COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 11:10 They shall walk after the LORD: He shall roar like a lion: when He shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west. 11 They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith the LORD. 12 Ephraim compasseth Me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.” (Hosea 11:10-12)
Ultimately, the remedy for backsliding must come from God. It is true that men must repent, call upon the name of the Lord, and engage in a hearty effort to seek the Lord. But the initiative belongs to God, not man. This is a critical point of “sound doctrine.” When it comes to identity with God, everything has its genesis with Him. Thus it is written, “all things are of God” (2 Cor 5:18). And again, “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom 11:36). Faith has no difficulty with this, while unbelief refuses to receive it. Notwithstanding, this is a true representation of the case. This is dramatically confirmed in the message Hosea delivers to Israel, who was noted for her backsliding (Jer 2:19; 3:6,8,11,12,14,22; 5:6; 8:5; 14:7; 31:22; 49:4; Hos 4:16; 11:7; 14:4). God will remedy her condition by bringing a remnant out of her. He will awaken her where she is held in bondage and in a hopeless state. God will not ignore the punishment of the wicked. He will not overlook the transgression of His people. Yet He calls out to the remnant, assuring them that His arm is able to deal with the situation that grieves them as well as God Himself. Particularly those in Christ Jesus must hear the sound of these words, for they have an even more precise application to the body of Christ than to wayward Israel. We are hearing the plaintive voice of a God who cannot forget His people – who has engraved them upon the palms of His hands (Isa 49:16).
THEY SHALL WALK AFTER THE LORD
“ 11:10 They shall walk after the LORD: He shall roar like a lion: when He shall roar.”
THEY SHALL WALK AFTER THE LORD. Other versions read, “They will follow the Lord,” NIV and “They shall go after the Lord.” NRSV See how significantly this differs from what the people of Israel are presently doing. Now they are “backsliding.” Their condition will be completely reversed, and “they shall walk after the Lord” – the exact opposite of backsliding. This is the “Lord’s doing,” and “it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psa 118:23).
Isaiah foresees such a time and says, “O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD” (Isa 2:5). Jeremiah affirms, “They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn” (Jer 31:9). Micah prophesies, “For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever” (Micah 4:5). Zechariah declares, “And I will strengthen them in the LORD; and they shall walk up and down in His name, saith the LORD” (Zech 10:12).
This is a promise of restoration – something that can only be accomplished by the Lord. The Lord promises, “And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city” (Isa 1:26). And again, “For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD” (Jer 30:17). This is WHY God determined NOT to make a “full end” of Israel (Jer 4:27; 5:18; 30:11). He had purpose to restore them to Himself.
This is a reiteration of the promise Hosea gave earlier: “afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days” (Hosea 3:5). This is a prophecy of Israel’s embrace of the Messiah – of their conversion, when God breathes life to them, as in Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones (Ezek 37). Those who believe that God is finished with Israel must find a way to get this promise out of the Bible. Thank God, they will not be able to do so.
Walking “after the Lord” involves obedience, but is not obedience itself. Walking is more extensive than obedience. It is not always prefaced with a command to be obeyed. Often it involves a promise to be received. Walking, or following, involves attentiveness to the Lord’s Person, as well as His Word. It occurs when one can be guided by the Lord’s “eye” (Psa 32:8). This is the manner of Christ’s kingdom. His sheep hear His voice, He knows them, and they follow Him (John 10:27). That is not the way it OUGHT to be, but the way it IS? Any approach to Christianity that allows for any other posture is false to the core.
Following presumes change of heart. There is a preference for the Lord, a love for His word, and a delight in His presence. When the Lord gives the signal, these are the people who rise up and follow Him – wherever He goes. Where these factors are not found, following the Lord simply is not possible. In such a case, there must be more commandments, more rules, more guidelines. Such a need is not pleasing the Lord or satisfying to the people.
HE SHALL ROAR LIKE A LION. This is the roar of summons, when God calls His people with an effectual call. Joel spoke of the Lord roaring “out of Zion,” and doing so as “the Hope of His people, and the strength of the children of Israel” (Joel 3:16).
Elsewhere this Divine summons is mentioned in other ways. “And He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isa 11:12). “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem” (Isa 27:13). “Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up Mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up My standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders” (Isa 49:22). The idea is that a sense of the Lord’s desire for His people will register upon their hearts, and they will be drawn to Him. This may be done through the prophets, their recollection of God’s promises, or some other way. However it takes places, awareness can be traced back to the Lord roaring like a mighty lion for His people to awake and come to Him.
It should not surprise us that such power is associated with the Lord’s calling. The Lord has been known for calling “for a famine” (2 Kgs 8:1; Psa 105:16), “a drought” (Hag 1:11), “a sword” (Jer 25:29), and “corn” (Ezek 36:29). How blessed it is to ponder Him calling forth a scattered people, making them aware of His longing for them. The same God who can “call” an assembly of enemies against His people (Lam 1:15), can call them to Himself.
TREMBLING YET PLACED
“ 10b . . . then the children shall tremble from the West. 11 They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith the LORD.”
THE CHILDREN WILL TREMBLE FROM THE WEST. When the voice of the Lord is known, it produces this “trembling,” which occurs in “the flesh” (Psa 119:120), and is attended with rejoicing (Psa 2:11). Where this “trembling” is not experienced, the presence of the Lord is not known (Jer 5:22). This is the “trembling” with which we work out our own salvation (Phil 2:12). When Moses was aware of God at Sinai, he responded “I exceedingly fear and quake”(Heb 12:21). That is the consistent response of men in this world to God’s presence (Acts 5:11).
“The West” speaks of the areas into which Israel was eventually dispersed. This involved a multiplicity of nations, as the Prophets indicated (Deut 30:3; Jer 30:11; Ezek 6:8; Joel 3:2; Zech 7:14). The expression “trembling from the West” means the people will come without delay, being the more conscious of God Himself. The ONLY people who delay to come to the Lord are those who are not aware of Him.
Elsewhere the Lord said of this grand gathering, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country” (Zech 8:7).
TREMBLE AS A BIRD OUT OF EGYPT, AND DOVE OUT OF ASSYRIA. Other versions properly read, “they shall COME trembling as a bird.” NKJV/NASB/NIV Egypt and Syria were where Israel had sought for help, and upon whom they tended to rely (Hos 9:3). Of this Hosea said, “Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria” (Hosea 7:11).
But now, Israel will not take flight like a “silly dove,” deprived of good sense. Instead, it will fly with focus back to where it belongs. The idea is that the people would hurry back to God, for doves are noted for their swift flight. Isaiah spoke of this flight in most vivid language, emphasizing the focus with which Israel would return to the Lord. “Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?” (Isa 60:8). As the dove, when first released by Noah, returned to him, finding no rest for “the sole of her foot” in the earth (Gen 8:8-9), so Israel would come trembling to the Lord.
Isaiah says of this swift return, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem” (Isa 27:13). How glorious will be the day when the promise is fulfilled: “They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn” (Jer 31:9).
Not to be overlooked is the fact that neither the West, the Egyptians nor the Assyrians will be able to stop the return of Israel to the Lord, or the placement of them in their land. God allowed all of these heathen nations to have power of His people during their chastening. But this was never intended to be a permanent circumstance.
I WILL PLACE THEM IN THEIR HOUSES. Other versions read, “settle them,” NASB “return them,” NRSV and “restore them,” SEPTUAGINT and “make them dwell.” JPS The idea is that of a safe habitation – not in “the munitions of rocks” (Isa 33:16), or within a strong fortress (Isa 17:3). Being placed in their own houses is a figure of speech denoting being delivered from fear. This does not exclude the outward relocation of Israel in their own land and houses. However, it is not limited to that. The Lord would “cause them to dwell safely,” where they belonged– in their own houses (Jer 32:37). This is not something THEY would do. It is what the Lord Himself will do.
Ultimately, this refers to the time when the Deliverer will come out of Zion and “turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom 11:26). Jeremiah says of this time, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is His name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jer 23:5-6). Again, after speaking of the raising up of the “Branch of righteous,” Jeremiah prophesies, “In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness” (Jer 33:16). This is an example of the Lord delighting Himself in the prospect of gathering the people, against whom He had spoken, to Himself – as in the final words of the book of Zechariah (Zeph 3:17-20).
