Hear this, O priests! Pay attention, O house of Israel! Give ear, O house of the king! For the judgment is for you; for you have been a snare at Mizpah and a net spread upon Tabor. And the revolters have gone deep into slaughter, but I will discipline all of them.
As we begin Hosea chapter 4, you’ll notice that we have moved into a new section of this book. We have left behind the drama that is Hosea’s life and move into the rest of the book which is the word of the Lord given through Hosea. The first three chapters described God’s view of Israel through a picture: the marriage of a man to an evil and unfaithful wife. Even the children that resulted were used by God as a visible demonstration of the peoples’ guilt and shame, but also of God’s amazing love. Starting in chapter four until the end, we have recorded God’s message, mainly to Israel, the northern tribes, but also to a lesser degree to Judah. Judah will be called to look at their own sin and take warning in light of the sin and impending judgment upon Israel. As we work our way through the rest of the book we will be confronted with the sinfulness and depravity of the people but we will hear also of God’s love for his people and his mercy as he calls his people to return to him, to leave their evil ways and to come back to him.
Hosea chapter 3 is the end of the narrative that we find in Hosea. As we have seen, the story of the prophet Hosea and his wife Gomer was a situation specifically created by God to teach a lesson. After all, a normal man would not choose to enter into such a relationship knowing what he was getting into unless a). he was very foolish, b). he hated himself, or c). he was directed to do it by God. There might be other reasons, but I dare say that none of them would be that Hosea really wanted a relationship like what he was going into. As I began to study chapter 3, I thought it would be easy to study just by looking at the length. However, as I looked at various commentaries, I noticed that many of the details were contested. Thankfully, for my sake, the overall meaning of the text, the main point, was strongly agreed upon. As we look at this short chapter, I will try to help you navigate through the details as we arrive at the goal: what is God’s main point in all this? I want to look at this chapter in three sections. In verses 1-2 we find God’s purchase, in verse 3 we find God’s prescript and in the second half of verses three through five we find God’s promise.
Hosea Chapter 2
We can assume here that Hosea was a younger man, as the beginning of the book would have been around 753 BC. Hosea continued prophesying until 722, the year of the exile, and so we can safely assume that he was somewhere between 20 and 40 here at his marriage. It was not uncommon for prophets to be married, as we know Isaiah and Ezekiel had wives, although Elijah and Elisha probably did not, and Jeremiah was forbidden from marrying by God. Regardless, one thing that would never fall in the realm of acceptability was for a godly man to marry a prostitute. Such an act would all but guarantee that the man’s wife was not a believer, and especially for a prophet of God, this would be an act of treason on the man’s part. After all, Paul tells us that teachers of the word are to be held to higher standards, that we should not be unequally yoked in marriage, and that the wives of elders should be respectable and “faithful in all things” (1 Timothy 3:11). Yet God commands Hosea to do this, and Hosea simply obeys (much like Abraham does when asked to sacrifice Isaac—”So he went.”) One wonders how he chose Gomer. Did he put a lot of thought into it? Was attraction involved? Was she looking to escape her life and live more godly? Did she even want to go with him? There are a million questions we have that won’t be answered here, but keep in mind, it’s not really about Gomer and Hosea. They are pictures of a deeper truth.
The book of Hosea was written between 753-722 BC. This last year, 722, was the year of the exile of the northern 10 tribes of Israel by the kings of Assyria. The conquest of Israel actually took nearly 20 years, as the first captives were deported around 740 BC. Even in those dates, we see the tremendous mercy of God to an undeserving people, a major theme of the book. Hosea is the first of the twelve minor prophets. They’re called minor not because of their lesser importance but merely because of their shorter length. That’s an important point to make, as the minor prophets contain great wealth for Christians. The minor prophets are extensively quoted in the New Testament, and after Zechariah, Hosea is the most frequently quoted minor prophet by the apostles. Some of the most memorable sayings from God through the prophet include “I will have mercy rather than sacrifice” (6:7), “I will say to them who were not my people, You are my people, and they shall say, You are the LORD my God” (2:23), “O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting?” (13:14), and “Out of Egypt, I called my son” (11:1). So this should be somewhat familiar to us already.