COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
LESSON NUMBER 41
“ 9:15 All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of Mine house, I will love them no more: all their princes are revolters. 16 Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb. 17 My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto Him: and they shall be wanderers among the nations.” (Hosea 9:15-17)
The Divine diagnosis of Israel continues. A tone of sorrow is found in the words of the Prophet – a tone that reflects the mind of the Lord. It brings no delight to the Lord to speak in such a manner to His people, or to declare what He must do because of their iniquity. In this world, there are sadists who derive pleasure from inflicting pain, suffering, and humiliation upon others. But this is not the case with the God of heaven! In pouring forth His judgments, He is not acting out of a sense of pleasure, but rather because of His holiness. There is a sharp conflict between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man – a conflict that will eventually mandate judgment if that sinfulness is not acknowledged and abandoned. This perception has nearly been washed away by the corrupted doctrines of our time. God is not viewed as intolerant of and offended by sin. Somehow people have developed the notion that sin has no effect upon the Lord. The presence of this type of thinking is indicative of an apostate age. In His dealings with Israel, and through the faithful words of the Prophets, God has acquainted us with His nature, and how He is affected by iniquity. In the day of judgment, we will find there is no excuse for those who profess identity with Jesus to be ignorant of these things. They have been clearly revealed.
HATED, AND LOVED NO MORE
“ 9:15 All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of Mine house, I will love them no more: all their princes are revolters.”
We must fix in our minds that God is not speaking to the heathen – such as Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, or the nations that formerly occupied Canaan. These words are addressed to the chosen people (Deut 7:6), upon whom He had set His love (Deut 7:7). These are the people He delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians and all who oppressed them, giving them the land of Canaan (Josh 6:9). He “planted” them in Canaan as a “noble vine, wholly a right seed” (Jer 2:21), giving them every conceivable advantage (Isa 5:1-2). Therefore, it is wholly out of order for any person to speculate or hypothesize about how God reacts when sin is found in a people upon whom He has poured forth His love. Not only has the nature of God been expounded doctrinally (Ex 20:5; 34:7; Heb 10:30-31), it has been demonstrated historically in the nation of Israel – both before Christ (as in our text), and after Christ (as in the destruction of Jerusalem (Lk 19:42-44).
ALL THEIR WICKEDNESS IS IN GILGAL. Other versions read, “Every evil of theirs began at Gilgal.” NRSV Here we will find that just as great revivals can be traced to a single place and often a single event, so departures from God can be traced to certain places and events. Gilgal had been the place of significant blessings. There the covenant of circumcision was renewed, rolling away the reproach of Egypt (Josh 5:7-9). There the Passover began to be kept consistently (John 5:10). There is where the twelve memorial stones were set up (Josh 4:20). Gilgal is where the Captain of the Lord’s hosts appeared to Joshua, assuring him of victory over Jericho (Josh 5:10,14-15). Elijah was translated to heaven from Gilgal (2 Kgs 2:1). This was surely a place of blessing!
Yet, Gilgal had become the focus of great corruption. That is where king Saul rebelled against the word of the Lord (1 Sam 15:21-33). That is where Israel developed and maintained corrupt religion (Hos 4:15; 9:15; 12:10; Amos 4:4; 5:5). That is where the people rejected God in favor of having a king like other nations(1 Sam 11:14-15). That is where their forms of worship were defiled. Therefore, it had become the center of their sin! As Amos said, “Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years” (Amos 4:4). Israel’s corruption is traced back to the place where their religion became defiled! That is the precise point where their sin became prominent, enslaving, and without restraint. Oh, what a lesson is to learned here!
THERE I HATED THEM. Other versions read, “I came to hate them,” NASB “I began to hate them,” ESV and “they incurred My hatred.” NAB There, in the very place where great blessings had been enjoyed, God “hated” the very people He had chosen! Before they entered Canaan, God told the people through Moses that if they departed from Him, “My soul shall abhor you” (Lev 26:30). Through Ezekiel God said of Israel, “My mind was alienated from her” (Ezek 23:18). Through Zecharaiah He said, “My soul loathed them” (Zech 11:8). David said of the Lord, “He abhorred His own inheritance” (Psa 106:40). Asaph wrote of God’s anger smoking against “the sheep” of His “pasture” (Psa 74:1).
