Today we begin our next study of God’s Word – the Old Testament book of Hosea.
The book of Hosea is fairly well known in churches and Bible study groups. Hosea’s story is known primarily for its seemingly scandalous message in chapters 1 – 3. But when we focus only on the shock factor, we miss the far greater message that the Lord intended us to learn from this book and its contents.
The book of Hosea was written mainly to the northern kingdom of Israel (also referred to as Ephraim, the largest tribe in the northern kingdom)
The book of Hosea was written by its namesake, as noted in Hosea 1:1. The timeframe of this book was around 755 – 710 BC, as noted by the era of kings listed in verse 1.
The list of kings in verse 1 is very important to the context and understanding of Hosea’s story. Note that four kings of Judah (the southern kingdom) were mentioned, while only one king of Israel (the northern kingdom) was mentioned. While the southern kingdom (Judah) continued to remain a sovereign state for a while longer, the northern kingdom collapsed into anarchy after Jeroboam II died. Four of the next six northern kingdom rulers ascended to power by murdering their predecessors. The Assyrians eventually took over the northern kingdom of Israel.
While we often want to focus on the seeming scandal of Hosea and his wife, the major theme of Hosea’s message is God’s constant love for His people despite their idolatry. The message is not one of sin and derision, of writing off Hosea and his wife (and thus the northern kingdom of Israel) because of their sin. Instead, we need to read this book as a love story written by God to His people, and lived out in all its practical messiness through Hosea and his wife Gomer.
In many ways, the story of Hosea parallels the Apostle John’s message of love through his New Testament Gospel as well as his epistles (letters).
The pattern of Hosea’s story is the pattern of God’s story of humanity, and our spiritual journey as well. The story opens with God’s love, then sin enters into the story to create separation. Judgment ensues, followed by redemption, with forgiveness being offered as a gift, and restoration taking place when the gift is received.
The book of Hosea is divided into two parts:
- Chapters 1 – 3, portraying God’s love and Israel’s sins through the lives of Hosea and his wife Gomer
- Chapters 4 – 14, portraying God’s love for His people, renouncing their sins, and their eventual promise of restoration.
Hosea’s story in chapters 1 – 3 is a parallel to Israel’s story in chapters 4 – 14, a real-life object lesson shown as a microcosm of the larger story of God’s love and redemption for His people (and for us).
May God richly bless your understanding of His immense love for you and me as we embark on our journey through Hosea’s (and our) story.