COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 7:7 They are all hot as an oven, and have devoured their judges; all their kings are fallen: there is none among them that calleth unto Me. 8 Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned. 9 Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not.” (Hosea 7:7-9)
The effects of sin are far reaching – far beyond any human perception. The impact of the very first sin is enough to make that sufficiently clear. With sin, death and everything related to it entered. The entire universe was consigned to a state of mortality and corruption, and mankind was thrust into as state of moral and physical deterioration. Yet, the awareness of this quickly passed, and sin broke forth, blazing like a wild prairie fire, consuming everything in its path. Now Israel, after experiencing Divine attention, provision, protection, and guidance, is found under the tenacious grip of sin and transgression. From a human point of view, everything was given to her to prohibit this from happening. A precise and extensive Law was given to define sin, thereby providing adequate information. A remarkably extensive ceremonial law was given to define how the moral Law was to be carried out. Priests were given to define the Law. Prophets were sent to warn the people and point them toward the Lord. They were chastened severely, and over long periods of time. They had even experienced recoveries that testified to the goodness of God. Yet they reverted back again to their sinful ways. Now God is describing that kind of people – a people that once knew, yet forgot – a people who were blessed, yet chose the way of the curse – a people who knew what it was like to be rebuked and punished, yet chose to once again walk in a path that pushed God into the background.
HOT AS AN OVEN
“ 7:7 They are all hot as an oven, and have devoured their judges; all their kings are fallen: there is none among them that calleth unto Me.”
Sin has an anaesthetizing effect upon people. By “sin,” I mean anything that misses the mark, for that is what sin means: “missing the mark.” A life that is not aimed specifically at pleasing the Lord lulls the soul into complacency, so that foolishness is embraced as though it was a friend. This is what had happened to Israel, and we do well to learn from it. These things are “written for our admonition” (1 Cor 10:11).
HOT AS AN OVEN. This is a trait ascribed to all of the people: “They are ALL hot as an oven.” They had taken upon themselves the fiery nature of sin itself. They were on fire like a person burning with fever from the contagion of sin. That is, sin had so consumed them that it could no longer be hidden. It would burst forth in prideful outbursts – like the “superfluity of naughtiness” of James (James 1:21). Like the flames of Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace leaped forth, consuming the men who threw the three Hebrew children into it, so Israel’s corruption is now breaking forth.
Men cannot dabble with sin, playing with it as though it was harmless. Sin tends to capture and consume the individual. It may begin with the smallest seemingly innocent thing, but soon iniquity becomes a raging fire than cannot be contained. A lower manifestation of this is seen in those enslaved by strong drink, drugs, and various forms of immorality. Their actions finally become uncontrollable – like an oven that has been heated to the point where the fire shoots out from it.
A righteous picture of such a circumstance is found in Jeremiah: “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (Jer 20:9). Both good and evil, sin and righteousness, have this characteristic.
THEY DEVOURED THEIR JUDGES. Other versions read, “they consume their judges,” NASB and “they put an end to their judges.” BBE The idea is that they, in the heat of their passion for sin, ate up their judges. The word “judges” does not refer to the period of the judges, which preceded the Babylonian captivity. Rather, this refers to the God-ordained leaders who were raised up as deterrents to the spread of iniquity. The word “judges” is used this way in several different places (Isa 1:26; 40:23; Hos 13:10; Zeph 3:3). Rather than these “judges” subduing iniquity, however, sin became so ingrained in the people that it broke forth and destroyed the ones, whose purpose it was to identify sin and punish it. The ultimate example of this was the death of Jesus, the real Judge, in which the people rose up and “killed the prince of life” (Acts 3:15).
THEIR KINGS ARE FALLEN. This is another way of saying “they devoured their judges.” Those who were appointed leaders to put down evil and reward goodness (Rom 13:3-4) were toppled from that position by the wake of national sin. Two things took place. First, the kings of Israel themselves fell into sin. Second, many of them were deposed by violence. King Zechariah was killed by his successor Shallum (2 Kgs 15:8-10). King Pekahiah was killed by Pekah, his successor (2 Kgs 15:22-25). King Pekah was killed by Hoshea, who succeeded him (2 Kgs 15:30). King Nadab was killed by Baasha who reigned in his stead (1 Kgs 15:25-27). King Elah, the son of Baasha, was killed by Zimri, who reigned in his stead (1 Kgs 16:8-10).
If a worldly historian analyzed the falling of these kings, a different explanation would been offered. They might have mentioned anarchy or some other social vice. The Lord, however, traces the falling of the Israelite kings to the prevalence of unbridled sin.
NO ONE CALLED UNTO GOD. With all of this calamity breaking forth among the people, together with bloodshed and all manner of injustice, the Lord laments, “and none of them calls on Me.” NIV Their sin had put them to sleep, so they were unable to assess their condition as one that required Divine intervention. Later the Lord will again affirm, “they have not cried unto Me with their heart” (7:14). Isaiah also declared this condition: “For the people turneth not to Him that smiteth them” (Isa 9:13). Again God spoke through Isaiah, “But thou hast not called upon Me” (Isa 43:22). And again, “there is none that calleth upon My name” (Isa 64:7). Through Ezekiel, the Lord said He sought for a man who would “stand in the gap before Me for the land,” yet He found none (Ezek 22:30).
Sin so corrupts the mind and hardens the heart that in the direst of circumstances people do not call out to the Lord. That is why evil men wax “worse and worse” (2 Tim 3:13). This is one of the unavoidable consequences of sin that believers must grasp.
“ 8 Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.”
Throughout history, the people of God had been tempted to mingle with those who “know not God and obey not the Gospel.” Occasionally, erroneous doctrines have been spread among them that encourage the development of ungodly friends and associates. Such views are wholly unacceptable, as will be confirmed in this Divine assessment.
MIXING AMONG THE PEOPLE. “Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people.” Other versions read, “mixes himself among the peoples,” NKJV and “mixes himself with the nations.” NASB/NIV The “people” of reference are heathen peoples or nations. Earlier, speaking of this manner, Hosea said “then went Ephraim to the Assyrian” (5:13). Ezra declared that rather than separating themselves from the people of the lands, Israel had “done according to their abominations,” intermarrying with them (Ezra 9:3). Nehemiah faced the same kind of condition in which Jews had “married wives of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab” (Neh 13:23). The Psalmist cried out, “But they mingled with the heathen and learned their works” (Psa 106:35). Malachi declared the Jews had “profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange God” (Mal 2:11).
It is always wrong to mix with the people from whom God has separated us. In the case of Israel, God had distinguished them from other nations (Num 23:9). Early Moses affirmed they would be a people separated “from all the people that are upon the face of the earth” (Ex 33:16). Solemnly the Lord told them, “I am the Lord your God which have separated you from other people” (Lev 20:24). Now Israel mixes with the very people from whom they had been separated.
The relevancy of this text is seen in the fact that Jesus has chosen us “out of the world” (John 15:19), therefore constituting us “strangers and pilgrims” “in the earth” (1 Pet 2:11; Heb 11:13). In a very real sense we are “not of the world,” even as Jesus is “not of the world” (John 17:14,16). Notwithstanding that circumstance, we are living in a time when the professed church is mixing itself with the world. It is adopting the thoughts and manners of the world, so that it is extremely difficult to distinguish between professing Christians and those who “know not God and obey not the Gospel.” This is not right. Being holy involves being separate from the world – and no unholy person will be saved!
It is no wonder that we are warned, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). In Israel we see a religious people turning to the world, mingling with the heathen, and learning their ways. The sociologist might see some advantages to learning the culture of other people, but such notions are only myths. Mixing with the heathen yields no benefits, but only brings spiritual disadvantage.
Here also we have a confirmation of an Apostolic admonition: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor 15:33). This is an area in which deception is particularly subtle. Let no person imagine they are ever intelligent enough to willingly be around “bad company” NIV without corruption coming upon them. While we are not called to live in mountain alone, we are called to conduct ourselves in this world in the posture of strangers and pilgrims – people that really do not belong here.
In our nation, since the attack on the Twin Towers in Manhattan, a certain mind-set has arisen in the professed church. In an attempt, they say, to prepare people to win Muslim’s to the Lord, they are studying the Korah, and learning more how the Muslim’s think. All of this is very foolish, for it is willingly exposing the people to a way of thinking that is set against the Lord Jesus Christ. It like trying to tame a rattlesnake.
