By J. B. Tidell, A.M., D. D.
The Prophet. He is called the "Prophet of Divine Love." His name, Hosea, means "Deliverance." He was a native and citizen of Israel and followed Amos whom he may have heard in Bethel. He was a contemporary with Isaiah and bore faithful testimony to corrupt Israel in the North while Isaiah prophesied at Jerusalem and was to Israel what Jeremiah became to Judah. He was prepared for his work through the lessons which he learned from the sins of his unfaithful wife. (1) Through the suffering which he endured because of her sins, he understood how God was grieved at the wickedness of Israel and how her sins were not only against God's law but an insult to divine love. (2) In love and at great cost he restored his wayward wife and in that act saw a hope of the restoration and forgiveness of Israel. His ministry extended over more than sixty years and was perhaps the longest of any on record. It continued 786-726 B. C., covering the last few years of the reign of Jereboam II, to which Chs. 1-3 belong and the period of anarchy following.
The Style and Method. His style is "abrupt, uneven, inelegant," but also poetical, figurative and abounding in metaphors. His writings must be interpreted with great care to get what is meant by his symbolic speech. He reminds one of modern reformers and revivalists. Through all the anger which the book reveals we see also the surpassing beauty of reconciling love. One sees everywhere that the supreme goal to which Hosea moves is the re-establishment of Israel's fellowship of life and love with Jehovah.
Conditions of Israel. Outwardly there was prosperity. Syria and Moab had been conquered; commerce had greatly increased; the borders of the land had been extended and the temple offerings were ample. Inwardly there was decay. Gross immoralities were being introduced; worship was being polluted and the masses of the people crushed, while the Assyrian Empire was advancing and ready to crush Israel, whom, because of her sins, God had abandoned to her fate.
They countenanced oppression, murder, lying, stealing, swearing, etc. They had forgotten the law and their covenant to keep it and had substituted the worship of Baal for that of Jehovah, thereby becoming idolaters. They no longer looked to God in their distress but turned to Egypt and Assyria for help, and thereby put security and prosperity on a basis of human strength and wisdom instead of resting them upon a hope of divine favor.
I. Israel's Sin. illustrated by the tragedy of Hosea's unfortunate marriage, Chs. 1-3.
II. The Prophetic Discourses, Chs. 4-14.
For Study and Discussion. (1) Make a list of all the exhortations to penitence and reformation and study them. (2) Point out the different utterances of judgment upon the people. (3) Make a list of all the different sins condemned. (4) Make a list of the expressions of tender love for the wayward and backsliding one. (5) Make a list of all passages indicating grief and suffering because of the sin and danger of the one loved. (6) Political and religious apostacy. (7) Sin as infidelity to love-as spiritual adultery. (8) The invitations of the book.
The Prophet. His name means "Jehovah is God," but his birth-place and conditions of life are unknown. He very probably prophesied in Judah (2:15-17) and the time of his ministry is commonly thought to have been during the reign of Joash, king of Israel, and Amaziah, king of Judah. It seems certain his is one of the earliest (some think the very earliest) of the prophetic books, and his references to the temple and its services have caused some to conclude he was a priest.
The Prophecy. (1) The occasion of the prophecy was four successive plagues of insects, particularly the locusts (2:25) and a drouth (2:23) which had been unprecedented. These calamities the prophet declares are the results of their sins and should call them to repentance, that God may bless instead of curse their land. (2) The people repent and the calamity is removed. This is used by the prophet to foreshadow the coming destruction and restoration of Israel and this restoration is also doubtless used to prefigure Christian church and its triumph on earth. (3) The great subject is the terrible judgments of God which were to come upon the people because of their sins. (4) His great distinctive prophecy is 2;28-32 which was fulfilled on the day of pentecost, Acts 2:16-21. (B) In it all, he is emphasizing the rewards of the righteous and certain punishment of the wicked and thus he appealed to both the hopes and the fears of men. But the relief value of the book is its optimism. There was victory ahead, the righteous would finally triumph and be saved and God's enemies will be destroyed. The conflict of good and evil and of Israel and her enemies will end in entire and glorious triumph for Israel and right.
I. The Call to Repentance, Chs. 1:1-2:17.
II. Israel's Repentance and Jehovah's Promised Blessing, 2:18-3:21.
For Study and Discussion. (1) Point out the different statements about the drouth and locusts that indicate their severity and ruinous effects. (2) Collect the passages referring to the Messianic age and try to see how or what each foretells of that age. (3) Point out all references to the sins of Israel. (4) Collect evidences of the divine control of the universe as seen in the book.