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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Hosea 1

 

 

Verses 1-5

1, 2a. Title — intended as a heading for the whole book. On its probable original form, its accord with internal evidence, etc., see pp. 15ff.

Word — As in Isaiah 2:1 (compare “vision,” Isaiah 1:1), denotes the substance of the divine revelation, whatever the manner in which it was received (see pp. 14f.).

Jehovah — Thus the A.R.V. reproduces throughout the entire Old Testament the name of God rendered in A.V. LORD).

Beeri — Introduction, p. 10.

The beginning of the word of Jehovah by Hosea — R.V., “When Jehovah spake at the first by Hosea.” A.V. is more satisfactory, and is supported by the ancient versions. The words are a new heading, perhaps by Hosea himself, for part of the book; not chapters 1-3 (Cheyne), but chapters 1, 2. To “beginning” corresponds “again” in Hosea 3:1.

By — Better, R.V. margin, “with” (Zechariah 1:9; Numbers 12:2). In what sense this was the beginning of Hosea’s prophetic activity, see Introduction, pp. 15f. The narrative — for such is chapter 1 — begins with Jehovah said to Hosea; it closes with Hosea 1:9, in Hebrew the end of chapter 1.


Verses 2-5

2b-5. The marriage of Hosea and the birth of the first child. 2.

Take… a wife — Common expression for marry.

A wife of whoredoms — Not harlot, that is, a woman already a sinner, whether in a literal or a spiritual sense (Hosea 2:5), but a woman with deeply rooted tendencies toward unchastity (Introduction, pp. 12ff.).

Children of whoredoms — Either children inheriting the mother’s evil tendencies, or children born of a woman with such tendencies, or both (Hosea 2:4).

The land hath committed [“doth commit”] great whoredom — The reason for leading the prophet into this peculiar experience. By his own domestic life he was to apprehend more clearly the relation of Jehovah to Israel. As the prophet in his later life meditated over his own sad experience he recognized that the affliction came to him from Jehovah to teach him, in order that he might be a teacher of others. That does not mean that he was not a prophet until his eyes were thus opened. He was conscious of a prophetic call when his first son was born, as is clear from the giving of the symbolic name. In fact, he understood the significance of his own domestic experience because he had the prophetic gift. Nevertheless, his experience led him into a deeper appreciation of the most important phase of his message to the people. Israel, like his wife, had adulterous tendencies; for a while they were restrained, but at the slightest provocation they broke forth.


Verses 2-9

HOSEA’S WIFE AND CHILDREN, Hosea 1:2-9.

The prophet relates how, at the divine command, he took in marriage a wife of whoredoms, Gomer the daughter of Diblaim. By her he had three children, to whom he gave names symbolic of the truths he taught: Jezreel, symbolizing the overthrow of the dynasty of Jehu; Lo-ruhamah, announcing that Jehovah will have no more mercy upon Israel; and Lo-ammi, symbolizing the utter rejection of Israel.


Verse 3

3. The prophet followed the command.

Gomer — Various efforts have been made to find a symbolic meaning in this name as well as in that of the father, Diblaim, but without success. Both are to be understood literally. In time a son was born; to him the prophet gave a name symbolic of one important truth he was commissioned to teach. In a similar manner Isaiah gave to his sons the symbolical names Shear-jashub and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 8:3). There is no reason to suppose that this son was the offspring of adulterous intercourse and that Hosea recognized him as his son “for his mother’s sake.” It is probable that Hosea did not find out the true character of his wife, or at least the hopelessness of the case, until after the birth of the three children.


Verse 4

4. Jezreel — That is, God sows. The name was to be given, as the next line shows, not on account of its meaning but on account of its historical connections. Jezreel is the well-known city of that name in the Plain of Jezreel.

Blood — Or, blood-guiltiness (G.-K., 124n); the extinction of the house of Ahab by Jehu, about 842 B.C. (2 Kings 9, 10). The name, therefore, points both backward and forward — backward to the crime and forward to the punishment. Not only the dynasty of Jehu is to be destroyed, but also the northern kingdom. The events are thought to be imminent.

Yet a little while — In this the prophet was not mistaken, for the fulfillment in each case took place within a few years, though not at one time; the farmer in the assassination of Zechariah by the usurper Shallum (2 Kings 15:10), the latter in the fall of Samaria and the exile of the northern tribes in 722-721 B.C. (2 Kings 17). One cannot fail to see that the standpoint of Hosea is not the same as that of 2 Kings 10:30. There Jehu is highly commended for the very act condemned here. How are we to explain the difference? The attempt to prove that Hosea has in mind some other crime is futile. The explanation lies in the advance in religious and ethical conceptions during the intervening century. The character of Jehovah never changes; but the conceptions of his character, even by the inspired prophets, did change and advance. It seems that the prophets of the ninth century had not yet learned “that the cause of truth is not permanently advanced by intrigue and bloodshed,” while Hosea is advancing toward the Christian belief that the kingdom of God must be extended by the moral influence going out from the kingdom; a view held also by the author of Isaiah 2:2-4. It should be noted, however, that some deny that Hosea’s judgment differed from that of the author of 2 Kings 10:30; and they explain the prophet’s condemnation by assuming that he recognized a wrong motive, unnoticed by the historian, behind Jehu’s act. “The same historical fact which, if it had proceeded from high motives, would have been praiseworthy as pleasing to God may, if arising from other motives, be unpardonable sin in the sight of God.” In addition it is claimed that Jehu went to excess in executing the divine command (2 Kings 9:27; 2 Kings 10:13-14).


Verse 5

5. The valley of Jezreel — The ancient battlefield of the Hebrews (Judges 4:13 ff; Judges 6:33 ff; Judges 7:1 ff.; 1 Samuel 29:1 ff.), therefore a proper place for the coming conflict; besides, the crime to be avenged had been committed there. If the LXX. text of 2 Kings 15:10, is correct Zechariah was slain at Ibleam, which lies in the valley of Jezreel. The final blow, which marked the end of the northern kingdom, was the fall of Samaria. There is no reason for regarding Hosea 1:5 as a later insertion (Marti).

Break the bow — Symbol of military power. The enemy which is to destroy Israel is not named; he can be no other than the Assyrian.


Verse 6-7

6, 7. Birth of Lo-ruhamah. 6. The second child of the union was a daughter.

Lo-ruhamah — Meaning She is not pitied, or loved; that is, she does not experience the love which is ordinarily bestowed by parents upon their children. The reason for giving this name is also stated. Israel, the child of Jehovah (Hosea 11:1), is no longer loved or pitied by him to the extent that a child might expect love and pity; but Jehovah has not yet entirely cast off the people (Hosea 1:9).

But I will utterly take them away — Better, with R.V., “that I should in any wise pardon them”; a perfectly legitimate translation (Jeremiah 12:1; compare Genesis 40:15, G.-K., 166b). There is no grammatical necessity for the rendering, “No, rather I will surely pardon them,” which Marti makes the basis for omitting the clause as a later addition, because the thought expressed is out of place in this connection. His translation being unwarranted there is no necessity for omitting the words.


Verse 7

7. While Jehovah will not interfere in behalf of Israel, he will have mercy upon the southern kingdom.

Judah — The prophet seems to think that Judah is in better religious and moral condition than Israel (Hosea 4:15). In reality, judging from the messages of Isaiah and Micah, the two eighth century prophets of Judah, there was little difference between the conditions in the two kingdoms. And if the references to Judah in Hosea 5:5; Hosea 5:10; Hosea 5:12-14; Hosea 6:4; Hosea 6:11; Hosea 8:14; Hosea 10:11; Hosea 11:12 (margin); Hosea 12:2, are from Hosea himself, this prophet seems to agree with the two Judean prophets. The explanation that Hosea 1:7; Hosea 4:15, come from an earlier period, before Hosea had become properly acquainted with conditions in Judah, is not considered satisfactory by most commentators, since the time elapsed between the delivery of Hosea 4:15, and chapter 5, cannot have been very long. It is not without reason, therefore, that many commentators regard Hosea 1:7 as a later interpolation, reflecting the experiences of Judah in 701 (2 Kings 19:35 ff; Isaiah 37:36 ff.). An additional objection is raised on the ground that the thought of Hosea 1:7 is foreign to the rest of the chapter, in which the prophet narrates his own domestic life, and sets forth its significance as illustrating the relation of Israel to Jehovah.

By Jehovah their God — For the sake of emphasis, instead of by me; describes very aptly the deliverance of 701, as a reading of the account in 2 Kings will show. It is the constant teaching of the prophets that Jehovah, and not human defenses, is the salvation of his people (Hosea 14:3; Isaiah 7:1-17; Isaiah 31:8; compare Hosea 2:7).


Verse 8-9

8, 9. Birth of Lo-ammi.

8. The third child was a son.

When she had weaned — After two or three years, the length of time allowed to elapse in Palestine even now before children are weaned. 9.

Lo-ammi — That is, Not my people. Israel is to be cast off entirely, to be no longer the people of Jehovah. The three names form a climax — Jezreel symbolizes a definite judgment; Lo-ruhamah, the withdrawal of the divine mercy; Lo-ammi, the utter rejection of Israel, its treatment as a foreign nation.

I will not be your God — Literally, I will not be for you, that is, on your side, to help you. The thought remains the same, but the ordinary translation brings it out more strongly. Some manuscripts of the LXX. read “your God,” and this is favored by Hosea 2:3 (compare Zechariah 8:8). Perhaps the text has suffered in transmission.


Verse 10

PROMISE OF A GLORIOUS RESTORATION, Hosea 1:10 to Hosea 2:1.

With Hosea 1:9 chapter 1 closes in the common editions of the Hebrew Bible. The division of the English Bible — found also in some Hebrew texts, in LXX., Luther, Calvin, etc. — is certainly unfortunate, for Hosea 1:10 to Hosea 2:1, belong close together. But scholars have long disagreed as to the exact relation of these verses to Hosea 1:2-9, and Hosea 2:2 ff., since the transition from Hosea 1:9-10, and also from Hosea 2:1-2, is exceedingly abrupt. Some make Hosea 1:10 to Hosea 2:1, the continuation of Hosea 1:2-9, regarding Hosea 2:1, as the close of the first section; others feeling that the promises of Hosea 1:10 to Hosea 2:1, following immediately upon the threats in Hosea 1:2-9, would take from the latter much of their force, regard the verses as the beginning of the second oracle, which would then begin with a promise (compare Isaiah 2:2-4, a promise followed by threats in Hosea 2:5 ff.). But this does not relieve the situation, for the transition from Hosea 2:1-2, is at least equally abrupt. As a result, some scholars, seeing in the verses nothing that would militate against the authorship of Hosea and yet recognizing their loose connection with the context, think that the verses have been misplaced. Steiner, Cheyne, and others would place them after Hosea 2:23, A.B. Davidson after Hosea 3:5. The former find some support in Romans 9:25-26, where part of Hosea 1:10, is quoted immediately after Hosea 2:23. This, however, is not conclusive, since Paul might quote verses in any order he chose. The objections to the transposition theory, raised by Nowack, Marti, and others, rest, in part at least, upon misinterpretation of Hosea 1:10-11, and are of little weight. The transition from Hosea 2:23, or Hosea 3:5, would undoubtedly be smoother; but, if the verses were transposed, how, why, and when did it happen? The reply that a later age sought to break the sting of the prophetic denunciations by rearranging the prophecies so that each would end with a promise of a brighter future rests upon mere assumption, and cannot be considered satisfactory. The most recent commentators, Wellhausen, Nowack, Marti, and Harper, take Hosea 1:10 to Hosea 2:1, to be a later exilic or postexilic addition, made for the purpose just suggested. If so, the later writer must have followed and imitated Hosea very closely, for the verses are clearly dependent in thought and mode of expression on Hosea 1:2-9. All one can do is to state the case and the views held; which is the correct one it is impossible to say with any degree of certainty, since the data, indecisive themselves, will appeal with varying force to different readers. So far as the contents are concerned, Hosea might be the author; abrupt transitions are not infrequent in the book; indeed, they are one of its chief characteristics. On the other hand, we know very little about the collection of prophetic oracles into books, and it is not unlikely that later additions were made to separate oracles, as well as to whole books, though one may not be ready to go in this matter to the extent to which some modern commentators are inclined.


