Around the same time Amos arrived in town, at the idolatrous temple in Bethel, God was asking another prophet in the Northern Kingdom to do something even more outrageous: “Get yourself a prostitute wife and have some kids with her.” Of course, Hosea’s peers did not understand. Hosea was likely a middle to upper-class man. He was supposed to be an upstanding citizen. But his life decisions led people to say he was a “fool” and “out of his mind” (9:7).
In some ways, the nation of Israel was founded from the beginning on idolatry, as the people quickly made a golden calf and called it their God, Yahweh. Now, the people were again worshiping God at a golden calf in Bethel. Yet they said they know God. This claim would be their undoing. It was one thing not to worship God, but to worship a distorted image of God–while still calling it God–was fatal.
Through the risk and suffering in this prophet’s personal life, God communicated His own grief and spurned love with His people. Hosea models the gut-wrenching risk of love, especially the grief of God trying to love the people He created. Perhaps Paul was reflecting on Hosea’s life and marriage when he later wrote that our marriages tell a story of love: ideally, the story of God loving his people (Eph. 5:32).