You will find an introduction and outline of Hosea, here.
A prayer to use before you read, from the Book of Common Worship.
O Lord our God, your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Give us grace to receive your truth in faith and love, that we may be obedient to your will and live always for your glory; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
Outline (based on Tucker)
I. 1:1-3:5 Wife and Children as Signs
II. 4:1-14:9 Prophecies of Judgment and Salvation
I. 8:1-14 Israel Rejects the Good and Pays the Price:This section may have originally been independent units, they have been gathered together and present Hosea’s accusations against Israel. In verses 1-3, a vulture was the symbol of the Assyrian army. Israel has broken the covenant and the law. Verses 4-6, there were calf images at Bethel and Dan; northern shrines. Verses 7-10, remember Ephriam is another term for Israel. Israel tried to obtain security with foreign alliances. In verse 12 “my instructions” are a reference to Torah.
J. 9:1-9 Judgment on Festivals: “Threshing floors” is a reference to harvest festivals. They were also a place of sexual activities. Mourner’s bread was considered unclean because of the association with the dead. Verses 7-9 there was hostility toward the prophet, but yet he remained and endured.
K. 9:10-17 A Sinful Past and a Barren Future: This is a speech of God’s that recounts Israel’s sinful past and harsh future. “A thing of shame” is a reference to Baal. See Numbers 25:1-8. Israel turned to a fertility god and then loss their fertility and children.
L. 10:1-8 Kingship and Idolatry: As prosperity increased, so did sin.
M. 10:9-12 A call to Repent: Verse 9 is an accusation of sin, verse 10-11 tells of punishment designed to discipline, and verse 12 calls for repentance and righteousness so God can favor Israel again.
N. 10:13-15 Trust in Weapons Leads to War: Israel has “plowed wickedness” by trusting itself and its warriors.
O. 11:1-11″I Am God, Not a Human Being” God is speaking in this passage. Israel is described as God’s child. Verses 1-4 express the relationship between God and Israel in tender images. Verses 5-7 speak of punishment. Then in verses 8-9 God changes God’s mind out of love. In verses 10-11 God calls and Israel returns.
P. 11:12-12:14 Israel’s Treachery: These verses continue the train of thought from chapter 10. They are a collection of sayings and not a single speech. Ephriam is the Northern Kingdom, Israel. 12:2 use lawsuit language. Remember the story of Jacob; he and Esau struggled in the womb, Jacob struggled with God all night and received the name Israel. and his dream at Bethel. Verses 7-8 are accusations of wrongful business practices and self reliant arrogance. Verse 9 recalls the Exodus. Verses 10-14 asserts the authority of the prophets. Verse 12 remember that Jacob and Israel are the same person and Jacob served his future father in law for his wife, Rachael.
Q. 13:1-16 Death Sentence for Israel: In this section there are four discourses. Verses 1-3, idolatry is the reason for punishment. Verses 4-8 is another prophecy of punishment, even though God cared for them, Israel forgot. Verses 9-11 salvation lies with God not with kings. Verses 12-16 the announcement of punishment.
R. 14:1-8 A Call to Return and a Promise of Renewal: Now the tone shifts dramatically. Verses 1-3 are the prophet speaking to Israel. In verses 4-8 God speaks.
S. 14:9 Postscript: This verse is similar in style to wisdom literature. The wise will study this book and learn from it.
Read More About It:
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of Hosea.
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol 7, Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 1999.
Mobley, Gregory “Hosea”, in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, Fully Revised 4 th Edition, Michael Cougan, ed. (New York:Oxford University Press) 2010.
Tucker, Gene M. “Hosea” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.