Hosea 10 − Commentary

The Riches of Israel Lead to Her Worship of Idols

1 Israel is like a vine that grows plenty of fruit.

But Israel became rich,

and so she built more altars.

Her land became better and better.

This meant that she could build special stones. She built stones that she could worship.

2 Israel's heart is false.

But now she must accept that she is guilty.

The Lord will destroy her altars.

He will destroy her special stones.

3 These people will soon say, 'We have no king,

because we did not worship the Lord in a true way.

But even if we had a king, he could do nothing for us'.

4 They make many promises. But they are only telling lies.

They make agreements with other countries.

People argue with each other in the courts.

These things are like weeds in a field that someone will plough.

They have poison.

5 The people who live in Samaria will be afraid.

They will cry because their idol at Bethaven, a young cow, has gone.

Their priests, who worship idols, will cry too.

They were very happy with their beautiful idol.

But now someone will carry the idol away into exile.

6 Assyria will carry the idol away.

It will be a gift for the king of Assyria.

The people of Ephraim will feel very sad.

They will be ashamed that they brought worship to their wooden idol.

7 God will destroy Samaria and Samaria's king.

He (the king) will be like a piece of wood that water carries away.

8 God will destroy these high places of Aven.

These are places where Israel has sinned.

Weeds will grow on their altars. Then the people will say to the mountains, 'Hide us!'

They will say to the hills, 'Fall on us!'

God gave Israel many things but she did not use them in the correct way. She made many altars. And she made them pretty. They also had special stones that they thought would bring them blessings of food. But this was against the law (Deuteronomy 12:1-14; Exodus 23:24). The people only wanted to live for themselves. They thought that God was pleased with their worship. But their altars and stones were now a way to different gods. They were not being loyal to God (verse 2). Someone needed to tell them how wrong they were. In Deuteronomy 29:18, God said, 'Make sure of this. There must be no man or woman ... whose heart turns away from God...to worship the gods of those countries'. So God says that he will break these altars. It will be like a war. Amos 3:14 says that the altars will 'fall to the ground'. There will be no altars after God has finished.

Hosea says that the time of kings will have to end (verse 3). Kings joined in the worship of other gods. They will not be able to stop the exile of Israel. God will punish Israel through the loss of their king. In 1 Samuel 8, the people asked for a king. But soon the king will not be able to do anything for Israel. The kings talked a lot (verse 4). But it did not mean anything. The kings made agreements with other countries. These agreements meant that Israel would pay tax to a foreign country. This would protect Israel from other countries in return. But this did not help Israel. The king needed to help people when they disagreed in the courts. But the kings accepted money from people. This was wrong. It is not only the king that does these things. Other people do them too.

Verse 5 says that people worshipped at Bethaven (see 8:5). They worshipped a gold bull. Perhaps it was Amos who gave Bethaven this name (Amos 5:5). Bethaven means 'house of evil things'. Other people gave this name to Bethel. The name meant bad things. It was because they did not worship God but did evil things. But God did not want these things (Exodus 20:4-5). It was against the law. The people's crying will be like people who are crying about dead people. Their idol will also go into exile. The power of the idol will also go. Verse 6 continues the thoughts of verse 5. Assyria will take the idol away. They will do this when they win the war. If only Israel was not so stupid. If only they could understand what God wanted (Deuteronomy 32:28, 29). But Israel has decided not to obey God. Samaria is another way of saying Israel (verse 7). Hosea means other cities as well as Samaria. Assyria destroyed Samaria in 722 BC. No one built the city again. The king will not be able to do anything about this. He will have no help. The enemy put Hoshea in prison in 723 BC (2 Kings 17:4). Israel had taken land from the people of Canaan in war. These were the 'high places'. Sometimes they were on hills with trees. There were hundreds of these places (1 Kings 14:23). But weeds will grow on these places. This is a way of saying that nothing will live there. Isaiah 32:13 has the same idea. Terrible things will happen to Israel. People will want to run away from this. But when they cannot do this, they will want to die. They preferred death to life in exile.

