Hosea-Chapter-1-2Take your Bibles with me this week and open up to the Book of Hosea. After Daniel, and if you get to Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, or Amos, you’ve gone too far. This is the first Book of the Minor Prophets in the order in which it has been put in Scripture, but it was not the first if you put them in order of date written. Obadiah, Joel, Jonah, and Amos were written before Hosea. The ministries of Isaiah, Micah, and Amos overlapped with Hosea during the same time period.

For a “Minor Prophet”, Hosea had a rather long ministry. We know that the “Major Prophets”, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel all wrote lengthy books of prophecy and their ministries spanned decades. Hosea, with 14 chapters, along with Zechariah, also with 14 chapters, are the longest books by a Minor Prophet and we don’t call them “Minor” because their ministry was any less, it is simply a reference to what they wrote, when you compare Hosea at 14 chapters to Isaiah at 66 chapters and Jeremiah and all of these great humongous works that I would be amazed to preach through one of those Major Prophets at some point and can only imagine how long that would take. But Hosea with his 14 chapters while he is named a Minor Prophet this is not a minor ministry. We know that Hosea’s ministry covered 50 years, from 760 to 710 BC. Keep in mind the time line here because it was in 722 BC that Israel was taken captive by Assyria as judgment for their sin. So he is preaching and ministering to Israel up to and just before the time of their captivity.

Hosea 1:1 lists for us the kings of Judah and Israel who reigned during his time of ministry to the people as he preached the Word of God specifically to the people in Israel. His preaching had as its theme “God’s Redeeming Love” and this book really is an amazing pageant, a living parable where God uses Hosea and his family to put on a show for the people to make a point about sin and about redemption. In the family, Hosea represents God and his wife Gomer represents Israel. Hosea is preaching and presenting a picture of salvation in the midst of judgment, and in fact, the name Hosea means “Salvation.”

Who else in Scripture has a name that means “Salvation”, or “Deliverance?” That would be Jesus. In Hebrew, Yeshua, or in English Joshua, means “Salvation.” Yeshua/Joshua in Hebrew is then Iesous in Greek, and Iesous from Greek to English is Jesus. Some people insist that we should call Jesus Yeshua Hamashiach, Yeshua the Messiah, and not “Jesus.” That is really not an argument because for example, my name is Phillip, if I was French it would be Philippe, in Spanish it is Felipe, it is all the same name. The word Jesus is this transliteration directly from the Greek to us in English because of course the New Testament is written in Greek. So we have the name Jesus. The point is that Jesus has been called by many different versions of that same name in many different languages around the world and what does it all have in common? His name means “Salvation.” That is Hosea’s name meaning as well. It is a direct reference to deliverance, to the salvation of God.

This week we will work through chapter 1 and the first verse of chapter 2 in an examination of Hosea’s Family. Hosea writes for us to start:

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.

Here he gives us the kings who reigned while he ministered as a prophet from Israel. “Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.” Remember to set the historical context here that as a result of the sins of David and Solomon the Kingdom of Israel was going to be split and under Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, in around 930 BC the nation split. Judah and Benjamin forming Judah in the south with Jerusalem as its capital, and Israel consisting of the other ten tribes to the north. Israel was also called Ephraim, as they were the largest tribe, and is also referred to in Scripture by their geographical location as Samaria. You see, we are not the first nation to have a Civil War between the north and south! The Kingdom did split and there were then two nations, two lines of kings, two capitals in two nations, Jerusalem in Judah in the south and Samaria in Israel (or Ephraim) to the north. These two nations now as God refers to them as sisters.

We have the record in Scripture of God sending prophets to His people, some prophesying to Judah, some to Israel, some to both, and one went to Nineveh (we know who that was, that was Jonah) and while most of the prophets came from Judah, two came from Israel. Hosea and Jonah both came from the north. All the other prophets came from Judah from the south. For the historical background and events that took place during this time, you can read 2 Kings 14-20 and 2 Chronicles 26-32.

