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Invitation to Hosea

The book of Hosea is well known for its opening image: the LORD commands the prophet to marry Gomer, a sexually promiscuous woman who will be unfaithful. They have three children together, but Gomer commits adultery with various lovers. Hosea responds by paying for her and bringing her home in a shocking display of grace. In this deeply personal prophetic sign-act,1 the prophet illustrates God’s message to Israel with the painful circumstances of his own family.

As Hosea is married to Gomer, the LORD is also in a covenant relationship: with Israel. Gomer commits adultery in illicit relationships with other men, and Israel has broken her covenant relationship with the LORD by worshipping idols and trusting in her own resources. As a result of Gomer’s unfaithfulness, Hosea will spend time separated from his wife, and the LORD will judge Israel for her sin. But just as Hosea buys back Gomer and brings her home, the LORD will restore Israel in the future in a glorious transformation.

What many readers may not realize is that this description of Hosea’s relationship with Gomer comprises only nine verses in the book! Following the opening prophetic sign-act, Hosea has much to say in the following chapters about Israel’s sin, the LORD’s judgment, and the LORD’s determination to save Israel. He will do whatever it takes to restore her to himself, even if she currently has no intention of changing her ways.

When and Where Did Hosea Prophesy?

The first verse of the book tells us that Hosea’s ministry took place during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam, king of Israel (1:1). King Uzziah reigned from 792– BC, and Hezekiah reigned from –686 BC. Based on this range, and (such as the instability in Israel due to the assasinations of Israelite kings), we can tentatively date Hosea to 755–725 BC, the mid-late eight century BC. Hosea is the only classical, writing prophet in the Old Testament who was a native of the Northern Kingdom.2 Amos was also a prophet to the Northern Kingdom, but he was a native of the southern Kingdom of Judah. All of the other prophets were from Judah and ministered there.

What Was the Situation in the Northern Kingdom of Israel?

At the beginning of Hosea’s ministry, during the reign of Jeroboam II, the Northern Kingdom was politically stable and economically prosperous. Because it was divided from Judah, however, the Israelites were not able to obey God by worshipping and making sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem. Jeroboam I, the first king of the Northern Kingdom, had attempted to resolve this problem by creating worship sites at the extreme north of his nation (at Dan) and at the extreme south (at Bethel). He set up calf-idols at these sites in order to represent the gods who delivered Israel out of slavery in Egypt (see 1Kgs 12:28–33). This was a systemic sin for the northern kingdom since God did not recognize these sites as legitimate alternatives to the temple in Jerusalem because they involved syncretism and idolatry.

In addition, the Israelites in the Northern Kingdom had a significant political and economic relationship with Phoenicia, a nation to the north along the Mediterranean coast. Along with trade goods, they imported Phoenician culture and religion, including the most important fertility deity in the region—a Canaanite god called Baal. Baal is mentioned seven times in the book of Hosea.3 He was thought to have power over lightning, storms, and rain, and therefore could make the land fertile and the crops grow. For subsistence farmers whose entire livelihood depended upon what they could produce on the land, there was a powerful temptation to worship Baal in order to ensure a successful harvest. By serving Baal and other fertility deities, the Israelites attempted to control nature to gain security and wealth for themselves.

The LORD, however, had promised Israel fertility, security, and wealth as blessings resulting from his covenant with them, as well as terrible punishments if they broke his covenant and disobeyed (see Lev 26 and Deut 28). Therefore, the book of Hosea represents a kind of contest between deities. Who will give Israel what she desires? One possible choice is the LORD, the creator of heaven and earth and Israel’s covenant partner. A second choice is the fertility deities of the surrounding nations. The people of Israel chose the fertility deities (or tried to add the fertility deities to their worship of the LORD), breaking their exclusive covenant with the LORD and bringing his judgment upon them.

In the latter part of Hosea’s ministry, the Northern Kingdom was politically unstable and threatened by the militaries of neighboring nations as well as Assyria, the superpower in the east. Following Jeroboam II, there was a series of kings with short reigns because they kept assassinating each other. Zechariah reigned only six months before he was killed by Shallum. Shallum reigned one month before he was killed by Menahem. After ten years, Pekahiah came to the throne and was then killed by Pekah, who was in turn killed by Hoshea, the last king of Israel. In 722 BC, just a few years after Hosea’s ministry, the Assyrians came and defeated Israel. They destroyed the capital city of Samaria, exiled the population to Assyria, and brought in captives from other nations to inhabit the land. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was no more. Some from Israel, however, escaped to Judah and lived there. Hosea looks forward to God’s restoration of his people—Israel and Judah—in the eschatological future when he reconciles them to himself and gives them the fertility and wealth that they had desired so fervently.


The prophet Hosea indicts the Northern Kingdom of Israel for covenant unfaithfulness and announces imminent judgment and exile, but he also promises that God will restore his people fully and finally in the eschatological future.

Key Verse

“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.”

— Hosea 2:19–20 ESV


I. Superscription (1:1)

II. Hosea’s Sign-act and Its Application to Israel (1:2–3:5)

A. Sign-act: Gomer and Israel Are Two Adulterous Wives (1:2–2:1)

B. Accusation: She Goes to Adulterous Lovers for Gifts (2:2–8)

C. Judgment: He Will Take Away Her Gifts and Leave Her Desolate (2:9–13)

D. Restoration: He Will Make a New Relationship with Her (2:14–23)

E. Sign-act: Gomer and Israel Are Two Wives, Awaiting Full Reconciliation (3:1–5)

III. Hosea’s First Case (4:1–11:11)

A. Accusation: Idols, Political Schemes, and Manipulative Worship (4:1–8:14)

1. Introduction to the LORD’s Case (4:1–3)

2. The Wicked Priest and Illegitimate Worship (4:4–19)

3. Israel Does Not Truly Seek the LORD (5:1–15)

4. Call to Return to the LORD Rejected (6:1–3)

5. Israel and Judah Are Entrenched in Rebellion (6:4–7:2)

6. Israel Is Like an Oven and a Cake (7:3–10)

7. Israel Is Like a Dove and a Bow (7:11–16)

8. Israel Has Rejected the Good (8:1–3)

9. Summary of Israel’s Sins (8:4–14)

B. Judgment: The LORD Will Destroy All That Israel Desires (9:1–10:15)

1. The LORD Will Destroy Their Food (9:1–9)

2. The LORD Will Destroy Their Children (9:10–17)

3. The LORD Will Destroy Their Worship Sites (10:1–8)

4. The LORD Will Destroy the Nation Itself (10:9–15)

C. Restoration: The LORD Is Resolved to a New Relationship with Israel (11:1–11)

IV. Hosea’s Second Case (11:12–14:8)

A. Accusation: Israel Is Not Like Their Father Jacob (11:12–12:14)

B. Judgment: The LORD Has Become Israel’s Enemy (13:1–16)

C. Restoration: Relationship Will Be Restored Through Repentance (14:1–8)

V. Epilogue (14:9)4


Following the superscription in 1:1, which identifies the book’s author and the date of his ministry, chapters 1–3 function as the introduction to the book. These opening chapters serve to set expectations for chapters 4–14 in several ways. First, they contain the prophetic sign-act of Hosea’s adulterous wife and the names of his children. In chapter 1, we are introduced to Hosea’s family and Gomer’s promiscuity. In chapter 3, God commands Hosea to love Gomer again and to bring her home. The sign-act in chapters 1 and 3 form end-caps around chapter 2, which applies the sign-act to God’s relationship with Israel. Thus, chapters 1–3 form a conceptual introduction to the book: Israel is determined to rebel, but God is determined to restore.

Israel is determined to rebel, but God is determined to restore.

Second, chapters 1–3 introduce the three-fold structural pattern of the book: accusation, (near) judgment, and (eschatological) restoration. In chapter 2, Hosea accuses Israel of sin and breaking her covenant with the LORD. Because of this, God will judge Israel in the near future by removing the very blessings she expected from the fertility deities and the alliances with foreign nations. In the eschatological future, however, God will restore Israel, reconciling her to himself, and will give her great material and spiritual blessings once again. This three-fold pattern provides the structure of Hosea’s first set of oracles in chapters 4–11 and his second set of oracles in chapters 12–14. Each of the three accusation units (Hos 2, 4, 12) begin with the Hebrew root riv (rhymes with “leave”) which appears as a noun or a verb and refers to a dispute, either an informal argument or a formal court case. This word is often translated “plead” or “contend” and designates the beginning of the three main sections of the book (see 2:2; 4:1, 4; 12:2).

The epilogue in 14:9 reflects on the book as a whole and urges the reader to take it seriously as God’s Word, as wisdom, and as the path to true blessing.

Superscription (1:1)

1:1 The superscription gives us three important pieces of information. First, it tells us that the book of Hosea is “the word of the LORD.” It “came” to Hosea and was not invented by him. Its contents are not his best guess about what God is like or merely a reaction to current events. As a true prophet of God, Hosea received the word of the LORD and then proclaimed it to his audience. Second, the superscription identifies Hosea by the name of his father “Beeri.” Third, as we noted above, this verse dates the book by kings of Judah and Israel. Strangely, the book is primarily dated by Judahite kings and ignores the Israelite kings (except for Jeroboam II) who reigned during that time. Hosea possibly did not view them as legitimate due to the many assassinations and overall instability.

