Introducing the Book of Hosea

We know little about Hosea. He was a preacher to the northern kingdom of Israel during the days of Jeroboam (II) (see chronological orientation, also compare prophetic headings). He married an unfaithful woman and named his children as signs, all of which complimented his message of judgment.

The brief narratives in chapters 1 and 3 serve as the setting in which to hear the collection of poetic sermons of the rest of the book. Whatever the original setting of the poetic sermons, the present shape of the book is applied to Judah as well. Thus, the book is multi-situational and transgenerational. Its message of unfaithfulness in the face of God’s loyalty and love speaks to the community of faith through the ages. The book as it stands, therefore, invites readers to embrace Hosea’s message as an enduring testimony to Israel’s sin and God’s faithfulness.

The General Structure of The Book of Hosea[1]

How does a faithful God love his unfaithful people?

I           The Prophet’s Family as a Symbol of Judgment (1-3)

A         Hosea’s family

            Gomer bat-Diblaim (daughter of “Two Figs,” perhaps veiled reference to “raisin cakes,” 3:1, sometimes used as an aphrodisiac in Canaanite fertility religions); Jezreel (“God plants,” i.e., the valley where Israel will be judged, 1:4-5); Lo-Ruhamah (“not loved”; cf. Deut 4:37); Lo-Ammi (“not my people”; cf. Lev 26:12) 

B         Yahweh’s unfaithful wife (2:1-13)

C         Yahweh, the faithful husband (2:14-23)

            2:16-17 note the play on ba’al (“master”). 2:21-23 note the future hope described as a play on the three children’s names.

D         Hosea, the forgiving husband (3:1-5)

II         The Unfaithful People and Their Faithful God (4-13)

A         Unfaithful Israel condemned (4-9)

B         The reflections on the sinfulness of Israel (10-13)

            Judah is mentioned repeatedly; an editor reapplied these indictments against Judah (1:7, 11; 4:15; 5:5, 10, 14; 6:4, 11; 8:14; 10:11; 12:2[2]

III        Return (14)

[1] Based on my own reading and C. L. Seow, “Hosea, Book of,” ABD, 3: 295; B. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture.
[2] Many of these look like they could be editorial updating for use of the writing in Judah. See Childs, Introduction, 378-80.

Also see introduction to the prophets, and see bibliography on the prophets.

Copyright 2011