Hope for Israel in Hosea 14:1-8

What hope for Israel does Hosea provide in 14:1-8?

Answer:

After the prophet Hosea proclaimed the message of God’s judgment over Israel for their sins — leaving the Lord and worshiping other gods — he presented a message of hope in the last chapter of the book, chapter 14. This chapter is divided into two parts. Verses 1-3 have a call to repent and return to the Lord. The prophet says,

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God (Hosea 14:1).

In the second part, verses 4-8, the prophet presents an assurance of the Lord’s love and his will to heal his people from sin, from the disease of sin. The Lord says,

I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely (Hosea 14:4).

This is the message of hope that the prophet presents after proclaiming the judgment. There is always a chance to repent and return to the Lord. It is accompanied with God’s hand that is extended with healing and love to restore the people and restore their relationship with the Lord once more.

Hosea’s Condemnations of Idolatry

Why does Hosea provide such harsh condemnations of idolatry?

Answer:

Israel, instead of showing loyalty and submission to the Lord and worshiping him alone and not other gods, they engaged in worshiping idols and entering into relationships with other nations, which had a negative impact on the people’s loyalty to the Lord. That is why the Lord described the condition of the people as they went “whoring” away from him, because they were engaging with other gods — especially the gods of the Canaanites where adultery and sexual impurity were part of their rituals. So, when the Lord said of the people, or of the land, that it had committed great whoredom, such a phrase not only refers to the spiritual aspect of leaving the Lord and trespassing his covenant, but the literal aspect too, as at that time, the people were indeed worshiping foreign gods through relationships full of sexual practices and immorality.

Hosea’s Condemnation of Foreign Alliances

Why does Hosea condemn foreign alliances in his book?

Answer:

The prophet Hosea, in his book, condemned the foreign alliances Israel had made. That’s because these alliances indicated a declared rebellion against God who had entered into a covenant relationship with the people. Within the context of this covenant, God was the real king over the people. These alliances took place because Israel was seeking military protection and supplies, and this meant that they put their trust in these foreign nations instead of trusting the Lord. It also showed that they rejected the covenant the Lord had made with them as they put their trust in foreign nations. These nations didn’t just supply them with support and military resources, they also had a negative impact on them through imposing their laws and legislations, most of which were against the laws and the commands of the Lord. And also, there was the influence of their religions that affected Israel.

We see in Hosea 10:6 that Israel gave presents to the Assyrian king. And in 12:1 Israel did indeed make a covenant with Assyria. The prophet announced to the people that these alliances would not benefit Israel — not in any military, political, social, or spiritual level. The prophet highlighted this point in 8:7-10. So, the prophet Hosea condemned these alliances because of their political danger. And from the spiritual aspect, these alliances indicated the people’s rebellion against the Lord within the context of the covenant that he had made with them. In that covenant, God told them that he is their king and that they must put their trust in him alone. He would be the source of their help during hard times.

Hosea’s Family Life and God’s Covenant with Israel

What does Hosea’s family life teach us about a prophet’s role in representing God’s covenant with Israel?

Answer:

God entered into a covenant relationship through which he took the initiative to show mercy and benevolence to his people. But, just as Hosea’s wife was unfaithful and an adulteress, the people were unfaithful in their relationship with God. They were worshiping other gods and committing various sins that kindled the Lord’s wrath… Within the covenant, God had entered into a relationship in which he adopted Israel as his people, and he was their God. Through this covenant, he declared his name to Moses saying, “ehyeh asher ehyeh” or “I am who I am.” So God, through Hosea’s last child, was saying to Israel, “You are not my people” — “Lo-Ammi.” Moreover, he said, “I am not your God.” In Hebrew, “I am not” is the reversal of his covenant name that he declared to Moses. He was saying, “I am not,” or “not ehyeh” — “I will not be your covenant God.” Thus, Hosea’s marriage and children illustrate how God dealt with his covenant people. He declared his judgment over the people because of their sins and because they had acted contrary to the conditions of the covenant, conditions that required their loyalty in response to the covenant mercy and grace that God had initiated and shown them.

Hosea’s Marriage and Children’s Names

What did God intend to convey to the nation of Israel through Hosea’s marriage to Gomer and their children’s names?

Answer:

The names of Hosea’s children, in particular, demonstrated God’s judgment against sin — the people’s sin. Each time Gomer bore Hosea a boy or a girl, the severity of the judgment gradually increased. For instance, we read about the first son Gomer bore in Hosea 1:4, where it says,

And the Lord said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel” (Hosea 1:4).

