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3. Hosea

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Notes on the Book of Hosea

Synthesis

God uses Hosea’s marriage to Gomer as an extended metaphor representing Israel and her relationship to God. Israel has broken God’s covenant as Gomer broke her marriage covenant with Hosea. Israel’s sin is idolatry which comes from a lack of knowledge of God and results in inane acts such as seeking direction from a stick. Israel’s idolatry is Baalism, the fertility cult. They believed that their worship of Baal was repaid in productivity in crops, animals and children. Because of the idolatrous practice, God promised judgment. The most significant judgment took place in 722 when Samaria was defeated and the people deported. However, God’s covenant with Israel was unconditional. Therefore, in the eschatological future, Israel will be restored. This is stated in the extended metaphor and especially in chapters 11 and 14.

Structure

Seed Bed (1-3)

Development (4-14)

Woman

1:2 Go, marry a woman

2:2 Contend with mother >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Israel’s idolatry (4-7)

3:1 Go, love a woman

Children

1:4 Jezreel

1:6 Lo-ruhamah 2:4 no compassion

1:9 Lo-ammi     children of harlotry >>>>>>>>>>>>>> Israel’s judgment (8-10)

2:6 Hedge in 3:3-4 separation

2:8-13 end fasts

Restoration

1:10-11 Jezreel/Ammi

2:14-23 Baali/Ishi Jezreel/Ruhamah/Ammi >>>>>>>>> Israel’s Restoration (11-14)

3:5 Return and seek Lord

I. Historical Background.

Elisha had commissioned Jehu to avenge the house of Ahab (2 Kings 9:1‑10:36). He carried out the deed with relish and hundreds of people were killed. However, he did not learn from the past and is indicted with the statement that “Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel sin” (2 Kings 10:32). For some reason, God was not pleased with his deed and promised judgment on his house (Hosea 1:4). This promised judgment on the house of Jehu leads to the conclusion that the dynasty of Jehu was still on the throne in Hosea’s day. Jehu ruled from 841 to 814, Jehoahaz from 814 to 798, Joash from 798‑782, Jeroboam from (793) 782 to 753 (add 14 more years for co-regency). Shallum murdered Jeroboam’s son Zechariah after the latter had ruled six months.

Assuming that Hosea’s ministry began toward the latter end of Jeroboam II’s reign, it would have extended over the reigns of Menahem (752‑742), Pekah (740‑732) and Hoshea (732‑722) (This statement is made because of the southern kings mentioned in 1:1. Hezekiah would take us past the captivity of the northern kingdom).1 During this time, the optimism of the previous decades vanished. If Cohen is right about the first two chapters of Amos reflecting the beginning of the decline of Israel’s fortunes, the decline would have become a slide after Jeroboam’s death with the Assyrians encroaching more and more on Israel, demanding tribute, and finally defeating Samaria and deporting the people to other cities in fulfillment of the prophecy of Amos.2 

Assyria is mentioned eight times in the book and Egypt thirteen (although five of these refer to past events). The nemesis of Israel is the Neo‑Assyrian empire which increasingly takes control of the west and pushes out any opposition daring to rear its head. The speech of Rab Shakeh to Hezekiah in Isaiah 36 is instructive.3

The Kings

Israel—Jeroboam II (793-753).

Jeroboam was the last major king of the Jehu (841-814) dynasty. Jehu was anointed to attack Baalism and the house of Ahab (2 Kings 9-10). Because of his faithfulness in carrying out God’s commands, God promised him sons of the fourth generation to sit on the throne: (1) Jehoahaz (814-798), (2) Joash (798-782), (3) Jeroboam II (793-753), and (4) Zechariah (six months). The thrust of the book is at Jeroboam II. While the historical allusions hint at the later kings of Israel, they are not mentioned (Shallum [753], Menahem [753-742], Pekahiah [742-740], Pekah [740-732], Hoshea [732-722]).

Judah—Uzziah (791-740); Jotham (751-732); Ahaz (735-716); Hezekiah (728-687).

Assyria—Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727); Shalmaneser V (727-722); Sargon II (722-705); Sennacherib (705-681).

Events

The latter part of Jeroboam II’s rule saw great prosperity, but his death brought in an era of chaos. Jeroboam, Zechariah, Shallum and Menahem were all kings during the year of 753. Tiglath-Pileser attacked Menahem and forced his submission. Pekah was defeated by T-P who put Hoshea on the throne. When Hoshea rebelled, Shalmaneser V defeated Samaria and deported the people. Sargon II was also involved in the deportation in 722. Sargon also attacked Philistia in 711 B.C. (Isaiah 20).

II. The Prophet Hosea.

We know virtually nothing about Hosea beyond the fact that he was the son of Beeri, that he was married to a woman of questionable repute, and that three children were born to her. The biographical data in chapters two and three is designed to teach about Israel, therefore, little more can be learned about Hosea from that section. Whether he is an Israelite or a Judean is not stated. Whether he is a priest as were other prophets (e.g., Jeremiah) is not stated. Hosea is a later contemporary of Amos. The only northern king mentioned is Jeroboam II. The last southern king listed is Hezekiah who ruled from 728 to 687. This would mean that Hosea lived far beyond the fall of Samaria in 722 and no doubt spent his later years in Judah.

The prophet’s marriage has provoked as much debate and discussion as almost any other OT prophetic passage. H. H. Rowley, in a definitive article on the issue,4 opts for an old accepted view: Hosea was divinely instructed to marry an immoral woman. The first child, Jezreel, was Hosea’s, but some would argue that the other two were not his (this depends on how one interprets 2:4). She left Hosea and consorted with paramours, but God instructed Hosea to go bring her back to him. She had apparently become enslaved for debt, and he was forced to pay a price to bring her back to him.

Because of the ethical issue of God asking Hosea to marry an immoral woman and then later to take her back after she had committed adultery, some try to avoid the idea that she was an immoral woman when Hosea married her. The problem is not obviated by saying that she was not immoral when Hosea married her since God still told him to marry her knowing that she would later become immoral. We should probably accept the fact that God often asked His prophets to do difficult things such as going naked and barefoot (Isaiah) and eating dung (Ezekiel).

III. The Message of Hosea.

Some would argue that Amos’ message is one of harsh justice while Hosea preaches love. G. Farr, however, argues that Hosea is not different from Amos (since he talks about the vengeance of God for the blood of Jezreel). Rather he says, Hosea goes beyond Amos.5 He can only say this by removing the closing section of Amos in which good is promised to Israel. Even so, his discussion shows that the disastrous marriage into which God asked Hosea to enter taught him about love and grace and as such became a marvelous picture of God’s love and grace toward His people. His discussion of that important Hebrew word ḥesed (חֶסֶד) shows that “for Hosea [it] is, first of all, that undeserved forgiving love of God, which for no better reason than the impulse of its own nature, pardons and restores.” ḥesed appears at 2:19; 4:1; 6:4,6; 10:12; 12:6.6

Hosea puts great stress on knowledge: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (3:6). Knowledge is not mere intellectual comprehension; it is tied in with a right relationship with Yahweh. The last verse in the book summarizes this truth: “Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; Whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right, And the righteous will walk in them, But transgressors will stumble in them.”

Like Amos, Hosea says that God hates their empty religious ritual: “As for My sacrificial gifts, They sacrifice the flesh and eat it, But the Lord has taken no delight in them. Now He will remember their iniquity and punish them for their sins; They will return to Egypt.”

IV. Outline of Hosea.

A. God demonstrates His divine love for Israel through the marriage of Hosea to Gomer (1:1—3:5).

1. Hosea marries an immoral woman, and a child is born to the union who is named Jezreel at God’s direction (1:2‑5).

The name Gomer is otherwise known only as one of the groupings of the Japheth descendants (Genesis 10; Ezekiel 38). The meaning for the name is not obvious. The root means to complete or to accomplish (Cf. Gemariah). The name Jezreel on the other hand is the well‑known fertile valley running diagonally through the northern part of Israel. The word means “God sows” and probably refers to the fertility of the valley. The usage of the name as a message to the people (cf. Isaiah’s sons) was first of all negative: the dynasty of Jehu who carried out his bloody purge in Jezreel must be punished. Jeroboam II was the last important king of that dynasty (his son Zechariah lasted only six months).7

2. Gomer has a second child (a girl) who is named Lo‑ruhamah at Yahweh’s direction (1:6‑7).

Lo‑ruhamah (לאֹ רֻחָמָה) means “No-mercy.” This little girl had to bear the name “Merciless.” The merciful God (“showing loving kindness ḥesed [חֶסֶד] to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” Exod. 20:6) will now show no mercy. As a parenthesis, Yahweh says that He will have compassion reḥem (רֶחֶם) on Judah. He may be referring to the defense of Judah against Sennacherib in 701 B.C.

3. Gomer has a third child (a boy) whom Yahweh names Lo‑ammi (לאֹ עַמִּי) (1:9).

This little boy was called “Not‑my-people.” He became a walking symbol of God’s rejection of Israel.8

4. Yahweh gives a pericope of hope in the midst of promise of judgment (1:10‑2:1).

The Hebrew text closes chapter 1 with verse nine. This section should be treated as a unit. In spite of the fact that God is disowning Israel, the act is temporary and the time will come in which they will be as the sand of the sea and instead of being called Lo‑ammi they will be called sons of the living God. Furthermore Judah and Israel will be together again with one leader. Now Jezreel becomes a promise of glory as Yahweh again sows the fields with His people. Then they can say to their brothers “Ammi” and to their sisters “Ruhamah.”

5. Yahweh applies Hosea’s marriage to His own relationship with Israel (2:2‑23).

The imagery slips back and forth between Yahweh and Hosea. I personally would take the entire chapter as a metaphor of God and Israel, but some of it may refer to Hosea and Gomer as well. Israel has committed adultery. Adultery is a picture throughout the OT of idolatry. At the same time the Canaanite religion was so bound up with sex that adultery/idolatry can almost be considered one thing. Her lovers who give her wool and flax (2:5) are the Canaanite fertility deities who they believed gave them produce. Yahweh promises to “hedge her in” so that she will finally say, “I will go back to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now!” (2:2‑7).

Yahweh shows the perennial conflict between Him and Baal as to who is the Lord of creation.9 Since Israel believed Baal brought her crops, Yahweh would remove them so that she would have to acknowledge His lordship (2:8‑13).

Yahweh promises a day in which He will woo Israel back to Himself, provide her with riches after which she will sing His praises. She will not say “Baali” but “Ishi.” Baal is a perfectly good Hebrew word meaning lord or master, and then husband. It could at one time have been used of Yahweh as the lord/husband of Israel. However the ambivalence of the word allowed it to be used of Yahweh and the Canaanite deity. Therefore, Yahweh says in that day of restoration, Israel will not use it to refer to Yahweh as her husband, but she will use the generic word Ish (אִישׁ) meaning simply man, and Ishi means “my man” or “my husband” (2:14‑20).

In that day the negative messages of the three children will be turned into positive ones. Jezreel will take on its primary meaning: “I will sow her for Myself in the land.” His compassion (ruhamah) will be restored, and the people will now be called “My people” (Ammi) (2:23).

6. The intensity of Yahweh’s love for His people is shown in asking Hosea to take Gomer back after she has left him and lived with other men (3:1‑5).

Hosea has to pay a price to redeem her from slavery (probably for indebtedness, not to get her from her paramour). He takes her home and “quarantines” her from men (probably including himself). This is an illustration of God’s great love for Israel that will result in “quarantine” without king, prince, sacrifice or idolatrous devices. In the last days Israel will come trembling to Yahweh and return to David their king.10 I take these references to be typologically referring to the Messiah.

B. Hosea inveighs against Israel for her idolatry (4:1—7:16).             

The messages of Hosea are not as clearly structured as they are in Amos. They are full of poetry, symbolism, analogies and graphic descriptions of Israel’s hypocrisy. The following structure is generally: 4-7 = idolatry; 8-10 = judgment; 11-14 = restoration.11

1. The importance of knowing Yahweh is stressed (4:1‑19).

Yahweh has a court case (רִיב riv) against Israel because “there is no faithfulness (אֶמֶת emeth), kindness (חֶסֶד ḥesed) nor knowledge (דַּעַת daath) in the land.”12 Kindness, sometimes translated loyalty, is the word ḥesed (חֶסֶד). It refers to God’s acts of kindness, grace and mercy toward His people. Eventually (as in Psalm 16) the recipient of that kindness will be referred to as the ḥasid (חָסִיד) from which we get the modern term Hasidim. Because Yahweh has lavished His grace on His people, He expects a horizontal expression of that grace to others. To know God, then, is to be aware of His wonderful grace toward us and to share that same forgiving grace with others. No wonder he says “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (4:1‑3).

