Hosea 8:13—How can this verse say that Ephraim will return to Egypt when 11:5 says that Ephraim will not return there?
Problem: According to the prophecy of 8:13, because Israel, or Ephraim, had sinned against God, Hosea prophesied that they would return to Egypt (cf. 9:3). However, in 11:5 God specifically states that Israel “shall not return to the land of Egypt.” Is this a contradiction?
Solution: There is no contradiction because the statements refer to different aspects of Israel’s experience. In Hosea 8:13, God is remembering the sin of Israel in worshiping other gods. In their hearts, the people of Israel were always “returning to Egypt.” In Hosea 11:5, God is reiterating the promise of Deuteronomy 17:16 that Israel would not return to the captivity of Egypt. Although God would punish the sin of His people, He would not cause them to return to the captivity of Egypt. Rather, He would bring the Assyrian armies to enact His judgment, and Israel would be carried away as the captives of this foreign enemy. On several occasions Israel had sought help from Egypt against the Assyrians. The promise that they would not return to Egypt was not only a restatement of the promise of Deuteronomy 17:16, but it was also a warning that Egypt would not be able to help Israel any more against the invading Assyrians. Although their hearts were turning away from God, and returning to the pagan influence of Egypt, God would not drive them back there. Rather, He would break the bond with Egypt that Israel continued to rely upon instead of relying upon their God. He would do this by bringing about their captivity in Assyria. These two statements are in perfect harmony.
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.