Sign-act: Gomer and Israel Are Two Adulterous Wives (1:2–2:1)

1:2–3 The book opens with God’s command for Hosea to marry a “wife [or “woman”] of whoredom” (1:2). The Hebrew word translated “whoredom” (zanah) refers to fornication, prostitution or other illicit sexual activity. The text does not technically call her a “prostitute” but rather describes the actions which characterize her. The reason the LORD’s prophet must marry a woman like this is that the LORD is also in a covenant relationship—with Israel—who “commits great whoredom by forsaking” him (1:2). The task is a prophetic sign-act, designed to give greater rhetorical force to Hosea’s message by giving his audience a surprising visual object lesson. Hosea obeyed by marrying a woman named Gomer, and they had three children.

1:4–5 The focus of this first unit is on the names of the children, which also function as part of the prophetic sign-act and communicate God’s Word to the people. The first child, a son, is to be named “Jezreel” which is the name of a valley and a city in the Northern Kingdom. This was the location where God, through the prophet Elisha, had instructed Jehu to kill the house of King Ahab for his great evil in killing God’s prophets (cf. 1Kgs 21:17–24; 2Kgs 9:7; 10:30). Apparently, Jehu’s violence had been more extensive than what God had intended, which called for punishment. This bloody episode in Israel’s history is the background of the name of Hosea’s firstborn son and is meant to serve as an illustration of what God would do to Israel as punishment for her sin.

Ruins at Tel Jezreel
Ruins at Tel Jezreel | Photo Credit: Bukvoed, CC BY-SA 4.0

1:6–7 Gomer conceived again and this time gave birth to a daughter. The LORD instructs Hosea to name her “No Mercy” (noun, rukhama) as a sign that God would no longer have mercy on Israel. This is an extremely disconcerting message, for God identifies mercy as one of his essential attributes. In Exodus 34:6, when he reveals his character to the Israelites in the wilderness, he proclaims that he is “a God merciful (adjective, rakhum) and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (see also Neh 9:17; Ps 86:15; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2). Now, Israel’s sin has become so great that mercy and forgiveness are no longer options. Judgment is inevitable. Hosea recognizes, however, that the Southern Kingdom of Judah is on a different path and will remain (for a time) after Israel has been destroyed.

1:8–9 After weaning “No Mercy,” Gomer gives birth to another son whom Hosea is instructed to name “Not My People” (lo ammi). Israel had broken the covenant which formalized the special relationship that she had with the LORD. Although the people of Israel were utterly ordinary—with nothing special to recommend them—God had chosen them as his particular people to be the vehicle of his salvation for all other nations. But now, he considers them no longer his people.

1:10–2:1 Despite these dark words, however, Hosea suddenly transitions to words of hope. In the eschatological future, the names of Hosea’s children will be reversed. “Not My People” will become “Children of the living God.” “Jezreel” will be a place of reconciliation with God. And to those given “No Mercy,” it will be said, “You have received mercy” (2:1). We see in the sign-act of this unit the same three-fold pattern of accusation, judgment and restoration that we find in the macrostructure of the book. Hosea’s unfaithful wife and the names of his children are an accusation of the people’s behavior. God declares that he will no longer forgive them and they are no longer his people (judgment). The unit concludes with restoration: the judgment will be temporary and God will find a way to bring Israel home.

She Goes to Adulterous Lovers for Gifts (2:2–8)

At first glance, it might seem as though this unit continues the sign-act of Hosea’s marriage and children. It mentions a “mother,” “children,” and “whoredom” among other terms that we saw in 1:2–2:1. It soon becomes clear, however, that now Hosea is describing the people of Israel and their relationship to the LORD. He continues to use the imagery of the sign-act and applies it to the nation.

2:2 The prophet begins with the first use of the Hebrew word rib, here translated “plead.” The imagery is that of a court case in which God, the jilted “husband,” is the plaintiff who has been wronged. But who is Hosea addressing, and who is the “mother”? The best solution is that Hosea is addressing the people of Israel (he is using a plural imperative, or verb of command), while the “mother” is a metaphor for the leadership and institutions of Israel. Just as a mother leads and trains her children, the common people of Israel have been led away from the LORD by the king, priests, false prophets, shrines, and culture of the nation.5

2:34 God makes it clear that Israel’s spiritual adultery will bring judgment. He will “strip her naked.” This sounds like a punishment for someone who has committed adultery, but it is a reference to stripping the land of all its resources and agricultural produce, resulting in utter desolation (cf. Ezek 16:39). The land will be a dry wilderness, and he will have no mercy upon the children. The passage makes no sense if this is Hosea talking about his own children—what have they done wrong? Rather, these statements borrow imagery from the sign-act in chapter 1 to depict God judging the land because the people living in it have become “children of whoredom.”

2:5 The prophet depicts Israel’s thoughts and perspective, revealing her motivation for her unfaithfulness to God. She says, “I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.” She has turned away from the LORD to competing gods because she believes that they will be more effective at giving her what she wants: the fertility of the land and successful agriculture that will make her secure and wealthy.

She has turned away from the LORD to competing gods because she believes that they will be more effective at giving her what she wants.

2:6–8 The LORD, however, will frustrate her efforts and prevent her from gaining anything (Hos 2:6–7a). Because her motives are mercenary, she will then conclude that perhaps the LORD was more effective at giving her good gifts, and she will decide to return to him as her “first husband” (2:7b). The unit concludes with an ironic statement from the LORD, “she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil” all along (2:8). This failure is significant. Because Israel was unclear about the source of her blessings, she gave credit for those gifts to Baal and worshipped him. In her folly, she left the true God and went to the counterfeit god. But because she went to the counterfeit god, the true God would take away his good gifts and she would be left with nothing. This judgment is the subject of the next unit.

He Will Take Away Her Gifts and Leave Her Desolate (2:9–13)

We noted above that the introduction to the book (2:2–23) is preceded and followed by the sign-act of Hosea’s family and is structured in the three-fold pattern: accusation, judgment, and restoration. The previous unit (2:2–8) was Hosea’s introductory accusation against Israel. She was spiritually adulterous and went after Baal because she thought he was responsible for the blessings that she enjoyed, and she wanted more of them. In the present unit (2:9–13), God announces that because she worshipped false gods and gave credit to them for his gifts, he will bring judgment upon her. He will take away the very things that motivated her infidelity.

2:9 Israel had said in 2:5 that her “lovers” (the fertility gods) had given her bread, water, wool, flax, oil, and drink. Now, God says that he will take back his grain in its time, and his wine in its season, as well as the wool and flax. God is the creator of all things and all things belong to him. He delights to give them as gifts to his people, but he will not be dismissed and taken for granted. He will prove to Israel that he is giver of these things by taking them away.

2:10–11 God will reveal Israel’s “lewdness” (ESV), a word which might also be translated “shame,” before her “lovers”—the gods that she has worshipped (2:10). He will put a stop to her celebrations, holy days, feasts, and Sabbaths. These were days that God had commanded Israel to observe in worship of himself. Why would he end them? Perhaps he ended the celebrations because the events were compromised with syncretism in which the people worshipped the LORD alongside other gods. Perhaps he is also signaling that his covenant relationship with Israel is broken, as he indicated in 1:9.

2:12–13 God will destroy her vines and fig trees. In an echo of 2:7–8, she thinks that these are the “wages” given to her by her lovers and that she has received these things because of her worship of fertility gods. God will respond by turning her cultivated vineyards and orchards into a wild forest, full of wild animals, which produce nothing of value. She had forgotten the LORD and went after other lovers, including the Baals. The plural “Baals” may be a reference either to manifestations of the god in different locations or to different sites where he was worshipped.

He Will Make a New Relationship with Her (2:14–23)

Having used the imagery of Hosea’s family sign-act to accuse Israel of covenant unfaithfulness (2:2–8) and to announce inevitable, warranted judgment (2:9–13), Hosea turns to the third part of his structural pattern: restoration. Israel’s desires for fertile agriculture and military security are not wrong, but she needs to understand that they come only from God. He wants to give her great blessings, but she must be loyal to him and trust in him alone. When he reconciles her to himself, he will once again give all good things to his covenant partner.

He wants to give her great blessings, but she must be loyal to him and trust in him alone.

Hosea locates this reconciliation in the eschatological future—those days in the indeterminate time to come when God breaks into human history and sets all things right. He uses terminology commonly used by the OT prophets to signal the eschatological future. His relationship with Israel will be restored “in that day” (2:16) and “forever” (2:19). Likewise, Israel’s relationship with nature will be restored “on that day” (2:18). For the OT prophets, this event would occur in the distant future. From a NT perspective, we know that we are presently living in the eschatological future. It began with the death and resurrection of Christ and it will be completed when Christ returns a second time to call his people to himself, save them from their enemies, and live with them on a new earth.

2:14 God, speaking through Hosea, begins his announcement of restoration by saying that he will “bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” Israel’s relationship with God began in the wilderness when he rescued her from slavery in Egypt. Now he will take her back to those days and start afresh. (Perhaps this is like a couple with marriage difficulties revisiting the restaurant where they got engaged or the city where they had their honeymoon.) The expression “speak tenderly” is a Hebrew idiom which refers to coaxing someone who has gone through suffering or who is afraid because of a power imbalance. God will gently coax Israel back to himself, knowing that the two covenant partners have been estranged.

2:15–23 The restoration will be all-encompassing. He will give his people back their vineyards (2:15) which he had previously destroyed in judgment (cf. 2:12). He will restore their relationship to the land so that it is fruitful and productive once again (2:18, 21–22). He will transform them, so that they no longer worship Baal and are faithful to him alone (2:17, 19–20). He concludes by once again reversing the names of Hosea’s children. When he says, “I will sow her for myself in the land,” he is reversing the name Jezreel, which means “God sows.” He will have mercy on “No Mercy” and he will once again claim “Not My People” as his own special people. NT writers (Paul in Rom 9:23–24 and Peter in 1Pet 2:10) quote from Hosea 2:23 as a part of their argument that if God can make rebellious Israelites his people once again, then he can also call believers from all Gentile nations and make them his people as well.

Sign-act: Gomer and Israel Are Two Wives, Awaiting Full Reconciliation (3:1–5)

The book of Hosea began with the sign-act of Hosea’s marriage and children (1:2–2:1). This provided an analogy for God’s Word to Israel in the form of accusation, announcement of judgment, and prediction of eschatological restoration (2:2–23). In the present unit, comprising only the five verses of chapter 3, Hosea returns to the sign-act.

3:1 God commands Hosea to go and love a woman once again, even though she is adulterous and is loved by another man. The parallel, obvious by now from the preceding chapters, is that the LORD loves Israel even though she is spiritually adulterous and is trusting in other gods. There is some debate among scholars as to whether this woman that Hosea is instructed to love is the same woman (Gomer) that we are familiar with from 1:2–3. There are several reasons to believe that it is the same woman. First, the woman is already an “adulteress” and therefore must be married. Second, Hosea is told to “Go again,” suggesting that he has loved her before. Third, the parallel between the LORD and Israel is unclear if Hosea has moved on from Gomer and now is commanded to love someone else.6

3:2–4 Hosea barters for his wife for fifteen shekels of silver and some barley and brings her home. When he instructs her to “play the whore” no longer, he says, “so will I also be to you.” The meaning is: “You will not belong to another man, and I will [behave in the same way] toward you.” He will remain separate from her for a time and cease from any sexual relations. This is a sign-act, private though it might be, for in the same way the LORD will be separate from the people of Israel for some time. As a result of his judgment, they will not have political leaders (king or prince), or the usual religious experiences that allow them to connect with God. Interestingly, Hosea alternates between legitimate and illegitimate ways of worshipping God. “Sacrifice” and “ephod” were elements of priestly activity that God had commanded in the Law, but “pillar” and “household gods” were prohibited. “Just as Gomer must cease from all illegitimate and legitimate sexual activity, all religious activity—both legitimate and illegitimate—will cease for Israel.7

Hosea looks forward to a time when Israel will return and seek after God.

3:5 This short unit follows the same three-fold pattern that we have seen in chapter 2. It begins with accusation (Hosea’s wife is an adulteress and Israel turns to other gods), moves to judgment (Hosea will remain separated from his wife and God will remain separate from Israel), and finally concludes with a word of restoration. Hosea looks forward to a time when Israel will return and seek after God. The reference to “David their king” is pregnant with messianic associations since the prophets look to David’s line as the source of God’s coming king who will redeem his people and lead them perfectly. This will take place “in the latter days,” another expression that refers to the eschatological future.

Introduction to the LORD’s Case (4:1–3)

Hosea now moves from the introduction (Hos 1–3) to his first argument or case against Israel. Following the pattern established in the introduction, he will begin with accusation (4:1–8:14), announce judgment (9:1–10:15), and then proclaim that God will restore his people in the end (11:1–11). The lengthy accusation unit, beginning in 4:1, is marked by the Hebrew word riv which is translated “controversy” (ESV, KJV), “case” (CSB), or “charge” (NIV).

4:1–3 Hosea introduces his case, much like a prosecuting attorney would give a preview of his or her argument to a jury. The first verse lists Israel’s sins of omission. They are not faithful and have no “steadfast love.” This latter expression is a translation of the Hebrew word khesed which refers to the LORD’s love and commitment to his people because he is in a covenant relationship with them. He also expects his people—in the covenant community—to show khesed toward each other, resulting in righteousness, justice, and generosity. This is vividly illustrated in the book of Ruth, where Boaz’s actions toward Ruth and Ruth and Naomi’s actions toward each other are described as khesed. But in the time of Hosea, there is no khesed or “steadfast love,” probably because there is “no knowledge of God in the land” (4:1). This lack of knowledge recalls 2:8, when God laments that his people did not know that it was he who gave them all that they had. The theme of knowledge (or the lack thereof) is an important theme in the book.

In 4:2, Hosea lists the sins of commission, likely drawn from the Decalogue or “Ten Commandments” (Exod 20:3–17). Israel is characterized by “swearing” (#3), “lying” (#9), “murder” (#6), “stealing” (#8), and “adultery” (#7). “Bloodshed follows bloodshed,” meaning that one act of murder leads to the next and there is no pause between murders. Because of these sins, and others, God has devastated the land and stopped its fertility (Hos 4:3; cf. 2:9, 12).

The Wicked Priest and Illegitimate Worship (4:4–19)

4:4–6 Hosea continues his accusation that Israel has broken covenant by critiquing her leaders and illegitimate worship practices. He turns first to the leadership in 4:1–11. God, speaking through the prophet, says, “my contention [is with you], O priest” and “the prophet also shall stumble with you” (4:4–5). Maybe a particular priest and prophet is in mind, or perhaps Hosea is talking about priests and prophets in the Northern Kingdom collectively, in general terms. He then says, “I will destroy your mother” (4:5). In our discussion of 2:2–8 above, we said that the “mother” is likely a metaphor for Israel’s leadership and institutions. The priests and prophets are a “mother” to the people: leading, guiding, and training them in who they should worship and how they should worship. The leadership of Israel is responsible for instructing the people and forming their worldview. The problem is that the leaders have “rejected knowledge” and therefore, God says, “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (4:6). What chance is there for the common people to know orthodox theology and have an accurate understanding of God if their spiritual leaders have rejected knowledge? The leaders have become the ruin of the people. God’s response is to reject the priests.

4:7–11 Whereas 4:4–6 describes the reason for the leadership failure—rejecting true knowledge and forgetting God’s Law—these verses depict other sins of the priesthood. God observes that the more they increased, the more they sinned against him. In 4:8, the word translated “sin” can refer either to a sin or the sin offering that one offers to atone for sin. It seems that 4:8 is a play on words: the priests literally eat the sin offerings of the people (as they were instructed to do by Moses; cf. Lev 6:24–26), but they also “feed on,” or delight in, the sin of the people as well because they are corrupt. God will punish the evil of the priests just as he punishes the people, by taking away fertility. They “play the whore” in an attempt to increase, but they will get the opposite outcome (Hos 4:9–11).

4:12–19 Hosea condemns Israel’s illegitimate worship. The word “spirit” (Hebrew, ruakh) occurs in verses 12 and 19, forming an inclusio, or bracketing structure, around this sub-unit. The word refers to a “spirit of the age” (German, Zeitgeist), in which the people are influenced by the culture and the worldview of their society rather than by God’s truth. They use divination to gain knowledge, which God had strictly prohibited (cf. Deut 18:9–14; 1Sam 15:23; Jer 14:14). They make sacrifices in fertility religion (Hos 4:13) and practice idolatry (4:17). The prophet observes what has now become a refrain: “a people without understanding shall come to ruin” (4:14). The people’s ignorance of the true God results in a multitude of sins and failure to achieve what they want.

Israel Does Not Truly Seek the LORD (5:1–15)

The previous unit addressed the failed spiritual leadership of Israel. The present unit, 5:1–15, addresses the nation as a whole, with some emphasis on its political leaders. The word “seek” occurs near the beginning and end of this section and gives coherence to the unit. In 5:6, the prophet says that Israel goes to seek the LORD but cannot find him because he has withdrawn from them. In 5:15, God again states that he has withdrawn until Israel acknowledges its guilt and seeks him.

5:1–6 Hosea begins by addressing the priests again (cf. chapter 4), but now adds the king to his list of those who have failed the people by ensnaring them in evil (5:1). Israel’s deeds (and their motivations for sinning) prevent them from returning to God in repentance (5:4). Just as 4:12 and 4:19 speak of a “spirit” of the age that motivates and influences the behavior of the people, Hosea says here that “a spirit of whoredom” is within them. Once again knowledge (or its lack) is the problem: “they know not the LORD.” In 5:6, however, Hosea says that the people do go to seek the LORD. Which is it? Do they seek him (5:6) or not (5:4)? What sounds like a contradiction is actually a common feature of the book of Hosea. The prophet is saying that they do not return to the LORD, but even if they did seek him, they would not find him because he refuses to relate to them if they will not admit the wrongs they have done.8

The prophet is saying that they do not return to the LORD, but even if they did seek him, they would not find him because he refuses to relate to them if they will not admit the wrongs they have done.

5:7–12 Verses throughout this unit give a preview of the judgment that God will bring upon the nation. Hosea says, “the judgment is for you” (5:1), “I will discipline all of them” (5:2), and “the new moon shall devour them with their fields” (5:7). With this latter statement, it seems that Hosea is personifying the religious festival of the “new moon” and stating that their corrupt practices will be the underlying reason for the nation’s destruction.9 In 5:8, Hosea imagines a battle in which the soldiers call to each other, “we follow you, O Benjamin!” But the clear sense is that the fighting will end in defeat. God says that he will be “like a moth” and “dry rot” to Israel and Judah (5:12). The God who loves to create and give will instead destroy and take.

