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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Hosea 7

 

 

Verse 2

‘And they consider not in their hearts,

That I remember all their wickedness,

Now have their own doings beset them about,

They are before my face.’

But worst of all was the fact that the people were blind to their sins. They did not even consider in their hearts the possibility that YHWH knew about and remembered their wickedness. Rather they went on doing evil things and breaking the covenant to such an extent that their own doings crowded round them and beset them, and all this openly in the face of YHWH. Like Adam they were caught out in their sin.


Verse 3

They make the king glad with their wickedness,

And the princes with their lies.’

We might cite here ‘like people, like king’. For as the people carry on in the ways of sinfulness and apostasy, and especially in whoredom after the Baalim, their kings are delighted with them, and their princes delight in their false behaviour. They are all one together in their rejection of the true covenant of YHWH. The princes may include the leaders of the ‘ten tribes’ (compare Numbers 1:16) and also the king’s advisers and generals.

Others see a reference here to court intrigue with the king seen as being pleased with those who have brought about the overthrow of his predecessor by wickedness and lies.


Verses 3-7

The People And Their Kings Are Both Alike, Burning Hot In Their Sins, In Consequence Of Which Their Kings Are Assassinated One After The Other (Hosea 7:3-7).

Hosea now likens the people of Israel in their sins to a burning baker’s oven which is overheated. They are hot after adultery, they are hot after injustice. And their kings and princes go along with them. Finally they are hot after their kings. But none of them call on YHWH.

Analysis of Hosea 7:3-7.

a They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies (Hosea 7:3).

b They are all adulterers (Hosea 7:4 a)

c They are as an oven heated by the baker, he ceases to stir the fire, from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened (Hosea 7:4 b).

d On the day of our king the princes made themselves sick with the heat of wine, he stretched out his hand with scoffers (Hosea 7:5).

c For they have made ready their heart like an oven, while they lie in wait, their baker sleeps all the night, in the morning it burns as a flaming fire (Hosea 7:6).

b They are all hot as an oven, and devour their judges (Hosea 7:7 a).

a All their kings are fallen, there is none among them who calls to me (Hosea 7:7 b).

Note that in ‘a’ the kings and princes rejoice in the wickedness of the people, and in the parallel all the kings are fallen and none calls on YHWH. In ‘b’ they are all adulterers, and in the parallel they are all judge devourers. In ‘c’ they are hot like an oven heated by the baker and in the parallel their hearts are like an oven, which the baker has left to continue burning. Centrally in ‘d’ the folly of the king is revealed.


Verse 4

‘They are all adulterers,

They are as an oven heated by the baker,

He ceases to stir the fire,

From the kneading of the dough until it is leavened.’

They are in fact all spiritual adulterers, hot after false gods. And they are so hot and overheated after sin that the baker can, as it were, cease to stir the flames from the time when the dough is kneaded to when it becomes leavened. The baker here is probably the chief priest, who, having stirred up the people in idolatry can safely leave them to pursue it without any further intervention by him.


Verse 5

On the day of our king the princes made themselves sick with the heat of wine,

He stretched out his hand with scoffers.’

And the people have the leadership that they deserve. On the ‘day of the king’ (either his birthday or the anniversary of his coronation) they all make themselves sick with wine, while the king stretches out his hands, welcoming those who mock at YHWH. The picture is one of drink and debauchery, and of the debauched behaviour that inevitably follows, including outright blasphemy (compare Hosea 9:7). The people are ruled by inebriates.


Verse 6

‘For they have made ready their heart like an oven,

While they lie in wait,

Their baker sleeps all the night,

In the morning it burns as a flaming fire.’

Meanwhile the people, sickened at the behaviour of their leaders, plot a coup in order to remove them. Those who are unfaithful to YHWH and hot after adultery, will equally be unfaithful to their kings, and be hot after replacing them by assassination. Thus their hearts are hot like an oven as they lie in ambush, and once their baker (the king) has slept all night unconscious of what is happening, he awakes to find his treacherous people aflame with rebellion. As we know from the history this was repeated a number of times, moving through Zechariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, and Pekah without any hesitation.


Verse 7

They are all hot as an oven,

And devour their judges,

All their kings are fallen,

There is none among them who calls to me.

So the people, hot like a stoked oven, stoked by the leaders of the conspiracy, devour their judges and destroy their kings. Both princes and kings fall together to be replaced by a new regime, who will later follow the same path. Such is the perfidy of a people who have forsaken YHWH. For not one of them calls on YHWH. The true Yahwists would not be involved.

And that is the point. Having rejected YHWH Who had always been their Deliverer in the past, they have had no one to turn to. So in desperation they have tried one king after another, only to discover that each one failed in his turn, quickly to be replaced by another. It is the picture of a nation that has lost its way. And yet still they refuse to turn back to YHWH. It was a picture of obstinacy gone mad, and is typical of those who, having rejected God, spend all their lives looking desperately for another solution when there is none.


Verse 8

‘Ephraim, he mixes himself among the peoples,

Ephraim is a cake not turned.’

The use of ‘Ephraim’ may indicate a time when what was mainly left of Israel was that part which was on the mountain of Ephraim and its surrounds, around Samaria. The complaint here is that they have turned to the nations instead of to YHWH. They have mingled among the peoples, becoming as one of them. The result is that they are like a cake not turned over. This might mean ‘half-baked’ like a piece of dough being heated on a hot stone and only baked on one side, because they are incomplete, having missed out on what is really important. Or it may mean left lying flat instead of being turned over in readiness for consumption, and thus unready and unprepared. It may include the thought that they have not made themselves into a fit state to be available to YHWH.


Verses 8-10

In Turning To Foreign Nations For Their Support Instead Of Turning To YHWH, Ephraim Do Not Realise What The Consequences Will Be (Hosea 7:8-10).

Hosea now parodies the people’s attempts to find help from foreign nations. This initially had included Aram (Syria), but then moved on to the Philistine nations and Egypt, and at other times to Assyria itself. To them anything was preferable to returning to YHWH. He pictures Ephraim, as a result of having mixed with the nations, as ‘a cake not turned’, that is as not having turned to YHWH, or alternately as being like half-baked bread and therefore inedible, or as being weak because not properly prepared. And he sees them as having handed over its wealth to different foreigners, and as reaching senility (or going mouldy) without realising it.

Analysis.

a Ephraim, he mixes himself among the peoples, Ephraim is a cake not turned (Hosea 7:8).

b Strangers have devoured his strength, and he does not know it (Hosea 7:9 a).

c Yes, grey hairs are here and there on him (or ‘steal up on him’), and he does not know it (Hosea 7:9 b).

b And the pride of Israel testifies to his face (Hosea 7:10 a).

a Yet they have not returned to YHWH their God, nor sought him, for all this (Hosea 7:10 b).

Note that in ‘a’ Israel have turned to the nations, and in the parallel have not turned to YHWH. In ‘b’ their ‘strength’ has gone and they do not know it, and in the parallel it is only their pride which keeps them going. Centrally in ‘c’ they have become aged and decrepit (or mouldy) without realising it.


Verse 9

Yes, grey hairs are here and there on him (or ‘steal up on him’),

And he does not know it.’

The verb in the first line usually means ‘sprinkled’ thus possibly indicating that they now have a sprinkling of grey hair. But based on an Arabic word the verb may also mean ‘steal up on’, which would indicate that they had grown grey without realising it. The suggestion then would be that they had become old and decrepit. Others see the grey hairs as referring to the grey hairs which can be seen on mould, the idea being that they have become mouldy.

Notice the repetition of the words, ‘and he does not know it’, doubly emphasising the fact. They are just totally unaware of what they are doing to themselves.


Verse 10

‘And the pride of Israel testifies to his face,

Yet they have not returned to YHWH their God,

Nor sought him, for all this.’

But Israel are so full of false pride and arrogance that they give evidence before Him (or before themselves) of what they have done (compare Hosea 5:5), seemingly without conscience. They are openly brazen about their godless ritual, even flaunting it in front of Him. Yet in spite of all that has happened they have not returned to YHWH ‘their God’, nor have they sought His face.

Others see ‘the Pride of Israel’ as referring to God as the only One of whom Israel could be proud, thus paralleling ‘YHWH their God’. The idea is then that they have not listened to the One of Whom they should have been proud. But Hosea 5:5 tends in our view to favour seeing the reference as being to Israel’s inordinate pride.

Note the emphasis on ‘their God’. Although they would not recognise the fact, He was their God, and any other was an intruder. (And it was because He was their God that He would one day restore them. But that would be a long way ahead).


Verse 11

‘And Ephraim is like a silly dove,

Without understanding,

They call to Egypt,

They go to Assyria.’

Ephraim is depicted as a hapless, fluttering bird, which, ignorant of what was best for it (genuinely and submissively calling on YHWH, and on Him alone), at one moment ‘called’ to Egypt (instead of to YHWH), and at the next went to Assyria. Thus they are simply a ‘silly dove’ compared with the great eagles, Egypt and Assyria (Hosea 8:1; compare Ezekiel 17:2-10 for the idea). This was a true picture of the situation. They ‘called on Egypt but went to Assyria’. For when Assyria was strong and had no distractions elsewhere they had no real option but to ‘go to Assyria’. But inevitably they were never happy with their enforced subjection so that they would almost certainly keep in touch with Egypt (who were wary of Assyria’s might), with the result that at times the promised support of Egypt (which never directly materialised - Isaiah 30:7) encouraged them to refuse tribute to Assyria. And the point behind YHWH’s words is that all this happened because they had not trusted in YHWH, and indeed that their very submission to the requirements of history was evidence of their rebellion against Him. Why else did they think that it had happened?

We can see all this from the very abbreviated history in Kings. It began when Menahem submitted to Tiglath Pileser III and paid tribute, which he obtained by taxing the rich men in the realm (2 Kings 15:19-20). But when Menahem died and his son Pekahiah began to reign, Pekahiah was almost immediately assassinated by Pekah, who was probably already a petty king in Gilead and wanted to break free from the Assyrians, and now aimed for the full kingship of Israel. In consequence of supposed Assyrian weakness (they were being distracted by events elsewhere), Pekah ceased paying tribute to Assyria and united with Aram (Syria), and probably other nations, in an alliance aimed at resisting any Assyrian reprisals (Isaiah 7:1-2; 2 Chronicles 28:5-21). There was probably an understanding with certain elements in Philistia, (suggested by what happened when Assyria did finally retaliate, and by 2 Chronicles 28:18) which would almost certainly have included contact with Egypt (who would promise anything in order to cause trouble for Assyria).

Eventually, however, Shalmaneser V (Tiglath Pileser’s successor) was free to retaliate, and having defeated the Philistines, took over the northern part of northern Israel, turning it into an Assyrian province and exiling many of its inhabitants (2 Kings 15:29). It was at this point that Hoshea seized his opportunity, and, probably with assurances from Assyria, assassinated Pekah and sued for peace. This resulted in his becoming a subject king paying tribute to Assyria, something which saved the southern part of northern Israel (Ephraim) from the fate suffered by their northern counterparts. But eventually Hoshea (no doubt pressed by his advisers and princes) tired of Assyrian rule (it was very expensive) and entered into secret negotiations with Egypt (2 Kings 17:4). This resulted in his withholding tribute from Assyria, and in consequence in the final destruction of Samaria, with the cream of Israel taken into exile (according to Assyrian records over 27,000).

The corollary of all this was, of course, that if only they had been full-heartedly trusting in YHWH, and in YHWH alone, none of this would have happened, because YHWH would have delivered them from the might of the Assyrians.


Verses 11-16

Ephraim (Israel) Are Pictured As A Hapless Dove Fluttering Between Egypt And Assyria As They Endeavour To Avoid YHWH’s Net (Hosea 7:11-16).

Ephraim are now depicted as being willing to do anything rather than rely on YHWH. They are seen as so lacking in understanding that they are like a fluttering and helpless bird, one moment calling on Egypt, and the next going to Assyria. Meanwhile YHWH hovers over them with His net with the intention of bringing them down and chastising them. Thus in the process of history Menahem submitted to Assyria, only to be replaced by Pekah who, in alliance with Aram (Syria), promptly rejected Assyria as Israel’s overlord, and in the course of it probably made overtures to Egypt (with rebellion in view soundings would almost certainly have been made for at least general support). Hoshea then in turn assassinated Pekah and submitted to Assyria, before himself later turning to Egypt in a bid for freedom from Assyria. While historically we can understand some of these moves as a requirement of history due to the rampagings of a powerful Assyria, and the inevitable continual opposition within Israel to their forced subjection (very few really liked being subject to Assyria), Hosea’s point is precisely that, that really they were simply pawns, moved about by the two great nations, something which would have been unnecessary had they trusted in YHWH.

And all this occurred because they had rejected YHWH, and instead of looking to Him, had chosen to trust in the Baalim. There could only be one final consequence. Their princes would fall by the sword and they themselves would become the laughingstock of Egypt.

Analysis of Hosea 7:11-16.

a And Ephraim is like a silly dove, without understanding. They call to Egypt, they go to Assyria (Hosea 7:11).

b When they will go, I will spread my net on them, I will bring them down as the birds of the heavens, I will chastise them, in accordance with the announcements of their assembly (Hosea 7:12).

c Woe to them! for they have wandered from me, Destruction to them! for they have trespassed against me. Though I would redeem them, yet they have spoken lies against me (Hosea 7:13).

d And they have not cried to me with their heart, but they howl on their beds, they assemble themselves for grain and new wine, they rebel against me (Hosea 7:14).

c Though I have taught and strengthened their arms, yet they devise mischief against me (Hosea 7:15).

b They return, but not to him who is on high, they are like an unreliable bow (Hosea 7:16 a).

a Their princes will fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue. This will be their derision in the land of Egypt (Hosea 7:16 b).

Note that in ‘a’ they call to Egypt, and in the parallel they suffer derision in Egypt. In ‘b’ God acts from on high to trap them in His net, and brings them down like the birds from heaven, so that He might chastise them, and in the parallel they will not return to the One Who is on high, but prefer the use of an ineffective bow which will bring down nothing. In ‘c’ though He would redeem them they have spoken lies against Him, and in the parallel though He taught and strengthened their arms they devised mischief against Him. Central in ‘d’ is the fact that they have looked to the Baalim rather than to Him.


Verse 12

‘When they will go, I will spread my net on them,

I will bring them down as the birds of the heavens,

I will chastise them,

In accordance with the announcements of their assembly.’

The idea of the ‘silly dove’ continues. When they rise up and start to fly YHWH will spread His net over them, and bring them down like the birds of heaven. No longer will they enjoy freedom, but will be caught up in a net of YHWH’s devising. The picture is a vivid one and would have been familiar to many in Israel. For there were many doves and pigeons which could be found in craggy places, very suitable for food, and the bird-hunters of Israel would take their nets, and as the birds fluttered about in fright, and rose at their approach, would envelop them in the nets.

Thus they were to recognise that what was to happen to them would not really be the work of the Assyrians, but would be the activity of YHWH. As they flapped around, calling to Egypt and going to Assyria, it was YHWH Who was taking them in His net. He would thereby be chastising them, just as their assembly announced would happen when Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, and the remainder of the Law, were read out in public. Having breached the covenant they would now be enduring the covenant curses of Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28. The idea of ‘announcements at the assembly’ may also have included the announcements made by the true prophets at times when Israel assembled at their feasts.

Some, by repointing the consonants ‘dtm from ‘adatam to ‘edutam (treaty), would translate as ‘according to the report of their treaties’ indicating that He would react to what He had heard about their treaties, treaties which themselves were rebellion against YHWH because it meant that they were trusting in the nations and not in Him alone (compare Hosea 7:8-9).


Verse 13

‘Woe to them! for they have fled from me,

Destruction to them! for they have trespassed (rebelled) against me,

Though I would redeem them,

Yet they have spoken lies against me.’

YHWH now pronounces a lament over them. Woe is to come on them because they have fled from Him. Destruction is to come on them because they have rebelled against Him by trespassing against the covenant. Though He would willingly have redeemed them (delivered them from bondage at a cost - Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 9:26), or bought them back as His firstborn (Exodus 13:13; Leviticus 27:27-31; compare Exodus 4:22), as he had done from Egypt) He had not been able to do so because of their lies against Him. These lies included the false representations made about Him by making Him a part of the Bethel cult with its admixture of Baalism. They had lied about Him by representing Him as the equivalent of a nature God. They had also lied against Him when they made their (false) promises to Him at their feasts, and as a consequence of their false pretences in pretending to worship Him when what they were worshipping was an image of a bull, and when by their words and actions they had depicted Him as not being faithful, and when in their ritual they had professed faithfulness to Him. Indeed much of their syncretistic worship had been a lie from start to finish


Verse 14

‘And they have not cried to me with their heart,

But they howl on their beds,

They assemble themselves for grain and new wine,

They rebel against me.’

For rather than calling on YHWH from their hearts, they have howled to Baal from their cushion beds which they had placed around his altar as they assembled in order to seek to obtain grain and wine (compare Amos 2:8; Isaiah 57:7-8; Micah 2:1). One of the rituals in the worship of Baal was the mournful howling that accompanied the idea of his ‘death’ when everything died in the dry season (only to be followed by rejoicing when he came back to life, when the seed and bushes sprang to life, indicating the beginning of a new harvest) These beds would also be the very ones on which they performed adultery with the cult prostitutes, which they claimed was a means of bringing about a ‘sympathetic’ birth of nature, following Baal’s death. And it was all a sign of rebellion against YHWH.


Verse 15

‘Though I have taught and strengthened their arms,

Yet they do devise mischief against me.’

And yet it was YHWH and not Baal Who had taught them and made their arms strong. This may refer to the fact that He had brought them to young adulthood, rearing them as His children (compare Hosea 11:3). Or it may refer to Him as having made them strong for battle (compare Psalms 18:32-36). Either way the idea is that they owed everything that they were (as possessors of the land and landowners in Israel) to Him, and yet all they had done was devise mischief against Him.


Verse 16

‘They return, but not to on high,

They are like an unreliable bow,

Their princes will fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue,

This will be their derision in the land of Egypt.

Thus it was to Egypt that they returned and not to ‘on High’. They looked back to Egypt and not upwards towards YHWH. In other words they had ignored the One Who now with His net hovered over them on High to make them captive (Hosea 7:12). They were like someone who constantly missed the mark because they had an unreliable bow. (Unlike Him (Hosea 7:12) they would not be successful in their hunting). And the consequence was that their princes would die by the sword (a regular feature of the curses in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28) because of their angry words, something which would bring derision on them in the land of Egypt. The angry words may indicate the angry words spoke by them in their thoughts and discussions about rebellion. Or the defiant words hurled at the Assyrians over the walls of Samaria before it fell, or afterwards when they had been made captive. How different it would have been had they instead come to YHWH with honest words demonstrating their faithfulness. The derision may be seen as arising because in the end they would have to submit to Assyria, and would thus be failed and disgraced rebels, or because they had trusted in Aram (Syria) to help them and were seen as fools for having done so, or because they had so often wavered between Egypt and Assyria, and were now suffering for it (thus giving the Egyptian viewpoint), or because it was indicative of Egypt’s real attitude to its ‘allies’, one of total self-interest, a treaty loyalty which quickly turned into derision when it resulted in failure (something which would never have been true of YHWH). It may also have in mind that in the wilderness one of the fears of Moses was that they would ‘return to Egypt’ and be mocked at, along with YHWH (Exodus 32:12).

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Hosea 7:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/hosea-7.html. 2013.

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