In the prophetic books of the Bible there are four Major prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, and twelve Minor (i.e. shorter) prophets, of which Hosea is the first. The writings of these twelve were originally counted as one book. The first five antedate the major prophets.

   Hosea prophesied to the northern House of Israel over a very long period of perhaps 65 years. He commenced when Uzziah was king over Judah and Jeroboam II king over Israel. His ministry closed sometime before Samaria fell in 722 BC.

   Hosea had his own personal sorrows: he married a faithless wife. His sufferings express God’s pain at the faithlessness of His people. It is reflected in his style. Where he speaks of God’s judgments which will fall on the nation, the Hebrew is very terse and brief, concise and broken, and so not easy to understand. Where he speaks of God’s mercy, his style is quite different, easy and flowing. Hosea is the prophet of the tenderness of the love of God.

The background to Hosea

   This eighth century before Christ was the darkest period of Israel’s history. There was anarchy and misrule. Kings made their way to the throne by murdering their predecessors and then were murdered in their turn. Shallum slew Zachariah (2 Kings 15:10), Menahem slew Shallum (2 Kings 15:14), Pekah slew Pekahiah the son of Menahem (2 Kings 15:25), Hoshea slew Pekah (2 Kings 15:30).

   The whole kingdom of Israel was a military despotism. Baasha, Zimri, Omri, Jehu, Menahem, Pekah all held military office before becoming king. Each usurper made alliances with foreign nations, thereby increasing idolatry. False religions were encouraged by the corrupt rival worship set up by Jeroboam I, Israel’s first king after the ten tribes had split from the two in Judah. Everywhere was deceit, sexual immorality, murder, robbery, mugging, bribery and corruption. The idolatrous priests were part of this. Corruption spread throughout the land.

   This was the condition of the people among whom Hosea prophesied for a lifetime, yet they were oblivious of their moral, spiritual and political decay. They sought alliances with Assyria, and Hosea warned them that Assyria would destroy them. There would be no reprieve. Not one of Israel’s kings would risk his throne by calling the people to give up their idolatry. The kingdom lasted 216 years, then Israel was taken into captivity.

   Chapter 13 closes with Hosea’s prophecy of the utter destruction of Samaria and of the horrible cruelties her people would endure. The last chapter predicts a future conversion of Israel which, as we shall see, began to be fulfilled from the time of Christ and does not refer to some postulated mass conversion of the Jews at the end of the age.

   The importance of Hosea is that he lived in a day very like our own, in the death-throes of the church and nation.

Hosea the key to prophecy

   The key to understanding the Bible may be said to be contained in three chapters: 2 Kings 17 speaking of the end of the House of Israel, Hosea 1 prophesying the two quite different destinies of Israel and Judah, and Romans 11 in which the apostle Paul assures us that God has not cast away His people Israel.

   God’s plan is nothing less than the salvation of the whole world. To accomplish this purpose He first reveals Himself to a man Abraham and then creates a nation—Israel. In the divine economy the nation becomes split into two quite different peoples, the House of Judah and the House of Israel. From Judah comes Messiah, Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev 5:5). From the House of Israel comes the people, the Church, who will embody Christ and give Him to the world.

   The theme of Hosea then is the casting off of Israel, their banishment from their homeland and—centuries later—their remarriage to Christ. Then, oblivious of their true identity and therefore having nothing to boast of in accepting Christ, they would become His true servants in the world.

   If this interpretation of Hosea is true—and it is the same truth given by revelation to all the prophets—then it follows that Israel today is to be found a Christian people (not all converted, of course).

   This counteracts two great errors common in Biblical teaching today— first that school of thought which insists on spiritualizing all the promises made to Israel by applying them to the Church, and second that of evangelical fundamentalists who aggressively apply God’s promises to the modern Israeli state in Palestine as “God’s chosen people” and so dictate American foreign policy.

The meaning of Hosea for today

   The argument of this small book is not against the de facto state of Israel or its right to exist but to posit a fresh and exciting understanding of prophecy and God’s calling of our people to loving Christian service.

   This message of Hosea has special application to Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Scandinavian and some German peoples, and to the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and southern Africa—and to Christians in every land who love God’s truth. Only in this interpretation of prophecy will be found the answer to our nation’s predicament and need for a sense of national vocation.

Quotations from Hosea in the Old Testament [*]

Hoseais quoted in
1:11Isaiah 11:12–13
4:3Zephaniah 1:3
4:6Isaiah 5:13
7:10Isaiah 9:12–13
10:12Jeremiah 4:3

Quotations from Hosea in the New Testament

Hoseais quoted in
1:10 Romans 9:25–26
1:101 Peter 2:10
2:231 Peter 2:10
6:21 Corinthians 15:4
6:6Matthew 9:13
6:6Matthew 12:7
10:8Luke 23:30
10:8Revelation 6:15–16
11:1Matthew 2:15
12:8Revelation 3:17
13:141 Corinthians 15:55
14:2Hebrews 13:15

Bible passages showing the distinction between Judah and Israel

2 Kings 23:27Jeremiah 11:10, 17Hosea 5:9–10
1 Chronicles 28:4–5       ”      13:11      ”      6:10–11
2 Chronicles 13:15–16      ”       31:31      ”       8:14
      ”      15:9      ”      32:30, 32      ”      11:12
      ”      31:1      ”      33:14Amos 1:1
Isaiah 7:1–8, 17      ”      50:4, 33Micah 1:5
      ”       8:14Ezekiel 23:4Zechariah 8:13
      ”      11:12–13       ”      37:16, 19      ”       10:6
     ”      48:1Daniel 9:7Hebrews 8:8
Jeremiah 3:8, 18Hosea 1:11  
      ”      7:2, 15      ”       4:15  

MAP: the separate migrations of Israel and Judah

The separate migrations of Israel and Judah - 19Kb  

All of 10-tribed Israel was deported to Assyria and Media in 722 BC (2 Kings 15–18), and some of the fenced cities of Judah were taken as well (2 Kings 18:13). They never returned. The people are reported near the River Araxes around 650 BC and later near Lake Van. They passed through the mountains of present Kurdistan to skirt the Black Sea (2 Esdras 13:40–45) and left evidence in the Crimea, before migrating northwest through the land of Sereth, what today is the Ukraine (2 Esdras 13:45).

By contrast, Judah was deported to Babylon between 606 and 587 BC (2 Kings 24–25, 2 Chronicles 36). Seventy years later, under decree of Cyrus, some of the captives returned to Palestine (Ezra 1–8) and since then have been known as Jews. Two practices unknown before the captivity came back with them from Babylon: the custom of meeting in synagogues and the charging of usury.


The Illustrated Bible Geography and Atlas, containing coloured maps clearly showing the division of Canaan among the Twelve Tribes, and the later Kingdoms of Judah and Israel, will be found most helpful. Copies (price £2.50 + postage) may be purchased from the address below. The Atlas also contains much other useful information, a Biblical Gazetteer, and 15 colour photographs of the Holy Land.

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