The God who loves to create and give will instead destroy and take.

5:13–15 In 5:13, we learn that Israel is guilty of another kind of idolatry. When we think of an idol, we may immediately picture a statue of a god or some other religious object to be worshipped. An idol, however, can be anything that we trust (in place of God) to provide what we want and need. In this case, the king and other political leaders of Israel see the problems in their nation. Rather than turning to the LORD, however, they attempt to establish an alliance with Assyria, the dreaded, conquering superpower in the east. Like all of Israel’s plots, this will fail spectacularly. Not only is there nothing that Assyria can do to help Israel, but God himself will attack Israel in judgment for their lack of loyalty and ruin them even further (5:14). Perhaps we should not be too judgmental of Israel. We are also tempted to trust in our social network, national military, political party, local emergency responders, and other resources to get us out of trouble. These visible things are all blessings, but they can become idols if they are the objects of our confidence instead of an invisible but powerful God.

We are also tempted to trust in our social network, national military, political party, local emergency responders, and other resources to get us out of trouble. These visible things are all blessings, but they can become idols if they are the objects of our confidence instead of an invisible but powerful God.

Call to Return to the LORD Rejected (6:1–3)

The speaker in this short unit is not immediately clear. It cannot be the LORD, since he is mentioned in the third person. Is it the people of Israel speaking to each other and urging each other to repent and return to the LORD? The problem with this view is that it conflicts with the context. God just said in the previous unit (Hos 5) that Israel does not repent or seek him. In the following unit (6:4 and following) God is frustrated with Israel and accuses them of more sin. Perhaps the people are speaking, but they lack sincerity. The best view is that this is Hosea the prophet speaking to the people. He is including himself as one of them for rhetorical effect using first person plural forms, “let us return to the LORD” in order that “we may live before him.” In this way, he is not seen as talking down to them, but is giving them a way out of their current distress.

6:1–2 Hosea offers them hope that if they repent God will “heal” them (6:1), bind them up (6:1) and “revive” them (6:2). This offer is similar to the prophet Joel’s insistence that if that nation repents, they will find God eager to forgive and restore them since that is his nature (Joel 2:12–14).

6:3 Interestingly, Hosea concludes his call with the imagery of rain showers to describe the LORD’s coming in grace. Just as rain showers are a blessing that make the fields fertile and allow crops to grow, their reconciliation with God will bring blessing. This imagery is appropriate given Israel’s history of worshipping fertility deities and the related themes of the book. Note also that Hosea urges them to “press on to know the LORD” (Hos 6:3). This is yet another reference to knowledge as the key to right relationship with God.

If Hosea is calling the people to repent, how then do we make sense of this unit’s location in the context, in the midst of an accusation unit in the structure of the book? Apparently, we are meant to assume that the people reject Hosea’s exhortation. Thus, they are even more guilty and are due for more accusation in the next unit.

Israel and Judah Are Entrenched in Rebellion (6:4–7:2)

6:4–5 Hosea continues his accusation that the people of Israel have broken their covenant with the LORD in a multitude of ways. He begins by critiquing them for their fickle and faithless behavior. He says, “Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early” (6:4). One might awaken early in the morning to a fog in the air or dew that lies heavy on the grass, but by midday, the sun has burned it away and there is no evidence it was ever there. In the same way, Israel’s love and commitment to God are utterly unreliable, disappearing in a moment.

6:6 Apparently, Israel not only worshipped false gods, they also worshipped the LORD with false motives in an attempt to manipulate him. Perhaps they thought it did not matter what sins they committed, as long as they performed sacrifices to the LORD afterward. If they could just keep him happy, they could get away with whatever evil they devised. But God rejects this attitude outright, stating, “I desire steadfast love (Hebrew, khesed) and not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” This is very similar to Samuel’s statement to King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD?” In the covenant, God had commanded that his people make sacrifices and offerings to him. But those God-ordained acts had become an empty ritual without true faith and obedience. In Matthew 9, the Pharisees criticized Jesus for spending time with “sinners.” Jesus responded that the sick need a doctor, and quoted Hosea 6:6 to defend his mission: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus seems to be thinking of “sacrifice” in Hosea 6:6 as metonymy for all the ritual commands of God. The Pharisees were so overly focused on the external rituals of faith that they had lost sight of God’s merciful heart.

In the covenant, God had commanded that his people make sacrifices and offerings to him. But those God-ordained acts had become an empty ritual without true faith and obedience.

6:7–10 Hosea states that “like Adam they transgressed the covenant.” Traditionally, some theologians have understood this verse to be referring to Adam, the first man (cf. Gen 2:20). Therefore, they have seen the verse as a warrant for a “covenant of works” in the garden within covenant theology. This may be so; however, a reference to Adam is somewhat abrupt in the context here in Hosea 6. Another possibility is that the Hebrew word adam means “humanity” (as it often does). Hosea would be saying that all humanity has transgressed the covenant in a general sense. A third possibility is that “Adam” is the name of a city on the east side of Israel, as mentioned in Joshua 3:16. This is supported by the next clause in Hosea 6:7, “there they dealt faithlessly with me.” In any case, in this section, the prophet is describing violence and murder in the land, committed not only by average people but by priests!

6:11–7:2 The people of Israel commit evil deeds, deal falsely, and steal from each other (7:1). They think that they are acting with impunity since God does not see or care. But God responds that he does “remember all their evil” (7:2). The people of Israel are storing up judgment for themselves.

Israel Is Like an Oven and a Cake (7:3–10)

In chapter 7, Hosea uses several metaphors to describe Israel’s disloyalty. Having discussed their religious unfaithfulness in chapter 6, he turns once again to the idolatry of trusting in alliances with foreign nations (cf. 5:13).

7:3–7 First, he compares Israel to an overheated oven. In the imagery, the heat apparently represents Israel’s raging sin: he refers to them as a heated oven in connection with adultery (7:4), drunkenness (7:5), conspiracies and anger (7:6), and rebellion against their rulers (7:7). Not only is the oven too hot, but the baker in this image is incompetent, failing to stir the fire or knead the dough until the cake is already leavened. How can this situation possibly produce a successful outcome?

7:8–10 The prophet continues the baking imagery but the metaphor shifts so that now Israel (represented by Ephraim) is not the oven but the cake that the baker is trying to produce. First, Hosea says that “Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples” (7:8), a reference to reliance on the surrounding nations and attempts to create alliances with them. But this “flip-flopping” of allegiance means that Ephraim is a “a cake not turned” (7:8). In the metaphorical image, not only did the baker fail to stir the fire and knead the dough, he also neglected to flip the cake. Because the cake is cooked on one side and raw on the other, it is ruined. The result is that—rather than foreign nations delivering Israel from his troubles—“strangers devour his strength,” and he does not even realize it (another example of the theme of knowledge and ignorance in the book). Why do God’s people insist on turning to neighboring nations for help instead of repenting and turning to the LORD? Their ignorance is because of their pride; they refuse to seek him even though their idolatry is producing even greater suffering.

Israel Is Like a Dove and a Bow (7:11–16)

7:11–13 Having described Israel first as a hot oven and then as a ruined cake, Hosea continues to describe Israel using metaphorical language. He first compares the nation to a dove which is “silly and without sense” (7:11). Birds often appear to be unintentional in their movements, flitting from branch to branch and flying here and there with no obvious direction. In her pride, Israel has determined not to seek the LORD, so they go first to one nation (Egypt) and then to another (Assyria) looking for help. These were the two great “super powers” in the ancient world at the time; Egypt was to the southwest and Assyria was in the east. God announces his judgment in equally metaphorical terms. If Israel is like a senseless bird, then he will spread his net over them and capture then, disciplining them according to the report of what they have done (7:12). God is open to forgiving them, but they refuse, speaking lies about him (7:13).

7:14–15 God says in 7:14, “for grain and wine they gash themselves.” The Hebrew word translated “gash” in the ESV (“slash” in the NIV) is uncertain and none of the options really fit the context here very well. The Greek Septuagint (the most important ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) has “they cut themselves” which probably represents the original, correct reading. In other words, they are so upset about the loss of their grain and wine (which God had originally given them), that they are cutting themselves. Although he had given them strength, they now “devise evil” against him (7:15).

7:16 Hosea then uses another metaphor to describe them. They are like a “treacherous” bow. The Hebrew word translated “treacherous” is an adjective used for incompetence. In battle, a soldier must be able to trust that his weapon will perform when necessary, or he will be killed by the enemy. But Israel is an unreliable bow that fails to shoot or does not shoot straight. The first part of the verse suggests that the main problem is that they are aiming at the wrong thing. They turn here and there for help, but not “upward” toward God.

They are aiming at the wrong thing. They turn here and there for help, but not “upward” toward God.

The unit ends as it began, with a reference to Egypt. Israel goes to Egypt and Assyria for help (7:11), but in Egypt they will find only “derision” and failure (7:16).

Israel Has Rejected the Good (8:1–3)

8:1–3 Suddenly, in 8:1, there is a call to arms! In Hebrew, the poetic lines are fragmentary and do not even form complete sentences. Possibly, the language is intentionally garbled in order to mimic the panic of soldiers when they are under attack. Some shouts, “Set the trumpet to your lips!” The “trumpet” (Hebrew, shophar) was not an instrument for making music, but for calling people to attention, marking ceremonial occasions, announcing a new king or, as in this case, signaling that the enemy is attacking (see also 5:8).10 The enemy is compared to a “vulture” (ESV) or an “eagle” (CSB, NIV). Eagles are used in the OT as images of speed and ferocity because they swoop down on their defenseless prey. Vultures come to feast on the dead. Whichever bird is intended in the metaphor, Israel is in terrible danger. Curiously, the “vulture” (or “eagle”) is “over the house of the LORD.” This expression typically refers to the temple in Jerusalem, but Hosea is speaking to the Northern Kingdom. Here “the house” is probably being used as a symbol of the entire nation.11

Although this small unit announces judgment, it primarily continues Hosea’s accusation against Israel. The enemy is coming because they have broken God’s covenant and refused to obey his Law (8:1). “Israel has spurned the good” (8:3). This use of “good” is noteworthy. They have rejected what is “good” (God and his gifts) in order to seek greater good from the surrounding nations. But what they will get is an invasion from one of those nations who will damage them even more.

The enemy is coming because they have broken God’s covenant and refused to obey his Law.

In all this, Israel seems confused. They cry out, “My God, we—Israel—know you” (8:2). The poetic line is obviously awkward. The best explanation is that it continues the depiction of Israel’s panicked response. They cannot believe that they are being attacked. They say something like, “My God! We have known you! We are Israel!”12 Perhaps they cannot understand why God would allow his own people to be attacked. This would be a further indictment of their ignorance and cluelessness. Or, perhaps they are trying to manipulate God and appeal to him on the basis of their connection with him, even though they have shown no interest in repentance and obedience.

Summary of Israel’s Sins (8:4–14)

This subunit concludes the accusation portion of Hosea’s first case against Israel. He has been describing the various ways that Israel demonstrates rebellious independence from the LORD—they will apparently trust almost anything except him for peace and security. Now, like a prosecuting attorney in court, he summarizes his case against the defense by rehearsing the evidence. He does this by quoting God’s accusations (see the use of the first-person in 8:4, 5, 10, 12, 14), though in the final verses Hosea instead summarizes and refers to God in the third person.

8:4a God’s speech alternates between the two primary objects of Israel’s trust. He begins by addressing the political realm: “They made kings but not through me. They set up princes, but I knew it not.” God was the ultimate king of Israel, but he also set human kings over his people to model faithfulness to his covenant, to teach the Law, and to encourage the people to obey him (for an example, see the evaluation of King Hezekiah in 2Kgs 18:1–7). When Israel and Judah were divided after the death of Solomon, God sent the prophet Ahijah to Jeroboam to announce that he would be king over the northern tribes (1Kgs 11:29–32). For the most part, however, the kings of Israel were wicked, leading the way in idolatry and rebellion. When God says, “I knew it not” he is not calling into question his omniscience; rather, he is saying, “I had nothing to do with those kings.”

8:4b–6 Next, he alternates to the religious realm. After speaking generally about Israel’s idols made of silver and gold, he mentions a specific idol: the “calf” of Samaria. We said above in the introduction that Jeroboam had set up two calf idols, one at Dan in the far north and one at Bethel on the southern border. It may be that “the calf” of Samaria is a general reference to both of these idols and the institution surrounding them. This cult ultimately belongs to Samaria because that is the capital city of the nation. One of the idols may also have been moved to Samaria because of an enemy invasion.13 Sounding very much like the prophet Isaiah (cf. Isa 40:18–20; 44:9–17), Hosea argues that if a god is made by human hands, it cannot possibly be divine. It “shall be broken to pieces” (Hos 8:6); if it cannot deliver itself from destruction, how can it save the people of Israel?

Cultic site at Tel Dan, likely dating to Jeroboam I and the worship of the golden calves. | Photo Credit: Phil Thompson, CC BY-SA 4.0

8:7–10 Hosea transitions back to the political realm. Israel has sown “the wind” (empty and worthless political schemes) and they will harvest “the whirlwind” (destruction). The prophet then uses a literary device in which a speaker states that something will not happen, but even if it were to happen, it would not matter anyway.14 Here he says that their crops will fail, but even if they were to yield a harvest, foreigners would come and take it. This is further evidence that God is working against them; they would not accept blessing from him, so now he is ensuring that they will not be blessed at all. The specific references to idolatry come in 8:8–10. Israel is “among the nations.” They have gone up to Assyria to ask for help and attempted to hire “lovers.” (Ezek 16:23–43 also uses the image of “lovers” to refer to the sin of trusting alliances with neighboring nations.)

With great miracles and acts of power, God had rescued the Israelites from captivity in Egypt and made a covenant with them. Now, because they have broken his covenant, he is sending them back to captivity again.

8:11–14 Finally, Hosea transitions back to the religious realm. He once again accuses Israel of “multiplied altars” (8:11), disregarding God’s Law (8:12), unacceptable sacrifices (8:13), and forgetting God (8:14). The result of all these things will be destruction and exile. In a tragic irony, they will “return to Egypt” (8:13). The prophet is using “Egypt” as a symbol—they will come full circle. With great miracles and acts of power, God had rescued the Israelites from captivity in Egypt and made a covenant with them. Now, because they have broken his covenant, he is sending them back to captivity again.

The LORD Will Destroy Their Food (9:1–9)

In the first three chapters of his book, Hosea introduces and sets forth a three-fold pattern that structures his message: accusation (Israel has broken the covenant with respect to fertility), judgment (the LORD will remove fertility), and restoration (the LORD will restore fertility once his relationship with Israel is repaired). We have seen in chapters 4–8, above, that Hosea begins his first case against Israel by expanding upon the accusation in greater detail, providing evidence of wicked kings, priests and prophets, idolatrous national alliances, calf-idols, and illegitimate worship of the LORD. Israel has broken the covenant relationship with the LORD by failing to give credit to him for his covenant blessings and by worshipping fertility deities who they hope will be more effective at protecting and enriching them. This act of abandonment is a shocking insult to God—much like a wife who leaves her husband for adulterous lovers.

In chapters 9–10, Hosea expands upon the judgment portion of his message. The LORD said he would take away his covenant gifts in 2:9–13; now the prophet announces the destruction of multiple aspects of Israel’s fertility and flourishing. The LORD will destroy their food (9:1–9), their children (9:10–17), their worship sites (10:1–8), and the nation itself (10:9–15). These were the very things that Israel wanted so badly, tempting them away from the LORD. But he will ensure that they fail in their idolatry and lose the objects of their desire. John Calvin comments, “It was therefore necessary to reduce [Israel] to extreme want, that they might no longer pollute God’s gifts, which ought to be held sacred.”15

In the first subunit, 9:1–9, apparently the time for harvest has come. In ancient (and modern) times, harvest is a season of great joy for the farmer who finally enjoys the result of his hard labor. Ancient Israelites would bring their wheat and barley to the threshing floor, a wide flat surface where the sheaves would be beaten and tossed into the air. The wind would carry away the chaff while the kernels of grain fell onto the clean floor to be collected. Having brought in the harvest, the threshing floor was a place of celebration (cf. Ruth 3:3, 7).

9:1–6 In 9:1, Hosea tells the Israelites not to rejoice. He then uses the motif of prostitution at the threshing floor to accuse Israel of having prostituted themselves to other gods (an image that echoes Hos 1–3). Because of their rebellion, God will destroy the produce of the threshing floor and the wine vat (9:2). The time of harvest also enabled sacrifices to the LORD and religious festivals in which the Israelites would feast. But now the LORD rejects their drink offerings and sacrifices and warns that whoever eats of them will be defiled (9:4). The festivals will also be canceled (9:5).

Ultimately, the LORD will send Israel into exile, symbolized once again by “Egypt” (9:3, 6). Ironically, in Assyria (where the people of the Northern Kingdom were eventually taken), they will eat “unclean food” (9:3). We see again in this section the literary device in which God says that they will have no food, but even if they do have food, it will defile them. This exile may be another reason that they will not be able to make sacrifices and hold feasts that please the LORD (9:4–5); they cannot perform these legitimately when captive in a foreign land.16

9:7–9 In 9:7–8, we read that “the prophet is a fool; the man of the spirit is mad” and “The prophet is the watchman . . . yet a fowler’s snare is on all his ways.” Toward whom are these negative comments made? It could be the corrupt prophet mentioned by Hosea in 4:5, but there is no other mention of false prophets in the context. It seems more likely that these are accusations against Hosea himself. His listeners reject his word of judgment and call him a “fool” with “great iniquity” (9:7). But Hosea’s assessment is that the judgment is just because the people have “deeply corrupted themselves” and are being punished for their sins (9:9).

The LORD Will Destroy Their Children (9:10–17)

Just as the previous subunit began with a mention of “Israel” (9:1), the name “Israel” is found again in 9:10, indicating the next subunit. In fact, the first verse of each subunit in this part of the book contains a mention of Israel (cf. 10:1, 10:9, and 11:1). In addition, Hosea is the speaker in 9:1–9, but in 9:10–17 the LORD (through the prophet) announces judgment on his people.

9:10 God begins this section by going back once again to Israel’s origins in the wilderness after they came out of slavery in Egypt. To God, Israel was an unexpected delight, like grapes in the dry wilderness or the first fruit on a fig tree. He is vividly describing how positively he saw the ancestors (or “fathers”) of Hosea’s generation. Unfortunately, when the people of Israel camped at “Baal-peor” on the plains of Moab while preparing to enter the Promised Land, they committed sexual sin with the Moabite women and worshipped Baal (cf. Num 25). This event was not only a great failure at the time, it also became a sign of things to come in Israel’s history. Appropriately, God mentions Baal-peor in this section because the historical event is relevant to the issue of sexuality and the hoped-for fertility that would result.

