Background: Hosea is one of the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament. This does not mean he is unimportant as a prophet, but the Minor Prophets did not write much as compared with the Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc). Hosea’s name means “Salvation is/of Yahweh.” He lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel/Samaria from about 780-725 BC, where he predicted the destruction of Israel and Samaria. It is likely he was present at least for the destruction by Assyria of most of the nation of Israel.
Hosea and Gomer
God’s Strange Command to Hosea
Imagine what you would do if you were a prophet of God, living in evil times, and God told you to go marry a prostitute! What would your friends, neighbors, and fellow Church goers think? Yet this is what happened to Hosea:
“And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord.
“So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son” (Hosea 1:2-3).
Many scholars today think that God would not literally command Hosea to have taken such a woman as his wife, and so consider this a figurative command. However we find that in Old Testament times, the Lord often used harsh forms to get his point across, and so such a union may very well have taken place.
Gomer and Hosea have three children, which we imagine are Hosea’s actual children. Regardless, Hosea accepts them as his own. Through Hosea, God tells Israel that they are his wife, but like Gomer, have gone whoring after other gods and passions. We find that Gomer runs off at least once to her former ways, and is left for a time to her own devices without Hosea’s support.
In this same way, Yahweh states he is abandoning Israel as his consort. Israel has worshiped Jeroboam’s calves and Jezebel’s god Baal. So pathetic has Israel become that they have influenced Judah to also follow after Baal, placing idols within the temple at Jerusalem!
The three children are given special names by God. The first child, a son, is named Jezreel. Jezreel was the military capitol of Israel. It is where Ahab and Jezebel had a major palace. Next to the palace was the ancestral field of Naboth, whom Jezebel killed so Ahab could have a garden next to the palace. This is where Jezebel maintained the majority of her 450 prophets of Baal, whom Elijah slew in the great competition of sacrifices between Yahweh and Baal. And it is where Jezebel put out the order to slay the prophets of Yahweh. Israel would cease because of the sins in Jezreel.
No Mercy, No Pity
Gomer bore a daughter, and God called her Lo-Ruhamah, No Mercy or No Pity. Here the Lord states that he will have no mercy on Israel. They will be totally taken away from the land. However, God does say he will show mercy (ruhamah) to Judah, which was the better of the two wicked sisters. For Judah, she would only be carried off for a time, and then returned to the land.
Gomer then bore another son, named Lo-ammi, Not My People. God totally rejected Israel, because Israel totally rejected him. It is at this point that Gomer leaves Hosea to care for the children, while she searches for her former lovers and friends.
Israel and Judah Restored
However, the Lord does not plan to leave Israel and Judah stranded forever.
“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.
“hen shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel” (Hosea 1:10-11).
God promised to remember them and restore them. Israel would again be numerous and powerful. They would be reclaimed, gathered together into one nation under God, and receive their inheritance: “Ye are the sons of the living God.” In previous lessons I’ve discussed the sons of El and the sons of Yahweh. The sons of El being divine sons that are given their own nations to rule, with Yahweh receiving Israel as his inheritance. Yahweh will reclaim his inheritance in the last days and make Israel his divine sons.
God takes the imagery of Hosea’s children to also describe Israel’s restoration:
“Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah.
“Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts;
“Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst.
“And I will not have mercy upon her children; for they be the children of whoredoms.
“For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink” (Hosea 2:1-5).
God quickly insists he is ready to forgive and retrieve his wife and children from their wanderlust. He calls to Israel: “Ammi” (my people), and “Ruhamah” (mercy, pity). He does not wish to cast them off forever, but Israel must come back willingly to him. So it is with Hosea’s wife, Gomer. With three children born, and an uncertain fatherhood of each child, she ran off to her other suitors. Both God and Hosea are willing to accept wife and children, regardless of their actual lineage or past actions, if they will repent and return.
What Gomer did not understand was it was not her lovers who fed and kept her, for they were only in it for what they could get. Gomer is not the young, beautiful girl she once was. After bearing three children and aging, she just does not get noticed and pampered as she once did. Yet for a time she continued to seek after a lover who would give her what she once had in her impetuous youth. You might say she had a serious midlife crisis. As with the Prodigal Son, Gomer finally came to her senses: “I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now. “
Hosea and God will take her in, but only after ensuring she is done with the past life. Once she’s proven to be loyal to her spouse, God states,
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt....I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God. ” (Hos 2:14-23).
Hosea 3 shows us that Israel will be ransacked, but restored to its full glory in the “latter days.” As with Gomer, so will it be with Israel and Judah, and any on earth who choose to espouse God’s ways and turn from the world. We can become his people, if we will only let him be our God.
Corrupted Priests, Prophets and Kings
(The following I recently wrote as a response to an evangelical friend who asked opinions on Hosea 4, as relating to both the LDS Melchizedek Priesthood, and the evangelical Priesthood of Believers. The response is left mostly unchanged).
The Lord warned those priesthood holders (which I believe means in both LDS and evangelical senses) of the abuse of power:
34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? 35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only (except) upon the principles of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.(D&C 121)
In the Book of Mormon, Nephi quotes Isaiah regarding the evils of men and priestcraft, then expounds upon the sin that destroyed Israel and Judah:
19 And it shall come to pass, that those who have dwindled in unbelief shall be smitten by the hand of the Gentiles.
20 And the Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches; nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor.
