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Hosea 9

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Hosea 9:0


Judgment of Israel's SinBecause of Constant Rebellion, the Judgment of the Lord is Upon Israel(Hosea 4:1-9)Hosea Announces Punishment for IsraelThe Sorrows of Exile
Hosea 9:1-2Hosea 9:1-17Hosea 9:1-6Hosea 9:1-6
Hosea 9:3-6Persecution, the Prophet's Reward for Foretelling Punishment
Hosea 9:7-9Hosea 9:7-9Hosea 9:7-9
Israel's Sin and Its ConsequencesPunishment for the Crime at Baal-Peor
Hosea 9:10-16Hosea 9:10-12Hosea 9:10-14
Hosea 9:13-14
The Lord's Judgment on IsraelGilgal
Hosea 9:15-16Hosea 9:15-17
The Prophet Speaks About Israel
Hosea 9:17Hosea 9:17-8

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 9:1-6 1Do not rejoice, O Israel, with exultation like the nations! For you have played the harlot, forsaking your God. You have loved harlots' earnings on every threshing floor. 2Threshing floor and wine press will not feed them, And the new wine will fail them. 3They will not remain in the LORD'S land, But Ephraim will return to Egypt, And in Assyria they will eat unclean food. 4They will not pour out drink offerings of wine to the LORD, Their sacrifices will not please Him. Their bread will be like mourners' bread; All who eat of it will be defiled, For their bread will be for themselves alone; It will not enter the house of the LORD. 5What will you do on the day of the appointed festival And on the day of the feast of the LORD? 6For behold, they will go because of destruction; Egypt will gather them up, Memphis will bury them. Weeds will take over their treasures of silver; Thorns will be in their tents.

Hosea 9:1 “Do not rejoice” This verse may reflect a harvest festival (cf. Hosea 9:5). These times were the occasion of Ba'al praise and worship (initiation magic). YHWH will turn their promiscuous festivals into funeral dirges!

This VERB (DBD 970, KB 1333, Qal JUSSIVE in meaning, but not form, cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 856) means “rejoice” or “delight” (cf. Hosea 7:3). Israel was acting like just another of the “nations” (BDB 766).

This is the first of several cultic words:

1. rejoice, Hosea 9:1

2. exultation, Hosea 9:1

3. libations, Hosea 9:4

4. sacrifices, Hosea 9:4

5. day of the appointed festival, Hosea 9:5

But, the bottom line was Hosea 9:1b, “you have played the harlot, forsaking your God.” Wailing was appropriate (cf. Isaiah 22:12-14), not rejoicing!

We need to take a lesson on worship from the Jews. Their worship times were events of great joy in the goodness of God and His creation. In this context, however, God informed them that exaltation is inappropriate because of His impending judgment on their idolatry. In the OT (Deuteronomy especially) prosperity is a sign of God's blessing, but in this historical setting it was a deceptive, short-term situation. Israel was trapped in ritual and idolatry and YHWH will discipline her (like He will Judah for the same actions, e.g., Jeremiah 2:0; Ezekiel 23:0).

“like the nations!” This was the problem (cf. 1 Samuel 8:5)! They had turned the worship of YHWH into a form of the Canaanite Ba'al worship.

“you have played the harlot” They were practicing the fertility worship of the Canaanite pantheon. They were committing physical adultery and spiritual adultery (e.g., Hosea 1:2; Hosea 4:10, Hosea 4:13, Hosea 4:14, Hosea 4:15, Hosea 4:18[twice]; Hosea 5:3; Hosea 9:1) in YHWH's name!

“loved harlots' earning” Israel's love (BDB 12, KB 17, Qal PERFECT) is directed toward “a harlot's hire” (BDB 1071, cf. Hosea 2:5, Hosea 2:12). The same VERB is used of foreign alliances in Hosea 8:10. It is very difficult to know if this is literal or figurative.

“on every threshing floor” This (BDB 175) was the site of separating the grain from the husk. It was usually on the top of hills so that as the grain was thrown into the air the wind would blow away the lighter husk and the heavier grain would fall into a pile. These harvest places were the sites of extravagant celebrations (cf. Genesis 38:0). Because fertility worship was a form of initiation magic, this was the very site the sexual activity occurred (e.g., Hosea 4:11-14). But notice YHWH's reaction in Hosea 9:2, Hosea 9:11, Hosea 9:14, Hosea 9:16!

Hosea 9:2 YHWH, not Ba'al, was the source of fertility (cf. Hosea 2:16).

Hosea 9:3 “They will not remain in the LORD'S land” The Promised Land (e.g., Leviticus 25:23; Jeremiah 2:7; Jeremiah 16:18; Ezekiel 36:5; Ezekiel 38:16; Joel 1:6), and for that matter, all land, belongs to YHWH (e.g., Exodus 9:29; Exodus 19:5). YHWH prophesied the cleansing of His land of Amorites in Genesis 15:16. If His people do the same abominations He will remove them also (cf. Leviticus 18:24-28). They did, He did!

“But Ephraim will return to Egypt” When one compares Hosea 7:8, Hosea 7:11, Hosea 7:16; Hosea 8:13 and this passage with Hosea 11:5, there seems to be a contradiction. Egypt probably is symbolic of slavery (i.e., exile in Assyria). However, some scholars see it as a reference to political alliance. Hoshea, the last king of Israel, appealed to Egypt for help against Assyria.

“Assyria” This is a specific reference to the exile that occurred to the Northern Ten Tribes in 722 B.C. with the fall of Samaria (cf. Hosea 8:9-10).

“they will eat unclean food Exile will bring a stop to many of their cultic rituals. The development of the synagogue will preserve their traditions, but many of the Levitical ordinances will be impossible to do without an active temple (cf. Hosea 9:4-5). Ezekiel 4:13 implies that bread, eaten in a foreign land is unclean!

Hosea 9:4 “They will not pour out drink offerings of wine to the LORD” It must be remembered that fermented wine was a part of the sacrificial system and, therefore, not considered to be corrupt (cf. Exodus 29:40; Numbers 15:1-10; Psalms 104:14-15). The reason that the sacrifices of Hosea 9:3-4 are unclean is because they are in a foreign land. See Special Topic: Biblical Attitudes Toward Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse.

“mourners' bread” This (BDB 536 CONSTRUCT 19) is a metaphor of corruption. It was defiled because it was associated with the dead. It was made out of barley, usually eaten by the poor. It was also unclean because it was made and eaten in Assyria.

Hosea 9:5 “What will you do on the day of the appointed festival” This was a question to jar them into reality. Their worship was about to be totally disrupted and their population deported!

Hosea 9:6 “Egypt will gather them up Memphis will bury them” Memphis (BDB 592) is the capital of Lower Egypt and we learn from archaeological discovery that it was the site of an extremely large burial area (VERB BDB 868, KB 1064, Piel IMPERFECT). The meaning is (1) the survivors of the exiles will die in large numbers in exile and slavery (i.e., as in Egypt) or (2) those survivors who flee to Egypt will die there!

“Weeds will take over their treasures of silver” There are two basic theories concerning “their treasures of silver”: (1) it refers to idols and, therefore, the misuse of holy places; (2) it refers to their extravagant houses and, therefore, the destruction of their opulent society (cf. Hosea 8:14); or (3) because of Hosea 9:2 and Isaiah 7:23, it may be a metaphor for their vineyards.

“Thorns will be in their tents” This is metaphorical of their empty houses or it is another reference to their worship shrines (cf. Hosea 10:8).

Verses 7-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 9:7-9 7The days of punishment have come, The days of retribution have come; Let Israel know this! The prophet is a fool, The inspired man is demented, Because of the grossness of your iniquity, And because your hostility is so great. 8Ephraim was a watchman with my God, a prophet; Yet the snare of a bird catcher is in all his ways, And there is only hostility in the house of his God. 9They have gone deep in depravity As in the days of Gibeah; He will remember their iniquity, He will punish their sins.

Hosea 9:7 “The days of punishment” This means “visitation” (BDB 824 CONSTRUCT 398). This is a neutral term, but because of the context (parallelism of line 2), it means visitation for the purpose of judgment and that judgment is now (i.e., “have come” repeated).

