Notes on preaching Hosea

Here are my findings as I preached through Hosea at Christ Church Hemel between January and April 2020. This is a live page, so I plan to keep this updated with further research as time progresses (and allows).

To hear my sermon series on Hosea, please visit the sermon archive.

Big picture

Below is the big picture structure for the book of Hosea. This will be fleshed out further on in this page:

PassageTheme
Hosea 1-3Hosea and Gomer’s marriage is a picture of God and Israel’s relationship
Hosea 4:1-3God lays out his charges against the people of Israel
Hosea 4:4-6:3God has a charge against Israel because there is no knowledge of God.
Hosea 6:4-11:11God has a charge against Israel because there is no covenant love.
Hosea 11:12-14:8God has a charge against Israel because there is no faithfulness.
Hosea 14:9Note to readers – be wise

Hosea 1-3

Hosea 4:1-3

Theme – God lays out his charges against the people of Israel

Here are the charges being brought against Israel. Each of the three items are then seen throughout the book, occurring at key moments in the book’s structure.

Notice that they echo Hosea 2:19-20. YHWH says that he is the one who will solve these problems. This tallies with Hosea 14:9 as it calls the reader to be wise, they are to be wise by trusting the LORD to achieve these reversals for the people.

The book seems to mirror these charges, as seen below, starting with knowledge first and working through covenant and faithfulness.

It is striking to note that Israel’s rebellion against YHWH and his covenant results in the reversal of creation.[1] Israel’s breaking of the covenant has cosmic significance.

Hosea 4:4-6:3

Theme – God has a charge against Israel because there is no knowledge of God.

Use of knowledge language in Hosea 4:4-6:3

The word ‘knowledge’ (ידע) starts being used in 4:6

Hosea 4:6The punishment is coming on the people because of a ‘lack of knowledge’ (x3)
Hosea 5:3God knows all about Israel, even though they don’t know him
Hosea 5:4The people have a spirit of prostitution – they do not know the LORD
Hosea 5:9 
Hosea 6:3The solution in repentance is to seek to know the Lord

Solution motif: A death and a resurrection

Hosea 6:4-11:11

Theme – God has a charge against Israel because there is no covenant love.

Structure

Notice the parallel between Hosea 6:4 and 11:11 (start and end of section), forming an inclusio:

  • Hosea 6:4 – “What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah?”
  • Hosea 11:1 – “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I surrender you, Israel?”

Also, notice the harvest (קצר) language that only occurs in this section (first appearing in Hosea 6:11):

  • harvest is also appointed for you, Judah. (6:11)
  • They sow the wind and harvest the whirlwind (8:7)
  • Sow righteousness for yourselves and harvest faithful love (10:12)
  • You have ploughed wickedness and harvested injustice (10:13)

Use of covenant language in Hosea 6:4-11:11

The word ‘hesed’ (חֶ֫סֶד) is not used since 4:1, and then suddenly picks up here…

Hosea 6:4Your love (hesed) is like the morning mist
Hosea 6:5Prophets were covenant enforcers.
Hosea 6:6I desire faithful love (hesed)
Hosea 6:7They like Adam, have violated the covenant[2]
Hosea 7:14They mutilate themselves – used elsewhere for a bad version of circumcision
Hosea 8:1They transgress my covenant
Hosea 8:4Installation of kings – against Davidic covenant perhaps?
Hosea 8:5Calf-idols, reminiscent of breaking of covenant at Sinai
Hosea 8:7Consequences of breaking Sinai covenant
Hosea 10:4Making (karat) false covenants
Hosea 10:12Reap faithful love (hesed)
Hosea 11:1Out of Egypt I called my son. Covenantal language pointing back to Adam, and used by Matthew.

Hosea 6:11b-7:1a also appears to connect to Deuteronomy 30:1-10 a section that focuses on covenant breaking.

Solution motif: Exile and a new Exodus.

Hosea 11:12-14:8

Theme – God has a charge against Israel because there is no faithfulness.

Use of faithfulness language in Hosea 11:12-14:8

Again, the only use of the root word ‘faithfulness’ (אמן) since 4:1 occurs at the start of the section …

Hosea 11:12Lies and deceit from Israel. Whilst God is faithful.
Hosea 12:1Ephraim continually multiplies lies
Hosea 12:3-4Jacob, the archetypal liar and deceiver
Hosea 12:7A merchant loves to extort with dishonest scales in his hands.

Solution motif: A decreation and a new garden?

Further research

Psalm connections

The only other reference where we find[3] the combination of ‘faithfulness, ‘covenant love’ and ‘knowledge’ occurring in close proximity is in Psalm 89:1. Unsurprisingly, this Psalm is a cry to YHWH asking why the promises of Psalm 2 (and therefore God’s salvation plan) seem to be failing. Exactly the same question Hosea is answering! The Psalm is then followed by (Psalm 90) a call to return back to the covenant promises of Moses.

New Testament use of Hosea

James 3:18 uses the phrase ‘harvest of righteousness’ very similar to the way that Hosea 10:12 uses it. In a book about double-mindedness, it is interesting James uses the same idea. Could it be that he is using the idea, since Hosea’s speaking about Israel’s double-minded unsteady loyalty?

Luke 23

Bibliography

  • Dempster, S.G., 2014. From Slight Peg to Cornerstone to Capstone: The Resurrection of Christ on “The Third Day” according to the Scriptures. The Westminster Theological Journal, 76(2)
  • Bass, Derek Drummond, 2009. Hosea’s Use of Scripture: An Analysis of His Hermeneutics. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

[1] See ‘Hosea’s use of Scripture’ by Derek Drummond Bass

[2] Some people see a reference to a location here because of the ‘there’. There are a number of reasons this may be in place though. Firstly, Hosea uses ‘there’ to refer poetically to a spot in the imagination (Hosea uses this method two more times: Hosea 6:10 and Hosea 13:8. It may also be the case that Hosea is working two ideas together, person and location, resulting in a pun, connecting Adam to Shechem meaning East to West. But in light of the covenantal theme here, I see exegetical reason to see this as referring to the archetypal covenant breaker Adam (Gen 3). The LXX translates this to anthropos – another marker for this being a person, not a place.

[3] Logos query: “root:חסד:2 NEAR root:ידע NEAR root:אמן:1”

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