10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
The book of Hosea is a prophetic book, written by the prophet Hosea to the northern kingdom of Israel right before it fell to Assyria around 722 bc, during the reign of one of Israel’s worst kings, Jeraboam II. The book consists mostly of poetry and uses the life of Hosea as a metaphor for the relationship between God and his people. Just as Hosea’s wife was foretold to be unfaithful to him, so the Israelites had been unfaithful to their God.
In the latter days of the 8th century, the nation of Israel had been split into two kingdoms, Northern Israel or as referred in Hosea, Ephraim, and Judah. Hosea’s prophecy mostly concerns Ephraim. The northern kingdom was under constant fear of conquest and exile from Assyria (which would eventually come to pass). Political instability was a great motivator in their temptation to serve other gods and put their trust in surrounding political leaders such as Assyria and Egypt. Baalism was a largely accepted religion in which the Israelites worshiped Baal, the God of agriculture, conforming to practices that included sexual rituals, drunkenness, human sacrifice, mutilation, and incest.
1 The word of the Lord that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, 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. 2 When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” 3 So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
In the first chapter it says that the word of the Lord came to Hosea, announcing that he is a recipient of a prophetic message. God commands him to take a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for God’s people had committed great whoredom and forsook the Lord. Hosea’s marriage serves as a metaphor for how God viewed Israel’s sins of idolatry. By chasing after other gods they were committing adultery in their hearts. After Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, the chapter says that she bears him a son and God tells him to name the child Jezreel.
4 And the Lord said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”
6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. 7 But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”
8 When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. 9 And the Lord said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”
Jezreel was the site of Jehu’s massacre of the house of Ahab and Ahaziah. God says that it is to be the place of Israel’s military defeat. The phrase “house of Jehu” is used as another name for house of Israel because during Jehu’s reign, though he had destroyed the house of the evil Ahab, Baalism had become prominent in Israel during this time. Jeraboam II was the fourth king of the dynasty begun by Jehu in 841 bc. “The blood of Jezreel” refers to 1 kings 21 where Ahab, who promoted Baalism as the nationnal religion of Israel, permitted the murder of Naboth, a man loyal to the lord, in order to seize the vineyard in Jezreel.
When God promises to break the bow of Israel in v. 5 he is declaring his judgement of Israel’s sin of idolatry and the defeat of Baalism at the same place where Baal had seemingly triumphed over the Lord. Breaking a soldier’s bow was a sign of defeat.
The next two children conceived are not specifically said to be born of Hosea, alluding to the possibility that they are not of Hosea but were born in adultery. God tells Hosea to name the second child, a daughter, Lo-Ruhamah or No Mercy. The third child, a son, was to be called Lo-Ammi which means Not my People. The naming of Hosea’s children displayed the relationship God had with his people. Hosea’s marriage represented the sin that Israel committed against God. The children’s names represented God’s response to Israel’s sin. They were now stained by their sin and as a consequence God would be placing his judgement on them.
The book of Hosea presents us with a wonderful image of how sin has relational consequences. Israel is like a promiscuous wife and an illegitimate child. God had made covenant with Israel, bringing them into loving relationship with him and knowing him. He brought them in as children who inherited the blessing of having their God as their Father. Israel not only broke the first of the Ten Commandments by rejecting him and pursuing false gods, but they broke their covenant with him.
In our sin we do the same. The relationship God had with Israel shows us the kind of relationship we all have with God outside of Jesus Christ. We are the promiscuous wife and the illegitimate children. We reject his heart for us and pursue ourselves and the world. But Jesus offers us access to a new covenant. One that cannot be broken the way the Israel’s did with theirs because it is accomplished by his blood and righteousness.
The promise of Hosea is not that we can learn from Israel’s mistakes and do better. The reality is that we are exactly like the Israelites, never trusting in God the way that we are supposed to and loving other things before and over him. This Old Testament book of prophecy points to the hope of Jesus. At the end of the chapter, God says, YET the number of children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea and they shall be called Children of the living God. The two kingdoms will be united together under one head, they will go up from the land and great shall be the day of Jezreel.
Where sin was judged, there shall be redemption for God’s people. There is hope. Though Israel had sinned God says that it is still his plan to redeem them. How would he do this? In v. 7 God says that he will have mercy on the house of Judah and save them, but not by conventional military means. In other words, God would save them by allowing them to be destroyed by their enemy. After their conquest and exile they would finally turn back to God.
How does God redeem us from our sin and save us from the consequences of wrath and death? Through Jesus. The bow of sin was broken when Jesus took on the cross. At the cross the world’s sin was placed on Christ. At the same place where our sin was judged, we also find our redemption. Israel’s exile and punishment represent our spiritual exile in sin. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection achieved what neither we nor the Israelites could ever do, live up to our covenant with God. His is the new covenant, the head under whom we can finally be united with God making us children of the living God. Jesus takes our feeble attempts at being what God wants us to be, faithful, fruitful, obedient and did it for us. When we fail we can look to him and know that we have no fear of death and wrath because he has redeemed us. We can follow him because we know that he is the path to true righteousness and reconciliation.