Hosea – God’s Great Love Story – 01 (“The Adulterous Wife”)
Hosea is a challenging book, but the main message is seen in the first three chapters, which describe Hosea’s call to an unhappy marriage, separation and divorce and final reconciliation. God’s relationship(or Yahweh’s relationship) to His people is demonstrated in Hosea’s marriage. Hosea’s experience of having an unfaithful wife who was also a prostitute demonstrates how God (YHWH) experiences the spiritual adultery of His people: primarily Israel, but also Christians today. Hosea demonstrates not only God’s anguish, but His unfailing love despite the depth of sin to which His loved ones fall.
- SCRIPTURE READING:
Hosea 1:1-11 (ESV) ~ “The word of the Lordthat came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. 2 When the Lordfirst spoke through Hosea, the Lordsaid to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.’ 3 So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. 4 And the Lordsaid to him, ‘Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 And on that day, I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.’ 6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lordsaid to him, ‘Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. 7 But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lordtheir God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.’ 8 When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. 9 And the Lordsaid, ‘Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.’ 10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God.’ 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel. Say to your brothers, ‘You are my people,’ and to your sisters, ‘You have received mercy.’”
We will be looking at our passage for today under the following three headings:
- Background of Hosea (1:1):
- Hosea the Man (1:1):
- The Adulterous Wife (1:2-11):
3.1BACKGROUND OF THE BOOK (1:1):Hosea appears among the minor prophets of the Old Testament. Though first in order, the book is not considered to have been the earliest of the group – that distinction belongs to Amos.
On the basis of the mentioning of the kings of Israel and Judah, the date of the writing of the book of Hosea is estimated, somewhere between 734 B.C. and 686 B.C.
3.2HOSEA THE MAN (1:1):We learn from the Word that the prophet Hosea’s name means “salvation”. Whether this is a reflection of the faith of Hosea’s father (Beeri), is unknown. Yet it may have been a statement of the father’s belief that his son would play a role in Israel’s future salvation. Or it could have implied the continuation of his own household.
Some theologians say that before the beginning of Hosea’s ministry, he could have been in any one of three occupations, namely a priest (4:6; 8:12 9:3; 9:8; 9:10), because of his references to the law (4:6; 8:12)and his mention of the clean and the unclean (9:3, 10)and his mentioning of the temple persecution in 9:8. Others suggest that he was a farmer (because of his knowledge of wild beasts – 5:14; 11:10) and his frequent references to fig trees. There are some that suggest that he must have been a baker (7:40).
Unlike Amos, the preacher of judgement, Hosea had a gentle and loving spirit. He has been referred to as “the tenderest soul of all prophets.”Though severe in his denunciation (or condemnation) of sin, he was compassionate in his attitude toward men. He learned this attitude through the tragedy of his own home. These attitudes were reflected in every aspect of his life. and the tragedy of Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, must have cast a shadow over his entire ministry. An ordinary man would not have put up with such an unfaithful wife, but not Hosea. His love for her was so genuine it could withstand years of unfaithfulness.
Hosea’s compassionate spirit expressed itself in his attitude toward the sins of the nation (2:2-23). In chapter 2 the prophet expressed a concern for his own people, who had been unfaithful to God as Gomer had been to him. He saw God reprimanded them through tender words of love and mercy, believing all the while that these words would eventually touch the heart of people. As a result, they eventually turned to God and declared Him to be their God.
Though a man of compassion and love, Hosea was severe in his condemnation of sin. He saw the sin of the nation who totally lacked in truth and goodness and the knowledge of God ~ “Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land”(4:1). This was a nation of “commandment-breakers”who deserved nothing by the destructive storms of God’s wrath (4:2-19).
To a large extent, Hosea blamed the leaders of Israel, for Israel’s predicament (5:1-15). Yet, he was one with God, when He determined to destroy them all, but could not ~ “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender”(11:8). Hosea felt the heartbeat of God, and realised he would find a way to restore fallen Israel, and He would do it out of a compassionate heart.
Hosea believed that God would, after judging the nation, return to bless them. He would be the source of healing and life if they would turn to Him. It was a merciful God whom the prophet served. To serve such a God meant that the servant must be like the One he served. Few men succeed in following Hosea’s example, and few have left such a legacy.
How different any generation would be if you could find a balance between judgement and mercy, as the prophet did. It would, indeed, make a lasting and huge difference.
God loves using parables to convey truth. Think about Jesus and His use of them! A parable is simply a word picture designed to illuminate/to enlighten the Truth. The word picture runs parallel to the truth the storyteller is trying to convey.
One last remark before we look at the prophecy of Hosea. The book of Hosea may feel complex, but help is found when we realize that it is intended to be approached as a living parable (a real life picture).
