“Whenever I would restore the fortunes of my people,
7 1 whenever I would heal Israel,
the sins of Ephraim are exposed
and the crimes of Samaria revealed.
They practice deceit,
thieves break into houses,
bandits rob in the streets;
2 but they do not realize
that I remember all their evil deeds.
Their sins engulf them;
they are always before me.
3 “They delight the king with their wickedness,
the princes with their lies.
4 They are all adulterers,
burning like an oven
whose fire the baker need not stir
from the kneading of the dough till it rises.
5 On the day of the festival of our king
the princes become inflamed with wine,
and he joins hands with the mockers.
6 Their hearts are like an oven;
they approach him with intrigue.
Their passion smolders all night;
in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire.
7 All of them are hot as an oven;
they devour their rulers.
All their kings fall,
and none of them calls on me.
8 “Ephraim mixes with the nations;
Ephraim is a flat loaf not turned over.
9 Foreigners sap his strength,
but he does not realize it.
His hair is sprinkled with gray,
but he does not notice.
10 Israel’s arrogance testifies against him,
but despite all this
he does not return to the Lord his God
or search for him.
11 “Ephraim is like a dove,
easily deceived and senseless—
now calling to Egypt,
now turning to Assyria.
12 When they go, I will throw my net over them;
I will pull them down like the birds in the sky.
When I hear them flocking together,
I will catch them.
13 Woe to them,
because they have strayed from me!
Destruction to them,
because they have rebelled against me!
I long to redeem them
but they speak about me falsely.
14 They do not cry out to me from their hearts
but wail on their beds.
They slash themselves, appealing to their gods
for grain and new wine,
but they turn away from me.
15 I trained them and strengthened their arms,
but they plot evil against me.
16 They do not turn to the Most High;
they are like a faulty bow.
Their leaders will fall by the sword
because of their insolent words.
For this they will be ridiculed
in the land of Egypt.
(Hosea 6:11b-7:16 NIV)
In the previous passage, God condemned Israel and Judah for their superficial love toward Him. The Lord did not desire Israel’s “check the box” attitude toward Him; instead, He longed for relationship, not ritual, and love, not legalism. But Israel would not listen – they would not repent and turn back to the Lord. So the Lord required discipline to keep the people from self-destructing.
As we begin today’s text, we see God’s desire to heal Israel, to restore them, and bless them (vv. 6:11b-7:1). However, the reality of Israel’s corruption and wickedness confronts God on every facet of life, from the government rulers to the priests to the people they lead (vv. 3-7). Their quest for power and wealth has led them far from God, and the rulers kill each other in order to obtain that power and wealth. The nation sees the intrigue and murder, yet no one repents and turns back to the Lord.
The Lord uses the analogy of an oven to describe the heat of Israel’s wickedness. In verse 8, the Lord says that Israel (Ephraim) is like a flatbread in that oven – burned on one side, and raw on the other; in other words, inedible.
The Lord also describes Israel as a dove, flitting from place to place, first to Egypt, then to Assyria (v. 11), looking for solace and rest. God casts His net over them, to bring them home and redeem them. But instead of being grateful, the people rebel even more and speak lies about God to anyone who will listen.
God says that the people cry on their beds (v. 14), but their tears are not repentant, but rather, selfish. They don’t want to be reconciled to the Lord; they want what they want, and are acting like a child having a temper tantrum. God has blessed them, but they give credit to Baal (other gods) instead. Their demise as a nation is near; God’s hand of discipline is about to become evident.
As we look at this passage, we see Hosea faithfully proclaiming the word of the Lord in his generation. With the political climate of intrigue and murder, Hosea’s life was likely threatened if he did not keep quiet. Yet Hosea stood faithful to the Lord and proclaimed a very unpopular message of repentance and love.
The sun was setting on Israel, and a long night lay ahead.
May we stand firm and continue to proclaim God’s message of repentance and love regardless of the social and political climate we find ourselves in.