In a previous post I noted that God, not Assyria, was the real source of the punishment the kingdoms of Israel and Judah had experienced, and would continue to experience. The purpose of this punishment is made clear in the verse which opens the text we are looking at today.
Hosea 5:15. In verse 14 God had compared himself to a lion in relation to both kingdoms (Israel and Judah). Here, in verse 15 he indicates that he is returning to his place, perhaps to be understood figuratively as his lair, or lion’s den. I noted that such a designation was ironic, since the might of the Assyrian empire was often symbolized by a lion. In reality, it is God who is behind the troubles Israel and Judah are facing, Assyria is merely his instrument of punishment. Even more ironic is the fact that elsewhere in the Bible, God is often referred to as the Shepherd of his People (e.g. Psalms 23:1-3; Ps 95:7; Ps 100:3; Micah 7:14), and, it was, of course, a shepherds duty to protect the flock from lions and other wild beasts (1 Sam 17:34; Acts 20:28-30). God, however, makes it clear that he will not protect his flock but will attack it through Assyria.
Thus God is not willing to intervene and save his people. Instead, like a sated lion he will return to his place (the temple). At this point the lion imagery begins to break down as the purpose of his lion like action (attacking the flock) becomes clear. God wants his people to admit to their guilt (asham). Asham is a Hebrew verb meaning to be guilty. The noun form of the word is often used in cultic contexts and refers to the guilt offering (see Lev 5:6-7). To seek God is a technical term for approaching him in the temple for purpose of worship. God has brought distress upon the people for the purpose of bringing them to repentance and right worship
Hosea 6:1-3 The people understand this fact, but, amazingly do not really act upon it! God, through his prophet tells us the prayer they will offer, and it is a beautiful prayer indeed; but it is worthless.
The people talk about returning to the Lord, realizing that he has torn and stricken them (like a lion), but that he will also heal and bandage them. In other words, they show they know the purpose of the punishment, and they (seemingly) show trust in God’s mercy, acknowledging that a return to the Lord will lead to a quick response on his part (two days; three). His responding to them, they say, is a sure as the dawn, and as refreshing and life giving as a spring rain.
Hosea 6:4-7 But God sees through all their fine words and sentiments. They are not truly repentant, and they are not trusting in God’s mercy. Rather, they are trusting in their own presumptions about God. They described God’s response as being as sure as the dawn, but they themselves are mere morning clouds which the rising of the sun burns off, for they have no substance to them. They described God’s response in terms of a refreshing and life-giving spring rain, but they are nothing more than a light dew, soon evaporated by the rising sun.
This lack of love (hesed: covenant love, fidelity) is why God has sent the people prophets with words and threats and promises of judgment.
Since they despised God’s gentler warnings and measures, He used severer.. He hewed them, He says, as men hew stones out of the quarry, and with hard blows and sharp instruments overcome the hardness of the stone which they have to work. Their piety and goodness were light and unsubstantial as a summer cloud; their stony hearts were hjarder than material stone. The stone takes the shape which man would give it; God hews these people* in vain; they* will not receive the image of God, for which and in which they were* framed.
“God, elsewhere also, likens the force and vehemence of his word to ‘a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces;’ ‘a sword which pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit.’ He continually hammered, beat upon, disquieted them, and so vexed them (as they thought) even unto death, not allowing them to rest in their sins, not suffering them to enjoy themselves in them, but forcing them (as it were) to part with things which they loved as their lives and would as soon part with their souls as with them.” (E.B. Pusey, THE MINOR PROPHETS. public domain book. Italic texts marked with * represent amendments by me)
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice- This statement, much abused, is not a repudiation of sacrifice iteself, but, rather, a repudiation of the belief that sacrifice can be done without being based upon covenant hesed (love, fidelity).
But at Adam they transgressed the covenant, there they dealt faithlessly with me- the Masoretic text reads “like Adam”. Some see this as a reference to Adam’s sin of eating the fruit in the garden, however, the words “there they dealt faithlessly with me”, suggests that “Adam” is to be understood as a place name, rather than as a person. Adam is a place name ( a city) associated with the crossing of the Jordan (Joshua 3:16). This crossing of the Jordan represented God’s fulfillment of his covenant promises. It also brought into force the covenant obligations the chosen people agreed to take upon themselves. Perhaps Hosea is not referring to one specific sin. Rather, he is implying that the people, from the very start of their existence in the promised land, were not faithful to these obligations.