One of the central messages of the book of Hosea is that Jehovah loves His people even when they are unfaithful to Him, and He will mercifully offer them reconciliation. By studying Hosea’s words, students will learn that although there are consequences for our unfaithfulness, the Lord desires that all of His people return to Him and renew their covenant with Him.
This book contains the teachings of the prophet Hosea (or Hoshea). Hosea prophesied in the Northern Kingdom of Israel near the end of the reign of Jeroboam II. Hosea was a contemporary of the prophets Isaiah, Amos, Jonah, and Micah.
We do not know exactly when or where the book of Hosea was written. However, Hosea’s teachings were likely recorded during his lifetime (see Merrill F. Unger and others, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary , “Hose’a,” 589). Hosea “probably died before the accession of Pekah, 736 B.C., for he makes no allusion to the Syro-Ephraimitic war nor to the deportation of the northern tribes by Tiglath-pileser two years later” (Bible Dictionary, “Hosea, or Hoshea”). After the fall of the Northern Kingdom, writings by and about Hosea evidently were collected and preserved in the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
Hosea was one of the few prophets of the Northern Kingdom of Israel who left written prophecies. The book uses extensive metaphors and symbolism that illustrate the depths of God’s love for His people.
One metaphor central to Hosea’s message is marriage. Underlying this metaphor is Hosea’s personal experience of marriage to an unfaithful wife (see Hosea 1:2–3; 3:1–3). From his wife’s adultery and his later efforts to reconcile with her and restore their relationship, Hosea likely gained profound insight into the Lord’s relationship with Israel, whose sins were like the infidelity of a spouse. Using this metaphor, the book of Hosea testifies of the Lord’s love for Israel as He waits for His unfaithful bride to return to Him.
In addition to describing the Lord as a devoted and forgiving husband, Hosea also taught that the Lord is like a physician who heals (see Hosea 7:1; 11:3; 14:4), a gardener who nurtures his vineyard (Hosea 9:10; 10:1), and a shepherd who cares for his flock (Hosea 10:11; 13:5). Hosea taught about the role of prophets, visions, and similitudes in guiding the Lord’s people (see Hosea 12:10–13). Additionally, the book references the Lord’s role as the Redeemer from death and the grave (see Hosea 13:14).
Hosea 1–3 The Lord commands Hosea to marry, and Hosea selects a woman named Gomer. Following their marriage, Gomer chooses to be unfaithful to Hosea and commits adultery. The Lord uses the symbol of this marriage to describe His relationship with Israel. Israel (the wife) is unfaithful to the Lord (the husband) and has sought after other lovers, which unfaithfulness is symbolic of Israel’s worship of false gods. After detailing the judgments that would come upon the Israelites for breaking their covenants, the Lord mercifully invites them to repent and enter into the covenant again.
Hosea 4–6 The people of Israel rejected the knowledge and truth of the gospel they had received and committed great sins and iniquities. Hosea calls upon Israel to return back to the Lord.
Hosea 7–14 Through Hosea, the Lord proclaims how He will punish the people of Israel for their sins. However, He also expresses His mercy and kindness. The Lord recounts that He brought the people of Israel out of Egypt, but they rejected their God. Through prophets, visions, and similitudes, the Lord teaches and directs His people. The Lord will ransom us from death. The people of Ephraim will repent of their sins in the last days.