We don’t know how much background you may have had when the lessons took up the prophets Amos and Hosea. Perhaps you already know all about these books of prophecy. However, let’s review a moment to bring you up-to-date in your thinking about these prophets. These prophets mark the beginning of literary, or written prophecy, as opposed to the purely oral prophecy of the prior prophets. This doesn’t mean that these two prophets were composers in the sense that Browning or McCauley wrote, but it does mean that his prophecies or discourses were written down and collected with other facts of their lives that had a bearing on their teaching.
We know that Elisha and Elijah exercised a great deal of influence on the religious history of their time, but we can gauge that influence only to a small extent because we can only form a crude notion of what their teaching was really like. With Elisha and Elijah, we remember them for their deeds…don’t we? But with Amos and Hosea, we know what they wrote and taught and we do not know much about their deeds, because their deeds weren’t necessary to tell us about them.
Like Amos, Hosea was a prophet of and to the Northern kingdom of Israel. He didn’t care much for the Southern kingdom of Judah and apparently had only a minor interest in them. However, his mission was to check if possible the growing corruption of morals, religion and politics in the northern kingdom and to rouse the nation to repentance in order to ward off the impending catastrophe. The style of Hosea’s book is very terse and is marked by rapid changes of thought and feeling. In some cases, it appears that we have only fragments of teachings that were accumulated and put together at a later date. In some verses, the meaning is so obscure that no satisfactory explanation has ever been made because our knowledge of many of the events alluded to is so meager.
Hosea lived through the terms of several kings and felt both the prosperity of Jereboam’s reign and the terror and anarchy of the kings who followed. It is possible that he even lived into the captivity.
There seem to have been two political parties in the Kingdom during this time called the Democrats and Republicans… we don’t mean those preferring an alliance with the Assyrians and those preferring an alliance with the Egyptians. Sometimes one of these was in the ascendant, and sometimes the other. Hosea chose to look upon the policies of both parties as unfaithfulness to God. Isaiah told the people of Judah that their true policy was to trust in Jehovah and not entangle themselves in foreign bonds. The prophets of Israel took up a similar attitude and maintained that every movement after outside help was a movement away from God, who would watch over them and preserve them, if they repented and put their trust in him.