וְהָיָה מִסְפַּר בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּחֹול הַיָּם אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יִמַּד וְלֹא יִסָּפֵר וְהָיָה בִּמְקֹום אֲשֶׁר־יֵאָמֵר לָהֶם 2:1 לֹא־עַמִּי אַתֶּם יֵאָמֵר לָהֶם בְּנֵי אֵל־חָי׃
Hose. 2:1 Still the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered, and it shall be, instead of that which He would say to them (“You shall not be My people”), it will be said regarding them, “Children of the living God!”
Hosea is known for his abrupt changes, both in subject and in pronoun person. And this chapter seems to illustrate that style by apparently departing from the pessimistic theme of the previous chapter without any transition. But in actuality, it cleverly introduces another way to illustrate the meaning of the names of his three children. It turns their meaning around for the good of the children of Israel rather than for bad, as you will realize by the end of the chapter.
וְנִקְבְּצוּ בְּנֵי־יְהוּדָה וּבְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל יַחְדָּו וְשָׂמוּ לָהֶם רֹאשׁ אֶחָד וְעָלוּ מִן־הָאָרֶץ כִּי גָדֹול יֹום יִזְרְעֶאל׃ 2:2
Hose. 2:2 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one head, and they will ascend from the earth, for the day of Jezreel shall be great.
Here is a hint at the change in meaning that will become more obvious later. By relating the name Jezreel with the wonderful ascent from the earth by the children of Israel, Hosea begins to illustrate his unique style.
אִמְרוּ לַאֲחֵיכֶם עַמִּי וְלַאֲחֹותֵיכֶם רֻחָמָה׃ 2:3
Hose. 2:3 “Say to your brothers, ‘Ammi,’ and to your sisters, ‘Ruhamah.’”
He continues and intensifies the hint by omitting the negative parts of the names of his other two children, now repeating the words of the Lord.
רִיבוּ בְאִםְּכֶם רִיבוּ כִּי־הִיא לֹא אִשְׁתִּי וְאָנֹכִי לֹא אִישָׁהּ וְתָסֵר זְנוּנֶיהָ מִפָּנֶיה וְנַאֲפוּפֶיהָ מִבֵּין שָׁדֶיהָ׃ 2:4
Hose. 2:4 “Contend with your mother, plead!
For she is not My wife and I am not her husband.
Now she must remove her harlotries from her face
and her adulteries from between her breasts,
Here the mother is Israel and her offspring are the children of Israel. [Return to Hose. 4:5]
בַּצָּמָא׃ פֶּן־אַפְשִׁיטֶנָּה עֲרֻמָּה וְהִצַּגְתִּיהָ כְּיֹום הִוָּלְדָהּ וְשַׂמְתִּיהָ כַמִּדְבָּר וְשַׁתִּהָ כְּאֶרֶץ צִיָּה וַהֲמִתִּיהָ 2:5
Hose. 2:5 lest I strip her bare and exhibit her as the day of her birth,
and set her as a wilderness,
and lay her waste like a desert land,
and kill her with thirst.”
וְאֶת־בָּנֶיהָ לֹא אֲרַחֵם כִּי־בְנֵי זְנוּנִים הֵמָּה׃ 2:6
Hose. 2:6 “And I will not be merciful with her children,
for they are children of harlotry.”
כִּי זָנְתָה אִםָּם הֹבִישָׁה הֹורָתָם כִּי אָמְרָה אֵלְכָה אַחֲרֵי מְאַהֲבַי נֹתְנֵי לַחְמִי וּמֵימַי צַמְרִי וּפִשְׁתִּי 2:7 שַׁמְנִי וְשִׁקּוּיָי׃
Hose. 2:7 “For their mother is a harlot;
shamefully she conceived them, for she said,
‘I will proceed after my lovers,
the givers of my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax,
my oil and my drinks.’”
לָכֵן הִנְנִי־שָׂךְ אֶת־דַּרְךֵּךְ בַּסִּירִים וְגָדַרְתִּי אֶת־גְּדֵרָהּ וּנְתִיבֹותֶיהָ לֹא תִמְצָא׃ 2:8
Hose. 2:8 “Therefore behold, I am hedging your path with thorns,
and I will close off her hedge
that she will not be able to detect her pathways.”
Here there’s a switch in pronoun person from second-person singular feminine (the your in the first line) to third-person singular feminine (her in the second and third lines). Maybe this is an indication that the Lord, after previously dictating to Hosea, now momentarily addresses Israel (mother) directly, then resumes addressing Hosea with the remaining words of this verse and those following. I think that maybe Hosea was trying to reflect the Lord’s passion by this technique.
וְרִדְּפָה אֶת־מְאַהֲבֶיהָ וְלֹא־תַשִּׂיג אֹתָם וּבִקְשָׁתַם וְלֹא תִמְצָא וְאָמְרָה אֵלְכָה וְאָשׁוּבָה אֶל־אִישִׁי 2:9 הָרִאשֹׁון כִּי טֹוב לִי אָז מֵעָתָּה׃
Hose. 2:9 “When she tries to pursue her lovers,
then she will not be able to overtake them;
when she tries to seek them,
then she will not find;
then she will say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband,
for then it was better for me than it is now.’”
וְהִיא לֹא יָדְעָה כִּי אָנֹכִי נָתַתִּי לָהּ הַדָּגָן וְהַתִּירֹושׁ וְהַיִּצְהָר וְכֶסֶף הִרְבֵּיתִי לָהּ וְזָהָב עָשׂוּ לַבָּעַל׃ 2:10
Hose. 2:10 “But she not did realize
that I gave the corn and the new wine and the fresh oil to her,
and multiplied the silver for her,
and they fashioned the gold to Baal.”
The pronoun they in the last line surely refers to the children of Israel.
לָכֵן אָשׁוּב וְלָקַחְתִּי דְגָנִי בְּעִתֹּו וְתִירֹושִׁי בְּמֹועֲדֹו וְהִצַּלְתִּי צַמְרִי וּפִשְׁתִּי לְכַסֹּות אֶת־עֶרְוָתָהּ׃ 2:11
Hose. 2:11 “Therefore I will turn away
and take back My corn in its time
and My new wine in its season,
and snatch away My wool
and My flax covering her nakedness.”
וְעַתָּה אֲגַלֶּה אֶת־נַבְלֻתָהּ לְעֵינֵי מְאַהֲבֶיהָ וְאִישׁ לֹא־יַצִּילֶנָּה מִיָּדִי׃ 2:12
Hose. 2:12 “And now I shall reveal her lewdness
for the eyes of her lovers,
and none will be able to rescue her from My hand.”
וְהִשְׁבַּתִּי כָּל־מְשֹׂושָׂהּ חַגָּהּ חָדְשָׁהּ וְשַׁבַּתָּהּ וְכֹל מֹועֲדָהּ׃ 2:13
Hose. 2:13 “And I will cause all her joy to cease,
her festival time, her new moon,
and her Sabbath, and her every season.”
Apparently, with all Israel’s rampant infidelity, the people still observed -- after a fashion -- the milestones of time as prescribed in the Torah.
וַהֲשִׁמֹּתִי גַּפְנָהּ וּתְאֵנָתָהּ אֲשֶׁר אָמְרָה אֶתְנָה הֵמָּה לִי אֲשֶׁר נָתְנוּ־לִי מְאַהֲבָי וְשַׂמְתִּים לְיַעַר 2:14 וַאֲכָלָתַם חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה׃
Hose. 2:14 “And I shall make a devastation of her vine
and her fig tree of which she had said,
‘These are my reward that my lovers give to me,’
and I shall make them into a forest,
and the beast of the field shall eat of them.”
וּפָקַדְתִּי עָלֶיהָ אֶת־יְמֵי הַבְּעָלִים אֲשֶׁר תַּקְטִיר לָהֶם וַתַּעַד נִזְמָהּ וְחֶלְיָתָהּ וַתֵּלֶךְ אַחֲרֵי מְאַהֲבֶיהָ 2:15 וְאֹתִי שָׁכְחָה נְאֻם־יְהוָה׃
Hose. 2:15 “And I shall visit upon her the days of the Baalim
to whom she offered incense,
and donned her ring and her jewelry
and went after her lovers and forgot Me,”
declares the Lord.
לָכֵן הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי מְפַתֶּיהָ וְהֹלַכְתִּיהָ הַמִּדְבָּר וְדִבַּרְתִּי עַל־לִבָּהּ׃ 2:16
Hose. 2:16 “Therefore behold, I will be persuading her,
so I will lead her to the wilderness and speak to her heart.”
וְנָתַתִּי לָהּ אֶת־כְּרָמֶיהָ מִשָּׁם וְאֶת־עֵמֶק עָכֹור לְפֶתַח תִּקְוָה וְעָנְתָה שָּׁמָּה כִּימֵי נְעוּרֶיהָ וּכְיֹום 2:17 עֲלֹתָהּ מֵאֶרֶץ־מִצְרָיִם׃
Hose. 2:17 “And I will give her vineyards to her from there,
and the valley of Achor for a door of hope,
and she shall respond there as the days of her youth,
and as the time she came up from the land of Egypt.”
וְהָיָה בַיֹּום־הַהוּא נְאֻם־יְהוָה תִּקְרְאִי אִישִׁי וְלֹא־תִקְרְאִי־לִי עֹוד בַּעְלִי׃ 2:18
Hose. 2:18 “And it shall be on that day,” declares the Lord,
“you shall call out, ‘My Husband,’ and no more call Me my Baal.”
וַהֲסִרֹתִי אֶת־שְׁמֹות הַבְּעָלִים מִפִּיהָ וְלֹא־יִזָּכְרוּ עֹוד בִּשְׁםָם׃ 2:19
Hose. 2:19 “And I shall remove the names of the Baalim from her mouth
that they shall never be mentioned again by their name.”
וְכָרַתִּי לָהֶם בְּרִית בַּיֹּום הַהוּא עִם־חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה וְעִם־עֹוף הַשָּׁמַיִם וְרֶמֶשׂ הָאֲדָמָה וְקֶשֶׁת וְחֶרֶב 2:20 וּמִלְחָמָה אֶשְׁבֹּור מִן־הָאָרֶץ וְהִשְׁכַּבְתִּים לָבֶטַח׃
Hose. 2:20 “And I shall make a covenant for them at that time with the beast of the field,
and with the fowl of the skies and the creeping thing of the ground,
that I will demolish bow and sword and war from the land,
and make them lie down safely.”
וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי לְעֹולָם וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי בְּצֶדֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּט וּבְחֶסֶד וּבְרַחֲמִים׃ 2:21
Hose. 2:21 “And I will betroth you to Me forever,
as I betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice
and with loving kindness and with compassion.”
וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי בֶּאֱמוּנָה וְיָדַעַתְּ אֶת־יְהוָה׃ 2:22
Hose. 2:22 “Moreover, I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,
that you shall know the Lord.”
Once more the object of address becomes Israel for the preceding verse and this one with this poignant and dramatic statement of betrothal. There can be no question that such betrothal is for all time. No chance of divorce or of betrayal! Also, notice that the Hebrew for the second-person pronouns in the two verses are feminine in gender. Thus the Lord is telling us that we, the children of Israel, are His bride forever. So Israel is His beloved first-born son and the children of Israel are His bride.
וְהָיָה בַּיֹּום הַהוּא אֶעֱנֶה נְאֻם־יְהוָה אֶעֱנֶה אֶת־הַשָּׁמָיִם וְהֵם יַעֲנוּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ׃ 2:23
Hose. 2:23 “And it shall be at that time,
I shall respond,” declares the Lord.
“I shall answer the heavens,
and they shall answer the earth,
וְהָאָרֶץ תַּעֲנֶה אֶת־הַדָּגָן וְאֶת־הַתִּירֹושׁ וְאֶת־הַיִּצְהָר וְהֵם יַעֲנוּ אֶת־יִזְרְעֶאל׃ 2:24
Hose. 2:24 and the earth shall answer the grain
and the wine and the oil,
and they shall answer Jezreel,
וּזְרַעְתִּיהָ לִּי בָּאָרֶץ וְרִחַמְתִּי אֶת־לֹא רֻחָמָה וְאָמַרְתִּי לְלֹא־עַמִּי עַמִּי־אַתָּה וְהוּא יֹאמַר אֱלֹהָי׃ 2:25
Hose. 2:25 and I shall sow her in the land for Me,
and I will have compassion for Lo-ruhamah,
and I will say to Lo-ammi,
‘You are My people,’
and he shall say, ‘My God!’”
These last three verses, 2:23 to 2:25, present an idyllic picture of a people and an earth in harmony with itself, with heaven, and with the Lord. Eden!
Now an interesting (and to me astonishing) difference with other translators appears in this verse as well. As near as I can tell, no bible provides a translation of the two names as Lo-ruhamah and Lo-ammi, despite the fact that the name Jezreel in the previous verse is left intact, not translated as “God will sow.” Moreover, they leave the partial names of the two younger children intact in v. 2:3. Here they translate the two names as something like “her that had not obtained compassion” and “them that were not My people,” adding the English for nonexistent Hebrew words. And then they compound their lack of imagination by changing the pronoun he in the last line to they, so it conforms to their mistaken translations.
And then the words of this last verse, as translated by me, raise an equally interesting question that has in fact been debated by the sages and the scholars of the bible: Are the three children real or merely symbolic or metaphoric? If the time of fulfillment of this prophesy is in the uncertainly distant future, the three children, if real, probably would have been long gone by then. So they are either (1) real and the Lord would speak to them in the future in heaven or by resurrecting them, or (2) they are meant to be symbolic, important elements of the Lord’s (and Hosea’s) message. No one can answer this question with any assurance of being correct.
In any case, notice also that with this last verse, as I’ve translated it, the message has come full circle. The ultimate meaning of the three children’s names is revealed, and we now see that the message is good. In fact, very good, as the Lord tells us in Gene. 1:31. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
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