Hosea, prophet of mercy: chapter 20, Gibeah and Ramah
Dec 15, 2016
[I left my NASB bible at a meeting that I attended last night, so I will be using KJV here]
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 should 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6 They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the Lord; but they shall not find Him; He hath withdrawn Himself from them.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. But to submit to judgment means that the sinner agrees with the Judge. Many sinners do not, and they think 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 Deuteronomy 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 Deuteronomy 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 (Leviticus 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 Jeremiah 19:10, 11?
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 (Levitucus 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 (Numbers 10:2), prophesying of the resurrection of the dead.
Gibeah was the home of Saul, while Ramah was the home of Samuel (1 Samuel 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? 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, 5, 6).
This shocking evidence precipitated a civil war, where 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 (Genesis 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 Jeremiah 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 Matthew 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.
This is part 21 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Hosea." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones