A Commentary on Hosea Chapter 10 – Israel’s Sin and Captivity


The book of Hosea contains prophecies and messages from God to the people of Israel, primarily spoken through the prophet Hosea. Hosea ministered around 753-715 BC, during the reign of several kings of Israel and Judah.

Hosea chapter 10 continues the themes and messages from the preceding chapters. It contains a scathing rebuke of Israel’s sins, a warning of coming judgment and exile, and a glimmer of hope if the people repent and turn back to God.

Key Takeaways from Hosea Chapter 10

  • Israel has turned away from God and sinned greatly, especially through idol worship (verse 1)
  • This has led to moral decay – swearing, lying, killing, stealing, adultery (verse 4)
  • As judgment, God will allow Israel’s false idols and kings to be swept away by foreign invaders (verses 3,5-6)
  • Israel will be exiled from the promised land (verse 6)
  • Israel has forgotten God’s kindness and provision in the past (verses 1,11-12)
  • If Israel repents, there is still hope of restoration (verse 12)
  • But Israel remains stubborn and continues down a path of judgment (verses 13-15)

In this chapter, we see both God’s righteous anger at sin as well as His persistent desire to bring His people back to Himself. Though the tone is somber, God always leaves the door open for reconciliation.

A Commentary on Hosea Chapter 10 - Israel's Sin and Captivity

Commentary on Hosea Chapter 10

Verses 1-2 – Israel’s Sin of Idolatry

Israel empties his vine; He brings forth fruit for himself. According to the multitude of his fruit He has increased the altars; According to the bounty of his land They have embellished his sacred pillars. Their heart is divided; Now they are held guilty. He will break down their altars; He will ruin their sacred pillars. (Hosea 10:1-2 NKJV)

The vine often symbolizes Israel in Scripture. Here, God accuses Israel of making the fruit of their labors, the bounty of the Promised Land, into false idols. The more God blessed them materially, the more altars and sacred pillars they built to false gods. God gave them the land, yet they attributed the prosperity to Baal and other Canaanite fertility gods.

Their divided heart represents their spiritual adultery. They tried to serve both God and idols, but this was unacceptable to God. Their guilt has reached the point where judgment is now inevitable. God will allow their false shrines to be torn down by foreign invaders.

Verses 3-4 – Moral Decay and Coming Judgment

For now they say, “We have no king, Because we did not fear the Lord. And as for a king, what would he do for us?” They have spoken words, Swearing falsely in making a covenant; Thus judgment springs up like hemlock in the furrows of the field. (Hosea 10:3-4 NKJV)

With no God-fearing king to lead them, the people descend into lawlessness. They break covenants and oaths without a second thought. Violence, crime, and injustice flourish. This moral decay is compared to poisonous weeds overrunning a field.

Their real problem is not lack of an earthly king, but lack of fear of the Lord. They have rejected God as their true King. So He will allow foreign kings to rule over them as part of His judgment.

Verses 5-6 – Exile from the Land

The inhabitants of Samaria fear Because of the calf of Beth Aven. For its people mourn for it, And its priests shriek for it— Because its glory has departed from it. The idol also shall be carried to Assyria As a present for King Jareb. Ephraim shall receive shame, And Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel. (Hosea 10:5-6 NKJV)

Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. The people worshiped the golden calf idol of Beth Aven (literally “house of wickedness”). Now they mourn because this false god and temple will be plundered by the Assyrians.

The calf idol itself will be carried off as tribute to the Assyrian king mockingly called “King Jareb” (which means “king combative”). Ephraim was the largest tribe of Israel, often used to represent the whole northern kingdom. Their idol worship and bad choices will lead to humiliation and exile.

Verses 7-8 – Judgment on Pagan High Places

As for Samaria, her king is cut off Like a twig on the water. Also the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, Shall be destroyed. The thorn and thistle shall grow on their altars; They shall say to the mountains, “Cover us!” And to the hills, “Fall on us!” (Hosea 10:7-8 NKJV)

The king of Samaria will be killed and the whole city wiped out, as easily as cutting off a twig floating downriver. The pagan high places of Aven (Beth Aven) will be overrun with weeds and thorns.

This refers to Mount Bethel, where Israel’s first king Jeroboam had set up a golden calf and temple (1 Kings 12:25-33). Aven means “wickedness”, showing God’s disdain for this idolatrous worship site.

The people will despair at God’s judgment and ask the mountains and hills to hide them, similar to Revelation 6:16. But there will be no escape on the day of God’s wrath against sin.

Verses 9-10 – God Will Punish Israel’s Sins

“O Israel, you have sinned from the days of Gibeah; There they stood. The battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity Did not overtake them. When it is My desire, I will chasten them. Peoples shall be gathered against them When I bind them for their two transgressions. (Hosea 10:9-10 NKJV)

Gibeah was a city where shocking sins took place, including gang rape and murder (Judges 19-21). But instead of punishing this wickedness, the other tribes had banded together and almost wiped out the entire tribe of Benjamin.

Now God says that He Himself will properly punish Israel’s sins, not holding back as the people had at Gibeah. He had been patient, but now His desire is to chasten them. He will allow foreign nations to be gathered against Israel to judge them.

Verses 11-12 – Hope of Restoration in Repentance

Ephraim is a trained heifer That loves to thresh grain; But I harnessed her fair neck, I will make Ephraim pull a plow. Judah shall plow; Jacob shall break his clods.” Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. (Hosea 10:11-12 NKJV)

Ephraim here represents Israel. The nation was like a well-trained cow that loved to thresh grain, a relatively easy task. But because of their stubborn rebellion, God will put a yoke on them like a plow animal, forcing them into hard labor under foreign masters.

Yet the call comes to break up the hard spiritual soil of their hearts and sow righteousness so they can reap God’s mercy. It’s not too late to repent and seek the Lord. If they do, His righteousness will rain down blessings on them again.

Though judgment is coming, God always holds out the offer of restoration to those who humble themselves and turn back to Him.

Verses 13-15 – Israel’s Persistent Rebellion and Coming Judgment

You have plowed wickedness; You have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies, Because you trusted in your own way, In the multitude of your mighty men. Therefore tumult shall arise among your people, And all your fortresses shall be plundered As Shalman plundered Beth Arbel in the day of battle— A mother dashed in pieces upon her children. Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel, Because of your great wickedness. At dawn the king of Israel Shall be cut off utterly. (Hosea 10:13-15 NKJV)

Israel has pursued a course of sin and rebellion, symbolized by plowing and sowing wickedness rather than righteousness (verse 12). As a result they have reaped destruction – the natural consequence of sin.

Rather than trusting God, they trusted in their own schemes and military might. So now their cities will be plundered by foreign invaders. Shalman likely refers to the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V, who brutally destroyed Beth Arbel.

Hosea again singles out Bethel, where the idolatrous calf worship began under Jeroboam I. It will be crushed for this “great wickedness.” And Israel’s king will be killed, ending the dynasty that rejected God’s rule.

Israel persists in rebellion rather than repentance. So judgment is inescapable. They have passed the point of no return.


Hosea chapter 10 contains a sobering warning against the high cost of forsaking God and embracing sin. Though Israel was God’s covenant people, their idolatry and lawlessness led to the forfeiture of His blessing and protection.

But even in the midst of coming judgment, God mercifully calls them to return to Him. He would rather show mercy than wrath. May this serve as a wakeup call to all God’s people in every age. Let us examine our own hearts, repent of hidden sins, and sow righteousness while we still can.

Yet we also see a glimmer of future hope, even beyond exile, because of God’s faithful, persistent love for His people. Though judgment comes, God’s redemptive purposes ultimately prevail.

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