The chapter starts out with God reminding people (for the 3rd time this book) that He was the one who birthed the nation of Israel and the He was the one who brought them out of Egypt. He goes further with the father-son relationship in verse 3: “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms;” Can’t you just picture this beautiful imagery of a father holding his son’s arms as he takes his first steps? But then, in that same verse: “but they did not realize it was I who healed them.” The children forgot who their Healer truly was. “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.” (v4) This verse sounds like another farming reference. As a farmer leads his work animals with cords, so will the Lord lead His people with cords of kindness and love. The yoke is put on animals so they can do work together. Popularly known in Matthew 11:30: “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” God takes the work and heaviness off of us alone and carries it WITH us. Here God is saying that he completely removed all of the burden and work from the people and fed them.
“Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent?” (v5) It’s ironic that Israel could be going back to the same place that they were rescued out of by the one who had rescued them all because they weren’t loyal to their Rescuer.
“How can I give you, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.” (v8) God’s compassion is overtaking his wrath. Admah and Zeboiim are cities that were overthrown when Sodom was destroyed symbolizing total destruction. “I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn to devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man – the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.” (v9) God will not be untrue to his love of his people.
“They will follow the Lord; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. They will come trembling like the birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria. I will settle them in their homes, declares the Lord.” (v10-11) God’s roar is a punishment instead of destruction. I just imagine a father getting home from work and yelling at kids upstairs in their rooms who been disobedient to their mom all day “you get down here this minute!” They will be scolded and punished but only because the father loves them and wants the best for them.