For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough

7:1.  “When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria: for they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth without.”

God longed to bless, rather than punish Israel, but her wickedness, and refusal to repent, made it impossible, for to bless when sin is not repented of and forsaken would be to condone sin, and thus impugn His own holy character.

The reference to Ephraim continues to emphasize the iniquity of the individual Israelites, while the mention of Samaria the capital city points to the national character of the abounding wickedness.  The evil practiced by the individuals was approved by society.  Only spiritually blind eyes and darkened minds will fail to see that Christendom is characterized by the same evils, and will just as surely be visited with Divine judgment.

Falsehood, meaning deceit, is as pervasive in today’s society as it was in Israel in the days of Hosea, while theft, burglary, and armed robbery are accepted as a normal part of life!

Were it not recorded in Scripture, it would be difficult to believe that this could be the description of the Israel which God had redeemed and chosen to be His own peculiar people; and were it not that we see it with our own eyes, it would be equally difficult to believe that the same evils should abound in nations calling themselves Christian!  It is therefore not difficult to believe that the terrible judgments described in Revelation are about to engulf this whole present evil world.

7:2.  “And they consider not in their hearts that I remember (know) all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before my face.”

Christendom likewise never stops to consider, nor does it care, that God takes note of all its wickedness, and will punish it in a quickly approaching day.

“now their own doings have beset them about” is understood by some to mean that the people were beginning to realize that their wickedness was destroying their whole society; while others take it to mean that their evil deeds were the evidence of the wickedness in their hearts.  Both, in fact, are true, and apply also to Christendom.  While few either know or care that the prevailing wickedness is offensive to God, there is a growing awareness that the toleration of evil is destroying society.

7:3.  “They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies.”

The moral corruption affected the whole nation, from the lowest strata of society to the highest: the rulers, civil and religious, delighted in evil just as did the people; nor is it different in Christendom today.

7:4.  “They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker, who ceaseth from raising after he hath kneaded the dough, until it be leavened.”

Their burning lust exceeded that of an oven heated for baking, for having heated the oven, the baker ceased stirring the fire, but the evil imaginations of the Israelites never ceased to devise new ways to fan the flame of lust.  Christendom likewise employs every expedient to do the same.  Look, for example, at today’s fashions, films, art so-called, advertising, books, etc.  The goddess Sex is worshiped today with the same passion as is Mammon, every conceivable perversion being paraded as a legitimate means of gratifying lust.

7:5.  “In the day (birthday) of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners.”

“... the princes have made him sick with ... wine” is taken by some to mean that the princes made the king drunk; by others, that it is the princes themselves who were drunken.  Both appear to have been true.

“... he stretched out his hand with scorners” means that the king gladly joined in the drunken revelries and orgies of traitorous arrogant men who mocked others, including the king.

The picture is of government become utterly corrupt and profligate.

7:6.  “For they have made ready their heart like an oven, whiles they lie in wait: their baker sleepeth all the night, in the morning it burneth as a flaming fire.”

The different translations combine to picture government officials continually plotting evil in secret, and when opportunity comes, putting their iniquitous plans into action with all the zeal of a blazing fire.

Some see in this verse a reference to the assassination of the profligate Zechariah by Shallum, a murder which ended the line of Jehu, and fulfilled the word of the Lord to him that his dynasty would end in the fourth generation, see 2 Ki 15:8-12.

“... their baker sleepeth all night” is understood by some to be the symbolic announcement that in Israel there was not to be found a political or religious leader to denounce their sin, and lead them back to God.

7:7.  “They are all hot as an oven, and have devoured their judges; and all their kings are fallen: there is none among them that calleth unto me.”

Relative to their having devoured their judges, and all their kings having fallen, history speaks for itself, for as Dr Tatford has pointed out, “Four regicides occurred in four decades .... of Israel’s 17 kings, only 8 died a natural death, the other 9 being dethroned and murdered by their successors.”

