The LORD states that Ephraim’s devotion to the pagan fertility god Baal, and resulting violation of His covenant with Him, will cause the nation to disappear quickly like smoke pouring out a chimney.
Although the LORD blessed Israel, they have become prideful and forgotten Him. They have broken His covenant.
The LORD announces Israel’s destruction because the people turned against Him. God will destroy their military and political establishments, leaving them with no source of help.
The LORD predicts that a powerful army will destroy Israel’s villages in a brutal manner that includes the slaughter of children and the ripping open of pregnant women.
The book of Hosea contrasts God’s faithfulness to Israel’s faithlessness. In the first three chapters, Hosea introduces the reader to Israel’s infidelity to their Suzerain (Ruler) God who entered into a covenant with Him, and spelled out the path they could take that would lead to great blessing. God’s covenant with Israel can be viewed as a marital contract. By using Hosea’s own marriage to his unfaithful wife, Gomer, God demonstrated that Israel is an unfaithful covenant partner. Israel had broken her vows to her Covenant Husband.
Throughout the rest of Hosea, Israel’s condition is described as disobedient, rebellious, and idolatrous. As God had warned, Israel’s adoption of pagan principles of self-indulgence led to exploitation, deception, and violence (Hosea 4:2). The people of Israel stood in need of repentance and genuine righteousness. Hosea called them to repentance, but Israel declined.
Israel spent years sowing to its own destruction, making and breaking alliances with the world’s superpowers at the time, Egypt and Assyria, dealing treacherously. Hosea describes Israel as acting like a “silly dove” flitting from one nation to the other, rather than turning to God for protection (Hosea 7:11). Thus Assyria will come and put Israel into exile, which God will use as a way of punishing Israel for its infidelity to its covenant with God (Hosea 11:5).
Through it all, however, the book offers hope to Israel. For although the Suzerain God invoked the discipline provisions of their covenant contract with Him, resulting in them being wounded grievously, in the end times He will heal them, revive them, and restore their blessings (Hosea 2:20, 14:7). May all who read this book find comfort and hope in the steadfast love and faithfulness of God!
Hosea 13 describes Israel’s downfall, which begins with Ephraim, the most prominent tribe of the northern kingdom in Hosea’s days. In the past, Ephraim was very fruitful and was highly respected. But because of pride, he turned to Baal worship and became fruitless. The situation went from bad to worse as the Israelites forgot their Suzerain (Ruler) God, the one who redeemed them from Egyptian bondage, protected them through their wilderness journey, and led them safely to the Promised Land.
Therefore, the LORD warns Israel that He will use a foreign army as His tool to judge them. Israel’s unwise allegiance to the pagan fertility cult god Baal will cause them to deteriorate drastically and disappear as quickly as the morning cloud and dew before sunlight or as chaff and smoke. The outline of the passage is as follows: