Hosea and Gomer
Hosea 1:1 begins the book, saying,
1 The word of the Lord which came to Hosea the son of Beeri, during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah and during the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.
Hosea’s name comes from the Hebrew root word yasha, “to save.” This is also the root word for Jesus’ Hebrew name, Yeshua (“salvation”) and for Isaiah (Yeshah-yah, “Yahweh saves”).
Hosea plays the role of Yeshua-Jesus, the Husband of the “Bride of Christ.” The prophet’s intercessory role, walking out the prophecy in his own life, makes him a type of Christ, and hence, we also find him married to a harlot. The harlot experiences the consequences of her adultery and is finally pitied and redeemed in mercy. This is as much the story of the church as it is the story of Christ’s redemption, a story of her failure and Christ’s success, and a tale of tragedy and hope.
Hosea, we read, is the son of Beeri, “my fountain.” The word beer means “fountain, or well,” as in the town of Beer-sheba, “well of the oath.” The yod at the end of a word makes it possessive, hence Beeri means “my fountain” in the same way that Eli means “my God” in Matthew 27:46.
The Hebrew word beer itself is from the root word ba’ar, which means “to make clear, plain, or distinct, to explain; by analogy, to engrave.” Hence, the name of the prophet’s father is part of the revelation of his son. If Hosea represents Yeshua, the Son of God, then Beeri in some manner, represents Father God, who brings forth the Son to reveal the character and plan of His heavenly Father.
Jesus told Thomas in John 14:7,
7 If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.
Heb. 1:3 explains it further, saying, “and He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature.” So Hosea portrays the Son who is called to represent the Father in His nature and to clarify His nature—His mercy and love toward an adulterous wife.
From the first verse of this book, then, we see the prophetic foundations laid for the rest of the book. Hosea is an intercessor, not merely one who prays for another person, but one who walks out the prophecy in his own life as a great prophetic allegory. His heartache of a failed marriage is a living prayer. Because his word is combined with faith, he establishes on earth the divine plan in heaven.
Hosea is the double witness on earth of the Father in heaven. And because he wrote the book itself, engraving it with letters on clay tablets or paper, the Father’s plan is not buried in his grave, nor lost in crumbling dust, but is passed down to us as a revelation of truth.
The Timing of Hosea’s Prophecy
Hosea prophesied during the time of four kings in Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. He probably lived in Judah, since his prophecy is dated in terms of Judah’s kings. Hezekiah lived to see the conquest and deportation of the House of Israel, though God spared Judah and Jerusalem for another century. But Hosea also prophesied much earlier “during the days of Jeroboam, the son of Joash, king of Israel.” This was Jeroboam II, not to be confused with Jeroboam I, who had been the first king of Israel after the kingdom was divided.
Jeroboam II reigned 41 years (2 Kings 14:23) over the House of Israel. Like most of Israel’s kings, Jeroboam “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 14:24), particularly by not removing the golden calves from Bethel and Dan, which Jeroboam I had set up more than a century earlier (1 Kings 12:28, 29).
Uzziah of Judah began to reign in the 27th year of Jeroboam in Israel. Scripture is a little confusing, because he is given two different names. In 2 Chron. 26:1 he is called Uzziah, but in 2 Kings 15:1 he is called Azariah. Many kings had more than one name. The point is that Hosea’s prophecy began in the long reign of Jeroboam, king of Israel, but the prophet dates most of his prophecy by four successive kings of Judah.
Hosea began to prophesy a generation or two before Isaiah. Isaiah 6:1 says that his vision and commission began “in the year of Uzziah’s death.” Uzziah was crowned at the age of 16 and reigned 52 years (2 Chron. 26:3). The reigns of Jeroboam (Israel) and Uzziah (Judah) overlapped by about 12 or 13 years. The start of Hosea’s ministry (i.e., his marriage to Gomer) began while Jeroboam was yet alive, so it is safe to say that Hosea began to prophecy about 40-50 years before Isaiah’s ministry began.
Hosea and Isaiah were contemporary prophets throughout the reigns of Jotham (16 years) and Ahaz (16 years) and even into the reign of Hezekiah. It is likely that Hosea began to prophesy toward the end of Jeroboam’s long reign, say, in the 12th year of Uzziah of Judah. His marriage to Gomer, then, must have occurred during the early years of Uzziah, king in Judah, perhaps even while Jeroboam was ruling Israel.
We are given few hints about the prophet’s marriage to Gomer, except that they were married long enough to have three children before she left him for another man (or perhaps to pursue the life style of a harlot). Even so, by the time Uzziah died, the children must have become adults. We do not know precisely when the prophet found Gomer and redeemed her from bondage. If the precise timing had been recorded, we might have a major prophetic clue about the time of the great redemption at the end of the present age. But God saw fit to obscure that detail.
Hosea must have lived to a ripe old age. If he prophesied during the last 40 years of Uzziah’s reign, followed by 16 years of Jotham’s reign, and another 16 years of Ahaz’s reign, that alone is a total of 72 years. But he also lived into the reign of Hezekiah, so we can say that the days of his prophecy were 70-75 years. If he began to prophesy at the early age of 20, then he must have lived well into his 90’s.
No doubt he lived to see the Assyrian threat on the horizon, for he lived to see Hoshea crowned as the last king of Israel (2 Kings 17:1). Hoshea became king of Israel in the 12th year of Ahaz (Judah), that is, four years before Ahaz died. Hoshea reigned just nine years before Assyria conquered Samaria in 721 B.C., beginning Israel’s captivity.
Hosea and Gomer
The crowning of Hoshea in Samaria must have been of great interest to Hosea, since they carried the same name. Although the English translations translate their names as Hoshea and Hosea, the Hebrew spelling is the same. And since the Assyrians called Israel Gomer (Gimirri, Ghomri), he could not have failed to see that Hoshea’s reign over the Ghomri was the fulfillment of his own marriage with Gomer. (Gomer in Hebrew is GMR and may have been pronounced Ghomri.)
The Assyrians never called Israel by the name Israel. In the days of King Omri, son of Ahab, Israel sent ambassadors to Assyria and set up diplomatic relations with the Assyrians. From that time on, the Assyrians referred to Israel as the House of Omri, which they pronounced Beth-Ghomri, later Bit-Khumri or Beth-Humria. The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia (1970 edition) under “Omri” says,
“According to the Moabite Stone, he [Omri] subdued Moab. The Assyrians called the kingdom of Israel by his name for the rest of its existence” (p. 1471).
Merrill Unger’s book, Archeology and the Old Testament, says on page 243,
“. . . The initial contact between Israel and Assyria evidently occurred during Omri’s day, for from that time on Israel appears in cuneiform records as Bit-Humri (‘House of Omri’). This official appellation was applied to Samaria, the capital city. Moreover, the designation of an Israelite King became Mar Humri (‘son,’ i.e., ‘royal successor of Omri’). Tiglath Pileser III’s reference to the land of Israel over a century later by its official name Bit Humria evidences the significance of Omri as a ruler in the history of Israel.”
Omri, or Humri, was originally pronounced Ghomri, or Gomer. It is the same as the name of Hosea’s wife, Gomer, who prophetically represented the House of Israel. This is shown in The Old Testament in the Light of the Historical Records and Legends of Assyria and Babylonia, by Theophilus G. Pinches (1902), which tells us,
“It is noteworthy that the Assyrian form of the name Yaua (‘Jehu’) shows that the unpronounced aleph at the end was at that time sounded, so that the Hebrews must have called him Yahua (‘Hehua’). Omri was likewise pronounced in accordance with the older system, before the ghain became ayin. Humri shows that they said at the time Ghomri.”
This historical information makes Hosea’s prophecy remarkable, because it portrays Israel as a harlot wife by the same name that the Assyrians knew the nation of Israel. There is no doubt, then, that Gomer or Ghomri was both the wife of Hosea and the nation of Israel. Hence, when Hoshea became king of Israel, the prophet would have seen him as the king/husband of the faithless bride, Israel. Decades had already passed since Hosea and Gomer had gone through their prophetic experiences. They were now old (assuming that Gomer lived to an old age), and they could watch their own prophecies unfold before their very eyes.
The name Gomer literally means “complete,” and it is derived from the root word gamar, “to end, cease, leave off, fail.” Her name prophesies the failure and end of the House of Israel, and this prophecy (as we will see) is again reflected in the name of her first son, Jezreel, whose name prophesied: “I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel” (Hosea 1:4).
Gomer’s “end” was illustrated by her failed marriage to Hosea. Yet at the same time, we see a double application of the term, for her time of bondage was also to end with a great redemption. There are two “ends” inherent in her name. The first is negative, the second is positive. The first is the result of her violation of the Old Covenant (marriage); the second “end” is the redemption resulting from God’s fulfillment of His New Covenant vow.
When we understand the historical context of the book of Hosea, we are able to understand how the story of the prophet’s failed marriage, Gomer’s harlotry and departure, and finally her redemption in mercy gives us an outline of Israel’s history up to the present time.
That story is not a Jewish story, but the story of the tribes of Joseph who carried the Birthright. This story is largely unknown to the Church, because most have assumed that the Jews were Israel. Hence, they have not searched for the “lost sheep” of Israel (Ezekiel 34:6). But Judah was not Israel, nor did those nations carry the same calling.
If Bible teachers had known that the lost sheep of the House of Israel lost their name and were known to historians by the name of Ghomri, Khumri, or Humria, they could have traced their migrations into Europe. More important, they would have known that those Israelites were never called Jews, nor are they the Jews to this day. The entire foundation of popular prophetic teaching and eschatology rests upon a faulty foundation and must be remade into another vessel that actually holds water.
The story of Hosea and Gomer alone goes a long way in helping us to understand the truth of God’s plan.