Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 10

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Hosea 10:0


Israel's Sin and CaptivityBecause of Constant Rebellion the Judgment of the Lord is Upon Israel(Hosea 4:1-9)The Prophet Speaks About Israel(Hosea 9:17-2)The Destruction of Israel's Cultic Objects
Hosea 10:1-2Hosea 10:1-2Hosea 10:1-10
Hosea 10:3-8Hosea 10:3-10Hosea 10:3-4
Hosea 10:5-8
The Lord Pronounces Judgment on Israel
Hosea 10:9-11Hosea 10:9-10Israel Has Disappointed Yahweh's Hope
Hosea 10:11-12Hosea 10:11-13aHosea 10:11-15
Hosea 10:12-15
Hosea 10:13-15Hosea 10:13-15

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-2

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 10:1-2 1Israel is a luxuriant vine; He produces fruit for himself. The more his fruit, The more altars he made; The richer his land, The better he made the sacred pillars. 2Their heart is faithless; Now they must bear their guilt. The Lord will break down their altars And destroy their sacred pillars.

Hosea 10:1

NASB, NRSV, NJB“Israel is a luxuriant vine” NKJV“Israel empties his vine” TEV“The people of Israel were like a grapevine that was full of grapes”

“Luxuriant” (BDB 132 I, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) is found only here. The Septuagint has “a vine with beautiful branches.” This seems to be an allusion to Hosea 9:10 (cf. Psalms 80:8-13). God made Israel fruitful (this is one possible meaning of bqq). However, the more YHWH blessed them, the more they went after the Ba'als (cf. Hosea 11:1). What irony! The vine was often a symbol for Israel (e.g., Deuteronomy 32:32; Psalms 80:8-19; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 15:1-8).

It is possible to take the VERB as “empty” (BDB 132 I) and thereby Israel as a vine that does not produce God's desired fruit (cf. Hosea 9:10-17).

“He produces fruit for himself” The rest of this verse is an allusion to Hosea 8:11 (cf. BDB 915) or Hosea 12:11 (cf. Jeremiah 2:28; Jeremiah 11:13).

NASB“The better he made the sacred pillars” NKJV“They have embellished his sacred pillars” NRSV“He improved his pillars” TEV“The more beautiful they made the sacred pillars they worship” NJB“The richer he made the sacred pillars” NET Bible“They adorned the fertility pillars”

Prosperity did not turn their hearts back to God (as it was intended, cf. Deut. 27-29), but magnified their worship and thanksgiving to Ba'al. They improved his worship sites and neglected YHWH's temple!

Hosea 10:2 “heart” In Hebrew thought the heart, not the emotions, is the center of the will and the intellect.


NASB“faithless” NKJV, NJB“divided” NRSV“false” TEV“deceitful”

The Hebrew term (BDB 325 II, KB 322, Qal PERFECT) is “smooth.” It is a metaphor of insecure footing, therefore, interpreted as treacherous or unreliable (cf. New Berkeley version “Their heart was slippery”). This is the only place in the OT where this VERB is used of a “heart.” Usually it refers to a tongue. This faithlessness can refer to (1) Ba'al vs. YHWH or (2) trust in the God of Israel vs. political alliances with Egypt and/or Assyria. The opposite metaphor of sure footedness is the source of the OT term for faith (cf. BDB 52-54).

It is possible to take the VERB as “divided” (BDB 324) meaning their devotion (i.e., heart) was split between YHWH and Ba'al. However, this term is used mostly in Chronicles and not the prophets.

“they must bear their guilt” See Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:15; Hosea 13:1, Hosea 13:16; Micah 5:10-15).

“their altars. . .their sacred pillars” These objects of worship are often associated with the idolatrous fertility practices of Ba'al (uplifted stone pillar, i.e., phallic symbol, cf. Hosea 3:4; 1 Kings 14:23-24) and Asherah (raised, cut stone altar with a place for a carved stake or live tree).

