Reading the Bible - Hosea

Hosea means “salvation.” What is the significance of the message of salvation proclaimed by the prophet Hosea for peoples and nations during this age?

HoseaHosea is the first of the 12 Minor Prophets (called “minor” not because they are of less importance, but because the books are shorter). In ancient Hebrew manuscripts the collection of the Minor Prophets was written on one scroll, called the “Book of the Twelve.”

Date and time of Hosea

Hosea’s message was primarily for the northern kingdom of Israel, although he occasionally refers to the southern kingdom of Judah. His prophecy began with Jeroboam II, when the northern kingdom of Israel was at its zenith, and continued for the next 40 years until just before Samaria fell to Assyria in 722 B.C.

About 200 years before the time of Hosea, the 10 northern tribes (Israel) had separated from the southern tribes of Judah and set up an independent kingdom. When Hosea arrived on the scene, Israel was experiencing the greatest time of peace and national prosperity since the separation. However, the good times were not to last, as social injustice, political disorder and moral decay began to eat away at the fabric of the society.

The theme of the prophecy is God’s mercy to a sinful Israel, who in the end will come to God in heartfelt and genuine repentance. Israel, described as an unfaithful wife, is exhorted to return to her God who will show mercy and compassion. “Although the theme of judgement for apostasy runs through the book, it is interwoven by the golden strand of mercy and love” (Unger’s Bible Handbook).

“The central message of Hosea is grounded in the fact that Israel has violated its relationship with Yahweh. Because the nation does not repent of its sins, it will suffer judgement. Nevertheless, the promise is that someday Israel will sincerely return to Yahweh and experience full restoration and blessings” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Revised Edition, “Religion and Theology in Hosea”).

The Universal Bible Dictionary states: “The prophet’s message has two main characteristics—passionate anger at the sin of Israel in falling from the worship of Jehovah into idolatry, and tender yearning for the return of the sinners to receive pardon from God.”

Hosea mentions Ephraim in his prophecy. As Ephraim was considered God’s firstborn (Jeremiah 31:9) and was the leading tribe in the northern kingdom, Ephraim can represent Israel as a whole.

Learning Hebrew Words

Yada is a Hebrew word that means “to know”. actually, the word is versatile and has several meanings depending on the context. Reading Hosea 4 - 10 we can find reference to "yada" or "knowledge". Let's take a look at some other examples.

Yada: Showing Mercy

Another occurrence of yada can be found in one of the Hebraic wisdom books.

The righteous know [yada] the needs of their animals, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel. (Proverbs 12:10)

Wisdom literature frequently creates a dichotomy between good and evil. In this case, a good person knows the needs of their animals and takes care of them; an evil person neglects the needs of their animals and shows no mercy. In other words, yada is understanding the needs of those around us and taking care of them.

Yada: Acting Justly

We'd like to bring your attention to a very important illustration. In one of the prophetic writings found in the Hebrew scriptures, we see an incredible blending of the word yada.

But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king! Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink. But he was just and right in all his dealings. That is why God blessed him. He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know [yada] me?” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 22:15-16)

In this chapter, Jeremiah (a prophet) is delivering a scathing rebuke to the king of Judah. This king had acted selfishly, neglected the poor and needy, and exploited others to build his kingdom. The LORD tells this corrupt king what it truly means to know [yada] the LORD. 1. Doing justice, 2. Showing mercy to the poor and needy, 3. Exemplifying good and righteous character. In other words, yada is faithfully living out our covenant relationship with the LORD in every area of our life.

More pages related to Hosea

  • Joel (next book of the Bible)
  • Daniel (previous)
  • Amos (also written to the Northern Kingdom of Israel)
  • Isaiah (written during the same time)

The Gospel Project for Kids - Hosea


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