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

Leonard Jayawardena leonardj at live.com
Sun Aug 10 07:30:49 EDT 2008


In yesterday's post I presented an analysis of Hosea 1:4-5 and adduced further reasons for the interpretation of "the blood of Jezreel" I have advocated in this series of posts. In this and the next post I propose to show the remarkable connection between Exodus 20:3-5, 2 Kings 10:30 and Hosea 1:4-5, which affords a further line of argument in favour of my view.  First, let us look at 2 Kings 10:30, reproduced below with the preceding and following verses to get the context (KJV used):
29Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan. 30And the Lord said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in Mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in Mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit upon the throne of Israel. 31But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Nebat, which made Israel to sin. [KJV] Most readers of 2 Kings 10:30 do not see anything more than God's commendation of Jehu for destroying the house of Ahab in obedience to his command, but there is more to it below the surface. Look at the context of 2 Kings 10:30 carefully. In the immediately preceding verse (v.29), the writer says that Jehu "departed not" from the sins of Jeroboam. Then, in v.31, he again says: "But he took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin." Verse 30 is sandwiched between two verses concerning Jehu's idolatry, which the writer obviously views negatively, and so, unless the writer meant something more than just a commendation of Jehu in v. 30, its placement would be most incongruous. But what exactly was his intention? There can be two possibilities: 
 (1) On the interpretation that v. 30 was purely meant to be a statement recording God's commendation and rewarding of Jehu for having executed his command to destroy the house of Ahab, the basic purpose of this passage would be to show what an ingrate Jehu was and v. 31 would be saying in effect, "In spite of God's promise to preserve his dynasty unto the fourth generation, idolatrous Jehu did not show any gratitude to God by departing from the sins of Jeroboam." But this interpretation has two weaknesses: 
 (a) It fails to explain the use of the Hebrew word shâmar in v. 31, which is translated as "took ... heed" in that verse and is so translated in the KJV more than thirty times and has meanings which include "beware, be circumspect, take heed [to self]." When so translated, it means taking care to do or not do something to avoid some negative consequence. For example, see Genesis 31:24, where God says to Laban, "Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad [lest I punish thee if thou do so]"; and Deuteronomy 11:16: "Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; and then the Lord's wrath be kindled against you..." If no divine threat is contained in v. 30, what negative consequence did Jehu fail to avoid?  (b) The limitation of God's blessing of Jehu's dynasty only until "the fourth generation" prompts the question "Why?" and invites a contrast between the divine promise to Jehu with that given to king David that *his* house would continue "forever" (2 Samuel 7:11-16). Why only until the *fourth generation* and not *forever* like the house of David?  (2) A better interpretation is that which sees a hidden punishment underlying the commendation in v. 30. To show this it is necessary to expand v. 30 to read as follows: "And the Lord said to Jehu, 'Thou shouldest be punished for committing the sins of Jeroboam, but because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in Mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in Mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit upon the throne of Israel, in which I will punish thine house." With the expanded form of v.30, the entire passage would read as follows:
29Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan. 30And the Lord said unto Jehu, [Thou shouldest be punished for committing the sins of Jeroboam, but] because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in Mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in Mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit upon the throne of Israel[, in which I will punish thine house]. 31But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Nebat, which made Israel to sin. 
Doesn't the passage make more sense now? In v.29 the writer is setting out the basis for the punishment implied in v.30, then in v.31 saying, in effect: 'In spite of the prophecy of punishment pronounced against his house, Jehu took no preventive action to avert the future tragedy to befall the fourth generation of his descendants by departing from the sins of Jeroboam.' It is implied that if Jehu had given up calf worship and been wholly true to God, his house would have escaped punishment. This interpretation explains the use of the Hebrew word shâmar in v. 31 and the limitation of Jehu's dynasty to the fourth generation. The promise to Jehu that his dynasty would continue until the fourth generation is lenience shown in what is otherwise a punishment. There is therefore both good news and bad news for Jehu in 2 Kings 10:30: the bad news, which is not specifically mentioned but implied, is that his house is to be punished for continuing in the sins of Jeroboam; the good news is that the punishment is postponed to the fourth generation as a "reward" for serving God in destroying the house of Ahab.  Note that the negativity of 2 Kings 10:29-31 in spite of the commendation in v. 30 is confirmed by the immediately following account of the conquests of Hazael in Israel (vv. 32-33), the placement of which is not coincidental. The Bible writers always saw idolatry as the downfall of both Judah and Israel, and reports of attacks by enemy nations often follow reports of the idolatry of the two nations. A clear link is made between the two as a perusal of the historical books of the OT will confirm (e.g., see Judges 2:11-15, which summarises the constant refrain of the book of Israel's apostasy followed by God delivering them to their enemies as a punishment). There are other examples of deferred punishment in the OT which parallel 2 Kings 10:30. 
 
1 Kings 21:29: "And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 'Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days; but in his son's days I will bring the evil upon his house'" (1 Kings 21:29, RSV). This statement followed the repentance of Ahab upon hearing the divine judgment pronounced by Elijah on his house because of all the evil he had perpetrated. Compare the above with 2 Kings 10:30: "Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in Mine eyes..., thy children of the fourth generation shall sit upon the throne of Israel."
 
1 Kings 11:11-13: The Lord said to Solomon, 'Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant [Jeroboam]. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However I will not tear away all the kingdom...'
In my next post I will show how 2 Kings 10:30 ties up with Exodus 20:3-5 and Hosea 1:4-5, although I am sure at least some readers who have followed me so far would have already seen the connection. Leonard JayawardenaSri Lanka
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