Hosea and His Children (Hosea 1:4-9)

Today on Grace Still Amazes we’re going to look at Hosea’s three children, mentioned in Hosea 1:4-9.  Just like I wouldn’t want to be married to a woman named Gomer, I wouldn’t want to have to name my children the names Hosea gave them.  But he gave them to them for a reason.

Listen to Hosea 1:4-9.  I’m going to actually start in verse 3.

3 So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. 4 And the LORD said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.” 6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. 7 But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.” 8 When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. 9 And the LORD said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

The events described in this section of Hosea reflect, in a broader sense, the tragic conditions existing in Israel (and Judah to some extent) at the time of Hosea’s ministry.  That is, the domestic tragedy in Hosea’s home was a microcosm of a far greater tragedy in the nation.  That tragedy was turning their backs on Yahweh to embrace other gods.  Such turning could only result in ultimate judgment from God.

So three children were born—Jezreel, Lo-Ruhamah, and Lo-Ammi, which were translated here in the ESV, “No Mercy” and “Not my People.”  These three names represent God’s judgment against faithless Israel.

By the way, Hosea was not the only prophet to use the names of his children to communicate judgment to God’s people.  Isaiah, writing to Judah, gave his children names relating to Judah’s future judgment (Isaiah 8:3-4) and future redemption (Isaiah 7:3).

One might notice that of Jezreel it is said in verse 3 that “she conceived and bore him (that is Hosea) a son” whereas with both Lo-Ruhamah and Lo-Ammi it is simply said “she conceived and bore a daughter or son.”  Some believe that this means that only Jezreel was Hosea’s son and that Gomer was already committing adultery and those trysts made her pregnant with the last two children.

Each section on Hosea’s children (vv. 3-5, 6-7, 8-9) contains a birth notice, a word of instruction from the Lord about the child’s name, and an explanation of the meaning of the name.  The names of Hosea’s children all reminded everyone who heard them of the broken relationship that existed between Yahweh and Israel, and each one anticipated judgment.

So Derek Kidner says…

The three persons are a crescendo—first of judgment, but in the end a crescendo of grace to round off each of the first two chapters.  Grace has a way of interrupting oracles of doom…but for the moment there is no break in the clouds, and the darkness will get deeper with each successive birth. (The Message of Hosea, p. 20)

The first child born, to both Hosea and Gomer, was Jezreel.  This name has a double meaning that is illustrated in both the judgment phase and the deliverance phase.  Jezreel means “God scatters” (a picture of judgment upon the land and people of Israel, played out through the Assyrian policy of scattering and intermarrying conquered countries).  Jezreel can also mean “God sows,” which illustrates the restoration of the people of Israel to their homeland.

Jezreel was most likely born during the final years of Jeroboam II’s reign.

But it is not just the meaning of the name which is significant.  There was a town in Israel by the name of Jezreel.  It was located at the east end of the Jezreel Valley, called the “breadbasket of Israel” because it is the largest plain in Israel.  At the midpoint is Megiddo.  This great plain in Israel was one of the few places where chariots, cavalry and large armies could maneuver.  It was a key place were the bow and arrow were prime instruments of warfare.

jezreel valley and lower galilee map

This map is from the Satellite Bible Atlas.

jezreel valley from mount carmel, with hill of morech, beth shan and mount gilboa labelledjezreel and surrounding region, bible atlas

This map shows the city of Jezreel, Bible Atlas online

jezreel--where jezebel was thrown down, biblical archaeology society

Jezreel had become the Israelite winter capital by the time of Ahab (9th century BC), who built a palace there; the Bible also mentions a wall and defensive tower.  In 1 Kings 21, when Naboth the Jezreelite refuses to sell his vineyard to Ahab, Ahab’s wife Jezebel has him stoned to death.  This is followed by a visit from none other than the prophet Elijah and the subsequent gruesome death of Jezebel.

The reason Hosea and Gomer’s son is named Jezreel is because, verse 4, “I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel…”

The “house of Jehu” was the ruling dynasty of the northern kingdom at that time.  Jeroboam II, the greatest of king of the northern kingdom, was the grandson of Jehu.

