About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Hosea 1

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My Commentary On The Book Of Hosea




This commentary is based on the 1984 edition of the New International Bible.  Chapter titles in this commentary correspond to that in the NIV Bible that makes for easy comparison.


The name "Hosea", or in Hebrew, "Hoshea" means salvation and is basically the same Hebrew word that is translated as Joshua in Hebrew and Jesus in Greek.


After King Solomon died Israel had a civil war and was divided into the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom.  This split took place in 922 B.C.. For the most part, the northern kingdom, also called Israel, had ten tribes, and the southern kingdom, also called Judah, had two tribes.  This is somewhat of a simplification because there were some families that migrated from the north to the south and vise versa.  This means that there are not ten lost tribes of Israel as some suggest.  There were some of the ten tribes from the north in the south, and some of the two tribes from the south in the north.


Amos was a prophet that came from the southern kingdom to prophesy to the north.  Hosea, however, was a resident of the northern kingdom.  He was prophesying to his own people.


Hosea and Amos prophesied around 750 B.C. to 720 B.C..   During this time the northern kingdom of Israel was very prosperous, very wealthy with great military strength.  They were also very religious, but very unholy.  Both the north and the south were at the height of their national history.  They have never been this successful and great since.  The problem for both the north and the south was that both strayed from their God and adopted pagan practices, something they were specifically told not to do by God in the Law of Moses, and something they covenanted with God not to do.  Along with these pagan practices were unjust government, unjust courts, poor treatment of the needy, and an arrogance concerning their humanistic existence.  I believe you can compare both the south and the north to western civilization today.  Western civilization as I write these words in 2012 is fast approaching in many ways what life was like in Israel back in Hosea's day.  Therefore what the Lord says to the northern kingdom of Israel in Hosea is very appropriate for the western world here in 2012.  This is one very important book and should be preached today, along with the book of Amos.  What God told Israel applies to us.  What He warned Israel is a warning to us, and, the judgment that came on Israel, both the north and the south, will come on us as well.       


Prior to the civil war in Israel, Israel attempted to make alliances with both Assyria and Egypt.  Of course, this was against God's will that He command to them in the Law of Moses.  Israel today is under the same pressure.  It is interesting to note that before Assyria overthrew the northern kingdom of Israel , four out of the last six kings of Israel were assassinated.  This shows you what kind of nation the north had become.


Israel is under pressure to day to conform with the rest of the world, to make treaties, and to ally themselves with their neighbors.  This will eventually bring judgment on her as is seen in the book of Revelation.  The same applies to the church.  We are under great pressure to comply, to ally ourselves with the world, which we are doing.  We will be judged for this folly. This is why the books of Amos and Hosea are so very important to both Israel and the church today. 


The book of Hosea is divided into two sections.  Chapters 1 to 3 are personal and are concerned with Hosea's marriage to a prostitute.  Chapters 4 through 14 concerns Hosea's message to the northern kingdom.


We will see that God told Hosea to marry a prostitute and have children with her for the sole reason that this marriage would be symbolic of Israel's relationship with their God.  Yahweh saw His relationship with Israel as a marriage.  He was the husband and Israel was the wife.  Israel adulterated herself with other civilizations and their gods, just like Hosea's wife committed adultery with other men. 


The concept of marriage between one man and one woman is seen throughout the Bible.  I believe this marriage is symbolic of the relationship[ between God and His people.  The intimacy found in marriage is symbolic of an intimacy we should have with our God.  I believe that God put men and woman together in marriage for the purpose of helping us understand how our relationship with God should be.  Yet as our marriage relationships are a product of the fall of  Adam and Eve, so is our relationship with God.    


Many people have a hard time believing that God would actually tell a man to marry such a woman.  We cannot take this as something He'd tell many other men.  This is an isolated event for a specific prophetic purpose.  Calvin actually allegorized this and believed that this was not a real historical event.  Luther couldn't believe God would tell Hosea to marry a prostitute so he said that she wasn't a prostitute when they got married.  I believe the text says otherwise.  Origin, one of the early church fathers, believed that if a text does not make sense to you, you must allegorize it.  This teaching has been passed down throughout church history and as far as I am concerned is not right. You take the text as literal as possible.     


Hosea and Amos both prophesied around the same time to the northern kingdom of Israel.  It seems to me that Amos' message was directed to Israel as a nation, while Hosea's message was directed to Israel as God's wife, as God's people. Amos is speaking more or less in a national sense.  Hosea is speaking more or less in a spiritual sense. 


