COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 1:6 And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Loruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away. 7 But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.” (Hosea 1:6-7)
Throughout the ages prior to Christ, the Living God was revealing His Person. The revelations were introductory, yet precisely depicted the Divine character. Because God does not “change” (Mal 3:8), those disclosures remain valid and instructive to this day. In the vast expanse of nature, for example, the Lord made known His “eternal power and Godhead” (Deity, RSV or Divine nature, NASB Rom 1:20). In the Garden of Eden, we were introduced to His response to sin. The flood and Sodom and Gomorrah exposed us to the wrath of God. In Abraham we behold How He is inclined to bless, and how blessing comes through faith. The Law set forth the moral nature of God, and confirmed the gap between fallen mankind and its Maker, proving the precise points at which that variance existed. These also represent traits of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the “express Image” of God’s “person” (Heb 1:3). In addition to the many prophecies relating directly to Christ, the various Divine dealings that are reported in Moses and the Prophets also “testify” of Him (John 5:39). Just as surely as God does not change, so it is testified of Jesus, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Heb 13:8). This includes His response to the Pharisees as well as to Jairus. It includes His response to Chorazin and Bethsaida as well as His reaction to the Syrophenician woman and the woman at the well of Samaria.
Now, we will see another aspect of the Divine character. He will have two differing reactions to a single body of people – the offspring of Abraham. One will not receive mercy, and one will. This distinction is not arbitrary, and thus must especially be noted.
NO MERCY FOR ISRAEL
“ 1:6 And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Loruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.”
God is orchestrating certain events in Hosea’s life that precisely depict the conditions of his time. Among other things, this means the person who serves God must have some consciousness of the times and circumstances in which he serves. A person who is oblivious of the times will not be able to minister effectively for God. Such will not be able to “rightly divide,” or “handle accurately” NASB the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). Furthermore, knowing the times is not the same as knowing contemporary issues, fads, or preferences. Being able to discern “the signs of the times” relates chiefly to the people’s understanding of, and response to, the God of heaven. Whatever those conditions are will dictate how we preach and teach. If, for example, there is no hunger and thirst for righteousness, men of God do not preach as though such a condition was dominant. On the other hand, if there is a strong seeking of the Lord, they do not preach as though the people were reprobates.
This does not mean a sinful generation only hears about Divine curses, or that a faithful generation only hears about His blessings. Faithless people will be told of their condition and its consequences, and the promises of other things will be held out to them as incentives. Faithful people will hear a more in-depth exposition of riches that are realized in Christ Jesus, and warnings will be given about the dangers of being attached to this world.
Thus we will find in the book of Hosea a prophet who is called to speak with certain passion and tones to the people of God. He will prophesy with an acute awareness of where the people of God are, and how God is responding to their condition.
CALL HER NAME LORUHAMAH. Gomer gives birth to another child – a daughter. God instructs Hosea to name her “Loruhamah” (Lo-roo-hayˊ-ma). The name means “not pitied,” or “no mercy.” Hosea will be told that the name had nothing to do with the daughter herself, but with the condition of Israel.
NO MORE MERCY UPON ISRAEL. This is a statement that contradicts some very popular theology. Here was a nation upon whom God had bestowed all manner of goodness. As we will see, this was not the Israelites as a whole, but the “ten tribes of Israel” (1 Kgs 11:31,35). After the dividing of the kingdom, Israel began a decline. Thus it is written, “And it came to pass, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was come again, that they sent and called him unto the congregation, and made him king over all Israel: there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only” (1 Kgs 12:20). Kings of Israel even fought against Judah (1 Kgs 15:17). King Jeroboam was himself wicked, and “made Israel to sin” (2 Kgs 14:23). Hosea lived around this time, writing his book (B.C. 725) about 57 years after the death of Jeroboam (B.C. 782) – toward the end of his lengthy prophetic ministry.
God had shown mercy upon Israel, even under wicked Jeroboam, as recorded in 2 Kings 13:23: “And the LORD was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast He them from His presence as yet.” Yet, such mercy was now going to come to an end. Israel had so provoked the Lord of glory that He would show more mercy upon them. This deals the death blow to the theological nonsense that imagines it is not possible to be excluded from Divine mercy once it is experienced. This is all the more fortified in our thinking when we acknowledge that God does not change.
UTTERLY TAKEN AWAY. While both Israel and Judah were taken away, Judah recovered following the Babylonian captivity. However, Israel would not. As a ten-tribe cluster, they would be removed. Later, one by one, they would be joined to Judah – but Israel itself would no longer exist. Thus we read, “Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of His sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only” (2 Kgs 17:18). The abhorrent details of Israel’s sins are declared in 2 Kings 17:7-17. The carrying away of Israel was fulfilled when they were taken into Assyria (2 Kgs 17:6).
The very notion of being unpitied and receiving no mercy is staggering. If a person will only take those words seriously, they will produce great sobriety of mind and heart. God is quite capable of removing His mercy from those who once received it. He can thrust from Himself those He once received and embraced. He does not do this capriciously or without reason. However, there is a human condition that is so reprehensible that it disqualifies a person from receiving mercy, and mandates Divine abandonment. This is precisely how God has revealed Himself through Hosea, and the soul who takes Him seriously is wise.
MERCY ON THE HOUSE OF JUDAH
“ 7a But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah . . . ” Other versions read, “Yet I will have mercy,” NKJV “But I will have compassion,” NASB “Yet I will show love,” NIV and “But I will have pity.” NRSV
BUT. There is a Divine discrimination here that is disruptive to the mind of the flesh. Here is a body of people whose roots go back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the “twelve tribes” (Ex 24:4). All of the tribes came out of Egypt. All passed through the Red Sea. All entered into the promised land. All were united during the reigns of David and Solomon – a period of eighty years. They all experienced Divine favor, were given marvelous promises, and were included under the same covenant. Yet, ten of the tribes (Israel) are cut off from mercy, and two of them (Judah and Benjamin) are shown mercy.
This confirms a truth revealed to Moses and declared by Paul: “I . . . will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy” (Ex 33:19). Paul writes, “For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Rom 9:15). It is essential that those who imagine they can walk at a distance from the Lord and still experience His mercy consider this circumstance. Here is a situation where God did not want to show mercy to some, and did want to show it to others.
Our thoughts concerning God must include these things. There are conditions found among men that alter how the Lord views them. Ponder a word that is delivered to those who are in Christ Jesus. “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him” (Heb 10:38). That is a New Covenant representation of the facet of God’s nature that is seen in this text. God is not, nor has He ever been, indifferent to the conduct of mankind. It should not be necessary to say this, but our Western culture requires that we do so. Even though we have the inspired record of the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Egypt, Babylon, Tyre and Sidon, Nineveh, and scores of others, too many professed believers cleave to the notion that what they do has no affect upon the God of heaven. Nothing could be further from the truth!
I WILL HAVE MERCY. Unlike “the house of Israel,” God would show mercy to “the house of Judah.” Same people, same origin, same covenant – God willed to show mercy to some, and not to others.
Zechariah also spoke of this unique mercy shown to Judah. “And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the LORD their God, and will hear them” (Zech 10:6). Judah recovered from the Babylonian captivity. Israel did not recover from its captivity, which continues to this day. Thus men refer to the “ten lost tribes of Israel.” Be sure, they are not lost to God, even though they are to men. Judah returned to the promised land. Israel did not. As a kingdom, Judah continued for around 132 years after the dissolution of Israel.
The conduct of the children of Judah did not account for this mercy, even though they had some faithful kings (Asa, Jehosaphat. Joash, Hezekiah, etc.). Israel, on the other hand, had kings who followed in the wicked ways of Jeroboam (1 Kgs 15:34; 16:2,19,26,31; 22:52; 2 Kgs 3:3; 10:31; 12:2;13:11; 14:24; 15:9), of whom it was said, “He shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam” (1 Kgs 14:16). None of those kings repented or sparked a revival toward the Lord. In Judah, Jehosphat, Josiah, Hezekiah, and others were noted for spearheading spiritual renewals. However, Judah had also sinned. Jeremiah said that even though God gave Israel “a bill of divorce,” yet “Judah feared not” (Jer 3:8). It is written that both Israel and Judah “dealt treacherously” with the Lord (Jer 5:11). Why, then, did the Lord choose to show mercy on Judah, but not on Israel?
While it is true that Israel provoked the Lord more than Judah, there is another factor. This can be traced to the promise of the coming Messiah through the tribe of Judah. This promise was first given through Jacob to Judah. “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen 49:10). A primary Messianic promise was also given to David, who was also of the tribe of Judah. “For thus saith the LORD; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel” (Jer 33:17; 2 Sam 7:16). The Lord Jesus is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev 5:5).
Here is another example of the Scriptures testifying of Christ, and of all things being worked in view of His appointed entrance into the world.
JUDAH WILL BE SAVED, BUT NOT BY EARTHLY MEANS
“ 7b . . . and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.”
A SPECIAL DELIVERANCE. Here a special deliverance is declared – one that would not involve military conflict. It would be a deliverance like all the people experienced at the Red Sea. God Himself would defeat their foes, without their own personal involvement. They would be delivered, but not through their own efforts.
This would be a display of Divine mercy – something withheld from the kingdom of Israel. The deliverance would take place 24 years after Hosea completed his prophecy, in B.C. 701. This singular display of Divine mercy would come, the Lord said, “for Mine own sake, and for My servant David’s sake” (2 Kgs 19:34).
In the “fourteenth year of king Hezekiah,” Sennacherib king of Assyria “came up against all of the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.” Hezekiah’s first response was not a favorable one. He sent a message to the king of Assyria saying he had offended, and would pay whatever tribute was required of him. The king assessed his obligation as “three hundred talents [11 tons] of silver, and thirty talents [1 ton] of gold.” Hezekiah then cut the gold from the Temple doors, and from the pillars, and “gave it to the king of Assyria.” The Assyrian king responded by sending Rabshakeh with a great host against Jerusalem. He stood and cried out in the Jew’s language, “Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand: neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria” (2 Kgs 18:29-30). He boasted that the gods of other nations conquered by the Assyrians were unable to help them. He then bragged, “Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?” (2 Kgs 18:36). Hezekiah then sought the face of the Lord after being told by Isaiah the prophet that God was going to send “a blast” upon Sennacherib.
The king of Assyria, then sent a threatening letter to Hezekiah in which he said, “Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria” (2 Kgs 19:10). Hezekiah read that letter and then spread it before the Lord praying, “LORD, bow down Thine ear, and hear: open, LORD, Thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God” (2 Kgs 19:16).
God sent a response to Hezekiah through Isaiah: “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard” (2 Kgs 19:20). The word of the Lord to Sennacherib was, “Because thy rage against Me and thy tumult is come up into Mine ears, therefore I will put My hook in thy nose, and My bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest” (2 Kgs 19:28).
That very night “the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses” (2 Kgs 19:35). Sennacherib departed, returned to Nineveh, and while he was worshiping in the house of his god, his own sons killed him (2 Kgs 20:36-37). Thus Hosea’s prophecy was fulfilled in a most precise way: deliverance without a bow, sword, battle, horses, or horsemen.
There is also a picture here of the coming Savior, the ultimate member of the tribe of Judah. In Christ Jesus a deliverance would be wrought, but it would not be by bow, sword, battle, horses, or horsemen. The Savior of the world would not engage in a fierce outward conflict, nor would he participate in a mighty battle with the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2). Jesus “destroyed” the devil “through death,”not through a mighty battle (Heb 2:14). That triumph was in order that He might “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb 2:15). Jesus did not engage our adversary with a bow or sword, but with the Scriptures (Matt 4:4,7,10). The triumph experienced by the saved is accomplished through faith, not military exploits (1 John 5:4-5). Thus, the crushing blow delivered to the head of the old serpent came from the very thing over which Satan had power – death. Therefore it is written, “that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14).
This is all the more glorious when you consider the devil was destroyed when Jesus was at His weakest point, for “He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God” (2 Cor 13:4). What, then, can be said of His keeping power, now that He is at the zenith of His glory and strength? Every believer has good reason to be confident in Him.