Saturday, November 17, 2012

Punishment For Israel (Hosea 9)

The following quote is taken from

"God Will Kill Children - "The glory of Israel will fly away like a bird, for your children will die at birth or perish in the womb or never even be conceived.  Even if your children do survive to grow up, I will take them from you.  It will be a terrible day when I turn away and leave you alone.  I have watched Israel become as beautiful and pleasant as Tyre.  But now Israel will bring out her children to be slaughtered."  O LORD, what should I request for your people?  I will ask for wombs that don't give birth and breasts that give no milk.  The LORD says, "All their wickedness began at Gilgal; there I began to hate them.  I will drive them from my land because of their evil actions.  I will love them no more because all their leaders are rebels.  The people of Israel are stricken.  Their roots are dried up; they will bear no more fruit.  And if they give birth, I will slaughter their beloved children."  (Hosea 9:11-16 NLT)

You can read Hosea 9 in its entirety here:

            Hosea was a prophet who lived during the time of the split monarchies of Israel and Judah.  His life and prophecy was in the northern kingdom of Israel circa 785-725 BCE, just before Israel was conquered by the Assyrians.
            During Hosea's life, the kingdom of Israel had completely rebelled against God.  Since the time of King Jeroboam I (reigned circa 931-910 BCE), the people had turned to worshipping Baal and other idols, in direct disobedience to God's commandment (1 Kings 12:26-33, 13:33-34, 16:25-33, 22:52-53; 2 Kings 13:2-6, 17).  In response, God first sent prophets such as Hosea to warn them to repent or perish, but they would not listen.  As a result, the northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed, and the people that remained were exiled into Assyria (2 Kings chapter 17).
            This is yet another example of destruction that came about because the people disregarded God's command against idolatry (see Exodus 20:3-6, 23; 23:13, 23-24; 34:17; Leviticus 19:4; 26:1; Deuteronomy 4:15-28; 5:7; 6:14-15; 8:19; 12:31; 17:2-7; 27:15; 29:17-18).  Idolatry is a very serious sin, one that God does not take lightly.  Since the Israelites had abandoned God and trusted in supposed gods of fertility (such as Baal and Asherah) to protect them, God withdrew his protection from them, and their fertility as well.
            It is important to note here that all life was created by, and belongs to, God.  He controls whether or not a person has children (Genesis 20:17-18, 25:21, 29:31, 30:22; Ruth 4:13; 1 Samuel 1:5).  Children are a blessing from God (Psalm 127:3).  God had warned the Israelites that if they broke their covenant with him, disobeyed his commandments and showed him contempt by worshipping idols, he would withhold blessings from them, including the blessing of children: "You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 28:62, NIV).
            We come now to the verse describing God taking the lives of Israelite children.  As in previous passages, this is a difficult issue.  There are a few things that we need to take into consideration.  First, God gave the people ample warning over many years to avoid destruction.  If they had repented, God would not have withdrawn his protection and allowed them to be overtaken by the Assyrians (Jeremiah 18:7-8, Jonah chapter 3).  Second, one of the reasons that God would have withheld children from being born during this time period was due to the widespread killing and destruction that occurred during the siege of Samaria (2 Kings 17; Hosea 13:16).  Finally, if the children had lived to adulthood, they most likely would have followed the idol-worshipping practices of their parents, and would have been lost for eternity.  God took their lives in childhood to prevent this from occurring.
            Passages such as this one are horrifying, and cause for sober reflection.  God's commands are not to be treated flippantly or disregarded.  He does not want anyone to perish, and he takes no pleasure in the death of anyone (Ezekiel 18:32).  However, there comes a time when his patience runs out and he abandons those who have rejected him to their fate.  The conquest of Israel by Assyria was such a time.