8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboyim?
My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.
9 I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
For I am God, and not a man—the Holy One among you. I will not come against their cities.
This chapter is titled God’s Love for Israel and shows His mercy contending with His justice, especially in the two verses above. This is the theme throughout the first eleven verses. The twelfth verse properly belongs as the first of the next chapter as it is in Hebrew texts.
How great is His fierce anger in verse nine? In the prior verse it is clear He has considered treating Ephraim like Admah and like Zeboyim, but due to a change of heart His compassion is aroused. Admah and Zeboyim were cities of the plain destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah (Ellicott’s Commentary).
We should not make the mistake of thinking God is ever fluctuating or unresolved; instead these expressions are to show what Israel deserved due to her evil practices of worshipping Baal and then how divine grace would be glorified in sparing them (Benson Commentary). However we are given a comparison of God and man for man would not have shown such love and compassion, but would have destroyed Ephraim again.
It is something we seldom contemplate – God’s mercy and incredible kindness compared to our own (mankind’s) mercy and compassion. We need only to look back upon the twentieth century and look at what godless countries did before, during, and after World War II. The USSR starved 10’s of millions to death, China under Mao killed 60 to 100 million after the war, Hitler killed over 10 million Jews and millions of others his regime considered unworthy while Pol-Pot murdered over half the population of Cambodia. All godless countries or worshipping the god of man or man’s government.
How great is God’s mercy? Instead of sending another flood to cleanse the world He sent His Son Jesus the Christ. As Jesus explained it to the Pharisee Nicodemus
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
And what did Jesus do? He died on the cross, paying the price for our sins. Incredible love, incredible mercy – neither of which we deserve, but may only accept with a grateful heart while seeking His will in our lives.