The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri. The prophets are divided into the former (rishonim, Zechariah 1:4) prophets and the later prophets. The writings of the former prophets comprise most of the historical hooks, for the Hebrew conception of a prophet was that of an individual inspired by God to instruct men for the present or inform them of the future, whether orally or by writing; the later were the prophets properly so called, while these, again, are subdivided into the greater, consisting of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and the lesser, or minor, including the remaining twelve. The designation "minor" does not imply any inferiority in importance of subject or value of contents, but has respect solely to the smallness of their size as compared with the larger discourses of the others. The twelve minor prophets were added to the canon before its completion as a single book, "lest," says Kimchi, in his commentary on this verse, "a book of them should be lost because of its smallness, if each one of them should be kept separate by itself." They were accordingly reckoned as one book— δώδεκα ἐν μονοβίβλῳ, as Eusebius expresses it. The name Hosea, like other Hebrew names, is significant, and denotes "deliverance," or" salvation;" or, the abstract being put for the concrete, "deliverer," or "savior." It is radically the same name as Joshua, except that the prefix of the latter implies the name of Jehovah as the Author of such deliverance or salvation; while the Greek form of Joshua is Jesus, which in two passages of the Authorized Version stands for it. The form of the name in the original is closely connected with Hosanna (hoshia na)," save now," which occurs in Psalms 118:25. 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 period of Hosea's prophetic activity is one of the longest, if not the longest, on record. It continued during the reigns of the four kings of Judah above mentioned, and during that of Jeroboam II. King of Israel, which was in part coincident with that of Uzziah. Uzziah and Jeroboam reigned contemporaneously for twenty-six years. Somewhere during or rather before the end of that period Hosea commenced his ministry. Uzziah survived Jeroboam some twenty-six years, then Jotham and Ahaz in succession reigned each sixteen years. During all these fifty-eight years Hosea continued his ministerial labors. To these must be added a few years for the beginning of his prophetic career during the reign of Jeroboam, and some two or three years before its close in the reign of Hezekiah; for the destruction of Samaria, which took place in the fourth year of that king, the prophet looks forward to as still future. Thus for three score years and more—probably nearer three score years and ten, the ordinary period of human life—the prophet persevered in the discharge of his onerous duties. It may seem strange that, though Hosea exercised his prophetic function in Israel, yet the time during which he did so is reckoned by the reigns of the kings of Judah. The single exception of Jeroboam II. is accounted for in a rabbinic tradition on the ground that he did not credit or act on the evil report which Amaziah the priest of Bethel preferred against the Prophet Amos, as we read (Amos 7:10), "Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam King of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words" (see also Amos 7:11-13 of the same chapter). The real reason for the reckoning by the kings of Judah, and for the exceptional case of Jeroboam, was not that assigned by the rabbins; neither was it an indication, on the part of the prophet, of the legitimacy of the kingdom of Judah on the one hand, and evidence, on the other hand, of the performance of God's promise to Jehu that his sons would sit upon the throne to the fourth generation, while Jeroboam, Jehu's great-grandson, was the last king of that dynasty by whom God vouch-sated help to Israel, his son and successor Zechariah retaining possession of the kingdom only for the short space of six months. The true cause is rather to be sought in the regicides, usurpations, occasional anarchy, and generally unsettled state of the northern kingdom, inasmuch as such instability and uncertainty furnished no sure or satisfactory basis for chronological calculation. Thus we find that, on the death of Jeroboam II; there was an interregnum of some dozen years, during which, of course, a state of anarchy prevailed. At length Zechariah succeeded to the throne; he had reigned only six months when he was murdered by Shallum. Shallum's reign only lasted a month, when he was put to death by Menahem. During his reign often years occurred the invasion of Pal. Menahem's son, Pekachiah, had only reigned two years when he was murdered by Pekah, in whose reign Tiglath-pileser invaded the land. Hoshea slew Pekah. Next followed an interval of anarchy lasting eight years. Then, after Hoshea's short reign of nine years, the kingdom was destroyed. Thus it was only in the southern kingdom that a sufficiently firm foundation for chronological reckoning was available, while under these circumstances Jeroboam's reign was necessary to show the prophet's connection with Israel, and also that the prediction of the fourth verse preceded the event foretold. The general heading of the whole book is contained in this verse and Divine authority is thus claimed for the whole, as the prophet to whom the word of the Lord came is only Jehovah's spokesman.
The beginning of the word of the Lord by (literally, in) Hosea. These words may be rendered at once more literally and more exactly,
So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son. Kimchi conjectures that "Gomer was the name of a harlot well known at that time;" he also explains the name, according to his view of its symbolic import, as follows: "Gomer has the meaning of completion;" as if the prophet said, He will fully execute on them the punishment of their transgressions that he may forgive their iniquity." The names of the children born to the prophet are significant and symbolical; and their symbolic significance is explained. The names mentioned in this verse are also significant, though their significance is not expressly stated, as in the former case; the cause of the omission being the fact that these names were not, like the others, now received for the first time, but simply retained. Gomer denotes "completion" or" consummation," from a verbal root signifying "to perfect" or "come to an end; and Diblaim is the dual of deblēlah, the plural being debhēlim, from the verb dabhal, to press together into a mass, especially a round mass. The meaning of the word, then, is "two cakes," that is, of dried figs pressed together in lumps. It may be observed, in passing, that the Greek παλάθη seems to come from the Aramaic form debhalta, by the omission of the initial daleth. But what is the mystic meaning which the prophet veils under the two names Consummation and Compressed fig-cakes (cakes of compressed figs)? The one may hint not obscurely consummation in sin and in the suffering which is the ultimate consequence of sin; while the other may imply the sweetness of sensual indulgences, especially such as idolatrous celebrants were prone to. If, then, the symbolical interpretation of these names be allowable, we may accept that given by Jerome. He says, "Out of Israel is taken typically by Hosea a wife consummated in fornication, and a perfect daughter of pleasure which seems sweet and pleasant to those who enjoy it." There is, moreover, an obvious appropriateness in the names thus symbolically understood. The prophet, whose name signifies "salvation," marries a woman who was a daughter of plea. sure and a votary of sin; this alliance represents the relation into which Jehovah, with his saving power, had mercifully taken Israel; but that people, unmindful and unthankful for such mercy, and intent on the indulgence of a sinful course, went from bad to worse in apostasy and idolatry till God at length left them in their impenitence and abandoned them to their fate. The conception and birth of Gomer's son to the prophet, though several authorities omit "him," give no countenance to the idea of the child being supposititious; and so far there seems to be some confirmation of the opinion of Keil referred to under verse 2.
And the Lord said unto him, Call his name Jezreel. The name which the people inherited from a distinguished ancestor was one of honor and dignity—Israel or Yisrael, "prince with God;" the name imposed by their sins was one of reproach and disaster—Izreel, or Yizreel, "scattered by God." The Hebrews had a peculiar fondness for a paronomasia of this kind; thus Bethel, "house of God," becomes Bethaven, "house of vanity." Keil regrets the appellative sense in this passage, and refers to the historical importance of the place. The latter view seems favored by the succeeding explanation of the name. For yet a little while, and I will avenge (visit) the Mood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu. The verb here rendered "avenge" is literally to "visit," and is used sometimes in a good sense, implying a benevolent purpose, as in Ruth 1:6, "For she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread;" sometimes it expresses a hostile intention, as in Exodus 20:5, "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children." In the present passage, as elsewhere in this book (see Hosea 2:13; Hosea 4:9), it is taken in the sense assigned it in the Authorized Version, with which the Septuagint and Syriac are in accord. But what are we to understand by the blood of Jezreel, which brought down this vengeance on the house of Jehu? Some suppose that the expression denotes the bloody deeds of Ahab's house, including, not only the murder of Naboth, but also their bloody persecution of the servants and prophets of Jehovah, as we read in 1 Kings 18:4, that "Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord;" and in 2 Kings 9:7, "Thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord, at the hand of Jezebel." These and like deeds of blood brought down retribution on the house of Ahab; Jehu, the instrument of this retribution, was himself guilty of such enormities that the cry of blood for vengeance was repeated, and the criminality of the preceding dynasty continuing, the ate of Jehu's was redoubled. This view appears to us both clumsy and far-fetched. The plain meaning is that which refers the blood of Jezreel to the bloody massacres of Jehn himself, when in a single day he put an end to the dynasty of Omri and the wicked house of Ahab. On that memorable occasion he slew the queen-mother Jezebel, the seventy sons of Ahab, and forty-two relatives of King Ahaziah, also all the prophets of Baal, all his servants and all his priests. The royal house of Israel he exterminated, for he "slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and his kinsfolk, and his priests, until he left him none remaining;" the royal house or' Judah he brought at the same time to the very verge of extinction. The slaughter of Ahab's sons, of Jezebel and Joram, and that whole royal line, was, it is true, in compliance with God's express command; and, for the measure of his obedience to that command, Jehu was rewarded by the promise of his family occupying the throne of Israel to the fourth generation. But what was the motive that prompted this performance of the Divine will? Was it really zeal for God, as he pretended, and consequent diligence in obeying the Divine direction? Or did human passion predominate and political advantage hurry him on? We trow not. Certain it is that his subsequent career rendered the purity of his zeal more than doubtful. He exterminated the idolatry of Baal, but he clave to the calves of Jeroboam at Bethel and Dan—the fundamental sin of the kings of Israel. In what he did, therefore, the act itself was right, for God commanded it; but the motive was wrong, for it was selfish ambition that prompted it. Thus it was with Baasha; he executed vengeance by command of God on the wicked house of Jeroboam I and for so doing was exalted to be prince over God's people Israel; but the word of the Lord came against him, as we read, "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." The Chaldee regards the blood shed by Jehu in Jezreel, though shed in a righteous cause and for the rooting out of the Baal idolatry, as innocent blood, because Jehu himself and his house turned aside to the idolatry of the calves. Jerome takes a similar view of the matter. Kimchi adopts the same; his words, literally translated, are the following: "And why does he call it the blood of Jezreel? Because it was shod in Jezreel. And though in this matter he did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah, yet, since he did not observe to walk in the Law of Jehovah, and did not turn aside from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the blood which he shed was reckoned to him as innocent blood." He then adduces as a parallel the case of Baasha already mentioned. And will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel. Jeroboam II; the third of Jehu's family, was now reigning; a fourth member of the same was to occupy the throne. That fourth sovereign was Zechariah, whose short inglorious reign lasted only six months, at the expiration of which he fell a victim in the conspiracy by Shallum. Thus ended the dynasty of Jehu; while its overthrow paralyzed the strength of the northern kingdom. Anti, though the day of its complete destruction was deferred for half a century, yet the disorders, dethronements, anarchy at times, and repeated assassination of the sovereigns, to which Menahem was the only exception, prepared the way for the final catastrophe. The overthrow of the house of Jehu has been aptly termed by Hengstenberg "the beginning of the end, the commencement of the process of decomposition."
And it shall some to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel. Here we have a prediction of a most momentous event, with express statement of the place where it should occur, as also the time of its occurrence. The event itself was more than the downfall of a dynasty; it was the destruction of a kingdom. The date of that destruction is defined simply as the period when God would punish the sins of both the princes and people of Israel The close of Jehu's dynasty was at once the preparation for and the commencement of the cessation of the kingdom of Israel. The place of this calamity was the Valley of Jezreel. This famous valley was the cockpit of Palestine. There Israel conquered the host of King Jabin; there Gideon overthrew the Midianites; there Saul was defeated by the Philistines, when driven up the slopes of Gilbea "the beauty of Israel was slain in thy high places;" there a defeat equally sorrowful and not less disastrous was aggravated by the death of good King Josiah, and proved fatal to the kingdom of Judah; there, too, in later times, the last conflict took place between the Crusaders and the Moslems, in which victory crowned the arms of Saladin; there, also, was fought the battle, as we learn from this passage, which decided the fate of the kingdom of Israel. The situation of this valley was admirably suited for such scenes. This plain, or valley, broad as it is beautiful, begins where the maritime plain, interrupted by the ridge of Carmel, turns aside and extends across the center of the country from the Mediterranean Sea on the west to the Jordan valley on the east, and from the hills of Galilee on the north to those of Ephraim or Samaria on the south. The form of this plain is triangular; its eastern side or base is fifteen miles, reaching from Engannim, now Jenin, to the hills below Nazareth; the north side along the hills of Galilee is twelve miles; the southern, formed by the hills of Samaria, is eighteen miles; while the apex of this somewhat irregular triangle is a narrow pass through which the river Kishon—"that ancient river, the river Kishon"—with its winding stream makes its way to the sea. On the east there are three branches in the direction of the Jordan, which bear a remote resemblance to the fingers of a hand. The northern branch passes between Tabor and Little Hermon, or Jebel ed-Duhy; the central one, which is the Valley of Jezreel proper, runs between Shunem and Jezreel, now Zerin; the southern between Mount Gilboa and En-gannim, now Jenia—this branch, having no outlet, loses itself among the eastern hills. The name of this plain was derived from the city of Jezreel, situated near its eastern extremity on a spur of Mount Gilboa, which Ahab chose as a royal residence, and which remained so for three successive reigns, though in the time of Jeroboam II. Samaria had again, as in the days of Omri, become the royal city. In this great plain, called by the Greeks Esdraelon, the bow of Israel was to be broken. The bow (qesheth, rad. qashah, hard, stiff, unbending) was the warrior's weapon of offence and defense—strong and powerful; the breaking of his bow deprived him of his chief weapon, and left him at the mercy of the enemy to conquer or to kill; thus we read, "His bow abode in strength;" and again, "My glory was fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand." But while such general references prove the bow to have been an emblem of strength and power, as Kimchi explains it, still there is something very special and suitable in the expression of the prophet here. "In one important respect," says the author of the 'Jewish Church,' "the ancient military glory of Israel was, if not confined to the northern kingdom yet regarded as eminently characteristic of it. Judah, with all its warlike qualities, had never been celebrated for its archery. The use of the bow was there a late acquisition (2 Samuel 1:18). But in Benjamin and Ephraim it had been an habitual weapon. The bow of Jonathan was known far and wide. The children of Ephraim were characterized as 'carrying bows.' And so the chief weapon of the captain of the host of Israel was his bow. The King of Israel had always his bow and arrows with him. The sign of the fall of the kingdom was the breaking of the bow of Israel." The language employed by the prophet was thus singularly appropriate. An historical basis, though denied by some and pronounced precarious by others, is, we have little doubt, found for this prediction in Hosea 10:14 of this very book. The bow, that is, the archery in which Israel excelled so much, was broken in the Valley of Jezreel, when Shalmon, identified with Shalmanezer, King of Assyria by Pusey and Stanley, spoiled Beth-Arbel, or Arbela, the city between Sepphoris and Tiberias, and near the middle of the valley, and thus crushed Israel in an overwhelming defeat. If the identification be sustained, that day of battle was most calamitous to Israel, and as cruel as calamitous, for neither the helplessness of infancy nor the tenderness of womanhood was spared; the infants were dashed to death against the stones, and the mothers then hurled in mortal agony upon the dead bodies of their little ones. Kimchi explains it generally: "On that day when I shall visit the blood of Jezreel, I shall break the bow of Israel, that is to say, their might and power."
