COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 7:10 And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek Him for all this. 11 Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria. 12 When they shall go, I will spread My net upon them; I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard. 13 Woe unto them! for they have fled from Me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against Me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against Me.” (Hosea 7:10-13)
In order that succeeding ages might be convinced of the seriousness of not seeking the Lord, much is said in the Prophets about Israel’s departure from Him. When addressing this subject, the Spirit always uses strong and vivid language. If we remove from our minds the fact that this is a Divine lamentation, the language will seem too strong to us, and we will easily tire of hearing it. This was a people upon whom God had bestowed much labor, and He could not ignore their lack of response to it. A cold theology might be content with the observation that flesh is altogether corrupt, and cannot receive the things of God – even His chastisement. Indeed, in a sense, this is true. Yet, we must also consider the nature of God. He is actually repulsed by sin, and angered when there is a lack of response to Him. He cannot excuse those who choose the path of sin, even though they cannot change themselves. We will see in our text that their principle transgression was that they did not seek the Lord. They did not call out to Him. Instead, they sought for help from other sources, rejecting the God who had provided for them, and who had revealed Himself extensively to them. Such a sin of far greater than men dare to imagine.
THE TESTIMONY OF PRIDE
“ 7:10 And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him for all this. ”
THE PRIDE OF ISRAEL. This is the second time Hosea has made this statement: “the pride of Israel doth testify to his face” (5:5). Another word for “pride” is “arrogance,” which is used in several other versions. NIV,NAB,NIB,NJB Pride is self exaltation, when personal objectives are placed above those of the Living God. The idea is that Israel’s pride convicted him – like a witness that rose up in the Divine courtroom. The thought of an attitude speaking against men in the throne room of heaven is most arresting.
Some have taken “the Pride of Israel” to refer to God Himself, affirming the verse means that God, as the excellence of Israel, was testifying against Israel. However, of the 46 times “pride” is used in Moses and the Prophets, I do not believe it is ever applied to God Himself. Actually, rather than Israel considering God to be their excellence and glory, they had spurned His love and forgotten His mercy. The verse does not refer to God.
Pride is evidenced by words and deeds, but actually resides in the heart. It cannot be seen by anyone on earth, but there is only perceived by outward conduct. But this is not the case in heaven, and men do well to consider this. While “the fear of the Lord” is to hate “pride and arrogancy” (Prov8:13), Israel cultured a preference for self. Pride goes before destruction (Prov 16:18), and brings a people low (Prov 29:23).
Let it be clear, “pride” is inordinate and unreasonable self-esteem, often accompanied by insolence and the ill treatment of others. In this case God Himself was the focus of the insolence. This is one of the three things that are “in the world,” with which we must contend to this very day (1 John 2:16).
TESTIFIETH TO HIS FACE. Israel’s pride erupted when they were chastened of the Lord. That was the occasion that summoned forth its testimony. When God was dealing with them, chastening and reproving them, THEN their pride testified against them. THEN their corrupt nature broke forth.
There are those who continue in their sin, thinking that God will eventually turn them around – when their day “comes,” so to speak. However, this passage dashes that imagination to the ground. Sin can become so ingrained in a person, that the chastening hand of the Almighty only causes him to become worse.
THEY DO NOT RETURN. Israel made no attempt to turn again to the Lord. His chastening hand awakened no resolve in them to retrace their steps back to the Lord. God had pled with them to return to Him. “Return unto Me, for I have redeemed thee” (Isa 44:22). Again, “If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto Me” (Jer 4:1). And again, “Return unto Me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?” (Mal 3:7).
To “return unto” the Lord is to engage in a conscientious effort to be in His presence – like the prodigal son returning to His father. In a sense, it is like a man with a withered hand stretching it forth, or a man impotent from his mother’s womb taking up his bed and walking. Even though such a return appears impossible, yet when the heart is broken and contrite, God will empower such a resolve to be realized. This is because such a return requires a broken spirit and a contrite heart, which are precious in His sight. As it is written, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Psa 51:17). However, Israel’s pride forbade them to have a broken heart, and therefore they did not return to the Lord.
