As we round out our week’s journey through the book of Hosea, I recognize a lot of the background information on our minor prophet may have already been disclosed. You know by now, for instance, that Hosea married a prostitute, Gomer, and together they built a family and he continued to love and pursue Gomer despite her unfaithfulness.
I was personally struck by numerous aspects of this prophet’s story that had honestly slipped my Bible-reading attention until now. Most notably, as seen throughout Scripture, the meanings of our character’s names profoundly impacted me during my Hosea journey. Before we visit the last 2 chapters of Hosea, let me remind us of a few key players:
- Hosea, meaning “Yahweh has rescued” or “salvation”, was a messenger of God who offers the possibility of salvation for Israel if the nation would turn from their idolatry back to God.
- His first son, named Jezreel which literally means “God sows,” was in reference to a massacre that occurred in that city under King Jehu. God used this son of Hosea to warn Israel that “I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. In that day I will break Israel’s bow in the Valley of Jezreel.”
- Hosea’s daughter named Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”) reflected the Lord’s declaration that “I will no longer show love to Israel.”
- And lastly his second son Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”) was a poignant reminder of the LORD’s declaration that “You are not my people, and I am not your God.”
Appreciating the significance within each character’s name clearly delineated in Hosea’s message thus far, I was sure to pay attention to the names presented in my 2 chapters. Read along with me here and see what names you happen to notice here in Hosea chapters 13:
13 When Ephraim spoke, people trembled;
he was exalted in Israel.
But he became guilty of Baal worship and died.
2 Now they sin more and more;
they make idols for themselves from their silver,
cleverly fashioned images,
all of them the work of craftsmen.
It is said of these people,
“They offer human sacrifices!
They kiss calf-idols!”
3 Therefore they will be like the morning mist,
like the early dew that disappears,
like chaff swirling from a threshing floor,
like smoke escaping through a window.
4 “But I have been the Lord your God
ever since you came out of Egypt.
You shall acknowledge no God but me,
no Savior except me.
5 I cared for you in the wilderness,
in the land of burning heat.
6 When I fed them, they were satisfied;
when they were satisfied, they became proud;
then they forgot me.
7 So I will be like a lion to them,
like a leopard I will lurk by the path.
8 Like a bear robbed of her cubs,
I will attack them and rip them open;
like a lion I will devour them—
a wild animal will tear them apart.
9 “You are destroyed, Israel,
because you are against me, against your helper.
10 Where is your king, that he may save you?
Where are your rulers in all your towns,
of whom you said,
‘Give me a king and princes’?
11 So in my anger I gave you a king,
and in my wrath I took him away.
12 The guilt of Ephraim is stored up,
his sins are kept on record.
13 Pains as of a woman in childbirth come to him,
but he is a child without wisdom;
when the time arrives,
he doesn’t have the sense to come out of the womb.
14 “I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
Where, O grave, is your destruction?
“I will have no compassion,
15 even though he thrives among his brothers.
An east wind from the Lord will come,
blowing in from the desert;
his spring will fail
and his well dry up.
His storehouse will be plundered
of all its treasures.
16 The people of Samaria must bear their guilt,
because they have rebelled against their God.
They will fall by the sword;
their little ones will be dashed to the ground,
their pregnant women ripped open.”
As I read, the main characters I appreciated here were Israel, Baal, and Ephraim.
- Israel we know refers to the “Northern Kingdom”, and during the eighth century BC they were under the reigns of Uzziah and Jeroboam II. Israel had experienced a time of economic prosperity and freedom due to Jeroboam II’s successful military campaigns. Unfortunately, as their wealth increased, their spiritual condition decreased and they eventually abandoned their covenant and worshipful position before the one true God.
- Baal was the Canaanite storm god and bringer of rain. Baal worship was a constant temptation for the Israelites. In fact, King Ahab and his successors made Baal worship the national religion of Israel.
Then there came Ephraim…
Ephraim, meaning “fruitful,” was the name that truly captivated my attention and I pray the insights I share here today challenge you all as powerfully as they did myself. As the Promised Land was divided amongst the 12 tribes of Israel, Jacob adopted Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and bestowed Joseph’s land to them. Additionally, Ephraim was the second born and yet Jacob, Israel, chose to bestow the blessing of a first born on Ephraim and not Manasseh. (Sounds a lot like the familiar story of Jacob and Esau back in the day, doesn’t it?)
The Ephraimites were known to be an arrogant tribe who rejected the one true God and actively participated in Jeroboam’s man-made religion (13:1-2). They were also recognized as an ungrateful tribe (13:4-6) who would call on God in times of trouble and yet in their prosperity, they rejected the LORD and looked to idol worship. Friends, I am by no means participating in human sacrifice but the ungrateful shades of the Ephraimites isn’t too far-fetched from my own selfish ambitions.
So, what does Hosea say the LORD has in store for His arrogant and ungrateful children? The imagery is intense so hold on! Using a metaphor of a ferocious beast (13:7-16), God declares he will “attack them and rip them open, devour them, (and) tear them apart.” (This is a foreshadowing of the impending Assyrian invasion).
I live in Africa friends – the imagery is as horrifying and vivid as our safari pics could illustrate.
So what is one to do if we find ourselves in an “Ephraim” state of mind? Well, because of the compassion and long-suffering of our Heavenly Father, I believe we are beckoned to return to our name’s meaning, “fruitful”!
Read His invitation in Chapter 14’s happily ever after ending:
14 Return, Israel, to the Lord your God.
Your sins have been your downfall!
2 Take words with you
and return to the Lord.
Say to him:
“Forgive all our sins
and receive us graciously,
that we may offer the fruit of our lips.
3 Assyria cannot save us;
we will not mount warhorses.
We will never again say ‘Our gods’
to what our own hands have made,
for in you the fatherless find compassion.”
4 “I will heal their waywardness
and love them freely,
for my anger has turned away from them.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel;
he will blossom like a lily.
Like a cedar of Lebanon
he will send down his roots;
6 his young shoots will grow.
His splendor will be like an olive tree,
his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
7 People will dwell again in his shade;
they will flourish like the grain,
they will blossom like the vine—
Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.
8 Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?
I will answer him and care for him.
I am like a flourishing juniper;
your fruitfulness comes from me.”
9 Who is wise? Let them realize these things.
Who is discerning? Let them understand.
The ways of the Lord are right;
the righteous walk in them,
but the rebellious stumble in them.