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Chapter 20: Gibeon and Ramah

By drawing a parallel with Mizpah, Hosea tells us that God is deciding a court case between Israel and Assyria to see if Israel ought to go back to "Laban" as a slave or if Israel could remain free. Hosea 5:5 says,

5 And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face; therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them.

Here God is mistranslated as “the pride of Israel.” It should read “The Excellency of Israel,” which is comparable to how a judge or king today might be addressed as "Your Excellency." A similar phrase is found in Amos 8:7, "The Lord hath sworn by the Excellency of Jacob."

So we should understand Hosea to be telling us that His Excellency Himself is testifying against Israel, Ephraim, and even Judah. For this reason, all of them will “fall.” They will lose their case, the prophet says, and the nations will fall. Hosea 5:6 continues,

6 They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the Lord; but they shall not find Him; He hath withdrawn Himself from them.

Once the verdict has been rendered, a convicted sinner must submit to the divine judgment or face a worse penalty (Deut. 17:12). But to submit to judgment means that the sinner agrees with the Judge. Many sinners do not agree, believing God is unjust for penalizing them. The only ones who agree with God are those who already know His mind. But Israel as a whole did not know God.

In the end, however, there is hope, because God has vowed to make them His people. The only way to do this is to cause them to repent, change their minds and hearts, so that they really do come into full agreement with the mind of God. So we read in Deut. 4:29, 30,

29 But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find Him, if thou seek Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. 30 When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto His voice.

Meanwhile, God withdraws His presence from Israel, allowing them to worship the false gods and idols that they desired while in the old land. This, too, was part of the Law of Tribulation in Deut. 28:64.

Hosea 5:7 continues,

7 They have dealt treacherously against the Lord; for they have begotten strange [zur, “foreign”] children; now shall a month [chodesh, “new moon”] devour them with their portions.

The prophet continues his basic theme of spiritual adultery. In this case the nation had begotten children from other gods. Because Hosea's own marriage relationship was tied to the condition of the nation, it implies that his own children might have been fathered by one of Gomer's adulterous partners. The solution, of course, is for the Holy Spirit to beget the sons of God. Any other "son of God," begotten by the flesh, is only a pretense.

For this reason, says the prophet, judgment would come in a short period of time, “a month,” or better, “a new moon.” This is probably not a reference to a 30-day time of judgment. The word chodesh also refers to a “new moon,” and this often refers to the seventh “new moon,” which was the day of the blowing of Trumpets (Lev. 23:24). Did Samaria fall on the Feast of Trumpets? In our time, will Jerusalem also fall in some year on the feast of Trumpets in fulfillment of Jer. 19:10, 11? Only time will tell.

The Trumpets Blown in Gibeah and Ramah

Linking this “month” to the seventh new moon, the Feast of Trumpets, appears to be Hosea's way of leading into his next statement in Hosea 5:8,

8 Blow ye the cornet [shofar] in Gibeah, and the trumpet [khatsotsera] in Ramah; cry aloud at Beth-aven, after thee O Benjamin.

This is a Hebrew parallelism, so the stress is not upon the difference between the shofar and the trumpet, but rather on their similarities. Even so, the two were used for different purposes. The shofar was used on the Day of Atonement to announce the start of a Jubilee year (Lev. 25:9), The trumpet (khatsotsera) was made of silver and was long and bell-shaped. Moses made two such trumpets to be blown on the Feast of Trumpets (Num. 10:2), prophesying of the resurrection of the dead.

Gibeah was the home of Saul, while Ramah was the home of Samuel (1 Sam. 15:34). The towns were less than two miles apart, and both were situated just a few miles north of Jerusalem.

So what was Hosea prophesying here? Why should a shofar be blown in Gibeah? The reference to Gibeah is from Judges 19, where we read of the atrocity committed against the concubine of a Levite who had been passing through Gibeah. His concubine was abused until dead by bisexual men in Gibeah, and as a result, the Levite sounded the alarm to all the tribes to obtain justice. He did not blow a trumpet, but chopped up his dead concubine into twelve pieces and sent a piece of her to each of the tribes to bear witness of the crime (Judges 19:29; 20:4-6).

This shocking evidence precipitated a civil war, and the entire tribe of Benjamin was nearly destroyed. Yet 700 men survived the disaster, and years later King Saul, who was from that tribe, was crowned king of Israel. Still later, the apostle Paul (Saul) was crowned spiritually when he experienced Pentecost by being filled with the Spirit (Acts 9:17). In effect, King Saul was a negative pattern of the leaven in Pentecost, while the apostle Paul was the positive pattern of true Pentecostals who carry the vision of Tabernacles.

Hosea's reference about blowing a shofar in Gibeah is first about sounding an alarm of war or judgment for sin, but also about a Jubilee, which is about forgiving sin and debt. The dual aspect of this prophecy is thus an appeal for repentance (the Day of Atonement), as well as forgiveness (Jubilee). Hence, Hosea was sounding the alarm of war with Assyria, but at the same time he was foreshadowing a time in the future when Israel would be restored.

As for Ramah, the name was fairly common, as there was more than one Ramah. The name means "height, high place," which generally referred to the top of a hill or mountain. Some hilltops had towns, and on others the high places of Baal. Hence, Ramah had a dual prophecy associated with it as well. It was the home of Samuel, but also referred to places of idolatry.

Since Hosea associates a trumpet with Ramah, our question is how Ramah might prophesy of the feast of Trumpets and the resurrection of the dead.

As I said earlier, the judgment on Samaria (and possibly Jerusalem in our time) appears to have come on the seventh new moon, the feast of Trumpets. That would be the time of Israel's official death certificate. But when the trumpet is blown to fulfill the main purpose of this feast day, it signals resurrection as well.

A different prophetic event took place at another Ramah, perhaps a hilltop, that was located just outside of Bethlehem at Ephrata. It was where Rachel died and was buried (Gen. 35:19). The book of Jasher tells us that a few years after her death, when Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery, the Midianites took him past Rachel's grave. Jasher 42:29-40 tells the story.

29 ... And the men proceeded on the road, and they passed along the road of Ephrath where Rachel was buried. 30 And Joseph reached his mother's grave, and Joseph hastened and ran to his mother's grave, and fell upon the grave and wept. 31 And Joseph cried aloud upon his mother's grave and he said... 35 "Rise, O my mother, rise, awake from thy sleep and see my father how his soul is with me this day, and comfort him and ease his heart". 36 And Joseph continued to speak these words, and Joseph cried aloud and wept bitterly upon his mother's grave; and he ceased speaking, and from bitterness of heart he became still as stone upon the grave. 37 And Joseph heard a voice speaking to him from beneath the ground, which answered him with bitterness of heart, and with a voice of weeping and praying in these words: 38 "My son, my son Joseph, I have heard the voice of thy weeping and the voice of thy lamentation; I have seen thy tears; I know thy troubles, my son, and it grieves me for thy sake, and abundant grief is added to my grief. 39 Now therefore my son, Joseph my son, hope to the Lord, and wait for him and do not fear, for the Lord is with thee, he will deliver thee from all trouble."

This story is referenced in Jer. 31:15,

15 Thus saith the Lord; "A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not."

This also prophesied of the slaughter of the children of Bethlehem shortly after Jesus was born, as we read in Matt. 2:17, 18.

The point is that Jeremiah refers to Rachel's weeping from the grave as coming from Ramah, rather than from Ephrata or Bethlehem. This shows that Rachel was buried on a hilltop which the local people called Ramah. Though it was not the town by that name, nonetheless, from a prophetic standpoint, it overlays on Hosea's prophecy about blowing the trumpet in Ramah. It shows how Ramah was not only a place of burial, but also a place of rising from the dead.

The Cry of Danger

The prophet says in Hosea 5:8, “cry aloud at Beth-aven, “After thee! O Benjamin.” This is a cry of warning used in battle. Today we would shout, “Behind you!” to warn someone of danger approaching them from the rear. In other words, the prophet was issuing a warning to the tribe of Benjamin. Danger threatened them from behind.

Why Benjamin? Why not another tribe? As we said earlier, both Gibeah and Ramah were in the territory of Benjamin, and Rachel gave birth to Benjamin on a hilltop called Ramah. This son of Rachel was in danger at birth, because it was a difficult childbirth, in which Rachel died. So she named her son Ben-oni, “son of my sorrow,” though Jacob named him Benjamin, “son of my right hand” (Gen. 35:18).

The implication in this prophecy is that danger was overtaking all of the tribes from the rear, and they did not know it. All of them were about to fulfill the name Ben-oni and experience sorrow. This is explained in the next verse. Hosea 5:9 says,

9 Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke. Among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be.

Perhaps the parallel here is in the fact that when Rachel died in childbirth, she was no longer to be found. Benjamin was “desolate,” in the sense that he was alone, not being able to find his mother. In the same way, Israel as a whole would not be able to find their God, because He had withdrawn Himself from His children.

Judah Judged for Usurping God’s Land

Hosea 5:10 continues,

10 The princes of Judah were like them that remove the bound [ghebul, “boundary, border”]; therefore I will pour out my wrath upon them like water.

This refers to the law about moving a neighbor’s boundary marker, or landmark, which is found in Deut. 19:14,

14 Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor’s landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it.

To move a landmark was to usurp a neighbor’s property by stealth. A person doing this would be altering the legal boundary, so that it gave the appearance that the property legally belonged to him. The law defines boundaries, and this is why it is also pictured as a wall of a city. To move a boundary is to alter the law, pretending that the person has legal rights which he really does not have.

So Hosea tells us that the kings of Judah, who were the highest enforcers of the divine law, had altered the law to legalize theft and violation of other men’s rights. In this case, Hosea probably was referring to the violation of God’s rights. God claims ownership of the land (Lev. 25:23), and when men usurp it for their own unlawful purposes, treating it as if it were their own, they moved the boundaries, legally speaking.

Because they had usurped God’s land, judgment was to come upon them in equal measure. The land was to be taken from them, and they were to go into captivity. It is of interest, then, that Judah is specifically mentioned, because Judah was taken to Babylon more than a century after Israel was taken to Assyria.

Ephraim and Judah Judged

Hosea 5:11, 12 says,

11 Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the [idolatrous] commandment. 12 Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness [raqav].

Ephraim is condemned here for following after the commandment of Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:28), who had commanded Israel to worship the golden calves. Hence, God said He would act as a moth and a worm to eat away at their houses (of Israel and Judah) and rot them away.

Hosea 5:13 says,

13 When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb; yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.

It appears that during Hosea’s time, Israel and Judah already saw their political and military weakness, brought about by the “moth” that was eating away their houses. Unfortunately, they did not see that the real weakness was a moral corruption, so instead of repenting, they instead sent ambassadors to “king Jareb” of Assyria to make some kind of peace treaty.

Dr. Bullinger tells us in his notes about who king Jareb was.

13 king Jareb. Professor Sayce (Higher Criticism and the Monuments, pp. 416, 417) thinks ‘Jareb’ may be the birth-name of the usurper Sargon II, the successor of Shalmanezer. Shalmanezer did not take Samaria, but his successor did, as stated in an inscription found in the palace which he built near Nineveh.”

So it appears that Jareb is Sargon. Kings, and even ordinary people, often had more than one name, because they often changed their names to reflect a change of character or of some victory or famous act that they did later in life. Jareb (Yarev) means “a contender,” and is a name used in Scripture only by Hosea, here and again in Hosea 10:6.

The prophet chides Israel and Judah for their attempts to prevent captivity—or, to use his metaphor, to find healing from the rottenness in their houses. Their ambassadors, the prophet says, will fail, because God Himself has decreed this captivity. Hosea 5:14 says,

14 For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah; I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him.

Here the prophet changes metaphors. God calls himself a lion, who “will tear and go away,” and there is no one who can rescue him. The word translated “tear” is taraf, “to tear in pieces,” a word used in reference to eating morsels of food. While Assyria itself was to do the military work of consuming the House of Israel, God called Himself a lion and took credit for doing this.

Again, it is of interest that Hosea knew that both Israel and Judah were destined for captivity. He does not tell us that Judah will be consumed by Assyria itself, but only that God will tear both nations apart and consume them as a lion eats his prey.

Hosea 5:15 says,

15 I will go and return to My place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek My face; in their affliction they will seek Me early [shakhar, “early, earnestly”].

The Hebrew word shakhar also means “dawn or morning.” The word pictures a man searching the eastern sky earnestly or anxiously to see the first signs of light which will end the long night. The prophet uses the same term a few verses later in Hosea 6:3, where the KJV translates the word as “morning.”

The prophet knows that this captivity was to end at some point in history, so he gives Israel hope. The hope is that God would bless them and end their captivity after they acknowledged their offence. The requirement, even in the law (Lev. 26:40-42) was that they had to repent and confess their hostility toward God before God would “remember” (activate) His covenant.

The purpose of tribulation or “affliction” was to motivate them to seek God’s face earnestly. The judgments of God do not destroy permanently, for they are corrective in nature. Though both Israel and Judah were to go down to the grave (as nations), yet God promised to reverse death by raising them from the dead. That is the message of the prophet in the next chapter.