If you remember the story of Jehu (2 Kings 9-10), he was told by God to take over the northern kingdom, but he went too far in shedding blood.  This bloodbath started in the city of Jezreel, located at the edge of the large, fertile valley of Jezreel in the north of Israel.  Its most famous victim, Jezebel the queen mother, was thrown down from an upper window.

Jehu had received his commission from Elisha.  In 2 Kings 9:6-10 we read…

6 So he [Elisha] arose and went into the house. And the young man poured the oil on his head, saying to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, I anoint you king over the people of the LORD, over Israel. 7 And you shall strike down the house of Ahab your master, so that I may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD. 8 For the whole house of Ahab shall perish, and I will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel.9 And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah. 10 And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and none shall bury her.”  Then he opened the door and fled.

It was at Jezreel that King Jehu of Israel (841-814 B.C.) massacred many enemies of Israel, including King Ahab and Queen Jezebel of Israel, King Jehoram of Israel, and many prophets of Baal, which was good (cf. 2 Kings 9:6-10, 24; 10:18-28, 30).

But he also killed King Ahaziah of Judah and 42 of his relatives, which was bad (2 Kings 9:27-28; 10:12-14).  Ahaziah and his relatives did not die in Jezreel, but their deaths were part of Jehu’s wholesale slaughter at Jezreel.  Jehu went too far and thereby demonstrated disrespect for the Lord’s commands (cf. 2 Kings 10:29-31).

Because of Jehu’s atrocities that overstepped his authority to judge Israel’s enemies, God promised to punish his house (dynasty).  The fulfillment came when Shallum assassinated King Zechariah, Jeroboam II’s son and the fourth king of Jehu’s dynasty, in 753-752 B.C.  This death ended Jehu’s kingdom (dynasty) forever (2 Kings 15:10).  It happened at the town of Ibleam (2 Kings 15:10), located in a southern part of the Jezreel valley.  The captivity that followed gave Jezreel a very bitter meaning for Israel, namely, the scatting throughout the world (2 Kings 17:18).

The dynasty ended as it had begun, with the assassination of the ruling house of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.

There is a slight paradox here, for in carrying out God’s judgment against the house of Ahab, God said…

30 And the LORD said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in carrying out what is right in my eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.”

So why was Jehu being judged for the “blood of Jezreel”?  Apparently, just like God would use Sennacherib, the Assyrian conqueror, and Nebuchadnezzar, who sacked Jerusalem, yet later judged them for how they went about it and their pride, so Jehu is being judged here for both going too far and showing a proud heart.

Thus, the final word on Jehu, from 2 Kings 10: 29, 31

29 But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin–that is, the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan.  31 But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin.

So Kidner states

Self-interest and bloodlust were his dominant springs of conduct, and it was this that made “the blood of Jezreel” an accusing stain.

And the reason that Israel was now about to experience a similar judgment, some hundred years later, is because they never repudiated this attitude of violence.

Duane Garrett has a simpler explanation, and that is that the Hebrew word here translated “punish” can, and should here, mean “visit.”  So it should be translated, “And I will bring (visit) the bloodshed of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu.”

He says,

This is not punishment for Jehu’s zeal in the slaughter at Jezreel; rather it is punishment for not learning the lesson of Jezreel.  Jehu himself had been the agent of God’s fury and personally had seen how terribly it fell upon an apostate dynasty.  But he and his household went on to repeat the apostasy of the Omrides and their predecessors (2 Kings 10:31; 13:1).  God visited the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu because, in the final analysis, his dynasty’s rule was little better than that of Jeroboam I or Ahab and Jezebel.  Jehu’s actions at Jezreel were, if anything, the main reason God did not eliminated his dynasty sooner (2 Kings 10:30). (Duane Garrett, Hosea-Amos, p. 57)

Verse 5 indicates that the name of Hosea’s first son would also point to a future judgment that would also take place in the valley near Jezreel.  It would happen on “that day,” namely, a future unspecified day.  Yahweh promised to break Israel’s military strength, symbolized by an archer’s “bow,” there and then.

jezreel valley__israel's breadbasket

Usually, when God promises to “break the bow” of some fighting force, it means that God is coming to Israel’s rescue.  It is the enemy’s fighting force that would be broken.  There is a notable example in 2:18b where at the time of God’s future deliverance…

Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety.

Also Psalm 46:9

9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

But here, it is the bow of Israel that God will break, indicating that Israel would no longer be a force for God.  The “house of Jehu” (government) and the “bow” (military might) will fall as one.

Also, the further sting of this final sentence of judgment under the name Jezreel is the great reversal that it implies by the scene of defeat.  Jezreel was the valley of Gideon’s great victory over the Midianites (Judges 6-7), as well as Deborah before him (Judges 4-5).  Thus, Jezreel had once been a name of Israel’s glory.  But since Jehu’s massacres, it could only stand for savagery. (Kidner, 21)

This valley, because it was so strategic to trade routes, had seen many battles.  Gideon had defeated the Midianites in this valley (Judg. 6:33; 7), the Philistines had defeated the Israelites under Saul’s leadership there (1 Sam. 29:1, 11; 31), and Pharaoh Neco II defeated Josiah there after the Assyrians attacked (2 Kings 23:29-30).

But now the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pilesar III would fulfill this prophecy when he invaded and defeated Israel there in the valley of Jezreel 733 B.C. (2 Kings 15:29; cf. 2 Kings 17:3-5).  So though forty years apart, the end of Jehu’s dynasty and the end of the northern kingdom would take place in the area of Jezreel.

This valley will also be the place where the great end times battle, the battle of Armageddon, or Har-Meggido, will be fought.  There, the armies of the vicious and violent Antichrist will amass his armies against Jerusalem and Jesus will break the bow of Antichrist with the word of His mouth.

In verse 6-7 we then read about the second child.  If Jezreel’s name signified defeat, this daughter’s name represents deportation.

6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. 7 But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”

The name “No Mercy” is in Hebrew Lo-Ruhamah.  We could also translate it “Not Loved.”  What a terrible name to give to a little girl!  It communicates complete alienation and rejection by her father and says that she has been abandoned to face the difficulties of life alone.

For a culture as child-centered as Israel was, it is difficult to imagine a name more scandalous and offensive.  At the mention of her name, people would naturally query, “Why would anyone name his daughter that?”

I don’t imagine that it represented Hosea’s true feelings towards her.  Nor does it demand that we take her as the offspring of Gomer with another man.  Although verse 6 does not say, “bore him a daughter” like verse 3 says of Jezreel, it could simply be a shortening of the birth statement.

What it does signify is that Yahweh had been very compassionate, very loving, towards Israel in her past, but that her persistent unfaithfulness to Him and His covenant with her made continuing love impossible.  Just as Gomer showed no love for Hosea had vanished, so the Lord’s compassion towards His people had been stretched to the breaking point.

God was withdrawing his mercy from the house of Israel because He had been betrayed by the repeated adulteries (that is, idolatry) of the nation of Israel.  You can read it throughout 1 and 2 Kings.  They could no longer expect grace from God.  He had given it time and time again before, but now his patience has run out.

This is the same type of sentiment which causes Jesus to cry out (Matthew 23:37b):

How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

Garrett says

The people heard that terrible name and no doubt whispered to one another, “Hosea’s wife is unfaithful; he must doubt that this child is his.  He has rejected the poor thing!” and Hosea could respond something like: “Do you trouble yourself over Lo-Ruhamah?  I tell you, you are Lo-Ruhamah!  Yahweh has turned his back on you!”

In contrast, it says in verse 7 that the Lord would have compassion on the Southern Kingdom of Judah and deliver her from such a fate.  Was this to provoke Israel to jealousy?

He said deliverance would come by “Yahweh their God”, perhaps using His own name in this way to impress on the Israelites who their true God was.

He said He would not do this in battle, however.  The Israelites relied on human arms and alliances, but the Judahites trusted in the Lord, generally speaking, so He delivered the Judahites supernaturally.

