Hosea and Jezreel


(Investigator 126, 2009 May)


Bible critics claim that the book of Hosea and New Testament reference to it, has the following errors:
1.    Hosea married a prostitute, which contravened the Law of Moses;
2.    Hosea condemns Jehu for "the blood of Jezreel", contradicting II Kings where the massacre is approved;
3.    Israelites would return to Egypt — but didn't;
4.    Israelites would worship God again but didn't;
5.    The New Testament quotes Hosea 11:1 out of context.
Let us investigate:


After King Solomon died, Israel's twelve tribes split into two kingdoms — Israel the northern kingdom and Judah the southern. Israel's capital was Samaria, and Judah's Jerusalem.

Hosea was a prophet in the northern kingdom in the reigns of Kings Uzziah to Hezekiah. (Hosea 1:1) (See Table 2) Hosea's ministry lasted approximately 755-715 BC

Israel, at the time, was full of adultery, thievery and bloodshed. (9:9) Its religion was as evil as prostitution (4:1-15; 7:2) and centred on calf-idols (8:5-6) set up 150 years earlier. (I Kings 12:25-33)

Therefore the country's destruction was imminent:
The roar of battle will rise against your people, so that all your fortresses will be devastated — as Shalman devastated Beth Arbel on the day of battle, when mothers were dashed to the ground with their children. (10:14)
"Shalman" is Shalmanezer (King of Assyria) who attacked Gilead (east Israel) around 740 BC and destroyed the town of Beth Arbel. Hosea is saying this was a foretaste of what's coming.

National destruction did come in 722 BC; Assyria conquered Israel and deported the population. (II Kings 17:1-23)

Judah was guilty too. Judah tolerated the same evils as Israel and would also be destroyed. (4:15; 5:5, 10-14; 6:4, 11; 8:14)


Critics query 8:13-9:3 that Israel (also called "Ephraim") would "return to Egypt". Assyria exiled the Israelites to Mesopotamia, not to Egypt.

The answer is both: "Even if they escape from destruction, Egypt will gather them..." (9:3, 6) What happened is many Israelites fled to Judah and integrated with the Jews. When Judah was destroyed in 586 BC the survivors moved to Egypt. (II Kings 25:26)  

Of the Israelites in Mesopotamia some probably went to Egypt as soldiers and camp-followers around 670 BC when Assyria conquered Egypt.


Besides predicting the near future Hosea also predicted the distant future when Israel is restored, in the following verses:

Table 1
1:10-11 3:4-5 11:8-11 14:1-9
2:14-23 5:15-6:3 13:14

These distant predictions do not distinguish Israel from Judah because both nations would reunite as one people:
The people of Israel and the people of Judah will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one head… (1:11)

For the Israelites will live many days without a king or prince… Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembing to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days. (3:4)

"David their king" means a royal descendant of David. (2:14-23; 11:1-11) The New Testament genealogies show this person is Jesus.

"The last days" commenced (or had commenced) at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-17) fifty days after Jesus' crucifixion.

Table 2    Kings of Israel & Judah


 Solomon 971-931
Jeroboam I 931-910 Rehoboam 931-914
Nadab 910-909 Abijah 914-911
Baasha 909-986

Elah 986-985
Omri 885-874
Ahab & Jezebel 873-852 Jehoshaphat 872-849
Ahaziah 851-850
Joram 850-842 Jehoram 848-842


Ahaziah 842
Qu. Athaliah 842-837
Jehoahaz 815-799 Jehoash 837-797
Jehoash 799-884 Amaziah 799-769
Jeroboam II 784-745? Uzziah 791-740
Pekah 737-732 Jotham 750-732
Ahaz 735-715


When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD." So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. (1:2-3)
The Law of Moses forbade priests to marry prostitutes or divorcees. (Leviticus 21:7) But Hosea was not a priest. Furthermore, Gomer became "adulterous" after the marriage when she bore three "children of unfaithfulness". Verse 2 was therefore a prediction Gomer would be unfaithful.

The Hosea/Gomer marriage pictured the relationship between Israel and God. God is compared to a husband (2:19), Israel to a wife. As Gomer betrayed Hosea by prostitution, so Israel betrayed God by worshipping idols. (2:8,13; 4:12) The following words fit both Gomer and Israel:
Plead with your mother, plead — for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband. (2:2)
Hosea divorced Gomer and God "divorced" Israel.

Gomer, after the divorce, became a slave but Hosea later bought her back. (3:1-2) Similarly God would take Israel back — eventually. (3:4; 1:10-11)


Hosea foretold punishment for the "blood of Jezreel":
…for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. (Hosea 1:4)
Jezreel is the town where Jehu, a military commander, began exterminating the royal "house" of Israel to make himself king. Whereas Hosea condemns the massacre, II Kings 10:30 praises it:
And the LORD said to Jehu, "Because you have done well in carrying out what is right in my eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel."
Ahab was king prior to Jehu. The "contradiction" whereby Hosea condemns but II Kings praises the "blood of Jezreel" has sparked much debate.

One commentator explains:
Elijah had predicted that the family of Israel's King Ahab would be destroyed because of their wickedness (I Kings 21:20-22) but Jehu went too far in carrying out God's command (II Kings 10:1-11).
However, when Jehu was anointed to be Israel's next King he was told:
And you shall strike down the house of Ahab your master…the whole house of Ahab shall perish; and I will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. (II Kings 9:7-9)
If Jehu went "too far", then how so?


The "blood of Jezreel" does not mean at or in Jezreel because the killing started near Jezreel and widened out. Here's a summary:
1.    King Ahaziah (Judah) visits King Joram (Israel) at Jezreel (II Kings 9:14-16);
2.    Ahaziah and Joram ride out to meet Jehu and are killed. (9:21-27);
3.    Jehu enters Jezreel and has Queen Jezebel killed (9:30-37);
4.    The guardians of 70 of Joram's sons in Samaria behead them and send the heads to Jezreel (10:1-10);
5.    Jehu slays the rest of "the house of Ahab in Jezreel, all his great men…familiar friends, and…priests…" (10:11);
6.    Forty-two "kinsmen" of Ahaziah visiting Israel are slaughtered between Jezreel and Samaria (10:12-14);
7.    At Samaria all of Ahab's remaining family killed (10:17);
8.    All priests of Baal in Samaria killed. (10:18-27).
Notice Jehu not only wiped out the "house of Israel" but also much of the royal family of Judah — King Ahaziah and 42 "kinsmen".

Ahaziah's mother, Queen Athaliah, then extended the slaughter of Judah's royal family to Jerusalem:
Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family [of Judah]. (11:1)
Hosea 1:4 — "I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel" — condemns the extermination of Judah's royal family that began near Jezreel.

That additional extermination threatened to discredit predictions that David's dynasty would last forever. (II Samuel 7) And if David's dynasty ended then the future Messiah (Christ) who would descend from David could never come. Hosea himself stressed the importance of David's lineage when predicting, "the Israelites shall return and seek…David their king…" (3:4)

Fortunately one baby boy survived the slaughter and ascended Judah's throne. (II Kings 11)

Another version of the "contradiction" is based on II Kings 10:29-31:
But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam…the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan. The LORD said to Jehu, "Because you have done well in carrying out what I consider right, and in accordance with all that was in my heart have dealt with the house of Ahab, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel."
But Jehu was not careful to follow the law of the LORD the God of Israel with all his heart; he did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam...
One critic argues:
…the praise of Jehu in doing all that was right in Yahweh's sight in the matter of the house of Ahab was sandwiched between two statements that Jehu had done wrong by not abolishing the worship of the golden calves.
 If Yahweh had considered that Jehu had "exceeded" his command…who can believe that the writer of this text would not have taken notice of it?
However, 10:29-31 criticises what Jehu did wrong and right for Israel. In that immediate context what he did wrong for Judah was not relevant. That Jehu exceeded his instructions by killing David's lineage the writer implied earlier:
The LORD…had promised to maintain a lamp for David and his descendants forever. (II Kings 8:19)


A confounding factor in reconciling the "contradiction" is that the two royal families were intertwined:
ISRAEL:-   Omri — Ahab+Jezebel — Joram

JUDAH:-   Jehoshaphat — Jehoram+Athaliah — Ahaziah  
(II Kings 3:1-2; 8:16-18; 8:25-26)    
King Ahaziah's mother, Athaliah, was a daughter of Ahab and a granddaughter of Omri. (II Kings 8:25-27) Athaliah was not necessarily Jezebel's daughter, however, since Ahab was a polygamist.

Ahaziah we're told, "…was son-in-law to the house of Ahab." (II Kings 8:27)

Ahaziah was a grandson of Ahab but could be "son in law to the "house of Ahab" if he:
1.    Married a sister of his mother, making Ahab his father in law;
2.    Married a daughter of Joram making Joram his father in law.
Neither marriage would put Ahaziah in the "house of Ahab" since his wife would enter the "House of Judah". Also paternal descent (i.e. Ahaziah from Jehoram and Jehoshaphat) is what counts not maternal descent. When Jehu exterminated the "house of Ahab" he killed all males not all females.


Most geographical locations and some characters in Hosea and II Kings have archaeological confirmation:

David, Ahab and Joram are mentioned on the Tel Dan Stele discovered 1993/1994 in Israel. Shalmaneser is standard history. Omri is mentioned on the Moabite Stone, Jehu on the Black Obelisk, and Jezebel is named on a seal found in the 1960s.     

The ten tribes of Israel vanished from history after Assyria deported them. But before the deportation many Israelites fled to Judah and integrated with the Jews. In that way the two peoples became one.

As mentioned previously a reunited Israel and Judah would serve "David" in "the last days". "David" as determined from the genealogies in Luke and Matthew turned out to be Jesus Christ.


Hosea 6:1-2 suggests Israel's return to God involves a 3-day period:
After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.
The New Testament, as most people know, teaches salvation based on three days when Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

The New Testament quotes or paraphrases (*) nine verses from Hosea:

Table 3
1:10; 2:23 Romans 9:25, 26; I Peter 2:10
6:6 Matthew 9:13; 12:7
9:14* Luke 23:29
10:8* Luke 23:30; Revelation 6:16
10:13* Galatians 6:7-8
11:1 Matthew 2:15
13:14 I Corinthians 15:55
14:2 Hebrews 13:15

A problem is Hosea 11:1 — "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son."

Matthew says Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Egypt and:
This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son." (Matthew 2:15)
Critics claim:
Hosea intended this statement as a reference to the Israelite Exodus from Egypt. If Matthew had not applied this statement to Jesus, no one would have thought it referred to anything but the Israelite Exodus.
First, note that Matthew does not say "this fulfilled", but "this was to fulfill" or "that it might be fulfilled". In other words Jesus leaving Egypt was the start of the fulfillment of something bigger.

Second, we need to consider that  Christianity has many parallels to Old Testament history, including a "new covenant", a "heavenly Jerusalem", a "prophet like Moses", a new "priesthood", etc. The New Testament gives dozens of parallels. Matthew quotes 11:1 to indicate that the Exodus too has a counterpart in Christianity. The Christian "Exodus" begins with Jesus literally leaving Egypt, and continues when people leave "Egypt" metaphorically by renouncing idolatry and other evils and become Christians.

Third, Hosea mentions Israel's Exodus from Egypt and future return to God, both events, several times. (Hosea 2:14-23; 11:1-11; 12:13/13:4/14:4) By quoting 11:1 "Out of Egypt I called my son" Matthew implies Israel's return to God had started, began with Jesus, and is like a new Exodus.

The accusation that Matthew quoted out of context is due to skeptics lacking background knowedge that Matthew assumes his readers have.


Every healthy infant can walk, but the biochemistry of how thoughts move legs remains obscure despite centuries of science. The Bible too is simple in essentials but also amazingly complex. It's as if the Bible's author is a master logician who included lots of intricate logic so that readers might recognize their limitations and learn humility. The contradictions therefore are illusory, the Bible is consistent, and the critics are wrong.