corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Hosea 9

 

 

Verse 1

‘Rejoice not, O Israel,

Do not shout for joy, my people,

For you have played the harlot, from your God,

You have loved hire (hired women) on every grain-floor.’

Hosea warns Israel not to be so full of joy at their harvest feast at the Feast of Tabernacles because they needed to recognise that by their adulterous behaviour they have made God angry. Such ideas of joy were seen as being typical of the Jewish feasts, which were in the main joyous occasions (Leviticus 23:40; Deuteronomy 12:7; Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14). But they were not propitious when their behaviour was lacking.

‘Do not shout for joy, my people’ is obtained by repointing the consonants in the original Hebrew text. (The vowels signs, and division of the words, resulted from the work of the Masoretes some centuries after the time of Christ, and are not part of the original text. Following the MT we would translate, ‘Rejoice not O Israel, to exaltation like the peoples’ with the idea being that they should not exult like the nations as they would be treated on a special basis because they were God’s faithless people). The reason for their rejoicing was because they considered that their abundant harvest demonstrated the satisfactory nature of their religion. After all, they no doubt said, it had worked, hadn’t it? But Hosea was pointing out that their joy would be short lived, because in the near future there would be no such harvests.

The charge against them was that they had ‘played the harlot from their God’, either by worshipping Baal and Asherah, or by worshipping YHWH on a false basis by using cult prostitutes and trying to ‘move Him to action’ by their adulterous behaviour. Either way they were being faithless to YHWH’s covenant, and therefore behaving like an unfaithful wife to Him. They had been warned about such behaviour in Exodus 34:15-16; and it was the kind of behaviour prophesied of them, along with the consequences, in Deuteronomy 31:16.

‘You have loved hire (hired women) on every grain-floor.’ God’s charge against them was that they ‘loved’ their cohabitation with hired cult prostitutes which they were involved in during their ritual activities wherever they occurred, which was regularly. Grain floors were wide open spaces suitable for gatherings (and for sexual activity), and it is very probable that they were widely used for religious activity, a certain sacredness being see in them as the place where the grain (the gift of God or of the gods) was finally made edible and provided in abundance (see 1 Kings 22:10; 2 Samuel 24:18).


Verses 1-10

Israel Must Not Rejoice At Their Harvest Feast Because Everything Will Shortly Be Taken From Them When They Are Exiled To Egypt/Assyria Because Of What They Have Become And Because Of How They Have Treated YHWH (Hosea 9:1-10).

The words that follow may well have been spoken by Hosea at the northern version of the Feast of Tabernacles (1 Kings 12:32) which celebrated the end of the season of harvests and sought to encourage the coming of the rains ready for the new harvest. He warns the people not to be so full of rejoicing and exultation because shortly they will be removed from YHWH’s land, and will thus have no harvests to enjoy. They will be ‘return to Egypt’ and eat unclean food in Assyria. And this will occur because they are at enmity with YHWH, and because they have ‘played the harlot’ in their ways, similar to the way in which Israel had sinned at Baal-peor, making a mockery of true YHWH worship.

Analysis.

a Rejoice not, O Israel, do not shout for joy, my people, for you have played the harlot, from your God, you have loved hire on every grain-floor (Hosea 9:1).

b The threshing-floor and the oil-press will not feed them, and the new wine will fail her (Hosea 9:2).

c They will not dwell in YHWH’s land, but Ephraim will return to Egypt, and they will eat unclean food in Assyria (Hosea 9:3).

d They will not pour out wine-offerings to YHWH, nor will they be pleasing to him, their sacrifices will be to them as the bread of mourners, all who eat of it will be polluted, for their bread will be for their appetite, it will not come into the house of YHWH (Hosea 9:4).

e What will you do in the day of solemn assembly, and in the day of the feast of YHWH?’ For, lo, they have gone away from destruction, Egypt will gather them up, Memphis will bury them (Hosea 9:5-6 a).

f Their pleasant things of silver, nettles will possess them, thorns will be in their tents (Hosea 9:6 b).

e The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come, Israel will know it, the prophet is a fool, the man who has the spirit is mad, for the abundance of your iniquity, and because the enmity is great (Hosea 9:7).

d Is Ephraim a watchman? Is the people of my God a prophet? A fowler’s snare is in all his ways, enmity in the house of his God (Hosea 9:8).

c They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah, he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins (Hosea 9:9).

b I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness, I saw your fathers as the first-ripe in the fig-tree at its first season (Hosea 9:10 a).

a They came to Baal-peor, and consecrated themselves to the shameful thing, and became abominable like what they loved (Hosea 9:10 b).

