“But Jesus turning to them said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” ‘Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us,” and to the hills, “Cover us.’ ” Luke 23:28-30
One cannot but marvel at the discipline exhibited by our Lord Jesus Christ. After being scourged, beaten with a staff, spit at and mocked, Jesus, as He was being led away to be crucified and while being lamented by the women at the injustice of His predicament, had the clarity of mind to quote from the Old Testament prophet Hosea warning those women of the impending conditions to come.
The passage from which Jesus cited is found in Hosea 10:8 and reads: “Also the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, will be destroyed; thorn and thistle will grow on their altars, then they will say to the mountains, ‘Cover us! And to the hills, ‘Fall on us!’ ” The context of the book of Hosea in chapters 9-11 can be stated succinctly as the consequences of sin upon the idolatrous nation of Israel. Chapter ten in particular focuses in on judgment upon the apostate religion of the Northern kingdom, both the fertility cult (Baal & Ashteroth) as well as their man-made and self-serving worship as exemplified by the golden calves at Dan and Bethel. Bethel, literally the house of God, the place of Jacob’s vision of the ladder stretching from heaven to earth with angels ascending and descending, is now deemed by the prophet Beth-Aven, literally the house of iniquity, because of the idolatrous practices associated with calf worship. In the days of Hosea, Israel had turned from revering the one True God to trusting vainly in kings and calves assisted by an idolatrous priesthood. (Hos. 10:3-5) The LORD through Hosea prophesied the sweeping away of the last king, the carrying away of the golden calf and the destruction of the high places and the altars at the hands of the Assyrians, those they had previously turned to for help who would now be God’s instrument of judgment. (Hos. 10:6-8a) Interestingly, the curse upon the ground associated with Adam and Eve’s sin is here applied to the altars, “thorn and thistle shall grow”. Everything in which Israel had trusted would be stripped of its glory and displayed for that which it was, vain hope. So fearful of the coming judgment at the hands of the merciless Assyrians, they would cry out for a quick and merciful end by the mountains and hills falling upon them. This is the backdrop of Hosea’s prophetic warnings. The Israelites of Jesus day would have known how these had all come to be true. When Jesus uttered these words they would have reverberated in the minds of those paying attention to His declaration. Alas, just like the nation of Israel and Judah, the postexilic Jews were about to repeat history because of the same spiritual maladies that had infected the previous generations. The place of the house of God, the Temple, had become a house of merchandising and a robbers den. True, there were no longer high places in the land, however the priests had erected high places in their hearts evidenced by the elevating of their traditions (and concepts of acceptable worship) above the doctrines of God. They had spurned God’s Anointed, Jesus, and sacrificed Him on the altar of Roman rule as a means of protecting their position and privileges. In the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, once more the rebellious unrepentant Jews would feel the wrath of God implemented by those whom they had previously trusted to execute their self-serving plans. Once more, everything they had gloried in would be stripped away. Based upon the records of what happened in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, it’s not hard to see why many would have wanted to cry out for the mountains and hills to fall upon them. Both of the aforementioned judgments served as examples to all the world of the final judgment prophesied to come. Not just the “evil” people, but the self-deceived led by an idolatrous priesthood they’ve heaped up for themselves because of ‘itchy ears not liking what they hear.” One final time, the Lord will put it into their hearts to execute His purpose. (Rev. 17:17) All that the worldly have gloried in will be stripped away by burning. One last time they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” while sin and Satan are destroyed.