The Prophet Hosea, Part 1
God illustrates truths about Himself and His relationship with His people in unique and memorable ways. The book of Hosea is a great example of God’s penchant for doing these unusual types of things. God gave the prophet Hosea an incredibly difficult task: He was to marry an immoral woman who would be unfaithful to him. But through this difficult assignment, God showed His desire for His Chosen People and His everlasting faithfulness.
Chris details the character of Hosea, a man given a great challenge from God, and the state of the wayward Israelites who had been called to be faithful in their covenant with the Lord. In learning the context of Hosea’s writing, we find why God gave these instructions to Hosea: to show His desire for His people who had rejected His covenant love. Join us for this 4-part series on the book of Hosea, and learn about God’s relationship with Israel and His faithfulness to you today!
Steve Conover: Welcome to the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. We have an exciting show for you once again this week. But before Chris comes, I'd like to remind you to visit us at our website foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Steve, we're starting a four week series here today on the prophet Hosea, and I have to tell you one of the things that I love about the prophet Hosea is that I believe it's going to show the side of God that is incredibly relational. That in the midst of something difficult in Hosea's life, God's going to use that as an opportunity to show how He is relational, not only with Israel, but I believe also with us. So today we're going to actually do a little brief study on Hosea before we jump into his prophecy.
Steve Conover: We look forward to it, but first in the news, Israel has been the centerpiece of international news with the new government's proposal to reform the judiciary. Recently, the Knesset Law Committee passed the first stage of the Judicial Reform Bill that would amend the basic law of the judiciary, which would allow for changes to the judge selection committee. Israeli politicians against the reforms were thrown out after chanting, "shame," and "disgrace", accusing committee chairman Simcha Rothman of ruining the country.
Chris Katulka: Well, Steve, here's my take. The judiciary reforms are designed to give more voice to the people. Currently, Israelis have very little say on who becomes a Supreme Court Judge. Essentially, Supreme Court Justices appoint their predecessors. Well, Netanyahu's move here is to break apart the elite committee of judges and to give voice back to the Israeli people.
Chris Katulka: I've been doing my devotions through Hosea recently and I was going through each chapter and it hit me that we've never done a study on Hosea on the radio program. Hosea is such an important prophet to read and study, especially here at the Friends of Israel, because God's faithfulness is seen in every chapter. Actually, Hosea the prophet really shows the depth of God's faithfulness to Israel and God's faithfulness to us. That's why today we're going to start a four week series on the prophet Hosea.
So who is Hosea? Well, that's exactly what we're going to talk about today. The prophet Hosea gives us some insights into who he is right in his own prophecy. And we can start right in Hosea 1:1 where it says this, "This is the Lord's message that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, during the time of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, King of Judah, and during the time of Jeroboam, son of Joash, King of Israel."
So let's go back here. Hosea's name in Hebrew means, "He has rescued," or "He has delivered." The unexpressed subject of the deliverance in Hosea's name, of course, is Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the object of deliverance is perhaps Israel as a whole. But what's really interesting is that Hosea's name in Hebrew and Jesus' name in Hebrew come from the same root. Hosea and Jesus, or Yeshua, both mean salvation and deliverance.
There isn't much to be said about Hosea's family line. The text says that he's the son of Beeri, but there is no insight as to who Beeri is. The only other time Beeri is mentioned is in Genesis Chapter 26 when Esau marries Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, but there's no connection there.
Since Hosea was probably young when his ministry started, we can determine that he probably wasn't married when he started, when he was called as a prophet to the Northern 10 tribes of Israel. Now we know exactly when Hosea ministered. Again, it tells us in Hosea 1:1 that his ministry took place during the reign of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, the kings of Judah, and during the time of Jeroboam, son of Joash, the king of Israel. Now this means that Hosea's ministry spanned several decades, beginning near the end of the reigns of Uzziah the king of Judah who ruled between 790 and 739 BC, Jeroboam II, who ruled Israel between 793 and 753 BC, and he concluded his ministry in the early years of Hezekiah's reign. When Hosea mentions Hezekiah, actually, he's probably writing around 715 BC after a period of co-rule that Hezekiah had with his father Ahaz.
Now here's something that keeps Bible scholars on their toes. Hosea's ministry was to the Northern 10 tribes of Israel, but what's interesting is that Hosea names four Judean kings, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, to give a better timestamp of his ministry. Actually even though he's speaking to the Northern 10 tribes of Israel, he only mentions one Israelite king and that's Jeroboam II. Now, some Old Testament scholars like Dr. Robert Chisholm, one of my former Old Testament profs at Dallas Seminary, argues that perhaps the reason for the omission of the other six Israelite kings who followed Jeroboam II was to suggest the legitimacy of the Davidic dynasty just as Hosea prophesied in Hosea 3:5 when he wrote this.
