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Hosea, Joel, and Amos


Hosea, one of the minor prophets active in the 8th century b.c., suffers more than any other book in the Bible from disputes over its wording due to differences among text families. Even so, it carries the familiar teachings of the Sinai Covenant concerning sin, judgment, salvation, the love of God, and the constant tension between steadfast love and the need to purge sin.

Joel focuses mostly on Judah and Jerusalem, and he was a significant prophet in spite of the shortness of the book. He writes more technically than poetically, and very boldly and to the point.

Amos was a shepherd and an expert on certain kinds of trees, who was given prophetic insight two years before the earthquake, though there’s disagreement over which one is meant. He was sent to warn the northern kingdom of Israel, whose appearance of prosperity was a thin veneer over corruption and inhumanity.


As noted in other lessons, the life of an Old Testament prophet was not a life of ease. Not only were the messengers typically shot in one way or another, they were also required to be living object lessons, which came with both physical and psychological hardship. For Hosea it starts right away; he is to marry a prostitute who will bear other men’s children, as an illustration of how Israel had been behaving with God, to whom she was married by covenant. But Hosea’s wife would also bear children by him, and they were named for different stages or aspects of the judgments to come upon Israel. Judgment’s purpose is cleansing, and a few always remain. Yet those few are always multiplied through God’s blessings, only to become unfaithful again in time. As the saying goes, Lather, rinse, repeat.

As part of that cycle, we see in ch. 2 the stage where God keeps pleading with Israel to come back to him and remain faithful, so he can bless them. It’s no different with us today; God has to restrain himself from blessing us because we stray and don’t listen. And by blessing I don’t mean material and physical things, but spiritual, since in this age of grace the kingdom of God isn’t physical.

Then we see the stage where God finally has to drop the hammer on them and take back all the blessings they had claimed were the gifts of false gods. But then comes the stage where God promises to one day convince Israel to return to him and be faithful. He will make a new covenant, this time with nature itself to prosper Israel’s faithful remnant, and with other nations to leave them in peace.

Now in ch. 3 God tells Hosea to buy back his continually-cheating wife. She had lost her legal status as his wife, so to take her back was to re-marry her, and custom required a price be paid, either to the woman or to her parents. This was to illustrate how God would re-acquire Israel in spite of its cheating heart.

In ch. 4 that the pattern has gone full-circle back to the list of Israel’s crimes, their breaking of the terms of the covenant to which they had originally sworn. And this included as always the priesthood, who were not exempt from the consequences of their actions. The Christian community has had a long habit of excusing the sins of its leaders in an un-Biblical chain of command, when leaders and mentors are to be held to higher standards.

Verse 11 details the secret practices of idolatry in Israel, their acts of spiritual unfaithfulness. And notice in verse 14 that God, unlike society, holds men to the same standards of faithfulness as women. Culture for most of history has applauded men for the same behavior that has gotten women beaten or condemned to death.

Since we’ve seen the complete cycle, there’s not much more to remark about for the rest of the book. Israel’s people sin, get punished, repent, then see that God has shown mercy and go back to square one, over and over again… just like many Christians today, who seem completely unaware of teachings such as Rom. 6:2: We died to sin; how can we keep living in it? They take the grace and mercy of God as a legal loophole, and only do what they think is the minimum required to go to heaven. What kind of relationship is that? Can such an attitude come from a truly saved person?

But there is one noteworthy prophetic statement in 10:8 about people crying out to the rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from the wrath of God; it is quoted in Rev. 6:16.


Joel begins by using a recent series of locust infestations to illustrate the waves of judgment to come upon Judah. God brings judgment in stages out of mercy, giving people at each stage the chance to repent and prevent further calamity. This is most clearly seen in Revelation with its sequence of three sets of seven judgments, each more intense and wide-ranging than the one before. In verse 5 God calls them to wake up and repent, not just wake up as is popular today. Judgment had already begun, but that was indeed only the beginning. The next step would be to wail and mourn, as we see in verse 8. Then in verse 15 we see the familiar phrase, the Day of the Lord, a term referring to God’s destruction of a present evil situation, followed by the restoration of the kingdom of Israel. Its ultimate fulfillment is commonly referred to as the Tribulation and Millennium.

In ch. 2 we see a description that has no historical fulfillment, though some commentaries put it in the past, in spite of the end of verse 2. The devastation of this army is extreme, and the description starting in verse 5 is much like the one we see in Rev. 9:1-10 at the sixth Trumpet judgment about the army of locust-like beings from the Abyss. That these are not literal locusts or horses or a mere human army is clear in verse 6: People writhe in fear at the sight of them, and they seem superhuman in their assault.

This passage continues with imagery used in Revelation, but then a huge wrench is thrown into our assumption of this army’s identity in verse 11, where it’s called the Lord’s Army. There are two ways to take this: Either this army is of heavenly beings who take back the land of Israel at Jesus’ return after the Tribulation, or it’s called the Lord’s Army because he ordered it to execute his wrath. I lean toward the second view, all things considered. And the end of the verse is another one quoted in Rev. 6:17.

Yet again, as seen beginning in verse 12, God always offers mercy to those who repent. The wording is clearly aimed at the people of Zion or Israel as a whole. Then God responds and promises relief when it’s all over. Verse 25 is the familiar promise of God to repay with interest the years of loss and suffering, and the promise that Israel would never again be put to shame makes it clearly a yet-future fulfillment. It’s only at that time, as we see in verse 28, that God will do what Peter quoted on Pentecost: pour out his Spirit on all people, though the commentaries all hold that this refers to the people of Israel. All of them, without discrimination by social class or gender, will be in tune with God to the point where having prophetic dreams and visions will be commonplace.

It’s in this context that the cosmic signs starting in verse 30 will be seen: blood, fire, smoke, the sun turned dark and the moon turned to blood— before the terrible Day of the Lord. Yet in Mat. 24:29-31, Jesus said this would happen after the Tribulation, and Rev. 6:12–14 has them happening at the sixth Seal judgment, which is not the end but more toward the beginning. If we pay attention to all that, we should humble ourselves when it comes to our views on prophecy, because it’s more complex than most realize.

Look at ch. 3 for what we’ve seen in other lessons: God will bring back the remnant to the physical land of Israel. But it has two purposes, which are not only to bless Israel but also to punish and destroy its enemies. So we should, once again, expect to see Israel being attacked before we see them rescued, and they’ve been in position for that final attack since 1948. Like it or not, there is a nation of Israel in the land and in unbelief, though they had been scattered for almost 2,000 years— so that God can bring their enemies against them to purify them, and then deal with the enemies.

Verse 2 is the familiar reference to what many interpret as the Battle of Armageddon, described here as the Valley of Jehoshaphat, which some also say is the Valley of Jezreel. At the very least, it means the place of God’s judgment, and the crime is for dividing the land that belongs to God. The nations have been obsessed with this since 1948. And the devaluing of human life as in verse 3 is going on in our day. Then God turns to demand from the enemy nations their reasons for attacking him. He takes it personally when his people are oppressed, whether they’re Jews or Christians, and payback will certainly come in due time.

In verse 9 we see the Valley of Jehoshaphat named, but this passage is more known for verse 10, the reverse of Isaiah 2:4 which is disingenuously inscribed on the U.N. building. Here God mocks the nations by telling them they’ll need every able body for their armies, but it will do them no good. In verse 13 we see another Revelation reference, from Rev. 14:19, about treading out the grapes of God’s wrath. The cosmic disturbances are repeated after that, and it’s all God’s wrath against the nations who attack Israel. Then at last Israel will turn to God and their land will be blessed. You may recall that the spring of water coming from the Millennial Temple in verse 18 was described in the later chapters of Isaiah.


Amos begins with the crimes Damascus has committed. Though his people deserve what they get, God also judges those who come against then. Constable’s Notes observes that the order of judgments is like a hawk circling its prey; the circles get smaller as the hawk descends. So Damascus, as representative of Syria, is in the outer ring of targets as God begins to home in on Israel.

As with Hosea, Amos will repeat a pattern for each group of people: List the crimes, justify the punishment, describe the punishment, and conclude the case. In other words, This is what you did, this is why you must be punished, this is how you’ll be punished, and this is the result of the punishment. But as you read along, you may notice in verse 15 a phrase often twisted to condemn those who pray for Jesus to return: Woe to those who wish for the Day of the Lord! What do such people do with passages like John 14:1-3, 2 Tim. 4:8, Heb. 9:28, and Rev. 1:7? If they actually kept things in context, they’d see that the Body of Christ looks forward to it because we’ll be snatched up to heaven, while the wicked dread it because their time of judgment has come.

In particular, as we see in verse 21, God finds empty worship revolting, which is what Israel was doing— and many Christians also do. The wording here is that God is covering his ears and shouting Shut up, make it stop!, because their wickedness in dailiy living couldn’t be hidden by a few songs and rituals.

In ch. 6 God aims at the elite rulers of Israel, who were in denial of their wickedness and impending doom. Rather than being immune from the fate of the commoners, they would be the first taken into exile, because they despised justice and showed no mercy to the poor.

In ch. 7 Amos pleads for mercy on Israel, and God relents from some of the judgments he had shown Amos. But God can’t ignore their sins forever, since love protects victims against perpetrators, which Israel’s ruling class and idolatrous population were. Then in verse 10 Amos is conspired against and accused of prophesying for— profit. But he had done nothing of the sort, so he boldly speaks doom to the king’s face.

Ch. 8 goes back to general judgments on the nation, whose only thought during holy festivals was waiting for them to end so they could get back to profiteering and partying. The sun going down at noon in this context likely is an analogy of the kingdom falling when it thought it was at its zenith. The famine in verse 11 was, as stated there, a famine of divine revelation. God will eventually stop speaking to the wicked and to people who substitute religion for relationship. This happened to Israel in the time between Malachi and Matthew which lasted about 400 years.

Then it’s back to judgments in ch. 9, where we see that trying to hid either from the love or the wrath of God is futile. But verse 11 is what James quoted in the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15: In that day I will rebuild David’s collapsed hut. That day was still future to the early church, but the quotation there was to show that God had turned from Israel to the Gentiles for the time being. The book ends with the promise of the Millennial Kingdom.

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