Does this verse prophecy the abolition of the Sabbath?
by Edwin M. Cotto
Adventist Defense League
“I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days,
her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.”
All bible texts will be taken from the King James Version unless otherwise noted. Estimated reading time is 17 minutes and 10 seconds, according to Read-o-Meter.
THE SHORT ANSWER
Quick answer to give to a critic at the moment:
This verse does not teach that the Sabbath would be abolished forever no more than verse 9 teaches that corn, wine, wool, and linen would be abolished forever. Contextually this is a local prophecy about the impending destruction by the Assyrian army (Hosea 9:3, 10:5-6, 11:5-6) which was actually fulfilled in 722 BC (1 Chronicles 5:26, 2 Kings 18:9-12). It is in this sense that all these things would “cease,” because their culture and way of life, including their feast and Sabbath keeping, will experience a disruption. Moreover, if this is a type of a future event, it would typify the destructions by Babylon and Rome. The cross happened 39 years before Rome sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD, thus there is no parallel between Hosea 2:11 and the cross. Rather than this being a prophecy about the cross, it’s a prophecy about the end of the northern kingdom of Israel (see Hosea 1:4).
THE LONG ANSWER
A more thorough study to better equip you:
This text is among a few other ones that is often used by anti-sabbatarians to claim that the seventh-day Sabbath was prophesied in the Old Testament to be abolished when Jesus comes. According to this theory, God intends to portray the message to the Israelites that, due to their constant disobedience he will get rid of the various ceremonial feasts, alongside the weekly Sabbath, presumably when the messiah expires on the cross.1
Hosea 2:11 can be seen in two separate ways. First in its local/prophetic context, and second in its typology. My goal is to examine both of these closely, believing that a proper understanding of these will help us see the true meaning behind this text.2
Hosea 2:11 within its local/prophetic context
According to chapter 1 verse 1, Hosea’s ministry ran during the time of Jeroboam II, king of the northern kingdom of Israel. This sets the time to between the years 786–746 BC.3 Despite the prophetic promises of restoration, the current condition of the kingdom during this time is deplorable. This can be seen in the surrounding context. I will quote a few examples:
-God promises revenge for the massacre done at Jezreel (1:4)
-Israel will no longer have mercy (1:6)
-Israel is so bad God says they are not his people (1:9)
-Israel is playing the harlot (2:1)
-God will not have mercy on her (2:4)
-Israel greedily goes after other gods (2:5)
-Israel is ignorant of God’s blessings (2:8)
As a result of their rebellion and wickedness, God pronounces detailed judgements upon Israel:
“And the LORD said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little [while], and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel. And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.” (Hosea 1:4-5)
“Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths.” (Hosea 2:6)
“Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness. And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of mine hand. I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts. And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, whereof she hath said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me: and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the LORD.” (Hosea 2:9-13)
Other judgements are pronounced as well. Israel’s king and prince will be taken, and their sacrificial system will come to an end (3:4). Also, its so-called prophets will be destroyed (3:5) among other things, which eventually lead to the utter destruction of the entire northern kingdom, although God’s attempt to allure Israel back (2:14) will eventually cause her to “return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days (Hosea 3:5).
But the question is, how will God bring about all these judgements upon Israel? What instrument will he use? We don’t need to go too far to see the answer. God will use the Assyrian King:
“They shall not dwell in the Lord’s land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria.”4
“The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Bethaven: for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it. It shall be also carried unto Assyria for a present to king Jareb: Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.” (Hosea 10:5-6)
“He (Israel)5 shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return. And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches, and devour them, because of their own counsels.” (Hosea 11:5-6)
Now let us read the account of the actual event:
“And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan, unto this day.” (1 Chronicles 5:26)
“And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it. And at the end of three years they took it: even in the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken. And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes: Because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them.” (2 Kings 18:9-12)6
This directly fulfilled the prophecy of Hosea. Note that there are other things that would cease besides the celebrations of the feasts and the Sabbath:
-The entire nation of Israel will “cease” (Hosea 1:4).
-Also their corn, wine, wool and linen will be “taken away” (Hosea 2:9).
-There vines and fig trees will be “destroyed” (Hosea 2:12).
-There fishes also will be “taken away” (Hosea 3:3).
To discriminate against the weekly Sabbath and force it into the New Testament as an institution that would be abolished is both contextually dishonest and violates a host of other scriptures which speaks of the enduring weekly Sabbath.7
Moreover, Hosea’s message predates the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and may in part be contemporary with the book of Isaiah which uplift the Sabbath well after Assyria takes Israel captive, the violation of the Sabbath being one of the reasons why judgement came on the southern kingdom of Judah.8
What’s really happening here is that their entire nation will be taken captive by Assyria and as a result they will experience a disruption in their Sabbath keeping. In context, rather than being a prophecy about the future abolition of the weekly Sabbath and feasts at the cross, it is a prophecy of the impending destruction of Assyria and their inability to celebrate those sacred dates any longer.
