W I T H P R A C T I C A L O B S E R V A T I O N
OF THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET
O S E A
have now before us the twelve minor prophets, which some of the ancients, in
reckoning up the books of the Old Testament, put all together, and reckon but
as one book. They are called the minor prophets, not because their
writings are of any less authority or usefulness than those of the greater
prophets, or as if these prophets were less in God's account or might be so in
ours than the other, but only because they are shorter, and less in bulk, than
the other. We have reason to think that these prophets preached as much as the
others, but that they did not write so much, nor is so much of their preaching
kept upon record. Many excellent prophets wrote nothing, and others but
little, who yet were very useful in their day. And so in the Christian church
there have been many burning and shining lights, who are not known to
posterity by their writings, and yet were no way inferior in gifts, and
graces, and serviceableness to their own generation, than those who are; and
some who have left but little behind them, and make no great figure among
authors, were yet as valuable men as the more voluminous writers. These twelve
small prophets, Josephus says, were put into one volume by the men of the
great synagogue in Ezra's time, of which learned and pious body of men the
last three of these twelve prophets are supposed to have been themselves
members. These are what remained of the scattered pieces of inspired writing.
Antiquaries value the fragmenta veterum--the fragments of antiquity;
these are the fragments of prophecy, which are carefully gathered up by the
divine Providence and the care of the church, that nothing might be lost, as
St. Paul's short epistles after his long ones. The son of Sirach speaks of
these twelve prophets with honour, as men that strengthened Jacob, Ecclus.
xlix. 10. Nine of these prophets prophesied before the captivity, and the last
three after the return of the Jews to their own land. Some difference there is
in the order of these books. We place them as the ancient Hebrew did; and all
agree to put Hosea first; but the ancient thing is not material. And, if we
covet to place them according to their seniority, as to some of them we shall
find no certainty.
II. We have before us the prophecy of Hosea, who was the first of all the
writing prophets, being raised up somewhat before the time of Isaiah. The
ancients say, He was of Bethshemesh, and of the tribe of Issachar. He
continued very long a prophet; the Jews reckoned that he prophesied nearly
fourscore and ten years; so that, as Jerome observes, he prophesied of the
destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes when it was at a great distance,
and lived himself to see and lament it, and to improve it when it was over,
for warning to its sister kingdom. The scope of his prophecy is to discover
sin, and to denounce the judgments of God against a people that would not be
reformed. The style is very concise and sententious, above any of the
prophets; and in some places it seems to be like the book of Proverbs, without
connexion, and rather to be called Hosea's sayings than Hosea's sermons.
And a weighty adage may sometimes do more service than a laboured discourse.
Huetius observes that many passages in the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel
seem to refer to, and to be borrowed from, the prophet Hosea, who wrote a good
while before them. As Jer. vii. 34; xvi. 9; xxv. 10; and Ezek. xxvi. 13, speak
the same with Hos. ii. 11; so Ezek. xvi. 16, &c., is taken from Hos. ii.
8. And that promise of serving the Lord their God, and David their
king, Jer. xxx. 8, 9. Ezek. xxxiv. 23, Hosea had before, ch.
iii. 5. And Ezek. xix. 12 is taken from Hos. xiii. 15. Thus one prophet
confirms and corroborates another; and all these worketh that one and the