COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 1:3 So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son. 4 And the LORD 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 to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.” (Hosea 1:3-5)
Because of the seriousness of Israel’s condition, the Lord is using special means to appeal to them. Although His people are bent on sinning, He will make it difficult for them to do so. He seeks for a sensitive prophet – one who will not only care for the people, but who will minister to them in a frame of mind that is harmonious with that of the Lord Himself. Those who labor for the Lord must not only be faithful in the handling of their stewardship, but must also do so with a proper frame of mind, heart, and spirit. They must be in accord with the Lord in their work, for they have been called “into the fellowship” of the Lord Jesus, and are “laborers together with God” (1 Cor 1:9; 3:9). Paul referred to this as “naturally” caring for the estate of God’s people (Phil 2:20). It is having the same perspective of the people as God Himself has. In order for Hosea to obtain this indispensable frame of spirit, the Lord has commanded him to take a wife from harlotry, and bear children through her. These children would bear the reproach of their mother, much like Israel bore the reproach of their idols. From the human point of view, the commandment was, by its very nature, a most difficult one to fulfill. It required that the prophet act contrary to natural feelings and customs, even subjecting himself to reproach and heartache. Yet, God will give him grace to do this, and thus prove to be a faithful and effective prophet of the Most High. The requirement placed upon Hosea was not in accordance with the moral law, but it was in strict harmony with the higher law of love. It will assist us in understanding the extent to which the Lord goes to save His people.
HOSEA TAKES GOMER, THE DAUGHTER OF DIBLAIM
“ 1:3 The beginning of the Word of the Lord by Hosea. . . So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son.” Other versions read, “So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim,” NIV and “So he took as his wife Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim.” BBE
GOMER. The name “Gomer” is applied to a man and a woman in Scripture. One of Noah’s sons, Japheth, had a son named “Gomer,” and another named “Magog” (Gen 10:2; 1 Chron 1:5). The sons of Noah’s grandson “Gomer” are also named (Gen 10:3; 1 Chron 1:6). The descendants of the “Gomer” of Genesis are also mentioned by Ezekiel in relation to the “latter years” (Ezek 38:6). These people are generally considered to have settled North of Europe. Some regard them to be the German or Celtic peoples.
The name “Gomer” means “vanishing, heat, or passion.” McClintok Other meanings that are attributed to this name include “failing,” “consuming.” The ideas is that of diminishing heat – something that breaking down vanishing or disappearing. Spiritually, the name “Gomer” depicts the deteriorating condition of the people of God – like dying embers. It also denotes the loveless passion that is associated with harlotry – a mania that is not accompanied with any love or fundamental attraction. This was the condition of Israel, and it was set forth in both the life of Gomer, and in her name itself.
The record does not indicate that God told Hosea precisely who his wife was to be., He only said to choose her from among the harlots. It seems to me that his choice, however, was a wise one. It would assist him in remembering the state of Israel before the Lord – one of fallenness and heartlessness – all of this by simply recalling her name.
DAUGHTER OF DIBLAIM. This is the only place in Scripture where this name is mentioned. The name means “a double lump of figs,” and is a probable symbol for sweetness. It is also in the masculine gender, meaning this was Gomer’s father. Cakes of figs are frequently mentioned as nourishing morsels (1 Sam 25:18; 30:12; 1 Chron 12:40). While we cannot press this figure too far, it may symbolize that spiritual harlotry springs from the fleeting enjoyment that is realized in transgression.
SOMETHING TO BE SEEN. There is something else to be seen here. As Hosea’s wife, the name Gomer appears one time in all of Scripture. This is also the only place where her father is mentioned. While too much stress should not be placed on these things, these names do confirm that sin and transgression tend to rob people of real identity and significance. Transgression pushes the individual into nothingness, where all significance is lost, and utter worthlessness begins to consume.
THE CHARACTER OF HOSEA. As soon as the Lord told Hosea to take a wife from harlotry, he immediately did so. His faith was like that of Abraham, who “obeyed” when he was “called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance” (Heb 11:8). Abraham did the same when the Lord told him to offer up Isaac, rising early the next morning to do so (Gen 22:1-3). This was the kind of response found in James and John – an immediate one (Matt 4:22). Peter and Andrew also followed Jesus immediately (Matt 4:18-20). Levi (Matthew) did the same (Luke 5:27-28). However, not all men have responded in such an immediate and unquestioning manner. When God called Moses, for example, he responded, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?”(Ex 3:11). And again, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Ex 4:10). When called with such a great call, Jeremiah also responded, “Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child” (Jer 1:6). Peter momentarily balked when God was preparing him to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles. When told to kill and eat unclean animals he responded, “But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean” (Acts 10:14). In all three of these cases (Moses, Jeremiah, and Peter), the Lord rebuked them for their response (Ex 4:11-14; Jer 1:7; Acts 10:15).
I do not say these things to demean Moses, Jeremiah, and Peter, for they are all moral and spiritual giants among men. Rather, my aim is to show the excellence of Hosea, who, when he was called to do a most distasteful and otherwise unlawful thing, immediately set out to do it. He did not run from the Lord like Jonah, appeal to his own insufficiencies like Moses, or object to breaking the law like Peter. Such submissiveness is rare, even among the notables of Scripture. The record of Hosea provides an arresting example of the kind of response that can be realized when the Lord speaks to a person.
THE SON IS NAMED AND A REVELATION IS GIVEN
“ 4 And the LORD 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 to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.”
There are a number of things in this text that will declare the nature of the Lord. One of the preeminent things to be seen is that prophecy chiefly has to do with the working of the Lord. There is an approach to prophecy that emphasizes what the devil will do, or what some worldly despot will do. But this is not at all the thrust of prophecy. When God speaks of the rise of a tyrant like Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, or the likes, it is always within the context of what God Himself is doing. God does not give Himself to merely predicting calamities and periods of oppression. There is altogether too much preaching these days that deals with coming distresses, and appears wholly unrelated to the God of heaven. Such preaching induces fear, not trust, and puts too much accent upon mortal man. See how differently this text speaks to us.
CALL HIS NAME JEZREEL. God has frequently told people what to name their children. The following are names God commanded to be given. Ishmael (Gen 16:11), Isaac (Gen 17:19), Mahershalalhashbaz (Isa 8:3), Loruhamah (Hos 1:6), Loammi (Hos 1:9), Jesus (Matt 1:21), and John (Luke 1:13). Since the Lord says “all souls are mind” (Ezek 18:4), and all life comes from Him, this is His prerogative. It is, however, most difficult for a generation centered in self to conceive of such a thing.
The name Jezreel means “sown by God,” or “God will sow.” The idea is that God was going to do something. What He is going to do is expressed in the next phrase. It is enough to note here that God is not merely commenting on things that will take place. Rather, the naming of the child is to be a living memorial to the working of the Lord. The Lord will embed in human history a reminder of this working.
I WILL AVENGE THE BLOOD. The child is to be named Jezreel because “yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu.” This text is not without difficulties – yet we will find they are not insurmountable. “The blood of Jezreel” does not refer to the blood of a person, but to a slaughter that took place in the city of Jezreel. This was the city in which Naboth lived, whom wicked Ahab had killed in order to possess his vineyard (1 Kgs 21:12-16). As a result, God commissioned Elisha to anoint Jehu king, with a charge to destroy the whole house of Ahab (2 Kgs 9:1-31). According to the Divine mandate, Jehu “slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and his kinsfolks, and his priests, until he left him none remaining” (2 Kgs 10:11). He also “slew all that remained unto Ahab in Samaria, till he had destroyed him, according to the saying of the LORD, which he spake to Elijah” (2 Kgs 10:17). What is more, God commended Jehu for what he had done. “Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel” (2 Kgs 10:30). How is it, then, that the blood of Jezreel is avenged upon the house of Jehu?
Although Jehu technically carried out the word of the Lord, his heart was not right before the Lord. It is said of him, “But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin” (2 Kgs 10:31). The deeds of Jehu, therefore, actually became a sin, even though they were commissioned by God, for “unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure” (Tit 1:15). In the middle of his exploits, he drew attention to his zeal rather that to the word of the Lord: “Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD. So they made him ride in his chariot” (2 Kgs 10:16). In a single day, the bloodletting of Jehu included putting an end to the dynasty of Omri, obliterating the house of Ahab, slaying Jezebel, the seventy sons of Ahab, forty-two relatives of Ahaziah, and all the prophets of Baal, together with his servants and priests. However, he was prompted by wrong motives, and apparently took delight in what he was doing. It is evident that God Himself was not uppermost in his mind, for he did not walk in God’s laws or depart from the sins of Jeroboam. Therefore the blood he shed was avenged. Now, in Hosea’s time, 88 years later, God remembers the bloody zeal and pride of Jehu, and announces he will avenge the blood he shed.
