COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 7:1 When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria: for they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth without. 2 And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before my face.” (Hosea 7:1-2)
The book of Hosea provides us a glimpse of HOW the Lord assesses the sin of a people wearing His name. It should forever deliver men from the notion that God is tolerant of sin in a people with whom He has identified Himself. When the Lord delivers, feeds, and protects a people, it is imperative that they respond in an appropriate manner. While all manner of theological views have been concocted to lead professing Christians to view their own sin and waywardness as tolerable by the God of heaven, no such view is every proclaimed by an inspired man. Hosea makes this particularly clear. There is also another view of life that is being unveiled by Hosea. Through him the Lord confirms that there are certain consequences that result from sin among God’s people. Iniquity among the people of God deteriorates the fabric of their society. All manner of social and spiritual decay begins to take place when the people of God no longer serve Him. The rapid breakdown of morals and spiritual appetite within the professed church is the direct result of its failure to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. God will not permit a peaceful and product environment where He Himself is not held in the highest regard.
GOD WOULD HAVE HEALED ISRAEL
“ 7:1a When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria . . . ” Here is the development of a most arresting thought. It provides insight into the nature of God, the nature of man, and the nature of sin. This confirms that dealing with sin is not a simplistic matter. It involves more than God simply overriding the human will, or passing over the iniquity that so vexes Him. We do well to acquaint ourselves with the facet of the Divine nature here revealed.
WHEN I WOULD HAVE HEALED. There are two major differences in the reading of this expression. Most versions read “When I would heal Israel.” Reflecting that same rendering, others read, “I wanted to heal Israel,” NLT and “When My desire was to . . . make Israel well.” Others, however, read quite differently: “When I have healed Israel, then shall the iniquity of Ephraim be revealed,” Septuagint and “When I give healing to Israel, Then revealed is the iniquity of Ephraim.” YLT The latter readings suggest what when Israel was healed, the iniquity of Ephraim would be clearly seen. This, however, is an absurd rendering. Ephraim is a name for Israel. The thought that her sins would be unveiled when she is healed contradicts the very idea of healing, or being made whole. This cannot be the meaning.
The point is not the healing of Israel, but the desire of God to do so. Although their sins had reached to His face, yet He wanted to make them whole. This desire is driven by the nature of God, as revealed to Moses: “The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exo 34:6).
The meaning of the verse is that God wanted to heal Israel, and was taking measures to do so. When He hewed them by the prophets (Hos 6:5), and chastened them (Hos 7:12; 10:10), the Lord was endeavoring to heal them. Isaiah described this aspect of the Divine nature in these words: “And therefore will the LORD wait, that He may be gracious unto you” (Isa 30:18). Peter says it in this way, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9).
But the meaning of the text goes even further than this. The idea is that God was in the act of healing Israel – bringing her into her own land, calling her to Himself through the prophets, and stirring up godly hearts and minds. He was being mindful of them, and showing mercy to them. All of this was not done according to mere legal principles, but in strict accord with the nature of God, who is “ready to pardon” (Neh 9:17) and “ready to save” (Isa 38:20). Chastisement was present to remove the infection, and the balm of Gilead to heal. The Physician was present, and the health of the people could be recovered (Jer 8:22).
THEN THE INIQUITY WAS DISCOVERED. Ephraim was Israel, and Samaria was their capital city 1 Kgs 21:18; 22:51). Herein is a marvelous thing – a principle that carries forward to this very day. When men cling stubbornly to iniquity, Divine consideration only causes them to be more wicked. This verse does not mean that in the process of examining the people the Lord discovered iniquity, as though it showed itself unexpectedly. Rather, Divine goodness brought iniquity up to the surface, confirming how wicked it really was. If the Law was given in order that “by the commandment sin mighty become exceedingly sinful” (Rom 7:13), how wicked must be the sin that crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:8).
