Most people know Hosea as the guy who the Lord commanded to marry a prostitute (Gomer). It is a rich and deep story. If there was fire in Amos’ eyes then there is sorrow and tears in Hosea’s just ten years later. Israel hadn’t listened to Amos. The Lord raised up Hosea to describe Israel’s sin in another more emotional and close-to-the-heart manner.
Remember, Israel is in a troubled time. From some aspects things are going well. The golden reign of Jeroboam II is coming to a close. There is economic prosperity and political stability but the people don’t care for Yahweh their loving Father (11:1) and husband (1-2). They are unashamedly sacrificing and worshipping Baal, that age-old Canaanite god that has plagued Israel for years.
God uses Hosea to teach Israel with a visual picture. He is to marry a harlot. He is to take her into his home and give her status as a wife. They have children. But she betrays him more than once. Israel has been unfaithful to God in the same way. The pain a husband experiences in knowing his wife has slept with other men is God’s pain over Israel’s worship of Baal. God is loyal and loving. Because of this he will help Israel with her unfaithfulness. Assyria will be a bad taste in her mouth. Israel will know what it is like to be ‘married’ to a foreign god, and Israel will hate it.
Hosea’s poetic look at God and Israel leaves us with a host of metaphors to teach us about himself, Israel and ourselves. God is loyal and loving. His loyalty is stronger than his anger. God wants spiritual marriage with us. He is jealous for us. And us… well Hosea draws us to tears when we are confronted with God’s plea: “don’t play the whore” (9:1).