Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Hosea and his Wife. A Parable for the Israelites
The word of the LORD that came unto 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.1. On the heading, see Introduction.
The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.2. The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea] If we render the Hebrew text thus, the words are a heading to the first part of the book, viz. chaps 1–3; they are apparently taken thus by the LXX., the Vulg., and perhaps the Targ. and the Peshito. It would however be better to translate with the Vulg., ‘The beginning of Jehovah’s speaking by (or, with) Hosea’, because ‘by Hosea’ goes better with a verbal than with a common noun; or, with Kalisch, ‘The beginning of that which Jehovah spoke’ (comp. Job 18:21; Psalm 81:6); or, with Ewald, ‘At the first, when Jehovah spoke with Hosea’ (comp. Psalm 4:8; Psalm 90:15, and possibly Genesis 1:1). ‘With Hosea’ is the preferable rendering. As Ewald remarks, the phrase ‘to speak with’ implies that he who speaks is a superior being (comp. Zechariah 1:9; Zechariah 1:13-14; Numbers 12:2; Numbers 12:8). The original narrative no doubt began at ‘Jehovah said’: the words prefixed make the sentence heavy.
take unto thee] i.e. marry (as Genesis 6:2 and often), with regard to Gomer; recognize as thine own with regard to the children. Is this marriage of Hosea a real or a fictitious one? Symbolical it certainly is, but whether literally true or not, the student must decide on a view of the somewhat peculiar exegetical data. See Introduction, and comp. note below on Hosea 1:3.
a wife of whoredoms] i.e. (a) one with a deeply rooted inclination to adultery, or (b) as most explain, a woman already steeped in sin. In favour of (a), it may be pointed out that the prophet does not say, ‘Take unto thee a harlot’. His wife is brought before us throughout as a type of Israel; she must at first have been innocent in act to symbolize what Jehovah elsewhere calls ‘the kindness of thy (Israel’s) youth, the love of thine espousals’ (Jeremiah 2:2). Upon this view it follows that the language employed is dictated by Hosea’s subsequent experience. He could not, of course, know that Gomer had an inclination to infidelity, until it had been exhibited in act.
children of whoredoms] i.e. either children inheriting their mother’s evil tendencies, or the offspring of an adulterous union. (Comp. Hosea 2:4.)
for the land hath committed …] This is the meaning of Hosea’s acted parable. As Gomer became the wedded wife of the prophet, so ‘the land’, i.e. the people, of northern Israel had entered into an analogous mystic relation to Jehovah (see on Hosea 2:21-22). As Gomer, after her espousals, committed whoredom, so Israel, after her first love, went astray after other gods (see chap. 2). Israel in the narrower sense of the word seems to be meant, for afterwards we read ‘I will have mercy upon the house of Judah’ (Hosea 1:7).
So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son.3. Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim] Various attempts have been made to extract a meaning from these names, which by its appropriateness to the circumstances of the Israelites might favour the view that the events related are fictitious and not real. Gomer may plausibly be interpreted ‘perfection’ (i.e. consummate in wickedness), and Diblaim ‘cakes of figs’ (i.e. the sweetness of sin). Rahmer has pointed out this view in the Talmud (see Frankel’s Monatsschrift, xiv. 216 foll.), so that St Jerome’s similar explanation must have come from his Jewish teacher. But the fact that the children of Hosea (like those of Isaiah) have names which are obviously symbolic does not justify us in forcing an allusion out of the name of the mother. It has been suggested, but the view is not borne out by usage, that Diblaim is the name of Gomer’s birthplace; Diblathaim was a Moabitish town (see Jeremiah 48:22 and Moabite Stone l. 30). The termination is that of the dual.
bare him a son] i.e. bare a son, whom for the mother’s sake he recognized.
And the LORD said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.4. Call his name Jezreel] The child of guilt; therefore not Israel but Jezreel (or, more exactly, Izreel). The name is referred to for its historical associations (comp. on Hosea 2:22). It points both backward and forward—backward to the massacre of Ahab’s family by Jehu (2 Kings 9:10.), and forward to the punishment for that wild and cruel act. Hosea (in whom natural peculiarities have been purified and not extinguished by the spirit of prophecy) regards the conduct of Jehu in a different light from the writer of 2 Kings 10:30. The latter praises Jehu for having ‘done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in by mind’; he speaks on the assumption that Jehu had the interests of Jehovah’s worship at heart, and that he destroyed the house of Ahab as the only effectual means of advancing them. The former blames Jehu apparently on the high moral ground that Jehovah ‘desires mercy (love) and not sacrifice’ (Hosea 6:6). He speaks as the Israelites of his time doubtless felt. They no more recognized Jehu as a champion of Jehovah than did the priests of Baal whom he basely entrapped (2 Kings 10:18, &c.). But Hosea doubtless felt in addition that the idolatry to which the house of Jehu was addicted rendered a permanent religious reform hopeless. Image-worship could not be suppressed by such halfhearted worshippers of Jehovah, and hence, Jehovah’s moral government of His people must have made it certain to Hosea that even on this ground alone the dynasty of Jehu could not escape an overthrow.
yet a little while, and I will avenge …] ‘Avenge’; lit. ‘visit’. Hosea represents (like a fellow-prophet, Amos 7:9) the destruction of the northern kingdom as synchronizing with the overthrow of Jehu’s dynasty. This was a remarkable proof of insight into God’s purposes. Both prophets saw the beginning of the end, though the final catastrophe (722) took place about nineteen years later than the death of Jeroboam II. (741).
And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.5. the bow of Israel] The bow, the symbol of power (Genesis 49:24; Jeremiah 49:35).
in the valley of Jezreel] It seemed fitting that this ‘battlefield of Palestine’ (as the valley of Jezreel had already become, see on Jdg 6:33) should be the scene of so momentous an event, fitting also that where Jehu had sinned, Jehu’s house should be punished. There would have been a ‘poetical justice’ in such an arrangement, had such been the will of Providence. But there can be no doubt that Hosea had an accurate knowledge of the Assyrians as the destined instruments of Israel’s overthrow (see on Hosea 8:10).
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.6. bare a daughter] The nation being personified sometimes as a man, sometimes as a woman.
Lo-ruhamah] i.e., Uncompassionated.
but I will utterly take them away] Rather, that I should forgive them.
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.7. But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah] Grave as are the charges brought against Judah by the prophets, it appears to have been some degrees better off religiously than Israel; probably, as it was a poorer country, its nature-worship was less extravagantly sensuous than that of the north. Hosea elsewhere counsels Judah not to offend to the same extent as Israel (Hosea 4:15), and later on accuses Judah rather of inconstancy than of absolute rebellion (Hosea 11:12).
by the Lord their God] Tautologically, as Genesis 19:24. Or, ‘as Jehovah their God’ (i.e ‘in the character of’ &c., comp. Exodus 6:3 ‘as El Shaddai’, Psalm 68:4 ‘his name is, essentially, in Jah’). Observe Hosea recognizes Judah’s higher religious ideal.
not … by bow] Judah, then, was in danger of trusting in warlike equipments, as Isaiah afterwards describes it as doing (Isaiah 2:7). And yet, if Israel, with all its natural strength, could not resist the Assyrian attack, it was clear that the weaker kingdom could only do so by supernatural aid. Comp. Isaiah 31:8; Isaiah 37:33. ‘Battle’ should be equipment of war.
Now when she had weaned Loruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son.8, 9. The birth of a Son
Lo-ammi] i.e. not my people. Observe the climax in the names. ‘Jezreel’ announces the judgement; Lo-ruhamah, the withdrawal of Jehovah’s affection; Lo-ammi, the treatment of Israel as a foreign people.
I will not be your God] Lit., ‘I will not be for (or, to) you’, i.e. perhaps, ‘on your side’ (comp. Psalm 56:10; Psalm 118:6; Psalm 124:1-2), or, as Prof. Robertson Smith, ‘I am no longer Ehyeh’, alluding to Exodus 3:14, ‘And God said unto Moses, I will be that which I will be (viz. what I have promised and you look for); and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I will be (Ehyeh) hath sent me unto you’. According to this view, Ehyeh is equivalent to Yihyeh or whatever is a more correct form of the name miswritten Jehovah—the revealed name of Israel’s God, and Hosea 1:9 is the earliest witness to the true meaning of Exodus 3:14. ‘I am no longer Ehyeh for you’ will thus be a contrast to ‘I will save Judah as the Lord (Yahveh = Yihyeh) their God’ (Hosea 1:7). It is however doubtful whether Hosea shews acquaintance elsewhere with the document to which Exodus 3:14 belongs, and at any rate it is more natural to suppose, as A. V. (after Yefet the Karaite) has done that lçlôhîm ‘(for) God’ has dropped out of the text.
 British and Foreign Evangelical Review, Jan. 1876, pp. 153–165.
Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.10, 11. There is a great difference among authorities as to the way in which these verses and Hosea 2:1 should be connected with the context. (a) Those who consult a Hebrew Bible will most probably find the first chapter of Hosea closed at Hosea 1:9, and the second opened with v’hâyâh ‘and it shall come to pass’. Thus Hosea’s (like Isaiah’s) first prophetic discourse is made to begin with a promise. The objection is that the transition from Hosea 1:3 to Hosea 1:4 of the chapter thus produced is unique for its abruptness even in the Book of Hosea. (‘Say ye to your brethren, My people’, and directly after, ‘Plead with your mother, plead’.) (b) Still more objectionable is the arrangement of A. V., derived from one form of the Hebrew text, and followed by the Septuagint, Luther, and Calvin. Its only justification lies in the accidental circumstance that two successive verses in the Hebrew text begin with an imperative. Hosea 1:1 chap. 2 in A. V. is utterly unintelligible by itself, and the transition from the first to the second imperative becomes even more strikingly abrupt than in the Hebrew Bible. (c) Feeling these objections, Ewald and Pusey propose to begin the second chapter of the book with the verse which stands fourth in order in our Hebrew Bibles. But most readers cannot help seeing that the transition from threatening to promise, from Lo-ammi, to Ammi, is singularly abrupt, and not to be admitted except from dire necessity, (d) The transposition of lines or sentences is well known to be a fruitful source of error in ancient texts. Hence it has been suggested that Hosea 1:1-3 of chap. 2 in the common Hebrew Bible (i.e. the last two verses of chap. 1 and the first of chap. 2 in A. V.) originally stood at the end of chap. 2 The plausibility of this suggestion of Heilprin’s and Steiner’s would be seen to most advantage, if these verses could be explained at the end of chap. 2 This would be only following the precedent of St Paul, who adopts a very similar arragement in Romans 9:25-26. (Hosea 1:9 therefore should be taken as the close of chap. 1, and Hosea 2:1 as the close of chap. 2)
10–2:1. Predicted alteration of Names
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be] However sad the present prospects of Israel may be, a glorious future is in store for him. So our translators mean us to interpret the passage, confounding the province of the translator with that of the expositor. The Hebrew merely says, And it shall come to pass that the number of the children of Israel shall be, &c. In all probability, this verse should have come after Hosea 2:23, to the opening statement of which it gives a further development. ‘I will sow her for myself in the land,’ were the words of Jehovah in reversing the prophetic import of the name Jezreel. Now the Divine speaker assures us that the ‘sowing’ shall be followed by a rich harvest of inhabitants. An increase in population is elsewhere also a leading feature in the promised prosperity of Israel; e.g. (not to quote the disputed passage, Isaiah 9:3), Micah 2:12, where the restored remnant is said to be ‘tumultuous for the multitude of men’. Observe that the blessing is at first limited in its scope (as it is again in chap. 14). ‘Children of Israel’ means evidently, not all Israel, but the northern kingdom, for in the next verse (comp. Hosea 1:6-7) ‘the children of Israel’ are clearly distinguished from ‘the children of Judah’. The limitation was natural, because the prophet belonged to the northern and larger section of the nation; the horizon is widened immediately after, so as to include Judah.
as the sand of the sea] Comp. Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12.
in the place where it was said unto them] This may mean either Palestine, or, more plausibly, the land of captivity. But surely the fact, and not the place, of restoration is the thought which fills the mind of the prophet. The sense is much improved by adopting the alternative version, instead of its being said, &c. It is true that an indisputable parallel for the sense ‘instead of’ is wanting, neither Isaiah 33:21 nor 2 Kings 21:19 being decisive. But grammatical theory raises no objection to the proposed rendering, and where this is the case the Hebrew concordance must not override the exercise of exegetical tact.
Ye are not my people] Or, Ye are Lo-ammi.
the sons of the living God] ‘The living God’, as 1 Samuel 17:26, Deuteronomy 5:26, in contrast to the idol-gods (’elîlîm, or ‘nothings’, as Isaiah delights to call them): one of the earliest appearances of prophetic monotheism (see on Hosea 2:10). Notice the bold expression ‘sons’. At the foundation of popular Semitic religion (the religion of the group of nations to which the Assyrians and the Syrians, the Israelites and the Arabs equally belonged) lay the materialistic idea that the worshipping nation was the offspring of the patron-divinity. Hosea allows and adopts the expression, but signifies by it a moral kinship rather than a physical one. Compare the remarkable passages in Numbers 21:29, Malachi 2:11, and see note on Hosea 11:1.
Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel.11. Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together] Thus the schism of north and south shall be healed (comp. Isaiah 11:13, Ezekiel 37:22)—a schism to which by implication Hosea denies the Divine sanction, on the ground (we may suppose) that Jehovah being one, His people must also be one. See on Hosea 3:4, and comp. Hosea 3:3, Hosea 8:4, Hosea 13:10-11. In the last passage, however, Jehovah is represented as in a certain sense sanctioning the usurping dynasties of Israel (‘in His anger’), and in the idealizing description which follows (chap. 14) Judah seems to find no place
appoint themselves one head] The ‘one head’ is doubtless the Davidic king (Hosea 3:5).
come up out of the land] The recruited people, too numerous for ‘the land to bear them’, shall seek to enlarge their territory (comp. Amos 9:12, Isaiah 11:14, Micah 2:12-13). The ‘land’ spoken of can only be Palestine, since there is nothing in the context to suggest that either the land of captivity (as Kimchi, following the Targum) or the earth in general is intended. ‘Come up’ should rather be go up, i.e. march to battle, as Nahum 2:2, Joel 1:6, and often.
for great shall be the day of Jezreel] The result of the warlike enterprise of Judah and Israel is not expressly mentioned, but the addition of these words permits no doubt of its success. Hosea means by the phrase, not the day on which Jehu’s guilty dynasty shall be cut short; for the name Jezreel has now been freed from all gloomy associations, and become a title of the regenerate people of Israel. Besides, in phrases like ‘the day of Jezreel’, the name is always either that of a person, or of a place, or a city personified.