Q&A: What is the significance of Hosea's children?

What is the significance of Hosea's children?

Question

Can you please briefly explain the significance of Hosea's children?

Answer

In the providence of the Lord, Hosea was called upon to minister to the northern kingdom of Israel. God commissioned Hosea to assist in calling Israel to repentance and restoration by laying bare Israel's covenant unfaithfulness, idolatry, and abandonment of the ways of God.

However, prophets were often called to do more than preach the gospel under the old covenant. At times, they painted God's message on the canvasses of their own lives (i.e. Jer. 27-28; Ezek. 4:1-3). In Hosea's case, we observe an analogy concerning his marriage and family — a picture of Israel's broken and restored covenant with God. Israel was supposed to see a totally unworthy woman (itself) being relentlessly loved by her faithful, covenant-keeping husband (God). We are no better than Israel are we!

Hosea, a righteous man, was first commanded by God to marry a prostitute — a whore, a sex-worker, a call girl. (Hos. 1:2). These are offensive words, aren't they? But they are no more offensive than our whoring sin is to God. In Hosea 3:1 we read: "Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins." This is a Holy Spirit-inspired analogy with Hosea as the Lord and his adulterous wife Gomer as wayward Israel.

The Lord gave the names for Hosea's three children, names that symbolized God's divine judgments against the nation of Israel. The first child, a male, was named Jezreel after the Valley of Jezreel (Hos. 1:3-5). Jezreel was the name of a great plain known for its beauty and richness, however over time it had been ravaged by numerous battles. It was also the name of a city where Ahab and Jezebel committed many notorious murders (i.e. 1 Kings 21:1-16). Jeru killed Joram, Ahaziah, and Jezebel (2 Kings 9:14-37). By the murder Ahab's sons, he ushered in a dynasty of wicked kings; Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jeroboam II, and Zechariah (2 Kings 10:28-36; 13:1-13; 14:23-29; 15:8-12). Israel was once a beautiful place but it had become disfigured and devastated by the deceitfulness of sin and its bloodguilt as a nation (cf. Num. 35:33; cf. Gen. 4:10-12; 9:5; Isa. 26:21; Ezek. 24:6-9).

Hosea's second child, a daughter, was named Lo-ruhamah (Hos. 1:6-7). "Ruhamah" refers to God's tender mercy. It literally means "womb," symbolizing the astonishing love that Yahweh bears for the chosen people. However, the negative prefix "Lo-" reversed the meaning to "No Mercy" or "No Pity" messaging the withdrawal of God's love, mercy, and compassion from Israel. God had not changed, but Israel had. Though God had much patience with Israel she would now eat the fruit of her own way.

Hosea's third child was a son called Lo-ammi (Hos. 1:8-9). The name means "not my people." This was the most devastating name yet. The Lord was rejecting the people of Israel in their sinful state. Why? Because Israel had played the harlot and abandoned God, now the Lord was compelled to disown his own people (cf. Exod. 6:7). Being the people of the living God had once defined the nation of Israel (cf. Lev. 26:12; 2 Sam. 7:24; Jer. 30:22; Ezek. 36:28). Now they would be like any other pagan nation under God's judgment.

Even as unfaithful as Israel had been, God promised in time he would redeem and restore them (Hos. 2:14-23). Though Hosea had pronounced judgment on Israel, he also anticipated a reversal when his children would be renamed "Ruhmad" ("shown mercy," Hos. 2:1, 23) and "Ammi" ("my people," Hos. 2:1, 23).. This mercy is revealed to sinful Israel when the prophet wrote in Hosea 1:10-11:

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, "Children of the living God." 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.

Hosea paints a masterpiece. It's a picture that reveals the broken but loving heart of God for his wayward, disobedient, and indifferent people. The canvas of Hosea's life reveals the salvation of the Lord for his unworthy people. And the apostle Peter captured this covenantal portrait for all the people of God in every age when he wrote, "Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (1 Pet. 2:10).

Related Topics

Overview of the Book of Hosea

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).