I can see that a challenge for the year will be distinguishing one prophet from another, especially when they are Minor Prophets (small collections) and contemporaries. We begin with Amos, active 760-750 B.C., and Hosea, active 750-730 B.C. They both prophesied in Israel (the Northern Kingdom) during the reign of King Jeroboam II. Hosea’s ministry extended beyond the prosperous years of Jeroboam’s reign to the chaotic years that followed.
Actually, I did study these prophets briefly in another Bible class, and Hosea shall always stand out because of what we know of his personal life. His wife betrayed him and slept with others. Scholars believe she was a temple prostitute before the marriage and returned to that practice at some point; two of their three children were by other men. God commanded Hosea to forgive her and take her back into his home.
Hosea’s distinctive theme is marriage as a metaphor for the covenant. Idolatry, a major violation of the covenant, equates to harlotry in Hosea’s mind. He empathizes with God in his experience of rejection, infidelity, and restoring love.
“Again the Lord said to me: Go, love a woman who is loved by her spouse but commits adultery; Just as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods….” (Hosea 3:1, NAB)
To Amos, the principal sin is injustice. He rails against economic exploitation of the poor and the weak, against bribery, corruption, and sexual sins, as well as idolatry. While Amos strikes only one note, of judgment, Hosea balances it with tenderness and mercy.
• Amos: A native of Judah (the Southern Kingdom), he is the first prophet with a book to his name. He draws upon his experiences of shepherding a flock in the desert wilderness; he was also a dresser of sycamore trees. After 10 years, he is banished from Israel by Amaziah, the priest ministering the king’s sanctuary at Bethel.
• Hosea: The only writing prophet who was a native of Israel, he frequently refers to agricultural themes and fertility. Possibly he was a baker or farmer. He portrays God as a loving and forgiving parent as well as spouse. He makes the covenant the center of his theology.