Hosea

Hosea has come down through history as the prophet deceived by his wife whom he never stopped loving, in spite of her infidelities. God, who called him to speak on his behalf to an idolatrous and materialistic people, wanted his prophet to experience the grief and the shame of a betrayed husband. The prophets reveal a God who feels a love so real and so personal for us that it can be expressed in human words. Hosea was about to carry the same cross as God’s: constantly loving and forgiving a fickle and unfaithful wife. Hosea will also shout God’s indignation at Israel because of their sins.

Hosea began to preach around the year 746, that is to say, at the end of the prosperous reign of Jeroboam II, in the northern kingdom of Israel. Right after that would begin the twenty years of decadence which would conclude with the capture of Samaria and the deportation of its inhabitants (721).

Hosea rises to accuse and threaten the people who are unconcerned. He continues to preach while the kingdom is collapsing and predicts the punishment of the people who are irresponsible and unfaithful to the Covenant with their God. He understands that God is an educator and does not allow the misfortunes and even the destruction of the nation without his reasons. Through such means, Israel will again become what they once were when the Lord took them by the hand and brought them out of Egypt: they will become a poor and humble people, able to follow their God with faith and love.

The book of Hosea begins with the story of the failure of his married life. From that he draws a lesson for Israel, unfaithful to the Lord (chaps. 1–3).

Then in chapters 4–13 we have a mixture of reproaches, threats, invitations to conversion and predictions of the exile. The final passage 14:2-10 offers hope for the future, when the Lord will have taken away all the riches in which Israel had trusted.

 

 

 

1

1The word of Yahweh was addressed to Hosea son of Beeri, during the reign of Ussiah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah in Judah, and of Jeroboam son of Joash, in Israel.

Take a wife: she will betray you

2When Yahweh began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, take for your wife a woman involved in sacred prostitution and have children born of prostitution, for the land is wholeheartedly lapsing into prostitution and turning away from Yahweh.”

3So he married Gomer, daughter of Diblaim. And she was with child and bore a son. 4Yahweh told him, “Name him Jezreel, for I will soon punish the family of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel. I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. 5The days are coming when Israel will be defeated in the Valley of Jezreel.”

6She conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then Yahweh said to him, “Name her No Pity (Lo-Ruhamah) because I will no longer have pity on the nation of Israel. For I will certainly not forgive their guilt. 7But I will have pity on the nation of Judah. I will deliver them by the Lord their God; I will not deliver them by the warrior’s bow, by sword, by military victory, by chariot horses, or by chariots.”

8When she had weaned No Pity (Lo-Ruhamah) she conceived again ang gave birth to another son. 9Then Yahweh said, “Name him Not My People (Lo-Ammi), because you are not my people and I am not your God.”

2

4Denounce your mother, denounce

—for she is not my wife,

nor am I her husband.

Let her rid her face of her ornaments

and her breasts of her lewd idols;

5or I will strip her naked

as on the day of her birth;

I will reduce her to an arid land,

making of her a desert—

I will let her die of thirst.

6How could I love her children?

They are children of adultery;

7their mother has played the harlot

they are children of debauchery.

She said, “I will go after my lovers,

who give me my bread and water,

my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.”

10Yet she would not acknowledge that it was I

who gave her the grain, the wine and the oil,

and the silver and gold

with which this people made their Baals.

11So I will take back my grain when it ripens

and my new wine when it is ready;

I will take back my wool and my flax

which I gave to cover her nudity.

12Before her lovers I will lay bare her shame

and no one can rescue her from my power.

13I will bring an end to all her gladness,

her monthly feasts, sabbaths and celebrations.

14I will lay waste her vines,

and her fig trees, for she said,

“My lovers gave them to me.”

I will turn them into thickets

to be ravaged by wild beasts.

15I will punish her for the feast days

when she brought burnt offerings to the Baals,

decked herself with her gaudy jewels,

ran after her lovers and forgot me, says Yahweh.

8With thorns, therefore, I will block her path,

wall her and not let her find her way out.

9Pursuing her lovers,

she will not overtake them;

looking for her lovers, she will not find them.