Because of the references to priests in 1‑6, the next section refers to God’s judgment of the priesthood. “They feed on the sin (offering) of my people” refers to the priests. The priests are no better than the people, and therefore “like people, like priest” means that both will go into judgment (4:4‑10).

The issue of knowledge (now understanding, לֵב leb, the heart as the seat of understanding) is taken up again. Harlotry, wine and new wine take away understanding and as a result Israel consults lifeless idols and divination instead of going to God for guidance. This idolatry/adultery takes gross forms. Even the brides commit adultery (probably some sort of sacred prostitution). However, Yahweh will not single out the brides for punishment since the men are more involved in leading them astray. “So the people without understanding (לאֹ יָבִין lo yabin) are ruined” (4:11‑14).

Judah is urged not to follow Israel in her harlotry. Gilgal and Beth‑aven are cult centers. Yahweh says there is no hope of expecting Israel to return to Him (4:15‑19). Hosea is following Amos here (Amos 5:4) where Bethel will come to trouble (aven אָוֶן).

2. Yahweh chides both Israel and Judah and promises judgment on both houses (5:1‑15).

For the first time in the book, Judah comes under denunciation as well as Israel. Ephraim is criticized for her idolatry, but Judah also has stumbled (5:5). “The new moon will devour the land” (5:7) is difficult. With Keil it may be part for the whole: new moon represents the sacrifices which instead of helping Israel will prove their downfall (5:1-7).13

Both Israel and Judah at different times went to Assyria for help. In the Syro-Ephraimite war against Ahaz which figured so largely in Isaiah’s ministry (Isaiah 7), Judah went to Assyria for help. Tiglath‑Pileser gladly responded, attacked Samaria and carried away captives (2 Kings 16,17). Judah was told by Isaiah, however, that this same people would come back to judge them. For Hosea this is the “young lion in the house of Judah.” Israel in a later time, paid tribute to Shalmaneser to postpone the inevitable; this too would prove futile because Assyria could not “cure your wound” (5:8‑15).

3. Hosea delivers a plea to Israel and a complaint against her (6:1‑11).

This first section seems to be a prayer of repentance on the part of Israel. Wolff argues that this prayer mentioning rain is part of the Canaanite cult.14 In other words, they are mixing their worship of Yahweh and Baal and praying for Yahweh to heal them (6:1‑3).

Yahweh, however, rejects their superficial repentance. Their loyalty (ḥesed ḥesed חֶסֶד) rather than sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. This of course does not mean that God was against the sacrificial system, only that he opposed the hypocritical use of it (6:4‑7).

The conduct of the people bears out the charge made against them. There is murder in Gilead. Priests murder on the way to Shechem. Yet there is hope for Judah when God restores the fortunes of His people (6:8‑11).

4. Chaos and strife come from rebelling against Yahweh (7:1‑16).

Chapter 7 is tied in with the preceding by the word “heal.” The prayer of 1‑3 was that Yahweh, having torn them like a lion, would heal them. Yahweh says in 7:1 that when He sets out to heal the people, all He sees is iniquity (7:1‑2).

The next section may reflect the chaos of the last days of Israel. After Jeroboam II’s death, there were two assassinations in one year (753 B.C.). The same was true after Menahem’s death (742 B.C.). Intrigue and plotting characterize the princes who are hot like an oven to carry out their deeds and “they consume rulers; All their kings have fallen and none calls on me” (7:3‑7).15

Ephraim has sought a solution to her problem by going to the nations. They are being pillaged by other nations, but they refuse to turn to the Lord. As a result she goes back and forth with indecision like a silly dove—first to Egypt then to Assyria (7:8‑11).

Therefore God will cast a net over her and bring her down. When they assemble (in a cultic situation) to seek rain (Baal/Yahweh) He will not answer them (7:12‑16).

C. Hosea preaches messages emphasizing judgment (8:1—10:15.

1. Yahweh’s judgment comes because they have forsaken his torah and turned to idolatry (8:1‑14).

Yahweh issues a cry for battle preparation because the enemy is coming against the house of the Lord.16 The reason for the judgment is that they have transgressed God’s covenant and rebelled against His law or instruction (8:1‑3).

Does v. 4 refer to Hoshea coming to the throne via assassination (2 Kings 15:30,31)? They have also become even more religious, but God has rejected their “calf” (8:4‑7). One calf may be mentioned instead of two because Galilee where Dan was situated was cut off by Tiglath-Pileser III (2 Kings 15:29). Tiglath-Pileser says of this campaign: “[As for Menahem I ov]er whelmed him [like a snowstorm] and he . . . fled like a bird, alone, [and bowed to my feet(?)]. I returned him to his place [and imposed tribute upon him, to wit:] gold, silver, linen garments with multicolored trimmings, . . . great . . . [I re]ceived from him. Israel (lit.: ‘Omri‑Land’ Bit Humria) . . . all its inhabitants (and) their possessions I led to Assyria. They overthrew their king Pekah (Pa‑qa‑ha) and I placed Hoshea (A‑u‑si‑‘) as king over them. I received from them 10 talents of gold, 1,000(?) talents of silver as their [tri]bute and brought them to Assyria.”17

Israel has been severely damaged (swallowed up). They are sending ambassadors to various nations for help, but no one is interested. Even if they can get response, God will frustrate their plans. The “burden of the king of princes” may refer to the tribute paid to Shalmaneser (2 Kings 17:3) (8:8‑10).

Israel has multiplied altars and in the process has multiplied sin. God on the other hand has 10,000 statutes which they have ignored. The religious practice of Israel brings no delight to Yahweh (8:11‑14).

2. Israel is warned not to rejoice because God will judge her (9:1‑17).

The setting of this chapter should be tied in with the previous one (note the mention of going to Egypt: 8:13; 9:3,6), yet the attitude of verse 1 is one of rejoicing. Perhaps they have successfully survived the ravishing attacks of 732 B.C. when Damascus was defeated and deported, and a good crop is bringing a sense of optimism not found in the previous chapter.

A charge is made in the second person (9:1), and the threat is carried on in the third person (9:2‑4). Wolff sees a public confrontation where verse 1 may be addressed to the priests and then Hosea turns to others to make the threat.18 The “harlots’ earnings” would be especially apropos.

If someone answered Hosea to the effect that the blessing of Yahweh was evident in the abundance of the grain crop, his answer is that the wine press will not feed them and the new wine will fail them. Not only so, but they will return to Egypt, the place from which God originally redeemed them and brought them to the land of Canaan.19 Others will be deported to Assyria where they will be unable to offer sacrifices pleasing to the Lord (9:2‑6).

The people seem to respond to Hosea by calling him a fool (אֳוִל awil) and a madman. Thus Hosea joins the ranks of Elisha’s prophets (מְשֻׁגָּה meshugah) 2 Kings 9:11) and Jeremiah (29:26). Hosea says that this seems to be true only because of their sin. Verse 8 is very difficult, but the following paraphrase is probably the intent of the passage: “A watchman of Ephraim with my God [am I and] a prophet. Yet [Ephraim] is the snare of a bird catcher in all his ways [against me], And there is only hostility in God’s territory (house of his God).” He closes the section by saying that the sin of Israel in Hosea’s day was like that of the Benjamites when they abused the concubine of the Levite and the result was a horrible civil war that decimated the Benjamite tribe (Judges 19) (9:7‑9).

Yahweh again reminds Israel of her condition in which He found her. She was like wild, worthless grapes in the wilderness. In spite of His grace in redeeming her from Egypt, she went to Baal‑Peor and devoted herself (וַיִּנָזְרוּ wayinazeru as in Nazirite) to shame. This is one of those references to “first” events in Hosea. Num. 25:1‑5 recounts this unsavory event when the Israelites committed fornication with the people who worshipped Baal. That same kind of fornication with religious implications was yet being carried on in Israel. God will therefore judge them in the very area they are trusting Baal to care for them: conception, pregnancy, and childbearing (9:10‑14).

As Gibeah represented the depths of depravity in the era of the Judges (9:9) and Baal‑Peor in that of the Exodus (9:10), Gilgal represents Saul’s rejection of the lordship of Yahweh in the initial stages of the monarchy. Gilgal was also apparently a cult center (4:15; 12:11; Amos 4:4; 5:5). His judgment is that He will drive them out of His house (i.e., His country) (9:15‑17).

3. Under two similes, God threatens Israel with impending judgment (10:1‑15).

a. Israel is a luxuriant vine (10:1‑10).

