COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 9:5 What will ye do in the solemn day, and in the day of the feast of the LORD? 6 For, lo, they are gone because of destruction: Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them: the pleasant places for their silver, nettles shall possess them: thorns shall be in their tabernacles. 7 The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred. ” (Hosea 9:5-7)
Throughout the history of God’s dealings with people, men have had a tendency to underestimate the seriousness of departing from the Living God. It all began when sin entered the world through Adam (Rom 5:12). From that time, religious men have been inclined to understate the value of identity and fellowship with the Lord. In times past, this was partially because the revelation of God was very limited. Nevertheless, He had revealed enough of Himself to make the lack of the knowledge of God inexcusable (Rom 1:20). The Lord chose Israel to be the custodian of a more extensive revelation of Himself. Therefore, their failure to “follow on to know the Lord” (Hos 6:3) was most serious – infinitely more serious than is ordinarily supposed. This is precisely why Hosea is given so much to say about the subject of departing from the Lord. Now, in Christ Jesus, God has revealed much more of Himself, being pleased to have all of His fulness dwell in Jesus Christ (Col 1:19; 2:9). That makes a failure to move forward in the knowledge of God even more serious than in the case with Israel. Now, those who “draw back” do so “unto perdition” (Heb 10:39). Although the prophecy of Hosea is filled with things “hard to be uttered,” it is imperative that we discipline our minds and hearts to receive his message.
WHAT WILL YOU D0?
“ 9:5 What will ye do in the solemn day, and in the day of the feast of the LORD?”
As is characteristic of the Lord, the people are pressed to ponder their condition, and how they will fare in a confrontation with the Living God. How often the Lord speaks in this manner! “What will ye do in the day of visitation?” (Isa 10:3). “What will ye do in the end thereof?” (Jer 5:31). “How wilt thou do in the swelling of the Jordan?” (Jer 12:5). There are certain inevitabilities that all men will face – appointments like death and the judgment (Heb 9:27). In this text, the people are reminded that God will eventually confront those who have withdrawn from Him, and chosen other allegiances. This is an appointment that cannot be avoided. It is confirmed in Adam and Eve, Cain, the world of Noah’s day, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Jerusalem, the city of our God. Now Hosea will remind the people that God will deal with their backsliding. How will they fare when He does?
WHAT WILL YOU DO IN THE SOLEMN DAY? Other versions read “the solemn assembly,” ASV “the appointed day,” NKJV and “appointed festival.” NASB The added phrase “the feast of the Lord” is referring to the same occasion. “The solemn day” refers to WHEN it took place. “The feast of the Lord” accents WHAT took place.
The reference is to the highest days in the ceremonial law – the day of atonement, the feasts of the Passover, Trumpets, Pentecost, and others. These were high days, when thanksgiving abounded, joy was experienced, and the blessing of the Lord was realized. These “solemn” days were given to Israel as days “of gladness” (Num 10:10), times in which they were to “rejoice” in the recollection of God’s wonderful works (Deut 16:15).
Israel had become so corrupt they were going to be expelled from the land, just as the Lord revealed to Solomon. “But if ye shall at all turn from following Me, ye or your children, and will not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for My name, will I cast out of My sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people” (1 Kgs 9:6-7). Jeremiah confirmed this would happen. “And ye have done worse than your fathers . . . Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not . . . where I will not show you favor” (Jer 16:12-13). God had called this people out of Egypt and given them the land in which they were living. Now, He would drive them out of the very place where He had placed them. Those who imagine God incapable of doing such a thing could not possibly be more wrong!
Hosea is speaking with this judgment in mind. Because of Israel’s reprehensible sin, God has disowned them: “ye are not My people, and I will not be your God” (Hos 1:9). He would not allow the most holy of men to pray for them (Jer 7:16; 11:14; 14:11; 15:1). Even if giants of the faith like Noah, Daniel, and Job were living in the land, their presence could not reverse God’s judgment, or move Him to have favor upon the land (Ezek 14:14,20). Having crossed the line of Divine forbearance, their judgment was irreversible.
Now, the Lord asks them concerning the time when they have been expelled from the Land. Israel would be in Assyria, and Judah in Babylon. Then, what would they do when the time of the solemn feast approached. They would not have access to their land, where the appointed feasts were to take place. They would have no access to the Temple, where such solemn occasions were celebrated. As Hosea had prophesied earlier, “I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts” (Hosea 2:11). Furthermore, the people would not be able to do anything about it.
IT HAPPENED! For both Israel and Judah, this prophecy was fulfilled. When the time of solemn feasts arrived, the people could not gain any advantage from them. When the time of the feasts of joy and gladness arrived, they only became occasions of sadness. In one of his lamentations, Jeremiah expressed this: “The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their music. The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning. The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned!” (Lam 5:14-16). The Psalmist also expressed the moroseness of heart that dominated the people during the Babylonian captivity: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?” (Psa 137:1-4).
It is a tragic day, indeed, when a people forsake their God! Then, the very best of their religion becomes nothing more than an occasion for sorrowful remembrances. God will not allow those who draw back from Him to gain advantages from His ordinances.
THEY ARE GONE
“ 6 For, lo, they are gone because of destruction: Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them: the pleasant places for their silver, nettles shall possess them: thorns shall be in their tabernacles.”
THEY ARE GONE BECAUSE OF DESTRUCTION! When the prophesied Assyrian invasion took place (Isa 8:7-8), the people fled because of the destruction wrought over a period of three years. As it is written, “Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years” (2 Kgs 17:5; 18:9-12). The people were so far from God they could not pray for deliverance from the Assyrians as Hezekiah did from the invasion of Sennacherib (2 Kgs 19:14-35). Instead, they fled from the land in anticipation of the coming devastation. Some of them would seek help from Egypt (Hos 7:11; 8:13; 9:3), but it would all be to no avail. When the Lord leaves a people, no help or solace can be found from the hands of anyone else.
EGYPT GATHERS THEM, AND MEMPHIS BURIES THEM. The gathering of reference is not something good. Rather, it refers to Egypt finding the people wherever they are, and using them for their own advantage. This gathering was in order to their burial, not for their deliverance. Memphis was the capital of lower Egypt, which means the very land in which banished Israel would seek refuge, would be the place of their demise.
There, in Egypt – the land of the gods they preferred above their own God – (Hos 8:5-6; 10:5; 13:2) – they would be buried. They would lose their identity in the very land from which they had originally been delivered.
This text does not mean Israel would be totally exterminated. It would, however, lose its national identity, with only a remnant being saved (Isa 10:20; 11:16; Jer 31:7). Isaiah prophesied, “For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness” (Isa 10:22). The Lord promised He would recover a “second time” the remnant of people “from Assyria and from Egypt” (Isa 11:11). Jeremiah prophesied, “Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah, and all the remnant of Judah, that are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall know whose words shall stand, mine, or theirs” (Jer 44:28). These words do not alter the severity of the judgment Hosea declares. They do, however, glow with hope for the remnant that would eventually be recovered.
THE PLEASANT PLACES AND NETTLES. “The pleasant places for their silver, nettles shall possess them.” The sense of this expression is, “nettles shall possess their valuables of silver.” NKJV “Nettles” are a prickly plant – a thorny and useless plant. STRONG’S This is the language of desolation. The idea is that their treasure houses would be overgrown with these detestable and useless plants. Solomon spoke of the habitation of a slothful man being reduced to this state. “And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down” (Prov 24:31). Isaiah used this same kind of language to depict utter desolation. “And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof” (Isa 34:13). Such a condition happens when no care is taken for the area, nor does anyone live there, nor are any treasures found there. Thus it becomes overgrown with the very things once cleared from the land.
WHEN THORNS GROW IN THEIR TABERNACLES. “Thorns shall be in their tabernacles,” or tents. NKJV The reason thorns grew in their habitations is because no people were in them. In other words, the land was left desolate, and only harmful plants and offensive creatures dwelt there.
Centuries later, Jesus would announce a similar judgment upon the city of Jerusalem. “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Mat 23:38). That is what this text is saying – desolation would come upon the Lord’s land, the holy city, and the Temple of God. And it would all take place because the people had left their God and served others.
APPLICATION. Something similar to this is taking place in our very day. For those who can receive it, the modern church has gone to the world for help. The corrupt church has borrowed the world’s wisdom and adopted its ways. As a result, it is perishing in the very place from which it was once delivered – the world. It is being gathered and buried in the territory of the enemy. Its carnality is its demise, for God will not allow a people to bear His name while forming alliances with those who hate Him. The word of the Lord to Jehosaphat is being fulfilled again: “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD” (2 Chron 19:2). These are days when “the remnant” must be especially sensitive and alert.
THE DAYS OF VISITATION ARE COME
“ 7 The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.”
This kind of stern language was required because of false prophets within the land. In the words of Amos the people were saying, “The calamity shall not overtake nor confront us” NKJV (Amos 9:10). Jeremiah faced the same kind of prophets. They responded to his word concerning the invasion of king Nebuchadnezzar, “The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?” (Jer 37:19). Now, Hosea buttresses his words with the announcement that the day of wrath is upon them. When the day actually arrives, those who are sensitive will be able to associate what has taken place with the Word of the Lord.
THE DAYS OF VISITATION. “The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come.” The word “visitation” means “that which is laid up – a reckoning.” STRONG’S In This case, it is equivalent to “punishment.” NKJV When Jesus stood ready to gather the people together, bringing them redemption, it was also called a “visitation” (Lk 19:44). In that case, blessings were “stored up” for them, as declared by the prophets. Jesus came to give it, but they refused to receive it. In this text, however, it is wrath that had been “stored up” – similar to the word delivered by James: “Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days” (James 5:3). Paul used the same kind of expression in referring to the great and notable day of the Lord: “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom 2:5). This is what was occurring in the kingdom of Israel. In all of their religious activities, they were actually storing up Divine wrath against themselves. During the very time that was allotted to them for repentance and recovery, they were provoking the Lord, and moving Him against them. Now the time of reaping has arrived – “the days of visitation.” It will be a crop that they themselves have sown. Isaiah associated this “visitation” with “desolation” (Isa 10:3). Jeremiah associated it with being “cast down” (Jer 8:12), perishing (Jer 10:15), and the Lord bringing evil upon them (Jer 23:12). Micah connected it with “their perplexity” (Mic 7:4). Paul called it the “recompense of their error which was meet” (Rom 1:27). This is a Divine manner of which we do well to be aware.
ISRAEL SHALL KNOW IT. “Israel shall know it.” The idea here is that what Israel refused to know through faith, they would come to realize from experience – they would feel the effects of their sin through tribulation and hardship. The tragic part of it all is that they would know too late – that is, they would know that it is God with whom they had to do, and that they had provoked Him, moving Him to anger against them. God will be “justified in all of His sayings” – publically (Rom 3:4). Ultimately, this will take place on the day of judgment. However, there are occasions when the contradiction of sinners is revealed in this world. Paul referred to this when he wrote, “Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after” (1 Tim 5:24). In Israel’s case, their sin has been made known “beforehand” – “preceding them to judgment.” NKJV
FOOLS AND MAD MEN. “ . . . the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad.” Other versions read, “The spiritual man is insane,” NKJV “demented,” NASB “a maniac,” NIV and “off his head.” BBE There are two senses in which this text can be taken. First, that the false prophets that were speaking to Israel were really fools and mad. Second, that the people regarded Hosea and other prophets like him as fools and mad. While it is true that Israel viewed faithful prophets as madmen (Jer 18:18; 26:9), that is not the meaning of this verse. Here the point is that when Israel is judged by God in a very apparent manner, it will become evident to them that they had been listening to fools and madmen who said they were prophets. This view of false prophets is often mentioned in the Scriptures (Jer 6:14; 8:11; 13:16-17; Lam 2:14; Ezek 13:3; Zeph 3:4). When the religion people have embraced fails them in the hour of crisis, it is because the perpetrators of that religion were nothing more than fools and madmen.
INIQUITY AND HATRED. “ . . . for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.” Another version reads, “Because of the grossness of your iniquity, and because your hostility is so great.” NASB This is the Divine explanation of the corruption of their prophets and spiritual men – it was caused by the corruption of the people themselves. Their iniquity was unusually perverse, and they had aligned themselves against the Lord, as His adversaries. Paul would explain this in these words: “but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Tim 4:3). This kind of situation exists within the professed church, and it is even more lamentable than the condition existing during Hosea’s life.