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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
Hosea 10

 

 

Verse 1

Hosea compared Israel to a luxuriant (degenerate) vine; the people enjoyed great economic prosperity. The grapevine was a common figure for Israel. Yahweh had planted Israel in Canaan as a vine and had blessed it with fruitful prosperity (cf. Psalm 80:8-10; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 19:10-11). Yet the more the Lord blessed Israel the more the Israelites multiplied altars and sacred pillars to honor idols. They worshipped pagan gods in response to Yahweh"s blessing.


Verse 1-2

Judgment on Israel"s cultic symbols10:1-2


Verses 1-8

Israel"s vulnerability10:1-8

The allusion that opens this series of messages is similar to the ones in Hosea 9:10; Hosea 10:9, and Hosea 11:1 in that it refers to Israel"s early history. A mood of loss of confidence and protection marks this section. As so often in Hosea , evidences of covenant unfaithfulness begin the section followed by announcements of punishment for unfaithfulness. In this one announcement of the fate of the nation"s cultic symbols (altars, idols, sacred standing stones, and high places) gives way to announcement of judgment on Israel"s political symbol (the king).


Verse 2

Such behavior indicated an unfaithful (Heb. halaq, flattering, hypocritical, lit. slippery) heart that rendered the Israelites guilty before God. He would do away with the altars and pillars that they had erected.


Verse 3

When the Lord brought destruction, the people would realize that their self-appointed king had failed them and that they did not respect the Lord. They would acknowledge that no human king could help them. Hoshea would prove to be Israel"s last king, and perhaps he was already on the throne when Hosea gave this prophecy.


Verses 3-8

Judgment on Israel"s political symbol10:3-8


Verse 4

The people had not been true to their word. They had broken covenants they made with one another. Consequently God"s judgment was as inevitable as weeds growing in the furrows of their fields. His judgment would slay them just as poisonous weeds kill people who eat them. Another view is that the weeds represent perverted justice, and true justice would have been as wheat. [Note: Ibid, p164.]


Verse 5

When God destroyed Israel"s altars ( Hosea 10:2), specifically the golden calf at Beth-aven (i.e, Bethel, cf. Hosea 10:8; Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8), the Israelites who lived in Samaria, Israel"s capital, would fear. Beth-aven may stand not merely for Bethel but also for the whole official, semi-pagan religious set-up in Israel. [Note: Ellison, p128.] The people would mourn, and the idolatrous priests (Heb. kemarim; cf. 2 Kings 23:5; Zephaniah 1:4) who served there would bewail the demise of this altar, since its glory had departed from the land.


Verse 6

The Assyrians would carry the golden calf to their land in honor of their king (cf. Hosea 8:10). Israel would then feel great shame because the Israelites had decided to trust in a foreign alliance with the Assyrians for their security (cf. Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:8-9; Hosea 7:11; Hosea 8:9-10).

"For us alliances between nations are such a commonplace of life that we can hardly imagine a nation standing alone ...

"It should have been fundamental, however, for Israel that no foreign alliances were possible. The reason was quite simply that in those days the secular state did not exist, and so in practice it was impossible to distinguish between a state and its gods. In an extant treaty of peace between Rameses II of Egypt and Hattusilis the Hittite king it is a thousand of their gods on either side who are the witnesses to and guarantors of it. [Note: Footnote1: James B. Pritchard, ed, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, pp200-201.] So even a treaty on equal terms with a neighbouring country would have involved for Israel a recognition of the other country"s deities as having reality and equality with Jehovah. To turn to Assyria or Egypt for help implied of necessity that their gods were more effective than the God of Israel." [Note: Ellison, p131.]


Verse 7

The Assyrians would also remove the Israelites (Samaria) along with their king. They would be swept away like a twig floating on the surface of a fast-moving stream. They would be helpless, totally at the mercy of the Assyrians.

"The three centers of authority in the North were king, cult, and capital city. The final two verses of the passage announce the fulfillment of covenant sanctions against each of these, beginning in Hosea 10:7 a with the capital." [Note: Stuart, p162.]


Verse 8

The Assyrians would also destroy the sites of the idolatrous shrines at Aven (wickedness, i.e, Bethel), where the Israelites had sinned. Ironically, when the Israelites had entered the Promised Land, the Lord had commanded them to destroy such places ( Numbers 33:52; Deuteronomy 12:2-3). Since they had not obeyed, the Lord would use the Assyrians to fulfill His command. The pagan altars there would become overgrown with wild thorns and thistles. The Israelites would then express their terror over this judgment by calling on the mountains and hills to cover them (cf. Luke 23:30; Revelation 6:16). They would prefer death to life (cf. Jeremiah 8:3; Revelation 9:6).


