The Word of the Lord from Hosea

“Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.” —Hosea 3:5

HOSEA is the first of the minor prophets and was a contemporary of Isaiah. While Isaiah was a prophet sent to Judah (and Benjamin), it appears that Hosea was a prophet sent to the other ten tribes, who had split away from Judah and Benjamin. When we compare Isaiah’s introduction to his book (Isa. 1:1) we notice that the identical kings of Judah (Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah) are also mentioned in Hosea 1:1. They also spanned Hosea’s ministry. In addition, Jeroboam, son of Joash, is mentioned as a king of Israel in Hosea 1:1, but not in Isaiah 1:1.

When Israel entered the land of Canaan, they were constantly tempted by the practices of the people dwelling in that land. The religious practices of the people of Canaan were unbelievably wicked. Detailed accounts of their orgies can be found in many Bible commentaries. These people had been so deluded by Satan into the worship of Baal, Moloch, and other false deities that their form of worship was an absolute abomination in the sight of the Lord. Their religion was associated with lewdness and fornication. The power of procreation given to man by God was desecrated by them through the Adversary’s influence. Knowing this helps us to understand the many laws given to Israel on proper marriages and the behavior of man and woman in using this power. It also helps us to understand Hosea’s prophecy.

From the very beginning, Hosea’s prophecy is strange. It almost seems as if God is suggesting to the prophet that he seek a woman of Canaan (who was steeped in that abominable, false religion of Canaan) to be his wife. In effect, he was to marry an unchaste woman.

There are two possible explanations. One is that the deeds never happened in Hosea’s real life but that the events are used as illustrations. The other explanation is that the prophet indeed married a woman of the land of Canaan but that at the time he married her she was a virtuous woman and a good wife. Later, however, her family background began to influence her life and, because of the false religious beliefs taught to her as a child, she became an unfaithful wife. The first child was born under the earlier, faithful days of their marriage. The second and third of the children could have been illegitimate. The situation became so loathsome that Hosea was forced to divorce her. Later, when the woman realized her wrongdoing and repented, Hosea accepted her again as his wife, because he loved her.

These domestic trials of Hosea were very likely real, and by this living experience God impressed upon him the lesson of Israel’s unfaithfulness. In any case, God’s reason for having these events mentioned is that Israel had done to God what Hosea’s wife had done to him. In Hosea’s prophecy, Israel is pictured as a wife, married to God through the Law Covenant. We note that this is a consistent picture used in the Scriptures time and again. Isaiah, Hosea’s contemporary, uses it in his prophecy as recorded in the 54th chapter. There the statement is made: “For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called.” (vs. 5) In the beginning of this same 54th chapter, Isaiah writes: “Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.” (vs. 1) The Apostle Paul quotes from this passage, and he applies it to the birth of the promised seed of Abraham through Sarah. The apostle explains that this is an allegory in which Abraham represents God, Sarah represents the Grace Covenant, and Hagar represents the Law Covenant.

So also in the experience of Hosea and his prophecy we see the same illustration of Israel being married to God. In this particular prophecy Israel as a nation (all of those living under the Law Covenant arrangement) is pictured as a wife married to God. At first the marriage is faithful. One child was legitimate. The others later were not. By the time Jesus came to them, they had strayed from the principles of the Law so far that Jesus had to tell some of them (the Pharisees), “Ye are of your father the Devil.”—John 8:44

From the time of receiving the Law through Moses until the time of the first advent of our Lord, Israel went through many experiences, becoming more and more unfaithful with the progress of time. We note many transgressions occurring (with some attempts at reform) during the wilderness journey from Egypt. Later, in the land of Canaan, these periods of unfaithfulness become more pronounced, especially during the time of the judges and kings. Even following their initial captivity experience in Babylon, the shock of the Lord’s punishment did not restore many to faithfulness. Their traditions involving interpretations and commentaries on the Mosaic Law separated them more and more from the true law of God, so that, in effect, they became divorced from God. The attitudes that were developed in this period of time made it impossible for the nation to receive Jesus when he came. A few individuals—a remnant—accepted him, but the nation was rejected. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (Matt. 23:37-39) So also Hosea prophesied, “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim.”—Hos. 3:4

But in spite of their backsliding God still loves this nation and will take them back as a people, even as Hosea took back his wife because he still loved her. The key to understanding this allegory is in our key text, Hosea 3:5, which reads, “Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.”

We are not to confuse the “return” mentioned in this text with the return of Israel to their land. That return to their land is but a prelude to the far more important return of Israel to “seek the Lord their God.” Notice, too, that Israel “returns to seek David their king.” It is Christ who will sit on David’s throne in God’s kingdom and he is the One they shall seek.

In Romans 11:1 the Apostle Paul asks: “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. … God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew.” In this marvelous 11th chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul makes several points. One is in verses 11 and 12: “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?” Here the apostle makes clear that Israel’s fall and blindness (vs. 7) has become the Gentiles’ gain, by giving them an opportunity to become a part of the spiritual seed of Abraham, replacing the natural seed. So Paul continues: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?”—vss. 13-15

But this wonderful event cannot come to pass until the church is completed, as stated in Romans 11:25: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” The fullness of the Gentiles refers to the full number of Gentiles needed to complete the body of Christ, or the spiritual seed of Abraham. “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” (Rom. 11:26) The Deliverer is the completed Christ, Head and body, who shall turn ungodliness away from Jacob (the nation of Israel) and cause them to “return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king [Christ], and shall fear [reverence] the Lord [Jehovah] and his goodness in the latter days.”

Although Hosea’s prophecy is specifically to Israel in the flesh, we can apply their experiences to spiritual Israel too. The Israelites rejected Jesus and the invitation to become part of the spiritual seed, so God turned to the Gentiles to take out of them “a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14) At first this relationship was a faithful one, but later it become very much like the unfaithfulness of Hosea’s wife and the unfaithfulness of natural Israel. The same illustration is used by our Lord in the message to the church at Pergamos and at Thyatira, saying: “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.” (Rev. 2:14) “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of [her] deeds.”—Rev. 2:20-22 (See Diaglott.)

Jesus spoke a parable, given in Matthew 13:24-43, which tells how imitation Christians (represented by tares) are fostered and mingle with the true Christians (represented by wheat) until the time of the harvest. Then the tares are separated and burned, losing their identity.

As God loves Israel and will give them an opportunity to return to the Lord, so also God loves all of those in nominal Christendom, and the heathen as well, and will give them all an opportunity to learn about and worship the true God. All of this will be accomplished in God’s wonderful kingdom.

It is fitting that Hosea should also prophesy about the destruction of the grave and death. (Hos. 13:14) This will be the grand conclusion to the reign of Christ, as stated by the Apostle Paul: “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”—I Cor. 15:25,26

Soon all the world, even as Israel, will learn that their only hope lies in God’s kingdom. As we read in Hosea: “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thine help. I will be thy King: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?”—Hos. 13:9,10

Indeed, all the world will be glad and joyful that Christ has become their King and that he will reign until the time comes for him to turn the kingdom over to the Father, even as Paul has written: “For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”—I Cor. 15:27,28

Dawn Bible Students Association
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