from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 55

Hosea 5; 6 : "Come and Let Us Return"

Historical Study

The book of Hosea is the first of the twelve books which constitute "the minor or lesser prophets." These twelve are gathered into one volume or roll among the Hebrews and are known by the common title Book of the Twelve. The Latins were the first to designate them "The Minor Prophets," "on account of their brevity as compared with those who are called the Major because of their ampler volumes." (Augustine) This title has now become common in most modern languages. Hosea is there the first of the twelve. Historically, however, Amos comes first. He prophesied in the days of Uzziah and Jeroboam, about 760 B.C. (Amos 1:1) But Hosea takes us down to a later date. He lived "in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel." (Hos. 1:1) There is no indication in the book of Amos that he prophesied subsequent to the reign of Jeroboam 11. But there is strong evidence that Hosea did. Chapter 1:4 was apparently written in the days of Jeroboam II for it predicts the fall of the house of Jehu. Jeroboam II was the fourth ruler of that house, and the prediction was fulfilled in his son Zechariah who was slain only six months after he became king by his successor Shallum. (2 Kings 15:10, 12) The kingdom of Israel was then in a state of anarchy. Shallum reigned only one month when he was in turn assassinated by Menahem. (2 Kings 15:13-14) This occurred about the year 748 B.C. Hosea evidently wrote the latter chapters of his prophecy in this restless period, or during the reign of Menahem. (See Hos. 7:7; 8:3-4; 10:3, 7, 15; 13:10-11) These were brutal times when kings were massacred, and in turn cut down all who refused to support them. (2 Kings 15:16) Little wonder that Menahem could not retain his position without the aid of a foreign power. Thus, when Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, invaded the land, Menahem bought his support with a thousand talents, which he raised by taxing the people. As the vassal of Assyria, he continued to hold the throne. Hosea refers to this covenant in 10:6 and 12:1 but declares that Assyria cannot save the kingdom. (Hos. 14:3) Assyria never lost her hold over Israel from that time. Menahem reigned over Israel ten years. Pekahiah his son followed him on the throne of Israel in 738 B.C. In two years, civil war broke out again. Pekah murdered Pekahiah. Then Pekah in 734 B.C. allied with Rezin, king of Syria, attacked Ahaz, king of Judah. Ahaz appealed to Assyria. Tiglath-pileser captured Damascus and ended the Syrian kingdom. At the same time, he warred against Israel and carried away many of the people captive. (2 Kings 15:23; 16:5) More internal warfare followed in Israel. Pekah was killed by Hoshea, who took the throne as a vassal of Assyria. Soon, however, Hoshea conspired against Assyria and turned to Egypt for help. (2 Kings 17:3-4) Shalmaneser then dethroned and imprisoned him. Then followed the three years' siege of Samaria, which fell before Sargon, Shalmaneser's successor, in 722 B.C. The ten tribes were transported to the east and scattered in all directions. Thus, in the days of Hosea, the nation was fast approaching its doom. Its sins were the cause of its ruin. Hosea is no less condemnatory of these sins than Amos. He does not particularize so much the sins of the wealthy, as Amos does. The sins which Hosea singles out are those of violence, licentiousness, the heart that knows not its Maker, and a degenerate priesthood. His charge against the people is summed up in the words, "There is no truth, nor loving kindness, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying and killing and stealing and adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood." (Hos. 4:1-2) Violence is universal. Israel devours its rulers. (Hos. 7:7) The princes are revolters. (Hos. 9:25) The priests even aid and abet open murder. (Hos. 6:8-9) Thieves break in, and troops of robbers raid without. (Hos. 7:1) Licentiousness and idolatry are rampant. (Hos. 4:11-12, 17) The people know not their Lord. (Hos. 5:4; 4:6) The nation is ripe for punishment. Hosea continually speaks of its immanence, but he does not clearly see whence it is to come. He suggests that they will be cast away and become wanderers among the nations, hints that the Assyrian will be their future king, and predicts the terrors of that day. (Hos. 9:17; 11:5; 13:16) The evils of his day were more present to him than the enemy who was to inflict punishment. Yet he foresees the impending fall of the nation, and beyond that in the far future, the Lord's purposes of restoring it, and healing their backsliding. His stern, severe judgments are born of his personal contact with his countrymen: his predictions of their restoration spring from his trust in the Divine promises. (Gen. 13:15; 17:8)

Spiritual Study


The meaning of the two chapters in Hosea is made clearer when we know that Ephraim represents the understanding of the Word. "The quality of the church with man is according to his understanding of the Word." (T. 243) In a similar manner, the extent of people’s usefulness is limited or determined by their knowledge of their business or profession. Little knowledge gives little power; much knowledge opens the way to great possibilities. Success is dependent upon the right understanding of the work; failure follows misunderstanding. Apply this to the subject of life. True success in life depends first upon the right understanding of what the Word teaches, what the Lord requires us to do. How serious a matter it is when someone misunderstands the Word! This is what Hosea refers to. He is addressing those who temporarily or permanently falsify the truth. (T. 237) The real cause of the falsification is that "they will not frame their doings to turn unto their God." (Hos. 5:4) We love our old evil habits and seek to excuse them. Then again, in our distresses, a voice comes from our guardian angels signifying that we are not looking at our situation from the right standpoint. We listen to the voice of truth which presents the other, the eternal side, and we penitently cry out, "Come, and let us return unto the Lord, and He will revive us." But our constancy is short-lived. The evil spirits again get control over us. We wish to excuse our backsliding. "O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away." (Hos. 6:4) How faithfully these chapters portray the rapid fluctuations from evil to good, and good to evil, that go on in the mind when tried and tempted! How clearly we recognize our propensity in turns to accept and reject the truth! "The Lord desires loving kindness and not sacrifice [mere external goodness]; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." (Hos. 6:6) This is the issue of our struggles; but it is a long time before we reach it, before we are ready wholly to lose our own life that we may find a different life in the Lord.

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