Avraham ben Yaakov
HOSEA CHAPTER 13
Hosea Chapter 13 vv 1-11 are the concluding verses of the second section of the lengthy prophecy that began in Hosea 10:9 - a prophecy tracing the sin of Israel to their original request for a temporal king and culminating in 13:11 with foretelling how God in His anger will take away their king.
In the central sections of this prophecy, contained in the previous two chapters, the prophet repeatedly contrasted God's mercies throughout their history with Israel 's betrayal through idolatry. The last verse of the previous chapter (12:15) summed up Ephraim's bitter provocations that will cause God to requite him.
Hosea 13:1 continues immediately with an historical allusion to Ephraim's provocations. "When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling; he exalted himself in Israel ; but when he became guilty through the Baal, he died." This verse contrasts the earlier status of Ephraim as leaders of the people for good (e.g. under Joshua) with their later fall through idolatry. The commentators explain this verse as alluding specifically to how Jeraboam originally caused trembling when he showed zealousness for God in speaking out against Solomon (I Kings 11:26), but how after becoming king himself, he ruined everything for Ephraim by making his idols (Rashi, Metzudas David).
V 2: "And now they sin more and more." In the generations after Jeraboam people sinned more and more by making silver images of their idol to have always visible in their very homes (Metzudas David). "They say, let those who sacrifice a man kiss the calves." They considered Molech-worship (passing children through fire and entrusting them to the idolatrous priests) as the highest form of service, and said that whoever kissed their calf idols was considered as if he had carried it out. I leave it to the reader to reflect on how Hosea's analysis of ancient idolatry relates to the widespread contemporary idolatry of wealth and the way many parents bring up their children to serve it.
V 3: It is because of this idolatry that Ephraim will be swept away.
V 4-6: Again the prophet recalls God's historical mercies to Israel in redeeming them from Egypt and protecting them in the arid wilderness, only to see them rebelling because of their very satisfaction from His blessings to the point where they forgot Him.
Vv 7-8: Therefore God will track them and lie in wait for them as wild beasts track their prey. None is more dangerous than a great bear embittered over the loss of his young, who attacks whoever he meets and tears apart his victim's chest to get to his heart - so God will tear open the closed heart of the people.
V 9: The people themselves are responsible for their own destruction, having rebelled against their very Helper.
Vv 10-11: The prophecy now concludes by God mockingly asking the rebellious people where on their day of doom are the kings and judges they had requested to be their saviors. The people should have served God instead of relying on temporal rulers, and their penalty would be to see God take away the very king they had put their trust in.
The five verses in Hosea 13:12 -14:1 make up one Parshah Pesuhah, a separate short prophecy relating thematically to the previous prophecy in that it sums up the coming doom of Ephraim as punishment for his rebellion and ingratitude. The conventional chapter break at 14:1 needlessly violates the continuity of this section. This prophecy presents the picture at its worst - perhaps to shock those who hear its message into truly opening their hearts ready for the beautiful climax of the entire prophecy of Hosea which comes in the closing Parshah, Hosea 14:2-10, "Return O Israel ."
Hosea 13:12: "The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is laid in store" - God will remember every detail and not let him off (Rashi).
V 13: A time of travail will come in which Ephraim will not be able to stand.
V 14: God had repeatedly saved them from death and hell, but they showed no gratitude, and therefore He will not relent.
V 15: "Though he be fertile (YAPHREE) among the reed grass (AHIM)." YAPHREE is a play on the root letters of EPHRAIM, meaning to be fruitful. Ephraim was a fruitful leader among his brothers (=AHIM). PERE also has the connotation of gall-root (Deut. 29:17) as well as wildness and excess (Gen. 16:12; Rashi on Hosea 13:15). But an east wind (the most destructive of all the winds) will sweep them away.
Chapter 14 verse 1 is the concluding verse of the short prophecy that began in Hosea 13:12. The brutal and horrific destruction of the suckling babes and expectant mothers of Shomron is the penalty for her rebellion.
This very harsh prophecy of doom concludes the reproofs of Hosea, who now greatly softens his tone for his final, glorious prophecy, Chapter 14:2-10, a Parshah Pesuhah consisting of his immortal call to Israel to return to God, teaching the simple, cleansing pathway of repentance through confession and prayer, and promising that God will certainly respond with unstinting love, reviving and restoring Israel with the resurrection of the dead and the building of the Temple. This prophecy is read as the first part of the Haftara of Shabbos Shuvah, the "Shabbos of Repentance" between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (September-early October).
V 2: "Return O Israel to the Lord your God for you have stumbled in your iniquity": "Great is Teshuvah, repentance, for thereby even willful sins are transformed into unwitting transgressions, because 'iniquity' is willful yet the verse calls it 'stumbling'. See how great is the power of Teshuvah, which reaches the very Throne of Glory, as it says, 'Return unto the Lord your God'" (Yoma 86b).
V 3: "Take with you words." These are the words of confession offered by the penitent (Likutey Moharan I:4). ".and we will offer the words of our lips instead of calves": prayer takes the place of animal sacrifice. When a person conquers his material lusts and devotes his energies to prayer, this itself is the sacrifice of his "animal" side. This is the ultimate repair of the root sin of the people - worship of the animal.
V 4: The prophet puts words into the mouths of the penitent nation, who will reject their earlier path of seeking succor in other nations and in military might and instead turn to God, Who shows compassion to the orphan.
V 5- As soon as the people repent, God will show unstinting love and His anger will depart.
V 6: Just as the dew never ceases, so God's love for Israel will never cease (Metzudas David). They will flourish and grow strong as the mighty trees of Lebanon .
V 7: "Their sons and daughters will multiply and their radiance will be like the radiance of the oil of the Temple Menorah and their fragrance will be like the fragrance of the Temple Incense " (Targum Yonasan).
V 8: "They will be gathered in from their exile and they will dwell in the shade of their Mashiah and the dead will live and there will be abundant good on earth and the memory of their good deeds will go forth unceasingly like the blasts of the trumpet over the good old wine poured as libations in the Temple" (Targum Yonasah).
V 9: "Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?" Immediately God will answer and look down upon Ephraim providentially, reaching down to the level of man just as the foliage of the cypress tree bows down gracefully to the earth when a man takes hold of its branches, for it is from God that all the people's "fruit" - their goodness -- derives (Rashi).
V 10: "Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is prudent let him know them; for the ways of HaShem are right, and the just do walk in them, but the transgressors shall stumble in them". The Torah is a double-edged sword, but those who follow it innocently and sincerely will go ever forward to eternity.
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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