Hosea began to prophesy during the reign of Jeroboam II king of Israel, one of the most powerful of her kings, and [he continued prophesying] during the reign of his successors, whom the prophet does not even name because they were not of the Lord's choosing (8:4). There was not one of them found who would risk his throne for God. This was a striking illustration of the Law in Deuteronomy 17:15, ''Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose.'' That Israel possessed the written Law in the days of Hosea is shown from various passages, notably Hos 8:12.
God first pronounces His judgment upon His people [Chapter 5]. He will be to them as a moth and rottenness, as a young lion, as a leopard, as a bear robbed of her whelps. He says He has hewed them by the prophets and slain them by the words of His mouth [6:5]. He foretells the awful destruction of Samaria, the sword that shall slay them, and the fire that shall destroy them. But along with judgment, He makes known His mercy, His earnest desire for their repentance. ''I will go and return to My place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek My face: in their affliction they will seek Me early'' (Hos 5:15).
Nothing can exceed the earnestness and love with which the Lord entreats Ephraim to return to Him. ''How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?'' Four times over, this ''How'' is repeated [Hos 11:8]. ''O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thy help'' [Hos 13:9]. ''O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and return to the Lord: say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously... I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely'' [Hos 14:1,2,4]. And then follows His gracious promise of restoration, that He will be as the ''summer nightmist'' to Israel, and it shall grow with the beauty of the lily, with the strength of the cedars of Lebanon, with the fragrance of the undergrowth of those mountains, and with the fruitfulness of the olive, and the corn, and the vine, and the perennial greenness of the fir-tree.
In Hosea 3:4, the present state of Israel is described. ''Without a king, without a prince, without a sacrifice, without an ephod''-- the sign of the priest-- because they have rejected their King, their true Priest after the order of Melchizedek, and are still rejecting the sacrifice He offered. And, on the other hand, they are ''without an image, and without teraphim,'' for they are free from idolatry. The next verse describes their glorious future, when they shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their King-- the Lord Jesus Christ.