Verse 10

10. Yet — In Hebrew the simple conjunction and.

As the sand of the sea — All the prophets are convinced that from the judgment a remnant will escape, out of which shall rise the new people of God (Isaiah 6:13). In this new nation the promise to the patriarchs (Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12), realized in a very small degree under Solomon (1 Kings 4:20), will be completely fulfilled.

Israel — Not the whole nation, but the northern kingdom only, as in 4, 5, 6, 11.

In the place where it was said — So LXX. and Romans 9:26. But, since the important thing is the fact and not the place of the restoration, the marginal reading, “instead of that which was said,” a possible translation of the Hebrew, is to be preferred.

Not my people Lo-ammi (Hosea 1:9).

Sons — The representation of the relation of the deity to his worshipers as fatherhood is a common idea in Semitic religions. Chemosh has sons and daughters (Numbers 21:29); the expression is used even of idols of wood and stone (Jeremiah 2:27); outside of Israel the expression seems to imply, in the beginning at least, physical relationship; never so in Israel. There the basis is an act of mercy on the part of Jehovah; adoption, not generation (Hosea 11:1; compare Exodus 4:22). The former intimate relation, severed through Israel’s rebellion (Isaiah 1:2), is to be restored.

Living God — In contrast with the dead idols, which are unable to do anything for their worshipers. “One of the earliest appearances of prophetic monotheism” (compare Isaiah 37:4; Deuteronomy 5:23). Restoration to son-ship will mean a renewal of the divine grace and favor to Israel. 11.

Shall… be gathered together — The common prophetic anticipation that in the new era North and South will be reunited (Isaiah 11:13; Ezekiel 37:22; Zechariah 9:13, etc.). While the tenth century prophets favored the schism (1 Kings 11:29; 1 Kings 12:22 ff.), later prophets looked upon it as a serious disaster (Isaiah 7:17).

One head — One common leader (Numbers 14:4; 1 Samuel 15:17). Who he will be, whence he will come, is not stated, he is possibly to be identified with “David their king” (Hosea 3:5).

Shall come up out of [“go up from”] the land — If the verses are allowed to retain their present position the words cannot refer to a return from exile; nor can they be interpreted primarily in the sense suggested by Cheyne, “The reconciled people, too numerous for the land to bear them, shall seek to enlarge their territory” (Amos 9:12; Micah 2:12-13); for before they can enter upon a career of conquest they must regain their former standing. To do this is the purpose of the going up, that is, to battle (Nab. Hosea 2:1; Joel 1:6).

The day of Jezreel — Not identical with the day of disaster (Hosea 1:4), though this verse looks back to it, as Hosea 2:1, looks back to Hosea 1:6; Hosea 1:9. It is the very opposite, a day of victory to be won on the old battlefield of Jezreel. If the three verses are placed after Hosea 3:5, go up might refer to a return from exile (Hosea 3:4), though not necessarily. Then Jezreel would better be interpreted in connection with Hosea 2:22-23, as pointing to the permanent settlement of Israel in the promised land, which will be followed by the transformation indicated in Hosea 2:1.

Great — Glorious; marked by manifestations of the divine power.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hosea 1:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/hosea-1.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 11th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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