Jesus referred to this very principle when He said of the Pharisees, “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth” (John 9:41). Again He said, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin . . . If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father” (John 15:23-24). The presence of the Savior brought out how wicked the Pharisees really were.
Carrying forward the idea of iniquity surfacing when healing was available, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, who had taken the occasion of their visitation as the time of most fully expressing their wicked hearts. “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes . . . because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Luke 19:42-44). Hear and perceive the lament in Jesus’ voice that is heard in Matthew’s record: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt 23:37).
Sin has a hardening effect upon the heart. Those who insist on cleaving to it will find the most gracious advances of God the occasion for the breaking forth of iniquity. This is a thought that is not often expressed in our day.
FALSEHOOD, THIEVES, AND A TROOP OF ROBBERS
“ 1b “ . . . for they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth without.” Now Hosea unveils what occurred while God was graciously going about to heal them – something He desired to do. In order to realize the nature of sin – its exceeding sinfulness– it is important to see that these things were committed while Divine overtures and appeals were being made.
COMMITTING FALSEHOOD. Other versions read, “they commit fraud,” NKJV “they deal falsely,” NASB “their ways are false,” BBE and “deceit is the principle of their behavior.” NJB To “commit falsehood” is different than telling a lie. This speaks of living a lie. Jesus would call it being hypocritical: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation” (Mat 23:14). That is “committing falsehood.” Their lives were skewed to provide for their own lusts, even if it was at the expense of others. They were false and deceptive in their lives toward both God and man, thereby transgressing the whole summation of the Law: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Mat 22:37-40).
To “commit falsehood” can be best understood by contrast – like darkness is better known by the light. It is the opposite of walking “in truth” (1 Kgs 2:4; 3 John 1:4). It is the reverse of walking in the integrity of one’s heart, as David did (1 Kgs 9:4). It is opposite of walking with a “perfect heart” (Isa 38:3). It contradicts the manner of Jesus who “did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth” (1 Pet 2:22).
Committing falsehood is to live in contradiction of what God has said, and do so willing and preferably. This is a way of life in which the individual refuses to acknowledge the truth – all the while making a claim to believe in God and belong to Him.
THE THIEF AND THE TROOP. Other versions read, “The thief enters in, bandits raid outside,” NASB “the thief comes into the house, while the band of outlaws takes property by force in the streets,” BBE and “the thief breaks into the house, marauders raid in the open.” NJB Privately and in public places thieves were having their way – and it was all happening in Israel’s capital city, Samaria. That would be like houses being broken into, and public raids taking place in Washington DC, of the United States.
These thieves and troops were not outsiders – like Sennacherib or Nebuchadnezzar. This is not speaking of the invasion of foreign armies, or the penetration of desert marauders. Neither private nor public goods were safe, while Israel’s own people pillaged and looted. The people were victimized by their own citizenry.
However, there is more to this than the mere accounting of thievery. The point is that God had something to give these people. He could have healed their soul – something godly people craved: “I said, LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against Thee” (Psa 41:4). They could have received mercy, provisions, and protection from “the God heaven, and the God of the earth” (Gen 24:3). Instead, even what they had would be taken from them, and that by their own people.
Hosea had declared the Lord was going to “take away My corn in the time thereof, and My wine in the season thereof, and will recover My wool and My flax given to cover her nakedness” (2:9). Now he tells the people HOW the God would do this. The ransacking would come from their own people, and in their own capital city.
THE PRINCIPLE. There is an important kingdom principle to be seen here. If what God offers is mishandled and rejected, it will be taken from those unfaithful ones. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have” (Luke 8:18). Keep in mind, this is how God reacts to iniquity found within His people – iniquity that is preferred even though full recovery is available. Grace, then, is not irresistible. God will not drag people into heaven. Just as surely as Jesus wanted to gather Israel, yet did not because they would not, so the Lord desires to bring all of the sons home to glory. But if they do not want to go, He will not bring them.
