Over the last four weeks we’ve been seeing how Hosea keeps pounding the message in—telling the Israelites that they will reap what they sow. This is a basic law of nature and of life. It is a lesson that we must learn as well. We cannot afford to think that we can get away with sowing to the flesh and get away with it. We will eventually reap what we sow, and what we reap will be worse than what we’ve sown.
The next portion of Hosea’s prophecy we’re going to look at this morning is Hosea 9:6-9…
6 For behold, they are going away from destruction; but Egypt shall gather them; Memphis shall bury them. Nettles shall possess their precious things of silver; thorns shall be in their tents. 7 The days of punishment have come; the days of recompense have come; Israel shall know it. The prophet is a fool; the man of the spirit is mad, because of your great iniquity and great hatred. 8 The prophet is the watchman of Ephraim with my God; yet a fowler’s snare is on all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God. 9 They have deeply corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah: he will remember their iniquity; he will punish their sins. 10 Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree in its first season, I saw your fathers. But they came to Baal-peor and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved. 11 Ephraim’s glory shall fly away like a bird– no birth, no pregnancy, no conception! 12 Even if they bring up children, I will bereave them till none is left. Woe to them when I depart from them! 13 Ephraim, as I have seen, was like a young palm planted in a meadow; but Ephraim must lead his children out to slaughter. 14 Give them, O LORD– what will you give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. 15 Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal; there I began to hate them. 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 shall bear no fruit. Even though they give birth, I will put their beloved children to death. 17 My God will reject them because they have not listened to him; they shall be wanderers among the nations.
Actually v. 6 gives a reason for the exasperation that Israel will express while in captivity that was expressed in verse 5.
5 What will you do on the day of the appointed festival, and on the day of the feast of the LORD?
The previous verses had indicated that Israel would be taken into captivity and while there would be unable to provide sacrifices to Yahweh or enjoy their feast days. These significant events would be taken away from Israel.
Verse 6 expresses a reason for their exasperation:
6 For behold, they are going away from destruction; but Egypt shall gather them; Memphis shall bury them. Nettles shall possess their precious things of silver; thorns shall be in their tents.
The Israelites would leave their land because of the destruction Yahweh would send. Egypt and Memphis, as two undertakers, would bury the exiles. Failing to trust in Yahweh for protection, believing Egypt would protect the coming destruction, would be a deadly mistake.
Memphis (near modern Cairo) was an Egyptian city famous as a burial site because of the pyramid tombs there.
As Andersen and Freedman point out, “The reference to Egypt has a sinister note, and the feminine verbs show that Egypt and Memphis are the subjects of the activity, and not just the location. The Israelites will not conduct their own burial rites. Even the patriarchs, through living in Egypt, could be taken back to Canaan for burial in the family cemetery; Joseph’s bones were brought back in due time. This privilge will be denied the Israelites of the present generation. It will be their final defilement to be buried in a pagan cemetery” (Hosea, p. 530)
Thus, God’s exiled people will “succeed” only in leaving behind all that was precious to them including the tents (their homes) where they lived. Back in the land of Israel, thorns and thistles would grow up, overgrowing all their treasures and their households.
Duane Garrett notes how giving their silver to Egypt, only to die there, is a reversal of the “plundering of the Egyptians” when Israel left Egypt. “Indeed, this entire text can be taken to be an undoing of the exodus and thus an erasure of Israel’s redemption history” (Hosea-Joel, p. 194)
Yahweh had warned them of these curses back in Deuteronomy 28:36-46. The ravages of an invading army and then insects (Deut. 28:42) would turn once fertile lands into wilderness. The land has been rendered uninhabitable.
Derek Kidner says…
Israel’s judgment would be all too fitting (you reap what you sow). For her political flirtations she would have her fill of foreign loves, her people captive in Assyria and fugitives in Egypt. For her religious flirtations, too, she would pay the proper price of having scattered her favours everywhere: her people ending up with nothing fit for God, and nowhere to hold their beloved festivals (The Message of Hosea, p. 85).
Hosea brings the first portion of this oracle (vv. 7-9) to a close by warning his hearers that the days of threatened judgment with all of their drastic conditions (vv. 1-6) were even now close at hand. It was time for Israel to receive the reward of its infidelity, to reap what they had sown.
7 The days of punishment have come; the days of recompense have come; Israel shall know it.
One cannot abandon Yahweh without impunity.
Repetition (as “Babylon is fallen, is fallen,” and as Ezekiel 7:5-7, the prophet tells them, “The end is come, is come, is come”; and so some ten or twelve times) and the use of the past tense both emphasize the certainty of this coming doom. Israel shall “know it” likely means Israel would experience it. As E. B. Pusey explains:
“Israel would not know by believing it; now it should know, by feeling it.” (The Minor Prophets, 1:91)
Blinded by their own folly, God’s people have considered the prophets, whom God has sent to warn them, to be but fools and madmen (v. 7). Although they are God’s appointed “watchmen,” to care for and warn the people of danger, yet they face only danger themselves for the godly stand they have taken (v. 8).
