A Teaching Outline of Hosea

Bryce Sandlin  |  Southwestern Journal of Theology Vol. 18 - Fall 1975


The study of the book of Hosea is timely for the people of God in the last half of the twentieth century. The condition in the churches today is similar to that in Israel in the middle of the eighth century B.C. Israel had become conformed to her cultural environment and had adulterated Yahwism with the cultic practices of the religion of the Canaanites, hoping to secure the blessings of fertility and productivity. The details may be different but the reality of what has taken place in the churches is similar: the prostitution of the church to materialism and to pragmatic religion, i.e., to what produces results. It is firmly believed that the pastor who takes seriously the opportunity to teach the message of Hosea will find his efforts relevant but difficult, as did the prophet. This outline and bibliography are offered with the prayer that they will enhance the study of the book of Hosea for the busy pastor who must take time from an already busy schedule to make preparation for a week’s study in his church.

There are two unequal sections in the book of Hosea, composed of chapters 1-3 and 4-14. The theme of the first becomes the constantly recurring refrain in the second: Israel’s unfaithfulness to the covenant relation with Yahweh. The tragedy which Hosea experienced in his own marriage becomes a paradigm of the national experience, and as paradigm it must not be allowed to overshadow the deeper tragedy of a faithless people forsaking a loving God.


Outline of Hosea

Superscription, 1:1

Hosea: the man and his times

A Broken Marriage and a Chastened Wife
Chapters 1-3

  1. A wife and children of harlotry, 1:2-2:1
    1. The prophet’s personal tragedy/Israel’s apostasy and punishment, 1:2-9The present character and future punishment of Israel are symbolized by the unfaithfulness of Gomer and the names of her children.
      1. Gomer: a wife of harlotries, 2-3
      2. Jezreel: a son of judgment, 4-5
      3. Lo-ruhamah: a daughter unpitied, 6-7
      4. Lo-ammi: a son unclaimed, 8-9
    2. The future restoration of an unfaithful people, 1:10-2:1
      1. A people accepted, 10
      2. A people reconciled, 11
      3. A people loved, 2:1
  2. An unfaithful wife/people and a redeeming God, 2:2-23
    1. The cause and effect of harlotry, 2:2-13
      1. A plea for reformation and return, 2-4
      2. The root of harlotry: the pursuit of life’s needs and pleasures, 5
      3. Discipline of the harlot, 6-13
        1. The hope of discipline: return to her husband, 6-8
        2. The nature of discipline, 9-12
          1. Withholding of needs and pleasures, 9
          2. Revelation of the shame of harlotry, 10
          3. Cessation of festivities, 11
          4. Destruction of harlot’s wages, 12
        3. The reason for discipline: religious prostitution, 13
    2. The rebetrothal of an unfaithful wife, 2:14-23
      1. It necessitates a new beginning, 14-15
      2. It results in a purified cult, 16-17
      3. It effects a new covenant, 18
      4. It is characterized by a new relationship, 19-20
      5. It is symbolized in new names, 21-23
  3. An adulterous woman/people reclaimed, 3: 1-5
    1. Redemption dictated by undaunted love, 1-2
    2. Purification necessary for restoration, 3-4
    3. Restoration for the redeemed and purified, 5

A Nation Dissolved and a People Transformed
Chapters 4-14

  1. The grounds for dissolution, 4:1-7:7
    1. Israel possessed by a spirit of harlotry, 4: 1-19
      1. The evidence of harlotry, 1-3
        1. Apostasy in religion, 1
        2. Anarchy in government, 2
        3. Disturbances in nature, 3
      2. The guilt of religious leaders, 4-10
        1. Priests affect past (your mother), present (you), and future (your children), 4-6
        2. Multiplication of harlotrous worship results in subtraction of desired blessings, 7-10
      3. The spirit of harlotry leads the people to ruin, 11-14
        1. They lose understanding, 11-12
        2. Family life degenerates, 13-14
      4. Sister Judah given warning, 15-16
        1. Stay away from Israel’s sanctuaries, 15
        2. Avoid Israel’s stubborn character 16
      5. Ephraim/Israel is beyond help, 17-19
        1. Married to idols, 17
        2. A band of drunkards, 18
        3. Wrapped in a wind, 19
    2. Israel’s condition incurable, 5:1-14
      1. Religious and civil leadership under judgment, 1-2
        1. Their character-a snare, a net, a pit, 1-2a
        2. Their judgment- chastisement for all, 2b
      2. Ephraim epitomizes the sin of Israel, 3-4
        1. Ephraim’s harlotry defiled Israel, 3
        2. Israel’s deeds prevent repentance, 4
      3. Israel proud in her waywardness, 5-7
        1. Pride goes before a fall, 5
        2. Sacrifices will not help, 6
        3. Faithless wives and alien children devoured 7
      4. The harlot’s punishment is imminent, 8-14
        1. War between sisters, 8-12
          1. Warning to border towns, 8-9
          2. Treacherous Judah inundated m Yahweh’s wrath, 10
          3. Ephraim oppressed and left desolate, 11
          4. Israel and Judah consumed, 12
        2. No healing/protection available, 13-14
          1. Assyria cannot protect, 13
          2. Yahweh will not help, but will destroy, 14
    3. Repentance not possible for Israel, 5: 15-7:7
      1. A momentary ray of hope, 5:15-6:3
        1. The basis for hope: Yahweh’s withdrawal, 5: 15
        2. The desired result: repentance, 6: 1-3
      2. But Israel’s love is only superficial, 6:4-6
        1. Repentance is like a morning cloud, 4
        2. Judgment is sure to come, 5
        3. Israel cannot meet Yahweh’s demands 6
      3. The spirit of harlotry controls Israel’s conduct, 6:7-11a
        1. Covenant-breakers, 7
        2. Murderers, 8-9
        3. Filled with harlotry, 10
        4. Judah not to escape either, 11a
      4. The depravity of Israel, 6:11b-7:7
        1. Restoration prevented by character, 6:11b-7:2
        2. Moral depravity supported by the king, 3-7
  2. Dissolution determined by senseless politics and adulterated religion, 7:8-10:15
    1. National confusion, international indecision, and religious desperation, 7:8-8:3
      1. Israel’s condition the result of pollution by foreign ideologies, 8-10
        1. She is inconsistent and ignorant, 8-9
        2. She remains unrepentant in humiliation, 10
      2. Israel becomes senseless in international relations 11-13
        1. She is like a trapped bird, 11-12
        2. Her problem is rebellion against Yahweh, 13
      3. Israel resorts to religious desperation and treachery 14-16
        1. Yahweh is forsaken for religion that “produces results,” 14-15
        2. Treachery is the nature of Israel, 16
      4. Israel’s doom is sounded abroad, 8:1-3
        1. Destruction hovers over the body, 1a
        2. A broken covenant is the cause, 1b
        3. Deeds belie profession, 2-3
    2. Puppet kings and manipulated gods, 8:4-14
      1. Israel makes her kings and gods, 4-6
        1. Yahweh is ignored in coronation of king, 4
        2. Idolatry inflames Yahweh, 5-6
      2. Tornadic forces shall destroy and purge Israel, 7-10
        1. No food will remain, 7
        2. No influence can be exerted, 8
        3. No sense is evident, 9
        4. No political system will remain, 10
      3. Israel is sensual, insensitive, and forgetful, 11-14
        1. Sinning sanctuaries, 11
        2. Meaningless laws, 12
        3. Useless sacrifices, 13
        4. Worthless security, 14
    3. Harlotrous religion, 9:1-17
      1. The hire of a harlot, 1-6
        1. It enticed Israel away from Yahweh, 1
        2. It produced only destruction, 2-3
        3. It is ineffective and disappointing, 4-6
      2. The heart of harlotry, 7-9
        1. It makes wrong appraisals of the prophetic message, 7
        2. It causes the mistreatment of the prophets, 8
        3. It has a corrupt nature, 9
      3. The history of Israel’s harlotry, 10-17
        1. It was evident in the wilderness, 10-14
        2. It was demonstrated in the land of promise, 15
        3. It continues to the present moment, 16-17
    4. Prosperity and prostitution, 10:1-15
      1. Prosperity produces a spirit of independence and idolatry, 1-8
        1. Bumper crops and beautiful idols, 1
        2. Broken vows and shattered altars, 2
        3. Civil anarchy and religious rebellion, 3-4
        4. Insecurity and impermanence, 5-6
        5. Political desolation and religious despair, 7-8
      2. A history of apostasy and a fitting retribution, 10:9-15
        1. The double sin at Gibeah will be punished, 9-10
        2. The status will be reversed, 11
        3. The opportunity for reformation is offered, 12
        4. The harvest is determined by the ploughing, 13-15
  3. A stay of execution before dissolution, 11:1-11
    1. A review of God’s love and Israel’s response, 1-7
      1. Analogies of God’s love, 1, 3a, 4
        1. Like a father, calling and training a son, 1, 3a
        2. Like a farmer, grooming and feeding the oxen, 4
      2. Description of Israel’s response, 2, 3b, 5-7
        1. The nature of her response: straying, ignorance, rebellion, 2b, 3b, 7a
        2. The punishment she receives: captivity, devastation, slavery, 5, 6, 7b
    2. God’s “relenting” love, 11:8-11
      1. The inner struggle it causes, 8
        1. Anguish over the plight of Israel, 8ab
        2. The triumph of compassion, 8c
      2. The decisive action it takes, 9
        1. Israel spared when Yahweh relents, 9a
        2. The divine nature prevails, 9b
      3. The redemption it achieves, 10-11
        1. Israel returns to Yahweh, 10
        2. A people returns to the homeland, 11
  4. The past and present disposition of Israel dictates dissolution, 11:12-13:16
    1. Israel’s patriarchal history characterized by deceit and betrayal, 11:12-12: 14
      1. Jacob’s/Ephraim’s distrust of Yahweh’s protection, 11:12-12:1
        1. Deceit in relation to Yahweh, 11:12
        2. Futility in relation to Assyria, 12:1
      2. Jacob’s manipulation of Yahweh’s presence, 2-6
        1. A warning: self-determination brings destruction, 2-4
        2. An exhortation: repent and trust Yahweh, 5-6
      3. Ephraim’s rejection of Yahweh’s providence, 7-9
      4. (Israel’s denial of Yahweh’s guidance, 10-11
      5. Jacob’s refusal of Yahweh’s direction, 12-14
    2. Israel’s/Ephraim’s true character causes her destruction, 13:1-16
      1. Dissipation of strength, 1-3
      2. Destruction by her savior, 4-8
      3. Impotent leaders, 9-11
      4. Abortion before rebirth, 12-13
      5. Death is certain, 14-16
  5. The future restoration and transformation of the people, 14:1-8
    1. The requirements for restoration, 1-3
      1. Conversion (return), 1
      2. Confession, 2
      3. Contrition, 3
    2. The blessings of restoration, 4-7
      1. Healing, 4a
      2. Unmerited favor, 4b
      3. Refreshing, 5
      4. Productivity, 6, 7b
      5. Protection, 7a
    3. The source of restoration, 8
      1. Idols are of no help, 8a
      2. Yahweh alone answers her needs, 8b
  6. Epilogue, 14:9
    1. A call for wisdom regarding the words of the prophet: they are the ways of the Lord.


An Annotated Bibliography


Cheyne, T. K. Hosea. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Cambridge: At the University Press, 1899.

First published in 1884, this volume remains a helpful tool in the study of Hosea. The author was among the foremost biblical scholars of his generation. The exegesis provides insights into passages that, although brief, are unsurpassed in more recent studies.

Harper, William Rainey. Amos and Hosea. The International Critical Commentary. Edinburgh: T & T. Clark, 1905.

The classic work on the critical and exegetical study of the Hebrew text. There is very little background material; it is to be found preceding each section of the text.

Honeycutt, Roy L., Jr. “Hosea.” In The Broadman Bible Commentary,7:1-60. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1972.

A brief verse by verse exegesis with practical applications and illustrations on many verses. One of the better volumes of the set.

Mauchline, John. “The Book of Hosea: Introduction and Exegesis.” In The Interpreter’s Bible, 6:553-725. New York: Abingdon Press, 1956.

A format in four parts: Introduction, Text in KJV and RSV, Exegesis, and Exposition (the exposition by Harold Cooke Phillips). Helpful discussion on the literary types in Hosea. Critical and exegetical, resorting to textual emendations at times to reconstruct the very bad state of the text.

Mays, James L. Hosea: A Commentary. The Old Testament Library. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969.

A verse by verse commentary, with background material concerning Hosea the man, the times, the sayings, the message; in readable type. Theological and critical. A refreshing honesty on the difficult nature of the text.

Myers, Jacob M. “Hosea.” In The Layman’s Bible Commentary, 14:7-71. Richmond, Va.: John Knox Press, 1959.

A brief study of the basic materials in the book of Hosea. Though designed for the layman, this little book will be of great value in a study that is limited timewise because the comments are to the point.

Smith, George Adam. The Book of the Twelve Prophets, Vol. 1. The Expositor’s Bible. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1908.

Perhaps the one outstanding work of the past generation on the Minor Prophets. The author’s familiarity with Semitic backgrounds provides a wealth of illustrative and interpretative material.

Ward, James M. Hosea: A Theological Commentary. New York: Harper & Row, 1966.

Provides a summary of the best literature on Hosea. The treatment of various theological ideas alone makes it a valuable aid in the interpretation of Hosea’s message for today.


The following articles are found in the July 1961 issue of Interpretation, a journal of Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. The four articles are well worth the effort to secure a copy.

Eichrodt, Walter. “The Holy One in Your Midst: The Theology of Hosea,” pp. 259-73.

Very helpful in understanding the suffering of the prophet as his coming to understand God’s love for his people. The pain of the prophet’s marriage sharpens the message of unfaithfulness and the mystery of the divine person.

Ritschl, Dietrich. “God’s Conversion: An Exposition of Hosea 11,” pp. 286-303.

A demonstration of the interrelatedness and interdependence of exposition, systematic theology and preaching, showing the value of historical-critical work on a passage of scripture.

Vischer, Wilhelm. “The Love Story of God: A Sermon,” pp. 304-9.

A sermonic analysis other modern plight of man, avowing love for God and d1savowmg It at the same time, showing the true love for God and the certainty of God’s love for man.

Wolff, Hans Walter. “Guilt and Salvation: A Study of the Prophecy of Hosea,” pp. 274-85.

A helpful article on the understanding of the daring use and transformation of the cultic myths of Canaanite religion into a vehicle for a new word from Yahweh regarding Israel’s guilt and Yahweh’s salvation.

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