Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hosea 12: 11-14

11 Is there iniquity in Gilead?
Surely they are worthless.
In Gilgal they sacrifice bulls,
Yes, their altars are like the stone heaps
Beside the furrows of the field.  12 Now Jacob fled to the land of Aram,
And Israel worked for a wife,
And for a wife he kept sheep.
13 But by a prophet the LORD brought Israel from Egypt,
And by a prophet he was kept.
14 Ephraim has provoked to bitter anger;
So his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him
And bring back his reproach to him.

Rhetorical question, anyone? Chapter 12 of Hosea concludes today--each verse a history lesson of either the past or the very recent past. Verse 11 presents that rhetorical question. Of course there's iniquity in Gilead, whether Israel chooses to recognize or acknowledge the fact.

The once-held-sacred places, like Gilead and Gilgal, are now the places of rampant idol worship. Gilgal, a place hallowed in Israel's history, is filled with altar sites to the gods. My study Bible says that a gathering of stones in the field was not unusual. We've read cross-reference passages in Hosea reviewing God's Word about the use of stones as boundary markers that were not to be moved without punishment. The stones at Gilgal were plentiful, but their use was disgraceful. Would it surprise you to know that Gilgal means "heap of stones"?

"It is in my desire that I should chastise them; and the people shall be gathered against them, when they shall bind themselves in their two furrows."
--Hosea 10:10, King James Version

Strong's notes that 'furrows' may best be translated as "transgressions" in this passage. I wonder if that wouldn't also be true for 12:11, as the myriad altars surely represented part of the crop of transgressions in Israel's field of iniquity.

Verse 12 brings us once again to a look at the life of Jacob, pillar of Israel. Through Hosea, God continues to make Himself known through the treasures of the nation. Looking back at Genesis, we note that after Jacob received the blessing from his father, Isaac, he was sent away to his mother's side of the family to find an appropriate wife to take for himself.

"Then Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Paddan-aram to Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau."
--Genesis 28:5

Jacob went to Aram, which is Syria. It is here where Jacob meets his future wife, Rachel, and falls deeply in love. This is a love so deep that Jacob agreed to serve Laban, her father, in the fields for seven years. Even then, Laban forced Jacob to take Rachel's older sister, Leah, before he could finally be united with Rachel. This is the kind of love the Lord has been trying to recapture in the minds of the Israelites through Hosea and through Hosea's marriage story. These are stories of deep love--and deep faith. Truly, there is only One who could have devised such a plan as the creation of the tribes of Israel through Jacob! [You must read through chapters 29 and 30 of Genesis to see how truly involved God's work in this was. Who would have thunk it, really?!]

As if recalling Jacob is not strong enough, Hosea then invokes the story of Israel's first great leader--although his name is not mentioned--Moses. "But by a prophet, the Lord brought Israel from Egypt." (vs 13) We may not use 'prophet' with Moses as we do with Hosea or Isaiah or Ezekiel, but when we remember that a prophet is one who speaks forth the word of the Lord, Moses (even as he needed much helping in doing that) really was a prophet. God reminds Israel, again, that, through Moses, He led them to become a nation--to become His people.

"Then His people remembered the days of old, of Moses.
Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of His flock?
Where is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them,
Who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses,
Who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name,
Who led them through the depths?
Like the horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble;
As the cattle which go down into the valley,
The Spirit of the LORD gave them rest.
So You led Your people,
To make for Yourself a glorious name."
--Isaiah 63: 11-14

Chapter 12 ends with not unfamiliar thoughts: God is angry and punishment is on the way. Can't leave this passage without sharing a last tie-in between Jacob's story in Genesis and Israel's story here. If you do read on to Genesis 30, you read of how God brought most of the tribes of Israel through women other than Jacob's true love, Rachel. Like Sarah, Rachel had gone outside the lines, if you will, and offered up others to Jacob to conceive children. But, she would be shown grace.

"Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. So she conceived and bore a son [Joseph] and said, 'God has taken away my reproach.'"
--Genesis 30: 22 & 23

Note the close of Hosea, 12:14--"And [God will] bring back his reproach to him." The grace offered Rachel would not be extended to Israel this time. At least, not yet.

Chapter 13, "Ephraim's Idolatry".... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Hosea 13: 1-3

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).