Before you start...

The book of Hosea contains mature content, so if you’re reading with little ones, please use discretion! Need some more tips on reading hard topics with young kids? Read our article Should I Read Sensitive Bible Passages with My Kids? here.


What is the Book of Hosea About?

Read this 4-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and be inspired to read Hosea!


Historical Context

Hosea is identified in relationship to his father, like Joel, Jonah, Zephaniah, and Zechariah in the Book of the Twelve, rather than in connection with his hometown, like Amos, Micah, and Nahum. He was called to be a prophet while of marriageable age (Hosea 1:2), thus presumably while still young, perhaps as a late teenager. He was married to a woman named Gomer who gave birth to two sons and a daughter (Hosea 1:3-9). Chapter 3 indicates that Hosea bought a woman and took her as his wife; this was apparently Gomer, whom he took back after she had been unfaithful to him. All the evidence in the book suggests that the prophet lived his life in Israel, the Northern Kingdom. Places named are in the north: Samaria, the capital city (Hosea 7:1; 8:5-6; 10:5, 7; 13:16), Bethel (or Beth-Aven; Hosea 4:15; 5:8; 10:5; 12:4), Gilgal (Hosea 4:15; 9:15; 12:11). References to “the land” (Hosea 4:1) and “our king” (Hosea 7:5) indicate that Hosea was a citizen of the land to white he delivered his message.

—James Limburg  

Source: James Limburg, quoted from his book, “Hosea-Micah (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary),” published by Westminster John Knox Press. 

From Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote Hosea for your good and to lead you into joy.

Hosea prophesied during the latter half of the eighth century BC (c. 753–722 BC). This period was an extremely difficult time in Israel’s history, just before the northern kingdom went into exile.

Hosea’s primary audience was Ephraim (another name for the northern kingdom, Israel), which is mentioned 35 times in the book. Hosea wanted to see Israel turn back to God. 

The Near East at the Time of Hosea

c. 740 BC

Hosea prophesied to Israel and Judah during the decades leading up to the fall of the northern kingdom of Assyria. The resurgence of this ancient empire dominated much of the politics of the ancient Near East from the time of Jeroboam until Assyria’s demise at the end of the seventh century BC.

—ESV Global Study Bible

Turn to 2 Kings 15–17, and read the page of history that covers the period of this prophet. As already stated, it was a very unsettled time. Sin was rampant. The golden age of Jeroboam II was passing and a dark cloud hung over Israel. On the death of Jeroboam, six kings followed in quick succession. Within 20 years, four were assassinated. At about the middle of Hosea’s ministry, the Assyrians carried away a large part of the nation. At the end of Hosea’s life, the kingdom of Israel came to an end with the fall of Samaria. The prophet lived to see his prophecies fulfilled.

—Henrietta Mears

Source: This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Message Series

Come, Let Us Return to the Lord by Marty Voltz

In this 37-minute message, Pastor Marty Voltz helps us hear the invitation from the Lord ringing out from the book of Hosea: “Return to me.” In this powerful short message, you will be moved by the character of God revealed to us in Hosea, and drawn to love and trust him more. 

Hosea Dictionary

As you read through Hosea, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know! Note that this dictionary was created for the New International Version (NIV) translation of the Bible.

Sexual union between a man and a woman when either or both of them are married to someone else. Adultery is a sin.

A powerful and aggressive nation, the most powerful Middle Eastern empire from the tenth century BC through most of the seventh century. Nineveh was the capital city. Assyria conquered Israel and took its inhabitants captive.

A Hebrew word that means “master.” Baal (plural, Baalim) was the name of many false gods worshiped by the people of Canaan. They thought the Baalim ruled their land, crops and animals. When the Israelites came to the Promised Land, each area of the land had its own Baal god. Names of places were often combined with the name Baal to indicate ownership (Baal-Hermon shows that Hermon belonged to Baal). Eventually, Baal became the name for the chief male god of the Canaanites. They believed that Baal brought the sun and the rain and made the crops grow. The Israelites were often tempted to worship Baal—something God had told them they were never to do.