Then she will say, “I will go back to my husband

for I was better off then than now.”

16So I am going to allure her,

lead her once more into the desert,

where I can speak to her tenderly.

17Then I will give back her vineyards,

make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.

There she will answer me as in her youth,

as when she came out of the land of Egypt.

18On that day, Yahweh says,

you will call me my husband,

and never again: my Baal.

19I will take the names of Baals from her lips

and no longer will they be invoked.

20That day on her behalf I will make a Covenant

with beasts of the field and birds of the air,

with creatures creeping upon the ground.

I will wipe out the sword and war in the land;

I will make people rest safe and secure.

21You will be my spouse forever,

betrothed in justice and integrity;

we will be united in love and tenderness.

22I will espouse you in faithfulness

and you will come to know Yahweh.

23This is what Yahweh says of those days,

“I will be at peace with the heavens,

and they will respond to the earth;

24the earth will respond to the grain, wine and oil,

which will come up to the expectation of Jezreel.

25I will sow them for myself in the land;

I will show my love to Unloved;

I will say to Not-my-people, “You are my people”;

and they will answer, “You are my God.”

 

3

1Yahweh said to me, “Welcome once more this woman who makes love to others. Love her just as Yahweh loves his people who turn to other gods and offer raisin cakes to them.”

2So I bought her for fifteen pieces of silver and a whole measure of barley. 3Then I said to her, “You shall stay here with me many days without giving yourself to anyone and without deserting me for another man. And I too will stand aloof.”

4For the people of Israel shall be for many days without king or ruler, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without divination or household idol.

5Then the people of Israel shall turn back, looking for Yahweh, their God, and for David, their king. In the last days they will come respectfully to Yahweh and to his blessings. 

 

2

1Yet the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, that cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” they shall be called “children of the living God.” 2The people of Judah and the people of Israel will be reunited, they will appoint one leader to rule over them, and they will come up out of the land. For there will be a great victory in Jezreel. 3You will call your brothers My-people, and your sisters My-loved-ones.

 

4

1Hear the word of Yahweh, Israel! for Yahweh has an accusation to bring against the inhabitants of this land. There is neither truth nor goodness nor knowledge of God in the country; 2only perjury, lies, murder, theft and adultery, with continual bloodshed.

3That is why the country is in mourning with all who live there wasting away; the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, even the fish are dying. 4But let no one apologize or accuse another, for it is you, priest, whom I single out!

5You will stumble in broad daylight, and the prophet will fall with you into darkness; I will silence you. 6You have destroyed my people by failing to acknowledge me! Because you refuse to acknowledge me, I will reject you as my priests. Because you reject the law of your God, I will reject your descendants.

7The more the priests increased in numbers, the more they rebelled against me. They have turned their glorious calling into a shameful disgrace! 8Since they eat of the sacrifices for sin, they like my people to sin.

9Yet it will be for the people as for the priest; I shall punish both for their conduct and repay them for their deeds. 10They will eat and not be satisfied; they will multiply their prostitutions but remain without child, for they have no reverence for Yahweh. 11Harlotry, wine and liquors have taken hold of their hearts.

 

12My people consult a wooden idol and rely on a rod for information. A spirit of adultery leads them astray and makes them unfaithful to their God. 13They sacrifice on the mountain tops and offer incense on the hills, under the oak, the poplar and the terebinth, wherever the shade is pleasant.

14That is why, if your daughters turn to prostitution and your daughters-in-law to adultery, I will not punish them, for you yourselves go off with harlots and sacrifice with temple prostitutes. A senseless people destroys itself.

(15Although you, O Israel, commit adultery, do not let Judah become guilty! Do not journey to Gilgal! Do not go up to Beth-aven! Do not swear, “As surely as the Lord lives!”)

16Since Israel is as obstinate as a stubborn cow, will Yahweh pasture it gently as a lamb? 17Ephraim is devoted to idols, let Yahweh leave him alone! 18They consume their alcohol, then engage in cult prostitution; they dearly love their shameful behavior. 19A whirlwind will sweep them away and they will have gained nothing with their sacrifices.

