Since God’s relationship with his people was bound in his covenant promises (1:10-11), he was not going to leave his people forever. Hosea was told to change the names of his children, for God was going to sow blessings (Jezreel), forgive them (Ruhamah or compassion) and reestablish his covenant relationship with them (Ammi or My people). They would soon be “sons of the living God,” his covenant people. They would receive his blessings and forgiveness once more, but not before the present generation—and their descendants who continued in sin—suffered for their sins. Hope was for the future of Israel but judgment was for their present times. Israel in Hosea’s times (the mother in 2:2) continued to pursue lovers, namely Baal.
Baal was a name that haunted Israel from the very beginnings of their covenant relationship with God (Numbers 25:1-3). Baal was the god of fertility in the Canaanite religion and cult prostitution was an important part of the its worship. Baal was seen as the one who sent the rain and caused the crops to grow. He was seen by his worshipers as the one who allowed their herds to multiply. In human relationships, he was the god of sex. Israel fell deeply into these religious practices. They saw Baal as the one who provided them sustenance. God would take away the very things Israel attributed to Baal.
Baal meant “husband” or “master” and was a title used of God. That name became so polluted in its use with Baal that God refused to allow Israel to call him by that name. He would be called Ishi or “my husband” (2:16). The name Baal became profane because of its corrupt cultural use.
Hosea did not leave future generations without hope. The valley of Achor (“the valley of trouble” in 2:15) was the place where Achan and his family were killed and buried after it was discovered that the defeat at Ai was due to his taking the forbidden items from Jericho (Joshua 7:1-26). Israel’s present troubled times would eventually pass through a door of hope, when God’s forgiveness would be extended to them. This was symbolized in God’s call to Hosea to take the woman as his wife in chapter three.
Who was this woman? Many assume Gomer is in mind here, but that interpretation depends on the translation and how we understand the implications of this act. It can be translated two ways. One way is “Go, show your love to your wife again” (NIV), which would mean that Gomer was in mind. It could also be translated as “Go again, show love to a woman.” This could easily not be Gomer, but a woman in a sexual relationship with another man. This interpretation would mean that God would reject the present people of Israel and cut them off from his covenant. He would wait for a later generation of people who would seek him to reestablish the covenant relationship.
This renewed relationship would be under the Davidic king (3:5). The Davidic kingship is one of the most important ideas in the Old Testament. It is emphasized even in the New Testament and thus it behooves us as Christians to understand its meaning. God continued to promise David that his throne would endure forever, and that God’s people would never cease to be under its authority (2 Samuel 7:16; 1 Chronicles 17:14; Micah 5:1-5). The people of God longed for the king who would fulfill God’s promises, bringing peace and rest to all Israel (2 Samuel 7:8-11; Isaiah 11:6-9) and bringing righteousness and justice to everyone (Isaiah 11:1-5). His authority as a king would be undisputed and his people would be unparalleled (Psalms 110). No earthly king of Israel would ever fulfill this role completely. Jesus would (Luke 1:32; Acts 2:25-36; Revelation 22:16). We in our culture must do away with our prejudices about the idea of having a king who rules us, for we have one. The true Davidic king who rules our lives and represents us before the living God is Jesus Christ. Jesus, our King, brings us peace, justice, and righteousness.
Questions for Home Study and Class Discussion
1. What did it mean to Israel to be called “sons of the living God” in 1:10? What does this say to us as God’s children today (see also John 1:12)?
Hosea’s use of the descriptive term “sons of the living God” contrasts the idea that Israel was once called “not my people” (1:10). Israel had rejected God’s calling and separated themselves from the covenant but even though God would punish them for their unfaithfulness, his mercy would triumph. They would once again be “sons of the living God.” God was powerfully active in the history of Israel. Baal was impotent and guiding Israel down a path of corruption and destruction. Israel belonged to God, not Baal. God had promised the patriarchs that his people would be like the sands of the sea (Genesis 22:17; 32;12; compare to Hosea 1:10). And his divine sovereignty and continuous work within history would see that promise become a reality. His people are his children, both then and now. As children of God, his people can place their confidence in his promises. We too are his children (John 1:12; Romans 9:26) and our God is just as active and at work in our lives today. We must always remind ourselves that God is real and working for the benefit of his children. He is the living God.
