4 Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. 5 In that day I will break Israel’s bow in the Valley of Jezreel.”
6 Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call her Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”), for I will no longer show love to Israel, that I should at all forgive them. 7 Yet I will show love to Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I, the Lord their God, will save them.”
8 After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. 9 Then the Lord said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”), for you are not my people, and I am not your God.
10 “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.
(Hosea 1:4-11 NIV
As we reflect back on the first three verses of Hosea chapter 1, we see that the Lord called Hosea as a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel. Like the Lord’s calling to other Old Testament prophets, The Lord called Hosea with a test of faith.
Does Hosea know enough about God to trust God with the unknown? Will Hosea obey the Lord through his actions, knowing the outcome will not be good for him?
And what was that step of faith? To marry a woman and have children with her, knowing that she would eventually be unfaithful to him.
Not only would God cause this personal pain, but He would put Hosea’s failed marriage and unfaithful wife on public display for the entire kingdom of Israel to see as a reminder of Israel’s broken relationship with the Lord.
In today’s text, we see God using the names of Hosea and Gomer’s children to show His displeasure over Israel’s sins.
In verse 3, we saw that Hosea and Gomer’s first born child was a son. In verse 4, God told Hosea to name the child “Jezreel”. The meaning of the Hebrew name Jezreel means “God will sow/scatter”. God goes on to describe this name in the negative and pronounces judgment over Jehu the king and his sins.
I am not by any consideration an Old Testament scholar, but I always thought that Jehu was one of the better kings of Israel. He obeyed the Lord and “cleaned house”, getting rid of Jezebel and all the evil rulers of the day. Jehu also rounded up and killed all the prophets of Baal, just as the Lord had told him (see 2 Kings chapters 9 – 10).
This did not make any sense to me. Why would God use the name Jezreel in the negative and pronounce judgment on Jehu? As I read and studied the life of Jehu, it was clear that he obeyed the Lord in removing both Ahab’s family and the prophets of Baal. In fact, God Himself said He was pleased with Jehu (2 Kings 10:30).
So what was wrong? It has taken me several days to piece together the story of Jehu and what God is saying here in Hosea. I know that God’s Word does not contradict itself, so it is my lack of understanding (rather than a flaw in God’s Word) that is the issue.
Jehu began his reign as king of Israel living in obedience to God’s larger story, purging the evil from the rulers of God’s people, keeping focused outwardly on God’s glory and his obedience to the Lord.
But unfortunately, after he had obeyed the Lord, Jehu turned from being outwardly focused on the Lord to being inwardly focused on himself. Jehu went on to kill other innocent people that might be considered a threat to his kingship because of their family ties to other rulers. In fact, they were no threat at all. As verse 4 says, Jehu’s actions beyond what the Lord had told him to do were a sin – his murder of these innocent people was nothing short of a massacre.
2 Kings 10:29-31 tell the rest of Jehu’s story. Verse 30 is the good that Jehu did by obeying the Lord, but his good is sandwiched between two slices of evil. Verses 29 and 31 tell us that Jehu did not get rid of idol worship in Israel, especially the worship of golden calves, and that Jehu was not careful to obey all the commands of the Lord.
In summary, while Jehu did obey the Lord very specifically in some areas, overall he was no better than the other kings. He did not lead his people back to the Lord with his own example and in his rule over the kingdom of Israel. Thus, the Lord was telling the kingdom of Israel that Jehu’s dynasty (now lead by Jeroboam II) would fall and Israel would be under the power and control of another ruler.
In verses 6-7, the Lord names Hosea’s second child, a daughter. Her name was “Lo-Ruhamah”, which means “not loved” or “no mercy”. God had pleaded with His people in Israel to turn back to Him, but they refused. God was letting the people of Israel know (via the name of this daughter) that He was displeased with their choices. God also told the northern kingdom of Israel that He loved the southern kingdom of Judah because of their obedience to His commands.
In verses 8-9, God names Hosea’s third child, a son. God gives him the name “Lo-Ammi”, which means “not my people”. God was saying that because of Israel’s sins, God did not recognize them anymore. The people had broken their covenant relationship with Him, and they had become a disfigured shadow of themselves to the point where God had to let them go.
Finally, in verses 10-11, the Lord says that all is not lost. At some point in the future (no specific timeframe was given), Israel would be restored and would become as numerous as that sand on the seashore. The Lord implies that the people of Israel will repent of their sins and be restored to their place as God’s children. They will once again step into the covenant relationship God had made with them. They will go from “not my people” to “children of the living God” (v. 10).
Ultimately, the Lord said that the northern and southern kingdoms would be reunited as one kingdom and the Lord will be their leader and sovereign ruler (v. 11).
Even though today’s text is harsh, it is also a message of love and a desire for reconciliation. God is saying, “Come home”. Yes, the people of Israel were deep in sin. Yes, they had walked away from the Lord.
But the offer still remained the same” “Come home.”
And God’s offer to the people of Israel is the offer He extends to each of us today.
“I love you. Come home.”