Hosea 9-14

Hosea 9-14…Warning against Idolatry.

Like Amos and Jonah, Hosea’s ministry occurred during the reign of King Jeroboam II in the north. However, Hosea’s work also continued long past Jeroboam’s death, as he kept serving through the reign of King Hezekiah in Judah (Hos. 1:1; see 2 Kings 14:25; Amos 1:1). Jeroboam II died in 753 BC, and Hezekiah took Judah’s throne sometime around the fall of the northern kingdom in 722 BC (2 Kings 17:1–5; 18:1); thus, Hosea prophesied for about thirty to forty years.

We know almost nothing about Hosea except what is found in the book that bears his name. At the start of his ministry, the northern kingdom of Israel was experiencing prosperity that was surpassed only under the reigns of David and Solomon (2 Kings 14:23–29). Yet things changed dramatically after Jeroboam II died. Over the next twenty years, there was upheaval in Samaria, Israel’s capital, as four of the six kings who followed Jeroboam II were assassinated (2 Kings 15:8–31). Some of these kings made overtures to the far more powerful Assyrian Empire in order to secure their own positions, effectively turning Israel into a client state of Assyria (vv. 17–21). When Israel eventually revolted, Assyria invaded and took the Israelites into exile in 722 BC (17:1–6).

From God’s perspective, idolatry was the fundamental problem. The Lord sent Hosea to Israel both to warn the people against foreign alliances and, more importantly, to denounce the ethical violations and syncretistic worship of the northern kingdom (Hos. 4; 8:4, 9–10). Hosea preached “doom and gloom” (9:16–17) as he warned Israel that God would reject them and hand them over to Assyria. Nevertheless, the prophet also had words of hope for the faithful remnant of Israel. Destruction would come, but there would be an incredible restoration on the other side of exile (1:10–11; 2:14–23).

The Lord called Hosea to serve by commanding him to marry “a wife of whoredom”—Gomer. In so doing, Hosea acted out the relationship between God and His people Israel, who had committed spiritual adultery by leaving her husband, Yahweh, for lovers in the form of false gods (1:2; 2:1–13). Yet despite Israel’s cheating ways, the Lord did not give up on His bride. God sent Hosea to woo Israel back to Him and to warn the covenant community that adultery would lead only to its ruin.

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Hosea 1-8

Hosea 1-8…The Redemption of Gomer.

Hosea alludes to the original exodus from Egypt in these verses, a time when Israel served the Lord gladly. Appealing to an idealized Israel of the first exodus was not unusual for the prophets even if the wilderness generation also had its share of disobedience (Jer. 2:2–3; Micah 7:15; see Ex. 32; Num. 11). Still, Hosea’s appeal to this period as one of covenant faithfulness is fully appropriate. Measured against the rampant idolatry of Hosea’s day, the Israelites who left Egypt were saints. Moreover, despite the wilderness generation’s sins, the people of Israel made steady, if slow, progress toward Canaan. Yet during Hosea’s ministry, Israel was rapidly regressing into paganism.

As in the days of the first exodus, Hosea foresaw that Israel would answer when the Lord called during the restoration period. A new covenant would follow in which Israel would be safe from wild animals and foreign adversaries (Hos. 2:18). Instead of idolatry and disobedience, Israel would be true to her husband, Yahweh, in faithfulness, righteousness, justice, steadfast love, and mercy (v. 19). The people would no longer worship the Lord falsely; they would no longer associate the worship of the false god Baal with the worship of the covenant lord of Israel, the only true God (vv. 16–17).

Hosea acted out the hope of a new exodus by redeeming Gomer from her illegitimate lover. In like manner, the Lord would fulfill this new exodus by loving and rescuing Israel out of its bondage to foreign deities and false worship, symbolized here by the cakes of raisins offered to other gods (3:1). Yet though this restoration would come, the relationship between God and Israel would for a time not be all that it could be. Upon redeeming Gomer, Hosea would live with her “for many days” without enjoying all the benefits of marriage, including sexual intimacy (vv. 2–3). This foresaw the time in which Israel would be in exile and have a distant relationship with the Lord, one in which the people would not enjoy the benefits of sacrifice, temple, and more (v. 4). Exile and life outside of Canaan was coming, but it would not last forever (v. 5).