With the passions of the people inflamed, and rein given to every evil desire, honest government was impossible, so that kings and officials came and went, while the condition of society steadily deteriorated, but not one of them apparently even thought of turning to God to seek guidance from Him.  It seems, in fact, to have been remarkably like our own society!

7:8.  “Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.”

The words “hath mixed himself among the people” is generally taken to mean that Israel, instead of looking to God, had foolishly sought alliances with such nations as Assyria, Egypt, and Syria, and as already noted, had used treasure that belonged to God to buy the imagined protection.

The use of Ephraim as a synonym for Israel the nation appears to be for the purpose of emphasizing that the people approved of this folly on the part of their rulers.

Ephraim’s being as “a cake not turned,” i.e., cooked on only one side has been variously interpreted, the most reasonable explanation being that which takes it to be descriptive of the nation’s duplicity, that is, like the exposed uncooked side of the cake, they preserved an outward form of being in relationship with God, while being in reality worshipers of Baal, their idolatry corresponding to the dark hidden side of the unturned cake.  It pictures Israel as inwardly corrupt (the unseen burnt underside), and therefore fit only for the ash heap, for judgment.

The comment of the Liberty Bible Commentary is worth quoting in this connection, “As far as religious activity is concerned, they are overdone.  But so far as their attitude and reality towards God is concerned, they are raw.”

7:9.  “Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth it not.”

The strangers who had devoured his strength were Assyria, Egypt, and Syria, from whom he had sought aid when attacked or threatened by any one of them, the price having to be paid for the protection draining Israel’s wealth and leaving the nation weak and impoverished, like a man grown old. 

Gray hairs, in the present context, speak not of wisdom as they sometimes do in Scripture, but rather of advancing age and decrepitude, yet foolish Israel perceived not its weakness, nor knew that its end was near in the form of the Assyrian captivity.

7:10.  “And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek him for all this.

Even though the nation hadn’t yet fallen captive to Assyria, it should have been evident that destruction was about to overtake them, and that their foolish pride was to be their undoing; but still they wouldn’t return to Jehovah, Who alone could have delivered them.  Their foolish pride lay in their refusal to acknowledge their sin and weakness, and to turn in repentant contrition to God Who earnestly longed to bless them, but Whose purposes were frustrated by their continuing sin and stubborn refusal to return to Him.

7:11.  “Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.”

Like a dove or pigeon without intelligence, Israel flew first to Egypt hoping to buy protection; then to Assyria, unaware that the one as much as the other was an enemy.  Jehovah was the One to Whom they should have turned.

The following brief account of their ruinous political policies has been extracted from The Bible Knowledge Commentary.  “Under Menahem (ca. 743 or 738 B.C.) Israel submitted to Assyrian suzerainty (2 Kings 15:19-20).  Pekah (ca. 734 B.C.) joined a coalition against Assyria, which Tiglath-Pileser III violently crushed (2 Kings 15:29).  Hoshea (ca. 732-722 B.C.), after acknowledging Assyrian rulership for a time, stopped tribute payments and sought an alliance with Egypt (2 Kings 17:3-4a).  This act of rebellion led to the destruction of the Northern Kingdom (2 Kings 17:4b-6, the inevitable result of a foreign policy which for 20 years had been characterized by vacillating and expedient measures.”

The use of the name Ephraim instead of Israel continues to point to the fact that the people endorsed the policy of their  leaders.  The nation was united in their rejection of Jehovah.

The counterpart of Israel’s seeking foreign aid is found throughout Christendom today in the professing church’s standing at the world’s door begging for money “to support the Lord’s work.”  What an affront to God to be seeking aid for His work from those who are His enemies!  Those who offer Him this insult have never learnt that He has need of nothing, as it is written, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts,” Hag 2:8, “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills,” Ps 50:10.

7:12.  “When they shall go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard.”

Watching over all their futile activity was Jehovah, and as a fowler spreads his net to capture birds, so was He using their own worldly-wise schemes to entangle them as chastisement for having rejected Him while seeking aid from those who were His enemies and theirs.  Nor could they say that they hadn’t been warned: they had been warned repeatedly by God’s messengers the prophets.

