Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
HOSEA CHAPTER 7
As in the case of the two previous chapters, Hosea chapters 7-8 make up a single prophetic discourse made up of two parts: a Parshah Pethuhah ("open section") = Ch 7 vv 1-12, followed by a Parshah Sethumah ("closed section") = Ch 7 vv 13-16 with Ch 8 vv 1-14. The break between ch 7 v 16 and ch 8 v 1 is thus "artificial" and interrupts the continuity of the prophecy.
The first part of the prophecy, Ch 7 vv 1-12, analyses the wickedness of the people, which is bound up with the wickedness of their kings and rulers, comparing their plotting of evil to a baker leaving his dough to rise (vv 4 and 6). Underlying the reproof is the idea that this is blatant ingratitude for God's redemption of Israel from Egypt , when their dough did not have time to rise before they hurriedly left (see Targum Yonasan on v 4). As a result Ephraim will be a crude cake baked on the coals and eaten up immediately - consumed by the nations of their exile: no matter where they turn they will be trapped in God's "net".
The second part of the prophecy, from 7:13 to 8:14, amplifies on the sins that are leading Israel into exile with Judah to follow. The essential rebellion is against God's Covenant - His Torah (8:1). The people's choice to be governed by a temporal king led them to make themselves gods of silver and gold, the calves of Jerabo'am, an intermediary intended to "manipulate" God. Yet they will find that all their projects and endeavors will be frustrated - they will sow to the wind and produce no flour for real bread (8:7). Their turning to the nations for help will merely hasten their exile (8:10), and because they have become strangers to God's Torah (8:12), they will return to Egypt , the place of their original exile (8:13).
Ch 7 v 1: "When I would have healed Israel , then the iniquity of Ephraim was uncovered". God wants to save and heal them, but at the very time of redemption their sins rise to the fore. Whenever there is an arousal of holiness, there is a corresponding arousal of impure forces. From this verse, the rabbis darshened that God does not strike Israel unless He first creates the medicine to heal them (Megillah 13b).
V 2: The people do not believe that God knows and remembers our deeds.
V 3: Their very kings and rulers are delighted at the people's evil and lies - the people encourage their rulers in evil and vice versa.
V 4: The people are heated up with lust for adultery like a stoked oven, while the "baker" rests, allowing his dough to rise and his immoral plans to come to fruition. As mentioned earlier, Targum Yonasan on this verse contrasts the people's plotting in this way with God's goodness to them in Egypt when He saved them before their dough had time to rise.
V 5: The rulers are "drunk" and the king is in league with scoffers and scorners. From this verse the Talmud derives the teaching that scoffers do not enter into the presence of the Shechinah (Sotah 42a).
V 6-7: Further elaboration of the image of baking bread as a metaphor for the plotting of sin and immorality that is causing national disaster. Rashi on v 7 brings a midrash from Yerushalmi Avodah Zara 1:1 telling that on the day that Israel chose Yerav'am (Jerabo'am) as king and asked him to make an idol, all the princes were drunk. He told them to come back the next day when they would be sober, giving them time to think about it all night like the baker leaving the dough to rise. When they came back the next morning, he told them he feared the Sanhedrin, but the people said they would kill them - "and they have devoured their judges".
V 8: "Ephraim has mingled himself among the peoples". "Mingled" (YITHBOLAL) has the connotation of mixing a batter or dough, and also that of assimilation. "Ephraim is as a cake not turned" - "like a cake baked on the coals that is not even turned over before being consumed" (Targum Yonasan; Rashi).
Vv 9-10: The essential flaw lies on the level of DA'AS, knowledge and awareness: the people do not even realize that all their power has been eaten up by strangers and that advanced old age has set in. They do not even try to return to God.
Vv 11-12: Ephraim flits around like a silly dove seeking help from Egypt to Ashur - not realizing that wherever they go, God's net is spread for them.
There is now a pause after v 12 followed by a Parshah Sethumah starting at verse 13 and continuing until the end of Ch 8. This section further elaborates the sins of Israel that are making the punitive exile inevitable:
Vv 13-15: God wants to redeem Israel , but their rebellion is making the coming disaster inevitable. They do not cry out to God with all their hearts - they only complain and they are only interested in securing supplies of grain and wine.
The Talmud (Bavli Avodah Zarah 4a) darshens from these verses: "I would have redeemed them, but they have spoken lies against Me"(v 13) - "I said I would redeem them through monetary loss in this world in order that they should merit the world to come, but they have spoken lies against Me" [complaining of their suffering without understanding its purpose]. "Though I have trained them and strengthened their arms, yet do they devise mischief against Me" (v 15) - "I said I shall chastise them with suffering in this world in order to strengthen their hand in the world to come, but they account it as evil".
V 16: Their turning to the nations for help will not avail them - they will simply go into exile and fall.
V 1: This is a direct continuation of the prophecy in Ch 7, calling on the people again to take the shofar to sound a warning about the coming war that will lead to the destruction of the very Temple itself as a result of the fundamental flaw of transgressing the Covenant and abandoning the Torah.
V 2: Even when the people cry out to God, it is insincere and He will not answer them.
Vv 4-6: It was the choice by the people of kings who were not divinely ordained that led them to make idols of silver and gold - the calves of Jerabo'am - a sin from which the people cannot cleanse themselves. Their idol is merely man-made and will be shattered to pieces.
V 7: The entire national enterprise of idolatry is compared to sowing to the wind - it will produce no tangible flour to eat, and even if it does, the nations will consume it. The metaphor of futile sowing connects with the metaphors in Ch 7 vv 4, 6 in which the people's plotting of evil was compared to a baker leaving his dough to rise.
Vv 8-10: The irony is that the more efforts Israel will make to run after the nations, the nearer they will bring their own feared exile.
Vv 11-13: Ephraim's idolatry goes contrary to the many Torah teachings that God taught them through His prophets - but in the eyes of the people they are strange and irrelevant. Even their rituals of sacrifice in the Temple find no favor with God: the decree is sealed and the people will return to exile in Egypt (as happened after the destruction of the First Temple , when those who escaped captivity by the Babylonians sought refuge in Egypt , where they died).
V 14: Israel has forgotten his Maker and is concerned only to build palaces, while Judah has built a multitude of fortified cities - but all will be consumed by fire.
MAY GOD REDEEM US AND BRING US QUICKLY TO OUR LAND IN PEACE IN OUR TIMES. AMEN.
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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