Hosea 13

DateVersionReading Plan
@November 4, 2023ESV (2016)ESV Prophets Plan 2023


  • The Lord’s Relentless Judgment on Israel


The chapter opens with how there was trembling when Ephraim spoke. Israel had prominence among the northern tribes but threw it away through their contempt of God’s law. Their worship of Baal was a capital offense and incurred bloodguilt. Their sin compounded as they made metal images for themselves. Baal worship involved child sacrifice and it was said that those who did such things “kiss calves” (Hos. 13:2), a sign of respect or devotion (1 Kings 19:18). They would therefore blow away, comparing them to 1) “the morning mist”, 2) “the dew that goes away early”, 3) “chaff that swirls from the threshing floor” and 4) “smoke from a window” (Hos. 13:3).

In Hos. 13:4-8, God declares who He is and that He is the only Savior. Hosea here invokes the exodus traditions to assert Yahweh’s sovereignty (compare Isaiah 43:11). It was God who knew them in their wilderness, but when they became full, they forgot Him. He would thus respond like a carnivorous animal, falling on them “like a bear robbed of her cubs” and “devour them like a lion” (Hos. 13:8). The prophets regularly used wild animals to symbolize divine judgment (Ezek. 5:17; Jer. 5:6; Hos. 5:14).

Hos. 13:9-11 depicts God against Israel as they were against Him. God rhetorically asks where their earthly king was now to save them, the one whom they said, “Give me a king and princes” (Hos. 13:10). In His anger, God gave them a king and took him away in His wrath. (Hos. 13:11). This alludes to 1 Sam. 8:4-5 in which Samuel was approached to appoint a king, his warning against earthly kings, the Lord’s granting of the request and the choosing of Saul to become king.

In Hos. 13:12-13, the iniquity of Ephraim’s iniquity is described as “bound up” and “his sin is kept in store.” (Hos. 13:12). The pangs of childbirth came for him (God’s corrective measures), but “he is an unwise son” (Hos. 13:13). He did not present himself at the “opening of the womb”, representing a lack of repentance despite God’s judgments.

In Hos. 13:14, God says that He will “ransom them from the power of Sheol” and “redeem them from Death”. As in Hos. 6:1-2, although Israel was doomed, the Lord is able to bring life out of death. Paul quotes this verse in 1 Cor. 15:55 in saying how God’s power makes personal, bodily resurrection possible, as well as national renewal.

The remaining verses (Hos. 13:15-16) are of God’s judgment though Israel was flourishing “among his brothers” (Hos. 13:15). The “east wind” will come and have a multitude of disastrous effects. This would be the dreadful destruction of Israel and Samaria by the Assyrians. Samaria would bear hear guilt and the Assyrian takeover would be brutal; “little ones shall be dashed in pieces” and Israel’s “pregnant women ripped open.” (Hos. 13:16).


Israel was once respected among neighboring nations, but this had since dissolved due to their iniquity and idolatry. God reminds them that it was He who provided for them in the wilderness. However, once they became full, they forgot Him and sought provision and salvation by other means. Their sin clung to them and would now bear their guilt through the brutal Assyrian destruction.

As God recounts the disregard of the people in the wilderness, we get a sharp warning as to the effects of worldly success. We should enjoy and be thankful for God’s blessings but remain ever watchful of potential idolatrous attachment. It requires a constant vigilance and is only achieved through our abiding in Him, looking upon Him in delight as our greatest love.

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