Posted by: mattcolvin | February 7, 2012

“Kids of Such Names”

Monday through Wednesday of Septuagesima Week: Hosea 1-2.

I read the Bible through my own eyes. This means that when I come to the book of Hosea, I read it as a husband and a father. I imagine the emotional pain of being married to an adulterous wife. I visualize the hurt on the faces of children who are going around Israel with offensive names like “Not my people” (Lo-Ammi) and “Not pitied” (Lo-Ruhamah). Such children would have received all manner of taunting. Their names are practically admissions that they might be illegitimate, not at all calculated to make them feel loved and treasured by their father.

It may be that Hosea was a wonderful father, and that his children were actively included in his ministry, and knew what their names meant and why they had them. We’re not told. I rather think, however, that as the pain of adultery was part of the object lesson YHWH was giving Israel through Hosea’s family, so too the pain of broken father-child relationships was also divinely ordained and part of the prophetic demonstration.

(It should go without saying that the book of Hosea is not suggesting that you should “try this at home.” Don’t marry a wife of harlotry, and don’t give your kids awful names.)

The name of Jezreel, the firstborn of the three children of Hosea, contains both painful and hopeful meanings. Not only was Jezreel the location of Jehu’s massacre of the house of Ahab — thus hinting at YHWH’s intention to cut off Israel’s royal line completely, as Jehu did in those days — but it also means “YHWH will sow”. We see this meaning used in a pun in 2:22-23 (24-25 in the Hebrew):

“The earth shall answer
With grain,
With new wine,
And with oil;
They shall answer Jezreel (יזרעאל).
Then I will sow her (וזרעתיה) for
Myself in the earth.”

This is a hopeful prophecy about YHWH planting Israel in the land, a reversal of His decree to uproot her. But the name Jezreel also connotes the ominous side of planting and reaping as well: that Israel has planted evil for itself, and will reap the evil fruit of it.

The God who cuts off is also the God who plans anew. Death and resurrection is the way to life, not mere illness and recovery.

(The Title of this post is from Jamie Soles’s song “Man Next Door” from his delightful album, Fun and Prophets. It takes a pretty special musician to write a song based on Hosea for a children’s album!)

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