COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 1:1 The word of the LORD that came unto 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 1:1)
The book of Hosea begins a series of twelve books which men have called the “Minor Prophets” (Hosea, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi). Josephus, said that in Ezra’s time “the men of the great synagogue” put these twelve books into one volumn. Some believe this is why, when Stephen quoted from Amos, he said, “As it is written in the book of the prophets” (Acts 7:42; Amos 5:25.26). These books are not arranged in chronological order. Listed in order of the times during which they were written, the arrangement would be as follows (the dates are estimated). Prior to the announcement of the Babylonian Captivity – Jonah (856-784 B.C.), Amos (810-785 B.C.), Hosea (810-725 B.C.), Joel (810-660 B.C.), Micah (758-699 B.C.), Nahum (720-698 B.C.), Zephaniah (640-609 B.C.). From the prophecy of the Babylonian through the captivity itself – Habakkuk (626 B.C.), Obadiah (588-583 B.C.). After the Babylonian Captivity – Haggai (520-518 B.C.), Zechariah (520-518 B.C.), Malachi (436-420 B.C.).
Some have reasoned that the Minor Prophets are so named because their books are shorter than other prophetic writings. Jonah (4 chapters), Amos (9 chapters), Obadiah (1 chapter), Hosea (14 chapters), Micah (7 chapters), Joel (3 chapters), Nahum (3 chapters.), Zephaniah (3 chapters), Habakkuk (3 chapters), Haggai (2 chapters), Zechariah (14 chapters), Malachi (4 chapters). Both Hosea and Zechariah are longer than the book of Daniel. For the most part, these prophets delivered the Word of God during unusually difficult times. They prophesied to both Israel and Judah. Of them and others it is written, “Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them” (Jer 7:25). These were bold men who, for the most part, were isolated from others in order that they might deliver their messages. We will find that Hosea is an excellent example of the faithfulness of the prophets, and the vigor with which they served the Lord.
WHO WAS HOSEA
“ 1:1b Hosea, the son of Beeri . . . ” The only place we read of Hosea the prophet is in his own book. In all of the Bible, his name is mentioned three times: twice in this book (1:1,2), and once in the book of Romans (“Osee,” Rom 9:25). Matthew 2:15 quotes from Hosea 11:1, saying that word was fulfilled in the babe Jesus being brought out of Egypt. Peter also quotes from Hosea when he writes, “Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1 Pet 2:10; Hosea 2:23).
Hosea speaks of a resurrection on the third day: “After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight” (6:2). He speaks of the resurrection of the dead, and a total triumph over death: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes” (13:14). He is one of the first prophets to speak of the restoration of Israel to Divine favor (Hos 2:14-23).
Hosea was “the son of Beeri,” of whom we know absolutely nothing. This is the only place in all of the Bible this man is mentioned. Another man with this name was a father-in-law to Esau, who married one of his daughters (Gen 26:34). The name “Beeri” means “well,” or “fountained.” Surely his name was fulfilled in the offspring of Hosea, who was used of God to rebuke the kingdom of Israel, and to sound the word of hope for those who dared to believe God during decadent and evil times.
The name “Hosea” signifies “help” or “deliverance.” Although he was raised up to deliver sharp rebukes and prophesy Divine judgments, yet the ring of hope and Divine help is in his message. He speaks of the Lord opening a “door of hope” in the very valley where Achan and his family were put to death because of his covetousness (Hos 2:15). Although idolatry had pervaded Israel, Hosea declared a change was coming: “And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali. For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name” (Hosea 2:16-17). It requires a great deal of humility and the Spirit of God to declare stern judgments while holding out the scepter of hope.
The years of Hosea’s life were attended by most difficult circumstances. He was required by God to marry a harlot. “Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms”(Hosea 1:2). The reason for this was in order that Hosea might feel what God was feeling, because “the land hath committed great whoredoms, departing from the Lord” (1:2). Thus, Hosea would prophesy while being deeply affected with the impact unfaithfulness has upon the heart of God Himself. Later, when his wife left him, Hosea bought her back for fifteen pieces of silver, fellowshipping once again in the brokenheartedness of the God of heaven (Hos 3:1-2). Thus, the marriage and fatherhood of Hosea will be integrated into his prophetic ministry.
We know nothing else of Hosea. He came from an unknown family. We do not know if he had another occupation. Elisha was formerly a tiller of the ground (1 Kgs 19:19). David was a shepherd (1 Sam 16:192 Sam 7:8). Amos was a “herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit” (Amos 7:14). We know about Samuel’s youth (1 Sam 2:18-21). We know how Moses was born, where he was raised, and something of his life prior to being called by God (Ex 2:3; 3:1; Acts 7:23-24). Paul was a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen (Matt 4:18-21). Matthew was a publican (Luke 5:27; Matt 9:9). But we know nothing more of Hosea than what is revealed of him following his call into the prophetic ministry.
APPLICATION. In Hosea we see that the call of God is not according to works that men have done (2 Tim 1:9). Earthly credentials obtain no value in the kingdom of God. Worldly status is ignored by heaven when summoning men into involvement with God. He will summon a woman who poured expensive ointment on his head, and another women who once had seven demons, to participate in the Gospel (Mark 14:3-9; 16:9-14). He will use a young man named Timothy, noted only for being raised by a godly mother and grandmother, and was “well reported of by the brethren,” vaulting him into a place of kingdom prominence (Acts 16:1-2; Phil 2:19-20).
That is God’s manner. He looks upon the heart, not the outward appearance, as men do (1 Sam 16:7). If it were left to Israel, or to the conventional church, Hosea would never have been a prophet. Were he to suddenly appear upon the religious scene, he would be no more popular now than in the days in which he lived.
WHEN HOSEA HEARD FROM GOD
“ 1b The word of the LORD that came unto Hosea . . . 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.”
THE WORD THAT CAME. What a marvelous introduction to this book: “The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea!” We do not know where he was when it came. Moses received his word at a burning bush (Ex 3:2). Gideon received his word while threshing wheat by a winepress (Judges 6:11). Paul received his call while on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-5). But we know nothing of where Hosea was. Judging from the length of his ministry, we assume he was very young.
Jeremiah uses the same language: “The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah” (Jer 14:1; 47:1; 49:34). Joel speaks in this way also: “The word of the Lord that came to Joel” (Joel 1:1). Micah also speaks in this manner: “The word of the Lord that came to Micah” (Micah 1:1). Others of whom it is said “the word” came to them, include Isaiah (Isa 38:4), Ezekiel (Ezek 1:3), Jonah (Jon 1:1), Zephaniah (Zeph 1:1), Haggai (Hag 1:1), Zechariah (Zech 1:7), and John the Baptist (Luke 3:2).
Several things are assumed in the circumstance of God’s word coming to an individual. (1) That God desired to declare His mind. (2) That the times required that He declare His mind. (3) That there was sensitivity in the one to whom the Word came. (4) That the Word was given in order that it might be proclaimed. God’s words are always timely and of critical importance. Those who receive them are sensitive to the Lord, and are called into activity by those words.
Hosea shares when he received the word of the Lord. It was not a single word, but words that spanned a rather lengthy period of time. He mentions four kings of Judah, and one king of Israel. Uzziah reigned 52 years (2 Chron 26:2, 810-758 B.C.). Jotham reigned 16 years (2 Chron 27:1, 758-742 B,C.). Ahaz reigned 16 years (2 Chron 28:1, 742-726 B.C.). Hezekiah reigned 29 years (2 Chron 29:1, (728-699 B.C.). Jeroboam son of Joash reigned over Israel 41 years, simultaneous with Uzziah (2 Kgs 14:23, 825-784 B.C.).
The exact length of Hosea’s ministry is not known, but it had to have been a very significant period of time. A minimum period during which the word of the Lord came to Hosea would be about 60-65 years. The period could be as long as the seventy+ years of Daniels’ ministry, or possibly more. At any rate, it is a remarkable period of time.
The time of these kings of Judah is significant. Uzziah “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chron 26:4). However, “when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to h8is destruction,” because he went into them Temple of God to offer incense. He was stricken with leprosy, and remained a leper until the day of his death (2 Chron 26:16-21). Jotham also did that which was right in the sight of the Lord (2 Chron 27:2). He also “prepared his ways before the Lord his God” (2 Chron 27:6). Ahaz did NOT what was right in the sight of the Lord, making molten images fore Baalim, and burning his children in the fire after the abominations of the heathen (2 Chron 28:1-3). Hezekiah did what was right in the sight of the Lord, opening the house of the Lord and restoring the priestly functions. He cleansed the house of God, placing an accent upon purity (2 Chron 29).The kings of Judah, for the most part, were good, doing what was right in the sight of the Lord.
