Questions for Home Study and Class Discussion
1. Describe the background of Hosea’s ministry religiously and socially under the rule of Jeroboam II. How does this background relate to our culture?
Under the reign of Jeroboam II Israel prospered (2 Kings 14:23-29). Jeroboam was able to expand the territory of Israel through aggressive policies and stretched Israel’s borders to its size previously maintained under the reigns of David and Solomon (2 Kings 14:25). Assyria, under the reign of Adad-nirari, had assisted Jeroboam’s efforts by subduing their neighbor, Syria (Aram) and focusing their attention on defeating other nations. Israel was left alone and given a reprieve from their enemies, allowing them time to expand and flourish. Excavations in Samaria and evidence found written on ostraca (pottery shards) have revealed Jeroboam’s illustrious fortress city. Luxury ad wealth flourished among the landowners and merchants, but so did greed and idolatry. Jeroboam II continued in the ways of Jeroboam I, or the son of Nebat, Israel’s first king after the division (1 Kings 11:26-14:20; 2 Kings 14: 24). Idolatry was rampant. The wealthy and powerful abused the poor and needy. They lived in luxury with no regard for the poor (Amos 2:6-7, 6:1-7 etc.). A false sense of security rested in their wealth and military power (Amos 6:1-8). When Israel reached its zenith economically, they were at their worse morally and religiously. Their success and prosperity corrupted them. The background to the book has strong parallels to our culture and behooves us to listen intently to the prophetic warnings. Prosperity and wealth mean little without faithfulness and obedience. We at Brentwood Hills have been blessed, but we must be careful not to allow these blessing become a corrupting influence in our lives.
2. Hosea’s call to marry Gomer was ultimately used to express the betrayal of Israel’s covenant relationship with God. Hosea acted and spoke from God’s point of view. Both Gomer and her children are literally described as people “of harlotry.” Why is this metaphor used to describe Israel’s unfaithfulness? What does it say about God’s relationship with his people?
Despite the difficulties in understanding the nature of Gomer and Hosea’s relationship, there are certain features that I feel must be maintained. Their relationship was bound in the covenant relationship of marriage and once we understand this we move from the symbol to the intention (see also Jeremiah 2:2). God was the husband to Israel, his wife. Hosea’s relationship symbolized the intimacy of that relationship and the agony God suffered when that relationship was severed with Israel. The lost were not simply facing the wrath of God, but the wrath of a jealous lover (Exodus 20:5). The church has the same relationship (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:22-33). Paul spoke of the church at Corinth as Jesus’ virgin bride and the church universal as the bride of Christ. Both speak to the same issue. We at Brentwood Hills are as the church at Corinth, struggling in this world to be presented to Christ as his wife, pure and holy. We must struggle together to maintain this identity. Those who severe themselves from God are like prostitutes or harlots, seeking other sources of strength and security other than God. Such is as perverse and agonizing to the husband, God, as adultery. This should reveal two things to us. First, the potential of sin in our lives could easily, if we do not put our faith in God, to hurt our Lord. As we must work to maintain relationships, we must work to maintain our relationship with God, not just individually, but as a church, as the bride of Christ. Second, God seeks the lost as a husband seeks his wife who has left him, but he still loves her. Such undeserving but unrelenting love then becomes a pattern for our lives. We seek to present Christ to the world so that others may join us t have that one husband and become a member of the church, the bride of Christ.
Note: the ability of Paul to universalize the church and to focus on one congregation with the marriage metaphor. The metaphor can be narrowed to Brentwood Hills. The idea that Brentwood Hills has one husband and is the bride speak loudly to the issue of unity. Our congregation must work toward that goal or we pervert the metaphor. Disunity creates a dismembered bride, teeming with multiple personalities and make the church sick not healthy!
3. How do you feel about God’s use of Hosea’s personal life to teach Israel a lesson? How would you feel if God exposed your personal life to teach the church about his nature? Do you believe your personal life can be used to further the work in God’s kingdom? See also Ezekiel 24:15-27.
The lives of the prophets were difficult. Many were called not just to prophesy in word but in action. Others were called and told that they were to sacrifice certain aspects of their personal life. Jeremiah was told he could never marry (Jeremiah 16:2) and Ezekiel could not mourn openly for his wife when she died (Ezekiel 24:15-27). Hosea himself was called to marry a ‘woman of prostitutions”. Their personal lives became vehicles through which God’s purposes were demonstrated. It seems odd and, if not in our weaker moments, unfair to us, that God would do these things to his people, but such is short-sighted. Our personal lives have value only in how they benefit God and his kingdom. We sometimes hold selfishly onto those things we believe no one else is privy to, but sometimes God says “NO”. We cannot always view our personal lives as unusable for the benefit of God’s people. Not that we should go around opening up to everyone, everywhere, but be sensitive to the work of God in our lives and when things become public realize that they may have been intentionally exposed by God. There are times when God takes our private moments and exposes them to the word for his benefit. Even David himself was not spared. His adulterous relationship with Bathsheba became a part of God’s word and his shame would continue to be read among God’s people in perpetuity. Are we willing to allow God to work in such a way in our lives today? Would we marry someone if God asked us to who would bring shame and taint our reputation? What of those today we know of or even family members who have brought shame on themselves because of their own sinful practices. Does God not call us to befriend them in order to show the world the love and mercy of God to those who are undeserving? Are we all not undeserving?
4. Respond to this statement: “Our personal lives and public lives belong to God and they are to be used for the glory and benefit of his kingdom. Nothing is truly our own, even the private moments of our lives, but they are the possession of the one who has created us and continually sustains us in this life. And one day, he may expose those things we keep secret from the world in order to say what he needs to say. We must accept it and praise him for his infinite wisdom, even if we do not understand why the world should know.”
5. Some believe that the reference to the “massacre of Jehu” in verse 4 was Hosea’s condemnation of Jehu’s slaughtering the priests of Baal and the kings of Judah and Israel in 2 Kings 9-10. Even though Elisha himself sanctioned the killing of the priests, many scholars believe Jehu went too far in his bloodlust, killing more than God had requested through his prophet. If this is true, what principle can we glean from this condemnation? Discuss some things done today that are done by overzealous religious people but are not ways things which God would condone.
Jehu’s actions at Jezreel are a source of contention due to this passage. The events at Jezreel referred to here are those found in 2 Kings 9-10. Elisha anointed Jehu as King and commissioned him to rid Israel of the house of Ahab. Ahab’s successor, Joram, had followed in the path of their corrupt father and mother, Jezebel.
Joram had been wounded during a battle with Syria (Aram) and went to Jezreel to nurse his wound. Ahaziah, king of Judah, went to see him. While there, Elisha anointed Jehu as king and told him to put an end to the house of Ahab for their putting to death the prophets of God. Jehu sped toward Jezreel in his chariot and when he arrived killed not only Joram but Ahazaiah, the king of Judah. It is difficult to know if Ahaziah’s death was part of the commission, for not only was he of the lineage of David through his father Jehoram, but his mother was Athaliah, the daughter of Jezebel and Ahab. From Jezreel, Jehu called for Ahab’s servants to kill the seventy sons of Ahab and align themselves with him. They did and sent their heads to him as proof. In Jezreel, Jehu went on to kill Ahab’s remaining relatives as well as his priests, chief men and servants (were the latter groups part of the commission?). He returned to the capital Samaria and there instigated a plan that brought the followers of Baal to him and put all of them to death. This eventhowever was condoned by God (2 Kings 30). Did he go too far with his bloodlust or did he do what the Lord required of him? If Hosea’s promise was to bring the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, it was fulfilled one generation after the death of Jeroboam II, a descendent of Jehu. Jeroboam’s son Zechariah reigned for only six months before he was assassinated by his successor Shallum ad thus put an end to Jehu’s house (2 Kings 15:10).
