Introduction to Hosea
Hosea is the first in the list of Minor Prophets, so-called mainly because their inspired books are shorter than those of the Major Prophets. Hosea probably was not the first of these prophets chronologically. More likely Amos, Obadiah, or Jonah was first. Hosea evidently was placed first among the Minor Prophets because his book was the longest of these. Because of the sad experiences in his own personal life, Hosea has occasionally been called “the broken-hearted prophet,” just as Jeremiah has been called “the weeping prophet.”
The name Hosea in the Hebrew was very similar to that of “Joshua,” meaning, “Jehovah is Salvation.” Hosea was almost unique among the writing prophets because he both lived in the northern kingdom of Israel and directed his prophecy mostly against Israel. He warned against the coming Assyrian invasion of Israel, just as Jeremiah later warned Judah about Babylon. His prophecies against Israel were all during the forty-one year reign of Jeroboam II in Israel (II Kings 14:23; Hosea 1:1). Hosea was concerned also about Judah, of course, and mentioned that his ministry coincided with the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah in Judah. Some think Hosea resided in Judah in his later years when it began to be dangerous for him to remain in Israel.
Hosea’s prophecy centers largely about the divinely inspired parallel between Hosea’s love for his unfaithful wife Gomer and Jehovah’s love for unfaithful Israel. In connection with his prophecies concerning Israel, a number of remarkable fulfillments in the long-range experiences of Israel (Hosea 3:4,5) have verified the supernatural nature of these prophecies.
1:2 Hosea. Hosea (meaning “salvation,” essentially the same name as that of Joshua, or Jesus) is, in his prophetic actions, to be made essentially a living type of Christ, especially in His nature as Jehovah, the spiritual “husband” of Israel. Hosea’s prophecy was directed especially toward unfaithful Israel, the ten-tribe northern kingdom, but continued even after Israel was carried into captivity, warning Judah as well.
1:2 wife of whoredoms. In his real-life portrayal of the relation of Jehovah to Israel, Hosea was led by God to love and marry Gomer, who was a harlot both before and after her marriage. Gomer thus typifies the spiritual harlotry of Israel, serving other gods instead of the true God. As always, spiritual adultery first countenances, then promotes, physical immorality. God’s chosen people had descended into the same moral morass as the pagan nations whose gods they had begun to follow.
1:3 Gomer. Hosea’s wife had the same name as the first son of Noah’s youngest son, Japheth (Genesis 10:2) and of the nation descended from him (Ezekiel 38:6). The name is said to mean “complete.” The connection between the two, if any, is elusive.
1:5 valley of Jezreel. Jezreel (meaning “God scatters”) was of the tribe of Judah (I Chronicles 4:3). However, there was more than one region called Jezreel in Israel. This particular prophecy was fulfilled first when Jehu slew the sons of Ahab in Jezreel (II Kings 10:1-14), and then when Shallum slew Zachariah, the descendant of Jehu, eliminating the dynasty of Jehu after four generations (note II Kings 10:30; 15:10-12), thus finally “aveng[ing] the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu (Hosea 1:4).”
1:6 Lo-ruhamah. Hosea’s first son by his “wife of whoredoms” was Jezreel, named after the bloody slaughter at Jezreel which had initiated the dynasty of Jehu, soon to be ended. His daughter then was named Lo-ruhamah, meaning “Not to be pitied,” symbolizing God’s imminent judgment on unfaithful Israel.
1:9 Lo-ammi. Gomer’s second son was Lo-ammi, meaning “Not my people,” indicating the coming exile of Israel to Assyria and ultimately all over the world.
1:10 numbered. God’s original promise to Abraham (Genesis 22:17) must still be fulfilled, and both the “children of Judah and the children of Israel” will be gathered together in the last days (Hosea 1:11).