Join us as we study through Hosea verse by verse. Our discussion questions, verse by verse commentary, and applications can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.
Hosea 9 Verse by Verse Bible Study – The Lord Will Punish Israel
I. The people are defiled (1-4)
II. The day of punishment is come (5-9)
III. Israel was like a precious fruit that became dried up (10-17)
I. The people are defiled (1-4)
- Why should Israel not rejoice considering we are commanded to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)?
- How does sin affect joy? Then by implication what is the way to have true joy?
- In what way had Israel acted like a prostitute?
- What then was her “wages?”
- What does it mean in verse 2 that “threshing floor and wine vat shall not feed them?”
- What is the “land of the Lord?”
- Why would Israel leave?
- Who normally would eat of the sacrifices offered to God?
- What would happen to those who eat of it here in verse 4?
- What is “mourner’s bread?”
- What kinds of religion might God look at the same way today?
Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Matthew 23:23 – Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
Deuteronomy 28:15-19 – However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.
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.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Rejoice not, O Israel – This phrase is very interesting. In other Bible passages God’s people are commanded to rejoice. We are even commanded to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). So why the difference?
In short, believers who are living in God’s will should rejoice. Everyone else has no reason to rejoice. The Israelite’s celebrations were empty. Their laughter was hollow. They were going to be punished. What reason did they have to rejoice when God’s wrath was descending upon them?
From this verse we can gain key insights into what joy is. Joy is not about what you have. It is not about your current circumstances.
A person who has nothing, but is right with God, should rejoice.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 – Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
But a person who has a lot and is not right with God should “rejoice not.”
Matthew 5:4 – Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
It could be said that they key to true joy is mourning! What? If you genuinely mourn you sin, confessing it to God, then it will be forgiven. You will receive divine comfort. And God’s blessings will cover you. Like Habakkuk, you will know that even when life is difficult God loves you and has a plan for you. You will know that your sins are forgiven. You will know that there is no judgment waiting for you (Romans 8:1). You can stand firm on this truth and respond to any situation with joy.
Application: If you have repented of your sins then you should “rejoice always.” You can both celebrate the good times and respond with a good attitude in the difficult times. If you have not yet confessed your sins stop covering over the guilt with superficial distractions and enter the house of mourning (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
2. Sin does not bring joy – What is the single top way to rid yourself of joy? Engage in sin. We have all had the experience. We allow ourselves to lose our temper, binge eat, indulge in lusts, or attack others with our words. For a moment you may experience a rush, a high, satisfaction. But that fades quickly. And what follows is guilt and shame. A person who is living out of the will of God cannot experience lasting, true joy.
John 15:11 – These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
But the peoples were playing the whore and forsaking God. Isn’t it ironic that in the pursuit of happiness, which they sought by rejecting God and going their own way, they lost it. And there is an amazing spiritual principle designed by God. The person who pursues happiness by satisfying himself will not have it, but the person who puts others first and sacrifices his own happiness (or desires) for the sake of others will get it.
3. Threshing floor and wine vat shall not feed them – This is the same principle discussed in previous chapters (and also in Haggai 1.) God is cursing the Israelites. Instead of providing for them, He is promising to take away their provisions. He will discipline them through famine and want. The natural order of sowing and harvesting will be broken as God supernaturally intervenes to cause their harvests to fail.
Proverbs 3:9-10 – Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
When a person honors God He will bless them. Just as easily, He can take away those blessings.
4. They will not remain in the Lord’s land – Out of all of the punishments listed for Israel in these chapters, this is nearly the worst. The land they lived was called the “Promised Land.” It had been promised to Abraham and His descendant more than a thousand years before. Living in the land was a symbol of God’s divine blessings, His pleasure and grace toward His people.
The land was their heritage. Their identity was tied to it. Being kicked out of the land is one of the worst punishment that they could imagine. It was an ever present, visible reminder of God’s displeasure. When they were in exile, every morning they woke up to an acute realization of their sin and shame. It was their sin which caused this punishment. It was their sin which jeopardized their heritage. And after the exile, although a remnant returned large numbers of Jews have been dispersed across the world all of this time dreaming of one day returning to the Promised Land.
Note that Hosea predicts the exact locations they would be exiled to, Egypt and Assyria. Assyria was the chief place as it was Assyria who conquered and exiled them. However, a number returned to Egypt as well. Imagine the shame of returning to Egypt (the location of their humiliating slavery) a millennium later in defeat because of their rebellion!
5. Their sacrifices will not please Him – God looks at the heart. We have seen again and again in these chapters that religious rituals do not please Him. Abel and Cain both offered a sacrifice to God. He accepted Abel’s and rejected Cain’s. Why? Cain certainly had the wrong attitude. That is very evident in his reaction. If he truly wanted to seek God, he would have repented instead of killing Abel. Cain had created his own religion. He did things his own way. And he did not worship God in spirit or in truth. The Israelites may have offered sacrifice in truth (meaning according to the law), but they did not offer them in spirit. Their heart was not in it.
Application: Do not practice religious ritual. Consider why you do what you do. Ask God to create in you a clean heart with right motivations.
6. Their bread will be like mourner’s bread – The priests made bread daily and put on the table in the temple. It signified God’s continuous provision for them. Later Jesus called Himself the “Bread of Life,” reminding us that He satisfies spiritual hunger.
But God was not interested in this religious ritual either. The bread they offered to Him was like the bread one would take to the family of the deceased. A house of mourning would also have bread to feed those who go there to grieve. But everybody who went to a house of mourning would be unclean. To come into the contact with a dead person would defile a person under the law. And it was the same if you came into contact with a person who came into contact with a dead person. So everybody at a funeral would be considered unclean!
Do you see the imagery? Hosea is saying that in the same way people who eat the bread offered to God at the temple would also be defiled the same as if they ate it at a funeral. Their religion was dead. Those who practiced it were dead. It could not give life. It could not save.
It would be just as beneficial for the Israelites to go to a funeral parlor and celebrate as it would for them to go to the temple and praise God. In fact, it probably would have been more beneficial because that would not have given them a false sense of security!
Application: Is going to church any use for you? I think God would say a similar thing to many church-goers today. We go there. We sing songs. We see our friends. Are we really drawing close to God? Are we really being sanctified? Are our lives changing? Think about how going to church can be more meaningful, can become more than a ritual. Write down one thing you can do this coming Sunday to make going to church more meaningful than a ritual.
II. The day of punishment is come (5-9)
- What would they do on the day of the appointed festival?
- What was going to happen to them?
- What was going to happen to their things?
- Verse 7 says “the day of recompense has come.” How long did it take to arrive for Israel?
- What does this seeming long delay in God’s judgment teach us about God?
- How might people feel when they are sinning for a long time without any apparent consequences? How could you use Scriptures like these to warn them?
- What does verse 7 mean that the “prophet is a fool?”
- What do you learn about their prophets in verse 8?
- In what way were the spiritual leaders responsible for what had happened to Israel?
- In the current social climate today, what the responsibility of church leaders?
- Can you be a watchman? How?
- Where else in the book of Hosea mentions the same phrase (or a variation of) “He will remember their sins?”
Matthew 7:15 – Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
Matthew 24:24 – For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. What will you do on the appointed festival? – Their festivals were also pointless because they had become empty, religious ritual. Their exile would be a physical reminder that God was displeased with them. If they felt like it, they could go on with their festivals, but they wouldn’t mean anything because God did not heed their outward signs of devotion. He was only interested in genuine repentance.
Consider some of the Christian festivals in your country. Do these really give glory to God? Do these really help us draw close to God? Certainly the way society celebrates them does not!
- Christmas – Otherwise commonly known as X-mas. “Christ” is taken out of Christmas both literally and figuratively. It becomes more commercialized every year. God is not glorified in the glorification of material possessions. The way society celebrates it is clearly not honoring to God. But how about Christians? Many professing Christians go to church only once (or maybe twice) a year. And one of those times is at Christmas. They go. They pray. Perhaps they take mass. And then they go back and live the same way as before.
- Easter – Colored eggs, the Easter bunny, candy. It is not hard to see how secular this festival has become. But what about Christians. Many professing Christians go to church once a year (or maybe twice) at Easter. They go. They pray. They sing. Perhaps they take mass. And then they go back and live the same way as before.
First of all, the above festivals are not prescribed in the Bible anywhere. Should you celebrate them? Jesus’ birth and resurrection are noteworthy occasions and merit remembering. It is not wrong to celebrate these festivals.
But you must ask yourself if you are doing so in a meaningful way. You must ask yourself if God is glorified in the way you celebrate festivals. You must ask yourself if He is the center or if your own fun and traditions are.
Application: Consider one of the above holidays. How can you redeem this increasingly secular festival and make it a meaningful way to genuinely praise God? Write down those traditions which are empty. Write down which aspects have become ritual, man-centered, or unfruitful. Then write down a plan as to how you will redeem this festival and make it worth celebrating with Christ as the center.
2. Nettles shall possess their precious silver – The statement here is much like Jesus’ in Matthew 6:19-21. He said that treasures stored up on earth will be destroyed by moths and rust. It will happen to everyone’s possessions. It was just going to happen to theirs sooner than most.
Thorns shall be in their tents – What an unpleasant thought. A place which is supposed to be comfortable and relaxing would be overgrown. No person would allow thorns to grow in his tent. And that means that the tents are unoccupied, abandoned. All of their residences would be empty when the “day of punishment” comes in verse 7.
