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Hosea 8:7 reads as follows:

in ESV:

For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.

in BHS:

כִּ֛י ר֥וּחַ יִזְרָ֖עוּ וְסוּפָ֣תָה יִקְצֹ֑רוּ

What does this mean?

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  • I think you mean Hosea 8:7 :) Sep 30 '17 at 21:19
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"They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. The stalk has no head; it will produce no flour. Were it to yield grain, foreigners would swallow it up" (NIV - Hosea 8:7)

When we sow something, we do it in expectation of growth in that which we have sown. It is this growth that we reap. The process of growing and harvesting crops is one with which readers of scripture both past and present would be familiar. We know that when we sow certain crops, we reap a useful harvest: a yield of grain heads to create meal, for instance, which can provide food for the community.

Sowing and reaping is a common analogy throughout the bible to demonstrate cause and effect: the direct fruits of our labours, the consequences of our actions. Examples are found in Psalms (126:5), Proverbs (11:18, 22:8) and Jeremiah (12:13) in the OT, James (3:18) and Paul's letters to the Corinthians (9:6) and the Galatians (6:7-8) in the new.

In this case, however, Hosea says they 'sow the wind'. In this action, however, they are expecting growth and return from a force that they can neither understand nor control. From centuries of experience, they have learned that when they sow wheat seeds, they will reap wheat grain, and so their actions will benefit the community. But what benefits to the community will the actions of sowing the wind yield?

They 'reap the whirlwind': a powerful and destructive force over which they have even less control. Unlike wheat, this harvest will yield no heads of grain for meal - it brings no benefit for the community - if anything, says Hosea, it will benefit only 'foreigners'.

This is not like Jeremiah's warning from God that 'they will sow wheat but reap thorns' - in theory if you manage to get wind to 'grow', then a whirlwind or some other destructive wind force is a logical and unavoidable consequence. Hosea suggests that there is nothing else to be gained from the actions described except destruction from a force beyond our control, no matter how good our intentions may be.

Hosea is referring to the actions of Israel, but they could easily describe the actions of modern society:

"They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval With their silver and gold they make idols for themselves to their own destruction." (NIV - Hosea 8:4)

When we select our leaders not according to what God teaches us but according to worldly values (whether it be politics, popularity or personal gain), when we 'worship' idols we have fashioned from material wealth (whether it be celebrities and billionaires or movie stars and commercial labels) - these actions divert our focus away from living according to what God teaches us.

Hosea suggests that these are the actions that are akin to sowing the wind, and will reap the destructive forces of the whirlwind. He warns that these actions are actually bringing about our 'own destruction'.

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Sirach 7:3

My son, sow not evils in the furrows of unrighteousness, and thou shalt not reap them sevenfold.

I think it simply means recieving more than you put in.

In context, this seems to be about punishment (but also reward, in the latter passage).

Hosea 8:1-7

1 Let there be a trumpet in thy throat like an eagle upon the house of the Lord: because they have transgressed my covenant, and have violated my law. 2 They shall call upon me: O my God, we, Israel, know thee. 3 Israel hath cast off the thing that is good, the enemy shall pursue him. 4 They have reigned, but not by me: they have been princes, and I knew not: of their silver, and their gold they have made idols to themselves, that they might perish. 5 Thy calf, O Samaria, is cast off, my wrath is kindled against them. How long will they be incapable of being cleansed? 6 For itself also is the invention of Israel: a workman made it, and it is no god: for the calf of Samaria shall be turned to spiders' webs. 7 For they shall sow wind, and reap a whirlwind, there is no standing stalk in it, the bud shall yield no grain; and if it should yield, strangers shall eat it.

Hosea 10:1-13

1 Israel a vine full of branches, the fruit is agreeable to it: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath multiplied altars, according to the plenty of his land he hath abounded with idols. 2 Their heart is divided: now they shall perish: he shall break down their idols, he shall destroy their altars. 3 For now they shall say: We have no king: because we fear not the Lord: and what shall a king do to us? 4 You speak words of an unprofitable vision, and you shall make a covenant: and judgment shall spring up as bitterness in the furrows of the field. 5 The inhabitants of Samaria have worshipped the kine of Bethaven: for the people thereof have mourned over it, and the wardens of its temple that rejoiced over it in its glory because it is departed from it. 6 For itself also is carried into Assyria, a present to the avenging king: shame shall fall upon Ephraim, and Israel shall be confounded in his own will. 7 Samaria hath made her king to pass as froth upon the face of the water. 8 And the high places of the idol, the sin of Israel shall be destroyed: the bur and the thistle shall grow up over their altars: and they shall say to the mountains: Cover us; and to the hills: Fall upon us. 9 From the days of Gabaa, Israel hath sinned, there they stood: the battle in Gabaa against the children of iniquity shall not overtake them. 10 According to my desire I will chastise them: and the nations shall be gathered together against them, when they shall be chastised for their two iniquities. 11 Ephraim is a heifer taught to love to tread out corn, but I passed over upon the beauty of her neck: I will ride upon Ephraim, Juda shall plough, Jacob shall break the furrows for himself. 12 Sow for yourselves in righteousness, and reap in the mouth of mercy, break up your fallow ground: but the time to seek the Lord is, when he shall come that shall teach you righteousness. 13 You have ploughed wickedness, you have reaped iniquity, you have eaten the fruit of lying: because thou hast trusted in thy ways, in the multitude of thy strong ones.

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I find it helps to picture a field. A farmer works the ground, puts in his seeds and hopes to return to the field in harvest time and find a bunch of delicious and nourishing, possibly profitable fruits and veggies, herbs and spices.

Hosea is creates from this familiar process a metaphor of "sowing and reaping" and says that if your field (life) is actually a farm where you sow evil then don't expect to reap good things. Instead you will reap disaster. What might be in mind is tornado coming through his farm and destroying everything. Or rather, his life will be so disastrous that it would be the equivalent of a tornado ripping through his fields just before his crops were reaped.

Another more concrete example that comes to mind is the sowing of Monsanto's genetically modified seeds. This process is forbidden in the Torah:

NIV Leviticus 19:19“ ‘Keep my decrees. “ ‘Do not mate different kinds of animals. “ ‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. “ ‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.

The results of this practice is and will continue to be a disaster of mind numbing proportions as these plant/animal hybrid Franken-foods escape into the world corrupting and destroying the world's food supply.

It was for this kind of thing that earth was destroyed in the flood in Noah's day. It is also the reason that Jesus compared the end times to Noah's times:

NASB Matthew 24: 36“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38“For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

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