9:11–12 God again states that something will not happen, but if it does, he will thwart it. First he says that there will be “no birth, no pregnancy, no conception!” (9:11). Notice that these events are listed in the reverse order in which they occur. He is, in essence, undoing the natural process that he created. Conception will not occur but, if so, it will not result in pregnancy. No pregnancy will result but, if so, it will not lead to the birth of a child. But the imagery only gets worse! “Even if they bring up children, I will bereave them” (9:12). God will ensure that they are not fertile. But even if they were to have children, God will kill those children. This sounds incredibly harsh, but this passage is an important reminder that God’s judgment is not to be underestimated. When it comes, God’s wrath is ferocious. Because of all this, God can say that “Ephraim’s glory shall fly away like a bird” (9:11). Israel’s “glory” refers to the children they so desperately want, but God will frustrate their hopes.

God’s judgment is not to be underestimated.

9:13–17 In the remainder of the section, the oracles against the children continue. God states that “Ephraim” (which represents the whole nation) must lead his children to slaughter (9:13). Apparently, Hosea speaks in 9:14, urging God to give the Israelites a “miscarrying womb and dry breasts.” In 9:16, God states that Israel will bear no fruit (i.e., offspring), but even if they do, he will kill the children. Because his people have not obeyed him (9:16), God is sending his people into exile (9:15) where they will be “wanderers among the nations” (9:17).

The LORD Will Destroy Their Worship Sites (10:1–8)

10:1–2 This unit focuses on Israel’s worship sites and furnishings that were used either for unorthodox and illegitimate worship of the LORD, or for worshipping foreign idols, or both. The prophet begins by returning to the idea—so important in the book—that the nation’s prosperity, given by God, actually led to unfaithfulness to the LORD. God’s blessing made Israel a fruitful vine; the problem is that “the more his fruit increased, the more altars he built” (10:1). This was exactly what God warned the Israelites about in Deuteronomy 8:11–20. There, Moses warns them that when they are flourishing in the new land, they will become proud and forget the LORD. Therefore, Israel’s religious altars and pillars represent idolatry, but they also represent a shocking irony—that Israel has taken God’s good gifts and used them to construct tools to rebel against him. Because their heart is “false,” God says he will destroy their altars and pillars (10:2).

10:3–8 Hosea focuses his attention specifically on the calf-idol at “Beth-aven” which is Hosea’s pejorative nickname for “Bethel” (see also Hos 4:15; 5:8). In Hebrew, “Beth-el” means “house of God” and “Beth-aven” means “house of sin” or “house of what is false.” Originally, Bethel was the place that Jacob met with God (cf. Gen 28:19), but it had become infamous as the location of Jeroboam’s southern calf-idol and a center of false religion. There, the people and the idolatrous priests worshipped it, but it will be taken into exile in Assyria and Israel will be ashamed (10:5–6). Once the people are gone, the religious high places will waste away and become overgrown with weeds (10:7).

The prophet also interweaves comments about Israel’s trust in politics which, as we have seen, is another form of idolatry.

Although this short unit is primarily about the destruction of Israel’s altars and religious sites (10:1–2, 5–6, 8), the prophet also interweaves comments about Israel’s trust in politics which, as we have seen, is another form of idolatry. In 10:3, the people say, “We have no king.” There are several ways to understand this comment. First, it may be that they have no human king at the moment because he has been assassinated (see the introduction, above). Second, it may be that their current king is so ineffective that it is as though they have no king. Third, they may be rejecting God as their king. In 10:7, Hosea predicts the death of the Israelite king in Samaria as a part of God’s judgment against the land.

The LORD Will Destroy the Nation Itself (10:9–15)

The LORD has determined to destroy the hoped-for results of Israel’s fertility: crops (9:1–9) and children (9:10–17). He will also destroy the illegitimate altars and religious apparatus (10:1–8). His final announcement of judgment in Hosea’s first case against Israel concerns the nation as a whole. Hosea alludes to three historical events in this subunit in order to illustrate the ruin that God has determined.

10:9–10 First, God refers to a calamity in the “days of Gibeah.” The terrible story, found in Judges 19–21, involves a Levite and his concubine who were traveling from Bethlehem in Judah back to their home in the hill country of Ephraim. Along the way, they decide to stop for the night in Gibeah (Israelite territory) rather than in Canaanite territory. There, the Israelites behave worse than the Canaanites (presumably), gang-raping the concubine and leaving her to die on the doorstep. The Levite responds by dismembering her body and sending the parts throughout Israel which triggers a civil war, almost wiping out the tribe of Benjamin. Hosea’s point is that his own audience has also grievously sinned and should expect war and devastation as well.

10:11–14b Second, God reflects on the very beginnings of Israel and his initial election of them as his special people. He uses agricultural imagery, envisioning Ephraim (a synecdoche for the whole Northern Kingdom) as a domesticated farm animal. Hosea 10:11–12 describes his expectations that they would serve him. Instead, he was disappointed by their “iniquity,” “injustice,” “lies,” and self-reliance (10:13). As a result, they have earned war and destruction (10:14).

10:14c–15 Third, God alludes to an attack by someone named Shalman at Beth-arbel. The identity and details of this event have been lost to history, and modern scholars are uncertain as to the historical details. The circumstances, however, must have been well-known to Hosea and his audience. The key idea comes in 10:15, “Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel.” Bethel, the site of one of the calf-idols, represents the nation’s rebellion and idolatry. Whatever happened at Beth-arbel should give them some idea of the suffering to come as a result of their sin.

The LORD Is Resolved to a New Relationship with Israel (11:1–11)

The first eleven verses of chapter 11 comprise the restoration portion of Hosea’s first case against Israel. Having accused Israel of breaking covenant with the LORD and announced judgment, the prophet proclaims in the present unit that he will not allow judgment to be the last word. Just as he commanded Hosea to find his wife and bring her home (apparently before any indication of repentance), God will redeem a people for himself in the end. Like the introduction and two major parts of the book, Hosea’s threefold pattern structures this unit as well: accusation (11:1–4), judgment (11:5–7), and restoration (11:8–11). God is the speaker until verse 10.

11:1–4 He begins with another reference to Israel’s beginnings, when God called his people out of slavery in Egypt and designated the nation his “son” (11:1). The meaning of verse 2 is uncertain since the subjects of the verbs and the antecedents of the pronouns are ambiguous. Who called? Who was called? Who went away? Who sacrificed to the Baals? One possibility is that just as 11:1 refers to the exodus from Egypt, 11:2 refers to the sin with the women of Moab (see 9:10, above). “The more they [the men of Israel] were called [by the women of Moab], the more they went away [after other gods]; they [Israelites] kept sacrificing to the Baals” (11:2). In other words, Israel was rebellious from the very beginning. The LORD cared for his people and taught them, “but they did not know” what he had done—another occurrence of the theme of ignorance in the book (11:3). In 11:4, the imagery changes to that of a domesticated animal (cf. 10:11). The point here is that God’s people have no excuse for their rebellion—he has led them gently and provided for their needs.

11:5–7 The prediction of judgment includes exile and destruction as we have seen in previous chapters. The statement “They shall not return to the land of Egypt” might be understood in different ways. One possibility is that God is saying they will not return to captivity in Egypt, but they will go into exile in Assyria. The difficulty with this interpretation is that Hosea has been using Egypt as a metonymy for captivity in general. In other words, we should expect him to say “they will return to Egypt . . . to Assyria” (see, for example, 8:13; 9:3, 6). Possibly a textual corruption exists here. In Hebrew, the words “not” and “him” are easily confused and sometimes have identical spelling. The word “not” in 11:5 might actually belong at the end of 11:4, meaning that there would be no negative in 11:5. In any case, the main problem is that though God punishes his people, they are “bent” on turning away from him (11:7). They are determined not to trust him.

God is even more determined to redeem his people than they are to rebel. It is a battle of wills, and God will win.

11:8–11 Suddenly, though in the midst of announcing the consequences of sin, he says, “How can I give you up?” (11:8). “Admah” and “Zeboiim” were cities related to Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Gen 10:19; 14:2, 8; Deut 29:23). Justice requires that he wipe out Israel like he did those cities, but how can he? He is compassionate and will not give way to his anger (Hos 11:9). We must note, however, that God says “I will not again destroy Ephraim” (11:9). God is not saying that the promised judgment will not come to pass. It will come. But it will not be total and his people will find redemption on the other side of judgment. The final verses of the unit describe the people of God responding to his call and returning to him from the lands where they have been scattered so that they can live in peace and prosperity in their own homes. He says that they will return “from Egypt” (11:11). Things have come full circle. The LORD originally called Israel out of Egypt (11:1) but they rebelled. When he has transformed and restored them, he will bring them out of Egypt (i.e., captivity) once again. God is even more determined to redeem his people than they are to rebel. It is a battle of wills, and God will win. Hosea does not explain how God will restore and transform his people, but other OT prophets are more specific about what the NT makes clear: that God accomplishes the salvation of his people through Jesus Christ’s work on the cross and his glorious resurrection.

Israel Is Not Like Their Father Jacob (11:12–12:14)

Following the introduction, Hosea’s first case against Israel consisted of three moves: accusation (4:1–8:14), announcement of judgment in the near future (9:1–10:15), and the hope of restoration (11:1–11).

11:12 Now, Hosea begins his second case against God’s people. There are several reasons to view 11:12 as the beginning of a new unit. First, 11:1 and 11:11 both contain mentions of Egypt which forms an inclusion (or enveloping pattern) around that unit, discussed above. Second, the topic changes abruptly. In 11:11, God is speaking of how he will bring his people back to their homes after judgment; in 11:12–12:1 he accuses Israel of lies, deceit, violence, and an attempted covenant with Assyria. Third, just a few verses later the prophet says, “The LORD has an indictment (Hebrew, riv) against his people (12:2). As we noted in the introduction, this word introduces the three major sections of the book.

12:1–6 Hosea calls Israel “Jacob” in 12:2, after their patriarchal ancestor. This is fitting since God had changed the name of Jacob to “Israel” and he had become the father of the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Gen 32:28). With this mention, Hosea begins an allusion to the life of Jacob for the sake of comparison with Jacob’s descendants (Hos 12:2–6). From the moment of his birth, Jacob was known as a schemer and deceiver for his own advantage. Even as his twin Esau was emerging from their mother’s womb, the infant Jacob grabbed his brother by the heel as though he might be the firstborn instead (Hos 12:3a; cf. Gen 25:26). Jacob wrestled with God and prevailed, leading to his name change (Hos 12:3b–4a; cf. Gen 32:22–32). Jacob met God at Bethel after he had deceived his father and taken his brother’s birthright (Hos 12:4b; cf. Gen 28:10–22). The major English translations differ on Hosea 12:4b. The CSB, NIV, NRSV, and JPS have “there he spoke with him [i.e. Jacob], while the KJV and ESV translate “there he spoke with us [i.e. Hosea’s contemporaries].” In Hebrew, the words “with us” or “with him” are written the same, and one must make a decision based on context. The best option is “with us” (with KJV and ESV) because Hosea’s overall point in these verses is the continuity between Jacob and the people of Israel in Hosea’s day. Jacob had been a deceiver and schemer who frequently took advantage of other people for his own benefit. When he met the LORD, however, he was humbled and changed. Jacob’s descendants have schemed to enrich themselves and better their positions as well. The question is: will they learn their lesson as Jacob did? Hosea calls on them to do just that—to repent of their sin, do justice, and be loyal to God (12:5–6).

12:7–14 Israel is guilty of a wide variety of sins against God: cheating in business and oppression of the poor (12:7), pride and self-reliance (12:8), rejection of the prophets (12:10), and false religion (12:11). This list is followed by another mention of Jacob in 12:12, alluding to his schemes while he worked for his father-in-law Laban in exchange for his daughters Rachel and Leah (cf. Gen 29). Because the LORD was faithful to his promises, he brought Jacob’s descendants out of slavery in Egypt (Hos 12:13). Israel, however, refuses to be faithful, so the LORD will leave him in his guilt and punish him for his evil (12:14).

The LORD Has Become Israel’s Enemy (13:1–16)

The previous unit ended with a declaration that judgment was inevitable because Israel had refused to follow their ancestor Jacob’s example by repenting. Now Hosea expands upon that judgment. The present unit consists of an introduction by the prophet (13:1–3) followed by a speech from the LORD (13:4–16). The unit is framed by the word “guilt” (Hebrew, ’asham) in 13:1 and 13:16.

13:1–3 Hosea begins by considering Ephraim (a representative of Israel) in the past, present, and future. In the past, Ephraim incurred guilt through service to Baal and made idols for himself from precious metals (13:1–2a). In the present, he offers human sacrifices (see NIV and ESV) and kisses “calves”—a reference to worshipping the infamous calf idols (13:2b). In the future, Hosea anticipates Israel’s ruin (13:3). He uses images of four items in nature that look like they have substance but turn out to be unsubstantial and disappear quickly. Morning mist and dew cover grass and plants in the morning but are soon burned away by the sun’s heat. At a threshing floor, farmers shake the sheaves of grain so that the chaff flies away in the wind. Smoke leaves through a window and then is gone. The wording in 13:3, “like the dew that goes away early” is identical (in English and Hebrew) with the wording in Hosea 6:4 and creates an intertextual link. In 6:4, the people’s covenant love (Hebrew, khesed) is ephemeral and leaves easily because the people are not steadfast in their love of God. Here, the people themselves will disappear.

13:4–6 The LORD begins his speech by once again returning to the earliest history of the nation. He knew them in Egypt and delivered them from slavery. Indeed, there could be no deliverer apart from him, because he is the only savior (13:4). He also cared for his people in the wilderness and then in the land, but they forgot him (13:5–6). This is the final instance of a theme that the prophet has woven throughout the book. Israel went after lovers and forgot God (2:13). They forgot the Law of God, so he will forget their children (4:6). Israel has forgotten his Maker (8:14). The statement in 13:4 also returns to the theme that when Israel received God’s good gifts, they would become proud and self-reliant, drifting away from him (see 2:8; 10:1).

He knew them in Egypt and delivered them from slavery. Indeed, there could be no deliverer apart from him, because he is the only savior.

13:7–11 The LORD wanted to be Israel’s helper (13:9), but his people are against him. Therefore, he will be their enemy. He envisions himself as a wild animal who attacks his people—a leopard or a mother bear whose cubs are taken or a lion that will rip them open (13:7–8). Whereas previously, Israel had looked to political leaders to save them from enemy nations, now they will wonder who can save them from the anger of a ferocious God! But no king will be able to help when God is on the attack (13:10–11).

No king will be able to help when God is on the attack.

13:12–16 At the end of the unit, the LORD uses several images to describe the coming judgment. First, the iniquity of Ephraim is stored up (13:12). Possibly, the image here is of a scroll containing a record of Israel’s sins that is tied up and then kept in an archive.17 One scholar suggests that the idea here comes from neo-Babylonian trial records in which sins would be recorded until the trial.18 The idea is that the LORD is storing up a record of Israel’s sins to justify the judgment when it comes. A second image is that of an abnormal childbirth. Israel is an “unwise son” who, at the time for birth, does not come out! Inevitably, he will die as a result. Third, the LORD calls directly on Death (personified) and Sheol (the underworld of the dead) and asks if he will ransom his people (13:14). The implied answer to this rhetorical question, in the context, is “no.” (In 1Cor 15:54–57, Paul quotes from a version of Hos 13:14. Paul, however, reverses the sense and provides a new answer to the rhetorical question. The apostle claims that the response is, “Yes!” arguing that God will ransom his people through Jesus Christ who gives us the victory.) Fourth, the LORD uses the image of Israel as a fountain or spring that will dry up when God brings a harsh wind from the wilderness (13:15). Finally, the LORD saves the worst image for last. He envisions an assault on the capital city of Samaria in which enemy soldiers kill the children and slaughter the pregnant women. In the light of Israel’s desire for fertility, this is an unspeakable irony.

In summary, Israel will be a left without a savior, ripped open like the victim of a wild animal, helpless before God’s anger, dead like a stillborn child, without God’s compassion, barren like a dried spring, and stripped of every precious possession including its children and pregnant women. God loves to show mercy and longs for his people to be loved and to love him. But his patience has limits. When judgment comes, it is relentless and terrible. God’s creativity and power, so wonderful when it helps and heals, can also be used to inflict suffering, and nothing can stop it.

Relationship Will Be Restored Through Repentance (14:1–8)

Judgment is inescapable, but the prophet concludes the book with an oracle of restoration as beautiful as the previous unit was harrowing. In the introduction to the book (2:14–23) and at the end of his first case (11:1–11), Hosea looked past judgment to the eschatological future when God would restore a people for himself, bless them richly, and live in reconciled relationship with them. Here in 14:1–8, he picks up these threads again.

14:1–3 Hosea begins by urging the people, one more time, to repent of their sins and return to the LORD (14:1). He provides his listeners with a “script” of sorts—suggested words that they can pray with the right perspective. This involves six statements: three positive and three negative. Positively, they must ask God to forgive their sin, accept their true worship, and commit to honoring him (14:2). Negatively, they must renounce those things which previously had been the objects of their trust, including Assyria, “horses” and military power, or idols made with their own hands (14:3).

14:4–7 In response, God speaks and enthusiastically promises that he will love and forgive them (14:4). This promise is not only accurate, good news, it is also motivation to repent in the first place (cf. a similar rhetorical strategy in Joel 2:12–13). God’s anger has featured prominently in Hosea’s oracles (5:10; 8:5; 11:9; 13:11), but now his anger will turn away in mercy. He then uses a variety of delightful images from nature (appropriate, given the fertility themes in the book) to describe the wellbeing that his people will enjoy: dew, flower blossoms, strong tree roots, spreading shoots, beauty, fragrance, flourishing like a field of grain, a blossoming vine, and the wine of Lebanon (14:5–7). All of this conveys blessing, health, prosperity, security, and peace.

