Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hosea 9:10-13

10 I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness;
I saw your forefathers as the earliest fruit on the fig tree in its first season.
But they came to Baal-peor and devoted themselves to shame,
And they became as detestable as that which they loved.
11 As for Ephraim, their glory will fly away like a bird—
No birth, no pregnancy and no conception!
12 Though they bring up their children,
Yet I will bereave them until not a man is left.
Yes, woe to them indeed when I depart from them!
13 Ephraim, as I have seen,
Is planted in a pleasant meadow like Tyre;
But Ephraim will bring out his children for slaughter.

We begin the second half of Hosea, Chapter 9, with metaphorical remembrances as to the special place Israel had in the heart of God. "Grapes in the wilderness," "earliest fruit on the fig tree" (vs 10) and "a pleasant meadow like Tyre" (vs 13) describes a new, sweet, refreshing fellowship between the Israelites and God. Permission to sing the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" granted, because that's the kind of new and beautiful relationship we are talking about. Note that God is speaking of the earliest Israelites--the forefathers of those to whom Hosea is addressing. However, the beauty of these descriptions would be overshadowed in our passage today by equally passionate statements of loss, woe and hatred.

Verse 10 moves from pleasure to shame, as we are reminded that no sooner had God led His people--those forefathers--out of bondage in Egypt that they would begin to form bonds with the false god Baal at Peor, a town of Moab. Idol worship leading to immoral behavior led God to quickly step in (see Numbers 25) and have those involved in the behavior killed by the judges of Israel as a statement of discipline. The situation of Hosea's Israel is equally horrifying to God. "And they became as detestable as that which they loved." That is a truly harsh statement.

"Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of man’s hands.
They have mouths, but they cannot speak;
They have eyes, but they cannot see;
They have ears, but they cannot hear;
They have noses, but they cannot smell;
They have hands, but they cannot feel;
They have feet, but they cannot walk;
They cannot make a sound with their throat.
Those who make them will become like them,
Everyone who trusts in them."
--Psalm 115: 4-8

There is a reason God devoted so much explanation in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5) about the problem with idols. Have NOTHING to come before Me and don't make ANYTHING that might resemble Me to come before Me. God's saying, I AM! the One and the Only. He knew enough about the wayward human heart to make these commandments 1 and 2. Because, if you make it, you will trust it, and you will become like it--"detestable as that which they loved," according to God. If you explore the roots of 'detest', it means to "denounce with one's testimony." ( By the testimony of their lives, Israel had denounced their Father, and, needless to say, the Father cannot be in relationship with that which He finds detestable.

Verse 11 says that the "glory," or the abundance, the honor, the hallowed place of respect in the covenant relationship with God, will "fly away like a bird." God will "depart from them" (vs 12) as a bird taking flight from a branch. Whatever special protections and grace had been put in place by God would be removed. "'You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself,'" speaks God in Exodus 19:4. No longer would Israel live as saved by the wings of the eagle.

"Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will come upon them; so that they will say in that day, ‘Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?’"
--Deuteronomy 31:17

The majority of the passage focuses on the loss of Israel's future, as the ability to have and raise children will be taken away. If you think back to the stories of the Israelites--Abraham and Sarah; Isaac and Rebekah; David and Bathsheba--the importance of children, the blessing of children, the struggles over children dominated their lives. The loss of David's son was devastating! The significance of carrying forth to a next generation was huge! For God to say "no" to all aspects of furthering the lineage of the people would be a crushing, sickening blow. And if we didn't know how this story would change, come the Word from the Gospels, we would believe Israel to be truly hopeless.
"O Israel, trust in the LORD; He is their help and their shield."
--Psalm 115: 9

Chapter 9 concludes next week.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 9:14-17

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hosea 9: 6-9

6 For behold, they will go because of destruction;
Egypt will gather them up, Memphis will bury them.
Weeds will take over their treasures of silver;
Thorns will be in their tents.  7 The days of punishment have come,
The days of retribution have come;
Let Israel know this!
The prophet is a fool,
The inspired man is demented,
Because of the grossness of your iniquity,
And because your hostility is so great.
8 Ephraim was a watchman with my God, a prophet;
Yet the snare of a bird catcher is in all his ways,
And there is only hostility in the house of his God.
9 They have gone deep in depravity
As in the days of Gibeah;
He will remember their iniquity,
He will punish their sins.