One of the biggest problems for Israel was their mixture of their religion with Baalism.  Baal, a god of fertility, was part of the old Canaanite religion.  It took a while, but Baalism and Judaism were fused together so that Israelis actually began to think this combined religion was what God wanted for them, but of course, it wasn't.  Part of Baalism is the importance of the sex act.  Sexual adultery was commonplace in Israel in these days because of their worship of Baal.  Men and women were having sex in many places, even under trees, (Hosea 4:13) which appears to be part of Baalism.   


I need to give a brief history of Assyria because in both Amos and Hosea we see Assyria mentioned often. Assyria eventually came from the east and overthrew the northern kingdom of Israel as judgment on the northern kingdom. 


Assyria has evolved into present day Syria, but Assyria finds it's beginnings in the mid third millennium  B. C..  Scholars are divided to the exact date, but somewhere around 2200 B. C. they say  Assyria became a nation, no longer just a group of ethnic people.  At that time Assyria was located in present day northern Iraq.  From there over the centuries, through wars and conquests, Assyria expanded it's control over other civilizations. By 670 B. C. Assyria had control of much of the middle east, including present day, Iraq, parts of Iran, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, and part of modern day Turkey.  It was during this time when Amos and Hosea prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel.


By 605 B. C. Assyria had declined and was taken over by Babylon, one of their arch-rivals for centuries. 


So, in our study of Hosea and Amos, we need to understand that Assyria wasn't modern day Syria. Assyria's control was much broader, spreading over much of the middle east, from Iran to the east, Turkey to the north west, Cyprus to the far west, Egypt to the south. 


More than any other Old Testament book, the book of Hosea has technical difficulties in the process of translating the text from Hebrew to English.  For this reason, if you study Hosea by using more than one version of the Bible, you will certainly see differences in translations.  So be forewarned.


Hosea's Wife And Children (ch. 1:1 - 11)


Most of the kings mentioned in verse 1 are kings in the southern kingdom, not the northern kingdom.  Many can't understand why southern kings are listed when the prophecies here are to the northern kingdom.  These kings are mentioned in the book of Isaiah as well, so we know that Isaiah prophesied around the same time.  I don't think anyone can give the real reason to why these southern kings are mentioned here.    


Verse 2 sets the stage for the whole book of Hosea.  God told Hosea early in his ministry that he should marry a prostitute.  The text clearly states that this lady was a prostitute.  So I disagree with Luther who says that this woman was not a prostitute when Hosea took her as his wife.  We also need to note the nature of Hosea's soon to be family.  Verse 1 says, "go take yourself and adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness".  The part about the children of unfaithfulness means one of two things, or both.  His new wife would already have children born from her adulterous affairs, or, some children born after the marriage might well have been born from adulterous affairs.  My guess is that both of these scenarios are true.


I'm sure that Hosea might have been shocked when he heard God's request for him to marry a prostitute.  He might have even questioned if he heard from the Lord in the first place.  Obviously Hosea heard from the Lord, but more importantly, he obeyed the Lord, even in this strange request.


The reason God gave Hosea for his marriage to a prostitute was that Israel "had committed vile adultery by departing from the Lord".  Note that the adultery wasn't just adultery, it was the "vilest" adultery.   The reason for the word "vilest", as in, "the worst type of adultery" is that Israel who was to be married to one God had united themselves with the pagan gods of the Canaanites who lived among them.  There is also some hint that they united themselves with the gods of their Egyptian neighbours.  These were the gods that God delivered Israel from years ago when they were enslaved in Egypt.  This is what makes Israel 's adultery so bad.  They went back to that which God miraculously delivered them from.  So, the vile adultery was not just the excess of physical adultery in the land, of which was common place, but the spiritual adultery everyone was involved in.


Note the words "children of adultery" in verse 2.  This might imply that this woman already had children from adulterous relationships.  It also would imply that she would continue to have children from other men, even while married to Hosea, and really, that was part of God's plan.  This is what God wanted Hosea to understand, that even when being married to him, his wife would be uniting herself with other men, as Israel was uniting herself with other gods.   God wanted Hosea to know, even if it was just a bit of knowing, how He felt when His people forsook Him.     


God had Hosea marry a woman that would be unfaithful to him so he would understand the situation of the northern kingdom from God's standpoint.  He would preach God's message with great conviction.  The message would be a burden to him, like it is with all prophets, and like it is to God Himself.


One thing we should note about God's strange request to Hosea in marrying a prostitute is that this is the only request of its kind in all of the Bible.  Some take one event such as this and build something of it more than what should be built.  Just because God told one person in history, that we know of, to marry such a woman, doesn't mean you should do the same.  This is a hermeneutical principle.  What God says to one particular individual person may not apply to all, and probably doesn't.    


When it comes to "adultery" in this verse, and throughout Hosea, we need to understand adultery in two ways.  First and foremost is the spiritual adultery that the northern kingdom, and the southern kingdom as well, found themselves in.  As I've already mentioned, Israel left their God, and united themselves with false gods, which is "spiritual adultery".  This union with other gods led them to physical adultery.  Part of the religion of Baal was sexual union with other people other than one's spouse.  Pretty well all of Israel was involved in sexual adultery.  Hosea did not have to go far to find his adulterous wife.  Most scholars feel that she was probably a temple prostitute.    


Verse 3 tells us the name of Hosea's wife.  Her name was Gomer, and the text says that she bore Hosea a son.


In verse 4 God tells Hosea to call his son Jezreel.  The name "Jezreel" means "to sow" as in "to scatter seed".  God would scatter the northern kingdom as one scatters seed when planting a garden. 


We need to understand that the naming of these children that we see in chapter one is prophetic.  The meaning of the names tell us how God feels about the northern kingdom.


Jezreel was both a valley and a city in the valley.  This is also known as the Valley of Armageddon.  Most of all it was a large valley that separated Galilee from Samaria, where a lot of battles took place, including the one mentioned in verse 4, for which reason Hosea was to name his son after.  The valley basically runs east to west from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea .  It's clear from this verse that whatever happened at Jezreel, was unjust and that was just another reason for God judging the northern kingdom. 


We see "Jehu" mentioned in verse 4.  He was a king of the northern kingdom and he and his sons after him ruled the northern kingdom for close to a hundred years.  He was a very violent man and fought his way to the top, thus the reason for God's judgment as seen in verse 4.


We see here that the birth of sons and daughters to Hosea's new family was part of the prophetic significance of his family.  In one real sense of the word, this family was a prophetic message in itself.


God said in verse 4 that He would put an end to Israel, the northern kingdom.  God is not afraid to put an end to His own people.  What He did to Israel, He can also do today to the church, or that part of the church that forsakes Him as Israel did in Hosea's day. 


Verse 5 states that God would "break Israel's bow in the Valley of Jezree".   The breaking of Israel 's bow means that God would break down Israel 's defenses, her military strength, and cause her to lose the battle she would have with Assyria .  Israel's military strength had become very powerful, but that would soon end.  The northern kingdom came to rely on her own strength and not on the strength of the Lord.  God was not happy with this.


Another battle will take place in this same valley, in the Battle of Armageddon at the end of this age for basically the same reason.  Although it was a miracle of God that Israel now exists, she still relies on her own strength and knows little about her God.  She will be brought to her knees in a great battle.  The survivors will finally turn to the God of Israel they have neglected for centuries. 


Verse 6 tells us the name of the next child born to Hosea and Gomer.  Her name was Lo Ruhamah, meaning, "not loved by a father".   The reason for this name is clear.  God says that should be the girl's name because He is no longer going to love Israel and forgive her.  He will judge Israel and send its people away into obscurity.  Again, the naming of this girl plays into the meaning to Hosea's prophetic marriage and ministry, that are linked together in one.


We need to take God at His word here  If He says that He will no longer love and forgive Israel , that's exactly what He means.  Thus the reason for Israel's exiles over the centuries.  That being said, we do need to take this verse in context with the rest of Scripture.  There are countless passages stating that God will call His people back to their land and love them once again at the end of this present age.     


In verse 7 we see the northern kingdom of Israel contrasted with the southern kingdom called Judah.  God just said that He would no longer love the north, but He will love the south and will save and deliver her but not with the use of any military might.  We need to note that about a hundred years after the fall of the north, Judah fell as well.  The main difference is that the north never recovered, but the south did.  They were exiled to Babylon for 70 years, but they did return to their land where they did have a measure of autonomy at times, but nothing like they were used to before their exile.


The reason why God would judge the south and restore them, and still love them through it all is because it was through the south that the Messianic Kingdom and Messiah would come.  Jesus came through the lineage of David, and, at the end of this age, Jesus will sit on what the Bible calls, "David's throne" in Jerusalem, where He will rule for one thousand years. David himself, is prophetic of Jesus.


