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

9:1.  “Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people: for thou hast gone a whoring from they God, thou hast loved a reward upon every cornfloor.”

The days when Israel rejoiced because of abundant harvests were gone, because instead of recognizing Jehovah as the gracious Giver of that bounty, they in their folly had credited Baal, and had rendered to him the worship that belonged to God.  They believed that the abundance was Baal’s recompense of the worship they so willingly offered him, all the while failing to realize that their departure from God was spiritual harlotry, which He must punish, for to ignore it would be to impugn His own holy character.  The days of His blessing had ended.  Idolatrous Israel must now suffer His chastisement.

9:2.  “The floor and the winepress shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her.”

Blight would replace blessing.  The grain harvests would be so small as to result in insufficient bread, while scarcity of wine would be the result of diminished grape harvests.

Remembering, however, that, “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,” Ro 15:4, we are reading wrongly the record of Israel’s folly if we fail to perceive the application to ourselves.  Christendom too, coveting temporal rather than spiritual blessings, and reveling in luxury, has turned, as noted already, from God to worship Mammon, Education, and Pleasure, crediting these “gods” with all their abundance, while forgetting God, or at best relegating Him to a place of minor importance.  But eyes not blinded by the glitter of the world’s gold, and minds not befuddled by the imagined worth of the world’s wisdom, realize that the evidences of God’s displeasure are to be clearly seen in the lack of spiritual bread, and spiritual wine amongst believers.  How few there are with the ability to see the abundance of spiritual bread lying like manna on top of the literal language of Scripture, their spiritual understanding so dull that even when that bread is set before them, they can’t see it, and charge the expounder with having an over active imagination!  The truth is that the things of this present evil world have dulled their appetite for spiritual bread, so that if they were honest, they would, like Israel in the desert say, “our soul loatheth this light bread,” Nu 21:5.

Nor is it any different with Scripture as spiritual “wine.”  The senses of all too many professing Christians have become so cloyed by the vain pleasures of the world that God’s Word no longer cheers and refreshes them.

9:3.  “They shall not dwell in the Lord’s land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria.”

It was the Canaanites’ defilement of the land that had led God to take it from them and give it to Israel, but she had long since forgotten that fact, so that the circle had come full, and now it was Israel’s defilement of the land that compelled Jehovah to expel them. 

One has but to survey the sorry state of Christendom today to realize that the circle has again come full.  Two thousand years ago the Gentiles had been brought into the enjoyment of the blessings forfeited by Israel’s unbelief, but they have walked in her foolish footsteps, and are now about to become the objects of God’s wrath in the form of the terrible Tribulation judgments, while He turns again and takes up a believing remnant of a new generation of Israel, which will culminate in their entering into the enjoyment of millennial blessing so long delayed by Jewish unbelief.

Relative to the return of Ephraim to Egypt, and to their eating unclean things in Assyria, this word was fulfilled when some did flee into Egypt in hope of escaping the sword of the Assyrian, but multitudes of them were carried captive into Assyria where they not only literally ate food that was unclean to a Jew, but where they were denied the right to abstain from practices that were ceremonially defiling.  They did indeed reap what they had sown.  They had had no compunction about doing evil in Canaan and thus offending God, and now they were to be compelled to do in Egypt and Assyria what offended them.

9:4.  “They shall not offer wine offerings unto the Lord, neither shall they be pleasing unto him: their sacrifices shall be unto them as the bread of mourners; all that eat thereof shall be polluted: for their bread for their soul shall not come into the house of the Lord.”

The wine (drink) offerings would be no more acceptable to Jehovah when offered in the land of their captivity than they had been when offered hypocritically in conjunction with the sacrifices they presented to the Baalim in Canaan.  Even though Israel, mourning in captivity, would cease to worship the Baalim, what they would offer Jehovah would still be unacceptable to Him because it would  still be hypocritical, being impelled, not by love, but by a desire to escape the consequences of their spiritual harlotry.  Their attitude is expressed precisely in the words of the hymn None But Christ Can Satisfy, which describe the attitude of the sinner before conversion:

The pleasures lost, I sadly mourned,

But never wept for Thee. 

The mourners mentioned here are presumably those who had touched the body of the one whose death they lamented, so that they were defiled, and therefore transmitted defilement to everything they touched.  Such would Israel be in captivity.  They would be mourning the loss of the sinful pleasures associated with their idolatry - touching, clinging to, as it were, the “dead body” of that from which they would then be reluctantly separated.

“... their bread for their soul shall not come into the house of the Lord,” presents another reason why their sacrifices would be unacceptable to Jehovah.  “... their bread” here refers to their offerings; and its not coming into the house of the Lord is simply declaring that in Egypt and Assyria there would be no temple to Jehovah, hence the impossibility of their offering any acceptable sacrifices.  God had declared that Israel’s sacrifices  were to be offered only in the temple in Jerusalem, but part of Israel’s sin had been that they, at the urging of Jeroboam, had gone instead to Bethel and Dan where he had set up the golden calves, thus taking the first step towards the idolatry which had brought God’s wrath upon them.

The practical lesson to be learned from all of this is that God must be worshiped exactly according to the manner which He Himself has prescribed, and not according to a form devised by man’s corrupt mind, no matter how plausible that form may seem to be.  The sin-blinded eyes, and spiritually darkened minds of Christendom, however, prevent their perceiving how unscriptural, and therefore how corrupt, is the travesty which they call worship, and which is about to be visited with God’s judgment in the form of the impending Tribulation judgments.  What passes for worship in Christendom is as far from the Divinely prescribed order as is darkness from light, or sin from righteousness.

9:5.  “What will ye do in the solemn day, and in the day of the feast of the Lord?”

The question being addressed here to Israel about to go into Assyrian captivity is what they will do on the days of the great national feasts appointed by Jehovah for the celebration of His goodness.  Having, through their idolatry, deliberately chosen judgment rather than blessing, they would have nothing to celebrate, nor would they have any opportunity to carry out even the hypocritical form of worship with which they had insulted Him while at the same time worshiping the Baalim.

9:6.  “For, lo, they are gone because of destruction: Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them: the pleasant places for their silver, nettles shall possess them: thorns shall be in their tabernacles.”

Having made themselves the objects of Jehovah’s destructive judgment rather than of His blessing, they were about to be cast out of the land which He had given them to enjoy, obedience being the only thing He asked in exchange.

Egypt, the land to which some of them would flee to escape the Assyrians, would prove to be their burying place, as is declared in the words, “Memphis (a principal Egyptian city renowned as a burying place) shall bury them.”

The announcement that nettles would grow over “the pleasant places for their silver,” is the assurance that the places where they had set up their idolatrous altars and silver images of Baal, would become deserted and waste, weeds obscuring every trace of the places that had been the scenes of their brazen rebellion against Jehovah.

“... thorns shall be in their tabernacles” is another way of saying that following their removal from the land, their former homes would become derelict ruins soon to be overgrown by thorns, which incidentally, are the Scriptural symbol of God’s curse, see Ge 3:17-18. 

This picture of the judgment, ruin, and death which would result from Israel’s rebellion against God even while going through the hypocritical charade of offering Him worship, is His warning that the same fate awaits apostate Christendom.

9:7.  “The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.”

Israel’s continued great sin had finally exhausted God’s  patience, He Himself having given warning that while His patience is great it also has a limit, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man,” Ge 6:3, and again, “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy,” Pr 29:1.  For idolatrous Israel the days of His blessing were to be exchanged for His just requittal of their iniquity.  Nor would she be in any doubt as to the cause of her punishment, He Himself giving the assurance, “Israel shall know it.”

“... the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad” is more a rhetorical question than a statement, according to some translators, e.g., Phillips, “The prophet is a fool, is he, and the inspired is a man insane?”  The AAT translation, however, is, “The prophet is distracted, the man of the spirit is crazed, because of your great guilt.”  The interpretation, however, which attributes wisdom to the prophet, and spirituality to the spiritual man, appears to be correct.

“... the great hatred” is generally understood to refer to Israel’s great hatred of God’s commands.

9:8.  “The watchman of Ephraim was with my God: but the prophet is a snare of a fowler in all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God.”

Commentators are agreed that interpretation of this verse is difficult, some taking Israel in the beginning to be a watchman with God, but then through her sin, becoming a snare to the nations, i.e., leading them into disobedience against God; but the interpretation which seems most in harmony with the book in general is that which takes Hosea himself to be God’s watchman in the midst of apostate Israel.  His being “a snare of a fowler in all his ways” is therefore understood to mean that the only message he has for idolatrous Israel is that they are about to be taken in God’s net and delivered into captivity in Assyria.

“... and hatred in the house of his God” is understood to mean that Israel’s response was to hate not only the messenger and the message, but also the God Who sent them.

All of this is being duplicated today in Christendom.  As God, His message and His messenger were hated and rejected by Israel, so is it with professing but apostate Christendom.  She too rejects and hates the God Who denounces her sin and warns of coming judgment, as she does also His faithful servants who deliver His message.  The only “god” she acknowledges is like the Baal worshiped by apostate Israel.  He is the product of her own corrupt imagination, and he smiles on her sin, is too loving to send anyone to hell, but will, on the contrary receive everyone into heaven!

The same sudden dreadful awakening as came to Israel, however, awaits today’s equally iniquitous Christendom.

9:9.  “They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah: therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins.”

Commentators are virtually unanimous in understanding “the days of Gibeah” to refer to the gang rape and murder of the Levite’s concubine described in Judges 19, the ensuing internecine slaughter resulting in the deaths of forty thousand Israelites, and the virtual extermination of the Benjamites, twenty-five thousand of whom were slain, and only six hundred escaping. 

The sin of those addressed by Hosea was no less abhorrent to Jehovah than was that of their forefathers in connection with the atrocity committed at Gibeah, and it would be visited with equally drastic punishment, as will that of apostate Christendom whose sin is equally great.

Consideration of the national picture, however, should not distract from contemplation of what is individual, for ultimately national sin can be traced back to individuals.  Every man who dies without having trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior faces certain punishment, first in hell, and following the judgment of the great white throne, eternal torment in the unquenchable flame of the terrible lake of fire.

9:10.  “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baal-peor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved.”

The joy which Jehovah had found in Israel when He had redeemed her out of Egyptian bondage and brought her into the wilderness to be the object of His love and care is here likened to the joy a man would experience upon finding grapes in the desert.  In those early days He found in her the same pleasure as would one who eats the firstripe figs of the first crop (the choicest) borne by the fig tree.

But sadly those halcyon days had lasted only for a little while. Numbers 25 records Moab’s enticement of the Israelites into marriages with Moabitish women, and the worship of Baal-peor, a Moabite deity.  Since worship is essentially the expression of reverential love, their worship of Baal-peor was nothing less than the expression of their love for this so-called god, and their rejection of Jehovah, which made them as loathsome in His sight as was this idol to which they bowed themselves.

Christendom’s worship of Mammon, Education, and Pleasure, and her rejection of God, have made her equally loathsome in His eyes, and the object of His judgment.

9:11.  “As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird, from the birth, and from the womb, and from the conception.”

Significantly Ephraim means double ash-heap: I shall be doubly fruitful.  Nor is their contradiction in these seemingly disparate meanings, for the truth is that in proportion as we are willing to throw on the “ash-heap” the worthless things that hinder us in running the heavenly race, so will our spiritual fruitfulness increase.  Paul, for example, was one in whose life this principle was exemplified, as expressed in his own words recorded in Php 3:7-8 “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”

Today’s counterpart of Israel’s literal fruitfulness is the number of men and women we have led to Christ.  They are our spiritual sons and daughters.  The diminished numbers of our spiritual offspring, as compared with years gone by, is for the same reason as caused diminished families in Israel in the days of Hosea - sin!

Literally God would cause the birthrate to fall; and the death rate to be high amongst those that were born.  Today’s counterpart of the high death rate amongst the children that were born in Israel in the days of Hosea, is the number of professions that prove very quickly to have been false.

As a bird flies away leaving no trace of its presence, so would Israel’s glory also depart; and the removal of her glory would be complete, as disclosed under the figure of the steps involved in birth.  “... from the birth,” means that there would be no birth (no visible evidence of glory); nor would there be the equivalent of the fetus in the womb (no evidence of even coming glory); nor would there be that which corresponds to conception (there would be no hope of glory).  For that evil generation there was no hope.  She had sinned away her day of grace, having crossed that invisible line which separates God’s mercy from His wrath.  Her destruction would be complete.  So will it be also for Christendom, and for every man who exhausts God’s patience.

9:12.  “Though they bring up their children, yet will I bereave them, that there shall not be a man left: yea, woe also to them when I depart from them!”

Even when they bore children, God would take those same children away before they grew to adulthood, so that there would “not be a man left.”  That evil generation was to be utterly destroyed, a fact which seems to imply that those who did eventually return from captivity were the descendants of the believing remnant within the apostate mass of the nation.

Some take this to refer to Israel’s sacrificing of their infants to the Baalim, but the context doesn’t appear to support this view, though there can be little question that they did, in fact, engage in this evil practice.

“... woe also to them when I depart from them.”  Man lightly departs from God, but what a dreadful thing it is when God departs from a man or a nation!

9:13.  “Ephraim, as I saw Tyrus (Tyre), is planted in a pleasant place: but Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer.”

As noted already, when the name Israel is used the focus seems to be on the nation as a corporate body, but when Ephraim is used the focus appears to be on the individuals comprising the nation, the truth being that the character of a nation reflects the character of its people, and the lesson to be remembered is that ultimately each individual must render account to God.

Many of the scriptural references to Tyre indicate that it had been built on a particularly pleasant location, this advantage being enhanced by the riches brought to it through its maritime trade, see e.g., Ez 26 and 27.  Chapter 28:12-19 of that same book, however, makes it clear that the king of Tyre is a type of Satan, and in God’s destruction of the man, He is showing us the ultimate end of the Devil.  But why should there be this mention of Tyre when Hosea is writing concerning the destruction of idolatrous Israel?  The answer seems to be that God is taking us behind the stage of earthly activity to show us that the ultimate source of the world’s evil is Satan, and to assure us that one day that evil spirit will himself become the object of the Divine destructive wrath and judgment.

Ephraim’s bringing forth his children to the murderer is simply another way of saying that they will fall by the sword of the enemy; but inasmuch as Satan is described as a murderer, see Jn 8:44, it seems that God is emphasizing that all who serve Satan must share his fate, i.e., perish with him.

9:14.  “Give them, O Lord: what wilt thou give? give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.”

What a contrast is expressed here!  One of God’s greatest blessings to an obedient Israel had been to multiply her children, but her disobedience had cut her off from blessing.  In view of what awaited her children, the greatest blessing He could now bestow would be to make her childless, and thus spare her the agony of having her children slain before her eyes.

That this judgment went beyond the Assyrian captivity, and pointed also to the Diaspora of AD 70, is made clear by the Lord’s similar words as He was led out to Calvary, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.  For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.  Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us,” Lk 23:28-30

9:15.  “All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more: all their princes are revolters.”

Gilgal was the place where Israel first camped on the Canaan side of Jordan, and where they set up the memorial cairn of the twelve stones taken out of the bed of Jordan when God miraculously divided the waters to permit them to cross over into Canaan, see Jos 4.  It was there too that the rite of circumcision was renewed, and there they kept the first passover after leaving the wilderness, see Jos 5.  What changes the years had brought!  This place which had been associated with their obedience and the resultant Divine blessing, had now become one of the principal centers of the vile Canaanite fertility cult and all the associated licentiousness in which Israel delighted in connection with the worship of Baal.  Small wonder that Jehovah Who had delighted in them, and Who had showered them with every blessing that love could bestow, should now be compelled to act towards them as though He hated them, for He could no longer bestow blessing without impugning His own holiness.

Israel’s wickedness (spiritual adultery) compelled Him to treat her as an adulterous wife, and to put her out of His house, i.e., out of His land.  He could no longer act toward her in love, for she, represented by all her leaders, had refused to submit to His authority as her Husband.

9:16.  “Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb.”

That generation of Israel had passed beyond the pale of mercy.  God was about to cut them off.  He would make their wombs unfruitful, and even where children were born, He would deliver them up to the sword of the enemy.

9:17.  “My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto him: and they shall be wanderers among the nations.”

In the final analysis it was their disobedience that had cut them off from blessing, and that had made them the objects of Jehovah’s wrath; and so is it with all men.  There is no sin that can’t be forgiven except refusal to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.

As to their being “wanderers among the nations,” the immediate reference is to Israel’s being carried captive into Assyria; and Judah, into Babylon; but the ultimate application is to the Diaspora of AD 70, a world wide scattering which has lasted for two thousand years, and from which the majority of them have not yet returned, though it is clear that those presently settled in Palestine since 1948 are but the first trickle of the great river of Jews who will return to the land in the seven-year Tribulation era, and in the days immediately following the Lord’s return to inaugurate His millennial kingdom.

[Hosea 10]


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