INTRODUCTION TO Hosea
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Before analyzing the test of any book of the Bible, it is well to learn the historical background.
Also, it is best to make a "skyscraper" view of its general contents. Accordingly, this introduction is divided into two parts: background and survey.
- Most scholars believe Hosea spoke these words and eventually compiled them into a book just before Samaria fell. Some scholars believe that he did not compile the book while agreeing that he did speak it. Little is known about him since no references to him exist in the historical books or the other prophets. Nothing is known about his father Berri.
- Hosea means salvation. Hosea, Joshua, and Jesus are derived from the same Hebrew root word.
- Hosea is the only one of the written prophets to be from Israel with his message directed to Israel. Amos also directed his message to Israel, However, Amos was from Judah and quickly thrown out of the northern kingdom. (Amos' deportation might be the reason the Lord raised up Hosea.) Jonah is also from the northern kingdom. However his message was only to Nineveh.
- Hosea lived in the last years of the northern kingdom. It is not known what happened to Hosea when Assyria invaded the northern kingdom and took its people into exile. (722-721 B.C.)
- Hosea uses a lot of terms concerning agriculture leaving some scholars to speculate he or his father was a farmer.
- Hosea's ministry was just after Amos' ministry. Hosea might have known Isaiah, Amos, Micah, and even Jonah. He probably knew of other prophets located in the northern kingdom's (aka Samaria, Israel, Ephraim).
- Amos did not mention the nation that would attack Israel and take them off to captivity. Hosea states the nation would be Assyria.
- Date and Place of Writing
- Hosea's ministry covered at least 38 years (probably 40) according to the list of kings in 1:1. (754 to 714 B.C.)
- Elisha finished his ministry about forty years before Hosea.
- Uzziah was king of Judah (1:1) from 779-740 B.C. He was a godly king for most of his reign, until the very end of his life. Jotham reigned in Judah from 750-736 B.C. Ahaz reigned in Judah from 736-728 B.C. Hezekiah reigned in Judah from 727-699 B.C. Hezekiah was a godly king.
- The only northern king mentioned in 1:1 was Jeroboam II, son of Jehoash. He reigned from 793-743 B.C. He was not a godly king in the Lord's eyes. It is not known why the final kings of Israel are not listed. One probable reason is the constant changing and dual reigns. (See "List of Israel's Kings and Prophets" link above.)
- A remarkable event happened just before Hosea' ministry. Joaboam II extended the boarders of Israel (the northern kingdom) to its size as was during Solomon's reign (past Damascus). The victories the Lord God gave through Jeroboam II came when Damascus was defeated by the Assyrians in 797 B.C. (2 Kings 14:26-27) Damascus had prior to this dominated and controlled the northern kingdom. (2 Kings 13:7) After their victories instead of thanking their God who had given the victory and encouraging words through Elisha (2 Kings 13:17-19) and Jonah (2 Kings 14:25), Israel and her king became proud and complacent. (Amos 6:1, 5:18-20) They even started to look for the Lord to destroy even more nations and thus make them the world power. Amos and Hosea's message of coming destruction must have seemed laughable to the Israelites. The constant change of kings due to assassination after Jeroboam II shows the political decay that came because of the continual spiritual decay.
- Hosea addresses the entire nation of Israel, the northern kingdom.
- Since this book concerns the love plea of the Lord for people to turn from sin to his love it is also appropriate to our generation.
- Occasion and Purpose
- During Jeroboam's reign Israel (Samaria) was politicly secure, spiritually smug, and seemed powerful. Moral decay and ethical corruption was rampant. Political anarchy followed Jeroboam's years of political stability.
- Hosea cries out to his nation to repent, turn to the Lord. Spiritually Israel was at its lowest point. Idolatry, immorality, and haughty rejection of God's love spelled disaster is they didn't change their heart and ways. (2 kings 15-17)
- Amos and Hosea was Israel's last chance to avoid the coming invader and destruction. Israel is the unfaithful wife who has deserted her husband, the Lord and gone after other lovers. (14:1)
- Form and Style
Hosea is a prophetic book.
Hosea is mostly written in poetic form with the exception of some of the first three chapters. Hosea and Jeremiah preached the same kind of message being called "weeping prophets". Hosea has been called "the prophet of the broken heart". He pleads with Israel to return to the Lord. (2 Kings 17) Hosea's style is abrupt, short, and sharp. W. Graham writes, "His message is one of the most profound and spiritual in the Old Testament." (Know Your Bible) Transitions are hard to detect because of the emotional nature of the book.
- Place Among the Old Testament Books
- Hosea is one of the smaller books of the Old Testament. Scholars have placed it with the other eleven minor prophets. Hosea and Zechariah are the longest of the minor prophets with fourteen chapters each.
- Just because scholars have classified twelve of the prophetic books as minor does not mean that their message is any less important than the four major prophets. In fact the New Testament quotes the minor prophets more than the major prophets.
Hosea is a book of judgment on Israel. Yet the book is remembered mostly for its vivid pictures of the love and grace of God pleading for Israel to return to him. There is nothing of divine grace that is not found in the book of Hosea. Hosea reveals who God is and his dealing with sinners. Chapters 1-3 are narrative and are in contrast to 4-14 which are messages. Chapters 1-3 flow with marriage, separation, and reunion. Chapters 4=14 flow with God is holy, God is just, and God is love.
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