However, the years of the reign of Jeroboam king of Israel was not good. He “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.” He promoted the idolatry of one of his predecessors (2 Kgs 14:24). Notwithstanding his iniquity, the Lord used him to saved the people by the hand of Jeroboam because he had promised He would not blot out Israel from under heaven (2 Kgs 14:23-27). This was done in fulfillment of a prophecy uttered by the prophet Jonah (2 Kgs 14:25). The Lord was thus moved by compassion for His people. As it is written, “For the LORD saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter: for there was not any shut up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel” (2 Kgs 14:26).
However, following his reign, iniquity flourished among the people, and they forgot their God. A remarkable degeneracy was found among the nation of Israel, and some of Judah, even though God had been merciful toward them.
The significance of all of this is that Hosea was raised up to deliver scathing rebukes and prophesies against Israel for their iniquity. Although God had been good to them, they had not reciprocated, but had lapsed into reprehensible conduct. Therefore, Hosea was raised up to speak against them. Whereas Hosea mentions Judah fifteen times, he mentions Israel forty-four times, and very few of them are good.
THE TIMES DURING WHICH HOSEA LIVED
The time during which Hosea prophesied has been described as “the darkest period in the history of the kingdom of Israel.” BARNES Throughout the latter part of Hosea’s life the kingdom of Israel declined in every way.
POLITICAL ANARCHY. There was political decay, with hardly an orderly transition of reign. During this time Shallum killed Zechariah the king and “reigned in his stead” (2 Kgs 15:8-10). Then Menahem “came to Samaria, and smote Shallum the son of Jabesh in Samaria, and slew him, and reigned in his stead” (2 Kgs 15:14). Following that, Pekah, one of Menahem’s captains, “conspired against him, and smote him in Samaria, in the palace of the king's house, with Argob and Arieh, and with him fifty men of the Gileadites: and he killed him, and reigned in his room” (2 Kgs 15:25). Then, “Hoshea the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah, and smote him, and slew him, and reigned in his stead, in the twentieth year of Jotham the son of Uzziah” (2 Kgs 15:30). Things were certainly not in a good state, to say the least.
SPIRITUAL DEGENERACY. Forty-four times Hosea mentions Israel – the people against whom, he prophesied. He declared that God had “a controversy with the inhabitants of the land” (4:1). They played the “harlot” before God (4:15), and slid back “like a backsliding heifer” (4:16). The prophet announced “Israel is defiled” (5:3), and “the pride of Israel” testified against her (5:5). They were “desolate in the way of rebuke” (5:9). With sadness the Lord announced, “I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled” (6:10). When God “would have healed” them, their iniquity was “discovered,” and they committed “falsehood” (7:1). The prophet thundered in the name of the Lord, “And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him for all this” (7:10).
A spirit of sinful independence had so gripped Israel that it was said, “Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him. They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off” (Hosea 8:3-4). These people had been so affected by their heathen neighbors that God said, “Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure” (8:8).
Again, the Lord said of them, “For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples” (Hosea 8:14). They had sought their own interests so aggressively that Hosea said, “Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people: for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, thou hast loved a reward upon every cornfloor” (9:1). Their spiritual leaders were so corrupt God testified against them in these words, “the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred” (9:7).
Hear the Lord of glory lament over this people. “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images. Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images” (Hosea 10:2). The people flaunted their carnality in the face of God: “Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit” (11:12).
In this book we will be subjected to the Divine assessment of those who have experienced His deliverance and known His loving care, yet have chosen to walk in a wayward manner. The words of the Lord will be stern and to the point. We will read no accommodating view of the people, or hear excuses for their departure from the Lord. Hosea will teach us how to talk about backsliding.
But we will also be subjected to the tenderness and love of God, who still yearns for His people. “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?” (11:8). And again, “O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee?” ( 6:4). The work of the Lord will yet be proclaimed to this people, degenerate though they be. “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon” (14:5-6).
You can see that the days in which Hosea lived and prophesied are much like the days in which we are living. There is a considerable amount of religious activity, but self interests appear to dominate. Much that goes on in the name of the Lord is simply too convenient, too accommodating, too simplistic and shallow. This book will assist us in looking at these conditions properly. It will also teach us how to describe the conditions, and how to nurture a godly hope in the midst of it all.