Hosea ("Jehovah has redeemed,") was the son of Beeri, a citizen of the kingdom of Israel. He was an early contemporary of Isaiah and Micah. But while these two prophets preached in the southern kingdom, Hosea prophesied in the midst of the northern kingdom, which he regularly called Ephraim, which was then, in the eighth century before Christ, at the zenith of its power. Jeroboam II had greatly enlarged the borders of the land, so that the material prosperity of the country became proverbial. But to this outward glory of the kingdom its moral corruption corresponded, for shameless idolatry went hand in hand with an open transgression of all the commandments of the Second Table. The people of the land forgot and forsook the true God and followed after false gods. Hos_1:2; Hos_2:5-13; Hos_3:1; Hos_4:17.
The prophecies of Hosea fully take these conditions into account, for the two sections of his book, clearly as they are distinguished 1-3 and 4-14 both treat of the faithlessness of Israel and of the divine love which calls His people to repentance. In the first part of the book, which seems to have been written toward the end of Jeroboam's reign, the prophet sternly reproves the people for their spiritual adultery and admonishes them to repent. In the second part, which seems to presuppose the unsettled conditions following the death of Jeroboam, the prophet announces to the godless and self-hardened people of his nation the inevitable judgment of the Lord. The entire section may be subdivided into three parts: Hos_4:1 to Hos_6:3; Hos_6:4 to Hos_11:12; Hos_12:1 to Hos_14:9, each concluding with a thought opening up a brighter future to such as will heed the Lord's admonition.
The style of the book is unique, with a strong character of individuality and an equally strong subjective trend. It is rich in bold and strong figures, often with passages of marked beauty, sometimes rather abrupt, particularly in passing rapidly from one picture to another. The vocabulary is sometimes strange and the language involved, with peculiar grammatical constructions.
Hosea has some Messianic passages of singular power and beauty; for while he declares that the Lord must and will disown His reprobate children, he says, at the same time, that Jehovah will gather for Himself a numerous people. He predicts that in the days of the Messiah the true Israel, including men from all nations of the world, shall return and seek the Lord and shall fear Him and His goodness.