The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ
by Paul R. Van Gorder
Hosea is the first and the longest of the group of books we call ''the minor prophets.'' He was a contemporary of Amos in Israel, and of Isaiah and Micah in Judah. He prophesied in Judah, during and following the Assyrian captivity of the Northern Kingdom-- an era in which the Southern Kingdom was both greatly prosperous and very corrupt. The name ''Hosea'' means ''deliverance'' or ''salvation.'' He lived during the long and vigorous reign of Jeroboam II, king of Israel. Unlike the prophet Isaiah, who was burdened chiefly about Judah and Jerusalem, Hosea was principally occupied in expressing the sorrow of Jehovah for the Northern Kingdom. The children of Israel had broken His covenant and hardened their hearts against Him.

Hosea became a part of his own message. The prophet had an unfaithful wife, Gomer. In spite of her persistent sin and shameful life, Hosea continued to cherish her. After her lovers had abandoned her, Hosea found her in the slave market, paid the price to reclaim her, forgave her, and took her again as his wife. By enduring this grief, his heart was prepared to deliver the message of Jehovah to Israel, the nation that had been unfaithful to the Lord, and had committed spiritual adultery.

  1. The Moral State of Israel (ch. 1-3)
  2. The Sins of God's People (4:1- 13:13)
  3. The Conversion and Blessing of Israel (13:14- 14:9)
Let us now consider each of these sections carefully.
Chapters 1 through 3 depict the moral condition of Israel. The nation had been a wife to Jehovah. He had committed to her the honor of His name, but she had become an adulteress (1:2,3). The names given to the prophet's children tell us a number of things about the effect of Israel's sin.
Then Jehovah promised to restore both Israel and Judah-- a prophecy that remains to be fulfilled in the future (1:10,11). They will one day be reunited and re-established as the earthly representative of Jehovah (see Romans 9:25,26).
Chapter 2 reveals both God's grief at Israel's sin, and His unchanging love as demonstrated in His willingness to take her back. Verse 23 of chapter 2 is interpreted in Romans 9:26 as referring to the conversion of the Gentiles.

Next the wife of Hosea is bought back (3:1-3). Then follows a prediction that is being literally fulfilled today: ''For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim'' (3:4). The prophecy of verse 5 will also be literally fulfilled: ''Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord, their God, and David, their king, and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.''

The specific sins of God's people are enumerated in Part II of Hosea (4:1- 13:13). The Lord said, ''My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge'' (4:6). He went on to explain that the knowledge lacking in Israel was not financial, scientific, or commercial; but ''thou hast forgotten the law of thy God'' (v.6). Jehovah spoke with bold, blunt words, signifying that the Israelites had insulted His holiness and outraged His love. He delivered a heavy indictment against Israel.

The final section of the prophecy depicts the future conversion and blessing of Israel (13:14- 14:9). It begins with the prediction of coming judgment, which was fulfilled when Israel was carried away to Assyria. Judah continued to survive for more than a century and a half, but then she fell. A remnant of Judah returned to Palestine, but Israel did not. The book closes with a description of the day that is coming when Israel and Judah, at the verge of destruction because of iniquity, will return unto the Lord and experience His healing (14:4-9).

A number of useful lessons may be learned from a study of this book.
  1. Worldliness in God's people, whenever it occurs, is designated by God, with the word of Hosea 1:2, as ''harlotry'' [''whoredom'']. In his epistle, James calls it spiritual ''adultery'' (James 4:4).
  2. God's Word is always revealing. ''Hear the word of the Lord'' is Hosea's constant plea. The psalmist said, ''Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word'' (Psalm 119:9).
  3. Israel's failure is a picture of the church's sin. The church has forgotten that she is espoused to God, and her committing of spiritual adultery is evident in many realms.
  4. The heart-cry of God for the backslider and spiritual adulterer is expressed in the words, ''How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?'' (11:8).
  5. A final view of God's mercy to the repentant and returning one is found in His promise: ''I will be as the dew unto Israel'' (14:5). Truly, God's mercy endures forever.
The apostle Peter and the apostle Paul both alluded to Hosea 1:10 as having to do with [those who place their faith in] the Messiah (1Pet 2:10; Rom 9:25,26).

Israel's rejection of their King-- their true ''High Priest after the order of Melchizedek''-- and the sacrifice which He offered has brought the people into the place where they have neither king nor prince nor sacrifice (Hos 3:4). The verse that follows describes their glorious future, which is made possible because the people will seek the Lord their God and their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ (v.5).

Resurrection is spoken of in Hosea 6:2. Whenever the ''third day'' is mentioned in the Scriptures, look carefully and you will see some connection with the resurrection of Christ. In a very real sense, not only is our resurrection made possible because of His, but the resurrection of the nation of Israel also depends upon the crucified, buried, and risen Christ.

Hosea also recorded these words of Jehovah: ''I... called My Son out of Egypt'' (11:1). This prophecy had its primary fulfillment in Israel's 400-year sojourn [in Egypt]. But we learn from Matthew 2:15 that the real [ie., ultimate] fulfillment of Hosea's prophecy is in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Near the end of Hosea's prophecy, Jehovah, the covenant-keeping Redeemer, said, ''...there is no savior beside Me'' (13:4). Of course, the Jehovah of the Old Testament is the Lord Jesus Christ of the New. ''Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved'' (Acts 4:12). An angel of the Lord appeared unto Joseph and assured him that he did not need to fear taking Mary to be his wife, ''for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit'' (Mat 1:20). The angel also said, ''Thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins'' (Mat 1:21). Hosea stated a great truth, which the apostle Paul affirmed when he wrote: ''For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.'' (1Timothy 2:5,6).

See the Book Notes on Hosea for a verse by verse study of this book.

Return to table of contents for ''The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ,''
written by Paul R. Van Gorder, Copyright 1982 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission [within The Book from].
Further distribution is not allowed without permission from RBC.

For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in Christ in All the Scriptures, by A.M. Hodgkin.

Go to The Book opening page.