Hosea 1-3

"Hosea, perhaps the only known prophet from the northern kingdom, was active during a tumultuous period in Israel's history. After the death of Jeroboam II in 745 BCE, political life in Israel deteriorated greatly, with six kings in 23 years. Israel tried to achieve a semblance of security by making political alliances with various nations. Sadly, this led to the worship of other deities. As a consequence, Israel's covenant with the Lord began to deteriorate, leading the Lord to break off his covenant with Israel. Hosea used his own marriage and family life to demonstrate God's word of judgment in this painful situation." (Barry J. Beitzel, ed., Biblica: The Bible Atlas, [Australia: Global Book Publishing, 2006], 306)
"As indicated in the Bible Dictionary entry on the prophet Hosea, he is 'the only prophet of the northern kingdom [kingdom of Israel] who has left written prophecies.' However, 'the profound thought and pathos of this prophet of the north deeply influenced succeeding writers.' Except for Hosea, all the other prophets whose names are listed as titles of books in the Old Testament were sent by the Lord to the citizens of the kingdom of Judah.
"New Testament writers were also influenced by Hosea; six quotations from Hosea are included in New Testament books (Hosea 1:10; 2:23; 6:6; 10:8; 11:1; and 13:14)-more than were included from the writings of Joel, Amos, Jonah, and Micah combined.
"Perhaps the two best-known statements from Hosea are:
"'When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt" (Hosea 11:1, also quoted in Matthew 2:15), and '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' (Hosea 13:14)." (Daniel H. Ludlow, Selected Writings of Daniel H. Ludlow: Gospel Scholars Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2000], 59.)
Hosea 1:2 And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms
Here, the Lord asks the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute. Why would Hosea be asked to do such a thing? Many scholars can't believe it. They believe the relationship was merely allegorical because they don't understand the Lord's manner of prophetic imagery. The following argues for a very literal interpretation of the marital relationship.
Several Old Testament prophets were made public examples by making their own lives "object lessons." For example, Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac. Jeremiah was to buy a parcel of land from his cousin because the sale of the property was symbolic of the Lord selling Jerusalem into the hands of the Babylonians (Jer. 32). The gestation of Isaiah's wife was symbolic of the time period Israel had left before Assyria would attack Damascus (Isa. 8). The most dramatic example of such an object lesson was asked of Ezekiel.
Ezekiel was to make a scale model of Jerusalem under siege by an invading army. He was to lay down by this display, obviously in a public place, so that all could see. Then, the Lord asked him to lie there on his left side for 390 days, symbolizing the number of years the Northern Kingdom had gone astray. Next, he was to lie there on his right side for 40 days, symbolizing the number of years the Southern Kingdom of Judah had gone astray. What was Ezekiel to eat while he was a human roadside attraction? This is the part that makes you glad you're not a prophet. He was supposed to make 6-grain bread, but he was to bake it on a fire made of dried human excrement. Ezekiel didn't like that idea too well and protested to the Lord. The Lord honored his complaint by telling him he could cook his bread with dried cow chips instead of human ones! (Ezek. 6)
What was the Lord's point? The Israelites would be horrified to see a prophet eating bread cooked over cow chips-that's disgusting! The object lesson was to show the Jews exactly how disgusting and unclean their behavior was before the Lord. Ezekiel had a tough job to lay there for over a year eating the same bread cooked over cow chips. What an object lesson!
Similarly, Hosea's marriage was to serve as an object lesson. Hosea was known as a prophet. If he married a woman of whoredoms, or prostitute, it would be a shock to the people. That would get the rumors going. "Did you hear that Hosea married Gomer the prostitute?" "What was he thinking?" The news must have produced quite a stir. It was then that Hosea could go before the people and explain why he had done such a thing. He may have said something like this:
"Hear, O Israel, the word of the Lord. Listen, all ye elders and Levites, for the Lord has found thee to be a backsliding nation. Hast thou forgotten the Lord, who brought thy fathers out of Egypt with a mighty hand? Hast thou forgotten the covenant thy fathers made with the Lord by the hand of Moses?
"The Lord has been to thee as a righteous husband. He has loved thee as his own. He has provided thee with bread and water. Thou hast been arrayed in the finest purple. He hast given thee a land flowing with milk and honey. He hast built thee thy habitation with the cedars of Lebanon. Thou hast suffered neither hunger nor thirst. Thy enemies have feared Him; thou hast lived deliciously; thou hast had safety under the covering of his tent.
