A. Read 1:2. This verse at the start sets in motion the theory of action in the book. Do you have a sense of what’s going on here? Bible commentators debate whether God really made Hosea wed the harlot. What’s your view, and why?
1:2 When the LORD began to speak to Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea: Go, take you a wife of whoring and children of whoring, for the land has surely whored away from the LORD .
B. After some discussion of straying and returning, and mention of their children, we read in Hosea 2:4-6 language of the behavior of a harlot and a response: “adulteries between her breast,” “make her like a wilderness and render her like a parched land,” “cause her to die of thirst,” and “upon her children I will not have mercy.” (It continues throughout, such as in 5:7, where we see “they begot alien children.”)
2: 4 Bring a case against your mother, bring a case, for she is not My wife, and I am not her husband. Let her take off her whoring from her face and her adultery from between her breasts, 5 lest I strip her naked and set her out as the day she was born. And I will turn her into a desert and make her like parched land and let her die of thirst. 6 And to her children I will show no mercy, for they are the children of whoring.
5:7 The LORD they betrayed, for they begot alien children.
How do you think such language relates metaphorically to how the people acted and lived? Thoughts?
C. Read and explain 2:14-25. We’ll go slowly through these amazing verses.
2: 14 And I will wither her vines and her fig trees of which she said, “They are a whore’s pay for me that my lovers gave to me.” And I will turn them into scrubland, and the beasts of the field shall devour them. 15 And I will make a reckoning against her for the days of the Baalim to whom she burned incense, and she put on her nose-ring and her jewelry and went after her lovers, but Me she forgot, said the LORD . 16 Therefore, I am about to beguile her and will lead her to the wilderness and speak to her very heart. 17 And I will give her from there her vineyards and the Valley of Achor an opening to hope, and she shall sing out there as in the days of her youth, as on the day she came up from the land of Egypt. 18 And it shall be, on that day, said the LORD , she shall call Me “my Husband” and no longer call Me “my Baal.” 19 And I will take away the names of the Baalim from your mouth, and they shall no more be recalled by their name. 20 And I will seal a pact with them on that day, with the beasts of the field and with the fowl of the heavens and the creeping things of the earth. And bow and sword and battle will I break from the earth, and I will make them lie down secure. 21 And I will betroth you to Me forever, I will betroth you in right and in justice and in kindness and in mercy. 22 And I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you shall know that I am the LORD . 23 And it shall be on that day, I will answer, said the LORD , I will answer for the heavens, and they shall answer for the earth. 24 And the earth shall answer for the new grain and for the wine and for the oil, and they shall answer for Jezreel. 25 And I will sow her for Me in the land and show mercy to Lo-Ruhamah, and I will say to Lo-Ami, “You are My people,” and he shall say, “ You are my God.”
(This is the reconciliation, which will come in the future, in contrast to the previous verses as well as subsequent verses describing apostasy and waywardness. There are several parts:
1. God “seduces” or “allures” the people in the beginning of this period, which is an interesting word. Explain.
2. Note verses 16 (or 15), where the Valley of Achor (Troubling) becomes a portal of hope, for a better future in a flourishing land!
What might this mean?
3. She’s restored as to the days of her youth. That’s as full a restoration as one could want, well more than just being able to move forward better from a new spot.
4. The relationship moves to one purely of love (with a husband) as opposed to one largely of subservience (with a master). Love, directly, not through intermediaries. Rashi.
It will be a covenant on that day, which we also see in verse 18 or 20.
5. The names of the idols will be forgotten and not be mentioned again.
6. “I will banish bow and sword and warfare from the land.” This (18 or 20) has the feel of Micah.
7. The text appears to say on the surface that God betroths the people in all of these four qualities (righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, and compassion). Discuss.
8. The betrothal will be granted in return for faith in the promises of the prophets and maintained through the exile. The people will heretofore know God. Perhaps this will manifest in the day of the Third Temple.
9. God will respond to the heavens, and they’ll respond to the earth. Explain.
10. God will love the one called “Not My Loved One,” pity the “Not Pitied,” and the “Not My People” will become “My People.” And the people will serve God with a full heart. Discuss.
D. At the outset of Chapter 4, verses 1-3, we see again the indictment of the people, likely in the Northern Kingdom. In addition to the lack of truth and kindness, we see no “knowledge of God” and a “breaching of standards.”
1 Hear the word of the LORD , O Israelites, for the LORD has a brief against the dwellers of the land. For there is no truth and there is no lovingkindness and there is no knowledge of the LORD in the land. 2 Falsely swear and murder and steal and commit adultery. They burst bonds—and blood spills upon blood. 3 Therefore the land does languish, and all those dwelling within it are bleak. With the beasts of the field and the fowl of the heavens and with the fish of the sea, too—they shall perish.
THIS LEADS TO: abundance of lying, murdering, stealing, adultery, and blood.
What does that mean? How might it be happening in our own time? And what’s the consequence of such ignorance?
