From the Editor’s Notebook: Minor Prophets, Hosea

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Outline Studies of the Minor Prophets

Hosea: The Book of Love’s Victory

Key Word: Return (15 times).

Message: “An exhibition of God’s method in the restoration of backsliders” (Robert Lee).1 Or, as Eric W. Hayden has summed up Hosea’s theme: “The Sin of Spiritual Adultery.”2

Key Verse: 6:11 — “Come and let us return unto the Lord; for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up.”


Hosea is both the first and the longest of the so-called “Minor Prophets,” each of the twelve dealing with much the same issues and each being highly patriotic and nationalistic. The names Hosea, Hoshea, Joshua and Jesus are the same in derivation and mean “salvation” (cf. Matt. 1:21). Hosea’s contemporaries were Joel, Jonah, Amos, Isaiah and Micah, and he ministered and prophesied during the prosperous and corrupt reign of Jeroboam II, having been called “the Jeremiah of the northern kingdom,” for like Jeremiah he suffered and wept over Israel’s sins. During his ministry to the northern kingdom, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah reigned over Judah, the southern kingdom. The period of Hosea’s prophecy extended from 785-725 B.C., a longer time, probably, than any other prophet. It is estimated that he died in his nineties. He had a very sad domestic life and trial — an unfaithful wife named Gomer — yet God used this trying experience to prepare Hosea for his office, as well as speak to Israel about her spiritual adultery in forsaking Jehovah and turning to the worship of false gods. Thus Hosea was the first, though not the last, prophet whose personal history was made a symbol to his countrymen (e.g., Jonah).

As to his style, Hosea is stoccado-like, using short, sharp sentences, and as one writer has said, “He flashes forth brilliant sentences, but writes no great chapters.” Hosea lacks the imagination, fire and vividness of Amos, yet in some respects he is considered deeper, even though difficult to follow. In fact, some Bible students consider his book the most difficult to study of all the books in the Bible. Nevertheless, the poetry and striking metaphors of his prophecy tend to make up for whatever variety of problems are encountered.

While Amos authoritatively thundered out the righteousness of God, Hosea brokenheartedly wept out of the mercy of God. The central and paramount theme of Hosea’s prophecy is the passionate and faithful love of Jehovah for His backslidden people. J. Lawrence Eason has pointed out that “the prophet’s method of persuasion, unlike that of Amos and the wilderness school of bold denunciation, was that of wooing the fallen by means of God’s love and entreaty.”3


1. Personal Trial — The faithless wife and her faithful husband (1-3)

2. National Tragedy —The faithless nation and her faithful Lord (4-14) .

Notable Notes

The pivot of the entire book of Hosea centres upon the unfaithfulness of Gomer, Hosea’s wife. In fact, he was commanded by God to marry her (1), and he obeyed, but she soon proved unfaithful to him (2). In spite of her sin, the Lord further commanded Hosea to seek out his unfaithful wife, follow her, redeem her out of what was apparently literal slavery and restore her to his home (3). The children she bore were an additional source of sorrow. The first child Hosea owned as his; the second, a little girl, he called Lo-ruhamah (“not beloved”), whom he disowned; and the third child he likewise disowned, having named this second son Lo-ammi (“not my people” or “no child of mine”). Each tragic detail in the home life of Hosea served as a parable in relation to the tragedy in the homeland of the northern kingdom, for Gomer represented Israel, while her children represented the people of the nation. Furthermore, Hosea’s patience and pleading with Gomer, who had broken his heart, was a parable of God’s love and longing for Israel. The way in which Hosea sought out his unfaithful and estranged wife was the same way in which the Lord was prepared to welcome the return of His backslidden people who had also played the harlot. Hosea was thus taught that Israel’s sins were as adultery and harlotry in God’s sight.

Hosea’s experience was in the home; Jeremiah’s was in the nation. Hosea was commanded by God to marry, and at that a harlot, or as he candidly stated, “a wife of whoredoms” (1:2); Jeremiah was commanded by God not to marry.

The sins of the nation at that time were many: swearing, lying, murder, stealing, drunkenness, adultery, idolatry, backsliding, pride, treachery, treason, regicide (i.e., the killing of a king), insincerity, forgetfulness, ingratitude, covetousness, craft, love of sin, oppression, robbery and anarchy. The pagan priests aided and abetted murder (6:9), and the government was unstable with one faction urging compromise with Assyria and another insisting on alliance with Egypt (7:11).

Unfortunately for the nation, Hosea’s pleading went unheeded. Having sown to the wind, Israel reaped the whirlwind (8:7).

Hosea is the only prophetic book in the Old Testament that has an epilogue (14:9).

The book of Hosea serves as a warning to believers against backsliding. Any preacher desiring to warn the saints against this sin would do well to preach a series of messages from this prophecy. It has been called, “A Treatise on Repentance.”

Hosea deals with the condition of Israel just before the fall of Samaria, his statement of 13:16 providing us with an insight into the barbaric savagery of the Assyrians: “Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: for they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child be ripped up.”

W. Graham Scroggie has noted that three things must be kept prominent in the study of Hosea: the PERSONAL NARRATIVE (1-3), the NATIONAL INTERPRETATION (4-14), and the SPIRITUAL APPLICATION (1-14). The first involves the reference to husband, wife and children. The second is dominated by the notes of transgression, visitation and restoration. The third is manifold. If Amos emphasized the “severity” of God, Hosea stressed the “goodness” of God (cf. Rom. 2:11; 11:22). There are passages in Hosea which, for pathos and love, are unrivalled (2:14, 15, 19, 20; 3; 11:3, 4, 8, 14). The book emphasizes the shame of sin, the fruit of backsliding, the love of the Lord and the conditions of restoration. Chapter 3:4 & 5 discloses a remarkable prophecy telling of the present (v. 4) and of the future (v. 5) of God’s people, Israel. Chapter 14 is the greatest in the Bible for the backslider.4

“Ephraim,” used in reference to the northern kingdom, is found no less than 35 times in the book of Hosea.

Hosea himself illustrates the “love that many waters cannot quench.”

The attribute of God uppermost in Hosea’s thoughts is that Jehovah is “LORD.”

The book of Hosea reveals the LORD JESUS CHRIST as the HEALER OF THE BACKSLIDER.

1 Robert Lee, The Outlined Bible.

2 Eric W. Hayden, Preaching through the Bible, p. 126.

3 J. Lawrence Eason, The New Bible Survey, p. 282.

4 W. Graham Scroggie, Know Your Bible, I, p. 168.