The Restorative Love of God


Key References for Survey:
Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament by Irving L. Jensen
The Minor Prophets by Timothy Tow

The Man Hosea
Though the book of Hosea is the first book of the minor prophets in the English translation of the Bible, the prophet Hosea was the last writing prophet to minister to the Northern Kingdom of Israel before her fall to the Assyrians in 722B.C.

The name Hosea ( ,ַ ע ֵׁושֹהHeb. Hoshea) means “Hoshea”. It comes from the same root word as the name Joshua (Num. 13:16) or Jesus (Matt. 1:21). Interestingly, Joshua’s name was called Hoshea (Oshea in Num. 13:8, 16) before it was changed to Jehoshua ( (ַ ועּושֹה ְיor Joshua.

We are told in 1:1 that Beeri was the father of Hosea. Not much is known of the background of Beeri or Hosea. We can only surmise from the various agricultural references in the book that Hosea may have been a farmer. Thus, it is unlikely that Hosea had any former training in a school of prophet in contrast to a prophet such as Elisha.

Date of Writing
According to 1:1, Hosea ministered during the reign of Uzziah (792‑740 B.C.), Jotham (750‑736 B.C.), Ahaz (735‑719 B.C.) and Hezekiah (716‑687 B.C.), kings of Judah, and Jeroboam II (793‑752 B.C.), the king of Israel. The book would thus be a compilation of messages preached during the time of these kings. From the information given above, we see that the ministry of the prophet Hosea was a lengthy one of about 50-60 years. He sets an example to all of us, of what it means to be faithful to the end.

The information provided in 1:1 also reveals that Hosea was a contemporary of the prophets Isaiah (Isa. 1:1) and Micah (Mic. 1:1). While Micah and Isaiah were focused on ministering to Judah, Hosea was prophesying chiefly to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Hosea can thus be regarded as a successor to the prophet Amos who ministered to the Northern Kingdom before him. Interestingly, Amos was not from Israel but Judah. This meant that Hosea was the only writing prophet of Israel to Israel (Jensen).

Another point to note was that Hosea was ministering at the time when Assyria conquered Israel (722 B.C.). This runs parallel to the prophet Jeremiah who ministered to Judah as Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Thus, there is a lot of similarity in the messages preached by Hosea and Jeremiah. While Jeremiah is often called, “the weeping prophet” of the Southern Kingdom, Hosea is often regarded as the, “broken-hearted” prophet of the Northern Kingdom.

Historical Setting
If one were to judge Israel using carnal qualifications, he would say that Israel was doing seemingly well. Israel was successful economically. In fact, Jeroboam II had just recovered a large parcel of land for Israel (2 Kings 14:25). There was also political stability during the reign of Jeroboam II. All these factors contributed to the façade of prosperity in the nation.

However, these were the dark ages for Israel spiritually and morally. Jeroboam II did not cease from the sins of his predecessor Jeroboam I (2 Kings 14:23-24). Israel was devoid of the true knowledge of God (Hos. 4:6; 5:4). Thus, they plunged into morally reprehensible conduct which was a great abomination before the LORD. There was stealing, swearing, adultery, deceit, drunkenness and murder (see Hos. 4). Israel was no different from the spiritually blind nations that were around her and failed to be a true witness for the LORD.

Finally, there was political upheaval after the death of Jeroboam II. His son only lasted six months on the throne before he was killed by Shallum who took over his place. Shallum in turn did not even last for a month before he was murdered by Menahem who reigned for the next ten years. However, it was in the reign of Menahem that Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria, attacked Israel and made Israel a vassal to Assyria. Pekahiah, the son of Menahem took over the throne after ten years. Alas, he ruled only two years before he was killed by his captain Pekah. Refer to further details on the slew of assassinations in 2 Kings 15.

The political intrigue with Israel will continue till the fall of Israel to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.

“The theme of Hosea is this: the tender-loving God offers one last chance of restoration to hardhearted, adulterous Israel. Israel is the unfaithful wife who has deserted her husband and gone after other lovers. God through the prophet Hosea invites her back: ‘O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God’ (14:1). Read these passages about God’s love: 2:14, 15, 19, 20; Chapter 3; 11:3, 4, 8; Chapter 14; Compare Romans 11:22. John has been called the apostle of love in the New Testament; Hosea could be called the prophet of love in the Old Testament.” (Jensen)

“Because the love of God for His people is unchanging even as His holy character remains constant without fail, so Jehovah is willing to accept his erring ones back to His fold, when they repent. This message vividly acted out by the prophet and his family is in line with Isaiah, who declares, “Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion” (8:18)

“While Hosea was a faithful husband even to an unfaithful wife, in Israel there were many religious leaders who were the reverse (Malachi 2:12-14). Every minister of God must take care of how he lives, not to self and sinful pleasure but to God and to His glory.” (Tow)

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew