Key Facts: Prophet, told by God to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2)
Father: Beeri (Hosea 1:1)
Wife: Gomer (Hosea 1:2-3)
Sons: Jezreel, Lo-ammi (Hosea 1:4, 9)
Daughter: Lo-ruhamah (Hosea 1:6)
Total Bible References: 4
Key References: Hosea 1-14; Romans 9:25
PURPOSE: To reveal God's unconditional love, especially illustrated in contrast to the sinful harlotry of His people.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Northern Kingdom (Israel).
MAIN THEME: A spiritual message. Apostasy from God is spiritual adultery.
KEY WORDS: Unconditional love.
KEY VERSE: Hosea 3:1.
NOTABLE PASSAGE: Penitence and its blessings,—Hosea 14.
- Israel's apostasy symbolized by the experience of the prophet in his marriage,—Hosea 1-3.
- Prophetic discourses, chiefly descriptions of the backsliding and idolatry of the people mingled with threatenings and exhortations,—Hosea 4-13.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE HIGHLY FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE used to express the evil conditions in Israel.
- The valley of Achor for a door of hope,—Hosea 2:15. See Joshua 7:24-26.
- "Joined to idols,"—Hosea 4:17.
- "Mixes... with the nations" (no longer a separated and holy nation),—Hosea 7:8.
- "A cake not turned" (dough on one side, expressing half-heartedness),—Hosea 7:8.
- "Strangers devour his strength" (weakened by evil associations),—Hosea 7:9.
- "Grey hairs also are sprinkled on him" (premature old age and unconscious deterioration),—Hosea 7:9.
- "Israel swallowed up" (national identity lost),—Hosea 8:8.
- "A vessel in which no one delights" (a marred and useless vessel to the Lord),—Hosea 8:8.
- "False balances" (commercial trickery in business),—Hosea 12:7.
PROMINENT PEOPLE: Hosea, Gomer, their children.Thompson Chain Reference Bible.
"Go and marry a prostitute, so some of her children will be born to you from other men. This will illustrate the way my people have been untrue to me, openly committing adultery against the Lord by worshiping other gods" (Hosea 1:2).
Introduction:Hosea’s name means "salvation." He was a prophet to the northern kingdom, and wept over their sins, as Jeremiah later wept over Judah’s sins.
Hosea is perhaps the strangest book in all the Bible, for God instructed his prophet to "take unto thee a wife of whoredoms."
There were several reasons why God did this.
The experimental reason. By marrying an unfaithful wife, Hosea could, as perhaps no other single prophet, understand somewhat the anguish in God’s own heart over the northern kingdom, whose people were constantly committing spiritual fornication and adultery against Jehovah.
God had often compared his relationship to Israel to that of a marriage. (See Isa. 62:5; Hos. 2:19; Jer. 3:14.)
The illustrative reason. His own marriage would become a walking and visible example of his message to Israel.
The prophetical reason. God would command him to name his children by those titles which would describe the future punishment and eventual restoration of all Israel.
He may have ministered longer than any other prophet.
Hosea predicted the Assyrian invasion, and later lived to see these prophecies fulfilled in 721 b.c.
In his book he refers to the northern kingdom as Ephraim constantly. Ephraim was the first of the twelve tribes of Israel to backslide.
Hosea is quoted more times for its size in the New Testament than any other Old Testament book, for a total of some thirty times. Compare:
A Grieving Husband and His Grievous Wife (Hosea vs. Gomer) (1-3).
Hosea’s wife, ill-famed. His wife Gomer was apparently a harlot before marriage and an adulteress after marriage. Hosea attempts in vain to save this marriage by:
- Barring her from the markets of the world. "Therefore, behold I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall that she shall not find her paths" (2:6).
- Hosea thought he could force her to remain home in this manner. He even sought the help of his first son, Jezreel, asking him to reason with his mother concerning the folly of her ways.
- "Plead with your mother, contend; for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband. Let her, therefore, put away her harlotry out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts" (2:2).
- But all this was to no avail. Gomer apparently continues to run off at the first opportunity.
- Buying her out of the markets of the world. It was not long before Gomer had been used, abused, and abandoned by her lustful lovers, and found herself in a slave market.
- God ordered Hosea to find and redeem her from this market. "So I bought her for myself for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley" (3:2).
Hosea’s children, ill-named. The prophet fathered three children through Gomer. Each child (at God’s command) was given a name which carried with it prophetical meaning.
The first child, a boy, named Jezreel (1:4), meaning "to be scattered," predicted two future events.
- The setting aside of the dynasty of a northern king named Jehu. This brutal and bloody king had slain many in and around the city of Jezreel. Among his victims were:
- the northern king Jehoram and the Judean king Ahaziah on the same day (2 Ki. 9:14-28)
- Jezebel (2 Ki. 9:33)
- Ahab’s seventy sons (2 Ki. 10:1-10)
- Ahab’s distant relatives and political friends (2 Ki. 10:11, 17)
- the royal princes of Judah (2 Ki. 10:12-14)
- the priests of Baal (2 Ki. 10:18-28)
While God did indeed order him to avenge Naboth, whose innocent blood Ahab had shed (1 Ki. 21), the brutal Jehu went too far in his bloodletting. Because of this, Jehu would be allowed only four generations upon Israel’s throne (2 Ki. 10:30). These were:
first generation, Jehoahaz, his son
second generation, Jehoash, his grandson
third generation, Jeroboam II, his great-grandson
fourth generation, Zechariah, his great-great-grandson
At the time of the birth of Hosea’s son, Jehu’s third generation was ruling, in the person of Jeroboam II. Thus, it would not be long until the dynasty would end. This, of course, happened in the days of Zechariah, who was murdered after a reign of but six months (2 Ki. 15:12).
- The Assyrian invasion, at which time the entire northern kingdom would be scattered (1:5).
The second child, a girl, named Lo-ruha-mah (1:6). This name literally meant, "no more mercy," indicating that God’s judgment was just around the comer. Along with this baby, however, came the promise that God would spare Judah, the southern kingdom, of this coming Assyrian invasion. (See 1:7.) This, of course, happened as recorded in 2 Kings 19:35.
The third child, a boy, named Lo-ammi (1:9). Here the name means "not my people."
A Grieving Husband and His Grievous Wife (God vs. Ephraim) (4:14).
- Because of her ignorance:
- "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me; seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children" (4:6).
- Because of her idolatry:
- "My people ask counsel of their idols... they sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and bum incense upon the hills... Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone" (4:12, 13, 17).
- Because of immorality:
- "I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hidden from me; for now, O Ephraim, thou committest whoredoms, and Israel is defiled" (5:3).
Ephraim desired: In spite of her wickedness, God still loved her.
"O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? For your goodness is like a morning cloud, and like the early dew it goeth away" (6:4).
- She was aflame with lust like a baker’s hot oven (7:4). God said the hearts of the people smolder with evil plots during the night, and burst into flaming fire the next morning.
- They mingled with the heathen and had become as useless as a half-baked cake (7:8).
- They were as a silly dove, calling to Egypt, and flying to Assyria for help (7:11).
- They were as a crooked bow, always missing the target, which was God’s glory (7:16).
- They lay among the nations as a broken pot (8:8).
- They were as a wandering and lonely wild ass (8:9).
- They were as a dried up root (9:16).
- They were as an empty vine (10:1).
- They were as a backsliding heifer (4:16).
Ephraim disciplined: God declared,
- God would therefore (for awhile) withhold his mercy from them (2:4).
- They would be many days without (3:4):
- A king: In 721 b.c. Hoshea, Israel’s last king, was dethroned, and in 587 b.c., Zedekiah, Judah’s final king, was deposed. Some six centuries later Israel’s only true king was rejected (Jn. 19:15). Thus, this tragic situation will continue until he comes again (Rev. 19:11-16).
- A prince: The next recorded prince in Israel’s future will not minister until the millennium. (See Ezek. 44:3.)
- A sacrifice: In a.d. 70 Titus destroyed the Temple and all animal sacrifices ceased. During the tribulation they will once again be instituted, only to be stopped by the antichrist (Dan. 9:27).
- An image: This literally means, "the pillars," and may refer to the Temple. A temple will be rebuilt during the tribulation (Rev. 13), destroyed (Zech. 14:2), and again raised during the millennium (Ezek. 40:48).
- An ephod: A reference to Israel’s high priesthood. The ephod was a garment he wore. Her last high priest personally planned the murder of the nation’s own Messiah. (See Jn. 11:49-51; Mt. 26:57-68.)
- Teraphim: These were normally figurines, or images in human form. (See Gen. 31:34.) It is not known what Hosea had in mind here.
- They would go off as slaves into Assyria (10:6).
- They would be (for awhile) swallowed up among the nations (8:8; 9:17).
Ephraim delivered. Someday this glorious event will indeed take place. Note the following passages:
She's gone again! In spite of the pleading from Jezreel, she's gone! In spite of all my attempts to keep her home, she's gone again! Why, oh, why did he order me to marry a prostitute? As I could have predicted, she's been nothing but unfaithful ever since the wedding. (Hosea 1:2; Hosea 2:5-6)
But even more disturbing was his command just yesterday: "Go and get your wife again. Bring her back to you and love her, even though she loves adultery." (Hosea 3:1)
I reminded the Lord that this was a violation of his own Word, but he told me to find her anyway. Of course I did what he ordered. I found Gomer in the slave market, where she had been dumped by her lovers. I was able to redeem her for 15 shekels of silver and five bushels of barley and some wine—not much of a price for a human being, however sinful! (Hosea 3:2)
Time and again I have asked the reason for all this, but of course the answer is obvious: My miserable marriage has served as a sensational illustration of the marriage between God and his unfaithful wife, Israel. His wife, like mine, is notorious for sharing her bed with pagan idols. So in some small way I can sympathize with him. Jehovah's hurt is my hurt. My pain is his pain. (Hosea 4:12)
Well, whatever my suffering, I count it an honor to serve as his prophet, for ours is the privilege of knowing the future. I know how God's troubled marriage will end. His wife will repent and be fully restored. As he has said, "I will heal you of your idolatry and faithlessness, and my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever!" (Hosea 14:4)
That's what the future holds for his marriage. I'm not so sure about mine.
Spiritual Lessons from Hosea
- Though God's calling Hosea to marry a prostitute was very unusual and was for a specific prophetic purpose, he may sometimes call us to do things that seem illogical or unproductive by human standards. When so called, we should readily obey. Abraham's willingness to offer Isaac is another example of such obedience (see Genesis 22:1-2).
- In a day of easy divorce, Hosea's efforts to win back his unfaithful wife provide a much-needed good example. The law provided for divorce (see Deut. 24:1) but only "as a concession to [Israel's] hard-hearted wickedness" (Matthew 19:8). Divorce is never the best option, even in cases of sexual infidelity.
- Though God disciplines us, he is also eager to forgive. God ordered Hosea to give his children names with meanings suggesting judgment (Hosea 1:4, 6, 9) but later gave a redeeming interpretation to those names (Hosea 1:10-2:1, 23). (See also Psalm 103:9; Romans 9:25.)