Hosea (Hebrew: הוֹשֵׁעַ, Modern Hoshea Tiberian Hôšēăʻ ; "Salvation of/is the Lord", Greek Ὠσηέ = Ōsēe) was the son of Beeri and a prophet in Israel in the 8th century BC. He is one of the Twelve Prophets of the Jewish Hebrew Bible, also known as the Minor Prophets of the Christian Old Testament. Hosea is often seen as a "prophet of doom", but underneath his message of destruction is a promise of restoration. The Talmud (Pesachim 87a) claims that he was the greatest prophet of his generation, which included the more famous Isaiah.
Little is known about the life or social status of Hosea. According to the Book of Hosea, he married the prostitute Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, at God's command. He lived in the Northern Kingdom in the period 780–725 BC. In Hosea 5:8 ff., there is a reference to the wars which led to the capture of the kingdom by the Assyrians (ca. 734–732 BC). It is not certain if he has also experienced the destruction of Samaria, which is foreseen in Hosea 14:1.
Hosea's family life reflected the "adulterous" relationship which Israel had built with polytheistic gods. The relationship between Hosea and Gomer parallels to the relationship between God and Israel. Even though Gomer runs away from Hosea and sleeps with another man, he loves her anyway and forgives her. Likewise, even though the people of Israel worshipped other gods, God continued to love them and did not abandon his covenant with them.
Similarly, his children's names made them like walking prophecies of the fall of the ruling dynasty and the severed covenant with God – much like the prophet Isaiah a generation later. The name of Hosea's daughter, Lo-ruhamah, which translates as "not pitied," is chosen by God as a sign of displeasure with the people of Israel for following other gods. (In Hosea 2:23 she is redeemed, shown mercy with the term Ruhamah.) The name of Hosea's son, Lo-ammi, which translates as "not my people," is chosen by the Lord as a sign of the Lord's displeasure with the people of Israel for following other gods (see Hosea 1:8-9).
One of the early writing prophets, Hosea used his own experience as a symbolic representation of God and Israel: God the husband, Israel the wife. Hosea's wife left him to go with other men; Israel left the Lord to go with other gods. Hosea searched for his wife, found her and brought her back; God would not abandon Israel and brought them back even though they had forsaken him.
The book of Hosea was a severe warning to the northern kingdom against the growing idolatry being practiced there; the book was a dramatic call to repentance. Christians extend the analogy of Hosea to Christ and the church: Christ the husband, his church the bride. Christians see in this book a comparable call to the church not to forsake the Lord Jesus Christ. Christians also take the buying back of Gomer as the redemptive qualities of Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross.
He is commemorated with the other Minor prophets in the Calendar of saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on July 31. He is commemorated on the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar, with a feast day on October 17 (for those churches which follow the Julian Calendar, October 17 currently falls on October 30 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). He is also commemorated on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers (the Sunday before the Nativity of the Lord).