Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, July 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 1

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-11


1The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri,1 in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Joash, king of Israel.


PART FIRST. Hosea 1:2 to Hosea 3:5

Hosea 1:2 to Hosea 2:3

A. The Rejection of the Kingdom of Israel, and especially of the House of Jehu, on account of their “Whoredom,” is symbolically announced.Hosea 1:2-9

2 The beginning2 of the Word of the Lord by Hosea. And the Lord said to Hosea [In the beginning when Jehovah spoke with Hosea, then Jehovah said to Hosea ]: Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms; for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord [Jehovah]. 3So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which [and she] conceived, and bare him a Song of Song of Solomon 4:0 And the Lord [Jehovah] said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the 5 kingdom of the house of Israel. And it will come to pass in that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel. 6And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Lo-ruhamah [Unpitied];3 for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away [that I should keep on forgiving them ]. 7But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord [Jehovah] their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle [war ], by horses, nor by horsemen. 8Now when she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son [And she weaned Lo-Ruhamah and conceived and bare a son ]. 9Then said God, call his name Lo-ammi [Not-my-people ], for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God [yours].4

B. And yet Israel will be again accepted by God

Hosea 2:1-3

1 Yet [And] the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where5 it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said 2 unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head; 3 and they shall come up out of the land: for great is the day of Jezreel. Say to your brethren, Ammi [My-people ], and to your sisters, Ruhamah [compassionated ].


Hosea 1:1. Superscription. It has been shown al ready in the Introduction (§ 1) that the chronological limits assigned in the title must be admitted to be essentially correct. Difficulties have been suggested to the minds of some from the circumstance that when the duration of Hosea’s ministry is given, it is, in the first line, placed in relation to the reigns of Judah, and that a king of Israel is mentioned only in the second line. To argue from this, however, that Hosea belonged to the kingdom of Judah, is inadmissible; for as we saw in the Introduction, all other evidence goes to prove that he was a resident of the Northern Kingdom.

But a further difficulty is felt. Only one king of Israel is named, whom Hosea long survived, and the succession of Judaic kings brings down the life of the prophet far beyond the time of that single monarch, Jeroboam II. Hence it is: alleged that the second part of the superscription does not agree with the first.
Keil seeks to solve this difficulty by assuming that the Prophet acknowledged only the legitimate rulers of the kingdom of Judah as the real kings of the people of God; and that he defined the limits of his ministry according to the real succession of that kingdom. He introduces along with the names of those kings, that of the Israelitish monarch, under whom he began his prophetic course, not only to indicate that occasion more definitely, but chiefly on account of the significant position occupied by Jeroboam in the kingdom of the Ten Tribes. He was the last king through whom God vouchsafed any aid to that state. The succeeding rulers scarcely deserved the title of king.

But this explanation, brought forward in order to defend the originality of the superscription, can scarcely be acquitted of the charge of arbitrariness. (The precedence assigned to the Judaic kings would be better explained on the hypothesis that Hosea, at a later period, took up his residence in Judah and there composed his book.) Ewald, who, to be sure, does not admit in its full extent the correctness of the chronological statements of the superscription, supposes that the allusion to the kings of Judah was added by a later hand (which also inserted Isaiah 1:1), while the remainder is the old original superscription, which, however, he thinks belonged at first only to chaps, 1, 2.

The question, whether the superscription in its present form is quite original, must be allowed to remain undecided.
[As serving however to defend the genuineness of the superscription, comp. with the view of Keil adduced above, the following full and forcible presentation of the probable design of the prophet in its insertion given by Hengstenberg in his Christology: “Hosea mentions, first and completely, the kings of the legitimate family. He then further adds the name of one of the rulers of the Kingdom of Israel, under whom his ministry began, because it was of importance to fix precisely the time of its commencement. Uzziah, the first of the series of the kings of Judah mentioned by him, survived Jeroboam nearly twenty-six years. Now, had the latter not been mentioned along with him, the thought might easily have suggested itself, that it was only in the latter period of Uzziah’s reign that the prophet entered upon his office; in which case all that he says about the overthrow of Jeroboam’s family, would have appeared to be a vaticinium post eventum, inasmuch as it took place very soon after Jeroboam’s death. The same applies to what is said by him regarding the total decay of the kingdom which was so flourishing under Jeroboam; for, from the moment of Jeroboam’s death, it hastened with rapid strides toward destruction. If, therefore, it was to be seen that future things lie open to God and his servants ‘before they spring forth’ (Isaiah 42:9), it was necessary that the commencement of the Prophet’s ministry should be the more accurately determined; and this is effected by the intimation that it took place within the period of the fourteen years during which Uzziah and Jeroboam reigned contemporaneously.6 That this is the main reason for mentioning Jeroboam’s name is seen from the relation of Hosea 1:2 to Hosea 1:1. The remark made in Hosea 1:2, that Hosea received the subsequent revelation at the very beginning of his prophetic ministry, corresponds with the mention of Jeroboam’s name in Hosea 1:1. But this is not all.… There was a considerable difference between him and the subsequent kings. Cocceius remarks very strikingly: ‘The other kings of Israel are not viewed as kings but as robbers.’ Jeroboam possessed a quasi legitimacy. The house of Jehu to which he belonged, had opposed the extreme of religious apostasy. It was to a certain degree recognized even by the Prophets. Jeroboam had obtained the throne not by usurpation but by birth. He was the last king by whom the Lord sent deliverance to the Ten Tribes; comp. 2 Kings 14:27.”

The English commentators hold to the originality of the superscription, with the exception of Noyes, who speaks of it as “doubtful.” The arguments which establish it are mainly these: (1.) The very fact of its existence in its present form from the earliest known period. (2.) The analogy of other prophetic books as well as of many other portions of the Old Testament, the genuineness of whose superscriptions has never been successfully impugned either by German critics or their English followers. (3.) The improbability of any other hypothesis. Any “redactor” (Ewald and others) could have had no reason to insert such a peculiar title. Its anomalous character shows it to have been the work of the author himself. Any other would either have made no allusion to the kings of Israel, or would have given a complete list of the contemporary ones. There is a purpose manifest here which a collector would not have conceived, and which it was beyond his province to convey to the world by embodying it in an addition to his author’s writings. (4.) The exact correspondence between the character of the superscription, the contents of the book, and the position of the author, as partly shown above, and as might be further proved abundantly.
The superscription therefore is original, and original in its present form. As to the place of its composition there is no improbability in the opinion, mentioned by Schmoller above, that with the rest of the book it was composed in Judah. But this cannot explain, as he supposes, the anomalies of the superscription. It only increases the difficulties. Why was an Israelitish king mentioned at all? This question remains unanswered, while the old difficulty of the non-allusion to succeeding kings of Israel remains in all its force. The true solution must therefore be sought not in any local conditions of the Prophet, but in his necessary relations as a Prophet of God to the two kingdoms, as determined by their respective characters, and in his desire to assign definitely the limits of his ministry.—M.]

A. Hosea 1:2-9. The Prophet announces symbolically to the Kingdom of Israel that it will be rejected on account of its Whoredom.

Hosea 1:2-3. In the beginning of Jehovah’s speaking with Hosea … and bare him a son—בְּהוֹשֵׁע, literally, in Hosea, that is, into Hosea. The simple translation in, as expressive of an inner revelation which he received, is excluded even by the usage of the language (comp. Zechariah 1:9; Zechariah 1:14); as also is the explanation: by Hosea. This “into,” however, must not be modified into simple “to him.” This would have been—אֶל. בְּ evidently expresses here a closer, personal relation into which the speaker enters with another person, while אֶל, “to,” merely indicates the direction of the discourse. It therefore betokens an energy of speaking, probably also in connection with a certain continuity; answering best to our “speaking with” (comp. besides the passages cited above, also Numbers 12:6; Numbers 12:8; Habakkuk 2:1). The whole clause, תְּחִלַּת־בְּהִ׳, could be regarded as a kind of superscription = The beginning of that which Jehovah spoke with Hosea. The discourse would then begin with וַיּאמֶר. But it is preferable to attach the whole clause, as a specification of time, to the following וַיּאמֶר and to take תְּהִלַּת which is therefore = in the beginning, as an accusative of time: In the beginning, when Jehovah spoke. The sense would be: When Jehovah began to speak with Hosea, then, etc. [For the internal structure of the clause, see the first Grammatical Note.—J. F. M.] This means that God has begun his revelation to the Prophet with the command immediately following; in other words, that the prophet must enter upon active duty with the following testimony against the spiritual adultery of the kingdom of Israel: Go take to thee a wife of whoredom and children of whoredom. “Wife of whoredom:” זְכוּכִים occurs only in the plural, expressing a plurality of acts.—אֵשֶׁת ז֨, a woman whose element is whoredom, with whom the זנה is a thing not merely incidental. From this designation, as applied to the woman it is evident that it was just in her marriage with the prophet that she would show herself to be an אֵשֶׁת ז׳, and would thereby become an adulteress (though naturally this does not exclude the idea that the Prophet begets children by her). The truth to be represented demands this view of the case. For it is Israel married to Jehovah that commits whoredom.

But who are the יַלְדֵי זְנ׳? “Children” mentioned along with the “wife,” naturally make the latter appear to be the mother. But they cannot be called children of whoredom simply for the reason that their mother is an אֵשֶׁת ז׳. They can have that designation only because they themselves stand essentially connected with זנוּנים. But in what relation? It is readily suggested: “they are related to it as its results = they are the fruit of the זְנוּנים, of the mother, are born of the mother in consequence of her unchastity, are of illegitimate birth.” But, according to this explanation, the genitive would have a sense different from that which it has in the former connection, and this creates a difficulty. If a woman, who practices lewdness and is in fact wholly given up to it, is called אֵשֶׁתִ ז׳ it is most natural to assume that the construction exactly similar and immediately following should be understood in like manner to express action and disposition. יַלֵדֵי זְנוּנִים therefore = children who act and are disposed like their mother, children of the same character as their mother. And this must be admitted to be the correct explanation when it is remembered what is to be represented by the woman and her children, namely, Israel conceived of as the mother of a people, and its children. And the fact which is to be established with regard to Israel and its children is, that they all practice whoredom; comp. the explanatory clause, כִּי־תִזְנֶה הָאָרֶע. It is not said that the children are of adulterous origin, but that the whole people—the people as a whole and in their individual members, or, according to the Hebrew personifying mode of conception, the mother and her children, commit lewdness. “Go, take to thee:” לָקַח אּשָׁח is, according to the constant Hebrew usage, equivalent to our phrase, “to take a wife,” i.e., to take a woman to be a wife, to marry. And וַיִּקִּח (Hosea 1:3), which expresses the fulfillment of the command given with קח, has certainly no other sense. In our verse, another object, still, יַלְדֵי זְנוּנִים, is joined to לקח. This is done by zeugma, in the sense: Accipe tibi uxorem et suscipe ex ea filios scortationum. He is, accordingly, to ally himself with an unchaste wife, and the children which he begets with her are to be like their mother. This is just the position of Israel. Israel, Jehovah’s spouse, committed lewdness, and the children, who belonged both to Jehovah and to her, acted just as their mother did. Wife and children grieved equally the Husband and Father. The reference here is therefore not to children which the woman is supposed to have had before her marriage with the Prophet. The force of the painful experience of grief over his own children, through which the Prophet was to pass, would then be lost. By these children of whoredom we are not to understand directly just the three children mentioned afterwards, for the expression is a general one, but they do certainly fall under this category, and it is only they who are named.

The command which the Prophet receives is supported by the words: for the whole land is whoring, whoring away from Jehovah (falling away from Jehovah). זָנָה: evidently a metaphorical expression here designating apostasy from Jehovah to idolatry, according to the conception of Israel’s relation to Jehovah as that of a marriage. He who serves idols accordingly commits whoredom and breaks the marriage vow, is unfaithful to a lawful spouse, because surrendering himself to a stranger, with whom no marriage relation can exist. This notion of infidelity is further indicated expressly by the addition: מֵאַחֲרֵי יי׳. מֵאַחֲריֵ is a significant composite preposition, which expresses not merely absence from Jehovah, but conveys the notion that a relation, the direct opposite of חַלַךְ אַחֲרֵי יי׳, has been entered into, and therefore expresses forcibly a position of infidelity, of a discontinuance of fidelity. On this notion of זָנָה in a spiritual sense, see the Doctrinal Section. As זָנֹה תִּזְנֶה expressed the intensity of the apostasy, so הָאָרֶץ‍ֽ expresses forcibly its extent. As the sequel shows, it is the inhabitants of the kingdom of Israel who are meant. This whole sentence gives the ground of the command which the Prophet receives to take a wife of whoredom. He is to take a wife who commits bodily unchastity because the whole land commits whoredom spiritually. Why? The most natural answer is: In order to hold up to the people a mirror in which they might behold their guilt, and thus to bring to their consciousness more surely and powerfully than could be done by mere didactic discourse, how greatly they, by their idolatry, had sinned against their God. and dishonored Him. God would thus be represented as standing in a position which would hardly be imputed to a man, namely, that of living in marriage with a woman given up to adultery; or that such a relation would be as dishonoring to God as marriage with a whorish woman would be to a prophet. But the taking of this wife had, besides, the express purpose of begetting children with her, who by their names should annonnce to Israel the punishment incurred by its guilt. For to the people (represented by the woman and her יַלְדֵי זְכ׳) was to be presented the consequence of their whoredom, and it was to be brought to their consciousness what punishments then rightful husband, Jehovah, would inflict as the consequences of their infidelity. The children, as יַלְדֵי זכְ׳, represent the children of Israel in their guilt, but, at the same time, by their names, the punishment thereby entailed, and as those names, significant of punishment, are affixed to those who represent the guilt, the fact is expressed that the punishment is directly consequent upon the guilt.

It is clearly incorrect to lay stress upon קַח־לְךָ and the alliance of the Prophet with the woman, by itself considered, and so give to the thought a positive turn: that, by the Prophet’s marriage with a lewd woman, and by the announcement of its results and by the names of the children, it was intended to be illustrated how Jehovah entered into a marriage with the faithless nation of Israel through Hosea, and that the children and the consequences of such marriage would represent severe chastisements from the hand of love (Löwe). This notion is imported into the sentence. In so far as it is correct, it belongs to chap. 3 and not here. But of an alliance being entered into between Jehovah and the disloyal people, there is nothing said even there, simply because Jehovah had, on his part, entered into such a marriage with the people long before. To infer from the fact of the Prophet’s marriage that God entered into the same alliance would be a false application of the image. The Prophet cannot be conceived of as standing already in that relation. He must contract this marriage in order to symbolize Jehovah’s marriage with the people already existing. It would be just as baseless, however, to infer from this marriage contracted by Hosea with the woman, that the original covenant between God and his people at Sinai is to be represented; that God had concluded the alliance with the people as with a pure virgin, and that they became unchaste after they came under the covenant; that therefore also אֵשֶׁת זְנ׳ is not a woman who has already practiced lewdness, but that an undefiled virgin is to be understood, of whom, however, it was foreseen that she would become unfaithful and bear children of adultery. Apart from the emphasis placed upon the words אֵשֶׁת זְנ׳, this view is seen to stand in direct contradiction to the causal sentence: “for the land,” etc. Because the land commits whoredom must the prophet take a maiden who will become unchaste? No. “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 does not represent the nation of Israel in its virgin state, when the covenant was being concluded at Sinai, but the nation of the Ten Tribes in its relation to Jehovah at the period of the prophet, when that kingdom, considered as a whole, had become a wife of whoredom, and in its several members resembled children of whoredom.” (Keil.)