Note that in ‘a’ Israel are not to rejoice at the harvest feast, because they come as those who have played the harlot, and have lusted after hired women during their rituals, and in the parallel they are compared with Israel at Baal-peor where Israel had previously in a similar way prostituted themselves during a feast and lusted after foreign women. In ‘b’ the threshingfloor and winepress will fail them and not provide for their needs, and the new wine will fail, and in the parallel He describes how He had found Israel to be like grapes in the wilderness and first ripe figs in the first season (struggling to grow). In ‘c’ they will be expelled from YHWH’s land and return to Egypt and eat unclean food in Assyria, and in the parallel it will be because he will remember their iniquities and sins as in the days of Gibeah (when Benjamin was punished with the utmost severity for its sin). In ‘d’ they will not come to the house of YHWH, and in the parallel it is because of their enmity in the house of their God. In ‘e’ the question is what they will do in ‘the day of solemn assembly’ and in ‘the day of the feast of YHWH’ because they will have been destroyed and have returned to Egypt for burial, and in the parallel ‘the days of visitation’ have come and ‘the days of recompense’, something which Israel will know to the full. Centrally in ‘f’ all that they once possessed will be lost to them.


Verse 2

‘The threshing-floor and the oil-press will not feed them,

And the new wine will fail her.’

They were to recognise that in the not too distant future they would discover that their threshing floors and oil presses would no longer provide food for them, and that their new wine would fail. This would be because they were no longer in Israel, having been transported to a foreign country. For the threefold combination of grain, oil and wine see Hosea 2:8.

The oil-press, and the wine-press, would be a hole made in the ground with its bottom at two levels one below the other. The grapes and olives would be trampled on the top level and the juice would then seep through to the bottom level.


Verse 3

‘They will not dwell in YHWH’s land,

But Ephraim will return to Egypt,

And they will eat unclean food in Assyria.

They would no longer be allowed to live ‘in YHWH’s land’. They had overlooked the fact that the land was YHWH’s (Leviticus 25:23) and that they were being bad tenants, and could therefore be expelled. But it was something that they should have known, for it had been clearly spelled out in Leviticus 26:33-39; Deuteronomy 28:64. YHWH had delivered them from bondage in Egypt into His own land, but now they would ‘return to Egypt’ (compare Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:6; Hosea 11:5) and eat unclean food in Assyria. ‘Return to Egypt’ was probably symbolic of being trodden down and returned to slavery, although almost certainly many refugees would flee to Egypt, and in the final analysis many would return from Egypt (Hosea 11:11). Hosea possibly considered it a rather poignant fact that some would opt to return to bondage in Egypt, seemingly the last thing that any Israelite would want. But the main destination for the captured exiles would be Assyria. They would ‘eat unclean food’ there because the food would not have been sanctified by the offering of the firstfruits, and they would probably also in many cases be driven to eat what food was available, which would not necessarily be ‘kosher’ (compare Ezekiel 4:13).


Verse 4

‘They will not pour out wine-offerings to YHWH,

Nor will they be pleasing to him,

Their sacrifices will be to them as the bread of mourners,

All who eat of it will be polluted,

For their bread will be for their appetite,

It will not come into the house of YHWH.’

And once in exile there will be no more wine offerings to YHWH, or any other offering. The wine offering was poured out beside the altar when sacrificing, and here stands for all the non-bloody offerings. But there would be no more wine-offerings because there would be no more sacrifices. Furthermore nothing that they did would be pleasing to Him. And if they were to offer sacrifices (to foreign gods), such sacrifices would be unclean like bread which was eaten by mourners. Food eaten by mourners was necessarily unclean because of its contact with the dead. Thus to participate in anything like that would make them polluted.

