Author & Date
Hosea prophesied during the latter half of the eighth century B.C. (c. 753–722 B.C.). God called Hosea to predict the destruction and exile of Israel at a time when Israel was at the height of its material prosperity. The prosperity unfortunately was accompanied by widespread idolatry (4:17; 8:4-6) and social injustice (4:2; 12:7) as well as general disobedience to God’s covenant law (4:1-2; 6:7; 8:1). The book’s message is not limited to events in Hosea’s time: it looks backward to the days of the patriarchs (12:3-4, 12), Moses (9:10; 11), the judges (9:9; 10:9), and the monarchy (4:15; 5:1-2; 9:15); and it looks forward to the destruction of Israel and Judah and their respective exiles (1:4-5; 2:3-13; 3:4; 4:3,19; 5:5, 10, 14-15; 7:16; 8:10, 13; 9:6; 10:10; 13:15-16). Wonderfully, it looks beyond these tragedies to the great blessings of the new covenant age to come (1:10-11; 2:14-23; 3:5; 6:1-3; 11:8-11; 13:14; 14:1-9).
The overall genre of the book is prophecy, and most of the book consists of oracles of judgment, with only a few interspersed oracles of salvation. Its main literary form is satire (in this case, sharp and bitter). Virtually the entire book is embodied in poetry. The overall format is that of a legal or judicial indictment, as God presents a detailed case against his covenant people.
One particularly poignant way in which Hosea depicts the relationship between God and his people is a marriage in which his people has committed spiritual adultery. One unique prophetic technique that Hosea uses (easy for his original audience to understand, but not obvious to a modern reader) is the enactment prophecy (prophetic action report) where Hosea marries a promiscuous woman, Gomer. Even though the failed and restored marriage of Hosea and Gomer is present only in the first three chapters, the controlling metaphor of covenant Israel as an unfaithful wife exerts an implied presence throughout the book.
Hosea depicts Israel’s unfaithfulness with a number of images from family and nature. Israel is like: a promiscuous wife, an indifferent mother, an illegitimate child, an ungrateful son, a stubborn heifer, a silly dove, a luxuriant vine, and grapes in the wilderness. Yet Israel’s unfaithfulness and obstinacy are not enough to exhaust God’s redeeming love that outstrips the human capacity to comprehend. Hosea prophesies of the sinful nation of Israel being struck down by Yahweh, who comes at them like a lion (Hos. 5:14). But, with striking echoes of future salvation events, the prophet says that this death of the nation will happen when the people are driven into exile. Then, after the exile, Yahweh will raise his people from the dead “on the third day” (6:2–3).
The redemptive and restorative theme in Hosea’s prophecy are supremely fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus came as Israel’s representative, and in his death he became the one who bore the curse of the covenant (Gal. 3:13). He was struck down under the wrath of God, and “he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:4; cf. Hos. 5:14–6:3). Jesus laid down his life for his bride, the church (Eph. 5:25), buying her back from slavery to sin (cf. Hos. 3:1–5). He ransomed her as God had ransomed Israel at the exodus, and in his resurrection he justifies her (Rom. 4:25), accomplishing the prophesied new exodus and setting the return from exile in motion. The great consummation will be celebrated at the marriage feast of the Lamb, in fulfillment of all the prophets, not least Hosea.
This prophetic book sobers us and fills us with renewed hope. As ugly as our adulterous faithlessness has been, it cannot extinguish God’s resilient redemptive love for his bride, the church. May we come to experience God’s love that demands full commitment as He himself gave it all to us in Jesus Christ.
* Adapted from ESV Study Bible & ESV Gospel Transformation Bible.
This week’s Bible reading schedule:
|Monday: Hosea 5||☐||Thursday: Hosea 8||☐|
|Tuesday: Hosea 6||☐||Friday: Hosea 9||☐|
|Wednesday: Hosea 7||☐||Saturday: Hosea 10||☐|