Verse 9

The Israelites had sinned consistently since the days of the atrocity at Gibeah ( Judges 19-20; cf. Judges 9:9; Isaiah 1:10). The prophet visualized them as warriors standing at Gibeah. He asked rhetorically if the Lord"s battle against them would not be victorious at this site of their early sinning. He would indeed defeat these people so long associated with iniquity.


Verse 9-10

An initial announcement of war10:9-10


Verses 9-15

Israel"s coming war10:9-15

This section also opens with a reference to an event in Israel"s past history (cf. Hosea 9:10; Hosea 10:1; Hosea 11:1). Announcements of war punishment ( Hosea 10:9-10; Hosea 10:14-15) bracket Yahweh"s indictment of His people for their sins ( Hosea 10:11-13).


Verse 10

At the Lord"s chosen time He would chasten (punish, discipline, cf. Hosea 5:2) His people by binding them as prisoners, harnessing them to their sins (cf. Hosea 10:11). Other peoples would oppose them in battle when the Lord had bound them up for being twice guilty. The double guilt in view is probably their original guilt because of their sin at Gibeah and their present guilt because of their sin at Bethel. [Note: Wolff, p184.] Another view is that it refers to the sin of forsaking God and the sin of forsaking His appointed Davidic kings. [Note: Keil, 1:133.]


Verse 11

Hosea compared Ephraim to a heifer that enjoyed threshing.

"Threshing was a comparatively light task, made pleasant by the fact that the creature was unmuzzled and free to eat ... as it pulled the threshing sledge over the gathered corn." [Note: Kidner, pp97-98.]

Ephraim had abandoned this comparatively light service in preference for becoming yoked to sin ( Hosea 10:10). As punishment Yahweh would yoke the people of both Northern and Southern Kingdoms to an enemy who would greatly restrict their movements and force them to do hard work. "Judah" refers to the Southern Kingdom and "Jacob" to the Northern, using the name of the patriarch that stresses this ancestor"s rebelliousness. Or possibly "Jacob" refers to all12tribes. [Note: Wood, " Hosea ," p211.]


Verses 11-15

A confirming announcement of war10:11-15


Verse 12

The prophet appealed to the Israelites to repent. They should cultivate righteousness with a view to reaping the Lord"s kindness (Heb. hesed). Breaking up fallow ground is what a farmer does when he plows land that has remained untouched for a long time, even forever (cf. Jeremiah 4:3). This is a figure for confessing sins and exposing them to God when they have remained unconfessed under the surface of life for a long time. It was time for the people to seek Yahweh, whom they had failed to seek in repentance for so long. They should confess and repent until the Lord sent the blessings of righteousness (deliverance, cf. Hosea 2:19) on them like rain (cf. Hosea 6:3).

This well-known verse is a good summary of what all Israel"s prophets appealed to God"s people to do throughout their history (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:2).


Verse 13

Instead of plowing righteousness and reaping loyal love ( Hosea 10:12), the Israelites had plowed wickedness and reaped injustice. Instead of eating the fruit of righteousness, they had eaten the fruit of lies. They had done this because they trusted in themselves and in their own military might.


Verse 14

Because the Israelites trusted in their own army, turmoil rather than tranquillity would mark their life. Their fortresses would suffer destruction rather than protecting the Israelites from destruction. Hosea compared this future loss to one in Israel"s past, but what past event is uncertain.

"Shalman" may refer to King Shalmaneser III, an Assyrian who conducted campaigns in the West in the ninth century B.C. Another identification of "Shalman" is King Salamanu, a Moabite ruler who was a contemporary of King Hoshea of Israel, whose name appears in a list of kings who paid tribute to the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III. [Note: Ellison, pp140-41.] A third possibility is the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V who prepared the way for Israel"s captivity by invading the land (cf. 2 Kings 17:3-6). [Note: See Harper, p358.] "Beth-arbel" could refer to the town of Arbela about18 miles southeast of the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee) or to Mt. Arbel two miles west of that sea. In any case, the battle had been a bloody one that the Israelites of Hosea"s day remembered vividly. The enemy had slaughtered mothers and their children without mercy.


Verse 15

The Israelites would suffer a similar slaughter at Bethel because of their great wickedness. "Bethel" here may refer to the town or to the whole nation of Israel (by metonymy, cf. Hosea 10:7).

"Since her destruction would occur "when that day dawns" (meaning the very beginning of the day of battle), it is noteworthy that Israel"s final king, Hoshea, was taken captive by the Assyrian conqueror Shalmaneser V before the actual siege of Samaria began." [Note: Wood, " Hosea ," p211.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Hosea 10:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/hosea-10.html. 2012.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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