The Lord gave this message to Hosea son of Beeri during the years when Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah were kings of Judah, and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel.
Hosea 1:1 (NLT)
My journey through the book of Hosea started with an earnest desire to understand the prophet’s message within his immediate context. I had finished reading 1 Samuel through 2 Kings, and I wanted to proceed through the Minor Prophets (Hosea-Malachi) with that material fresh in my mind since many of the prophets’ messages related specifically to the latter period of 1 and 2 Kings.
The majority of the prophets whose works have been compiled within the Old Testament were writing and preaching during the years leading up to the fall of the nations of Israel and Judah. The first verse of the book places Hosea squarely within this time period. Hosea begins his ministry in the decades leading up to the collapse of the northern kingdom of Israel.
While this information is important to understanding the prophet’s message, most people who read the Bible are not students of history. When they pick up a Bible, they want to hear a message that gives meaning and direction to their lives. They don’t want a lecture on or a history of the ancient world.
This is why many Christians rarely spend much time outside of the New Testament (unless it is Psalms or Proverbs). Even though understanding the context of the Gospels and the Epistles opens up another layer of their meaning, much of the New Testament content is more straightforward and more clearly applicable to our lives today.
The Old Testament tends to require a little more work, but the fruit of such a study can be extremely beneficial. In particular, knowing the background of the Old Testament books can go a long way in helping us understand the influences that lead to the rise and fall of a nation.
While this may seem irrelevant to people wanting a more personal message about how they should live, studying Hosea’s prophecy will reveal that the principles that speak to Israel’s national health will also relate to an individual’s personal health.
After all, a nation rises and falls on the health of its people; the principles that pertain to the whole also wield value for the part.
So, when we understand that Hosea is writing to a people whose nation is in a steep decline, we will start to notice the signs of deterioration that Hosea highlights throughout the book. Then, we will better recognize the solutions that the Lord, through Hosea, attempted to steer His people toward.
As we read these signs within Hosea and his context, we will better discern how to relay those principles to ourselves and our context.