Actually, there are at least two reasons behind choosing the name Jezreel. The first reason is that it sounds similar to Israel in pronunciation — yiz-RAH-eel and YIZ-rah-eel. The other reason is that there was a valley in Israel called the valley of Jezreel. This valley is associated with many bloody events. We read about it, for example, in Judges 6:33 and 1 Samuel 29:1. Also, the name Jezreel is related to the story of Ahab and Jezebel and the killing of Naboth. We can find this in 1 Kings 21. We also read about it in the killing of Ahab’s family through Jehu the son of Jeshoshaphat in 2 Kings 10:11. Actually, there is a very important passage in 2 Kings 10:28-31 that, although Jehu son of Jeshoshaphat obeyed God’s command and killed the family of Ahab, he did that for his own personal purposes and ambitions. That is why the Lord said in the book of Hosea: “I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel.” We read in 2 Kings 10, beginning with verse 28:

Thus Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel. But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin — that is, the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan. And the Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in carrying out what is right in my eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin (2 Kings 10:28-31).

Although Jehu destroyed the altars of the Baals, he erected idols and walked in the sins of Jeroboam. That is why Hosea’s first son stands for the judgment of God on the Israelites, for the bloody events that were related to Jezreel, especially against the house of Jehu, and for the corrupt religious and behavioral practices that were in the kingdom at that time. The second child, the daughter, whom Gomer bore to Hosea, was called “Lo-Ruhamah.” We read about her in Hosea 1:6:

She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all” (Hosea 1:6).

The name “Lo-Ruhamah” in Hebrew means “no mercy.” The Lord declared that he would remove his mercy from the people of Israel. Mercy here is related to the covenant faithfulness of the Lord. So, the Lord here says that he will remove his mercy from the midst of the people. We read about the last child that Gomer bore Hosea in verses 8 and 9:

When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the Lord said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God” (Hosea 1:8-9).

The Hebrew name “Lo-Ammi” means “not my people.” This was the highest level and the hardest of the Lord’s judgments. Within the covenant, God had entered into a relationship in which he adopted Israel as his people, and he was their God. Through this covenant, he declared his name to Moses saying, “ehyeh asher ehyeh” or “I am who I am.” So God, through Hosea’s last child, was saying to Israel, “You are not my people” — “Lo-Ammi.” Moreover, he said, “I am not your God.” In Hebrew, “I am not” is the reversal of his covenant name that he declared to Moses. He was saying, “I am not,” or “not ehyeh.” I will not be your covenant God. Thus, Hosea’s marriage and children illustrate how God dealt with his covenant people. He declared his judgment over the people because of their sins and because they had acted contrary to the conditions of the covenant, conditions that required their loyalty in response to the covenant mercy and grace that God had initiated and shown them.

Hosea 14:9

What significance for Hosea’s overall message do we gain from the closure of his book in 14:9?

Answer:

In Hosea 14:9, the last verse in the book of Hosea, we read these words:

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them (Hosea 14:9).

This verse is, in fact, what we might call a “wisdom saying,” because in it the prophet asks, “Whoever is wise … let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right.” The Lord’s revelations that came to his people throughout this book came through metaphorical language, whether through Hosea’s marriage to Gomer the adulteress, or through his three children whose names have specific indications and meanings. So, the reader needs wisdom to understand the meaning and the purpose of the book, and to understand God’s thoughts and purposes. Also, the generations that would come afterwards and read this book would not live when Hosea married Gomer, nor would they see his children. They would need divine wisdom in order to understand the purpose of this book and the message God intended to send to his people in this book. That’s why the ending of this book is very significant as it asks for wisdom to understand the message of the Lord to his people in the book of Hosea.

Israel’s Rebellion

Why did God allow his people Israel to fall to the pagan Assyrians?

Answer:

The Assyrian exile was a punishment from the Lord because of the sins of the people and because they had forsaken the Lord and the Lord’s laws. In the book of Hosea, we … see the prophet giving more explanation concerning the Assyrian exile. In 9:7 the prophet says: “The days of punishment have come; the days of recompense have come; Israel shall know it. The prophet is a fool; the man of the spirit is mad, because of your great iniquity and great hatred.” He asserts here that “the days of punishment” and “the days of recompense” had come, which refers to the Assyrian exile.

In the same chapter — 9:15 — we read these words: “Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal; there I began to hate them. Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of my house. I will love them no more; all their princes are rebels.” Because of rebellion, disobedience, and evil, the exile came, or would come, to the people of Israel.

Finally, in the same chapter — 9:17 — it says: “My God will reject them because they have not listened to him; they shall be wanderers among the nations.” The exile was preceded by several invitations from prophets — Hosea being one of them — who were sent by the Lord to the people to call them to return and repent. But the people did not obey, and as a result, the exile was a punishment from the Lord to the people, because they insisted on their willful rebellion against the Lord.

“Out of Egypt I Called My Son”

What does Hosea mean when he says “out of Egypt I called my son” in Hosea 11:1?

Answer:

In Hosea 11:1, we read these words:

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son (Hosea 11:1).

There’s no doubt that the incident in the prophet’s mind here is the exodus from the land of Egypt. At the time of the exodus, God called Israel his son in Exodus 4:22. This is not the first time Hosea mentions the exodus event in the book of Hosea. He refers to the exodus in 2:15, where he says that Israel’s return from the exile, her restoration and repentance to the Lord, would be like a new exodus, similar to the exodus from the land of Egypt. So, the theme of exodus from the land of Egypt becomes a type of God’s redemptive works in the people’s history. The prophet portrays the return from the exile as a new exodus, and thus sin and abandoning the Lord is portrayed by the prophet as going back to the land of Egypt. In Hosea 7:11, for example, this theme is asserted when he says that the people are turning to the land of Egypt, and in 7:16, that they will be mocked and derided in the land of Egypt. Also in 8:13, he affirms that the people of Israel will return back to the land of Egypt, and in 9:3, 6, we see the same idea.

Therefore, in 11:1, the event in Hosea’s mind is the exodus from Egypt, but he uses it as a type and picture for an event that will take place again, because the people will “return to the land of Egypt,” indicating that they have left the Lord and rebelled against his kingship, because they asked for protection from Egypt. In 11:5, the prophet clearly says that they will go back to Egypt. This verse is translated in some versions in a negative form: “They shall not return to the land of Egypt.” However, the precise translation is in the affirmative, that they will return to the land of Egypt. We know this because in the same chapter, in 11:11, the prophet says of the people that, “They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt.” In order for them to come trembling from Egypt — to exodus from Egypt — they had to first return back to Egypt. Thus, the theme of exodus and the return to Egypt, and returning from Egypt, indicates leaving the Lord, but also indicates the redemptive work of God, that he will restore once again and deliver once again his people from the land of Egypt. This is what the prophet meant in Hosea 11:1 when God said, “out of Egypt I called my son.” He was referring to the exodus in Moses’s days, but he also was expecting a new exodus that would take place in the midst of the people, when they would return to the Lord from the exile.

The Overall Purpose for the Book of Hosea

What is the overall purpose for the book of Hosea?

Answer:

The overall purpose for the book of Hosea is to explain the relationship between God and his people, Israel, within the framework of the covenant God made with them. God entered into a covenant relationship with the people through which he showed them his benevolence, mercy, and blessing. However, the people left the Lord and broke his commands and laws, which the Lord required the people to keep in the context of the covenant. It’s expected within the covenant that just as there is divine benevolence, there should be a human loyalty, such loyalty is shown through full obedience, submission, and love to the Lord. What we see in the book of Hosea is that the people left the Lord and worshiped other gods and rebelled against the commands and the laws of the Lord. So, the overall message of God that he sent to his people was that there would be a punishment or a judgment because of the people’s disobedience. This will take place through the coming exile against the people. The exile was a divine instrument to punish the people so that they might return once again to the Lord in full repentance and submission to the Lord within the context of the covenant.

Hosea’s Message to the Southern Kingdom of Judah

What evidence do we have that Hosea intended his book to be read in the southern kingdom of Judah?

Answer:

Although Hosea’s message was primarily and largely directed to the northern kingdom of Israel, we see many times in the book that the prophet talks about Judah and refers to the people of the southern kingdom. For example, in 2:1, Hosea says that Israel and Judah are brothers. In 1:11, he talks about unity and the gathering of Israel and Judah under one royal head. In 4:15, the prophet says that though Israel played the whore by worshiping other gods, yet Judah should not commit sins like those of Israel.

It’s clear that Judah didn’t listen. We see in chapter 5 that Judah didn’t learn from the warnings that Hosea gave to Israel. The conflict between the Lord and Judah reaches its peak in chapter 6 where there’s a direct confrontation between the Lord and the people of Judah. In 11:12, he says,

And Judah is unruly against God, even against the faithful Holy One (Hosea 11:12, NIV).

And in 12:2,

The Lord has an indictment against Judah and will punish Jacob according to his ways; he will repay him according to his deeds (Hosea 12:2).

We see a progression in the way God addresses Judah. He first starts with warning them not to follow the sins of Israel. When Judah does not obey, the Lord confronts them and affirms that Judah’s sin has become very grievous and that the Lord has an indictment against Judah, as we can see in chapter 12. All of these references indicate that the message of the book was directed to the people of Judah, just as it was directed to the people of Israel. Judah should have listened to the warnings the prophet Hosea directed to Israel and his warning of the coming exile. They should have learned the lesson and returned to the Lord and repented. But clearly, Judah did not listen and persisted in their sin, and the Babylonian exile of Judah was the consequence of that.