Let us have done with the absurdity that God hates the sin but loves the sinner. It is not true, for this text throws that imagination down to the ground. God does not say “I hated their sin,” but “I hated THEM.” That is not the assessment of a man, but the revelation of God Himself – and God cannot change! It is inexcusable to embrace spurious and erroneous views of God when He has spoken with such clarity on this subject.
I WILL DRIVE THEM OUT OF MINE HOUSE. God would expel His people from His house “for the wickedness of their doings” – just as surely as He drove out the former inhabitants of Canaan because of the same reprehensible practices (Deut 9:5; 18:12). Here, “Mine house” refers to the land of Canaan – “His land” (Joel 2:18). Earlier Hosea said, “I will utterly take them away” (1:6), and “They shall not dwell in the Lord’s land” (9:3). When God appeared to Solomon “the second time,” He told him, “if ye . . . go and serve other gods, and worship them: then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them” (1 Kgs 9:6-7). Now Hosea announces that judgment is coming to pass.
I WILL LOVE THEM NO MORE. That is, He would have no more mercy upon them (1:6); He would not set His love upon them, treating them in a preferred manner. Any consideration of them would only be “for the father’s sake” (Rom 11:28).
ALL THEIR PRINCES ARE REVOLTERS. “Revolters are “rebellious,” NKJV or “rebels.” NASB Their leaders and officials were stubborn and withdrawn, and were against God Almighty.
THEIR ROOT IS DRIED UP
“ 16 Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb.”
The language here is strong, and rightly so, for the sin of Israel had become contemptible in God’s sight. It is no wonder we are admonished, “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil” (Psa 97:10). One of the indispensable traits of the Savior is stated in Hebrews 1:9, together with the Father’s response to it. “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” A tolerance for sin is sure evidence of a departure from the thrice-holy God.
EPHRAIM IS SMITTEN. Other versions read “stricken,” NKJV or “blighted.” NIV This is the judgment of God against Israel – a consignment to barrenness. The thought of God smiting or striking someone is most fearful to contemplate. The following expressions are contained in Scripture. “I will smite them with pestilence” (num 14:12), “I will smite the inhabitants of this city” (Jer 21:6), “the Lord will smite thee” (Deut 28:27; Isa 3:17; Zech). One of the marks of our salvation is that the Father smote the Son in order that we might go free (Isa 53:4). Divine smiting is always of a most serious nature.
THEIR ROOT IS DRIED UP. Fruitlessness is not by happenstance. It is a state brought on by God – a result of His judgment. Their root being “dried up” is equivalent to the “ax” being “laid unto the root of the tree” (Matt 3:10). This represents a sort of double cursing. The tree of Israel was smitten above the ground with a blight, and beneath the ground by its root being dried up. Even in Job’s day, this kind of judgement was known: “His roots shall be dried up beneath, and above shall his branch be cut off” (Job 18:16). Isaiah spoke of imposed barrenness in these words: “their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust” (Isa 9:16). Malachi referred to this judgment as God leaving “neither root nor branch” (Mal 4:1).
The drying up of Israel’s root would be equivalent to its rulers, priests, and prophets becoming impotent, and unable to sustain the people. Certain prophetic language fulfills this figure: “All thy rulers are fled together” (Isa 22:3), “Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee” (Lam 2:14), and Again, “the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder” (Jer 4:9). Thus, all of the means by which the people were preserved, were cut off, dried up, and rendered ineffectual.
An Application. When leadership becomes corrupt, and those appointed to direct men toward the Lord become corrupt and ineffectual, consideration must be given to whether or not God has withdrawn from the situation. There came a day when the glory of God departed from Israel. As it is written, “the glory of God is departed from Israel: for the ark of God was taken” (1 Sam 4:21-22).
Amos spoke of a famine God would impose upon a wayward people. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it” (Amos 8:11-12). Could it be that the scarcity of the Word of God in our country is actually a famine that God has sent upon the land? Has He dried up the root as He did in Israel? This is certainly something to prayerfully ponder.
THEY SHALL BEAR NO FRUIT. Because they were stricken with a blight, and their root dried up, fruit became impossible. Fruit postulates a healthy tree and root. Where these do not exist, fruit becomes hopeless. Keep in mind that Israel was the “house” of the Lord, and Judah was His “pleasant plant” (Isa 5:7). Yet, because (and only because) of her waywardness and corruption, they were reduced to a state of fruitlessness. Those who affirm that waywardness does not produce such a state could not possibly be more wrong.
