Therefore, marriage to a known loose woman was a blaring mark against Hosea's reputation as a man of God. And to continue to pursue her when she freely and openly acted as a harlot was even more foolish. But the wisdom and ways of God always appear foolish to a dying generation. Hosea's story of a rebellious and unrepentant wife was an example of the rebellious and unrepentant nation of Israel.
Hosea ministered to the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II. By outward appearances, Israel was doing well. But just below the surface, spiritual and political unrest and anarchy were brewing. The people continued to prosper and live in so-called peace, but were swiftly approaching total destruction in a short time. Eventually, the Assyrian army conquered Samaria, the capital city of Israel, bringing the northern kingdom to its knees in 722 B.C. Hosea was the last prophet to speak to the condemned people of Israel, giving them the opportunity to turn from their sins and turn back to God.
By the time of Hosea's ministry, the iniquities of the social and religious groups were out of control. The priests and religious leaders were corrupt, and families were structurally and morally dysfunctional. Debauchery permeated every social class, including the priesthood, and many suffered from extreme poverty. The people had abandoned God and His laws. Idolatry abounded, with altars erected on every hill and valley of Israel.
The sins of Israel were many: pride, theft, deceit, idolatry, adultery, political alliances with foreign nations, division, rebellion, and swearing falsely, to name a few. As a result of such widespread evil, Hosea's challenge was to communicate a message from God those not inclined to listen, and not likely to understand if they did listen. They were rebellious from the beginning, revolting against King Rehoboam, son of King Solomon. They caused the division of the entire nation, forming their own kingdom and immediately abandoned God for idols. In order to get the attention of His people, God chose to let the life of the prophet be the message. He instructed Hosea to marry an immoral woman. Without question, Hosea obeyed. He loved her, had children by her, and even went after her when she wandered away.
The kind of selfless love that Hosea showed to his wife, Gomer, was representative of the love God had for the people of Israel. And just as Hosea brought his wayward wife back to himself, so God brought the people of Israel back to Himself, though they never committed themselves to Him fully. God had continued to pursue them despite their obvious disdain for Him and His laws.
A lack of commitment combined with the numerous sins of Israel has the people destined to suffer judgment at the hands of the Assyrians, as prophesied by Hosea. But again, just as in the other prophetic books that speak of doom and destruction, Hosea brings hope of future restoration to the surviving captives. God's wrath would subside, and Israel would live. One day, they would freely rest under His watchful care, and flourish once again in true peace and prosperity.
In stark contrast to Hosea's selfless acts that speak a message of God's love and longing for His people in Israel, the prophet Joel speaks of widespread disaster that strikes Judah, calling it a foretaste of the coming judgment of God.