Hosea_and_Gomer
Illustration of Hosea and Gomer from a 1372 Bible

What is in Hosea?
Hosea is the twenty-eighth book of the Bible and one of the Old Testament prophetic books. Israel (also known as Ephraim in this book, as well as several others), under the command of the evil king Jereboam II, had turned to Baal, a false god, to sustain them. It is in this type of cultural climate that Hosea appears as a prophet.

In the first three chapters, the Lord has Hosea perform an illustrative example to go along with His word: to symbolize Israel’s unfaithfulness, Hosea was commanded to marry an unfaithful wife, and to have children with her. No doubt this would seem weird to us today, but through this God shows Israel that even though they have pulled away from Him, He is still waiting with mercy to receive them back, like Hosea’s commitment to his unfaithful wife Gomer. Hosea took Gomer back after she committed adultery, under the command of the Lord. Israel is prophesized to turn back to God in the future.

Hosea calls Israel out on its unfaithfulness, running to Baal and all the sinful practices that accompany him. He also warns both Israel and Judah of destruction if this trend continues (and for the most part, this does happen). Hosea 5:15-6:3 provides hope, for if the Lord is sought again, judgment can be averted, but it is provided deep within an unflattering presentation of Israel and Judah’s sins. They have forgotten the covenant that God made with the Israel of old, and God is heartbroken over His people’s apostasy (Hosea 11:1-11). The book ends with a final plea to return to the Lord.

Who wrote it?
Hosea 1:1 states that the book consists of the word of the Lord that came to Hosea. There is no widely accepted reason that Hosea couldn’t have written the book.

When does it take place?
We can determine the timeframe of Hosea’s ministry by knowing the kings who served during his time. They were: Uzziah (792-740 B.C.), Jotham (750-732), Ahaz (735-715), and Hezekiah (715-686) in Judah, and Jeroboam (the second, 793-753) in Israel, all listed in Hosea 1:1. Putting them all together yields a prophetic career centered in the late 8th century B.C.

When was it written?
See above.

Why was it written?
Hosea was written in order to warn Israel of its apostasy, which had been repeated throughout the ages but was now reaching a breaking point of sorts. Israel was turning to other gods and other nations to protect them. Eventually, the nation of Assyria would move to attack Israel.

Who is in Hosea?
There is the prophet Hosea, and the recipient of his prophesying is mainly the people of Israel in their unfaithfulness.

How does Hosea apply to me today?
A key theme of Hosea is faithfulness (and lack thereof). Over time, the people of Israel strayed from their covenant with God. Because of God’s very nature, which includes an eternal, self-sacrificing love which is compared to the love between a husband and wife in Hosea 1-3 (a love that would later see His son Jesus die for the sake of humanity), God still loves his people even when the Israelites reject Him, and He is described as being absolutely heartbroken. Because of the Israelite’s rebellion against God, Hosea warns that the Israelites will be driven out of their own land—into exile! God warned of this a very long time ago, in Deuteronomy 7:6-11, saying Israel had no such thing as a get out of jail free card for divine judgment if they should stray from God. Because of both His love and for the sake of upholding the covenant (bringing up a savior, Jesus, through the Israelite house of David), God relents from complete destruction, and promises to ‘heal their apostasy’ (Hosea 14:4).

What does that mean for us? God’s promise, especially in light of Jesus, tells us that apostasy (falling away from God) is something that can be recovered from. Jesus offers forgiveness for each person regardless of the depths of their apostasy, provided the person in question turns toward the Lord once again. Also, we see in Hosea that it pains God to pass judgment on His people Israel. In the Bible, God went to great lengths compared to the gods in virtually any other religion to guide His people on the path to righteousness (and He will do even greater things later in the Bible!), but Israel still spurned that path. Yet, God still waits for the day they’ll come back. It’s exactly the same for us, as we are all God’s creation. God wants us to follow him, and He gave us the tools to do so (such as the Bible and the Holy Spirit). The only question is if we want to pursue Him or not.

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Recommended resources:

As for all posts in this series, a book introduction in a good study Bible will provide more information than listed here. The ESV Study Bible is one recommendation.
The Bible Project’s video on Hosea.