1 when I would heal Israel, the corruption of Ephraim is revealed, and the wicked deeds of Samaria; for they deal falsely, the thief breaks in, and the bandits raid without. 2 But they do not consider that I remember all their evil works. Now their deeds encompass them, they are before my face. 3 By their wickedness they make the king glad, and the princes by their treachery. 4 They are all adulterers; they are like a heated oven, whose baker ceases to stir the fire, from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened. 5 On the day of our king the princes became sick with the heat of wine; he stretched out his hand with mockers. 6 For like an oven their hearts burn with intrigue; all night their anger smolders; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. 7 All of them are hot as an oven, and they devour their rulers. All their kings have fallen; and none of them calls upon me.
The English here, seems to starts the passage mid sentence, however in the Hebrew there is a full stop between the chapters. (Never have figured out why translators do these things.)
God declares that He would like to remove their iniquity and heal the Ten Northern Tribes, but that is not going to happen. They are like lying thieves and bandits. They go about destroying truth. And further that they rejoice in each others deceptions. They have twisted the truth of their relationship with God. They claim they are his faithful servants, but they are anything but.
According to the Hebrew verb tenses however this sin is continuous, but the healing and forgiveness that is offered is final, once and for all. However God knows that their repentance is impossible, the likelihood that they might return to their God is hopeless. Contrary to the teachings of many sects of Christianity, there is a point in which one cannot return to God. Spiritual leaders do not like to deal with these passages. They would rather sooth the sinner or some relative of the sinner, than speak the truth. It is possible to be cut off from God. One can be utterly without hope of salvation[Ezek. 18; Mark 3:29; Heb 6:1-8].
8 Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples; Ephraim is a cake not turned. 9 Aliens devour his strength, and he knows it not; gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not. 10 The pride of Israel witnesses against him; yet they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him, for all this.
He goes on to explain their sinful lives in terms of baked cakes — a little ancient baking information is needed here. In the domed ovens of the middle east the fire is first started before the bread is mixed and kneaded, then while it is rising the fire is left to cool a little. Then just before the bread is baked, the fire is stirred back up to life just before the baking the rather flat cakes.
They are baking cakes, but not for God. These are the “bunns” of the mystery religions. (Just like Christmas and Easter where we hold great feasts and give gifts, but none of it is for God. Then we increase our charity giving to sooth our consciences.) The Ten Northern Tribes think that God will not remember all this evil. They were religious adulterers, who worship everything and everyone but the one true God, just as we are.
The leaders, kings, and princes can do nothing to stop the people, for they too are caught up in the wickedness. Their passion for other gods is a compared to a burning oven. Anyone trying to bring the people back to a sane relationship with God is destroyed. So it has always been with God people. The prophets and teachers of the truth are scorned, and murdered, while the false teachers, and false prophets are embraced and loved.
Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it shall be required of this generation. Woe to you lawyers! for you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” Luke 11:49-52
Here is the point of the whole book of Hosea, the people of Ephraim have mixed their religion with all the religions of the peoples around them. They have excepted ideas about other gods and made them fit to their original faith in the One True God. The pagan idea that God has a wife or mother was clearly present.
The books of Judges, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, and 1&2 Chronicles, are full of prophets condemning the people over and over for this amalgamation of their faith with those around them. Theologically this is called syncretism. We know from scripture that they were worshiping Baal, the storm god, and Ashtaroth the fertility goddess, and were keeping the feast of Molech a.k.a. Kronos, or Saturn, the god who eats his children, and to whom child sacrifice was common. We too honour this same deity, for Dec 25th was the day he was most honored. All we have done is change all the names, and lie to the people that it is Jesus’ birthday.
All this made Ephraim as unpalatable to God as a cake not turned. Well cooked on the bottom but runny gooey ick on the top. God was not pleased with this mixing. He wasn’t then, and He isn’t now.
With the division of the kingdom after Solomon, the northern kingdom was not strong enough to defend themselves. One of the reasons for the split was that the taxes were so high, partly in order to have a standing army. The northern kingdom now found itself caught between the two super powers of the time, Egypt and Assyria. They played one against the other for many years till the Assyrians had had enough, and deported the population to Media.
In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. 2 Kings 17:6
What must remembered about ancient Israel is that they were situated on the crossroads of the world. God gave them this land because it was special. All the trade of all the world must travel this narrow bit of land to cross between Asia, Europe, and Africa. Bring people from near and far to see the nation who’s God is God. Rather than teaching these travelers about the One True God, They instead were adopting everything they saw go by into their faith. These travelers all saw what the people had, and there was constant struggles with their neighbors. The kings of Syria, both Hazael, and Benhadad in the times of Jehoahaz [2 Kings. 8:12; 10:32; 13:7] and Tiglathpileser, the king of Assyria, who is called Pul in the Bible [2 K. 15:19-20], he exacted tribute from Menahem, and took away territory from Pekah [2 K. 15:29], likewise the Philistines [Is. 9:12]. Everybody took something to the wealth and pride of Israel. All because they were not true to their God. They did not keep their faith pure. Like all adulterers, they thought they would not be judged. After all everybody does it. Everybody mixes their religion.
And Elijah came near to all the people, and said, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 1Kings 18:21
In all of this the Northern Tribes do not understand that all their troubles came from this mixing. Their gray hairs were no sign of wisdom. They wanted to be just like the kingdoms around them. (This same inferiority complex plagues many a believer.) For they did not see that their God and their culture were better in all ways. They did not understand that this would bring judgment down on their heads. They had forgotten what they pledged at the mountain in the days of Moses.
Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do.” Ex. 24:3
There is a consequence for not keeping this vow.
And if in spite of this you will not hearken to me, then I will chastise you again sevenfold for your sins, Lev. 26:18
Sevenfold works out to 2520 years, which how long they have been out of the land.
It is not the LORD who witnesses against them, it is their own pride in the fact that they are God’s people that testifies that they are lost. They think that they will not be judged because they are the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Just as the church thinks they will not be judged because they believe in Jesus. But that is not what Jesus taught [See Also: Lent]
11 Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria. 12 As they go, I will spread over them my net; I will bring them down like birds of the air; I will chastise them for their wicked deeds. 13 Woe to them, for they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, for they have rebelled against me! I would redeem them, but they speak lies against me.
Doves are universally used as an illustration of people who are foolish and fly about without plan or purpose. Instead of turning to God and repenting of this mixing, the Northern Tribes turned to Assyria and Egypt. Back a forth they went between the two superpowers of the age. Aligning themselves with one or the other. Calling on one or the other to protect them from the one that they used to be aligned with. This was a doomed tactic. A total failure of diplomatic relations. In the end it was Assyria that turned on them and deported them to the eastern side of their empire, which is now Iraq. From there no one knows what happened to them. They lost their cultural distinctiveness, and acculturated completely into their surroundings. There has been much speculation over the centuries as to what happened to the Ten Lost Tribes, some of the quite fanciful, some of them quite harmful. In the end, only God knows where they are. Although science may soon be able to find them using genetic markers.
God Himself spread a net over them. Caught them up for the purpose of judgment. Like silly doves they think that it is Assyria that has brought them down. But it has been the work of God. He is the one behind all the calamity. Calamities come to teach us to trust in God or because we have not trusted in God. Only one who prays and reads God’s word will know the difference. It is important to learn the truth and never speak lies about God. He was not born on Dec 25th, He did not raise from the dead on Easter, the dead do not become angels, wearing special cloths or performing special deeds will not assure your salvation, we do not go to heaven when we die, Satan is not the ruler of hell. The list goes on and on. These are all myths, and God will not be mocked by them. These teachings lead to a total misunderstanding of God and his will. A total misconception of His plan, His purposes, and His will.
14 They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds; for grain and wine they gash themselves, they rebel against me. 15 Although I trained and strengthened their arms, yet they devise evil against me. 16 They turn to Baal; they are like a treacherous bow, their princes shall fall by the sword because of the insolence of their tongue. This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.
They cried for grain and wine, yet God had already strengthened their arms to get it. He had put them in a good land, where farming is easy. But there was no great river for irrigation. They were totally dependent on the rains. And that was their problem. In their distrust and unbelief they turned to Baal the rain god. The prophet compares their actions as to a treacherous bow. Such a bow is one that has lost its elasticity, and therefore cannot be trusted to have the strength to hit the mark.
The ruling classes of the Northern Tribes were hostile to the teaching of God. From the beginning when they separated from Judah, they created false religion of calf worship. The royal house of the Northern Tribes were violent bunch. In the end they are all lost.
So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 1Kings 12:28-29
To this day they are a derision in the land of Egypt. The battles and the wars go on.
The church thinks that we will not be judged because we have believed in Jesus.
For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Rom. 11:21
We were given just one job. Make disciples. We seem to think that this is someone else’s job. The Spiritual Leaders let everyone think that it is only they that do this. That somehow it takes special training. Although Messiah said this to his apostles, it is not as the English makes it to be, a command, the Greek is “Since you are going into the world….” It is not an option. We were told to go into the world. While we live our lives we should be teaching our selves, our children and those that God brings into our lives about all that Messiah said we must do.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Matt. 28:19-20
The children of Israel were to stay in their land. But the followers of Messiah were to go into all the world. Not to cloister in monasteries and convents. We are not to separate or hide ourselves from this sinful world. We are supposed to radically change it, by teaching the commandments.