"Afterward, the Israelites will turn and seek the Lord their God and their Davidic king. They will submit to the Lord in fear and receive His blessings in future days." So it shows that God has placed his name with the Davidic dynasty because of the promise that he made to David in 2 Samuel Chapter Seven, which is in stark contrast to the instability of the kingship in the Northern 10 tribes during this time as Hosea is writing. And he actually mentions this in Chapter Seven of Hosea when he says all their kings, speaking of the Northern 10 tribes of Israel, he says, "All their kings fall and none of them call on me."
All of the events in the reigns of the kings mentioned in Hosea 1:1 are actually recorded in 2 Chronicles chapters 26 through 32. And if you were to open a newspaper in the days of the prophet Hosea, his ministry would have started near the end of a period of military success and prosperity for both Israel and Judah. Let me give you a background here. In the first half of the Eighth Century BC there was a decline of the Assyrian influence in the West. Now here's what I mean by that. You have to remember the Assyrians were once one of the largest empires the world had ever seen and its influenced reached all throughout the Middle East, but it was fading, which allowed smaller kingdoms like Israel under Jeroboam II and Judah under Uzziah to flourish.
Assyria's decline though, it wouldn't last forever. Actually, Assyria changed under the rule of its king Tiglath-Pileser III who ruled between 745 and 727 BC. The new Assyrian king revived their desire to expand into the West. So by 733, the Northern 10 tribes of Israel were made a puppet state of the Assyrian Empire. You can read about that in 2 Kings Chapter 15 Verse 29. And after plotting a revolt, Israel was defeated by 722 BC by the Assyrians and Israel's people were deported. All these events you can read about in 2 Kings Chapter 17. And to make matters even worse, Judah the Southern tribe, was incorporated as a vassal state of the Assyrian Empire during Hosea's time, and that's again something that you can read about in the book of 2 Kings.
Hosea and other prophets who wrote during this time, like Amos, Isaiah, and Micah, his contemporaries, must be understood against this political and spiritual backdrop mentioned above. Hosea was speaking to, think about this, a wayward Israel, who abandoned the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And because of that they were breaking the covenantal agreement that the Lord made with Israel. It was Israel's obligation to maintain loyalty and faithfulness to the Lord by worshiping Him alone and by obeying His commandments. The covenant was actually a lot like a marriage covenant between a husband and a wife. Jeremiah the prophet would actually later write this in Jeremiah Chapter 31 starting in Verse 31. He says this, "Indeed a time is coming says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah, not like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt, for they violated that covenant, even though I was like a faithful husband to them," says the Lord.
Obedience to the covenant would result in blessings. Just read Deuteronomy Chapter 28 in the first 14 verses, but disobedience would bring judgment and even eventually exile. The covenant curses that are mentioned there can be found in Deuteronomy Chapter 28 Verses 15 through 68. Hosea was used by God to expose Israel's unfaithfulness and to declare that the God who keeps this covenant, His curses would come as a result of their disobedience. Yet simultaneously, think about this, Hosea will proclaim the promise of Israel's ultimate restoration just as it says in Deuteronomy Chapter 30 in the first 10 verses.
Now listen, as we go through the next few weeks, you're going to see that Hosea's message can be boiled down to three words, sin, judgment, and salvation. You're going to see a domino effect take place. By first exposing Israel's sin, that's what Hosea is going to do, he's going to expose the idolatry that's found all throughout his prophecy. And he's going to be used by God to compare Israel's covenant relationship to the Lord with marriage. And he's going to accuse Israel, who would be like a wife, of spiritual adultery, just as Jeremiah mentioned earlier. Hosea does call on Israel to repent, but the prophet would doubt that the Northern 10 tribes would respond to his message, which means judgment would be imminent, but God's covenant curses would be detrimental to the growth, to the protection and guidance of this nation. Several times Hosea will emphasize the justice of God by indicating that His divine punishment would fit the crimes perfectly.
But what's amazing in God's grace is that Hosea shows that the Lord would not abandon Israel totally. Despite its severity, even judgment was disciplinary, but it was intended to turn Israel back to God. Now listen, God called Hosea to do something that sounds contrary to His Word, but it was designed to be an example of God's love for His people in the midst of heartache and loss.
