Reversal of the Exodus: Return to Egypt and Exile in Assyria, 1-7

In vv1-11, ‘there is no more passionate and moving expression of God’s heart than this anywhere in the Bible. God speaks as the loving father of Israel, who called his son out of bondage in Egypt. At that time Israel was like a helpless child, a new nation facing the might of the Egyptian empire, wandering in the desert with no prospects of food or drink.’ (NBC)

Hubbard comments that Hosea’s own experience with Gomer must have given his great insight into the heart of the Lord.  And yet the book does not dwell at all on the prophet’s own feelings.  The focus is entirely on the divine response to the disloyalty of his people.

11:1 When Israel was a young man, I loved him like a son,
and I summoned my son out of Egypt.

“Young man” – ‘youth’, ‘lad’.  The term ‘suggests an immaturity akin to helplessness, the inability to bear the responsibilities of adulthood.’ (Hubbard)

I loved him like a son – ‘The figure of speech turns personal—not Yahweh the farmer, tending Israel as his grapes (Hos 9:10), vine (Hos 10:1), or heifer (Hos 10:11), but Yahweh the parent, grieving over Israel, the rebellious child.’ (Hubbard)

I summoned my son out of Egypt – See Mt 2:13ffn.  ‘Hosea’s statement is not primarily a prophecy about Jesus, but an interpretation of a historical event. But the parallels with Jesus are very striking: God preserved Israel (Jacob and his household) from famine by giving them a place in Egypt. From there he brought them out to fulfil his purposes.’ (NBC)

11:2 But the more I summoned them,
the farther they departed from me.
They sacrificed to the Baal idols
and burned incense to images.
11:3 Yet it was I who led Ephraim,
I took them by the arm;
but they did not acknowledge
that I had healed them.
11:4 I led them with leather cords,
with leather ropes;
I lifted the yoke from their neck,
and gently fed them.
11:5 They will return to Egypt!
Assyria will rule over them
because they refuse to repent!
11:6 A sword will flash in their cities,
it will destroy the bars of their city gates,
and will devour them in their fortresses.
11:7 My people are obsessed with turning away from me;
they call to Baal, but he will never exalt them!

“The more I summoned them, the farther they departed from me” – Hubbard remarks that the legal background to this passage is found in Deut 21:18-21, which sets out how parents should deal with a rebellious child.  They are to bring him to the elders of the city, and, if the charge is sustained, he is to be stoned to death.  ‘A society which had no provision for reform schools or probation officers and depended for its civility on respect for parental authority was forced to drastic means to deal with its incorrigibles.’

But here the deserved penalty is suspended, and mercy is promised.  Love overrides law.  God will discipline, but he will forgive and restore.

“I took them by the arm” – A beautiful picture of the infant Israel being supported and guided as she learns to walk.

The Divine Dilemma: Judgment or Mercy?, 8-9

11:8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I surrender you, O Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboiim?
I have had a change of heart!
All my tender compassions are aroused!
11:9 I cannot carry out my fierce anger!
I cannot totally destroy Ephraim!
Because I am God, and not man—the Holy One among you—
I will not come in wrath!

Admah and Zeboiim are cities are cities that were destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah, Deut 29:23; cf. Gen 14:2, 8.

‘I am God, and not man’

Let us meditate on this declaration of our God for a few moments.

“I am God — and not man,” and therefore I am infinitely patient, and not soon moved to take vengeance upon My sinful and rebellious creatures!

“I am God — and not man,” and therefore I am ready to forgive, and receive back the returning prodigal to My heart and home!

“I am God — and not man,” and therefore I receive great sinners, taking to My heart, and putting among My children — such despicable ones as no one else would notice or regard!

“I am God — and not man,” and therefore I pardon again and again, not only first offences — but repeated transgressions, forgiving and forgetting them forever!

“I am God — and not man,” and therefore bear with such numerous affronts, such gross ingratitude, such inexcusable conduct — in My own people!

“I am God, and not man,” and therefore I invite, entreat, and beseech such base backsliders to return unto Me, and prove the power and freeness of My forgiving love!

“I am God — and not man,” and therefore I save freely, fully, and forever — such degraded, depraved, and desperate sinners, to the praise of the glory of My grace!

“I am God — and not man,” and therefore I remain faithful to My promises and covenant engagements, amidst all the changes and faithlessness of My fickle people!

“I am God — and not man,” and therefore I give such rich, costly, priceless gifts — to the poor, destitute, and unworthy sinners!

“I am God — and not man,” and therefore I hear, accept, and answer, such poor, imperfect, and worthless prayers — which, no one else could tolerate, much less approve!

“I am God — and not man,” and therefore I work such wonders — wonders in providence, and wonders in grace; wonders in the world, and wonders in the heart!

“I am God — and not man,” and therefore, I have prepared such mansions, and will confer such a glorious kingdom — on sinners who have no claim upon Me, nor the least reason to expect any good thing from Me!

Yes, because He is Jehovah, and changes not — therefore we poor, sinning, changeable creatures are not consumed!

Believer, to you the Lord says, “I am God — and not man!” Therefore expect from Him as God — and act toward Him as God! He can do exceedingly and abundantly, above all that you can ask or think! Do not measure His heart by yours — but remember that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His thoughts higher than your thoughts, and His ways than your ways!

(James Smith, “Rills from the Rock of Ages”, 1860)

God Will Restore the Exiles to Israel, 10-11

11:10 He will roar like a lion,
and they will follow the LORD;
when he roars,
his children will come trembling from the west.
11:11 They will return in fear and trembling
like birds from Egypt,
like doves from Assyria,
and I will settle them in their homes,” declares the LORD.

He will roar like a lion…They will return…like doves – Here is ‘a promise of salvation which takes some previous metaphors and reverses their sense. The LORD will be like a lion, not to destroy (cf. 5:14) but to give a signal for his sons to come home from wherever they have been scattered. They have previously been described as a silly dove, fluttering to get help from Egypt or Assyria (7:11), and about to be snared in God’s net. Here they are fearful, but not silly, and fly eagerly back to the LORD and to their homes (10a, 11b).’ (NBC)

God’s Lawsuit against Israel: Breach of Covenant, 12

11:12 (12:1) Ephraim has surrounded me with lies;
the house of Israel has surrounded me with deceit.
But Judah still roams about with God;
he remains faithful to the Holy One.