COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 9:1 Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people: for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, thou hast loved a reward upon every cornfloor. 2 The floor and the winepress shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her. 3 They shall not dwell in the LORD'S land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria. 4 They shall not offer wine offerings to the LORD, neither shall they be pleasing unto him: their sacrifices shall be unto them as the bread of mourners; all that eat thereof shall be polluted: for their bread for their soul shall not come into the house of the LORD.” (Hosea 9:1-4)
There are certain penalties associated with forsaking the Lord. Although men do this in order to gain, what they consider to be, personal advantage, a life of utter vanity commences when the Lord is forgotten. However, those who wander from the Lord are not aware of the vanity into which they have entered. They are not able to properly assess their situation. Satan deludes men into thinking they can seek their own ways with the option of returning to the Lord at any time they consider it proper. In the meantime, they are not able to see how far they are wandering from the Lord, or how utterly useless their religion has become. Their conscience has become seared (1 Tim 4:2), they are dull of hearing (Matt 13:15), and they cannot see (Isa 44:18). Although they are not aware of it, all of this has been imposed upon them by the Lord. He gave them up to their hearts lusts, shut their eyes, poured out upon them the spirit of deep sleep, and closed their hearts so they could not understand (Psa 81:12; Isa 6:10; 29:10; 44:18). Now the Lord has raised up Hosea to spell all of this out to a hard-hearted people – to tell them their actual situation. The remnant among them will be able to comprehend what he says. Additionally, succeeding generations like ourselves will become more thoroughly acquainted with Divine manners.
THE RESULT OF LOVING EARTHLY REWARDS
“ 9:1 Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people: for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, thou hast loved a reward upon every cornfloor. 2 The floor and the winepress shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her.”
REJOICE NOT AS OTHER PEOPLE. From the standpoint of the people, everything seemed to be going well. They had formed alliances with Egypt and Assyria, their crops appeared bountiful, and their religion seemed to be flourishing. They had temples, golden calves, and a form of religion that easily blended with the world. They were in a sort of spiritual stupor, not knowing that they were tottering on the brink of absolute ruin. Mingling with the nations, they thought they could exult and rejoice with them. They had erroneously interpreted the forbearance of God as His commendation, and had thus been lulled into “the sleep of death” (Psa 13:3).
It appears from the text that Hosea had found the people in a state of exultation. Perhaps it was at harvest time, or during one of their religious feasts. Hosea informs them that they have no right to rejoice. Their hearts had drifted from the Lord, and rejoicing was now out of order. One might envision a prophet like Hosea coming upon a contemporary praise service, of Christian rock concert, or a large sectarian convention. If the hearts of the people were not pure, he would tell them they had no right to be happy.
But there is even a deeper meaning here. There had been other nations, like Nineveh, who rejoiced in being forgiven by God, for “God repented of the evil, that He had said He would do unto them” (Jonah 3:10). However, this would not be the portion of the generation to whom Hosea spoke. They had crossed the line of Divine tolerance, and their judgment had been set. This is precisely what took place when Jerusalem rejected Jesus, refusing to recognize the Divine “visitation” vouchsafed to them. Thus the wrath of God came upon them – a judgment from which there could be no repentance (Luke 19:42-44). When judgment becomes irreversible, men “fall into the hands of the Living God,” and that is a most “fearful” thing (Heb 10:31).
GONE A WHORING. The condition that made their rejoicing unlawful was their spiritual manner. They had “gone a whoring,” seeking satfisfaction from other sources. They had given their hearts to people and things that, at the very best, competed with God, and at the worst openly denied and fought against Him. Hosea used this same language in the fourth chapter: “they have gone a whoring from under God” (4:12). In other words, they were unfaithful to Him. In the words of Jeremiah, they had broken their covenant with the Lord: “My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them” NKJV (Jer 31:32). This was not the assessment of the people, but it was the real situation.
LOVING A REWARD. Other versions read, “who have made love for hire on every threshing floor,” NKJV “You have loved harlot’s earnings,” NASB and “You love a prostitute’s pay.” NIV They were enjoying “the pleasures of sin for a season” (Heb 11:25). Like Balaam they “loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Pet 2:15). This is the assessment of Israel’s religion – even though they also committed immorality and intermingled with the heathen in their marriages. They were unfaithful in their religion, giving their hearts to other gods, and ascribing to them the glory that is due only to God. They credited their idols with giving them their corn and their wine (Hos 2:8), and loved the results of their adultery.
UTTER FUTILITY. “The floor and the winepress shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her.” All of the advantages that seemed to be coming their way would not be realized. They had invested in vanity, and they would ultimately receive nothing satisfying from it. In the time of Malachi the people had said, “It is vain to serve the Lord” (Mal 3:14). Thus they had sought for benefits elsewhere. Hosea boldly announces, God will not allow them to realize profit from sowing wind and being unfaithful.
APPLICATION. Spiritual Babylon, the false church, bears much resemblance to wayward Israel. It is also noted for its fornication. She is called “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (Rev 17:5). She is “Mystery” because her manners contradict her profession. She is “Babylon the Great” because she is a mass of confusion and vain glory. She is “The Mother of Harlots” because she begets and promotes unfaithfulness to God, and that is how she is known. She is the “Mother of the Abominations of the Earth” because her religion makes men worse than they were before, providing a form of religion that rejects the power of God. The controversy God has with this spiritual conglomerate it infinitely greater than He had with Israel, for this is the “day of salvation” when He has revealed Himself.
THE CHANGING OF THEIR PLACE AND DIET
“ 3 They shall not dwell in the LORD'S land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria.”
The kingdom is the Lord’s, and He is the “Governor among the nations” – even Israel, whom He had chosen. God can abruptly abort all benefits. He who can “call for corn” to “increase it” (Ezek 36:29), can also “call for a sword” (Jer 25:29), and “call for a famine” (2 Kgs 8:1). He can make men put their wages into a bag filled with holes (Hag 1:6), bringing a futility to all of their labor vain (Jer 51:58). He can cause men’s wills to be futile, making them unable to maintain their cause. Our text powerfully presents this.
THE LORD’S LAND. From the time when the nations were positioned throughout the world, it was sectioned with regard to the children of Israel. Thus it is written, “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel” (Deu 32:8). In due time He called Abraham, and promised his seed would be given a particular land (Gen 12:7). This land, however, was ultimately “the Lord’s land,” as our text affirms. Because it was a land chosen to be a display of Divine working, it was called “the glorious land” (Dan 11:16) and “the holy land” (Zech 2:12). Eight times, the Lord refers to this land as “My land” (2 Chron 7:20; Isa 14:25; Jer 2:7; 16:18; Ezek 36:5; 38:16; Joel 1:6; 3:2). Six times Moses and the Prophets refer to it as “His land” (Deut 32:43; Job 37:13; PSa 10:16; Ezek 36:20; Joel 2:18; Zech 9:16). Because the Lord gave Israel the land by no means suggested He had relinquished His ownership of it.
The whole world belongs to the Lord, together with all that is in it. As it is written, “The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psa 24:1). But that is not the whole of the story. There is a land that is especially “His,” and a people who particularly belong to Him as well.
Moses warned the people not to defile the land, lest God cast them out of it (Lev 18:25). Centuries later God said through Jeremiah, “And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled My land, and made mine heritage an abomination” (Jer 2:7; 3:9). The Lord was especially hard on Israel because, after He had so blessed her, she defiled the land with idolatry and all manner of unfaithfulness. Thus He said, “I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land” (Jer 16:18). Now Hosea announces Israel “will not dwell in the Lord’s land.” A determination had been made in heaven, and now it would be brought to pass.
Application. If God was so particular about a land in this world, how will He regard the defilement of the church of the Living God, which is intended to be built up as a habitation for Him (Eph 2:22)? There is no need to speculate on the matter. God has spoken. “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor 3:17). Israel chose to defile their habitation with idols, trust in other things, and culture friendship with the heathen. Today a similar thing has happened, as the professing church courts the friendship of the world, borrows its wisdom, and adopts its manners. It is a most serious condition, and God will not ignore it.
RETURN TO EGYPT. On the surface, it might have appeared that Israel was returning to Egypt under their own power, seeking to court their favor. However, from, a higher vantage point, God Himself brought them there where they would not be received. Moses prophesied of this: “And the LORD will take you back to Egypt in ships, by the way of which I said to you, ‘You shall never see it again.’ And there you shall be offered for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you” NKJV (Deut 28:68).
THE UNCLEAN THINGS OF ASSYRIA. Israel would be taken captive into Assyria, and there would be forced to eat things their Law forbade – “unclean things.” This was vividly depicted by God’s commandment for Ezekiel to make and eat unclean bread, mixed with dung (Ezek 4:9-15). The people went from the rich diet of corn, oil, and wine given to them by God, to the unclean foods of the Assyrians – and all because of their sin.
Do not marvel that professed Christians are forced to feed on meager and unclean spiritual diets. When men choose to ignore the rich diet of God’s Word, by which He has ordained they are to live, God will see to it that they feed on the husks of human wisdom. That is what happens when you leave the Father’s house – just as surely as it happened to the prodigal son (Luke 15:16). Such people will be expelled from the place of blessing, and will no longer be subjected to words appropriately described as “spirit” and “life” (John 6:63).