COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 12:14 Ephraim provoked Him to anger most bitterly: therefore shall He leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him.”(Hosea 12:14)
The Lord continues His commentary on the condition of Israel. His words do not agree with appearance, which seemed to justify Israel’s conduct. Like some of the churches in Asia, Israel had maintained a successful appearance. That is why she continued in her sin – because she was enjoying what she was doing. The prophets shouted to her about her sins, but she threw off the yoke of their words, because things appeared to be going well for her. When they made their pilgrimages to Dan and Bethel to worship golden calves, everything seemed to go well. The smoke of their offerings to Baal did not darken their sky, and her drunken feasts did not bring any plague upon them. In her own way, she was saying the same thing as the church in Laodicea: “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Rev 3:17). There was not a wise man of the world who would not say they must be doing all the right things. Their crops were flourishing and they were raising quality herds. Their holy places were packed with worshipers, and commerce with the nations was good. Books could have been written about their success, and of the blessings that had supposedly been realized by the ways they had chosen. The delusion was so strong that it would take a scathing word from God, and a fierce and unmistakable judgment to jar them out of their complacency. To be sure, there are lessons to be learned from this book. The church of our day is much like “Ephraim” of old – and it is having the same effect upon the God of heaven as did Israel’s wayward conduct.
EPHRAIM PROVOKED THE LORD
“ 12:14a Ephraim provoked Him to anger most bitterly . . . ” Other versions read, “provoked to bitter anger,” NASB “has given bitter offense,” NRSV “bitter provocation,” RSV “bitterly moved to wrath,” BBE and “has exasperated his Lord.” NAB
EPHRAIM. Hosea refers to Israel as “Ephraim” thirty-seven times (4:17; 5:3,5,9,11,12,13,14; 64,10; 7:1,8,11; 8:9,11; 9:3,811,13,16; 10:6,11; 11:3,8,9,12; 12:1,8,14; 13:1,12; 14:8). In every instance, their waywardness was being accented. Ephraim was “joined to idols,” committed “whoredom,” was noted for “iniquity,” had “sickness,” was “defiled,” had “wickedness,” “mixed himself among the people,” was like a “silly dove,” “hired lovers,” made “altars to sin,” had “hatred in the house of God,” its root was “dried up,” compassed God “with lies,” and fed on “the wind.” She was unworthy to be called by the name “Israel,” which was sanctified when it was conferred upon Jacob (Gen 32:28).
Therefore, Hosea calls the backslidden nation “Ephraim.” Ephraim was not one of the twelve sons of Jacob, from which the twelve tribes were originally formed. Ephraim was the second son of Joseph when he was in Egypt – born during the seven years of plenty that preceded the seven years of famine (Gen 41:52). Ephraim and his older brother Manasseh, became the heads of tribes, for there was no tribe of Joseph himself (Gen 48:14-20). Technically, there were thirteen tribes of Israel, but Levi was not counted because it belong wholly to the Lord (Num 1:5-15).
Ephraim could only be traced back to Jacob indirectly – through Joseph. By calling Israel “Ephraim,” God was emphasizing that it was only owing to His mercy that they were associated with Him at all. They did not have the traits of their father Jacob, who was noted for his perseverance and power with both God and man (Gen 32:28b).
PROVOKED HIM. To “provoke” means to arouse, kindle, and stimulate. In Hebrew, the wording of the verse does not conform to the English manner of speaking. The idea is that Ephraim herself was the provocation, not merely what she did.
There are Divine qualities that can be stirred up. That is, God can be moved or compelled to show forth certain parts of His character. Thus Jesus, upon seeing the wandering multitudes was “moved with compassion” (Matt 9:36). The world of Noah’s day moved God to destroy it (Gen 6:12-13). Israel “moved” God “to jealousy” with their idols (Deut 32:21). Moses moved God to have mercy upon Israel, so that He spared them (Ex 32:14).
ANGER MOST BITTERLY. Here, however, Israel awakened the anger of God. It was an anger that exhibited itself in unusual measures – “most bitterly.” Keep in mind, this is the God who is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exo 34:6). Yet, Israel had taxed that longsuffering, continuing in their rebellion against Him, refusing to hear His prophets, and insisting upon forgetting His Word.
The Scriptures make much of Israel’s provocation of God. “They provoked Him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they Him to anger” (Deu 32:16). “For they provoked Him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images” (Psa 78:58). “Thus they provoked Him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them” (Psa 106:29). “Many times did He deliver them; but they provoked Him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity” (Psa 106:43). There even was a time in their history when they especially provoked the Lord, refusing to go into the promised land. It is referred to as “the provocation” (Psa 95:8; Heb 3:8,15).
In spite of their recorded history, the revivals of certain kings (2 Kgs 18; 2 Kgs 22; 2 Chron 14; 2 Chron 33), and periods of national repentance (Judges 10:10; 1 Sam 7:6; Ezra 9:7; Neh 9:32) they provoked Him even further. With determination they thrust the word of the Lord from themselves, and with uncommon stubbornness, they rejected the warnings of the prophets, who faithfully declared their iniquity and called them back to God.
APPLICATION. There is a theology that has crept into the church today that is seriously flawed. Whether in precise words or with innuendoes, it has left the people thinking God’s anger will not, and even cannot, be stirred up against those who wear His name. This has produced a religious environment of loose and trivial thinking.
The Spirit addresses this very matter in what He says “to the churches.” “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than He?” (1 Cor 10:21-22). Is it possible for feeble men to be victorious over an jealous God? Believe it or not, iniquity moves a person to think so. But it is all a great delusion. Those who provoke the Lord to jealousy by giving to others the affection that is due to Him alone are in a most serious condition. Do everything you can to avoid being in that state!
HIS BLOOD UPON HIM
“ 14b . . . therefore shall He leave his blood upon him . . . ” Other versions read, “the guilt of his bloodshed,” NKJV “his bloodguilt,” NASB “his crimes,” NRSV and “sentence him to death.” NLT
Blood being left upon a person or persons is a phrase denoting the refusal of God to remove guilt. In other words, the people will not be forgiven. The responsibility for their actions will be solely upon them. They will be responsible, in this case, for the loss of life – life that came from God. Included would be such things as Abner shedding “the blood of war in peace” (1 Kgs 2:5), religious people who “shed the blood of the just” (Lam 4:13), those who “shed the blood of innocents” (Jer 19:4), and those who “killed the prophets” (Matt 23:31). All of that guilt would be laid upon the rejecting generation of Hosea’s day.
One of the most frightening expressions in human history is that of the Jews when they cried out for Jesus to be crucified. When Pilate remonstrated at their demands affirming himself to be “innocent of the blood of this just person,” ALL of the people shouted out, “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Mat 27:25). The history that followed that expression of their hardened hearts confirms how serious a thing it is for blood to be upon the people – for them to bear the guilt of their own sin!
As unsettling as it may be to consider, there is such a thing as a generation that is rejected by God and subject to His wrath. This is not a circumstance that occurs quickly, but is the result of the stubborn and continued rejection of Divine overtures. This is what is being declared in this passage. Jeremiah spoke of the same type of judgment in these words: “Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on high places; for the LORD hath rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath” (Jer 7:29).
The Lord told Ezekiel that the blood of a people could be required of the prophet who failed to deliver His message to that people. “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand” (Ezek 3:18). And again, “Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand” (Ezek 3:20).
CHRIST’S WORD. During Christ’s ministry, He affirmed the dreadful consequences of His rejection by the people. “Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation” (Luke 11:49-51).
NOTE, the guilt laid upon the people was not only their own, but that of the whole generation of which they were a part. Remember, until Jesus came, sin had not been taken away, or “put away.” Thus, it could be judiciously imputed to succeeding generations who had that same nature. This is why God said of Himself, “for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me” (Exo 20:5). This curse is no longer applicable, for Jesus has taken away the sins of the world, thus obviating this principle. Thus it is written of the time of the New Covenant, “In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge” (Jer 31:29). These words immediately precede the announcement of the New Covenant which affirmed, “I will remember their sins no more” (Jer 31:34). Those, therefore, who teach the present existence of generational curses – of past sins that still must be addressed – have, in fact, denied that Jesus has “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb 9:26). Those who are in Christ cannot possibly be spiritually affected by the sins of their fathers. In Christ, such sins do not even exist!
Jesus spoke of a whole generation that would be condemned on the day of judgment – a generation that had been exposed to the most extensive revelation of God, yet summarily rejected it. “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it” (Matt 12:41). “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it” (Matt 12:42).
Admittedly, this is not a pleasant thing to consider. But it is a sobering one, and is therefore profitable. In Christ Jesus, there is full remission of sin, complete exoneration from guilt, and thorough cleansing. However, outside of Christ, there is a sense in which the guilt of preceding generations is multiplied against those alienated from God.
WHEN REPROACH IS RETURNED
“ 14c . . . and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him.” Other versions read, “return his reproach upon him,” NKJV “bring back his reproach to him,” NASB “repay him for his contempt,” NIV “pay him back for his insults,” NRSV “make his shame come back upon him,” BBE “repay him for his disgraceful deeds,” ESV “repay him for his outrage,” NAB and “requited him for his mockery.” TNK
There are two things that must especially be noted here. First, God himself is the one doing the returning, requiting, and repaying. Second, the people being repaid are the very ones who had been chosen, delivered, and succored by the Lord. If men philosophize about whether or not God can turn against those He once delivered, they only indulge in folly. This is not a matter concerning which speculations are in order. The truth about the Lord’s unwavering responses to both believing and unbelieving have been lived out in sacred history, and recorded in the Scriptures. His reaction to those who have once been delivered, yet have returned to their own ways, has been lived out, declared, and even expounded, by Moses, the Prophets, the Lord Jesus, and the Apostles. There is no justifiable reason for being ignorant of these things.
HIS LORD. Israel had, in fact, rejected the Lord. In the parlance of our day, they had not made Him their Lord. Men do not in any sense make God their Lord. He IS their Lord – they can only acknowledge it. In this very text, God says He is the Lord of the very people who were denying Him in preference for other gods – “his Lord.” Now, in the capacity of their Lord, God will return reproach upon them – and they will not be able to avert this determination. He would have blessed them as their “Lord,” but their disdain for Him has now moved Him to this dreadful judgment.
Application. This is something that is to be proclaimed with great power – particularly in view of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. From the very beginning of the day of salvation it was declared, “God hath made that same Jesus . . . both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). And again, “He is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36), and “He is Lord of heaven and earth” (Acts 17:24). The ONLY issue before men is whether the Lord will bless or curse, save or destroy, receive or reject. In either case, He will do so as “the Lord.”
RETURNED REPROACH. There is more here than simply reaping what was sown – although that is a primary consideration of the text. However, there is also fact of a people from whom reproach had once been removed, once again having that very reproach returned upon them.
When Israel entered into the promised land, a number of significant things took place. They miraculously crossed Jordan when it had overflowed its banks (Josh 3:15), and circumcised all the males who were born in the wilderness (John 5:3-5). It was at this time that the Lord said to Joshua, “This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day” (Josh 5:9). It was then that they kept the Passover and, for the first time, ate the fruit of Canaan (Josh 5:10-11).
Now, however, Hosea announces that reproach would be “returned” to wayward Israel – even though it was once “rolled away.” Now Israel, who was greatly loved (Isa 43:4) would “greatly abhorred” (Psa 78:59). The very people who were once “separated” to the Lord (Lev 20:24), would be “cast off” (Psa 106:40). The “altar” He had ordained (Ex 20:26) was now “cast off,” and the “sanctuary” He had hallowed (Lev 19:30) was “abhorred” (Lam 2:7).
GOD WILL REPAY. It is God’s nature to “repay,” or “return,” to those who spurn His overtures of love. He affirms, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay” (Rom 12:19). Mind you, this is not His preference, for He has “no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezek 33:11). The Lord prefers to show mercy, as Jesus Himself declared (Matt 9:13). What is more, experiencing mercy is really the only way of averting God’s judgment. As it is written, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” NKJV (James 2:13). Mercy, however, must be desired before it can be obtained. Where this is not the case, and sin and self-indulgence are preferred, God will “repay” with vengeance those who spurned His free and copious mercy.
A CONDITION THAT IS “WORSE.” There is a state that is “worse” than never being exposed to God’s mercy. It is a state in which reproach once removed is again put on the person. “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (2 Pet 2:20-21). This is a word upon which most sober reflection and extended meditation are in order!