“The days of retribution” The prophets often use the courtroom metaphor to communicate truth. This refers to a judicial decision (BDB 1024 CONSTRUCT 398). It can mean guilty or not guilty. Because of the context, it refers to God's imminent judgment.

“Let Israel know this This VERB (BDB 393, KB 390, Qal IMPERFECT) is used in a JUSSIVE (command) sense. Israel claimed to know in Hosea 8:2, but obviously they did not know Him or His prophet!

“The prophet is a fool,

The inspired man is demented” These two lines of parallel poetry are difficult to translate. This seems to be the people's response to Hosea's message (same word used in Jer. 29:36). Apparently they were trying to associate him with the earlier ecstatic prophetic groups (cf. 1 Samuel 10:6ff) and thereby ridicule his message. God's word was strange to them because of the depth of their sin (cf. Hosea 8:12).

David A. Hubbard, Hosea (Tyndale OT Commentaries), p. 159, makes an interesting comment about “the inspired man,” which is literally “the man of the spirit.” He asserts that it is used in a negative sense because of Hosea's use of “spirit” in such negative ways (cf. Hosea 4:12, Hosea 4:19; Hosea 5:4).

NASB“Because of the grossness of your iniquity” NKJV“Because of the greatness of your iniquity” NRSV“Because of your great iniquity” TEV“your sin is so great” NJB“great is your guilt”

The last two poetic lines of Hosea 9:7 are a summary of the cause of Israel's coming exile. They do not know God or His law!

The term “grossness” (BDB 913) means “multitude” or “abundance.” It is used of God's laws in Hosea 8:12, but here of Israel's sins.

NASBBecause your hostility is so great” NKJV“. . .and great enmity” NRSV“. . .your hostility is great” TEV“You people hate me so much because your sin is so great” NJB“all the greater then the hostility”

The NOUN “hostility (BDB 966) expresses a settled enmity and grudge against God and His spokespersons. It is used only in Hosea 9:7 and 8.

Hosea 9:8

NASB“Ephraim was a watchman with my God, a prophet” NKJV, NJB“The watchman of Ephraim is with my God” NRSV“The prophet is a sentinel for my God over Ephraim” TEV“God has sent me as a prophet to warn his people Israel”

This Hebrew phrase is very ambiguous. There are three theories: (1) Ephraim was meant to be God's representative (cf. Exodus 19:5-6); (2) Ephraim was persecuting God's prophet; or (3) there is a possibility that it could refer to Ephraim following false prophets. Hosea expresses how he sees himself, a prophet, a watchman, a true and obedient covenant man.

“the snare of a bird catcher is in all his ways” The next two lines of poetry seem to describe Israel's opposition to God's message by attacking the messenger. God's people who need and should welcome God's message are filled with hostility instead of eager receptiveness!

“in the house of his God” This could refer to some YHWHistic shrine (i.e., Bethel or Dan), but it may refer to the whole land (cf. Hosea 8:1; Hosea 9:4, Hosea 9:15).

Hosea 9:9

NASB“They have gone deep in depravity” NKJV“They are deeply corrupted themselves” NRSV“they have deeply corrupted themselves” TEV“they are hopelessly evil” NJB“they have become deeply corrupt”

The two VERBS of this line of poetry:

1. make deep - BDB 770, KB 847, Hiphil PERFECT

2. spoil, ruin - BDB 1007, KB 1469, Piel PERFECT

function together as a hendiadys, where the second VERB is the main idea and the first serves as an ADVERB. This term, spoil, is used of the spiritual condition of those who worshiped at (1) the golden calf Aaron made in Exodus 32:7; Deuteronomy 9:12; Deuteronomy 32:5; (2) of the Israelites at the golden calves of Jeroboam I, Hosea 9:9; (3) of Judah in Isaiah 1:4; Jeremiah 6:28; Ezekiel 20:44; Ezekiel 23:11; Zephaniah 3:7; (4) of human nature in general in Psalms 14:1; Psalms 53:1.

“in the days of Gibeah” There is a list of historical allusions beginning in Hosea 9:9 and running through chapter 10. These are linked to specific cities and the idolatry that occurred in them. Gibeah is mentioned in Hosea 10:9. There are several possibilities: (1) this was Saul's home; (2) this was the site of Saul's first sin (cf. 1 Samuel 13:8-14); (3) this refers to the events of Judges 19-21; or (4) modern interpreters are uncertain of the exact historical reference.

