Hosea
A Bible Study

Apostate Israel to be Cast Off -- Other Nations to be Called In

Hosea was a prophet of the Northern Kingdom: He speaks of its king as "our" King (7:5). His message was to the Northern kingdom with occasional reference to Judah. His name means "salvation."

Hosea's Date

Hosea's time was during about the last 40 years of the Northern Kingdom. He began his ministry when Israel, under Jeroboam II was at the zenith of its power. He was a younger contemporary of Amos; an older contemporary of Isaiah and Micah. As a child he may possibly have known Jonah. The kings in whose reigns he prophesied were Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, in the country of Judah, Jeroboam II in the country of Israel. The approximate dates of these kings were as follows:

Kings of Israel, The Northern Kingdom

Jeroboam II (790-749) A reign of great prosperity
Zechariah (748) Reigned 6 months. Was killed by Shallum
Shallum (748) Reigned 1 month. Was killed by Menahem
Menahem (748-738) Unspeakably cruel. was a puppet of Assyria
Pekahiah (738-736) Was killed by Pekah
Pekah (748-730) Was killed by Hoshea. Galilee captivity (734)
Hoshea (730-721) Fall of Samaria (721) End of the Kingdom

 

Kings of Judah, The Southern Kingdom

Uzziah (737-735) A good king
Jotham (749-734) A good king
Ahaz (741-726) Very wicked! Galilee captivity (734)
Hezekiah (726-697) A good king. Fall of Samaria (721)

Some of these dates overlap, and are confusing. The maximum period, thus, in which Hosea could have prophesied would be 790-697 BC. and the minimum period about 750-725 BC. Assuming that his ministry extended into some considerable part of the reigns of both Jeroboam and Hezakiah, it would be safe, perhaps, to place him at about 760-720 BC.

His unhappy domestic life with his unfaithful wife, Gomer, was not only a preparation for his ministry, but a parable to the nation of its spiritual adultery in forsaking Jehovah and resorting to the worship of false gods. Hosea is one of the most evangelical of the Old Testament. He shows clearly that God is love and that Israel's sin of sins was not to have recognized the love of God. Hosea was thus the St. John of the Old Testament. "Hosea was the home missionary of North Israel, as Jonah was their foreign."

The Situation

Some 200 years before Hosea's time the Ten Tribes had seceded and set up and independent kingdom, with the Golden Calf as its official national god. In the meantime god had sent the prophets Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, Amos and now Hosea.

Hosea was one of Israel's contemporaries, a prophet of God in the 8th century BC. But Hosea, unlike Isaiah, was a northerner. His message was for Israel, the northern kingdom, although he occasionally refers to Judah. And Israel in his day was in a mess. Hosea became a prophet at the end of the reign of the nation's last powerful king, Jeroboam II. He prophesied for the next 30 years, until just before Samaria fell to Assyria in 722 BC.

During that time the country went rapidly down hill. Rejection of God and the wholesale adoption of pagan religious practices brought about a moral and political landslide. 1 Kings 14:23-17:41 gives the history of that period. bit the fact that after Jeroboam's death Israel had six kings in just over 20 years, and for of them assassinated their predecessors, gives some idea of the state of the country.

What Israel's idolatry meant to God - how He continued to love and long for His people's return to Him - Hosea learnt through bitter personal experience, as his own wife betrayed and deserted him. His message came straight from the heart. This is what makes this book so timely and unique.

Content

The book is almost impossible to outline. Chapters 1 to 3 are biographical, and 4 to 14 bring his message. The salient teachings of the book may be summed up under the three words 'complaint,' 'condemnation,' and 'consolation.' The only progress of thought discernible is that of a general advance from

(l) Israel's guilt, to that
(2) of punishment, and
(3) of final restoration.

In the study of the book we can trace the successive steps in Israel's national downfall as follows:

1. Lack of knowledge 4:6; 4:11 The nation is ignorant of God's Law.

2. Pride 5:5 Ephraim strove to rival the heathen as a world power. Jeroboam's prosperity was proving a snare.

3. Instability 6:4; 6:6 Life is stifled by hypocrisy and ritual.

4. Worldliness Ephraim, like a silly dove, without understanding, sought alliances with Egypt and Assyria, contrary to God's word. (7:8) Some were too rich, some too poor. Hot in politics, cold in religion. The extremes of society were too great.

5. Corruption 9:9 Their religion was rotten. Israel was playing the harlot under the cloak of religion.

6 Backsliding 11:7 Backsliding had become a habit.

7. Idolatry 13:2 No prophet ever scorned more sincerely than Hosea a manufactured God. He traced all of Israel's sins back to infidelity to God.

The book closes, chapter 14, with a gracious offer of God's forgiveness.

The Message for Today

In presenting Jehoveh's loving faithfulness to Israel and Israel's thankless unfaithfulness to Jehovah, Hosea has this message for us today:

1. God's great love for us. His desire to show mercy.
2. Inward corruption of a nation is more dangerous than its external enemies.
3. The folly of sacrificing national interests to personal advantage. 5:10 - 11
4. The penalty of condoning vice. 4:13 - 18
5. The rapid decline of nation, when religious leaders become corrupt. 4:9
6. The nemesis of neglecting God's law. 4: 6; 8:1, 12

Hosea's message is not out of date. The God of ancient history is a God in modern history. All national events are still under the Divine Superintendence

Of Special Interest

Great passages in Hosea: 6:6, 11:8, 6:3, 4:17, 7:9, 8:7, 8:12, 9:14, 10:8, 10:12, 11:9, 13:4, 14:9, 13:14-16

Notable epigrams: "Like people, like priest" (4:9) "Cut off as foam upon the water" (10:7) "Ephraim is a cake not turned" (7:8)

Chapters 1 - 3 Hosea's Wife and Children

Hosea was commanded of God to take a wife of "whoredom" (1:2) Israel, as God's bride (Ezekiel 16:8-15) had forsaken God giving herself to the worship of other gods, as a married woman yielding herself to another man. Thus "whoredom" was a fitting name for the nation as a whole in its spiritual adultery, and may not-necessarily imply that Gomer herself personally was a lewd woman.

However, the simple natural implication of the language is that it-was an actual experience in Hosea's life; and a generally accepted interpretation is that Hosea, a prophet of God, was in reality commanded by God to marry an unchaste woman, as a symbol of God's love for wayward Israel. This seems to be the only tenable interpretation of verse 2 of chapter one. God instructs Hosea-to marry Gomer, a woman God knows will prove unfaithful.

Why did Gomer leave? She left for a man who could better satisfy her fondness for luxury (2:5). This is a mirror of Israel's spiritual problem. Moved by greed and lust for the things of this world-they soon forgot God.

Hosea proving his love for his wife bought her back (3:1-2) just as the Lord woos His children back to Himself. The idolatrous worship of the land was so universally accompanied with immoral practices (4:11-14), that is was hard for a woman to be chaste, and "whoredom" in its literal sense was probably true of most of the women of the times. For Hosea, possibly, it was that kind of woman, or none at all.

Some of the language applies to Hosea's family literally! Some to the nation figuratively, some to both, the literal and figurative alternating. "His sentences fall like the throbs of a broken heart"

Hosea's recovery of his wife is found in 3:1-5. He bought her back, but required her to remain for a while without conjugal privilege, as a picture prophecy of Israel remaining "many days'' without king and without sacrifice", before their eventual return to their God and David their king (verses 3, 4)

Through the prophet, God is giving His people a last opportunity to repent before judgment breaks on the land (2 Kings 17:13-14). Yet even though they refuse, His loving purpose is not thwarted (1:10-2:1)

Three children are born, and each is given a name which speaks God's message to Israel. Through the prophet, God is giving His people one last chance.

Not only was Hosea's marriage an illustration of the thing he was preaching, but he named his children for the main messages of his life...

Jezreel (1:4,5) his first-born. Jezreel was the city of Jehu's bloody brutality (2 Kings 10:1-14). the valley of Jezreel was the age-old battle field on which the kingdom was about to collapse. By naming his child Zezreel, Hosea was saying to the king and to the nation: Retribution; the hour of punishment is come.

Lo-ruhamah (1-:6) was the name of the second child, meaning "No more mercy" There would be no more mercy for Israel, though there would be a respite for Judah.

Lo-ammi (1:9) was the name of the third child, meaning "No longer My people". Hosea then repeats the two names without the "Lo" "not" (2:1) of the time when they would again be God's people; and in a play on the words predicts the day when other nations would be called the people of God (1:10), a passage which Paul quotes as meaning the extension of the Gospel to the Gentiles (Romans 9:25)

Key terms in chapters 1 - 3

1:4 Jezreel - The site of many bloody battles; here the reference to the slaughter recounted in 2 Kings 10.

2:15 Achor - A city near Jericho; the place where Achan sinned and was punished (Joshua 7)

2:16 My Baal - a substitute word must be used because "baal" which was the everyday word for "Lord/master/husband'' was also the name of the Canaanite god.

2:22 Jezreel - the word means "God sows"

3:1 Cakes of raisins - was food often offered to pagan gods

3:4 Sacrifice of an ephod was part of the priest's regalia belonged to the legitimate religion: pillar and teraphim (household gods) were part of the pagan admixture.

Chapter 4 Ephraim is Joined to Idols

The problem is that there is idolatry in Israel. From now on there is no further mention of Hosea's family. But the experience is there- and it colors the rest of the book. Real faith in God issues in obedience to His standards.

The prostitution of Israe1's religion led to literal prostitution (verses 11-14) Paganism brought in its wax sexual degradation (verses 13-14) and the breakdown of law and order in society (verses 1-2)

It still does. The priests - who failed to make God's laws known and feathered their own nests into the bargain (verses 4-10) and the men of Israel (verse 14) are responsible for what has happened. God holds them accountable.

Idolatry is the source of their horrible crimes (verses 1-3) Priests fed on the sins of the people (verses 4-10). The young women are harlots; married women entertain other men; the men go apart with prostitutes (verses 11-14) Judah (verse 15) has not such as deep into idolatry as Israel had, and was spared for about 100 years after Israel was destroyed.

Ephriam (verse 17) being the largest and most central of the Northern Tribes became a name for the whole Northern Kingdom. "The wind" (verse l9) had already wrapped the sinful nation in its wings to bear it away to another land, a most striking metaphor.

''Bethaven'' (verse l:) another name for Bethel the main idol sanctuary of the Northern Kingdom.

Chapter 5 ''Ephraim shall become a desolation"

Judgment comes upon Israel. A generation has grown up to whom God is a stranger (verse 7) The alarm is sounded on Judah's borders, for Judah shares the sin to which Israel has become addicted (verses 8-12). Not even the great king of Assyria (verse 13) Tiglathpileser III (see 2 Kings 16:5ff) can save them from God's judgment.

The places of Mizpah, Tabor, and Shittim (verses 1-2) are places where there were shrines for Baal worship.

Priests, king and people are ''revolters" against God (verses 1-3) Steeped in sin and proud of it, ''their doings would not suffer them to turn to God'' (verses 4-5) "Strange children" (verse 7) that is, by men other then husbands now become father. "Content to walk after man's command'' (verse 11) referring to the ordinances which Jeroboam I had "devised out of his own heart" when he first established the Northern Kingdom.

Verses 5 - 7 The pride of Israel causes Israel to fall, even though they seek the Lord. They will not find Him, because they have dealt faithlessly with the Lord.

"Material success is good, but only as the necessary preliminary of better things. The measure of a nation's true success is the amount it has contributed to the thought, the moral energy, the intellectual happiness, the spiritual hope and consolation of mankind."

(James Russell Lowell)

Chapter 6 Priests Murder and Commit Lewdness''

Suffering turns the people to God again. But there is no deep change. Their ''love" evaporates as quickly as dew in the hot sun. It is lasting love and real knowledge of him that God looks for.

Priests have turned butcher. At the heart of the nation's religion at Shechem, there is intrigue and murder!

"The third day'' (verse 2) probably meaning that after a short period Israel would be restored and generally understood to be a forehint of the Messiah's resurrection on the third day.

"Gilead'' (verse 8) and "Shechem" (verse 9) two of the principal cities of the land, were particularly horrible as centers of vice and violence.

Chapter 7 "They are all Adulterers"

At court it is the same (as in chapter 6) Kings fall at the hands of hot-heads and conspirators. Remember there were six different kings in the short span of twenty years.

Israel turns to foreign peoples (verses 8-9), foreign powers (verse 11) and foreign gods (verse 16) but never to the Lord.

Verses 4-7 Oven - They baked their flat loaves on saucer-shaped "hot plates" placed upside down over the embers. The "cake" (verse 8) must be turned over to cook both sides.

''Hot as an oven devouring their kings" (verses 4, 7) probably refers to the period of passionate indulgence and violence in which four Of their kings were assassinated in quick succession, even while Hosea was speaking.

The term "gray hairs" (verse 9) are symptoms of the approaching end.

Chapter 8 Having sown the wind-shall reap the whirlwind!

Verses 1 - 3 A Vulture over the house of the Lord, because Israel has broken God's covenant. Verse 2 reminds us of the word of Jesus, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 7: 21)

Israel will be caught up in the whirlwind of God's judgment. They have made gods, made up laws, set up kings to suit themselves; as if God and His laws did not exist.

But neither idols nor allies will avail when the God they have forgotten strikes.

Verse 5 Calf - Israel's first king set up two images at shrines in his own land to rival Jerusalem as religious centers. (see 1 Kings 12:28) The calf had a long association with pagan cults in Egypt and in Canaan.

