6.23 Hosea -- The Prophet Becomes the Message
Hosea is another "odd" book, like Jonah in that its author was an eccentric among the prophets. And since prophets themselves were eccentric when compared to the normal Israelites, these odd prophets were truly "out there." With Hosea, this eccentricity was manifested in the prophet himself becoming the message -- a kind of living allegory.
Hosea's ministry can be precisely dated, since the opening verse of the book lists the kings whose reigned at the time he lived. This places him in the second half of the 8th Century, at the same time as Isaiah. He witnessed the death agonies of the Kingdom of Israel -- invasion by Assyria, chaos and murder in the royal succession, and finally the capture of Samaria and the deportation of the people in 722.
Other prophets started their ministries by speaking a word they heard from God. Hosea was not given a prophetic message, but a command to marry an unrighteous woman:
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" (Hos 1:2).
This is an extraordinary command -- requiring the prophet to sin! The Hebrew description of the woman refers to one who commits adultery.
It’s as if the Lord were saying, "Go, marry a woman who will break your heart through her unfaithfulness, who will scorn your love and desert you, who will bear children that don’t acknowledge you as father and will expect you to provide for them. Become the laughingstock of all the neighbors for being what the English call a cuckold. Live through all the emotions of jealously, rage, longing, hope, betrayal; let your heart be consumed by the fires of unrequited love. When you have done all this, you’ll be ready to be called My prophet, because you will know My heart."
Hosea married Gomer and had three children by her -- so this was a long-term commitment. The Lord named the children: Jezreel ("God scatters"), Lo-Ruhamah ("Not loved"), Lo-Ammi ("Not my people"). Great names all! This would have been just prior to the final collapse of Israel, so these children represent the immediate future of that nation.
This makes it very strange to find two verses of restoration immediately following:
"Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'children of the living God.' The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together' (Hos 1:10-11).
We know of no such restoration/reunification of Israel in history.