Under Jeroboam II Israel had prospered greatly. Unfortunately, she had taken her material blessings as indications of a response to her pagan worship; she multiplied her altars to match her prosperity. However, God will break down her altars and sacred pillars (10:1‑2).

Hosea hopes that Israel will repent and acknowledge that they have not feared Yahweh. The human king, (Hoshea?) they realize, cannot help them. They are trying to enter into covenants (international pacts?) to no avail. Justice is turned into poison (Amos 5:7; 6:12). Heavy tribute imposed by Assyria is indicated by reference to the calf of Beth‑aven.20 Samaria and her king will be cut off (by Assyria). They will be defeated in Gibeah as poetic justice for the history of their wickedness which in some sense began in Judges 19 (10:3‑10).

b. Ephraim is a trained heifer (10:11‑15).

Yahweh speaks first of the election of Ephraim. She was viewed by Him to be a “trained heifer,” i.e., she was to serve Him. Threshing is a light task: the animal was permitted to move around freely and to eat of the grain. However, God had higher duties for Ephraim, namely to plow and harrow. These activities are said by Hosea to represent living a life of righteousness and loving kindness (צְדָקָה tsedakah, חֶסֶד ḥesed). Instead they have plowed wickedness and reaped injustice (10:11‑13).

Because of this life of rebellion, God is going to judge them. Neither Shalman nor Beth‑abel have been identified with any certainty. Some have suggested that Shalman is an abbreviation for Shalmaneser others identify it with a Moabite king Shalamanu mentioned by Tiglath-Pileser.21 We will have to be content to know that there was a devastating battle at one time to which the coming one will be compared. The king of Israel, says Hosea, will be completely cut off (10:14‑15).

D. Hosea preaches messages emphasizing restoration (11:1—14:9.

1. Yahweh gives a historical account of His love for Israel and a promise of her restoration (11:1-11). See Wolff for a helpful discussion. 22 He maintains the unity of the chapter by showing the first person addresses in both parts and linking up the love of Yahweh for Israel in verse 1 with His compassion for them in 8‑10.

Yahweh brought Israel from Egypt as His loved one. He called them out as His son, yet, the call of the prophets to repentance went unheeded. God’s tender affection for Israel brought no response. In view of their sin, though they will not be sent back to Egypt, they will be sent to Assyria and God will judge the city (11:1‑7).

Yahweh gives a tender lament, addressing Israel in the second person. He is moved with great compassion over her suffering and declares that He cannot wipe her out as He did Admah and Zeboim. Furthermore, He will roar like a lion and bring her sons from the west, from Egypt, from Assyria and settle them in their own houses (11:8‑11). 

2. Yahweh’s indictment continues through the reference to the historical past (11:12— 12:14).23

Ephraim is mentioned four times: Ephraim surrounds me with lies (11:12); Ephraim feeds on wind (12:1); Ephraim said, “Surely I have become rich” (12:8); Ephraim has provoked to bitter anger (12:14). An indictment is given in 11:12‑12:1 in the third person. An indictment of Judah (included in Jacob) is given in 12:2‑5 in the third person. A plea is made to repent in the second person (12:6). A further indictment is given in 12:7‑8. God speaks in the first person to Israel in 12:9‑11. A final historical reference is made tying in Moses the prophet with the prophets of Hosea’s day and a final statement of judgment (12:12‑14).

Yahweh indicts Ephraim, Israel and Judah with being deceitful (11:12). Ephraim is particularly singled out as “feeding on the wind” because she practices lies and violence and is trying to create alliances with Assyria and Egypt to protect herself (12:1).

Yahweh’s further dispute is with Judah as part of the elect people and as being one with Israel in God’s sight. Jacob’s life is given as a sort of a parable for Israel. He struggled long and hard until he finally came to know the God who reveals Himself. So Israel has struggled against God, but now is urged to return to Him. The shift to the second person in 12:6 is part of the plea pattern followed in this book24 (12:2‑6).

Yahweh speaks in the first person to appeal to Israel to repent. Ephraim is cheating but bragging about being rich (this may reflect an earlier time when Israel was prosperous). Yahweh reminds them that He was their God who brought them from Egypt. He says He has revealed Himself to them through the prophets, visions and parables, but they have not responded. Idolatry is everywhere (12:7‑14).

3. A final indictment is made against Ephraim for her idolatry (13:1‑16).

Ephraim was blessed of God (the fruitful bough), but in turning to idolatry and to Baalism in particular, they have lost their wisdom (13:1‑3).

Yahweh reminds them again of the youthful days in the wilderness in which He cared for them so graciously. Yet they forgot Him so that He will turn into a lion and devour them (13:4‑8).

The king in whom they put their hope is apparently no longer there to help them (does this refer to Pekah or Pekahiah who were assassinated?). God says that He took the king away in His wrath (13:9-11).

Yahweh seems to indicate that the sin of Israel has become full to the point where it of necessity must be judged. There will be no deliverance from Sheol; as a matter of fact He calls upon Death and Sheol to wreak disaster upon them.25 (13:12‑14).

In terse, graphic statements, Yahweh promises the destruction of the northern kingdom. How sad that this nation with such an auspicious beginning under the caring, guiding hand of God has come to such a disastrous end. So is the end of all those who forsake the Lord (13:15-16).

4. A final plea is made for Israel to return to her God (14:1‑9).

Yahweh pleads with Israel to return to Him. He gives them a sample prayer of confession: “forgive, receive, so that we may praise. We will not worship idols nor go to other nations for help. You are the one who gives mercy” (14:1‑3).

Yahweh speaks in the first person again to give a wonderful promise if they will repent. He will heal their apostasy and make them fruitful (14:4‑7).

He turns (second person) directly to Ephraim and poignantly pleads for them to recognize that He is like a luxuriant Cyprus (remember the luxuriant vine of 10:1). Since He is the fruit producer, why should they resort to idols (14:8).

A final general request is made (third person) for understanding and discernment. The righteous will walk in the ways of Yahweh, but the transgressors will stumble (14:9).


1Smith, NAC, loc. cit. says, “The strange thing about the chronology that v. 1 provides is that the reigns of the kings do not fully overlap. That is, the dates for the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel are approximately 793–753 b.c. This does overlap with the first king of Judah mentioned, Uzziah (792–740 b.c.). However, the verse also mentions three subsequent kings of Judah (Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah) whose reigns go from approximately 750 to 686 b.c. without any mention of the kings of Israel that reigned at the same time (Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, and Hoshea, going from 753 to 722 b.c.). This might not be surprising if Hosea had been a prophet to the kingdom of Judah, but his message was for the Northern Kingdom.

“At the very outset of this disorienting book, therefore, we find ourselves confronting a riddle. Why did Hosea neglect to mention the rest of the kings of Israel? The reason appears to be twofold. First, he regarded Jeroboam II as the last king of Israel with any shred of legitimacy. Those after him were a pack of assassins and ambitious climbers who had no right to the title “king.” Hosea’s assessment of the kings of Israel appears in texts like 7:1–7. Second, he hoped for better things from Judah. At times he criticized the south as heavily as the north (5:5,12), but he also prayed that they not follow Israel’s lead (4:15). Most importantly, he looked for salvation and reunification in the line of David (3:5).

“The superscript of the book is therefore extraordinary. It has given us in cryptic form something of the theology of the prophet. It has also warned us that the interpretive task ahead will not be easy.”

2See Wood, EBC for more background.

3References to Assyria, Egypt and Judah

Assyria

5:13

Then Ephraim went to Assyria and sent to King Jareb

7:11

They called to Egypt, they go after Assyria

8:9

For they are gone up to Assyria

9:3

They shall eat unclean things in Assyria

10:6

It shall be also carried unto Assyria

11:5

But Assyria—he will be their king

11:11

As a dove out of the land of Assyria

12:1

Moreover, he makes a covenant with Assyria

Egypt

2:15

As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt

7:11

They call to Egypt, they go to Assyria

7:16

This will be their derision in the land of Egypt

8:13

They will return to Egypt

9:3

But Ephraim will return to Egypt (And in Assyria)

9:6

Egypt will gather them up, Memphis will bury them

11:1

And out of Egypt I called My son

11:5

They will not return to the land of Egypt (But Assyria . . .)

