By Charles H. Welch
lo-ammi "Not My people". Under the heading PEOPLE it is demonstrated from Scripture that Israel alone, with one exceptional case, are called "People"; the nations of the earth are never so called except in the plural-"peoples". To one nation only has the title "My people" ever been given and that is Israel. The exception is found in Titus 2:14, where the church is spoken of as a peculiar people-but that title is used while Israel themselves are "lo-ammi", not My people. At Acts twenty-eight Israel pass off the scene and the parenthetical dispensation of the Mystery begins. See articles ACTS 28, DISPENSATION, ISRAEL, COVENANT and PARENTHESIS.
This great dispensational feature indicated by the words lo-ammi we approach under the following headings:
Acts thirteen records the opening of Paul's great missionary activity. A Jew who withstood the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles is blinded and a Gentile is saved-an anticipation in dramatic fashion of the sequel found in Acts twenty-eight, where the nation is blinded and salvation sent to the Gentiles. Acts 13:16-41 is the record of Paul's witness in the synagogue at Antioch, and it opens and doses with a reference to Israel which involves the recognition of the "lo-ammi" principle. We give a condensed structure of this section:
In order to understand the dispensational importance of Paul's references to Israel's history, we must turn for a while to the record given in two parts of the O.T., namely the book of Judges and the book of Kings.
Among the many items of dispensational importance in the book of Judges, one question of outstanding interest is the way in which Israel and Israel's affairs influence the computation of times and dates. The question at first seems simple enough.
All one has to do is to add up the periods of the judges' rule and the intervening years of rest, and the thing is done. As there is no better way of producing conviction than to try things out for oneself, we have done so with the result shown above.
It will be observed that we have put down all the periods concerned, whether they be period of servitude or of rest. Turning now to the N.T., we find that the apostle Paul has something to say about this period, and we therefore turn to Acts 13:16-22, in order to check our total.
Ignoring, for the moment, the years in the wilderness and the reign of Saul, we ob serve that Paul's statement regarding the period of the judges differs from our own conclusion by eighty-one years, a difference too great to be covered by the suggestion that the Apostle is using round numbers when he says "about the space of 450 years".
There are other checks, however, that we must take into account. Jephthah, who lived at the very period under discussion, tells us (Judges 11:26) that the disputed territory had been held by Israel for 300 years, dating from the end of the forty years' wandering. Solomon also speaks very definitely about the number of years that intervened between the Exodus from Egypt and the year in which he began to build the Temple of the Lord. He speaks of this year as "the 480th year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt", and the fourth year of his reign (1 Kings 6:1). If we compare Solomon's period with that given by Paul in Acts thirteen, we find a difference of ninety-three years, which, again, is too great to be set aside as of no importance. In order to make this point clearer, we will set out Paul's computation again, in conjunction with the period covered by Solomon's account.
Let us now look back over the list of items given in the chronology of the book of Judges. We observe that there are five periods of servitude, varying in length from seven years to forty. Adding these periods together we have the following:
This is indeed a revelation. The very number of the years of Israel's servitude is equal to the difference between the accounts of Solomon and Paul. If we look more attentively at Solomon's statement, we find that he does not say that the total number of years that intervened between the two points was 480, but that "in the 480th year" the Temple was commenced. The number is ordinal (480th), not cardinal (480), showing that while Paul was using the calendar of the world, Solomon was using the calendar of the Lord, and in that calendar no notice is taken of periods when Israel are in bondage. Prom this emerges a principle. When Israel are lo-ammi, time is not counted prophetically.
We must now review the book of the prophet Hosea, where the prophetic import of the name lo-ammi is worked out.
The prophecy of Hosea follows those of Jonah and Amos so far as chronological order is concerned, but stands at the head of the twelve minor prophets in the Hebrew canon. The name Hosea is the Hebrew word for "salvation" and appears in chapter one, in the promise
This promise might well be taken as the key promise of the prophecy. The word reappears in the closing section of the prophecy.
The reader will not fail to observe how this last reference perfectly balances the first, even to the inclusion of the word "mercy". This insistence upon the word "salvation" and "save" suggested by the name of the Prophet, is a feature that is noticeable in another grouping of the prophets in the Hebrew canon. The term "prophet" covers some books which are historical rather than predictive and opens with the book of Joshua, and closes with the book of the minor prophets considered as one book. The "prophets" therefore of the Hebrew canon open with "Joshua" the Salvation of the Lord, the Captain, and closes with "Joshua" the Salvation of the Lord, the High Priest. The whole prophetic section of the O.T. being bounded by the name borne by THE Saviour, for "Jesus" is but the Greek spelling of Joshua, as a reference to Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8 will show.
A disquisition on such a theme as "the nature of God" is naturally outside the scope of studies such as this, but none should be able to read the words "I will . . . save them by the LORD their God" (Hos. 1:7) without being struck by its peculiar phraseology. It is "The LORD" Who is the speaker, verse 4, "And the LORD said . . . I will avenge . . . I will break. . . And (God, the word supplied by the A.V.) said . . . I will no more. . . I will utterly . . . I will have mercy &c. and will save." If the passage had read "I will save them by Myself" it would have been readily understood. It must be remembered that of "God, Absolute and Unconditioned" we know, and can know nothing. He Himself is greater than all His names, and by His very nature Unnameable. In this verse in Hosea we see, as it were, God Himself, referring to Himself in the realm of the manifest and the conditioned. He is "Jehovah THEIR God", Who in fulness of time became Man and was known as "The Man Christ Jesus".
The opening chapters of Hosea (1-3) are chiefly characterized by the fact that the Prophet enacts in his own family life the message that he haS' to tell, and. this is followed by another section (4-14) in which the Prophet, while still using symbol, speaks the message by word of mouth.
This is "the beginning of the word of the Lord BY Hosea".
This is the continuance of the prophecy of Hosea. The word translated "beginning" is not the same as that found in Genesis 1:1. It is the Hebrew chalal, and is found again in the margin of Hosea 8: 10, where the text reads "sorrow". It may appear strange to the casual reader that a word can mean either "beginning" or "sorrow", but the fact is, that the idea of a "beginning" is a derived meaning, the primary idea of chalal being "to perforate" , thence by stages "to lay open", "to give access and so profane or defile", and eventually "to begin" in the sense of "opening".
While a verbal connexion between the word "beginning" and the subsequent strange episode in the life of the prophet would not be evident to the English reader, Hosea, who was commissioned by God to "take a wife of whoredoms" (Hos. 1:2) would scarcely fail to note the word "beginning" was derived from the word meaning "to lay open, profane, defile", and employed by Moses and other writers for the very pollution and profanation he was called upon to exhibit (Lev. 21:7,9,14, 19:29).
It does not necessarily follow that Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, was an immoral woman. It means that she was of "Israel" as distinct from "Judah", for Israel, that is the Ten Tribes, had become idolators, having their own sanctuary at Beth-el. We have already learned about the "altars of Beth-el" from the prophet Amos, and Hosea refers to Beth-el in 10:15 and 12:4 in a markedly contrasted manner.
The two marriage contracts into which Hosea entered, are highly significant, and must now be examined.
A 1:2. "Go take a wife of whoredoms"
B 1:2. Meaning, the departure of the land from the LORD
A 3:1. "Go yet love . . . an adulteress"
B 3:1. Meaning. Israel, who looks to other gods
It is evident by this disposition of the subject-matter, that these two marriage contracts entered into by the Prophet were intended to set forth in symbol the relationship of the Lord to
Israel, their defection, the long period of their estrangement and their final restoration.
The names of the three children which were born were most certainly given because of their typical meaning. The name of the wife, Gomer, does not appear to have been chosen because of its meaning, but because of its association. Gomer was the name of a northern people, of Japhetic origin (Gen. 10:2). Some believe that from these descended the Cimerii, the ancestors of the Cymry or the Welsh. Israel by their sins and idolatry had put themselves in the position of the far-off Gentiles. The three children of this marriage were named by God's instruction Jezreel, Lo-ruhamah and lo-ammi (Hos. 1:4,6 and 9).
Jezreel. First it should be observed that there is in this name a paronomasia between Israel (Yisrael) and Jezreel (Yizrael). Then, it must be remembered that two words similar in sound, provide a further prophetic foreshadowing. The Hebrew word "to sow" is zara, the Hebrew word "to scatter" is zarah, so that the expressions "may God sow" and "may God scatter" appear very similar to the eye and ear in the original. Israel were to be "scattered" among the nations (Lev. 26:33, Jer. 31:10), but eventually they were to be "sown" again in their own land (Jer. 31:27). The prophet Zechariah uses the word "sow" with the meaning equivalent to "scatter" (Zech. 10:9). The scattered tribes of Israel were known as "the dispersion" (Ezek. 12:15, John 7:35) and "the twelve tribes scattered abroad" (Jas. 1:1) where the Greek word for "seed" spora enters into the composition of the word diaspora "the dispersed or scattered".
