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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Introduction to the Minor Prophets, And Chiefly To Hosea
The twelve prophets, at the head of whom Hosea has been placed, were called of old "the lesser, or minor prophets," by reason of the smaller compass of their prophecies, not as though their prophecies were less important than those of the four greater prophets . Hosea, at least, must have exercised the prophetic office longer than any besides; he must have spoken as much and as often, in the Name of God. A prophecy of Micah and words of Joel are adopted by Isaiah; Jeremiah employs verses of Obadiah to denounce anew the punishment of Edom; a prophecy of Joel is expanded by Ezekiel. The "twelve" were the organs of important prophecy, as to their own people, or foreign nations, or as to Him whom they looked for, our Lord. Now, since the first five were earlier than Isaiah, and next, in order of time, to the prophetic Psalms of David, Solomon, Asaph and the sons of Korah, the revelations made to these lesser prophets even ante-date those given through the four greater.
The general outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh and the Day of the Lord were first spoken of by Joel. Our resurrection in Christ on the 3rd day; the inward graces which Christ should bestow on His Church in its perpetual union with Him; the entire victory over death and the grave; and the final conversion of Judah and Israel, were first prophesied by Hosea. When James wished to show that the conversion of the Gentiles had been foretold by a prophet, he quoted a passage of Amos. "The twelve," as they begun, so they closed the cycle of those whom God employed to leave written prophecies. Yet God, who willed that of all the earlier prophets, who prophesied from the time of Samuel to Elisha, no prophecy should remain, except the few words in the books of Kings, willed also, that little, in comparison, should be preserved, of what these later prophets spoke in His Name. Their writings altogether are not equal in compass to those of the one prophet, Isaiah. And so, like the twelve Apostles, they were enrolled in one prophetic band; their writings, both in the Jewish and Christian Church (see Cosin. Section 47ff), have been counted as one book; and, like the Apostles, they were called "the twelve" (see Carpzov iii. 270, and Cosin).
The earliest of this band followed very closely upon the ministry of Elijah and Elisha. Elisha, in his parting words 2 Kings 13:14, 2 Kings 13:25. foretold to Joash the three victories whereby he recovered from Syria the cities of Israel which Hazael had taken from his father Jehoahaz. In the next reign, namely, that of Jeroboam II, there arose the first of that brilliant constellation of prophets, whose light gleamed over the fall of Israel and Judah, shone in their captivity, and set at last, with the prediction of him, who should precede the rising of the Sun of Righteousness.
In the reign of Jeroboam II, Hosea, Amos, Jonah, prophesied in the kingdom of Israel. Joel was probably called at the same time to prophesy in Judah, and Obadiah to deliver his prophecy as to Edom; Isaiah, a few years later. Micah, we know, began his office in the following reign of Jotham, and then prophesied, together with Isaiah, to and in the reign of Hezekiah.
The order, then, of "the twelve" was probably, for the most part, an order of time. We know that the greater prophets are placed in that order, as also the three last of the twelve, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Of the five first, Hosea, Amos and Jonah were nearly contemporary; Joel was prior to Amos ; and of the four remaining, Micah and Nahum were later than Jonah, whom they succeed in order; Nahum refers to Jonah; Zephaniah quotes Habakkuk. It may be from an old Jewish tradition, that Jerome says , "know that those prophets, whose time is not prefixed in the title, prophesied under the same kings, as those other prophets, who are placed before them, and who have titles."
Hosea, the first of the twelve, must have prophesied during a period, as long as the ordinary life of man. For he prophesied (the title tells us) while Uzziah king of Judah and Jeroboam II, king of Israel, were both reigning, as also during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. But Uzziah survived Jeroboam, 26 years. Jotham and Ahaz reigned, each, 16 years. Thus, we have already 58 years complete, without counting the years of Jeroboam, during which Hosea prophesied at the beginning of his office, or those of Hezekiah which elapsed before its close. But since the prophecy of Hosea is directed almost exclusively to Israel, it is not probable that the name of Jeroboam would alone have been selected for mention, unless Hosea had prophesied for some time during his reign. The house of Jehu, which sunk after the death of Jeroboam, was yet Joshua 1:4-5 standing, and in its full strength, when Hosea first prophesied.
Its might apparently is contrasted with the comparative weakness of Judah Hosea 1:7. On the other hand, the office of Hosea probably closed before the end of the 4th year of Hezekiah 2 Kings 18:9. For in that year, 721 b.c., the judgment denounced by Hosea upon Samaria was fulfilled, and all his prophecy looks on to this event as yet to come: the 13th chapter closes with the prophecy of the utter destruction of Samaria; and of the horrible cruelties which would befall her helpless ones. The last chapter alone winds up the long series of denunciations by a prediction of the future conversion of Israel. This chapter, however, is too closely connected with the preceding, to admit of its being a consolation after the captivity had begun. If then we suppose that Hosea prophesied during 2 years only of the reign of Hezekiah, and 10 of those in which the reigns of Jeroboam II and Uzziah coincided, his ministry will have lasted 70 years.
A long and heavy service for a soul full of love like his, mitigated only by his hope of the coming of Christ, the final conversion of his people, and the victory over the grave! But the length is nothing incredible, since, about this time, Jehoiada 2 Chronicles 24:15 "did good in Israel both toward God and toward His House;" until he "was 130 years." The shortest duration of Hosea's office must have been some 65 years. But if God called him quite young to his office, he need but have lived about 95 years, whereas Anna the prophetess served God in the temple with fasting and prayer night and day, after a widowhood probably of 84 years ; and John the Evangelist lived probably until 104 years; and Polycarp became a martyr when he was about 104 years old, having served Christ for 86 years , and having, when 95, sailed from Asia to Italy. Almost in our own days, we have heard of 100 centenarians, deputed by a religious order who ate no animal food, to bear witness that their rule of life was not unhealthy. Not then the length of Hosea's life but his endurance was superhuman. So long did God will that His prophets should toil; so little fruit were they content to leave behind them. For these few chapters alone remain of a labor beyond the ordinary life of man. But they were content to have God for their exceeding great reward.
The time, during which Hosea prophesied, was the darkest period in the history of the kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam II was almost the last king who ruled in it by the appointment of God. The promise of God to Jehu 2 Kings 10:30 in reward of his partial obedience, that his 2 Kings 15:8 "children of the fourth generation should sit on the throne of Israel," expired with Jeroboam's son, who reigned but for 6 months (see 2 Kings 15:10, 2 Kings 15:14, 2 Kings 15:25, 2 Kings 15:30) after an anarchy of 11 years. The rest of Hosea's life was passed amid the decline of the kingdom of Israel. Politically all was anarchy or misrule; kings made their way to the throne through the murder of their predecessors, and made way for their successors through their own 2 Kings 15:8. Shallum killed Zechariah; Menahem killed Shallum; Pekah killed the son of Menahem; Hoshea killed Pekah. The whole kingdom of Israel was a military despotism, and, as in the Roman empire, those in command came to the throne. Baasha, Zimri, Omri, Jehu, Menahem, Pekah, held military office before they became kings 2 Kings 16:14. Pekah was a captain of Romaliah 2 Kings 16:25).
Each usurper seems to have strengthened himself by a foreign alliance. At least, we find Baasha in league with Benhadad, king of Syria 1 Kings 15:19; Ahab marrying Jezebel, daughter of a king of Tyre and Zidon 1 Kings 16:31; Menahem giving Pul king of Assyria tribute, that he might "confirm the kingdom in his hand" 2 Kings 15:19; Pekah confederate with Rezin Isaiah 7:1, Isaiah 7:9, Isaiah 7:16; 2 Chronicles 28:5-6. These alliances brought with them the corruptions of the Phoenician and Syrian idolatry, wherein murder and lust became acts of religion. Jehu also probably sent tribute to the king of Assyria, to secure to himself the throne which God had given him. The fact appears in the cuneiform inscriptions ; it falls in with the character of Jehu and his half belief, using all means, human or divine, to establish his own end. In one and the same spirit, he destroyed the Baal-worshippers, as adherents of Ahab, retained the calf-worship, courted the ascetic Jonadab, son of Rechab, spoke of the death of Jehoram as the fulfillment of prophecy, and sought help from the king of Assyria.
These irreligions had the more deadly sway, because they were countenanced by the corrupt worship, which Jeroboam I had set up as the state religion, over against the worship at Jerusalem. To allow the people to go up to Jerusalem, as the center of the worship of God, would have risked their owning the line of David as the kings of God's appointment. To prevent this, Jeroboam set up a great system of rival worship. Himself a refugee in Egypt 1 Kings 11:40; 1 Kings 12:2, he had there seen nature (i. e., what are God's workings in nature) worshiped under the form of the calf . He adopted it, in the words in which Aaron had been overborne to sanction it, as the worship of the One True God under a visible form: "These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt" Exodus 32:4; 1 Kings 12:28.
