Hosea – Restoring Covenant
Passages to Consider: Hosea 1:2-9, 1:10-2:7, 2:14-23, 6:1-11, 14:1-9
See Also Luke 15:11-24
Hosea prophesied to people who sinned purposefully and saw their nation crumbling.
God used Hosea’s life as a metaphor for his message.
Notes on the Passages
1:2-9 – God uses the prophet to make a point to the people. The life of the restorer is a life of hardship. For a relationship to be truly restored, we must first attempt to see our behavior from the point of view of the other party.
1:10-2:7 – God is jealous for His covenant. God wants to bring His people back, even in the face of all they have done to Him. If God’s people are distant form Him, He will create circumstances in their lives that make them remember Him. He will not restore by force, but He will make the alternative either unreachable or undesirable.
2:14-23 – Restoration is much like courtship, where God is trying to win the affections of His beloved. God will demonstrate the faithfulness He demands.
3:1-5 – Restoration cannot happen until the people of God want it to.
5:15-6:11 – For Israel, a covenant with God was merely “better than the alternative.” When they felt like they could live without it, they would try to do so. What God wants from covenant is loyalty, not just rituals.
14:1-9 – To the one who is loyal to God, keeping the covenant seems right. To the disloyal, the very same actions seem wrong.
What a Covenant Is
A covenant is a document outlining the terms of the relationship between a king and his subjects.
Six Aspects of a Covenant
1. Not negotiated
The terms on the covenant are imposed on the subjects by the king. The role of the vassal is not to determine what the covenant ought to be, but to obey it. Vassals have no rights, but only privileges and obligations under the terms of the covenant. They likewise have no recourse if the Suzerain fails to deliver other than to appeal to a more powerful king to make them his vassal.
2. Sealed by blood
When a covenant is made, it is said to be “cut.” Typically this involves killing an animal, separating it into two piles of pieces, and having both parties pass through the remains as if to say, “May I be like this animal if I violate this covenant.” See Genesis 15:7-18
3. Based on history
A covenant between a king and his subjects (or superior and lesser king) typically lists all the ways the vassal has benefited from the relationship in the past. Covenants typically were not cut between strangers. Likewise, covenants often served to ratify and codify (and oftentimes enhance) the present reality rather than create a new condition of servitude. See Exodus 20:2, Deuteronomy 5:6.
4. Proclaimed aloud
When a covenant was ratified, the terms were known to all parties. Witnesses were often called to acknowledge the covenant’s existence and terms. See Leviticus 9:23-24, as “The glory of the Lord” appears to sanctify the tabernacle in view of all the people. See also Deuteronomy 27:9-13.
5. Prominently placed within the community.
Oftentimes, a covenant would include a clause requiring it to be read by the vassal regularly. The covenant was stored in the most important place in the community, often a temple. The Suzerain and the vassal each had a copy. See Exodus 31:18, 32:15-16, Deuteronomy 27:1-8.
6. Rewards and punishments are clear and unambiguous.
In human covenants, the primary purpose was to keep peace. This was best accomplished by making sure everyone knew what to expect from everyone else. Those who violated that peace disturbed the good order of the empire, and were punished. Those who were active in maintaining the peace were likewise rewarded. The goal of the Mosaic covenant was “shalom,” or harmony within the community and between Israel and God. Most of what is commanded in the Law enhances that fellowship, while most of what is prohibited obstructs the relationship.
Example of covenant texts in the Old Testament – Genesis 15, Deuteronomy 30
Restoration is the act of putting something back in its original condition.
In the prophets, restoration is:
1. An act of God.
Restoration happens because God decides to make it happen. His love motivates Him to do what is necessary to live in relationship with His people, even if those people have forsaken Him. Whenever there is a threat of punishment in the prophets, there is at least an implication of eventual restoration. See Psalm 85
2. Dependent on human response.
People have to want to be restored before God will bring it about.
3. A result of belief as well as repentance.
God wants what is best for His people. He only needs His people to rust Him and to cooperate with His plans. Even the prophet himself must believe that restoration is the will of God.
When restoration happens, it is as dramatic as the initial delivery of Israel from Egypt.
Questions for Discussion
How does the marriage covenant compare with our covenant relationship with God? How is it different?
Have the people of God historically been continuously faithful for any extended period of time?
How does Hosea’s life parallel God’s efforts to restore His covenant with Israel?
How does God try to get His people’s attention so that covenant can be restored?
Once God and His people decide to restore their covenant, by what process does it happen?