And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Lo-ruhamah. The first birth symbolized the blood-guiltiness and idolatry of Israel, and the consequent destruction. Two other births follow to confirm the certainty of the coming calamity, to develop it further, and exhibit the nation ever which it impended under new phases, as also to show the prospect of deliverance to be hopeless. The change of sex may indicate the totality of the nation, male and female, as Keil thinks; or rather the weak and defenseless condition of Israel after their bow was broken and their power crushed by the enemy. They are new ready to be led into captivity, like a female helpless and powerless and exposed to ell the insults of the conquerors. The birth of the daughter is thus explained by Kimchi: "After she had borne a so which is a proverbial reference to Jeroboam the son of Joash … she bore a daughter, who refers parabolically to Zechariah and to Shallum son of Jabesh, who reigned after him, who were weak as a female." The name given to the child is Unpitied, or Unfavored, if ruchamah be taken as a mutilated participle, the initial mere being dropped, though it is not found in close connection with a participle; or, She-is-not-pitied, if the word be a verb. In either case, the mercy which if exercised would save her from the miseries of captivity, is clean gone; and the love which, if it existed, would prompt that exercise of mercy, is no longer to be looked for. For I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away (margin, that I should altogether pardon them). Aben Ezra quotes the correct meaning as follows: "Some say that נילי is that I have up till now forgiven their iniquity; "and Kimchi: "Hitherto I have forgiven and pardoned them, because I have had mercy upon them; but I shall continue to do so no more." עוד , again, from עוּד, to return or repeat. The construction of the first clause is peculiar. Rosenmüller cites as parallel Isaiah 47:1, Isaiah 47:5 and Proverbs 23:35; but more exact parallels are 1 Samuel 2:3 and Hosea 6:3, in both of which, and also in the text, Kimchi and Aben Ezra understand asher before the second verb. The last clause of the verse, however, presents a real difficulty, as we may infer from the variety of interpretations to which it has been subjected. The LXX. has ἀνψιτασσόμενος ἀντιτάξομαι, "But I will surely set myself in array against them." Jerome, confounding the verb with נשׂה translates, "But I will entirely forget them." Rashi: "I will distribute to them a portion of their cup and of their deeds," viz. as they have deserved by their deeds, Kimchi: "I will raise up enemies against them, who shall carry them into captivity and lay waste their land."Aben Ezra: "I will take them away;" he quotes for this meaning of the text Job 32:2, and takes the prefix le as the Aramaic sign of the accusative, giving as a notable example of the same 2 Samuel 3:30, haregu leabner for eth-abner. The Syriac Version is similar. A more feasible rendering, if the meaning of "take away" be retained, is that of Hengstenberg and others, who translate it: "I will utterly take away from them, or with regard to them," viz. everything. We prefer the sense of "pardon," as given in the Chaldee; in the margin of the Authorized Version; by Ewald, Wunsche, and Delitzsch; and mentioned by Aben Ezra and Kimchi. Thus it will read: "I will no more favor them that I should verily forgive them." The flint verb literally means the pitiful yearning of parental love—the strong feeling of affection which the Greeks expressed by στοργή. Paul's rendering of the word with the privative denotes absence of love; and Peter's the absence of mercy. Both notions are contained in the word, and their relation is well explained by Pussy, who says, It is tender love in him who pitieth; mercy as shown to him who needeth mercy." Now, the connection between such tenderness of love and forgiving mercy is natural and close. Many an instance of this had been experienced in the previous history of Israel; many a time God's compassion had been extended to his erring people, notwithstanding their manifold provocations; but that day is gone—the Divine long-suffering is exhausted. Once Israel is carried captive, there shall be no return; no mercy to restore them, as in the case of Judah.
But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God. Thus the contrast expressed in this verse increases the painful feelings with which the threatened abandonment and consequent destruction of Israel would be regarded. The promised mercy to the house of Judah is emphasized by the peculiar form of the expression. Instead of the pronoun, the proper name of Jehovah is employed; instead of saying, "I will save them by myself," he says in a specially emphatic manner, "I will save them by Jehovah," adding at the same time the important adjunct of "thy God," to remind them of that relationship to himself in virtue of which he interposes thus personally and powerfully on their behalf. An expression somewhat similar in form occurs in Genesis 19:24, "Then the Lord [Jehovah] rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord [Jehovah] out of heaven." And will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle (literally, war), by horses, nor by horsemen. This enumeration is quite in accordance with the prophet's style, as may be seen at a glance by comparing Hosea 2:5, Hosea 2:11, Hosea 2:22; Hosea 3:4; and Hosea 4:13. The manner of this deliverance is very peculiar and unusual; while prominence is given to the absence of those means of defense or deliverance on which the northern kingdom so much relied. The deliverance would be accomplished without the ordinary weapons of war—bow and sword, in the use of the former of which Israel was so celebrated; also without war, that is, without its appliances and material of whatever kind—skilful commanders, brave soldiers, and numerous troops; likewise without horses and horsemen, a great source of strength in those days (parashim, equivalent to "riders on horses," as distinguished from rokebhim, riders on camels). This deliverance, in fact, was to be entirely independent of all human resources. All this points plainly and positively to the deliverance of Judah from Sennacherib in the days of Hezekiah, when in one night the angel of the Lord smote a hundred and eighty-five thousand of the flower of the Assyrian host, and Jehovah thus by himself delivered Judah. Thus, too, Judah is saved from that power before which Israel had previously and entirely succumbed. (Compare, on this miraculous deliverance, 2 Kings 19:1-37. and Isaiah 37:1-38)
Now when she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son. As Eastern mothers nurse their children some two or three years, the process of weaning at the end of that period would imply a corresponding interval. This may be merely an incident to complete the prophetic declaration, and pleasingly vary the narrative. It is rather, we think, a pause in the progress of the approaching calamity—a pause indicative of the Divine lothness to execute the final sentence. Or the weaning may be referred, with some, to the entire withdrawal of all spiritual nourishment and support, when promise and prophecy, instruction and consolation, symbol and sacrifice, would be abolished.
Then said God, Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God. Here we have the climax of Israel's fate. The prophet's children, whether actual, visionary, or allegorical, symbolized step by step the sad gradation in Israel's fast-coming calamity. The name Jezreel, whether taken to mean their being scattered by God or their suffering the sorrowful consequences of their multiplied delinquencies, m either ease denotes the first blow dealt to them by Divine providence. Bat from that it was possible by repentance to recover; and, though dispersed, they were not beyond the reach of the Divine compassion, nor beyond the power of the Divine arm to collect and bring together again. But Lo-ruhammah, Unpitied, or Uncompassionated, imports another and a still heavier blow; and, though dispersed far and near, and though left in the places of their dispersion without pity and without compassion, still there might be a good time coming in the near or in the distant future, when a favorable change in their circumstances would be brought about so that they would be both collected together, or comforted and compassionated. The name Lo-ammi, however, puts an end to hope, implying as it does a total rejection and an entire renunciation of the people of Israel on the part of the Almighty. The national covenant is annulled; God has cast off his people, who are thus left hopeless as helpless, because of their sinful and ungrateful departure from the Source of all mercy and the Fountain of all blessing. The expression of this is very touching: "Ye" says God, now addressing them directly and personally, "are not—are no longer, my people; and I will not be yours." Such is the literal rendering of this now sad but once tender expression—tender, unspeakably tender, as long as applicable; sad, inexpressibly sad, now that its enjoyment is forever gone.
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea which cannot be measured nor numbered. The division of the verses at this place is faulty both in our common Hebrew Bibles and in the Authorized Version. The former connects Hosea 1:10 and Hosea 1:11 with the second chapter, and the latter closes the first chapter with these verses, and thus detaches them from the first verse of the second chapter. The correct arrangement combines Hosea 1:10 and Hosea 1:11 of Hosea 1:1-11 with Hosea 1:1 of Hosea 2:1-23, and concludes the first chapter with these three verses which are so closely joined together in sense. Here is the usual cycle of events—human sinfulness, deserved punishment, and Divine mercy. Had the last element been wanting, the promise of a countless posterity made to Abraham, renewed to Isaac, and confirmed to Jacob, might appear abolished. Yet, notwithstanding the rejection of Israel, the Word of God remaineth sure. But who are the children of Israel, whose multitude, like sea-saint, defies numeration and measurement? The whole posterity of Jacob or Israel might seem included, as the words of the promise made to that patriarch and those of the present prediction so closely correspond; and Israel is occasionally taken in this wide and general sense. The context is opposed to this; especially does the distinction so sharply marked in the succeeding verse militate against this. 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. The place where this great change takes place is either the place where their rejection was foretold, or that where its fulfillment became an accomplished fact. The former was, as is obvious, Palestine; the latter, the place of their exile, and so the lands of their dispersion. Thus the Chaldee, adopting the latter, renders freely as follows: "And it shall come to pass in the place where they lived in exile among the peoples, when they transgressed my Law and it was said to them, Ye are not my people, they will turn and be magnified, and called the people of God." Once this change takes place, their true mission shall be attained and their relations to the living God shall be readjusted. The dumb, dead idols, to which they had bowed down in the days of their apostasy and unbelief shall be cast aside and away for ever. Jehovah the Living One alone shall be the object of their adoration in that day.
Then 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. The phraseology of the older Scriptures is here followed. Thus we read in Exodus 1:10, in the words of Pharaoh, the children of Israel "getting them up out of the land" (comp. also Exodus 12:38 and Numbers 32:11); and again, on the report of the spies when the people murmured against Moses and Aaron, "they said one to another, Let us make a captain [head], and let us return into Egypt." In this way the scenes of former days were in some sense to be repeated: an exodus of some sort was again to take place; Egypt was to be abandoned and slavery left behind; they might have a wilderness to traverse, but here again the prospect of a land of promise was to cheer them on their journey and compensate them at its close; in fact, another or better Canaan was before them. Nay, more, the breach between Judah and Israel would be healed, and the disruption which had been so disastrous become a thing of the past. Judah and Israel would again unite and rally together under one head. But the important inquiry remains as to the how or when this prediction was to have fulfillment. Even if we admit the return from the captivity of Babylon to be a fulfillment, it would be but a very partial, though literal, fulfillment of such a grand prediction. That restoration was far too meager in its dimensions to come up to the requirements of, much less exhaust, such a splendid prophecy. Some of Israel—a mere fragment of the ten tribes—united with Judah in the relearn from Babylon: this poor miniature fulfillment, if we may so say, cannot be regarded, except perhaps typically or symbolically, as the fulfillment of the prophet's vivid picture. We must look to gospel times and gospel scenes for the realization of the glorious promise under consideration. Jewish interpreters themselves refer it to the times of Messiah. Thus Kimchi says, "This shall take place in the gathering together of the exiles in the days of the Messiah, for unto the second house there went up only Judah and Benjamin that had been exiles in Babylon; nor were the children of Judah and the children of Israel gathered together; and they shall make for themselves one head,—this is the King Messiah;" similarly, in the 'Betsudath David,' by Altschul, we read on this passage," They shall be gathered together: this will come to pass in the days of the Messiah. One head: this is the King Messiah. And they shall come up; out of the lands of the captivity they shall go up unto their own land." We cannot possibly mistake the objects of this prophecy; they are expressly declared to be "the children of Judah and the children of Israel"—the two distinctive branches of the Hebrew race, the two constituent elements of the Jewish nationality, and comprehending the whole natural posterity of Israel. There can be just as little doubt about the primary and proper application of the prophecy to the conversion of the people of the Jews. For a time they were not to be the people of God; but the testimony of the prophet to their again becoming the sons of the living God is quite unmistakable. They shall appoint themselves one head. "The prophet," says Calvin, "has, by the expression, characterized the obedience of faith; for it is not enough that Christ should be given as a King, and set over men, unless they also embrace him as their King, and with reverence receive him. We now learn that, when we believe the gospel, we choose Christ for our King, as it were, by a voluntary consent." The words are adopted by both Peter and Paul: the former (1 Peter 2:10) employs them as an appropriate description, in Old Testament language, of the happy change of condition consequent on the knowledge of the truth; the latter (Romans 9:25) quotes them more formally in an extension of their meaning beyond their primary import, and proper and literal application to the Jews, as an exemplification of the principle of once not my people, now my people. In this extension of their meaning they embrace, no doubt, the Gentiles, though not the objects originally and chiefly contemplated in the prophecy.
Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah. Divine mercy being now received, the recipients are urged to extend to each other the right hand of fellowship, exhorting one another, encouraging one smother, confirming each other in the faith, and mutually provoking each other to love and good works. "Because the comparison deals with a son and a daughter, the prophet therefore adds, 'your brothers and your sisters'" (Kimchi).
The sin of Israel sharply reproved.
The great sin, the root-sin we may call it, of Israel at this time was idolatry. But that sin was not alone; it was aggravated, as usual, by accompanying abominations. All along, from the period of the disruption, idolatry had been their besetting sin. The oft-repeated statement that Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, "made Israel to sin" has a special significance in this regard. As long as Jerusalem remained the gathering-place of the tribes, arid Solomon's temple remained the national sanctuary, Judah must have retained the supremacy. To undermine that supremacy, or rather to transfer it to Israel, required a stroke of bold, unscrupulous policy; but the audacity, or rather godlessness, of Jeroboam was quite equal to the occasion. Under pretence of facilitating the religious service of his subjects, as though it was too much for them to go up to Jerusalem, but in reality to prevent the people turning again in their allegiance to the dynasty of David, he changed the place of religious worship, appointing Dan and Bethel at the northern and southern extremities of his kingdom—the one on the Syrian and the other on the Judaic frontier. But this change of place necessitated other changes in keeping therewith. The mode of worship had to be changed from that of the true God to that of the calves, symbolical representations of the true God. With such symbolic representation of Deity he had, no doubt, become familiar in Egypt, as previously Aaron and the Israelites had carried it with them on their emancipation from that land. There was something very insidious in this change; it was only a half-measure, but a preparation for the whole. It was not the introduction of new gods, such as Baal and Ashtaroth, the dual deities of Phoenicia, of which sin Ahab was guilty; it was the worship of Jehovah under an external form. It was not the violation, at least directly, of the first commandment, which forbids the having of other gods; it was the transgression of the second, which condemns the making a graven image; so that Stanley says of Jeroboam that "to keep the first commandment he broke the second." The people took far too kindly to the change, and clung to it with fatal tenacity for two hundred years, subsequently even in the time of the Prophet Hoses, as we learn from several passages in this very book the calves were still objects of idolatrous worship. In our study of these verses we have for consideration the following.
I. THE PERSON OF THE PROPHET. He introduces himself to us by his name and surname, or patronymic. His name, Hosea or Savior, is one of good omen and happy augury, at least in his case; his patronymic of Ben-Beeri, "son of my well," has also a pleasing significance of its own. By the former we are reminded of that Savior to whom the prophet pointed and to whom he bore his testimony, and thus became an instrument of salvation; while the surname may call to mind him who is the Well-spring of salvation and the Fountain of living water, according to his own words, "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." Or if the name have reference to the function of the prophet himself, it may denote his pouring out the water of life from the Divine Fountain of life.
II. THE POWER WITH WHICH HE WAS INVESTED. This, of course, touches on his Divine commission, and the corresponding inspiration which qualified him for the proper execution Of that commission. Like the apostles in after times, he claims to hold his commission from God, and to be charged with the commands of God. Thus in Luke 3:2 we read that "the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness;" and in Galatians 1:1 we find the apostle of the Gentiles speaking of his commission in the following terms: "Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead." Thus in the case of Paul, his apostolic authority was not from ( ἀπὸ) men, as the source of that authority by whom it is conferred, nor by ( διὰ) man, the single representative of any body of men, as the channel of that authority through whom it is conveyed. It was through the two Persons of the blessed Trinity—Son and Father, agent and origin, medium and source—a direct Divine commission. So with the prophet in this introductory passage. But he not only held his commission from God, he had his instructions from God. His position was like that of a diplomatist or ambassador sent out by an earthly sovereign, who is commissioned to represent his sovereign, and in that capacity to adhere faithfully to the instructions he has received, correctly interpreting the will and wishes of his monarch and scrupulously communicating the same. Three several times is the source of Hosea's instructions insisted on. There is the first general statement of the word of the Lord coming to him; then there is the notification of the beginning of the word of the Lord being in Hosea; and next we learn that the Lord spake to him. The conveyance of these instructions is presented under a threefold aspect. They come to him from the Lord and so with Divine authority; they reach him by direct communication, for the Lord himself spoke to him; and they are in him, reflected on his mind and retained in his memory, and ready for present and practical use. God made him a depositary of his truth and thus fitted him for declaring it to others; he revealed his will to him, and by the inspiration of his Spirit qualified him to record it without error for the benefit of present and succeeding generations. Though not possessing or presuming to possess this special inspiration of prophets under the Old and apostles under the New Testament, the preacher of the gospel is truly commissioned and strictly commanded to declare the whole counsel of God, not with wisdom of words, not with enticing words of man's wisdom, not handling the Word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
III. THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE PROPHET. The official life of Hosea reached the length of an ordinary lifetime, falling little short of the ordinary three score years and ten. The summer's heat and winter's cold of all those long and weary years still found him at his post, as a prophet of the Lord. Many a dynastic change had taken place during that period: sovereigns might rise or sovereigns fall; men might come and men might go, but he went on as ever. Faithful to his God, faithful to his king and country, alike pious and patriotic, he persisted in the work to which God had caned him. To most men work long continued at last becomes irksome; the performance of duties in incessant round and for a lengthened period disposes men to seek respite or release; age itself, with its weight of years, brings manifold infirmities; but however it may have been with the prophet, he does not plead age, or infirmity, or length of service, or exhausted energies, or enfeebled strength, or failing powers either of mind or body, in order to obtain exemption from further service, or to secure in the evening of his days that ease or rest which he had so well earned; nay, unceasingly as uncomplainingly he persists in his onerous duties, and plies the task which Providence assigned him.
IV. THE PATIENCE OF THE PROPHET. If our work be pleasant, and especially if it prove successful, we are greatly encouraged thereby, and in some sort enabled to persevere. Want of success, on the other hand, too often paralyzes men's powers and puts an end to their exertions. Not so with Hosea. His efforts for the spiritual amelioration of his people were ineffectual; his labors in that direction were not crowned with the desired success. Yet in shadow as in sunshine, through evil report as good report, whether his work was appreciated or despised, with fruit or wanting it, he had learnt to possess his soul in patience. Many an untoward event, many a froward or perverse action on the part of those to whom he ministered, many a hard speech, discouraged his heart, we are sure, from the history of those evil days and the godless generation among whom he lived and wrought. His patience was tried—sorely tried, yet triumphed over all What a lesson to all who are engaged in work for God!
V. THE PECULIARITY OF THE PERIOD AT WHICH HE PUBLISHED HIS PREDICTIONS, That peculiarity consists in the fact that it was a period of unwonted prosperity. Had it been otherwise; had it been a time of positive decline or partial disorganization; had disintegration actually and obviously set in as at a later period, it might have been said that coming events were so casting their shadows before that a sagacious calculator of probabilities might readily predict the coming catastrophe. But in the reign of Jeroboam II; son and successor of Joash, and largely by his prowess, the power of Israel was revived. During his reign of forty-one years he had enlarged his kingdom beyond all preceding limits from the time of its separation item Judah; he had recovered Damascus, the capital of Syria, though that city had been lost even in the days of Solomon, together with Hamath on the Oronte; the key of Eastern Syria, thus checking if not crushing that hostile power. The northern kingdom had reached an unprecedented height of wealth and power; the sovereign had been triumphant in war, and his subjects were now happy and prosperous in peace. But at this very period of material wealth and military glory, after he had "restored the coasts of Israel from the entering of Hamath [the lower part of the Coelo-Syrian valley, from the gorge of the Litany to Baalbek] to the sea of the plain," amid the splendor of his achievements and the opulence of his subjects, the prophet foretold, not merely the decline, but the actual downfall, of the kingdom of Israel. An important lesson connects itself with this. It is not only the truth of the prediction, so contrary to all calculation, so opposed to all seeming probability, but the warning thus furnished against mistaking temporal prosperity for a proof of Divine favor, or reckoning and resting on the permanence of earthly possessions. In the case before us, however, a worm was at the root of the gourd. The moral progress of the nation was in the inverse ratio of its material prosperity.
VI. THE PAINFUL DECLARATION OF THE NATIONAL SIN. That sin was more than ordinary apostasy, bad as such a state of things assuredly is; it was idolatry which is spiritual adultery. This was expressed by the symbol of the prophet, whether in reality, vision, or parable, wedding an unchaste woman, a wife of whoredoms, by name Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. If such a union, even in symbol, was humiliating to the pure spirit of the prophet, how dreadful for a people to be in a condition so disgustingly loathsome and fearfully sinful, exposed to the deserved wrath of the Almighty, and obnoxious to the doom he has pronounced against such, "Thou hast destroyed all them that go a-whoring from thee!" If such relationship is repulsive in the extreme to every man of proper sentiments and virtuous feeling, how unspeakably hateful to the infinitely holy God to stand in the position of husband to a people so abominably faithless and impure! Yet their Maker had been their Husband, even the Lord of hosts, which is his adorable name.
The sufferings of Israel symbolically recorded.
The three children of the prophet by Gomer symbolize at once a degree of sin and a period of suffering. The forefathers of Israel had been idolaters in their native laud and in Egypt, as we learn from the admonition of Joshua (Joshua 24:14), "Put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt." But God took them into covenant with himself at Sinai; this new relation may be represented by the prophet's espousing at the Divine command Gomer, notwithstanding her previous impurity and lewdness. But though God took the people of Israel into such a close and endearing relation to himself, yet their posterity, instead of proving themselves children of God, often forsook God and fell into idolatry, this apostasy of the descendants through succeeding generations is set forth by the children of whoredoms which the prophet had by a wife of whoredoms. So with ourselves tainted with original sin; we are stained by many actual transgressions. "Sin," it has been well said, "is contagious, and, unless the entail is cut off by grace, hereditary."