7:13.  “Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me.”

In fleeing from Jehovah they had made themselves heirs of misery; and by rebelling against Him they had brought ruin upon themselves.  He had redeemed them once from Egyptian bondage, and would have redeemed them from their present distress, but they had spoken lies against Him, i.e., they rejected the revelation He had given of Himself through Moses, and had believed instead the lying testimony of the Canaanites relative to the imagined superiority of Baal.  Their seeking aid from Assyria and Egypt as  mentioned in verse 11, was further tacit denial of God’s power to deliver them.

It is little different today with Christendom, the vast majority of whom have also fled from God, choosing instead to worship money, education, pleasure, etc., and like Israel, they have done all this to their own misery and destruction.  They too speak lies against Him, e.g., they deny that there is a hell, that admission of sin and faith in Christ are all that are needed to save them.  They allege that men fit themselves for heaven by good works, that God is too loving to send anyone to hell - and in all of this they make Him a liar, but in doing so make themselves the objects of His wrath and judgment.

7:14.  “And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds: they assemble themselves for corn and wine, and they rebel against me.”

The desolation of the land which followed the Assyrian invasion in 733 BC caused the people to lament and howl on their beds and beside their altars, but it is clear that when they addressed their lament to Jehovah it indicated nothing more than that they regarded Him as just another of the Canaanite Baalim.

Their assembling themselves for corn and wine is usually understood to mean that they assembled at their altars, and cut themselves with knives in the vain hope that this outpouring of their own blood would move Jehovah, and the other so-called gods which they worshiped, to bless them again with abundance of corn and wine.

Added to their rebellion of having turned from Jehovah to worship the Baalim, was this cutting of themselves, for in Dt 14:1 God had specifically forbidden them to do this.

7:15.  “Though I have bound and strengthened their arms, yet do they imagine mischief against me.”

“Bound” means to instruct, usually through chastisement, and its being linked with strength reminds us that those who obey God’s instruction are they who are made strong.  In spite of all this, rebel Israel had chosen to reject His instruction, and to “imagine” (plot, contrive maliciously) “mischief” (evil, harm, wickedness) against their true Benefactor.  The words “imagine mischief” have the thought of intense hatred and ill will.

7:16.  “They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.”

In the midst of their calamities they had turned again to Jehovah, “but not to the most high,” i.e., to Him Who is on high, the only true God.  They had offered Him ritualistic worship, but only as one amongst, but not greater than, the baalim whom they also continued to worship.

A “deceitful bow” is one that is warped so that the arrows propelled by it miss the mark.  Israel’s hypocritical ritualistic worship similarly missed the mark.  It failed to touch the heart of Jehovah because the hearts from which it came were “warped,” deceitful.  With them He was just another “god” amongst many, and the so-called worship was deceitful in that it was not the expression of sincere love for Him, but rather an attempt to persuade Him to bless them again with corn and wine, and to deliver them out of the hand of the enemy.

So is the “worship” of Christendom.  The “worshipers” have no love for God, nor do they have any knowledge of His nature.  He is simply One to Whom they are willing to render a token ritualistic “worship,” just in case He might possibly have the power to bless or punish.  In their hearts they have little belief even in His actual existence.

“... for the rage of their tongue” means “because of their proud arrogant boasting.”  This is generally understood to refer to their belief that even though they weren’t as powerful as Egypt or Assyria, they were sufficiently powerful to make the one with which they would ally themselves invincible, i.e., if they allied themselves with Egypt, Assyria wouldn’t dare to attack Egypt; and likewise their alliance with Assyria would render Egypt incapable of overcoming Assyria.  It was, however, idle boasting, for having severed themselves from Jehovah’s power, they were of little consequence to either Egypt or Assyria.  Because of their rebellion against God He would be their Adversary: He would cause their princes to fall by the sword, and those who remained to become the laughing stock of the Egyptians.

An apostate church has also severed itself from God’s power, with the result that it is the laughing stock of the world.

[Hosea 8]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough