Theme: The particular theme of Hosea is “God’s love for His adulterous nation.” A second theme is the illustration God uses to give us an earthly picture of the main theme. The secondary theme is Hosea’s love for his adulterous wife, Gomer.
* From the Ryrie Study Bible – “The theme is God’s steadfast love for Israel in spite of her continued unfaithfulness, vividly depicted by Hosea’s marital experience. Hosea married Gomer only to discover she was unfaithful. Though separation followed, Hosea’s love (like God’s for His people) persisted, and reconciliation eventually ensued. (Note this next part – PR)
Three views have been proposed concerning Hosea’s marriage.
1) Merely an allegory, the book contains no factual history of an actual marriage.
2) Hosea married a woman who was already a harlot, perhaps a temple prostitute.
3) Gomer became a harlot after her marriage.
Though Hosea’s tragic experience illustrates God’s love for His wayward people, there are no legitimate grounds for rejecting the historicity of the marriage. Whether #2 or # 3 is correct is difficult to determine.” PR’s Note – I hold to #3 as I believe the phrase in 1:2 is proleptic. In other words, God was using a description in anticipation of its becoming an applicable reality.
Date: During the reign of Jeroboam II between 785-725 B.C.
Author: The prophet Hosea. His name means “salvation.” He was a contemporary of Isaiah and Micah in Judah and began his career shortly after Amos’s brief one in Israel. Beyond this account of his marriage and the name of his father (1:1), we know nothing more of Hosea’s personal life. Hosea was the last prophet God raised up in Israel to appeal to His people to repent of their sin. Hosea is considered by many to be one of the longest-ministering prophets.
Recipients: This is written primarily to Israel, the northern kingdom, but there is also a warning to Judah, the southern kingdom. This is also addressed to the nation at large and to us, as God uses the events in this prophet’s life to speak of His relationship with His people.
Purpose: This is another of the Old Testament books which clearly show us that God can not and never will cast off or forget His nation, Israel.
Highlights/Lowlights: Hosea married a woman named Gomer, who according to God, was going to be a harlot. To this marriage, three children were born (though she would birth many with other men). These three children represent the relationship of individuals to God and the relationship of the nation to God at various times in its history:
1) Jezreel (son), his name means “God sows”, “scattered”, “planted by God”. This refers to a valley in northern Israel which is where Jehu murdered the sons of Ahab in order to seize the throne (2 Kings 10). This period was fulfilled by Assyrian captivity in 722.
2) Lo-ruhamah, (daughter), her name means “no mercy” or “not pitied”. This symbolizes the plight of the nation of Israel.
3) Lo-ammi (son), his name means “not my people”. This symbolizes the rejection of Israel, who at Sinai, had covenanted to be God’s people.
So, from Hosea’s perspective he was sharing with the people that there would come a time when the nation would be scattered from Jerusalem, and at that time Israel would be considered “not pitied” and not God’s children. But the time is also ultimately coming when He will plant them in their land and then they will once again be His people (2:23). Jezreel, a place of judgment in 1:4 is viewed in 1:11 as a place of blessing in the coming Kingdom Age.
Spiritually speaking, Israel was Jehovah’s wife. In her unfaithfulness to Him, she had gone deeper and deeper into idolatry. Hosea now announces that Jehovah is going to chasten His unfaithful wife and that eventually He will buy her back and restore her to a place of blessing. This is illustrated poignantly by the sad personal experience of Hosea.
A true highlight is the faithful, loving forgiveness of Hosea for his wife. This is one of the most emotional love stories in the entire Bible. Following their marriage, Gomer became so unfaithful that this book tells us the city was populated with her children from various lovers. She sank so low that she became a slave and a prostitute, but then as we arrive at chapter 3, she came to the end of herself, and after her last lover was done with her and again stuck her on the auction block, we see Hosea coming and out-bidding everyone else. For 15 pieces of silver and 1.5 bushels of grain, he buys her. He takes her home and says to her, “I will love you, and I will be only for you, and you will be only for me” (3:1-5). What an incredible love story- - showing to us the commitment of marriage.
I. The Adulterous Wife (ch. 1-3) These chapters relate the sordid details of their stormy marriage. Gomer having left Hosea for other lovers, sank so low, but came to the point where she wanted to return home. In loving forgiveness, Hosea brought her back.
II. The Adulterous Nation (ch. 4-14) These chapters deal with the sins of Israel. Their sins of unfaithfulness and idolatry against God are portrayed with all of their disastrous consequences, but through it all, just as Hosea’s physical love withstood Gomer’s unfaithfulness, God’s love and compassion stand out to a remarkable extent. Israel, unfortunately, must reap the consequences of her sins, although hope for the future is never lost. (13:9-14:9)