7 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.
8 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.
9 They have deeply corrupted themselves
as in the days of Gibeah:
he will remember their iniquity;
he will punish their sins.
10 Like grapes in the wilderness,
I found Israel.
Like the first fruit on the fig tree
in its first season,
I saw your fathers.
But they came to Baal-peor
and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame,
and became detestable like the thing they loved. – Hosea 9:7-10 ESV
Hosea warns the Israelites that the day of their judgment has arrived. God will no longer delay their inevitable destruction. They will now reap what they have sown. They will be repaid in full for their willful rebellion against God. Up until now, the prophets of God and all those who have received a divine revelation from God have been considered as little more than crazy. The NET Bible provides a more accurate translation of verse 7:
The prophet is considered a fool—the inspired man is viewed as a madman…
Despite their repeated warning of pending judgment, the people of Israel had continued to sin with abandon, making it appear as if the prophets and seers were little more than madmen. Their predictions had failed to come to fruition. But that was about to change, in a significant way.
All the prophets, including Hosea, Amos, and even Jonah, had been sent by God to the rebellious nation of Israel, and commissioned to call them to repentance. Yet, Hosea reveals that he and his fellow prophets had met with stiff and sometimes violent resistance.
…yet traps are laid for him along all his paths; animosity rages against him in the land of his God. – Hosea 9:8 NET
Not only had their message been rejected and their ministries resisted, their lives had been threatened by the very ones they had been trying to redeem and restore. And it was all because the spiritual state of the people of Israel had declined to such a low level that they were no longer capable of doing what was right and righteous in the eyes of the Lord. And Hosea paints a starkly bleak picture of the moral decay within Israel, comparing them to the people of Gibeah. This is a reference to a particularly unflattering low-point in the history of God’s people, and it is recorded in the book of Judges with great detail.
Chapter 19 of the book of Judges opens up with an ominous statement that seems to foreshadow what is about to happen.
In those days, when there was no king in Israel… – Judges 19:1 ESV
This is the second time this phrase appears in the book of Judges. The first time it is found in chapter 17, where it is joined with another sentence that provides a certain degree of consequence.
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
– Judges 17:6 ESV
In other words, it was a moral free-for-all. But there problem was not that they didn’t have a physical human king. It was that they had refused to let Yahweh be their King. And in the midst of this moral mess, we have the story of a young Levite who had taken for himself a concubine. This priest wasn’t exactly providing the people with a stellar example to follow. But it gets worse. His concubine proved unfaithful and ran away. He chased after her and found her, but as they were making their way back to their hometown of Bethlehem, they decided to stop for the night in the town of Gibeah, which belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. He and his concubine were shown hospitality by an elderly man who happened to be from the tribe of Ephraim and was living in Gibeah temporarily.
While the Levite and his concubine were enjoying a pleasant evening meal with their Ephraimite host, they heard a commotion outside followed by banding on the door.
…behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” – Judges 19:22 NLT
This scene is eerily reminiscent of what happened in the immoral city of Sodom centuries earlier (Genesis 19). The Ephraimite attempted to assuage the perverse lusts of the men of Gibeah by offering them his virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine. But these men, driven by their wicked desires, refused to accept his offer. Finally, in a desperate attempt to save his own skin, the Levite shoved his concubine out the door and locked it behind her. What happens next is the whole point of Hosea’s reference to this story.
So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light. – Judges 19:25-26 NLT
The young woman eventually died from the abuse she was forced to endure. And don’t miss the fact that this heart-rending atrocity had been committed by men who were members of the tribe of Benjamin. They were supposedly followers and worshipers of Yahweh. But they did what was right in their own eyes. Which is exactly what Hosea seems to be pointing out about the Israelites in his day.
The things my people do are as depraved
as what they did in Gibeah long ago.
God will not forget.
He will surely punish them for their sins. – Hosea 9:9 NLT
How had the Benjamites sunk to such an extreme low? The same thing could be asked about the people of Israel to whom Hosea was delivering this message. And he records God’s description of the shockingly stark transformation that had taken place in the people of God.
“O Israel, when I first found you,
it was like finding fresh grapes in the desert.
When I saw your ancestors,
it was like seeing the first ripe figs of the season.
But then they deserted me for Baal-peor,
giving themselves to that shameful idol.” – Hosea 9:10 NLT
There had been a time when God found delight in the people of Israel. He compares them to finding refreshing grapes in a harsh and inhospitable desert environment. God had looked on them with pride like a farmer seeing his fig trees begin to bear their first fruit of the season. But then, something happened. A change took place that turned their fruitfulness into faithlessness and spiritual barrenness. And it all began at a place called Baal-peor.
The book of Numbers records this life-altering moment in Israel’s history, when the people of Israel “yoked themselves to Baal of Peor” (Numbers 25:5 ESV). They made a fateful and ill-advised decision to commit immoral acts with the pagan women living in the land of Moab. But worse than that, they allowed these women to draw them away from Yahweh by encouraging their worship of the false god, Baan.
While the Israelites were camped at Acacia Grove, some of the men defiled themselves by having sexual relations with local Moabite women. These women invited them to attend sacrifices to their gods, so the Israelites feasted with them and worshiped the gods of Moab. In this way, Israel joined in the worship of Baal of Peor, causing the Lord’s anger to blaze against his people. – Numbers 25:1-3 NLT
Hosea is reaching back into Israel’s sordid past, drawing out embarrassing moments from their history in order to illustrate just how bad things had become. Their immorality and idolatry had reached an all-time low that more than mirrored some of their worst and most condemning sins of the past.
So, as a result, they stood equally guilty and worthy of God’s imminent judgment. Like their ancestors who ended up defiling themselves with the Moabite women and worship Baal, the Israelites in Hosea’s day had become “vile, as vile as the god they worshiped” (Hosea 9:10 NLT).
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.