COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 13:14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.” (Hosea 13:14)
Part of God’s character involves His “eternal purpose” (Eph 3:11) – an objective that has always been part of His Person. Intellectually, it is not possible for us to grasp such a concept. It belongs to another order, and is beyond human comprehension. However, faith, which comes from God (Eph 6:23) is capable of taking hold of this truth. God never speaks or acts in contradiction of His “eternal purpose,” for it is a part of His own nature. Further, when He speaks, this purpose is always in the background – it is never laid aside in the interest of other things. Our text is an excellent example of these things. While God is assessing His people, upbraiding them, and affirming that judgment is coming against them, He suddenly breaks forth with an expression that seems, on the surface, to be disassociated from what He has been saying. But this is not the case. We are being exposed to the Divine manner of speaking. The Lord does not speak long concerning any matter without correlating it with His “eternal purpose.” In Moses and the Prophets, that correlation may deal with the ultimate frustration of the wicked, the conversion of Israel, the coming of the Messiah, or the end of the world. Thus Moses spoke of God circumcising the hearts of Israel (Deut 30:6), and Ezekiel of the time when God would remove the stony heart and give a heart of flesh (Ezek 11:19). In this way, the Lord provides for the maintenance of a proper focus in our exposure to Scripture. If we view these “focusing” texts properly, they will keep us from being diverted into meaningless bypaths.
RANSOMED FROM THE GRAVE
“ 13:14a I will ransom them from the power of the grave . . . ” Solemnly, the Lord has recalled giving Israel a king in His anger, and removing that king in His wrath. He has affirmed that their iniquity is stored up, and that they will not be able to escape its penalty. He has also charged them with being like “an unwise son” who refuses to be born when the time of travail arrives. Now, in the midst of this upbraiding, it is as though the Lord shouts out with the voice of triumph. He casts an eye to the end of time, and declares that He will, in fact, triumph over the “last enemy” (1 Cor 15:26). It is to be understood a triumph over the “last enemy” requires a decisive victory over all other enemies.
I WILL RANSOM THEM. Other versions read, “I will give the price to make them free,” BBE “I will deliver them,” DOUAY “I will redeem them,” GENEVA and “save them.” NJB The word “ransom” means to rescue or deliver by means of a redemption. The proper concept of “ransom” was developed under the Law, where the life of an offender was allowed to be retained by means of a “ransom” (Ex 21:30). Newer versions use the word “redeem” instead of “ransom.”
A “ransom” has no association with human merit or strength. The need of a “ransom” is demanded by the powerlessness of the one being ransomed. Unless the Lord Himself accomplishes the “ransom,” or “redemption,” there is no possibility of it ever being achieved. Therefore God referred to Israel’s deliverance from Egypt in this manner: “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm” (Ex 6:6), “I have redeemed thee” (Isa 43:1), “I have redeemed them” (Hos 7:13), and “I have redeemed them” (Zech 10:8).
Something to be understood. It is necessary to understand what the Lord is declaring in this utterance. The Lord is NOT saying that even though Israel has sinned grievously against Him, yet He will bless them anyway. This is not God’s manner. As He has said elsewhere, “With the pure Thou wilt show Thyself pure; and with the froward Thou wilt show Thyself froward” (Psa 18:26; 2 Sam 22:27). And again, “And if ye will not be reformed by Me by these things, but will walk contrary unto Me; then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins” (Lev 26:23-24). It must be clear in our thinking that God will not reward with blessing those who spurn His love, walking contrary to Him.
In this text, the Lord looks beyond the present generation, and declares that His purpose will be realized in spite of them. Even their dreadful spiritual manners will not cause His will to do dashed to the ground. He will surely bring His Word to pass. As it is written, “So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa 55:11). As I have often mentioned in this series, this type of language is more specifically addressed to the remnant. It also removes all excuse from the wayward, proving they are dominated by a corrupt heart. For, when men do not respond to the gracious promises of God, it is because they are thoroughly corrupt, with no goodness in them.
THE POWER OF THE GRAVE. Other versions read, “the power of Sheol,” NASB “the power of the underworld,” BBE “the hand of death,” DOUAY “the power of the nether-world.” NAB The word from which “grave” is translated is “sheol,” and has a wide meaning. It literally means “the abode of the dead.” Most of the time, because of the limited revelation concerning post-death experience, the word was synonymous with “grave” – where the body is interred. “The grave” spoke of the ultimate example of defeat. Prior to “life and immortality” being “brought to light by the Gospel” (2 Tim 1:10), the ordinary view was that of Solomon: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Eccl 9:10).
