[b-hebrew] The meaning of "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4

Leonard Jayawardena leonardj at live.com
Thu Aug 7 08:08:14 EDT 2008

Gabe Eisenstein wrote: Quote Even if "Jezreel" is a personification analogous to "Israel", wouldn't it stand for a group of people, Jezreelites, who were dominated by the royal retinue and employees, and who were massacred by Jehu? In other words, it seems to me that "blood of Jezreel" (as in KJ) or even "blood of the Jezreelites" would still most plausibly point to the massacre. The idea that the "blood" has not yet been spilled, that it refers only to a future invasion of Israel by foreigners and not to crimes committed in the past by the house of Jehu, requires a strange reading of paqadthi, does it not? It would have to be that God will "visit" (rather than "avenge") a punishment on Jeroboam that will consist of bloodshed in Jezreel -- why? Both the Bible and archaeology suggest that the royal residence in Jezreel was short-lived, and not used by Jeroboam. If it isn't a matter of avenging what Jehu did, what's the point?There is one thing that makes the question intriguing for me, and that is perhaps part of your hypothesis? "Great the day of Jezreel", which seems to be part of an addendum in verses 10-11, and refers not to any massacre OR invasion, but rather to a reunification of Israel and Judah. Anybody know how to make sense of it?UnquoteMy position is that "Jezreel" in "the blood of Jezreel" stands for Israel, so that the expression "the blood of Jezreel" = "the death [or homicide] of Jezreel" = "the death [or "homicide"] of Israel." This death results as a punishment of their idolatry. Note that the phrase "the blood of Jezreel" immediately follows the naming of Gomer's first child as "Jezreel," who is a person. (Note also that Jezreel's siblings Lo-ruhamah and Lo-ammi [both persons], too, represent Israel in some way in every occurrence of those names in the book of Hosea.) Hosea 12:14-13:1-2 sheds light on 1:4:  "14Ephraim provoked Him to anger most bitterly: therefore shall HE LEAVE HIS BLOOD UPON HIM, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him. 1When Ephraim spake trembling he exalted himself in Israel; but WHEN HE OFFENDED IN BAAL, HE DIED. 2And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves." [KJV, emphasis mine] I understand "his blood" in 13:14 to be Ephraim's own blood, so that "his blood" means "his death." The New English Bible renders this verse as follows: “Ephraim has given bitter provocation [to God by his idolatry]; therefore his Lord will make him answerable for his own death….” This death was the destruction of the nation by Assyria in 721 B.C.  As I mentioned in my first post, I understand "Baal" in every occurrence of that word in Hosea to refer to the bull worship introduced by Jeroboam I ("the sins of Jeroboam"). The royal house was to be punished for their bloodguilt for the death of Israel because of the part they played in the idolatry of the nation. This is in keeping with the principle that one can be guilty of the blood of another even though one had no direct hand in the killing of that other person (Deuteronomy 22:8; Ezekiel 33:1-9). From Jeroboam I onwards, all the kings of Israel were held responsible for Israel sinning (and, of course, its cosequences-ultimately destruction) through "the sins of Jeroboam" and they were all punished for that as well as their own sins (1 Kings 14:1-16; 15:34; 16:2-3, 19, 26). The punishment was sometimes deferred to a future generation as in the case of Jehu. Note that in 1 Kings 14:16 the wife of Jeroboam I, the introducer of the cult of bull worship, is informed that Israel will be given up "because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin." 
 "[The] bow of Israel," i.e., the military power of Israel, was to be broken in the valley of Jezreel as a token of the total destruction of the nation to follow later ("[I] will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel" [v. 4]). This is the significance of the first child of Gomer being named "Jezreel."
The other occurrences of the name "Jezreel" in Hosea support my view that "Jezreel" in "the blood of Jezreel" is a person. "[G]reat [shall] be the day of Jezreel" (Hosea 1:11) means, as the preceding words indicate, “that day when the people of the northern kingdom (represented by Jezreel) are gathered together with the people of the southern kingdom [Israel's sister nation] from their lands of exile and unified as one nation under one head will be great.” "Jezreel" could be replaced by "Israel" so that this clause reads "great shall be the day of Israel." (The expression "the day of Jezreel" is analogous to "the day of the Lord.") One can make no sense of the last clause of 1:11 if "Jezreel" refers to a geographical location. In 2:22-23, the etymological meaning of "Jezreel," "God sows," emerges. Again, "Jezreel" represents the nation. The only instance "Jezreel" in the book of Hosea refers to a geographical location is 1:5.
Hosea 1:4-5 pronounces judgment upon both the royal house and the nation for IDOLATRY, as both the preceding and the following context confirm, with the specific ground for the punishment of the royal house being "the blood of Jezreel." Therefore "the blood of Jezreel" cannot have anything to do with Jehu's blood-spilling in Jezreel, which is totally out of context. Note that Hosea’s ministry begins with God commanding him to take a “wife of whoredoms” and have “children of whoredoms” by her to symbolize the fact that the northern kingdom had departed from God and committed idolatry (Hosea 1:2), which firmly establishes idolatry as the context for the passage that follows. Where does Jehu's massacre at Jezreel fit into that?
It may be asked how the destruction (or death) of the nation of Israel could be avenged on her kings before the event. In answer it may be asked, By the same token, how could Hosea, writing *before* Israel's destruction, say that Ephraim "died" because of his idolatry (Hosea 13:1)? The idea behind 13:1 must be the *certainty* of Ephraim's (=Israel's) death due to his idolatry (cf. Genesis 2:17 with 5:5). It may be that the same idea underlies "the blood of Jezreel" in 1:4. Look at 1 Kings 14:16 again, where Israel's ultimate fate, though alterable by national repentance, is, in divine foresight, a certainty.    
In the case of the murder of a person, the blood of the victim is avenged upon the murderer/s after the commission of the murder. But we are here dealing with a nation, not a person, though symbolized by a person (named "Jezreel"), and, if the kings were individually and collectively responsible for the eventual death of the nation, the only time when they could be punished for their sin was while they were yet living! They could not have been punished after the destruction of the nation because all the kings had ceased to exist by that time except the last-reigning king.
Leonard Jayawardena
Sri Lanka 
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