14:8 The final verse of the section presents a challenge. Who is speaking here? If God is speaking to Ephraim, why would he say that he no longer has anything to do with idols (cf. CSB, NIV)? When has he ever had anything to do with them? God also does not usually compare himself to a tree (see how tree imagery has been applied to Israel in the preceding verses). On the other hand, if Ephraim is the speaker, what sense does it make for him to say to God, “It is I who answer and look after you”?19 The solution is to understand the verse as a brief, four-line dialogue between God and his reconciled people.20 The first line begins with “Ephraim” saying, “What have I to do with idols?” He has forsaken his competing objects of trust and depends now solely upon the LORD. God answers, “It is I who answer and look after you.” This was God’s desire all along: to be in a covenant relationship with Israel and to supply all of their needs out of his great generosity. Israel responds in the third line, “I am like an evergreen cypress,” realizing that God is the one who makes his people flourish. God agrees. In the fourth and final line he says, “from me comes your fruit.” This scene portrays a beautiful, intimate moment between God and his restored people. God is glorified because he is given credit as the loving creator who gives his people what they need. His people are reconciled to him through repentance and a proper understanding of who he is.

God is glorified because he is given credit as the loving creator who gives his people what they need.

Epilogue (14:9)

14:9 The last verse in the book offers a parting word of advice to the reader. This verse apparently does not come to us from Hosea’s oracles in his public ministry but was composed as a conclusion to the literary work, reflecting on the whole book. Many of the terms in the book are associated with wisdom: “wise,” “understand,” discerning,” “know,” and “right.” In addition, the metaphor that life is a path in which the upright walk safely while transgressors stumble is reminiscent of other wisdom texts (Ps 1:1, 6; Prov 1:15; 3:6, 23). Wisdom is concerned with living a successful life. Biblical wisdom is about living a successful life by acknowledging and submitting to the most important fact of reality: that there is a God who created everything in relation to his own character and holds us accountable for what we do.

Biblical wisdom is about living a successful life by acknowledging and submitting to the most important fact of reality: that there is a God who created everything in relation to his own character and holds us accountable for what we do.

This has been a book about the best path to “the good life.” Israel attempted to engineer their own success apart from God by trusting in the gods of the nations and their own resources. In doing so, however, they broke fellowship with the creator who has total control over nature and the affairs of humanity and received only destruction. The great God who created the blessings of nature can also take them away. “It is significant that Hosea does not reject the connection between worship and concrete, physical flourishing in the natural world. Rather, he simply argues that it is only when one is faithful to YHWH—the creator—that one finds the good life.”21 Hosea 14:9, then, is an effective summary of the whole book. The wise and discerning will submit themselves to the Lord and trust him for success in this life and in the life to come.


Andersen, Francis I., and David Noel Freedman. Hosea. New York: Doubleday, 1980.

Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets. Translated by John Owen. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2003.

Day, John. “Hosea and the Baal Cult.” In Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar, edited by John Day, 202–24. New York: T&T Clark, 2010.

Dearman, J. Andrew. The Book of Hosea. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010.

Garrett, Duane A. Hosea, Joel. The New American Commentary 19A. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1997.

Holtz, Shalom E. “Why Are the Sins of Ephraim (Hos 13,12) and Job (Job 14,17) Bundled?Biblica 93, no. 1 (2012): 107–15.

McComiskey, Thomas E. “Hosea.” In The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary, edited by Thomas E. McComiskey, 1–237. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009.

O’Connor, Michael Patrick. “The Pseudo-Sorites in Hebrew Verse.” In Perspectives on Language and Text: Essays and Poems in Honor of Francis I. Andersen, edited by E. W. Conrad and E. G. Newing, 239–53. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1987.

Patterson, Richard D. “An Overlooked Scriptural Paradox: The Pseudosorites.” JETS 53, no. 1 (2010): 19–36.

Stuart, Douglas K. Hosea–Jonah. Word Biblical Commentary, v 31. Waco, TX: Thomas Nelson, 1987.

Tully, Eric J. Hosea: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2018.

———. “Hosea 1–3 as the Key to the Literary Structure and Message of the Book.” In An Excellent Fortress for His Armies, edited by Richard E. Averbeck and K. Lawson Younger, 369–83. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2020.

———. “Israel’s Relationship with Nature and with YHWH in the Book of Hosea.” In For Us, But Not To Us: Essays on Creation, Covenant, and Context in Honor of John H. Walton, edited by Adam Miglio, Caryn Reeder, Joshua Walton, and Kenneth Way, 128–73. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2020.

Vuillenmier-Bessard, R. “Osée 13:12 et Les Manuscrits.” RevQ 1 (1958): 281–82.

Wolff, Hans Walter. Hosea: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Hosea. Hermeneia. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974.

Woude, Adam S. van der. “Bemerkungen Zu Einigen Umstrittenen Stellen Im Zwoelfprophetenbuch.” In Melanges Bibliques et Orientaux En l’honneur de M Henri Cazelles, 483–99. Kevelaer: Butzon and Bercker, 1981.

Endnotes & Permissions

1. A prophetic “sign-act” refers to a visible object lessons that prophets used to communicate more effectively to their audiences. Sometimes this involved a reference to something that had happened, such as when Saul grabbed Samuel’s robe and tore it (1Sam 15:27–28). A sign-act might be the significance of the name of a prophet’s child (cf. Isa 8:1–4; Hos 1:3–9). A sign-act might also be an elaborate role-play, such as when Ezekiel packed his bags, dug a hole through the wall in his house, and pretended to go into exile as a warning that this is exactly what the people of Jerusalem would soon experience (Ezek 12:1–16). Often, a sign-act was strange and shocking, provoking the people to ask what the prophet meant by his actions (cf. Ezek 12:8). This provided an opportunity for the prophet to declare God’s Word to an attentive audience.

2. Some of the prophets in the OT had public ministries but did not write books, such as Elijah and Elisha. Some prophets wrote books, but did not have public ministries, such as the authors of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. (In the Hebrew Bible, these are classified as the “Former Prophets.”) Other prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah, and Haggai, had public ministries in which they preached to their contemporaries, and then later those prophetic oracles were collected, combined with the narratives of the prophet’s actions, and written as a prophetic book for future generations.

3. For more on this, see John Day, “Hosea and the Baal Cult,” in Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar, ed. John Day (New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 202–24.

4. On the structure of Hosea, see Eric J. Tully, Hosea: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2018) and Eric J. Tully, “Hosea 1–3 as the Key to the Literary Structure and Message of the Book,” in An Excellent Fortress for His Armies, ed. Richard E. Averbeck and K. Lawson Younger (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2020), 369–83.

5. Duane A. Garrett, Hosea, Joel, The New American Commentary 19A (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1997), 39.

6. Tully, Hosea: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text, 69.

7. Ibid., 75.

8. Francis I. Andersen and David Noel Freedman, Hosea (New York: Doubleday, 1980), 394.

9. Tully, Hosea: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text, 123.

10. Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Boston: Brill, 2001), 4:1447.

11. Hans Walter Wolff, Hosea: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Hosea, Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974), 137.

12. Tully, Hosea: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text, 183.

13. Mike Butterworth, Hosea, ed. D. A Carson et al., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 773.

14. See Michael Patrick O’Connor, “The Pseudosorites: A Type of Paradox in Biblical Hebrew Poetry,” in Directions in Biblical Hebrew Poetry, ed. Elaine B. Follis, vol. 40, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series (Sheffield: JSOT, 1987), 161–72; Richard D. Patterson, “An Overlooked Scriptural Paradox: The Pseudosorites,” JETS 53, no. 1 (2010): 19–36.

15. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets, trans. John Owen (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 92.

16. Wolff, Hosea, 155.

17. R. Vuillenmier-Bessard, “Osée 13:12 et Les Manuscrits,” RevQ 1 (1958): 281–82.

18. Shalom E Holtz, “Why Are the Sins of Ephraim (Hos 13,12) and Job (Job 14,17) Bundled?,” Biblica 93, no. 1 (2012): 107–15.

19. Tully, Hosea: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text, 350.

20. See Adam S. van der Woude, “Bemerkungen Zu Einigen Umstrittenen Stellen Im Zwoelfprophetenbuch,” in Melanges Bibliques et Orientaux En l’honneur de M Henri Cazelles (Kevelaer: Butzon and Bercker, 1981), 483–85.

21. Eric J. Tully, “Israel’s Relationship with Nature and with YHWH in the Book of Hosea,” in For Us, But Not To Us: Essays on Creation, Covenant, and Context in Honor of John H. Walton, ed. Adam Miglio et al. (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2020), 172.

The text of Hosea, excluding all Bible quotations, is © 2023 by The Gospel Coalition.  The Gospel Coalition (TGC) gives you permission to reproduce this work in its entirety, without any changes, in English for noncommercial distribution throughout the world. Crossway, the holder of the copyright to the ESV Bible text, grants permission to include the ESV quotations within this work, in English.In addition, TGC gives you permission to faithfully translate the work into any other language, but you may not translate the English ESV Bible into another language.  If you wish to include Bible quotations with the translated work, you will need to obtain permission from a publisher of a Bible translation in the same language.  All scripture quotations are taken from the ESV® Bible (the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. ESV Text Edition: 2016.   All rights reserved.  The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated into any other language.  The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, is adapted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A

Hosea 1


1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, 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.

Hosea’s Wife and Children

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.” So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

And the LORD said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”

She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy,1 for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”

When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the LORD said, “Call his name Not My People,2 for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”3

10 4 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children5 of the living God.” 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.


[1] 1:6 Hebrew Lo-ruhama, which means she has not received mercy

[2] 1:9 Hebrew Lo-ammi, which means not my people

[3] 1:9 Hebrew I am not yours

[4] 1:10 Ch 2:1 in Hebrew

[5] 1:10 Or Sons