With great human subtlety, he laid hold of Israel's love for idol-worship, and their reverence for their ancestors, and words which even Aaron had used, and sought to replace, by this symbol of God's working. His actual presence over the mercy-seat. Around this he gathered as much of the Mosaic ritual as he could. The priests and Levites remaining faithful to God 2 Chronicles 11:13-15, he made others priests, not of the line of Aaron . Then, while he gratified the love of idolatry, he decked it out with all the rest of the worship which God had appointed for Himself. He retained the feasts which God had appointed, the three great festivals , their solemn assemblies, Amos 5:21 the new moons and sabbaths Hosea 2:11; and these last feasts were observed even by those, to whose covetousness the rest on the festival was a hindrance Amos 8:5.
Every kind of sacrifice was retained, the daily sacrifice, Amos 4:4 the burnt-offering, Amos 5:22 the meal-offering Hosea 9:4; Amos 5:22, the drink-offering Hosea 9:4, thank-offerings (Hosea 5:6; Hosea 6:6, perhaps Hosea 4:8), peace-offerings Amos 5:22, free-will offerings (Hosea 5:6; Hosea 6:6, perhaps Hosea 4:8), sin-offerings (Amos 4:5, and of this class generally, Hosea 8:13). They had hymns and instrumental music Amos 5:23; Amos 8:3. They paid the tithes of the third year Amos 4:4; probably they gave the first fruits ; they had priests 1 Kings 12:32; Hosea 4:6, Hosea 4:9; Hosea 5:1; Hosea 6:9; Hosea 10:5 and prophets Hosea 4:5; Hosea 9:7-8 and temples 1 Kings 12:31-32; Hosea 8:14; the temple at Bethel was the king's chapel, the temple of the state Amos 7:13.
The worship was maintained by the civil authority Hosea 5:11; Hosea 13:2. But all this outward show was rotten at the core. God had forbidden man so to worship Him, nor was it He who was worshiped at Bethel and Dan, though Jeroboam probably meant it. People, when they alter God's truth, alter more than they think for. Such is the lot of all heresy. Jeroboam probably meant that God should be worshiped under a symbol, and he brought in a worship, which was not, in truth, a worship of God at all. The calf was the symbol, not of the personal God, but of ever-renewed life, His continued vivifying of all which lives, and renewing of what decays. And so what was worshiped was not God, but much what people now call "nature." The calf was a symbol of "nature;" much as people say, "nature does this or that;" "nature makes man so and so;" "nature useth simplicity of means;" "nature provides," etc.; as if "nature were a sort of semi-deity," or creation were its own Creator. As men now profess to own God, and do own Him in the abstract, but talk of "nature," until they forget Him, or because they forget Him, so Jeroboam, who was a shrewd, practical, irreligious man, slipped into a worship of nature, while he thought, doubtless, he was doing honor to the Creator, and professing a belief in Him.
But they were those same workings in creation, which were worshiped by the neighboring pagan, in Baal and Ashtaroth; only there the name of the Creator was altogether dropped. Yet it was but a step from one to the other. The calf was the immediate and often the sole object of worship. They "sacrificed to the calves" 1 Kings 12:32; "kissed the calves" Hosea 13:2, in token of worship; swore by them as living gods Amos 8:4. They had literally Psalm 106:20 "changed their Glory (i. e., God) into the similitude of a bull which eateth hay." Calf-worship paved the way for those coarser and more cruel worships of nature, under the names of Baal and Ashtaroth, with all their abominations of consecrated child-sacrifices, and degrading or horrible sensuality. The worship of the calves led to sin. The pagan festival was one of unbridled licentiousness. The account of the calf-festival in the wilderness agrees too well with the pagan descriptions. The very least which can be inferred from the words "Aaron had made them naked to their shame before their enemies" Exodus 32:25, is an extreme relaxedness, on the borders of further sin.
And now in Hosea's time, these idolatries had yielded their full bitter fruits. The course of iniquity had been run. The stream had become darker and darker in its downward flow. Creature worship (as Paul points out, Romans 1), was the parent of every sort of abomination; and religion having become creature-worship, what God gave as the check to sin became its incentive. Every commandment of God was broken, and that, habitually. All was falsehood Hosea 4:1; Hosea 7:1, Hosea 7:3, adultery Hosea 4:11; Hosea 5:3-4; Hosea 7:4; Hosea 9:10; Amos 2:7, bloodshedding Hosea 5:2; Hosea 6:8; deceit to God Hosea 4:2; Hosea 10:13; Hosea 11:12 produced faithlessness to man; excess Hosea 4:11; Hosea 7:5; Amos 4:1 and luxury Hosea 4:15; Hosea 6:4-6 were supplied by secret Hosea 4:2; Hosea 7:1 or open robbery Hosea 7:1, oppression Hosea 12:7; Amos 3:9-10; Amos 4:1; Amos 5:11, false dealing Hosea 12:7; Amos 8:5, perversion of justice Hosea 10:4; Amos 2:6-7; Amos 5:7, Amos 5:12; Amos 6:3, Amos 6:12, grinding of the poor Amos 2:7; Amos 8:6.
Blood was shed like water, until one stream met another Hosea 4:2, and overspread the land with one defiling deluge. Adultery was consecrated as an act of religion (see the note at Hosea 4:14). Those who were first in rank were first in excess. People and king vied in debauchery Hosea 7:5, and the Scottish king joined and encouraged the free-thinkers and blasphemers of his court Hosea 7:5. The idolatrous priests loved and shared in the sins of the people Hosea 4:8-9; nay, they seem to have set themselves to intercept those on either side of Jordan, who would go to worship at Jerusalem, laying wait to murder them Hosea 5:1; Hosea 6:9. Corruption had spread throughout the whole land Hosea 5:1; even the places once sacred through God's revelations or other mercies to their forefathers, Bethel Hosea 4:15; Hosea 10:5, Hosea 10:8, Hosea 10:15; Hosea 12:4; Amos 3:14; Amos 5:5; Amos 7:10, Amos 7:13, Gilgal Hosea 4:15; Hosea 9:15; Hosea 12:11, Gilead Hosea 6:8; Hosea 12:11, Mizpah Hosea 5:1, Shechem (see the note at Hosea 6:9), were special scenes of corruption or of sin. Every holy memory was effaced by present corruption. Could things be worse? There was one aggravation more. Remonstrance was useless Hosea 4:4; the knowledge of God was willfully rejected Hosea 4:6; the people hated rebuke Amos 5:10; the more they were called, the more they refused (Hosea 11:2, add 7); they forbade their prophets to prophesy Amos 2:12; and their false prophets hated God greatly Hosea 9:7, Hosea 9:9. All attempts to heal all this disease only showed its incurableness Hosea 7:1.
Such was the condition of the people among whom Hosea had to prophesy for some 70 years. They themselves were not sensible of their decay Hosea 7:9, moral or political. They set themselves, in despite of the prophet's warning, to prop up their strength by aid of the two pagan nations, Egypt or Assyria. In Assyria they chiefly trusted (Hosea 5:13; Hosea 8:9-10; Hosea 14:3; and with Egypt, Hosea 7:11; Hosea 12:1), and Assyria, he had to denounce to them, should carry them captive (Hosea 10:6; Hosea 11:9, denying it of Egypt); stragglers at least, from them fled to Egypt Hosea 9:3, and in Egypt they should be a derision Hosea 7:16, and should find their grave Hosea 9:6. This captivity he had to foretell as imminent Hosea 1:4; Hosea 5:7, certain Hosea 5:9; Hosea 9:7, and irreversible Hosea 1:6; Hosea 5:6. Once only, in the commencement of his prophecy, does he give any hope, that the temporal punishment might be averted through repentance.
This too he follows up by renewing the declaration of God expressed in the name of his daughter, "I will not have mercy" Hosea 1:2-4. He gives them in God's Name, a distant promise of a spiritual restoration in Christ, and forewarns them that it is distant Hosea 3:4-5. But, that they might not look for any temporal restoration, he tells them, on the one hand, in peremptory terms, of their dispersion; on the other, he tells them of their spiritual restoration without any intervening shadows of temporal deliverance. God tells them absolutely (Hosea 1:4, Hosea 1:6; Hosea 9:17; Hosea 9:3; Hosea 8:8, and of distant captivity, Hosea 4:19, Hosea 4:16), "I will cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease;" "I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel;" "they shall be wanderers among the nations;" "they shall not dwell in the Lord's land;" "Israel is swallowed up; she shall be among the nations like a vessel in which is no pleasure." On the other hand, the promises are markedly spiritual (Hosea 1:10; Hosea 2:19 ff; Hosea 3:5; Hosea 6:1-3; Hosea 10:12; Hosea 13:14); "Ye are the sons of the living God;" "I will betroth her to Me for ever;" "they shall fear the Lord and His goodness;" "He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight;" "till He come and rain righteousness upon you." "I will ransom them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death." Again, God contrasts Hosea 1:7; Hosea 6:11 with this His sentence, on Israel, His future dealings with Judah, and His mercies to her, of which Israel should not partake, while of Judah's spiritual mercies, He says, that Israel should partake by being united with Judah Hosea 1:11; Hosea 3:5.
The ground of this difference was, that Israel's separate existence was bound up with that sin of Jeroboam, which clave to them throughout their history, and which none of their least bad kings ventured to give up. God tried them for two centuries and a half; and not one king was found, who would risk his throne for God. In merciful severity then, the separate kingdom of Israel was to be destroyed, and the separate existence of the ten tribes was to be lost.
This message of woe gives a unique character to the prophecies of Hosea. He, like Paul, was of the people, whose temporary excision he had to declare. He calls the wretched king of Israel "our king" Hosea 7:5; and God calls the rebellious people "thy people" Hosea 4:4 . Of that people, he was specially the prophet. Judah he mentions incidentally, when he does mention them, not in his warnings only, but in his prophecies of good also. His main commission lay among the ten tribes. Like Elijah and Elisha whom he succeeded, he was raised up out of them, for them. His love could not be tied down to them; and so he could not but warn Judah against sharing Israel's sin. But it is, for the most part, incidentally and parenthetically . He does not speak of them equally, except as to that which was the common sin of both, the seeking to Assyria for help, and unfulfilled promise of amendment Hosea 5:13-14; Hosea 6:4. And so, on the other hand, mercies, which belong to all as God's everlasting betrothal of His Church Hosea 2:19-20, and our redemption from death Hosea 13:14 and the grave, he foretells with special reference to Ephraim, and in one place only expressly includes Judah (Hosea 1:11; Judah is included virtually in Hosea 3:5).
The prophecies of Hosea (as he himself collected them) form one whole, so that they cannot be distinctly separated, In one way, as the second chapter is the expansion and application of the first, so the remainder of the book after the third is an expansion and application of the third, The first and third chapters illustrate, summarily, Ephraim's ingratitude and desertion of God and His dealings with her, by likening them to the wife which Hosea was commanded to take, and to her children. The second chapter expands and applies the picture of Israel's unfaithfulness, touched upon in the first, but it dwells more on the side of mercy; the remaining chapters enlarge the picture of the third, although, until the last, they dwell chiefly on the side of judgment. Yet while the remainder of the book is an expansion of the third chapter, the three first chapters, (as every reader has felt) are united together, not by their narrative form only, but by the prominence given to the history of Hosea which furnishes the theme of the book, the shameful unfaithfulness of Israel, and the exceeding tenderness of the love of God, who, "in wrath, remembers mercy."
The narrative leads us deep into the prophet's personal sorrows. There is no ground to justify our taking as a parable, what Holy Scripture relates as a fact. There is no instance in which it can be shown, that Holy Scripture relates that a thing was done, and that, with the names of persons, and yet that God did not intend it to be taken as literally true . There would then be no test left of what was real, what imaginary; and the histories of Holy Scripture would be left to be a prey to individual caprice, to be explained away as parables, when people disliked them. Hosea, then, at God's command, united to himself in marriage, one who, amid the widespread corruption of those times, had fallen manifoldly into fleshly sin. With her he was commanded to live holily, as his wife, as Isaac lived with Rebecca whom he loved. Such an one he took, in obedience to God's command, one Gomer. At some time after she bore the prophet's children, she fell into adultery, and forsook him. Perhaps she fell into the condition of a slave (see the note at Hosea 3:2). God anew commanded him to show mercy to her, to redeem her from her fallen condition, and, without restoring to her the rights of marriage (see the note at Hosea 3:3), to guard and protect her from her sins. Thus, by the love of God and the patient forbearance which He instructed the prophet to show, a soul was rescued from sin unto death, and was won to God; to the children of Israel there was set forth continually before their eyes a picture and a prophecy of the punishment upon sin, and of the close union with Himself which He vouchsafes to sinners who repent and return to Him.
"Not only in visions which were seen," says Irenaeus (iv. 20. 12. p. 374 Old Testament), "and in words which were preached, but in acts also was He (the Word) seen by the prophets, so as to prefigure and foreshew things future, through them. For which cause also, the prophet Hosea took 'a wife of whoredoms,' prophesying by his act, that the earth, i. e., the people who are on the earth, shall commit whoredoms, departing from the Lord; and that of such people God will be pleased to take to Himself a Church, to be sanctified by the communication of His Son, as she too was sanctified by the communion of the prophet. Wherefore Paul also saith, that 1 Corinthians 7:14 the unbelieving woman is sanctified in her believing husband." "What," asks Augustine of the scoffers of his day, "is there opposed to the clemency of truth, what contrary to the Christian faith, that one unchaste, leaving her fornication, should be converted to a chaste marriage? And what so incongruous and alien from the faith of the prophet, as it would have been, not to believe that all the sins of the unchaste were forgiven, when she was converted and amended? So then, when the prophet made the unchaste one his wife, a kind provision was made for the woman to amend her life, and the mystery (of the union of Christ Himself with the Church of Jews and Gentiles) was expressed" (Augustine, ib. 89). "Since the Lord, through the same Scripture, lays clearly open what is figured by this command and deed, and since the apostolic Epistles attest that this prophecy was fulfilled in the preaching of the New Testament, who would venture to say that it was not commanded and done for that end, for which He who commanded it, explains in the holy Scripture that He commanded, and that the prophet did it?"
The names which Hosea, by God's command gave to the children who were born, expressed the temporal punishment, which was to come upon the nation. The prophet himself, in his relation to his restored yet separated wife, was, so long as she lived, one continued, living prophecy of the tenderness of God to sinners. Fretful, wayward, jealous, ungovernable, as are mostly the tempers of those who are recovered from such sins as her's, the prophet, in his anxious, watchful charge, was a striking picture of the forebearing loving-kindness of God to us amid our provocations and infirmities. Nay, the love which the prophet bare her, grew the more out of his compassion and tenderness for her whom God had commanded him to take as his own. Certain it is, that Holy Scripture first speaks of her as the object of his love, when God commanded him a second time to take charge of her who had betrayed and abandoned him. God bids him show active love to her, whom, amid her unfaithfulness, he loved already. "Go yet, love a woman, beloved of her husband, yet an adulteress." Wonderful picture of God's love for us, for whom He gave His Only-begotten Son, loving us, while alien from Him, and with nothing in us to love!
Such was the tenderness of the prophet, whom God employed to deliver such a message of woe; and such the people must have known to be his personal tenderness, who had to speak so sternly to them.
The three first prophecies, contained severally in the three first chapters, form each, a brief circle of mercy and judgment. They do not enter into any detail of Israel's sin, but sum up all in the one, which is both center and circumference of all sin, the all-comprehending sin, departure from God, choosing the creature rather than the Creator. On this, the first prophecy foretells the entire irrevocable destruction of the kingdom; God's temporary rejection of His people, but their acceptance, together with Judah, in One Head, Christ. The second follows the same outline, rebuke, chastisement, the cessation of visible worship, banishment, and then the betrothal forever. The third speaks of offence against deeper love, and more prolonged punishment. It too ends in the promise of entire restoration; yet only in the latter days, after many days of separation, both from idolatry and from the true worship of God, such as is Israel's condition now.
The rest is one continuous prophecy, in which the prophet has probably gathered into one the substance of what he had delivered in the course of his ministry. Here and there, yet very seldom in it Hosea 4:5; Hosea 5:3, Hosea 5:7; Hosea 9:1, the prophet refers to the image of the earlier chapters. For the most part he exhibits his people to themselves, in their varied ingratitude, folly, and sin. The prophecy has many pauses, which with one exception coincide with our chapters . It rises and falls, and then bursts out in fresh tones of upbraiding (see the beginnings of Hosea 5:1-15; Hosea 7; Hosea 8:1-14; Hosea 9; Hosea 10:1-15; Hosea 11:1-12; Hosea 12:1-14; Hosea 13), and closes mostly in notes of sorrow and of woe , for the destruction which is coming. Yet at none of these pauses is there any complete break, such as would constitute what preceded, a separate prophecy; and on the other hand, the structure of the last portion of the book corresponds most with that of the first three chapters, if it is regarded as one whole. For as there, after rebuke and threatened chastisement, each prophecy ended with the promise of future mercy, so here, after finally foreannouncing the miseries at the destruction of Samaria, the prophet closes his prophecy and his whole book with a description of Israel's future repentance and acceptance, and of his flourishing with manifold grace.
The brief summary, in which the prophet calls attention to all which he had said, and foretells, who would and who would not understand it, the more marks the prophecy as one whole.
Yet, although these prophecies, as worked into one by the prophet, bear a strong impress of unity, there yet seem to be traces, here and there, of the different conditions of the kingdom of Israel, amid which different parts were first uttered. The order, in which they stand, seems, upon the whole, to be an order of time. In the first chapters, the house of Jeroboam is still standing in strength, and Israel appears to have trusted in its own power, as the prophet Amos Amo 2:14, Amos 2:16; Amos 6:13 also, at the same time, describes them. The fourth chapter is addressed to the "house of Israel" Hosea 4:1 only, without any allusion to the king, and accords with that time of convulsive anarchy, which followed the death of Jeroboam II. The omission of the king is the more remarkable, inasmuch as the "house of the king" is included in the corresponding address in Hosea 5:1. The "rulers" Hosea 4:18 of Israel are also spoken of in the plural; and the bloodshed Hosea 4:2 described seems to be more than individual insulated murders.
In this case, the king upbraided in Hosea 5:1-15 would, naturally, be the next king, Zechariah, in whom God's promise to the house of Jehu expired. In Hosea 7 a weak and sottish king is spoken of, whom his princes misled to debauchery, disgusting drunkenness and impiety. But Menahem was a general of fierce determination, energy and barbarity. Debauchery and brutal ferocity are natural associates; but this sottishness here described was rather the fruit of weak compliance with the debauchery of others. "The princes made him sick" Hosea 7:5, it is said. This is not likely to have been the character of successful usurpers, as Menahem, or Pekah, or Hoshea. It is far more likely to have been that of Zechariah, who was placed on the throne for 6 months, "did evil in the sight of the Lord," and then was "slain publicly before the being people" 2 Kings 15:10, no one resisting. Him, as the last of the line of Jehu, and sanctioned by God, Hosea may the rather have called "our king" Hosea 7:5, owning in him, evil as he was, God's appointment.
The words, "they have devoured their judges, all their kings have fallen" Hosea 7:7, had anew their fulfillment in the murder of Zechariah and Shallum (772 B. C) as soon as the promise to the house of Jehu had expired. The blame of Judah for "multiplying fenced cities" Hosea 8:14, instead of trusting in God, probably relates to the temper in which they were built in the days of Jotham 2 Chronicles 27:2-4, between 758, and 741 b.c. Although Jotham was a religious king, the corruption of the people at this time is especially recorded; "the people did corruptly." Later yet, we have mention of the dreadful battle, when Shalman, or Shalmanezer, took and massacred women and children at Betharbel Hosea 10:14 in the valley of Jezreel, about 729 b.c. Hosea, thus, lived to see the fulfillment of his earlier prophecy, "I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel" (Hosea 1:4, see the note at Hosea 10:14). It has been thought that the question "where is thy king?" relates to the captivity of Hoshea, three years before the destruction of Samaria. This sort of question, however, relates not to the actual place where the king was, but to his ability or inability to help.
It belongs to the mournful solemnity of Hosea's prophecy, that he scarcely speaks to the people in his own person. The ten chapters, which form the center of the prophecy, are almost wholly one long dirge of woe, in which the prophet rehearses the guilt and the punishment of his people. If the people are addressed, it is, with very few exceptions, God Himself, not the prophet, who speaks to them; and God speaks to them as their judge . Once only does the prophet use the form, so common in the other prophets, "saith the Lord" Hosea 11:11. As in the three first chapters, the prophet, in his relation to his wife, represented that of God to His people, so, in these ten chapters, after the first words of the fourth and fifth chapters, "Hear the word of the Lord, for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land," "Hear ye this, O priests" Hosea 4:1; Hosea 5:1, whenever the prophet uses the first person, he uses it not of himself, but of God. "I" "My" are not Hosea, and the things of Hosea, but God and what belongs to God. God addresses the prophet himself in the second person Hosea 4:4, Hosea 4:17; Hosea 8:1.
In four verses only of these chapters does the prophet himself apparently address his own people Israel, in two Hosea 9:1, Hosea 9:5 expostulating with them; in two, (Hosea 10:12; (but followed by a declaration of the fruitlessness of his call Hosea 10:13, Hosea 10:15) Hosea 12:6) calling them to repentance. In two other verses he addresses Judah Hosea 4:13, or foretells to him judgment mingled with mercy (see the note at Hosea 6:11). The last chapter alone is one of almost unmingled brightness; the prophet calls to repentance Hosea 14:1, Hosea 14:3, and God in His own Person Hosea 14:4, Hosea 14:8 accepts it, and promises large supply of grace. But this too closes the prophecy with the warning, that righteous as are the ways of God, the transgressors should stumble in them.
It is this same solemn pathos, which has chiefly occasioned the obscurity, complained of in Hosea. The expression of Jerome has often been repeated ; "Hosea is concise, and speaketh, as it were, in detached sayings." The words of upbraiding, of judgment, of woe, burst out, as it were, one by one, slowly, heavily, condensed, abrupt, from the prophet's heavy and shrinking soul, as God commanded and constrained him, and put His words, like fire, in the prophet's mouth. An image of Him Who said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not" Matthew 23:37, he delivers his message, as though each sentence burst with a groan from his soul, and he had anew to take breath, before he uttered each renewed woe.
Each verse forms a whole for itself, like one heavy toll in a funeral knell. The prophet has not been careful about order and symmetry, so that each sentence went home to the soul. And yet the unity of the prophecy is so evident in the main, that we cannot doubt that it is not broken, even when the connection is not apparent on the surface. The great difficulty consequently in Hosea is to ascertain that connection in places where it evidently exists, yet where the prophet has not explained it. The easiest and simplest sentences (for example, Hosea 12:9, Hosea 12:12-13) are sometimes, in this respect, the most difficult. It is in remarkable contrast with this abruptness in the more mournful parts, that when Hosea has a message of mercy to deliver, his style becomes easy and flowing. Then no sign of present sin or impending misery disturbs his brightness. He lives wholly in the future bliss which he was allowed to foretell.
Yet, meanwhile, no prophet had a darker future to declare. The prophets of Judah could mingle with their present denunciations a prospect of an early restoration. The ten tribes, as a whole, had no future. The temporal part of their punishment was irreversible. Hosea 54ed almost to see its fulfillment. Yet not the less confidently does he foretell the spiritual mercies in store for his people. He promises them as absolutely as if he saw them. It is not a matter of hope, but of certainty. And this certainty Hosea announces, in words expressive of the closest union with God; an union shadowed by the closest union which we know, that, whereby a man and his wife are "no more twain, but one flesh." Here, as filled and overfilled with joy, instead of abrupt sentences, he gladly lingers on his subject, adding in every word something to the fullness of the blessing contained in the preceding" Hosea 2:14-20; Hosea 14:1-7. He is, indeed, (if one may venture so to speak) eminently a prophet of the tenderness of the love of God. In foretelling God's judgments, he ventures to picture Him to us, as overcome (so to speak) by mercy, so that He would not execute His full sentence Hosea 11:8-9. God's mercies he predicts in the inmost relation of love, that those whom He had rejected, He would own, as "sons of the living God;" that He would betroth them to Himself in righteousness, in judgment, loving-kindness, mercies, faithfulness, and that, forever; that He would raise us up on the third day, and that we should live in His sight, ransoming us, Himself, and redeeming us, as our Kinsman, from death and the grave (see the notes at Hosea 1:10; notes at Hosea 2:19 ff; notes at Hosea 6:2; notes at Hosea 13:14).
In this prophecy of the betrothal of the Church to God, he both applies and supplies the teaching of Psalm 45 and of the Song of Solomon. Moses had been taught to declare to his people that God had, in a special way, made them His people, and was Himself their God. The violation of this relation, by taking other gods, Moses had also spoken of under the image of married faithlessness. But faithlessness implies the existence of the relation, to which they were bound to be faithful. The whole human family, however, had once belonged to God, and had fallen away from Him. And so Moses speaks of the pagan idolatry also under this name, and warned Israel against sharing their sin. "Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods - and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods" Exodus 34:15-16. The relation itself of betrothal Moses does not mention; yet it must have been suggested to the mind of Israel by his describing this special sin of choosing other gods, under the title of married faithlessness Leviticus 17:7; Leviticus 20:5-6; Numbers 14:33 and of desertion of God Deuteronomy 31:16, and by his attributing to God the title of "Jealous" Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 5:9; Deuteronomy 6:15; Numbers 25:2. It was reserved to Hosea, to exhibit at once to Israel under this image, God's tender love for them and their ingratitude, to dwell on their relation to God whom they forsook , and explicitly to foretell to them that new betrothal in Christ which should abide forever.
The image, however, presupposes an acquaintance with the language of the Pentateuch; and it has been noticed that Hosea incidentally asserts that the written Pentateuch was still used in the kingdom of Israel. For God does not say, "I have given to him," but "I have written," or "I write Hosea 8:12 to him the great" or "manifold" things of the law. The "ten thousand things" which God says that He had written, cannot be the decalogue only, nor would the word "written" be used of an unwritten tradition. God says moreover, "I write," in order to express that the law, although written once for all, still came from the ever-present authority of Him Who wrote it.
The language of Hosea is, for the most part, too concise and broken, to admit of his employing actual sentences from the Pentateuch. This he does sometimes (see Hosea 3:1; Hosea 4:8, Hosea 4:10; Hosea 5:6, Hosea 5:10-11, Hosea 5:14; Hosea 6:2-3; Hosea 10:14; Hosea 11:7-8; Hosea 12:4, Hosea 12:6; Hosea 13:6, Hosea 13:9; Hosea 14:2), as has been pointed out . On the other hand, his concise allusions would scarcely be understood by those who were not familiar with the history and laws of the Pentateuch (see Hosea 1:10-11; Hosea 3:2; Hosea 4:4, Hosea 4:8; Hosea 8:6, Hosea 8:11, Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:3, Hosea 9:10; Hosea 10:4, Hosea 10:11; Hosea 11:8; Hosea 12:4-6, Hosea 12:10-12; Hosea 14:3-4). Since then plainly a prophet spoke so as to be understood by the people, this is an evidence of the continual use of the Pentateuch in Israel, after the great schism from Judah. The schools of the prophets, doubtless, maintained the teaching of the law, as they did the public worship. The people went to Elisha on new-moons and sabbaths, and so to other prophets also 2 Kings 4:23. Even after the great massacre of the prophets by Jezebel 1 Kings 18:13, we have incidental notices of schools of the prophets at Bethel 2 Kings 2:3, Jericho 2 Kings 2:5, Gilgal 2 Kings 4:38, Mount Ephraim 2 Kings 5:22, Samaria , from which other schools were formed 2 Kings 6:1. The selection of Gilgal, Bethel, and Samaria, shows that the spots were chosen, in order to confront idolatry and corruption in their chief abodes. The contradiction of people's lives to the law, thus extant and taught among them, could scarcely have been greater than that of Christians now to the Bible which they have in their houses and their hands and their ears, but not in their hearts.
1The word of the LORD that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.
The word of the Lord, that came unto Hosea - Hosea, at the very beginning of his prophecy, declares that all this, which he delivered, came, not from his own mind but from God. As Paul says, "Paul an Apostle, not of men neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father." He refers all to God, and claims all obedience to Him. That word came to him; it existed then before, in the mind of God. It was first God's, then it became the prophet's, receiving it from God. So it is said, "the word of God came to John" Luke 3:2.
Hosea - i. e., "Salvation, or, the Lord saveth." The prophet bare the name of our Lord Jesus, whom he foretold and of whom he was a type. "Son of Beeri, i. e., my well or welling-forth." God ordained that the name of his father too should signify truth. From God, as from the fountain of life, Hosea drew the living waters, which he poured out to the people. "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation" Isaiah 12:3.
In the days of Uzziah ... - Hosea, although a prophet of Israel, marks his prophecy by the names of the kings of Judah, because the kingdom of Judah was the kingdom of the theocracy, the line of David to which the promises of God were made. As Elisha, to whose office he succeeded, turned away from Jehoram 2 Kings 3:13-14, saying, "get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother," and owned Jehoshaphat king of Judah only, so, in the title of his prophecy, Hosea at once expresses that the kingdom of Judah alone was legitimate. He adds the name of Jeroboam, partly as the last king of Israel whom, by virtue of His promise to Jehu, God helped; partly to show that God never left Israel unwarned. Jeroboam I was warned first by the prophet 1 Kings 13, who by his own untimely death, as well as in his prophecy, was a witness to the strictness of God's judgments, and then by Ahijah 1 Kings 14; Baasha by Jehu, son of Hanani 1 Kings 16; Ahab, by Elijah and Micaiah son of Imla; Ahaziah by Elijah 2 Kings 1; Jehoram by Elisha who exercised his office until the days of Joash 2 Kings 13:14.
So, in the days of Jeroboam II, God raised up Hosea, Amos and Jonah. "The kings and people of Israel then were without excuse, since God never ceased to send His prophets among them; in no reign did the voice of the prophets fail, warning of the coming wrath of God, until it came." While Jeroboam was recovering to Israel a larger rule than it had ever had since it separated from Judah, annexing to it Damascus 2 Kings 14:28 which had been lost to Judah even in the days of Solomon, and from which Israel had of late so greatly suffered, Hosea was sent to forewarn it of its destruction. God alone could utter "such a voice of thunder out of the midst of such a cloudless sky." Jeroboam doubtless thought that his house would, through its own strength, survive the period which God had pledged to it. "But temporal prosperity is no proof either of stability or of the favor of God. Where the law of God is observed, there, even amid the pressure of outward calamity, is the assurance of ultimate prosperity. Where God is disobeyed, there is the pledge of coming destruction. The seasons when men feel most secure against future chastisement, are often the preludes of the most signal revolutions."
2The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.
The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea or in Hosea - God first revealed Himself and His mysteries to the prophet's soul, by His secret inspiration, and then declared, through him, to others, what He had deposited in him. God enlightened him, and then others through the light in him.
And the Lord said unto Hosea - For this thing was to be done by Hosea alone, because God had commanded it, not by others of their own mind. To Isaiah God first revealed Himself, as sitting in the temple, adored by the Seraphim: to Ezekiel God first appeared, as enthroned above the cherubim in the holy of holies; to Jeremiah God announced that, ere yet he was born, He had sanctified him for this office: to Hosea He enjoined, as the beginning of his prophetic office, an act contrary to man's natural feelings, yet one, by which he became an image of the Redeemer, uniting to Himself what was unholy, in order to make it holy.
Go take unto thee - Since Hosea prophesied some eighty years, he must now have been in early youth, holy, pure, as became a prophet of God. Being called thus early, he had doubtless been formed by God as a chosen instrument of His will, and had, like Samuel, from his first childhood, been trained in true piety and holiness. Yet he was to unite unto him, so long as she lived, one greatly defiled, in order to win her thereby to purity and holiness; herein, a little likeness of our Blessed Lord, who, in the Virgin's womb, to save us, espoused our flesh, in us sinful, in Him all-holy, without motion to sin; and, further, espoused the Church, formed of us who, "whether Jews or Gentiles," were all under sin, aliens from God and gone away from Him, "serving divers lusts and passions Ephesians 5:27, to make it a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle."
A wife of whoredoms - i. e., take as a wife, one who up to that time had again and again been guilty of that sin. So "men of bloods" Psalm 5:6 are "men given up to bloodshedding;" and our Lord was "a Man of Sorrows Isaiah 53:3, not occasional only, but manifold and continual, throughout His whole life. She must, then, amid the manifold corruption of Israel, have been repeatedly guilty of that sin, perhaps as an idolatress, thinking of it to be in honor of their foul gods (see the Hosea 4:13, note; Hosea 4:14, note). She was not like those degraded ones, who cease to bear children; still she must have manifoldly sinned. So much the greater was the obedience of the prophet. Nor could any other woman so shadow forth the manifold defilements of the human race, whose nature our incarnate Lord vouchsafed to unite in His own person to the perfect holiness of the divine nature.
And children of whoredoms - For they shared the disgrace of their mother, although born in lawful marriage. The sins of parents descend also, in a mysterious way, on their children, Sin is contagious, and, unless the entail is cut off by grace, hereditary. The mother thus far portrays man's revolts, before his union with God; the children, our forsaking of God, after we have been made His children. The forefathers of Israel, God tells them, "served other gods, on the other side of the flood" Joshua 24:14, (i. e., in Ur of the Chaldees, from where God called Abraham) "and in Egypt." It was out of such defilement, that God took her Ezekiel 23:3, Ezekiel 23:8, and He says, "Thou becamest Mine" Ezekiel 16:8. whom He maketh His, He maketh pure; and of her, not such as she was in herself by nature, but as such as He made her, He says, "I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals when thou wentest after Me, in the wilderness" Jeremiah 2:2. But she soon fell away; and thenceforth there were among them (as there are now among Christians,) "the children of God, the children of the promise, and the children of whoredoms, or of the devil."
