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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 1

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Verse 1



The so-called ‘minor prophets’, of which Hosea is the first, are for most Bible readers not among the favorite books of the Bible. For me, too, they have long had the place they have in the Old Testament in the Bible: at the end. The fact that they are at the end of the Old Testament has nothing to do with their importance compared to the books that precede them. They got their place at the end because they belong there historically. They mainly relate to the last events that took place in and around Israel before the curtain fell for that people and the time after that.

The fact that during my study of the Bible they came at the end has to do with the fact that I did not know very well how to read them and what benefit I could derive from them. When I was asked to give Bible lectures about Hosea, I did not have to think long. In fact, it gave me the opportunity to remove this book of the Bible from the place at the end and put it first in my study of Holy Scripture.

What I was allowed to discover about Hosea and share through the lectures, I elaborated in this commentary in order to share it with the reader. I hope and pray that the reader will receive as much blessing as I do while studying this book of the Bible. May its effects become visible in our lives under the powerful action of God’s Spirit for the glory of the Lord Jesus.

Ger de Koning

Middelburg, October 2001 – revised February 2018 – translated October 2020

The minor prophets

The twelve bible books that are called ‘the minor prophets’ are perhaps the least read Bible books and therefore the least known to Christians. But these ‘minor prophets’ also belong to the inspired Scriptures from which we read: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-Esther :). For the prophets, and thus also for the ‘minor prophets’, there is the special word can be added: “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is [a matter] of one’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). This means that we need all the prophets and all the books of the Bible in order to compare Scripture with Scripture.

They are called ’the minor prophets’ because of the short content of their scriptures compared to prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah. We can call these prophets ‘major prophets’ because their books are much more voluminous. But for the authority with which their words are covered, it makes no difference at all. Both for what we have of Isaiah and Jeremiah and what we have of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah and the eight following ‘minor’ prophets in the Bible, the contents are clothed with the same divine authority. Therefore, it is right and necessary that Christians also listen to the message of these twelve ‘minor prophets’, which some see as one whole and are then referred to as ‘The Twelve Prophets book’.

It is not clear why the twelve minor prophets are arranged as we have them in the Bible. They are not arranged chronologically. However, we can make a global classification according to the periods in which they prophesied. The prophets Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah and Nahum prophesied in the time of the Assyrian world empire. Habakkuk and Zephaniah prophesy at the time of the rise of Babel as a world power. The third period is that of after the Babylonian exile. In that time the prophets Haggaï, Zachariah and Malachi prophesy.

Hosea has a topical message

What God has to say to His earthly people through those twelve prophets speaks the same clear language to God’s heavenly people today. The question, however, is whether we still have ears to what God has to say. We will see how topical Hosea’s message is for the Christian of today. The Christian is anyone who claims to be a Christian, anyone who counts himself to be one of God’s people. As Hosea addresses the earthly people of God very directly, we may listen to Hosea in a spiritually derived sense. We will find the answer to the question: What is his message for God’s people today?

The person Hosea

Before we listen to “the word of the LORD which came to Hosea” (Hosea 1:1), it is good to first notice some things about the person Hosea, about Hosea as a prophet and about the situation Israel finds itself in during his preaching. Against that background, many of his statements will become clearer to us.

The name Hosea means ‘savior’, ‘deliverer’. In that name, God’s intention with the preaching of this prophet is immediately expressed. He wants to deliver His people from the power of sin. His name reminds us of the name ‘Jesus’. Joseph is told to give the Son, Who Mary will give birth to, the name ‘Jesus’, with the explanation: “For He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). For that purpose, the Lord Jesus has come to earth. When God sends someone, to man in general or to His people in particular, He always does so for the good of that man and of His people.

What we also know of Hosea is that he is “the son of Beeri” (Hosea 1:1). The name Beeri means “my source”. Doesn’t that say something about the source with which Hosea is connected? He does not draw the strength for his service from his own power, but from God. God is his source, from Him he obtains what he needs to do what he is commanded to do. Besides, with less he would never have been able to perform his service. Furthermore not much is known about the person Hosea.

A prophet points to sin

Of a prophet is also not so much important who he is, but what the message is that he brings. His person must, as it were, be hidden behind his message. Prophets are generally not very popular among the people. That is because they usually appear on stage when something is not right with God’s people. They appeal to the people for that. Unfortunately, it turns out that the people as a whole are not open to the voice and heart of God, interpreted by the prophets.

God, Who wants the people to confess their sin and return to Him, is rejected. This is clearly visible in the fate that many prophets have undergone. The Lord Jesus says in His lamentation about Jerusalem: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matthew 23:37).

The people are blind to the fact that God, in His love, sends prophets to them. He does so because a life in sin, with its back to God, never makes them happy. When guilt lies with the people of God through idolatry and other sins, prophets speak in the name of God to the heart and conscience of the people. They warn of the judgment that God must let come.

That is why a prophet is often seen as a troublemaker, a pessimist. Thus, Ahab calls the prophet Elijah “troubler of Israel” (1 Kings 18:17). Ahab, by his ungodly behavior, has called God’s judgment upon Israel and he blames Elijah for that. We also sometimes have a tendency to shift the blame for mischief that afflicts us to others, most of all to the one who points out our sinful behavior.

A prophet also points to blessing

But prophets do not only speak about judgment. Judgment is generally for the masses of the people who refuse to repent. Prophets also speak of blessing for every single person who listens to the Word of God. That promise of blessing is an encouragement to anyone who, in the midst of an unfaithful mass, wants to remain faithful to God and live according to His will, which He makes known in His Word.

There is a difference between a prophet like Hosea and prophets like Elijah and Elisha. There is no book of Elijah and Elisha in the Bible, but there is a book of Hosea. The preaching of Elijah and Elisha relates to the situation of their time and they announce judgment and blessing with that in mind. Their prophecies have no fulfilment in the distant future. They have not prophesied for the restoration of Israel in connection with the coming of the Messiah. This is precisely the case with the prophets of whom we have a book in the Bible.

The ‘writing’ prophets always point forward to the person of Christ and the establishment of His kingdom. This realm, called the millennial realm of peace, is still future. With Hosea we will find several references to that time and that realm.

The time in which Hosea lives

The time in which Hosea lives is not a time of poverty and famine, but a time of great prosperity and welfare. That does not make his preaching any easier. Just go and preach judgment when things are going well for people. If they go to church on top of that, they will be confirmed in their feelings that they are very faithful people after all. They reason: ‘If we would live badly and sinfully, we probably wouldn’t have it that well.’

At the time when Hosea is prophesying, there is nothing to indicate that judgment is imminent. Jeroboam II – to distinguish from Jeroboam I, the first king of the ten tribes kingdom after the division of Israel into two and ten tribes (1 Kings 12:20) – reigns from 793-753 BC. God brought Jeroboam to power because He feels sorry for the misery of the people in his time (2 Kings 14:25-Daniel :).

Before Jeroboam becomes king, the situation in Israel is critical. At the time of his grandfather Joahaz, the Syrians brought the people to the edge of the abyss (2 Kings 13:7). There is only a pittance left of the former power and glory of Israel. Under Joash, the father of Jeroboam, Israel scrawls up again (2 Kings 13:25). Under Jeroboam this restoration continues and he brings the country to great prosperity.

Times of prosperity

During that flowering period – you could speak of a golden age – Hosea preaches. Jeroboam is then in the second part of his reign. At that time people enjoy all the comforts and pleasure that prosperity brings, without having to fight for it themselves. They only know from the stories that battles were once fought, that defeats were suffered and that Israel was oppressed. What they enjoy in terms of prosperity and welfare has been thrown into their laps.

It is a well-known fact that prosperity rarely leads to behavior that pleases God. Rather, there is a tendency to forget God, especially if one has not had to make an effort for that prosperity. This phenomenon has been called ‘the disease of the third generation’. This ‘disease’ arises in this way: the first generation acquires, the second generation inherits, the third generation corrupts.

The first generation has made an effort to achieve prosperity. The second generation inherited that prosperity without much effort. That prosperity is still appreciated because that generation recognizes the effort it has taken and is (usually) grateful for it. However, the third generation has no connection whatsoever with the acquisition of prosperity and it does not mean anything to them, they do not appreciate what they possess.

Get blessings or fight for them

Literally this can be applied to the time in which we live. I am writing this at the beginning of the twenty-first century. My parents experienced the Second World War (1940-1945). After the war they had to dedicate themselves to the reconstruction of the Netherlands. That took a lot of effort. I heard their stories about oppression and poverty, but had no part in it. I was born and raised just after the war when there is enough to buy again and the means to buy are there too. Still, at first you should be careful. You could not buy everything you wished for.

However, our children, born in the 70s and later, grew up in wealth and prosperity. They are increasingly surrounded by luxury and things that make life fun and easy. It is thrown into their laps. But does the world look better now? Are today’s young people happier? Is there any asking for God? More and more young people are getting stuck in a society that only pays attention to them as far as it can enrich itself from these young people.

What applies in the social field also applies in the spiritual field. There are Christians who feel rich in their knowledge of spiritual blessings. They have heard a lot about the Lord Jesus, they read from the Bible at home, they visit meetings where they talk about Him. Yet all this has no effect in their lives. On the contrary, it seems that their knowledge of these spiritual blessings makes them nonchalant and indifferent. After all, they know everything, don’t they? But there is no real relationship with God and no life of thankfulness towards God.

In spite of all external prosperity, God, through Hosea, exposes the true condition of His earthly people. Through this prophet he also wants to expose the real condition of His ‘spiritual’ people, the church.

Duration of the preaching

As already mentioned, the task of Hosea is not easy. He clearly has the tide against him. Together with Amos and Micah, he has denounced the complete decay of Israel, the ten tribes, and announced the judgment of the entire people. Amos was sent by God as a prophet to the ten tribes during the first part of the reign of Jeroboam II. He is the forerunner of Hosea. But Amos was not listened to. Now it is Hosea’s turn.

The fact that the preaching of Amos has hardly produced any results does not make Hosea’s task any easier. Yet he courageously goes to work and prophesies against the evil of his days. Through Hosea God sends one of the last warnings to His people. That is why Hosea so penetratingly addresses the seriousness of the sin of the people and announces the judgment that will surely come if they do not listen. If the people do not heed his call, it will be over for them as a nation.

The period of Hosea’s action spans more than fifty years. All this time he has witnessed the rebellion of Israel against God. He loves his people and therefore their condition breaks his heart. From the long time Hosea prophesies, we see how long-suffering God is. In Hosea he gives His people a last chance to return to Him. Hosea may even have witnessed the deportation of the ten tribes under the reign of Israel’s last king, his namesake Hosea. The deportation takes place in the year 722 BC. He has been warning the people until the last moment.

How Hosea preaches

In the fourteen chapters that his Bible book contains, Hosea admonishes the people and warns and reprimands them because they have deviated from the LORD. He speaks to the people in examples and powerful language. He does not do so from above, but as someone who belongs to that people. His statements touch himself, they go through him like a sword. Hence the sorrow of his heart which can be heard through his prophecy every time, especially in Hosea 4-10.

His style is extraordinarily powerful and full of sudden transitions. He goes from threats to promises, from a short word of blessing to a scene of bloodshed, from past favors enjoyed to future contractions of labor that will suddenly come over Ephraim. He speaks this way because judgment is at hand.