To promise to marry.

An agreement. In the ancient Near East, sometimes covenants were made between two people or groups of people. Both sides decided what the agreement would be. However, in the Bible, the word usually refers to agreements between God and people, when God decides what will be done and the people agree to live by the covenant. The Old Covenant of law set standards of behavior in order to please God. The New Covenant of grace presents God’s forgiveness based on faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

A statue or other image of a god that is made by people and then worshiped as if it had the power of God. Idols are often made of wood, stone, or metal. Sometimes the Bible calls anything that takes the place of God in a person’s life an idol. God tells us not to worship idols but, rather, to worship only him.

(1) One of the sons of Jacob and Leah. (2) The descendants of Jacob and Leah’s son of the same name, who became the tribe of Judah. (3) The southern kingdom when the Israelites divided into two separate countries after the death of King Solomon. (The northern kingdom was called Israel.)

Among the Jews, a man who offered prayers and sacrifices to God for the people. Priests led the public worship services at the tabernacle and later at the temple. Often the priests also taught the Law of God to the people. The priests of Israel were all descendants of Aaron’s family. All Christians are also priests (see 1 Peter 2:9). We are to help others learn about and worship God.

(1) To gather ripe grain and fruit. (2) The reward or punishment people receive for their actions (see Galatians 6:9).

To turn around and go in the opposite direction. In the Bible, repent means feeling sorrow for wrongdoing, stopping the wrong action and doing what God says is right. Repentance always involves making a change away from sin and toward God.

(1) To bring back; to establish again. (2) To bring back to a former or original condition. (3) To return something lost, stolen or taken. The return of the Jews from being captives in Babylon is referred to as their restoration.

Thinking and doing what is correct (or right) and holy. God is righteous because he does only what is perfect and holy. A person who has accepted Jesus as Savior is looked at by God as being free from the guilt of sin, so God sees that person as being righteous. People who are members of God’s family show their love for him by doing what is correct and holy, living in righteous ways.

A gift or offering given to God. A sacrifice usually involved killing an animal to pay for sin. The New Testament tells us that Jesus died as the once-for-all sacrifice for sinners, and that no further sacrifices for sin are necessary.

This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Tough Questions

We have found answers to some tough questions that we anticipate may arise as you read this book of the Bible. We know we can’t answer every question you will have; therefore, we have written this article, so you know how to find answers for your kids: How Do I Answer Tough Questions About the Bible?


The following insights are from pastors and scholars who have spent significant time studying the book of Hosea.

Hosea is primarily a love story, specifically one of redemptive love. The pain Hosea has endured in his marriage to unfaithful Gomer uniquely qualifies him for his prophetic ministry to the Lord’s unfaithful people. Failing to trust the Lord, Israel has sought security in foreign powers and false gods. Yet, as Hosea is eager to show, Israel’s unfaithfulness has not diminished God’s love for them. Hosea paints Israel’s spiritual adultery with vivid images, calling God’s people with both warnings and heartfelt appeals to turn back to the Lord. Failure to repent will result in punishment, but God takes no delight in that prospect. Rather, he desires them to turn from idols to him, their true husband and the only one who can provide for their needs.

—Lydia Brownback  

Content taken from Hosea: A 12-Week Study by Lydia Brownback ©2016. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  

The book of Hosea is not about Hosea; it’s not about Gomer; it’s not about Israel; it’s about God who graciously, lovingly, righteously, jealously redeems wayward people—and not because they’re worthy or because they have any promise of fidelity in and of themselves. He loves wayward people because he is God. 

—Reuben Hunter

Source: Reuben Hunter, quoted from his message, “Broken-Hearted Love,” published by The Gospel Coalition. We would strongly encourage you to listen to this full sermon as a family!

Though Hosea is a difficult book, it is also a great book. It is like a tree whose roots go down deep into the Torah and whose branches bear the fruit of a discourse that became the grammar of biblical prophecy. Many of the themes, and much of the vocabulary, of the great literary prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel originate in Hosea. It is also a book that jolts the reader; it refuses to be domesticated and made conventional. It does comfort the afflicted, but it most surely afflicts the comfortable. It is as startling in its presentation of sin as it is surprising in its stubborn certainty of grace. It is as blunt as it is enigmatic. It is a book to be experienced, and the experience is with God.

—Duane A. Garrett  

Source: Duane A. Garrett, quoted from his commentary, “Hosea, Joel: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture,” in the New American Commentary Series.

Because of the characteristics of (northern) Israel in the mid-eighth century BC, God’s prophetic word could hardly have been predominantly positive. Israel was continuing a history of covenant-breaking, and her Lord had determined to move against his people by unleashing the punishments specified in the law. In the short run, therefore, God’s plan for his people was one that would necessarily seem to them negative. In the long run, on the other hand, God’s overall plan of blessing for his chosen nation would still prevail. Accordingly, the book of Hosea now and again contains reminders to the faithful that God would one day again bring prosperity to Israel. But the vast majority of the oracles God spoke through Hosea were of woe, not weal, and they depend for their substance upon the depository of covenant curses found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

—Douglas Stuart 

Source: Douglas Stuart, quoted from his book, “Hosea-Jonah,” in the Word Biblical Commentary Series, published by Thomas Nelson Inc.

From In other words, God had foreseen the failure of Israel years earlier and had prophesied about their moral collapse in the book of Deuteronomy. The judgment God promises in Hosea isn’t a surprise to them—it’s exactly what God told Israel would happen if Israel was unfaithful to him.

It is a truism to say that Hosea presents the apostasy of Israel under the metaphor of an unfaithful wife. But this analysis only tells half of the story. Hosea did not just have a wife; he also had three children who were themselves signs and symbols to Israel. It is reasonable to suppose that the wife and the three children do not all simply represent “Israel,” as thought there were no difference between mother and children. But wherein lies the distinction? As this commentary will try to demonstrate, Israel the wayward wife is the leadership, institutions, and culture of Israel. The children are the ordinary men and women who are trained and nurtured in that culture. Behind these two metaphors lies a story. 

…The children have followed their mother. Superstitious and fearful while at the same time captivated by that alluring benefit of Baalism, the cult prostitute, they know nothing of their father, Yahweh. Indeed, one cannot even say that Yahweh is their father. They are a lost generation, the children of Baal. They possess none of the three basic qualities that should make the chosen people: integrity, compassion, and the knowledge of God. Their only hope of salvation is to turn from Mother Israel and go back to the one real Father, Yahweh. That is, to be true children of God they would have to abandon Mother Israel, for she is not his wife, and her children are Lo-Ammi, “Not-my-people.” But this they cannot do. She has too well instructed them in her ways and they belong to Baal. What shall Yahweh do with a people who can neither repent, nor even understand the need for it, nor recognize that Baal is a lie, nor divorce themselves from their mother and her ways? He must strip Mother Israel of all she has. That is, the institutions of Israel must die. The shrines must burn, the crops must fail, the kings and army must perish, the priests and princes must fall to disgrace, and Mother Israel and her children must once again wander in the wilderness. When this happens, at last, they will see both the truth and the life for what they are and return to Yahweh, Husband and Father.

—Duane A. Garrett  

Source: Duane A. Garrett, quoted in his commentary, “Hosea, Joel: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture,” in the New American Commentary Series. 

Hosea is believed to be the first prophet to use marriage as a metaphor of the covenant between God and Israel and influenced latter prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel. In the New Testament, Jesus quoted from Hosea twice when he said: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13; 12:7). 

—The New World Encyclopedia  

Source: The article, “Hosea, Book of” in the New World Encyclopedia

This prophetic book sobers us and fills us with renewed hope. As ugly as Israel’s adulterous faithlessness has been, it cannot extinguish God’s resilient, redemptive love that defies human calculation or annulment.