For the land ... - This is the reason why God commands Hosea to do this thing, in order to shadow out their foulness and God's mercy. What no man would dare to do Jeremiah 3:1, except at God's bidding, God in a manner doth, restoring to union with Himself those who had gone away from Him. "The land," i. e., Israel, and indirectly, Judah also, and, more widely yet, the whole earth.
Departing from - Literally, "from after the Lord." Our whole life should be Philippians 3:13, forgetting the things which are behind, to follow after Him, whom here we can never fully attain unto, God in His Infinite Perfection, yet so as, with our whole heart, "fully to follow after Him." To depart from the Creator and to serve the creature, is adultery; as the Psalmist says, "Thou hast destroyed all them, that go a whoring from Thee" Psalm 73:27. He who seeks anything out of God, turns from following Him, and takes to him something else as his god, is unfaithful, and spiritually an adulterer and idolater. For he is an adulterer, who becomes another's than God's.
3So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son.
So he went - He did not demur, nor excuse himself, as did even Moses Exodus 4:18, or Jeremiah Jer 1:6, or Peter Acts 10:4, and were rebuked for it, although mercifully by the All-Merciful. Hosea, accustomed from childhood to obey God and every indication of the will of God, did at once, what he was bidden, however repulsive to natural feeling, and became, thereby, the more an image of the obedience of Christ Jesus, and a pattern to us, at once to believe and obey God's commands, however little to our minds.
Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim - "Gomer" is completion; "Diblaim," a double lump of figs; which are a figure of sweetness. These names may mean, that "the sweetness of sins is the parent of destruction;" or that Israel, or mankind had completely forsaken God, and were children of corrupting pleasure.
Holy Scripture relates that all this was done, and tells us the births and names of the children, as real history. As such then, must we 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" Romans 13:4. So, again, He, whose are all things, willed to repay to the Israelites their hard and unjust servitude, by commanding them "to spoil the Egyptian" Exodus 3:22.
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 called "the friend of publicans and sinners" Matthew 11:19; who warned the Pharisees, that "the publicans and harlots should (enter unto the kingdom of God before them" Matthew 21:31; 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. The prophet, being in his own person a mirror of obedience, did moreover, by his way of life, reflect to the people some likeness of the future and of things unseen. The expectation of the people was wound up, when they saw their prophets do things at God's command, which they themselves could not have done. When Ezekiel was bidden to show no sign of mourning, on the sudden death of "the desire of his eyes" Ezekiel 24:16-18, his wife; or when he dug through the wall of his house, and carried forth his household stuff in the twilight, with his face covered Ezekiel 12:3-7; the people asked, "Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us, that thou doest so?" (Ezekiel 24:19, add Ezekiel 12:10). No words could so express a grief beyond all power of grieving, as Ezekiel's mute grief for one who was known to be "the desire of his eyes," yet for whom he was forbidden to show the natural expressions of grief, or to use the received tokens of mourning. God Himself declares the ground of such acts to have been, that, rebellious as the house of Israel was Ezekiel 12:2, "with eyes which saw not, and ears which heard not," they might yet consider such acts as these.
4And the LORD said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.
Call his name Jezreel - that is, in its first sense here, "God will scatter." The life of the prophet, and his union with one so unworthy of him, were a continued prophecy of God's mercy. The names of the children were a life-long admonition of His intervening judgments. Since Israel refused to hear God's words, He made the prophet's sons, through the mere fact of their presence among them, their going out and coming in, and the names which He gave them, to be preachers to the people. He depicted in them and in their names what was to be, in order that, whenever they saw or heard of them, His warnings might be forced upon them, and those who would take warning, might be saved. If, with their mother's disgrace, these sons inherited and copied their mother's sins, then their names became even more expressive, that, being such as they were, they would be scattered by God, would not be owned by God as His people, or be pitied by Him.
I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu - Yet Jehu shed this blood, the blood of the house of Ahab, of Joram and Jezebel and the seventy sons of Ahab, at God's command and in fulfillment of His will. How was it then sin? Because, if we do what is the will of God for any end of our own, for anything except God, we do, in fact, our own will, not God's. It was not lawful for Jehu to depose and slay the king his master, except at the command of God, who, as the Supreme King, sets up and puts down earthly rulers as He wills. For any other end, and done otherwise than at God's express command, such an act is sin. Jehu was rewarded for the measure in which he fulfilled God's commands, as Ahab who had "sold himself to work wickedness," had yet a temporal reward for humbling himself publicly, when rebuked by God for his sin, and so honoring God, amid an apostate people. But Jehu, by cleaving, against the will of God, to Jeroboam's sin, which served his own political ends, showed that, in the slaughter of his master, he acted not, as he pretended, out of zeal 2 Kings 10:16 for the will of God, but served his own will and his own ambition only.
By his disobedience to the one command of God, he showed that he would have equally disobeyed the other, had it been contrary to his own will of interest. He had no principle of obedience. And so the blood, which was shed according to the righteous judgment of God, became sin to him who shed it in order to fulfill, not the will of God, but his own. Thus God said to Baasha, "I exalted thee out of the dust, and made the prince over My people Israel" 1 Kings 16:2, which he became by slaying his master, the son of Jeroboam, and all the house of Jeroboam. Yet, because he followed the sins of Jeroboam, "the word of the Lord came against Baasha, for all the evil that he did in the sight of the Lord, in being like the house of Jeroboam, and because he killed him" 1 Kings 16:7. The two courses of action were inconsistent; to destroy the son and the house of Jeroboam, and to do those things, for which God condemned him to be destroyed. Further yet. Not only was such execution of God's judgments itself an offence against Almighty God, but it was sin, whereby he condemned himself, and made his other sins to be sins against the light. In executing the judgment of God against another, he pronounced His judgment against himself, in that he that "judged," in God's stead, "did the same things" Romans 2:1. So awful a thing is it, to be the instrument of God in punishing or reproving others, if we do not, by His grace, keep our own hearts and hands pure from sin.
And will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel - Not the kingdom of the house of Jehu, but all Israel. God had promised that the family of Jehu should sit on the throne to the fourth generation. Jeroboam II, the third of these, was now reigning over Israel, in the fulness of his might. He "restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath" 2 Kings 14:25, i. e., from the Northern extremity, near Mount Hermon, where Palestine joins on to Syria, and, which Solomon only in all his glory had won for Israel, "unto the sea of the plain" 2 Chronicles 8:3-4, the Dead sea, regaining all which Hazael had conquered 2 Kings 10:32-33, and even subduing Moab also (see the note at Amos 6:14), "according to the word of the Lord by Jonah the son of Amittan." He had recovered to Israel, Damascus, which had been lost to Judah, ever since the close of the reign of Solomon 1 Kings 11:24. He was a warlike prince, like that first Jeroboam, who had formed the strength and the sin of the ten tribes. Yet both his house and his kingdom fell with him. The whole history of that kingdom afterward is little more than that of the murder of one family by another, such as is spoken of in the later chapters of Hosea; and Israel, i. e., the ten tribes, were finally carried captive, fifty years after the death of Zechariah, Jeroboam's son. Of so little account is any seeming prosperity or strength.
5And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.
I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel - The valley of Jezreel is a beautiful and a broad valley or plain, stretching, from West to East, from Mount Carmel and the sea to the Jordan, which it reaches through two arms, between the Mountains of Gilboa, little Hermon, and Tabor; and from South to North from the Mountains of Ephraim to those of Galilee. Nazareth lay on its northern side. It is called "the great plain" (1 Macc. 12:49), "the great plain of Esdraelon" (Judith 1:8). There God had signally executed His judgments against the enemies of His people, or on His people, when they became His enemies. There He gave the great victories over the invading hosts of Sisera (Judges 4:4 ff), and of Midian, with the children of the East. Judges 6:33. There also He ended the life and kingdom of Saul 1 Samuel 29:1; 1 Samuel 31:1, 1 Samuel 31:7, 1 Samuel 31:10, visiting upon him, when his measure of iniquity was full, his years of contumacy, and his persecution of David, whom God had chosen. Jezreel became a royal residence of the house of Ahab 1 Kings 18:46; 1 Kings 21:1-3; 2 Kings 9:10, 2 Kings 9:25, 2 Kings 9:30; 2 Kings 10:1, 2 Kings 10:11. There, in the scenes of Ahab's wickedness and of Jehu's hypocritical zeal; there, where he drave furiously, to avenge, as he alleged, on the house of Ahab, the innocent blood which Ahab had shed in Jezreel, Hosea foretells that the kingdom of Israel should be broken In the same plain, at the battle with Shalmaneser, near Betharbel (see the note at Hosea 10:14), Hosea 54ed to see his prophecy fulfilled. The strength of the kingdom was there finally broken; the sufferings there endured were one last warning before the capture of Samaria (see the note at Hosea 10:15).
