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The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri. The prophets are divided into the former (rishonim, Zechariah 1:4) prophets and the later prophets. The writings of the former prophets comprise most of the historical hooks, for the Hebrew conception of a prophet was that of an individual inspired by God to instruct men for the present or inform them of the future, whether orally or by writing; the later were the prophets properly so called, while these, again, are subdivided into the greater, consisting of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and the lesser, or minor, including the remaining twelve. The designation "minor" does not imply any inferiority in importance of subject or value of contents, but has respect solely to the smallness of their size as compared with the larger discourses of the others. The twelve minor prophets were added to the canon before its completion as a single book, "lest," says Kimchi, in his commentary on this verse, "a book of them should be lost because of its smallness, if each one of them should be kept separate by itself." They were accordingly reckoned as one book—δώδεκα ἐν μονοβίβλῳ, as Eusebius expresses it. The name Hosea, like other Hebrew names, is significant, and denotes "deliverance," or" salvation;" or, the abstract being put for the concrete, "deliverer," or "savior." It is radically the same name as Joshua, except that the prefix of the latter implies the name of Jehovah as the Author of such deliverance or salvation; while the Greek form of Joshua is Jesus, which in two passages of the Authorized Version stands for it. The form of the name in the original is closely connected with Hosanna (hoshia na)," save now," which occurs in Psalms 118:25. 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. The period of Hosea's prophetic activity is one of the longest, if not the longest, on record. It continued during the reigns of the four kings of Judah above mentioned, and during that of Jeroboam II. King of Israel, which was in part coincident with that of Uzziah. Uzziah and Jeroboam reigned contemporaneously for twenty-six years. Somewhere during or rather before the end of that period Hosea commenced his ministry. Uzziah survived Jeroboam some twenty-six years, then Jotham and Ahaz in succession reigned each sixteen years. During all these fifty-eight years Hosea continued his ministerial labors. To these must be added a few years for the beginning of his prophetic career during the reign of Jeroboam, and some two or three years before its close in the reign of Hezekiah; for the destruction of Samaria, which took place in the fourth year of that king, the prophet looks forward to as still future. Thus for three score years and more—probably nearer three score years and ten, the ordinary period of human life—the prophet persevered in the discharge of his onerous duties. It may seem strange that, though Hosea exercised his prophetic function in Israel, yet the time during which he did so is reckoned by the reigns of the kings of Judah. The single exception of Jeroboam II. is accounted for in a rabbinic tradition on the ground that he did not credit or act on the evil report which Amaziah the priest of Bethel preferred against the Prophet Amos, as we read (Amos 7:10), "Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam King of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words" (see also Amos 7:11-30.7.13 of the same chapter). The real reason for the reckoning by the kings of Judah, and for the exceptional case of Jeroboam, was not that assigned by the rabbins; neither was it an indication, on the part of the prophet, of the legitimacy of the kingdom of Judah on the one hand, and evidence, on the other hand, of the performance of God's promise to Jehu that his sons would sit upon the throne to the fourth generation, while Jeroboam, Jehu's great-grandson, was the last king of that dynasty by whom God vouch-sated help to Israel, his son and successor Zechariah retaining possession of the kingdom only for the short space of six months. The true cause is rather to be sought in the regicides, usurpations, occasional anarchy, and generally unsettled state of the northern kingdom, inasmuch as such instability and uncertainty furnished no sure or satisfactory basis for chronological calculation. Thus we find that, on the death of Jeroboam II; there was an interregnum of some dozen years, during which, of course, a state of anarchy prevailed. At length Zechariah succeeded to the throne; he had reigned only six months when he was murdered by Shallum. Shallum's reign only lasted a month, when he was put to death by Menahem. During his reign often years occurred the invasion of Pal. Menahem's son, Pekachiah, had only reigned two years when he was murdered by Pekah, in whose reign Tiglath-pileser invaded the land. Hoshea slew Pekah. Next followed an interval of anarchy lasting eight years. Then, after Hoshea's short reign of nine years, the kingdom was destroyed. Thus it was only in the southern kingdom that a sufficiently firm foundation for chronological reckoning was available, while under these circumstances Jeroboam's reign was necessary to show the prophet's connection with Israel, and also that the prediction of the fourth verse preceded the event foretold. The general heading of the whole book is contained in this verse and Divine authority is thus claimed for the whole, as the prophet to whom the word of the Lord came is only Jehovah's spokesman.
The beginning of the word of the Lord by (literally, in) Hosea. These words may be rendered at once more literally and more exactly,
(1) "The beginning (of that which) Jehovah spoke by Hosea." Thus Gesenius translates, understanding ashen, which is often omitted as a pronoun in the nominative or accusative, indicating relation, and as including the antecedent personal or demonstrative pronoun. When the pronoun thus supplied is in the genitive, the preceding noun is in the construct state, as here.
(2) Rosenmüller, without necessity, takes the noun in the adverbial sense; thus: "In the beginning Jehovah spake by Hosea." He also suggests the possibility of dibber being a noun of the same meaning as dabar, but of different formation; while in two manuscripts of De Rossi and one of Kennicott the regular form of the construct state of davar is expressed.
(3) Keil takes the noun as an accusative of time, and accounts for its construct state by the substantival idea of the succeeding subordinated clause; thus: "At the commencement of ' Jehovah spake,' Jehovah said to him." But what is the beginning here mentioned? It cannot mean that Hoses was the first of the prophets by whom God made known his will to Israel, or the first of the minor prophets; for Jonah, as is rightly inferred from 2 Kings 14:25, preceded him; Joel also is usually regarded as before him in point of time; neither can it denote his priority to Isaiah and Amos, who also prophesied in the days of Uzziah. The plain meaning is that which becomes obvious when we adopt the right rendering of Gesenius, as given above, that is, the beginning of the prophecies which Hoses was commissioned by Jehovah to make known. The peculiarity of the expression, "in Hosea," as the word literally means, deserves attention. Maurer compares Numbers 12:2, Numbers 12:6, and Numbers 12:8, to prove that the expression signifies speaking to rather than in or by; he also cites other passages to the same purpose, But while the verb "to speak," followed by be and the verb constructed with el, may coincide in signification at a certain point, it does not thence follow that they are everywhere and always synonymous. Long ago Jerome drew attention to the distinction which this difference of construction suggests. "It is one thing," says that Father, "for the Lord to speak in Hosea, another to speak to (el) Hosea: when it is in Hosea he does not speak to Hosea himself, but by Hosea to others; but speaking to Hosea denotes communication to himself. So in the New Testament (Hebrews 1:1) we find the corresponding Greek expression, viz. ὁ Θεὸς λαλήσας ἐν προφήταις, which the Revised Version rightly renders, "God having … spoken the … in the prophets." The first verse is the general heading for the whole book; the first clause of the second verse is the special heading of the first section of the book, which extends to the end of the third chapter. And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms, and children of whoredoms. Whether the transaction here enjoined is to be understood as a reality, or a vision, or an allegory, has been keenly debated. To enter fully into the discussion of this point would lead us too far from our purpose; nor could it minister to edification. Though high authorities have maintained it to be a real occurrence, we do not see our way to concur with their view. A canon of interpretation sanctioned by Augustine forbids the literal acceptation of this command, for, according to the canon referred to, if the language of Scripture taken literally would involve something incongruous or morally improper, the figurative sense must be preferred. Again, we can scarcely understand it of a vision; for there is no mention of or reference to anything of that kind in the passage, nor does the context countenance the notion of a vision. Keil regards it as such when he speaks of it as "an inward and spiritual intuition in which the word of God was addressed" to the prophet. We are, therefore, shut up to that interpretation which explains the whole as an allegorical or imaginary narrative, which is thus constructed in order to impart greater vividness to the prophet's declaration. The Chaldee paraphrase understands it in this sense. "Go," says the paraphrast, "declare a prophecy against the inhabitants of the idolatrous city, who persist in sin." Jerome also explains it allegorically, and urges against the literal sense that passage in Ezekiel 4:4-26.4.6, where the prophet is commanded by God to bear the iniquity of the house of Israel, and to lie upon his left side three hundred and ninety days—a thing impossible according to the literal understanding of the injunction; he accordingly concludes, in reference to the particulars here commanded, that "sacramenta indicaut futurorum." Calvin rightly understands it in the sense of a parabolic representation as follows: "The Lord had bidden him (the prophet) to relate this parable, so to speak, or this similitude, that the people might see, as in a living portraiture, their turpitude and perfidiousness. It is, in short, an exhibition in which the thing itself is not only set forth in words, but is also placed, as it were, before their eyes in a visible form." Kimchi considers it to be a prophetic vision; while some of the older Hebrew interpreters viewed it in the light of an actual transaction. Kimchi's words are: "And the whole took place in the vision of prophecy, not that Hoses the prophet had taken to himself a wife of whoredoms; although it is found in the words of our rabbins that the meaning is according to the literal signification of the words." By "a wife of whoredoms" we understand a woman addicted to whoredoms, and thus likely to prove an unfaithful wife, as" a woman of quarrels" is a quarrelsome woman, "a man of bloods" is a bloody man, "a man of sorrows" a sorrowful man; while "children of whoredoms" are children who follow in the footsteps of their mother's lewdness, or children on whose birth their mother's licentiousness bad left a stigma so that their legitimacy is questionable. The construction of the verb "take," with both objects, is an example of the figure zeugma, by which one word does duty to two clauses, though it undergoes a modification of sense in its application to the second. The meaning here is clearly that the prophet should take a wife of the character indicated, and beget children by her, not take such a wife and such children already born to her. This view is favored by the Vulgate, Sume tibi uxorem fornicationum et fac tibi filios fornicationum; though Keil maintains that Hosea was to take children of prostitution as well as a wife who had lived by prostitution. For the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord. This is more exactly rendered, for the land hath utterly gone a-whoring from after (that is, from following) the Lord. From this we learn the symbolic import of the command, in whatever way that command is interpreted, whether as a reality, or vision, or allegory, the prophet's marriage to an unfaithful wife sets forth Jehovah's marriage to an unfaithful nation. God often condescends—graciously condescends—to represent his relation to his people as a marriage covenant; while unfaithfulness on their part is spiritual adultery. The mother and the children may represent the country and its inhabitants, or the nation as a whole and its several members, or generally the people and their posterity in succeeding generations. The father of the Hebrew race had served other gods on the other side of the flood, that is, in Ur, in the land of the Chaldees, whence God had called Abraham. When taken into covenant relationship, how often had they fallen into the former sin of idolatry! The fearful consequences of their sin is graphically portrayed in the verses immediately following, symbolized in the names of the prophet's children. They are—national ruin, the loss of the Divine favor, and the forfeiture of their proud position as the chosen people of Jehovah.
So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son. Kimchi conjectures that "Gomer was the name of a harlot well known at that time;" he also explains the name, according to his view of its symbolic import, as follows: "Gomer has the meaning of completion;" as if the prophet said, He will fully execute on them the punishment of their transgressions that he may forgive their iniquity." The names of the children born to the prophet are significant and symbolical; and their symbolic significance is explained. The names mentioned in this verse are also significant, though their significance is not expressly stated, as in the former case; the cause of the omission being the fact that these names were not, like the others, now received for the first time, but simply retained. Gomer denotes "completion" or" consummation," from a verbal root signifying "to perfect" or "come to an end; and Diblaim is the dual of deblēlah, the plural being debhēlim, from the verb dabhal, to press together into a mass, especially a round mass. The meaning of the word, then, is "two cakes," that is, of dried figs pressed together in lumps. It may be observed, in passing, that the Greek παλάθη seems to come from the Aramaic form debhalta, by the omission of the initial daleth. But what is the mystic meaning which the prophet veils under the two names Consummation and Compressed fig-cakes (cakes of compressed figs)? The one may hint not obscurely consummation in sin and in the suffering which is the ultimate consequence of sin; while the other may imply the sweetness of sensual indulgences, especially such as idolatrous celebrants were prone to. If, then, the symbolical interpretation of these names be allowable, we may accept that given by Jerome. He says, "Out of Israel is taken typically by Hosea a wife consummated in fornication, and a perfect daughter of pleasure which seems sweet and pleasant to those who enjoy it." There is, moreover, an obvious appropriateness in the names thus symbolically understood. The prophet, whose name signifies "salvation," marries a woman who was a daughter of plea. sure and a votary of sin; this alliance represents the relation into which Jehovah, with his saving power, had mercifully taken Israel; but that people, unmindful and unthankful for such mercy, and intent on the indulgence of a sinful course, went from bad to worse in apostasy and idolatry till God at length left them in their impenitence and abandoned them to their fate. The conception and birth of Gomer's son to the prophet, though several authorities omit "him," give no countenance to the idea of the child being supposititious; and so far there seems to be some confirmation of the opinion of Keil referred to under verse 2.
And the Lord said unto him, Call his name Jezreel. The name which the people inherited from a distinguished ancestor was one of honor and dignity—Israel or Yisrael, "prince with God;" the name imposed by their sins was one of reproach and disaster—Izreel, or Yizreel, "scattered by God." The Hebrews had a peculiar fondness for a paronomasia of this kind; thus Bethel, "house of God," becomes Bethaven, "house of vanity." Keil regrets the appellative sense in this passage, and refers to the historical importance of the place. The latter view seems favored by the succeeding explanation of the name. For yet a little while, and I will avenge (visit) the Mood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu. The verb here rendered "avenge" is literally to "visit," and is used sometimes in a good sense, implying a benevolent purpose, as in Ruth 1:6, "For she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread;" sometimes it expresses a hostile intention, as in Exodus 20:5, "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children." In the present passage, as elsewhere in this book (see Hosea 2:13; Hosea 4:9), it is taken in the sense assigned it in the Authorized Version, with which the Septuagint and Syriac are in accord. But what are we to understand by the blood of Jezreel, which brought down this vengeance on the house of Jehu? Some suppose that the expression denotes the bloody deeds of Ahab's house, including, not only the murder of Naboth, but also their bloody persecution of the servants and prophets of Jehovah, as we read in 1 Kings 18:4, that "Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord;" and in 2 Kings 9:7, "Thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord, at the hand of Jezebel." These and like deeds of blood brought down retribution on the house of Ahab; Jehu, the instrument of this retribution, was himself guilty of such enormities that the cry of blood for vengeance was repeated, and the criminality of the preceding dynasty continuing, the ate of Jehu's was redoubled. This view appears to us both clumsy and far-fetched. The plain meaning is that which refers the blood of Jezreel to the bloody massacres of Jehn himself, when in a single day he put an end to the dynasty of Omri and the wicked house of Ahab. On that memorable occasion he slew the queen-mother Jezebel, the seventy sons of Ahab, and forty-two relatives of King Ahaziah, also all the prophets of Baal, all his servants and all his priests. The royal house of Israel he exterminated, for he "slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and his kinsfolk, and his priests, until he left him none remaining;" the royal house or' Judah he brought at the same time to the very verge of extinction. The slaughter of Ahab's sons, of Jezebel and Joram, and that whole royal line, was, it is true, in compliance with God's express command; and, for the measure of his obedience to that command, Jehu was rewarded by the promise of his family occupying the throne of Israel to the fourth generation. But what was the motive that prompted this performance of the Divine will? Was it really zeal for God, as he pretended, and consequent diligence in obeying the Divine direction? Or did human passion predominate and political advantage hurry him on? We trow not. Certain it is that his subsequent career rendered the purity of his zeal more than doubtful. He exterminated the idolatry of Baal, but he clave to the calves of Jeroboam at Bethel and Dan—the fundamental sin of the kings of Israel. In what he did, therefore, the act itself was right, for God commanded it; but the motive was wrong, for it was selfish ambition that prompted it. Thus it was with Baasha; he executed vengeance by command of God on the wicked house of Jeroboam I; and for so doing was exalted to be prince over God's people Israel; but the word of the Lord came against him, as we read, "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." The Chaldee regards the blood shed by Jehu in Jezreel, though shed in a righteous cause and for the rooting out of the Baal idolatry, as innocent blood, because Jehu himself and his house turned aside to the idolatry of the calves. Jerome takes a similar view of the matter. Kimchi adopts the same; his words, literally translated, are the following: "And why does he call it the blood of Jezreel? Because it was shod in Jezreel. And though in this matter he did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah, yet, since he did not observe to walk in the Law of Jehovah, and did not turn aside from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the blood which he shed was reckoned to him as innocent blood." He then adduces as a parallel the case of Baasha already mentioned. And will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel. Jeroboam II; the third of Jehu's family, was now reigning; a fourth member of the same was to occupy the throne. That fourth sovereign was Zechariah, whose short inglorious reign lasted only six months, at the expiration of which he fell a victim in the conspiracy by Shallum. Thus ended the dynasty of Jehu; while its overthrow paralyzed the strength of the northern kingdom. Anti, though the day of its complete destruction was deferred for half a century, yet the disorders, dethronements, anarchy at times, and repeated assassination of the sovereigns, to which Menahem was the only exception, prepared the way for the final catastrophe. The overthrow of the house of Jehu has been aptly termed by Hengstenberg "the beginning of the end, the commencement of the process of decomposition."
