Hosea began with the story of the prophet Hosea and his adulterous wife Gomer. Hosea was Living the relationship God had with His people. For the rest of the book we will find a diverse collection of Hosea’s prophecies that are mostly in chronological order. These go from early in his ministry during the reign of Jeroboam II until just before the destruction of Israel in 722 B.C. Hosea presents God’s charges against Israel, tells them of the severe consequences of their sins, and ends with a divine promise of future restoration. Hosea wastes no time, starting right off with the charges. Israel broke their covenant with the Lord. First Hosea focuses on their sins of omission. The very things that were supposed characterize the Israelites were lacking. There was no faithfulness, no kindness, and no knowledge of God. These are the things from which a Godly life should come. Hosea also charged them with their sins of commission. All of their crimes listed are prohibited by the Ten Commandments. These were the Israelites covenant responsibilities. But, because they didn’t even know the Lord they didn’t know to practice even the basics. As we have seen, God’s judgement falls on sinful people. Hosea reminded the Israelites that because of their sin even the land and all of nature would suffer. He also knows human nature well, telling the Israelites to not to point their finger at anyone else. They have no one to blame but themselves and their leaders…priests, prophets (who turned out to be false), and religious leaders. God’s judgement on these folks would be their stumbling and falling, both professionally and personally.
It was horrible that the priests refused to know the Lord and as a result, the people didn’t either. Now all of them would be destroyed. In looking at the commands of the Lord to the priests, God instructed them to know, practice and teach the laws of God. But these priests had forgotten them. And though it doesn’t seem fair in our human economy, as a result God would punish not only the religious leaders but the people as well for their wickedness. Earlier we read about punishment being an eye for an eye, meaning the punishment should fit the crime. Here we see God doing the same thing. The Israelites worshiped Canaanite fertility gods with the expectation of bountiful crops and herds. God’s judgement was that they would still be hungry and their religious prostitution would gain them nothing. Incredulously they turned to pieces of wood for advice! No one bothered to turn to the Lord, only to these idols. The Israelites were worshiping these idols on mountain and hill tops, and under trees. They committed sexual acts in the worship of Baal, perhaps forced to do so by fathers and husbands. All of these things God abhorred: None of which God would ask for or condone. As crazy was it may sound there were different kinds of prostitutes. Harlots were common prostitutes, but there were also shrine prostitutes who “worked” exclusively in the pagan sanctuaries with the male shrine prostitutes. They participated in sexual activities only for the worship of Baal. God would not punish the women because the men were doing the same thing. Hosea warned Judah not to engage in similar activities, encouraging them to avoid specific places as well. The other thing we see is that Hosea often refers to the northern kingdom of Israel as Ephraim. Ephraim was one of the largest tribes in the northern kingdom and they were descendants of Joseph along with the tribe of Manasseh. There was frustration in Hosea’s tone when he spoke of Ephraim. They were too far gone in their idol worship to be bothered with anymore. Divine judgement (a mighty wind) would sweep them away and they would eventually be embarrassed by their idolatry.
Chapter 5 speaks to the failure of Israel’s leaders and God’s judgement against Israel. Again Hosea condemns the leaders, both religious and political. They have led the people into idolatry as hunters trap wild animals in a snare or trap. Scripture does not tell us what the sins at Mizpah and Tabor might be other than extreme pagan worship. God’s judgement would fall on the leaders first and trickle down from there. However, God doesn’t judge to punish as much as He does to correct. That way the people will return to Him. God’s people were totally and completely defiled and the word defiled here means a ritual uncleanliness that disqualified a person from worshiping God in the temple. They could not come close to God in their present state. This uncleanliness is a result of Israel’s idolatry. But it seems that Israel’s idolatrous practices were so ingrained in her she had no way or desire to return to the Lord. Hosea said Israel was a prostitute through and through. The spirit of prostitution was in them. No longer was this idolatry just a behavior. It was the nations essential nature. This is who Israel had become. They instinctively preferred the corrupt to the pure, the unholy to the sacred. The only way out for Israel was through the saving grace of God. The people were so deluded they believed their sacrifices would placate God. They would win God’s favor back in this manner. However, God would not be found by them. He had left them to the consequences of their sins.
Hosea called for the alarms to be sounded to warn the Israelites of God’s coming judgement on their sins. He was now their enemy and He would punish them. The cities listed are all within the tribe of Benjamin, and in the day of God’s judgement they would all become heaps of rubble. Hosea also called out Judah for moving boundary markers. A thief could steal part of someone’s land by moving the landmark. The law warned that altering a boundary in this way could bring a special judgement from God. Not only that, but the Lord was the real owner of the land that had been entrusted to the tribes. Changing a boundary marker from God given boundaries was now akin to stealing from the Lord. This also warranted divine punishment. Hosea used the illustration of a moth destroying wool fabric. As a moth slowly destroys fabric, so the Lord would destroy Israel. Sin can destroy the very fabric and foundation of a people while leaving them unaware that the destruction is taking place.
In a final effort to avoid complete destruction the Israelites overthrew King Pekah and placed a new king, Hoshea on the throne. This king appealed to the Assyria king for protection, as did the king of Judah. The Assyrians were happy to take their money but they were most interested in exploiting God’s people politically and economically. This would not help or cure either kingdom, and the northern kingdom would soon be destroyed by Assyria. Once again Hosea reminded the Israelites that divine judgement was not merely punitive but corrective. God wanted His people to return to Him.
In response to God’s acts of judgement on Israel, the religious leaders called the people to return to the Lord in repentance and urged everyone to know the Lord. Notice the grace here; He has injured us and now He will bandage our wounds. He would restore them in a short time and once again the people would be able to live in His presence as they had once done. God’s restored presence would be as welcomed and blessed as the rains that came in the spring. The spring rains came and caused plants to grow. Autumn rains came and softened the ground for plowing and sowing. But, any faithfulness that Hosea’s generation might display was short lived and disappeared as quickly as fog or dew before sunlight. Chapter 6:6 is one of the key verses in this book. God is very specific in what He wants from His people. “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.” Mercy means loyalty or devotion. Knowledge of God does not refer to mere head knowledge, but to a genuine recognition of God’s authority that produces obedience to His commandments. First the Lord wants His people to show more love, than He wants sacrifices. God is always faithful and He requires the same of His people. Second the Lord wants Israel to know Him more than He wants burnt offerings. God wants an intimate, personal relationship with His people that is characterized by complete trust and integrity. Sacrifice still had a proper place in Israelite religion, but only when offered by people who truly knew and Loved God.
For the rest of chapter six, verses 7-11, Hosea traces the way that human rebellion against God began with Adam and spread through the cities of Israel to the land of Judah. Both Gilead and Shechem were cities of refuge where manslayers could find asylum, but now these citied had been contaminated by bloodshed. Hosea again condemned the religious leaders for their crimes. In verse 10 Hosea used a rare word, horrible. He uses the word to describe the depth of Israel’s sin in breaking God’s covenant and betraying His trust. Finally, the comparison of God’s judgement to a harvest indicates that the judgement was inevitable and implies that it would be thorough in its destruction.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W