Join us as we study through Hosea verse by verse. Our discussion questions, teaching points, and applications can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.
Hosea 11 Inductive Bible Study – Loving Father and Reluctant Judge
I. God takes care of Israel like a child (1-4)
II. God’s justice and compassion (5-9)
III. Israel will finally be regathered (10-12)
I. God takes care of Israel like a child (1-4)
- When was Israel like a “child?”
- What insights does this Father/child dynamic in these verses give us into God’s character?
- Where is this phrase “out of Egypt I called my son” quoted in the New Testament?
- So is this referring to the Messiah, the nation, or both?
- What character quality does verse 2 reveal in the Israelites?
- Have you ever seen a person like this who grows increasingly stubborn and rebellious the more correction he receives?
- How can we understand the allegorical language in verse 3?
- In what ways does God treat us as His children?
- How did God ease their yokes? How does ease our yokes?
1 John 3:1 – See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1 Corinthians 8:6 – Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
Psalm 103:13 – As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
Romans 9:8 – This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
1. When Israel was a child I loved him – God uses the image of a father caring for his child to describe His relationship with Israel. “When Israel was a child” points at the time when they were young as a nation group. The next phrase puts this time period as the time of the Exodus when they left Egypt. They were childlike in many ways. At that time they didn’t know much about God or His commands. In some ways they were naive. Certainly they hadn’t intermingled with the nations and plunged head over heels into idolatry yet.
God loved the nation of Israel like a father his child. This verse does not mean that God stopped loving them when they “grew up.” Even earthly fathers very rarely stop loving their children. But Israel no longer reciprocated this love. Coming back to the father/child analogy, before you can imagine Israel running into God’s arms like a child greeting his father after he returns from work. But this loving, intimate relationship which they had for periods before is no more. The child has grown and wants no part of it.
We will see this in verse 2.
2. Out of Egypt I called my son – Matthew quotes this in Matthew 2:15. Hosea does not directly prophecy about the Messiah here. He is referring back to the time when God called Israel (His son) out of Egypt in the time of the Exodus. Then why does Matthew quote it? Is he misquoting Scripture?
Matthew, led by the inspiration of the Spirit, sees a parallel between these two events. And rightly so. The Old Testament is filled with events and people which God uses to foreshadow His plan of salvation.
The Exodus points to the time when God would call His son out Egypt to save His people. And Jesus would fulfill all of God’s plans for the Israelite nation, bringing blessings to all the nations of the earth. Jesus would do what they could not, fulfilling the whole law and shining the light of God to the world.
Isaiah 49:6 – He says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
3. The more they were called the more they went away – As mentioned above, God loved Israel as a child. But when they grew up, they wanted no part of it. His love for them was not returned. He called them with prophets, sending them “letters” of love or warning. But they did not listen, instead killing or abusing His messengers.
In fact, His words had the opposite effect. The more He reached out to them, the more they “went away.” You can almost see them digging their heels in, setting their jaw, and eyes steeled with stubborn pride as they spurn God’s message and reject Him in favor of the Baals.
The imagery here reminds us of The Prodigal Son. Like Israel, the son in that story hates his father and loves the world. He runs away from his father’s goodness in pursuit of happiness, but finds only grief.
What do you learn about people from this verse?
4. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim how to walk – Here the picture we see is one of a father reminiscing about the sweet childhood memories he has with a now rebellious teen. Did God really do the things mentioned in this verse? Not literally. He uses figurative language because the images it invokes in our minds are powerful. Those images give us a deeper understanding of God’s love for His people.
It is not hard for us to understand the deep love and affection a father has for his child. We can also understand how a father whose child has grown up and is living as a prodigal may look back on better days, fondly remembering teaching his toddler how to walk or holding his sweet little boy in a loving embrace.
Thus we see that God still loves them just as He did before. If His feelings had changed, then He would have mentioned sleepless nights or whining tantrums. But He mentions the “good memories.”
Like a faithful parent, God’s love will never grow cold. He wants the Jews to know that if they would only turn back that their relationship could be restored again. At the same time, He knows that they will not. So in a sense, all that is left are those bittersweet memories.
5. They did not know that I healed them – A child doesn’t have even close to a full picture of what his parents do for him. Parents may toil for countless hours to provide for their children and the kids know nothing about it. Kids expect that food will just appear on the table magically at mealtime. They don’t think about rent, mortgages, taxes, vaccines, paperwork, or tuition fees. They don’t see the sleepless nights or the time put into prayer on their behalf. And yet parents do it anyway. Its their job and its also a way they show love to their kids.
Most of these things never even enter into children’s thoughts. It is more likely that they would complain about the food served than they would understand what went into serving it.
And that is what we see about the Israelites here. They did not know that God healed them. Like ignorant children, they did not appreciate God’s goodness and enduring care for them.
Application: How can we be more grateful children of our heavenly Father? Share a way that you would like your children to show gratitude to you. And share a way you can show gratitude to the Lord.
6. Verse 4 – In this verse we see God’s compassion and gentleness toward His people. He did not lead them as a slave driver with heavy chains of oppression. But He led them with “cords of kindness” and “bands of love.” He directed them. He did not allow them to run free. But it was not slavery. And it was not ill-willed. Neither did it leave a mark like prison chains would do. He led them with kindness, caring about them.
Note that this is very different than how Satan would do it. Satan promises freedom. He promises no chains. You can do whatever you want. You are free to live your life as you see fit. Satan would then accuse God by saying that God has “cords” and “bands,” but follow him and you will have none.
And yet the person who follows this licentious, “free” lifestyle would become chained to sin, living as a slave of his own worldly passions. Ask a person who lived his life how he wanted by pursuing alcohol, or drugs, or sex how free they felt. Ask them if those bonds were gentle or oppressive. Satan and the world promise freedom, but only offer chains.
God’s “cords of kindness” are the way to truly enjoy the wonderful life He has prepared for you.
Matthew 11:28-30 – Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
This famous verse in Matthew is similar to the phrase in this verse “I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws.”
We saw that God does place a yoke on people. And what that means is that He leads them. He instructs them. He guides them. He has expectations of how they should live. He never promises freedom to do whatever you want. But yet, His yoke is “easy” and His burden is “light.”
Why are these words used to describe this yoke? How is easy and light?
The one following God’s plan for his life will experience peace and joy and also a conscience which affirms rather than convicts. His soul will feel uplifted as he obeys God rather than stuck in the mud of sin and shame.
II. God’s justice and compassion (5-9)
- What judgment was Israel going to face? Why?
- Why would God not answer their call in verse 7?
- How did God feel about the judgment He was going to dish out?
- If God felt this way, then why did He still discipline them?
- What insights can we gain from these verses into how God’s compassion/mercy harmonize and balance with his judgment/justice?
- What does verse 9 mean? Was God going to destroy them or not?
Psalm 68:6 – God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
Deuteronomy 28:47-48 – Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.
1. They have refused to return to me (5) – God poured out loving and tender care on His people as a father would his child. But they were petulant and ungrateful, spurning His gentle care and kind leading in favor of the vile practices of the Baals.
Application: God is always ready to forgive and restore us. But we have to come to Him and ask Him to do this. Do not harden your hearts in stubbornness. Throw yourself upon God’s mercy like the prodigal son did to his father.
2. The result is punishment – Assyria shall be their king and the sword shall rage against their cities. Their repeated rebellion brought punishment down upon themselves. What we see in these verses is not an arbitrary or capricious judge, but a loving father who reluctantly decides to discipline His children for their own good.
3. Verse 8 – In this verse we see that God is a reluctant judge. He does not want to execute judgment on His people.
Fathers should be able to understand this. I have four children and have had to discipline them many times. But I do not enjoy it. Disciplining my children is my least favorite responsibility of being a father. It is a sad thing to have to inflict pain on your own offspring. I would take it for them if it would help. (And we know that finally Jesus took our punishment for us.)
That is the picture of God in these verses. Ephraim is His child. He does not want to punish them, but they have left Him with no choice.
Admah and Zeboiim are towns that were punished along with Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 10:19.)
Group Sharing: Parents, share about a time when you had to discipline your children. Why did you do this? How did you feel? How can this help you understand God’s feelings when He disciplines us?
4. Verse 9 – Ultimately this is a reference to the promise of final restoration of the Jewish nation at Jesus’ second coming.
III. Israel will finally be regathered (10-12)
- What does the phrase mean “they shall go after the Lord?”
- When will this happen?
- When Jews returned from Assyria and Babylon was this from the east or the west?
- Then what does the return from the west refer to?
Amos 9:14-15 – I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,” says the Lord your God.
Ezekiel 36:24-28 – I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
Ezekiel 11:17 – Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’
1. They shall go after the Lord – At the time of the writing of Hosea, the people were turning away from God. But this would not always be the case. One day, they would return to Him. One day, they would pursue Him.
2. He will roar like a lion and His children shall come (11-12) – Here is one of many prophesies about the regathering of the Jews. Note that here it says from the “west.” Neither Assyria nor Babylon were from the west. So the scattering (and hence subsequent regathering) would be from other locations as well. Egypt and Assyria are mentioned in verse 11. So this regathering is from both directions. It is worldwide. It is from the four corners of the earth.
Isaiah 11:11-12 – In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.
Question for thought: Why do both verse 10 and verse 11 say that they will come “trembling?”
3. Ephraim contrasted with Judah – Ephraim was virtually sold out to idols for a long time already. Its kings were universally evil. Its prophets were mostly false. And its people followed their leaders to evil. But Hosea says that Judah “still walks with God.” Obviously this was not perfect. But many of Judah’s kings were righteous. And many of the people served God faithfully.
Application: You can choose which group to be in, the group following God or the group following the world! The group following the world will face judgement just as Ephraim did. So do not follow a crowd to do evil. Do not choose the momentary pleasures of sin which bring about bondage and punishment. Instead choose God’s “cords of kindness.” We face the decision between following the world or God each day. Spend some time in prayer and ask that God will help you follow His path today instead of the world.
Hosea Bible Study Guide E-book – If this study is helpful, you can get the complete downloadable study e-book for any device.
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