Jeroboam that is mentioned here as King in Israel is Jeroboam II. Jeroboam I ruled as the nation split in 930 BC. Jeroboam the II was not his son but another King named Jeroboam, so we differentiate between them with the I and II. The text tells us he was the son of Joash. He began to reign in 793 BC, about 140 years after the civil war. Jeroboam I reacted to the fact that Judah had Jerusalem and the Temple by setting up golden calves to worship several places in Samaria. This was the beginning of the idolatry and false worship in the north and it was perpetuated and made worse by the kings that followed. Out of 19 kings who reigned in Israel after the Kingdom was divided, God says of all but one of them that they did evil in His sight. However, just because God did not specifically say that Jehu did evil, He did say in 2 Kings 10:30-31:

“And the Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in doing what is right in My sight, and have done to the house of Ahab all that was in My heart, your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin.

So even though Jehu is not said specifically to have done evil, he still rejected God even after God used him to depose Ahab and to destroy Ahab’s descendants. We will talk about that more in a minute. But we see all 19 kings of the north were wicked kings.

So we look to Judah and think that things will be better. We are talking about the people of God with rulers appointed by God, most of them are wicked, we are told that there are only 6 kings did what was right I the eyes of God in Judah and all the rest did evil. Note, all the Kings in Judah were from the line of David. In Israel there is no family line, it is broken up there are assassinations, captains become kings, mother’s put their sons on the throne all these kinds of terrible things happen and they are not all related. In Judah they were all from the line of David.

In the list here in Hosea 1:1, we know Uzziah, Jotham, and Hezekiah were godly kings. Concerning Ahaz we are told in 2 Kings 16:2, “Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord his God, as his father David had done.” In 2 Chronicles 28:19 the Scripture adds this, “For the Lord brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had encouraged moral decline in Judah and had been continually unfaithful to the Lord.” Continuing in 2 Chronicles 28:22, “Now in the time of his distress King Ahaz became increasingly unfaithful to the Lord. This is that King Ahaz. 23 For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him, saying, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel. 24 So Ahaz gathered the articles of the house of God, cut in pieces the articles of the house of God, shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and made for himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem. 25 And in every single city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods, and provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers.”

When his son, Hezekiah, became king, 2 Chronicles 29:3 tells us, “In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them.” This is similar to what Josiah had to do later, again repairing the Temple, where the Book of the Law was discovered and worship and eventually Passover were re-instituted in Josiah’s reformation.

Back to Jeroboam II, we know that he continued the pursuit of wickedness like all the kings of Israel, but while he reigned the nation was at peace for a time. There was peace and prosperity. The Bible proves for us over and over again that peace and prosperity in a nation do not mean that God is showing favor. The country was descending into corruption and into wickedness. From the people’s perspective this was a very good time in Israel’s history. A closer look however through the eyes of Amos and Micah and Isaiah show the seedy underside as there was injustice and corruption throughout the religious and governmental leadership in the nation and a perversion of the courts as the rich used the legal system to abuse the poor.

The people of Israel at this point were seriously failing to obey the two greatest commandments. They were not loving God or their neighbor as they should. Idolatry, injustice, and irreverence were the marks of the culture during the ministry of Hosea. And while things looked peaceful on the surface, conditions were such that of the 6 kings in Israel that ruled after Jeroboam II, 6 in the span of 20 years, 4 of those 6 became king by assassinating their predecessor. Then as we know in 722 BC, Assyria conquered Israel and Israel never returned to the land. It looked good on the outside but the land was corrupting and decaying.

Hosea warned the people, but they did not listen to him. Now he will have his life held up in front of them as an example, as a living parable, of the dangers and cost of sin and the power of God’s covenantal love. As Hosea’s wife, Gomer, plays the part of Israel, no one would say that she was innocent or not deserving of judgment, just as Israel had no defense against the charges brought by the Lord through His prophets.

Tomorrow we will meet Hosea’s Family.