Hosea, a prophet of the most High, had a glimpse of the treachery and pain that God felt regarding Israel’s adulterous heart when God commanded him to go find a whore to be his wife.
Her name was Gomer and she wasn’t a reformed prostitute. She wasn’t like Rahab who repented and is honored to be named among the lineage of Christ, her savior. No, this Gomer was an active adulteress whom God told Hosea to love even though she couldn’t be trusted, love even though she wouldn’t love him back (Hosea 3:1).
Welcome to Hearts Unto Wisdom
A Bible Study of the Minor Prophets
I thank you for joining me as I share biblical insight into the twelve books commonly referred to as the ‘Minor Prophets’. These Old Testament books, starting with Hosea and ending with Malachi, are minor only in regards to their length, and not because they lack significance.
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Psalm 90:12
[Underlines, brackets, and words in bold are added for emphasis to scripture verses throughout this study.]
Marital fidelity is THE foundation of a loving, thriving marriage. It is one of the main cornerstones of righteous living.
But if our spouse doesn’t stay true to us, turns away and embraces another, the emotional turmoil is tremendous. Anger, sadness, and a desire for justice fills our soul to brimming.
We would never purposefully marry someone we knew from the start would fail us in this way, but the hand-picked servants of God were often told to do unusual things, things that went against common sense and their feelings in order to get the attention of the errant people of God.
Enter the prophet, Hosea. His obedience to this odd request was necessary to rouse the unfaithful Israelites to see their own infidelity towards God. To get them to think about their own duplicitous behavior and repent.
Even though God provided for, protected, and cherished the nation of Israel as a husband ought to for his wife, the Israelites turned away and regarded their vow with God as a duty to perform grudgingly instead of as a privilege to serve the living God.
Ancient Israel, as recorded throughout the Bible, often mirrors our own feeble attempts to live Christ-like without yielding fully to Christ. With our inconsistencies to trust God’s hand in our life, and our lack of complete fidelity towards Him—believing something or someone else will fulfill us more—we reflect the same sinfulness that Israel did in our modern times.
Names and their meanings meant a great deal to the Israelitish culture. God commanded Gomer’s first child with Hosea to be called Jezreel which means ‘God will sow’.
Jezreel was also a city in ancient Israel and in Hosea’s day was remembered as a day of bloodshed that God commanded for all the heirs of the evil king Ahab at the hand of Jehu, who then became king of Israel.
The name Jezreel was a reminder of the consequences of sin, but it was also a statement of hope that those who turn away from iniquity God will build back up again.
God commanded Gomer’s second child to be called Lo-ruhamah—meaning Not having obtained mercy—and her third child, Lo-ammi—meaning Not my people (Hosea 1:6-9).
These pronouncements reflected Israel’s current status with God. Israel was under the delusion that it was both Ruhamah and Ammi—Loved People of God—and that it could reap the benefits of that status without being faithful in return.
Ephraim and the backsliding heifer
God led the Israelites out of Egypt with gentleness, lifted off their chains of bondage, and fed and cherished them. But in return, Israel behaved like a backsliding heifer (Hosea 4:16).
But what does this mean? Like a stubborn, untamed cow trampling over God’s goodness, breaking the enclosures that God provided for her safety, she does not submit to the yoke of the law of God, but in rebellion turns away, sliding back through the muck and mire to the abominable ways of the past.
All of us have behaved this way at some point (Hosea 11:7). But with God, there is always hope. He does not leave us in our sins if we repent.
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. Hosea 14:4
Ephraim is mentioned repeatedly in the book of Hosea. Why is that?
Ephraim was the second son of Joseph by his Egyptian wife Aseneth, when he was promoted to second in command by Pharaoh in Egypt. The name Ephraim in Hebrew means “double fruit”.
Later in Israel’s history, Ephraim became the largest tribe and in biblical writings, like the book of Hosea, is sometimes substituted for Israel as a whole.
Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, Because he willingly walked by human precept. Hosea 5:11 (NKJV)
The people of God ran after the abominable ways of the nations around them instead of staying true to the covenant of God. The more they gained physically, the more they transgressed spiritually, plowing wickedness, reaping iniquity, and eating the fruit of lies. (Hosea 4:7; 10:1,13).
Yet, despite how much she had, Israel was an empty vine that brought forth fruit unto herself and denied the truth God spoke in Hosea 14:8, “From me is thy fruit found”.
Sadly, many Christians today allow their blessings (time, money, possessions) to become barriers to their spiritual growth, oblivious they are being led by the spirit of whoredoms (Hosea 5:4).
As the faithful bride of Christ, do we acknowledge where our fruit is found and glorify God with it (Hosea 2:8; 13:6)?
He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. John 15:4-5
The book of Hosea reveals how Israel viewed her great blessings, not as coming directly from the hand of God, but as gifts of service given to her by her lovers. These lovers were other cultures and kingdoms and pagan ideologies that wooed Israel away and caused her to sin until she felt no shame in her adultery. Instead of passively allowing herself to be pursued, she eagerly ran after her lovers.
But for all this, God says He will speak ‘comfortably with her’ after her harlotry to woo her back to Himself, even though He had every right to cast her aside for good. This is the goodness and mercy of God and points to the glorious hope we have in Christ. Because with God there is always hope for those who repent.
Several times in Hosea, God uses the phrases “in that day”, “at that day”, or “in the latter days”. This refers to the time when Christ would enter the world and provide forgiveness of sins and salvation through faith in His name.
“And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi [husband]: and shalt call me no more Baali [Master].” Hosea 2:16
Christ in the book of Hosea
Like most Old Testament books, Hosea is filled with parallels of the prophecy of Christ and the redemption of spiritual Israel.
- Hosea 1:10: Spiritual Israel cannot be numbered, like the sand of the sea, because all faithful people become the children of God no matter their cultural lineage.
- Hosea 3:2: Hosea bought Gomer just as Christ paid for us, His bride, through His sacrificial blood.
- Hosea 3:5: In the latter days, we shall seek the Lord our God and David our king—a reference to Jesus Christ, our King of kings and Lord of lords.
- Hosea 6:2-3: When we return to God, He will bind up our wounds and heal us. He will raise us up and we shall live in His sight (our future resurrection and eternal life).
- Hosea 12:13 By a prophet (Moses, physical)(Christ, spiritual) the Lord brought Israel (physical nation/spiritual children) out of Egypt (physical place of bondage)(spiritual bondage) and by a prophet was he preserved (we are saved by faith in Christ).
Paul read Hosea
Twice the apostle Paul used scriptural references from the book of Hosea.
Here he takes Hosea 2:23 and 1:10 respectively in an almost identical rendering and makes the correlation between who we used to be and who were are now in Christ Jesus.
As he saith also in Osee [Greek spelling of Hosea], I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. Romans 9:25-26
Paul looked forward (as you and I do) to the day when sin and death would be destroyed referencing Hosea 13:14.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. I Corinthians 15:55
Paul knew death’s sting came from our sinful human nature and sin’s strength came from our inability to live perfectly by the righteous law of God. But thanks be to God who gave us the victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. Hosea 13:14
The goodness and severity of God
In Hosea 2:15, God tells Israel He will trade “the valley of Achor for a door of hope”. What exactly does this mean?
In Joshua 7:26, after the famed battle of Jericho, one of the men of Israel did exactly what God said not to do; he stole gold and silver and accursed idols from the city and hid them in his tent. Did he think he would fool God? Not only did he condemn himself, but all his family were dragged out to the valley of Achor and stoned with him. Everything he had was destroyed.
The valley of Achor is synonymous with punishment and destruction. The penalty for adultery was the same. But God loves us dearly and provides us an escape from our sentence of death.
He provides His Son whom we are betrothed to now.
And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord. Hosea 2:19-20
The ultimate gift in this life is to know the Lord. But Israel didn’t want to know. They chose to cast off the thing that was good (knowledge of God) and went about to establish their own ‘truth’, only to be prey to their enemies (Hosea 8:3). When we embrace the things God calls abominations, we lie in bed with the enemy of our souls.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. Hosea 4:6
I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing. Hosea 8:12
They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the Lord. Hosea 5:4
The spirit of whoredoms
We are all adulteresses by nature. Sobering thought, but true. And that’s what the story of Hosea is all about.
- casting aside our God, our husband, for another
- going after the world for wisdom
- letting strangers (worldly ideologies, monetary possessions, etc.) take our strength and trading it for trinkets
- burning up our judges (tolerating sin in ourselves and others), and wondering why we’re in trouble (Hosea 7:7-9)
Faith in Christ changes our past life from an adulteress to chaste bride of Christ.
But like the unwise virgins who thought they knew the Bridegroom, we need to resist complacency and be diligent to know our God.
Faith in Christ changes our past life from an adulteress to chaste bride of Christ. But like the unwise virgins who thought they knew the Bridegroom, we need to resist complacency and be diligent to know our God.
Hosea 8:2 says, “Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee.” This will also be the cry in the end times with those who say they believe. But Christ’s response will be, “Verily, I say unto you, I know you not” (Matthew 25:12).
Pretense means nothing; God is not a fool. Having the look of a Christian does not make us one. We might talk about God, go to a church, wear Scripture on our clothes, but do we exalt Him with our thoughts and glorify Him with our actions?
Are we chaste in spirit?
God’s commands for us in Hosea are straightforward, dear Christian:
Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually. Hosea 12:6
- repentance (turning away from sin and returning to God)
- acts of godly love (mercy, kindness, righteous judgment)
- patient fidelity (staying true until the end)
One of my favorite verses in Hosea sums up the message beautifully, my friends:
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. Hosea 10:12
Abiding in the Vine,
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