Hosea 9 – Israel’s Punishment & Ancient Man’s Cults, Sects, and Religions: Zoroastrianism

I gotta say that Zarathustra had the right idea, he got the wrong God because You are the only God there is.

“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none ele; I am God and there is none like me.

Memphis, a Greek word derived from the Egyptian Menofre, was the capital of the Old Kingdom and continued to enjoy considerable importance through¬out Pharaonic times.
During the New Kingdom period, the Pharaohs, particularly Ramses II, invested great efforts in increasing its splendour.

The Greek historian Herodotus visited Memphis in the 5th century BC, when it was one of the largest and most beautiful of Eastern cities, but it began to lose importance to Alexandria in the Ptolemaic era.

Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa 46:9-10).

I would now like to look at…

Hosea 9
Israel’s Punishment

1 Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people: for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, thou hast loved a reward upon every corn floor.

This verse begins a section that was probably spoken at a harvest festival, such as the feast of tabernacles.

“Reward” – not to be taken literally, but in the sense of spiritual adultery.

“Upon very corn floor” – since the threshing floor at threshing time was a man’s world – the threshers stayed there all night to protect the grain and feasted at the end of the day’s labors – prostitutes were not uncommon visitors.

2 The floor and the winepress shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her.

3 They shall not dwell in the LORD’S land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria.

“LORD’s land” – the Promised Land, which the Lord claimed as His own.

“Ephraim” – Israel, the northern kingdom.

“Egypt…Assyria” – Israel was threatened with exile to the lands it depended on – where the temple sacrifice could not be offered.

“Unclean” – a foreign country was ceremonially unclean.  What grew there was likewise unclean because it was the product of fertility credited to pagan gods.

Memphis Egypt is one of those endlessly magical, history-soaked tourist attractions that abound in this beautiful country.

The capital of the Ancient Kingdom of Egypt, which is located on history’s timeline around the 3000-2000 BC mark, Memphis is today a fascinating collection of scattered ruins and tranquil fields that hint to what stood upon them.

4 They shall not offer wine offerings to the LORD, neither shall they be pleasing unto him: their sacrifices shall be unto them as the bread of mourners; all that eat thereof shall be polluted: for their bread for their soul shall not come into the house of the LORD.

“As the bread of mourners” – unclean, like bread in a house where there had been a death.  All who touched it became ceremonially unclean.

“Not come in the house of the LORD” – in exile Israel would have no place (not even those places established by Jeroboam I where she could bring sacrifices to the Lord or celebrate her religious festivals.

5 What will ye do in the solemn day, and in the day of the feast of the LORD?

6 For, lo, they are gone because of destruction: Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them: the pleasant places for their silver, nettles shall possess them: thorns shall be in their tabernacles.

“Memphis” – the capital of Lower (northern) Egypt.

7 The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.

8 The watchman of Ephraim was with my God: but the prophet is a snare of a fowler in all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God.

“Snare…hatred” – Israel showed only hostility toward the watchmen (the true prophets) whom God sent to warn His people of the great dangers that threatened.

9 They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah: therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins.

“Corrupted themselves” – the word used of the Israelites who worshipped the golden calf (Ex 32:7).

“Days of Gibeah” – a reference to the corrupt events of Jud 19-21.

“He will remember” – sins unrepented of are remembered, as well as the accumulated sins of generations.

Gibeah of Saul, where absolutes were ignored in Judges 19. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)
A Land without Absolute Truth Today

As God’s people today, we also live in a land that sneers at absolute truth. These days, the only standard not tolerated is intolerance.

In such a context, the striking distinction we should display should come not from thumping our Bibles but from living holy lives that reflect a holy God (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15; 1 Peter 2:12).

10 I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the first ripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baal-peor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved.

The covenant relation is traced back to the wilderness.

“Grapes…fig” – refreshing delicacies.  The images used here (grapes in the wilderness, early fruit of the fig tree) beautifully convey God’s delight in Israel when she, out of all the nations, committed herself to Him in covenant at Sinai.

“Baal-peor” – a shortened form of Beth-baal-peor.  Peor was a mountain.  Baal-peor refers to the god of Peor and was used interchangeably with Beth-peor, “the temple of Peor.”  Hosea refers here to the incident in Num 25.

11 As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird, from the birth, and from the womb, and from the conception.

“Ephraim, their glory” – their large population and prosperity.  The punishment fit the sin.  Prostitution produces no increase.

12 Though they bring up their children, yet will I bereave them, that there shall not be a man left: yea, woe also to them when I depart from them!

13 Ephraim, as I saw Tyrus, is planted in a pleasant place: but Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer.

“Tyrus” – Tyre, noted for its wealth, pleasant environment and security.

