Hosea 1 (NIV)
Take for wife a whore.
Name your children how God feels
About sinful Jews.
–The Gendai Bible (each chapter summarized in a haiku)
by Rev. Frederick K. Boyle
The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel:
So, some 250 years after King David, Hosea speaks as God’s prophet for a period of about 40 years during the time of the divided kingdom. Hosea speaks to the Northern Kingdom/Israel and its capital city Samaria — about the same time that Isaiah was speaking to the Southern Kingdom/Judah and its capital city Jerusalem. During this time Israel was prospering economically but it was decaying and degenerating spiritually and morally.
Hosea’s Wife and Children
2 When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”
My favorite immoral woman in the Bible is Gomer. We don’t know much about her, but we do know that she was a whore (according to the ESV translation). One day, the prophet Hosea was commanded by God to marry Gomer and have “children of whoredom” (Hos 1:2). The text doesn’t record Hosea’s response, but I can imagine it was something like: “But God, I’m a prophet. I’m a pastor. I’m a holy man. This is going to destroy my testimony! How’s my wife going to lead Beth Moore studies when she’s a whore?”
But God says “Go marry a whore, Hosea, so that you can experience what it is to be a giver of grace.”
3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
The marriage will portray Israel’s unfaithfulness to God and the names of the children symbolize God’s judgment.
4 Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. 5 In that day I will break Israel’s bow in the Valley of Jezreel.”
The first son, Jezreel, is named after massacre at Jezreel (see 2 Kings 10). Perhaps as a punishment for not learning from this massacre, God says he will put an end to the kingdom of Israel in the valley of Jezreel. The prophecy for the destruction of Israel was fulfilled in 735 BC, when Assyria attacked and conquered Israel (2 Kings 15:29).
6 Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call her Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”), for I will no longer show love to Israel, that I should at all forgive them. 7 Yet I will show love to Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I, the Lord their God, will save them.”
The second child was a daughter named Lo-Ruhamah, translated as “No pity,” “Not loved,” or “No mercy.” The implication of this name is that God will not show mercy and compassion to Israel and will allow it to be destroyed. The fact that God had no mercy to Israel but did have mercy towards the Southern Kingdom/ Judah may show that Judah and her kings were more faithful unto the Lord during these years, as exemplified by King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1-8).
8 After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. 9 Then the Lord said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”), for you are not my people, and I am not your God.
The third child was a son, named Lo-Ammi, meaning “Not my people.” Here God punishes Israel by withdrawing his relationship with them.
So God promises to withdraw three things from the Jews of Israel: the land, his mercy, and special status as his people. This appears to be a reversal of His promises in Exodus 6:6-8 where God —
a.) rescues Israel “from under the yoke of the Egyptians” and gives them the promised land
b.) shows mercy by redeeming them “with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment”
c.) establishes a relationship with Israel and calls them “my people.”
10 “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel. Say of your brothers, ‘My people,’ and of your sisters, ‘My loved one.’”
God promised a restoration so complete that the division caused by the civil war after King Solomon’s reign — a division that stood for 170 years — would one day be erased. One way this promise is fulfilled is in the church, where God brings together Israel, Judah, and even Gentiles, into one body (Ephesians 2:14-16).
I remember when my daughter and her husband were expecting baby number two, a little girl (who would join big brother Liam, set to turn 4 just days before she arrived). I listened with interest as Maureen told me the names they were considering: Catherine, Caroline, Emma, Addison, Abigail, Morgan, Bailey. . . But never once did she suggest naming her daughter “Not Loved” or “No Mercy,” as Hosea and Gomer named their little girl. We want our children — and God wants us — to know that we are dearly loved, and that gracious mercy abounds. The name they finally chose: Calli Grace. Perfect.
HERE is one of my most favorite songs, “Lord Have Mercy,” sung by Michael W. Smith.