Another reason for her judgment was that the Israelites had regarded the prophets whom the Lord had sent to them as demented fools (cf. 2 Kings 9:11; Jer. 29:26-27). This likely included Hosea.
The prophet is a fool; the man of the spirit is mad, because of your great iniquity and great hatred. 8 The prophet is the watchman of Ephraim with my God; yet a fowler’s snare is on all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God.
Likely verse 7 are words in the mouths of the kings, princes, priests and people. They believed that the prophets were fools and wind bags. The word “prophet” means a “seer,” but the people believe they are unreliable guides because they cannot “see” the future. Likewise, the word “spirit” is ruach, meaning breath or wind. Thus, they believed these “wind bags” were demented.
“Out of his head, chattering senselessly, prompted neither by wisdom nor the divine word—so ran the popular estimate of the prophet” (David Hubbard, Hosea, p. 169)
Even Jesus was accused of being demon possessed! (John 7:20; 8:48). That’s why he told us to expect such reaction from most people.
“They said in effect, ‘Who in his right mind would prophesy a judgment like this when we are in the midst of such a bountiful harvest, in itself a proof of God’s blessing?’”
As Roy Honeycutt reminds us…
“Prophets of any generation are liable to be written off as “fools” and “mad” when the content of their message is inconsistent with prevalent practices by the people. The prophet well acceptable to the masses is well characterized by Micah:
“If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, ‘I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,’ he would be the preacher for this people.’” (Micah 2:11) (Hosea and His Message, p. 62)
Why do people react this way? Because they are living in sin and thus hate the truth. They prefer to live in the darkness. “Because of the character of their own lives, people cannot bear exposure and condemnation. When truth becomes relevant to one’s sin, self-defense distracts that the prophet be discredited as a fool and a madman” (Roy Honeycutt, Hosea and His Message, p. 63).
Amos said of the same generation:
5:10 They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth.
Jesus says in John 3:
19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
David Hubbard says…
“As is typical of our human behavior, when we cannot acknowledge our guilt we may react towards our accusers with anger. Hosea’s critics answered sharply not because they thought he was wrong but because, deep down, they knew he was right” (Hosea, p. 159)
So it has always been true that we hide our sins and do not want them exposed. Whenever someone addresses our sins we are more likely to discredit them than listen to them.
But God has a better name than “fool” for his man. The real profession of a prophet was to be a “watchman,” to give Israel warnings of the consequences of their actions and the reality of coming judgment. “The prophet scans history, warning the people of impending doom, certain that his own life will be either validated or condemned according to the fidelity with which he fulfills his role (cf. Ezek. 33:2ff)” (Roy Honeycutt, Hosea and His Message, p. 63).
Verse 8 looks longingly back into the past when even Ephraim had been a watchman with my God.
Notice that Hosea had said that a prophet was a watchman of Ephraim “with my God.” UItimately, we all, but especially prophets, play to an audience of one. It is God whom we must please, not the people. (Although Hubbard believes this means that the prophet was privy to the divine council where he heard first-hand Yahweh’s word, Hosea, p. 170).
The vindication of a prophet comes from God, not man. And God would judge Israel for their unrepentant attitudes.
Prophets have to commit their cause to God, as Jeremiah said…
11:20 But, O LORD of hosts, who judges righteously, who tests the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause.
Jesus himself had the same attitude, as Peter reminds us and encourages us to follow:
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
Whenever someone attacks us, or criticizes us unjustly, we simply “entrust ourselves to him who judges justly,” we leave it in his hands. This is also what Paul outlined in Romans 12:
19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
If you remember our teaching on Romans 12 and Ephesians 4, we noticed that Paul is saying that someone who maintains a bitter spirit, allows Satan a foothold (the Greek word is topos, a place) in our lives and relationships, whereas someone who is willing to forgive and allow God to deal with the other person in justice, gives “room” (topos) to God to work.
So whether you are a prophet or just a man on the street, whenever we are attacked, we commit ourselves to the one who judges justly, and that leaves room for God to work in our lives and relationships.
It is difficult to know whether the last line in verse 8 describes the prophets, that snares have been set for them because those who should love him (people “in the house of God”) hate him instead.
Thus Constable says…
Ephraim had tried to entangle the prophets God had sent the people, like a hunter catches birds in a net. Thus there was nothing but hostility in the land of Israel between the Ephraimites and the true prophets of Yahweh. Ephraim saw nothing as a prophet and criticized the prophets for preaching what they saw, namely: coming judgment.
The other possibility is that it describes Israel, that the snare is for them because God has rejected their worship.
Duane Garrett notes that Yahweh himself is a “snare and a trap” for the inhabitants of Jerusalem in Isaiah 8:14 and says…
“The point in this ext is that the prophets, in speaking to the unrepentant people, would not be the means of their salvation but of their downfall, similar to Paul’s understanding of his own ministry as the “smell of death’ to those who are perishing (2 Cor. 2:15-16)” (Hosea-Joel, p. 196)
In the remainder of chapter 9 Hosea will point to two places in Israel’s history (Gibeah and Gilgal), where Israel sinned greatly against Yahweh and one another. The tragedy at Gibeah is mentioned first in verse 9, Gilgal in v. 14.
Gibeah (meaning ‘hill’) was a city in the hill country just to the north of Jerusalem. Situated alongside the main road from Bethlehem to Shechem (see Judges 19:10-15), the site of ancient Gibeah has been identified as Tel el-Ful 3 miles / 5 km north of Jerusalem, and next to the modern Israeli settlement at Pisgat Ze’ev. After the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites in c.1406 BC, Gibeah was allocated to the tribe of Benjamin (see Joshua 18:28).
Subsequently, Gibeah became the site of what might be regarded as the only ‘civil war’ in the history of Israel. The story of the Levite and his concubine (see Judges 19:1-30) may seem strange to modern ears, but in the days of the ‘Judges’, it was quite common for a man to have a ‘concubine’ as well as a wife. A concubine had the legal status of a marriage partner, but had less esteem than a wife and was treated more like a servant. When the Levite’s concubine was gang raped and left for dead on the doorstep of his overnight host at Gibeah, the other Israelite tribes decided to bring the unrepentent men of Gibeah to account for this atrocious crime. In the ensuing Battle of Gibeah, most of the tribe of Benjamin were wiped out – which resulted in the Benjamites subsequently being the smallest of the twelve tribes (see 1 Samuel 9:21). (The Bible Journey)
9 They have deeply corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah: he will remember their iniquity; he will punish their sins.
What Hosea is referring to is the rape of a Levite’s concubine by the men of Gibeah in Judges 19 (the whole story is in Judges 19-21). This is a sordid time in Israel’s history, a time when “everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25) being a “law unto themselves.” Here, an outrage was committed that had “never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day” (Judges 19:30). Ephraim has fallen to the level of the most corrupt generation in Israel’s history. Hosea will return to this event in 10:9.
Because of their sin, the tribe of Benjamin was almost wiped out, only 600 survived. Not only was the sin similar, but the their judgment would be just as devastating and complete.
As Kidner points out, this story leaves Sodom and Gomorrah with nothing they could teach this city!
As Garrett remarks, “Hosea declares that the people of his day have fallen to the level of this most corrupt generation of Israel’s history” (Hosea-Joel, p. 196).
Hosea is saying that the Israelites of his day have just as “deeply corrupted themselves.” They had hit rock bottom in their corruption.
Because of their deep corruption, Yahweh “will remember their iniquity; he will punish their sins.”
Kidner points out, to our great joy, how that sentence is the exact opposite of the promise of the New Covenant, where Jeremiah 31:34 says, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sins no more.”
But for now time had come when God could no longer withhold His just judgment of Israel for their sins. Israel has prostituted itself beyond recall. Not only are God’s people guilty of violating their covenant with Yahweh (cf. Hos. 2:18-23; 4:1, 12; 5:4-7; 6:7; 8:1-6) via their entrenched idolatry (cf. 4:14-19; 5:1; 8:4-6), but this has led to moral corruption at every level (cf. 5:10-11; 6:8-10; 7:1-10). Simply put, Israel has become a prostitute (cf. 4:14-19; 5:3-4; 6:10), a thing forbidden in God’s law (Deut. 23:17).
Unfortunately, Israel has come to regard God’s law as “something totally unknown to them” (Hos. 8:12). Because God’s people no longer acknowledge Him (cf. 4:1; 6:3) and in their infidelity have pursued their own idolatrous and immoral ways, it was now time for God to “repay them for their sins” (v. 9).
Harry Ironside reminds us…
“Sin never dies a natural death; it must be thoroughly judged. Like leaven, it [must be] stopped by fire—by ‘judgment,’ self-judgment or God’s judgment; for sin ever works on until it is judged. When indulged in by an individual, or permitted in a company, it continues working, though often imperceptibly, until it is judged, either in oneself, or by God’s people, or by God Himself.” (Notes on the Minor Prophets, pp. 71-72)
And George Robinson notes…
“One general lesson is taught by Hosea of ever permanent worth, namely, that inward corruption in a nation is more dangerous to its existence than their external enemies. And a kindred lesson closely related to this is: that the truest of all patriots is he who, like Hosea, identifies himself with his people, sorrows over their calamities as though they were his own, and repents for their sins as though he had committed them himself.” (The Twelve Minor Prophets, p. 26)