Where the world comes to study the Bible

Hosea 10


Israel's Sin and Captivity Because of Constant Rebellion the Judgment of the Lord is Upon Israel
The Prophet Speaks About Israel
The Destruction of Israel's Cultic Objects
10:1-2 10:1-2   10:1-10
10:3-8 10:3-10 10:3-4  
    The Lord Pronounces Judgment on Israel  
10:9-11   10:9-10 Israel Has Disappointed Yahweh's Hope
  10:11-12 10:11-13a 10:11-15
  10:13-15 10:13b-15  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentarywhich means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1Israel is a luxuriant vine;
 He produces fruit for himself.
 The more his fruit,
 The more altars he made;
 The richer his land,
 The better he made the sacred pillars.
 2Their heart is faithless;
 Now they must bear their guilt.
 The Lord will break down their altars
 And destroy their sacred pillars.


NJB"Israel is a luxuriant vine"
NKJV"Israel empties his vine"
TEV"The people of Israel were like a grapevine that was full of grapes"

"Luxuriant" (BDB 132 I, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) is found only here. The Septuagint has "a vine with beautiful branches." This seems to be an allusion to 9:10 (cf. Ps. 80:8-13). God made Israel fruitful (this is one possible meaning of bqq). However, the more YHWH blessed them, the more they went after the Ba'als (cf. 11:1). What irony! The vine was often a symbol for Israel (e.g., Deut. 32:32; Ps. 80:8-19; Isa. 5:1-7; Jer. 2:21; Ezek. 15:1-8).

It is possible to take the VERB as "empty" (BDB 132 I) and thereby Israel as a vine that does not produce God's desired fruit (cf. 9:10-17).

▣ "He produces fruit for himself" The rest of this verse is an allusion to 8:11 (cf. BDB 915) or 12:11 (cf. Jer. 2:28; 11:13).

NASB"The better he made the sacred pillars"
NKJV"They have embellished his sacred pillars"
NRSV"He improved his pillars"
TEV"The more beautiful they made the sacred pillars they worship"
NJB"The richer he made the sacred pillars"
NET Bible"They adorned the fertility pillars"

Prosperity did not turn their hearts back to God (as it was intended, cf. Deut. 27-29), but magnified their worship and thanksgiving to Ba'al. They improved his worship sites and neglected YHWH's temple!

10:2 "heart" In Hebrew thought the heart, not the emotions, is the center of the will and the intellect.


NKJV, NJB"divided"

The Hebrew term (BDB 325 II, KB 322, Qal PERFECT) is "smooth." It is a metaphor of insecure footing, therefore, interpreted as treacherous or unreliable (cf. New Berkeley version "Their heart was slippery"). This is the only place in the OT where this VERB is used of a "heart." Usually it refers to a tongue. This faithlessness can refer to (1) Ba'al vs. YHWH or (2) trust in the God of Israel vs. political alliances with Egypt and/or Assyria. The opposite metaphor of sure footedness is the source of the OT term for faith (cf. BDB 52-54).

It is possible to take the VERB as "divided" (BDB 324) meaning their devotion (i.e., heart) was split between YHWH and Ba'al. However, this term is used mostly in Chronicles and not the prophets.

"they must bear their guilt" See 4:15; 5:15; 13:1,16; Micah 5:10-15).

"their altars. . .their sacred pillars" These objects of worship are often associated with the idolatrous fertility practices of Ba'al (uplifted stone pillar, i.e., phallic symbol, cf. 3:4; I Kgs. 14:23-24) and Asherah (raised, cut stone altar with a place for a carved stake or live tree).

