Jeroboam II ruled on the throne; Israel maintained its territorial integrity. Politically and economically things were quite well in Israel. To these people enjoying prosperity God sent the prophet Hosea to warn them unto repentance. They did not listen; his warnings came true.
Hosea is the twenty-eighth book in most English Bibles; in the Hebrew Bible it is part of the Nevi’im, the Prophets; in the Greek Septuagint Hosea is the first of the Duodecim (Latinized; Dodeka in Greek), “the Twelve.” Hosea prophesied primarily to the northern Kingdom of Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel and Uzziah through Hezekiah kings of Judah (Hosea 1:1; ca. 753-700 BCE); the material was collected with a conclusion not long after (Hosea 14:9). Through various genres, illustrations, and sign-acts Hosea warns Israel about its idolatry and its consequences.
The book of Hosea begins with YHWH’s sign-acts through Hosea and his family (Hosea 1:2-3:5). Hosea is told to take a wife of whoredom and have children with her; he marries Gomer; they have Jezreel; she has “Lo-ruhama” (No Mercy) and “Lo-ammi” (Not My People), all signs of God’s impending judgment on Israel; God will eventually restore His people and have mercy on them (Hosea 1:2-2:1). Hosea then speaks, asking the children to plead with the wife about her adultery and its consequences; one may think it is him speaking to Gomer, but throughout it is about YHWH speaking to Israel, warning about the punishments to come for lavishing gifts on Baal (Hosea 2:2-13). Yet YHWH will take Israel back and they will prosper, and the sign names of Hosea’s children will be undone; as a sign Hosea takes back his wife Gomer, illustrating exile and return (Hosea 2:14-3:5).
The rest of the book of Hosea presents the various declarations YHWH proclaims through Hosea to Israel, and to a lesser extent Judah, regarding their idolatry and its consequences (Hosea 4:1-14:8). Hosea began with a summons for the creation to hear YHWH’s complaint against Israel: great sin of the people causes land to suffer; priests have not taught people who are destroyed for lack of knowledge; the people put trust in pieces of wood, sacrificing everywhere; Judah should not follow Israel’s example; Ephraim is joined to idols (Hosea 4:1-19). Hosea then summoned the political and religious authorities of Israel to hear the coming judgment: Israel has committed whoredom against YHWH, and they will seek YHWH but not find Him and will be crushed in judgment; they appeal to Assyria but cannot be saved (Hosea 5:1-15). Hosea spoke as Israel desiring to return to YHWH to be healed, raised up on the third day (Hosea 6:1-3); nevertheless Ephraim and Judah presently have strayed from YHWH despite His declarations through the prophets; sin has multiplied; Ephraim thinks itself strong but his weak, trusting in foreign policy but soon to be destroyed (Hosea 6:4-7:16). Hosea imagined the trumpet’s call when the enemy has approached; the people call upon YHWH but have found themselves spurned as they spurned YHWH; Israel has forgotten its Maker and will be devoured (Hosea 8:1-14). Israel has no right to rejoice: their offerings have been rejected; they will be taken away in punishment; the prophet has become a fool; God found Israel in the wilderness ye they pursued Baal of Peor; Ephraim will be struck with famine and destruction (Hosea 9:1-17). As Israel prospered their sin increased; they trust in idols; their king will not be able to save them; Ephraim is like a calf YHWH spared but now will put to the yoke; they should sow righteousness to reap love but have plowed iniquity and have reaped injustice; they trust in themselves and their warriors and will be destroyed (Hosea 10:1-15). Through Hosea YHWH speaks to Israel as a father to a child: YHWH loves Israel, called him out of Egypt, but offer sacrifices to idols; YHWH will punish Ephraim once but cannot stand to again see him treated like Sodom; Ephraim is deceitful while Judah is faithful (Hosea 11:1-12:1). Nevertheless Judah also has reason to be indicted unless he repents as Jacob did (Hosea 12:2-6). Ephraim oppresses; YHWH will again make him dwell in tents; YHWH has spoken to the prophets; Ephraim will be repaid for his deeds; he was exalted in Israel but made idols and offered sacrifice to them; YHWH is their God but they wanted a king; how can the king save them from their troubles now, for God has given them over to Sheol (Hosea 12:7-13:16)? Hosea ended with a plea for Israel to return to YHWH, to beg for forgiveness, realizing that no foreign power can save them, and then YHWH will restore His people to Himself, for He sustains them (Hosea 14:1-7). The reader is then exhorted to understand these things and to follow the ways of YHWH (Hosea 14:8).
We can understand why Israel was dismissive of Hosea’s prophecies: they were prospering and things were well. Yet within 40 years the Kingdom of Israel was no more, never to rise again. Israel learned the hard way that peace and prosperity do not come from good foreign policy but comes only from YHWH their Creator. Let us avoid the sins of Israel and put our trust in the God who made us and who sustains us through Jesus His Son and be saved!
Ethan R. Longhenry