Alternately it may signify that the very thought of sacrifices offered to YHWH would remind them of how they had dishonoured Him and debased His sacrifices. Indeed all their meat eaten in foreign lands would be ‘unclean’ because it had not been offered to YHWH. The provisions for sanctifying meat and offering it to YHWH (Deuteronomy 12:20-25) would not apply in a foreign land. Thus whatever they ate would be unclean and would merely be in order to satisfy their appetites. It would not be food offered to YHWH. It would not have come into ‘the house of YHWH’. This may signify the land of Israel seen as YHWH’s dwellingplace, or to the Temple in Jerusalem. Even in Israel it was possible for them to pour out the blood as described in Deuteronomy 12 as though it had been done in the Temple, for the whole land was YHWH’s. But it would not be true in Assyria.

We might not be too appalled at the thought, but even to faithless Israel the thought of eating food not offered to YHWH in one way or another would have been abhorrent.


Verse 5

‘What will you do in the day of solemn assembly,

And in the day of the feast of YHWH?’

As there would be no offerings and sacrifices, what would they do on the day of solemn assembly, when, had they been at home, they would have gathered to worship and offer sacrifices? And what especially would they do when the feast of YHWH came around? (For the phrase ‘the feast of YHWH’ see Leviticus 23:39). They would not only have lost their land, but also things that were at the very centre of their religious thought. They would not be rejoicing then.


Verse 6

‘Their pleasant things of silver,

Nettles will possess them,

Thorns will be in their tents.’

The consequence for them would be that their rich houses with their silver trimmings would become the haunt of nettles, and their colourful tents which they would have left behind as they were snatched away by the enemy, would be invaded by thorns.


Verse 7

‘The days of visitation are come,

The days of recompense are come,

Israel will know it, the prophet is a fool,

The man who has the spirit is mad,

For the abundance of your iniquity,

And because the enmity is great.’

For what they would now face would not be ‘days of assembly’ and ‘days of YHWH’s feasts’. They would rather be ‘days of visitation’ by an angry God, and ‘days of recompense’ for their sins. The plural of ‘days’ indicates that it was to be no short judgment. And then Israel will know the truth about what was to happen and would recognise that their false prophets who had prophesied peace and security were fools, and that the man who had professed to have ‘the spirit of prophecy’ and had encouraged them in their ways, had been mad. For this false spirit of prophecy compare 1 Kings 22:22-23; Micah 2:11. And this would occur because of the fullness of their iniquity, and because, to some extent without their necessarily realising it, their enmity with YHWH as He really was had been great.

Some see here an indication that it was Hosea who was called ‘a fool’ and ‘mad’, and that might well have been so. This may indeed have given him the idea. But the real point here is that the people had been misled by false prophets.


Verse 8

‘Is Ephraim a watchman?

Are the people of my God a prophet?

A fowler’s snare is in all his ways,

Enmity in the house of his God.’

Hosea then sarcastically asks the people whether they thought that they were YHWH’s watchman, or considered themselves to be YHWH’s prophet? And if not why did they think that what they were holding on to was the truth? Far from that being so, in all the ways in which they went they were in fact being trapped like ‘silly doves’ in a fowler’s snare (compare Hosea 7:11), and were found to be enemies of God in ‘the house of his God’, that is, in Israel (or in the Jerusalem Temple), because of their faithless ways.

Some translate as, ‘Ephraim was a watchman with (‘im) my God, as for the prophet --,’ or something similar. In this case the cult prophets are also being seen as misled. But the final result is the same. Our translation has read ‘am (people) instead of ‘im (with). Both are possible from the original consonantal text.


Verse 9

They have deeply corrupted themselves,

‘As in the days of Gibeah,

He will remember their iniquity,

He will visit their sins.’

For YHWH’s charge against Israel was that their sins were as deep as the sins of Gibeah, which had also had sexual motivation and had been of the most despicable kind (see Judges 19:22 ff). They had deeply corrupted themselves. And just as He had taken note of the sins of Gibeah, which had almost resulted in the extinction of one of the tribes of Israel, so He would remember theirs, and would visit them with judgment because of them.


Verse 10

I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness,

I saw your fathers as the first-ripe in the fig-tree at its first season,

They came to Baal-peor, and consecrated themselves to the shameful thing,

And became abominable like what they loved.

Then He dredges up the past as an example to them. Let them remember that when YHWH had found His people (Deuteronomy 32:10) they had been like withered grapes, the kind which would grow on a vine in the wilderness, struggling to survive, and like the partially inedible firstfruits of a newly planted fig tree which no one wanted to eat (in Isaiah 28:4 the first ripe fig is compared to ‘the fading flower of a wilting floral crown’s glorious beauty’). As with all fruit trees fruit from a fig tree was not to be eaten until the fifth year (Leviticus 19:23-25). And they had underlined this truth about themselves when they had arrived at Baal-peor and, instead of consecrating themselves to YHWH and remaining pure, had consecrated themselves to whoredom and idolatry (the shameful thing), chasing after Baal and thus becoming as abominable as the thing that they lusted after (see Numbers 25).

Others, however, see the initial words as indicating a touch of tender love in the midst of harsh judgments, as YHWH looks back to when He ‘found Israel’ and saw her as a bunch of luscious grapes in the wilderness (an unexpected joy indeed), and as a tender fig which had ripened and become a delicacy. In that case the reversal at Baal-peor must be seen as finally indicating what they really were. They had subsequently proved a huge disappointment, and that was something that was now repeating itself. In the same way we must continually beware lest we also become a disappointment to Him


Verse 11

‘As for Ephraim, their glory will fly away like a bird. There will be no birth, and none with child, and no conception.’

Ephraim’s fate is sealed, and it is a bleak one indeed. ‘Their glory’ may indicate such wealth as they have (compare Isaiah 17:3), but in context clearly includes their progeny. They will ‘fly away like a bird’. In other words they will simply be found to have vanished. For there is to be no birth, no one with child, and no conception. This would be the initial effect of their captivity. Such an idea would hit hard into Israel’s soul, for children were the greatest desire of their hearts. And even though it is probably not intended to be taken too literally, it must have sounded harsh to them for all that. The point was that their wombs would dry up because of the harsh conditions under which they would have to live (and not only their wombs. See Hosea 9:14).


Verses 11-17

Ephraim’s Future Is Bleak (Hosea 9:11-17).

As a result of their sinfulness Ephraim’s future is depicted as being very bleak. Their wealth and prosperity (their ‘glory’ - compare Isaiah 17:3) will fly away, the wombs of their wives will be barren and their children will be brought out to the slayers. And this was because YHWH has determined to drive them out of His House and love them no more, because of the wickedness of their ways . The result will be that they will become wanderers among the nations.

Analysis of Hosea 9:11-17.

a As for Ephraim, their glory will fly away like a bird (Hosea 9:11 a).

b There will be no birth, and none with child, and no conception. Though they bring up their children, yet will I bereave them, so that not a man will be left. Yes, woe also to them when I depart from them! (Hosea 9:11-12).

c Ephraim, in the same way as I saw Tyre, is planted in a pleasant place. But Ephraim will bring out his children to the slayer (Hosea 9:13).

d Give them, O YHWH - What will you give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts (Hosea 9:14).

c All their wickedness is in Gilgal, for there I hated them. Because of the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of my house, I will love them no more, all their princes are rebels (Hosea 9:15).

b Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they will bear no fruit. Yes, though they bring forth, yet will I slay the beloved fruit of their womb (Hosea 9:16).

a My God will cast them away, because they did not listen responsively to him, and they will be wanderers among the nations (Hosea 9:17).

Note that in ‘a’ their glory will fly away like a bird, and in the parallel they will be cast away and will wander among the nations. In ‘b’ their womenfolk will be barren, (note the threefold, ‘no birth, none with child, no conception’) and their growing children will die at YHWH’s hand and in the parallel ‘they are smitten, their root is dried up, they will bear no fruit’, and when they do bring forth the children will die at YHWH’s hand. In ‘c’ although Ephraim were planted in a pleasant place like Tyre, yet their children would be brought out to the slayer, and in the parallel they would be driven out of the place of wickednesses, Gilgal and driven out of His house (Israel) and would be loved no more. Centrally in ‘d’ the prophet, in accordance with ‘b’ calls for them to be given what YHWH sees as their due, a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.


Verse 12

‘Though they bring up their children, yet will I bereave them, so that not a man will be left. Yes, woe also to them when I depart from them!’

And even though they seek to bring up the children that they already have, yet will YHWH bereave them so that no man is left. According to the curse formula in Leviticus 26 this would partly result from the depradations of wild beasts which would seize their children (Leviticus 26:22). The consequence will be that their families and their names will slowly begin to die out. This will be the woeful result of their having deserted YHWH.


Verse 13

‘Ephraim, like Tyre, is planted in a pleasant place. But Ephraim will bring out his children to the slayer.’