He is in a hurry to say everything that can contribute to the repentance of the people. Sometimes he changes the subject so quickly and abruptly that it is better to speak of utterances than speeches. In addition to judgment, however, he also shows again and again how God will finally act in grace with the people and bring a turn in their fate.

The area where Hosea prophesies

The area where Hosea preaches is the ten tribes realm. It seems that he himself also belongs to the ten tribes realm, because he speaks of “our king” (Hosea 7:5), by which he indicates to be one with the people he speaks to. Hosea speaks to Israel and Ephraim. Ephraim is the main tribe of the ten tribes realm. He plays the leading role in the unfaithfulness of the people. Occasionally Hosea also speaks about Judah (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:5), but hardly to Judah. Hosea speaks to Israel (or Ephraim). The names Israel and Ephraim are mentioned together almost eighty times, that of Judah only fifteen times.

The division of the book

The division of the book is quite simple. There are three parts:

1. Hosea 1-3. Here we find how Israel behaves and what God therefore has to do with these people. We also find the councils of God towards Israel and His ways with them, how He will fulfill His plan with them, despite the attitude of the people. Each of these chapters ends with the blessing that God ultimately has for the people.

2. Hosea 4-13. Herein are the exhortations which the prophet in the name of the LORD speaks to the people.

3. Hosea 14. Here we hear the call of the prophet to the people to repent and how the people will obey to it. This conversion will take place in the last days, which is in the end time. The result of the conversion is described.

What the book of Hosea should do with us

Before we listen to “the word of the LORD which came to Hosea” (Hosea 1:1) one more remark. It is possible to receive the full benefit of what God has to say to us through the service of Hosea. This happens especially when, while studying this book of the Bible, we are seized by the fierce fear and strong feelings that fill the heart of this man of God because of
1. the love for his people and
2. the grief of which he knows that God is done by their unfaithfulness.

If the Word of God can go through us like this and take possession of us, we will share God’s feelings about the things around us in the world in general and what is happening in Christianity in particular. This attitude gives the Holy Spirit ample opportunity to do His shaping work in us. Its impact will be seen in our lives, as a blessing for our environment and above all as a joy and honor for God.


Hosea gets the assignment from God to marry a woman who will be unfaithful to him. In this way he gets to know God’s feelings towards Israel, that He has become unfaithful to Him. God can no longer acknowledge Israel as His people. This is expressed in the names Hosea has to give his children:
1. “Jezreel” (Hosea 1:4) means ‘God scatters’,
2. ”Lo-ruhamah” (Hosea 1:6) means ‘no compassion’ and
3. “Lo-ammi” (Hosea 1:9) means ‘not My people’.

Yet the people are not rejected forever. From Hosea 1:10 onwards God shows that He will fulfill His intentions with the people in grace, a grace in which also the nations will share.

Hosea 1 can be divided as follows:
1. Introduction (Hosea 1:1).
2. The people leave God and are judged for that (Hosea 1:2-Deuteronomy :).
3. God breaks off relations with His people and ceases to have compassion on them (Hosea 1:6-1 Samuel :).
4. Israel and the people outside Israel receive part of the blessings of the new covenant (Hosea 1:10).
5. God resumes His relations with Israel and Christ is acknowledged as Head (Hosea 1:11).

The Word of the LORD to Hosea

The prophet brings not his own word, but that of the LORD. It does not say ‘the words (plural) of the LORD’, but “the word of the LORD”. This indicates that all the words of God form an inner unity. Each individual word in “the word of the LORD” forms a perfect whole with all other spoken words.

The time in which this word comes to Hosea is mainly indicated by the kings of Judah. Of the ten tribes, where he nevertheless prophesies, he calls only Jeroboam, whereas after Jeroboam he has experienced six kings. It is generally accepted that by naming the kings of Judah he acknowledges that, according to God’s election, the kings of the lineage of David are entitled to the throne of Israel. God has promised David that his offspring will reign continually (2 Samuel 7:12-1 Chronicles :). The kings of Israel, the ten tribes realm, are not descendants of David and therefore they have no claim to this promise.

Of the ten tribes realm, Hosea only mentions Jeroboam because he is the last king of Israel through whom God acts and provides help against the enemy. He is used by the LORD to save His people (2 Kings 14:27). After Jeroboam there is only disorder, manslaughter and anarchy (Hosea 8:4). Therefore, Hosea does not mention any of Jeroboam’s six successors, which are Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah and Hosea. It is as if he is ashamed of them. He would do them too much honor by mentioning their names.

Jeroboam is the third generation after Jehu, who is mentioned in Hosea 1:4. Jehu has been promised that he will have someone on the throne until the fourth generation. The fourth will be Jeroboam’s son Zachariah. Jeroboam has ruled for a long time, forty-one years (2 Kings 14:23). His son Zechariah reigned for a very short time, only six months (2 Kings 15:8). After the short reign of Zechariah, one king quickly succeeds another, often by murder. Through the long reign of Jeroboam, God shows patience with the house of Jehu.

During the service of the prophet Hosea four kings are murdered. This time is characterized by great political instability. There are also several political parties. One party seeks its refuge in the northern neighboring country Assyria, the other party strives for an alliance with southern Egypt. But where are the people who place their trust in God?

Today in Christianity, more is expected of churches going along together, of agreements and treaties, all modelled on common secular politics, than of a return to the Lord and His Word. And what about the trust in God in the personal life of the Christian? Is it not often the case that we rely more on the insurances we have contracted, the social services we regard as acquired rights, influential people who can put in a good word for us, than that we trust in God? Let’s take a critical look at ourselves. When we discover that we indeed trust other people and things more than God, we have to acknowledge that as a sin before God and we can make a new start.

The fact that in Hosea 1:1 Judah and Israel are mentioned as separate realms is a reminder of the sad tearing that has taken place within God’s people. Through the unfaithfulness of Solomon, God had to bring this judgment (1 Kings 11:11; 1 Kings 12:16-Psalms :).

The great division in Christianity is also the result of the unfaithfulness of Christians. Very early in the history of the Christian church, Christians have dissociated into groups. The main cause of this, however, lies in the creation of a special class of believers who can explain the Word of God to ‘ordinary’ believers. Because of this, this special class has gained a dominant position in the church. The difference between ‘clergy’ and ‘lay people’ was born.

It could not fail to happen, or even among those who formed the ruling class, the clergy, differences occurred. Because of this the whole fell apart into groups. Paul points out this evil to the Corinthians when he qualifies thinking in terms of different groups as ‘human thinking and acting’ (1 Corinthians 1:11-2 Kings :; 1 Corinthians 3:4). The results of the division can be seen in the Christianity around us.

God keeps the way open to live according to His thoughts as His people. Wherever humiliation about the situation is found in the midst of God’s people and wherever one goes to ask for His will, He will show that way. His Word is as true and worthy to be obeyed as it was in the time of Hosea. Those who are willing to listen will be allowed to put into practice, even if it happens in great weakness, what God meant with the church on earth.

God wants to use Hosea, even today, to awaken Christians, so that they will again and only put their trust in God and His Word. Paul has drawn the days in which we live very clearly in his farewell speech to the elders of the church in Ephesus. He reminds them and us of the only support that remains for the church: “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build [you] up and to give [you] the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).

Verse 2

The Wife of Hosea

The way in which the LORD begins to speak through Hosea is remarkable. The language He uses points to a marriage- and family drama. It is as if God says: ‘I have spoken enough words; now I will speak in a different way. The marriage and the children of Hosea will have a symbolic meaning. If the people still have ears to hear, they will listen to it.’

What must Hosea do? He must marry a wife of whom he is told by the LORD that she will be unfaithful to him. “A wife of harlotry” means a woman branded by harlotry. Children born of that marriage will be “children of harlotry”, that is to say, those children will be branded by harlotry.

Because of this, Hosea will understand what God feels about the unfaithfulness of His people Israel. Through the tragedy of his own marriage, he will come to feel something of what the sin of the people is to the heart of God. He will discover what unfaithfulness means for love. Without this experience, his prophecy would have been very different.

We, too, may get to know God through our experiences, so that we are better able to express His feelings in certain circumstances. That really will then happen in a different way than if we had not had that experience.

That Hosea’s marriage should be a reflection of God’s relationship to His people and vice versa is clear from the reason God gives for the order for this special marriage: “For the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD.” God has a relationship with His people, like Hosea will have with his wife. His marriage should also lead the people to see their unfaithfulness toward the LORD. Thus Hosea is by the circumstances of his own life a practical illustration of what God wants to say.

There has been a lot to do about this marriage. Some believe that it was not a real marriage, but that Hosea experienced it only in a vision. Others believe that this marriage should be seen figuratively, as a kind of fable. But there is no reason not to consider it a real marriage.

God knows all things in advance. If He finds it necessary, He can announce future events that will take place in a person’s life. For example, He tells Ananias what Paul will have to suffer for Him and what his service will be (Acts 9:15-Nehemiah :).

He does the same with Hosea. In my opinion there is a lot to say that the wife Hosea takes, hasn’t committed adultery yet when she marries him. After all, she has to portray the attitude of Israel towards God, isn’t she? When God took His people to be His wife, it was not immediately unfaithful to Him either. He speaks about the early days of His people’s relationship with Him as follows: “I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, The love of your betrothals, Your following after Me in the wilderness, Through a land not sown” (Jeremiah 2:2).

Hosea is not the only prophet who passes on a message to the people through his marriage. We find this with three other prophets. God speaks to Ezekiel that He will suddenly take away his wife (Ezekiel 24:16). Ezekiel’s wife is the lust of his eyes. Thus is God’s sanctuary and actually the whole people the lust of His eyes. In the message that God links to this, we read how He will give up His sanctuary and His people to the sword (Ezekiel 24:17-Daniel :).

With the prophet Isaiah, who is married to a prophetess (Isaiah 8:3), the message is in the special names he has to give both his children. The LORD tells him to go to Ahaz with his son Shear-jashub (Isaiah 7:3). Through the name Shear-jasjub, which means ‘a remnant will return’, Isaiah gives his message to Ahaz. This name warns that in case of persistent unfaithfulness, the people as a whole will be taken away into exile and that only ‘a remnant will return’. He had to call the other son Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means swift booty, speedy prey (Isaiah 8:1-Leviticus :). Herein lies the prophecy that the land will soon fall prey to the enemy.

Another prophet with whom there is something special about marriage is Jeremiah. He is not allowed to marry. Anyone who will ask him why he remains unmarried, he must answer that he does not want to have children because otherwise, through the judgment that God is to bring over Judah, they will fall into the hands of the enemy (Jeremiah 16:2-Numbers :).

The unfaithfulness to be denounced by Hosea in the illustration of his marriage is not an occasional matter. There is not only an unfaithful Israelite here and there, but the whole land “commits flagrant harlotry”, which means according to the original that the land has completely surrendered itself to harlotry. It has become a national sin. The unfaithfulness of the people is evidenced by the many idols it possesses and worships. God mentions this harlotry. Because of this the people have turned away from the LORD. It has gone away from behind the LORD and no longer follows Him.

The faithlessness in Christianity is called by God in the same way: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?” (James 4:4). Christians who take the world as their norm in their thinking, attitude, and behavior commit spiritual adultery. God and His Word should be the norm for the Christian’s thinking, attitude, and behavior in word and deed. That Christianity focuses on what is common in the world is an abomination in God’s eye. God is a jealous God. He cannot tolerate that those who are connected to Him give their love and attention to what lives in enmity with Him (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:2-Leviticus :).

For the Christian, the touchstone of his life can be found at the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. The cross is the place where the Christian has to test all his deeds. In the rejection of Christ the world has shown its true character. Therefore John writes in his first letter that “the whole world lies in [the power of] the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

If the devil succeeds in blurring or taking away this consciousness from Christians, an ever-increasing shift to the standards of the world will take place. He succeeds in this by, among other things, making the cross a badge of honor and thus taking away its defamation. You can pin it on in ‘Christian’ countries or walk with it in a procession through the streets. People will appreciate it, as long as you don’t attach the exclusive meaning it has in the Bible. It is necessary to restore the cross to the place of supreme shame and defamation in our lives. It is the place where, when Christ died, God’s judgment of the world and sin was executed.

Verse 3

Gomer and Hosea’s First Son

Hosea does what God has ordered him to do. It is not clear if he has functioned as a prophet before and therefore the people already know him as such. It does not seem so, because it is said of his marriage that this is what “the LORD first spoke through Hosea” (Hosea 1:2). Therefore, his marriage will have been nothing sensational at first.

The first child to be born does not seem to be an extramarital child. It says that “she conceived and bore him a son”. We do not read that of the next children Gomer will have. They were conceived by an act of adultery. Then the tales came. Hosea is a man with exactly the same feelings that every man has for his wife. There is no reason to think that he would not have loved her. He married her because he loves her. But would not he have waited with fear for the moment when she will tell him that she is pregnant by another man?

Verse 4

The First Child of Hosea: Jezreel

The first child of Hosea is a son. He gets the order to call him “Jezreel”. This is not without reason. The meaning of that name implies a message. What has been said of the children of Isaiah can also be said of the children of Hosea (Isaiah 8:18). The name Jezreel, in connection with the name Jehu, refers to the city where Jehu exterminated the house of Ahab. He was commanded to do so by God (2 Kings 9:7-2 Samuel :). This history is here recalled by God as something for which retribution must take place. How is that?

Jehu has acted by order of God. God has given His approval after Jehu has carried out his commission. There is even a reward attached to it (2 Kings 10:30). Yet here his actions are rejected and God speaks of a bloodshed, for which the house of Jehu will be punished. And not only that, because with the judgment on Jehu and his house the judgment on the whole kingship is pronounced. Israel will cease to be an independent kingdom. What follows after the reign of Jeroboam II are only the convulsions of a doomed empire.

The name ‘Jezreel’ speaks of the judgment that God is going to make. Jezreel means ‘God will scatter’ or ‘God will sow’. This name, Jezreel, indicates the imminent end of Israel. The people will be scattered among the nations because of their harlotry.

This must have sounded hard to their ears, but they will probably have laughed at it too. After all, they are experiencing a time of prosperity, aren’t they? But the laughter will disappear when, in the year 722 BC, the Assyrians deport Israel from its land and, as the Assyrians are used to, scatter the captured Israelites, as it were, over several other countries. In doing so, the enemy eliminated the danger of regrouping and Israel’s strength is broken.

But now the question remains as to what Jehu’s bloodshed consists of. The solution to this problem is probably as follows. Although Jehu has done God’s will, he sins by killing more people than God has said. He killed Ahaziah, the king of Judah, and his forty-two brothers, and God did not command him to do so (2 Kings 9:27; 2 Kings 10:14). In God’s public reign, Jehu receives His approval and reward for what he has done. But Jehu’s hidden deliberations while fulfilling his commission are not pure. Here God shows how He really thinks about it: Jehu has shown himself to be ambitious and cruel.

Nothing that man himself brings into the work of God is hidden from Him. What is man’s own will be judged righteously by God, especially where it happens under His great name ‘LORD’. Jehu is rejected for what he has done more than God had commanded him to do.

It is also remarkable that it is already about eighty years ago that Jehu committed these murders. But God forgets nothing. In the same way, God comes back many years later to something Saul had done and for which no satisfaction has yet taken place (2 Samuel 21:1). With God, crime never expires. He will at some point confront everyone with acts for which no atonement has been made. There is only one way to escape God’s retribution and that is sincere confession. Then an appeal can be made to the work that Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross of Calvary. There He brought about the reconciliation with the holy and just God for the repentant sinner.

Verse 5

The Bow of Israel Will Be Broken

A bow is a symbol of strength and an important weapon in warfare. A broken bow speaks of the loss of that power. As in Hosea 1:7, where it is said concealed from Judah, here too we find the thought that Israel relies on its own strength in battle.

The valley of Jezreel is a plain where many wars have been fought and where soon the great final battle will take place. The valley is then known as Har-Magedon (Revelation 16:13-Nehemiah :). There the Lord Jesus appears (Revelation 17:14) and destroys the hostile armies.

Verse 6

The Second Child of Hosea: Lo-ruhamah

Maybe Hosea has not been home regularly because of his work as a prophet. Practice shows that such a situation can tempt some women to seek their ‘happiness’ with other men. Marriage infidelity is not only found in cases where a man is swallowed up by his busy social activities. Also in marriages of busy pastors in Christianity, marital infidelity is unfortunately not an unknown sin. And certainly not only on the part of women.

There is no reason to assume that Hosea has not been good for his wife. On the contrary, if his marriage should symbolically represent the relationship between God and His people, it is very likely that he has done everything to prove to her that he loves her very much. In spite of that, she becomes unfaithful to him.

Many women have found reason in their husband’s behavior to become unfaithful to him. Although the behavior of men can sometimes be criticized a lot, it can never find any justification for a woman’s infidelity. She will therefore have to confess her act of infidelity as a sin. But the man will also have to confess his sins, in which his wife has found a reason to be unfaithful to him. In this way it is possible to work towards the restoration of the broken relationship.

In the opposite case, the unfaithfulness of the man, of course, the same applies. More often there is not even a clear misbehavior on the side of the woman. Women whose husbands commit adultery generally feel guilty. They wonder in despair how they could have prevented it. But it is often the man who opens himself up to other women, even in spite of the fact that he has a good marriage relationship with his own wife.

The cause of this lies in the lust of the man that he does not control. The Lord Jesus does not address the man for no reason, when He says: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). He indicates in the following verse that this lust must be put to an end.

Be radical. Turn away when you see something that can cause lust to arise. Out with that DVD, that book, throw away that stuff that contains things that pollute your mind. Don’t be tempted to visit pornographic sites on the Internet. Everything, even the most pernicious sin, is literally within reach these days: with a single movement of your finger, a push of the (mouse) button, you can see the world and all its attractiveness and perversion.

If there is a temptation here for the reader, answer this temptation with the words of the Lord Jesus: “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY’” (Matthew 4:10).

After a son, Hosea’s wife now has a daughter. This will certainly be meant to indicate that Israel consists of sons and daughters (cf. Hosea 2:1). This child was conceived by Gomer in an extramarital relationship. Gomer has become unfaithful to Hosea. What it says in Hosea 1:3, that Gomer bore “him”, which refers to Hosea, a son, is not in this verse. Yet the child is attributed to Hosea. He gets the responsibility for it. The LORD commands him to give the child the name “Lo-ruhamah”, which means ’no compassion’.

People have probably heard that Hosea’s wife has become unfaithful to him and that this child does not belong to Hosea. What will they have talked about, as happens in our time when something like this becomes known. Stories of unfaithfulness fill whole gossip magazines and how it is loved. These kinds of magazines are quite popular, which proves that people like to read them. But readers are blind to their own unfaithfulness. Those who like to hear or read such stories are morally numb and have no feeling for the sinfulness that is present in their own hearts. Talking about the sins of others is simply ‘delicious’.

The talk will have gone through the city like wildfire and will have been intensified along the way. This is how it usually goes with the ‘passing on’ of such events. But Hosea can respond to that and say: ‘As my wife is, so are all of you!’ His preaching must touch consciences and place them in God’s light. They need to see that they are doing exactly the same things that they are accusing others of (Romans 2:1), even if those accusations are sometimes justified.

The same goes for the Pharisees who bring an adulteress to the Lord Jesus (John 8:3-1 Kings :). They want to see what He will do with this case. Certainly, she has committed adultery and the evidence is indisputable. She has been caught red-handed. If He condemns her, He cannot be the Savior. Then He is only a Law Enforcer and so are they. If He acquits her, then He cannot come from God, because then He does not do justice to God’s law. What does the Lord Jesus do? By asking a question he makes it clear that the sin of which they accuse the woman is present in their own hearts: “He who is without sin among you, let him [be the] first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). When He has said this, they go away. “They [began] to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones” (John 8:9).

Look, that is what we also have to learn. How quickly we talk about the sins of others while forgetting how we ourselves are. It is not a matter of condoning sin, but of recognizing it in ourselves first of all. How many Christians don’t watch dirty programs night after night or consciously look for porn on the internet, while easily saying something about the unfaithfulness of others?

Hosea could have said: ‘Entering into this marriage has been the mistake of my life. Look, what a misery I have been through, what a disgrace for the children.’ He could also have blamed God, just like Adam: “The woman whom You gave [to be] with me” (Genesis 3:12). He doesn’t do that. When he writes these words, it is as if he looks back and says: ‘This is how God has led me.’

This view gives him the power to keep loving her and not become unfaithful himself. Even if she runs away from him, he remains faithful to her. She even comes back to him, as we will see in Hosea 3. In this way Hosea also experiences God’s faithfulness towards His people. Even though He has to reject Israel because of unfaithfulness, it is not forever. There will come a time when He will accept His people again.

In this time, in which so much is being done from the point of view of feeling, it is good to also point out this attitude of Hosea. You sometimes hear: ‘We would better break up, because I don’t feel anything for her anymore’, or: ‘We don’t feel anything for each other anymore.’ As if the absence of certain feelings could be a valid reason to dissolve a marriage. Who thinks of such a thing? It only comes from Satan’s quiver of lies.

The command for men is: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). It is clear, isn’t it? No more talk like ‘feel nothing for’ or ‘you should be in my shoes’. Just do it.

The only strength for the best and most difficult marriage lies in the example of the Lord Jesus. He loves the church. He loves her when she is completely devoted to Him in the very beginning of her existence on earth. He also loves her now that she is so unfaithful to Him towards the end of her presence on earth. That love can be seen perfectly on the cross. There He died out of love for His church, His heavenly bride, to acquire her for Himself to be His wife forever.

When Hosea hears the remarks about his unfaithful wife, he points to the name he had to give this child. This name is telling. Once again it must have sounded hard to his people’s ears and possibly they laughed again. But God will stop proving His compassion to them. If God withdraws His compassion, it is a terrible thing. He must, however, let Israel feel the effect if He no longer has compassion for them. A child without compassion is doomed to die or to become a monster. A human being or a people cannot do without compassion. For His people then, Israel, and for His people now, the church, compassion is the basis of their existence. If God can no longer prove His compassion, it means the end.

For God it is a terrible thing that He has to act this way. David says of him: “Just as a father has compassion on [his] children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him” (Psalms 103:13). And has not Israel experienced such compassion recently? Only a few years ago, at the time of the reign of Joash, the father of Jeroboam, they experienced it: “But the LORD was gracious to them and had compassion on them and turned to them” (2 Kings 13:23). And even more recently, under Jeroboam’s reign, the LORD saw “the affliction of Israel, [which was] very bitter; for there was neither bond nor free, nor was there any helper for Israel”. And then we read: “But He saved them” (2 Kings 14:26-Daniel :).

God makes Himself known as a God who takes care of people in need. This is how we also get to know God in the history of Job: “You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and [is] merciful” (James 5:11).

There is no greater encouragement to love and serve God than after we have experienced compassion. In Romans 12, Christians are addressed as people who know God’s mercy. In Romans 1-8 those mercies or compassions are broadly measured. In Romans 9-11 they are shown to Israel. It is not surprising, therefore, that Paul immediately follows this up by saying: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1). Because of all that God has done for us in Christ, He may expect us to serve Him with all that we are and have.

It is a great ingratitude when we answer God’s compassion with unfaithfulness, doing our own will, and following our own lusts. If we consistently ignore His compassion, if we pretend that it means nothing, the moment will come when He can no longer make us feel His compassion. Soon that moment will come for Israel. It will happen that He will “forgive them”, which means that He no longer forgives them.

His compassion is, in fact, most evident in the forgiveness He grants. When God no longer forgives, because there is no more repentance among His people, the people sink further and further into their sins. Then He has to execute the final judgment. This will happen when the ten tribes are deported out of their land. This is the judgment that awaits the people.

Verse 7

A Word About Judah

If God must go so far as to deny Israel his compassion, He attaches to this a message for Judah. Although Hosea mainly addresses Israel, the ten tribes kingdom, he also occasionally says something about Judah. That does not mean that Israel does not have to listen then. The saying also contains a message for them.

When we read in God’s Word, He speaks – as the Lord Jesus does in the Gospels – to a whole people, a group of people or just one person. We know we are addressed, because what applies to those who are directly addressed, also applies to us. We must always ask ourselves what the message that is spoken to the other person means to us. The reason for what God or the Lord Jesus notices can be a certain behavior. If we recognize such behavior in ourselves, we would do well to listen carefully to the Word of God.

If Israel as a whole can no longer escape judgment, the word that is said to Judah can still mean a way out for the few in Israel who bow under God’s judgment. Whoever resorts to Judah can still count on the compassion of God. Even today, where the judgment of Christianity as a whole is inescapable, there is such an escape route. That escape route is separation from evil with the promise of the compassion of God (2 Corinthians 6:17-Job :).

For Judah, this word is a great encouragement. Here the LORD calls Himself “their God”. He is still in connection with them. They will experience His compassion in the salvation He will give (2 Kings 19:35). God has allowed the king of Assyria to deport the ten tribes. In his audacity this king also wants to conquer the kingdom of the two tribes. He has approached Jerusalem and besieged it. But God does not allow him to take His city (2 Kings 19:33-Zephaniah :).

The salvation does not come by his own strength and effort or by following a cleverly conceived tactic. There is no clattering of Judah’s arms. It is a salvation that has clearly only been brought about “by the LORD their God”, without the use of any human being. That salvation has come about because of Who God is in Himself, “for my sake”, and because of who David is, His chosen servant, “for David’s sake, My servant” (2 Kings 19:34). In David we see a picture of the Lord Jesus, the true Servant of God. Salvation, every salvation, is based on pure grace from God which He can show because of Who the Lord Jesus is for Him and what He did on the cross.

Verses 8-9

The Third Child of Hosea: Lo-ammi

Lo-ruhamah is barely weaned or Gomer is back on the bad path. She is quick in her unfaithfulness, the result of which quickly shows itself again. How deeply Hosea must be grieved by this renewed unfaithfulness. Would not he have hoped that, after her first adulterous act, she would now remain faithful to him? Since she must have seen how he cares for her and the children, should not she have been won over by his love? No, as soon as she no longer feels any responsibility for the child she has given birth, she goes down the bad path again. In spite of all the love Hosea has proven to her after she has returned to him, she gets pregnant by another man.

But even now, when she comes back for the second time, pregnant again by another man, he lets her in again. Again he takes her in, with her illegitimate child. Again Hosea is commanded by the LORD to give this child a name. Again in that name the judgment of God on His people is expressed.

Again there will have been a lot of gossip about the unfaithfulness of Gomer. And again Hosea has taken the opportunity to announce God’s judgment over the people because of their unfaithfulness, because of the meaning of the name of the child. While in the previous name there is only talk of God withdrawing His compassion from His people, in the name he is to give to this third child, the definitive break between God and His people is indicated. “Lo-ammi” means ’not My people’. Every bond between God and His people is broken.

Giving up His connection with Israel is an even harder blow than not loving anymore. God is withdrawing. There is no more open acknowledgment that Israel is His people. He will act with them as described in the book of Esther. The Name of God is not mentioned in that book. Yet behind the scenes God is making sure that His people are not exterminated to the last man. In His providence – that is, not openly, but in a hidden way – He remains busy for Israel until today. He will continue to do so until the day of Israel’s restoration. That restoration is the subject of the following verse.

Verse 10

Numerous and Sons of the Living God

A bright ray of hope is expressed in the first word of this verse, “yet”. After the warnings of the coming judgment, here the sovereign grace of God comes to the fore. If, because of Israel’s unfaithfulness, He has had to cut through every bond with them, this does not mean forever. There will come a time when God will take up the thread with His people again. Then He will fulfill all the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The expression “the sand of the sea” recalls God’s promise to Abraham that his offspring will be “as the sand which is on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17). God makes that promise after Abraham has sacrificed his son by faith (Hebrews 11:17-Job :). In that event, the picture of God sacrificing His Son Jesus Christ on the cross is clearly visible. It is only because of the sacrifice of Christ that God will fulfill all His promises to Israel.

The people have forfeited all rights to restoration and all claims to fulfillment of the promises. God would bless them if they would remain faithful to Him. They agree with that condition when they pronounce it three times at Sinai: “All that the LORD has spoken we will do!” (Exodus 19:8; Exodus 24:3Exodus 24:7). But in the course of their history they have shown how they have despised and trampled on all God’s righteous commandments and statutes. It is on this basis that God must pronounce His judgments, as He does in this first chapter of Hosea. These judgments He actually executes. However, this does not mean that His promises have thereby failed (Romans 9:6).

He will fulfill His promises to a remnant that He Himself has chosen, a rest of the people. How this will be done is described in detail in Romans 9-11. There remains a future for Israel. That future is there, not according to the merit of the people, but according to the merit of Jesus Christ. Where Israel has failed, He has perfectly done everything God asks of man. He has earned the fulfillment of His promises.

When the present era, that of the church, has come to an end – that is, when the Lord Jesus has taken the church up to Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:15-Job :) – He will start working with Israel again. Then He will pour out on them “the Spirit of grace and of supplication” (Zechariah 12:10). Then He will come back to earth and they will see Him Whom they have pierced (Revelation 1:7). All who will come to repentance will be allowed to share with Him in the fulfillment of His promises. The masses will be judged because they have accepted the antichrist, who will then reveal Himself.

The elected will not be dragged along with the masses in their worship of the image of the beast that was put into the temple by the antichrist (Revelation 13:14-Ezra :). They will, despite fierce persecution, remain faithful looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. From their side, this is no merit. Only grace will make them remain faithful. Everything comes from God.

In the realm of peace, this rest, this remnant, will grow into a huge crowd and become “like the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered”. In the expression “sand of the sea” there is an indication that it concerns God’s earthly people, Israel. This in contrast to the expression “stars of the heavens” (Genesis 22:17) which refers to the heavenly people of God.

However, there will not only be a great change in numbers. There will also, and more importantly, be a change in their relationship to the LORD. Instead of idolaters, they will, after their restoration, be called by God His ‘sons’. This change can only be effected by the grace of God.

But if everything is only based on grace, that grace cannot be limited to the Jews, but the door will also be opened to the nations. That is why Paul quotes this verse from Hosea in Rom 9 (Romans 9:26). With this he shows that God is not obliged to limit His grace to the Jews. Romans 9 is a chapter that shows that God is sovereign, also in showing grace to whom He wills. He has the right to call people from the nations and to justify them by faith (Romans 9:30).

The fact that Paul quotes this verse from Hosea is also because it speaks of “sons of the living God”. This is typically an expression of the relationship between God and the Christian. God can no longer be in connection with the Jew, as has always been the case for the Gentile. Of both He has had to say: “You are not My people.” This applies to the Jews since God, as a result of their unfaithfulness, had to break His connection with them. For the Gentiles it has always been the case that God has allowed them to go their own way. And now Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, cites this verse as proof that all who are called by God, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles, are called by Him “sons of the living God”.

God is called here “the living God”. With this He is in sharp contrast with the dead idols. This contrast is beautifully expressed in the conversion of the Thessalonians, and if it is good for every person who repents (1 Thessalonians 1:9-2 Samuel :). That He is the living God not only indicates that He lives, but also that all life finds its origin in Him (John 1:4; John 5:26).

When Peter answers the question of the Lord Jesus: “Who do you say that I am?” with: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-Nehemiah :), he indicates that life is present in Christ Himself. Therefore, the Lord can connect to this confession of Peter about the truth of His Person the wonderful promise of building the church. On Him, the Son of the living God, the church is built, a church that cannot be affected by death (Matthew 16:18).

Verse 11

One People, One Leader

After the blessing for the ten tribes in Hosea 1:10 – and for the Gentiles, as it becomes clear in the light of the New Testament (Romans 9:26; Romans 9:30) – Hosea speaks in this verse of the blessing for all Israel. That blessing lies in the future. There will then be a reunion of the two and ten tribes that have been torn apart since the days of Rehoboam and Jeroboam I (1 Kings 12:16-Psalms :). Jeremiah also spoke about this (Jeremiah 31:31).

When that time comes, they will join their Messiah as one nation. Then they will no longer be two nations, each with its own ruler. No, they will be one nation with “one Leader” (cf. Ezekiel 37:24). They will acknowledge the God-given King in the rejected Jesus of Nazareth. From all over the land they will go to Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God, to honor Him.

It is possible that “go up from the land” also refers to their return from the scattering. “The land” then presents the land of Egypt as a symbol of all the nations to which the Israelites are scattered (cf. Hosea 2:14-Ezra :; Deuteronomy 28:68). In the course of time, many Israelites have returned to their land.

It is not possible to make this verse refer to the return of God’s people from Babel under Ezra and Nehemiah. That concerns only a rest. Moreover, they are still under the authority of the nations under which God has placed them, in the person of Nebuchadnezzar. They have not been able to choose a ‘leader’ themselves. Until 1948 they were never even independent.

When the day or time of which Hosea speaks has come, it can rightly be said that that day is “great”. What no one has dared to dream of, what no enemy of Israel thinks of, will then happen. All God’s promises will be fulfilled in that day and to that people by Him Who is their Leader. That day is called “the day of Jezreel”. Jezreel means, as already said in Hosea 1:4, ‘God will scatter’ or ‘God will sow’. The first meaning becomes true when the Assyrians deport the ten tribes and scatter them over all the countries they have conquered. But when Israel has placed itself under his one Leader, God will sow His people into the land. Then it will never be scattered again.

It is not a day of humiliation, but of public glory. Everyone will have their own inheritance in the land and will be able to enjoy the blessings that God will then give generously. At the end of the next chapter we will see how great this blessing is and how God will make it come, where again is spoken about Jezreel (Hosea 2:22).

Indeed, “great will be the day of Jezreel”. The time corresponding to that day is the thousand years of peace. Then the undivided, independent nation will experience a time of unprecedented, reborn glory under Christ as the acknowledged Leader (cf. Isaiah 2:1-Deuteronomy :; Isaiah 11:1-2 Chronicles :; Revelation 20:1-Joshua :).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Hosea 1". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/hosea-1.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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