14 Give them, O LORD: what wilt thou give? give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.

Hosea did not pray out of hateful vengeance against Israel, but because he shared God’s holy wrath against her sins.

Unfinished Royal Palace of King Hussein of Jordan on “Gibeah of Saul”.

15 All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more: all their princes are revolters.

“Drive them out of my house” – as the unfaithful wife was driven from the husband’s house, so Israel was driven from God’s “house” – i.e., His land.

16 Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb.

17 My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto him: and they shall be wanderers among the nations.

“My God” – Hosea’s words alone, for God was no longer Israel’s God.

Ancient Man’s Cults, Sects, and Religions:
Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism is the ancient, pre-Islamic religion of Persia (modern Iran). It survives there in isolated areas but more prosperously in India, where the descendants of Zoroastrian Persian immigrants are known as Parsis, or Parsees. In India the religion is called Parsiism.

In Zoroastrianism, the creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil originates from him.
Thus, in Zoroastrianism good and evil have distinct sources, with evil (druj) trying to destroy the creation of Mazda (asha), and good trying to sustain it.

While Ahura Mazda is not immanent in the world, his creation is represented by the Amesha Spentas and the host of other Yazatas, through whom the works of God are evident to humanity, and through whom worship of Mazda is ultimately directed.

Founded by the Iranian prophet and reformer Zoroaster in the 6th century B.C., Zoroastrianism contains both monotheistic and dualistic features. Its concepts of one God, judgment, heaven and hell likely influenced the major Western religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Fast Facts

Date founded: c.6th century B.C.

Place founded: Ancient Persia

Founder: Zarathustra (Zoroaster)

Followers: 150,000-200,000

History

Zarathustra (in Greek, Zoroaster) was a Persian prophet who at the age of 30 believed he had seen visions of God, whom he called Ahura Mazda, the creator of all that is good and who alone is worthy of worship.

This was a departure from previous Indo-Persian polytheism, and Zarathustra has been termed the first non-biblical monotheist. There is disagreement among scholars as to exactly when and where Zarathustra lived, but most agree that he lived in eastern Iran around the6th century B.C.

Zoroastrianism became the official religion of the Persian Empire, but it virtually disappeared in Persia after the Muslim invasion of 637 A.D. Only about 10,000 survived in remote villages in Iran, but over the centuries many sought religious freedom in India.

Zoroaster (left) standing over the First Judicial Department of The New York Supreme Court.

Texts

The Zoroastrian sacred text is the Avesta (“Book of the Law”), a fragmentary collection of sacred writings. Compiled over many centuries, the Avesta was not completed until Persia’s Sassanid Dynasty (226-641 A.D.).

It consists of: liturgical works with hymns ascribed to Zarathustra (the Gathas); invocations and rituals to be used at festivals; hymns of praise; and spells against demons and prescriptions for purification.

Beliefs

The Zoroastrian concept of God incorporates both monotheism and dualism. In his visions, Zarathustra was taken up to heaven, where Ahura Mazda revealed that he had an opponent, Aura Mainyu, the spirit and promoter of evil.

There is only one true God and He created all things, including evil:

“All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (Jn1:3).

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (Isa 45:7).

Ahura Mazda charged Zarathustra with the task of inviting all human beings to choose between him (good) and Aura Mainyu (evil).

One imagines the Avesta looking something like the Hebrew Torah, heavy, ornamented parchment scrolls filled with column after column of fine calligraphy and fixed on rollers so the text unrolls either left to right or right to left.

Just as Torah simply means ‘the law’ in Hebrew, âbâsta is the Parthian word for ‘the law’, which suggests that the main parts of the Avesta were put together during the Parthian era.

Zoroaster taught that man must enlist in this cosmic struggle because of his capacity of free choice. Thus Zoroastrianism is a highly ethical religion in which the choice of good over evil has almost cosmic importance.

Zarathustra taught that humans are free to choose between right and wrong, truth and lie, and light and dark, and that their choices would affect their eternity destiny.

The above is correct and if you choose to be evil and not walk with Jesus Christ then you will spend eternity in hell.

Blessed are they that do his commandment that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie (Rev 22:14-15).

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.

And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15).

The Zoroastrian afterlife is determined by the balance of the good and evil deeds, words, and thoughts of the whole life.

This is what the Catholics preach, they threaten people with Purgatory,  and Pope Francis even says that if you will follow him on Twitter you will do less time there.

We do not spend eternity in heaven or hell due to what we do:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

“Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9).

We decide our fate by our faith in Jesus Christ:

“Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father , but by me” (Jn 14:6).

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb 11:6).

For those whose good deeds outweigh the bad, heaven awaits. Those who did more evil than good go to hell (which has several levels corresponding to degrees of wickedness). There is an intermediate stage for those whose deeds weight out equally.

The above statement is correct.  Hell is just like breaking the law.  A murderer will be punished much harsher than a thief.

