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 2002 James Melough

11:1.  “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”

This refers to God’s deliverance of Israel on the night of the Passover, and His tender love for them is declared both in the direct announcement of that love, and in His referring to Israel as a child, and as “my son.”  But the reference goes far beyond Israel, for Mt 2:15 applies these words to the Lord Jesus Christ, as it is written, “... that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.” 

When we fail to look beyond the literal language of the OT we rob ourselves of a great deal that God wants us to enjoy, as is declared by what is written concerning the Lord’s talk with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “And beginning at Moses (the Pentateuch) and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”  At that time the NT hadn’t been written: the scriptures were the books of the OT, yet the name of Jesus isn’t found once in those scriptures!  How then could He expound unto them from the OT the things concerning Himself?  The answer is that He is presented typologically on virtually every page of the OT, and we are reading it correctly when we begin to discover those symbolic portraits of Him in its pages.

What a difference there was, however, between that first son, Israel, and the Second, the Lord Jesus Christ!  The first dishonored God by his disobedience; the Second glorified the Father by His perfect obedience, even unto death.  Of the first, God declared in anger, “... ye are not my people, and I will not be your God,” 1:9; but of the Second He announced from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” Mt 3:17.

We should note too, incidentally, that in Israel and Christ we are presented with a demonstration of the principle which runs throughout Scripture, and which governs God in His dealings with men, as declared in Heb 10:9, “He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.”  Examples of this principle are the rejection of Cain and the acceptance of Abel; and so with Ishmael and Isaac; Esau and Jacob; Reuben and Joseph; Manasseh and Ephraim; Saul, Israel’s first king, and David, the second; the first Adam, and Christ the last Adam.  In this connection, we read in Ex 4:22, “Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:” so that as to His humanity Christ was God’s secondborn.  This Divine rejection of the firstborn, and the taking up of the secondborn to be the channel of blessing, is the typological announcement of the truth that the firstborn always represents what we are by natural birth; the secondborn, what we become through the second birth.  Incidentally, it is only as to His humanity that Christ is God’s secondborn: in resurrection, and as Head of a new race of men, believers, He is “the firstborn from (among) the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” Col 1:18.

11:2.  “As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.”

It is generally understood that in the first half of this verse the reference is to the prophets who called to Israel to repent and return to God; but she rejected their warnings, and turned from them to worship the Baalim, part of that idolatrous worship being the burning of incense to the graven images they had made as tangible representatives of those imaginary “gods.”

Jn 4:24 describes the proper order for the worship of the true believer, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth,” i.e., in the power, and at the impulse of the Holy Spirit; and according to the manner prescribed in Scripture, concerning which it is written, “Thy word is truth,” Jn 17:17. 

The “worship” of the unconverted man, on the contrary, is not spiritual but sensual.  Because he is natural and not spiritual, he must have something to which his senses can respond, hence Christendom’s magnificent buildings, statues, paintings, music, incense, robed clerics, ritual, etc., all of it no less idolatry than that which the so-called heathen offer to their literal idols, and as did the rebellious Israel addressed by Hosea and the other prophets.

11:3.  “I taught Ephraim also to go (walk), taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.”

As a father teaches and helps his child to walk, so had God lovingly and patiently taught Israel how to walk before Him in obedience so that they could enjoy His blessing.  As a father holds his child by the arms helping it take its first faltering steps, so had God dealt with Israel, comforting them, and healing the bruises they sustained in the process of learning to walk; but they had failed to learn the extent of His love for them.

11:4.  “I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.”

As men use cords or reins to control, but not to injure their animals, so had God done metaphorically with Israel.  His control was loving and gentle, and for their ultimate blessing, for man’s greatest good lies in his doing God’s will, as it is written, “... be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God,” Ro 2:2.  And as a humane master removes the yoke from his animals so that they may eat in comfort, so had God dealt kindly with Israel as He fed them with the fine wheat of His Word.

11:5.  “He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return.”

Some of them would flee into Egypt by their own choice, not God’s, in hope of escaping His judgment, but the Assyrian was the instrument chosen by God to chastise them.  Having refused the beneficent rule of Jehovah Who had loved them, He would now compel them to submit to the tyrannous oppression of the Assyrian ruler, who, like every evil king, is a type of Satan, and the lesson being taught in this is that He who will not serve God must serve Satan.

11:6.  “And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches (villages), and devour them, because of their own counsels.”

The result of rejecting Jehovah’s gentle rule, and of following their own foolish counsels, was that the enemy, the Assyrian, would destroy their cities and fortresses, and ravish their whole land, leaving desolation and death in his wake.

11:7.  “And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they (the prophets) called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him.”

The people were totally devoted to sinning against Jehovah through their devotion to the worship of the Baalim, and the pleasure they found in the vile licentiousness involved in that idolatry.

The prophets had continually called them back to Jehovah, but their voices went unheeded: none would give God the worship and glory which were His due.

