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!


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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).