Hosea 13:1-15
Love's Rejection

Copyright 2013 (c) American Journal of Biblical Theology 
www.biblicaltheology.com     Scripture quotes from KJV


What are some of the blessings from God that all of the people of this world have received?  Certainly, as the Creator, God has given each of us life, and has created an environment that provides for all of our needs.  There is enough land, plants and animals to easily feed every person on the planet.  He has given us the power of His healing, and the understanding and knowledge of this world that we can take part in accelerating the healing process.  God has given us the opportunity to spend eternity with Him by simply choosing to accept Him as our Savior and Lord.  When we do, God gives a personal gift to each of us in the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Regardless of our spiritual state, how should all people respond to God for these blessings?  The minimum response is, certainly, acknowledgement of who He is, and some thanks.  However, most people in this world fail to recognize that these blessings come from God, and reject Him as their Lord.  They come up with any of a myriad of explanations for these blessings to rationalize God out of their lives.  Pseudo-scientific explanations are provided for all of God’s miracles, and all of the work done through the power of the Holy Spirit.

At best, those who reject God refuse to acknowledge Him or thank Him for what He is doing in their lives.  At worst, they claim credit for the blessings they receive, or attribute them to others.  I am reminded of a prayer that I once heard said around the dinner table, “God, why should I thank you for this food when I had to work so hard to till the soil, plant the seed, cultivate the fields, and go and get the harvest myself.  My crops nearly dried up in the drought.  I did all of the work.  What did you ever do for me?  Amen”

People have replaced God’s authority with a pantheon of other gods, whether they be fabrications of the myriad of world religions, or simply the product of the passionate desire for the material things of this world.

What is God’s response to these who reject Him and attribute the blessings they receive from Him to themselves or others?  During the life of Hosea, the nation of Israel fit this model of apostasy quite well.  They had rejected God as their creator and Lord, lowering Him to be one of the others in the pantheon of the pagan gods of Baal worship.  Because God is Holy and Just, there would be a point of reckoning when God’s judgment for their actions would be realized.  They would find themselves separated from God forever.  This is a lesson that serves as an archetype for the ultimate judgment that will result in a similar separation from God by all of those who have rejected Him.

Hosea 13:1.

When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.

The tribe of Ephraim is used to identify the nation of Israel.  Joshua was a member of the tribe of Ephraim, and the land he chose upon entering the Canaan land would be the land of the Ephramites.  When the tribes would later divide into two nations, Judah to the south, and Israel to the north, it would be the Ephraimite, Jeroboam who would unite Israel and serve as its first king (1 Kings 11:26; 12:1-33.) yes">  This placed the tribe of Ephraim in control, causing the rest of Israel to follow their lead.  About three generations later, Ahab, also of Ephraim would assume the throne.  He married Jezebel, daughter of the King of Sidon, as part of a mutual agreement.  Jezebel and Ahab worked together to change the national faith from following God to following the pagan Baals.  As a result, the nation died spiritually. yes">  It was only a matter of time before the people would be held accountable to God for breaking the promise made at Sinai that God would be their God, and they would be His people (Ex. 24:3-7).

Hosea 13:2.

And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.

What had become of the people after Jezebel’s successful campaign to turn Israel to Baal worship?  Their sins against God increased.  They removed their allegiance to God in every area of their lives, and embraced the sensual and ungodly culture of the land they had entered.  They were so assimilated into pagan society that there was little that distinguished them from it.  They still carried some of the appearance of Hebrews in their dress, but just about every area of their lives was fully immersed and conversant in the world culture.

Their craftsmen would create beautiful and ornate works of silver and other precious materials.  People would look upon them with wonder and awe, responding then by lifting the objects to deity.  I am reminded of the testimony of a Baptist missionary serving in the African bush who purchased a hand-crafted alligator and placed it in a prominent place in his home.  The local neighbors were amazed by it, started bringing their friends to see it, and ultimately started leaving offerings behind for it.  When the missionary realized what was going on, he immediately disposed of what had become an object of pagan worship to the people he was trying to lead to God.

Much of this world’s culture shares such animism:  the assigning of living traits to lifeless objects.  People worship objects made by people’s hands.  People worship the sun and stars when they have the opportunity to know and worship the one who made the starts.

