The prophet Hosea was a contemporary with Isaiah, Amos, and Jonah. He prophesied during the reign of Kings Uzziah and Hezekiah of Judah, and King Jereboam II of Israel. That would be in the 790-750 BC time period.
The story of Hosea is most unusual. Imagine this scenario. You are the local preacher at a church. God tells you to go marry a prostitute and have 3 children by her. Imagine what the people will think if you do this. You are shocked at such a command, but He tells you that this has a spiritual parallel with the spiritual harlotry of the Israelites you are preaching to, so you do it. The names of each of the 3 children have a meaning that applies to the Israelites also. It must be hard for you to love your wife, Gomer, since this is like an arranged marriage. But you make the best of it, and then Gomer leaves you and the children and goes back into harlotry. You probably figure that you are just as well off with her being gone. Then you find out that she is on the auction block, just like the human traffickers do with prostitutes today. Then God gives you the 2nd shocking command. He tells you to go buy her off the auction block and love her. So you do because this also has a spiritual parallel with Israel, and this parallel is Messianic in nature to be fulfilled 700 years in the future. Hosea 3: 4 For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or [af]household idols. 5 Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days.” That phrase “last days” is the time period from 30 AD to 70 AD, the last days of the Jewish Age. Joel 2 predicted that the Spirit would be poured out miraculously on the remnant in the last day. Peter in Acts 2 said that prediction began to be fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost in 30 AD and would last until the “terrible judgment day of the Lord”. That judgment day was the judgement of the Jews in 70 AD and the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem by Titus and the Romans. Also Hosea 3:5 predicts that David will be Israel’s king in the last days. This is symbolic and refers to Jesus, the Branch of David as He is called by the prophets. Several prophets predicted that David would be the king, prince, and priest of Israel in the Messianic kingdom. But this prophecy does not apply to the whole nation of Israel as many say it does. It only applies to the remnant of Israel during those “last days” who believed in Jesus as the Messiah and became the Jewish Christian church. As Hosea predicted, after many days without a king (the last king of Judah was in 586 BC), the remnant would be gathered and Jesus (David) would be their king. The remnant would like Hosea’s wife who went back into harlotry, but God would redeem her (“buy her back”) and love her again. I wonder what Hosea’s marriage was like after he bought her off the auction block. Did she appreciate Hosea’s love? The Jewish remnant church certainly appreciated God’s saving love in the first century AD. Did she understand at all the spiritual parallel that her marriage was to Israel? Did that satisfy her need for love and keep her from ever leaving Hosea and the kids again? Unfortunately, we don’t know the answers to those questions.
Hosea then condemns Israel of spiritual harlotry because they went after other lovers, i.e. the pagan gods of the nations around them. Hosea 4:
11 Harlotry, wine and new wine take away the [an]understanding.
12 My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner’s wand informs them;
For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray,
And they have played the harlot, departing [ao]from their God.
13 They offer sacrifices on the tops of the mountains
And [ap]burn incense on the hills,
Under oak, poplar and terebinth,
Because their shade is pleasant.
Therefore your daughters play the harlot
And your [aq]brides commit adultery.
14 I will not punish your daughters when they play the harlot
Or your [ar]brides when they commit adultery,
For the men themselves go apart with harlots
And offer sacrifices with temple prostitutes;
So the people without understanding are [as]ruined.
18 Their liquor gone,
They play the harlot continually;
Their [au]rulers dearly love shame.
19 The wind wraps them in its wings,
And they will be ashamed because of their sacrifices.”
Hosea 5: 3 I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hidden from Me;
For now, O Ephraim, you have played the harlot,
Israel has defiled itself.
4 Their deeds will not allow them
To return to their God.
For a spirit of harlotry is within them,
And they do not know the Lord.”
Hosea 9:1 Do not rejoice, O Israel, [ca]with exultation like the [cb]nations!
For you have played the harlot, [cc]forsaking your God.
You have loved harlots’ earnings on [cd]every threshing floor.”
This introduces a term, “spiritual adultery” that we need to discuss. The church is the bride of Christ. Jesus loves his bride and wants His bride to love Him and Him only, and to be faithful to Him. Paul said it like this in 2 Corinthians 11: 2 For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. 3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” We understand what adultery is in a marriage. A husband or wife starts being attracted to another male or female, which leads to an affair and adultery. Every husband or wife wants his mate to put him or her first in their affections and love. When we start putting money, or possessions, or careers, or hobbies, or anything ahead of our affection for Jesus, then we are flirting with “spiritual adultery”. Too often we think of Christianity as obeying Jesus as Lord of our lives, and that is indeed a correct concept. But Jesus is more than just our Lord, or king. He is our husband in a very intimate personal relationship. It might help us to think our our relationship with Jesus in this husband/wife figure. Think how it would make your mate to find out you had an affair. Think how it makes God feel when we commit spiritual adultery. It makes our little love affairs with worldly things more personal. Several times the Scriptures say that God is a “jealous” God, and now you can see why. James 4: 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “[e]He [f]jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?
Hosea condemns them from not being “loyal” to God. Hosea 6:
4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
For your [be]loyalty is like a morning cloud
And like the dew which goes away early.
6 For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,
And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
The Hebrew word translated “loyal” here can be translated as “mercy, loving-kindness, or faithfulness”. Some translations say, “I delight in mercy rather than sacrifice”. It seems that in Hosea 6:6 that the idea is that the bride of God should be faithful to Him, just like a wife should be faithful to her husband. Of course, that faithfulness to one’s mate, and to God, is because of the love a husband or wife has for his/her mate, or love to God. Part of the idea might be that you feel compassion for your mate in that you would not want to hurt them by having other lovers. Again, our relationship with Jesus as His bride is very personal, like with your mate. Imagine a husband who commits adultery on his wife, but has no feelings of guilt when his wife breaks down crying in hurt and anguish. So God desires us to feel and extend love and compassion for His desires, just as He is jealous for our love and loyalty. Jesus cites this verse, and the NASB uses the Greek word “compassion” instead of loyalty: Matthew 9: 13 But go and learn [g]what this means: ‘I desire [h]compassion, [i]and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” In that context, the Pharisees had no love for the sinners Jesus was eating with. If they had felt love for God, they would have felt love for the people God loves, but they did not. They put the emphasis on sacrifices and tithing.
Hosea condemns many of the sins of Israel and Judah but I think the main point in the book is the spiritual harlotry idea. I hope this article will help you personalize your relationship with Jesus as in a marriage relationship. In whatever you do, think of it in that way. Would it make my wife jealous if she saw me doing this? Am I starting to feel more affection for worldly things than I do for my spiritual husband Jesus? I don’t believe in the idea of women becoming nuns, but it is interesting that nuns considered themselves to be married to Jesus, and thus did not need husbands.