"Having completed his words of comfort, he now returns to words of reproof to the people of his generation. This is the way of the prophets - to intermingle reproof and comfort" (RaDaK on v 1).

V 1: Having previously commanded Hosea to marry an adulterous woman, God now commands Hosea to love such a woman in spite of her disloyalty. This adulterous woman is a prophetic metaphor for the people of Israel , whom God loves - albeit seemingly from afar - despite their disloyalty. How now is God to show His love to His people? In the coming verses the prophet takes a "long view" from the beginning of Israel's nationhood until the very "end of days" (v 5), revealing that God's love will take the form of the lengthy suffering of exile, which will eventually bring the people back in search of what they have lost.

V 2: The PSHAT (literal meaning) appears to be that the prophet acquired his wife as commanded through giving her KIDDUSHIN gifts of 15 silver coins and a sizeable quantity of barley. As explained by Rashi based on Midrash, all this alludes to God's acquisition of the people of Israel as His "wife" through the redemption from Egypt on the FIFTEENTH of Nissan, and through giving them the redemptive commandments of (1) each individual's silver half-shekel contribution to the Temple and (2) the barley Omer offering brought on 16 th Nissan. Rashi himself as well as numerous other midrashim also darshen this verse in many ways ".that the Torah be made great and glorious".

V. 3: God's Covenant with His people was that the relationship should be "for many days" ON CONDITION that the "wife" is loyal, and then He will be loyal to her. This verse alludes to the first two of the Ten Commandments: "I am." and "you shall have no other gods." (Exodus 20:2-3).

V 4: The people will remain in exile for "many days", waiting for redemption, and God too will wait to be able to take them back as His people, but even in their exile He will not chose another people. If there is no MELEKH (king) - if God appears not to be with them in exile - at least there will not be any SAR (angel), i.e. even in exile the will not worship an intermediary. If there is no ZEVAH (sacrifice in the Temple ), at least there will be no MATZEVA (idolatrous pillar altar). If there will be no EPHOD (high priest's breastplate, URIM VE-THUMIM), at least there will be no TERAPHIM (astrological divining instruments) (Metzudas David ad loc.).

V 5: After the days of exile, the Children of Israel will repent and seek out the three things that they despised in the days of Rehaboam and Jeraboam: the kingship of Heaven, the kingship of the House of David, and the Temple in Jerusalem . "And they will seek out the Lord their God." = the kingship of Heaven. "And David their king" = the kingship of the House of David. "And they will be filled with fear towards God and to his goodness." This refers to the Temple (Rashi ad loc. In the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai).


This chapter begins a new prophecy of reproof that specifies in more detail the component transgressions which together constitute Israel 's infidelity to her "husband", God.

V 1: God's "controversy" or argument against the inhabitants of the land is because all three columns are flawed. There is no TRUTH (=TIFERES, the center column). There is no KINDNESS (=CHESSED, the right arm of love) and there is no KNOWLEDGE OF ELOKIM (no awareness of God's power of DIN, Judgment and Strength=GEVURAH, the left arm of might). The three columns are supposed to be manifested in the LAND (=MALCHUS, the receiving "vessel"), and the land is flawed because they are not.

V 2: The catalog of false oaths, deception, murder, theft, immorality and adultery until "blood leads to blood" and one terrible bloody strike follows another aptly typifies certain areas of present-day Israeli society just as it typified the society in the day of the prophet.

V 3: Characterization of the mourning of the land under the devastations of exile, which affects the entire ecology of animals, birds and even the fish of the sea.

V 4: But the people do not want to hear the reproof, telling the true prophets not to argue with them, while the people themselves argue against their own priests, whose role is to teach them Torah.

Vv 5-10: Running away from the reproof of the true prophets, the people will stumble together with their false prophets. The people have fallen to a state that is the opposite of DA'AS (=true knowledge of God), and just as they have forgotten the Torah, so God will "forget" their children (since at Sinai the people brought in their own children as guarantors of the Covenant) producing generations of assimilated Israelites. They will eat without being satisfied and fornicate but not increase their population.

V 11: The root cause of the national malady lies in ZENOOS, "immorality"/disloyalty to God and the preoccupation with "wine" - immediate gratification and the flight into fantasy.

Vv 12-13: "My people ask counsel of a piece of wood, and their staff declares to them" (v 12) - they seek out idols and follow what their false prophets say. Instead of going up to the Temple , which was intended to be the single focus of worship of the One God, the people are scattered, all in their own private cults. The fathers' disloyalty to God leads to immorality among their daughters and daughters-in-law.

V 14 is darshened in Talmud Sotah as teaching that the plague of immorality will be so widespread that the Bitter Waters that came to test whether a man's wife had been disloyal would no longer be effective because the men folk themselves were also immoral.

Vv 15-16: Admonition to Judah not to join with Israel or learn from their path. [It is very tempting for the Torah observant to want to imitate those who have thrown off the yoke when they see them living it up and apparently enjoying themselves hugely.] For Israel is like a headstrong cow that has been fattened up and now kicks, whereas God will in exile pasture them like a lamb, whose diet is more skimpy (Rashi).

V 17: "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone". On PSHAT level the prophet is saying that the Ten Tribes are so given over to idolatry that further reproof is pointless. The Midrash learns from this verse: "Great is peace, because even if they worship idols, if there is peace among them He cannot (as if) do anything to them. But when they are divided among themselves, what does it say? 'Their heart is divided, now they shall be found guilty'" (Hosea 10:2; Bereishis Rabbah 38).

V 18: The people's drunken mentality is far from God. It is their kings who initiated this path of sin. But just as a strong wind sweeps a weak bird far from where it wants to be, the wind of exile will sweep the people away until they become ashamed of their idolatrous sacrifices.



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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