WHENEVER I WOULD RESTORE THE FORTUNES OF MY PEOPLE,
WHENEVER I WOULD HEAL ISRAEL, THE SINS OF EPHRAIM ARE EXPOSED AND THE CRIMES OF
SAMARIA REVEALED: Yahweh longed to heal Israel, but when He thought about
doing so, new evidences of her sins presented themselves. The prophets He sent
to them were mainly ineffective in stemming the tide of rebellion. Most people's
reaction to their messages was rejection and further heart-hardening.
THEIR SINS ENGULF THEM: Their evil deeds surrounded
them like a wall, so they were constantly before His eyes. They reminded Him of
their sins whenever He looked in their direction.
THEY DELIGHT THE KING WITH THEIR WICKEDNESS, THE PRINCES
WITH THEIR LIES: Their political leaders rejoiced in the wickedness of the
people because that made it easier for them to get away with sinning. These
leaders, of course, should have opposed all forms of ungodliness since they were
Yahweh's representatives on earth.
THEY ARE ALL ADULTERERS, BURNING LIKE AN OVEN WHOSE FIRE
THE BAKER NEED NOT STIR FROM THE KNEADING OF THE DOUGH TILL IT RISES: Their
burning heat of passion -- to commit adultery -- was so high, that it was like
an oven that did not need to be tended or stoked from night until morning, but
burned on its own.
Or, alternatively, "it rises" refers to the adding of the
leaven -- which itself is a symbol of sin, introduced slyly or secretly (cp Mat
16:6; 1Co 5:6-8).
ON THE DAY OF THE FESTIVAL OF OUR KING THE PRINCES BECOME
INFLAMED WITH WINE, AND HE JOINS HANDS WITH THE MOCKERS: The political
leaders became drunk on a particular festive occasions that honored the king.
The king himself joined in scoffing what was holy.
WINE: The AV has "bottles [actually, skins] of wine".
They are not content with glasses, but must resort to whole bottles of
THEIR HEARTS ARE LIKE AN OVEN; THEY APPROACH HIM WITH
INTRIGUE. THEIR PASSION SMOLDERS ALL NIGHT; IN THE MORNING IT BLAZES LIKE A
FLAMING FIRE: The princes eagerly plotted to overthrow the king. Their anger
with him smoldered for a long time and was not obvious to him, like a fire
hidden in an oven (cp v 4), but at the proper time it flared up and consumed him
and his supporters. Hosea saw this happen four times. Shallum assassinated
Zechariah, Menahem assassinated Shallum, Pekah assassinated Pekahiah, and Hoshea
assassinated Pekah (2Ki 15:10,14,25,30).
EPHRAIM MIXES WITH THE NATIONS: Ephraim had mixed
itself with the pagan nations (cp Psa 106:35), like unleavened dough mixed with
leaven. She had done this by making alliances with neighbor nations as well as
by importing heathen customs and pagan gods into Israel. Hoshea's "foreign
policy" illustrates this confusion. In 732 BC, Hoshea, after killing Pekah,
suddenly shifted from alliance with Egypt, Philistia, and Aram to alliance with
Assyria. A few years later he broke that alliance, and coming virtually full
circle, again sought alliance with Egypt.
EPHRAIM IS A FLAT CAKE NOT TURNED OVER: Ephraim was
similar to a pancake that the cook had not turned over, all burnt and black on
one side and soggy and runny on the other. In other words, she was only half
baked, worthless, not what God intended or what could nourish others. She was
crusty toward Yahweh but soft toward other nations.
"In the East it is the custom to heat the hearth, then sweep
carefully the portion heated, put the cake upon it, and cover it with ashes and
embers. In a little time the cake is turned. It is then covered again, and this
process is continued several times, until the cake is found to be sufficiently
baked. Ephraim has many representatives at this hour: (1) The man who lives for
pleasure alone is a cake not turned. One side of his nature is unduly baked, the
other is entirely neglected. Pleasure has its uses, but pleasure as a business
is a very poor business indeed. There are many such persons, both in the lower
and in the higher grades of society. The man who lives for pleasure is dead
while he liveth. He is a wretched parasite; he is a reproach to his species. One
side of his nature is burnt to a crust by the fires of unholy desire; the other
side of his nature is raw dough. Both are worthless. (2) The man who lives for
business alone is a cake not turned. Business is good. Even though it be
honourable, and the methods of its pursuit unobjectionable, the man who lives
for this life alone loses this life as well as the life that is to come. The man
to whom this world is a god is a wretched idolater. This life is never truly
lived except it is used for the good of others and for the glory of God. If a
man lives for business alone, one side of his nature is scorched by the friction
of the world's cares, and the other is raw dough. (3) A man who lives for
culture alone is a cake not turned. No man can claim the honours of culture,
portions of whose nature lie fallow. A true culture sweeps across every faculty.
Man has earthward, manward, and Godward relations. If lacking in any of these
directions, it is a partial, defective, and unauthoritative culture. Tried by
this true standard many claimants for the honour of culture will be found
wanting. That is not true culture which fails to cultivate the nobler, the
Diviner elements of the soul. (4) A man who is half-hearted in religion is a
cake not turned. Ephraim, though proud and haughty as a tribe, had been lacking
in moral backbone, in loyalty, in consecration, in the service of God. There are
such professors of religion today. A half-and-half man is a failure always and
everywhere. Today Jesus Christ calls for men with one heart, and that heart on
fire with His love. We want no unturned cakes. We want men with convictions. It
is said of some men that they are very pious Godward, and very crooked manward.
That is a severe criticism when it is true. That is not Christ's model man. He
is symmetrical: he is baked through and through. Christ alone can make such men"
FOREIGNERS SAP HIS STRENGTH, BUT HE DOES NOT REALIZE
IT: Foreign alliances had sapped Ephraim's strength rather than adding to
it, but the Israelites were ignorant of this. They thought they were as strong
as ever. Tribute payments to allies constantly drained the nation's wealth and
weakened its economy (2Ki 15:19,20; 17:3).
HIS HAIR IS SPRINKLED WITH GRAY, BUT HE DOES NOT
NOTICE: Israel was unaware of its real condition, as when a person's hair
becomes gray but he does not notice it. Others can sense the approach of death,
but he does not. Israel was dying in the late 730s and early 720s, but its own
people did not know it.
EPHRAIM IS LIKE A DOVE, EASILY DECEIVED AND SENSELESS:
Ephraim was behaving like a dove, a bird proverbial for its supposed silliness
and naive nature (cf Matt 10:16). It turned every which way except back to its
God (cp Isa 9:13).
NOW CALLING TO EGYPT, NOW TURNING TO ASSYRIA:
Expediency and human wisdom marked by vacillation had guided Israel's foreign
policy for years rather than the will of God. This was "bird-brained" diplomacy
-- desperate, confused and inconsistent. Emissaries had fluttered off to Egypt
(2Ki 17:3,4) and Assyrian (2Ki 15:29; cp Isa 8:6,7) seeking aid without
realizing the danger that these nations posed (cp Hos 11:11). (Were birds used
to carry diplomatic messages?) Finally, because Israel turned from Assyria to
Egypt for help against Assyria, Assyria destroyed the Northern
THEY HAVE STRAYED FROM ME: Or "fled", as KJV. The
frantic, fluttering, flight of a frightened bird: v 11; Pro 27:8; Isa 16:2.
Similar to sheep straying from their Shepherd.
I LONG TO REDEEM THEM: His desire was to redeem them
from destruction, but that desire was abortive -- because of their persistent
indifference to His offers of help.
BUT THEY SPEAK LIES AGAINST ME: That is why they made
foreign treaties: to defend themselves since they thought Yahweh would or could
not. The God of the Exodus was unchanged in His will, but because of Israel's
lies there will be no "exodus" from the Assyrian danger.
BUT WAIL UPON THEIR BEDS: In cries of anguish, but not
cries to Yahweh for help. When the people cried out, it was not in prayer to God
but out of self-pity over their miserable condition. These tears did not impress
THEY GATHER TOGETHER FOR GRAIN AND NEW WINE BUT TURN AWAY
FROM ME: They assembled (or slashed themselves, as in NIV mg) to obtain food
and drink from their idols. Crying out, wailing, and slashing oneself were all
aspects of the Canaanite worship style that the Israelites adopted (cp 1Ki
18:28). They turned away from Yahweh, the only one who could provide their
needs, like stubborn and rebellious children.
I TRAINED THEM AND STRENGTHENED THEM, BUT THEY PLOT EVIL
AGAINST ME: It was Yahweh who had taught His people how to be strong. He had
also made them strong militarily (cp idea, Eze 30:24,25), ie, during Jeroboam
II's reign (2Ki 14:25-28). Yet they had used what He had given them to sin
against Him (cp Gen 50:20). They treated Him as their enemy. This was further
evidence of their ingratitude.
THEY DO NOT TURN TO THE MOST HIGH; THEY ARE LIKE A FAULTY
BOW: They had looked around to other nations for help, but they had not
turned their hearts and eyes to heaven to seek the Lord's help. They had become
like a warped bow in Yahweh's hands, which sent arrows at something other than
the intended target. Rather than shooting His enemies, they shot their own
leaders and slew them (eg, Zechariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, and Pekah).
THEIR INSOLENT WORDS: In the days of Jeroboam II the
Israelites had also boasted insolently about not needing Yahweh to the
FOR THIS THEY WILL BE RIDICULED IN THE LAND OF EGYPT:
But the Egyptians, their treaty partner on several occasions, would deride them
for their weakness.