Hosea 1:1. The word of the LORD that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.
Hosea was a prophet of the LORD who lived in and ministered to the northern nation of ancient Israel shortly before the fall of Assyria. Prior to Hosea’s generation, Israel had been beaten into submission both by Assyria to the east and Syria to the north. Under King Jehoash (Joash) the nation began to recover, and under Jereboam II Israel nearly returned to the size and status that it held under King David and King Solomon. Likewise, King Uzziah was part of the restoration of the southern nation of Judah. By the time that the LORD spoke to Hosea, the humiliation of the nation was remembered only by the older generation. It was a time of prosperity, a time when the LORD was not on the minds or in the hearts of His people.
Since the dissolution of the united kingdom during the reign of King Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, no king of the northern nation sought the LORD or sought to lead the nation in a godly way. Bereft of godly leadership, the nation had forgotten its commitments to the LORD that were made in previous generations. Rather than seek the LORD, the people of Israel immersed themselves in the pagan culture of the Canaanites, those who lived in the land that the LORD had commanded Israel (through Joshua) to utterly destroy. The practices of the Canaanites were egregiously sinful. “Social and moral conditions developed that were wrong and degrading. Side-by-side with wealth, extreme poverty existed. Through dishonest gain and false balances, the strong took advantage of the weak, Those who had wealth felt free to oppress the orphans and widows, and even to buy and sell the destitute on the public markets. Justice seemed at a premium and the courts did little to help. Israel traded obedience to the LORD for submission to the lord of death as they turned their backs on the One True LORD and took upon themselves the nature of the world.
The state of the people’s faith had become even more depraved than their social culture. Though a small remnant of faithful always remained, they had little influence in their culture, and none in the government of the nation. The LORD spoke through prophets to a nation and leadership that despised their message as the Israelite kings led their people to follow the depraved, degrading, and sensual religious practices of the Canaanites. Replacing the LORD with a pantheon of fictional gods who “required” fictional rites and sacrifices, they gave themselves to pagan religious rituals that involved abominable behavior. In order to understand the prophecy of Hosea, it is important to know that the central activity of Canaanite worship involved temple prostitution. The pagan Canaanites believed that such behavior inspired the fertility gods to bless the reproduction of their plants, animals, and people. The Canaanites believed that their god Chemosh demanded child sacrifice. Israel had not only turned its back on God, it did so by running to the most ungodly behaviors imaginable.
This was not God’s purpose for Israel. Since the nation was ignoring the intent of the Law of Moses, the LORD would need to speak to the people through another means. During this time God still communicated His will among the small remnant of faithful Israelites (and Judeans), and from this population rose several prophets, including Hosea, men who were sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in their lives and who proclaimed the Word of the LORD to the people in a wide variety of ways. Since people cared little about words, the prophets often lived out their prophecies for people to see. They would often choose behaviors and name their children as a means to keep the Word of the LORD in front of the people. Hosea was such a prophet.
Hosea’s prophecy is listed among the “Minor Prophets.” It is important to understand that there is nothing minor about his work or his message. His is not a less important message, and he is not a less important prophet. The entitlement of “Minor” is simply a reference to the length of the book which is significantly shorter than those of the “Major Prophets.”
Hosea 1:2. The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.
It is evident that the command of the LORD to Hosea was quite unusual. Certainly against Mosaic Law, Hosea was to take to wife a woman who was actively engaged in the practice of prostitution. Given the context of the situation, this would have been an Israelite woman who was engaged in temple prostitution, selling herself to those who sought to take part in the “sacrifice of sex” to their pagan gods, and doing so for her own personal gain. Some commentators and translations have tried to temper the woman’s vocation, referring to her as simply “promiscuous.” However, the verses to follow will clearly identify her true vocation as a prostitute.
Why would the LORD instruct Hosea to do such a thing? Since people did not listen to words, they would more readily respond to controversial events. Certainly, Hosea’s taking a prostitute, a woman who cares nothing for him, to wife would be extremely controversial. He already had a reputation as a man of God, or at least one who professed faith in the LORD, so his action would have been so far out of anyone’s expectations that word of the action would quickly spread.
The relationship that Hosea would have with his wife and children, as well as the events that this unusual marriage would bring would together serve the people as a dramatic and accurate visual metaphor that would expose the true relationship that the LORD has with His people, Israel. Just as Hosea’s wife would prove uncaring and unfaithful, the nation of Israel has proved to be uncaring and unfaithful to the LORD. Many biblical references to the LORD’s people refer to the fellowship of believers as the “bride” of the LORD, or the Bride of Christ, further enabling the apostate Israelites to understand the message that Hosea is delivering to the people.
Hosea 1:3-5. So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son. 4And the LORD said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.
In addition to using his marriage to illustrate the broken relationship between Israel and the LORD, Hosea, like other prophets, would give his children names that would cause the people to hear the message of God every time their name is spoken. Hosea named the first child that was born following their marriage, a son, Jezreel. The name is in reference to an event that took place earlier in Israelite history. It was then that Jehu slaughtered the wicked Israelite King Ahab in the Valley of Jezreel during the period of Elijah’s ministry. Any reference to this valley would remind Israel of Jehu’s famous act of over-the-top violence. Though Jehu was following the command of the LORD in the defeat of Ahab, his level of violence went far beyond what was required, and was motivated solely by his own desire for advancement. As a result of this sin, Jehu’s act would be judged punitively by the LORD, resulting in the destruction of Israel as a kingdom. The naming of the son would be a reminder to all of the prophecy of judgment that would come upon Israel when the nation would lose its power in the very valley where Ahab was slain, the Valley of Jezreel. This would take place under the reign of Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III, a year before the final dissolution of Israel that would take place in 722 B.C.
Hosea 1:6. And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Loruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.
The second child born during this marriage was a daughter whom he named Lo-Ruhamah, which is literally, “unloved.” As faithless, wicked, and apostate as Israel had become as a nation, the people still sincerely thought that, as descendents of Abraham, they were the “chosen people,” the “children of God.” Because of their apostasy, the LORD would no longer show favor to the house of Israel.
Of course, all favor from God is found in His grace alone, and never because of an act of man. We cannot earn the favor of the LORD. The LORD grants favor among those whom He chooses, and His plan is to grant that grace to those who place their faith in Him. Israel had turned from that faith long ago. By leaving the LORD’s hand of protection, Israel became exposed to the intrigue of those nations that surrounded it, nations that were vying for land and power. When faced with destruction by its neighbors, Israel would not even consider seeking the LORD for help and would be ultimately consumed by the fiery violence of their neighbors.
Hosea 1:7. But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.
We can observe quite a contrast between the LORD’s treatment of Israel and that of Judah during the time of Hosea’s life. Though Judah would also turn its back on the LORD and be consumed, the presence of a stronger remnant of faithful in Judah served to maintain their covenant with the LORD. Several of Judah’s kings would seek to lead the nation in the way of the LORD and would seek the LORD’s will and protection in times of danger and stress. It was not until the faithful remnant no longer had any influence in the direction taken by the nation that it would be destroyed by Babylon with the remnant taken safely into bondage by King Nebuchadnezzar.
Note the method that the LORD would use to preserve Judah. Rather than save the nation through military action, Judah would be saved by God’s direct intervention. The destruction of Assyria and the rise of Babylon would take place by an act of the LORD when he destroyed the Assyrian army under the leadership of Sennacherib. While threatening a siege of Judah, the soldiers of Sennacherib’s army died in the middle of the night, sending Sennacherib home without an army, and to his death at the hands of his family. Assyria would not recover from the loss of their army.
The contrast is found in Israel’s insistence upon utilizing their military or obtaining military alliances with their neighbors for protection rather than seeking the protection of the LORD. It is this difference in character that would lead to Israel’s imminent demise and the protection of Judah for another several generations.
Hosea 1:8-9. Now when she had weaned Loruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son. 9Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.
The passage translates the meaning of the name “Lo-Ammi” as “not my people.” The LORD is declaring that these descendents of Israel are not the “chosen people” that they think they are. It is not so much that the LORD is disowning them as much as these are people who were never children of God in the first place. These are not people who had faith in the LORD and turned their backs. These are people who do not know the LORD from their birth because of the failure of their forefathers to communicate their faith down through the generations. The family of God is comprised of all who place their faith in Him, and excludes those who do not. So, quite simply, those to whom Hosea declares his prophecy are worldly, ungodly, and unsaved souls.
This is a tremendously dramatic testimony when aimed at a people who think that they are secure in the LORD simply because they are descendents of Abraham and Sarah. Salvation from the condemnation for sin is not attained by ancestry, but rather by the full dispensation of the LORD’s forgiving grace upon those who place their faith and trust in Him. No such faith is found in the leadership of the northern nation of Israel, nor among the largess of its people.
We can observe from the prophecy of Hosea, illustrated to this point simply by his marriage to a prostitute and by the naming of the children of Gomer, that when the leadership of a nation turns its back on the LORD, the entire nation leaves the hand of the LORD’s protection. Certainly, as the LORD preserved the remnant of Judah when it was destroyed by Babylon, the remnant of faithful in the northern nation of Israel would also be preserved, but in their case such preservation would be in the form of their remaining behind while the leadership of Israel would be taken captive by Assyria.
Finally, the state of the children deserves note. The testimony of the broken relationship between Israel and God would be illustrated by Hosea’s “wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms.” Where Hosea uses Gomer as a metaphor for the nation of Israel, his children serve as a metaphor for the individual Israelite people. This passage implies that these three children, though named and raised by Hosea, would be offspring of Gomer’s prostitution. Understanding that these are a metaphor for the Israelite people, this further defines the depth to which Israel has separated itself from the LORD. There is no accompanying passage that implies that Hosea “knew” Gomer. As children of prostitution, the nation of Israel has conceived in its people children of prostitution, as they have then grown as a nation through an intimate relationship with this world rather than an intimate relationship with the LORD.
The state of ancient Israel during the life of Hosea should serve as a wake-up call to the nations of this world who have worked to remove the praise and worship of God from their culture. Like ancient Israel, such nations are removing themselves from the hand of the LORD’s protection, making themselves vulnerable to the intrigue of vying nations, and relying on their own unwise choices for their preservation.
Hosea 1:10-11. Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. 11Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
Hosea is quick to note that, though Israel (and Judah) would be destroyed, their destruction is the seminal event of their restoration to the LORD. A time is coming when the “children of Israel” would be a great population. The children of Israel (or similarly the children of Abraham’s) are all of those who followed in the example of Abraham’s faith, not Abraham’s seed. Those numbered among the faithful would become a huge population. That population today numbers in the hundreds of millions, and may be approaching a billion people on this earth because of a tremendous work of the Holy Spirit that is taking place in the eastern nations, including China.
Not only will the population of the faithful be of great number, it will at some point include literal descendents of both Judah and Israel when together they will follow the LORD. Though it would be tempting to try to draw a parallel in this prophecy to current events, the content of scripture teaches that the “great day,” the “day of the LORD,” will be the event of the second coming of Christ when all of the faithful will be gathered. This will include the faithful from all peoples including Jews and Gentiles alike. The people will be snatched up from the valley of destruction, illustrated by the Jezreel metaphor, and delivered out of the land to the place that the LORD has appointed. For this reason, many hold that the event of the second coming of Christ will begin in the Valley of Jezreel.
Hosea 2:1-2. Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah. 2Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts;
Knowing that the LORD desires a sincere relationship with Israel, Hosea calls for a dramatic work of repentance across the land, understanding that only repentance can save the nation from their impending doom. Hosea uses the names of the second and third children born to Gomer to remind them of the current state of the nation and the need for repentance. Rather than call upon the leadership of Israel, which has proved less than profitable, Hosea calls upon the few remaining faithful people of Israel to shout out to their apostate brothers and sisters and to the national leaders (represented as Gomer) to repent of their abominable sinfulness. Hosea calls upon the people to proclaim that the nation is not the “bride” of the LORD as they think they are.
Like Gomer who must turn from her prostitution and come to Hosea in repentance to find forgiveness, Israel must turn from her prostitution and come to the LORD in repentance to find forgiveness. She must put away her whoredoms: that is, the people must turn away from the cultic worship of the mythical gods of the Canaanites.
Gomer’s sin is evident by her adulterous behavior as she has given to her paramours that which is to be given only to her husband. Likewise, Israel is to put away her adulterous behavior, and bring to God the love, praise, and worship that only He deserves.
Hosea 2:3-4. Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst. 4And I will not have mercy upon her children; for they be the children of whoredoms.
Sometimes the LORD simply grants to us that which we ask for. Israel has chosen to turn its back on the LORD and chase after the things of this world. We are all born naked and take upon ourselves clothing as we are being raised by caring parents. Likewise, like a caring parent, the LORD provides for the needs of those who place their faith and trust in Him. Those who have rejected the LORD remove themselves from that blessing. There is simply no longer any remaining context for apostate Israel to find their needs met by the LORD whom they wholly reject. Israel wanted a king, and against the LORD’s advice, rejecting Him as their king, God still granted their request. Now Israel wants to be immersed in this depraved world. God is simply granting Israel their own wishes. Consequently, the doom of Israel is characterized by the removal of God’s hand of protection, the removal of the resource of blessing that the LORD would provide them if they would repent and turn to Him. Instead, they will find themselves bereft of those blessings (naked), given up to the character of this evil and wicked world (wilderness), finding the unblessed life that they desire (dry land), and though they may be finding that which they desire, they will not find that which they truly need (thirst).
The LORD clearly states the reason for this judgment: He has not left the people, the people have left Him, desiring instead the temporal and sensual attractions of this godless world. Giving them what they truly want, they will not find God’s mercy. They will find only the rewards given by the lord of death, the prince of the world they have chosen: utter and eternal separation from God.
Hosea 2:3-4. For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink.
Defending the position that the three children who are being raised by Hosea are not his own, he refers to them as the product of her harlotry. The reason for Gomer’s choice of prostitution is simple: she is expecting a personal reward for her prostitution. She is expecting that she will find her needs met by her paramours rather than by her husband, Hosea.
Likewise, Israel, by turning its back on the LORD is expecting to find her needs met by this world. When Israel observes the world, it sees the gain of riches and power. It sees the gain of immediately gratified pleasure. It is easy for a child to turn from one who offers wholesome food to the one who offers candy. Likewise it is easy for people to turn away from seeking faith in God, and instead seeking to have their needs met by this world.
Certainly this message is as relevant today as it was for the apostate ancient Israel when we see people and governments turning to the attractions of this world to meet their needs rather than turning to God. We are watching as socialist governments fall under their own weight as their people bleed their own nations dry in their selfish desire for personal gain. Even our own nation that was founded on Christian principles is working hard to rescind its motto: “In God We Trust.” Rather than seeking the LORD for their needs, the people are seeking the “government” for their needs, and instead of finding an inexhaustible source of blessing, they find a finite supply that cannot hope to meet the needs of all.
In order to fuel this bent towards socialism, we have been working to remove God from all of our institutions. God is no longer to be worshipped in our schools, colleges, or universities that were initially founded upon the Bible. The public display of faith is now punishable by fines and imprisonment.
When we observe the state of ancient Israel, we are looking into a mirror that is reflecting our own national apostasy. Like Judah and Israel, our world today contains a remnant of faithful. However, both Israel and Judah were still destroyed when they, as a nation, left the LORD behind when the remnant no longer had any influence on the direction of the nation. We have gone after the wool and flax, finding it in this world rather than in the LORD.
Hosea 3:1-2. Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine. 2So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley: 3And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee. 4For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: 5Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.
We have observed how Hosea has demonstrated the relationship between Israel and the LORD in the relationship between the prostitute, Gomer and himself. With all that has already taken place in Hosea’s life through his prophetic choices, one would think that Gomer deserves Hosea’s unbridled anger and judgment. According to Mosaic Law, Hosea is entitled to stone Gomer at her father’s door for her adulterous activity. Gomer deserves punishment, a punishment of death.
Likewise we all deserve eternal separation from God for our sin. However, God instructs Hosea to respond to Gomer’s adultery in the same way that the LORD responds to us in our sin. First, God calls upon Hosea to sincerely and truly love Gomer just as He sincerely and truly loves the people of His creation. Gomer has done nothing any more sinful than all of us who have sinned and come short of God’s glory, deserving the wages of that sin. However, God loves us with an unconditional love, and seeks our repentance.
By the time Hosea intervenes on Gomer’s behalf, she has found herself in bondage. As a slave to be sold, a ransom must be paid for her freedom. It is necessary for Hosea to go to the slave market and buy Gomer’s freedom. The price of her freedom is high. For someone like Hosea, the purchase price would have been all of his life’s savings, or more accurately, representing his entire net worth. Having paid the ransom, Hosea would take Gomer home with him where she would remain secure.
Hosea’s act of forgiveness and grace would be a testimony to apostate Israel the LORD is waiting to provide the same forgiveness, that if Israel would repent, the LORD would buy her back from her slavery to sin. That price would be great, paid by YAHWEH, the Messiah, Jesus Christ when He was crucified by evil men on the cross of Calvary.
The payment of the ransom by the LORD would also usher in a different faith experience than had been known by Israel prior to its payment. By paying the ransom for the Children of God, the family of faithful believers, there would no longer be any need for the Mosaic sacrificial system. Israel would have no king and no high priest since the Messiah would take his rightful and eternal position as the true High Priest. Hosea is given a glimpse of the latter days, those that would mark the period between the payment of the ransom (the Crucifixion) and the day of the LORD, the second coming of Christ. We are now in those latter days, and we can easily observe the truth of Hosea’s prophecy as it has been fulfilled exactly as he said.
As we approach the prophecy of Hosea, we are not casually observing the judgment of a nation that took place 2700 years ago. We are looking into a mirror that illuminates the state of the world, and the condition of the church today. God is the same God that judged Israel for turning away from the LORD. As we observe the church and our nations today we see the same bent to apostasy. As we approach the prophecy of Hosea, let us look into our own hearts to determine if we have chased after other gods rather than the LORD, and whether we need to seek forgiveness and restoration for our own bent to sin.
Let those who are people of faith follow the advice of Hosea and seek to turn our secular and apostate nations back to the LORD, for the judgment upon that apostasy is great.