What did God intend to convey through Hosea’s marriage and their children’s names?
The message God intended to convey through Hosea’s marriage and his children was to illustrate to the people of Israel the covenant relationship between God and his people. God entered into a covenant relationship through which he took the initiative to show mercy and benevolence to his people. But, just as Hosea’s wife was unfaithful and an adulteress, the people were unfaithful in their relationship with God. They were worshiping other gods and committing various sins that kindled the Lord’s wrath. The names of Hosea’s children, in particular, demonstrated God’s judgment against sin, the people’s sin. Each time Gomer bore Hosea a boy or a girl, the severity of the judgment gradually increased. For instance, we read about the first son Gomer bore in Hosea 1:4, where it says:
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” (Hosea 1:4).
Actually, there are at least two reasons behind choosing the name Jezreel. The first reason is that it sounds similar to Israel in pronunciation — yiz-RAH-eel and YIZ-rah-eel. The other reason is that there was a valley in Israel called the valley of Jezreel. This valley is associated with many bloody events. We read about it, for example, in Judges 6:33 and 1 Samuel 29:1. Also, the name Jezreel is related to the story of Ahab and Jezebel and the killing of Naboth. We can find this in 1 Kings 21. We also read about it in the killing of Ahab’s family through Jehu the son of Jeshoshaphat in 2 Kings 10:11. Actually, there is a very important passage in 2 Kings 10:28-31 that, although Jehu son of Jeshoshaphat obeyed God’s command and killed the family of Ahab, he did that for his own personal purposes and ambitions. That is why the Lord said in the book of Hosea: “I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel.” We read in 2 Kings 10, beginning with verse 28:
Thus Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel. But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin — that is, the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan. And the Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in carrying out what is right in my eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin (2 Kings 10:28-31).
Although Jehu destroyed the altars of the Baals, he erected idols and walked in the sins of Jeroboam. That is why Hosea’s first son stands for the judgment of God on the Israelites, for the bloody events that were related to Jezreel, especially against the house of Jehu, and for the corrupt religious and behavioral practices that were in the kingdom at that time. The second child, the daughter, whom Gomer bore to Hosea, was called “Lo-Ruhamah.” We read about her in Hosea 1:6:
She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all” (Hosea 1:6).
The name “Lo-Ruhamah” in Hebrew means “no mercy.” The Lord declared that he would remove his mercy from the people of Israel. Mercy, here, is related to the covenant faithfulness of the Lord. So, the Lord here says that he will remove his mercy from the midst of the people. We read about the last child that Gomer bore Hosea in verses 8 and 9:
When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the Lord said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God” (Hosea 1:8-9).
The Hebrew name “Lo-Ammi” means “not my people.” This was the highest level and the hardest of the Lord’s judgments. Within the covenant, God had entered into a relationship in which he adopted Israel as his people, and he was their God. Through this covenant, he declared his name to Moses saying, “ehyeh asher ehyeh” or “I am who I am.” So God, through Hosea’s last child, was saying to Israel, “You are not my people” — “Lo-Ammi.” Moreover, he said, “I am not your God.” In Hebrew, “I am not” is the reversal of his covenant name that he declared to Moses. He was saying, “I am not,” or “not ehyeh.” I will not be your covenant God. Thus, Hosea’s marriage and children illustrate how God dealt with his covenant people. He declared his judgment over the people because of their sins and because they had acted contrary to the conditions of the covenant, conditions that required their loyalty in response to the covenant mercy and grace that God had initiated and shown them.