Chapter 9 of Hosea continues with the prophet explaining why Israel will be led away into captivity. Note the use of 'because':

  • "...of destruction"--vs.6
  • "...of the grossness of your iniquity"--vs 7
  • "...your hostility is so great"--vs 7
  • (by inference) "...the snare of the bird catcher is in all his ways"--vs 8
  • (by inference) "...there is only hostility in the house of his God"--vs 8
  • (by inference) "...they have gone deep in depravity"--vs 9

I am struck by the two-time use of 'hostility' in these passages. It means enmity, which is a word for mutual hatred. When did I first learn the meaning of 'enmity'? From reading the Bible:

"And I [God] will put enmity
Between you [the serpent] and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He [Christ] shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.” 
--Genesis 3:15 (with my added clarifications) further defines 'hostile' as "applying to the spirit, attitude, or action of an enemy." At its most basic English root, it means "of or belonging to an enemy." Why is God so full of wrath? Because in spirit, attitude and action, Israel belongs to the ENEMY! The only One in the position of restoring these people is God Himself. The only One who can snap the pull that the Enemy has is God! The only One capable of grace, love and mercy in a period of "mutual hatred"--over spirit, attitude and action--is God.

"I will first doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted My land; they have filled My inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable idols and with their abominations.” 

--Jeremiah 16:18

We started with concept. Let's look back a minute for content in verse 6. 'Egypt' will gather them up, referring to Assyria. 'Memphis' will bury them. Memphis is the name of an old capital in Egypt. My study Bible does not indicate that Memphis equates with anything on the Assyrian side. As pointed out in a previous post, there were some from Israel who were taken into captivity in Egypt. This reference may refer to those. Or perhaps it is strictly metaphorical. I don't have a solid answer on this one, except that I can see how Egypt and Memphis relate to each other. [And Memphis is not in Tennessee!]

Weeds, thorns, punishment and retribution. We get the idea! Instead of 'punishment,' some translations, like the King James Version, use 'visitation', which does not imply an actual visit by God--but, close. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says, of 'visitation,' "In Biblical writings, the divine investigation or inspection of men’s character and deeds with a view to apportioning to them their due lot, whether of reward or of chastisement; divine dispensation of mercy or of punishment."

In my childhood church, the Ten Commandments were presented from the pulpit pretty much every Sunday. Some Sundays, it was an abbreviated version--the Commandments without the detail. But, on other Sundays, and definitely for Catechism Class, it was the full Exodus 20 (or Deuteronomy 5) Scripture version. Note verse 5 of Exodus 20 in the King James:

"Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me...."

I was confused by this one on a few levels growing up, but "visiting the iniquity" definitely needed some translation. Even if I understood it as "punishing the sins," the concept didn't quite make sense as it seems to say third and fourth generations will be punished. This is not true! We are not punished for someone else's sins. But, in His infinite wisdom, God understood that sins undealt with could lead to additional problems (i.e., sinning) down the line. Consider the New Living Translation version of the same verse:

"I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me."

The family "is affected." The impact of the sins committed in the authority figures of the family will have a trickle-down effect into the family, the environment, the culture, etc. If God does not "visit the iniquity"--chastising, punishing--out of His love to discipline and to impact the next generation, what happens? If the sons of Israel have learned enmity from their fathers, what of the generations of children to come, if not for God's Holy intervention? Long tangent, but it completes a circle, doesn't it? Moving forward....

"The prophet is [considered] a crazed fool and the man who is inspired is [treated as if] mad or a fanatic, because of the abundance of your iniquity and because the enmity, hostility, and persecution are great."
--Verse 9:7b (Amplified Bible)

What a position for Hosea to have himself--to call himself, essentially, a crazed fool! God called him, and prophets like him, not to easy missions. How would you feel having to deliver bad news all the time? Not that this gives anyone the right to condemn the messenger of God, yet, that was Israel's position, having forsaken God and His Word as to the significance of prophets:

“Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life.'"
--Ezekiel 33: 2-5

And Ephraim was a watchman for God! To have been in a position of receiving God's Word so intimately and personally--then to sacrifice that privilege, bound up in the snare of a fowler.... Verse 9 cuts even deeper than Israel's plunge into depravity as Hosea reminds them of the story of what happened at Gibeah. You will need to read Judges 19 to learn the entire story (and you will find yourself reading into 20, as well). It's the kind of material the producers from "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" would use to craft an episode, "ripped from the headlines," as it were. [shudder!] Suffice it to say that if Hosea is calling up this story, Israel is in some mighty dark days.

"He will remember their iniquity,
He will punish their sins."
--Verse 9
"And they became as detestable as that which they loved...." Wow, more tough stuff ahead.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 9:10-13

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hosea 9: 1-5

Hosea 9

Ephraim Punished
 1Do not rejoice, O Israel, with exultation like the nations!
For you have played the harlot, forsaking your God.
You have loved harlots’ earnings on every threshing floor.
2 Threshing floor and wine press will not feed them,
And the new wine will fail them.
3 They will not remain in the LORD’S land,
But Ephraim will return to Egypt,
And in Assyria they will eat unclean food.
4 They will not pour out drink offerings of wine to the LORD,
Their sacrifices will not please Him.
Their bread will be like mourners’ bread;
All who eat of it will be defiled,
For their bread will be for themselves alone;
It will not enter the house of the LORD.
5 What will you do on the day of the appointed festival
And on the day of the feast of the LORD?

As we reach Chapter 9 in Hosea, the prophet begins to speak more openly about what awaits the punished nation of Israel in the land of the "new Egypt," Assyria. (vs. 3) Areas in which Israel would have celebrated itself for its success--"with exultation like the nations"--would be turned Right-side-up by Hosea.

We have been presented with the illustration of harlotry throughout this book, understanding that Israel's forsaking God in all respects defiled its covenant with God. Verse 1 takes this concept yet another step forward, saying that Israel has "loved harlots' earnings on every threshing floor." We can understand this to mean Israel's gain of richness in food and monetary stores, which is true. But, my study Bible says that this is truly a literal passage. "These were the very places ["threshing floor and wine press...", vs 2] where sacred prostitution took place in an attempt to cause Baal to bring prosperity." Is it any wonder "the new wine will fail them." Blech!

“Therefore, I will take back My grain at harvest time
And My new wine in its season.
I will also take away My wool and My flax
Given to cover her nakedness."
--Hosea 2:9

Verse 3 denotes Assyria as "Egypt" and says that Israelites will eat unclean food. Assyria may have been used by God to hold His people, but Assyria is not the country by which the Israelites will learn to right themselves. There will not be opportunities to worship God as they had done, when they were honestly worshiping. God has withdrawn Himself. Sacrifices offered would be rejected. Deuteronomy 26 highlights many a commandment presented by the Lord to the Israelites regarding sacrifices and their proper presentation. The people would come to realize that even in their attempts to do right, their hearts would condemn them.

"Then said Haggai, If one who is [ceremonially] unclean because he has come in contact with a dead body should touch any of these articles of food, shall it be [ceremonially] unclean? And the priests answered, It shall be unclean. [Unholiness is infectious.] Then answered Haggai, So is this people and so is this nation before Me, says the Lord; and so is every work of their hands, and what they offer there [on the altar] is unclean [because they who offer it are themselves unclean]."
--Haggai 2: 13-14 [Amplified Bible]

Hosea continues about the bread, saying what the Israelites will metaphorically feed upon in captivity is "mourners' bread" or, more literally, "the bread of misfortune." And this defiled bread will become, for the Israelites, "their appetite." Is Assyria getting this bread? No! Shouldn't it? Hmmm.... That's another chapter in another book! God's discipline, here, is for His people--severe, of long duration, yet what was necessary in order to restore their hearts to Him. Israel would remain, even though the people were extracted from it.

"'The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.'"
--Leviticus 25:23
What Israel really needed to see is that it had tried to become God. But, as He so makes clear, in passages like the Leviticus one above, everything belongs to Him, and we are but sojourners on the land with Him. Though Israel was not permanently sold and God would bring (and will bring) His people back, for now, they would go without, pondering life amidst the crumbs fallen from the bread of their self-created misfortune.

"The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule on their own authority;
And My people love it so!
But what will you do at the end of it?"
--Jeremiah 5:31

"Your hostility is so great...." We'll explore this sticking point of God's from Chapter 9.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 9: 6-9

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hosea 8: 8-14

8 Israel is swallowed up;
They are now among the nations
Like a vessel in which no one delights.
9 For they have gone up to Assyria,
Like a wild donkey all alone;
Ephraim has hired lovers.
10 Even though they hire allies among the nations,
Now I will gather them up;
And they will begin to diminish
Because of the burden of the king of princes.

11 Since Ephraim has multiplied altars for sin,
They have become altars of sinning for him.
12 Though I wrote for him ten thousand precepts of My law,
They are regarded as a strange thing.
13 As for My sacrificial gifts,
They sacrifice the flesh and eat it,
But the LORD has taken no delight in them.
Now He will remember their iniquity,
And punish them for their sins;
They will return to Egypt.
14 For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces;
And Judah has multiplied fortified cities,
But I will send a fire on its cities that it may consume its palatial dwellings.

Chapter 8 concludes today, as we continue to explore the words of Hosea in his reaching out to Israel and Judah. We left off last week with the illustration of grain with no fruit being devoured by strangers in Israel. Today's passage opens with Israel being swallowed up by strangers--the illustration taken one step nearer to fulfillment.

"Like a vessel in which no one delights," says verse 8, of Israel. The King James Version reads, "...Now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure." In the Hebrew, Strong's defines 'pleasure' as "hence (abstractly) desire; concretely a valuable thing; hence (by extension) a matter (as something in mind)." God's covenant people are and will continue to be mixed among the heathen, literally and in all other respects. God says they are a people no longer desired by Him nor will He have regard for or mind them--at least, not in their current state. The recourse for Israel's disobedience, given God's anger, should be obliteration.

"What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?"
--Romans 9:22

We have referenced through this book earlier that Israel has turned to Assyria for assistance. Rather than seek the Lord, Israel sought to make alliances with earthly powers that could provide what they thought they needed, fulfill what the lusts of their heart, getting back to the idea of harlotry portrayed throughout. Here, though, Hosea gives Israel a new designation--"a wild donkey." Not only a stubborn animal but a wild, untamed stubborn animal!

"A wild donkey accustomed to the wilderness, that sniffs the wind in her passion."
--Jeremiah 2:24a

'Onager' is another word for wild donkey, closer to the original Hebrew. Interestingly, this word would later be used as the word for a military catapult for throwing stones. Rather than respecting the stones of faith and boundaries laid by their Godly ancestors, Israel would seem to be throwing away their lineage.

I love how the Jeremiah cross-referenced description of a wild donkey ties in with these next verses of Hosea. "...They will begin to diminish," which is otherwise translated "suffer for awhile". (vs. 10) "Accustomed to the wilderness," as Jeremiah says, Israel will return to its days of wandering in the wilderness, and even back further into its days of captivity, as God will call Assyria forward and use the "allied" nation for His own plan.

"I send [the Assyrian] against a hypocritical and godless nation and against the people of My wrath; I command him to take the spoil and to seize the prey and to tread them down like the mire in the streets. However, this is not his intention [nor is the Assyrian aware that he is doing this at My bidding], neither does his mind so think and plan; but it is in his mind to destroy and cut off many nations."
--Isaiah 10: 6 & 7, Amplified Bible

What God had provided to Israel in those wilderness days--the law and the establishment of the tabernacle for worship and sacrifices--would be used for disgrace and acknowledged as "strange" or foreign. (vs. 12) Remember what we read in Hosea 4:6, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." Not that they were not told. They did not retain, pass on or obey what they had learned. The provisions of sacrificial gifts by the Lord, to be offered in return, in thanksgiving, in obedience to that law, upon His altars, were tainted and, thus, rejected.

"They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat it; but the LORD accepteth them not; now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins: they shall return to Egypt."
--Hosea 8:13, King James Version

They will return to "Egypt." Not the literal Egypt, but "the new Egypt," if you will, that being Assyria--new land of slavery and captivity. [My study Bible adds that some refugees of Judah did actually go into captivity in Egypt. (II Kings 25:26)] This will not be the first time Hosea uses 'Egypt' for 'Assyria' as we'll see next week.

The text finishes with a mention of Judah, which would not be taken into captivity until years later by the Babylonians. God punishes Judah for its fortification of cities rather that its trust in God as being their protector.

“They will devour your harvest and your food;
They will devour your sons and your daughters;
They will devour your flocks and your herds;
They will devour your vines and your fig trees;
They will demolish with the sword your fortified cities in which you trust."
--Jeremiah 5:17

"For Israel has forgotten his Maker...." Though we read in other places in the Bible that God forgives and remembers sin no more, at this time, He has chosen to forget the people and remember the sin.

“Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—an earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’"
--Isaiah 45:9

"Ephraim Punished," because of their treatment of the elements.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 9: 1-5

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).