Israel will Pay for Her Sin

9 Israel, you have sinned since the time of Gibeah.

You have continued to sin since then.

But war came to those wicked people of Gibeah.

10 I (God) will punish these people who do not follow me.

Nations will join together to attack them.

They will put the people of Israel in prison because of their terrible sins.

11 Ephraim is like a young cow that someone has taught.

She is like a cow that loves to walk on grain.

But I decided to put a yoke on her beautiful neck.

I wanted to guide her so that she could work hard.

I wanted Judah to break up the ground.

Jacob, too, must break up the ground.

12 If you sow good things, you will bring in a harvest of true love.

Break up the ground that you have not ploughed.

Because it is time for you to look for the Lord.

When he comes, he will make good things fall on you like rain!

13 But you planted wicked things.

These plants have grown and they have brought you evil things.

You have eaten the fruit that your lies have brought you.

You put your hope in your own power and in your soldiers.

14 So the noise of war will come to your people.

Your enemies will destroy your strong places.

It will be like the time that King Shalman destroyed the city of Betharbel in war.

At that time, people killed mothers with their children.

15 The same thing will happen to you at Bethel,

because you did so many wicked things.

When that day begins, I will destroy the king of Israel.

In verse 9, Hosea writes again about what he said in 9:9. There were some terrible sins at the 'time of Gibeah'. It was where some wicked men tried to have sex with another man. They then had sex with a woman. Israel wanted to bring these men for judgement. But the leaders of the men refused to do this (see Judges 19-21). Israel was not able to rise above these sins. They stayed in these sins. War then came to the people of Gibeah. In the same way, war will come to the people of Israel now. Everyone in the North will be part of it. God is getting ready to make sure that Israel pays for her sins (verse 10). He is preparing other countries so that they can attack Israel. It will be like the time when people came together against Benjamin (Judges 20:11, 14). At that time, the people wanted to make sure that they kept the covenant. It was important to keep God's law. Israel must now be in pain twice for her sins (see Isaiah 40:2). Leviticus 26:18 says that God will punish Israel for her sins 'seven times over'.

A new part of this chapter begins in verse 11. Hosea uses words in a special way to describe Israel. She is like a young cow. Her work was quite easy. The picture is of a cow that is pulling a special tool over corn. This tool separates the corn from the grain that the farmer does not want. The cow prefers pulling a plough. Because she can eat the corn whenever she wants (see Deuteronomy 25:4). Israel was like this in her early years. But God had something else for Israel. He wanted her to break up the ground. They should do this work together. Her 'field' was to obey God. The word 'Jacob' means both Israel and Judah. God is telling Israel again about one of the first people that he chose to follow him. Jacob obeyed God.

Verse 12 is a famous verse. Many people have written songs about it. God looks back at Israel's past but he also looks to the future. God wants Israel to be true to him. This is what he really wanted in his covenant. He wanted people to know him in the best way, like Jacob. The Hebrew word for 'true love' is 'hesed' which means a love that never stops. This can be a love for another person or for God. The same thought is in 2:19 and 6:6. God wants Israel to look for him. He does not want prayers that do not mean anything. When Israel does this, he can bless her. But Israel has not done any of this (verse 13). Instead, Israel has eaten very bad things. She has done the opposite of the things in verse 12. She has put her hope in her army. Deuteronomy 28:52 says that Israel's walls 'will fall down'. Israel's hope in her walls is so silly.

Israel is going to hear the sounds of war (verse 14). She will be afraid. Her walls are strong (Deuteronomy 28:52) but they will not help Israel. We do not know about the events at Betharbel. We also do not know about Shalman. But terrible things happened in war in those days. Armies did not listen to what people said about what they did (see Amos 1:13). The Assyrians took King Hoshea in war (verse 15). They put him in prison (2 Kings 17:4). Everything that Hosea said would happen came true.