There is such a thing as a spiritual condition in which God will not allow fruit. He will smite the tree He has planted, and dry up the root He has originated, rather than allow a tree that has been corrupted to bear fruit. It seems to me that this explains the remarkable state of barrenness that exists in many professed churches, and within many who choose to call themselves “Christians.”
I WILL SLAY EVEN THE BELOVED FRUIT. The language is very abrasive: “Yes, were they to bear children, I would kill the darlings of their womb.” NKJV There is no need to speculate about the meaning of this text. It is quite clear. Our objective must be to avoid falling into a state where our religion is our weakness, and our profession of faith is a lie.
CAST AWAY BECAUSE THEY DID NOT HEARKEN
“ 17 My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto Him: and they shall be wanderers among the nations.”
There is a tone of lamentation in Hosea’s words, for he cares for the people. Yet, he must announce what will take place because of their sin, as other prophets have done. John the Baptist had to deliver a similar message: “And now the ax is laid unto the root of the tree” (Matt 3:10). Jesus also declared such a message: “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matt 23:38). Paul also spoke in this way: “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (2 Thess 2:11). Peter did the same: “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Pet 4:17).
God will not tolerate sin among His people! Although it is an unpopular message, it still needs to be declared. God will not be mocked (Gal 6:7) – and sin always mocks Him.
MY GOD. Those who walk by faith refer to God in this manner – not because they own God, but because God owns them, and they acquiesce to it. Men who have spoken in this way include Jacob (Gen 29:21), Moses (Ex 15:2), Joshua (Josh 9:23), David (2 Sam 22:7), Solomon (1 Kgs 3:7), Micaiah (2 Chron 18:13), Ezra (Ezra 7:28), Nehemiah (Neh 2:8), Isaiah (Isa 25:1), Jeremiah (Jer 31:18), Daniel (Dan 6:2), Joel (Joel 1:13), Jonah (Jonah 2:6), Micah (Mic 7:7), Habakkuk (Hab 1:12), Paul (Rom1:7), and our blessed Lord Himself (Rev 3:12).
This expression – “my God” – declares that the one saying it is in agreement with God – whether in the matter of blessing or cursing. He is delivering a message with which he agrees, and concerning which he has understanding.
CAST THEM AWAY. Here is a Scriptural definition of an expression used by Paul: “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor 9:27). Some have taught this does not mean Divine repudiation or rejection, but merely denotes the loss of some rewards. Such a position is sheer folly. In Hosea’s word, casting away is associated with God driving the people out of His house (v 15a), not loving them anymore (v 15b), smiting them with a blight (16a), drying up their root (16b), making them fruitless (16c), and slaying the beloved of their womb (16d). What is there in such language that could possibly move a person to reason that God never casts away a people He has once accepted? Here is a people God Himself originated, led, provided for, and showered with His goodness. Now He will “cast them away,” as something that is worthless. Isaiah spoke of this in language that shakes the lethargic soul: “Thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth” (Isa 30:22).
BECAUSE THEY DID NOT HEARKEN. And why will the Lord take such drastic measures? This certainly is not done in haste, for He is “slow to anger” (Neh 9:7; Psa 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nah 1:3). He is “longsuffering, and of great mercy” (Num 14:18). Yet, where men obstinately refuse to hearken to His voice, there comes a time when His longsuffering ends, and His anger overflows in judgment.
To “hearken” means to “hear intelligently, listen to, obey, to hear with attention or interest, to consent and agree, and to yield to.” STRONG’S In our culture, when it comes to a response to God’s Word, this is an exceedingly rare attitude. Yet, those who do not possess it are headed for sure judgment. They are about to fall into the hands of the Living God, for He will not long abide a people’s lack of interest in what He says. The fierce judgment that is being declared by Hosea was occasioned by people under the Old Covenant failing to listen to God. What will be His response to those who are living in “the day of salvation,” when a “better covenant established upon better promises” is in force? There is no need for us to philosophize about this matter. God has spoken on the subject. “He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know Him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people” (Heb 10:28-30). What God did to Israel is nothing compared to how He will respond to unbelief and a lack of response among those who are identified with His Son.
WANDERERS AMONG THE NATIONS. Israel would be dispersed among the nations, becoming vagabonds with no certain dwelling place. Moses prophesied they would be scattered among all people, finding “no ease” (Deut 28:64-65). Amos said God would “sift the house of Israel among all nations,” leaving none but the remnant (Amos 9:9). The dispersion or scattering of Israel was a judgment from God because they did not listen to Him.