In the story of Hosea, the first of the minor prophets, the class will review information about the Prophet Hosea as well as his times, message, book and lesson drawn from his writings.
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With this chapter we begin our study of the Minor Prophets themselves. One point of review I want to maintain here, that will be helpful as we study these twelve prophets, is that the order in which they appear in the Bible is the same as the order they appear in history and more specifically around three important dates in history:

1. The fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel – 721 B.C.

  • Hosea – Joel – Amos – Obadiah – Jonah – Micah

2. The fall of the Southern Kingdom of Judah – 587 B.C.

  • Nahum – Habakkuk – Zephaniah

3. Return of the exiles from Babylon to Judea and Jerusalem – 588 B.C. – 457 B.C.

  • Haggai – Zechariah – Malachi

I will not be including each prophet's book as I normally do with Scripture but will expect each student to read beforehand the prophet being discussed in successive chapters. In this way, each will be familiar with the material before reading the explanations in this book.

This study will review each book by breaking it down into five categories:

  1. The Prophet
  2. The Prophet's Time
  3. The Prophet's Message
  4. The Prophet's Book
  5. The Prophet's Lessons

In this way, between your careful readings and the explanations in this book you will become familiar with these often neglected prophets.

The Book of Hosea

1. The prophet Hosea

Hosea is referred to as "O SEE" son of Berri in the Hebrew Bible. The name Hosea means to save or salvation. He was a citizen of the Northern Kingdom and had a long prophetic ministry from about 750 to 722 B.C. We don't have much information about his background or occupation outside of his prophetic ministry. He does have an unusual calling in that, instead of a spoken message he was to deliver to the people, God called him to "live out" a situation in his personal life that would reflect or mirror a similar situation that was taking place at that time between God and the people of the Northern Kingdom.

This method of "acting out" various scenarios was a common practice among God's prophets and servants. For example:

  1. Moses removing shoes to indicate holy ground – Exodus 3:5
  2. Saul cutting up two oxen and send ing pieces to tribal leaders as a call to war. – I Samuel 11:17
  3. Ezekiel eating a scroll – Ezekiel 2:8-3:6
  4. God had Ezekiel shave his beard, cut his hair and divide it into three parts – Ezekiel 5:2
  5. Isaiah was told to walk barefoot and naked for three years – Isaiah 20:3-4
  6. Agabus tied Paul's belt around his own hands and feet to warn of the Apostle's arrest in Jerusalem – Acts 21:11

Hosea was called to reflect the Northern Kingdom of Israel's unfaithfulness to God (by worshipping various idols and other gods) while still calling themselves His people and offering Him worship, prayers, and sacrifices.

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord."
- Hosea 1:2

Hosea was to mirror this blatant infidelity by purposely choosing a whore to be his wife, having children with her all the while knowing that she would repeatedly cheat on him with other men.

As we read on from his initial calling and response by taking Gomer (means – to end) as his wife, we see God then using their relationship as a reflection of His own relationship with Israel (Hosea, like God and His unconditional love; and Gomer, like Israel a people who continually sinned). The interesting facet of this acted out prophecy was that God used the name of the three children that Gomer had with Hosea as messages to the people of Israel concerning their conduct, its effect, and the consequences that these will produce.

2. The Prophet's Time

Hosea lived and ministered during the period of the Divided Kingdom and as the opening verse explains, his ministry lasted through the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (kings of the Southern Kingdom, and Jeroboam II who was the king of the Northern Kingdom where he lived and prophesied). His book doesn't mention it but he was a contemporary of the prophets of the Southern Kingdom, Isaiah and Micah.

During Jeroboam II's reign the northern Kingdom enjoyed great economic prosperity. His armies were victorious over the Arameans, he conquered Damascus and extended Israel to its former limits. However, this economic prosperity advantaged only the rich who grew richer while, because of social injustice, the poor remained poor and could not even find relief or redress from their oppression from the courts.

Jeroboam rebuilt and fortified Shechem as the capital of the Northern Kingdom and wanting to avoid his people returning to worship at the temple in Jerusalem, which was located in the southern Kingdom (thus losing their allegiance to the South). To avoid this, he built two state temples each with golden calves located in the cities of Bethel and Dan.

Into this prosperous society with luxurious homes, a vibrant economy, expanding power and population (350,000 – Population of Palestine – Iron Age II - Broshi and Finkelstein (1992 - Wiki) who have abandoned the worship of the God of their ancestors for the pagan gods of their neighbors - God sends prophets to denounce their materialism, injustice, and idolatry – Jonah, Amos, Joel, and the subject of this study, the prophet Hosea.

3. The Prophet's Message

Set around the fall of the northern Kingdom of Israel, Hosea's preaching denounces the worship of gods other than the God of the Jews, Yahweh.

Much of Hosea's message is framed as a living metaphor comparing Israel's abandonment of Yahweh to a woman being unfaithful to her husband. God called Hosea to live out this situation by marrying Gomer who would bear him children but would also become unfaithful to him. This is the first time in Scripture that God's relationship with His people would be referred to as a marriage.

We see that Hosea seeks out Gomer after their separation (he buys her back from a slave market – Hosea 3:2) and brings her home – this time a metaphor for the eventual reconciliation between God and his people – a sign of hope.

Another feature of Hosea's preaching is the naming of his children with names that had symbolic meaning, reflecting the relationship between God and Israel. Each time Gomer bore a boy or a girl the name of the child referred to a judgment of God on the people. This judgment grew in severity with each successive child. For example:

A. Jezreel – Means God Sows

3So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. 4And the Lord said to him, "Name him Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.
- Hosea 1:3-4

Symbolically, this name is a metaphor for actions sowed that reap certain consequences. It is also the name of a valley where many battles were fought and much blood shed. It is also where king Saul died in battle. In giving this name, God is announcing that he would bring judgment on the house of Jehu, a former king, who destroyed several royal families (Omri/Ahaziah/Ahab) to secure his position as king. The connection between Jehu and Jezreel is that it was at Jezreel that Jehu killed king Joram, Ahaziah, Jezebel, and king Ahab's descendants. (II Kings 9:24-10:17). These were wicked kings and with the preaching of Elijah, Jehu began a religious reform but eventually formed an alliance with Assyria which was seen as an act of unfaithfulness by not depending entirely on God. For this and other sins God was to bring judgment on this family and descendants and announced it with the naming of Hosea's firstborn.

B. Lo-ruhamah – Means no mercy

Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lord said to him, "Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them.
- Hosea 1:6

No mercy refers to God's mercy for the people in a covenant relationship with him. God was slow to anger and patient with his people. Before, with Jezreel he announces the judgment and punishment of one family.

Note that there is no judgment on the Southern Kingdom.

Now, the intensity increases in that he will no longer have the same attitude of mercy for all the people of the Northern Kingdom in the covenant with Him, not just one family.

C. Lo-Ammi – Means not my people

8When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son. 9And the Lord said, "Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God."
- Hosea 1:8-9

Before, God punished his people in many ways but despite these times they were still His people! This time, however, we have the most severe act when God is rejecting the northern Kingdom as his covenant people.

Summary – What is Hosea About?

Hosea's book is a very emotional and passionate account of the relationship between God and the northern Kingdom of Israel. It portrays the unfaithfulness of the people of God and the consequences of their actions. Hosea's own troubled relationship with his wife served as a metaphor for God's relationship with Israel. Despite Israel's sinful ways God still pleads with them to repent and return to him because He offers forgiveness and salvation.

4. The Prophet's Book – Outline

  1. Chapters 1-3 – the marriage of Hosea and Gomer serves as a metaphor for God's relationship with unfaithful Israel. Hosea takes Gomer back (after infidelity) just as God promises to take back Israel as His people.
  2. Chapters 4-7 – these chapters contain a series of accusations against Israel for it its idolatry, dishonesty, and social injustice. Hosea warns that these actions will bring Divine punishment.
  3. Chapters 8-10 – the people continue to pursue false gods (Baal) and refuse to listen to God's calls to repentance. Hosea predicts that they will be punished for their sins.
  4. Chapters 11-14 – God's love for His people shines through in these chapters. Despite Israel's sins, God cannot abandon them and He promises salvation to those who repent and turn back to Him.

5. Special features of Hosea's book

1. The use of Hosea's family situation as a living metaphor reflecting God's relationship with Israel.

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord."
- Hosea 1:2

2. Hosea uses passionate, vivid, and emotional imagery to express the gravity of Israel's sins and the depth of God's love.

1"Come, let us return to the Lord.
For He has torn us, but He will heal us;
He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
2"He will revive us after two days;
He will raise us up on the third day,
That we may live before Him.
3"So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth."
- Hosea 6:1-3

3. Hosea is one of the first prophets to address the issue of social injustice and call the wealthy and powerful to account for their exploitation of the poor.

6Therefore, return to your God,
Observe kindness and justice,
And wait for your God continually.
7A merchant, in whose hands are false balances,
He loves to oppress.
8And Ephraim said, "Surely I have become rich,
I have found wealth for myself;
In all my labors they will find in me
No iniquity, which would be sin."
- Hosea 12:6-8

4. Hosea's book contains some of the most memorable lines in the Old Testament.

For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
- Hosea 6:6

5. The book's structure is not linear or chronological but rather organized around themes and ideas which makes it more difficult to outline and follow.

For example: spiritual adultery; God's love and mercy; the consequences of sin; God's view of injustice.

6. The Prophet's Message/Lessons

Message: God is a God of both justice and mercy. He will judge and punish unfaithfulness, wickedness, and oppression of the weak and poor. On the other hand, he will have mercy on those who return to him in faith and repentance.


1. Remain faithful

God has and will always punish infidelity and reward those who remain faithful (not perfect). For example, I'm not the perfect husband but I am a faithful one.

2. God is love

We see God's love in the creation and in the many blessings He provides for us each day. However, the greatest example of His love is His willingness to forgive our most egregious sins. After the miracles and blessings given to the Jews by God, they abandoned Him to worship gods of wood and stone, and yet God was prepared to forgive and bless them again.

3. Our faith is demonstrated most clearly in the way we treat other people.

The people of Hosea's day thought that keeping the ritual laws of sacrifice at the temple fulfilled their duty to God in full and how they treated others had no bearing on their relationship with God. This is why Hosea says, "I delight in loyalty (to God) rather than sacrifice. And in the knowledge of God (His laws) than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6). This is an example of parallelism, a Hebrew poetic device, where the second verse is parallel or similar to the first.

In other words, the author says the same thing twice but in different ways. Here the point is that unfaithfulness or disobedience to God's word or will cannot be covered over or replaced by more ritual. In context Hosea's message is that mistreatment of others (which goes against God's will and word) cannot be covered over by religious observances or ritual. In other words, your prayers, praise, and worship is acceptable to God so long as you're treatment of other people is acceptable to Him as well. A New Testament version of this is:

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
- John 13:35

The surest proof of your claim to be a disciple of Jesus is the love you have for other disciples.