Against the false exterior cult (Hos 8:11-8:13)

“When Ephraim

Multiplied altars

To expiate sin,

They became to him

Altars for sinning.

Although I write

For him

The multitude

Of my instructions,

They are regarded

As a strange thing.

Although they offer

Choice sacrifices,

Yahweh does not accept them.

Although they eat

Sacrificed offerings,

Yahweh does not accept them.

Now he will remember

Their iniquity.

He will punish

Their sins.

They shall return

To Egypt.”

The territory of Ephraim, in the northern Israelite kingdom, multiplied the number of altars to ask for forgiveness of sins. In the eyes of Yahweh, they were actually altars of sinning. Yahweh had given them plenty of instructions, but they regarded them as strange sayings, ignoring them. They tried to offer choice sacrifice offerings and eat them. However, Yahweh would not accept them. Instead, he remembered their iniquity. He wanted to punish them for their sins. One of the punishments was to send them back to Egypt.

The providential meaning of the persecution (2 Macc 6:12-6:17)

“Now I urge those who read this book not to be depressed by such calamities. You ought to recognize that these punishments were designed not to destroy but to discipline our people. In fact, it is a sign of great kindness not to let the impious alone for long, but to punish them immediately. In the case of the other nations, the Lord waits patiently to punish them until they have reached the full measure of their sins. However, he does not deal in this way with us. So that he may not take vengeance on us afterward when our sins have reached their height, he never withdraws his mercy from us. Although he disciplines us with calamities, he does not forsake his own people. Let what we have said serve as a reminder. We must go on briefly with the story.”

Here is a little editorial note of the biblical writer. In fact, he used the first person singular “I.” He did not want the reader to be depressed by these incidents. These punishments came to the Jewish people in order to discipline them, not to destroy them. With other nations, the Lord waited until they were totally sinful before he punished them. God’s mercy was always with the Jews, even when they were sinful. Although he disciplines the Jews, he never abandons them. Now that the author has put in this little reminder, he was going to continue on with the story. This is a rare look at the perspective of this biblical author. The Jews were unique in that God was merciful, no matter what.

The curses or punishments (Lev 26:14-26:46)

“But if you do not obey me, and do not observe all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes and abhor my ordinances so that you will not observe all my commandments, and you break the covenant, I in turn will do this to you.  I will bring terror on you, consumption, and fever that waste the eyes and cause life to pine away.  You shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.  I will set my face against you.  You shall be struck down by your enemies.  Your foes shall rule over you.  You shall flee even though no one pursues you. If in spite of this you will not obey me, I will continue to punish you again sevenfold for your sins. I will break your proud glory.  I will make your sky like iron and your earth like copper.  Your strength shall be spent to no purpose.  Your land shall not yield its produce.  The trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.”

The reverse is true also. If you do not obey Yahweh and his commandments, he will punish you here and now.  The following curses will be on you:

1)      Terror will be upon you;

2)      Consumption will visit you;

3)      Fever will waste your eyes;

4)      Life will slip away;

5)      You will sow your seed in vain;

6)      Your enemies shall eat your crop;

7)      You will be struck down my your enemies;

8)      Your foes shall rule over you;

9)      You shall flee even though no one is pursuing you;

10)  Yahweh will punish you sevenfold for your sins;

11)  Yahweh will break your proud glory;

12)  Yahweh will make your sky like iron;

13)  Yahweh will make your earth like copper;

14)  Your strength shall be spent to no purpose;

15)  You land shall not yield its produce;

16)  The trees of the land will not yield their fruit;

“If you continue hostile to me, and will not obey me, I will continue to plague you sevenfold for your sins.  I will let loose the wild animals among you.  They shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock.  They will make you few in number.  Your roads shall be deserted.”

If you continue you disobedience further evil shall come upon you:

1)      Yahweh will plague you sevenfold for your sins;

2)      Yahweh will let loose wild animals against you:

3)      They will destroy your children;

4)      They will destroy your livestock;

5)      You will be few in number;

6)      Your roads shall be deserted.

 “If in spite of these punishments you have not turned back to me, but continue hostile to me, then I too will continue hostile to you.  I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.  I will bring the sword upon you, executing vengeance for the covenant.  If you withdraw within your cities, I will send pestilence among you. You shall be delivered into enemy hands.  When I break your staff of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven.  They shall dole out your bread by weight.  Although you eat, you shall not be satisfied.”

1)      Yahweh will strike sevenfold;

2)      Yahweh will bring the sword against you;

3)      Yahweh will execute vengeance for the covenant;

4)      Yahweh will send pestilence among you;

5)      Yahweh will deliver you into enemy hands;

6)      You shall lack bread;

7)      You shall eat and not be satisfied.

“But if, despite this, you disobey me, and continue hostile to me, I will continue hostile to you in fury.  I in turn will punish you myself sevenfold for your sins.  You shall eat the flesh of your sons.  You shall eat the flesh of your daughters. I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars. I will heap your carcasses on the carcasses of your idols.  I will abhor you.  I will lay your cities waste.  I will make your sanctuaries desolate.  I will not smell your pleasing odors.  I will devastate the land, so that your enemies who come to settle in it shall be appalled at it. You, I will scatter among the nations.  I will unsheathe the sword after you.  Your land shall be desolation.  Your cities shall be a waste.”

If you continue to disobey, Yahweh will continue to bring his sevenfold fury upon the Israelites with several punishments:

1)      You shall eat the flesh of your sons;

2)      You shall eat the flesh of your daughters;

3)      Yahweh will destroy your high places;

4)      Yahweh will cut down your incense altars;

5)      Yahweh will heap your carcasses on the carcasses of your idols;

6)      Yahweh will  abhor you;

7)      Yahweh will lay your cities waste;

8)      Yahweh  will may your sanctuaries desolate;

9)      Yahweh will not smell your pleasing odor;

10)  Yahweh will devastate the land;

11)  Your enemies will be appalled at how bad it is;

12)  Yahweh will scatter you among the nations;

13)  Yahweh will unsheathe the sword against you;

14)  Your land shall be in desolation;

17)  Your cities will be a waste.

 “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbath years as long as it lies desolate, while you are in the land of your enemies.  Then the land shall rest and enjoy its Sabbath years.  As long as it lies desolate, it shall have the rest it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were living on it.  As for those who survive, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies.  The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight.  They shall flee as one flees from the sword.  They shall fall even though no one pursues.  They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, even though none pursues.  You shall have no power to stand before your enemies.  You shall perish among the nations.  The land of your enemies shall devour you.  Those who survive shall languish in the land of your enemies. They shall languish because of the iniquities of their ancestors.

Your land will enjoy its Sabbath years because it is desolate.  Those who survived shall suffer also:

1)      They will be faint of heart;

2)      They will flee from the sword;

3)      They will fall even though no one pursues them;

4)      They will stumble over one another;

5)      They will have no power to stand against enemies;

6)      They will perish among the nations;

7)      They will be devoured by the land;

8)      They will languish in the land of their enemies.

 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their ancestors, in that they committed treachery against me.  Moreover, they continued hostile to me, so that I, in turn, continued hostile to them and brought them into the land of their enemies.  If then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob.  I will remember also my covenant with Isaac and also my covenant with Abraham.  I will remember the land.  The land shall be deserted by them, and enjoy its Sabbath years by lying desolate without them.  They shall make amends for their iniquity, because they dared to spurn my ordinances.  They abhorred my statutes.  Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, or abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them.  I am Yahweh their God.  But I will remember in their favor the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, to be their God.  I am Yahweh. These are the statutes and ordinances and laws which Yahweh established between himself and the people of Israel on Mount Sinai through Moses.”

All these curses, like the blessings, are for the here and now and not some after life promise or punishment.  They have sinned and they must suffer punishment or curses.  However there is redemption.  If they confess their iniquity and that of their ancestors, if they are humble and want to make amends, Yahweh will remember his covenant with Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham and how he brought them out of Egypt.  Yahweh will not break his covenant with them.  This is a two way covenant.  Yahweh expects the Israelites to keep his commandments.  He will then keep his promise that he gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  There should be no confusion.  These are the commandments that Yahweh gave to Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.