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The book of Hosea is a prophecy about God's love for His people, Israel. Despite her unfaithfulness, God promises to restore her and make her great.

Hosea lived at the same time as the prophet Isaiah, the prophet in Judea. Hosea prophesied mainly to the northern Kingdom of Israel between 790 BC and 725 BC, so his work covered a period of about 65 years.

Hosea's message was that God wanted His people to return to Him. They had become worshippers of idols and were relying on human aid - either from Assyria or Egypt - in the troubles.

Chapters 1-3 contain the story of how Hosea's own wife, Gomer, left him and went after other lovers. However Hosea was always wanting her to return. In the same way God was ready to receive Israel back, if she repented (2:19).

Israel were not willing at that time to return to God. So the rest of the book of Hosea (chs. 4-14) tells of the sins of Israel (and Judah) and of the punishments that would come upon them. The northern Kingdom - called Ephraim in his book - would be first to be punished. (Samaria, the capital, was overthrown in 722 BC and the people taken captive by the Assyrians.)

In this book, several symbols describe Israel's failure as God's "wife":

- her goodness had disappeared, like a "morning cloud"

- like a "silly dove" she had turned first to Assyria, then to Egypt, for help - instead of to God

- she had once been like "grapes in the desert", when God first took her

- now she had become "like a barren fig tree"

- she would have to plough a lone furrow, without God.

The kings and priests must take much of the blame for the state of the nation (4:4; 5:1), but the people too were responsible. Their lack of knowledge of God and His requirements was a major cause of the troubles (4:6).

God had done much for Israel in earlier days (11:1-4). He is still willing to receive and forgive them (14:4-8).

Those who are wise (including us!) will turn to God for help and forgiveness (14:9).


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