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I. Israel's Adultery - Hosea 1-3
On the ground of the relation hinted at even in the Pentateuch (Exodus 34:15-16; Leviticus 17:7; Leviticus 20:5-6; Numbers 14:33; Deuteronomy 32:16-21), and still further developed in the Song of Solomon and Psalm 45, where the gracious bond existing between the Lord and the nation of His choice is represented under the figure of a marriage, which Jehovah had contracted with Israel, the falling away of the ten tribes of Israel from Jehovah into idolatry is exhibited as whoredom and adultery, in the following manner. In the first section (Hosea 1:2-2:3), God commands the prophet to marry a wife of whoredoms with children of whoredoms, and gives names to the children born to the prophet by this wife, which indicate the fruits of idolatry, viz., the rejection and putting away of Israel on the part of God (Hosea 1:2-9), with the appended promise of the eventual restoration to favour of the nation thus put away (Hosea 2:1-3). In the second section (Hosea 2:4-23), the Lord announces that He will put an end to the whoredom, i.e., to the idolatry of Israel, and by means of judgments will awaken in it a longing to return to Him (Hosea 2:4-15), that He will thereupon lead the people once more through the wilderness, and, by the renewal of His covenant mercies and blessings, will betroth Himself to it for ever in righteousness, mercy, and truth (Hosea 2:16-23). In the third section (Hosea 3:1-5) the prophet is commanded to love once more a wife beloved of her husband, but one who had committed adultery; and after having secured her, to put her into such a position that it will be impossible for her to carry on her whoredom any longer. And the explanation given is, that the Israelites will sit for a long time without a king, without sacrifice, and without divine worship, but that they will afterwards return, will seek Jehovah their God, and David their king, and will rejoice in the goodness of the Lord at the end of the days. Consequently the falling away of the ten tribes from the Lord, their expulsion into exile, and the restoration of those who come to a knowledge of their sin - in other words, the guilt and punishment of Israel, and its restoration to favour - form the common theme of all three sections, and that in the following manner: In the first, the sin, the punishment, and the eventual restoration of Israel, are depicted symbolically in all their magnitude; in the second, the guilt and punishment, and also the restoration and renewal of the relation of grace, are still further explained in simple prophetic words; whilst in the third, this announcement is visibly set forth in a new symbolical act.
In both the first and third sections, the prophet's announcement is embodied in a symbolical act; and the question arises here, Whether the marriage of the prophet with an adulterous woman, which is twice commanded by God, is to be regarded as a marriage that was actually consummated, or merely as an internal occurrence, or as a parabolical representation.
(Note: Compare on this point the fuller discussion of the question by John Marck, Diatribe de muliere fornicationum , Lugd. B. 1696, reprinted in his Comment. in 12 proph. min., ed. Pfaff. 1734, p. 214ff.; and Hengstenberg's Christology, i. p. 177ff., translation, in which, after a historical survey of the different views that have been expressed, he defends the opinion that the occurrence was real, but not outward; whilst Kurtz ( Die Ehe des Propheten Hosea, 1859) has entered the lists in defence of the assumption that it was a marriage actually and outwardly consummated.)
The supporters of a marriage outwardly consummated lay the principal stress upon the simple words of the text. The words of Hosea 1:2, “Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms,” and of Hosea 1:3, “So he went and took Gomer ... which conceived,” etc., are so definite and so free from ambiguity, that it is impossible, they think, to take them with a good conscience in any other sense than an outward and historical one. But since even Kurtz, who has thrown the argument into this form, feels obliged to admit, with reference to some of the symbolical actions of the prophets, e.g., Jeremiah 25:15. and Zechariah 11, that they were not actually and outwardly performed, it is obvious that the mere words are not sufficient of themselves to decide the question à priori, whether such an action took place in the objective outer world, or only inwardly, in the spiritual intuition of the prophet himself.
(Note: It is true that Kurtz endeavours to deprive this concession of all its force, by setting up the canon, that of all the symbolical actions of the prophets the following alone cannot be interpreted as implying either an outward performance or outward experience; viz., (1) those in which the narration itself expressly indicates a visionary basis or a parabolical fiction, and (2) those in which the thing described is physically impossible without the intervention of a miracle. But apart from the arbitrary nature of this second canon, which is apparent from the fact that the prophets both performed and experienced miracles, the symbolical actions recorded in Jeremiah 25 and Zechariah 11 do not fall under either the first or second of these canons. Such a journey as the one which Jeremiah is commanded to take (Jeremiah 25), viz., to the kings of Egypt, of the Philistines, the Phoenicians, the Arabians, the Edomites, the Ammonites, the Syrians, of Media, Elam, and Babylon, cannot be pronounced an absolute impossibility, however improbable it may be. Still less can the taking of two shepherds' staves, to which the prophet gives the symbolical names Beauty and Bands, or the slaying of three wicked shepherds in one month (Zechariah 11), be said to be physically impossible, notwithstanding the assertion of Kurtz, in which he twists the fact so clearly expressed in the biblical text, viz., that “a staff Beauty does not lie within the sphere of physically outward existence, any more than a staff Bands.”)
The reference to Isaiah 7:3, and Isaiah 8:3-4, as analogous cases, does apparently strengthen the conclusion that the occurrence was an outward one; but on closer examination, the similarity between the two passages in Isaiah and the one under consideration is outweighed by the differences that exist between them. It is true that Isaiah gave his two sons names with symbolical meanings, and that in all probability by divine command; but nothing is said about his having married his wife by the command of God, nor is the birth of the first-named son ever mentioned at all. Consequently, all that can be inferred from Isaiah is, that the symbolical names of the children of the prophet Hosea furnish no evidence against the outward reality of the marriage in question. Again, the objection, that the command to marry a wife of whoredoms, if understood as referring to an outward act, would be opposed to the divine holiness, and the divine command, that priests should not marry a harlot, cannot be taken as decisive. For what applied to priests cannot be transferred without reserve to prophets; and the remark, which is quite correct in itself, that God as the Holy One could not command an immoral act, does not touch the case, but simply rests upon a misapprehension of the divine command, viz., upon the idea that God commanded the prophet to beget children with an immoral person without a lawful marriage, or that the “children of whoredom,” whom Hosea was to take along with the “wife of whoredom,” were the three children whom she bare to him (Hosea 1:3, Hosea 1:6, Hosea 1:8); in which case either the children begotten by the prophet are designated as “children of whoredom,” or the wife continued her adulterous habits even after the prophet had married her, and bare to the prophet illegitimate children. But neither of these assumptions has any foundation in the text. The divine command, “Take thee a wife of whoredom, and children of whoredom,” neither implies that the wife whom the prophet was to marry was living at that time in virgin chastity, and was called a wife of whoredom simply to indicate that, as the prophet's lawful wife, she would fall into adultery; nor even that the children of whoredom whom the prophet was to take along with the wife of whoredom are the three children whose birth is recorded in Hosea 1:3, Hosea 1:6, Hosea 1:8. The meaning is rather that the prophet is to take, along with the wife, the children whom she already had, and whom she had born as a harlot before her marriage with the prophet. If, therefore, we assume that the prophet was commanded to take this woman and her children, for the purpose, as Jerome has explained it, of rescuing the woman from her sinful course, and bringing up her neglected children under paternal discipline and care; such a command as this would be by no means at variance with the holiness of God, but would rather correspond to the compassionate love of God, which accepts the lost sinner, and seeks to save him. And, as Kurtz has well shown, it cannot be objected to this, that by such a command and the prophet's obedience on his first entering upon his office, all the beneficial effects of that office would inevitably be frustrated. For if it were a well-known fact, that the woman whom the prophet married had hitherto been leading a profligate life, and if the prophet declared freely and openly that he had taken her as his wife for that very reason, and with this intention, according to the command of God; the marriage, the shame of which the prophet had taken upon himself in obedience to the command of God, and in self-denying love to his people, would be a practical and constant sermon to the nation, which might rather promote than hinder the carrying out of his official work. For he did with this woman what Jehovah was doing with Israel, to reveal to the nation its own sin in so impressive a manner, that it could not fail to recognise it in all its glaring and damnable character. But however satisfactorily the divine command could be vindicated on the supposition that this was its design, we cannot found any argument upon this in favour of the outward reality of the prophet's marriage, for the simple reason that the supposed object is neither expressed nor hinted at in the text. According to the distinct meaning of the words, the prophet was to take a “wife of whoredom,” for the simple purpose of begetting children by her, whose significant names were to set before the people the disastrous fruits of their spiritual whoredom. The behaviour of the woman after the marriage is no more the point in question than the children of whoredom whom the prophet was to take along with the woman; whereas this is what we should necessarily expect, if the object of the marriage commanded had been the reformation of the woman herself and of her illegitimate children. The very fact that, according to the distinct meaning of the words, there was no other object for the marriage than to beget children, who should receive significant names, renders the assumption of a real marriage, i.e., of a marriage outwardly contracted and consummated, very improbable.
And this supposition becomes absolutely untenable in the case of Hosea 3:1-5, where Jehovah says to the prophet (Hosea 3:1), “Go again, love a woman beloved by the husband, and committing adultery;” and the prophet, in order to fulfil the divine command, purchases the woman for a certain price (Hosea 3:2). The indefinite expression 'issâh , a wife, instead of thy wife, or at any rate the wife, and still more the purchase of the woman, are quite sufficient of themselves to overthrow the opinion, that the prophet is here directed to seek out once more his former wife Gomer, who has been unfaithful, and has run away, and to be reconciled to her again. Ewald therefore observes, and Kurtz supports the assertion, that the pronoun in “I bought her to me,” according to the simple meaning of the words, cannot refer to any adulteress you please who had left her husband, but must refer to one already known, and therefore points back to Hosea 1:1-11. But with such paralogisms as these we may insert all kinds of things in the text of Scripture. The suffix in ואכּרה , “I bought her ” (Hosea 1:2), simply refers to the “woman beloved of her friend” mentioned in Hosea 1:1, and does not prove in the remotest degree, that the “woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress,” is the same person as the Gomer mentioned in Hosea 1:1-11. The indefiniteness of 'issâh without the article, is neither removed by the fact that, in the further course of the narrative, this (indefinite) woman is referred to again, nor by the examples adduced by Kurtz, viz., יקּח־לב in Hosea 4:11, and הלך אחרי־צו in Hosea 5:11, since any linguist knows that these are examples of a totally different kind. The perfectly indefinite אשּׁה receives, no doubt, a more precise definition from the predicates אהסבת רע וּמנאפת , so that we cannot understand it as meaning any adulteress whatever; but it receives no such definition as would refer back to Hosea 1:1-11. A woman beloved of her friend, i.e., of her husband, and committing adultery, is a woman who, although beloved by her husband, or notwithstanding the love shown to her by her husband, commits adultery. Through the participles אהבת and מנאפת , the love of the friend (or husband), and the adultery of the wife, are represented as contemporaneous, in precisely the same manner as in the explanatory clauses which follow: “as Jehovah loveth the children of Israel, and they turn to other gods!” If the 'isshâh thus defined had been the Gomer mentioned in Hosea 1:1-11, the divine command would necessarily have been thus expressed: either, “Go, and love again the wife beloved by her husband, who has committed adultery;” or, “Love again thy wife, who is still loved by her husband, although she has committed adultery.” But it is quite as evident that this thought cannot be contained in the words of the text, as that out of two co-ordinate participles it is impossible that the one should have the force of the future or present, and the other that of the pluperfect. Nevertheless, Kurtz has undertaken to prove the possibility of the impossible. He observes, first of all, that we are not justified, of course, in giving to “love” the meaning “love again,” as Hofmann does, because the husband has never ceased to love his wife, in spite of her adultery; but for all that, the explanation, restitue amoris signa (restore the pledges of affection), is the only intelligible one; since it cannot be the love itself, but only the manifestation of love, that is here referred to. But the idea of “again” cannot be smuggled into the text by any such arbitrary distinction as this. There is nothing in the text to the effect that the husband had not ceased to love his wife, in spite of her adultery; and this is simply an inference drawn from Hosea 2:11, through the identification of the prophet with Jehovah, and the tacit assumption that the prophet had withdrawn from Gomer the expressions of his love, of all which there is not a single syllable in Hosea 1:1-11. This assumption, and the inference drawn from it, would only be admissible, if the identity of the woman, beloved by her husband and committing adultery, with the prophet's wife Gomer, were an established fact. But so long as this is not proved, the argument merely moves in a circle, assuming the thing to be demonstrated as already proved. But even granting that “love” were equivalent to “love again,” or “manifest thy love again to a woman beloved of her husband, and committing adultery,” this could not mean the same things as “go to thy former wife, and prove to her by word and deed the continuance of thy love,” so long as, according to the simplest rules of logic, “a wife” is not equivalent to “thy wife.” And according to sound logical rules, the identity of the 'isshâh in Hosea 3:1 and the Gomer of Hosea 1:3 cannot be inferred from the fact that the expression used in Hosea 3:1, is, “Go love a woman,” and not “Go take a wife,” or from the fact that in Hosea 1:2 the woman is simply called a shore, not an adulteress, whereas in Hosea 3:1 she is described as an adulteress, not as a whore. The words “love a woman,” as distinguished from “take a wife,” may indeed be understood, apart from the connection with Hosea 1:2, as implying that the conclusion of a marriage is alluded to; but they can never denote “the restoration of a marriage bond that had existed before,” as Kurtz supposes. And the distinction between Hosea 1:2, where the woman is described as “a woman of whoredom,” and Hosea 3:1, where she is called “an adulteress,” points far more to a distinction between Gomer and the adulterous woman, than to their identity.
But Hosea 3:2, “I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver,” etc., points even more than Hosea 3:1 to a difference between the women in Hosea 1:1-11 and Hosea 3:1-5. The verb kârâh , to purchase or acquire by trading, presupposes that the woman had not yet been in the prophet's possession. The only way in which Kurtz is able to evade this conclusion, is by taking the fifteen pieces of silver mentioned in Hosea 3:2, not as the price paid by the prophet to purchase the woman as his wife, but in total disregard of ואמר אליה , in Hosea 3:3, as the cost of her maintenance, which the prophet gave to the woman for the period of her detention, during which she was to sit, and not go with any man. But the arbitrary nature of this explanation is apparent at once. According to the reading of the words, the prophet bought the woman to himself for fifteen pieces of silver and an ephah and a half of barley, i.e., bought her to be his wife, and then said to her, “Thou shalt sit for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot,” etc. There is not only not a word in Hosea 3:1-5 about his having assigned her the amount stated for her maintenance; but it cannot be inferred from Hosea 2:9, Hosea 2:11, because there it is not the prophet's wife who is referred to, but Israel personified as a harlot and adulteress. And that what is there affirmed concerning Israel cannot be applied without reserve to explain the symbolical description in Hosea 3:1-5, is evident from the simple fact, that the conduct of Jehovah towards Israel is very differently described in ch. 2, from the course which the prophet is said to have observed towards his wife in Hosea 3:3. In Hosea 2:7, the adulterous woman (Israel) says, “I will go and return to my former husband, for then was it better with me than now;” and Jehovah replies to this (Hosea 2:8-9), “Because she has not discovered that I gave her corn and new wine, etc.; therefore will I return, and take away my corn from her in the season thereof, and my wine,” etc. On the other hand, according to the view adopted by Kurtz, the prophet took his wife back again because she felt remorse, and assigned her the necessary maintenance for many days.
From all this it follows, that by the woman spoken of in Hosea 3:1-5, we cannot understand the wife Gomer mentioned in Hosea 1:1-11. The “wife beloved of the companion (i.e., of her husband), and committing adultery,” is a different person from the daughter of Diblathaim, by whom the prophet had three children (Hosea 1:1-11). If, then, the prophet really contracted and consummated the marriage commanded by God, we must adopt the explanation already favoured by the earlier commentators, viz., that in the interval between Hosea 1:1-11 and Hosea 3:1-5 Gomer had either died, or been put away by her husband because she would not repent. But we are only warranted in adopting such a solution as this, provided that the assumption of a marriage consummated outwardly either has been or can be conclusively established. And as this is not the case, we are not at liberty to supply things at which the text does not even remotely hint. If, then, in accordance with the text, we must understand the divine commands in Hosea 1:1-11 and Hosea 3:1-5 as relating to two successive marriages on the part of the prophet with unchaste women, every probability is swept away that the command of God and its execution by the prophet fall within the sphere of external reality. For even if, in case of need, the first command, as explained above, could be vindicated as worthy of God, the same vindication would not apply to the command to contract a second marriage of a similar kind. The very end which God is supposed to have had in view in the command to contract such a marriage as this, could only be attained by one marriage. But if Hosea had no sooner dissolved the first marriage, than he proceeded to conclude a second with a person in still worse odour, no one would ever have believed that he did this also in obedience to the command of God. And the divine command itself to contract this second marriage, if it was intended to be actually consummated, would be quite irreconcilable with the holiness of God. For even if God could command a man to marry a harlot, for the purpose of rescuing her from her life of sin and reforming her, it would certainly be at variance with the divine holiness, to command the prophet to marry a person who had either broken the marriage vow already, or who would break it, notwithstanding her husband's love; since God, as the Holy One, cannot possibly sanction adultery.
(Note: This objection to the outward consummation of the prophet's marriage cannot be deprived of its force by the remark made by the older Rivetus, to the effect that “things which are dishonourable in themselves, cannot be honourable in vision, or when merely imaginary.” For there is an essential difference between a merely symbolical representation, and the actual performance of anything. The instruction given to a prophet to set forth a sin in a symbolical form, for the purpose of impressing upon the hearts of the people its abominable character, and the punishment it deserved, is not at variance with the holiness of God; whereas the command to commit a sin would be. God, as the Holy One, cannot abolish the laws of morality, or command anything actually immoral, without contradicting Himself, or denying His own nature.)
Consequently no other course is left to us, than the picture to ourselves Hosea's marriages as internal events, i.e., as merely carried out in that inward and spiritual intuition in which the word of God was addressed to him; and this removes all the difficulties that beset the assumption of marriages contracted in outward reality. In occurrences which merely happened to a prophet in spiritual intercourse with God, not only would all reflections as to their being worthy or not worthy of God be absent, when the prophet related them to the people, for the purpose of impressing their meaning upon their hearts, inasmuch as it was simply their significance, which came into consideration and was to be laid to heart; but this would also be the case with the other difficulties to which the external view is exposed - such, for example, as the questions, why the prophet was to take not only a woman of whoredom, but children of whoredom also, when they are never referred to again in the course of the narrative; or what became of Gomer, whether she was dead, or had been put away, when the prophet was commanded the second time to love an adulterous woman - since the sign falls back behind the thing signified.
But if, according to this, we must regard the marriages enjoined upon the prophet as simply facts of inward experience, which took place in his own spiritual intuition, we must not set them down as nothing more than parables which he related to the people, or as poetical fictions, since such assumptions as these are at variance with the words themselves, and reduce the statement, “God said to Hosea,” to an unmeaning rhetorical phrase. The inward experience has quite as much reality and truth as the outward; whereas a parable or a poetical fiction has simply a certain truth, so far as the subjective imagination is concerned, but no reality.
Hosea 1:1 contains the heading to the whole of the book of Hosea, the contents of which have already been discussed in the Introduction, and defended against the objections that have been raised, so that there is no tenable ground for refusing to admit its integrity and genuineness. The t e chillath dibber - Y e hōvâh with which Hosea 1:2 introduces the prophecy, necessarily presupposes a heading announcing the period of the prophet's ministry; and the “twisted, un-Hebrew expression,” which Hitzig properly finds to be so objectionable in the translation, “in the days of Jeroboam, etc., was the commencement of Jehovah's speaking,” etc., does not prove that the heading is spurious, but simply that Hitzig's construction is false, i.e., that t e chillath dibber - Y e hōvâh is not in apposition to Hosea 1:1, but the heading in Hosea 1:1 contains an independent statement; whilst the notice as to time, with which Hosea 1:2 opens, does not belong to the heading of the whole book, but simply to the prophecy which follows in Hosea 1-3.
For the purpose of depicting before the eyes of the sinful people the judgment to which Israel has exposed itself through its apostasy from the Lord, Hosea is to marry a prostitute, and beget children by her, whose names are so appointed by Jehovah as to point out the evil fruits of the departure from God. Hosea 1:2. “At first, when Jehovah spake to Hosea, Jehovah said to him, God, take thee a wife of whoredom, and children of whoredom; for whoring the land whoreth away from Jehovah.” The marriage which the prophet is commanded to contract, is to set forth the fact that the kingdom of Israel has fallen away from the Lord its God, and is sunken in idolatry. Hosea is to commence his prophetic labours by exhibiting this fact. תּחלּת דּבּר יי : literally, “at the commencement of 'Jehovah spake,'” i.e., at the commencement of Jehovah's speaking ( dibber is not an infinitive, but a perfect, and t e chillath an accusative of time (Ges. §118, 2); and through the constructive the following clause is subordinated to techillath as a substantive idea: see Ges. §123, 3, Anm. 1; Ewald, §332, c.). דּבּר with ב , not to speak to a person, or through any one ( ב is not = אל ), but to speak with (lit., in) a person, expressive of the inwardness or urgency of the speaking (cf. Numbers 12:6, Numbers 12:8; Habakkuk 2:1; Zechariah 1:9, etc.). “Take to thyself:” i.e., marry (a wife). אשׁת זנוּנים is stronger than זונה . A woman of whoredom, is a woman whose business or means of livelihood consists in prostitution. Along with the woman, Hosea is to take children of prostitution as well. The meaning of this is, of course, not that he is first of all to take the woman, and then beget children of prostitution by her, which would require that the two objects should be connected with קח per zeugma , in the sense of “ accipe uxorem et suscipe ex ea liberos ” (Drus.), or “ sume tibi uxorem forn. et fac tibi filios forn .” (Vulg.). The children begotten by the prophet from a married harlot-wife, could not be called yaldē z e nūnı̄m , since they were not illegitimate children, but legitimate children of the prophet himself; nor is the assumption, that the three children born by the woman, according to Hosea 1:3, Hosea 1:6, Hosea 1:8, were born in adultery, and that the prophet was not their father, in harmony with Hosea 1:3, “he took Gomer, and she conceived and bare him a son.” Nor can this mode of escaping from the difficulty, which is quite at variance with the text, be vindicated by an appeal to the connection between the figure and the fact. For though this connection “necessarily requires that both the children and the mother should stand in the same relation of estrangement from the lawful husband and father,” as Hengstenberg argues; it neither requires that we should assume that the mother had been a chaste virgin before her marriage to the prophet, nor that the children whom she bare to her husband were begotten in adultery, and merely palmed off upon the prophet as his own. The marriage which the prophet was to contract, was simply intended to symbolize the relation already existing between Jehovah and Israel, and not the way in which it had come into existence. The “wife of whoredoms” does not represent the nation of Israel in its virgin state at the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai, but the nation of the ten tribes in its relation to Jehovah at the time of the prophet himself, when the nation, considered as a whole, had become a wife of whoredom, and in its several members resembled children of whoredom. The reference to the children of whoredom, along with the wife of whoredom, indicates unquestionably à priori, that the divine command did not contemplate an actual and outward marriage, but simply a symbolical representation of the relation in which the idolatrous Israelites were then standing to the Lord their God. The explanatory clause, “for the land whoreth,” etc., clearly points to this. הארץ , “the land,” for the population of the land (cf. Hosea 4:1). זנה מאחרי יי , to whore from Jehovah, i.e., to fall away from Him (see at Hosea 4:12).