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EPHRAIM AND JUDAH
“ 12 Ephraim compasseth Me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.”
COMPASSETH ME ABOUT WITH LIES. Other versions read, “encircle Me with lies,” NKJV “surrounds Me with lies,” NASB “besieges Me with lying,” NJB and “compassed Me with feigning.” YLT This is speaking of Israel’s religious demeanor – what God saw in their solemn assemblies. It is how God viewed their profession, their worship, and their outward religious activities. He saw the people as surrounding Him with lies and deceit. What they were presenting was not real, but fabricated. It was nothing more than religious pretension.
The Lord spoke of this condition frequently. “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men” (Isa 29:13). Jesus said the people of His generation were characterized by the same condition (Matt 15:8; Mk 7:6). Their religion was like scattering lies all around the Lord, filling His ears with their pretension. For this reason, He called them a “hypocritical nation” (Isa 10:6), who “made mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth” (Isa 48:1). He pictured them as a people who sought Him “daily,” delighted to “know My ways,” “forsook not the ordinances of their God,” asked Him for “the ordinances of justice,” and “take delight in approaching to God.” Yet, the Lord disowned their service because they fasted “for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness” (Isa 58:2-4). They were compassing, or surrounding, the Lord “with lies.”
I have often pondered if this is not the way in which the Lord views much of the professed Christian activity of our day. There is too little heart in it, and too much flesh!
JUDAH YET RULETH WITH GOD. Other versions read, “Judah still walks with God,” NKJV/NRSV/ESV “is still known by God,” RSV “is still on God’s side,” NJB and “yet walks with God.” DARBY Still other versions read, “unruly against God,” NASB/NIV “yet wayward towards God,” JPS and “is still rebellious.” NAB
The conflicting modern versions are wrong in their depiction of Judah still rebelling against God. Although they were certainly guilty of sin (Hos 5:10,12,14; 6:4), from an even higher view, they had maintained the ordained kingly lineage, from which Israel had departed. Thus God had promised He would have mercy on the house of Judah (1:7). He contrasts them with Israel’s abhorrent ways (4:15). By saying Judah was “ruling” with God, He means they had maintained the proper lineage of both kings and priests, while Israel, under Jeroboam (of the tribe of Ephraim, not of the Davidic line – 1 Kgs 12:20), had created a new line of both, and introduced the worship of calves (1 Kgs 12:32-33). Thus Abijah, king of Judah, said to Jeroboam, “But as for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken Him; and the priests, which minister unto the LORD, are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites wait upon their business: And they burn unto the LORD every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense: the showbread also set they in order upon the pure table; and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening: for we keep the charge of the LORD our God; but ye have forsaken Him. And, behold, God Himself is with us for our captain, and His priests with sounding trumpets to cry alarm against you. O children of Israel, fight ye not against the LORD God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper” (2 Chr 13:12). It is in this sense that they were “ruling with God.”
This is also said in prospect of the coming Savior who would be “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev 5:5), God’s “Servant David” (Ezek 34:23), and “the Son of David” (Matt 1:1). The chief reason for Judah was the bringing forth of the Savior of the world, the ultimate Seed of Abraham, through which the entire world would be blessed.
FAITHFUL WITH THE SAINTS. Some versions refer this phrase to God, “who is faithful,” NKJV “the Holy One who is faithful,” NASB and “the faithful Holy One.” NIV In my judgment, although God is both “holy” and “faithful,” that is not the point of this expression. This is a contrast of Israel, who sorely departed from God, with Judah, who held to the order that had been ordained by God, and through whom the Savior would come. “The saints,” no doubt included Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, together with Aaron (the priesthood) and David (the kingly lineage), through whom the Savior would come.
Judah maintained the view of God being the Ruler, while Israel went a whoring after idols. Great spiritual renewals took place under Joash (2 Chron 24:1-14), Hezekiah (2 Chron 29:1-31:21), Josiah (2 Chron 34:1-35:27), Asa (2 Chron 14:2-5), and Manasseh (2 Chron 33:12–19). All of them were kings of Judah, and all of them took place within Judah. There is no record of such renewals within the ten tribes of Israel. There was more of an awareness of God within Judah than there was in Israel. Therefore God identified with them.