Lesson 148

Hosea

“Lesson 148: Hosea,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)


Introduction

The Lord commanded Hosea to marry, and Hosea selected a woman named Gomer. The Lord used this marriage as a symbol to teach the Israelites about His covenant relationship with them. The Israelites were unfaithful to the Lord because they sought after false gods. Hosea prophesied that in the last days God would extend mercy to the Israelites who repent.

Suggestions for Teaching

Hosea 1–3

The Lord compares His covenant relationship with Israel to marriage

Write the following phrase on the board: Point of no return

  • What do you think it means to arrive at a point of no return?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency concerning the point of no return:

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“[Airplane] flights over huge oceans, crossing extensive deserts, and connecting continents need careful planning to ensure a safe arrival at the planned destination. Some of these nonstop flights can last up to 14 hours and cover almost 9,000 miles.

“There is an important decision point during such long flights commonly known as the point of safe return. Up to this point the aircraft has enough fuel to turn around and return safely to the airport of departure. Having passed the point of safe return, the captain has lost this option and has to continue on. That is why this point is often referred to as the point of no return. …

“… Satan wants us to think that when we have sinned we have gone past a ‘point of no return’—that it is too late to change our course” (“Point of Safe Return,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 99).

  • What are some dangers of thinking that when we have sinned we have gone past a point of no return?

Invite students as they study the book of Hosea to look for principles that can help us turn to the Lord when we have sinned.

To help students understand the context of Hosea’s writings, display the diagram titled “The Kingdoms of Israel and Judah at a Glance” (see lesson 102) and invite students to find “Hosea” on it. Point out that Hosea was a prophet in the Northern Kingdom of Israel who prophesied before the Israelites were carried away captive by the Assyrians. At that time the Northern Kingdom of Israel had formed alliances with other nations, and many Israelites were practicing idolatry, including rituals that violated God’s law of chastity.

Explain that the book of Hosea begins with the Lord giving Hosea an unusual command. Invite a student to read Hosea 1:2–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord commanded Hosea to do.

  • What did the Lord command Hosea to do? (Marry a woman who had committed whoredoms, or sexual sins.)

  • What was the name of the woman Hosea married?

Explain that the Lord used this marriage to teach the Israelites about His covenant relationship with them. Write the following statements on the board: Hosea represents Jesus Christ; Gomer represents the Israelites.

  • Why is marriage a good symbol for the covenant relationship between Jesus Christ and the Israelites?

  • According to verse 2, how was Gomer like the Israelites?

Summarize Hosea 1:4–2:4 by explaining that Hosea and Gomer had three children. The names of the children represented the consequences that the Israelites would suffer because of their sins. Through Hosea, the Lord also explained the consequences that would come upon Gomer because of her actions.

Invite a student to read Hosea 2:5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Gomer did after her marriage to Hosea.

  • What had Gomer done?

  • What feelings might Hosea have had after learning about Gomer’s actions?

Remind students that the marriage between Hosea and Gomer symbolized the covenant relationship between Jesus Christ and the Israelites, who had turned away from the Lord.

  • How can Hosea’s experience with Gomer help us understand how the Lord might feel when we break our covenants by sinning?

Explain that Hosea used symbolic language to describe the consequences Israel would suffer for breaking their covenant with God. Invite a student to read Hosea 2:6–8 aloud, and ask the class to look for what the Lord said He would do because of Israel’s unfaithfulness.

  • What did the Lord say He would do because His people had been unfaithful to Him? (Explain that the phrases “hedge up thy way” and “make a wall” [Hosea 2:6] refer to Israel being separated from their false gods when they were carried away by the Assyrians.)

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Hosea 2:9–13. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what other consequences would come to Israel as a result of their unfaithfulness. Ask students to report what they find.

  • What can we learn from these verses about what will happen if we violate our covenants with the Lord? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following principle: If we violate our covenants with the Lord, we will suffer negative consequences.)

  • In what ways might the consequences that the Israelites would suffer be a blessing to them? (In time, these consequences would help the Israelites return to the Lord [see Hosea 2:7].)

Write the following scripture references on the board: Hosea 2:14–15, 17, 19–20, 23. Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from the references on the board. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord would eventually do for Israel.

  • What did the Lord say He would eventually do for Israel?

You may need to explain that the word allure and the phrase “speak comfortably unto her” in verse 14 mean that the Lord was going to invite Israel to return to Him. The word betroth in verse 19 refers to a binding commitment to be married. In this case, it is used as a symbol to show the Lord’s desire to reestablish His covenant with Israel and thereby bind His people to Him.

  • What do these actions teach you about the Lord?

Explain that in Hosea 3 we learn that because of her poor choices, Gomer had been placed in bondage. Ask a student to read Hosea 3:1–3 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord commanded Hosea to do for Gomer.

  • What did the Lord command Hosea to do for Gomer?

  • According to verse 3, what did Hosea require of Gomer?

Help students understand that if Gomer would forsake her sins and remain faithful to her marriage covenant with Hosea, then Hosea would continue to love and care for Gomer as her husband in spite of her previous sins. Hosea did for Gomer what the Lord does for all of His covenant people who turn to Him through repentance.

  • What principle can we learn from Hosea 2–3 about returning to the Lord after we have sinned? (Students should identify a principle similar to the following: If we will repent and remain faithful to the covenants we have made with the Lord, then He will receive us and forgive our sins.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency. Ask the class to listen for what he learned about the Lord as he taught a seminary class about the book of Hosea.