Hosea 1:3. Took Gomer, a daughter of Diblaim. The command is obeyed without delay. גֹּמֶר occurs elsewhere only as the name of a nation: Genesis 10:2-3; Ezekiel 38:6. If the name be taken here symbolically, the derivation from גָּמַר might afford the signification, “completion,” i.e., not annihilation, utter ruin; but, completion of whoredom=completed whoredom (so already Aben Ezra, Jerome). According to Fürst it is also possible to explain, “fire-glow,” literally, a being consumed with passion. דִּבְלַיִם occurs only as a proper name. In attempts to interpret it, it is usually explained as =דְּבֵלִים, fig-cakes (so already Jerome), in which an allusion is perceived to chap. 3 Hosea 1:1, where raisin-cakes appear as an image of that idolatry which ministers to sensuality. “Daughter of fig-cakes” would then=loving fig-cakes, or more generally, deliciis dedita. The identification of דִּבְלַּיִם and דְּבֵלַים has its difficulties, however. Fürst supposes that the root דבל, besides the sense, press together, from which we have דְּבֵלָה, fig-cake, has also the signification, enclose, and thus gains the meaning, embracing (strictly, as in the dual form: double-embracing, copulation), therefore: daughter of embraces. And this would naturally mean, not the fruit of such embraces, but (as in the other explanation, expressing a connection or intercourse), abandoned to embraces, complexibus dedita. The interpretation of these names is accordingly attended with difficulties. For we cannot say that in themselves they necessarily demand such an explanation, at least so far as our knowledge of the Hebrew language permits us to judge. But it cannot be adduced against the admissibility of such interpretation that the names are not elucidated for us as are those in Hosea 1:4 ff. “This may be simply explained from the circumstance that the name was not given to the woman, but that she had it already when the prophet married her” (Keil). If the names have really these meanings, it is clear that a woman designated, “consummata in scortatione, complexibus dedita,” would be a striking picture of Israel, uttering a severe rebuke.

[Henderson, holding the literal interpretation of the narrative, maintains that there is no need of assuming any symbolical meaning whatever for these names. On the other hand, if the narrative be not the record of actual occurrences, the necessity of a symbolical interpretation of the names is manifest. Most of the English expositors who note the names show a general agreement with the explanations: completed whoredom, and: given up to dainties.—J. F. M.]

And she conceived and bore to him a son. The taking of the wife had evidently in view the birth of children. That the woman conceived by the prophet, and that the son is to be regarded as his, is clear even from the simple connection of the words, but is placed beyond question by the express addition: bore to him. The opinion that the children were illegitimate, has arisen only from the false assumption, at variance with the context, that the woman must have formerly been a virgin; for the designation, אֵשֶׁת ז׳, must then be justified, and if she were not such before marriage, she must have become unchaste after it.

Hosea 1:4-5. Then the Lord said to him: Call his name Jezreel—in the valley of Jezreel. The names of the children were to be significant, in view of the announcement of punishment, and must therefore be determined by God. That of the first child was to be Jezreel. This was to the house of Jehu a nomen cum omine, on account of the significant connection of the “plain of Jezreel” with that family. It should remind them of that place and of that which occurred there. It cried out to them according to the meaning of the word, “God will disperse,” and thus threatened punishment for what was there transacted; and also, according to what follows, presented to their fears the “plain of Jezreel” as the place where the punishment should be inflicted. Blood-guiltiness of Jezreel. Jehu had, by one fearful massacre, exterminated the whole house of Ahab in the city of Jezreel (2 Kings 9:30; 2 Kings 10:17). This city was situated in the plain of Jezreel, which lay in the well-known Valley of Kishon. Now there appears this difficulty: Jehu did this at the express command of God through Elisha (2 Kings 9:1 ff.), and the deed was afterwards commended by God (1 Kings 10:30), and yet it is to be avenged as murder upon Jehu’s house. It might be said that in the mind of the author of the books of the Kings, and in that of the prophet, there were different views with regard to the violent overthrow of Ahab’s house. But the prophet also could regard the overthrow of a family like that of Ahab only as a merited judgment of God, and hold the same view with reference to the extension of the massacre to Ahaziah of Judah and his brethren, by reason of their connection with the house of Ahab. The correct solution may be seen in the words of Keil: “The apparent contradiction is resolved simply by distinguishing between the act itself and the motive by which Jehu was instigated. Regarded in itself, as a fulfillment of the command of God, the extermination of Ahab’s family was an act for which Jehu could not be held criminal.” But the motive which actuated Jehu was not at all the desire to fulfill the will of the Lord; for, even if he did not use the command of God as a cover for his own selfish and ambitious feelings, he did yet in no way enter into the intention of the Divine injunction. God desired that the kingdom of Israel should be cleansed from idolatry by the extermination of the house of Ahab and the elevation of a new dynasty. In that purpose lay the justification of the deed, which was to be simply a judgment of God upon idolatry. But Jehu, though ceasing from the worship of Baal, retained the worship of the calves. He fulfilled God’s command indeed, but only went half way. After he had gained the throne, to which God had destined him, he struck out for himself a false path, from a false policy in which he thought it advisable to retain the worship of the calves, and thus rendered God’s intentions nugatory. Thus was the bloody deed of Jehu divested of all real value, and thus it entailed a burden of guilt upon him and his house (wherefore also the possession of the throne was promised to him only to the fourth generation). This section of the book shows directly that the idolatry countenanced by Jehu and his house is to be brought into connection with his deed as an act of blood-guiltiness, for “the whoring of the land” is expressly designated as the sin to be punished (Hosea 1:2). Such apostasy from Jehovah (this is the first announcement), is to be punished by the way in which the deed of blood in Israel is regarded and avenged as a sinful act of blood-guiltiness. The ground of the resentment towards that act therefore does not lie in the deed itself, but the punishment is inflicted for something else without which it would not have been incurred. The objection therefore is not just which maintains that this deed cannot be the crowning crime of Jehu and his house. Nor is there any discrepancy between the prophet and the books of the Kings, where all the members of that louse are adduced as guilty by not departing from the sin of Jerusalem. [Pusey: “Jehu, by cleaving against the will of God to Jeroboam’s sin, which served his own political ends, showed that in the slaughter of his master he acted not as he pretended, out of zeal (2 Kings 10:16) for the will of God, but served his own will and his own ambition only. By his disobedience to the one command of God he showed that he would equally have disobeyed the other, had it been contrary to his own will or interest. He had no principle of obedience. And so the blood which was shed according to the righteous judgment of God, became sin to him who shed it in order to fulfill not the will of God but his own. Thus God said to Baasha: ‘I exalted thee, out of the dust and made thee prince over my people Israel,’ which he became by slaying his master the son of Jeroboam and all the house of Jeroboam (1 Kings 16:2). Yet because he followed the sins of Jeroboam, ‘the word of the Lord came against Baasha for all the evil that he did in the sight of the Lord in being like the house of Jeroboam, and because he killed him’ (Hosea 1:7). The two courses of action were inconsistent: to destroy the son and the house of Jeroboam, and to do those things for which God condemned him to be destroyed. Further yet; not only was such execution of God’s judgments itself an offense against Almighty God, but it was sin, whereby he condemned himself, and made his other sins to be sins against the light. In executing the judgment of God against another, he pronounced his judgment against himself, in that he that judged, in God’s stead, did the same things (Romans 2:1).” M.]