THEY DO NOT SEEK HIM FOR ALL THIS. In spite of the faithful rebukes, chastening, and calls of the Lord (“all this”), Israel did not seek the Lord. They did not “feel after Him,” engaging in the quest to find God – an aim to which all people have been appointed and placed in the world (Acts 17:26-27). They did not look for Him! They called for no Prophet as Israel did of old (1 Sam 9:9), or as Jehoshaphat did (1 Kgs 22:7).
For Israel, seeking the Lord would have involved seeking after His statutes (Psa 119:155), and calling upon Him in the day of trouble (Psa 50:15). But Israel did not do this. Even though they could not have made themselves clean, they could have sought the Lord. Although they were powerless to change their own nature, they could have sought Him as the Lord had said to Asa, “if ye seek Him, He will be found of you; but if ye forsake Him, He will forsake you” (2 Chron 15:2). God had made the circumstances conducive to seeking Him, bring sore chastening upon them. But instead of that chastening provoking an earnest quest for the Lord, it only caused their pride to foam out to their own shame.
GOING TO EGYPT AND ASSYRIA
“ 11 “ Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria. 12 When they shall go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard.”
A SILLY DOVE. “Ephraim is like a silly dove with a heart.” Other versions read “without sense” NKJV “deceived and senseless,” NIV “a foolish dove without wisdom,” BBE “without understanding,” DARBY and “a silly dove with no mind.” TNK
The point is that Israel was like a foolish dove, so intent upon feeding herself that she did not see the net spread upon the ground to snare her. What she thought was an advantage was actually a trap, designed to take her captive. The “silly dove,” thinking it is going to obtain food, flies straight into the waiting net, completely oblivious of its presence. Israel had eyes, but they did not see (Psa 115:5; 135:16). Here is the Lord’s ode to a foolish people, who are like a “silly dove”: “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not” (Jer 5:21).
That is what sin does to a people or a person. Such a people have had the spirit of deep sleep poured out upon them, and the Lord has shut their eyes (Isa 29:10). He would have given them mercy, but their preferences brought stupidity upon them.
THEY CALL TO EGYPT. Calling for Egypt is like a silly dove trying to obtain food from the midst of a snare. Isaiah and prophesied a woe upon those who went down to Egypt for help. “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!” (Isa 31:1). Egypt was like a broken reed or splintered staff. They brought harm to those who relied upon them. As the prophet Isaiah said, “Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him” (Isa 36:6). The Lord had told them Egypt would fall, and those who trusted in them would fall as well. “Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out His hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fail together” (Isa 31:3).
Yet Israel, like a “silly dove” called out to Egypt for help instead of to their God.
THEY GO DOWN TO ASSYRIA. As with Egypt, Israel sought the favor of Assyria. They even made “a covenant with the Assyrians” (Hos 12:1). Menahem, who was a king of Israel (2 Kgs 15:17), gave Pul, king of Assyria, a thousand talents of silver (about 37 tons), “that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand.” He “exacted the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver, to give to the king of Assyria” (2 Kgs 15:19-20). Ahaz “took the silver and the gold that was found in the house of the Lord,” and “sent it for a present to the king of Assyria” (2 Kgs 16:8).
They did not rely upon the Lord, as Hezekiah when he received threatening letters from Sennacherib the Assyrian (Isa 37:14-18). Instead, they sought the favor of the Assyrians, seeking to obtain mercy and consideration from them rather than from the Lord.
I WILL SPREAD MY NET. “When they go, I will spread My net upon them.” The idea here is that whatever method they employed to go to the Egyptians and Assyrians, they would be caught in God’s net. As a matter of perspective, Israel was between Egypt and Assyria – caught in the middle, so to speak. Rather than relying on the Lord to protect them, they sought to make their condition better by appealing to these nations. This action would be the means of bringing them down. It is not possible to do something wrong in a right or acceptable way. The people of God are always wrong in relying on other deliverers, other protectors, other suppliers. As it is written, “should not a people seek unto their God?” (Isa 8:19).
I WILL CHASTEN THEM. Chastening can be the result of Divine judgment. As it is written, “But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor 11:32). Further, we must never view chastening as something light, or of little consequence. It is true that if we yield to this chastening, we will experience “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” – but only if we are “exercised,” or trained by it, being pointed in the right direction (Heb 12:11).
Everyone in covenant with God experiences chastening – whether Israel under the Old Covenant, or the sons of God under the New (Heb 12:8). However, it is wrong to assume our response will always be favorable, or that we will profit by it. It is “enduring” chastening that is critical (Heb 12:7), and misplaced trust makes that less likely to occur.
THE PENALTY FOR RUNNING FROM GOD
“ 13 Woe unto them! for they have fled from Me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against Me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against Me.”
WOE UNTO THEM. When coming from the Lord, these are most dreadful words. It is a passionate cry of grief and despair. This is a word that declares the people have entered into a territory where no good can be given to them. It is a place of Divine judgment, where no blessing can be experienced. Jesus pronounced woes against Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matt 11:21), the world (Matt 18:7), the scribes and Pharisees (Matt 23:13-16,,23,25), Judas (Matt 26:21), the rich and full (Lk 6:24-25), the lawyers (Lk 11:46-47), and the person causing offenses (Lk 17:1). Consistently, those against whom woes are pronounced have entered into an area that has stirred up Divine indignation.
THEY HAVE FLED FROM ME. Here is the encapsulation of Israel’s sin. From earth’s view, they had called to Egypt and went down to Assyria. From heaven’s view, they had “fled,” or ran away, from God, rather than running to Him, calling upon Him, and seeking Him. This is another way of saying what Job said of the wicked, “Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto Him?” (Job 21:14-15). Their action was a willing one – a matter of preference. They did not want God around (Psa 81:11), and therefore ran away from Him to someone else. Stated another way, they “forsook the God of their fathers” (2 Chron 7:22), or “forgot God their Savior” (Psa 106:21). The point is that to seek help from others, one must flee from the Lord.
DESTRUCTION UNTO THEM. Other versions read, “Destruction is theirs,” NASB and “they shall be wasted.” DARBY The point is that the God of heaven, whose will in such matters cannot be resisted, had “appointed” their destruction (1 Kgs 20:42; Prov 31:8). The irony of the situation is that He would have been their Savior.
THEY HAVE TRANSGRESSED AGAINST ME. In calling unto Egypt, and going down to Assyria, Israel had not only run away from God, they had also transgressed, or rebelled, against Him. God is never neutral toward sin. Sin against Him provokes a response just as surely as calling upon Him.
Sin is essentially against God Himself. That is why a convicted and contrite David prayed, “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest” (Psa 51:4). Until sin is seen as against God, forgiveness and recovery remain at a distance.
THOUGH I HAVE REDEEMED THEM. Other versions read, “I would redeem them,” NASB “I long to redeem them,” NIV “I was ready to be their Savior,” BBE “I have rescued them again and again,” NJB and “though I have redeemed them.” GENEVA There is a sense in which God did redeem them when He brought them out of Egypt. As it is written, “But because the LORD loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deut 7:8; Mic 6:4). There is also a sense in which He had redeemed them again and again. Again it is written, “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old” (Isa 63:9). All of this was confirmation that God stood ready to redeem Israel out of all of their troubles. That is why the Psalmist could pray, “Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles” (Psa 25:22). What a lamentable thing it is when the God who could have powerfully delivered sends destruction instead!
THEY HAVE SPOKEN LIES AGAINST ME. How is it that a people so favored of God could speak lies against Him? Lies are spoken against God in thoughts, words, and deeds. Israel spoke lies against God when they said of other gods, “These by thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (Ex 32:4). They did it when they said of the gifts that God has given them, “These are my rewards that my lovers have given me”(Hosea 2:12).
Men lie against the Lord when they are angry with Him, suggesting He is not righteous in all of His ways (Jonah 4:1-4). They also lie against Him when they suggest He is not able to meet their need (Psa 78:19). They lie against Him when they misrepresent what they have done, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:4). A lot of discontent is really lying against the Lord, unable to see Him in all things.