Hosea 11:1-111NIV New International Version Translations
1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2 But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. 3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. 4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them. 5 “Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent? 6 Swords will flash in their cities, will destroy the bars of their gates and put an end to their plans. 7 My people are determined to turn from me. Even if they call to the Most High, he will by no means exalt them. 8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. 9 I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man—the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath. 10 They will follow the LORD; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. 11 They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria. I will settle them in their homes,” declares the LORD.
Hosea wrote in the middle of the eighth century BC (Before Christ). He gave most of his messages to Israel, the country in the north. But some of the messages were for Judah, the country in the south. The book has many curses and blessings, but there are many more curses than blessings. If we want to understand this book, we need to understand the covenant at Sinai. The curses and blessings of Hosea are connected to this covenant. Hosea’s job was to tell his people that there was danger. God was going to make sure that Israel kept his covenant. Hosea said that God was going to punish his people. It is the same message that many of the prophets gave before the exile. In most of the book, Hosea says that Israel will have death and illness. He also says that another nation will destroy Israel and take them away. When these things have happened, God will be able to bless Israel again. It is important that we understand what these promises mean. Israel will not be able to avoid God’s anger. Israel has broken the covenant and so the curses are going to happen soon.
Only a few people in Israel were loyal to God at this time. More people in Judah were loyal to God. Israel was a strong and rich country. The people of Israel were good at fighting wars. Because of this, people from Israel met people from other countries. This meant that Israel knew about other peoples’ gods. They forgot the commandments of Sinai. In the past, there was a group of kings that started with Jehu in 842 BC. This group of kings ended with the death of Jeroboam 2nd (793 – 753 BC). But, after he died, there were six more kings in Israel. It was a difficult time. Other leaders in the country killed these kings. Also, there was a war between Assyria and Israel. In 734 BC, Israel became a much smaller country. This was the beginning of the end for Israel. Then, in 722 BC, Assyria destroyed Israel.
We are not sure where Hosea gave his messages. Maybe it was in Samaria and Bethel. None of the messages has dates. Hosea might have known Amos, who was older than he was. Amos also wrote messages to Israel. We do not know if Hosea spoke his messages to people. The message of 5:1-7 suggests that he did. We know very little about Hosea and his family. Hosea tells us very few things about himself.
Hosea believed that it is important to know God as a person. People have called him the Saint John of the Old Testament (OT). Hosea does not want the peoples’ sacrifices to be empty. This is when the person who offers the sacrifice is not sincere. He wants their sacrifices to help them to know God in a true way.
In chapter 11, God looks to the past in Israel’s life. In verse 1, God remembers what has happened to Israel when she was a child. God spoke to Moses when he began his journey to Egypt. God said, ‘Israel is my first son … let my son go’ (Exodus 4:22-23). It is when Israel became free. There are other places in the Old Testament where God describes himself as a father (Isaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 3:19). The word ‘call’ in verse 1 can mean different things in the OT. It can mean that God wanted to bring the people of Israel together. The life of Jesus did this completely.
But Israel did not want to listen to God’s call (verse 2). She showed this by her worship of the Baals and of other false gods. Israel chose new idols. They broke the first rule of the covenant. This was, ‘You will have no other gods but me’ (Exodus 20:3).
In verse 3, there is a beautiful picture of a father. Israel was like a small child whom God helped to walk. It was God who did this. Israel could not see that. When the people of Israel grew up, they did not want to live like true sons.
In verse 4, the picture changes a little. It is not clear what the verse means. Perhaps the verse means that God is like a farmer. He wants to be sure that his animals are well. He wants to be sure that they have enough food. This is the same way that God fed Israel in the desert (Exodus 16).
But in verse 5 the idea changes. Hosea tells Israel about exile again. The word ‘Egypt’ means the enemy. Assyria is the country that will take them into exile. Israel will not be a nation on its own. In 5:13 and 10:6 Hosea called the king of Assyria a ‘great king’. Soon this king will make sure that Israel cannot choose where she lives. Israel did not thank God for what he had done for her. This was her sin.
Assyria will win against Israel in a war (verse 6). The people of Israel will not be safe. The walls of their cities will come down. The sword of the enemy will become the sword of God. He uses the sword to keep his covenant. The people will find it difficult to live without God. They will not want to turn away from him (verse 7). Then they will want to come back to God. But he will not listen. It will be too late.
In verse 8 there is a change in ideas. Again, there is hope for Israel. In exile, Israel will turn back to God. God is a God of mercy. He does not want to punish Israel too much. He could never let other nations win against Israel. Admah and Zeboiim were cities that were near Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 10:19). God destroyed Admah and Zeboiim when he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24-25). This was when he was very angry. But God says that he will change his mind.
There is not a man anywhere who is completely true (verse 9). But God is not like this. He will be true to the love that he has shown to Israel in the past. This is the only place in Hosea where we see the word ‘holy’. We see the word 26 times in Isaiah. God is different from men. He acts in different ways. This is not a promise for the people who are living with Hosea. It is a promise for the children of these people. God’s ‘anger’ is the right attitude for him to show. This is when the people have done wrong things. But, because he loved them, he wanted them to repent. Then he could forgive them.
In the future, Israel will return to God (verse 10). Then they will be able to return from exile. God himself will tell everyone when this moment comes. He will make sure that everyone hears. Perhaps the lion means that God is calling people to hear his judgement (Amos 1:2, Joel 3:16). The west means the islands of the sea. It also means the land near the sea.
Israel will hurry home (verse 11). Birds can travel fast. Hosea uses the picture of a bird in a good way. (In 7:11 the dove meant that Israel was silly.) The people will ‘fly’ back to their homes. Nothing will stop them. The promise of 2:25 will happen – ‘I will plant many seeds in the land’. But Israel’s true return will only happen because of Christ. He begins and finishes the new covenant.
Items for Discussion
- How do parents handle a child that is constantly misbehaving?
- Can you change behaviour without discipline?
- Hosea believed that it is important to know God as a person. How do people get to know God?
- Does a relationship with someone help with understanding discipline?
- What type of discipline destroys relationships and what kind strengthens them?
- Is God being unfair when good people are disciplined along with those who deserve it?
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Most people agree that John, Jesus’ disciple, wrote the 4th Gospel. John’s father was called Zebedee. And John had a brother called James, who became also one of Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19-20; Luke 5:10). The family fished on Lake Galilee. Zebedee owned a boat. He employed men to help with his business.
Jesus called John and James: the ‘sons of thunder’. Thunder is the loud noise that we hear during a storm. Perhaps he gave them this name because they became angry quickly. For example, they wanted God to destroy a village in Samaria. This was because the people there had not wanted Jesus to enter the village (Luke 9:52-56).
Simon Peter, who was their partner in the business, became also a disciple of Jesus (Luke 5:1-11). Simon Peter, James and John were Jesus’ special friends. They were the only disciples with Jesus when he raised Jairus’ daughter from death (Mark 5:37). On another occasion, Jesus took Simon Peter, James and John up a mountain. There, they saw him as he talked with Moses and Elijah. They heard God’s voice. God said that Jesus was his Son. And they must listen to Jesus (Mark 9:2-12). And on the night before Jesus died, John and Simon Peter made the arrangements for the Passover meal (Luke 22:8).
So John knew Jesus very well. John did not refer to himself by his name in his Gospel. However, there are many references to ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’. John did not mention this disciple’s name. Many people think that this disciple was John.
John wrote this Gospel about AD 85-90 but not later than AD 100. John was a very old man then. It is possible that he dictated his Gospel to another person. This was usual in the first century AD. Paul dictated some of his letters to his churches.
Verse 16 This is probably the most famous verse in the Bible. It expresses in only a few words what Christians believe. It tells us the main reason why God sent his Son to die on our behalf. There are several reasons why God did this.
He did it because he is fair. If people do wrong things, they deserve a punishment. So Jesus suffered our punishment in our place.
He did it because he is holy. God cannot accept us, because we sin. But Jesus, who never sinned, took our place. He died instead of us. When we believe this, we receive Jesus’ righteousness as our own. So when God looks at us, he chooses to see Jesus’ righteousness instead of our sin.
But this verse emphasises the main reason why God sent Jesus to die. It was because God loved us all so much.
Love is more than just one of God’s qualities. His nature is love. God does everything because he loves. God’s love always reaches out to us, the people that he has made. God’s love is never selfish. He gave to us the most precious thing that he had: his only Son.
‘Eternal life’ does not mean just life that continues without an end. Many people have miserable lives. Many people are poor, or hungry, or ill; or they suffer with pain. It would be bad if this kind of life continued without an end. But eternal life means the wonderful life that God gives to us by means of Jesus. He gives it to us now. It is our promise that we will live forever, even after our death. In eternal life, there is no more death, or disease. There is no enemy or sin. Bad things do not happen. Our life on the earth is only a short part of our life with God. After we die, we will live this wonderful life with him always.
Eternal life is God’s free gift to us. We cannot earn it. There is only one way to receive it. We must believe in Jesus. ‘To believe in’ means more than just to know that Jesus is God. Even the devil knows that! (For example, Luke 4:33-34; James 2:19.) It means that we must trust Jesus completely. Only Jesus can save us from the results of our sins. We must let him rule every part of our lives completely. He has a plan for each one of us. We must believe that all his words in the Bible are true. We must obey him. We must believe that he gives us the power to change our characters. He will make us become more like him, if we let him.
Verses 17 God sent Jesus to rescue us from the results of our sins. He did not send Jesus to punish us.
Items for Discussion
- What are the attributes of love?
- What kind of earthly examples can you think of that demonstrate the power of love?
- What creates the very nature of love in a person?
- Can a person be happy in this world without love? (It can be of people, professions, projects, pursuits, etc.)
- Do you think that women or men have a stronger sense of love, a capacity to meet the attributes you described above? Explain your opinion.
- How is love changed when there is no relationship with God?
- What changes in a person when they know how to love?
- How should any group of Christians demonstration John 3:16 and 17?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations