We have here a prediction,
I. Of the rejection of Israel for a time, which is signified by the name of another child that Hosea had by his adulterous spouse, Hos. 1:8, 9. And still we must observe that those children whose names carried these direful omens in them to Israel were all children of whoredoms (Hos. 1:2), all born of the harlot that Hosea married, to intimate that the ruin of Israel was the natural product of the sin of Israel. If they had not first revolted from God, they would never have been rejected by him; God never leaves any till they first leave him. Here is, 1. The birth of this child: When she had weaned her daughter, she conceived and bore a son. Notice is taken of the delay of the birth of this child, which was to carry in its name a certain presage of their utter rejection, to intimate God’s patience with them, and his unwillingness to proceed to extremity. Some think that her bearing another son signifies that people’s persisting in their wickedness; lust still conceived and brought forth sin. Theyadded to do evil (so the Chaldee paraphrase expounds it); they were old in adulteries, and obstinate. 2. The name given him: Call him Lo-ammi—Not my people. When they were told that God would no more have mercy on them they regarded it not, but buoyed up themselves with this conceit, that they were God’s people, whom he could not but have mercy on. And therefore he plucks that staff from under them, and disowns all relation to them: You are not my people, and I will not be your God. “I will not be yours (so the word it); I will be in no relation to you, will have nothing to do with you; I will not be your King, your Father, your patron and protector.” We supply it very well with that which includes all, “I will not be your God; I will not be to you what I have been, nor what you vainly expect I should be, nor what I would have been if you had kept close to me.” Observe, “You are not my people; you do not act as becomes my people; you are not observant of me and obedient to me, as my people should be; you are not my people, but the people of this and the other dunghill-deity; and therefore I will not own you for my people, will not protect you, will not put in any claim to you, not demand you, not deliver you out of the hands of those that have seized you; let them take you; you are none of mine. You will not have me to be your God, but pay your homage to the pretenders, and therefore I will not be your God; you shall have no interest in me, shall expect no benefit from me.” Note, Our being taken into covenant with God is owing purely to him and to his grace, for then it begins on his side: I will be to them a God, and then they shall be to me a people; we love him because he first loved us. But our being cast out of covenant is owing purely to ourselves and our own folly. The breach is on man’s side: You are not my people, and therefore I will not be your God; if God hate any, it is because they first hated him. This was fulfilled in Israel when they were utterly taken away into the land of Assyria, and their place knew them no more. They were no longer God’s people, for they lost the knowledge and worship of him; no prophets were sent to them, no promises made to them, as were to the two tribes in their captivity; nay, they were no longer a people, but, for aught that appears, were mingled with the nations into which they were carried, and lost among them.
II. Of the reduction and restoration of Israel in the fulness of time. Here, as before, mercy is remembered in the midst of wrath; the rejection, as it shall not be total, so it shall not be final (Hos. 1:10, 11): Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea. See how the same hand that wounded is stretched forth to heal, and how tenderly he that has torn binds up; though God cause grief by his threatenings, yet he will have compassion, and will gather with everlasting kindness. They are very precious promises which are here made concerning the Israel of God, and which may be of use to us now.
1. Some think that these promises had their accomplishment in the return of the Jews out of their captivity in Babylon, when many of the ten tribes joined themselves to Judah, and took the benefit of the liberty which Cyrus proclaimed, came up in great numbers out of the several countries into which they were dispersed, to their own land, appointed Zerubbabel their head, and coalesced into one people, whereas before they had been two distinct nations. And in their own land, where God had by his prophets disowned and rejected them as none of his, he would by his prophets own them and appear for them as his children; and from all parts of the country they should come up to the temple to worship. And we have reason to think that, though this promise has a further reference, yet it was graciously intended and piously used for the support and comfort of the captives in Babylon, as giving them a general assurance of mercy which God had in store for them and their land; their nation could not be destroyed so long as this blessing was in it, was in reserve for it.
2. Some think that these promises will not have their accomplishment, at least not in full, till the general conversion of the Jews in the latter days, which is expected yet to come, when the vast incredible numbers of Jews, that are now dispersed as the sand of the sea, shall be brought to embrace the faith of Christ and be incorporated in the gospel-church. Then, and not till then, God will own them as his people, his children, even there where they had lain under the dismal tokens of their rejection. The Jewish doctors look upon this promise as not having had its accomplishment yet. But,
3. It is certain that this promise had its accomplishment in the setting up of the kingdom of Christ, by the preaching of the gospel, and the bringing in both of Jews and Gentiles to it, for to this these words are applied by St. Paul (Rom. 9:25, 26), and by St. Peter when he writes to the Jews of the dispersion, 1 Pet. 2:10. Israel here is the gospel-church, the spiritual Israel (Gal. 6:16), all believers who follow the steps, and inherit the blessing of faithful Abraham, who is the father of all that believe, whether Jews or Gentiles, Rom. 4:11, 12. Now let us see what is promised concerning this Israel.
(1.) That it shall greatly multiply, and the numbers of it be increased; it shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered. Though Israel according to the flesh be diminished and made few, the spiritual Israel shall be numerous, shall be innumerable. In the vast multitudes that by the preaching of the gospel have been brought to Christ, both in the first ages of Christianity and ever since, this promise is fulfilled, thousands out of every tribe in Israel, and out of other nations, a multitude which no man can number, Rev. 7:4, 9; Gal. 4:27. In this the promise made to Abraham, when God called him Abraham the high father of a multitude, had its full accomplishment (Gen. 17:5), and that Gen. 22:17. Some observe that they are here compared to the sand of the sea, not only for their numbers, but as the sand of the sea serves for a boundary to the waters, that they shall not overflow the earth, so the Israelites indeed are a wall of defence to the places where they live, to keep off judgments. God can do nothing against Sodom while Lot is there.
(2.) That God will renew his covenant with the gospel-Israel, and will incorporate it a church to himself, by as full and ample a charter as that whereby the Old-Testament church was incorporated; nay, and its privileges shall be much greater: “In the place where it was said unto them, You are not my people, there shall you be again admitted into covenant, and owned as my people.” The abandoned Gentiles in their respective places, and the rejected Jews in theirs, shall be favoured and blessed. There, where the fathers were cast off for their unbelief, the children, upon their believing, shall be taken in. This is a blessed resurrection, the making of those the people of God that were not a people. Nay, but the privilege is enlarged; now it is not only, You are my people, as formerly, but You are the sons of the living God, whether by birth you were Jews or Gentiles. Israel under the law was God’s son, his first-born, but then they were as children under age; now, under the gospel, they have grown up both to greater understanding and greater liberty, Gal. 4:1, 2. Note, [1.] It is the unspeakable privilege of all believers that they have the living God for their Father, the ever-living God, and may look upon themselves as his children by grace and adoption. [2.] The sonship of believers shall be owned and acknowledged; it shall be said to them, for their comfort and satisfaction, nay, and it shall be said for their honour in the hearing of the world, You are the sons of the living God. Let not the saints disquiet themselves; let not others despise them; for, sooner or later, there shall be a manifestation of the children of God, and all the world shall be made to know their excellency and the value God has for them. [3.] It will add much to their comfort, very much to their honour, when they are dignified with the tokens of God’s favour in that very place where they had long lain under the tokens of his displeasure. This speaks comfort to the believing Gentiles, that they need not go up to Jerusalem, to be received and owned as God’s children; no, they may stay where they are, and in that place, though it be in the remotest corner of the earth, in that place where they were at a distance, where it was said to them, “You are not God’s people,” but are separated from them (Isa. 56:3, 6), even there, without leaving their country and kindred, they may by faith receive the Spirit of adoption, witnessing with their spirits that “they are the children of God.”
(3.) That those who had been at variance should be happily brought together (Hos. 1:11): Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together. This uniting of Judah and Israel, those two kingdoms that were now so much at variance, biting and devouring one another, is mentioned only as a specimen, or one instance, of the happy effect of the setting up of Christ’s kingdom in the world, the bringing of those that had been at the greatest enmity one against another to a good understanding one of another and a good affection one to another. This was literally fulfilled when the Galileans, who inhabited that part of the country which belonged to the ten tribes, and probably for the most part descended from them, so heartily joined with those that were probably called Jews (that were of Judea) in following Christ and embracing his gospel; and his first disciples were partly Jews and partly Galileans. The first that were blessed with the light of the gospel were of the land of Zebulun and Naphtali (Matt. 4:15); and, though there was no good-will at all between the Jews and the Galileans, yet, upon their believing in Christ, they were happily consolidated, and there were no remains of the former disaffection they had to one another; nay, when the Samaritans believed, though between them and the Jews there was a much greater enmity, yet in Christ there was a perfect unanimity, Acts 8:14. Thus Judah and Israel were gathered together; yet this was but a type of the much more celebrated coalition between Jews and Gentiles, when, by the death of Christ, the partition-wall of the ceremonial law was taken down. See Eph. 2:14-16. Christ died, to gather together in one all the children of God that were scattered abroad, John 11:51; Eph. 1:10.
(4.) That Jesus Christ should be the centre of unity to all God’s spiritual Israel. They shall all agree to appoint to themselves one head, which can be no other than he whom God has appointed, even Christ. Note, Jesus Christ is the head of the church, the one only head of it, not only a head of government, as of the body politic, but a head of vital influence, as of the natural body. To believe in Christ is to appoint him to ourselves for our head, that is, to consent to God’s appointment, and willingly commit ourselves to his guidance and government; and this in concurrence and communion with all good Christians that make him their head; so that, though they are many, yet in him they are one, and so become one with each other. Qui conveniunt in aliquo tertio inter se conveniunt—Those who agree with a third agree with each other.
(5.) That, having appointed Christ for their head, they shall come up out of the land; they shall come, some of all sorts, from all parts, to join themselves to the church, as, under the Jewish economy, they came up from all corners of the land of Israel to Jerusalem, to worship (Ps. 122:4), Thither the tribes go up, to which there is a plain allusion in that prophecy of the accession of the Gentiles to the church (Isa. 2:3), Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord. It denotes not a local remove (for they are said to be in the same place, Hos. 1:10), but a change of their mind, a spiritual ascent to Christ. They shall come up from the earth (so it may be read); for those who have given up themselves to Christ as their head take their affections off from this earth, and the things of it, to set them upon things above (Col. 3:1, 2); for they are not of the world (John 15:19), but have their conversation in heaven. They shall come up out of the land, though it be the land of their nativity; they shall, in affection, come out from it, that they may follow the Lamb withersoever he goes. Thus the learned Dr. Pocock takes it.
(6.) That, when all this comes to pass, great shall be the day of Jezreel. Though great is the day of Jezreel’s affliction (so some understand it), yet great shall be the day of Jezreel’s glory. This shall be Israel’s day; the day shall be their own, after their enemies have long had their day. Israel is here called Jezreel, the seed of God, the holy seed (Isa. 6:13), the substance of the land. This seed is now sown in the earth, and buried under the clods; but great shall be its day when the harvest comes. Great was the church’s day when there were added to it daily such as should be saved; then did the Almighty do great things for it.