October 16, 2021
"Ephraim is a well-trained young cow that loves to thresh, but I will place a yoke on her fine neck. I will harness Ephraim; Judah will plow; Jacob will do the final plowing."
“Ephraim is a well-trained young cow that loves to thresh, but I will place a yoke on her fine neck. I will harness Ephraim; Judah will plow; Jacob will do the final plowing. Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your untilled ground. It is time to seek the Lord until He comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain.” Hosea 10:11-12
As we move into the latter half of the Tanakh (Old Testament), the name “Ephraim” is used frequently among the prophets. “Ephraim” is synonymous with idolatry, primarily because Jeroboam, the Ephraimite, led Israel astray. He did so by dividing the kingdom politically and spiritually.
Jeroboam set up two golden calves: One in Bethel and the other in Dan. The fashioning of these idols was intended to prevent the people from worshipping in Jerusalem. In doing so, Jeroboam significantly diminished the chances of the people’s hearts returning to the Lord.
Eventually, idolatry spread throughout the whole nation, hardening hearts. This is the generation that Hosea is primarily writing to. This generation was about to be crushed and expelled from the land, dispersed among the nations.
Hosea’s comparison of Ephraim to a cow is possibly an allusion to their calf idol worship. The largest Israelite tribe, Ephraim, prided itself on treading upon Israel with what they believed was more open-minded and enlightened worship (because of its worldliness), crushing and dividing the Hebrew nation as a farm animal would tread out grain.
God is telling Ephraim (aka Israel in the divided kingdom) He is about to re-purpose their “bull-headedness,” as it were. God will make them disciplined and meek by subjecting them to the yoke of His rebuke. Eventually, Ephraim will be “broken,” as a horse must learn to obey its rider.
Today’s passage contains some beautifully simple agrarian imagery. With Ephraim harnessed and out of the way, Judah takes the leadership role in Hebrew restoration. Judah was more accustomed to challenging works of faith, so they plowed the hardened land. The rest of Israel follows Judah’s example by further breaking up the clods that Judah broke up.
In simple terms, Israel’s national heart was like hardened earth. By driving Israel out, to live among (and be subject to) the Gentiles, God maximized their potential to turn back to Him. They would have no other choice but to turn to Him eventually. Like the turning of soil, God was softening their hearts to receive someday the chosen “seed” of Abraham, Messiah Jesus. Have you chosen the God who has chosen you? Or are you continuing to rebel against Him, hardening your heart toward Messiah Yeshua, like Pharaoh, Korah, Ephraim, and a host of others who suffered the Lord’s rebuke?