The Prophecy of Hosea – Part 2

In chapters 2 and 3, we are mainly concerned with the interaction between God and Israel, mirrored in the relationship between Hosea and his promiscuous wife, Gomer. We feel the frustration of both God and Hosea as they grapple with the infidelity of each of their spouses. The whole of chapter 2 is a delicately cloaked allegory in which the parallels between Hosea and Gomer and God and Israel are similar, but distinct. Gomer is punished for her adultery and is judicially cast out by Hosea, 2. 2. But when she has left him and descended into the depths of degradation, ending up as a slave and the property of someone else, Hosea is encouraged by God to, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress’, 3. 1 NIV. He buys her freedom for the price of a slave, and then restores her to himself. His love for his adulterous wife is to be in the same measure as God loves Israel. Her period of degradation and exile is again linked to God’s approach to Israel’s future restoration, 3. 4, 5. Love, not law, will one day triumph, as Israel enjoys the blessings of restoration and acknowledges David’s greater Son, 3. 5.

G. Campbell Morgan writes, ‘That is the story, bluntly told. The first part is tragic, but it is not uncommon. The second part is by no means common and is absolutely amazing’.1

Part 2 - chapters 4-14

Chapter 4 begins the second part of the prophecy that stretches to chapter 14. Chapters 1 to 3 contain the first part of the prophecy, with the controlling metaphor being the story of Hosea and his family. The opening phrase in verse 1 of chapter 4, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel’, brings into clear focus the need of Israel to heed the message of God. A small section within this second part applies to Judah, 12. 2-7, but the rest is exclusively to do with Israel.2 This fourth chapter is written in the form of a legal indictment against Israel who had failed to recognize the Lord’s authority over them, 4. 1, 2. This was reflected in their lack of kindness (hesed) towards others and their violations of the central parts of the Decalogue, including the misuse of oaths, Exod. 20. 7; Deut. 5. 11.3 Linked with these failures was also a lack of knowledge of God’s law, evident in the priests’ failure to provide spiritual leadership to the nation, 4. 4-10. This had a detrimental effect on the whole nation and both the nation and its priests would be harshly judged by God, vv. 7-11. Not only did Israel disobey God’s word but they formed alliances with godless nations and prostituted themselves by Baal-worship. Judah is warned by God not to imitate Israel in her guilt and she is clearly someone to avoid, vv. 15-17. Verse 17 is emphatic, suggesting that Israel had become inextricably bound to idols and had broken its covenant with God. Also, notice the play on words in verse 15, where ‘Bethel’ meaning ‘house of God’ is now changed by the prophet to ‘Bethaven’ meaning ‘house of evil’, cp. Amos 5. 5. Chapter 4 concludes with a depiction of the nation ‘caught up in the currents of forces over which they have no control. The divine will and the machinations of national leaders will carry the nation onward until they stand as displaced persons, cast out of home and country’.4 What a hopeless situation to be in!

In the first three verses of chapter 5, God speaks directly to the priests, the leaders of the tribes of Israel and the royal household. Their leadership had led the nation into idolatry and prostitution which had become internalized in the nation, vv. 3, 4. They had actively sought alliances with other nations and the worship of other gods, and even though they went through the motions of formally worshipping the God of Israel, God saw through their hypocrisy and had withdrawn Himself from them, vv. 6, 7, cp. Prov. 1. 28. Jeroboam II had not only made the nation wealthy but had made Israel a strong military force. When Jeroboam II died, the nation of Israel became fearful about the future, especially the threat posed by the Assyrians. They were also feuding with Judah at the time over a territorial dispute, vv. 8-11.5 This may well be the so-called Syro-Ephraimite war referred to in 2 Kings chapter 16 verses 1 to 9. When Israel feared the worst they turned to the Assyrians, not to God, for help against Judah, but without success, v. 13.6 In fact, Israel appealed to a nation that would one day destroy her and lead her people into bondage. The irony was that Assyria could not possibly heal Israel’s wounds which had been inflicted by God, vv. 12, 14, so that the nation might own up to their offences and seek the Lord again, v. 15.

At the beginning of chapter 6, God calls Israel to repent and return to Him. This call is based upon the fact that just as God had wounded Israel, He alone could heal them. In the chapters that follow, Israel largely ignores God’s entreaty to them. All that God desired from Israel was to love Him and express loving kindness to others, rather than more burnt offerings, 6. 6. Israel, however, continued to transgress the covenant and her treachery and guilt ran throughout the land, v. 10.

Chapter 7 highlights the danger of seeking help through political alliances with other nations, such as Egypt and Assyria. Their only hope lay in the God of Israel, and their pride prevented them from seeking His face, 7. 10. Chapter 8 provides us with a litany of charges against Israel, which reflects upon the rebellious history of the nation and its idolatrous practices, 8. 5, 6. What they have sown they would now reap, v. 7; cp. Gal. 6. 7, and, as a consequence of their rebellion, they would lose their special elect status with God, and, ironically, return to Egypt, 8. 13!

Israel had forfeited any right to be called God’s people or rejoice in that relationship, 9. 1. According to McConville, ‘(“rejoicing” is a key mark of the people in true worship of Yahweh in Deuteronomy, e.g. Deut. 16. 13-15). As in that text, rejoicing is especially in the context of the annual feasts; the Feast of Tabernacles is also in view here in Hosea (9. 5; cf. Lev. 23. 39; Jdg. 12. 19). Their “prostitution” again disqualifies them (as in chs 1-3)’.7

Hosea compares Israel to four things in chapters 9 to 11:

  1. Spoilt grapes in the wilderness, 9. 10
  2. A withered or ravaged vine, 9. 16; 10. 1
  3. A trained heifer who ploughed wickedness, 10. 11-13
  4. A rebellious son who turned away from God to Baal, 11. 1-7.

Yet, even though judgement is a fitting reward for the sins of Israel, God speaks of His continuing love for them. In language characterized by anthropomorphism, God expresses His unique love still for Israel, 11. 8. He cannot give up on them, and they will ultimately be restored, vv. 9-11. This is the heart of Hosea’s message and similar to that of the prophet Jeremiah, Jer. 31. 20.

The last three chapters are predicated on a lesson from the history of the patriarch Jacob. Hosea recalls specifically Jacob’s repentance, his deceit and punishment and this paves the way to a call to Israel to repent, 12. 3-7. Israel is compared to a trader who used false balances to become rich and who boasted in his own achievements, vv. 8, 9. Since Israel failed to learn from the past, God warned them that His judgement would be certain and swift. They would lose their king and the northern kingdom would fall to the Assyrian hordes, 13. 1-16.

Finally, Hosea sets out the possibility of restoration for Israel. Notwithstanding all the invectives that have been brought against Israel, there is still hope for the hopeless. If Israel repented and returned to the Lord, then He ‘will heal their backsliding’, ‘love them freely’, and be to them all their sufficiency, 14. 4-7. Their restoration will be fruitful as they will flourish like the vine, blossom like the lily, and be strongly rooted like the trees of Lebanon, vv. 5-9. The prophecy ends with a call to wisdom, but also a warning to those who fail to heed the message of God through Hosea, cp. Prov. 10. 29.

Key themes in the book of Hosea

  1. Restoration of the backslider.
  2. The importance of godly leadership.
  3. Religious form without genuine faith is valueless.
  4. God’s endless love for His wayward people.



G. Campbell Morgan, Hosea: The Heart and Holiness of God, Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1948, pg. 9.


‘Hear the word of the Lord’ is the same phrase used to start the first part of the prophecy, 1. 1, and it does not appear anywhere else in the book. Chapter 5 begins with a shorter command to the priests, ‘Hear ye this’.


Five of the ten commandments are indicated in verse 2, see Exodus chapter 20 verses 1 to 17.


Thomas E. McComiskey, The Minor Prophets, A Commentary on Hosea, Joel, Amos, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Zondervan, pg. 73.


Moving boundary markers was, in effect, stealing land and was a serious infraction of the law, Deut. 19. 14; 27. 17; Job 24. 2; Prov. 22. 28.


This may refer to Menahem’s efforts to placate the Assyrians by paying tribute to Tiglath-pileser III, 2 Kgs. 15. 19, 20.


‘House of Israel’ in chapter 6 verse 10 may originally have read ‘Bethel’, i.e., ‘the house of God’. J. Gordon McConville, Exploring the Old Testament, Vol. 4, The Prophets, SPCK, 2002, pg. 141, 142.


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