"What of thee, O Israel? Hast thou been a faithful wife unto thy husband? Hast thou performed the duty of a wife unto the Lord? Thou hast not. Instead, thou hast 'played the harlot.' Thou hast conceived thy children shamefully for thou hast said, 'I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink.' (Hosea 2:5) O Israel, thou hast played the harlot with the idols of the nations, with Baalim and Ashtaroth. Thou hast broken thy covenant. Thou art full of uncleanness. Now, shall the Lord put thee away as a whorish woman."
Hosea 1:3-4 Gomer... bare him a son. And the Lord said unto him, Call his name Jezreel
If Hosea's marriage to a prostitute was not enough, each of his children by Gomer is named to teach the Israelites more. In this case, the name Jezreel brought back poignant memories of violence to Hosea's audience. The story is that wicked king Ahab's 70 sons were raised by the elders and strong men of the city of Jezreel. Jehu, anointed to be king of Judah, sent word to these elders encouraging them to place one of Ahab's sons on the throne, displacing their wicked father. The elders of Jezreel refused. After a second request, with Jehu coming to meet them, the elders out of fear, killed all 70 of Ahab's sons, sending the 70 decapitated heads to Jehu. Jehu's response was to kill all the rest of Ahab's relatives, the elders, and the priests of Jezreel. (2 Kgs. 10:1-14)
The story was to remind the Israelites of the bloody decapitation of their princes-that the kingdom of Israel would be destroyed with its leadership.
Hosea 1:6 she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Lo-ruhamah
The name, Lo-ruhamah, means "no mercy." When the Lord's warning is "No Mercy!" you know you are in big trouble. The Lord is so merciful with us; He is so patient. He suffers with us for so long, tolerating our inconsistencies, putting up with our mortal weaknesses, and looking past our daily foibles. But there comes a time when that mercy is withdrawn. President Anthony W. Ivins said, "whenever people depart from the way of righteousness, whenever priestcraft shall take the place of Priesthood, God's mercy will be withdrawn." (Conference Report, October 1926, First Day-Morning Session 20)
No mortal is strong enough to bear the full weight of justice. Without any mercy, the results are devastating, "For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands" (Alma 42:24).
Hosea 1:11 then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together
Bruce R. McConkie
Some of our best Old Testament pronouncements on the Fatherhood of Jehovah and the sonship of his people are found in prophecies telling of the gathering of scattered Israel in the day of restoration. "It shall come to pass," Hosea prophesied, "that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together." (Hosea 1:10-11; Rom. 9:25-26.) During the darkness of their long dispersion, Israel shall not be known as the Lord's people, but when they accept the restored gospel, they shall once again be adopted into the same family in which their ancient forebears found peace and salvation.
"I have redeemed thee," Jehovah says to Israel, ". . . thou art mine. . . . I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour. . . . I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name." (Isa. 43:1-7.) Truly this is what has been and is transpiring in this day. The scattered remnants of Israel, hearing again the voice of their Shepherd, are believing his gospel, accepting baptism at the hands of his servants, coming into his sheepfold, taking upon themselves his name, and once again becoming his sons and his daughters. (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 359)
Hosea 2:11 I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her Sabbaths
The Lord is promising to put an end to all religious holidays and celebrations. It would be like the Prophet telling us that we would never be able to celebrate Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving again. Taken as captives and slaves to the Assyrians, the Northern Kingdom would find itself dissolved, unable to celebrate the holidays of their youth, with their cultural heritage hanging by a thread.
Hosea 2:18-19 in that day... I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness
Ronald E. Poelman
My message today might best be illustrated through the experiences of a young couple whom I will call John and Gayle.
John was a thoughtful, kind young man, affectionate, with a frank and open manner. He sincerely tried to obey the Lord's commandments and found honest contentment in the joys of family life. Gayle, his wife, was young, attractive, high-spirited, but inclined toward more worldly interests and activities...
In the early years of their marriage, John and Gayle were blessed with children, first a boy and then a girl; but Gayle seemed uninterested in her domestic responsibilities. She longed for glamour and excitement in her life and was frequently away from home at parties and entertainments, not always with her husband. In her vanity, Gayle encouraged and responded to the attentions of other men until eventually she was unfaithful to her marriage vows.
Throughout, John encouraged Gayle to appreciate the joys of family life and experience the rewards of observing the laws of God. He was patient and kind, but to no avail. Shortly after the birth of a third child, a son, Gayle deserted her husband and children and joined her worldly friends in a life of self-indulgence and immorality. John, thus rejected, was humiliated and brokenhearted.
Soon, however, the glamour and excitement that had attracted Gayle turned to ashes. Her so-called friends tired of her and abandoned her. Then each successive step was downward, her life becoming more and more degraded. Eventually she recognized her mistakes and realized what she had lost, but could see no way back. Certainly John could not possibly love her still. She felt completely unworthy of his love and undeserving of her home and family.
