Hosea 5:13

The reference here is to both Israel and Judah; for both kingdoms were alike suffering, alike guilty of reliance on human help and deliverance, and alike in their experience of its utter vanity.

I. NATIONAL DISEASE AND SUFFERING. The language is, of course, figurative, but it is very expressive. Whoever reads the chronicles of the chosen people must become familiar with the civil troubles, afflictions, and disasters they were called upon to endure. Had they been faithful to God and to one another they would have been spared very much which they brought upon themselves of sorrow and of disaster.

II. THE APPEAL TO POLITICAL PHYSICIANS. It was to Assyria that the Israelites were often so foolish as to appeal. Beset by Babylon on the cast and Egypt on the south, the Hebrews were often at a loss how to steer their course. Their danger was lest they should rely for healing and for safety upon "an arm of flesh." It was not unnatural that they should do so; but it was wrong and foolish policy, as the event always proved.

III. THE POWERLESSNESS OF THE NATIONS TO HEAL THE MALADIES AND WOUNDS OF ISRAEL. The children of the covenant gained nothing by going after other gods or by courting the alliance of heathen kings. These physicians, when called in, could effect no cure and could afford no relief. In this we discern a symbol of the powerlessness of all human friends and helpers to bring deliverance to the captive soul, health to the spiritually sick and suffering, relief to the burdened.

"I have tried, and tried in vain,
Other ways to ease my pain."

IV. THE LESSON OF THIS EXPERIENCE. It is an easy one to understand, but a difficult one to practice. We are summoned to cast aside all confidence in human helpers, and to rely simply and only upon the Divine Physician. In him is salvation. "There is balm in Gilead; there is a physician there." Christ is the Healer alike of body and of soul, of individuals and of nations; and his healing is both for time and for eternity. - T.

When Ephraim saw his sickness... then went Ephraim to the Assyrian.
Sketches of Sermons.
Men continually provoke God to chastise them, but rarely make a due improvement of His chastisements. Instead of turning to God, they dishonour Him more by applying to the creature under their distress rather than to Him.


1. In troubles of a temporal nature. Sickness of body? Distress of mind. Straitened circumstances. God is invariably our last refuge.

2. In spiritual troubles. Under conviction of sin. In seasons of temptation or desertion. Though foiled ten thousand times, we cannot bring ourselves to lie as clay in the potter's hands.

II. THE CREATURE CANNOT AFFORD US ANY EFFECTUAL SUCCOUR. There are circumstances wherein friends may be instrumental to our relief; but they can do —

1. Nothing effectual; and

2. Nothing of themselves.Apply(1) Let us guard against this sinful propensity, both in our national and personal concerns.(2) Let us especially rely on Christ as the healer of our souls. To Him then look with humble, uniform, unshaken affiance.

(Sketches of Sermons.)

Under a grievous sense of their disease and weakness, instead of applying to Jehovah, Ephraim and Judah went to the Assyrian, and sent to King Jareb. The Assyrian king was ever ready for his own aggrandisement to mix himself up with the affairs of neighbouring states.

I. MEN ARE OFTEN MADE CONSCIOUS OF THEIR SPIRITUAL MALADY. Depravity is a disease of the heart. It impairs the energies, mars the enjoyments of the soul, and incapacitates it for the right discharge of the duties of life. A great point is gained when a man becomes conscious of his disease, and the sinner of his sin.

II. MEN FREQUENTLY RESORT TO WRONG MEANS OF RELIEF. The Assyrians had neither the power nor the disposition to effect the restoration of Ephraim to political health. Sometimes men go —

1. To scenes of carnal amusement; or

2. To sceptical philosophisings; or

3. To false religions. These are all miserable comforters, broken cisterns.

III. RESORTING TO WRONG METHODS OF RELIEF WILL PROVE UTTERLY INEFFECTIVE. What can worldly amusements, sceptical reasonings, and false religions do towards healing a sin-sick soul? Like anodyne, they may deaden the pain for a minute only, that the anguish may return with intenser acuteness. There is but one Physician of souls.


Wherever we look, or wherever we go, we are met by one or another of God's loving mercies. In the extremity of their distress, Ephraim and Judah chose the most unholy and unlawful means for their deliverance. They had no bright confidence in the fountain of living waters.

