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Book of Hosea
Chapter 1

Hosea Chapter 1
Commentary by Ron Beckham

Verse 1. "The word of the Lord which came to Hosea the son of Beeri, during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel."

Hosea, according to the "ancients" as quoted by Matthew Henry, was of the tribe of Issachar. He ministered during the reigns of Uzziah (767-739 BC), Jotham (739-731 BC), Ahaz (731-715 BC), and Hezekiah (715-686 BC), kings of Judah. When he began his ministry, Jeroboam II (782-753 BC) was still on the throne in the Northern Kingdom called "Israel." Hosea was a younger contemporary of Amos, another prophet to the northern kingdom, and prophesied somewhat concurrently with Isaiah and Micah, who were in Judah. His active ministry was from about 755 BC to approximately 710 BC (at least 45 years – and even longer, according to some writers).

When the "Word of the Lord…came to Hosea," the northern nation of Israel was in a time of political and economic prosperity under Jeroboam II, and much of the territory held by David and Solomon had been recovered. From that point on, however, Israel began to decline as a nation. Pul (who assumed the name Tiglath-Pileser) now ruled the Assyrians and that nation was a threat. Of Israel’s last six kings, four were murdered, and a fifth was carried off to Assyria. The onset of the "Word of the Lord" to Hosea, marked the point of decline and decay for Israel.

In the second verse, we will meet a lady named Gomer, who was carefully selected by God to mirror the nation Israel; a people that was blinded by sin and idolatry, and would not listen to the words of God’s prophets. Hosea and Gomer would LIVE as a prophesy for that nation. The people would SEE what they would not hear.

Verse 2. "When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord.'"

The Lord used the interesting parable (analogy) of an unfaithful wife, to reveal the Israelites to themselves (if they cared to look). This was an apt parable for them, because many were unfaithful in marriage at that time. They should get the point. In this context, Hosea was directed by God to go and marry a promiscuous woman (in verse 3, we will see that her name was "Gomer" or "corruption"), and her behavior would be compared to the thoughts, attitudes, and actions of the people of that nation.

The message of Hosea to the 10-northern tribes of Israel, would be: You pretend to honor Me, but you actually (to Me) are like an adulterous wife, who is unfaithful to her husband. The precise questions we should ask ourselves (as we study these chapters), are these: How does God see OUR country? How does He see our Church in this country? How does He see you and me? And the answer is another question: What are we going to do about it?

Verse 3. "So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son."

I LIKE the responsiveness of Hosea to our Lord. The "Word of the Lord" had come to him (verse 1) and we now see that he ACTED in response to God. Much like Jonah, Hosea had plenty of reason to run from the call of God. The Lord had essentially told him (verse 2), "See that harlot over there? The one who will break your heart by her adulterous ways? – Go and marry her!" And he did.

Notice that God’s act through Hosea, benefited Gomer, the person. It was a culture and time when a woman experienced grave economic difficulties – unless she was married! And Gomer’s life, by her choice, was going down the drain, one man at a time. Her relative beauty would not last, and then she would be – alone! God would use Hosea and Gomer to speak to the nation, but He is also concerned for individuals – like you and me.

Just like Gomer, you and I have experienced both benefits and difficulties in life. You might prayerfully consider your life, in the light of these verses. It may well be that God is speaking, to you and those around you, through what has happened in your life. The "Word of the Lord" was not just expressed through people long ago – "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8), and just as surely as God spoke to Israel through Hosea, He is speaking to you, right now.

Verse 4. "And the Lord said to him, ‘Name him Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.’"

The people had inherited a name from God, through Jacob, which was full of hope: "Israel" (or Yisrael"), which means "prince with God." The name given them for their sins, would be "Izreel" ("Jezreel" or Yizreel") which is "scattered by God." The Hebrews liked words that were a play on other words, and God comes into our likes and dislikes to communicate with us. Thus "Bethel" or "house of God" becomes "Bethaven" or "house of vanity." The name of this boy (Jezreel, the son of Gomer), was a sign that the Lord would judge and destroy that nation.

The word "punish" (New American Standard) or "avenge" (King James) is actually "visit", which is sometimes used in a good sense, as in Ruth 1:6, where "she had heard in the country of Moab, how that the Lord had visited the people in giving them bread." "Visit" can also be bad, as in Exodus 20:5; "I the Lord am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children."

But the point here is, God very clearly will JUDGE the nations and people who reject Him. Jehu was a commander under King Ahab (2 Kings 9:25), who killed those of Ahab’s house (2 Kings 10:11), and later "destroyed Baal from Israel" (2 Kings 10:28), but "took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart, for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam" (2 Kings 10:31). God wants ALL of you and me, and it’s time for us to give ourselves utterly to Him.

Verse 5. "On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel."

The imagery of an archer’s "bow" as a symbol for the loss of power by Israel, was appropriate. Judah was not so much a nation of archers, as was Israel to the north. As reported by Joseph Excell, "the chief weapon of the Captain of the host of Israel, was his bow", which was the key offensive and defensive weapon of that place. The bow symbolized the country.

Jezreel is the name of a city and also a famous plain (a.k.a. Armageddon or Esdraelon). Excell reported that Shalmon, identified with Shalmanezer, King of Assyria, spoiled Beth-Arbel, near the middle of the Valley of Jezreel, and crushed Israel in an overwhelming defeat. Excell continued that Israel never recovered, and he found this to be the "beginning of the end" for them.

