Call Off The Party For Those Deserving Punishment!
As punishment comes, Israel will realize that the false prophets who predicted victory and prosperity were mistaken.
Good harvests and other immediate “blessings” do not guarantee God’s favor or call for God’s people to celebrate when they have not changed their false religion and sinful lifestyles.
REJOICE NOT, O Israel, with exultation as do the peoples, for you have played the harlot, forsaking your God. You have loved [a harlot’s] hire upon every threshing floor [ascribing the harvest to the Baals instead of to God].
Hosea 9:1 (AMP)
The invasion by Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria in 732 B.C. had reduced Israel’s power and resources to almost nothing. Still Israel ignored God and went on worshipping as usual, combining traditions from worship of God with of Baal worship.
Apparently one year, shortly after 732, Israel’s harvest was abundant. The people gathered for the harvest festival. It was a time of joy, celebrating God’s good gifts to his people.
In the middle of the celebration, Hosea appeared and commanded the people to stop the party. Israel’s harvest festival did not look like God’s instructions from Deuteronomy. Their celebration followed the pattern of Baal worship with sacred prostitution and magical expectations.
“You have loved [a harlot’s] hire upon every threshing floor [ascribing the harvest to the Baals instead of to God].”
A threshing floor was a flat area, often built on a hilltop, where harvesters beat the wheat and separated it from the chaff. Often men would stay overnight at the threshing floor to protect their grain, so prostitutes would visit there. Because of the location of threshing floors in the hilltops, they began to be used as places to sacrifice to false gods.
Israel rejoiced like the nations, not like the Lord wanted. No longer did they celebrate at the place God chose, his holy sanctuary. Rather, they celebrated at every threshing floor.
Threshing-floor and winepress won’t feed them,
and new wine will disappoint her.
Hosea 9:2 (CJB)
Here is God’s announced punishment for a people who were celebrating in the wrong way. The very cause of celebration will delude the people. They expected a year’s worth of their basic food – grain (wheat or barley). They looked for a year’s worth of their basic drink – new wine. But these sources of hope would fail them.
God controls the earth and all its produce. When they did not worship him for providing their needs, he would withhold his blessings.
They shall not dwell in the LORD’S land, But Ephraim shall return to Egypt, And shall eat unclean things in Assyria.
Hosea 9:3 (NKJV)
Not only would the land stop providing food and drink for the people; it would no longer be their home. God would take away the Promised Land and send them back where they came from – to Egypt – and into the hands of those from whom they had sought political and military help – Assyria.
They would have food there, but it would be unclean. When something is clean, it is holy or acceptable to God. When it is unclean, it is unholy (such as an unclean spirit). The term can be used in a ritual sense to apply to moral standards for living.
They will not pour out wine offerings to the Lord,
nor will their sacrifices please him.
Such sacrifices will be to them like the bread of mourners;
all who eat them will be unclean.
This food will be for themselves;
it will not come into the temple of the Lord.
Hosea 9:4 (NIV)
This verse continues the figures of speech dealing with eating and worship. Mention of the temple of the Lord implies that the time frame of verse 4 parallels or even precedes that of verse 3.
Israel was rejoicing in ways that imitated Baal’s worship yet claiming they were sacrificing to God. But now no longer would they be able to pour out wine offerings or libations since they had no wine (v.2).
What sacrifices they made, God would not accept, since the food they sacrificed to him would be considered unclean like food touched by mourners, who had touched the dead (Deut. 26:13-14).
Hebrew law prohibits any contact with the dead. In this case the bread is polluted by its proximity to death.
The people who celebrated and worshipped in such wrong ways would find they could no longer worship at all. What food they brought for worship, God would refuse to acknowledge. It would be good only to satisfy their own personal appetites. God has condemned their worship efforts. In the land they will be unclean. In exile they will be unclean – all because their worship has become unclean, polluted by the ways of the nations, contrary to the ways of the Lord.
What will you do on the day of your appointed festivals,
on the feast days of the Lord?
Hosea 9:5 (NIV)
Such judgment set up a dilemma for Israel. Three times a year they were to appear before God in annual festival days (Exod. 23:14-17).
If God would not accept their worship, especially their offerings and sacrifices, what could they do on those days?
The highlight of the year vanished in divine punishment. The day of greatest joy became Israel’s date with judgment.
For even if they flee from devastation, Egypt will gather them, and Memphis will bury them. Thistles will take possession of their precious silver; thorns will invade their tents.
Hosea 9:6 (HCSB)
Israel did not learn God’s lesson from their experiences of devastation and limitations with Tiglath-pileser III. They returned from that humiliation ready to fight again.
In fact, they decided once more to trust Egypt against Assyria. In so doing they experienced the exodus in reverse. Egypt collected both their money and their refugees, then sent them to the city of Memphis twelve miles south of Cairo, where Israel was buried – filed in the list of nations that used to be significant but would never again return to historical prominence.
What a treasured possession Israel gained from the tribute they paid for Egyptian protection!
The first Egyptian experience led to God’s deliverance, the exodus, Sinai, and national identity. The second and last Egyptian experience led to disappearance, their homes and national identity marked only by briers and thorns.
What a way to stop the party and put an end to rejoicing and celebration!
The days of punishment have come,
the days of retribution are here,
and Isra’el knows it.
[Yet they cry,] “The prophet is a fool,
the man of the spirit has gone crazy!”
Because your iniquity is so great,
the hostility [against you] is great.
Hosea 9:7 (CJB)
By the time Israel began to experience the consequences of its sins, it was no longer listening to God’s messengers. Refusing to hear the truth from prophets who spoke out so clearly about its sins, the nation did not hear God’s warnings about what was soon to happen.
We all listen and read selectively, focusing on what seems to support our present lifestyle and ignoring a radical reordering of our priorities. In doing this, we are likely to miss the warning signs.
Listen to people who think your approach is all wrong. Read articles that present viewpoints you would be unlikely to take.
Ask yourself, Is God speaking to me through these speakers and writers?
Is there something I need to change?
Ephraim was [intended to be] a watchman with my God [and a prophet to the surrounding nations]; but he, that prophet, has become a fowler’s snare in all his ways. There is enmity, hostility, and persecution in the house of his God.
Hosea 9:8 (AMP)
Apparently Hosea saw himself as God’s watchman. Often God appointed his prophets as watchmen, or guards, over his people to warn them of an enemy army’s approach (Jer. 6:17).
The prophets, however, sometimes warned of God’s approach as an enemy to his disobedient people. This was Hosea’s task. The prophet defended himself against the people’s claim that he was mad. The people, not the prophet, stood under God’s condemnation. In his office as watchman, he was on God’s side, doing God’s business.
As such the prophet was like a hunter setting traps on all the paths the people traveled, catching all the people for God to punish. The people go to the house of their God, which has become the house of their gods.
They expect to find relief from the troubles the prophet is causing them. Instead they find more persecution (snares) and hostility. God’s house has become more like a prisoner-of-war camp then a refuge for God’s disobedient people.
They are deeply corrupted, As in the days of Gibeah. He will remember their iniquity; He will punish their sins.
Hosea 9:9 (NKJV)
Hosea concludes the section with another accusation against the people and a final announcement of God’s sentence against them. He picks up the language of Genesis 6:11-12 – the moral corruption of the earth in Noah’s day – and intensifies it. Hosea’s generation is not only corrupt; they are deeply corrupt.
The prophet turned to another famous moment in Israel’s history – the horrible rape scene perpetrated by the Benjaminites in the city of Gibeah.
A couple had stopped to stay overnight in Gibeah when some wicked men gathered around the house and demanded that the man come out so they could have sex with him.
Instead, the traveler gave them his concubine. They raped and abused her all night and then left her dead on the doorstep (Judges 19:14-30). That horrible act revealed the depths to which the people had sunk.
Gibeah was destroyed for its evil (Judges 20:8-48), but Hosea said that the whole nation was now as evil as that city. Just as the city didn’t escape punishment, neither would the nation.
God has a long memory when it comes to unconfessed, unforgiven sin. Hosea can pronounce the sentence with confidence. God will punish them for their sins.
When we share God’s truth with those who have deliberately turned their backs on God, we should not be surprised if we are identified as stupid and crazy.
Holman Old Testament Commentary
NLT Chronological Life Application Study Bible