The name of Jezreel blends the sins with the punishment. It resembles, in form and in sound, the name of Israel, and contains a reversal of the promise contained in the name of Israel, in which they trusted. "Yisrael" (as their name was originally pronounced) signifies, "he is a prince with God; Yidsreel, God shall scatter." They who, while they followed the faith, for which their forefather Jacob received from God the name of Israel, had been truly Israel, i. e., "princes with God," should now be "Yidsreel," "scattered by God."
6And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Loruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.
Call her name Lo-ruhamah - The name is rendered in Paul "not beloved" Romans 9:25, in Peter, "hath not obtained mercy" 1 Peter 2:10. Love and mercy are both contained in the full meaning of the intensive form of the Hebrew word, which expresses the deep tender yearnings of the inmost soul over one loved; as in the words Psalm 103:13, "As a father pitieth (yearneth over) his own children, so the Lord pitieth (yearneth over) them that fear Him." It is "tender love" in Him who pitieth; "mercy," as shown to him who needeth mercy. The punishment, foretold under the name of the daughter, "Unpitied," is a great enlargement of that conveyed under the name of the first son, "God shall scatter." Judah too was carried captive, and scattered; but after the 70 years, she was restored. The 10 tribes, it is now foretold, when scattered, should, as a whole, be cut off from the tender mercy of God, scattered by Him, and as a whole, never be restored. Those only were restored, who, when Judah returned from captivity, clave to her, or subsequently, one by one, were united to her.
But I will utterly take them away - Literally, "for, taking away, I will take away from them, or with regard to them," namely, everything . He specifies nothing; He excepts nothing; only, with that awful emphasis, He dwells on the taking away, as that which He had determined to do to the utmost. This is the thought, which He wills to dwell on the As a little while after, God says, that He would be nothing to them, so here, where He in fact repeats this one thought, "take away, take away, from them," the guilty conscience of Israel would at once, supply, "all." When God threatens, the sinful or awakened soul sees instinctively what draws down the lightning of God's wrath, and where it will fall.
7But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.
I will have mercy on the house of Judah - For to them the promises were made in David, and of them, according to the flesh, Christ was to come. Israel, moreover, as being founded in rebellion and apostasy, had gone on from bad to worse. All their kings clave to the sin of Jeroboam; not one did right in the sight of God; not one repented or hearkened to God. Whereas Judah, having the true Worship of God, and the reading of the law, and the typical sacrifices, through which it looked on to the great Sacrifice for sin, was on the whole, a witness to the truth of God (see the note at Hosea 11:12).
And will save them by the Lord their God, not by bow ... - Shortly after this, God did, in the reign of Hezekiah, save them by Himself from Sennacherib, when the Angel of the Lord smote in one night 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. "Neither in that night, nor when they were freed from the captivity at Babylon, did they bend bow or draw sword against their enemies or their captors. While they slept, the Angel of the Lord smote the camp of the Assyrians. At the prayers of David and the prophets and holy men, yea, and of the angels Zechariah 1:12 too, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, to set them free "to go up to Jerusalem, and build the temple of the Lord God of Israel" Ezra 1:3. But much more, this is the special promise of the Gospel, that God would deliver, not outwardly, but inwardly; not by human wars, but in peace; not by man, but by Himself. "By the Lord their God," by Himself who is speaking, or, The Father by the Son, (in like way as it is said, "The Lord rained upon Sodom fire from the Lord" Genesis 19:24).
They were saved in Christ, the Lord and God of all, not by carnal weapons of warfare, but by the might of Him who saved them, and shook thrones and dominions, and who by His own Cross triumpheth over the hosts of the adversaries, and overthroweth the powers of evil, and giveth to those who love Him, "to tread on serpents and scorpions and all the power of the enemy." They were saved, not for any merits of their own, nor for anything in themselves. But when human means, and man's works, such as he could do of his own free-will, and the power of his understanding, and the natural impulses of his affections, had proved unavailing, then he redeemed them by His Blood, and bestowed on them gifts and graces above nature, and filled them with His Spirit, and gave them "to will and to do of His good pleasure." But this promise also was, and is, to the true Judah, i. e., to those who, as the name means, "confess and praise" God, and who, receiving Christ, who, as Man, was of the tribe of Judah, became His children, being re-born by His Spirit."
8Now when she had weaned Loruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son.
Now when she had weaned ... - Eastern women very commonly nursed their children two, or even three (2 Macc. 7:27) years. The weaning then of the child portrays a certain interval of time between these two degrees of chastisement; but after this reprieve, the last and final judgment pictured here was to set in irreversibly.
9Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.
Call his name Lo-ammi - that is, "not My people." The name of this third child expresses the last final degree of chastisement. As the "scattering by God" did not involve the being wholly "unpitied;" so neither did the being wholly "unpitied" for the time involve the being wholly rejected, so as to be no more His people. There were corresponding degrees in the actual history of the kingdom of Israel. God withdrew his protection by degrees. Under Jeroboam, in whose reign was this beginning of Hosea's prophecy, the people was yet outwardly strong. This strength has been thought to be expressed by the sex of the oldest child, that he was a son. On this, followed extreme weakness, full of mutual massacre and horrible cruelty, first, in a long anarchy, then under Zechariah, Shallurn, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, Hosea, within, and through the invasions of Pul, Tiglathpileser, Shalmaneser, kings of Assyria, from without. The sex of the daughter, "Lo Ruhamah, Unpitied," corresponds with this increasing weakness, and breaking of the spirit. When she was weaned, i. e., when the people were deprived of all consolation and all the spiritual food whereby they had here to been supported, prophecy, teaching, promises, sacrifices, grace, favor, consolation, it became wholly "Lo-ammi, not My people." As a distinct part of God's people, it was cast off forever; and yet it became outwardly strong, as the Jews became powerful, and often were the persecutors of the Christians. The same is seen in individuals. God often first chastens them lightly, then more heavily, and brings them down in their iniquities; but if they still harden themselves, He withdraws both His chastisements and His grace, so that the sinner even prospers in this world, but, remaining finally impenitent, is cast off forever.
I will not be your God - Literally "I will not be to you," or, "for you;" "for you," by providence; "to you," by love. The words say the more through their silence. They do not say what God will not be to those who had been His people. They do not say that He will not be their Defender, Nourisher, Saviour, Deliverer, Father, Hope, Refuge; and so they say that He will be none of these, which are all included in the English, "I will not be your God." For, as God, He is these, and all things, to us. "I will not be to you." God, by His love, vouchsafes to give all and to take all. He gives Himself wholly to His own, in order to make them wholly His. He makes an exchange with them. As God the Son, by His Incarnation, took the Manhood into God, so, by His Spirit dwelling in them, He makes men gods, "partakers of the Divine Nature" 2 Peter 1:4. They, by His adoption, belong to Him; He, by His promise and gift, belongs to them.
He makes them His; He becomes their's. This mutual exchange is so often expressed in Holy Scripture, to show how God loveth to give Himself to us, and to make us His; and that where the one is, there is the other; nor can the one be without the other. This was the original covenant with Israel: "I will be your God, and you shall be My people" Leviticus 26:12; Exodus 6:7; and as such, it is often repeated in Jeremiah Jer 11:4-5; Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 30:22; Jeremiah 31:1, Jeremiah 31:33; Jeremiah 32:38 and Ezekiel EZechariah 11:20; Ezekiel 14:11; Ezekiel 36:28; Ezekiel 37:23, Ezekiel 37:27. Afterward, this is expressed still more affectionately. "I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters" 2 Corinthians 6:18. And in Christ the Son, God saith, "I will be his Father, and he shall be My son" 2 Samuel 7:14. God, who saith not this to any out of Christ, nor even to the holy Angels, (as it is written, "Unto which of the Angels said He at any time, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to Me a son?" Hebrews 1:5), saith it to us in Christ. And so, in turn, the Church and each single soul which is His, saith, or rather He saith it in them Sol 2:16, "My beloved is mine, and I am His," and more boldly yet, I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine" Sol 6:3. Whence also at the holy communion we say, "then we dwell in Christ and Christ in us; we are one with Christ, and Christ with us;" and we pray that "we may evermore dwell in Him, and He in us."
10Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.
Yet - (literally, and) the number of the children of Israel ... Light springeth out of darkness; joy out of sorrow; mercy out of chastisement; life out of death. And so Holy Scripture commonly, upon the threat of punishment, promises blessings to the penitent "Very nigh to the severest displeasure is the dispersion of sorrows and the promised close of darkness." What God takes away, He replaces with usury; things of time by things eternal; outward goods and gifts and privileges by inward; an earthly kingdom by heaven. Both Peter 1 Peter 2:10 and Paul Romans 9:25-26 tell us that this prophecy is already, in Christ, fulfilled in those of Israel, who were the true Israel, or of the Gentiles, to whom the promise was made Genesis 22:18, "In thy Seed shall all the nations be blessed," and who, whether Jews or Gentiles, believed in Him. The Gentiles were adopted into the Church, which, at the Day of Pentecost, was formed of the Jews, and in which Jews and Gentiles became one in Christ Galatians 3:28. Yet of the Jews alone, not only did "many tens of thousands in Jerusalem believe" Acts 21:20, but Peter and James both write "to the dispersed of the ten tribes" James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; and the Apostles themselves were Jews. Although, then, those Jews who believed in Christ were few in comparison of those who rejected Him, yet they were, in themselves, many, and, through those who, in Christ Jesus, were "begotten by them through the Gospel" 1 Corinthians 4:15, they were numberless. Yet this prophecy, although accomplished in part, will, according to Paul Romans 11:25-26, be yet more completely fulfilled in the end.
In the place where it was said - (or where it shall be said, i. e., at the first) unto them, ye are not My people, there it shall, in after-time, be said unto them, ye are the sons of the living God Both the times here spoken of by the prophet were yet future, for Israel, although they had apostatised from God, had not yet been disowned by God, who was still sending to them prophets, to reclaim them. They ceased to be owned as God's people, when, being dispersed abroad, they had no share in the sacrifices, no temple-worship, no prophets, no typical reconciliation for sin. God took no more notice of them than the pagan. The prophet then speaks of two futures; one, when it shall be said to them, "ye are not My people;" and a yet further future, in which it should he said, "ye are the sons of the living God." The place of both was to be the same. The place of their rejection, the dispersion, was to be the place of their restoration. And so Peter says that this Scripture was fulfilled in them, while still "scattered abroad through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." The place, then, where they shall be called the "sons of the living God," is, wheresoever they should believe in Christ. Although separated in body, they were united by faith. And so it shall be unto the end. "Nothing now constraineth to go up to Jerusalem, and still to seek for the temple of stones, for neither will they worship God, as aforetime, by sacrifices of sheep or oxen; but their worship will be faith in Christ and in His commandments, and the sanctification in the Spirit, and the regeneration through Holy Baptism, making the glory of sonship their's, who are worthy thereof and are called thereto by the Lord" .
It shall be said, ye are the 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 dead 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, and as being 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 he 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. "We have received the spirit of adoption of sows, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. And if sons, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs of Christ" Romans 8:15.
God not only giveth us grace, but adopteth us as sons. He not only accounteth us, but He maketh us sons; He maketh us sons, not outwardly, but inwardly; not by inward grace only, but by His Spirit: not only by the birth from the Spirit, but in the Only-Begotten Son; sons of God, because members of Christ, the Son of God; sons of God, by adoption, as Christ is by Nature; but actual sons of God, as Christ is actually and eternally the Son of God. God is our Father, not by nature, but by grace; yet He is really our Father, since we are born of Him, "sons of the living God," born of the Spirit. He giveth us of His Substance, 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, as our Saviour saith, "If any man love Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him" John 14:23.
11Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together - A little image of this union was seen after the captivity in Babylon, when some of the children of Israel, i. e., of the ten tribes, were united to Judah on his return, and the great schism of the two kingdoms came to an end. More fully, both literal Judah and Israel were gathered into one in the one Church of Christ, and all the spiritual Judah and Israel; i. e., as many of the Gentiles as, by following the faith, became the sons of faithful Abraham, and heirs of the promise to him.
And shall make themselves one Head - The act of God is named first, "they shall be gathered;" for without God we can do nothing. Then follows the act of their own consent, "they shall make themselves one Head;" for without us God doth nothing in us. God gathereth, by the call of His grace; they make to themselves one Head, by obeying His call, and submitting themselves to Christ, the one Head of the mystical body, the Church, who are His members. In like way, Ezekiel foretells of Christ, of the seed of David, under the name of David; "I will set up one Shepherd over them, and He shall feed them, even My servant David; and I the Lord will be their God, and My servant David a Prince among them" Ezekiel 34:23-24; and again; "I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms anymore at all" Ezekiel 37:22. But this was not wholly fulfilled, until Christ came, for after the captivity they were under Zorobabel as chief, and Joshua as high priest.
And shall come up out of the land - To "come up" or "go up" is a title of dignity; from where, in our time, people are said to go up to the metropolis, or the University; and in Holy Scripture, to "come up," or "go up," out of Egypt (Genesis 13:1; Genesis 45:25, etc.), or Assyria 2 Kings 17:3; 2 Kings 18:9, 2 Kings 18:13; Isaiah 36:1, Isaiah 36:10, or Babylon 2 Kings 24:1; Ezra 2:1; Ezra 7:6; Nehemiah 7:6; Nehemiah 12:1, to the land of promise, or from the rest of the land to the place which God chose Exodus 34:24 to place His name there, Shiloh, 1 Samuel 1:22, or, afterward, Jerusalem; (2 Samuel 19:34; 1 Kings 12:27-28; Psalm 122:4, etc.) and it is foretold that "the mountain of the Lord's house shall be exalted above the hills; and many nations shall come and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord" Isaiah 2:2-3; Micah 4:1-2. The land from which they should go up is, primarily and in image, Babylon, from where God restored the two tribes; but, in truth and fully, it is the whole aggregate of lands, the earth, the great "city of confusion," which Babel designates. Out of which they shall go up, "not with their feet but with their affections," to the "city set upon a hill" Matthew 5:14, "the heavenly Jerusalem" Hebrews 12:22, and heaven itself, where we are "made to sit together with Christ" Ephesians 2:6, and where "our conversation is" Philippians 3:20, that where He is, there may we "His servants be" John 12:26. They ascend in mind above the earth and the things of earth, and the lowness of carnal desires, that so they may, in the end, come up out of the earth, "to meet the Lord in the air, and forever be with the Lord" 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
For great is the day of Jezreel - God had denounced woe on Israel, under the names of the three children of the prophet, Jezreel, Lo-Ammi, Lo-Ruhamah; and now, under those three names, He promises the reversal of that sentence, in Christ. He begins with the name, under which he had begun to pronounce the woe, the first son, Jezreel. "Jezreel" means "God shall sow," either for increase, or to scatter. When God threatened, "Jezreel" necessarily meant, "God shall scatter;" here, when God reverses His threatening, it means, "God shall sow." But the issue of the seed is either single, as in human birth, or manifold, as in the seed-corn. Hence, it is used either of Him who was eminently, "the Seed of Abraham, the Seed of the woman," or the manifold harvest, which He, the seed-corn John 12:24, should bring forth, when sown in the earth, by His vicarious Death. It means, then, Christ or His Church. Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God before all worlds, was, in time, also "conceived by the Holy Spirit, of the Virgin Mary," the Son of God Alone, in a way in which no other man was born of God. Great then should be the day, when "God should sow," or give the increase in mercy, as before He scattered them, in His displeasure.
The Great Day wherein "God should sow, was, first, the day which the Lord hath made" Psalm 118:24, the Incarnation, in which God the Son became Man, "the seed of the woman;" then, it was the Passion, in which, like a seed-corn, He was sown in the earth; then, the Resurrection, when He rose, "the Firstborn among many brethren;" then, all the days in which "He bare much fruit." It is the one day of salvation, in which, generation after generation, a new seed hath been or "shall be born" unto Him, and "shall serve Him" Psalm 22:30-31. Even unto the end, every time of any special growth of the Church every conversion of Pagan tribe or people, is "a day of Jezereel," a day in which "the Lord soweth." Great, wonderful, glorious, thrice-blessed is the day of Christ, for in it He hath done great things for us, gathering together under Himself, the Head, those scattered abroad, "without hope and without God in the world;" making "not My people" into "My people" and those not beloved into His "beloved," the objects of His tender, yearning compassion, full of His grace and mercy. For so it follows,