God’s Mercy to Mankind in Our Twentieth Century
“It is as he says also in Hosea: ‘Those not my people I will call “my people,” and her who was not beloved “beloved”; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” there they will be called “sons of the living God.”’”—Rom. 9:25, 26.
1. For what mercy displayed by husbands can wives be glad today?
ALL OF US are glad that, at our birth, our parents had mercy upon us in our helplessness. Wives are glad when their husbands show them mercy in view of female ailments, emotional upsets and feminine foibles. Such wives can appreciate as something still proper for today the exhortation to mercifulness that was given nineteen centuries ago: “You husbands, continue dwelling in like manner with them according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one, since you are also heirs with them of the undeserved favor of life.”—1 Pet. 3:7.
2. Why are some not happy about God’s mercy today, thinking themselves more merciful than he is?
2 There are still persons who try to apply in their lives the words taken from the famous Sermon on the Mount: “Happy are the merciful, since they will be shown mercy.” (Matt. 5:7) They are happy because of imitating the Creator of mankind in his display of mercy to our wayward race. Others, in increasing numbers, are questioning that mercy exists among the Creator’s qualities. They complain: “If there is a God, why does he permit all this wickedness and such hard times in the earth? If he is almighty, why does he not show us some merciful consideration and put a stop to it all and let us enjoy life?” Such complainers open themselves to invasion by the shocking theory, “God is dead!” That is, “dead” as far as his merciful concern for mankind goes. They may conclude that they themselves are more merciful to others than such a “dead” God is. They see no evidence of God’s mercy in our twentieth century.
3. In what way has God’s toleration of wickedness till now been for a merciful purpose toward us?
3 However, have we ever stopped to think that God’s permission of wickedness and of such hardness of living might really be for a merciful purpose? For instance, if the wickedness was not tolerated, mercy could not be shown simultaneously by God. Has not wickedness existed here on earth for thousands of years before we were born? Yes! So, if God Almighty had put a stop to such wickedness before our time, would we be here and alive today?
4. What eight humans do we have to thank for our being alive today, and why?
4 By checking authentic historical records we find that the Creator of heaven and earth put a stop to worldwide violence and wickedness more than forty-three centuries ago, in 2370 B.C.E. He brought a global deluge, through which only eight humans made their way safely and escaped in a huge waterproof ark. As a result, all those tens of thousands of families that did not get into the ark built by Noah and his three sons had all possible lines of descent down till now cut off by that world catastrophe. It is Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth and their faithful wives whom we have to thank for our being alive today in this twentieth century.—Gen. 6:1 through 9:19.
5, 6. (a) What question now arises with regard to the duration of God’s mercy? (b) What balanced viewpoint does Paul give us in Romans 9:21-26?
5 Really, then, we can consider our personal existence today as being an evidence of God’s mercy, can we not? Yes, “mercy” despite all the violence and increase of lawlessness that mark our twentieth century. But now the big question is: How much longer is God going to put up with this wickedness on a global scale just for the sake of those taking advantage of his patience and mercy? Not much longer, according to all Bible indications. So, let us not complain about divine permission of evil on earth. Rather, let us avail ourselves of divine mercy. If we do so, then, shortly, when God stops all the wickedness prevailing among mankind, he will not stop our living also. Mercifully He will usher us into a righteous, peaceful new order here on earth. Hence, let us take the balanced viewpoint of the Christian apostle Paul, when he wrote:
6 “What? Does not the potter have authority over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for an honorable use, another for a dishonorable use? If, now, God, although having the will to demonstrate his wrath and to make his power known, tolerated with much long-suffering vessels of wrath made fit for destruction, in order that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory, namely, us, whom he called not only from among Jews but also from among [Gentile] nations, what of it? It is as he says also in Hosea: ‘Those not my people I will call “my people,” and her who was not beloved “beloved”; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” there they will be called “sons of the living God.”’”—Rom. 9:21-26; note also 1 Peter 2:9, 10.
GOD’S OWN MARRIAGE PROBLEM
7. Who was Hosea, and from what translation of his writings did Paul quote?
7 Who was that Hosea, from whose writings the apostle Paul made the above quotations? He was a prophet during the ninth and eighth centuries before our Common Era. The apostle Paul made his quotations from the Greek Septuagint Version renderings of Hosea 1:10 and Ho 2:23. There we read: “But it shall come to pass that in the place where it was said to them, You are not My people, they shall be called children of the Living God.” “And I will plant her for Myself in the land and love her who was not beloved; and to them who were not My people I will say, Thou art My people: and they will say, Thou the Lord art my God.”—The Septuagint Bible by Charles Thomson.
8. By his words through Hosea, Jehovah indicated that what kind of problem existed between him and the one not beloved?
8 It is Jehovah God who thus speaks through the Hebrew prophet Hosea as His mouthpiece. In saying, “I will . . . love her who was not beloved,” or, “I will call . . . her who was not beloved ‘beloved,’” Jehovah indicated that some problem had existed between him and her whom he did not love for a time. According to the way that Jehovah speaks about the matter, it was a marriage problem between him and her. He likens her to a man’s wife.
9. Who is the one of whom Jehovah speaks as being married to him?
9 Who is this one of whom Jehovah speaks as being married to him? She is not a literal woman, an individual human female. By his own statements Jehovah shows that she is a people, the nation of Israel that descended from the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So she is a national wife, an organizational wife. Jehovah was married to the organization of the twelve tribes of Israel. Just like a purchased wife of the Middle East, the nation of the twelve tribes of Israel was married to its God, Jehovah.
10. When, where and how did this figurative marriage take place?
10 When did this marriage take place? It was in the year 1513 B.C.E., after Jehovah had purchased the twelve tribes of Israel. How? By liberating them from slavery in the land of Egypt. Then, under the visible leadership of the prophet Moses, Jehovah brought them to Mount Sinai on the Arabian Peninsula. There, through Moses as mediator between God and man, Jehovah proposed the forging of a bond of union between himself and the liberated Israelites. He proposed the making of a covenant between himself and them. This covenant was to be based upon a code of laws to which the nation of Israel would agree to be subject, just as in those days a woman was subject to the law of her husband. (Rom. 7:2) From atop Mount Sinai Jehovah said to the Israelites: “Now if you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Ex. 19:1-6) Being properly informed, the Israelites voluntarily entered into this covenant.
11. How was the nation of Israel to keep the marriage tie between itself and Jehovah binding?
11 In this manner, out there in the wilderness of Sinai, a marriage took place between Jehovah as Heavenly Husband and the nation of Israel as his earthly organizational wife. This sacred relationship was established over the shedding of the blood of animal sacrifices. Part of this blood was sprinkled upon the book of God’s law and part upon the people of Israel. (Ex. 24:1-8; Heb. 9:19, 20) From then on, for as long as the Law covenant continued in force, the Israelites were bound to be faithful and true to Jehovah their God, just as a woman should be faithful and true to her husband. According to the Ten Commandments, they were bound to worship Jehovah as their God without the use of any images. (Ex. 20:1-6) They had to consider themselves as his “special property,” belonging to no other owner. They had to keep themselves as a nation that is holy to Jehovah, separate from the worldly nations. By this course they would keep the marriage tie binding, inviolate.—Jer. 2:2, 3; 31:31, 32.
12. Why is it important for us to consider the ancient marriage between Jehovah and the nation of Israel and the modern counterpart thereof?
12 Today it is not uncommon for legal marriages to break up, even though it is between two individuals, a male and a female. So, how would a marriage between Jehovah and an entire nation of millions of individuals fare? We today ought to be interested in this, since what happened to that marriage of old became prophetic of something to happen to a later marriage of that kind. What happened to Jehovah’s marriage with Israel affected just a nation. But what happens to his later marriage affects the whole religious world, yes, it affects the entire human family. This means that we of today are affected. Hence, calamity is possible for all of us in the near future. This explains why it is so important for us to consider the ancient marriage between Jehovah and Israel and its modern counterpart.
HOSEA USED IN ILLUSTRATING MATTERS
13. Why was the kingdom over Israel transferred from Saul’s family to David’s family, and in whom was David’s royal line of descent to end up?
13 After some centuries the nation of Israel became dissatisfied with having only Jehovah their invisible Heavenly Husband as their King. So, at their request in 1117 B.C.E., he authorized the anointing of Saul of the tribe of Benjamin to be their first human king. Saul proved unfaithful to Jehovah. Consequently the kingship over all Israel was not allowed to continue in his family. Jehovah transferred the kingdom to David the son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah. In 1077 B.C.E. David started on his kingly career. In 1070 B.C.E. he made Jerusalem his capital over all twelve tribes of Israel. Because David kept faithful to the right worship, Jehovah made a solemn covenant with him for an everlasting kingdom in his family. So David’s royal line of descent would end up in the Messiah, who becomes an everlasting king.—Acts 13:20-24; 2 Sam. 7:1-17.
14, 15. (a) Why and when was the kingdom of King David’s line of descent through Solomon reduced? (b) How did the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel turn adulterous, and to what god did it attach itself?
14 David’s first successor, King Solomon, finally gave way to unwisdom in departing from pure worship of Jehovah as God. For a divine punishment, King Solomon’s successors had their kingdom reduced to two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, this starting off after King Solomon’s son Rehoboam came to the throne. Then ten tribes broke away and set up an independent kingdom with Jeroboam the son of Nebat as king. This rebel king established a religious worship separate from Jehovah’s worship at Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. He turned the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel to the worship of two golden calves, one at Bethel and the other at Dan. In the days of Omri, the seventh king over the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, the city of Samaria was built and became the national capital.
15 In Samaria King Omri’s son Ahab introduced the worship of the Sidonian god Baal and built a temple to Baal there. (1 Ki. 16:23-33) By this unfaithful course the ten-tribe kingdom adulterously forsook the Heavenly Husband of all Israel and immorally attached itself to the false god Baal as the national husband.—Hos. 9:10.
16. How did the kings of the kingdom of Judah down to Hezekiah conduct themselves religiously?
16 What about the kings of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah? They wavered between the pure worship of Jehovah and the attaching of themselves to false gods. King Ahaz, the twelfth king when counted from David, turned to false worship. He even shut the doors of Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem. But his son, King Hezekiah, reopened the temple doors and restored pure worship for the kingdom of Judah. Quite beneficially, down into King Hezekiah’s reign, Hosea continued prophesying. This prophet found himself right in the thick of the things about which he was talking.
A DISTASTEFUL ASSIGNMENT OF SERVICE?
17, 18. What kind of assignment was Hosea given, and why do we know that what he tells us about it is nothing fictitious?
17 How would any of us feel if, on becoming marriageable, we were told by our father as marriage maker to marry a woman who we were informed would prove unfaithful, giving herself over to adultery and finally leaving us for another lover? It might be somewhat distasteful, might it not? Yet something like this actually happened to Hosea. It is nothing imaginary, fictitious, mythical!
18 As a real historical person, Hosea tells us the facts in the prophetic book that bears his name. His truthfulness is backed up by the fact that he is quoted from for at least seven times in the later inspired writings from Matthew to Revelation.a He is quoted from even by the Founder of Christianity himself. So, when Hosea tells us about his assignment of service as a prophet of Jehovah, we have solid reason for believing that he is telling the pure truth, rather than relating to us some trumped-up story for the entertainment of readers of pornographic literature. Also, since the prophetic meaning of Hosea’s course fits in with the historical outcome of a still-existing people, its truth becomes all the more convincing.
19. In the reigns of what kings of Judah and of Israel does Hosea locate his prophetic work?
19 Locating himself in a definite period in the documented history of the twelve tribes of Israel, Hosea introduces himself, saying first of all: “The word of Jehovah that occurred to Hosea the son of Beeri in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, the king of Israel.” (Hos. 1:1) Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah were descendants of King David and reigned at Jerusalem over the two-tribe kingdom of Judah. Uzziah began to rule as king in 829 B.C.E. and Hezekiah ended his reign in 716 B.C.E. So the combined reigns of these kings embraced a period of 113 years. On the other hand, in the line of kings over the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam the son of Joash was the second to bear such name and hence he was Jeroboam II.
20. Whose great-grandson was Jeroboam II, and when during this king’s reign did Hosea start on his prophetic career?
20 This Jeroboam’s great-grandfather was King Jehu the son of Nimshi. Jehu destroyed Baal worship out of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. He had Queen Jezebel thrown out of a window to her death, as she had wickedly promoted Baalism in Israel. Later Jeroboam II came on the scene as king during the reign of King Amaziah over Judah. Jeroboam’s reign overlapped onto the reign of Amaziah’s successor, King Uzziah. Hence, during the time that Jeroboam’s reign overlapped onto that of King Uzziah, or after 829 B.C.E., Jehovah God started Hosea off on his prophetic career.
21. What kind of wife did Jehovah tell Hosea to take, and why?
21 Can we imagine Hosea’s reaction when what he next relates took place? “There was a start of the word of Jehovah by Hosea, and Jehovah proceeded to say to Hosea: ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of fornication and children of fornication, because by fornication the land positively turns from following Jehovah.’”—Hos. 1:2.
22. In what way was the woman Hosea was to take a “wife of fornication,” and how were her children to be “children of fornication,” and why?
22 Do we feel shocked at Hosea’s being started off on his prophetic career with such a command as that? However, Jehovah was not commanding Hosea to marry a woman who was already a whore. The woman whom Hosea is told to take to himself as a wife is not called ‘a fornicating woman (or, wife),’ but Jehovah calls her a “wife of fornication [literally, fornications].” Furthermore, since this woman was to be used as an illustration of Jehovah’s figurative earthly “wife,” she would not fit the picture by being a wanton, whorish woman from the start. Jehovah married or took in marriage a morally clean, “virgin” wife for the purpose of bringing forth to Him legitimate children in a spiritual sense. So the expression “children of fornication” is prophetic of the kind of “children” that He would get in a spiritual way, the kind of “children” that they would turn out to be. Why so? “Because,” as Jehovah says, “by fornication the land positively turns from following Jehovah.” The “land” here meant was that of ten-tribe Israel.
23. Whom did Hosea take as his wife, and what did she bear to him?
23 Although the marriage prospects were bad for the time being, Hosea obeyed the divine command. In such a way as this he entered upon his career as Jehovah’s prophet. “And he proceeded to go and take Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, so that she became pregnant and in time bore to him a son.”—Hos. 1:3.
24. What did Jehovah say to call the boy, and for what reason?
24 This son was Hosea’s legitimate son, not a ‘son of fornication’ that had to be adopted by Hosea. On the eighth day from this son’s birth, when he was to be circumcised, what was Hosea to name the boy? The boy’s name was to be prophetic; and so Jehovah, who was directing the prophetic drama, named it for Hosea. The name was to point to one of Jehovah’s purposes. “And Jehovah went on to say to him: ‘Call his name Jezreel, for yet a little while and I must hold an accounting for the acts of bloodshed of Jezreel against the house of Jehu, and I must cause the royal rule of the house of Israel to cease. And it must occur in that day that I must break the bow of Israel in the low plain of Jezreel.’”—Hos. 1:4, 5.
25. (a) Thus calamity was foretold for what royal house and for what nation? (b) In what way was the nation of Israel not to commit spiritual adultery against Jehovah?
25 Thus calamity was foretold both for the royal dynasty of King Jehu after its fourth generation and for the whole ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. This kingdom was the larger part of the one-time united twelve-tribe kingdom of Israel. That original nation of Israel was spiritually married to Jehovah God in the wilderness of Sinai away back there in 1513 B.C.E. That was when the Mosaic Law covenant was established between Israel and Jehovah. According to the marriage contract, the twelve-tribe nation of Israel was to be faithful and true to Jehovah by worshiping Him alone as its God. Israel was not to become guilty of spiritual adultery by departing from him for the worship of false gods.
26. Whom did Hosea’s wife picture?
26 Jehovah’s marriage to Israel was pictured by Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, whose name means “Completion.” Logically, then, Gomer pictured the nation of Israel; but in Hosea’s day Israel was represented by the ten-tribe segment thereof that became the kingdom of Israel of only ten tribes. After more than 150 years of this kingdom, it had become true of its “land” as Jehovah said: “By fornication the land positively turns from following Jehovah.”
27. In spite of Israel’s pure beginning, how did the national situation become, according to Hosea 10:1, 2?
27 In spite of Israel’s pure beginning under the prophet Moses, the national situation had become as Jehovah inspired his prophet to say, in Hosea 10:1, 2: “Israel is a degenerating vine.b Fruit he keeps putting forth for himself. [A wanton vine was Israel, and lavishly he bore. (Moffatt’s translation)] In proportion to the abundance of his fruit he has multiplied his altars. In proportion to the goodness of his land, they put up good pillars [sacred stones (Moffatt)]. Their heart has become hypocritical; now they will be found guilty.”
THE PROPHETIC THRUST OF THE NAME “JEZREEL”
28. What does the name Jezreel mean, and, because of its prophetic significance, why was it a fitting name for Hosea’s son?
28 Because of the action that Jehovah purposed to take against spiritually adulterous Israel, Jehovah had Hosea call his firstborn son by Gomer by the name Jezreel. The name was very fitting. In Hosea’s language, Hebrew, it meant “God Will Sow.” Yes, “sow,” but not in a beneficial sense. Here ‘sowing’ has the meaning of ‘scattering, dispersing,’ since, when one sows seed, one scatters it. Jehovah’s acting against the royal “house of Jehu” with a scattering motion would mean its breakdown, its dissolution. Similar action against the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel would mean its dissolution, its disintegration.—Compare Luke 22:31.
29. What did King Jehu do about Baal worship, and what about calf worship, in violation of what commandments?
29 At the city of Jezreel was where King Ahab of Israel had a royal residence, although his capital was in the city of Samaria. The later dynasty of King Jehu also had its royal residence at Jezreel. In obedience to his commission from Jehovah God, Jehu had violently rooted Baal worship out of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. Still, he kept up the worship of the two golden calves and ignored Jehovah’s worship at Jerusalem. By such worship of graven images Jehu’s house violated the Ten Commandments. They also violated the command not to murder.—Ex. 20:2-6, 13.
30. How did Jehovah hold an accounting against Jehu’s house for its bloodshed at Jezreel?
30 Thus a record of bloodshed began to be made by the calf-worshiping dynasty of King Jehu, the royal residence of which was at Jezreel. The Giver of the Ten Commandments could not overlook this record. Accordingly he said: “I must hold an accounting for the acts of bloodshed of Jezreel against the house of Jehu.” (Hos. 1:4) Exactly so, the dynasty of King Jehu over Israel was brought to a violent end after Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam II, had reigned for but six months. He was murdered.—2 Ki. 15:8-12.
31. How was the royal rule of the house of Israel made to cease, and how was it as if “the low plain of Jezreel”?
31 Thus the royal dynasty of King Jehu over Israel ended in 791 B.C.E. But the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel itself continued on for fifty-one years more, till 740 B.C.E. Then Jehovah ‘caused the royal rule of the house of Israel to cease.’ (Hos. 1:4) He used the Assyrian World Power to “break the [battle] bow of Israel in the low plain of Jezreel.” The overthrow of Israel’s capital city of Samaria brought the apostate nation low. The nation’s power was scattered when the Israelite survivors were deported to the distant provinces of the Assyrian Empire, scattered like seed. The terrible experience matched the symbolical meaning of the expression “the low plain of Jezreel [God Will Sow Seed].” This was nothing like when the liberator of Israel, Judge Gideon, with but three hundred chosen warriors, scattered the marauding Midianites not far from Megiddo, near “the low plain of Jezreel.” (Judg. 6:33, 34) But in 740 B.C.E., without a liberator and no longer able to battle for existence, the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel ‘ceased,’ perished.
32. Why should we try to catch the import of the foregoing in our twentieth century?
32 Do we catch the import of this for us today? We should do so, for, in our twentieth century, it is finding its fulfillment in the modern-day counterpart of the spiritually adulterous, unfaithful Israel. That counterpart is Christendom, with nearly a billion church members all around the globe. In the face of Christendom’s impending calamity, we may ask, Where, then, is the mercy of Jehovah God to be seen in operation? Our further consideration of Jehovah’s dealings with his prophet Hosea will make this clear.
a Note Matthew 2:15; 9:13; 12:7; Luke 21:22; 23:30; Revelation 3:17; 6:8, 16, alongside Hosea 11:1; 6:6; 9:7; 10:8; 12:8; 13:14.
b See the word book or dictionary entitled “Lexicon In Veteris Testimenti Libros,” by Koehler and Baumgartner, page 144, column 2, lines 9, 10.
[Chart on page 148]
KINGS OF JUDAH AND OF ISRAEL DURING HOSEA’S LIFETIME
(Showing Years of Accession)
Kings of Judah B.C.E. Kings of Israel
c. 843 Jeroboam II
Uzziah (Azariah) 829
c. 792 Zechariah
c. 790 Menahem
Ahaz c. 761
c. 748 Hoshea
Hezekiah c. 745