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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Hosea 1

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The Prophet and the Prostitute

A. The life and times of the Prophet Hosea.

1. (1a) Hosea the man.

The word of the LORD that came to Hosea the son of Beeri,

a. The word of the LORD: Plainly said, Hosea was a prophet.  He spoke forth the word of the LORD, and applied that word to his life, and to the people and circumstances around him.  Hosea was a man, but he was a man God used to speak through.

b. Hosea the son of Beeri: The name Hosea means "salvation."  It comes from the same Hebrew root (hoshea) as the names Joshua and Jesus.  Throughout the book, Hosea will show us that salvation is found in turning to the LORD and away from our sin.

c. Son of Beeri: This tells us the name of Hosea's father.  We also know that he had a wife named Gomer (Hosea 1:3), and two sons and a daughter (Hosea 1:4, 1:6, 1:9).  Nowhere else in the Bible is Hosea mentioned.

2. (1b) The times Hosea lived in.

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.

a. Kings of Judah … king of Israel: Hosea's ministry spanned the years 760 to 720 B.C. during the days of the divided monarchy.  This was after days of David and Solomon, when the people of God divided in a civil war, creating two nations: Israel in the north, and Judah in the south.  This is some 250 years after the time of King David, and some 650 years after Israel came into the Promised Land.

b. Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah: Hosea's ministry was in the northern kingdom of Israel.  We know this because in Hosea 7:5 he calls the king of Israel our king, and because his ministry is focused towards the northern kingdom of Israel and its capital city Samaria.  But for the benefit of his readers in the southern kingdom of Judah, Hosea gives them a reference point for the days of his ministry according to the kings of Judah.

c. Jeroboam … king of Israel: Hosea began his ministry in the days of Jeroboam II.  From a political and economic standpoint Jeroboam II was a successful and good king (2 Kings 14:23-29).  Israel prospered politically and materially under his reign, but it was a time of significant spiritual and moral decay.  The terrible result of this decay wouldn't become evident until the days of Jeroboam II were finished. 

i. A dramatic example of this is seen in the lives of the six kings that followed Jeroboam II during the time of Hosea's ministry.  Of those six kings, four were violently overthrown and one died as a conquered exile in Assyria.

Kings of Israel during the Ministry of Hosea, 760 to 720 B.C.

Dynasty of Jehu
Jeroboam II 793-752 B.C. Gave throne to his son
Zechariah 753-752 B.C. Assassinated
Dynasty of Shallum
Shallum 752 B.C. (one month) Assassinated
Dynasty of Menahem
Menahem 752-742 B.C. Gave throne to his son
Pekahiah 724-740 B.C. Overthrown in coup d'etat
Dynasty of Pekah
Pekah 752-732 B.C. Assassinated
Dynasty of Hoshea
Hoshea 732-722 B.C. Died in exile

ii. Hosea began his ministry at a time when things were so politically successful and economically prosperous that people just didn't look to the Lord the way that they should.  The seeds of idolatry, spiritual failure, and moral corruption sown in days of Jeroboam II produced a tragic harvest in the following years.

iii. Significantly, Jeroboam I was the first king of a divided Israel, leading a popular revolt against the high taxation of Rehoboam, son of Solomon (1 Kings 12).  Jeroboam II followed in the wicked footsteps of Jeroboam I.

B. Israel's unfaithfulness and a promise of restoration.

1. (Hos 1:2) The command to take a prostitute as a wife.

When the LORD began to speak by Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea: "Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the LORD."

a. The LORD said to Hosea: God's first word to Hosea was something for his own life.  This is how God almost always works.  Hosea probably would have preferred it if God gave him a word for someone else.  But before the prophet can speak to the nation, he first has to hear from God for himself.

b. Go take yourself a wife of harlotry: The word God had for Hosea wasn't easy.  Hosea was told to take a prostitute for a wife.  Why?  Because the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the LORD.

i. Through His command to Hosea, God brings to life a consistent picture used throughout the Old Testament.  In this picture, the LORD is the husband of Israel, and their passionate, chronic attraction for idols was like the lust of an adulterer.  His people were as unfaithful as a prostitute was.

ii. In this vivid picture, we see how our idolatry and rejection of the LORD feels to God.  When we put anything in front of the LORD, it hurts Him like unfaithfulness hurts the victim of an adulterous marriage.  By commanding Hosea to take … a wife of harlotry, God will put Hosea in the place where he feels what God feels - and it won't feel good.

iii. "We cannot say that God grieves exactly as we grieve, if only because He controls all things and always works them out in accordance with His own good pleasure.  Nevertheless, there is a parallel between God's feelings and ours." (Boice)

iv. Many commentators press the idea that Gomer was not a prostitute when Hosea first met and married her, she only became that later and Hosea knew from the LORD that she would become that.  This may be the case, but we don't know this from the text.  It could go either way.

2. (Hos 1:3-5) Hosea's marriage to Gomer and their first son.

So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. Then the LORD said to him: "Call his name Jezreel, for in a little while I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, and bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. It shall come to pass in that day that I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel."

a. So he went and took Gomer: We can assume that Hosea would never marry a prostitute except by the commandment of the LORD. It showed a lot of obedience for him to actually carry out this difficult command.

i. As will be made clear, when Hosea married Gomer, she did not give up her career as a prostitute.  It wasn't that Hosea found a fallen woman and through love and kindness restored her to virtue.  He married a prostitute - no doubt hoping she would give up her sin and be devoted only to him - and she stayed a prostitute.

ii. No doubt, this happened after the pattern of human nature.  When Hosea and Gomer first married, she probably promised eternal love and devotion.  She probably showed every sign of being committed to Hosea.  But after a while, and in difficult circumstances, she fell back into prostitution.  Perhaps it was out of boredom.  Perhaps it was out of a feeling of neglect.  Perhaps it was out of a sense of need.  Sadly, we share the same inexcusable reasons for our idolatry, when we prefer another god to the LORD God.

iii. Some commentators believe this never really happened, and that Hosea is only telling a vivid story.  They think it could never have happened because God would never have a prophet marry a prostitute.  But Boice rightly observes, "If Hosea's story cannot be real (because 'God could not ask a man to marry an unfaithful woman'), then neither is the story of salvation real, because that is precisely what Christ has done for us."

b. Call his name Jezreel: The first son born to Hosea and Gomer was "Jezreel" and the name spoke of two things. First, Jezreel means "Scattered," and Israel would soon be scattered in exile by a conquering Assyrian army. Second, Jezreel refers to the Valley of Jezreel, where Jehu - the founder of the dynasty that put Jeroboam II on the throne - massacred all the descendants of Ahab, thus establishing his throne (2 Kings 10:11).  God directed Hosea to name his son Jezreel to confirm His promise to avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel by judging the house of Jehu.

i. Obviously, this was not good news to Jeroboam II.  It said that his dynasty, the dynasty of Jehu, was coming to an end.  In fact, after the death of Jeroboam II in 752 B.C. his son Zechariah barely reigned only six months before being assassinated (2 Kings 15:8-10), and that was the end of the house of Jehu.

c. And bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel: Just as the house of Jehu would fall, so would the whole kingdom of Israel.  Before the prophetic ministry of Hosea was finished, Israel was defeated, destroyed, and taken captive by the mighty Assyrian Empire (2 Kings 17:20-23).

d. Break the bow of Israel: "The bow was a symbol of power in a day when it was the principle instrument of warfare.  Thus a broken bow symbolized the loss of power." (Hubbard)

3. (Hos 1:6-7) A daughter born to Hosea and Gomer.

And she conceived again and bore a daughter. Then God said to him: "Call her name Lo-Ruhamah, for I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, but I will utterly take them away. Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah, will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword or battle, by horses or horsemen."

a. Call her name Lo-Ruhamah: The name Lo-Ruhamah means "No Mercy."  Every call to this child with the unfortunate name would remind Hosea and everyone else of coming judgment and exile.

b. Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah: The army of Assyria that destroyed Israel also attacked Judah, but they did not conquer them.  Instead, God miraculously fought on behalf of Judah against Assyria when the angel of the LORD killed 185,000 soldiers in the camp of Assyria in one night (2 Kings 19:35).

i. The fact that God had no mercy to Israel and had mercy towards Judah shows two things. First, it is true that Judah and her kings were more faithful unto the Lord during these years, as exemplified by King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1-8).  Second, it does not really matter if Judah was more worthy of mercy than Israel was, because by its very nature mercy is mercy.  If one deserves leniency, then leniency is a matter of justice, not mercy.  Mercy is only shown to the guilty. Therefore it is within the wise and loving heart of God to show mercy to whom He will show mercy (Romans 9:15).  But no one is ever unfair for not showing mercy.

4. (Hos 1:8-9) A second son born to Hosea and Gomer.

Now when she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. Then God said: "Call his name Lo-Ammi, For you are not My people, And I will not be your God.

a. Call his name Lo-Ammi: The name Lo-Ammi means "Not My People."  Every call to this unfortunately named child reminded Hosea and everyone else that the people of Israel had pushed away the Lord God, and should no longer be considered His people.

i. Since Gomer did not give up her prostitution, there may have been a cruel irony in the name Lo-Ammi.  Perhaps this son really was not the son of Hosea, but of another man.  Perhaps the appearance of the child made this evident.  The message God had to deliver to Israel through Hosea was hard enough, but God also made Hosea have to live it.

b. For you are not My people, and I will not be your God: This is not so much of a sentence or a penalty, as it is a simple stating of fact.  It isn't as if the people really wanted to be the people of God, yet God will not have them.  Instead, the people of Israel rejected God, and here the LORD simply recognizes that fact.  He won't play "let's pretend": "You pretend to be My people and I will pretend to be your God."  The time for those games is over.

5. (1:10-2:1) A promise of future restoration.

"Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' there it shall be said to them, 'You are sons of the living God.' Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and appoint for themselves one head; and they shall come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel! Say to your brethren, 'My people,' and to your sisters, 'Mercy is shown.'"

a. Yet the number of the children of Israel: Though God has promised judgment, the days of judgment won't last forever.  After judgment, there will come a day of prosperity, increase, and blessing.

b. Not My people … You are sons of the living God: God would fulfill the promise of Lo-Ammi (Hosea 1:9), but the judgment would not last forever.  One day Israel will return to the LORD, and once again be called sons of the living God.

c. Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together: God promised a restoration so complete that the division caused by the civil war of Rehoboam and Jeroboam I - a division that stood for 170 years - would one day be erased.

i. We can say that one way this promise is fulfilled is in the church, where God brings together Israel, Judah - and even Gentiles - into one body (Ephesians 2:14-16).

d. For great will be the day of Jezreel!  The first child of Hosea and Gomer was named Jezreel as a sign of judgment.  But God promises a restoration so complete that Jezreel will once again be a name of greatness, not judgment.

e. Say to your brethren, "My people," and to your sisters, "Mercy is shown": This shows that the redemption is complete.  The child named Jezreel has his name redeemed, and now the next two children (Lo-Ruhamah, "No Mercy" and Lo-Ammi, "Not My People") have their name redeemed as Israel is once again regarded as "My People" unto the LORD and "Mercy is shown" unto them.  What was a sign of judgment is now evidence of redemption.

© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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