Hosea's Personal Context
How God used Hosea’s marriage to Gomer as an extended metaphor representing Israel and her relationship to God is nothing less than bizarre. The "nutshell" version is that Israel broke God’s covenant, just as Gomer broke her marriage covenant with Hosea. Israel’s greatest sin is idolatry (other god's) which comes from a lack of genuine knowledge and love for their true God. This resulted in various and repeated forms of betrayal and infidelity. With this infidelity and betrayal comes a loss complete loss of moral compass and spiritual wisdom. in ignorant acts such as seeking direction and wisdom from a stick. Israel’s idolatry was Baalism, the fertility cult, which included ignorant acts such as seeking direction and wisdom from a stick. Israel believed that their worship of Baal was repaid in productivity in crops, animals and children. Forgetting their original covenant with Yaweh, who had already promised the blessing of those temporal things. Because of the continued betrayal and idolatrous practice, God promised a judgment. However, God’s covenant with Israel was unconditional. Therefore, in the eschatological future, Israel will be restored. This is stated in the extended metaphor and especially in chapters 11 and 14. Hosea's marriage to Gomer was to mirror and metaphor the nation of Israel's covenant to God. When Hosea spoke to the people of Israel, he spoke from the brokenness and pain of a man who had lived through the humiliation of betrayal and rejection. It was real.
What is the Story of Hosea About?
This is a bizarre and strange story - kind of like us! Lol! God insisted His prophet Hosea construct a drastic prophetic act through his own personal life and family. He asked Hosea to marry a prostitute (or at the very least a woman who would soon leave him and become one), representing Israel's unfaithfulness. Then to name their three children (most say only one was his) unthinkable names to symbolize the place, the reason and the result of God's judgment on Israel. In this bizarre (only God) kind of circumstance He used not only the personal life of Hosea, but also a prophetic message and the powerful sayings of wisdom from Hosea to point to a future where faithfulness and a love relationship would be restored not only in the covenant of Hosea's family, but in God's covenant relationship to Israel as well. For Hosea, his marriage to Gomer, is a complete act of obedience to God's command for God's purposes, to dramatize the divine indictment of Israel.
Hosea's life and agonizing marriage to an unfaithful woman were a personal display of God's loving heart but justful condition in his covenant with Israel.
Who is Hosea the Prophet?
Hosea was the son of Beeri, who (except for being Hosea's father) is otherwise unknown. We know that Hosea was from the Northern Kingdom, the nation to which he preached. Other than what he shares about his family and ministry there is not any biographical history for Hosea. He is however, frequently referred to throughout the New Testament by its writers.
Note: The northern kingdom continued to be called the Kingdom of Israel or Israel, while the southern kingdom was called the kingdom of Judah. The ten tribes of the northern kingdom were named Asher, Dan, Ephraim, Gad, Issachar, Manasseh, Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, and Zebulun—all sons or grandsons of Jacob. The two other tribes, Judah and Benjamin, set up the Kingdom of Judah in the south.
The name Hosea means “salvation”; it is the same name in Hebrew that Joshua originally bore (Deuteronomy 32:44) and of Israel's last king (2 Kings. 17:1). Hosea's marriage to Gomer and the naming of his three children form the basis for the symbolic narratives of chapters 1–3. Throughout the book of Hosea it is obvious that the prophet shared God's heartbreak over Israel's infidelity - because he was personally living it himself.
What was Hosea's Message?
The message of Hosea was this... You are God's people, and He is your God. You belong to Him, and He belongs to you. But you have been unfaithful, and you have rebelled against Him in spite of His great and faithful love for you. He has taken you back, and still you have loved other gods shown your unfaithfulness to Him once again. Now there is a judgment coming to you for your rebellious sin. You will be broken, divided, scattered, and no longer called His people. In your brokenness you will once again seek Him as your one and true God. He will hear your heart and know your love for Him, and He will restore you to Himself and you will once again be His people and He will be your God.
The message is structured around lessons from the prophet's marriage experience (chapters 1–3) and his preaching (chapters 4–7). Hosea's message comes from the prophet's heart and his experience and centers on an unconditional love for a people who prostituted themselves after other gods. Covenant requirements, as summarized in the Ten Commandments, were God's criteria for judgment. The covenant required that unfaithful religious leaders bear the weight of the burden of guilt, for not having taught or cared for the people correctly. God preferred from His people a faithful love and a personal relationship of knowing him rather than religious ritual. But these people were more in love with their rituals.
Hosea is referred to by several New Testament writers (Matthew 2:15; 9:13; 12:7; Luke 23:30; Romans 9:25–28; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 6:16). The author is identified in the preface mainly with the kings of Judah, though his ministry was in the Northern Kingdom (Israel).
Who Was Hosea's Message To?
Hosea's message was to Israel. But, the sayings, the wisdom, the compassion, the love, and the honorable commitment to covenant relationship are Messianic in every way and so become a relevant word of truth for us today.
The biblical book of Hosea can be dated by the southern kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (a possible range of 793 to 686 B.C.) and one northern king—Jeroboam II (793–753 B.C.). Hosea apparently preached in Israel from about 755 B.C. to about 715 B.C. It was the time period when Israel fell from its greatest power under Jeroboam followed by their total destruction and exile under in 732–722 B.C. The people of Israel knew wealth but had gained it from unjust treatment of the poor. They were proud of their religious heritage but deeply involved in syncretistic religious practices involving the worship of Baal. The priests and prophets used their office to please the king and to gain personal power creating a political and religious system used for corruption and control. Hosea's message dealt with the unfaithfulness of God's people from the greatest to the least, and their return to a faithful love of God. Hosea prepared them for the worst by pointing to the real judgment of God, that had very real consequences for their very real sin. It was a consequence of disaster, but as is always the case with God, it is followed by the eventual hope for healing, restoration and renewed relationship. All made possible by the unending and unfailing love of God for His people.
Who Is Baal and Why Was Israel's Worship a Big Deal
For many centuries Israel was known for their idolatry and dabbling into other gods. In particular, the worship of the fertility god known as Baal. During the time of Hosea, this betrayal to Yaweh was never more evident. Agricultural villages, whose produce fed themselves and the urban centers like Jerusalem, dominated the world of ancient Israel. The Mediterranean climate brought rain only during the winter and early spring months (October—March), and any kind of drought meant that their ability to sustain resources for living were severely threatened. This became the default excuse, for Israel's intrigue with the Canaanite storm god Baal, who was not only a pervasive figure in ancient Israel's worship, but also shows up in the ancient religious texts from Ugarit and Phoenicia. The human reality was that rain meant life, fertility, economic prosperity and power for those blessed by it. But Israel didn't have to be a victim to the human realities of food and water. They lived under a greater spiritual reality - when they were obedient and faithful to God (Yaweh), the rain always came for them - always. And, when they were disobedient and unfaithful it did not. The greatest task for the Israelite prophets became an effort to demonstrate that Yahweh was the provider of fertility, including rainfall, and that Baal was a false god (see Jeremiah 2:8; 23:13). More often than not, however, local villagers chose to combine Yahweh and Baal worship in order to maximize their chances of a good harvest (see Judges 2:11; 6:25-32). Similarly, the kings of Israel, like Ahab, in making diplomatic marriages, accepted the introduction of Baal and Asherah alongside Yahweh in the official worship centers (see 1 Kings 16:31-33). Only after the exile would Baal worship be supplanted by faithful Yahweh-only worship among the Israelites.
The syncretistic (merging) religious practices of the Israelites are exposed here as they revel (part of the metaphor of Gomer's unfaithful behavior) in worship of Baal during the harvest and new moon festivals. Passover, the Feast of Booths and the Feast of Weeks were the annual celebrations marking the agricultural year. The New Moon festivities seemed to be tied to the Sabbaths in the sense that family celebrations occurred (see 1 Samuel 20:5), and there was a cessation of work (see Amos 8:5). There was no distinction made between the gifts of Yahweh and the supposed gifts of the Canaanite god of fertility and rain, Baal. As a result, the true provider of their resources would now withdraw his generosity so that the Israelites could see their error.