21 January 2013

Hosea 1:1 – 2:1

"And in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people', it shall be said to them, 'Children of the Living God'." (v. 10)


Over the next few weeks we shall be looking at the remarkable life and ministry of Hosea, the 8th century BC prophet who lived at a time when the kingdom had split into two, the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. This schism was interpreted by many of the prophets in terms of God's punishment of God's own people in response to their faithlessness.

What is remarkable about Hosea's prophecy is two things:

  • the way in which he views the pain and problems of his own family life, in particular the adultery of his wife Gomer, in terms of a kind of enacted parable of God's love for God's own faithless people
  • despite all his disappointments and despair, Hosea continues to love his wife and longs for her return, and interprets this in terms of the faithful and long-suffering love of God.

This opening chapter sets the scene for what will be explored in the prophecies of later chapters. He marries an unfaithful wife Gomer (verse 2), a marriage which he understands as part of God's call to him. They then have a series of children who are each named to reflect God's coming judgement, a son Jezreel (which means 'God sows') a reference perhaps to the massacre by which Jehu came to be king (verse 4), then a daughter Lo-ruhamah (which means 'not pitied') for God will have no pity on Israel (verse 6), and then another son named Lo-ammi (which means 'not my people') because God has said Israel is no longer God's people (verse 8).

In such actions we find echoes of the 'naming' prophecies to be found also in Isaiah (chapter 8) and in Ezekiel's story of two sisters, Oholah and Oholibah (chapter 23). What is distinctive about Hosea is the way he will continue to find God speaking through these unhappy relationships and how he continues to long for reconciliation, both with God and with his family. Hence the hope expressed in the closing verses of today's passage, that the people of Israel and of Judah may yet both be called "Children of the living God".

To Ponder

  • How helpful do you find Hosea's interpretation of his own family life in terms of the story of God's love for God's own people?
  • Is it possible to hear God's word in the sometimes messy outworking of our human relationships - or can there be a danger in this?
  • To what extent do you share Hosea's hope for an ultimate reconciliation?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Wigley

Stephen Wigley is a Methodist minister currently serving as chair of the Wales Synod. He is married to Jenny, a priest in the Church in Wales, and they have two teenage sons, David and Andrew.