The Word Is Alive

The Book of Hosea

Hosea revealed little about his background, although his book of prophecy offers a few glimpses into his life. The prophet’s name means ‘salvation’, likely a reference to Hosea’s position in Israel as a beacon of hope to those who would repent and turn to God because of his message.

Following the command of God, Hosea married Gomer, a bride God described as <<a wife of whoredom>> (Hosea 1:2b), and a woman who bore Hosea three children, two sons and a daughter. God used the names of Hosea’s children, along with his wife’s unfaithfulness, to send specific messages to the people of Israel.

In Hosea 1:1, the prophet identified the kings that ruled during his prophetic ministry. The first four, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, reigned over the Southern Kingdom of Judah from 767 BC to 687 BC, while Jeroboam II ruled the Northern Kingdom of Israel from 782 BC to 753 BC. This indicates that Hosea lived in the middle to late 8th Century BC, circa 760–720 BC, making him a contemporary of the prophets Isaiah and Micah.

Hosea directed the early portion of his prophetic warnings to Jeroboam II, a descendant of the house of Jehu whose son, Zechariah, would soon come to ruin (2 Kings 15:8–12). Because this prophecy against the descendants of Jeroboam involved the birth of Hosea’s children, it can be concluded that he lived in the Northern Kingdom, where the names of his children would have had the greatest impact.

More than any other prophet, Hosea linked his message closely with his personal life. By marrying a woman he knew would eventually betray his trust and by giving his children names that sent messages of judgement on Israel, Hosea’s prophetic word flowed out of the life of his family. The cycle of repentance, redemption, and restoration evident in Hosea’s prophecy, and even his marriage (1:2 and 3:1–3), remains intimately connected to modern life. This sequence plays itself out in the lives of real people, reminding the reader that the Scriptures are far from a mere collection of abstract statements with no relation to real life. No, they work their way into day-to-day existence, commenting on issues that impact actions and relationships of ordinary people.

Structured around five cycles of judgement and restoration, the Book of Hosea makes clear its repetitious theme: although God will bring judgement on sin, he will always bring his people back to himself. God’s love for Israel, a nation of people more interested in themselves than in God’s direction for their lives, shines through clearly against the darkness of their idolatry and injustice (14:4).

Throughout the book, Hosea pictured the people turning away from the Lord and turning toward other gods (4:12–13 and 8:5–6). This propensity for idolatry meant that the Israelites lived as if they were not God’s people. And, although God told them as much through the birth of Hosea’s third child, Lo-ammi, he also reminded them that he would ultimately restore their relationship with him, using the intimate and personal language of ‘sons’ to describe his wayward people (1:9–10 and 11:1).

Paul captures the idea of sonship to show how repentant people are restored to God through Christ: <<For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ — if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him>> (Romans 8:15-17).

Introduction Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three
Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Summary

There is some supplementary material for the book and a mind map of its structure that may prove useful for study.