Hosea was a contemporary of Isaiah and Micah, prophesying from about 750-725 BC. His messages were primarily for the northern tribes who would be destroyed by the Assyrians in 721 BC. The people of Israel had demonstrated they were beyond turning back to the Lord, they were a nation ready to be eradicated. Though the northern kingdom was his initial audience, he also spent time speaking to Judah.
As he begins his message against Israel, he identified them as a harlot (1:2). Israel had forgotten the LORD and given themselves over to false worship, whether it be the calves set up by Dan and Bethel by Jeroboam I (8:5-6) or the Baals which Ahab and Jezebel urged upon the nation (2:8, 13, 17).
In Hosea 4, the prophet lays the charges against Israel. They were guilty of “…swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery…” (4:2). Their spiritual leaders had failed to lead them in truth. He wrote in 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”
One of the very poignant lessons in the book of Hosea is the prophet’s marriage to Gomer, a prostitute (1:2-3). She bore three children to Hosea. He named his children as instructed by the LORD: a son named Jezreel, meaning “God scatters,” a daughter named Lo-Ruhamah, meaning “not pitied,” and another son named Lo-Ammi, meaning “not my people.” Each of these names are significant and symbolic of Israel’s relationship to God. Because of their sin, the LORD would scatter them among the nations, the LORD would not pity them, in fact He would disown them. Though Gomer was a harlot and adulterous, the LORD commanded Hosea to buy her back and to love her, “…just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel…” (3:1-3).
The prophet condemned Israel for their wickedness but plead with them to turn back to the Lord. The final chapter begins, “O Israel, return to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity…” (14:1). God was willing to heal them and love them (14:4). Sadly, Israel would not turn.
Next week we continue with Joel…