Read Hosea 9
Focus on verse 13
As parents we do try to treat our children equally. While this is not always possible, because each one is different and has different needs and contributes to the family in different ways, it nearly always causes issues in a family when one child is obviously favored by a parent.
This favoritism is clearly problematic among the twelve sons of Jacob, and the favoritism seems to carry forward all the way to the distribution of the Promised land to the tribes of Israel when they finally possess it. Ephraim and Manasseh were the two sons of Joseph, Joseph was the favored son of Jacob. When Jacob blessed his grandsons just prior to his death, he seems to purposely favor Ephraim, the younger son over his older brother Manasseh. When the Promised Land was distributed to the twelve tribes of Israel Joseph not only received a double portion since his sons Ephraim and Manasseh were each counted in the place of Joseph, but Ephraim seems to continue to be favored by the Lord.
This is alluded to once again in today’s reading, even though it is a pronouncement of judgment upon this “favored” tribe.
Ephraim, as I have seen, was a young palm planted in a meadow; but Ephraim must lead his children out to slaughter. (v. 13)
Ephraim had a promising start. He was the favored one. His tribe grew quickly in number and strength. Presumably his prosperity increased accordingly. Yet in the end he, like the other tribes, abandons the One who blessed him with all this increase! As a result of his rebellion the blessing dries up, and Ephraim is delivered over to his own demise.
This pattern often repeats itself not just on national levels, but on personal levels as well. The favored child – the one who initially shows great promise and works extra hard to please by attempting to live up to the expectations that have been thrust upon him or her – is too often the child that later rebels, or just gives up because they suddenly realize their life has been hi-jacked by the most often well-intentioned expectations of others.
The fortunate ones realize this early enough to rediscover what their own destiny and passion really are and find the courage to pursue these; the less fortunate ones take the path of Ephraim – making poor choices that lead to disastrous consequences.