The book of Hosea begins a section of the Old Testament (Hosea through Malachi) sometimes called the “minor prophets.” This does not imply that they are less important than the other prophets. They are called “minor” because their books are shorter than the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.
Hosea was a contemporary of Isaiah, Micah, and Amos, and the years of his ministry (about 755 to 715 B.C.) were difficult ones. Peace and prosperity ended, domestic uprisings increased, and foreign nations attacked. The kingdom of Israel formed alliances with pagan nations, which made it easier for her people to embrace their customs. Israel degenerated into idolatry, including its sexually immoral rituals.
Like other Old Testament prophets, Hosea used metaphors to express his message. As you study Hosea, look for how the prophet used the symbolism of the marriage covenant to condemn Israel for breaking her covenants with God and worshiping idols instead. Hosea testified of God’s love for His people and His willingness to forgive and not “divorce” them if they would return to Him.
Look also for the following four themes Hosea used in teaching his message:
Israel’s other wickedness
Israel’s imminent captivity
Israel’s gathering and redemption in the latter days
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
God’s justice and mercy are evidences of His love for His children (see Hosea 1–14).
Suggestions for Teaching
Hosea 1–3. The Lord helps us to repent, and He forgives us when we do. (25–30 minutes)
Display on the board a picture of a bride and a groom. (Use a picture of a couple no one knows, such as from a newspaper or magazine, or Gospel Art Picture Kit, no. 609.) Ask students:
Why is marriage important?
What qualities would you consider important in a spouse?
What has the Lord revealed about the importance of marriage? (see D&C 131:1–4).
What promises has He made to those who marry in the temple and remain worthy? (see D&C 132:19–20).
Label the bride and groom in the picture “Gomer” and “Hosea.” Tell students that the Lord used the prophet Hosea and the symbol of the marriage covenant to teach the people of Israel about the sacredness of their covenants with Him. Read Hosea 1:1–2 with your students and ask: If Hosea represents the Lord and Gomer represents Israel, what is the message of Hosea 1?
Have students read Hosea 1:3–11 and list the names of the children. Discuss the meaning of their names and what the Lord was telling Israel (see the commentary for Hosea 1:4–11 in
Have students read Hosea 2:1–5 and discuss how worshipping false gods brought severe judgments on Israel. Ask:
From those verses, how did the Lord feel when Israel was unfaithful?
Do you think the Lord feels as sad if we are unfaithful?
Read Hosea 2:6–13 and list the punishments the Lord decreed for Israel’s unfaithfulness. Read verses 14–23 and list the promises the Lord made to Israel if she repented and returned to Him.
Read Hosea 3:1–3. Explain that in chapter 1 the Lord commanded Hosea to marry a woman who had committed sexual sin, and he obeyed. (This marriage may have been symbolic rather than literal.) In chapter 2 she was unfaithful to Hosea, and the Lord compared her adultery to Israel’s apostasy, described her punishment, and held out the promise of forgiveness and return. In chapter 3 the Lord commanded Hosea to redeem his wife from bondage, so he purchased her for fifteen pieces of silver.
Read Hosea 3:4–5 and ask:
How is what Hosea did for Gomer like what the Lord does for Israel and for all of His children? (see the commentary for Hosea 3:2 in
Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi, p. 106).
What does this teach us about the Lord’s willingness to love and redeem us?
Give each student a picture of the Savior or display a large one in the front of class. Ask your students to look at the picture while you read the following scriptures out loud: Hosea 2:14–15, 19–20; 3:2–3; 6:6; 13:14; and 14:1–9. Ask:
How do you feel when you hear those words?
How does the Savior feel about you?
Invite students to share their testimonies of Christ with the class. You might also read or sing “I Stand All Amazed” ( Hymns, no. 193).
Hosea 1–3. The relationship between Hosea and Gomer symbolizes the Lord’s love for His children and His commitment to the covenants He makes with them. (20–25 minutes)
To help students better understand the story of Hosea and Gomer, have them do activities A and B for Hosea 1–3 in their student study guides (pp. 179–80).
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