Hope For Israel

"For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterwards the children of Israel shall return, seek the LORD their God and David their king, and fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days" (Hosea 3:4,5)

This Scripture, written two thousand six hundred years ago, describes in detail the situation of the Jewish people ever since 70 AD, and right up until the present day.

The words 'many days' in the Hebrew are yamim rabbim which is a Hebrew idiomatic expression denoting a long indefinite period of time. It would embrace days, months, years, centuries, even millennia, and it refers to the time of the Gentiles.

Gentile domination over Israel began in 586 BC when the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar overran Judah and destroyed the First Temple, and it will continue until the Lord Messiah returns. However, Israel cannot and will not be destroyed; indeed , "they shall abide many days."

This speaks very clearly about the indestructibility of God's people, for this precious people is an everlasting people to God. "And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for men, since I appointed the ancient people." (Isaiah 44:7) The Hebrew speaks of am olam – the everlasting people, and they will not be destroyed by satanic inspired anti-Semitism or through social and religious assimilation.

Hosea tells us that Israel will not only continue to exist,but he states how the Jewish people will live under the domination of the Gentile nations. This is emphasized by the use of six Hebrew words as three couplets of contrasts or opposites.

In the Hebrew text the prophet's message reads literally: "For many days the sons of Israel shall stay (with) no king, and no prince, and no sacrifice, and no pillar (or image) and no ephod or teraphim" and thus we see the three couplets with contrasts: 1) without a king and prince, 2) without a sacrifice and image, 3) without an ephod and teraphim.

The king, the sacrifice and the ephod were all given to Israel by God, hence they were God's choice for His people. The prince, the image and the teraphim were Israel's response to God's choice, and are therefore Israel's choice.

(1) It was God's choice that Israel should exist as a theocracy, God Himself being their King. "For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our Law-giver, the LORD is our King" (Isaiah 33:22). But His people rejected His rule. They chose a prince of their own people to be king over them – a sad day for them when they came to Samuel the prophet to say: "Now make for us a king to judge us like all the nations" (1Samuel 8:5).

Samuel remonstrated with them, and then went to the Lord, as their request displeased him. "And the LORD said to Samuel, 'Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.'"

The throne also carried with it the implication that it was the throne of God, as we read in 1 Chronicles 29:23: "Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king instead of David his father . . . " Thus it would be through this royal family that the Messiah would come as the rightful heir.

He alone could establish a theocracy in Israel. "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:32-33).

(2) The nation would be without sacrifice and image. There is no record of their having fallen prey to idolatry after the Babylonian captivity. That judgement seems to have cured them, and they have been without images or idols or statues ever since.

But they have lost their God-given way of salvation, as the true religion of Israel instituted by the Lord Himself was a blood sacrifice. "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul" (Leviticus 17:11).

The Lord Messiah Jesus came to offer that blood sacrifice, once and for all, as God's Passover Lamb, and by rejecting Him Israel is rejecting God's sacrifice for sin. With the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD Israel has been without a blood sacrifice.

Of course we realize that God allowed this to happen, because the Messiah, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), would be the complete and final sacrifice for sin in the shedding of His blood. How futile to search for God and forgiveness for sin through rituals or tradition or good works!

(3) Hosea states that the children of Israel would be without an ephod and teraphim, which has been the case over many centuries. Once again, ever since the destruction of the Temple and the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD there has been no high priest of Israel, hence no ephod.

The ephod was required by God to be part of the robes of the high priest, the names of the twelve tribes inscribed in precious stones and placed in both the breast garment itself and on its shoulder straps, "so Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders as a memorial" (Exodus 28:12).

And on the breastplate of judgement also were put "the Urim and the Thummin (Lights and Perfections or complete truth), and they shall be over Aaron's heart when he goes in before the LORD" (Exodus 28:30), whereby the high priest could discern God's will while judging Israel.

On the occasion when David was fighting against the Philistines at Keilah, we read that "when David knew that Saul plotted evil against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, 'Bring the ephod here.'" (1 Samuel 23:9) God showed him that the men of Keilah would deliver him up to Saul, "So David and his men . . . arose and departed from Keilah" and so escaped.

In contrast to this, teraphim were false or household gods from which the people sought to divine God's will, and an event is recorded in Ezekiel 21:21-32 concerning the king of Babylon when he sought "to use divination: he shakes the arrows, he consults the images, he looks at the liver." Teraphim is the plural form of teraph which means to enquire, and is associated with witchcraft, or enquiring of sorcerers, as in the Ezekiel reference.

Thus Hosea spoke that during the time the Gentiles would dominate the people of Israel the nation would exist without king, prince, sacrifice, image, ephod and teraphim.

Each of the three elements of God's choice for Israel – king, sacrifice and ephod – describe a vital aspect of the minstry of the Messiah. He came to Israel as King, as High Priest and as Prophet, but Israel as a nation rejects Him, and as a consequence exists without any of these benefits.

But the prophet did not conclude here. We go on to read: "Afterwards the children of Israel shall return, seek the LORD their God and David their King . . . in the latter days" And when they do, the King, the Priest and the Prophet will be restored to them, for He will return in glory.

Israel's dispersion is drawing rapidly to a close as more are beginning to search God's Word for themselves, and alienation from their God is being reversed, as they draw nearer to the time when they say: "Come, and let us return to the LORD, for he has torn, but he will heal us; he has stricken, but he will bind us up" (Hosea 6:1).