COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
LESSON NUMBER 47
“ 11:1 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. 2 As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images. 3 I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.” (Hosea 11:1-3)
The choosing, deliverance, and tutelage of Israel were not a Divine experiment. It was not a plan that failed. Primarily, Israel was chosen in order to bring forth the Messiah. It was a holy lineage, fathered by Abraham, and tutored in the Law, that provided an environment into which the Savior would be born. From a practical viewpoint, the nation of Israel provided a living example of the impotence of the flesh. It made known the extent of the fall, which rendered humanity virtually impervious to Divine direction. This is seen in the remarkable statement: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Cor 10:11). The word “happened” is common in most versions and means, “to transpire, turn out, or come to pass.” STRONG’S Jesus used this word to prophecy what was going to occur, or take place when He was crucified (Mk 10:32). Peter used it to convey the idea of purposeful sufferings (1 Pet 4:12). In regards to this lesson, it speaks of Divine working – a working that is designed to teach US something. In particular, God revealed the futility of fleshly religion in Israel. He confirmed that the fall of man was so thorough that a new creation was required. Man had to receive a new heart and a new spirit in order to be acceptable to God. If we will read Hosea with this in mind, we will cease to marvel at their obstinance, and begin to marvel at the longsuffering and patience of the God of heaven. This is a truth that has been hidden by much of the current religious emphasis, which is being placed upon human will and effort rather than “the wonderful works of God.”
DIVINE LOVE AND CALLING
“ 11:1 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt.”
The Lord now begins to emphasize how thoroughly he had loved Israel, and how that love had been rejected. The rejection of His love was inexcusable, even though it reflected the fallen human nature. God cannot countenance sin, even when it is driven by the very nature of the fallen ones. It is imperative that this be seen, and we rid ourselves of inaccurate views of God – views that present Him in a sort of sympathetic and melancholy way. We will find that it is God’s nature to love and hate – love His offspring, yet hate those who spurn His love. This is true because God’s nature will not allow Him to divorce a person from what he does. That is precisely why men are going to be judged “according to their works” (2 Cor 11:15; Rev 10:12-13).
WHEN ISRAEL WAS A CHILD. Some versions read, “When Israel, was a youth.” NASB/NAU The idea is not that of newborn infant, but of a young boy. This has particular reference to the beginning stages of this nation, when Jacob and company went down into Egypt to be with Joseph. They were only seventy in number at that time (Ex 1:1-5). This number is also recorded in Genesis 46:26,27, where Joseph and his two sons are said to included. Moses alluded to this small number when preparing Israel to go into Canaan. “Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now the LORD thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude” (Deut 10:22). This was Israel as a child, or in its youth.
That period of time, when they were in Egypt, and prior to the raising up of a Pharaoh that “knew not Joseph” (Ex 1:8; Acts 7:18), was a time of blessing for Israel. It stands unique in their history, being preceded by hatred of the patriarchs for Joseph (Gen 37:4-8), and followed by the sordid history of their rebellion against God (Deut 9:24).
THEN I LOVED HIM. There is no record of Israel rebelling against the Lord while in Egypt – unless it be when they first rejected Moses (Ex 2:13-14; Acts 7:26). During that time they flourished under the great love of God: “And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them” (Ex 1:7). Joseph had assigned a special place for them to live – Goshen – where they were cared for during the years of grievous famine (Gen 45:10-11), and where they resided until their deliverance (Gen 47:27; Ex 8:22).
Until an antagonistic Pharaoh arose, the nation continued to flourish and grow in pleasant circumstances. It was there, in Egypt, that their number grew until “the land was filled with them” (Ex 1:7). They had their own land, even “the best of the land” (Gen 47:6,11), with no undue hardship or disturbance. It was the time of their “youth,” when they were coming of age. God was in all of this, causing a peaceful; and productive environment for them.
Our text does not trace those pleasant beginnings to the kindness of the Egyptians, but to the love of God. It was His love that brought their growth and prosperity, not their own hard work, or the congenial nature of the Egyptians.
