Placed first of the minor prophets in the canon (one collective whole "the book of the prophets," Acts 7:42), probably because of the length, vivid earnestness, and patriotism of his prophecies, as well as their resemblance to those of the greater prophets, Chronologically Jonah was before him, 862 B.C., Joel about 810 B.C., Amos 790 B.C., Hosea 784 to 722 B.C., more or less contemporary with Isaiah and Amos. Began prophesying in the last years of Jeroboam II, contemporary with Uzziah; ended at the beginning of Hezekiah's reign. The prophecies of his extant are only those portions of his public teachings which the Holy Spirit preserved, as designed for the benefit of the uuiversal church. His name means salvation. Son of Beeri, of Issachar; born in Bethshemesh.
His pictures of Israelite life, the rival factions calling in Egypt and Assyria, mostly apply to the interreign after Jeroboam's death and to the succeeding reigns, rather than to his able government. In Hosea 2:8 he makes no allusion to Jehovah's restoration of Israel's coasts under Jeroboam among Jehovah's mercies to Israel. He mentions in the inscription, besides the reign of Jeroboam in Israel, the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, though his prophecies are addressed primarily to Israel and only incidentally to Judah; for all the prophets whether in Judah or Israel regarded Israel's separation from Judah, civil as well as religious, as an apostasy from God who promised the kingship of the theocracy to the line of David. Hence Elijah in Israel took twelve stones to represent Judah as well as Israel (1 Kings 18:31). Eichhorn sees a Samaritanism in the masculine suffix of the second person (-ak).
STYLE AND SUBJECT. Abrupt, sententious, and unperiodic, he is the more weighty and impressive. Brevity causes obscurity, the obscurity being designed by the Spirit to call forth prayerful study. Connecting particles are few. Changes of person, and anomalies of gender, number, and construction, abound. Horsley points out the excessively local and individual tone of his prophecies. He specifies Ephraim, Mizpah, Tabor, Gilgal, Bethel or Bethaven, Jezreel, Gibeah, Ramah, Gilead, Shechem, Lebanon, Arbela. Israel's sin, chastisement, and restoration are his theme. His first prophecy announces the coming overthrow of Jehu's house, fulfilled after Jeroboam's death, which the prophecy precedes, in Zachariah, Jeroboam's son, who was the fourth and last in descent from Jehu, and conspired against by Shallum after a six months' reign (2 Kings 15:12).
The allusion to Shalmaneser's expedition against Israel as past, i.e. the first inroad against Hoshea whose reign began only four years before Hezekiah's, accords with the inscription which extends his prophesying to the reign of Hezekiah (2 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 17:3; 2 Kings 18:9). He declares throughout that a return to Jehovah is the only remedy for the evils existing and impending: the calf worship at Bethel, established by Jeroboam, must be given up (Hosea 8:5-6; Hosea 10:5; Hosea 13:2); unrighteousness toward men, the necessary consequence of impiety towards God, must cease, or sacrifices are worthless (Hosea 4:2; Hosea 6:6, based on Samuel's original maxim, 1 Samuel 15:22). The Pentateuch is the foundation of his prophecies.
Here as there God's past favors to Israel are made the incentive to loving obedience (Hosea 2:8; Hosea 11:1; Hosea 12:9; Hosea 13:4, compare Exodus 20:2). Literal fornication and adultery follow close upon spiritual (Hosea 4:12-14). Assyria, the great northern power, which Israel foolishly regards as her friend to save her from her acknowledged calamities, Hosea foresees will be her destroyer (Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:11; Hosea 8:9; Hosea 12:1; Hosea 14:3; Hosea 3:4; Hosea 10:6; Hosea 11:11). Political makeshifts to remedy moral corruption only hasten the disaster which they seek to avert; when the church leans on the world in her distress, instead of turning to God, the world the instrument of her sin is made the instrument of her punishment.
Hosea is driven by the nation's evils, present and in prospect, to cling the more closely to God. Amidst his rugged abruptness soft and exquisite touches occur, where God's lovingkindness, balmy as the morning sun and genial as the rain, stands in contrast to Israel's goodness, evanescent as the cloud and the early dew (Hosea 6:3-4; compare also Hosea 13:3; Hosea 14:5-7).
DIVISIONS. There are two leading ones: Hosea 1-3; Hosea 4-14. Hosea 1; Hosea 2; and Hosea 3 form three separate cantos or parts, for Hosea 1-3 are more prose than poetry. Probably Hosea himself under the Spirit combined his scattered prophecies into one collection. Hosea 4-14, are an expansion of Hosea 3. On his marriage to Gomer, Henderson thinks that there is no hint of its being in vision, and that she fell into lewdness after her union with Hosea, thus fitly symbolizing Israel who lapsed into spiritual whoredom after the marriage contract with God on Sinai. (See GOMER.) But an act revolting to a pure mind would hardly be ordained by God save in vision, which serves all the purposes of a vivid and as it were acted prophecy. So the command to Ezekiel (Hosea 4:4-15).
Moreover it would require years for the birth of three children, which would weaken the force of the symbol. In order effectively to teach others Hosea must experimentally realize it himself (Hosea 12:10). Gomer, daughter of Diblaim, was probably one associated with the lascivious rites of the prevalent idolatries. Hosea's union in vision with such an one in spite of his natural repugnance would vividly impress the people with God's amazing love in uniting Himself to so polluted a nation. Hosea's taking her back after adultery (Hosea 3), at the price of a slave, marks Israel's extreme degradation and Jehovah's unchangeable love yet about to restore her. The truth expressed by prophetic act in vision was Israel's idolatry (spiritual impurity, "a wife of whoredoms") before her call in Egypt and in Ur of the Chaldees (Joshua 24:14) as well as after it.
So also the Saviour took out of an unholy world the church, that He might unite her in holiness to Himself. No more remarkable prophecy exists of Israel's anomalous and extraordinary state for thousands of years, and of her future restoration, than Hosea 3:4-5; "Israel shall abide many days without a king (which they so craved for originally), without a sacrifice (which their law requires as essential to their religion), without an image ... ephod ... teraphim (which they were in Hosea's days so mad after). Afterward shall Israel return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king ... in the latter days." But first must come her spiritual probation in the wilderness of trial (Hosea 2:14) and her return to the Egypt of affliction (Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:3), not literal "Egypt" (Hosea 11:5).
New Testament references: Hosea 11:1 = Matthew 2:15; Hosea 6:6 = Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7; Hosea 1:10; Hosea 2:1-23 = Romans 9:25-26; Hosea 13:14 = 1 Corinthians 15:55; Hosea 1:9-10; Hosea 2:23 = 1 Peter 2:10; Hosea 10:8 = Luke 23:30; Revelation 6:16; Hosea 6:2 = 1 Corinthians 15:4; Hosea 14:2 = Hebrews 13:15. The later prophets also stamp with their inspired sanction Hosea's prophecies, which they quote. Compare Hosea 1:11 with Isaiah 11:12-13; Hosea 4:3 with Zephaniah 1:3; Hosea 4:6 with Isaiah 5:13; Hosea 7:10 with Isaiah 9:12-13; Hosea 10:12 with Jeremiah 4:3<