God communicates His message to His people in different ways. Some messages are conveyed directly like the 10 commandments. God wrote them directly on the stone tablets. Most messages have been delivered through prophets inspired by the Spirit of God and through visions. In the New Testament God became “Flesh” and walked with His creation in the person of the Messiah Jesus Christ.
The Book of Hosea is two dimensional; on the one hand God gives Hosea a message to deliver to the nation of Israel, a Word from the Lord to the nation. On the other hand Hosea is told to act out the “Love” the Lord has for the sinful nation of Israel. Hosea represents God and Hosea’s wife, Gomer, represents Israel. Hosea becomes the living embodiment of God’s Grace.
God tells Hosea to buy back his adulterous wife Gomer and restore her, even though she deserves death according to the Law, God forgives her like He forgives Israel. Gomer not only represents Israel, but the repentant sinner who is forgiven through the death of Messiah on the cross. As God demonstrates His grace to Israel, He also demonstrates His grace to us, we deserve His wrath.
What made Israel so bad? Why did God use the picture of Gomer, an adulterous wife who became a prostitute to picture the chosen people?
Israel and Judah
To understand Hosea it’s important to understand the context of the Biblical events leading to the days of Hosea. Israel is a picture of God’s grace for the disobedient believer. Israel has not earned “God’s” love; Israel does not deserve God’s love. The same applies to you and me, we are under Grace. The story of Israel begins with the man Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. God made promises to Abraham, and God would fulfill them through Jacob his grandson.
The Name Israel
Jacob was returning to the Promised Land after twenty years, earlier he fled from his brother Esau who had wanted to kill him, for stealing his blessing and birthright by trickery. Returning, Jacob knew he was at Esau’s mercy, he feared Esau would wipe out him and his family. After sending his family ahead to bow before Esau’s presence to show his submission to his brother, Jacob met God at the ford of Jabbok, and there he wrestled with God all night, it was there Jacob was renamed Israel (Genesis 32:22-32).
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[f] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Genesis 32:28
Tribes of Israel take possession of the Promised Land 1440-1375 B.C.
Jacob’s 12 sons became known as the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob and his family escaped the famine in the land of Canaan by going to Egypt. Jacob’s descendents multiplied in Egypt, from humble beginnings the family became a nation of people. Egypt began to oppress them and saw them as a threat. Then the people began to call out to the Lord and He sent Moses to lead the descendents of Israel out of Egypt back to the Promised Land, Israel was now a nation. Jacob’s family had grown from 70 to over 1 million after 400-years in Egypt. The Lord called Moses to lead the nation from Egypt through the wilderness; however Israel rebelled against God in the Sinai wilderness, and had to spend 40-years wondering the desert. Moses’ second in command, Joshua would lead Israel to take possession of the land God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the land of Canaan.
Period of Judges 1375-1050 B.C.
What followed next was known as the period of Judges, from about 1375 to 1050 B.C., Israel had no king but was a collection tribes ruled by judges raised up in time of need. During this period Israel went astray and people did “what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6), God allowed their enemies to rule over them, when the oppression became too great; they called out to the Lord. The Lord God then sent judges/delivers to rescue His people, from their oppression; people such as Gideon, Samson and Debra would rally the tribes back to God. During this period, Israel would fall and rise again and again. The last judge was Samuel, who would anoint Israel first kings Saul and David.
Unified Israel 1050-931 B.C.
Saul was anointed king of a unified Israel by Samuel the prophet/judge, under Saul Israel was no longer a collection of tribes but a united kingdom. Israel fought back against Philistine oppression, but Saul failed as king when he overstepped his authority and assumed the role of priest. God then had Samuel anoint David a shepherd boy from the tribe of Judah of the family of Jessie. God promised the Messianic line would follow from David’s family line (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Through David’s line God would set up an everlasting kingdom to rule the entire Earth in righteousness.
David purchased the land to build a house for God, His Holy Temple on Mt. Moriah (2 Samuel 24:18, 2 Chronicles 3:1). This was only place Israel was to approach the God of Israel to offer sacrifices, this was the location the Lord had established. After David’s death, Solomon his son began construction of a permanent building to occupy Mt. Moriah. Solomon was given great wisdom and blessings but his compromised life brought judgment on the nation. His building and oppression caused the tribes of Israel to grumble against the leadership of Judah (the tribe of David). When Solomon died, his son (David’s grandson) promised even more building and oppression, at this 10 of the 12 tribes rebelled against Judah’s rule.
Israel would become 2 nations, Judah and Simeon would become known as the southern kingdom of Judah. The 10 northern tribes would become known as Israel.
Judah the Southern Kingdom 931-586 B.C.
The Temple and Messianic line was established in the kingdom of Judah. Through the line of David, hence the through the Kings of Judah God would redeem the earth. Jerusalem was established as the location of God’s Temple, here and here alone were the priest to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. This kingdom would last until the Babylonians destroyed it in 586 B.C. when the city of Jerusalem was destroyed.
Most of the prophets in the Old Testament were from the territory of Judah, most of the prophets had a message to the inhabitants of Judah. Just as the people fell away during the period of the judges, this happened also to the kingdom of Judah. Most of Judah’s kings, David’s descendents, were poor spiritual leaders. The worshipped the idol’s of the land of rather then turning to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
In the context of these events prophets such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Joel, Micah and others spoke to the nation of Judah, their messages became the books of the Old Testament.
Israel the Northern Kingdom 931-722 B.C.
The northern kingdom begins when Jeroboam I in 931B.C. leads a rebellion against Solomon’s son Rehoboam who proclaimed his father demands will be little compared to his demand (I Kings 12:10-11). At this the people revolted Judah.
16 Now when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying: “What share have we in David?
We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.
To your tents, O Israel!
Now, see to your own house, O David!”So Israel departed to their tents. 17 But Rehoboam reigned over the children of Israel who dwelt in the cities of Judah.18 Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was in charge of the revenue; but all Israel stoned him with stones, and he died. Therefore King Rehoboam mounted his chariot in haste to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.20 Now it came to pass when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had come back, they sent for him and called him to the congregation, and made him king over all Israel. There was none who followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only. 1 Kings 12:16-20
Jeroboam built a capital from his new kingdom at Shechem in mountains. His goal was to establish his political rule over the tribes. He wanted to be sure the people had no reason to return to Judah, so he commissioned the building of “Golden Calf” gods to replace the Temple in Jerusalem. So the people would not have to trouble themselves to go to Jerusalem. His purpose was to maintain control, both politically and religiously over the people. Jeroboam created a “false religion” to control the people, he gave them some aspects of Jerusalem, with priests, feast days and worship.
28 Therefore the king asked advice, made two calves of gold, and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” 29 And he set up one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. 31 He made shrines[c] on the high places, and made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi……..32 Jeroboam ordained a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the feast that was in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did at Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And at Bethel he installed the priests of the high places which he had made. I Kings 12:28-32
Responding to the falling away of the 10-northern tribes, God raised up prophets to restore the people, giving them a choice between the ways of Jeroboam or the ways of the Lord. Elijah, Elisha, Amos, and Hosea spoke to the Northern Kingdom of Israel warning them of God impending judgment. They urged the people to turn from their idolatry and back to the true God. Finally Israel (The northern kingdom) reached a point of judgment. The Lord would bring the cruel and powerful nation of Assyria to oppose them and take them away from the land. This is precisely what happened, in 722 B.C. the armies of Assyria took the northern kingdom captive into the land of Assyria, they then sent colonists from outer parts of their kingdom to occupy the land.
The people a mix of the survivors of Assyria and the colonists from Assyria became known as Samaritans.
God’s promise of restoration
However in the message of judgment, God also had a promise of restoration, a promise of a never ending love for the nation of Israel. Hosea becomes God’s living symbol to Israel. Israel is like Hosea’s wife Gomer, a faithless wife who became a prostitute enslaved by her captors. God then instructs Hosea to buy her back from her captors and restore her after a period of isolation. In like manner, after a period of isolation the nation of Israel will be restored to her husband the Lord God.
According to Hosea 1:1 the author of the book is Hosea son of Beeri. He was born in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, little is known about him outside this book. His name is the equivalent of Joshua meaning “Salvation”.
He lived during the reigns of Jeroboam II King of Israel (793-753 B.C) and King Hezekiah (716-687 B.C) king of Judah. He witnessed the destruction of Israel and the fulfillment of his words. His prophetic ministry would have lasted at least 38-years if not more. Hosea lived during the times of the prophets Amos and Isaiah.
Hosea message was mainly to the Northern Kingdom, but would be relevant to the southern kingdom of Judah who sins were similar to Israel. Hosea message was also to an “End time” restored Israel, which would include a unified kingdom.
Date: 753-716 B.C.
Hosea live in a unique time in the Kingdom of Israel, he witnessed a period of great prosperity and expansion along with its collapse and utter destruction and deportation when Assyria invaded in 722 B.C. In verse one Kings of Israel and Judah are noted. Jeroboam II is the only King of Israel noted, since he reign was from 793 to 753 B.C. the latest date for would place him at a time when Israel was prosperous and established. Jeroboam II extended the territory of Israel to ancient limits of David’s kingdom; Damascus was under its control. Merchants were prospering and living like kings as trade was unhindered and expanding, the Assyrian kingdom was also more subdued at this time. Amos records the opulent lifestyle of Israel.
15 I will tear down the winter house along with the summer house;
the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed and the mansions will be demolished,”
declares the Lord. Amos 3:15
3 You put off the day of disaster
and bring near a reign of terror.
4 You lie on beds adorned with ivory
and lounge on your couches.
You dine on choice lambs
and fattened calves.
5 You strum away on your harps like David
and improvise on musical instruments. Amos 6:3-5
This would all change when Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 B.C.) King of Assyria comes to power; he would update the army and advance on Israel’s new found success, forcing them to submit to Assyrian power. In 733-732 Israel was made a puppet of the Assyrian Empire. Israel choose to revolt against Assyria so Assyria invaded the land and deported Israel in 722 B.C.
Hosea more than likely fled to the Judah in the last years of his life as the armies of Assyria advanced on Israel. He records the kings of Judah, but does not record the last kings of Israel. Hezekiah began his reign in 716 B.C., after Israel would have been deported from the land.
Before Israel entered the Promised Land Moses reviewed God’s Covenant with the nation, The Lord established a covenant of blessings and cursing. If Israel obeyed the Lord, they would be blessed above all nations on the earth (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). If Israel turned away they would be cursed, the Lord God would remove them from their land and they would suffer in the lands they are deported (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). Blessings:
28 If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God: Deuteronomy 28:1-2
15 However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:.. 64 Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. Deuteronomy 28:15,64
In Hosea’s day Israel had come to the point of judgment, God was going to enact the covenant, cursing was about take place on the nation of Israel. Judah would receive a similar judgment later, but Israel had reached the trigger wire for God’s wrath. Hosea came to issue God’s coming judgment against the nation.
However God had also promised a day of restoration even after Israel’s judgment. Before Israel entered the Promised Land God knew the nation would turn away from Him, and judgment would follow. The Lord also knew the nation would one day be restored after it turned away. Moses almost 700-years before Hosea promised restoration as part of the Covenant.
30 When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes[a] and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. 4 Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. 5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. 6 The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. Deuteronomy 30:1-6
Hosea proclaims a day of restoration and blessing when Israel will receive the blessings God has promised. Even if it seems impossible, God will complete His Word, one day Israel will be the nation of blessings promised in the covenant.
10 “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel. Hosea 1:10-11
Hosea was Israel’s visible witness; God allowed him to demonstrate through his own how serious God takes His word. Hosea wife Gomer is a representation of God’s wife Israel.