The prophet Hosea, a native of the northern kingdom of Israel, ministered to that nation (called Ephraim or the house of Israel, as opposed to the southern kingdom, called Judah or the house of Judah) for about 38 years during the middle part of the eighth century b.c. (from about 770–725 b.c.). He lived in the final tragic days of the house of Israel and prophesied that Israel’s enemy, the Assyrians, would be instruments in YHVH’s hands to bring judgment against Israel if that nation did not repent and cease its spiritual harlotry and idolatry. That the book contains references to the kingdom of Judah is probably due to the fact that the northern kingdom fell in 721–722 b.c. while Hosea was still ministering and that he most likely transplanted to Judah where he may have finished writing his book (NIV Study Bible, p. 1312).
The theme of the Book of Hosea revolves around the prophet’s personal family life. YHVH’s prophets were often required to act out in their personal life something that would serve as a prophetic allegory of what would happen to the people of Israel if they failed to repent of their sin and return to YHVH. In Hosea’s case, YHVH required him to act out what had already happened to the northern kingdom. Because they had turned from YHVH, their spiritual husband, and taken to consorting with foreign spiritual lovers characterized by their forsaking the Torah, turning to serve pagan gods, and succumbing to heathen religious rituals and lifestyles, YHVH instructed the prophet to marry a harlot. In this way, the family life of Hosea would become a spiritual mirror that could be held up in front of the nation so that it could see itself as YHVH’s saw it. Furthermore, being married to an unfaithful wife gave Hosea direct insight into the emotional turmoil a husband endures when married to an adulterous woman that would provide the passion and impetus when defending YHVH in writing about the spiritual plight of adulterous Israel.
Hosea’s life must have been a sad one, for his adulterous wife bore him three children. From the text, it cannot be determined whether they were his children, or another man’s. Despite this, Hosea accepted his wife and children with an unconditional love representing YHVH’s love for Israel, despite her refusal to be faithful to him. The nation of Israel (the northern kingdom) did not heed the prophet’s warnings resulting in her falling to her Assyrian enemies. The Soncino Pentateuch aptly summarizes Hosea’s life this way:
A heavy domestic sorrow darkened Hosea’s life. He had married a woman called Gomer; and she rendered him deeply unhappy. He found that he had wasted his love on a profligate woman. She fled from the Prophet’s house, and sank lower and lower until she became the slave-concubine of another. But Hosea’s love was proof even against faithlessness and dishonour. He, the deeply aggrieved husband, buys her back from slavery, and brings her into his house—as a ward, pitied and sheltered, but subjected to a period of probation that shall show whether her better self can be awakened. (p. 581)
The terms house of Israel and house of Judah are initially used (in chapter one) in this book followed by the simplified terms Ephraim and Judah used throughout the remainder of the Book of Hosea. So that the reader can understand the context of this passage, let’s define these terms:
House of Israel: This term is used 146 times in Scripture. Prior to the division of the united kingdom after the death of Solomon, this phrase referred to all twelve tribes of Israel. Afterwards (during the time of the prophets), it was used in contradistinction to the phrase “house of Judah” in reference to the northern kingdom. In the Apostolic Scriptures, Yeshua makes reference to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10:6; 15:24). Elsewhere in the Apostolic Scriptures this term refers to all twelve tribes of Israel (Acts 2:36; 7:42; Heb 8:10), and in some references it refers to just the northern kingdom (Heb 8:8). The context of the passage of scripture surrounding this phrase determines its meaning.
Ephraim: This name is used 180 times in the Tanakh and is referring to this specific Israelite tribe or as a metaphor for the northern kingdom of which the tribe of Ephraim was the leading and largest tribe (Isa 7:9,17; 9:9; 11:13; Ezek 37:19; Hos 4:17; 5:12, 13, 14; 6:4; 7:1; 10:11: Zech 9:13). When blessing the two sons of Joseph, Jacob placed his right hand of power and strength upon the head of Ephraim signifying the position of primogeniture for him and his descendants (Gen 48:17–19).
House of Judah: This term is found 41 times in Scripture and is always referring specifically to the tribe of Judah (e.g., 2 Sam 2:4, 7, 10) or to the southern kingdom, which included the tribes of Benjamin and Levi (1 Kgs 12:21, 23; 2 Chr 11:1). In addition, this term can refer to a remnant of Israelites from the northern ten tribes who refused to submit to the spiritual apostasy of Jeroboam and defected to the southern kingdom (2 Chr 11:16). The phrase “house of Judah” is used in contradistinction to the phrase “house of Israel” eleven times in the Scriptures including once in the Apostolic Scriptures (1 Kgs 12:21; Jer 3:18; 5:11; 11:10,17; 13:11; 31:27, 31; 33:14; Zech 8:14; Heb 8:8).
Judah: This name refers to both the tribe of Judah and to the southern kingdom. Scriptural context will determine which is meant.
Listed below are other prophetic allegorical terms found in this scripture passage with their accompanying definitions. Review these terms and their definitions, and then notice how the authors of the Apostolic Scriptures employ these terms applying them to the “Gentile” believers of the first century.
No Compassion or Mercy (Lo-ruhamah): This is the name of one of Hosea’s three children and is a prophetic reference to the house of Israel who, because of their apostasy, would be rejected by YHVH (Hos 1:6).
Not a People/Not My People (Lo-ami): This is the name of one of Hosea’s three children and is a prophetic reference to both the houses of Israel and Judah (Hos 1:9). This same phrase is echoed prophetically elsewhere in Scripture, as well (Deut 32:21; Isa 7:8; Rom 9:25; 1 Pet 2:9–10).
Sand of the Sea: A metaphor used to describe the number of the descendants of Abraham as a whole (including both houses of Israel) (Gen 32:12; Isa 10:22; Jer 33:22; Hos 1:10–11; Rom 9:27).
Scattered or Sown (literally Jezreel or YHVH Scatters or Sows): This is the name of one of Hosea’s three children and a prophetic reference to the house of Israel who because of their apostasy YHVH sowed or scattered them throughout the nations of the world. In this case, Hosea is specifically addressing the house of Israel (northern kingdom) as opposed to the house of Judah (southern kingdom; Hos 1:4–7 compared with Jas 1:1 and 1 Pet 1:1; see also Deut 28:64).
Beasts of the Field: In Deuteronomy 7:22, we see that the term beasts of the field represent the nations of the earth from which Israel was to stay separate (also Jer 12:9; 27:6; Dan 7:3). The children of Israel were scattered or exiled and became meat for or were given over to all the beasts of the field (Isa 56:9; Ezek 34:5; Hos 2:12). Scripture likens exiled Ephraim (the northern kingdom), who fell into idolatry and mixed with the beast (Gentile) nations, to beasts of the field themselves (Hos 2:16–19; Acts 10:12). In the future, YHVH will make a covenant (a marriage betrothal agreement or ketubah) with the beasts of the field (Hos 2:18; see also Jer 31:31–33; cp. Rom 1:23, 18–25).
In Romans 11:13–24, note Paul’s discussion about the Gentiles whom he likens to “a wild olive branch.”Scripture likens the nation of Israel to an olive tree (Jer 11:10,16), which was split into two branches (Zech 4:3, 11–14), but which will be joined back together to become one nation or a single olive tree again in the future (Ezek 37:15–28). Scripture is clear that both houses of Israel broke their covenants with YHVH (Jer 11:10) and both had their branches broken off from YHVH’s spiritual olive tree (Jer 11:16).
Now let’s notice how Scripture defines the word gentile seeing how it can apply to non-Israelites, as well as to Israelites who have turned from YHVH and mingled with the nations.
Gentiles: (Hebrew: goyim, Strong’s G1471; Greek: ethnos, Strong’s G1484) This word is translated in the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) as nation 374 times, as heathen 143 times, as Gentiles 30 times, and people 11 times. Whenever the word gentile is used in the KJV it is the word goy. According to Strong’s Concordance, the meaning of goy is: “a foreign nation; hence a Gentile; also (fig.) a troop of animals, or a flight of locusts.” According to Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, the word goy means “a people, a confluence of men,” and “contextually in holy Scripture it is used to refer to the other nations besides Israel, the foes of Israel, and strangers to the true religion of Israel.” There are times when this word refers specifically to Israel (e.g., the descendants of Joseph in general: Gen 48:19; of the southern kingdom of Judah when it forsook Elohim and its covenant with him and became like the surrounding heathen nations: Isa. 1:4; of the southern kingdom: Isa 9:1; of Israel in general: Isa 26:2; 49:7; Ps 33:12; Gen 12:2; 35:11). There are numerous other instances in Scripture where the words goy or goyim are applied to the descendants of Abraham. Scripture’s use of the term is unbiased and lacks any of the pejorative implications that have been applied to the term subsequently (e.g., Gen 17:4, 5, 6, 16; 18:18; 25:23; 46:3; Exod 19:6; 33:13; Deut 4:6, 7, 8, 34; Ezek 37:22). As already noted, goy simply means people group. The Greek word ethnos as found in the Apostolic Scriptures is equivalent in meaning to the Hebrew word goyim.
After reading Romans 11:13–25 and understanding how Scripture defines some of the terms Paul uses, let us now look at Romans 9:25. Here he is quoting Hosea 2:23, which is a specific reference to both the “lost” ten tribes of the house of Israel and to the house of Judah from whom the modern Jews are descended (The ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash, commentary on Deut 32:26, pp. 1105–1106). With whom does Paul equate the “Gentiles” of his day who were receiving the good news of Messiah Yeshua? Paul makes a one-to-one correlation between the apostate Israelites of Hosea’s prophecy and to the very Gentiles to whom he was preaching the gospel in the first century. In Ephesians 2:11–19, he states that these Gentiles upon receiving the gospel and turning to the Messiah of Israel would cease to be Gentiles and would once again become part of the nation of Israel. Elsewhere Paul calls these grafted-in Israelites the seed or descendants of Abraham (Rom 4:16; 9:8–11; Gal 3:7,9,14,28–29).
Some Bible teachers and students may attempt to allegorize or spiritualize away Paul’s equating the Gentiles of his day with the Israelites of Hosea’s day. To do so, however, violates one of the fundamental rules of biblical interpretation: unless the author of a scriptural passage specifically states that what he is saying is allegorical (e.g. Gal 4:24), uses a literary device such as a simile (words like as or like, e.g., Pss 83:13; 88:5; 89:46; Luke 13:34), or unless common sense dictates that a literal interpretation would be absolutely impossible (e.g., Matt 5:13,14; John 10:9; Ps 91:4), the honest Bible student has to assume that the passage is to be understood at a literal level.
Often Bible teachers and students will spiritualize difficult biblical passages away because a literal interpretation does not fit with their theology, religious tradition or what they think the Bible should say. The honest, truth-seeking Bible student must avoid these pitfalls, which only lead to false teachings and false doctrines.
YHVH’s Word demands that humans conform their lives and thoughts to his Word, not conform his Word to their lifestyles and thoughts. To do so is to succumb to the lies of the devil, which is the spirit of humanism. Satan and his philosophies combine to become the arch foe of YHVH’s truth, plans and purposes. This same spirit originated at the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden when the serpent twisted the Word of Elohim and tricked man into believing the lie!