The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Hosea 10

Hos 10:1

ISRAEL WAS A SPREADING VINE: Not pruned? The grapevine was a common figure for Israel. Yahweh had planted Israel in Canaan as a vine and had blessed it with fruitful prosperity (Psa 80:8-10; Jer 2:21; Eze 19:10,11).

AS HIS FRUIT INCREASED, HE BUILT MORE ALTARS: The more the Lord blessed Israel, the more the Israelites multiplied altars and sacred pillars to honor idols. They worshipped pagan gods in response to Yahweh's blessing.

Hos 10:2

THEIR HEART IS DECEITFUL: Or "divided" (AV). Heb "halaq" may sig "hypocritical". "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money" (Mat 6:24).

Hos 10:3

WE HAVE NO KING: When the Lord brought destruction, the people would realize that their self-appointed king had failed them and that they did not respect the Lord. They would acknowledge that no human king could help them.

And so it was in Jesus' day: "But they shouted, 'Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!' 'Shall I crucify your king?' Pilate asked. 'We have no king but Caesar,' the chief priests answered" (John 19:15).

Hos 10:4

POISONOUS WEEDS: Refers to a "poisonous plant" (Deu 29:17; Hos 10:4) or "bitter herb" (Psa 69:21; Lam 3:5) (BDB; HAL). Perhaps the poppy, grown widely in the Middle East today.

The word used is "rosh" and is elsewhere translated gall (Deut 29:18; 32:32; Psa 69:21; Jer 8:14; 9:15; 23:15, Lam 3:5, 3:19; Amos 6:12), venom (Deut 32:33) poison (Job 20:16).

Hos 10:5

THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN SAMARIA FEAR FOR THE CALF-IDOL OF BETH AVEN: When God destroyed Israel's altars (v 2), specifically the golden calf at Beth Aven (ie, Bethel: cp v 8; Hos 4:15; 5:8), the Israelites who lived in Samaria, Israel's capital, would fear.

ITS PEOPLE WILL MOURN OVER IT, and so will its idolatrous priests: They would mourn, and the idolatrous priests (Heb "kemarim": 2Ki 23:5; Zeph 1:4) who served there would bewail the demise of this altar, since its glory had departed from the land.

Hos 10:6

IT WILL BE CARRIED TO ASSYRIA AS TRIBUTE FOR THE GREAT KING: The Assyrians would carry the golden calf to their land in honor of their king (cf Hos 8:10).

EPHRAIM WILL BE DISGRACED: Israel would then feel great shame because the Israelites had decided to trust in a foreign alliance with the Assyrians for their security (Hos 5:13; 7:8,9,11; 8:9,10).

Hos 10:8

THORNS AND THISTLES WILL GROW UP AND COVER THEIR ALTARS: The curse of Eden (Gen 3:18), sym the prevalence of sin that chokes out righteousness.

THEY WILL SAY TO THE MOUNTAINS, "COVER US!" AND TO THE HILLS, "FALL ON US!": Cit Luk 23:30. Jesus predicted that, when the Romans came to Jerusalem, the Israelites would express their terror over this judgment by calling on the mountains and hills to cover them (cp Rev 6:16). They would prefer death to life (Jer 8:3; Rev 9:6).

Hos 10:9

GIBEAH: Cp Hos 5:8; 9:9. The Israelites had sinned consistently since the days of the atrocity at Gibeah (Jdg 19; 20; cp Isa 1:10).

Hos 10:10

THEIR DOUBLE SIN: (1) Forsaking God, and (2) turning to idols.

Hos 10:11

EPHRAIM IS A TRAINED HEIFER THAT LOVES TO THRESH: Ephraim had abandoned this comparatively light service in preference for becoming yoked to sin (v 10).

SO I WILL PUT A YOKE ON HER FAIR NECK: As punishment Yahweh would yoke the people of both Northern and Southern Kingdoms to an enemy who would greatly restrict their movements and force them to do hard work.

JUDAH: The Southern Kingdom.

JACOB: The Northern Kingdom, using the name of the patriarch that stresses this ancestor's rebelliousness.

Hos 10:12


BREAK UP YOUR UNPLOWED GROUND: ...if you turn about and begin diligently to serve Him. Fallow or unplowed ground needs to be broken up -- which is hard work -- thus exposing that which hides under the surface: unconfessed sins.

FOR IT IS TIME TO SEEK THE LORD, UNTIL HE COMES AND SHOWERS RIGHTEOUSNESS ON YOU: "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon" (Isa 55:6,7).

"Our nature at its largest is but a small farm, and we had need to get a harvest out of every acre of it, for our needs are great. Have we left any part of our small allotment uncultivated? If so, it is time to look into the matter and see if we cannot improve this wasteful state of things. What part of our small allotment have we left fallow? We should think very poorly of a farmer who for many years allowed the best and the richest part of his farm to lie altogether neglected and untilled. An occasional fallow has its benefits in the world of nature; but if the proprietor of rich and fruitful land allowed the soil to continue fallow year after year we should judge him to be out of his wits. The wasted acres ought to be taken from him and given to another husbandman who would worthily cherish the generous fields and encourage them to yield their harvests.

"Bad is the man who neglects to cultivate his farm, but what shall be said of the sluggard who fails to cultivate himself? If it be wrong to leave untended a part of our estate, how much worse must it be to disregard a portion of ourselves! Now, there is a part of our nature which many allow to lie fallow. It is not often that they neglect the clay soil of their outward frame. They dress that field which is called the body with sufficient care; and truly I would not that they should be careless about it, for it is worthy to be kept in due order and culture. Albeit that it is a very secondary part of our nature, yet it is so interwoven with the higher that it is most important that the body should not be neglected. See ye well to that field, and by temperance, cleanliness, and obedience to the rules of health let it be as a garden... Few need to be exhorted to pay attention to their bodies... The fault is not that they care for the body, but that it takes an undue share of consideration, and usurps a higher place than it can claim.

"There is another field in man's self-farm... The soil where true religion should flourish in the furrows is left by many to produce the deadly nightshade of superstition, the hemlock of error, or the thistle of doubt... Your hearts, your innermost natures, have been neglected, and from the finest part of your being the Lord has derived neither rent nor revenue. Your best acres lie fallow -- fallow when you have good need to cultivate every inch of the ground.

"Do you know what happens to a fallow field? how it becomes caked and baked hard as though it were a brick? All the fragile qualities seem to depart, and it hardens as it lies caked and unbroken; I mean, of course, if year succeed year, and the fallow remains untouched. And then the weeds! If a man will not sow wheat, he shall have a crop for all that, for the weeds will spring up, and they will, seed themselves, and in due time the multiplication table will be worked out to a very wonderful extent; for these seeds, multiplying a hundred-fold, as evil usually does, will increase, and increase, and increase again till the fallow field shall become a wilderness of thorns and briars, and a thicket of nettle and thistle" (CHS).

Hos 10:14

SHALMAN: King Shalmaneser III, an Assyrian who conducted campaigns in the West in the ninth century BC. Or, the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V who prepared the way for Israel's captivity by invading the land (cf 2Ki 17:3-6).

BETH ARBEL: Poss the town of Arbela about 18 miles se of the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee) or to Mount Arbel two miles west of that sea. In any case, the battle had been a bloody one that the Israelites of Hosea's day remembered vividly. The enemy had slaughtered mothers and their children without mercy.

Hos 10:15

THUS WILL IT HAPPEN TO YOU, O BETHEL, BECAUSE YOUR WICKEDNESS IS GREAT: The Israelites would suffer a similar slaughter at Bethel because of their great wickedness. "Bethel" here may refer to the town or to the whole nation of Israel (by metonymy: cp v 7).

WHEN THAT DAY DAWNS, THE KING OF ISRAEL WILL BE COMPLETELY DESTROYED: And, finally, at the beginning of a new day, the true King of Israel -- Jesus Christ -- would be cut off; and the sin of the House of God would be complete!

Hosea sees the cutting off of Israel's king as the nation's final break with its God. Israel will now suffer at God's hands and be rejected -- for a long age at least -- while God's love is transferred to a new Son, Jesus the spiritual "Israel". Through him a new nation, a new "Israel", will be created.

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