And it shall some to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel. Here we have a prediction of a most momentous event, with express statement of the place where it should occur, as also the time of its occurrence. The event itself was more than the downfall of a dynasty; it was the destruction of a kingdom. The date of that destruction is defined simply as the period when God would punish the sins of both the princes and people of Israel The close of Jehu's dynasty was at once the preparation for and the commencement of the cessation of the kingdom of Israel. The place of this calamity was the Valley of Jezreel. This famous valley was the cockpit of Palestine. There Israel conquered the host of King Jabin; there Gideon overthrew the Midianites; there Saul was defeated by the Philistines, when driven up the slopes of Gilbea "the beauty of Israel was slain in thy high places;" there a defeat equally sorrowful and not less disastrous was aggravated by the death of good King Josiah, and proved fatal to the kingdom of Judah; there, too, in later times, the last conflict took place between the Crusaders and the Moslems, in which victory crowned the arms of Saladin; there, also, was fought the battle, as we learn from this passage, which decided the fate of the kingdom of Israel. The situation of this valley was admirably suited for such scenes. This plain, or valley, broad as it is beautiful, begins where the maritime plain, interrupted by the ridge of Carmel, turns aside and extends across the center of the country from the Mediterranean Sea on the west to the Jordan valley on the east, and from the hills of Galilee on the north to those of Ephraim or Samaria on the south. The form of this plain is triangular; its eastern side or base is fifteen miles, reaching from Engannim, now Jenin, to the hills below Nazareth; the north side along the hills of Galilee is twelve miles; the southern, formed by the hills of Samaria, is eighteen miles; while the apex of this somewhat irregular triangle is a narrow pass through which the river Kishon—"that ancient river, the river Kishon"—with its winding stream makes its way to the sea. On the east there are three branches in the direction of the Jordan, which bear a remote resemblance to the fingers of a hand. The northern branch passes between Tabor and Little Hermon, or Jebel ed-Duhy; the central one, which is the Valley of Jezreel proper, runs between Shunem and Jezreel, now Zerin; the southern between Mount Gilboa and En-gannim, now Jenia—this branch, having no outlet, loses itself among the eastern hills. The name of this plain was derived from the city of Jezreel, situated near its eastern extremity on a spur of Mount Gilboa, which Ahab chose as a royal residence, and which remained so for three successive reigns, though in the time of Jeroboam II. Samaria had again, as in the days of Omri, become the royal city. In this great plain, called by the Greeks Esdraelon, the bow of Israel was to be broken. The bow (qesheth, rad. qashah, hard, stiff, unbending) was the warrior's weapon of offence and defense—strong and powerful; the breaking of his bow deprived him of his chief weapon, and left him at the mercy of the enemy to conquer or to kill; thus we read, "His bow abode in strength;" and again, "My glory was fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand." But while such general references prove the bow to have been an emblem of strength and power, as Kimchi explains it, still there is something very special and suitable in the expression of the prophet here. "In one important respect," says the author of the 'Jewish Church,' "the ancient military glory of Israel was, if not confined to the northern kingdom yet regarded as eminently characteristic of it. Judah, with all its warlike qualities, had never been celebrated for its archery. The use of the bow was there a late acquisition (2 Samuel 1:18). But in Benjamin and Ephraim it had been an habitual weapon. The bow of Jonathan was known far and wide. The children of Ephraim were characterized as 'carrying bows.' And so the chief weapon of the captain of the host of Israel was his bow. The King of Israel had always his bow and arrows with him. The sign of the fall of the kingdom was the breaking of the bow of Israel." The language employed by the prophet was thus singularly appropriate. An historical basis, though denied by some and pronounced precarious by others, is, we have little doubt, found for this prediction in Hosea 10:14 of this very book. The bow, that is, the archery in which Israel excelled so much, was broken in the Valley of Jezreel, when Shalmon, identified with Shalmanezer, King of Assyria by Pusey and Stanley, spoiled Beth-Arbel, or Arbela, the city between Sepphoris and Tiberias, and near the middle of the valley, and thus crushed Israel in an overwhelming defeat. If the identification be sustained, that day of battle was most calamitous to Israel, and as cruel as calamitous, for neither the helplessness of infancy nor the tenderness of womanhood was spared; the infants were dashed to death against the stones, and the mothers then hurled in mortal agony upon the dead bodies of their little ones. Kimchi explains it generally: "On that day when I shall visit the blood of Jezreel, I shall break the bow of Israel, that is to say, their might and power."
And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Lo-ruhamah. The first birth symbolized the blood-guiltiness and idolatry of Israel, and the consequent destruction. Two other births follow to confirm the certainty of the coming calamity, to develop it further, and exhibit the nation ever which it impended under new phases, as also to show the prospect of deliverance to be hopeless. The change of sex may indicate the totality of the nation, male and female, as Keil thinks; or rather the weak and defenseless condition of Israel after their bow was broken and their power crushed by the enemy. They are new ready to be led into captivity, like a female helpless and powerless and exposed to ell the insults of the conquerors. The birth of the daughter is thus explained by Kimchi: "After she had borne a so which is a proverbial reference to Jeroboam the son of Joash … she bore a daughter, who refers parabolically to Zechariah and to Shallum son of Jabesh, who reigned after him, who were weak as a female." The name given to the child is Unpitied, or Unfavored, if ruchamah be taken as a mutilated participle, the initial mere being dropped, though it is not found in close connection with a participle; or, She-is-not-pitied, if the word be a verb. In either case, the mercy which if exercised would save her from the miseries of captivity, is clean gone; and the love which, if it existed, would prompt that exercise of mercy, is no longer to be looked for. For I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away (margin, that I should altogether pardon them). Aben Ezra quotes the correct meaning as follows: "Some say that נילי is that I have up till now forgiven their iniquity; "and Kimchi: "Hitherto I have forgiven and pardoned them, because I have had mercy upon them; but I shall continue to do so no more." עוד, again, from עוּד, to return or repeat. The construction of the first clause is peculiar. Rosenmüller cites as parallel Isaiah 47:1, Isaiah 47:5 and Proverbs 23:35; but more exact parallels are 1 Samuel 2:3 and Hosea 6:3, in both of which, and also in the text, Kimchi and Aben Ezra understand asher before the second verb. The last clause of the verse, however, presents a real difficulty, as we may infer from the variety of interpretations to which it has been subjected. The LXX. has Ἀνψιτασσόμενος ἀντιτάξομαι, "But I will surely set myself in array against them." Jerome, confounding the verb with נשׂה translates, "But I will entirely forget them." Rashi: "I will distribute to them a portion of their cup and of their deeds," viz. as they have deserved by their deeds, Kimchi: "I will raise up enemies against them, who shall carry them into captivity and lay waste their land."Aben Ezra: "I will take them away;" he quotes for this meaning of the text Job 32:2, and takes the prefix le as the Aramaic sign of the accusative, giving as a notable example of the same 2 Samuel 3:30, haregu leabner for eth-abner. The Syriac Version is similar. A more feasible rendering, if the meaning of "take away" be retained, is that of Hengstenberg and others, who translate it: "I will utterly take away from them, or with regard to them," viz. everything. We prefer the sense of "pardon," as given in the Chaldee; in the margin of the Authorized Version; by Ewald, Wunsche, and Delitzsch; and mentioned by Aben Ezra and Kimchi. Thus it will read: "I will no more favor them that I should verily forgive them." The flint verb literally means the pitiful yearning of parental love—the strong feeling of affection which the Greeks expressed by στοργή. Paul's rendering of the word with the privative denotes absence of love; and Peter's the absence of mercy. Both notions are contained in the word, and their relation is well explained by Pussy, who says, It is tender love in him who pitieth; mercy as shown to him who needeth mercy." Now, the connection between such tenderness of love and forgiving mercy is natural and close. Many an instance of this had been experienced in the previous history of Israel; many a time God's compassion had been extended to his erring people, notwithstanding their manifold provocations; but that day is gone—the Divine long-suffering is exhausted. Once Israel is carried captive, there shall be no return; no mercy to restore them, as in the case of Judah.
But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God. Thus the contrast expressed in this verse increases the painful feelings with which the threatened abandonment and consequent destruction of Israel would be regarded. The promised mercy to the house of Judah is emphasized by the peculiar form of the expression. Instead of the pronoun, the proper name of Jehovah is employed; instead of saying, "I will save them by myself," he says in a specially emphatic manner, "I will save them by Jehovah," adding at the same time the important adjunct of "thy God," to remind them of that relationship to himself in virtue of which he interposes thus personally and powerfully on their behalf. An expression somewhat similar in form occurs in Genesis 19:24, "Then the Lord [Jehovah] rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord [Jehovah] out of heaven." And will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle (literally, war), by horses, nor by horsemen. This enumeration is quite in accordance with the prophet's style, as may be seen at a glance by comparing Hosea 2:5, Hosea 2:11, Hosea 2:22; Hosea 3:4; and Hosea 4:13. The manner of this deliverance is very peculiar and unusual; while prominence is given to the absence of those means of defense or deliverance on which the northern kingdom so much relied. The deliverance would be accomplished without the ordinary weapons of war—bow and sword, in the use of the former of which Israel was so celebrated; also without war, that is, without its appliances and material of whatever kind—skilful commanders, brave soldiers, and numerous troops; likewise without horses and horsemen, a great source of strength in those days (parashim, equivalent to "riders on horses," as distinguished from rokebhim, riders on camels). This deliverance, in fact, was to be entirely independent of all human resources. All this points plainly and positively to the deliverance of Judah from Sennacherib in the days of Hezekiah, when in one night the angel of the Lord smote a hundred and eighty-five thousand of the flower of the Assyrian host, and Jehovah thus by himself delivered Judah. Thus, too, Judah is saved from that power before which Israel had previously and entirely succumbed. (Compare, on this miraculous deliverance, 2 Kings 19:1-12.19.37. and Isaiah 37:1-23.37.38)
Now when she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son. As Eastern mothers nurse their children some two or three years, the process of weaning at the end of that period would imply a corresponding interval. This may be merely an incident to complete the prophetic declaration, and pleasingly vary the narrative. It is rather, we think, a pause in the progress of the approaching calamity—a pause indicative of the Divine lothness to execute the final sentence. Or the weaning may be referred, with some, to the entire withdrawal of all spiritual nourishment and support, when promise and prophecy, instruction and consolation, symbol and sacrifice, would be abolished.
Then said God, Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God. Here we have the climax of Israel's fate. The prophet's children, whether actual, visionary, or allegorical, symbolized step by step the sad gradation in Israel's fast-coming calamity. The name Jezreel, whether taken to mean their being scattered by God or their suffering the sorrowful consequences of their multiplied delinquencies, m either ease denotes the first blow dealt to them by Divine providence. Bat from that it was possible by repentance to recover; and, though dispersed, they were not beyond the reach of the Divine compassion, nor beyond the power of the Divine arm to collect and bring together again. But Lo-ruhammah, Unpitied, or Uncompassionated, imports another and a still heavier blow; and, though dispersed far and near, and though left in the places of their dispersion without pity and without compassion, still there might be a good time coming in the near or in the distant future, when a favorable change in their circumstances would be brought about so that they would be both collected together, or comforted and compassionated. The name Lo-ammi, however, puts an end to hope, implying as it does a total rejection and an entire renunciation of the people of Israel on the part of the Almighty. The national covenant is annulled; God has cast off his people, who are thus left hopeless as helpless, because of their sinful and ungrateful departure from the Source of all mercy and the Fountain of all blessing. The expression of this is very touching: "Ye" says God, now addressing them directly and personally, "are not—are no longer, my people; and I will not be yours." Such is the literal rendering of this now sad but once tender expression—tender, unspeakably tender, as long as applicable; sad, inexpressibly sad, now that its enjoyment is forever gone.
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea which cannot be measured nor numbered. The division of the verses at this place is faulty both in our common Hebrew Bibles and in the Authorized Version. The former connects Hosea 1:10 and Hosea 1:11 with the second chapter, and the latter closes the first chapter with these verses, and thus detaches them from the first verse of the second chapter. The correct arrangement combines Hosea 1:10 and Hosea 1:11 of Hosea 1:1-28.1.11 with Hosea 1:1 of Hosea 2:1-28.2.23, and concludes the first chapter with these three verses which are so closely joined together in sense. Here is the usual cycle of events—human sinfulness, deserved punishment, and Divine mercy. Had the last element been wanting, the promise of a countless posterity made to Abraham, renewed to Isaac, and confirmed to Jacob, might appear abolished. Yet, notwithstanding the rejection of Israel, the Word of God remaineth sure. But who are the children of Israel, whose multitude, like sea-saint, defies numeration and measurement? The whole posterity of Jacob or Israel might seem included, as the words of the promise made to that patriarch and those of the present prediction so closely correspond; and Israel is occasionally taken in this wide and general sense. The context is opposed to this; especially does the distinction so sharply marked in the succeeding verse militate against this. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. The place where this great change takes place is either the place where their rejection was foretold, or that where its fulfillment became an accomplished fact. The former was, as is obvious, Palestine; the latter, the place of their exile, and so the lands of their dispersion. Thus the Chaldee, adopting the latter, renders freely as follows: "And it shall come to pass in the place where they lived in exile among the peoples, when they transgressed my Law and it was said to them, Ye are not my people, they will turn and be magnified, and called the people of God." Once this change takes place, their true mission shall be attained and their relations to the living God shall be readjusted. The dumb, dead idols, to which they had bowed down in the days of their apostasy and unbelief shall be cast aside and away for ever. Jehovah the Living One alone shall be the object of their adoration in that day.
Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land. The phraseology of the older Scriptures is here followed. Thus we read in Exodus 1:10, in the words of Pharaoh, the children of Israel "getting them up out of the land" (comp. also Exodus 12:38 and Numbers 32:11); and again, on the report of the spies when the people murmured against Moses and Aaron, "they said one to another, Let us make a captain [head], and let us return into Egypt." In this way the scenes of former days were in some sense to be repeated: an exodus of some sort was again to take place; Egypt was to be abandoned and slavery left behind; they might have a wilderness to traverse, but here again the prospect of a land of promise was to cheer them on their journey and compensate them at its close; in fact, another or better Canaan was before them. Nay, more, the breach between Judah and Israel would be healed, and the disruption which had been so disastrous become a thing of the past. Judah and Israel would again unite and rally together under one head. But the important inquiry remains as to the how or when this prediction was to have fulfillment. Even if we admit the return from the captivity of Babylon to be a fulfillment, it would be but a very partial, though literal, fulfillment of such a grand prediction. That restoration was far too meager in its dimensions to come up to the requirements of, much less exhaust, such a splendid prophecy. Some of Israel—a mere fragment of the ten tribes—united with Judah in the relearn from Babylon: this poor miniature fulfillment, if we may so say, cannot be regarded, except perhaps typically or symbolically, as the fulfillment of the prophet's vivid picture. We must look to gospel times and gospel scenes for the realization of the glorious promise under consideration. Jewish interpreters themselves refer it to the times of Messiah. Thus Kimchi says, "This shall take place in the gathering together of the exiles in the days of the Messiah, for unto the second house there went up only Judah and Benjamin that had been exiles in Babylon; nor were the children of Judah and the children of Israel gathered together; and they shall make for themselves one head,—this is the King Messiah;" similarly, in the 'Betsudath David,' by Altschul, we read on this passage," They shall be gathered together: this will come to pass in the days of the Messiah. One head: this is the King Messiah. And they shall come up; out of the lands of the captivity they shall go up unto their own land." We cannot possibly mistake the objects of this prophecy; they are expressly declared to be "the children of Judah and the children of Israel"—the two distinctive branches of the Hebrew race, the two constituent elements of the Jewish nationality, and comprehending the whole natural posterity of Israel. There can be just as little doubt about the primary and proper application of the prophecy to the conversion of the people of the Jews. For a time they were not to be the people of God; but the testimony of the prophet to their again becoming the sons of the living God is quite unmistakable. They shall appoint themselves one head. "The prophet," says Calvin, "has, by the expression, characterized the obedience of faith; for it is not enough that Christ should be given as a King, and set over men, unless they also embrace him as their King, and with reverence receive him. We now learn that, when we believe the gospel, we choose Christ for our King, as it were, by a voluntary consent." The words are adopted by both Peter and Paul: the former (1 Peter 2:10) employs them as an appropriate description, in Old Testament language, of the happy change of condition consequent on the knowledge of the truth; the latter (Romans 9:25) quotes them more formally in an extension of their meaning beyond their primary import, and proper and literal application to the Jews, as an exemplification of the principle of once not my people, now my people. In this extension of their meaning they embrace, no doubt, the Gentiles, though not the objects originally and chiefly contemplated in the prophecy.
(1) If the place mentioned in the previous verse be, the place or lands of their dispersion, on the change indicated taking place, namely, their conversion to Christ as King, then their coming up out of the laud under the sole headship of the Son of David, the true Shepherd of Israel, may denote their restoration out of all the countries of their dispersion to their ancient territory, again become their own land, and their own in perpetual possession. Thus the Targum understands it of the land of the Jews' captivity; likewise Kimchi: "They shall go up out of the land of their captivity to their own land; for the laud of Israel is higher than all lands, and he that goeth thither goeth up, and he that goeth out of it goeth down." The initial and typical fulfillment was the return of Judah, joined by many Israelites, out of Babylon under Zerubbabel. The final fulfillment may be the restoration of the Jews, converted and believing in Messiah, under Divine guidance, to their own land.
(2) If, on the other hand, the place of the preceding verse be Palestine, the land of their rejection and subsequent recognition as the sons of God, the going up may refer to the going up of the inhabitants of both kingdoms to Jerusalem, the dwelling-place of their common king of David's line; not in the sense of going up, as Ewald and others understand it, to do battle in order to widen the boundaries of their native hind and make room for the returning exiles.
(3) But whether the place be the country of Palestine or the lands of their dispersion, the going up may be understood spiritually of their coming up to join themselves to the Church, or rather to the Church's Head, as under the old economy the tribes of Israel went up out of all parts of the land to worship at Jerusalem. It will thus apply properly enough to their spiritual journey onward and upward to the heavenly Canaan. For great shall be the day of Jezreel. The names of the prophet's children were names of ill omen—God's sowing in the sense of God's scattering, Not-my-people, Not-pitied; now the evil is eliminated, the meaning of the second and third is reversed, and the first is read in a new signification, so that Not-my-people becomes My people, Unpitied becomes Pitied, God's sowing is no longer God's scattering but God's growing. The curse is thus changed into a blessing; great, then, shall be the day so signalized by Divine goodness, so glorious in Divine grace, and so conspicuous for the wondrous works of the covenant-keeping God. Most of the older interpreters take Jezreel here, as in Exodus 1:4 and Exodus 1:5, equivalent to "scattered of God." Aben Ezra says, "But the iniquity of the house of Israel is punished. And behold, it is all said by way of reproach, not praise."
Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah. Divine mercy being now received, the recipients are urged to extend to each other the right hand of fellowship, exhorting one another, encouraging one smother, confirming each other in the faith, and mutually provoking each other to love and good works. "Because the comparison deals with a son and a daughter, the prophet therefore adds, 'your brothers and your sisters'" (Kimchi).
The sin of Israel sharply reproved.
The great sin, the root-sin we may call it, of Israel at this time was idolatry. But that sin was not alone; it was aggravated, as usual, by accompanying abominations. All along, from the period of the disruption, idolatry had been their besetting sin. The oft-repeated statement that Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, "made Israel to sin" has a special significance in this regard. As long as Jerusalem remained the gathering-place of the tribes, arid Solomon's temple remained the national sanctuary, Judah must have retained the supremacy. To undermine that supremacy, or rather to transfer it to Israel, required a stroke of bold, unscrupulous policy; but the audacity, or rather godlessness, of Jeroboam was quite equal to the occasion. Under pretence of facilitating the religious service of his subjects, as though it was too much for them to go up to Jerusalem, but in reality to prevent the people turning again in their allegiance to the dynasty of David, he changed the place of religious worship, appointing Dan and Bethel at the northern and southern extremities of his kingdom—the one on the Syrian and the other on the Judaic frontier. But this change of place necessitated other changes in keeping therewith. The mode of worship had to be changed from that of the true God to that of the calves, symbolical representations of the true God. With such symbolic representation of Deity he had, no doubt, become familiar in Egypt, as previously Aaron and the Israelites had carried it with them on their emancipation from that land. There was something very insidious in this change; it was only a half-measure, but a preparation for the whole. It was not the introduction of new gods, such as Baal and Ashtaroth, the dual deities of Phoenicia, of which sin Ahab was guilty; it was the worship of Jehovah under an external form. It was not the violation, at least directly, of the first commandment, which forbids the having of other gods; it was the transgression of the second, which condemns the making a graven image; so that Stanley says of Jeroboam that "to keep the first commandment he broke the second." The people took far too kindly to the change, and clung to it with fatal tenacity for two hundred years, subsequently even in the time of the Prophet Hoses, as we learn from several passages in this very book the calves were still objects of idolatrous worship. In our study of these verses we have for consideration the following.
I. THE PERSON OF THE PROPHET. He introduces himself to us by his name and surname, or patronymic. His name, Hosea or Savior, is one of good omen and happy augury, at least in his case; his patronymic of Ben-Beeri, "son of my well," has also a pleasing significance of its own. By the former we are reminded of that Savior to whom the prophet pointed and to whom he bore his testimony, and thus became an instrument of salvation; while the surname may call to mind him who is the Well-spring of salvation and the Fountain of living water, according to his own words, "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." Or if the name have reference to the function of the prophet himself, it may denote his pouring out the water of life from the Divine Fountain of life.
II. THE POWER WITH WHICH HE WAS INVESTED. This, of course, touches on his Divine commission, and the corresponding inspiration which qualified him for the proper execution Of that commission. Like the apostles in after times, he claims to hold his commission from God, and to be charged with the commands of God. Thus in Luke 3:2 we read that "the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness;" and in Galatians 1:1 we find the apostle of the Gentiles speaking of his commission in the following terms: "Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead." Thus in the case of Paul, his apostolic authority was not from (ἀπὸ) men, as the source of that authority by whom it is conferred, nor by (διὰ) man, the single representative of any body of men, as the channel of that authority through whom it is conveyed. It was through the two Persons of the blessed Trinity—Son and Father, agent and origin, medium and source—a direct Divine commission. So with the prophet in this introductory passage. But he not only held his commission from God, he had his instructions from God. His position was like that of a diplomatist or ambassador sent out by an earthly sovereign, who is commissioned to represent his sovereign, and in that capacity to adhere faithfully to the instructions he has received, correctly interpreting the will and wishes of his monarch and scrupulously communicating the same. Three several times is the source of Hosea's instructions insisted on. There is the first general statement of the word of the Lord coming to him; then there is the notification of the beginning of the word of the Lord being in Hosea; and next we learn that the Lord spake to him. The conveyance of these instructions is presented under a threefold aspect. They come to him from the Lord and so with Divine authority; they reach him by direct communication, for the Lord himself spoke to him; and they are in him, reflected on his mind and retained in his memory, and ready for present and practical use. God made him a depositary of his truth and thus fitted him for declaring it to others; he revealed his will to him, and by the inspiration of his Spirit qualified him to record it without error for the benefit of present and succeeding generations. Though not possessing or presuming to possess this special inspiration of prophets under the Old and apostles under the New Testament, the preacher of the gospel is truly commissioned and strictly commanded to declare the whole counsel of God, not with wisdom of words, not with enticing words of man's wisdom, not handling the Word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
III. THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE PROPHET. The official life of Hosea reached the length of an ordinary lifetime, falling little short of the ordinary three score years and ten. The summer's heat and winter's cold of all those long and weary years still found him at his post, as a prophet of the Lord. Many a dynastic change had taken place during that period: sovereigns might rise or sovereigns fall; men might come and men might go, but he went on as ever. Faithful to his God, faithful to his king and country, alike pious and patriotic, he persisted in the work to which God had caned him. To most men work long continued at last becomes irksome; the performance of duties in incessant round and for a lengthened period disposes men to seek respite or release; age itself, with its weight of years, brings manifold infirmities; but however it may have been with the prophet, he does not plead age, or infirmity, or length of service, or exhausted energies, or enfeebled strength, or failing powers either of mind or body, in order to obtain exemption from further service, or to secure in the evening of his days that ease or rest which he had so well earned; nay, unceasingly as uncomplainingly he persists in his onerous duties, and plies the task which Providence assigned him.
IV. THE PATIENCE OF THE PROPHET. If our work be pleasant, and especially if it prove successful, we are greatly encouraged thereby, and in some sort enabled to persevere. Want of success, on the other hand, too often paralyzes men's powers and puts an end to their exertions. Not so with Hosea. His efforts for the spiritual amelioration of his people were ineffectual; his labors in that direction were not crowned with the desired success. Yet in shadow as in sunshine, through evil report as good report, whether his work was appreciated or despised, with fruit or wanting it, he had learnt to possess his soul in patience. Many an untoward event, many a froward or perverse action on the part of those to whom he ministered, many a hard speech, discouraged his heart, we are sure, from the history of those evil days and the godless generation among whom he lived and wrought. His patience was tried—sorely tried, yet triumphed over all What a lesson to all who are engaged in work for God!
V. THE PECULIARITY OF THE PERIOD AT WHICH HE PUBLISHED HIS PREDICTIONS, That peculiarity consists in the fact that it was a period of unwonted prosperity. Had it been otherwise; had it been a time of positive decline or partial disorganization; had disintegration actually and obviously set in as at a later period, it might have been said that coming events were so casting their shadows before that a sagacious calculator of probabilities might readily predict the coming catastrophe. But in the reign of Jeroboam II; son and successor of Joash, and largely by his prowess, the power of Israel was revived. During his reign of forty-one years he had enlarged his kingdom beyond all preceding limits from the time of its separation item Judah; he had recovered Damascus, the capital of Syria, though that city had been lost even in the days of Solomon, together with Hamath on the Oronte; the key of Eastern Syria, thus checking if not crushing that hostile power. The northern kingdom had reached an unprecedented height of wealth and power; the sovereign had been triumphant in war, and his subjects were now happy and prosperous in peace. But at this very period of material wealth and military glory, after he had "restored the coasts of Israel from the entering of Hamath [the lower part of the Coelo-Syrian valley, from the gorge of the Litany to Baalbek] to the sea of the plain," amid the splendor of his achievements and the opulence of his subjects, the prophet foretold, not merely the decline, but the actual downfall, of the kingdom of Israel. An important lesson connects itself with this. It is not only the truth of the prediction, so contrary to all calculation, so opposed to all seeming probability, but the warning thus furnished against mistaking temporal prosperity for a proof of Divine favor, or reckoning and resting on the permanence of earthly possessions. In the case before us, however, a worm was at the root of the gourd. The moral progress of the nation was in the inverse ratio of its material prosperity.
VI. THE PAINFUL DECLARATION OF THE NATIONAL SIN. That sin was more than ordinary apostasy, bad as such a state of things assuredly is; it was idolatry which is spiritual adultery. This was expressed by the symbol of the prophet, whether in reality, vision, or parable, wedding an unchaste woman, a wife of whoredoms, by name Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. If such a union, even in symbol, was humiliating to the pure spirit of the prophet, how dreadful for a people to be in a condition so disgustingly loathsome and fearfully sinful, exposed to the deserved wrath of the Almighty, and obnoxious to the doom he has pronounced against such, "Thou hast destroyed all them that go a-whoring from thee!" If such relationship is repulsive in the extreme to every man of proper sentiments and virtuous feeling, how unspeakably hateful to the infinitely holy God to stand in the position of husband to a people so abominably faithless and impure! Yet their Maker had been their Husband, even the Lord of hosts, which is his adorable name.
The sufferings of Israel symbolically recorded.
The three children of the prophet by Gomer symbolize at once a degree of sin and a period of suffering. The forefathers of Israel had been idolaters in their native laud and in Egypt, as we learn from the admonition of Joshua (Joshua 24:14), "Put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt." But God took them into covenant with himself at Sinai; this new relation may be represented by the prophet's espousing at the Divine command Gomer, notwithstanding her previous impurity and lewdness. But though God took the people of Israel into such a close and endearing relation to himself, yet their posterity, instead of proving themselves children of God, often forsook God and fell into idolatry, this apostasy of the descendants through succeeding generations is set forth by the children of whoredoms which the prophet had by a wife of whoredoms. So with ourselves tainted with original sin; we are stained by many actual transgressions. "Sin," it has been well said, "is contagious, and, unless the entail is cut off by grace, hereditary."
I. THE NAME OF THE FIRST CHILD IMPLIES DEGENERACY, Jezreel, if taken in its local sense, reminds of bloodshed as also idolatry, and of the nemesis that in due time followed; but if understood appellatively, the name of dominion implied in Israel degenerates into that of dispersion included in Jezreel.
1. Imperfect work is imperfectly rewarded. No work done for God can make him our debtor, yet he is graciously pleased to reward honest work in his service, the reward being entirely of grace and not of debt. Jehu executed God's judgment on the house of Ahab, and had his reward in the succession of his family to the fourth generation. Though he pretended zeal he did not do the Lord's work sincerely; his own selfish interests and his own base designs mingled largely with his motives, and marred the worth of his work. The obtainment of a kingdom for himself rather than obedience to God was the chief end on which his heart was set. Neither did he perform the Lord's work thoroughly. He abolished the idolatry of Baal, but he adhered to the idolatry of the calves; obviously because the former served his own ends and helped to establish him in the kingdom, while the latter tended, as be thought, to secure his interest in the kingdom and keep his subjects detached from Judah.
2. Punishment, though slow, is sure. Yet a little while and the dynasty of Jehu became extinct; while fifty years afterwards the very kingdom over which that dynasty had ruled ceased altogether to exist. In the interval that elapsed between the extinction of the dynasty of Jehu and the total cessation of the kingdom of Israel a crushing defeat had been sustained in the valley of Jezreel, when the military strength of Israel was completely broken. Whether this was the battle of Betharbel, in which Shalmanezer was victorious, or some other reverse sustained in the invasion by Tiglath-pileser, to the success of which the inscriptions of that monarch testify, we have not perhaps sufficient means of ascertaining. This was the beginning of the end, and a premonition of what was near at hand. The sins of princes and people had gone on accumulating till at length the day of vengeance came. As with nations, so with individuals—
"Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience he stands waiting, with exactness grinds he all."
3. The unexpected often happens. Nothing could have appeared more unlikely in the reign of Jeroboam II. than the destruction of his kingdom within such a comparatively short space. He had proved himself a man of prowess and of power; he had extended the boundaries of his kingdom outwardly, and had consolidated its resources inwardly. He had restored the northern boundary of Israel to what it was in the days of Solomon; he had extended his kingdom southward by the sea of the plain, and to the valley of willows (Isaiah 15:7) between Moab and Edom; he had recovered what had been lost by the victories of Hazael; he had recaptured Damascus. He was, in fact, "the greatest of all the kings of Samaria. As if with a forecast of his future glory, he was named after the founder of the kingdom—Jeroboam II." Yet then, while King Jeroboam was at the zenith of his fame, and the kingdom at the height of its prosperity, the word of the Lord went forth against it. God, who seeth not as man seeth, directed the eye of his servant the prophet to sin unrepented of and unforsaken—that internal moral weakness and rottenness which no amount of material prosperity or power could either rectify or remove.
II. THE NAME OF THE SECOND CHILD IMPORTS EXTREME DESOLATENESS OF CONDITION. Israel is pictured as Lo-ruhamah, and thus represented as a woman, worthless; for she is one of the children of whoredom, weak, an easy prey to the spoiler, a victim of injury and insult, unpitied and unprotected, impenitent and unpardoned. Applied nationally, the conquered people are uncompassionated, and waiting to be carried into captivity. Applied personally, how dreadful is the state of that individual who, by a long course of iniquity, has sinned away the day of mercy, and against whom God has shut up the bowels of his compassion!
1. To Israel as a nation, so to each of us God has showed great and manifold mercies; let us beware of abusing our mercies, and thereby forfeiting them. If we forsake our own mercies for lying vanities, as, alas I so many do, we may expect that those mercies will forsake us, being withdrawn in the providence of God. How sad the condition of those who are in affliction, and yet can have no reasonable assurance of the mercy of God; who are afflicted, and yet cannot plead the Divine pity, or hope for Divine sympathy and succor! Sadder still is the case of those whom death surprises in the condition indicated as not having obtained mercy! God, it is true, is infinite in compassion, and his mercy everlasting to them that fear him; but to the impenitent and unbelieving there is a limit to his mercy somewhere; while to such nations and individuals alike the time may come when he will say, "I will have no more mercy upon them, no more pity, and no more pardon."
2. An aggravation of their misery is the natural consequence of the contrast with Judah in verse 7. Our blessed Lord very touchingly applies a similar contrast when he says, "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out." The Revised Version, which has "cast forth without," makes it yet stronger and more striking.
3. The salvation of Judah at this tired was their deliverance from Sennacherib. To this great event of Jewish history we find frequent reference elsewhere. Thus Isaiah, at the close of Hosea 10:1-28.10.15. and the commencement of Hosea 11:1-28.11.12; has a very striking contrast between the crash of mighty cedars and the springing up of a young shoot from a withered stump—the downfall of the great conqueror with his men of might, and the uprising of a righteous Savior out of the lowliness of the royal house of Judah; in other words, the Assyrian and the Savior. This contrast is couched in the following poetic language: "The Lord of hosts shall lop the bough with terror [i.e. terrific force]: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall lie low; and he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one. And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots." The same prophet, in Hosea 29; pictures the formidable military operations of the Assyrian, together with the suddenness of the disappearance and completeness of the destruction of his mighty host. Of the former he speaks in the first person, as the Assyrian was only the rod of his anger for the purpose of chastisement, and says, "I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and will raise forts against thee;" while of the sudden disaster that would overwhelm them he adds, "And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel [Lion of God], even all that fight against her, and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision;" a little before he had said, "The multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly." In the following chapter (30), naming him by name, he intimates that he had been a rod of chastisement in the Lord's hand, and when that purpose had been served, the rod itself would be broken by the voice of the Almighty: "And through the voice of the Lord shall the Assyrian be broken down that smote with a rod"—the latter was chastisement and discipline, the former destruction. Several of the psalms also contain allusions to the events of Hezekiah's reign connected with this great deliverance—the forty-fourth to Rabshakeh's blasphemy in the words, "The shame of my face hath covered me, for the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth;" the seventy third, a psalm of Asaph, to Sennacherib's destruction, "How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment I… As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou debt despise their image." In like manner the whole of the seventy-sixth applies. The third verse enumerates the peculiar weapons of the Assyrian, and affirms their destruction: "There brake he the arrows of the bow, shield and sword and battle;" the fifth and sixth depict that sleep of death that overtook them so calmly, so noiselessly, and so awfully: "They slept their sleep, and none of the men of might found their hands Both chariot and horse fell into a deep sleep;" the eighth verse adds the solemn awe in which all at last was hushed: "The earth feared, and was still." The ninety-first psalm, which mentions the terror by night and the pestilence walking in darkness, and thousands perishing, may, whatever was the actual occasion of its composition, apply to the destruction of the Assyrian army at the eventful time when Judah was so miraculously saved.
III. THE NAME OF THE THIRD DENOTES DEPLORABLE DEGRADATION. Before this third and last stage is reached there is a respite—some time intervenes.
1. Speaking after the manner of men, we may say with reverence that God seems to repent of his resolution to cast off his people; he shows reluctance to renounce them at once and forever. Hence the delay. So in this very book he questions with himself: "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together." He pauses before proceeding to extremities.
2. Once they were the people of God, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; now they have lost that high position—they are degraded, and that degradation must ere long issue in destruction. God, addressing them directly and, as it were, face to face, tells them plainly," Ye are not my people, and I will not be your God." The word "God" is here supplied, and the original expression is peculiarly tender. It is literally, "I will not be yours—your Father and Friend, or your Husband and Head, or your Sovereign and Savior, or your Patron and Protector." "I will not be to you," as the words still more literally taken mean, "I will not be to you what I once was, what I long continued to be in spite of your numberless provocations, what I would still be but for your gross unfaithfulness, what you need no longer expect me to be in consequence of your base ingratitude. The bend is broken. I have no interest in you nor you in me; I have no honor from you, nor shall ye have benefit by me. You have withheld from me the observance that was duo to me and the obedience which I claimed; I shall withdraw all my mercies and loving-kindnesses from you. No more shall I send you my prophets, no more make known to you my promises; in a word," and including the whole, "I will no more be your God." Similar to the original words is that beautiful expression in Canticles, "My beloved is mine, and I am his" (ani ledodi vedodi li).
Hosea 1:10, Hosea 1:11
There is salvation in store for both Israel and Judah.
1. We must here premise our belief that the two divisions of the Hebrew people—the ten tribes and the two—have been long amalgamated. Even during the Captivity a considerable amalgamation of tribes may have taken place. Though we have the list of families that accompanied Zerubbabel and Ezra from Assyria and Media to Jerusalem, yet the tribal heads of those families are not given, as though their genealogy had been already lost. It has been conjectured, with some degree of probability, that the somewhat indefinite phrases, "Judah and Benjamin" are used by Ezra to denote "the more prominent actors;" while "Israel" designates "the whole nation collectively," including persons belonging to all the tribes. It is certainly remarkable that in the Book of Esther the Hebrews belonging to all the tribes are no longer called "children of Israel" or "children of Judah," but simply "Jews." But besides this fusion of tribes during the Captivity, there would be a considerable admixture of such Hebrews as remained behind with their heathen neighbors; this might be expected from their readiness to contract heathenish intermarriages even in Ezra's time. Many of the original stock of Israel may thus be found in Chaldea and the adjacent countries whither they had been carried captives, while others migrated into regions more remote. The so-called leer tribes may thus comprehend, not only those Israelites that were at so early a period as that of the Captivity incorporated with the children of Judah, but also those that intermingled with or were absorbed among the inhabitants of the Chaldean provinces, and whose descendants are represented by the Nestorians, Yezidees, and other tribes; and in case of those who had removed to greater distances, by the inhabitants of Afghanistan, the Jews of Malabar and elsewhere in India, the black Jews of Cochin China, the Jews of Tartary, and even the North American Indians.
2. This passage of Hoses before us, and that in the second chapter towards the end, which refer to the natural posterity of Abraham, consisting of Israel and Judah, and composing one nationality, are applied in the New Testament to Gentile believers. Hengstenberg draws attention to the paradoxical fact, that, notwithstanding the disinheritance of the natural Israel and in spite of their vast excision, yet "the number of the children of Israel should be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; who, from being not God's people, should be called sons of the living God; that the children of Judah and the children of Israel should be gathered together and appoint themselves one Head, and come up out of the land [of their captivity]; and that great should be this day of Jezreel [or sowing]." He then proceeds to explain this as "first fulfilled in the Messianic time, and as in part still to be fulfilled, when the family of Abraham receives, and will yet more fully receive, an innumerable increase, partly by the reception of an innumerable multitude of adopted sons [Gentiles], and partly by the exaltation of [Israelitish] sons in an inferior, to sons in the highest relation," in other words, by the incorporation of the multitudinous believing Gentries with the faithful remnant of Israel, thus constituting one sublime Israel of God; one family of Abraham, now the father of many nations, the heir of the world.
3. But the sense of the passage is not thus exhausted; more is to be expected. At present Gentiles supply the place of the rejected portion of the natural seed; the ultimate recovery, however, of this rejected and disinherited, because still unbelieving, portion itself is also included, as we believe, in this passage. But whether, with their conversion to God and submission to Messiah, they shall be restored to the "covenant land" from which their sin expelled them, is another question, and one not so easily answered. Indeed, there has been much conflict of opinion in regard to that answer. There is, at least, a presumption that with the pardon of their sin they shall be favored with the "ancient token of reconciliation—their return to the delightsome land."
4. In an able work on "The Future of the Jewish Nation," we find the following statement: "The connection uniformly held forth in Scripture, in the case of the Jews, between defection and dispersion, and between reconciliation and restoration, constitutes strong ground for expecting that the final conversion of the Jews will be accompanied by a final restoration to their fatherland." It is also added in the same work that the restoration advocated is "no voluntary return in a state of unbelief," but "a restoration regarded as God's public token of reconciliation to his ancient and now believing people … neither are we contending for such a restoration as involves separation and seclusion from other nations in the little nook of Palestine … but while the head-quarters, the proper home of the nation, will be in Palestine, there may be an abundant representation of the roving race in all the places of their present dispersion."
HOMILIES BY C. JERDAN
The prophet and his work.
This subject may be appropriately introduced with some remarks about the minor prophets. They are "minor," not because their work was of less consequence than that of the four major prophets, but simply because the Scriptures which they wrote are shorter. The contents of the minor prophets are very unfamiliar to many Christians. Possibly the pulpit is partly to blame for this.
I. THE PERSON OF HOSEA.
1. His name and descent. Our names are mere arbitrary labels affixed to us; but, among the Jews, names were often given in allusion to circumstances in character or destiny. "Hosea" means "salvation." To some readers this name may appear to stand in direct contrast to his message, seeing that he denounced national ruin. Yet it was appropriate, after all; for Hosea's ultimate prophetic word was the redeeming mercy of Jehovah. We know nothing of his father, Beeri; or of his own life, except as reflected in his book. He was a native and citizen of the kingdom of the ten tribes (Hosea 1:2; Hosea 7:5). He loved his fatherland with the deep love of a patriot; and his life-message was to "Ephraim." He is the only prophet of that kingdom who has contributed to the Bible a book which is really a prophecy.
2. His lengthened ministry. Hosea must have been a young man when, during the powerful reign of Jeroboam II; he began his life-work; and he maintained his testimony throughout the turbulent period which ensued after the death of that prince, and indeed nearly to the time of the deportation of Israel into Assyria. He thus labored bravely during more than two generations. He did not withdraw from his ministry after thirty or forty years' work, upon the plea of long service. Nor did he retire on the ground of his non-success, although it does not appear that he ever made a convert, or enjoyed the sympathy of even "a very small remnant" of his fellow-countrymen.
II. HIS TIMES. Hosea lived in the eighth century before Christ, about the time when Rome was being built. He must have begun his labors some years before Isaiah in the southern kingdom. His times were characterized by:
1. Deep spiritual apostasy. Indeed, his life extended over the darkest period of the whole history of Israel. God had, in great grace, espoused the Hebrew people to himself, and had called himself their Husband. But they had been miserably unfaithful to him. The kingdom of the ten tribes, especially, had "committed great whoredom" (verse 2). Its very existence as a separate kingdom was a course of adultery. Its political flirtations with Egypt and Assyria, when it ought to have relied wholly on Jehovah, were acts of adultery. The calf-worship at Jeroboam's two "chapels of ease" was adultery. The Baal-worship introduced by Jezebel, with its shameful rites, was adultery. The nation, in fact, had cast off all fear of God, and lost all knowledge of him.
2. Fearful moral corruption. Wherever the foundations of religion are undermined, immorality becomes gross and rampant. Hoses contemplated almost with despair the universal secularity and violence and dissoluteness (or rather, dissolution) of society in his day. Riot and drunkenness prevailed everywhere. Sensuality was observed as a sacrament in the temples of Baal and Ashtoreth. Rivers of blood flowed through the land (Hosea 4:1-28.4.3).
3. Hopeless political anarchy. After the death of Jeroboam II; the flames of revolution burst forth, and were never entirely quenched until the nation was suddenly carried into captivity. There was often confusion in the government, and sometimes utter anarchy. Kings perished by the hand of the assassin, and factions strove one with another until they were mutually devoured. Soon came the final rush of rain; and Hoses must have lived almost to see it.
III. HIS LIFE-WORK. Hosea is the Jeremiah of the northern kingdom. But his isolation was more complete, his sorrow more tragic, and his prophetic work more barren of results than even Jeremiah's.
1. He denounced Ephraim's sin. The nation had rejected Jehovah as its Husband, and gone a-whoring after other gods. So Hosea was raised up on purpose to rebuke this unfaithfulness in all its forms: the Baal-worship, the calf-worship, the rampant licentiousness, the revolt from the house of David, and the leaning for aid upon heathen powers.
2. He pronounced Ephraim's doom. When he began his ministry there were as yet no signs of ruin. Hosea's thunderbolts dropped at first out of a clear sky. It was the time of Jeroboam II; when the kingdom was in the zenith of its prosperity. But from first to last the prophet warned the ten tribes that their commonwealth would soon become a total wreck. They would be carried away into perpetual exile. God would set their kingdom aside on account of its sins, and not for seventy years only (as would be the case with Judah), but forever.
3. He announced redeeming love in store for Ephraim. For, after all, Hoses was not a despairing pessimist. He spoke with confidence of the continuance of the Divine tender mercy towards Israel. The northern kingdom, as such, must perish; but, notwithstanding, Jehovah will yet have a people for himself, who shall be gathered out of all the twelve tribes. So Hoses mingled with his menaces urgent calls to repentance. His appeals are surcharged with the tenderest pathos. It has been pointed out that he is the first of the Hebrew prophets who calls God's affection for his people by the name of "love;" the first clearly to forecast the Christian conception of the fatherhood of God, with the infinite tenderness implied in it. Hosea's message of grace was that God has still the heart of a husband towards Israel, and the heart of a father towards her children.
IV. HIS scour. It is important to distinguish between a prophet's life-work and his contribution to Holy Scripture.
1. The arrangement. This book is by no means a methodical record of Hosea's long ministry. It comprises only a few notes indicative of its burden and spirit. Yet the order of the book seems to be chronological. The first three chapters tell of the "word" given him before the fall of Jehu's house, and while the kingdom still seemed strong and flourishing. The other chapters reflect those vicissitudes of frightful anarchy and feeble misrule which characterized the fifty years that followed.
2. The speaker. It is worthy of notice that throughout the book the speaker is generally the Lord in his own person. The whole prophecy contemplates Israel's disobedience to "the first and great commandment;" and so the first personal pronouns usually refer to God himself. The Lamentations of Jeremiah is a sad book, but the Book of Hoses reverberates with even a profounder bass of sorrow; it is the saddest book of Holy Scripture, being in effect the lamentations of Jehovah. Hoses shows us the Divine heart as it were agitated with such conflicts of passion as a good man might experience whose conjugal and parental love had been cruelly blighted.
3. The style. Hoses is really a poem. It is so even in literary form; for only Hosea 1:1-28.1.11. and 3. are written in prose. The first three chapters constitute a symbolical introduction, while the body of the book (Hosea 4-14) is a dirge, composed of mingled wailings, entreaties, threatenings, and promises. The style is abrupt, sententious, laconic, and "rather to be called Hosea's sayings than Hosea's sermons" (Matthew Henry). But "a verse may find him who a sermon flies."
4. The profitableness of the book to us. Although Hoses was raised up primarily for Israel, his prophecy has its place as an elect stone in the temple of Divine revelation. It teaches the politician that only "righteousness exalteth a nation." It reminds the moralist that a sound and pure ethics can rest only upon a foundation of living religion. It warns the Christian of the danger of harboring idols within his heart. Hoses is by no means a shallow book. It is not for superficial minds. It requires—as its epilogue (Hosea 14:9) suggests very deep and diligent study.—C.J.
Hosea 1:2, Hosea 1:3
Hosea's marriage and prophetic training.
When this text is announced, possibly some may say, "What a shocking subject to preach about! Well it is shocking, indeed. God intends it to be so. But to our feelings spiritual adultery should be even more revolting than the literal whoredom which the Holy Spirit presents here as its prophetic symbol. And we must not forget that this painful passage records "the beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea."
I. HOSEA'S CONJUGAL DISHONOR. How are we to explain the narrative portions (Hosea 1:1-28.1.11. and 3) of this book? The most interesting problem of Hosea's life, and the "vexed question" in the exposition of his prophecy, lies in the meaning of this story of his domestic experiences. There have been three principal interpretations. At the one extreme is the severely literal view; viz. that Hosea, in obedience to a Divine command, united himself in marriage with a woman notorious for her impurity. At the other extreme is the purely allegorical view; viz. that the narrative is to be regarded merely as a parable; or, at most, that the marriage took place in prophetic vision only (Jerome, Calvin, Hengstenberg, etc). The exegesis which the writer of this homily prefers lies between these two; viz. that Hosea's marriage was real, but that Gomer did not become profligate until after she had borne the prophet's three children (Ewald, Professor A.B. Davidson, Dr. Robertson Smith, etc). No view which it is possible to take is free from difficulties; but this last one is not exposed to the insurmountable objections which, in the writer's judgment, adhere to the two extreme interpretations. It also furnishes an appropriate parallel in Hosea's experience to the love of God for his people Israel. The prophet, accordingly, contracted a marriage which turned out to be unhappy. Gomer did not love God. Her heart became contaminated with the moral miasma which was poisoning the social life of the whole nation. Hosea's quiet home, his simple occupations, and his devout sabbath-keeping, grew distasteful to her. She felt her life intolerably slow. After the birth of her third child she was directly tempted, and wandered and fell. Gomer joined the throng of the priestesses of Ashtoreth, took part in the abominable rites of the Phoenician idolatry, and left her poor husband to "cry to vacant chairs and widowed walls" that she had made his home desolate. Hosea's love for his spouse had been very deep and tender, and he felt that he loved her still, despite the fierce conflict which his affection had now to wage against his outraged honor. It would almost seem too, from the ominous names given to the children, that they also, as they grew up, followed for a time in their mother's evil ways. So Hosea begins his book by showing that it was the blighting of his fireside joys and the breaking of his household gods that first made him "a man of sorrows."
"Now I sit
All lonely, homeless, weary of my life,
Thick darkness round me, and the stars all dumb,
That erst had sung their wondrous tale of joy.
And thou hast done it all, O faithless one!
O Gomer! whom I loved as never wife
Was loved in Israel, all the wrong is thine!
Thy hand hath spoiled all my tender vines,
Thy foot hath trampled all my pleasant fruits,
Thy sin hath laid my honor in the dust."
II. GOD'S PROVIDENCE IN THIS DISHONOR. The shipwreck of his home-happiness taught Hosea very solemn spiritual lessons. He heard in it the voice of Jehovah pointing out to him his life-work. Looking around, he perceived that his experience was not an isolated one. Rather, his home was a picture of the moral state of the entire northern kingdom. The land was reeking with sensuality. And with that sin the sin of idolatry was closely intertwined. So Hosea became very deeply convinced that all the crime and vice of the age sprang from one spiritual root: "The land had committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord." He reflected that his own bitter experience was but a parable of God's experience. What Gomer was to him, the Israelitish nation had been to Jehovah. She had been betrothed to God "in the days of her youth, when she came up out of the land of Egypt;" and the nuptials had been celebrated at Mount Sinai. But, alas I she had fallen now into foul and shameless idolatry. Hosea, from his own sad experience, could have sympathy with God. Himself a victim—and not an eye-witness merely—of the wickedness of his age, he realized more fully than he could otherwise have done the odiousness of Israel's apostasy. When he thought of Gomer, he could understand the words of the second commandment, "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God." And thus his conjugal dishonor was his birth as a prophet. It was "the beginning of the word of the Lord in Hosea." The Book of Hosea is a poem; and while, of course, "the poet is born, not reader events in his own life are oftentimes needed to strike from him the poetic fire. Although the poet is "dowered with the hate of hate, the scorn of scorn, the love of love," it is also true that
"Most wretched men
Are cradled into poetry by wrong:
They learn in suffering what they teach in song."
It was notably so with Hoses. Affliction was his one prophetical school. So, when he now sits down to begin his book, he recounts at the outset his domestic wrongs, in the light of his ripe experience of their Divine meaning. God had "girded" him, though at first he had "not known" it. The Lord had said, in his own Divine plan of Hosea's life, "Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms, and children of whoredoms." The event had taught him that his desolate home was a type of Israel's ruin; and his pity for Gomer—which longed to restore her from her wasted life—a faint shadow of the yearning love of God for his apostate people.
III. LESSONS FOR OURSELVES.
1. God himself is the supreme end of our life. He is so:
(1) To the individual. "Man's chief end is to glorify God." The life which does not do this is a failure.
(2) To the family. This sad story reminds us of the blessedness of household piety, and of a pure family life. Holy Scripture everywhere magnifies the family, and enjoins that the fear of God be enthroned in its very heart. "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it."
(3) To the nation. National religion, on the part of a self-governing people, depends upon the spiritual state of the persons and households which compose the nation. "Departure from the Lord," whether in the case of the individual, or the family, or the commonwealth, is idolatry and adultery; and it leads inevitably to ruin (Psalms 73:27).
2. All of us require to repent of Gomer's sin. Our evil hearts have gone a-whoring from our God; our wrong words and actions are the children born of our adultery. Each of us may say—
"Thou, my soul, wast loved,
As bride by bridegroom, by the eternal Lord;
And thou, too, hast been false."
3. A course of affliction affords a valuable prophetic curriculum. There is a sense in which "all the Lord's people" should be "prophets." But, before we can be fully qualified and accomplished to teach the truth as it is in Jesus, we must be washed, not only in his blood, but in our own hearts' blood also.—C.J.
Not only was the prophet's marriage to be a sign; the children were to be for signs also. So, afterwards, were Isaiah's sons in Judah (Isaiah 7:3, Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 8:3). Hosea's ill-starred children were cursed in the very names which they bore; and each of these was to be as a sermon to the nation. It may be that they personally walked for a time in their mother's evil ways; but whether or not, the names which they received concentrate into a focus Hosea's message of judgment.
I. JEZREEL. (Verses 3-5) "Jezreel" was the name of the great plain in the heart of the northern kingdom which was the glory of Palestine for its beauty and richness, and which has been in all ages a battle-field of nations. It was also the name of the fair city which stood near the eastern end of the plain, where Ahab had his ivory palace, and where Jezebel and he committed so many infamous murders. Now, Hosea's firstborn was called "Jezreel:"
1. To recall the blood spilt there, which was still crying for vengeance. (Verse 4) This must mean the blood shed by Ahab and Jezebel—the murder of Naboth and his sons, and the massacre of the Lord's prophets. But it probably includes also the revolting cruelties of John, by which he exterminated the whole family of Ahab. Divine retribution may slumber for many generations; but it will awake some day, and do its dreadful work. Jehu had destroyed the house of Ahab in obedience to a Divine command, and God had commended him for it (2 Kings 10:30). But, while his act was in accordance with his commission, his motive was not. He had complied with the will of God only in so far as he judged that compliance would advance his own political ends. His "zeal for the Lord " (2 Kings 10:16) was only a thin veneer overlaying his zeal for Jehu. So, although he overturned the altar of Baal, he clave to the calves of Jeroboam. Calvin refers here to Henry VIII. of England as having been a modern Jehu. Henry broke with the pope, not that he might repudiate the errors of the papacy, but because he was determined to divorce Queen Catherine. He suppressed the monasteries, not because they were dens of vice, but that he might deliver a blow at the papal power, and at the same time fill his own coffers with the treasures of the monks. But, again, Hosea's firstborn was called "Jezreel:"
2. To suggest that Israel was about to be scattered by God for its sins. (Verses 4, 5) "Jezreel" in Hebrew sounds and spells like "Israel;" and the play of sound suggests the thought that the nation which had "seen God," and been a "prince that prevailed with God," was to become "Jezreel" in the sense of being "God-scattered" among the heathen. The impending ruin of John's dynasty was to be the beginning of the end. For although the northern kingdom continued for half a century afterwards, it was constantly distressed with civil war, or distracted with revolution and anarchy, until at last Assyria came and subverted it altogether. Not only so, but Israel was to lose its prowess and meet its overthrow "in the valley of Jezreel" itself, hitherto the theatre of its military glory. That smiling plain had been to Israel what Marathon was to Greece, or what Bannockburn is to Scotland. Deborah and Barak, Gideon, Saul, Ahab, had all gained great victories there. Yet "in the valley of Jezreel" "the bow of Israel," which still seemed so strong, was to be irreparably broken. Hosea himself lived to witness, at least in part, the fulfillment of this oracle (Hosea 10:14). And illustrations may be readily multiplied from history of how God can break the pride of an ungodly nation at the innermost shrine of its glory. He did so with Nineveh, with Babylon, with Tyre. He did so again and again at Jerusalem. He did so a few years ago in France, when the victorious German army entered Paris by the Arc de Triomphe, and when King William of Prussia was crowned the first Emperor of United Germany in the palace of Versailles.
II. LO-RUHAMAH. (Verses 6, 7) This second child of Hosea and Gomer was a daughter. Her name, meaning "Not-pitied," brought a still sadder message to the guilty nation than the name "Jezreel" did. To be unpitied by God is a worse calamity than even to be "God-scattered." Hitherto Jehovah had at least always compassionated his erring children. And does not the whole of revelation tell us that the heart of God yearns with infinite tenderness over frail, suffering humanity? "Can a woman forget her sucking child?... Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." Why, then, was Israel called "Lo-ruhamah"? Not because the Divine heart had changed, but simply because she herself insisted upon not being "his own." She persistently "would none of" him. And so, at last, there was nothing for it but to allow her to "eat of the fruit of her own way." Hosea's daughter was to be a living witness by her name that the Divine patience was now at length exhausted. And the presage of this name would be fulfilled in the total and irremediable deportation of the ten tribes into Assyria. In case, moreover, the people should cling to any false hope, the opposite lot of the kingdom of Judah is referred to (verse 7) by way of contrast. Judah was not so thoroughly and hopelessly dissolute as Israel. The southern kingdom had not deserted the temple and the sacrifices. When it was spiritually at the worst, it possessed at least "a very small remnant." So Judah would receive chastisement rather than judgment. And God would "save" Judah, although not "by bow, nor by sword." There would soon be the marvelous deliverance from Sennacherib. Then, after the seventy years' exile, the return from Babylon. And, last of all, in the fullness of the time, the spiritual salvation of Jesus Christ. But all the while, alas! the northern kingdom, as such, was to be unsaved. For Ephraim's apostasy had been unanimous and universal. Not one of its kings was a godly man. And the people would not hearken to God's prophets, but settled down in confirmed wickedness and impenitence. So now at length there was no refuge for Israel even in the compassion of God itself.