Truly, the judgments of God are “unsearchable and his ways past finding out” (Rom 11:33). That is, they are beyond the reach of flesh, and may only be known as God reveals them. Here we are provided some of that revelation. Deeds that are of themselves right, can be done with evil hearts, and from wrong motives. Such tendencies are to be mortified.
THE BOW OF ISRAEL TO BE BROKEN
“ 4b . . . and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel. And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.”
AS KINGDOM WILL BE CAUSED TO CEASE. At this point, Divine precision is revealed. The Lord had spoken to Jehu because he had carried out His directive. And the LORD said to Jehu, “your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation” (2 Kgs 10:30). Those generations were Jehoahaz (2 Kgs 13:1), Jehoash (2 Kgs 14:16), Jeroboam II (who was reigning at the time Hosea wrote – 2 Kgs 13:13), and Zechariah (2 Kgs 15:8). It is written that Zechariah’s reign was “six months” (2 Kgs 15:8b). His life was ended by Shallum, who murdered him and seized the throne. This was in accord with a prophecy of Amos: “And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword” (Amos 7:9). We are specifically told that this fulfilled the word concerning the fourth generation of Jehu. “This was the word of the LORD which he spake unto Jehu, saying, Thy sons shall sit on the throne of Israel unto the fourth generation. And so it came to pass” (2 Kgs 15:12).
Thus the dynasty of Jehu was brought to an end, and the stage was set for the final dissolution of the kingdom of Israel. That would take place some time later. Yet the kingdom began to erode with the falling of Jehu’s house.
IT SHALL COME TO PASS. Here again we are faced with the language of Divine Sovereignty: “And it shall come to pass in that day.” This phrase is mentioned no less than 102 times in Scripture. It is never conjecture, but always denotes something that has been settled in heaven – written in “the Scriptures of truth.” There are points at which Divine determinations are made. They can be for good or for evil, for blessing or for cursing. This one was is for cursing – the removal of the house of Israel.
BREAKING THE BOW. The breaking of the bow refers to the dissolution of the military strength of Israel. That is, they would not be able to withstand their foes, and would therefore go down in utter defeat and ruin. This would be the end of the kingdom of Israel, the ten tribes that pulled away under the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. Israel sinned grievously against the Lord – so much so that He said He would remove them. Thus it was written, “For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them; until the LORD removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day” (2 Kgs 17:22-23).
THE VALLEY OF JEZREEL. The Lord speaks very specifically through Hosea. The overthrow will take place in “the valley of Jezreel,” related to the capital of Samaria, and the place where the king of Israel had his palace (1 Kgs 21:1). The prophesied breaking of Israel’s bow, and the dissolution of its kingdom was accomplished by Shalmaneser, king of Syria. “And it came to pass in . . . the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it. And at the end of three years they took it . . . the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken. And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes: because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them” (2 Kgs 18:9-12). This took place in “the valley of Jezreel.”
In this valley, “the valley of Jezreel,” Israel had overcome the Midianites, the Amalekites, and “the children of the East” (Judges 6:33). However, because of their sin, the place once noted for triumph would become the place of utter defeat and overthrow.
CONCLUSION. We can see from this text that persistent sin leads to moral and spiritual weakness, and inevitable Divine judgment. We also learn that a strict outward adherence to Divine commands, as in the case of Jehu, can bring punishment rather than reward. This is certainly not owing to any inconsistency or lack of predictability regarding the God of heaven. Rather, it is because God does not assess acceptable conduct according to mere appearance, but looks upon the heart. He considers the direction in which one is pointed, what motivates the person, and the source of his delight.
Sometimes, in order to bring the message of God to the people, personal sorrow must be endured. Such sorrow will not last forever, but is often necessary in order that true sobriety can be joined to insight and zeal in the carrying out of Divine mandates. One more thing: those who are unacquainted with the prophets are at a decided disadvantage.