“And he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim; and she conceived, and bare him a son.” Gomer does indeed occur in Genesis 10:2-3, as the name of a people; but we never meet with it as the name of either a man or a woman, and judging from the analogy of the names of her children, it is chosen with reference to the meaning of the word itself. Gomer signifies perfection, completion in a passive sense, and is not meant to indicate destruction or death (Chald. Marck), but the fact that the woman was thoroughly perfected in her whoredom, or that she had gone to the furthest length in prostitution. Diblaim, also, does not occur again as a proper name, except in the names of Moabitish places in Numbers 33:46 ( ‛Almon - diblathaim ) and Jeremiah 48:22 ( Beth - diblathaim ); it is formed from d e bhēlâh , like the form 'Ephraim, and in the sense of d e bhēlı̄m , fig-cakes. “Daughter of fig-cakes,” equivalent to liking fig-cakes, in the same sense as “loving grape-cakes” in Hosea 3:1, viz., deliciis dedita .
(Note: This is essentially the interpretation given by Jerome: “Therefore is a wife taken out of Israel by Hosea, as the type of the Lord and Saviour, viz., one accomplished in fornication, and a perfect daughter of pleasure ( filia voluptatis ), which seems so sweet and pleasant to those who enjoy it.”)
The symbolical interpretation of these names is not affected by the fact that they are not explained, like those of the children in Hosea 1:4., since this may be accounted for very simply from the circumstance, that the woman does not now receive the names for the first time, but that she had them at the time when the prophet married her.
“And Jehovah said to him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little, and I visit the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.” The prophet is directed by God as to the names to be given to his children, because the children, as the fruit of the marriage, as well as the marriage itself, are instructive signs for the idolatrous Israel of the ten tribes. The first son is named Jezreel, after the fruitful plain of Jezreel on the north side of the Kishon (see at Joshua 17:16); not, however, with any reference to the appellative meaning of the name, viz., “God sows,” which is first of all alluded to in the announcement of salvation in Hosea 2:24-25, but, as the explanation which follows clearly shows, on account of the historical importance which this plain possessed for Israel, and that not merely as the place where the last penal judgment of God was executed in the kingdom of Israel, as Hengstenberg supposes, but on account of the blood-guiltiness of Jezreel, i.e., because Israel had there contracted such blood-guiltiness as was now speedily to be avenged upon the house of Jehu. At the city of Jezreel, which stood in this plain, Ahab had previously filled up the measure of his sin by the ruthless murder of Naboth, and had thus brought upon himself that blood-guiltiness for which he had been threatened with the extermination of all his house (1 Kings 21:19.). Then, in order to avenge the blood of all His servants the prophets, which Ahab and Jezebel had shed, the Lord directed Elisha to anoint Jehu king, with a commission to destroy the whole of Ahab's house (2 Kings 9:1.). Jehu obeyed this command. Not only did he slay the son of Ahab, viz., king Koram, and cause his body to be thrown upon the portion of land belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite, appealing at the same time to the word of the Lord (2 Kings 9:21-26), but he also executed the divine judgment upon Jezebel, upon the seventy sons of Ahab, and upon all the rest of the house of Ahab (2 Kings 9:30-10:17), and received the following promise from Jehovah in consequence: “Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, because thou hast done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, sons of thine of the fourth generation shall sit upon the throne of Israel” (2 Kings 10:30). It is evident from this that the blood-guiltiness of Jezreel, which was to be avenged upon the house of Jehu, is not to be sought for in the fact that Jehu had there exterminated the house of Ahab; nor, as Hitzig supposes, in the fact that he had not contented himself with slaying Joram and Jezebel, but had also put Ahaziah of Judah and his brethren to death (2 Kings 9:27; 2 Kings 10:14), and directed the massacre described in 2 Kings 10:11. For an act which God praises, and for which He gives a promise to the performer, cannot be in itself an act of blood-guiltiness. And the slaughter of Ahaziah and his brethren by Jehu, though not expressly commanded, is not actually blamed in the historical account, because the royal family of Judah had been drawn into the ungodliness of the house of Ahab, through its connection by marriage with that dynasty; and Ahaziah and his brethren, as the sons of Athaliah, a daughter of Ahab, belonged both in descent and disposition to the house of Ahab (2 Kings 8:18, 2 Kings 8:26-27), so that, according to divine appointment, they were to perish with it. Many expositors, therefore, understand by “the blood of Jezreel,” simply the many acts of unrighteousness and cruelty which the descendants of Jehu had committed in Jezreel, or “the grievous sins of all kinds committed in the palace, the city, and the nation generally, which were to be expiated by blood, and demanded as it were the punishment of bloodshed” (Marck). But we have no warrant for generalizing the idea of d e mē in this way; more especially as the assumption upon which the explanation is founded, viz., that Jezreel was the royal residence of the kings of the house of Jehu, not only cannot be sustained, but is at variance with 2 Kings 15:8, 2 Kings 15:13, where Samaria is unquestionably described as the royal residence in the times of Jeroboam II and his son Zechariah. The blood-guiltinesses ( d e mē ) at Jezreel can only be those which Jehu contracted at Jezreel, viz., the deeds of blood recorded in 2 Kings 9 and 10, by which Jehu opened the way for himself to the throne, since there are no others mentioned.
The apparent discrepancy, however, that whereas the extermination of the royal family of Ahab by Jehu is commended by God in the second book of Kings, and Jehu is promised the possession of the throne even to the fourth generation of this sons in consequence, in the passage before us the very same act is charged against him as an act of blood-guiltiness that has to be punished, may be solved very simply by distinguishing between the act in itself, and the motive by which Jehu was instigated. In itself, i.e., regarded as the fulfilment of the divine command, the extermination of the family of Ahab was an act by which Jehu could not render himself criminal. But even things desired or commanded by God may becomes crimes in the case of the performer of them, when he is not simply carrying out the Lord's will as the servant of God, but suffers himself to be actuated by evil and selfish motives, that is to say, when he abuses the divine command, and makes it the mere cloak for the lusts of his own evil heart. That Jehu was actuated by such motives as this, is evident enough from the verdict of the historian in 2 Kings 10:29, 2 Kings 10:31, that Jehu did indeed exterminate Baal out of Israel, but that he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, from the golden calves at Bethel and Dan, to walk in the law of Jehovah the God of Israel with all his heart. “The massacre, therefore,” as Calvin has very correctly affirmed, “was a crime so far as Jehu was concerned, but with God it was righteous vengeance.” Even if Jehu did not make use of the divine command as a mere pretext for carrying out the plans of his own ambitious heart, the massacre itself became an act of blood-guiltiness that called for vengeance, from the fact that he did not take heed to walk in the law of God with all his heart, but continued the worship of the calves, that fundamental sin of all the kings of the ten tribes. For this reason, the possession of the throne was only promised to him with a restriction to sons of the fourth generation. On the other hand, it is no argument against this, that “the act referred to cannot be regarded as the chief crime of Jehu and his house,” or that “the bloody act, to which the house of Jehu owed its elevation, never appears elsewhere as the cause of the catastrophe which befall this houses; but in the case of all the members of his family, the only sin to which prominence is given in the books of Kings, is that they did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam (2 Kings 13:2, 2 Kings 13:11; 2 Kings 14:24; 2 Kings 15:9)” (Hengstenberg). For even though this sin in connection with religion may be the only one mentioned in the books of Kings, according to the plan of the author of those books, and though this may really have been the principal act of sin; it was through that sin that the bloody deeds of Jehu became such a crime as cried to heaven for vengeance, like the sin of Ahab, and such an one also as Hosea could describe as the blood-guiltiness of Jezreel, which the Lord would avenge upon the house of Jehu at Jezreel, since the object in this case was not to enumerate all the sins of Israel, and the fact that the apostasy of the ten tribes, which is condemned in the book of Kings as the sin of Jeroboam, is represented here under the image of whoredom, shows very clearly that the evil root alone is indicated, out of which all the sins sprang that rendered the kingdom ripe for destruction. Consequently, it is not merely the fall of the existing dynasty which is threatened here, but also the suppression of the kingdom of Israel. The “kingdom of the house of Israel” is obviously not the sovereignty of the house of Jehu in Israel, but the regal sovereignty in Israel. And to this the Lord will put an end מעט , i.e., in a short time. The extermination of the house of Jehu occurred not long after the death of Jeroboam, when his son was murdered in connection with Shallum's conspiracy (2 Kings 15:8.). And the strength of the kingdom was also paralyzed when the house of Jehu fell, although fifty years elapsed before its complete destruction. For of the five kings who followed Zechariah, only one, viz., Menahem, died a natural death, and was succeeded by his son. The rest were all dethroned and murdered by conspirators, so that the overthrow of the house of Jehu may very well be called “the beginning of the end, the commencement of the process of decomposition” (Hengstenberg: compare the remarks on 2 Kings 15:10.).
