Three days ago I got into an argument with my Atheist friend, who said that God orders that infants be dashed to pieces and that every women with child shall be ripped open, does God order this to happen as punishment or is this a prophecy?

Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up

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    If god is omnipotent, then what's the difference between an order and a prophecy?
    – llama
    Aug 11 at 16:06
  • @llama the difference is that people have free will, so prophecies are usually conditional or at least tied to a reason: "if you keep doing evil things, then this bad thing will happen", or "because you have been doing evil things, this bad thing will happen", and even in the latter case there is still a possibility to break the prophecy by repenting. Nineveh is a good example, where its foretold destruction was prevented by them heeding the warning and changing their ways. Supposedly the prophecy about Samaria being ravaged by barbarians could have been prevented, but they didn't listen.
    – vsz
    Aug 12 at 5:58
  • 1
    @llama Because omnipotence doesn't mean that God directly causes all things, and because God may allow some things to happen that he doesn't actively will for the sake of some greater good. Aug 12 at 6:32
  • @llama - it is the same as a parent explaining what will happen if a child touches the stove. The parent does not wish the child harm but knows what will happen IF the child does some things.
    – Dottard
    Aug 12 at 21:19
  • 1
    @Dottard that reflects omniscience, not omnipotence
    – llama
    Aug 12 at 21:45

No, No, No!!!

Hos 13:16 is a simple statement of future fact (ie, a prophecy) - Samaria was unfaithful to God (by rebellion) and thus would be invaded by barbarous people who would do unspeakable things to the inhabitants of Samaria.

That is, because the Samarians had rejected God (rebelled against God) and His protection, God, in obedience to their wish, would withdraw protection and the prophet simply states the natural consequences of that series of choices - disastrous results indeed!!

Samaria will bear her guilt [ie, its consequences]

because she has rebelled against her God [ie, rejected God]

They will fall by the sword [of the invading army]

their little ones will be dashed to pieces [[by the invading army]

and their pregnant women ripped open [by the invading army]

  • Natural consequences do seem a little more personal coming from the being that created nature. Aug 12 at 11:22
  • @candied_orange - It is equivalent to a parent telling a child not to touch the stove - that parent does NOT wish the child harm but must explain what will happen if the child does some things.
    – Dottard
    Aug 12 at 21:17
  • Sure. Nothing like some boiling oil on your head to teach you to listen. Aug 12 at 21:44

Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up. (Hosea 13:16, KJV)

Notice in the text itself that the people have rebelled. Does God say that He Himself will rip up their pregnant women? No. The text does not say anything near this. It simply foretells what will occur.

When people rebel against God, God is no longer able to protect them. It is then that the Enemy is able to harm them. Unprotected because of their own rebellion, these bad things will happen. God knows the future and sees what will happen. He warns the people of what will happen because He does not want to see them go down that path. Yet when they rebel against Him, ignoring the warning, it cannot be blamed on God that these evil things come as a result.

In Hosea 13:16 both of the two Hebrew verbs translated as "shall be dashed in pieces" (H7376) and "shall be ripped up" (H1234) are in the pual form, which means they are Hebrew passive voice. (See image below.) Because it is impossible for commands in Hebrew to be in the passive voice, these words cannot possibly be interpreted as commands of God. They are simply predictions, and God cannot be said to have caused these things.

Hebrew/English Interlinear for Hosea 13:16

Two related questions were asked and answered HERE and HERE.


HOSEA 13:16 The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.”

You asked … “does God order this to happen as punishment or is this a prophecy?”…..

You (and your friend) are adding something to this section that simply isn’t there. God did not ‘order’ this - at all. Where or how are you assuming this?

This verse is expressing a consequence that will come upon the people of Samaria because they rebelled against their god (lower case ‘g’ intentional). Their ‘god’ was not God. And God did not ‘order’ this. And what’s more, He couldn’t intervene. They had rejected the God of Israel.

  • Where do you get that they had rebelled against their "lower case 'g' god"? Samaria was part of Israel, and they had rebelled against their God, thus the consequences. The God of Israel punished Israel for rebelling against Him, not for rebelling against their false gods.
    – Herohtar
    Aug 11 at 19:29
  • @Herohtar At the time of Hosea the Samaritan/Israelite God was the Judean God, just worshipped (or rebelled against) in a slightly different way - in particular not conducting sacrifices in Jerusalem.
    – Henry
    Aug 11 at 23:47
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    "Where or how are you assuming this?" The words "shall be" can be interpreted as a command. Imagine a homeowners association with a rule like "All homeowners shall ensure that their grass is no more than two inches long, and shall ensure that their lawns are without bare patches of dirt or dead grass".
    – nick012000
    Aug 12 at 9:42
  • @nick012000 “shall be” is emphasising the inevitable. Israel had departed from the God of their forefathers. Through their king(s) they had changed gods. This section in Hosea is ‘forecasting’ the inevitable consequences of doing this. It is not God ‘punishing’ them - at all. They (the people) brought this on themselves. Satan can work through these gods, as he did. And the people opened the door (wide!) for him to do so!
    – Dave
    Aug 12 at 19:17