That may be true, but "Jezreel" or "Armageddon" is and has been synonymous with Judgment. It always has been a "marvelous" place to have a war (we were there in May of 2000 – that valley is LARGE). Pointing to the loss of Beth-Arbel is interesting but not needed. I think God is simply stating in this verse, in language they could understand, that He would break their strength and then bring them to a place of war. They would lose, and cease to be a nation (He would send them into captivity).

Verse 6. "Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lord said to him, ‘Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them.’"

What happens when a people becomes utterly corrupt? God will withdraw His mercy from them, and that is what is expressed by the name "Lo-Ruhamah," which means "no mercy" or "no pity." We see a similar process in relation to Sodom and Gomorrah. Their true sin was that, in their abundance of blessings, they did not help others (Ezekiel 16:49). God helps us and expects us to use the blessings He gives us - for others. They did not, and God judged them for it.

What about the corruption of a Church? The same principle applies. To the Church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:5), He said "I will remove your lamp stand from it's place - unless you repent." The lamp stand contained oil and provided light. The "oil" represents the Holy Spirit of God, and He is a part of the great mercy given to the Church. Without the Oil of God, our light slowly fades away. The Church at Ephesus was doctrinally correct but lacked love (Revelation 2:4), as did Sodom and Gomorrah. Without love, we will be judged, just as surely as Israel was judged.

Verse 7. "But I will have compassion on the house of Judah and deliver them by the Lord their God, and will not deliver them by bow, sword, battle, horses or horsemen."

The purpose in Judgment is to bring a people to repentance. Dr. J. Vernon McGee said "It was God who sent the Depression (of the 1930's) to my country" (the U.S.). "If we had repented and had heard God at that time, we would never have had to fight in World War II. We would not have been in warfare in Korea, and then in Vietnam." Dr. McGee goes on that if we send missionaries now, we might not have to send soldiers at a later time.

Judah (the "Israel" to the south), was still, at this point, in a condition where they were capable of repentance. Therefore, God spared them and had mercy upon them. Most (all?) of the countries of the world reject our Lord and some incredibly seem to be proud of it. The Churches, in an attempt to be "modern" and "open-minded" are not far behind. But God will have mercy upon those who are themselves capable of mercy.

Verse 8. "When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son."

Notice that Gomer, the wife, the harlot, who was used by God to mirror the fallen state of Israel, continued to "bear fruit" (have children). At that point in time, God’s judgment had begun to fall upon the nation, and yet, His blessings were still among them. They ate food, slept in warm homes, earned money, and had children. Yet she (representing Israel) was already judged, and her progeny would go into exile.

The standards of the Church, at this time, are very low. Some churches have said, Let’s be "broad minded" and allow active sinners into the pulpit. The problem is, adultery, envy, strife, unforgiveness and lack of love are SINS – and such activities will blind us to our Holy God. Outwardly, all is as it has been, but God will judge this nation and this Church, just as surely as He judged Israel, so long ago.

Verse 9. "And the Lord said, ‘Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.’"

Gomer was married to Hosea, but she continued to have relations with other men. We see this in the name "Lo-Ammi," which means "not my people." These were likely NOT Hosea’s children. The people bore the name "Israel" ("Prince with God") but their hearts were far from Him and they were not His people. How does God view YOU, if you profess to belong to God, and yet have other interests, like the horoscope in the morning newspaper?

The leaders of Israel purportedly were of God (they had that reputation) but they had other "gods" as well – just like them, we should examine ourselves, as pastors and as a people. What are our interests? Who do we serve? Where are our hearts? God utilized Israel as a vast parable, which reveals His manner of dealing with nations. He created the nations; He created the Church; he created you and me. We are His, and He reasonably expects us to follow Him.

Verse 10. "Yet the number of the sons of Israel Will be like the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered; And in the place Where it is said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ It will be said to them, ‘You are the sons of the living God.’"

Martin Luther reached out to the Jews in Germany, during the time of the Reformation. For the most part, they wanted nothing to do with him. To reach out was a good thing, but then he made a mistake. When they rebuffed him, he turned against them, which was a bad thing. God will never permanently turn against His chosen people.

Remember that His "anger" is designed to ultimately bring us closer to Him. Israel would continue to exist, as in this verse, and they would grow – that was His promise. There would be a time when He would treat them as "not His people" (Lo-Ammi, as in verse 9), but God’s intention for them, always has been to bring them to the Lord.

Verse 11. "And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, And they will appoint for themselves one leader, And they will go up from the land, For great will be the day of Jezreel."

There are no "missing" tribes of Israel. There have been those who have tried to identify the "lost" tribes with Great Britain or the U.S. or areas of South America. Such people are simply wrong. God scattered the tribes, which means they went pretty much everywhere!

But they weren’t lost, because He always knew where (and who) they were. And in their difficulty, God blessed them. Those who have returned to Israel, were brought there by God, whether they know it or not. They are "gathered together", not knowing, for the most part, what tribe(s) they are from. They are one people now, and those who were "Jezreel" (scattered by God), are loved by Him. They will discover the Messiah in God’s time – and great will be the day of this people.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

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