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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hosea on Ephraim

Hosea was one of the so-called minor prophets, known for being directed (by God) to marry a prostitute, and then redeem her from slavery, or some other terrible relationship, when she left him. Hosea said that this was God's extremely graphic way of illustrating how the children of Israel had pursued other gods, and he had bought them back. I guess it can also be taken as New Testament prophecy -- I, too, have sought other gods, and God Himself has redeemed me, with His own blood.

Ephraim was one of Joseph's sons, and Jacob's grandsons. (See Genesis 41 -- all scripture references and quotations from the ESV.) He was the younger son, but Jacob gave him a more important blessing than he gave Ephraim's older brother, Manasseh. Levi, the tribe which included the priests, was not considered to be one of the twelve tribes of Israel, when, for example, the soldiers were counted. Ephraim and Manasseh were each considered to be a tribe, along with the descendants of ten sons of Jacob.

Samuel, the judge who reluctantly began the kingship rule of the Israelites, was apparently from the tribe of Ephraim. When Solomon's son, Rehoboam, continued leading the kingdom in the wrong direction that Solomon had pursued in his later years, Jeroboam, a member of the tribe of Ephraim, led the rebellion which caused a split into two kingdoms.

In Isaiah 7, the prophet seems to be using the term, Ephraim, to represent the entire Northern Kingdom. That seems also to be true in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 37. This is continued in the prophecy of Hosea.

Hosea uses Ephraim over 30 times. He is very graphic and descriptive. Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom, has been worshiping idols -- committing adultery with foreign gods (for example in 5:3). Hosea's first use of the word is poignant:
4:17 Ephraim is joined to idols;
leave him alone.

God describes His despair at Ephraim (and with the Southern Kingdom, too):
6:4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes early away.

And then God describes how He will punish Ephraim. He will be like a moth, eating at the clothes, and a lion, in chapter 5.

In Chapter 7, Ephraim is a silly dove, flying here and there without sense; a neglected cake, not turned over when it should have been; a wandering wild donkey.

Then, although they are sprinkled with admonitions, in the last chapters of his book, Hosea says that God is finally going to rescue Ephraim. That doesn't seem to have happened yet. It didn't happen in Hosea's time. I am grateful that God didn't give up on me!

Thanks for reading.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the explanation! I am glad he didn't give up on me either! and I love the intensity of Hosea, I can almost feel the wrath of GOD between the words. "minor Prophet" pshhh. ANY man of GOd who refuses the things of this world and does God's work is GREAT in my eyes.

Martin LaBar said...


Thanks, Anonymous, whoever you are, for taking the trouble to look this up, and commenting.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the explanation - the Lord has given me this scripture re: someone I know and I was wondering what his character qualities were. It is hopeful though that the Lord promises to save Ephriam ... of this age anyway. God bless.

Martin LaBar said...

Glad to be of help, Prof. Lucy Ruth.

Thanks for your comment.

Rebecca T said...

Thank you for your treatise on this. I have been studying Hosea this week. This was prompted by my reading the novel "Redeeming Love" by Francine Rivers. (It is a retelling of the story of Hosea set in the time of the American Gold Rush.) :) Rebecca

Martin LaBar said...

Gold Rush? Interesting.

Thanks, Rebecca T.