Commentary on Hosea chapter 5
Hosea in Chapter Five tells us how the Ten Tribes will be wicked and sin. Judah will also sin and will imitate Ephraim. Consequently Judah will suffer as well. Ephraim will seek to buy his way into heaven by use of his wealth. The men of Ephraim will have borne children to foreign women. This will prevent their repentance being acceptable. Nevertheless, Ephraim will retain a degree of Biblical Awareness though not enough of it. Ephraim will seek the help of Assyria but this will be to no avail. Judah due to oppression will return to its religion and to the Land of Israel at an early stage and prepare the way for the other Tribes.
[Hosea 5:1] Hear this, O priests! Take heed, O house of Israel! Give ear, O house of the king! For yours is the judgment,
Because you have been a snare to Mizpah And a net spread on Tabor.
Mizpeh was the name of several settlements including one in Gilead east of the Jordan and another in Benjamin north of Jerusalem. Hosea is here referring to the one in Benjamin. Tabor was in the Lower Galilee and may have been a cultic center for some of the Israelite Tribes.
Daat Mikra points out that Mount Tabor was at the crossroads of Zebulon, Issachar, and Naphtali. Mizpeh was in Benjamin. Both were strategically placed points at which the Kings of Israel set up armed watches to prevent Israelites from attending the festivals in the Temple at Jerusalem.
[Hosea 5:2] The revolters are deeply involved in slaughter, Though I rebuke them all.
This verse from the Hebrew may alternately be translated as:
# And murder was being committed by serious Perverters [Hebrew: Saetim]. I upbraided all of them. #
Exactly what crime was committed we do not know. The offence was ongoing. It involved murder and perversion. The Prophet Hosea preached against everyone involved with it. Today in our society murders and perversions occur. The Law does not always prevent this but in some cases even enables it to happen. Rights for Homosexuals sometimes mean the exploitation of young people who otherwise would have gone along a different path.
[Hosea 5:3] I know Ephraim, And Israel is not hidden from Me; For now, O Ephraim, you commit harlotry; Israel is defiled.
Ephraim is synonymous with the Ten Tribes of Israel.
[Hosea 5:4] They do not direct their deeds toward turning to their God, For the spirit of harlotry is in their midst,
And they do not know the LORD.
[Hosea 5:5] The pride of Israel testifies to his face; Therefore Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also stumbles with them.
The arrogance of Israel is written on his face. He is not ashamed of what he did, nor does he regret it. His offence has become an obstacle in his path. Judah is also caught up in these crimes. In general the Prophets were against Judah and Ephraim forming too close a union. The usual reason was that Judah was inclined to copy the bad example of the northern kingdom instead of the opposite. Instead of Ephraim copying Judah and returning to worship the God of Israel, Judah was misled by Ephraim. We learn in the Bible how Jehoshaphat king of Judah formed an alliance with the King of Israel. Together they participated in a project to send ships to Tarshish in the West Atlantic area probably Tartessos in Spain. The ships were destroyed and the investment came to naught. Scripture says this was a punishment from Heaven against Jehoshapat. The king of Judah had offended by teaming up with the King of Israel who was a wicked man.
35 After this Jehoshaphat king of Judah allied himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who acted very wickedly. 36 And he allied himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish, and they made the ships in Ezion Geber. 37 But Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah, the LORD has destroyed your works. Then the ships were wrecked, so that they were not able to go to Tarshish.
We see here that the project of the King of Judah was doomed to failure because it involved an alliance with the King of Israel whose potential pernicious influence was condemned by the Prophet.
[Hosea 5:6] With their flocks and herds They shall go to seek the LORD, But they will not find Him; He has withdrawn Himself from them.
They shall seek to placate the Almighty with sacrifices and monetary offerings but this will not be sufficient.
[Hosea 5:7] They have dealt treacherously with the LORD, For they have begotten pagan children. Now a New Moon shall devour them and their heritage.
The word translated here as "pagan children" in Hebrew are "banim zarim" i.e. "strange [or foreign] children." This is understood as referring to children born from non-Israelite mothers which is one of the reasons (says the Talmud, Yebamot 17) the Ten Tribes were disowned until the End Times. The Ten Tribes in their places of exile did not always hold themselves back from intermarriage with non-Israelites.
The Talmud and the Law
The Talmud, Yebamot 17 a/b says that the Lost Ten Tribes are to have the status of Gentiles for all intents and purposes. The Commentary "Keren Orah" (R. Yitzchak of Karlin, 1780s) sums up the case quite succinctly:
# From their understanding of Scripture (Hosea 5:7 ) the Sages declared the Ten Tribes to have the same status as Gentiles for all intents and purposes. They made this decision through the authority of the Prophets and the Divine Inspiration they [i.e. the Sages] had...all others [i.e. Jews] who were assimilated amongst the Gentiles are assumed to have the same status [as the Ten Tribes, i.e. as Gentiles, but being destined to return. ] #
The Ten Tribes before their exile worshipped idols (2-Kings chs. 17,18). They were in fact pagans. For religious scholars who find this concept difficult to accept (as many seem to do) it should be mentioned that according to the Torah (as explained by authorities such as the Vilna Gaon) Israelite inhabitants of an "ir ha-nidachat" (city whose inhabitants have all committed idolatry, Deuteronomy ch.13) are also all considered legally the same as Gentiles, regardless of their indisputable Israelite ancestry.
In the future the Ten Tribes will return and will once again receive the yoke of the Torah. This is confirmed by the simple meaning of the Bible. The Abarbanel ("Mashmia Yishua") implies that whosoever does not accept the eventual return of the Ten Tribes in effect is guilty of denying the Truth of Scripture. This is confirmed by other sources. Rabbi Akiva (Sanhedrin 110b) is often quoted as saying that the Ten Tribes will not return. He was however (in this case) overruled by Rabbi Elazar who asserted that the Tribes definitely will come back. Later Commentators (consistent with Rashi) explained even Rabbi Akiva to have been speaking only concerning the Ten Tribes in his own generation and not those of the future. The Bible expressly says that the Ten Tribes will return and it is difficult to imagine Rabbi Akiva going against an express Biblical message. The Sages declared, "Halacha [Lawful enactment see Tosefta to Yebamot] the Ten Tribes will return."
The Lost Ten Tribes will Return. In the meantime the Ten Tribes have the same status as all other non-Jews. Apart from the Declared Law there are numerous other reasons why this ruling is upheld. No living person, for instance, can prove with objective certainty that they really are descended from the Lost Ten Tribes. At the most, they may (with the help of evidence such as that produced by Brit-Am) say with a reasonable degree of probability that they well may be descended from Ancient Israelites. This is not sufficient for an individual but when dealing with whole communities in the same situation an authoritative body such as the Sanhedrin may be able to come up with some kind of solution. At the End Times there will be an ingathering.
According Abarbanel (Mashmia Yishua, 2;3) at that time the returnees will include descendants of Jews who were forced in Spain and Portugal to convert to Catholicism, known as Conversos. They will return and will come with their non-Israelite women and their children who will be recognized. It will not be as it was in the time of Ezra when the foreign women with their children were sent away (Ezra 10:3). We may assume that the same may hold for the Lost Ten Tribes.
On the other hand a passage in The Zohar (VaYechi, mi eleh) suggests that the Ten Tribes when they return will be able to testify to having not intermixed with foreigners. The Zohar is known to in places contradict itself or to say things that are simply not accepted by any other authority. Nevertheless, the two opinions exist.
Hosea 5:7 ends with the expression translated as, "Now a New Moon shall devour them and their heritage." The word translated as New Moon is "Chadesh" which means new but not necessarily new moon. The word for moon is not mentioned in the Hebrew original.
We would translate the expression from the Hebrew as saying,
# Now newcomers will inherit their portion in the land. #
[Hosea 5:8] Blow the rams horn in Gibeah, The trumpet in Ramah! Cry aloud at Beth Aven, Look behind you, O Benjamin!
[Hosea 5:9] Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke; Among the tribes of Israel I make known what is sure.
THE MESSAGE FROM HEAVEN IS THAT AMONGST THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL, SOME KIND OF BIBLICAL KNOWLEDGE IS ASSUMED.
[Hosea 5:10] The princes of Judah are like those who remove a landmark; I will pour out My wrath on them like water.
# like those who remove a landmark #: Hebrew "ce-masigi-gevul" meaning encroaching on the border, trespassing, i.e. Judah behaved like "squatters" on the territory of Ephraim. They were so eager to imitate Ephraim it was as if they were "stealing" the identity of Ephraim and encroaching on his "territory." In other words Judah will be so eager to copy "Joseph" that he could be accused of attempted impersonation. The Prophet speaks with sarcasm ("Daat Mikra").
[Hosea 5:11] Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, Because he willingly walked by human precept.
The expression translated here as "human precept" is "Tsav." It comes here instead of the usual word for commandment "mitzvah." The intention here by use of the term "human precept" appears to be convention or exigency. Ephraim obeyed what was socially expected of him even though this involved going against the Will of God. When I was young I worked for a while in a government office in Australia. It was a hot summer and I noticed that many of the men came to work in shorts. One day I too turned up in shorts. The section overseer called me in to his office. He told me that henceforth if I wish to wear shorts I must wear long white sox with them. I then noticed that all the men wearing shorts were indeed also with long white sox. Meanwhile many of the younger females were wearing very little. The law about white sox was not based on any idea of modesty or aesthetics but more a sense of accepted behavior for its own sake. In other words there is no such thing being free of the constraints of law or convention. Even lawbreakers have their rigmarole, etiquette, and order of decorum. The only difference is what laws one obeys.
To whom does one owe loyalty?
[Hosea 5:12] Therefore I will be to Ephraim like a moth, And to the house of Judah like rottenness.
[Hosea 5:13] When Ephraim saw his sickness, And Judah saw his wound, Then Ephraim went to Assyria And sent to King Jareb;
Yet he cannot cure you, Nor heal you of your wound.
The Assyrians today have been identified with Germany which also includes portions of Gomer, Canaan, and Edom. Once many Israelites lived in Germany though most emigrated before the 1st and 2nd World Wars. Many of the migrants from Germany in the 1800s were of Israelite ancestry. They came from specific areas and were often of their own type. They who did not move out to North America but remained behind were not on the whole of Hebrew origin.
KING JAREB: "Jareb" in Hebrew is "Yarev" and connotes "quarrel" or "contention." The Commentators are divided concerning the intention of this expression. Some say it represents Assyria in general; others say it means King Tiglathpileser; while still others offer alternate solutions.
[Hosea 5:14] For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, And like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear them and go away;
I will take them away, and no one shall rescue.
[Hosea 5:15] I will return again to My place Till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.
# In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me #: Judah will be oppressed and will seek to return to God and the Land of Israel before the End Times. This is what is happening at present. Returning to the God of Israel ultimately involves returning to the Land of Israel. The book "Am HaBonim" (quoting from Rabbi Zvi Kalischer) applies this verse to the Future Redemption and the Future Return of Judah and the Ten Tribes.
Rabbi Zvi Kalisher (1795-1874) believed in the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel and the establishment of a religious state. He wrote books and was active in propagating his ideas. His work has important ideological and theological implications.
"AM HABANIM SMAYCHA" (that quotes Rabbi Kalishcer) is a much revered book written by Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Taechtael, Budapest, Hungary. The author was murdered by the Germans during the Holocaust. In his book, he suggests (based on recognized religious sources) that the Jews suffered so much partly because they did not sufficiently support the Zionist ideal.
Here is the relevant quotations from "AM HABANIM SMAYCHA":
"s.79: I saw in the book "Drishat Tsion" [by Rabbi Zvi Kalisher] an inquiry concerning the words of Nachmanides ["Ramban"] on Isaiah 56:8, # The LORD GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him # (Isaiah 56:8).
"This verse is explained: In the beginning will be gathered many of the outcasts of Israel but not all of them. After the War of Gog and Magog will the above-quoted expression, "Yet I will gather to him others", be pertinent: Meaning that they will once again be ingathered together with those who were gathered previously. This applies to those who were lost in the Land of Assyria (Isaiah 27:13) from the Lost Ten Tribes. They will be regathered.
"If a great community of those who were lost in the Assyrian Exile would be ingathered first of all, how could they be brought to a wasted and desolate country? Without doubt they will have to be preceded [by their brothers from Judah] in order that the land may bring forth bread. Afterwards all of them will be able to come to country full of God's blessing.
"The wilderness shall be a fruitful field" (cf. Isaiah 32:15), full of fields and vineyards restored by the hand of Israelites.
In other words the Jews shall return, establish a State and build it up. Later the Ten Tribes shall return, join themselves to Judah, and further develop and expand the Land. Judah will have laid the preparatory basis for all this. This may be what is happening in our time. Perhaps the State of Israel is preparing the way for the Return of the Lost Ten Tribes, or part of them?