God doesn’t give up on Israel
“I call Israel my son”1I loved Israel from the beginning,
When he was just a little boy.
I called him my son
And led him out of Egypt.
2But the more I embraced him,
The more distant he became.
He sacrificed to Baal, 
And he burned incense to idols.
3For heaven’s sake, I taught Ephraim  to walk.
I carried him in my arms.
He didn’t realize how much I helped him.
4I led him along the way
With kindness and love.
I treated him like a parent lifting a baby,
To cuddle cheek to cheek.
I took a knee to feed him. 
Israel’s Assyrian king5But now Israel is going back to “Egypt,” 
With Assyria as their king.
They wanted nothing to do with me.
6War rushes into their towns,
Killing their fraud prophets
And putting an end to their wicked plans.
7Israel stubbornly continues to reject me.
They call me their God above all gods.
But I’ll give them no points for that. 
After Israel’s punishment in Assyria8How can I give up on you, Ephraim.
Israel, how can I give you to your enemies?
How can I obliterate you like Admah 
And wipe you out like Zeboiim?
9I’m going to rein in my anger.
I won’t obliterate Ephraim.
I’m God. I can hold back the anger
Because I’m more than human.
I’m the Devoted  One, devoted to you
And living here with you.
I won’t come angry when I come back to you.
10The people will come home to the LORD.
He’ll roar like a lion to call them in,
His scattered children
Returning from their journey. 
11They’ll fly home from “Egypt”
Like trembling sparrows.
They’ll race home from Assyria, 
Like doves with the shakes.
When they return, I’ll make a place for them.
I’ll put them back in their homes.
That’s the promise of God.
12Ephraim has surrounded me with lies.
Wherever I turn in Israel, I see fraud.
Judah is unfaithful, too.
They’ve betrayed the Devoted One, 
The Holy One who’s devoted to them.
Baal was a god of fertility in family, fields, and flocks. Canaanites, who were native to what is now Israel and Palestinian land, worshiped Baal. Joshua led the Jews in killing many Canaanites while the Jews reclaimed the land that the Bible says God promised to the descendants of Abraham. But Jews continued to worship Baal and other Middle Eastern gods off and on throughout Old Testament times. Some scholars say the idea behind one worship ritual was to entertain Baal by letting him watch people have sex. They did this so he would make it rain. It’s a tad gross, but some taught that the rain was Baal’s semen. So, if the sex of worshipers got Baal stimulated enough, he would make it rain in this predominately dry part of the world.
“Ephraim” is another name for the Northern Jewish nation of Israel. It was the dominant tribe. The first northern king came from Ephraim. It’s a tribe located at the center of what had been the united nation of Israel, before the split. Ephraim’s southern border was just half a day’s walk north of Jerusalem.
Some scholars say this verse doesn’t read like it’s the original. Part of it seems to shift from a metaphor about children to a metaphor about animals. A more literal version of the first line talks about God leading Israel “with cords of human kindness” and removing “the yoke from their jaws.” Whether this should read as a metaphor about an animal or the child in the previous verses, the message is the same. God loved Israel and treated the people with kindness and with the depth of love that brings a parent and a baby (or a pet owner and a pet) cheek to cheek.
They probably aren’t going back to Egypt literally. Egypt seems to work as a symbol for slavery, the loss of everything good, and a return to everything Israel hated from their days in Egypt in the time of Moses. As the next line reports, they’re headed to Assyria, headquartered in what is now northern Iraq.
Scholars are uncertain how to understand this verse. Some say it’s possible Hosea meant to say that Israel grew tired of rejecting God, so they returned to him and praised him. Pretty much the opposite of what we have here. In addition, the Hebrew reference to God, el, might have been to Baal. Some scholars take God out of this verse and put Baal in there.
Admah and Zeboiim were erased from existence in the explosive fireball that consumed Sodom, Gomorrah, and other cities in the Jordan River plain, perhaps south of the Dead Sea (Genesis 10:19; 14:2-8; Deuteronomy 29:23).
This is usually translated “Holy.” But given the context, it might be best to select one of the other words that comes from the Hebrew term qādôš: devoted, consecrated, dedicated. God is holy, as the Bible teaches us. He’s unique, good, and kind. But he is also devoted and dedicated to his people. In the Old Testament, that seems to be the ancestors of today’s Jewish people. Yet the story of Jonah reveals God’s love for even the vicious terrorists of the day: Assyrians of northern Iraq. The New Testament expands it to people all over the world.
The children return from yam, a Hebrew word that can mean: sea, west, in the direction of the Mediterranean Sea, or seashore. The problem is that Israel in exile would return from the east, not the west, and from the desert, not the sea. Wherever they came from, they came back to the LORD. That’s what Hosea predicts.
There’s no indication that many in Israel returned from Assyria. Some apparently did (2 Chronicles 31), but not enough to jumpstart the fallen nation. The tribes who had lived up there in the northern Jewish kingdom of Israel became known as the Lost Tribes of Israel. However, Jews from the southern nation of Judah did return in numbers large enough to begin reconstituting the nation. They rebuilt Jerusalem and, for a time, found independence from what became Greek overlords—ruled by leftover generals of Alexander the Great.
This is usually translated “Holy One,” without explanation. But given the context, it might be best to add “Devoted One.” That’s because several words come from the Hebrew term for “Holy One,” qādôš: devoted, consecrated, dedicated. God is holy, as the Bible teaches us. He’s unique, good, and kind. But he is also devoted and dedicated to his people. Here, he’s the opposite of Judah. That’s assuming we guessed right about Judah in this verse. Some Bibles say Judah remained faithful to God. Others, such as this one, follows the theme of the verse and guesses the opposite. The Hebrew language here isn’t clear.
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