God’s people must not take justice and political strategy into their own hands without authorization from God.
When I return My people from captivity, when I heal Israel, the sins of Ephraim and the crimes of Samaria will be exposed. For they practice fraud; a thief breaks in; a raiding party pillages outside.
But they never consider that I remember all their evil. Now their sins are all around them; they are right in front of My face.
God sees and knows everything. We, like Israel, often forget this. Thoughts like “No one will ever know,” or “No one is watching” may tempt us to try to get away with sin. If you are facing difficult temptations, you will be less likely to give in if you remind yourself that God is watching. When faced with the opportunity to sin, remember that God sees everything.
In this section, God appears to be reassessing the condition of his people to determine the cause of their covenant betrayal. He uses the emotion of lament to express his findings. He begins by stating his basic desire:
- To restore the fortunes of his people,
- To heal Israel.
He finds a major stumbling block in the way of such help for his people. It takes little effort to discover the guilt of Ephraim along with the evil of Samaria. Up to now Hosea has focused primarily on religious sin brought on by priests and worship practices. For the first time Hosea mentions Israel’s capital, Samaria. Now he turns to political problems and evils within the nation.
They Practice Fraud
Here the people playing politics in the worst way, making promises and joining in alliances to which they have no intention of remaining faithful. Crime prevails. Government has lost control. The capital city of Israel does not deserve God’s healing touch.
Israel plays politics even with God, not thinking God will remember and repay their evil deeds, just like politicians do not follow through on their promises.
How could God forget?
The evidence stares him in the face.
They please the king with their evil, the princes with their lies.
Hosea 7:3 (HCSB)
Their political promises and shenanigans fill the royal family with joy. The king and princes want to hear good news even if the historical moment gives no evidence for such news.
All of them commit adultery; they are like an oven heated by a baker who stops stirring the fire from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened.
Hosea 7:4 (HCSB)
All of them are adulterers (Exod. 20:14). In the political realm, this extends beyond cultic prostitution to encompass political deceit. No one can trust a political partner. Adultery thrives on burning passion. So does politics.
An everyday example of such burning heat comes from the baker’s oven used for baking bread. The oven is so hot that the baker doesn’t have to stoke it for a long time. The politicians are similar – so inflamed that their adultery is certain to last a long time.
On the day of the festival of our king the princes become inflamed with wine, and he joins hands with the mockers.
Hosea 7:5 (NIV)
The focus turns to a typical day for our king. Nothing in the Hebrew text makes this a festival day. It is simply the royal routine, a routine without work.
The heat image takes a different direction for a moment. The heat of passion turns to the heat of the drunkard. The nation’s princes, the royal sons or the chief administrators, leave their duties to celebrate. The consumption of wine leaves them sick, their red faces flushed with heat. They are so drunk they extend their hands in greeting or in making a treaty with those who scoff at them.
They prepare their heart like an oven, while they lie in wait; their baker sleeps all night; in the morning it burns like a flaming fire.
Hosea 7:6 (NKJV)
Israel’s leaders extend their hands to scoffers for one reason: they permit them to come near with their ambush (Jer.9:8). They do this only while their hearts are an oven. Wine has so confused their minds that they initiate irrational action.
From daily action, the text turns to nightly inaction. All night their baker sleeps, when night is the preparation time for the next day’s bread.
Quickly we turn to morning. Having slept all night, the baker awakes, burning like a blazing fire. He, too, has joined the daytime partygoers and suffers as they do with burning fever and hangover.
They are all hot, like an oven, and have devoured their judges; all their kings have fallen. None among them calls upon Me.
Hosea 7:7 (NKJV)
Thus Hosea draws his conclusion – all of them are hot as an oven. Here heat turns from the results of partying and drinking to rage at the king, since all of them – from princes to scoffers to baker – join together to devour their rulers. All their kings fall. This is a historical reflection on the final years of the Northern Kingdom when one royal family replaced another in quick succession through political coups and assassinations.
How could God’s people get into such a condition?
Hosea had one quick answer: none among them calls upon Me. Even in the period of the judges with all its intrigue, sin, and false religion, Israel returned to call on God for help in time of trouble. This generation was worse than that one. They ignored their only source of help, even when the Lord stood ready to heal.
This is God’s lament. His people are so busy partying that they ignore him.
How could he possibly restore their fortunes or heal their wounds?
Harvest time approaches for the nations of Israel and Judah.
Holman Old Testament Commentary
NLT Chronological Life Application Study Bible