Haftarah of the Week from Briteinu:

 

 

Haftarah: Hosea 11:7–12:12


 26 November - 2 December 2017

 8- 14 Kislev  5777 

 

Haftarat  Vayishlach  –  וישלח  

Ephraim’s Hope

General Overview

The contents of this week’s haftarah are similar to the previous haftarah of Hosea 12:13–14:10. Both passages contain a good amount of rebuke to Ephraim (the ten tribes of the northern kingdom called Israel) for their sins, especially the idolatry connected with Baal worship. There seems, however, to be one significant difference between these two passages. In our present haftarah, we get a greater glimpse of God’s compassion and His desire to withhold the judgment due to Ephraim. In addition this haftarah also has a sizable section about their forefather, Jacob. The subject of Jacob concluded last week’s haftarah, and it begins again in this week’s. Accordingly, this commentary will give ample space to commenting on it.

Connection to the Parasha

Hosea 11:7–12:12 contains a large section recalling the life of Jacob. In particular, 12:3–7 focuses on the time in Jacob’s life when he was returning from his twenty (plus) year flight from his brother, Esau. Thus, the opening content of this haftarah has been taken from Genesis 32:4– 36:43.

It had been a long struggle for Jacob. Realizing that his brother would be angry with him for his deception of Isaac that had secured the family birthright, Jacob fled to his ancestral home in Aramea. There he met his beloved Rachel from Laban’s family. However, on his wedding night he was tricked into marrying Leah. Yet, because he loved Rachel so much, Laban and he worked out an agreement whereby Jacob would spend seven more years working in exchange for Rachel.

During those years away from the Promised Land, the Lord was working on Jacob, bringing him closer and closer to Himself. It was not easy for Jacob to yield his members to righteousness instead of to his flesh. One of the major breaking points in his life came on the night before he finally met with Esau face-to-face. Jacob purposed to be alone that night. Before dawn he wrestled with “the Angel.”  Jacob prevailed, but not without a reminder of the fact that at any moment this Angel of the Lord could have defeated him. We will not go into all of the lessons God had in store for Jacob that night. Suffice it to say, however, that this was certainly a climax of years of struggling with God. Jacob may have survived the wrestling match, but clearly, God was the real victor because He now had Jacob devoted to Himself.

Hosea uses this story as an illustration for Ephraim to follow. Ephraim (Israel) had also been struggling with both God and man. If they would follow their ancestor Jacob’s example, they would have been able to come out victorious, changed, and surviving with God.

Exposition

The prophet Hosea is proving to be a difficult book from which to derive teaching outlines. His writing does not flow as easily as other prophets, such as Isaiah or Ezekiel. Nevertheless, we offer the following as a suggested outline for this week’s study:

I.   Ephraim’s Direction

II.   Ephraim’s Example

III.   Ephraim’s Hope

In this excerpt from Briteinu on Haftarat Vayishlach, we will look at the section on Ephraim’s Hope.

III.  Ephraim’s Hope

In this our last section of this haftarah, we see the third attempt which the prophet Hosea uses in the hope of convincing Ephraim to come back to God The first method was to rebuke them for their sins. The second way was to give them the example of Jacob to follow. This final attempt, however, is quite different. It seems that there are at least two lines of thought here. The first is that Hosea is describing the grace and mercy that are found freely in God if Ephraim were to come back to Him. The second line of thought seems to be that, in the end, whether it originates with Ephraim or not, God’s plan calls for Him to bring them back to Him — despite how they believe and behave. Let us explore these lines of thought.

     A.  No Destruction!

The first great section describing God’s mercy to Ephraim is in 11:8–11. This is a very tender passage where we find God expressing how His heart feels about His people, Israel — despite the fact that they rejected Him. We find God saying to Ephraim, “How can I give you up, O Ephraim” (11:8)? To be sure God had spoken harsh words of destruction to Ephraim. Now, in these verses God says, that He has had a change of heart, “all My tenderness is stirred, I will not act on My wrath.”

We know that God did discipline Israel because of their sins and wickedness. Some would say that because of this, God is contradicting Himself. However, we need to see the big picture in order to understand God’s words here. On the one hand, the Assyrians came and destroyed Israel’s capital, Samaria and dispersed a good number of the Israelites throughout the Assyrian Empire. But, in reality, this was not a total destruction. At least it was not like the kind of devastation that God levied upon Admah and Zeboiim (11:8). These cities were destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah according to Deuteronomy 29:23.

If we read further in this passage we would see that in the future God would roar like a lion (aryea, אריה) and call for His people, including the Ephraimites, from wherever they would be scattered and lead them back to their ancient homes (11:10–11).

Thus, while there would be an unspecified time period in which Ephraim would experience the severe discipline from their God, it would not be a permanent destruction. Unlike Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, Ephraim would be rebuilt and settled again.

The question here is whether God would restore them in the future because of their future repentance, or just because He would decide to do it on His own. The text does not indicate. We are only told that it would be because He loves them. Whatever the cause, this passage surely is one of the great sections of hope promised by God through Hosea to the wayward people of Israel. 

 


 

 

     B.  God’s Faithfulness

In 12:10–12, we get a second glimpse of God's grace and mercy. Here, the prophet reminds us that although He certainly took notice of their sin (cf. verse 12), nevertheless, God promised to restore Ephraim.

The context for this section of hope is quite interesting. It comes right on the heels of a severe passage of rebuke, where some of Ephraim’s many sins are exposed (12:8–9). Then, without any transition, 12:10 says, “I the Lord have been your God ever since the land of Egypt. I will let you dwell in your tents again.”

Thus, we note the repeated promise that Ephraim will someday again dwell in their own land. This passage also looks forward to the unleashing of God’s discipline, i.e., the coming Assyrian dispersion, and further still, to the more distant future when Israel would be back in the land.

Why was there no transition between verses 9 and 10? Why did Hosea not say words to Israel such as, “If you would only repent and come back to the Lord your God!” Perhaps we are provided a hint to the answer to this question in the text itself. Hosea reminds them that God had been their God ever since He brought them up from Egypt. In doing so, he was reminding them of the miraculous exodus from Egyptian slavery. At that time, the children of Israel did not deserve to be brought out. They were not necessarily the godliest generation of Abraham’s descendants. There were two reasons why God brought them out. The first reason was because He decided to have grace, mercy, and compassion upon them. The end of Exodus chapter two tells us that God heard their cries and decided to take action to redeem the miserable Israelite slaves.

The second reason He brought them out is because of His faithfulness to the covenant He made with their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God promised them that their descendants would live free in their own land and be intact as a people. Thus, whether or not they deserved to be released from slavery (and they were not worthy) God brought them out.

Perhaps by mentioning Egypt, Hosea may have been communicating this same truth concerning Ephraim. Because of their sin, the Holy One would indeed, castigate them. Yet, God also promised that some day it would all end. He is a God who is gracious, merciful, and compassionate. Someday, the people of Israel would be gathered back into their own land again, but they would no more deserve it then as when they were in Egypt.

Second, however, just like with the Egyptian slaves, God still has a covenant with the patriarchs. This covenant would never be put aside or discarded. Thus, because of that covenant, God would bring His people back in the future.

If this interpretation is correct, then we have at least two truths being exposed here. 1) God is a God who is rich in mercy, grace, and compassion. He simply loves His people and hates to discipline them. He must always act justly, as He did when He brought Assyria down on to Ephraim. But, in the end, He always acts mercifully to those who are His own.

2) In addition, we find that God is most certainly a covenant-keeping God. In fact, it is safe to say that God always acts on the basis of His covenant faithfulness. Covenant faithfulness in this case means that He would never lose His people. Despite the fact that they would be scattered all throughout the ancient Near East with all of the potential for intermarriage and assimilation, God would always faithfully keep His people in tact as a people. Thus, there cannot be true “lost tribes of Israel.”

Furthermore, covenant faithfulness also means that if God promises the land of Canaan to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their physical descendants, He intends to keep that promise no matter how long it may take before it is fulfilled.

Accordingly, in these verses, Hosea provided the people of Ephraim with a rich treasure of hope. His heartache is that they would have to wait many centuries before they would be able to enjoy that treasure. For, in his day they did not repent and come back to God. Because of that, their enjoyment of God’s blessings would be postponed until He fulfills His plan for them someday in the future, in the days of Messiah.

 

 

 

 

 

Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,

that I may follow it to the end. 

Give me understanding, so that I may keep your Torah 

and obey it with all my heart.

Direct me in the path of your words,

for there I find delight.

Turn my heart toward your statutes

and not toward selfish gain.

Turn my eyes away from worthless things;

preserve my life according to your word.

Psalm 119:33-37