JezreelAs the curtain is raised, so to speak, let’s now meet Hosea’s family, let’s meet this cast of characters. We begin with his wife, as mentioned, a woman named Gomer. In chapter 1:2-3 we read, “When the Lord began to speak by Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea: ‘Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord.’ 3 So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim.” From the start God tells Hosea that as he marries this woman she will be unfaithful. After their marriage and the birth of their first child, the rest of their family life finds Hosea living in a marriage with an unfaithful spouse with the consequences and repercussions of Gomer’s unfaithfulness.

As our text identifies her as a “wife of harlotry”, that does not mean she was already a harlot, already living in immorality before Hosea married her. It is a reference not to the present condition but of a future condition, he married her with the knowledge that at some point she would become unfaithful and would leave him in pursuit of other men. We do not know what questions that Hosea may have asked the Lord upon learning these things. All we know is that he was obedient and did what God instructed him to do – he married Gomer. Shortly thereafter we read, “she conceived and bore him a son.”

There is a lesson for Israel and for us from the name that Hosea is told by the Lord to name his son. “4 Then the Lord said to him: ‘Call his name Jezreel, for in a little while I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, and bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 It shall come to pass in that day that I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.’” This son’s name, Jezreel, every time it is said, serves as a reminder to everyone who hears it that God is going to judge His people for their sin. The name Jezreel means “God will scatter.” Jezreel is also the name of a place, a valley, which rests just south of Nazareth and 10 miles east of the Valley of Megiddo.

We all know what will happen in the Valley of Megiddo, right? In Hebrew the place called Har Megiddo, transliterated Armageddon. But what about the Valley of Jezreel? Hosea’s first child is named Jezreel to reference the fact that God will “avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, and bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.”

Do you remember King Ahab? Six kings before Jeroboam II, Ahab ruled in Israel, he was one of the more wicked kings, and you probably are more familiar with his wife than with him – he married the daughter of the King of Tyre and Sidon, who was also a High Priest of Baal. Her name was Jezebel. She built a palace for 400 priests of Baal who were later confronted and killed by Elijah on Mt. Carmel.

In another episode that demonstrates their wickedness, Ahab decided that he wanted a piece of land for himself. He wanted a beautiful vineyard that belonged to a man named Naboth. Ahab first offered to give Naboth another plot of land where he could have a new vineyard, swapping the land one for the other, but Naboth refused. Ahab offered to buy it outright and still Naboth said no.

Ahab whined and pouted about it, seriously, in 1 Kings 21:3-4 we read, “3 But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you!” 4 So Ahab went into his house sullen and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no food. He went home and threw a fit. The story continues, “5 But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said to him, “Why is your spirit so sullen that you eat no food?” When the king explained, the queen put a plan into motion.

“7 Then Jezebel his wife said to him, ‘You now exercise authority over Israel! Basically she tells him to put his big boy king pants on. Arise, eat food, and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.’ 8 And she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who were dwelling in the city with Naboth. 9 She wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth with high honor among the people; 10 and seat two men, scoundrels, before him to bear witness against him, saying, ‘You have blasphemed God and the king.’ Then take him out, and stone him, that he may die.”

Not very subtle, but effective. After Ahab and Jezebel’s scheme in the murder of Naboth came to pass, the prophet Elijah proclaimed a Word from the Lord that Ahab was going to be judged and that he was going to die and none of his descendants would sit on the throne after him. He was going to die, as this was just a glimpse of the depths of his wickedness as king revealed in this action and the kingdom was going to be torn away from his and his family. In the prophesy about his death we also see that Jezebel would die and would be eaten by dogs.

Fulfilling the prophesy, Ahab died in battle, and then a Captain of the Army named Jehu, whom Elijah had sent a prophet to anoint with oil to be the next king, carried out the command of God to kill Ahab’s son and throw his body in the field that had belonged to Naboth. When he then went to the Valley of Jezreel where Jezebel was, he commanded her servants to throw her out of the window and then he trampled her with his horse and then he left and ate dinner and when they came back later to bury her the dogs had eaten most of her, leaving only her skull, the palms of her hands, and bottoms of her feet. There was nothing left really to bury.

Now, because of the continued sins of the people and the kings, because of the bloodshed brought about by Jehu, now God was going to scatter His people. Remember, Jezreel means “to scatter.” The word is literally a reference to flipping your hand out, as if you were sowing seed, or throwing something away. This was Hosea’s first child, his firstborn son. Jezreel, a constant reminder to the people of Israel’s wickedness and the certainty of the coming judgment at God’s hand.

Verse 5 tells us, “5 It shall come to pass in that day that I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.” This is a reference to a military defeat, the breaking of the bow of Israel. Well guess where Assyria defeated the armies of Israel? In the Valley of Jezreel. That is where the Assyrians came to gain entrance to the capital in Samaria. They took the people into captivity, and relocated people from Assyria putting them in the land they had conquered. The descendants of these foreigners who did intermarry with those few from Israel who remained lived in the region of Samaria and they were known in Jesus’ day as Samaritans. This was the basis (not the justification) the basis for the ethnic hatred the Jews held toward the Samaritans.

Tomorrow we will meet more of the family.