“Out of Egypt have I called my son” – Matthew 2:15. This amazing well-known verse at the start of the gospels in the New Testament, is in fact, in the book of Hosea (chapter 11:1). Here God is speaking about the nation of Israel as He brought them out of bondage in Egypt and espoused them as an earthly spouse to Him. The Lord Jesus Christ identifies Himself with the people in that He went to Egypt and then was called from Egypt after Herod’s death.
The book of Hosea is part of the prophetical books, what many people refer to as the minor prophets. It can hardly be minor because it has 14 chapters, just like Zechariah! The name Hosea means “to save”, or “salvation”, but how can this be when God calls the nation of Israel “Lo-ammi” (not my people) and says “Lo-Ruhamah” (I will have no mercy)? It may be quite perplexing. The even more perplexing thought is that God instructed Hosea to marry a prostitute (Chapter 1:2) after we read the background of who Hosea was in verse. The woman, named Gomer, bore him children, and God also instructed to call their names Lo-Ruhamah (no mercy) and Lo-ammi (not my people). God was teaching a lesson to the nation of Israel that had deliberately rejected Him and given themselves to idols and foreign gods, so the prostitute that Hosea married also left him and went after others. Such was the sad moral and spiritual condition of the nation of Israel.
Most people, true believers and unbelievers, have difficulties with the thought that a holy God would give the order to one of his servants to marry a woman living in sin. Many Jews therefore do not consider this literally, but as symbolic, and many Christian writers have also accepted the idea that it is symbolic and not literal. Others want to see a revelation of Jehovah to Hosea in which Israel’s attitude towards his God is expressed in a parable only, which is what the Lord Jesus used when speaking to the crowds (Matthew 13).
But it is not always the case to interpret the text in such a manner, especially when God tells a prophet like Jeremiah to NOT marry and tells an equally obedient prophet like Hosea to marry a prostitute. Another possibility is that the word “prostitute” or “wife of whoredom” (chap. 1:2) indicates that Hosea anticipates, or knows, by the will of God, what Gomer would do after her marriage. On the other hand, the phrase may also be understood to mean that Gomer had lived an immoral life before getting married and this would be quite understandable considering the decline of the people. There is another example in the Old Testament of an Israelite’s relationship with a prostitute: Salmon begat Boaz of Rahab the prostitute (Matt. 1:5). Therefore, God can use anything and any person in any condition to teach the nation of Israel a lesson.
The message of Hosea is that God still loves His people even though they utterly rejected Him and apostatised (meaning to deliberately turn away from God and refuse His mercy and grace).
In Hosea 3:5 Christ is presented as the true David, Israel’s King. Then we read in chapter 11:1, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” We have these words in Matthew 2:15, when Christ went back to Israel from Egypt. Therefore, we have a similarity between Israel and Christ – both left Israel to take refuge in Egypt, and both were called out of Egypt back into Israel. We are reminded that the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt was a prophetic type of Christ who was also called out of Egypt. Then Christ’s identification with our ‘calling out’ and His loving work of redemption is seen in Hosea’s prophetic marriage and redemption of Gomer from the slave market (Hosea 1-3). This also corresponds with God’s loving work of redeeming Israel from Egypt (the slave market) under bondage. Christ too redeems us after being once under bondage (Hebrews 2:15).
In Hosea, the children of Israel were rebels and were ‘dead in their sins,’ (Hosea 9-14). We too were once dead in our sins but have been made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 1:13-14, 21-22).
Hosea is referred to in various parts of the New Testament. The Lord Jesus refers to Hosea three times in the gospels:
- Matthew 9:13 and 12:7 with Hosea 6:6
- Luke 23:30 with Hosea 10:8
The apostle Paul refers to Hosea twice:
- Romans 9:25-26 and Hosea 2:23; 1:10
- 1 Corinthians 15:55 and Hosea 13:14
The apostle Peter refers to Hosea one time in 1 Peter 2:9-10 with Hosea 2:23; 1:10, quoting from the same passage that Paul quoted from in Romans 9.
The narration of Matthew in chapter 2:15 as we have already seen, refers to Hosea 11:1.
The book of Hosea can be divided into two parts:
- Chapters 1-3 shows us the rejection of Israel as the adulterous wife, pictured by Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, and then the future reception and restoration of Israel.
- Chapters 4-14 describes the messages of judgement and God’s mercy to the nation in the future.
This outline is adapted from Arend Remmers’ outline of Hosea and Arno Gaebelein’s notes on Hosea, from a website www.biblecentre.org. It is not intended to copy what other writers have presented, but to form the ideas and provide a breakdown of the books in a much simpler way for as many people as possible to understand clearly what God has to say to His people even today.