Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hosea 10: 11-15

11 Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh,
But I will come over her fair neck with a yoke;
I will harness Ephraim,
Judah will plow, Jacob will harrow for himself.
12 Sow with a view to righteousness,
Reap in accordance with kindness;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the LORD
Until He comes to rain righteousness on you.
13 You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice,
You have eaten the fruit of lies.
Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors,
14 Therefore a tumult will arise among your people,
And all your fortresses will be destroyed,
As Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle,
When mothers were dashed in pieces with their children.
15 Thus it will be done to you at Bethel because of your great wickedness.
At dawn the king of Israel will be completely cut off.

I do love reading this rich text in Hosea, even though the subject matter is very difficult to embrace. The language--even in the English--is full of word pictures. God opened Chapter 10 with the picture of Israel as a luxuriant vine, producing abundant fruit, yet growing in the furrows of the field amongst the poisonous weeds of judgment. (vs. 4) He ends the chapter with further references to planting and turning the tables on the mention of cows back upon Israel.

Since Israel is stubborn like a stubborn heifer,
Can the LORD now pasture them like a lamb in a large field?
--Hosea 4:16

The cow-worshiping Israelites are once again referred by God as being like a cow, or, a heifer. These strong animals were used regularly in the care and maintenance of the planting fields. Not only has Israel been "stubborn" in its ways, but, as verse 11 says, it has been "trained" in that way and loves to "thresh," or trample out the grain. (The King James Version says 'corn.') Threshing was not considered difficult work, as it involved the heifer, with all its weight, traversing the fields, its hooves separating corn from cob. The heifer could even eat the yields whenever it felt hungry. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia describes the heifer's life here in Hosea as a "picture of contentment."

Obviously, this life of ease and self-sufficiency is not what God desired for Israel, as He plans to put a yoke upon the heifer. No longer would the animal be used for threshing but for plowing, which was much more difficult work. "Judah would plow" and "Jacob will harrow," or break up the clods of dirt that arose after the plowing. None of God's chosen was exempt from this change in work orders.

Verse 12 provides a reprise from the harsh pronouncements. There is commanding direction in this verse but it has a more encouraging tone than it does one of punishment. "Sow with a view to righteousness. Reap in accordance with kindness," or, as some translations use, "loyalty." Yes, there will be yoking and harder days. But Israel has spent too many days plowing wickedness and reaping injustice, eating the fruit of lies. (vs. 13) Yoking and new planting techniques are required. How does Israel plant for growth? Looking to righteousness and being loyal to the Lord. "Break up your fallow ground." Fallow ground is that which has been unseeded for a year or more. God says to break up the land that has gone dormant, yielding nothing but those poisonous weeds. "Seek the Lord!"  

"The wicked earns deceptive wages,
But he who sows righteousness gets a true reward."
--Proverbs 11:18

I think it's worth noting the phrasing "Sow with a view to righteousness." The Israelites thought themselves righteous, which would be impossible having no active relationship with God the Father. He says that their yoking days must continue, "until He comes to rain righteousness on you." By 'rain', He means to teach, to instruct, to show the way to righteousness. Israel would put on a yoke of oppression and slavery in its captivity to Assyria. But only until such a time that God finished the teaching work He needed to do. Then, He would provide refreshment for their souls.

“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.”

--Hosea 6:3

The end of the chapter marks the finality of Israel's punishment, with its takeover by Assyria. It is thought that Shalman (vs. 14) is a reference to Shalmaneser V, the king of Assyria at that time. I was excited to have come across 'Beth-arbel', in that I knew what half the Hebrew meant. 'Beth' means "house of," as in Bethel meaning "house of God" (Beth-El). So Beth-arbel must have meant "house of" something. It turns out to mean "house of God's ambush." Reading the rest of verse 14 fills out the details of the kind of king Shalmaneser was. I've mentioned this before, but remember again, that God brought the king of Assyria under His control. The takeover and exile to come were His doing.

"Thus it will be done to you...." (vs. 15)

Indeed, consultation of II Kings explains how Israel's king Hoshea would be "completely cut off" and the nation of Israel yoked to break up its fallow spiritual ground in captivity.

"Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against him, and Hoshea became his servant and paid him tribute. But the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea, who had sent messengers to So king of Egypt and had offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year; so the king of Assyria shut him up and bound him in prison. Then the king of Assyria invaded the whole land and went up to Samaria and besieged it three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and settled them in Halah and Habor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes."
--II Kings 17: 3-6

Chapter 11--"God Yearns over His People." I don't know about you, but I'm ready to read about His grace and mercy.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 11: 1-7

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, October 19, 2011

Hosea 10: 5-10

5 The inhabitants of Samaria will fear
For the calf of Beth-aven.
Indeed, its people will mourn for it,
And its idolatrous priests will cry out over it,
Over its glory, since it has departed from it.
6 The thing itself will be carried to Assyria
As tribute to King Jareb;
Ephraim will be seized with shame
And Israel will be ashamed of its own counsel.
7 Samaria will be cut off with her king
Like a stick on the surface of the water.
8 Also the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, will be destroyed;
Thorn and thistle will grow on their altars;
Then they will say to the mountains,
“Cover us!” And to the hills, “Fall on us!”
9 From the days of Gibeah you have sinned, O Israel;
There they stand!
Will not the battle against the sons of iniquity overtake them in Gibeah?
10 When it is My desire, I will chastise them;
And the peoples will be gathered against them
When they are bound for their double guilt.

As we read this mid-section of Chapter 10 of Hosea, we come across some familiar ideas--ideas we first came across back in Chapter 4. The establishment of calf worship by Israel's king, Jeroboam, comes under fiery attack by God, as we continue to read about His retribution upon His people.

Let's review some place names. Samaria (vs 1) is the capital of Ephraim, which is the largest tribe of Israel that has been used in Hosea in reference to all of Israel. The people of Samaria will be "cut off" from God, and left to float away recklessly without Him "like a stick on the surface of the water." (vs. 7) When branches separate from the vine, we understand from the New Testament that all purposeful life goes with that separation. God illustrates His wrath in separating Himself from the Israelites, allowing them to be snipped and carried off into Assyrian captivity.

Beth-aven and Aven are references to the homes of idol worship. The Amplified Bible helps our understanding by breaking down the words within: "Aven--[once Beth(el), house of God, now (Beth-)aven, house of idolatry]." Even as the people and priests cry out for their idols (vs 5), the Lord will consume their places of worship with "thorn and thistle" (vs. 8)

Verse 6 tells us that the calf, and, thus, idol worship in general, will be found in Assyria--"a tribute to King Jareb." This is another name that we discovered earlier in Hosea:
"When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound,
Then Ephraim went to Assyria and sent to King Jareb.
But he is unable to heal you, or to cure you of your wound."

--Hosea 5:13

King Jareb is not the name of a real Assyrian king, but that a powerful foreign king who did not worship the God of Heaven would come and take God's people away is fact. Information from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia suggests that King Jareb "is probably an epithet or nickname applied to the Assyrian king...'a king that should contend'...'the king that should plead.'" Earthly powerful? To a point. But, remember, this was God's engineering, because no king of Assyria could heal Israel's sickness.

Verse 6 also gives us a glimpse into Israel's reaction to God's retribution. The people will be "seized with shame" and "ashamed of its own counsel." Verse 8 continues with the realization of the horrible mess they have gotten themselves into, as the people cry out as in the last days. To put some perspective on these words, look at Jesus quoting Hosea as He is walking with His cross:

"And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. But Jesus turning to them said, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin TO SAY TO THE MOUNTAINS, ‘FALL ON US,’ AND TO THE HILLS, ‘COVER US.’ For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?'”
--Luke 23: 27-31

Jesus, in facing the wrath of God for the sins of the world, reframes these words by referencing three time periods at once. This is a message to those who would soon be without Him on Earth; those who will face the last days of Earth in the time of the Tribulation; and, those who walked in the days of Israel's captivity to Assyria. Don't look at me, He said, look at yourselves, look at what you're doing, what you have done. "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)

"Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward."
--Jeremiah 7:24

"From the days of Gibeah you have sinned, O Israel." I mentioned the story of Gibeah in Chapter 9 of Hosea, and you can find it in detail in Judges 19 and 20. In short, almost the entire tribe of Benjamin is wiped out in a war, caused by most heinous circumstances. But sin will be overtaken at Gibeah. (vs 10) God's chastisement of His people will be done, "when they are bound for their double guilt."

What is "double guilt"? The Amplified Bible says, "when I shall bind and yoke them for their two transgressions [revolt from the Lord their God and the worship of idols]." Throughout our reading of Hosea, God has pointed to this "double" sin over which Israel had shown no recognition of much less remorse over. Their multiple times sinning without regard for God's Word has led to the awarding of a double punishment. The King James Version translates the end of verse 10 this way: "...When they shall bind themselves in their two furrows." I like how this fits with verse 4 from last week: "Judgment sprouts like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field." Israel has bound itself to poisonous weeds, which will all be pruned and cast away, that the Vine remain pure.

Interestingly, also, is that Gibeah means "hill," which is not unlike a furrow.

Turning the tables on the 'cow'.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 10: 11-15

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, October 12, 2011

Hosea 10: 1-4

Hosea 10

Retribution for Israel’s Sin
 1 Israel is a luxuriant vine;
He produces fruit for himself.
The more his fruit,
The more altars he made;
The richer his land,
The better he made the sacred pillars.
2 Their heart is faithless;
Now they must bear their guilt.
The LORD will break down their altars
And destroy their sacred pillars.  3 Surely now they will say, “We have no king,
For we do not revere the LORD.
As for the king, what can he do for us?”
4 They speak mere words,
With worthless oaths they make covenants;
And judgment sprouts like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field.

Luxuriant! It's not every day I come across something luxuriant. Hosea offers up a word picture at the beginning of Chapter 10 in describing Israel as "a luxuriant vine." Clearly, the prophet depicts Israel's earthly successes and prosperity. High-yielding fields provided much fruit. The sale of the trade of fruit provided funds to build up the land, as well as build up the temples and accessories necessary to serve the gods the people had decided to serve. Suddenly, not such a luxuriant life after all, unless you are Bael or....

The King James Version uses 'empty' instead of 'luxuriant'. The Hebrew adjective used means "to pour out, empty or make void." also offers "lacking in restraint." Israel invested its luxuriant success into itself as a vine growing abundantly but with irreverent abandon. There's a lovely parable in Isaiah that captures the scene beautifully:

"Let me sing now for my well-beloved
A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.
My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
He dug it all around, removed its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
And He built a tower in the middle of it
And also hewed out a wine vat in it;
Then He expected it to produce good grapes,
But it produced only worthless ones."

--Isaiah 5: 1-2

"Their heart is faithless." Here's another opportunity for some fun word study. Verse 2 is self-explanatory as written in the NASB, but other translations use 'smooth' for 'faithless'. What is a smooth heart? The picturesque nature of Hebrew makes this verse even more abundantly clear. Smooth stones were often used when it came time to cast lots for something, as in to separate for distribution among those present. To have a smooth heart, therefore, would be a separated or divided heart. [Strong's] Faithless to God, without a doubt. Divided between God and the baels? Even more accurate.

"Elijah came near to all the people and said, 'How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.' But the people did not answer him a word."
--I Kings 18: 20-21

We know it is not God's pleasure to have people be lukewarm over Him. Elijah had to prove that to the Israelites through a graphic demonstration of God's consuming fire and his self-slaying 450 prophets of Bael. In Revelation 3, the church of Laodicea receives the cold slap from God that it is spiritually tepid. "Because you say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked...." Pre-captivity Israel is just another "smooth operator."

...Who "must bear their guilt," continues verse 2. God has found fault with Israel and it will face punishment as it deserves, which is what this whole chapter is about--retribution. Not only will the people be tossed from the land, but God will do away with all of Israel's sites and tools of idol worship. "He shall spoil their images," reads the KJV. Check out this explanation of the Hebrew for 'spoil'--"Properly to be burly, i.e. (figuratively) powerful (passive impregnable); by implication to ravage." God's gonna be burly on those graven images!

I jest a bit, but think about what it would mean for God to come in and ravage the images--the pillars--of that which keeps us from worshiping Him alone. We think we can fight off things ourselves, not unlike a certain people mentioned in this chapter. But, perhaps we need to turn over our idols to God for some spiritual bullying and burliness. It's hard to make images go away by themselves, and this is part of Israel's problem here, too.

The point of verse 3 is that Israel not only doesn't acknowledge God as their King, but doesn't acknowledge its kings as king either. My study Bible notes that the last five kings of Israel, prior to the captivity period, were "usurpers." With all that jumbling of political power going on at the highest earthly levels, trust in government was at an all-time low. "We have no king"--indeed!

The theme of covenant continues forward into Chapter 10, as we are reminded of Israel's words spoken in a vow, only to be broken. The whole idea of making an oath is that one stands by the words he or she speaks. Yet, Israel's words are considered "worthless" as it has forgotten that which brought the nation together with its Father.

I was reading cross-references in Deuteronomy, re-visiting the words of God to Moses as the close of the leader's days on Earth. How tragic for Moses to hear these words at the end of his life--that the days of being "stiff-necked" will not be over once the Israelites move into the Promised Land. It made me appreciate, too, how tragic for God to know this truth, not only then, but now, in Hosea, upon sending His people out of the Promised Land.

"'For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant. Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song [Moses' song that he will write, to become Deuteronomy 32] will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.'"
--Deuteronomy 31: 20-21

Read that last line of Deuteronomy one more time. "For I know their intent which they are developing today...." God doesn't come to Hosea and say, "Hey, I've seen what My people are doing, and it's really bad this time. I'm going to have to punish them. Go let them know." From way back, God knew the intent of their hearts. He knew that despite Moses' efforts at leading and teaching His people that they were hard-hearted, wayward and prone to wandering. Last week, we called that restlessness. The intent of the heart of Israel remained the same as it did that day God spoke to Moses, and God's intent to bring "evils and troubles" would remain His intent as well.

"...Thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field."
--Hosea 10:4 (King James Version)

Double their pleasures; double their punishment.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 10: 5-10

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, October 5, 2011

Hosea 9:14-17

14 Give them, O LORD—what will You give?
Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.  15 All their evil is at Gilgal;
Indeed, I came to hate them there!
Because of the wickedness of their deeds
I will drive them out of My house!
I will love them no more;
All their princes are rebels.
16 Ephraim is stricken, their root is dried up,
They will bear no fruit.
Even though they bear children,
I will slay the precious ones of their womb.
17 My God will cast them away
Because they have not listened to Him;
And they will be wanderers among the nations.

Time to close out another chapter of Hosea, today, as we bring Chapter 9's punishing words to a conclusion. Not that there aren't more difficult words for Israel to hear in the next chapter, but we'll find a changing tone from God as we study the last four chapters of this book of prophecy.

Verse 14 picks up on our verses from last week, in which God has said that Israel will be punished in its inability to have children, their future. Hosea intimates in verse 14 that the punishment will be seen in miscarriage and the loss of ability to feed the infants that are born. The expression of thoughts here, my study Bible suggests, are "reminiscent of the imprecatory psalms." You may be like me in that you are not familiar with that term. But, we have probably read some of those psalms and wondered about them. Imprecatory psalms contain curses or prayers for punishment to be brought upon the enemies of the writer.

For example, Psalm 55, titled in my study Bible, "Prayer for the Destruction of the Treacherous." Here's a sample verse:

"Let death come deceitfully upon them; let them go down alive to Sheol. For evil is in their dwelling, in their midst." (vs. 15)

Is this how we're supposed to pray for our enemies? Why should Hosea be allowed to pray for such a curse as "No birth, no pregnancy and no conception" (Hosea 9:11) upon Israel? Interesting and potentially troublesome. What must be considered in reading such passages is that the writer is drawing upon actions that God Himself has already done. In other words, the psalmist or prophet is not asking anything that God Himself wouldn't do. That means the writer has great knowledge of the will and workings of God. I would struggle to be able to pray such a prayer in confidence! But, this is why I am not a prophet!

Verse 16 presents Israel as a once vivacious plant that is now spiritually dead and will in every other way be "stricken." God has zapped its source of living water, as it were, leaving a dead root structure. The roots are what gather water and nutrients for a plant, not to mention serving as its foundation for stem development. Without a thriving root structure, there is no upward growth. There is no flowering. Sometimes, we may see massive growth in a plant that has a small root structure--usually a weed! Israel's self-determined, self-centered weed-like growth was soon to be completely "Round-up"-ped.

"Because they have not listened to Him...."
--vs. 17

The trouble comes because Israel has not listened, has not taken to heart. What did the Law say about having other gods before me? Verse 15 brings us back to a mention of Gilgal (see Hosea 4:15 entry), once a hallowed place in Jewish history, now tainted by idol worship. "I came to hate them there!" God says. "I will drive them out of My house." Hosea follows up this thought, in verse 17, with, "My God will cast them away." The same Hebrew verb is used in both verses, and it means to "drive out from a possession; especially, to expatriate or divorce." [Strong's] We understand that the Israelites will become expatriated, as God is sending them out of their native land into captivity. How about 'divorce'? We are reminded, again, of how Hosea begins, with a covenant marriage that is on the verge of disintegration.

Why did Israel forget the Law? How could Israel forget the consequences? Deuteronomy 28:15 begins many verses in which God outlines the consequences of disobedience for Israel. That God would revisit consequences here in Hosea should not surprise the Israelites. This was part of the foundation of their covenant with Him, given after the Law. It was a covenant of obedience. No one could turn to the Lord and say, "But, You didn't tell us this would happen?"

"Moreover, the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known. Among those nations you shall find no rest, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul."
--Deuteronomy 28: 64-65

The consequences of sin on Earth are truly desperate. Praise God for Jesus in saving believers from the ultimate consequences of sin! Lately, I have found myself coming across 'rest' and 'restless' in my looking at different Bible texts. I'm doing a group study on James, and he talks about the tongue being "a restless evil." Our words being born of the wellspring of our hearts, which must also be restless. Genesis 27:40, speaking of Esau: "'By your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless, that you will break his yoke from your neck.” Even in the earliest of days, Cain was declared by God to be "a restless wanderer" after killing his brother. (Genesis 4:13) Some telling thesaurus words for 'restless' include ungratified and unsatisfied. At its most basic definition, 'restless' means unable to be still.

"Be still and know that I am God."
--Psalm 46:10

"Truly my soul finds rest in God."
--Psalm 62:1

It is not good for one to be restless, nor is it good to rest in oneself. Israel would rediscover true rest through the consequences of their restlessness.

Retribution for sin--and some more wonderful metaphors--as Chapter 10 begins.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 10: 1-4

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).