Hosea 5 − Commentary

The Lord is Angry with Priests

1 'Listen to this, you priests! Be careful how you listen, people of Israel! Listen, you that belong to the family of kings! I have decided what to do with you. You have tried to catch people at Mizpah. You were like a net on the ground at Tabor. 2 The leaders were killing many people. So, I will need to punish them. 3 I know what Ephraim is like. She cannot hide from me. She lives like a prostitute and she is not clean. 4 The people of Israel have done bad things. This stops them from returning to their God. They are like prostitutes. They do not know the Lord. 5 The people of Israel are very proud. This pride shows I am right to speak badly about them. Their sins make them fall. But Judah will fall with them. 6 They take their sheep and cows to offer as sacrifices to the Lord. But it does them no good. They cannot find the Lord because he has left them. 7 They have not been true to the Lord. Their children do not belong to him. They have times when they enjoy themselves at the New Moon. But the Moon will eat them and their fields'.

Hosea gives a message to three different groups of people. It is a strong message for everyone. God has come as a judge. No one can be free from what he has to say. There were two places called Mizpah in Israel. One was in Gilead, east of the River Jordan. The other place was Mizpah of Benjamin. The word 'catch' means that the leaders tried to take people away from God. They are most to blame. They have not been true to God. Tabor is a mountain. Perhaps bad things happened there.

The Hebrew in verse 2 is not easy to understand. It might mean that the leaders took part in child sacrifices. So, God wants to put them in prison. The idea of Israel as a prostitute is not new (verse 3). We see it in Hosea 6:10 too. The words 'not clean' mean that Israel has guilt. The job of the priests was to know the difference between clean and dirty things. They failed in this job. It was like a prostitute going into the temple to do her work.

The people keep themselves away from God (verse 4). They might say that they want to know God. But they do bad things. This shows that they want to turn away from him. They have been their own judge (verse 5). They have not wanted to remember the law of Moses. They are too proud to do this. Hosea says that Judah is like Israel. Judah can fall in the same way as Israel. The sacrifices of Israel did not follow the right laws. This was because the people did not do them in the proper way in Jerusalem. The people of Israel thought that many sacrifices were important (see 2 Kings 3:27). They did not care about the quality. The people will try to find God but God has 'left' them. In 1 Samuel 15:24-29, Saul said that he sinned when he did not destroy everything in war. Perhaps he was not sorry with all his heart. But Samuel told Saul that it was better to obey God than to offer sacrifices. It is a good example of God leaving a person. Israel will lose its land (verse 7). This is what God has decided.

War between Judah and Israel

8 Blow the horn in Gibeah!

Blow the trumpet in Ramah!

Raise the war cry at Bethaven!

Go into war, men of Benjamin!

9 The day is coming when I am going to punish you.

There will be nothing left of Ephraim.

People of Israel, you can be sure that this will happen.

10 The leaders of Judah are like people who rob.

They have robbed land from Israel. So, I (God) will not be pleased with them in any way. It will be like a time when water covers the earth.

11 Ephraim is having a difficult time because of the attacks. Other countries have come as judges. This is because she wanted help from idols.

12 I (God) will destroy Ephraim.

Like a moth that destroys a piece of cloth.

I will destroy Judah,

like water destroys a piece of wood.

13 Ephraim saw that he was sick; Judah saw that he was hurt.

So, they went to Assyria for help.

They told their problems to the great king.

But that king cannot bring you health.

He cannot stop you suffering.

14 I will attack the people of Ephraim like a lion.

I will attack the people of Judah like a young lion.

I, the Lord, will break them into pieces.

I will carry them away.

And no person will be able to rescue them.

15 I will go back to my place,

Until the people can see their guilt.

Until they come looking for me.

Perhaps they will try to find me when they are really suffering.

A new part of Hosea begins here. Most of these verses are about war. Hosea tells Israel to prepare for war. Gibeon, Ramah and Bethaven were all near Jerusalem. The war will come from the south of Israel. Because of war, these three cities were part of Israel. But they used to be a part of Judah. The people of Benjamin lived near the south of Israel. Judah would attack them first and then attack all of Israel (verse 9). Isaiah also said that Assyria would want to have all of Israel (Isaiah 7:1-8:8). Both Pekah and Hoshea, kings of Israel, lost parts of a war against Judah. But this was only the beginning of the end for Israel. This end came in 722 BC.

In verse 10, Hosea speaks against Judah. He says that they have moved special stones. These stones showed the place where Israel and Judah's land met. Moving these stones was against the law (Deuteronomy 19:14). Judah has broken the covenant too. Tiglath-Pileser, the Assyrian king, also took land from Israel (verse 11). Assyria has become a judge. Israel has not trusted God enough. She wanted to get help from Damascus against Assyria. But to get help from other nations was against the covenant (Deuteronomy 28:7).

God speaks in pictures to bring his message to Israel and Judah (verse 12). It is not Tiglath-Pileser who brings terrible things to Israel. It is God. God uses the picture of a sick person (verse 13). Both Israel and Judah were sick. Both countries were asking other countries for help. God did not like this. Judah asked Assyria for help after the Syro-Israel attack in 734 BC. Hoshea, a young king of Israel, wanted to make an agreement with Tiglath-Pileser 3rd. But other countries will not be able to help Israel. God himself will attack Judah and Israel like a lion. God is the real danger (verse 14). He is their real enemy. He used other nations to be their judge. The lion will go back to his place. God, too, will leave his people (verse 15). He will leave them when they are in 'pain'. The 'suffering' and ' guilt' are connected to each other. They are part of the same problem. This is a covenant curse. Perhaps then the people will try to find God again.