“He will remember” When God “remembers” it is a reference to judgment. Man calls on God to forget! God calls on man to remember the covenant (cf. Hosea 7:2; Hosea 8:13; Hosea 13:12).

Verses 10-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 9:10-14 10I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your forefathers as the earliest fruit on the fig tree in its first season. But they came to Baal-peor and devoted themselves to shame, And they became as detestable as that which they loved. 11As for Ephraim, their glory will fly away like a bird No birth, no pregnancy and no conception! 12Though they bring up their children, Yet I will bereave them until not a man is left. Yes, woe to them indeed when I depart from them! 13Ephraim, as I have seen, Is planted in a pleasant meadow like Tyre; But Ephraim will bring out his children for slaughter. 14Give them, O LORDwhat will You give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.

Hosea 9:10 “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness. . .the earliest fruit of the fig tree” YHWH found fruitfulness and potential in Abraham's descendants. This is another example of the Jews idealizing the wilderness wandering period as a time of Israel's courtship and honeymoon with God (cf. Hosea 2:14-19; Deuteronomy 32:10). This is an explanation of God's choice of Israel, beginning not with Abraham or the Patriarchs, but with the Exodus (Moses).

“Baal-peor” This refers to Shittim on the Plains of Moab (BDB 128), where Israel apostatized with the Moabite women in fertility worship. This was Balaam's advice to the Moabite king on how to defeat Israel (cf. Numbers 25:1-9). This is possibly referred to in Hosea 5:2 and the same terminology is in Hosea 9:9a. This place became a symbol of rebellion and idolatry (e.g., Deuteronomy 4:3-4; Joshua 22:17; Psalms 106:28; and here.)

“devoted themselves to shame” This VERB (BDB 634, KB 684, Niphal IMPERFECT) means “to vow” or “to make a promise.” As Israel committed herself to God at Sinai (cf. Exod. 19-20), it was not too long until she committed herself to Ba'al at Shittim.

The term “shame” is a common term to denote idolatry (BDB 103). It was used by the prophets as another name for Ba'al. Israel broke her devotion to YHWH (cf. Exod. 19-20) and went after Ba'al! The honeymoon was over!

It is parallel to “detestable” (BDB 1055), which also refers to idolatry (cf. Deuteronomy 29:17; 2 Kings 23:13, 2 Kings 23:24; Isaiah 66:3; Jeremiah 4:1; Jeremiah 7:30; Jeremiah 32:34; Ezekiel 5:11; Ezekiel 7:20; Ezekiel 11:18, Ezekiel 11:21; Ezekiel 20:7, Ezekiel 20:8, Ezekiel 20:30; Ezekiel 32:23).

Hosea 9:11 “Ephraim” This name means “fruitful.” It was a name used for the Northern Ten Tribes because it was the largest tribe in Israel. The “fruitful” will become the unfruitful! The blessing of God will be revoked because of covenant disobedience (cf. Deut. 27-29).

“their glory will fly away like a bird” Their glory refers to their covenant relationship with YHWH (cf. Exodus 19:5-6; Amos 3:2).

Hosea uses birds in several different senses.

1. Israel like a silly dove (political alliances) - Hosea 7:11

2. Israel like a trembling dove (shocked returnees) - Hosea 11:11

3. vulture/eagle of judgment - Hosea 8:1

4. netted birds (judgment) - Hosea 5:1; Hosea 7:12

5. escaped bird - Hosea 9:11

“No birth, no pregnancy, and no conception” Ironically, they thought fertility came from Ba'al but, in reality, it came from YHWH and in judgment all fertility will cease (cf. Hosea 9:14, Hosea 9:16).

Hosea 9:12 “woe to them indeed when I depart from them” God will leave them as He did Judah in Ezekiel 10:18ff. What a horrible, ultimate judgment (cf. Hosea 4:17; and Romans 1:23, Romans 1:26, Romans 1:28). This is an example of a funeral lament (woe),which is another characteristic metaphor and poetic beat used by the prophets.

Hosea 9:13 “Is planted in a pleasant meadow like Tyre” There are several theories (See Hubbard, Hosea, p. 166) about this passage: (1) it is a reference to Tyre's fertility (cf. Ezekiel 27:28); (2) Tyre is referred to as the source of Ba'al worship (cf. 1 Kings 18:31); or (3) that Ephraim spread out geographically as far as Tyre.

“But Ephraim will bring out his children for slaughter” This seems to refer to (1) child sacrifice to Molech (cf. Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2-5; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 32:35) or (2) false faith in Ba'al will result in YHWH's judgment on human fertility (cf. Hosea 9:11, Hosea 9:12, Hosea 9:14, Hosea 9:16)

Hosea 9:14 The VERB “give” (BDB 678, KB 733) is used sarcastically three times in this verse.

1. Qal IMPERATIVE - give them!

2. Qal IMPERFECT - what will You give?

3. Qal IMPERATIVE - give them. . .!

This seems to be the prophet Hosea praying to YHWH to give Israel what she deserves (i.e., no fertility, the punishment fits the sin, fertility idolatry).

The NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 47, has an interesting suggestion about this line. The author, Robert B. Chisholm, speculates that the ancient blessing of Jacob to Joseph, which used the term “breast and womb” to denote fertility, is here intentionally used to seek non-fertility as a punishment for Israel's seeking after the fertility idols!

Verses 15-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 9:15-17 15All their evil is at Gilgal; Indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels. 16Ephraim is stricken, their root is dried up, They will bear no fruit. Even though they bear children, I will slay the precious ones of their womb. 17My God will cast them away Because they have not listened to Him; And they will be wanderers among the nations.

Hosea 9:15 “All their evil is at Gilgal” Gilgal means “a circle of stones.” This was (1) the site of Joshua's memorial of the stones taken from the Jordan River; (2) it is also the place of Saul's anointing (cf. 1 Samuel 11:14-15). Hosea seems to condemn the monarchy (cf. Hosea 7:3-7; Hosea 8:4, Hosea 8:10, Hosea 8:13; Hosea 13:9-11); (3) this was the place of Saul's sin (cf. 1 Samuel 13:1-14); and (4) it may have been a site in the north where fertility worship was practiced.

“I came to hate them there” This is strong language (“hate” BDB 971, KB 1338, Qal PERFECT) describing YHWH's reaction to sin (e.g., Deuteronomy 12:31; Isaiah 63:3-6; Jeremiah 12:8; Amos 5:21; Amos 6:8).

“I will drive them out of My house. . .I will love them no more” Oh my, what a judgment! The covenant is broken. God has divorced Israel for her unfaithfulness. She is sent from God's house (i.e., the Promised Land).

This last phrase, “I will love them no more” is a combination of:

1. “do again” or “do more” (BDB 414, KB 418, Hiphil JUSSIVE in form)

2. “love” (BDB 12, KB 17, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT)

YHWH is finished with Israel!

“All their princes are rebels” Their leaders were meant to be God's representatives, but they were rebellious.

Hosea 9:17 “My God will cast them away” Notice Hosea calling YHWH, “My God,” with the implication that He is no longer Israel's covenant God (cf. Deuteronomy 31:16-18).

The VERB (BDB 549, KB 540, Qal IMPERFECT) can mean “reject,” “despise,” or “destroy.” It is used in Hosea in Hosea 4:6 (twice) and here. They “reject” His Law (cf. Hosea 8:12; Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 30:9, Isaiah 30:12; Jeremiah 6:19; Jeremiah 8:9; Ezekiel 5:6; Ezekiel 20:16; Amos 2:4); He rejects them (cf. Jeremiah 33:24).

“Because they have not listened to Him” It is not Assyria's and Babylonia's strength, but Israel's sin that caused the exile. The Mesopotamian gods are not stronger than YHWH. YHWH uses them to judge His people (e.g., Isaiah 10:5; Isaiah 44:28-7).

“they will be wanderers among the nations” This is the fulfillment of the covenant curses of Deuteronomy 27-29 (cf. Deuteronomy 28:58-68)!

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Hosea 9". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/hosea-9.html. 2021.
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