Study of Hosea - Chapter 5

Chapter 5

The previous chapter of Hosea is typically called "The Charge Against Israel" and Chapter 5 is typically titled "Judgement Against Israel". It continues from the themes of Chapter 4 in which the Lord rebukes the people of Israel for their continued sin and rejection of Him.


Hear this, O priests! Pay attention, O house of Israel! Give ear, O house of the king! For the judgment is for you; for you have been a snare at Mizpah and a net spread upon Tabor. 2 And the revolters have gone deep into slaughter, but I will discipline all of them. 3 I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hidden from me; for now, O Ephraim, you have played the whore; Israel is defiled. 4 Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. For the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they know not the Lord. 5 The pride of Israel testifies to his face; Israel and Ephraim shall stumble in his guilt; Judah also shall stumble with them. 6 With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the Lord, but they will not find him; he has withdrawn from them. 7 They have dealt faithlessly with the Lord; for they have borne alien children. Now the new moon shall devour them with their fields. 8 Blow the horn in Gibeah, the trumpet in Ramah. Sound the alarm at Beth-aven; we follow you, O Benjamin! 9 Ephraim shall become a desolation in the day of punishment; among the tribes of Israel I make known what is sure. 10 The princes of Judah have become like those who move the landmark; upon them I will pour out my wrath like water. 11 Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgment, because he was determined to go after filth. 12 But I am like a moth to Ephraim, and like dry rot to the house of Judah. 13 When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king. But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound. 14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue. 15 I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me. 


Verse 1-4: The Lord is directing this message at the entire nation of Israel from the priests and kings and to the people. He lets them know that He sees all of their sins and he will discipline them because they have turned from Him and are defiled. They have been a snare at Mizpah (“Watchtower”) in the east and a net upon Tabor (“Lofty Place”) in the west where they lead people into idol worship. A spirit of prostitution is over them which is keeping them from returning to God.

Verse 5-8: Israel has been prideful in their self-reliance and rejection of the Lord so they will fall. Though they may seek the Lord (superficially), they will not find him. The children of Israel are not considered legitimate by the Lord because they have been raised under self-reliance and rejection of the Lord and His ways. The warning alarm has been sound and the day of punishment is imminent.

Verse 9-11: Ephraim, as the leading tribe of Israel, shall become desolate because they chose to follow sin. Judah is also guilty of sin by moving the landmark (of God’s law) so both Judah and Israel will be disciplined.

Verse 10-14: The Lord is first like a moth and dry rot, slowly eating away at them in silence, in His discipline for Israel and Judah. However, neither returned to the Lord and instead went to foreign Kings for help who were unable to heal their wounds. Therefore, the Lord will respond to Israel and Judah as a lion, tearing them apart and carrying them away so that no one can save them. He will then return to His throne, separating Himself from them until they acknowledge their sins and truly seek Him with repentant hearts. In their distress and affliction, they will earnestly seek Him.

Interpretation and Explanation

The Lord starts off by saying all people will be held accountable for their actions: the priests, the leaders, and the people for following them. “An easy compliance with the commandments of men that contradict the commandments of God leads the people to ruin as much as any other sin” – Matthew Henry.  In Israel, at the places previously meant for protection of the people and worship of the Lord, Mizpah (“Watchtower”) and Tabor (“Lofty Place”), the king of Israel set up idols and lead the people astray and into sin.  Some scholars also support that spies were setup along these roads and those between Israel and Judah to inform against and persecute people who sought to worship the Lord and to be rejoined with their southern brethren in Judah. If the enemy cannot turn someone to sin, he seeks to quiet them to prevent others from following them in the ways of the Lord.

The revolters and apostates (Israel) went deeper in their sins though the Lord had sent many prophets to rebuke them to turn from their ways.  The Lord sees and knows everything. He saw how the king of Israel prostituted himself to foreign kings by seeking their aid and provision instead of seeking the Lord. Through the king’s leadership and example, the nation of Israel as a whole was defiled. A spirit of prostitution had taken hold which prevented the people from seeing and recognizing their sins and returning to God. When we continue in our sins, we are inadvertently welcoming spirits into our lives to control and lead us. When this happens, God’s voice slowly gets quieter over time and the voice of sin gets louder until that is all that we know.

In their pride, self-reliance, and rejection of the Lord by way of the spirit of prostitution, the people of Israel falsely believed their source was themselves instead of God. When their “source” was depleted, they sought help from man who mean to harm them and not to help them. As a result, the nation of Israel fell to the Assyrians and were destroyed between 734-732 BC.  Judah was also guilty of this sin but the depth of their sin was not to that of Israel. Judah would also be disciplined though not as severe. They were not conquered by Assyria and remained autonomous but they were still subjected to pay tribute. Following man instead of trusting in the Lord always leads to destruction. Only the Lord truly has the heart for what’s best for us. When we reject the Lord and trust in man, we may find that we are harmed by those of whom we sought for help.

Proverbs 3:5-6 - “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Israel would superficially seek the Lord’s assistance but they refused to repent of their sins, cast down their idols, and return to the Lord. Therefore, He did not hear their prayers or honor their sacrifices. In Israel’s prostitution, they had “illegitimate children” that were raised in apostasy against the Lord by worshiping idols and forsaking God and his commands. Although they would celebrate “new beginnings” of the New Moon [month] festivals, this month/period of time would be marked by loss and famine. God doesn’t value our works and prayers if they are insincere. He desires that we “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). As long as we serve him half-heartedly or not at all, we will not be able to experience the fullness of His glory and blessing.

Judah too was guilty of sins in that the leaders moved God’s ordained landmarks, boundaries between right and wrong, good and bad. The people of Judah fell into sin because their leaders told them some sins were now acceptable. As a result, they too were held accountable for their actions and had to be disciplined. Many of our religious and political leaders are doing this today. They give passes and change their interpretation of the Word to fit the standard of society instead of pushing society into fitting the standard of God – thereby leading countless people into sin and destruction.

In dealing with Israel and Judah, The Lord was first like a moth or dry rot, slowly and devouring their possessions. Moths eat away at clothes – that which covers your body in public. Dry rot eats away at the wood in homes – that which provides shelter from the elements. The Lord was slowly taking away the things they took for granted in order to get their attention and to cause them to repent and return to him before more drastic measures would be taken. Neither Israel nor Judah heeded the subtle correction of the Lord in private. Instead of repenting and returning, they chose to walk away from Him and continue in their sin. The Lord responded by attacking them publicly since they would not heed His call. He was like a lion to Israel, attacking them with full force due to their sins. To Judah He was like a young lion and was less severe. Regardless of the severity, neither could be saved by any person or nation. When the Lord himself enacts judgement, no one can save the one being judged except for the Lord. In verses 14-15 the Lord paints the picture of the lion returning to His lair. This infers that the lion went out to seek and capture his prey. In this same way, the Lord shows that in dealing with Israel and Judah, He stepped down from His throne of Grace, meaning He would no longer show them mercy. Like a lion, He would return back to His throne until the people acknowledged their sin, accept the discipline, and return to Him with repentant hearts. If you notice in verses 14 and 15 the Lion doesn’t devour it’s prey, He carries it off. Although we may go through some pain when God has to take drastic measures to return us to Him, He isn’t seeking to destroy or devour us such that we do not recover. He knows that sometimes it takes distress and affliction for people to wake up and return to Him. However, distress and affliction aren’t the purpose in and of itself. The purpose is for people to return to Him in a relationship.


Key Points and Application

  • Leaders will be held more accountable for their sins and for leading people astray. However, people will also be held accountable for sheepishly following sins and commands that are contrary to the Lord and His decrees. We need to know the truth by staying rooted in Him through the Word and we then need to live and walk in truth.
  • The enemy will use leaders and those in power to cause people to sin. For those he can’t entice to sin he will seek to silence or destroy. However, take heart for “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord” – Isaiah 54:17
  • We must recognize the Lord as Lord and trust in Him alone. There can be only one God in our lives. When we put our faith in man we will be led astray, we will fall, and can be oppressed by the very hand to which we sought help. God is our source, not man, and only God truly has our best interest at heart.
  • When we sin and turn away from God, we allow spirits to take hold in our lives where God should be. God will try to get our attention to repent and return, but if we don’t respond then we risk falling deeper into sin. For leaders, this has an exponential impact. As the kings of Israel went into idol worship and spiritual prostitution against the lord, the spirt of prostitution came over the entire nation. Therefore, leaders have a responsibility to lead according to the Word, but the people must also choose good leaders – otherwise we all fall.
  • Pride before the fall. Israel arrogantly believed their own desires and opinions mattered more than God’s. The king of Israel did not heed the warnings of the man of God. Israel and Judah, in their pride, did not heed the instructions of the prophets but instead actively persecuted them. Because of their pride, they rejected those who God sent to help them, and thereby rejected the Lord. We must not be pride for or arrogant to refuse loving correction and we must not lean on our own strength or understanding. Otherwise, we will surely fall.
  • We must raise our children in the true knowledge of God. When we raise teach them things that are contrary to the Word then we set them on a path of sin and separation from Him that prevents Him from recognizing them as His children when they are older.
  • We (both people and leaders), must stop moving the lines and boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable to the Lord. We must call sin what it is and hold up the standard, not acquiesce to what we or others want in order to fulfill our own desires. Moving the fence does not change the legal property bounds on the deed.
  • We must repent and seek the Lord wholeheartedly. If our desire for Him is superficial or self-service then He will keep His face hidden from us.
  • When the Lord disciplines His people, He first starts with correction at home and in private (i.e. moth and dry-rot) to get our attention and to put us on the right path. However, if we refuse and reject the subtle, private, and minor rebuke then He comes with full-force in a public display. It’s better to have private correction than public shame. God will do what is necessary to get our attention in order to return us to Him, but it is our choice if we will be receptive and proactive, heed the moths, and seek Him or if we will suffer the lion. He desires a relationship with us, a real relationship built on a solid foundation. He doesn’t desire to punish us or afflict us – which is why He gives us mercy and countless chances to return to Him. However, whether it takes a moth or a lion, discipline is only for a season. Condemnation is not the purpose, relationship is.