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The first verse of Hosea 1 establishes that this prophecy came during the eighth century, which also witnessed the prophets Jonah and Amos (mainly, like Hosea, in the northern kingdom of Israel), and Micah and Isaiah (in Judah in the south). Early in the century both kingdoms, materially speaking, were doing pretty well, but both sank into decadence and moral and religious indifference. While Hosea appears in the canon immediately after Daniel, it thus deals with a period centuries earlier. Nevertheless the canonical association is helpful. If Daniel’s prophecy constantly discloses a God who is in sovereign control, Hosea discloses a God who is passionately moved by his fickle people. We need to nurture both portraits of God—God the transcendent sovereign, God the passionate person—if we are to be faithful to what the Bible says about him.
When the Lord first speaks to Hosea, his language is blistering. The NIV is too tame; the Jerusalem Bible is closer to the Hebrew: “Go, marry a whore, and get children with a whore, for the country itself has become nothing but a whore by abandoning Yahweh” (1:2, JB). So Hosea marries Gomer. On the face of it, she was a prostitute when he married her, and soon returned to her wanton ways. Alternatively, it is possible that the Lord’s command leaps forward to what she becomes, and Gomer was not a prostitute when Hosea married her.
Regardless of her background, the next chapters make clear what she became. Her children capture the attention in this chapter. Jezreel is a name that can be associated with a particular meaning (cf. 2:23), but above all it was the name of a town where the house of Jehu formerly massacred so many people. It would be like naming a child Chernobyl or Hiroshima or Soweto: everyone knows the connections. The Jehu massacre occurred about a century earlier, but the nation was still responsible, for it never repudiated the violence. At least Gomer bore this son to Hosea (she “bore him a son,” 1:3, italics added). That is not said of the next two: likely Hosea was not the father. The first is called “Not Loved” or “Not Pitied”; the second is called “Not My People.” The lessons are explicit: God will no longer love or pity Israel, and he will declare, “[Y]ou are not my people, and I am not your God” (1:9). God will break Israel’s bow (i.e., break her armed might) in the Valley of Jezreel (1:5). Historically, that took place in 733, just over a decade before Israel was finally destroyed; Assyria marched in and removed the defenses (2 Kings 15:29).
Astonishingly, despite these three shattering oracles, the chapter ends with stunning hope (1:10–11). That tells where this book is going—both this book of Hosea and this Bible.
It is worth comparing the anointing of David (1 Sam. 16) with the anointing of Jehu (2 Kings 9)—or, more precisely, it is worth comparing not only the two anointings, but what follows from the two anointings.
The story of David is the better known (1 Sam.). When Samuel anointed him to be king, David was still a young man, a youthful shepherd. The anointing changed nothing of his immediate situation. In due course he gained heroic dimensions by defeating Goliath and then maturing into an efficient and loyal officer of King Saul. When Saul became embittered and paranoid, forcing David to hide in the hill country of Judea, David seemed a long way from the throne. Providence gave him two startling opportunities to kill Saul, but David restrained himself; indeed, he even restrained some of his own men who were quite prepared to do the deed that David would not touch. His reasoning was simple. Though he knew he would be king, he also knew that at the moment Saul was king. The same God who had anointed David had first installed Saul. To kill Saul was therefore to kill the Lord’s anointed. He was unwilling to grasp the inheritance that the Lord himself had promised him, if the price to be paid was an immoral act. God had promised him the throne; God would first have to vacate it of its current incumbent, for David would not stoop to intrigue and murder. This was one of David’s finest hours.
How different is Jehu! When he is anointed, he is assigned the task of punishing and destroying the wicked household of Ahab. But he waits for no providential sign: as far as he is concerned, his anointing is incentive enough to embark immediately on a bloody insurrection. Moreover, for all his pious talk about wiping out the idolatry of the wretched household of Ahab (e.g., 2 Kings 9:22), his own heart is betrayed by two evil realities. First, he not only assassinates the current incumbent of the throne of Israel, but when he has the opportunity he kills Ahaziah, the king of Judah as well (2 Kings 9:27–29), not sanctioned by the prophet, however. Did Jehu perhaps entertain visions of a restored, united kingdom, brought together by assassination and military power? Second, although Jehu reduced the power of Baal worship, he promoted other forms of idolatry no less repugnant to God (2 Kings 10:28–31). Unlike David, he was not “a man after God’s own heart” (cf. 1 Sam. 13:14). Far from it: “He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit” (2 Kings 10:31).
The lesson is important. Not even divine prophecy frees a person from the obligations of morality, integrity, and loyal and obedient faith in God. The end does not justify the means.
9:1 Then Elisha the prophet called one of the sons of the prophets and said to him, “Tie up your garments, and take this flask of oil in your hand, and go to Ramoth-gilead. 2 And when you arrive, look there for Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi. And go in and have him rise from among his fellows, and lead him to an inner chamber. 3 Then take the flask of oil and pour it on his head and say, ‘Thus says the LORD, I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and flee; do not linger.”
4 So the young man, the servant of the prophet, went to Ramoth-gilead. 5 And when he came, behold, the commanders of the army were in council. And he said, “I have a word for you, O commander.” And Jehu said, “To which of us all?” And he said, “To you, O commander.” 6 So he arose and went into the house. And the young man poured the oil on his head, saying to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, I anoint you king over the people of the LORD, over Israel. 7 And you shall strike down the house of Ahab your master, so that I may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD. 8 For the whole house of Ahab shall perish, and I will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. 9 And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah. 10 And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and none shall bury her.” Then he opened the door and fled.
11 When Jehu came out to the servants of his master, they said to him, “Is all well? Why did this mad fellow come to you?” And he said to them, “You know the fellow and his talk.” 12 And they said, “That is not true; tell us now.” And he said, “Thus and so he spoke to me, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, I anoint you king over Israel.’” 13 Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare1 steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.”
14 Thus Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi conspired against Joram. (Now Joram with all Israel had been on guard at Ramoth-gilead against Hazael king of Syria, 15 but King Joram had returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds that the Syrians had given him, when he fought with Hazael king of Syria.) So Jehu said, “If this is your decision, then let no one slip out of the city to go and tell the news in Jezreel.” 16 Then Jehu mounted his chariot and went to Jezreel, for Joram lay there. And Ahaziah king of Judah had come down to visit Joram.
17 Now the watchman was standing on the tower in Jezreel, and he saw the company of Jehu as he came and said, “I see a company.” And Joram said, “Take a horseman and send to meet them, and let him say, ‘Is it peace?’” 18 So a man on horseback went to meet him and said, “Thus says the king, ‘Is it peace?’” And Jehu said, “What do you have to do with peace? Turn around and ride behind me.” And the watchman reported, saying, “The messenger reached them, but he is not coming back.” 19 Then he sent out a second horseman, who came to them and said, “Thus the king has said, ‘Is it peace?’” And Jehu answered, “What do you have to do with peace? Turn around and ride behind me.” 20 Again the watchman reported, “He reached them, but he is not coming back. And the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously.”
21 Joram said, “Make ready.” And they made ready his chariot. Then Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah set out, each in his chariot, and went to meet Jehu, and met him at the property of Naboth the Jezreelite. 22 And when Joram saw Jehu, he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” He answered, “What peace can there be, so long as the whorings and the sorceries of your mother Jezebel are so many?” 23 Then Joram reined about and fled, saying to Ahaziah, “Treachery, O Ahaziah!” 24 And Jehu drew his bow with his full strength, and shot Joram between the shoulders, so that the arrow pierced his heart, and he sank in his chariot. 25 Jehu said to Bidkar his aide, “Take him up and throw him on the plot of ground belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. For remember, when you and I rode side by side behind Ahab his father, how the LORD made this pronouncement against him: 26 ‘As surely as I saw yesterday the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons—declares the LORD—I will repay you on this plot of ground.’ Now therefore take him up and throw him on the plot of ground, in accordance with the word of the LORD.”
27 When Ahaziah the king of Judah saw this, he fled in the direction of Beth-haggan. And Jehu pursued him and said, “Shoot him also.” And they shot him2 in the chariot at the ascent of Gur, which is by Ibleam. And he fled to Megiddo and died there. 28 His servants carried him in a chariot to Jerusalem, and buried him in his tomb with his fathers in the city of David.
29 In the eleventh year of Joram the son of Ahab, Ahaziah began to reign over Judah.
30 When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it. And she painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out of the window. 31 And as Jehu entered the gate, she said, “Is it peace, you Zimri, murderer of your master?” 32 And he lifted up his face to the window and said, “Who is on my side? Who?” Two or three eunuchs looked out at him. 33 He said, “Throw her down.” So they threw her down. And some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, and they trampled on her. 34 Then he went in and ate and drank. And he said, “See now to this cursed woman and bury her, for she is a king's daughter.” 35 But when they went to bury her, they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. 36 When they came back and told him, he said, “This is the word of the LORD, which he spoke by his servant Elijah the Tishbite: ‘In the territory of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel, 37 and the corpse of Jezebel shall be as dung on the face of the field in the territory of Jezreel, so that no one can say, This is Jezebel.’”
6:1 Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants1 regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.
Teach and urge these things. 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound2 words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and3 we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before4 Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.
Grace be with you.5
1:1 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.
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,1 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.”
10 4 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, “Children5 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.
73 Your hands have made and fashioned me;
give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
74 Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice,
because I have hoped in your word.
75 I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76 Let your steadfast love comfort me
according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your mercy come to me, that I may live;
for your law is my delight.
78 Let the insolent be put to shame,
because they have wronged me with falsehood;
as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.
79 Let those who fear you turn to me,
that they may know your testimonies.
80 May my heart be blameless in your statutes,
that I may not be put to shame!
81 My soul longs for your salvation;
I hope in your word.
82 My eyes long for your promise;
I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
83 For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,
yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
84 How long must your servant endure?1
When will you judge those who persecute me?
85 The insolent have dug pitfalls for me;
they do not live according to your law.
86 All your commandments are sure;
they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
87 They have almost made an end of me on earth,
but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88 In your steadfast love give me life,
that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.
89 Forever, O LORD, your word
is firmly fixed in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
91 By your appointment they stand this day,
for all things are your servants.
92 If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have given me life.
94 I am yours; save me,
for I have sought your precepts.
95 The wicked lie in wait to destroy me,
but I consider your testimonies.
96 I have seen a limit to all perfection,
but your commandment is exceedingly broad.