My notes on Hosea can be viewed by clicking on NOTES ON HOSEA in the link field under this blog’s title.
Suggested Background Reading:
Before undertaking a study of the prophets it is important to be aware of certain theological, historical, themes. Here is a suggested reading list:
The law of the king (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). The kings over God’s people were supposed to obey certain laws. These included not making military and economic alliances with foreign kings. Such alliances involved swearing oaths to the foreigner’s gods and were usually sealed by a marriage.
The rise and fall of Solomon (1 Kings 1-11). At the very least, chapter 9:1-9 and chapter 11 should be read and compared to Deut 17:14-20 which was linked to above.
The political division of the kingdom (1 Kings 12:1-25). Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, decides to continue his late father’s policies with disastrous results. Ten tribes rebel against the tribe of Judah (to which David and his descendants belonged) thus bringing into existence the new kingdom which retained the name Israel. The tribe of Judah, along with the tribe of Benjamin, remained under the authority of the Davidic kings and become known as the Kingdom of Judah. The text implies that Rehoboam could have avoided the division of the kingdom by taking a different course than he did in fact take.
The religious rebellion of Jeroboam I (1 Kings 12:26-13:34). Though God willed the political division of the kingdom, he still expected the people of the new Northern Kingdom of Israel to offer sacrifice in the temple at Jerusalem in accordance with the law given to Moses (Deut 12:1-14). Jeroboam I, the first king of the new state , apparently feared that if his subjects continued to go to Jerusalem (the capital of Judah) to worship, they would be tempted to reunite with the south, so he decided to erect two sanctuaries in his own kingdom where the people could offer sacrifice. Worse still, he had two golden altars manufactured in the shape of bulls; this was reminiscent of the Egyptian god Apsis and the golden calf of the Exodus. Recall that Jeroboam I had been in exile in Egypt which is where he probably got the idea for the bull altars (1 Kings 11:40).
Notes On Hosea 1:1 (The Superscription)
Hosea 1:1 Superscription: A word of Jehovah that hath been unto Hosea (literal). The word of the LORD that came unto Hosea the son of Beeri (RSV). “The word of the Lord was unto X” is stock prophetic phrasing, found throughout the OT, and, on occasion, in the New (Lk 3:2). The past tense emphasizes that the prophetic mission of the Prophet was from God and, by implication, that the words recorded in the book are of the same origin and have the same authority. “Hosea, at the very beginning of his prophecy, declares that all this, which he delivered, came not from his own mind but from God. As St Paul says, ‘Paul an apostle, not of men neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father’ (Gal 1:1). he refers all to God, and claims all obedience to Him. That word came to him; it existed then before in the mind of God. It was first God’s, then it became the Prophets, receiving it from God” (E.B. Pusey).
Hosea: virtually the same as the names Joshua, Hoshea, and Jesus. The name means salvation, or God is salvation. “Nothing certain is known concerning the life of the prophet; (Note: The traditional accounts are very meagre, and altogether unsupported. According to Pseudepiphanius, De vitis prophet. c. xi., Pseudo-Doroth. De prophetis, c. i., and in a Scholion before Ephr. Syri Explan. in Hos., he sprang from Belemoth, or Belemōn, or Beelmoth, in the tribe of Issachar, and is said to have died and been buried there. On the other hand, according to a tradition current among the inhabitants of Thessalonica, found in הקבלה שׁלשׁלת, he died in Babylon. According to an Arabian legend, it was not far from Tripolis, viz., in the city of Almenia; whilst the Arabs also point out a grave, which is supposed to be his, in the land to the east of the Jordan, on the site of Ramoth Gilead; cf. Simson, der Prophet Hosea, p. 1ff.)” [Keil & Delitzsch].
in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. Establishes the time period of the prophets ministry. “According to the title of the book, Osee (This is the Greek spelling of Hosea) prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II in Israel, and in the time of Ozias, Joatham, Achaz, and Ezechias, kings of Juda, hence from about 750 to 725 B.C. The title, however, is not quite satisfactory and does not seem to be the original one, or, at least, to have been preserved in its primitive form. None of the historical allusions with which the prophecy is filled appears to be connected with any event later than the reign of Manahem (circa 745-735); there is nothing concerning the Syro-Ephraimite war against Juda, nor the terrible intervention of Tiglath-Pileser III (734-733). The era of the Prophet, therefore, if it is to be judged from his writings, ought to be placed about 750-735; he was perhaps contemporaneous with the closing years of Amos and certainly with the first appearance of Isaias. The reign of Jeroboam II was marked by great and glorious external prosperity; but this prosperity contributed to make the political and religious decadence more rapid. Political dissolution was approaching. Zachary, son of Jeroboam, was assassinated after a reign of six months. His murderer, Sellum, retained the sceptre but one month, and was put to death by Manahem, who occupied the throne for ten years, 745-735. Israel was hastening to its ruin, which was to be completed by the taking of Samaria by Sargon (722)” (Catholic Encyclopedia @ New Advent). http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11337a.htm
A Brief Overview of the Northern Kingdom of Israel During the Time of Hosea (e.g., from circa 750 BC to the fall of the Kingdom in 722)
The time, during which Hosea prophesied, was the darkest period in the history of the kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam II was almost the last king who ruled in it by the appointment of God. The promise of God to Jehu 2Ki_10:30 in reward of his partial obedience, that his 2Ki_15:8 “children of the fourth generation should sit on the throne of Israel,” expired with Jeroboam’s son, who reigned but for 6 months (see 2Ki_15:10, 2Ki_15:14, 2Ki_15:25, 2Ki_15:30) after an anarchy of 11 years. The rest of Hosea’s life was passed amid the decline of the kingdom of Israel. Politically all was anarchy or misrule; kings made their way to the throne through the murder of their predecessors, and made way for their successors through their own 2Ki_15:8. Shallum killed Zechariah; Menahem killed Shallum; Pekah killed the son of Menahem; Hoshea killed Pekah. The whole kingdom of Israel was a military despotism, and, as in the Roman empire, those in command came to the throne. Baasha, Zimri, Omri, Jehu, Menahem, Pekah, held military office before they became kings 2Ki_16:14. Pekah was a captain of Romaliah 2 Kings 16:25) [Albert Barnes]
A More Detailed Overview: When Hosea was called to be a prophet, the kingdom of the ten tribes of Israel had been elevated to a position of great earthly power by Jeroboam II. Even under Joash the Lord had had compassion upon the children of Israel, and had turned to them again for the sake of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; so that Joash had been able to recover the cities, which Hazael of Syria had conquered in the reign of his father Jehoahaz, from Benhadad the son of Hazael, and to restore them to Israel (2Ki_8:23-25). The Lord sent still further help through Jeroboam the son of Joash. Because He had not yet spoken to root out the name of Israel under heaven, He gave them victory in war, so that they were able to conquer Damascus and Hamath again, so far as they had belonged to Judah under David and Solomon, and to restore the ancient boundaries of Israel, from the province of Hamath to the Dead Sea, according to the word of Jehovah the God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant the prophet Jonah (2Ki_14:25-28). But this revival of the might and greatness of Israel was only the last display of divine grace, through which the Lord sought to bring back His people from their evil ways, and lead them to repentance. For the roots of corruption, which the kingdom of Israel had within it from its very commencement, were not exterminated either by Joash or Jeroboam. These kings did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had caused Israel to sin, any more than their predecessors (2Ki_13:11; 2Ki_14:24). Jehu, the founder of this dynasty, had indeed rooted out Baal from Israel; but he had not departed from the golden calves at Bethel and Dan, through the setting up of which Jeroboam the son of Nebat had led Israel into sin (2Ki_10:28-29). Nor did his successors take any more care to walk in the law of Jehovah, the God of Israel, with all their heart. Neither the severe chastisements which the Lord inflicted upon the people and the kingdom, by delivering Israel up to the power of Hazael king of Syria and his son Benhadad, in the time of Jehu and Jehoahaz, causing it to be smitten in all its borders, and beginning to cut off Israel (2Ki_10:32-33; 2Ki_13:3); nor the love and grace which He manifested towards them in the reigns of Joash and Jeroboam, by liberating them from the oppression of the Syrians, and restoring the former greatness of the kingdom, – were sufficient to induce the king or the people to relinquish the worship of the calves. This sin of Jeroboam, however, although it was Jehovah who was worshipped under the symbol of the calf, was a transgression of the fundamental law of the covenant, which the Lord had made with Israel, and therefore was a formal departure from Jehovah the true God. And Jeroboam the son of Nebat was not content with simply introducing images or symbols of Jehovah, but had even banished from his kingdom the Levites, who opposed this innovation, and had taken men out of the great body of the people, who were not sons of Levi, and made them priests, and had gone so far as to change the time of celebrating the feast of tabernacles from the seventh month to the eighth (1Ki_12:31-32), merely for the purpose of making the religious gulf which separated the two kingdoms as wide as possible, and moulding the religious institutions of his kingdom entirely according to his own caprice. Thus the worship of the people became a political institution, in direct opposition to the idea of the kingdom of God; and the sanctuary of Jehovah was changed into a king’s sanctuary (Amos 12:13). But the consequences of this image-worship were even worse than these. Through the representation of the invisible and infinite God under a visible and earthly symbol, the glory of the one true God was brought down within the limits of the finite, and the God of Israel was placed on an equality with the gods of the heathen. This outward levelling was followed, with inevitable necessity, by an inward levelling also. The Jehovah worshipped under the symbol of an ox was no longer essentially different from the Baals of the heathen, by whom Israel was surrounded; but the difference was merely a formal one, consisting simply in a peculiar mode of worship, which had been prescribed in His revelation of Himself, but which could not lay the foundation of any permanently tenable party-wall. For, whilst the heathen were accustomed to extend to the national Deity of Israel the recognition which they accorded to the different Baals, as various modes of revelation of one and the same Deity; the Israelites, in their turn, were also accustomed to grant toleration to the Baals; and this speedily passed into formal worship. “Outwardly, the Jehovah-worship still continued to predominate; but inwardly, the worship of idols rose almost into exclusive supremacy. When once the boundary lines between the two religions were removed, it necessarily followed that that religion acquired the strongest spiritual force, which was most in accordance with the spirit of the nation. And from the very corruptions of human nature this was not the strict Jehovah religion, which being given by God did not bring down God to the low level of man, but sought to raise man up to its own lofty height, placing the holiness of God in the centre, and founding upon this the demand for holiness which it made upon its professors; but the voluptuous, sensual teaching of idolatry, pandering as it did to human corruption, just because it was from this it had originally sprung” (Hengstenberg’s Christology). This seems to explain the fact, that whereas, according to the prophecies of Amos and Hosea, the worship of Baal still prevailed in Israel under the kings of the house of Jehu, according to the account given in the books of Kings Jehu had rooted out Baal along with the royal house of Ahab (a Kings 10:28). Jehu had merely broken down the outward supremacy of the Baal worship, and raised up the worship of Jehovah once more, under the symbols of oxen or calves, into the state-religion. But this worship of Jehovah was itself a Baal-worship, since, although it was to Jehovah that the legal sacrifices were offered, and although His name was outwardly confessed, and His feasts were observed (Hos_2:13), yet in heart Jehovah Himself was made into a Baal, so that the people even called Him their Baal (Hos_2:16), and observed “the days of the Baals” (Hos_2:13).
This inward apostasy from the Lord, notwithstanding which the people still continued to worship Him outwardly and rely upon His covenant, had of necessity a very demoralizing influence upon the national life. With the breach of the fundamental law of the covenant, viz., of the prohibition against making any likeness of Jehovah, or worshipping images made by men, more especially in consequence of the manner in which this prohibition was bound up with the divine authority of the law, all reverence not only for the holiness of the law of God, but for the holy God Himself, was undermined. Unfaithfulness towards God and His word begot faithlessness towards men. With the neglect to love God with all the heart, love to brethren also disappeared. And spiritual adultery had carnal adultery as its inevitable consequence, and that all the more because voluptuousness formed a leading trait in the character of the idolatry of Hither Asia. Hence all the bonds of love, of chastity, and of order were loosened and broken, and Hosea uttered this complaint: “There is no truthfulness, and no love, and no knowledge of God in the land. Cursing, and murder, and stealing, and adultery; they break out, and blood reaches to blood” (Hos_4:1-2). No king of Israel could put an effectual stop to this corruption. By abolishing the worship of the calves, he would have rendered the very existence of the kingdom doubtful. For if once the religious wall of division between the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah had been removed, the political distinction would have been in danger of following. And this was really what the founder of the kingdom of the ten tribes feared (1Ki_12:27), inasmuch as the royal family that occupied the throne had received no promise from God of permanent continuance. Founded as it was in rebellion against the royal house of David, which God Himself had chosen, it bore within itself from the very first the spirit of rebellion and revolution, and therefore the germs of internal self-destruction. Under these circumstances, even the long, and in outward respects very prosperous, reign of Jeroboam II. could not possibly heal the deep-seated evils, but only helped to increase the apostasy and immorality; since the people, whilst despising the riches of the goodness and mercy of God, looked upon their existing prosperity as simply a reward for their righteousness before God, and were therefore confirmed in their self-security and sins. And this was a delusion which false prophets loved to foster by predictions of continued prosperity (cf. Hos_9:7). The consequence was, that when Jeroboam died, the judgments of God began to burst upon the incorrigible nation. There followed, first of all, an anarchy of eleven or twelve years; and it was not till after this that his son Zechariah succeeded in ascending the throne. But at the end of no more than six months he was murdered by Shallum, whilst he in his turn was put to death after a reign of one month by Menahem, who reigned ten years at Samaria (2Ki_15:14, 2Ki_15:17). In his reign the Assyrian king Phul invaded the land, and was only induced to leave it by the payment of a heavy tribute (2Ki_15:19-20). Menahem was followed by his son Pekachiah in the fiftieth year of Uzziah’s reign; but after a reign of hardly two years he was murdered by his charioteer, Pekah the son of Remaliah, who held the throne for twenty years (2Ki_15:22-27), but who accelerated the ruin of his kingdom by forming an alliance with the king of Syria to attack the brother kingdom of Judah (Isaiah 7.). For king Ahaz, when hard pressed by Pekah and the Syrians, called to his help the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser, who not only conquered Damascus and destroyed the Syrian kingdom, but took a portion of the kingdom of Israel, viz., the whole of the land to the east of the Jordan, and carried away its inhabitants into exile (2Ki_15:29). Hoshea the son of Elah conspired against Pekah, and slew him in the fourth year of the reign of Ahaz; after which, an eight years’ anarchy threw the kingdom into confusion, so that it was not till the twelfth year of Ahaz that Hoshea obtained possession of the throne. Very shortly afterwards, however, he came into subjection to the Assyrian king Shalmanezer, and paid him tribute. But after a time, in reliance upon the help of Egypt, he broke his oath of fealty to the king of Assyria; whereupon Shalmanezer returned, conquered the entire land, including the capital, and led Israel captive into Assyria (2Ki_15:30; 2Ki_17:1-6) [Keil & Delitzsch].
Resources for further reading:
The Jewish Encyclopedia. (Useful but dated)
The Catholic Encyclopedia. (also dated but useful)
Old Testament Prophets. A good on-line introductory audio series by Father Mitch Pacwa. For background on Hosea listen to shows # 1; 16; 22-25. Requires Real Player in order to be listened to. Real Player can be downloaded and used for free here.
Reading the Old Testament. A good, non-technical, Protestant introduction. Click on the headings “Assyrian period” and “Hosea.” You may also wish to read “Amos”. He was an earlier prophet to the northern kingdom and it seems likely that his ministry and Hosea’s overlapped by at least a few years.
A good map which allows you to situate the extent of the Assyrian empire on a map of the Middle-East of today can be found here.
Here is a map showing the extent of David’s kingdom at the time of his death.
Here is a map of the Divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah circa 830 BC. This would place the details on the map in relation to Hosea’s ministry circa 750-725 BC. Although both kingdoms lost territory after the division they had, by Hosea’s day, gained virtually all of it back. In other words, combine the land area of the two kingdoms and it is almost exactly the same as in the days of David.