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Hosea 1:1-2:1 – Hosea’s Wife and Children

Hosea is the first of twelve short writings. Originally these twelve prophetical writings were called ‘The Twelve’. They work together to form a unit parallel to the larger books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Hosea has been placed at the head of the twelve to provide a context in which the other books are to be understood, that is, God has a covenant relationship with Israel.

This is illustrated in Hosea’s family life. Hosea marries a woman who I think becomes unfaithful because she is a typical Israelite girl in that culture which has become unfaithful almost by definition. Her first child, a son, is named Jezreel which can mean “God scatters (seed)” i.e. makes fertile animals and fruitful crops – but it can also mean “God scatters (Israel)” i.e. exiles them for their sin.

Hosea’s wife, Gomer, then gives birth to a daughter called “not loved/no compassion”. This child’s name raises questions as to whether she is in fact Hosea’s daughter but either way it indicates that God’s people are soon to experience not love, no compassion from the LORD.

A third child is born, a son, who is called “Not-my-people”. He is not Hosea’s son but a son Gomer has given birth to due to her adultery. In a similar way to Gomer, Israel has broken the covenant that bound the LORD. Israel, like Gomer, has been unfaithful.

Israel is also like Gomer’s children. Israel would have expected God would scatter seed blessing them with prosperity – but it is they who will be scattered. They would have expected that they would be recipients of God’s compassion – but it will be withheld from them. They would have expected to be called God’s people – but they will be disowned as not God’s people. Israel, like Gomer’s children, are a people of adultery/idolatry.

These are awful judgments that show sin is not just breaking rules and doing wrong things – sin is deeply personal, like adultery – sin is to be understood in terms of a personal covenant.

The good news for Israel is that while they are unfaithful, God is not. God is faithful to his covenant. God will “sow” his people so that they will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. This language recalls God’s covenant with Abraham – a covenant to which he is faithful! God will call the people who have become not-God’s-People, God’s People again and they will receive God’s compassion.

The New Testament applies these words to Gentiles. When Israel broke the covenant, they became like Gentiles (not knowing God, without God). Therefore, these verses become about God taking ‘Gentile’-people (whether born Jew or Gentile) and making them his own. According to Paul and Peter we are counted among this numerous people who are God’s people having received mercy – if we have come under our true head, the Lord Jesus.

At some stage God told Hosea to restore Gomer to a married covenant-relationship as a picture of what he would do for Israel. Note God’s words to Israel in Hosea 2:19-23

I will betroth you to me forever.
I will betroth you to me
in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.
I will betroth you to me
in faithfulness.
And you shall know the LORD.
And in that day I will answer, declares the LORD,
I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, and I will sow her for myself in the land.
And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”