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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Hosea 1

 

 

Verse 1

Hosea 1:1

The Word of the Lord that came to Hosea.

The prophet Hosea

I. He was divinely commissioned. Holy men of old spake not of their own wisdom or of their own will; they spake the Word of God. In what a contemptuous light their conduct places those who in the present day quote the sayings of the Fathers, the Church, or Tradition, or suggest modern innovations, and strange interpretations. We have the Word of God, and the prompting of the Spirit; and is not that enough?

II. He had worthy ancestry. His father’s name would not have been mentioned had it not been to honour the son. How the father can strengthen and establish the son, or the son ruin and crush the father!

III. He prophesied at a critical period.

1. It was a long time. Probably eighty years.

2. It was a changeable time. Various scenes. Different characters of kings and peoples. He lived in the reigns of one good king and four bad ones. He saw plenty and famine. He saw one revival and much sin.

3. It was a tentative time. Upon the conduct of the Jews depended their ultimate existence.

IV. Practical thoughts.

1. Hosea must have begun his ministry very young.

2. How very little we have of his prophesyings. His chief work was directly relative to his age. God has preserved what was of permanent interest.

3. How long a man of God may labour, and yet how little good he may accomplish. He did not prevent the Captivity. We arc not answerable for our success, but we are for our duty. We are not to relax our efforts because men am blind or fools. (William Jay.)

The prophet Hosea

I. Who he was. His name means a saviour, one who brings salvation, and many saving and savoury truths this prophet brings to us. The Jews say that when a prophet’s father’s name is given, the father was a prophet as well as the son. “Beeri” means a well that has springing water in it, freely and clearly running.

II. To where was the prophet sent? Especially to the Ten Tribes. The Ten Tribes, rending themselves from the house of David, separated themselves also from the true worship of God, and horrible wickedness and all manner of abominations grew up amongst them.

III. What was Hosea’s errand to them? To convince them of their abominable idolatry, and those other wickednesses in which they lived, and to denounce severe threatenings, yea, most fearful destruction. His threatening is more severe than any given before, Yet he, too, has a message of mercy.

IV. What was his commission? He had the “Word of Jehovah.” Hosea did not go for the Word of the Lord, but the Word came to him. The knowledge of a call to a work will help a man through the difficulties of the work.

V. The time when Hosea prophesied. About the time that the city of Rome was built. The beginning of the Olympiads. During the reign of four kings, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. A lengthened prophesying of nearly fourscore years. See what of God’s mind will spring from this.

1. It pleases God sometimes that some men’s labours shall abide more full to posterity than others, though the labours of those others are greater and as excellent as theirs.

2. It appears that Hosea began to prophesy very young.

3. Hosea prophesying thus long it appears he lived to grow old in his work.

4. By Hosea s continuance m so many kings reigns, it is evident he must have gone through a variety of conditions. He preserved a constancy of spirit, however varied might be the difficulties of his work.

5. God may continue a prophet a long time amongst a people, and yet they may never be converted.

6. It is an honour to the ministers of God, who meet with many difficulties and discouragements in their, way, yet continue fresh and lively to the very end.

7. It pleases God many times to let His prophets see the fulfilling of their threatenings upon the people against whom they have denounced them. (Jeremiah Burroughs.)

Scripture, kings, and truth

I. The essence of scripture. What is the essence of the Bible? It is here called “The Word of the Lord.” Analyse the expression.

1. It is a “Word.” A word fulfils two functions; it is a revelation and an instrument. 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. 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 Hosea in relation to Israel. The Bible is a Word to man.

4. It is a Divine Word concerning man coming through men. 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. 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 Hosea;--kings die, etc.

1. This fact is a blessing. 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?

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. (Homilist.)

Trouble a teacher

A wonderful book is this prophecy of Hosea (b.c. 800-725). The man himself at once attracts our sympathy and regard by his personal sufferings. There is no teacher of Divine truth to be compared for one moment for excellence so deep and great as trouble. Hosea had an infinite sorrow at home; therefore he was so great and tender a teacher of Divine truth. He read everything through his tears; hence the enlargement, the colour, the variety, the striking beauty of his visions. When the sorrow is home grief it assumes a tenderer quality. Hosea had children, but they had evil names; their very names were millstones round the prophet’s neck. If one of them had a name historically and ideally beautiful, it was to be used for the expression of judgment and vengeance. As for the others, one represented the vanished mercy of God, and the other represented the alienation of the people from God, and the alienation of God from the people. Only sorrow should read some parts of the Bible, because only sorrow could have written them. You cannot properly sing a man’s music until you know the man himself. Hosea will have a tone of his own; he will talk like nobody else; he will be an eccentric, peculiar individual; he will begin when he pleases, and he will take a circuit marked out for him by an invisible guide; but now and again he will come down to the road we travel, and will present us with flowers and fruits, and will say little sweet sentences to us that shall be as angels, covered with light, and tremulous with music. The sorrow of Hosea was symbolic. All sorrow is meant to be symbolic. Whoso has sorrow is meant to be a teacher. You have no right to the exclusive use of your own sorrow. Sorrow should only be silent for a time; by and by it should find all its words, refine, enlarge, and dignify them, and pass them on as messages, bright as Gospels. But for his own sorrow, he never could have understood God’s grief. Again and again God asks us to look at Him through ourselves. Happy they who come up out of household trouble, public disappointment, and social criticism, and loss and desolation, to pray larger prayers, and offer to those who are outside a larger hospitality of love and rest. If sorrow makes us narrower in thought and purpose, then sorrow has failed to convey God’s meaning to the soul. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)


Verses 1-11

Verse 2

Hosea 1:2

The beginning Of the Wold of the Lord by Hosea.

The prophet Hosea

The prophet Hosea is the only individual character that stands out amidst the darkness of this period--the Jeremiah, as he may be called, of Israel. His life had extended over nearly the whole of the last century of the northern kingdom. In early youth, whilst the great Jeroboam was still on the throne, he had been called to the prophetic office. In his own personal history he shared in the misery brought on his country by the profligacy of the age. In early youth he had been united in marriage with a woman who had fallen into the vices which surrounded her. He had loved her with a tender love; she had borne to him two sons and a daughter; she had then deserted him, wandered from her home, fallen again into wild licentiousness, and been carried off as a slave. From this wretched state, with all the tenderness of his nature, he bought her, and gave her one more chance of recovery, by living with him, though apart. No one who has observed the manner in which individual experience often colours the general religious doctrine of a gifted teacher can be surprised at the close con nection that exists between the life of Hosea and the mission to which he was called. In his own grief for his own great calamity--the greatest that can befall a tender human soul--he was taught to feel for the Divine grief over the lost opportunities of the nation once so full of hope. (Dean Stanley.)

Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms.

God’s strange command to Hosea

Holy Scripture relates that all this was done, and tells us the birth and names of the children, as real history. As such, then, we must receive it. We must not imagine things to be unworthy of God, because they do not commend themselves to us. God does not dispense with the moral law, because the moral law has its source in the mind of God Himself. To dispense with it would be to contradict Himself. But God, who is the absolute Lord of all things which He made, may, at His sovereign will, dispose of the lives or things which He created. Thus, as Sovereign Judge, He commanded the lives of the Canaanites to be taken away by Israel, as, in His ordinary providence, He has ordained that the magistrate should not bear the sword in vain, but has made him His “minister, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” So, again, He, whose are all things, willed to repay to the Israelites their hard and unjust servitude, by commanding them to “spoil the Egyptians.” He who created marriage, commanded to Hosea whom he should marry. The prophet was not defiled, by taking as his lawful wife, at God’s bidding, one defiled, however hard a thing this was. “He who remains good, is not defiled by coming in contact with one evil; but the evil, following his example, is turned into good.” But through his simple obedience, he foreshadowed Him, God the Word, who was culled the “friend of publicans and sinners”; who warned the Pharisees, that “the publicans and harlots should enter into the kingdom of God before them”; and who now vouchsafes to espouse, dwell in, and unite Himself with, and so to hallow, our sinful souls. The acts which God enjoined to the prophets, and which to us seem strange, must have had an impressiveness to the people, in proportion to their strangeness. The life of the prophet became a sermon to the people. Sight impresses more than words. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

Scripture picture--teaching

in modern times picture-teaching is almost confined to work among children, because education and culture have made adults capable of apprehending plain statements, and even elaborate arguments. In child-conditions of nations child methods of instruction were wisely employed. And it is well for preachers to bear in mind that a large proportion of those whom they address are as incapable of following argument as children, and therefore need the pictorial, dramatic, and illustrative methods of instruction. It is even more to the point to observe that the dramatic acting out of representative and suggestive scenes, has always been, and still is, one of the most effective methods of moral instruction. What we have in Hosea, whether what is stated concerning him be regarded as history or vision, is a dramatising of the history of the nation of the Ten Tribes in its relation to God figured as its husband. The facts of individual experience are these. Hosea takes as wife a woman who had gone astray. All his love and care fail to recover her and settle her in her home-life. Presently the old wilfulness revives, and she breaks away from home, to live again a life of sinful indulgence, and come under burdens of pain and slavery. Spite of it all, Hosea is willing, if she will give up her sins, to receive her back, and give her the old place in home and love. The individual represents the national. The Ten Tribes wilfully broke away under Jeroboam I. determined to live an independent life of self-willedness, which always means a life of sin. God graciously took this nation as His, and strove with tending, patience, gentleness, and love to win it as His own. But it was in vain. The nation again and again broke away from God, dishonoured Him, and at last in its seemingly outward prosperity, under Jeroboam II., broke away entirely from Him. Nevertheless, patient mercy still pleads. Only now there is the intimation that it is the nation s last chance. Hosea, then, in his ways with his wife is to represent God’s ways with the nation. In telling how he thought and felt, and what he did, and was willing to do, Hosea revealed to the people the thought and hope and anxiety of God concerning them.

I. In taking the kingdom of Israel as His, God did not take a chaste nation. Under Jeroboam I. the nation broke away from its home, and duty, and right relations. It was a soiled, wilful nation. Nevertheless, and as such God took it for His own.

II. While calling it his own, God did everything that love and care could do to win the nation wholly for Himself and righteousness. Pathetic is the tender love of Hosea, as representing the patience, gentleness, and love of God.

III. The old wilfulness will not be subdued, and at last it broke out again, leading to worse sins than at first. Compare the moral and social life of Israel under Jeroboam I. and Jeroboam II.

IV. Divine severities must attend on Divine love when moral conditions become so utterly hopeless. And yet how evident it becomes, that judgment is God’s strange work, and mercy His delight! (J. Burroughs.)

Mysterious commands--

In the Memorial Hall at Harvard University there is a wonderful array of beautiful sentences frescoed on the walls in various colours, but they are all in Latin. And it is said that some of the workmen did not know the meaning of the sentences they painted, but could only put the letters and the colours on the walls as they were told, without understanding the wondrous meaning wrapped up in them. So we are often writing our lives in an unknown tongue; we can only do as we are bidden. (Christian Age.)


Verse 4

Hosea 1:4

Call his name Jezreel.

Judgment on the house of Ahab

Jezreel means, the child of guilt; therefore not Israel, but Jezreel (or more exactly, Izreel). The name is referred to for its historical associations. It points both backwards and forwards--backward to the massacre of Ahab’s family by Jehu (2 Kings 9:10), and forward to the punishment for that wild and cruel act. Hosea (in whom natural peculiarities have been purified and not extinguished by the spirit of prophecy) regards the conduct of Jehu in a different light from the writer of 2 Kings 10:30. The latter praises Jehu for having “done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in My mind”; he speaks on the assumption that Jehu had the interests of Jehovah’s worship at heart, and that he destroyed the house of Ahab as the only effectual means of advancing them. The former blames Jehu apparently on the high moral ground that Jehovah desires mercy (love) and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6). He speaks as the Israelites of his time doubtless felt. They no more recognised Jehu as a champion of Jehovah than did the priests of Baal whom he basely entrapped. But Hosea doubtless felt in addition that the idolatry to which the house of Jehu was addicted rendered a permanent religious reform hopeless. Image-worship could not be suppressed by such half-hearted worshippers of Jehovah, and hence, Jehovah’s moral government of His people must have made it certain to Hosea that even on this ground alone the dynasty of Jehu could not escape an overthrow. (T. K. Cheyne, D. D.)

And I will avenge the blood of Jezreel--

God as the family God, or Avenger

We have no such associations with the word “avenge” as were familiar to ancient Eastern people, and are familiar in tribal life to-day. In the East the avenger is the vindicator of a family wrong by securing the adequate punishment of the wrong-doer. In a rude state of society, the nearest relative of a person slain was conceived as under obligation to put the slayer to death. He had to be the “avenger of blood.” Dr. S. Cox tells us that the main functions of the Goel were three, or rather that there were three tragic contingencies in which the legal redeemer and avenger was bound to interpose.

1. If any Hebrew had fallen into such penury as that he was compelled to part with his ancestral estate, the Goel was bound to purchase it, and, after certain conditions had been observed, to restore it to his impoverished kinsman.

2. If any Hebrew had been taken captive, or had sold himself for a slave, the Goel was bound to pay the price of his redemption, to unloose and set him free.

3. If any Hebrew had suffered grievous wrong, or had been slain, the Goel was bound to exact compensation for the wrong, or to avenge his murder. In the case introduced by the text, we are to understand that the slaughter of the house of Ahab had not yet been avenged, though three generations had passed. There seemed to be no one left of the house of Ahab to do the duty of the avenger. So God took it directly upon Himself. “I will avenge the blood of Jezreel.” This must be regarded as a striking instance of representing God as feeling, and then doing, as a man would feel and do under such circumstances. The case occasions difficulty to us, because no private and personal avengements of wrongs done are now permitted. All wrongs are judicially treated. But in revealing Himself and His will, God must always speak in the range of knowledge, sentiment, and association of those whom He addresses, or He could not be understood by them. To those who knew about avengers He could present Himself as the great Avenger. And if there are bad sides to the avenger’s work, we must not fail to see that there are also good sides, add that we may take the good sides to represent God. The idea that can be helpfully worked out for a modem congregation is, that God never neglects wrongs that are done to His people. He may seem to delay, He may even wait for generations; but His injured people are always vindicated at last. The wrong-doer may seem to escape punishment, he never really does. He may seem to prosper, but there is surely a worm whose work is spoiling his prosperity. The Lord is the Avenger of all His injured ones; and the woes that eventually come upon all wrong-doers vindicate His people and vindicate Him. God’s avenging is always only a part of His redeeming. (Robert Tuck, B. A.)

The blood of Jezreel

The name signifies the “scattered of the Lord.” Five reasons why the son of Hosea was to be called by this name.

1. That hereby God might show that He intended to avenge that blood which was shed in Jezreel.

2. To show that Israel had lost the honour of His name, and was no more Israel, but Jezreel. (Israel is one that prevails by the “strength of the Lord.” Jezreel is one that is “scattered by the Lord.”)

3. To show the way that God intended to bring judgment upon these ten tribes.

4. To note that the Lord would scatter them in that very place wherein they most gloried. (Jerome says the Israelite army was defeated in the valley of Jezreel before Samaria was taken.)

5. The Lord would hereby show that He would turn these conceits and apprehensions that they might have of themselves quite the contrary way.

I. What is this “blood of Jezreel” that God will avenge? (2 Kings 9:10-11). It was the blood of the house of Ahab.

II. Why will God “avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu”? Because--

1. Jehu looked to his own ends, rather than to God.

2. Because he did his work but by halves.

3. Because be proved Ahab’s successor in his idolatry.

A man may do that which God commands, and yet not really obey God. And God knows how to make use of men’s parts and abilities, and yet to punish them for their wickedness notwithstanding.

III. Why is it called “the house of Jehu”? The house of Jehu is his posterity, or family, who were to succeed. The posterity of the ungodly shall suffer for their father’s sin. Only the second commandment threatens the sin of the fathers upon the children.

IV. What is this “little while” God speaks of? It was a long time--three generations--before God came upon the house of Jehu, still He saith, yet but a little while, or, I will stay but a little longer, ere I avenge the blood of Jezreel.

1. God sometimes comes upon sinners for their sins. It is likely that these sins of Jehu were forgotten, ‘yet God comes now at last to avenge the sins of Jehu upon his house. Youthful sins may prove to be the terror of age.

2. A long time after the flourishing of a nation God may reckon with it in ways of judgment.

3. Seventy-six years are but a little while in God’s account.

4. The apprehension of a judgment just at hand is that which will stir the heart and work upon it most.

5. God suffers some sinners to continue long, others He cuts off speedily. (Jeremiah Burroughs.)

Scattered by God

1. Whatever present fruits men may seem to reap by sin, yet at last, being continued in, it will ripen to a height, and fit for strokes.

2. Notwithstanding that sinners in the Church do conceit of their privileges, God will plague them, and make their judgment conspicuous.

3. Men may not only be doing what God in His providence will permit to succeed, but even that which is in itself just, and yet be guilty before God, and justly punished for it, when either they do not the Lord’s work sincerely, but for their own base ends and interests, or when they do it not thoroughly, but only in so far as may serve their own turn. (George Hutcheson.)


Verse 5

Hosea 1:5

I will break the bow.

