“Israel was a spreading vine;” (v1) A vine represents Israel in the New Testament and the Old Testament. Christ applied this to himself: “I am the true vine and my father in the vinedresser.” (John 15:1) “As his fruit increased he built more altars; as his land prospered, he adorned his sacred stones.” (v1) God provided only 1 altar in Jerusalem, so the sinfulness of many altars shows the corruption of the people.
“Their heart is deceitful, and now they must bear their guilt.” (v2) Although the people cried out to God, it was not with a heart of repentance. They dishonored Him with pagan worship and the Lord will get His revenge.
“They will say, ‘We have no king because we did not revere the Lord.’” (v3) Soon this would be their condition when Assyria destroyed the nation of Israel. “But even if we had a king, what could he do for us?” (v3) They know that a king is worthless when they don’t have the Lord on their side. “They make many promises and false oaths and make agreements therefore lawsuits spring up like poisonous weeds in a plowed field.” (v4) Previous kings of Israel had been notoriously corrupt and liars.
The calf idol that the people worshiped was brought to Assyria’s king. The tribe of Ephraim was disgraced and Israel was ashamed of their beliefs and actions.
“Samaria and its king will float away like a twig on the surface of the waters.” (v7) Samaria is the mountainous part of Israel and Assyria is being compared to the Euphrates River which will sweep away Israel. Israel will receive judgement and suffer because of what she’s done.
“The high places of wickedness will be destroyed – it is the sin of Israel.” (v8) Remember that the pagan worshiped on the mountain tops (high places) and this is where the idol worshiping and sacrifices took place. “Thorns and thistles will grow up and cover their altars. Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Cover us!!’ and to the hills , ‘Fall on us!’” (v8) Everything will be destroyed left for weeds will grow over their places of worship. This is quoted by Jesus in Luke 23:30 at the crucifixion: “Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘cover us’” Also eluded to in Revelations 6:16 “They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”
“Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh;” (v11) Oh, I love a good farm animal reference. A heifer is a young cow before she has her first calf and threshing is the process of separating the grain from the chaff which used to be done by having a cow or donkey walk circles on the grain on a hard surface. “So I will put a yoke on her fair neck. I will drive Ephraim, Judah must plow, and Jacob must break up the ground.” (v11) These are all in reference to farming meaning that God is going to put Israel and Judah to work.
“Sow yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love.” (v12)
You reap what you sow right?
Let us sow righteousness so we can reap God’s unfailing love.
“and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord until he comes and shower righteousness on you.” (v12)
Unplowed ground means that no one has been working on the land: a hardened heart is like this. Let God into your heart. Let Him work on it and soften it. Let the Word fill your heart. Let the Water of Life come into your life so He can being His showers of righteousness!
“You have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten fruit of deception.” (v13) Again, we reap what we sow. You sow wickedness, you will get evil and eat its fruit of lies. Israel has been planting, cultivating, and harvesting lies.
The chapter end with the impending doom and destruction of Israel including the slaying of the king.