 3Surely now they will say, "We have no king,
 For we do not revere the Lord.
 As for the king, what can he do for us?"
 4They speak mere words,
 With worthless oaths they make covenants;
 And judgment sprouts like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field.
 5The inhabitants of Samaria will fear
 For the calf of Beth-aven.
 Indeed, its people will mourn for it,
 And its idolatrous priests will cry out over it,
 Over its glory, since it has departed from it.
 6The thing itself will be carried to Assyria
 As tribute to King Jareb;
 Ephraim will be seized with shame
 And Israel will be ashamed of its own counsel.
 7Samaria will be cut off with her king
 Like a stick on the surface of the water.
 8Also the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, will be destroyed;
 Thorn and thistle will grow on their altars;
 Then they will say to the mountains,
 "Cover us!" And to the hills, "Fall on us!"
 9From the days of Gibeah you have sinned, O Israel;
 There they stand!
 Will not the battle against the sons of iniquity overtake them in Gibeah?
 10When it is My desire, I will chastise them;
 And the peoples will be gathered against them
 When they are bound for their double guilt.

10:3 "We have no king" This may reflect I Sam. 8:4-9. Hosea often speaks against the northern monarchy (cf. 7:3-7; 8:4, 10, 13; 13:9-11). The original dynasty (Jeroboam I) did not last. There were numerous changes in leadership (i.e., king).

10:4 "They speak mere words, With worthless oaths they make covenants" This is a COGNATE ACCUSATIVE, emphasizing that they speak (BDB 150, KB 210, Piel PERFECT) human words with no meaning (cf. Isa. 58:13). This contrasted their oaths/covenant to YHWH (cf. Exod. 19-20) with their oaths/covenants to foreign powers. Israel's oaths cannot be trusted. They are based solely on self interest.

The second line of poetry has two INFINITIVE ABSOLUTES. This construction draws attention to this second line and not the VERB of line one.

"judgment sprouts like poisonous weeds" This may refer to the injustice of the judges (cf. Amos 2:6; 5:12; 6:12).

10:5 "Samaria" Samaria, the mountain ridge fortress, was built by Omri (cf. I Kgs. 16:24) and became Israel's capital. After 922 b.c., when the kingdom split, the Northern Ten Tribes under Jeroboam I were known as Israel, Ephraim, or Samaria, and the Southern two tribes, under Rehoboam, Solomon's son, were known as Judah.

NASB"will fear"
NRSV, NJB"tremble"
TEV"will be afraid"
NET Bible"will lament"

The Hebrew VERB (BDB 158, KB 185, Qal IMPERFECT) means "to dread." This VERB can mean "reverential respect" (i.e., worship) or "fear" (i.e., it being taken away, cf. vv. 5-6). Many scholars suppose an emendation based on the parallelism "to lament" (BDB 626).

"the calf of Beth-aven" This refers to the golden calf that Jeroboam I set up at Bethel (cf. 4:15; 5:8; I Kgs. 16:28-29). The golden calves (Bethel and Dan) were not meant to be idols, but representatives of YHWH (cf. Exod. 32:4-5). The term Beth-aven (BDB 110), which is translated "house of vanity," is a word play on Bethel ("house of God"). This is an example of Jews corrupting a name (god or place) because of its association with idolatry.

NASB, NRSV"idolatrous priests"
NKJV"its priests"
TEV"the priests who serve the idol"
NJB"its idol-priests"

This refers to the priests at the royal sites of Bethel and Dan being addressed as Ba'al's priests (cf. II Kgs. 23:5; Zeph. 1:4).

These Hebrew consonants kmr have several meanings.

1. to be warm (or blackened) BDB I

2. to be black (from Syriac) BDB II

3. to lay prostrate, BDB III

4. a snare or net

These consonants are the regular term for "priests" in Canaan and Akkadian. These priests of the north were seen by Hosea as foreign priests!

NASB"cry out over it"
NKJV"shriek for it"
NRSV"wail over it"
(footnote)"exult" (Hebrew)
TEV"will weep over it"
NJB"they exult in its glory"

The MT has "will rejoice" (BDB 162, KB 189, Qal IMPERFECT), but it may be used in sarcasm.

"its glory" This term (BDB 458 II) is usually used of YHWH (cf. I Sam. 4:21-22), but here it is used in a sarcastic sense of a calf-idol that originally was meant to represent YHWH, but had long since come to represent Ba'al.

10:6 "King Jareb" This seems to be a reference to Tiglath-pileser III. It is literally a metaphor meaning "the Great King," literally "a king that contends" (BDB 937, cf. 5:13).

"Israel will be ashamed of its own counsel" The VERB (BDB 202, KB 116, Qal IMPERFECT) is used also in 2:5 and 4:19. Idolatry made them "ashamed."

Their faulty counsel (BDB 420) was mentioned earlier in 7:12 (cf. Jer. 7:24). There have been several other suggested options for "counsel."

1. its disobedience

2. its wooden idol (cf. 10:5)

The NASB, NKJV, NRSV, TEV, and NJB have "wooden idol."

10:7 "Samaria will be cut off with her king" The VERB (BDB 198, KB 225, Niphal PERFECT) means to remove, to destroy (cf. v. 8). YHWH allowed a northern king because of the arrogance of Rehoboam, but he did evil in His sight by setting up the golden calves. Now He will remove him in His wrath (cf. 13:11).

NASB"Like a stick on the surface of the water"
NKJV"Like a twig on the water"
NRSV, TEV"Like a chip on the face of the waters"
NJB"Like a straw drifting on the water"

The Hebrew here is very difficult. It can refer to a piece (twig or splinter) of wood (BDB 893 II, cf. Joel 1:7) or "foam" (Vulgate).

10:8 "the high places of Aven" This means "vanity" or "nothingness" (BDB 19). This term is often applied by the Jews as a word play to corrupt place names and the names of people who were involved in idolatry.

The "high places" can refer to (1) the top of hills (i.e., threshing floors) or (2) the raised, cut stone altars of local Ba'al shrines (cf. 4:13).

"Thorn and thistle will grow on their altars" This may be a reference to a curse (cf. Gen. 3:18) or a sign of non-use (cf. 9:6).

"say to the mountains,

 ‘Cover us!' And to the hills ‘Fall on us'" The first VERB (BDB 491, KB 487) is a Piel IMPERATIVE. The second VERB (BDB 656, KB 709) is a Qal IMPERATIVE. This is used in Luke 23:30 and Rev. 6:16 as an expression of the horror at God's judgment. Here there may be a theologicl connection between "mountains" and "hills" and Ba'al worship.

10:9 "From the days of Gibeah you have sinned" This could be another anti-monarchial statement because this was Saul's hometown and the site of his first sin against God (cf. I Sam. 13:8-14). It could also be a reference to the sins recorded in Judges 19-21.

"When it is My desire" This phrase (BDB 16) has no VERB. It seems to be a way to express God's will (i.e., judgment).

Hosea, the second writing prophet, depicts God in very emotional (anthropomorphic) metaphors.

1. wild beast, 5:14; 13:7,8

2. hate, 9:15

3. strong desire to judge, 10:10

4. anger, 11:9; 13:11

Human language describing God is always metaphorical and analogical. Humans are sinful, temporal, and restricted to this planet. Our vocabulary and mental ability cannot fathom an eternal, holy, personal being!

"I will chastise them" The VERB (BDB 415, KB 418, Qal IMPERFECT) generally means "educate" or "inform" (morally) by discipline. Here it refers to discipline (i.e., judgment) because of covenant violations.

"the peoples will be gathered" God will gather (BDB 62, KB 74, Pual PERFECT) the nations (BDB 766) to judge His people.

"double guilt" Literally this is "two of their iniquities." The phrase "double guilt" comes from the Septuagint, Peshitta, and Vulgate. It could refer to (1) a play on the name Ephraim ("double fruitful"); (2) the two sins of following Ba'al and forsaking YHWH (cf. Jer. 2:13); or (3) the golden calves set up at Bethel and Dan.

 11Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh,
 But I will come over her fair neck with a yoke;
 I will harness Ephraim,
 Judah will plow, Jacob will harrow for himself.
 12Sow with a view to righteousness,
 Reap in accordance with kindness;
 Break up your fallow ground,
 For it is time to seek the Lord
 Until He comes to rain righteousness on you.
 13You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice,
 You have eaten the fruit of lies.
 Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors,
 14Therefore a tumult will arise among your people,
 And all your fortresses will be destroyed,
 As Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle,
 When mothers were dashed in pieces with their children.
 15Thus it will be done to you at Bethel because of your great wickedness.
 At dawn the king of Israel will be completely cut off.

10:11 "Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh" This poetic line refers to the easier task of threshing out the grain. The following lines prophesy that she will be made to do the difficult work of plowing (i.e., yoke on her neck).

"Judah will plow" This refers to a future series of Babylonian exiles (i.e., 605, 597, 586, 582 b.c.).

"Jacob will harrow for himself" The VERB (BDB 961, KB 1306, Piel IMPERFECT) is parallel to "plow." It is also used in Job 39:10 and Isa. 28:24. Jacob may refer to:

1. another name for Israel

2. a way to refer to all the tribes (i.e., Israel and Judah).


10:12 "Sow with a view to righteousness,

 Reap in accordance with kindness" What a surprising verse in this judgment context. There are three Qal IMPERATIVES (sow, reap, till [break]). This VERB seems to be an appeal by the prophet (or God Himself) for the people to return to God (cf. Prov. 11:18). These first three poetic lines state a universal truth, "whatsoever we sow, that shall we reap" (cf. 8:7; 12:2; Job 4:8; Ps. 126:6; Prov. 11:18; 22:8; Jer. 4:3; II Cor. 9:6 Gal. 6:7).

The term "kindness" (BDB 338) is the Hebrew term hesed, which means "covenant loyalty," both toward God and one's covenant partners (cf. 4:1; 6:4-6; 12:7; Micah 6:8). See Special Topic: Hesed at 2:19.

"Break up your fallow ground" This is a metaphor of repentance (cf. Jer. 4:3).

"For it is time to seek the Lord" The VERB (BDB 205, KB 233) is a Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT. It has a covenant connotation (e.g., Deut. 4:29). YHWH can be found if people truly seek Him (e.g., Jer. 29:13). Seeking YHWH is sinful Israel's only hope of avoiding destruction (cf. 10:12; Isa. 55:6-7; Amos 5:4,6). The proper time to seek the Lord is now!

"Until He comes to rain righteousness on you" This is a surprising agricultural metaphor (i.e., annual and regular rainfall) for spiritual reality (i.e., righteousness). This is a recurrent theme in the prophets (e.g., 2:19-20; 6:3; 14:5; Ps. 72:6-7; Isa. 44:3-4; 45:8; Joel 2:23; 3:18).

10:13 "You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice" God's desire for a "righteous" and "loyal" people (v. 12), using an agricultural metaphor ("break up fallow ground"), has unfortunately resulted in exactly the opposite fruit—wickedness and injustice.

They have "trusted" (BDB 105, KB 120, Qal PERFECT) in their own power instead of YHWH's. the result (vv. 14-15) is violent destruction!

"Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors" The historical setting was a time of great prosperity and military victory (see Introduction). Israel (like Judah, 8:14) was trusting in her military power (cf. Jer. 9:23-24).

The phrase "your way" (BDB 202) is translated "chariots" (cf. 14:3) in the Septuagint, which makes for good parallelism, but requires an emendation. It may be possible to read the consonants from a Ugaritic root as "power."

10:14 "As Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel" This is possibly a reference to Shalmaneser III who reigned from 858-824 b.c. He is referred to in the Bible in II Kgs. 17:3 and 18:9. It could also refer to Salamanu, King of Moab, who was a contemporary with Tiglath-pileser III. Beth-arbel is an unknown site and the exact historical reference is uncertain.

"mothers were dashed in pieces with their children" This was a gruesome aspect of Assyrian exile. The army killed all of the very old and very young who could not travel into exile. This, of course, included pregnant women. This was done to shock and traumatize the population (cf. 13:16).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. List the references to fertility worship in Hosea 9 and 10.

2. List the cities that are referred to in 9:9-10:15.

3. Will Israel be exiled to Egypt or Assyria? Explain 11:5 compared to 7:10; 8:13; 9:3.

4. Explain the Hebrew's use of "shame."