Hosea – God’s Great Love Story – 03 (“Redeemer of a Prostitute”)
The harlotry of Israel and the jealousy of Yahweh (God) reached a climax in the 8thcentury BC, but in order to understand better why this happened, we need to look at a little bit of history (on request).
“The United Monarchy” is the name given to the Israelite kingdom of Israel and Judah, during the reigns of king Saul, David and Solomon. King Saul was the first king of the Kingdom of Israel and Judah. He reigned during the late 11thcentury BC (1030-1010 BC – i.e. 1030-1010 years before Christ was born – in other words BC means “Before Christ”).
David was the 2ndking and he reigned as king from 1008-970 BC David was a young shepherd who gained fame first as a musician and later by killing the enemy and giant Goliath. He became a favourite of King Saul and a close friend of Saul’s son Jonathan. Worried that David might try to take his throne, Saul turned on David. After Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle, David was anointed as King.
In the meantime, we must keep in mind that the Israelite kingdom was still not seated in Jerusalem, because the Jebusites, who were one of the seven nations that God commanded the Israelites to destroy after their entrance into the Promised Land, was not completed yet and these Jebusites were still reigning in Jerusalem.
Later, David conquered Jerusalem, he took the Ark of Covenant into the city, and established the kingdom of Israel in Jerusalem. David is honoured in the Bible as the ideal king and the forefather of a future Messiah, Jesus Christ, and he wrote many Psalms. Before David’s death, he chose his son Solomon as his successor.
Solomon was a very wealthy and wise man. Solomon’s reign was from 970 to 931 BC. He is described as the final king of the united Israel (“The United Monarchy”), i.e. the two tribes of Judah and the ten tribes of Israel.
Rehoboam (around 930 BC) was appointed king after his father Solomon. We then read of the split of the Kingdom of Israel into two kingdoms – i.e. the Kingdom of Israel (including the cities of Shechem and Samaria)in the north and the Kingdom of Judah (containing Jerusalem)in the south.
After the split of the Kingdom of Israel, Hosea was a prophet to the kingdom of Israel and he called on Israel to repent of its sins and warned them of a coming judgment from God.
This judgment of God that Hosea warned them about became a reality about 15 years later (735 BC), when King Shalmaneser V, king of Assyria (726-722 BC) marched on to the Northern Kingdom. The ten northern tribes of Israel ceased to exist as a people and were taken to Assyria and Babylon as captives. Again we see God’s grace in action, because He warned His people for fifteen years before He gave them over to the Assyrians and we also see His truthfulness in action, when He fulfilled His promise of punishing them for their disobedience.
Yet, within a few short decades, the Assyrian Empire had crumbled before the onslaught of the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. During this time Daniel and his friends were in Babylon and were casted into the burning fiery furnace (Dan.3).
After Nebuchadnezzar’s death, Cyrus the Great came to power and in 559 BC he decreed (or made a law) that any captive Jews in Babylonia who desired to, could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Cyrus even allowed the vessels of gold and silver stolen by Nebuchadnezzar’s troops to be returned.
- SCRIPTURE READING:
Hosea 3:1-5 (ESV) ~ “And the Lordsaid to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lordloves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.’ 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. 3 And I said to her, ‘You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.’ 4 For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. 5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lordtheir God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lordand to his goodness in the latter days.”
We will be looking at our passage for today under the following three headings:
- God’s Command (3:1);
- Hosea’s Obedient Response (3:2-3);
- Object Lesson (3:4-5).
3.1GOD’S COMMAND (3:1):In 3:1, Hosea receives a similar command from God than in 1:1, but with a twist – this time, the Lord does not tell him to take a wife who is a prostitute, but to demonstrate his love to his promiscuous wife – his adulterous wife, who wondered off to sleep with other men from which two children were born – a girl named “No Mercy”and a boy named “Not My People.”This action by Gomer led to Hosea divorcing her, but now he must take her back.
These events and behaviour by Gomer pointed to Israel who became unfaithful to God, by turning to the Baalim gods and thus loving the “sacred raisin cakes”(which was a delicacy), more than God. This sudden and almost unexpected mentioning of “sacred raisin cakes”seems out of place – but, that is exactly the point. Gomer’s love is totally misplaced. No matter what she may tell herself, she does not love God. She loves Baal, for (according to 3:1) she “is loved by another man and is an adulteress.”But the last clause of 3:1 hits the “bull’s eye”, namely that what attracts Israel to her false lover is an insignificant, fleshly and earthly pleasure. The nation is like a princess who leaves the palace in secret to go drinking with the underclass (riffraff men)of the town in the bars and Shebeens. Israel does not hunger for the spiritual things that God offers, similar to Gomer who does not love Hosea. God rejects the nation of Israel, by giving them over to the Babylonians, as we have heard previously.
But we also heard that Cyrus the Great allowed Israel to go back – God brought His “wife” (the Israelites) back out of captivity and exile after they’ve repented from their sins. Hosea had to follow God’s example by bringing Gomer back home.
As God redeems (saves) His people from exile and as Hosea redeems his wife from the streets, similarly God redeems and saves His elect (His chosen people)from being lost to salvation.
3.2 HOSEA’S OBEDIENT RESPONSE (3:2-3):Hosea obeys the Lord’s command and responded by buying his wife (Gomer the prostitute) back. The fact that he had to buy her back, is an indication that she most probably had come under some kind of “debt-slavery,”also known as “debt bondage.” “Debt bondage” occurs when a person is forced to work to pay off a debt. They are tricked into working for little or no pay, with no control over their debt. Most or all of the money they earn goes to pay off their loan. Gomer most probably ran into debt because she did not earn enough money for her job as a prostitute and had to borrow money for food, but we don’t really know what led to her being in debt-slavery.
Hosea bought her for ~ “…fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley” (3:2). Unfortunately, it is impossible for us to know silver’s value in Biblical times, but some people reckon that one “shekel” of silver were worth around R140. Therefore, the worth of fifteen shekels were approximately R2,100, which was most probably a lot of money in Hosea’s time.
One “homer” of barley was about 4 kg and in Hosea’s time and a “lethech” was a half a homer. We also don’t know the worth of 4,5 kg of barley. Whatever Gomer’s price was in cash, Hosea doesn’t have it. He has to make up for his lack of cash by adding barley to his available cash in order to buy his wife free from “debt bondage.” The fact that Hosea did not have enough money and had to get hold of enough barley to buy his wife back is indeed praiseworthy – a woman who turned her back on her husband and children for her old life of prostitution, shows Hosea’s commitment to, not only his wife, but especially to his obedience to God.
We already know that Hosea represents God in this story and God is saying – “Look! This is Me, this is what I am doing for you…this is the price I’m willing to pay.” He did, of course, pay the highest price – he gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins. The name “Hoshea”is the same name as “Joshua”(Jesus in the Greek language)and means “God is salvation.”
The image of Hosea counting out every last coin, sweeping up every last kernel of grain to come up with enough to buy back his adulterous wife is an image of God redeeming (saving) us. Let us never forget that image, never forget the price that Jesus paid for His saved ones. To forget the price would be to forget just how much we are loved.
He purchases her back, but tells her, that she should wait for a long time before she should be restored to her marriage rights. So, Israel is to live for a long period without her ancient religious customs and rites (i.e. having a temple and not been able to bring sacrifices to the Lord)- yet they would be free from idolatry. This also applies to us – Although we are saved, the perfect and final redemption still lies in the future with Jesus’ return.
3.3OBJECT LESSON (3:4-5):As we’ve already seen in 3:2-3, the conditions of Gomer’s return which involved a lengthy period of true faithfulness to her husband, during which she would remain at home withhim and isolated from all potential lovers, symbolises that Israel will go through a time without a Royal or religious leadership (no king and no high-priest) until they repent and God restores them fully.
During this time they would not be able to bring sacrifices to the Lord and only if they remain faithful and devoted to the Lord during this period of time, they will be able to bring sacrifices to the Lord again. The reason why they could not bring sacrifices during this time, was because their sacrifices were previously mixed with Baal worship and by the people’s failure to obey “…the more important matters of the Law”(Matt. 23:23; Hos.6:6; 8:11–13).
After Israel’s period of isolation, they will repent and seek the Lord, rather than false gods (2:7; 5:15; Deut. 4:29). Israel will also recognise the authority of a king, which they rejected at the time of Jeroboam I (1 Kings 12). The nation will approach the Lord with new respect and fear and they will serve Him again as their Lord and God and they will acknowledge His provisions.
When Hosea uses the expression“in the latter days”in 3:5, he uses the same expression that Moses used earlier, as well as some of the other prophets. All of them referred to a time when Israel would return to the Lord (e.g. Isa. 2:2; Micah 4:1; Deut. 4:30 and now Hosea prophesised about this returned of Israel to the Lord, with the same words ~ “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lordtheir God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lordand to his goodness in the latter days.”
- CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
What can we learn from Hosea? For us today, I believe Hosea can help give us answers to three big questions.
- What does unfaithfulness look like?
- How does God love us despite our unfaithfulness?
- What does God desire from us in return?
- What does unfaithfulness look like? When people were unfaithful to God in Old Testament times, they were compared with adulterers and prostitutes. The people of Israelwas considered to be the wife of God, and any worship of other gods was adultery. It was also prostitution, because the nation “sold itself”to these other gods, presumably in exchange for some desired benefit, such as protection or good crops.
Today, this can be compared with someone who trusts some things e.g. such as money or people more than trusting God; or when you are ashamed of standing up for Jesus in the company of others; living like the world; or when you deny Christ. In Matt.26:34 Jesus said to Peter ~ “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”
- How does God love us despite our unfaithfulness? Hosea gave gifts for Gomer. And God gives gifts to his people. “So, I (Hosea) bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley”(Hos.3:2). Hosea entered into a covenant with Gomer. He would maintain his loyalty no matter what. He would go so far as to buy (redeem)his wayward wife out of slavery! We too, as God’s people, have been bought at a high price. We too have been redeemed from slavery – the slavery of sin! Christ the True and Greater Husband, our Redeemer(Saviour), paid for our freedom with His blood (Ephesians 1:7, 1 Cor.6:20, 7:23).
Hosea reassures Gomer that despite her former sin he will keep his promises. He will love her and be loyal to her. Christ has redeemed us from horrifying sin. Despite our past, His affections for us as His blood-bought people, is indescribable ~ “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”(Rom.5:8).
The parable of Hosea and Gomer points toward (foreshadows)the perfect, redeeming (saving), and passionate love that God in Christ has for all His people throughout history.
- What does God desire from us in return? Hosea 6:6 answers this for us ~ “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”He wants us to know Him, and desire Him. This is for our good and for our joy, because as new creations our core desires must reflect Christ’s desires. Christ alone is what will fulfil us.
We therefore must get to know the One who chose us, saved us, and loves us with never ending affection. We must love Him. This love and knowledge will be what leads us to a life of blessing and obedience unto Him. From the beginning, God wanted us to know and enjoy Him, and that has not changed!
Hosea entered into a covenant with Gomer. He would be loyal, no matter what. He would go so far as to save his wayward wife from slavery! We too, as God’s people, have been bought at a price. We too have been redeemed from slavery! Christ the True and Greater Husband, our redeemer, paid for our freedom with His blood ~ “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”(Eph.1:7). We also saw in 3:3 that the Lord says ~ “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”
The whole book of Hosea points us to three things:
- A heart of love;
- A heart of forgiveness and salvation – a heart that seeks to save;
- A demand for faithfulness.