Hosea is one of a small group of four prophets contemporary with Isaiah, although, like Jonah and Amos, his message was
for the northern kingdom. He began to prophesy at the end of Jeroboam’s reign and continued for about forty years until
just before the Assyrian captivity in 722 B.C.
The first part of this book, chapters 1 to 3, speaks of Hosea’s marriage, which is an illustration of Israel’s relationship with
God and His unfailing love for them. The rest of the book is based on this theme.
Hosea’s wife and children
God instructs Hosea to marry a woman who will be unfaithful. He marries Gomer who is to bear three children whose
names will speak of God’s message to his people: a son Jezreel, meaning ‘God scatters’, because God will avenge the
slaughter of a royal family by Jehu; a daughter Lo-ruhamah, meaning ‘not pitied’, because God will no longer show love to
Israel, though He will to Judah when He prevents Jerusalem from being invaded; and another son Lo-ammi, meaning ‘not
my people’, for God will disown Israel. Yet there is a promise of restoration for Israel when they will be called ‘sons of the
As Hosea’s wife plays the whore, so does Israel in her worship of Baal. But God’s unfailing love will bring Israel back, just
as Hosea will forgive and accept Gomer back as his wife.
In time, God tells Hosea to show love for his wife once more despite her adulteries, just as He loves the Israelites. Gomer
has become a slave and Hosea has to buy her back. He puts her on probation, just as Israel will be before the last days
when she will seek God’s blessings.
The charge against Israel and judgement to come
Nothing more is said of Hosea’s marriage, which has served its purpose as an illustration of God’s relationship with Israel.
Hosea charges Israel with her sins. The priests have a large share of the guilt and will receive their share of the judgement.
Spiritual adultery leads to physical adultery by all Israel, but it is the men who are held accountable for the sins of the
women. Judah is warned not to follow Israel’s example, a warning in which Ephraim is spoken of as representative of all
God announces that judgement will come to Israel. Even their attempt to buy the protection of Assyria will not save them.
Judah too is warned, since she is indulging in the sins that are to bring down Israel.
Repentance is short-lived; Punishment will follow
Israel shows a change of heart as a result of God’s charges, but there is no depth to her repentance and the catalogue of
charges continues. She is destined to reap the whirlwind of judgement now she has forgotten her Maker.
Hosea may have been considered a fool for his prophecies, but he has been a watchman over Israel. God is now going to
reject Israel because she hasn’t obeyed Him, and she will become subservient to Assyria just as she was to Egypt. She will
become a wanderer among the nations. It was a time when they should have turned to God, sowing righteousness in order
to reap the fruit of His unfailing love, but they planted wickedness, reaped evil, and ate the fruit of deception. The image of
a calf at Bethel, which had become their only king, is now to be destroyed.
God’s faithful love
God expresses his faithful love for Israel, a love that cannot cease despite Israel’s history. They seem to have forgotten the
times of Jacob and Moses, and think that affluence somehow covers up their sin. So God cannot help but express His anger
again before encouraging a prayer for repentance, and a promise of restoration.