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Book of Osee (Hosea)

Book of Osee (Hosea)
by Timothy Kenney, PhD

The Holy Prophet Hosea (Greek = Osee) was the son of Beeri and a prophet in Israel in the eighth century before the birth of Christ. He is one of the Twelve Minor Prophets of the Old Testament. He was a contemporary of the Prophets Isaias, Micah, and Amos. It always occupies the first place among the twelve minor prophets, most probably on account of its length. In point of time Amos preceded it.

Little is known about the life or social status of Osee. According to the Book of Osee, he married the prostitute Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, at God's command. He was a member of the tribe of Issachar and lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the period 740–725 BC. In Osee 5:8, there is a reference to the wars that led to the capture of the kingdom by the Assyrians (734–732 BC). It is not certain if he has also experienced the destruction of Samaria, which is foreseen in Osee 14:1.

The Prophet Osee strove to bring the many Israelites who had forgotten the true God of their forefathers back to the fold. He denounced the iniquities of the people of the northern kingdom of Israel, proclaiming to them the misfortunes they would suffer at the hands of invading foreigners. He foretold the end of the sacrificial offerings and the the priesthood of Aaron, Osee 3:4-5. He prophesied about Christ, who would return from Egypt, (Osee 11:1), would be resurrected on the third day, (Osee 6:2), and would conquer death, (Osee 1313-14).

His feast day is celebrated on October 17. He is also remembered on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers which is the Sunday before the celebration of the Nativity of the Our Lord.

The Book of Osee is divided as follows:

  1. The Prophet's Marriage and Its Lesson - Osee 1-3
  2. Israel's Guilt and Punishment - Osee 4-14

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Detailed Outline.

I. The Prophet's Marriage and Its Lesson - Osee 1-3.

In the first part, Osee relates how, by order of Yaweh, he married the prostitute Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, in order to have of her "children of fornications." These were to be symbols, on the one hand, of Israel, the unfaithful spouse who gave to Baal the homage due to Yaweh alone and, on the other, figures of the children of Israel, who in the eyes of Yaweh, are but adulterous children. The outraged husband incites the children against their guilty mother, whom he prepares to punish: while for the children themselves is reserved a fate in keeping with their origin. The first is named Jezrahel. The reigning dynasty is about to expiate the blood shed by its ancestor Jehu in the valley of Jezrahel. The second is a daughter, Lô-Ruhamah, meaning "disgraced.". Yaweh will be gracious no more to His people. The third is called Lô-‘Ammi, "not my people." Yaweh will no longer recognize the children of Israel as His people. However, mercy will have the last word. Osee is commanded to receive Gomer again and to prepare her, by a temporary retirement, to renew conjugal intercourse. Israel was to prepare herself in captivity to resume with Yaweh the relationship of husband and wife.

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II. Israel's Guilt and Punishment - Osee 4-14.

The second part of the book is the practical and detailed application of the first. Van Hoonacker divides it into three sections, each of which terminated with a promise of salvation (Chapters 4-7,1a; 7:1b-11; Chapters 12-14). We may accept this division if we also admit his interpretation of Chapter 6:11 - Chapter 8:1a: "And yet Juda, I shall graft on thee a branch (of Ephraim) when I shall re-establish my people; when I shall heal Israel."

In the first section he speaks almost exclusively of religious and moral corruption. The princes and, especially the priests, are responsible for this and it is on them that the punishment will principally fall; and as he speaks simply of the "house of the king" it would appear that the dynasty of Jehu still occupied the throne. It is different in the following chapters. In Chapters 7:1a-8, the political and social disorders are especially emphasized. At home there are conspiracies, regicides, anarchy, while abroad alliances with foreign powers are sought. No doubt Menahem was already reigning. And yet the religious disorders remained the principal object of the prophet's reprobation. And in spite of all, mercy ever retains its prerogatives. Yaweh will gather together again some day His scattered children. In the last section it is felt that the final catastrophe is close at hand; and, nevertheless, once again, love remains victorious. The book ends with an exhortation to the people to turn to God, who on His part, promises the most tempting blessings, and reminds everyone that the good and the wicked shall receive the retribution each has merited.

We now turn to the Book of Joel in our next article.

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Bibliography:

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