Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 20, 1958
NUMBER 26, PAGE 8-9b

The Downfall Of Israel

Irvin Himmel, Richmond, Virginia

The last division of the Old Testament is often referred to as the "minor prophets." Most of us know little about the books in this section. These writings must not be thought of as "minor" in importance. A study of the lives and character of the prophets should enliven any child of God, and the problems with which they struggled are not wholly different from our situations today.

Hosea was not the earliest of the minor prophets, but his book comes first in the arrangement of our English Bible. He lived in the latter years of the reign of the kings of Israel. Most of his prophecies were directed toward Israel, but he also prophesied against the Southern Kingdom of Judah. His book vividly portrays God's unmerited love for His fallen people.

In the first chapters Hosea relates the unhappy state of affairs in his own married life — the unfaithfulness of his wife (Gomer), his love for her in spite of her whoredom, and his willingness to buy her back. This family experience enabled Hosea to understand exactly how God felt about Israel. The people of Israel had played the harlot in God's sight; they had turned to the worship of idols and had given themselves over to corrupt living. Yet, Jehovah loved them and through Hosea pleaded with them to repent. The prophet even foretold the future gathering together of the children of Israel and Judah under the Messiah in His church. As Hosea was gracious enough to expiate his unfaithful companion, God was willing to pay the price necessary to restore fallen Israel. That price was paid in the gift of His Son.

The one sin which sealed the doom of Israel as a nation was idolatry. But it should be noted that other sins contributed to this people's downfall. Hosea discusses various sins adding to the desolation of the ten tribes, and I now direct attention to some of the prominent ones.


In chapter 4 God said through His prophet, 'My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children." Israel was charged with "rejecting" knowledge and "forgetting" the law of God. They had turned their minds away from God and had neglected the law. This brings to our remembrance the words of another prophet, "Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge." (Isa. 5:13.)

Lack of knowledge is a major cause of apostasy in the church. When God's people are grossly ignorant of elementary truths the soil is made fertile for sowing the seeds of error. If all Christians would read and study their Bibles more, we would see fewer divisions, a decrease in digression, less worldliness in the church, and an increase of spiritual strength manifested in personal godliness and more conversions. "Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is." (Eph. 5:17.) "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Pet. 3:18.)


Hosea wrote in chapter 5, "And the pride of Israeldoth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them." Pride is conceit. The children of Israel were too full of self-esteem to admit and abandon their iniquities. They preferred their sins to Jehovah. Pride was the father of many other transgressions.

Some of our present-day blunders are the outcome of our own vanity. We spend large sums of money on elaborate buildings in certain sections of the country while brethren meet in private homes, rented halls, vacant store buildings, and such like, in other parts of the country. Some churches spend enough on a tower or steeple to build a moderate meeting place for needy brethren elsewhere, but their own edifice's towering above the neighboring denominations seems more important to them than preaching the gospel in a mission field. To be sure, no building is too good to have the gospel preached in it, but when we become too good in our own eyes to be outdone in material things by others, we are headed for ruin. This thing of putting on big money drives, featuring movie stars and athletes to attract people to a meeting, and comparing everything we do with what the denominations are doing — it is all the result of a desire for worldly show and display. Remember the words of Solomon, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." (Prov. 16:18.)

Lack Of Sincerity And Determination

Coming to chapter 6, we hear Hosea saying, "0 Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? 0 Judah, what shall I do unto thee ? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away." Whatever good resolutions Israel may have made, they lacked either sincerity of purpose in making them or lasting determination in executing them. Like the morning cloud or the early dew, their goodness vanished quickly. All our talk of doing good must be in sincerity, folowed by a concentrated effort.


"Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned." In this statement from chapter 7 Hosea speaks of the largest and most centrally located of the northern tribes as representing the whole nation. Israel was half baked. Their outward goodness had not penetrated. In this they were much like many in spiritual Israel. Some of the saints, preachers included, need to be put back into the oven for further baking. Too many of God's people are only half converted.

Substitution Of Human Wisdom

Passing on to chapter 8, we read this remark from Hosea, "Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him. They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and J knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off." The northern tribes rejected the rule of the house of David, substituting a king of their own choice, making no effort to consult God to learn His will in the matter. Dan and Bethel were substituted for Jerusalem, calves of gold took the place of Jehovah, and a religious system of their own choosing was accepted.

The sin of substitution is a besetting one in spiritual Israel. There have been times when the worship was corrupted by the introduction of unauthorized acts. Such acts seemed good to man, although they were not included in God's pattern. Today the work of the church is corrupted. Some are substituting works of their own choice for the divinely authorized works. Kings are being set up, but not by Jehovah. Elderships are made to function in ways not taught by the Lord. The divine arrangement for organization is being set aside as human arrangements are introduced. Shall we profit by the mistakes of fleshly Israel, or shall we repeat her blunders?


"And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him." (11:7.) Here Hosea names another reason for Israel's downfall. She kept sliding back, repeating her sins. Backsliders are a hindrance in every congregation of the Lord.

Lack Of Faith

In chapter 13 the prophet goes to the bottom of all the difficulties facing Israel. He writes, "0 Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help." Turning to neighbors like Assyria and Egypt for help, they showed more confidence in heathen nations than in Jehovah. Long before the time of Hosea, even before the time of the division in the kingdom, the Israelites had cried, "Give us a king." Here was an early indication of lack of faith in God. They thought human arrangements were better than God's plan. The Lord said, "I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath."

Why do we now disregard Bible authority and substitute human schemes? Why do we think it is better to be more like the denominations and less like the apostolic church? Why do we prefer to divide the body of Christ than to respect the sincere convictions of others? We lack faith in God!

"0 Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity." This is Hosea's plea as he closes his book. "Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein." God's people can avoid disaster and doom only by turning back to the Lord, humbling ourselves to confess that His ways are always right.