The prophet Hosea ministered in the northern kingdom of Israel at the same time Isaiah was active in Judah (see Hosea 1:1 and Isaiah 1:1). The name ‘Hosea’ is a variant of ‘Hoshea’, which in turn is a variant of ‘Joshua’, which translated in Greek is ‘Jesus’. All that to say that ‘Hosea’ means ‘salvation’. I found that very intriguing!
Does the book of Hosea condone/promote believers marrying unbelievers?
Say you watched a 140-minute long movie , and twenty minutes in the movie were dedicated to a particular subplot. It’s unlikely that you’d go away convinced that the movie was all about those twenty minutes. Hosea is fourteen chapters long, and only two of those are about the prophet’s domestic situation. On this quantitative basis, we can deduce that the book isn’t that much concerned with the issue of marrying unbelievers.
“But,” someone may say, “the Hosea-Gomer subplot sets up the entire story. It’s hardly insignificant!” Please read on.
God often had the prophets act out their oracles. Jeremiah hid a linen belt in a crevice and Ezekiel cooked rationed food over cow dung, for example. If emulating Hosea is acceptable, why not emulate the other prophets as well? Shouldn’t we aim for consistency, not selectivity, and apply the same logic to all prophetic acts?
“I’ve always wanted to make a hole in the wall of my house, but I can’t because it’s rented,” my imaginary interlocutor says. I won’t comment on that desire, but I have one more thing to say.
What reason does God give to Hosea?
When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.”
-Hosea 1:2, ESV. (Emphasis mine.)
God’s explicit intention was that Hosea’s relationship with Gomer was to be a living picture of Yahweh’s relationship with Israel. I rest my case.
What is the book of Hosea about?
Three main themes emerge: Israel’s unfaithfulness, the coming judgment and God’s persistent love.
Israel’s unfaithfulness is portrayed in Gomer’s unfaithfulness. Two of the three children she bore probably weren’t Hosea’s (1:6-9). She left the marital home, and Hosea had to buy her back. He had to buy his own wife—how contorted is that?
Israel had committed spiritual adultery by serving other gods. Instead of turning to Yahweh for rescue, they made political alliances. He would have to pay a steep price to have His covenant people back with Him.
Being a holy and just God, Yahweh can’t overlook sin. Judgment for sins committed is unavoidable. And yet, He uses judgment not to break the relationship, but to restore it. On this side of Calvary, we can enjoy a restored relationship with God because Christ took the punishment we deserve.
God’s love wasn’t reciprocated, but He persisted anyway. Hosea calls the people to return to the Lord, and looks forward to a restored relationship between Yahweh and His people. The book closes with an exhortation to walk in the ways of the Lord, one which we as Christians should apply to ourselves even today.
Sources: Mike Bullmore, Vaughan Roberts