God had appointed David's family to rule His people. The ten tribes had rebelled and set up a different line of kings for themselves. They had "hired loves" (verse 9) by flirting with Assyria, by paying tribute to them.

Chapter 9 Abominable like the idols they love

It was probably at the height of the festival to mark the grape harvest that Hosea spoke out. The people may call him a fool, but he knows he is God's watchman and he will not hold his tongue. Israel will become a slave nation to Assyria as she once was to Egypt.

Sin has become habitual, ingrained, to the point where God finally withdraws His love from the people of Israel. This has to be one of the lowest points to which Israel can sink.

Verse 3 "return to Egypt" Not literally, but to Egypt like bondage in Assyria, though after the captivity many Jews did settle in Egypt.

Verse 7 "The prophet is a fool" either Hosea's opinion of the false prophets or, more probably, the people's opinion of Hosea.

Verse 9 "deeply corrupted themselves" as in the days of Gibeah where one woman was ravished all night long by beastly men (Judges 19:24-26)

Verse 17 "Watchman among the nations" it began in Hosea's lifetime and has continued with relentless persistence to this day. For Jews, as with no other nation!

Chapter 10 The glory of Bethel is departed

Israel soon found itself under the yoke of judgment.

Outwardly, affluent Israel made a great show of religion but inwardly the people moved further and further away from God. The calf-image at Bethel had become the nation's only "king''. But it was a king marked for destruction.

Now they are reaping what they had long sown. Yet they could still sow an altogether different crop.

Verse 5 "calves of Bethel'' shall be broken to pieces and thorns and thistles shall grow over their altars.

Verse 14 "Shalman" is probably Shalmaneser who invaded Gilead He was the leader of Moab.

Chapter 11How shall I give you up?

This chapter shows us the Father's love for His children. It lets us see right into the infinitely loving heart of God. All down the long years of history, from Egypt on, and despite all He had done for them, Israel has rejected God's love. (verses 1-4)

Verses 1 - 2 The Lord has called Israel in love. But Israel has rejected the Lord and worshipped false gods. In verse 1, Israel is a type of Christ. Matthew 2:15

The nation deserves no mercy. Yet God still shrinks from destroying them. He is torn between love and justice neither of which can be denied. This is the pain He took to himself in the cross of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Chapter 12 The Lord brings charge against Israel, but reminds Israel to be like Jacob of old

Verse 2 ''Assyria" and "Egypt" Israel's lying diplomacy, making secret agreements with Assyria and Egypt each against each other, would bring disaster.

Verses 3 - 6 The Lord remindds Israel of its ancestor Jacob, and pleads with Israel to be like its ancestor Jacob/Israel. A plea to return to the Lord, to trust Him.

Verse 4 "Bethel" the center of their abominable idolatry was on the very spot where their father Jacob had dedicated his life to God (Genesis 28:13-15)

Chapter 13 They Sin More and More!

Israel may turn to Baal and other idols, but there is in fact no God but God. What was true then is still true now. Man may forget Him, or discount Him, but He exists, and He has power to carry out all that He has warned of.

Verse 14 The Lord stands ready to deliver them from death, grave, and hell. See 1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Verse 15 "East wind'' The scorching wind from the desert which dries and shrivels everything in its path.

Chapter 14 Israel shall return to God!

Here is a promise that Israel will return to the Lord. After the fierce tones of chapter 13, this last chapter is full of love' and pleading. The way is open. There is no need to pass through the fire of judgment. Man have only to give God their loyalty (verses 2-3) to find His love and forgiveness and embark on a new, transformed life (verses 4-7)

As Hosea advises this is the truly wise course (verse 9)

Hosea makes the way so plain. It is more than sad to realize that his contemporaries ignored it all - until the Assyrians swept down and destroyed their splendid capital, Samaria; took the remaining Israelites into exile; and repeopled their land with foreigners. '

When God gives warning of judgment, He is not playing with words. How many of the practices He condemned in Israel do we see all around us in our society today? How long do we expect His patience to last?

The Lord's wayward bride shall return to her husband, and again respond to His love, as in the days of her youth (2:14-20)

Hosea's book is about for things:

a) Israel's Idolatry
b) Her wickedness,
c) Her captivity
d) Her restoration

Hosea had as filthy a mess as is found anywhere in the Bible. The beastly degradation of the people was simply unbelievable. Yet Hosea labored unceasingly to make them see that God still loved them! An amazing book indeed!

Sources

Eerdmans’ Concise Bible Handbook - An illustrated book-by-book guide to the Bible Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co and Lion Publishing 1973 pp.233-235

Halley’s Bible Handbook 24th. Edition, Zondervan Publishing House Grand Rapids, MI. 1965 pp.353-356