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Hosea 9-14

Here is the conclusion to Boadt’s commentary on Hosea….

Yet God does not forget Israel nor lose the hope of recovering its love again! “What shall I do with you, Ephraim? What shall I do with you, Judah? I would restore the fortunes of my people” (Hos 6:4,11)….

Such deep feeling for God’s love of Israel leads the prophet to picture Yahweh watching over his people like a father over his young son in chapter 11, and like a husband in love with a flighty and unfaithful wife in chapters 1-3. This latter image becomes the key to Hosea’s message and has been placed at the beginning of the book to emphasize how important an idea it is. It is presented in three different ways in each of the three chapters. Chapter 1 tells a story of Hosea taking a prostitute for a wife and raising three children by her whose symbolic names tell the parallel story of Israel’s infidelity: “Jezreel,” to recall King Jehu’s battle in the Jezreel Valley against the cult of the god Baal; “Not pited,” to show that God has withdrawn his forgiveness; and “Not my people,” to reveal the final breakdown of the covenant itself. Chapter 2 contains an oracle which describes Israel as a prostitute in vivid words of judgment, and chapter 3 gives a first-person account of Hosea’s return to his wife as a promise that God will once more return and forgive Israel.

Hosea’s theology grew out of a firm belief that God had chosen Israel and blessed her with his love and saving acts of kindness at the exodus and that this love had continued unbroken right up to the prophet’s own time. But this covenant in love was not merely a legal arrangement with duties on both sides; it was a truly personal relationship that carried far deeper obligations of love and concern for one another. It endures freely and despite setbacks. It requires trust and “knowing” on the part of Israel. Yet Hosea paints a bleak picture of the distrust, instability, idolatry and evil practices seen everywhere in the last days of the northern kingdom. To try to reverse this direction in Israel’s life. Hosea pointed out the many acts of love done by God in the past, and the equally large number of rebellions on the part of Israel over the years. He points out that even a God who is a loving husband or father can also discipline a child to bring it back to its senses. At the same time, the punishment that surely lay ahead for this stubborn people was always balanced by God’s willingness to turn around and forgive them. Where Amos had seen little chance for Israel, Hosea almost begged the people to give God a try.

Hosea boldly proposed his marriage imagery. Probably he was fighting directly against the religious practices of the followers of the Canaanite god Baal who regularly slept with temple priestesses hoping to win over the god’s favor and gain fertile or healthy new children for the year ahead by means of the sexual rites. He could see the effects of this apostasy on the morals of society as injustice and dishonesy increased. On top of this, his own personal pain and anguish made the rejection of God seem all the more searing to him. Hosea lived in a time of crisis and no doubt saw one king after another change loyalties for and against Assyria, saw the violence of assassination destroy the inner spirit of the country, and watched as little by little the Assyrians conquered and deported parts of the kingdom until the capital itself went down in flames in 722. To his eye, trained to see the hand of God at work, all this disaster stemmed from the loss of their religious loyalty and faith. A healthy covenant people, living up to the commandments of the Lord would never have fallen into such heedless and self-destructive ways.

Hosea failed to change the fate of Israel, but his words captured so powerfully the enduring meaning of the covenant and the tension between human sin and the search for God’s love that they have become a treasured source of reflection for both the Jewish and Christian communities ever since.

Hosea depicts the connection between Israel and Yahweh as a personal relationship like that between spouses, or between a parent and a child. Do you view your connection with God that way? Why or why not? If you view your connection with God like a personal relationship, is it like a marriage, or a parent-child relationship, or a friendship (like that between Abraham and Yahweh)? What similarities or differences might there be between our connection with God and that of a relationship between human beings? Did Hosea view Yahweh as always being faithful to his end of the covenant relationship with Israel? Do you think God will always be faithful to his covenant relationship with you? If not, perhaps you need to revisit and reconsider all that is implied in what the Bible teaches about God’s unconditional grace and love in Jesus Christ.


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