COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 1:2 The 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.” (Hosea 1:2)
Hosea is not writing a novel, the treatise of an historical subject, or his own views of a matter. He is recording the Word of the Lord – the word that came to him. In all of the history of the world, and out of the billions of people who have lived, there have been few who have received messages from God they were commissioned to write – less than forty men! Moses (5 books), Joshua, Samuel (2 books, possibly 4), Ezra (possibly 2), Nehemiah, David, Solomon (3 books), Isaiah, Jeremiah (2 books, possibly 4), Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Matthew, Mark, Luke (2 books), John (4 books), Paul (14 books), James, Jude. Books whose authors are not specified include Judges (thought to be Samuel), 1 Kings and 2 Kings (thought to be Jeremiah), 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles (thought to be Ezra), Ruth (thought to be Samuel), Esther (thought to be Mordecai).
All of these writings were the result of Divine initiative. Some may have included research, such as the writings of Luke (Lk 1:1-3) – but even that was directed by God. We will find confirmed in the book of Hosea that inspired writings were timely messages. There were times when a message from God was required. The first writings defined valid beginnings and causes (Genesis), together with moral definitions and examples (Exodus thru Deuteronomy). Sometimes it was because of an approaching blessing (Isaiah). Other times impending judgment required the message (Jeremiah). Sometimes strength and encouragement were required (Haggai and Zechariah). Other times correction was needed (1 Corinthians). There were also elaborations on the great work God had done (Romans). In Hosea, the reprobacy of the people of God required a word from God. In order for that word to be effectively delivered, the Lord will move Hosea to experience the effects unfaithfulness has upon the One who loves.
THE BEGINNING OF THE WORD BY HOSEA
“ 1:1a The beginning of the Word of the Lord by Hosea. . . ” Other versions read, “When the Lord began to speak by Hosea,” NKJV “When the Lord first spoke through Hosea,” NASB and “the start of the word of the Lord by Hosea.” BBE
THE BEGINNING. God does not always begin to speak in soft tones and with gentle words. There are moral and spiritual conditions that cannot be arrested by compassionate and sympathizing words. There is a human circumstance that is so low, and so close to the state of absolute Divine rejection, that unusual measures are required. Jude described such a state in these words, “And others save with fear (as compared with having compassion, v 22), pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 1:23). Such a condition existed in the days of Hosea, and now God addresses it.
A DANGEROUS CONDITION. There is a state in which Divine wrath has already been awakened, and is about to break forth. It is not pleasant to think about such things, but it is necessary. The times prior to the flood were so characterized. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Gen 6:5-6). Such provocation was also found at the building of the tower of Babel. “And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (Gen 11:5-6). It was found again in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. “And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know” (Gen 18:21).
Jesus spoke to a generation that had so provoked the Lord He was going to send unparalleled wrath upon it. “For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Luke 19:44). Paul delivered a word concerning a generation that would be sent strong delusion from the Lord, that would consummate in their damnation. “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess 2:10-12).
HOW DOES GOD SPEAK ABOUT THESE CONDITIONS? One of the indispensable ministries of the prophets is this: they reveal to us how God assesses deficiencies in His people – particularly when they are of such a nature that they cause His wrath to be awakened against them. In particular, Hosea will show us how the Lord speaks of those who have gone backward. When God finds His people making alliances with the world and neglecting Him, there is a certain way in which He describes them. His assessment is most precise. It is not an exaggeration or an understatement.
In the verse before us, God will require Hosea to do something that is normally unacceptable. He does this to accentuate how unacceptable His own people have become to Him. As in the early days of Israel, He has been brought to abhor “His own inheritance” (Psa 106:40). The people had been called, blessed, led, and given great promises. Yet, their response to all of this had placed them in a condition where destruction was looming on the horizon. Thus the Lord begins to speak to Hosea in a manner suitable for the occasion. He has a message for His people, and it must be delivered passionately, faithfully, and powerfully. There will be nothing easy or convenient about the ministry of Hosea.
If the manner in which God responds to Israel’s sin astounds us, we must work all the more to be astounded by their sin – for that is what is truly astonishing. We must learn from them not to “provoke the Lord to jealousy” (1 Cor 10:22).
