Bible Book Number 28—Hosea
Place Written: Samaria (District)
Writing Completed: After 745 B.C.E.
Time Covered: Before 804–after 745 B.C.E.
1, 2. (a) What are the last 12 books of the Hebrew Scriptures sometimes called? (b) What is known about Hosea, and whom does his prophecy concern?
THE last 12 books of the Hebrew Scriptures are commonly referred to as “the minor prophets.” The expression in common use in Germany, “the little prophets,” would seem to be more appropriate, for these books are certainly not minor in importance, although their combined length is still less than that of Isaiah or Jeremiah. In the Hebrew Bible, they were considered as one volume and called “The Twelve.” Their collection together in this manner was probably for the purpose of preservation, since a single small roll might have been easily lost. As with each of these 12 books, the first one is named after its writer, Hosea, whose name is a shortened form of Hoshaiah, meaning “Saved by Jah; Jah Has Saved.”
2 In the book bearing his name, little is revealed concerning Hosea except that he was the son of Beeri. His prophecies concern Israel almost exclusively, Judah being mentioned only in passing; and while Jerusalem is not mentioned by Hosea, Israel’s dominant tribe, Ephraim, is spoken of by name 37 times and Israel’s capital, Samaria, 6 times.
3. For how long did Hosea prophesy, and who were other prophets of this period?
3 The first verse of the book tells us that Hosea served as Jehovah’s prophet for an unusually long time, from near the end of the reign of Israel’s King Jeroboam II on into the reign of Hezekiah of Judah. That is from no later than 804 B.C.E. until after 745 B.C.E., no less than 59 years. His time of prophetic service no doubt spread over some years into the reigns of Jeroboam II and Hezekiah. During this time Amos, Isaiah, Micah, and Oded were other faithful prophets of Jehovah.—Amos 1:1; Isa. 1:1; Mic. 1:1; 2 Chron. 28:9.
4. What quotations and prophetic fulfillments confirm the authenticity of Hosea?
4 The authenticity of the prophecy is confirmed by its being quoted a number of times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Jesus himself quoted Hosea 10:8 in pronouncing judgment on Jerusalem: “Then they will start to say to the mountains, ‘Fall over us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us over!’” (Luke 23:30) This same passage is partially quoted at Revelation 6:16. Matthew quotes Hosea 11:1 in showing the fulfillment of the prophecy: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matt. 2:15) Hosea’s prophecy of the restoration of all Israel was fulfilled in that many from the ten-tribe kingdom joined with Judah before its captivity and their descendants were among those who returned after the exile. (Hos. 1:11; 2 Chron. 11:13-17; 30:6-12, 18, 25; Ezra 2:70) From the time of Ezra, the book has occupied its rightful place in the Hebrew canon as “the word of Jehovah by Hosea.”—Hos. 1:2.
5. Because of what unfaithfulness did Jehovah punish Israel?
5 Why did Jehovah send Hosea as his prophet to Israel? It was because of Israel’s unfaithfulness and contamination with Baal worship, in violation of Jehovah’s covenant. In the Promised Land, Israel had become an agricultural people, but in doing so they adopted not only the Canaanites’ way of life but also their religion with its worship of Baal, a god symbolic of the reproductive forces of nature. In Hosea’s day Israel had turned completely from the worship of Jehovah to a riotous, drunken ceremonial that included immoral relations with temple prostitutes. Israel attributed prosperity to Baal. She was disloyal to Jehovah, unworthy of him, and therefore had to be disciplined. Jehovah was going to show her that her material possessions were not from Baal, and so he sent Hosea to warn Israel what failure to repent would mean. After Jeroboam II died, Israel faced her most terrible period. A reign of terror, with a number of rulers being assassinated, continued down until the Assyrian captivity in 740 B.C.E. During this time, two factions fought each other, one wanting to form an alliance with Egypt, and the other, with Assyria. Neither group trusted in Jehovah.
6. What is revealing about Hosea’s style of writing?
6 Hosea’s style of writing is revealing. He is often tender and sensitive in his wording and repeatedly emphasizes Jehovah’s loving-kindness and mercy. He dwells on each small sign of repentance that he sees. His language is at other times abrupt and impulsive. What he lacks in rhythm, he makes up for in force and power. He expresses very strong feeling, and he changes thought rapidly.
