When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling; he was exalted in Israel, but he incurred guilt through Baal and died. 2 And now they sin more and more, and make for themselves metal images, idols skillfully made of their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen. It is said of them, “Those who offer human sacrifice kiss calves!” 3 Therefore they shall be like the morning mist or like the dew that goes early away, like the chaff that swirls from the threshing floor or like smoke from a window. 4 But I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior. 5 It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought; 6 but when they had grazed,[a] they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me. 7 So I am to them like a lion; like a leopard I will lurk beside the way. 8 I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs; I will tear open their breast, and there I will devour them like a lion, as a wild beast would rip them open. 9 He destroys[b] you, O Israel, for you are against me, against your helper. 10 Where now is your king, to save you in all your cities? Where are all your rulers— those of whom you said, “Give me a king and princes”? 11 I gave you a king in my anger, and I took him away in my wrath. 12 The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is kept in store. 13 The pangs of childbirth come for him, but he is an unwise son, for at the right time he does not present himself at the opening of the womb. 14 I shall ransom them from the power of Sheol; I shall redeem them from Death.[c] O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes. 15 Though he may flourish among his brothers, the east wind, the wind of the Lord, shall come, rising from the wilderness, and his fountain shall dry up; his spring shall be parched; it shall strip his treasury of every precious thing. 16 [d] Samaria shall bear her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword; their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.
We’ve been in Hosea for a while now and it is easy to forget that Hosea is a man that has been called to preach to a bunch of stiff-necked, self-righteous, and just plain wicked people. They have heard the warnings of God and God has given them many prophets over the years. Can you imagine the task that Hosea has? Hosea has must call out these warnings to a people that have rejected God. One might be tempted to despair. Why keep calling out to these people when they are so far gone? Why have mercy on a people that are so wicked? Why would God rescue any of these people? It is tempting to look at our own nation and think: God, why would you save any of this? I’ve seen some give up on people and have grown calloused toward others. Those who call themselves Christians have labeled others as racists or phobics, etc and then write others off. As Christians, are we a people of no hope? Are we to look at others and say “there’s no hope,”? I think Hosea would say otherwise. He knew with God there is always hope. We saw in chapter 11 this growing idea of restoration and hope and it will continue until the end of the book. In chapter 12 we see Hosea explain the state of the nation and then he uses Jacob, the originator of the nation of Israel, as a hope restoring picture.
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.