Hosea 10

DateVersionReading Plan
@November 1, 2023ESV (2016)ESV Prophets Plan 2023


  • The Lord Will Punish Israel


The chapter opens with describing Israel as a “luxuriant vine that yields its fruit”. They were experiencing immense prosperity but rather than having a heart of gratitude toward God, they used it to build more altars and improve their pillars for idol worship.

Hos. 10:2-4 continues in this vain and that the hearts of the people were false and would now bear their own guilt. God would “break down their altars and destroy their pillars” (Hos. 10:2). The people claimed that they had no need for a king, demonstrating just how far the nation of Israel had fallen. Originally at Mt. Sinai they had pledged themselves to God’s rule through Moses and Aaron. A long, continuous, downward apostasy followed, finally leading to a point where they could not even accept a king’s rule over them.

In Hos. 10:5-6, the inhabitants of Samaria are shown as trembling “for the calf at Beth-aven”, referring to the calf at Bethel. The mourning (possibly over the mythological “death” of the god in the dry season) and rejoicing (possibly over his rising again) were likely part of fertility worship. The false god would “carried to Assyria as a tribute to the great king” and “Israel shall be ashamed of his idol” (Hos. 10:6).

Hos. 10:7-8 tells of how the king of Samaria “shall perish like a twig on the face of the waters” (Hos. 10:7), denoting the transitory life of sin. When the high places for idol worship are destroyed, the people would cry out to be buried by the very places of their idolatry. (Deut. 12:2; Luke 23:30).

Hos. 10:9-10 are of how Israel had sinned “From the days of Gibeah” (10:9), a reference to when the tribes stood together in punishing the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 20). But since then, the history of Israel has been a record of sin. God will thus discipline them when He pleases and the nations shall be gathered against them to chasten a people united in sin.

Hos. 10:11-12 describes Ephraim (Israel) as “a trained calf that loved to thresh” (Hos. 10:11) but will put to the yoke by God. Once reserved for the light work of threshing grain, Israel would now be put under the yoke of captivity and Judah too to hard labor. They are called to sow righteousness for themselves in order to “reap steadfast love” (Hos. 10:12), an agricultural metaphor urging the people to prepare to accept God’s message and repent.

The remaining verses (Hos. 10:13-15) contrasts the previous verses in how Israel had “plowed iniquity” and “reaped injustice” (Hos. 10:13). They had “eaten the fruit of lies”, referring to idolatry and false hope placed in military power. While these look good (Gen. 3:6), they are ultimately unsatisfying and poisonous. They will therefore face the “tumult of war” (Hos. 10:14). Their fortresses would be destroyed as “Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle” (Hos. 10:14). Shalman may refer to the Assyrian king Shalmaneser, but the people were familiar with this event. A destruction would now be done for Bethel because of their “great evil” and the king of Israel “shall be utterly cut off.” (Hos. 10:15).


Israel was now looking at destruction and dispersion at the hand of the Assyrians. The people had experienced a time of great affluence but had squandered it for the construction of more altars and pillars for idol worship. God would confront this insolence with judgment and their powerless idol would be carried to Assyria “as tribute to the great king.” (Hos. 10:5).

It is important to see in this text how increased wealth can corrupt our need and appreciation of God. How easily are hearts can stray with the fullness of our bank accounts and plenteousness of our possessions. Our loving Lord knows this, which is why He speaks of selling our possessions, giving to the needy and focusing on our treasure in heaven (Luke 12:33). In this, He was not saying that we should place our heart with our treasure, but that wherever you find the treasure you WILL find the heart (ps. Richard Foster).

With this wayward predisposition now revealed, we should respond in gratitude to seasons of blessing but fight to keep our eyes fixed ever upward, looking to Him as our greatest treasure.

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