Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rehoboam, the first king of Judah

We have already learned something of Rehoboam, the son and successor of Solomon, in connection with the division of the Kingdom. A true son of his father, he walked at first in paths of righteousness until, surrounded by a numerous harem, his heart was turned away from following the Lord. During his reign, and that of his successor, there was hostility between Judah and Israel, Judah pressing an ineffectual attempt to coerce the revolting tribes of the North.

(People to remember from 1 Kings)

Key Facts: Son of Solomon, first southern king of divided Israel (1 Kings 11:43-12:24)
Mother: Naamah (1 Kings 14:21)
Wives: 18, including Mahalath and Maacah (2 Chron. 11:18-21)
Children: Abijam, Jeush, Shemariah, Zaham, Attai, Ziza, and Shelomith are named among 28 sons and 60 daughters (2 Chron. 11:19-21)
Death: Recorded in 1 Kings 14:31
Total Bible References: 50

  1. Rehoboam (first king).
  2. He began in 930 b.c. and reigned seventeen years.
  3. His cruel and tactless answer to the demands of some of Israel’s leaders help trigger the tragic civil war (1 Ki. 12:1-16).
  4. He is unknowingly helped by Jeroboam who has driven the faithful Levite priests from the north to Jerusalem. These godly men were responsible in the main for Judah’s continuation a century after Assyria had captured the northern kingdom (2 Chron. 11:16, 17).
  5. Rehoboam’s failure doubtless began by his polygamous actions, which involved eighteen wives and sixty concubines; they bore him twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters. Another factor in his downfall was his favorite wife, whose name was Maachah. This woman, the daughter of Absalom, apparently exercised an evil influence upon both Rehoboam and Abijam, their son, who succeeded his father. Finally, her wicked power was curbed by her own grandson, King Asa, who deposed her for idol-worshiping (2 Chron. 11:18-23; 12:1, 14; 2 Ki. 15:13). As his power grew, so his evil increased. Judah built shrines and obelisks and idols on every high hill and under every green tree. In addition to all this, there was homosexuality throughout the land. This vile and perverted sexual crime had possibly been introduced to the inhabitants of Palestine by Canaan, grandson of Noah. (See Gen. 9:20-25.)
Now the people of Israel had allowed this sickness of the soul to degrade them also. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul lashes out against sodomy perhaps more severely than against any other single sin. (Read Rom. 1:18-32.)
  1. During the fifth year of Rehoboam’s reign, Judah is invaded by King Shishak of Egypt with a powerful force. Because of Rehoboam’s wickedness, Jerusalem is now invaded by a foreign power for the first time in nearly 100 years. Shishak conquers the fortified cities of Judah and comes to Jerusalem. Shemaiah, the prophet, then leads Rehoboam and the frightened people in a revival. God thus spares Jerusalem, but allows the city to pay tribute to Shishak, that they might realize it is far better to serve their Heavenly King than an earthly one. Shishak plunders the Temple treasury, including the golden shields placed there by Solomon. Rehoboam then replaces them with bronze shields, symbolizing the rapidly deteriorating spiritual condition of Judah. Already the trace of Ichabod could be seen gathering over the southern kingdom (2 Chron. 12:2-12; 1 Sam. 4:21).
  2. After a reign of seventeen years, Rehoboam dies and is succeeded by his son, Abijam (1 Ki. 14:31).
  3. Abijam soon finds cause to do battle with his father’s old enemy, Jeroboam. They meet in the field, but Abijam has only 400,000 troops, as opposed to Jeroboam’s 800,000 Israeli soldiers. Just prior to the fighting, Abijam gives a long lecture to Jeroboam and his soldiers concerning the folly of rebelling against the house of David, and the wickedness of their golden calf worship. He contrasts all this to the true Temple worship still carried on in Jerusalem. Upon completing his message, however, Abijam discovers that Jeroboam has secretly outflanked him and they are surrounded. He immediately cries out to God for mercy and the priests blow their trumpets. God then turns the tide of battle their way and Jeroboam is dealt a severe defeat which costs him 500,000 men (2 Chron. 13:1-17).
  4. In spite of his heaven-sent victory on the battlefield, Abijam degenerates into a wicked king (1 Ki. 15:3, 4). After a reign of three years, Abijam dies and is succeeded by his son Asa (1 Ki. 15:8).

