The prophet’s third child, named prophetically, is Lo-ammi. Hosea 1:8, 9 says,
8 When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son. 9 And the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.”
Lo means “no, not,” and ammi means “My people.” The prophet’s three children each set forth a different aspect of prophecy. Jezreel’s name signified the end of the kingdom. Lo-ruhamah’s name signified the end of compassionate mercy and the start of judgment. Lo-ammi’s name signified the end of Israel’s relationship with God and their final divorce.
As we will see shortly, God declares in Hosea 2:2, “she is not my wife, and I am not her husband.” That Old Covenant marriage ended, and God sent Israel out of His house, according to the law (Deut. 24:1). If anyone doubts the validity of this divorce, let him read the command in the law. No one was allowed to send his wife away without proper divorce papers. Since God sent Israel away, it is clear that He divorced her, as Jer. 3:8 confirms,
8 And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she went and was a harlot also.
In other words, the marital relationship truly did end. God meant it when He said to Israel, “you are not My people, and I am not your God.” No longer could they claim to be the people of God, nor even could they claim Yahweh as their God. Of course, this applied to the nation itself, not to individual believers who remained among them.
The termination of Israel’s marriage also meant that she was stripped of the Birthright and the name Israel that went with it. From then on, she would be known by other names given to her by the nations among whom the people were scattered. Israel would be known as Gimirri (named after Omri), Saka (named after Isaac), Massagetae (“the great Sak horde”), Scythians (“wanderers”), and so on.
As one might expect, these ex-Israelites themselves did not forget their origin for many centuries. One such man was Tobit, who wrote one of the books of the Apocrypha. The book starts this way:
1 The book of the words of Tobit, the son of Tobiel, the son of Ananiel, the son of Abduel, the son of Gabael, of the seed of Asael, of the tribe of Nephthali; 2 who in the time of Enemesser king of the Assyrians was led captive out of Tisbe, which is at the right hand of that city, which is called properly Nephthali in Galilee above Aser. 3 I, Tobit, have walked all the days of my life in the way of truth and justice, and I did many alms-deeds to my brethren, and my nation, who came with me to Nineve, into the land of the Assyrians. 4 And when I was in mine own country, in the land of Israel, being but young, all the tribes of Nephthali my father fell from the house of Jerusalem… 5 Now all the tribes which together revolted, and the house of my father Nephthali sacrificed unto the heifer Baal [golden calf]. 6 But I alone went often to Jerusalem at the feasts, as it was ordained unto all the people of Israel….
The book of Tobit is about a man living in the 7th century B.C., who died in Ecbatana in the land of Media at the age of 127 (Tobit 14:14). Although the book of Tobit was never accepted as part of the Old Testament canon, because it was written much later (225-175 B.C.), it does provide us with an interesting family record of an Israelite from the tribe of Naphtali who was taken captive to Assyria. According to the story, he was taken to Assyria as a child and lived long enough to see the destruction of Nineveh (612 B.C.), for the last verses of the book tell us (Tobit 14:14, 15),
14 And he died at Ecbatane in Media, being an hundred and seven and twenty years old. 15 But before he died he heard of the destruction of Nineve, which was taken by Nabuchodonosor and Assuerus; and before his death he rejoiced over Nineve.
After the fall of Nineveh, some of the ex-Israelites decided to leave Assyria. But instead of returning to the old land of Israel, they went north. One such account is in 2 Esdras 13:39-45,
39 And whereas thou sawest that he gathered another peaceable multitude unto him; 40 those are the ten tribes, which were carried away prisoners out of their own land in the time of Osea the king, whom Salmanasar the king of Assyria led away captive, and he carried them over the waters [Euphrates and Tigris rivers], and so came they into another land. 41 But they took this counsel among themselves, 42 that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a further country, where never mankind dwelt, that they might there keep their statutes, which they never kept in their own land. 43 And they entered into the Euphrates by the narrow passages of the river. 44 For the most High then showed signs for them, and held still the flood, till they were passed over. 45 For through that country there was a great way to go, namely, of a year and a half; and the same region is called Arsareth.
Many others followed them later. There are ancient cemeteries in the Crimea, and some of the tombstones identify those who were buried there.
A few of these have been translated by archeologists.
“This is the tombstone of Buki, the son of Izchak [Isaac], the priest; may his rest be in Eden, at the time of the salvation of Israel. In the year 702 of the years of our Exile.”
Since the captivities occurred from 745-721 B.C., Buki would have died shortly before the birth of Christ. Another tombstone reads:
“Rabbi Moses Levi died in the year 726 of our Exile.”
For a short while, this rabbi may have lived during the time of Christ. Another reads:
“Zadok, the Levite, son of Moses, died 4000 after the creation, 785 of our Exile.”
Zadok may have heard faint rumors of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 A.D., for he lived during the first century A.D. and nearly outlived the Apostle John.
A longer epigraph, translated by Rev. C. Coffin and published in Academia Scientiarum Imperialis, Memoires, in St. Petersburg, Russia (Vol. 24, No. 1, 1863) reads:
“I Jehuda ben Mose ha-Nagolon of the East country, ben Jehuda ha-Gibbor of the tribe of Naphthali, of the generation Schillem, who went into the exile with the exiles, who were driven away with Hosea, the king of Israel, together with the tribes of Simeon and Dan and some of the generations of the other tribes of Israel, which (all) were led into exile by the enemy, Shalmanesser from Schomron and their cities to Chalach; that is, Baclack and to Chebar, that is, Chabul and to Hara, that is, Heart, and to Gosan, that is, Gozna, the cities of the exiled tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half of Manasseh, which Pilneser drove into exile and settled there (and from there they scattered themselves over the whole land of the East as far as Sinim [China]—when I returned from wandering in the land of their exile and from journeying in the dwelling places of the descendants of their generations in their resting places of the Land of Krim [Crimea]…”
So we see that even though the Israelites were exiled from the old land, most (or many) of them remembered who they were for many centuries. Their records are still with us to this day.
Nonetheless, God had pronounced them “not My people,” and even though the story of Hosea ends with a reversal of this declaration, it remained true during the full interim. The real question is HOW an ex-Israelite might again become an Israelite. As we will see later, the only way for an ex-Israelite to regain status as an Israelite is through Jesus Christ and the New Covenant. Furthermore, this path is open to all, regardless of ethnicity, for it is accomplished by faith and by being begotten by the Spirit of God. Such an experience is open to all mankind, and it is explained in greater detail in the books of the New Testament.
The History of My People
When God called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt and bring them into the Promised Land, He said to Moses in Exodus 6:6, 7,
6 Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God…”
Moses then led Israel out of Egypt to Mount Sinai, where God made a covenant with them in Exodus 19:5, 6,
5 “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.
The people agreed to these terms and swore to be obedient to God. So God came down upon the mount and spoke the Ten Commandments. These were the laws that they, as God’s people, were to follow. The covenant was conditional upon their obedience, so if they failed to follow these laws, their status of “My people” could be taken from them. As we know from later history, the nation did indeed violate this covenant, and for that reason, Israel was divorced, sent out of His house, and renamed Lo-ammi, “not My people.”
When God made a second covenant with the people toward the end of their wilderness journey, Moses told them to gather together so that they might enter “into His oath which the Lord your God is making with you today, in order that He may establish you today as His people and that He may be your God, just as He spoke to you and as He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deut. 29:12, 13).
Were they not already His people? Perhaps on the surface they were His people, but they had already disobeyed the law many times. They had even worshiped the golden calf. So the first covenant had already been broken, and Israel was already well on its way to becoming Lo-ammi. But the second covenant (Deut. 29:1, 14) forty years later was actually a New Covenant declaration—an oath taken by God Himself to make them His people and to be their God.
This New Covenant was not conditional upon the people keeping their vow, but upon God for keeping His oath. It was the same oath that God had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In other words, it was the New Covenant, which was made even prior to the Old Covenant. The point is that at the time of this oath, the people were presumed to be already Lo-ammi. This second covenant was made “that He may establish you today as His people.”
It would take an act of God—fulfilling His New Covenant oath—to make them His people. The Israelites could not meet God’s expectations by their own will, their own good intentions, or their own works. God’s intent was to perfect them, and they were not truly His people until they were fully manifested sons of God.
Becoming a son of God is a process. A simple declaration is insufficient, except insofar as sonship is imputed or reckoned to a person. Even today, as imperfect believers, we are sons by legal declaration (1 John 3:2), but not by actual experience or in the fullest sense of the word. God is still working within our hearts by the Holy Spirit and by fire. Only when His work is finished in us will we become manifested sons of God.
All unbelievers are Lo-ammi, regardless of ethnicity. Believers are Ammi by legal declaration, for righteousness has been imputed to them, God calling what is not as though it were (Rom. 4:17 KJV). Yet God is not satisfied with a legal declaration, nor does He do a half-job. The process continues until we are complete in Him. When the “change” comes, which Paul spoke of in 1 Cor. 15:51, then we will be Ammi in the full sense that God intends for us.