1. The word of the LORD that came unto Hosea-- the son of Beeri-- in the days of Uzziah-- Jotham-- Ahaz-- and Hezekiah-- kings of Judah-- and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash-- king of Israel.
1. Sermo Jehovae-- qui fuit ad Hoseam filium Beri-- diebus Uzia-- Jotham-- Achaz-- Ezechiae-- regum Jehuda-- et diebus Jarobeam filii Joas regis Israel.
This first verse shows the time in which Hosea prophesied. He names four kings of Judah, -- Uzziah, Jotham, Ahab, Hezekiah. Uzziah, called also Azariah, reigned fifty-two years; but after having been smitten with leprosy, he did not associate with men, and abdicated his royal dignity. Jotham, his son, succeeded him. The years of Jotham were about sixteen, and about as many were those of king Ahab, the father of Hezekiah; and it was under king Hezekiah that Hosea died. If we now wish to ascertain how long he discharged his office of teaching, we must take notice of what sacred history says, -- Uzziah began to reign in the twenty seventh year of Jeroboam, the son of Joash. By supposing that Hosea performed his duties as a teacher, excepting a few years during the reign of Jeroboam, that is, the sixteen years which passed from the beginning of Uzziah's reign to the death of Jeroboam, he must have prophesied thirty-six years under the reign of Uzziah. There is, however, no doubt but that he began to execute his office some years before the end of Jeroboam's reign.
Here, then, there appear to be at least forty years. Jotham succeeded his father, and reigned sixteen years; and though it be a probable conjecture, that the beginning of his reign is to be counted from the time he undertook the government, after his father, being smitten with leprosy, was ejected from the society of men, it is yet probable that the remaining time to the death of his father ought to come to our reckoning. When however, we take for granted a few years, it must be that Hosea had prophesied more than forty-five years before Ahab began to reign. Add now the sixteen years in which Ahab reigned and the number will amount to sixty-one. There remain the years in which he prophesied under the reign of Hezekiah. It cannot, then, be otherwise but that he had followed his office more than sixty years, and probably continued beyond the seventieth year.
It hence appears with how great and with how invincible courage and perseverance he was endued by the Holy Spirit. But when God employs our service for twenty or thirty years we think it very wearisome, especially when we have to contend with wicked men, and those who do not willingly undertake the yoke, but pertinaciously resist us; we then instantly desire to be set free, and wish to become like soldiers who have completed their time. When therefore, we see that this Prophet persevered for so long a time, let him be to us an example of patience so that we may not despond, though the Lord may not immediately free us from our burden.
Thus much of the four kings whom he names. He must indeed have prophesied (as I have just shown) for nearly forty years under the king Uzziah or Azariah, and then for some years under the king Ahab, (to omit now the reign of Jotham, which was concurrent with that of his father,) and he continued to the time of Hezekiah: but why has he particularly mentioned Jeroboam the son of Joash, since he could not have prophesied under him except for a short time? His son Zachariah succeeded him; there arose afterward the conspiracy of Shallum, who was soon destroyed; then the kingdom became involved in great confusion; and at length the Assyrian, by means of Shalmanazar, led away captive the ten tribes, which became dispersed among the Medes. As this was the case, why does the Prophet here mention only one king of Israel? This seems strange; for he continued his office of teaching to the end of his reign and to his death. But an answer may be easily given: He wished distinctly to express, that he began to teach while the state was entire; for, had he prophesied after the death of Jeroboam, he might have seemed to conjecture some great calamity from the then present view of things: thus it would not have been prophecy, or, at leas, this credit would have been much less. "He now, forsooth! divines what is, evident to the eyes of all." For Zachariah flourished but a short time; and the conspiracy alluded to before was a certain presage of an approaching destruction, and the kingdom became soon dissolved. Hence the Prophet testifies here in express words, that he had already threatened future vengeance to the people, even when the kingdom of Israel flourished in wealth and power, when Jeroboam was enjoying his triumphs, and when prosperity inebriated the whole land.
This, then, was the reason why the Prophet mentioned only this one king; for under him the kingdom of Israel became strong, and was fortified by many strongholds and a large army, and abounded also in great riches. Indeed, sacred history tells us, that God had by Jeroboam delivered the kingdom of Israel, though he himself was unworthy, and that he had recovered many cities and a very wide extent of country. As, then, he had increased the kingdom, as he had become formidable to all his neighbours, as he had collected great riches, and as the people lived in ease and luxury, what the Prophet declared seemed incredible. "Ye are not," he said, "the people of the Lord; ye are adulterous children, ye are born of fornication." Such a reproof certainly seemed not seasonable. Then he said, "The kingdom shall be taken from you, destruction is nigh to you." "What, to us? and yet our king has now obtained so many victories, and has struck terror into other kings." The kingdom of Judah, which was a rival, being then nearly broken down, there was no one who could have ventured to suspect such an event.
We now, then, perceive why the Prophet here says expressly that he had prophesied under Jeroboam. He indeed prophesied after his death, and followed his office even after the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, but he began to teach at a time when he was a sport to the ungodly, who exalted themselves against God, and boldly despised his threatening as long as he spared and bore with them; which is ever the case, as proved by the constant experience of all ages. We hence see more clearly with what power of the Spirit God had endued the Prophet, who dared to rise up against so powerful a king, and to reprove his wickedness, and also to summon his subjects to the same judgement. When, therefore, the Prophet conducted himself so boldly, at a time when the Israelites were not only sottish on account of their great success, but also wholly insane, it was certainly nothing short of a miracle; and this ought to avail much to establish his authority. We now then, see the design of the inscription contained in the first verse. It follows --