The last twelve books of the Old Testament are called simply “The Twelve” or the “Minor Prophets.” They are “minor” not because they are unimportant, but because they are smaller than the other prophetical books. Keep in mind as you read them that the work of the prophet was not to “foretell” the future, but to call God’s people to remember their covenant with Him, remind them of the blessings of that covenant, and warn them of the consequences of violating it.
The following minor prophets did their work during the Divided Kingdom Period (when there was a Northern Kingdom, Israel, and a Southern Kingdom, Judah). Hosea, Joel, Amos, Jonah, and Nahum. The period covers the years 800 – 722 B.C.
In the case of Hosea, God allowed him to marry Gomer, a woman whose background disposed her to unfaithfulness. True to her heritage, she cheated on him at every turn, bore three children – none of whom belonged to Hosea – and finally left Hosea to indulge her passions.
As always happens however, her lovers eventually grew tired of her and finally, with no one who really cared for her, she was sold as a slave.
You have to wonder what Hosea’s neighbors were saying about him – what a rotten deal he had gotten, how unfair it was that he was stuck caring for the children of his wife’s adulteries. Hosea could have said: “Good riddance,” found a wife who would love him, and gotten on with his life. But he didn’t. Instead, he grieved over his lost love. Finally, he bought her out of slavery, and brought her home.
Now imagine what the neighbors thought! Not only was his behavior beyond the understanding, but they may have considered it a violation of God’s law (Deuteronomy 24:1ff)!
But the story of Hosea and Gomer is the story of God and his people. His people were unfaithful to him beyond all excuse, but God loved them still and the story of God’s enduring, persistent love, seen in the love of Hosea for Gomer, was intended to shame Israel into faithfulness.
The book can be outlined as follows:
I) The story of Hosea and Gomer – Chapters 1-3
II) Israel’s unfaithfulness recounted – Chapters 4-13
III) God’s enduring love proclaimed – Chapter 14