Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Book of Hosea
TRUE worship has all but disappeared from the northern ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. Under the rulership of Jeroboam II, there is material prosperity in Israel, but that wanes soon after his death. What follows is a period of unrest and political instability. Four of the six succeeding kings are assassinated. (2 Kings 14:29; 15:8-30; 17:1-6) The 59-year-long prophetic career of Hosea, which began in 804 B.C.E., stretches into this time of turmoil.
Jehovah’s sentiments toward the wayward nation of Israel are vividly portrayed by what takes place in Hosea’s marriage. An exposé of Israel’s error and the prophetic judgments against her and the kingdom of Judah are the subjects of Hosea’s message. Using wording that is tender and sensitive and language that is forceful and expressive, Hosea has written all of this in a book bearing his name. As part of the inspired Word of God, its message is alive and exerts power.—Hebrews 4:12.
“TAKE TO YOURSELF A WIFE OF FORNICATION”
Jehovah tells Hosea: “Go, take to yourself a wife of fornication.” (Hosea 1:2) Hosea obeys and has a son by Gomer. The next two children she gives birth to are evidently illegitimate. The meanings of their names, Lo-ruhamah and Lo-ammi, point to Jehovah’s withholding mercy from Israel and rejecting his disloyal people.
How does Jehovah actually feel about his rebellious people? He tells Hosea: “Go once again, love a woman loved by a companion and committing adultery, as in the case of Jehovah’s love for the sons of Israel while they are turning to other gods.”—Hosea 3:1.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:1—Why does Hosea mention all four kings who ruled over Judah during his ministry while naming only one ruler of Israel? This is because only the kings from David’s family line were recognized as the rightful rulers of God’s chosen people. The kings of the northern kingdom were not of the Davidic line of descent, whereas those of Judah were.
1:2-9—Did Hosea really take a wife of fornication? Yes, Hosea actually married a woman who later became an adulteress. The prophet says nothing to indicate that what he related about his domestic life was a dream or a vision.
1:7—When was the house of Judah shown mercy and saved? This was fulfilled in 732 B.C.E., in the days of King Hezekiah. At that time, Jehovah ended the Assyrian threat to Jerusalem by having an angel slay 185,000 of the enemy’s forces in one night. (2 Kings 19:34, 35) Jehovah thus delivered Judah, not “by a bow or by a sword or by war, by horses or by horsemen,” but by an angel.
1:10, 11—Since the northern kingdom of Israel fell in 740 B.C.E., how were the sons of Israel “collected together into a unity” with the sons of Judah? Many from the northern kingdom had gone to Judah before the inhabitants of the land of Judah were taken into captivity to Babylon in 607 B.C.E. (2 Chronicles 11:13-17; 30:6-12, 18-20, 25) When Jewish exiles returned to their homeland in 537 B.C.E., descendants of those from the northern kingdom of Israel were among the returnees.—Ezra 2:70.
2:21-23—What was foretold by Jehovah’s words: “I shall certainly sow [Jezreel] like seed for me in the earth, and I will show mercy to her”? The name of Hosea’s firstborn son by Gomer was Jezreel. (Hosea 1:2-4) The meaning of that name, “God Will Sow Seed,” is prophetic of Jehovah’s gathering a faithful remnant in 537 B.C.E. and sowing them like seed in Judah. The land that had lain desolate for 70 years would now need to produce grain, sweet wine, and oil. In a poetic way, the prophecy states that these good things would appeal to the earth to release its nutrients, and the earth would ask the heavens for rain. In turn, the heavens would petition God to provide rain clouds. All of this would be for the purpose of abundantly taking care of the needs of the returning remnant. The apostles Paul and Peter apply Hosea 2:23 to the gathering of a remnant of spiritual Israel.—Romans 9:25, 26; 1 Peter 2:10.
Lessons for Us:
1:2-9; 3:1, 2. Think of the personal sacrifice Hosea made by remaining in a marriage in compliance with the divine will! When it comes to doing God’s will, to what extent are we willing to forgo personal preferences?
1:6-9. Jehovah hates spiritual adultery, just as he hates physical adultery.
“JEHOVAH HAS A LEGAL CASE”
“Jehovah has a legal case with the inhabitants of the land.” Why? Because “there is no truth nor loving-kindness nor knowledge of God in the land.” (Hosea 4:1) The renegade people of Israel have engaged in defrauding and bloodshed and have committed physical and spiritual fornication. Rather than looking to God for help, “to Egypt they have called; to Assyria they have gone.”—Hosea 7:11.
Jehovah declares his judgment, saying: “Israel must be swallowed down.” (Hosea 8:8) The kingdom of Judah is not free of guilt. “Jehovah has a legal case with Judah,” states Hosea 12:2, “even to hold an accounting against Jacob according to his ways; according to his dealings he will repay him.” But restoration is certain, for God promises: “From the hand of Sheol I shall redeem them; from death I shall recover them.”—Hosea 13:14.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
6:1-3—Who was saying: “Come, you people, and do let us return to Jehovah”? Unfaithful Israelites may have been encouraging one another to return to Jehovah. If this is so, they were simply pretending to repent. Their loving-kindness was as brief and fleeting as “the morning clouds and . . . the dew that early goes away.” (Hosea 6:4) On the other hand, the speaker could have been Hosea pleading with the people to come back to Jehovah. Whatever the case, the wayward inhabitants of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel needed to display genuine repentance and really return to Jehovah.
7:4—In what way were adulterous Israelites like “a furnace set burning”? This analogy illustrates the intensity of the evil desires in their heart.
Lessons for Us:
5:1. Those taking the lead among God’s people should reject apostasy totally. Otherwise, they may entice some to engage in false worship, thus becoming ‘a trap and a net’ to them.
6:1-4; 7:14, 16. To repent in words only is hypocritical and futile. In order to receive God’s mercy, a wrongdoer must manifest heartfelt repentance, made evident by his return to something “higher,” that is, to an elevated form of worship. His actions should be in harmony with God’s high standards.—Hosea 7:16, footnote.
6:6. Practicing sin is an indication of a lack of loyal love for God. No amount of spiritual sacrifices can compensate for this deficiency.
8:8; 9:17; 13:16. Prophecies concerning the northern kingdom came true when its capital, Samaria, was taken by Assyria. (2 Kings 17:3-6) We can be confident that God will do what he has said and will carry out what he has spoken.—Numbers 23:19.
8:14. Jehovah sent “fire into [Judah’s] cities” in 607 B.C.E. by the hand of the Babylonians, bringing foretold desolation to Jerusalem and the land of Judah. (2 Chronicles 36:19) God’s word can never fail.—Joshua 23:14.
9:10. Though dedicated to the true God, Israelites “went in to Baal of Peor, and they proceeded to dedicate themselves to the shameful thing.” We are wise if we take a warning from their bad example and guard against breaking our dedication to Jehovah.—1 Corinthians 10:11.
10:5. Beth-aven (which means “House of Hurtfulness”) is a derogatory name given to Bethel (meaning “House of God”). When the calf idol of Beth-aven was taken into exile, residents of Samaria mourned the loss of their object of devotion. How senseless to put trust in a lifeless idol that cannot even protect itself!—Psalm 135:15-18; Jeremiah 10:3-5.
11:1-4. Jehovah always deals lovingly with his people. Submission to God is never oppressive.
11:8-11; 13:14. Jehovah’s word regarding the restoration of his people to true worship ‘did not return to him without results.’ (Isaiah 55:11) In 537 B.C.E., the Babylonian exile ended and a remnant returned to Jerusalem. (Ezra 2:1; 3:1-3) Whatever Jehovah has spoken through his prophets will without fail take place.
12:6. We should be firmly determined to show loving-kindness, to exercise justice, and to hope in Jehovah constantly.
13:6. The Israelites “became satisfied and their heart began to be exalted. That is why they forgot [Jehovah].” We need to guard against any tendency toward self-exaltation.
“THE WAYS OF JEHOVAH ARE UPRIGHT”
Hosea pleads: “Do come back, O Israel, to Jehovah your God, for you have stumbled in your error.” He urges people to say to Jehovah: “May you pardon error; and accept what is good, and we will offer in return the young bulls of our lips.”—Hosea 14:1, 2.
A repentant wrongdoer should come to Jehovah, accept his ways, and offer to him sacrifices of praise. Why? Because “the ways of Jehovah are upright, and the righteous are the ones who will walk in them.” (Hosea 14:9) How we rejoice that many will yet “certainly come quivering to Jehovah and to his goodness in the final part of the days”!—Hosea 3:5.
[Picture on page 15]
Hosea’s family life illustrated Jehovah’s dealings with Israel
[Picture on page 17]
With the fall of Samaria in 740 B.C.E., the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel ceased to exist