Hosea, the Son of Beeri
“The word of the LORD that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel” (v. 1).- Hosea 1:1–3
Chronologically, the next writing prophet after Amos and Jonah is Hosea, the first of the twelve Minor Prophets in our Bibles. Like Amos and Jonah, Hosea’s ministry occurred during the reign of King Jeroboam II in the north. However, Hosea’s work also continued long past Jeroboam’s death, as he kept serving through the reign of King Hezekiah in Judah (Hos. 1:1; see 2 Kings 14:25; Amos 1:1). Jeroboam II died in 753 BC, and Hezekiah took Judah’s throne sometime around the fall of the northern kingdom in 722 BC (2 Kings 17:1–5; 18:1); thus, Hosea prophesied for about thirty to forty years.
We know almost nothing about Hosea except what is found in the book that bears his name. At the start of his ministry, the northern kingdom of Israel was experiencing prosperity that was surpassed only under the reigns of David and Solomon (2 Kings 14:23–29). Yet things changed dramatically after Jeroboam II died. Over the next twenty years, there was upheaval in Samaria, Israel’s capital, as four of the six kings who followed Jeroboam II were assassinated (2 Kings 15:8–31). Some of these kings made overtures to the far more powerful Assyrian Empire in order to secure their own positions, effectively turning Israel into a client state of Assyria (vv. 17–21). When Israel eventually revolted, Assyria invaded and took the Israelites into exile in 722 BC (17:1–6).
From God’s perspective, idolatry was the fundamental problem. The Lord sent Hosea to Israel both to warn the people against foreign alliances and, more importantly, to denounce the ethical violations and syncretistic worship of the northern kingdom (Hos. 4; 8:4, 9–10). Hosea preached “doom and gloom” (9:16–17) as he warned Israel that God would reject them and hand them over to Assyria. Nevertheless, the prophet also had words of hope for the faithful remnant of Israel. Destruction would come, but there would be an incredible restoration on the other side of exile (1:10–11; 2:14–23).
Today’s passage tells us the Lord called Hosea to serve by commanding him to marry “a wife of whoredom”—Gomer. In so doing, Hosea acted out the relationship between God and His people Israel, who had committed spiritual adultery by leaving her husband, Yahweh, for lovers in the form of false gods (1:2; 2:1–13). Yet despite Israel’s cheating ways, the Lord did not give up on His bride. God sent Hosea to woo Israel back to Him and to warn the covenant community that adultery would lead only to its ruin.
The imagery of God as the husband of His covenant people—His bride—is pervasive in Scripture (Isa. 62:5; Rev. 19:6–10). It is a picture of great intimacy and tenderness, conveying the deep love that the Lord has for His people. We are called to return that love to Him, to know Him and enjoy a oneness in heart and mind with Him that mirrors what occurs in godly marriages. Are you pursuing the Lord so that you may achieve this kind of relationship with Him?
Passages for Further Study
Song of Solomon 4:1–16