The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian and Kurdish meaning “the place of god”) is a multi-lingual inscription located on Mount Behistun in the Kermanshah Province of Iran, near the city of Kermanshah in western Iran.

“And that servant which knew his lord’s will and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will shall be beaten with many stripes.

But he that knew not and did commit things worthy of stripes shall be beaten with few stripes.  For unto whomsoever much is given of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Lk 12:47-48).

So a non-believer’s punishment in hell will not be as harsh as those that use God for their benefit, like the Catholics for example.  As Jesus said:

“Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?  and in thy name have cast out devils?  And in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt 7:21-23).

Everyone that goes to hell will burn for eternity, but I guess the temperatures will not all be the same.

Investiture of Sassanid emperor Shapur II (center) with Mithra (left) and Ahura Mazda (right) at Taq-e Bostan, Iran.

“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt 25:46).

“…to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched” (Mk 9:43).

“And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night…” (Rev 14:11).

According to Zoroastrianism  this general principle is not absolute, however, but allows for human weakness. All faults do not have to be registered or weighed forever on the scales. There are two means of effacing them: confession and the transfer of supererogatory merits (similar to the Roman Catholic “Treasury of Merits”).

Zoroaster invoked saviors who, like the dawns of new days, would come to the world. He hoped himself to be one of them. After his death, the belief in coming saviors developed. He also incorporated belief in angels and demons.

Zoroaster’s ideas of ethical monotheism, heaven, hell, angelology, the resurrection of the body, and the messiah figure were influential on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, though to what extent is not known for certain.

Practices

Today’s Zoroastrians (Parsis) practice an important coming of age ritual, in which all young Parsis must be initiated when they reach the age of seven (in India) or 10 (in Persia). They receive the shirt (sadre) and the girdle (kusti), which they are to wear their whole life.

Zoroastrian Temple of Yazd, Iran.

There are three types of purification, in order of increasing importance:

1. padyab, or ablution

2. nahn, or bath

3. bareshnum, a complicated ritual performed at special places with the participation of a dog (whose left ear is touched by the candidate and whose gaze puts the evil spirits to flight) and lasting several days.

The Zoroastrian system of penance entails reciting the patet, the firm resolve not to sin again, and the confession of sins to a dastur or to an ordinary priest if a dastur is not obtainable.

The chief ceremony, the Yasna, essentially a sacrifice of haoma (the sacred liquor), is celebrated before the sacred fire with recitation of large parts of the Avesta. There also are offerings of bread and milk and, formerly, of meat or animal fat.

The sacred fire must be kept burning continually and has to be fed at least five times a day. Prayers also are recited five times a day. The founding of a new fire involves a very elaborate ceremony. There are also rites for purification and for regeneration of a fire.

Zoroastrian burial rites center on exposure of the dead. After death, a dog is brought before the corpse (preferably a “four-eyed” dog, i.e., with a spot above each eye, believed to increase the efficacy of its gaze).

The Tower of Silence.
Indian officials investigating several missing persons reports from a nearby city.
What they found was a “Tower of Silence,” or dakhma.

Zoroastrians use these sites to dispose of bodies in the open air!

While sites like these are not uncommon in certain parts of India, several peculiarities hint at something more unusual…

None of the bodies depicted in the photograph were identified. Villagers from nearby, though initially surprised at the sheer number of corpses in the dakhma, proved unable to recognize the bodies. The corpses also do not match the descriptions of the missing people.

The rite is repeated five times a day. After the first one, fire is brought into the room where it is kept burning until three days after the removal of the corpse to the Tower of Silence. The removal must be done during the daytime.

The interior of the Tower of Silence is built in three concentric circles, one each for men, women, and children. The corpses are exposed there naked. The vultures do not take long—an hour or two at the most—to strip the flesh off the bones, and these, dried by the sun, are later swept into the central well.

Formerly the bones were kept in an ossuary, the astodan, to preserve them from rain and animals. The morning of the fourth day is marked by the most solemn observance in the death ritual, for it is then that the departed soul reaches the next world and appears before the deities who are to pass judgment over it.

Festivals, in which worship is an essential part, are characteristic aspects of Zoroastrianism, a faith that enjoins on man the pleasant duty of being happy. The principal festivals in the Parsi year are the six seasonal festivals, Gahanbars, and the days in memory of the dead at year’s end.

Also, each day of the month and each of the 12 months of the year is dedicated to a deity. The day named after the month is the great feast day of that particular deity.

The New Year festival, Noruz, is the most joyous and beautiful of Zoroastrian feasts, a spring festival in honor of Rapithwin, the personification of noonday and summer. The festival to Mithra, or Mehragan, was traditionally an autumn one, as honored as the spring feast of Noruz. 

…the kingdoms of Egypt.