniquity or sin.’
‘I have been the Lord your God
ever since you came out of Egypt;
I will make you live in tents again,
as in the days of your appointed festivals.
I spoke to the prophets,
gave them many visions
and told parables through them.’
Is Gilead wicked?
Its people are worthless!
Do they sacrifice bulls in Gilgal?
Their altars will be like piles of stones
on a ploughed field.
Jacob fled to the country of Aram[c];
Israel served to get a wife,
and to pay for her he tended sheep.
The Lord used a prophet to bring Israel up from Egypt,
by a prophet he cared for him.
But Ephraim has aroused his bitter anger;
his Lord will leave on him the guilt of his bloodshed
and will repay him for his contempt.
- Hosea 12:1 In Hebrew texts 12:1-14 is numbered 12:2-15.
- Hosea 12:2 Jacob means he grasps the heel, a Hebrew idiom for he takes advantage of or he deceives.
- Hosea 12:12 That is, North-west Mesopotamia
The Lord’s anger against Israel
When Ephraim spoke, people trembled;
he was exalted in Israel.
But he became guilty of Baal worship and died.
Now they sin more and more;
they make idols for themselves from their silver,
cleverly fashioned images,
all of them the work of craftsmen.
It is said of these people,
‘They offer human sacrifices!
They kiss[a] calf-idols!’
Therefore they will be like the morning mist,
like the early dew that disappears,
like chaff swirling from a threshing-floor,
like smoke escaping through a window.
‘But I have been the Lord your God
ever since you came out of Egypt.
You shall acknowledge no God but me,
no Saviour except me.
I cared for you in the wilderness,
in the land of burning heat.
When I fed them, they were satisfied;
when they were satisfied, they became proud;
then they forgot me.
So I will be like a lion to them,
like a leopard I will lurk by the path.
Like a bear robbed of her cubs,
I will attack them and rip them open;
like a lion I will devour them –
a wild animal will tear them apart.
‘You are destroyed, Israel,
because you are against me, against your helper.
Where is your king, that he may save you?
Where are your rulers in all your towns,
of whom you said,
“Give me a king and princes”?
So in my anger I gave you a king,
and in my wrath I took him away.
The guilt of Ephraim is stored up,
his sins are kept on record.
Pains as of a woman in childbirth come to him,
but he is a child without wisdom;
when the time arrives,
he doesn’t have the sense to come out of the womb.
‘I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
Where, O grave, is your destruction?
‘I will have no compassion,
even though he thrives among his brothers.
An east wind from the Lord will come,
blowing in from the desert;
his spring will fail
and his well dry up.
His storehouse will be plundered
of all its treasures.
The people of Samaria must bear their guilt,
because they have rebelled against their God.
They will fall by the sword;
their little ones will be dashed to the ground,
their pregnant women ripped open.’[b]
- Hosea 13:2 Or ‘Men who sacrifice / kiss
- Hosea 13:16 In Hebrew texts this verse (13:16) is numbered 14:1.
Repentance to bring blessing
[a]Return, Israel, to the Lord your God.
Your sins have been your downfall!
Take words with you
and return to the Lord.
Say to him:
‘Forgive all our sins
and receive us graciously,
that we may offer the fruit of our lips.[b]
Assyria cannot save us;
we will not mount war-horses.
We will never again say “Our gods”
to what our own hands have made,
for in you the fatherless find compassion.’
‘I will heal their waywardness
and love them freely,
for my anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
he will blossom like a lily.
Like a cedar of Lebanon
he will send down his roots;
his young shoots will grow.
His splendour will be like an olive tree,
his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
People will dwell again in his shade;
they will flourish like the corn,
they will blossom like the vine –
Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.
Ephraim, what more have I[c] to do with idols?
I will answer him and care for him.
I am like a flourishing juniper;
your fruitfulness comes from me.’
Who is wise? Let them realise these things.
Who is discerning? Let them understand.
The ways of the Lord are right;
the righteous walk in them,
but the rebellious stumble in them.
- Hosea 14:1 In Hebrew texts 14:1-9 is numbered 14:2-10.
- Hosea 14:2 Or offer our lips as sacrifices of bulls
- Hosea 14:8 Or Hebrew; Septuagint What more has Ephraim