5 Eternal One: Hear this, you priests! Pay attention, you leaders of Israel! Hear all of you in the royal court, My judgment is against you! You’ve been a snare at Mizpah, a net spread out on Mount Tabor; you’ve led the people astray: 2 Those who have revolted against Me have dug a deep pit of slaughter, so I’m going to punish all of you.
God is describing the fate of those rebellious leaders who have dug a deep hole: because of their depravity, they will be led to slavery in shackles.
Hosea’s prophecy is fulfilled in 722 b.c., when Shalmaneser V leads his Assyrian army to conquer Samaria, the capital city of Israel. But leveling the city and slaughtering countless citizens isn’t what ends Israel’s legacy. In the years following the war, Sargon II systematically deports the remaining Israelites to cities in the Assyrian Empire and repopulates Samaria with foreigners to suppress future rebellions. This policy decimates the cultures of the ten tribes who inhabited the Northern Kingdom and leads to the fabled “Lost Tribes of Israel.”
It may be assumed that the members of the ten tribes assimilate into their new cultures and abandon their history and religion; they simply blend into their surroundings to survive. However, in the third century a.d., Christian poet Commodian compiles the writings of several early rabbis and weaves the story of the ten tribes’ post-deportation lives. These ten tribes reside in a sort of paradise beyond a river, where everyone lives long lives, experiences no pain, and follows God’s laws. One day, the story goes, these tribes will return to Jerusalem, recapture her, and dwell in her.
3 I know Ephraim; Israel isn’t hiding from Me. Even now Ephraim plays the part of a whore; Israel is covering herself in impurity. 4 They’re so caught up in their way of life that they can’t return to their God. They have a spirit of prostitution within them, so they don’t know Me; I am the Eternal One.
5 The pride of Israel testifies against her to her very face. Israel (which is called Ephraim) will stagger because of its guilt. Judah, too, will stagger with them. 6 They’ll go with their flocks and their herds to seek Me, offering a multitude of sacrifices, but they won’t find Me because they are abandoned. 7 They’ve been unfaithful to Me, the Eternal, and produced defiled, illegitimate children. Now at a new moon, a foreign nation will devour them and their fields.
8 Blow the ram’s horn in Gibeah, sound the trumpet in Ramah, and raise a war cry in Beth-aven. Even as your cities fall, Benjamin, more armies are behind you! 9 Ephraim will be devastated when they are punished with this invasion from the south. (This is sure to happen, and I’m announcing it to all the tribes of Israel!) 10 But I’ll also punish the leaders of Judah— I’ll pour out My wrath on them like water— Because they’re trying to snatch this territory of Benjamin’s. They’ve become like the dishonest people who move boundary-stones. 11 Ephraim is oppressed, crushed by punishment, because he insists on pursuing empty ways and trusting others to save him.
12 In My judgments I’m like a disease that devours Ephraim as a moth eats wool, like an infected wound to the people of Judah. 13 But when Ephraim saw how sick he was and Judah saw his open sore, Ephraim went to Assyria and sent to the great king for relief. But a foreign ruler can’t cure you; he can’t heal your sore.
The great king is the king of Assyria from whom both Israel and Judah eventually seek help.
14 I’ll be like a lion to Ephraim, like a young lion to the people of Judah. I’ll tear them to pieces myself and make off with My kill. I’ll carry it away, and no one will be able to take it from Me. 15 I’ll go back to My lair and stay there until they admit their guilt and come looking for Me. In their distress, they’ll desperately try to find Me.
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