Hos 7:13-16 Woe to them, for they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, for they have rebelled against me! I would redeem them, but they speak lies against me. They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds; for grain and wine they gash themselves; they rebel against me. Although I trained and strengthened their arms, yet they devise evil against me. They return, but not upward; they are like a treacherous bow; their princes shall fall by the sword because of the insolence of their tongue. This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.
This passage contains phrases which are difficult to translate into English and even more difficult to accurately interpret regardless of language. There is no doubt that Israel was about to face mortal crisis. It is clear God would have rescued them had they not stubbornly remained in rebellion. As long as they remained attached to the foreign gods, their worship of YHWH was at best tainted and more accurately it should be described as an abomination. Their false worship made a lie of their original faith. “Wailing on their beds” and “gashing themselves” for grain and wine are very likely references to cult practices including ritual prostitution and self-mutilation or perhaps tattoos. These practices were intended generate bountiful crops. God was their source of strength and they forsook Him for pleasures that seemed right in to their broken human thinking. The Hebrew term translated “Redeem” literally means to “buy back” in the legal sense. The fall of Israel is not what God wanted, but because the people rejected God so completely they were going to have to face dire consequences. Hos 7:16 contains some very difficult to translate and interpret language, but the basic idea is that they look everywhere except to God and heaven. Hosea aptly compares them to a defective bow that can’t shoot straight. The final phrases regarding the tongue and Egypt, though difficult to translate clearly, are essentially are saying that Samaria’s leadership will be slain for talking to Egypt. As the record of 2 Ki 17:4 shows, this came to pass exactly as Hosea predicted. Hosea’s prophecy for Israel applied directly and specifically to Israel. In spite of its startling accuracy of detail, the lessons intended for the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah are eternal, unchanging, and as applicable today as they were in the second half of the eighth century BC. God desires pure and honest worship. He is creator of the universe and redeemer of all the lost who would seek Him first and only. We play a dangerous game when we pretend religion yet live our lives with hearts cold to the fire of the Holy Spirit.