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God’s Scandalous Grace Hosea Chapter 1

The Book of Hosea: God’s Scandalous Grace

“Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the Lord of hosts, though their land is full of guilt before the Holy One of Israel.” _ Jer. 51:5

Chapter 1 – “God’s Impossible Command”

Hosea is both a challenging and rewarding book.  Jesus and Paul both quote it in the New Testament (Matt. 9:13; 12:7; Rom. 9:25-26).  Hosea gives us a picture of God’s love that is both shocking and exhilarating.  Hosea is central to our understanding of the gospel in its fullest form.  To attempt to understand the book we need to look at its historical context.   If we think we know God Hosea challenges us.  There is much more to the reality of God then our minds can truly comprehend.  This is not a simple book but it is a book which will transform us.

  1. The Context of Hosea

Hosea was an eighth century B.C. prophet in Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II.  Jeroboam ruled Israel for forty-one years (786-746 BC).    We don’t have many details of his lengthy reign.  However, suffice it to say that he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord (II Kings 14:23-24).  We know that in this period Jeroboam’s namesake, Jeroboam I, had broken off from the rest of Israel following the death of Solomon. Jeroboam had rebelled against Solomon (I Kings 11:26).  God gives Jeroboam ten tribes of Israel to rule (I Kings 11:29-35).  The two tribes that separate from him are those of Judah and Benjamin.  Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, rules over them.  They settle in the southern part of Israel which includes Jerusalem.   The reason why so much of the former kingdom is taken away from Solomon and his descendants is because of the widespread idolatry which Solomon introduced into Israel later in his life (II Kings 11:1-8).

Jeroboam didn’t want his followers to go and worship God in Jerusalem because he was afraid that under the influence of Rehoboam they might turn against him.  To prevent this from happening Jeroboam established, not one, but two golden calves for his followers to worship.  This set Israel on a path of idolatry that would include the crimes of Ahab and Jezebel (I Kings 18-19).  Yet in spite of Israel’s faithfulness God will not give them up (II Kings 13:23; 14:26-27).  By the same token, God will not ignore the idolatry of Israel or Judah.

During the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel there are several kings in Judah, some faithful, some not.  The first king was Uzziah (II Kings 15:1-7; II Chronicles 26).  Uzziah’s reign was a lengthy one, lasting fifty-two years.  He was essentially faithful to the Lord.  Yet because of his success he became proud (II Chron. 26:16).  He also allowed idolatry to continue (II Kings 15:4).  In punishment God struck him with leprosy (II Chron. 26:19-23).  He was succeeded by his son Jotham who reigned sixteen years.  He followed the Lord.  Still, the idolatrous shrines continued.  He was followed by his son Ahaz who fell deeper into the idolatry begun by Solomon even to the point of sacrificing children (II Kings 16:1-4).  This trend was reversed by his son Hezekiah.  Hezekiah initiated a number of major reforms (II Kings 18:1-8). This included breaking the bronze serpent that Moses had held up in the wilderness which at this time had become an idol! (II Kings 18:4; John 3:14-15).  Yet Hezekiah, like Uzziah, succumbed to pride and foolishly showed all the wealth of Israel to envoys from Babylon.  Babylon would later invade Judah and destroy Jerusalem and the temple (II Kings 20:12-19).  Hearing of this prophecy from Isaiah, Hezekiah’s response was a callous, “Who cares?  It won’t happen in my lifetime (II Kings 20:19).

II. Hosea’s marriage (1:1-11)

God tells Hosea to go and marry a whore (1:2) (Go back and read that sentence again).  Incredibly we do not read of Hosea’s protesting against such a command.  He obeys God and marries a prostitute, Gomer, daughter of Diblaim. He then proceeds to have three children buy her, all with symbolic names.  They are

  1. Jezreel which means “God sows” (1:4-5). This is a punishment on the house of Jehu who was an appointed king. Jehu led a brutal massacre of the people of Jezreel (II Kings 10:1-11).  After wiping out much of the idolatry in Israel Jehu tragically turned away from the Lord (II Kings 10:31).
  2. Lo-ruhamah which means “not pitied.” While God is still supporting Judah (at this time) he is preparing to judge Israel (1:6-7).
  3. Lo-ammi which means “I am not yours.” (1:9)

However, there is God’s “yet.”  The chapter ends with God’s promise to restore both the people of Israel and Judah.  Paul quotes this passage later (Rom. 9:25-26).

God is using the example of Hosea to show what he has had to endure by his love for Israel which is continually unfaithful, going after other gods.  Yet in the midst of judgment God continues to announce his mercy (1:10-11).  This is God’s scandalous grace.

It is important to note that God frequently works through so-called “fallen women.”  These include Tamar (Gen. 38:1-30; Matt. 1:3), Rahab (Joshua 2:1-24; Matt. 1:5), Bathsheba (II Sam. 11:1-27; Matt. 1:6), the woman at the well (John 4:1-42), the prostitute in Luke 7:36-50) and Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:1-2).

Through Hosea God is making the dramatic statement that Israel is essentially a spiritual prostitute.  This however is only the first scene of the scandal that unfolds in the Book of Hosea.


Questions for Us –

  1. What does God’s command to Hosea tell us about his mercy and love?
  2. In what ways are we spiritual prostitutes?
  3. What hope can we take from this story?

Next Study – Hosea chapter 2 – “The Scope of God’s Love”