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

13:1.  “When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.”

The first clause of this verse means that when Ephraim obeyed God he spoke with the voice of authority so that the people feared to disobey him.  His obedience to God ensured blessing, and caused him to be exalted or looked up to in Israel.  But all of that ended when he turned from the path of obedience, and worshiped Baal.  The Divine blessing ceased, and Ephraim not only lost his preeminent place in Israel: he also incurred the sentence of death, which was about to be executed in his being carried captive into Assyria, for that generation actually died in Assyria.

The practical lesson to be learnt from his experience is that whether the disobedience be that of a man, a tribe, or a nation, it brings death.

13:2.  “And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.”

One sin leads to another, until eventually all fear of God disappears, and there is no limit to the sin that will be committed without compunction.  This had been the case with the ten tribes (Israel), and eventually also with Judah.  They took the silver with which Jehovah had blessed them, and had craftsmen make it into the shapes of gods according to their own concept of what those gods should look like.

A common form of idol was that of a calf, the original idea having been conceived by Jeroboam when he set up the golden calves at Bethel and Gilgal, in an effort to keep the people from going to Jerusalem to worship.

“Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves” is understood by more than a few translators to mean that the idolatry included human sacrifice, e.g., “They that sacrifice men kiss calves,” Jewish Publication Society, and “Those who kiss calf images offer human sacrifice,” The New English Bible.  There is no limit to the depths of sin into which apostates may plunge.  Were it not written in Scripture, it would be impossible to believe that the nation which had once worshiped Jehovah in holiness, should now be sacrificing their own children to idols.

Polite euphemisms such as “terminating the pregnancy” are used today in Christendom to cover up the immolation of countless thousands of unborn babies to the goddess Lust, simply to avoid the consequences of sin!  And in China the same slaughter is used to serve the interests of economic expediency by controlling  population growth.  As the judgment of God fell upon rebellious Israel, so will it just as certainly fall upon today’s wicked world, only sin-blinded eyes failing to see that that day of judgment is almost here.

13:3.  “Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the (threshing) floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.”

The morning cloud and the early dew speak of what Israel might have been.  The cloud suspended in the air is a figure of believers living in separation from an evil world, and such was Israel when first redeemed and walking with God in the desert towards Canaan.  The early dew, watering the earth and making it fruitful, portrays believers bringing blessing to the earth through their witness in the gospel.  It was God’s intention that Israel should have been the equivalent of that early dew, but sadly she never fulfilled the Divine expectation.

Nor has God chosen His metaphors haphazardly.  The morning cloud suspended in the air, the realm of the Spirit, speaks of what man is spiritually; the dew, lying on the ground, speaks of what he is physically.

As previously noted, however, Israel’s history is but the prewritten history of the Church and of apostate Christendom, which have also failed to walk in separation from an evil world, and which have also failed to bring blessing to the world through an effective witness in the gospel.

Having used the morning cloud and the dew as metaphors of what Israel’s spiritual state might have been, God now uses two very different symbols to portray what she had become.  Chaff is the biblical symbol of what is worthless, while the whirlwind represents Divine judgment.  By her apostasy Israel had made herself worthless both to God and to man, and was about to be carried away in judgment. 

“... out of the (threshing) floor,” (symbol of the land of Canaan) where she might have remained as a heap of wheat for God’s glory, and man’s blessing, she was about to be carried out of the land, into captivity in Assyria.  Canaan’s being represented by the threshing floor reminds us that Israel’s tenure in the land was a time of testing, Jehovah separating the wheat from the chaff, as it were.  So is it also with every man’s life here on earth: it too is God’s threshing floor where he separates the precious from the vile; the unconverted, like chaff, being carried away by death out into eternal torment; believers, like wheat, being gathered into God’s barn, heaven, to enjoy eternal blessing.

“... as the smoke out of the chimney.”  Smoke is the evidence of the presence of fire.  As a result of God’s wrath, portrayed here by fire, Israel would become as smoke carried out of the house through the chimney, the sole purpose of a chimney being to carry away the smoke, so that the occupants of the house may enjoy the benefits of the fire without having to suffer the discomfort caused by the smoke.  Israel’s folly had reduced her to the equivalent of smoke: she had become an offence to God and man, and as a result was about to be carried captive out of the “house.”

