Hosea 1:1 identifies the author as “Hosea, the son of Beeri.” Apart from his father’s identification, nothing else is known about Hosea’s lineage, unless Beeri is to be identified with the Beerah of 1 Chron. 5:6. If these are the same, Hosea would be of the tribe of Reuben. Although speculative, this would confirm his northern roots. Hosea’s uniqueness is that he was a prophet from the north ministering to the north. Hosea’s name means “salvation.”
The list of kings in Hosea 1:1 spans just over a century—a period of time obviously longer than Hosea’s ministry. The internal evidence suggests that Hosea’s ministry began prior to Jeroboam II’s death in 753 BC and ended around 725 BC, after Hezekiah’s ascension but before Samaria’s fall. Hosea’s ministry was in part contemporary with Isaiah and Micah, both of whom ministered to the southern kingdom, and Amos, who although from the south preached principally to the northern kingdom.
Although Hosea’s ministry commenced during a time of prosperity during the administration of Jeroboam II, that prosperity soon gave way to decline. The history of Hosea’s world delineates the fulfillment of his prophecy that the Lord would bring first the demise of Jehu’s dynasty and then the end of the whole kingdom of Israel (Hos. 1:4), and that He would do so at the hand of the Assyrians (Hos. 11:5). Hosea lived and ministered during most of that history and, therefore, preached to a people on the brink of national disaster. There was a sense of urgency to his message, but the nation was oblivious. What the nation experienced in the swirling demise of their national sovereignty and standard of living consistently affirmed the veracity and authority of Hosea’s message.
Ironically, the tragic consequences of Israel’s rejection of Hosea’s message anticipated the grace of the gospel. The territory of Israel that first experienced God’s judgment (all the land of Naphtali, 2 Kings 15:29) was by God’s grace the first region of Israel to witness the ministry of Christ (Matt. 4:12-16). The darkness of Hosea’s day would give way to the light of Christ. The time of darkness was a providentially ordered step toward the fullness of time in which the Light would shine.
God’s love, spurned but constant.
To highlight God’s unfailing love that guarantees His covenant faithfulness both in terms of judgment and mercy.
The Contribution of Hosea to Redemptive Revelation
The message of marriage is an integral part of the prophecy of Hosea. God intended Hosea’s family life to be a symbol, a visible picture or object lesson, of the message he was to preach to Israel. Hosea 3:1 is the key verse of the book and explicitly links Hosea’s marriage to Gomer with God’s marriage to Israel. Hosea’s relationship with Gomer and God’s relationship with Israel were initiated by love, spurned by sin, and maintained by loyalty. Hosea’s constant love and loyalty to Gomer was a beautiful picture of the Lord’s unfailing love and loyalty to Israel. Gomer’s unfaithfulness to Hosea was a tragically clear picture of Israel’s treacherous unfaithfulness to the Lord. On several levels, Hosea’s experience parallels God’s relationship with Israel, which in turn is paradigmatic of God’s salvific acts for the church.
Major Problem of Interpretation
Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, crucial to the message of the book, constitutes a major problem for interpreters. The crux of the problem concerns the initial command of God to marry a wife of whoredoms (Hos. 1:2). On the surface this creates a moral and ethical dilemma because it seems to counter the clear instructions and restrictions for marriage that God gave to priests prohibiting them from marrying harlots (Lev. 21:7,13). If it would be a disgrace for a priest to marry a harlot, it would seem to follow that it would be a disgrace for a prophet as well. In addition, Deut. 22:13,20-21 sentences to death any woman proven to be unchaste at the time of marriage. The dilemma, therefore, is twofold: Would the Lord lower the standards for a prophet, and would He overlook the impurity of the wife of whoredoms?
The solutions to the problem fall into two major categories: those that regard the marriage as hypothetical and those that regard the marriage as literal.
The hypothetical view denies a real historical marriage between Hosea and Gomer and interprets Hosea’s use of the marriage imagery as simply a means of figuratively communicating God’s relationship to Israel and Israel’s spiritual unfaithfulness to God. According to this view, the best way to resolve the moral and theological tension is to disallow the fact but not the significance of the marriage. The marriage conveyed a message even if there were no actual nuptials. It is as though Hosea introduced his ministry with a “what if.”
There are several versions of the literal marriage interpretation, all agreeing that a real marriage took place but disagreeing on the nature or timing of the harlotry ascribed to Gomer.
First, the harlot view maintains that Gomer was in fact impure, perhaps a temple prostitute, when Hosea married her. This view recognizes the moral difficulty but suggests that for the sake of the message, God overruled His previously stated standards. Hosea’s marriage to the harlot would emphasize God’s gracious love for an undeserving people. Gomer’s continuing adultery was an affront to Hosea’s kindness as Israel’s was to God’s.
Second, the idolatress view claims that Gomer was an idol worshiper when she married Hosea. The word “whoredom” would then refer to spiritual rather than sexual fornication.
Third, the proleptic view claims that Gomer was sexually pure at the beginning of the marriage but soon became unfaithful. Prolepsis is the use of a descriptive word in anticipation of a later occurrence that will make the term appropriate. Accordingly, though pure at marriage, Gomer was identified as a “wife of whoredoms” in anticipation of what she would become. God, who knows the end from the beginning, could certainly reveal to Hosea what his bride would do before she actually committed acts of fornication.
Fourth, the hybrid view, which is followed in these notes, is a cross between the harlot view that takes the initial command at face value and the proleptic view that postpones Gomer’s infidelity. The word “whoredoms” is an abstract plural that would more likely describe an inner characteristic than an outward behavior. It most likely refers to Gomer’s latent bent toward immorality that surfaced not long after the marriage. God revealed to Hosea up front something about Gomer’s inner self that would potentially jeopardize the sanctity of the marriage. At the beginning of the marriage she was innocent of any physical fornication, but Hosea knew both what she was capable of doing and most likely would do. It was just a matter of time before propensity became practice. This is a key link to the spiritual parallel for believers: God loves us in spite of what He knows about us.
- Introduction (Hos. 1:1)
- Hosea’s Personal Life: His Symbolic Message (Hos. 1:2-3:5)
- The Marriage and Children (Hos. 1:2-2:1)
- Marriage to Gomer as a Symbol of the Nation’s Sin (Hos. 1:2)
- Birth and Names of Children as Symbols of Judgment (Hos. 1:3-9)
- Renaming of the Children as a Symbol of Hope (Hos. 1:10-2:1)
- Application of Hosea’s Family Life to Israel (Hos. 2:2-23)
- Sin and Punishment (Hos. 2:2-13)
- Restoration (Hos. 2:14-23)
- Hosea’s Reunion with Gomer and Application to Israel (Hos. 3:1-5)
- The Terms for Reunion (Hos. 3:1-3)
- The Application to the Nation (Hos. 3:4-5)
- Hosea’s Prophetic Discourses: His Direct Message (4:1-14:9)
- Synopsis of the Charges against the Nation (Hos. 4:1-5)
- Sin of Ignorance and Statement of Hope (Hos. 4:6-6:3)
- Deserved Destruction of the Nation (Hos. 4:6-19)
- Guilt of the Nation Follows the Guilt of Its Leaders (Hos. 5:1-7)
- Doom of the Nation (Hos. 5:8-15)
- Statement of Hope and Invitation to Repent (Hos. 6:1-3)
- Sin of Unfaithfulness and Statement of Hope (Hos. 6:4-11:11)
- Refusal to Repent of Manifold Sins (Hos. 6:4-8:14)
- Transgression of the Covenant (Hos. 6:4-11)
- Obstinacy (Hos. 7:1-16)
- Idolatry (Hos. 8:1-14)
- Deserved Judgment (Hos. 9:1-10:15)
- Dispersion (Hos. 9:1-5)
- Barrenness (Hos. 9:6-17)
- Destruction (Hos. 10:1-15)
- Statement of Hope Springing from God’s Love (Hos. 11:1-11)
- Sin of Faithlessness and Statement of Hope (Hos. 11:12-14:9)
- Sin Described (Hos. 11:12-13:16)
- Repentance and Hope (Hos. 14:1-9)
Extracted from: Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible Notes(Beeke, Joel R. 2015. Reformation Heritage Books).