11:8.  “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.”

The compassion expressed in these words reveals a love that passes understanding, and the use of the name Ephraim tells of the personal nature of that love for every individual within the sinful nation.  In spite of all their sin against Him, each Israelite was as dear to Him as is a well-loved son to an earthly father who fondly remembers the pleasure found in that son when he was a little child.  It broke God’s heart to give up even one of them to the cruelty of the oppressor, but His own inherent holiness made it impossible for Him to continue with them in their sin, for He “is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity,” Hab 1:13.

And as it was with the individual, so was it also with them as a corporate body, Israel: He loved them all!

We turn, however, from the contemplation of His love for Israel, as expressed in the words of this verse, to look upon a greater wonder: His love for a rebel world, as expressed in the death of His only beloved, obedient, and sinless Son at Calvary, that Son dying there willingly so that rebel men might be saved from the consequences of their sin.  No human mind is capable of fathoming that love: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” Jn 3:16.  Those of us who are saved worship now, and will do so for ever, because God has not called upon us to understand, but to believe the truth expressed in those words! 

It was with bitter sorrow that God saw rebellious Israel reject His love, and go out from His presence to suffer the awful consequences of their folly.  Nor is His sorrow confined to rebel Israel: the death of every unrepentant sinner evokes the same emotion in the heart of God as is expressed in the lament recorded here, “How shall I give thee up.... How shall I deliver thee....” to the eternal torment of the unquenchable flame of the lake of fire, from which My Son gave His life to save you, but you spurned My love and refused My mercy, choosing death instead of eternal life?

Admah and Zeboim were two of the wicked cities destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Lot, see Ge 10:19; 14:2,8; Dt 29:23, and it grieved God to see foolish Israel choose the same fate for herself, as does the folly of all who die unrepentant, as it is written, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Eze 33:11.

“... mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together,” continues to express the sorrow with which God viewed the terrible fate Israel had chosen.  He longed to reverse the sentence of death, but their failure to repent made such reversal impossible.  It is with the same deep sadness that God views the death and eternal doom of every man who dies unrepentant.

11:9.  “I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.”

This has to be understood in context.  Nothing could save that unrepentant generation of Israel, for they had exhausted God’s patience, and had crossed that invisible line which separates His mercy from His wrath; but what God is saying here is that He would confine His judgment to the destruction of that one wicked generation.  He would not destroy them in the sense of causing the nation to become extinct.  He would deal with each succeeding generation on its own merits, i.e., He would save and bless all who exercised repentant faith, and destroy all who didn’t.  This is the abiding principle which governs God in His dealings with men in every dispensation, as declared in Dt 24:16 “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.”

“... for I am God, and not man.”  Had Israel treated a human ruler as they had God, he would have annihilated them; but God’s love is infinitely greater than that of even the best of men.

“...the Holy One in the midst of thee” declares the truth that because He is holy He must judge sin.  Were He to do otherwise He would cease to be God - a thing impossible.

“... and I will not enter into the city,” means, as already discussed, that He would destroy that unrepentant generation, but would not annihilate the nation.

11:10.  “They shall walk after the Lord: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west.”

It will obviously be a future generation that “shall walk after the Lord,” i.e., obey Him; and it also seems clear that His roaring like a lion refers to the end of the Tribulation era when the Lord Jesus Christ will return in power and glory as the mighty Lion of Judah, to banish unbelievers into hell, and inaugurate His millennial kingdom.

One meaning of the word “tremble” is to hasten, and it seems that this is the sense in which it is to be understood here, for following Christ’s return at the end of the Tribulation, Israel will hurry back to Palestine from every corner of the earth, and the words “from the west” may perhaps be an oblique reference to the fact that the majority of Jews today are settled amongst western nations.

11:11.  “They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith the Lord.”

“Tremble” continues to have the same meaning here as in the previous verse, i.e., to hasten; and Egypt and Assyria are used metaphorically to represent the lands where they have been dispersed since AD 70, and from which they will return to Palestine at the end of the Tribulation.  Their being likened to doves is generally understood to refer to the unerring swiftness with which the dove returns to its cote.  Israel’s return to their homeland at the end of the Tribulation will be of similar character.  Their being placed “in their houses” is a figurative term used to describe their being settled in peace in Palestine during the Millennium.

11:12.  “Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.”

Ephraim continues to represent the individuals comprising the nation; and the lies with which God charges them refer to the hypocrisy of the worship they offer Him while they also worship the Baalim.  Israel represents them as a corporate body; and their continued harmonious relationship with Jehovah, implied in their hypocritical worship, He declares to be pure deceit.

Judah, however, had not yet fallen into the same sinful state, and her ruling with God announces that for the most part they obeyed Him.  Their being “faithful with the saints” means that their obedience made them saints, i.e., sanctified ones: those whose obedience set them apart as belonging to God.

[Hosea 12]


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