Hosea 4:1-3

Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites,
    because the Lord has a charge to bring
    against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
    no acknowledgment of God in the land.
There is only cursing, lying and murder,
    stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
    and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Because of this the land dries up,
    and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
    and the fish in the sea are swept away.
(Hosea 4:1-3 NIV)

As we move into Chapter 4 of the book of Hosea, we begin the second major part of the book.  The first part was chapters 1 – 3 where the Lord illustrates the kingdom of Israel’s good start, bad ending, and God’s planned redemption through Hosea and Gomer’s marriage.

The second part of the book is a collection of sayings about Israel’s issues as well as their current and future state.  This second part covers the rest of the book (chapters 4 – 14).

Chapter 4 begins with the Lord speaking, as communicated through Hosea.  The Lord has a charge, a complaint against Israel.  The word “charge” is not just a complaint to be aired; this word is a legal term.  The implication is that the Lord has a serious issue with the northern kingdom of Israel, and the issue will stand up in a court of law.

So what is the charge?  Israel broke their covenant relationship with the Lord.

The evidence is manifested in two parts:  1) what is missing, and 2) what is there instead.

So what is missing?  The second half of verse 1 lists the evidence:

  • No faithfulness
    God had remained faithful to Israel, just as Hosea had remained faithful to Gomer.  But Israel had wandered away from her covenant relationship to the Lord, giving herself to other gods, just as Gomer had given herself to other men and broken her marriage vows to Hosea.
  • No love
    God loved Israel unconditionally, and in return, Israel was not even willing to show basic kindness to the Lord, much less to each other.   Hosea loved Gomer deeply, even going to the slave market to choose her a second time and bring her home and care for her.  She had no desire to be with him, as we learned in chapter 3.
  • No acknowledgment of God in the land
    The people of Israel acted like God did not even exist.  They gave him no credit for their provision and well-being and gave thanks to the other gods instead of the God of Israel, just as Gomer looked to her suitors as the ones that provided her needs and wants, not Hosea.

So what was the second evidence of this broken covenant relationship?  What had replaced the godly characteristics of faithfulness, love, and giving God glory?

  • Cursing
    This was not just bad language; this was using God’s name to harm others – a hex or a curse spoken onto another.  This was clearly the opposite of God’s character and love.
  • Lying
    Truth had been replaced by lies of every sort.  God’s wisdom and knowledge were swept out the door and replaced by the knowledge of man.
  • Murder
    Life as God created it was precious; since God was out of the picture, life became cheap, dispensible, like yesterday’s trash.
  • Stealing
    This was not just the taking of physical goods that did not belong to that person; this included stealing of human life – kidnapping.
  • Adultery
    Sexual sin was rampant; in fact, Baal worship involved sexual promiscuity as part of the worship.  Gomer was likely a temple prostitute engaged in these cultic practices.
  • Breaking all bounds
    The rule of law was no longer in effect; anarchy reigned.  The covenant relationship that God had instituted with His people included governing instructions on how to live in peace and harmony with one another.  When God was pushed out of normal everyday life, chaos and anarchy ensued.
  • Bloodshed following bloodshed
    Justice was no longer God’s domain; instead, justice and revenge were taken up by the people themselves.  And with no rule of law in place, the people did whatever they wanted to do to satisfy their own needs, wants, desires, and lusts.

So what was the result of all this ungodliness?  Self-destruction.  Even the natural resources would be totally consumed and disappear – with no care for each other or for their environment, there would ultimately be no one left and nothing left for any that might survive.

God is not an ill-tempered cosmic entity that gets some sick sense of enjoyment from seeing others suffer.   Quite the opposite – He made the covenant relationship with Israel because He knew that they would self-destruct on their own.

And so it is in our modern day as well.  God is not out to suck all the joy out of our existence.  He desires to show us a better way, a way that leads to life everlasting with Him, and peace with one another.

May we see and seek God’s love and relationship and experience the joy that comes from walking with Him.


Hosea 3:1-5

The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.”

For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the Lord and to his blessings in the last days.
(Hosea 3:1-5 NIV)

As we recap the first two chapters of Hosea, we see God call Hosea to marry and have children, knowing that his wife would ultimately leave him and become a prostitute.