I. THE NAME OF THE FIRST CHILD IMPLIES DEGENERACY, Jezreel, if taken in its local sense, reminds of bloodshed as also idolatry, and of the nemesis that in due time followed; but if understood appellatively, the name of dominion implied in Israel degenerates into that of dispersion included in Jezreel.
1. Imperfect work is imperfectly rewarded. No work done for God can make him our debtor, yet he is graciously pleased to reward honest work in his service, the reward being entirely of grace and not of debt. Jehu executed God's judgment on the house of Ahab, and had his reward in the succession of his family to the fourth generation. Though he pretended zeal he did not do the Lord's work sincerely; his own selfish interests and his own base designs mingled largely with his motives, and marred the worth of his work. The obtainment of a kingdom for himself rather than obedience to God was the chief end on which his heart was set. Neither did he perform the Lord's work thoroughly. He abolished the idolatry of Baal, but he adhered to the idolatry of the calves; obviously because the former served his own ends and helped to establish him in the kingdom, while the latter tended, as be thought, to secure his interest in the kingdom and keep his subjects detached from Judah.
2. Punishment, though slow, is sure. Yet a little while and the dynasty of Jehu became extinct; while fifty years afterwards the very kingdom over which that dynasty had ruled ceased altogether to exist. In the interval that elapsed between the extinction of the dynasty of Jehu and the total cessation of the kingdom of Israel a crushing defeat had been sustained in the valley of Jezreel, when the military strength of Israel was completely broken. Whether this was the battle of Betharbel, in which Shalmanezer was victorious, or some other reverse sustained in the invasion by Tiglath-pileser, to the success of which the inscriptions of that monarch testify, we have not perhaps sufficient means of ascertaining. This was the beginning of the end, and a premonition of what was near at hand. The sins of princes and people had gone on accumulating till at length the day of vengeance came. As with nations, so with individuals—
"Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience he stands waiting, with exactness grinds he all."
3. The unexpected often happens. Nothing could have appeared more unlikely in the reign of Jeroboam II. than the destruction of his kingdom within such a comparatively short space. He had proved himself a man of prowess and of power; he had extended the boundaries of his kingdom outwardly, and had consolidated its resources inwardly. He had restored the northern boundary of Israel to what it was in the days of Solomon; he had extended his kingdom southward by the sea of the plain, and to the valley of willows (Isaiah 15:7) between Moab and Edom; he had recovered what had been lost by the victories of Hazael; he had recaptured Damascus. He was, in fact, "the greatest of all the kings of Samaria. As if with a forecast of his future glory, he was named after the founder of the kingdom—Jeroboam II." Yet then, while King Jeroboam was at the zenith of his fame, and the kingdom at the height of its prosperity, the word of the Lord went forth against it. God, who seeth not as man seeth, directed the eye of his servant the prophet to sin unrepented of and unforsaken—that internal moral weakness and rottenness which no amount of material prosperity or power could either rectify or remove.
II. THE NAME OF THE SECOND CHILD IMPORTS EXTREME DESOLATENESS OF CONDITION. Israel is pictured as Lo-ruhamah, and thus represented as a woman, worthless; for she is one of the children of whoredom, weak, an easy prey to the spoiler, a victim of injury and insult, unpitied and unprotected, impenitent and unpardoned. Applied nationally, the conquered people are uncompassionated, and waiting to be carried into captivity. Applied personally, how dreadful is the state of that individual who, by a long course of iniquity, has sinned away the day of mercy, and against whom God has shut up the bowels of his compassion!
1. To Israel as a nation, so to each of us God has showed great and manifold mercies; let us beware of abusing our mercies, and thereby forfeiting them. If we forsake our own mercies for lying vanities, as, alas I so many do, we may expect that those mercies will forsake us, being withdrawn in the providence of God. How sad the condition of those who are in affliction, and yet can have no reasonable assurance of the mercy of God; who are afflicted, and yet cannot plead the Divine pity, or hope for Divine sympathy and succor! Sadder still is the case of those whom death surprises in the condition indicated as not having obtained mercy! God, it is true, is infinite in compassion, and his mercy everlasting to them that fear him; but to the impenitent and unbelieving there is a limit to his mercy somewhere; while to such nations and individuals alike the time may come when he will say, "I will have no more mercy upon them, no more pity, and no more pardon."
2. An aggravation of their misery is the natural consequence of the contrast with Judah in verse 7. Our blessed Lord very touchingly applies a similar contrast when he says, "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out." The Revised Version, which has "cast forth without," makes it yet stronger and more striking.
3. The salvation of Judah at this tired was their deliverance from Sennacherib. To this great event of Jewish history we find frequent reference elsewhere. Thus Isaiah, at the close of Hosea 10:1-15. and the commencement of Hosea 11:1-12; has a very striking contrast between the crash of mighty cedars and the springing up of a young shoot from a withered stump—the downfall of the great conqueror with his men of might, and the uprising of a righteous Savior out of the lowliness of the royal house of Judah; in other words, the Assyrian and the Savior. This contrast is couched in the following poetic language: "The Lord of hosts shall lop the bough with terror [i.e. terrific force]: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down,