Hoshea ben Be’eri – the first in the traditional listing by CHAZAL of the group of Prophets known as the “Trei-Asar,” the “Twelve;” Hoshea prophesied in the time of Achaz, Yotam, Achaz and Yechizkiyahu, Kings of Yehudah, and in the time of Yeravam ben Yoash, King of Israel (Hoshea 1:1).
He was commanded to enact in his own life, aspects of the relationship between G-d and Israel. CHAZAL say that when HaShem pointed out the sins of Israel, Hoshea did not attempt to seek forgiveness for them, but rather said “Since You are the Master of Creation, and own everything, why don’t you seek to replace the People of Israel with another Nation?”
HaShem said, “I will command Hoshea to marry a harlot, and have children with her. They are to be given symbolic names, ‘Lo Ruchama,’ Not Comforted, and ‘Lo Ami,’ Not My People. I will then command him to divorce his wife, and if he divorces her, I will divorce Israel.”
Hoshea resisted divorcing his wife, though she was a harlot, because he felt loyalty to her, and realized that he had sinned in his attitude towards Israel. Hoshea pleaded for forgiveness. Hashem said, “Why do you ask for forgiveness for yourself? Ask for forgiveness for the People of Israel, upon whom I am ready to deliver three punishments.” Hoshea immediately arose and begged forgiveness for Israel.
He pictured Israel as a disloyal wife, who had abandoned G-d for other “lovers.” But when they disappointed her, she would say, “I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then, than now.” (Hoshea 2:9)
Hashem said that after Israel would do proper “Teshuvah,” He would restore their relationship as of old:
“And I will betroth you unto Me forever,
And I will betroth you unto Me in Righteousness and Justice,
And in Kindness and Mercy;
And I will betroth you unto Me in faithfulness,
And you will know the L-rd.” (Hoshea 2:21-22)
There is an interesting anecdote concerning the burial of Hoshea. The Prophet passed away in “Bavel,” Babylonia. But, since the roads to Palestine were dangerous, he did not want to burden anyone with the task of burying him in the Holy Land. He therefore instructed his disciples as follows: When he passed away, immediately insert his body into an “aron,” a casket, and tie it onto a camel. Then let the camel go unguided. Wherever the camel would stop, let the Jewish community there bury him, as per a letter that he would write. The camel left and traveled, undisturbed, to the Galil area in “Eretz Yisrael,” where it stopped. There the Jewish community found the casket, read the letter and buried the Prophet, in accordance with his wishes.
According to the RAMBAM, Hoshea was a link in the Chain of “Mesorah,” and received the Tradition of Torah from King Zechariah (not to be confused with the Prophet Zechariah, who would emerge later in history, also as a link in the “Golden Chain” and his court.