We are now beginning the last division of Old Testament books, the division called the Minor Prophets. the Minor Prophets prophesied over a period of about 400 years. Some of them…
THE MINOR PROPHETS
We are now beginning the last division of Old Testament books, the division called the Minor Prophets. the Minor Prophets prophesied over a period of about 400 years. Some of them preached to the people of Israel (Northern Kingdom) and some to the people of Judah. They are called the “Minor Prophets” primarily because their books are shorter than those of the Major Prophets.
HOSEA, HIS TIMES AND MESSAGE
Hosea’s name means “salvation” or “deliverance.” The Prophet Hosea lived about the same time as Isaiah. But while Isaiah preached to Judah, Hosea was preaching to Israel. Hosea became a prophet at the end of the rule of Jeroboam II, the last strong king of Israel (793-753 B.C.). His work continued into the days of King Hezekiah of Judah (715-686 B.C.). It appears that he prophesied for over 50 years. Hosea was the last prophet to try to lead Israel to repentance. He was still alive when the unrepentant nation fell to Assyria. Israel was in a pitiful mess during the days of Hosea. The nation had fallen into religious and moral ruins and was falling quickly into political ruins. The political ruins can be seen by the fact that after Jeroboam II there were six different kings in twenty years time, and four of those kings had assassinated the king before them to take the throne. The religious and moral ruins can be seen by the open idolatry carried on in the land and the sins that went with it. “They consult a wooden idol and are answered by a stick of wood” (4:12). “There is only cursing, lying, and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed” (4:2). “There is no faithful-ness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land” (4:1). The prime cause of this whole mess was Israel’s idolatry. We might also call this sin of Israel “Spiritual Adultery.” God’s people deserted Him for other gods, just as an unfaithful wife might desert her faithful husband for other lovers and a life of prostitution. In his book the Prophet Hosea is even told to act this scene out in order to clearly picture Israel’s “spiritual adultery.” He marries a woman, Gomer, who proves to be adulterous and forsakes him – even as unfaithful Israel forsook its faithful God. Hosea’s heart of love and mercy is evident in his preaching. His heart ached for the people of Israel as they deserted their God of love. While his love and mercy are evident, it is also clear from his preaching that he was not afraid to expose the sins of Israel. Love and sharp law preaching are not opposites. The prophet in his love wanted to lead Israel to repentance and back to her faithful “Husband,” God. That is evident from his words in chapter 14: “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: `Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously.'” (14:1-2)
THE BOOK OF HOSEA OUTLINE
- Israel Is Like An Unfaithful Wife (1-3)
- Israel Hears Messages of Judgment Mixed With Love And Mercy (4-12)
- Read chapter 1 to see unfaithful Israel pictured in Hosea’s adulterous wife.
- Read chapter 4 to hear God’s charge against Israel.
- Read chapter 11 to see God’s continuing burning love for His people.
- When reading the Book of Hosea it is helpful to know that the prophet often uses the name Ephraim as a synonym for Israel. “Ephraim” began to be used for “Israel” because of the leading position of the Tribe of Ephraim in the Northern Kingdom.
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