Hosea: The Unfaithful Wife

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The Unfaithful Wife

Hosea's marriage, Israel's adultery and judgment, Restoration.

Background: The one writing prophet of the Northern Kingdom, his ministry centered in the quarter of a century preceding the fall of that kingdom in 722 BC
Theme: The spiritual adultery of Israel
Outline: Hosea's marriage, Israel's unfaithfulness and judgment, restoration
Key Verse: "... my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children." (Hosea 4:6, NIV)

Hosea Chapter Index


Java Applet which scrolls through a list of my favorite verses from Hosea.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Vol I, Old Testament) is an excellent resource and is referred to as the BKC.


Hosea was the only writing prophet from the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Amos came from Judah and preached in the North). When he began his ministry, shortly after Amos, both kingdoms were at the height of their power and prosperity. It was unimaginable that the Northern Kingdom would soon be destroyed and the Southern Kingdom threatened.

Hosea preached to a people who had departed from their heritage. Keeping an outward form of religion and the name of the LORD, they accepted practices associated with the worship of Baal (which had been largely abolished). While prosperous, they were prideful and did not give the LORD glory. The upper class, seeking pleasure and more wealth, oppressed the poor. Hosea called for them to repent, before the LORD would severely discipline his people. The many parallels to our modern society cannot be missed ... a society of prosperity, pride, and an outward attachment to a traditional religion without sincere obedience to the living God.

I. Hosea's Times (1:1)

II. Hosea's Experience: A Portrayal of God's Dealings with Israel (1:2-3:5)

1:2-3a Let us read the directions of the LORD and Hosea's marriage as a literal, not figurative, marriage. I agree with Mr. Chisholm's (BKC) preferred interpretation that the adulterous character of the wife was revealed after the marriage. This also parallels Israel, who was adulterous after the LORD brought her out of Egypt. We do not know the extent to which the Hebrews may have participated in idolatry during the sojourn in Egypt. Genesis closes with Jacob's sons in Egypt, and Exodus opens centuries later with the Hebrew under a Pharaoh who "knew not Joseph". The adulterous nature of Israel was clearly expressed soon after the Exodus (wedding) in the Golden Calf incident at Sinai. Adultery (idolatry) continued and was practiced in Hosea's time, approximately 700 years after the Exodus.

2:5-7 The extremes to which the LORD will go in order to restore Israel as his 'wife' shows the depths of His love. He will receive Israel even if she returns only as a 'last resort'.

III. Hosea's Message: God's Judgment and Restoration of Israel (4-14)

6:7 All three interpretations from the BKC are viable. However, the verse cannot mean all three at the same time. This is a case where we take the best choice, respect those who disagree, and move on. This does not mean that we accept multiple choices or merge three meanings into one. I advise simply following the NIV in this case, taking the comparison with the first man, Adam.

9:11-14 From here to the end of the book there are various textual problems. Some of the difficulties of Hebrew texts in general, which help explain translation problems in specific verses here, are:

* Hebrew has not been a spoken language perhaps since the Exile, certainly since the fall of Jerusalem (70 AD) until modern times. [Chad Woodburn's note] Notice also that modern Jews do not really speak Biblical Hebrew, but a modernized form of it. (This is especially obvious when listening to their pronunciation of words.)

* Biblical Hebrew was originally written without vowels, spaces between words, or punctuation. These markings are a part of the Masoretic Text, but not the original manuscripts.

* There is a limited amount of 'Classical Hebrew' in existence, which consists of a few inscriptions and the Old Testament. We do not have a body of literature to compare with for similar vocabulary or grammar. There is a body of written Hebrew from later times.

* For comparison on obscure words or phrases we rely on related languages and early translations. The Greek Septuagint (LXX) was translated from an earlier form of the text than the Masoretic Text. It is not at all certain that the Masoretic (Hebrew) Text is always a more accurate rendering of the original, although this is a general rule. We do know that the Jews have taken extraordinary care in the transmission of the text.

* The Dead Sea Scrolls are a fairly recent discovery, and appear to confirm that the Hebrew text has been accurately transmitted from at least the time of Christ.

My advice is to trust the commentator's judgment on these matters. Ideally, we could all learn Hebrew, Greek, and the principles of textual analysis. Short of this, at a survey level of the Bible, we evaluate the suggestions made by trained interpreters.

12:1-2 Israel "multiplies lies and violence" because of an underlying unfaithfulness. Unfaithfulness is the cause; social injustice is an effect.

13:1-3 If you accept Mr. Chisholm's (BKC) preferred reading, or doubt whether or not this text is speaking of child sacrifice, I advise putting a note in the margin of your NIV. You do not want to rely on your memory for this, because there are other verses in the Bible that speak clearly of child sacrifice. When studying issues such as abortion, we want to use the clear and undisputed texts whenever possible. Building arguments on a disputed verse such as this one, especially when other undisputed texts are available, weakens our presentation. It also makes others, even of our persuasion, wonder if we are reading our own position into the text.

13:12 We sometimes wonder why God allows the wicked to prosper. This verse reminds us that the sins are not forgotten, they are 'stored up' for a day of reckoning. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to bring our sins to Jesus, who took the penalty for our day of reckoning for us when He died on the cross. However, His death on the cross is only effective for those who come to Him in faith. One purpose of this prophecy was to give the people of Israel an opportunity to turn from their sins and return to the LORD in faith and be restored.

14:9 This principle holds true today! "The ways of the LORD" as revealed in all of Scripture "are right". Wise men and women listen and take heed, but the rebellious foolishly reject the LORD's counsel.

Please send comments or suggestions to ron@iStudyBible.com
Updated March 2012

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