Hosea's Message

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Question
What was the prophet Hosea's message to the northern kingdom of Israel?
Answer
While the book of Hosea has a significant portion of its message directed toward the southern kingdom of Judah, it's also directed substantially to the northern kingdom of Israel, or we might say Ephraim. And the message is, "You have been unfaithful to the covenant." And there are a series of vivid metaphors where we can see this: an unfaithful wife, an illegitimate child, an uncaring mother. There are all these vivid metaphors, and the charges are particularly piled up there in chapter 4. And in spite of their disobedience, God was still going to pursue them, such as Hosea did through his object lesson of marrying Gomer, the prostitute, or the unfaithful wife. But exile was going to happen. That was an inevitability. They had leaned upon a relationship with Syria, or Aram, to help protect themselves against the empire of Assyria, and when they did that, they had depended upon human strength rather than on God as their king and defender. And as a cruel irony, the curses of the covenant would lead them into exile in Assyria. So, that exile was inevitable because their covenant-breaking was gross, and it was deep, and it was prolonged, but there is still this message of hope because Hosea says that God says that "I will take you into the wilderness, and there I will speak kindly to you." That is, even in bringing his people, bringing about the circumstances of exile, seeing them off into the Assyrian captivity, even still, God had purposes for them, that it was going to be in captivity where they would become receptive to hearing of God's faithfulness, to turning back to him, and to praying for his salvation and mercy. And so, this is why the book ends so prominently on a note of hope, offering the opportunity for restoration in spite of all that they had done to break God's covenant.

Answer by Rev. Michael J. Glodo

Rev. Michael J. Glodo is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL.