Hosea 5

DateVersionReading Plan
@October 27, 2023ESV (2016)ESV Prophets Plan 2023


  • Punishment Coming for Israel and Judah


The chapter opens with Hosea announcing to the house of Israel that judgment is for them. It is an exhortation directed against the corrupt leaders. They had been a “snare at Mizpah” and “a net spread upon Tabor” (Hos. 5:1). Mizpah and Mount Tabor are described as a snare and a net respectively because of the unauthorized sanctuary at Mizpah (Jer. 41:4–6) and a high place on Mount Tabor, where false religion was practiced.

In Hos. 5:2-7, the declaration continues and that God will discipline “all of them” (Hos. 5:2). God was well aware of how Ephraim (Israel) “played the whore” (Hos. 5:3), an idiom used 9x by Hosea to describe Israel’s idolatry. Their wickedness prohibited their return to God and the “spirit of whoredom” within them prevented them from knowing the LORD (Hos. 5:4). Israel will stumble and Judah will follow suit, stumbling with them (Hos. 5:5). Although unable to repent (Hos. 5:4), Israel sought God’s favor with flocks and herds (1 Sam. 15:14–15; 2 Chron. 18:2; Ps. 50:7–15). Some people seek the LORD and do not find him because they come with gifts and labor rather than a “broken and humbled heart” (Ps 51:17; see Isaiah 1:10–15; Amos 5:21–24). Israel’s leaders had produced a generation of “alien children” who did not know God and were therefore “not my people” (Hos. 5:7).

In Hos. 5:8-12, commands the horn to be blown in Gibeah and the trumpet in Ramah. These cities were in Benjamin between Ephraim (the northern kingdom of Israel) and Judah. The battle alarm would be sounded because a battle would be fought there. The outcome would be desolation for Israel (Hos. 5:9) and divine fury for Judah (Hos. 5:10). The princes of Judah are described as those who “move the landmark” (Hos. 5:10), breaking the law forbidding the movement of a boundary stone and thus stealing property (Deut. 19:14). Judah’s aggression here is akin to theft. God is like a “moth to Ephraim” and “dry rot to the house of Judah” (Hos. 5:13), striking similes for God to use of Himself and picturing a man whose festering wounds were divinely inflicted.

The remaining verses (Hos. 5:13-15) are of Ephraim seeking worldly refuge in Assyria upon seeing his sickness, but they were not able to cure their wound. Contrasting the Assyrian powerlessness to deliver is God’s power to destroy and enact judgment for their faithlessness; that He will be like “a lion to Ephraim, and a young lion to the house of Judah.” (Hos. 5:14). God would leave them until they acknowledged their guilt and solemnly sought His face (Hos. 5:15).


Hosea declares that judgment is coming for Israel and Judah. Their leaders had led an entire generation to not know the Lord. They were so far afield that their deeds did not permit them to return to their God. He would thus return to his place until they reached bottom and, in their distress, earnestly seek Him.

There were a couple of things that seemed to stand out in this chapter. First, is that the (idolatrous) deeds of Israel took away their ability to return to their God (Hos. 5:4). Where sin is present, faithfulness is absent. They are mutually exclusive. The more we place our faith in the things of this world and lean on them for our fulfillment, the more strained and compromised our worship of God will become. It is only when we see the worthlessness of our deeds and the inability of worldly things to deliver that proper worship can be restored.

Next was that God returned to His place until the Israelites acknowledged their guilt and sought His face. God’s punishment was the removal of Himself from His people. There is no blessing apart from Him and so His withdrawal would inevitably lead to despair. This He does intentionally to cultivate awareness of our great need for Him; to identify Him not only as Creator but the Sustainer and continuous Provider of all good things.

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