Hosea and His Children, part 2 (Hosea 1:7-2:1)

Last week we were in the midst of discussing the three children born to Gomer and the meaning of their names.

We talked about Jezreel, that God would first of all end the dynasty of Jehu in Jezreel, when Shallum assassinated king Zechariah.  But also Tiglath Pileser III would conquer Israel in the valley of Jezreel in 733 B.C. and the northern kingdom would soon come to an end in 722 B.C.   At that time, Israel would be “scattered” among the nations, forced to intermarry Gentiles.  That is one meaning of the name “Jezreel.”  The other is the idea that God “sows,” which actually speaks of God’s future restoration of Israel to the land.

tiglath-pileser's 734-732 b.c. e. campaigns

Then we started talking about the second born child, Lo-ruhamah, a name that means “not loved.”  This is one of the “most beautiful, and also the most elemental, of Yahweh’s attributes” (Anderson and Friedman, Hosea, p. 187).

We noticed how tragic it would be for a child to be so named, but that it would force Israel to acknowledge that they have forced Yahweh to send them off into exile because they had spurned his love time and time again.

“Since Yahweh is always, in his deepest being, rahum [love] the negation of his love cancels his most basic relationship with his people” (Anderson and Friedman, Hosea, p. 187).  It’s not simply that she is unpitied, but that she has been expelled from this love relationship.

And where there is neither rahum, nor salvation, the judgment against them is not so much the form of active destruction, but rather he deserts his people and leaves them weak and helpless to stand against their enemies.

Yahweh was turning his back on Israel, but not Judah.

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.  One wonders if this was meant 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 best equipped army is useless unless Yahweh gives the victory.  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 severity of Yahweh’s rejection of Israel must be felt in order to comprehend and appreciate Hosea’s doctrine of salvation.  “Redemption is still possible, but not because Yahweh’s drive to pardon overcomes his will to punish and not because he spares a faithful portion of his people, in this instance, Judah.  Redemption does not begin until rejection is complete.  The nation is created again after it is totally destroyed” (Anderson and Friedman, Hosea, p. 197).

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.

“My people” was perhaps the most beloved title conferred on Israel by Yahweh.  It was their covenant relationship.

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.

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.

But, that isn’t the end of the story.  Starting in verse 10, defeat, deportation, divorce and, at least metaphorically, death, will be replaced by resurrection, return and reunification.

Chapter 1, verse 10 is actually the first verse of chapter 2 in the Hebrew Bible, and it fits better there.  Only after the climactic naming of the third child is it possible to proceed to the total reversal supplied in verse 10 and following.

God’s judgments would not be staved off by the intervention of a prophet making effective intercession (as Moses had in Exodus 32), or by repentance (1 Kings 8) or out of sheer compassion.  Hosea makes no intercession for Israel, and certainly there is no change of heart.  So 1:10-2:1 express only what will take place after Yahweh has completed his judgment upon Israel.

These verses lie in Israel’s future, a remote future.  It is beyond possibility except for the direct intervention of God.

Listen to Hosea’s words of hope:

10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel. 1 Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.”

In these three verses we have the reversal of the judgments pronounced in 1:3-9 through the names of the three children.  First, a reversal of Jezreel.  Unlike the other two, it is not Jezreel’s name that is reversed, but another meaning that is possible in the name.

Remember that the name can mean “God scatters,” which is what would happen in judgment.  Assyria’s conquest of Samaria would mean that the Israelites were scattered throughout the Assyrian empire, thereby forcing them to intermarry with Gentiles.  They would lose their land, their religion, and in large part, their identity.

But Jezreel can also mean “God sows.”  This points to the return of the Israelites back to their homeland.

So Hosea’s oracles have three points of time in view: (a) the present situation, in which Israel was unfaithful to God, committing adultery with the Baals; (b) the impending situation of judgment, which would occur over the next 40 years; and then finally (c) a more remote and future state of affairs.

Despite the judgment they would experience, Yahweh revealed that the number of the Israelites would be as the “sand” grains of the sea, that is, innumerable.  This, of course, conveyed memories of the promise made to Abraham, the first and greatest ancestor of Isreal.  Their number can neither be measured or counted for its greatness.  One way or another God will fulfill His promise to Abraham.

He also said that in the same place where they heard His word of rejection (v. 9) they would hear His word of reinstatement, namely, in the land of Israel.  So they would return to the land, be numerous, and would unite under one head.

This promise was almost laughable in Hosea’s day.  In 738 B.C. according to 2 Kings 15:19-20, Israel had about 60,000 free landholders and that the nation was puny compared to the expanding Assyrian empire.

There was some return in the post-exilic years, even more since Israel became a nation in 1948, but the true fulfillment awaits a future day.

There, in the valley of Jezreel, God rejected them and declared “You are not my people.”  But these verses reflect the future hope of being reinstated.  We also need to realize that this promise is expanded in the New Testament to include Gentiles, in Romans 9:25 and 1 Peter 2:10.  That doesn’t mean that there will be no literal return of Israelites to the land, but that God’s promises include Gentiles as well under the new covenant.

They would again be “sons of the living God.”  This family terminology points to the restoration of intimate covenant relationship and privilege.  The “living God” title recalls Joshua 3:10, where Joshua told the Israelites that they would know that the living God was among them when they saw Him defeat their enemies in the Promised Land.

It also reminds one of the fact that God is the giver of life, both in creation and in resurrection.  Like the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision, Israel will be raised “from the dead” in the future.

In this future day the Israelites would again see that Yahweh was the only living God (true God), when He will defeat their enemies and lead them in victory.

Verse 11 begins with notification of the two kingdoms—children of Judah and children of Israel.  That was the current situation.  But soon Israel would be no more.  But the two kingdoms are here distinguished in order to herald their future union under one head.

Verse 11 speaks of the reunification of the northern and southern kingdoms, and that they would have only one king instead of two (cf. 3:5; 2 Sam. 7:11-16; Isa. 9:6-7; Ezek. 37:22; Amos 9:11; Mic. 5:2).   This “one head” could be a second Moses, or, as 3:5 says, David.  More than likely, it is referring to the greater Moses and descendant of David, Jesus Christ.

That they “appoint” a leader rather than God giving them one doesn’t mean that democracy has replaced theocracy, but rather it stresses the unanimous spirit of the returned people.

“And they shall go up” is language resembling the initial Exodus.  The verb here is generally used for the movement from Egypt to the promised land (Hosea 2:17; cf. Exodus 1:10).  It is also the verb that descrbes the ascent from death (sheol) to new life (cf. 1 Sam. 2:6; Psalm 30:4).

The land from which they shall go up is not identified.  Is it Egypt or Assyria?  Is it the realm of the dead?  It could have both a historical meaning, referring back to the Exodus, an eschatological meaning, referring to return from future countries and a metaphorical meaning, returning to life.  As Moses led them out of Egypt, so this future leader will lead them out of death into life.

As Jezreel was a place of former victory for Israel (Judg. 7), so it would be again in the future (cf. Isa. 9:4-7; 41:8-16; Joel 3:9-17; Amos 9:11-12; Rev. 19:11-21).  This is a reference to the battle of Armageddon.

 

Then, in chapter 2:1, The Lord instructed future representatives of the restored nation to announce to their fellow Israelites—then—that they were again “My (God’s) people,” and that they were again Yahweh’s “loved one” (cf. Deut. 30:1-9; Rom. 11:25-32).

This glorious future finds its fulfillment in the end times—the tribulation, second coming and millennial kingdom.  In verses 1:10 through 2:1 the prophet promises five great blessings to Israel: (1) national increase (1:10a); (2) national conversion (1:10b); (3) national reunion (1:11a); (4) national (Messianic) leadership (1:11b); (5) victory over their foes in Jezreel (1:11c) and (6) a renewed covenant with Yahweh (2:1).

What is suggested by this dynamic reversal?  Perhaps it was said best by Abraham Heschel, who once said, “No word is God’s last word.”  In other words, there is always hope.  There is always a possibility to find grace through repentance.  That is why grace still amazes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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