Book of Hosea
|Book of Hosea|
|SERMONS, ESSAYS AND OPINIONS||
The Book of Hosea is one of the "Minor Prophet" books of the Old Testament. It is a record of the prophecies of the prophet Hosea to the northern kingdom of Israel (also called Ephraim after its largest tribe) in the 8th century BC. Hosea spoke about the inward moral corruption and spiritual adultery of the people who had been unfaithful to God and worshipped other gods. Hosea repeatedly echoes this message: God hates the sins of his people and judgement is certain, but God's incredible forgiving love stands firm.
Hosea prophesied during a dark era of Israel's history, the period of the Northern Kingdom's decline and fall in the 8th century BC. The apostasy of the people was rampant, having turned away from God in order to serve the calves of Jeroboam (see 1 Kings 12:26-30 and Hosea 8:4-6) and Baal, a Canaanite god of fertility.
Hosea prophesied some time between 780 and 710 BC, and was a contemporary of the prophets Amos and Isaiah. Along with Amos, Hosea's target audience was the Northern Kingdom of Israel, while Isaiah's prophecies were directed primarily towards the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
Hosea was himself a native of the Northern Kingdom, and wrote in a distinctive northern dialect.
The book may be divided into two parts, the first part (chapters 1-3) describes the marriage of Hosea to a prostitute, symbolically representing the idolatry of Israel. The second part (chapters 4-14), is a summary of Hosea's discourses, filled with denunciations, threatenings, exhortations, promises, and revelations of mercy.
Hosea was directed by God to marry a prostitute, and he did so. Marriage here is symbolic of the covenantal relationship between God and Israel. However, Israel has been unfaithful to God by following other gods and breaking the commandments which are the terms of the covenant, hence Israel is symbolized by a prostitute who violates the obligations of marriage to her husband.
The book records that Hosea and his wife, Gomer, had a son and God commanded that the son be named Jezreel. This name refers to a valley in which much blood had been shed in Israel's history, especially by the kings of the Northern Kingdom (See 1 Kings 21 and 2 Kings 9:21-35). The naming of this son was to stand as a prophecy against the reigning house of the Northern Kingdom, that they would pay for that bloodshed.
The couple next had a daughter and God commanded that she be named Lo-ruhamah meaning "No Pity" to show Israel that, although God still had pity on the Southern Kingdom of Judah, God no longer had pity on the Northern Kingdom of Israel and its destruction was imminent.
The book records that a second son was then born to Gomer who was named Lo-ammi, meaning "Not My People". The child bore this name of shame to show that the Northern Kingdom would also be shamed, for its people would no longer be known as God's People.
Following these births the prophecy is made that someday this will all be changed, and that God will indeed have pity on Israel.
The 2nd chapter of the book describes a divorce between Hosea and Gomer, which is symbolic of the end of the covenant between God and the Northern Kingdom. However, Hosea ended this prophecy with the declaration that God will one day renew the covenant, and will take Israel back in love and in the 3rd chapter, at God's command, Hosea sought out Gomer once more. Hosea was required to buy Gomer back, suggesting that either she had sold herself into slavery for debt, or she was with a lover who demanded money in. This chapter symbolically describes that God will take Israel back, even at a cost to Himself.
The 13th chapter foretells the destruction of the kingdom of Israel at the hands of Assyria, because there has been no repentance. This event eventually occurred in 722 BC. In chapter 14, the prophet urges Israel to seek forgiveness, promising its restoration, while urging the utmost fidelity to God.
The main theme within Hosea is of God's judgement of a people who have abandoned him, yet his plan to forgive and restore them despite this.
A number of accusations are made of Israel by God in Hosea including
- Idolatory - Throughout the book, the people are shown to have ignored the command of exclusive worship of God, for example in Hosea 8:4
- They have set up kings, but not by me. They have made princes, and I didn't approve. Of their silver and their gold they have made themselves idols, that they may be cut off.
- Ungrateful hearts - The people have forgotten all the good things that God has done, for example in Hosea 13:4-6
- "Yet I am Yahweh your God from the land of Egypt; and you shall acknowledge no god but me, and besides me there is no savior.
- I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.
- According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted. Therefore they have forgotten me.
- Lack of knowledge of God
- A shallow appearance of religion with no real depth is shown throughout the book, for example in Hosea 8:1-3
- "Put the trumpet to your lips! Something like an eagle is over Yahweh's house, because they have broken my covenant, and rebelled against my law.
- They cry to me, 'My God, we Israel acknowledge you!'
- Israel has cast off that which is good. The enemy will pursue him.
Because of these sins, God reveals that he will bring judgement upon Israel, rejecting them and allowing them to be conquered. This occurred in 722 BC when Assyrian armies conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and the people were exiled. Passages that describe this event include:
- My God will cast them away, because they did not listen to him; and they will be wanderers among the nations. (Hosea 9:17)
- For I will be to Ephraim like a lion, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I myself will tear in pieces and go away. I will carry off, and there will be no one to deliver. (Hosea 5:14)
Despite these sins however, the goodness of God's character as a loving father shines throughout Hosea. In Hosea 11 a picture emerges showing the emotional struggle of God.
God has enduring compassion – like a loving father
- "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
- They called to them, so they went from them. They sacrificed to the Baals, and burned incense to engraved images.
- Yet I taught Ephraim to walk. I took them by his arms; but they didn't know that I healed them.
- I drew them with cords of a man, with ties of love; and I was to them like those who lift up the yoke on their necks; and I bent down to him and I fed him.
- "They won't return into the land of Egypt; but the Assyrian will be their king, because they refused to repent.
- The sword will fall on their cities, and will destroy the bars of their gates, and will put an end to their plans.
- My people are determined to turn from me. Though they call to the Most High, he certainly won't exalt them.
- "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned within me, my compassion is aroused.
- I will not execute the fierceness of my anger. I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of you; and I will not come in wrath.
Hosea ends with great hope with Hosea 14:4 stating: "I will heal their waywardness. I will love them freely; for my anger is turned away from him..
Hosea in the light of the New Testament
- For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind...