The book of Hosea's dominant theme is Israel's faithlessness. Hosea is especially creative in his use of metaphors to describe the relationship between Israel and God, but the two dominant ones are suggested in this verse. The primary one is Israel as a faithless wife, and the secondary one is Israel as a rebellious child (rebelling against God's law). Harlotry indicates sexual wantonness. If the person committing harlotry were married, it would suggest extreme faithlessness to his or her vows of marriage. In a spiritual covenant relationship with God, however, it indicates idolatry.
In tandem with the metaphors regarding Israel, the prophet uses two main family-relationship themes. In the first, God is shown as a faithful Husband, and in the second, as a loving and longsuffering Parent. In each case, Israel is faithless in carrying out responsibilities within the relationship, which God calls adultery and harlotry. God's judgment was occasioned by Israel departing from duties agreed to in a contract, the Covenant.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment
Hosea's dominant theme is Israel's faithlessness in contrast to God's patience, mercy, and faithfulness. The prophet is especially creative in metaphorically describing Israel's spiritual condition and relationship with God. He introduces two dominant ones in the book's second verse.
The primary metaphor is Israel as a faithless wife, and the second is Israel as a child of adultery or faithlessness. A child is the fruit or product of a relationship. Hosea implies that Israel, as a child of an adulterous relationship, manifests its characteristics because the next generation tends to continue the traits of the former and perhaps even increase their effects. A primary characteristic of adultery is faithlessness.
In the first metaphor, God is a faithful husband, and in the second, a loving and long-suffering parent. Israel is faithless in carrying out her responsibilities in both cases. God bluntly calls her actions adultery, harlotry, or whoredom because she did not fulfill the duties she had promised in a contract, a covenant. In more intimate terms, this contract is a marriage.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment (1997)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Hosea 1:2: