Days of Punishment and Recompense (Hosea 9) March 7
Hosea 9 continues with God's warning of impending punishment. This is not a time of celebration. God's warning is too serious. "This was spiritual idolatry…. The mention of threshing floors probably carries through the figure of prostitution, for the Canaanites frequently used threshing floors and winepresses [because of their association with the harvest] as places for carrying out their fertility rites. In v. 2 the implication is that, because of insufficient rainfall, the threshing floors and winepresses would fail to produce enough food for the people" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, note on verses 1-2).
For their sin, the Israelites would be evicted from the land in which God had permitted them to dwell, and they would be left to suffer in Assyria (verse 3). They would be deprived of any freedoms and their uncleanness there would render them unfit to participate in true worship. Indeed, where they were going, they wouldn't be able to sacrifice to God or keep His Holy Days, even if they wanted to.
In verse 6, Egypt is again used symbolically of captivity, and the statement that "Memphis," an ancient capital of Egypt famed as a necropolis of cemeteries and tombs, would bury the Israelites signifies that they would die in captivity. Indeed, as we earlier read in Amos 5:3, only one tenth of those taken into captivity would ultimately survive. Yet it should also be noted that, in the end time, many Israelites will apparently end up in literal Egypt and other Arab nations through the coming slave trade prophesied in the Bible (compare Revelation 18:11-13)—as Israel's captives are ultimately seen returning from Assyria and Egypt in a great second exodus (Isaiah 11:11-12; Hosea 11:11). Consider also that since the forces of the end-time "Assyrian" ruler, apparently the European dictator called the "king of the North" in Daniel 11:40, are prophesied to invade and take over Egypt and surrounding territories (verses 42-43), they will undoubtedly set up military posts in these lands to which Israelite captives may be shipped to serve as laborers. So perhaps some latter-day Israelites truly will die in Memphis, which is in the vicinity of modern Cairo.
Behind them, the Israelites' homeland is left rather desolate: "The fine estates or villas which they had purchased by their money, being now neglected and uninhabited, are covered with nettles; and even in their tabernacles, thorns and brambles of different kinds grow" (Adam Clarke's Commentary, note on 9:6).
Raising a trumpet of warning again, Hosea announces, "The days of punishment have come; the days of recompense have come" (verse 7). While the days of Israel's ancient captivity fulfilled this in part, the message is mainly for the end time. Speaking of the coming Great Tribulation, Jesus Christ stated: "For these are the days of vengeance…. For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations" (Luke 21:22-24). But Israel will not accept this message. Indeed, God's servants, who proclaim such warnings, are viewed by sinful Israel as raving lunatics (Hosea 9:7).
The Israelites have become utterly corrupt, "as in the days of Gibeah" (verse 9). "The reference here is to the rape and murder of a young woman by the men of Gibeah, an event that started a civil war (see Judg. 19). Those who witnessed this violent deed remarked that it was the worst crime committed in Israel's history until that time (see Judg. 19:30). However, the sins of Hosea's generation rivaled the infamous Gibeah murder" (Nelson Study Bible, note on Hosea 9:9)—as do the sins of the generation on which God's stern correction of the end time will come.
When Israel was a young nation, they were unusually delightful to God, like grapes in the desert (verse 10), but the delight didn't last long. Even before they entered the Promised Land, they were participating in Baal worship at Peor in Moab with its insidious fertility rites. Now, Israel had returned to such vile promotion of fertility through its return to Baal worship. As punishment, God would take away fertility, causing the population to dwindle through barrenness of womb. And the children that were born would be killed in the coming invasion (verses 11-14).
The Jewish Tanakh translates the first part of verse 15 as, "All their misfortunes (began) at Gilgal, for there I disowned them." Gilgal was the place from which Israel had conquered Canaan (Joshua 4:19-5:12) and where the monarchy was later instituted (1 Samuel 11:15). Yet it had now become a center of false worship (Hosea 4:15; 12:11; Amos 4:4; 5:4-5). "It also served as a resort area for the wealthy who oppressed the poor in Israel. As a center noted for its false religion and social oppression, 'Gilgal' probably serves here as a metaphor for the nation" (Bible Reader's Companion, note on Hosea 9:15). The language of verse 15, it should be noted, implies divorce: "The Lord would reject (hate) His unfaithful wife (see Deut. 22:13; 24:3), drive her from His house (the land), and remove His protective care (love) from her" (Nelson, note on verse 15).
The final verse of chapter 9 summarizes Israel's situation. They have consistently failed to listen to God's warnings—now they will wander among the nations.