I CALLED MY SON OUT OF EGYPT. This refers to the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. That deliverance was preceded by harsh treatment – treatment that appeared to contradict the love of God. An antagonistic Pharaoh set over them “taskmasters to afflict them with their burden.” They were wrested from their agricultural existence, and made to build “for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Rameses” (Ex 1:11). When the people continued to increase, they were made “to serve with rigor,” and “their lives were made bitter with hard bondage” (Ex 1:13-14). Even their male babies were consigned to death (Ex 1:22; Acts 7:19). That turn of events would set the stage for Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.
It was, when there was a marked discontent with Egypt, that God called them out of that land to go to the place He had prepared for them. It was then that Moses was called to inform Pharaoh that Israel was God’s “firstborn” son, and that he was to let Israel go so they could serve the Lord (Ex 4:23). That deliverance is one of the great epoch’s of Scripture, being the occasion where God made Himself a name “throughout all the earth” (Ex 9:16). The Passover feast, during which Jesus was crucified, memorialized that great deliverance. Most Scriptures refer to God leading them out of Egypt (Ex 13:18), bringing them out (Jer 2:6), or delivering them (1 Sam 10:18). Our text says He “CALLED” them out, accenting that the time had come for them to inherit the land God had promised – a powerful call, indeed!
This text also served to introduce the Savior, who Himself would be called out of Egypt to grow up in the promised land. The Spirit affirms that Joseph took the young child into Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod, in order that this text might be fulfilled (Matt 2:15). This confirms that the whole reason for Israel pertained to the coming Christ. That was the ultimate reason for calling Abraham, the blessing of the twelve patriarchs, and even the giving of the Law.
THE IGNORED CALLING
“ 2 As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.”
AS THEY CALLED. Other versions read, “The more I called unto them,” NASB “But the more I called unto Israel,” NIV “The more the prophets called unto them,” ASV and “the more they were called.” ESV The idea is that God called to them repeatedly through the holy prophets, who are the “they” of our text. In the eleventh verse, Hosea uses the same language: “And my people are bent to backsliding from Me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt Hm” (Hosea 11:7). Before the prophets, He also called to them through Moses (Deut 29: 2-4), and through Samuel (1 Sam 8:7).
The ministry of the prophets is consistently affirmed throughout the Scriptures. God “hewed” Israel “by the prophets” (Hos 6:5). He faithfully sent them, “daily rising up early and sending them” (Jer 7:25; 25:4; 26:5; 29:29; 35:15). The earnestness with which He called to Israel is seen in His words through Jeremiah. “Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate” (Jer 44:4). The prophets were always sent “early,” giving Israel time to repent and change their ways.
This is a Divine manner, for God “is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). When those professing the name of the Lord drop off into sin, it is not inadvertent. It is not a mere mistake, or a case of bad judgment. It is not because they suddenly were caught unaware. God will not allow such a circumstance to happen. As it is written, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor 10:13).
When professing believers sin, they have barged over Divine restraints, quenched and resisted the Spirit, and refused to hearken to the voice of the Lord. If God would not allow Israel, under an inferior covenant, to proceed without due warning, you may be sure those under a “better covenant” will not be allowed to do so. When sin is expressed in a covenanted people, it is always a most serious matter. We just not allow the merchants of psychological and religious babble to convince us this is not the case.
THEY WENT FROM THEM. Other versions read, “the more they went from them,” NASB and “the further they went from Me.” NIV In confirmation of this, the Scriptures testify of this hardness. During the time of the kings, the Lord “Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the LORD; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear” (2 Chron 24:19). Late in their history the Lord testified, “Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in His Spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts” (Zech 7:12).
How could such a thing happen? This condition is explained in the Prophets. The message of the Prophets, while a genuine call back to God, actually made the people worse – and that by Divine intention. “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed” (Isa 6:10). The Prophets accentuated the wretched condition of the Israelites by speaking the Word of the Lord. Truth causes the heart set to sin to become harder and more determined to continue in the path of iniquity. This is also affirmed by Isaiah. “To whom He said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. But the Word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken” (Isa 28:13). When men are hardened against God, truth makes them even harder.
