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Book of Hosea
Chapter 1

The Book of Hosea begins the section of the Old Testament known as the Minor Prophets. “Minor” indicates “short”; it does not mean they are unimportant. Hosea and Zechariah are the longest books of the Minor Prophets, each with 14 chapters. The remaining prophetic books are substantially shorter with Obadiah being a single chapter.

This, along with the Major Prophets, is simply a moniker by which to identify the books. If you look at the prophetic books from Isaiah to Malachi, you will notice that they do not appear in the Old Testament in chronological order. This may cause some confusion.

The books of the prophets jump around, so to speak, chronologically. A very basic timeline of the kingdom of Israel (when it began to have a king as its leader) would be something like this: Israel is united under King David; much later, Israel splits contentiously into two kingdoms, one called Israel, the other called Judah; they both fall into sin, the kingdom of Israel first, then the kingdom of Judah; prophets warn both kingdoms of the errors of their ways; the leaders and people harass, persecute or ignore the prophets – or a combination of all of the above; Israel is overrun by Assyria; and, finally, Judah is overrun by Babylon, and the people are exiled. When we began reading the prophets in the book of Isaiah, we did not begin at the start of these events. (Isaiah was a prophet to the Southern Kingdom of Judah.)

Today’s reading in Hosea jumps back in time to the waning years of the kingdom of Israel: the Jeroboam mentioned in verse one is Jeroboam II, son of Jehoash, and not the first king Jeroboam of Israel at the time of the civil war and split from Judah. Hosea spoke God’s message principally to Israel, the Northern Kingdom. Indeed, in the early chapters, a clear distinction exists between Israel with its erring ways and Judah who seemed to have clung to God longer (1:7). As the book unfolds, however, this difference evaporates. Generally, when we read that Hosea addressed “Israel,” we can take this to mean the Northern Kingdom which did not include the tribe of Judah.

The opening chapter of Hosea might be a real shocker. Yes, indeed, verse 2 reveals that God told the prophet to marry an adulterous woman. Other translations, including the Amplified Bible, render this as a prostitute. Amazingly, Hosea faithfully obeyed God and did just that; he married a woman named Gomer. He gave his life over to God – completely. This kind of radical faith would undoubtedly have caught the attention of his neighbors and community. Perhaps they thought that Hosea had gone mad; even so, they would hear the message of the Lord whether they wanted to or not: what he had done was so wildly unconventional.

Obviously, God was making a point; He wanted a visual, concrete example of what He was communicating to His people. Hosea’s life became a greater message from God to the people of Israel. Essentially, the people had stopped following God’s ways, and He considered their alternative choices and behavior to be akin to prostitution (2). Then, as the prostitute Gomer bore children, God wanted each one to represent the state of His relationship with the people. Israel would finally experience the consequences of the massacre at Jezreel (For details, see 2 Kings 9 and 10.) Worse, He withdrew His love. Throughout their history, Israel had always known God’s love and that they were His people; now, because they had so utterly betrayed Him (what He called “the vilest adultery”), He would no longer show His love to the House of Israel (6). And the final blow: “for you are not my people, and I am not your God.” (8) Would they not have been devastated to hear this? They had heard the opposite time and again. But, now… How this message must have deeply wounded them, at least, to those who were listening.

However, with His judgment, God could not remain silent on the hope that was in store for the people; this pain would not last forever. Eventually, He would gather them together again, Israel and Judah reunited, and “in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people, they will be called ‘sons of the LIVING God’” and “my loved one.” (2:1) This dialectic is reflected in the entire book of Hosea: the difficult message that the people had hit their lowest, most faithless low and the ensuing judgment mingled with a burning hope.

Key Verse(s):
“When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, ‘Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing form the Lord.’ So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim…” ~ Hosea 1:1-3

Questions to ponder:

  1. What is your reaction to Hosea’s marriage to a prostitute?
  2. What do the message of judgment and the message of hope tell us about God?
  3. What is the state of your relationship with God?
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