Philippe R. Sterling
Despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, God’s faithful love will prevail.
Hosea prophesies in Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II and the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah in Judah (755 to 715 BC). His name is based on the Hebrew word for deliverance or salvation. God commands him to marry a prostitute by the name of Gomer who bears him three children. Gomer’s adulterous behavior mirrors Israel’s spiritual adultery and breaking of covenant with God.
Literary Structure and Content
Superscription: Hosea introduces himself and places the time of his prophecies during the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel and the reigns of several kings of Judah (1:1).
Hosea prophesied to Israel and yet mentions the kings of Judah first. Perhaps he is indicating that an aspect of Israel’s infidelity was separation from the Davidic line.
I. Marriage – Personal Illustration: Hosea illustrates through his marriage Israel’s infidelity, rejection, and latter
day restoration (1:2—3:5).
A. Hosea’s Marriage and Children: Hosea exemplifies Israel’s infidelity through his marriage to a prostitute
named Gomer and the naming of three children, and prophesies the future restoration of Israel and
Hosea’s three children are symbols of Israel’s rejection of God and God’s rejection of them. The first child is a boy named Jezreel reflecting coming judgment on the dynasty of Jehu for bloodshed. The second child is a girl named Lo-ruhamah meaning “she does not have compassion” reflecting God’s lack of compassion for Israel in contrast to his compassion for Judah. The third child is a boy named Lo-ammi meaning “not my people” reflecting that Israel is no longer the people of God. There will come a time when Israel will once again experience compassion and will be the people of God.
B. Israel’s Infidelity to God and Re-Betrothal: Hosea uses the figure of an adulterous wife to indict
Israel concerning her unfaithfulness and announces her re-betrothal in a latter day (2:1-23).
C. Hosea’s Redemption of Gomer: Hosea reclaims Gomer as God will reclaim Israel in the last days (3:1-5).
God commands Hosea to go again and love his adulteress wife. He redeems her from bondage and tells her to be faithful to him as he will be to her. In a like manner God loves Israel though she has been unfaithful and in the last days Israel will return and seek God and David their king (read 2:19-20; 3:5).
II. Message – National Indictments: Hosea in a covenant lawsuit delineates Gods’ indictments against Israel,
declares her sentence, and encourages her repentance in light of God’s unfailing love and promises of forgiveness
and restoration (4:1—14:8).
A. Introductory Summary: Hosea states God’s lawsuit against Israel in summary form – there is no truth, there
is no loyalty, there is no knowledge of God, and pronounces the sentence (4:1-3).
God summons witnesses to listen to his case against Israel. He presents three indictments: there is no truth, no covenant-loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land (4:1). The following lawsuit will take up these three indictments in reverse order. The sentence will be expulsion from the land.
B. 1st Indictment: Hosea details the 1st indictment consisting of a lack of knowledge of God, declares
the sentence, and issues a call to repentance with the promise of restoration (4:4—6:3).
1. Indictment: Hosea proclaims God’s indictment against the people and the priests for their lack of knowledge
of Him (4:4—5:7).
2. Sentence: Israel and Judah will be carried away into captivity and God will go away until they confess
their guilt and seek Him (5:8-15).
3. Invitation: Hosea encourages the nation to return to God for healing (6:1-3).
God is able to heal the nation (read 6:1-3). The nation needs to know God. If the nation presses on to know God, He will come to them like the spring rain.
C. 2nd Indictment: Hosea details the 2nd indictment consisting of a lack of covenant loyalty on the part of
Israel (and Judah), describes the judgment to come, and invites them to turn back to God since He will not
give up on them until He brings them back to the land (6:4—11:1).
1. Indictment: Hosea proclaims Israel’s (and Judah’s) continual transgression of the covenant both by
internal moral sins and external alliances (6:4—7:16).
2. Sentence: Hosea describes the sentence that Israel will be cast out of the land for breaking covenant
and engaging in idolatry (8:1—9:17).
3. Invitation: God invites the nation, even though it is a fruitless vine, to turn back to Him because He
loves them and will not give up on them but will bring them back to Him in the land (10:1—11:11).
God refuses to give up on Israel (11:8-11). As God He has unlimited love and compassion! He will restore them and bring them back to the land.
D. 3rd Indictment: Hosea details the 3rd indictment consisting of a continual lack of truth in the nation in contrast
to Jacob who wept over his sin and sought God’s favor, proclaims the sentence of captivity, and issues a
plea for repentance with the promise of forgiveness and restoration (11:12—14:8).
1. Indictment: Israel (and Judah) has constantly lied and deceived and in contrast to Jacob have refused
to admit their sin (11:12—12:11).
2. Sentence: Hosea proclaims the certain destruction of Israel for its covenant unfaithfulness (12:12—13:16).
3. Invitation: Hosea issues a plea for repentance and cites God’s promise of forgiveness and
God promises to love and restore the nation (14:4-8). He calls on the nation to recognize that good things come from Him and not from idols (cf. 1 John 5:21).
General Invitation: Hosea calls upon the wise and discerning (the believing remnant) to understand these things and walk in the ways of the LORD (14:9).
Theological Reflection and Application
Are you a country music fan? Among the most common themes of country music are broken commitments and shattered relationships. Like country music, the Book of Hosea deals with the matters of broken commitments and shattered relationships. It also point the way to redemption and reconciliation.
The theme of Hosea is God’s unfailing love for Israel in spite of her continued unfaithfulness which Hosea depicts vividly by his marital experience. His wife is unfaithful. Separation follows but Hosea’s love for her like God’s love for His people persists and redemption occurs and reconciliation ensues.
We can engage with the book along the three lines of a meaningful relationship, a broken relationship, and a restored relationship. The book refers to marriage. God made us male and female and wants us to have loving and enriching marriage relationships. The marriage relationship between husbands and wives reminds us of the union between God and His people (see Eph 5:22-33). Sometimes instead of being loyal to our spouses and to God we turn away and become infatuated with worthless lovers. The social and spiritual order becomes broken and chaotic. We sow the wind and reap the whirlwind (8:7). Unfaithfulness deserves discipline. Discipline serves grace. Grace encourages reconciliation.
God tells Hosea to love Gomer once again even though she has been unfaithful to him. He is to love her as God loves the unfaithful Israelites. Hosea redeems her and takes her home to live with him once more. This represents God’s redemptive work with Israel: For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols. Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days (3:4-5).
Because of God’s love and grace, repentant people in every generation can say:
“Come, let us return to the Lord.
For He has torn us, but He will heal us;
He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
“He will revive us after two days;
He will raise us up on the third day,
That we may live before Him.
So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.” (6:1-3)
The wise person realizes the truth of what Hosea says. The discerning person understands both the warnings of God’s discipline and the promises of His grace and acts accordingly (14:9). This is the way to spiritual renewal.
God expresses His love by sending His Son. We respond to that love. Several passages from 1 John shows that it is in Jesus the Messiah that the truths of Hosea find perfect expression:
By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:9-10).
We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:20-21)
Matthew applies Hosea 11:1 to Jesus coming out of Egypt (Matt. 2:15). He is the only Savior (Hos. 13:4). He redeems us from death (Hos. 13:14; 1 Cor. 15:55; Heb 2:14-18). Hosea’s redemption of Gomer from the slave market illustrates Christ’s redeeming work.