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the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 1

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

Verses 1-11

Analysis and Annotations



Israel’s Sin and Promise of Restoration

1. The introduction (Hosea 1:1 )

2. The prophet’s marriage and birth of Jezreel (Hosea 1:2-5 )

3. The birth of Lo-Ruhamah (Hosea 1:6-7 )

4. The birth of Lo-ammi (Hosea 1:8-9 )

5. The future restoration (Hosea 1:10-11 )

Hosea 1:1 . This superscription gives the period of Hosea’s ministry. First stands the statement that the word of the Lord came to him. Hosea means salvation; his father’s name, Beeri, means “my well.” Both are typical names. Critics have pointed out that Hosea was undoubtedly a resident of the northern kingdom of Israel, yet he mentions but one of the kings of Israel, Jeroboam, while four kings of Judah are given in this introduction. Inasmuch as Hosea long survived Jeroboam, the king of Israel, and the Judaic kings extend far beyond the time of the one Israelitish king, it has been alleged that the second part of the superscription does not harmonize with the first. Such is not the case. The superscription is made in this manner for some purpose. Hosea marks his Prophecy by the names of the kings of Judah, because in Judah the theocracy remained. He mentions Jeroboam (the Second), whose reign ended in the fourteenth year of Uzziah, because he was the last king of Israel through whom God acted and vouchsafed help to the rival kingdom. All the other kings of Israel who came after Jeroboam, by whom the Lord sent deliverance to the ten tribes 2 Kings 14:27 were therefore recognized by the prophets of God; the kings which followed were robbers and murderers, whose names the Spirit of God finds unfit to mention in the prophetic ministry of Hosea.

Hosea 1:2-5 . In the beginning of his ministry, when Hosea was a young man, the Lord commanded him to take unto him a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms, and that for the reason, because the land hath committed great whoredoms, departing from the Lord. This command was at once executed by the prophet; he took to wife Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim.

We are confronted with an interesting question. What is the nature of these transactions? Were they real events, that Hosea literally took this woman and had children by her, or were they nothing but pictorial, visionary illustrations of the spiritual adultery and unfaithfulness of Israel? Did the prophet actually and literally enter into such an impure relationship, or, is it wholly an allegory? Luther supposed that the prophet called his lawful wife and children by these names at a certain time to perform a kind of drama before the people and thus remind them of their apostasy. The objectors to the literalness of this incident, and defenders of the allegorical explanation, have pointed out that it would be unworthy of God to command and sanction such an unchaste union. The allegorical meaning is entirely excluded by the text, which speaks of a literal transaction. All is related as real history, the marriage and the birth of the children. We quote first Dr. Pusey’s words in support of the literal meaning of this command by the Lord.

“We must not imagine things to be unworthy of God, because they do not commend themselves to us. God does not dispense with the moral law, because the moral law has its source in the mind of God Himself. To dispense with it would mean to contradict Himself. But God, who is absolute Lord of all things which He made, may, at His sovereign will, dispose of the lives or things which He created. Thus, as sovereign judge, He commanded the lives of the Canaanites to be taken by Israel, as, in His ordinary providence, He has ordained that the magistrate should not bear the sword in vain, but has made him His minister, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. So, again, He, whose are all things, willed to repay to the Israelites their hard and unjust servitude by commanding them to spoil the Egyptians. He, who created marriage, commanded to Hosea whom he should marry. The prophet was not defiled by taking as his lawful wife, at God’s bidding, one defiled, however hard a thing this was.”

This is the strongest defense of the literal interpretation of this incident. But there is another interpretation possible, which we believe is the correct one. As the context shows the symbolical meaning of Hosea’s marriage is to illustrate Israel’s unfaithfulness. But Israel was not always unfaithful; she played not always the harlot. Of necessity this had to be symbolized in the case of the prophet’s marriage. The question then arises, was Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim an impure woman when Hosea married her, or did she become unchaste after her marriage to the prophet? We believe the latter was the case. The Hebrew does not require the meaning that she was impure at the time of the marriage; in fact, as already indicated, the supposition that Gomer lived the life of a harlot before her marriage to the godly prophet, destroys the parallelism, which the prophet’s message embodies, with the relation of God to Israel. The expression “a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms” simply intimated to Hosea what the woman he married was going to be. If not taken in this sense it would mean that Gomer had already children when Hosea married her.

