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Chapter 3: Jezreel

After the prophet married Gomer, she gave birth to a son. Hosea 1:4, 5 says,

4 And the Lord said to him, “Name him Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 And it will come about on that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.”

Jezreel has a double meaning. It means God scatters and God sows. One must scatter seed in order to sow it in the field. This son of Hosea and Gomer was named prophetically to indicate that God intended to scatter the House of Israel into the field (which is, the world, Matt. 13:38) with the purpose of sowing seed that would later bring forth a great harvest.

Jezreel (Yizre-el) is also a homonym of Israel, which further connects the prophecy to Israel.

The valley of Jezreel in the north part of Israel was also where King Ahab had built a palace for himself and for his wife, Jezebel. It was here that Jezebel met her fate at the hands of Jehu (2 Kings 9:30, 36, 37). The palace stood next to Naboth’s vineyard, which Ahab had usurped after “Naboth the Jezreelite” (1 Kings 21:1) had refused to sell it to him.

The Murder of Naboth

Hosea’s son was to be named Jezreel, not only to prophesy Israel’s scattering, but also to show us the specific sin that was the cause of divine judgment. In a sense, Israel was being brought back to the scene of the crime for judgment. Though Naboth the Jezreelite himself was dead, having been stoned by false witnesses for supposedly cursing God (1 Kings 21:13, 14), another Jezreel was raised up as a true witness against the nation of Israel.

In a sense, we could view the death of Naboth as a martyr who followed the path of Abel, the original martyr. Abel’s blood cried for justice from the ground (Gen. 4:10); so also Naboth’s blood had cried for justice, and Jezreel was raised up as the voice of Naboth the Jezreelite to provide a true witness in the earth that could set the record straight and reverse the curse on Israel’s ground.

The murder of Naboth, along with Ahab’s usurpation of the vineyard, was an earthly symptom of a spiritual problem. Hence, it was a prophetic metaphor that revealed how the kings of Israel had usurped the Kingdom by ruling according to their own will and their own laws. In Isaiah’s song, the prophet tells us that “the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel” (Isaiah 5:7). Thus, Naboth’s vineyard was a prophetic type of the Kingdom—that is, the House of Israel.

Furthermore, because the tribes of Joseph were in Israel, the Birthright of Joseph resided there. Though Judah was called to bring forth the King, Joseph was given the Kingdom (Israel). But the kings of Israel—particularly Ahab—usurped the Birthright, the Fruitfulness Mandate, and the Kingdom itself for their own pleasure and subjected it to the will of men. They usurped its fruits, for Naboth means “fruits.”

In the story of Naboth, the name Jezreel appears 22 times. Naboth is mentioned by name 19 times in 1 Kings 21 in connection to his murder and another 3 times in 2 Kings 9:21-26 when his murder was avenged fully. The biblical number 22 means “sons of light,” that is, the sons of God and children of the light. These are the first fruits of the earth brought forth by the Fruitfulness Mandate. Naboth, then, was a prophetic type of the sons of God, martyred by wicked men who usurp the Kingdom and rule it as if they own it.

We may also note that Jezreel was the firstborn son of Hosea and Gomer. He was their first fruit of the womb, called to shed the light of prophecy upon Israel’s future.

The House of Jehu

Hosea 1:4 tells us that God was going to punish the house of Jehu. There was a double meaning in this, for the house of Jehu was not only a particular dynasty of kings in Israel, but also represented the House of Israel in general. Prior to that time, Israel had often called itself the house of Ahab (Micah 6:16), while the Assyrians had called the nation the house of Omri (Ghomri). But Jehu had put an end to the house of Ahab, replacing it with the house of Jehu for the next four generations.

Jehu was anointed by one of the prophets to bring judgment upon the house of Ahab (2 Kings 9:1-10). Once anointed, Jehu fulfilled his calling and was commended for it (2 Kings 10:30). Yet the next verse says (2 Kings 10:31),

31 But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel sin.

In other words, Jehu did not destroy the golden calves that Jeroboam had set up. He eradicated the symptom, but not the cause. He brought judgment to Ahab for his sin, but he did not root out the iniquity that was the cause of Israel’s sin (1 Kings 12:28-30). Even so, God gave him credit for obeying the word of the Lord and for fulfilling his call. God gave him four generations in which his house would rule Israel. 2 Kings 15:12 says,

12 This is the word of the Lord which He spoke to Jehu, saying, “Your sons to the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” And so it was.

The four kings of the house of Jehu are: Jehu, Jehoahaz (2 Kings 13:1), Joash, or Jehoash (2 Kings 14:1), and Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:16). Hosea began to prophesy near the end of Jeroboam’s reign. When Jeroboam II died, Israel entered a period of turmoil in which there was no king at all for about 11 years. Jeroboam died in the 27th year of Azariah, king of Judah (2 Kings 15:1), but Jeroboam’s son Zechariah did not come to the throne until the 38th year of Azariah (2 Kings 15:8), leaving an eleven-year power vacuum in Israel. Zechariah then reigned just six months, before he was killed by Shallum.

So even though a fifth generation of the house of Jehu came to the throne for a short time, the long gap between Jeroboam and Zechariah is sufficient to fulfill the prophecy. God gave Jehu four generations, but the fifth (Zechariah) was not legitimate in the eyes of God.

The house of Jehu, then, properly ended at the death of Jeroboam II, who was named after the earlier Jeroboam, who had set up the golden calves. The eleven-year gap between Jeroboam II and his son Zechariah illustrated not only the end of Jehu’s house but also foreshadowed the end of the House of Israel.

When Hosea 1:4 says, “I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel,” the prophet seems to blame Jehu for Ahab’s sin in murdering Naboth at Jezreel. Though Jehu’s house was indeed punished at the end of the fourth generation, his punishment was not on account of Ahab’s murder, but for neglecting or refusing to overthrow the golden calves of Jeroboam I.

But Ahab’s actions were inspired by the golden calves which ruled Israel in the spirit. So it is plain that divine judgment was meted out on two levels. First, the house of Ahab was judged “for the bloodshed of Jezreel.” Second, the house of Jehu was judged for not uprooting the spiritual cause of Ahab’s sin.

Death and Resurrection

The birth of Jezreel prophesies about the fate of Israel, both in judgment and in mercy. Israel was to be scattered in the “field,” which is the world (Matt. 13:38). Hosea 1:4 says, “I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.” Yet the judgments of God are corrective and remedial, because God is love, and in Him is mercy. James 2:13 says, “mercy triumphs over judgment.” And so we read later in Hosea 2:22, 23 that “the earth… will respond to Jezreel. And I will sow her for Myself in the land [or earth]. I will also have compassion on her…”

Scattering becomes sowing. A seed must die in order to bring forth fruit (John 12:24). When applied to humanity, Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:42-44,

42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body….

The prophecy of Jezreel, then, is a prophecy of death and resurrection. Death is judgment, and resurrection is mercy. While many think that death is an end in itself, that is a false assumption, because in the end mercy always triumphs over judgment. Judgment always serves a good purpose. If it did not, we would have reason to doubt Israel’s restoration and, indeed, the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21).