Since contextually the real problem is their sins, why is the Sabbath going to cease? In other words, if God is intending on abolishing the Sabbath because of their sins, the question is, why? Is it because the Sabbath serves them no real purpose in their lives? Or is it because the Sabbath is the cause of their sinful habits? The first question cannot be the reason because God would hardly give man a purposeless institution. The second question cannot be the reason because God would not give them something that is sinful. God’s threat that he will cause the Sabbath to cease therefore, is not because there is a problem with the Sabbath, nor because the Sabbath is temporary,9 but because Assyria will take them captive and as a corporate nation they will cease to exist.10
Therefore, of course the Sabbath will cease for them! When all is said and done, many of them will be dead (Hosea 9:6), while many more will be scattered into other cities where they will no longer be able to unite for corporate worship and festivities!11
The typology of the book of Hosea
Why is this section included in this article? Because the claim goes that Hosea 2:11 is a type of the future fulfillment and abolition of the Sabbath. On the one hand, proponents of this theory will readily admit that the overall context of Hosea is the forthcoming destruction of Israel by the Assyrian army and the removing of their abilities to celebrate the Sabbath, while on the other hand saying that it is also a type of the future demise of the Sabbath at the cross of Calvary.
To begin this section, I want to ask the obvious question: Is there typology in the book of Hosea? The answer is yes. As a matter of fact, Paul tells us that everything that occurred to the nation of Israel serves as an example for all believers.12 Let us look at a three particular areas in Hosea that I believe serve as types of future events:
“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3:4-5)
The typology is seen clearly in these texts because while it applies locally to the end of the nation’s royalty and sacrificial system, we see them getting a new king. Since David is deceased, the prophecy must apply to Christ, whom we see typified in the Psalms. For example, many of the sufferings David experienced was also experienced by Jesus.13 Additionally, Jesus is also called the “son of David.”14
“Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” (Hosea 6:1-3)
Here the typology is obvious. The reference to the three days may point to the three days and three nights accomplished by Jesus in the grave after which he was raised to life, which is the reason why we can now “live in his sight. The second reference which reads that he will come, “as the latter and former rain” has obvious connection to the falling of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost.15
“When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” (Hosea 11:1)
The primary application of this verse is obvious; it relates to the Exodus. But Matthew helps us see the typology in this verse when he quotes it saying, “When he (Joseph) arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.”16
As we can see from these three examples, while each one applies locally to Israel’s current condition, we have clear indication within them that point forward an antitype fulfillment. One thing is also clear, they tell us exactly what the antitype fulfillment will be, either within or by the help of a divinely inspired interpreter like Matthew.
Could Hosea’s prediction that the Sabbath would cease under the siege of Assyria also be a type of a future antitype fulfillment? The answer is, possibly. But if this is so then we have to ask ourselves, when? When exactly does Hosea 2:11 find its antitype fulfillment?
First, let’s find out if the destruction of Israel by Assyria is even a type of the future destructions of Judah by the Babylonians in 586 BC and the Romans in 70 AD. Consider the parallels:
(click image to enlarge)
These parallels may indicate that the Assyrian attack as predicted in Hosea probably is a type of future antitype fulfillments. Assuming this is an accurate assumption, one thing that is very important in typology is consistency. Supposing that Hosea 2:11 is in fact a type of the Roman siege and destruction which culminated in 70 AD, then that does no justice to the theory that the Sabbath ended at the cross in 31 AD, where there was no siege!
Additionally, there is no reason to make the Assyrian siege a type of the events of the cross because there is nothing at the cross that would parallel it. On the contrary, evil triumphed at the Assyrian siege while good triumphed at the cross! Note Figure B:
(click image to enlarge)
Above we asked the question, “when exactly does Hosea 2:11 find its antitype fulfillment?” Not at the cross, but at the sieges done by Babylon and Rome. Therefore, interpolating the abolition of the Sabbath at the cross into Hosea 2:11 finds no parallel and is in fact typologically inconsistent.
Let me now gather the three main points which I believe proves that Hosea 2:11 is in fact not a prediction of the abolition of the Sabbath.
First, it’s local context is prophetic of the impending siege and destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrian army. There is no indication from the immediate context that this is actually a prophecy about the events surrounding the cross. Adding that to the text is not faithful to the context. Hosea 2:11 is fulfilled when the nation experienced a disruption of their festivals through their being taken captive to Assyria.
Second, while all scripture alludes to events connected to Christ and his church, we can pinpoint specifically where exactly a past event, person or thing is a type. This can be done either by the immediate context of said passage or through its interpretation by another bible author. I provided three examples of this above.
Since neither the immediate context nor another inspired author directly connects the Assyrian siege to the Babylonian and Roman sieges, we can only connect them through parallels which seems to be permissible. Thus Hosea 2:11 is typologically fulfilled in a secondary sense when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC and perhaps in a third sense when Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.
