Introduction to Hosea

By James M. Rochford

Hosea’s name literally means “salvation.” The purpose of his ministry was to call on the Northern Kingdom to repent, and return to God by following the covenant.

This means that this was written right before the fall of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) to Assyria in 722 BC. Jeroboam II (793-753; 2 Kings 14:23ff) was the king in Israel, and he was a powerful king. Before he took over, Israel was militarily weak (2 Kings 13:7). But his father (Jehoash) had begun to successfully fight the Syrians (2 Kings 13:25), and Israel was becoming more and more powerful. When Jeroboam II took over, he brought much success and power to the nation (2 Chron. 26:10; Hos. 8:14). Baal worship was prominent (Hos. 2:8; 4:10-18; 11:2; 13:1). Archer writes,

The Liberal critics attribute substantially all this prophecy to the historic Hosea. The only passages that have been challenged as later insertions are those which refer to Judah (so Marti and Nowack); or those sections, like 11:8–11 and 14:2–9 (so Volz and Marti), which predict future blessing or national deliverance.[1]

Of course, critics always believe that predictions of blessing and deliverance were added later, or only partially fulfilled. In their view, the later Jewish people were too optimistic about deliverance, and when signs looked better for the nation, later authors added in overzealous “predictions” of restoration. This view should be rejected.

Teaching Rotation

Teach this book as a whole. Emphasize the background of Hosea, and how God called him to marry an adulterous woman (ch.1-3). An adulterous partner was supposed to be stoned to death, according to the law (Deut. 25). Instead of destroying Israel forever, God does the unthinkable! He woos Israel back after the exile. God is the offended party, and the prophet can sympathize with how God feels.

Pull out passages on judgment and restoration throughout the rest of the book. Ask the group why God chose to judge these people, and what he hoped to accomplish through judgment.

Hosea 1 (His Family)

Hosea gets his commissioning during the reign of Jeroboam II (782-753 BC).

Uzziah (767-740 BC)

Jotham (740-732 BC)

Ahaz (732-716 BC)

Hezekiah (716-687BC)

God tells Hosea to marry an adulterous woman, as an object lesson for the people of Israel, who were adulterous (1:2). He married Gomer, and had a son with her (1:3). He needs to call the boy “Jezreel” (because of the judgment in the valley of Jezreel), a girl “Lo-Ruhamah” (meaning “no pity”), and a final boy “Lo-Ammi” (meaning “not my people”). Thus Hosea’s entire family was a statement to the people.

Hosea 2 (Israel is Adulterous)

Israel went to other lovers (2:5), but went to return to her husband (2:7). But God allows Israel to be exposed and show her nakedness (2:10). He will punish Israel for Baal-worship (2:13). God lets Israel suffer, so that they can learn to repent (2:14-15). God wants a marital relationship with his people—not a slave-master relationship (2:16). God will also reach the Gentiles (2:23).

Hosea 3 (Hosea Loves Gomer)

God commands Hosea to love Gomer (3:1), and he buys her back from prostitution (3:2). This serves as a prediction of the nation of Israel being regathered from the nations (3:5).

Hosea 4 (The Leaders are Guilty)

Hosea calls out the sin of Israel (4:1). The people, including the priests and prophets, will be destroyed (4:7). The people will become prostitutes (4:10).

Hosea 5 (The People Will Learn from Judgment)

The leaders are guilty (5:1). He predicts the destruction of Israel (5:9-10). The people had turned to Assyria for help, instead of God (5:13). God plans to pour out his wrath on the people, so that they will learn to seek him again (5:15).

Hosea 6 (More on God’s Judgment)

God uses ordinal numbers to show that he will show mercy after his wrath occurs (6:2). The destruction of Israel did not last twenty four hours!

Hosea calls for the people to return and seek God (6:1, 3). Their love for God was transitory (6:4). Adam had broken his covenant with God (6:7).

Hosea 7 (God Still Cares)

The problem was that the people didn’t recognize God’s omnipresence (7:1-2). The problem with idolatry is that you tacitly and slowly slip away from God—without even realizing it (7:9). God still cares for the people (7:13), but they rejected him (7:14). Even the pagan Egyptians will ridicule God’s people (7:16).

Hosea 8 (Judgment)

The trumpet signifies judgment (8:1). They made leaders without seeking God first (8:4). God is sending them back to “Egypt” (8:13).

Hosea 9 (Judgment)

The prophets were rejected (9:8). More judgment.

Hosea 10 (Israel Learns through Judgment)

They will wander the nations (10:1). They realize that they rejected God (10:3). They will be ashamed of their idolatry (10:6). They need to seek God (10:12).

Hosea 11 (God Will Eventually Have Mercy)

God called Israel out of Egypt (11:1), but they fell into idolatry (11:2). God still has mercy on Israel (11:9).

Hosea 12 (Jacob)

He compares Jacob with the man (12:3-5). He was a deceiver who wrestled with God.

Hosea 13 (Judgment)

God destroys them for their human sacrifices (13:2). Their problem was syncretism (13:4-6). They will be destroyed in gruesome ways (13:16).

Hosea 14 (Repentance)

Israel will learn repentance through judgment (14:2-4).


[1] Archer, Gleason. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (3rd. ed.). Chicago: Moody Press. 1994. 357.