11:11

They will come trembling like birds from Egypt (doves from Assyria)

12:1

Makes a covenant with Assyria; and oil is carried to Egypt

12:9

LORD since the land of Egypt

12:13

By a prophet the LORD brought Israel from Egypt

13:4

Yet I have been the LORD since the land of Egypt

Judah

1:1

Kings of

1:7

But I will have compassion on the house of Judah

1:11

And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together

4:15

Do not let Judah become guilty

5:5

Judah also has stumbled with them

5:10

The princes of Judah have become like those who remove boundaries

5:12

Like rottenness to the house of Judah

5:13

Judah (saw) his wound

5:14

Like a young lion to the house of Judah

6:4

What shall I do with you, O Judah

6:11

Also, O Judah, there is a harvest appointed for you

8:14

Judah has multiplied fortified cities

10:11

Judah will plow, Jacob will harrow for himself

11:12

Judah is also unruly against God

12:2

The LORD also has a dispute with Judah

Assyria 8

Egypt   13 (5 refer to the past)

Judah   15

4H. H. Rowley, “The Marriage of Hosea,” BJRL 39 (1956‑57): 220‑33.

5G. Farr, “The Concept of Grace in the Book of Hosea,” ZAW 70 (1958): 98‑107.

6See also D. Stuart (Hosea—Jonah in Word Biblical Commentary, xxxii-xlii) for a development of the idea that Leviticus and Deuteronomy show up in Hosea as the covenant.

7See NAC, loc. cit. The bloodshed caused by Jehu will come upon his descendants because they commit the same sins as Jezebel and Ahab.

8Paronomasia in Hosea

English

Hebrew

Meaning/Sign

Jezreel

יִזְרְעָאֵל

Place of blood/Yahweh sows

Lo-Ruhamah

לאֹ רֻחָמָה

No mercy

Lo-Ammi

לאֹ עַמִּי

Not my people

Baali

בַּעְלִי

My husband/my baal

Ishi

אִישִׁי

My husband/my man

Gomer

גּמֶר

??

Cf. 1:4 with 2:22. 1:6 with 2:1,23. 1:9 with 2:1,23.

9Cf. Elijah on Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18.

10Cf Ezekiel 37:25 “and David My servant shall be their prince forever.”

11Analogies in Hosea:

4:4

Those who contend with a priest

4:9

Like people like priest

4:16

Stubborn heifer

4:16

Like a lamb

5:10

Like those removing a boundary (Judah)

5:12

God is like a moth/rottenness

5:14

God is like a lion (11:10; 13:7,8)

6:4

Loyalty is like morning cloud/dew (13:3)

6:5

God is like light

6:7

Like Adam

7:4,6

Like an oven

7:8

Like an unturned cake

7:11

Like a silly dove

7:16

Like a slack bow

8:8

Like vessels in which no one delights

9:4

Bread like mourner’s bread

9:10

Like grapes

9:10

Like early fruit

9:11

Glory like a bird

9:13

Like Tyre

10:1

Like a Luxuriant vine

10:4

Judgment is like poisonous weeds

10:11

Like a trained heifer

11:8

Like Admah/Zeboim

11:11

Like birds/doves

13:3

Like chaff/smoke

14:5

Like cedars, lily, olive tree

14:7,8

God is like wine of Lebanon/luxuriant Cyprus

See also Wolff, Hosea, p. xxiv.

12See Farr, “The concept of Grace in the book of Hosea” for an important discussion of these three terms.

13F. C. Keil, The Twelve Minor Prophets, 2:89.

14Wolff, Hosea, 120‑121.

15NAC, loc. cit. “The princes incapacitate our king with poisoned wine.”

16.This cannot refer to a temple. Assyria refers to Israel as the House of Omri (Bit Umri). This phrase may be a counterpoint—Israel is the House of Yahweh (see Wolff, Hosea, 138, and TDOT, 503 on Arad ostraca).

17ANET, 283, 284.

18Wolff, Hosea, 153.

19This may speak of emigration to Egypt under the coming threat of Assyria.

20Beth‑aven, בֵּית אָוֶן, is a word used by Hosea to refer to the cult center at Bethel, 4:15; 5:8, to describe it as the “Temple of Sin.”

21Wolff, Hosea, 188.

22Wolff, Hosea, 193.

23The Hebrew begins chapter 12 with 11:12 which is clearly correct.

24See Wolff, Hosea for a discussion.

25Paul uses this verse to show that death has been defeated. He understands it in the sense that God is in control of Death and Sheol.

Related Topics: History, Introductions, Arguments, Outlines, Prophets