As we begin chapter 3, it’s three grown kids and many years later.  The kids are raised and have left the house, and are living their own lives and probably have their own families.  Hosea is doing whatever the Lord has called him to do, living faithfully in God’s service.  His former wife, now long gone, is off doing her own thing, living however she chooses, fully embracing the profane culture of Baal worship that is rampant in Israel.

And then Hosea gets another word from the Lord.

God rocks Hosea’s world – again.

Chapters 1 and 2 are God speaking.  Hosea is merely a scribe to record and obey the Lord’s words.  In chapter 3, however, The Lord speaks, then Hosea records the rest of the chapter in the first person narrative.  In this, we hear not only the command of the Lord and Hosea’s obedience, but also his emotion, energy, and passion.  This account is intensely personal, and Hosea allows us to sit with him in the moment.

Notice that the Lord tells Hosea to love Gomer again.  In chapter 1 verse 2, the Lord had told Hosea to marry a woman (with love implied).  With their history of love, betrayal, and abandonment, the Lord now tells Hosea to love Gomer.

The Lord’s command for Hosea to love Gomer implies that Hosea has to forgive Gomer, seek reconciliation with her, be fully committed to her, and be willing to have his heart broken again.  There are no guarantees in the Lord’s command to love Gomer again; she may come back for a while, but leave again.  The only thing the Lord says is to step out in faith and obey.

Notice that the Lord empathizes with Hosea as part of His command.  The Lord uses a form of the word “love” four times in verse 1 (my paraphrase):

  • Go love Gomer again
  • I love Israel just as I am asking you to love Gomer
  • Other men love Gomer, and she loves other men (her heart is not toward Hosea)
  • Israel loves other gods (Baal, as shown by the sacred raisin cakes)

God is not asking Hosea to do something that He is not willing to do Himself.  In the microcosm of Hosea’s life, God is calling him to love Gomer again.  In the larger macrocosm of eternity, God is reaching out to His people, the kingdom of Israel and loving them again.

In this portrayal of love, we need to see the deeper focus of what the Lord is saying.  On the surface, it seems that the Lord is focused on the object of Hosea’s love vs. Gomer’s love – Hosea’s love for Gover vs. Gomer’s love for other men rather than her husband.

While this is certainly true, the deeper focus of the Lord is the extent of Hosea’s and Gomer’s love, their capacity to love.  Hosea’s love is outward-focused toward one woman (Gomer), while Gomer’s love is inward-focused toward anyone who will provide her wants and needs and desires (hence, all the other men).

In this relationship of Hosea and Gomer, the Lord has painted the picture of His love for Israel, and their selfish pursuit of other gods who they think will satisfy their longings.  God offers them peace and joy and provision, and Israel chases after other gods that will fill their appetite for “sweets”.

In verse 2, Hosea tracks down Gomer and buys her back.  From chapter 2, we know that the Lord predicted that Gomer’s life and chasing after other lovers would not end well.  While not explicitly stated, it appears that Gomer has wound up on the trash heap of life and is now a prostitute in the Baal temples.  Once the belle of the ball, a lusty, ravishing beauty, she is now a broken-down middle-aged woman just trying to get by.  Her supply of fine meals, fancy clothes, the attention and friendship of many lovers, and anything else she desired has all dried up.  She is now alone and starving.

We see Hosea choose Gomer a second time, paying the price of a common slave to redeem her.  Hosea sees Gomer’s value as a person, not in what she can do for him, and not because of what or who she is (or was).  He does not require her to “clean up her act” or earn her way back into his life.  He takes her just as she is, hot mess and all.

Isn’t that such a beautiful picture of God’s love for us, how He loves us even in our worst?

In verse 3, we see Hosea addressing Gomer after he redeems her (buys her back).  Hosea asks her to make a commitment of faithfulness to him, and he makes the same commitment back to her.  In short, Hosea is saying, “Come home.”

As part of that commitment, Hosea is asking Gomer to live in relative seclusion with him.  This is not to force her into being a personal slave for him, nor is it punishment for her unfaithfulness to him.   Instead, Hosea is asking Gomer to join him in re-establishing trust, love, and intimacy of the heart between them.  This will take time and focused effort on both their parts.

Verses 4 – 5 again use Hosea and Gomer’s relationship to paint the larger picture of what God is calling Israel to do, to come back to Him and re-establish their covenant relationship and love.

As we see this calling to love unconditionally in the physical lives of Hosea and Gomer, we know the same is true in our spiritual lives.  The Lord gave up everything for us, even His own life, in order to redeem us.  And He did this with no promise that we would love Him back, or that we would stick around.

When we do make that commitment to the Lord, He gently calls us to Himself to develop that deep trust in Him, to demonstrate love toward us, and to share life with Him on an ongoing basis – to “abide”, to live together in love.

Loving after being hurt involves risk and sacrifice.  Hosea most likely had a comfortable life, full of kids, grandkids, friends, and ministry.  Yet God called Hosea out of the good life to risk having his heart broken again, to be a living example of redemption.

Now Hosea would have to learn to live with someone again, to sacrifice and share life together.  There would be rough patches, with no guarantees that it would work out.

I pray that the Lord would open my heart to love others deeply, to extend the dimensions of my heart to love others unselfishly, to love well with no guarantees of that love being reciprocated.

Jesus took that chance of love with us; may we step out in faith by loving others unconditionally as He loves us.


Hosea 2:14-23

14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her;
    I will lead her into the wilderness
    and speak tenderly to her.
15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
    and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
    as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

16 “In that day,” declares the Lord,
    “you will call me ‘my husband’;
    you will no longer call me ‘my master.’
17 I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips;
    no longer will their names be invoked.
18 In that day I will make a covenant for them
    with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
    and the creatures that move along the ground.
Bow and sword and battle
    I will abolish from the land,
    so that all may lie down in safety.
19 I will betroth you to me forever;
    I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
    in love and compassion.
20 I will betroth you in faithfulness,
    and you will acknowledge the Lord.

21 “In that day I will respond,”
    declares the Lord
“I will respond to the skies,
    and they will respond to the earth;
22 and the earth will respond to the grain,
    the new wine and the olive oil,
    and they will respond to Jezreel.
23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
    I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;
    and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”
(Hosea 2:14-23 NIV)

As we have noted previously, the Lord called Hosea to marry and have children, with the knowledge that his wife would later be unfaithful to him.  Hosea’s marriage would be a living example of the Lord’s relationship with the northern kingdom of Israel.  God was faithful to His covenant commitment to Israel, but Israel chose to be unfaithful to Him by choosing to worship other gods of the region, including Baal.

In our last time together, chapter 2 outlined the consequences of Israel chasing after other lovers (other gods).  She would end up destitute and alone.

As we look into the second half of chapter 2 today, we see God not giving up on His betrothed.  When the Lord sees that Israel has repented of her sins, He does not reject her but rather allures her (woos her) (v. 14).  The phrase “speak tenderly to her” could also be translated “speak to her heart”, signifying that the Lord cares deeply for Israel, just as a husband cares deeply for his wife and speaks gently to her in order to win her heart back.

The Lord knows that Israel knows of her sin, and that she is guarding her heart against the likely rejection that she will face if she comes back to the Lord.  Instead, the Lord speaks tenderly to Israel, assuring her that He loves her and wants her back in fellowship with Him.

The Lord also promises to restore all the things that Israel sought from her other lovers – her provisions of oil, food, clothing, etc.  Israel will know that these provisions come from the Lord, not Baal.

The Lord also promises peace (v. 18) to Israel – something they had not known for a very long time.

Last but not least, the Lord paints a wonderful word picture that shows the future restored relationship between Himself and Israel.  No longer does the Lord alienate Himself from Israel.  He now calls them “You are My people”, and they respond, “You are my God.”

As we learned in the beginning, the book of Hosea is not just a tabloid scandal – it’s a love letter that invites wayward Israel to repent, return, and be reconciled with her husband.

The Lord is saying, “Come home.”

And God’s offer extends to us as well.



Hosea 2:1-13

“Say of your brothers, ‘My people,’ and of your sisters, ‘My loved one.’

“Rebuke your mother, rebuke her,

    for she is not my wife,
    and I am not her husband.
Let her remove the adulterous look from her face
    and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts.
Otherwise I will strip her naked
    and make her as bare as on the day she was born;
I will make her like a desert,
    turn her into a parched land,
    and slay her with thirst.
I will not show my love to her children,
    because they are the children of adultery.
Their mother has been unfaithful
    and has conceived them in disgrace.
She said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
    who give me my food and my water,
    my wool and my linen, my olive oil and my drink.’
Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes;
    I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.
She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;
    she will look for them but not find them.
Then she will say,
    ‘I will go back to my husband as at first,
    for then I was better off than now.’
She has not acknowledged that I was the one
    who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil,
who lavished on her the silver and gold—
    which they used for Baal.

“Therefore I will take away my grain when it ripens,
    and my new wine when it is ready.
I will take back my wool and my linen,
    intended to cover her naked body.
10 So now I will expose her lewdness
    before the eyes of her lovers;
    no one will take her out of my hands.
11 I will stop all her celebrations:
    her yearly festivals, her New Moons,
    her Sabbath days—all her appointed festivals.
12 I will ruin her vines and her fig trees,
    which she said were her pay from her lovers;
I will make them a thicket,
    and wild animals will devour them.
13 I will punish her for the days
    she burned incense to the Baals;
she decked herself with rings and jewelry,
    and went after her lovers,
    but me she forgot,”
declares the Lord.
(Hosea 2:1-13 NIV)

As we recap Hosea chapter 1, we see God calling Hosea into ministry.  His first assignment?  Get married and start a family.  But there was an act of obedience, a step of faith that went with God’s calling.  Hosea was to marry and have children with this woman, knowing that she would be unfaithful to him later in their relationship.

God was using Hosea’s life and marriage to parallel the northern kingdom of Israel and her relationship to the Lord.  Israel had started out faithful to the Lord but soon drifted into Baal worship and other forms of idolatry that took their hearts far from God.

As Hosea and Gomer had their three children, God named each of the children to reflect the broken relationship between Himself and Israel.  But at the end of chapter 1, God promised to restore Israel.

Verse 1 of chapter 2 is actually a continuation of the thought at the end of chapter 1.  While God had named Hosea’s daughter “not loved” and Hosea’s youngest son “not my people”, God was now saying He would reverse those names.  By flipping the names to  “My loved one” and “My people”, God was saying that when the nation of Israel repented, He would be faithful to forgive them and restore His covenant relationship with them.

Verse 2 begins the rebuke of Israel by her “children”, portrayed as Gomer and her adult children.  God has appealed to Israel to repent of her sins of unfaithfulness to Him, just as Hosea appealed to Gomer to return to their marriage and covenant of faithfulness to one another.  Verse 2 indicates that Isreal’s desire is not for her “husband”, but for her lovers, the false gods she is worshipping.

In verse 3, God says that He will take all the good things in her life away if she does not come back to Him.  Verse 4 says that her children (the few righteous people in Israel) will suffer because of their relationship to her and her unfaithfulness.  In this verse, we see the actions of the parent bringing shame upon the children.

Verse 5 shows that Israel, in her delusion, has forgotten where her provision comes from.  She attributes her “good life” as coming from her “lovers”, the false gods she is worshipping, not from the Lord who provides all good things.

When her provisions dry up, Israel says that she will return to her “husband” (the Lord), as living with Him is better than starving to death (v. 7).  Her heart is not with her husband, nor does she recognize that it is He that provides all her needs (v. 8).  She is still living her life inwardly focused on herself, not outwardly focused on others.

So what happens now?  All the goodness in her life is taken away – her provisions, the parties, the celebrations, all the good things that she was accustomed to and depended upon to live her adulterous life with the other gods she worshipped.

In the end, Israel will be all alone, exposed for who she really is.   Her partying days are over, and she is now destitute and living in shame.  Her “friends” and “lovers” (the false gods she was worshipping, including Baal) will not come to her rescue.

Isn’t that just like sin in our lives?  It’s fun for a little while, but then the reality sets in and we realize that it robs us of all the good in life, especially our relationship with the Lord the joy He brings to our relationship with Him.

So what’s the answer?  Repentance – turning our hearts back to the Lord.  We’ll see more about this in our next time together.

In our imagination, we see Hosea, gently and sincerely saying to Gomer, his estranged wife, “Come home.”

And so Jesus says to us, “Come home.  Stay with Me.  I love you, and I like spending time with you.  Let’s do life together, not apart.”


Hosea 1:4-11

Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. In that day I will break Israel’s bow in the Valley of Jezreel.”

Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call her Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”), for I will no longer show love to Israel, that I should at all forgive them. Yet I will show love to Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I, the Lord their God, will save them.”

After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. Then the Lord said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”), for you are not my people, and I am not your God.

10 “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.
(Hosea 1:4-11 NIV

As we reflect back on the first three verses of Hosea chapter 1, we see that the Lord called Hosea as a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel.  Like the Lord’s calling to other Old Testament prophets, The Lord called Hosea with a test of faith.

Does Hosea know enough about God to trust God with the unknown?  Will Hosea obey the Lord through his actions, knowing the outcome will not be good for him?

And what was that step of faith?  To marry a woman and have children with her, knowing that she would eventually be unfaithful to him.

Not only would God cause this personal pain, but He would put Hosea’s failed marriage and unfaithful wife on public display for the entire kingdom of Israel to see as a reminder of Israel’s broken relationship with the Lord.

In today’s text, we see God using the names of Hosea and Gomer’s children to show His displeasure over Israel’s sins.

In verse 3, we saw that Hosea and Gomer’s first born child was a son.  In verse 4, God told Hosea to name the child “Jezreel”.  The meaning of the Hebrew name Jezreel means “God will sow/scatter”.  God goes on to describe this name in the negative and pronounces judgment over Jehu the king and his sins.

I am not by any consideration an Old Testament scholar, but I always thought that Jehu was one of the better kings of Israel.  He obeyed the Lord and “cleaned house”, getting rid of Jezebel and all the evil rulers of the day.  Jehu also rounded up and killed all the prophets of Baal, just as the Lord had told him (see 2 Kings chapters 9 – 10).

This did not make any sense to me.  Why would God use the name Jezreel in the negative and pronounce judgment on Jehu?  As I read and studied the life of Jehu, it was clear that he obeyed the Lord in removing both Ahab’s family and the prophets of Baal. In fact, God Himself said He was pleased with Jehu (2 Kings 10:30).

So what was wrong?  It has taken me several days to piece together the story of Jehu and what God is saying here in Hosea.  I know that God’s Word does not contradict itself, so it is my lack of understanding (rather than a flaw in God’s Word) that is the issue.

Jehu began his reign as king of Israel living in obedience to God’s larger story, purging the evil from the rulers of God’s people, keeping focused outwardly on God’s glory and his obedience to the Lord.

But unfortunately, after he had obeyed the Lord, Jehu turned from being outwardly focused on the Lord to being inwardly focused on himself.  Jehu went on to kill other innocent people that might be considered a threat to his kingship because of their family ties to other rulers.  In fact, they were no threat at all.  As verse 4 says, Jehu’s actions beyond what the Lord had told him to do were a sin – his murder of these innocent people was nothing short of a massacre.

2 Kings 10:29-31 tell the rest of Jehu’s story.  Verse 30 is the good that Jehu did by obeying the Lord, but his good is sandwiched between two slices of evil.  Verses 29 and 31 tell us that Jehu did not get rid of idol worship in Israel, especially the worship of golden calves, and that Jehu was not careful to obey all the commands of the Lord.

In summary, while Jehu did obey the Lord very specifically in some areas, overall he was no better than the other kings.  He did not lead his people back to the Lord with his own example and in his rule over the kingdom of Israel.  Thus, the Lord was telling the kingdom of Israel that Jehu’s dynasty (now lead by Jeroboam II) would fall and Israel would be under the power and control of another ruler.

In verses 6-7, the Lord names Hosea’s second child, a daughter.  Her name was “Lo-Ruhamah”, which means “not loved” or “no mercy”.  God had pleaded with His people in Israel to turn back to Him, but they refused.  God was letting the people of Israel know (via the name of this daughter) that He was displeased with their choices.  God also told the northern kingdom of Israel that He loved the southern kingdom of Judah because of their obedience to His commands.

In verses 8-9, God names Hosea’s third child, a son.  God gives him the name “Lo-Ammi”, which means “not my people”.  God was saying that because of Israel’s sins, God did not recognize them anymore.  The people had broken their covenant relationship with Him, and they had become a disfigured shadow of themselves to the point where God had to let them go.

Finally, in verses 10-11, the Lord says that all is not lost.  At some point in the future (no specific timeframe was given), Israel would be restored and would become as numerous as that sand on the seashore.  The Lord implies that the people of Israel will repent of their sins and be restored to their place as God’s children.  They will once again step into the covenant relationship God had made with them.  They will go from “not my people” to “children of the living God” (v. 10).

