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Hosea 13


Relentless Judgment on Israel Rebellion and Restoration
Final Judgment on Israel Idolatry Punished
13:1-3 13:1-3 13:1-3 13:1-3
      The Punishment for Ingratitude
13:4-8 13:4-13 13:4-8 13:4-8
      The End of the Monarchy
13:9-11   13:9-11 13:9-11
      The Inevitability of Ruin
13:12-14   13:12-16 13:12-14:1

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.



 1When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling.
 He exalted himself in Israel,
 But through Baal he did wrong and died.
 2And now they sin more and more,
 And make for themselves molten images,
 Idols skillfully made from their silver,
 All of them the work of craftsmen.
 They say of them, "Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!"
 3Therefore they will be like the morning cloud
 And like dew which soon disappears,
 Like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor
 And like smoke from a chimney.

13:1 "When Ephraim spoke there was trembling" There are two possible understandings of this verse. This is an unusual use of the term "Ephraim" because it seems not to be a reference to the entire Northern Ten Tribes, but to the arrogance ("He exalted himself," BDB 669, KB 724, Qal PERFECT) of that individual tribe only (e.g., Jdgs. 8:1; 12:1). The fear of this tribe can be seen in that when it spoke, the other tribes "trembled" (BDB 958). Remember that Ephraim and Manasseh are half-tribes because they are the children of Joseph (cf. Gen. 48), but they represent the largest tribe, both geographically and numerically.

The second possibility is that Ephraim stands for the leaders and king of the capital, Samaria. It was the first king who set up the golden calves as a rival to the Jerusalem temple (cf. I Kgs. 16:31). It was Ahab and Jezebel who brought Ba'al worship to Israel (cf. I Kgs. 16:31).

"Baal" This refers to the male fertility god of the Canaanite pantheon. For an excellent reference see William Foxwell Albright's book, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, page 72ff.

"he did wrong and died" This refers to the powers and preeminence of the tribe ceasing ("died" BDB 559, KB 562, Qal IMPERFECT, used metaphorically of God's judgment, e.g., of Moab in Amos 2:2; of Israel in Ezek. 18:31).

13:2 "molten images. . .idols" This may refer to the golden calves of Bethel and Dan (cf. line 5). However, these descriptions do not exactly fit them. They were made of wood and overlaid with gold. Therefore, this may refer to images at local Ba'al shrines (cf. 2:8; Isa. 46:6; Jer. 10:4).

"Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves" We learn from I Kgs. 19:18 and Job 31:27 that kissing the idol was part of Ba'al worship (the VERB could be an IMPERFECT or a JUSSIVE, NASB). This is one example of how the supposed worship of YHWH, by means of the golden calves, was corrupted into Ba'al worship. They worshiped what they made that could not see, hear, or act!

13:3 There are four elements mentioned which describe Israel in her transitoriness and rebellion, which will be quickly judged and removed: morning cloud, dew, chaff, and smoke.

"chimney" Literally this is "window" (BDB 70). Chimneys were non-existent in the ancient world. The buildings had small windows close to the ceiling for the purpose of letting the smoke out. Many homes placed the fire in the center of the room and allowed the smoke to exit at whatever window was possible.

 4Yet I have been the Lord your God
 Since the land of Egypt;
 And you were not to know any god except Me,
 For there is no savior besides Me.
 5I cared for you in the wilderness,
 In the land of drought.
 6As they had their pasture, they became satisfied,
 And being satisfied, their heart became proud;
 Therefore they forgot Me.
 7So I will be like a lion to them;
 Like a leopard I will lie in wait by the wayside.
 8I will encounter them like a bear robbed of her cubs,
 And I will tear open their chests;
 There I will also devour them like a lioness,
 As a wild beast would tear them.

13:4 "Yet I have been the Lord your
 God Since the land of Egypt"
This is how YHWH introduced His Ten Commandments (cf. Exod. 20:2; Deut. 5:6). This again is a reference to the Exodus as the courtship and marriage time between God and Israel (cf. vv. 5; 2:14; 9:10; 12:9).

▣ "you were not to know any god except Me" This phrase is in the Ten Commandments (cf. Exod. 20:3; Deut. 5:7). The VERB (BDB 393, KB 390, Qal IMPERFECT) implies intimate, personal relationship (BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil PARTICIPLES, e.g., Isa. 43:3; 11:14; 45:15,21-22; 63:8).

▣ "For there is no savior besides Me" YHWH was the only One and the only Redeemer (BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil PARTICIPLE, e.g., Isa. 43:3,11,14; 45:15,21-22; 63:8).

13:5 "I cared for you in the wilderness" The VERB (BDB 393, KB 390, Qal PERFECT) is literally "to know" (i.e., meaning chosen and given special knowledge of YHWH). God's special care of Israel showed His love (cf. Deut. 32:10).

The ancient Greek and Syriac translations have "feed" (BDB 944) instead of "cared."

NASB, NRSV"In the land of drought"
NKJV"in the land of great drought"
TEV"desert land"
NJB"in a land of dreadful drought"

This CONSTRUCT means "intense heat and dryness." It is a way of alluding to YHWH's supernatural provision of water during the wilderness wandering period (e.g., Exod. 15:22-26; 17:1-7; Num. 20:2-13; 21:16).

