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Hosea - introduction

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

12:39 AM

Was written by Hosea, son of Beeri, in the eight century, BC. After king David's reign, the kingdom of Israel was split into two: Israel, the northern kingdom, and Judah, the southern one. What followed was a long succession of kings until first Assyria and then Babylon subjugated both kingdoms. Hosea’s ministry spanned several decades, beginning near the end of the reigns of Uzziah of Judah (ca. 790-739 b.c.) and Jeroboam II of Israel (ca. 793-753 b.c.) and concluding in the early years of Hezekiah’s reign. The beginning of his ministry was a quiet time where Israel and Judah experienced military success and there were not many enemies to challenge them. However, at the end of the ministry the Jews were subdued by Assyrian empire.

The message of Hosea is similar to that of several other prophets living at about the same time (Amos, Micah and Isaiah) - Israel has violated the covenant by worshipping other Gods (e.g. Baal). The first three chapters are quite coherent, but the rest of the book reads as an anthology (collection of writings from different periods). As one commentator puts it, "It is as if the speeches of a contemporary politician, delivered over a lifetime in public service, were compiled into a single anthology; while each speech would have made perfect sense at the time and in the place where it was first delivered, each one would be more difficult to understand later when the specific occasion for the speech was forgotten."

The major themes of Hosea’s message can be summarized in three words: sin, judgment, and salvation. There are two dominant themes running through the sayings of Hosea which appear at first sight to be mutually exclusive: they are the judgment of God and the love of God. However, it is very difficult to outline the book, simply because of lack of unity. Outlines provided by major commentators vary substantially. The text of Hosea has suffered in transmission, so the meaning of some passages might not be reliable. However, the teaching of the whole book is clear.

The book of Hosea is full of metaphorical language. The covenant between God and his people is compared to a marriage. Idolatry is explained in terms of adultery.

Though Hosea’s prophecy contains some calls to repentance, he did not expect a positive response. Judgment was inescapable. In implementing the curses, the Lord would cause the nation to experience infertility, military invasion, and exile. However, the Lord would not abandon Israel totally. Despite its severity, each judgment was disciplinary and was intended to turn Israel back to God.

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