Then one day, passing through the streets, John recognized Gayle. Surely he would have been justified in turning away, but he didn't. As he observed the effect of her recent life, all too evident, a feeling of compassion came over him-a desire to reach out to her. Learning that Gayle had incurred substantial debts, John repaid them and then took her home.
Soon John realized, at first with amazement, that he still loved Gayle. Out of his love for her and her willingness to change and begin anew, there grew in John's heart a feeling of merciful forgiveness, a desire to help Gayle overcome her past and to accept her again fully as his wife... Though I have taken some literary license in telling the story, it is the account, perhaps allegorical, of Hosea, prophet of the Old Testament, and his wife, Gomer.
Portraying God to ancient Israel as a loving, forgiving father, Hosea foreshadowed, more than most Old Testament prophets, the spirit and message of the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and modern revelation.
In these latter days the Lord has said:
For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven. (D&C 1:31-32.)
By disobeying the laws of God and breaking his commandments, we do offend him, we do estrange ourselves from him, and we don't deserve his help and inspiration and strength. But God's love for us transcends our transgressions...
Hosea's ancient message is repeated and elaborated throughout the scriptures. Through Isaiah, another Old Testament prophet, the Lord said to his people:
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
Learn to do well. ...
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isa. 1:16-18.)
The Lord, speaking to Alma, the Nephite prophet, says:
Whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also.
Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me. (Mosiah 26:29-30.)
...God is our father; he loves us; his love is infinite and unconditional. His sorrow is great when we disobey his commandments and break his laws. He cannot condone our transgressions, but he loves us and wants us to return to him.
I know of no greater inducement to repentance and reconciliation with our Father in Heaven than an awareness of his love for us personally and individually. That such awareness may increase within each of us is my prayer, to which I add my personal witness to you individually that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, the Savior of all mankind, and the Redeemer of each of us individually, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen. ("God's Love for Us Transcends Our Transgressions," Ensign, May 1982, 27-29)
Hosea 3:1-4 Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress
Prepare your tender sensibilities for Hosea's next object lesson. This time, Hosea is to marry again. Specifically, she had to be an adulteress and an idol worshipper. Hosea bought her for little more than 15 pieces of silver, the common price of a slave, indicating that she was unwanted, almost worthless.
The lesson this time was different. After consummating the relationship, Hosea was to leave her alone for a long time. During that time, she was commanded to be faithful to Hosea and she was commanded to refrain from idolatry. The lesson was different because this relationship points to the last days, when the Lord would purchase back his bride. Scattered throughout the earth, latter-day Israel is likened to this second wife: bought with a price, commanded to be faithful and forbidden to worship other gods.
Hosea's absence from his new bride is intentional. Just prior to the gathering of Israel and the redemption of Zion, Israel will "abide many days" without a husband. While the first wife had everything she could have ever wanted, the second wife had nothing: no king, no prince, no sacrifice (meaning no temple), no image (meaning no longer would she worship idols), no ephod (meaning no priesthood), and no teraphim (another form of idol worship). Such is the state of the Jews at the commencement of the dispensation of the fullness of times. While no longer steeped in idolatry, even to this day, Israel has neither king, priest, temple, nor priesthood. All that will change when the Lord comes again to gather in his fold and fight their battles.
Hosea 3:5 Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king
During the Millennium, Christ will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. However, his right hand man in Jerusalem will be a man named David. Spoken of as a prince or a king (Ezek. 34:24; Jer. 30:9), his reign is symbolic of the high point of Israelite history, the time when all 12 tribes were united under one powerful military leader. His reign will be merciful and just (Isa. 16:5). The people will prosper in perfect safety (Jer. 23:5-6). He will be invincible in battle, no matter how formidable the enemy. The Lord will be with him as the Lord was with David when he slew Goliath. Then will Israel be gathered and redeemed as a faithful wife to the bridegroom.
"King David (c. 1000 B.C.) remains today one of the most renowned Old Testament figures. His personality, spiritual sensitivity, creative abilities, military victories, and leadership carried him to the pinnacle of popularity. He had the potential to become an ideal king, but his kingship deteriorated after his adultery with Bathsheba and his involvement in Uriah's death. However, prophecy states that a model ruler in the last days will be 'raised up' from David's lineage.
"The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that 'the throne and kingdom of David is to be taken from him and given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his lineage' (TPJS, p. 339). Elder Orson Hyde, in his dedicatory prayer on the Mount of Olives, October 24, 1841, prophesied that the Jews would return to Jerusalem and that in time a leader called David, 'even a descendant from the loins of ancient David, [would] be their king' (HC 4:457). (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1-4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 360)