I. THE ENTIRE ISRAEL OF GOD SUFFERS MORE OR LESS FROM HEART AND SOUL SICKNESS. There is not a prophet under the old dispensation, nor an apostle under the new, but speaks without one qualifying term of the sinfulness of man. Does not God's Word, however, seem to contradict the saying that the spiritual sickness of a guilty soul is universal? Is not this inferred — that some souls are nut in this lapsed condition — when Jesus said, "They which be whole need not a physician"? Those words were directly addressed to the Pharisees, and were meant as a rebuke to that proud, self-righteous seed, whose thoughts were always running upon their own moral excellency. No sinner, with the taint and defilement of sin upon him, can possibly be whole in the scriptural acceptation of the word.

II. WE ARE OFTEN DRIVEN IN OUR DISTRESS TO UNAVAILABLE SOURCES FOR OUR RELIEF. Assyria was, at that time, a mighty nation, and apparently held in her large grasp the destinies of the house of Israel: nevertheless, when that distressed people came to her king for succour, his hands were tied and his instruments were powerless. Yet they took the best wisdom of the children of this world. The heart of man is a very insufficient, I had nearly said the worst of all imaginable counsellors. And men have no knowledge of their true Physician, or no taste for His medicines; they have no life to seek the grace of salvation, or no love freely to embrace it. There is a class of professors who accept the invitations of Jesus, but only in a qualified sense. They receive Him as a great Prophet, an intercessory Priest, an everlasting King. But only the sick care to hear of Him as the Great Physician.

III. HE WHO CURES OUR MALADY MUST HIMSELF BE FREE FROM IT. Christ and none but Christ is pointed at in these words, "For He who knew no sin was made sin for us." After what manner did He cure?

1. By changing the appearance of sin, and showing what we thought mere little scars to be large wounds.

2. By giving a new channel to the thoughts when they have beheld enough of corruption to alarm, to disturb, and to humble the whole man.

3. By teaching a praying penitent songs of praise, and testifying so strongly to the length and breadth and height of His mercy, that he shall have no depth of desire for anything else. When the heart is cured, how can it do otherwise than sing? When the will is cured, its principal delight is to search the revealed counsels of the Most High; the cure is effectual; the thanks-offering must not be less than cordial.

(F. G. Crossman.)

I. SIN, HOWEVER REJOICED IN, BRINGS MANY SORROWS IN ITS TRAIN. Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound. Sin is the disease of the soul; bitter to bear, difficult to cure. Like the leprosy over the body, it overspread the entire framework of the mind. Conscience itself is either blind or dumb; blind, that it does not see our danger, or dumb, that it does not sound an alarm. Sometimes it is a silenced preacher, or an ambassador in bonds. The disease of the body may be known by various symptoms, so may that of the soul. The taste is vitiated. Disease produces want of rest. It prostrates the strength. It darkens and obscures the beauty of the outward frame. Some diseases rob the soul of reason. Sinners are described as "mad upon their idols."


1. They do so in worldly trials. Illustrate by Ephraim sending to King Jareb. So with men now. The creature is everything and God nothing.

2. In spiritual distress. Men are often sorry for their troubles, not for their transgressions. When conscience is aroused men try partial repentance and amendment; sacraments, etc.

III. A SUCCESSION OF TRIALS MAY BE NEEDED TO CONVINCE MEN OF THEIR SIN AND DANGER, AND DRIVE THEM OFF FROM FALSE REFUGES. Various are the means God employs. If lighter judgments fail, heavier are sent.


(S. T.)

There is a tendency in the heart of man to want something to look to rather than something to trust to. Looking at the fallacy of Ephraim as illustrative of a common tendency of mankind, and using the text as the picture of a sinner in a peculiar state of mental anxiety, notice —

I. THE SINNER'S PARTIAL DISCOVERY OF HIS LOST ESTATE. It is here but a partial discovery. Ephraim felt his sickness, but he did not know the radical disease that lurked within. He only perceived the symptoms. How many men there are who have got just far enough to know there is something the matter with them. They little reck that they are totally ruined. They still cling with some hope to their own devices.

II. The wrong means which he takes to be cured of his evil. He tries to make himself better. All that man can do apart from the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ is utterly in vain. Matthew Wilks used to say you might as well hope to Sail to America on a sere leaf as hope to go to heaven by your own doings.

