Voices for Revival – Study of Minor Prophets (Pre-Exilic Period)
Book of Hosea
Hosea’s name means “Salvation” or “Deliverance”. He married a prostitute, Gomer, by God’s command. Their children are called symbolic names: “God Scatters”, “No Mercy” and “Not My People”.
During Hosea’s time, Israel had distinctively turned away from God to Baal worship. It was also around this time that Assyrian aggression against Israel began with the accession of King Tiglath Pileser III in 745 BC.
Condition of People
The people of Israel were predominantly ignorant of God and idolatrous in their worship of false gods. Under the reign of King Jeroboam II, there was widespread moral decline and you could find the rich constantly oppressing the poor.
Place / King in Power
Albright: 786 BC – 746 BC.
Thiele: 782 BC – 753 BC.
Galil: 790 BC – 750 BC.
Hosea was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom (Israel) under the reign of King Jeroboam II. Hosea wept over Israel’s sins, just as Jeremiah wept over Judah’s sins.
The book of Hosea is a tragic love story, real and true. God had made a covenant with Israel and He had been faithful to His bride. But Israel, like Gomer, was adulterous, spurning God’s love and turning instead to false gods in idolatry. Yet, Hosea told of God’s constant commitment and persistent love for His people. After repeated warnings of judgment, God still reaffirmed his love and offered reconciliation but after justice was to be served. Ultimately, God’s love and mercy for His people overflowed and resulted in the restoration of Israel.
Israel’s Idolatry and Adultery
Just as Hosea’s wife, Gomer, was unfaithful to Hosea, so the nation of Israel had been unfaithful to God. She had intermixed Baal worship with the worship of God. Israel’s idolatry had become like adultery to Jehovah God.
- Ephraim was denounced because of her Ignorance (4:6), Idolatry (4:12, 13, 17) and Immorality (Hosea 5:3).
- Ephraim was described as aflame with lust like a baker’s hot oven (7:4).
- She became useless as a half-baked cake (7:8).
- She was as a silly dove, calling to Eygpt, and flying to Assyria for help (7:11).
- She was as a crooked bow, always missing the target, which was God’s glory (7:16).
- She was among the nations as a broken pot (8:8).
- She was wandering as lonely wild ass (8:9).
- She was a backsliding heifer (4:16).
God’s Commitment and Love
Just as Hosea went after his unfaithful wife to bring her back, so the Lord pursued His people with a constant loyalty and persistent devotion.
God’s judgment and Restoration
Hosea solemnly warned Judah against following Israel’s example. Because Judah broke the covenant, turned away from God and forgot her Maker, so she experienced a devastating invasion and exile. Sin has terrible consequences. It could be shown that disaster followed ingratitude toward God and rebellion. But although God disciplined Ephraim and His people for sin, he subsequently encouraged and restored those who have repented.
A key verse is found in Hosea 4:6 when God said … It speaks of the importance and relevance for us as God’s people to study, affirm and apply God’s Word revealed i.e. the knowledge of God, His attributes, character, promises and statutes. The consequences of rejecting the knowledge of God are:
1) our destruction by Satan or the world,
2) God’s rejection of our ministry as priests, and
3) God’s disregard for our children.
Hosea is perhaps the “strangest book” in the Bible, for God instructed Hosea to “take unto thee a wife of whoredoms”. There were several possible reasons why God did this:
a) Experimental reason: By marrying an unfaithful wife, Hosea could perhaps, understand the anguish in God’s heart over the Northern Kingdom committing spiritual adultery against Jehovah God.
b) Illustrative reason: Hosea’s own marriage could become a walking and visible example of his message to Israel.
c) Prophetical reason: God would command him to name his children by titles, describing the future punishment and eventual restoration of Israel.
Hosea may be the longest serving prophet. He predicted the Assyrian invasion and lived to see the prophecy fulfilled in 721 BC. He constantly referred to the Northern Kingdom as Ephraim, as it was the first of 12 tribes to backslide.
Hosea is quoted more times for its size in the New Testament than any other Old Testament book, for about 30 times. Compare:
a) Hosea 11:1 with Matthew 2:15
b) Hosea 6:6 with Matthew 9:13
c) Hosea 10:8 with Luke 23:30
d) Hosea 2:23 with Romans 9:25
e) Hosea 13:14 with 1 Corinthians 15:55
Other Background Notes
The Three Captivities:
During the time of the division of the Jewish monarchy, the northern kingdom of Israel continually turned to idolatry. Every one of their kings were evil and led the people astray. The Lord had continually warned them that if they would not repent, he would “read (weed?) them out of their land” and scatter them throughout the nations.
Finally in 722 BC. the northern kingdom of Israel was captured by Assyria during the reign of Hosea. Assyrians were one of the most wicked and cruel peoples in the history of the world. After the fall of Samaria, the capital city of the northern kingdom, the inhabitants were deported to a land far away. They were replaced by strangers from various parts of the Assyrian Empire. Around 136 years later, 586 BC. , the southern kingdom of Judah, and the capital city Jerusalem, were utterly destroyed by the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. The inhabitants were deported to Babylon during the reign of the last king of Judah, Zedekiah.
According to the promises made by God, through the prophets, they would remain in Babylon for 70 years and be allowed to return by the decree of a Persian king. At the end of the 70 years, Cyrus the Persian, who was at that time the undisputed ruler of the world, issued a decree commanding the restoration of all Jews who had desired to return to their homeland (537 BC). Under Zerubbabel and Joshua (hereditary high priest), a number of Jews returned to the land promised them by the Lord. Under Ezra and Nehemiah the Temple was rebuilt and the walls were restored.
After this, during the conquests of Alexander the Great (332 BC), the Jews were left alone to enjoy a season of peace. But after Alexander died, a Syrian ruler named Antiochus Epiphanes brought terrible persecution upon Israel and profaned the new Temple (168 BC). These troublesome times were predicted by Daniel the prophet.