COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 5:8 Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah: cry aloud at Bethaven, after thee, O Benjamin. 9 Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be. 10 The princes of Judah were like them that remove the bound: therefore I will pour out my wrath upon them like water. 11 Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.” (Hosea 5:8-11)
It is possible for people to view this passage as being unusually negative – whatever that means. That type of reasoning is decidedly neutralized when we recall that these are the words of Almighty God. He does not speak “negatively,” as men are wont to use the word. He is a “God of truth” (Deut 32:4; Psa 31:5), and what He says must be viewed as “truth” – truth that sanctifies (John 17:17), and makes free (John 8:32). Truth in all of its varied expressions is to be “kept” in the heart and mind (Isa 26:2). In this particular section of Hosea, we are being exposed to the effect sin has upon the Lord. This is how it moves Him to speak, and what it provokes Him to do. It is in full accord with what is said of the Lord throughout Scripture. Whether we are being exposed to Cain, the world of Noah’s day, Sodom, Israel in the wilderness, king Herod, or Ananias and Sapphira, God has represented His reaction to sin in a consistent manner. There is not a syllable of Sacred Writ that will lead a person to be lenient toward sin, imagining that one can willingly indulge in sin with impunity. Nor, indeed, are the concepts of “negative” and “positive” ever applied to something God has said. These words are the Divine reaction to wilful sin, and for God to speak in any other way would be a violation of His nature. A holy God will never speak accommodatingly to those who choose to walk in a wayward manner.
BLOW THE CORONET
“ 5:8 Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah: cry aloud at Bethaven, after thee, O Benjamin.” Now the prophet is told to sound an alert throughout Israel, drawing attention to coming judgment. The sins of Israel have found them out, just as Moses said they would (Num 32:23).
BLOW THE CORONET IN GIBEAH. Other versions read, “Blow the ram’s horn,” NKJV “blow the horn,” NASB and “blow the trumpet.” NIV A “coronet” was a loud sounding instrument, made from a ram’s horn. When the ark of the covenant was restored to the city of David, it was brought up with “sound of the cornet” (1 Chron 15:28). It was used to“make a joyful sound before the Lord” (Psa 98:6). When the ram’s horn was used as a summons, it was called a “trumpet.” The word was also translated “trumpet” when associated with war – as when the people marched around the walls of Jericho (Josh 6:4-9). King Saul also this instrument when summoning all of the Hebrews when he has smitten the Philistines (1 Sam 13:3).
In this text, the blowing of the cornet reveals that God is launching an attack against Israel. He has warned them repeatedly through the prophets, and they have given no heed. This is the warning trumpet, as in Ezekiel 33:4-5. Jeremiah spoke in the same kind of language (Jer 6:1; 51:27), as well as Joel (Joel 2:15).
This is the language of Divine vengeance, or retribution. Jesus related “vengeance” to the destruction of Jerusalem (Lk 21:22). On the surface, it would look like the Romans were exercising vengeance upon Jerusalem – but it was really God that was doing so. When speaking of God taking vengeance, the Spirit was careful to say He was never unrighteous in doing so. “But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man); God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?” (Rom 3:5-6). The Spirit also affirms that God will surely execute judgment against those who provoke Him. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom 12:19; Heb 10:30). All who “know not God and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” will suffer the vengeance, or retribution, of God Almighty (2 Thess 1:8).
The longsuffering of God had waited long, but Israel had not responded to it, and now the time to blow the cornet of warning had come. The Judge was standing at the door, and the judgment was about to begin.
BLOW THE TRUMPET IN RAMAH. The word translated “trumpet” differs from the one translated “cornet.” These were used for the calling of assemblies (Num 10:2). They were also blown before the ark of the Lord when it was carried (1 Chron 16:6). The latter use is the particular reference of this text. The blowing of the trumpet here is much the same as when the trumpet will sound before the coming of the Lord (1 Cor 15:52; 1 Thess 4:16). The immediacy of Divine judgment is thus announced.
GIBEAH AND RAMAH. Both of these cities were in Judah, not Israel. They were part of the southern kingdom, not the northern one. Gibeah was about four miles from Jerusalem, and Ramah was about two miles beyond Gibeah. This language, then, is intended to announce that the judgment had already fallen, and the enemy had already penetrated into the kingdom of Judah. That is, the judgment would happen suddenly, and would proceed rapidly. The people would be unable to prepare for it.
