Hosea was a prophet who lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, also called Ephraim or Jacob, during the reign of Jeroboam II, arguably one of the most idolatrous and oppressive kings in Israel’s history (see 2 Kings 14).
Hosea, whose book was written by himself or an anonymous author who collected his poetry and messages, is sometimes referred to as the “prophet of love” in the Old Testament. Hosea’s marriage reflected God’s relationship with His beloved people.
In the first three chapters of the book, God tells Hosea to marry a woman named Gomer, who commits adultery more than once.
God tells Hosea to go find Gomer, pay off her debts to her lovers and bring her back home with restored love and faithfulness, despite her unfaithfulness to him.
God tells Hosea that his marriage to Gomer is a representation of God’s relationship with His people, Israel—God has been like a faithful husband, and Israel has been like an adulterous wife.
God recalls the Exodus from Egypt, His liberation of the Israelites from slavery and His gift of the law, the promised land and the Temple to allow them to worship Him. But instead, Israel has taken the gifts God has given them and used them to worship false gods.
Like Hosea, God has a legitimate reason to call things off with Israel. They have broken His covenant and continue to reject Him as their God. But like Hosea, God is faithful, loving and compassionate.
In chapter 3, Hosea makes this plain: Israel will face the consequences of its sin and be exiled from the land, but God has a plan for future restoration.
For the rest of the book, Hosea further unpacks this theme of judgment for rebellion and future restoration through poetry.
Chapters 4 to 14 explain the causes and effects of Israel’s unfaithfulness. Hosea explains that the people of Israel lack personal relationships with God, and have since the time of Jacob (Genesis 27). Hosea argues that this lack of relationship has caused rampant hypocrisy. The Israelites keep breaking God’s laws and have committed acts of injustice against vulnerable people, but they still go to sacred places and worship God like nothing is wrong.
They also worship the gods and idols of other nations—they place their trust in their political alliances with other, powerful nations instead of trusting God alone to protect and provide for them.
But their alliances will soon be their downfall. God tells the Israelites that Assyria will turn on them, conquer them and carry them off into exile.
Fortunately, God’s mercy and faihtfulness is greater than sin. In chapters 6, 11 and 14, God tells His people that although they have rebelled against Him for generations, He has a plan to restore them.
Consequences for sin: Hosea spends a lot of time showing Israel all the ways they have rejected God—from committing injustice and worshiping other gods to breaking the covenant with God for generations. God warns His people that because of their sin and rebellion, they must face consequences in exile.
God’s compassion: God shows us in Hosea’s life and prophecy that His covenant love and mercy are mightier than sin. It’s going to require an act of God’s grace and healing power to repair the deep brokenness and sinful selfishness of the human heart, so that all of God’s people can receive His love and love Him in return.
Hosea 6:1-3, 6
HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO GOD’S STORY?
Hosea is a sweet reminder of the Lord’s patience, faithfulness and compassion for His people, but it is also a sobering reminder of the consequences of continued sin.
Hosea points out the hypocrisy of those who keep up the appearance of following God through corporate worship and sacrifice, but do not have a relationship with God and keep His covenant commands.
He also reminds the reader that God is worthier of our trust than any political alliance or military force.
As you read Hosea, consider Paul’s words in Ephesians 3:18, “… to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”