HOSEA - CHAPTER 7
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2001 James Melough
“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
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.
“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
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
“They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their
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.
“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.
“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.
“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
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.
“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!
“Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not
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.”
“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.
“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.
“Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go
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
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
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.
“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
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.
“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.
“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.
“Though I have bound and strengthened their arms, yet do they imagine mischief
“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.
“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
“... 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.