For the Love of God, Volume 2/October 28

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By D.A. Carson About Devotional Life
Chapter 301 of the book For the Love of God, Volume 2


2 Kings 9; 1 Timothy 6; Hosea 1; Psalm 119:73-96

THE FIRST VERSE OFHOSEA 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.

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