Hos 11: "What a wondrous message in this ch! Yahweh's love
ensures Israel's final restoration. His family, both natural and spiritual, will
be redeemed. And this, notwithstanding the wickedness and infidelity of His
people. In this we 'behold the goodness and severity of Yahweh,' for this
balanced character of our Father is essential to His righteousness and our
salvation. The ch opens with a parental statement, which applies to both natural
Israel, and to the Lord Jesus (Isa 49:3). Yahweh's true sons will fulfil the
type (Act 15:14), and be restored out of the Egyptian society to become
exclusively devoted to the righteousness of the Father. The way in which this is
achieved is set out by the prophet: (1) Yahweh's early love for His people: vv
1-4. (2) Yahweh is forced to punish the people because of their ingratitude and
contempt of His divine law: vv 5-7. (3) Yahweh's love contends with His justice:
vv 8-11. (4) Israel is unworthy of the divine love: v 12--Hos 12:2.
"Thus, the ch sets the platform for the Father's work amongst
His people, and leaves open the question: 'How will the work of divine
restoration be achieved?' The answer is outlined in the remaining chs of the
The flight of Joseph's family into Egypt, and their return
after the death of the king, are shown by Matthew to be a fulfillment of Hosea's
prophecy: "Out of Egypt I called my son" (Mat 2:15; quoting from Hos 11:1).
God's Son in the OT was a national, plural "son" (Exo 4:22,23), but in the NT
the prophecy is given a definitely singular emphasis. The reason is not
difficult to grasp. "Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel" (Rom
2:28; 9:6), and only those with the faith of Abraham are fit to be called his
"children" (Rom 4:11-13; Gal 3:8,9; Mat 3:8,9; Joh 8:33,39). According to the
apostle Paul, Jesus was the singular seed of Abraham (Gal 3:16); he proved his
claim to that family inheritance by perfectly obeying the will of God. In doing
so he became the "hope of Israel", the singular and only-begotten Son, through
whom others might become "sons", associated with the promises to the fathers of
Israel. Like Moses before him, but in a fuller and richer sense, Jesus will
bring "Israel" out of "Egypt" (symbolic of sin and death, Rev 11:8) by the
blood, not of a passover lamb, but of himself, the Lamb of God (Joh 1:29) and
the true passover (1Co 5:7; Heb 13:20).
The exodus from Egypt is a parable, then, of our redemption in
Christ, and a foreshadowing of Christ's role as the true passover for the true
Israel. How appropriate then that in the life of him who is the "Israel" -- the
"prince with God" (cp Isa 49:3) -- there should be a physical coming out of
Egypt as a preview of the greater salvation which is the keynote of our Lord's
The allegory is even more firmly grounded in Scripture. The
first acts of Christ after reaching maturity, as a prelude to entering upon his
life's work, also follow the "Egypt-passover" pattern. His baptism echoes the
"baptism" of God's national son in the Red Sea (1Co 10:1,2). His 40-day
wilderness temptation likewise finishes the 40-year wilderness trial of the
children of Israel. Where the nation in the wilderness grumbled and failed, the
Son in the wilderness brings Scripture to bear upon his temptations, resists
them in faith, and succeeds!
"Out of Egypt I called my son" (Hos 11:1; quoted in Mat 2:15).
Matthew does not quote Hosea as an isolated phrase that "sounds good". It should
never be supposed that Bible quotations are mere verbal "echoes" without
substance. There are definite themes throughout the book of Hosea which find
confirmation and fulfillment in the life of Christ, of which Hos 11:1 is but one
example. Two consistent threads run through the whole of Hosea's prophecy: (1)
God's continuing love for His people; and (2) Israel's continuing rejection of
that love. In God's eyes Israel is an unfaithful wife as well as a wayward,
rebellious child. Israel the unfaithful wife never quite puts away her
adulteries, yet Yahweh, her Husband and Lord, is patient and full of mercy.
Israel the wayward child never quite "grows up", yet Yahweh gently takes him by
the hand and with "ties of love" leads him out of danger (Hos 11:3,4). Though
Israel backslides and falls away again and again, still the Father will not
forget His "son": "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over,
Israel?" (Hos 11:8).
In counterpoint to God's abiding love there is Israel's
stubborn rebellion and rejection. Israel rejects God, rejects God's Son, and
finally is rejected by God, whose longsuffering can be stretched no further.
This reciprocal rejection is the constant theme of the last sections of Hosea's
prophecy, and is especially evident in the verses preceding Hos 11: 1:
Hos 9:7: "The days of punishment [literally, visitation] are coming" -- The
"King", Jesus, visits his city and is rejected. "They will not leave one stone
on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you" (Luk
Hos 9:9: "The days of Gibeah" -- an echo of "Gabbatha" (Joh 19:13),
the judgment seat where the King was at last and conclusively rejected.
9:10: "The early fruit on the fig tree" -- "nothing on it except leaves" (Mat
21:19), and the "fig tree" nation of Israel is cursed by Jesus.