“And it cometh to pass in that day, that I break in pieces the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.” The indication of time, “in that day,” refers not to the overthrow of the house of Jehu, but to the breaking up of the kingdom of Israel, by which it was followed. The bow of Israel, i.e., its might (for the bow, as the principal weapon employed in war, is a synecdochical epithet, used to denote the whole of the military force upon which the continued existence of the kingdom depended (Jeremiah 49:35), and is also a symbol of strength generally; vid., Genesis 49:24; 1 Samuel 2:4), is to be broken to pieces in the valley of Jezreel. The paronomasia between Israel and Jezreel is here unmistakeable. And here again Jezreel is not introduced with any allusion to its appellative signification, i.e., so that the mention of the name itself is intended to indicate the dispersion or breaking up of the nation, but simply with reference to its natural character, as the great plain in which, from time immemorial, even down to the most recent period, all the great battles have been fought for the possession of the land (cf. v. Raumer, Pal. pp. 40, 41). The nation which the Lord had appointed to be the instrument of His judgment is not mentioned here. But the fulfilment shows that the Assyrians are intended, although the brief historical account given in the books of Kings does not notice the place in which the Assyrians gained the decisive victory over Israel; and the statement made by Jerome, to the effect that it was in the valley of Jezreel, is probably simply an inference drawn from this passage.
With the name of the first child, Jezreel, the prophet had, as it were with a single stroke, set before the king and the kingdom generally the destruction that awaited them. In order, however, to give further keenness to this threat, and cut off every hope of deliverance, he now announces two other births. 1 Samuel 2:6. “And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And He (Jehovah) said to him, Call her name Unfavoured; for I will no more favour the house of Israel, that I should forgive them.” The second birth is a female one, not in order to symbolize a more degenerate race, or the greater need of help on the part of the nation, but to get a name answering to the idea, and to set forth, under the figure of sons and daughters, the totality of the nation, both men and women. Lō' ruchâmâh , lit., she is not favoured; for ruchâmâh is hardly a participle with the מ dropped, since לא is never found in close connection with the participle (Ewald, §320, c.), but rather the third pers. perf. fem. in the pausal form. The child receives this name to indicate that the Lord will not continue ( אוסיך ) to show compassion towards the rebellious nation, as He hitherto has done, even under Jeroboam II (2 Kings 13:23). For the purpose of strengthening לא ארחם , the clause כּי נשׂא וגו is added. This can hardly be understood in any other way than in the sense of נשׂא עון ל , viz., to take away sin or guilt, i.e., to forgive it (cf. Genesis 18:24, Genesis 18:26, etc.). The explanation, “I will take away from them, sc. everything” (Hengstenberg), has no tenable support in Hosea 5:14, because there the object to be supplied is contained in the context, and here this is not the case.
“And I will favour the house of Judah, and save them through Jehovah their God; and I will not save them through bow, and sword, and war, through horses and through horsemen.” By a reference to the opposite lot awaiting Judah, all false trust in the mercy of God is taken away from the Israelites. From the fact that deliverance is promised to the kingdom of Judah through Jehovah its God, Israel is to learn that Jehovah is no longer its own God, but that He has dissolved His covenant with the idolatrous race. The expression, “through Jehovah their God,” instead of the pronoun “through me” (as, for example, in Genesis 19:24), is introduced with special emphasis, to show that Jehovah only extends His almighty help to those who acknowledge and worship Him as their God.
(Note: “The antithesis is to be preserved here between false gods and Jehovah, who was the God of the house of Judah. For it is just as if the prophet had said: Ye do indeed put forward the name of God; but ye worship the devil, and not God. For ye have no part in Jehovah, i.e., in that God who is the Creator of heaven and earth. For He dwells in His temple; He has bound up His faith with David,” etc. - Calvin.)
And what follows, viz., “I will not save them by bow,” etc., also serves to sharpen the punishment with which the Israelites are threatened; for it not only implies that the Lord does not stand in need of weapons of war and military force, in order to help and save, but that these earthly resources, on which Israel relied (Hosea 10:13), could afford no defence or deliverance from the enemies who would come upon it. Milchâmâh , “war,” in connection with bow and sword, does not stand for weapons of war, but “embraces everything belonging to war - the skill of the commanders, the bravery of heroes, the strength of the army itself, and so forth” (Hengstenberg). Horses and horsemen are specially mentioned, because they constituted the main strength of an army at that time. Lastly, whilst the threat against Israel, and the promise made to Judah, refer primarily, as Hosea 2:1-3 clearly show, to the time immediately approaching, when the judgment was to burst upon the kingdom of the ten tribes, that is to say, to that attack upon Israel and Judah on the part of the imperial power of Assyria, to which Israel succumbed, whilst Judah was miraculously delivered (2 Kings 19; Isaiah 37:1); it has also a meaning which applies to all times, namely, that whoever forsakes the living God, will fall into destruction, and cannot reckon upon the mercy of God in the time of need.
“And she weaned Unfavoured, and conceived, and bare a son. And He said, Call his name Not-my-people; for ye are not my people, and I will not be yours.” If weaning is mentioned not merely for the sake of varying the expression, but with a deliberate meaning, it certainly cannot indicate the continued patience of God with the rebellious nation, as Calvin supposes, but rather implies the uninterrupted succession of the calamities set forth by the names of the children. As soon as the Lord ceases to compassionate the rebellious tribes, the state of rejection ensues, so that they are no longer “my people,” and Jehovah belongs to them no more. In the last clause, the words pass with emphasis into the second person, or direct address, “I will not be to you,” i.e., will no more belong to you (cf. Psalms 118:6; Exodus 19:5; Ezekiel 16:8). We need not supply 'Elohim here, and we may not weaken לא אהיה לכם into “no more help you, or come to your aid.” For the fulfilment, see 2 Kings 17:18.
(Heb. Bib. Hosea 2:1-3). To the symbolical action, which depicts the judgment that falls blow after blow upon the ten tribes, issuing in the destruction of the kingdom, and the banishment of its inhabitants, there is now appended, quite abruptly, the saving announcement of the final restoration of those who turn to the Lord.
(Heb. Bib. Hosea 2:1). “And the number of the sons of Israel will be as the sand of the sea, which is not measured and not counted; and it will come to pass at the place where men say to them, Ye are not my people, it will be said to them, Sons of the living God.” It might appear as though the promise made to the patriarchs, of the innumerable increase of Israel, were abolished by the rejection of the ten tribes of Israel predicted here. But this appearance, which might confirm the ungodly in their false security, is met by the proclamation of salvation, which we must connect by means of a “nevertheless” with the preceding announcement of punishment. The almost verbal agreement between this announcement of salvation and the patriarchal promises, more especially in Genesis 22:17 and Genesis 32:13, does indeed naturally suggest the idea, that by the “sons of Israel,” whose innumerable increase is here predicted, we are to understand all the descendants of Jacob or of Israel as a whole. But if we notice the second clause, according to which those who are called “not-my-people” will then be called “sons of the living God;” and still more, if we observe the distinction drawn between the sons of Israel and the sons of Judah in Genesis 32:11, this idea is proved to be quite untenable, since the “sons of Israel” can only be the ten tribes. We must assume, therefore, that the prophet had in his mind only one portion of the entire nation, namely, the one with which alone he was here concerned, and that he proclaims that, even with regard to this, the promise in question will one day be fulfilled. In what way, is stated in the second clause. At the place where ( בּלמקום אשׁר does not mean “instead of” or “in the place of,” as the Latin loco does; cf. Leviticus 4:24, Leviticus 4:33; Jeremiah 22:12; Ezekiel 21:35; Nehemiah 4:14) men called them Lō' - ‛ammı̄ , they shall be called sons of the living God. This place must be either Palestine, where their rejection was declared by means of this name, or the land of exile, where this name became an actual truth. The correctness of the latter view, which is the one given in the Chaldee, is proved by Genesis 32:11, where their coming up out of the land of exile is spoken of, from which it is evident that the change is to take place in exile. Jehovah is called El chai , the living God, in opposition to the idols which idolatrous Israel had made for itself; and “sons of the living God” expresses the thought, that Israel would come again into the right relation to the true God, and reach the goal of its divine calling. For the whole nation was called and elevated into the position of sons of Jehovah, through its reception into the covenant with the Lord (compare Deuteronomy 14:1; Deuteronomy 32:19, with Exodus 4:22).
The restoration of Israel will be followed by its return to the Lord. Hosea 1:11. “And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel gather together, and appoint themselves one head, and come up out of the land; for great is the day of Jezreel.” The gathering together, i.e., the union of Judah and Israel, presupposes that Judah will find itself in the same situation as Israel; that is to say, that it will also be rejected by the Lord. The object of the union is to appoint themselves one head, and go up out of the land. The words of the two clauses recal to mind the departure of the twelve tribes of Israel out of Egypt. The expression, to appoint themselves a head, which resembles Numbers 14:4, where the rebellious congregation is about to appoint itself a head to return to Egypt, points back to Moses; and the phrase, “going up out of the land,” is borrowed from Exodus 1:10, which also serves to explain הארץ with the definite article. The correctness of this view is placed beyond all doubt by Exodus 2:14-15, where the restoration of rejected Israel is compared to leading it through the desert to Canaan; and a parallel is drawn between it and the leading up out of Egypt in the olden time. It is true that the banishment of the sons of Israel out of Canaan is not predicted disertis verbis in what precedes; but it followed as clearly as possible from the banishment into the land of their enemies, with which even Moses had threatened the people in the case of continued apostasy (Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28). Moses had, in fact, already described the banishment of rebellious Israel among the heathen in so many words, as carrying them back into Egypt (Deuteronomy 28:68), and had thereby intimated that Egypt was the type of the heathen world, in the midst of which Israel was to be scattered abroad. On the basis of these threatenings of the law, Hosea also threatens ungodly Ephraim with a return to Egypt in Hosea 8:13 and Hosea 9:3. And just as in these passages Egypt is a type of the heathen lands, into which Israel is to be driven away on account of its apostasy from the Lord; so, in the passage before us, Canaan, to which Israel is to be led up out of Egypt, is a type of the land of the Lord, and the guidance of them to Canaan a figurative representation of the reunion of Israel with its God, and of its reinstatement in the full enjoyment of the blessings of salvation, which are shadowed forth in the fruits and productions of Canaan. (For further remarks, see Hosea 2:14, Hosea 2:15.) Another point to be noticed is the use of the word 'echâd , one (single) head, i.e., one prince or king. The division of the nation into two kingdoms is to cease; and the house of Israel is to turn again to Jehovah, and to its king David (Hosea 3:5). The reason assigned for this promise, in the words “for great is (will be) the day of Jezreel,” causes not little difficulty; and this cannot be removed by giving a different meaning to the name Jezreel, on the ground of vv. 24, 25, from that which it has in Hosea 1:4-5. The day of Jezreel can only be the day on which the might of Israel was broken in the valley of Jezreel, and the kingdom of the house of Israel was brought to an end (Hosea 1:4). This day is called great, i.e., important, glorious, because of its effects and consequences in relation to Israel. The destruction of the might of the ten tribes, the cessation of their kingdom, and their expulsion into exile, form the turning-point, through which the conversion of the rebellious to the Lord, and their reunion with Judah, are rendered possible. The appellative meaning of יזרעאל , to which there was no allusion at all in Hosea 1:4-5, is still kept in the background to a great extent even here, and only so far slightly hinted at, that in the results which follow to the nation, from the judgment poured out upon Israel in Jezreel, the valley of Jezreel becomes a place in which God sows seed for the renovation of Israel.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Hosea 1". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19