A CAKE NOT TURNED. Other versions read “a half baked cake.” NJB/NLT One version reads “a flat cake not turned over.” NLT The picture is that of a pancake that has not been turned over, remaining uncooked on the top. Such a cake is half done. One side appears acceptable, and the other side is obviously unsuitable. The uncooked part of the cake voided its use. So with Israel, they had a seemingly cooked side. They were keeping the ceremonies, going through perfunctory routines, and maintaining a semblance of religion. Yet, their propensity to iniquity voided everything they offered to God. Just as surely as uncooked dough is repulsive to the eater, so Israel had become repulsive to her Maker. As it is written, “He abhorred his own inheritance” (Psa 106:40).
Every child of God must know that when there is an attempt within them to receive from God and the world at the same time, God will not receive them.
WHEN STRENGTH IS DISSIPATED
“ 9 Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not.”
One of the dangerous things about sin itself, and contact with sinners, is that a certain dulness of hearing, hardness of heart, and searing of the conscience is taking place during those times, all without the knowledge of the one being impacted by the sin or sinner. In the case of Israel, all of this came upon them because they chose to mix with the heathen rather than maintain separateness from them.
HER STRENGTH IS DEVOURED. “Strangers have devoured her strength.” The heathen with whom they mingled themselves robbed Israel of their moral and spiritual strength. The heathen did not announce they were going to do this. In fact, they were probably unaware of what was happening themselves. Notwithstanding, when the good and the evil come together, the evil never become good. When strength and weakness are are jumbled, weakness never becomes less weak. When the righteous and the unrighteous mingle, the unrighteous do not begin becoming righteous. When those who are spiritually strong choose the company of those who are weak, they themselves will become weaker.
This is true because there is a sharp conflict between good and evil. Righteousness and unrighteousness are set in opposition to one another, and neither of them are indifferent to the other one. Just as surely as Christ and Belial can have no accord, so chosen ones and unchosen ones cannot willingly be together.
Because they chose to mix themselves with the heathen nations, Israel became incapable of choosing the good. They became the prey of their enemies, and were unable to resist them. The curse is this: that like Samson, Israel “knoweth it not.” It is said of Samson, “And he wist not that the Lord was departed from him” (Judges 16:20). Notice the language that is used in our text: Israel’s enemies – “strangers” – “devoured” her strength. They ate it away, so to speak – bit by bit.
That is what sinful associations do to a people – any people. It is also the unavoidable result of willingly mixing with the world. Such beguiled souls soon become incapable of calling upon the name of the Lord, resisting the devil, or understanding the Word of God. It is not possible to flirt with sin and avoid these results.
In this world, the people of God cannot completely get away from the ungodly, even though they rightly desire to do so. To do this we “must needs go out of the world” (1 Cor 5:10). When the Lord comes, we will once and for all be separated fully from the ungodly, The Lord will “gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity” (Matt 13:41). Until then, any association that we have with unbelievers must be managed by our faith, and directed by the Holy Spirit. We must live close enough to the Lord to detect when our strength begins to wane. At that point, like Jesus did, we must withdraw ourselves (Matt 12:15; Luke 5:15; 6:12). You will need grace to do this.
GRAY HAIRS HERE AND THERE. Something was happening to Israel, and it was not detected by them. They were becoming spiritually aged and decrepit, feeble and rundown. Gray hairs – signs of premature age – were found upon them “here and there.” Though Israel could have been leaping upon the high mountains of Divine blessing, their sinful associations were making them weakly and feeble, as one of great age. Again the Lord says, “and he knoweth it not.”
Here again is an effect of sin. It makes a person grow old before their time. While this is true in the flesh, it is also true in the heart and soul. The professing believer who sins becomes more and more incapable of sound thought, healthy recollection, and godly activity.
HE KNOWETH IT NOT. How is it that spiritual weakness and decrepitness can come upon a person without them realizing it? It is because they are not involved in anything that requires strength! When the soul is slumbering upon Delilah’s lap, there is no need for strength. Thus, if it leaves, the person does not miss it.
Many a professing Christian rarely engages in anything that requires faith, strength, hope, and other gifts of grace. Instead of using their time wisely, they rub shoulders with the ungodly, and engage in activities that require no faith. In the process, they are gradually becoming weaker and more spiritually feeble. They do not know it until an occasion arises that requires moral and spiritual strength. They did not see the gray hairs appearing here and there, but continued to maintain their carnal preferences. As a result, they fall, just like Israel did. Such falls are never incidental. They are always preceded by spiritual erosion and dissipation that are the unavoidable results of ungodly associations.