Concerning God winning this battle with the south, without using any kind of military, the story is told for us in 2 Kings 19:35 -37 and 2 Chronicles 32:20-23.  In 701 B.C. Assyria attack both the north and the south.  They were not successful in their attack with the south because an angel of God stepped in and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers.  Obviously, Assyria lost the battle with the south, but not the north.


Verses 8 and 9 state that the third child born into Hosea's family was a boy who was to be named Lo Ammi, which means, "not my people".  Again, we see the prophetic nature of the birth of this third child.  No longer would the northern kingdom be God's people.  His people would flow through the southern kingdom, even though they would be judged and exiled as well. 


The chapter will end with verses 10 and 11 on a positive note.  God says that the day will come when Israel will be as the sand of the sea.  This is an obvious reference to the Abrahamic Covenant.  This is exactly what God promised to Himself that He would do.  He told Abraham that Israel would some day be a great nation, the greatest of all nations, and that she would number as many as the sand on the seashore.  This has not yet taken place, but it will, when King Jesus returns to set up His kingdom in Jerusalem for one thousand years as the book of Revelation states. 


Note in verse 10 where it says, "in the place where it was said you are not my people, they will be called sons of the living God".  This is a somewhat controversial passage.  Some believe the following. In the Valley of Jezreel God denounced the northern kingdom and told them that they were no longer His people, as we just saw in this chapter.  Yet at the end of this age, in the same valley, at the Battle of Armageddon, the reverse will be true.  At that point, all of Israel will be saved, that is, all who are left, as the apostle Paul stated in Romans 11:25 to 32.  Many Jews will be killed during the last seven years of this age, but there will be a remnant that will survive, and those people will repent and turn back to their God.  That being said, there is another way that we should look at this verse.


In Romans 9:24 to 26 Paul quotes verse 10.  It is clear that those who were once not God's people and are now His people are Gentiles according to the context of Romans 9.  Peter, in 1 Peter 2:10 says something similar.  Paul and Peter both interpret Hosea's words here as being prophetic of the day when God would make Israel as numerous as the sand on the seashore by allowing Gentiles into the family of God. Thos who believe in "Replacement Theology" point his passage out.  They say that this Old Testament passage predicts that the nature of God's family will change from national Israel to spiritual Israel , or, "all who believe in Jesus".   All that being said, there is more to understanding this than what is found here.    


Note in verse 10 the phrase "the sons of the living God".  This is more of a New Testament term than an Old Testament term, and for good reason.  That which is predicted to happen here in verses 10 and 11 is in New Testament times.       


Verse 11 states that in the day of restoration, both Israel, that's the north, and Judah, that's the south, will be reunited.  This tells you that there are no lost tribes of Israel.  The point here is that all 12 tribes of Israel will be united into one nation.  This one identity, as I've already stated, will come through the lineage of the southern kingdom.  The northern kingdom as a national  identity will never recover, but the tribes in the north will, and they do that, through the southern kingdom of Judah .  Many families in all 10 tribes migrated to the south before the fall of the north because at that time, the south had not adulterated itself with other gods.  Also remember, the book of Revelation speaks of the twelve tribes of Israel,  Again, ten tribes aren't lost. 


Notice the one leader spoken of here.  That is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Note that Israel will appoint Jesus as their leader.  I don't believe Israel will vote and elect Jesus as their leader, as if Jesus has some kind of opposition in an election.  Jesus Himself makes the choice to lead Israel. They simply confirm, and overwhelmingly accept the leadership of Jesus. 


Note the term "the day of Jezreel" in verse 11.  I believe this is a reference to the Battle of Armageddon that takes place in the Valley of Jezreel at the end of this age. This significance of the Valley of Jezreel from Hosea's day right up to the end of this age shows you how Bible prophecy weaves itself both through the Bible and through history.  Something that happened a few thousand years ago is relevant to what will happen in the future.  Biblical prophecy often has double and even triple meanings at times.  One prophecy may point to more than one event.


It is both interesting and curious to me that in verse 10 and 11 "those who weren't God's people would become His people" is squeezed into prophecies that to me are directed to Israel alone.  As I said earlier, Paul equates these people to be Gentiles in Romans 9.  Some ultra-Jewish type Christians struggle with Paul on many counts, and this is one such count.  Some of these people don't even believe Paul's writings are canonical, should be in the inspired Bible.  However we want to understand what verses 10 and 11really mean, we can't ignore what Paul says in Romans 9.  If there is a portion of Scripture that doesn't seem to fit our theology, then our theology isn't perfect.  We must struggle our way through the problem until we have it worked out.           

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