The book of Hosea has to be studied while understanding the religion of the Canaanites. Israel was coming back to Palestine being inhabited for over a thousand years. They learned farming from the people that they did not drive out of the land. However, Canaanite farming was integrally woven with their spiritual beliefs. El, Baal, and Dagon were very popular deities in the Canaanite religion along with the female counterparts of Asherah, Astarte, and Anath. Temples for these gods were open air shrines located in high places with a wooden object to represent the female and a stone to represent the male. They would often have sacrifices and festivals that would focus on fertility for man, animal, and field. Ritual fornication and beastiality were quite common.
The Israelites had deeply engrained the idolatry of the Canaanites (Hosea 8:13 ). Look at some of the names of their cities: Ishbaal, Baaljada, Meribbaal, etc. In chapter 2, Hosea threatens that the names of Baal will be taken from the mouth. In 4:14 , Hosea discusses how they commit harlotry with the women and men at the temple. Hosea 13:2 discusses the molded images they had created. In 12:1-7, notice that they attempted to find solace in the Assyrians, and then the Egyptians, and then in any type of international trade they could find. They were not looking in the proper place.
Hosea 10:13-14 says, “You have plowed wickedness; you have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies, because you trusted in your own way, in the multitude of your mighty men. Therefore tumult shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be plundered…” Much like Hosea longed for his wife Gomer to stay with him, God longed for the Israelites to stay with Him. It was when they started looking for answers in all of the places, other than God, that things went wrong. Let that be a modern day lesson to us from this book we consider to a “minor prophet.”