Devotional Commentary on Hosea 1


Hosea wrote his commentary over a long period and he became very old before he died, it seems. There are scholars who are concerned that the book of Hosea is complex and that the phraseology is sometimes very unclear. The answer is that the age of Hosea was a factor for the complex stance of phrases. In Longman's Grammar for Spoken and Written English (Essex: Pearson Education Limited, 1999) by editors Douglas Biber, Stig Johansson, Geoffrey Leech, Susan Conrad, Edward Finegan and Randolph Quirk, they indicated that there is a difference between spoken language and written language. The transcript of spoken language compares very well with the phraseology in the book of Hosea as opposed to the well composed design in news material.


Some features are well to mention: conversations are spoken rather than written and they are produced online with the words and grammatical organization being composed on the spot as the conversation itself unfolds (9). There is little time to plan ahead or to edit afterwards. Both features are true of the book of Hosea since afterwards the writer cannot edit what the prophet has spoken since he does not have authority to change divine inspiration. Longman's Grammar stated that many of the referents in a conversation are not explicitly identified so that hearers must rely on the context for understanding (12). A list of characteristics on page 11 illustrates what one also finds in Hosea:

1. there are frequent references to “you”

2. there are frequent direct questions

3. there are frequent references to himself, describing his own personal thoughts, feelings, past and present activities.

4. in conversations present tense and verb phrases with modals are predominant reflecting the emphasis on the participants' immediate interaction and activities or the expression of their current attitudes and feelings.


Longman's Grammar concluded that linguistic features are not uniformly distributed across registers (11). This conclusion is important since you cannot analyze a well edited text, deduct the grammatical features and expect to find these features also in a text that was the result of a writing of spoken language. It is like mixing apples and oranges and expect to find similar in both and in the case of not finding the same, to attempt to repair the difference. The sentences of Hosea included off the track “footnotes” of other information telescoped in one verse. The information is sometimes telegrammic compounded that makes normal reading difficult but not impossible. The Holy Spirit wanted His Word to come to us in all shapes and forms for people are not all the same and some prefer it this way.

Hosea. He understood eschatology fully, the Great Controversy between God and Satan. Death is personalized by him as having human attributes. He understood the resurrection. In his book, a God Who pleads to us to convert to Him with a willingness to take upon Himself the iniquities and make atonement by dying the second death that we are supposed to receive comes to the surface. There are ways that are upright that belongs to the Lord and the righteous should walk in them.

Hosea was called in a period when religious ecumenism and equality of religions was the jurisprudence of the surrounding nations and through intermarriage, Israel also tapped into it. The wife of Hosea was an Aramaen with strong Phoenician ties as it will become clear. A failure occurred about consecration in Hosea’s day with worship and because God is invisible some wanted their senses to remind them of worship and thus sought for visible “fetish objects” that can focus their religious perception. The failure to find God through the senses inspired others to seek Him through methods of concentration and repetition, for the person to go “out of his/her own body”.

Hosea was prophet in the days of “Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, kings of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash, king of Israel.” (verse 1).


A certain faction wanted to crown Hezekiah probably since they were dismayed in the actions of Ahaz but he was too young. He only became actual king later but some kept counting his reign from 727 BCE. Hezekiah was king of Judah between 716-687 BCE. Hezekiah was 25 years old when he became king in 716 BCE but he was crownprince since the age of 12 in 729 BCE which is the third year in the counting of Hoshea, not of his reign since he became only sole ruler in his 7th year. Hezekiah's father was still reigning though when Hezekiah became crownprince. Hosea also lived through the captivity of Samaria in 723 BCE and the deportation of Israelites. He lived through the times of Sargon II and he probably died when Sennacherib was coregent with his father in Babylon the last two years before the death of Sargon II in 705 BCE (K. van Wyk, "The Dilemma in the Sources surrounding Sennacherib's First Campaign" in Archaeology in the Bible and Text in the Tel [Berrien Center, Michigan: Louis Hester Publications, 1996], 264-280, especially 274b). The total period from 779 BCE until 687 BCE is 92 years. It is not impossible that this prophet indeed became very old, almost 90 years old.


Repetition is a common feature of old age and erratic, cryptic notes with quick fluctuations of events, genders, direct and indirect speech is also a common phenomenon in the senior years of people’s lives. To expect all the time a smooth text with coherent thoughts and foci is to misunderstand that Hosea was a person who lived long enough to tell his own story, retell it and recollate his previous descriptions in all kinds of forms. He lived long enough to be familiar with the substratum or content of the messages of Amos, Jonah, Micah, and Isaiah.


The Lord asked him to take a fornicating wife (verse 2). What we have here is an aetiological explanation of the life of Hosea, namely the first time the Lord spoke to him. Like a senior citizen telling his own life story he reverts to the first person direct speech and then suddenly at the end of the verse on the issue of "fornication" wandered off in another direction (fluctuated) in the third person indirect speech. The Targum rendered this verse quite different. It rather attempts to pass by the personal life of Hosea unto what is perceived as the understanding why he had to do what he did. Instead of "go take for yourself a woman who fornicated around many times" it translated/interpreted "go prophecy prophecies against the inhabitants of the idolatrous cities". Historically we are dealing here with the Jehu dynasty which was to end in the days of Hosea as we will learn a few verses away. The expression: "fornicator you have fornicated the earth and inheritance of the Lord" means that the king of the dynasty of the house of Jehu in verse 4 is considered the "fornicator" which we find in verse 2. Spiritually, Hosea had to physically suffering the relational problems with such a lifestyle so that he could better understand what the main problem is namely the spiritual fornicating around of believers by devoting their lives in other directions than God and His worship. Every human is a pneuma-psycho-somatic person. The Spirit in the spiritual life works through the mind and body in a wholesome way and compartimentalization is not possible.


Hosea married Gomer and she delivered him sons (verse 3). The Targum was too embarrassed about the Word of God and tried to softened it or sidestep it: The Targum Jonathan to the prophets dealing with Hosea, interpreted this verse as follows: "And he went and prophesied over them that if they will convert he will forgive them". The verse of course continuous that bad things will come over them if they do not. There is no relation to the content of this verse and that of the Targum. It is as if the Targum is on a side track ignoring the issue at hand and dealing with something else. It is side stepping the moral issue.


There is a possibility that this Gomer was of the Samaria Ostraca who was one of the wealthy recipients of taxes from many areas and if Albright is right that these Ostraca dates to the time of Jeroboam II, then they can probably be dated between 800-781 BCE. These years are in the reign of Uzziah and Hosea began his ministry in this kings reign. There are strong indications in this chapter and the next one that Hosea's wife was wealthy and that she received many gifts from others. It would mean that Hosea married maybe at the age of 18 around 792 BCE and that he lived probably until 714 BCE up to the age of 96. The Samaria Ostraca were collected from years 9, 10, 15 and 17 of a certain king. If these years are counted with an ascension year counting then the biblical non-ascension years of Jehoash would mean 16th year in the MT is the 17th year in the Ostraca ca. 792 BCE. The 14th year in the MT is the 15th year in the Ostraca ca. 794 BCE and the 9th year in the MT is the 10th year in the Ostraca ca. 799 BCE and the 8th year in the MT is the 9th year in the Ostraca ca. 800 BCE.


The Lord ordered Hosea to “Call his name Jezreel because again shortly and I will visit the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu” (verse 4). Again the later Jewish Targum soften the situation: “Call his name ‘Scattering’ because till now speak moderately”.


Historically, it is known that Jehu was a very cunning fox in his dealings with his enemies. 2 Kings 9 and 10 is relating the story of king Jehu. He basically killed the predecessors in fulfillment of a prophetic uttering that was made concerning these kings and their sins. Many lives were lost. He killed anybody that was connected to the house of Ahab. One can see his brutal treatment of Jezebel. He proud himself that his military actions were all acts of God. Most of these killings took place in the city of Jezreel. To see an expression like the one in this verse, namely that he will visit the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu calls for some comment. Who's blood is it that is making the Lord uneasy here? Does this mean that as long as you are remaining faithful to God your acts of killing of the evil ones are no problem but that when you turn your back against the Lord then those killings are accounted against you? There is no easy answer for this situation here with Jehu. One must remember that there was a prophetic message to Jehu that his fourth generation descendants will be kings over Israel (2 Kings 10:30). It is strange that the Lord said that he is satisfied with those killings four generations ago but now he is going to punish them for those sins four generations later?  For those who operate with an historical-critical scenario the matter is simple: there are two sources and the one source is in favor of the actions of Jehu and the other source is not. This solution is just an easy way out and does not fully attempt to understand the complete revelation. They do not recognize the presence of God in this history and thus history is just a human design. The prophets are just human preachers speaking their own fears and hopes. Some are right some are wrong. The burning issue is: how can the executioner of God be held accountable for his actions that he previously carried out with the approval of God? It seems that as long as they remain faithful the sins are forgiven but if they stray then those deeds are accountable even if they were previously carried out with God's approval.


This brings us to a theological issue. It tells us something about the God of the universe. He executes judgments of death upon the blood of people but those killings are not atoned for unless there is a continual faith in God. God is not a God of killing and even the killing of evil has to be accounted for. Maybe the solution lies in the word "visit". God will make an investigative judgment of the divine execution and if the executioner is not find faithful, God will deal with those acts. The punishment in the case of the house of Jehu is that he brought to rest this kingship of this house. The point of contention here is why it does not say in Hosea 1:4 "the blood of Ibleam and Jezreel"? See, Ahazia was also wounded by Jehu near Ibleam. It is impossible to have two prophet schools opposing each other here on the detail. It seems as if the theology says that killing is unlawful even of the wicked and that someone has to die for those blood. The atonement theology is probably the best answer to this dilemma. If the faithful cannot be punished for his deeds, God has to take the punishment Himself. And He did.


God said to Hosea that “I shall destroy the military of Israel in the valley of Jezreel” verse 5. The Targum could not face the biblical text. They changed the meaning: “I will break the strong doers of approach of Israel in the valley of Jezreel”.


We have three actions here that are going to happen: a. I will visit the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu b. I will bring to rest the kingdom of the house of Israel and c. I will destroy the military of Israel in the valley of Jezreel. We have here a pyramid of actions of punishment of the evil deeds. Jehu and his descendants and then finally the military of Israel.

                                .            Jehu

                 ........         his descendants

              .................................military of Israel


It is interesting that the punishment of the military is not in the town of Jezreel but in the valley of Jezreel. "That day" that is in reference here is probably the year 721 BC at the fall of Samaria. We have to be very careful not to think that the expression "and it shall come to pass on that day" is only a preteristic connection to 721 BC. Neither can one pull the destruction of the military of Israel and the valley of Israel to an apocalyptic or eschatological day of a Battle- in-the-Valley-of-Jezreel-Motif. This last battle so well expressed in the book of Joel and other passages in the Psalms 46, does not speak of a destruction of Israel but its victory. There is thus no connection here. The cancelation of this future application is now not a license or permission to read all the passages in a preteristic way dealing only with the time surrounding 721 BC.


In verse 6 the daughter’s name is to be “not is their sympathy”. Looking at the language in this section the concept of "binding" is covenantal. It is what one would find in a covenant relationship. God will not keep to the covenant anymore a covenant that He made with Himself saying that He will sympathize with the house of Israel and that He will surely forgive them.

The very names of these children were to be some form of message that is given to Israel. God will not sympathize any longer with them. It seems as if He bound Himself to a covenant of care and forgiveness. If we look at the time He did this, at least in the context of the previous verse where the case of Jezreel is mentioned, then one has to conclude that His forgiveness for Israel and His sympathy for them remained connected for many years, at least four generations in the house of Jehu. It is as if God made an oath to Himself and He then keeps that oath despite the other party's failure to come up to the standards or goals inherent in such a relationship. What the ingredients are of a stable relationship with God will become clearer in the rest of the book of Hosea. If the translation of the last part should be "I will surely carry them" then the imagery here is that of an old lady binding a cloth around herself and carry the baby on the back because of sympathy and love. God then view Himself as the loving mother who binds her child (the house of Israel) on her back out of sympathy and love. What a beautiful metaphor to employ here.


God will sympathize with Judah but not saving them with military devices and military hardware (verse 7). Their strength is not their military economy. Any form of activistic display for some good cause in the liberation theology framework is immediately cancelled by this verse. God does not ask any programmatic effort to "free" or "liberate" our perceived "captives". Salvation in His view comes solely in the Lord their God. Hosea preached God, not politics, God, not social structures, God, not activistic lobbying for whatever good cause.


Verse 8 simply reads: “And she weaned Lo-ruhama and became pregnant and bore a son.” The later Jewish Targum ran away: “And their generations that are exiled to among the nations shall discover that they are not compassionate in their works but multiplying and accomplishing bad works.”


The new son’s name should be: “call his name Lo-ami for you are not my people and I am not I am for you” (verse 9). Scholars are suggesting that the last part of the verse should refer to God. It does but the consonants do not justify that we should rectify the text to read "God". Instead the form of the word is 'hyh’ which is translated as "I am". This is the same as one can find in the form of God's name to Moses when he was called cf. Exodus 3:14. At the inception of the Sinaitic covenant God revealed Himself to Moses as the one who is the great I am. God has kept faithful to that covenant and now through Hosea he is preaching that He is not going to be the great I am for Israel any more. Both at the calling out of exile and the going into exile we find the term "I am". It is clear that Hosea had a convenantal understanding here of God's dealing with Israel in salvation (out of Egypt) and judgment (going to Assyria).


There is a connection here between the covenantal God of Exodus 3:14 and the God of Hosea 1:9. At the inception of both salvation and judgment we find this name or term reference to God. That Moses was important in the understanding of Hosea is clear in Hosea 12:14. Just from a cursory look at the book of Hosea it becomes clear that he had a good understanding of the atonement theology, and the covenant theology.


Dear God

Sometimes your anointed messengers and workers in the vineyard are asked to face difficult task but just like Hosea, we have this confidence that no one will be tested beyond their capacity and God’s enabling help for their tasks. All for the glory of God. Even if it appears strange. Amen.