The last phrase of this passage is a little hard to translate.  The grammar used can be translated, as sacrificing humans, or as humans who sacrifice.  The difference between these two interpretations is significant when held to scrutiny, but probably not very important when held within the context of Hosea’s message.  God’s people did participate in human sacrifice when they did so to the pagan god, Molech. yes">  However, God demanded a ransom for the first born rather than sacrifice (Ex. 13:13, et. al.), so there is no indication that the people sacrificed humans to God.  The last phrase, the “kissing of calves,” is an idiom that was used to describe the worship of dumb animals.  A “calf kisser” was one who worshiped animals, much like a “tree hugger” is understood to day as a radical environmentalist who places the needs of plants above those of humans.  In much the same way, when such people turn away from God and place authority in plants, they are also “kissing calves.

Hosea 13:3.

Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.

What will ultimately become of those who have rejected God in this manner?  Four metaphoric examples are provided that each paint a similar picture:  the nation of Israel will simply fade away.  The morning mist and dew are quite visible, but gradually disappear when warmed by the sun.  One does not see its evaporation except by its fading.  Likewise, chaff that swirls around on the threshing floor is dissipated by the wind, and gradually it is gone.  One sees smoke leaving the house through the window or chimney but never sees its final destination as it disappears in the air.  God is stating that the nation of Israel will fade away in the same manner.  All of those who have rejected Him will be scattered by Him, and eventually the very nation of Israel (and Judah), God’s chosen nation, will evaporate.  It will no longer be known as a nation or have any influence in this world or the next.

What does this say about modern day Israel?  Today’s nation is a political nation that was formed by Jews who had been scattered.  Like the ancient Israelites and Judeans, modern Israel has still rejected God’s blessing of salvation through obedience to Him by turning to Jesus.  Consequently we still see them as a people who reject God and are continually embroiled in battles with their neighbors.

Ultimately, all who have rejected God’s plan of grace will simply fade away.  When the judgment takes place at the end of the age, all who have refused to turn to God in faith will be “cast into the lake of fire,” separated from God for eternity.  None who have rejected God will be left, and remaining will be all of the people, for all ages, who have turned their hearts and lives over to God in faith.

Hosea 13:4-6.

Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me. 5I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. 6According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.

The dissolution of the nation of Israel would not take place because God left Israel, but rather because Israel left God.  God reminds them, through Hosea’s words, that it was He who delivered them from slavery and nurtured them as a nation.  It was He who delivered them through the many battles with other nations when they were greatly overpowered.  Why would they turn from the one who actually interacted with them and gave them such tangible blessings, and turn to lifeless, powerless idols that cannot provide them with anything.  By so doing they have forgotten those commandments that came down from Sinai that referred to the relationship between man and God.  They now completely deny the commandment, “Though shalt have no other Gods before me.”  They have forgotten the exodus from Egypt.  They have forgotten the manna and quail that were provided in the wilderness. yes">  They have forgotten God’s mighty hand that led them through the Red Sea and across the flooding Jordan River.  They have forgotten the walls falling at Jericho.  They have forgotten the pillar of fire that has consumed the sacrifice in the temple each year on the Day of Atonement.  Instead they are living for the day, choosing the sensual pleasures of sin, rationalized by their approval by the supposed authority of pagan gods.  God has been rationalized away from their culture and their individual lives.  He has been forgotten.

Hosea 13:7-8.

Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them: 8I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them.

When the Lord dispenses his judgment upon Israel it will come as suddenly and as fiercely as the attack of a wild animal.  We probably have much less fear of animals today than the ancients did.  There were many more animals living in the areas where the people inhabited, and their weaponry was far less sophisticated.  They lived in fear of an attack from a lion or leopard when they walked the pathways between their villages.  Such attacks were violent and vicious, with the bodies of the victims literally ripped apart as they were simply prey for the hungry animals.  There are few animals that attack with such determination as a mother bear who is defending her cubs.  Through these words, God is showing Israel, in a very graphic way, that their disobedience of Him will be dealt with in similar suddenness, and a similar completeness. yes">  One does not survive being ripped open by lions, tigers, or bears.  Israel will not survive the coming judgment. 

One would think that given the prophesy of Hosea, the people would turn back to God.  One would think that they would repent rather than face the doom that is to come.  During this same time Amos was sharing the same prophesy.  One would think that they would listen, but they did not. yes">  The people refused to give attention to Amos or Hosea, with only a remnant listening that would be sufficient to preserve the prophesy, but not enough to move Israel back to God.  The prophets and the remnant would all be rejected by the culture, much like the pastors, preachers, and members of today’s Christian churches are so adamantly rejected by this culture.

God will respond to today’s culture in the same way.  No one knows when the end of the age will come.  All of the “signs” for Jesus’ return have been accomplished, so there is no reason for delay, other than God’s continuing grace on those who are now here and have not yet turned to Him.  Because of this, some believe that Jesus’ return is imminent.  Most have, like the Israelites, forgotten that potential imminence and live like Jesus is never returning.  The gospel goes unshared by a church that, like Israel, has withdrawn into itself.  The church has become “keepers of the aquarium” rather than “fishers of men.”  It has become a “hotel for saints” rather than a “hospital for sinners.”

The people of the culture who have rejected God will suffer the same end that is prophesied, and later realized, for the nation of Israel.  The people of the church who are living in disobedience will not be condemned by their sin because of the promise of the seal of the Holy Spirit.  However, we are still responsible for our actions, and when the books are opened at the final judgment (Rev. 20) those actions will be revealed.

Hosea 13:9-11.

O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help. 10I will be thy king: where normal;is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes? 11I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.

At this time the people are at peace with their neighbors, leading them into a false sense of security and power.  They think that their King is so powerful that none of the neighboring nations would dare to insult their great nation.  Their arrogance is so complete that they do not realize that there are several nations around them that are so much stronger that they could be overrun at any time, and the closest of these, the Assyrians, are organizing to do so.

Saul was the first King of Israel, and was named such by the people, after anointing by Samuel.  It was not God’s will that the people have a king.  God desired that the people looked to Him as their King.  However, God does allow us to make decisions for ourselves, and through Samuel, God allowed the reign of Saul and those that followed him.  Soon after the reign of Solomon, the kings were no longer anointed by a prophet.  Soon the position of King would no longer be ordained of God in any way.  Now, when facing the greatest challenge that Israel would ever know, their king would be powerless to help them.  Without a king, the nation would crumble because they failed to look to God, their true king.

Hosea 13:12-13.

The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid. 13The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children.

God had a plan for Israel, a plan that would finally be realized after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a plan that is being realized through the church today.  Israel was to be a nation of priests, obedient to God, proclaiming the truth and goodness of God to all nations.  Instead, they have turned from God, rejected His authority in their lives, and like a child that is stuck in the birth canal, they will die before their potential can be realized.  Sin has that impact on all people, ancient and modern.  The plan that God has for our lives cannot be realized when we reject Him and His love.  God’s plan will not be carried out in the hearts and lives of those who reject him. yes">  God’s plan is carried out by those who love Him by the Holy Spirit with whom they abide.  Recall that Jesus said that “You are the temple of the Holy Spirit.”  It is through that temple that God now abides with man, and as we surrender more and more of our lives to Him, His Holy Spirit can do more and more with us.  Forbid that we would end our days still in the birth canal, never realizing what it is that God had for us in our lives.

Hosea 13:14-15.

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. 15Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels.

God does have an ultimate plan to redeem all of these who are to be lost from the power of the grave.  Death and the grave (Hebrew, sheol) will no longer have the ultimate power to separate men from God.  He has a plan to provide a payment for the sins of mankind, from those before the fallen Israel through those who live until the end of the age.  The apostle Paul reflects on Hosea’s prophesy in his first letter to the Corinthians.

1 Cor. 15:51-55.  Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The rejection of God’s love carries with it great consequences.  We must always remember to accept full responsibility for our attitudes towards God and the actions that come from such an attitude.  We should always acknowledge that all that we have, our lives, abilities, gifts, blessings, and opportunities all come from God, and we should humbly thank Him for them.  We should respond to God’s love with a true heart-felt desire to be obedient to Him, and respond with compassion to a world that is suffering from the sin of rejecting God.  Only we can take the gospel to them.