The Agora
Bible Commentary

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The name Hosea means, in Heb, "Yah is help" or "Salvation". He was contemporary with the more famous Isaiah, whose name is very similar. The name finds an echo in Hos 13:4: "I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no SAVIOR."


1. The unfaithful wife and the faithful husband: Hos 1:1 – 3:5

a) Hosea's wife and children: Hos 1:1 – 2:1
b) Judgment on faithless Israel: Hos 2:2–13
c) The restoration of faithless Israel: Hos 2:14–23
d) Hosea's redemption of his faithless wife: Hos 3:1–5

2. The unfaithful nation and the faithful God: Hos 4:1 – 13:16

a) Israel's unfaithfulness: Hos 4:1 – 6:3
b) Israel's punishment: Hos 6:4 – 10:15
c) The Lord's faithful love: Hos 11:1 – 14:9


The most prominent symbolism in Hosea's prophecy is the marriage relationship as a parable of God's relationship with His covenant people; this reflects an aspect of the help God gives to His people. Because of her unfaithfulness, God had "divorced" Israel; He had previously regarded her as His wife, but He now repudiates her. The prophets repeatedly refer to this symbolic relationship between Israel and God (Jer 3:8,20; Isa 50:1; Eze 16:32,38; cp also Eph 5:23; Rev 17:4,5; 19:7; 21:9), but nowhere else than in Hosea is it acted out so dramatically.

God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, and even the hundredth straying lamb is carefully searched out. The children of Israel are the seed of Abraham; therefore they are the kernel of God's purpose and "the apple of His eye", so that despite their rebelliousness and faithlessness He continues to watch over them, and will never make a full end of them. He says to Hosea, "Go again, love a woman who is beloved of a paramour and is an adulteress; even as the LORD loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods" (Hos 3:1). The displeasure which God feels at Israel's sin in departing from her Master to worship Baal takes the form of a loving husband's feelings toward a grossly adulterous wife: feelings which are perhaps at once the most mixed, and the most harrowing, which it is possible for a man to experience. How strong must have been His yearning desire to go forth and accept the least sign of repentance on her part. Yet at the same time, how intense His feelings of loathing toward her abominations!

In the naming of Gomer's children (of which some seem not to have been fathered by Hosea) there is found this mingled compassion and loathing: The second child was named "Lo-ruhamah", which means "without compassion", or "without pity" (Hos 1:6,7).

God contrasts His great compassion toward the Southern Kingdom of Judah with His lack of compassion toward the Northern Kingdom of Israel. And so God allows the overthrow of Israel by the kings of Assyria, but He saves Jerusalem and Judah from the same Gentile power by a miraculous destruction of Sennacherib's great army. The third child was "Lo-ammi", which means "not my people" (v 8)... "for you are not my people, and I am not your God" (v 9).

Yet, because of His own covenants of promise to Abraham, God cannot allow this to be the permanent condition of His people Israel. The apostle Paul takes up these words from Hosea in Rom 9:25,26. Paul points out that the breaking off of Israelite branches has made room for the grafting of the Gentiles into the true olive tree, and then also speaks of God grafting natural Israel back in again. And he speaks of those who previously had not obtained the mercy of God, at last obtaining His mercy again (Rom 11, esp vv 30,31).

In the purpose of God concerning a final restoration of Israel, a reunited kingdom is envisioned, so that as the northern kingdom has no future separate existence, only the return of Judah from captivity is referred to. In Hosea's day the faithful ones in Israel went over to support the kingdom of Judah (Hos 6:1; 2Ch 11:13,16,17; cp Eze 37:16-20). To indicate the Messianic application in the future, the meaning of the names are reversed; the negative ("Lo-") is removed from "Ruhamah" and "Ammi" (Hos 1:10,11) -- so that the names now signify "MY compassion" and "MY people". After continuing "many days without a king" and all the things that make for a divine nation (Hos 3:4), Israel will finally "return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days" (v 5). (Here is indicated a Last Days application of the prophetic parable.)

"They shall go after the LORD, he will roar like a lion; yea, he will roar, and his sons shall come trembling from the west; they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD" (Hos 11:10,11).

"Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death? O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your destruction?" (Hos 13:14).

"They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom as the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon" (Hos 14:7).

Throughout the book of Hosea Israel and Judah are accused of relying upon Egypt, Assyria, and their own fenced cities, and of worshiping idols and the calves of Samaria. These evils brought appropriate recompense upon them. In the meantime, therefore, captivity in Egypt and Assyria will be their lot, and their king will be dethroned (Hos 7:11; 8:14; 13:1,2; 9:3,6; 10:3).

Israel having ignored the word of God revealed in His commandments, their faithfulness is described as "whoredom", or "adultery" (Hos 1:2; 4:2,10-14; 5:3,4; 6:10; 7:4; 8:1; 9:11-14; 13:13). Yet, in spite of all, God would reinstate them (Hos 11:8-11). As he originally called Israel out of Egypt, so He would do so again. They would return from their false worship to the recognition of the one true God whom their fathers had worshiped.

What happened in a limited sense in OT times (with the return of Israel from Babylon to their land under the leadership of Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerubbabel, Haggai, and Zechariah) will happen once again in the Last Days. Indeed, it has begun to happen already, with the return of millions of Jews from Europe (and now from the former USSR); but this return is only a preliminary -- for there is no real acknowledgment of the hand of God in modern Israel's affairs.

However, this state of affairs can change rapidly, when the children of Israel realize that they can no longer rely on their peace treaties with surrounding nations (like Egypt), nor the support of their former ally the United States, nor even their own military might. Age-old enemies will finally find the means to defeat them in battle. Then, like an adulterous wife who knows at last that there is neither comfort nor security in the arms of another, Israel will turn back to her God. "And I will have pity on Not pitied, and I will say to Not my people, 'You are my people'; and he shall say 'Thou art my God' " (Hos 2:23). The history of Israel, a pattern for the future?

"Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them" (Hos 14:9).


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