To be ransomed from “the power of the grave” was to be rescued from the ultimate impossible circumstance. Jesus referred of this ransom when He said, “the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth” (John 5:28-29). Foreseeing this time, Paul shouted out, “O grave, where is thy victory” (1 Cor 15:55). This is the resurrection of the dead, when “the earth shall cast out her dead” (Isa 26:19). John the Revelator referred to this as the time when “the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them” (Rev 20:13). The “grave” has such “power” that it is utterly impossible for it yield a single one of its victims apart from the Word of Him who has the “the keys of hell and death” (Rev 1:18).
The point of this text is that such a God is to be trusted – absolutely trusted. If the final enemy is so easily overthrown by the Lord, it is but a small thing that lesser foes be defeated. This word will awaken faith and hope in the heart of the remnant, moving them to call upon the name of Lord, return to Him, and trust Him.
THE COMING PLAGUE OF DEATH AND THE GRAVE
“ 14b . . . O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction . . . ” Those in Christ Jesus are apprised that Satan “had the power of death,” and that, in that capacity, he was destroyed by means of the death of Jesus Christ: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” This was necessary for the deliverance of those “who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb 2:14).
WHEN DEATH IS PLAGUED. Other versions read, “O death, where are your thorns?” NASB “O death, where are your plagues?” NIV “O death, I will be thy death,” DOUAY At the time Hosea wrote this word, the grave had reigned uncontested for early 3,300 years. Two men, through Sovereign decree, had avoided the grave: Enoch (Gen 5:22-23; Heb 11:5) and Elijah (2 Kgs 2:11). Around 800 years later, the Son of God, in a triumphant display of superior power, would take back His life from death, rising from its enslaving domain. That occasion was a pledge of the complete overthrow of death that would occur in the resurrection of the dead, for the risen Christ was the “Firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor 15:20). He was the confirmation that this word of Hosea will be fully realized.
Even before the Lord Jesus overthrew death, He exercised dominion over the domain of death, bringing back some held within its grip. He raised one who had just died – just been taken captive by the villain of death – Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:41-42). He invaded the regions of the dead, bringing back one who been dead for a while, and was being taken to his burial – the only son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:12-15). Just prior to His own death, the Lord Jesus stood before a tomb in which a body resided that had been dead for four days. Death ruled that body, as mortification had set in. Yet, when Jesus called out, “Lazarus,, come forth,” death had to release its victim (John 11:43-44).
During Christ’s earthly ministry, death was “plagued.” Death, which had caused so much pain among the sons of men, was delivered a painful blow – and that was only the beginning! Before this matter is concluded, every child of God shall mock death, crying out, “O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Cor 15:55). This is the perspective suggested by the translations that present the text as asking death a question: “where are your thorns?” NASB and “where are your plagues.” NIV This is the mocking of death, chiding it because all of its power has been lost. Life shall triumph, and death will go down in utter defeat!
WHEN THE GRAVE IS DESTROYED. Paul refers to this text when he presents the grave as ultimately being mocked: “O grave, where is thy victory?”(1 Cor 15:55). Even during the spiritually primitive times of Job, the patriarch knew the grave would ultimately lose. “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me” (Job 19:26-27). David also prophesied of this triumph. He spoke specifically of the resurrection of Christ, and generally of all the dead. “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psa 16:10).
The final destruction of the grave has been foreshadowed by various deliverances from its domain. (1) The raising of the son of the widow of Zaraphath (1 Kgs 17:17-23). (2) The Shunammite’s son (2 Kgs 4:32-37). (3) The young dead man thrown into Elisha’s grave (2 Kgs 13:21). (4) The widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:12-15). (5) Jairus’ daughter (Lk 8:49-55). (6) Lazarus (John 11:43-44). (7) The opening of the graves, and the resurrection of some saints, at Christ’s death (Matt 27:52). (8) Dorcas (Acts 9:37-40). (9) Eutychus (Acts 20:9-12). (10) Possibly Paul (Acts 14:19-20; 2 Cor 12:3). Eventually the grave will have to yield up all of its victims – and there will be no exceptions.
DEATH AND HELL CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE. The phrase “death and hell” is used three times in Scripture (Rev 6:8; Rev 20:13-14). The word “hell,” is better translated “Hades,” which refers to the abode of departed spirits. “Death” refers to the grave – where the body is consigned. We are told that both of these, after they have yielded their occupants, will be “cast into the lake of fire,” which is “the second death” (Rev 20:13-14).
