In Hosea 1:2 God instructs the prophet to “go, take for yourself a wife of harlotry. And children of harlotry. For the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord.” It’s unknown why he chose Gomer as his wife. Her lifestyle would have been in sharp contrast with the prophet, yet she becomes his wife, and he becomes her husband. Together they have three children. All the names are described in the text as having symbolic meaning, reflecting the relationship between God and Israel.
The first child was a son, called “Jezreel”, meaning “God will scatter”. Jezreel, named after a valley in northern Israel, had a violent history. Under Jehu’s rule, Jezebel was executed for the murder of Naboth; Ahab’s seventy sons were killed; the sacred pillar and temple of Baal were cast down. Only Jehu “did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam and the worship of the golden calves”. Jehu was promised that his lineage would sit upon his throne for four generations. Hosea’s firstborn was to remind the land that their day of reckoning was about to be fulfilled.
The second child was a daughter called “Lo-Ruhamah”, meaning “no mercy or favor”. Israel, Hosea declared, was about to be completely removed from the land. Their day of judgement neared as the Assyrians flooded the land with violence. How many would have sought refuge in pagan temples or called out to their false deities to save them? Elijah’s words of mockery of years past would still echo to them.
“Cry aloud to Baal, for he is a god. Either he is meditating, or busy, or on a journey, or perhaps sleeping and needs to be awakened.”
Yet the prophet declares that Judah would be shown mercy. As the Assyrians came against Jerusalem, Hezekiah, the king of Judah, humbled himself and “went into the house of the Lord” to seek His counsel. Salvation does not come “by bow, sword or battle, or by horses or horsemen. It only comes by the Lord their God”.
“This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
Gomer’s third child is named “Lo-Ammi”, meaning “Once My people”. Israel, because of idolatry, is about to be rejected by God. But then Hosea adds this note, that it is but for a season. Jezreel will once again flourish. They will again be gathered and appoint for themselves one head. They will again be known as the “sons of the living God.”
“For great will be the day of Jezreel”
As the prophet Micah would declare, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
Elisha – I Kings 18: 20ff; Jehu – 2 Kings 9- 10; Hezekiah – Isaiah 37; Zerubbabel 4:6; Micah 7:18-19