3. There is no spiritual discernment –
Hosea 9:7-8 – The days of punishment have come;
the days of recompense have come;
Israel shall know it.
The prophet is a fool;
the man of the spirit is mad,
because of your great iniquity
and great hatred.
The prophet is the watchman of Ephraim with my God;
yet a fowler’s snare is on all his ways,
and hatred in the house of his God.
Hosea describes the prophets of his day. They are labeled as “fools” and “mad.” These spiritual leaders were supposed to lead the people to God and warn them about the dangers of sin and rebellion. They were supposed to keep watch over the spiritual welfare of the nation, identifying evil, wrong thinking, and tempting trends.
But they failed. It says that “fowler’s snare” is on their ways. Their evil words ensnared themselves and the nation. Many of these false prophets not only did not encourage the people to give up sinning, but joined them and led them further into sin. We have seen already in Hosea that the priests willfully supported the idolatrous system. And many prophets did the same.
The problem is not unique to Hosea’s time. Every time period in history is filled with such self-serving men, wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. Motivated by money and pleasure, they build up a following of like minded people and spur one another on to sin. The hard truth is abandoned for the convenient lie.
Today’s age is the same. False teachings infiltrate the church around the globe. Compromise after compromise causes church to lose their foundations and slip into relativism while being swayed by the winds of culture.
What is your job in this?
Ezekiel 3:17 – Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.
Ezekiel 33:6 – But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.
You can be a watchman. What does a watchman do?
First, he watches! He shows spiritual discernment, identifying deceptions in culture in church. Then he warns others about them. A watchman on a wall looks for enemies and sounds the alarm when he sees them. Shepherds watch the flocks and cry for help when a wolf comes (or defend the sheep from it themselves.) A watchman needs to have two things:
- Good eyesight – We increase our spiritual vision by studying God’s Word and becoming familiar with it. We also increase our spiritual vision through prayer and asking for the Spirit’s leading.
- A loud voice – The best eyesight in the world will do little good if the watchman is mute. A good watchman must warn others about what he sees.
Application: Have you seen a concerning trend in your church or family? Is a wrong practice or teaching gaining popularity? Do something about it. Stand up for the truth.
III. Israel was like a precious fruit that became dried up (10-17)
- How did God view Israel at the beginning of its nationhood (10)?
- Considering that they complained and rebelled from the time they left Egypt, why do you think God viewed them like this?
- What happened at Baal-peor?
- What is the “thing of shame” in verse 10?
- How would they be cursed in verses 11-14?
- What happened in Gilgal (15)?
- In context, what does it mean in verse 16 that they will bear no fruit?
- What would it mean for a people given the Promised Land as a heritage to become wanderers?
- What does this passage teach us about God? About justice? About sin?
Deuteronomy 28:11-12 – And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. 12 The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.
Deuteronomy 28:15-19 – But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Like grapes in the wilderness I found Israel – The first part of verse 10 describes Israel when God first established them as a nation. They were like grapes and figs. Its an interesting description because Israel in the wilderness complained and rebelled a lot. So certainly it does not mean they were perfect. Neither were they worthy of God’s favor. But for the most part under Moses’ leadership they kept themselves free of idols.
2. They came to Baal-peor and consecrated themselves to things of shame – You can see the passage in Numbers 25:3-18. Moab seduced Israel. Many of the men fell into sexual immorality. And they went wild worshiping Baal and sacrificing to him. It was a scene of revelry. They became corrupted like the idol they loved.
We are reminded of an important principle from that statement. You will become like what you worship. If you worship God, then you will become more holy like Him. But if you worship other gods, you will inherit their characteristics.
3. No birth, no pregnancy, no conception! – Verses 11-16 go into detail about the curse of infertility and bereavement. Here are some of the statements made about it in these verses:
- If they bring up children, I will bereave them till none is left (12)
- Ephraim must lead his children to slaughter (13)
- Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts (14)
- They shall bear no fruit (16)
- Even though they give birth, I will put their beloved children to death (16)
In Deuteronomy 28, God gave them a blessing and a curse before they entered the land. The blessing was dependent on their obedience. And they would be cursed if they didn’t obey.
One of these blessings for obedience would be a fruitful womb. And one of the curses for disobedience would be a barren womb.
The lesson is clear. Children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3.) He is the one who opens and closes the womb. Scripture is full of examples of this. It should be noted this was an Old Testament promise of blessing and curse. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that every barren womb is a curse. Many godly people are unable to have children. Unless it is specifically mentioned by God as being a curse (as it is here), it should never be assumed to be this reason.
Was this unfair to the children? Many biblical scholars believe that children who die before the age of accountability are accepted into heaven. If this is the case, and it likely is, then this could be a blessing for those very children who would have had to grow up in that world.
4. They shall be wanderers among the nations – Since the exile of Israel and then later Judah, this is still the case almost three thousand years later.
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