13:6 What a tragedy! God's blessings ("satisfied" [twice] BDB 959, KB 1302, the first Qal IMPERFECT and the second Qal PERFECT) turned into self-centered pride and spiritual fatness (cf. Deut. 6:10-12; 8:11-20; 32:13-15).

▣ "Therefore they forgot Me" Here is the tragedy. They took the physical, but missed the truly valuable—a personal relationship with the only Creator, Redeemer God (cf. 2:13; 4:6; ;8:14; Deut. 8:14; 31:16,20; 32:15,18; Jdgs. 10:6).

13:7-8 These are references to wild animals as metaphors of God's judgment: lion, leopard, bear, and lioness (e.g., Jer. 2:15; 4:7; 5:6; Ps. 7:2; 50:22). This animal attack contrasts the shepherding imagery of v. 6.

 9It is your destruction, O Israel,
 That you are against Me, against your help.
 10Where now is your king
 That he may save you in all your cities,
 And your judges of whom you requested, "Give me a king and princes"?
 11I gave you a king in My anger
 And took him away in My wrath.

13:9 "That you are against Me, against your help" What an irony! Israel had forsaken her only help (e.g., Jer. 2:17,19). The Greek and Syriac translations have, "For who will help you?"

13:10-11 This seems to be another reference that relates to Hosea's negative attitude toward the monarchy (cf. 7:3-7; 8:4,10,13; 10:3), but it may also reflect Deuteronomy 28 (esp. vv. 36,52). The line 11a, "I gave you a king in My anger," reflects II Sam. 8:4-9. The next line, 11b, represents the exile by Assyria (cf. II Kgs. 17:1-6).

13:10 "Where now is your king" The MT has "I want to be your king," but the ancient translations (Greek, Syriac, and Vulgate) emend the text to read like the NASB.

 12The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up;
 His sin is stored up.
 13The pains of childbirth come upon him;
 He is not a wise son,
 For it is not the time that he should delay at the opening of the womb.
 14Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol?
 Shall I redeem them from death?
 O Death, where are your thorns?
 O Sheol, where is your sting?
 Compassion will be hidden from My sight.

13:12 "bound up" The VERB (BDB 864, KB 1058, Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE) means the retention of guilt.

"His sin is stored up" The VERB (BDB 860, KB 1049, Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE) is a metaphor for "remembered" or "cataloged" (cf. 7:2; 8:13; 9:9).

13:13 This metaphor ("pains of childbirth" BDB 408, KB 411, Qal PARTICIPLE) seems to refer to (1) Israel as an unborn son who is reluctant to come out of the womb and, therefore, is spiritually dead (cf. II Kgs. 19:3; Isa. 37:3) or (2) labor pains as a symbol of judgment (cf. Micah 4:9-10). Israel should have recognized the pain and repented (cf. Isa. 21:3; 26:17).

13:14 "Shall I ransom. . .Shall I redeem" These two parallel phrases can be interpreted as INTERROGATIVES (questions, cf. NASB) or as INDICATIVES (statements, cf. NIV). The Septuagint translates them as INDICATIVES and this is quoted by Paul in I Cor. 15:55. However, the Masoretic Text, in context, seems to imply that they are questions (NASB) and they imply judgment (v. 14e NET Bible).

The first VERB (BDB 804, KB 911) is a Qal IMPERFECT and second VERB (BDB 145, KB 169) a Qal IMPERFECT. See SPECIAL TOPIC: RANSOM/REDEEM at 7:13.

"Sheol" See SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead? at Amos 9:2.

"thorns. . .sting" These are metaphors (i.e., "plagues" BDB 184 and "destruction" BDB 881) of the means and fear of death.

"Compassion will be hidden from My sight" The NIV translation groups this use with vv. 15-16.

 15Though he flourishes among the reeds,
 An east wind will come,
 The wind of the Lord coming up from the wilderness;
 And his fountain will become dry
 And his spring will be dried up;
 It will plunder his treasury of every precious article.
 16Samaria will be held guilty,
 For she has rebelled against her God.
 They will fall by the sword,
 Their little ones will be dashed in pieces,
 And their pregnant women will be ripped open.


NASB"Though he flourishes among the reeds"
NKJV"Though he is fruitful among his brethren"
NRSV"Although he may flourish among the rushes"
TEV"Even though Israel flourishes like weeds"
NJB"Though Ephraim bears more fruit than his brothers"

The MT has "though he a son of brothers may bear fruit." The ancient translations (Greek, Syriac, Latin) have "he causes division between brothers." Modern translations such as the NASB assume an emendation of "reed" for "brother."

The VERB "bear fruit" (BDB 826, KB 903, Hiphil IMPERFECT) is a word play on "Ephraim." However, God's east wind (Assyria) is coming and he will be fruitful no more (i.e., the water will be dried up). War will devastate his people, his most vulnerable ones (cf. v. 16)!

"The wind of the Lord" This phrase refers to Assyria as a chosen tool of God for the chastisement of His people, Israel (cf. 12:1; Isa. 10:5).

13:16 "They will fall by the sword" This refers to the collapse of the capital, Samaria, in 722 b.c. by Assyria. This verse vividly describes the horror of ancient warfare (see note at 10:14). The entire population suffers (cf. Isa. 10:24-27).