And again, God has chosen His metaphors carefully.  Chaff, which is the product of the earth, represents what the unconverted man is physically; smoke, what he is spiritually - a useless offence to God and men.

13:4.  “Yet I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no savior beside me.”

This is not saying that God’s dealings with them had begun just at the time He had delivered them from Egyptian bondage.  His dealings with them went all the way back, not just to the days of Abram, but to Adam.  Before time began God foreknew all about Israel, as He does about every man.  Having gone down into Egypt as a family in the days of Jacob, they had multiplied into a nation, and it was God’s relationship with them as a nation that is being emphasized here.  In the miracles performed in connection with their deliverance from Egypt, He had demonstrated the extent of His power, that demonstration culminating in His destruction of all the might of Egypt at the Red Sea.  Added to that demonstration of His power was His dealings with them during the forty years in the wilderness, during which He miraculously provided them with bread in the form of manna, and with water from the smitten rock.  His guidance and protecting care were further revealed by the miraculous manner in which He furnished that guidance and protection: the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night.  Added to these evidences of His power and loving care was His miraculous division of the overflowing Jordan to permit them dry-shod crossing into Canaan.

No people could have been given clearer evidence of Jehovah’s might and power and loving care, but they had forgotten all this, and had turned from Him to offer their worship to idols - the figments of their own deluded minds, given tangible form by the work of human craftsmen shaping molten metal: dumb idols incapable of anything, yet by the stupidity of apostate Israel, endowed with power superior to that of Jehovah!  Had sin not blinded their minds they ought to have known that no one but Him could save them, but sadly, their unwillingness to repent had carried them beyond the line which divides His mercy from His wrath, and now they must perish in spite of His power to save, for He will not save the unrepentant.

13:5.  “I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.”

In the present context “know” goes far beyond mere acquaintanceship, and is more accurately translated “owned,” in conjunction with loving tender care.  During all the years in the wilderness God acknowledged Israel as His people, His love for them being demonstrated daily in His faithful provision and watchful protection.  But sadly, rebellious Israel had forgotten all this.

13:6.  “According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.”

Though they were in the parched wilderness, such was God’s gracious provision for them and their cattle that it was as though they were in a place of lush pasture, so that they lacked nothing; but gradually they came to take all of this for granted, as though it were their due, so that they became arrogant and proud, and forgot their Benefactor.

Some take verse six to be descriptive of the abundance of Canaan.

Christendom has followed all too faithfully in Israel’s ungrateful footsteps, and is also about to exchange God’s blessing for His judgment.

13:7.  “Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them:”

Having exhausted God’s patience, they were now about to experience His wrath.  Having ignored Him as their Benefactor, they were about to learn to dread His fierce anger as He became unto them like a lion   Having been their Protector, He was now about to become their Destroyer.  And so is it with Christendom.  He Who came two thousand years ago as the Lamb Who died to make possible the remission of their sin, is about to return as the mighty Lion of Judah, banishing every unbeliever into hell, inaugurating His millennial kingdom, and ruling the nations with a rod of iron.

As the lion is synonymous with destructive power, so is the leopard the epitome of stealth and keen sightedness.  While the lion frequently panics his prey with his roar, the leopard almost invariably pounces without warning.  Jehovah was about to become as a leopard to Israel, His all seeing eye missing no detail of their sin, His destruction of them coming with the swiftness of a leopard’s spring.  And again, what befell sinful Israel in the days of Hosea, is also about to befall equally sinful Christendom, as it is written, “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.  For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape,” 1 Th 5:2-3.

13:8.  “I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them.”

Few creatures are more dangerous than a bear robbed of her cubs, so that Jehovah’s likening Himself to such a bear in His dealings with rebel Israel, conveys something of the fierceness of His anger.  He is a fool who ignores, not only the warning recorded here, but recorded also in Heb 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

“Caul” is used here of the breast as that which encloses the heart.  God’s tearing their breasts is a figure of speech meaning that He will destroy them without mercy as would a lion or other voracious beast.