Verses 3-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 10:3-10 3Surely now they will say, “We have no king, For we do not revere the LORD. As for the king, what can he do for us?” 4They speak mere words, With worthless oaths they make covenants; And judgment sprouts like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field. 5The inhabitants of Samaria will fear For the calf of Beth-aven. Indeed, its people will mourn for it, And its idolatrous priests will cry out over it, Over its glory, since it has departed from it. 6The thing itself will be carried to Assyria As tribute to King Jareb; Ephraim will be seized with shame And Israel will be ashamed of its own counsel. 7Samaria will be cut off with her king Like a stick on the surface of the water. 8Also the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, will be destroyed; Thorn and thistle will grow on their altars; Then they will say to the mountains, “Cover us!” And to the hills, “Fall on us!” 9From the days of Gibeah you have sinned, O Israel; There they stand! Will not the battle against the sons of iniquity overtake them in Gibeah? 10When it is My desire, I will chastise them; And the peoples will be gathered against them When they are bound for their double guilt.

Hosea 10:3 “We have no king” This may reflect 1 Samuel 8:4-9. Hosea often speaks against the northern monarchy (cf. Hosea 7:3-7; Hosea 8:4, Hosea 8:10, Hosea 8:13; Hosea 13:9-11). The original dynasty (Jeroboam I) did not last. There were numerous changes in leadership (i.e., king).

Hosea 10:4 “They speak mere words, With worthless oaths they make covenants” This is a COGNATE ACCUSATIVE, emphasizing that they speak (BDB 150, KB 210, Piel PERFECT) human words with no meaning (cf. Isaiah 58:13). This contrasted their oaths/covenant to YHWH (cf. Exod. 19-20) with their oaths/covenants to foreign powers. Israel's oaths cannot be trusted. They are based solely on self interest.

The second line of poetry has two INFINITIVE ABSOLUTES. This construction draws attention to this second line and not the VERB of line one.

“judgment sprouts like poisonous weeds” This may refer to the injustice of the judges (cf. Amos 2:6; Amos 5:12; Amos 6:12).

Hosea 10:5 “Samaria” Samaria, the mountain ridge fortress, was built by Omri (cf. 1 Kings 16:24) and became Israel's capital. After 922 B.C., when the kingdom split, the Northern Ten Tribes under Jeroboam I were known as Israel, Ephraim, or Samaria, and the Southern two tribes, under Rehoboam, Solomon's son, were known as Judah.

NASB“will fear” NKJV“fear” NRSV, NJB“tremble” TEV“will be afraid” NET Bible”will lament”

The Hebrew VERB (BDB 158, KB 185, Qal IMPERFECT) means “to dread.” This VERB can mean “reverential respect” (i.e., worship) or “fear” (i.e., it being taken away, cf. Hosea 10:5-6). Many scholars suppose an emendation based on the parallelism “to lament” (BDB 626).

“the calf of Beth-aven” This refers to the golden calf that Jeroboam I set up at Bethel (cf. Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8; 1 Kings 16:28-29). The golden calves (Bethel and Dan) were not meant to be idols, but representatives of YHWH (cf. Exodus 32:4-5). The term Beth-aven (BDB 110), which is translated “house of vanity,” is a word play on Bethel (“house of God”). This is an example of Jews corrupting a name (god or place) because of its association with idolatry.

NASB, NRSV“idolatrous priests” NKJV“its priests” TEV“the priests who serve the idol” NJB“its idol-priests”

This refers to the priests at the royal sites of Bethel and Dan being addressed as Ba'al's priests (cf. 2 Kings 23:5; Zephaniah 1:4).

These Hebrew consonants kmr have several meanings.

1. to be warm (or blackened) BDB I

2. to be black (from Syriac) BDB II

3. to lay prostrate, BDB III

4. a snare or net

These consonants are the regular term for “priests” in Canaan and Akkadian. These priests of the north were seen by Hosea as foreign priests!

NASB“cry out over it” NKJV“shriek for it” NRSV“wail over it” NRSV (footnote)“exult” (Hebrew) TEV“will weep over it” NJB“they exult in its glory”

The MT has “will rejoice” (BDB 162, KB 189, Qal IMPERFECT), but it may be used in sarcasm.

“its glory” This term (BDB 458 II) is usually used of YHWH (cf. 1 Samuel 4:21-22), but here it is used in a sarcastic sense of a calf-idol that originally was meant to represent YHWH, but had long since come to represent Ba'al. See Special Topic: Glory.