A nation’s humiliation through its army

This verse was intentionally added; for the Israelites were so inflated with their present good fortune, that they laughed at the judgment denounced. They indeed knew that they were well furnished with arms, men, and money; they thought themselves in every way unassailable. Hence the prophet declares that all this could not prevent God from punishing them. “Ye are,” he says, “inflated with pride; ye set up your valour against God, thinking yourselves strong in arms and power; and because ye are military men, ye think that God can do nothing, and yet your bows cannot restrain His hand from destroying you.” When He says, “I will break the bow,” He mentions a part for the whole; for under one sort He comprehends every kind of arms. As to what the prophet had in view, we see that his only object was to break down their false confidence; for the Israelites thought that they should not be exposed to the destruction which Hosea had “predicted; for they were dazzled by their own power, and thought themselves beyond the reach of any danger, while they were so well fortified on every side. Hence the prophet says that all their fortresses would be nothing against God; for in that day, when the ripe time for vengeance shall come, the Lord will break all their bows, He will tear in pieces all their arms, and reduce to nothing their power. We are here warned ever to take heed, lest anything should lead us to a torpid state when God threatens us. Though we may have strength, though fortune (so to speak) may smile on us, though, in a word, the whole world should combine to secure our safety, yet there is no reason why we should felicitate ourselves, when God declares Himself opposed to and angry with us. Why so? Because, as He can preserve us when unarmed whenever He pleases, so He can spoil us of all our arms, and reduce our power to nothing. Let this verse then come to our minds whenever God terrifies us by His threatenings; and what it teaches us is, that He can take away all the defences in which we vainly trust. (John Calvin.)

Jehu’s bow

(2 Kings 9:24):--Observe--

1. In those things wherein wicked men have been most successful, God will curse them and let out His wrath upon them.

2. Carnal hearts trust much in their warlike weapons.

3. Fortified cities cannot help when God comes out against a people.

4. Even in the place in which a kingdom most glories, and seems to trust most in, God many times comes, and breaks the kingdom in that very place. (Jeremiah Burroughs.)

Retribution

The word Jezreel means God’s seed, or sowing. Jezreel was the plain between Tabor and Carmel, called by the Greeks, Esdraelon. The royal city was in it. Here the Eternal threatens to break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.

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. When justice comes to deal out suffering to the sinner, it strips him entirely of his power. Thus he is left to the mercies of his enemies. What are the great enemies of the soul? Carnality, prejudice, selfishness, corrupt impulses and habits,

II. God’s retribution despises the prestige of its victim. The bow is to be broken in the valley of Jezreel, which had been the scene of Israel’s grandest military exploits. It was to Israel what Marathon was to Greece, and Waterloo to England. In this very scene the punishment should come. The place of their glory should be the place of their ruin and shame. Thus it is ever.

III. God’s retribution defies the opposition of its victims. Jezreel was well fortified. Retribution will strike the sinner in his strongest place. Notwithstanding Jezreel, the kingdom of Israel was broken. 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. “ Be sure your sins will find you out.” (Homilist.)


Verse 6

Hosea 1:6

I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel.

Mercy put in the background

There is a time when God will not have mercy upon a kingdom, or upon a particular people. There is a time for the decree to come forth against a kingdom; a time when, though Noah, Job, and Daniel should stand before Him, yet He will not be entreated; though they cry, cry early, cry aloud, cry with tears, cry with fasting, yet God will not be entreated. God’s mercy is precious, and He will not let it run out to waste; He will not be prodigal of it; a time wherein God will say, Now I have done, I have done with this people, mercy has had her turn. Men best know what the worth of mercy is, when mercy is taken away from them. Well, saith God, you shall have no more; you have taken no notice that it was My mercy that helped you before, but when My mercy is gone, then you will know it; but then I win not add more. God usually takes not away His mercy fully from a people, or from a soul, until after much mercy has been received and abused. It is just with God, when mercy is abused, that we should never know further what mercy meant. Mercy as it is a precious thing, so it is a tender thing, and a dangerous thing to abuse. There is nothing that more quickly works the ruin of a people, or of a soul, than abused mercy. (Jeremiah Burroughs.)

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 sin.

I. Mercy withheld from some. Burroughs says, There are 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. Their low and weak condition, signified by the daughter. Their being rejected and carried away, signified by the third child. God now threatened to withhold mercy from Israel, and we know that when He did so the consequence was national ruin. “My Spirit shall not always strive with men.”

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 contained in 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. 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. It is suggested that man’s deliverance is--

2. 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. “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 for ever. (Homilist.)

The sin against love

Men say they cannot believe in hell, because they cannot conceive how God may sentence men to misery for the breaking of laws they were born without power to keep. And one would agree with the inference if God had done any such thing. But for them which are under the law and the sentence of death, Christ died once; for all, that He might redeem them. Yet this does not make a hell less believable. When we see how almighty was that love of God in Christ Jesus, lifting our whole race and sending them forward with a freedom and a power of growth nothing else in history has won for them; when we prove again how weak it is, so that it is possible for millions of characters that have felt it to refuse its eternal influence for the sake of some base and transient passion; nay, when I myself know this power and this weakness of Christ’s love, so that one day being loyal I am raised beyond the reach of fear and of doubt, beyond the desire of sin and the habit of evil, and the next day finds me capable of putting it aside in preference for some slight enjoyment or ambition--then I know the peril and the terror of this love, that it may be to a man either heaven or hell. Believe then in hell, because you believe in the love of God--not in a hell to which God condemns men of His will and pleasure, but a hell into which men cast themselves from the very face of His love in Jesus Christ. (Geo. Adam Smith, D. D.)

The time of mercy ended

The Macedonian king, Alexander the Great, observed a very Singular custom in his method of carrying on war. Whenever he encamped before a fortified city, and laid siege to it, he caused to be set up a great lantern, which was kept lighted by day and night. This was a signal to the besieged, and what it meant was that as long as the lamp burned they had time to save themselves by surrender, but that when once the light should be extinguished the city and all that were in it would be irrevocably given over to destruction. And the conqueror kept his word with terrible consistency. Now it is the good pleasure of our God to have compassion and to show mercy. But a city or a people can arrive at such a pitch of moral corruption that the moral order of the world can only be saved by its destruction. (Otto Funcke.)


Verse 7

Hosea 1:7

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

The vanity of the positive philosophy

The first three chapters are symbolic, and directed chiefly against the Ten Tribes, whom Hosea addresses as Israel and Ephraim. Hosea condemned their departure from the Almighty, as being a sort of spiritual adultery. One sign was an undue reliance upon material and temporal helps in times of emergency. Against this characteristic of a corrupt religion, and a declining national life, the text is directed.

I. All human and material succours are alone and by them selves inadequate. In their better days the people of Israel reposed all their confidence in Jehovah. Now they had lapsed into idolatry. Their spiritual vision had by degrees narrowed itself down to merely material views of things. They lost spiritual insight, and saw only the seen. They trusted in their military strength, and in political alliance with the great powers. From the human stand point this conduct was not unreasonable. In our own age this error prevails. It is reserved to our time to systematise these views into a philosophy, which, calling itself positive, excludes from its domain the least element of the super natural. It is found that there is a constancy in the operations of nature. Law has been discovered, where it was thought that there was but fortuity. So we are bidden to turn to science, where once we turned to God. Instead of praying, we are to study, and to adjust ourselves to ever-operating laws. If we would remain prosperous as a nation, say the positivists, we must have recourse to material helps, practise political economy, reform our social administration, and push to their farthest limits the practical application of scientific principles. But all this trust to science and scientific helps against the evils and emergencies of human life, is miserably and woefully mistaken. There is no incompatibility between true science and true religion. But a mere trust in means, or secondary causes, is vain and presumptuous. The shrewdest anticipations of man are constantly disappointed. Material succours--those helps which arise out of an observation, classification, and adaptation of secondary causes merely, are by themselves utterly unworthy.

II. Help from God is alone sufficient. God is the disposer of all events. At any moment this Supreme Power may, by a volition of His creative will, disappoint the cleverest calculation of the cleverest sociologist. God deigns to employ human and material agencies in the execution of His purposes; but because He works in a regular and orderly manner, we are not to think only of the mere means and instruments, and forget that Divine omnipresent agency, without which the mere instrumentality would be as the body without life, or as the machine without motive-power. It is then God, and God alone, who is worthy of trust. The means are with us, the issues are with the Lord. God can work with means, and He can also work without them. Man may calculate and scheme for results, but in vain, except as God may succeed his efforts. If we would make the best of both worlds, we must most distinctly remember that our only reliable help is to be found in the Lord, and in Him alone.

III. In all cases it is our duty to trust only in God. Hero we see the practical bearing of the truth enforced by the prophecy. The lesson of the text is, that we are not to trust to any use of means for the result or results which we may desire. Secondary causes are only efficient as they are so made by the informing agency of God. (D. Clark, M. A.)

Saved by Jehovah

Salvation is here set in opposition to the destruction which the prophet mentioned in the last verse. But Hosea shows that salvation depends not in the least either on arms, or on any of the intervenients, as they say, of this world; but has its foundation only on God’s favour. The connection ought to be carefully noticed. Where the Lord’s favour is, there is life. Hence the prophet here connects salvation with God’s gratuitous favour, for we cannot continue safe, but as long as God is propitious to us. But he says, “By Jehovah their God.” An antithesis is to be understood here between the false gods and Jehovah, who was the God of the house of Judah. It is the same as though the prophet said, “Ye indeed profess the name of God, but ye worship the devil and not God; for ye have nothing to do with Jehovah, with the God who is the Creator and Maker of heaven and earth; for He dwells in His own temple; He pledged His faith to David, when He commanded him to build a temple for Him on Mount Zion; He dwells there between the cherubim, but the true God has become exiled from you, Israelites.” (John Calvin.)

God the Deliverer

England has often shown her Christian character in acknowledging the hand of God. After the glorious deliverance from her enemies, by the destruction of the Spanish Armada, Queen Elizabeth ordered a medal to be struck, having on it, Afflavit Deus, et dissipantur--“God blew on them, and they were scattered.”


Verse 9

Hosea 1:9

Lo-ammi: ye are not My people, and I will not be your God.

Lo-ammi: the type of the third child

The last period of their sins’ ripening for God’s judgments, is represented under the type of the third child, called Lo-ammi, or not My people; pointing to the time of their utter captivity by Shalmaneser, whereby God made void the relation betwixt Him and that people, scattering them among the nations, and making them cease from being His Church and people. Whence learn--

1. Such is the long-suffering patience of God, especially toward the visible Church, that He is not only slow to anger, and to manifest the same by judgments; but even when He hath begun to strike, He yet waits patiently, to see what use they will make of present judgments, to prevent future and sadder strokes; and in particular it is very long ere the Lord come to unchurch a people that have been in covenant with Him.

2. However the Lord’s long-suffering patience be great and admirable, yet it will not always last towards a sinful people, especially after He hath begun to plead with them, but will at last come to a sad period.

3. Howbeit no limits ought to be set to the freedom and efficacy of the grace of God, who can and doth sanctify afflictions unto the Church, and make them a means to turn her, and cause her to cleave faster to Him: yet it doth ofttimes also prove too true, that when the Lord begins to contend with her, she proves so obstinate in sin, and so incorrigible and incessant in defection, that nothing ends it but her utter rejection, at least for a time.

4. The capstone of all judgment upon a people is their unchurching, and the cutting off the relations between God and them.

5. Whenever the Lord gives up with a people as to being their God, He will make it appear that the breach began on their side, and that they first voluntarily rejected Him, and chose that state and condition sinfully, to which, and the effects thereof, He gives them up judicially. (George Hutcheson.)

Lo-ammi

“Ye are not My people.” This is the final disowning of them. They had been before called Jezreelites, and then by the name of the daughter God testified that He was alienated from them; bat now the third name is still more grievous, “Ye are not My people,” for God here abolishes, in a manner, the covenant He made with the holy fathers, so that the people would cease to have any preeminence over the other nations. The Israelites were reduced to a condition in which they differed nothing from the profane Gentiles: and thus God wholly disinherited them. Let us hence learn, that those awfully mistake who are blind to their own vices, because God spares and indulges them. There is no reason for hypocrites to felicitate themselves in prosperity; they ought, on the contrary, to have regard to God’s judgment. But though these, as we see to be the case, heedlessly despise God, yet this passage reminds us carefully to beware lest we abuse the present favours of God. (John Calvin.)


Verse 10

Hosea 1:10

There it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.

A promise of mercy

I. A promise of mercy to israel.

1. The Lord in judgment remembers mercy. When God threatens most dreadfully, yet He promises most graciously.

2. It is usual when we are in prosperity to forget all threatenings, and when we are in adversity to forget all promises.

3. God in the midst of His auger, knows those that trust in Him.

4. Not only when God threatens judgments, but when judgments are actually upon us, let us sanctify God’s name in looking up to the promises.

II. To whom did this promise refer? It was not a promise to any that then lived, it was to be fulfilled in future ages; yet it is introduced by the prophet as a comfort to the people of God then living. Gracious hearts are comforted with the promises of God made to the Church, though not to be fulfilled in their days.

III. What was this promise? That Israel-should be a multitude. The Lord remembers His promises, though made a long time since, so long ago as the time of Abraham. Observe--

1. There is nothing lost in being willing, as Abraham was, to lose for God.

2. When we are willing to lose for God, then is the time when God will renew and confirm His covenant with us. Note--

The destiny of the race

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 item sea to sea, from the rivers 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 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 for 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. 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 fulfilment? Do not judge from appearances. 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 shall it 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 of the earth now populated with the enemies of God will one day be crowded with His friends.

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. “The living God.” The world has abounded with dead gods; there is but one “living” God.

III. The race is destined to a common leadership.

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 antipathies 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, the Captain of our salvation. All shall unite in Him.

3. This leadership will be glorious. 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. (Homilist.)

Sons of the living God

It was the special sin of Israel, the source of all his other sins, that he had left the living God, to serve idols. In the times of the Gospel, not only should he own God as his God, but he should have the greatest of all gifts, that the living God, the Fountain of all life, of the life of nature, of grace, of glory, should be his Father, should communicate to him that life, which He has and is. For He who is Life, imparts life. God doth not only pour into the souls of His elect, grace and faith, hope and love, or all the manifold gifts of His Spirit, but He, the living God, maketh them to be His living sons, by His Spirit dwelling in them, by whom He adopteth them as His sons, through whom He giveth them grace. For by His Spirit He adopteth them as sons God not only accounteth us, but maketh us His sons. He maketh us sons, not outwardly, but inwardly; not by inward grace alone, but by His Spirit. God is our Father, not by nature, but by grace. He giveth us of His substance, of His nature, although not by nature; not united with us (as it is personally, with His Son), but dwelling in us, and making us partakers of the Divine nature. Sons of the living God must be living by Him and to Him, by His life, yea, through Himself living in them. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

Old Testament prediction

“Fossil sunlight,” is what Herschel named anthracite coal. The vast stores of sunlight poured out upon the globe during the old geological ages were consolidated and packed away in the bowels of the earth because this busy twentieth century, with its myriads of railways and ocean steamers and manufactories, would need it. And have you thought how large a proportion of the Old Testament is prediction? And is it, therefore, of no use to the practical working Church of to-day? Nay. This vast profusion of prophetic light falling upon the minds of Isaiah and Ezekiel and Jeremiah and David, and the minor prophets, and treasured up in their inspired pages, may soon be needed. And they who are delving in these mines of eschatology, instead of being engaged in an aimless and profitless toil, may be providing the Church with the needed warmth for that predicted time when “ iniquity shall abound, and the love of many wax cold.” (A. J. Gordon, D. D.)


Verse 11

Hosea 1:11

Great shall be the day of Jezreel.

The day of Jezreel

Jezreel signifies “the arm of the Lord.” And it intimates that when He arises to bless the world, the spiritual seed of Messiah shall be numberless. The text may be taken as descriptive of the future triumphs of the Gospel.

I. The day of Jezreel shall be great in the multitudes of converts to the faith of Christ. Hitherto the flock of real believers has been a little flock. The “whole world lieth in wickedness.” May we not affirm that one-half Of the inhabitants of any city, town, or village possess not the semblance of religion? But painful as the contemplation of this picture is, our eyes look forward to happier days. There are seeds of a glorious harvest springing up.

II. Great in the unanimity of its subjects. The two houses were long divided; but under Zerubbabel they were to return from Babylon, and together rebuild the temple at Jerusalem. Under the mediatorial dominion of Christ, there shall be one fold, one shepherd. Jews and Gentiles shall be united in crowning the Saviour Lord of all. The fair form of Christianity shall be clouded by no stormy contentions--disfigured by no angry disputes--defiled by no human inventions--dishonoured by no unscriptural elements. We may not assume that any one particular form of Divine service will become the only mode of public worship. All will worship in spirit and in truth.

III. Great in the holiness of its friends. There is a threefold departure from the world. The first is by death. This we may call involuntary. The second is by superstition. This we may call voluntary. It is “will-worship.” The third is the one which grace effects. It is a commendable renunciation of the world. To live in it, while we forsake its spirit.

IV. Great in the glory of its triumphs.

1. In the victories it shall achieve. All false religion shall perish. Idolatry shall be destroyed.

2. Great in the zeal of its subjects. It will no longer be a day of small things. All shall be ready with their offerings, and none shall appear before the Lord empty.

3. The day of Jezreel shall be great for the consummation of the work and glory of the Redeemer. He then will “see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied.” (Anon.)

Mercy in view of the day of Jezreel

Because there will be such a dreadful day of Jezreel, therefore God will make it up by this restitution. Or it may be, albeit there hath been such a great day of Jezreel, yet this mercy shall also come to pass. It teaches--

1. In a time of love, the Lord can and will turn His people’s hardest lots into mercies.

2. Days of the Lord’s manifesting mercy towards His people are great days, and worth the marking, as affording mercies above any mercies besides.

3. As all the times wherein God is kind to His people are remarkable times, so in particular, a time of love after sad calamities, His bringing forth the fruits of their afflictions, and of His love after a long interruption, will make a refreshful time. (George Hutcheson.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Hosea 1:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/hosea-1.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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