Don’t eat the Raisin Cakes

[May 16th, 2013 NOTE:  After nearly five years, this post remains one of the most popular posts.  Unfortunately, you may have stumbled here looking for more information than I provide.  Be sure to read the comments for some takes on what the raisin cakes were or refer to.  This is mainly a post about the way we approach Scripture when we are confused or uncertain of something we have read.  If time permits, I may add to this page someday.  Sorry if you are disappointed by what you find here.]

I was doing some devotional reading in the book of Hosea and was brought up short for a minute by Hosea 3:1

And the LORD said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.”  (ESV)

In reading this, I was tracking with the thought of this verse, particularly understanding the backdrop of Israel’s rampant idolatry.  It was the part about loving raisin cakes that caused me to stop reading and try to figure out how turning to other gods and eating raisin cakes went together.  Though I have certainly read and studied Hosea before, I was drawing a blank on this one.  So, what are some easy ways that we can improve our study of Scripture and not get bogged down?  That is, without having to keep commentaries handy, bible study software or website open, etc…

  • You can always keep reading.  This might be the best option if you are seeking to consume Scripture in larger quantities.  I would recommend for this kind of Scripture intake, reading a Bible with very little extra material (e.g. headings, notes, cross-references).  While those things can be very helpful, especially for close study, they can actually be distracting to our reading.  Sometimes we need to read for the big picture, rather than for the fine detail.  In the case above, I could have kept going and would not have been hindered from understanding that the Israelites were not exactly following God as they should.
  • Invest in a good study bible.  While a study bible won’t answer all of your questions, chances are that it will answer a lot of them.  So, for the above example, I could have read in my NIV Study Bible the following:  “raisin cakes.  Offered to Baal in thanksgiving for harvest.”    That little note helps me to see how the Lord was giving a very specific and tangible example of the idolatry.  Not only were the Israelites participating in worship of Baal, the indication is that they “loved” it.   Now those raisin cakes don’t seem so tasty now.  I also have a New Geneva Study Bible that would have given me similar information.  As an aside, I am very excited about the ESV Study Bible that will be available very soon.  This study bible may become the best study bible on the market.  If you don’t have a study Bible already, you might consider investing in this one.
  • Keep one (maybe two) alternate translations nearby.  Consider these alternate translations (ideally employing a different translation strategy for best results) of the last part of Hosea 3:1 and how a quick glance at them might have been helpful.
    • NIV:  “…though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”
    • NKJV:  “…who look ot other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.”
  • Read Scripture with someone.  This could also be distracting, but it could also be very helpful to simply sit in the same room with a friend and read Scripture together.

8 responses to this post.

  1. Good thoughts– very helpful suggestions.

    Incidentally, it turns out that the “raisin cakes” were a euphemism for ritual sex orgies. Bummer for Hosea and Israel.


    • Posted by Tina Biffle on June 29, 2012 at 8:47 am

      No its not. Raisins were thought to be an aphrodisiac, and a food that would heighten ones chances of either getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant. It was also used as fertility offerings to Gods…..So like all through out the bible when it talks about raisin cakes….its talking about either ones sexual prowess of getting turned on, wanting one to be fruitful and multiply, wanting a “god” a farce god, or the Real God to make one fertile and be able to have many children. So in Hosea, when the writer said “they turned to other Gods and the love of cakes of raisin” it was stating that people started trusting in the myths of what raisin cakes were believed to produce from consuming them and what other gods could do for them in the whole realm of being sexually active.


  2. Posted by Tag Tuck on September 9, 2008 at 12:41 am

    Ditto on Ed’s comment! Good/helpful thoughts!

    We do mostly inductive Bible study in our LifeGroup on Wednesday nights, so I tend to ask a lot of open ended questions that require a re-reading of the passage. We have an ongoing joke about Bibles that have “cheater notes”. We coined the phrase because usually the answer is there in the text, but we all want an instant answer instead of a well-thought out one.

    Obviously in the small group context one wouldn’t want to bring a stack of commentaries, Bible versions, and extra material and put it on the table next to the coffee. It can be daunting to all the participants. Of course, it can be daunting in individual study as well. But the internet has some great tools that can keep commentaries, greek words, different versions of the Bible, and other such resources all one click away without three heavy books in your lap.

    But even with this convenience I agree with what you said, Adam. There is a point where they all become distracting. So it is good to note again what you said at first: You can always keep reading. (and re-reading)


  3. Posted by adamtisdale on September 9, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    Ed: I can see how that makes it problematic.

    Tag: thanks for sharing…I like the image of showing up at Bible Study with commentaries, multiple bible versions, bible dictionaries, etc…It might be daunting for others or maybe they would just talk behind your back (“nerddd”).


  4. Richard Pratt talks about raisin cakes being the aphrodisiac of the Old Testament and King David actually sends the people home to eat the raisin cakes and enjoy their wives in 2Sam 6:19 at the returning of the ark to Jerusalem. Just a random thought regarding raisin cakes (the oysters of the Ancient Near East).


  5. Posted by Stan on July 27, 2013 at 8:40 am

    The King James Version doesn’t say “raisin cakes”. It says “flagons of wine”, which makes much more sense.


  6. Posted by Joshua on May 20, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Out of all your methods listed, you did not list pray and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and for guidance. I suggest that above all else.


    • I wrote this so long along ago that it is hard to remember if I was assuming this, but regardless it is worth not doing so. This is the place that we should always start – every time, though easy to forget. Thanks for this reminder.


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