The idea is that when the sounds of the cornet and trumpet were heard, the judgment would already have taken place – swiftly and thoroughly. I cannot help but recall the words of the Spirit, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31). This word is given to the church, confirming the relevancy of our text.
CRY ALOUD IN BETHAVEN. “Bethaven” is the spiritual name given to Bethel when Israel established idolatry there. The word “Bethaven” means “house of nothingness,” confirming the absolute futility of idolatry. This is where Israel had played the harlot (Hos 4:15), giving her affection to other gods. Now, in the very midst of idolatrous practices, she would be judged by God.
O BENJAMIN. Other versions read, “Look behind you, O Benjamin,” NKJV “Behind you, Benjamin,” NASB and “tremble, O Benjamin” NRSV These words actually come from the war song of Deborah (Judges 5:14). However, they are used differently here, denoting that the judgment of God had already broken out in the rear of Benjamin. It was too late to run, and there was no time to fight.
All of these words portray the swiftness of Divine judgment – that when it begins, there is no way to avoid it, postpone it, or resist it.
REBUKE AND DESOLATION
“ 5:6 Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be. 10 The princes of Judah were like them that remove the bound: therefore I will pour out my wrath upon them like water.”
We must not allow the language of this text to discourage us, cause our hearts to faint, or imagine that God no longer reacts in this manner. Forty years after Jesus had been enthroned at the right hand of God, this very kind of judgment fell upon the city of Jerusalem (in A.D. 70). The atoning death of Christ did not eliminate the wrath of God. Rather, it provided a means for men to escape it.
DESOLATION. Desolation is often used of the effects of Divine judgment. It refers to a condition that strips away all advantages, leaving the subjects of judgment utterly hopeless and helpless. In the very beginning of this nation, Moses warned the people that if they forsook God, He would bring their sanctuaries “unto desolation” (Lev 26:31). God is also said to have given His people “up to desolation” (2 Chron 30:7). Such a state is not one brought on by a lengthy process. This is a desolation that comes suddenly. As it is written, “How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors” (Psa 73:19). Solomon spoke of desolation coming “as a whirlwind” (Prov 1:27).
“Desolation” means destroyed and made waste. All good advantage is removed, and no productivity is realized. What was once a fruitful field becomes a vast wasteland. What was once a city teeming with life becomes uninhabited – like a ghost town. Jesus referred to the impending destruction of Jerusalem as “the desolation” (Lk 21:20). Our text speaks of the devastation of the kingdom of Israel, when it was thrust from its inheritance.
THE DAY OF REBUKE. This would not be a day of correction, as when God corrected Judah “in measure” (Jer 30:11; 46:28). This “rebuke” will be the result of Israel refusing correction (Jer 5:3). This is the kind of “rebuke” of which Moses spoke when he said, “The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me” (Deu 28:20). This “rebuke” would result in desolation, not the correction of the deviate behavior.
Israel “refused” to walk in God’s Law (Psa 78:10). They “refused to receive correction” (Jer 5:3a), and “refused to return” (Jer 5:3b). They “refused to hear” God’s words (Jer 11:10), and “refused to hearken” (Zech 7:11). The Lord told them through the prophets, “For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” His words were without guile, and the offer was legitimate – yet He said, “and ye would not” (Isa 30:15). Now, “the day of rebuke” has come, and He will no longer strive with them. This is a part of the Divine nature that our generation needs to hear.
THAT WHICH SHALL SURELY BE. The Lord has not told Israel of things that are possible, but of a judgment that is cast in stone – like the Babylonian captivity and the destruction of Jerusalem. There was no possible way to avert this judgment.
REMOVING THE BOUND. Other versions read, “remove the landmark,” NKJV “move a boundary,” NASB and “move boundary stones.” NIV Judah’s leaders were like this – men who move the landmark. They had not actually moved Divinely established moral boundaries, but had made an attempt to do so. They had, so to speak, changed the rules, causing truth to fall in the street (Isa 59:14). These were rulers who “call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5:20). What God prohibited, they allowed, and what He demanded, they presented as being unnecessary.
