Monday, December 5, 2011

Hosea 13: 1-3

Hosea 13

Ephraim’s Idolatry
 1 When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling.
He exalted himself in Israel,
But through Baal he did wrong and died.
2 And now they sin more and more,
And make for themselves molten images,
Idols skillfully made from their silver,
All of them the work of craftsmen.
They say of them, “Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!”
3 Therefore they will be like the morning cloud
And like dew which soon disappears,
Like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor
And like smoke from a chimney.

We are beginning the final two chapters of Hosea. Today's passage focuses, one last time, on Israel's sinfulness and--as you can read--idolatry, while Chapter 14 will focus on the nation's future, as the longstanding promises of God to the Israelites will be fulfilled.

There were so many suggested changes for wording to verse 1 that I thought I would share the Amplified Bible's version, since it put all of those suggested changes into its translation:

"WHEN EPHRAIM spoke with trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended and became guilty in Baal worship, he died [spiritually, and then outward ruin came also, sealing Israel's doom as a nation]."
--vs. 1, Amplified Bible

Sums it up nicely, doesn't it? There was a time when Israel's biggest tribe had the loudest and most authoritative voice. But, now, not a nation under God (except for being under His divine love and discipline), Israel's voice was diminished. Note how Israel died. First spiritually and then outwardly. Sometimes, I think we believe that our sinful nature is due to our outside world having caused us to sin. We need to be careful in what we say. Our world may influence us, but the first turn is the one we take away from God and His ways. Woe to us if we blame our world for our own decisions. That's the bottom line of freewill!

In verse 2, we revisit the trouble with idols. The creation of the idols, as well as the worship of them, was so painful for God to see. He had endowed craftsmen with special skills, and, as we are endowed with gifts of the Spirit, they were to use these skills to reflect God in how they worked and in what they made. The silver given to the people was also a gift from God, to be used for His glory. How did they invest their gift? Again, drawing from other translations, we read that idols were made "according to their own understanding." (King James Version) The combination of gift and skill being used in the heinous, man-centered creation and worship of idols not only broke the commandments but hurt God's heart.

"Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame. Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no profit? Behold, all his companions will be put to shame, for the craftsmen themselves are mere men. Let them all assemble themselves, let them stand up, let them tremble, let them together be put to shame."
--Isaiah 44: 9-11

The time for shame had certainly come. God's people would be exiled in a mighty sweep--removed from their home. Verse 3 contains three metaphors for how His own would vanish: as the morning cloud and dew; as the chaff from the threshing floor; and as smoke from a chimney (or out a window, in other translations).

For Israel, dew had significance. In the days in the wilderness, God brought the dew and the manna overnight. In the morning, when the sun dried up the dew, the flaky manna would be left behind for the people to gather and use for the day's meal. The morning cloud was the presence of God in the daytime, moving ahead of the people, leading them to their next camp. But, here in Hosea, God says He will make His people disappear as quickly as dew leaves with the morning sun. No longer will manna be provided, nor the cloud of His presence.

"The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish."
--Psalm 1: 4-6

The threshing floor was a busy place, as it was a processing facility.

"In the process of winnowing, as it has been carried on in the East for thousands of years, the grain is tossed into the air so that the wind may cause a separation of chaff and straw. The light husks from the wheat and fine particles of straw are dispersed by the wind in the form of a fine dust; the heavier straw which has been broken into short pieces by the threshing process falls near at hand on the edge of the threshing-floor, while the grain falls back upon the pile."
--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Israel was referred to as "chaff," which was not the best part to come from the winnowing process. Grain is saved for food. Straw is saved for the animals. The chaff is, literally, blown away from the threshing floor. Thus was the state of Israel. John the Baptist, in speaking of the coming of Jesus, used the metaphor in his referring to those who would not accept Him as Lord: "His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:12) Not good to be chaff, nor the smoke that dissipates into the clear air.

"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18, New International Version) What comes before that? More from Chapter 13 .... 'Til next Wednesday!

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Next week: Hosea 13: 4-8

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).