The Prophet Hosea
Nothing is related of the ancestors of the prophet Hosea (whose name is identical with Hoshea) except that he was the son of Beeri. He prophesied in the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and of Jeroboam king of Israel. He is especially occupied with the moral condition of the people, principally of Israel, and the judgements that would follow. Israel is treated as in rebellion from the commencement.
The prophecy divides itself thus: Hosea 1- Hosea 3 give God's purposes respecting Israel; and in Hosea 4 - Hosea 14 the people are addressed: there are minor sub-divisions.
Hosea was to act a parable, by taking a 'wife of whoredoms,' which may mean that the woman that he was to take would be unfaithful to him; but grace abounds over sin. Hosea's wife was symbolical of Israel who had been unfaithful to Jehovah. He took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, who bore him a son, who, by the Lord's direction, was called Jezreel (a place that had witnessed the judgements of God, 2 Kings 9: 30-37).
The prophet's wife then bare a daughter, and her name was called Lo-ruhamah, 'not having obtained mercy:' no more mercy was to be shown to Israel.
Again Gomer bare a son, and called his name Lo-ammi, 'not my people:' God would not acknowledge them as His. But a future blessing is at once announced to them, and those who had no claim to be God's people should be called 'sons of the living God.' Paul applies this to the Gentiles in Rom. 9: 26, as he does in Rom. 9: 25 to the Jews (where Hosea, is called OSEE).
This introduces a remnant, the 'brethren' and 'sisters' of the prophet, those acted upon by the Spirit, to whom God's message was Ammi, 'my people;' and Ruhamah, 'received in mercy.' They will plead with their mother - Israel in the mass - and tell her that she was not the wife of Jehovah. She must be dealt with in judgement, but the valley of Achor (where God's anger was turned away, Joshua 7: 26) should be a door of hope. She will be able to call Jehovah Ishi, 'husband,' and not Baali, 'master.' Those that had not obtained mercy will obtain mercy; and those that had been declared 'not God's people' would be able to say, 'Thou art my God.' Cf. 1 Peter 2: 10.
This deals with the past, the present, and the future. Other details are given of their unfaithfulness and rejection. They should be many days without a king, or a sacrifice, or even an idol (as is the state of Israel in the present day); but they will afterwards return, and seek Jehovah and their king, that is Christ.
This commences the appeal to their consciences. The sins of the people are pointed out. Their prophets had failed, and the people were destroyed for lack of knowledge. The priests also had failed and it became 'like people, like priest.' In Hosea 4: 15 Judah is warned not to follow the evil example of Israel. In Hosea 4: 17, as elsewhere, Israel is called Ephraim, that being the chief of the ten tribes.
The priests, the people, and the king are addressed. They had all sinned, and had been rebuked, but had not returned to Jehovah. Ephraim, instead of turning to Jehovah in his sickness, had sought the Assyrian - a king who could not cure them.
Hosea 6, Hosea 7
The prophet touchingly appeals to the people to return to Jehovah: it must be in reality, and not merely in outward forms. They had, like Adam (Hosea 6: 7, instead of 'men'), transgressed the covenant: cf. Rom. 5: 14. The people encouraged the king and princes in their wickedness: their weakness was manifest, for strangers had devoured them. They would not turn to the Most High.
They are still threatened for their impiety. Israel had 'made many altars to sin,' and had leaned upon Assyria, an arm of flesh. Judah had trusted to her fenced cities: judgement should fall upon both.
This reveals a touching mixture of the prophet's affection for the people, and the judgements he is compelled to utter against them. Various illustrations are used to enforce his words.
Israel was an empty vine. They are reproached for their altars and the golden calves: they had sinned from the days of Gibeah. Cf. Judges 19: 15-25.
Israel had been called out of Egypt, but the fulfilment of this call was verified in the history of the Lord. Matt. 2: 15. For their sin they should be as Admah and Zeboim: cf. Deut. 29: 23. Assyria should be the place of their captivity. Jehovah yearned over them and would not destroy them, for He is God, not man.
The prophet enters into the detail of God's moral relationship with Israel, in order that the force of their being rejected by Him may convict them of their sin. They were to study how God had dealt with Jacob. The prophet in this chapter, as also in Hosea 10: 9, refers to the beginning of evil in the history of the people. Jacob's character was reproduced in his descendants.
Here again is found the conflict between the prophet's affection for the people, and the punishment God was compelled to inflict. And here again, almost as soon as the punishment is pronounced, God's thoughts of grace are uttered.
This speaks of restoration. Iniquity is acknowledged and forgiveness asked. Assyria shall no more be appealed to, nor the work of their hands be called their God. Abundant blessing is then foretold. Ephraim will say, "What have I to do any more with idols?" God's answer, "I have heard him and observed him." Again Ephraim says, "I am like a green fir tree;" and the answer is, "From me is thy fruit found." The prophecy ends with the declaration that the wise and the prudent will grasp the things revealed; "for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them; but the transgressors shall fall therein."
Thus the dealings of God with Israel and Judah are dealt with in Hosea more fully perhaps than in any other of the minor prophets. The learned look upon Hosea as the most difficult of the prophets to translate, its abrupt transitions being numerous and hard to understand, because of its dealing strictly with Jewish circumstances.