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!


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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).