Gomer was called “a wife of whoredoms” by the omniscient Lord, in anticipation of her future conduct. She fell and became immoral after her union with Hosea, and not before. In this way she became a symbol of Israel, married unto the Lord, but afterwards became the unfaithful wife. With this view, the entire prophetic message of Hosea in the beginning of this book harmonizes. The name of the woman is likewise suggestive. Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, means “Completion--a double cake of figs.” Israel’s wickedness is symbolized as complete and the double cake of figs is symbolical of sensual pleasures. And the prophet in spite of her unfaithfulness still loved her and did not abandon her. This illustrates Jehovah’s love for Israel.

Then she bore him a son. Expositors have stated, “The children were not the prophet’s own, but born of adultery and presented to him as his.” But that can not be the meaning in view of the plain statement “she conceived and bare him a son.”

The Lord commands him to call this son “Jezreel.” Jezreel has likewise a symbolical meaning. It means “God shall scatter” Jeremiah 31:10 ; but it also means “God shall sow” Zechariah 10:9 . Thus Israel was to be scattered and sown among the nations. Jezreel was the valley in which Jehu executed his bloody deeds. On account of his hypocritical zeal, the blood of Jezreel is now to be avenged, and the kingdom of the house of Israel would cease. Thus the name Jezreel (resembling in sound and form “Israel”) indicates the speedy end of Israel, scattered and sown among the nations, on account of their whoredoms (see Ezekiel 23:1-49 ).

Hosea 1:6-7 . Next a daughter is born. Here “bare him” as found in verse 3 is omitted. The prophet receives a name for her--Lo-ruhamah, which means “not having obtained mercy.” Interesting are the two renderings of the Holy Spirit of this passage in the New Testament. In Romans 9:25 it is rendered “not beloved” and in 1 Peter 2:10 , “hath not obtained mercy.” Love and mercy were now to be withdrawn from Israel and they were to be taken away utterly.

Then the house of Judah is mentioned. They shall be saved by the Lord their God, because He has mercy on them. Their salvation was not by bow, by sword, or by battle, horses and horsemen. It was only a little while later when the Assyrian, who was God’s instrument in the execution of judgment upon Israel, came before the gates of Jerusalem, but Jerusalem was saved in the manner as predicted here, not by bow or sword, but the angel of the Lord smote the army of 185,000 in one night. And later Judah was saved and a remnant brought back from Babylon. Then there is a future salvation for Judah in the end of the age.

Hosea 1:8-9 . Another son is born and “God said, Call his name Lo-ammi, for ye are not my people and I am not your God.” Lo-ammi means “not my people.” Lo-ruhamah and Lo-ammi are symbolical of Israel’s rejection and the withdrawal of God’s mercy. That this is not to be permanent the next two verses make this clear.

Hosea 1:10-11 . Abruptly we are transported from the present into the distant future, and a prophetic utterance of great depth follows. The tenth verse is quoted by the Holy Spirit in Romans 9:1-33 and gives full light on the meaning of the passage here. God’s sovereignty is the theme of the ninth chapter of Romans: “And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He has afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles. As He saith also in Osee (Greek form of Hosea), I will call them My people, which were not My people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not My people, there shall they be called the children of the living God” Romans 9:23-33 . Here is the commentary of Hosea 1:10 . It means first that Israel shall be reinstated; but it also means the call and salvation of the Gentiles, and Gentiles called in sovereign grace are to be constituted “the sons of the living God.” It is a prophetic hint on the blessing to come to the Gentiles, and that blessing is greater than Israel’s.

The eleventh verse is a great prophecy and remains still unfulfilled. Some expositors claim that it was fulfilled in the return of the remnant of Jews under Zerubbabel. But the Babylonian captivity is not in view here at all. The great day of Jezreel will come, when King Messiah, our Lord returns. Then shall Judah and Israel be gathered together under one head, and gather once more to their national feasts in the land.

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Hosea 1". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/hosea-1.html. 1913-1922.
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