Hosea Speaks to Political Turmoil
Hosea witnessed the decline and ultimate fall of the 10 tribe confederation of Israel, and his messages resonate with us today. Decades earlier the once united Kingdom that had flourished under the reigns of David and Solomon became divided into two warring factions. The ten northern tribes led by Ephraim chose Samaria as their stronghold. The 3 tribes under the Davidic dynasty in the south continued to be ruled from Jerusalem. But it wasn’t long before the northern kingdom dissolved into political chaos.
The nation had experienced a time of great prosperity and expansion under the rule of Jeroboam II, but in Hosea’s day trouble was on the horizon. In short succession within a 13 year period, 5 kings rose to power through a series of murders, intrigue, and barbarism. This time of great instability led to a situation where the dominant power of the day, Assyria, stepped into the political fray. The Assyrian king, Pul, demanded a tribute of 1000 talents. And the Israelite ‘puppet’ king willingly extorted the money from his wealthiest citizens in order to secure his position of power.
Hosea Speaks to Corruption
According to Hosea, this sad story of political ferment and imminent national collapse was to be expected. It was just the consequence of Israel having forgotten God and their national covenant. The story actually began before David, when the people of Israel rejected God. Instead of God’s system of hand-picked Judges, they opted in favour of a human king. God had warned them that there would be cause and effect. He rehearsed the consequences of choosing their own leaders. And not unlike our modern scenario of corrupt politicians, run-away taxation, and currency inflation the nation of Israel suffered. They were merely seeing the effects of forgetting God and his teaching. Hosea put a great emphasis on this theme of corrupt leadership and the resulting inequity within the nation.
Hosea Speaks to Religiosity
Beginning with Jeroboam I, the leaders of ancient Israel continued to lead the people away from God and into the embrace of false religion. Hosea concluded that the leaders were guilty of destroying their own people with a syncretistic blend of worship. Like their ancestors before them, the ten tribes had become ensnared by the idolatrous worship. The put their trust in the baals, the local pagan gods. Hosea decried the hypocritical religious form that claimed to serve the God of Israel, but was in reality just sugar-coated idolatry. Their worship called evil/good and good/evil and encouraged the fertility rites and sacred prostitution common in pagan societies. As a result of these two great evils, political corruption and religious deception the people had become hardened by the evil around them. Hosea warned the people that there would be consequences — cause and effect for rejecting reality.
Hosea Speaks to Arrogance
God had a legal case against the northern ten tribes. Not only had they failed to be faithful to their covenant but they had created a society that had neither loyalty, kindness, nor knowledge of God. They had normalized deception, theft, and murder. And they in their arrogance and self-will had become unteachable. The leaders silenced anyone who would try to awaken their hearts of the people to God’s message. So as a result of their failed religious, social, economic, and political policies God was going to take a ‘hands-off’ approach. He would allow them to destroy themselves, their government, and their environment. The picture Hosea paints is one that might resonate with many today. For the nation in Hosea’s day was being destroyed by a lack of knowledge; the knowledge of God, his will, his teaching, and his love. God’s verdict was to leave them to their own devices that would inevitably lead to calamity and captivity.
Hosea Speaks to Repentance and Restoration
But this was not the end of Hosea’s message. God’s plan had not been thwarted by the people’s unfaithfulness. There was, and is, yet hope for Israel, all 13 tribes. Hosea was instructed to marry a prostitute as an object lesson in learning to love the unlovable, and unfaithful. And their three children were given names to reflect God’s will and the future for the nation. Though the nation had become Lo Ruhama, not shown mercy, and later Lo Ammi, not my people, God would yet change the hearts. The future was bright for those who would repent and return to God.
The cycle of human experience would continue beginning with blessing under God’s protective hand. But forgetting God would lead to cursing as the natural consequence of evil. Then bitter repentance in times of trial, would bring a reawakening to God’s purpose, and eventually restoration as God’s people. So God’s message to Hosea was one of future hope. God would be faithful, even to the unfaithful ‘wife’, because in the end God still loves his people, all of them. And the unfaithful wife, God’s covenant people, having finally come to understand God’s love, would return and their family relationship would be restored.