But if the Assyrian siege serves as a type of the destructions done by Babylon and Rome, there is no reason to interpolate the events of the cross into the text of Hosea 2:11. It just doesn’t fit. See Figure B above.
Similarly, and finally, if indeed Hosea 2:11 is a type of the destructions that will later be brought about by Babylon and Rome, then it would not be typologically consistent to make Hosea 2:11 be fulfilled in 31 AD, which occurred 39 years before Rome sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD. To remain consistent, the verse should be fulfilled in 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed by Rome the same way Samaria was destroyed by Assyria.
The conclusion is that Hosea 2:11 cannot be used as an eisegetical proof-text to make the claim that the Sabbath was abolished at the cross. Bible students taking an honest look at this text would never conclude such a thing. In all contextual honesty this verse is speaking about the ceasing of the Israelites as a nation and the disruption of their Sabbath and feast keeping. To rip Hosea 2:11 out of its context and force it into a future, unrelated event, is not only being unfaithful to its plain reading but it also opens the door to doing the same with the rest of scripture.
1. Two other texts used by the critics to say the same thing are Isaiah 1:13 and Jeremiah 3:16. The first text, contextually, is about God’s annoyance with the hypocrisy of the people. Verses 11 through 13 shows that they kept performing their outward religious services while inside they were unrepentant (verses 4-6). In verse 10 God tells them to “give ear unto the law of our God” and later actually reminds them of the importance of the Sabbath (see chapter 56). Evidently, the law and the Sabbath was not the problem. God is simply telling them that he is as much sick of their offerings (verse 11) as with their supposedly joyous festivities (verse 13) not because these services are in and of themselves detestable, but because their sins are. Regarding Jeremiah 3:16, the text is about the impending danger of an approaching Babylon to attack the southern kingdom of Judah and plunder its temple treasures (compare chapter 1:13-15, and 25:9 with 2 Chronicles 36:17-21, particularly verse 18). Among those treasure would be the Ark of the Covenant, which they’d never get back and thus would never be able to “visit it” again (verse 16). However, even though the literal Ark will be taken away, its moral contents, the Law, will remain under a new covenant, but this time in the hearts of the people (see Jeremiah 31:33) rather then on tablets of stone.
2. It should be admitted from the beginning that when this verse mentions the noun “sabbath” it is speaking about the weekly seventh-day Sabbath as written in the decalogue (Exodus 20:8-11).
4. According to the record of the actual event, it was Assyria which sacked Israel and took them captive (2 Kings 18:9-12). Apparently, however, Assyria’s destruction causes many of the Israelites to somehow end up dead in Egypt, where they were gathered up and buried (see Hosea 9:6).
5. It is generally understood that Ephraim is used in Hosea to represent the northern kingdom of Israel. This can be seen when comparing verses 1 and 3 in chapter 11, and verses 1, 5 and 8 in chapter 14. Often both are used interchangeably in the entire book of Hosea.
6. Evidently, various attempts were made by Assyria to take Israel captive. See also: 2 Kings 15:19-20, 29, 17:3.
7. See: Isaiah 66:22-23, Matthew 5:17-18.
8. See: Isaiah 58:13-14, 56:1-8, 66:22-23, Ezekiel 20:12, 20, Jeremiah 17:19-27.
9. The entire context of Hosea never even hints to the temporary nature of neither the feasts nor especially of the weekly Sabbath which goes on being observed by Judah even after Israel is taken captive and continues down to the New Testament (Luke 23:56) and onwards in the New Earth (Isaiah 66:22-23).
10. My emphasis here is strictly that “as a corporate nation” they will cease to exist. Judah, however, was originally a part of Israel and the Jews are often referred to as Israelites in the New Testament. Moreover, in a spiritual sense, Israel continues to this day as everyone who believes in and belongs to Jesus Christ (see Romans 2:28-28, 9:6-8 and Galatians 3:29). This latter sense can be seen as the fulfillment of Hosea 3:5 which says that Israel will return to seek the Lord and David their King… David, meaning Christ. It cannot mean that Israel would incorporate as a nation again since the ten tribes were scattered among the nations and forever lost from the records (compare Hosea 9:17 with 2 Kings 17:5-6, 23-24, 1 Chronicles 5:26).
11. Based on Hosea 10:11, it may be that some of them were also subjected to slavery. Additionally, based on 2 Chronicles 30:1-26, it’s likely that some of those Israelites who were celebrating the Passover in Jerusalem escaped the wrath of the Assyrians.
12. 1 Corinthians 10:11. It is interesting that the word “ensamples” in this text is translated from the Greek word “τύπος” transliterated as “typos.”
13. As one example, compare Psalm 22:16-17 with Matthew 27:35 and John 19:37.
14. Matthew 1:1, 15:22, 21:19, Mark 10:48. Compared to footnote 13, it would seem like Jesus is the antitype of both David and the Son of David.
15. Compare Joel 2:23, 28-29 with Acts 2:16-21.
16. Matthew 2:14-15.