Hosea had a long ministry as a prophet to Israel. It was likely during the reign of Jeroboam II (c. 825-784 B.C.), so his prophecy of certain judgment came at the peak of the nation’s power before a succession of disastrous events which culminated in the fall of the Samaria to the Assyrian empire in 721 B.C. and the enslavement of its people.
Apostasy had been thoroughly ingrained in Israel for generations. Baal worship, a type of fertility cult, recognized various “baalim” or “lords” who were seen powers who contributed to the fertility and general prosperity of the nation and its people. Israel never explicitly abandoned Jehovah but kept some formalities of His worship. This was no more than a profane syncretism, with Jehovah recognized as merely one of the baalim or lords. The corruption of the people and their culture is frequently described as “whoredoms.” Religiously the people had prostituted themselves to their Baal idols, in exchange for some form of reciprocity in the form of prosperity.
The whoredoms of Israel were sadly reflected in the family life of Hosea. He married a woman named Gomer, a woman of her times, who became increasingly degenerate until she was finally kicked out of the home by Hosea. Later, he would redeem her from what appears to be a morally compromised circumstance, very possibly prostitution. Gomer is a type of Israel for whom judgment was fast approaching. This judgment was prophesied by Hosea and would be the Assyrian defeat and represents an eschatological point in the life of the nation. Never-the-less, there was still ahead of Israel a second chance by means of God’s mercy and redemption, a hint of the new covenant in Christ’s blood.