Unfaithful Children

And the LORD said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel” (v. 4).

- Hosea 1:4–11

Old covenant prophets usually preached their messages before writing them down, but they sometimes acted out God’s words to the people. Jeremiah, for example, wore a yoke to predict Babylon’s capture and subjugation of Judah under the yoke of slavery (Jer. 27–28). Ezekiel built a model of Jerusalem surrounded by siegeworks to depict the city’s fall to Nebuchadnezzar (Ezek. 4:1–3).

Hosea’s marriage to Gomer and his naming of his children by her were also prophetic actions. Today’s passage reveals the significance of these names, beginning with Jezreel, a name tied to punishment on the house of Jehu “for the blood of Jezreel” (Hos. 1:4). Jezreel, a valley and city in Galilee, endured much violence during the divided monarchy. Jezebel had the Jezreelite Naboth killed to steal his vineyard (1 Kings 21:1–16). Jehu killed Joram of Israel, Ahaziah of Judah, and Jezebel in Jezreel (2 Kings 9:14–37). He also slaughtered Ahab’s sons, founding a dynasty of wicked kings—Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jeroboam II, and Zechariah (10:28–36; 13:1–13; 14:23–29; 15:8–12). This violent dynasty invited God’s judgment on the northern kingdom (Hos. 1:4–5), a prophecy finally fulfilled when Shalmaneser of Assyria invaded Israel in 722 BC, capturing the people and ending the monarchy in the northern kingdom (17:1–6).

No Mercy was the name of the son who signified the Lord’s unwillingness to have mercy on Israel (though He would have mercy on Judah; Hos. 1:6–7). Here, Hosea uses prophetic hyperbole to refer to the nation as a whole, not individual Israelites. The Lord, in fact, would have mercy on select, faithful Israelites (1:10–11). The name Not My People is likewise hyperbolic (vv. 8–9), for Hosea explains later on that God would not totally reject His chosen nation (11:8–9). Again, the prophet conceives of the nation as a whole. The vast majority of Israelites would be rejected for their unfaithfulness, making it seem as if the Lord was rejecting Israel entirely. Still, a faithful remnant would be spared.

After the northern kingdom’s judgment, this faithful remnant would become a great multitude and be reunited with the faithful remnant of Judah to form one people of God (1:10–11). “Great shall be the day of Jezreel,” was the promise of the Lord through Hosea. In these verses, the allusion is to “He sows,” which is what the name Jezreel means in Hebrew. God would sow a mighty crop of Israelites in the restoration.

Coram Deo

One commentator has pointed out that Hosea likely endured much grief because of the names of his children. Every time an Israelite spoke to No Mercy and Not My People, he would have been reminded of the prophet’s words against the nation. That certainly did not win him any popularity contests. Similarly, we can experience trouble when we are faithful to the Lord. But let us not allow the prospect of suffering to keep us from following God’s Word.

Passages for Further Study

Ezekiel 4:4–17
Hosea 3:1–5
John 2:13–21
Acts 21:7–16

We Recommend

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343