A Moth, a Worm and a LionBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Now, Hoshea addresses the priests of Judah, although there is a difference of opinion as to whether he is speaking to the kohanim of the Temple or the idolatrous priests. The priests, the people and even the king will have to pay for their role in the current sad state of affairs; they are a trap. Their straying from G-d has gotten worse and G-d will punish all of them. G-d knew what was in the heart of Yeravam (Jeroboam), the first king of the Ten Tribes. The people of the northern kingdom used to be able to blame their idolatry on their wayward kings, who prevented them from going to the Temple in Judah. Once they had a king who permitted it, they lost that excuse. They don’t seek to return to G-d, even given the chance. They will be humbled and will be tripped up by their sins. Not only Israel will be punished for idolatry, but Judah as well. They will finally return to G-d, leading flocks for sacrifices, but He will have hidden Himself from them. They cheated on G-d and intermarried, fathering non-Jewish children. Now, the month of Av will consume them. (Av is the month in which such tragedies typically occur. Both Temples were destroyed on the ninth of Av.)
Sound shofars and trumpets to warn people of the invaders. Call out to the Tribe of Benjamin that the enemy is right behind them. (Benjamin was part of the kingdom of Judah. They lasted longer than the kingdom of Israel, but they fell before the Tribe of Judah.) Ephraim (meaning the Ten Tribes) will be bewildered when G-d makes it clear to them that the Torah they willfully ignored is true.
The leaders of Judah are like those who move a boundary marker to steal land; G-d will pour His wrath out upon them. Ephraim has been wounded by their invaders as a consequence of trying to follow idols. G-d is like a moth, eating the clothes of Ephraim, and like a worm, causing decay in Judah. Israel will be subservient to Assyria; Judah will seek protection, but they will not be successful. How could anyone thwart the will of G-d whose strength is compared to that of a young, vital lion? If He wants to, He will tear or carry off as He wishes and no one can stop Him. He will withdraw from the people until they recognize their sins and humbly seek Him.