The Law forbade a man to move the landmark of his neighbor (Deut 19:14), placing a curse upon him (Deut 27:17). What will the Lord do to those who attempt to move the moral and spiritual landmarks that have been established by the God of heaven Himself?
WRATH POURED LIKE WATER. The idea is that of wrath being poured out “like a flood of water,” NIV a torrential flood before which nothing can stand. This is a most dreadful prospect! This is the same God who said He would “pour forth” His Spirit “upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-18).
This judgment was pronounced upon the princes who were as those moving boundaries God had established. A New Covenant perspective of this judgment would be what God has promised to those who add to, or take from, His Word (Rev 11:18-19). Those who dare to tamper with the Word of God will be subjected to such judgment.
THE CORRUPTION OF THE WILL
“ 5:11 Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.”
OPPRESSED. To be oppressed is to be pressed upon, violated, defrauded, and wronged. In this case, the oppression would be by the hands of men, but it was actually coming from God Himself. God often uses “the rod of men” and “the stripes of the children of men” to deliver His rebukes (2 Sam 7:14). Thus did He used Nebuchadnezzar to chasten Judah (Jer 27:6), as well as “bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it” (2 Kgs 24:2). The prophet, therefore, delivers a word to headstrong Israel that may be recalled when they begin to experience oppression – oppression they cannot resist.
Those who are tempted to be angry with God when things do not, in their judgment, go well for them, do well to remember this text. Perhaps their oppression is God responding to their wayward manner of living. It may also be a testing from the Lord, like that of Job (Job 1:8; 2:3). It may also be a deeper fellowship with Christ, accomplished in the crucible of suffering (Phil 3:10). At any rate, anger with God is a foolish response.
BROKEN IN JUDGMENT. Other versions read, “crushed in judgment,” NASB “trampled in judgment,” NIV and “crushed and broken by My judgment.” NLT When the arm of the Lord upholds a person, no one can cast them down. On the other hand, when the hand of the Lord is against a person, no one can cause them to stand. Divine judgment cannot be resisted. It crushes those toward whom it is focused. That is precisely why it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. When the flood came, none outside of the ark were able to stand. When the “vengeance of eternal fire” fell on Sodom and Gomorrah, not one in those cities was able to survive. When the waters of the Red Sea returned, washing over Pharaoh and his armies, none were able to escape.
Divine judgment breaks, crushes, and tramples those who are under it. This is why it is written, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor 11:31-32) – and that is for those who are chastened, experiencing the lesser force of Divine judgment. Whatever can be done to avoid God’s judgment must be done quickly. The primary action that will deliver from that judgment is running swiftly to Jesus. As it is written, “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Heb 6:18). In my judgment, the American church has not done well in making known this aspect of the Divine nature. This is something that must not be hidden to men!
WILLINGLY WALKED. Other versions read, “determined to follow,” NASB “intent on pursuing,” NIV and “content to walk.” ASV The KJV reads, “willingly walked after the commandment.” The people heartily consented to the very things for which Divine judgment was leveled against them. As Jeremiah said, “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and My people love to have it so”(Jer 5:31). Isaiah pointed out that they even demanded that their teachers serve spiritual refuse to them: “Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isa 30:10). These people were not forced to gather their theology like Egypt forced the people to gather their own straw. Rather, they preferred the spiritual stubble that was being given to them, consuming it gladly, and with zeal.
The commandment in which they willingly walked was not the “commandment” of God, but the “commandment” of those who had moved the border, or removed the landmark. Other versions read, “walked by human precept,” NKJV “follow man’s command,” NASB and “go after vanity.” NRSV They chose to follow those who neither delivered nor succored them. This was a sin of unspeakable magnitude.
The Spirit declares that this very same attitude would prevail among those professing the name of Jesus. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim 4:3-4). Some appear quite content with such an arrangement, but those with faith can perceive the danger of such a propensity. It is imperative that the “will” of those wearing the name of Jesus be turned toward the Lord Himself and what He has said. This circumstance does not currently prevail in the American church. If that situation does not change, the judgment of God is inevitable, for that judgment begins with the house of God (1 Pet 4:17).