III. The right means of finding healing and deliverance. Whoever will be saved must know that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came down from heaven, lived a life of sanctity and suffering, and at last became obedient unto death. He is a Divinely ordained Saviour. You must believe He is willing to save. There must be a leaning on Him, a dependency on Him. God requires nothing of you but that you should depend for all on Christ.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

So Ephraim and Judah went to the wrong person, and did not gain much by their application. It seemed to them an excellent policy. Israel could not choose to be independent. Neither can we be independent. Where is there a man that seriously reflects upon our earthly lot that does not feel there is a secret sickness, a hidden wound, somewhere? Man is the great sufferer the wide world over. Either man has been unduly and abnormally elevated, or else he must needs be fallen. Man's distresses and disappointments spring from his fall. He is not what God intended him to be, and therefore he does not enjoy what God intended him to enjoy. He is out of harmony with God, and therefore out of harmony with nature. Besides outward evils, there is the prevalence of moral evil, which in many cases proves the very worst evil of all. When Ephraim and Judah saw that things were not all right with them, they fell back upon the Assyrian, instead of throwing themselves upon God. And even so when men begin to be conscious of the disappointments of life, and feel an inward discontent, like a disease preying upon their hearts, how often do they follow the example of Israel, and seek in the creature what can only be found in the Creator! Some take refuge in the pre-occupations of business. Others fly to more intoxicating excitements. There is the distinct attempt of human perversity to get away from its inward sense of want, and emptiness, and helpless misery, by falling back upon the world, instead of turning to God. How shall God deal with us when we show ourselves so perverse and froward? What course do we force upon Him by our folly? The appearance that God bears to us will ever be determined by the attitude that we assume towards Him. It was a terrible and startling part that the God of Israel undertook to maintain in dealing with His ancient people. It would have been no true kindness on God's part if He had granted them prosperity when they were apostate from Him. This must have led them to feel the more satisfied with their apostasy, and the less disposed to repent. As it was, the prophets could point to each fresh disaster as a proof that the nation was under the judgment of God, and that their sin was proving their ruin. It is no less His love to us that makes Him deal with us in a similar manner. He has to thwart us just that He may show us how little King Jareb can do for us.

(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

Carnal hearts seek to the creature for help in time of difficulty. They saw their sickness, their wound, and they "sent to King Jareb." They look to no higher causes of their trouble than second causes, therefore they seek to no higher means for their relief than second causes. They regard their troubles as such as befall other men as well as them, and so look not up to God. They are led by sense, and the second causes are before them, and near to them, but God is above them and beyond them, and His ways are often contrary to sense. They little mind God in their straits, but send for help unto the creature.

(Jeremiah Burroughs.)

— A poor fisherman in the town of Nairn, on the Moray Firth, had for some years been afflicted with a troublesome cough, and, having consulted many doctors, was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse. He had heard, however, that there were very skilful men in Edinburgh, and he decided to go. During the voyage, he told some of the sailors his object in going to Edinburgh, and they advised him to see Sir James Simpson. It was often a very difficult matter to get an interview with Sir James, but, to his surprise, he was at once admitted to the consulting-room, stated his case, and after a short examination Sir James said, "You've applied to many doctors already, you said?" "Yes, sir, a good many." "Have you gone to the Great Physician?" The man was silent. "Well, my good man," resumed Sir James, "I advise you to go to Him; I am sorry I can do you little good. You had better go home, and just take as good care of yourself as you can." The man was very much affected, for he now understood that his case appeared hopeless. Putting his hand in his pocket and taking out a few coins, he said, "What have I to pay you, doctor?" "My friend," said Sir James, putting his hand kindly on his shoulder, "I don't want any money from you. I ask only an interest in your prayers. Good-bye. Don't forget to go to the Great Physician." After thanking the doctor, he returned home, sought and found Christ as his spiritual Physician and Saviour, and soon afterwards died.

Benjamin, Hosea, Israelites, Jareb
Assyria, Beth-aven, Gibeah, Mizpah, Ramah, Tabor
Able, Asshur, Assyria, Assyrian, Contentious, Cure, Disease, Ephraim, E'phraim, Heal, Healing, Jareb, Judah, Remove, Removed, Scar, Sickness, Sore, Sores, Unable, Warlike, Wound, Yet
1. The judgments of God are denounced against the priests, people, and princes,
9. both of Israel and Judah, for their manifold sins.
15. An intimation is given of mercy on their repentance.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Hosea 5:13

     5811   compromise
     5973   unreliability

Hosea 5:13-15

     7233   Israel, northern kingdom
     8160   seeking God

'Physicians of no Value'
'When Ephralm saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to Assyria, and sent to king Jareb: but he is not able to heal you, neither shall he cure you of your wound.'--HOSEA v. 13 (R.V.). The long tragedy which ended in the destruction of the Northern Kingdom by Assyrian invasion was already beginning to develop in Hosea's time. The mistaken politics of the kings of Israel led them to seek an ally where they should have dreaded an enemy. As Hosea puts it in figurative fashion, Ephraim's
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