Chris Katulka: Now, before we get to that, I want to share with you a way that you can kind of understand Hosea. Hosea should be understood as this. Israel always, that God has always had a love for Israel and the Jewish people because of a promise that He made to Abraham that goes back to Genesis Chapter 12. It's a promise that cannot be broken and that's why I'm excited to share with you a book that actually I recently wrote called Israel Always: Experiencing God's Pursuit Of You Through His Chosen People. It's a way for you to see in one glance God's faithfulness to Israel from Abraham to today and even into the future. I like to say it's a way to see the continuity of God's faithfulness. Instead of breaking it up as God loves Israel in the Old Testament, what's going on with Israel today and what's going on with Israel in the future, it's a fantastic way to see God's plan and program for Israel in one book, in one glance. Again, it's called Israel Always: Experiencing God's Pursuit of You through His Chosen People. Steve, how can our listeners get their hands on this new resource?
Steve Conover: To learn more about Chris's book Israel Always, visit us at foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: So we're continuing our discussion on Hosea as we venture down a four week study on the prophet and his message to the Northern 10 tribes of Israel. I want to read this section of a commentary I was reading on Hosea and his personal life, because you're going to see in a moment, God used Hosea's personal life as an example of His relationship with Israel. Listen to this, “Hosea lived a pain-filled life and preached in a troubled time. This may seem to be something of a cliche or hardly worth pointing out for an Israelite prophet. They all lived through harrowing days and soul-testing controversies. Nevertheless, Hosea may have special claim to this unenviable distinction. His family life uniquely qualified him for the title of suffering prophet. In addition to that however, was the sorrow he felt as a result of the political upheaval and the disaster he saw in his lifetime.”
In the very beginning of Hosea, God calls the prophet to marry a prostitute. Just listen to this. Hosea 1:2, when the Lord spoke through Hosea he said to him, "Go marry a prostitute who will bear illegitimate children conceived through prostitution," because the nation continually commits spiritual prostitution by turning away from the Lord. So Hosea married Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, then she conceived and gave birth to his son for him. Now listen, there's not much known about Gomer. She was probably a woman who lived in a Northern kingdom of Israel and we know she was a prostitute. In fact, scholars debate on Gomer's identity. Some argue that she could have been a temple prostitute, something common in Baal worship. While others believe she was someone driven by her sexual immorality. What we do know is that Hosea marries Gomer and they have three children. During the marriage, Gomer will be unfaithful to her husband Hosea and she will continue to have affairs with other men.
Listen, this isn't the first time God asks a prophet to do something out of the ordinary. In Isaiah Chapter 20, starting in Verse One, God tells Isaiah to walk around in his undergarments, "Remove your sackcloth, the Lord says, from your waist and from the sandals of your feet," and he did as instructed and walked around in his undergarments and barefoot. In Ezekiel Chapters Four and Five, the prophet was commanded to take a brick and scribe on it “Jerusalem” and then lay siege against the brick. And then he was to lay on his left side for 390 days for the sins of Israel and then 40 days on the other side for the sins of Judah. And after that he was called to shave his head as a sign of God's judgment on Judah.
Now, listen, Hosea's experience was probably the most emotional and depressing personally as he's in a relationship with an unfaithful wife. Hosea's relationship with Gomer was designed to identify Hosea to God's sense of rejection, sorrow, and loss at losing His unfaithful spouse, the nation of Israel. The divine anguish of rejection was just as real as the anguish of loving a wife who was unfaithful. Hosea's love illustrated God's love to a people who had rejected God's covenantal love.
And that's how I want to end here. Even in the Old Testament, God was deeply relational. Through God's eyes, wayward Israel was like a wife who continually was unfaithful. And I know that in our Christian world we can often look down on the law of God, but actually the law of God was designed to bind God and Israel together like a marriage contract. In fact, Israel responds to God's covenant by saying in effect, "I do," like in a marriage. In Exodus Chapter 24, it says that Moses took the Book of the Covenant and read it aloud to the people, that's Israel, and they said, "We are willing to do and obey all that the Lord has spoken. So Moses took the blood and splashed it on the people and said, 'This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.'"
The people of Israel entered into a relationship with God. Do you remember what they said? "We will do and obey all that the Lord has spoken," or better yet, "I do," just like in a marriage ceremony. Hosea's prophecy is positioned to show us that God desires to have a deep relationship with His people. He isn't a distant God watching from afar. He cares deeply for His creation and His covenant people, Israel. And His faithfulness to Israel is going to become a testimony of His faithfulness to us, His church.