Like Tyre (le tsor), Ephraim are planted in a pleasant place. If the reference to ‘like Tyre’ has in mind the investment of Tyre in 722 BC seen as a stark warning to Ephraim (i.e. Tyre too were planted in a pleasant place, but look what has happened to them), then Ephraim too are at this stage seen as undergoing siege and on their last legs, for Samaria also fell in that year after a three year siege. This would tie in with the idea that they would have to bring their children out to ‘the slayer’, to be turned into edible meat which would aid the continuation of the siege, a dreadful fulfilment of the curse in Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:53-57. On the other hand the reference may simply have in mind Tyre as a place enviable for its security and prosperity, still maintaining its freedom and not seen as being as vulnerable as Ephraim. But the crunch point is still that, in spite of Ephraim being in a pleasant place, Ephraim’s children would be lost to ‘the slayer’. Either way there may also be a hint here of the added problems introduced into Israel from that ‘pleasant place’ in the form of the Tyrian Baal.

One alternative to ‘like Tyre’ is ‘like a palm tree’ (based on an Arabic and late Hebrew root), stressing in context the fruitfulness of mount Ephraim, something that would, however, be of little use once the siege began.


Verse 14

‘Give them, O YHWH - What will you give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.’

Moved by what he sees before him at the feast Hosea calls on YHWH to act against the people in judgment. As he ponders what to ask for, he turns his thoughts to YHWH’s words in Hosea 9:12, and in consequence asks for their fulfilment. Let Israel’s women be given ‘miscarrying wombs and dry breasts’, reversing the promised blessings in Exodus 23:26; Genesis 49:29. It sounds harsh, but it was asking that YHWH carry out His threatened curses, and at the same time it contains within it a thought of mercy. For his prayer is in response to the fact that if children are born it will be to a fate worse than death. It were thus better in his view that they were never born.


Verse 15

‘All their wickedness is in Gilgal,

For there I hated them.

Because of the wickedness of their doings,

I will drive them out of my house,

I will love them no more,

All their princes are rebels.’

‘All their wickedness is in Gilgal’ has in mind that Gilgal was one of Israel’s cultic centres parallel to Bethel (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 12:11). There Israel engaged in all forms of wickedness, centring on adultery and idolatry. These were central to Canaanite worship, for Baalism was a very ‘earthy’ religion. By engaging in sexual activity before the altar the people hoped to persuade Baal to reproduce through the earth. We can therefore see why it might have been seen as parallel with pleasant Tyre (Hosea 9:13) which had produced the Tyrian Baal who worked on the same basis. In Israel’s eyes Gilgal was one of their pleasant places, where they indulged in their ritualistic sexual activities. In God’s eyes it was hateful for that very reason. And as a result of the wickedness of their doings practised there, He would drive them from His house (from Israel) and love them no more, because their whole leadership approved of the worship there, thus proving that they were rebels against YHWH.

Gilgal was also the place where Saul was finally rejected by Samuel because of his gross disobedience and lies (1 Samuel 15:22; 1 Samuel 15:26; 1 Samuel 15:28) and was thus an example of treachery.

Furthermore Gilgal was not far from Baal-peor. and was the first place at which Israel had erected the Tabernacle after leaving Baal-peor and crossing the Jordan. Thus false worship at Gilgal was almost like a repetition of what had happened at Baal-peor. It was introducing the same curse into the promised land itself. That holy site which had represented a new beginning was now being turned into another Baal-peor by an Israel who were just as wayward as they had been at Baal-peor..


Verse 16

‘Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up,

They will bear no fruit.

Yes, though they bring forth,

Yet will I slay the beloved fruit of their womb.’

Hosea closes the passage as he opened it. Ephraim will be smitten, their root will be dried up, and they will bear no fruit (no birth, none with child, no conception - Hosea 9:11). And even those that they do bring forth, the beloved children of their womb, will be slain by YHWH (compare Hosea 9:12), probably by the sword of the Assyrians.


Verse 17

‘My God will cast them away,

Because they did not listen responsively to him,

And they will be wanderers among the nations.’

For because they had continually refused to listen responsively to Him He now intended to cast them away, with the result that they would become wanderers among the nations, in accordance with the curse depicted in Deuteronomy 28:65; Leviticus 26:26-27. They would go on and on wandering, with nowhere to hide.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Hosea 9:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/hosea-9.html. 2013.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology