Hosea Intro

The prophet Hosea spoke to the northern kingdom of Israel in the turbulent period of the 8th century BC. Following the death of Jeroboam II, Israel had six different kings in just over twenty years; four were assassinated and the last was forcibly removed from the throne. The rising empire of Assyria invaded Israel, and by 722 BC had completely conquered the nation and carried off much of its population into exile.
Israel had made the mistake of identifying the Lord with Baal, a Canaanite nature god. This identification may have begun innocently enough, since baal simply means “master.” But by the time of Hosea, the people were visiting shrine prostitutes, and had adopted the magical practices of fertility cults. Hosea repeatedly denounces this corrupted worship as spiritual prostitution. He also condemns the nation’s foolish foreign intrigues, its rejection of the moral law, and its callous greed. The people dismissed Hosea’s warnings, however, and simply mocked him.
The book is structured into two main parts. The shorter first part tells how God commanded Hosea to marry the unfaithful woman Gomer. She is symbolic of Israel’s wavering faithfulness to the Lord. The prophet’s own life thus provided a picture of God’s intentions toward wayward Israel. The longer second part contains oracles delivered during the decline after King Jeroboam, alternating hope and doom as Hosea both threatens and pleads with the kingdom of Israel in the last years before its exile.