About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Hosea 9 

Presious Section - Cchapter 8

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Punishment For Israel (chl. 9:1 17)      


In verse 1 God tells the northern kingdom not to rejoice.  If He had to tell them this, that would suggest to me that they were rejoicing.  They were rejoicing, but not rejoicing in their God.  They were rejoicing in their own self made luxuries of life.  They were rejoicing in themselves, just like the western world is rejoicing today.  There's a lot of happiness in the west, but the happiness is shallow and based on a sinful lifestyle, which will soon come crumbling to the ground.   


God then tells these people why they are not to rejoice.  It is because "they have been unfaithful to their God".  They had forsaken Him long ago and now their rejoicing would end in judgment.


Also in verse 1 you see the term, "wages of a prostitute at every threshing floor".   Part of the payment for a prostitute was often left-over grain from the threshing floor.  Again, as I have said, when it comes to prostitution concerning the northern kingdom of Israel, we need to understand this in two ways.  One is literal prostitution being conducted in the northern kingdom, and the other is spiritual prostitution.  Spiritual prostitution is the fact that Israel left their God to serve other gods, or, to be married to other gods.


Concerning the phrase "you love wages of prostitution", when you think of the spiritual adultery the northern kingdom was involved in, this means that the pagans they gave themselves to was a means of income for them, and when money is involved, it's hard to leave the one paying your salary.  It's all about compromise for the sake of financial gain. That sure sounds familiar in our world today.  


Verse 2 states that the "threshing floors and the wine presses will not feed the people".   Grains and wines were part of the staples, part of the main food, that Israelis ate, but that would disappear.  This would be part of God's judgment. The financial benefit incurred by their association with pagans would end, because the pagans would do them in and make slaves out of them.   


Verse 3 states that "they", those in the northern kingdom, "will not remain in the Lord's land".  We've seen this before in the Old Testament.  We often think that the land promised to Israel would be exclusively theirs, that is, it would belong to them, but that's not exactly right.  The land is said to be the Lord's all the way through the Old Testament.  Israel was only a tenant in the land, and only if and when  they kept the covenant of God, meaning, the Law of Moses, that they said they would keep.  So, Israel had broken the covenant and as a result, the land was now going to be taken from them.  God owns that particular land in the middle east.  He did back in Hosea's day, and He still owns the land today.  The land of Israel has great prophetic significance. Of course, the whole world belongs to God, but I think it's clear that this portion of land has special interest to God. 


Then verse 3 states that Ephraim, or, the northern kingdom, will return to Egypt.  Remember, the northern kingdom is often called Ephraim because Ephraim was the predominant tribe in the north.  The returning to Egypt may be a bit confusing to some, especially since the next phrase says that they will go to Assyria.  We must take this return to Egypt as symbolic of returning to slavery.  God told Israel that when they left Egypt, they should never return.  Ever since then, Egypt was symbolic of slavery.  Israel was enslaved in Assyria, yet history does show that a few Jews did make their way down to Egypt after Babylon conquered Assyria.


God says that Ephraim will eat unclean food in Assyria.  The simple fact is that Ephraim was eating unclean food in his own country, and because of that, he'd do the same in a nation in which he would be enslaved.  If he would not serve the Lord as he was meant to do in his own land, God would take his religion away from him.  It's similar to what Paul teaches in Romans 1 and 2.  God will give you over to that which you are serving.  That is, He will give you over to your sin and in the process you will lose what you once had in the Lord.  If Ephraim didn't want to serve the Lord, then that's what he could do, but not in the land that belongs to the Lord.  It's like parents with a very rebellious teenager.  If the teenager keeps refusing to obey the rules of the house and fit in with the rest of the family, sometimes the parents have to kick the teenager out of the house.  That's what God was doing to the northern kingdom of Israel.


Verse 4 is simply saying that the ceremonies that are associated with the Law of Moses, even if they are done in a foreign land, will not be acceptable to the Lord.  Besides, many of these ceremonies were to be done at the temple or designated places.  So if they were to be performed in Assyria , they wouldn't be acceptable because they were being performed in the wrong place.


Israel has been in the same situation for close to the last two thousand years.  Israel has gotten around this, at least in a humanistic sense, by turning her religion into a religion of works, which also is not acceptable to their God.


Note in verse 4 the words "the bread of mourners".  Mourners here is probably in reference to mourning at a funeral.  The ceremonies that were meant to be joyous and meaningful, if done at all in  Assyria, would resemble a funeral more than a celebration.


God asks a question in verse 5. He asks, "what will they do on the days of your appointed feasts ..."?  Judaism, through the Law of Moses, was very structured.  They were expected to keep specific days for specific reasons and in specific places.  How could they do that when they weren't in the right place?  Well, they couldn't.


Verse 6 states that even if some Jews escape destruction in Assyria, "Egypt will gather them and Memphis will bury them".  We must view Egypt as symbolic of slavery again.  Some Jews were killed when Assyria conquered them, yet those who escaped being killed in the conquest were in danger of being killed once in Assyria, which here is symbolized in Egypt and Memphis. Memphis was a city in Egypt where pagan worship was worshipping the dead, and even death itself.  As weird as it may sound, some people actually worshipped death.


Verse 6 ends with the idea that briers will over run their silver and thorns their tents.  This is speaking specifically of their possession in Israel and the land itself.  We have seen this before as well.  If the Jews were not going to live in the promised land as God wanted them too, no one else would successfully live their either.  The land would become desolate, which it has been for centuries.  Only since the Lord has allowed Israel to return to the land in recent decades has the land been productive.


Verse 7 is sad.  The day of judgment and reckoning is at hand for the northern kingdom of Israel because of their many sins.  Judgment and reckoning go hand in hand.  Reckoning means that Israel would now have to give account of all the sins they have committed and they then would be judged and punished accordingly. 


A couple of sins are specified here in verse 8.  One sin is their hostility, and that would be to their fellow human beings as well as God.  We've seen earlier, and also in the book of Amos that the northern kingdom lost any real sense of justice.  Their courts had become corrupt and they were very hostile, especially towards the poor. 


Another specific sin was their treatment of men of God.  They considered the prophets of God to be fools and the men of God to be maniacs. I would suggest that the western world is beginning to do the same today.  Men of God were once held in high esteem, but not any more.  Men of God are often ridiculed in the media. They are often the but of jokes by stand up comedians.  And, when it comes to prophets, even Christians put them down.


Verse 9 says, "they have sunk deep into corruption as in the days of Gibeah".  To understand what "the days of Gibeah" means you must read Judges 19 through 21.  This is the story. A Levite was traveling through the tribe of Benjamin with his concubine.  He needed a place to stay and no one would offer him a place for the night except an old man.  When a certain group of young men heard this, they stood outside the house where the Levite was spending the night and demanded the old man give them the Levite to commit homosexual acts with all night.  The old man refused to give the Levite, but he did give the gang of teenage boys the Levite's concubine.  The young men sexually abused her all night and ended up killing her.  When the Levite saw this, he went home, cut his concubine up in twelve pieces and sent each piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel.  When the other eleven tribes got their piece, they were outraged and fought against Benjamin, killing all of the tribe except for about 600 people.  This is the story behind these words, and now, the rest of the northern kingdom, at least in God's eyes, was just as bad as those young men who raped and killed this woman,.  That's how bad the northern kingdom got.  They became as bad as Sodom and Gomorrah.


The next phrase in verse 9 states that God will remember the wickedness of the northern kingdom and will punish them for it.  We must not confuse this with the fact that God forgives sins and sends them as far as the east is from the west and remembers our sins no more.  Those sins that He will never remember are only those sins that are covered by the blood of Jesus. If you have not accepted the sacrificial blood of Jesus to cover your sins, God will still remember them, and because He is just, you will be punished for those sins.  How thankful we should be for the blood of Jesus.


Verse 10 expresses God's feelings towards Israel when Israel was first formed, or, as it says here, "when God first found Israel".  God says that finding Israel was like finding grapes in a desert.  The point is that a very thirsty man, not only finds water, but he finds grapes to make wine.  I would compare God's feelings here to young love between a man and a woman, that is, the feelings that couples get when they first meet.  This is how God felt about Israel in her beginning days, and you must remember, God has viewed Himself as the husband to Israel, so my analogy of young love between couples fits exactly. 


God's feelings soon changed when, as it says here, Israel gave themselves to Baal.  Baal was the fertility god in the Canaanite religion. You should remember, way back in Abraham's day God promised Israel that they would number as many as the grains of sands on the sea shore.  Now Israel is depending on Baal, a god of fertility to bring that about.  How sad.   


God said that the northern kingdom became like what they worshipped. This is a principle of Scripture.  One becomes like the one they worship.  Psalm 135:15 states this as well.  The simple fact is that one becomes like the one to whom they give themselves.  You often see this in marriage.  The husband often takes on some of the characteristics of his wife, and vise versa, assuming they stay in the marriage long enough.  In the western world, we have given ourselves to materialism, which is cold, harsh, and unforgiving.  In many respects, this is what we have become.