III. Lo-AMMI (Verses 8, 9) The name of this third child, meaning "Not-my-people" presaged still worse disaster than either of the preceding. The third installment of judgment would plunge the nation into the lowest depth of all. The withdrawal of the Divine favor could only lead to positive rejection. What though the Jews kept boasting that they were the Lord's chosen people, when "by their works they denied him"! The life of the nation was such as at length to allow him no alternative but to declare that he would not be their God. Jehovah must dissolve his covenant relation to them. He is compelled to disown and disinherit them. Henceforth they are to be no longer a sacred people; they are to differ in nothing from the profane Gentiles. A dreadful doom! Yet still that nation is finally cut off, and that soul is lost for ever, to whom God says these withering, woeful words (verse 9), "I will not be yours."
CONCLUSION. If we can conceive what a dreadful trial it must have been to Hosea to give his children these mystic names, so ominous of woe, we shall be enabled in some measure, as he was, to sympathize with the Lord's sorrow for those in his human family who live and die in obdurate impenitence, and over whom his wailing, despairing lament is, "How often I would have gathered you together, but ye would not!"—C.J.
The curse reversed.
The "yet" with which this passage Clans is a blessed yet. It introduces suddenly an announcement of salvation for Israel. Hosea cannot think of everything as being always for the worst. His children are not to be living witnesses merely of approaching vengeance. So the prophet's sobs of agony are stilled for a little, to give place to the inspiring strains of Messianic promise. He points out three blessings which lie on the other side of the dreadful doom of the northern kingdom.
I. REALIZATION OF THE COVENANT PROMISE. (Verse 10) Some one might naturally ask the question—If Israel is to be "scattered," "unpitied," and "rejected," what is to become of the promises given to Abraham and the fathers of the Hebrew race (Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12)? The prophet replies that these will be in no wise cancelled by the rejection of the ten tribes. The people of the northern kingdom are to be dispersed among the nations; but God's purpose is to gather his Church from the Gentile world as well as from the Jewish. The promises given to Abraham were not so much national as spiritual. While, therefore, the symbolic one hundred and forty-four thousand shall be "sealed," there shall stand with them before the throne the "great multitude, which no man could number" (Revelation 7:4, Revelation 7:9).
II. RECOVERY OF THE NATIONAL UNITY. (Verse 11) In the past there had always been more or less of enmity between Judah and Israel. Long before the disruption of the kingdom, Ephraim "envied" Judah. And for two hundred years now these tribes had also been sundered politically. But, in the good time coming, the twelve tribes shall again become one rod in the hand of the Lord (Ezekiel 37:16, Ezekiel 37:17). The oracle before us implies, further, that prior to this reunion Judah also shall have been rejected and carried into exile for its sins. To whom are we to refer this notable prophecy of the "one head"?
1. It refers typically to Zerubbabel, the head of the tribe of Judah at the return from the exile. Among those who went up with him were, at least, a few belonging to the ten tribes; so that a partial miniature of this union was presented in the return from Babylon.
2. It refers antitypically to Jesus Christ, the "One Head" of redeemed humanity. The literal Judah and Israel shall be reunited in him, along with the spiritual Israel of the whole Gentile Church. He receives the appointment, of course, from his Father; but also from his people, in the sense that they accept and rejoice in it. The lesson here is that only in the gospel of Christ is to be found the true basis of the brotherhood of the human race. The name of Jesus is the one adequate symbol of life and liberty. Only his body, the Church, can communicate to the world the blessings of the ideal republic—liberty, equality, fraternity. Union among men can only spring from their common union with God.
III. RESTORATION TO THE DIVINE FAVOR. In the names of Hosea's three children God had denounced woe upon Israel. But these very names may also be understood so that they shall convey an assurance of mercy and redemption. It may be, indeed, that after following for a season in the evil ways of their mother Goner, the three young people were themselves converted, and thus became qualified in character to illustrate their father's prophetic message on its side of promise.
1. "Jezreel" will mean "God sows." (Verse 11) This name shall be purified from its baser associations, and be understood again in accordance with its richest meaning. Originally suggestive of the beauty and fertility of the plain of Esdraelon, its application shall be extended, in the spiritual sense, to the whole of Palestine and of the world (Isaiah 35:1, Isaiah 35:2). When God sows there is sure to be a glorious harvest; hence the Messianic promise, "Great shall be the day of Jezreel."
2. "Not-my-people" will become "My people." In the good time coming, the men of Israel are to salute one another no longer as "Lo-ammi;" but, joyfully dropping the negative, as "Ammi," i.e. those whom the Lord has again called to be his people. This name anticipates "the adoption of sons" under the New Testament. Hence we find the Apostle Peter applying this passage to the Jews of the dispersion (1 Peter 2:10); and the Apostle Paul to the reception of the Gentiles, in opposition to the Jews (Romans 9:25, Romans 9:26). The words of the latter are not merely an ingenious adaptation of the prophecy to the heathen nations; they are an argument based upon the fundamental thought of it. Israel, through its apostasy, had fallen from the covenant of grace, and had taken its place spiritually as part of the Gentile world, which served dead idols. So the re-adoption of Israel carried with it the adoption also of the Gentiles as the spiritual children of God.
3. "Not-pitied" will become "Pitied." (Verse 1) The word "Ruhamah" will be applied to the daughters of the people, to express the climax of the Divine love. Israel is again to be the object of the Lord's tender and yearning affection. On the other side of all the sin and doom Hosea discerns the sovereignty of Jehovah's compassion and loving-kindness, and he calls upon the people rapturously to celebrate it.
CONCLUSION. How great the encouragement which these three verses afford to any of us who feel that we have, in our own lives, grievously departed from the living God l We, in this age, should understand more clearly than even Hosea did the unspeakable mercy of Jehovah. The prophet says nothing, for example, about the ground or method of the Divine forgiveness. But God has unfolded this "in these last days" in speaking "unto us by his Son" (Hebrews 1:2). The Lord Jesus Christ has come as the Prophet of the Church to emphasize and carry forward Hosea's message'' Jezreel," "Ammi," "Ruhamah."—C.J.
Great shall be the day of Jezreel.
Jezreel means "sown of God," or "God's sowing" (Hosea 2:22, Hosea 2:23). These words embody a rich Messianic promise which has already been partially fulfilled, but the complete realization of which is yet in the future. The import of this oracle was not exhausted by the return from Babylon; we may reasonably apply it still to every "high day" in the history of the Church. Some of these "days of Jezreel" are as follows:—
I. THE DAY OF THE INCARNATION. On that day Jesus Christ was sown in the earth, "the Seed of the woman." He fell into the soil of our humanity, that he might make it bring forth and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit. The manifestation of God in the flesh has cut history in twain. Behind the Incarnation lies a moral wilderness; before it stretches the summer and harvest of the world.
II. THE DAY OF THE PASSION. Then the "corn of wheat fell into the ground and died," that it might "bring forth much fruit." And has not the Lord's death been fruitful indeed? It possesses healing virtue for every sin-wounded son. It is the spring of all right thinking and of all noble living among men. Jesus "with his pierced hand has lifted empires off their hinges, has turned the stream of centuries out of its channel, and still governs the ages" (J. P. Richter).
III. THE DAY OF THE RESURRECTION. Christ is "the First-begotten of the dead," and "the Firstfruits of them that slept." Because he lives, his people shall live also. His resurrection both secures and illustrates the quickening of the souls and bodies of the saints. The weekly return of the Lord's day commemorates the great truth that His resurrection has brought with it the new creation of the world.
IV. THE DAY OF PENTECOST. That was the birthday of the New Testament Church. The events which took place on it presaged an illustrious career for the cause of the Redeemer. On that day the Holy Spirit descended in the fullness of his saving power; and the gospel seed which was then sown yielded an immediate and copious harvest, typical, too, of its destiny ultimately to cover the earth (Acts 2:9-44.2.11).
V. THE DAY OF SALVATION. This day has already lasted for eighteen centuries. We are living in the streaming noontide of it. "Now is the accepted time" (2 Corinthians 6:2), The day of grace embraces every occasion regarding which it may be said, "Behold, a sower went forth to sow." And, as the result of all, "a seed shall serve him." "He shall see his seed."
VI. THE DAY OF REVIVAL. Sometimes the Church loses its spiritual freshness. It becomes parched and barren and desolate. But God pours out upon it the plentiful rain of his Spirit; and soon conversions are multiplied, and the whole Church smiles again with the verdure of piety and righteousness, like a spiritual valley of Jezreel "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty," etc. (Isaiah 44:3, Isaiah 44:4).
VII. THE DAY OF MISSIONARY TRIUMPH. It is the special function of the Church to bring the heathen nations to the knowledge of the truth. This work God will bless. "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." The fruit of the "handful of corn" "shall shake like Lebanon." The spiritual wilderness "shall blossom abundantly;" and in our times we see the fields" white already to harvest."
VIII. THE DAY OF MILLENNIAL GLORY. The Church is to enjoy a lengthened period of prosperity in the latter days before Christ's second coming. While the millennium lasts, "the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in," and the Jews shall be reingrafted into their own olive tree. Over all the world "Not-my-people" shall become "My people," and "Not-beloved" shall become "Beloved." The whole earth shall be God-sown, and shall "yield her increase."
IX. THE DAY OF THE NEW CREATION. At the "great and notable day of the Lord" the Church will be conducted, through the final baptism of fire, to "the restitution of all things." There are to be "a new heaven and a new earth," adapted to the resurrection-bodies of the saints, and fitted for the habitation of the glorified Church. What a great day that shall be, when Paradise shall be restored, and the garden-city of the New Jerusalem shall come down out of heaven from God I
"There falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard-lawns,
And bowery hollows crowned with summer sea."
CONCLUSION. This grand picture is only still beginning to be realized. But the work is God's, and so we are confident that no part of it shall fail. "Jezreel" is "God's sowing." The seed is his. He is also the Sower. He will bless the springing thereof. He will fill the face of the world with fruit, and at last gather the wheat into his garner.—C.J.
HOMILIES BY A. ROWLAND
Hosea 1:4, Hosea 1:5
The political anarchy and social degradation of the kingdom of Israel during the time of Hosea arose from causes too deep to be reached by the panaceas of politicians, or by the nostrums of political economists. Willful and persistent disobedience to Divine Law was the secret source of these disorders, which called for a radical change in the hearts of the people. This, however, it seemed hopeless to expect from the nation at large. It was given over to its impenitence and hardness of heart. Hence, while there are words of promise for individual penitents, which break upon our ears like songs in the storm, there are none for the nation. Over it was creeping the darkness of a night which would have no dawn, the dreariness of a winter which would never be followed by a spring. The intensity of feeling with which a patriot like Hosea would utter such denunciations accounts in some degree for his obscurity, his sentences sounding sometimes as though broken by sobs. The degraded condition of those he addressed, demanding as it did a style of teaching which would compel attention, necessitated the bold sketches and glaring colors which abound in his prophecy. From the passage before us we learn the following lessons:—
I. THAT A LITERAL OBEDIENCE TO A DIVINE COMMAND MAY ULTIMATELY BRING PUNISHMENT INSTEAD OF REWARD. "I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu." The reference is to one of the greatest tragedies in history, recorded in 2 Kings 9:1-12.9.37. and 10. Jehu destroyed the guilty house of Ahab, and the powerful hierarchy of Baal and Astarte, in obedience to God's command. Why, then, was this blood to be avenged upon his house? Because, as Calvin puts it, "the massacre was a crime so far as Jehu was concerned, but with God it was a righteous vengeance." In other words, a n act which is commanded by God may be so done as to become a crime to the man who does it. Let us take Jehu as an example of this
1. Jehu sinned in his obedience because he was seeking his own ends, and not God's. He slew the princes of Ahab's house because they might rebel against himself; and destroyed the priesthood of Baal and Astarte because, as they owed their position to Jezebel, they would foment dissension, and use their influence against his usurpation. God does not seek such obedience as this. He teaches us to pray, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven," though the answer to the prayer may destroy our own cherished plans. The highest exemplification of this spirit we see in our Lord, who, being in an agony in Gethsemane, prayed, "Father, not my will, but thine, be done." In later times the Pharisees sinned just as Jehu had done; and Christ, who read their hearts, declared that, although they obeyed the Law, they were condemned by God in their obedience, because they sought not his honor, but their own. Such sin is possible to you. If you do what is right in business merely because "honesty is the best policy," and trade depends on a good reputation; if you give to the poor for the sake of the popularity you can win; if you abstain from a sinful indulgence because you can no longer afford it, or fear you may lose some prestige;—you have in all these things "your reward;" you will gain what you seek, but nothing more. Yours is the sin of Jehu, who won the throne because he obeyed; but at last had this curse because he wrongly obeyed. Seeing, then, that you have to do with him who decides unerringly about the motive of every act, put up the constant prayer, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."
2. The sin of Jehu also appeared in this, that he loved and practiced the very sins he had been called upon to punish in others. (2 Kings 10:31) He refused to worship Baal and Astarte, not because they were idols, but because their worship was associated with the house of Ahab. But he did worship the calves (and so was equally idolatrous), because this cultus served his political ends, and seemed essential to the independent existence of the kingdom of Israel (see 1 Kings 12:25-11.12.33). He hated the sinners, but he loved their sins; the very reverse of what was true of our King, who hated sin, but loved us and died for us "while we were yet sinners." Now, if we punish a person for wrongdoing, and yet do the wrong ourselves, we are not only inconsistent, but we prove that we are sinning against the light, and so aggravate our offence. Suppose, for example, that a parent rebukes his child for swearing, while he himself is guilty of that sin, though right in the actual reproof, he is wrong, as Jehu was, in its insincerity. Paul contemplates this in Romans 2:3, where he asks, "Thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?" Such were the two elements of sin in Jehu's outward obedience, which called for the threat, "I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu."
II. THAT DEPARTING FROM GOD IS THE BEGINNING OF ALL SIN. Calf-worship (a modification of Egyptian idolatry) was less hideous and degrading in its ritual than that which desecrated the groves of Astarte or the high places of Baal. But it paved the way for these grosser idolatries. Indeed, even in itself it was not so innocent as some declare it to have been; for the calf did not represent Jehovah, but "nature," so this was the worship of the creature, as opposed to that of the Creator. In less gross forms this idolatry appears in modern times. Many talk of "nature" till they forget God in his works, and are in spirit followers of shrewd, irreligious Jeroboam, who set up the calves at Dan and Bethel, and so made Israel to sin. In that false worship were found the germs of other sins. Spiritual adultery was followed by carnal adultery. Faithlessness towards God led to unfaithfulness towards man. So men became entangled, as they ever do, in the meshes of sin, till they were "drowned in destruction and perdition." It is because we are fearful of the consequences of departure from God that we are anxious about many who are dead to us. They have contracted no notorious vices and are unstained in reputation; but they have no safeguard against the worst sins and woes, so long as it is true that "God is not in all their thoughts." They are as much exposed to danger as the sheep on the fields of Bethlehem were before David, their shepherd, rich in his heroism and strength, slew both the lion and the bear. An estranged life is an endangered life.
III. THAT A TIME OF OUTWARD PROSPERITY MAY BE A TIME OF APPROACHING DESTRUCTION. "I will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel." Never had the realm seemed more prosperous than when Hosed uttered this prophecy. It was daring the reign of Jeroboam II. a brave and able man, who had regained all that Hazael had conquered, had subdued Moab and recovered Damascus. The kingdom seemed strong, but it was on the eve of disruption. So has it often been. When the King of Babylon was feasting with his nobles, Cyrus was marching up the bed of the river, transforming the city's means of defense into its means of destruction. When the people of the Roman empire were giving way to luxury, as men who could afford to relax the old toil and strain, the Goths were at their gates. Let any nation fail in moral strength amidst material prosperity, and forget that it is "righteousness which exalteth a nation;" let it in spirit say to itself, "Thou hast much goods laid up for many years," then there sounds from heaven the warning words, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee!" Nor ought a Christian Church to consider that its wealth and numbers constitute a gauge for its stability and spiritual strength, for not infrequently its truest prosperity has been seen in the days of persecution for righteousness' sake. To ourselves also let us fearlessly apply the same principle. Our peril may be greatest in our hours of success and prosperity. Woo is nearest when all men speak well of us; for it is when we have eaten and are full that we must beware lest we forget the Lord our God.
IV. THAT A SCENE OF MEMORABLE VICTORIES MAY BECOME THE SCENE OF FINAL DEFEAT. "I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel." The "bow" is always in Scripture an emblem of strength, and here denotes the military and political power of Israel, which would be broken in the valley of Jezreel. No place was more distinguished than this for the execution of Divine judgments against the foes of his people. There the hosts of Sisera were scattered by Barak, and there the Midianites slept securely in their camp till, in the dead of night, Gideon with his three hundred swept down the hillside like an avalanche and overwhelmed them. This place, made memorable by former victories, was to become the scene of final defeat to God's people who had become God's foes. This dreadful change was strikingly set forth by the two contrasted names, "Israel" and "Yidsreel," names which implied that it was brought about by change in character; for the people were no longer "Israel," having power with God, but had become "Yidsreel," scattered by God, from him and from each other. Israel's bow should be broken in the valley of Jezreel. What is the bow of our strength? If it be not in Jehovah it will be broken; for the day of retribution must come upon all that sets itself against God, or dares to take his place. We are hastening on to a final conflict which will test us to the utmost. In the valley of the shadow of death our fathers have exclaimed, "Now thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory;" but if we forsake God as Israel did, that place of holy memories will be to us, not the place of conquest and song, but of defeat and shame, for there that in which we have foolishly trusted will be broken, like the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.—A.R.
"But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen." The contrast between the kingdoms of Judah and of Israel, in their nature and destiny, is here expressly declared. For Israel there was no hope; although pardon awaited any man amongst that people who turned unto the Lord, for no nation has been so godless, no family so vicious, but that every penitent in it may come with confidence to God. As for the kingdom, however, it was founded in rebellion against David's house, and therefore against the Divine purpose. Its distinguishing mark was idolatry; the calves at Bethel and Dan indicated its limits, and the counsels of God, through his prophets, had been ostentatiously rejected. Hence the time had come when the people should be given over to the heathen whose worship they had chosen, and the words of the preceding verse announced their irrevocable doom. "I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel, but I will utterly take them away." Very different was the position of the house of Judah. With all their imperfections and sins, the Jews still frequented the sacred temple, and there by appointed worship bore witness to the existence and unity of the living and true God. Judah was, therefore, still to be God's ark, borne down the stream of time amidst the debris of fallen empires, until he should come forth from it who was the King of Judah, the Son of David, the Redeemer of the world. The Jews were to be humiliated and punished for sin, yet they should not as a people be destroyed; and so they were cheered by the promise, "I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God." The earlier fulfillment of these words is recorded in 2 Kings 19:1-12.19.37; where we read of the deliverance of Jerusalem, not by brave defense, nor by bribes, nor by auxiliaries, but by the unseen pestilence which slew a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the crowded camp of the Assyrians. Nor was the promise exhausted then, but was again fulfilled when the Jews of the Captivity, to their own amazement, were restored, not by revolt or stratagem, but by the free offer of the magnanimous Cyrus (Ezra 1:2, Ezra 1:3). Our text, however, has more than a local and temporary interest. The principle of Divine deliverance, through other than human means, perpetually asserts itself in Old Testament history. It was the first lesson the Israelites were taught after leaving Egypt, when at the Red Sea Moses said, "Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord! He shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." And this lesson, emphasized in the wilderness, was repeated immediately Canaan was entered, when the walls of Jericho fell before the strength of an army which lifted up no weapon against it. In elucidating this principle of Divine deliverance we observe—
I. THAT IT IS MAN'S NATURAL TENDENCY TO TRY TO DO WITHOUT GOD, to trust the bow, and the chariots of human providing. The story of the prodigal is repeated constantly. Every man says in effect, "Father, give me my portion; let me see how I can do for myself without thee." It is only by-and-by, when he finds that there are worse friends than the Father, and wearier places than the home, that, clothed in rags, with failing heart and many a tear, he says, "I will arise, and go to my Father."
1. Israel showed this tendency. They confided in their bravery and patriotism and in the strength of Egypt, believing that unitedly they could construct a dam against which this great sea of Assyria, surging in so ominously, would break in vain. It was not an unreasonable expectation from the human point of view; for it seems still accepted as an axiom that "Providence is on the side of big battalions," and that the destinies of peoples are decided by their material resources. Hosea would be rebuked as a prating preacher who was going beyond his province, when he urged that righteousness and godliness were elements which demanded consideration; by the lowest subaltern and by the highest general his counsels would be laughed to scorn, though events showed that he was right.
2. Temptations to this were never stronger than now. In proportion as our powers develop, our liability to trust to them, and not to him who gave them, increases. In our day physical sciences have grown, and the principles so educed have been swiftly and boldly applied to our necessities. We are pointed to evidences in every direction of the constancy of law and the absence of fortuity. Indeed, the religious fallacy of Judah has been formulated into the philosophy of Positivism, which recognizes nothing but that which the intellect can prove, and excludes everything spiritual and supernatural. It points out that in human distresses we should turn to science, not to God; and that the study of political economy and natural science may fairly supersede the preaching of righteousness as a means of salvation to a people. We do not disparage scientific discoveries, but rather rejoice that they are made so frequently and fearlessly. We only ask men to recognize that there is another sphere not discoverable by the intellect, which underlies and impinges upon the sphere of sensuous life, and. that, while things seen are temporal, there are things unseen which are eternal. Well may one of the characters in 'The New Republic' be represented as saying to such teachers, "Your mind is so occupied with subduing matter, that it is entirely forgetful of subduing itself—a thing, trust me, that is far more important." But the disappointment of men's shrewdest anticipations proves that the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. "The shields of the earth" (the means of defense, temporal and spiritual) "belong to the Lord."
II. THAT THE DISCIPLINE OF LIFE IS INTENDED TO ERADICATE THIS TENDENCY TO FORGETFULNESS OF GOD. God rarely disappoints expectations which are founded on a study of natural law; for to act in accordance with natural law is to put ourselves in harmony with the Divine will, law being the expression of will. Yet there should be no idolatry of law, because it works in an orderly way. Law without God is a body without life, a machine without motive power. To bring about a belief in this, "time and chance happen to all;" in other words, things occur which are not expected and could not have been foreseen.
1. In history we see that God has often baffled man. He has defied probabilities, and chosen things which were weak to confound things which were mighty. Take as an example the destinies of Assyria and Judah, which were utterly unlike what man would have predicted. Assyria, in Hosea's time, was the strongest creation of military force, and political genius. In the magnificence of her wealth, and the splendor of her palaces, she rose before men's thoughts gloriously as the image Daniel saw in his vision. But no politician would have expected what the prophet foresaw—that a stone cut without hands would come from the mountain and smite that gigantic fabric to the dust; that those richly peopled plains would become the haunts of the bittern and owl, and the lair of wild beasts. Meantime Judah, a little despised kingdom, tossed helplessly between the opposing forces of Egypt and Assyria, like a piece of seaweed between two enormous waves, was to be "saved by the Lord her God." And thence, in the fullness of time, there came forth One whom men recognized as possessing the highest power, and amidst the ruins of a greater empire than Assyria herself, Christ, the true Ruler, founded a kingdom which never shall be moved. The world's expectations were set at naught.
2. Have not our previsions often been falsified, and our best plans frustrated, so that the old adage has reasserted itself, "Man proposes, God disposes"? Happy is it if, amidst the ruins of our enterprises, we can say, "it is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good."
III. THAT MORAL VICTORIES ARE PREPARED FOR BY QUIET WAITING. God appoints quiet times for the recuperation of all life. The winter prepares for the spring. Sleep makes us ready for toil, and without it the world would go mad. So in the moral world. Work has been done most bravely and successfully by those who have had seasons of trust and waiting. Elijah had to learn that there was more power in the "still small voice" than in wind, or earthquake, or fire. Saul of Tarsus had to rein in his fiery spirit, and for three years was learning God's answer to his question," Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Neither Luther in the Wartburg nor Bunyan in the prison was wasting time, but gaining strength. Let us learn to wait as well as to work; and instead of being careful and troubled about many things, sit at Jesus' feet to hear his word, and "in quietness and confidence will be our strength." It is not by our subtle reasoning that we shall conquer our doubts, nor by our doings that we shall win salvation, nor by our efforts of speech that we shall save souls; for "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God." He has mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them neither by bow, nor sword, but by the Lord their God.
IV. THAT ITS HIGHEST EXEMPLIFICATION IS SEEN IN CHRIST'S REDEMPTION OF THE WOULD. Had he come in manifested glory, the skeptic would have been silenced and the wrongdoer abashed; but he was made lower than the angels, that he might suffer death upon the cross. Born in a stable, he was nursed by the poor, depended on the wages of a carpenter for his food, and played with the common children in Nazareth. Having begun his ministry, he called to himself none of the leaders in the ecclesiastical, or intellectual, or social life of his age; but appointed Galilean fishermen as his representatives. Then he let his foes do their worst. No angelic forces hurled back his assailants, no trumpet-peal startled the court during the mockery of his trial; but he was taken "by wicked hands, crucified and slain." And when he had passed away from earth, his disciples, without human advantages, won the world's attention and established the kingdom of the Lord amongst all peoples. "It pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believed." Consider:
1. The principle which underlies our text has its application in the experience of every Christian life. We are justified, not by the works of the Law, but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We conquer our easily besetting sins, not by strenuous resolve or Christian association, but by him who, working through these, says, "Without me ye can do nothing." We are saved from the fret of care, not because we are strong and brave to bear it, but because we have learnt to cast all our care upon him. We obtain rest from mental difficulties, not by reasoning, but by trusting, and leaving much contentedly to God's future revelation. And in our last conflict salvation will be ours, not through the memory of past service, nor through our clear perception of what awaits us in the unseen world, but through the realized presence of him who came to receive us to himself and to give us the victory.
2. And finally let us apply the principle to the accomplishment of Christian work. The foes of Christ are still around his Church, and they will be conquered, not by the bow of intellectual, or social, or civil power, but by the Lord our God. You will never conquer skepticism by logical demonstrations; nor cast out heresy by persecution or the thunders of excommunication; nor put down vices by civil law; nor compel the heathen to submit at the Feint of the sword. But against these evils they will prevail who trust, not in men, but in God; who, conscious of human helplessness, look beyond all that is seen as those who can re-echo the psalmist's words, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help." For beyond the reach of mortal weakness and transient power he reigns who of old uttered this promise, "I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen."—A. R.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
The word of the Lord.
It is characteristic of the inspired Hebrew prophets that they sank themselves, their own individuality, in their Divine commission, and in the authority which accompanied it. In reading their prophecies we feel, as those to whom they were first addressed must have felt, that there was no desire on their part to speak their own thoughts, their own words.
I. FROM WHOM THE WORD COMES. Their formula was this: "Thus saith the Lord." Their word was "the word of the Lord." This is witness:
1. To the personality and spiritual nature of God. Words are the clothing of thought. He who speaks first thinks. The Divine mind is presumed in the Divine utterance. Language like that of the text could not be used of a principle, an abstraction, a law, an unconscious force, such as stone would thoughtlessly substitute for the living God.
2. To the interest of God in the moral state and welfare of men. Why should the Supreme concern himself to address the members of our race? That he has done so is evidence of his grace and benevolence. And to this the mission of the prophets bears witness only less powerfully than the advent and ministry of the incarnate Word.
II. BY WHOM THE WORD CAME.
1. By the medium of human spirits. There might have been other methods of communicating with mankind; but infinite Wisdom made choice of this. Man has ever been the minister of God to man.
2. The appeal of Heaven is thus seen to be to the human reason and conscience. It is plain that the Divine intention was not to overwhelm with an irresistible impression, but to convince and to persuade.
3. The Lord made choice of agents morally in sympathy with his holy character and aims. The prophets uttered the word of God, but they made that word their own. They plainly felt indignation with rebellion and unfaithfulness, and commiseration for wretchedness, and joy in every righteous endeavor and aim. In a word, they were what their designation implies—inspired utterers of the Divine mind, voices to all who would hear.
III. TO WHOM THE WORD CAME.
1. In every case it came to beings naturally capable of understanding it, and therefore responsible for the manner in which it was received.
2. To Israel the word came with an especial emphasis and adaptation; for the people had already received from the Lord such revelations as rendered them peculiarly qualified now to hear and to obey.
3. The especial circumstances of the northern tribes, the northern kingdom, were such as to make it peculiarly appropriate that Hosea should address to them language, first of severity, and then of consolation and encouragement.
4. The fact that these prophecies form a part of the canon of the Old Testament is an evidence that these words are profitable to all; and of this the experience of the Church is a sufficient confirmation.—T.
The figurative language in which Hosea was inspired to expose and denounce the sinful idolatry and apostasy of Israel is startling, and the symbolic act in which these sins were set forth in their abomination and horror is evidently intended to shock the mind of every reader.
I. GOD IS THE HUSBAND OF HIS PEOPLE. Human relationships are pressed into the service of religion; and the fact that God created man in his own image is the justification of such similitudes as that of the text. The Creator is represented as the King, the Father, and the Husband of the children of men. Under each relationship some new aspect of religious life and duty is brought into prominence. Jehovah declares that he espoused Israel in selecting her from among the nations, admitting her to special' intimacy, and conferring upon her peculiar dignity and favors.
II. GOD'S PEOPLE ARE UNDER OBLIGATION TO FAITHFULNESS TO THEIR LORD. The wife who has accepted a man as her husband binds herself to "keep to him only." Adultery has ever been regarded as a shameful vice and crime. How much more are those, whom the eternal Supreme has favored with the revelation of his Law and his purposes, bound to render to him the most loyal and faithful service! He alone is to be worshipped, adored, obeyed, and served. Israel was distinguished among the nations by many events in the national history; and "in these last days" all to whom the gospel has come are signally honored, and are placed under a sterner responsibility.
III. IRRELIGION AND APOSTASY ARE NOTHING LESS THAN FLAGRANT INFIDELITY. When Hosea wrote, the northern tribes, constituting the kingdom of Israel, were again and again guilty of idolatry, and even those who were free from this stain in many instances fell into gross ungodliness and disobedience. Such conduct was represented as equivalent to spiritual adultery. Israel forsook her espoused husband and went after other lovers, and attached herself guiltily and disgracefully to the worthless rivals who wooed her. And all who depart from God are guilty of infidelity of a flagrant kind, such as the Lord cannot overlook or treat with indifference.
IV. THE UNFAITHFUL ARE SUMMONED TO REPENTANCE, AND ARE INVITED TO RETURN TO THE LORD. Conscience witnesses to the justice of God's claims and to the sinfulness of neglecting and outraging them. And the word. of the Lord comes to the unfaithful in mercy and compassion. For, whilst he might righteously cast off his unfaithful spouse, he graciously opens the arms of his love and welcomes hack the penitent and the contrite.—T.
The iniquity of Israel surpassed that of the sister kingdom of Judah. Hence the awful message of the Lord to the former, contrasting with the declaration of favor made towards the latter. There is perhaps nothing more terrible in the whole of revelation than the name symbolically given to the daughter of Hosea, regarded as representing the idolatrous and rebellions nation of Israel—the Unpitied!
I. THERE IS A WITNESS TO THE ENORMITY OF HUMAN SIN. Men sometimes imagine that God is indifferent to the conduct of man. But the truth is that while he is merciful, while his mercy endureth forever, he is not on this account an unobservant Governor. If he were not righteous, his mercy would be unmeaning. If he forgets to be gracious, if he lays aside his compassion, that which provokes him to such action must be iniquity of the deepest dye.
II. THIS WITNESS IS ALL THE MORE STRIKING BECAUSE OF GOD'S MERCIFUL NATURE AND DISPOSITION. That some kings show no pity to their enemies, to rebels and traitors, seems only natural; their character is stern and unforgiving. But this is far from being the case with Jehovah. All Scripture concurs in exhibiting him as rich in mercy, as delighting in mercy, as unfailing in mercy. If, then, he in any case refuses or withholds mercy, his most glorious attribute seems to be in abeyance. He does not refuse mercy for his own pleasure, but only when its exercise would lead to anarchy and encourage rebellion.
III. THE REFUSAL OF MERCY IS NOT IRREVOCABLE. It is not for us to question the consistency of contiguous representations of the Divine government and purposes. We take them as we find them. And we observe that even when denunciations so terrible as that of the text have been uttered, after all they are followed by promises of deliverance and blessing.
IV. ACCORDINGLY THE THREATS OF GOD SHOULD NOT LEAD THE SINNER TO DESPAIR, BUT RATHER TO REPENTANCE. TO some temperaments especially, language like that of the text is productive of great depression as well as of serious concern. Let it, however, be remembered that to dread the Divine displeasure is one step towards the Divine favor. It is the insensible and impenitent who are working out their own destruction; whilst the man who trembles at God's word is in the way for blessing. They who deserve no mercy may nevertheless obtain mercy; but only by sincere contrition, unrestrained confession, deep repentance, and a confidence in the Divine grace, which is warranted by the gospel of Jesus Christ.—T.
Salvation, not of man, but of God.
It may well be that there was in this verse a prediction of one certain definite interposition of the Lord on behalf of Judah. Whilst the northern kingdom should be forsaken, and consequently conquered and desolated, Judah, it was foretold, should experience a very signal instance of Divine delivering mercy. The destruction of the host of Sennacherib, when
"The angel of death spread his wings on the blast,
And breath'd in the face of the foe as he pass'd,"
exactly corresponds with the language of this verse. Human power and bravery were not the means of the deliverance of Jerusalem; this was due to the intervention of a Divine and omnipotent hand. It is well that pious minds should recognize the wisdom and the power of God in every work of deliverance, and especially in the unparalleled interposition wrought on behalf of our humanity by Jesus Christ our Savior.
I. MAN'S SALVATION IS NOT WROUGHT BY HUMAN MIGHT.
1. History records the insufficiency, the vanity, of all human endeavors to effect the deliverance of man from sin. Rulers by legislation, warriors by arms, philosophers by systems of thought, poets by emotion and imagination, have all essayed the reformation, the moral elevation, of the race; and all who have tried have failed. The wisdom of the world has been proved folly, and its strength weakness.
2. The explanation of this failure is not far to seek. All human means are powerless in affecting the government of God; whatever is to affect that must of necessity originate with the Divine Governor himself. And all human means fail to reach the root of the mischief in man's spiritual nature. They deal with the surface, but do not penetrate to the center; they do not reach the heart of the individual; they do not, consequently, prove able to reconstitute society.
II. SALVATION IS FROM THE LORD OUR GOD, AND FROM HIM ONLY.
1. It might be presumed that such is the case, from the infinity of the Divine resources. God is not buffed in the execution of his purposes, as men constantly are, by insufficient power. On the one hand, the nature of his creatures is accessible to him, and is known perfectly by him; on the other hand, the means of affecting that nature are all at his disposal.
2. We observe the supreme proof of this in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
(1) The Savior himself was from God.
(2) The Spirit, who effects the internal change, is the Spirit of God.
(3) The gospel itself is "the glorious gospel of the blessed God." Thus it is apparent that the whole provision for man's redemption and recovery is nothing less than Divine.
APPLICATION. This declaration is especially encouraging to those who feel pro-roundly at once their own need of salvation and the insufficiency of all human provision; a Divine interposition satisfies all the conditions and necessities of the sinner's case.—T.
Hosea 1:9, Hosea 1:10
Rejection and restoration.
Paradox is often the highest truth. Consistency is the idol of the logician. And not only is the course of the wise and good man now and again at variance with itself; God's ways sometimes appear to us as returning upon themselves. Yet there is a moral unity and order observable, even when the "dealings" of the Divine King with his subjects seem inexplicable and at first sight irreconcilable.
I. THE UTTER REJECTION OF ISRAEL FORETOLD. Stronger language of repudiation could not be used than that which is used here. Irene is completely disowned. "Ye are not my people, and I will not be your God." The adulterous spouse is divorced, cast out, and forgotten. The idolatrous nation is joined unto idols, and the aggrieved Husband of the adulteress pronounces the sentence, "Let her alone." In all this we discern the degradation into which sin plunges the ungodly. And we discern, too, the righteous rule of the Lord of all, who will not treat evil as good, and who will vindicate his Law.
II. THE GLORIOUS RESTORATION AND PROSPERITY OF ISRAEL ASSURED. In startling contrast to the denunciation of Hosea 1:9, is the gracious and generous promise of Hosea 1:10.
1. Increase and prosperity are denoted by the common expression, "as the sand of the sea."
2. Favor is expressed in the assurance that those who had been disowned as the subjects of God shall yet be regarded as his sons. The very spot that had echoed with the thunder of wrath should resound with the language of fatherly complacency and affection.
III. THE RECONCILIATION BETWEEN THE TWO DECLARATIONS. In several places in this prophecy similar paradox is met with; there is a strange and sudden reversal of tone and language.
1. The change is not in the principles of God's government, but in the condition and character of God's subjects. Repentance and renewal are undoubtedly presumed.
2. The two sides of religion are thus harmonized. The law threatens, the gospel promises; but both alike tend to the moral good of men and to the glory of God.
3. The reconciliation is supremely effected in the gospel of Jesus Christ; by him came grace and truth, and he made peace.—T.
Sons of the living God.
It is both singular and instructive to observe that this expression, which is one of the richest and sweetest in revelation, is found in closest connection with language of severity, rebuke, and threatening. The contrast enhances the preciousness of the doctrine. Children of wrath become members of the Divine family, rejoice in a Father's love, and inherit a Father's home.
I. THE LIGHT HERE CAST UPON THE NATURE AND CHARACTER OF THE SUPREME. It is a gospel needed by our age as much as by any that has ever existed—the tidings that the living God is the Father of the sons of men.
1. He is the living God; neither an abstraction nor a law, nor a Being uninterested in his works or indifferent to the fate of his spiritual creation.
2. He is the Father; which is something more, for it denotes his personal regard, his affectionate disposition, his benignant and bountiful care. To take any lower view than this of the Divine Being is to go back from the enlightened teaching of revelation to the effete and degraded paganism of the past.
II. THE LIGHT HERE CAST UPON THE CALLING AND DESTINY OF MAN.
1. Here is witness to our spiritual nature. This language could not be applied to the irrational and, unmoral brutes. Only man, among the inhabitants of earth, is capable of the dignity and blessedness involved in Divine sonship.
2. Here is witness to the transforming power of religion. The context shows that sinners have forfeited all claim to a hallowed relationship such as is here described, with its privileges and immunities. The grace of God, especially as revealed in the gospel of Christ, secures adoption. Christians are "children of God by faith in Christ Jesus;" they have "received the Spirit of adoption."
3. Here is witness to the duties of the new and spiritual life. What dignity clothes the sons of the living God! What relationships, what prospects, what services, are theirs! Surely it is obvious that those so honored are summoned, and are bound, to cherish filial sentiments, to render filial obedience, to offer filial devotion. A holy Father looks for holy sons.—T.
One body and one Head.
This prediction may be regarded as having been literally fulfilled, when, after the Captivity, all distinctions among the Hebrew people came to an end. It may be regarded as still waiting for fulfillment in the restoration of Israel to the Holy Land. But it seems more just and more profitable to turn attention to the moral lesson of this text, and to come under the influence of this inspiring representation of spiritual felicity. Elements in true well-being are here strikingly combined.
I. UNITY. Judah and Israel were often at enmity, and always envious and discordant; their reconciliation was represented as a marvelous work, attesting Divine power and grace. The work of Christ was one of reconciliation; he harmonized Jews and Gentiles, "making of twain one new man." And the ultimate realization of his purposes of mercy shall be attained when there shall be "one flock and one Shepherd."
II. SUBJECTION TO ONE HEAD. From the day when Rehoboam and Jeroboam became kings of the two sections respectively into which the Hebrew people divided themselves, onwards for many generations that people was a disunited and discordant people. In Christ Jesus a disunion, a discordance, far more widespread and far-reaching, was abolished. He is the one Head, in subjection to whom the several and separate members realize their true and proper unity. History shows us the vanity of merely human principles and powers of unity. But there are signs that a Divine headship is destined by the supreme Ruler to be the means of reconciling those who are severed, and of preserving the unity of those who are as one.
III. A SPIRITUAL EXODUS LEADING TO ONE SPIRITUAL HOME. The chronicles of Israel revealed the fact that it was the Exodus which made the nation. When brought out from Egypt, Israel felt the pulses of national life. A symbol this of the effects of a spiritual deliverance; a promise this of a spiritual and eternal rest. The Church is led forth by her Savior, by him is guided through the wilderness, and by him will be gathered into the unity of the heavenly Canaan.—T.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
Scripture, kings, and truth.
"The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri, 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." This verse leads us to consider three things.
I. THE ESSENCE OF SCRIPTURE. What is the essence of the Bible? It is here called "The word of the Lord." Analyze the expression:
1. It is a "word." A word fulfils two functions; it is a revelation and an instrument. A true word reveals the mind of the speaker, and is at the same time an instrument to accomplish his purpose. The Bible is the manifestation of God; it shows his intellect and heart; and is his instrument as well, by which he accomplishes his purpose on the human mind. By it he is said to enlighten, quicken, cleanse, conquer, etc.
2. It is a Divine word. "The word of the Lord." Words are always powerful and important according to the nature and character of the speaker. The words of some men are unclean and weak, the words of others pure and mighty. Because the Lord is all-mighty and holy, his word is all-powerful and pure.
3. It is a Divine word concerning men. The prophecy came to Hoses in relation to Israel. The Lord has spoken many words, words to other intelligences unknown to us. If all the words he has spoken in the universe were written in books, what globe or system would contain them? But the Bible is a word to man.
4. It is a Divine word concerning man coming through men. The Lord's word came now through Hoses to Israel. In the Bible God speaks to man through man. This gives the charm of an imperishable humanity to the Bible.
II. THE MORTALITY OF KINGS. Several kings are here mentioned who appeared and passed away during the ministry of Hosea. He prophesied "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." Uzziah was the eleventh king of Judah. His example was holy, and his reign peaceful and prosperous. Ahaz was a son of Jotham; at the age of twenty he succeeded his royal sire. He gave himself up to idolatry, and sacrificed even his own children to the gods of the heathen. Hezekiah, the son and successor of Ahaz, was a man of distinguished virtue and religion, animated by true piety and patriotism. Jeroboam was the son of Joash, and great-grandson of Jehu, and followed the former Jeroboam, the man who made Israel to sin, and, like him, sank into the lowest idolatry and corruption. Some of these kings had come and gone during the ministry of Hoses;—Kings die, etc.
1. This fact is a blessing. Royalty has a tendency so to feed and fatten the depravity of human nature, that, were not death to interpose, the lives of men would become intolerable. When we think of such kings as those of which Ahaz and Jeroboam were types, we thank God for death, and rejoice in the "king of terrors," who comes to strike the despots down.
2. This fact is a lesson. What does the death of kings teach?
(1) The rigorous impartiality of death. Death is no respecter of persons; it treats the pauper and the prince alike.
"The black camel death kneeleth once at each door,
And mortal must mount to return never more."
(2) The utter powerlessness of wealth. The wealth of empires cannot bribe death, nor can all the armies of war ward off his blow or keep him at bay.
(3) The sad hollowness of worldly glory. Death strips sovereigns of all their pageantry and reduces them to common dust.
"It is a monitory truth, I ween,
That, turning up the ashes of the grave,
One can discern no difference between
The richest sultan and the poorest slave."
III. THE PERPETUITY OF TRUTH. Although these kings successively appeared and passed away, the ministry of Hosea kept on.
1. The "Word of the Lord" is adapted to all generations. It is congruous with all intellects, it chimes in with all hearts, it provides for the common wants of all.
2. The "Word of the Lord" is necessary for all generations. All men in all ages and lands want it; it is as indispensable to their happiness as air is to their life. Generations may appear in the distant future who may not require our forms of government, our social institutions, our artistic devices, our mechanical inventions, and who may despise our literary productions; but no generation will ever appear who will not require the "Word of the Lord."—D.T.
"And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel." The word "Jezreel" means "God's seed," or "sowing." The tract of land called by this name was an extensive plain, computed by modern travelers to be about fifteen miles square, stretching south and south-west from Mount Tabor and Nazareth; the hills of Nazareth and those of Samaria on the south, those of Tabor and Hermon on the west, and Carmel to the south-west. It was called by the Greeks, Esdraelon: it had also a royal city, where the tidings of Saul's death in the battle of Gilboa was first announced. In this Ahab and Joram presided, and here Jehu slew both Jezebel and Joram. It was the scene of many battles: among them, those between Deborah and Bleak and Sisera the commander of the Syrians; one between Ahab and the Syrians, and one between Saul and the Philistines, and another between Gideon and the Midianites. Indeed, it seems to have been a chosen place for battles, from Barak to Bonaparte: Jews, Gentiles, Egyptians, Saracens, Christian Crusaders, and anti-Christian Frenchmen, Persians, Druses, Turks, and Arabs. Warriors out of every nation which is under the heaven have pitched their tents upon the plains of Esdraelon, and have beheld the various banners of their nation wet with the dews of Tabor and Hermon. The text leads us to make a few remarks concerning God's retribution. Here the Eternal threatens to break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel. The language suggests that—
I. GOD'S RETRIBUTION TAKES AWAY THE POWER OF ITS VICTIM. The bow of Israel is to be broken. The language means the utter destruction of all their military power. Israel fought many battles, won many victories, and trusted in its "bow"—military force—but now that very thing in which it trusted is to be destroyed. It is ever thus, when retributive justice comes to deal out suffering to the sinner, it strips him entirely of his power; it breaks his bow, and cuts his spear asunder. Thus he is left to the mercy of his enemies. What are the great enemies of the soul? Carnality, prejudice, selfishness, corrupt impulses, and habits. Retributive justice leaves the sinner at the mercy of these—breaks his bow, so that he cannot deliver himself. He becomes their utter and their hopeless victim, and their "bow" is gone. The Word of truth, the Spirit of God, and all the ministers of religion are taken from him, and he is left morally powerless. What "bow" have the victims of retribution in eternity by which to deliver themselves from their crushing tyrants? No bow at all—all redemptive instrumentalities are taken from them. Thank God, we have a bow now in our hands; the Bible, the Spirit, the ministry, are all with us.
II. GOD'S RETRIBUTION DESPISES THE PRESTIGE OF ITS VICTIM. The bow is to be broken in the valley of Jezreel. Perhaps re spot on earth did Israel think of so much as Jezreel. It was the scene of their grandest military exploits; the scene, too, where Jehu their king had slain all the worshippers of Ball. It was to Israel what Marathon is to Greece, what Waterloo is to England. In this very scene the punishment shall come; the place of their glory shall be the place of their ruin and shame. Thus it is ever; when retribution comes, it seems to despise the very things in which its victim gloried. A noble lineage, great wealth, patrimonial possessions, elevated positions, brilliant genius, and distinguished abilities,—these are the modern Jezreels of sinners. In these they boast. But what are these? God, when he comes to judgment, will strike them in those very places; he will break their bow in the valley of Jezreel.
III. GOD'S RETRIBUTION DEFIES THE OPPOSITION OF ITS VICTIMS. Jezreel was well fortified. Israel had great confidence in the protection which it had. When the prophets foretold the ruin of their kingdom they would think it perhaps impossible; they would think of the victories won in Jezreel and the protection offered there. But retribution will take the sinner in his strongest place, strike him down on the spot where he feels himself most fortified. Notwithstanding Jezreel, the kingdom of Israel was broken; the ten tribes were scattered upon the hills as sheep that had no shepherd. What defense has the sinner? "Though hand join hand, iniquity shall not go unpunished."
CONCLUSION. Retribution must always follow sin. It may move slowly and silently, but its pace is steady, resolute, and increasing. Swifter and swifter it moves towards the victim. Sooner or later it will reach him, break his "bow," and overwhelm him in shame and confusion. "Be sure your sin will find you out."—D.T.
Hosea 1:6, Hosea 1:7
"For I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away. But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen." This passage leads us to con template God's mercy. Mercy is a modification of goodness. God is good to all, but is only merciful to the suffering sinner. Mercy not only implies suffering, but suffering arising from s/n. If suffering were a necessity springing out of the constitution of things, its removal or mitigation would be an act of justice rather than mercy. Earth is a sphere where God shows his mercy, for here is suffering springing from sin. Here we have—
I. MERCY WITHHELD FROM SOME. "For I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away." "There are," says Burroughs," three estates of the people, signified by the three children of Hosea: First, their scattered estate, and that was signified by Jezreel, the first son, and the story of that you have in 2 Kings 15:9-12.15.19, where you may read their woeful seditions; for Zachariah reigned but six months, and then Shallum slew him, and reigned in his stead; and he reigned but one month, for Menahem came and smote Shallum and slew him, and reigned in his stead; so here were nothing but murders and seditions amongst them. A scattered people. The scattered state of the people of Israel was their weak condition signified by the daughter; and the history of that you have from 2 Kings 15:16 of that chapter onwards, where, when Pul, the King of Assyria, came against Israel, Menahem yielded to him his demand, gave him a thousand talents of silver to go from him, and laid a tax upon the people for it. Here they were brought into a very low and weak condition. And afterwards this King of Assyria came to them again, and carried part of them into captivity. The third child was Lo-ammi, and the history of the state of the people signified by what you have in 2 Kings 17:6, where they were fully carried away and wholly rejected for ever. And because they were a little before that time grown up to some strength more than formerly, therefore this last was a son." God now threatened to withhold mercy from Israel, and we know that when he did so the consequence was national ruin. Where mercy has been abused the time comes when it is withheld, and the subjects are left abandoned of God. When mercy is withheld from nations they perish, from Churches they decay, from families they sink to corruption, from individuals they are lost. "My Spirit shall not always strive with men;" "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone."
II. MERCY BESTOWED UPON OTHERS. "I will have mercy upon the house of Judah." This mercy was signally shown to Judah. "When the Assyrian armies had destroyed Samaria, and carried the ten tribes away into captivity, they proceeded to besiege Jerusalem; but God had mercy on the house of Judah, and saved them; they were saved by the Lord their God immediately, and not by sword or ' bow.' When the ten tribes were carried into captivity, and their land was possessed by others, they being utterly taken away, God had mercy on the house of Judah and saved them, and after seventy years brought them back, not by might or power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts." And truly most signal was the mercy shown to Judah, when in one night one hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Assyrian warriors were slain.
"The angel of death spread his wings on the blast,
And breath'd in the face of the foe as he pass'd;
And the eyes of the sleepers wax'd deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heav'd and for ever grew still!
"And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there roll'd not the breath of his pride,
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.
"And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow and the rust on his mail;
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown."
Looking at the words in their spiritual application, they suggest two remarks in relation to man's deliverance.
1. It is of mercy. "I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God." The deliverance of man from the guilt, the power, and consequence of sin is entirely of God's mercy—free, sovereign, boundless mercy.
2. It is by moral means. "Will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen." No material force can deliver the soul from its spiritual difficulties and perils. Moral means alone can effect the object." Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord."
CONCLUSION. Use mercy rightly while you have it. Its grand design is to produce reformation of character and meetness for the high service and lofty fellowship with the great God, here and yonder, now and forever.—D.T.
Hosea 1:10, Hosea 1:11
The destiny of the race.
"Yet 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 where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said 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, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall he the day of Jezreel." Biblical critics of all schools use the natural Israel as the emblem of the spiritual. Paul does so, and therefore it is just and right. We shall take Israel for mankind, and use the text to illustrate the destiny of the race.
I. The race is destined to an INDEFINITE INCREASE in the number of good men. "The number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered or measured." The good, the spiritual Israel, have been comparatively few in all ages, though perhaps there is a larger number now than in any preceding period. But the time will come when they shall be innumerable. What mean such passages as these?—"He shall have dominion from sea to sea, from the river to the end of the earth." Again, "All kings shall fall down before him." Again, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." Numerous as the sand on the sea-shore! A Jewish rabbi regards the good as the sand, not only in relation to number, but to usefulness. As the sand keeps the sea from breaking in and drowning the world, so the saints keep the world from being drowned by the waves of eternal retribution. This is true. Were it not for the good the world would not stand long. But it is to represent number, not protection, that the figure is employed. Who can count the sand which is upon the shore? Do you say that to all appearances such an increase is impossible? When God promised to Abraham that his seed should be as the stars of heaven and the sand upon the shore, what could seem more improbable than the fulfillment? It was twenty years after the promise that he had any child, and that only child he was commanded to destroy, and though Isaac was preserved, he had no offspring until twenty years after his marriage. How improbable the fulfillment of such a promise; but nevertheless it was fulfilled. How numerous the descendants of Abraham became! Do not judge from appearance. Trust God's Word; it will come to pass. There is a glorious future for the world.
II. The race is destined to a TRANSCENDENT PRIVILEGE. "And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God."
1. They are destined to a general conversion to God. From not being his people they are to become his people. The places el the earth now populated with the enemies of God will one day be crowded with his friends; places where idolatry, superstition, worldliness, and infidelity prevail shall in the bright future be consecrated to Heaven.
2. They are destined to a general adoption into the family of God. "Ye are the sons of the living God." They shall be endowed and animated with the true Spirit, the spirit of reverence and adoring love. They shall "worship the Father in spirit and in truth." "The living God." The world has abounded with dead gods; there is but one living God. He is the Living One. He is Life, the primal Fount of all existence. Christ calls him the living Father. "As the living Father sent me … I live in the Father, so he that eateth with me shall live by me."
III. The race is destined to a COMMON LEADERSHIP. "Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel."
1. This leadership shall unite the most hostile. "Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together." Great and long-enduring was the hostility existing between these people. The time will come when all antitathies existing amongst peoples shall be destroyed. "Ephraim shall not envy Judah: they shall be of one heart and one mind."
2. This leadership shall be by common appointment. They shall "appoint themselves one Head." Their Leader will not be forced upon them contrary to their consent, nor will he force himself. Who is the Leader? Christ. He is the Leader of the people. He is the Commander-in-chief, he is the Captain of our salvation. All shall unite in him. He is the Head of the Church.
3. This leadership will be glorious. "They shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel." As Moses led the Jews out of the wilderness, as Cyrus delivered them from Babylon, Christ will lead them out of Egyptian darkness and Babylonian corruption. "Israel is here called Jezreel," says Matthew Henry, "the seed of God. This seed is now sown in the earth, and buried in the clods, but great shall be its day whoa the harvest comes."
"For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the vision of the world, and all the wonders that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight, drooping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rained a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the center blue;
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro' the thunderstorm;
Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the parliament of man, the federation of the world.
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law."
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
I. THE PROPHET. "Hoses, the son of Beeri." Hoses, whose name (Hoshea, "salvation'') remittals of Jesus (Matthew 1:20), was:
1. A native of Israel. One, therefore, who lived in the midst of the evils which he describes, and felt a patriot's love for his people.
2. A man of gentle, pensive, and confiding nature. This made his anguish at the thought of the nation's sins and impending ruin the more poignant. There are striking resemblances between this prophet and Jeremiah, who sustained a relation to Judah similar to that which Hoses sustained to Israel.
3. A man sorely tried by domestic sorrow. Hoses was no mere spectator of the evils of the time. The iron had entered his own soul. He had been tried in the sorest way a man can be tried, by the unfaithfulness of his with. It was, however, in connection with this sorrow that God's word came to him (verse 2). It was his own experience which enabled him to enter so deeply into the mystery of God's love to Israel.
II. HIS TIMES. "In the days of Uzziah, Jotham," etc. He dates by the reigns of the legitimate kings of the house of David. Israel, after the fall of Jeroboam's house, was governed by usurpers (Menahem, Pekah, Hoshea, etc).
1. The chronology of the times. This has important bearings on the duration of the prophet's ministry, and on the time which elapsed before the downfall of the kingdom. We cannot here, however, enter at length into the tangled questions raised by the apparent conflict of Hebrew and Assyrian dates (cf. Robertson Smith, 'Prophet of Israel,' Leer. 4. and notes), It seems to us
(1) that the biblical data do not warrant us in assuming the identity of the Pul of 2 Kings 15:19, 2 Kings 15:20, to whom Menahem paid tribute, with Tiglath-pileser (of. 1 Chronicles 6:26); and that insuperable difficulties attend the lowering of the dates of the kings to the degree necessary to bring them into entire accord with the dates in the Assyrian canon. We believe it will be found that there is a break in the canon at B.C.. 745, sufficient for the insertion of the reign of Pul, and that the Menahem of the monuments, who paid tribute to Tiglath-pileser in B.C. 738, is not the Menahem of Scripture, but probably a second Menahem, a rival of Pekah's, whom Tiglath-pileser, after putting down the revolts of B.C. 743-748, attempted to set on the throne in his own interest. We have a Menahem of Samaria, clearly an Assyrian viceroy, as late as B.C. 702, in the reign of Sennacherib.
(2) On the other hand, there are strong grounds for believing that the interregna commonly assumed to have existed between the death of Jeroboam II. and the accession of Zachariah (eleven years), and again, between the murder of Pekah and the accession of Hoshea (eight or nine years), must be abandoned as untenable. Scripture does not recognize them, and, as shown by the monuments, Pekah and Rezin of Damascus (2 Kings 16:5; Isaiah 7:1) were certainly at war in B.C. 734. The numbers are probably to be harmonized by assuming that the regnal years of Uzziah and Jotham include, the former, eleven years of association with Amaziab, and the latter, eight or nine years of association with Uzziah (of. 2 Chronicles 26:21). For an example of this mode of reckoning, see 2 Chronicles 21:5 compared with 2 Kings 8:16. This lowers the dates by nineteen years, and assuming a break of twenty-eight years in the canon at date of Pul (Rawlinson, 'Ancient History,' allows him twenty-five years), we bring the two chronologies from Ahab downwards into harmony. A formidable objection to the theory of a break in the canon is the mention, under date June, 763 B.C; of an eclipse of the sun, known to astronomy to have taken place at that date; but it is noteworthy that a similar eclipse took l lace June, 791 B.C; that is, twenty-eight years earlier, which exactly satisfies the conditions of our hypothesis (see Pusey on Amos 8:9). The seventeenth of Pekah, given in 1 Kings 16:1-11.16.34; as the year of the accession of Ahaz, must, on this theory, be corrected to the seventh, and this is the only change required in the biblical numbers. Accepting these dates, it will follow that Jeroboam II. died about B.C. 762 or 763, a little more than forty years before the fall of Samaria. If, further, we assume Hosea 1:1-28.1.11.—3; of this book to be based on real history, and to have been composed before the downfall of the house of Jehu, we must suppose the prophet to have commenced his ministry about the middle of Jeroboam's reign, and to have labored for nearly sixty years.
2. The character of the times. They were evil exceedingly. The state was tottering to its downfall. Revolution succeeded revolution (Hosea 7:7). The land was filled with idolatry and with every species of wickedness (Hosea 4:1, Hosea 4:19). Priests and prophets, instead of reproving sin, openly encouraged it (Hosea 4:5-28.4.9). The result was a general dissolution of social ties (Hosea 4:2). To internal miseries were added the horrors of foreign invasion (Hosea 5:8-28.5.11). Yet in their distress the people sought not to God, but turned instead to Assyria and Egypt (Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:11; Hosea 8:9; Hosea 10:6; Hosea 12:1). The nation, in short, was reeling to its ruin, and remonstrance and warning had no longer any effect upon it. The blow fell in the capture of Samaria, followed by the captivity of the people (Hosea 13:16).
III. HIS MISSION. "The word of the Lord that came unto Hoses." Hosea's task in Israel was:
1. To testify against Israel for its sins; to hold up to the people a mirror which should show them to themselves.
2. To show them the root of their transgressions in apostasy from God.
3. To show them how God felt to them in their backslidings—how strong, pure, consistent, and unchanging was his affection towards them.
4. To warn them of the inevitable destruction they were bringing on themselves by sin.
5. To blend promise with threatening, and declare how grace would triumph even over Israel's unfaithfulness. Though sharing in many of the calamities of the latter days of the nation, Hosea seems to have been removed before the final stroke fell. This was God's mercy to him; he was "taken away from the evil to come" (Isaiah 57:1).
IV. HIS BOOK. Hosea's prophecy preserves to us the substance of his public teaching. The materials wrought up in it belong to different periods of his ministry. Hosea 1-3, belong to the, reign of Jeroboam (Hosea 1:4). They show no traces of the anarchy which set in after that monarch's death. Hosea 4-6; belong to the succeeding period, the reign of Menahem, and earlier years of Pekah. Hosea 7:1-28.7.16. and 8. may be a little later. They speak of a time of busy political intrigue, and of chastisement by the Assyrians. We are disposed to refer them to the middle of the reign of Pekah, when the Assyrians were frequently in Palestine. The key-note of Hosea 9:1-28.9.17; "Rejoice not," suggests a gleam of returning prosperity. This answers to Pekah's later days when at war with Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:1-14.28.27), prior to the crushing of his power by Tigtath-pileser (1 Kings 15:29). Hosea 10:1-28.10.15. plainly takes us unto the times of Hoshea, while Hosea 11-13; refer to the very last days of the kingdom. The abruptness, pathos, and quick emotional transitions which have been noted as characteristic of the prophet's style appear in these chapters in an exceptional degree. Hosea 14:1-28.14.9. is the fitting conclusion to the whole. Calm succeeds to storm. The language is soft, gliding, peaceful, and laden with tenderness; the imagery is idyllic; glorious vistas open themselves into the future. Keil's division of the second part of the book into three sections, viz. Hosea 4-6:3; Hosea 6:4-28.11.11; Hosea 12:1-28.12.14.-14; each section rounded off by promise, is as good as any.—J.O.
The wife of whoredoms.
We cannot doubt but that real incidents in the prophet's history underlie the representations of this chapter. Hosea, in obedience to what he recognized to be a word of God, took to wife Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. The names (Gomer, "completion;" Diblaim, "fig-cakes") may possibly be symbolical, the real name of the prophet's wife being concealed (cf. Hosea 3:1, "The children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love grape-cakes"). We need not suppose Gomer to have been unchaste at the time of her marriage, though she soon afterwards fell into light ways. Verse 2 is not to be pressed too literally. The prophet, in the light of his later knowledge, reads back into the beginning of his relations with Gomer a meaning which could hardly have been obvious to him at the time. Children were born of the marriage, to whom, by Divine command, the character of the mother having by this time revealed itself, Hosea gave prophetic names. These, as they grew up, appear to have followed only too faithfully in their mother's footsteps. "Wife of whoredoms," "children of whoredoms." Hosea did all he could to reclaim his wife from her sinful ways, but without success. The sequel of the story is given in Hosea 3:1-28.3.5. The present section yields the following lessons:—
I. A DIVINE LEANING IS TO BE RECOGNIZED IN THE EVENTS OF LIFE. In what befell Hosea there was, as the prophet came afterwards to see, a clear Divine purpose. He was bidden take Gomer, for "the land hath committed grievous whoredom, departing from the Lord." The object of the union was to afford a symbol of the unhappy relations subsisting between Jehovah and his people. The prophet, further, was to be trained through his own great personal sorrow to sympathy with God in his. The human heart was to be made an interpreter of the Divine. Life is shaped for us by a power higher than our own. Its events embody words of God. The meaning hidden in them is often not manifest till afterwards. They are shaped for our instruction. They are parables to us and to others of Divine things. The teaching of the Spirit should be sought to aid us in understanding them.
II. THERE IS A NATURAL ANALOGY BETWEEN EARTHLY MARRIAGE AND THE AFFIANCE OF THE SOUL WITH GOD. It is tiffs analogy which underlies the representation of Israel's apostasy from God as whoredom. "The whole Jewish Scriptures," says R. H. Hutton, "insist with a strange and almost mystical monotony on the close connection between the constancy required in marriage and the constancy which God demands in the spiritual relation of worship to himself. Sometimes there appears to be almost a confusion between sins against the one kind of fidelity and sins against the other, as if it were implied that he who is incapable of appreciating duly the sacredness of the human tie, will necessarily be incapable of appreciating the sacredness of that which is at once more awful and more intimate. It is clear that the Jewish prophets regarded constancy in the most intimate of human relations, as a sort of initiation into the infinite constancy of God." God claims our heart-whole love. The least wandering of desire from him is sin. Paul warns against the slightest deviation from perfect simplicity of affection towards Christ as a species of unchastity (2 Corinthians 11:1).
III. THE BEST-GUARDED HOMES ARE NOT SAFE FROM THE INFECTION OF SURROUNDING EVIL. No home would be more jealously guarded than Hosea's. Yet the infection entered it. In a dissolute state of society it is almost impossible to exclude the pestiferous germs with which the moral atmosphere is loaded. They find insidious lodgment in places and hearts where we would least suspect their presence. Our safety lies in vigilance, and in doing our utmost to resist the spread of moral corruption.
IV. CHILDREN TEND TO FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE PARENTS. Especially of the mother. A mother's influence is greater than a father's. A pious mother is the best of blessings, as a wicked mother is the worst of curses.—J.O.
Children of whoredoms.
Hosea's children, like Isaiah's, were to be "for signs and wonders" in Israel (Isaiah 8:18). Their names—Jezreel, Lo-ruhamah, Lo-ammi—were significant. A prophetic word was attached to each.
I. JEZREEL. (Verses 4, 5) This first name—"God will scatter"—foretells Israel's scattering. Through it judgment is denounced
(1) upon the house of the king—"Yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu;" and
(2) upon the kingdom—"I will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel." The lessons taught are:
1. The character of an action is determined by its motive. By the "blood of Jezreel" is meant the slaughter of the seed of Ahab (2 Kings 10:1-12.10.36). God had commanded the extermination of Ahab's house (2 Kings 9:7). Jehu was his chosen instrument in executing the judgment. Yet God says, "I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu." The apparent contradiction is solved, by remembering the unsanctified spirit in which Jehu went about his work of bloodshed. He did what God commanded, but there was no purity of motive in what he did. His "zeal for the Lord' was mere pretence, covering the seeds of personal ambition. He served God only so far as he could thereby serve himself. The massacre of Ahab's seed opened his own way to the throne. When, therefore, having extirpated Ahab's house, Jehu and his successors showed themselves heirs to Ahab's sins, the bloodshed of Jezreel was justly imputed to them as guilt. Actions formally right may yet become sin to us through the motives which prompt them.
2. Partners in guilt will be made partners also in punishment. The kingdom had followed in the steps of its guilty rulers. The doom of excision, therefore, which is denounced against them—the same doom as had been denounced formerly against the house of Ahab—will fall on it also. Judgment is impartial.
3. There is a law of symmetry in the Divine visitations. It was the "blood of Naboth," shed in Jezreel, which brought down on Ahab's house the sentence of extermination (1 Kings 21:17-11.21.25). It was in Jezreel that the doom was inflicted on Ahab (1 Kings 21:19; 1 Kings 22:34-11.22.38), on Jezebel (2 Kings 9:30-12.9.37), and on Ahab's sons (2 Kings 10:11). Jezreel was the head-quarters of the wickedness for which the whole nation was now to be punished. And now Jezreel is again chosen as the place of vengeance. "I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel." A similar correspondence of sin and punishment may be traced in very many of God's dispensations. God would "break the bow." When he smites, weapons of defense afford but small protection.
II. LO-RUHAMAH. (Verses 6, 7) The first name spoke of external judgment. The second, "Unpitied," lays bare the ground of the judgment in the withdrawal of the Divine pity. It tells that Israel has nothing to hope for from God's mercy in the dire hour that was so rapidly approaching. "For I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel," etc. (verse 6). The fact that mercy was no longer to be shown to Israel implied:
1. That mercy had been shown to Israel hitherto. This was the case. No attribute had been more conspicuously displayed in the history of God's dealings with the nation. Mercy was to be shown to Judah still (verse 7). God's end was merciful, even in the threatened rejection.
2. That there are limits to the Divine mercy. Not, 'indeed, to the mercy itself, but to the exercise or manifestation of it. Righteousness sets limits to mercy. There comes a time when, consistently with righteousness, punishment can no longer be postponed. Even love sets limits to mercy. Paradoxical as it may seem, there are times when the only mercy God can show us is to show no mercy. It is no kindness to the incorrigible transgressor to continue sheltering him from the results of his transgression. God's very love for Israel compelled him to exchange kindness for a holy severity which would not spare. This was needful, as Hosea 2:1-28.2.23. shows, for Israel's salvation. The experience of the bitter fruits of sin may be the only thing which will bring the wayward one to repentance (cf. Luke 15:11-42.15.32).
3. God would pity Judah while rejecting Israel. (Hosea 2:7) The distinction made was not arbitrary. Judah, too, had deeply sinned, but she had not yet filled up the cup of her iniquity. Mercy, therefore, was still to be extended to her. The ground of this mercy, however, was to be sought, not in Judah, but only in God. "I will save them by the Lord their God." There is indicated here
(1) the long-sufferingness of the Divine mercy;
(2) the sovereignty of the Divine mercy;
(3) the omnipotence of the Divine mercy.
"Will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen." We read of many such signal deliverances granted to Judah (Isaiah 7:7, Isaiah 7:8; Isaiah 37:6).
III. LO-AMMI. (Hosea 2:8, Hosea 2:9) The third name, "Not my people," is most significant of all. It bespeaks a present, though, as the sequel shows, only temporary, dissolution of the covenant bond subsisting between the people and Jehovah. Through this rejection Israel would cease to be God's people—would sink to the level of the Gentiles.
1. In declaring Israel to be not his people, God but ratified the choice of the people themselves. They had refused to be God's people. They had resisted all attempts to bring them back to their allegiance. God at length ratifies their choice. It is the same with every sinner. He chooses his own position. He makes his choice, and God confirms it.
2. In declaring himself to be not their God, God took up the only attitude now possible to him. Many would gladly have God as their God, i.e. would retain the benefits of his favor, friendship, and protection, while refusing the counter-obligation of living as his people. This cannot be. If we refuse to be God's people, he has no alternative but to refuse to be our God.—J.O.
Mercy triumphant over judgment.
This which has been described would fall (and did fall) on Israel. Yet would not God's purpose in the calling of the nation thereby be defeated. Woeful as was the apostasy, it did not take God by surprise. It had been foretold (Deuteronomy 4:25-5.4.28; Deuteronomy 31:16-5.31.19). But the same word which had predicted the rejection, predicted also the recovery (Deuteronomy 30:1-5.30.16). Hosea, in this new word from God, repeats and confirms the promise. The blessings predicted are—
I. NUMERICAL INCREASE. "Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea," etc. This was the original promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:5). Israel's unfaithfulness could not make it void (Romans 3:3). Neither did it.
1. God has made up for the rejection of Israel by giving Abraham a spiritual seed vastly outstripping in numbers the natural seed. The spiritual seed was included in the promise:" And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). God has given Abraham this seed. Even now, while Israel's rejection lasts, a vast seed has been raised from the Gentiles, "which in time past were not a people" (1 Peter 2:10). God has, as it were, from the stones raised up children to Abraham (Matthew 3:9). This seed will go on increasing till it embraces all peoples of the earth.
2. Mercy waits even for the natural Israel, who will yet, in great numbers, enter the kingdom of God (Romans 11:1-45.11.36).
II. RESTORATION TO SPIRITUAL HONOR. "In the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God."
1. The privilege. "Sons of the living God." Formerly they were called God's "people;" now they are called his "sons." The last honor is greater than the first. Sonship, which formerly was predicated of the nation, is now predicated of the individuals composing it.
2. The heirs of the privilege. Gentiles as well as Jews (Romans 9:26; 1 Peter 2:10). For Gentiles are now admitted to Israel's privileges, they are part of the spiritual seed. Israel, in its state of rejection, stands towards God on no higher a footing than the Gentiles. "Not my people." Conversely, the scheme of grace through which it is recovered has a range wider than the natural Israel; it applies to the whole class of "Not-my-people," and includes Gentiles as well as Jews. The middle wall of partition is broken down (Ephesians 2:14); there is no more any difference (Romans 3:22, Romans 3:29).
3. Greatness of the privilege.
(1) Great, in contrast with former condition. "Once," not the people of God; "now," not his people only, but his sons.
(2) Great in its own nature. "Sons of the living God." What honor, what dignity, what favor, is implied in this! We have this sonship in Christ, the beloved Son. Angels do not possess this honor. It is reserved for sinful but redeemed man. "Behold, what manner of love," etc. (1 John 3:1).
III. REMOVAL OF DISUNION. "Then shall the children of Israel and the children of Judah be gathered together," etc. The words imply:
1. That Judah, like Israel, would be found at length in exile.
2. That mercy was in reserve for both.
3. That a new Head—a King—would be given, under whom both would return from captivity. The return will certainly take place, in a spiritual sense, in Israel's conversion; whether also in a literal sense remains to be seen.
4. That the leadership of the new King would be voluntarily accepted—"appoint themselves one Head" (cf. Psalms 110:2).
5. That in the restored kingdom of God no place would be found for existing divisions. The old enmities would disappear. Enmity has already disappeared between Judah and Israel. The present Jews have in them the blood of all the twelve tribes. We may learn
(1) that in the kingdom of God there ought to be no disunion;
(2) that in the perfected kingdom of God there will be no disunion;
(3) that in the kingdom of God the Center of unity is Christ—"One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5).
IV. GLADNESS AND REJOICING. "Say ye unto your brethren, Amlni; and to your sisters, Ruhamah" (Hosea 2:1).
1. Because of God's great goodness in the extension of his Church. "Great shall be the day of Jezreel,'' this time in the sense, "God will sow."
2. Because of reversal of former rejection. No longer Lo-ammi, but Ammi—"my people;" no longer Lo-ruhamah, but Ruhamah—"pitied." This joy will be universal. Will fill all hearts, will occupy all lips. Each will greet, rejoice with, and congratulate the other.—J.O.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hosea 1". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent