Hosea preached in Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II (2 Kgs 14:23-29), while Uzziah (2 Kgs 15:1-7), Jotham (2 Kgs 15:32-38), Ahaz (2 Kings 16), and Hezekiah (2 Kings 18-20) ruled in Judah. Hosea thus witnessed the political, social, and, economic demise—and deportation—of Israel, and the near end of Judah. Both Israel and Judah had adopted pagan idolatry and worship of Baal from the surrounded nations. On the plains of Moab, Moses looked to Canaan and predicted that Israel would enter the land but be deported for her idolatry (Deut 31:24-30). Hosea recorded God’s case against His people.
Hosea’s message was that God’s people had committed adultery by foregoing their covenant with Him and turning instead to Baal. Both Jeremiah (Jer 3:6-10) and Ezekiel (ch. 16) would indict the people on similar grounds. Israel’s adultery grieved God’s heart—and the Lord commanded Hosea to marry an unfaithful wife so that Hosea’s marriage with Gomer would testify to the Lord’s relationship with Israel.
In Romans 9-11, Paul employed phrases from Hosea 1-3 to explain salvation history. Paul’s repeated use of the early chapters of Hosea suggests that Paul identified with Hosea’s argument that God would punish Israel for her sin but demonstrate mercy to a remnant for His name’s sake. One of the most difficult tasks before the apostle was to explain why so many Gentiles were coming to faith in Christ, but the Jews—the very people of the Messiah by race—had by and large rejected Him. Paul’s use of Hosea in Romans 9-11 underscores Scripture as a storyline that finds its fulfillment in Christ for both Jews and Gentiles.
(1) In Rom 9:25-26, Paul combined Hos 2:23 and 1:10 to provide a scriptural basis for God’s call upon Gentiles. In Hos 2:14-23, the prophet declared that God would restore Israel to Himself and reverse her destitute state. Israel would call the Lord, and not Baal, her husband (Hos 2:16). No longer would Israel play the harlot but because of the Lord’s righteousness, justice, love, and compassion, she would be known as His bride (Hos 2:19-20). Those whom the Lord had cast off and from whom He had withheld compassion would receive His compassion and again be called His people (Hos 2:23). Hosea’s statement in Hos 2:23 reflects what the prophet wrote in Hos 1:10, “In the place where they were told: You are not My people, they will be called: sons of the living God.” In both Hos 2:23 and 1:10, the prophet had in mind the Lord’s mercy upon Israel as the Lord restored the nation to Himself. In Paul’s day, many Jews considered the Gentiles cast-offs in salvation history; God had chosen Israel to be His people. Paul used Hosea’s prophecy to substantiate God’s call of non-Jews to salvation in Christ. “What if God,” Paul wrote, “desiring to display His wrath and make His power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction?” (Rom 9:22). Paul emphasized that the prophecy of Hosea that he was citing in Rom 9:25-26 was God’s word, writing, “As He also says in Hosea: I will call ‘Not-My-People,’ ‘My-People,’ and she who is ‘Unloved,’ ‘Beloved.’ And it will be in the place where they were told, you are not My people, there they will be called sons of the living God” (Rom 9:22-26). In Paul’s mind, God’s mercy to Israel in Hosea’s day was being expressed to both Jews and Gentiles in Christ.
(2) In Rom 11:23, Paul described the possibility of Israel being awakened to God just as Hosea prophesied in Hos 3:5. The prophet noted that Israel would, for a time, be devoid of king, prince, sacrifice, or idols. In exile, they would have nothing. “Afterwards,” Hosea proclaimed, “the people of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come with awe to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days” (Hos 3:5). In Romans 9-11, Paul described God’s righteousness toward both Gentiles and Jews. Concerning the latter, Paul wrote in Rom 11:23 that if they would believe upon Christ, they would be restored to God and His church consisting of Jews and Gentiles. “For God has imprisoned all in disobedience, so that He may have mercy on all,” Paul concluded (Rom 11:32).