Hosea 1Series: Hosea
Hosea is a strange book. On one hand, Hosea is not strange at all. It contains some of the best known verses in the Bible.
Hosea 1:10 - And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”
Hosea 4:6 - My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me.
Hosea 8:7 - For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.
Hosea 11:1 - And out of Egypt I called my son.
But, despite the comfort of those well-known verses, anyone who undertakes a study of the book of Hosea is immediately confronted with one of the strangest commands found anywhere in the word of God: “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom!”
And the strangeness doesn’t end there! Hosea’s wife, Gomer, has three children (perhaps all with Hosea, and perhaps not), and God commands Hosea to give them strange names: first, a son he names Jezreel (which is somehow related with King Jehu, who died a half century before Hosea started 2 preaching); second, a daughter that he names Not Loved; and finally another son that he names Not Mine.
And that’s all just within the first nine verses of the book! And what about the remaining 188 verses in the book? Do they clear everything up? Well, here is how one commentary describes the remainder of the book: The book swiftly plunges into a maze of warnings, microsermons, poems, and laments, and through them all it swiftly and evasively alludes to biblical texts and incidents, mixes metaphors, and changes topics, seemingly at random.
In short, we have our work cut out for us! I hope we are all ready for a challenge! And if we think the book of Hosea is strange, just imagine for a moment how strange it was to Hosea himself!
Other prophets were given strange commandments by God. Ezekiel was told to lie on his left side for 390 days and eat bread baked over human dung in Ezekiel 4. Isaiah was commanded to walk naked and barefoot for three years in Isaiah 20. But I suspect that on some days (and perhaps on many days), Hosea would have been happy to swap commands with Ezekiel or Isaiah!
As we study the book of Hosea, we need to see these events and hear these proclamations as Hosea himself and his listeners saw them and heard them. In fact, as we will see, that was 3 why the book of Hosea was given to us in the first place.
God wanted his people to see themselves through Hosea’s eyes. God wanted them to see what was happening to Hosea in his relationship with his new wife and to understand something about their own relationship with God.
Later in the introduction we will consider perhaps the hardest question about Hosea - what is the structure of this book? Many suggest there is no structure, but I think we will answer that question differently. I think we will see that this book has an elaborate structure that is based on the people we meet in the first nine verses. But more on that later.