E. Read verses 4:4-7.
4:4 But let no man inveigh and let no man rebuke when your people inveighs against priest. 5 And you stumbled by day, and the prophet, too, stumbled by night, and I will destroy your mother. 6 My people is destroyed without knowledge, for you—you rejected knowledge, and I rejected you from being priest to Me. And you forgot your God’s teaching—I will forget your sons on My part. 7 As they increased, they offended against Me, I will exchange their honor for disgrace.
Once we know less and less of God, we don’t have the knowledge it takes to follow God. So, we either make it up to suit our own ideologies and needs, flat-out don’t care and err, or actually oppose. We no longer learn and teach. As a result, we forget Torah, and God forgets us and our children.
1. What are the further consequences of this?
2. What does it mean in verse 5 when it says, “I will silence (or destroy) your mother.”
3. Read 4:7-11. Do you see the ways of a well-heeled harlot in the behavior of the people?
4: 7 As they increased, they offended against Me, I will exchange their honor for disgrace. 8 My people’s offense offerings they eat, and they long for its crimes. 9 And it shall be, people and priest alike, I will make a reckoning with them for their ways, and for their acts I will pay them back. 10 And they shall eat yet not be sated, play the whore yet not burst bonds. For they have forsaken the LORD 11 to keep on whoring and drinking and new wine that takes away the mind.
E. While we won’t study it further here, take a look at Chapter 5’s judgment against Israel.
F. Read 6:3-6. We now move forward again to prophecy about how we can return to God and how God will receive us.
6: 3 and that we may know, pursue knowing the LORD . Like daybreak His emergence is sure, and He will come to us like the rain, like the latter rain He will shower the earth. 4 What shall I do for you Ephraim, What shall I do for you, Judah, When your trust is like a morning cloud, like early dew that melts away? 5 Therefore have I hacked among your prophets, slain them with the utterances of My mouth, and your sentence will come out like light. 6 For trust did I want and not sacrifice and knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
After we note and discuss exegesis in verse 2, we’ll turn to this question:
6: 2 He will revive us after two days, on the third day raise us up, that we may live in His presence,
What do we learn about God’s expectations of us and ways we can return when we stray?
F. We won’t study Chapters 7-9, but they’re explicit, fascinating indictments of the people as to their idolatrous ways and their consequences. You might take a look on your own.
G. Read 10:1-2, 4. Can you describe the theological/ethical attitude that these verses are describing?
10: 1 A blighted vine is Israel, his fruit is just the same. When his fruit was abundant, he made abundant altars. When it was good in his land, they made goodly cult-pillars.
Talk about the dynamics of this: the more God blessed the people, the more they became tempted to be wayward with their riches. Why would God ever want to reward people if this were the way they responded to abundant blessing?
H. Read 10:11-12. We’ve seen this imagery to explain key ethical principles before. Explain.
10: 11 And Ephraim is a trained calf that loves to thresh, and I passed over its goodly neck, yoked Ephraim that he would plow, [Judah] that Jacob would harrow. 12 Sow for yourselves in righteousness, reap in lovingkindness. Till for yourselves tilled ground, and it is time to seek the LORD until He comes and teaches you righteousness.
I. We see these themes struck again in 12:4-7. Read these verses. Explain how the covenant understanding expressed here evolves from referenced stories of Jacob in the Bible.
12: 4 In the womb he seized his brother's heel, and with his power he strove with God. 5 He strove with the Messenger and prevailed - he wept and pleaded with him. At Bethel he did find him, “ And there He spoke with us.” 6 And the LORD God of Armies, the LORD is what He is called. 7 As for you, to your God you shall turn back, lovingkindness and justice keep, and hope for your God always.
J. Read 14:2-10. Let’s work our way through the final verses of the book. These words are recited in most Jewish congregations on the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Plus, they have meaning to all people of faith. How would you explain the meaning of these verses?
14: 2 Turn back, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled in your iniquity. 3 Take words with you and turn back to the LORD . Say to Him, “ All inequity You shall forgive. And take what is good, and we shall offer our speech instead of bulls. 4 Assyria will not rescue us, on horses we shall not ride. And we shall say no more ‘our God’ to our handiwork, as in You alone the orphan is shown pity.” 5 “ I will heal their rebellion, I will love them freely, for My wrath has turned back from them. 6 I will be like dew to Israel. He shall blossom like the lily and strike root like Lebanon. 7 His branches shall go forth and his glory be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon. 8 Those who dwell in his shade shall come back, they shall give life to new grain, and like the vine they shall blossom. His fame is like Lebanon wine. 9 Ephraim—‘Why more should I deal with idols? I have answered and I espy Him I am like the lush cypress. from me your fruit is found.’” 10 Who is wise and can grasp these things, discerning, and can know them? For straight are the ways of the LORD , and the righteous shall walk on them, but rebels shall stumble on them.
K. Here’s MacLaren in conclusion on the Book:
MacLaren: “The teaching of the whole is the certainty that suffering dogs sin, but yet does so by no iron, impersonal law, but according to the will of God, who will rain righteousness even on the sinner, being penitent, and will endow with righteousness from above every lowly soul that seeks for it.”
III. Conclusion – what are our prime takeaways from our study of this extraordinary book of the Bible?