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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Hosea 1

 

 

Verse 1

Introductory heading.

‘The word of YHWH which came to 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.’ The name Hosea means ‘he has delivered’ and is probably intended to indicate ‘YHWH has delivered’. His father’s name Beeri means ‘he is my well-spring’, again indicating ‘YHWH is my well-spring’.

In true prophetic fashion Hosea receives ‘the word of YHWH’, for that was the function of the prophets. It possibly came to him over a period of about sixty years (from around 758BC to 698 BC), although the majority of what is recorded, if not all, would appear to have been received in the first portion of that period prior to 722 BC, when Samaria was destroyed by the Assyrians. (If Hezekiah’s co-regency with his father Ahaz is what is in mind his ministry may have ceased at the fall of Samaria, but it is unlikely that Hezekiah would have been mentioned if he had not at the time been sole-ruler. Hosea may well thus have taken refuge in Judah bringing his prophecies with him. But the ascription only requires his prophesying in the first years of Hezekiah).

The kings of Judah are mentioned first because in Hosea’s eyes they were the true royal dynasty chosen by YHWH (Hosea 1:11 a; Hosea 3:5; Hosea 11:12). Indeed only one king of Israel is mentioned at all, and that is Jeroboam II. It is true that Jeroboam II also had Yahwistic credentials, with the head of his dynasty, Jehu, having been approved by Elisha’s messenger (2 Kings 9:1-3), but the latter had forfeited their position as a result of their continuing the worship of the golden calf at Bethel. The idea is that none of the Israelite kings who followed Jeroboam, a motley collection succeeding in the most part via assassination (2 Kings 15:10; 2 Kings 15:14; 2 Kings 15:25; 2 Kings 15:30), were to be seen as having any part in YHWH. So while YHWH had a ‘word’ for Israel as a whole, He had no word for them.


Verse 2

‘When YHWH spoke at the first by Hosea, YHWH said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and children of whoredom, for the land does commit great whoredom, departing from YHWH.’

God’s first requirement for Hosea’s prophetic ministry was that he marry and have children. And when he did so he was to recognise that they were involved in a land of spiritual whoredom (spiritual unfaithfulness), a land which had proved unfaithful to YHWH and was lusting after the Baalim, with the result that they were ignoring God’s true worship and God’s covenant requirements. They had ‘departed from YHWH’. (‘Land’ here equals ‘the people of the land’, with their actions seen as having tainted the land). This idea of considering ‘going after other gods’ as ‘whoredom’ was already rooted in the nation’s history (see Exodus 34:15-16; Deuteronomy 31:16), and the whole verse is pregnant with God’s clearly expressed disgust, horror and disapproval of what they were doing. It is a complete indictment of Israel. And the final aim of what Hosea was to do was to use the naming of his children as a warning message from YHWH to Israel.

‘Wife of whoredom’ and ‘children of whoredom’ merely indicate that they were identified with the whole people in their unfaithfulness. People were seen in those days as very much a part of the society in which they lived and the society to whom they owed allegiance. Thus if Hosea married he had no choice but to take a ‘wife of whoredom’, because the whole nation was seen as tainted by the behaviour of the king and the majority of the people. And it was that behaviour that YHWH was bringing out. It is a reminder to us that to ‘depart from the living God’, replacing Him with other things, is whoredom.


Verses 2-5

YHWH’S STEADFAST LOVE FOR ISRAEL AND HER UNFAITHFULNESS TO HIM IS EXPRESSED IN TERMS OF THE MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP WITH AN ASSURANCE THAT ONE DAY THERE WILL BE FULL RESTORATION (Hosea 1:2 to Hosea 3:5).

There is nothing more poignant than this beautiful picture of God in His love seeing Israel as His wife, even though she has been unfaithful to Him, and determining that once she has learned her lesson He will woo her back to Himself. But the picture comes first as a stark warning to the current Israel, by means of three children of Hosea, of what will happen to them if they do not turn back to Him.


Verse 3

‘So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived, and bore him a son.’

In obedience to YHWH Hosea married Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and ‘took her’ (married her and had sexual relations with her), with the result that she conceived and bore him a son. There is no hint here of any personal moral defect in her. The concentration is on the children. We should, of course, remember that this bearing of three children, including their weaning, would take up a number of years so that this was intended to be a protracted message, unfolded over a longish period, which was to arouse deep interest among the godly as they took in its message, and may well have stirred the interest of many of the ungodly. God was giving Israel time to repent.

There is no obvious significance to the name Gomer (the name means ‘completion’), even though great efforts have been made to try to form one. But all such attempts to find one are pure speculation. She was simply necessary for the production of the children whose names would bear a message to Israel.


Verse 4-5

‘And YHWH said to him, “Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause the kingdom (or kingship) of the house of Israel to cease. And it will come about at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel”.’

Hosea was commanded by YHWH to name his firstborn son ‘Jezreel’. This was to be a sign that in a short while He would avenge the bloodbath of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu (that is would avenge the slaughter at Jezreel, not only of the kings of Israel and Judah, but also all of their retainers - see 2 Kings 10:11). This was something which would be accomplished in the Valley of Jezreel where Israel’s bow would be broken and the kingdom of the house of Israel would cease.

The ‘breaking of the bow of Israel’ (compare Psalms 46:9; Jeremiah 49:35) indicated that the power of her army would be broken, her strength would be gone, and that her armaments in which she prided herself (certainly in the time of Jeroboam II) would be captured by the enemy and disposed of. It was the indication of a heavy military defeat and the cessation of her ability to make war (Psalms 46:9). Because of its position (see below) Jezreel was always a prime target for invading armies intent on defeating Israel.

This was no light message. It was an indication of YHWH’s coming judgment on the dynasty of the reigning king (thus placing this prophecy prior to 753 BC), as well as of the final destruction of the kingdom, and it would in consequence hardly have made Hosea popular in royal circles. ‘At that day’ refers to the day of Israel’s demise.

The reason for the need for vengeance would appear to be because, while Jehu had initially acted with prophetic approval in slaughtering the kings, and had delivered Israel from the royal house which was propagating the Phoenician Baal (Baal Melqart), even receiving the commendation of YHWH for doing so, he had gone too far by following out his own purposes, and had thus himself disobeyed YHWH. It was true that God had commended his partial obedience, declaring “Because you have done well in executing what is right in my eyes, because you have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, sons of yours of the fourth generation will sit on the throne of Israel” (2 Kings 10:30). But the limit to ‘the fourth generation’ indicated only qualified approval. He was being rewarded for what he had done, but his house would eventually be punished for his over excess, and for his failing to do what he should have done. For in his excess he had gone far beyond the house of Ahab in his bloodshed, and in his folly he and his dynasty, (including Jeroboam who had been especially ‘blessed’ and therefore had little excuse), had not been so careful about the restoration of pure Yahwism.

The only thing that could remotely have justified the kind of bloodbath in which Jehu engaged (and even then it would not have justified his over excess in doing so), would have been the dedicated intention to return the whole of the nation to pure Yahwism. But instead of that, the house of Jehu had allowed the syncretistic worship at Bethel to carry on, with its golden calf, its compromises with Baalism (which are reflected in Hosea 2:16), and its uncontrolled Baal worship at high places on mountain summits. In other words its obedience had fallen far short of God’s requirements.

Consequently Jehu’s purges were seen to have been mainly self-serving, in that they had not resulted in a return to pure Yahwism. This indicated that Yahwism had simply been used as an excuse for his actions and in order to curry favour among the more religiously minded in Israel, rather than being an affair of the heart. As a consequence Jehu’s dynasty were considered to have condemned themselves, because their actions were seen to have arisen, not out of a true concern for YHWH, but from political opportunism parading under the guise of religious zeal. To be the Lord’s executioner was a serious matter, and to do it excessively, for the totally wrong reasons, could only inevitably lead to judgment on those who so involved themselves.

This is brought out by the fact that his reward, even initially, was limited to four generations, and by the fact that YHWH’s commendation in 2 Kings 10:30 is itself placed between a reference to his continuing in the syncretistic and illegal worship instituted by Jeroboam I, and a further reference to the same in terms of his failure to walk in the law of YHWH the God of Israel with all his heart (2 Kings 10:29-31). Like Nebuchadnezzar (who was also YHWH’s instrument, but went too far - Isaiah 10:5-12), he was YHWH’s instrument, but he was seen to be an unsatisfactory instrument.

So the combined significance of the name Jezreel was that it indicated the coming of the end of the royal dynasty of Jehu because of its blood-guiltiness, and the total defeat of Israel at the hands of its enemies.

However, the significance of the name ‘Jezreel’ does not stop there, for Jezreel not only plays an important part in this verse (where it is mentioned three times), but also in Hosea 1:11 and Hosea 2:22. In Hosea 1:11 there is to be a reversal of the situation described here, for in the future, when the peoples of Judah and Israel finally do unite under one head, ‘they will come up out of the land’ (to Jezreel), and ‘great will be the day of Jezreel’. It will then be a place of celebration and rejoicing. Instead of symbolising judgment it will symbolise the triumph of the Davidic king, who will be seen to be reigning in the palace of the kings of Israel as well as in Jerusalem. The kingships of Judah and Israel will once more have been united under one head, and all will look to the one king. What Jehu had done rightly in the slaughtering of the two kings would have its final fruit in the true king reigning over the combined nation. In Hosea 2:22 the name ‘Jezreel’ (God sows) symbolises Heaven and earth and all that grows in it, acting because ‘God has sown’ (Jezreel means ‘God sows’), with the result that Israel will be fully restored as God’s people.

So the naming of Hosea’s son as ‘Jezreel’ not only points to judgment on Jehu’s (and Jeroboam’s) dynasty, and the ceasing of the kingdom of Israel, but also to the later triumph of the Davidic king (Hosea 1:11) and the future God-wrought restoration of His people (Hosea 2:22).

Jezreel was an important site for it overlooked the pass that led from the north into the Coastal Plain (the route regularly taken by conquering kings). It was also the summer palace of the kings of Israel, and was a stout fortress. It was the scene of Ahab’s treachery with regard to Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21). The fortress at the time of Ahab has been excavated, and it was discovered to have had a moat thirty six metres (117 feet) wide. Parts of Israelite buildings have also been found. To Hosea it symbolised kingship in Israel, while at the same time indicating the rejection of idolatrous Samaria. It also signified the protection of the realm. When Jezreel prospered Israel was strong.


Verse 6

‘And she conceived again, and bore a daughter. And YHWH said to him, “Call her name Lo-ruhamah; for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, that I should in any way pardon them.”

Years having passed the people would have had time to ponder on the reason why Hosea had named his son ‘Jezreel’, something which had no doubt been made clear by Hosea (it would appear that at this time significant name-giving was a recognised prophetic practise. Compare how Isaiah, a younger contemporary of Hosea, would also give his children significant names - Isaiah 8). The consequence would be that the birth of his second child must have been awaited with interest. In the event it was a daughter, and Hosea was bidden by YHWH to name her ‘Lo-Ruhamah’, which meant ‘not pitied’ or ‘unloved’ or ‘no compassion’.

For a child in Israel to be given a negative name was a rarity (names were intended to indicate something positive), so that for a daughter to be named ‘unloved’ would have been seen as striking indeed. And it was clearly intended to be striking, for its whole point was that Israel were no longer to experience the compassion of YHWH. He would no longer pardon them. He had reached the end of His patience with them. This daughter’s name would thus be a continual indictment of Israel.

This was YHWH’s final plea to Israel. Had they repented they would yet have found mercy, for it will be noted that it was not until after she had been weaned (a period of two to three years) and another child had been born that He finally affirmed that they were ‘not His people’. As with Nineveh under Jonah’s preaching some years previously (see Jonah 3) He was through the naming of this daughter giving them a last chance to repent.


Verse 7

“But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and will save them by YHWH their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.”

God’s indictment at this stage did not apply to Judah. Judah was still ruled by the Davidic king, and still, at least centrally, worshipped in accordance with the Torah. Her time of full judgment and rejection had not yet come. Indeed the ‘breaking of the bow’ of Israel by the Assyrians was not to apply to Judah, for God’s promise was that He would yet have compassion on them and would save them by a miraculous deliverance. It would not be by bow, or sword, or battle, or horses, or horsemen. All their military strength and efforts would not save them. It would be by YHWH alone. And in the event we know that it would be by the Angel of YHWH (2 Kings 19:35), but only after they had suffered greatly. It would be a partial deliverance intended to call them back to repentance in the light of the destruction of Samaria and of their own numerous defenced cities.

This is not, however, to be seen as merely a side comment about Judah. It was intended to be a further indictment of Israel. For all could recognise that the reason that Judah was to be spared was because of its true worship of YHWH in the temple, and its loyalty to YHWH and the Davidic king, however tenuous they may be. And it emphasised the exclusion of Israel. Furthermore the reference to the fact that YHWH would not even require the assistance of a bow in defending Judah tended to underline the fact that Israel’s bow would be broken.


Verse 8

‘Now when she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived, and bore a son.’

The weaning of a child would take two or three years, giving Israel time to consider their ways, so that the next child to be born to Gomer would arrive some years later. But to those who did not consider repenting the waiting would be ominous. What warning would the next child bring? This time it was to be another son. God’s message was slowly being brought home to Israel.


Verse 9

‘And YHWH said, “Call his name Lo-ammi, for you are not my people, and I will not be your Ehyeh (I AM).”

The message proclaimed by the naming of this child would come as a profound shock to those who took notice, mainly the faithful in Israel. Whereas the first two names had been somewhat ambiguous, the first affecting the royal dynasty and the national security, and the second reflecting a certain coldness in their relationship with YHWH, there could be no doubt about what this one signified. It was Lo-ammi’ and indicated ‘not My people’. It was notification of the direct rejection of Israel as YHWH’s people.

Furthermore He would no longer be their Ehyeh (‘I am’ or ‘I will be’). Ehyeh was the name of God stressed when God came to Moses prior to the Exodus (Exodus 3:14). The idea is that God will no longer be acting on their behalf. From now on they could not look to Him for deliverance. Exodus 6:7 (‘I will take you for My people, and I will be your God’) is to be seen as having been reversed. This was because the kind of religious exercise in which they now indulged in the name of YHWH was looked on as meaningless, having become prostituted to the level of a nature religion. They no longer saw YHWH as the covenant God of Sinai, the Deliverer from Egypt, but simply as a parallel to Baal.


Verse 10

‘And it will come about that, in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people”, it will be said to them, “You are the sons of the living God.”

Thus there was to come a time when in the very place where they had been declared ‘not My people’ it would be said to them that ‘you are the sons of the living God’. As sons they would consequently be restored to the covenant (compare Deuteronomy 14:1; Deuteronomy 32:19).

This occurred literally in Palestine in the inter-testamental period, it occurred there again literally for the believing remnant in the preaching of Jesus and the Apostles (in the Gospels and Acts 1-12), when large numbers of Jews returned to God. being then expanded by the influx of Gentiles (Romans 9:24-26), and it may well be repeated literally at the end of the age (this last is in God’s hands. It is not necessarily required by Scripture which can be seen as fulfilled in the church of Jesus Christ, the true Israel, but it is consonant with the mercy of God, and indicated by the way that the Jewish nation has been preserved and brought back to Palestine. It is possibly also to be seen as suggested in a number of New Testament Scriptures (e.g. Romans 11:26-28; Luke 21:24). But if it occurs, bringing rejoicing to all Christian hearts, it will only be by a work of the Spirit which turns them to Jesus Christ as their Messiah and Saviour. There is no salvation outside of Christ.

And to all who truly believe in Jesus Christ this privilege of being ‘the sons of the living God’ is given (compare 2 Corinthians 6:16-18; Romans 9:24-26), for we are engrafted into believing Israel and are thus the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), the true Vine (John 15:1-6), the elect race, the holy people (1 Peter 2:9), made one with believing Israel and built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, with Jesus Christ being the chief corner-stone (Ephesians 2:11-22).

Note the reference to ‘the living God’. That was the difference between YHWH and Baal. Baal was but a part of nature, a nature god. He might theoretically help the crops to grow through being an essential part of the round of nature, but he offered nothing of true spiritual life and deliverance. He was not truly ‘alive’. When he ‘rose’ and came to life (something demonstrated by the fact that everything began to blossom again in Spring) he rose only to die again.


Verse 11

‘And the children of Judah and the children of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint themselves one head, and will go up from the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.”

This promise would be literally fulfilled in the inter-testamental period. The two nations would come together as one, and would appoint over themselves ‘one head’ (significantly not ‘one king’, giving wider scope to the prophecy; compare Psalms 18:43 where the Davidic king is to be ‘the head of the nations’, and Numbers 14:4 for the Hebrew). What might be seen as lacking would be the large numbers comparable with the stars of Heaven, although Israel might well have seen it in that way, for by the time of Christ Israel would have greatly multiplied. It would find even greater fulfilment in the coming of the King when Jesus Christ came on earth (in 1st century AD), and all who came to Him out of the land would be united in Him, and would become a multitude which could not be numbered (Revelation 7:9). This also ties in with the application of Hosea 1:10 to the whole church in 1 Peter 2:9-10; compare Romans 9:24-27. While it may not appear so to us the early church saw themselves very much as the true Israel, not simply as just a ‘spiritual Israel’. They were the believing remnant, the continuation of believing Israel. It was the unbelieving Jews who had been cast off from Israel (Romans 11:16-24). See Acts 4:25-26 where ‘the peoples’ have become ‘unbelieving Israel’; Romans 11:17; Matthew 21:43. It may well find its culmination in the conversion to Christ of unbelieving Jews in large numbers at the end of the age, when they are once again incorporated into the true Israel by becoming members of His true church (congregation).

‘Go up from the land’ has a number of possible interpretations.

· While we have no historical record of it, they may well at some stage have ‘gone up from the land’ to the valley of Jezreel for great celebrations together, as pictured here.

· On the other hand the idea may not be of going to the Valley of Jezreel, but of ‘going up out of the land’ to Jerusalem, ‘the day of Jezreel’ indicating the day when what the name Jezreel (‘God sows’) finally signifies, deliverance and fruitfulness (Hosea 2:22), will finally be accomplished (note that it is paralleled in the chiasm with reference to the birth of Jezreel, Hosea’s firstborn).

A third possibility is that ‘out of the land’ has in mind escape from the land of Exile, for the same phrase is found in Exodus 1:10 of escaping from Egypt. To Hosea escape ‘from Egypt’ symbolised God’s hope for Israel, whom he sees as never having found release from Egypt’s ensnaring (Hosea 11:11).

Jezreel had been the place of death of the tainted monarchy. The day of Jezreel (‘God sows’) might well signify the day when, the bloodshed at Jezreel having been avenged, Jezreel, Hosea’s son, would as it were prophetically see ‘God sowing’ (Jezreel), causing the appointment of an untainted ‘head’ in Jerusalem. This was something which took place to some extent under the governor and son of David Zerubabbel (Haggai 2:4-9; Haggai 2:21-23; Zechariah 4:6-10), and would finally be accomplished in much greater measure when the Son of David was named ‘both Lord and Christ’ in Jerusalem (Acts 2:36). That would be a great day indeed.

The rapid movement from YHWH’s judgment of His people to their restoration is a feature of the Law of Moses. In both Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28-29 we have the same movement. Curse must be followed by blessing. Hosea is therefore simply following the usual prophetic pattern. It was important that YHWH’s Name and faithfulness be preserved so that all might realise that despite the failure of His people, He Himself would not fail.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Hosea 1:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/hosea-1.html. 2013.

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Sunday, December 15th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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