Hosea belonged to the northern kingdom and began his prophetic career in the last years of Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.). Some believe that he was a priest, others that he was a cult prophet; the prophecy, our only source of information concerning his life, gives us no certain answer in the matter. The collected oracles reveal a very sensitive, emotional man who could pass quickly from violent anger to the deepest tenderness. The prophecy pivots around his own unfortunate marriage to Gomer, a personal tragedy which profoundly influenced his teaching. In fact, his own prophetic vocation and message were immeasurably deepened by the painful experience he underwent in his married life.
Gomer, the adultress, symbolized faithless Israel. And just as Hosea could not give up his wife forever even when she played the harlot, so Yahweh could not renounce Israel, who had been betrothed to him. God would chastise, but it would be the chastisement of the jealous lover, longing to bring back the beloved to the fresh and pure joy of their first love.
Israel’s infidelity took the form of idolatry and ruthless oppression of the poor. No amount of mechanically offered sacrifices could atone for her serious sins. Chastisement alone remained; God would have to strip her of the rich ornaments bestowed by her false lovers and thus bring her back to the true lover. A humiliated Israel would again seek Yahweh. The eleventh chapter of Hosea is one of the summits of Old Testament theology; God’s love for his people has never been expressed more tenderly. Hosea began the tradition of describing the relation between Yahweh and Israel in terms of marriage. This symbolism appears later on in the Old Testament; and, in the New, both St. John and St. Paul express in the same imagery the union between Christ and his Church.
The Book of Hosea is divided as follows:
1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam, son of Joash, king of Israel.
In the beginning of the LORD’S speaking to Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea: Go, take a harlot wife 2 and harlot’s children, for the land gives itself to harlotry, turning away from the LORD.
So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim; and she conceived and bore him a son.
3 Then the LORD said to him: Give him the name Jezreel, for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed at Jezreel And bring to an end the kingdom of the house of Israel;
On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.
4 When she conceived again and bore a daughter, the LORD said to him: Give her the name Lo-ruhama; I no longer feel pity for the house of Israel: rather, I abhor them utterly.
5 Yet for the house of Judah I feel pity; I will save them by the LORD, their God; But I will not save them by war, by sword or bow, by horses or horsemen.
After she weaned Lo-ruhama, she conceived and bore a son.
6 Then the LORD said: Give him the name Lo-ammi, for you are not my people, and I will not be your God.
1 [Hosea 1-3] This section is ordinarily thought to be biographical, the prophet’s personal tragedy figuring as the relation of God to his people Israel. Hosea’s marriage to a harlot wife represents Israel’s infidelity to her Lord; hence the symbolic names of the children (⇒ Hosea 1:4-9). In ⇒ Hosea 2:4-23 the Lord protests this infidelity and decrees its consequences, but promises restoration in return for amendment; his punishments are medicinal. In Hosea 3 He once more takes back his wife, but only conditionally, signifying God’s long-suffering love for Israel and hope for her return.
2  A harlot wife: this does not necessarily mean that Gomer was a harlot when Hosea married her; the verse describes the event in its final consequences.
3  Jezreel: the strategic valley in northern Israel where Jehu brought the dynasty of Omri to an end through bloodshed (2 Kings 9-10). Jeroboam II was the last king but one of the house of Jehu; the prophecy in this verse was fulfilled by the murder of his son, who reigned only six months (⇒ 2 Kings 15:8-10).
4  Lo-ruhama: “she is not pitied.” The “pity” that is here withheld from Israel is God’s gratuitous love which inspires his beneficent acts.
5  The terrible punishments announced by the prophets were so fully realized that later generations made a point of recalling the same prophets’ messages of consolation also, even though it meant taking these from another context. Thus, an editor placed the words of (⇒2:1-3) ⇒ Hosea 3:5 after the repudiation of Israel in ⇒ Hosea 1:9; here the more natural order has been restored. The present verse is another example of the same thing. In addition, it may be the work of a later hand, dating from a time when the prophecies of Hosea were circulated in the south, after the dissolution of the northern kingdom that he had prophesied. The second part of the verse emphasizes the power of the Lord, who needs no human agents to fulfill his will. It may refer to the deliverance of Jerusalem from the siege of Sennacherib (⇒ 2 Kings 19:35-37).
6  Lo-ammi: “not my people.”