SOMETHING THAT IS NEEDFUL. Admittedly, these are not pleasant things to ponder. Notwithstanding that unpleasantry, it is essential that we be acquainted with this aspect of the Divine nature. Unfortunately, we are living in a religious generation that is largely ignorant of this – just as Israel was in the days of Hosea. There are conditions that exist within the professed church that are altogether intolerable. As we proceed through this book, you will see the parallels. I trust you will be duly affected by them.
A WIFE AND CHILDREN OF WHOREDOMS
“ 1b And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms . . .” Other versions read, “a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry,” NKJV “a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry,” NASB “Go, marry a whore, and get children with a whore.” NJB
This is the first word of the Lord to Hosea, and a hard one is was! This would be a test of his own faith and faithfulness. This condition was to marriage what the command to offer up Isaac was to parenthood. It was unnatural, difficult, and accompanied with a sense of repulsiveness. Under any other circumstances it would be been wrong. However, because of the state of God’s people, and because of the Divine objective addressed by it, it was right. Indeed, it was more than being right – it was necessary. In order for the message of God to get across to His people, something drastic had to be done. Hosea was a man through whom this could be accomplished for His glory and the good of the people.
HOSEA’S NATURE REVEALED. Although we do not have a lot of factual information about Hosea, this word of God to him tells us very much about him. He was obviously sensitive to the Lord, and able to hear Him who speaks from heaven (Heb 12:25). He was able to make his own interests and comfort subordinate to the will of the Lord. He also was responsive to the Lord, and did not “kick” against the Lord as Israel did, rebelling against His word (Deut 32:15). Being a man of faith, he was also a faithful steward in all God gave him to do, even though it involved some unpleasantries.
A WIFE OF WHOREDOMS. Hosea was to take his wife from among harlots – prostitutes who sold themselves to whoremongers. This verse has been regarded differently by students of Scripture. Some feel “whoredoms” refers to idolatry. This cannot be true, for the magnitude of Israel’s sin could not be exposed by merely marrying an idolater. That would not have sufficiently fortified Hosea’s message, for Israel was insensitive to the such a condition. Others are persuaded the whole incident is actually a parable, and did not actually take place at all. I cannot accept that view, for nothing in the text suggests such a thing. It is said that Hosea went and did as the Lord commanded (1:3). The woman is named (1:3). Her father is named (1:3). She conceived and bare a son (1:4). Her son is named (1:4). She conceived again and bore a daughter (1:6). The daughter is named (1:6). She bore another son (1:9). This and other considerations confirm this is a real incident.
CHILDREN OF WHOREDOMS. Some versions suggest this means his wife had already conceived the children by others, not Hosea. Thus they were born while she was married to Hosea, but actually were fathered by someone else. The New Living Translation reflects this understanding, “Go and marry a prostitute, so some of her children will be born to you from other men.” This is wholly unacceptable, for we are told in the next verse Hosea went in to her and she conceived (1:3).
The meaning is that the children, in the eyes of others, would be identified with the harlot-mother rather than Hosea the prophet. They would partake of the degrading reputation of their mother. This would parallel the children of Israel, who had drifted from the Lord, partaking of the nature of the heathen, with whom their parents were aligned.
THE BANE OF EASY SOLUTIONS. Sin can bring men to a situation where there are no easy solutions. Too often professed believers allow themselves to be deceived into habitual sin. Then, they imagine they can be easily retrieved from sin when it becomes too uncomfortable for them. While I do not deny that the Lord, upon their repentance, can suddenly turn things around for such people, the required repentance is not easily achieved. Willful sin will not be remedied by easy solutions!
Certain of God’s prophets were called to address His people, who were in a most miserable condition. God required some remarkable things of these prophets in order to accentuate the seriousness of the people’s condition. Isaiah was required to walk naked and barefoot “three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and Ethiopia” (Isa 20:2-3). Ezekiel was required to lie on his side for 390 days, eating a certain kind of bread (Ezek 4:9). He was also required to eat cakes mingled with dung (Ezek 4:12-15).
Prophets such as these would not fit into career-oriented religious systems. In order to work together with God, they had to participate in the impact the iniquity of their people had upon the Lord Himself. From the perspective of those who are in Christ Jesus, this is a “fellowship” of suffering (Phil 3:10), or suffering “with Him” (Rom 8:17). This often involves more than “suffering for righteousness sake” (Matt 5:10) at the hand of others. It sometimes is feeling what God feels when He sees transgression in His own people.
GREAT WHOREDOM IN DEPARTING FROM THE LORD
“ 1c . . . for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.” Other versions read, “For the land has committed great harlotry BY departing from the Lord,” NKJV “for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord,” NASB “the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.” NIV
THERE IS A REASON. The circumstance of the people of God was so serious that it required drastic measures to address it. It was similar to Ezekiel speaking to people who would not hear because they were “impudent and hardhearted” (Ezek 3:7). It was like Isaiah powerfully speaking the word of God until the people “fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken” (Isa 28:13). Even though God had “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give” the people an “expected end” (Jer 29:11), yet the people had rejected His overtures, treating Him, His Word, and His prophets with disdain.
THE LAND. The words “the land” speak of all that pertained to Israel – the people and the land in which they resided. That entire geographic area had been defiled by the iniquity of the people. Thus Jeremiah said, “And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination” (Jer 2:7). Now, instead of the fragrance of sweet offerings rising to the Lord from His land, the stench of spiritual death was found in it.
How does the Lord speak of such a condition? What does He say about those who have known His deliverance and His care, yet go back to the desolations from which they were once delivered? How does the Lord address those who have pushed Him to the side in preference for other things and other gods? His description is arresting.
GREAT WHOREDOM. The words “great whoredom” come from the double use of the Hebrew word for “whoredom,” as though He said “whoredom whoredom.” The expression is one of flagrant, gross, and repulsive sin. There is “harlotry,” and there is “great harlotry.” KJV There is “adultery,” and there is “vilest adultery.” NIV There is “transgression,” and there is “the great transgression” (Psa 19:13). There is “all manner of sin and blasphemy” that can be “forgiven unto men,” and there is the “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” which “shall not be forgiven unto men” (Matt 12:31). “Great whoredom” falls into the latter categories.
Sin is magnified when it is committed after much has been received from the Lord. That is why those who return to sin after they have been delivered from it are in a condition that is “worse with them that the beginning” (2 Pet 2:20). It is more difficult to recover those whose love has “waxed cold,” than to save them in the first place (Matt 24:12). That circumstance is what makes the latter-day falling away “perilous.” (2 Tim 3:1-5). Such are times when those who wear the name of Jesus obtain the traits of the world.
DEPARTING FROM THE LORD. The words “great whoredom” describes the nature of their sin. The words “departing from the Lord” precisely trace what they did. Other versions read “forsaking the Lord.” NASB The Hebrew expression used here is most precise. Literally is means “after the following part, hinder, afterwards, and behind.” STRONGS The idea is that God Himself was placed in the last position - put at the end of their priorities and life itself. Thus other versions read, “untrue to God,” BBE “away from Jehovah,” DARBY “turning away from the Lord,” NAB and “abandoning Yahweh.” NJB
Doctrinally, this condition is described in the following words. “Israel would none of Me” (Psa 81:1), “forgat Me” Hos 2:13), “God is not in all his thoughts” (Psa 10:4), “departing from the living God” (Heb 3:12), “depart from the faith” (1 Tim 4:1), and “cast off their first faith” (1 Tim 5:12).
There is a truth to be seen here that jars upon the soul of the lethargic. In order to embrace other priorities, one must forsake the Lord! There is no middle ground, for no man can “serve two masters” (Matt 6:24). It is not possible for God to be upstaged unless He is first forsaken, or pushed into the background of life. As soon as that happens, iniquity gains its power over the soul. That is why we read, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Tim 4:1). One cannot listen to demons until he quits listening to God! It is not possible to serve other gods unless one ceases to serve God! In order for the heart to be given to profane and contemptible things, it must cease to be given to the Lord.
When, therefore, an individual who once knew the Lord is again overcome by sin, it is not something accidental. The Spirit has been deliberately quenched, the voice of God ignored, and the Word forgotten. From the New Covenant perspective, “the Son of God” has been “trodden under foot,” “the blood of the covenant” considered “an unholy thing,” and the person has “done despite to the Spirit of grace” (Heb 10:29). That is a most serious condition, and is to be avoided at all cost! It is the dilemma of Hosea’s book.