The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Hosea 11

Hos 11:1

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 prophecy" (GEM).

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 mission!

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:

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.

Hos 11:2

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).

Hos 11:3

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.

Hos 11:4

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 feeding.

Hos 11:5

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 Israel's exile.

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.

Hos 11:6

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 1:19,20)!

Hos 11:7

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.

Hos 11:8

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 9).

ALL MY COMPASSION IS AROUSED: "Compassion" is sw as Joseph's "yearnings" or being "deeply moved" in Gen 43:30.

Hos 11:9

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 unbridled wrath.

Hos 11:10

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; 3:8).

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).

Hos 11:11

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).

Hos 11:12

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.

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