A Minor Prophet
In the eighth century before Christ, Hosea (salvation) lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which was also called, Ephraim, or Jacob. Part of his ministry took place during the latter part of the reign of Jeroboam II (c. 793 – 753 BC), and continued through the fall of the Northern Kingdom in c. 722 BC.
The Northern Kingdom of Israel had been established by Jeroboam I, the first king of the ten northern tribes of Israel, following the death of Solomon (1 Kings 11:26-14:20). He ruled for 22 years. Solomon had sought to kill Jeroboam I, knowing he was a usurper. However, Jeroboam I fled to Egypt, where he was granted political safety by Shishak I, king of Egypt. Only after the death of Solomon did Jeroboam I return to complete his nefarious work of dividing Israel by leading a tax protest against Rehoboam, the son of Solomon and rightful heir to the throne of Israel.
Foolishly, Rehoboam had listened to the advice of his inexperienced counselors on the matter of excessive taxation. The new king told the Hebrew people, “Whereas my father laid a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke, my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!” (1 Kings 12:11). The damage was done, and the nation of Israel divided. Jeroboam I proved to be a ruthless, and godless leader, for he established two places for false worship so that people would not try to go to Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:29). An alternative place of worship was established in Bethel, and in Dan. Then, Jeroboam I made two calves of gold, and said unto the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 12:28). It was a terrible deed which Jeroboam I performed.
Jeroboam II, the son and successor of Jeroboam I, tried to reverse some of the political and spiritual damage done by his father. Jeroboam I was able to restore prosperity and some lost territory to the nation, reaching even into Syria, but he was not willing to stop the worship of false gods. As a result, Jeroboam II was condemned by the prophets. Jonah, Amos, and Hosea prophesied during his reign. Hosea lived long enough to proclaim the word of the Lord to a rebellious people whom God placed under the Fifth Cycle of Discipline (national disintegration as per 2 Kings 22:19; Lev. 26:34; Deut. 28:37, 45), in 722 BC at the hand of the Assyrian Empire.
For twenty-five years, Hosea told the people of Israel that God’s judgment was coming. However, few were listening. A whole generation lived in animated disbelief in order to eat, drink, and be merry. Existentialism and hedonism are not modern concepts. The same moral rot that is destroying America destroyed the ten tribes of Northern Israel many years ago.
When the collective prophetic work of Hosea is reviewed, three main sections are seen.
A Marriage Made in Heaven? Hosea 1 – 3
In the First Section, the narrative tells the story of Hosea’s turbulent marriage to Gomer. The marriage is a surprising one, for the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord” (Hosea 1:2).
For the New Testament Christian this is a very shocking commandment, for the Scriptures forbid being unequally yoked with an unrighteous person. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14).
To knowingly marry an unrighteous person will predictably bring incredible pain and suffering to the marriage. Nevertheless, Hosea was told to marry Gomer to illustrate how God’s own wife, Israel, had committed great whoredom, “departing from the Lord” (Hosea 1:2).
The Prophet and the Prostitute
The union between Hosea and Gomer produced three children. There was a son called Jezreel. There was a daughter named Lo-Ruhamah. There was a second son named Lo-Ammi. Each of the names had a symbolic meaning reflecting God’s turbulent relationship with Israel.
In the Valley of Death: Hosea 1:3-5
The first child, Jezreel, was named after the Valley of Jezreel. Initially, Jezreel was known for its beauty and fertile richness. In time, it became a place of violence, bloodshed, and slaughter. In the Valley of Jezreel, king Ahab and his treacherous wife Jezebel had Naboth slaughtered (1 Kings 21:1-16). In the Valley of Jezreel, Jeru killed Joram, Ahaziah, and Jezebel (2 Kings 9:14-37). In the Valley of Jezreel, a place of beauty became disfigured and saturated with sin, just like the Northern Nation of Israel.
No Pity and No Mercy: Hosea 1:6-7
The second child, Lo-Ruhamah (womb). The name Ruhamah (Hosea 2:1), refers to the tender mercy of God who protected Israel while it was being formed, but the negative prefix, “Lo”, reverses the meaning of the name so that Lo-Ruhamah means, “No Mercy”, or “No Pity”. Lo-Ruhamah conveys the message that God has withdrawn His love, and compassion for Northern Israel. In essence, Hosea was to go into the various communities in Israel and say: “Hear, O Israel. The time will come when the LORD will have no mercy, and no pity on you. The time is fast approaching when you will be paid the wages of sin which you have earned, death.” There will be spiritual death. The people will be separated from their God. There will be societal death. The Northern Nation will be conquered by the Assyrians. There will be personal death. Many will die prematurely through hunger, war, pestilence, and disease. In the process, God will have no pity on the people.
Not My People: Hosea 1:8-9
The third child, Lo-Ammi. The third child of Hosea and Gomer was given a name of hope and joy for “Ammi” means “my people” (Hosea 2:1). However, the negative prefix makes the name Lo-ammi to mean, “not my people.”
What a devastating name Lo-Ammi is.
One day, during His earthly ministry, Jesus turned to a group of people and said, “You will not come to me, that you might have life” (John 5:4).
Those who heard Jesus say that should have quivered and trembled, because Jesus said elsewhere that His sheep would hear His voice, and follow Him, because the Lord knows His own (John 10:27).
Being the people of God once distinguished Israel from all the nations on earth (Lev. 26:12; 2 Sam. 7:14; Jer. 30:22; Ezek. 36:28). Now God was telling Israel through His prophet Hosea, “You are NOT my people.”
There is a Deep Love for the Ungodly: Hosea 3:1-5
Lest the nation of Israel despair forever, Hosea has a message of hope, and restoration to fellowship illustrated by the prophet going to his wife in her degradation, paying a redemption price, and restoring her to fellowship. Hosea was willing to do what God commanded, because deep in his heart he still loved Gomer, no matter what she did, just like God has an eternal love for His own.
In His mercy and grace the Lord rescued the Hebrew people out of slavery in the Land of Bondage, He brought them to Mt. Sinai and gave them the Law. Then, the Lord led His people in the wilderness where He faithfully fed and clothed them for forty years. Eventually, the Lord brought His people into the Land of Promise, flowing with milk and honey. The one main request of the Lord was that the people covenant with Him to be faithful. But the people were not faithful. Once in the Land of Promise, the Hebrew people took the blessings of heaven and dedicated them to the Canaanite gods and goddesses. They broke their covenant relationship. They proved themselves to be unfaithful. The Lord could have ended His covenant relationship with Israel, but He chose a different course of action. God was determined to renew His covenant with Israel for only one reason, His own mercy, compassion, and faithfulness. Such is the nature of the Sovereign’s grace and love.
A Distinguishing Love
There is a difference between the love of Hosea for Gomer, and God’s love for His own that must not be missed. When Hosea paid fifteen pieces of silver, plus a homer of barley, and a half homer of barley, he was not being unduly extravagant, if compared with the redemptive price of a slave which was 30 pieces of silver and some barley. The truth was, Gomer was not the beautiful woman she used to be. Sin had ravished her body, and diminished her value. In contrast, one day, for thirty pieces of silver, Jesus Christ died on a Cross to redeem and restore those for whom the Father has given to Him (John 6:37). Hosea is a type of Christ, but only Christ could pay the full asking price of salvation.
The Fifth Cycle of Discipline: Hosea 3:4-5
While committed to His covenant relationship with Israel, though willing to redeem and restore His chosen people, the Lord will not withhold judgment, “For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth” (Prov. 3:12). The Lord’s severe discipline of Israel is designed to lead them to repentance. When that happens, the Lord will restore the people to the land, and give them a Messiah-King.