Will visit: alluding to extermination which corresponds to the act of Jehu. It followed not long after the death of Jeroboam II. in the murder of his son through the conspiracy of Shallum (2 Kings 15:8 ff.). But the threatening goes further: will utterly destroy the kingdom of the house of Israel. “House of Israel” here designates the kingdom of Israel in a special sense, the kingdom of the Ten Tribes, as distinguished from the house of Jehu (ver 7). The kingly office in general should cease in the kingdom of Israel, and that would naturally be a cessation of the kingdom itself. But this was connected with the fall of the house of Jehu, because, in consequence of that event, a state of the wildest anarchy ensued, so that only one king, Menahem, had a son for successor, the rest being all overthrown and slain by conspirators. The fall of that house was therefore “the beginning of the end, the beginning of the process of rejection” (Hengstenberg).

Hosea 1:5. And it happens in that day, that I break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel. “That day” is the day on which the destruction of the kingdom takes place. “Bow of Israel” “by synecdoche for the military force on which the strength of the kingdom and consequently its existence rested” (Keil). The valley of Jezreel is the plain in which the city Jezreel lay, in the Apocrypha and Josephus: τὸ μέγα πεδίον Εσδραίλων, or simply: τὸ μέγα πεδίον. There the threat was to be fulfilled, because it was there that the bloody deed was committed. It was, moreover, the natural battle-field of the northern kingdom (comp. Judges 4:5; Judges 6:33). Israel forms here an unmistakable paronomasia with Jezreel. The words, and especially also the mention of a locality, point clearly to a battle, here an overthrow, by which the before-named destruction of the kingdom should be effected, and thus in this sentence not only is the punishment indicated, but the mode of its infliction stated. The enemy who should effect this annihilation of the kingdom is not yet indicated. No definite enemy is named before the second part of the book where Assyria is brought forward. (It is not mentioned in the books of the Kings where Assyria dealt this blow.)

Hosea 1:6-7. And she conceived again and bore a daughter,—by horses and riders. The second child is a daughter who receives the symbolical name: לא̇ רֻחָמָה [See Gram. Note]. That the second child should be a daughter is not a voucher for the necessity of the literal view, but is grounded in the inner connection between the female sex and compassion. The announcement that there was no more compassion, becomes so much the more emphatic as the representative of the nation which was not to find compassion was a daughter. For the “female sex finds more compassion than the male,” and yet there is no compassion to be found. That must be a sad case indeed! The explanation is incorrect which supposes that the daughter signifies a more degenerate race (e. g., Jerome). For I will no longer have any compassion. An explanation, telling what the name of the daughter implies, namely, the exhaustion of Divine compassion. The kingdom owed its preservation in the midst of the prevailing idolatry only to the undeserved compassion of God. [On the rest of Hosea 1:6, see Gram. Note.]

Hosea 1:7. But I will have compassion on the house of Judah. A keen reproach for the house of Israel; if they were like the house of Judah, they too would find compassion; but they are not so; they live only by the compassion of Jehovah as is plain from the words. Why Judah finds favor, and Israel does not, is indicated in the words that follow, in the peculiarly emphatic expression: I will deliver them through Jehovah their God (comp. Genesis 19:24). Here allusion is made to the connection in which Judah stands with Jehovah, while it contains, at least by implication, the thought that Judah owes its deliverance directly to the fact that it acknowledges Jehovah to be its God, and not, as is further said, to its military force, while Israel on the contrary, trusting in its military strength instead of in Jehovah who is its God no longer, shall for that very reason, and in spite of its warlike resources, utterly perish. By war is an unexpected expression as occurring along with, the other words; but it naturally means not: by weapons of war, but obviously: by waging war. The bow and the sword are named, as the weapons, and the words: by war, show more definitely that the employment of those weapons is meant. Horses and riders, according to a familiar mode of expression, indicate the force which completed the military strength in which so much pride was taken. The occurrence of these words at the close is specially emphatic. When Jehovah delivers, He needs no weapons of war, no horses or riders, nor can these give any help without Him.

Hosea 1:8-9. And she weaned Lo-Ruhamah, will not be yours. The weaning and the conception are to be taken together, that is, as soon as she had weaned, she again conceived, in order to indicate the continuity of the announcement of evil. There is no interruption until the end of the rejection. [Henderson: “The mention of the weaning of Lo-Ruhamah seems designed rather to fill up the narrative than to describe figuratively any distinct treatment of the Israelites.” J. F. M.]. Not my people: thus should the people in the kingdom of Israel be designated. The covenant relation between God and his people is to be completely dissolved. לא̇־אֶהְיֶה לָכֶם=I will not belong to you [see Gramm. Note]. On the relation of the three threatenings to one another, see the Doctrinal Section (2). On the whole narrative see Introd. § 3.

B. Hosea 2:1-3. And yet Israel shall be accepted again.

Immediately upon the announcement of the judgment extending even to the complete rejection of the kingdom of Israel, follows, to the surprise of the reader, an announcement of deliverance. The verses, in distinction from the Hebrew arrangement, should form one section with chap. 1. The arrangement by which Hosea 1:1-2 are joined to chap. 1, and a new chapter begun with Hosea 1:3, as is done by the LXX. and Jerome, and after them by Luther, is more incorrect still.

Hosea 2:1. And the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea,—children of the living God. The promise in Hosea 1:1 a, agrees almost verbatim with the promise of Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:13, an agreement which is designed. The rejection of the Ten Tribes just announced forms a strong contrast to the promise there made to the patriarch with regard to the boundless increase of his posterity. Now if the promise is firmly believed one might have doubts of the rejection, or if the threatening of the Prophet were to be accepted one might feel that he had mistaken the promise. Hence the Prophet goes back directly to that promise, and shows how the promise is in no way annulled by the threatening, but that the latter agrees well with the former, which will certainly reach its fulfillment. (Comp. also the reference to that promise in Isaiah 10:22, in opposition to false security, and in Jeremiah 33:22). The promise given to the fathers is just the pledge that a time of deliverance will come again! The announcement of deliverance in Hosea 1:1 ff. is rooted in that promise. Thus the words are strictly to be regarded as a citation=and yet what was promised will come true, that, etc., יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּנֶי is therefore naturally to be understood of the people of Israel generally (against Keil). For the promise is made with reference to the whole people, and in Hosea 1:2 mention is made expressly of a union between those who had been divided. But that enlargement of the whole body cannot take place with the return of those whose rejection is now announced. Hence the second member of the verse turns to them. For those who are here called “not my people” are naturally identical with those referred to in Hosea 1:9. In the place in which it is said to them, etc. There is no need of inquiring what place is meant, whether Palestine or the Land of Exile. The expression has rather the more general sense: “Just as it has been said—so will it now rather be said,” etc. The one will answer exactly to the other. Children of the living God. Instead of simply: my people, or, people of God, which would be expected at first, we have here a much stronger expression, אֵל הַי naturally in opposition to dead idols, whose service brings the people to ruin. They are not merely a people of God, but his children: they shall have in Him not merely a God but a Father (see below in the Doctrinal Section). There is no allusion here to the moral ground of this gracious acceptance, and such a notion must not be introduced. For to the darkness of the first part (chap. 1) the light is here contrasted quite abruptly and in a way quite unprovided for. The connecting link is not found before the more profound exhibition of the subject in chap. 2. It is understood, of course, that only a remnant is to meet with compassion, but it is not here expressed.

