When God Answers Carnal Prayers
In view of Israel’s captivity under “wild beasts,” Hosea 13:10, 11 says,
10 Where now is your king that he may save you in all your cities, and your judges of whom you requested, “Give me a king and princes”? 11 I gave you a king in My anger, and took him away in My wrath.
Earlier in Israel’s history, the people asked for a king, and God gave them the best man available at the time—a man named Saul. But God gave them a king in His anger, for it was not His will that they should have a king until David could be crowned. He was the man after God’s own heart. But the people were impatient, so they got their king 40 years too soon, which was 10 years before David was even born.
The story is recorded in 1 Samuel 8:5-7,
5 … Now appoint a king for us to judge like all the nations. 6 But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.”
We ought to be careful and discerning in how we pray. If we pray according to our own will, God may judge us by giving us what we desire. Like children, we see only the toys that we want and lack the foresight to know the long-term effect of getting our own way. Only when we are forced to eat the fruit of our carnal desires do we finally gain the wisdom of experience.
So God tells us through Hosea that He gave Israel a king in His anger. The implication is that in later years their kings again carried the same rebellious nature as seen in King Saul. Of course, the kings of Israel were divinely appointed because of God’s anger toward Solomon (1 Kings 11:31). God tore ten tribes out of the control of Solomon’s son and gave them to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:37, 40). From then on, Israel and Judah were separate nations, and the prophets never fail to distinguish between them and their distinct callings.
Giving Birth to a Sin-Child
Hosea 13:12, 13 says,
12 The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up [tsarar, “tied up; cramped; straitened”]; his sin is stored up [tsaphan, “hidden, reserved, sealed up, hoarded”]. 13 The pains of childbirth come upon him; he is not a wise son, for it is not the time that he should delay at the opening of the womb.
The prophet here paints a picture of a pregnant woman trying to prevent or delay the birth of a child of iniquity. The metaphor seems a bit awkward, because he says “the pains of childbirth come upon him.” So Ephraim is pictured as a mother giving birth. But nations and tribes can be set forth as either male or female.
In this case Ephraim is not meant to conjure up a picture of Joseph’s son Ephraim, but rather to an adulterous nation in labor. Hence, the prophet means to compare the nation with his own adulterous wife, Gomer. The adulteress has become pregnant with a child of iniquity, and there is nothing she can do to stop or delay the birth of her illegitimate child (i.e., “sin”).
Death and Resurrection
Israel wanted a king, and God gave them Saul. Once they had their king, they had no choice but to go that route for the next 40 years. They could not change their mind when Saul began to manifest his rebellious heart. Saul was their judgment, but when the season passed, Saul died, and God gave them David.
So also is it with this iniquitous child being birthed out of the adulterous nation. There was little or nothing that Israel could do to prevent the birth of the unwise and illegitimate “son” being brought to birth. Nonetheless, the prophet of mercy turns this around and gives them hope in the end. Sin and death are to be turned around by resurrection. So Hosea 13:14 says,
14 Shall I ransom [padah, “loose by cutting off”] them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem [ga’al] them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion [nokham, “repentance”] will be hidden from My sight.
This suggests that Israel as a nation was going to die giving birth to this son of iniquity. Paul says in Rom. 6:28, “the wages of sin is death.” Yet at the same time, the prophet reminds us that death is not the end of the matter. Death must end in resurrection. Resurrection is the solution to death.
God says, “Shall I redeem them from death?” The Hebrew word for “redeem” is ga’al, which is spelled with a gimel (“to lift up”), followed by al, or El, which is “God.” To redeem, then, is “to lift up God.” This was probably what Jesus had in mind when He said in John 8:28, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He.” And again, in John 12:32 He said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” When He was “lifted up” from the earth (on the cross), He redeemed (ga’al) all men. This also identifies Jesus Christ as “God,” for the word ga’al means “to lift up God.”
In an earlier edition of the NASB, the first part of Hosea 13:14 reads as a simple statement, “I will redeem them from death.” Since the Hebrew language originally had no punctuation, it is difficult to know if this should be read as a question or as a statement. When the Apostle Paul refers to this passage in 1 Cor. 15:55, he omits the first half of the verse, so we cannot appeal to his authority. Instead, he links Hosea’s prophecy of resurrection to another prophecy in Isaiah 25:8, which says,
8 He will swallow up death for all time. And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces. And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.
Paul, then, pieces together Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14, saying in 1 Cor. 15:54, 55,
54 … then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory [Isaiah 25:8]. 55 O death [thanatos], where is your victory? [deber, “plagues, pestilence.” Paul translates it as “sting” in 1 Cor. 15:55.] O death [hades, “the grave”], where is your sting? [Hosea 13:14]
The NASB here muddies the waters by translating both thanatos and hades as “death.” There is a difference between death and the grave, although they are associated with each other. The fact is that in 1 Cor. 15:55 Paul refers to hades for the first and only time in all of his epistles. It comes by a quotation from Hosea, who uses the Hebrew term sheol. The New Testament Greek word hades must be defined by the Hebrew concept of sheol, rather than by the classical Greek concept of hades.
Getting back to Hosea’s prophecy, he tells us in the last part of Hosea 13:14, “compassion,” that is, repentance, “will be hidden from My sight.” This translation misses the point, because it is not compassion but repentance that will be “hidden” from God. In other words, God says that the resurrection will indeed occur, for He has no intention of changing His mind on that promise. Victory over death is assured, because our Redeemer has been lifted up on the cross to pay the death penalty for Adam’s sin.
The Death of Israel
Judgment comes before the promise is seen. Although resurrection is assured, death must precede resurrection, for without death there is no resurrection. Hosea makes this clear in Hosea 13:15, saying,
15 Though he flourishes among the reeds, an east wind [qadiym] will come, the wind [ruach, “wind, breath, spirit”] of the Lord coming up from the wilderness; and his fountain will become dry, and his spring will be dried up; it will plunder his treasury of every precious article.
The “east wind” is a reference to Assyria, which was coming from the east, but the prophet makes it clear that Assyria was “the wind of the Lord.” God is given credit for raising up Assyria to bring destruction upon Israel. The Hebrew word ruach means both wind and spirit, as we see in John 3:8,
8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.
Yet “the wind of the Lord” was to be seen in Assyria, an east wind of divine judgment, which was to dry up the springs in the land of Israel and impoverish the people. Hosea 13:16 continues,
16 Samaria will be held guilty, for she has rebelled against her God. They will fall by the sword, their little ones will be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women will be ripped open.
Such was the ruthlessness of the Assyrians. Those who desire to worship the foreign gods ought to know that those other gods are not merciful, but cruel. But again, as with the case of King Saul, the people desired to worship and submit to those false gods, so the true God of Israel gave them their desire and put them in subjection to those other gods. The result was horrendous. We would do well to learn the same lesson today.