A Cake Unturned (Hosea 7) March 5
In chapter 7 we see Israel's widespread corruption. Again Hosea warns Israel of its failure to heed the warnings. Samaria, the capital, may be representative or symbolic of the whole nation.
Hosea uses "fire" and "oven" in several similes here (verses 4-8). The word in verse 6 translated "baker" in the New King James Version is translated as "passion" or the like in other versions. "The people in their zeal for this sin were compared to a heated oven—a striking illustration of lust. The oven was so hot that a baker could cease tending the fire during an entire night—while the dough he had mixed was rising—and then, with a fresh tending of the fire in the morning, have sufficient heat for baking at that time. In…verses [5-7] the prophet gave an example of the kind of sin that resulted from such inflamed passion: the assassination of the king. Hosea saw it happening on a special day, a festival day, for the king. During the festivities the ringleaders planning the crime became drunk, and the king with them. Keeping the figure of the oven, the prophet stated that the hearts of the plotters were hot with desire to perform their treacherous deed. Each time they were near the king, their hearts flamed up, as they contemplated their deed. They waited during the night, however, with their passion smoldering like the baker's fire, anticipating the morning" (Expositor's, note on verses 3-7). "The background of these verses is the political turmoil of the northern kingdom. During a 20-year period (752-732 b.c.), four Israelite kings were assassinated (see 2 Kin. 15)" (Nelson Study Bible, note Hosea 7:4-7).
Israel's sins were not only internal, but extended to their relations with other nations. The language of verse 8 ("mixed himself") indicates that entanglement in foreign alliances, and adoption of their ways, was deliberate on Israel's part. "The Israelites associated with and adopted heathen people and customs. a cake not turned, i.e., like a pancake that is burned on one side and uncooked on the other and is therefore altogether useless" (Harper Study Bible, 1991, note on verse 8). There is certainly a parallel here for Christians. Spiritually, while we are to interact with the world, we are not to become entangled in it or adopt its ways, particularly its ways of worship. Quite the contrary, God says, "Come out from among them and be separate" (2 Corinthians 6:17).
In mixing with the nations, Israel sought help from Egypt and Assyria, flitting back and forth between them "like a silly dove" (Hosea 7:11)—foolishly forgetting that their real help should have been from God. If they had followed God, they wouldn't have needed to go to other nations. Yet they even plotted against God (verse 15).
Paradoxically, God says, "They return, but not to the Most High" (verse 16). This shows some kind of repentance, but not to the true God. He says, "They did not cry out to Me with their heart when they wailed upon their beds" (verse 14). So just who do they cry out to in a form of repentance? Notice this regarding their assembling together (apparently a religious service) for grain and new wine: "God sent a drought that took away Israel's grain and new wine. Yet instead of turning to Him in repentance, the idolatrous Israelites demonstrated their devotion to Baal. [In fact, many mistakenly equated Baal, meaning "Lord," with the true Lord.] According to Canaanite religious beliefs, prolonged drought was a signal that the storm god Baal had been temporarily defeated by the god of death and was imprisoned in the underworld. Baal's worshipers would mourn his death in hopes that their tears might facilitate his resurrection and the restoration of crops" (Nelson, note on v. 14). Perhaps another way to look at this is to think of people assembling in congregational worship services praying, "Give us our daily bread," yet refusing to obey the true God and practice His ways.
This would have served as quite an indictment against the Israelites of Hosea's day. Yet even so, religious people of the modern nations of Israel usually pray to a totally false concept of God as well (with worship customs curiously similar to those ancient Israel adopted from the Canaanites)—and will cry to this "Lord" loudly when trouble becomes hard. Only when they rediscover the true God of the Bible and call upon Him will God ultimately deliver them. Thankfully, God will make sure that they do at last rediscover Him.