Where, O death, is your victory?

Shortly before Israel’s exile during the Eighth Century before Christ, Hosea (which means salvation) was the first of the Twelve Minor Prophets found in the final section of the Nevi’im.

From the second verse of the first chapter, it’s clear that God wasn’t happy about the unfaithfulness, spiritual prostitution and rampant idolatry demonstrated by His chosen people of Israel:

…for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.

Hosea 1:2

The names God gives to Hosea’s wife and their three children are used as allegories to awaken the people of Israel to their betrayal of God. Indeed, we see in Isaiah 62:4 that one day Israel will be called Hephzibah, “My delight is in Her”, and the lands of Israel will no longer be desolate but will be known as Beulah, “Married”; the “Bride of God”.

 For your Maker is your husband—
    the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
    he is called the God of all the earth.

Isaiah 54:5
  • God commanded Hosea to marry Gomer, an unfaithful and adulterous prostitute. Gomer symbolises the whoredom that Israel was committing against the Lord through their devotion to the gods of other nations. Hosea’s marriage to Gomer is a disaster; a living parable to the people of Israel.
  • Second, Hosea’s first son to Gomer, Jezreel (God scatters; God sows), refers to the destruction of the house of Ahab in Jazreel by Jehu (as detailed in 2 Kings 10). Jehu had initially followed the commands of the Lord. He summoned all of the followers of Baal and had them slaughtered. He razed the temple of Baal, and we read that the

…people have used it for a latrine to this day.

2 King 10:27

Unfortunately, as is all too common in the history of Israel, the people forgot the Law of the Lord and continued worshipping foreign idols.

“Bronze figurine of Baal from Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit), circa 14th–12th century B.C.E. Louvre Museum, Paris.”
  • Thirdly, God named Hosea’s second child Lo-ruhama, which means “She has received no mercy”. This name illustrates the lack of mercy God would show to Israel for their incessant spiritual adultery. In verses 7 and 11, notice the distinction God makes between the kings of Israel and those of Judah.

Although their history is by no means perfect, Judah was blessed with more kings who did what was right in the sight of the Lord (see, for example, King Hezekiah). The “mercy” and “power” of God is in prophetic reference to is that of Jesus Christ, who, as we see in Matthew 1:1 and Revelations 5:5, is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah”.

  • Lastly, God named Hosea’s final child Lo-Ammi, which in Hebrew means “Not my people”. However, despite God’s great anger towards the flagrant idolatry of Israel, God promises Hosea that they’ll someday be called “Children of the Living God.”

The Apostle Paul uses this passage to the believers in Rome concerning the sovereignty of God over all people; Jews and Gentiles (Romans 9:25-26). Through Jesus Christ, all believers have been saved.   

14‘I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;
    I will redeem them from death.
   Where, O death, are your plagues?
   Where, O grave, is your destruction?

Hosea 13:14

In other words, through Jesus, God has restored all His people from eternal death. The wrath tendered by plagues and destruction to this fallen world has been absolved by the grace of God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Eight hundred and something years later, Paul explicates Hosea’s prophecy. If the sting or weapon of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law (i. the Tôrāh – the first five books of the Old Testament; ii. the 613 commandments, or Mitzvot, given to Israel by God through Moses; iii. effectively, the entire Old Testament), then we have great joy today because of the New Covenant of grace given to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil–

Hebrews 2:14

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