Hosea 11 Commentary

The Father’s love (11:1-11)

As a father loves a son, so God loved Israel and saved his people from slavery in Egypt. They turned from God to serve idols, but God still loved them and cared for them (11:1-4). However, they have refused to return to God, and now they are about to go into slavery again, this time in Assyria (5-7).

It hurts God to have to punish those whom he loves. He must punish them for their wickedness, because he cannot ignore sin. But within his justice there is mercy. His love is stronger and more faithful than anything that is found in human relationships. He will remove his people from their land, but he will not destroy them for ever as he did Sodom, Gomorrah and other cities (8-9; see Deut 29:23). God will


overpower the enemies of Israel, release his people from captivity and bring them back to their homeland (10-11).

Deceit and wilfulness (11:12-12:14)

Israel’s political agreements with foreign nations, whether concerning trade or defence, are unlawful in God’s eyes. They are based on lies and dishonesty (11:12-12:1).

Such deceit has been a characteristic of Israel from the time of the nation’s forefather, Jacob (the original Israel). From birth Jacob showed a desire to get his own way. As an adult he struggled even with God. Only when he was forced finally to give in did he win the blessing he so eagerly desired (2-5; see Gen 25:22-26; 32:24-30). In the same way the people who are descended from him and who bear his name must give in by turning from their sinful ways to God. Only in this way will they receive God’s blessing (6).

Merchants have become wealthy by cheating and oppressing the poor, but now they are to receive fitting justice. They have used their wealth to bribe judges and administrators, but they cannot use it to bribe God. Their prosperous cities and luxurious houses will be destroyed and the people of Israel will be forced to live in tents, as they did on their journey from Egypt to Canaan. This was an experience that Israelites recalled each year when they lived in small temporary shelters during the Feast of Tabernacles (7-9; cf. Lev 23:40-43).

God had used prophets to speak to his people in many ways, but the people repeatedly ignored the messages and are now to suffer the consequences. Their heathen altars will be destroyed and left like heaps of stones in a field (10-11).

Jacob was a shepherd who looked after sheep, but Moses was a shepherd who looked after people. He was a prophet who led God’s people Israel, but just as the people of Israel rebelled against Moses so they have rebelled against all the prophets after him. Their rebellion against God’s messengers is really a rebellion against God himself. They have made God angry with them and thereby have made their own punishment certain (12-14).

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