Monday, December 2, 2019

Hosea and His Times

The word of the LORD that came to Hosea, son of Beeri, during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel” (Hosea 1:1).

Although Hosea began prophesying about ten years after Amos, his prophecy is first in the Book of the Twelve (the Minor Prophets). There is a good theological reason for this: Hosea’s prophecy is the longest and the most complete. In a sense, he sets up all the major themes found in the other books in the collection: covenant, judgment, and restoration, and the Lord’s personal relationship with His wayward people.

We are not told this explicitly, but Hosea is the only prophet who seems to have come from the northern kingdom of Israel rather than from the southern kingdom of Judah. His familiarity with the culture and ways of Israel has persuaded most scholars that Israel was his native land. His prophecy is directed almost entirely against Israel, though he has severe warnings for Judah as well.

Despite this orientation toward Israel, Hosea 1:1 dates his prophecies almost entirely in terms of Judahite kings: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Hezekiah came to the throne just before the destruction of Israel and the fall of its capital, Samaria. Uzziah’s reign overlapped the last years of Jeroboam II, the last notable king of Israel and the only Israelite king mentioned by Hosea. It is as if the kings after Jeroboam II, a succession of murderous revolutionaries, were not worthy of mention. 

Perhaps Jeroboam II alone was mentioned because his long reign set the course of the nation toward destruction. Perhaps by mentioning the kings of Judah, some of whom were godly rulers, Hosea was setting up a contrast. The wicked rulers of the North were destroying each other and their nation, while the true Davidic kings of the South continued on in succession, father to son, generation after generation.

Jeroboam II reigned for 41 years, long enough to establish a cultural pattern. His son, Zechariah, only lasted six months before being murdered by Shallum. Shallum reigned for only one month before being overthrown by the rebel Menahem. Menahem ruled ten years, but his son Pekahiah only governed two years before being murdered by Pekah. Pekah was murdered by Hoshea, who reigned nine years until God brought the Assyrians to destroy the kingdom of Israel. All of these kings chose to ignore the warnings uttered by Hosea.

People and nations have always suffered from corrupt government. Upheavals due to unrest are still so common that we are unable to understand or appreciate each situation. Based upon news reports and recent political events, pray for a specific country and its leadership in times of change and crisis. Specifically pray for the role of Christians and the church in providing godly leadership and influence.