Ultimately, the Lord said that the northern and southern kingdoms would be reunited as one kingdom and the Lord will be their leader and sovereign ruler (v. 11).

Even though today’s text is harsh, it is also a message of love and a desire for reconciliation.  God is saying, “Come home”.  Yes, the people of Israel were deep in sin.  Yes, they had walked away from the Lord.

But the offer still remained the same”  “Come home.”

And God’s offer to the people of Israel is the offer He extends to each of us today.

“I love you.  Come home.”


Hosea 1:1-3

The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel:

When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
(Hosea 1:1-3 NIV)

Today we step into the study of the Old Testament book of Hosea.  As noted in the introduction, Hosea was the author of the book (verse 1), and his timeline was marked by the kings of Judah (the southern kingdom).  In our modern measurement of time, he served around the 755 – 710 BC timeframe.

Remember also that only Jeroboam was mentioned from Israel (the northern tribe), as all the successors to the throne after Jeroboam II were short-lived before Assyria finally conquered Israel.

The book of Hosea was written primarily to the northern kingdom of Israel.  Hosea was from Israel (the northern kingdom), so the Lord was addressing His people via one of their own.  Hopefully, the people would listen to a fellow Israelite.

Hosea’s name in Hebrew means “Salvation”.  Truly, the Lord had brought salvation to His people when He brought them out of Egypt.  The Lord saw how the hearts of the Israelites had turned cold toward Him, and He desired a restored relationship with them.   The Lord wanted to save His people from the impending consequences of their sin and sent Hosea to proclaim that message to them.

As the Lord began to speak through Hosea, He gave Hosea a very strange and difficult command.  The Lord told Hosea to go marry a prostitute.

Scholars generally agree that this passage is not translated well from the Hebrew text.  At first reading, it sounds like God is telling Hosea to go marry a known prostitute.  In fact, the Hebrew text is saying, “Go, marry a woman and have children with her; but know that she will eventually be unfaithful to you and ultimately sell herself as a prostitute.”

So how should we understand this text?  Did God literally tell Hosea, a godly Jewish man, to go marry a woman who would later turn out to be a prostitute?  Or was this all just an allegory, a symbolic marriage, an “object lesson” to Israel to repent and turn back to God?

Again, scholars agree that we should understand this as a literal command from God that Hosea obeyed, not a story or an illustration or some kind of “circus act” to make a point.

Men, what would your reaction be if the Lord told you to marry a good woman, but she would eventually become a prostitute?  Would “common sense” prevail, and would you say, “there is no way God would tell me to do that”?  Or would you say, “there is no way I am going to sign up for that kind of heartache!” and walk away.

Ladies, imagine if the gender roles were reversed, and God told you to agree to marry a man who would be faithful at first, but would later abandon you and get involved in the sex trade, eventually living on the streets and having to sell his body just to afford a meal?  What would your response be?

While we see the smaller story of Hosea and his obedience to the Lord, the larger story is that of God taking His people in covenant relationship as His “bride”, and how they had eventually sold themselves as cheap prostitutes to the nations around them, rather than looking to God as their strength and provider.

Likewise, the smaller story of Hosea’s pain, embarrassment, and anguish over his wife’s choices are eclipsed by the larger story of God’s heartbreak over His people turning their backs on Him and selling themselves to their ungodly neighbors rather than depending on Him.

Just as a side note, Hosea’s wife’s name is Gomer.  In Hebrew, her name means “Completion–a double cake of figs.”   As figs were associated with sensual pleasures, Gomer’s name might be loosely translated into something like “Double portion of Dessert.”  If Gomer lived up to the meaning of her name, she was probably a lot of fun to be married to – at least at first.

Isn’t that just like sin in our lives?  It sure is a lot of seeming fun at first!  But eventually the “fun” wears off and we are left with the consequences of that sin – heartbreak and a desire for something better and actually fulfilling.

So what are our choices?  We can go in search of other activities, people, or things to fill that void, or we can turn to the Lord who is the only one who can satisfy the deep longing in our hearts.

How God longs to have us back, even when we stray far from Him.

His simple message is, “Come home.”

What’s stopping you from heeding His unconditional offer?


Introduction to Hosea

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.