Author - Josephine Toynette
Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death? O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes. (Hosea 13:14 ESV)
In this passage, it seems as though the Lord is questioning whether or not he should bring judgment upon Israel for her sins. While we can see the ultimate result by the end of verse 14 when the Lord declares that compassion will be hidden from His eyes, the translation of the passage can sometimes leave us wondering.
Several other translations have a slightly stronger rendering for this verse. Look how the New English Translation translates verse 14 based upon the Hebrew text and the force of the last phrase in the verse:
Will I deliver them from the power of Sheol? No, I will not! Will I redeem them from death? No, I will not! O Death, bring on your plagues! O Sheol, bring on your destruction! My eyes will not show any compassion! (Hosea 13:14 NET)
The Lord is calling forth the full force of death - the sting and plagues of death to come upon those who have rejected Him as God alone.
Hosea is told to speak this forceful judgment against Israel for her apostasy, idolatry, adultery, and rebellion. The judgment the Lord has foretold and warned of through His prophets has come. He will relent no longer. God is always just in His judgments, and His great long-suffering and patience have been seen the last few months in our daily readings. Yet, now, He must follow through with His disciplinary measures. The prophecy will be fulfilled in 725 B.C. when the Assyrian conquest would bring to an end the nation of northern Israel - leading them into captivity.
For the unbelieving and those who are unwilling to follow the One True God, death is a plague - a painful, torturous void. Jesus describes Sheol as the place like a fiery furnace where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:42).
There is no hope for the dead outside of Christ. None.
However, for the Christian, the plagues of death and the sting of Sheol have been taken away. In Paul’s chapter-long discourse on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, he quotes Hosea 13:14 in an almost ironic manner:
Behold! I tell you a mystery We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:51-57 ESV)
The death that once taunted us, condemning us to eternal damnation, no longer holds power over us. Death is now a safe place to journey as it is through death that we are united with Christ for all eternity. Death is no longer the place to which we journey, but the doorway through which we shed the cares and troubles of this life and move into life and oneness with Christ as His Bride.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this, we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord, himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV)