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What is the latter and former rain in Hosea 6:3?

latter and former rain

Hosea 6:1–3 predicts that the people of Israel would return to the Lord after a period of judgment. In that day, the people of Israel will say,
“Come, and let us return to the Lord;
For He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
After two days He will revive us;
On the third day He will raise us up,
That we may live in His sight.
Let us know,
Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.
His going forth is established as the morning;
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the latter and former rain to the earth” (NKJV).
The “latter” and “former” rains are called the “winter rains” and “spring rains” in the NIV.

The Lord had “torn” and “stricken” His people—i.e., Hosea predicts that God will discipline them (Hosea 6:1)—because they were unfaithful to the covenant they had promised to keep (Exodus 24:3, 7). While the judgment would be certain and severe, God would demonstrate His grace and restore the people. He would heal them and bandage their wounds (Hosea 6:1). He would come to them like a refreshing and nourishing rain (Hosea 6:3). He would come like the latter and former rain, which would seem to refer to the early rain after planting and the later rain at harvest.

Because of God’s promises, His people could know with certainty that God would keep His word—that He would indeed come to them as the latter and former rain to restore and refresh. While the context doesn’t specify when this restoration would take place, the passage seems to be pointing forward to the salvation that would be provided through the Messiah: God would revive them after two days and raise them up on the third day (Hosea 6:2). This prophecy seems to correlate directly with the events of Jesus’ death, as He died, was buried, and then rose again on the third day (see 1 Corinthians 15:1, 3–4). Paul mentions that Christ’s resurrection on the third day was “according to the Scriptures” (or writings). While there may have been a written gospel account by the time Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians (Matthew and Mark may have written by that time), Paul is probably referring to the Hebrew Scriptures and may have had Hosea 6:2 in mind.

If Hosea’s prophecy of revival in the two days and raising on the third day (Hosea 6:2) is pointing forward to the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah, then the immediately following context that God would visit the people of Israel as the latter and former rain is likely also a picture of how refreshing and nourishing that event would be for the people under God’s judgment.

In Hosea’s time, there was coming a somber judgment because of the people’s disloyalty to God and their transgressing of the covenant. But there was also a coming day of restoration for Judah (Hosea 6:11). God would come to the people as latter and former rain.

It is important to note that God doesn’t ignore sin, and His holy standard is high—perfection, in fact (see Matthew 5:48). When God restores the people of Israel, He first deals with their sin problem. The Messiah would die as a sacrifice to pay for sins; thus, the nation would no longer be in bondage to the Law of Moses (the Old Covenant) or the consequences of breaking that covenant. God would forgive their sins as part of a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31). That blessing of forgiveness from sin through the sacrifice of the Messiah would be not just for one nation but for all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3b). The Messiah would be like the latter and former rain for Israel and Judah (Hosea 6:3), and He would also be the water of life for all who would believe in Him (John 4:13–14).

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What is the latter and former rain in Hosea 6:3?
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This page last updated: March 7, 2022