Dr Harry Ironside sees, and not without reason, a connection between the animals mentioned here: the lion, the bear, the leopard, and “the wild beast,” and Daniel chapter 7 where they represent Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome respectively, the wild beast representing Rome not only in the past, but also in the future, when the Roman beast emperor will be the fierce persecutor of believing Jews and Gentiles in the Tribulation.

13:9.  “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.”

The American Standard Version renders this, “It is thy destruction, O Israel, that thou art against me, against thy help.”  God is the Source of all help, so that he who chooses to oppose Him ensures his own destruction.  That is exactly what Israel had done, and what Christendom is doing, as does every man who refuses to confess himself a sinner, and trust in Christ as his only Savior.

13:10.  “I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities?  and thy judges of whom thou saidest, Give me a king and princes?”

This seems to refer to Israel’s sin in the time of Samuel when they rejected God’s government, and demanded a king so that they would be like all the nations, and God gave them Saul whose tyrannous rule ended in his suicide and Israel’s utter defeat at the hand of the Philistines, 1 Sa 8 and 31.  That experience with their first king ought to have warned them against putting their trust in any mortal king.  But they had failed to heed the lesson, and having rejected Jehovah in even fuller measure by worshiping the Baalim, they had run to Egypt and Assyria for help, but in vain, for the God they ignored delivered them into the hand of the very king they had looked to for aid!

Apostate Christendom has aped Israel’s folly, for she has not only rejected God’s rule, but in the fast approaching Tribulation will place her trust in the Roman beast emperor, only to be destroyed with him and his armies gathered against Christ at Armageddon.

13:11.  “I gave thee a king in mine anger and took him away in my wrath.”

The reference is clearly to God’s having given them Saul as their king, and His having taken him away when He caused him to perish at Gilboa fighting against the Philistines, 1 Sa 31.

A careful study of Saul reveals that he is a type of the Tribulation age beast ruler, and as Saul’s reign ended amid destruction, in preparation for the reign of David, so will that of the beast end amid the destruction of the present world order in preparation for the inauguration of Christ’s millennial kingdom.

Some understand the given king to be both Saul and Jeroboam.

13:12.  “The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid.”

Taylor translates this verse, “Ephraim’s sins are harvested and stored away for punishment,” and the NEB renders it, “Ephraim’s guilt is tied up in a scroll, his sins are kept on record.”

As it was with the Israel of Hosea’s day, so is it also with apostate Christendom, and with every individual who has not trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  A fearful day of reckoning awaits all whose sins have not been blotted out by that precious blood shed at Calvary.  All such sin is recorded in God’s books, and will receive an appropriate measure of punishment to be endured eternally in the lake of fire, see Re 20:12-15, “And I saw the (unbelieving) dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened ... and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.... And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

It shouldn’t be forgotten, however, that a record is also being kept of every believer’s life - not of his sins, which have all been blotted out by Christ’s precious blood, but of his service so that a just eternal recompense may be given by the Lord on that day when we stand at His judgment seat.

13:13.  “The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children.”

Moffatt translates this as, “The pangs of childbirth are here, but a senseless babe is he, he will not come to the womb’s mouth at the right moment,” and the NAB translates it, “The birth pangs shall come for him, but he shall be an unwise child; for when it is time he shall not present himself where children break forth.”

The birth pangs speak of the coming Assyrian captivity - a judgment meant to bring Israel to repentance and to life-giving faith in Jehovah - but foolish Israel would refuse to be born anew, and would instead be carried away out of the land like a stillborn to burial.

Unquestionably this goes beyond the Assyrian invasion, and relates also to the coming terrible Tribulation judgments which will bring a remnant to repentant faith in Christ, but which will leave the mass of the nation in unbelief, worshiping the beast, and thus making themselves heirs of judgment.

“... for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children,” sounds the warning that God has set a limit on the time during which one may be born again.  Contrary to the popular idea that one may be saved at a time of his own choosing, God warns, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation,” 2 Cor 6:2, adding the further warning, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man,” Ge 6:3; “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy,” Pr 29:1.  As discussed already, Israel had already passed beyond God’s accepted time!

13:14.  “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.”

While a few translators render this interrogatively “Shall I ransom them ... shall I redeem them?” it seems that the preferable translation is that which accepts it as a declarative statement.  That evil generation would not be ransomed from the power of the grave, or redeemed from death; but that didn’t mean that the nation must perish.  God would raise up another generation of Israel in which would be fulfilled all His promises given to the fathers through the prophets.  The statement, however, goes beyond the bringing of Israel into the enjoyment of millennial blessing.  At the final stage of the resurrection of life, which will occur at the end of Tribulation, God will bring the bodies of the OT and Tribulation age saints out of the grave, and, uniting them again to their redeemed souls, will translate them into the eternal bliss of heaven, the believers of this Church age having already enjoyed that blessed experience at the Rapture prior to the beginning of the Tribulation.

It is to be noted that the resurrection of life, i.e., of believers, will be in three parts: Christ the firstfruits; afterwards the Church age saints, and finally as noted above, the saints of the OT and Tribulation ages, see 1 Cor 15:22-23, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.  But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”  Relative to Christ’s coming: there will be first His coming, before the Tribulation, to rapture Church age saints to heaven, and then His coming to end the Tribulation and raise the bodies of the OT and deceased Tribulation age saints, taking them to heaven to be there with us eternally. 

That completion of the resurrection of life will bring the fulfillment of what is written in 1 Cor 15:53-57, “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory?  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It is scarcely necessary to point out that these verses from Corinthians are a virtual repetition of the verse we are now considering, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.”  The three stages of the resurrection of life will bring the fulfillment of this promise.

“... repentance shall be hid from mine eyes,” sounds the grim warning, however, that the idolatrous, unrepentant Israel addressed by Hosea, would not inherit the promises of ultimate deliverance from the power of death and the grave.  They had passed beyond the pale of mercy.  Because they had refused to repent, God would not repent (change His mind) relative to their eternal punishment; nor will anything ever induce Him to change His decree concerning all who die unrepentant: their eternal portion will be in the unquenchable flame of the lake of fire.

13:15.  “Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of the Lord shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels.”

There is a play here on the meaning of the name by which the ten tribes were sometimes called, for as noted already, one of the meanings of Ephraim is I shall be doubly fruitful.  The extent of Israel’s literal fruitfulness is indicated in that another rendering of the first part of this verse is, “Though he flourish like the reed-plant in the water....”  Sadly his spiritual fruitfulness was of the very opposite character.

The east is the biblical direction that always speaks of sin and departure from God, and therefore as here, of Divine judgment.  Israel’s literal fruitfulness was about to be exchanged for the parched unfruitful condition normally associated with the wilderness.  The term spring is generally used of a spring well, and here it seems to speak of a well which has been opened by digging, so that it is associated with man’s labor.  Fountain on the other hand indicates a spring bubbling up apart from any human effort, and speaking therefore of Divine blessing.  In the past, God had added His blessing to man’s work by giving abundant harvests, but now that blessing was to cease, so that in spite of strenuous effort on Israel’s part the crops would fail so that famine would succeed plenty.

“... he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels,” is taken by some to mean that God would strip the land of all its treasures, everything of value having to be sold in order to buy the necessities of life.  Others, however, understand it to refer to the pillaging of the land by the invading Assyrians.

13:16.  “Samaria (capital of the northern kingdom) shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.”

Rebellion against God is always attended by terrible consequences.  Not only would the once fertile land become desolate, but the sword in the hand of a merciless foe, Assyria, would slaughter indiscriminately.  Under the judgment of God death would hang like a pall over the land that had once burgeoned with life and blessing.  And so will it be with this present evil world in the impending Tribulation, the book of Revelation presenting the appalling picture, not just of one land, but of the whole world brought to ruin through anarchy, war, famine, disease, and supernatural disasters far more terrible than anything the earth has ever known, all past catastrophes paling into insignificance compared with those which will devastate the Tribulation age earth.

[Hosea 14]


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