THEY SACRIFICED AND BURNED INCENSE. They sacrificed to Baals (“Baalim”) and burned incense to graven image with the sound of the Prophets in their ears. Other versions read, “they kept sacrificing.” NASB/RSV The refusal to hear the words of the Prophets was prompted by their preference for sin. Therefore they obstinately continued in their waywardness, having no regard for the truth. Sin causes this kind of hardness.
This is the Old Covenant parallel of quenching and grieving the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 5:19; Eph 4:30). That resistence not limited to refusing to hear what the Spirit is saying. The refusal is made in order that one may continue in the very transgression from which God is calling them. Continuance in sin is always the prelude to Divine judgment.
GENTLE TEACHING IGNORED
“ 3 I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.”
I TAUGHT EPHRAIM ALSO. Other versions read, “I taught Ephraim to walk,” NKJV and “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk.” NIV The picture is one of a tender Father, gently taking the hand of the child to lead them, picking him up when he fell, and holding him lovingly in His arms. All of that was involved in learning to walk – learning to navigate in moral realms, where proper choices were required. The Law defined the territory in which Israel was to walk, and Divine direction guided their path and upheld them as learned to walk “uprightly” (Psa 15:2; 84:11).
This kind of direction is also depicted in the words of the Lord to Israel: “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto Myself” (Ex 19:4). In this case, being taught to “go,” or to “walk,” was not merely learning to fend for oneself. This was a walk that was toward the Lord – coming, as it were, to Him. God taught Israel how to do this – how to approach to Him. He taught them about the necessity of sobriety, sacrifice, and obedience. They were learning to walk. This required a profound humbling on the part of God, who “humbleth Himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!” (Psa 113:6). How profoundly He demonstrated this in Israel of whom it is written, “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with Him” (Deu 32:11-12).
TAKING THEM BY THE ARMS. Other versions read, “I took them in My arms,” NASB and “I took them up in my arms.” NRSV It is as though the Lord took them by their arms and gently lifted them to His shoulders, as the gentle shepherd of whom Jesus spoke: “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing” (Luke 15:5). All of these remarkable advantages were easily forgotten by Israel, as they preferred their own waywardness to being led by the King of glory.
THEY DID NOT KNOW. Other versions read, “but they did not realize it was I who healed them.” NIV This was a healing that actually was realized before they were sick. As it is written, “I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee” (Ex 15:26). This accounted for their wellness during their wilderness journeying. Though wanderers, yet their feet did not swell during those forty years (Deut 8:4). God had promised them if they would serve Him He would “take sickness away from the midst” of them (Ex 23:25). Earlier God said through Hosea, “When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria” (Hosea 7:1). Later, God even declares He would heal Israel’s “backsliding,” which is a most remarkable healing (Hos 14:4).
Even though it had been said of God in the Psalms, “who healeth all thy diseases” (Psa 103:3), yet Israel remained obtuse concerning that truth – a truth that had been revealed to them in word and by personal experience. They gave the glory that was due to the Lord alone to others.
David, who was a man after God’s heart, expressed the proper response: “O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and Thou hast healed me” (Psa 30:2). The promise was even made that God would “make all his bed in his sickness” (Psa 41:3). Through Isaiah, God spoke of a time when “the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick”(Isa 33:24). Jeremiah had written, “Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed” (Jer 17:14).
In spite of all of these words, promises, and experiences, Israel fell into such a state in which they “knew not” God had healed them. That is what sin does to a people. It prompts forgetfulness of otherwise unforgettable things.
There are still people who have had an identity with God, yet presently do not know that He is the One who washed them, sanctified them, and cleansed them, making them acceptable. There are people who do not know God has qualified them for the inheritance He has prepared for those who love Him. This lack of knowledge is the direct result of unbelief and giving one’s self to the ways of the world. We must give all diligence to learn from Israel, whose record has been written “for our admonition, upon whom, the ends of the world are come” (1 Cor 10:11). Those who fail to profit from this inspired record will be judged with much greater severity than Israel. Such have “trodden under foot the Son of God,” considered the blood of the covenant “an unholy thing,” and “done despite to the Spirit of grace” (Heb 10:29). It is difficult to conceive of something more serious than that.