The word of the Lord that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. – Hosea 1:1 ESV
Amos was a prophet. As such, he was a spokesman for God. He acts as God’s voice, so-to-speak, proclaiming God’s pending judgment against the people of Israel for their rebellion against His law. Amos prophesied during the time of the two kingdoms. After Solomon, the son of David, had ended his reign by worshiping the idols of his many wives, God split the kingdom in two. Ten tribes would form the nation of Israel to the north and two tribes would remain in the south, forming the nation of Judah. From that point forward there would be two different kings over the two separate nations, and there would be constant animosity between the tribes. Amos would prophesy during the reign of Jeroboam II, the king of Israel. During that same time, the southern kingdom of Judah would have four different kings: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.
When God called Hosea to begin his ministry, the nation of Israel was experiencing a time of prosperity. The book of 2 Kings records, “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Judah’s King Amaziah, son of Joash, Jeroboam son of Joash became king over Israel. He reigned for forty-one years in Samaria” (2 Kings 14:23 ESV). Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom. We’re told that Jeroboam II “restored the border of Israel from Lebo Hamath in the north to the sea of the Arabah in the south, in accordance with the word of the Lord God of Israel announced through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher” (2 Kings 14:25 ESV). As king, he experienced great “military success in restoring Israelite control over Damascus and Hamath” (2 Kings 14:28 ESV). But there was a sinister side to King Jeroboam. “He did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not repudiate the sinful ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat who encouraged Israel to sin” (2 Kings 14:24 ESV). In other words, he followed in the footsteps of his namesake, King Jeroboam I.
Jeroboam I, the first king of the northern kingdom, had been placed there by God. While Solomon was still on the thrown over the as-yet-undivided nation of Israel, God sent his prophet, Ahijah, to Jeroboam with news. God had instructed Ahijah to take his new cloak and tear it into 12 pieces, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. He gave ten of the pieces to Jeroboam, saying, “Take ten of these pieces, for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and I will give ten of the tribes to you!…For Solomon has abandoned me and worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess fo the Sidonians; Chemosh, the god of Moab; and Molech, the god of the Ammonites. He has not followed my ways and done what is pleasing in my sight. He has not obeyed my decrees and regulations as David his father did” (1 Kings 11:31-33 NLT). God went on to tell Jeroboam, “And I will place you on the throne of Israel, and you will rule over all that your heart desires. If you listen to what I tell you and follow my ways and do whatever I consider to be right, and if you obey my decrees and commands, as my servant David did, then I will always be with you. I will establish an enduring dynasty for you as I did for David, and I will give Israel to you. Because of Solomon’s sin I will punish the descendants of David—though not forever” (1 Kings 11:37-39 NLT).
Jeroboam I, having heard the word of God through His prophet, would arrogantly use his new-found power as king of the northern tribes to do what he wanted to do. Fearing that the ten tribes would eventually rebel against him, Jeroboam came up with a plan to prevent them from having to return to Jerusalem, located in the heart of Israel to the south. He feared that if they returned there each year to offer sacrifices to Yahweh, they would eventually turn on him. So he had two golden calves made and set them up in Bethel and Dan, telling the people of Israel, “It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!” (1 Kings 12:28 NLT). He went on to ordain his own priests and establish his own religious festivals.
There was a long line of kings to rule of Israel after Jeroboam I died. And all of them share the same sad legacy. They all “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight” (2 Kings 14:24 NLT). Of Jeroboam II, it is said, “He refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam son of Nebat had led Israel to commit” (2 Kings 14:24 NLT). So it was into that context that Hosea was called by God to prophesy. Years of sin, rebellion and apostasy had long hardened the hearts of the people. Generations of idol worship had caused them to forget Yahweh. But in the midst of all of this, God would bring his message regarding the sins of the people of Israel, the coming judgment, the means of salvation, and His steadfast love. And He would choose to do it through Hosea, this simple servant who would be required to model the faithful love of God through his own life. Hosea would have the distinct privilege and unbelievable burden to demonstrate in real life what the love of God looks like. The story of Hosea is one of spiritual adultery and unfaithfulness, but also of Godly love and forgiveness. Hosea would have the unenviable position of having to experience what God does every time His people spurn His love and reject His appeals to return to Him in repentance. This book is a call to spiritual fidelity and faithfulness. It is a warning against taking God’s mercy and grace for granted.
It is interesting to note that Hosea’s name means, “He [Yahweh] has saved” and is a variation of “Joshua” which in the Greek is translated, Jesus. Hosea will be called on by God to sacrifice everything in order to restore his unfaithful wife. And we must never forget that God sacrificed His greatest treasure, His Son, in order to restore us to a right relationship with Himself.
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation – Romans 5:8-9 NLT