5 “Hear this, you priests!
Pay attention, you Israelites!
Listen, royal house!
This judgment is against you:
You have been a snare at Mizpah,
a net spread out on Tabor.
2 The rebels are knee-deep in slaughter.
I will discipline all of them.
3 I know all about Ephraim;
Israel is not hidden from me.
Ephraim, you have now turned to prostitution;
Israel is corrupt.
4 “Their deeds do not permit them
to return to their God.
A spirit of prostitution is in their heart;
they do not acknowledge the Lord.
5 Israel’s arrogance testifies against them;
the Israelites, even Ephraim, stumble in their sin;
Judah also stumbles with them.
6 When they go with their flocks and herds
to seek the Lord,
they will not find him;
he has withdrawn himself from them.
7 They are unfaithful to the Lord;
they give birth to illegitimate children.
When they celebrate their New Moon feasts,
he will devour their fields.
(Hosea 5:1-7 NIV)
As a reminder and summary of chapter 4, the Lord brought charges against Israel in general (vv. 1-3), and against the priests (the religious rulers) in particular (vv. 4-19).
As we begin chapter 5, we see the Lord bring charges against the priests (the religious rulers), the king’s house (the civil rulers), and the people of Israel in general (v. 1).
The priests and the king’s house have taken away the peoples’ freedom, and the Lord is holding them accountable for their actions. The Lord uses three distinct metaphors to describe the way these rulers have taken away the peoples’ freedom:
- via a snare (for birds)
- via a net (for small game)
- via a pit (for large game, as indicated as being knee-deep in slaughter)
Was this sin localized to one section of Israel? The Lord says no, that the sin is pervasive, from Mizpah (the southern part of Israel) to Tabor (near the northern border of Israel) to Shittim (mentioned in other translations) to the east.
In verse 2, the Lord says that He will discipline Israel, including the rulers (the priests and the king’s house). The Hebrew word used for “discipline” does not mean to punish. Rather, this word means to lovingly but firmly correct heart attitude and behavior, as a parent lovingly corrects their child and teaches them the right way to live.
Verses 3-4 use the analogy of a prostitute again. Israel has played the harlot with both her soul (worshipping other gods) as well as her body (participating in the immoral sexual practices of foreign religions).
This will lead not only to the downfall of Israel (the northern kingdom) but also of Judah (the southern kingdom). Unfortunately, Judah will follow in the footsteps of Israel (v. 5).
Hosea points out that the people of Israel will go to worship the Lord, but will not find Him (v. 6). The reason is that the people are treating the Lord as another god, another deity to pay homage to, to earn favor with, rather than to exclusively serve and honor and give their hearts to.
Once again, the people are inwardly focused on themselves, what they can take, rather than being outwardly focused on the Lord and lovingly give to others.
The consequences of the rulers’ and peoples’ actions will be the Lord’s discipline (v. 7). Their wealth and prosperity will go away because they do not honor the Lord who gave them the bounty of crops. Instead, they ascribe the goodness to the foreign gods they worship instead.
We all struggle to some degree with sin, just as the Israelite did in their day.
May we remember the words from the writer of Hebrews as we continue in our walk with the Lord:
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
(Hebrews 12:4-6 NIV)
May we learn from the Lord’s loving discipline and sense His tender care for us as His children.