2. What was the significance of the names given the children in1:10-2:1 in light of the names given Hosea’s children at birth in 1:4-9? What does this say about God’s forgiveness?
God’s mercy would triumph, even when his people were unfaithful and his promises would not be undermined by Israel’s unfaithfulness. He would extend his compassion to his children even when they refused to receive it. It would be extended to them even when he was punishing them, if they were willing to receive it with a pure heart. His forgiveness is open to all who choose to seek and understand that they are in desperate need of it. However, Israel needed to make a choice: God or Baal. Many in our pluralistic and universalistic society maintain a belief that salvation is extended to all who live lives faithful to their own belief systems. Salvation is a relative term that is personal, relative to one’s religious or “spiritual” preferences. Forgiveness can only come from God in Christ. It is received through those who dedicate their lives to God and him alone. We do not preach Jesus to world that is already saved, but to a world that is lost and in desperate need of Jesus.
3. In 2:9, the metaphor of condemning an adulteress by having her exposed nude before the public expressed the shame and terrible nature of the act. God used the metaphor here to expose the shame of Israel’s sin. Is shame an appropriate response to our own sin? What role does it play in forgiveness? Is shame an acceptable emotional response to sin in our culture? Read also Ezekiel 16:62-63.
Our culture promotes the idea that we should be unashamed of expressing ourselves and living lives of self-indulgence. Once I saw an interview with a prominent actress who believed that appearing nude was a way to express her femininity. Even within the church I have experienced those who seem to brag about their sinful past, stating that those who were raised in the church could never experience forgiveness like they have. Their sins became a source of pride. Sins within our past should not be a source of boasting, but shame. The passage in verse 9 shows God’s anger at Israel’s sin. He becomes so angry he “snatches” or “tears away” (the force of the Hebrew term) her clothing, leaving her naked. Nudity in the Old Testament was a symbol of humiliation and shame (Isaiah 20:1-6; Ezekiel 16:39; Amos 2:16; Micah 1:8, 11), many times a symbol of an exile to a foreign nation. In Hosea 2:10, the purpose of the stripping the adulteress nation was to allow Baal (the cult followers) to witness the shame of Israel’s practices.
Shame is not seen as a bad thing within scripture. Ezekiel 16:62-63 ties it into forgiveness. When we look back at our past and remember the sins we have committed, two things should occur. First, we should have a sense of shame, seeing the futility of pursuing sinful deeds. It should be a witness to our unending need of God’s forgiveness and humble us. We need to learn from our past and strive not to repeat our failures. Second, we need to recognize that shame is different than despair. Our past should not drag us down and make us feel like we are not forgiven. We are forgiven.
4. Who were the lovers Israel had chosen over God? What had Israel forgotten? What is the danger in God’s blessings? Respond to the following: “God’s good gifts can easily become the tools of the Devil, leading us away from God rather than closer to him who gives us all good things.”
The lovers in these passages are the Baals (or “Baalim” in other translations). Because of the association of Baal to fertility and rain, the growth of crops and human and animal productivity was associated to his work. Israel not only acknowledged Baal’s power to provide them with sustenance (2:5), but offered up sacrifices to him (2:13). God took away the very things they had failed to acknowledge came from him and he rejected their sacrifices to him Even the gifts from God can be used in a perverted way. Many times in scripture God blessed Israel and provided them food, shelter, safety and even healings, both spiritually and physically, but Israel would forget the source of these blessings and turn them into curses. They would either attribute the source to their own strength or to other gods, leaving God out the picture completely. Nothing we have can be attributed to anything other than God. Do we honor God because we have houses, cars, jobs, relative safety, air conditioning, heat, etc? To whom do we give the credit as the source of all the things we possess?
5. Who was Baal? Why did God refuse to be called Baali (“my husband” or “my master”)? Are there names of God or religious ideas used in our culture that have lost their meaning due to misuse among God’s people and/or our culture?
Baal or Baalim (plural form) was a term used within pagan cultures, especially in Canaan, to describe their god. The word literally means “owner” and within the marriage relationship meant “husband”, but lacked a sense of intimacy, unlike the alternative form ishi such as in Hosea 1:16. There “my husband” is ishi and “my master” is baali (The NIV fails to show the connection to Baal by translating the terms). Baal in Cannan, the one Hosea is combating, was also called Hadad, the storm god. The singular form usually refers to this deity in Hosea. He brought the rains to cause the crops to grow. Some scholars believe Israel imitated the practice in Canaan of placing statues of Baal at the corners of their fields in order to obtain his blessings. He was believed to be resurrected every spring and after periods of draught, symbolizing his overcoming the death god, Mot, to bring crops from the earth. He was believed to be assisted by his sister/wife Anat through a sexual union, which many scholars believe the cult prostitutes would emulate in order to assure a plentiful harvest. The plural Baals or Baalim usually refers to the numerous shrines among various peoples built for the worship of their specific Baal. Baal became associated with many places and other gods (Numbers 25:1-9; Joshua 11:17; Judges 8:33; 2 Kings 1:1-6, 16).
Even though it was once a proper descriptive term used of God, Israel’s culture changed that. The Lord refused to let his people describe him that way (2:16). The word became corrupt because of the dominance of its usage in pagan societies and Israel began to see Baal as a entity distinct from the Lord. Evidence of this restriction can be seen when names that once had baal as a part of their form were changed by substituting the word bosheth (shame) (compare 2 Samuel 2:8 to 1 Chronicles 8:33 and 2 Samuel 2:8 to 2 Samuel 9:6)..
Our culture has helped to redefine some religious terms we use. The most prominent change comes in the use of the term “God”. Over and over again, prominent people and very popular talk show hosts and hostesses can be heard promoting religion as an important part of life, but referring to God in a vague and undefined manner. One persons calls the divine being “God, or the Creator, or the Great Spirit or the spirit within you”. Our culture, because it is a melting pot of religious diversity, has no clear definition of the term God. We may give God credit, but it is always unclear if this is the God of the Bible, or a culturally perverted “higher power” that is made in our culture’s image. Just to have a culture believe in God or a god is not a safe, religious environment. We cannot as Christians feel comfortable with that. It is not much better that atheism. Whether we want to admit it or not, our culture is polytheistic.
6. In 2:14-23, how did God plan to allure his people back to him? What was the significance of the valley of Achor in verse 15 and how did this reference give hope to the people of Israel?
The “therefore” in verse 14 is quite significant, for it attaches God’s desire to allure them back with their rejection. Israel had left God, but God was not willing to give them up. He needed to pursue them because that is what a loving God does. God would show his adulterous wife love (“speak tenderly to her”) and hope (the Valley of Achor: see the introduction note where this is explained), by showering her with gifts. He would declare his relationship renewed (2:16) when they realized their need for him (2:7) and allow her to begin living again with her husband. He promised protection (2:18). Righteousness and justice would be reestablished among his people (2:19). All of this so that they would acknowledge him as Lord (2:19). All of this was promised, despite their unfaithfulness, for God longed for his lost wife.
7. Is the woman in chapter 3 Gomer or another woman? Why or why not? What difference is there between the two possible interpretations?
See the introduction for possible interpretations of this verse. The identity of this unnamed woman is highly debated, but I personally find one to be the most significant. I believe if this woman is not Gomer, it makes an unnatural break from the context of chapter two. God continued to pursue his love, Israel, despite her unfaithfulness. From generation to generation he called her. God was desiring to take her back. The adulterous woman in chapter two represents Israel in a universal sense, because it talks about God seeking her and reestablishing his relationship with her. This was not simply one generation of Israel, it was several generations later that this would occur, yet all of the generations are seen as one woman. Chapter three seems to flow from this context. Israel, years later, would return to God, as Hosea goes and establishes a relationship with this woman, whom I believe has to be Gomer. It is a reflection of the divine love in human terms, an act that was analogous to God’s love for a nation despite their unfaithfulness.
8. What were the stipulations Hosea placed on the woman in chapter 3 if she were to return to him? What did it mean for Israel? What was the significance of Hosea paying her lover in order to get her back? What does this say about God and his people?
The woman was allowed to return to Hosea as Israel would be allowed to return to God, but each with stipulations. The wife would be on a probation period, testing her faithfulness (3:3: “for many days”). She was not only to break off her relationship with her lover, but would not be allowed to be intimate with Hosea for a certain period of time. The NIV rendering of the last phrase in 3:3 “I will live with you” is somewhat misleading. Literally it reads “and also I to you”. This seems to reflect the idea of her prohibition of sexual intercourse with her lover is extended to her relationship with Hosea for a period of time. She had to prove her faithfulness to Hosea through celibacy. Israel would face a similar probation period. They would have to prove that Baal was out their life. This came to fruition after the return form Babylonian captivity (538 BC), when idolatry was rare among the Israelites. They would be deprived of both pagan worship items and items specific for the worship of the Lord (note verse 4). Their leaders would be taken from them. They would continue as a nation, but lack much of what gave them their identity. They would have to prove their faithfulness and one day unify with Israel and receive all of God’s promises (1:11; 3:5).
Hosea was able to purchase his wife back from her one lover (3:2). The meaning of the purchase price is difficult to determine. Some see it as equal to the price of a slave (Exodus 21:32) or to that of a cult prostitute, but both are hard to prove. What is obvious is that Hosea’s love was costly. He was willing to obey God to bring back a woman he was commanded to love (1:1). Such a command may suggest the Hosea had lost his love for that woman, but it is difficult to tell. His obedience then led him to pay a material cost. He went to regain what was rightfully his. Love is a costly pursuit, not only shown by God’s pursuit of Israel, but ultimately on the cross.
9. Who was the Davidic king in 3:5? How should have the concept of the Davidic king in this chapter inspired the people of Israel to repent? What does it mean to you that we have a Davidic king? What does the idea of the Davidic king inspire us to do? Read Luke 1:32; Acts 2:25-36; Revelation 22:16.
The promise of the Davidic king stands beside the promise of finding the Lord in the last days (3:5). A vital part of this promise of a renewed relationship was the unification of all Israel, both Israel and Judah, under this one leader (1:11; see also Zechariah 8:13). Unity was an important part of the coming of this Davidic king. The Davidic rule would mean victory over their enemies and a stable nation (2 Samuel 7:5-16; 1 Chronicles 17:4-14; 2 Chronicles 7:17-18). Israel would see righteousness and justice established within Israel (Isaiah 11:1-9). Peace would dominate the land. The poor and needy would be satisfied and the wicked would be punished. A kingdom ruled by a king and God, benevolent and kind as well as just and holy. We as Christians can see this hope fulfilled, both here and now and with Jesus’ return. After the exile, the people of Israel sought the fulfillment of God promises of his kingdom. They had glimpses of hope when men such as Jehoiachin, the king of Israel released from Babylonian prison, and Zerubbabel, the leader of the exiles. These men, however, failed to achieve what the prophets had prophesied. Only one man has: Jesus Christ (Luke 1:32; Acts 2:25-36; Revelation 22:16). We have a king who rules with the Father. Salvation comes to us, not just to save us from sins, but to bring to our lives justice, peace, unity and righteousness (Ephesians 2:10; 4:15-16). Jesus the king rules now, working within his kingdom until his return to make all things right and destroy all his enemies (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). We have a kind and merciful king who rules our lives for our benefit. We must accept that in our receiving Jesus as our Savior, he then becomes our king. He has the right to dictate how we are to live as well.
10. Looking over chapters 1-3, we see that punishment preceded salvation. God did not hold back his hand in punishing Israel for their sins before he called them back. God proved over and over again that he punished as well as he forgave. How do we view these two concepts in our lives? When we face terrible situations, do we view it as a possible punishment from God? Should we view those events as such? If not, how do we reconcile that conclusion with the fact that God consistently did so in scripture? If so, how can we know if we are suffering because of our own sin or suffering because we are God’s people (see Deuteronomy 11:1-7; Mark 10: 29-30)?
This question focuses on issues of a sensitive nature, but still has value in discussing. Even though mercy will always triumph over punishment, we cannot escape the fact that God punishes, or better, he disciplines his people (Hebrews 12: 4-12) . If we believe God is working in our lives, why do so quickly reject the idea that God punishes us when we seem to so quickly accept the fact that God blesses us. No matter how we see it, all suffering is a result of the presence of sin. That is what the world and its corruption has to offer those who refuse God and seek the ways of the world. I do not pretend to know when God punishes and when he allows people to suffer the consequences of others sins or the effects of a sinful world, such as diseases and natural disasters. I do know however that he is active. He works within this world to better his people, but that is not always pleasant. He works within us to establish his kingdom and his name and when Jesus returns, we can live with the confidence that all things will be made right.
Church of Christ
5120 Franklin Road
Nashville, Tennessee 37220
Phone: (615) 832-2541
Fax: (615) 832-2583