Thank you for joining me today is our study of the book of Hosea. Because of Israel’s idolatries and their unwillingness to trust in Yahweh—instead turning to political alliances for protection—Israel is about to experience the final judgments that God had warned them about in the Palestinian covenant back in Deuteronomy 28-30. The controlling metaphor since chapter 8 has been…”they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7) and time after time Hosea is showing them that they are getting exactly what they deserve, that their judgment is the same in kind as their sin.
So let’s pick up our study in Hosea 10:3-7 this morning…
3 For now they will say: “We have no king, for we do not fear the LORD; and a king–what could he do for us?” 4 They utter mere words; with empty oaths they make covenants; so judgment springs up like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field. 5 The inhabitants of Samaria tremble for the calf of Beth-aven. Its people mourn for it, and so do its idolatrous priests– those who rejoiced over it and over its glory– for it has departed from them. 6 The thing itself shall be carried to Assyria as tribute to the great king. Ephraim shall be put to shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his idol. 7 Samaria’s king shall perish like a twig on the face of the waters. 8 The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. Thorn and thistle shall grow up on their altars, and they shall say to the mountains, “Cover us,” and to the hills, “Fall on us.” 9 From the days of Gibeah, you have sinned, O Israel; there they have continued. Shall not the war against the unjust overtake them in Gibeah? 10 When I please, I will discipline them, and nations shall be gathered against them when they are bound up for their double iniquity. 11 Ephraim was a trained calf that loved to thresh, and I spared her fair neck; but I will put Ephraim to the yoke; Judah must plow; Jacob must harrow for himself. 12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. 13 You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors, 14 therefore the tumult of war shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be destroyed, as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle; mothers were dashed in pieces with their children. 15 Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel, because of your great evil. At dawn the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off.
Verse 3 follows the progression of vv. 1-2. Although Israel had been planted as a vine designed to give Yahweh good fruit, their luxurious growth (in this case, material prosperity) had only given them opportunity to bestow their gratitude and worship and petition upon other gods instead of Yahweh.
And because they were “biting the hand that fed them” Yahweh would destroy all their places of worship. These gods would do them no good at all in the foreign lands to which they would be exiled.
Since v. 2 references the Assyrian invasion it is likely that Hoshea is in view here, that he is now (soon to be) dead and gone.
Verse 3 speaks of a time when there was no longer any king over Israel.
3 For now they will say: “We have no king, for we do not fear the LORD; and a king–what could he do for us?”
It is true that in Israel’s final years they would have a quick succession of kings, none of whom were fitting the role or very effective as leaders. Thus, it would be true to say that they “had no king” during these years. None like David or Solomon, or even Jeroboam II had been on the scene for 30 years now. And that can seem like a long stretch of political nightmares.
Those kings were Zechariah (753 B.C.), Shallum (752 B.C.), Menahem (752-742 B.C.), Pekah (752-732 B.C.), Pekahiah (742-740 B.C.), and Hoshea (732-723 B.C.). If you remember, in Hosea’s opening he mentioned four Judean kings and only one Israelite king. Since Hosea was ministering to the Israelites this must signify his relative insignificance in comparison.
One of the reasons that they had no effective kings is that they—and the men who led them—did not fear the Lord. Unlike Solomon, who charged his son, his protégé, to fear the Lord, they did not.
In other words, not only did they lose any respect or hope in human political leaders, but declared themselves free of any rule, human or divine.
Duane Garrett notes…
In connection with the vineyard metaphor [cf. vv. 1, 4], this line constitutes the people’s rejection of Yahweh’s claim to their “fruit” and is analogous to the conspiracy of the workers in the vineyard in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 21:33-46) (Hosea-Joel, p. 208)
I don’t think that the fear of the Lord primarily means that we are terrified of God, that we are afraid of being in His presence. While it is true that our sin should cause us concern, knowing that God knows it and will judge it, I think it is more accurate to think of the fear of Yahweh as that attitude which always holds Him high and wants to please Him.
Fearing the LORD means that we believe that He exists, believe that He sees, and believe that we will be held accountable for every sin, whether public of private.
Psalm 147:10-11 says…
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,11 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.
So it seems to be a more positive thing, than walking on eggshells afraid we’re going to experience His wrath. It is compared here to one who hopes in Yahweh’s steadfast love.
Stephen Altrogge says…
The “fear of God” that brings God pleasure is not our being afraid of him, but our having a high and exalted, reverential view of him.
To fear God means to dwell upon his beautiful, glorious holiness which is the very opposite of sin and evil, and to revere God and know that he loves us so much that he desires us to hate and turn away from sin.
R.C. Sproul, speaking of Martin Luther, said this:
Luther is thinking of a child who has tremendous respect and love for his father or mother and who dearly wants to please them. He has a fear or an anxiety of offending the one he loves, not because he’s afraid of torture or even of punishment, but rather because he’s afraid of displeasing the one who is, in that child’s world, the source of security and love.
The late Jerry Bridges wrote:
We cannot separate trust in God from fear of God. We trust Him only to the extent that we genuinely stand in awe of Him (The Joy of Fearing God).
Thomas Watson, in his book The Great Gain of Godliness, noting that the fear of God is mixed with love for Him in Psalm 145:19-20, says…
The chaste spouse fears to displease her husband because she loves him. There is a necessity that fear and love be in conjunction. Love is as the sails to make swift the soul’s motion and fear is as the ballast to keep it steady in true religion. Love will be apt to grow wanton unless it is counterbalanced with fear (accessed through Google Books, pp. 14-15).
Regardless of how we may define it, the Israelites did not possess it at this time. And when you don’t submit to divine authority, you have little respect for human authorities.
Derek Kidner summarizes:
We might well wonder whether arrogance or apathy is the greater of two evils for a nation. For Israel, the mood had swung between the two, marked by their changing attitudes towards the throne: at one moment pinning all their hopes to kingship (“, 13:10), at another cheapening it with debauchery and tearing it apart with assassinations (7:3-7); finally, here in verse 3, shrugging it off as meaningless, along with everything else, from the Lord downwards. Only their superstition, their talisman the golden calf, will awaken any sense of loss by its removal.
It sounds much like our own political aspirations today, blowing in the wind, pinning our hopes on one politician and wanting to assassinate him or the rivals.
So, not only did they reject their own human king, but effectively rejected Yahweh as divine king as well. “It was because they did not believe that Yahweh could cure them that they sent to the Great King (5:13), the king of Assyria. Israel’s cry was “He will save us.” Hosea 14:4 shows that Assyria was now cast in this role.
There would be no new king, for God’s help would only come to those who fear Him. Without Yahweh’s backing, human kings are no help at all.
Roy Honeycutt believes that Hosea is introducing a glimmer of hope here—that when the people realize that all their hopes in human kings and government has failed them, that they will then turn again to Yahweh as their only hope.
Verse 4 possibly speaks to the intrigue and assassinations throughout their last 30-year political history.
4 They utter mere words; with empty oaths they make covenants; so judgment springs up like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field.
The “false heart” from back in verse 2 is here described as evidence of the absence of the fear of Yahweh in the hearts of the Israelites. Any pretense to loyalty either to Yahweh or the king is hollow talk—they swear to be faithful to the covenant and the king with fingers crossed.
I like what Derek Kidner says here:
When heaven is considered empty (‘we fear not the Lord’, 3) words and promises soon follow suit, and justice, so-called, becomes a parody of its true self–no longer towering impartially above the strong and the weak, but earthbound and tortuous, spring from the thoughts and policies of the moment; no longer a force for good and the nation’s health, but a source of poison (Hosea, p. 93).
Hubbard contends that the covenant is not with Yahweh, but either with their kings or with the foreign nations they sought to ally to themselves. But, of course, those covenants with their kings would compromise Yahweh’s role in their theocracy and covenants with foreign kings betrayed their lack of trust in Yahweh as well as the temptation to trust in the gods of those pagan nations.
Garrett takes a different approach, saying that their hollow words illustrate their disloyalty to Yahweh…
They go through the liturgical declarations of fealty to Yahweh, but these mean nothing to them. They do not fear him (Hosea-Joel, p. 208).
In this context, justice (which is a better translation that judgment) sprouts up as poison. It kills rather than gives life. As they had been a vine that God had made luxuriant (v. 1) yet had failed to produce good fruit for Yahweh, now justice would turn into injustice. Again, they would reap what they had sown.
The “furrows of the field” were places that should produce good fruit. Hosea 12:11 emphasizes that Israel’s idolatries appeared there, as well as on the high places.
If there is iniquity in Gilead, they shall surely come to nothing: in Gilgal they sacrifice bulls; their altars also are like stone heaps on the furrows of the field.
H. Ronald Vandermey notes that…
While America has In God We Trust on her coins, she has likewise deemed it expedient to make covenants with treacherous nations who despise the Lord (Hosea-Amos, p. 61)
This “poisonous plant” is mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:32 as “the vine of Sodom with “grapes of poison.” Israel is thus a destructive, deceptive vine, serving only itself and yielding the false fruit of impiety, hypocrisy, and paganism.
Finally Hosea gets to the thing they would miss the most, and pine for, in captivity…
5 The inhabitants of Samaria tremble for the calf of Beth-aven. Its people mourn for it, and so do its idolatrous priests– those who rejoiced over it and over its glory– for it has departed from them. 6 The thing itself shall be carried to Assyria as tribute to the great king. Ephraim shall be put to shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his idol.
Duane Garrett notes the parallels between vv. 1-4 and 5-8…
Both begin with a general statement of the sin of the nation; first it is the vine analogy, but here it is the bull-idol. Both then describe the pagan worship of Israel and the punishment that shall come. Furthermore, both assert that the cunning of the Israelites will be exposed (vv. 2, 6b). Also, whereas in the vine text the people declare they have no king (v. 3), v. 7 similarly presents them as a nation under a weak king. In addition, both texts describe what the people are saying: first it is cynicism and hypocrisy (vv. 3-4), and second, it is panic and despair (v. 8b). Finally, the desolation of the pagan altars in v. 8a, when they are covered with weeds and thistles, appropriately looks back to the metaphor of vv. 1-4: Israel had been a well-plowed, carefully managed field, but it yielded only the poisonous fruit of paganism. As a result, God would allow the field to be overrun with weeds that would consume the destructive vine of the fertility cult (Hosea-Joel, p. 209).
They would mourn the loss of their precious idol—the idol that had done nothing for them, that had betrayed them in their moment of need, that had cast them into captivity.
When God destroyed Israel’s altars (v. 2), specifically the golden calf at Beth-aven (i.e., Bethel, cf. v. 8; 4:15; 5:8), –which Jeroboam I had erected (cf. 4:15; 5:8; I Kgs. 16:28-29) the Israelites who lived in Samaria, Israel’s capital, would fear. Notice that they would not fear God (v. 3), but they feared the loss of their idols.
Anderson and Freedman note that “calf” is actually feminine plural, “heifers,” perhaps referring to a female counterpart (Hosea, p. 555).
Notice the word play. The name “Bethel” means “house of God,” but Yahweh changes its name to match its character, for “Beth-aven” means “house of wickedness.”
“Beth-aven” may stand not merely for Bethel, but also for the entire official, semi-pagan religious set-up in Israel.
The people would frantically mourn, and the idolatrous priests (Heb. kemarim; cf. 2 Kings 23:5; Zeph. 1:4) who served there would bewail the demise of this altar, since its glory had departed from the land. That word “glory” again points back to Yahweh as the truly glorious One, but here it is used sarcastically to point out the failure of the pagan gods to act gloriously and bring victory.
The word “mourn” is a word used back in 9:1 to refer to the ecstatic, frenzied worship of the Baalim. Now these same wild emotions would overcome them as their pagan gods are carried away.
Both altars (vv. 1, 8) and idols (vv. 6, 7) would be eliminated.
The Assyrians would carry their golden calf to their land in honor of their king (cf. 8:10). In the eyes of the ancient near eastern people they defeat of a nation meant the defeat of their god, showing how weak they are in comparison to the gods of the conquering empire. The fact that it had to be “carried” away is another expression of its weakness, a common prophetic dig at the impotency of their man-made idols to help (Isaiah 45:20; 46:1, 7; Jeremiah 10:5).
Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save.
Isaiah 46:1, 7
1 Bel bows down; Nebo stoops; their idols are on beasts and livestock; these things you carry are borne as burdens on weary beasts.
6 Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh out silver in the scales, hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; then they fall down and worship!7 They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it, they set it in its place, and it stands there; it cannot move from its place. If one cries to it, it does not answer or save him from his trouble.
Jeremiah 10:5, speaking of the religious tendencies of the nations…
5 Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.”
So Hubbard concludes
As Hosea has more than once reminded them, the calf-god has no value beyond the material wealth of which it was fabricated (2:8; 8:5-6; 9:6). In fact, its gold overlay has come to mean nothing to Israel, since they have to give that away, and Hosea rightly brands the calf a “wooden” idol (Hosea, p. 185).
The god they trusted to save them would be handed over to the king of Assyria as booty. The king of Assyria (“Great king,” cf. 5:13) would be identified as Shalmaneser V at the time of the assault on Samaria and as Sargon II at the time of the ultimate collapse (2 Kings 17:3-6) in 722/721 B.C.
Israel would then feel great shame because the Israelites had decided to trust in a foreign alliance with the Assyrians for their security (cf. 5:13; 7:8-9, 11; 8:9-10).
You see, alliances in the ancient near east were not just political promise devoid of spiritual implications.
Pritchard and Ellison explains that…
“…in those days the secular state did not exist, and so in practice it was impossible to distinguish between a state and its gods. In an extant treaty of peace between Rameses II of Egypt and Hattusilis the Hittite king it is a thousand of their gods on either side who are the witnesses to and guarantors of it (Footnote 1: James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, pp. 200-201).
So even a treaty on equal terms with a neighbouring country would have involved for Israel a recognition of the other country’s deities as having reality and equality with Jehovah. To turn to Assyria or Egypt for help implied of necessity that their gods were more effective than the God of Israel” (H. L. Ellison, The Prophets of Israel: From Ahijah to Hosea, p. 131)
So now they would reap what they had sown—their trusts in these gods where were no-gods, would result in them reaping the utter shame of having trusted them and been let down.
Richard Patterson explains…
This will be like adding insult to injury. God’s people will suffer the disgrace of witnessing that their national treasure, which they revered, will not only be unable to watch over them, but the god whose worship was entailed in the idol could not even protect himself. Israel will be doubly shamed for its reliance on a mere “wooden idol” (https://bible.org/seriespage/3-further-charges-against-unfaithful-israel-hosea-101-1015).
The Great King, whose favor Israel sought, will also carry off the king of Israel (v. 7).
7 Samaria’s king shall perish like a twig on the face of the waters.
Israel’s titular head will be as helpless as a chip of wood floating “on the surface of the waters.” The simile employed here speaks of the helpless state of Israel’s powerless king.
No longer a strong, massive oak, the king would be a twig upon the river waters, pushed along without any semblance of control.
As Garrett remarks, “Such a king is like a stick on water in that he can exercise no control over events. A nation with such leadership is doomed” (Hosea-Joel, p. 212). In all practicality, they had “no king” (v. 3) because he was powerless to do anything to help the nation. Neither political rulers nor religious gods would save them from destruction.
Anderson and Freedman take a different approach, suggesting that there was no king in Samaria and that since Israel had rejected Yahweh, it was a pagan god (as a piece of wood) that is being referred to in v. 7 (Hosea, p. 558).