COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
LESSON NUMBER 62
13:15 Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels. 16 Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.” (Hosea 13:15-16)
One of the fundamental purposes served by Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Lk 24:44) is acquainting us with the God of heaven – revealing His ways to the sons of men. One of the great secrets to a profitable study of the Scriptures is to read them with a mind to perceive God Himself, His ways, His purpose, and His nature. This is so because God does not change, as He Himself declares: “I am the Lord, I change not” (Mal 3:6). James affirms of the Lord, “with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). For example, his reaction to faith is always favorable, whether it is the faith of Abel, Abraham, or Paul. His reaction to sin is always unfavorable, whether it is the sin of Cain, the world of Noah’s day, the children of Israel, of a fornicator in the church of Corinth. God will never oppose those who trust in Him, and He will never uphold those who rebel against Him. That is His unchangeable manner, and it is demonstrated and confirmed in the many records and biographies of people and nations given by Moses and the Prophets. The Psalms confirm the effect of this knowledge upon a tender heart. Thus the Psalmist is always alarmed by sin, whether his own or another’s. Like Moses before him, he is always glad when he senses the Lord’s favor, and caused to fear when he senses His displeasure. When we read the book of Hosea with these things in mind, it will be most profitable to us. We must not allow the dead religion of our day to dull our minds to these realities.
“ 13:15 Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels.”
FRUITFUL AMONG HIS BRETHREN. The reference here is to the tribe of Ephraim in particular, and the kingdom of Israel in general. Ephraim, the younger of Joseph’s two sons, was blessed more abundantly. Joseph’s naming of Ephraim focused on the blessing of the Lord. “And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Gen 41:52). Before Jacob, Joseph’s father, died, he blessed all of his sons, prophesying over them. When he had blessed Joseph, and in the role of a prophet, Jacob said of Joseph’s sons, “The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth” (Gen 48:16). As Joseph watched, he saw that Jacob placed his right hand on the head of Ephraim, the younger. He objected, pointing out that Manasseh, the firstborn, ought to obtain the blessing: “Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head” (Gen 48:18). Jacob affirmed he knew which lad was the older, and which was the younger, and refused to change his hands. “And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations” (Gen 48:19).
This is the fruitfulness to which our text refers. It was strictly owing to the hand of the Lord, not to any superior abilities possessed by Ephraim. His tribe did not excel because they were better, smarter, or stronger. It was rather because they had been blessed by the Lord. Their fruitfulness was the Lord’s doing, and it ought to have been marvelous in their eyes.
Israel was like Ephraim – blessed above all other people. They had been fruitful because the hand of the Lord was
THE WIND OF THE LORD. Even though Israel was blessed, and was fruitful, those circumstances could not offset their sin. Whatever a person may think of prosperity, it cannot remove sin or lessen its offensiveness. Because a person is doing well does not mean God is well pleased with them, or that He will continue to bless them. Prosperity, therefore, is not to be viewed as proof of Divine favor. Our text is a case in point.
Now, coming from the dry and parched wilderness, a devastating wind would rise against them. It was called “the wind of the Lord” because it came from Him. It was not a product of nature – not something that happened by mere chance – and it would accomplish the will of the Lord. This was God’s answer to the thankless kingdom of Israel.
WHEN SPRINGS AND FOUNTAINS BECOME DRY. Israel is here seen as a great and flourishing tree, nourished by a great flowing spring, and a seemingly endless fountain of copious water. But when “the wind of God” swept through the arid desert and blasted the nation, its spring and fountain were dried up. The things that caused them to flourish were taken from them, and a sort of famine was imposed upon them. It is as though they were once again in the wilderness, “where there was no water” (Deut 8:15), as when they came out of Egypt. But this time, water would not be brought from a rock for them. Waters would not break forth in the desert this time! Their sin had found them out, just as Moses said it would: “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out” (Num 32:23).
SPOILING THE TREASURE OF PLEASANT VESSELS. Other versions read, “He will plunder the treasury of every desirable prize,” NKJV and “his storehouse will be plundered of all its treasures.” NIV The idea is that nothing will be left untouched in this imposed destruction. Historically, this devastation came from Assyria, but in actuality, it came from the Lord. Through the ravaging Assyrians He took away all of their resources, leaving nothing unharmed. Nothing would be left in which they could boast or trust. Spiritually, they would become like Sodom and Gomorrah were physically. King Ahaz actually took the silver and gold in the house of the Lord and sent it to the king of Assyria (2 Kgs 16:8) – that is how intimidating the Assyrians were to Israel.
“ 16 Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.”
SAMARIA SHALL BECOME DESOLATE. Samaria was the capital of the kingdom of Israel (1 Kgs 16:29; 22:51; 13:1,10; 15:8). Jerusalem was the capital of the kingdom of David, as appointed by God Himself (1 Kgs 15:4), where God chose to place His name (2 Chron 6:6).
Samaria was the place where many of the kings of Israel reigned. For it to become “desolate” would be like the desolation of Washington D.C. Israel’s desolation took place in the ninth year of it’s last king, Hoshea. It is written, “In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes” (2 Kgs 17:6). This is when the Lord removed the kingdom of Israel from His sight (2 Kgs 17:18). Isaiah prophesied the exact time when this would take place. “For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established” (Isa 7:9).
THE REBELLION OF SAMARIA. The reason for this judgment is affirmed. Rebellion was found in Samaria – revolt against the living God. In the Scriptures, “rebellion” speaks of resisting the Lord, being disobedient to Him, and provoking Him to anger. Samuel told king Saul, “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” (1 Sam 15:23). Rebellion is sin in an advanced stage, as indicated by the book of Job: “For he addeth rebellion unto his sin, he clappeth his hands among us, and multiplieth his words against God” (Job 34:37). This takes place when the sinner becomes bold and insolent – bodacious and brassy in the face of the Lord. This sin is committed when things appear to be going in the favor of the individual or nation. The well being and prosperity the people are experiencing are viewed as an indication of their own strength and ability. They see no need for God, or for responding to Him, and thus begin to ignore His will and His Word. On the surface, they may appear very cultured and successful. However, God sees such people as rebelling against Him. It is as though He held out His hand to them, and they slapped His face, snarling that they have no need of Him. They think they are sufficient of themselves.
This kind of response moved the people to acquiesce with the setting up of idols in the city of Samaria. It is said of the sins of Jeroboam, their first king, “And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria” (1 Kgs 16:32). Thus it is written that Jeroboam “made Israel sin” (2 Kgs 13:6). The rebellion of Samaria refers to the whole nation who had thrust God from themselves and “refused to walk in His law” (Psa 78:10). Even though they had an illustrious history in the time of Moses and Joshua, they “forgat His works, and His wonders that He had showed them” (Psa 78:11). It must also be remembered that when the kingdom of Israel began “all Israel” said, “What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents” (1 Kgs 12:16). The revealed epitaph over them is this: “she hath rebelled against her God!”
THE DREADFUL RAVAGES OF A GOD-SENT ENEMY. The penalty for sin is most grievous. Our text is a case in point. They would “fall by the sword,” their infants would be “dashed in pieces,” and their women with child would be “ripped up.” The mighty prophet Elisha once wept when he realized Israel’s “young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child” (2 Kgs 8:12). Isaiah prophesied of the “day of the Lord, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger.” He said, “Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up” (Hosea 13:8,16).
Some have stumbled at such gruesome judgments, wondering how God could do such a thing. They stumble because of their insensitivity to the magnitude of sin and rebellion against God. They do not see the seriousness of grieving a God who desires to deliver and bless. When His love is spurned and His wonders forgotten, God actually becomes an Adversary, as he did to Balaam (Num 22:22). He also said of false prophets, “I am against them” (Jer 23:32). Through Jeremiah God said to Israel, “And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath” (Jer 21:5). Let no person be deluded into believing sin is not serious, or that rebellion against God is a light matter. God has shown us this is not the case at all.
“Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver” (Psa 50:22). “ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).
Our text has revealed that God can speak harshly – even in a frightening manner. His words are not mere bluster – like, as they say, “letting off steam.” When the Lord speaks in this way, it is because He has been provoked to do so by a stubborn insistence to keep on sinning, in spite of repeated warnings and chastening. The fabric of our Western society has become so saturated with superficial culture and lifeless academic pursuits, that God can scarcely be seen as being offended, angered, or provoked to wrath. A cultural environment now exists in which, as with Israel of old, “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). Solomon said “the way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Prov 12:15). Moses once warned the people, “You shall not at all do as we are doing here today; every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes; for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the LORD your God is giving you” NKJV (Deut 12:8-9).
Notwithstanding these examples, this very attitude has crept into the church. Personal preferences have been exalted over the desires of the Lord, so that people conduct their lives and assemblies as though God was impervious to what they do. All of this has arisen because of a dominating ignorance of God’s Person and ways. Texts such as the one we have just read are virtually unknown in the average congregation. A God is being presented that is very sympathetic toward human circumstances and suffering – a sympathy that has nothing whatsoever to do with Christ Jesus the Lord. This view of God has become so predominating, that to question it is tantamount to heresy and heartlessness.
But what of the text before us? God spoke of His own people falling by the sword – which is anything but a merciful death. He spoke of infants being dashed to pieces, and pregnant women being ripped open. That certainly is not pleasant language, and it does not depict the kind of God most church people have embraced. Furthermore, that language is mild when compared to what is said of hell, where all who know not God and obey not the Gospel will eventually be consigned (Matt 24:51; Lk 16:24; Rev 14:10; 20:10).
Why is such language in Scripture – language of torment, violence, and grief? It is because sin separates from God, and those are the things that dominate when God has forsaken someone. The only reason these kind of conditions do not dominate all of the time is because God does not allow them to do so. This is an aspect of His longsuffering.
When God blesses you, He expects your faith in Him, and commitment to Him, to increase. This is not mere idealism, this is the way it really is. If our faith does not increase, and our commitment to Him tends to wane, we are provoking Him, and, to put it mildly, that is not wise. There simply is too much in Scripture about this for any professing Christian to be ignorant of it.
Perhaps the Lord has carried you through a crisis, healed you, caused you to prosper, or wrought some special deliverance for you. It may be that He has answered your prayers in an obvious way, brought great benefit and blessing to you, and given you the desire of your heart. What is your response to be to all of this? Was bringing you through the crisis the point, or was it to bring you into a greater familiarity with the Lord? Is having good health really the critical matter, or is it seeing the Lord more clearly and serving Him more fervently? Was that deliverance you experienced the end of the matter, as was it a means through which you could be more closely aligned with the Lord? Do you really think your benefit and blessing are of greater importance to God than His own glory?
The insightful person knows the answers to these rather rudimentary questions. However, it is one thing to know answers, it is another to know how to respond to them. The disciples were able to answer Jesus’ questions about the number of baskets used to take up the extra fragments when He fed the five thousand and the four thousand (Mark 8:19-21). They knew the answers, but, at that time, they were not able to associate those answers with their present circumstances.
If we can really see that it is, in fact, “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” we will do our utmost to avoid doing so. We will crucify the dreadful propensity of flesh to do what is right in its own eyes. We will be able to associate words like those of our text with our own affiliation with God through Christ Jesus.
Just as surely as God responds in a certain way to rebellion, so He responds in a consistent way to faith. That is precisely why it is written, “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed” (Rom 10:11).