Book of Hosea


Authorship, date, and background The author, Hosea (whose name means "salvation") was the son of Beeri. The name itself is identical with that of Hoshea and derives originally from the name of Joshua. Hoshea lived during the eighth century B.C. His ministry can be dated from 753 B.C. to around 723 B.C. He was a prophet in the Northern Kingdom during the reign of Jeroboam and overlapped with Isaiah, Micah, and Amos. It was a time of great prosperity and gross religious apostasy. The Northern Kingdom had been delivered from its vassalage to Syria, which had declined under Benhadad III. Its territory had been expanded to include Damascus, and control of the caravan trade routes brought about the rise of a successful mercantile class. This widened the gap between the rich and the poor even as the mercantile class could now afford the luxuries previously known only by the nobility.

Prosperity brought with it spiritual decline. The Canaanite religion of Baal worship had penetrated Israelite life. It was the most degenerate of all the cults of the area. Baal and his female consort Asherat and the goddess Anat (also known as Ashtoreth or Asherah) were fertility deities often worshipped in the form of bulls and cows. Jeroboam I had set up two golden calves, one at Bethel and one at Dan, for the people of the Northern Kingdom to worship. Drunkenness, prostitution, and violence attended their cultic practices, which were all contrary to the covenant they had with God. God called Hosea to his ministry during the closing days of the Northern Kingdom before the Assyrian invasion of 722 B.C.

Daniel wrote to convince his fellow captives that their stay in Babylon was in accord with the plan of God and that it was possible to have a living faith in God despite the captivity. He demonstrated the superiority of Jehovah God over the idols of Babylon and assured the Jews that Babylon, the agent of God's judgment, would itself disappear.

Characteristics and content Hosea marries a woman of harlotries who proves unfaithful even after her marriage to the prophet. God uses this to demonstrate the relation of Israel to himself. He is the faithful husband: Israel is the faithless and adulterous wife. Even as Hosea tenderly deals with his faithless wife and recovers her from her life to sin, so a loving and tender God calls Israel to repent of her adultery and return to her God. Hosea's three children are named Jezreel (as a sign of God's punishment of King Jehu's dynasty for their murders), Lo-ruhamah (meaning "no more mercy to be extended to the Northern Kingdom), and Lo-ammi (meaning "not mine" or that God has rejected the apostate kingdom of Israel).

All of the tragic consequences experienced by Hosea in his marital disasters are used as signs if Israel's harlotry and departure from the covenant promises made with God years before. He pronounces divine judgment in the name of God and assures Israel that it will experience captivity and its cities will be destroyed. Its wealth will be taken from the people and their prayers will not be heard. Hosea, however, looks far beyond Israel's present apostasy as he forecasts the time when Israel, because of God's continuing love and faithfulness, will repent and will be restored when the anger of God will be gone forever.