The Book of Hosea: Chapter 1

The book of Hosea is a prophetic encounter that mingles history, metaphors, poetry and repartee to accentuate the message judgment and restoration to his recipients. It is filled with familial expressions such as “children, descendants, son, wife, husband, groom and brothers & sisters” reflecting God’s dealing with Israel & Judah metaphorically as a family unit. The book can be broken down into 2 main segments; Verses 1-3 speaking of Hosea’s marriage/Yahweh’s marriage to Israel and 4-14 are judgments and restoration promises to the northern and southern kingdoms (Israel & Judah). The pattern of sin, followed by judgment, followed by restoration is a prominent theme found throughout the prophet. Smith breaks up the historical alignment to address these in that chapters 1-3 would address thematically the same issues as Amos’ prophecy, chapters 4-11 deal with the Assyrian engagement through Tiglath-Pileser III and chapters 12-14 address the final few years prior to the exile[1]. Keeping in mind the historical standpoint when Hosea’s messages were delivered, there was a serious transformation in their economic standing. They went from being very wealthy during the reign of Jeroboam, to losing everything due to heavy taxation, social chaos and losing control of their resources.  All these things experienced from an invading Assyrian army. Hosea will further reveal the perversion in their worship in mingling Yahweh and Baal adoration that can be seen in Amos.

The Kings

There are four Judean kings mentioned in the subscript and one from Israel. Jeroboam II was the ruler of the Northern Kingdom for 41 years (2 Kings 14:23) while the longest reigning king in the group of four was Uzziah, who rules for 52 years (2 Kings 15:2; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23).The others, Jotham (2 Kings 15:32-38; 2 Chronicles 27:1-9), Ahaz (2 Kings 16:1-20; 2 Chronicles 28:1-27) and Hezekiah (2 Kings 18-20; 2 Chronicles 29-33). There were probably other kings in the northern kingdom in succession to Jeroboam during his time although only Jeroboam is mentioned including, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah and Hoshea.

Hosea’s prophetic work was in succession to the prophet Amos and during the Judean prophets, Micah and Isaiah. The dating of his ministry falls roughly between 755-722 B.C.

The Rise of the Assyrians

The interchanges between the Assyrians and Israel are one of the driving forces behind the prophet’s message. Hosea’s early ministry would have seen much of the same as Amos, a prosperous nation that arrogantly decided to mingle Yahweh’s ceremonial and civil laws with their own brand of worship and state function during a weakened Assyria. When Assyria powerfully arose through Tiglath-Pileser III, Israel military couldn’t defeat the armies of Assyria (2 Kings 16; Isaiah 7:1-16). The Israelites feared him to the extent that Menahem even paid tribute to Tiglath-Pileser (Pul) to solidify his kingship in the north (2 Kings 15:19-20). Even the southern country appealed to Tiglath. When an uprising from the norther country through Pekah and Damascus against Judah (Israelite-Aramean War)[2], Ahaz appeals to the Assyrian king to who in return kill the ruler of Damascus (2 Kings 16:1-18).  Eventually, Samaria was captured under Hoshea, and the once mighty northern kingdom was defeated, and its people sent into exile (2 Kings 17:1-6). When Tiglath-Pileser died, he was replaced by Shalmaneser V whom Hoshea refused to pay tribute. This didn’t sit well with the Assyrian king and Hoshea, even while appealing for aid from Egypt, sealed his demise and that of Samaria (2 Kings 17:1-5).


Nothing is really said about the prophet’s upbringing, or his life in general. We know that he was the son of Beeri, he was married and had children and his ministry probably extended around a 30-year period. He was in all likelihood an Israelite and had a good knowledge of the political and religious surroundings. Hebrew scholars point out the strange use of the semitic language both in vocabulary and grammatical form. This means that the translation of the book has been extremely challenging and a literal approach, while preferred, will create a greater task[3]. There are many reasons proposed for this asymmetrical dialect but most likely it was due to being from a particularly distinct region in Israel. Quite obviously, as a prophet, he had an extensive understanding God’s moral law and the depth of the perversion of sin. He also was well versed in God’s covenant with Israel and the pollution that sin brought to that relationship which was comparable to marrying a prostitute. In a very real sense, Hosea felt the depth of God’s anguish in the unfaithfulness of His covenant people.

The prophet is the mouthpiece and representative of Yahweh to the people. The key to the authenticity of the prophetic call is that Yahweh is the One who raises him up and puts His words in the prophet’s mouth, saying in the form of God’s commanding voice to the people.

17 The Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. 18 I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ 22 When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:17-22)

In V2, the structure of the narrative is in the 3rd person hence it seems almost as if someone is writing telling the story of Hosea in a biographical way rather than the prophet dictating his own words. This raises the question of authorship but most are satisfied that either Hosea wrote in the 3rd person or that it was someone close to him during his time in history that put down the words. There are also inquiries into whether we should take this narrative as a literal story or should this be taken in a non-literal spiritualized sense to communicate a message of judgment. The answer to that is that we should probably attempt to see both within the text since both these approaches are essentially presented. These are symbolic acts carried out to convey a message[4]. While most in Hosea’s day (and even within ours) would find this marriage and baring of children as offensive, it does get the point across as to the circumstance of Yahweh’s relationship with Israel and Judah. Hosea is commanded to take a wife but God’s choice of a spouse for the prophet is Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. When describing this future partner, Yahweh describes her as a harlot. This means she was either a prostitute or a promiscuous woman perhaps prior to their marriage but certainly post-covenant. How are the children born from harlotry? The most custom answer is that the two last children weren’t born of Hosea but that is even questioned. The Lord then gives the reason for commanding Hosea to marry in harlotry, because the land had committed harlotry. The land here is probably speaking of the northern kingdom during the time of Jeroboam II. This was the time of prosperity where they forsook the worship established by God through Moses to the extent that they even erected a temple to Canaanite gods in Samaria (1 Kings 16:29-34). Prophets were murdered and the mass of the population embraced these gods (1 Kings 19:18: 2 Kings 10:18-28). While unsure if there was any hesitancy on the part of Hosea, the prophet obeyed the command and married Gomer. He set himself up to feel and know a little about the bitterness of God’s pain, as well as the depth of his love for undeserving people[5].

The Birth of Jezreel

In v. 4, Gomer conceives and bore him a son. If Gomer represents the land or the northern kingdom as a whole, the children of Gomer would represent the individuals who are a part of Israel. This firstborn son was to be named Jezreel after the incident in Israel’s history where the military leader and future king Jehu slaughtered many lives in Jezreel (2 Kings 9:25-26; 10:11). I believe Yahweh is communicating that the bloodshed that happened in Jezreel will come upon the house of Jehu whom Jeroboam was the 4th descended king. Smith points out:

This implies that a violent situation at the beginning of Jehu’s reign will parallel a violent situation that will end the dynasty of Jehu. Indeed, after the death of Jeroboam II, his son Zechariah was assassinated after a short six-month reign (2 Kings 15:8). He was the last descendant of Jehu to rule in Israel[6].  

But it was probably more than simply a judgment to come upon the line of Jehu since it was the bow of Israel that was to fall, not simply the line of a king. It was a name to indicate the judgment that was about to fall upon them.

The Birth of Lo-Ruhamah

In v.6, we have Gomer conceiving a second child but this time a daughter. Much is made on whether the two following children were fathered by Hosea since there is no indication that the children were born to him. But there is no indication that the children are illegitimate and the fact that Hosea is the one to name the children at least alludes to him fathering the two. Much like other instances in scripture where a name communicates a message, Yahweh tells Hosea to name her Lo-Ruhamah which signifies one who has not obtained compassion or is without mercy. This symbolizes the lack of benevolence that Yahweh will have upon Israel. Israel would not receive compassion which would lead to them being utterly taken away (exile)[7]. The covenant protection through His compassion for them is removed whereas He would deliver them. In contrast however, the prophet declares that Judah would be delivered from war. This deliverance of the kingdom of the south would not be rendered in the form of an army, a comfort that the Israelites from the north found their peace and protection under Jeroboam (v.5). Dearman points out:

Whereas Israel fell completely to the Assyrians, Judah was ravaged by them, though Jerusalem itself did not fall and the Davidic dynasty stayed on the throne. Indeed, both 2 Kgs. 18:9-19:7 and Isa. 36:1-37:38 narrate the miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem and Hezekiah in 701 B.C.[8]

The Birth of Lo-Ammi

Vs. 8-9 introduce yet another child as Gomer conceives a son who is named Lo-Ammi. The sequence coming after she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah which possibly means two or more years after her birth. The significance of this is telling in that Yahweh, who’s covenant foundation was that the descendants of Abraham in the form of Israel would by His people and He would be their God (Exodus 6:7; Leviticus 26:12). Their idolatrous unfaithfulness changes the relationship between them and their God[9]. While the son of Gomer is called Lo-Ammi, Yahweh is referred to as Lo-Ehyeh (Not I am). The people of the covenant had become like all other nations. They’d largely become like the Gentiles!

Restoring Israel

The following verses are a reversal from the preceding expression you are not my people, and I am not your God which include Judah in the form of a future restoration of the two nations. This renovation of the two nations is expressed in returning to expressions that were utilized to demonstrate their blessings in the past through Yahweh’s covenant with them. The first is a return to the promise that they would be that their numbers would be as the sand of the sea. This was a promise given to the patriarchs (Genesis 22:17; 32:12) looking forward to a future blessing. The expression also denotes having a profusion of something such as grain (Genesis 41:49) or military numbers (Joshua 11:4; Judges 7:12; 1 Samuel 13:5). Interestingly, the promise that we are presented with in this particular text was already said to be fulfilled during the reign of Solomon:

Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance; they were eating and drinking and rejoicing. 21 Now Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt; they brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life. (1 Kings 4:20-21)

But Hosea seems to look further ahead at a time when they would receive the promised blessings of Abraham and Isaac, even though it seems that these glory days had already occurred. These same promised blessings include the reversal from v.9 whereas that same nation would be called the sons of the living God instead of sons of harlotry. The prophet then speaks of this happening “in the place” which probably denotes the land which represents Israel itself.

In v.11, we now have reunification of the division from Israel’s past. The regathering of the north and south will come in the form of a leader, most likely one coming from the line of David (Hosea 3:5). What was torn in two some 200 years earlier, Hosea sees as being reunited and appoint a leader as their head. That would happen through a going up from the land not to the land. In an almost reversal of the message of judgment that signified the firstborn son of Hosea & Gomer, there would be a day of Jezreel where the nation would not shed blood but blossom.

The New Testament Fulfillment

The NT interpretation of these texts seem to be linked especially with the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans.

And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. 25 As He says also in Hosea,

“I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’
And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’”
26 “And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’
There they shall be called sons of the living God.” (Romans 9:23-26)

Paul argues in Romans 9:24-26 that those who are the vessels of mercy (v.23) to whom God makes His riches known, are called. This spiritual drawing is meant to include not only Paul’s countrymen, the Jews but also the Gentiles. To substantiate this call, Paul quotes the prophet Hosea (Hosea 2:23 and 1:10). But how do these texts from Hosea, which are referring to the restoration of the northern kingdom of Israel, the return from being not my people to my people, substantiate the calling of the Gentiles in Romans 9:25? Some might argue that the quotation of Hosea (and Isaiah in v.27) are a direct reference to Israel, not the Gentiles, but the difficulty is that the thrust of the statement in v.24 (from whom he called, not from among the Jews only, but also from among the Gentiles) is focused upon the Gentiles being called along with the Jews. The explicit reference to Israel in the introduction to the Isaiah quotation in v.27 suggests that Paul views Hosea quotations as related to the called of the Gentiles[10]. The reality is that the apostle quotes the OT prophet of a restored Israel to demonstrate the intention of God to fulfill these promises in the church, both Jews and Gentile believers in the Messiah. The calling of a people to be His people and to receive mercy (Lo-Rahumah & Lo-Ammi) went outside the borders of Israel (1 Peter 2:9-10).

The Sons of God in the New Testament are as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13). John expands the sonship of Israel outside the borders of Israel he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (John 11:51-52). The new birth in Christ guarantees our sonship and results in these children practicing righteousness (1 John 3:1-11).

[1] The NIV Application Commentary: Hosea/Amos/Micah, Gary Smith, Zondervan, 2001, Page 25

[2] Isaiah 7:1-9; 2 Chronicles 28:1-21

[3] For an appreciation of this challenge, it is recommended to utilize various translation to see just how vast the understanding.

[4] See The Book of Hosea, New International Commentary on the Old Testament, J Andrew Deerman, William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 2010, Page 82-83

[5] The NIV Application Commentary: Hosea/Amos/Micah, Gary Smith, Zondervan, 2001, Page 46

[6] IBID Page 47

[7] The NASB reads “that I would ever forgive them” which is plausible and makes sense in light of being the opposite of compassion however, the reading of the NKJV “I will utterly take them away” seems to better parallel the lack of compassion which was uttered against Judah, the invasion of an army so that when the Assyrians attacked, they had no compassion from Yahweh and were militarily defeated and taken into exile.

[8] The Book of Hosea, New International Commentary on the Old Testament, J Andrew Deerman, William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 2010, Page 97-98

[9] Most translation supply the term “God” when it is not found. The expression is literally as followed: “You are not my people, and I am not yours” but changes little with the interpretation.

[10] The Letter to the Romans: New International Commentary on the New Testament, Douglas Moo, Eerdman Publishers, 2018,  P. 613


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