Introduction to Hosea

Study notes ▪ 2017
Tags: Hosea; Israel; Idolatry


Author

Hosea, the son of Beeri (1:1); a prophet who addressed the kingdoms of Israel and Judah leading up to the former’s fall to Assyria; husband of Gomer, father of two sons (Jezreel and Lo-Ammi [“Not My People”]) and one daughter (Lo-Ruhamah [“No Mercy”])

Date

750-725 BC
  • Geisler provides a broad date range of 760-710 BC (231).
  • Merrill places Hosea in middle to late eighth century BC—likely predating 753 and extending until after 727 (421-23).
  • Ball refers to Hosea as “the prophet of the final years of the northern kingdom” (762)—that is, beginning before the death of Jeroboam II, king of Israel (747/746 BC), and continuing until Samaria’s defeat by Assyria in 722 BC.

Kings Mentioned  

Judah: Uzziah (1:1), Jotham (1:1), Ahaz (1:1), and Hezekiah (1:1)
Israel: Jeroboam II (1:1)

Nation(s) Targeted

Primary: Israel (e.g, 1:5; 1:10-11; 3:4-5; 4:15-16), as evidenced by the book’s references to the “house of Israel” (e.g., 1:4; 5:1), Ephraim (e.g., 4:17; 5:3), Samaria (e.g., 8:5-6; 10:5), etc.
Secondary: Judah (e.g., 5:10; 6:4; 12:2)

Representative Texts

1:2-11; 2:1-3; 2:14-20; 4:1-6; 4:15-18; 5:3-6; 5:13-15; 6:4-6; 8:3-6; 9:1-4; 10:12; 11:1-4; 13:1-8; 14:1-4

Core Message

Yahweh has lovingly chosen and nurtured Israel, but the nation—especially the northern kingdom—has rejected his covenant. Priests and prophets have failed to provide effective spiritual leadership. The people’s most egregious sin is idolatry, but it is accompanied by a variety of social evils. God commissions the prophet Hosea to communicate a critical message to Israel and Judah, not merely by words, but by the circumstances of his family’s life.

God directs Hosea to give his children specific names that convey his rejection of Israel. Hosea’s wife, Gomer, turns her back on their marriage covenant; her infidelity vividly illustrates Israel’s departure from Yahweh. Judah’s destiny remains to be seen, but there is evidence that it is following the northern kingdom’s example. Israel’s judgment—Assyrian captivity—is looming, but this discipline has a redemptive purpose. Yahweh will ultimately restore a united Israel to its land in an idyllic manner. The people will renounce their idolatry and come to a true knowledge of the Lord. Hosea illustrates God’s persistent mercy by buying Gomer back from prostitution.[1]

New Testament References[2]

  • 1:10 (Rom. 9:26)
  • 2:23 (Rom. 9:25; 1 Pet. 2:10)
  • 6:6 (Matt. 9:13; 12:7)
  • 10:8 (Luke 23:30; Rev. 6:16)
  • 11:1 (Matt. 2:15)
  • 13:14 (1 Cor. 15:55)

Features

The macrostructure of Hosea is a matter of general agreement: Chapters 1-3 form a section that is distinct from the remainder of the book. The structure within chapters 4-14 is less obvious, and scholars disagree as to how their contents are organized.

Hosea is rich with literary features. According to Livingston, “Hosea was a skilled writer who composed chapters 1 and 3 in pain-filled prose and the remaining chapters in vigorous poetry” (602). Hosea’s pithiness has even influenced the English language, as reflected in the phrase “reap the whirlwind” (8:7).

Sources

Ball, Edward. “Hosea.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, fully revised, vol. 2, Eerdmans, 1982, pp. 761-67.
Beale, G. K., and D. A. Carson, eds. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Baker Academic, 2007.
Geisler, Norman L. A Popular Survey of the Old Testament. Baker Book House, 1977.
Livingston, G. Herbert. “Hosea.” Baker Commentary on the Bible, edited by Walter A. Elwell, Baker Books, 2000, pp. 602-17.
Merrill, Eugene H. Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel. Baker Books, 1996.
NET Bible. http://lumina.bible.org/bible/Hosea+1

[1] Commenting on God’s directive to Hosea to marry “a wife of whoredom” (1:2), the NET Bible states, “The noun זְנוּנִים (zÿnunim) means ‘prostitute; harlot’ (HALOT 275-76 s.v. זְנוּנִים). The term does not refer to mere adultery … which is expressed by the root נַאַף (na’af, ‘adultery’; HALOT 658 s.v. נאף). The plural noun זְנוּנִים (zénunim, literally, ‘harlotries’) is an example of the plural of character or plural of repeated behavior. The phrase ‘wife of harlotries’ (אֵשֶׁת זְנוּנִים, ’eshet zénunim) probably refers to a prostitute, possibly a temple prostitute serving at a Baal temple” (note on 1:2).

[2] New Testament citations of texts from Hosea were identified in part by consulting Beale and Carson’s Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.


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