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2. The guilt of both Israel and Judah ch. 5
The general pattern of accusation of guilt followed by announcement of judgment that marked the messages in chapter 4 is also evident in chapter 5. One significant difference, however, is that in chapter 5 Judah falls under the prophet’s condemnation, though the primary object of the prophet’s criticism continues to be Israel.
Hosea called on the Israelite priests, the whole population of Israel, and the royal household to hear this message from Yahweh (cf. Hosea 4:1). The following word of judgment applied to all of them because they had been as a snare to birds in the Northern Kingdom. Their policies and practices had trapped many people in idolatry and its consequent bondage and destruction. There was an Israelite Mizpah in Gilead (Judges 10:17; Judges 11:29) and one in the territory of Benjamin (1 Samuel 7:5; 1 Samuel 10:1). Mt. Tabor stood in the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel. Probably these hunting sites represent the whole nation (by merism), from north to south or east to west. These may also have been the locations of important worship sites in the North. [Note: Ellison, p 116.] The point is that the leadership was corrupting the people everywhere.
A warning to the priests, people, and royal family of Israel 5:1-7
The target audience of this warning passage was originally the leaders as well as the ordinary citizens of Israel.
Those who had revolted against Yahweh’s covenant had gone deep into depravity, as though they waded through much carnage, to continue the hunting imagery. Yet the Lord promised to chasten all of them so they would return to Him.
Yahweh knew Israel well; He had not been deceived and fallen into a trap, as the Israelites had. Ephraim had played the harlot against her husband, the Lord, and had defiled herself by doing so (cf. Leviticus 18:20; Leviticus 18:24; Numbers 5:20; Numbers 5:27-28). Ephraim was the largest tribe in Israel and so, frequently, was a synonym for the Northern Kingdom (e.g., Hosea 4:17). Hosea may have referred to it here because this tribe was foremost in idolatry. [Note: Wood, "Hosea," p. 190.] It was part of the priests’ responsibility to distinguish between clean and unclean (Leviticus 10:10), but they had not done their job, so Israel had defiled herself.
The cultic practices of the Israelite idolaters had ensnared them so they could not return to their real God. The spirit of a harlot had taken them over; they had become sin addicts. Consequently they did not acknowledge (know) Yahweh.
The self-exalting arrogance of the Israelites gave evidence of their guilt and caused them to stumble as they pursued iniquity (cf. Proverbs 16:18). With their proud noses high in the air, they frequently stumbled as they walked. Judah had also stumbled in some of the same sins.
The guilty might seek the Lord, bringing their animal sacrifices to Him, but they would not find Him because He had withdrawn from them. Whereas holiness makes fellowship with God possible, sin and hypocrisy rule it out. He would withdraw His help and blessing from them.
They had dealt treacherously against the Lord by being unfaithful to their natural and contractual (covenant) responsibilities to Him. In this they were like an unfaithful wife who had given birth to illegitimate children, the natural result of unfaithfulness. Probably many illegitimate children who were the products of Israelites and temple prostitutes populated the Northern Kingdom. Participation in apostate religious festivals would only hasten their destruction, not avert it. Perhaps sexually transmitted diseases were taking their toll on the Israelites. Their lands would also experience destruction when enemy invaders overran Israel.
Blowing trumpets in cities announced the coming of an invader. Throughout Israel’s towns the sentries would blow alarms: in Gibeah and Ramah in northern Judah and in Beth-aven (Bethel) in southern Israel. Throughout the territory of Benjamin, which was home to all these towns at one time or another, news of war would come. Rather than leading Ephraim into battle, as the tribe of Benjamin did in Deborah’s day (Judges 5:14), the invader would pursue Benjamin as it did Ephraim. Benjamin should have been particularly watchful because of its close geographical proximity to Israel.
"This verse describes an invasion of the territory of Benjamin from the south, i.e., from Judah. The enemy is portrayed as advancing along the main mountain road from Jerusalem through Bethel and thereafter into the heart of Ephraim. Gibeah, only three miles north of Jerusalem, is the first to be attacked; then Ramah, five miles north of Jerusalem; and finally Bethel, eleven miles north of Jerusalem, on the northern border of Benjamin." [Note: Stuart, p. 102]
A warning to Ephraim and Judah 5:8-15
This warning confronted the tribe of Ephraim, or perhaps all Israel, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
When the Lord rebuked Ephraim for her sins, she would become desolate throughout her tribal territories. The Lord promised that this would surely happen (cf. Leviticus 26:32-35).
The leaders of Judah had also broken covenant with the Lord (cf. Isaiah 5:8; Micah 2:1-2), as those who move boundary markers. Judah had re-annexed Benjamite territory, thus violating the terms of the Mosaic Covenant regarding tribal allotments (cf. Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:17). [Note: Ibid., p. 104.] Consequently God’s wrath would rain down on them. The boundaries that the leaders of Judah had moved were not just physical but also spiritual. They had moved the boundaries between right and wrong, true and false religion, and the true God and idols.
Ephraim would experience crushing judgment by an enemy invader because he determined to follow false gods rather than divine commands (cf. Deuteronomy 4:3; Deuteronomy 6:14; Deuteronomy 8:19; Deuteronomy 28:14; Jeremiah 2:5). The human command in view is probably Jeroboam I’s institution of calf worship at altars in Bethel and Dan (1 Kings 12:27-30).
Yahweh would consume the Northern Kingdom as a moth eats cloth or as rot causes bones to decay. He was behind the enemy invasion.
Both Israel and Judah appealed to the king of Assyria for help, but he was unable to save them. King Ahaz of Judah did this (2 Kings 16:5-9), and so did King Menahem of Israel (2 Kings 15:19-20) and King Hoshea of Israel (cf. 2 Kings 17:3). Rather than assisting, the Assyrians attacked both nations.
However it would be Yahweh, not the Assyrians, who was ultimately responsible for the discipline of these kingdoms (cf. Hosea 5:12). As a lion He would tear them to pieces and carry them away in judgment, and there would be no one who could deliver them. Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. after two previous Assyrian invasions (in 743 and 734-32 B.C.). Judah escaped Assyria in 701 B.C., due to King Hezekiah’s trust in the Lord, but Babylonia finally fulfilled this prophecy to her in 586 B.C.
As a lion returning to its lair, Yahweh would go away and leave His people until they bore their punishment and sought His forgiveness. When they felt their affliction they would seek Him earnestly (cf. Hosea 5:6; Deuteronomy 4:29).
"The language would appear to reach into the Millennium, when the Israelites will indeed repent before God and seek his face (cf. Hosea 1:10-11; Hosea 2:14-23)." [Note: Wood, "Hosea," p. 192.]
"Taken with Matthew 23:37-39, this passage gives in broad outline the course of Israel’s future restoration to God." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 922.]
The last statement of this verse provides a transition from the messages of judgment in chapters 4 and 5 to the promises of restoration in Hosea 6:1-3.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Hosea 5". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28