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Book of Hosea
Chapter 5

Today’s reading continues the same motifs we’ve been examining in earlier chapters, both in words and in message: expressive language; strong, graphic images; unfaithfulness, prostitution and no acknowledgement of God. This repetition emphasizes the importance of the points the Lord wanted to communicate. At the same time, the narrative is not simple redundancy, droning on and on about the same things. Yes, God is hammering these important issues. Yet, the narrative is working more like an outward-moving spiral; thus, as these points were repeated, God revealed more and more about what they signified, adding more detail, fleshing out His meaning.

The chapter opens with a call to everyone. “Hear this…Pay attention…Listen…” Sometimes we wish God would speak clearly to us and let us know what He is doing, how He is at work, what He is thinking. Here, He was practically shouting at the Israelites to get their attention. What this particular repetition reveals is that God intended His message for everyone: spiritual leaders, political leaders and all the people. No one could pass it off on someone else, “Oh, He means the king, not me…”

Although He addressed everyone, His indictment now specifically named the political leaders of the Northern Kingdom of Israel: “… O royal house!” Indeed, like our image of an outward-moving spiral, God expanded on how wide and deep the Israelite’s unfaithfulness extended. It was not exclusively idol worship. We notice that the kingdom had troubles and was suffering (13, 15). Instead of turning to God, seeking Him, committing their problems to Him, asking for His help, His guidance, in short, trusting the Lord to provide, we understand that the Israelites turned to their powerful, regional neighbor Assyria (13). Yet, Assyria could not fix their problems (13); they would only make them worse. Perhaps, it is simplistic to recall: “Be careful what you ask for…” Yet, that was, in essence, the warning. In dismissing God, in not acknowledging Him, they were trying to fix their problems themselves, attempting to make alliances with Assyria and setting themselves up for future conquest.

God warned them of the extent of their unfaithfulness and the consequences that would ensue. As such, we understand the battle-language of the chapter (8, 9+) to announce the invasion of Assyria. They may have forgotten God; unfortunately for them, He is God, nonetheless, and what He proclaimed was certain. (9) Alas, the echoes from Chapter three began to come into focus. (3:4)

Today’s reading gives us greater insight into the scope of their faithlessness, their “prostitution,” so to speak. Thus, when we encounter verse four, it no longer feels like the same repetition. They were making choices and engaging in behavior that was pulling them so far from God that they would not be able to turn back (4). When Israel eventually fell in 722 B.C., around 27,000 Israelites were deported to Assyria, and most of them never returned to their homeland again. *

These sound like grand political maneuverings. But this same verse (4) reminds us of a message that is in the Bible from beginning to end: what happens in our heart matters. God CARES about our HEART. Behavior and choices begin in our inner life. Is my heart acknowledging God? Or is it filled with other things? Do I panic and turn to others instead of to Him? Have I forgotten Him just like the Israelites? In His compassion, the Lord always offers forgiveness to those who admit their wrong and desire to turn to Him (15). It is never too late. He offered it to the Israelites, and He offers it to us. (1 John 1:9)

Key Verse(s):
“Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the Lord…Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.” ~ Hosea 5:4,15

Questions to ponder:

  1. According to the book of Hosea, what does unfaithfulness look like?
  2. Think about what the Bible says about God’s character. List how He is faithful to us.


*Bibliography: Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Ronald F. Youngblood, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995, 134.

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