Chapters 1-3 of Hosea present this living parable (word picture) to us. The painful story of Hosea and Gomer, a faithful husband and an unfaithful wife. Like any other parable, even a living one, the characters and the storyline point to a greater truth. The relationship as already mentioned between Hosea and Gomer is a picture of the relationship between God and His people!
We must also keep in mind that the events described in chapter one reflect, the tragic conditions existing in Israel and Judah at the time of the prophet’s ministry. That is, the domestic tragedy in Hosea’s home was a miniature of a far greater tragedy in the nations of Judah and Israel. That tragedy was in the nation having turned from God to other gods. Such turning could only result in God’s displeasure and their destruction.
God could turn the present tragedy, expressed in the nation’s rebelliousness and idolatry, into triumph; this He would do indeed, but not in the time om Hosea’s ministry, He would do that later in “the day of Jezreel.”
- THE ADULTEROUS WIFE (1:2-11):We read in 1:1 that the Lord’s word came to Hosea, which means that God personally spoke to the prophet, in order to give Hosea specific orders. One of the instructions that Hosea received from the Lord is maybe one of the most bizarre instructions in the Bible. A Godly man; a prophet of God, must take a sinful, unfaithful, adulterous woman with a bad reputation – “a lady of many men,” and mother of illegitimate children, as his wife. We can easily ask what did this poor man do wrong to be told by God, to do such a thing. We have more than one young Christian man here today – what would your reaction be, if the Lord tells you to marry a “Gomer”?
Hosea was however, a prophet of God and his heart-breaking experience in his own home was the place where God prepared him for the task God had for him. The major reason with this marriage was to help the prophet to understand the nature of the relationship between God and Israel. This marriage, and seemingly shocking experience, would make Hosea a more effective prophet to the nation. In other words, the tragedy of Hosea’s domestic life was a miniature of a larger tragedy in the God-Israel relationship. Knowing the heart ache of his own experience, Hosea could better understand God’s disappointment over Israel’s unfaithfulness since God’s experience was so similar to that of the prophet.
We know the expression, “experience is life’s greatest teacher” and this is exactly what happened with Hosea. His experience enabled him to teach others so that they might escape the suffering he had to endure.
In keeping with what he believed to be the providential purpose of God, Hosea married Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. Her name means “completeness.”
Sometime after the marriage, Gomer bore Hosea a son and they named him Jezreel as God had instructed and his name means “God sows.”The word “to him”in 1:3 (“…and she bore hima son”)implies that Hosea was the father. It seemed as if Jezreel was the only one of the three children fathered by Hosea and that is because of the absence of the word “him”in the announcement of the other children. Gomer’s second child that was born out of wedlock, was called Lo-ruhamah, meaning “unpitied.”It is clear that the circumstances of Hosea’s home, was a miniature of what was happening in the broader context to the nation. This name (Lo-ruhamah) was simply stating that the compassion and forgiveness which Israel had known from God on former occasions would no longer be available. The people, like the child of Gomer, were no longer deserving of favour. Israel, then, would find herself subject to the judgement of God (1:6). She would find herself in a state in which pity was not available.
Judah, on the other hand, would know the compassion of God(1:7). It would not be realised by the usual means… ~ “…by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horseman.”God’s compassion would be seen in his personal intervention as when he delivered Jerusalem from Sennacherib in 701 B.C. (2 Kings 19:32-34). In fact, it may have been that very event which the prophet had in mind.
When we look at the different circumstances of Judah and Israel, it is clear, that there was a vast difference in the character of Israel and Judah at that particular time. Israel, filled with wickedness and injustice, would be denied God’s pity. Judah, on the other hand, would experience His remarkable power and compassion in deliverance (1:7a).
The birth of the third child follows the same general pattern as that of the second. After the weaning of Lo-ruhamah, Gomer conceived and bore a third child who was named Lo-ammi (1:8).
The name of the last child shows the attitude of the prophet toward the child. It means “not my people.”By giving the child such a name, the prophet was disowning his own paternity, meaning “I am not the child’s father.”He was declaring it to be the offspring of another. As in the previous case, the experience of Hosea was a symbol of the relationship between God and Israel. Israel, because of her relationship with and devotion to other god’s, was no more God’s children than Lo-ammi was Hosea’s. Thus, 1:9 comes to the heart of the tragic condition in Hosea’s family and shows the larger tragedy relating to the nation of Israel. In light of the sin within Israel, they were no longer considered to be God’s covenant people. By their actions they had broken the covenant. As a result, God would no longer be “I am”(literally, “I will be”)for them. What a tragic turn of events! Those who had once been God’s (“my people”) would no longer be His, and the one who had been their God would no longer be their God.
Looking at the background information, the following is the picture presented by Hosea. At first, Gomer was a faithful wife who bore Hosea a son. This son was given the name Jezreel. As time passed Gomer gave in to idolatry and may have, as some believe, became a temple prostitute. During the time she was involved in prostitution, Gomer gave birth to her second and third children. Neither of these was specifically referred to as being Hosea’s. Because of this, we can assume that the names given to them reflected the belief of Hosea that they were born to Gomer by some other man or men. By analogy, these names reflected God’s attitude towards the offspring of Israel who had resulted from the idolatrous relations between the nation and their pagan deities. Those born to Israel were not God’s; they were the children of other gods.
The last part of our Scripture reading for today (1:10-2:1)opens with the promise concerning the future. Israel would be as numerous as the sand of the sea. This was not a new idea. It was the repetition of an idea of long-standing and anticipated it for generations – from the time of Abraham, as a matter of fact.
This promise was, nevertheless, very meaningful at this particular point in Israel’s history. First, the population of Israel had lost ground through the years (2 Kings 15:19). Second, Israel’s future looked dark because of another country, Assyria’s position, who was a serious threat. On account of these things, Israel’s future was looking bad. The need for a word of encouragement was obvious. These words were, in part at least, a response to that need. They were also words to sustain the people as they faced the enemies and suffered one loss after another. How comforting it must have been for them to hear God’s announcement that the nation would grow in the future.
In addition to the promise of a greatly expanded or growing population, there was a promise of a covenant renewal as well. Those who had been referred to as “not my people”– that is, those who served other gods – would come to be called “sons of the living God”and the renewal of the covenant would be the ground of the population increase and the future development of Israel and a proper relationship between God and His people.
A third promise follows in 1:11a, was the possibility of the reunion of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah, something constantly hoped for since the division in 922 B.C. when Solomon’s successor Rehoboam dealt tactlessly with economic complaints of the northern tribes, after which the United Kingdom of Israel, split into two kingdoms, namely Judah and the northern Kingdom of Israel.
An additional promise found in this section is the concept of “one head.” The united Israel would have one ruler.
In both these cases, there is nothing against the idea that these events were to be realised in the Messianic age, i.e. with and after Christ came to the world and until He will come back again. If, indeed this was Hosea’s thinking, he may have equated all of these accomplishments with the Messianic age. He also equated the Messianic age with the reign of the second David, Jesus Christ.
We see therefore, that whilst the prophet is dealing with the current state of Israel, he is also extending hope for the future in the Messianic age. He was not only pointing to the dark and tragic situation in the nation, but also pointed to something much better. He saw the road leading from tragedy to triumph, but the triumph would be the work of God. And the work of God would be accomplished in the Messianic age by the Messiah, Jesus Christ Himself. What a triumph that would be!
- CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
What is going on here? Well, God’s people, Israel, have been unfaithful. As Gomer’s unfaithfulness is described in our passage for today. We will later see how Israel’s unfaithfulness to God is described. Gomer leaves Hosea for other men (plural)and even bears the illegitimate children of her lovers (3:1, 1:6)! And, God uses the story of Hosea and Gomer’s marriage to show that God’s people have done the same to Him ~ “Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed”(Hos.4:1-2). Israel has been unfaithful and chased after other lovers.
What can we learn from Hosea?
While we want to identify ourselves with Hosea, because of his Christ-like character, it is also helpful for us to think about ourselves as Gomer! Being in the same place as Gomer, is a great place to be. We will see in the chapters following today’s passage, that Gomer received wonderful gifts from God. These gifts will show us a beautiful picture of God’s love in action.
In 1:3 Hosea writes ~ “So he (Hosea) went and took Gomer…”Hosea chose Gomer despite her sin. We don’t know about Gomer’s past, but we know that it was against all logic that Hosea, a Prophet, a Man of God, would take her to be his wife. And this is our story, along with all of God’s people throughout history: God choose us, adopted us as sons and daughters, despite our sin ~ You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you…”(John 15:16a).
We are Gomer. We are spiritual adulterers. We want to have it our way, and we are willing to reject God’s covenantal faithfulness for fleeting one-night stands with idols. While it’s hard to admit that we are no different than Gomer, it’s a truth that we can embrace with humility and comfort.
The story of Hosea and Gomer reminds us that God loves us not because of our faithfulness, but because of His. Christ saves, and continues to intercede for us, who falls into sin. Until we see God face-to-face, we will continue to be drawn to other things. But for now, our Husband stands and fights.
We are Gomer, but we can have hope in Jesus Christ.