Author and His Times
Hosea prophesied in Israel (758-722 BC) about spiritual adultery and knowing God. He finishes his prophecies just prior to the Assyrian captivity, although some speculate he continued a few years in. Since Hosea’s prophecies of destruction overlapped with the unprecedented success of Jeroboam II’s reign, few had the imagination to register danger.
Morality was lost to idolatry and evil priests; safety to corrupt leaders, justice to easily bribed judges. Family life eroded to drunkenness and temple prostitution. Dependence and simple living was long lost to the indulgences available during Jeroboam II’s reign.
Kingship instability set in after Jeroboam II’s death. Two assassinations and three kings surfaced in the first seven months. King Menahem did well for 10 years, but his son quickly lost the throne to Pekah. King Pekah formed an alliance with Rezin (king of the Arameans/Syrians) to rebel against tribute paid Assyria. Tiglath-Pileser III, one of the most successful military comanders of world history, founder of the Assyrian empire, conquerer of most of the known world, had quickly brought the entire region under tribute when coming into power (745-727 BC). The alliance declared war on Judah for not joining, Judah is captured/sacked, Judah turned to Assyria for deliverance, Assyria overan the alliance in 732, and finished off with entire inhilation/deportation in 722 BC when their appointed puppet King Hoshea proved faithless. The land of Israel was all but entirely depopulated as 27,000 captives were taken, and captives from other regions were moved in with Assyrian governors.
Promised help from Egypt proved hollow as usual. Turning to Egypt instead of YHWH was a dominant contributor to both Israel and Judah’s fall.
I. (1-3) Introducing Israel’s Adultery and YHWH’s Unfailing Love
II. (4-10) Oracles on Israel’s Unfaithfulness
III. (11-14) Promised Restoration and Love
No other book more dramtically depicts YHWH’s unfailing love amidst the tension of justice. God makes the metaphor of his love visual by instructing Hosea to marry a prostitute, and then to essentially marry her all over again after her unfaithfulness.
Very dramatic metaphors are used – YHWH as depicted as a lion, leopard, bear, eagle (vulture), trapper, husband, lover, parent, pine tree.
How to Read It
Lack of introductory and concluding formulas make it difficult to determine oracle divisions. Translation of the book was difficult, so keep your eye on the footnotes.