Hosea: Introduction and Overview
Hosea 4.1, 6
Hear the word of the LORD,
You children of Israel,
For the LORD brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land:
“There is no truth or mercy
Or knowledge of God in the land…
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being priest for Me;
Because you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.”
Hosea is the first of the twelve “minor prophets.” We refer to these twelve as “minor” only because their writings are, in the main, shorter in length than the four “major” prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel). But there is nothing “minor” about their message, either as it was intended for ancient Israel, or as it remains in force for the people of God today.
A contemporary of Amos, Hosea began his ministry late in the 8th century BC, under Jeroboam II and continued into the reign of Hezekiah in Judah. Thus he began his work in a time of great headiness in Israel (cf. 2 Kgs. 14.23-29), but that headiness would soon give way to instability, upheaval, and national disaster. Many kings followed Jeroboam during the time of Hosea’s ministry, but he does not list them all (cf. 2 Kgs. 15-17). Hosea begins his prophecy by mentioning Jeroboam for perhaps two reasons. First, in so doing he invokes the memory of Jeroboam I, who led Israel into rebellion against the house of David, and set the nation on a course of drift from the covenant of God. Second, though his preaching began during a season of political strength, it served as a warning that political strength is no guarantee of stability when a nation has turned its back on God.
At the time Hosea’s ministry was coming to an end, Israel’s doom was sealed, and Judah was beginning to turn from God just as Israel had done (2 Kgs. 17.18, 19). Thus, while Israel is Hosea’s primary audience, the warning to persist in covenant faithfulness would also have been important for Judah. Hosea’s message from the beginning emphasizes the mercy and love of God to his adulterous people. And, while he promises that Judah will not fall like Israel did, at least, not during the time of his ministry (Hos. 1.7), still, they should not fail to heed his message and warnings about turning away from the knowledge of God.
Moreover, even though Israel is to be judged, they will be restored, and restored to Judah as one people of God under one Leader (Hos. 13.9-11; Hos. 14). So the Word of judgment carries with it the Word of hope (Hos. 1.10, 11), because it is the Word of God Who cannot deny His undying love for His people. Israel and Judah may be unfaithful to God, but God can never be unfaithful to His Word of promise or Himself. They are unfaithful, like Hosea’s wife; but God is faithful and forgiving, like Hosea.
Read Hosea 1, 2
Read these two chapters in a single sitting. Does this seem to you like a strange way for a prophet to begin his ministry? How was God using this situation to prepare Hosea for his ministry?
Glory to Glory
Even in the midst of sinful situations, God promises to show His glory. How does Hosea’s call and family situation encourage you to seek the glory of God today?
Remember me, O LORD, with the favor You have toward Your people.
Oh, visit me with Your salvation,
That I may see the benefit of Your chosen ones,
That I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation,
That I may glory with Your inheritance.
We have sinned with our fathers,
We have committed iniquity,
We have done wickedly.
Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders;
They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies,
But rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea.
Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake,
That He might make His mighty power known.
T. M. Moore
Each week’s studies in our Scriptorium column are available in a free PDF form, suitable for personal or group use. For all available studies in Hosea, click here.
A primary theme of the book of Hosea is Israel’s failure to keep covenant with the Lord. God’s covenant is a central theme and provides the organizing motif for all of Scripture. Learn more about God’s covenant by ordering a copy of T. M.’s book, I Will Be Your God, from our online store (click here).
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.