7. What is illustrated in Gomer’s unfaithfulness and her later recovery?
7 At the outset of his prophetic career, Hosea was commanded to take “a wife of fornication.” (1:2) Certainly Jehovah had a purpose in this. Israel had been to Jehovah like a wife who had become unfaithful, committing fornication. Yet he would show his love for her and try to recover her. Hosea’s wife, Gomer, could accurately illustrate this. It is understood that after the birth of the first child, she became unfaithful and apparently bore the other children in adultery. (2:5-7) This is indicated by the record’s stating she “bore to him [Hosea] a son” but omitting any reference to the prophet in connection with the birth of the other two children. (1:3, 6, 8) Chapter 3, verses 1-3, seems to speak of Hosea’s taking back Gomer, purchasing her as though a slave, and this ties in with Jehovah’s taking back his people after they repented of their adulterous course.
8. What names are used interchangeably in the book?
8 The ten-tribe northern kingdom of Israel, to whom the words of Hosea’s prophecy are principally directed, was also known as Ephraim, after the name of the dominant tribe in the kingdom. These names, Israel and Ephraim, are used interchangeably in the book.
CONTENTS OF HOSEA
9. What do the names of Gomer’s children indicate as to how Jehovah would deal with Israel?
9 Israel’s adulterous course illustrated (1:1–3:5). Hosea’s “wife of fornication” bears the prophet a son, Jezreel. Later she has two other children, a daughter, Lo-ruhamah, meaning “[She Was] Not Shown Mercy,” and a son, Lo-ammi, meaning “Not My People.” These two names Jehovah gave to indicate that he would “no more show mercy again to the house of Israel” and to emphasize his rejection of them as a whole as his people. (1:2, 6, 9) Yet, the sons of Judah and Israel, as “sons of the living God,” are to be gathered in unity under one head, “because great will be the day of Jezreel.” (1:10, 11) Cleansed of adulterous Baal worship, God’s people will return to Jehovah and accept him as their husband. (2:16) Jehovah will give security to Israel and will engage her to him for time indefinite in righteousness, in justice, in loving-kindness, in mercies, and in faithfulness. In harmony with the name Jezreel (meaning “God Will Sow Seed”), Jehovah promises: “I shall certainly sow her like seed for me in the earth, . . . and I will say to those not my people: ‘You are my people’; and they, for their part, will say: ‘You are my God.’” (2:23) Like a wife repentant of her adultery, “Israel will come back and certainly look for Jehovah their God, and for David their king.”—3:5.
10. What is to result from the nation’s rejection of knowledge?
10 Prophetic judgments against Ephraim (and Judah) (4:1–14:9). The first verse of chapter 4 gives the setting for the prophetic warnings that follow: “Jehovah has a legal case with the inhabitants of the land, for there is no truth nor loving-kindness nor knowledge of God in the land.” What will result from this condition? “Because the knowledge is what you yourself have rejected, I shall also reject you from serving as a priest to me; and because you keep forgetting the law of your God, I shall forget your sons, even I,” says Jehovah. (4:1, 6) The very spirit of fornication has caused Israel to wander away. There will be an accounting for harlotlike Israel and Judah, but they will seek Jehovah when they find themselves “in sore straits.”—5:15.
11. How does Hosea plead with the people, but why is it woe to them?
11 Hosea pleads with the people: “Let us return to Jehovah, for . . . he will heal us.” Jehovah delights in loving-kindness and divine knowledge rather than in sacrifices and burnt offerings, but the loving-kindness of Ephraim and Judah is “like the dew that early goes away.” (6:1, 4) Ephraim is “like a simpleminded dove without heart.” The people go to Egypt and to Assyria for aid rather than to Jehovah. (7:11) It is woe to them. Why? They are loafing about, scheming bad things, overstepping Jehovah’s covenant, and transgressing his law. “For it is wind that they keep sowing, and a storm wind is what they will reap.” (8:7) Jehovah will remember their error and give attention to their sins. “They will become fugitives among the nations.” (9:17) Israel is a degenerating vine whose heart has become hypocritical. Instead of sowing seed in righteousness and reaping in accord with loving-kindness, Israel has plowed wickedness and reaped unrighteousness. “Out of Egypt I called my son,” reminds Jehovah. (11:1) Yes, He loved Israel from his boyhood, but Israel has surrounded Him with lying and deception. Jehovah counsels: “To your God you should return, keeping loving-kindness and justice; and let there be a hoping in your God constantly.”—12:6.
12. (a) What does Hosea sum up in the 13th chapter? (b) What restoration is promised?
12 In the 13th chapter, Hosea sums up all that has gone before regarding Israel’s early promise and Jehovah’s tender care, as well as Israel’s forgetfulness and the nation’s finally turning against Jehovah. Jehovah declares: “I proceeded to give you a king in my anger, and I shall take him away in my fury.” (13:11) But, then, there will be restoration: “From the hand of Sheol I shall redeem them; from death I shall recover them. Where are your stings, O Death? Where is your destructiveness, O Sheol?” (13:14) However, horrible indeed will be the fate of rebellious Samaria.
13. What plea ends the book of Hosea, and who will walk in Jehovah’s ways?
13 The book concludes with the heartrending plea: ‘Do come back, O Israel, to Jehovah your God, for you have stumbled in your error. Seek pardon, and offer in return the young bulls of your lips. Jehovah will show you mercy and love. He will become like refreshing dew to you, and you will blossom as the lily and the olive tree.’ The wise and discreet will understand these things: “For the ways of Jehovah are upright, and the righteous are the ones who will walk in them; but the transgressors are the ones who will stumble in them.”—14:1-6, 9.
14. What accurate fulfillments of Hosea’s prophecy are to be noted?
14 The book of Hosea strengthens faith in Jehovah’s inspired prophecies. Everything that Hosea prophesied concerning Israel and Judah came true. Israel was deserted by her lovers among the idolatrous neighbor nations and reaped the whirlwind of destruction from Assyria in 740 B.C.E. (Hos. 8:7-10; 2 Ki. 15:20; 17:3-6, 18) However, Hosea had foretold that Jehovah would show mercy to Judah and save her, but not by military might. This was fulfilled when Jehovah’s angel slew 185,000 of the Assyrians threatening Jerusalem. (Hos. 1:7; 2 Ki. 19:34, 35) Nevertheless, Judah was included in the judgment of Hosea 8:14: “And I shall certainly send fire into his cities and it must devour the dwelling towers of each one,” a forecast that had terrible fulfillment when Nebuchadnezzar laid waste Judah and Jerusalem, 609-607 B.C.E. (Jer. 34:6, 7; 2 Chron. 36:19) Hosea’s many prophecies of restoration were fulfilled when Jehovah collected together Judah and Israel, and ‘they went up out of the land’ of their exile in 537 B.C.E.—Hos. 1:10, 11; 2:14-23; 3:5; 11:8-11; 13:14; 14:1-9; Ezra 2:1; 3:1-3.
15. How do writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures apply quotations from the book of Hosea?
15 References to Hosea’s prophecy by the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures are also most beneficial for our consideration today. For example, Paul makes a powerful application of Hosea 13:14 in discussing the resurrection: “Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55) In emphasizing Jehovah’s undeserved kindness as expressed toward vessels of mercy, Paul quotes from Hosea 1:10 and; 2:23: “It is as he says also in Hosea: ‘Those not my people I will call “my people,” and her who was not beloved “beloved”; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” there they will be called “sons of the living God.”’” (Rom. 9:25, 26) Peter paraphrases these same passages from Hosea in saying: “For you were once not a people, but are now God’s people; you were those who had not been shown mercy, but are now those who have been shown mercy.”—1 Pet. 2:10.
16. What words of Hosea did Jesus repeat as showing Jehovah’s requirements for worship?
16 Thus, Hosea’s prophecy is seen to have been fulfilled not only in the return of a remnant in Zerubbabel’s day but also in Jehovah’s merciful gathering of a spiritual remnant who become ‘beloved sons of the living God.’ By inspiration Hosea saw the requirements for these. It is not an appearance of worship with formal ceremony, but in the words of Hosea 6:6 (which Jesus repeated at Matthew 9:13 and Mt 12:7): “In loving-kindness I have taken delight, and not in sacrifice; and in the knowledge of God rather than in whole burnt offerings.”
17. (a) What is necessary for any who stumble into spiritual adultery? (b) What joyful Kingdom promise is contained in Hosea?
17 The illustration of the adulterous wife that was so vividly acted out in Hosea’s own life shows that Jehovah abhors those who turn from him into ways of idolatry and false worship, thus committing spiritual adultery. Any who have stumbled in error must come back to Jehovah in true repentance and ‘offer in return the young bulls of their lips.’ (Hos. 14:2; Heb. 13:15) These may rejoice with the remnant of the spiritual sons of Israel in the fulfillment of the Kingdom promise of Hosea 3:5: “Afterwards the sons of Israel will come back and certainly look for Jehovah their God, and for David their king; and they will certainly come quivering to Jehovah and to his goodness in the final part of the days.”