Hosea 7-8, 9-10 Study Notes by Avraham ben Yaakov

Study Notes by Avraham ben Yaakov


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.


Chapter 9 v 1 begins a new prophecy, the first section of which is contained in vv 1-9, followed, after a break by a longer second section (PARSHAH SETHUMAH) running continuously from ch 9 v 10 until ch 10 v 8. The conventional chapter break at 10:1 is arbitrary, interrupts the continuity of the sense of the prophecy, and does not correspond to the section breaks in the hand-written Hebrew scroll.

Section 1: Vv 1-9:

V 1: "Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy as other people…" The true joy of Israel is not like that of other nations that did not receive the Torah and did not fall to God's lot – but now that Israel has gone astray from God they have lost much good (Rashi). Israel goes around like a harlot seeking sustenance and help from the nations instead of depending on God.

V 2: As a punishment, their granaries and wine-vats will not sustain them.

V 3: Instead of dwelling in their own promised land, they will go into exile in Egypt and Assyria.

V 4: Instead of offering pure sacrifices in God's Temple, they will eat impure food in exile – for they eat only for their own gratification: this is not the way to bring sacrifices to God.

V 5: What will you do on the day appointed for His vengeance – the day of God's "feast", i.e. when He slaughters the people?

V 6: Prophecy of the exile that will ensue when destructive invaders enter the land.

V 7: After having been flawed with a lack of DA'AS (knowledge, Godly awareness), the people will learn to know God's righteousness through the tribulations of exile, which is the payment for their sins. Then they will see that the false prophets on whom they relied for comfort were fools and madmen (Metzudas David).

V 8: Ephraim has his own "watcher", the false prophet who prophesied in the name of their idol, who is nothing but a snare into whose trap the people will fall (Metzudas David).

V 9: The sin of Ephraim was rooted in Giv'ah – alluding to the scandal of the Concubine in Giv'ah (where the tribes of Israel initially failed in their campaign against Benjamin owing to the presence of Michah's idol, Judges ch 19), or alternatively this alludes to the people's request for a king made to Samuel at Giv'ath Shaul (Rashi).

Section 2 of the prophecy: Chapter 9 v 10 – Chapter 10 v 8:

Ch 9 V 10: God originally chose Israel because they were like refreshing grapes in a wilderness or the luscious first fruits of the fig-tree – the founding fathers and the generation of the Exodus were unique in the wilderness of the nations. However, already when they were wandering in the wilderness, the people sinned with the Moabite women, who caused them to become attached to their god, Baal Pe'or (Numbers ch 25).

V 11-14: The prophet prefers that the people should flit away like a bird and stop procreating: either they should have stillborn children, or abort their embryos, or not even conceive, as this would be better than raising children only to see them killed by their enemies, because Ephraim has become like the haughty Tyre

V 15: The prophet prays that their children should die young as the pain over the death of a child is less than that over the death of an adult (Rashi).

"All their evil is in Gilgal…" The people sinned greatly with idolatrous altars in Gilgal (which was in the territory of Ephraim) because the Sanctuary had originally been in Gilgal and the idolatrous prophets told the people that it was a propitious place for them to sacrifice (Rashi).

Vv 16-17: Ephraim is smitten and dried at the roots, and cannot produce fruits – future generations – because God has rejected them because of their disobedience, as a result they must go into exile. [Students of Hebrew may wish to consider whether allusions to the founder of Islam are embedded in Hosea 9:6 and 16.]


Verses 1-8 are the direct continuation of the parshah that began in ch 9 v 10.

V 1: Having earlier compared Israel to grapes in the wilderness (9:10) and having prophesied the terrible fate awaiting their fruits – their children – Hosea now complains that Israel is an empty vine – because their very fruitfulness and prosperity caused them to sin.

V 2: "Their heart is divided…" i.e. from God: this is why they will be found guilty.

V 3: When the troubles of exile strike, they will realize that they have no king, because the king in whom they trusted to go ahead of them and fight their battles proved unable to help them (Rashi).

V 4: They talk indiscriminately, swearing falsely and striking covenants with the nations, and just retribution will therefore sprout like bitter hemlock in a field (Metzudas David).

V 5-7: The inhabitants of Shomron will fall into fear over the idolatrous calves of Beith-Aven (=Beith El, where Jeraboam set up his altar). This is a prophecy of how the Assyrian king Phul was to take away with him the golden calves of Beith El when he took the tribes of Reuven, Gad and Menasheh into exile (I Chronicles 5:26).

V 8: The ultimate retribution will be the destruction of the idolatrous altars of Israel, causing them to ask the very mountains and hills to cover them in their shame.

A new prophecy starts at verse 9, which is the beginning of a PARSHAH PETHUHAH. This prophecy runs until 13:11 with a pause at ch 12 v 1, which begins a new PARSHAH SETHUMAH.

Ch 10 V 9: "More than in the days of Giv'ah have you sinned O Israel…" Rashi explains this as a reference to the sin of the Concubine in Giv'ah (Judges ch 19ff), where the presence of Michah's idol prevented the tribes of Israel from succeeding against Benjamin. "…there they stood" – i.e. the people stayed with the same evil trait of idolatry (Rashi). We thus see Michah's idol to be the root of Ephraim's fall.

V 10: "According to My desire, I constantly chastised them in the time between one judge and another and I gave them over into the hands of their enemies" (Rashi).

V 11: "Ephraim is like a cow that has to be trained to work and draw the yoke and plow, but she prefers to thresh the harvested crops in order to eat while doing so. God taught them Torah and mitzvoth, but they want the reward without practicing" (Metzudas David).

V 12: "Sow for yourselves with righteousness, reap according to kindness…".The prophet yearns for the people to WORK so as to earn the promised goodness. "Said Rabbi Elazar: The practice of kindness [going beyond the letter of the law] is greater than righteousness and charity [in strict accordance with the law and no more], as it is written, Sow for yourselves with righteousness, reap according to kindness. If a person sows, he may or may not eat, but when a person reaps, he will definitely eat. The reward for charity is only according to the degree of kindness with which it is practiced" (Succah 49b).

V 13: Despite the call of the Torah to good deeds, the people are like a stubborn cow that has plowed nothing but wickedness, as a result of which they will eat the fruits of their deception, having put their faith and trust in their own might – "MY power and the strength of MY hand" (Deut. 8:17).

V 14-15: The coming doom is all the result of the idolatry of Beith El.



A complete archive of Avraham ben Yaakov's KNOW YOUR BIBLE commentaries on all of the Prophets and Holy Writings (NaKh) except Psalms is available at http://www.azamra.org/spirit/nakh.php



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