—James M. Hamilton Jr.

Source: James M. Hamilton Jr., quoted from his article, “The Gospel in Hosea,” published by Crossway Publishers. Used by Permission.

In Hosea, God is by turns ‘cool’ (‘he has withdrawn from them’; ‘Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone’; ‘They sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind’ [Hosea 5:6; 4:17; 8:7]) and ‘tough’ (‘I will be like a lion to Ephraim’; ‘he will remember their iniquity, he will punish their sins’ [Hosea 5:14; 9:9] ); but above all, ‘tender’ (‘How can I give you up, O Ephraim!… My heart recoils within me’; ‘I will heal their faithlessness…’ [Hosea 11:8; 14:4]).

And Israel? She got it wrong, in the usual human way. God, she reckoned, must be wanting more religion; she would bring more sacrifices. ‘They love sacrifice’, says God. ‘With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the Lord’ (Hosea 8:13; 5:6). But that was not the way to find him. These were religious things, and he wanted people: converted people, deeply repentant, wholly and forever his.

All the ups and downs of the book [of Hosea], the scathing portraits, dire predictions, ardent appeals, add up to this and the book ends by looking to the fruit of all this agony, when this unequal marriage, like Hosea’s, will be no longer full of tensions and betrayals, but secure and blissful, its long winter over and its spring at last arrived and in full flower.

—Derek Kidner

Source: Derek Kidner, quoted from his book, “The Message of Hosea: The Bible Speaks Today,” published by Intervarsity Press.  

We are supposed to be shocked by this calling Hosea has been given [to marry an unfaithful woman]. But an important point that we need to recognize here is this: God is not surprised by our sin. He knows every detail about us. He knows the end from the beginning. Of course he knows every detail about us and he loves us nonetheless. And we choose to love on the basis of all kinds of externals—appearance, wealth, personality, ability. We do, we just do. We need to admit that. It’s not like that with God… In fact, it is precisely because there is nothing lovely about us that God has set his special, saving, covenant love upon us. His desire is to make us lovely through the death of his son. This is the kind of love that God has called Hosea to demonstrate. No calling could be personally more painful and costly than Hosea’s—demonstrating the love of God for, to use the New Testament language, his bride, the church.  

—Reuben Hunter  

Source: Reuben Hunter, quoted from his message, “Broken-Hearted Love,” published by The Gospel Coalition. We would strongly encourage you to listen to this full sermon as a family!

It might not be an unfaithful spouse, but you may be enduring all kinds of other difficulties because of God’s strange providence. It might just be that as he did with Hosea, God has brought a difficult situation your way in order to work out his purposes in and through you. No, you’re not a prophet, but God will be using you through your trials to declare his glory to those around you. Don’t despise your trials.

This is what Hosea was called to—you may be called to something different. He was faithful to demonstrate, as God called him to, to those around him in his hardship God’s faithfulness and his sufficiency. And it may just be that in your hardship—whatever it is—that God is calling you to also to be a visual aid to those around you of his sufficiency and his faithfulness. 

—Reuben Hunter 

Source: Reuben Hunter, quoted from his message, “Broken-Hearted Love,” published by The Gospel Coalition. We would strongly encourage you to listen to this full sermon as a family!

Hosea Playlist

Discover music inspired by the message and content of the book of Hosea.

Gomer’s Song
by Michael Card | 70s 80s 90s
Your Love (Pour Over Me)
by Stuart Townend | Acoustic
How Deep the Father's Love For Us
by Austin Stone Worship | Praise & Worship 
Turn Your Eyes 
by Sovereign Grace Music  | Praise & Worship 
Oh I Want to Know You More
by Steve Green | 70s 80s 90s
How He Loves
by David Crowder Band | Contemporary
Ever Chasing God
by Jon Guerra | Praise & Worship
Chase Me Down
by Chris Tomlin feat. RaeLynn | Praise & Worship
More Songs