God has spoken through the Spirit to our fathers in the prophets and now in Christ (Hebrews 1:1-3). There’s a lot of profound truth in there which is all too easy to elide; we do well to unpack the authority present in the Spirit and the Word of God.
YHWH’s indictment was strong, as was His plea for His people to repent. They refused; they were destroyed or exiled. YHWH would nevertheless restore. The message was recorded for our encouragement to not fall according to the same pattern of disobedience.
When Ephraim spake, there was trembling; he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died. And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, even idols according to their own understanding, all of them the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, “Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.” Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the dew that passeth early away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the threshing-floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.
Yet I am YHWH thy God from the land of Egypt; and thou shalt know no god but me, and besides me there is no saviour. I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted: therefore have they forgotten me. Therefore am I unto them as a lion; as a leopard will I watch by the way; I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart; and there will I devour them like a lioness; the wild beast shall tear them. It is thy destruction, O Israel, that thou art against me, against thy help.
Where now is thy king, that he may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges, of whom thou saidst, “Give me a king and princes?” I have given thee a king in mine anger, and have taken him away in my wrath.
The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is laid up in store. The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for it is time he should not tarry in the place of the breaking forth of children. I will ransom them from the power of Sheol; I will redeem them from death: O death, where are thy plagues? O Sheol, where is thy destruction? Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the breath of YHWH coming up from the wilderness; and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall make spoil of the treasure of all goodly vessels. Samaria shall bear her guilt; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword; their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.
O Israel, return unto YHWH thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and return unto YHWH: say unto him, “Take away all iniquity, and accept that which is good: so will we render as bullocks the offering of our lips. Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, ‘Ye are our gods’; for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.”
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel; he shall blossom as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive-tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the grain, and blossom as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have answered, and will regard him: I am like a green fir tree; from me is thy fruit found.
Who is wise, that he may understand these things? Prudent, that he may know them? For the ways of YHWH are right, and the just shall walk in them; but transgressors shall fall therein (Hosea 13:1-14:9).
It’s the perennial bestseller; you’ve heard of it often. But what is the Bible? Why is it so important to Christianity? What are we to do with it?
God would heal Israel, if only Israel would truly turn to Him. It was not enough to merely try to placate YHWH; one must know Him and follow His ways.
Come, and let us return unto YHWH; for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live before him. And let us know, let us follow on to know YHWH: his going forth is sure as the morning; and he will come unto us as the rain, as the latter rain that watereth the earth.
O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the dew that goeth early away. Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth. For I desire goodness, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings.
But they like Adam have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me. Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity; it is stained with blood. And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way toward Shechem; yea, they have committed lewdness. In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing: there whoredom is found in Ephraim, Israel is defiled.
Also, O Judah, there is a harvest appointed for thee, when I bring back the captivity of my people.
When I would heal Israel, then is the iniquity of Ephraim uncovered, and the wickedness of Samaria; for they commit falsehood, and the thief entereth in, and the troop of robbers ravageth without. And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now have their own doings beset them about; they are before my face. They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies. They are all adulterers; they are as an oven heated by the baker; he ceaseth to stir the fire, from the kneading of the dough, until it be leavened. On the day of our king the princes made themselves sick with the heat of wine; he stretched out his hand with scoffers. For they have made ready their heart like an oven, while they lie in wait: their baker sleepeth all the night; in the morning it burneth as a flaming fire. They are all hot as an oven, and devour their judges; all their kings are fallen: there is none among them that calleth unto me.
Ephraim, he mixeth himself among the peoples; Ephraim is a cake not turned. Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, and he knoweth it not. And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: yet they have not returned unto YHWH their God, nor sought him, for all this. And Ephraim is like a silly dove, without understanding: they call unto Egypt, they go to Assyria. When they shall go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the birds of the heavens; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard. Woe unto them! for they have wandered from me; destruction unto them! for they have trespassed against me: though I would redeem them, yet they have spoken lies against me. And they have not cried unto me with their heart, but they howl upon their beds: they assemble themselves for grain and new wine; they rebel against me. Though I have taught and strengthened their arms, yet do they devise mischief against me. They return, but not to him that is on high; they are like a deceitful bow; their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt (Hosea 6:1-7:16).
Disturbing. Shameful. Shocking! Why would YHWH do such things to Hosea as demanded in Hosea 1:1-3:5? Hosea would learn to understand YHWH’s love for Israel, and decry Israel’s shameful treatment of her God.
The word of YHWH that came unto Hosea the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.
When YHWH spake at the first by Hosea, YHWH said unto Hosea, “Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredom and children of whoredom; for the land doth commit great whoredom, departing from YHWH.”
So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; and she conceived, and bare him a son.
And YHWH said unto him, “Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease. And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.”
And she conceived again, and bare a daughter.
And YHWH said unto him, “Call her name Lo-ruhamah; for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel, that I should in any wise pardon them. But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by YHWH their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.”
Now when she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son.
And YHWH said, “Call his name Lo-ammi; for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.”
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass that, in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint themselves one head, and shall go up from the land; for great shall be the day of Jezreel. Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah.
“Contend with your mother, contend; for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband; and let her put away her whoredoms from her face, and her adulteries from between her breasts; lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst. Yea, upon her children will I have no mercy; for they are children of whoredom; for their mother hath played the harlot; she that conceived them hath done shamefully;
for she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink.’
Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, that she shall not find her paths. And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now. For she did not know that I gave her the grain, and the new wine, and the oil, and multiplied unto her silver and gold, which they used for Baal. Therefore will I take back my grain in the time thereof, and my new wine in the season thereof, and will pluck away my wool and my flax which should have covered her nakedness. And now will I uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of my hand. I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feasts, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn assemblies. And I will lay waste her vines and her fig-trees, whereof she hath said, These are my hire that my lovers have given me; and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. And I will visit upon her the days of the Baalim, unto which she burned incense, when she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and went after her lovers, and forgat me,” saith YHWH.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope; and she shall make answer there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be at that day, saith YHWH, that thou shalt call me ‘Ishi,’ and shalt call me no more ‘Baali.’ For I will take away the names of the Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be mentioned by their name. And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the birds of the heavens, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the land, and will make them to lie down safely. And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in justice, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know YHWH.”
“And it shall come to pass in that day, I will answer,” saith YHWH, “I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth; and the earth shall answer the grain, and the new wine, and the oil; and they shall answer Jezreel. And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them that were not my people, ‘Thou art my people’; and they shall say, ‘Thou art my God.'”
And YHWH said unto me, “Go again, love a woman beloved of her friend, and an adulteress, even as YHWH loveth the children of Israel, though they turn unto other gods, and love cakes of raisins.”
So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and a homer of barley, and a half-homer of barley; and I said unto her, “Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be any man’s wife: so will I also be toward thee.”
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king, and without prince, and without sacrifice, and without pillar, and without ephod or teraphim: afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek YHWH their God, and David their king, and shall come with fear unto YHWH and to his goodness in the latter days (Hosea 1:1-3:5).
It’s the question that almost every reader of the history and the prophets in the Old Testament asks: why did Israel not listen to the prophets? In reality, Israel listened to the prophets: the false prophets (Luke 6:23)! We do well to see what we can learn about the false prophets in the Old Testament lest we fall by the same pattern of disobedience.
Elijah expected Israel to cease waffling from two opinions on Mt. Carmel. Sometimes we need to have our own moment of contest and decision.
The Assyrians, the scourge of Israel, were the strongest power of the day. It would not be long before they would decimate and then destroy the northern Kingdom of Israel. How could YHWH want such people to repent and be saved? Such is the mentality of the prophet Jonah.
Jonah is the thirty-second book in most English Bibles; in the Hebrew Bible it is part of the Nevi’im, the Prophets; in the Greek Septuagint Jonah is the sixth of the Duodecim (Latinized; Dodeka in Greek), “the Twelve.” In Hebrew Jonah’s name is the same word as for “dove,” generally a sign of peace (e.g. Genesis 8:8-11, but also Hosea 11:11 in terms of Assyria). Jonah son of Amittai came from Gath-hepher, on the border of Zebulun near Nazareth (Joshua 19:13), and prophesied of Jeroboam’s (II) restoration of the borders of Israel to their former state (2 Kings 14:25; ca. 786-746 BCE). While Obadiah and Nahum prophesy against other nations, Jonah alone among the Twelve actually goes to the nation and preaches to them without respect to Israel; while we primarily hear the voice of the other eleven prophets, Jonah’s story is being told by an inspired narrator of whom we know nothing. The book of Jonah tells how YHWH summoned Jonah to preach to Nineveh in Assyria so as to demonstrate YHWH’s concern for people of all the nations.
The book of Jonah begins with the story of God’s first call and Jonah’s rejection of that call (Jonah 1:1-17). YHWH’s word came to Jonah telling him to go to Nineveh and cry against it (Jonah 1:1-2). Jonah attempted to flee, embarking on a boat heading to Tarshish away from YHWH (possibly Tartessus in Spain; Jonah 1:3). While the boat was at sea YHWH stirred up a large storm; each person cried out to their god; Jonah was asleep; the crew woke him; they cast lots and learned Jonah was the cause of the storm (Jonah 1:4-7). Jonah explained how he served YHWH the God of heaven; the crew was afraid; Jonah offered to be cast overboard; the crew resists but ultimately does so, praying to YHWH for mercy; when Jonah goes overboard the storm stops; the crew offered sacrifice to YHWH (Jonah 1:8-16). A large fish swallowed Jonah and he was in its belly three days and nights (Jonah 1:17).
Jonah prayed while in the belly of the fish, poetically narrating his descent into the waters, his helplessness, and YHWH’s deliverance (Jonah 2:1-9). The fish vomited Jonah up onto dry land (Jonah 2:10).
YHWH again called Jonah to go to Nineveh, and this time he obeys (Jonah 3:1-3). He cried out that Nineveh would be overthrown in forty days; the people of Nineveh believed in God and fasted, even the king in Nineveh, who decreed fasting, sackcloth, and prayers for relief (Jonah 3:4-9). God saw and relented of the calamity which He was going to bring upon Nineveh (Jonah 3:10).
Jonah, however, is none too pleased; in anger he prays to YHWH, indicating he had spoken of this when first summoned, knowing that YHWH was gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and had fled to Tarshish because he knew YHWH would relent; he wanted to die (Jonah 4:1-3). YHWH asks if he does well to be angry (Jonah 4:4). Jonah then sat outside of the city in a booth to see what would become of Nineveh: it got hot, and YHWH prepared a plant for him to give him shade, and it pleased him (Jonah 4:5-6). The next day the plant withered, and a very hot east wind arose, and Jonah asked to die on account of the heat; God asked if he does well to be angry about the plant; Jonah believed so, even to the point of death (Jonah 4:7-9). YHWH provides the lesson: Jonah showed concern for the plant for which he had done nothing to make or nourish and lived but a day, so why should YHWH have no concern for more than 120,000 Ninevites who do not know their right hand from their left and who have many cattle (Jonah 4:10-11)?
Most people remember Jonah’s story on account of the big fish; it may have been a whale, since Israelites tended to categorize creatures by environment or function as opposed to our categorization system (cf. Leviticus 11:13-19), or it could have been a sea creature no longer in existence. Jonah’s three days and nights in the fish prefigure Jesus’ time in death before His resurrection (the “sign of Jonah,” Matthew 12:38-41, 16:4, Luke 11:29-32). Nevertheless, the book of Jonah is less about the big fish or even Nineveh and more about YHWH and Israel. YHWH loves Israel, abounds in covenant loyalty, and is gracious and merciful; He is able to show the same love and loyalty to foreign nations, even foreign nations whom He will use to judge His people. Nineveh will have its day of destruction as Nahum makes clear (Nahum 1:1-3:19), but it would not be in the day of Jonah, because they had repented.
We do well to learn the message of Jonah: God is love, and does not want anyone to be condemned but all to come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved (1 Timothy 2:4, 1 John 4:8). Let us proclaim the Gospel to all the creation so all may praise God the Father in the name of Jesus the Son (Mark 16:15, Romans 1:16)!
Ethan R. Longhenry