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Introduction

ASSIGNMENT: Read the introduction to the textbook.

       The prophet Hosea was called by God to warn the people of Israel that he intended to put into effect the punishments stipulated by the covenant. In the near future the people of Israel could expect to experience nothing but sorrow and woe -- though in the future they could also expect blessings once the punishment had been carried out. Speaking more precisely, the covenant stipulations encapsulated in Deuteronomy 4:20-31 are the contact points for the judgment of God on his rebellious people.
       What is curious about the message of Hosea of God's impending destruction is that he preached during the height of Israel's prosperity. The period of his work spanned some 40 years or so beginning around 760 BC. In spite of Israel's prosperity, many of the people had abandoned Yahwism and instead worshipped the Cannanite deities, chiefly Asherah and Ba'al. As Doug Stuart (The Word Biblical Commentary, volume 31, p. 10. N.B. I am terribly indebted to Stuart's incredibly useful work and the careful reader will see his footprints all over this study) puts it, "the Sinai Law Code had fallen into a limbo of neglect.... Most Israelites probably knew about the law in the same way as most Americans would know about the Sermon on the Mount even though they would be unable to describe its contents accurately".
       The textual state of the book of Hosea is very unstable. Only Job has more textual difficulties than does Hosea. Stuart (cited above) believes that the cause of this textual uncertainty can be explained by the fact that Hosea wrote in a Northern dialect while the later scribes used a southern dialect. Hence, passages were, at points, adjusted to accommodate that southern dialect. Nevertheless, the LXX (Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament) preserves a very literal text -- resulting in the fact that the underlying Hebrew Text can at times be restored.

Hosea 1

1 The word of Jehovah 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 superscription demonstrates that Hosea was, for however brief a period, a contemporary of Isaiah of Jerusalem. It also shows that the whole of the book, words and deeds, are conceived as the Word of Yahweh. It is not merely the things the prophet says that are communications from God, but what he does as well. The name of the prophet means "Yahweh delivers". His father's name means "wellspring".

2 When Jehovah spake at the first by Hosea, Jehovah said unto Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredom and children of whoredom; for the land doth commit great whoredom, departing from Jehovah.

       The marriage, birth, and naming of the children are all symbolic aspects of the unfaithfulness of Israel. Yahweh uses Hosea's circumstances as a clear message to the people of his displeasure at their spiritual adultery.
       That Hosea uses the plural "zenunim" (prostitute, harlot) demonstrates that a trait is described rather than a mere profession or one time activity. Anyone who married in 8th century Israel married a woman who had prostituted herself... at one of the many temple's of Ba'al and Ashera. It was evidently a custom that young women enter into the service of Ba'al in order to guarantee productive child bearing years. Thus, for some undetermined period of time, the young lady worked as a cult prostitute at the Ba'al temple and wh en her term of servicer This horrid practice infuriated God, who had called the people to be faithful to Him alone and serve Him only.

3 So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; and she conceived, and bare him a son.

       The name Gomer means something like "increase" and probably is a shortened form of "Yahweh has increased our family". Nothing is known of her father.

4 And Jehovah 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 the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease.

       The names of the children are "message names"- i.e., names that are in themselves a sermon to those who ask- "and so, what did you name the baby?" The children of Isaiah also received "message names"- cf. Is 7:3, 8:3-4. The name of the firstborn is "God Sows", signifying that God will sow the dead bodies of the disobedient Israelites.

5 And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.

       In 733 Tiglath-Pilesar's armies captured the valley in the Assyrian campaign launched to quench the rebellion in Syria-Palestine. The valley of Jezreel was a historic battleground. There Deborah and Barak defeated Sisera (Judg 4-5); there Gideon defeated the Midianites (Judg 6-8); the Philistines defeated Israel under Saul (1 Sam 29-31); and the Egyptians defeated Josiah and Judah (2 Kings 23:29-30). Thus "Jezreel" was almost a byword for a decisive battle.

6 And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And Jehovah said unto him, Call her name Lo-ruhamah; for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel, that I should in any wise pardon them.

       In Israel it was custom to give positive names to children. Just as no one today would name their daughter "Hussy" or "ory name, so the ancient Israelites would likewise have been simply appalled by the name given here. The name literally means "no pity" -- "I don't pity you at all"!!!
       The message is clear -- Yahweh is giving them what they show they want by rejecting Him -- no pity.

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

       All through the Bible we learn of God's intervention of behalf of His people.

8 Now when she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son.

       In ancient times children were nursed until they were about three. Perhaps about 5 years elapsed between the birth of the first and last child.

9 And Jehovah said, Call his name Lo-ammi; for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.

       The vocabulary is that of the Mosaic covenant. Obedience led to kinship while disobedience must of necessity lead to divorce. The covenant having been shattered the inevitable result is punishment. The covenant is summarized in Ex 3:14, which is reflected here and in fact reversed here, annulled by God as it had been annulled by the people.

10 [He. 2:1] Yet 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, it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.

       There were apparently 60,000 free landholders in Israel in Hosea's day. Beyond these there were non-landholders and their families, giving an approximate population of 400,000. Judah would have had about half that number, or around 200,000 people. In short -- Israel was a small nation. This verse then emphasizes the promise of incredible expansion of the covenant.
       The phrase "like the sands of the sea" is simply an idiom for innumerability.

11 [Heb. 2:2] And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint themselves one head, and shall go up from the land; for great shall be the day of Jezreel.

       Three dramatic reversals are described here. The nation will be reunified. They will return from exile. They will be revived. This verse is almost like Ezek 37:12-14.