Several commentators suggest that this short sermon by Hosea was delivered at a religious feast held at harvest time, perhaps during a period when the threatened aggression from Assyria seemed to have diminished. The problem was that the feast was actually a pagan festival connected to the worship of Baal. Initially Israel had a harvest gathering at the annual Feast of Tabernacles, but after the division of the country the northern kingdom began its own version and it had degenerated eventually into a mixture of what had happened at the Feast of Tabernacles and what occurred at harvest feasts connected to Baal.
Nevertheless the people enjoyed their festival. No doubt they were astonished when Hosea began his sermon by calling them to cease rejoicing (v. 1), yet his focus was not only on their present behaviour but also on what their rejected Lord would do shortly. They had committed idolatry (spiritual adultery), therefore they would be taken into exile, away from the land and its harvests (vv. 2-3). In their new location they would be unable to participate in the genuine feasts that occurred in Jerusalem because they would be so far away – Egypt depicts those places (vv. 4-6). The prophet informed his listeners that this ultimate judgement on them as a nation was very near (v. 7a).
When they heard this prediction, the people responded by saying that Hosea was a fool, that his words indicated he hated them, evidence that he was a great sinner (v. 7b). Instead of responding with repentance, they resorted to name-calling and insults. They did this for at least two reasons. One was that there seemed to be no threat from outside the country and the other was that they assumed that God approved of the way they practised their religious festival.
In contrast, Hosea knew different. Perhaps he did not say verses 8 and 9 to the people but wrote them alongside their assessment to show that he was not deflected from his calling by their wrong opinions of him. Hosea knew that he had been called by God to be a watchman for Israel, to warn them of real dangers. Yet he found himself facing continual danger (snare) and strong opposition (hatred) from the Israelites. But he knew the truth of the situation: Israel was guilty of terrible sins and God was about to punish them.
In a sense we live in a similar situation. The social climate advocates religious pluralism and expresses optimism about the future despite what the Bible says about losing God’s blessing for sinful behaviour. Christians know that such behaviour is a rejection of the gospel and that eventually the Lord will judge. They may have to put up with name-calling or worse. Yet like Hosea, they should remember who they are and continue to serve God.