OUR DAY. In our day, all manner of spiritual pillage is taking place within the professed church. Deep division exists that has robbed the souls of the people. Many of us can testify that our most difficult experiences have come from religious, or church, people. How can such things be? It is because there is an environment of rejection – rejection of the good things of God. That environment is one in which spiritual looting takes place.
THEY DID NOT CONSIDER IN THE HEARTS
“ 2 And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before my face.” Here again, we are exposed to the nature of God. It is NOT His manner to forget the sins of those who prefer to wallow in them. Only those who avail themselves of His salvation will find He will remember their sins “no more” (Heb 8:12).
CONSIDER NOT IN THEIR HEART. Other versions read, “they do not say to themselves,” BBE “they do not say in their hearts,” DARBY “they do not remind themselves,” NAB and “don’t realize.” NLT The idea is that the type of thought that will be expressed in the next clause cannot find a place in their heart. When the heart is “fat as grease,” or “covered with fat,” NASB (Psa 119:70), sound thoughts cannot be retained in it. Thus the person with a defiled heart cannot think properly. Thoughts that could make sin distasteful and contribute to holy resolves simply cannot be entertained by those who are living in sin.
The further a person is from the Lord, or the more unaware he is of Him, the more corrupt the heart becomes. Such a heart actually rejects the truth, causing it to roll off, like a waxed surface does not absorb water. Godly reasoning has no effect on such people. They do not recall truth to which they have been subjected. That is what sin does to a heart, and, so long as sin is preferred, there is no possible way to avoid that result.
WHEN GOD REMEMBERS WICKEDNESS. And what is it that the hearts of the people in Israel could not consider, ponder, or remember? It was this: God remembers “all their wickedness.” Other versions read, “I keep in mind all their sin,” BBE “I remember all their evil deeds,” NIB and “all their evil I have remembered.” YLT These are not the wicked deeds of the humble and contrite of heart, who regret they have conducted themselves so foolishly. The ears of the Lord are open to such people, for their broken hearts are a well pleasing sacrifice to Him (Psa 51:17). Those who avail themselves of His redemptive provisions are promised, “their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb 8:12). To those who will return to the Lord with their whole heart, His promise will be experienced: “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto Me; for I have redeemed thee” (Isa 44:22). For all others, their sins are remembered by the Lord.
What is the practical result of God remembering the wickedness of the people? It is dreadful to consider, and yet it must be done, else we will fall into the same snare as Israel did. “I will show them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity” (Jer 18:17). When such people fall upon hard times, and call unto the Lord, they may very well receive a response as Israel did: “for they have turned their back unto Me, and not their face: but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us. But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble” (Jer 2:27-28). Moses also told the people of this Divine manner. “For the LORD shall judge His people, and repent Himself for His servants, when He seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left. And He shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted” (Deu 32:37). During the time of the Judges, the people also heard these words: “Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation” (Judg 10:14).
It is God’s nature to mock those who refuse His salvation – particularly as revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who attempt to throw off the Divine yoke, choosing to eliminate the Lord from their lives must know the reaction of God to their foolishness. “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure”(Psa 2:5). All of this is involved in God remembering the sin of a people. It is more than simply recalling it. That recollection provokes a certain response that makes the heavens like “iron” (Lev 26:19).
THEIR OWN DOINGS HAVE BESET THEM. Other versions read their deeds “have surrounded them,” NKJV “are all around them,” NASB “engulfed them,” NIV and “encompass them.” NRSV The idea here is that from every perspective, the sin of the people is all that could be seen. This view is not that of man, but of God Himself. Now, He cannot look at them without seeing their sin, as is expressed in the next clause.
THEY ARE BEFORE MY FACE. The New Covenant way of saying this is, “her sins have reached unto heaven” (Rev 18:5). This was a generation that fulfilled the dreadful word of Jeremiah. “Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the LORD hath rejected them” (Jer 6:30). When sin surrounds a people, and their iniquities are before His face, they have been rejected. Such people were not predestinated to be rejected. They could have been healed!