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Summary of Hosea


The book of Hosea is a collection of prophetic messages delivered by the prophet Hosea and narrative descriptions of Hosea’s marriage and the birth of his children (1:2-2:1; 3:1-5). Most of Hosea’s messages are announcements of God’s anger with Israel (the northern of the two Israelite kingdoms) and God’s impending judgment on this people. Hosea’s messages focus on Israel’s unfaithfulness to the Lord. This lack of faithfulness is seen in Israel’s worship of other gods (alongside the Lord). The religious leaders of the people are singled out by Hosea for condemnation. Their job was to lead the people in faithfulness, but they actually did the opposite. The prophet also criticizes the political leaders of the nation for forming covenants with Egypt and Assyria, rather than relying on the Lord. The book also includes messages of hope, most notably the tender image of God as the parent who taught the child Israel to walk and will not, in the end, abandon the nation.


The messages of Hosea announce sharply that God’s relationship with human beings includes judgment–and also that this relationship continues on the other side of judgment, because God is faithful. Hosea teaches that to know God is to have one’s entire life transformed in faith and obedience. God’s anger was provoked because the people both worshiped other gods and oppressed their neighbors, sins that Hosea sees as related.


Hosea is the twenty-eighth book in the Old Testament. It the first of the so-called “minor” (or shorter) prophets, the twelve books that make up the final portion of the Old Testament.


Most of the messages in the book of Hosea were spoken by Hosea. We do not know if he wrote them down himself; his words were most probably collected by followers who were convinced that Hosea spoke for God. It is likely that an editor placed Hosea’s messages in the present order and composed the narrative descriptions of Hosea’s family life (chapters 1 and 3). It is also likely that the editor arranged the books so that each major section (1-3; 4-11; 12-14) ends with a word of hope.


Hosea most likely spoke his messages between the years 750 and 722 B.C.E. Sometime after that, the messages of Hosea were collected, edited, and copied. It is not clear when this process was completed, but it is likely that it was finished before the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.


The book of Hosea is about God’s loving relationship with the chosen people–a love that leads God to judge the people when they love other gods and oppress each other, but also a relationship to which God is faithful on the other side of judgment.


The prophetic messages in the book of Hosea can be read both individually and as a group. The particular messages should be studied individually to determine what they say and how they apply to life today. A study Bible can help with Hosea’s metaphors, references to history and tradition, and references to social practices of his time. Read together, the messages make clear that the judgment proclaimed by Hosea was neither a departure from God’s history of dealing with the people nor an end to that history, but an ongoing part of that history.