Our reading this week in Hosea 6-10 highlights Ephraim, most of us remember that Ephraim is one of two sons of Joseph. Instead of getting an inheritance himself, Josepha’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh each got a portion of the Promised Land. Joshua, the leader of the nation Israel into the Promised Land was from the tribe of Ephraim, as was Jeroboam. Ephraim, endorsed David as King of the unified nations of Judah and Israel. Within the territory of Ephraim are Shechem and Shiloh, two very important worship centers before Solomon’s Temple was built. It would seem that having such a proud legacy, that Ephraim would be a pillar for the people about true worship of Yahweh. However, in our reading Ephraim is another name for Israel; the Northern 10 tribes that broke away from Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. The history of the Northern Kingdom, which Hosea is prophesying against is a sorrowful story.
Jeroboam knew that if he didn’t build a place of worship like the Temple in Jerusalem, that the people would return; so he build Mt. Gerezim. It is interesting that in the Northern and Southern kingdom the number 19 plays a big part. The Northern Kingdom had 19 dynasties [19 different kings]; whereas Judah had 19 kings but one dynasty. The Davidic line of kingship was reserved as God had promised David. Hosea is about Israel or Ephraim, which ever you want to use; and their idolatry and rejection of God. The time frame is prior to 722 BC, and the Fall under the Assyrian rulers. God has rejected Israel, He has decided to punish the nation for their rebellion and apostasy. Yet we find in chapter 6, that they say “let’s return to the Lord” and they just got told God was not going to hear them when they call. The presumption that God had to answer and heal them, when God is sovereign, He determines what He will and will not do.
In the Northern Kingdom the tribes inter-mingled with the pagan people, the exact opposite of what they were warned not to do. Chapter 7:8 says the Ephraim is a flat cake not turned. This means that it is hard-cooked [burnt] on one side and raw on the other. The cake is useless, Ephraim had become useless. Instead of being the glory of God to the nations, Ephraim/Israel had departed from God and had become polluted by the ways and culture of the “enemies’ of God. In 8:4, the oven of Lust was so hot, the baker only stoked the fires once, and was not only able to rise the dough, but without stirring the coals, also able to cook the bread fully. In their attempt to become like the nations, Israel embraced both Egypt and Assyria. Egypt was where they came from [sin] and where they would return. Assyria, was the very power which would eventually conquer Israel in 722 BC. God’s indictment of Israel – “They have strayed; they have turned from Me.” When we think of Ahab and Jezebel and the Baal prophets, it is easy to see how the religious practices of Israel had become a violent stench in the nostrils of God. We also find that Samaria has the “golden calf” this is a reflection back to the initial rebellion of Israel in Exodus 32-34. Israel had trusted in the foreign kings to deliver them, but they failed to understand that God was behind the judgment of Israel, and that He was the one giving power to Assyria to conquer Israel. In the end, the judgment of God produced the “Lost 10 Tribes of Israel.” Only Judah remained; albeit they were just as guilty as Ephraim was in their idolatry and harlotry.
Such corruption in the people of the Northern Kingdom, they become carried away unto the four winds of the earth. After reading these chapters, I could not but identify with what is going on today in the Church. Have we become too friendly with culture? Have we compromised the Gospel for a crowd? Do the prophets speak of their own words instead of God’s? Is there severe judgment coming for us? Israel/Ephraim/Samaria all fell; Judah witnessed their fall. Yet Judah did not heed the warnings of God? Are we going the same path as they? “When I come who will I find faithful?”