Without dispute our prophet is one of the obscurest and most difficult to unfold clearly and fully. Though he come not, as Isaiah and Amos do sometimes, nor as Ezekiel and Zechariah do frequently, with visions; yet his sententious and concise style, peculiar to himself, renders it many times difficult to find out first, and to declare next the genuine and undoubted sense of his words. In expounding this prophet, the expositor needs the candour of his reader, and the reader owes his expositor thanks if he make some darker passages fairly intelligible, though he do not demonstrate his exposition to be the only sense of the place. This latter is not pretended to; the former it is hoped the reader will find in the most, if not in every obscure passage. It was a very debauched age our prophet did live in, and you will find him very sharp against the vices of the ten tribes, and very plain and open in his threats for their sins, which he saw punished; for he lived to see Samaria taken, and Hoshea made a prisoner, and the people carried captives. As it is not agreed when he began, so nor is it agreed how long he continued to prophesy.
The kings of Judah and of Israel, in whose time he first appeared a prophet, were of long reigns; the one forty-one, the other fifty-two; in which long space of time very different beginnings may be conjectured. All agree that he continued a prophet very long, seventy years at least, and some add more years, and make them up ninety. The sum of what he prophesied is here given us in short heads, rather than in a continued discourse. And as it was preached in Israel. (though we read not of the places where Hosea either lived, or died, or did preach, it is most likely within the hearing of the court,) so it doth more particularly refer to Israel or the ten tribes: declaring to them what were their sins; advising them to repent; promising them mercy upon sincere repentance; threatening grievous judgments on their impenitence; foretelling their rejection if they did not amend; and, for the comfort of the godly, predicting mercy to them; intermixing many promises of the future kingdom and coming of the Messiah, to whom many should be converted, and by him be saved, and especially many of the two tribes, who hear from our prophet a more comfortable message (viz. of returning to their own land) than Israel, which must not expect any such return, i.e. for the whole body of the people. And he closeth his whole prophecy either with a form of confession and supplication for the remnant returned, or a prediction in what manner they would return, confess, supplicate, and rely upon God alone; to which duty performed, he adjoineth sweet and excellent promises, containing both temporal and spiritual blessings, Ho 14.