Northern Israel was strong among the twelve tribes. Before the introduction of Baal worship in Israel, they worshiped only one God with His image made into two golden calves. At the time of Elijah there were 7000 persons who did not worship Baal (I Kings 19:18). Because of the continuous persecution against those who did not bend their knees to Baal, Israel committed a greater sin and died spiritually (13:1). And at the time of the prophet Hosea they sinned still more by making additional images and worshiping them, both the golden calves and the images of Baal. They sacrificed animals to these idols and kissed the calves (13:2). Therefore, God would not allow these Israelites to stay in the land. They would disappear like a morning cloud, or the morning dew, or chaff driven by a storm (13:3).
God had led Israel out of their bondage in Egypt, and they had made the living God their God. No other god could have saved them (13:4). The God of heaven had shown His love and intimacy with them in the wilderness and they had no hindrances for 40 years (13:5).
However, when God gave them prosperity and enough food to eat they turned away from Him. Their minds became haughty and they forgot about God (13:6). His feelings were similar to that of a bear whose cubs were taken away. The intimate relationship between God and Israel was torn away and broken (13:7, 8). God wanted to make Israel know the reality of their situation and that He was the only source of life, prosperity, and protection (13:10, 15). However, Israel refused to listen. From the beginning of the history of the northern kingdom of Israel, the first king Jeroboam I disobeyed God and committed three sins: (1) making the golden calves to prevent people in the north from going to Jerusalem for worship; (2) expelling the Levites from the country and appointing non Levites for priests; and (3) appointing a new festal day without the approval of God.
The only solution to improve the situation was to allow the deportation of Israel from Canaan to the land of their bondage in Assyria (13:11). It was necessary for Israel to experience pain in a foreign country (13:13). This kind of chastisement was the only way to make Northern Israel realize its tragic situation. Their spiritual rebellion against God was the reason for losing their country in Canaan and their capital Samaria (13:16). Help us, Lord, to remember that You are our only Creator and Sustainer and happily follow Your way!
Yoshitaka Kobayashi, Ph.D.