The story of God’s covenant people from the reign of David through the exile is told in multiple layers, as though filling a bowl. The books of Kings and Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, are the large rocks that fill most of the space and have to go in first. Next comes a bucket of gravel – Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel fill in a lot of the gaps that the historical books leave, but not all of them. The twelve prophets are like fine sand, working alongside the chroniclers and more expansive prophets, and striking precisely at the issues the LORD wants to address. They don’t really make sense without the larger historical context, and they furthermore make that history more complete.
Hosea begins the twelve writings known popularly as the Minor Prophets. They are distinguished from the “Major” prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel – mostly by their brevity. You’ll also notice that almost every one of these twelve has a singular concern on which to focus, unlike their longer brethren. Many of them are contemporaries of prophets we’ve already read, and some of them, such as Haggai and Zechariah, are mentioned elsewhere.
Around 760 B.C. the word of the LORD came to Hosea, the son of Beeri. The opening sentence of his work tells us that he ministered during the days of Jeroboam II in the north, and a variety of kings in the South. Interestingly, though he outlives Jeroboam by at least 25 years, Hosea mentions none of the successors who warred over his throne.
And that opening sentence is the only time this reading will feel safe. Before you dive into the first chapter, I’m going to remind you of what we’ve seen in the prophets. In Isaiah, the prophet cycled through themes of idolatry, justice, worship, condemnation, and restoration. In Jeremiah, the prophet agonized with and for his people. In Ezekiel, the LORD commissioned vivid, living metaphors. And to Daniel, the LORD revealed wisdom that made him the envy of his peers.
These writings express the range and intensity of the LORD’s emotions. They reveal His passion for His covenant people and His determination to be known in all the earth. Keep all of this close as Hosea’s ministry begins with the LORD’s command: “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom.”
Our verses for this week are Psalm 37:4-5: Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act.
Hosea 1 through 3. Now let’s read it!
Hosea 1 - 3
1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.
When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
And the LORD said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”
She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”
When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the LORD said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
2:1 Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.”
“Plead with your mother, plead—
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband—
that she put away her whoring from her face,
and her adultery from between her breasts;
lest I strip her naked
and make her as in the day she was born,
and make her like a wilderness,
and make her like a parched land,
and kill her with thirst.
Upon her children also I will have no mercy,
because they are children of whoredom.
For their mother has played the whore;
she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
who give me my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’
Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns,
and I will build a wall against her,
so that she cannot find her paths.
She shall pursue her lovers
but not overtake them,
and she shall seek them
but shall not find them.
Then she shall say,
‘I will go and return to my first husband,
for it was better for me then than now.’
And she did not know
that it was I who gave her
the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and who lavished on her silver and gold,
which they used for Baal.
Therefore I will take back
my grain in its time,
and my wine in its season,
and I will take away my wool and my flax,
which were to cover her nakedness.
Now I will uncover her lewdness
in the sight of her lovers,
and no one shall rescue her out of my hand.
And I will put an end to all her mirth,
her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths,
and all her appointed feasts.
And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees,
of which she said,
‘These are my wages,
which my lovers have given me.’
I will make them a forest,
and the beasts of the field shall devour them.
And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals
when she burned offerings to them
and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry,
and went after her lovers
and forgot me, declares the LORD.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
“And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.
“And in that day I will answer, declares the LORD,
I will answer the heavens,
and they shall answer the earth,
and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and they shall answer Jezreel,
and I will sow her for myself in the land.
And I will have mercy on No Mercy,
and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’;
and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”
3:1 And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.