Spiritual Conditions in Israel
The first three chapters of Hosea are about the prophet’s failed marriage and remarriage, prophesying about the House of Israel. These prophecies give us a quick overview of the problem and its resolution in the end. Israel was divorced and cast out (put away) on account of her adulterous relationship with other gods. God prevented her from returning to his “house” (the old land of Israel), because it would not have been right for her to live with Him after she had been put away.
Yet while she was in exile in “the wilderness,” something was to happen that would allow God to “betroth” her once again without violating His own law. We know today that Christ’s death and resurrection made Him a new creature, which allowed Him to remarry her. But He was never again to marry under an Old Covenant arrangement. It was to be done by a New Covenant, and since the dispersed Israelites were still either pagans or Old Covenant believers, they were not ready for such a marriage.
For this reason, Christ’s remarriage could not take place until the end of the age, when He comes the second time to claim His bride. It has taken many years to gather enough New Covenant overcomers to form a body sufficient in numbers to satisfy the plan and intent of God. So in Hosea 3 we find that the prophet redeems her as a slave, but refuses to marry her until “many days” had passed. This prophesied that even the redeemed Israelites would have to wait until they repented and sought “the Lord their God and David their king.”
We see, then, that Israel was betrothed while in the wilderness, long before she was to be married. Christ’s death on the cross made that betrothal possible, and it officially occurred on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. This marked the time when God began to win her love, but by no means did this mark the time of their wedding. He would not marry or remarry her until she (as a group or nation) had mutual feelings of love for Him.
There have been many Holy Spirit revivals throughout the centuries. Each was designed in some way to woo the betrothed one and to win her love. But Hosea 3:5 suggests that there will be an end-time, climactic revival that will precede the second coming of Christ. This great revival, returning to God, is not a carnal return to the old land while in a state of unrighteousness and rebellion against Jesus Christ. To turn or return is to repent, a change of direction, a change of thinking, a change of heart.
Hosea thus gives us a short outline of Christ’s marital history, both of the failed marriage under the Old Covenant and the prophesied successful marriage under the New Covenant. The old nineteenth century Dispensationalist idea that Christ would have two brides under two different covenants is not true. Many of them taught incorrectly that the church-bride would inherit heaven, while the Jewish-bride would inherit the earth. More recently, this idea has developed into what is known as Dual Covenant Theology, whereby God saves non-Jews by faith in Christ, while saving Jews by their adherence to the law apart from Jesus Christ.
The apostles would have groaned to hear such nonsense coming from modern pulpits. Paul would have wondered how such teachers could rebuild the dividing wall in the temple, which Jesus tore down by His death on the cross (Eph. 2:14, 15). The divine plan calls for uniting all people into “one new man” and for making them all equal, as the divine law mandates (Num. 15:15, 16).
The Knowledge of God
To know God is to know His heart, His plan, and His intent. The ancient Israelites did not know Him nor did they understand His heart. Although they always had some features of the divine law in society, they deviated from it in the most crucial areas, because they did not view the law by the mind of Christ. So Hosea 4:1 says,
1 Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel; for the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness [emeth, “faithfulness or “truth”] or kindness [chesed, “kindness or mercy”] or knowledge of God in the land.
The prophet points out three main areas of spiritual deficiency in Israel. First, he says there is no emeth, which is both faith and truth. In other words, their faith was not based in truth. They had faith in religious principles that did not accurately describe the mind of God. The Holy Spirit was sent to reverse this and cause the people to repent. Jesus prophesied of the Spirit in John 16:7, 8,
7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper [paracletos, “Comforter, Advocate”] shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you, 8 and He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment [or principles of justice].
In John 15:26 Jesus said further,
26 When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me.
It is the Holy Spirit that imparts truth, which in turn results in genuine faith. The gospel is truth. Those who are filled with the Spirit ought to show it first by speaking the truth.
Secondly, Israel lacked chesed, kindness or mercy. Paul spoke of those who “hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18, KJV). They have truth, but they misuse it. The solution, Paul says in Eph. 4:15, is “speaking the truth in love,” for only then can a person hold truth in righteousness. Truth without kindness and mercy is not truth, but only fact.
Thirdly, Israel lacked the “knowledge of God.” The word “knowledge” is from da’ath, which comes from the root word (verb), yada, “to know.” Its meaning also has sexual connotations, as we see in Gen. 4:1, “Now the man had relations [yada] with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain…” The KJV reads, “And Adam knew Eve his wife…”
In the context of Hosea’s prophecy, where we see that Gomer was a harlot and had no real knowledge of God, the idea of knowing or knowledge is one of the prophet’s central themes. Israel had no knowledge of God; therefore, Christ could not be begotten in them by His immortal spiritual seed. Israel could multiply carnal children by natural means, thereby appearing to fulfill the promise of being fruitful, but they were incapable of giving birth to the sons of God.
Yet the promise in Hosea 1:10, 11 was that they would become “the sons of the living God,” once they rallied around the “one leader” who could reunite Israel and Judah in “the day of Jezreel.” The only way for this prophecy to be fulfilled is to be remarried to Christ under the New Covenant.
On a national level, this marriage is scheduled for the end of the age. On a personal level, however, all who believe the gospel and have faith in the truth of the New Covenant are begotten by the holy seed from their heavenly Father. The individual application has been taking place over a period of many generations, and when their number is complete, then the marriage will take place on a corporate or national scale.
Hosea 4:2 continues,
2 There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing, and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed.
“Swearing” comes from the Hebrew word alah, which has a variety of meanings. The primary meaning here is of cursing others. But the word also means “round” or “thick” and is used in Psalm 73:4, where it literally reads, “their belly is fat.” In Arabic it is used to refer to “fleshly buttocks,” or a round butt. Hence, Hosea’s use of the term shows a double meaning in conjunction with harlotry. Instead of having truth, the harlot nation had shapely buttocks with which to seduce men to worship false gods.
The prophet speaks secondly of “deception” (kachash). It means “to deceive, lie, grow lean, or fail.” Here the word speaks not only of lying, but also of growing lean—the opposite of alah, which is to grow fat or round. So Psalm 109:24 says, “my flesh has grown lean [kachash], without fatness.”
So on the surface, the prophet was speaking of cursing and lying, but under the surface, he suggested imagery of a harlot’s seduction and failure. It is as if the harlot looked beautiful on the outside, but was lean on the inside.
Next, Hosea speaks of their “murder, stealing, and adultery,” all violations of the Ten Commandments. Added to this, the prophet says, “they employ violence” and “bloodshed.” The Hebrew word translated “violence” is parats, “to break, to divide.” It is related to peres in Dan. 5:28, which said, “your kingdom has been divided.”
So Hosea uses this word to describe conditions in Israel’s society, but at the same time he hints that their “violence” is the root cause of the division and strife between Israel and Judah, as well as the breaking up of the House of Israel itself.
The word translated “bloodshed” is dam, which means “blood” or “likeness.” It can refer to bloodshed or to bloodline. Adam’s name comes from dam, and it refers to the fact that he was made “a living soul” (Gen. 2:7, KJV). The law tells us in Lev. 17:11 (literal translation), “the soul of the flesh is in the blood.” Hence, the soul is carried by blood or bloodline (dam).
Paul says in Rom. 8:3 that God sent “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin.” His use of the term “likeness of sinful flesh” refers to the fact that Jesus was born as a son of man, the Last Adam. In other words, He had blood and was “like” Adam in that way. As such, He was able to become “an offering for sin,” because such offerings required blood to be shed. The soul in the blood was given to atone for our own souls (Lev. 17:11). Hence, Isaiah 53:12, KJV says, “He hath poured out His soul unto death” by the shedding of His blood.
Hosea’s prophecy, however, tells us that in Israel, “bloodshed follows bloodshed” in the context of violence in the land. He spoke of murder as well as false sacrifice. The law in Lev. 17:1-4 says that the blood of sacrifice had to be sprinkled on the altar in order to make it effective.
Spiritually speaking, when Jesus died on the cross “outside the camp,” a secondary step was necessary to make it effective for the people. His blood had to be sprinkled on the altar of their hearts, because they were the true temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16). If they did not take this second step, then their sacrificial bloodshed only made them guilty of bloodshed. Lev. 17:4 says of such, “He has shed blood and that man shall be cut off from among his people.”
Hence, Hosea tells Israel that their sacrifices were counted as mere “bloodshed,” and that they were to be cut off from among their people. This is another underlying reason for Israel becoming Lo-ammi, “not My people.” They had violated the law of sacrifice by killing animals without applying the blood to their own altars (hearts). They went through religious rituals without truth and faith.