 

Against the royal officials

5

1Hear this, O priests! and you, people of Israel, pay attention! Hear, officials of the king for you are to be judged. You have been a snare at Mizpah and a net on Tabor, 2and a deep pit at Shittim, so I am to punish you all.

3I know what Israel is like; he cannot hide from me. Ephraim is playing the harlot; Israel is a people which defiles itself.

4Their deeds prevent them from returning to their God; a spirit of prostitution has taken hold of them and they do not know Yahweh. 5The pride of Israel is witness against him; this people are failing because of their guilt.

6With their sheep and bulls they will go in search of Yahweh, but they will not find him for he has gone far from them. 7He found they were unfaithful and their children were not his. So now the destroyer will do away with them and their lands will be devastated.

8Blow the horn at Gibeah, the trumpet at Ramah, raise the battle cry in Beth-aven! For Benjamin has been defeated, 9the day has come in which Ephraim is ruined. Let the tribes of Israel know that this is about to occur! 10The princes of Judah are like those who remove border stones and I shall pour out my anger on them like a flood. 11In the same way those of Ephraim are oppressors and trample justice.

12I will be like a moth for Ephraim, like rot for Judah. 13Ephraim saw he was sick and Judah saw his ulcer. Then Ephraim turned to the great king of Assyria for help, but he will not cure you or heal your sores.

14I will be like a leopard for Ephraim and like a lion for Judah. I will tear them to pieces and leave them. When I carry them off, no one will rescue them. 15Then I will go away and return to my place until they admit their guilt and come back to me, for in their anguish they will earnestly seek me.

 

6

1Come, let us return to Yahweh.

He who shattered us to pieces, will heal us as well;

he has struck us down, but he will bind up our wounds.

2Two days later he will bring us back to life;

on the third day, he will raise us up,

and we shall live in his presence.

3Let us strive to know Yahweh.

His coming is as certain as the dawn;

5c his judgment will burst forth like the light;

he will come to us as showers come,

like spring rain that waters the earth.

4O Ephraim, what shall I do with you?

O Judah, how shall I deal with you?

This love of yours is like morning mist,

like morning dew that quickly disappears.

5This is why I smote you through the prophets,

and have slain you by the words of my mouth.

6For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice;

it is knowledge of God, not burnt offerings.

 

7At Adam they broke my Covenant; there they were unfaithful to me. 8Gilead is a city of evildoers, stained with footprints of blood. 9Like thieves in an ambush, so are the priests; they murder on the road to Shechem and commit adultery. 10In Bethel I saw their disgraceful conduct; that is where Ephraim played the harlot and was defiled. 11(For you, too, Judah, I have a harvest stored when I bring back my captive people and heal Israel.)

 

7

1The sin of Ephraim appears clearly; the wickedness of Samaria is obvious. They cheat one another, they break into houses while bandits raid outside. 2They do not realize that I am mindful of their evil deeds. They are engulfed by their sins which are always before me. 3They amuse the king with their wickedness and the officials with their trickery. 4They are and remain adulterers, like an oven heated by a baker; he has not to stir the fire from the time the dough is kneaded until it rises.

5On the day of the king his officials get drunk and the king joins hands with the revelers. 6In their plotting they burn like an oven; all night their anger smolders and in the morning blazes like a fire. 7They are all heated like an oven and they devour their own rulers; all their kings fall but none of them calls on me for help.

8Ephraim mixes with other nations. He is like a half-baked loaf; 9the nations around him consume his strength but he is unaware of it. He has become old and he does not know it.

10Israel’s arrogance is witness against him but even so they will not turn back to Yahweh, their God, or search for him. 11Ephraim is like a silly pigeon, now calling on Egypt, now turning to Assyria. 12But wherever they turn I shall throw my net over them for they rebelled against me and they will fall like birds.

13Woe to them who fled far from me; disgrace will fall on those who deceived me. I wanted to redeem them but they spoke evil of me. 14They did not call on me sincerely when they groaned on their beds because of their wheat and wine and turned to me.

15When I made them successful and strong, they plotted evil against me. 16Now they turn to nothingness. They are deceptive as a twisted bow. Their leaders will fall by the sword because of their insolent talk; in the land of Egypt, people will make fun of them.

 

 

8

1Sound the trumpet, sentry! Warn the people of Yahweh because they have broken my Covenant and are unfaithful to my Law. 2They cry to me, “We, Israel, acknowledge you, O God.” 3But Israel rejected what is right and this is why the enemy will hunt them down. 4Without my approval they set up kings and without my blessing appointed leaders. With their silver and gold they fashioned idols to their own ruin.

5To me, Samaria, your calf is loathsome and my anger blazes against you. How long will you remain defiled? 6The calf is yours, Israel, a craftsman has made it; it is not God and will be broken into pieces. 7As they sow the wind, they will reap the whirlwind. Like the erect ear of corn they will bear no grain and produce no flour, or if they do, foreigners will devour it.

89Israel lived apart as a wild donkey, but he was eaten up. Now they are among pagans as a worthless object. Ephraim went to Assyria with gifts. 10Now they have been given up to the nations and I shall gather them. For in no time they have been left with no prophets, or kings, or leaders.

 

11Ephraim built many altars but his altars made him more guilty. 12I wrote out for him the numerous precepts of my Law, but they look on them as coming from foreigners.

13They offer sacrifices to me because they are those who eat the meat, but Yahweh does not accept their sacrifices for he is mindful of their sin and remembers their wickedness. They will return to Egypt.

14Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces, but I will set fire to their towns and burn their palaces.

 

The exile is foretold

9

1Do not rejoice and celebrate, Israel, like other nations, for you have deserted your God. You are fond of prostitution gifts and run to every threshing floor where there is wheat. 2This is why threshing floors and vats will not feed you; new wine will disappoint you. 3No longer will you remain in Yahweh’s land. Ephraim will return to Egypt—in fact to Assyria, where they will eat unclean food.

4No more will they be able to pour out the wine offering for Yahweh and no longer will they sacrifice to him. They will have only bread for mourners; all who eat it will be defiled. This food will be for themselves and it will not be taken into the House of Yahweh.

5What shall you do on the feast? You will leave but not for the pilgrimage to Yahweh; rather you will flee because of the invaders. 6Egypt will gather you and Memphis entomb you. Nettles will take over your treasures of silver and thorns creep over your tents.

7The time of punishment has come, the day of retribution is here. The Israelites will know it. The prophets will go out of their mind; the seers will become like mad men because your defeat will be as great as your sins have been.

8Ephraim watches before my God; his prophets try to stop the enemy on every path to protect the house of their gods. 9Yet they are as corrupted as they were long ago in Gibeah. Yahweh will remember their wickedness and punish their sin.

10I found Israel like wild grapes in the desert, I saw your ancestors like the first fruits on a fig tree. But no sooner had they come to Baal-peor than they gave themselves to the idol; and they became as worthless as their dirty god. 11The glory of Ephraim will flee away like a bird; it has died stillborn, miscarried, not even conceived. 12Had they brought out children, I would take them off before they were adults, for woe to them when I abandon them!

13I have seen that Ephraim will make his sons like a game; he will send his sons to be slaughtered. 14Give them, Yahweh, what you will; give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry.

15It is at Gilgal that their wickedness is seen. There I hated them. I will expel them from my House because of their evil conduct. I will love them no longer for all their leaders are rebels. 16Ephraim is blighted; his root is withered; he will produce no fruit. Even when they are with child, the child will die in the womb. 17My God will reject them because they did not listen; he will make them wander among the nations.

 

10

1Israel was a spreading vine, rich in fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; the more his land prospered, the more he adorned his sacred stones.

2Their heart is divided! They shall pay for it. Their altars will be thrown down and their sacred stones broken to pieces.

3Now they say, “We have no king (because we have no fear of God) and what good would a king do us?” 4Let them speak like this, take an oath and make covenants! Their sentence is growing like weeds in a plowed field.

5The people of Samaria tremble for their idols of Bethel; they mourn for their calf as do the priests who were so proud of it. 6The glorious idol has been taken far away, carried off to Assyria as a tribute to the great king. Ephraim will reap the shame of this; the people of Israel will be disgraced. 7As for the king of Samaria, he has been carried off like foam on water.

8The idolatrous high places—the sin of Israel—will be destroyed. Thorn and thistle will creep over the altars. Then they will say to the mountains: “Cover us,” and to the hills: “Fall on us.”

9Since the days of Gibeah you have sinned and rebelled, Israel. Will not the battle against the evildoers of Gibeah overtake you again? 10I shall come and punish you, gathering the nations against you because of your double sin.

 

Admonition and call to conversion

11Ephraim is a well-trained heifer fond of threshing; on her neck I shall place a yoke; Ephraim will be harnessed and plowed; the nation of Jacob will break the clods.

12Plow new ground, sow for yourselves justice and reap the harvest of kindness. It is the time to go seeking Yahweh until he comes to rain salvation on you.

13For your part you planted wickedness, reaped evil and ate the fruit of falsehood. When you rely on your own strength and your many warriors, confusion will overcome your people. 14See, your fortresses are destroyed as when Shalman devastated Beth-arbel; all was crushed. 15That is what will happen to you, people of Israel, because of your great evil. The storm will blow away the king of Israel.

 

I called my son out of Egypt

11

1I loved Israel when he was a child; out of Egypt I called my son. 2But the more I have called, the further have they gone from me—sacrificing to the Baals, burning incense to the idols.

3Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; yet little did they realize that it was I who cared for them. 4I led them with cords of human kindness, with leading strings of love, and I became for them as one who eases the yoke upon their neck and stoops down to feed them.

5If they refuse to return to me, they will have to go back to Egypt and be ruled by an Assyrian king. 6Swords will flash in their cities, slaughtering their sons, putting an end to all their plans.

7They insist on turning away from me; they cry out because the yoke is upon them and no one lifts it. 8How can I give you up, Ephraim? Can I abandon you like Admah or make you like Zeboiim? My heart is troubled within me and I am moved with compassion. 9I will not give vent to my great anger; I will not return to destroy Ephraim for I am God and not human. I am the Holy One in your midst and I do not want to come to you in anger.

 

10You will follow Yahweh when he roars like a lion. When he roars his sons will come trembling from the west; 11they will come with fear like sparrows from Egypt, like doves from Assyria. For I will bring them to their homes again.

 

12

1Ephraim has surrounded me with lies; Israel comes to me with deceit. They follow Baal and run after the sanctuaries. 2Ephraim feeds on wind, forever chasing the east wind, always more given to falsehood and violence. They have made a treaty with Assyria and brought oil to Egypt.

3Yahweh has brought Jacob to trial. He will call him to account for his ways and repay his deeds.

4In the womb he supplanted his brother and later he struggled with God, battling until he got the better of the angel. 5The angel, in fact, wept and pleaded with him! He met him at Bethel and there he spoke to him. 6(Yahweh, the God of armies, Yahweh is his Name.)

7You must return to your God, practice love and justice and trust in your God.)

8Canaan has dishonest scales and likes to cheat. 9Ephraim boasts, “I have become rich and possess a fortune.” Yet he will be left with nothing of what he has treasured for he was doing wrong.

10I am Yahweh, your God, since the days of Egypt; I will have you live in tents again as in the days of Meeting. 11Then I will speak to the prophets, give them many visions and teach you through their parables.

12The people of Gilead are wicked; they are false. They offered sacrifices to bulls in Gilgal. This is why their altars will become ruins on a plowed field.

13Jacob fled to the plains of Aram; Israel served to have a wife, and for her sake he cared for sheep. 14Yahweh, in turn brought Israel out of Egypt through a prophet; by means of this prophet he cared for them. 15Ephraim, nevertheless, angered him bitterly. The Lord will bring down on him the blood he shed and repay him for his contempt.

 

13

1When Ephraim spoke all trembled; he was powerful in Israel but became guilty of Baal worship and ruined himself. 2They now continue to sin and make images from molten metal, fashioning idols from silver, the work of craftsmen. And they call them God! They offer sacrifices to them and humans adore calves! 3That is why they will be like morning mist and like dew which does not last, like the straw swept away on the threshing floor, like smoke escaping through a window.

4But I am Yahweh, your God who brought you out of Egypt; you have no God other than me and no savior but me.

5I knew you in the desert, in a land of scorching heat. 6When they had food they were satisfied and when they were satisfied they became proud and no longer remembered me. 7So I became for them like a leopard, like a tiger I watched out for them, 8and attacked them with the fury of a bear that has lost its cubs. I tore out their heart and like a lion I devoured them; like a savage beast I tore them apart.

9Israel, you had in me a helper, will I be now your destroyer? 10Where is your king that he may rescue your cities? Where are your rulers about whom you said, “Give us a king and commanders.” 11So in my anger I gave you a king and in my fury I took him away.

12The wickedness of Ephraim is deep-set; his sin is stored up. 13The pangs of woman in labor come upon him. But the child is capricious. When it is time he does not leave the womb.

14Will I ransom them from the power of the netherworld? Will I rescue them from death? Not at all! Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O netherworld, is your venom? Yet my eyes will not look with compassion 15on the one who excelled among his brothers. Yahweh will send the east wind from the desert to dry up his sources of water and parch his fountains, to strip him of all his treasures.

 

14

1Samaria is guilty for she rebelled against her God. They will fall by the sword, their little ones will be crushed and women with child ripped open.

 

2Return to your God Yahweh, O Israel!

Your sins have caused your downfall.

3Return to Yahweh with humble words. Say to him,

“Oh you who show compassion to the fatherless

forgive our debt, be appeased.

Instead of bulls and sacrifices,

accept the praise from our lips.

4Assyria will not save us:

no longer shall we look for horses

nor ever again shall we say ‘Our gods’

to the work of our hands.”

5I will heal their disloyalty

and love them with all my heart

for my anger has turned from them.

6I shall be like dew to Israel

like the lily will he blossom.

Like a cedar he will send down his roots;

7his young shoots will grow and spread.

His splendor will be like an olive tree,

his fragrance, like a Lebanon cedar.

8They will dwell in my shade again,

they will flourish like the grain,

they will blossom like a vine,

and their fame will be like Lebanon wine.

9What would Ephraim do with idols,

when it is I who hear and make him prosper?

I am like an ever-green cypress tree;

all your fruitfulness comes from me.

 

10Who is wise enough to grasp all this?

Who is discerning and will understand?

Straight are the ways of Yahweh:

the just walk in them, but the sinners stumble.

 

 

 

• 1.2  Yahweh asks Hosea to marry one of the women involved in sacred prostitution of pagan worship. Those wishing to obtain the favors of the god Baal for their fields and their cattle would come to them.

This happened often in Israel and only Yahweh’s true faithful were scandalized. Deep down, Hosea is torn apart, always hoping that his fickle and idolatrous wife would change her ways, but also consumed by jealousy and anger, and tired of always forgiving.

Name her No Pity (v. 6). In Israel every name had some meaning, usually a religious meaning. Here Hosea calls his children names which must shock everyone, but which convey what he is teaching the people; Israel will be defeated; they are a people whom Yahweh does not love and does not acknowledge as his people.

The family of Jehu (v. 4). Jeroboam II would be the last king of this dynasty.

Take note of nor AM-I for you (v. 9): here, there is an allusion to the name of Yahweh (Ex 3:15).

After Hosea, the prophets used the terms “prostitution” and “adultery” when speaking of idolatry. See Jeremiah 2:2; 3:1; Ezekiel 16:23.

They also say that God calls Israel to be his spouse: Isaiah 50:1; 54:6; 62:4 and the Song. See also Revelation 21:2. This conviction is found all along the prophetic books and the last chapters of the New Testament will picture the heavenly Jerusalem, figure of the Church and the redeemed humankind coming towards her husband (Rev 21:2).

The paragraph 2:1-3 is not in place: it should be read after chapter 3. My people and the One I pity: it is another version of the names given in 1:6 and 1:9.

• 2.4 In this discourse we have a merging of Hosea threatening his wife and Yahweh reproaching his people. (2:1-3 after chap. 3)

In Israel nobody denied Yahweh, the God of their race. Yet even though they accepted him as savior in the national crises, they thought that the fertility of the earth and of cattle depended on other gods, the Baals, and that Yahweh had no power in these matters. So Yahweh threatens to deprive them of all the fruits of the earth and of the land itself in order for them to see that all these riches come from God alone.

In all ages we tend to entrust various areas of existence to various gods. Some have “great faith” in Christ to solve their problems, but they worship sex in a way very similar to that of the devotees of Baal. Others revere God publicly, but establish an oppressive society in which money and strength confer all rights.

So I am going to allure her, lead her once more into the desert, where I can speak to her tenderly (v. 16). Yahweh is going to deprive Israel of everything so they will again be poor as they were in the desert in the days of Moses. Thus they will know that everything comes from God and will put their trust in him. I was better off then than now (v. 9). This is what the prodigal son will also say in Luke 15:17.

She will no longer call me my Lord (v. 18). Here Hosea uses the word my Baal. In Hebrew, Baal means Lord. This was the name given to the Canaanite gods, but the Israelites also honored Yahweh with this title. However, Yahweh does not want to be a “Baal” among many, but “The” only husband.

You will be my spouse forever (v. 21). God is offering his people a new Covenant, a new alliance with him: Not a new religion with different commandments, but rather a personal relationship born of a purified and renewed heart (Jer 31:31).

John refers to this union “in enduring love” in John 1:17: Jesus is the one who brought it to humankind.

That day on her behalf I will make a Covenant with beasts of the field (v. 20). After the trials, Hosea foresees a happy period when Yahweh would give the land back to his renewed people. There will be no more hostile forces from nature, no more wars. I will make people rest safe and secure.

• 4.1  Other prophets will also condemn the faults and lack of responsibility of the civil and religious authorities: they are causing the suffering of the people (see Is 5:13; Mic 3:1).

In verses 11-14 Hosea continues to accuse the priests who are imitating the practices of the pagan priests: fortune-telling and prostitution.

• 5.1  Let us not forget that the northern people, called kingdom of Israel, were formed by the tribes of Jacob or the tribes of Joseph (see Gen 35:23). There were two tribes of Joseph: Ephraim, the most important, and Manasseh. When Hosea uses Ephraim, Joseph, Jacob, Israel, he is, in fact, addressing only one people.

•  8. This deals with Israel’s wars. Note the last sentence: Yahweh is hiding and leaves his people in darkness so they may come back to seek him.

• 6.1  People regret their errors, but they are not so sincere as to abandon their sins. They think they will please God by offering a few sacrifices but are far from real love which manifests itself in obedience; they prefer to offer the costly sacrifices which they choose rather than to do what God asks of them.

It is love that I desire, not sacrifice (v. 6). On several occasions Jesus refuted the Pharisees by quoting this saying (see Mt 9:13).

• 7. Adam, Gilead, Bethel: places where the worship of Yahweh is mixed with pagan customs.

• 8.1  The prophet is like a guard (see Ezk 3:17). Hosea condemns the kings who do not come from God since they were self-appointed: only David’s sons in the south were the chosen ones of God. Moreover, they were never concerned about representing God before the people, nor about fulfilling his designs.

Then we have the condemnation of the golden calves placed in Bethel to honor Yahweh (see 1 K 12:28).

• 11. External practices and sacred banquets following the sacrifice do not make God forget their sin.

Hosea looks at Israel’s past. You will return to Egypt (9:3), namely, you will be captive again.

• 11.1  Israel is God’s spoiled child. In former days God brought them out of Egypt, and ever since then, has been calling them and trying to draw them to himself, but they continue their depraved ways which bring punishment upon them.

I am God and not human (v. 9). Our setbacks which seem to be God’s punishment are, in fact, what God considers the most suitable ways to teach us (see Heb 12:7; 2 Mac 6:16; Wis 11:23).

• 14.2  The book of Hosea ends with these encouraging words. After the trials, Israel will seek Yahweh who will allow himself to be found. Humanity’s reconciliation with God will be an authentic marriage and it will be accompanied by a reconciliation of humanity with nature. This was already said in 2:17-22 and will be developed in the Song of Songs which will use some images taken from Hosea.