An EasyEnglish Commentary (LEE level B) on the Book of Hosea
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Hosea wrote in the middle of the eighth century BC (Before Christ). He gave most of his messages to Israel, the country in the north. But some of the messages were for Judah, the country in the south. The book has many *curses and *blessings, but there are many more *curses than *blessings. If we want to understand this book, we need to understand the *covenant at Sinai. The *curses and *blessings of Hosea are connected to this *covenant. Hosea’s job was to tell his people that there was danger. God was going to make sure that Israel kept his *covenant. Hosea said that God was going to punish his people. It is the same message that many of the *prophets gave before the *exile. In most of the book, Hosea says that Israel will have death and illness. He also says that another nation will destroy Israel and take them away. When these things have happened, God will be able to *bless Israel again. It is important that we understand what these promises mean. Israel will not be able to avoid God’s anger. Israel has broken the *covenant and so the *curses are going to happen soon.
Only a few people in Israel were loyal to God at this time. More people in Judah were loyal to God. Israel was a strong and rich country. The people of Israel were good at fighting wars. Because of this, people from Israel met people from other countries. This meant that Israel knew about other peoples’ gods. They forgot the *commandments of Sinai. In the past, there was a group of kings that started with Jehu in 842 BC. This group of kings ended with the death of Jeroboam 2nd (793 - 753 BC). But, after he died, there were six more kings in Israel. It was a difficult time. Other leaders in the country killed these kings. Also, there was a war between Assyria and Israel. In 734 BC, Israel became a much smaller country. This was the beginning of the end for Israel. Then, in 722 BC, Assyria destroyed Israel.
We are not sure where Hosea gave his messages. Maybe it was in *Samaria and Bethel. None of the messages has dates. Hosea might have known Amos, who was older than he was. Amos also wrote messages to Israel. We do not know if Hosea spoke his messages to people. The message of 5:1-7 suggests that he did. We know very little about Hosea and his family. Hosea tells us very few things about himself. Chapters 1-3 have been a puzzle to people for a long time. The word ‘*prostitute’ in 1:2 can mean several things. It might mean:
· an ordinary *prostitute.
· a *holy *prostitute who worked in the *temple.
· a woman who dressed like a *prostitute.
· a person who came from a nation that had no morals.
· a northern *Israelite.
· a woman who was born to parents who were not married to each other.
· a woman who was only sometimes a *prostitute.
It seems most likely that she was an ordinary *prostitute. After her marriage, Gomer was probably loyal to Hosea at first. This was while the three children were young. Later she left Hosea for another man (3:1). God told Hosea to marry a *prostitute so that his life would be a type of *parable. This *parable would say something about the relations between God and the nation of Israel.
Hosea believed that it is important to know God as a person. People have called him the Saint John of the *Old Testament (OT). Hosea does not want the peoples’ *sacrifices to be empty. This is when the person who offers the *sacrifice is not sincere. He wants their *sacrifices to help them to know God in a true way.
v1 This is the message of the *Lord that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri. This message came when Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah were kings of Judah. This was during the time of Jeroboam, son of Jehoash, who was king of Israel.
v2 The *Lord began to speak to Israel through Hosea. The *Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, and marry a *prostitute. I want you to have children by her. The children will be like her. In the same way, my people have left me and have been *guilty of terrible *adultery’. v3 So Hosea married a woman called Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. After this, a child began to grow in her and she gave birth to their first child, a son. v4 The *Lord said to Hosea, “Give him the name of ‘Jezreel’. This is because I will soon punish the family of Jehu. I will punish them because of the people that Jehu murdered at Jezreel. Then I will put an end to the nation of Israel. v5 And in the Valley of Jezreel I will at that time completely destroy the armies of Israel”.
v6 Gomer had a second child - this time it was a daughter. The *Lord said to Hosea, ‘Call her Lo-Ruhamah. This is because I will not show love to the people of Israel any more. I will not forget their *sins. v7 But I will show love to the people of Judah. I, the *Lord, will save them. I will not do it by war. I will not use swords or *bows and arrows. I will not use horses and people who ride horses’.
v8 After Gomer had looked after Lo-Ruhamah, a child began to grow in Gomer again. She gave birth to a son. v9 Then the *Lord said to Hosea, ‘Call him Lo-Ammi. This is because the people of Israel are not my people, and I am not their God’.
Everything in the book of Hosea is a message from God. God had the message in his mind before he gave it. Hosea did not give his own thoughts. He repeated the message that God had for Israel. The name ‘Hosea’ is like ‘Joshua’. It means ‘God is our *Saviour’.
The book has dates that give the kings of Judah. Some people may ask why it does. The book only mentions one king (Jeroboam) from Israel. This is because the message is to both Israel and Judah. The end of Israel is near, but soon the end will come to Judah too. It is possible that 1:2-9 describes things that happened to Hosea at the beginning of his work as a *prophet. It would take five or six years for all the things that are in these verses to happen.
God told Hosea to marry a woman. He knew that she would become a *prostitute. Then his experiences would become a *parable that he would act out in his life. This is because the *worship of *idols is like going to a *prostitute. The woman gave birth to three children. Perhaps the marriage was between 752 and 750 BC. This was before Jeroboam 2nd died between 747 and 745 BC.
The names of the children each have a special meaning. They are a way for God to speak to Israel. The names show that another nation will destroy the people of Israel. Hosea does not have any choice about his marriage. Later, Hosea uses the word ‘*prostitutes’ in 4:12 and 5:4. He means that Israel behaves like a *prostitute. Gomer’s children are part of a bad nation. Hosea does not suggest that Gomer gave birth to the children before she married Hosea. Jezreel, who was born first, was Hosea’s son. But it is possible that Hosea was not the father of the next two children. We cannot be sure because the book does not mention him as the father.
The name Lo-Ruhama means ‘Not Pitied’ or ‘Not Loved’. God will no longer care about the needs of his people even if they depend on God for everything. Israel’s enemies will defeat her. But God will have *mercy on Judah because they were more true to him.
The name Lo-Ammi means ‘Not My people’. God says that his *covenant with Israel is over. In the future, he will destroy Israel.
The name Jezreel means ‘God sows’. Perhaps the name was to make people remember an event in the past. This was when Jehu killed the group of Omri kings at Jezreel. The Jehu group of kings ended with the death of Zechariah in 752 BC. This showed that God would bring an end to Israel too. The name Lo-Ammi shows that there is no mistake about what God thinks about Israel.
It was God who gave these names to Gomer’s children. These names will show what will happen to Judah and Israel in the future. God controls the direction of both Judah and Israel. This is because they are his people. The nation of Israel ended because God gave a *judgement on the people. This was because of their *sin. Hosea explains this again later in the book. But God will have *mercy on Judah because they were still God’s *covenant people.