Hosea 2:2-3. And the children of Judah and the children of Israel are gathered together—Ruhamah. The acceptance of the rejected ones by God will be followed by a reunion of’ those who had been separated (inwardly as well as outwardly—on the one side belief in God, on the other idolatry). Comp. Jeremiah 50:4, which rests upon our passage, and 3:18, and still more fully Ezekiel 37:15 ff. The children of Israel, by being contrasted with the children of Judah, receive here their more restricted and special meaning, as belonging to the Ten Tribes. The words: appoint for themselves one head, denoting one common king, express this union still more definitely (comp. Hosea 3:5; Ezekiel 34:24; Ezekiel 37:24). And go up out of the land. These words are difficult. “The land” is, according to most, the land of Exile, and a return from it would therefore be expressed. It is certain that the Prophet does not in our section predict a leading away into exile; for “the place,” etc., in Hosea 1:1 is not necessarily to be understood of a foreign land. Yet the remark of Reinke is not incorrect: When it is said of Israel that they are no more a people of God, and will no more receive compassion, the fact is presupposed that they could remain no longer in the Holy Land which they had received as God’s people and had retained through his mercy. Already in Leviticus 26:0 and Deuteronomy 28:0 banishment into an enemy’s country was threatened to the people as the punishment of obdurate apostasy. It may be objected, however, that by this explanation, the Prophet would seem to have presupposed an exile of Judah, while he says absolutely nothing of it, but, on the contrary, distinguishes in Hosea 1:7, Judah from Israel. Difficulty is felt further in the indefinite expression: צָלָה מִן־הֽאָרֶץ, which gives no hint of a land of exile. Reinke, however, as after him Keil, gives this explanation: The prophet refers to Exodus 1:10 and borrows the expression from that passage, a supposition put beyond doubt by Hosea 2:16-17, where the re-acceptance of Israel is represented as a leading through the wilderness to Canaan, and a parallel is drawn to the leading forth out of Egypt, as in chaps. Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:3, the carrying into Exile is described as a carrying into Egypt (comp. also already Deuteronomy 28:68). Egypt was thus a type of the heathen world, over which Israel was to be dispersed; the deliverance from Egypt a type and earnest of deliverance from captivity and dispersion among the heathen. Well: but would מן הארץ ץלה, an altogether general expression, in telligible in itself, have been a strictly technical term for “going up out of Egypt.” And upon the single passage, Exodus 1:10, in which, moreover, no allusion is really made to a withdrawal from Egypt as from a land of captivity, but Pharaoh only speaks of a departure of the Israelites from it, could such a linguistic usage have been based that עלה מן הארץ would have been understood correctly without any explanation? No other passages occur upon which such a usage could have been founded, and none in which it actually occurs. In Hosea 2:15, e. g., “Egypt” is expressly mentioned. No matter how much, therefore, may be said for this explanation as being actually correct, it cannot be approved unconditionally. Others therefore understand “the land,” simply of Palestine. “Going up out of the land,” is thus viewed either as a marching up to Jerusalem (Simson), and to this the context gives much support, especially in the reference to the reunion of Israel and Judah under one head (David). This would imply that Jerusalem would become again the common central point of the nation. But to this also objection may be made (in another direction) to the too general expression עלה מן הארץ. The terminus a quo would then be quite irrelevant. Why then mention this terminus a quo, and omit the terminus ad quem—to Jerusalem (Zion), which is the important point? Hence עלה מן הארץ is regarded by others as a marching forth to victory (Ewald), as David did. The comparison with Micah 2:13 f. is certainly a fitting one. The preceding words, about their marshalling, and uniting and appointing one head, also suit this view well; one is led to think in this of a rising up to vigorous action (because viribus unitis). This explanation demands the mention of the place whither this עלה was to be directed less than the others. But perhaps it is indicated in the following still more obscure sentence: for great is the day of Jezreel. This naturally refers back to Hosea 1:4-5. But there Jezreel was the place of overthrow of divine judgment. Keil supposes the same thing is meant here also, that that day of defeat was great, i.e., decisive, glorious, because it formed the critical occasion by which the return of the recreant and their reunion with Judah were rendered possible! Others think of the appellative meaning of the name Jezreel, which certainly appears in 2:24, 25: God sows. This use of the term is supposed to express the notion that the Valley of Jezreel, in consequence of the overthrow there suffered, becomes a place where God sows the seed of the people’s renovation. Keil also admits this as a secondary allusion. But to understand by יוֹם יִזְרְעֶאל, that day of disaster, and to suppose that a day of defeat is called great on account of its good remote results, is a far-fetched notion. Here in Hosea 2:1-2, in the announcement of deliverance, we find ourselves upon other ground than that of Hosea 2:4 ff. What is here praised as great, is not and cannot be the same as that which in chap. 1 is announced as punishment, but must be something of an opposite character. But if we leave out of view that day of battle, we have left only the vague notion: time of God’s sowing, i.e., when God plants as He had before rooted out, i.e., the time of reacceptance; and such a time is designated as great by גָּדוֹל. But our sentence cannot be supposed to give utterance to such a general thought. The confirmatory כִּי does not suit such a view; for יום יז׳ alludes too definitely (as Keil has perceived correctly) to Hosea 1:4, and therefore refers to a definite event; only not the same event, but one which is its counterpart. The sense evidently is this, that there where Israel was overthrown, and its bow broken, a victory will yet be achieved: thither will the children of Israel and Judah gather themselves together under one king, marching up out of the country. And still the appellative significance of Jezreel may be retained; for by this victory God makes a new sowing or planting. Thus, as the threatening is connected with the names of the children, Hosea 1:4 ff., so also is the promise: in the first name without any modification, in the other two by the change into their opposite by the omission of the לא̇. [The English expositors usually take the reference to be primarily to the return from the Babylonian captivity. Some of them (of whom Cowles is the latest) refer the fulfillment only to the consequences of the reign of Messiah, the “Head” chosen not only by the united children of Israel and Judah but also by the world. Henderson, denying any multiple sense in prophecy, interprets the “head” to be Zerubbabel, “because the Messiah, whom most suppose to be intended, is nowhere spoken of as appointed by men, but always as the choice and appointment of God.” But (1) it is not said that they will appoint their leader to be the Messiah. That is of course God’s appointment. (2.) The Messiah thus appointed must necessarily be the chosen leader of his people. It is the service of a “willing people” in which they engage. Even God always offers Himself to his people as their king. They are to choose whom they will serve. This argument is evidently only the plea of one who has a theory to uphold. As to the main application of these verses, it is probably best to regard its promise as partially and but to a very small degree fulfilled in the case of those out of the Ten Tribes who returned to Jerusalem after the Exile, and to be constantly undergoing its fulfillment in the increase of the true Israel until the “great multitude which no man could number of all nations” (the 144,000, the mystical number of those sealed of the twelve tribes of Israel), shall be completed. That the Messianic application is almost exclusively the true one is evident both from the grand comprehensiveness of the promise, and from the paucity of evidence as to subsequent reunion to any extent of the representatives of the two kingdoms.—M.]

Hosea 2:3.—Say to your brethren, Ammi, and to your sisters, Ruhamah. According to some the children of the Prophet are addressed. Those who had first called out to the people by their own names: Not-my-people! and Unfavored! are now to call out to them the opposite, the son to his brethren, the daughter to her sisters, that is, to the rest of the Israelites. According to others, it is the people who obtain mercy that are addressed, whose members are to salute one another with the new name bestowed on them by God (Hengstenberg, Keil, Umbreit). The latter is to be preferred. For the verse is naturally connected with the close of Hosea 1:2, and it should therefore present the rejoicing shouts of the victors. Their victory is to them a pledge of their acceptance by God, which is to be celebrated by these joyful shouts, according to the requirement of the Prophet, or rather of God through him.


1. One of the most profound conceptions of the Old Testament is that which regards the covenant relation between Jehovah and Israel as a marriage. As a consequence, Israel’s idolatry and apostasy from God appear as whoredom or adultery; for idols are paramours as contrasted with Jehovah the husband.

The fundamental elements of this conception are found as early as in the Pentateuch: Exodus 34:14-15; Leviticus 17:7; Leviticus 20:5-6; Numbers 14:33; (Numbers 15:39); Deuteronomy 31:16; Deuteronomy 32:16; Deuteronomy 32:21.Exodus 34:14-15; Exodus 34:14-15 must be regarded as the most important and the fundamental passage.

Other passages are Judges 2:17; Judges 8:33; 1Ki 14:24; 1 Kings 15:12; 1 Kings 22:47; 2Ki 9:22; 2 Kings 23:7; 1 Chronicles 6:25; 2Ch 21:11; 2 Chronicles 21:13. Further in the Psalms (if we leave Psalms 45:0 out of the question); Psalms 73:27; Psalms 106:39.

Such passages of later time, as those from Chronicles, naturally presuppose the prophetic development of this doctrine. This is found first in our Prophet, who has made that conception the fundamental idea of his discourses, in some of which it is directly discussed, while it permeates others as an essential principle (e. g., in chap. 11). On the ground of these discourses it is more fully presented by Jeremiah (especially chaps. 3; Jeremiah 5:7; Jeremiah 13:27, etc.), and Ezekiel (chaps. 16–23). It is only hinted at in Isaiah (chaps. Isaiah 1:21; Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 57:3; Isaiah 62:5). It is not met with in the other prophets. For Nahum 3:4 ff. does not belong here (although the expressions show allusions to our prophet). Nor does Isaiah 23:16 ff.; for there it is not idolatry that is represented by the whoredom of Nineveh and Tyre. In addition, on the positive side, namely, the love of Jehovah to Israel, we must name the Song of Solomon, which bears besides, unmistakable allusions to our Prophet. In the New Testament this conception returns, naturally modified in form, in the description of the great Whore, Revelation 17. ff. (embracing, at the same time, the ideas that are found in the last-named passages concerning great and commercial cities). But the positive notion of a marriage of Jehovah to his people is found again in a New Testament form in Ephesians 5:22 ff, though there in an inverted order; for an actual marriage is first taken, and a parallel is then drawn between it and the relation of Christ to the Church.

For the meaning and significance of this whole conception of Jehovah’s relation to his people, our Prophet is, according to the above remarks, the best commentator in all his writings, and especially in chap. 2. See therefore the remarks upon that chapter.
2. “God will not be mocked” is the truth which the writings of the Prophet, written in letters of flame, bear upon their front in the announcement of the destroying judgments which God must and will inflict upon his apostate people. The mode of this announcement in our chapter through the three children with symbolical names, is full of instruction. The very fact that they represent the apostate children of Israel and declare by their names the punishment for this apostasy, sets forth unmistakably the close connection between sin and guilt, namely, that punishment is, so to speak, attached to sin. And the sudden appearance of the three children without any interval expresses evidently the certainty and unavoidableness of the infliction of the divine judgment. The three symbolic names, moreover, were given for the purpose of intensifying and emphasizing the announcement of the judgment. If the first name simply presages the fact of a retribution by an overwhelming judgment, the second unveils with terrible clearness its ground in the divine nature: it is that they shall no more find compassion, that God has turned away from them. And the result of all this is that the nation ceases to be a people of God. Thus the whole significance of this judgment is exhibited. Destruction, the cessation of I mercy, might be felt by any other people or kingdom; but with the people of God its influence was different, it was to them the loss of its special prerogative. Such a judgment has therefore a significance which is not merely political or social but also theocratic, and must be inflicted with a terrible severity elsewhere unfelt.
But it is most palpably enounced in our chapter how far judgment is from being the end of God’s ways toward his people. Immediately after the three strokes of destruction, so to speak, had been dealt, the sun of divine favor breaks forth from the darkest clouds of divine judgment in the brightest splendor of words of deliverance, as three names are again sounded forth each more distinctly than the former. This great transformation is presented without the least preparation, evidently as an enigma, thus exciting the greatest desire for its solution. The connecting link between these two announcements so broadly contrasted; namely, on the side of God, love, in which even his wrath against his faithless people is rooted—if He were indifferent He would not be angry,—and on the side of man, a return to Him in consequence of the chastening of his judgments, is not yet displayed here. This is done by the longer exposition given in the following chapter.
3. A man may be the instrument of God and, by his acts, execute his will, and yet be rejected: so Jehu. Our position is determined by the relation which we inwardly bear to that will, according to the simple truth that God regards the heart, whether we make the desires of God our own and are willing to be nothing but his instruments and to serve Him, or whether we assert and claim a place for our own interests, and thus in truth seek our own will and not the will of God. If we in this seek our own ends, the result is inevitable; our execution of the divine will is impeded and disturbed, if it is not rather only a seeming fulfillment and our labors abortive.
4. The New Testament conception of sonship with God, has as its Old Testament correlative that of a people of God. This places God in a close, unique relation to men. But God appears there as only Lord and King, though bestowing blessings and offering the conditions of life; and man, to whom He thus stands in relation, is not the individual but only the people of God as a whole. Therefore also this government of God has for one of its aims the restoration and preservation of the outward conditions of national existence, including the natural basis of such a community, the land itself. Under the New Covenant there is also a people of God, but the individuals, who constitute the whole, are all regarded as children of God.

But in another direction the Old Testament notion of a people of God tends undeniably towards the New Testament conception of sonship, and thus shows itself to be a germ ever developing with living power as the earnest of its fruit. All Israel appears as a son of God in the significant passage, Exodus 22:11; comp. further Hosea 11:1. The Israelites themselves are also called “sons of God,” Deuteronomy 14:1; Deuteronomy 32:19, and here in our chapter. But these are only single whispers, and the grand distinction must not be overlooked, that this expression is applied only to the totality of the people, even when it relates to their great multitude. Moreover our passage is contained in an announcement with regard to the future, and we must hold beyond question that the prophets go beyond the stand-point of the Old Covenant. It is just as Paul declares in Galatians 4:1 ff. Israel indeed actually held the position of sonship toward God, but ἐφ̓ ὅσον χρόνον ὁ κληρον. νήπιός ἐστιν οὺ̀δὲν διαφέρει δούλου. Only the incarnation of the Son of God Himself in an individual person could confer the privilege of the relation of individual and personal sonship towards God, the υἱοθεσία of individual personality.

5. How is the promise in Hosea 2:1-3 fulfilled? We might at first be inclined to seek the fulfillment in the return of the people from Babylonish Exile. For that event certainly marks the turning-point where God’s judgment upon his people reached its end and his favor again shone upon them. But in truth we cannot yet discern the accomplishment of the prophecy in that event. It could hardly be the subject of the promise, inasmuch as the Prophet only speaks and knows here of a judgment upon the Ten Tribes. But if a return from the Assyrian Exile and a consequent reunion with the kingdom of Judah had taken place, we might expect to see in these events a fulfillment of the promise. But such a return and consequent remission of the judgment upon the kingdom of Israel never took place; and the return from the Babylonish Exile affected that kingdom but very slightly, and brought about only to a very small degree a season of deliverance. God’s favor returned, indeed, inasmuch as this period was an assurance that God had not utterly rejected his people, and the hope of the fulfillment of the prophetic promises became so much the brighter. But it was not the fulfillment itself. No; to arrive at that we have only to look at our promise a little more closely.

Before the eye of the Prophet there is evidently standing here a picture of a people of Israel, not only innumerably increased and united into one kingdom, but also actually realizing the idea of a people of God (“sons of the living God”). That is, the time which he promises is in his mind directly the “time of fulfillment,” which we, upon the ground of other prophecies, since Hosea himself scarcely speaks of the Messiah (not even in Hosea 3:5), must designate the Messianic. Hence we can in no case seek the fulfillment in events which transpired before the advent of the Messiah.

But now the Messiah has come in Jesus of Nazareth. Is this promise of prophecy already fulfilled? Is this picture of the future already realized? If we keep to the words of the Text we must answer, No.
In fact the coming of the Messiah did not bring for Israel, as a whole, the time of deliverance, but on account of its guilt, rather a time of rejection, and the consequence was the infliction of a new and still more complete judgment. It is quite clear also that we cannot find the fulfillment of the present promise in the acceptance of the Messiah by the comparatively few who did accept Him. Must we then say that God did indeed design for the people in the Messiah such blessings as are here promised; but that, since they rejected Him, the promised time will never be theirs? In one respect this is perfectly true. But we cannot rest satisfied with it. The prophetic promise with all its rich fullness of meaning would then simply fall to the ground.
But still more unjustifiable is the assumption that the promise is to be regarded as only suspended for the people of Israel during the time of their obduracy, and to expect its fulfillment in that nation when it shall be converted to the Messiah. For this opinion, though so much favored of late, simply holds mechanically and restrictively to the letter, with a complete misconception of the nature of the Old and New Testament and their mutual relations, and of the higher plane to which divine Revelation rose with Christ, and supposes it possible that Revelation could retreat from the stand-point of the fulfillment to that of the Old Testament preparation, where Israel as a people represented the kingdom of God. It would assume also that allusion was made to the one kingdom only, for the purpose of showing that the distinction between children of Judah and children of Israel was lost by the extinction of the whole kingdom, even of the kingdom of Judah, independently of the consummation of the reunion under one head here promised. And therefore a promise which takes that division for granted and holds out the prospect of its removal and conversion into a higher unity, cannot be regarded as one whose fulfillment (according to the plain sense of the words) is still to be expected; or is that division of the two kingdoms, which no longer exist, yet to take place, in order that it may at some time be removed? If we have to give up the main position of this assumption of a literal fulfillment yet to be accomplished, on account of its intrinsic impossibility, all support is taken away from the notion that the promise will be realized in and for the people of Israel upon the soil of the Holy Land. It falls to pieces from internal weakness.

Instead, therefore, of dreaming of a future fulfillment in the literal sense, we must rather say, that the Prophet knows of a people of God only in the form of Israel, and hence what he hopes and promises for the people of God he hopes and promises for Israel, and in the form conditioned by Israel’s history. But it has become clear to as under the New Testament through Christ: Israel was only a type, necessary for its time and chosen by God, of the true people of God, only a shell which contained the kernel in the mean while, but at the same time was also to protect it until the time of its maturity. But the shell was too small and must be burst; the kernel had not and has not sufficient room, and it would be reversing the order of things, after the kernel is laid bare to retain the shell. It is not the outward Israel that is God’s people; it was just the period of its ruin, just the rejection of the Messiah at his coming by the external Israel that opened the way for this. It was made clear that a people as such was insufficient for this high calling, to be the chosen people of God, as the prophets themselves distinguished more and more between the mere external Israel and the true Israel, and saw the heathen coming to Zion and entering the breach. And though Israel is still held as the central point, the fulfillment is not in outward form, but ideally, inasmuch as Christ came the “Saviour of the Jews;” Israel therefore remaining the root in which the others were engrafted. We can understand now the promise of the innumerable increase (Hosea 2:1). Literally it would apply to the people of Israel, but can only apply to them as the people of God; and even though the older prophets say nothing as yet of the calling of the Gentiles, as Micah and Isaiah do, we have now assuredly a right to abandon the notion of an increase of the external Israel, and to see the fulfillment in the founding of a people of God by Christ just in the time of the final ruin of Israel, who have become, especially by the conversion of the heathen, a numberless multitude, and will become still more numerous. Then the reunion of the divided kingdoms is an essential element in the Messianic picture of the future held up in prophecy, as this very passage shows. This is altogether natural. Since prophecy knows a people of God only in the form of the people of Israel, it was necessary, if salvation was to be brought by the reign of the Messiah, that the breach, so harmful to God’s people, and the fruitful source, even more than the consequence, of apostasy from Jehovah, should be removed. If Israel was to be described as becoming converted to God, it must also be represented as returning to its unity under the divinely chosen House of David. This element also in the promise belongs naturally to its form, the form which it must naturally assume under the Old Covenant. As in the New Testament it was declared that the outward Israel was not to constitute God’s people for all time, this element lost its significance; we cannot expect a literal fulfillment of this promise, but the idea which lies at its foundation has been and is being realized, that is, the idea of the real unity of God’s people under one head of the house of David, who was, however, more than the son of David, namely, under Christ. These promises have thus a higher range than the Prophet conceives, and find their fulfillment in a far higher sense than he hopes, and as they are thus more than mere human aspirations and pious wishes, they are seen to proceed from the Spirit of God, who preformed and prevised the New Covenant in the Old. So little does this view do away with the divine authority of the prophetic word, that it is rather its only real attestation and adequate expression, unlike the other literalizing view disproved above.

But if the reproach of spiritualizing should be brought against this conception, our defense is that we only spiritualize in reference to Old Testament promises, along with the Apostles, and would not be more realistic than they, who (1 Peter 2:10; Romans 9:25-26), although fully aware of the literal sense of our passages, yet do expressly refer them to the conversion of the heathen. Peter in the same connection (Hosea 1:9) sets the New Testament people of God, Christians, directly in the place of those of the Old Testament, and therefore the former are now the true Israel. This extension with reference to the heathen is also quite consequent. If the words: not my people, were once pronounced over Israel, it was because they had sunk quite to the level of the heathen. And if they are to be received again, they would be received just as those who had actually become like heathen; and it is no longer right to exclude the heathen, who are behind them in no respect. But there is this difference between the reacceptance and the first choice. When the Israelites were chosen they were not in positive opposition to God, but now they are so; and therefore a longer exclusion of the heathen would be a particularizing to a greater extent than their disciplinary training demanded; it would be a violation of justice. For the rest: Paul declares clearly that Israel itself shall not be excluded (Romans 11:26). Only thus should the people of God attain to its full increase (And surely, in the fact of the preservation of Israel in its nationality even under the New Testament, we may see a promise of this conversion, although that wonderful preservation by God’s providence is to be regarded in its most patent aspect as a part of the judgment decreed upon Israel by God. It is preserved as a living witness of the rejection decreed by God on account of its unbelief and rejection of the Messiah.) Only Paul says not a word, when promising Israel’s conversion, that would lead us to think that a people of God, κατ̓ ἐξοχήυ, will be continued, not a word of the “glory of the kingdom of Israel,” though his heart beat so warmly (comp. chap. 9) towards his nation in its outward sense.

Finally we have only further to remark that in our references to the Messianic period inaugurated by Christ, as the time of the fulfillment of the prophetic promises, “Messianic time” is taken in the fullest sense of the term, and the whole course of the New Testament dispensation, from its foundation to its completion, is regarded as one whole, so that we have not yet attained to the perfect fulfillment, although the promises of prophecy have been undergoing their realization since the time of Christ. “For it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” The fulfillment is not yet complete, but we stand in expectation of it. This perfect realization consists least in the literal fulfillment with respect to the external Israel alone, but it too, in so far as it is converted to the Messiah, will have a share in the complete salvation ready for all who will be converted to God through Christ.


Hosea 1:2. Starke: All departure from God’s Word and from true religion is a spiritual whoredom. Blessed are they who beware of this!

Hosea 1:4. Starke: As a good intention without God’s counsel does not make a cause good, so it cannot be said that the divine will has been fulfilled, when it has been executed with a perverted heart and not in accordance with the divine purposes. (Comp. the Doctrinal and Ethical section, No. 3.)

Würt. Summ.: God’s wrath often falls upon posterity, and they must suffer for the sins of their forefathers, if they walk in their evil footsteps (Exodus 20:5).

Tub. Bible: Public sins of a whole nation or of its kings and princes are followed by a general judgment of God, by which whole lands are destroyed.

[Pusey: So awful a thing it is to be the instrument of God in punishing or reproving others if we do not by his grace keep our own hearts and hands pure from sin.—M.]

Hosea 1:6. Würt. Summ.: Behold here the severity of the divine wrath. God is certainly compassionate, but his compassion is regulated by his holy righteousness. His compassion exceeds all human petitions and understanding; but his wrath goes beyond all human reckoning. Men may keep on sinning against our beloved God too long, so that when He has waited long exhorting them to repentance, and they do not follow Him, his words at last are: “Lo-Ruhamah Lo-Ammi.” Beware of this and do not defer your repentance; for God may soon become as angry as He was merciful.

Hosea 1:7. Cramer: When human help ceases, divine help begins. He is not limited to the use of means, but is Himself our Help and Shield.

[Burroughs: The more immediate the hand of God appears in his mercy to his people, the more sweet and precious ought that mercy then to be. Dulcius ex ipso fonte. Created mercies are the most perfect mercies.—M.]

Starke: Woe to him whose God the Lord will no longer be. Let men therefore beware lest by presumptuous sin they trifle away all intercourse with God.

Rieger: When God thus renounces those who were his people, it is much more lamentable than any severance between those who are married or betrothed. “I will be your God and ye shall be my people,” was the formula of the covenant. They had broken the last condition by their unbelief; and thus they stirred up the Lord to anger so that He renounced the first. Yet He has not expressly retracted the whole formula of the covenant. He did not say: I will not be your God, but He cut short his words in anger: I will not be yours. Thus room is left for that mercy which shall awake anew for them.

Hosea 1:9. The threatenings are indeed terrible: but how merciful it was in God to announce the judgment before it comes; and the plainer and more striking these threatenings are the greater the mercy. This is a ground for hoping that the judgment will be averted.

Chap. 2 Hosea 2:1. This is the order and method of God’s dealings: He slays, not that He may keep under the power of death, but that He may bring to repentance. Thus He dispersed Israel among the heathen, and without any compassion and mercy, as it seemed to outward observation, rejected them utterly. For the Ten Tribes have not yet returned to their own land. But how abundantly has God compensated to them this misfortune! For those who were scattered among the heathen, He gathered again by the Gospel, and so gathered them that a great multitude of the heathen came to the knowledge of the kingdom of Christ along with the remnant in the kingdom of Israel. He points the people of Israel to this compensation, that they may not despond in such affliction, as we also assuage, by the hope of the future glory, prepared for us by the death of Christ, the sorrows of those calamities which we see before our eyes.

[Burroughs: If we expect God to be a living God to us, it becomes us not to have dead hearts in his service. If God be active for our good, let us be active for his honor.—M.]

Hosea 2:2. Starke: The Church of the New Testament has only one Head, who is Christ. Blessed are we if we cleave to and follow Him!

[Matthew Henry: To believe in Christ is to appoint Him to ourselves for our Head, that is, to consent to God’s appointment and willingly to submit to his guidance and appointment; and this in concurrence and communion with all good Christians who make Him their Head; so that though they are many, yet in Him they are one, and so become one with each other. Qui conveniunt in aliquo tertio inter se conveniunt.—M.].

Hosea 2:3. The prophet gives the best application of the names which God bade him apply to his children in order that the Christian Church may be convinced thereby that all the former things are reversed, that wrath is done away, and that the unfathomable compassion and mercy of God stand open to every man. For how should God, after He gave his son, not with Him have given all things? This word “say” belongs to the office of public preaching. We are to understand by it that the servants of God in the New Testament are commanded to comfort believers, and to declare to them that they stand in mercy and are a people of God.

[Pusey: The words “my people” are words of hope in prophecy; they become words of joy in each stage of fulfillment. They are words of mutual joy and gratulation when obeyed; they are words of encouragement until obeyed. God is reconciled to us, and willeth that we should be reconciled to Him.—M.].


[1][Hosea 1:1.—בְּאֵרִי—explained by Gesenius as meaning, fountain; by First et al.: one who explains, comp. Deuteronomy 1:5. If a symbolical meaning is sought, the latter is probably to be preferred; if not, the signification must remain undecided. There seems to be no necessity for holding a symbolical sense.—M.]

Hosea 1:2; Hosea 1:2.—תְּחִלַּת דּ׳. By the construct state in which the first word stands the following (דִּבִּר יי׳ being not an infinitive but a præterite), becomes a sort of substantive phrase subordinate to תחלת. [ תחלת is thus made equivalent to an adverb of time=when at first (Ewald). The construction would thus be similar to that of the phrase בְּיוֹם דִּבֶּר־יי, Exodus 6:28; 1 Samuel 25:15 et al. See Ewald, Gr., § 286, 3. For the view which regards the first clause of the verse as a “kind of superscription,” see the exposition and Green, Heb. Gr., § 255, 1,2.—M.]—זָנֹה תִזְנֶה, according to the familiar Heb. emphatic mode of expression, the זנה is here marked as complete.

[3] Hosea 1:6.—רֻחָמָה is usually regarded as a participle with מ fallen away. But according to Keil it is rather the 3 fem. præt. (in the pausal form on account of the Athnach, as in 2:3, 24)=“she finds no sympathy, is not compassionated.” [This is a question which must remain undecided, as the word occurs only in pause. Yet the common view is preferable, because (1) the part. is the better form for an appellative, as it approaches more nearly to a noun, and (2) if the verb became an appellative it would probably remain a fixed form, or at least not be subject to such changes as the 3 præt. undergoes in pause. The part, would of course retain the Kamets in any case.—M.]

The difficult words כִּי נָשׂא וג׳ probably give a further explanation of the אֱרַחֵם. נָשָׂא= to forgive: I will no longer have compassion on them that I should forgive them (Meier: כִּי is climactic=how much less forgive them). The object: sin, is certainly then to be supplied as also in Genesis 18:24. But, according to the context, it is easier to supply this than to translate with Hengstenberg: I will take away from them, namely, what they have, or everything they have. In Genesis 5:16, נשׂא in the sense of taking may without difficulty be construed absolutely. But here, especially with the dative, an object is expected.

[Pusey, Henderson, Cowles, et al. follow E. V. in rendering: But I will utterly take them away. Newcome: But I will surely take them away. Ewald agrees with Meier in the translation given above. Henderson admits that נָשָׂא followed by לְ elsewhere means to forgive, and that it might have the same sense here if it were only preceded by the copulative וְ, but that כִּי meaning but excludes such repetition. Here it is forgotten that כִּי may mark consecution or result, as it does frequently, comp. Genesis 40:15; Isaiah 29:16; Psalms 8:5, with many other passages. But Schmoller as well as Keil, who discern the true connection and meaning of the words, have overlooked the occurrence of the inf. before the future of the same verb. All the other critics give to this combination the force of emphasis or intensity. Is it not better to suppose that repetition is implied, which is the fundamental notion? And if the last clause is explanatory of the preceding, the עוֹד of the one must find its counterpart in the frequentative construction of the other: I will no longer have mercy on them that I should continue to forgive them. Greater fullness of meaning and appropriateness is also seen to mark this part of the verse: God had overlooked their sins often before, but He would not keep on overlooking them forever.—M.]

[4][Hosea 1:9.—לאֹ אֶהְיֶה לָכֶם; I will not be for you, i.e, not be yours, not belong to you. There is no need of maintaining that “God” is understood, as Henderson, Cowles, and the English expositors generally do. The sense is complete without supposing an ellipsis. Houbigant (followed by Newcome) has gone so far as to transpose the letters of the last two words into אלהיכם. But this has no support in the MSS. or Versions, and is besides very improbable, not to mention that it supposes the omission of the latter ה.—M.]

[5] Hosea 2:1.—בִּמְקוֹם אֲשֶׁר. We might be inclined to render: in the place of [its being said]; the usage of the expression elsewhere is however too clearly opposed (comp. Leviticus 4:24-33; Leviticus 14:13; Jeremiah 22:12; Ezek. 21:35; Nehemiah 4:14). But מְקוֹם with the subject following is perhaps=instead of, in Isaiah 33:21.

[6][This will show the groundlessness of the opinion of Noyes, that “from the contents of the book it is probable that he did not exercise his office until after the death of Jeroboam, when the kingdom of Israel was in, a state of great distraction and anarchy.”—J. F. M.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Hosea 1". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/hosea-1.html. 1857-84.
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