Verse 11 is interesting in how it is linked to verse 10, which most people would not see.  Baal was the god of fertility. In verse 11 God says that Ephraim, that's the northern kingdom of Israel, will fly away.  How that should be interpreted is seen in the next phrase that says, "no birth, no pregnancy, no conception".  The god they gave themselves to is directly connected to Ephraim's punishment.  They would not be fertile.  They would fly away, meaning, because there would be no children born to their women, Ephraim would disappear and become non-existent, which they did.  The irony here is that they gave themselves to the god of fertility but their women became sterile.


Verse 12 simply means that even if any children seem to slip through this punishment and are born, God would kill them off somehow.  We see how upset God is.  This is not the modern concept of who God is.


The second phrase in verse 12 states, "woe to them when I turn away from them".  God can, He will, and He has, turned away from His people, whether it's Israel or the church, because of their sin.  He turned His back on Jesus because of sin, not Jesus' sin, but our sin. If He will turn His back on Jesus, He can turn His back on anyone.


Verse 13 simply means that the northern kingdom of Israel was once prosperous, but now isn't.  The mentioning of "Tyre" has some textual problems that I will not get into. This has caused confusion among many Bible teachers.


Again in verse 13 we see God's judgment on Israel concerns their future existence. Their children would be slain, and history proves this to be true.  God's judgment was to completely wipe out the northern kingdom of  Israel, which He did.  


In verse 14 Hosea starts to pray for the northern kingdom, but he stops.  We don't know what request he was going to ask God for.  In my thinking, he was probably going to ask God for help, for more time so Israel could come around to God's way of thinking.  We don't know for sure what Hosea was going to say. Whatever it was, he didn't say it.  He changed his mind. 


Hosea says to God, "give them, O Lord "  He stops his prayer in mid sentence and then says, "what will you give them"?  His plea is turned into a question, that I believe he knew the answer to, and that is why he interrupted his request in mid sentence.  Then he says, "give them wombs of misery and breasts that are dry".  Hosea would have said this because this is what God just told him He would do.  The wombs of misery and dry breasts point to the flying away of the northern kingdom as seen in the last few verses.  What Hosea would like to see God do, he knew God wouldn't do.  It was too late.  The tipping point of sin had already been reached, and it was too late to repent.  So, Hosea changed his request for help from God to the judgment he knew God was going to put on the northern kingdom. Again, the type of judgment mentioned here is in direct relation to their sin.  They worshipped Baal, a god of fertility.  Therefore Israeli women would not be fertile.  


Verse 15 speaks of the wickedness of Gilgal. Gilgal was an important city in the northern kingdom in many respects, but after a while, it had become important for the wrong reason.  Gilgal, in Biblical terms, had become the place of human government apart from God and a place of pagan worship.  The western world today is like Gilgal.  We have forsaken any influence of the God of the Bible in our western nations, something we once had.


In verse 15 we see that God actually says that He "hated them", and, He "will no longer love them".   This is amazing.  Those God fell in love with and actually married, as seen earlier in Hosea, He hates because of Israel's unfaithfulness. This has to show you how angry God was at the northern kingdom of Israel, and also to the southern kingdom as well.  We do need to remember at this point that the Abrahamic Covenant is still in effect and always will be.  Because of that covenant, God will eventually love Israel again and restore her to be what He originally wanted her to be.


Verse 16 says that "Ephraim's root is withered".  This too shows us the degree of depravity that the northern kingdom came to be.  If a plant is cut down, many plants will grow again from its roots, but, if a plant's root dies, then that plant cannot grow again.  You might as well pull the dead plant out of the ground by the roots and throw it in the garbage.  This is exactly what God did to the northern kingdom.  She wasn't worth saving.  She was completely dead, even to the roots, and even after worshipping their adopted god Baal, the one who was supposed to give Israel life since he was the god of fertility.


God then says what He said earlier in this chapter.  Even if these Israelis did have children, He would eventually kill them off.  The northern kingdom had no chance of being revived at any future date, and this is exactly what happened.  Israel, in the end, does get revived at the end of this present age, but her lineage cannot or will not be traced from the northern kingdom of Israel. It will be traced through the southern kingdom of Israel.


Verse 17 says that because of their sin these Israelis will be rejected by God and they will wander throughout the nations.  The northern kingdom of Israelis did wander among the known nations of the world until they were totally assimilated into these nations, thus losing all sense of their own national identity.  The southern kingdom also was sent into exile where she wandered through the nations of the world, until she began to return to her home land in the late 1800's. 



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