Hosea 10:6 “King JaREB This seems to be a reference to Tiglath-pileser III. It is literally a metaphor meaning “the Great King,” literally “a king that contends” (BDB 937, cf. Hosea 5:13).

“Israel will be ashamed of its own counsel” The VERB (BDB 202, KB 116, Qal IMPERFECT) is used also in Hosea 10:5 and 4:19. Idolatry made them “ashamed.”

Their faulty counsel (BDB 420) was mentioned earlier in Hosea 7:12 (cf. Jeremiah 7:24). There have been several other suggested options for “counsel.”

1. its disobedience

2. its wooden idol (cf. Hosea 10:5)

The NASB, NKJV, NRSV, TEV, and NJB have “wooden idol.”

Hosea 10:7 “Samaria will be cut off with her king” The VERB (BDB 198, KB 225, Niphal PERFECT) means to remove, to destroy (cf. Hosea 10:8). YHWH allowed a northern king because of the arrogance of Rehoboam, but he did evil in His sight by setting up the golden calves. Now He will remove him in His wrath (cf. Hosea 13:11).

NASB“Like a stick on the surface of the water” NKJV“Like a twig on the water” NRSV, TEV“Like a chip on the face of the waters” NJB“Like a straw drifting on the water”

The Hebrew here is very difficult. It can refer to a piece (twig or splinter) of wood (BDB 893 II, cf. Joel 1:7) or “foam” (Vulgate).

Hosea 10:8 “the high places of Aven” This means “vanity” or “nothingness” (BDB 19). This term is often applied by the Jews as a word play to corrupt place names and the names of people who were involved in idolatry.

The “high places” can refer to (1) the top of hills (i.e., threshing floors) or (2) the raised, cut stone altars of local Ba'al shrines (cf. Hosea 4:13).

“Thorn and thistle will grow on their altars” This may be a reference to a curse (cf. Genesis 3:18) or a sign of non-use (cf. Hosea 9:6).

“say to the mountains,

‘Cover us!' And to the hills ‘Fall on us'“ The first VERB (BDB 491, KB 487) is a Piel IMPERATIVE. The second VERB (BDB 656, KB 709) is a Qal IMPERATIVE. This is used in Luke 23:30 and Revelation 6:16 as an expression of the horror at God's judgment. Here there may be a theologicl connection between “mountains” and “hills” and Ba'al worship.

Hosea 10:9 “From the days of Gibeah you have sinned” This could be another anti-monarchial statement because this was Saul's hometown and the site of his first sin against God (cf. 1 Samuel 13:8-14). It could also be a reference to the sins recorded in Judges 19-21.

“When it is My desire” This phrase (BDB 16) has no VERB. It seems to be a way to express God's will (i.e., judgment).

Hosea, the second writing prophet, depicts God in very emotional (anthropomorphic) metaphors.

1. wild beast, Hosea 5:14; Hosea 13:7, Hosea 13:8

2. hate, Hosea 9:15

3. strong desire to judge, Hosea 10:10

4. anger, Hosea 11:9; Hosea 13:11

Human language describing God is always metaphorical and analogical. Humans are sinful, temporal, and restricted to this planet. Our vocabulary and mental ability cannot fathom an eternal, holy, personal being!

“I will chastise them” The VERB (BDB 415, KB 418, Qal IMPERFECT) generally means “educate” or “inform” (morally) by discipline. Here it refers to discipline (i.e., judgment) because of covenant violations.

“the peoples will be gathered” God will gather (BDB 62, KB 74, Pual PERFECT) the nations (BDB 766) to judge His people.

“double guilt” Literally this is “two of their iniquities.” The phrase “double guilt” comes from the Septuagint, Peshitta, and Vulgate. It could refer to (1) a play on the name Ephraim (“double fruitful”); (2) the two sins of following Ba'al and forsaking YHWH (cf. Jeremiah 2:13); or (3) the golden calves set up at Bethel and Dan.

Verses 11-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 10:11-15 11Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh, But I will come over her fair neck with a yoke; I will harness Ephraim, Judah will plow, Jacob will harrow for himself. 12Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD Until He comes to rain righteousness on you. 13You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, You have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors, 14Therefore a tumult will arise among your people, And all your fortresses will be destroyed, As Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle, When mothers were dashed in pieces with their children. 15Thus it will be done to you at Bethel because of your great wickedness. At dawn the king of Israel will be completely cut off.

Hosea 10:11 “Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh” This poetic line refers to the easier task of threshing out the grain. The following lines prophesy that she will be made to do the difficult work of plowing (i.e., yoke on her neck).

“Judah will plow” This refers to a future series of Babylonian exiles (i.e., 605, 597, 586, 582 B.C.).

“Jacob will harrow for himself” The VERB (BDB 961, KB 1306, Piel IMPERFECT) is parallel to “plow.” It is also used in Job 39:10 and Isaiah 28:24. Jacob may refer to:

1. another name for Israel

2. a way to refer to all the tribes (i.e., Israel and Judah).

Hosea 10:12 “Sow with a view to righteousness,

Reap in accordance with kindness” What a surprising verse in this judgment context. There are three Qal IMPERATIVES (sow, reap, till [break]). This VERB seems to be an appeal by the prophet (or God Himself) for the people to return to God (cf. Proverbs 11:18). These first three poetic lines state a universal truth, “whatsoever we sow, that shall we reap” (cf. Hosea 8:7; Hosea 12:2; Job 4:8; Psalms 126:6; Proverbs 11:18; Proverbs 22:8; Jeremiah 4:3; 2 Corinthians 9:6 Galatians 6:7).

The term “kindness” (BDB 338) is the Hebrew term hesed, which means “covenant loyalty,” both toward God and one's covenant partners (cf. Hosea 4:1; Hosea 6:4-6; Hosea 12:7; Micah 6:8). See Special Topic: Lovingkindness (hesed).

“Break up your fallow ground” This is a metaphor of repentance (cf. Jeremiah 4:3).

“For it is time to seek the LORD” The VERB (BDB 205, KB 233) is a Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT. It has a covenant connotation (e.g., Deuteronomy 4:29). YHWH can be found if people truly seek Him (e.g., Jeremiah 29:13). Seeking YHWH is sinful Israel's only hope of avoiding destruction (cf. Hosea 10:12; Isaiah 55:6-7; Amos 5:4, Amos 5:6). The proper time to seek the Lord is now!

“Until He comes to rain righteousness on you” This is a surprising agricultural metaphor (i.e., annual and regular rainfall) for spiritual reality (i.e., righteousness). This is a recurrent theme in the prophets (e.g., Hosea 2:19-20; Hosea 6:3; Hosea 14:5; Psalms 72:6-7; Isaiah 44:3-4; Isaiah 45:8; Joel 2:23; Joel 3:18).

Hosea 10:13 “You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice” God's desire for a “righteous” and “loyal” people (Hosea 10:12), using an agricultural metaphor (“break up fallow ground”), has unfortunately resulted in exactly the opposite fruitwickedness and injustice.

They have “trusted” (BDB 105, KB 120, Qal PERFECT) in their own power instead of YHWH's. the result (Hosea 10:14-15) is violent destruction!

“Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors” The historical setting was a time of great prosperity and military victory (see Introduction). Israel (like Judah, Hosea 8:14) was trusting in her military power (cf. Jeremiah 9:23-24).

The phrase “your way” (BDB 202) is translated “chariots” (cf. Hosea 14:3) in the Septuagint, which makes for good parallelism, but requires an emendation. It may be possible to read the consonants from a Ugaritic root as “power.”

Hosea 10:14 “As Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel” This is possibly a reference to Shalmaneser III who reigned from 858-824 B.C. He is referred to in the Bible in Hosea 10:3 and 18:9. It could also refer to Salamanu, King of Moab, who was a contemporary with Tiglath-pileser III. Beth-arbel is an unknown site and the exact historical reference is uncertain.

“mothers were dashed in pieces with their children” This was a gruesome aspect of Assyrian exile. The army killed all of the very old and very young who could not travel into exile. This, of course, included pregnant women. This was done to shock and traumatize the population (cf. Hosea 13:16).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. List the references to fertility worship in Hosea 9:0 and 10.

2. List the cities that are referred to in Hosea 9:9-15.

3. Will Israel be exiled to Egypt or Assyria? Explain Hosea 11:5 compared to Hosea 7:10; Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:3.

4. Explain the Hebrew's use of “shame.”

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Hosea 10". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/hosea-10.html. 2021.
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