Rehoboam Speaks
It's just not fair! Both my father and grandfather lived to reach 70, and ruled over all 12 tribes—for 40 years each. But look at me, only 58, apparently at the end of my life after ruling over just two tribes. It's mostly the fault of those political idiots who advised me at Shechem. Had it not been for their stupid counsel, things no doubt would have turned out differently. If only my father had killed Jeroboam when he had the chance. Without his leadership the 10-tribe revolt probably would not have happened. (1 Kings 11:40; 1 Kings 12:1-20; 1 Kings 14:21)
But most of all, I blame Jehovah God. It was his prophet who encouraged Jeroboam. And he allowed the king of Egypt to embarrass me by attacking Jerusalem and carrying off many of our greatest treasures. (1 Kings 11:29-40; 1 Kings 14:25-28)
Well, for better or for worse, I've done things my way. Admittedly, at the very beginning I forsook the God of Solomon and David. It is painfully obvious now that in the final days of life he has forsaken me! (2 Chron. 12:1, 13-16)
Spiritual Lessons from Rehoboam
  • "A hothead starts fights; a cool-tempered person tries to stop them" (Proverbs 15:18). Scripture's most tragic example of this is seen in Rehoboam's senseless answer to Israel's northern leaders, which triggered the civil war (1 Kings 12:1-16).
  • When seeking advice, we should value the voice of experience (1 Kings 12:1-16).
Key Verse
"But when Rehoboam was firmly established and strong, he abandoned the law of the Lord, and all Israel followed him in this sin" (2 Chron. 12:1).

Judah, The Southern Kingdom

The Two Kingdoms stood side by side for 259 years. After the fall of Israel, Judah continued 135 years longer.

Southern Kingdom Rulers Overview

1. Rehoboam (1 Ki. 11:42-14:31; 2 Chron. 9:31-12:16).
  • He was the son of Solomon.
  • His stupidity caused the civil war of Israel.
  • He had eighteen wives and sixty concubines. They gave him twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters.
  • His favorite wife was Maachah, the evil daughter of Absalom.
  • He was invaded by Shishak of Egypt.
  • He ruled seventeen years (931-914 b.c.).

  • He defeated (by supernatural intervention) the northern king, Jeroboam, on the battlefield.
  • In spite of God’s help at this time, he later degenerated into a wicked king.
  • He ruled three years (914-911 b.c.).
  • He was Judah’s first righteous king.
  • He led Judah in a revival and was a great builder.
  • God answered his prayer and delivered him from a massive Ethiopian attack.
  • He even deposed his own grandmother Maachah because of her idolatry.
  • He later was rebuked by a prophet for his sin and responded by throwing him in prison.
  • He died with a foot disease which problem he refused to take to God.
  • He ruled forty-one years (911-870 b.c.).

4. Jehoshaphat (1 Ki. 22:41-50; 2 Chron. 17:1-20:37).
  • He was the second righteous king of Judah.
  • He instituted a nationwide Bible education program.
  • He compromised with Ahab and his two sons, Ahaziah and Jehoram.
  • He ruled for twenty-five years (873-848 b.c.).

  • He married Athaliah, daughter of Jezebel and Ahab.
  • He began his reign by murdering his six brothers.
  • He received a posthumous message from Elijah predicting judgment upon him because of his wicked and murderous reign.
  • He was attacked and defeated by the Philistines and Arabians.
  • He died of a horrible disease and was unmourned at the funeral.
  • He ruled for eight years (853-845 b.c.).

  • He was killed by Jehu (tenth northern king)
  • He ruled for one year (841 b.c.).

  • She was the mother of the slain Ahaziah.
  • At his death she slaughtered all his children except one who was hidden from her.
  • She herself was later executed.
  • She ruled for six years (841-835 b.c.).

  • He was the surviving heir of Athaliah’s bloodbath.
  • For awhile he lived for God but later became a cruel leader.
  • He sanctioned the stoning of Zechariah, the godly Jewish high priest who had rebuked Judah’s sin and called for national repentance.
  • He was executed by his own palace guard.
  • He ruled for forty years (835-795 b.c.).

  • He was a good king for awhile, and executed the men who had assassinated his father, Joash. But he did not kill their children, obeying the Mosaic law which said the sons were not to be killed for the sins of their fathers (Deut. 24:16; Ezek. 18:4, 20). (See 2 Chron. 25:1-4; 2 Ki. 12:21; 14:1-6).
  • Amaziah then organized the army of Judah and found he had an army of 300,000. He then hired 100,000 experienced mercenary soldiers from Israel for $200,000 to help him fight against Edom (2 Chron. 25:5, 6).
  • He was warned against this by a prophet. The king reluctantly sent these mercenaries home, bitterly resenting the lost money he had paid them. But the prophet reassured him, "The Lord is able to give thee much more than this" (2 Chron. 25:9). Here is a precious spiritual gem that should be carefully considered whenever God requires us to give up our time, talent, treasure, or anything close and precious to us. See Jesus’ stirring words to Peter in Matthew 19:27-29.
  • The Israelite troops returned home, also angry and frustrated. On the way they raided several cities of Judah and killed 3000 people (2 Chron. 25:13).
  • Amaziah went into battle with only his own troops and soundly defeated Edom, killing 20,000 enemy soldiers (25:11). But the foolish king brought back with him some Edomite idols and began worshiping them. God warned the king, through a prophet, of his divine anger. Amaziah refused to listen and curtly dismissed him, but not before the king’s doom was predicted (25:14-16).
  • The overconfident Amaziah then declared war on northern king Jehoash, for the disgraceful action of the returning Israelite mercenaries (25:17). Northern king Jehoash responded to Amaziah’s challenge by relating the second (and final) Old Testament fable. (For the first one, see Jdg. 9:8-15.) Note the language of this fable:
"The thistle that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying, Give thy daughter to my son to wife: and there passed by a wild beast that was in Lebanon, and trode down the thistle" (2 Chron. 25:18).
  • Jehoash was at this point warning Amaziah not to let his Edomite victory blind him to reality but to withdraw his arrogant declaration of war. But the plea fell on deaf ears.
  • Amaziah was soundly defeated by Jehoash at Beth-shemesh and was led as a common prisoner back to his own capital in Jerusalem. Upon arriving, Jehoash dismantled 200 yards of the city walls to effect an impressive victory celebration. He then carried off all the treasures of the Temple and palace. Finally the northern king left, taking with him many hostages (2 Chron. 25:21-24).
  • He ruled for twenty-nine years (796-767 b.c.).

  • He was a mighty warrior and builder.
  • He attempted to intrude into the office of the priest.
  • He was punished for this sin by leprosy.
  • He ruled for fifty-two years (792-740 b.c.).

  • He was a good king (2 Chron. 27:6).
  • He built the upper gate of the Temple and erected fortresses and towers.
  • He defeated the Ammonites and received a huge annual tribute of silver and wheat from them.
  • He ruled for sixteen years (750-732 b.c.).

  • He was perhaps the second worst king of Judah.
  • He sacrificed his own children to devilish gods.
  • He was the first person to hear about the virgin birth.
  • He ruled sixteen years (732-716 b.c.).

  • He was the second best king of Judah.
  • He was also the richest of all.
  • He organized the greatest Passover celebration since the days of Solomon.
  • He saw the death angel defeat the Assyrian enemies which had surrounded Jerusalem.
  • He was supernaturally healed and given an additional fifteen years to live.
  • He ruled for twenty-nine years (716-687).

  • He ruled longer than any northern or southern king.
  • He was the worst of all the kings.
  • He experienced the new birth prior to his death.
  • He ruled fifty-five years (697-642 b.c.).

15. Amon (2 Ki. 21:19-26; 2 Chron. 33:21-25).
  • He was, like his father Manasseh, a wicked sinner.
  • He was, unlike his father Manasseh, unrepentant.
  • He was executed by his own household servants.
  • He ruled two years (643-641 b.c.).

  • He was the best king since David.
  • The book of Moses was discovered in the Temple during his reign.
  • He led his people in a great revival.
  • He was the last good king of Judah.
  • He was killed in a battle with the Egyptians.
  • He ruled for thirty-one years (641-610 b.c.).

  • This middle son of Josiah had both a sinful (2 Ki. 23:32) and short-lived (2 Ki. 23:30, 31) reign. He was deposed by Pharaoh Necho (who had previously killed his father, Josiah, in battle), after but ninety days on the throne (2 Ki. 23:33). Necho then leveled a tax against Judah totaling $230,000. Jehoahaz was eventually carried into Egypt where he died in captivity (2 Ki. 23:34).
  • Jehoahaz’s younger brother, Eliakim (renamed Jehoiakim by Necho), was chosen by the Egyptian king to succeed him on the throne of Judah (2 Ki. 23:34). Things were now at rock bottom when the devil’s man could pick the king over the Lord’s people!
  • He ruled for three months (609 b.c.).

  • He was the brother of Jehoahaz.
  • He was probably Judah’s third worst king.
  • He persecuted Jeremiah the prophet.
  • He experienced the first of Nebuchadnezzar’s fearsome "visits" to Jerusalem.
  • During this time Daniel and other Hebrew young people were taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar.
  • He died, and as Jeremiah had predicted, received the burial of an ass.
  • He ruled for eleven years (609-598).

19. Jehoiachin (2 Ki. 24:6-16; 2 Chron. 36:8-10).
  • He was the son of Jehoiakim, and grandson of Josiah. Jehoiachin was also called Coniah (Jer. 22:24, 28; 37:1).
  • He began ruling at eighteen (2 Ki. 24:8). Note: There is a textual problem here, for 2 Chronicles 36:9 informs us he was eight years old.
  • He was an evil king (2 Ki. 24:9). Because of this:
  • Both Ezekiel (19:5-9) and Jeremiah (22:24-26) predicted that he would be carried off into the Babylonian captivity.
  • He was to be regarded as childless, as none of his children would ever sit upon the throne of David or rule in Judah.
The New Scofield Bible observes:
"This declaration does not mean that he would have no children, for in 1 Chron. 3:17, 18, some are named (Cf. Mt. 1:12). By divine judgment, this king was to be written childless, i.e., no physical descendant would occupy a place in the list of Israel’s kings. Consequently, if our Lord Jesus, who is to occupy David’s throne (Lk. 1:32, 33), had been begotten by Mary’s husband, Joseph, who was of the line of Jeconiah (Mt. 1:12, 16), it would have contradicted this divine prediction. Christ’s dynastic right to the throne came through his foster father, Joseph, from Jeconiah, but the physical descent of Jesus from David came through Mary, whose genealogy is traced to David through Nathan, rather than through Solomon." (Compare Lk. 3:31 with Mt. 1:17.) (pp. 793, 794)
  • Jehoiachin was captured during the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (2 Ki. 24:12) and carried into Babylon, along with 10,000 other Jewish captives (Jer. 24:1; 29; 2 Ki. 24:14, 15). Ezekiel was also carried away at this time.
  • He then appointed Zedekiah (Jehoiachin’s great uncle) to occupy the throne of Judea (2 Ki. 24:17).
  • Jehoiachin was placed in a Babylonian prison, where he remained for thirty-six years, until the death of Nebuchadnezzar. He was then released by the new Babylonian monarch, Evil-Merodach, who not only freed him, but gave him a seat at the king’s own table and an allowance for his support (2 Ki. 25:27-30; Jer. 52:31-34).
  • He ruled for three months (598 b.c.).

  • He was the youngest son of Josiah.
  • He rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. For this he was blinded and carried off as a captive to Babylon.
  • He ruled for eleven years (597-586 b.c.).


Hoshea (2 Ki. 15:20-17:6).

He was the last ruler of the northern kingdom.

After becoming a vassal to the Assyrian king, Shalmaneser, Hoshea joined with Egypt in rebelling against Assyria.

For this he was imprisoned and the people were exiled to Assyria (2 Ki. 17:4-6). Hoshea thus became the last of the northern kings.

Eight died natural deaths, seven were murdered, one died a suicide, one in battle, one under judgment of God, one in a fall. Not a single ruler turned to God.

From this captivity, the ten tribes have never been restored to Palestine. In fact, they would soon lose their very tribal identity (but not their ancestry).

The future restoration of all twelve tribes of Israel will be consummated at the Second Coming of Christ. (See Mt. 24:27-31.)

The righteous God had to cut off Israel for their sin. (See 2 Ki. 17:7-18.)

The King of Assyria then transplanted colonies of people from various foreign countries into the depopulated land of northern Israel (2 Ki. 17:24).

Soon after their arrival, a plague of man-eating lions, sent by God, terrified the land. In desperation, the colonists sent a message to the Assyrian ruler, asking for the ministry of a Jehovah prophet, that the plague be stopped (17:25, 26).

This lion plague had been predicted by Moses centuries back. (See Ex. 23:29; Lev. 26:21, 22.)

A prophet arrived and began his ministry from Bethel. The lion plague disappeared and a form of Jehovah-worship appeared, but only in form, as the people continued with their idol-worship as well (2 Ki. 17:27-34).

This is the beginning of the Samaritan race and religion which was prevalent in the time of Jesus. (See Jn. 4.)

Hoshea ruled for nine years (732-723 b.c.).

Hoshe'a (salvation).
1. The nineteenth, last and best king of Israel. He succeeded Pekah, whom he slew in a successful conspiracy, thereby fulfilling a prophecy of Isaiah. Isai 7:16 In the third year of his reign (b.c. 726) Shalmaneser cruelly stormed the strong caves of Beth-arbel, Hose 8:14 and made cruel tributary, 2 Kin 17:3 for three years. At the end of this period Hoshea entered into a secret alliance with So, king, of Egypt, to throw off the Assyrian yoke. The alliance did him no good; it was revealed, to the court of Nineveh by the Assyrian party in Ephraim, and Hoshea was immediately seized as a rebellious vasal, shut up in prison, and apparently treated with the utmost indignity. Mica 5:1 Of the subsequent fortunes of Hoshea nothing is known.
2. The son of Nun, i.e. Joshua, Deut 32:44 and also in Numb 13:8 though to there the Authorized Version has OSHEA.
3. Shon of Azaziah, 1 Chr 27:20 like his great namesake, a man of Ephraim, ruler of his tribe in the time of King David. (b.c. 1019.)
4. One of the heads of the people who sealed the covenant with Nehemiah. Nehe 10:23 (b.c. 410.)
—Smith's Bible Dictionary


(1.) The original name of the son of Nun, afterwards called Joshua (Num 13:8, 16; Deut 32:44).
(2.) 1Ch 27:20. The ruler of Ephraim in David's time.
(3.) The last king of Israel. He conspired against and slew his predecessor, Pekah (Isa 7:16), but did not ascend the throne till after an interregnum of warfare of eight years (2Ki 17:1, 2). Soon after this he submitted to Shalmaneser, the Assyrian king, who a second time invaded the land to punish Hoshea, because of his withholding tribute which he had promised to pay. A second revolt brought back the Assyrian king Sargon, who besieged Samaria, and carried the ten tribes away beyond the Euphrates, B.C. 720 (2Ki 17:5, 6; 2Ki 18:9-12). No more is heard of Hoshea. He disappeared like "foam upon the water" (Hos 10:7; Hos 13:11).
—Easton's Illustrated Dictionary


The name derived from the city Asshur on the Tigris, the original capital of the country, was originally a colony from Babylonia, and was ruled by viceroys from that kingdom. It was a mountainous region lying to the north of Babylonia, extending along the Tigris as far as to the high mountain range of Armenia, the Gordiaean or Carduchian mountains. It was founded in B.C. 1700 under Bel-kap-kapu, and became an independent and a conquering power, and shook off the yoke of its Babylonian masters. It subdued the whole of Northern Asia. The Assyrians were Semites (Gen 10:22), but in process of time non-Semite tribes mingled with the inhabitants. They were a military people, the "Romans of the East."

Lion-Hunt by Assur-Bani-Pal B.C. 668
From a photograph of a marble slab in the British Museum
Assur-bani-pal on horseback spearing a lion, and a lion attacking his horse. From sculptures discovered in the ruins of the palace of Assur-bani-pal at Nineveh.

Of the early history of the kingdom of Assyria little is positively known. In B.C. 1120 Tiglath-pileser I., the greatest of the Assyrian kings, "crossed the Euphrates, defeated the kings of the Hittites, captured the city of Carchemish, and advanced as far as the shores of the Mediterranean." He may be regarded as the founder of the first Assyrian empire. After this the Assyrians gradually extended their power, subjugating the states of Northern Syria. In the reign of Ahab, king of Israel, Shalmaneser II. marched an army against the Syrian states, whose allied army he encountered and vanquished at Karkar. This led to Ahab's casting off the yoke of Damascus and allying himself with Judah. Some years after this the Assyrian king marched an army against Hazael, king of Damascus. He besieged and took that city. He also brought under tribute Jehu, and the cities of Tyre and Sidon.
About a hundred years after this (B.C. 745) the crown was seized by a military adventurer called Pul, who assumed the name of Tiglath-pileser III. He directed his armies into Syria, which had by this time regained its independence, and took (B.C. 740) Arpad, near Aleppo, after a siege of three years, and reduced Hamath. Azariah (Uzziah) was an ally of the king of Hamath, and thus was compelled by Tiglath-pileser to do him homage and pay a yearly tribute.

Lion-Hunt by Assur-Bani-Pal B.C. 668
From a photograph of a marble slab in the British Museum
Part of the sculptures from King Assur-bani-pal's palace at Nineveh. Assur-bani-pal in his chariot, with attendant killing a lion.

In B.C. 738, in the reign of Menahem, king of Israel, Pul invaded Israel, and imposed on it a heavy tribute (2Ki 15:19). Ahaz, the king of Judah, when engaged in a war against Israel and Syria, appealed for help to this Assyrian king by means of a present of gold and silver (2Ki 16:8); who accordingly "marched against Damascus, defeated and put Rezin to death, and besieged the city itself." Leaving a portion of his army to continue the siege, "he advanced through the province east of Jordan, spreading fire and sword," and became master of Philistia, and took Samaria and Damascus. He died B.C. 727, and was succeeded by Shalmanezer IV., who ruled till B.C. 722. He also invaded Syria (2Ki 17:5), but was deposed in favour of Sargon (q.v.) the Tartan, or commander-in-chief of the army, who took Samaria (q.v.) after a siege of three years, and so put an end to the kingdom of Israel, carrying the people away into captivity, B.C. 722 (2Ki 17:1-6, 24; 2Ki 18:7, 9). He also overran the land of Judah, and took the city of Jerusalem (Isa 10:6, 12, 22, 24, 34). Mention is next made of Sennacherib (B.C. 705), the son and successor of Sargon (2Ki 18:13; 2Ki 19:37; Isa 7:17, 18); and then of Esar-haddon, his son and successor, who took Manasseh, king of Judah, captive, and kept him for some time a prisoner at Babylon, which he alone of all the Assyrian kings made the seat of his government (2Ki 19:37; Isa 37:38).
Assur-bani-pal, the son of Esarhaddon, became king, and in Ezra 4:10 is referred to as Asnapper. From an early period Assyria had entered on a conquering career, and having absorbed Babylon, the kingdoms of Hamath, Damascus, and Samaria, it conquered Phoenicia, and made Judea feudatory, and subjected Philistia and Idumea. At length, however, its power declined. In B.C. 727 the Babylonians threw off the rule of the Assyrians, under the leadership of the powerful Chaldean prince Merodach-baladan (2Ki 20:12), who, after twelve years, was subdued by Sargon, who now reunited the kingdom, and ruled over a vast empire. But on his death the smouldering flames of rebellion again burst forth, and the Babylonians and Medes successfully asserted their independence (B.C. 625), and Assyria fell according to the prophecies of Isaiah (Isa 10:5-19), Nahum (Nah 3:19), and Zephaniah (Zep 3:13), and the many separate kingdoms of which it was composed ceased to recognize the "great king" (2Ki 18:19; Isa 36:4). Ezekiel (Ezek 31) attests (about B.C. 586) how completely Assyria was overthrown. It ceases to be a nation. (See NINEVEH; BABYLON.)
Map of Assyria
—Easton's Illustrated Dictionary


Key Facts: Prophet, told by God to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2)
Father: Beeri (Hosea 1:1)
Wife: Gomer (Hosea 1:2-3)
Sons: Jezreel, Lo-ammi (Hosea 1:4, 9)
Daughter: Lo-ruhamah (Hosea 1:6)
Total Bible References: 4
Key References: Hosea 1-14; Romans 9:25

PURPOSE: To reveal God's unconditional love, especially illustrated in contrast to the sinful harlotry of His people.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Northern Kingdom (Israel).
MAIN THEME: A spiritual message. Apostasy from God is spiritual adultery.
  1. God, the husband,—Hosea 2:20; Isaiah 54:5.
  2. Israel, the unchaste wife,—Hosea 2:2.
KEY WORDS: Unconditional love.
KEY VERSE: Hosea 3:1.
NOTABLE PASSAGE: Penitence and its blessings,—Hosea 14.
  1. Israel's apostasy symbolized by the experience of the prophet in his marriage,—Hosea 1-3.
  2. Prophetic discourses, chiefly descriptions of the backsliding and idolatry of the people mingled with threatenings and exhortations,—Hosea 4-13.
The formal call to repentance and promises of future blessings,—Hosea 14.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE HIGHLY FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE used to express the evil conditions in Israel.
  1. The valley of Achor for a door of hope,—Hosea 2:15. See Joshua 7:24-26.
  2. "Joined to idols,"—Hosea 4:17.
  3. "Mixes... with the nations" (no longer a separated and holy nation),—Hosea 7:8.
  4. "A cake not turned" (dough on one side, expressing half-heartedness),—Hosea 7:8.
  5. "Strangers devour his strength" (weakened by evil associations),—Hosea 7:9.
  6. "Grey hairs also are sprinkled on him" (premature old age and unconscious deterioration),—Hosea 7:9.
  7. "Israel swallowed up" (national identity lost),—Hosea 8:8.
  8. "A vessel in which no one delights" (a marred and useless vessel to the Lord),—Hosea 8:8.
  9. "False balances" (commercial trickery in business),—Hosea 12:7.
PROMINENT PEOPLE: Hosea, Gomer, their children.
Thompson Chain Reference Bible.
Key Verse
"Go and marry a prostitute, so some of her children will be born to you from other men. This will illustrate the way my people have been untrue to me, openly committing adultery against the Lord by worshiping other gods" (Hosea 1:2).

Hosea’s name means "salvation." He was a prophet to the northern kingdom, and wept over their sins, as Jeremiah later wept over Judah’s sins.

Hosea is perhaps the strangest book in all the Bible, for God instructed his prophet to "take unto thee a wife of whoredoms."

There were several reasons why God did this.

The experimental reason
. By marrying an unfaithful wife, Hosea could, as perhaps no other single prophet, understand somewhat the anguish in God’s own heart over the northern kingdom, whose people were constantly committing spiritual fornication and adultery against Jehovah.

God had often compared his relationship to Israel to that of a marriage. (See Isa. 62:5; Hos. 2:19; Jer. 3:14.)

The illustrative reason. His own marriage would become a walking and visible example of his message to Israel.

The prophetical reason
. God would command him to name his children by those titles which would describe the future punishment and eventual restoration of all Israel.

He may have ministered longer than any other prophet.

Hosea predicted the Assyrian invasion, and later lived to see these prophecies fulfilled in 721 b.c.

In his book he refers to the northern kingdom as Ephraim constantly. Ephraim was the first of the twelve tribes of Israel to backslide.

Hosea is quoted more times for its size in the New Testament than any other Old Testament book, for a total of some thirty times. Compare:

A Grieving Husband and His Grievous Wife (Hosea vs. Gomer) (1-3).

Hosea’s wife, ill-famed. His wife Gomer was apparently a harlot before marriage and an adulteress after marriage. Hosea attempts in vain to save this marriage by:

  • Barring her from the markets of the world. "Therefore, behold I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall that she shall not find her paths" (2:6).
    • Hosea thought he could force her to remain home in this manner. He even sought the help of his first son, Jezreel, asking him to reason with his mother concerning the folly of her ways.
    • "Plead with your mother, contend; for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband. Let her, therefore, put away her harlotry out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts" (2:2).
    • But all this was to no avail. Gomer apparently continues to run off at the first opportunity.
  • Buying her out of the markets of the world. It was not long before Gomer had been used, abused, and abandoned by her lustful lovers, and found herself in a slave market.
    • God ordered Hosea to find and redeem her from this market. "So I bought her for myself for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley" (3:2).

Hosea’s children, ill-named. The prophet fathered three children through Gomer. Each child (at God’s command) was given a name which carried with it prophetical meaning.

The first child, a boy, named Jezreel (1:4), meaning "to be scattered," predicted two future events.

  • The setting aside of the dynasty of a northern king named Jehu. This brutal and bloody king had slain many in and around the city of Jezreel. Among his victims were:
While God did indeed order him to avenge Naboth, whose innocent blood Ahab had shed (1 Ki. 21), the brutal Jehu went too far in his bloodletting. Because of this, Jehu would be allowed only four generations upon Israel’s throne (2 Ki. 10:30). These were:

first generation, Jehoahaz, his son
second generation, Jehoash, his grandson
third generation, Jeroboam II, his great-grandson
fourth generation, Zechariah, his great-great-grandson

At the time of the birth of Hosea’s son, Jehu’s third generation was ruling, in the person of Jeroboam II. Thus, it would not be long until the dynasty would end. This, of course, happened in the days of Zechariah, who was murdered after a reign of but six months (2 Ki. 15:12).

  • The Assyrian invasion, at which time the entire northern kingdom would be scattered (1:5).

The second child, a girl, named Lo-ruha-mah (1:6). This name literally meant, "no more mercy," indicating that God’s judgment was just around the comer. Along with this baby, however, came the promise that God would spare Judah, the southern kingdom, of this coming Assyrian invasion. (See 1:7.) This, of course, happened as recorded in 2 Kings 19:35.

The third child, a boy, named Lo-ammi (1:9). Here the name means "not my people."

A Grieving Husband and His Grievous Wife (God vs. Ephraim) (4:14).

Ephraim denounced:

  • Because of her ignorance:
    • "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me; seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children" (4:6).
  • Because of her idolatry:
    • "My people ask counsel of their idols... they sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and bum incense upon the hills... Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone" (4:12, 13, 17).
  • Because of immorality:
    • "I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hidden from me; for now, O Ephraim, thou committest whoredoms, and Israel is defiled" (5:3).

Ephraim desired: In spite of her wickedness, God still loved her.

"O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? For your goodness is like a morning cloud, and like the early dew it goeth away" (6:4).

Ephraim described:

  • She was aflame with lust like a baker’s hot oven (7:4). God said the hearts of the people smolder with evil plots during the night, and burst into flaming fire the next morning.
  • They mingled with the heathen and had become as useless as a half-baked cake (7:8).
  • They were as a silly dove, calling to Egypt, and flying to Assyria for help (7:11).
  • They were as a crooked bow, always missing the target, which was God’s glory (7:16).
  • They lay among the nations as a broken pot (8:8).
  • They were as a wandering and lonely wild ass (8:9).
  • They were as a dried up root (9:16).
  • They were as an empty vine (10:1).
  • They were as a backsliding heifer (4:16).

Ephraim disciplined: God declared,
"For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind" (8:7). (See also 10:13.)
  • God would therefore (for awhile) withhold his mercy from them (2:4).
  • They would be many days without (3:4):
  • A king: In 721 b.c. Hoshea, Israel’s last king, was dethroned, and in 587 b.c., Zedekiah, Judah’s final king, was deposed. Some six centuries later Israel’s only true king was rejected (Jn. 19:15). Thus, this tragic situation will continue until he comes again (Rev. 19:11-16).
  • A prince: The next recorded prince in Israel’s future will not minister until the millennium. (See Ezek. 44:3.)
  • A sacrifice: In a.d. 70 Titus destroyed the Temple and all animal sacrifices ceased. During the tribulation they will once again be instituted, only to be stopped by the antichrist (Dan. 9:27).
  • An image: This literally means, "the pillars," and may refer to the Temple. A temple will be rebuilt during the tribulation (Rev. 13), destroyed (Zech. 14:2), and again raised during the millennium (Ezek. 40:48).
  • An ephod: A reference to Israel’s high priesthood. The ephod was a garment he wore. Her last high priest personally planned the murder of the nation’s own Messiah. (See Jn. 11:49-51; Mt. 26:57-68.)
  • Teraphim: These were normally figurines, or images in human form. (See Gen. 31:34.) It is not known what Hosea had in mind here.
  • They would go off as slaves into Assyria (10:6).
  • They would be (for awhile) swallowed up among the nations (8:8; 9:17).

Ephraim delivered. Someday this glorious event will indeed take place. Note the following passages:
  1. Hosea 2:19, 23
  2. Hosea 3:5
  3. Hosea 6:1-3
  4. Hosea 11:1, 4, 8, 9
  5. Hosea 13:10, 14
  6. Hosea 14:4-7

Hosea Speaks
She's gone again! In spite of the pleading from Jezreel, she's gone! In spite of all my attempts to keep her home, she's gone again! Why, oh, why did he order me to marry a prostitute? As I could have predicted, she's been nothing but unfaithful ever since the wedding. (Hosea 1:2; Hosea 2:5-6)
But even more disturbing was his command just yesterday: "Go and get your wife again. Bring her back to you and love her, even though she loves adultery." (Hosea 3:1)

I reminded the Lord that this was a violation of his own Word, but he told me to find her anyway. Of course I did what he ordered. I found Gomer in the slave market, where she had been dumped by her lovers. I was able to redeem her for 15 shekels of silver and five bushels of barley and some wine—not much of a price for a human being, however sinful! (Hosea 3:2)
Time and again I have asked the reason for all this, but of course the answer is obvious: My miserable marriage has served as a sensational illustration of the marriage between God and his unfaithful wife, Israel. His wife, like mine, is notorious for sharing her bed with pagan idols. So in some small way I can sympathize with him. Jehovah's hurt is my hurt. My pain is his pain. (Hosea 4:12)

Well, whatever my suffering, I count it an honor to serve as his prophet, for ours is the privilege of knowing the future. I know how God's troubled marriage will end. His wife will repent and be fully restored. As he has said, "I will heal you of your idolatry and faithlessness, and my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever!" (Hosea 14:4)
That's what the future holds for his marriage. I'm not so sure about mine.

Spiritual Lessons from Hosea
  • Though God's calling Hosea to marry a prostitute was very unusual and was for a specific prophetic purpose, he may sometimes call us to do things that seem illogical or unproductive by human standards. When so called, we should readily obey. Abraham's willingness to offer Isaac is another example of such obedience (see Genesis 22:1-2).
  • In a day of easy divorce, Hosea's efforts to win back his unfaithful wife provide a much-needed good example. The law provided for divorce (see Deut. 24:1) but only "as a concession to [Israel's] hard-hearted wickedness" (Matthew 19:8). Divorce is never the best option, even in cases of sexual infidelity.
  • Though God disciplines us, he is also eager to forgive. God ordered Hosea to give his children names with meanings suggesting judgment (Hosea 1:4, 6, 9) but later gave a redeeming interpretation to those names (Hosea 1:10-2:1, 23). (See also Psalm 103:9; Romans 9:25.)