"Even if they rear children, I will bereave them of every one" -- an evident
similarity to Jer 31:15, the slaughter of the Bethlehem children.
"Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry" -- Because Israel
rejected God in crucifying His Son, they would themselves be rejected: "Jesus
turned and said to them, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for
yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say,
"Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that
never nursed!" ' " (Luk 23:28,29).
Hos 9:15: "All their wickedness (is) in
Gilgal" -- a possible reference to "Golgotha". "I will drive them out of my
house" -- the cleansing of the temple, not once, but twice (Joh 2:13-17; Mat
21:12, 13). "Look, your house is left to you desolate" (Mat 23:38).
9:17: "They will be wanderers among the nations."
Hos 10:3: "Then they will
say, 'We have no king' " -- that is, no king but Caesar (Joh 19:15).
10:5: "Its splendor, because it is taken from them into exile" -- "For I tell
you, you will not see me again..." (Mat 23: 39).
Hos 10:8: "Thorns and
thistles will grow up and cover their altars. Then they will say to the
mountains, 'Cover us!' and to the hills, 'Fall on us!' " -- This is cited
explicitly in Luk 23:30.
Hos 10:15: "When that day dawns, the king of Israel
will be completely destroyed." 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.
Against this backdrop of Hosea, then, Matthew, and his
reference to Hos 11:1, may be seen in perspective. Matthew's is the Gospel that
particularly portrays Jesus as the king of Israel: he is born to be a king,
announced by a heavenly sign, worshiped by Gentile "kings" who lay their
treasures at his feet. He preaches the coming of the Kingdom in his own person,
and its final establishment in his return in royal power and authority, as
portrayed in many parables: "The kingdom of heaven is like unto..."
As with Hosea, however, there is a darker side to the picture
of God's love shown toward and through His Son. There is the familiar two-fold
rejection: Israel's rejection of God's King, and God's consequent rejection of
Israel. Even in the beginning, Christ is hunted by the murderous Herod, "King of
the Jews", who will allow no one to rule over him, and thus the family must flee
to Egypt (Mat 2:13-15; Hos 11:1). As Matthew's Gospel unfolds, the kingly
parables give way to more forbidding ones -- like those of the vineyard, and the
sheep and the goats -- which speak of rejection and judgment. Israel's destiny
is sealed when, in a fateful morning, they utterly cut off their king. "We will
not have this man to reign over us," they say, but at the end they will find
themselves rejected with "weeping and gnashing of teeth".
In view of the foregoing, Hosea 11:1 may be seen not as an
isolated verbal link, but as part of a continuous theme found both in the
prophet and the Gospel.
OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON: Cp Deut 14:1; 32:6; Isa
1:2-20; 3:9; Jer 3:19,22; 4:22; 31:9,20.
BUT THE MORE I CALLED ISRAEL, THE FURTHER THEY WENT FROM
ME. THEY SACRIFICED TO THE BAALS AND THEY BURNED INCENSE TO IMAGES: God
continued to call the Israelites after they left Egypt. He did so through His
prophets. But the more the prophets appealed to the people to follow Yahweh, the
more the people turned aside from following Him. They kept sacrificing to Baal
and kept burning incense to idols (cf Jdg 2:11-13).
IT WAS I WHO TAUGHT EPHRAIM TO WALK, TAKING THEM BY THE
ARMS; BUT THEY DID NOT REALIZE IT WAS I WHO HEALED THEM: Israel demonstrated
this ungrateful apostasy even though it was Yahweh who taught His son Israel to
walk (ie, behave, or live: cp Deut 1:31; Isa 1:2). This is a poignant picture,
of a doting father helping a little toddler learn to take his first steps. God
provided tender loving care, and healed his son when he needed restoration. Yet
none of this was enough to insure that His "son" (ie, Israel) would return that
love to Him.
I LED THEM WITH CORDS OF HUMAN KINDNESS, WITH TIES OF
LOVE: The restraints that the Lord had placed on Israel in its youth were
cords of love designed to protect and preserve the people rather than robbing
them of freedom.
For "leading" or "drawing", see John 6:44 (note: this is in
the context of Jesus also providing the true "manna" from heaven).
I LIFTED THE YOKE FROM THEIR NECK: The yoke = the
oppressive bondage of slavery in Egypt.
AND BENT DOWN TO FEED THEM: The provision of the manna
in the wilderness (Psa 78:25; John 6:49,50, etc).
The image of a loving herdsman taking care of his animal is in
view here. Often a cattleman would lift the yoke from an ox's shoulders so when
it bent over to eat it would not slide down over its face and impede its
WILL THEY NOT RETURN TO EGYPT AND WILL NOT ASSYRIA RULE
OVER THEM BECAUSE THEY REFUSED TO REPENT?: Because Israel refused to return
to Yahweh after so many appeals by His prophets (v 2), He would send the nation
back into captivity. Yet the place of exile would not be Egypt but Assyria. In
other messages Hosea identified Egypt as the place of Israel's future exile (cf
Hos 8:13; 9:3,6), but here it becomes clear that He was only using Egypt as a
metaphor for a place of captivity. Assyria would be the geographical location of
However, in the Last Days, the remnant of Israel will be
restored and recovered, from both Assyria AND Egypt: see Isa 11:11; 19:23-25;
27:12,13; Mic 7:12.
SWORDS WILL FLASH IN THEIR CITIES, WILL DESTROY THE BARS OF
THEIR GATES: Enemy soldiers would swarm around Israel's cities and break
down the gate bars that secured them against foreign attack.
AND PUT AN END TO THEIR PLANS: They would consume the
Israelites because of the decisions the Israelites had made to depart from
Yahweh (cp Mic 6:16). These were the result, in part, of false prophets' advice.
Yahweh had fed His people (v 4), but now the sword would feed on them (Isa
MY PEOPLE ARE DETERMINED TO TURN FROM ME. EVEN IF THEY CALL
TO THE MOST HIGH, HE WILL BY NO MEANS EXALT THEM: The Israelites' resolve to
abandon Yahweh was firm. In spite of the prophets' appeals to return to Him,
none of them exalted the Lord by doing so.
HOW CAN I GIVE YOU UP, EPHRAIM? HOW CAN I HAND YOU OVER,
ISRAEL?: Strong expressions of divine love for His chosen people. God takes
no pleasure in punishing His people, even when they are wicked (Eze 33:18...).
ADMAH... ZEBOIIM: Two cities destroyed along with Sodom
and Gomorrah (cp Gen 10:19; 14:2,8; Deut 29:23).
MY HEART IS CHANGED WITHIN ME: Or "overturned" (cp
KJV). God will not "overturn" Israel, at least not completely and eternally.
Rather, He will "overturn" (change, repent, reverse) His heart. In other words,
He cannot bring Himself to the final act of Israel's utter destruction (see v
ALL MY COMPASSION IS AROUSED: "Compassion" is sw as
Joseph's "yearnings" or being "deeply moved" in Gen 43:30.
I WILL NOT CARRY OUT MY FIERCE ANGER, NOR WILL I TURN AND
DEVASTATE EPHRAIM: Following on from v 8, God did not change His mind about
bringing judgment on Israel, but He promised not to apply the full measure of
His wrath or to destroy Ephraim again in the future. FOR I AM GOD, AND NOT MAN -- THE HOLY ONE AMONG YOU. I WILL
NOT COME IN WRATH: He would show restraint because He is God, not a man who
forgets His promises, is arbitrary in His passions, and might be vindictive in
His anger (cf 1Sa 15:29). He was the Holy One in the midst of the Israelites, so
He would be completely fair with His people. He would not descend on them with
THEY WILL FOLLOW THE LORD; HE WILL ROAR LIKE A LION: In
the future the Israelites would follow the Lord (cp vv 2,5). He would again
announce His intentions like a roaring lion (Hos 5:14; 13:7; Amo 1:2;
WHEN HE ROARS, HIS CHILDREN WILL COME TREMBLING FROM THE
WEST: However this time it would not be as a lion about to devour its prey
but as a lion leading its cubs to safety. The Israelites would follow Him
trembling from the west (Hos 3:5; Exo 19:16).
Since Assyria lay to Israel's east, it seems that this
reference to regathering from the west does not refer solely to Israel's return
from Assyrian captivity. Rather, it refers to return from another worldwide
dispersion. Presently the Israelites live dispersed all over the world. This
verse then probably alludes to a still future restoration from our perspective
in history -- the streaming of Israel back into the land following Jesus
Christ's return to the earth (cp Isa 11:11,12).
THEY WILL COME TREMBLING LIKE BIRDS FROM EGYPT, LIKE DOVES
FROM ASSYRIA: The Israelites had been as silly as pigeons seeking foreign
alliances (Hos 7:11), but now they would return as vulnerable and as swift as
doves to the land (Psa 55:6,7; Isa 60:8).
EPHRAIM HAS SURROUNDED ME WITH LIES, THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL
WITH DECEIT: Yahweh complained that Ephraim (Israel) had consistently lied
and tried to deceive Him. He described Himself as surrounded and under attack by
His own people. Wherever He looked all He saw was cheaters. Deception (Heb
"mirmah", or unfaithfulness) had also marked Israel's ancestor, Jacob (cf Hos
12:3,4,12; Gen 27:35).
"We know from experience that this contrast exists within any
community. All we can do as individuals is to place ourselves at the mercy of
God, confessing our sins and pleading His forgiveness. We are not justified in
bad behaviour by the lies and ill practices of those around us" (PC).
AND JUDAH WAS UNRULY AGAINST GOD, EVEN AGAINST THE FAITHFUL
HOLY ONE: The kingdom of Judah had also been unruly (Heb "rud", or wayward)
in its relationship with the Holy One (cf v 9) who is faithful. Yahweh was
always faithful to His covenant promises even though these groups of His people
had wandered from Him and sought out Baals and foreign allies. Both kingdoms had
been unfaithful to the covenant Yahweh had made with them.