So what could he have done that was so wrong? There are a few options here. First, he may have killed more than the Lord had requested through his prophet Elisha, thus he went beyond God’s desires. A second option, which may be tied into the first or viewed separately, is that his intentions to do what Elisha had called him to do were motivated not by his obedience to God but by his political aspirations. In 2 Kings 10:29, 31, Jehu is said to not only have followed in the ways of his predecessor, Jeroboam I (see question #1 above), but he left the golden calves in Dan and Bethel. This decision had more political than it did religious implications. The altars were originally created to rival the worship at Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:25-33), because Jeroboam I feared the people leaving and going to Judah because of the presence of the temple. The two sites became the centers for worship in Israel and to destroy those could have meant losing many of his people to Judah. Also, archaeologists have discovered what is called the Black Obelisk of Shalmeneser III. (859-824 BC). This looks just like a small version of the Washington monument. On every side there pictures with captions and on one side there is a picture of a man prostrating himself before king Shalmeneser and offering him gifts. The caption identifies the man in front of Shalemeneser as Jehu. It is difficult to date this event, but seemed to have occurred early in his reign, after Shalmeneser subdued Syria (Aram). Jehu placed his trust in Assyria rather than God, a practice which we will see was condemned by God over and over again.
If these suggestion are true, we can see that many of God’s people can use God as an excuse to achieve personal gain or as a means to an end. There are many who use God’s name and attach it to their personal agenda in order to justify acts that cannot be justified. Some blow up abortion clinics in the name of the lord, many go to war in the name of the Lord and many use church as a means of making business connections or for political means. These meaningless motives or justifications are in no way acceptable to God.
The other option is to translate this passage as “I will visit the massacre (bloodshed) of Jezreel on the house of Jehu”. Meaning the same way God destroyed the house of Ahab he would destroy the house of Jehu. This would not be an indictment of the event at Jezreel, used as an example of God’s wrath. This translation is possible, but less accepted.
Either way, God was putting an end to the corruption of Israel’s king.
6. Each of Hosea’s three children is a symbol of God’s relationship with Israel.
a. Why was the first named Jezreel, or “God sows”?
b. Why was the second named Lo-ruhamah, or “No compassion”?
c. Why was the third named Lo-ammi, “Not my people”?
The first child Jezreel, a word with two meanings, shows God’s anger. He would “sow” destruction on Jehu’s house and eventually all Israel. He will “break the bow” (their military powers) and show Israel that no matter what kind of defense they possess militarily, he would destroy them, or whatever army may come against them and destroy them, it is God who is behind it all. It was his hand that punished them.
“Lo-ruhamah”- see the introduction for information regarding this name. God’s compassion was taken from Israel. Forgiveness would become impossible, for there was no forgiveness without God’s mercy. There is no salvation when God is rejected.
“Lo-ammi”-see introduction for the meaning behind this name as well. God had left his people and rejected his covenant. An idea that should have brought despair to his people. For without the covenant, Israel would lose their identity and purpose. God would no longer have a relationship with them. The phrase in 1:9 “I am not your God” is literally “I am not yours”. This language may imply a sense of intimacy . God had gone from “I am yours” to “I am not yours”. The loving relationship of God as their husband had been broken.
7. The third child’s name was a symbol of the broken covenant relationship between God and “his people” (see Exodus 6:7; Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 27:9; Jeremiah 7:23; 11:4). Naming the third child Lo-ammi was a clear indication that God had divorced his people Israel (Jeremiah 3:6-10). What does this say about God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises? Does this have any practical application to us? Consider 1 Peter 2:9-12.
The covenant was central to Israel’s existence. It established Israel as a unique nation, holy and righteous. It gave Israel a sense of identity and tied them to God. He was their king and husband. Israel’s unfaithfulness led to the dissolution of the covenant. Even though God is a faithful God and loving Father, his commitment to his people is not unconditional. When his people turn their back completely on him, he can no longer extend to his people forgiveness and mercy. In both Hosea and Jeremiah, God gives his people a divorce. Forgiveness and mercy can be received without meritorious works, but we have to be willing and desiring to receive it from God and God alone. Israel, even though they still acknowledged God, lived divided lives. They placed their hope in other things and sought peace and security in pagan gods and nations. They lived lives that satiated their own desires and used God only when they felt they needed him. God’s patience held out waiting for them, but he did not wait forever. There came a point when God said enough. Even Peter, using this verse in 1 Peter 2:9-12, moves from the principle that we are God’s people, holy and elect, and receive his mercy to its practical implications: a changed life puts off pagan ideas and lifestyles.
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Nashville, Tennessee 37220
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