Word Study:Taught To Walk


Hosea 11:3: “I taught Ephraim to go, taking them by their arm, but they knew not that I healed them.”

I remember when I was student at Moody and I asked my professor who Ephraim was. He said it was just another name for Israel. I asked why he just didn’t say Israel. I don’t remember his answer exactly but it was something to the effect of a poetic expression with the tone of voice that is really saying: “Why do you ask such annoying questions?”

I later learned from rabbinic teaching that God would call Israel Ephraim when Israel would do something that would break His heart. So what did Israel do here to break God’s heart?

He is saying: “I taught Ephraim to go.” The big question is go where? The word taught—to go has a very unusual conjugation. It is in a Tiphal past tense form and is from the root word “regal.” A Tiphal is sort of a combination Hiphal (causative) and piel (intensive). The word regal simple means foot. Traditionally we view this Tiphal form as instructional but the Piel gives it some passion which is usually omitted in the translations. Hence you have the idea of a foot being passionately instructed. This is where some translations will say taught to go and some will say taught to walk. The idea, of course, is that the foot is what carries you and add the Tiphal to it would have the idea of instructions in how or where to walk. Taught to walk is much closer to the original thought but again you are leaving out the passion. The writer could have simply said ba or to go and used the word Lamed to teach. Instead the writer chose to use a poetic expression here and when you have poetry, you must have some passion.

Now this is not saying taught to go in a certain direction, but literally taught to walk, like a child learns to walk. In Hebrew tradition it is the father who teaches a child to walk. Yes, even teaching a child to walk is a religious exercise. A religious exercise is meant to be a picture of a spiritual truth or application. The Father is to teach his child to walk by causing the child to stand, then he takes a couple steps away from the child and calls for the child to come into his arms. When the child reaches his arms he gives him a hug. Sometimes the child will stumble when he is learning to walk. When that happens the father picks the child up, he does not scold the child for he realizes it is ultimately his fault that the child was hurt because he was trying to teach him to walk. So he hugs him soothing any little bump or bruise he may have suffered in his fall while attempting to learn to walk. Sometimes a child can be head strong and when he falls and the father picks him up to comfort him the child will be too angry or frustrated to receive his father’s comfort and will resist him. Then the loving father suffers a double heartbreak, being the cause of his child’s hurt and then having his child resist his comfort or healing.

Thus you have the picture Hosea is showing here: “I taught Ephraim to walk taking them in my arms. But they did not know I healed them.” The word heal is rapha’ which means to heal and also is used to express comfort. The word know is yada’ which means an intimacy. Hence God was teaching Israel to walk. When they stumbled He reached out to comfort them and encourage them but they would not accept his comfort. They resisted his attempts to be intimate with them.

Ever notice that when you are really seeking God, seeking to really know Him and serve Him you go through a season of trouble and hurt. I don’t know about you but whenever I enter a season of fasting and prayer, everything seems to turn upside down. My first reaction is “Well, thanks a lot Lord, some reward for trying to get close to you.” But you know, Hosea is teaching us that when we try to get close to God it is like trying to learn to walk. We will stumble, we will fall, we may get bruised or hurt. The Heavenly Father immediately rushes up to us and picks us up in His arms to comfort us. But like some spoiled little brat, we resist his comfort and instead say: “Daddy, you’re really mean, making me walk like this, why don’t you just carry me all the time.” Like Ephraim, we do not know that He has healed us because we are too focused on our little bumps and bruises.