President Henry B. Eyring

“I had a new feeling about what it means to make a covenant with the Lord. All my life I had heard explanations of covenants as being like a contract, an agreement where one person agrees to do something and the other agrees to do something else in return.

“For more reasons than I can explain, during those days teaching Hosea, I felt something new, something more powerful. This was not a story about a business deal between partners. … This was a love story. This was a story of a marriage covenant bound by love, by steadfast love. What I felt then, and it has increased over the years, was that the Lord, with whom I am blessed to have made covenants, loves me, and you … with a steadfastness about which I continually marvel and which I want with all my heart to emulate” (“Covenants and Sacrifice” [address given at the Church Educational System symposium on the Old Testament, Aug. 15, 1995], 2; si.lds.org).

  • Why is the Lord willing to receive us again when we have broken our covenants with Him?

Refer to the phrase Point of no return on the board, and ask:

  • How can the principles taught in Hosea help those who feel they have sinned so much that they cannot return to the Lord?

Share your testimony of the Lord’s willingness to bring all who have strayed back to Him.

Write the following questions on the board:

When have I experienced the Lord’s mercy and His love for me?

How have I felt the Lord inviting me to return to Him when I have sinned and been unfaithful to Him?

Invite students to ponder their answers to these questions. Encourage them to act on any promptings they may receive to repent of their sins.

Hosea 4–14

Israel seeks after other gods, and Hosea invites them to return to the Lord

Summarize Hosea 4–11 by explaining that Hosea called upon Israel to return to the Lord and serve Him. Hosea 12–13 records that Hosea explained that the Lord uses prophets to guide His people. Hosea also taught that through the Savior, all people will overcome physical death. In Hosea 13–14 we read that Hosea taught the Israelites that their decision to be unfaithful to the Lord was the reason for their impending destruction. However, Hosea also extended a message of hope to them by teaching that in the last days, the Lord would heal them of their backsliding, or apostasy, when the people of Israel return to Him.

Conclude by sharing your testimony of the truths taught in this lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

Hosea 1:2–3. How are we to understand God’s command for Hosea to marry a harlot?

Commentators do not agree regarding how literally to interpret the account of Hosea being commanded by God to marry a harlot. Some ask:

“Would God literally command one of His servants to take an immoral woman for His wife? Or is this command to be interpreted only in a symbolic sense? Interpretations fall into five general categories:

“1. Hosea was actually asked by God to marry a harlot. Those scholars who maintain this view think that such a marriage served as an object lesson to call Israel’s attention to their carnal state. Others have felt that such an act would be inconsistent with God, who ‘cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance’ (Alma 45:16). While the Lord was not commanding Hosea to sin, some have felt God would not use sinful behavior even in an object lesson of this kind. Sidney B. Sperry said that this ‘would be imputing to God a command inconsistent with His holy character. Furthermore, for Hosea to marry a woman with a questionable past would make it impossible for him to preach to his people and expose their sexual immoralities. They could point the finger of scorn at him and say, “You are as guilty as we are; don’t preach to us.”’ [The Voice of Israel’s Prophets: A Latter-day Saint Interpretation of the Major and Minor Prophets of the Old Testament (1952), 281.]

“2. The whole experience came to Hosea in a dream or vision. There was neither harlot nor marriage, but Hosea was asked to accept the burden of being prophet (husband) to immoral Israel (Gomer). Although possible, most scholars reject this alternative because of the intensity of Hosea’s involvement with the imagery.

“3. Hosea married a woman who at the time was good and faithful but later became a faithless wife, a harlot, when she left her husband to participate in the fertility rites of the neighboring Canaanites. In this case Hosea’s life was an ‘enacted parable,’ and the phrase ‘wife of whoredoms’ (Hosea 1:2) refers to what Gomer became. In other words, Hosea did marry Gomer, but she was not a harlot then. Those scholars who sustain this view explain that later in life, Hosea, looking back on his experiences and all that he had suffered and learned through them, recorded incidents that helped illustrate his teachings. The difficulty with this interpretation is that the Lord commanded Hosea to take a ‘wife of whoredoms’ (v. 2). If Gomer were faithful and true at the time of the marriage, this phrase would seem like a peculiar way to describe her.

“4. A variation of the interpretation in number three is that Gomer was not an actual harlot but was a worshiper of Baal; therefore, she was guilty of spiritual harlotry. But even so, it seems peculiar that God would ask a prophet to marry a nonbelieving wife.

“5. Another approach that avoids some of these difficulties is that the words present an allegory designed to teach the spiritual consequences of Israel’s unfaithfulness. Sperry felt that Hosea never did actually contract such a marriage. He explains: ‘The Lord’s call to Hosea to take a harlotrous woman to wife represents the prophet’s call to the ministry—a ministry to an apostate and covenant-breaking people. The … children of this apparent union represent the coming of the judgments of the Lord upon Israel, warning of which was to be carried to the people by the prophet. The figure of the harlotrous wife and children would, I believe, be readily understood at the time by the Hebrew people without reflecting on Hosea’s own wife, or, if he was unmarried, on himself’ [The Voice of Israel’s Prophets, 281]” (Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 104).

Hosea 1:4–11. Symbolic names of Hosea and Gomer’s children

“Biblical names often were taken from the circumstances surrounding the child’s birth. In Hosea’s narrative Gomer bore her husband three children: two sons and a daughter. The names given to the children symbolize the destruction that lies in Israel’s future as a result of her idolatrous (adulterous) ways—that is, children (judgments) are the natural result of Israel’s harlotry (unrighteousness)” (Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 105).