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

Leonard Jayawardena leonardj at live.com
Tue Aug 12 08:03:35 EDT 2008

In my post of day before yesterday, I showed that 2 Kings 10:30 contains not only a commendation of Jehu for his destroying the house of Ahab in obedience to God but also an implied postponed punishment of his house for following "the sins of Jeroboam." We saw that the punishment was postponed to the fourth generation of Jehu as a reward for his obedience. A punishment in "the fourth generation" recalls Exodus 20:5, reproduced below (in KJV): 
"Thou shalt have no other gods beside Me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting [Hebrew pâqad] the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me."
What this passage says is that those who "hate" God, i.e., those who go after other gods, such as Jehu, are liable to have their sins visited even up to the third and fourth generations of their descendants. Comparison of 2 Kings 10:29-31 with Exodus 20:3-5 will provide confirmation that 2 Kings 10:30 is indeed a case of postponed punishment.  Note that Exodus 20:5 need not be seen as teaching vicarious punishment of children for the sins of their fathers. The prophecy against Jehu was fulfilled in the fourth generation of Jehu's dynasty when king Zechariah, Jehu's great-great-grandson, was assassinated by Shallum the son of Jabesh to usurp the throne (2 Kings 15:8-10). We read in vs. 9, the verse IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING the verse that records Zechariah's assasination (v. 10), that he, too, "did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his fathers had done" and "did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin" (vs. 9). Therefore assasination of Zechariah (and other members of Jehu's house, though not mentioned in the historical record) was a punishment not only of Jehu but also of Zechariah, who emulated his great-great grandfather in committing "the sins of Jeroboam." We can reasonably conclude from this therefore that what is actually involved in God "visiting" the sins of the fathers upon the children is God withholding his grace from the descendants of sinners, who then emulate their fathers' bad example and suffer the consequences for doing so. Interestingly, Hosea uses the same Hebrew word pâqad in Hosea 1:4: "I will avenge/visit [pâqad] the blood of Jezre-el upon the house of Jehu ...."  While pâqad is used in passages in the OT other than Exodus 20:5, in view of the fact that a punishment of Jehu's house in the fourth generation due to idolatry was already predicted by a prophet who preceded Hosea (2 Kings 10:30), it is not unreasonable to see an allusion to Exodus 20:5 by the use of this word.  Hosea's contemporary Amos prophesied that Yahweh would "rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword" (Amos 7:9). Hosea predicted that Yahweh would avenge "the blood of Jezreel" upon "the house of Jehu." Both were predicting the same event, but, by the mention of "the house of Jehu," Hosea was recalling the prophetic warning given to Jehu many decades before that he would be punished for his following "the sins of Jeroboam" by the destruction of his house in the fourth generation. However, "the blood of Jezreel" is not to be placed on the head of Jehu or any one king of Israel only, for, as I have shown earlier, the books of Kings hold all the kings of Israel to be responsible for the eventual fate of the nation--"the blood of Jezreel"--and all paid the penalty for it. 
So to sum up, Jehu was warned by God that his idolatry would be punished by the destruction of his house, but, in consideration of his services to God in destroying the house of Ahab, the punishment was postponed to the fourth generation, which, as it turned out, was the generation of king Zechariah, Jehu's great-great-grandson, who was assassinated by Shallum the son of Jabesh to usurp the throne. Hosea's prophecy simply announced that the time had now arrived for that prophecy to be fulfilled. The interpretation that "the blood of Jezreel" as a reference to Jehu's massacre at Jezreel arises from the unfortunate coincidence that Jehu happened to massacre some members of the house of Ahab in Jezreel.   Leonard JayawardenaSri Lanka
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