Steve Conover: Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor, Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: When I returned from the army recently, there was a surprise waiting for me, two angry ladies. They were from the Agudat Israel, a zealous Jewish group. "What do you wish of me?" I asked.
"We have come to save your family from death," they replied.
"What death?" I asked. "Who wants to kill us?"
"Jews," they replied. "We have heard about you, that you are a convert. We want to help you and your family. We want to save you."
"First," I began, "it is you who needs salvation. I am saved. Even if you sincerely want to do something for me, you cannot because you have no power. You are weak in faith and so how can you help others? I am sure God sent you to me so that you could be shown the way of salvation through our Lord, our Savior, who died on the cross and now lives."
"We are not here to listen to your missionary propaganda," they said.
"You are also missionaries," I told them, "because you have come to me with your propaganda."
"We are not missionaries. You are!" they exclaimed.
"Yes, I am. Even Abraham was a missionary along with Jonah and the other prophets. Why am I then forbidden to be a missionary?"
The ladies threatened to have my position published in all the newspapers saying that I am sowing poison against God in the Holy Land. I asked, "How do you know that I sow poison?"
They did not answer me immediately, but finally one of them said, "If I could, I would kill you."
I then opened the New Testament and read to her Romans 12: 9-21, which tells believers to love others. "If you call this poison," I told her, "then I do not know what to say. I know that all the people to whom I speak about our Savior are alive. They are happy because they have hope and they shall never die."
"If that is so," she threatened, "we will write about you and then you will be sorry."
"Never," I replied. "Not only will I read this scripture to you, but I'm ready to face every obstacle you place in my path. I am not afraid."
"We are weak women," she said. "We will send our husbands to you. They are strong."
"If you like," I said, "I will go with you to your home right now. No one can do me harm if it is not God's will," I insisted.
Then one woman asked the other, "What shall we do now?" They spoke Russian between themselves not realizing that I know Russian well. One asked, "What should we say to him, for he is right."
"No, he is not right," the other insisted.
"But how can you show him?," her friend asked.
"I know how," the other assured her. "We will tell him that we will come again to continue our conversation."
Then they told me in Hebrew what they had decided, but to their amazement I responded in Russian, "I must share with you who is right, because you are not right."
"Since you know Russian," the one said, "we must be honest with you. You are right. We have no power. But we will not give up."
"Oh, that is good. Do not give up. Pray to our Father in heaven and ask Him to reveal the truth to you."
Chris Katulka: The impact of Zvi's life and ministry in Israel, it didn't end when he went home to be with the Lord. In fact, Zvi's legacy lives on. Our Friends of Israel ministry representatives continue to share the gospel in Jerusalem, Israel, and really all throughout the world. We also serve Holocaust survivors and their families. We provide free food, medicine, and clothing. And we even promote the safety and security of the state of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere. So when you give to the Friends of Israel, your donation actually allows us to advance the gospel of our Messiah Jesus. You can give online by visiting foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org. You can click right there on our donate link. Also, be sure to let us know where you listen when you contact us.
Steve Conover: Thank you so much for being with us today. Remember to visit foiradio.org to learn more or to purchase Chris's book, Israel Always. Chris, where are we headed next week?
Chris Katulka: Yep. We have three more weeks, and remember I said we're going to see three main themes throughout the book of Hosea. We're going to see sin, judgment, and then ultimately restoration. So next week we're going to look at what the sins were that Israel was committing that were considered unfaithful to the Lord, that Hosea's going to speak right into.
Steve Conover: Join us then. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione, edited by Jeremy Strong, who also composed and performs our theme music. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. I'm Steve Conover, Executive Producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, PO Box 914 Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. And one last quick reminder to visit us at foiradio.org. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
Israel Always is a sweeping journey through Israel’s prolific history, its modern-day influence, and its promised future, highlighting the continuous throughline of God’s provision for His people. Insightful and informative, Israel Always will enrich your understanding of the Bible, enhance your appreciation for Israel, and elevate your awareness of God’s steadfast love for all His people—including you—today.
Apples of Gold: I Am Not Ashamed of Him in Whom I Believe!
Trouble was waiting for Zvi when he returned home from the army. Two women accused him of spreading propaganda against God in the Holy Land. But Zvi’s heart was full of compassion for the hostile women. He spoke with kindness to them as he shared the love of Christ. They threatened him with slander and violence, but Zvi had no fear. Listen to find out how he handled their attacks!
The Friends of Israel Today theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
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