21 And there are many churches built up which cause envyings, and strifes, and malice.
22 And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things; yea, the founder of murder, and works of darkness; yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.
23 For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness.
24 He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.
25 Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.
26 Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.
27 Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance.
28 Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.
29 He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.
30 Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.
31 But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish. (2 Nephi 26)
I find that those who condemn Mormons or Pentecostals for being different in the religion (or Buddhists, Muslims, etc), and are denied Christ's atoning salvation by such religionists, is condemned by Nephi. And this is Nephi's interpretation of Isaiah's writings.
In the last area of my mission in Bolivia, we had several pastors ask us missionaries to visit a certain pastor and take him to task for enriching himself on the tithes of his followers. We did just that, as the man had several businesses and a nice house, all paid for by tithes, while his followers were pretty poor. He tried to accuse us of getting rich off the moneys of poor Bolivians, until we told him we were there on our own earned funds; while he was buying up auto mechanic shops and other businesses (we actually talked to him at one of his businesses). We didn't sway him, but several others saw and heard the discussion, as we explained to him that a true servant of Christ does not enrich himself on the backs of Christ's children.
Hosea's message is one of Isaiah's major messages. The spouse and children of God (Israel and it inhabitants) must be holy and serve God. Instead, they sought to enrich themselves. Instead of just judgments, lands were taken from the poor and given to the rich. A perfect example of this is when King Ahab killed Naboth in order to take Naboth's ancestral field to make a vegetable garden.
The Book of Mormon gives us a good idea of what was happening in Jerusalem in 600 BC. The elders of the Church were obviously accustomed to sneaking around at night, as Zoram thought nothing of Nephi (disguised as the official Laban) going out at night with sacred writings to take to the brethren. Meanwhile, the powerful official Laban (he commanded 50 soldiers or more) saw no harm in taking the riches of Lehi for himself and trying to slay Nephi and his brethren in order to accomplish it.
So we have Isaiah himself warn us (and this is a key part Nephi comments on):
8 Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth! 9 In mine ears said the Lord of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant.
10 Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah.
11 Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!
12 And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands.
13 Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.
14 Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
15 And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled:
16 But the Lord of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.
17 Then shall the lambs feed after their manner, and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat.
18 Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope:
19 That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!
20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
22 Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:
23 Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!
24 Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, sotheir root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
25 Therefore is the anger of the Lord kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. (Isaiah 5)
Here is where priestcraft comes in, whether in the Melchizedek Priesthood, the Priesthood of All Believers, or those called to serve the people politically (kings, presidents, etc). And this is Hosea's key point in chapter 4.
Continued Calls to Repentance
In these chapters, repeatedly warns Israel of the outcomes for their sins: they will be destroyed as a people, will wander the nations, and will be hated by those among whom they dwell. It will only be in the last days when they repent that they shall be restored, even as Gomer was eventually restored by Hosea.
Hosea does remind the people in chapter 12 the importance of true prophets for Israel to seek and follow:
“I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets....And by a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved” (Hos 12:10-13).
There is no Other Savior
“Yet I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me” (Hosea 13:4).
God reminds Israel in this chapter that the nation began with Yahweh, and no other god. Baal was not in Egypt to deliver them through Moses, and Baal was not going to rescue Israel from Assyria, either. Just as Gomer impulsively sought another lifestyle and salvation through turning to other lovers, Israel’s clinging to Baal and other idols would end up leaving both wives desolate and homeless.
Only in the last days when Ephraim/Israel truly repented would the people of Israel be restored by Jehovah, just as Gomer was restored by Hosea.
“I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.
“I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
“His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.
“They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
“Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.
“Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein” (Hos 14:4-9).
This restoration has partially been fulfilled. The Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ has begun bringing about the spiritual restoration of Israel. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). Paul explained to the Roman Christians that we are adopted into the house of Israel spiritually: “Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises” (Romans 9:4). In special inspired and personal patriarchal blessings given to faithful LDS members, they are told what tribe of Israel they belong to in this spiritual adoption. Many are in the tribe of Ephraim, spiritually fulfilling Hosea’s prophesy.
There is also a physical gathering of Israel to occur. We see this partially fulfilled in the Jews returning to the land of Israel. Still, that is just one small portion of the tribes of Israel. Hosea speaks of Ephraim’s return. We have yet to see such a return of the physical tribe of Joseph (father of Ephraim), or of the other tribes. However, a modern revelation tells us concerning their return:
“26 And they who are in the north countries (the Lost Tribes of Israel) shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.
27 And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep.
28 Their enemies shall become a prey unto them,
29 And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land.
30 And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the (spiritual) children of Ephraim, my servants.
31 And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence.
32 And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the (spiritual) children of Ephraim.
33 And they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy.
34 Behold, this is the blessing of the everlasting God upon the tribes of Israel, and the richer blessing upon the head of Ephraim and his fellows” (D&C 133).
The spiritual gathering continues until the coming of Christ in glory. Somewhere along the way, the long sought after restoration of physical Israel will occur, and the saints will be there to welcome them back.
Wikipedia on Hosea: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hosea
Sons of El and Yahweh: http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2010/02/lesson-7-abrahamic-covenant.html
Discussion on Hosea 4 at LDS.Net: http://www.lds.net/forums/lds-gospel-discussion/34494-hosea-4-priestcraft.html