I loved Israel when he was a child. He's my son I called out of Egypt. As they called them, so they went from them:* they sacrificed to the Baals and offered incense to idols. I myself taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the hand, but they didn't realize I was the one who healed them. I led them along with cords of kindness, with ropes of love. I was the one who eased their burden and bent down to feed them.§ However, because my people refuse to return to me, they will not return to the land of Egypt* but Assyria shall be their king. War will sweep through their cities, putting an end to their boasting and destroying their plans. My people are hanging on to their apostasy from me. They call himgod on high but he will not raise them up at all.
How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I let you go, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim?§ My heart is breaking; I am full of compassion. I will not execute the fierceness of my anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God, not a human being. I am the Holy One living among you. I will not enter your cities.*
10 The people will follow me, the Lord. He will roar like a lion. When he roars like a lion then his children will come trembling from the west. 11 Like a flock of frightened birds they will come from Egypt, like doves they will come from Assyria, and I will bring them back home, declares the Lord.
12 Ephraim surrounds me with lies and Israel with deceit, and Judah still wanders with some deity, faithful to someHoly One.”
* 11:2 Sometimes this is translated: “The more I called them, the more they went from me,” but this requires significant changes to the original text. What the Hebrew text appears to be saying, in the context of the Exodus from Egypt, is that as they (Israel) called them (Egypt) was the way in which they (Israel) went from them (Egypt). In other words even at the Exodus Israel was hankering after the things of Egypt and only left under pressure. Many would have preferred to stay, and Hosea traces the apostasy he is dealing with to a reluctant and rebellious spirit of some even at the time of the Exodus. This is confirmed by the second part of the verse. 11:3 Literally, “arm.” 11:3 In the context of the Exodus see Exodus 15:26. § 11:4 The image shifts to care for a farm animal. The Hebrew literally says, “I became like those who lift up a yoke that was in their jaws.” The burden is not removed altogether, but is made easier to bear. * 11:5 Even though they are not taken into captivity to Egypt, they are still led away in bondage—this time to Assyria. 11:6 Literally, “the sword.” 11:7 Israel called their idol “El Al,” or “god on high,” but this was a deliberately confusing title that merged together the worship of Yahweh and Baal. § 11:8 Admah and Zeboiim were the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (see Genesis 14:2). * 11:9 Meaning God would not totally annihilate them as he did with the cities mentioned above. 11:12 It seems that Judah was merging ideas from pagan worship with that of the true God, and using the term “el” which was the name of the highest Canaanite god but could also be applied to Yahweh. So what is being said here seems to be that Judah too is wavering in its allegiance to the true God.