Both the grave and Hades are temporary abodes. They will last only as long as this world remains. When Jesus returns, all of the graves are emptied, and all departed spirits are united with their resurrected bodies, there will be no further need for either of them. The casting of them both into the lake of fire is the “destruction” to which Hosea refers. It is part of “life and immortality” being “brought to light” in the blazing light of the Gospel (2 Tim 1:10). The saints of God are to live in expectancy of this determined destruction.
WHEN GOD HIDES REPENTANCE
“ 14c . . . repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.” Other versions read, “Pity is hidden from My eyes,” NKJV “Compassion will be hidden from My sight,” NASB “I will have no compassion,” NIV “Comfort is hidden from My eyes,” DOUAY “My eyes are closed to compassion,” NAB “Compassion will be banished from My sight,” NJB and “For I will not relent.” NLT
GOD HAS BEEN KNOWN TO REPENT. There have been times in human history when the Lord repented – not carrying out what He had determined to do. This was not a display of any inconsistency in God, but was a confirmation of His Divine nature. (1) In the days of Noah, God “repented” that “He had made man” (Gen 6:6-7). (2) At the intercession of Moses, God “repented of the evil He thought to do unto His people” (Ex 32:14). (3) The Lord “raised up Judges,” because the groanings of His people moved Him to repentance (Judges 2:18). (4) God “repented” that He had made Saul king (1 Sam 15:11,35). (5) When David numbered Israel, the Lord released a great “pestilence upon Israel.” When the angel was going to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord repented of the evil saying, “It is enough” (2 Sam 24:15-16). (6) Through Jeremiah God promised that if a nation against whom He had pronounced judgment, would “turn from their evil,” He would “repent of the evil” He thought to do unto them (Jer 18:8). (7) Jeremiah also affirmed that if a nation God had intended to bless refused to obey His voice, He would “repent of the good” by which He sought to “benefit them” (Jer 18:10). (8) A wayward Israel was told that if they would “turn every man from his evil way,” God would repent Himself of the evil He had purposed to do unto them (Jer 26:3; 42:10). (9) Joel prophesied that it was God’s nature to repent of doing evil to a people who would “rend” their heart and “turn unto the Lord your God” (Joel 2:13). (10) At the intercession of Amos, the Lord “repented” of the judgment He had intended against the people (Amos 7:3,6). (11) After the Lord had declared Nineveh would be overthrown, He afterward “repented of the evil” when He saw their works of repentance and contrition (Jonah 3:9-10).
For some, this is too difficult to receive. They read such statements as: “God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent”(Num 23:19), “I change not” (Mal 3:6), and “the gifts and callings of God are without repentance” (Rom 11:29), and conclude it simply is not possible for God to repent – even though we have numerous affirmations that He did repent. However, such a view is too simplistic.
God is true to His own nature – He “cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim 2:13). The references to His repentance accentuate this fact in language that accommodates itself to man’s frailty and intellectual inferiority. Sin always brings forth God’s indignation, and contrition of heart always brings His compassion to the surface. What the Spirit refers to as God “repenting” is actually the responses of God that are perfectly consistent with His nature. In other words, if an extremely wicked person will repent, God will show mercy. If an extremely righteous man turns from that righteousness, God will show wrath.
The declaration of these things is how God deals with humanity. This is not His manner with angels. However, to men, it reveals His preference for showing mercy, and His utter in toleration of any determination to ignore and disobey Him. This approach has to do with God’s dealings with fallen humanity.
IN THIS, HE WILL NOT REPENT. There is a higher level of Divine activity where there is never repentance, or changing, in any sense. There are determinations from which there will never be Divine repentance. Some samples are: (1) The bruising of Satan’s head by the Seed of the woman (Gen 3:15). (2) The blessing of the world through the Seed of Abraham (Gen 12:3). (3) The laying of the iniquities of us all upon the Son (Isa 53:6). (4) The passing of the heavens and the earth (Isa 34:4; Matt 24:35). (5) The appointment of men to die once, and to be judged (Heb 9:27). (6) The conforming of the elect to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). (7) The gathering of all things together in one in Christ (Eph 1:10). It is not possible for any of these to be changed. God will not repent!
The plaguing of death and the destruction of the grave are in this category – things from which God will not be turned. No response of men, regardless of its notability, can change God’s mind on these matters. No intercession can move God to abrogate His determination to completely overthrow death, obviating the necessity of the grave and Hades. Everyone does well to accommodate themselves to these determinations.
There is a certain relevance of this text to our day and time. All sin is inextricably tied to death – sin and death necessarily go together (Rom 8:21; Cor 15:56). The only way for any person to be advantaged by the destruction of the grave and the plaguing of death is to avail themselves now of the Savior from sin. Otherwise, they too will be destroyed.