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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Hosea - Introduction

In the Hebrew Bible, the Minor Prophets (so named because their books are shorter than Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel) are called the Book of the Twelve and are treated as a literary unit. The ancients arranged the twelve writings in what they considered chronological order; Hosea is in the first position. While modern scholars see reasons to date some of these writings at times other than the ancient sequence suggests, they regard Hosea as indeed the earliest writing.

The first verse places Hosea in the latter part of the eighth century B.C.E., when the Assyrians were about to overrun the Northern Kingdom of Israel. That menace gives the book, addressed to the north, its tension. The prophet knows both the people's corruption and the LORD's love, and the book veers from judgment to love, from threats of destruction to promises of restoration.

A book such as Hosea can pose a problem for the reader in that it does not present a systematic argument. It consists of many poems and prose passages compiled into an anthology; hence there can be an impression of bewildering inconsistency. While it is uncertain that Hosea's message comes from his marriage, related in chs. 1–3 , the experience narrated is searing and even bitter, though filled with his love. The portrait of the deity as partaking in human feelings and agonies makes Hosea one of the most moving of Old Testament books.

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