Old Testament Lesson 34 (Hosea 1–3; 11; 13–14)
The Book of Hosea
Hosea is one of the 12 prophets of the Old Testament with shorter books referred to as “minor prophets” (by no means meaning their messages were of lesser import). Hosea prophesied in the Northern Kingdom of Israel between 752–721 BC until the destruction and captivity of Israel at the hands of the Assyrians—a span of about 25 years. This would place him during the latter reign of Jeroboam II and just prior to the ministry of Isaiah.
The message of Hosea is that God is holy and supreme, and happiness and joy can flow to mankind only through obedience to His laws and commandments.
The Context of Hosea’s Ministry
Hosea’s name means “deliverance” or “salvation” and, at its root, is the same as Joshua and Jesus.
We do not know as much as we would like about him. Of his parents and birth we know nothing except the name of his father, Beeri (Hosea 1:1). Numerous allusions in his prophecies to the Northern Kingdom cause many to suppose that Hosea was a native of that land.
Hosea was a prophet 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. He was, therefore, a contemporary of three other great prophets, Isaiah, Amos, and Micah.”1
When Hosea began his prophetic activity (ca. 752–721 BC), Israel was experiencing one of its most prosperous times. However, these conditions masked the underlying moral and social evils that Hosea condemned in vivid language and imagery.
The Marriage Metaphor in Scripture
The marriage metaphor demonstrates the sacredness with which the Lord considers His covenant relationship with each of us. To Him, the covenants we make are as sacred and personal as the marriage vow is to those who are married. He loves us with the same steadfast love, and will not easily give up on us. Even when we let Him down, he still seeks to restore our relationship to what it was in the beginning.
● Hosea 1–3 Hosea was the first Old Testament prophet to correlate the marriage covenant with the Lord’s covenant with Israel.
● Jeremiah 3:6–9, 14 Jeremiah used the same metaphor later with regard to Judah.
● Isaiah 54:1 Isaiah also used it, calling latter-day Israel “the married wife.”
Hosea’s Symbolic Marriage and Family
The story of the prophet’s own marriage consists of three parts:
(1) Chapter 1 An account of the marriage written in the third person (by somebody else).
(2) Chapter 2 The words of the Lord drawing an analogy between Israel & Hosea’s wife.
(3) Chapter 3 A second report of Hosea’s marriage written in first person (by Hosea himself).
● Hosea 12:10 The marriage and family of Hosea was a “similitude” (symbol) of the covenant relationship of wayward Israel with the Lord.
● Hosea 1:1–3 The Lord commanded Hosea to marry “a wife of whoredoms” named Gomer. The name Gomer does not have special significance for the story or its meaning.
— The prophet knew beforehand that the woman was a harlot (Hosea 1:2; 3:1).
— The Lord was directing all of Hosea’s actions (Hosea 1:2, 3:1).
● Hosea 1:4–9 Gomer bore three children, whose names symbolized Israel’s condition and future:
1. A son Jezreel “God will destroy Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”
2. A daughter Lo-ruhamah “I will no more have mercy upon . . . Israel.”
3. A son Lo-ammi “Ye are not my people and I will not be your God.”
● Hosea 2:1–5 Hosea compares Israel to a woman who has been unfaithful to her husband, a harlot.
● Hosea 3:1–5 The Lord instructs Hosea to purchase Gomer’s freedom and give her another chance.
● Question: Is this story of Hosea marrying a harlot true? Does it matter?
— Professor S. Kent Brown said: “The Lord commanded Hosea to marry a woman with an evil past. The first child born to their union was Hosea’s (Hosea 1:3); the other two apparently were not (Hosea 1:6, 8). Even so, at the Lord’s behest, all three were given symbolic names. After later abandoning Hosea, Gomer recognized her mistakes and wanted to return; but by then—one must infer—she had become a slave. The Lord directed Hosea to buy her back, a course which he pursued willingly, for he still loved her despite all. The prophet next disciplined Gomer by severely restricting her movements and associations with others before restoring her fully to her former status . . . Hosea’s marital troubles [also] fits a wider pattern . . . in the Lord’s dealings with his [prophets]: he leads them through experiences that make them effective messengers for their time and place.”2
● The story of Hosea’s marriage is clearly metaphorical, whether it is literally true or not.
— Hosea (Jesus), the writer, represents the Lord.
— Gomer, the unfaithful wife, symbolizes Israel.
— Her adultery represents Israel’s turning from its covenant with God.
— Hosea (the Lord) divorced Gomer (Israel) because she broke her covenants.
— As with Hosea and Gomer’s marriage, the book of Hosea foretells the restoration of Israel’s covenant and her return to a chosen status (in the latter days).
● Hosea’s life became a living drama of the Lord’s relationship with his people. He used many different symbols to teach a few simple truths.
Marriage (chapter 1) Covenant relationship between God and Israel
Constant husband The Lord
Unfaithful wife Israel
Adultery, whoredoms Departing from the Lord and the true way
Lovers Other gods
Ammi “my people”
Ruhamah “those who have obtained mercy”
Your mother The nation of Israel
Wilderness Their captivity
Lovers Other gods
Bread, corn, wool, jewels Worldly values & treasures
Her nakedness & lewdness Israel’s sins
Allure her Jehovah will try to win her back
Valley of Achor, a rich valley The Lord will restore her to great blessings
north of Jericho near Gilgal
Ishi (Heb: “my husband”) Eventually Israel will accept God as her Lord
Baah (Heb: “my master”) and husband.
Father (chapter 11) The Lord
Son of Ephraim Israel
Divided heart Trying to worship many gods
Sowing Deeds, actions
Reaping Reward or punishment for deeds
Israel and Judah’s Sins
● A List of Israel’s Sins Identified by Hosea:
— Idolatry (Hosea 4:12–13). “My people ask counsel at their stocks [of wood]”—idols.
— Priesthood corruption (Hosea 6:9). “Priests murder..by consent & commit lewdness”.
— Political Corruption (Hosea 7:3). “They make the king glad with their wickedness”.
— Assassinations in high places (2 Kings 15:8–31).
— Assassinations of judges and kings (Hosea 7:7).
— Unauthorized (un-anointed) kings and princes (Hosea 8:4).
— “All their princes are revolters” (Hosea 9:15).
— Professor S. Kent Brown said: “The years following the death of Jeroboam II in 746 BC were chaotic. Disaster first struck Jeroboam’s son, Zechariah, who reigned six months and was then murdered by Shallum, who himself held the throne for one month. Menahem (745–737 BC) murdered Shallum and held onto power by brutally repressing those who opposed him. Although Menahem died in his bed, his son and successor, Pekahiah, after ruling two years, was assassinated by his army commander Pekah, who in turn held the throne for about five years (736–732 BC). Pekah’s reign was cut short by assassination. Hoshea, Pekah’s successor and murderer, ruled during Israel’s last few years before dying in Assyrian custody.”3
— No Mercy (Hosea 4:1). The Hebrew term is hesed, meaning “covenant love”—love based in a covenant relationship.
— No Truth (Hosea 4:2). “[False] swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and . . . adultery; they break all bounds and murder follows murder.”
Severe Punishments for Israel and Judah
● Hosea 10:12 The Lord asks them to return to their covenants: “reap the fruit of steadfast love.”
● Hosea 6:1—7:10 Israel and Judah rejected all appeals from the Lord to repent and return to him.
— The gathering of Israel and the Millennium (6:2). If a day is a thousand years (1 Peter 3:8), Israel is to be revived after 2,000 years, and be raised and live with the Savior during the third 1,000 years .
— Christ’s coming is like “the latter and former rain unto the earth” (6:3). To the farmer in ancient Israel, two “rains” were very critical. The former (or first) rains softened the earth so that he could plow and plant the seed; the latter (or second) rains gave the crop its growth. (Joel 2:23).
● Hosea 8:7–9 The law of the harvest—they have sown the wind, and will reap the whirlwind.
● Hosea 5:4 Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God.”
— We can reach a point of no return and forfeit promised blessings (Alma 34:33).
— Such people are “ripening for an everlasting destruction” (Helaman 6:40).
● Hosea 7:11–10:15 Because they forsook the Lord, Israel will be cast off and taken into captivity.
● Hosea 4:3 The devastation will affect all living things in Israel, not just people.
A Promise of Latter-day Reconciliation
● Hosea 11 The Lord expresses his love for Israel and his sorrow at having to punish them.
— “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel?” (v. 8).
— He vowed to restore their descendants to their ancestral home (v. 11).
● Hosea 2:14–23 A symbolic prediction of reconciliation—Israel will again have a fulness of joy.
— Hosea says the Lord would yet “speak comfortably” to Israel (vv. 19–20).
— Israel’s long dispersion will end (v. 23). God will say to them, “Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.”
— Elder Henry B. Eyring said, “This was a love story. This was a story of a marriage covenant bound by love, by steadfast love. . . . The Lord, with whom I am blessed to have made covenants, loves me, and you, . . . with a steadfastness about which I continually marvel and which I want with all my heart to emulate.”4
● Hosea 14:1–9 Hosea pleads with Latter-Day Israel to return to God, and predicts pleasant days when they do.
1. Sperry, The Voice of Israel’s Prophets , 274.
2. In Kent Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 4: 1 Kings to Malachi .
3. In Kent Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 4: 1 Kings to Malachi .
4. “Covenants and Sacrifice,” [address delivered at the Church Educational System Symposium, 15 Aug. 1995], 2.