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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 13

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Hosea 13:0


Relentless Judgment on IsraelRebellion and Restoration(Hosea 12:1-4)Final Judgment on IsraelIdolatry Punished
Hosea 13:1-3Hosea 13:1-3Hosea 13:1-3Hosea 13:1-3
The Punishment for Ingratitude
Hosea 13:4-8Hosea 13:4-13Hosea 13:4-8Hosea 13:4-8
The End of the Monarchy
Hosea 13:9-11Hosea 13:9-11Hosea 13:9-11
The Inevitability of Ruin
Hosea 13:12-14Hosea 13:12-16Hosea 13:12-1
Hosea 13:14-16
Hosea 13:15-16

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 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 13:1-3 1When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling. He exalted himself in Israel, But through Baal he did wrong and died. 2And now they sin more and more, And make for themselves molten images, Idols skillfully made from their silver, All of them the work of craftsmen. They say of them, “Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!” 3Therefore they will be like the morning cloud And like dew which soon disappears, Like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor And like smoke from a chimney.

Hosea 13:1 “When Ephraim spoke there was trembling” There are two possible understandings of this verse. This is an unusual use of the term “Ephraim” because it seems not to be a reference to the entire Northern Ten Tribes, but to the arrogance (“He exalted himself,” BDB 669, KB 724, Qal PERFECT) of that individual tribe only (e.g., Judges 8:1; Judges 12:1). The fear of this tribe can be seen in that when it spoke, the other tribes “trembled” (BDB 958). Remember that Ephraim and Manasseh are half-tribes because they are the children of Joseph (cf. Genesis 48:0), but they represent the largest tribe, both geographically and numerically.

The second possibility is that Ephraim stands for the leaders and king of the capital, Samaria. It was the first king who set up the golden calves as a rival to the Jerusalem temple (cf. 1 Kings 16:31). It was Ahab and Jezebel who brought Ba'al worship to Israel (cf. 1 Kings 16:31).

“Baal” This refers to the male fertility god of the Canaanite pantheon. For an excellent reference see William Foxwell Albright's book, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, page 72ff.

“he did wrong and died” This refers to the powers and preeminence of the tribe ceasing (“died” BDB 559, KB 562, Qal IMPERFECT, used metaphorically of God's judgment, e.g., of Moab in Amos 2:2; of Israel in Ezekiel 18:31).

Hosea 13:2 “molten images. . .idols” This may refer to the golden calves of Bethel and Dan (cf. line 5). However, these descriptions do not exactly fit them. They were made of wood and overlaid with gold. Therefore, this may refer to images at local Ba'al shrines (cf. Hosea 2:8; Isaiah 46:6; Jeremiah 10:4).

“Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves” We learn from 1 Kings 19:18 and Job 31:27 that kissing the idol was part of Ba'al worship (the VERB could be an IMPERFECT or a JUSSIVE, NASB). This is one example of how the supposed worship of YHWH, by means of the golden calves, was corrupted into Ba'al worship. They worshiped what they made that could not see, hear, or act!

Hosea 13:3 There are four elements mentioned which describe Israel in her transitoriness and rebellion, which will be quickly judged and removed: morning cloud, dew, chaff, and smoke.

“chimney” Literally this is “window” (BDB 70). Chimneys were non-existent in the ancient world. The buildings had small windows close to the ceiling for the purpose of letting the smoke out. Many homes placed the fire in the center of the room and allowed the smoke to exit at whatever window was possible.

Verses 4-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 13:4-8 4Yet I have been the LORD your God Since the land of Egypt; And you were not to know any god except Me, For there is no savior besides Me. 5I cared for you in the wilderness, In the land of drought. 6As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, And being satisfied, their heart became proud; Therefore they forgot Me. 7So I will be like a lion to them; Like a leopard I will lie in wait by the wayside. 8I will encounter them like a bear robbed of her cubs, And I will tear open their chests; There I will also devour them like a lioness, As a wild beast would tear them.

Hosea 13:4 “Yet I have been the LORD your God Since the land of Egypt” This is how YHWH introduced His Ten Commandments (cf. Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6). This again is a reference to the Exodus as the courtship and marriage time between God and Israel (cf. Hosea 13:5; Hosea 2:14; Hosea 9:10; Hosea 12:9).

“you were not to know any god except Me” This phrase is in the Ten Commandments (cf. Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7). The VERB (BDB 393, KB 390, Qal IMPERFECT) implies intimate, personal relationship (BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil PARTICIPLES, e.g., Isaiah 43:3, Isaiah 43:11, Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 45:15, Isaiah 45:21-22; Isaiah 63:8).

“For there is no savior besides Me” YHWH was the only One and the only Redeemer (BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil PARTICIPLE, e.g., Isaiah 43:3, Isaiah 43:11, Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 45:15, Isaiah 45:21-22; Isaiah 63:8). See Special Topic: Monotheism.

Hosea 13:5 “I cared for you in the wilderness” The VERB (BDB 393, KB 390, Qal PERFECT) is literally “to know” (i.e., meaning chosen and given special knowledge of YHWH). God's special care of Israel showed His love (cf. Deuteronomy 32:10-14).

The ancient Greek and Syriac translations have “feed” (BDB 944) instead of “cared.”

NASB, NRSV“In the land of drought” NKJV“in the land of great drought” TEV“desert land” NJB“in a land of dreadful drought”

This CONSTRUCT means “intense heat and dryness.” It is a way of alluding to YHWH's supernatural provision of water during the wilderness wandering period (e.g., Exodus 15:22-26; Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:2-13; Numbers 21:16; Deuteronomy 32:10-14).

Hosea 13:6 What a tragedy! God's blessings (“satisfied” [twice] BDB 959, KB 1302, the first Qal IMPERFECT and the second Qal PERFECT) turned into self-centered pride and spiritual fatness (cf. Deuteronomy 6:10-12; Deuteronomy 8:11-20; Deuteronomy 32:13-15).

“Therefore they forgot Me” Here is the tragedy. They took the physical, but missed the truly valuablea personal relationship with the only Creator, Redeemer God (cf. Hosea 2:13; Hosea 4:6; ; Hosea 8:14; Deuteronomy 8:14; Deuteronomy 31:16, Deuteronomy 31:20; Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 32:18; Judges 10:6).

Hosea 13:7-8 These are references to wild animals as metaphors of God's judgment: lion, leopard, bear, and lioness (e.g., Jeremiah 2:15; Jeremiah 4:7; Jeremiah 5:6; Psalms 7:2; Psalms 50:22). This animal attack contrasts the shepherding imagery of Hosea 13:6.

Verses 9-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 13:9-11 9It is your destruction, O Israel, That you are against Me, against your help. 10Where now is your king That he may save you in all your cities, And your judges of whom you requested, “Give me a king and princes”? 11I gave you a king in My anger And took him away in My wrath.

Hosea 13:9 “That you are against Me, against your help” What an irony! Israel had forsaken her only help (e.g., Jeremiah 2:17, Jeremiah 2:19). The Greek and Syriac translations have, “For who will help you?”

Hosea 13:10-11 This seems to be another reference that relates to Hosea's negative attitude toward the monarchy (cf. Hosea 7:3-7; Hosea 8:4, Hosea 8:10, Hosea 8:13; Hosea 10:3), but it may also reflect Deuteronomy 28:0 (esp. Deut. 13:36,52). The line Hosea 13:11a, “I gave you a king in My anger,” reflects 2 Samuel 8:4-9. The next line, Hosea 13:11b, represents the exile by Assyria (cf. 2 Kings 17:1-6).

Hosea 13:10 “Where now is your king” The MT has “I want to be your king,” but the ancient translations (Greek, Syriac, and Vulgate) emend the text to read like the NASB.

Verses 12-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 13:12-14 12The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; His sin is stored up. 13The pains of childbirth come upon him; He is not a wise son, For it is not the time that he should delay at the opening of the womb. 14Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight.

Hosea 13:12 “bound up” The VERB (BDB 864, KB 1058, Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE) means the retention of guilt.

“His sin is stored up” The VERB (BDB 860, KB 1049, Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE) is a metaphor for “remembered” or “cataloged” (cf. Hosea 7:2; Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:9).

Hosea 13:13 This metaphor (“pains of childbirth” BDB 408, KB 411, Qal PARTICIPLE) seems to refer to (1) Israel as an unborn son who is reluctant to come out of the womb and, therefore, is spiritually dead (cf. 2 Kings 19:3; Isaiah 37:3) or (2) labor pains as a symbol of judgment (cf. Micah 4:9-10). Israel should have recognized the pain and repented (cf. Isaiah 21:3; Isaiah 26:17).

Hosea 13:14 “Shall I ransom. . .Shall I redeem” These two parallel phrases can be interpreted as INTERROGATIVES (questions, cf. NASB) or as INDICATIVES (statements, cf. NIV). The Septuagint translates them as INDICATIVES and this is quoted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:55. However, the Masoretic Text, in context, seems to imply that they are questions (NASB) and they imply judgment (Hosea 13:14e NET Bible).

The first VERB (BDB 804, KB 911) is a Qal IMPERFECT and second VERB (BDB 145, KB 169) a Qal IMPERFECT. See Special Topic: RANSOM/REDEEM.

“Sheol” See Special Topic: Where Are the Dead?.

“thorns. . .sting” These are metaphors (i.e., “plagues” BDB 184 and “destruction” BDB 881) of the means and fear of death.

“Compassion will be hidden from My sight” The NIV translation groups this use with Hosea 13:15-16.

Verses 15-16

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 13:15-16 15Though he flourishes among the reeds, An east wind will come, The wind of the LORD coming up from the wilderness; And his fountain will become dry And his spring will be dried up; It will plunder his treasury of every precious article. 16Samaria will be held guilty, For she has rebelled against her God. They will fall by the sword, Their little ones will be dashed in pieces, And their pregnant women will be ripped open.

Hosea 13:15

NASB“Though he flourishes among the reeds” NKJV“Though he is fruitful among his brethren” NRSV“Although he may flourish among the rushes” TEV“Even though Israel flourishes like weeds” NJB“Though Ephraim bears more fruit than his brothers”

The MT has “though he a son of brothers may bear fruit.” The ancient translations (Greek, Syriac, Latin) have “he causes division between brothers.” Modern translations such as the NASB assume an emendation of “reed” for “brother.”

The VERB “bear fruit” (BDB 826, KB 903, Hiphil IMPERFECT) is a word play on “Ephraim.” However, God's east wind (Assyria) is coming and he will be fruitful no more (i.e., the water will be dried up). War will devastate his people, his most vulnerable ones (cf. Hosea 13:16)!

“The wind of the LORD” This phrase refers to Assyria as a chosen tool of God for the chastisement of His people, Israel (cf. Hosea 12:1; Isaiah 10:5).

Hosea 13:16 “They will fall by the sword” This refers to the collapse of the capital, Samaria, in 722 B.C. by Assyria. This verse vividly describes the horror of ancient warfare (see note at Hosea 10:14). The entire population suffers (cf. Isaiah 10:24-27).

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Hosea 13". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/hosea-13.html. 2021.
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