This is a rough chapter with a lot of metaphors and historical points. We will go through it verse by verse. Sorry, this is long one, but we will hammer it out together…
The sins of Ephraim exposed and the crimes of Samaria revealed. God is saying that He sees all of it. “But they do not realize that I remember all their evil deeds.” (v2) Evil doers and sinners do not recognize that God sees everything that they are doing. People always love to acknowledge that God will praise them for good deeds done, but they don’t like to think that He sees the bad stuff too.
“They delight the king with their wickedness…” (v3) The Israelites were entertaining and flattering the king and getting ready for a revolt.
“They are all adulterers, burning like an oven.” (v4) Their hearts were inflamed like a hot oven and the “baker” is the leader of the rebellion.
“On the day of the festival of the king…” (v5) was probably a birthday or some party for the king where everyone got drunk and the princes joined the revolt.
“Their passion smolders all night; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire.” (v6) The revolt happens and all the kings fall: 4 kings were assassinated in 20 years.
“And none of them call on me.” (v7) No one calls on the Lord for help, guidance, or repentance.
“Ephraim mixes with the nations; Ephraim is a flat cake not turned over.” (v8) Ephraim is Israel which is mixing with other nations. The flat cake is a metaphor describing unwise policies like a cake that was burned on the bottom and undone on top. Not fit for use.
“Foreigners sap his strength,” (v9) is talking about Assyria and Egypt which had weakened the country economically.
“His hair is sprinkled with gray, but he does not notice.” (v9) National dissolution is coming, but not noticed and ignored.
“Israel’s arrogance testifies against him,” (v10) This is repeated from verse 5:5. Arrogance is the stubborn rebellion against The Lord. “Testifies” as in a courtroom in the case of God vs The People.
“Ephraim is like a dove, easily deceived and senseless — now calling to Egypt, now turning to Assyria.” (v11) NKJV says “Ephraim is like a silly dove.” A dove is known for its simplicity, here also means that Ephraim is without understanding. Israel lies between the 2 rival empires: Egypt and Assyria.
2 Kings 17:3-4: “Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against him, and Hoshea became his servant and paid him tribute. But the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea, who had sent messengers to So king of Egypt and had offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year; so the king of Assyria shut him up and bound him in prison.”
Hoshea was the last king of Israel
Confusing story but basically Hoshea was in the Israeli army and overthrew the king of Israel at the time. Then the king of Assyria (Shalmaneser) turned against Hoshea and forced him to submit and pay a tribute which he had 10 years to pay. Hoshea went to Egypt (King So) who did not help him. Assyrian king found out and imprisoned Hoshea and sent the Assyrian army to Israel.
I told you this chapter is confusing! Boy I hope I am getting all this right!
Now, back to the chapter…
“When they go, I will throw my net over them;” (v12) This is The Lord speaking as a hunter and He was going to capture Israel.
“Woe to them because they have strayed from me! Destruction to them because they have rebelled against me! I long to redeem them but they speak lies against me.” (v13) ‘Woe’ means distress or indignation often used with threats of judgement. Israel has strayed and God will bring destruction to the land. “I long to redeem them…” There are so many definitions of ‘redeem’: to make something better; to buy back; to exchange; to free from distress; to release from blame; to make good; to atone for. All of which can be used to describe what God wants to do for His people.
“They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds.” (v14) They cry in anguish, not in repentance.
“I trained them and strengthened them, but they plot evil against me.” (v15) The people knew God’s laws and His covenant with them but they still turned from Him and were sinful despite the spiritual strength given to them.
“They do not turn to the Most High; they are like a faulty bow.” (v16) With a faulty bow, your arrow won’t go straight. It will miss the target. Israel has missed her purpose. “Their leaders will fall by the sword because of their insolent words. For this they will be ridiculed in the land of Egypt.” (v16) Israel has pretended to serve God and worshipped idols. Egypt fails to help Israel and a return to slavery in Egypt is envisioned.
We got through it! In a nutshell…
Israel refuses to repent and all God wants to do is redeem His people.