An Obscured vision
(Preached at the opening of the Winona Lake Bible Conference.) TEXT: "Where there is no vision, the people perish."--Proverbs 29:18. It is not altogether an easy matter to secure a text for such an occasion as this; not because the texts are so few in number but rather because they are so many, for one has only to turn over the pages of the Bible in the most casual way to find them facing him at every reading. Feeling the need of advice for such a time as this, I asked a number of my friends who
J. Wilbur Chapman—And Judas Iscariot

The Call and Feast of Levi
"And He went forth again by the seaside; and all the multitude resorted unto Him, and He taught them. And as He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the place of toll, and He saith unto him, Follow Me. And he arose and followed Him. And it came to pass, that He was sitting at meat in his house, and many publicans and sinners sat down with Jesus and His disciples: for there were many, and they followed Him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that He was eating with the
G. A. Chadwick—The Gospel of St. Mark

That None Should Enter on a Place of Government who Practise not in Life what they have Learnt by Study.
There are some also who investigate spiritual precepts with cunning care, but what they penetrate with their understanding they trample on in their lives: all at once they teach the things which not by practice but by study they have learnt; and what in words they preach by their manners they impugn. Whence it comes to pass that when the shepherd walks through steep places, the flock follows to the precipice. Hence it is that the Lord through the prophet complains of the contemptible knowledge
Leo the Great—Writings of Leo the Great

Ramah. Ramathaim Zophim. Gibeah.
There was a certain Ramah, in the tribe of Benjamin, Joshua 18:25, and that within sight of Jerusalem, as it seems, Judges 19:13; where it is named with Gibeah:--and elsewhere, Hosea 5:8; which towns were not much distant. See 1 Samuel 22:6; "Saul sat in Gibeah, under a grove in Ramah." Here the Gemarists trifle: "Whence is it (say they) that Ramah is placed near Gibea? To hint to you, that the speech of Samuel of Ramah was the cause, why Saul remained two years and a half in Gibeah." They blindly
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica

Ripe for Gathering
'Thus hath the Lord God shewed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit. 2. And He said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer fruit. Then said the Lord unto me, The end is come upon My people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more. 3. And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord God: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence. 4. Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Meditations for the Sick.
Whilst thy sickness remains, use often, for thy comfort, these few meditations, taken from the ends wherefore God sendeth afflictions to his children. Those are ten. 1. That by afflictions God may not only correct our sins past, but also work in us a deeper loathing of our natural corruptions, and so prevent us from falling into many other sins, which otherwise we would commit; like a good father, who suffers his tender babe to scorch his finger in a candle, that he may the rather learn to beware
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

Of Civil Government.
OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT. This chapter consists of two principal heads,--I. General discourse on the necessity, dignity, and use of Civil Government, in opposition to the frantic proceedings of the Anabaptists, sec. 1-3. II. A special exposition of the three leading parts of which Civil Government consists, sec. 4-32. The first part treats of the function of Magistrates, whose authority and calling is proved, sec. 4-7. Next, the three Forms of civil government are added, sec. 8. Thirdly, Consideration
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion

That the Employing Of, and Associating with the Malignant Party, According as is Contained in the Public Resolutions, is Sinful and Unlawful.
That The Employing Of, And Associating With The Malignant Party, According As Is Contained In The Public Resolutions, Is Sinful And Unlawful. If there be in the land a malignant party of power and policy, and the exceptions contained in the Act of Levy do comprehend but few of that party, then there need be no more difficulty to prove, that the present public resolutions and proceedings do import an association and conjunction with a malignant party, than to gather a conclusion from clear premises.
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

The Arguments Usually Alleged in Support of Free Will Refuted.
1. Absurd fictions of opponents first refuted, and then certain passages of Scripture explained. Answer by a negative. Confirmation of the answer. 2. Another absurdity of Aristotle and Pelagius. Answer by a distinction. Answer fortified by passages from Augustine, and supported by the authority of an Apostle. 3. Third absurdity borrowed from the words of Chrysostom. Answer by a negative. 4. Fourth absurdity urged of old by the Pelagians. Answer from the works of Augustine. Illustrated by the testimony
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion

The book of Hosea divides naturally into two parts: i.-iii. and iv.-xiv., the former relatively clear and connected, the latter unusually disjointed and obscure. The difference is so unmistakable that i.-iii. have usually been assigned to the period before the death of Jeroboam II, and iv.-xiv. to the anarchic period which succeeded. Certainly Hosea's prophetic career began before the end of Jeroboam's reign, as he predicts the fall of the reigning dynasty, i. 4, which practically ended with Jeroboam's
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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