Hosea was a Prophet to the Northern tribes, some date that he prophesied between 760 – 720 BCE and others place the time between 750 -720 BCE. He witnessed the decline and fall of Israel1.
In Hosea chapter 11 verse 1, is Hosea referring to:
(a.) all of Israel that was living in Egypt,
(b.) part of Israel,
(c.) did God have a son that He loved in Egypt named Israel that He called out?
- Can Scripture be “metaphoric2”?
- Is all Scripture literal?
When Israel/Ephraim3 was a “child” living in Egypt God loved him. But then God brought Israel out of Egypt, a place that was a refuge in the time of famine only to became a place of bondage, and slavery several years later.
When Israel was a child, I loved him,Hosea 11:1 (NKJV)
And out of Egypt I called My son.
Through out chapter 11 God refers to Ephraim and Israel interchangeably. The first few verses are like a parent who has been raising a child. Followed by a prophecy that Ephraim will not return to Egypt, but instead will be ruled by Assyria, because of not keeping Torah. Like a parent this was hard to do. God’s desire was for Ephraim to have chosen a different path, but they hadn’t. The chapter concludes with verse 124, a comparison between Israel/Ephraim and Judah. Stating that Judah, “still walks with God”.
- Is God implying that He has two sons, one Israel/Ephraim, and the other is Judah, metaphorically?
- Or is it one son that is in turmoil, and will become healed in time? (see Ezekiel)
In the previous chapter Hosea describes the condition Israel was in previous to this prophecy. Israel had turned away from worshiping God, and Assyria will become their King. In chapter 11, God gives His assurance that He loved Israel, as His own son, and brought him out of Egypt. But however, He needs to address the choices Ephraim has made. The Northern tribes are taken by Assyria and scattered. Israel wasn’t literally His son, but metaphorically His son.
The same is true in verse 4:
I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.Hosea 11:4 NKJV
A description like as if it were a single person, but it was with Ephraim as a nation.
The writer of Matthew refers to Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15 as if Hosea 11:1 was a prophecy to be fulfilled.
13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”Matt. 2:13 – 15
An angle appears to Jesus’ father Joseph that he is to take the family to Egypt to protect the baby, from Herod, who desires to kill him. They are to remain there until it is safe to return. This is to fulfill the prophecy; by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called My son.” The writer is making reference to Hosea 11:1. The problem with what the writer of Matthew is saying; is that the Prophet Hosea is not giving a future prophecy, however he is conveying what God is giving him as how God is metaphorically seeing Israel. There is no hint in any of the preceding or following verses to indicate that there will be a literal understanding. (ie. a part of God impregnates a human and they need to flee to Egypt to survive, and then return when it is safe). The only part of this that aligns up with Hosea is to leave Egypt.
There isn’t any record including Josephus that indicates a mass killing of babies in the Bethlehem region during the reign of King Herod5. It would seem that if this actually transpired it would be recorded in a archive. However it is possible that it just wasn’t recorded.
by, Jim Behnke
1Not the combined Israel but the Northern tribes.
2Metaphoric – A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison. The Free Dictionary by Farlex
3The Northern tribes are referred to as Ephraim or Israel interchangeably. They consisted of all the tribes except Judah and Benjamin, and some of Levi. Originally Simon was not given a tribal land and was instructed to live in the area given to Judah, however over time it is commonly accepted that the descendants of Simon migrated northward.
4The Christian Bible has 12 verses, placing verse 1 of chapter 12 of the Tanach at the end of Chapter 11.
5Matthew 2:16 – 18