It is not evil to fulfill a promise of wrath to a rebellious people. Many of us like to take powers and righteousness away from God by saying things like God can’t do that. Which automatically is false because he is GOD ALMIGHTY. He will have mercy on who he has mercy. He is a perfect holy good Judge. In that statement tells that when he warns a nation of consequences to sin is condemnation. Always has been always will be. He shown grace to Adam and Eve when they rebelled and he told them they would die. Every breath is grace. We should have been eradicated along time ago due to rebellion. So we don’t have any right to breath at all if we are sinners at conception as David so states clearly. The attributes of God are highly neglected in debates such as these.

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    – Nigel J
    Aug 21 at 7:34

No, it does not state he orders that action. Simply that, because the people of Samaria rebelled, he'll allow it to happen to them, where he presumedly otherwise wouldn't have. Still pretty dark.

Your friend's argument would be better served through the story of Jezebel (evil woman, but the slaughter of Baal prophets by Elijah isn't exactly "Christ-like"), or Sodom and Gomorrah (Lot's wife, assumedly righteous as her husband was, was turned to salt for turning around against an angels instruction, not to mention the entire destruction of two cities).

If you want to try to counter him on every point in the Old Testament though, good luck. Always been a fan of the New Testament God myself... less anger/wrath. Jesus also made it clear the intent and purpose of an individual was true morality, not following the letter of the law laid out in the Old Testament (see Matthew 5:21-44, Mark 2:23-28, Luke 13:10-17, etc)


The other answers give good arguments to show that God did not directly cause the events in the prophecy. The OP’s question, however, leads me to also consider whether or not God played an indirect role in those events.

Looking at the text of Hosea as a whole, the book is replete with dire threats and warnings against Israel. However, the only violent action that is directly attributable to God is confined to the words of the message/prophecy itself.

Therefore I have cut them in pieces by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; And the judgments on you are like the light that shines. –Hosea 6:5

The shocking language of Hosea was therefore intentional, meant to lay bare the sins and wickedness of Israel, and to alert it to the danger that lay ahead. And though God was unquestionably angry, he did not gloat over their impending doom.

How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, All My compassions are kindled. –Hosea 11:8

Quite the contrary, the thought of what was going to happen stirred God’s compassion and moved him to act, that is, to send warning by means of the prophecy. Like the prophecies before it, it was a gesture of God’s goodness and mercy.

But I have been the Lord your God since the land of Egypt; I will make you live in tents again, As in the days of the appointed festival. I have also spoken to the prophets, And I provided many visions, And through the prophets I spoke in parables. –Hosea 12:9-10

Furthermore, woven into the prediction of doom and destruction was a call to repentance and a message of hope that there was still time to turn to God and be saved.

“Come, let’s return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. –Hosea 6:1

So as for you, return to your God, Maintain kindness and justice, And wait for your God continually. –Hosea 12:6

If Israel heeded God’s words, he would relent of his anger. But it did not. What role then did God play in the fulfillment of the prophecy? In my understanding of the text, the prophecy was not fulfilled by any direct or indirect action of God. If God can be said to be responsible at all, it is only by the withdrawal of his presence and help.

Whereas before he had been there to aid them.

But they did not know that I healed them. I pulled them along with cords of a man, with ropes of love, And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; And I bent down and fed them. –Hosea 11:3-4

For there is no savior besides Me. I cared for you in the wilderness, In the land of drought. –Hosea 13:5

Now he would go away and withdraw his help.

I will go away and return to My place Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; –Hosea 5:15

They will go with their flocks and herds To seek the Lord, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn from them. –Hosea 13:5

But Israel chose to face its enemies alone. In the final analysis Israel and no one else was responsible for its own destruction.

It is to your own destruction, Israel, That you are against Me, against your help. –Hosea 13:9

For God is “the Holy One who is faithful” (Hos 11:12). Unlike men, God does not return evil for evil.

I will not carry out My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, And I will not come in wrath. –Hosea 11:9

If we think God capable of evil, then we would be guilty, just as the Israelites were, of having no understanding of God (Hos 4:11, Hos 5:4).

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. –Hosea 6:6 KJV

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