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by Arno Clemens Gaebelein
THE BOOK OF HOSEA
The Minor Prophets begin with the book of Hosea. There are twelve of these books which are called by the name “minor prophets” not because their contents are of less authority than the preceding prophetic books, but on account of their size. The Jews considered them one book and the Talmud says of them, “our fathers made them one book, that they might not perish on account of their littleness.” The term “minor prophets” was used by the church in early days. Augustinus states: “The prophet Isaiah is not in the books of the twelve prophets who are therefore called minor, because their discourses are brief in comparison with those who are called ‘greater’ because they composed considerable volumes.” Jewish tradition claims that the present arrangement was made by the great synagogue formed by Ezra. This arrangement is not chronological. Joel precedes Hosea, while Hosea, Amos and Jonah were nearly contemporary; Obadiah is difficult to place. The introduction to the book enters into the question of date. Micah, the Morasthite, ministered between the years 757 and 699 B.C. Nahum, the complement and counterpart of the book of Jonah, also prophesied during the period of Isaiah. Habakkuk is later than the preceding prophets. He speaks of the invasion of the land by Chaldeans as imminent; his prophetic office was probably exercised during the second half of Manasseh’s reign. Zephaniah prophesied under the reign of Josiah, between 642 and 611 B.C. Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi are post-exilic.
Hosea and His Times
The first verse of the book determines the period of Hosea. He prophesied while Uzziah was reigning in Judah and Jeroboam II in Israel, as well as during the time when Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah were kings over Judah. His whole prophetic ministry covers probably over seventy years, so that he must have reached a very old age. His prophecy is directed almost exclusively to the house of Israel, which had degenerated in a short time and Hosea lived during these awful years. Jeroboam II was almost the last king who ruled by the appointment of the Lord. After him kings made their way to the tottering throne of Israel by murdering their predecessors. Shallum slew Zechariah; Menahem slew Shallum; Pekah killed the son of Menahem; Hosea killed Pekak. All was anarchy in Israel.
The religious conditions were still worse. Nearly all these usurpers had made alliances with foreign powers which resulted in the introduction of the immoral, corrupt Phoenician and Syrian idolatry. The first Jeroboam had set up a rival worship so that the people would not go to Jerusalem to worship in the divinely appointed way. Jeroboam had been in Egypt 1 Kings 11:40 ; 1 Kings 12:22 ) where he had seen nature worshipped in the form of a calf, This worship he introduced in the identical words which their fathers had used when they worshiped the golden calf in the wilderness. (See Exodus 32:4 and 1 Kings 12:28 ). Outwardly the different ceremonies of the law, the feasts of Jehovah, the new moons and Sabbath days, the sacrifices and offerings were maintained, but all was a corrupt worship. The calf was the immediate object of that idolatrous worship. They sacrificed to the calf 1 Kings 12:32 ; they kissed the calf Hosea 13:2 and swore by these idol-calves Amos 8:14 . As Dr. Pusey states: “Calf worship paved the way for the coarser and more cruel worship of nature, under the names of Baal and Ashtaroth, with all their abominations of consecrated child sacrifices, and horrible sensuality.” It led to the most awful sins and degradation. Here is a description of the moral conditions prevailing in the days of Hosea, a condition brought about by the false worship and departure from God. Hosea and Amos acquaint us with it. All was falsehood Hosea 4:11 ; Hosea 7:11 ; Hosea 7:3 ; adultery Hosea 4:11 ; Hosea 7:4 ; Hosea 9:10 ; bloodshed Hosea 5:2 ; Hosea 6:8 ; excess and luxury were supplied by secret or open robbery Hosea 4:2 ; Hosea 10:13 ; Hosea 11:12 ; Hosea 4:11 ; Hosea 7:5 ; Hosea 6:4-11 ; Amos 4:11 ); oppression Hosea 12:7 ; Amos 3:9-15 ); false dealing Hosea 12:7 ; Amos 8:5 ; perversion of justice Hosea 10:4 ; Amos 2:6-16 ); grinding of the poor Amos 2:7 ; Amos 8:6 . Adultery was consecrated as an act of worship and religion Hosea 4:14 . The people, the king and the priests were all steeped in debauchery. Corruption had spread everywhere; even the places once sacred through Jehovah’s revelation, Bethel, Gilgal, Gilead, Mizpah, Shechem, were special scenes of vileness and wickedness. Remonstrance was useless for the knowledge of Jehovah was wilfully rejected; they hated rebuke. To understand the message of Hosea and Amos these conditions, both religious and moral, must be fully understood.
The Message of Hosea
Like the message of other prophets Hosea’s message is one of judgment and future mercy. He announced the coming judgment as certain and irreversible. They were to be led away into captivity. His sons and daughters born to him by Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, expressed this coming judgment in their names which were given to them by divine direction. “Lo-Ruhamah”--I will have no mercy; and “Lo-ammi”--not my people. Then he announced in the name of the Lord, “I will cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease; ” “I will have no mercy upon the house of Israel:” “They shall be wanderers among the nations; ”--”They shall not dwell in the Lord’s land; ”--”Israel is swallowed up; she shall be among the nations like a vessel in which is no pleasure.” In the greater portion of his message there is an exposure of the people’s moral condition and their impenitent state.
But there is also the message of mercy, which is found in the very beginning of the book. Here are a few of these comforting words, which still await their fulfillment in the day when they shall “seek the Lord their God, and David their King (the Messiah); and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days” (Hosea 3:5 ) :--”I will betroth her to me forever; ”--”They shall fear the Lord and His goodness; ”--”He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight; ”--”Till He come and rain righteousness upon you; ”--”I will ransom them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death,”--”I will heal their backsliding; ”--”I will be as the dew unto Israel, He shall grow as the lily, and cast forth its roots as Lebanon.”
“It belongs to the mournful solemnity of Hosea’s prophecy that he scarcely speaks to the people in his own person. The ten chapters, which form the center of the prophecy, are almost wholly one long dirge of woe, in which the prophet rehearses the guilt and the punishment of his people. If the people are addressed, it is, with very few exceptions, God Himself, not the prophet, who speaks to them; and God speaks to them as their judge. Once only does the prophet use the form so common in other prophets ‘saith the Lord.’ As in the three first chapters, the prophet, in relation to his wife, represented the relation of God to His people, so in these ten chapters, after the first words of the fourth and fifth chapters; --’Hear the word of the Lord, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land; ’--’Hear ye this, O priests; ’--whenever the prophet uses the first person, he uses it not of himself, but of God. ‘I,’ ‘My,’--are not Hosea, and the things of Hosea, but God and what belongs to God. God addresses the prophet in the second person. In four verses only of these chapters does the prophet himself apparently address his own people Israel, in two expostulating with them (Hosea 9:1 ; Hosea 9:5 ); in two calling them to repentance (Hosea 10:12 and Hosea 12:6 ). In two other verses he addresses Judah, and foretells their judgment mingled with mercy (Hosea 4:13 ). The last chapter alone is one of almost unmingled brightness; the prophet calls to repentance, and God in His own person accepts it, and promises large supply of grace” (Dr. Pusey) .
We learn then from the message of this book, what is so largely written in all the prophets, that there is a glorious future in store for all Israel. Judah and Israel both will receive the promised blessing and glory in that day when the King comes back, when Ephraim joyfully cries out “I have seen Him” (Hosea 14:8 ) .
The conditions in Israel also find their counterpart in our own times. Christendom has turned its back in greater part upon the true worship, rejects the truth, yea the highest and the best God has given, the Gospel of Christ, hence the moral decline and apostasy and ere long a greater judgment than that which fell upon Israel.
The Division of Hosea
Hosea (meaning “salvation”) in his style is abrupt and sententious. As already stated in the introduction he is the prophet of the ten tribes, though Judah is also mentioned by him. The book begins with two symbolical actions commanded by Jehovah, to illustrate Israel’s adulterous condition and Jehovah’s enduring love for His people in spite of their faithlessness. This is followed by a terse prophecy as to the condition of the people for many days and their return in the latter days (chapters 1-3) .
The main portion of the book begins with the fourth chapter. This part begins with “Hear the Word of the Lord.” in this section their religious and moral degradation through the priests and their coming ruin is announced. Then follows a description of the judgment which was to come upon Ephraim (the house of Israel) and also upon Judah. This is beheld by the prophet in a solemn vision (Hosea 5:8-15 ), followed by a brief prophecy as to what will take place when the remnant of Israel returns unto the Lord (Hosea 6:1-3 ). Then the Lord reproves them for their inconstancy, their immorality, their lewd priests. From chapter 7 to 13 we have similar remonstrances, with renewed announcements of the judgments on account of their wickedness, idolatries, leagues with heathen nations; the judgment is to be exile. What is to be their lot is predicted. This punishment is not to be delayed; it will, however, not destroy them, but purge them, leaving a remnant. The last chapter is one of gracious promise of what will take place in the day of their return. The division of this book is therefore twofold.
I. THE REJECTION OF ISRAEL AS AN ADULTEROUS WIFE AND HER FUTURE RECEPTION AND RESTORATION: (1-3)
II. THE MESSAGES OF EXPOSTULATION, JUDGMENT, AND MERCY: (4-12)
There are different subdivisions which will be pointed out and followed in the analysis and annotations.
The book of Hosea is quoted a number of times in the New Testament. See Matthew 2:15 ; Matthew 9:13 ; Matthew 12:7 ; Romans 9:25-33 ; 1 Corinthians 15:55 ; 1Pe 2:5 ; 1 Peter 2:10 .
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