Hosea means “salvation” (Joshua and Jesus derive from the same word), signifying him as a kind of “savior” to his people. Not only was Hosea a faithful prophet, but he was a powerful type of Christ, especially as it relates to love toward sinners. His prophetic ministry takes place during the time of the expansion of the Assyrian empire in the eighth-century. Israel went into Assyrian captivity in 722 bc. Since Hosea does not speak of these events, it seems likely his prophetic ministry ended prior to 722 bc. Between the death of Jeroboam II and the fall of Samaria, Israel had seven wicked kings. While the focus of his message was directed at the Northern Kingdom, his message encompassed the entire people of God.
In Hosea 1:1 we read: “The word of the Lord that came to Hosea the son of Beeri, 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.”
Hosea’s prophetic work began when the “word of the Lord” came to him during the reign of seven kings. Of these seven kings, five are listed here in our passage. A couple of the ones that followed Jeroboam did not reign very long, which may be why Hosea left them out. Five of these seven kings are said to have continued in the sin of the first Jeroboam. The inspired Record states the same thing about these kings: 2 Kings 14:24, 15:9, 15:18, 24, 28, and 17:21-23: “And he did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin (2 Kin. 14:24).”
What was this terrible sin that Jeroboam I committed that caused Israel to sin (14:16)? He was guilty of several things, which are found in 1 Kings 12: He instituted the worship of golden calves (12:28), he then changed the place of worship from Jerusalem to Bethel and Dan (12:27- 30), he appointed priests that were not from the tribe of Levi (12:31), he changed the time of the feast of tabernacles (12:32), and he devised all of this in his own heart, according to his own desires, not God’s (12:33). In the New Testament, worshiping God according to how one wishes is called “will worship” (Col. 2:23), which is “selfwilled or self-imposed” practices.
Between the reigns of Uzziah and Hezekiah (in Judah), there reigned seven kings in Israel: Jeroboam II, Zachariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, and the last king is, ironically, named Hoshea (in Hebrew the names Hosea and Hoshea are the same). Therefore, we get an understanding of the length of Hosea’s prophetic ministry. Since the prophet Amos, an older contemporary of Hosea, also prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II (which ended around 747 bc), most scholars place Hosea’s prophetic work from the period of the 740s bc to about 725 bc. The listing of the kings of the Southern kingdom, along with the reference to Jeroboam II, helps determine the approximate duration of Hosea’s prophetic ministry in Israel as being anywhere from the 760s bc to just prior to 722 bc.
God communicated His Will through the prophets, which is the meaning of the phrase “the word of the Lord that came unto to Hosea” (Hos. 1:1). God spoke through the prophets (Heb. 1:1) by means of His Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21; cf. 1 Pet. 1:10-12). Moreover, all of the prophets can be divided into two categories: (1) Writing Prophets such as Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Daniel, and Malachi, and (2) Non-Writing prophets such as Gad (1 Sam. 22:5), Nathan (1 Chr. 17:1), and Elijah (1 Kin. 18:36). Coincidently, there are also “anonymous prophets” in the Old Testament such as the unnamed prophet in Judges 6:7-10.
Outline and Summary of Hosea
Three identifiable themes are evident: (1) God suffers when His people are unfaithful to Him. (2) God never condones sin. (3) God seeks reconciliation. The book may be divided into two sections: (1) Chapters 1-3 discuss Hosea’s marriage to a promiscuous woman named Gomer, a metaphor for the relationship of Israel with God in which Israel was guilty of “spiritual adultery.” It is also here that God makes an indictment or brings a “lawsuit” against Israel. (2) Chapters 4-14 are the “oracles against Israel as a nation and as God’s people.”
God commanded Hosea to take a wife from among the people of whoredom—those who live in fornication and adultery. Hosea married Gomer, who was quite young, and she bore three children. Gomer began to walk the way of her heritage, leaving Hosea for her lovers. Even though she had left him and was living in wickedness and shame, Hosea continued to provide corn, wine, oil, and money for her. Gomer thought these gifts were from her lovers and she praised them. Soon she was brought down to poverty, shame, and loneliness, and was to be sold on the block as a common slave. Hosea loved her yet, and he went to the marketplace and bought her for the price demanded and took her home to be his wife, no more to leave.
