The Root Z-R-' in Hosea 1-2

by Glen Penton

The verb root z-r-' is used with seven discernable meanings in the first two chapters of the Book of the Prophet Hosea. They are as follows:

  1. A part of the name of Hosea's eldest son. Hosea 1:4a reads,
  2. And the Lord said,
    "Name the boy Jezreel...."

    Why name him Jezreel?

    God's explanation brings us to a second usage of the verb in verses 4b-5.

  3. "...For all the murders Jereboam
    commits from his palatial home,
    His capital, Jezreel.
    Jehu's dynasty I'll lay to rest.
    Their rule from Israel soon I'll wrest.
    Then I'll break and ruin Israel's best
    In the Valley of Jezreel."
  4. So the large, lovely Jezreel Valley (called Esdraelon by the Greeks) in the heart of the Land of Israel, at the foot of Mount Megiddo (called Armageddon in Greek), the valley where the kings of Israel had their summer palaces in Hosea's time, is to be the place, both in Hosea's lifetime and in the near future, where God brings judgement on the renegade government of His People Israel.

    Please understand that King Jereboam of the dynasty of Jehu may have been one of the least tyrannical and most enlightened kings in the Middle East in Hosea's time. It isn't that Israel's government is evil compared to the governments of the other nations of the world, but in comparison to the standards of Israel's rightful King, God's Messiah. Today the Israeli government imitates the other nations by allowing the wholesale slaughter of unborn babies and by discriminating against those who follow Israel's Messiah. Now as then, the Jewish People suffer under an Israeli government in rebellion against the God of Israel. And now as then, God proposes to liberate His People and bring judgement on the usurpers. And if the Lord will deal with the illegitimate Jewish leadership in the Valley of Jezreel, how much more severely will He deal with Israel's non-Jewish enemies! As He says in Hosea 2:2,

    "For great will be the day I break the hands
    Of all the lands oppressing Israel.
    I'll do it in the Valley of Jezreel."

  5. As the story and prophetic poetry of the first three chapters of Hosea unfolds, God uses the tragic story of Hosea's family life to weave an allegory about Himself and the Jewish People. In this drama the part of God is played by Hosea, his wife Gomer portrays Israel as a People, and Jezreel and his younger siblings represent the situation of Jewish individuals.
  6. That brings us to the meaning of the name itself. In Hebrew, one meaning of the name is 'God scatters'. He has fulfilled His threats to scatter His People from the Homeland.
  7. Another meaning of the name Jezreel is 'God plants'. He is now beginning to regather His People and replant us in the Homeland.
  8. At the heart of this word Jezreel is the verb root z-r-'. The prefix "Je-" means 'He will', 'He does', 'may He', or the like. The suffix "-el" means God. The verb describes the action of sowing seed, and has the secondary meanings of planting, scattering, etc. But it is an agricultural statement: 'God sows seed'. So near the climax of the poetry of chapter two, in verses 23-24, He draws together all six of these meanings of Jezreel to talk about His future blessings on His People Israel in the Land:
  9. "And on that day," is the Lord's oracle,
    "I'll answer you.
    I'll answer to the heavens,
    And your children will answer to the Land.
    And the Land will answer to the grain and wine and olive oil,
    And your children will bring My answer to Jezreel."

  10. Finally, the next line of poetry uses the verb z-r-' in still one more sense. It is the only time in these two chapters when the verb occurs without being embedded in the proper name Jezreel. God uses that agricultural verb in a non-agricultural sense, to promise something far more wonderful than His blessings and prosperity:

"And here in the Land we'll consummate our love."

God's promise to Israel is to bring His People to a loving intimacy with Himself, more magnificent and delightful than anything any of us can contemplate today. It is the kind of spiritual intimacy that God symbolized for us by creating the sexual union between a husband and wife. He has made that union of Himself and His People possible by His death for us in the Land of Israel, His being sown (=buried) into that Land and resurrected from it. Soon He will return to consummate that union, and all Israel will be forever fulfilled in His love.

The Jezreel Valley

more about Israel as God's bride
more about Israel's future
more about God's bringing the Jewish People home
God's remarriage to His bride by the Renewed Covenant
Israel's future in the story of Joseph
overview of Israel's history
interpreting Hosea for non-Jews
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