In this name, therefore, of Hosea's firstborn son, the whole of Israel's history is compressed. They shall be scattered, but they shall at last be gathered. The names of the two children that followed are prophetic of the condition of Israel during this scattering, Lo-ruhamah meaning "not having obtained mercy", lo-ammi meaning "not My people". The "lo-ammi" period of Israel's scattering is of the utmost importance to the right understanding of the dispensational place of the Mystery and the church of the One Body. Israel became "lo-ammi" at Acts 28:28, when for the first time in history it could be said "the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles" independently of Israel. In God's good time, a complete reversal will be made of all the conditions that are now associated with Israel's blindness, which reversal is the subject of Hosea 2:23-
The second relationship of Hosea is given in chapter three. The word translated "friend" in Hosea 3: 1 is the Hebrew rea, which differs from the word translated "evil" in the vowel points, and is usually translated ra. The LXX translators translate this verse "go yet, and love a woman that loves evil things, and an adulteress" , and it is in line with the truth for which this symbol stands that these words should refer to the same woman -Gomer-who had acted unfaithfully even as Israel had done. We sincerely hope that by so concluding we have not said evil of an innocent person, and must of course leave the matter to the judgment of the reader, or, better still, to the judgment of "that day".
The woman in view had evidently become seriously involved, for the price paid by Hosea was the price demanded for the liberation of a slave. The symbolism of this new marital transaction is then explained:
The interval of the "many days" is to be characterized by a mutual "abiding" or "waiting". The woman was to "abide" without further unfaithfulness, the man would abide and wait also. This waiting negative attitude is explained by the sixfold negation of verse 4. Israel has had no "king" since the days of their captivity. On the other hand, the very scattering among the nations has made it impossible for any foreign prince to rule over them. Since the destruction of Jerusalem, Israel have been deprived of the right to offer sacrifice, but, since the days of their captivity they have never again fallen under the old spell of idolatry, they have had no priest in the true sense of the word, but neither have they teraphim.
The Bible student needs no explanation of these terms, except perhaps the last, teraphim. This word is variously explained, but always with a consciousness that much to do with its origin and intention is unknown. Dr. J. E. Shelley contributed a suggestive article to the Bible League Quarterly in 1939 in which he speaks of the "generations" which compose the bulk of the book of Genesis, and suggests that these "ancestral tablets" were called teraphim by association with Terah the father of Abraham, and says that "certain Jewish legends represent Terah as actually a maker of idols". The word "teraphim" occurs but six times in the English of the A.V. All the references, apart from Hosea three, being found in Judges seventeen and eighteen. The word occurs, however, fifteen times altogether in the O. T., being translated "image", "idolatry" and "idol". It was the teraphim that Rachel stole and hid (Gen. 31:19-35). It was the teraphim that Michal placed in the bed vacated by David (1 Sam. 19:13,16). In 1 Samuel 15:23, Ezekiel 21:21 and Zechariah 10:2 it will be seen that the teraphim were consulted and associated with witchcraft and divination.
Israel had long been without a king, when they entered their lo-ammi condition at Acts twenty-eight. The last thing to go at the destruction of the temple would have been their genealogical records. Since that date Israel has "waited", and must wait until a priest stands up with Urim and Thummim - in other words, until the Lord Himself returns. The words of Hosea 6:1,2 suggest that the period covered by this "abiding" will be "two days", which in the symbolical use of the term may cover the two thousand years that may intervene before their complete restoration. As we have no certain knowledge as to when this period actually started, it is useless to attempt to compute the date of Israel's restoration, but we can read the signs of the times.
The return of Israel, with the confession that they will make, constitutes the closing chapter of this prophecy. All is graciously reversed. Instead of being lo-ammi and lo-ruhamah the fatherless find mercy (Hos. 14:3). Their backsliding is healed, and this restored people grow as the lily, have the beauty of the olive, the odour of Lebanon, with their fruit derived alone from the Lord.
Finally, let us never forget that, not only will Israel be "not My people" during this dark period of their history, but God declared "I will not be your God".
Let those who treat the record of Acts twenty-eight with scant concern, think again what the intervening nineteen hundred years would have been like had no parenthetical dispensation come into being.