Hosea was a prophet of God in the Bible. His book is the first of the twelve Minor Prophets in the Old Testament. As a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah, Hosea ministered primarily to the northern kingdom of Israel in the eighth century BC, during the reigns of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah of Judah, and Jeroboam II of Israel (Hosea 1:1). Such a lengthy ministry—60 or 70 years—makes Hosea one of the longest-serving prophets in the Bible.
The central theme of Hosea’s prophetic messages was Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. Following the Lord’s instruction, Hosea married a prostitute to symbolically and poignantly portray Israel’s infidelity to Yahweh. When the Lord first began to speak to Israel through Hosea, God told the prophet, “Go and marry a prostitute, so that some of her children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the LORD and worshiping other gods” (Hosea 1:2, NLT).
During the long reign of King Jeroboam II, Israel’s victory in several military campaigns led the nation into a period of unprecedented prosperity and independence. But as Israel’s fortune soared, the moral fabric of its society collapsed. Corruption and spiritual depravity ran rampant. Israel began to worship pagan deities and attribute the works of God to Baal (Hosea 4:1–13). The people broke their covenant with God and no longer obeyed His laws (Hosea 6:7; 8:1). They stopped trusting in God and sought foreign alliances (Hosea 5:13). In the eyes of the Lord, Israel’s idol worship and unfaithfulness were equivalent to spiritual adultery.
Throughout Hosea’s ministry, the prophet expounded on the adultery metaphor, calling Israel to account for its idolatry and apostasy, laying out God’s charges against the people, and foretelling judgment.
Hosea’s wife, Gomer, practiced unfaithfulness as a lifestyle. When she conceived and bore children, God told Hosea to give them prophetic names symbolizing the Lord’s judgment on Israel: Jezreel foretold a great massacre that would happen in that valley; Lo-Ammi means “not my people,” signaling God’s rejection of Israel; and Lo-Ruhamah means “not favored,” a reversal of God’s earlier description of Israel (Hosea 1:4—2:1). Hosea’s message was clear—sin brings judgment. Hosea warned of painful consequences, invasion, and slavery.
Not satisfied with her relationship with Hosea, Gomer sought other lovers, just as Israel had pursued other gods (Hosea 2:2–5). And as God promised to call Israel back, he told Hosea to redeem Gomer from slavery and welcome her home (Hosea 3:1–5). While God’s punishment was severe, His grace was far more extraordinary. Even while the people worshipped idols and descended into depravity, God never stopped loving them.
Hosea’s bold-faced depiction of Israel as an adulterous wife reveals both the extent of God’s anguish over the betrayal and His love for His people. More than anything, God longs for intimate fellowship with us, even when we repeatedly reject Him. The metaphor also reveals God’s enduring faithfulness toward us. Ultimately, His goal is for us to return to a fulfilling life marked by dedication and devotion.
Yahweh’s love is eternal. His enduring faithfulness is not like human love that can make a solemn vow and then break it. The definitive message of Hosea is the promise of God’s enduring love. Even when we are unfaithful, God continues to love and cherish us and provide a way for our restoration (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).
It’s no surprise, then, that Hosea means “Yahweh has rescued” or “salvation.” In Hebrew, it is the same name as Joshua (Numbers 13:16; Deuteronomy 32:44). Both Hosea and Joshua are related to the name Yeshua (meaning “to save”), which in English is Jesus.