An Introduction to the Minor Prophets 

The Historical context of Hosea as one of the Minor Prophets
 
1010 BCE         David becomes king
 
970 BCE           Solomon becomes king
 
930 BCE           Kingdom divides
Rehoboam could have been a wise and compassionate king. Instead he accepted the advice of his young (and arrogant?) friends and attempted to rule with a rod of iron. The people rebelled and the kingdom split with 10 tribes in the north pulling away and being ruled by Jeroboam. Only 2 tribes were left with Rehoboam, Judah and the small tribe of Benjamin. North known as Israel (Ephraim) and the south as Judah.
 
Now the northern kingdom of Israel never did well. Jerobaom was nervous that if the people went back to Jerusalem to celebrate festivals and offer sacrifices tat they would gradually be drawn back to Judah. So, he made 2 golden calves and placed one in the south at Bethel and one in the north at Dan. So he introduced them to the people as ‘the gods who had brought them out of Egypt’. So this kind of mixed religion started where the people were told they were worshipping Yahweh but were actually sacrificing to a golden calf.
 
875 BCE           Elijah begins his ministry
Only 55 years after the split. He gives us an insight into the spiritual state of Israel. He runs away to mount Horeb and says to God ‘The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars and put your prophets to death; I am the only one left  and now they are trying to kill me. (1 Kings 19:14). God does put him right to some extent by telling him that there are 7000 in Israel who have not worshipped Baal.
But still me can see that only 100 years after David’s reign ended the people had abandoned God’s covenant and that worship of Baal, a Canaanite fertility god, was widespread.
 
793 BCE           Jeroboam II becomes king of Israel
792 BCE           Uzziah becomes king of Judah
 
753 BCE           Hosea’s ministry begins
 
722 BCE           Northern Kingdom falls to Assyria
 
715 BCE           Hezekiah becomes king of Judah
 
586 BCE           Judah falls to Babylon; Jerusalem destroyed
 
538 BCE           Exiles return to Jerusalem
 
536 BCE           Work begins on temple
 
Hosea
I really love this little book. Let’s see what it is about.
As we have seen in the historical context (above), Hosea was speaking to the Northern Kingdom of Israel when Jeroboam was king. It was a time of material prosperity but morally and spiritually, it was a very low time.
 
It is a book full of pictures
Yahweh is pictured as a lion, a leopard, a bear and an eagle and Israel, His people, as a stubborn heifer, half-baked bread and a senseless dove. Israel will disappear like mist, float away like a twig on water…You get the idea!
 
Now the prophets were only communicating to the people what Moses had already said; that God was mightily displeased with them.  And why was this? One of the central tenets of Judaism was they should be worship Him and only Him alone.
 
4Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.a 5Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deut 6:4-5).
 
Does this sound familiar?
here else have you heard this?
NT?
So maybe it applies to us?

 
Anyway, Israel had drifted from worshipping God into worship of Baal (a Canaanite god)
God wanted to get His point across. In the absence of the internet, television, cinema…God asked Hosea (the prophet) to do something that would symbolize what he wanted to say.  To paraphrase what God says to the prophet in verse 2:
 
Go and marry a prostitute so that some of her children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute, prostituting herself away from following the Lord.
 
Compare this with the NIV:When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him,
"Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD." (NIV)

People really struggle with this…..as they do with other parts of the OT. Could God really ask Hosea to do such a thing? Surely this is a symbolic picture. So it should be understood that Israel’s unfaithfulness could be illustrated ….it would be as if you had married a prostitute Hosea. That’s how I want to you to communicate with the people. Surely it’s Picture language.
But I don’t think it was – I think it was for real.

One of the themes that recur in this book is that God wants purity in our worship.
Application: think about our corporate worship.
 
How might this apply to us in LWCC in 2014?
Are we giving our best to God in our worship?
 
Hosea 11
The past
1“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and I called my son out of Egypt.
This is about the past; when the nation was but an ‘infant’, God brought them out of slavery in Egypt
2But the more Ia called to him,
the farther he moved from me,
offering sacrifices to the images of Baal
and burning incense to idols.
Here Israel’s rebellion is seen in two ways; they refused to respond to God’s call and they worshipped the Baals which was something expressly forbidden to them in the Law.
3 I myself taught Israel  (you may have Ephraim here; which refers to the Northern Kingdom of Israel) how to walk,
leading him along by the hand.
But he doesn’t know or even care
that it was I who took care of him.
4 I led Israel along
with my ropes of kindness and love.
I lifted the yoke from his neck,
and I myself stooped to feed him.
As I read this again, I want you to think – ‘How is God feeling?’
Second reading
1“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and I called my son out of Egypt.
2But the more Ia called to him,
the farther he moved from me,
offering sacrifices to the images of Baal
and burning incense to idols.
3I myself taught Israelb how to walk,
leading him along by the hand.
But he doesn’t know or even care
that it was I who took care of him.
4I led Israel along
with my ropes of kindness and love.
I lifted the yoke from his neck,
and I myself stooped to feed him.
The mood conveyed hear is tender. Israel is God’s son.
Now we move from the past to the present and immediate future

5“But since my people refuse to return to me,
they will return to Egypt
and will be forced to serve Assyria.
So just as they were slaves in Egypt, the prophet Hosea another period of slavery but this time in exile in Assyria. Israel was destroyed by Assyria in 722Bc
6War will swirl through their cities;
their enemies will crash through their gates.
They will destroy them,
trapping them in their own evil plans.
7For my people are determined to desert me.
They call me the Most High,
but they don’t truly honor me.
The greatest offence to Yahweh was that the people’s ‘honour’ was fake. What they said didn’t line up with what they did and what was in their hearts. It is important we are Christians in heart, attitude and in what we do not just in word.
 
I think many of us struggle with the judgment of God in the OT; here we have the tender father/son picture alongside judgment/punishment.
Helped a little when on jury service.
This next part refers to a more distant future: the mood changes yet again
 
8“Oh, how can I give you up, Israel?
How can I let you go?
How can I destroy you like Admah
or demolish you like Zeboiim?
Admah and Zeboim were cities that were obliterated along with Sodom and Gomorrah  in a sudden destruction of divine wrath (Deut 29:23)
My heart is torn within me,
and my compassion overflows.
9No, I will not unleash my fierce anger.
I will not completely destroy Israel, we might expect something here about returning, calling on God, repenting…but here’s the shock
for I am God and not a mere mortal.
I am the Holy One living among you,
and I will not come to destroy.
10For someday the people will follow me.
I, the LORD, will roar like a lion.
And when I roar,
my people will return trembling from the west.
So the roaring lion is calling the people back just as he calls back his ‘prostitute’ wife in ch 2 (14-15)
11Like a flock of birds, they will come from Egypt.
Trembling like doves, they will return from Assyria.
And I will bring them home again,”
says the LORD
As a nation, Israel (the Northern Kingdom) never did return. But in terms of God’s plans for the world, his people’s history had just entered its second stage. In particular, Paul interprets prophetic words in Hosea regarding the future of Israel as referring to God’s plan in saving the gentiles (Rom 9: 22-26)
 
 
Barbara Brockbank, 07/04/2014