Handbook of Hosea
Apostate Israel to be Cast Off
Other Nations to be Called In
Hosea was a prophet of the Northern Kingdom: he speaks of its kings as "our" king (7:5). His message was to the Northern Kingdom, with occasional reference to Judah.
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 know Jonah. The kings in whose reigns he prophesied were Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and Jeroboam II king of Israel. The approximate dates of these kings were as follows:
Kings of Israel, the Northern Kingdom
Kings of Judah, the Southern Kingdom
Some of these dates overlap, and are confusing. The maximum period, thus, in which Hosea could have prophesied would be 790-697 B.C., and the minimum period about 750-725. Assuming that his ministry extended into some considerable part of the reigns of both Jeroboam and Hezekiah, it would be safe, perhaps, to place him at about 760-720.
Some 200 years before Hosea's time the Ten Tribes had seceded, and set up an independent kingdom, with the Golden Calf as its official national god. Meantime God had sent the prophets Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, Amos and now Hosea.
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 of God to marry an unchaste woman, as a symbol of God's love for wayward Israel; or a woman who, if she was chaste at first,
afterward proved unfaithful, left him, and became the paramour of a man who could better satisfy her fondness for luxury (2:5), and
whom Hosea still loved, and bought back (3:1-2). The idolatrous worship of the land was so universally accompanied with immoral practices (4:11-14), that it 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 (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 (3, 4).
The Children. 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 (II 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 Jezreel, 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," for Israel, though there would be a respite for Judah (7). "Lo-ammi" (1:9), 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 Gentiles
Idolatry is the source of their horrible crimes (1-3). Priests feed on the sins of the people (4-10). The young women are harlots; married women entertain other men; the men go apart with prostitutes (11-14). Judah (15), had not sunk as deep into Idolatry as Israel had, and was spared for about 100 years after Israel was destroyed. Ephraim (17), being the largest and most central of the Northern Tribes, became a name for the whole Northern Kingdom. "The wind" (19), had already wrapped the sinful nation in its wings to bear it away to another land, a most striking metaphor. "Bethaven" (15), another name for Bethel the main Idol sanctuary of the Northern Kingdom.
Priests, king and people are "revolters" against God (1-3). Steeped in sin, and proud of it, "their doings would not suffer them to turn to God" (4-5). "Strange children" (7), that is, by men other than husbands. "Content to walk after man's command" (11), referring to the ordinances which Jeroboam l had "devised out of his own heart,"
when he first established the Northern Kingdom.
"The third day" (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" (8), and "Shechem (9), two of the principal cities of the land, were particularly horrible as centers of vice and violence.
"Hot as an oven, devouring their kings" (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. "A cake not turned" (8), burnt on one side, raw on the other, therefore unfit for use. "Gray hairs" (9), symptoms of the
"Set up kings, but not by me" (4). 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. "Hired lovers" (9): flirting with Assyria, by paying tribute.
"Return to Egypt" (3), not literally, but to Egypt-like bondage in Assyria, though after the captivity many Jews did settle in Egypt. "The prophet is a fool" (7): either Hosea's opinion of false prophets; or, more probably, the people's opinion of Hosea. "Deeply corrupted themselves" (9), as in the days of Gibeah where one woman was
ravished all night long by beastly men (Judges 19:24-26). "Wanderers among the nations" (17): it began in Hosea's life-time, and has continued with relentless persistence to this day, for Jews, as with no other nation.
"Calves of Bethel" (5), shall be broken in pieces (8:6), and thorns and thistles shall grow over their alters (7). "Shalman" (14), is probably Shalmaneser.
"Out of Egypt" (1): this is quoted in Matthew 2:15 as referring to the flight of Jesus' parents to Egypt: es the Messianic Nation was called but of Egypt in its childhood, so the Messiah himself in his childhood was Called out of Egypt. "Bent on backsliding from God" (7), but God's heart was yearning over them.
"Assyria" and "Egypt" (2): Israel's lying diplomacy, making secret agreements with Assyria and Egypt, each against the other, would bring disaster. "Bethel" (4): 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).
"Offended in Baal" (1): the addition of Baal worship to Calf worship, under Ahab brought national death.
Jehovah's wayward bride shall return to her husband, and again respond to his love, as in the days of her youth (2:14-2O).
Hosea's book is about four things: Israel's Idolatry, her Wickedness, her Captivity and 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.