Part I—Chapters 1-3
As the figurative wife, Israel’s moral condition is depicted. God had committed to her the honor of His name, but she committed spiritual adultery (1:2-3). The names given to the prophet’s children tell us a number of things about the effect of Israel’s sin, giving us insight to how God saw His people:
• Jezreel (1:4-5) means “God sows.” A reminder that God never condoned the sin of Jehu (2 Kin. 10:1-14), and God did not forget.
• Lo-Ruhamah (Hos. 1:6) means “no pity or no mercy,” signifying God’s mercy does not continue indefinitely, but judgment would come.
• Lo-Ammi (1:8-9) means “not my people,” showing that Israel would cease to be God’s peculiar people.
Here we learn of both God’s grief at Israel’s sin and His unchanging love, as demonstrated by His willingness to take her back. Hosea 2:23 is interpreted in Romans 9:26 as referring to the conversion of the Gentiles. Next, the wife of Hosea is bought back (Hos. 3:1-3). Then follows two prophetic statements:
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim…Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days (3:4-5).
Part II—Chapters 4-14
This section concerns the oracles against Israel as their specific sins are enumerated. The Lord said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (4:6), explaining that they had “forgotten the law of thy God” (4:6). Jehovah spoke boldly, signifying that Israel had insulted His holiness and outraged His love. He delivered a heavy indictment against Israel. Embedded in Part II is the conclusion depicting the conversion and blessing of Israel (13:14-14:9). It begins with the prediction of coming judgment, which was fulfilled when Israel was carried away to Assyria. Judah continued to survive for more than a century and a half, but then she fell. A remnant of Judah returned to Palestine, but Israel did not. The book closes with a description of the day that is coming when Israel and Judah, at the verge of destruction because of iniquity, will return unto the Lord and experience His healing (14:4-9).
Typology of Hosea—A Type of Christ
The main theme of the book also makes the prophet Hosea a type of Christ: “Then said the Lord unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine” (Hosea 3:1—KJV).
The Lord put Hosea through this unusual experience to demonstrate His grace, love, and mercy to His people, all of whom have sinned, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We did not love Him, but He loved us with an “everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). The apostle Paul put it this way: “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly…But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6, 8).
Even the apostles allude to Hosea 1:10 as having to do with the Messiah (1 Pet. 2:10; Rom. 9:25-26).
There are multiple parallels between the lives of Hosea and Jesus. As Hosea was called to go and take a wife of adultery (Hos. 1:2), so was our Lord (Eph. 5:25-33; Jam. 4:4), reconciling His own back to God (2 Cor. 5:18-19). As Hosea paid the price demanded to redeem a slave for his unfaithful bride (Hos. 3:2), so did Jesus (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). Finally, just as the amazing, adultery-forgiving love of God portrayed in Hosea was available to Gomer, if she only turned away from her adultery and went to Hosea (Hos. 3:3-5), so it is that the amazing, adultery-forgiving love of God in Christ is available to us if we only turn away from our adultery and go to Jesus (John 3:16; Luke 5:32; 13:1-5; 15:1-10; 17:3-4; 24:44-49).
Moreover, in Hosea 11:1, God says, “out of Egypt I called My son.” Matthew 2:15 tells us that this was fulfilled when, after Mary, Joseph, and Jesus had fled to Egypt, God sent an angel to call His Son, Jesus, out of Egypt (2:19-20). In Hosea 1:7, God promises that He would save His people by the Lord their God—not by bow, sword, war, horses, or horsemen. Of course, God has saved His people by the Lord their God, fulfilling this prophecy. Just as those to whom Gomer was enslaved demanded a price, so our sins demanded blood and death (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22; Rom. 6:23). Like Hosea, Jesus has saved His people through His redemptive work upon the cross.
All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.
Reprinted from the 2016 The Bellivew Lectureship, Pensacola, Florida, 2016, Typology, Ed. Michael Hatcher.