The Lord delivered them in 701 B.C., by killing 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night while they slept encamped around Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:32-36; Isa. 37).  Jerusalem was the only great city that did not fall to the Assyrians during this invasion of Syria-Palestine.  There would be no such reprieve for an impenitent Samaria.

And this would not be the only time when Judah would experience a supernatural deliverance, for this verse likewise points forward to the ultimate “in the last day” when God will fight for His people.

2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle [the battle of Armageddon], and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped.  Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. (Zechariah 14)

From this prediction by Hosea Israel should have realized that God will have compassion on those who trust in Him and do not seek security through their own devices (weapons, alliances).

Are the words of Hosea 14 speaking of present Israel, or future Israel?  If present Israel, then some people “got it” and turned back to God.

1 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. 2 Take with you words and return to the LORD; say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips. 3 Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands.  In you the orphan finds mercy.”

Judah’s sins were not as great as Israel’s at this time.  Judah enjoyed a succession of four “good” kings (Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, and Jotham), and Hosea may have received this prophecy when Uzziah or Jotham was reigning.

Now, Duane Garret argues that the end of verse 7 best reads from the Hebrew, “I will no longer show love to the house of Israel, I shall completely forgive them.”  That is a jolting statement, similar to what we see in the oracle of Lo-Ammi in verses 8-10.  It is also similar to the pathos of Hosea 11:8

8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.

So Garrett says, “This inconsistency (first saying one thing, then the opposite) is the language of the vexation of a broken heart—and it also reflects the mystery of a God whose ways are above our ways.

The effect of this, of course, should have led Israel to repentance, just like Jonah’s oracles of Nineveh’s doom did.

The name of the third child signals the final stage of judgment against Israel.  Lo-Ammi, “not my people,” “not mine” signified Yahweh’s divorce from Israel.  From defeat, to deportation, to divorce.  They are totally disowned.

Again, this could possibly indicate that this third child, and possibly the second, were not Hosea’s.  That is debatable, but there is no doubt that the use of this name is the prophet’s means of saying that Israel has broken the covenant relationship and therefore God severs them from the covenant relationship.

The mention of weaning in verse 8 grounds this text in real history and since a child was weaned after two to three years, it may signify that Israel was being given a little more time to comprehend these prophecies and repent.

“Not my people,” however, signals a total change in their status.  Now, they are no longer God’s favored nation, but “just like everyone else,” alienated from God and His covenant promises.  The relationship and covenant between God and Israel is now null and void.

H. Ronald Vandermey notes:

God’s time clock for judgment had but one final alarm: Lo-AmmiJezreel had promised a scattering of the people; Lo-ruhamah, the withdrawal of God’s covenant mercy; and Lo-ammi, the severing of Israel’s peculiar position as God’s covenant nation. (Hosea, Moody Bible Institute, p. 23)

The phrase “you are not my people, and I am not your God” is a reversal of God’s pledge to Israel in Exodus 6:7

7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

This name strikes at the very heart of the covenant that God had made with Israel at Sinai.

Because of his special relationship with them, he would deliver them; now that that relationship is over, judgment will come.

The reality is, that Israel had been acting like it had no relation with God for a long time.  They were not acting as children should, imitating their God, nor were they treating God as their God, instead going after Baals.

All the things that Israel treasured most–their homeland, the mercies of God, a special status with the one true God, were all about to be taken away.

You can listen to Grace Still Amazes on KENA at 7:45 a.m. on Sundays and Saturday at 7 a.m., Sunday at 8 a.m., and starting Sunday January 6, 2018 will also air at 11:45 a.m. on Sundays on KAWX.  Often this posting will be longer and include more material than the radio broadcast, which is 15 minutes.

Published by

Lamar Austin

I've graduated from Citadel Bible College in Ozark, Arkansas, with a B. A. Then got my M. Div. and Th. M. at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD. I finished with a D. Min. degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, but keep on learning. I pastored at Chinese Christian Church of Greater Washington, D. C., was on staff at East Evangelical Free Church in Wichita, KS, tried to plant an EFC in Little Rock, before moving back home to Mena, where I now pastor my home church, Grace Bible Church

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