Hosea

Hosea 5 Judgment On Israel And Judah-The LORD Hides Himself.

Israel’s leaders, priest and king, were the blind leading the blind (v. 1 Cf. 6:9). Leaders and people were all guilty of covenantal revolt (v. 2 Cf. 4:2; 6:9). God sees all things (v. 3 Cf. Is. 29:15; Amos 3:2; 5:12). They may have engaged in religious activities with the thought of somehow pleasing God, but those taking pride in their own works in reality did not know Him (vv. 4-5 Cf. 4:12; 7:10). In response to this neglect on their part, He would hide Himself from them (v. 6 Cf. Prov. 1:28; Is. 1:15; 45:15; Jer. 11:11; Ezek. 8:18; Mic. 3:4; Jn. 7:34). They were guilty of giving over the LORD’s covenant children to paganism-another violation of the covenant (v. 7 Cf. Is. 48:8; Jer. 3:20).

An enemy would thus come upon them from the south (v. 8). “These commands sound the watchman’s cry to warn of an approaching enemy (Judah) from the south (cf. 8:1). The Syro-Ephraimite war described in 2 Kin. 16:5-9 and 2 Chr. 28:5-21 seems to stand behind this warning. These Benjamite towns lie in a straight line running north from Jerusalem; Gibeah, three miles; Ramah, five miles; Beth Aven (Bethel), eleven miles. At various times in their history they were claimed by one or the other kingdom (I Kin. 15:16-22)” (NGSB. p. 1367). Israel’s sister, in her rebellion, would also violate the lines drawn in the land of inheritance (Cf. Nu. 27:1-11).

The LORD alone is the one who makes “known what is sure” (v. 9). On the other hand, “the princes of Judah are like those who remove a landmark” (v. 10 Cf. Job 24:2; Prov. 22:28; 23:10), a clear violation of the law, meriting a covenantal curse (Cf. Dt. 19:14; 27:17; 28:33). Instead of walking according to the law, Ephraim “willingly walked by human precept” (v. 11 Cf. Mic. 6:16), and as a result they would be eaten up and rot or decay (v. 12). For this deep spiritual sickness, they in their ignorance thought they could go to pagans, in this case the Assyrians, for help (v. 13 Cf. 7:11; 10:6; II Kgs. 15:19; Jer. 30:12-15).

To Ephraim and Judah the LORD would be as vicious as a lion and as complete in their judgment, with none to deliver (v. 14 Cf. 13:7-8; Ps. 7:2; 50:22; Lam. 3:10; Amos 1:2; 3:8), and the LORD would remain hidden from them until they acknowledged their offence (v. 15a). They would not be allowed to dwell in His place, in His presence. “Then they will seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me” (v. 15b). It is a sad truth that people will often not turn to the LORD until affliction based on judgment comes. Here the words of Isaiah are applicable-they should have sought the LORD while He was near and could be found (55:6).

Hosea

Hosea 4:11-19 The Idolatry Of Israel Exposed—Covenantal Rebellion.

Israel was guilty of harlotry, drunkenness, and idolatry (vv. 11-12 Cf. Prov. 20:1; Is. 5:11-12; 28:7; 44:19-20; Jer. 2:27). They had enslaved hearts-to their very core they were rotten, sold into the slavery of sin. Their idols were made with humans hands. They could not see, smell, touch, hear, or speak, but instead, the people sought information through diviners, because “their staff” was a diviners rod. In sacrificing to idols they committed their children to harlotry and adultery (v. 13 Cf. Is. 1:29; 57:5-7; Jer. 2:20; Ezek. 6:13; 20:28; Amos 7:17). It is interesting that with all the emphasis being on people having their own spiritualities today, a desire for a personal existential experience, it comes from a rejection of the most intimate knowledge which God has planted in the heart of every human being who ever lived. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also he has set eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end” (Eccl. 3:11).

There would be no specific judgment on the daughters who committed harlotry, or the brides who committed adultery, because the men were equally guilty. Who were there who were innocent enough to bear witness and cast stones, when they were guilty of the same offence (v. 14 Cf. Dt. 17:7; 19:18-19; Jn. 8:7)? Instead, for this lack of understanding the law of the LORD, they all would be trampled together. Judah was warned here not to follow the path of her evil sister (v. 15a). Gilgal was the place where the next generation after the exodus, under Joshua and Caleb, rolled back the sinful wilderness wandering of their parents, and in faith sought out the land that was promised (v. 15b Cf. Josh. 5:9). Sadly, Gilgal would also eventually be overcome with the same wickedness (Cf. 9:15; 12:11), and Bethel (or Beth), which meant house of the LORD, degenerated to become a house of wickedness (v. 15c Cf. 10:8; I Kgs. 12:29).

For the above reasons, the people were warned not to swear an oath by the LORD, which would only be the bearing of false witness, and a curse upon themselves (v. 15d Cf. Jer. 5:2; 44:26). Israel was too stubborn to repent, therefore the LORD would take away their protection (v. 16 Cf. Jer. 31:18), and eventually Judah her sister, would follow in her steps (Cf. Jer. 3:6-8; 8:5), even stopping their ears both to the law and the former prophets (Cf. Jer. 7:24; Zech. 7:11-12). Ephraim, the largest of the ten northern tribes, the prophet was to leave alone to die in their rebellion (vv. 17-18), blind leaders of the blind, whose rulers loved dishonour and a bride (Cf. Mic. 3:11; Mt. 15:14). The LORD would employ the creation itself to blow them away in their shame, because of their sinful sacrifices (v. 19 Cf. Jer. 51:1).

 

Hosea

Hosea 4:1-10 The LORD’s Charge Against His Covenant People.

The prophet issues a charge or legal complaint in this “word of the LORD” (v. 1a Cf. 12:2; Mic. 6:2). Many regard this as a covenant lawsuit, some even to the extent of the entire book. Whether there is a limited or larger lawsuit structure here, there can be no doubt that a covenant lawsuit is the subject matter. “There is not truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land” (v. 1b). The reason for this is because they turned to dumb idols who could not speak, and refused to take heed to the word given by God. They forgot the LORD (2:13). Truth and mercy must go together. The truth of who we are is devastating with out the knowledge of His mercy, which is something else that Israel missed (v. 1b Cf. Jer. 4:22). They should have reasoned together with the LORD, that they might live their lives based on truth, and find mercy (Cf. Is. 1:18).

Ignorance of God’s law was deliberate, because the breaking of His law was their stock and trade (v. 2). “Therefore the land will mourn; and everyone who dwells there will waste away” (v. 3a Cf. Is. 24:4; 33:9; Jer. 4:28; 12:4). The whole of creation would suffer (v. 3b Cf. Amos 8:8; Zeph. 1:3). The people contended with those who were charged with the giving and teaching of God’s word-priest and prophet (vv. 4-5 Cf. 2:2, 5: Dt. 17:12; Jer. 15:8). There would be no rebuking anyone for their sin, because priest, prophet, and people would stumble together. Because they rejected the knowledge of God in His law, He would reject them, including their children (v. 6 Cf. Is. 5:13; Ezek. 22:26). The more they increased in their ignorance of God’s law, the more they sinned against Him (v. 7).

What was once the glory of Israel, the possession of God’s law, now became their shame, in their ignorance of it (Mal. 2:9). In despising the LORD He would despise them (I Sam. 3:20). The actions of the priests were appalling. By encouraging the people to sin, and then to offer their sacrifices, they would have more to eat (v. 8). “Taken literally, the priests, who ate portions of the animals sacrificed for sin, encouraged the people to sin. Then the priests would have more to eat (Lev. 6:26). Taken figuratively, the priests were gratified by the people’s sin” (NGSB. p. 1365). People and priest would be judged together (v. 9 Cf. Is. 24:2; Jer. 5:30-31; II Tim. 4:3-4). “For they shall eat, but not have enough; they shall commit harlotry, but not increase; because they have ceased obeying the LORD” (v. 10 Cf. Lev. 26:26; Is. 65:13; Mic. 6:14; Hag. 1:6).

Hosea

Hosea 3 Israel Is Redeemed.

Due to the objectionable idea of the LORD commanding Hosea to marry an actual practicing harlot, many interpret 1:2 as a hypothetical marriage – see Calvin, Keil, and Young. However, as Barrett points out in his book ‘Love Divine And Unfailing’, the language and context demand a more literal interpretation. However, part of the reason for the hypothetical view, is the unacceptability of the idea that God would contradict His own word and ask the prophet to marry one who gave clear evidence of not being a true child of God in the covenant. After passing over three possible literal views-that Gomer was actually a harlot at the time they were married, or that the harlotry was spiritual and not physical or sexual, or the proleptic view that the LORD was telling Hosea and us what she would be, Barrett settles on what appears to be the best explanation given the evidence at hand.

For Barrett the word for ‘harlotry’ (zenunim), “is an abstract plural that would more likely describe an inner characteristic than an outward behaviour. It most likely refers to Gomer’s latent bent toward immorality that surfaced not long after the marriage. God revealed to Hosea upfront something about Gomer’s inner self that would potentially jeopardize the sanctity of the marriage” (p. 80). “Her being described as an adulterous woman in 3:1 indicates that her inclinations indeed surfaced in outright fornication. That the word translated “committing adultery” (mena’afeth) in Hosea 3:1 is a Piel participle suggests that she became completely enslaved to the licentious behaviour. This is the key link to the spiritual parallel: God loves us in spite of what He knows about us” (Ibid. p. 81). Barrett even suggests that Lo-Rumannah and Lo-Ammi may have been literal children of harlotry (1:2).

In any case, it is clear that 3:1 is the key verse in this book. “God intended Hosea’s family life to be a symbol, a visible picture or object lesson, of the message he was to preach to Israel. Hosea 3:1, the key verse of this prophecy, explicitly links Hosea’s marriage to Gomer with God’s marriage to Israel” (Ibid. p. 73). At one time Israel showed herself to be a true planting of the LORD, but as Gomer moved into harlotry, so the nation as a whole allowed the seed of the word to be choked out by the love of her riches, and she gave herself over to idolatry, even as their forefathers had done with the golden calf (Ex. 32). “As amazing as Hosea’s love for Gomer was, it pales in comparison to God’s love for us. Hosea, the prophet, was a type of Christ, the ideal Prophet,” and “Hosea’s unselfish love for Gomer symbolizes generally God’s gracious love for His church” (Ibid. p. 85).

Where in 1:2 Hosea was told what would be forthcoming from Gomer, here he is commanded to be reconciled to her who had in actuality given herself over to harlotry, because this was “just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans” (v. 1 Cf. Jer. 3:20). Taking Gomer back at this point necessitated Hosea paying the price of a slave to redeem her (Ex. 21:32). Previously a promise was made that the LORD would speak to Israel as a husband and not as a Master, and now, symbolized by Hosea paying the price of a slave, was symbolic of the LORD redeeming His people (v. 2 Cf. 2:16). Then Gomer, symbolic of the nation, would dwell in the presence of her husband with true fidelity (v. 3 Cf. Dt. 21:13). This the nation would do, even without the outward trappings of a king, or sacrifice and pillar (v. 4).

Hosea also wrote about “the latter days” (Cf. Is. 2:2-3; Mic. 4:1). After abiding “many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or scared pillar, without ephod or teraphim,” the children of Israel would return and “seek the LORD their God and David their king” (v. 4-5a Cf. 10:3; Ez. 28:4-12). The ephod spoke of divine inquiry, even as the example of David shows (I Sam. 23:9-12). Without someone to occupy the anointed office of king or prince, or the anointed office of priest and the tabernacle/temple and sacrifices associated with it, the nation would be forced to wait, but as they returned, seeking the LORD, and David their king, they would then look to the future with hope (Cf. Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:24). The fear of the LORD here is that of awe, both of the LORD Himself, but also of His goodness (v. 5b). This would also find fulfillment at Pentecost (Acts 2:38-41).

Hosea

Hosea 2:2-23 A Door Of Hope.

Charges were to be brought against Israel for her spiritual adultery, such that her children also would not be shown mercy, because they were children of her harlotry (vv. 1-5). She served those who gave her food and clothing, but the LORD would take that from her, then she might learn that it was the LORD who supplied her needs (v. 7), “which they prepared for Baal” (v. 8). For this cause everything would be taken from her, and mirth would cease (vv. 9-11). This judgment would come for her idolatry, because she forgot the LORD (vv. 12-13). However, it would be in the wilderness that the LORD would speak comfort to her (v. 14), and the Valley of Achor would become a door of hope, “as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt” (v. 15). Achor remained a standing symbol of those within the nation, in that case Achan, who disobeyed the word of the LORD for the treasures of this world (Cf. Joshua 7:10ff.).

Treasures are not wrong, the LORD in fact promised such, but it is a sin when their acquisition is put above the word of the LORD. In the day when the LORD would speak comfort to her, the LORD would once again speak to her as a Husband and not as Master (v. 16). In that day she would no longer speak of or remember the Baals, but a covenant of peace would be renewed, peace in the earth, and peace with the LORD (vv. 17-19a). It would be a covenant based on “righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy,” wherein the LORD would betroth His people to Himself in faithfulness, and they would know the LORD (vv. 19b-20). Heaven and earth would thus serve as witnesses, and bear the fruit of blessing to answer the promise of Jezreel (meaning lit. God will sow-1:4-5) (vv. 21-22). However, even greater than these physical and material blessings, was the blessing that the LORD, out of mercy, would plant Israel in the earth as His people, and He their God (v. 23)!*

* Paul made abundantly clear in his explanation of covenant lawsuit and renewal in Romans 9:25-26, that not all Israel who were externally in the covenant, were in reality God’s people. He did this by quoting Hosea 2:23 and 1:10, so that those who were once His people, external members of the covenant community, were not His people, but those who were true sons and daughters, even among the nations, were His true people of the covenant. Furthermore, Paul saw the connection here being in the remnant motif, that within the external covenant community there was “a remnant according to the election of grace (Rom. 11:5).

Hosea

Hosea 1:10-2:1 “Mercy is shown.”

Despite the extent of the judgment on the northern kingdom, the fact is some were spared, taken into exile, and it is often in exile that the LORD’s true children are ready to hear. So even though Judah was a remnant compared to the northern kingdom, and the exile community in comparison to the larger whole, nevertheless this remnant would still fulfill the Abrahamic promise of a number “as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered” (v. 10a Cf. Gen. 22:17; 32:12; Jer. 33:22; Ezek. 34:23; 37:15-28).* It would be in exile in a foreign land that the covenant promise would find fulfillment-that they would be His people and He their God-“sons of the living God (v. 10b [Rom. 9:26]; Jn. 1:12). Also at this time, the remnant of Judah would be joined with that of Israel with one head (v. 11 Cf. Is. 11:11-13; Jer. 3:18; 50:4), and instead of ‘Not-My-people’ they would say to each other ‘My people.’ All this would be based on the only reason possible for those who have transgressed-“Mercy is shown” (2:1 Cf. Is. 63:16; I Pet. 2:10).

* Paul made abundantly clear in his explanation of covenant lawsuit and renewal in Romans 9:25-26, that not all Israel who were externally in the covenant, were in reality God’s people. He did this by quoting Hosea 2:23 and 1:10, so that those who were once His people, external members of the covenant community, were not His people, but those who were true sons and daughters, even among the nations, were His true people of the covenant. Furthermore, Paul saw the connection here being in the remnant motif, that within the external covenant community there was “a remnant according to the election of grace (Rom. 11:5).

Hosea

Hosea 1:1-9 Israel No Longer His People-Judah Spared.

As with all the prophets, the word of the LORD came to Hosea-he did not conceive it in his own imagination, and it came at a specific time in history. Hosea was called to prophesy mainly to the northern kingdom of Israel, from about 750 B.C. to just before its fall to Assyria in 722, even though the four kings mentioned were kings of Judah (v. 1). The book depicts Israel’s thoughts and actions as an adulterer in their covenant relationship with the LORD. The nation had experienced prosperity under Jeroboam II (793-753), but this “was followed by a period of political and social chaos and religious decline under the next six kings, who reigned for a combined period of twenty-five years (2Kin. 15:8-17:41)” (NGSB. p.1357). Her idolatry was spiritual adultery, and they also married outside of the faith.

Before Hosea even began his ministry, he was told to marry a harlot, who would serve as a symbol of the LORD’s being in covenant with one who was unfaithful (v. 2 Cf. 3:1; Dt. 31:16; Jud. 2:17; Ps. 73:27; Jer. 2:13; Ezek. 16:1-59; 23:1-49). When Gomer had a son, the prophet was told to name him Jezreel, meaning God sows or plants (vv. 3-4 Cf. II Kgs. 10:11; 15:8-10; 17:6, 23; 18:11), and it was in the valley of Jezreel that the nation was judged in 733 B.C. (v. 5 Cf. II Kgs. 15:29). “Israel’s military strength, symbolized by the bow (Gen. 49:24; 1 Sam. 2:4; Ezek. 39:3), was broken by the Assyrian army under Tiglath-Pileser III, who conquered the northern territories of Israel. This punishment through military defeat suggests the theme of covenant breaking since it reflects the curses recorded in Lev. 26:17; Deut. 28:25, 49-57” (Ibid. p.1359).

The LORD had sowed Israel in the promised land, but when Gomer’s daughter was born they were told to name her Lo-Rumamah, meaning “no mercy,” because now the LORD would “no longer have mercy on the house of Israel,” but instead would see that they would be taken away captive (v. 6 Cf. II Kgs. 17:6). However, at this time in history, Judah did remain relatively faithful, so that the LORD would continue to “have mercy on the house of Judah, and save them, but not “by bow, nor by sword or battle, by horses or horsemen,” rather, they would be saved directly by the LORD their God (v. 7 Cf. II Kgs. 19:29-35; Ps. 44:3-7; Is. 30:18; 37:36-37; Zech. 4:6). With the name of Gomer’s second son, Lo-Ammi, meaning “Not-My-People,” the new status of Israel was symbolized (vv. 8-9).

Joel

Joel 3 The LORD Judges The Nations And Preserves His Remnant.

Joel is writing about a time when Judah and Jerusalem would be brought back from captivity (v. 1 Cf. Jer. 30:3) with all nations being gathered together with them, at the valley of decision, where the LORD would enter into judgment on the latter, on account of His people (v. 2 Cf. v. 14). In the last verse of the last chapter, Joel issued a call to repentance and faith, “that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” Ultimately the LORD’s covenant promise would be fulfilled in the remnant whom He would call (2:32). The nations, who oppressed God’s people, taking them into captivity, even selling them into slavery, and plundering the riches of the LORD’s house, would indeed be judged (vv. 3-6). So for their retaliation the LORD would retaliate against them, by selling them to Israel, who would in turn sell them to people from a far distant land (vv. 7-8).

Many are aware of the promise of the Messianic kingdom coming, when the nations “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Is. 2:4; Mic. 4:3). However, here there is the beating of plowshares into swords, and pruning hooks into spears (v. 10). The LORD was calling all people to the valley of decision for judgment (vv. 11-12), “for their wickedness is great” (v. 13). “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision” (v. 14). Everything that can be shaken would be shaken, but the LORD will shelter His remnant (vv. 15-16). Through all this, all would know that the LORD was their God, dwelling in His holy mountain. “Then Jerusalem shall be holy, and no aliens shall ever pass through her again” (v. 17). These would not be ethnic aliens, but aliens from the remnant of the covenant of grace.

However, there would come a day when “a fountain shall flow from the house of the LORD” (v. 18), “a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High” (Ps. 46:4; Ezek. 47:1). “And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem…and the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be-‘The LORD is one,’ and His name is one” (Zech. 14:8-9). This is the new Jerusalem revealed to the apostle John where there is “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the lamb” (Rev. 22:1). This is the reign of Messiah which was inaugurated when the Son ascended to the throne. His throne and his people will abide forever, only made possible because the LORD would “acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed…for the LORD dwells in Zion” (v. 21).

Joel

Joel 2:28-32 The Spirit Is Poured Out, And The Remnant Are Delivered.

After the days he indicated were at hand, Joel writes of another day that would “come to pass afterward,” or “in the last days,” a time when the LORD would pour out His “Spirit on all flesh,” so that their sons and daughters would prophesy, and their old men would dream dreams, and their young men would see visions (v. 28). The LORD would also pour out His Spirit on his servants “in those days” (v. 29). The apostles believed that this came to fulfillment in their day, even as Peter quoted these words in Jerusalem (Acts 2:17-21). The wonders, blood, fire, and pillars of smoke would accompany this prophetic work, and with “the great and awesome day of the LORD…whoever calls on the name of the LORD would be saved (vv. 30-32a). However, what is left out in Luke’s quote in Acts, is that this deliverance would find fulfillment specifically “among the remnant whom the LORD calls” (v. 32b Cf. Is. 11:11; Jer. 31:7; Mic. 4:7), or as Paul put it, “a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5 Cf. 9:27 [Is. 10:22-23]).

Joel

Joel 2:18-27 Blessings In The Covenant.

If and when repentance was forthcoming, then the LORD would “be zealous for His land, and pity His people” (v. 18), bless them with “grain, new wine, and oil” (v. 19), and send the northern army away, because he had done “monstrous things” (v. 20). The land would no longer fear, nor the beasts of the field, for the land and trees would produce for all (vv. 21-22), the rains would come, and “the children of Zion” will rejoice in the LORD their God (v. 23). There will be wheat, wine, and oil in abundance (v. 24), as the years which the locusts of the LORD’s army had eaten would be restored (v. 25). They would “eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD” their God, and never be put to shame (v. 26). Then they would know the central core of the covenant, that the LORD was in their midst as the LORD their God, and they His people (v. 27).