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).

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