Threshing is an agricultural process that removes grain from the straw; farmers of every generation will tell you that it is hard work. In the earliest days, a worker would beat the grain with a stick by hand. In biblical times, farmers would drive oxen, sheep, or other animals around and around on hard ground, having the animal tread over the grain. Eventually, machines made the process much more effective.
In chapter 10, verse 9, God reviews the prolonged nature of Israel’s sin, which had its roots in the tragic civil war at Gibeah (Judg. 19–20). Violence and immorality continued to plague Israel and their punishment was inevitable. When God was ready, He would marshal the armies of their enemies (the Assyrians) against His people (Hos. 10:10).
But, in verse 11, God uses a metaphor to describe Israel as “a trained heifer that loves to thresh” (v. 11). God is the farmer, who will “put a yoke on her fair neck” (v. 11). Here is a momentarily idyllic description of creature and cultivator, enjoying a cooperative relationship, tilling the ground, and accomplishing the farmer’s will. God, as the farmer, exhorts the heifer to continue to remain on the path of righteousness. In return, they would reap a harvest of “unfailing love” (v. 12).
But we know that Israel, the rebellious heifer, did not respond the way God desired. Instead, Israel “planted wickedness” and ate “the fruit of deception.” Because of these choices, they would reap evil (v. 13). In addition to worshiping idols, Israel had relied on their own strength for victory. Rather than trusting in God’s power, they depended on their own army. God’s antidote was swift and complete. “All of your fortresses would be devastated” (v. 14). If they previously doubted God’s ability, they would no more.
>> The sin of self-reliance is subtle. We may wonder, How can hard work and responsibility be a bad thing? Check your heart for the deception that pretends that we don’t need God.