Our reading today begins with an indictment against Israel that God pronounces through Hosea. YHWH declares that He has a “controversy” with the people of Israel (4:1). The word means “lawsuit.” The indictment against them is their lack of faithfulness and hesed love. This is what YHWH Himself abounds in (Ex 34:6). Israel’s problem is that they don’t know Him. This lack of knowledge will also be the undoing of Judah (see Isa 5:13). Instead of faithfulness and hesed love, there is only sin (v. 2). In verse 4-6, God pronounces judgment because Israel has rejected knowledge of God (see Rom 1:18-19). Therefore, God rejects them from being His nation of priests (see Ex 19:6).
In verse 7, God condemns Israel, because the more abundance God gave them, the more they sinned. They have learned to love sin (v. 8). So God will punish them (vv. 9-10) because they have forsaken Him (vv. 10-11). Note that God draws on the whoredom imagery from chapters 1-3. This whoredom is their worship of idols and false gods (vv. 12-13). In verse 14, God describes physical whoredom as far less sinful than spiritual whoredom.
In verses 15-16, God is telling Israel not to bother praying for mercy. Gilgal became a center for idol worship. The reference to Beth-aven is a mocking of Bethel. “Bethel” means “house of God,” “Beth-aven” means “house of wickedness” (see Amos 5:5). Since they had been worshiping false gods in these places, do they really expect God to heed their prayers? Israel (Ephraim) has irrevocably become an idolatrous nation (v. 17). They will realize the error of their ways (vv. 18-19).
In chapter 5, God pronounces judgment on all of Israel, including the priests and the king (5:1). In verses 1 and 2, God condemns the king and the priests for leading Israel into sin, and therefore into judgment (into “slaughter”). In Mizpah, the gods of the Ammonites was worshiped. Tabor was one of the “High Places” where Baal was worshiped. Verse 3-4 repeat the indictments of chapter 4: Israel has played the whore in their idolatry, and they have no knowledge of God. Israel stands condemned for their “pride” (v. 5 – see Amos 6:8) – their high handed sins are undeniable! They will seek God when they are judged, but He has removed Himself from Israel (v. 6). They are foreigners to Him (v. 7).
In verse 8, God calls for Gibeah and Ramah (both in the extreme north of Benjamin) to prepare for war (blowing the horn) and for Beth-aven (the house of wickedness – probably inclusive of all of Israel here) to do the same. Benjamin’s territory had been a regular battleground when Israel and Judah were at war, as it was on the border of Judah. God is metaphorically calling these border towns between Judah and Israel to become part of Judah, since all the tribes of Israel (Ephraim) will be punished (vv. 8-9). Hosea indicates that Judah will pay for “moving the landmark” (taking Benjamin – v. 10, 12 – see Deut 19:14).
In verse 13, God indicts Israel and Judah for trusting in earthly powers for their protection instead of in God. Both would pay tribute to Assyria for protection (see 2 Kings 15:19-20, 17:3 and 18:14-16). Both are judged with exile (v. 14). God calls for them to repent when this punishment is meted out (v. 15).
Chapter 6 begins with God anticipating Israel’s reaction to judgment: false repentance. They will decide to “return” to God, assuming that He will immediately restore them (6:1-2). They believe His forgiveness is sure (v. 3). God knows their loyalty to Him is as temporary as the morning dew (v. 4). This is why He has sent His prophets to indict them (v. 5). They observed outward religion, but He wants hesed love and knowledge of Him (v. 6 – see 4:1). But they broke the covenant (v. 7). He compares them to Adam and his transgression.1 The whole land is full of transgressors (vv. 8-10 – Gilead is on the east of the Jordan, and Shechem on the west side). In verse 11, we again see that judgment is coming for Judah, too.
The final line “when I restore the fortunes of my people” (v. 11) is a reference to Deuteronomy 30:1-3. There, Moses tells Israel that they will experience both the blessings of the covenant (which they had until now) and the curses (which they are about to). It is assumed in Deuteronomy 30:1 that removal from the land will happen. But if they truly repent, God will restore their fortunes. Here in Hosea 6:11, God looks to the time of restoration.
In 7:1, we see that God’s mercy reveals the sin of the people. Their sin is undeniable, yet they deceive themselves (v. 2). They are adulterers (v. 4 – see 3:1). They have grown cold towards God, and instead have a passion for sin: drunkenness (v. 5), anger (v. 6), and political intrigue (vv. 6-7). They have made half-baked (a cake not turned over) alliances with the nations to their own hurt (vv. 8-9). These sins are obvious, and yet they don’t repent (v. 10). God then details their “alliances” with the nations. Israel will call on Egypt (2 Kings 17:4), but it will lead to captivity in Assyria (2 Kings 17:6). God will do this because they have forsaken Him (vv. 12-13). And yet, they still do not repent, but rebel (v. 14). Though God has provided the blessings, yet they have turned on Him (v. 15). They do not turn their faces to God, so they will be defeated (by Assyria) and derided by Egypt (v. 16) to whom they turned for help instead of God.
1 There are those who do not believe that God established a covenant with Adam since the word is not used in the opening chapters of Genesis. I believe that there is a covenant made between God and Adam, and Hosea 6:7 confirms as much.